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.



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.”


Thursday, March 8, 2018

LUW Spring Conference coming up!


Mark your calendars, line up your wardrobe, sharpen your pencil, the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference is coming up!

Thirty-six hours of programming in a single day event in the heart of the Salt Lake valley to hone your writing skills, your marketing skills, your networking skills, your parking skills.

2018 LUW SPRING CONFERENCE
SATURDAY APRIL 14, 2018 

Salt Lake Community College
Taylorsville Campus
4600 South Redwood Road
Salt Lake City, UT 84123

Event Schedule:
9:00 – 10:30 Registration / Check-in
10:30 – 11:00 Opening Kick-off – all attendees
11:00 – 2:00 Morning sessions
Six to seven options to choose from each hour
2:00 – 3:00 Break for lunch
“Brown bag” it with a lunch from home or support local businesses off campus
Lunchroom seating is available, and the campus vendors will be open for lunch
3:00 – 6:00 Afternoon sessions
Six to seven options to choose from each hour

Spring Conference is one of the most affordable and enriching conferences I know. If you're a member of the league, it's even cheaper. The value to dollar to time is off the scale. If you write, you should be there.





Thursday, March 1, 2018

Teaching - an observation

I’m teaching classes this semester. A lot of them. So many in fact, that I’ve come to think of myself as a teacher who writes instead of a writer who teaches. It’’s been great though. It sharpens my ax and gives me an opportunity to give back, which, if you know me, is a personal goal.

Things will be slowing down soon. While one of my next round of classes has a waiting list, the other, Querying, is too specialized to draw the necessary enrollment right now and I think I’ll have Tuesdays free for a few weeks. It’s not a bad thing because teaching is hard. It takes it out of you.

I’ve toyed with the idea of going full-time into a classroom. The physical and economical disincentives aside, I adore the professional—intellectually and spiritually. Teachers are a rare and wonderful breed. If only we treated them as well as they deserve, our society would be civilized. For my entire life I have suffered with the good folks who do this most important jog without half the compensation they deserve, and I’m not just talking about money. They suffer from bad working environments, a cultural disdain for education, overcrowding, under equipped, the list goes on. With recent horrors, even more is being asked of them now, as stupidity and greed and political opportunity are unleashed on them yet again.

What makes me wonder, what fills me with joy, as I join my efforts to count myself among the noble class is that there are still teachers at all. It is a hard job. I teach two hours a night to students who want to be there and at the end of it, I’m drained. Lets not talk about how long the prep for each section took or the pay or the commute. Suffice it to say it’s a sacrifice.

And yet I love it.

I truly do. And here is what i’ve decided as to why there are teachers in this country at all: they are artists.

It is an artist who takes joy and fulfillment in a job well done, in sharing and preparing, in giving back. It is not a question of money, thought that would be nice. We take our success in other more profound ways. It is not a question of audience size, it is a moment of passing a spark of wonder and knowledge from one soul to another, pushing on the light to the next person, the next idea, the next generation.

It is transcendent.

Artists are easy targets to rob and belittle, blame and overwork. There was a day when teachers were respected and artists didn’t starve. That day will come again. In the meantime, I am grateful for each teacher I know, each one who has moved me, each one who pushed me, each one who has shined and put up with it all like the suffering artists we are.

It is noble. It is Good.




Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Life The Universe and Everyone 2018

Here's my schedule for one of Utah's greatest writing events, Life the Universe and Everything this year.


LTUE - Life the Universe and Everything

Thurs. Feb. 15 — Sat. Feb. 17th

The Provo Marriott
101 W 100 N
Provo, UT 84601
(801) 377-4700




Thursday February 15 

Panel: CRIME WRITING
4:00-4:45 p.m.— Arches Room
WITH: Mette Ivie Harrison, Sarah Hoyt, Johnny Worthen (M), Bob Defendi
What sets crime fiction apart from other genres? Can themes from this type of fiction be explored in other genres?

