Feb. 28th: Creative Career Talk
—Salt Lake Center for Science Education, Rose Park
Mar. 31: PEAU Book Club: Pua’s Kiss discussion
—PEAU Art Access Office, 7 pm
Apr. 10: National Pacific Islander Violence Prevention Conference
—Why Pacific Voices Matter
May 7-9th: Storymakers, Provo, UT
—Publishing with Ingram Spark
May 11 – June 9: Oahu Events
May 12-14th: Fantastic Literature of the Pacific Conference, UH Manoa, HI
June 4-7th: Children’s Literature Hawai’i Conference, Oahu
—Keynote speaker, book signings, workshops
—Original play produced by Honolulu Theater for Youth
Sept. 17-19th: FanX, Salt Lake City
—book signing, panels
Nov. 8-13th: 20Books Vegas
Most creative types think of spring as a time of renewal. Stores burst with bunnies and chicks, nurseries fling open their doors to reveal shelves of fresh and tender garden starts, the sun warms up, and green things begin to grow.
Those with more left-brained leanings set their internal timepieces to a calendar. January 1st marks the beginning of a new year and resolutions about diet, exercise, and sleep. Back in the days before smart phones and apps, on the first day of the year I’d spend an hour or two setting up my new planner: establishing goals, lining up tabs, adding birthdays, and copying addresses from dogeared pages onto crisp new ones.
But now my planner’s electronic with no need to hand-write and transfer notes or to even check-off activities. Calendar events like birthdays auto-magically roll on year after year; addresses stay firmly in the database. There’s never a reason to rush to a stationary store (do they still exist?) to buy new inserts, much to Franklin-Covey’s dismay.
Unmoored from left- or right-brained conventions, I tried to go back to the rhythms of youth where the year always starts in September, ends in June, and the summer stretches forever in a lassitude of books, TV, and summer camp.
It didn’t work.
But now, deep in fall foliage with snow sweeping down mountain ridges, traveling across the valley to beat fluffy flakes against my office window, I sense the stirrings of renewal.
Maybe it was finally packing up some of the basement junk horded in precarious piles—the eighteen-year old baby swing, car seats, dusty luggage sets, boxes of books.
Oh, good grief, the books. I think my recent donations to the local library doubled its collection, all hardback, mostly bestsellers, and only read once. There are still seven more boxes to sort through downstairs and three in the garage ready to go to the library.
Nobody needs that many books.
Cleaning out the basement means shining a light in dark corners, sweeping away cobwebs, wondering why in the world I thought I would ever use a burned out crockpot again or needed five rolls of quilt batting or faded Valentine decorations well past their prime.
Once I started organizing, rearranging, examining what I thought so important, I began to realize that all these things kept for an uncertain someday are really chains weighing me down. Lighter, freer, there are so many more possibilities, like a new basement office and audio studio, cupboards and counters for mailing signed books. Space enough to dream new adventures, to think about the time when the house is further wrapped in snow and silence, to take that long winter’s nap.
There is something odd, but comforting in the notion that while most of the world thinks of late October as a time of gathering in, retreating, and hunkering down, I think of blooming possibilities.
Opportunities to be part of something this special are rare in life. Back in December Jonathan Diaz approached me and several other authors about participating in his quest to help pediatric cancer patients. He had the deceptively simple idea of taking photos of kids living lives far away from the realities of hospital corridors–dreams of being a mermaid, a bull rider, a dancer, a baker, more than twenty in all–and pairing each image with a short story.
I wrote The Mermaid‘s Tale for Caimbre, four years old at the time of her photo shoot and with a smile that makes you want to take her home in your pocket. It was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever written. How could I possibly come up with words to do justice to her photo, to her smile, to her dreams? I couldn’t, not really. I’m just a writer.
She and other kids are the TRUE HEROES, a collection of modern-day fairy tales about real kids who are fighting cancer. The book is available now in major bookstores and online through Amazon. All proceeds go to support the Anything Can Be Foundation in its mission to help pediatric cancer patients see themselves as the TRUE HEROES they are.
If you’re in the Provo, UT, area on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 3 pm, stop by the Provo City Library to meet some of the authors and kids. Pick up a book and support something truly special. Let’s show cancer how strong dreams can be. #TrueHeroes #ShowYourGold #hope
I’ve been slacking on the blog, I know. Big life changing events have been going on and that’s caused me to really think about where I want to go on this journey, who I want hiking next to me, and the mountains I want to climb versus the quicksand I’m bypassing. Here are some of the highlights.
- Without health, you’ve got nothing. My mother’s recent brain surgery, my cardiac event, and my daughter’s bout with mono have made that crystal clear.
