Thursday, August 16, 2018

One week until Quills!

I am so excited for Quills. It's going to be a complete blast. It is a dream conference for me. A chance to hang with the tribe and meet new members for the first time. I get to meet my hero, Tim Dorsey and teach and drink and eat and chill... so cool!



If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. You can now buy single day passes and banquet tickets along with the Thursday Prequel Workshops and regular stuff.

This magnificent and intimated conference is the height of the writing scene in Utah. Come and create!



Here’s my schedule:

Thursday, August 23, 2018 

Prequel: Querying: The Art of Rejection 
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Summit 

Welcome Mixer/Reception
7:00 – 10:00 p.m. — Garden

Friday, August 24, 2018 

New Attendees Orientation 
8:15 - 8:45 a.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Tim Dorsey Interview
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. — Ballroom 2

Presentation: Deeper Reading for Deeper Writing: Introduction to Deconstruction
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. — Connor

Pitches
5:45 - 6:45 p.m. — Atrium

Saturday, August 25, 2018 

Panel: Live Critique: Adult SFF/Horror
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. — Aspen
Presentation: Outlining: A map not a death sentence
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Live Critique: Mystery, Thrillers, Suspense, Crime
5:45 - 6:45 pm. — Willow

Awards Banquet - Incoming President Speech
7:30 - 10:00 p.m. — Ballroom




Thursday, August 9, 2018

CORONAM - A Crowning Personal Achievement

It is done.

I finished it. At least the first draft.

My epic social science fiction, CORONAM, is done.

I am in shock. I am on air. I am in awe.

Now you know I write a lot of books. Have written a lot of books. I have. It’s what I do. I love it. Every book I write, every project I begin is a wonderful new adventure. I think of myself as an artist and so with each one, I press myself harder, I challenge myself more, I take bigger risks and get more ambitious.

That was the genesis of CORONAM.

And boy, was it ambitious.

As with all projects it’s hard to pin down a moment of beginning. Prewriting is often subconscious and goes on for years. The way I do things though, I can put a definite date on the actual beginning of writing. The first “Once upon a time” so to speak. It was April 12, 2015. I finished it August 4, 2018.

That’s 1210 days of writing. 39 and 3/4 months. 3.31 years.

It is a trilogy. It is epic.

I have a rule to “Finish What I Start.” This one really tested that. In fact, it was so trying, that between books one and two I actually took time off to write a mystery. Much less complicated.

Book two took fourteen months (the muddled middle in action). It was only because of my great writers group, The Infinite Monkeys and our Fall Writing Retreat that I was able to kick start it again and blaze through it with extra momentum to carry on to three and now have it all done. Thanks guys!

It’s not that the books are boring or that they lagged. They didn’t. They’re great, I think. The pinnacle of my power (so far). It’s just, as many writers will attest, it’s hard to keep interest in long projects. I had distractions and lots of career fear, new responsibilities and a plethora (yes I said plethora) of day to day worry that only a left-leaning American can appreciate.

But I got book two done and then book three and the entire arc was done.

One central idea, planned and executed. Not random. Connected and united. Not a false note in it. From the first word to the last sigh, all driving forward to a promise fulfilled.

When I say epic, I mean it in every sense of the word. The series encompasses centuries of history, has a score of main characters, spans the stars and wrestles with ideas, social and philosophical, that have plagued mankind since the beginning. And it’s long.

CORONAM BOOK 1: OF KINGS, QUEENS, AND COLONIES
127.688 words (three edits)

CORONAM BOOK 2: OF CIVILIZED, SAVED, AND SAVAGES
146,828 words (three edits)

CORONAM BOOK 3: OF HONEY, HOMES, AND HEROES
161,204 words (first draft)

Total: 435,720 words.

I know this spits in the face of all the gatekeepers who say to write novellas and short books, but this isn’t that. This is my DUNE, my FOUNDATION TRILOGY, my EARTHSEED. This is the series I’ve always wanted to write.

And I did it.

My creative life has been orbiting this series for so long—for years. It was the center of my life. I feel a bit untethered now, a bit afraid, but also, truly, supremely proud.

This is a life’s achievement for me.

Will it get published? I don’t know. My agent is trying, but it’s hell out there, and epic literary social science fiction is not exactly the current craze. I hope it does sell though. It may not be for everyone, but I think it could find an audience.

But I wrote it for me and that is enough. My motto: “I write what I want to read, that guarantees me at least one fan.”

