Janet Ursel takes your questions

Janet Ursel, whose Christian fantasy Disenchanted was released today, is here now to take your questions in the comments. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Disenchanted. Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Disenchanted links:   Amazon  Barnes & Noble   Goodreads

As usual, I've pulled up the comments into the main text here for easier reading. Some very light editing has happened.

Janet Ursel
Good evening, everyone. I hope we haven't worn you all out in the first two hours!
In case anyone is wondering, DISENCHANTED is NOT autobiographical, LOL! I actually made a very conscious effort to create a character very different from me, with a totally different life.

Faith Song
Hey, Janet. :-) I have a question. Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from a dream?

Janet Ursel     
Yes actually. I read recently that one of Tolkien's bits of writing advice was to write from your dreams. I've been dreaming of flying ever since I was a child, so I turned that into a serial short story that I give to people who sign up for my newsletter. But I want it very clear that Harvey Anderson is nothing like me, even if he got to do the flying... ;o)

Faith Song     
Oh, really? I've been dreaming of flying since I was little, as well.
I recently had a dream which helped me solve a plot issue in a story I'm writing. It was lovely.

Janet Ursel     
Tell me about it.

Katherine Coble
In an earlier interview you mentioned facing health challenges. Are these still ongoing or was an underlying issue rectified?

Janet Ursel     
It's improved. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At one point it was so bad I spent the entire day on the couch and started losing weight because the effort of making a sandwich was too great. (I was living mostly by myself at that time.) But I managed to find a couple of the causes and rectified them, so now I am much more functional. I still have to be very careful of my energy but I can write again. :o)

Amanda Gawthorpe
What are your writing habits like? Do you have any routines you follow? Do you write daily or when the mood strikes?

Janet Ursel
Habits... *sigh* I try to write daily but it's a struggle. Once all these launch activities are over, I am going to try to get back to daily writing. But whenever I am unsure of myself, I become incapable of writing, so I have to figure out where the problem is. Right now, I have concluded I need to know some of my characters better, so I am exploring their lives a bit before I continue the book. I got a short story out of that and I'm guessing another will be coming soon.

Janet Ursel     
DISENCHANTED has made Amazon's list of Hot New Releases in Christian Fantasy. :o) #14 of 88.

Faith Song     
I struggle with writing routines, as well.
Have you ever participated in a writing program, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), or Camp NanoWrimo?

Janet Ursel     
Yes, I credit NaNoWriMo with giving me the kick in the butt that I needed several years ago. I didn't win, but I did get over 30,000 words written that month, which was absolutely phenomenal for me! I am a slow writer. I didn't do too badly the year after, but by the third year I froze solid and couldn't do it any more. I've learned I need to stop writing sometimes and do the deep thinking about my characters or why things are happening the way they are and where they are going. If I just write for the numbers, I end up psyching myself out. But it was great while it lasted and I made some good friends. :o)

Faith Song
Great. I've found Nano useful because it helps me get words on the page. I like Camp NanoWrimo better, though, because you can pick your own word goal, and because there are writing groups which are very helpful for having writing friends to cheer you on.

Nadine Brandes
Yes, Camp NaNo is MUCH more fun and motivational for me, too! :)

Amanda Gawthorpe
How many books are planned for the Coventree series?

Janet Ursel     
I don't know. I have ideas for three or four so far, but who knows? I've been a little amused by reviewers who just assumed that a trilogy was planned. They didn't get it from me.
I don't have an overall plot in mind, like the Harry Potter books. But as each book ends I will be asking "Where does Coventree go from here?" and seeing what comes up.

Heather Huffman
Are you a plotter or a pantser? (As in, plan and outline your plot or fly by the seat of your pants when you write?) Do the characters ever surprise you?

Janet Ursel     
I outline until I run into a brick wall. Then I write the story until it passes that brick wall and I hit the next one. Then I outline again until I hit a brick wall. Then... I have a headache. And yes, my characters occasionally refuse to do what I tell them and take things in different directions. Stupid characters... They're usually right.

Faith Song      
So, a lot of authors have a certain character that they enjoy writing, connect well with, or just like quite a bit.
Out of your characters, is there a certain character that you would consider your "pet character?"

