Posts Tagged ‘School for Adventurers’

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Drowning, and the Results of Averi’s Test

February 13, 2009

As they say in Firefly:

When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you make JLY carry you.

(Well, something like that… ^_^)

95% of the time, I need a project to work on. I can’t just watch TV… If I’m watching TV, I need to be writing, reading, drawing, wrapping a present, cooking a meal, eating that meal, or sipping a tall glass of hot chocolate.

It might be high school that did this to me. I’ve talked about it before, but if you haven’t read those posts, here’s the basics: The high school JLY, KM Ricker, and I went to had some strict rules about how tough of a course load a student could take… So of course, JLY and I petitioned to take the maximum course load– AP English, AP Bio, etc. etc. The end result was much too much homework, far too little sleep, and a merciless need for productivity. During those years, I found out just how much I can get done in 24 hours, and I developed a lingering feeling that I always should be meeting that peak productivity.

So 95% of the time, I want to have something to work on. This somewhat compulsive desire to be productive allows me to get quite a bit of work done on any given day. On the other hand, when that 95% wears out, I hit the 5% of the time when I’m flat-out exhausted, mentally burned out, and ready to curl up in a corner somewhere and just watch some mind-numbing reality TV.

I guess the way I would describe it is that it feels like drowning–at first, it’s just a tiring, aching of the limbs. Then it starts to dawn on you how much you’ve spent of yourself, just treading water. Movement becomes harder. You need to convince yourself that it’s worth the effort to push your limbs through the water. Your muscles ache;  it’s a struggle just to breathe. But you keep churning water, because you know that all you need is to keep your head above that water line.

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately… Just treading water.

Luckily for me, I’ve got a JLY. She recently wrote a post titled “Co-Authors Are The Best”. I would like to reply, “JLYs Are The Best”. If JLY and I each have a specialty, I would say that one of JLY’s specialties is in caring about our world… Every little detail of it, which she meticulously chronicles in various Excel spreadsheets… So I fully admit that I’m not really pulling my weight right now… I mean, JLY is practically dragging me uphill over rocks. Big rocks. Sure, I try to help sometimes… It goes something like this:

KL: Okay… Let’s work on… Our guide to the world.
JLY: Are you feeling okay?!
KL: …No… But we should…
JLY: This is like my dream!

And a typical day of us working on answering questions on the forum more or less follows this pattern:

KL: Hmm… What ‘Age’ are they in?
JLY: Oh. They’re in the Iron Age.
KL: What’s the difference between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age?
JLY: Well… (Smiles!) The Bronze Age is like the Mayans…
KL: Whoa, whoa. Okay, as long as you understand what’s going on.

Well, my point is that if you see JLY on the forum, be sure to shower her with praise for her dilligence… ^_^

For my part, I’ve been trying to get back to normal. To that end, JLY and I have tried to do a few more fun things lately. JLY and I don’t make it a practice to schedule in fun, but when we burn out, it becomes inevitable. That’s one of the nice things about co-authoring/co-projecting with your best friends. When we’ve pushed ourselves too far, JLY and I (and KM Ricker, when she’s not toiling over her drawings) get to have fun.

So what do JLY and I do for fun? Well, recently we had what I’d call a ‘Left 4 Dead Party’. This consisted of 2 flat-screen HDTVs, 2 X-Box 360’s, 2 copies of Left 4 Dead that I borrowed from various sources, and 2 very accommodating friends to keep JLY and I alive as we run into walls, fire, and zombie hordes. The night was spent passing two of the campaigns, and to summarize, it involved a lot of JLY and myself shooting our FPS-savvy friends in the back of the head. ^_^* Heh. Our friends have assured us that in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, the first thing they will do is take our guns and leave us far, far behind.

But there’s only so much zombie-hunting a person can take… Especially when JLY spends about an hour to figure out how to get up each ladder… Our latest distraction was a game based off of Battlestar Galactica. Having not watched much of the series, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about trying it, but it turned out to be one of the funnest boardgames I’ve ever played. I think what I love about it is that the emotions end up being real. There are two traitors for every five-person game, and when I had to stab one of my friends in the back, I felt genuinely terrible, and he felt genuinely betrayed. That game is an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s definitely a good time.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to– trying to relax, breathe, and just have some fun without feeling like I need to be doing seven other things at once. My bills are paid, my work gets done at my 9 to 5 job, and there’s gas in my car. Everything else can wait, because every now and then, you need to make time for fun. Right?

Speaking of fun, by popular demand, I put Averi through the Mary Sue Litmus Test today. She scored a somewhat chagrining 39, which in this test equates a Mary-Sue, although not a hopeless one. You can see the full results and read for yourself what a 39 means.