- I’m focusing more on writing and publishing new works. I’m taking charge of my author career again. No more listening to well-meaning, but inexperienced “experts” simply because they intern for one of my publishers. And I don’t care what your title is, if you’re not paid for your work, you’re an intern.
- I’m going back to business and training consulting to earn real money to put behind my author business. It’s easier to take writing seriously when I’m using my skills in other arenas to make a positive contribution to the family coffers instead of spend, spend, spending on everything from books to give away at libraries, schools, and bookstores, on posters and signage, or gas and meals at events. Remember, I’ll feel better. My family is awesomely supportive of anything I choose to do—as long as it doesn’t involve cooking with mushrooms.
- I’m launching a new SAAS business that has the potential to revolutionize how conferences and symposiums find speakers. More on that in another post.
- I’m leveraging the works I’ve published and releasing them as audio books.
- I’m working with a small group of trusted published authors, a tribe of people who understand how to play well with others and how to get things done. Lots of very cool things in the works. More on all those things in another blog post.
- No more throwing pearls before swine. Most people do not value or appreciate “free.” The Takers of this world simply expect others to give, give, give, and get annoyed when you set boundaries. I find it hilarious that big corporations pay for my expertise, but Joe Wannabee author still insists that his 320,000 word novel is already perfect. He knows it’s fantastic, you see, because his mother told him it was the greatest thing she ever read, so don’t bother him with developmental or even copy editing notes. When he asked me to beta-read it for free, it was just so I could tell the world how awesome he is. There are mind-numbing masses of Joes out there.
- I’m cutting ties with people too important in their own minds. Massive egos are exhausting. They’re emotional vampires who suck all the life and fun out of everything. We need more fun and joy in life. Kicking all the dementors to the curb and stocking up on chocolate and Diet Coke.
- I’m pushing myself waaaay out of my comfort zone and reconnecting with my Hawaiian roots. Next week I start Hawaiian language lessons. The better I speak Hawaiian, the closer I can get to understanding the real histories and cultural identities of a particular branch on my family tree. Right now everything I’ve learned has been through someone’s English filter. Time to cut out the middle man.
- I can write commercial works, and I will. But I think my real purpose is to write works that speak to a smaller audience, an audience that seldom has a voice in popular culture. I’m going to spend more time figuring out how to let those voices be heard.
That’s it. Thanks for sloughing through the mires with me. We’re on bedrock now and heading up the trail.
You’re wearing that? No. Go change. It’s too wrinkled. What do you mean there’s no iron? The rental has a coffee maker, a microwave, a washer and dryer, but no iron? Figure it out. You can’t go looking like that.
You, go shave again. Yes, I mean it. See all of this under your chin? That can’t be there. There’s a new razor and shaving cream in my bag in the bathroom. I don’t want to hear how you’re sunburned and itchy, just do it.
We need to buy a lei. No, I don’t want to go to Royal Lei Shoppe. She’ll think that’s too expensive. Safeway has leis. We’ll get one there. Something nice, but not too nice.Why? Because the best is too nice and that’s worse than not bringing anything at all.
No, not that one. See the brown edges? It’s past its prime. None of these look good. We need a fresh lei. I know if we had gone to an actual flower shop like you suggested I’d have better options, but we don’t have time to go somewhere else. On time is late. No, that’s cheap orchids. It’s a tourist lei. The ginger is nice, but it won’t last. Pikake is good, but look, see how the ribbon is crushed? That one is Micronesia-style; she’s Hawaiian. Yes, that matters. Carnation? Are you kidding me? Here. This one: tuberose and ilima. It smells good—and it’s not too cheap, not too expensive.
Yes, I took the Safeway sticker off the box.
Remember, no slouching. Is that gum in your mouth? Get rid of it. Leave your hat in the car. No cell phones. Stay engaged, but do not interrupt. Children are meant to be seen and not heard. If we eat, your fork is on your left; your water glass is on your right. Napkins on your lap first thing. When we’re done, fold your napkin; don’t wad it up. Cloth napkins, honey. I know because it’s always cloth.
Smile. Remember, everything is fine, everybody is good. We’re all good. Yes, everybody. Do not mention You Know Who or You Know What.
Okay, let’s go. Why are you kids freaking out? She’s your great-grandmother. Just be yourself.
My head hurts. It’s another migraine, one on the epic scale that I’d hoped were gone forever. It’s been a couple of years since I had one last this long–three days now–and longer still since I’ve had one I couldn’t force myself to function through.
If you’ve had one like this, you’ll know what I’m talking about. All you want to do is lie in bed in a dark room with silent tears streaking down your cheeks because any noise is like an ice pick through your eye.
