As many of you already know, I was at a writers' retreat last week. Are you wondering exactly what that means? If you're thinking it means we sat around writing the whole time ... you're wrong. That's not what happened at this one, although I think I could totally enjoy one like that, too!
We were sequestered away at a little state park in Tennessee called Montgomery Bell State park. It's beautiful and quiet and peaceful. See? As I drove in, the trees were tall, meeting at the top, with the sunlight filtering through. It sort of felt like I was driving through a giant outdoor cathedral. Or a fairy tale.
The first evening, we had a fun picnic dinner down in a pavilion that was right next to a creek and just down from a beautiful little old-fashioned chapel complete with stained glass windows. Beyond that was a replica of a log cabin from the 1800s. It was fun to greet friends I made at the retreat last year as well as make a few new ones. It's always a pleasure to meet someone face-to-face who I had only chatted online with before this. The barbecue was pretty good, too.
The inn we stayed at is right by the lake, so we all had a lake-side view from our balconies. We would wake up in the mornings to fog and the calls of ducks. We'd go to sleep to the serenade of frogs and insects. One morning I even got productive and did some edits between sips of tea and watching the chipmunk just down from our room.
The rest of the days were filled with classes to help us improve our skills, gain motivation, strengthen our ideas, and build stronger relationships with the other authors around us. There's something amazing about being surrounded by people who talk about how to murder someone in one sentence and the horrible wreck her characters had to have in order to allow the sister and brother-in-law to fall in love in the next. Authors talk about scary things sometimes. We also played some games, got a little silly, and decided we have a love/hate relationship with trivia.
Because we got these crazy brains together, watch in the future for a few more fun things coming from some of us. After all, what's the point of spending three days together if you don't commiserate and collaborate on a few things, including maybe a novella collection by some of us further down the road?
It's hard to focus on writing when this view keeps distracting and fun people are nearby to talk with. But I came home with tons of ideas and plans. I'm so glad I got to go again this year and I'm already looking forward to being back next year.
I have been looking forward to this since this time last year. KenTen Writers' Retreat starts this evening. It's a time to hang out with other authors, learn a few things, and work on writing. And a time to just be away from normal life, staying in a room with a view like THIS!
I will tell you more about it next week, but just know, that this is one of my favorite times of year, and I'm so excited to get to go again. We'll just pretend like the fact that my fifteenth wedding anniversary is tomorrow and my husband is home with the kids by himself doesn't put a slightly guilty tint to it. I'll make it up to him. :-) He's the best!
Today, I have the privilege to introduce you to another one of my Mantle Rock Publishing sister authors. I personally feel anyone with the name Amy is worth getting to know, don't you? Ha! Seriously, though, we're in for a fun interview. Amy Blake writes in two different genres, but today she's talking fantasy with us.
Amy B, I'm so impressed. You're homeschooling four children. How on earth do you have time to be an author, too?
Thanks, Amy! It’s a juggling act, just as it is for every author with work and family responsibilities. When my kids were little I had to schedule writing time during the kids’ nap/quiet time. In the chauffer-mom stage, I’ve learned to take my laptop or notebook to their various lessons, practices, and classes. It’s a matter of intentionally integrating writing time into my family’s schedule. It doesn’t work flawlessly, but I certainly accomplish more by carving out the time than I would by waiting for those perfect writing moments that so rarely come.
I am in the nap/quiet time stage now, so I can understand that completely.
Have you always wanted to be an author or is that something that came in recent years?
I’ve always loved to read, but I never imagined myself as someone who could be an author until after I graduated from college. Then I immersed myself in learning how to write and just kept plugging away until I achieved my dreams of publication.
I've read the first book in your On the Brink series. Whitewashed wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it definitely kept me turning the pages the whole time and wanting to know more. What gave you the idea to set the mystery at a college?
Whitewashed is very loosely based on an embezzlement incident that occurred at my own alma mater. I exaggerated events and ramped up the danger for Patience at Verity College, but my own school’s experience with embezzlement was the inspiration for the book. The other two novels in this suspense trilogy, Colorblind and Tie-Dyed, follow Patience’s friends Christy and Nat on their own perilous college and internship adventures.
I know you also write a YA fantasy series. Can you tell us a little more about that? Is it set in the real world or a completely fictional one?
My Levi Prince YA Christian fantasy series is about a homeschooled pastor’s son who goes to summer camp at Camp Classic on Castle Island, a fictional island in the middle of Lake Superior. Unknown to most of the campers, the far northern cliff of Castle Island is the connecting point with Terracaelum, a realm populated with mythical creatures that is invisible except when the drawbridge is lowered. The Trojan Horse Traitor, The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, and my newest release The Fay’s Apprentice follow Levi on consecutive summers beginning when he’s thirteen. Each novel plays off of a story from ancient civilizations—Greek, Norse, British, and Roman (in the fourth book that I’m currently writing).
That sounds fascinating. I'll have to check them out.
Since you write two different genres, I'm curious. Do you have a favorite genre? Which do you find easier to write?
That’s a tough question. When I’m reading or writing suspense, I’ll probably tell you that it’s my favorite genre. But when I’m reading or writing YA fantasy, I’ll probably tell you YA fantasy is.
One last question. Can you leave us with a fun fact that very few people know about you?
Lots of people don’t know that I met my husband in Argumentation class at college. We debated against each other, and the class said I won while the teacher said he won. To this day we still disagree on who was the winner of that argument.
It's not everyone who says they got together by arguing! That's so neat. Thanks for sharing such neat tidbits, and spending time with us today, Amy B.
If you'd like to know more about Amy Blake or her books, keep reading.
The Fay's Apprentice (Levi Prince, book 3)
On Levi’s third summer at Camp Classic, he’s torn between two responsibilities. On the one hand, his parents expect him to watch over his little sister Abby, who has no clue their summer camp is a haven for mythical creatures. On the other hand, Mr. Dominic wants him to train at Fort Terra, a full day’s hike away from his sister, because of Levi’s previous encounters with the demon sorcerer Deceptor. Although he enjoys training with his friends, Levi finds life at Fort Terra difficult thanks to the ongoing tension between him and Hunter and the stress of having his former kidnapper Regin as his chaperone. When the woman Regin claims to be the evil sorceress Anna appears, Levi faces a whole new challenge.
Award-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. She’s also writing two series for the Christian market, her Levi Prince YA fantasy series and her On the Brink Christian suspense trilogy. Whitewashed, Colorblind, and Tie-Dyed , featuring three homeschooled girls on the brink of adulthood…and danger, are available in paperback and Kindle. The Trojan Horse Traitor, The Fall of Thor’s Hammer , and The Fay’s Apprentice, about homeschooled pastor’s kid Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum, are also available in paperback and Kindle. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)