Monday, August 20, 2018

How do you keep track of story ideas? (With Paul Regnier!)

We have a new week to celebrate and, with it, a new author! 

Friends, please welcome author Paul Regnier to the blog. Over the past year, I've had a chance to get to know him a little bit and he's such a fantastic soul with so much great advice. 

This past spring, Jill and I teamed up with Paul to teach the Teen Track at Mount Hermon and he was such a steady, level-headed, wise addition that I can't help patting Jill on the back for looping him into our maniacal plans. We had a fantastic time.

On top of that, the third book in his science fiction series just released, and you guys have got to check these books out. 
But more on his books Wednesday. Today, let's learn a little about Paul himself.
Paul Regnier is the author of the Space Drifters science fiction series. He is a technology junkie, drone pilot, photographer, web designer, drummer, Star Wars nerd, recovering surfer, coffee snob and a wannabe Narnian with a fascination for all things futuristic.

Paul grew up in Orange County, CA and now lives in Treasure Valley, ID with his wife and two children.
To connect with Paul Regnier and discover the full extent of his nerdhood, please visit his pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Paul Regnier surrounded by two gals who talk way too fast.
I don't know if it's his Narnian cravings or if it's the Star Wars thing, but the three of us got along really well and I'm so grateful he's agreed to join us this week.

So, let's get to it. Monday's panel question is:

Paul: I've learned, through the pain of lost "great ideas," to jot them down as soon as they come to me. Post-its, napkins, receipts, any scrap of paper that's handy and occasionally, the notes app on my iphone. I always think I'll remember them later but sure enough, if I don't write them down during the moment of inspiration, they often fly out the window never to be heard from again.

For the larger ideas, the "high concept" type of story origin motivators, these generally stick around in my brain. These are the ones I slowly build upon, day by day, building the details over the skeleton of a concept. I don't usually write these down, unless there's specific scenes that really shine, so that I can really stretch and play with the overall story idea before I write it down.

Basically, I write down anything specific and scene related while I allow the larger story idea and plot to roll around in my head for weeks or months until it forms something solid that I feel deserves an honest "sit down and write" kind of session. The reason being, I don't want to cement the foundation before the blueprints form a structure worth building.

Jill: I have a file cabinet filled with folders. Anytime I get a new idea, I’ll brainstorm on paper and put those notes into a manila file folder. That way I have a place to put more sheets of inspiration that might come to me, and the ideas will all be right there waiting for me to give them more attention. If I draw a map, it goes in the folder. If I’m really excited about the idea, I’ll make a file folder for it on my computer and start writing. I’ll also make a story bible file in Word, in which I start adding character names, research links, and any other pertinent information.
Shan: First of all, I'm thoroughly impressed (and not at all surprised) that Jill has an ACTUAL file cabinet for story ideas. Second, my system has evolved to be more user friendly than it was when I first started writing and I think it's normal for this to happen, so don't worry if you haven't got a handle on this yet. I used to try to keep notebooks for each story and folders on my computer with story ideas in them. But these days, I just whip out my cell phone whenever I have a story idea and I type it into an email draft and there it stays until I decide to pull it out and play with it. Currently, there are 48 ideas waiting on me in my 'Drafts' folder.

Steph: Your systems are all WAY better than mine. Mine is lame and ineffective. I jot it down in Google Keep and then I frequently forget about it until I happen to be scrolling through my archives. 

Note from Shan: I often forget about my ideas as well, so I have to frequent my 'Drafts' folder on occasion, but that's what it's there for. To remember all the amazing things I'm destined to forget.

Now, you tell us! How do YOU keep track of your story ideas? 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Why do you write books for young people? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

Hi all! Shannon here, saying goodbye to another week and another lovely author, J.C. Cervantes. You've been fabulous, friend. Thank you for joining us.

