Introducing the Three Fat Cats AuthorTube Channel!

Welcome back to my blog. After several weeks of work, my AuthorTube channel is up and running! Three Fat Cats Publications will be your place to find all sorts of fun, informative and engaging videos.  Content will include tags, writing advice, book reviews, shameless promotion, and anything else that is book/author related. I have some fun ideas for audiobooks and also a series called Bookish Bio, where I’ll be profiling some of my favorite authors.  Check out the new channel trailer for more info!

This blog will be a companion for the AuthorTube channel, and entries will generally be extensions of the video topic.  Look for new content on both platforms every Thursday!

How I Research Perfect

I am not athletic.  In fact, I'm a pretty hardcore couch potato.  When I was a kid, I did take gymnastics lessons for awhile.  But I was the kid who never worked out except for once a week at practice. It never occurred to me that I should be doing pushups and situps at home. And when my mom said, “Hey we can get cable if you quit gymnastics,” I was like “Sure. Don't sign me up.” There were a lot more gymnastics competitions on cable TV and I was already 13 and still a level one. Yeah, I know.

Honestly, I have no idea how it feels to do a backflip (although I can do a front flip on a trampoline).  I also don't know first hand what coaches say to their gymnasts during practice or meets, or even how a coach/gymnast relationship feels to each party.  So how does a fairly clumsy couch potato get the info to write about elite gymnastics? This is where research comes in.

I do a lot of things to research Perfect but the main thing that I do is watch gymnastics.  A lot of Gymnastics. I've found that YouTube is a great place to watch, since most competitions are streamed there either live or shortly after completion. Plus, it's free. But there are more videos on YouTube than just competitions.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Region 5 Gymnastics Insider:  This channel has a few series that are godsends to people researching gymnastics and coach/gymnast interactions.  In their series called “Coaches Wired,” they put a microphone on a coach during a big meet (usually JO Regionals or Nationals). They show the coach working with all their gymnasts during the warm up of one event and then the performance of one gymnast.  The audience can listen to the tips that the coach gives. Some of the coaches who have been featured include Anna Li and Jaycie Phelps. “Region 5 All Access Workouts” is another series that is helpful. In this series, they go to a large gym and show highlights from a typical level 9, 10, or elite training session.  Each episode includes audio of the coaches on all four events and gives the audience a brief glance at what a typical workout looks like. In the series “Gymnast Eye,” a gymnast wears a Gopro while doing a skill, like a double layout dismount on bars. The audience watches the gymnast perform the skill from the sidelines, then from the gymnast’s point of view, and then side by side.

  2. Whitney Bjerken:  Whitney is a level 10 gymnast from Atlanta, GA.  Her channel is super helpful because it includes a lot of different types of videos. She posts workout videos where her dad will film her workouts and post the footage online. Well you can't hear what her coaches are saying you can get an idea of the amount of repetition she does at how hard and that's gymnast works. She also post videos just about her life. This is helpful because if you don't have kids it's hard to write for teenagers.

  3. Sydney the Coral Girl:  Sydney Morris is another level 10 gymnast who posts regular competition videos.  She used to post more workout videos, but has stopped doing that since she change gyms. She also has a vlogging channel that is pretty helpful for learning how teenagers Act.

  4. Alize Lee:  Alize is a level 8 gymnast who makes competition, workout, and live stream videos.  What makes her so great is her positive attitude and the way she encourages others. I wouldn't say I've based any characters on her, but her positivity definitely brushed off on my characters.

  5. For help with scoring and the Code of Points, I watched a lot of videos from the channel Sporteverywhere. They put out loads of videos that showcase one routine.  As the gymnast performs each skill, the video caption displays the name of the skill, its value, and any connection bonus earned. At the end of the video, the difficulty score is broken down. They also have some fun fail videos for when I'm bored but still need feel like I'm researching.

  6. USAGymnastics has a huge repository of competitions dating from about 1976 to present. I believe they have also started doing live streams of all the camps, which is nice.

 

Aside from watching YouTube, I also do a lot of reading.  Here are a few of my favorite resources:

  1. Fiction Books About Gymnastics:  There are a few other gymnastics books out there, and I've read most of them.  As any writer will tell you, writers read, and they read a lot. Especially in the genre they write, for a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog.  The ones that were the best gymnastically were Lauren Hopkins’ trilogy about the 2016 Olympics.

  2. “Gymnastics News” App:  I have this app on my phone and tablet.  (I have an Android; I don't know if there is an iPhone equivalent, but it didn't come up when I Googled it.)  Basically, this app collects gymnastics news stories from all over the internet. Every time someone uploads new articles, they put a link to it in the app.  There are articles from The Gymternet, International Gymnast Magazine, various blogs, and other news sources. This app is very helpful in staying up to date with the gymnastics world.

 

So, yeah, that's pretty much it.  My research style may differ from some other writers, but it works well for me.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

I'm Sorry

The original release date for Perfect, Book Two: Transitions was set for today.  Unfortunately, it is just not ready.  It needs more editing in order to make it the best it can be.  Rather than put out an inferior book, I’m taking the time to do a good job.

The new release date for Perfect, Book Two: Transitions is set for May 6, 2018.  In the meantime, I am planning to post another chapter from the book -- check out Perfect’s page for that. There are also projects in the works, such as new short stories (gymnastics-related and otherwise), website updates, and maybe even a YouTube channel with book and author-related content. Lots of things are coming together, so make sure to stay tuned!

