Harry Potter group re-read-along for December

I have been thinking about re-reading Harry Potter for about six months. I think about re-reading Harry Potter all the time. ALL THE TIME. I only want to read it in cold weather, so in the middle of summer I day dream about curling up under a quilt with coffee and Harry.

I love these books. I love love them. I wrote my Master’s Thesis about them and these are really the first books that made me feel like maybe I could write fiction (counter intuitive since I can’t imagine ever writing something as good).

I love these books. I’ve been on a very busy treadmill of library books recently. But my t0-read piles of books I own are getting taller. So I’m starting fresh. As of today I have a couple library books to finish, and then I’m not going to check out any more until at least 2015.

On December 1 I am starting a Harry Potter re-read! My seventh or eighth probably. Maybe more. I’ve lost track.

AND YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN ME!

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My friends will be joining me and we will be taking over the NovelTea Book Club Facebook Group as a central hub.

You should know –

#1 — IT IS ASSUMED YOU HAVE READ THE BOOKS ALREADY.

No one is going to be precious about spoilers. Seriously, the books came out like almost 20 years ago. No sympathy. Don’t visit the Facebook group if you don’t want anything spoiled for you.

#2 — We don’t really have discussion questions planned. Something may come up organically, but this is more just a mutual love-of-HP-gush-fest.

#3 — Read as fast as you want. Read as slow as you want. There is absolutely no reason you need to finish these books on any set timetable (particularly by the end of the month)

#4 — We’re using #HPDec if you post about it on Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr/etc.

My Harry Potter re-read will likely be a big part of my December album (I’m looking for some good HP journaling card designs if you have any leads).

That’s it! No rules, just a fun group read-along.

I hope you’ll join us!

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Our story right now …

team schubertOur NINTH wedding anniversary is tomorrow. Our first kiss was April 2001. We’ve been together a (very) long time — not that far off from half my life, actually. We’ve been through a lot of different stages and life changes and challenges. Always together. Always Team Schubert.

Right now …

… Andrew is working ~90+ hours per week consistently (since at least March or so)

… He is legitimately (moderately) famous in his industry. With, like, fanboys. For real.

… I could not possibly be more proud of him, and I am so thrilled that he loves his career so much

… I feel guilty that I’m not bringing in more income so he can quit his day job

… He constantly insists he doesn’t want me to do anything other than I am already doing, which mostly is working on a novel

… Our major activities when we are together are either marathoning a TV show or doing work on the house.

… or playing with the cats. Their new favorite is chasing pennies around the wood floor.

… Andrew is always happy to help me with scrapbooking projects, like taking photos at his recording sessions or journaling for Week in the Life

… We have a couple mini-trips planned with friends and family in the next couple months, but I can’t wait til we have money to go on a proper long vacation just the two of us.

… Several nights each week I go to bed alone because he is still working. I don’t sleep very well when he’s gone and wake up regularly to check if he texted me that he’s on his way.

… I get a lot of texts that say things like ‘leaving soon,’ or ‘off the freeway’. When I wake up at 2am and don’t know where he is I worry and can’t get back to sleep. My brain is never rational in the middle of the night.

… For the first time in a long time we’re scheduling date nights. They are on our shared Google calendar. Because Andrew tends to over-book himself and is too generous with his time.

… I’ve been making chicken stock from scratch every other week or so because Andrew loves it so much. He has some in the mornings instead of coffee or even for lunch and dinner.

… He can’t wait to read the books I’m writing. Which simultaneously scares me out of my mind and really inspires me to finish.

… He’s my best friend. I’m his. And we tend to talk each other’s ears off when we do get to spend time together.

Next year we plan on taking proper, professional portraits for our anniversary. I’m very excited!

P.S. This is the family photo we took for last week’s Week in the Life. Andrew is the best about helping me with those kinds of projects.

What is your RIGHT NOW story?

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October Book Report

Scary stuff this month! Usually Andrew and I binge on horror movies during the month of October, but he was working too much. So we stuck to Walking Dead and I read some more Halloweeny books.