Editing awaits.


Finish what you start, push yourself, and don’t give up!

The payoff is worth the pain.




Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quills 2018 - get excited!


Quills is less than a month away and I am excited! (Yes, I used an exclamation point, and italics, just now - that should tell you something.)


Quills is the new name for the League of Utah Writers fall conference and awards banquet. We renamed it because we’re changing it. We’re looking to make it an regional event not just local. To this end we’ve invited many guests the Utah crowd has never heard before. New voices and perspectives, opportunities galore. We have agents and editors and writers and scribblers, and the gang will all be there. 


It’s limited to 300 people, so it’ll be intimate and information packed. It’s the kind of event where you can sit with your future agent, chew the fat with with New York Times best seller and play games in the bar with an editor. It’s a conference. It’s networking. It’s a party.

The League of Utah Writers Quills awards banquet is Saturday and me, yours truly, will complete my many years coup of becoming president of the League. Big night.

There will even be a Thursday prequel full of half-day workshops that you can sign up for separately.

You can sign up to pitch your work to agents and editors.

If you are a writer or want to be and you are within traveling distance of this event you need to come.

This is the big one.


Friday and Saturday, October 24th and 25th, 2018
(Prequel Thursday 23rd)

480 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108 
(801) 581-1000





Thursday, July 19, 2018

Poem of Worry

You have to let them try
You have to let them fail
You have to let them get hurt
You have to know you will not always be there
So they must
They might
They will
They can




Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sad State

My glasses have taught me to ignore my peripheral vision. A heavy prescription, narrow lenses, loose frames are making me a cripple. Those side spaces are out of focus outside my eyes or closer, the frames. If I reacted to things out there, I’d be jumping in fear at every tilt of my head -the lens edge coming to get me, blur motion and structures.. It’s a terrible thing. It means I walk into low branches and break cups on other cups. It’s a terrible sign of my aging that I can only trust what I see right in front of me.




Thursday, July 5, 2018

Musing on the Pure Amateur


I am always impressed by my creative writing classes. There is so much originality and energy that not a class goes by that I don’t say, honestly, “I wish I’d have written that.” It’s particularly true in the more amateur classes where writers haven’t been spoiled by the “rules of writing” the very poisons I’m spreading in my lessons. Free from the censorship of agreed-upon forms and strategies, marvelous things happen organically.

There’s Picasso’s old adage that one needs to learn the rules like a professional so they can break them like an artist. When you don’t know the rules, sometimes the same effect happens. It reminds me that the rules are misnamed. They’re not rules, not laws. Not even conventions. They are observations of pattern and attempts to define and quantify something that defies it. "X is beautiful therefore for something to be beautiful it must be like X." It is a cart before the horse thing. Shallow and uninspired.

In the publishing world where interns read for imitation more than for innovation, the rules are fixed and demanding mileposts, but in the peace and space of a creative writing class, pure expression from pent up artists is like new bird song on a safari.

I’m glad not everyone in my classes wants to publish. Without the rock tumbler commercialization rules their work can stay beautiful and unique, jagged edged and true. They can explore their voices and meanings. They listen to me however, as I tell them the rules of italics as I see them, show them to shave unnecessary words, develop disdain for passive voice and dialog tags and form them into a projectile more accessible to the masses. But I feel a little dirty for doing it. There’s a majesty in the untrained, unsoiled writer. One who has been taught be reading more than rote, expression more than convention.

The dream of course is that they can remain true to their visions, overcome the learning curve to join Picasso at the other end. True and effective.

I just hope that somewhere in their notebooks they keep those turns of phrase, sentences, paragraphs and words that move me in these classes to wish I had written them.




Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE HUNGER book signing this Saturday

I've been involved in the Utah Horror scene since it began. I was one of the original members of Utah's only chapter of the HWA (Horror Writers Association). Every year they sponsor and promote an anthology of short stories centered around the state with a particular theme. This year, the theme was THE HUNGER. Not only was my little story called AUDRA'S CONFESSION selected to be in it, but I had the distinct honor of editing many of the stories, polishing them up and such. I am very proud of this book. My name appears on it twice, which is a milepost of some kind.

This Saturday at the Jordan Landing Barnes & Noble store in West Jordan Utah, I'm meeting up with a few of the authors for sit down signing event. If you're in the neighborhood, swing by and say hello.

