Writing Process Blog Tour

Yesterday, author Robert Mullin kindly tagged me in a blog tour going by the name of The Writing Process. I got to know him over Facebook, and he has become a close friend of mine. A writer and adventurer, he is the author of Bid the Gods Arise, an excellent novel that deftly blends science fiction and fantasy. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m very enthusiastic to read more of his work.

So, here are the tour’s questions:

What am I working on?

My writing projects are currently twofold.

One, of course, is The Wolfglen Legacy, the epic fantasy series I’ve been working on for the better part of a decade. I’ve pitched it, edited it, had friends read parts of it…but then I realized it hadn’t matured quite enough. I need to finally write books 2, 3, and 4 (pieces of each do exist already), so I’ll see if I can finish the first book by summer this year.

My second project is the serialized science fiction thriller Arrivers. The first three installments are on Amazon Kindle for a buck each, and a fourth entry is underway. I’d love to see where this story goes and get a chance to spend more time with Sergeant Tobias, Reverend Rousseau, and the strange woman who calls herself Jezebel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Apart from games like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, I don’t know of any epic fantasy that includes dinosaurs. Or elves who wield flintlock pistols, and treat them with the same deep honor and reverence as Samurai treat the katana. Or a villain who appoints himself as rescuer of mankind, who feels going to war is a necessary step to rescuing us from our own flaws and mistakes.

More than that, however, many new fantasy novels wade in moral ambiguity, Game of Thrones style. It makes for frustrating tales that don’t really celebrate or condemn anything. I want to tell stories that have moral complexity. There’s still a difference between right and wrong, even if they can tie knots around each other.

When it came to the Arrivers stories, I grew weary from seeing one science fiction story after another that was overtly materialistic. You know, the stories told by the likes of Ben Bova and Isaac Asimov, that go out of their way to say religious people are morons, science eradicates miracles, and God no longer has a place in the cosmos. So I wanted to write a science fiction story that wasn’t “religious,” but still admitted there’s more to the universe than particles and natural laws.

Why do I write what I do?

If someone tells me I take my writing too seriously, I’ll take it as a complement. 🙂 My goal is to make someone feel like they are peeking through an interdimensional portal, witnessing events in a universe just as real as ours. Neither characters, nor story, nor world will be ready until it seems they’re entirely real. It’s not quite enough for me to try telling “a good story.” That’s the house’s foundation, so to speak.

How does my writing process work?

A few things help the writing process. Coffee with hazelnut creamer, concept art from movies, reading other novels, peace and quiet, and successfully resisting the siren call of Facebook. Still working on that last one….

I’ll often start with an idea and a paragraph or two, and build it up from there. Normally half of my edits happen as I’m writing the “first draft”. Supposedly this is a big no-no for writers, but it’s ended up helping me more and more with my own work.

Tagging Other Authors

For passing along this blog tour, I’d like to tag “Zombie Rob” Killam, another close friend of mine with an incredible talent for humor and witty dialogue. His upcoming zombie novel is called Apocalypse Springs.

The second writer I wanted to tag is my friend Joe Dorris, starring on the show Prospectors on the Weather Channel and fellow novelist who just released Salmon River Kid. He even paints his own cover art! How cool is that?

And here’s a third: mother, duchess and epic sci-fi author Ashley Hodges Bazer. I’m grinning at the prospect of reading her tales that encompass many worlds and have the kind of big-scale stories that deserve a movie or TV series. Here’s to much success, Ashley!

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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.

A Bumper Crop of Author Promotions

Putting that Kindle story on hold for a moment, to share something much more important with you, dear reader.

The more I’ve gotten into the writing scene, the more amazing authors I have encountered. They are gifted with stories to stir the emotions — inspiration, humor, terror, tragedy, wonder, love, delight, and a thousand others. Imaginings are their pigments, the mind their canvas, and they work in miracles.

And now it’s time for me to introduce you to some of them. I’ll be glad to introduce more of them later. Most of the ones I’m going to mention here are attending my weekly writing workshop, but I’ll work in a couple of others I’ve had the privilege of meeting.