Read in October:

I am not a serial killer by Dan Wells: This was actually lower on my library list but I moved it up. Because Scary October, obviously. I loved this book! First person, 15-year-old boy narrator. He knows he’s a sociopath, is obsessed with serial killers and could easily become a serial killer himself but sets up rules for himself to make sure he never crosses the line. Until a serial killer begins murdering people in his small town and he’s sucked in. It’s the first in a trilogy, so I should get the others too. (full disclosure: I find serial killers fascinating, but I don’t think I’m a sociopath)

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: Young Adult, alternate Civil War-era steampunk with zombies. First in a series. I enjoyed it, but i didn’t love it. I will probably read the next one in the series (again, I’m trying to get a grasp on steampunk, since that is allegedly what I am supposed to be writing). I did really love the premise and the zombie creation method (I love zombie stories), I think the whole world she has created is fascinating.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King: I think you must read Stephen King in October, right? It’s a rule? This book is billed as King’s first harboiled detective novel. He clearly loves detective novels, and adheres to many of the ‘rules’, but then departs from the formula so spectacularly, I’m not totally sure what to think. I didn’t love it. I can’t say more without spoiling it, but I loved the character of Jerome.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Read as part of the NovelTeaBookClub. My first Gaiman, actually, but it didn’t put me under his spell. I’ll have to read another Gaiman to be sure. Good. Kind of sweet, actually. Made me want to go hang out in an old graveyard.

(Semi-related sidenote: On my list of ‘one day’ projects is to make a minibook of photos of all the graveyards we’ve visited. Andrew is obsessed.)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: I love Rowell, and this was a fun, relationship, time-travely book. The crazy work schedule of the main character reminded me of Andrew, funnily enough. This was just a fun, bittersweet, quick read. I didn’t really feel like it had enough depth to require a re-read in the future.

 Threshold by Sean Platt and David Wright: Another paperback that was put in my hands so I am far more likely to read it than the ebook copy. A haunted house story, so perfect for Scary October (in which Andrew and I just watch a lot of scary movies). I found the premise slightly ridiculous and the ending even more ridiculous, but if you are suspending disbelief for the supernatural haunted house, you might as well expand into suspending disbelief for the rest too.

Read anything good lately?

P.S. I’ve missed reading history for the last month+.

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Memories and cravings triggered by fall

  • Scary movies and ghost hunting shows: I actually broke down this year and bought a ‘season pass’ to Ghost Adventures, Andrew will be recording the new season of Walking Dead at work, and we just immerse ourselves in the horror and thriller categories of Netflix.
  • cinnamon in my coffee: YES. Directly in the coffee pot with the grounds. So good. But special to fall.
  • cold mornings, hoodie sweatshirts and cardigans: love love love being cozy. I love when it is cold enough for layers.
  • Band of Brothers, LOTR appendices and Harry Potter: These are all ‘comfort’ movies, and for whatever reason I associate them with fall. I have lots and lots of photos to edit, so I’m hoping to relax with all of these over the next few weeks.
  • working from bed with the window open: We’ve got an enormous window in our bedroom, and with the weather cooler, this is the perfect place for me to spend all day. Laptop, coffee, cats and under the covers.
  • cats on my lap every second for the warmth: I run hot, and the cats have learned this. When it’s a little cold in the house I get piled upon.
  • apples and peanut butter: yum.

This is the time of year that the weather in SoCal shifts, and we get to keep our windows open all day and memories from previous falls pop into my head.

Fall is my very favorite time of year. I keep texting Andrew the weather forecasts with lots of exclamation points when the high is lower than 85 degrees! I get super giddy happy this time of year.

What is your favorite part about fall?

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October is for realizations

For the last few years, October has been a time of reflection and realizations. I’m not totally clear why, but I think it comes from a mix of the weather changing (and my favorite season really making me super happy) contrasted against all of the build of frustration elsewhere. It’s hard to describe:

In October 2010 I realized that I want to do work that matters and my day job at the time wasn’t it. I got a phone call at home, 6 hours before I was supposed to be there, about a comma. Completely unnecessary and very frustrating.

