What I Learned at a Book Fest

now playing on my laptop: Alaska by Mogli (thanks Kristin)

I recently attended the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green and had a fantastic time. In addition to wandering around in dragon themed leather armor and heading to White Squirrel for the greatest burger ever (hello spiced apples and blue cheese), I was lucky enough to talk to my lovely fellow writers and a TOOOONNN of amazing readers.

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I write fantasy that teens and adults both seem to enjoy (thankfully!), so I participated in Friday’s teen day when area schools bring middle and high school students to the book fest to attend workshops and buy books. Saturday was the open event, and I talked to more adult readers during that 9-3 session after doing a talk on Fight Scenes.

Here is what I learned.

Readers want to quickly understand where a book fits into their current mind shelf. They are constantly asking themselves: Does this book I’ve never seen sit next to Percy Jackson or Salt to the Sea on my mind shelf?

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A quick synopsis is great for readers, but not nearly as quick and consumable as a few good comparative titles. And the titles need to be VERY well known. They need not be exactly right. Just very much in the same genre and with the same tone and feel.

This may seem like an obvious thing, but for us writers, we can lose touch with the basics of getting our stories into the right hands when we’re caught up in the details of publishing. We should keep these comparative titles in our heads during plotting, drafting, revising, and on and on. It’s not a copying thing of course. You know that. It’s just remembering and focusing on where this story sits on that mind shelf. Humans have a strong need to categorize. It helps us problem solve quickly. It’s a good thing most of the time. (I try not to do it with people if I can help it, because people are complicated.)

What are some books that sit side-by-side on your mind shelf?

 

The comparative titles (not all are books!) for my series that readers seemed to latch onto are as follows:

(I didn’t come up with these. The readers at the book fest did.)

The Uncommon World SeriesLord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Pirates of the Caribbean, Graceling, The Hobbit, Eragon

The Edinburgh Seer SeriesHarry Potter, Supernatural, Shadowhunters, X-Men, Avengers but with ghosts (lol)

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Bucket List for Writers

currently playing on my laptop: Nothing because I needed some silence today

Do you have a bucket list—a bunch of things you must do before you kick the bucket?

I do. I revise it each year on New Year’s Eve by the fire.

But I also think I need a Writers Bucket List. There are just certain things I really NEED to do because I’ve researched them and just cannot stand the idea of never doing those activities IRL.

  1. I practice archery and I used to ride, but I’ve never shot an arrow from horseback. Must do. (It’d be a plus if I do it in Turkey or Iran or somewhere I haven’t been)

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2. How about nosing around Iceland? Yes please. It has such a dramatic landscape!

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3. Dog sled!!!! How cool (literally and figuratively) would this be?!

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4. I have such a longing to eat my way through a German Christmas market!

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5. And I MUST see Egypt. My uncle went there years ago and I can’t stop hating him a little bit for not taking me.

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What is on your bucket list???

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My Favorite Weapons

currently playing on my laptop: Ghosting mixtape 

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Well I should begin this post with Wit as #1 fave weapon to fight the darkness, the baddies, the foul-intentioned fools of this world. But if I’m honest I really love a nice, big stick.

Seriously.

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I’ve trained with a bo staff and a set of escrima too. Love them. Sticks are light (if you get the right size) and make almost any movement possible. They aren’t fussy. Don’t require much care or attention. They pack a great punch and I know for sure I would give any evil one some real trouble if he/she tried to get at me when I had a stick in my hand. Plus you look like a badass when you spin and strike. 

Another favorite is archery. I LOVE a beautiful, wooden recurve bow and arrows with gorgeous fletching. I’m not that great at it, but I’m okay when my dumb shoulder and elbow allow me to practice. (getting old ain’t for sissies) I love using a weapon that Legolas approves of. I mean, c’mon.

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I also truly enjoy the Chinese broadsword. It’s so shiny and flashy and could do some serious bad guy damage if push came to shove.

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What weapons do you like in your life and in the books you read?

(PSA: Kids, don’t play around with stuff. Use that good head you have and get the proper training and safety courses. You will not look badass if you chop your own foot off.)

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Character Study

currently playing on my laptop: Lucky by Aurora

Last week when I was in Frothy Monkey (a local coffee shop), I began studying the faces around me. This is a writer thing. I am not original in this. But I figured I’d lay out my findings because sharing is caring, y’all.