Please do check them out. We authors need all the help we can get.

First, my good friend and writer of character-driven zombie fiction, Rob Killam. His upcoming Apocalypse Springs novel has survivors who have to slay their own personal demons as well as the ghouls banging down their door. It’s got more heart and brains (heehee) than any other zombie-related work I’ve yet seen. You’d be doing yourself a favor in checking him out.

Next, Jason P. Henry has a funny way with words. A very funny way, and twisted in the best possible sense. Plus he sets up tension like nobody’s business when he decides to get serious.

Ashley Bazer is proof that it’s possible to be a stay-at-home mom and a novelist at the same time. Her science fiction novel Asylum: The Circeae Tales came out just last year, and though I haven’t yet read it, I’m impressed with the quality on display at the writer’s workshop we attend. Did I mention she’s a duchess?

Jackie Hames offers a ton of sound and friendly writing advice, and we’ve had a lot of productive discussions. Plus her defense of speculative fiction is worth some serious thought, and I’m quite enthusiastic to read her upcoming fiction projects.

Genuine rocket scientist and modern renaissance man Grant McKenzie applies extensive knowledge and forethought into each piece he writes. He’s working on historical fiction and a YA fantasy novel, plus he’s one of the few people I know who can create a good rhyming poem in ten minutes or less, and he has a great deal of thought to offer on how the relationships between characters can enrich your work.

A.W. Hartoin is getting quite popular these days, as a writer of mysteries and fairy fantasy who just got her first audiobook! She excels at getting readers invested in a character, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Last but not least, Angel Smits has published five books, most of which are more of the romantic variety, including a couple of Harlequin Romances. She’s got a knack for good characterization and immersing the reader in a protagonist’s thoughts. Highly recommended.

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Quite aside from that, I have gotten an author’s page on Facebook that I confess I’m pretty happy with. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, check it out if you “Like.”

Ooh, and though I have encountered a couple of delays in getting my first Kindle story published, I’m still going to release it, and you’ll all be the first to know. Thanks for your time, everyone!

Apocalypse Springs: A Zombie Novel With A Twist

Lots of writers and artists like using Kickstarter as a platform to get people excited and spread the word about their project, and to fund it financially. And now my longtime friend and fellow writer Rob Killam has begun a new Kickstarter project, a zombie novel unlike any I’ve ever heard of.

The title: Apocalypse Springs: Reanimation

The pitch: “The apocalypse comes to Colorado Springs, and a crippled, mentally unwell man may be the only hope its survivors have.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I want to read!

In our writing group he has read aloud several excerpts from this book. The writing and character development are solid, it has a much stronger basis in hard science than most zombie books (Rob is a meticulous researcher), and he plans on telling an epic story through several more volumes.

Not only is Rob a great man, he is a writer committed to telling the best story possible. Every little bit will help him bring this incredible story to life. Or rather, make it undead.

I’ll be backing this project as soon as I have the requisite cash. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in contributing to, be sure to visit his page and check it out. Lots of goodies are promised to the backers of the project, which doesn’t hurt. So, what do you say? Bring the zombies to the foot of Pikes Peak, and help out an author at the same time. It’s a good investment.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1513414342/apocalypse-springs-reanimation-a-long-form-novel

The Next Big Thing

I was quite honored to be tagged by Jackie Hames at The Spidereen Frigate for a blog chain called “The Next Big Thing,” which gives readers a snapshot of your own work-in-progress.

I’ll give it my best shot. Hope you enjoy!

What is the Working Title of Your Book?

The Wolfglen Legacy: Revived

Where Did Your Idea for the Book Come From?

I started drawing maps in 2004 of a fantasy world I wanted to create, and that eventually morphed into a couple of projects, including The Wolfglen Legacy. After watching a lot of movies like the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean, I wanted to tell a big, adventurous, save-the-world kind of story. Plus, I wanted to try giving new(ish) versions of various fantasy cliches like elves, dragons, wizards, dark lords, and see if I could set them up in a somewhat original framework.