In October 2011 I was told my work schedule would change to Sunday – Thursday against my will. That was the only time I have ever cried at work and was seriously depressed. I realized I wanted to be some place where I’m not taken for granted and merit means something

In October 2012 I got physically ill (severe headache, dizzy and nausea) and then nearly immediately better after I called out sick. It’s incredibly powerful when you recognize how something negative in your life is really affecting you.

In October 2013 I decided to quit my long-time personal blog Those Crazy Schuberts, for many reasons. I freed up several hours of my week, and relaxed some of my personal anxiety by making that decision.

This year, October 2014 …. Feels like a sea change. For both Andrew and I — this October is for realizations for Team Schubert.

As I mentioned yesterday, Andrew’s work schedule has been ridiculous this year and we are starting to see what our lives can look like once all this hard work pays off. He is getting recording clients from literally all over the world. A band was just here from Oregon, but earlier in the year a band from Toronto came out to work with Andrew and a band from France hired him to mix a song.

That, combined with my projected new career as a fiction writer is going to change the entire structure of our lives.

It’s still far away; we both still have a lot (a lot) of work to do to make this new life pay our bills, but we are on this path together. We are each fully behind each other’s individual goals, as we work toward a better life together.

Having someone like Andrew on my team, supporting me spending hours (and hours) every day writing with nothing yet to show for it is the best. Knowing how I can help him work toward his goal of being 100% freelance has changed so much about how I spend my days.

This October has been hard, but so awesome so far. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

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planning the end of 2014

We have fewer than 100 days left of the year, so I’ve begun to plan. I’m a planner. I can’t help it. I like to know what direction I want to be headed. Even if my path ends up veering off, I like to know roughly where I want to end up. Knowing my big-picture priorities helps me establish my daily to-dos. There are things I want to finish, things I want to reassess and (yes) things for the future I want to plan.

This is the perfect time of year for me to review my tasks and my priorities, because I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. How did my year get so full?

Oh, that’s right. I said ‘yes’ to some amazing opportunities and didn’t quit anything else to make room. I remember now.

I just recently finished doing developmental editing for all 20+ stories in a short story anthology Beyond the Gate (releasing soon, for free). It was difficult and extremely time-consuming (one story alone took me 10 hours), but I loved it so much. I am hoping that it leads to more developmental editing clients, because good lord did I love it. Reading fiction, flexing my critical analysis master’s degree muscle, but also helping a writer to shape their story into its best form. LOVE IT.

I work part-time for a portrait photographer, and this time of year my work load doubles and triples. Already. Maggie was basically completely booked by last week, and now we are pushing her associate photographer. It will be like this until probably mid-December.

And then, on top of all of that, I am trying to write a book so it is ready to be published by March 1 (for larger world and marketing purposes). Complicating this are the facts that A) it is the first book of a series, so I need to do at least some big-picture plotting and B ) I didn’t actually know what happens in the book when I started writing it. As of the writing of this post I am still flailing a little, but certainly doing better.

It is all I can do to keep up with my self-imposed deadline. And I must keep that deadline if I want to produce something at least reasonably close to my own standards by March 1.

So, for the rest of 2014 I will be….

Keeping up with L&R: Blog posts, a couple more webinars, and creating a lot of content for my annual blog party on Jan 1 (email me if you want to pitch a guest post). I am being modest in my L&R-specific plans for now, since I’m not entirely sure how much time I will have to spend doing photographer-customer-service, or how much time getting a book ready to be published will take. Once I have a better handle on my schedule and limitations, I have tons of fun ideas for L&R (and US History Class and TravelScrap HQ and others)

Writing book 1: The goal is to have the first draft of book 1 done by October 31, and revised and ready for beta readers by Jan 1. Somewhere in there I also want to plot book 2, so I can start writing it on Jan 1. I also need to start marketing for this series (once I have a title and figure out what it is really about), source a cover design, etc. This is my fifth book (in first draft), but I have not actually finished one all the way to being published. All learning for me.

