If you are like 90% of Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Camp NaNo, even if you have heard of its terrifying counterpart and older sister, NaNoWriMo *shivers at the memories of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse*
I’ll lay it out simply for you:
-There are cabins that you can create or join on the site to “hang” with your buddies or get randomly assigned with new writing friends.
-Forums allow you to share snippets of your story and offer up encouragement, advice, and fangirling during your cabin mates’ writing process.
-And the best part is that YOU set your own goals for April!
That’s right. During the month-long fest of awesomeness that is Camp NaNo, you decide a realistic word count goal that works for you. Or if you’re better at managing chapters or pages, then use that as your motivational guide. You can work as hard as you want to, and instead of burning yourself out by reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, you can set a goal of 30,000 words (like me!). And the best part of April is the community of writers you get connected with, who are aspiring and struggling to meet goals or connect ideas just like you.
I have never been to camp and haven’t *cough* successfully participated in Camp NaNo before. I know, the horror! But knowing that my circle of amazing encouragers and beta-readers and writer-friends has grown so much makes me want to dive right in and tackle whatever goal I’ve set for myself. That’s my favorite part of Camp, just understanding a goal and having the support you need to reach it or the Oreos and coffee when you don’t. As cheesy as it sounds, it isn’t about the goals you set but the journey and the people along the way.
So here’s to the next 30 days, friends. I have a feeling it will be epic!
And stay tuned this month for more Fangirl’s Survival Guide posts and Camp NaNo updates.
My biggest takeaways from Realm Makers: The BEST friends anyone could ever hope to discover, and the fact that it doesn’t matter what you like to write or if your book is nothing more than a few random scribbles on a page. So long as you keep at it and push past all the negativity and self-doubt, you. Are. A. Writer! Whether or not you ever decide to publish and regardless of what genre you write, no one can take that from you, and this truth is infinitely special.
I don’t often travel alone, but when I do, you can bet your poodle that it will be an adventure. Fret not, your poodle is safe if you wagered it, because I always do something that adds excitement to a journey . . . whether or not I actually intend to.
Last week, I hopped on a plane at 9pm to attend Realm Makers SpecFic conference, and I arrived in Philadelphia at what would be four in the morning, according to my internal clock. I braved several train changes and lugged my suitcase around countless stations, and my suitcase weighed, almost literally, a ton due to the copies of my books that took up the majority of beg space (“beg” is an inside joke, guys. I promise I edited this post *wink*). I arrived at Villanova University exhausted and hot (oh, the humidity! My curly hair did not approve), and all I wanted to do was put my face in ice water. But the instant I arrived in our dorm, I was greeted by the friendliest faces that I’d only ever seen on Facebook before, and everyone immediately welcomed me in. It was the strangest thing to meet these people for the first time and feel like I knew every last one of them.
BUT THEN I went upstairs to drop my bag off, and Nadine Brandes (buy A Time to Die now! Just do it!) threw open the door and hugged me like we’d been apart for years. And we had.
Nadine and I got to know each other nearly five years ago at my cousin’s wedding. We bonded over YA and dancing and our love of all things fantasy and sci-fi, and we just clicked. She is one of those incredibly special people that you know for a day, and she finds her way into your heart forever with her charisma for life and her kind heart and sense of humor. Instead of washing my hair, which I probably should have done, we spent the next two hours chatting and catching up, and it was like we’d never been apart. Later that day, I would run into my other roomies and friends for life, Tricia Mingerink (fellow curly-hair-problems girl and author of Dare. I never write OMG, but O.M.G!!! This book!), and the most enthusiastic writer and blogger and caffeine drinker I have ever met, Katie (future Pulitzer and Christ Award winner. Follow her blog here). These ladies are my everything.
Then I ran out the door and hopped on yet another train back into town to meet Cassie (follow Novels and Necklaces) at Independence Hall. You might recognize her name from the dedications at the back of Defying Shadows; she was one of the first to finish beta reading the book, and we’ve kept it touch. So when I heard that she was in Philadelphia, I begged her to meet me, and she agreed! *squeals in excitement* It was such a special afternoon just getting to know each other and acting like we did that all the time. Definitely a special memory!
