Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writer's Report -- Thistles, Poison Oak, River Crossings, Rotting Rail Road Tracks -- and Zombies?

On Memorial Day at 8am, I met up with two running trail buddies (Lura, a marathoner, and Lori, an ultramarathoner) for the adventure of a lifetime.

The goal: to run from Cloverdale to Hopland on 15 miles of abandoned rail road track once used for logging. Why? To conduct research for Undead Ultra, my forthcoming novel

In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks and zombies. When their hatchback is totaled several miles into their journey, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives.

The course selected for this adventure is part of the course traveled by the characters in my novel. What better way to imbue my novel with realistic details than to experience them myself? I dubbed my adventure gals the Zombie Recon Team (ZRT for short).

The day started off cool and overcast -- perfect running weather. Thirty seconds into the adventure, we knew we were in for a challenge. The rail road tracks were completely overgrown with weeds, many of them taller than me. (At five-foot-three inches, that makes for some pretty short weeds!) In some parts, the tracks were so overgrown that we were forced to find a way around them -- often skirting even larger outcroppings of poison oak.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writer's Report - Research Can Be An Adventure! Lace Up Your Running Shoes!

I have officially started research for my newest project, a zombie novel entitled Undead Ultra, and I have to say I am having a blast!

The gist: The characters in my novel are running (You got that -- running! Not walking, not hiking. Running!) 200 miles from Geyserville, CA, to Arcata, CA. Since I am not studly enough to run 200 miles non-stop, I am running the route taken by my characters in chunks. All running buddies joining me are officially part of the Zombie Recon Team!

Here's a video showcasing the first 9 miles of the adventure. The film editing was done by the ever talented Chris Urasaki.

Anyone want to join me the Zombie Recon Team? I'm scheming a 200 mile relay for the book release sometime in the not-so-distant future!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Writer's Report - Writing What I Know & Love - Running & Zombies!

Write What You Know

This is advice I've received throughout my writing career. Honestly, as a sci-fi and fantasy author, I've often found it hard to "write what I know." How do I write about daring swordplay or a dystopian society when I live an average American life? In the past, I've relied largely on my imagination.

This has changed with my newest project, a zombie novel tentatively entitled Undead Ultra. The premise: In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away in Arcata, California. When their hatchback is totaled at the beginning of their journey, and they find the freeway clogged with car wrecks and zombies, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives. 

I'm finally writing about something I know and love: running! Just last year I ran 6 half marathons (one of them in Germany!) and 1 full marathon (in Death Valley!). I have a few more marathons on the books this year, with hopes of working up to a 50K ultra in 2016. I devour running books, running documentaries, and my monthly subscription to Ultrarunning Magazine. So yeah, I love this stuff.

The most exciting part? Formation of the Zombie Recon Team!

I've sweet talked a group of my running buddies into running portions of the route traveled by my characters. This will help me bring real detail to the setting in my novel. (And did I mention I will get to RUN? Yay! If I thought I could run the entire 200 mile route without breaking something, I would! Maybe someday . . . )

Just last weekend, my girlfriend Lura and did a 9 mile recon run. We started in Geyserville (where my characters first decide to set out on foot) and ran all the way to Cloverdale. My daughter joined us for a short stint. Here we are, rocking our spandex running gear and chugging down a frontage road in wine country. Those are vineyards you can see to the right! During the run, we managed to aggravate 3 hostile pit bulls, discover an abandoned hobo cottage with a pee-filled beer bottle, and get footage of a partially decomposed snake. Adventures abound!

I've partnered with Chris Urasaki, a family friend who's passionate about film making. He'll be putting together footage from the ZRT runs to highlight the adventures of our trips. Stay turned for some You Tube videos!

Up next is a 15 mile trail run on abandoned rail road tracks. There will be poison oak, berry brambles, a perhaps some hobos. Can't wait! I'll probably be packing some pepper spray, but I'm pretty sure me and the ladies can outrun the hobos.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Writer's Report - Audio Book release of Sulan Episode 1.5

At the end of last year I had the pleasure of working with the amazing Michele Carpenter on the audio book version of Sulan, Episode 1.5: Risk Alleviator. Michele is a very talented voice actor and brought life to all the characters in my book. She also wrote a song for the intro and exit of the audio book, which just tickled me! You can pick up the new Sulan audio book at Amazon and Audible.

Also new on the writing front: I'm actually writing again! After a year-long funk, I'm finally in a place where stories and characters are speaking to me again. I'm 60,000 words into the third draft of Sulan Episode 2. I've got a wonderful writing partner who's helping me through the rough parts. With any luck Sulan 2 will be released in 2015 . . . fingers and toes crossed!

On a side note, I've recently developed a love of long distance running. I ran my first marathon in December and plan to tackle a few more this year. In a way, I think writing, publishing, and long distance running are all very similar . . . they are each a process, a journey. None are successfully accomplished in a day. Training for a marathon takes hours and hours and miles and miles of preparation, just like writing a novel takes draft after draft after draft. I'm enjoying both of my journeys. Miles and miles and draft after draft . . . I hope you're enjoying your journey too, whatever path you happen to be on.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Embracing Plan B

Fall television is a time of excitement in my house. My husband and I scour of copy of Entertainment Weekly, reading up on all the new shows and returning favorites.

One of our favorite shows is The Voice. In some ways I relate very much to all the contestants. Writers, like singers, are all artists pursuing a dream of making a living via the creation of art. One topic that often comes up on The Voice, and other reality shows dealing with art (tattoos, cooking, singing, make-up, acting, clothing, etc.) is the dreaded PLAN B.

