Leap Day Post

I could have posted this yesterday, but I get a child-like excitement whenever I see February 29th written. In fact, I have a “diary” that I started in 2000 that I only read and write in on February 29th. I’m looking forward to finding it sometime today and reading it.  Enough about that.  Since it’s the end of a rather exciting month, I think I’ll take a moment to sum it all up.

February 5th was Semester Aboard‘s half-birthday. It’s a little surreal to think that it’s been published for half a year. It’s even more unbelievable to me when I think about everything that’s happened in just six months. I broke 500 fans on the Facebook page this month: a goal I thought was unreachable when I was struggling to get my first 25. Not a week goes by when a book on some website doesn’t sell and I keep getting (very kind and amazing!) reviews! 

Barnes & Noble reported their sales to Smashwords yesterday and I’ve already sold 36 (16 in February alone) in 2012.  I sold 66 at B&N from August to December.  My mind is just blown away that I’ve already sold more than half that!  Honestly, it’s just all so exciting that I can’t believe it.

I have official bookmarks now, some have already been mailed out to people who have won them!

And last, but not least, there are a lot of exciting things coming up!  Semester Aboard is going to be a feature on Indies Unlimited on March 7 (I posted the link, but it won’t work until the 7th). I’ll also be doing a guest post for them soon.  There will also be an interview with Charlie going up sometime this weekend – yes, Charlie the character from Semester Aboard.  It was really fun and I’m hoping to do more character interviews in the future.

In other news, the wedding count-down numbers are getting dreadfully small.  I’ll still be about as often as I can, but expect me to all but vanish in mid-April.  Then, although I love you all, I won’t be mucking around on blogger on my honeymoon, so I’ll be gone for a week.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve got an on-going pseudo contest on my Facebook Page. Basically, I’ve gotten jealous of all of the beautiful pictures I see on other pages. The only pictures I have are my cover, my writing happy place, and a lonely, lovely piece of fanart.  So, I’m asking people (no artistic talent necessary, just use google!) to find images that remind them of Semester Aboard and post them to my page, along with a comment that explains why you chose the picture.  Once I have enough to make it a decent contest (like 5 or 6) I’ll choose the 3 best and the winners will either get a signed bookmark or a free digital copy of Semester Aboard.  Yes, I realize that last prize doesn’t help people who have it already.  If you don’t have it, you can read the first four chapters right here – I think that will be enough to inspire you to find a picture.

Thanks for taking the time to read my long-winded nonsense!

Character Meme 6 of 6: Jen

At last, it’s time for the 6th and final questionnaire!  And just in time for Semester Aboard to turn 6 months old!  More on that tomorrow…

So, last but not least, is a meme from Jen, the main character!  Even though you get into her head quite a bit in the book, I hope this one is still interesting.  As before, it contains no spoilers, so even new readers can get to know the characters a little before reading!

Also, I have tabs now!  If anyone has any tips on making them prettier, please let me know!

If you click the tab that says Semester Aboard, then you can read the previous 5 memes.  They don’t need to go in any particular order.  Enjoy!

Jen
Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
    my bed

Before you started this survey, what were you doing?
    watching the ship leave Acapulco!

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
    The ship map

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
    Laurie in the shower and the ship engines

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
    I spent all day outside in Acapulco!

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
    There’s a painting of a bunch of boats, a big mirror, and Laurie put up some postcards she bought.

What is the last film you saw?
    I forgot the name, it was about the Aztecs

Do you like to dance?
    Sort of

Would you ever consider living abroad?
    Maybe someday.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    Shannon

What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    pictures from Mexico in the computer lab

Last time you swam in a pool?
    a couple of weeks ago

Type of music you like most?
    I like almost everything

Type of music you dislike most?
    I don’t really like rap or bluegrass

Are you listening to music right now?
    no

What color is your bedroom carpet?
    light gray.

What was the last thing you bought?
    postcards to send home

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    no

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    no

Do you have a garden?
    Rachel does

Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    yeah

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    turning off my alarm.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    Jeff Corwin, JK Rowling, JR Ward, Lynsay Sands
   
Who sent the last text message you received?  What did it say?
    Rachel – bon voyage!

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    Macy’s

What time is bed time?
    11, maybe a bit later.

How many tattoos do you have?
    I don’t have any

What did you do for your last birthday?
    It was the day before the ship left for Mexico!  I was San Diego with my step-mom and Emily.  We went out to dinner and sightseeing.

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
    This guy named Danny who is super awesome and reallllly hot.  Of course he has to be MARRIED!  I swear, all the good guys are either taken or gay!  He spent all day with me so that I wouldn’t be un-escorted in Mexico!  And then he bought me a taco.  I think it was a taco.  It was good anyway.

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?
    Wherever I am right now!  At the end of this trip Chile will be the furthest from home I’ve ever been!

When’s the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
    last week maybe?

Have you ever won a trophy?
    yeah, but not for anything big.

Are you a good cook?
    I’m pretty good

Do you know how to pump your own gas?
    yes

If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
    Wasn’t this already asked?  Someone famous like an actor or an author.

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
    no

Do you touch-type?
    yeah

What’s under your bed?
    suitcases and I think a life vest

Do you believe in love at first sight?
    I guess.  I haven’t met him yet!

Think fast, what do you like right now?
    This ship and this voyage!

Where were you on Valentine’s day?
    Shannon and I ate ice cream and watched chick flicks!

What time do you get up?
    I have to get up pretty early for class now.

Is there anything going on this weekend?
    We’re going to Panama!  I’m going to take a boat ride on Lake Gatun in just a few days!

How are you feeling right now?
    great

Do you sing in the shower?
    sometimes.  If something is stuck in my head

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
    I think the chicken had to.

How many keys on your key ring?  What do they go to?
    2, my house and my car

What kind of car do you drive?
    an old Honda

What is your favorite time of the day?
    I like afternoons and evenings

Where did you grow up?
    Maryland

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
    The other side of the country

What are you reading now?
    I’m half-way through a cheesy novel and I have a neat book for class called Chilies to Chocolates.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
    more of a night owl

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    no

Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
    It feels like it

How many rings before you answer the phone?
    I don’t know, it doesn’t ring, it plays music.

Red rose or white?
    red
Salt or pepper?
    salt
Pink or blue?
    i like both
Hamburgers or hot dogs?
    both again
Music or movies?
    movies with good music
Comedy or horror?
    comedy
Action or adventure?
    adventure
Summer or winter?
    summer
Sun or stars?
    both
Funny or romantic?
    both
Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
    creamy
Rings or necklaces?
    necklaces
Camping out or slumber party?
    depends
White or dark chocolate?
    dark!
Night or day?
    i like both
Surfing or snowboarding?
    I’ve never been surfing and I’m awful at snowboarding, but I love skiing.
Soft candy or hard candy?
    soft
Phone or e-mail?
    i use both
Pencil or pen?
    Pen
Pizza or chicken wings?
    Pizza
Spiderman or batman?
    I’m not really into superheroes
Snow or rain?
    snow
Water or milk?
    chocolate milk
Fruit or vegetable?
    fruit
Inside or outside?
    outside
Sweet or sour?
    sweet
Shoe or clothes shopping?
    clothes
Long or short hair?
    long
Cocky or shy?
    cocky
Ocean or pool?
    both
Dancing or singing?
    dancing
Couch or chair?
    couch
Hot chocolate or coffee?
    hot chocolate
Cake or pie?
    cake
Butter or margarine?
    butter
Chili or clam chowder?
    chili
Sausage or bacon?
    bacon
Sandals or tennis shoes?
    sandals
Twister or connect four?
    Twister
Lobster or crab?
    crab
Mexican or Italian food?
    Mexican!  That taco thing today was so good!
Fall or Spring
    I love both
Truth or Dare?
    I never know which to pick!