And, of course, I promised you adventure. Aside from the amazing conference itself and happily losing myself inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art and jogging victoriously up the steps, Rocky Balboa-style, the majority of my *cough* adventure happened the Thursday I arrived. This mostly involved me getting trapped inside a Starbucks during a torrential downpour, although it did lead to me sharing my story with a few tourists inside, so, yay! When I realized I was going to be late for the conference kickoff, I braved the crazy storm (I’m from San Diego—what’s weather? The sky is crying! Ah!), my umbrella nearly snapped, my coffee cup just about dissolved from the rain, I trekked eight blocks to the train station, realized it was the wrong one and considered jumping the tracks (regardless of oncoming trains) before going back outside to the correct platform, and then I almost drowned in the flooded subway station. Oh, and all the while my sandals were slipping around as I trudged through The Nile. It. Was. Awesome! ^_^ And somehow the girl from the place that doesn’t have weather was the only one who brought an umbrella to the conference, so at one point we had six heads and one soggy poster crammed under the half-broken contraption while we laughingly dashed our way across campus to the cafeteria.
Now, because I can be incredibly long-winded, I won’t detail every 18 seconds of the most incredible conference in history, though I want to. So I’ll glaze over the way I met one of my favorite Twitter friends, Zac Tyson (aka the “other” Zac—you thought I’d be shy . . . bahahahahaha), half-soaked and fully exhausted, and then instantly became besties with he and Hannah. And I won’t describe how amazing the kickoff was that night, with marshmallow-stacking and tissue-pulling games, or detail the incredible costumes at the costume party, nor the fact that Brianna and Lillian saved me from being costume-less next to these ladies:
And I won’t tell you how Banana Dolphin Nadine had to keep us company when Nadine wasn’t around for our final breakfast as a group (may the banana dolphin live on!!!!), nor will I describe how two Zacs holding the aforementioned fruit companion is now legendary.
And I honestly can’t explain what’s happening here:
I also promise not to go on and on about how incredible and informative Kathy Tyres’ World-Building classes were, or how we had a hilarious and wonderfully useful self-defense class on the final night (Carla could totally take down the Hulk!), or the fact that Thomas Locke is such a beautiful speaker and Tosca Lee plays a great presidential candidate. And it would just be too much to tell you how Kirk Douponce—one of the most fantastic cover designers in the industry—is also an amazing person and coffee drinker, and has a great sense of humor when revealing some of the worst covers ever created (and I quote: What am I even looking at here?).
And that’s not even getting into our group of Realmies! Suddenly, our small crew expanded into a tight-knit group with Hannah and the “other” Zac on Twitter (if you follow his Twitter, you will NOT regret it) and his awesome brother, Jake, and then Megan (aka Agent Carter) and her sister joined us, and Brianna and Lillian, and the “other” Zac from CO (aka Bruce Wayne who braved the Philadelphia train system with me, but doesn’t like coffee. Go figure), and Sam (Saber!), and Emilie Hendryx (her Society 6 designs are amazing—check them out here), and Jessi and Amy Brock McNew and Olivia— *sucks in a breath* I think you get the picture. At one point, we all crammed into an elevator and prayed we wouldn’t die. It. was. Epic! (Photo credits: Zac T. Austin; Fear: Me)
I’ve never really had a close community of writers who can get together and share their thoughts and fears and fresh ideas, so this experience was special to me. Each night, everyone gathered at our dorm to hang out and chat about our day, and by the end of the conference, Katie and I had nearly lost our voices (worth it). Friday night, I was lucky enough to get on a Philadelphia-New Zealand Skype call with Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books, and on Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Suzy and Shawn Kuhn, and I also pitched my next little brainchild to Michelle Harper of Love2Read2Write and Julie Gwinn, an agent at the Seymour Agency (I know, I was dying on the inside!).
