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?
As quite a few of you know, I spent this past weekend at Comic-Con, reveling in my first experience with such a large number of fangirls (like me) and fandoms and freaks (also my people). It was … ah-mazing! I took great pleasure in flashing my “Professional Author” badge Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, fangirled the heck out of that weekend, and endured–with great relish–my sore muscles after carrying loads of free and signed books around the convention center for 3 days. “Pack light,” they said. “Carry nothing heavy,” they said.
Are you crazy? THEY’RE FREE BOOKS!!!! That’s countless hours of free entertainment for myself and whomever I decide to share these pretty morsels of fiction with. Some people just don’t understand the price of fantasy. I didn’t care how early it was (it’s book-time somewhere!) and ignored the fact that I’d been hefting these heavy items around all day. I literally spent three days in the book, novel, and comic area–everyone knew my name by Saturday–and I basically enjoyed three full days of hanging out with fangirls and writers and publishers. It was the best! I’ve never actually experienced that crazy hype over free things, but when Illuminae arcs came out, I was ready to kill, if need be.
I received about 20 free books in all *heaves dreamy sigh* and actually ran into a fan of the Rising Shadows trilogy who recognized me (look, ma! I’m famous!). I got a pic with her, and it was awesome! So, to give you an idea of how amazing this past week was, here are some highlights from Comic-Con:
Meeting/stalking Marie Rutkoski and Renee Ahdieh and getting The Winnter’s Curse and The Wrath and the Dawn signed by the authors. #deadonthefloor And they were so gracious, too!
Getting to meet Gena Showalter, author of Alice in Zombieland. My dress was inspired by the series’ covers, and Gena and her publicist loved it. I got several pictures with Gena, and her publicist contacted me afterward saying that if I ever wanted one of Gena’ books or a title that hadn’t been released yet, then I just had to let her know . . . Umm, okay!
Getting an advanced reader’s copy of Illuminae by Amie Kauffman (These Broken Stars, with Meagan Spooner) and Jay Kristoff. I had been circling like a hawk all day long, just waiting for the moment they started releasing them because they’re in such limited supply. Score!
I saw a little girl staring at me for five minutes, and so I asked her if she wanted to take a picture together. She was so darling! She said that she and her dad were getting ready to leave, but she hadn’t met a princess yet. I almost cried, she was so sweet, and this costume totally made her day and mine; I felt like a Disney princess!
Befriending a fellow bibliophile, Lisa, in line for Sarah J. Maas and Susan Dennard. And she’s going to check out the Rising Shadows trilogy! Also, Sarah J. and Susan were hialrious and wacky–loved meeting them!
Achieving my lifelong dream of meeting Captain America and Star Lord. Also, Star Lord was a riot and–ahem-very handsome and charming. Just sayin’. ^_~
Also, having author Kate Elliott think my costume was so amazing that she had to take a picture of me with her book, which meant I got to give her my business card so she could tag me in it–eeeee!
I didn’t get to see Stephen Amell, but I did meet Arrow on Thursday. Just *sigh.* This picture was even posted on the official CW Comic-Con website. o.o Waaaaa?
Seeing Armie Hammer *sighs* and Henry Cavill *faints* and Garrett Hedlund (aaa-ooo-ga!) and Hugh Jackman (waaa?) and Matt Smith (WHO??) and Douglas Booth (Oh, Romeo) in Hall H for The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Batman Vs. Superman, Pan, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Give it to meeeee!
And did I mention free books?
Thank you so much to all who participated in the Chasing Shadows Twitter Release Party! It was a roaring success and a blast to host.
The winner of Most Tweets During the Party is @elizabethtown88. She will be receiving a $10 Amazon gift card. Thanks so much for getting the entire San Diego County Library system to tweet about “Chasing Shadows”!
And the winner of National Timepiece Day for submitting the best picture of a timepiece to win the $5 Amazon giftcard is @readiculousgirl. You know how much I love pocket watches. ^_^
It was a lot of work to keep up with the party and the tweets, and you can check them all out at https://twitter.com/TownsendTales I had so much fun, though! I seriously would not mind doing that again. So thanks, all, for the support and love this afternoon! Phew, I’m pooped!
First order of business: Don’t forget that tomorrow I’ll be at the Barnes&Noble in Grossmont Center, La Mesa, CA with author Livia Blackburne for her and other YA authors’ Q&A and giveaways. It’s going to be a lot of fun and starts at 2pm, so don’t be square! And if you plan to get there early and want to meet me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to me @TownsendTales. Can’t wait to see you there!
Finally, I’ll be on vacation for the last week of this month and am taking my copy of “Chasing Shadows” along with me. My sister DeAnna and I are turning her Instagram into a promotional page of wildly awesome pictures of the books. It might go rock climbing, order Chinese, read itself to ducklings. You’ll just have to follow http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to find out what we’ll be doing to that poor thing this month! Toodles!
So be sure to follow this Instagram account http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to receive updates and hilariously random pics with my own copy of “Chasing Shadows” while we’re in central California later this month.
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Not like I’ve been neglectful of my following, or anything crazy like that, but I wanted to give you all a heads up that I’ll be out of the country for a week and most likely won’t get a chance to hop on here. Alas, I shall be experiencing another country for the first time, plugging along in a ferry across the majestic waters leading to Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, that requires me to suffer mild weather perfect for my favorite yellow sweater, sipping espresso in a Canadian café, and wandering ancient bookstores in Victoria. And egad if Katie and I must discover landmarks we’ve only read about in books, tour the magnificent Canadian countryside, wander the incredibly colorful Butchart Gardens—our green thumbs cringe at the notion!—and possibly even be forced to suffer the torment of some delightful sort of cultural experience that is essentially Canadian, be inspired to write by the beauty of it all . . . . . . . You know, now that I think about it, I believe we’ll make it out juuuuust fine. ~__^ So you don’t feel left out, I’ll be posting photos and itineraries on my Facebook page whenever I can find some WiFi, so be sure to check in each day. Maybe it will be a little well-deserved vacation for all of us.
The next time you see me, I’ll have an accent! And maybe even a lumberjack to bring home. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?