Fiction Unboxed 1.5: My friends at Sterling and Stone are writing a book live again, and I will be following along. Partly because I think it is fascinating, particularly their story meetings and brainstorming together. But also because I am writing in the same world, 20 years earlier. If they set specific world-building details (like, length of the prime minister’s term, for example) those are things I need to know for my own books. They are running it in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, so you can still sign up.

Date nights with Andrew: His freelance schedule has completely out of control since about May. Mostly because he is so good at what he does and so many people want to work with him, and he can’t say no. To the point where he sleeps at home only about once a week. True story. But, we are going to try to have Friday nights set aside just for us. He still might have his day job interfere, but he won’t be scheduling any sessions or concerts or anything on Friday nights. I’m so excited!

Read books: Because this is where my heart is. At least a few minutes every day. It’s really my only ‘hobby’ — everything else is work of some kind. I’m on track to read 100+ this year! Reading will always be a priority. It makes me sad all the writers who say things like, “I used to read, but now I just don’t have time.” I don’t want that to be me.

What direction are you headed in? What does the rest of your year look like?

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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September Book Report

Reading up on as much steampunk as I can get my hands on because I will be writing a book series in a steampunk-ish world. Any recommendations for me? Also watching Victorian-era movies and The Princess Diaries. SO fun!

Some reads from September:

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: This was a quick, adventurey, Young Adult read, recommended by Kam. The main character is 12, so the simple reading level of one of the first 2 Harry Potter books, and in fact Percy Jackson reminds me a bit of Harry (hot-headed, self-sacrificing, etc). I liked it. Not enough to buy it and obsess over it, but I plan on reading the rest of the series and trying out Riordan’s other 2 series as well. It’s nice to have easy YA books to read sometimes. Breaks up the U.S. History.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: I love this series. I believe Count Olaf was written for Jim Carrey. I love the unique voice. I love the tiny details thrown in. I love the side references to Snicket’s love for Beatrice. I love books with smart, capable kids.

Soulless by Gail Carriger: Fun but slightly ridiculous. Just an easy, quick supernatural steampunk … thriller romance? I don’t know exactly how I would categorize the genre. I get irritated with books that throw in sex just to have it there, and this book felt a *little* like that. Lord Maccon reminds me a bit of the hulking Rhett Butler. I’ll probably read the next in the series, but we’ll see. I enjoy the tone and humor either way.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger: Hot pink book cover so you know it’s for women. God bless marketing. This is a Young Adult pre-quel to the Parasol Protectorate series (read as part of the NovelTeaBookClub). The main character Sophronia is enrolled in a finishing school where she learns things like poisoning and intelligence gathering in addition to proper curtsies. I liked this book more than Soulless. Probably because there was no love story to distract from the main plot. Probably because it gave me ideas for my own book series. It seemed less silly, somehow, than Soulless.

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger: The sequel to Etiquette & Espionage. Less world-building details (she is already at the school, after all) and deeper conspiracy. This book almost didn’t feel resolved — it is clearly just one step along the way to the bigger story. But I love the tone and the world details. The third book in this series comes out in a week or so and I’m looking forward to it.

The Dream Engine by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt: This was a re-read. Kinda. I read the first draft as it was written in June, but this was my first read of the final, published version. The writing weekend I went to a few weeks ago was related to this book, so I re-read half of it in advance of going, and the other half when I got back (and had an autographed paperback in my hand). I will be writing a book series in this world, so I imagine I will be re-reading this book and its sequels a lot. During the writing weekend we started planning out future books in this series and it’s going to be fantastic!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This was a re-read, started solely because I wanted a book to read on the plane to and in Austin that *goes with* the book I had in mind to write/brainstorm without being too close as to lead to unintentional plagiarism. And, lord almighty, I had forgotten just how beautiful the prose in this book is. This is one of those books that I just adore, the kind I have decided to call ‘literary fiction through a veil of fantasy’ (like the later Harry Potter books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or The Magicians series). I love it. I can’t wait for Andrew to read it.

Read anything good lately?

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Around here

September was a little bit crazy ….

Kevin

library

ventura

JSD

Monday morning  golden

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My brother moved back to the mainland from Hawaii. Long story.