On the last night we had together, my roommates and I remained behind from the Nerf War that had commenced just outside our door and didn’t cease until 4:30am. 0.o But inside our room, Nadine, Tricia, Katie, and I finally got the opportunity to just be together and munch on chocolate and all the goodies Tricia brought, and we spent that time sharing about our next projects in a safe environment. I started tearing up as I sat there listening to Nadine describe the incredibly moving story she has in mind; Tricia detailed her entire series that sounds ridiculously gripping; and Katie—the youngest but probably the most dedicated writer of us all—who shyly admitted a few of her story ideas and then became excited as she explained what she has in mind.
It was such a wonderfully special moment for me, and I suspect for all of us, because I realized I was witnessing the brilliant contrast between our group. Yes, we all love reading fiction and writing it and have similar tastes in certain areas of fic, but we all come from different backgrounds and are incredibly unique as writers. And that doesn’t just go for the best roommates of all time (this is a fact and is not up for negotiation), but for ALL writers. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, enjoy sci-fi or fantasy, historical or purely romance, your story and your voice as a writer is unique and special and needed. The fact that literary historians can attribute several works to the Pearl Poet (they don’t even know the author’s name!) simply because of the style and tone of his/her works just goes to show you how wonderfully different we all are. And that is a great thing!
Keep writing and dreaming, because God has a plan for that desire He’s put in your heart, and if you lean on Him and surround yourself with the right friends (^these people^), they’ll help you see it through.
Okay, all, so you might have noticed I’ve been in a little place called Cognito for a couple of weeks. This lack of attention to you guys was basically due to Thanksgiving, UC transfer application drama, essays up the wazoo, and, you guessed it: NaNoWriMo. I got soooooo close to the 50,000 word goal, but didn’t quite make it, capping out last night with 46,000 (not counting an additional 8,000 words for essays). BUT, hey, that is the most I’ve ever written in any single month, so I’m pretty ecstatic about my progress in Defying Shadows. Hey, it’s all about personal growth, and so I think I’ll take my “measly” 46,000 words and try again next year. ^_~
Now, onto serious business:
Okay, so we’ve been celebrating Christmas since November 1st in our house, getting out our decorations, music, baking, and Christmas cheer for the past month, but it always becomes more exciting once we actually get into December. And this season is especially exciting for me because I’ll be spending New Year’s in Colorado with my best friend of 22 years. We haven’t been able to celebrate our favorite holidays with each other for nine years, so we’re doing it up with all our old New Year’s traditions, plus some new ones we’ve acquired over the years. AND, because her house was always my second home growing up, I’ve demanded that Mama K. and the fam leave all the decorations up and that we have Second Christmas, where we swap gifts by the fire in the morning, go sleigh riding in the afternoon, dress up for a pizza dinner (they do NOT have any Papa Murphey’s near us in San Diego, and that should be a crime), and then wander their neighborhood to look at the lights. Maybe “demand” is a strong word, since they all jumped aboard halfway through my explanation. Haha. It’s going to be amazing, and I cannot WAIT to get out there!
What are some of your Christmas traditions?
Just answer as many as you find applicable, or feel you want to answer
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself that we won’t find in your bio?
Hm..well, I’m an adventurer determined to experience as many sides of life as possible. Some odd facts about myself are: I was once a professional drummer, I’ve scuba dived in a sunken ship, and I tried to make it to the Olympics by snowboard racing. The Olympic thing was a dream much bigger than I understood when I started. In the process, I learned I’m not a competitive person. I was actually relieved when the journey ended at Nationals.
I live in Idaho, my heart is in Missouri, but hubby and I hope to move to Russia someday. How’s that for “a little bit” about myself? [grin]
What inspired you to become an author?
Birth, really. I was born needing to write, needing to process via words. I turned everything into a story – both verbally and on paper. I created comic books as soon as I could draw with “paper pals” I’d sketch and send on adventures through little time machines.
It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I realized I wanted to do it for life and pursue writing as a career.
How did you come up with the idea for “A Time to Die”?