But Moms can’t simply go to bed for days, nor can people with mortgages and car payments, students with classes, or really any human with responsibilities beyond themselves. I have horses, dogs, cats, kids, and deadlines, so I swallow pills, chug colas for the caffeine, and try to deal. The family sees the squint in my eyes and the frown lines across my brow. The white pursed lips are another giveaway. They mostly try to walk softly and leave me alone.
Through the fog I think of bed, that soft, billowy haven of cool sheets and darkness. I imagine lying in the comfort of fabric softener and down pillows and try to ignore the vise crushing my head, the pulsing of a brain that feels too big for my skull. I try to write, to fold laundry, to plan meals, but I’m not really here.
I know my triggers. I try to avoid them, but sometimes they sneak up on me like the Roadrunner does the Coyote. The Coyote plans and plots, but the Roadrunner is always ten steps ahead with an elaborate ruse to trick the Coyote. Dynamite and falling anvils, the Coyote always gets it in the end.
Being the Coyote sucks.
I know the stages. In a couple of hours if the pain doesn’t ease, I’ll be unable to do much of anything, too tired to move, but unable to sleep. Then the mental howling will begin. For me migraines are the body’s way of telling me that I’ve been living in crisis mode for too long. Things buried, pushed aside, and ignored in the moment of triage are now clamoring for attention. It’s when things are safe, when there’s time to pause and examine that the past comes to haunt me.
I wish I knew how to exercise my demons once and for all. Until then, I will count the hours until my next pain medication and try not to whimper.
Johnny Worthen recently released his newest novel, The Brand Demand. An eclectic writer whose work spans many genres and ages, The Brand Demand is an adult eco-political thriller set in Utah and published by Cherokee McGhee. It’s available as a trade paperback and eBook.
In celebration of his fourth novel, Johnny’s dropping by his old blog tour haunts and sharing his thoughts.
Some authors take the time to plot the entire story and create extensive character backgrounds before they write, others sit down and wing it. What’s your writing process like and how do you balance planning with spur of the moment creativity?
Allow me to ramble: Every book is different, but I’m getting something of a system now that tells me that too much pre-writing will take the energy out of the work, if not the fun. My prewriting process usually consists of pages of notes, character lists with minimum descriptions and waypoints. A waypoint is a place I want to get to. They’re like plot points, but more general. I think of them as scenes I want to have, not just for the plot but for the theme. Theme is huge. It’s the biggest pre-writing concern I have. I need to know what the book is going to be about before I can write a thing. Waypoints are how I’ll to navigate the theme to get to the end that may or may not be plot dependent. “Galen meets with Carson,” “compare rich and powerful vs. invisible and powerful.” “Galen confesses to Bonnie. “Ideology softens” “Show the city in winter.” This kind of thing.
My original idea for THE BRAND DEMAND came from a vision of the ending. I saw the climactic moment in my mind and felt goosebumps. I then worked backward from that, inventing the characters that would get that ending, developing the theme to justify and explain it. I developed waypoints and outlined – only outlined – the characters. I then let their voices come out and gently guided the action to the end.
Many authors say they write because they cannot not write. If you couldn’t tell stories with words, what artistic medium would you choose?
I’m a modeler. That’s the archaic hobby of glueing plastic together and painting little men and spaceships. It’s a lonely outlet, but an art and I really enjoy it. It is however ridiculously frivolous and the finished models pile up with no place to display them. Sometimes you can build game pieces and theoretically have a use for them, but truth is I’m the only person I know who does this and games are few and far between. One day, maybe, I’ll get back to my collection and lose myself in little men and spaceships again.
Successful authors are more than writers; they are public speakers, educators, marketers, and business owners. As you’ve grown in your career which things have surprised you? Which aspects of being an author delight you and which horrify you?
I’m not sure what makes a successful author. There are no rules. We all just make it all up as we go along. It’s so much a matter of luck that if one were to think logically before embarking on this career they’d never do it. The odds are frightening, – horrifying, to use your word. Rejection is constant and unrelenting. You never get used to it. I thought I would, but I haven’t. They don’t sting as much as they used to, but they still bite.
The delights are when even against these odds, something gets through. Better still is the wonder that people read your work. And beyond belief is when they get it and appreciate it. It’s a drug I can only liken to the experience of finishing a book in the first place. It’s wonderful.
With such stiff competition and long odds, you’d think that writers would be a mean and bitter bunch, but they’re not. I’ve met so many wonderful people doing this. Helpful, encouraging, nice people who, like me, labor under the idea that the best way – the only way, to achieve one’s dreams is by helping other people achieve theirs. There’s a solidarity and friendship among the authors I’ve come to know. Of course there are few outliers who don’t get it, but I’ve been surprised at how warm the community generally is – so welcoming and supportive. It’s been a wonderful discovery of friends in arms.