If you're on social media, please give her a visit and tell her how grateful we are that she stopped by the blog to share her stories and her wisdom. You can find Jen here:

We've talked about her upcoming release, The Storm Runner, but be sure to take a look at Jen's award-winning debut novel, Tortilla Sun. That cover makes me want to fly!

Today's panel question is:

Jen: Childhood is the time of imagination and mystery. Of dragons and monsters. Of first loves and magic spells. But truth be told, I didn’t “decide” per se. The universe tapped me on the shoulder and I answered. Once I wrote my first kids’ book, I knew something magical and rare had happened, something that would change me forever. Plus, I really love magic and monsters!

Steph: I don’t know, honestly. I’ve tried writing for adults a few times, and I really struggle with it. Even though I’m a legit adult and it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard. There’s just something about the untapped potential of the teenage years that draws me.

Jill: My husband and I were working in youth ministry at the time, so I was around a lot of teenagers. I have always gravitated toward the readers and shared books with them, so when I started writing, that was the only age that interests me. I have since written books for kids and some for adults, but I am still partial to the teen years. There is something about discovering life and adventure for the first time that makes a story more interesting to me.

Shan: I get asked this question a lot. And so sometimes I feel like a broken record when I answer it, but the truth is just as powerful and just as true as when I first started writing for teens. 

One of the most inspiring things to watch is when a person, any person, rises up to face their fears and instead of being swallowed by them like they have a zillion times before, they ball up their fist and punch fear square in the face. Fear may steal things from us from time to time, but I don't believe we have to let it win. Those teenage years are so full of angst and growth and trials and grappling and coming into your own. It's the ideal place to examine the fight and the superiority of a soul that says, "I'm afraid, but I'm doing it anyway." Stories that capture the genuine spirit of this set me weeping and cheering. I want to write those stories.

Now it's your turn.

Tell us, how did you decide on your audience?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How often do you read other people's books? Which genres do you read? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

Hello friends! Shannon here.

We are lucky enough to have J.C. Cervantes with us once again, and today, I get to tell you all about her upcoming middle grade novel, The Storm Runner. Brace yourself for all the amazing:

A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents! 

Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. "The Beast," as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.

After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane's doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don't usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane's. No way, Zane thinks. He's just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death.

But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world. 

Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

Doesn't that sound fantastic? I'm so here for this! But while we wait for this baby to hit shelves (9/18/18), let's tackle today's panel question, shall we?

Jen: ALL the time! I read all genres from contemporary to fantasy across all age ranges. Although, I try to avoid reading middle grade for example, if I’m working on an MG book which has been the last year and a half! So, I actively look for pockets of non-writing time to read whatever I want.

Steph: I almost always have a book I’m reading, and usually I have a novel and a nonfiction book going. Sometimes I have an audiobook going too. Young adult is always my go-to, but I love historical fiction and mysteries too. 

Jill: I read all the time, and I will read most anything for entertainment purposes. When I’m working on a first draft of a new story, I try to read books that are in that genre or are a research topic--books that will inspire me or at least, keep my author voice in the right cadence. For example, right now I’m writing a Regency-esque fantasy novel, so I’m reading lots of Regency novels to keep the formal dialogue, types of dress and architecture, and manners of the era in mind. 

Shan: I'm a lot like Jen. I read all the time, but I do avoid books too similar to my current work in progress while I'm actually writing. That means I go through seasons where I have to set aside YA fantasy. During those times, I read a ton of detective stories and historicals. Those are my two guilty pleasures these days. I'm a huge WWII-era reader and I'll devour anything that has me seeking to solve a mystery. I'm also a fan of rereading. I reread more books in a year than new books, I bet.

And what about you, writer friends? How often do you read other people's books? Which genres are your favorites? 


Monday, August 13, 2018

When your creative well is empty, how do you recharge? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

It's a new week, my friends, which means I get to introduce you to a new author. 