Character Meme 5 of 6: Mariana

It’s time to get to know Mariana a bit better!  As before, “she” has filled out an internet questionnaire.  It’s spoiler free (if you haven’t read Semester Aboard yet) but should still help you get to know her, even if you haven’t.  There’s no particular order that you have to read these in, but they do make more sense as a whole.

Here are links to the previous ones.  Happy reading!

Charlie

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
    danis shoulder

Before you started this survey, what were you doing?
    waving goodbye to acapulco

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
    im being forced to watch some awful movie

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
    dani laughing at this stupid movie.  i swear he better be joking about a sequel coming on

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
    earlier tonight.  i was on deck watching the water

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
    a pretty painting of a skiff

What is the last film you saw?
    like in a theater? letters to juliet

Do you like to dance?
    yeah

Would you ever consider living abroad?
    yeah

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    my mom

What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    i dont know

Last time you swam in a pool?
    dunno

Type of music you like most?
    i like lots of music

Type of music you dislike most?
    country

Are you listening to music right now?
    im TRYING to

What color is your bedroom carpet?
    sort of minty aqua

What was the last thing you bought?
    clothes

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    no

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    maybe

Do you have a garden?
    no

Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    yes

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    what i need to do

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    living?  brad pitt

Who sent the last text message you received?  What did it say?
    dani asking for help cause he got locked out of the room AGAIN

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    h&m

What time is bed time?
    11ish

How many tattoos do you have?
    none but i want one

What did you do for your last birthday?
    went out to dinner with my family

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
    some girls who were on my trip with me today

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?
    so far – mexico!

When’s the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
    dunno

Have you ever won a trophy?
    yeah
   
Are you a good cook?
    not really

Do you know how to pump your own gas?
    yeah

If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
    my big brother

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
    no

Do you touch-type?
    yes

What’s under your bed?
    all of my suitcases

Do you believe in love at first sight?
    yes

Think fast, what do you like right now?
    traveling

Where were you on Valentine’s day?
    i dunno

What time do you get up?
    pretty early

Is there anything going on this weekend?
    im going to see the panama canal!

How are you feeling right now?
    a little sleepy and ready to hit dani or the tv

Do you sing in the shower?
    yeah

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
    i think the egg

How many keys on your key ring?  What do they go to?
    5…my parents house, danis house, my car, my dorm room, the gym

What kind of car do you drive?
    ford fusion hybrid

What is your favorite time of the day?
    after class

Where did you grow up?
    maine

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
    a couple states away

What are you reading now?
    textbooks

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
    neither really

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    no

Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
    i dunno. i think

How many rings before you answer the phone?
    depends on whos calling

Red rose or white?
    red
Salt or pepper?
    salt
Pink or blue?
    light blue
Hamburgers or hot dogs?
    hot dogs
Music or movies?
    movies
Comedy or horror?
    comedy
Action or adventure?
    adventure
Summer or winter?
    summer
Sun or stars?
    sun
Funny or romantic?
    romantic
Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
    creamy
Rings or necklaces?
    necklaces
Camping out or slumber party?
    slumber party
White or dark chocolate?
    dark
Night or day?
    day
Surfing or snowboarding?
    snowboarding
Soft candy or hard candy?
    soft
Phone or e-mail?
    e-mail
Pencil or pen?
    pen
Pizza or chicken wings?
    pizza
Spiderman or Batman?
    i dunno
Snow or rain?
    rain
Water or milk?
    water
Fruit or vegetable?
    fruit
Inside or outside?
    outside
Sweet or sour?
    sweet
Shoe or clothes shopping?
    both!
Long or short hair?
    long
Cocky or shy?
    cocky
Ocean or pool?
    ocean
Dancing or singing?
    singing
Couch or chair?
    couch
Hot chocolate or coffee?
    hot chocolate
Cake or pie?
    cake
Butter or margarine?
    butter
Chili or clam chowder?
    clam chowder
Sausage or bacon?
    bacon
Sandals or tennis shoes?
    sandals
Twister or connect four?
    twister
Lobster or crab?
    both
Mexican or Italian food?
    neither really
Fall or Spring
    spring
Truth or Dare?
    truth

Updates, Interviews, and Price Drops

First things first: The price of Semester Aboard has been dropped from $2.99 to 99 cents!

So far the price drop is reflected on Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.  All of the other sites should reflect that soon.

The longer version of how that came to be is (well, not too long) that I don’t read things carefully.  Way back in August when I published Semester Aboard I choose the 70% royalty option on Amazon and the lowest they would let me set the price was $2.99!   I totally missed that the price could get lower if I went with 35% instead.  Whoops.  The problem there, is that according to the contract I can’t sell Semester Aboard anywhere else at a lower price than Amazon.  Which meant I was stuck at $2.99, where I really didn’t want to be.  Somewhere in all the legal mumbo-jumbo Amazon said that their minimum price is based on file size.  Well, Semester Aboard is a beast.

Side note, believe it or not, I tried to make it shorter!  There were times when I said down and said, “OK, I’m going to go delete an entire paragraph from every chapter.”  And I would!  I went through the entire thing and I’d delete a paragraph from each chapter, I’d set a goal to remove 10 useless dialogue tags, etc etc.  I did that several times.  Eventually, I couldn’t delete anything else!  Does that mean it drags a little in places?  Probably.  Is it really, really too long?  Yeah.  But I’m happy with it and really don’t want to cut it down any more. 

That said, it bit me in the butt when I tried to set the price on Amazon.

Long-ish story short: I edited Semester Aboard several times, but I still had people mentioning typos and even lost a star or two on reviews from it.  I think the beauty of an ebook is that you can fix these things!  I think there’s no excuse for a poorly edited ebook.  So, I went through again last week.  I honestly didn’t find that many typos.  But I found a few missing quotation marks, double punctuation marks, and a couple of misspelled words.  So, I fixed them!

As I was updating my Kindle version it defaulted to 35% and, much to my surprise, I could set the price at 99 cents!  And I did!  I went to Smashwords and fixed it there too!  Which brings me back to my announcement: Semester Aboard is now 99 cents!  As soon as Smashwords sends the new price it should be updated on B&N, Sony, Diesel, and iTunes too!

On to other things.  Last week I posted an interview with Kymberlee Burks-Miller.  She returned the favor and featured one with me yesterday!  You can read it here.

I broke 400 likes on my Facebook page last week too.  I’m planning something big – stay turned for that announcement.

The Idea Behind More than Magic

A lot of people have asked me where I got the idea for More than Magic.  It’s a very complicated answer because it came from multiple ideas that all fell together one day.  I wrote a short version of this for a guest blog post once, but didn’t go as in depth as I would have liked.  But, since this is my blog and I can get as wordy and long-winded as I like, I’m going to.

Disclaimer: This is going to be long.