My working hours for Maggie essentially tripled. Will likely quadruple in October and November. Do your favorite local photographer a favor and book your holiday sessions EARLY.

This is MY TIME. I love the fall. So very much. I even really like waking up before the sun. I set my alarm for 5:52am every morning. Hit snooze once. Get up about 6am, feed the cats, start the coffee, then settle in to work. I’ve been writing ~1500 words of my current work-in-progress before 8am lately. LOVE IT.

I’m still on a bit of a creative high from my weekend in Austin (post 1, post 2, post 3) … likely because I am smack dab in the middle of the book I started that weekend. I think about the book (and by extension the series and the world) constantly. I’m trying something new where I listen to the same record every day while I write. I think I may be turning it into a creative trigger, but we’ll see.

Andrew and I have been eating (drinking?) homemade chicken broth nearly every day. So tasty, healthy and super cozy on a fall morning.

I have a couple products in the works to release. Mostly rewrites and simple repackaging of older material. All part of my year to NURTURE and getting everything organized.

Andrew has his new studio space in working order! I know there is still a lot he wants to do, over time. But as long as it works. As long as he can get bands in there to record, that’s the main thing. I am so proud of him!

Once again, 30 Days of Lists has come and gone, leaving Kam and I to wonder where all the time went!

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Review: Fiction Unboxed World Building Summit

To catch you up, I posted photos of my weekend in Austin here and a more specific breakdown of what we did here.

September 12-14, I was in Austin, Texas, at the Fiction Unboxed World Building Summit. The weekend was essentially a mastermind group (read: amazing) where we all got together to brainstorm rules and details for a whole fictional world that anyone can write in.

In a nutshell: My weekend in Austin was life-changing and career-making and could never be duplicated.

I know that is a GIANT, sweeping statement, but I stand behind it … for so many reasons.

The people: Johnny, Sean and Dave (authors behind Sterling & Stone, the Self-Publishing Podcast, and this live event) are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. Every step of the way they were very careful to make sure we all had our questions answered and our voices heard. The ways that they have planned to support our books and our work in the world is so much more than I could have hoped. They even went out of their way even to pay for coffee every morning and surprised us with a big stack of autographed paperbacks to take home (completely unexpected).

Summit  125I feel personally closer to these three than I expected and feel like I could email any one of them with a question about anything and I’d get an answer (I’ve already started thinking about books to recommend to Sean for his daughter).

And that isn’t even considering the other attendees (Garrett, Monica, Matt and Kalvin). There were only 5 of us total … so, yea, only 8 people in the room. So intimate and personal. Such great senses of humor. Such professional story-telling and problem-solving skills. I am beyond excited to read what everyone writes. There are some amazing ideas that came up and all our skills and strengths really fit together well. I can’t believe we got so lucky as to have so many smart people in a room.

The conversation: I do not remember when I have ever laughed so hard (especially dinner Saturday night when I sat across the table from Dave and Sean’s incredibly sunny 12-year-old daughter). We talked about so much more than world-building stuff — marketing plans, series vs serials, cover art resources, dealing with negativity, and so much more. Professional challenges. Five-year plans. Human nature. Big ideas. Flower metaphors (Sean’s favorite). Again, I love being in a room of smart people.

The tasks: We were literally creating this world almost from scratch. Totally ground floor up. The map and history and lore and global politics all the way down to the nitty gritty of what the homes of my characters look like. That will never happen again (I cannot imagine they will every want to maintain a second huge shared world). Total once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to not only create a world from the beginning but also get built in promotional benefit from full-time authors.

There is such a benefit to being there from the beginning, to being one of the very first. Just another reason it was so important that I attend this event (instead of wishlist-it for the future). The books that I will write count as canon in the world. Someday other writers might write fan fiction about my characters or my setting…. which is crazy to think of but not impossible.

 I can’t stop thinking about the whole weekend. I need 40 more hours in every week just to do all the work stemming from that weekend that I am so enthusiastic about.

All that to say … admittedly, future events will be different: The combination of people, the number of people, the amount of development that needs to be done in the world, even where each attendee is at in their career. September 13 and 14, 2014 were very special in a way that no other weekend could be.