Saturday June 30, 2018
 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

7151 Plaza Center Drive

West Jordan, UT 84084





Wednesday, June 20, 2018

FyreCon 2018

The second FyreCon is set for this weekend and I'll be there. Unlike most conferences I attend, this one is dedicated to arts of all kinds, not just writing. Though the bardic arts will be well represented, visual artists will be abundant. There'll be physical artists there besides. It's a good time. If you're up in Layton way, you should check it out.

Below is my planned schedule. Saturday might change (conflicts arising) but Thursday and Friday are set. Come on out!



Weber State University-Davis Campus

2750 University Park Boulevard
Layton, Utah 84041 



Johnny's FyreCon Schedule:

Thursday, June 21, 2018 

3-TO-1 Editing Mystery Session
12:00 - 12:50 pm Buidling D2 Room 306

PRESENTATION: The Faceted Story
3:00 pm- 3:50 pm Building D2 Room 318

Friday, June 22, 2018

PANEL: Writing a Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror Romance
11:00 am - 11:50 am Building D2 Room 110
Johnny Worthen, Christie Craig, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Natalie Whipple, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro 

PANEL: Portrayal of Death and Dying: Discussing the Philosophy of the Memento Mori
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm Building D2 Room 111
Johnny Worthen, Daxon Levine, Graham Bradley, Jodi L. Milner

PANEL: More than the Mistress of All Evil: Does Explaining Away Character's Evil Through Backstories Help or Hurt Friday
3:00 pm - 3:50 pm Building D2 Room 110
Johnny Worthen, David Farland, Dan Willis, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
 
PRESENTATION: Mistakes Were Made
5:00 pm - 7:50 pm Building D3 Room 339

Saturday, June 23, 2018* 

PANEL: Writing YA that Isn't Adults in Teens Bodies
9:00 am - 10:00 am Building D2 Room 301
Johnny Worthen, Christie Craig, David Powers King, Ryan Decaria, Sabine Berlin

PANEL: Literary Literacy: Books You Should Read
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Building D2 Room 111
Johnny Worthen, Michael Darling, Sabine Berlin, Eric Swedin, Jill Bowers

* I have conflicting events Saturday, but I'm going to try to make these panels.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Symposium - This Saturday

This Saturday is the League of Utah Writers Summer Symposium.

This one day conference is for all our friends and members up north in Logan but it'll be worth the trip from anywhere. The program is fantastic, lunch is included. It's cheap and you should  go. There I said it. I'm teaching and panelling and hanging out in a place that isn't over hot with friends old and new. I love these things. See you there.

Saturday June 16, 2018
Registration Opens at 8:30 a.m.

Eccles Conference Center,
Utah State University
5005 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT




Thursday, June 7, 2018

Time Quake with Chris Mandeville

Chris Mandeville
It’s been a while since I’ve had another author out to the Blog Mansion. I’ve cleaned the place, fumigated, got some new carpets in, fed the put sharks, put Stranger Things lights around the evil vortex. It’s nice. I invited a friend of mine, Chris Mandeville to check it out. She has a new book out so it was easy to lure her into my web under the guise of a blog tour post. Plus since her book is about time travel, and I got to break out my Time Spinner Mark IV®.

Chris: Is that a Time Spinner Mark IV?

Johnny: Yeah, I got it on eBay. Used.

C: I heard those were unreliable. Flakey.

J: Nonsense, I'll show you. Here I'll turn it on.

C: Quake.

J: What’s your book called?

Time Spinner Mark IV
C: Allie Bennett is a fifteen-year-old con artist and pickpocket, who's on her last chance at an end-of-the-line foster home. She learns that her mom—who disappeared when she was ten—isn’t a crazy but is actually a time traveler, and Allie’s one, too. She joins a crew of time traveling thieves and goes back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to pull the heist of the century and find her mom. But time travelers are hunted, her crew might be killers, everyone has a secret agenda, and she must pull off the con of her life to make it out alive.

J: What’s it about?

C: This is a science fiction-based time travel story with primarily teen characters, so it falls under YA time travel. I find that adults are enjoying it too, though.

J: What’s the genre and target audience?

C: Mystery is my favorite genre to read. I love mysteries, suspense, and thrillers based on solving a crime.

J: I like how there’s a heist involved. I’m a big crime reader. Are you?

C: So far no visitors have identified themselves as time travelers, but I’m on the lookout for someone to tell me they’re from the future. I’ll definitely listen to any advice they share, especially about lottery numbers.

J: Do time travelers ever show up at your door and tell you not to do something? Happens to me all the time.