It came upon me, really. Quite forcefully. I was in the middle of grad school and an acquaintance of mine passed away. He was my age and it got me thinking about how short life could be. I wondered if I’d live differently if I knew I had a year left. That’s when the idea of A Time to Die hit me – what if a culture existed where everyone knew the day they would die? Would we live differently?
Tell us about your main characters. Do you have a favorite?
Parvin is my main character and easily my favorite. She asks a lot of questions I once asked in my lifetime so her journey feels very close to home. I like trying to delve into a teenager’s mind without supporting the common stereotypes we hold regarding teenages — angsty, irrational, selfish, etc. Just because that’s common with some teenagers doesn’t mean that’s how they all are. I wanted to capture the inner struggle. In doing so, I grew to love Parvin even more.
Reid is Parvin’s twin brother. He’s a traveler in love with adventures and always looking out for his family. Then there’s Jude – the mysterious inventor. He was a challenge to write. I went from not liking it at all to liking him too much (which made certain story elements harder.) Eventually I found a balance.
As for the other characters? I’ll just have to let you meet them on your own! 😉
What was your favorite scene(s) to write and why?
Strangely, the sad or intense scenes were the most fun to write. I thrive off of writing emotions, that’s when I’m at my best, I think. So whenever there needed to be a tragedy or a hard character decision, that’s when I got glued to my computer.
What do you do in your spare time when you aren’t writing?
Spare time? What’s that? [wink] Actually, I’m a freelance editor and all my spare time goes to editing. If I have true spare time – where I don’t have to edit or write – I’ll either read or spend time with family. Or do something artsy.
If you could live inside the pages of any book (or series), what would it be and why?
My gut instinct is Harry Potter because that series inspired me and impacted my life in very positive ways. Not to mention that, I’m so nerdy about the whole series, I’d do quite well in a wand battle. But I’d have to be able to bring my hubby with me. 😀
You’re trapped on a desert island and can only save one book—using the rest for firewood (I just gagged at the thought)—to read until you’re saved months later, what would it be? Your answer must be a title other than the Bible—that’s a given.
Cruel! You are so cruel! Well, providing that I had food and provisions to keep me alive (without needing a survival book), I’d probably pick the dictionary…or a giant book of Systematic Theology. Or a huge encyclopedia.
I know, that is so boring. A million fiction books ran through my mind, but I can’t in good conscience devote several months to only entertainment. Must. Expand. Vocabulary!
(Side note: After I read Nadine’s response–bahahahahaha! And this is why I love this author, people! She’s got her priorities straight)
Where do you get your ideas? Is anything in your book based on your own experiences, or is it purely from your imagination?
Mostly from imagination, dreams, or Scripture. A lot of times, my stories draw from a “what if” question. “What if” everyone knew the day they’d die? “What if” every wish came true? “What if”…
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Nope. There are scenes that are harder to write than others, but I rarely go into a story without knowing where it’s supposed to go. I don’t have time for writer’s block. 😉 In this, I count myself very lucky because I know a lot of writers who struggle with it.
Can you tell us about your challenges (if any) in getting your first book published?
Frankly, I had my “publishing story” handed to me on a silver platter. The only rejection letter I received came the same day I received the offer of a contract from my top publisher.
The hardest challenge was continuing to write and better my craft, really. It’s crucial that we apply what we learn as we receive edits or read craft books. Writing is hard! But worth it. [grin]
What stories are you currently working on?
I’m writing book two in the Out of Time Series and the first rough draft is done! After this series, I have some pretty cool ideas (I think.) A portal fantasy, another dystopian, an apocalyptic-type of idea. I need to learn to write faster.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Go to a writer’s conference! This is the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone who wants to grow in his or her writing craft. I know a lot of writers are introverts and that writing conferences can seem expensive or intimidating, but it’s the next step. Take it. Be brave!
How can we discover more about your book?
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for reading. I hope that, instead of escapism, my books inspire you to live more fully. Remember, life demands pursuit, and God’s given us the perfect amount of time with which to catch it.
