Recommend It Monday–The Unseen, Eleanor by Johnny Worthen

Last week, Johnny Worthen stopped by to tell us about his newest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to dive into it.

The book is fantastic.  The one element that I appreciate the most throughout the entire novel is the fear.  Eleanor has never known a life without fear.  What Worthen does a beautiful job of is layering that fear, so she’s physically afraid of the humans that killed her family and of people in general who would harm her if they knew the truth, but she’s also emotionally afraid: to love, trust, and not be afraid.  The one person she can trust with her truth is dying more every day, so now she has the added fear of what will happen to her once Tabitha is gone.  There are moments in the novel when Eleanor wants to trust so badly and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

Eleanor and Tabitha are hiding in a small town, and Worthen does a wonderful job of showing the tradeoffs of that.  On the one hand, when she’s not required to be at school and doesn’t need to go into town, she’s free to live her life without interference.  Except for the social worker who drops by every month to check on them, they’re pretty much left alone.  On the other, the town is so small that if something unusual happens, the twisted version of it spreads like a wildfire that can never be fully extinguished.  Eleanor sacrifices so much in order to remain unseen.  The book is a wonderful fit for everyone from young teens to adults.

 

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Twitterati

I suck at Twitter.  Most of the time, if I have something to say, I need much more than 140 characters with which to say it.  Most of the things I can say in 140 characters is mundane.  I’m not sure the Twitterverse cares how much I love my cat (I seriously freaking love my cat) or that I just created the most epic recipe for macaroni and cheese ever (one word: bacon).  Ok, it might care about that last one.

Unfortunately for me, Twitter is the social medium of choice when it comes to publishing.  The obvious choice would be to stop being so boring and start doing things worth tweeting about.  Hopefully, these next few months will provide me the opportunity to do just that.

I have some upcoming publication news that I’ll share once everything is in place.  I’m gearing up to edit a novel (not one of mine) in the next few days or so.  I have some great new interviews scheduled for the coming weeks and a couple of guest posts on the horizon.  I’ve decided to take my thesis research trip in August, so I should have plenty of things to tweet about that.  I’ll also be attending the Enter The Imaginarium Convention (Louisville) in September.

The other choice is that you guys can get nosey.  Ask me whatever you want, but bear in mind that you shouldn’t ask what you really don’t want to know.  You never know when I just might answer.

Melville Revisited

Yesterday I shared my favorite piece of literature.  Today, I wanted to share the piece of literature that left me feeling the most unsettled.  Interestingly enough, it is also by Herman Melville.  The story is “Benito Cereno.”

If you haven’t read this story, I highly recommend that you do.  For those that don’t, Captain Amasa Delano sees a ship come into an isolated area.  Thinking it might be in distress, he boards his whale-boat and goes to the other ship, which turns out to be a Spanish ship carrying assorted merchandise and slaves.

“Benito Cereno” was originally published in 1856.  To put that into context, slavery wasn’t banned in the US until the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted in 1865.  The first thing that bothered me was the way Melville offhandedly tells us through Don Benito that the slaves originally numbered over 300, but due to a scurvy outbreak, there were closer to 150 slaves left.  There’s almost this feeling of, “Eh, what can you do?  These things happen.”  These attitudes have been the subject of academic research, of which this is but an example.  Whether Melville, himself, embraced or opposed these feelings is irrelevant.  The sad truth is that too many people across the globe felt this way, and I think it is a valuable exercise to experience the range of emotions from uneasiness to horror.  The most disturbing part of this story is the way I kept finding myself feeling sorry for the Spaniards during the slave revolt.  The prose is written in such a way that it evokes that sympathy from the reader, and it’s a shock to the system when you realize you’re sympathizing with the peddlers of human flesh.  Every time I realized where my sympathies were, I was horrified.  I can honestly say that I have never reacted to any piece of literature the way I reacted to “Benito Cereno.”

Herman Melville

I have a confession: I have never read Moby Dick.  This leads to my next confession: I don’t intend to.  Maybe this makes me a poor excuse for a scholar.  Maybe I’m ok with this.  His style isn’t one I particularly enjoy, so it is somewhat ironic that my favorite piece of literature is “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”  If you’ve never read it, click the link and read it.  I’ll wait.