Please welcome J.C. Cervantes to the blog! Out in cyberspace, you can find her as Jennifer or Jen, but on the cover of her upcoming novel with Rick Riordan presents (gasp!), it says J.C. Cervantes, and I so want you to find that novel.

I've only ever met Jen online, but we share an agent and I adore her online presence and her heart for people. I can't wait to read her upcoming novel, The Storm Runner. But more about that Wednesday. 

Today, let's learn a little about the author herself:

Jen (J.C) is an award-winning children’s author; her most recent book, THE STORM RUNNER  is scheduled for release in September 2018 with its sequel THE FIRE KEEPER, coming in 2019. As an author, she has earned multiple awards and recognitions, including the New Mexico Book Award, Zia Book Award, and was named a New Voices Pick by the American Booksellers Association for her first book Tortilla Sun.

Jen's a champion of the underdog, an advocate for more POC in children's fiction, and a believer in magic. But only if you’re willing to listen to the whispers of the universe.

Isn't she fantastic? So, let's get to it! Today's panel question is:

Jen: Oh boy, so many ways. Sometimes, I binge watch some of my favorite TV shows (like Game of Thrones or the Originals, or my new fave, The Goblin). I also focus on my health when I can by doing Pilates, hanging with family or just taking a walk in nature. And if I have time, I love a good facial! For me, recharging is remembering peace and finding a world (even if temporary) with no worry. Not an easy place to get to, but it’s totally possible.

Steph: That happened to me after I finished writing Within These Lines. It was such a heavy book with intense research requirements, plus we were dealing with hard family stuff. By the time I turned it in, I was exhausted. For me, it’s giving myself permission to not write. I might still choose to write if it sounds fun, but I’ll typically turn my focus to taking online classes or catching up on podcasts or reading something I haven’t had time for. Making space for intentional learning really recharges me.

Jill: I read. I brainstorm new ideas, but don’t really write anything much. I do creative things, like paint a map or make my own Jill Pop. I record an audiobook or a YouTube video. Take bookish pictures for Instagram. I might work on a nonfiction project. Go on walks or long drives. Play my guitar. I need to keep busy and let my brain work, but it needs to work on different things. 

Shan: I like to be outdoors. It feels less like work than anything else I do. So, I roadtrip or I hike or I sit in my hammock. I binge TV shows like Jen, and I snap bookish pics for Instagram like Jill. I catch up on sports news--football is my favorite but California has so many fantastic sports teams it's easy to lose myself reading up. If I can, I hit the theater. There's nothing like a live show to remind me why I love storytelling. Every time I go, I leave inspired and ready to write again.

How about you guys? How do you recharge your tired soul?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Have you always wanted to write books? (With Adrienne Young!)

Alas! We've reached Friday and our final panel question with the lovely and talented Adrienne Young. If you're on social media, be sure to give her a follow and a THANK YOU for sharing her wisdom and book love with us all. Here's where you can find her:

And here's the beautiful book trailer for Adrienne's debut novel, Sky in the Deep.

And now! Before you're run away with all the Viking drama, let's finish this week off right with one last question for Adrienne and crew:

Adrienne: I realized I loved to write in elementary school after a teacher told me repeatedly that I was good at it. The first time I ever dreamed of writing a book was in fourth grade. I was looking at a book in the library and imagined my name on the front. But I don't think I ever truly believed it would happen and I never really told anyone about that dream. It wasn't until I was around 25 years old that I decided to try to actually write a full-length novel and once I did, I was completely hooked. I knew I wanted to make a career out of it but I had a lot to learn. It took about seven years, four books, and many many rejections before I got published.

Steph: Ever since first grade when we had free writing time in class. I loved everything about it and started saying then that I wanted to write stories when I grew up. And it was always novels that I wanted to write, even though I wasn’t reading them yet. Even though I sometimes went through phases where I wanted to be a writer and a teacher or a writer and a lawyer, writing always stuck.
Jill: When I was in high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer. That’s what I went to college for, and I got jobs in the fashion industry right out of college. I ended up not liking it at all. It was far too competitive and cutthroat for me, so when I was home with my first child (around age 26), I started writing books. It was so fun for me, I never looked back. 

