Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Hunger, A Collection of Utah Horror

It has been said that Utah is a pretty horrible state. It is. It's pretty and some things are horrible. But I digress, I'm here to announce the release of a new short story anthology featuring horror stories from Utah authors or authors with Utah connections or people who've heard of Utah or people who hunger for Utah. That last one was a reach, I know. I'm punchy.


My story Audra's Confession is featured in The Hunger, a gentle horror if you will, and I'd recommend the hell out of this book for that alone, but there's more. I had the distinct opportunity and pleasure to be the primary editor on The Hunger. Yep, I got my name on the cover twice. I've arrived!

Now available from Twisted Tree Press.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Saturday Writing Bonanzas

I am double booked this week. Two of Utah’s premier writing events are happening this Saturday and I can’t do both.

This Saturday down in Provo is the annual Teen Author Boot Camp, a stellar convention of young writers eager to create and explore words.

I’ve been invited to teach a couple classes and and couldn’t be more exited. If you’re a teenage writer and in Provo, this is the place for you this Saturday.

Also happening this Saturday is the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference happening on the Campus of Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville.

this annual event offers over thirty-five hours of programming, classes on all aspects of writing for all agents and levels. It’s a convention of the tribe of writers. You don’t have to be a member to attend, though if you are, you get a discount. Click on this link to find out more.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Bingeable I, CLAUDIUS

Continuing on with the struggles of writing distractions.

Binge watching series is a new and wonderful modern vice that as a true American, I have taken up to compliment my long list of other vices. But to be honest and to sound like a hipster, I was binge watching before it was cool. i unplugged the TV twelve years ago and have been cycling through DVDs to keep my brain good and mushy. Now I have NetFlix, a computer program specifically designed to indulge the habit, I will not want for distraction.

I mention this because it’s easy to forget some old binge-worthy titles in the wave of new ones. One of my favorite binges was catching up with Game of Thrones. I was l late to that so had four seasons back to back to back to enjoy when I got the discs from a friend. Good stuff.

I bring that up because a predecessor to GOT exists that I knew about growing up but hadn’t the time or energy to pursue, it being on public television imported from the BBC which meant it was too dry for a child to enjoy. I speak of course of the classic I, Claudius starring Derek Jacobi and a who's who of English actors from Patrick Stewart (with hair) as Sejanus to John Hurt as the mad Caligula. I finally got around to seeing the whole thirteen episodes last week thanks to my public library,  and I am here to tell you, it is frankly wonderful.

It is adult. There are bare chests and murders and lots of talking. It was controversial at the time (1976) for these things and was aired late at night, further hindering the American hinterlands from enjoying them. I say adult, but decadent might be a better description. In those terms it is very much the ancestor of the great Game of Thrones. Court  intrigue and plots, torture, great empires rising and falling, all with boobs and blood. Good stuff. What I, Claudius doesn’t have are the breathtaking special effects and the styles of modern filmmaking. This, however, is no drawback. What it lacks in CGI it makes up for acting, great career making acting. The scenes are long and played out with theatrical talent that cinema is quick to minimize with short cuts and close ups. Theatrical is the best description and watching I, Claudius —from the great Caesar to the lowest surf — we get to see the art and power of real acting. It’s amazing. It’s intimate and it’s grand story telling in the rich tradition of Shakespearean tragedy.

It’s based on Robert Grave’s great book by the same name which in turn is based on actual Roman History. So, not only is it damn fine entertainment, but accounting for some poetic license, it is also a solid history lesson. You’ll come away knowing the early emperors of Rome, their vices the forms and costumes of antiquity complete with accurate hair styles.

Yeah, I enjoyed the series. It was research and I even got a blog out of it.

Now to get back to writing my novel.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Johnny Worthen THE BLOG MANSION: Distractions

Johnny Worthen THE BLOG MANSION: Distractions: Has there ever been a time when there’s been so much cheap and accessible distraction? Think TV, radio, movies, games, computers. Tuning out...


Has there ever been a time when there’s been so much cheap and accessible distraction? Think TV, radio, movies, games, computers. Tuning out is the primary leisure activity in America. It is addictive. It is omnipresent. It is the curse of the modern artist.