Thanks, Nadine, for sharing your amazing journey with us and for giving the literary world such a gem as “A Time to Die.” And if Nadine were still here, I imagine she’d give a resounding “Welks!” ^_^ You’ll understand when you read the book.
Catch up with Nadine and buy “A Time to Die” in paperback and ebook today. You will NOT be sorry!
Welcome to week three of the Between the Pages sneak peek at the inner workings of “Chasing Shadows.” Week four, an interview with a ridiculously cheeky and gorgeous Spanish lord, will be postponed for a week because I’ll be on vacation. I may or may not be able to post it next weekend after I get back, but no guarantees! I guess that means you’ll just have to imagine what a date with Damien Lisandro would be like. Heck, I think about it every day, myself. 😉
Check out today’s interview with Karen, the fiery-sweet redhead from “Chasing Shadows,” and keep up with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram via http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 during our trip (starting tomorrow!). We’re taking a copy of “Chasing Shadows” with us to do all sorts of nonsense and hilarity with the book. So follow all of these links to check out what sort of shenanigans we’ll be up to this week in Cali!
Meet your new book best-friend, Karen Ashmore from “Chasing Shadows”:
So nice of you to pop by the future for this interview, Karen.
Whispers, “I appreciate you thinking of me.” Eyes dart uncertainly over the bright living room.
You look a little nervous.
“You never know who might have followed me to the future. It’s happened before, you know.”
I do remember. But you’re safe for now, and we’ll let you go back as soon as we’re finished here.
Relaxes. “Okay. I guess I have some time.”
Great! First question is if you have a special thinking place in Serimone?
“I spend a lot of time in the barn loft. It’s peaceful there.”
Aside from traveling through eras, what do you like to do in your spare time?
“I really enjoy reading. It’s not very easy to find books that are available to the lower classes in the twelfth century, so I have a bunch of modern books stashed away in the Joneses’ barn.”
Some people have compared the Jones family to the Weasleys from Harry Potter. I’ve never read the, but would you agree with this assessment?
Laughs. “That’s one of the series I brought with me, and every time I read a scene with them, I think of my ‘family.’ They took me in without a second thought and are sweet and hilarious in the way that they’re in each other’s business all the time. They’re also an incredibly loyal and tight-knit group.” Grins. “And Ruth Jones and Mrs. Weasley have a lot in common in the way that they both dote on guests. They’re the best thing about that era.”
Superpower of choice?
“Nope. No superpowers. I’ve realized that messing with nature as God intended gets sticky. I’ve dealt with the consequences of traveling through time, and I’d rather just be content with who I am and how God designed me.”
Wow. You truly are as wise as Sarah said. Okay, well then do you have a favorite color?
“Sunrise yellow. It always gives me hope for a new day, and Seth and I have enjoyed watching the sunrise together lately.”
Speaking of which, what’s up with you and Seth?
Freezes for a split second before recovering. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Uh-huh. Right. Sure you don’t. Then what is your favorite pastime in Serimone?
“Making flower crowns.”
It’s just that I understood that reference, folks, and you will too when you read Chasing Shadows. I just have to be honest, Karen, and say that you and Seth make such a cute couple.
Blushes. “What? You’re being ridiculous . . . Wait, did he say something about me?”
Getting back to the hard-hitting questions—
“Oh, come on—“
—What’s it like being a falsely accused witch on the lamb?
Sighs. “Okay, fine. Well, it can be a little stressful at times, and at first I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. But I’ve taken a note from the Shadow and have learned to blend in. Plus, Gabriel Dunlivey was really the only one who took up that strange quest to find me, so with him gone, I don’t have much to worry about.”
… So, the Shadow. Do you know his identity? He did rescue you from being burned at the stake.
Smiles in admiration. “He’s a hero and one of the reasons why I’m alive today. The Shadow is also an inspiration to my cause against Cadius. But as to his true identity, no, I don’t know who he really is. And I’m not sure I want to; keeping his true name a secret seems important to him, and I wouldn’t want to burst his bubble of privacy.” Leans forward, grinning conspiratorially. “Besides, it’s kind of cool that a masked vigilante is protecting Serimone.”