Janet Ursel
Wow, that is perhaps the hardest question I've been asked this evening! I'm not good at favourites. Of course, I'm fond of Blayn, I've spent so much time with him. But I also love Catherine, which is good because she will take center stage in the sequel. And believe it or not, I found Edgar Saville fun to write. I didn't love him, because he was a total, cold-blooded psycho, but somehow he was very easy to write. So scheming. I'm not a schemer, so I really don't know where that came from.

Heather Huffman
Too funny. You answered my question as I was posting it. Never mind. :0) And congrats on the ranking!

Mark     
I see I'm late.. :)

Janet Ursel     
ROFL! And your question is... ?

Mark
Glad to see the good listing on Amazon, Janet.

Janet Ursel     
Thanks, Mark. I'm glad to see that a total unknown can get a little traction. ;o)

Laura Blackman
So happy for you Janet. It's been a busy season here but I want you to know I've been thinking of you and enjoy reading your blogs and posts. I'm entering a children's book for my first writer's contest. You definitely have inspired me to keep writing! Thanks, my friend.

EJ Hanagan     
Hi Janet! Do you have any traditions while writing?

Janet Ursel     
EJ, not many. The only thing that is really consistent is that I prefer doing the very first draft on paper. Somehow a blank page is friendlier to me than a white screen. Go figure. Then I start the next day's writing by typing in what I did the day before, polishing a bit as I go, and that gets me in the flow to start again on paper.

Patrick Carr takes questions

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick W. Carr, the author of the Staff and the Sword series, and the upcoming Darkwater Saga is now taking your questions in the comments. Please check out his website and get to know him and his work. Newbie questions are fine!

Patrick will be giving away a copy of A Cast of Stones to one lucky commenter. Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Amazon links to Patrick's books:

I've moved the comments up here for easier reading, again, very lightly edited. The originals remain below.

Janet Ursel:
I've got to know: how on earth do you teach and still find time and energy to write? I am in awe.

Patrick Carr:
I get up every morning at 5:30 and write for an hour or so before school. It's the only way, because after class my brain is like a bowl of tapioca. Strong coffee and dark chocolate help quite a bit as well.

Amanda Gawthorpe:
I second Janet's question. As someone who also has four kids and a job, time management is a big issue for me. How do you do it?

Patrick Carr:
Well, the kid part has gotten easier of late. My youngest just turned 18 and so they're all off at college this fall. I just have to make sure that I'm still being the husband I'm supposed to be. The really hard part was the last couple of years when grad school was in the mix as well. Definitely don't want to do that again...ever.

Lydia Thomas:
What drew you to writing fantasy?

Patrick Carr:
The idea that I could write absolutely anything! Of course, the freedom to write anything, means the requirement that you figure out a way to make it work, world building and all that, but the fun remains. It's the ultimate mind experiment of "what if?"

Janet Ursel:
I'm going to turn your own question back at you: do you take people you know and put them in your stories?

Patrick Carr:
All the time. I'm a terrible cheat plus when the cast of characters gets to a certain point having pictures on file of what everyone looks like helps me to keep the descriptions consistent. In every series I will have one character that is my sister, Ramona. She's my alpha reader and gets a kick out of looking for herself because I always mix up the letters of her name and use it that way. Example: Anomar in A Cast of Stones, is Ramona backwards. I kill myself sometimes.

Kiah:
That's hilarious. :) So, was Errol inspired by anyone you know?

Patrick Carr:
Errol was modeled, looks anyway, after my oldest son Patrick. Thankfully, my son's not an alcoholic. I'm very proud of him.

Janet Ursel:
That is hilarious! I don't think I would dare, personally.

Patrick Carr:
While I'm waiting for the next question, I will begin telling the famous (to those who know me) eyeball story.
So when Patrick Jr. was little we used to play this game where I would lie on the floor and he would stand on my hands. I would then push him up toward the ceiling like he was in a miniature elevator. I think he was probably 4 or 5 at the time.

Kiah:
I just finished reading the Staff and the Sword Series a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it! How long did it take you to write the entire series?