That said, if you’re interested and have some time, grab a drink and settle in.  There are two reasons that I want to tell the full story.  One, is that I’m a writer and I like to tell stories.  Why not tell mine?  The other reason, is that I think this story can serve as (I hope) inspiration to aspiring authors.  More than Magic took a long, long time.  A lot of things I did all sort of culminated in the creation of it, some of which I never imagined going anywhere.  If I had read a story like what you’re about to read back when I was struggling to write, I might have felt better.  I’ve also got some advice sprinkled in here too.  If you do take the time to read this, I hope it gives your muse a little push.

Let’s start at the very, very beginning.  When I grew up I wanted to be an artist.  That was my answer from the time I was two, until I was somewhere in the middle of elementary school. Honestly, I think that’s only because I didn’t comprehend what an author was.  It’s hard to want to become an author when you can’t read or write yet.  I was six or seven when I wrote my first story.  As I recall it was about a wolf family that went to have a picnic by a waterfall.  I found it years and years later, and it was significantly worse than I remembered.  But, at the time, I thought it was a masterpiece.  After that, I was constantly making up stories.  When my friends and I played we came up with long, complicated plotlines and characters.  A “story” would last weeks and weeks until we reached a conclusion.  Then we started all over again with a new plot.  Some got so complicated that we even wrote biographies for our characters and took notes.

I was in fifth grade when I got my first real taste of being published.  We spent the better part of the year writing, editing, and illustrating our own books.  When we were done, someone took them and actually printed hardcover copies.  It was very, very cool to hold my book in my hands.

Then, when I was thirteen or fourteen, I discovered fanfiction.  I’m an advocate for fanfiction, but that’s another long-winded post for another day.  Needless to say, I wrote like a fiend.  Most of it never saw the light of day, but I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Eventually I did start posting some.  I couldn’t get enough of seeing positive comments.  The idea that someone had read what I wrote and liked it was just intoxicating.  I tried to write my own work and was left with a number of half-started, unfinished stories that never went anywhere.  I was in high school when NaNoWriMo was born.  I considered attempting it every year, but high school was busy and 50k words was daunting.  Believe it or not, my stories didn’t get as long back then.  A large part of my novel-writing problem was length.  Writing a 10k word short story is nothing like a 100k novel.  True, you don’t know until you try.  But getting there is the hard part.

I started my first “real” book when I was in my first semester of college.  It was a sci-fi about colonizing a new planet.  I actually worked on it for a couple of years.  It was the longest – both in terms of word count and time spent – that I had ever worked on something original.  I even had a friend reading and editing it with me.  Around the same time I got the inspiration for a fantasy novel with elves.  Like the sci-fi, I spent a lot of time on it.  Eventually the elf novel overtook the sci-fi.  My second year of college I started taking creative writing classes.  I even submitted chapters and a short prequel to my elf story for critique. 

Now, I’m going to jump back a few years back to high school.  The internet.  When I was in high school “social networking” was how many friends you had on LiveJournal and how many animated gifs were on your MySpace page.  I was a member of a couple of forums and followed a couple of webcomics.  I wanted to get on the bandwagon and start a website too.  So, as I was going through college working on my elves and my sci-fi, I was also trying to start my own website.  My “brilliant” websites came and went and never really got off the ground.  I made and ran a couple of forums for MMO guilds I was in, but I had a knack for joining small guilds that eventually broke up.

Back to my early college years.  Let’s date myself: 2005.  While in the middle of pointy-ears and spaceships, I decided to make a webcomic!  That was the website I needed!  I was a writer!  I could easily write a plotline and dialogue for a comic.  Now the thing about comics is that they’re long.  They span in arcs and are intended to keep going.  One of the aforementioned webcomics that I followed in high school is still going!  I read it every morning!  And let’s not forget paper comics that I have been around for decades and decades.  So, I needed to design a plot that would stand the test of time as well.

I hit upon what I thought was perfect: a magical inn.  The main cast would be the people who work there.  Then I had countless possibilities for story arcs based on the guests coming in and out.  Guests could be recurring secondary characters, I could have comedy, fights, and an ever changing cast.  So, I set to work creating it.

The comic was going to center around a girl who stumbled onto the inn while looking for a job.  The inn was owned by a witch who (hey, this part might sound familiar!) realized that the girl was a witch too, she just didn’t know it yet!  Yadda yadda, she got hired and dove headfirst into a magical world.  Since this was a comic, I wanted to have lots of fun visual things.  I love throwing tiny “easter egg” details in (I do it when I write too) so I wanted to leave myself as much room to play around as I could.  This led to the creation of elementals.  I decided that fire and water elementals would be the most fun to draw, so I went with it.  I added familiars and werewolves so that I could have more than just ‘humans’ in the cast.

I wrote biographies and detailed descriptions for each character.  I named them, gave them birthdays, and even filled out a ten page “Character Planning Guide” I’d gotten from one of my creative writing classes for each character.  It’s worth mentioning that some of these characters survived all the way into Semester Aboard.  Jen, naturally, although her name changed.  Dani(o), Char(lie), T(ethy)S, and Mariana still have their original names (and nicknames).  All four are the same kinds of magical beings they were to begin with, TS’ siblings all have the same names as well, and our happy couple have been together since day one.  Thomas’ name and history changed quite a few times, but at the core he was always the same too.  Rak entered the story much earlier, with the same name as well.  Jon was originally married to the inn-keeper and Fend was flapping around in one of the first comics.

When I was satisfied with my characters I wrote a summary for a good six months worth of comics and wrote a script for the first twenty.  I was ready to go!

There’s just one problem: I can’t draw.

Looking back, I think I could have done it.  If you go to a popular webcomic and click “First Comic” the difference in skill is usually astounding.  I think that if I had sat down and spent a year or two drawing, then my skills would have really improved.  In fact, some comics don’t even have good art!  There are very popular, successful webcomics made with clip-art or sloppily drawn in MS Paint.  But, I was too harsh a critic of myself.  I spent hours and hours drawing the very first comic and was never happy enough to post it.

I gave up on the comic idea, but couldn’t shake the world I had created.  I loved my story, even more: I loved my characters.  I tried to turn it into a book, but somehow it didn’t work.  I had tried to make the plot so open ended that I struggled to bring it all together.  Half of the story I had planned out was too heavily dependant on visual effects.  So, I tried something else.

I took Jen and the others away from the inn and took them to high school.  As a side note, I find it interesting that my characters are always a year or two younger than I am at the time I write it.  Jen was a senior in high school right after I graduated, and when Semester Aboard begins Jen has just finished her third year of college.

Nothing worked.  I must have started a dozen different “books”.  In some, Jen already knew the gang, just not that they were magical.  In others she hadn’t met them yet.  But, it all went the same way.  Jen gets nosy, Jen learns about magic, and…and dead end.  I just couldn’t figure out what sort of a conflict to bring in.  I couldn’t advance the plot any further.  I wanted, desperately, to write Jen and the gang’s story, but I couldn’t.  So, I tucked them away into a folder somewhere on my computer and moved on.

It’s worth mentioning here, that I’ve figured out my problem.  I was trying to force it.  You know how it goes.  You try to force the key into a lock and it breaks.  You try to force your kid to love ballet and she discovers karate.  I was trying to force my characters into a plot and a setting.  I assumed that, as the author, I could create great characters and stick them into any old plot.  But, I couldn’t.  Remember that.  If you have characters you love, but the story won’t come, maybe that isn’t their story.  It might sound a little crazy, but it’s true.