All right, so admittedly, the SFA characters are meant to play off of many of the fantasy tropes. There’s just no getting around a few of them, like:

Is the character related to royalty or nobility?
Has everyone significant heard of the character?
Is the character rich or well-to-do, although she/he doesn’t work?

(Warning, Spoilers for Book 1!)

There are some others that could have been avoided:

Was the character ever abducted?

I read that and thought ‘curses, book 1!’ They weren’t even trying to abduct her… -sigh-

Then there’s this one:

Is the character’s name an unusual spelling of a more common word or name?

I think ‘Avery’ is normally how the name is spelled. In my defense, I only swapped the spelling because I was ripping off one of JLY’s characters from a previous story. That character is named Avery, and I thought changing it to an ‘i’ would be fun… It started out as a place-holder, but when JLY nick-named Wisteria ‘Raven’, all bets were off–I previously had a character named ‘Ravenly’–so more or less, it was a fair trade… Right?

KL

A Parting Quote– for context, we had been laughing over something, rather than working:

KL: Okay… We need to listen to a calming song so we can work.
JLY: No! Not calm! UN-CALM! UN-CALM! *Shakes fist!*
KL: I’m putting that on my blog.
JLY: That’s not funny… It’s not funny to anyone but us.
KL: Yes… Well, that’s never stopped me before.

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The Perfect Book

January 24, 2009

“This is why I’m not good at being witty in real life. I think I’m so clever that I start laughing before I finish what I’m saying.”

-JLY

It’s probably no secret that JLY and I both enjoy writing SFA quite a bit… That should probably be reward enough for toiling over our pages… But I do take great delight whenever I see on the forum or in an email that someone is enjoying reading our work.

On the other hand, it makes me sad, sometimes, to know that some people… okay, possibly a lot of people… aren’t going to like our book.

There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been elaborated on in various comments, and others that are simply reasons I know, reasons that keep me awake at night every now and then, wondering if we should have done things differently.

I should probably admit that this is in no small part my own fault. I’ve developed a bad habit of reading the Amazon reviews for other books. It’s oddly fascinating to read the 5-star reviews, and horribly terrifying to read the 1-star reviews. Even great books, amazing books that are given 5 stars by reviewer after reviewer can be ripped to shreds by a single scathing 1-star review. How can some people hate a book so passionately, and other people love it so entirely?

The answer, I think, is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s just that people have different tastes, different things they look for, different things they love and hate.

For example, with our story, I know there are going to be people who don’t like the pace, people who don’t like the characters, and people who don’t like the plot (or lack there of in the beginning). But I also know– or at least hope– that there will be people who love seeing the school before we launch into the story, people who delight in watching the simple stereotypes blossom into deeper characters, and people who read foreshadowing into the early events that prepared the way for the main plot.

Writing is about making choices, and those choices come with trade-offs. The trade-off to getting a big, fun cast is that you might lose people when you introduce so many new faces at once. The trade-off to spending time on bullies, social events, and all the high school details is that there’s less time for the epic fantasy elements. The trade-off for entertaining ourselves with funny jokes and twists is that we undercut the dramatic elements.

One of my friends recently read our story, and he commented that he was taken by surprise when everything in the ending started happening, since up until then, it’s a happy little story without much danger.

Part of that is intentional. We wanted the twists to come as a significant surprise, but the trade-off is that there’s less urgency early on. Wisteria having a bodyguard, for example, seems completely superfluous at first. Rakam comes off as a slacker tag-along set on annoying her and making an easy buck… But we all know how that one ends.

Ultimately, there are many different ways that we could have told our story… I strongly believe that the published version is much, much stronger than the draft that is on the website. Even so, sometimes I still wonder if we should have told it a different way…

But if writing is about trade-offs, then I think the best we can do is to write from the heart, and write what we love… Because there’s no such thing as a Perfect Book that everyone will love… There will always be people who like a book, and people who don’t. And if you write for someone else, for what you think other people will like, at best you’ll still end up displeasing some readers, and at worst your writing will ring false to your readers and to yourself as well. The best I think we writers can hope for is to write for ourselves, and if someone else happens to like it, then we can consider ourselves very, very lucky.

And on that subject, I have a confession.

If you couldn’t tell, last week’s post is one of my favorites. JLY and I have had this scene planned for quite some time, so we’ve been looking forward to finally getting here. We’ve debated for a while how we wanted to play this scene… Ultimately, we had had to do it this way… It was just too much fun.

There are a lot of different ways that this scene could have happened. Perhaps more dramatically, perhaps with more suspense. But here we are, and I happen to personally like it the way it is.

You see, here at SFA, we write because it’s fun. We wouldn’t be able to sit inside on a Friday night and write for hours if it weren’t fun. We can be serious when we need to be, but our default setting is ‘have a good time’. And I can imagine that a lot of our choices aren’t very traditional, or might be very different than how other writers would do it… But maybe (hopefully?) different can be a good thing?

