Authors: The Most Selfish Artists of All

4815843665_d8fe74fe53_zRevealing your work as an artist is nerve-wracking. There is nothing in the world that makes an artist feel more vulnerable than playing that last chord, or reading that last word, or lifting that veil to reveal their most prized piece.

The moment when the eyes of others first become fully aware of the entirety of something that the artist has spent days–weeks–months–years– perfecting. The moment when there is nothing more to be seen or heard or felt about the piece–other than the emotions and feelings that linger after.

The artist holds their breath.

Sometimes silence is warranted, and exciting to the artist. But sometimes silence is accompanied by unfeeling facial expressions and hollow eyes.

Sometimes the response is excited, which is to the relief of the artist–because we’re excited too.

Good. It’s not just us.

I recently watched an interview between John Green (Bestselling Author of The Fault in Our Stars) and Stephen Colbert. Stephen, questioning him about his Youtube Channel, asked him “What do you want to do with your YouTube channel that you can’t do in a book?”

And I loved his response.

“Books take years and years to write. It’s like a really long game of Marco Polo, where you’re in your basement saying “Marco, Marco, Marco, Marco, Marco” and it’s not for like four years that someone else is like, “Oh, POLO!” Whereas with the internet and YouTube you can connect to people immediately.”

And I laughed at the fact that he is EXACTLY right. Writing a book is exactly like a lonely game of Marco Polo. It’s like wading around in the water with your eyes closed in a pool void of other people, not even knowing whether at any point someone else will even jump in to play with you at all. And you do this for years, working as hard as you can and pleading with your typing hands “Marco, Marco, Marco” as your pleas get more intense and vulnerable over time until you finish what seems like your tenth edit and send it to your first readers.

The artist holds their breath.

And yeah, there’s a good chance that if you worked hard enough and finished the book that SOMEONE will jump in and start shouting “Polo!” back, and when this happens it feels good. But, the artist still worries–even after hearing the responses–if they’ll ever REALLY connect with someone.

If they’ll ever REALLY make a difference.

And like Green said, there is a level of this “Marco Polo” game in every type of art.

And things like making silly YouTube videos is one of the most vigorously gratifying games of Marco Polo Available. (#kaseyvs Marco Polo, you might say. ;)) You make something. People like it. (Literally. They “like” it. On social media.) And you feel good about yourself. It’s very instantaneous.

Visual art is sometimes slow to generate a feeling of gratification to the artist. Visual art is very final. A visual artist might spend years perfecting a piece screaming “Marco, Marco, Marco” until they finish their final stroke and the canvas is flipped around to the viewer and it is finally fully visually consumed. Where the artist may have spent a very long time screaming “MARCO” in the water, the viewer responds immediately. Visual art requires very little of the consumer. Visual art is an immediate “Polo.” (Or an awkward silence.)

Musical pieces aren’t nearly as “final” as visual pieces, but they can also take a long time to perfect. Music, though, is relatively quick to gratify the artist upon completion, as well, though. 3-10 minute song. Marco. Feedback. Polo. Move on to the next song, or perfect the same one and play it again–maybe even better than before. Music requires a small investment from the consumer–a few minutes of their day as the piece is performed. But, most people are happy to invest a small portion of their day to listen to a beautiful musical piece. Or even a not-so beautiful one. Even if it sucks,  what’s 6 minutes of their life, in the long-run? Sure, I’ll invest my time in that. Hit me up.

But writing is very different.

And writing a book is the most different thing of all.

And maybe this is why I think that a novel is the most nerve-wracking type of artwork that can be created.

Because, honestly, sometimes I feel selfish.

A book demands something of its consumer. A book takes a reader’s valuable time–hours, days, weeks worth of free time. Time that they could spend reading another BETTER book, or feeding the hungry, or watching Scandal re-runs, or whatever else they do in their spare time.

And I have the audacity to create something that will eat-up HOURS of their hard-earned free time, and there is no guarantee that they will even like it.

AND I, as an author, actively pursue more people to give up their free time to read it.

AND on top of that, I charge them money for it.

And That feels kind of selfish to me.

More than anything, as an author, it is my desire that my readers enjoy my work. That they feel–in some way–better after reading my book than they did before they read it. That they feel that they have been enlightened. Or entertained. Or that they caught a good case of the “feels.”

Which, I think, is exactly why I feel the overwhelming need to bite my fingernails to the bone in anticipation of release day.

