Sunday, August 19, 2007

After the bite, there is no cure...

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." James Michener

Every writer has inside her the vast ocean of words she has gulped down during her descent into the deep. Which writers' words are yours?

The first writer whose words I truly fell in love with is James Michener. No, not his TALES FROM THE SOUTH PACIFIC, but THE FIRES OF SPRING and his enormous THE SOURCE. While the former offered an eloquent tale of one man's journey into adulthood, the latter pitched historical truths that let me wrap my head around the fact that real people have left their footprints in the dusts of the aging Earth and the rest of us who stumble along behind manage to mimic those footfalls.

Yet just as nothing really changes, it is at once altogether different. Michener had his own tales to tell just as every writer has.

One of the saddest interviews I ever did was with a man who followed the career of another of my favorite Storytellers: John D. MacDonald. This man related that he, too, had been a writer, but after reading so much of John D.'s stories, he knew he could never achieve that standard of storytelling, so he just quit writing. I'm certain John D. would never have wanted that.

The best writers I know are also some of the most supportive. Joe R. Lansdale, who is probably closest to being this generation's Mark Twain in storytelling, offered his congratulations to me when I had my very first story published. "Now take the next step," he wrote. "Write another story."

Ed Gorman, one of the most prolific and soul-seering writers I am honored to know, is also one of the most giving and encouraging booster to young (or even old) writers. But, like all the others named above, his written words teach more than he could ever tell. No one puts the slush and crunch into describing snow quite like Ed.

I might not have stumbled upon John D., Joe R., or Ed if it hadn't been for Dean Koontz. I was writing a story that involved brainwashing. Not having any first-hand experiences with brainwashing, I did research. Under "subject" came "fiction," listing a title by this Koontz guy, whose work I had never touched because he wrote -- spit, spit -- horror! (I was very into Melville, Conrad, James, Twain, and Crane.) I bit the nail and fell madly in love with his storytelling abilities. I had to know more which led to more of his books as well as his biography and a companion book. In his biography, he noted how he fell madly in love with the Travis McGee novels and especially the Gold Medal paperbacks of John D. MacDonald. Besides digging into the McGee books and the rest, I also found an Introduction Koontz had written for some Texas writer who could have been a Tator King if he hadn't decided he just had to write (Joe R. Lansdale) and a story of a visit to that companion Koontz volume editor who lived in Cedar Rapids, IA (Ed Gorman).

There's a pattern here, isn't there?

The next thing I knew I was knee-deep in the horror community, still writing what I write: dark fantasy. More writers came my way: Brian A. Hopkins (one of the most gifted storytellers I know), Jean Rabe (I sooooo would like to be in her mind for just a day just to see those amazing worlds of hers!), Dave Silva (write MORE, please!), and the master of all living storytellers: Gene Wolfe.

I'd be remiss to not mention Ray Bradbury. I've been reading this master's work since I was young. And Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson, James Morrow, and...

My point is that to write one has to sit down on the chair and WRITE. But first, and most importantly, one has to read. And read. And read.

And then write and write and write.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pandora's Closet has been released!

What author wouldn't be excited when her story finally appears in print? I know nothing gives me more incentive to get my butt on the chair to write more than to hold in my hot little hands one of my stories in big fat print.

PNADORA'S CLOSET, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg and published by Daw, has been released a tad early. Inside the covers of this fine anthology rests "Revolution: Number 9," my story.

Within the hour I will indeed clutch a copy, no doubt sharing my glee with all the librarians at the Oaklyn branch of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Public Library.

The local bookstores don't have copies yet and my contributor's copy hasn't yet arrived, so I will settle for the temporary possession of the library's copy. In fact, I will place a wish on the copy that it may be read by many and enjoyed. Even the stories by Timothy Zahn, Nancy and Belle Holder, Elizabeth Vaughan, and others.

Just a note here: Authors do NOT receive tons a free copies. We buy extra copies (and rarely at any kind of discount). So if you have an author friend, please consider buying a copy from her or him. You'll no doubt get a free inscription and lots and lots of gratitude.