So that’s my rambling for today, but before I go, my sincerest thanks to everyone like mjkj and Mary who has helped so far with The Great Tagging Project (I’m compulsively checking to see if we ever claim the #1 spot for “Young Adult Fantasy” or “Young Adult”), to everyone who has bought the book, and to each person who has posted a review–Generic Pen Name, Charvale, Aiden Naecea, G. DiStefano, Larry Liang, and Drucilla Shultz–you definitely made our day, week, month! I’m savoring the time while we have a 5-star rating, since I know it’s doomed to not last for long…

KL

Quote for the week:

JLY: We have option A and B.
KL: What should we do?
JLY: Well, ‘A’ sounds funny…
KL: Yeah, let’s do that. Like we usually do. Whatever personally amuses us.

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Done? Really?

October 31, 2008

JLY and I just submitted the Word document with the entire novel to Booksurge late last night… Fingers crossed that there won’t be any problems, and we’ll get it out in time for people to buy as holiday presents! What could be better than sharing SFA with someone you love, like, or barely know? (Really, we’ll take anything…) … Please? ^_^

JLY and I have worked extremely hard to improve the story from what’s on the website. There are new scenes, tons of cleaned up plot lines, and a veritable barrage of properly-used commas. We’ve agonized over making it the highest quality story possible, so we really hope you enjoy it. In particular, anyone who has been bothered by inconsistencies, wished for more details about the world, or wondered what happened to Fell for the middle part of the book should definitely read it!

So if you’ve enjoyed the website, if you’ve enjoyed the story, please save a spot on your bookshelf (and perhaps even a place on your gift list?) for SFA! We’ll let you know as soon as the book is available for purchase– hopefully it’ll be early December or late November!

KL

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Massive Rewrites, You Say? Why Yes, We’ve Got Those.

September 25, 2008

As you might know, JLY and I finished writing Book 1 on 7/7/08. And then, began editing it. That means we’ve been editing for over two months now. Two months. Of editing.

If you’ve read JLY’s blog at all, you know she’s the perfectionist. She likes it when things are perfect. Me, on the other hand? I like it when things are done.

Which is why editing is painful for me. I wanted to power through it and finish it and submit the book so I can put a big metaphorical DONE stamp on SFA Book 1… But luckily, JLY and KM Ricker (amongst other people) have talked sense into me… So it looks like we might delay publishing until we can go over the entire book again and make it… better…

Sometimes, with editing, I get the feeling that I’m not making things better, I’m just making things different. I hate that feeling… It seems unproductive.

But, JLY and I did have a good round of editing lately, where we rolled up our sleeves and cleaned up some of the Annalise sub-plot (which gets a little messy at times)… Hopefully, what we’re doing is making it better, and not just different.

After some discussion, JLY and I decided to share one of the changes— an added scene, in this case– for the update last week. This scene is in rough-draft (and by that, I mean it hasn’t been gone through any rounds of editing yet). If you read it, I hope you liked seeing what we’ve been bashing our heads against for the past two months or so… The process of ripping open the story and then putting it back together. So to speak.

Oh, to answer the question in the comments, JLY and I have opted not to use a professional editor… Since we’ve already got the two of us, plus KM Ricker’s opinion, I tend to think we’ve got enough opinions floating around… Also, I’m not sure that the quality of professional editing we’d get with a self-publishing company would be that worth it, since the editors don’t work with you for as much time, or as closely. But maybe a professional editor would be a good idea in the future, at some point…

KL

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Reviews, Deadlines, New Favorite Hobbies.

September 10, 2008

First off, I really can’t thank everyone enough for joining the facebook group, posting comments, joining the tangler forum and overall reading the book. My new favorite hobby is checking to see who the new members of the facebook group are, and hoping we break 100 people. ^_^

Also, I’ll admit that every now and then JLY, KM Ricker, and I spend a couple of hours sorting through all of the places where fans have posted SFA links on forums, or mentioned it on blogs or profiles. It’s always a jolt of encouragement to see that someone out there has taken the time to share our story with other people. We really appreciate it!

So… along those lines, JLY and I have submitted our site to a couple of web fiction websites, so I wanted to let everyone know that you can now find a listing of our book at Pages Unbound and the Webfiction Guide. We’ve had so many thoughtful and amazing emails/comments that I thought I’d throw those two links out there to see if anyone would be interested in giving us a ranking/writing a review at one of those sites. (Who wouldn’t want to write a review for SFA? No one, presumably… Right? =D)

Anyway, apparently the only way JLY, KM Ricker, and I can manage to get anything done is to set some strict deadlines… The latest one we’ve set is to try to submit the manuscript to Booksurge by Sept 15th. Given how long the formatting, etc. takes, that should mean the book will be ready to buy in time for the holidays… Hopefully. So, as per usual, we’re scrambling to get everything done, tighten up anything that needs tightening, and add in all the scenes we think make sense to add.