Shan: I’ve ALWAYS loved storytelling but it wasn’t always my career of choice. When I was younger I had flashier aspirations. Astronaut or actor. And then in college, I assumed I’d go into missionary work. After my daughter was born, I found myself missing theater and the stage so badly it made me sick. When I realized I could tell stories from home, it transformed the way I viewed the role of author and I started brainstorming my first novel that night. My daughter will turn ten this summer, so I’ve been at this thing for almost a decade. 

Now you guys tell us. Have YOU always wanted to write books? Do you plan to make it your career?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do you have a favorite fandom? (With Adrienne Young!)

Good morning, friends! Shannon here. 

YA author, Adrienne Young, is back with us today and we're so grateful she's taken the time to hang out with us and give us a peek into her reading and writing life.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to introduce you to the author. Now let me share a little bit about her debut novel, Sky in the Deep.

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she’s been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

Readers of fantasy and fans of Viking lore will enjoy this read. You can find out more about the story and the inspiration behind it over on Adrienne's website.

And now! Today's panel question:

Adrienne: Harry Potter! I know that's the cliche answer but I just love it so much - how it transcends age groups and people groups and everyone just belongs. I haven't really tried to create anything, but with Sky in the Deep, I have been really surprised how many people are into the world already. I love seeing people cosplay Eelyn and getting their Viking on.

Note from Shan: Definitely check out Adrienne's IG. She often shares Eelyn cosplay and the Viking costumes readers come up with are glorious. 

Steph: Well, I’ll be cliche too and say Harry Potter for the same reasons that Adrienne said. I love that I can enjoy the early books with my first grader, and the later books with my ten-year-old.

I’ve had some girls show up dressed in roaring 20s garb for book signings, and that was super fun!
Jill: I love Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Captain America, and Wonder Woman. A far as swag goes, I made two sets of velvet flags to match six cities in my Blood of Kings storyworld. I kept one set and divided the others among the readers who created and acted in the two book trailers for To Darkness Fled. I was just so impressed with how much hard work they did, I needed to do something special to thank them. The flags were so time-consuming to make, however, I never did make any more.

Shan: Yeah. It’s hard to beat the Harry Potter fandom. I’m sort of surrounded by it these days. My nine year old and I are reading the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together right now and my thirteen year old is halfway through a reread of the entire series. But like Adrienne said, I’ve been really impressed with the readers who’ve shown up for Eelyn. So much cosplay for such a new book. I think everyone wants to be a Viking, honestly, and Adrienne just gave us all a great excuse. And also, Wonder Woman. I just . . . ahhhh. I love all the Wonder Woman out there right now. Makes my heart happy.

I haven’t done a whole lot of swag stuff, but I’m always so grateful when readers send me fan art. I really appreciate the opportunity to see what others envision when they read my stories. It’s a compliment that someone would invest their time and skill in a character created by someone else. 

Now, you tell us. Do YOU have a favorite fandom? What about plans for swag or reader experiences in regards to your stories?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Do you have a daily or weekly word quota that you strive for? (with Adrienne Young!)

Hey all! Shannon here, checking in for my rotation on summer panels. We've had a ton of fun with our June and July panelists and I'm so excited to hear from our August crew. Here's who we'll be chatting with throughout the month:

And since it's week one, I get to introduce you all to my friend, and YA author, Adrienne Young. I met Adrienne through a mutual friend and she's part of my local writing troupe. We meet up for dinner and book launches and general encouragement any chance we get--which, to be fair, isn't nearly as often these days because of all the writing and such. But I'm so pleased Adrienne's agreed to share with us.