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience, but I just can’t put out the book when it is not ready. Thank you for understanding.

Jane's World -- Things I Changed

As we talked about in the last blog, one of the perks of self-publishing is that I have creative control of my work.  When I was envisioning what Perfect was going to become, one of the things that really excited me was the opportunity to communicate directly with my readers about what was going on behind the scenes of the books, especially in terms of why certain decisions were made.  Here is your first sneak peek!

Time Frame

The books in the Perfect series are set in contemporary America. It's never specifically mentioned in any of the books which Olympiad they’re in, but in my mind, the 2016 Olympics in Rio have just happened a few months before Book One: Playing With Fire starts.  

The reason I never really mention which Olympiad the books are in is because I'm not always factually accurate in terms of the locations of major competitions.  For example, the first World Championships in Perfect are slated to be held in Paris.  If we were in real life, the first World Championships after the 2016 Olympics were actually held in Montreal.  To avoid confusion, I simply didn’t say which Olympiad we were in and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

Competition Rules

One of the things that is going to be revealed very early in Book Two: Transitions is that the size of the Olympic teams is going to be increased back up to seven members. I did this for a number of reasons. First, I just really like larger teams. I think it gives a lot more variety to the competition and having smaller teams has made gymnastics not as much fun to watch.  It’s always kind of bothered me that someone with a ton of talent and medal potential would be left home because there happened to be a handful of gymnasts who had a better day than she did. So in Perfect the format of the World Championships and the Olympics is a lot like it was back in the 1980s (with the exception of compulsories -- not bringing that back). Each team is composed of seven girls and the competition format is laid out below:

  • Day 1:  Prelims/Qualifications:  Every gymnast who is entered competes for spots in the team, all-around, and event finals.  
  • Day 2:  Team Final.  Top twelve teams from prelims compete.
  • Day 3:  All-Around Final:  Top 36 gymnasts from prelims compete.
  • Days 4-5:  Event Finals:  Top 10 gymnasts on each event from prelims compete.

Another thing that I changed was that in Perfect, scores carry over from the preliminary round. In real life, no scores from the preliminary competition carry over to the team, all-around, or event finals.  My main reason for doing this was to make the competition harder. As ZZ says in the second book, “Worlds and Olympics are the two biggest, most important competitions in gymnastics.  They’re like the pinnacle of the sport. Everyone dreams of being World and Olympic Champion.  It makes sense that they should be the hardest to win and not be contested every year.”

In keeping with the idea of that quote, the last thing I changed was that World Championships only happen every two years. So the Olympiad is divided like this:

  • World Championships, Year One
  • Pan American Games, Year Two
  • World Championships, Year Three
  • Olympic Games, Year Four

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the choices I made with Perfect.

The Story Behind Perfect

Perfect came about because I was a huge gymnastics nerd.  From the time I was little, I loved the sport. I loved watching it, reading about it, doing it, pretty much anything with gymnastics, I was there.  It was probably a good thing that I grew up before the rise of the internet or I would never have left my house.  I was that addicted.  However, it soon became apparent that I was not really the gymnast with the best work ethic when it came to exercise, so I quit at the beginning of level two and moved on to firm super-fan, couch-potato status.

Not only did I want to watch gymnastics on TV I wanted to read about it. There was one problem. In the '90s, the number of books with gymnasts as characters was amazingly small.  There was a series called "The Gymnasts" that was pretty popular, and a few stand-alone novels, but these all had protagonists who were just starting gymnastics or competing at lower levels. There were no books telling the stories of elite gymnasts.  It was also irritating that so much of the fiction was cliche or unbelievable. Nearly every book had a gymnast with an eating disorder or a stage parent. It got to be very repetitive.  Recently, there have been more books published, including Lauren Hopkins trilogy detailing the journey of three Olympians. However there is still not a long series covering the stories of elite gymnasts. Until now.

Perfect got its start back in about 2001. I had always wanted to write a series about elite gymnastics, so I decided to write the first book and submit it to HarperCollins. They liked the idea but ultimately ended up passing on the series. I completed the first book but then moved on to other things and eventually lost half the manuscript to due to disk failure. Fast forward about 15 years and I was an undergrad at the University of Arizona. I was taking an Introduction to Publishing class for my creative writing degree. The focus of the class was children's literature, so I decided to resurrect Perfect. Upon reading the half of the manuscript that I still had, I realized that it was in dire need of a good rewrite so I sat down and basically rewrote the book.

I decided that self-publishing was the best route for a couple of different reasons. First, at this point I really felt like I wanted creative control of the series. I didn't want a publishing company to be able to stop the series whenever they wanted. I wanted a long-running series that would completely tell the four-year journey of two gymnasts on their way to the Olympics even if I was the only one who would ever read it. I also didn't want a publishing company telling me what I could and could not write about and which topics to cover. Another reason I decided to self-publish was the rise of on-demand publishing. It is now possible publish a book without buying thousands of copies up front, which makes it feasible for independent authors to self-publish books on a very small budget.

There are a few things that I decided right off the bat when I came back and started to write Perfect again. First I decided that there were going to be no cliches. That means no eating disorders, or if there is an eating disorder it's going to be really weird. That is not to say that gymnasts never get eating disorders. It just means that the topic has been covered over and over and over again. I definitely did not feel the need to add to that growing cacophony of literature. Another cliche I wanted to avoid was stage parents. What I did want to portray was healthy, strong, amazing, talented athletes who give the sport their all.

I hope you enjoy reading Perfect.