It's interesting that the Wall Street Journal has an article that ties into my story (in a way that you'll understand when you read "Revolution: Number 9"), and I invite you to take a look at it:

Off to Oaklyn now...

Happy writing!


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Good and Lazy Days of Summer!

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. The gift he wanted most was the arrival of Aerith Eden Owen, our first grandchild. Though our daughter looks ready to pop, L'il Socks didn't come. Poor Byron had to settle for music DVDs and a gift card from Home Depot.

The day brought good news for me though. My poem, "A Love Song from the Sea," which I read at the SUMMER CHILLS event at Willard Library a couple of weeks ago, has found a home in the upcoming anthology "POEtry: without apologies," edited by Stephen M. Wilson. Other poets whose works will appear are Joe Haldeman, Jane Yolen, Brian Aldiss, Michael Bishop, Bruce Boston, Marge Simon, Patrick O'Leary, Linda Addison, Elizabeth Hand, Michael A. Arnzen, Charlee Jacob, David Niall Wilson, Corine deWinter, Claire Cooney, and others. I'm humbled and thrilled. Though I have been writing poetry since I was 8 or 9, this is my first sale.

Finding homes for my writing is the best affirmation I know. It also provides the very best kick in the ass for writing more!

In fact, I'm going to write now...


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Research means RE Search

On the sidebar, I've noted that PANDORA'S CLOSET, a new anthology coming from Daw next month, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Jean Rabe, will contain a story of mine. "Revolution: Number 9" was a convergence (like most stories) of a number of ideas, though most particularly from two stories I read in the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

When Jean Rabe invited me to sublit a story, she asked for a tale that elaborated in some way about someTHING that could pop out or be dragged of a closet, Pandora's closet, no less.

Those familiar with Pandora and her box might recall how all manner of horrible things were released when she lifted the lid. In this new anthology, 19 writers allow her to render additional damage from a closet.

What came to my mind first was Johnny Cash's black shirt. I mulled the implications of where that story could go. That's when two different stories from the WSJ struck me. One involved the military use of Brain Ports (C) while the other considered how history had been rewritten by artists through placing spectacles on famous people who lived before glasses had come into use.

That's when John Lennon entered the mix.

And just how does all this gel? Heh heh. You'll have to read my story. PANDORA'S CLOSET will be available at all the online booksellers and through their brick 'n mortar stores, too, though you may have to ask them to order you a copy. (Please ask!)

At any rate, Rabe was kind enough to send me a link to an MSNBC story about Lennon's glasses. I invite you to take a look:

PANDORA'S CLOSET will be released on August 7. You can't wait, right? Neither can I.


Monday, July 16, 2007

"Ain't it funny how time slips away?"

Developing the discipline to blog is clearly something that has eluded me. Up to now.

"Hi, I'm Judi, and I've let being a disciplined writer slip."

Here's my excuse: I've been busy living life, or at least, trying desperately to keep up with everything.

My elder daughter is due to deliver my first grandchild any day now. She's officially due on July 27, but who knows. This very daughter was two weeks late herself and her younger sister was two months early. Maybe she'll be on time.

Said younger daughter just got her driver's license and a job at the mall.

The father of this pair (and my legal life partner) has just taken an early retirement from his reporter position at the local newspaper and is now doing freelance writing. He's also upped his guitar playing and performing appearances.

It's a busy place our house.

Here's another excuse: I'm working on something new.

Yes, yes, after struggling with my two novels (one in revision, one still being written) and my eclectic collection of short stories, I was hit with a totally new novel-length project. The fires are burning on that one, so...

Excuse #3: I've joined a local writers group and have been leading a writers' workshop at Willard Library.

Those who know me know I rarely take a backseat. (To those who don't know I served in several capacities with the Horror Writers Association: VP, Trustee, email newsletter editor, convention hostess, etc.) Anyway, the Midwest Writers' Guild of Evansville needed a treasurer, so...