What Genre Does Your Book Fall Under?

Primarily epic fantasy, with some tones of dark fantasy, adventure fantasy, and a dash of science fiction.

If Your Book Became a Movie, Which Actors Would You Pick?

I have a large cast in mind for this

Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) as Morent Wolfglen. He’d do a good job of looking ferocious and desperate, playing the conflicted wizard who is trying to save his family while keeping his conscience intact.

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Jennifer Lawrence would be terrific to play Princess Sathra Wolfglen. She excelled as Mystique and Katniss Everdeen, and I’d like to see her play the role of a vulnerable young woman who learns how to become stronger and more in control.

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Andrew Garfield really impressed me with his interpretation of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the role of Josh Kingston, a young man from another time who is awakened from stasis into a distant future ruled by magic and wars, and is catapulted into one of the most dangerous conflicts Earth has ever faced, all while trying to learn his new surroundings and run from mistakes and tragedy in his past.

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Those are the three main characters. But I did have a couple of others in mind. I tend to dream big.

Christian Bale as King Rishtal Wolfglen, brother to Morent and father to Sathra.

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Rachel Weisz as Empress Kilfira Lundill, an ally of the Wolfglen family.

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Sam Neill as General Streynel Halthrin, and David Tennant as Myrickin Schtahl, both of them people who have different goals than everyone thinks they do.

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Tennant

Okay, I could go on, but I think that’s enough of my pipe dream. For now. 🙂

What is Your Book’s One-Sentence Synopsis?

A young man outrunning his past, a princess trying to go on after her mother’s death, and a wizard desperate to save his family all find themselves caught up in a secret war against their country, driven by an ancient supernatural enemy.

Will Your Book be Self-Published or Represented By an Agency?

I’m definitely going to try traditional publishing first. More than that, I want to see how high I can go with this series. If Random House or Tor or HarperCollins picks it up, terrific! If not, that’s perfectly okay. I still want to try it because I don’t want to spend my days wondering how far up the publishing ladder it could have gone.

How Long Did it Take You to Write the First Draft?

After writing off and on while trying to balance school and work with my writing goals, it took me about five years to finally have a complete first draft. Now that I’m graduated, though, it won’t take nearly as long to write the series’s next book (there will be four Wolfglen books in total).

What Other Books in Your Genre Would You Compare Your Novel To?

Hmm. Kind of stumped on this one. Maybe it would be a good fit for readers of Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn, the latest Wheel of Time books), James Gurney (Dinotopia), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game).

Who or What Inspired You To Write This Book?

In December 2003, as I left the theater after watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I was blown away by the story I had just witnessed. Given the staggering quality of Peter Jackson’s trilogy and how it affected my emotions and imagination, I knew one thing for certain stepping out of that theater: I wanted to be a fantasy writer.

From there I pieced together bits of worldbuilding, character development, and the clockwork of a plot, and the most developed result is The Wolfglen Legacy.

What Else Might Pique a Reader’s Interest in Your Book?

Possibly the ways I have revamped given fantasy cliches (elves with flintlocks instead of bows, a villain driven by his conscience instead of evil for its own sake, etc.).

Moral complexity is one of the big goals I have in mind for this series. I am striving to get a good balance between the black-and-white conflict in Harry Potter, and the frustrating ambiguity in Game of Thrones.

Dinosaurs join the book’s dragons to give my world plenty of big scaly beasties. When was the last time you saw a Triceratops in a fantasy novel? Seriously, they could instantly improve a lot of books.

And I am working hard to make the story satisfying on all fronts, not only attractive for its worldbuilding or characters or descriptions.

Tagging

To keep this chain going, I’d like to tag four of the coolest writers I know: Janden Daniel HaleRob “The Brain Hamster” Killam, Aaron Ritchey, and Courtney Schafer. All are terrific storytellers, and I recommend you check them out right away.

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