If you've been paying attention, you'll have noticed that her debut novel hit shelves (and the NYT Bestseller List!) this past spring. Sky In the Deep is a beautiful YA fantasy and one of my favorite reads this past year. But more on that Wednesday. Here's a bit about Adrienne:

Adrienne Young is the New York Times Bestselling author of Sky in the Deep. A born and bred Texan turned California girl, she is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

And now! For today's panel question:

Adrienne: Not really. When I'm drafting, I'm pretty obsessive about it so I usually wind up writing a ton of words every day until I reach the end. If I start putting numbers on it, I think I kind of psyche myself out and wind up stressing. Instead, I try to just ride the inspiration before it runs out.

Steph: I have more of a time quota. Most days I split my work time in half. I’ll write the first half, and then the rest of my time is for blogging, social media, or whatever else needs to be done.

Jill: Only when I’m on a deadline. Then I know how many words I need to write per day to meet my quota. When I’m not on a deadline, I am much more lax about daily word counts. However, that also means I don’t get the story written as quickly.

Shan: Sometimes. Not so much lately. Mostly, I’m shooting for completing a scene or telling the next part of the story--whatever that happens to equate to at the time. Sometimes it’s as small a thing as transitioning the mood or setting, so that when I sit down for my next writing session I’m ready to tackle a big moment. Sometimes it’s working on a scene until I’m happy with the character or the takeaway. It really just depends on where I’m at within the process.

What about you all?

Do you set weekly or daily word count goals?

Friday, August 3, 2018

What lie do you believe in your professional life? (With Sara Ella!)

This is my (Jill's) last hosting post. Shannon will he here next week to officially kick off the month of August. Our last month of panels!

We have really enjoyed having Sara Ella with us this week. We hope you have too. You can learn more about Sara on her website at You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. She's quite the YouTube star, too, if you didn't know. She often does videos for writers. You should check out her channel and subscribe.

Thanks for doing panels with us, Sara. Here is our question of the day:

As authors, we’re always trying to figure out which lies our characters believe. In your professional life, have you been able to identify a lie you have believed? 

Sara: Wow. And I thought the last question was deep. I think I used to believe you have to make The New York Times bestseller list to be a successful author. I found a lot of validation in industry reviews and awards. The more praise my work received, the more I felt as if I had somehow "made it." But the truth is, I have found so much more value in personal letters and notes from my readers. They are the ones I write for, after all. I think if you base your success on superficial things, you'll never be satisfied. I know I wasn't. Now I have so much more joy and peace because I know the value of my work isn't based on what some magazine or newspaper says. It's when someone tells me my book made them cry or that it touched them in some way -- that's the real reward.

Stephanie: “You can get it all done if you just try a little harder.” The truth is that it doesn’t matter how well I organize my time, strive with all my strength, and batch my tasks, I am never going to be able to get done all the writing, marketing, and mothering that I want in a 24 hour period. I’m just not. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to take time for rest even when not everything is done (it never is) and to let myself off the hook sometimes.

Shan: So many, I’m sure. When you discover that a belief you’ve held is flawed, there’s always an element of surprise and it takes some time to adjust to the reality of the truth. Most recently I’ve been coming to grips with the reality that one publishing deal does not guarantee another one. For reasons often out of your control, you may feel like you’re starting over several times before you find your stride. That doesn’t negate one bit of your success but it does reset your expectations.

Jill: I shared my big lie during the question we had about defining success and failure. The lie that "I don't matter" unless I'm proving it somehow. A lifetime of believing that lie has turned me into an overachiever who is always striving. So over the past year (believe it or not), I've been working hard to not be a militant slave driver about the deadlines and goals I give myself. Because I have to take care of myself. I need rest. I need to be with my family. And I need to take time for me, whether that means going on a walk, reading a book for fun, or crafting. Because, like Stephanie said, no one can do it all. No one shouldWe're not meant to be slaves on this planet. We're meant to enjoy life. And life isn't about how much we can get done. It's about how we love ourselves and each other. That's what matters.

What about you, writers? Is there a lie you have believed?