There is nothing more nerve-wracking to an artist than revealing their work. Except for when revealing their work demands something of the consumer in return. Both hours and dollars.

I promise to all of my readers, that I don’t want you to read my book out of a selfish desire. I only want you to read my book, because, I feel–in some way–that the world is a better place with this specific collection of words available to it.

And very soon, this very specific and intentional collection of words will be available to eat away your free time, just as it did mine for the last years of my life.

Marco.

The artist holds her breath.

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#Mywritingprocess Blog Hop: How to Make Something out of Nothing

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhen my sweet twin mom friend Rachel from Fellow Passengers asked me to be a part of the #mywritingprocess blog hop, I automatically felt that I should jump at the chance. I figured it might actually be a great thing to pick apart my writing process step by step, because even when I try to think about it, I can’t seem to remember how I got from one blank page staring me in the face to a 93k word novel in a little over a year–all while raising twins.

Rachel knows about the stress of attempting to write with two little ones (and ANOTHER little one. Wow. You’re super mom, Rachel.) demanding your attention, and she writes about her process and how it works for her, here. I loved reading how she overcomes the mundaneness of life to find time to write about things that are important.

Even if I can inspire ONE other person that is in a similar situation as me to reach for their dreams, then it is worth it. And I hope that by sharing #mywritingprocess that I can encourage others to GO FOR IT.

Also, one of my favorite quotes that I have recently read is this:

I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”- Flannery O’Connor

So, maybe, if anything, writing about my writing will help me realize how I write. (Phew.)

Which might be helpful. Because I DO have another book to write very soon.

1. What am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on the “not-so-fun” part of publishing a book. I’m finalizing drafts. And going through a roller coaster of emotions as I eagerly await July 1st for the release day. But since this isn’t really “writing” work, I’ll spare the details of that for another blog post.

Writing-wise right now, I’m working on outlining Book Two in the BLUE seriesI have been researching South Africa in 1997 (which is when BLUE ends) and have come across even more shocking revelations and historic events that are sure to make book two just as exciting as book one. I am even pretty certain that I have a name for Book Two, but I’m not going to share that just yet.

So, currently working on lots of brainstorming, jotting down ideas and figuring out how to make things “work” with life after BLUE.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think that my work is completely unique. Though, I’m sure that most writers like to think that as well. But, I have a few reasons why I think that my ideas and style of writing is very different.

BLUE is based around real-life historical events and true facts. Technically, my book is “Historical Fiction” but it could also be considered “Alternative History” because my characters are fictional, but they find themselves in the midst of real-life historic events. And I’m not just talking putting a character into a place in history. I’m talking about creating a story where my characters and story may have been involved in WHY these historical events happened. Many of my readers have had to Google things after reading my book because they weren’t sure which events were fictional and which were real. A few of my readers have said that they can picture future readers Googling “Are Humane Harvest Compounds Real?” while reading my book. And I think that my work is very unique to attempt to blur these lines.

One of the biggest “hurumphs” that I come across in the Young Adult Fiction world is that everything is too “Hunger Games”-y. Every idea has been explored. Everything is the same. There is nothing new under the sun. Every dystopia has already been explored, and there’s probably not going to be another original idea in the dystopian genre. I feel like my book is an example of why that isn’t true.  I hope that others feel the same way.

I feel like my work is unique to the YA genre as well, because even reading some of the reviews for the blockbuster NYT Bestselling YA Novels like the Hunger Games and Divergent, many people have a real problem with the believability of the dystopia at hand. I personally LOVED the Hunger Games, and I’m totally a fangirl, but many people just can’t get past the WHY of the Capitol’s decision to have the Hunger Games. I mean, 75 years of child sacrifice and this is still going on? And there is JUST NOW an uprising? Some readers just can’t find this believable, which I can understand, although I can easily get past that idea with just a few little explanations.

I feel like BLUE is very unique that everything is very believable, and it isn’t set in the distant future as a POTENTIAL reality. BLUE doesn’t rely on the passage of time and a decline in the civilization of humanity to be believable. And I think that is very unique for its genre.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Simple. I want the Lord to use me to change the world. I want to have a significant impact on social justice. I believe that art influences culture, and I believe that GOOD art can change the world. Jesus Himself spoke in parables to relay messages to the world–He told stories. I want to tell stories that make people think. I want to tell stories that make people examine their own beliefs and challenge themselves morally. I want to write books that move people to action.