Patrick Carr:
I started on A Cast of Stones years before it got published. I got about 3 chapters in and just couldn't get the story to gel in my head so I put it aside for 2 or 3 years. While I was visiting my sister one evening, I got this idea for a different approach to the story. I worked it for about a year and then took it to a couple of publishers. About a year after that they picked it up, by which time I was over halfway through the sequel. Then I wrote A Draw of Kings in about 8 months. That was the deadline that was the hardest. So all together it took about 5 years of writing, but it was stretched out a bit.

Patrick Carr:
(Eyeball story continued)
Anyway, one evening we were playing our game and Patrick's feet slipped. Down he falls and lands, no kidding, right on my face. It didn't hurt that much, but my head had no place to go and when he landed on me I heard this sound that went...qqqwwwiiiicckkkk.

Amanda Gawthorpe:
I'm truly terrified to hear the rest of this story!!

Ashley M. Holbrook:
Who's your favorite niece? Hehe. Just kidding. Ok, serious question this time. What's your favorite aspect of creating a new character for one of your stories?

Patrick Carr:
Ashley!! Thanks for dropping by! Okay, here's the answer: Figuring out what their past and their secrets are going to be. I think that defines so much of us and once I get that straight in my head, it's a lot easier to get that character to react realistically.

Patrick Carr:
(More eyeball)
So I sit up and my nose and face feel funny, like I'm all stopped up. Then a small trickle of blood comes out the right side of my nose. Not much, not even as much as a little nose bleed. But my ears started to feel stopped up to, like I've been in an airplane and just landed.

Nadine Brandes:
I'm refreshing this page every four seconds....must. know. what. happened. [grin]

Athelas Hale:
Okay, I must think of some very good questions... I read your "The Staff and the Sword" series, and LOVED it. What made you first decide to write fantasy?

Patrick Carr:
A lot of that decision was probably because that's what I read. I cut my teeth on Lewis, Tolkien, Eddings, Donaldson, Feist, Kay. You name it, I probably read it. I really enjoy the world-building process even though it can be difficult at times to come up with a set of rules that feels genuine.

Athelas Hale:
World building is a lot of fun. Do you ever develop entire languages for your worlds? Do you have a favorite part of the world building process?

Patrick Carr:
I experiment a lot with other languages such as Latin (The Staff and the Sword) or Old English (The Darkwater Saga). I think my favorite and most challenging part of world-building is coming up with a workable and intriguing system of magic. I tend to lean toward Sanderson's definition which means it has to have rules, limitations, and consequences.

Patrick Carr:
(Still more eyeball)
So, I pinch my nose shut and blow to clear my ears.
And my right eyeball starts to come out of the socket!!
I'm sitting next to the laundry basket so I grab a clean diaper (we used cloth for our kids at that point) and push my eyeball back in. And, clever man that I am, I yell "Mary, we need to get to the hospital now!"

Amanda Gawthorpe:
Oh. My. Goodness.

Patrick Carr:
Seriously, right? Talk about getting a different perspective.

Janet Ursel:
I shouldn't. I really shouldn't. But I'm laughing.

Athelas Hale:
Oooww. Do you still have trouble because of this, or did they get it fixed. (Also, I can see why going to the hospital would be a good idea. xD)

Patrick Carr:
No, no trouble at all. It's cool the way we heal and I've had lots of opportunities to do that.

Athelas Hale: coughs So, you seem to have a lot of experience with the emergency room and healing... Just curious, but how do you usually research your novels?

Amanda Gawthorpe:
There is no book that is universally loved by all people. All authors will face negative reviews. How do you deal with them?

Patrick Carr:
It depends on how I'm feeling that day. I read every review no matter how bad it is. A few of them have actually contained some insight that I've used to try and be a better writer. Some of them come across as pretty mean-spirited. I had one reviewer that said she wrote the (very bad) review while she was under spiritual attack. Then she wrote for 11 paragraphs about why my book was garbage. I thought, "that wasn't much of an attack." When you get those reviews, you just have to roll your eyes, chuckle, and move on.