The workshop at Willard will begin again in the fall. "Fall into Writing" will be the September/October offerings. On Monday, Sept. 10, we'll be exploring the writing process and developing plans. Then on Monday, October 15, the subject will be "More than you wanted to know about getting your words into print." We meet at 10 a.m. at the historic and very haunted library (21 First Avenue, Evansville, IN), but please do reserve a spot by calling the Willard (812-425-4309).

Those are my current excuses. I probably have more. In fact, I think there's now a website that offers excuses for writers, much like those quotes' pages. :-)

And how is your work coming along?


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Writing: The Game

"I do not like to write - I like to have written." Gloria Steinem

Here is the fence. On each side are writers. On each side are paths worn to dirt from anxious contemplation of what it will take to leap to the other side. Sure there's the fear that on the other side dwells a big, bad monster who will consume the writers. Not "kill" them or "destroy" them, but "consume" them to a point where springing back across the fence will prove impossible. And, yet, every writer needs what lies on both sides of that fence.

On one side is actual writing: the toil of wrestling with a basic story along with all its posse: style, voice, character, setting, grammar, etc.

On the other side hunches the ugly ogre of marketing. Not merely finding the right "home" for the writer's story, but all its elements: finding an agent; dealing with editors, publishers, publicity departments, printers; developing a fan base; selling the finished product (constructing and maintaining websites; attending conventions and conferences; visiting bookstores, libraries, and schools).

"But all I want to do is write!" one writer says.

"But I love being on the road and meeting other writers!" another writer says.

Of course, any writer can straddle the fence. A lot of "writers" do that quite successfully. Some attribute their location to "writer's block." Or children. The day job. No inspiration. No money. No control. (Fill in the black.)

Still others pace back and forth on their side of the fence. It's a familiar place. Less scary.

Either could readily swing their arms around Gloria Steinem's words: "I do not like to write - I like to have written."

Yeah, less work. Less stress. "I just want success and a gazillion dollars!" more than one writer says.

Stephen King, who retired a couple of years ago after a very successful career as a writer, has announced the publication of yet another new novel. Is this his fourth or fifth since his "retirement"? I think Mr. King likes wrestling with the words more than he confesses. No fences for him.


Ass on the chair and write!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Spring Sprung!

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." Henry David Thoreau

We'll let my indulgence in "living life" serve as my excuse for the little break in posts on writing. Spring arrived with blasters on and the Earth bloomed and blossomed under the searing heat. But it's back to being a chilly spring, and here I am back at the keyboard where I should be.

So... how is your writing coming along? Have you been successful at penning those 1000 words every day? How about your reading?

It is important as a writer to get out and mingle with people, to live life. Otherwise you become stuck like the songwriter whose every tune seems to be about how lonely she is singing at some smoky bar to indifferent ears.

If writers are to be authentic in their tales, in the voices that they use, then they need to walk the walk and talk the talk and get out there and live. But more. Writers, more than others, need to reach out further for experiences. Don't be afraid to grab your helmet and lance and go charge at some windmills. Because if anybody questions your sanity, you can simply smile and own up to being a writer.


Here is Evansville, the Midwest Writers' Guild will meet on Tuesday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m., upstairs at Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Green River Road. We'll be welcoming some more new members, so if you are considering rubbing elbows with others who write, please join us!


The next gathering for Writers Write! is May 7, at 10:00 a.m., upstairs at Willard Library in Evansville. Our topic will be "It's Only Just Begun: Revisions." All writers are welcome!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Training 3: Do your homework!

"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies." Ray Bradbury

I like to tell the story about winning a book. Not a winning book, but winning a book. During the 2001 Horror Writers Convention in Seattle, WA, Cemetery Dance Publications was kind enough to give away a few books through the Horror Writers Association's hospitality suite. One of the books was Richard Laymon's THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. The book was honored that year with a Bram Stoker Award, a feat Laymon couldn't celebrate because of his sudden death just weeks before. The last day of the convention, following the drawing for the books, a group of young writers cornered me about just who had won. Since I had a couple of unclaimed books (including the Laymon), I gave them away.