I went on with life.  My elf plot advanced and stalled, other ideas came and went, and I wrote an embarrassing amount of fanfiction.  Somewhere along the way, my work got a little popular.  I was never one of the greats, but every once in a while someone would recommend one of my fics.  Some people were reading my newer stories just because I was the one who had written them.  I even had people begging for the next chapter in multi-chapter fics.

All the while, the More than Magic crew stayed tucked away in a folder.

Then, in 2007 (two years after I created/abandoned Jen and the others) I went on Semester at Sea.  I cannot, cannot, cannot recommend it enough.  It was, no contest, the best summer of my life and it really did change me.  Granted, it wasn’t literally magical, but it came pretty damn close.

Let me take another side note and also add: I love the ocean.  I’ve always loved the ocean.  If I had spent the entire summer sitting at the rails without ever once getting off of the ship I probably would have been just as happy.  I spent hours (literally) every day just sitting and watching the waves. 

At any rate, like any good writer, I had my laptop with me and planned to write.  One evening I was one of the only people out on deck.  I was trying, and failing, to add another chapter to the elves.  I was sitting back and enjoying the breeze when a thought struck me: the ocean.  Why on earth had I never tried to write a story that took place at sea before?  How could I possibly fail at writing a book set somewhere that I love?

Apparently I could.  Pirates flopped.  Atlantis was never found.  And a quest for all sorts of magical treasures ended before it started.  I couldn’t create any plots or characters that got beyond the first chapter.  Once again, I was trying to force my writing.  This time it was with a setting, “At Sea,” that I was trying to force a plot and characters to fit.  It didn’t work.

I got home with a few more Untitled Documents sitting in my “Plotlines and Notes” folder.  I added maybe a chapter or two to my elves, never touched my sci-fi, and still didn’t have a plot.

After that, my memory gets a bit fuzzy.  What I do know is that I don’t remember when everything clicked into place.  I feel like I should remember.  I wish that I did.  All I know is that I realized I could take the characters I loved and drop them onto a ship.  Not just any ship, but the voyage that I had done.  Why make up shrouded islands and sunken cities when there were already places I knew about and a real adventure that I had experienced?  “Write what you know,” right? 

What I do know, is that the earliest file I can find that contains bits of what became Semester Aboard is dated 11/29/2008.  That’s more than a year after my voyage ended.  I imagine that I started writing notes for it in a notebook and on lost/deleted files before then. 

But, what I also remember, is that it flowed.  It worked.  It spoke to me like nothing had before (or has since).  As soon as they were on a ship I knew that Dani was going overboard and Jen was going to see it.  I wrote that scene, followed by Jen confronting them.  I reached the dreaded “Jen finds out about magic” dead end, but this time, I passed it.  Now that they were trapped on a ship, the most logical plot was to have some sort of enemy on there with them.  And I kept right on writing.

And now, all of that seemingly random stuff about websites and fanfiction is going to make sense!  In the summer of 2008 I volunteered to make a fanfiction forum for a LiveJournal group.  I would probably never have done if it I hadn’t run forums before.  It was lucky that I did.  We developed out own little community.  In fact, one of the people I met on that forum and I became such good friends that she’s coming to my wedding this spring.  I spent a lot of time writing fanfics and developing the forum.  That winter I ended up writing two massive fics.  Each clocked in at over 50k.  They were the longest stories that I had ever written and finished.  I really think they gave me the confidence to know that I could do it.  And, somewhere in the middle of it all, I was working on Semester Aboard.

On March 25, 2009 I posted the first chapter of Semester Aboard on the forum in the original section.  People loved it and begged for more.  I posted everything I had.  They wanted more.  It was largely thanks to them that I was pushed to keep writing.  Suddenly, I wasn’t just writing words, I was writing a story that people liked and wanted to read more of.  It really inspired me.

Then, to my utter shock, one day it was finished.  I posted the final chapter to the forum on May 14, 2010.  Yeah, it took over a year to write, but I don’t think I would ever have gotten it done that quickly without the support I was getting from the forum.  Once it was done, I settled back a bit.  I wrote a lot of short stories that took place in the same universe.  Most of them featured some of the main characters’ pasts.  I wrote some of these stories during the period when I was writing Semester Aboard as well.  I ended up with so much knowledge about my characters that when I went back to reread the early chapters one day, it was like reading a different book.  I realized that if I ever wanted to publish it, it needed some serious work.

As another side note (sorry) writing short stories is so, so helpful.  I think every author should do it!  When I struggled with writer’s block with my novel I was still able to write.  Better yet, by writing about some of the characters, it inspired me to keep writing the main story.  I wrote so many short stories that I ended up with insanely well-developed characters.  I’ve recently been doing internet questionnaires for fun for each of my characters.  I was able to fill out each one just as quickly as if I was doing it for myself because I know my characters so well.  They (I’m not crazy, I swear) almost seem like real people that I know.  Ever see a movie and think, “Oh, my friend so-and-so would love this!”  You know your friend so well, that you know what she likes, right?  It’s like that with my characters.  If you asked me, “What do they think of this movie?”  I’d just know.  My thought process isn’t, “I think I’ll make Dani like this movie, but Thomas will hate it.”  My train of thought is, “Well, the movie is about this, that’s something Mariana would enjoy.”  To wrap up my tangent: write short stories.  Get to know your characters inside and out.  It’s amazing.

I knew about e-books.  But the self e-publishing boom was only just starting when I finished Semester Aboard.  But a few months later everywhere I looked I was finding articles about it.  A good friend told me how her brother-in-law had self-published a best seller on the Kindle and I decided that I wanted to get in on e-publishing.  In October of 2010 I started editing.  Rewriting in fact.  As I said, some of the characters were so different in Chapter 1 than they were in Chapter 20 it was like two different people had written the book.  I rewrote, and edited, and obsessed for the better part of a year.

Finally, on August 5, 2011, Semester Aboard was published on Smashwords.  Looking back, I can’t believe how many of my different interests and experiences had to all fall together to create it.  If you’ve stuck with this insanely long post this long, I hope you take away a few things.  Don’t force your book, don’t ever delete anything (god, what would I have done if I had stuck the original character bios in the trash?), don’t get discouraged if it takes a long time, and take the time to write short stories.

So, there you have it.  That’s the long, detailed (boring) answer to how More than Magic: Semester Aboard came to be.

Chapter Four

Just about all of the places that provide sample downloads of Semester Aboard allow people to read the first 10% free.  That takes you just a couple of pages into Chapter Four.  I figured, what’s the point of having chapters available on my blog if my readers don’t get anything extra?  So, here it is, for the first time: all of Chapter Four!

If you haven’t read the previous chapters, I suggest you do!