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I will probably swap these people’s genders and use them in a future series. (I have things already plotted out and I’m excited)

Here is a screenshot of the notes I took on my MacBook air

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I generally do these when I’m procrastinating, but it’s a good stall. I don’t usually put these “people” in my books as they are, but many, many of their traits—both physical features and mannerisms—go into my characters. 

Do you do enjoy people watching too?

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Drafting Is My Favorite

currently playing on my laptop: Trance to Study by: All Nighter by Delta Notch

If you get a bunch of writers together, two questions will always come up.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your most hated step?

If you’re a reader and not a writer, you may not be aware of the steps that lead to publication. I won’t cover them all, but here is a quick sum up.

  1. brainstorming
  2. outlining (not everyone does this, but most serious writers do)
  3. drafting (aka vomiting the story out in all its hot mess-ness)
  4. revision
  5. lesser editing
  6. final polish reading/editing/proofing

I love brainstorming. That’s when I get to play on Pinterest, looking for pictures of Iceland, the steppe, the Mediterranean Sea, hot guys firing arrows, lovely ladies wielding magical knives, and so on and so forth. I chat with my husband and friends and family about plot ideas and characters. Music is also a huge part of this step. I like to find songs for certain scene I know will be in the story or songs that serve as themes for characters or settings. It’s a very, very fun step.

Outlining. Ugh. I hate it. But I can’t write without it. I know it will change a TON before the book is a book and that’s what makes me hate it. A necessary evil for me.

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Drafting is my favorite!!!! This is when I get to have rum and write all the things and not worry if they make sense or have huge gaping plot holes. I just type and laugh and cry and fight and listen to all the wild songs I chose for the story and the words fllllooooowwwwww. It is Happyland (not to be confused with Mylesland lol) for this writer.

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The fourth step in my totally not official list there is revision and I like that too. It is very challenging in that I have to keep everything in my head. Motivations. Plot. Threads of this and that. This is the serious stuff right here. No more playing about. No more rum. 😦 BUT I do enjoy it. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t listen to music with words during this part. FOCUS and BRUTAL HONESTY with myself is key.

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The last two steps are okay. I like line editing my stuff before sending it off because I love grammar and sentence structure. (I am a writer, after all) I like polishing metaphors and imagery here too and making the prose sing as beautifully as I am able.

Do you have a favorite step in the process of your creations? Do share! 🙂

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Long Time, No See

currently playing on my laptop: True Feeling by Galantis

Hello people!!! I’ve missed blogging!

The last months have been a whirlwind of writing and being a mother and learning to love myself again.

I went through a weird, emotionally rough patch in the fall and winter. For some reason, I began thinking I wasn’t good enough. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. Every time something less than awesome happened to anyone in my life, I found a way to blame myself. Like down to the smallest of situations. For example, I stepped in front of someone at the grocery store (not even ON them—we were simply both grabbing for some Prego!) and I found myself apologizing far more than was necessary. When bad things happened to my kids because school can be tough, I twisted the facts to blame myself. And these weren’t things I could ever hope to control. Yes, I should apologize when rude. Yes, I should be there for my kids when yuck happens. But I don’t have to wear the burden of guilt for any of that. But I did! For months!! Bizarre.

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I’m not sure what led to this terrible mindset, but thankfully, I snapped out of it.

On New Year’s Day, I just couldn’t sleep. (like New Year’s Day night haha) I began thinking and thinking. I was actually almost lightheaded and half crazy. Then, something in my head said, “You forgot you are amazing. None of this is your fault.”

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Now, I know very well I have loads and loads of work to do with regard to relationships and more. I need to be more thoughtful, better with time management, and so on. I am always trying to be a better sister, child, mother, wife, and friend. That is a good thing.

BUT I what I needed (and still do today) is to keep my achievements and good points in the front of my mind. 

WHY would I think you care about this? 

Well, we are all humans. I’m betting some of you can relate to this post. Negative self talk can really put a monkey wrench into writing, creating, laughing, and living, and I want to do all I can to let you know YOU ARE ALSO AMAZING.

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Writing and Fighting: Come Along Wrist Grab

currently playing on my laptop: Electric Landlady by Kila

As most of you know, I teach mixed martial arts and self defense when I’m not writing fantasy. Sometimes I make videos to discuss writing and those videos oftentimes give instruction as to what your action scenes should/shouldn’t include. Today I’m sharing a video my sweet kids helped me create. It’s about a very common way jerks grab people and how to escape. I hope you enjoy it and please be patient as my son films with my terrible lighting and sad, old phone. hahaha

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