Patrick Carr:
(Eyeball saga)
So we get to the emergency room and by now the skin around my eyeball has these funny lumps around it and when I push on them they make this rice krispy kind of sound. So the nurse takes all my information and tells me to wait. So I wait, and wait, and wait. And now I'm thinking "I've got an eyeball trying to come out of the socket. What does it take to get seen around here?"

Emerald Barnes:
Sorry I'm late to the party! (Hate I missed Nadine's interview. Was wanting to get my hand on her book for a long time now!) I just read the eyeball story. Wow. I couldn't imagine that!
Fantasy novels fascinate me because I love new worlds! How do you find describing new worlds? Do you feel like it's easier or harder than writing about a well-known place?

Janet Ursel:
It's still going on, Emerald. Jump threads and come join us! You have 15 more minutes!
And you can do both at once. I am living proof...

Patrick Carr:
I find it harder, actually. Making up something out of whole cloth is always a challenge because I'm such a stickler for realistic magic systems. That's probably my engineering background at work. I was educated and trained to look for flaws. It makes me a terrible nit-picker when I'm putting together a story. I would love to write some urban fantasy sometime just so I can rely on a ready-made world. We'll see. So many books to write, so little time.

Nadine Brandes:
Hi Emerald! There are still 15 minutes left to my interview: https://janetursel.squarespace.com/disenchanted-launch-party/2015/7/7/janet-ursel-interviews-nadine-brandes
And you can also read some of the Q&A questions here: https://janetursel.squarespace.com/disenchanted-launch-party/2015/7/7/nadine-brandes-takes-your-questions
Glad to have you here! :)

Emerald Barnes:
Fantastic! I'll pop over there right now. My internet has been out until now and it's spotty. :/ Anyway, heading over there now! thanks!

Patrick Carr:
(Eyeball-ness)
So the doctor finally sees me and decides to take an x-ray of the funkiness that is happening in my skull. The doctor says "You've broken the occipital orbit bone under your right eye and air went up through your sinus behind the eye."
And what happens next? The same thing that always happens when I go to the emergency room. The doctor looks at me and says, "Yeah, we really can't do much since the bones not displaced. Here, take these antibiotics and don't blow your nose for 6 weeks."

Nadine Brandes:
LOL

Janet Ursel:
If it weren't for the fact that doctors saved my life once, I would have a similar grumble. They always seem to say they can't do anything...

Kiah:
Wow. Just wow.

Janet Ursel:
I have a terrible confession to make: I had to read Nadine's book first because she was the one I was going to be interviewing. But I really loved that you started out A CAST OF STONES with a drunk as the protagonist. :o) Any particular reason for that? (And seriously, you had my heart pounding with that chase scene! So well done!)

Patrick Carr:
I wanted a flawed hero and for Errol, I wanted that flaw to be visible so that readers could 'see' his flaw. I wasn't confident in my ability at that point in time to depict a more hidden character flaw, plus I had that scripture running through my head from Isaiah (I think) that says "He had no form or comeliness that we should admire him.


Sydney Anderson:
I got the free kindle version of A Cast of Stones not to long ago and read it while on a vacation that had a lot of drive time. You can check out my review here: http://singinglibrarianbooks.weebly.com/teens/a-cast-of-stones-the-staff-and-the-sword-1-by-patrick-w-carr I thoroughly enjoyed it and am now reading the second book in the series. How did you come up with the idea for this series? I look forward to reading your other novels. :)

Patrick Carr:
I was daydreaming in church and got the principal idea from casting lots in the old testament. My brain went "what if?" and the story kind of progressed from there. Thanks for reading!

Janet Ursel:
The winner of A CAST OF STONES is Kiah. Please contact Patrick or me with your address.

Nadine Brandes takes your questions

Nadine Brandes, author of A Time to Die and the upcoming A Time to Speak, is here now to answer your questions. Please check out her website and get to know her work. Newbie questions are welcome! The action is taking place in the comments. ;o)

One lucky commenter will win an eBook of A Time to Die! Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes

A Time to Die links:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Goodreads 

Edited to pull the comments up into the body of the post for easier reading. Lightly edited to remove comments that didn't fit in the conversation. They're still below if you absolutely want to read them... ;o)

Janet Ursel:
Hi Nadine! Thank you so much for joining us tonight!