Oh, and Jesus didn’t always tell “Christian” stories. So, I don’t think I necessarily need to either.

4. How does my writing process work?

I think I have two “writing process lists.” My day-to-day list. And my “How to turn nothing into something list.”

Day-to-day:
I wake up early in the morning before my twins are awake, get a cup of coffee, open my computer and write until they wake up. (I am not the most disciplined at doing this, but it is my hope to eventually do this every day.) Sometimes I get 5 minutes. Sometimes I get 2 hours. Depends on how early I wake up and how late they sleep in. Currently (they are 14 months old) I get them up, change their diapers, feed them breakfast, do the dishes, and entertain them for a couple of hours until the “fussies” take over, and put them down for their nap. I re-heat my coffee, re-open my computer, and pick up where I left off. Write until they wake up. Get them up. Lunch. Play. Fussies. Nap. Make more coffee. Re-open computer. Pick up where I left off. Write through nap time again. Repeat until bedtime. And start again when they are down for the night. That’s about it.

Turning Nothing Into Something (How I wrote my book):

1. Brainstorming: I researched for weeks. Prayed. Worshiped. Researched. Picked character names. Researched. Prayed.

2. JUST WRITING ANYTHING: I stared at blank word processor page for an hour, until I just told myself “JUST DO IT.” And I just started spilling my thoughts out for chapter one. I didn’t even know how the book was going to end. I didn’t even know what was going to happen past the first few scenes. I just wrote. (I probably wouldn’t do this again, but somehow it worked for the first book.) I wrote the first 6 chapters this way. Then I got pregnant with twins while working full time plus leading worship part time. I stopped writing for a few months.

3. Outlining: Intermittently over the next few months, I would spend time mentally working through my story. At some point, I decided that I needed to outline my chapters. I told myself that I couldn’t write any more until I had every chapter outlined. So, I sat in bed with my computer and pieced together all the plot points into a chronological story, and outlined the chapters–outlining every chapter with a 2-6 sentence summary of WHAT was going to happen, and WHY, making sure that I included symbols. I worked on this for about 2 months until I felt that it all made sense. Sighed in relief.

4. Actually Writing Something: This was the easiest part for me. Every day, I challenged myself to finish half of a chapter. Some days I barely finished a paragraph. Some days I finished 3 chapters. I just wrote. No editing. No reading what I wrote. Just writing. I also had a very un-judgmental friend reading along as I went. At the end of every chapter I would copy and paste it into an e-mail and send it to her. She would read and tell me all the things she liked about it. I don’t remember her giving me much criticism, which was exactly what I needed at that point. I needed encouragement to KEEP GOING. I didn’t need criticism in this stage. It wasn’t perfect. It was just beginning. And she understood that, and was so helpful. Couldn’t have done it without her.

5. Revision/Beta-Reading: After I typed my last sentence, I immediately started looking for beta-readers to help me get through the first edit. I got about 8 of my closest friends signed-on to read as I edited and I set up a group on Facebook for all of my “beta-readers” to be able to talk to me about the book and talk to each other about it. Once we got into the story, it was SO encouraging to see them talking about MY story. To hear them raving about certain things that they loved. To hear them talking about how they COULDN’T WAIT for the next chapter. I don’t think I could have gotten through this edit without them.

Revision (round 1 editing) on the first chapters was so difficult. You have to write the entire novel to know your characters, and it was strange to go back and read the first few chapters. I kept laughing at my first few chapters and thinking “Anytha would NEVER say that.” I had to make the characters in the beginning the same characters that the reader would find at the end. I tweaked and twisted and added. I started this round of edits at 86k words, and ended at 92k. This round of edits took about 2 months.

Round 2: I read it all again. Added another thousand words. Fixed some more minor details. Then I sent it to a professional editor.

Round 3: Got it back from the editor. Read it all again. (mostly aloud) Fixed a few more minor things. Made sure everything sounded pretty enough.

6. Publishing: My friend Christy painted the painting for the cover. I went on 99designs and had a contest for the actual cover design, using the painting. I paid to have the manuscript professionally typeset. Got on Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing and submitted my files. Now, I eagerly await July first, holding my breath until I find the next mistake that I need to fix.