 

Friday Febraury 16

Panel: WRITING THE OPPOSITE GENDER
2:00-2:45 p.m. — Bryce Room
WITH: Johnny Worthen, Heather Frost, Brandon Mull, Ginny Smith (M)
How do write the opposite gender?

Panel: ADDING MYSTERY
5:00-5:45 p.m. — Arches Room
WITH: Peter Orullian, Larry Correia (M), Ginny Smith, Johnny Worthen, Matthew Kirby
Mystery is a fun genre in itself, but you can add an element of mystery to any type of novel. Learn how to spice up your story and add depth, by adding a little mystery.

BOOK SIGNING
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. — Ballroom

Thursday, February 8, 2018

LITerally - Johnny Worthen

A year ago I had the great pleasure to sit down with Kase Johnstun up in Ogden for an author podcast beautifully entitled LITerally that I feel worked pretty well. I don't think I ever shared it properly before. It's full of good stuff. I read a bit of THE BRAND DEMAND and ELEANOR and have a good talk about authors and artists, publishing and the life. It's good fodder for authors and artists, podcast enthusiasts, people with ears. I'm editing today so I'll just leave this here.



 


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

She appeared like an apparition

Continuing my play with Wonhundred Word Wednesdays I present:



================

I told her it was him or me. 
She hesitated, silent. Speechless.
“You have nothing to say?” said I.
“Not to you.”
“I’ll drive you to him.”
She nodded.
And in she went. Walking up the sidewalk, firm and upright. To the door, into his house.
I sat and stared.
Nothing to do. 
Unable to go.
Defeated.
Nowhere to go.
Swings open the door and out she marches, an apparition. Smiling to see me there, waiting for her. Certain and secure.
"You,” she said. "True, you waited."

================

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ars Gratia Artis



There are few Latin phrases that are part of American culture that aren’t scary and legalese. Ars Gratia Artis is one of them and it’s a good one.

For decades we’ve seen it over the iconic roaring lion on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production trailer trademark. It’s a motto. What’s a motto? I dunno, what’s a motto with you?

Ars gratia artis means: “art for art’s sake.” It is a fantastic motto and served as mission statement before everyone had mission statements. For a business it was bold, but for the writer, (or any artist) it should be the heartbeat of their lives.

I’m teaching creative writing at the University of Utah this semester. Lots of it. I have packed rooms of people wanting to write. They are amateurs, meaning they are there for the love of it. The thought of making a career out of lines on paper may be an unspoken dream, but for now they just want to know how to write. How to think of story, how to communicate and create. There’s a purity there that goes to the heart of Ars Gratia Artis. Though doubtless they have motives, personal and profession, for now, we can limit it to spiritual. And that’s how, really, it should be.

I am a huge believer that art is a thing unto itself. A worthy endeavor regardless of its transience, endurance or commercial viability. As strange as it sounds I think if someone writes a story and then puts it into a drawer never to be seen again, or burns it on a fire in their backyard, the universe is still a better place for it. This is not a value judgment. Many critics would say that burning a bad story is a public service, but I say the very act of writing, of creating anything, is holy and powerful. The act will change the author and the cosmos. The experience has its own reward and the making of something from “nothing” — expression and manifestation — are at the heart of the soul.

Though not every stories can be published, all should be written.

Ars Gratia Artis





EDIT: Sorry for the typos in the early version, and any that remain. Thus is my life.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

League of Utah Writers Spring Conference

It's that time of year again. Spring is in the air (it helps that we haven't actually had a winter yet.) Spring means writing (well, everything means writing when you're a writer... ) But I digress.

The 2018 League of Utah Spring Writing Conference is coming up!

Mark your calendars April 14th, 2018 at the Redwood Road, Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College. 

This day long workshop will offer classes on all aspects of writing. It's a celebration of the League, a family reunion, and a chance to sharpen your writing tools and pick up a few more.

It's a cheap date, $35 for members, $50 for non-members. All day event. Snacks too. 

Also, there are opportunities to volunteer and present. 

Yes, we're looking for presenters. I'm a big believer that everyone needs to give back so we're opened a presentation portal for those writers who have something to share. We're open to all ideas from writers of all levels because we all have something to share.