Nadine Brandes:
It's my pleasure! :) Thank you for having me! :D

Guy L. Pace:
We'll try this again. How is everyone?

Nadine Brandes:
I'm doing great, how are you Guy? :)

Guy L. Pace:
Doing well, thanks! Just got Janet's book from Amazon (ebook). Looking forward to reading it. Glad she got you to participate in this party.

Nadine Brandes:
Ooh yay! Tell me what you think when you finish it! :D

Janet Ursel:
I know I'm going to be interviewing you later, but I want to ask a really dumb question: How old are you? And am I allowed to be jealous that you are starting your writing career so much younger than me?

Nadine Brandes:
LOL, that's not a dumb question! :D I'm 28 and honored that I get to start my writing career so young! And blessed to have a hubby who supports that. :D

Guy L. Pace:
Yeah, she's young, but very talented and wise. She also lives where she can see the Grand Tetons in all their glory all the time. Lucky lady. That's why she has that big smile all the time. ;-)

Nadine Brandes:
LOL, this is very true Guy. [grin] I often ask myself why God decided to give me such a unique and blessed life. That's God for you... :-)

Lydia Thomas:
Nadine, I know you get this question all of the time, but what was your inspiration for A Time to Die?

Nadine Brandes:
Hi Lydia!
The inspiration for A Time to Die actually came from the death of an acquaintance of mine. He was the same age as me and yet lived a very full and God-serving life before passing. It got me thinking about my own life at the time, and I asked myself "Would I live any differently if I knew when I'd die?" The answer was...YES. I'd live differently! So I started re-evaluating my life and that turned into the story behind A Time to Die to get other people thinking along the same lines. :D
Now, I'm happy to say I wouldn't change a thing on how I'm living. :)

Athelas Hale:
Hello, Nadine! Your book looks fantastic, though I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Thank you for taking the time to do this, and thank you, Janet! I do have a question. Where did the idea for your book first come from?

Nadine Brandes:
Hi Athelas! :D
I can't WAIT for you to read my book and tell me what you think of it! :D In answer to your question, I shared a little bit of that story above, but you can read the full story behind my inspiration for A Time to Die at this link: http://nadinebrandes.com/2014/07/15/my-author-story-part-3-a-time-to-die/
Overall, it was inspired by the death of an acquaintance who got me thinking about my own life. How would I live if I knew the day I'd die? How would YOU live? It was too intriguing of a question to leave alone. [grin]

Kiah:
Hi Nadine! I really want to ask you when "A Time to Speak" will be released, but I know that you will only be able to evade that question, so I'll have to settle for a less exciting one: What was your favorite part of your recent trip to Europe?

Nadine Brandes:
Hi Kiah!
I know, I know, the torment! Actually....I'll be sharing the release date in my August newsletter! If you're not signed up for the newsletter, you can sign up here: nadinebrandes.com/my-newsletter
My favorite part of my recent trip to Europe was seeing the different cultures. Even though all the countries I visited were in the same continent, each one had its own feel, its own architecture, and its own history. It was a delightful amount of inspiration for future novels!
As for the countries themselves, driving through the entire country of France is pretty hard to beat. I really enjoyed that part of the trip. :)

Kiah:
I am signed up for your newsletter already, so I'll be looking forward to seeing that in my inbox! EEK! Can't wait to read "A Time to Die."
Thanks for answering my question! I've never had a chance to leave the United States, but I'm sure all the different cultures are really amazing to be able to experience.

Kiah:
Woops... Meant to say that I can't wait to read "A Time to Speak." Those similar titles can get confusing. :)

Nadine Brandes:
LOL, I slip up with them too sometimes! Maybe that was a mistake... O.o
I look forward to you reading it, too! :D SO excited to hear what you think of the continued plot! EEE!

Athelas Hale:
Jumping in on your conversation here... I hope you don't mind!
I was actually thinking that I love the way your titles fit together so perfectly. I've seen some books in a series that seem disjointed because of their drastic difference in titles. This makes it flow nicely, and I would immediately know which series you meant.