Instant gratification is the bane of long term goals. Writing is usually a long term goal. A book, a short story, anything other than micro fiction probably requires more time than a scan of the Huffington Post or a wandering tour of the new Netflix offerings.

I know that if I let myself get started that way in the morning, surfing the net and catching up on all my news, I’m all but lost for the day. My attention span is fried. Even if I can pull myself away from the distraction, sit my ass down in a chair, in a dim room, me and my Scrivener, mano a mano, it is hell to write. My brain is conditioned for phrenetic input and the concentration I need to complete whole sentences, let along paragraphs, pages, and chapters, is out of reach.

I can beat myself into focus with sprints sometimes. I do this by giving myself fifteen minutes of timed space to write as many words as possible. It’s an end-around the barriers. Ironically, I concentrate by not allowing myself to think. That often works to get me going, but not always. The only safe way to write is not to start with the distractions but start with the writing.

Thus I have became a morning writer.

I used to write in the afternoon (when I had a day job) or late at night (when I am mad at myself for not writing that day). Now I have decided that the morning is my most productive time because I am a weak man and will otherwise rot my brain with useless distration.

It’s not a panacea, but damn it helps. I take my morning mind and instead of flashing it page after page of depressing news, comics and sound bites, I put it to work (after a cup of coffee, of course. I’m not a savage). Thus I do the the work I need to do. It’s putting business before pleasure and creates an atmosphere of long term goal advancement and concentration that serves me throughout the day. Even if I don’t get my words done right away in the morning, The pattern is set and I can write all day in spurts or marathons until it is done. What I’m trying to say is, I get my words in then. With that done, I can blow off the evening with a drink or a three hour binge of Columbo and sleep at night.

Overcoming distraction is one of those things that differentiate an amateur from a professional, an author from a writer. Becoming successful as an artist, writing into the ether, writing on spec, is not easy since the first thing one has to do overcome their distractions.

Pray for me, I’m trying.

Now get to work.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Personal Essay

I didn’t take many creative writing courses in college. I leaned toward the critical part of English, swimming in the seas of deconstruction and cultural lenses. What few classes I had were confusing and not rewarding. Personal prejudice played a big part there–theirs and mine–to leave me empty and uninspired. All except the one class I took on personal essay.

You might balk when I say that personal essay is creative writing, or you might be far enough along to know that non-fiction needs as much creativity as fiction, if not more. There is no such thing as pure objectivity in art. The photograph was supposed to be that, but the eye of photographer, the angle, the subject, all these things —these choices—are included in the verisimilitude of an austere photo. Art is present, hiding but powerfully present.

A personal essay is basically a glorified journal entry. You write something “true” and embellish it with enough art as to focus light on certain things and convey a deeper meaning than a material laundry list. This is how I fell in love with writing.

Subject matter was ever-present. I only had to sift through my daily life with the eye of a spiritualist and record it with the eye of a poet. I turned the mundane into meaning and it thrilled me. I couldn’t be ridiculed for fan-fiction or dismissed for lack of audience. I was writing for myself, i was expressing myself, I was deconstructing myself.

When I made the jump to fiction, I took this with me. My subject matter became the lives of invented characters, but the work was the same. I took the day to day lives of my imaginary friends inhabiting my psyche and pulled meaning and purpose to the greater idea.

In a way, you see, I’m still writing personal essays, I’m still searching the events of my life with a light of meaning. The events now extend to my imagination. Jung would be proud.

If you want to know an author, don’t talk to them, don’t watch them — read them. Their soul will be writ clear on the pages between the sentences, among the adjectives and conflicts. It’s a glass darkly perhaps, but it’s a close as we can ever come to knowing ourselves or another.

There is nothing created, no art, no sound, no sentence that does not bear the stamp of the author and holds their mind in reflection.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wonhundred Words - "Like father"

Continuing my play with Wonhundred Word Wednesdays I present:

Took a little different tack, not perfect to prompt but....

“God hates the sinner!” he boomed meaning to say “sin,” but the sight of her at the back of the tent had thrown him off.

He carried on, speaking fire and brimstone from the pulpit, exuding righteousness — that righteousness that had brought people to his tent for thirty years. Usually they weren’t so young as the girl in the back. Maybe that’s why he noticed her. Something about her.

“Do I know you?” he said and as the words left his mouth, he saw her mother in her face.

“You look like my father.”