Summit  018That said …. if you are interested in writing and have the opportunity to attend a future event with Johnny, Sean and Dave, I would for sure recommend it. I am tentatively planning on attending the Colonists’ Summit in the Spring, simply to see these people again and spend 2 days talking about books.

Even if you don’t go to a Sterling & Stone writing event, definitely think about attending a live event in your industry. I know so many of us are introverts and like staying behind the screen, but it makes such a difference to be there in person. But, that’s a post for another day.

As I mentioned in my earlier post …. this weekend was a lot about trust for me. I was putting forward a huge investment (for me) financially — much more than I am comfortable spending on almost anything. I could not have gone if it were solely up to me, but Andrew saw the benefit too and helped push me.

In deciding to attend the World Building Summit, I am trusting these guys for their whole career. Trusting that they would continue doing great work and continue doing it the right way. I am not just writing a book series — I’m writing a series that both supports and is supported by their work. And I personally have an even bigger leap, since these will be my first published work.

It was a huge step and now after spending that weekend with them I know I made the best decision. They gave more and did more than I could have ever imagined.

Now it’s all on me*

*(and Sean already told me he has every faith in me, so I even have that)

 

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Fiction Unboxed Summit: How it worked

Yesterday I showed you photos of my weekend in Austin; today more specifics (especially for those of you thinking about going to the spring Colonists event).

Please note (of course) that the spring event WILL be different simply by nature of the fact that there will be more people and the broad world story strokes will already have been established.

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A month before the event, we had a Google+ call when all 5 attendees and all 3 hosts jumped online to ‘meet’ each other, talk about the weekend, and more. That was extremely helpful! Partly for establishing a base of what we all wanted to get out of the weekend, but mostly (for me) for diffusing a little of the anxiety in meeting new people (I am such an introvert).

Then a week before the event, we got a 12-ish page pdf with a very rough agenda for the weekend. We were mostly planning on directed brainstorming about our individual stories, but also about character arcs, marketing, pre-production and other what-you-need-to-publish concepts.

However, once we all got there and got started, we did not stick to the agenda too rigidly. For starters, we all happened to get together in the hotel bar the Friday night before, so we got our proper introductions out of the way then.

We also did not do any real ‘breakout sessions’ where Johnny, Sean and Dave worked with anyone individually. There wasn’t really a big need, since there were only 5 attendees. For example, the agenda set aside an hour and a half to talk about series and serials…. but 4 of the 5 of us were planning on writing a series anyway, and the 5th was thinking about a serial instead of series. There was no real cause to spend that long discussing it.

I will say that I did NOT leave the Summit with a completed outline as I had hoped to, but A) I’m not certain that would have occurred with an hour of one-on-one attention from Sean or anyone. And B ) I think the bigger world brainstorming we did was far more helpful to more people, and I’m not going to be selfish about it. Plus, on the flip side, I 100% feel like I can email them in a month or two and just run over some of the story plans/problems I might have if applicable (I plan on doing that anyway, since my series is going to take place ~20 years before The Dream Engine in Alterra, so I want to make sure tiny details match).

Instead, we as a group brainstormed big world events, how they would effect The Dream Engine story in books 2, 3 and 4, how those events intersect with other events in the world (that Garrett and other authors will be writing about). We came up with a map and some basics of inside-Alterra (which helped me a lot) and we came up with some world-rules that I think will help other writers a lot.

I feel like without the rigid schedule, we were able to relax, be ourselves more and become better friends. I love this video from Monica – about the humor and personalities at the Summit

Again, I’m sure the spring event will be different. I would assume simply because of the number of people (about 5x as many attendees if it sells out), there will be a distinct need for more structure. If I were guessing (or if I were planning) I would say the Colonists summit would include more structured teaching, and small groups for brainstorming.

I was *definitely* aided by having a rough premise/story idea. Two of the attendees came with a story idea and changed partway through the weekend, and I’m sure that will work for them too. But for me (I am a planner), I loved having my basic idea and just figuring out details with Sean, Johnny and Dave.

