New Painting, New Articles

"A Tree to Write Under." Acrylic, painted on 8 x 10 inch canvas.

“A Tree to Write Under.” Acrylic, painted on 8 x 10 inch canvas.

Good evening, everyone. Here’s another one of the paintings I’ve done recently. It was auctioned off by the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last week. I wasn’t able to attend the conference itself due to insufficient finances, but learned a lot from a “pre-conference workshop” the day before. Especially about query letters, and how painfully uninformed I am in writing them.

This is meant to be one of those relaxing scenes you can visit in your mind to forget about the cares of life. Maybe it will put whomever took it home in a good writing mood, like they’re relaxing under that tree with a notebook and a glass of lemonade.

If anyone would like to buy a similar “relaxation” painting, let me know! You can find my email address to the right. I am also doing cards with smaller versions of landscapes like this painted on the front.

I’ve also been branching out with more articles spreading out across the web. An interview about my paintings showed up in the New Falcon Herald.

There’s also a new blog post I contributed to Pikes Peak Writers, about how picking up a creative hobby may help you get past writer’s block. This may not work for every writer, but give it a shot if your muse is getting cold feet.

Catch you later, and God bless!

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Writing from the Ashes

One of the favorite motifs of fiction is resurrection. Characters redeem themselves (or try to), the past catches up for better or worse, and there are phoenixes everywhere ascending from ashes. My own book is called Revived. History itself is given a legacy of resurrection, thanks to Christ rising from His grave.

Resurrection was also the theme of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Even better than last year’s event, this was an unforgettable time to make new friends and meet with old ones.

To wit:

To the right is DeAnna Knippling, critiquing guru and author. On the left is Amber Benson, who played Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and is a novelist as well. Both of these ladies are AWESOME human beings! And lots of fun to hang out with.

To the right is DeAnna Knippling, critiquing guru and author. On the left is Amber Benson, who played Tara on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and is a novelist as well. Both of these ladies are AWESOME human beings! Lots of fun to hang out with.

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Libba Bray, being her crazy self. Hilarious, friendly, and just plain likable.

My friend Joseph Smits. I can't think of many writers who make me laugh as hard as this gentleman. And Amber photobombs like a pro!

My friend Joseph Smits. I can’t think of many writers who make me laugh as hard as this gentleman. And Amber photobombs like a pro!

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My good friend Rob Killam. Did I mention he writes zombies like no one else? This guy’s gonna go far someday. Guaranteed.

And here's a picture of some chicken. Marriott staff took very good care of us. Which is good, since we writers are high-maintenance.

And here’s a picture of some chicken. Marriott staff took very good care of us. Which is good, since we writers are high-maintenance.

Aaron Michael Ritchey, Libba Bray, and Amber Benson led the way with keynote speeches. Inspiration filled the air like an inviting perfume. I got the sense of openness and fellowship that I’ve been missing for so long in my writing life.

Oh, and I should mention I pitched the fantasy novel, and the agent requested 20 pages. That’s always good news! [But I did realize I played up the sci-fi aspect of it like the book was a half-and-half blend of fantasy and sci-fi, when it’s more like 2% sci-fi and 98% straight up fantasy. So I almost screwed up the pitch unnecessarily. Oh well. 20 pages is still good! :)]

Thanks for your time, everyone! I’ve got a sequel to my sci-fi Kindle story to work on, and twenty pages to prepare for official submission. Carry on, and remember: It’s never too late to rise from the ashes.

Revived is Finally Revised

My first novel, The Wolfglen Legacy: Revived, has finally been revised. Once I give it time to breathe (leaving it alone for 3-4 weeks) and then do a final polish, it will be ready to send off to an agent. Almost every necessary tweak and critique has been done, and it’s ready to go. I still can’t believe I actually pulled this off.

[EDIT: I should add that my deadline for December 3rd had to be pushed back to the 6th, thanks to my laptop crashing on me. But the point is that I finished on time, and now I can go see The Hobbit with some friends on opening night! Yay!]

In celebration, I’d like to share the theme song from The Avengers. You know, because it sounds very triumphant.

My First Interview

Well, for the first time in my life as a writer, I have officially been interviewed. Rob Killam, good friend and zombie connoisseur extraordinaire, has just had our exchange posted to the Pikes Peak Writers blog. Check it out! It is about my pitch appointment with a literary agent at the PPWC, and I’m glad Rob decided to interview me about it.

http://pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com/2012/05/pitch-under-fire-interview-with-john-k.html

Conference Report 2012

Last weekend took a lot out of me. Fortunately, I gained so much more for the experience. Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2012 was my first official writing conference, and seems to be the start of my official career as a writer. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. No wonder its attendees and faculty speak so highly of it.

Jeffrey Deaver, one of the keynote speakers, in his finest James Bond costume.

Aaron Ritchey, author of "The Never Prayer" and an awesome guy all around. Crazy in the best and most enthusiastic way possible.

Thursday consisted of all-day workshops for topics like “So you have an idea for a book,” “Writing for young adults,” and a seminar based on Donald Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel” (the one I attended). Friday began the conference proper, with more workshops all day, and a costume party at night.

My friend Patty, looking positively resplendent.

Lara Croft dropped by for a visit.

Can't have Bond without a lovely Bond Girl!