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three

Chapter Four

     I followed Dani’s gaze across the dock but didn’t see anybody coming toward us.
     “Jon!” he yelled.  “Hey, Jon!”
      A man turned and looked at us.  That was Jon?  Aside from the fact he was wearing a business suit he didn’t look very boss-like.  As he walked over to us I noticed that he didn’t even look that much older than us.  He certainly didn’t strike me as old enough to run some company.  Then again, he had, in Thomas’ words, taken care of him.  Thomas had acted like he viewed Jon as a father figure more than an older brother, so he couldn’t be that close to us in age.  He must have just been aging well.  He had neatly combed black hair and dark eyes.
     “Danio,” he said as he approached us.  Even his boss called him that?  He stopped in front of us and looked at me.  “You must be Jennifer.”
     Thomas joined us.  “How was your trip?”
     Jon turned to Thomas.  “It was pleasant, we…” he trailed off and his eyes widened.  “Oh my god, Thomas.  It’s only been two weeks…” He started rapidly talking in a different language.
     Thomas looked embarrassed and I was surprised when he replied in the same language.  It looked like they started arguing.  Thomas was apparently fairly fluent; he spoke quickly and never seemed to fumble for words.  Jon was obviously worried about something and from their body language it looked like Thomas was defending himself.  I looked over at Dani.  He looked sort of angry.  His jaw was clenched and dark blues crashed in his eyes.  I wondered if he understood them.
     “We’re being rude,” Thomas said suddenly in English.  He was practically glaring at Jon and I knew their argument hadn’t been resolved.
     Jon looked annoyed that Thomas had ended the conversation, but nodded.  “My apologies,” he said to me, holding out his hand.  “I am Jon Kiyosugi.”
     “Jennifer Maddox,” I said.  “Nice to meet you.”  I took his hand and shook it.  He bowed a bit as we shook hands.
     “Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the restaurant.
     They sat us outside by the dock, overlooking the water.  Thomas and Jon sat on one side and Dani sat next to me.
     “What language was that?” I asked Thomas as we sat down.
     “Japanese.”  He picked up a menu and opened it.
     That was that.  The three of them started reading the menus and didn’t seem in any hurry to explain things.  This was starting to get really annoying.
     Then, Dani leaned forward and spoke quietly in another language.  It sounded like he was speaking Japanese too!  Thomas and Jon both looked shocked by what he was saying.  Suddenly all three of them were whispering to each other.  I felt a bit uneasy and my silly government theory seemed a bit less silly again.  It made sense that Thomas and Jon could both speak it.  Jon looked Japanese and for all I knew he had been born there.  If he was like a father to Thomas he probably would have taught him.  But, it was a bit of a stretch that Dani spoke it too.  He spoke English, and Greek, and Japanese?  And TS spoke Greek.  I’d met a few tri, and even polylingual people before.  But with all the other weird things going on the fact that all three of them were at least bilingual, in the same language no less, was very suspicious.
     Even worse, they all kept glancing at me.  They weren’t talking about me, were they?  TS sat down in the chair on my other side, nodded to me, and then looked curiously at the others.  I was about to say something along the lines of ‘Annoying when people speak languages you don’t know, isn’t it?’ hoping they’d stop speaking Japanese and start explaining things to me.  Before I could TS’ eyes grew wide and he started speaking it too!  This wasn’t a coincidence; not if all four of them could speak it.  Maybe they all worked for a Japanese company; that would explain things.  But that seemed like pretty serious work for a bunch of college students.
     They stopped talking and all started staring at me.
     “What?” I demanded. 
     “Let’s eat first,” Jon said.  “We have things to discuss later.”
     Was he kidding?  I had waited all this time and he wasn’t going to talk to me until we finished eating?
     They all picked up a menu and I had no choice but to do it too.  The restaurant had a jungle-tiki theme and consequently the entire menu was a big splash of greens, browns, and reds.  All of the dishes had silly names, but I noticed that it was pretty standard burger joint food.
     “You want steak?” Thomas asked.
     “Please,” TS said.  He frowned at his menu and then shut it.  “Thanks.”
     Thomas nodded and studied his own menu.  “Jungle Sacrifice?  Twenty-four ounce steak with fries.”
     TS grinned.  “Perfect, thanks, Tom.”
     That was a bit odd, but I didn’t get to think on it for too long; Jon waved a waitress over and we all ordered.  They started up a conversation as soon as she left and kept it up until our food arrived.  They chatted about all sorts of nonsense while we ate.  Most of it was telling Jon about their time in Mexico.  TS kept complaining that his steak wasn’t rare enough, which baffled me.  I like my meat sort of rare, but I didn’t think his could have been any rarer without being raw.  Thomas got a huge appetizer sampler which, to my surprise, he easily ate by himself.  TS snagged some things off of it, but Thomas ate most of it alone.  Considering how skinny he was I would have assumed he’d get a salad or something.  He couldn’t possibly have eaten like this all the time.  Dani got a big hamburger with tons of toppings and Jon opted for some spicy chicken.  Had I not been annoyed by the fact they weren’t being very forthcoming, I would have enjoyed my wings, fries, and milkshake more.  The food on the ship was good, but not great.  The food in the ports, so far, had been amazing, but I did miss a good taste of home.
     We were almost done when Jon said, “Fend, let’s make sure.”
     An adorable little black bird came out of nowhere and landed on the table.  It looked like a little hummingbird.
     “Enjoying your dinner, Jennifer?” a male voice said.
     I looked around for the source of the voice.  “Who said that?” I asked.  It hadn’t been nearly deep enough for TS and was a bit higher than Thomas and Jon too.
     “Me!  Right here!”  The little bird hopped up and down.
     For a moment, I just stared at it.  The bird was talking.  No, no that was impossible.  It must have been a prank of some kind.  “Wow,” I said.  “That’s impressive.”
     “What is?” Jon asked.
     “The ventriloquist act.”  I hadn’t seen any of their mouths move, but that was the only explanation.  “And the trained bird.  What is it, a hummingbird?”  I hadn’t realized hummingbirds could be trained.
     “I’m a raven,” the voice said indignantly.
     “Right,” I laughed.  “You could almost convince me the bird is talking, but I’m not so gullible that I’ll believe it’s a raven.”
     They all exchanged a look.  Jon said something softly in Japanese and they all nodded.  Once again, before I could demand my answers, the waitress appeared.  Jon took the check without hesitation.
     “I can pay,” I said.
     “No no, I invited you here,” he said calmly.  He paid for all of us without batting an eye.  Then, he stood and bowed to me.  “Pleasure to meet you, Jennifer.  I hope to see you again.  Thomas, a moment?”  With that, he walked away.  Thomas got up and followed him.
     For a moment I just sat in shock.  He hoped to see me again?  He sounded like he was just going to walk away without giving me any answers.  I started to get up when Dani grabbed my arm.
     “Relax.  You’ll get a better explanation than you ever dreamed.”  He let go and I had to rub my arm to warm it back up; his hand had been freezing.
     I heard a growl and looked up in surprise.  TS was glaring in the direction that Jon and Thomas had gone and was literally growling softly.  He got up and Dani stood and blocked his way.
     “He’s fine, let Jon talk,” Dani said.  He didn’t seem at all concerned that TS could probably have crushed him.  I noticed for the first time that he was actually just a bit taller than TS was.  He sighed.  “You know I agree with what he’s probably saying to Thomas.”
     TS bit his lip and hung his head.  “I do too,” he whispered, like it was almost painful to admit.  “Tom’s really getting…”  He hesitated, glanced at me, and then switched to Japanese.
     Dani looked concerned and answered.  Strangely enough, as they spoke, TS sounded like he was using Japanese and Dani seemed to be speaking Greek.
     “Are you both speaking different languages?” I finally demanded.
     They exchanged one last worried look, then both laughed.  “My Japanese listening comprehension is a lot better than my speaking skills are,” Dani said.