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To be honest, the biggest surprise of the weekend was how un-teacher-like Johnny, Sean and Dave were. They totally have that ability (and again, I’m sure it will come out at the Colonists Summit), but that is not what this weekend was about. It was much more of a mastermind, brainstorming, shared ideas, being open to being wrong and collaborative. As an example (and I’m sure you will hear about it on a future SPP episode)  I know for certain that one of the ideas I came to the Summit with Johnny is excited to weave in to future Dream Engine books.

So gratifying.

I had never worked on fiction collaboratively — other than asking my husband if my ideas were ok. Obviously he says yes :) But in all seriousness, when I was brainstorming ideas for a series in this world (over the summer), I was tentatively thinking about a Ruddermouth story, because they travel a lot and I thought it would be a fun adventure and excuse to travel all over Alterra. But, then I started editing short stories for an upcoming anthology and there were several (very different) Ruddermouth stories, so I started to rethink it.

I just didn’t want to have to worry too much about making sure my Ruddermouth matches someone else’s Ruddermouth if another attendee came with a similar idea.

As it happened, there was no reason for me to worry. Of the 5 attendees, 3 of us are writing outside of Alterra altogether. Monica and I (and Dave, I believe) are writing IN Alterra, but nothing really overlapping. It worked out perfectly. There was no worry about anyone ‘stealing’ ideas because we just had a bunch of moving pieces that we could make fit together however we wanted.

As I mentioned above, I came to Austin with an idea about how the Ministry of Decorum works that will feature heavily in my books, but that Sean and Johnny can weave in behind the scenes in their books. Dave was the only one who even joked about ‘don’t steal my ideas’ … but since everyone there is/wants to be professional writers, to be honest we all have plenty of ideas of our own.

In fact, I was more concerned about stealing my own ideas than I was about anyone else stealing them (I have an idea for another series that is percolating and my main character was starting to look a little similar).

If we didn’t have the open collaboration (again, hours and hours of broad world building), we would not have been able to come up with some of the fantastic ideas that are growing. One of the attendees came with an idea for a story set in Africa, and the bones of that informed the ideas for 2 other attendees. The basic plots of Dream Engine 2 and 3 helped shaped the plot of Garrett’s series that is happening on the clear other side of the world and has no overlap.

The creative work that we did as a group could not have occurred without the open brainstorming. The entire world would look different, and likely not be as rich, if Sean and Johnny had tried to come up with all of this themselves.

I could not be more excited to read all the books the other attendees are writing! I would definitely recommend attending the Colonists Summit in the spring if only for the exposure and access to the brainstorming. I love meeting smart people and being in a whole room of them was amazing!

What I am working on:

My young adult series will take place ~20 years prior to The Dream Engine and it is about a boarding school training future employees of the Ministry of Decorum. Totally cliche YA, which I love. You’ve got the recognizable elements of fish-out-of-water main character, but with all the specific details to Alterra. I actually think hanging my story on such a common structure will help bring in more readers who may not love The Dream Engine for various reasons, but can get behind the world as a whole.

Right now it is tentatively 7 books long, and inspired by books like Etiquette & Espionage, Little Women, Lemony Snicket and others. If you have any other steampunk, YA or Victorian-era books you think I should read by all means leave them in the comments!

Over the week+ since the Summit, I have been ‘location scouting,’ collecting inspiration for fashion and other details for the school on a (currently private) Pinterest board. I have been thinking about the overall series conflict, and my book 1 conflict, and I have started writing already. It’s amazing what you can discover just by starting.

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I have a rough idea of what happens in all the books (more so in books 6 and 7), and am about ~8,000 words into the first draft of the first book. Once I get farther I will know what questions I need to clarify with Johnny and Sean. Once I get to the end of book 1 I will have a better idea for books 2 and 3.

I am planning on going to the Colonists Summit if I can, just for the experience of collaborative brainstorming again. I would be honored if someone read my book 1 and decided they wanted to write their own book around the boarding school, and I think meeting in person with those kinds of people would be so beneficial for me.

One more post tomorrow about the Summit. Mostly just a glowing review.

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