"Wow! Is the author still here and can I get him to sign?" asked the young man with the Laymon book in his hot little hands.

"Well, no," I said. I was taken aback that any member of the convention wouldn't know about Dick's tragic heart attack. Besides being a popular author, he had also been a dynamic president of the HWA. "Mr. Laymon is dead."

The young man grinned as took off after the others. "Okay then. I didn't know. I don't read horror. I just write it."

I don't think I'll ever recover from those words: "I don't read horror. I just write it."

Quite plainly I can't comprehend how anyone could attempt to write in any genre without having first read what stories have already been written. Of course, it's impossible to read everything, but this man didn't say he'd never read Laymon. He said he didn't read what he supposedly was involved in writing.

So what are you writing and, more importantly, what are you reading? Reading helps a writer see how others are tackling a particular theme, character, style, voice, etc.

Here's the weekend assignment:

1. Read something and then write a brief (no more than 500 words) review of the book/poem/short story/article/play.

2. Do something: Take a walk; see a movie; watch the NCAA tournament; hold your spouse's hand. In other words, taste life. It's easier to write about what you know when you reach out to know more.

See you Monday!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Training Continues...

"It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write." Sinclair Lewis

Most of the successful writers I know write because they can't not.

There are stories inside of them, tugging at their fingers like anxious children yearning to splash into the inviting deep waters at the end of some warm, sandy beach. The children have no fear of posssible dangerous coral or fish lurking beneath the frothy foam. They just know to go.

No matter how much research has been done, how many mental plans, how long and intricate of an outline, no writer really knows where those characters tossed into the sea will swim. That's part of the thrill of being a writer.

And part of the drudge.

Writing, while certainly an entertaining adventure, is still hard work. A first draft is merely that: A beginning.

But it's those first steps that must be taken. As Nike (C) proclaims: "Just do it!"

1. Continue writing at least 15 minutes a day.

2. Continue reading at least 15 minutes a day.

3. Continue observing the world as a writer for at least 15 minutes a day.

4. Consider writing a story, poem, or song using one of the idea starters below:
* A storm is brewing outside...
* You have just been abruptly awakened in the middle of the night...
* While cleaning a closet, you find an old letter...

5. Writers love helping one another. Currently Orson Scott Card is offering tips on "Formatting Outlines and Manuscripts":



Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring Training For Writers!

Today's quote is from Sylvia Plath: "...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Is there a more bitter or successful enemy than the self? I doubt it.

The only way to be successful at anything is to do it. Budding baseball players don't simply read about the game and sit in the bleachers and watch the major league players. Oh, they do study their area of interest, but they also practice, practice, practice. Too few of us are naturally gifted in where our passions lie. That's why there's Spring Training. Writers need to practice, practice, practice, too.

Here are your "Spring Training" assignments:

1. Write for at least 15 minutes TODAY! No excuses. Put a notebook in your bathroom if you need to. Carry a small folder piece of paper and pencil in your pocket or purse.

2. Take a few minutes and see what the late author Richard Laymon had to say about writing in this piece at the Horror Writers Association's website:

3. Observe your surroundings for at least 15 minutes. Look at the world as a writer. Consider what you are observing from multiple viewpoints.

4. Read for AT LEAST 15 minutes and consider just how the author is constructing his/her work. Of course, you should read for enjoyment, but pay attention to style. You're a writer! Ask yourself what can you learn from this writer and this particular piece.

5. Come back here for more tips!

Thanks for visiting and keep writing.


Saturday, January 6, 2007


Today's quote:

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." Vladimir Nabakov

Yes, the pages are blank, but each blank page offers promise and possibility. What is the story burning inside of you? Isn't it about time you began writing it down?

Go ahead... begin.

One word in front of another. It's that easy.

I recall the first word I learned to read. It is emblazoned in my mind: "Look."


And then write what you see, what you know, what you feel.

Go ahead. I dee-double dog dare you.