My final confession: Bartleby is my hero.  This is not ironic.  I want to be Bartleby when I grow up, minus that whole dying in prison part.  He doesn’t feel like doing what he is employed to do, so his reply to pretty much everything in the story is, “I would prefer not do.”  And then he doesn’t do whatever it is he would prefer not to do.  That, in and of itself, is worthy of my adoration, but it gets even better.  Bartleby gets away with it.  Every. single. time.  That, my friends, is why Bartleby is my hero.  He gets paid for work he never does.  He gets fired, but he would prefer not to get fired, so he keeps showing up and his boss keeps paying him.  He moves into his bosses offices, but would prefer not to move out, so he doesn’t.  The fact that going to the authorities is the narrator’s last resort is nothing short of mindboggling.

Now, I should probably clarify why, exactly, Bartleby is my hero.  It’s not because he gets away with being lazy or by basically becoming a moocher.  It’s because he says something and then his actions back up what he says.  How many times have we “preferred not to,” and yet we did it anyway.  Perhaps we felt obligated.  Maybe we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Or, refusing could be a bad move politically, so we bite our tongues and do what we would prefer not to do.  Bartleby doesn’t do that.  He also never refuses outright any request.  He just says, “I would prefer not to,” and then he doesn’t do it.  Emulating Bartleby could become problematic if taken to the extreme, but I think we could all benefit from the occasional, “I would prefer not to.”

Researching My Master’s Thesis

I’m so happy that I have so many readers from across the country (and even across the world). Now, I have a favor to ask you. Do you have an old asylum in your town/county/state? I’d like to know!

This summer, I’m brainstorming my Master’s Thesis and what I plan to propose to my thesis advisor is a short story collection based on former patients of these asylums. I’d do a novel, but even the “long” thesis is way too short. Hell, even my novella is longer than the longest thesis option I have (and that doesn’t even include the critical essay portion of the thesis). My goal is to travel to one of these asylums, take photos, research the facility, and find out as much as I can about the people who worked there and who were kept there. Then, my thesis project will be stories based on those people.

I can (and intend to) Google the different asylums we’ve had in our history, but I won’t be a local so maybe the people who live there will know something I don’t. Plus, if you give me a head’s up about a place close to you, we might even be able to meet up for lunch while I’m doing my research. You don’t have anything near you but you might know someone who does? Great! Feel free to share this. I’m looking for the evilest of evil institutions because I want to try and give those poor souls a voice, even if it’s a fictional voice.

Guest Post–Johnny Worthen

Yesterday, Johnny stopped by the blog to discuss his latest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.   Today he stops by to give authors some advice about what to do when your work-in-progress stops being “in progress” and starts being “your work.”

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Some advice for authors

I’ve been a writer my entire life, keeping journals, making newsletters, blogging and creating, but it was until recently I decided that I would be an author.

Writing is easy. It is a solitary experience, it’s creative and personal. Authoring however, needs the involvement of lots of people and people require compromise. This is the hardest part of the being an author. You need alpha readers, beta-readers, publishers, content editors, line editors, cover designers, reviewers and of course, readers. All of these people will pass judgment upon your work.

Even before it’s for sale, the work is out of your hands. If you’re lucky, you’ll work closely with your editor. If you’re not, you’ll be lucky if they tell you what changes they made. If the stars are aligned properly, you might have a say in the cover design, but probably not. All this makes a creative person cringe. Too many cooks. Too many critics.

I knew all this before I got my first my book picked up. I braced myself for the worse, feeling helpless and defensive as if my own child were on trial. I’ve been lucky though. My experiences with Omnium Gatherum and Jolly Fish Press, my two publishers so far have been awesome. However, just in case they weren’t before I sent out a single query letter, I formulated a plan.

Fellow writers and authors, let me tell you my secret plan for handling all this meddling in your work. A way to get past the trolls who give you one star. Let me tell you the only remedy you have, the only part of your career that you truly control, the answer to the question of what now:

Write another book.