     “Same with my Greek,” TS said.  “I’m sure it sounds insane, but it works.”
     “How many languages do you two speak?”
     “I speak seven,” TS said.  “But my Greek is sort of shaky.”
     “Four,” Dani said.  “Japanese is my weakest, but that’s just because I’m lazy.  English was harder to learn.”
     “English is your second language?” I was pleased that I had guessed that.
     “Third.  Panth was my first.”
     I frowned, I had never heard of that one.  “What is that?”
     Dani and TS glanced at each other.  “Panthalassish,” Dani said.  “I’ll explain later.”
     More secrets.  I was intrigued, but annoyed at yet another promise of ‘later.’  I noticed they were both looking past me and turned to see Thomas was back, without Jon.
     “Right,” he said, “I’m going out.  Shouldn’t take more than an hour, Jon found some er…” he glanced at me and said something in Japanese.  Oh this was getting very frustrating.  “I’ll meet you back on the boat.”
     “Ship,” Dani said.  Thomas tried to punch him and Dani snapped up his hand, caught Thomas’ wrist, and twisted it away.  His smug look faded instantly and he frowned.  He looked concerned.
     Thomas yanked his hand free and looked away, like he was almost embarrassed.  He cleared his throat, then turned to me.  “Come to my room on the ship in an hour.  We’ll explain everything.”
     Wait, he was putting it off again?  “That’s what you’ve been saying!  How do I know you’ll really explain things this time?”
     “Trust me,” he said.  He looked off to the side and sighed.  “I better go.  See you in an hour.”  He turned and left the restaurant.
     Dani called his name, but Thomas ignored him.
     “Don’t worry, I’m going to go with him,” TS said.  “Jen, we’re in room 3120.”  He and Thomas were roommates?  I sighed; things just keep getting more and more interesting.   
     “Tethys,” Dani called.  “Make sure he gets enough, I’m worried about him.”
     “You know I will, Danio,” TS said.
     “Back to the ship?” Dani asked me when TS jogged off.
     “I suppose.”
     We walked down to the dock in silence and stood to wait for the lifeboat.  It was just leaving the ship and would probably take ten minutes to get to us. 
     “Are you really going to explain things?” I asked after a moment.
     “We will, I promise,” Dani said.  He looked around.  “You know what, I’m going to go see if I can bother Charlie.  I’m regretting not signing up for that sunset canal transit trip.”
     I looked around; the sun was already going down.  “His trip has probably already left.”
     “Well, with any luck it’s not in a lock yet.”  Dani paused in thought.  “I could always…hmm no, Charlie would kill me if I tried to swim the canal.”
     “Swim the canal?” I asked skeptically.  “As in, swim through the locks?”
     “Yeah.  But, I won’t.  I am going to try and catch up with that trip though.  Maybe I can sneak on.  I’ll see you in an hour in Thomas’ room.” 
     Dani glanced around, then dove right off the dock and into the water.  Even though I knew that he had swum here from somewhere out in the ocean, my jaw dropped in shock.  I looked around, waiting for him to surface, but he didn’t.  It almost made me panic, but I had a feeling that he could probably hold his breath for a long time.  For an insane second, I wondered if he even needed to breathe at all, but quickly discarded the idea.  As cool as it would be if there really was something supernatural going on, I knew it wouldn’t be anything that neat.
     I still hadn’t seen any sign of Dani when the lifeboat arrived and I accepted that he really had been serious about going to find the boat Charlie was on.  After getting back on the ship I went back to my room and tried to pass the hour with a textbook, but just couldn’t concentrate.  I ended up going out on deck to where Dani had first gone overboard.  I had a great view of the port and could see the lights from the canal in the distance. 
     “Pretty, huh?”
     I turned to see Dani had joined me.
     “Yeah,” I said.  “What happened to finding Charlie?”
     “Too late.  The boat was already in the lock.”  He shrugged.  “Probably better that I stay here anyway.”
     “To explain things?”
     He nodded.  “Actually, I’m going to go wait for Thomas.  See you in…” He trailed off and looked for a clock.  “Well, I’ll see you there.”
     Dani left and I resisted the urge to follow and demand he start explaining.  I spent the rest hour with all the questions that had been building up just running through my head.  The one that kept coming back was ‘were they actually going to explain everything?’  Dani had obviously hurried off before I could ask him anything.
When the hour was up I headed down to 3120 and knocked.  Thomas opened the door and I followed him in.  TS and Dani were there too.  A part of me that had been expecting Jon to be smuggled onto the ship to explain things was disappointed to see he wasn’t with them.  Dani and TS were sitting on the same bed and Thomas sat down with them.  I nervously sat down on the other bed across from them.  I felt sort of like I was about to be interrogated or something.  There were butterflies in my stomach from a mix of curiosity and concern.  They were obviously going to tell me now, I could tell from their expressions.  But, they all looked very serious.  I had an odd feeling in my gut that something huge was about to happen.
     “I’d like to wait for Char and Mariana,” Thomas said.  “But, I think you’ll go nuts if we don’t explain now.”

~~~

Get to know the gang better!

Semester Aboard is published by Anchor Group Publishing!

Character Meme 4 of 6: Charlie

It’s Charlie’s turn!

This is a little internet survey that I stumbled on and decided to fill it out on behalf of the main characters in Semester Aboard to help readers get to know them a little better!  If you haven’t read it, don’t worry there are no spoilers!

If you missed the previous ones, be sure to read them!  They can all stand alone, but are meant to be funnier as a whole:  ThomasDaniTS

There are still two characters left to go!  Head on over to Facebook and vote for who’s up next!

Charlie

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
    Almost the back of a chair

Before you started this survey, what were you doing?
    Waiting with Dani to get his key fixed.

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
    About five minutes of a terrible Indiana Jones wanna-be movie.

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
    My roommate’s music, the engines, and my roommate and some girl flirting.  I guess she’s pretty, but a few sparks short of a flame.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
    I was on Deck 7 for a bit.  But I spent the entire day outside.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
    A painting and a couple of pictures from home.

What is the last film you saw?
    The A-Team.

Do you like to dance?
    Not really.

Would you ever consider living abroad?
    I guess.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    Ember.

What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    Some documents for an essay.

Last time you swam in a pool?
    Never have, never will.

Type of music you like most?
    Rock and Roll.

Type of music you dislike most?
    Rap.

Are you listening to music right now?
    Yes.

What color is your bedroom carpet?
    Tan.

What was the last thing you bought?
    Too many souvenirs to list!  And seven more ports to go!

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    No.

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    Probably not.

Do you have a garden?
    Yes.

Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    Yes.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    What to do first.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    Someone like Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger.

Who sent the last text message you received?  What did it say?
    Dani: fine, stay in your room and don’t watch faux-indys adventures with me!

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    I could think of quite a few…

What time is bed time?
    Around 10 or 11 usually.

How many tattoos do you have?
    Two.

What did you do for your last birthday?
    Got tricked into a joint surprise party with Callie.

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
    Didn’t have dinner tonight.   

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?
    Greece.

When’s the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
    A couple of weeks ago.

Have you ever won a trophy?
    I have a couple.

Are you a good cook?
    Yes.

Do you know how to pump your own gas?
    Of course.