C: Parker Hayden Media is my publisher. They believed in me from the beginning and have published all three of my books to date. I couldn’t be happier with my publishing team.

J: Who’s publishing your book?

C: I was trying to write a mystery, but it wasn’t going well. I have a lot of fun reading mysteries, but was having absolutely no fun writing one, so I set it aside to write something fun. The most fun thing I could think of was a YA time travel.

J: Where’d the idea for the book come from?

C: My son’s former college roommate, Rashed AlAkroka, is an incredible artist. I’ve been in awe of his work for years. He told me that he’d love to create cover art for me if I was ever interested. I feel incredibly fortunate that he offered, and am ridiculously happy with the result.

J: How’d you get your cover?

C: The editing process was surprisingly easy and relatively painless. My editor is very skilled, smart, and detail-oriented, and she did a great job of looking at the big picture, checking continuity, pointing out confusing areas, and asking me the right questions. After her initial pass, I made changes to the manuscript, incorporating her suggestions and corrections, as well as feedback from my critique group and beta readers. Then my editor did a final proofread. I don’t think it could have gone much more smoothly.

J: How was the editing process?

C: I have book two in the works, with plans to wrap up the character and plot arcs in book three. After that, I will likely write another set of three books in this series. I’m already brainstorming clues to integrate now for future storylines. Today the planning is going well, but if you ask me next week I might have a different answer—a writer is likely to hit snags in any story, but writing time travel can be particularly sticky and frequently makes my brain hurt!

J: I see it’s a series, how’s that coming?

C: “In Real Time” is actually an important concept in the books. Being “in real time” refers to being in your natural timeline—the one you were born in. When you are in your real time, you are subject to any changes in the timeline. But when you time travel, you are out of your real time and are unaffected by changes to the timeline—you remember the timeline you lived through, even if it gets changed. Yes, I know it’s confusing!


J: When I saw “In Real Time” as the series name, I thought of some kind of gimmick, like a choose your own adventure. Is there more to it than a cool name?

C: I’ve always liked making up stories. I don’t recall when I first started writing them down, but there’s evidence dating back to when I was about ten years old. It’s funny but, as much as I enjoyed writing, I never considered writing for a living. I didn’t come around to that idea until after I’d tried a few other career paths and didn’t feel satisfied creatively. My first novel began in 1990 while I was still working in an advertising agency in Los Angeles. The idea came to me as a “what if” concept: what if when you dream you meet up with the “souls” or consciousnesses of other people who are dreaming. That concept grew into my practice novel, “The Spider Prophet.” I worked on that story for many years, writing and rewriting, learning and starting over. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day, but it served me well as I learned my craft. The next novel I wrote was Seeds, which was published in 2015.

J: I’m always interested in how people get started, their first book, their break-in moment. What’s yours?

C: There are so many things I like about writers' conferences! I like being in an environment where the focus is writing. I like learning and sharing with other writers. I like the feeling of community. And I find such joy and energy when I teach about writing. Attending a writer’s conference fuels me.

J: We met at a writers conference. What do you like about them?

C: I’ve never lived in San Francisco, but it’s one of my favorite cities. I attended the University of California at Berkeley, and during one summer I took BART under the Bay to “The City” (i.e. San Francisco) for a summer job. I love the architecture, the people, and energy of San Francisco, and I hope that I captured some of that in Quake. (Phew, dodged that hundred thousand dollar bullet!)

J: Did you live in San Fransisco? If you do can you lend me a hundred thousand dollars?

website: ChrisMandeville.com
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisMandeville
publisher: http://parkerhaydenmedia.com/
amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Mandeville/e/B00JSUO9ZK
goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40147389-quake

J: Where can my peeps find out more about you?

C: Quake was released May 29, 2018. The next installment in the series will be out before the end of the year.

J: When is your book coming out?

C: Flakey.

J: I think you're right. Time's all messed up. What did you say this was?





Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Spring Into Books 2018 - This Saturday!!!


This Saturday is Spring into Books, the annual celebration of pollen and poetry, bushes and books, authors and aphids. something like that.

This annual event bring together some of the areas best local authors in a public forum to meet readers. About every genre and taste will be there. I’ll going; that’s like seven genres right there.

Once again it’ll be held at the Viridian center, a great venue in the heart of the city.

Viridian 
West Jordan Library & Event Center
8030 S 1825 W, 
West Jordan, Utah 84088

This goes from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. so a narrow window this year. Come out and say hi, pick up a great new summer read. Support local artists.