That’s it. Make it better than your last one. That’s really all you can do. Give yourself another swing at the ball. Take your experience and your talent and go again. Look ahead as much as possible, not back. Write another book.

Check out my new book, ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN.

“A riveting supernatural character study wrought with the pains of first love and the struggles of self-acceptance.”

— Kirkus Reviews   ELEANOR (THE UNSEEN)

ELEANOR on Amazon

 

And to see love made real with Magick, do not miss  BEATRYSEL

— Unsatisfied with the ancient grimoires, the Magus made his own. Unsatisfied with the ancient demons, the Magus made Beatrysel. She was a creature of love, but there is no love without hate, no light without darkness, no loyalty without betrayal. And demons covet flesh.

BEATRYSEL on Amazon

 

 

Author Corner–Johnny Worthen

eleanor-blog tour-banner

 

E: Hey, Johnny!  Welcome back to the blog.  How goes things in the land of tie dye?

J: Exciting and vibrant. Colorful and casual.

E: You have a brand new book.  What can you tell us about it?

J: ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN is my new young adult paranormal novel. It’s been called a romance and a horror because there’s a monster in it, but just one little one. I think of it as a fable.

It is the story of a fifteen year-old girl growing up in a tiny Wyoming town. She quiet and unassuming, average and easily ignored. But is not as she seems. She is a sea of contradictions; lost but found, old but young, malleable but fixed. She is most human and not.

It is a character study of a confused but loving little girl who has to face some real challenges. It is centered around a metaphor that change is hard but necessary. It is a book about things not being as they seem and the challenges of growing up. It delves into some serious issues; Bullying, prejudice, love and forgiveness. Courage and cowardice. Trust. It is a haunting tale that will stay with the readers long after it’s finished.

It’s getting great reviews and I’m very proud of it.

Eleanor Cover

E: The Unseen Saga is at three books so far.  What can we expect from future books?

J: ELEANOR is a stand-alone title. I want to make that clear. I always feel a little tricked when I buy a book only to find out an ending isn’t included. My publisher put “Book 1” on the cover, but it stands wholly and completely on its own.

However, if you love Eleanor as much as I and are curious to continue her tale, it does so in the next book CELESTE and the third book  DAVID which again has an ending.

Without spoiling anything, I can say that in these later books the stakes get higher – much higher. Eleanor’s struggles on, still afraid but feeling her potential. Her secretes still haunt her and she has to come to terms with her own prejudices and fears. Danger and discovery wait around every door and catastrophe is but one slip up away.

E: Do you see the Saga going beyond the three books or will you stop here?

J: The three books are written and at the publisher, so if I die, Eleanor’s story will still be told. I’m happy about that. If THE UNSEEN is popular enough I have some ideas on the progression of the story, but I am very satisfied with the conclusion of the trilogy as it stands now, as I am the conclusion of the first book. 

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc?

J: The official date of release is July 1, but I have a June 28th launch date at the biggest Barnes & Noble in the state. Check this out.

I’m doing all kinds of conventions and book stuff all summer, including teaching at the League of Utah Writers and going to Comic Con. I’ll fit as many book signings in as I can. Lots and lots I hope. Check my website. 

E: Jolly Fish Press is doing a giveaway for Eleanor.  What formats are up for grabs?

J: Jolly Fish has this give away:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have this one:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m not sure what Jolly Fish is giving away, but I’m giving away a signed paperback copy from my own stash. Enter both. 

E: Do you have any other projects going on?

J: BEATRYSEL and DR. STUART’S HEART are still going well. I’m promoting them to readers with darker tastes. In 2015 look for another complete change of gears from me when THE FINGER TRAP, a comedic noire detective mystery/social commentary comes from Jolly Fish and my comedian slacker detective Tony Flaner is unleashed upon an unprepared populace.

E: What has been the most memorable part of your publishing journey so far?

J: Getting to talk at conventions and conferences. I love the attention and I can share my scars so other people don’t have to get them to get where they’re going.

JohnnyWorthen