Kiah:
Don't mind at all! :) I actually agree with you, Athelas. I think the similar titles are pretty clever and will make the series feel more cohesive. It's just that they can be a little hard to keep straight, as I've already demonstrated. :) But it's worth it, I think.

Nadine Brandes:
Thanks you two! I'm usually awful at coming up with titles, so these have been fun to see how they fit with the story. I'm glad you like them...even if we do mix them up here and there. ;)

Faith Song:
Hey, Nadine! Your book looks awesome. I know some authors who are opposed to using present tense in novels. What's your opinion on this?

Nadine Brandes:
When I started writing A Time to Die, present tense wasn't "the big thing" yet. I chose to write it because the book simply demanded to be written in present tense (rather, Parvin demanded it. :P ) I had actually started the first draft in first person past tense and it just didn't work. It was like I was fighting against Parvin's shouts to be heard. (Dorky author-ness coming out now.) It was tough for me to learn and I certainly had slip ups, but in the end past tense just felt too draggy. It made it feel like I wasn't in the story in that moment.
In my mind, past tense makes it feel like the character is telling a story that has already happened. Present tense makes the reader feel like they're living the story WITH the character. It's hard to do right, but I think it's worth trying.

Faith Song:
Thanks. :-) I know the feeling. A few of my characters have demanded to be written in first person, but not yet present tense. Present tense has always had a dream-like feeling in my head.

Nadine Brandes:
Dream-like is a good way to put it. First person always feels very immersive to me. And that's my favorite way to read. :)

Kiah:
How long ago did you first have the idea for the Out of Time Series?
Also, what is your favorite season/time of year?

Nadine Brandes:
I started writing A Time to Die in October 2010. I was in the middle of grad school and had NO time to write, but it built up in my brain like a demanding flood until I finally just HAD to let it out. Then it gushed out on paper and voila! The series began. [grin]

Athelas Hale:
Okay, important questions...
What is your necessary writing environment? Any music that you listen to when you write? Drinks that you have whenever you're working on a project (TEA, right? xD)? What's your least favorite part of the writing process? (Bonus: Do you enjoy having questions thrown at you so quickly?)

Nadine Brandes:
LOL, I'm totally up for all these questions. I'm quite good in a batting cage, actually. [wink]
My necessary writing environment changes daily depending on if my writing room is clean or not. :P When it IS clean (a must) then I spend time there. I HAVE to be by a window, whether I'm writing in my work room or at a coffee shop or in an airplane. The outside is a gush of inspiration for me. I need to be able to see it...and stare off into space for hours without accidentally staring at someONE. :P
Now, as for the atmosphere, tea (Yorkshire, if you please) is a requirement. I put together a playlist for every book I write, so I'll usually put that on. I even have a special lotion and perfume I use ONLY when writing, so that the smell will inspire me. (Dorky? Cool? Not sure yet. Hehe)
My least favorite part of the writing process is deadlines, because that means I have to write even if I'm not in the mood. My writing comes out very shabby when I do that, making editing all the more difficult.
Any other question? ;-)

Amanda Gawthorpe:
What are your writing habits/routines? Do you write daily?

Nadine Brandes:
Hi Amanda!
sigh This is an ongoing struggle for me. When I'm not traveling, I'm able to maintain a routine. I try to write 1,000 words a day Mon-Fri. This is a new habit for me and I've managed to maintain it for a few weeks. I'm optimistic. I have a few friends with whom I will word war with a couple times a week. That helps a lot, too.
Time management is my current dragon to slay. I also work as a freelance editor, so I tend to try and get writing in before I do any editing, otherwise my brain doesn't separate the two very well.

Amanda Gawthorpe:
I have the same struggle. I also edit and find NO time to do my own writing. I like the idea of getting my own writing done before doing any editing! I have been doing things the other way around and my writing never gets done. Thanks for the inspiration :)

Nadine Brandes:
You're welcome! May it serve you well! :) Randy Ingermanson inspired me to try writing one day and only editing on another day. That worked for a time, too, but I didn't test it out long enough. Just another thing you could try. ;) If you find the magic answer to time-juggling, tell me! LOL