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SoJo Writers Conference 2018

This Saturday begins a new tradition in Utah. The first ever and annual South Jordan Writers Conference.

South Jordan Community Center
10778 S Redwood Rd
South Jordan, UT 84095




2:00 - 2:55 in classroom #2, I'm teaching:

Mystery, History and Secrets: 
An investigation into this most modern, formulaic, and deadly genre. Tips and insight into writing whodunnits. We’ll dissect the crime, autopsy the story, learn to recognize red herrings and discern vital clues for to learn the motives and means of effective mystery writing.

Hope to see you there!




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Fear

What it is about summer days, bright and clear that fill me with anxiety? Shouldn’t summers be a time for excitement and joy? Should I not remember my school days when weather like this was portent and promise of months of freedom with my friends? Maybe once, but now the days are lurking outside, the sun shines on the edge as if waiting for me to accept my good fortune so it can drop another bomb.

Summer nights are better for me. That time does not judge like summer days. In warm shadow I am not exposed. Among crickets and moths I can neglect and procrastinate. Under cool moonlight I can hide, fraud, liar, thief. The stars don’t judge, they barely notice if I don’t do all I could have done. Their indifference is a blessing.

Sunshine is stark and inviting and alien to me. Somewhere in my life, at some pivotal moment, I was given too much responsibility and the sun knows it and shines and watches. And judges.

And if I brave to think this day in all its yellow and green, blue and warm is deserved, I know to expect a reminder. The shoe is perched and waiting. Daring me to relax.

Anxious days with no excuse but fear. Shining, brilliant, hot and breezy fear.



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Rites of Passage

I sit down with finger on keyboard to celebrate and lament another rite of passage. My son is graduating from the University of Utah today and in time-honored tradition, I’ll get to sit in a basketball arena while he and the thousand of other future-uncertain students march in cap an gown. I’ll probably cry. Another rite, another mile marker, another moment to reflect.

This spring has been full of such moments actually. I taught a great group of people creative writing. The final class after twelve weeks had all the call back of last day of high school where you say goodbye to friends hoping it’s not for the last time.

The same feeling of loss and accomplishment (for what else can such feelings be?) came Sunday after Pikes Peak Writers Conference wrapped up. For four intense days I lived and breathed, laughed, talked, drank with great writers and new friends. It’s an all enclosed conference, all meals included and a room on the fourth floor, so it was like a sleep-over. I reconnected and made new friends with whom I hope to reconnect someday.

This pattern is of course universal. The difference is marking the end. Most important things in our lives do not come with such an obvious expiration date. They just kind of fade away like an old soldier or dream in the daylight, an ellipsis after a comma. When such a hard end occurs, a period, it is only right to have a ritual to mark the moment. Graduation, hugs in the eh lobby, a funeral for a friend. It’s a moment to reflect and be grateful, a moment to remember the person that used to be here and compare them to the person who leaves. It is a celebration of the law of the universe: change. It is nature caught and named, marked by borders and hopefully better understood.

It is a moment of transition. Of celebration, and yes, of loss. Potential ended in action, paths passed for progress along a choice.

I’ll sit in the arena today and I’ll look for the speck who is my first born and I’ll weep because I’m a softy. And if anyone asks me why, I bet I won’t be able to put it into words. Luckily, I don’t think anyone will.





Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pikes Peak Writers Conference This Week!

Colorado Springs, home of many things I don't really want to talk about, things the shouldn't exist, things that piss me off, BUT also home of one of the greatest writing conferences I have ever attended.


Colorado Springs Marriott
5580 Tech Center Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80919

If you go to only one conference this year, it should be the League of Utah Writers Quills Conference, BUT if you can do two, this is the other one.


Thursday, April 26, 2018


PRESENTATION: Magick: A Seminar of the Occult

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon — Eagles Nest 1 & 2




PRESENTATION: Techniques of the Advanced Novelist
(with Aaron Michael Ritchey)

1:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. — Eagles Nest 1 & 2






Friday, April 27, 2018

YA Genre Roundtable

8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. — Ascent Library



Saturday, April 28, 2018

PRESENTATION: Writing to Theme

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. — Salon GH




Sunday, April 29, 2018

PRESENTATION: Writing Young Adult

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. — Aspen Leaf






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.

THE HUNGER: A COLLECTION OF UTAH HORROR is here!

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...

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 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.