To artists, the PLAN B (aka The Day Job) is the thing we get "stuck" doing when we are unable to make a decent living producing our art. As I watch interviews of The Voice contestants, I hear a lot of artists saying they have no PLAN B. They're either going to make a living doing their art, or die trying. (With artists, it's always something dramatic like this. I should know, since I consider myself an artist.)

I was a Creative Writing major in college and I heard a lot of the same sentiment among the students. "If I don't make a living as a screen writer, I'm going to bag groceries for the rest of my life." "I'm going to live out of my car until I make my big break." Stuff like that.

I even gave the anti-Plan-B a run when I first got out of college. I waited tables to 4 years so I could have more free time to write and pursue my dream. Over the years I've made some money at writing, but never enough to pay the bills. I eventually decided to turn to Plan B. And you know what? It was the best thing that ever happened.

I'm here today to tell you why it's turned out to be a great thing for me, and to argue the beauty of Plan B for all artists.

Argument #1: Life style

I love to go on vacations and get massages. I love eating good food and owning a home. I like being able to send my daughter to private school. In short, I've come to believe that my life style shouldn't suffer just because I can't make a mortgage payment with my books. My Plan B gives me a comfortable, secure life style.

Argument #2: Life informs art

As a writer, it was hard to garner a lot of life experience by locking myself in a room and clicking away at a keyboard all day. I've spent the last decade working for corporate America. I've learned a lot and gained many insights, much of which inform my YA dystopian/cyberpunk series, Sulan. This series would not have been possible without my Plan B. So I say to my fellow artists, don't be afraid of the Plan B. Embrace it. Open yourself up to new experiences and let it inform your art. You never know how your life experiences will manifest in your art.

Argument #3: Creative freedom

My Plan B gives me the financial freedom to write whatever, whenever, I want. For example, after I finished the first novel in the Sulan series, the practical thing to do was to write the next one in the series; it's widely known that writers make the best money off series. The more books in a series, the more potential income. If I'd been tied to a major publisher, I'd likely have been under contract to do just that.

But the story just wouldn't come to me. I wrote two horrible drafts and finally had to admit the sequel to Sulan just wasn't ready to be written. So I put it on the back burner and wrote my next book, The Warrior & The Flower.

All the time I had been working on Sulan 2, The Warrior & The Flower had been clamoring for attention in my head. Scenes and characters unfolded in my mind. The story was dying to be written. It flowed easily when I sat down in front of my computer. It was such a fun book to write. It was wonderful to be able to write what I wanted to write (and what wanted to be written) and not worry about the financial part.

In short, Plan B gives me complete creative freedom. I'm not forced to write anything under a deadline. I'm not forced to write a book that's not ready to show itself to me. I'm in the final stages of Sulan 2 now, and I'm convinced that if I'd been forced to write it sooner, it would not be the book it's shaping up to be. It was great not to be tied to any deadline and allow myself the time needed to perfect a manuscript.

There's something wonderful about creating art for the sake of simply creating art. It's fun and liberating to have no strings attached to my art. Yeah, it will be wonderful if someday I can make a living with my books. But I know that if/when that day comes, there will be tradeoffs. Writing for a living will mean writing what I think will sell, not necessarily what I'm feeling passionate about at the moment. It will also mean cutting myself off from the world and living in front of a computer, something I dread. I'm something of a people person; day-to-day interactions with people and life bring me joy and, of course, inform my writing.

I wrote this piece with the hope of giving other writers and artists a new perspective on Plan B. Being an artist doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Art and creative time can be woven into the other facets of living. Plan B can be a great thing for both artist and the art itself, so don't be afraid to embrace it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sulan Blog Tour - Recao Day 5

Girl of 1000 Wonders says: "I’ve read one book by Camille Picott before, and I enjoyed it. I was sure I’d enjoy Sulan, but I loved it! . . . The hype, the fear and the world building drew me in, but the characters are what made this book."

Gin's Book Notes says: "Camille Picott does an amazing job of world building. The technology of this future world is out there but not so over the top that you can’t easily imagine it. I think it takes a very gifted writer to incorporate technology into a story that is believable and yet advanced enough to make you wonder at its possibilities."

Wattle at Whimsical Nature says: "I must admit, when I signed up for this tour I only glanced at the synopsis of the book because I’ve read some of Camille Picott’s work before, and my reaction to said tour was ‘YES, SIGN ME UP!’ So I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get, but expected it to be fantasy.
And it was, but it was also so much more! I guess you could call it a bit sci-fi, a bit cyperpunk, a bit dystopain, a bit doesn’t fit into a convenient pigeon hole so let’s call it everything. And it worked."
Erika at WS Momma Readers Nook says: "I love how the author intertwines the dystopian and cyber/steampunk themes.  It is edgy and thrilling to read, but like all dystopian novels very sad to see such a different earth.  I think the author has created such a wonderful book in the first person where we see this "new" world through the eyes of Sulan."

The Word at My Fingertips says: "Sulan is incredible. Absolutely phenomenal. This is such an original idea, paired with the ever-popular dystopian genre, though this isn't a normal the-world-is-ravaged world. This is a very high-tech society that is organized and have since recreated itself since the Default-when the US declared bankruptcy."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sulan Blog Tour - Recap Day 4

Fly to Fiction says: "As I mentioned above, what really got me interested in this book was the blurb. The first thing I noticed when I read it was that the main character is Asian (or at least has an Asian name). I then found out that the author, Camille Picott, is actually a Chinese American. Yay for diversity! "

Jiha's File says: "I haven't read anything like this book, and I think it's amazing!
This Dystopian/Cyberpunk novel takes place during a crisis that hit the US, and the main character is Sulan, a 16-year-old math prodigy. No kidding you guys. This girl can solve any complex equation without using a calculator, and she does it in less than 10 seconds. Cool, isn't she?"