If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
    Elvis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Washington, Abe Lincoln (not the vampire hunter), my grandfather.  Ah, too many.

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
    No.

Do you touch-type?
    Yes.

What’s under your bed?
    Nothing, I vacuumed under it before we left for Mexico.  Although this bed has my souvenirs under it.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
    Absolutely.

Think fast, what do you like right now?
    The weather.

Where were you on Valentine’s day?
    Watching the snow from inside and then at a nice restaurant.

What time do you get up?
    By five if I can.

Is there anything going on this weekend?
    A few trips in Panama.

How are you feeling right now?
    Good.  A bit sleepy.

Do you sing in the shower?
    I don’t really shower.

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
    The chicken.

How many keys on your key ring?  What do they go to?
    Six.  House, the Mazda, the Ford, Callie’s house, parent’s house, garage.

What kind of car do you drive?
    A Mazda.

What is your favorite time of the day?
    Anytime, as long as it’s good.

Where did you grow up?
    On the family ranch in Arizona.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
    Almost on the other side of the country.

What are you reading now?
    “Chilies to Chocolate:  Food the Americas Gave the World”  Very fun read for a textbook.   

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
    Morning person.

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    Almost.

Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
    I think so.

How many rings before you answer the phone?
    I grab it as soon as possible.

Red rose or white?
    Red.
Salt or pepper?
    Pepper.
Pink or blue?
    Blue.
Hamburgers or hot dogs?
    Hamburgers.
Music or movies?
    Can I pick both?
Comedy or horror?
    Comedy
Action or adventure?
    Adventure
Summer or winter?
    Summer
Sun or stars?
    Sun
Funny or romantic?
    Both
Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
    Not a fan.
Rings or necklaces?
    Neither.
Camping out or slumber party?
    Camping
White or dark chocolate?
    Dark
Night or day?
    Day
Surfing or snowboarding?
    Neither.
Soft candy or hard candy?
    Depends.
Phone or e-mail?
    Phone.
Pencil or pen?
    Pencil
Pizza or chicken wings?
    Pizza
Spiderman or batman?
    Hm, probably Spiderman.
Snow or rain?
    If I had to choose I’d say snow.  It’s not as wet.

Water or milk?
    Neither.
Fruit or vegetable?
    Vegetable.
Inside or outside?
    Depends on the weather.
Sweet or sour?
    Spicy!
Shoe or clothes shopping?
    Clothes.
Long or short hair?
    Short.  But not too short.
Cocky or shy?
    Cocky
Ocean or pool?
    Dry land.
Dancing or singing?
    Guitar
Couch or chair?
    Couch
Hot chocolate or coffee?
    Hot Chocolate.  Or just chocolate.
Cake or pie?
    Cake
Butter or margarine?
    Butter
Chili or clam chowder?
    Chili
Sausage or bacon?
    Sausage
Sandals or tennis shoes?
    Tennis shoes
Twister or connect four?
    Twister
Lobster or crab?
    I guess lobster.  Not a fan of either.
Mexican or Italian food?
    Mexican.
Fall or Spring
    Spring
Truth or Dare?
    Depends on who’s asking.

Character Meme 3 of 6: TS

The third character to “fill out” a survey is TS!  If you missed the previous two you can read them here:  Thomas and Dani. 

If you have no idea what any of this is about, here’s a little summary to bring you up to speed:

As a refresher (or summary if you haven’t read it), Semester Aboard begins at night.  Our narrator, Jen, is on a summer study abroad program that takes place on a ship.  As the story opens, the students have just gotten back on the ship after several days in Mexico, their first port.  The ship is just getting ready to leave and sail on to Panama.  From there…well, Jen stumbles across something a bit magical…

For our purposes, let’s say that the students all returned to their rooms to find a “Get to Know Each Other” thing waiting for them to fill out.

And don’t worry, this is spoiler (but not hint) free!  

TS

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
    a chair

Before you started this survey, what were you doing?
    Enjoying the breeze out on deck

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
    Few minutes of a football game

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
    Tom typing, awful music on the telly, the ships engines, and people talking.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
    not long ago.  I was out on deck.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
    a painting and letters from home.

What is the last film you saw?
    The A-Team
   
Do you like to dance?
    hell no.

Would you ever consider living abroad?
    I have and would again

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    Ian   

What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    can’t recall

Last time you swam in a pool?
    I jumped into one at a party a couple of weeks ago

Type of music you like most?
    rock, metal, and anything you’d hear in an Irish pub

Type of music you dislike most?
    anything too slow

Are you listening to music right now?
    not on purpose

What color is your bedroom carpet?
    hardwood with a big, comfy blue rug.

What was the last thing you bought?
    a stack of postcards to post home and gifts

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    yes.

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    No way.

Do you have a garden?
    I have a patch I like to dig in.

Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    US, Ireland, Wales, France, and Japans.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    getting breakfast.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    Eli Manning
   
Who sent the last text message you received?  What did it say?
    Rae.  “have a good night bro! kisses”

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    Lowes or Dicks.  Maybe both?

What time is bed time?
    Anytime I feel like it

How many tattoos do you have?
    none

What did you do for your last birthday?
    Went camping with my brothers and sisters, got snowed in and stuck in a cave.

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
    Tom and a couple blokes from down the hall

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?
    I’m sailing there now.

When’s the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
    don’t really like tomatoes.

Have you ever won a trophy?
    a few

Are you a good cook?
    I’m a good eater.

Do you know how to pump your own gas?
    yeah.

If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
    I can think of way too many.

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
    no

Do you touch-type?
    yes

What’s under your bed?
    some socks, my suitcases, textbooks, and i think i lost a tennis ball under there yesterday

Do you believe in love at first sight?
    have to.

Think fast, what do you like right now?
    sunny spots, comfy cushions, chasing deer, good food

Where were you on Valentine’s day?
    still snowed into that cave

What time do you get up?
    whenever I need to.

Is there anything going on this weekend?
    docking in Panama

How are you feeling right now?
    grand

Do you sing in the shower?
    sometimes

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
    can’t have one without the other.

How many keys on your key ring?  What do they go to?
    5 house, car, office, sports locker, parent’s house

What kind of car do you drive?
    Toyota pickup.  but I prefer to ride in the back.

What is your favorite time of the day?
    Whenever

Where did you grow up?
    US and Ireland

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
    On the other side of the pond.

What are you reading now?
    i should be reading a textbook

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
    night owl

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    Yes

Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
    probably

How many rings before you answer the phone?
    one

Red rose or white?
    white
Salt or pepper?
    neither
Pink or blue?
    blue
Hamburgers or hot dogs?
    both
Music or movies?
    movies
Comedy or horror?
    horror
Action or adventure?
    action
Summer or winter?
    both
Sun or stars?
    stars
Funny or romantic?
    funny
Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
    neither
Rings or necklaces?
    neither
Camping out or slumber party?
    camping out!
White or dark chocolate?
    white
Night or day?
    night
Surfing or snowboarding?
    skiing