As JLY and I have mentioned a bit, we’re planning on filling in Fell’s arc somewhat more completely, so you can look for a couple more Fell scenes in the first book. Honestly, one of the main reasons that Fell was neglected was the steady-progression nature of his character. Warriors take their lumps and grind through the first year, so that’s what Fell is doing… and unfortunately, that’s not particularly eventful, or plot-relevant… (We can really only have so many scenes where Fell gets beaten up again, right?) But, looking back, we did end up skipping over some parts… So, I can now definitely say that we’re going to round all of that out a little more, particularly the social side of Fell’s first year.

Other than that, just more of the same type of work that we’ve been talking about for the past couple months… the Fell additions are the last major thing on our list, along with a couple other scenes that need looking at… and, realistically, probably going over the entire thing one last time… But, after that! We can submit it! I feel like I’ve been saying that for awhile…

Anyway, I’m looking forward to submitting it, and finally really moving on to work full-on for book 2. We’ll keep you updated as we go along… With hope and much luck, the next time I post, I’ll be congratulating the SFA team on successfully submitting our book to Booksurge by September 15th. ^_^

KL

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Self-Publishing, RSS, Facebook, and Fell

August 24, 2008

Thanks again to everyone who’s been commenting and emailing. KM Ricker, JLY, and I were very encouraged by all of the feedback!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on the non-writing side of SFA. We called a couple of self-publishing companies and spent a few hours talking to each of them so we could figure out what the best company for us would be. After much debate, we decided to go with Booksurge (as David Dunham even recently recommended). We picked Booksurge for several reasons, including the book size (smaller, and more like real fantasy books), and the price buyers pay (which should end up being lower than other companies). The process takes a couple of months to complete, so when it’s available to buy, we’ll be happy to let everyone know!

On top of the self-publishing research, JLY and I also spent many (too many?) hours bashing our heads against the RSS feed, but we finally got it working, so SFA now has an RSS feed. Sign up and stay on top of all the upcoming SFA news. =)

Lastly, you might have noticed that SFA has a shiny new Facebook group, so you can join up and discuss SFA on facebook with other readers, or just show your support. =D Thank you to everyone who has signed up so far!

Whew. Well, hopefully this week it’ll be back to writing. Rai’s prologue will be posted on Friday, so we can see how Eastridge’s resident charmer spent his summer. After that, it’ll be time to dive into the first chapter!

By the way, there have been a few emails and comments asking about why Fell isn’t more involved in Book 1. Originally, we had a few more things planned for him and for the Warrior major, but as it was we felt we were taking too long to get to the actual overarching plot, so we decided to push some of it to the second book.

So, JLY and I have previously talked about this imbalance, and as we’re editing the book, we’ve been looking to see if we can balance the narrative a bit more evenly while still making sense and without getting too side-tracked. So, it’s something we’ve definitely been thinking about and looking into, although I’m not sure what the end result will be. I can, however, say that we’ve got lots of plans for Fell this year.

KL

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Ending and Beginning

July 31, 2008

We’ve timed our posts on the SFA website so that the ending to the first book will be posted on 8/6/08. And, as you might have heard from JLY’s post, we’re planning on starting the second book and posting the first scene by 8/8/08. Hopefully this isn’t too ambitious, considering JLY and I have spent the last few weeks editing and polishing Book 1, instead of starting Book 2…

At any rate, the beginning of Book 2 also coincides with the end of copious amounts of free time– JLY is off to get some more book-learnin’, I’m headed back into the working world, and even KM Ricker is returning to the trenches of art school.) So, we’ll be returning to once-a-week updates that will most likely take place on Fridays.

Even though starting the second book is a little daunting from this side of it, there’s something exhilaratingly about standing at the edge of this new book. Writing the end of the first book was a lot of tying up loose ends and pulling the plot together. There wasn’t too much room for random scenes or whimsical asides, and for that matter, the story was mostly in place so we didn’t even need to do that much creating. It was mostly just finishing out the road map that we had put in place.

But! Now that we’re starting the second book, it feels like there’s nothing but time and freedom. There are a lot of fun questions to be asked and answered. How has summer changed each of the adventurers? Will people relate the same way as they did before? Yes, we’ve got an outline for where the plot is going, but there’s much more freedom than we’ve been used to operating under.

The feeling of starting over with a new book, is, I suppose, one of possibilities. And what I love about SFA is that these possibilities are everywhere. It’s fun to try to figure out which possibilities to run with, and where to take them. Well, hopefully by 8/8/08, we’ll all know where these possibilities lead.

KL