If you're interested in presenting, click here.



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Writing Advice—Finish What You Start

I have a rule that has served me well when writing: I finish what I start. It’s a handy little rubric that turns out completed projects at a tolerable rate.

It’s a simple idea, sounds obvious and easy, but in practice it’s neither.

When churning through a project, writing long novels, there invariably come a few moments when one’s interest in it wanes and it’s like pulling teeth to turn the corner and start another page. This is usually accompanied by the birth of a new idea, a better story, more interesting plot, more exciting quest.

It’s diabolic. To quote Tony Flaner, there’s a pull and a push to a new thing.

But beware noble squire, thus are desk drawers filled with half finished manuscripts and the airs reek of failure.

I’ve written fifteen novels by forcing myself to keep going, at least to the final chapter. One story fought me so hard that I ended at “the end” and never looked at it again, but at least it was done: beginning, middle, and end. 107,000 words, A book.

It had to be done. I had to finish it. It was practice and wordcrafting, time spent on my art, but I had other projects lurking that could sell, that would be lighter, more fun. Songs of the sirens. I stuck to it because if I stopped one story, I could stop them all.

The trick is to turn the hatred of the project into action, bite the bit and gallop to the end. It’s surprising what that kind of motivation can do. It’s like a deadline (which in and of itself is as magical a device for writing as a dictaphone with transcribing house elves).

There’re value judgements that need to be put aside. “The book sucks, I should just stop here and start again. I can do better.” But that’s not the thing. A corollary of the rule answers that concern: you can fix anything but a blank page. Also, completion has a quality all its own.

It’s discipline, but’s also illusionary. I write on “spec,”—speculation. No one is paying me to write. I pen a book and then try to sell it. It’s not the best situation, but at my level it’s the only game in town. With no boss, no real penalty, there’s only my own delusion that tells me that I have to finish and can’t just take the treat I’m holding out any time I want.

You have to be a little insane to be a writer, or any kind of artist really. This is just a symptom of that. It’s a pretend rule, and as an artist, I am well aware that rules are there to be broken. One day I will break it. I’ve bent it. I’ve stopped to write a short story in the middle of a novel and there’re always new edits on old stuff that have to be done, but as for big projects, book length, I’ve never a new one without finishing the old. I’ve never faltered.

It is a made up rule, a pretend law, but it has served me well.

I recommend it to everyone.

Better to have a mediocre finished book than a great fragment, or dozens or them.







Thursday, January 4, 2018

Peace 2018

It’s a cliche, I know, to make resolutions at New Year’s but it’s also a tradition. This year, I’m acknowledging that tradition. Traditions, unlike cliches are good things. They’re full of… well, tradition. History is good and having a day on the calendar to remind one to do something is usually helpful. Like Thursday baths and garbage nights.

I once gave up Diet Coke for Lent and it changed my life. So this year, I’m trying something more radical. First, I’m going to try to break a more sinister addiction. I’m going to try to lessen my stimuli addiction represented by countless hours spent surfing the internet. I’m a news junky and last year was all about bad news getting worse. Like many, I’ve been in shock and beyond sucking my time, it’s sucking my soul. I’m going to pull back a bit (I won’t lie and say I’m going to give it up) and see if that improves my wellbeing.

But what shall I do with all the time I’ll get from a digital diet? Funny you should ask. With the increased concentration and focus I hope to experience, I’m going to read. I’m going to read lots. With all the distraction and my own writing, I’ve fallen woefully behind on my reading. I have a stack waiting and I’m excited to plow through them. So far, since Christmas, I’ve read four. Feels good.

It’s about time.

Literally.

I got into the writing thing because I felt my own mortality. Bright computer lights, TV computer, phone, movies and such distracted me from that, but it didn’t go away. I work best under a deadline and let’s be honest, there’s a big one coming and I’d be a fool to ignore it or not to use it as the motivator it is.

So, along with reading, and focusing, I will continue to write. Two novels is my goal.

All that for the prize. Peace. My own personal peace and wellbeing.

Peace to you too.

Happy New Year!