Soft candy or hard candy?
    hard candy
Phone or e-mail?
    phone
Pencil or pen?
    pencil
Pizza or chicken wings?
    pizza WITH wings
Spiderman or batman?
    Batman
Snow or rain?
    snow
Water or milk?
    water
Fruit or vegetable?
    neither
Inside or outside?
    outside
Sweet or sour?
    sweet
Shoe or clothes shopping?
    I don’t shop.
Long or short hair?
    either
Cocky or shy?
    cocky
Ocean or pool?
    both
Dancing or singing?
    singing
Couch or chair?
    couch
Hot chocolate or coffee?
    coffee
Cake or pie?
   savory pies
Butter or margarine?
    butter
Chili or clam chowder?
    chili
Sausage or bacon?
    BOTH
Sandals or tennis shoes?
    most sandals get chewed up too fast
Twister or connect four?
    twister
Lobster or crab?
    crab
Mexican or Italian food?
    anything with meat.
Fall or Spring
    both
Truth or Dare?
    dare
 

Well, I hope you got a kick out of that!  Be sure to swing by and vote for who you want to see next!  I try to post the first character to 3, but if there’s a tie I’ll post the first to 5. 

Character Meme 2 of 6: Dani

Just a recap for those of you who missed the first one — the characters of Semester Aboard are filling out one of those internet surveys!  I’ve got a poll up on facebook where people can vote for the order they’re posted in!  Thomas was chosen first, you can read his here.

Next up is Dani!   As before, no spoilers.  Just some easter eggs!
  
If you’re new to the More than Magic world (or the ones who haven’t read Thomas’ yet) Semester Aboard begins at night.  Our narrator, Jen, is on a summer study abroad program that takes place on a ship.  As the story opens, the students have just gotten back on the ship after several days in Mexico, their first port.  The ship is just getting ready to leave and sail on to Panama.  From there…well, Jen stumbles across something a bit magical…

For our purposes, let’s say that the students all returned to their rooms to find a “Get to Know Each Other” thing waiting for them to fill out.

And now: Dani!

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
    Air.  The wall if I lean.

Before you started this survey, what were you doing?
    Waiting in line to get my stupid key fixed.   

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
    A fantastically corny Indiana Jones rip-off.  I’m going to watch the sequel too, unless Mariana smashes the TV.

With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
    The aforementioned movie, Mariana working on her computer, terrible music she keeps turning up, the engines, waves, and some whales off somewhere.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
    I was up on Deck 7 watching the water and grabbing a late night snack.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
    A painting of a skiff and a little dock.

What is the last film you saw?
    Again: the Indiana Jones rip-off.  Also, I saw The A-Team before we left the states.  Great movie.

Do you like to dance?
    Willingly?

Would you ever consider living abroad?
    Abroad as in “not in my birth country?”  Cause…I do…

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    My mother.

What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    A lot of legal music to legally put on my ipod.

Last time you swam in a pool?
    Not a big pool guy.

Type of music you like most?
    Nearly anything.

Type of music you dislike most?
    Rap.

Are you listening to music right now?
    Movie music.  And some godawful teenybop that Mariana’s listening to.

What color is your bedroom carpet?
    Tan, but this carpet is blue.

What was the last thing you bought?
    A Mexican mask, a tee-shirt, and some really good mystery food from a street vendor.

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    Yes.

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    I would.  But check CLIFF DIVING IN ACAPULCO off my to-do list!  Now, that was fun!  I think my life was at a greater risk when I told Charlie.

Do you have a garden?
    Yes.

Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    Of course.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    If I really need to get up.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    Oh man…Patrick Stewart maybe.  Or Gene Wilder.  Or Harrison Ford.  Wait no, Sir Ian McKellen. Can we have a group lunch?

Who sent the last text message you received?  What did it say?
    Tom.  “sure, i’ll be up soon.”

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    Hm…that’s a tie between Best Buy, Sports Authority, and World Market.  Or can I say Amazon.com?

What time is bed time?
    When I get tired.

How many tattoos do you have?
    Five.  Sort of six.

What did you do for your last birthday?
    Went out for a nice dinner and a movie.

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
    A nice NM girl named Jen who braved the mystery tacos with me.

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?
    From…Greece?  Michigan?  New York?  Probably Vietnam.  But soon Chile!

When’s the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
    Earlier this summer.

Have you ever won a trophy?
    Only one?

Are you a good cook?
    Sure am.

Do you know how to pump your own gas?
    Are there…people who can’t?

If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
    Damn, that’s a tough one.  A President or Composer would be pretty splashy.

Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
    Nope.

Do you touch-type?
    Yes.

What’s under your bed?
    I haven’t looked recently.  Probably a bunch of stuff I think is lost.  This bed has my dufflebag under it.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
    Sure do.

Think fast, what do you like right now?
    Cliff diving!

Where were you on Valentine’s day?
    Digging out my car to go to work.  And then at a fancy restaurant.

What time do you get up?
    As late as possible.

Is there anything going on this weekend?
    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m swimming to the bottom of Lake Gatun.

How are you feeling right now?
    Bored.  Hence the survey.

Do you sing in the shower?
    All the time.

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
      The rooster.   

How many keys on your key ring?  What do they go to? 
Eleven.  My house, my garage, my car, Charlie’s car, Tom’s house, Mariana’s car because it was my car, my office, my mother’s house, my mother’s boat-house, and my brother’s house.  I don’t know what the last one goes to.  I should probably get rid of it.

What kind of car do you drive?
    A silver Ford Escape.

What is your favorite time of the day?
    Any time.

Where did you grow up?
    Off the coast of Greece.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
    Quite far.

What are you reading now?
    This.  And also “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.  It’s pretty much my new favorite book.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
    Night owl.

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    Yes.

Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
    How can I tell if my eyes are closed?

How many rings before you answer the phone?
    Depends on who is calling.  One for most friends, two at work, and I let my mother go to voice mail.

Red rose or white?
    Red
Salt or pepper?
    Salt
Pink or blue?
    Blue
Hamburgers or hot dogs?
    Hamburgers
Music or movies?
    Both
Comedy or horror?
    Both
Action or adventure?
    Action
Summer or winter?
    Both
Sun or stars?
    Both
Funny or romantic?
    Both.  These are a bit tough.
Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
    Creamy
Rings or necklaces?
    Neither
Camping out or slumber party?
    Camping
White or dark chocolate?
    Dark
Night or day?
    Both
Surfing or snowboarding?
    Both!
Soft candy or hard candy?
    Hard
Phone or e-mail?
    Either
Pencil or pen?
    Pen
Pizza or chicken wings?
    Pizza
Spiderman or batman?
    No love for Superman?
Snow or rain?
    Rain.
Water or milk?
    Water!
Fruit or vegetable?
    Fruit
Inside or outside?
    Outside
Sweet or sour?
    Both
Shoe or clothes shopping?
    Clothes
Long or short hair?
    Short
Cocky or shy?
    Cocky
Ocean or pool?
    Ocean
Dancing or singing?
    Singing
Couch or chair?
    Couch
Hot chocolate or coffee?
    Coffee
Cake or pie?
    Pie
Butter or margarine?
    Butter
Chili or clam chowder?
    Clam chowder
Sausage or bacon?
    Bacon
Sandals or tennis shoes?
    Barefoot
Twister or connect four?
    Twister
Lobster or crab?
    Crab
Mexican or Italian food?
    I hate to choose Italian, but probably.
Fall or Spring
    Both
Truth or Dare?
    Dare

Who do you want to see next?

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