Saturday had more workshops, and pitch appointments. I pitched my manuscript to an agent, and she requested the full manuscript. That is something to celebrate right there – most writers, even at those rare instances when they can pitch in person, usually get turned down, or are asked for a synopsis or the first three chapters, so a full manuscript request is a big deal. It’s a big step forward, but I’ve also got about a month before it needs to be emailed to the agent, and it still needs some good old-fashioned revising. To the revisionmobile! (Cue the Batman theme)

And Sunday had even more workshops, with reluctant farewells to the wonderful human beings I met over three days.

And I got to see my first ladybug of the year as I left the Marriott on Sunday. Honestly, can you have a better denouement than this?

Yeah, this was totally worth it. Barring the zombie apocalypse, I am absolutely going back next year. Later today, I will deliver a recap of Donald Maass’s amazing keynote address, and some of my thoughts on it. If you can get a recording of that speech, it should be required listening for every fiction writer.

VICTORY – The Novel’s Finished

My aspirations to write a fantasy series solidified (more or less) five years ago. I embarked on a journey to create a world, to find a huge story worth telling inside that world, and play the part of Victor Frankenstein as I sent a life-giving shock through its muscles and bones. The months were drawn out by a curse of procrastination, a Bachelors degree to finish, and no small amount of laziness under the guise of writer’s block.

Tonight, that curse has been lifted. Revived, the first volume in my epic fantasy series entitled The Wolfglen Legacy, now has a complete first draft. Wrapped up into one bundle of documents and backed up across cyberspace, this first novel marks the beginning of my journey through the world and stories I have labored over since I was a teenager. Today, my writing as a career begins.

Today, I celebrate. Tomorrow is for revision. Lots and lots of revision. Half of the book, right now, is probably worse off than the hurried scribbles of a NaNoWriMo project, and reads like Cliffs Notes that only outline the plot, and hardly speak a syllable of the character development, worldbuilding, personality, or fine-tuned language I am aspiring to bring into this novel.

I have no idea how I’m going to pull those other things off. Fortunately, revision is a process I happen to relish, because that’s when I have something to work with. The old saying goes, “you can’t edit a blank page.” But now, Revived no longer has any blank pages. And at least for today, that’s victory enough.

God be thanked, it’s done. It’s finally finished. The dragon is slain.

"Tyrant's End: Morent's First Thrust." Image courtesy of E.J. Mickels II, a talented artist who was kind enough to paint this in 2006 for my short story "Battle at Engorlash."

Why I Picked Traditional Publishing

Ah, yes, the old chestnut of self-publishing vs. traditional. As if nobody was blogging about this before…

Authors are presented with a lot of options these days, when they want to get published. That’s not news to you. You already know the Kindle, and other outlets like PubIt! (for Barnes and Noble’s Nook) and Createspace have made it possible for a writer to share his novel with the world, within hours after the last word has been typed. Indie publishers who take the misfit works of writers who can’t find a wide audience, self e-publishing, and print-on-demand are seeing an all-time high, and many writers celebrate the new wave of author-focused publishing opportunities that slice away the middle men and let a novel’s creator make their own road to success.

In the wake of the digital era, more than a few bloggers have asked, “Why are some people sticking with traditional publishing, the plodding mastodons of a bygone era that surely must bow to the march of progress? Is it because old habits die hard? Is it because the writers are too insecure to take responsibility for publishing the work themselves? Is it because those publishing mastodons, carrying the nametags of Alfred A. Knopf and Tor and Random House and HarperCollins, still hold a lot of the prestige and reputation writers crave? Is it because they want those corporate fat cats to take most of their hard-earned money?”

In my honest opinion, the answer is a little more complicated. It’s not enough to say that “greed” or “giant corporations” are the reasons why writers now flock to Kindle or smaller publishing firms.

God knows that greed and the sometimes unfair policies and practices of publishers contribute to the problem, though. Several authors I know have been unfairly marginalized, neglected, or even cheated on by the publishers that were supposed to help the author market their work and give them a certain cut of the profits. They have decided that self-publishing is much less aggravating, and gives them far more control over the books and stories they sell. And I wish them the greatest success. Forget the numbers and the “odds” against self-publishing getting them fame and fortune. I want them to get so lucky, it’s as if they grabbed the finest pot of gold a leprechaun ever put at the base of a rainbow.

But there have also been a lot of self-publishers who might have given up on traditional publishing too soon.

See that statement I made up there, that the new trends in book publishing are author-focused? That’s truer than you might know. When writers talk amongst themselves, it’s easy to forget that books are not just marketable products that help spread our names to the farthest reaches of Amazon. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not even about us, the writers. It’s about the readers. Writers, in effect, serve anyone who finds and treasures their words. You give their imaginations and minds a chance to expand, to thrill, to love or hate. Those might be your words, in your novel, but you’re giving the reader an experience. With every new page they turn comes a new chance to enrich their lives, or simply to make their day.

We also have to consider the aversion to risk and difficulty. We don’t like putting our precious work up to the judgment of a large entity (like a publishing house) that doesn’t care about it like we care. And sometimes that drives people to self-publishing. At least your work is guaranteed to reach the world if you e-publish it yourself. But is risk and difficulty always a bad thing? Doesn’t it do a novel good when it’s edited by people who have been editing novels for decades? Sure, it’s your feet that are being put to the fire. The same can be said for every writer. This is a part of the job if you want to be traditionally published: killing your ego, to make sure the reader finds your book in its best possible state.

[To be continued…]