And that’s about it. That sounds pretty simplified, because I could write a blog post (or 5) on HOW I did each of those steps. Because, for me, it was all about just jumping in. Head-first. No reservations. I had no idea what I was doing, and I still don’t know if I did it right. But, all I know is that I have a book in my hands. And I think it’s pretty dang good for my first try.

Now, excuse me while I roll up my sleeves to do it all again…

KJ

 

BLUE- Official Cover Blurb and Book Description

BOOKMOCK_BACKThe demand was growing too quickly.

The beliefs of healers convinced of their supernatural medicinal properties fueled a thriving black market for the most grisly commodity to obtain–

the body parts of the colorless people.

After the murder and maiming of countless people afflicted with Albinism, the South African government realized that they had no choice but to intervene. Out of the desire to provide protection to even the poorest of the afflicted people, the Humane Harvest Compounds were established.

Fifteen years later, in a rapidly-changing post-Apartheid nation, two young women find themselves face-to-face with the walls that have surrounded them for as long as they can remember.

Anytha (a bright, college-bound, young thinker) begins second-guessing her loyalty to her family’s life-long faith–the Practice of Blue–a thriving new religion whose doctrine is based on the “Law of the Land.”

Tabitha, (a sweet, quiet, conspiracy theorist with Albinism who was sold to the Humane Harvest Compounds as a baby) finds herself dreaming about an unharvested life outside of the concrete walls.

Though they are living two completely different lives, Anytha and Tabitha are both found questioning the motives of those in power–setting their minds to look beyond their spotless reputations, good deeds, and popularity–unaware that what they discover may make them question everything that they believe about life itself.

Preorder A Signed Paperback Copy of Blue to Arrive on July 1st!

BOOKMOCK_TWOThank you, to everyone that has been so supportive of my work for so long.

It seems strange to me that there are so many people (well, 2 would still feel like “so many people” to me) that have requested a signed copy of my novel! I’m still not quite used to all of this yet, but I’m happy to oblige!

I have also had multiple people asking about “preordering” a copy, so I thought that I would kill two birds with one stone and offer both.

The novel will be put up for sale on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle Version (which can be used on any type of e-reader or mobile device) on July 1st. Just so everyone is aware on pricing, the Kindle version will be listed for $8.99 and the paperback will be listed for $12.99 plus shipping.

BUT, if you would like to receive your copy ON July 1st, and would also like for me to sign your book, I’m doing a special pre-order promo. I will obviously have to have the books shipped to me first,  sign and package them and then pay for priority mail shipping on each book to everyone that pre-orders. (Gotta use priority mail flat-rate envelopes because, let’s be honest…there’s no way I’m gonna get to the post office, gotta make it as easy as possible on myself.)

The price for a signed paperback will be $18 shipped.

If pre-ordered by JUNE 26th you are guaranteed to receive your copy ON or BEFORE July 1st (anywhere in the continental US. Outside the US will not be guaranteed by the 1st, but will still get there much sooner than it would if you bought directly from Amazon.)

To pre-order a copy please fill out the contact form below, and I will be in touch about payment. (I didn’t think I would need to set up a store since this is probably just going to be for my friends, family, and current followers. I hope you understand 🙂

Thank you, everyone, for your continued support. You are all so precious to me.

KJ

Free Preview of BLUE Now Available for Download

Today I submitted the final files for my paperback, and I will have my novel in my hands on Friday. I may or not be freaking out just a tiny bit.

For the time being, if you would like to take BLUE for a test-drive, I have uploaded a preview of the first two chapters for preview reading.

Meet Tabitha and Anytha and try not to fall hard for this story. (Ok, please don’t try not to fall hard for this story.)

Also, please “star-rate” and leave me some notes about what you think of chapters one and two.
Click Here to Get Your Free Preview

KJ

Receive an E-mail Alert When “BLUE” is Available for Purchase (And Enter to Win a Signed Copy!)

If you would like to receive an e-mail alert when BLUE is available for purchase, please sign up below, and when the book is released for purchase, I will choose a few (or ten…depends on how I’m feeling) 😉 to win their own signed copy!

I will not spam you with e-mails, and you aren’t signing up to receive blog updates. You will only receive an e-mail when BLUE is available for purchase. (And maybe when the sequels are available as well—in a year or so.)

Winners will be notified by e-mail as soon as the book is released.

Thank you for your continued support. I cannot wait to share my baby with the world!

-KJ