Twitter: Twitter @JohnnyWorthen
When I was five we lived in a house on the beach at Kihei Lagoon. I remember getting up as dawn was just a shell-pink hint in the sky and running barefoot down the grass and onto the cool damp sand. It was rare, very rare to walk along the water’s edge and find a miracle: a small glass ball that had broken free from a Japanese fisherman’s net to float through miles of open Pacific Ocean to land at my feet. I only found two—one faint green and the other amber, but I remember marveling at the slightly misshapen glass spheres melted and shaped from discarded liquor bottles. It was the kind of thing that would hold a mermaid’s wish or a message from a sea star, and I never forgot the sense of magic and wonder they brought.
It was the distance, I think. How could something travel so far?
Now as I wander along beaches it’s not quaint glass balls or even shells that I find. It’s plastic. Bent, broken, sun-bleached discards from Asia, America, Australia. Bits of bins, bags, and ephemeral stuff too travel-worn and trashed to identify properly. It’s everywhere with more coming ashore on each tide.
I admit I’m a casual recycler. I understand reduce, reuse, and recycle, and I do my part to live lightly on the earth as long as it’s simple, practical, and fairly painless. Compared to true eco-warriors I’m a poser.
But seeing the pervasive plastics in our oceans and along our beaches have made me more concerned than all the weeping Indians, earth-warming alarmists, and give a hoot owls combined. When I see the damage to our reefs from abandoned fishing nets that drag along fragile coral, when there are more white bags than white sand, and when the levels of toxicity in our fish make them unsafe to eat I have to ask how do we stop? We can’t strain the ocean and pull every bit of trash out—where would we even put it? This is not a California-Hong Kong-Sydney problem. It’s a world problem.
I have the glass balls to prove it.
We rushed into a pew and quickly lifted a hymn book from the rack just as the congregation starting singing. Suddenly, my daughter poked me in the ribs. “Mom!” she hissed. “You forgot to put on your make-up!”
I thought back. Yep. Morning routine interrupted. I showered, brushed my teeth, put on moisturizer and deodorant, and then got called to help with some family non-emergency. Later when I rushed back to the bathroom, I did my hair by braille. Grabbing my glasses was the last thing I did before we flew out of the house. No time or thought for a mirror check.
My daughter scrambled in her bag and handed me colored Chapstick. “I only carry mascara in my gym bag.”
“Really?” I asked. “Is it really that bad?”
She gave me the look that said are you really asking me that?
I heaved a sigh and swiped a couple of strokes across my lips. “Better?”
The sideways tilt of her head and frown said it all.
“What? Should I go home and come back? Am I that hideous?”
She patted my arm. “Well, think of it this way. At least you’re not one of those moms who can’t leave the house without a ton of make-up on.”
Fudge. Maybe I should see if I can find a bag to put over my head.
And then I squared my shoulders. It’s not a photo op. It’s not like anybody else is even going to notice. God sees me without make-up all the time.
So I stayed through the service and went on to teach teenage Sunday School. They wouldn’t have noticed if I sprouted wings or grew a third arm. They’re teens. No matter what I say or do, I’m uncool and beneath their notice.
However, I did sneak out a side door before I had to talk to grown-ups. It’s okay for God to see the imperfections—the wrinkles and dark circles and spots; I know He’ll overlook them in His grace. But I really didn’t want a bevy of casseroles showing up from concerned neighbors who might think I was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
After all, if you’re wearing a dress, heels, and hairspray how do you explain forgetting to put on your make-up without sounding like someone who needs a casserole and a good house cleaning?
Hmmm. On second thought…
When Maddie’s father catches her with a boy, he hauls her into town in a pig wagon and finds her a husband. But Peter’s cabin in the woods promises something very different than Maddie’s happily ever after.
Pretty Things, a retelling of “The Robber Bridegroom,” is the first novella in the Grimm Chronicles series. Warning: not your granny’s fairytales!
In the heat of the desert, Detective Cody Oliver inadvertently stumbles upon a strange garden adorned with exotic flowers. Upon closer inspection, he finds the garden is but a cover for the scores of bodies buried below. Soon, the small town of Mt. Dessicate plunges into chaos as journalists, reporters, and cameramen from across the nation descend upon the tiny, desert town to get a piece of the action.
Along with the media, a mysterious woman appears—she may be the only person who has come face to face with the killer, dubbed the Botanist, and lived to tell the tale. If Cody can’t piece together a timeline of the land the crime scene is located on, decipher how the woman’s mysterious past is connected to the killer, and bring the Botanist to justice, he may lose the people he values most.