*Sighs dreamily* Tell me about it.
“Well, I should probably get back. There’s no telling how much time has passed in Serimone while I’ve been here. And I’d hate to miss a very important upcoming event,” she sing-songs.
The wedding that Sarah mentioned? Oooh, won’t you tell us a little about it, Karen? Who’s the bride?
Jumps up from her chair with a small grin and a wave of farewell. “Sorry, I have to go.”
Wait! The fangirls need to know. I need to know who—
A flash of light and Karen is gone.
Blast! Well, I guess I’ll just have to quiz Damien Lisandro next time. Umm, I guess that’s it for today, guys. *Mutters to self* Time travelers are just so odd.
My 125th post on this blog is kind of a big deal for me, and I didn’t want to just give you a quick update or an amusing tidbit for the week (stay tuned for the 126th, though). Today I wanted to write about something that, I feel, is meaningful right now and that I believe quite a few of us are going through. Don’t let my lack of humor deter you, though; I have a point, I promise, and I really feel that everyone should read today’s musings. It’s also going to be a longer one, so stay with me!
I saw something a couple of weeks ago that I found a tad disturbing. Someone put a post on Facebook about how it’s not perverted boys that the world and the church should be worrying themselves over, but rather we should direct our concern to the twenty-something girls still living at home without any current marriage prospects. I have to be honest and say that this really upset my sisters and I for many reasons, one of which was because most of us are in our twenties and we’re all still living at home. It was a little offensive to find that someone we were very close to thought so poorly of us and our “situation.” And it wasn’t so much an issue that we aren’t, at the moment, involved with anyone, but the problem lay in the fact that our standards kept us from picking just anyone . . . and it seemed anyone would do for the sake of having someone, because it appeared that our worth was only in snaring a man.
Wow. Never thought I’d be crucified for having standards. Crazy beans!
Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more irritated I became—I got over my own personal offense pretty quickly, but so many other girls had seen this and were heartbroken over their “loser” status. Right now the idea is so prevalent, in the church especially, that men and women have to be married by 21 because, according to that Facebook post, a woman’s only worth is in marriage and having kids. Now, please don’t misunderstand me—being a mom is the hardest job in the world and incredibly important. My problem lies in the fact that people are telling every single girl that if she does not have a husband and 2.2 kids before she turns 25, she is worth nothing, she is nothing.
Is this really what you want to teach your daughters? That they have no worth?
To be quite frank with you, this is a horrible notion that draws girls away from God when they believe that a relationship with some guy is all He wants of them and that He doesn’t think they’re worth anything if their status says “single.”
I responded to this post (with unusual calm for me) that I have standards and am finding my worth in God, getting confident in my relationship in Him first, and it appeared this was also a concern—that He would meddle in our lives or think we are worth more than our duty to pro-create.
Ladies, and guys, too! You are worth more to God than you could ever fathom, and He wants HIS best plan for your life, not what other people tell you should come of your days. This generation is full of such low self-esteem that we should be reassuring one another that we are worth more than what others tell them and encourage them to have standards. I don’t mean blond hair, baby blues, 6’4, built like Thor criteria. I mean standards and values that keep you from entering into a relationship with someone—out of low self-worth—who will draw you from God and that would result in an unhappy marriage. Why do you think the divorce rate is so high in America? Because we’re telling everyone that you’re only worthwhile to the world if you have someone by your side this instance.
Well, I ALWAYS have Someone by my side. Whatever may come of my life—career, husband, family, international espionage—I want to live my life right now for God and stop worrying about a future that I can’t predict and cease fretting over the opinions of people who shouldn’t matter. I’m living my present for God, and I want to spend the rest of my days discovering just how much He thinks I’m worth the wait. And remember: God is never late; we’re just impatient.
Below are a TON of verses that my friends and I compiled to encourage each other— and now you all, too!—that God sees us as more than pawns and that he care about our present AND our future. Lift someone up this week and share these words, verses, and even this post if you think it will encourage them. And never forget what a gem you are! ^_^