Friday, March 6, 2015

Something New ~ GORAK THE GOBBLER!

I am going to experiment with something different here, because that's part of what Blogs are all about, aren't they?

I have been hard at work on my next release THE BLACKBERRY & OTHER TALES THAT CREEP  which will include some wonderful sketches by artist Rick Geary, and a new story called "Gorak the Gobbler."  I am going to feature sections of the story-in-progress here BUT not in a series of posts - JUST HERE.  I'll update the post weekly with a new adventure, and we'll see how this works.  Feel free to share your thoughts in comments.  And yeah, I am trying to sell books, eventually. Maybe even mine!

Here goes . . . 

by Judith Cullen
(c) 2015

“Boy!  All that baby fat makes you one big baby!”
There was the usual chorus of cruel tween-er laughter that followed.  Jamie Bergstrom felt something inside him contract painfully, like it always did.  Twelve was an awkward age to be, made even more uncomfortable by the fact that Jamie had shot up last summer and was already touching 5’ 10”.  His Dad predicted that he’d crack six feet before very much longer.  Jamie had also always been a round and cuddly sort of child, with a sweet disposition.  These characteristics had grown along with his vertical inches, which did not help when it was time for verbal abuse from the other kids at school.
 “Are you a big baby, Jaaaameeeeeee?!”
Today’s town heckler, Robbie,  feigned an “oogy-boogy” baby-type talk that caused Jamie to scrunch up his face and duck his head as if the jibe were an actual, physical missile fired in his direction.  He wished it were something that he could dodge.  But it hit its target, shattering against his sense of self, and that little constricting pain came back. He did what he always did: he kept on moving and said nothing.  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he wouldn’t have even considered returning fire with a smart-aleck reply.  His top grades only added another bright ring to the huge, invisible target that seemed to follow him around everywhere.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

ON VALENTINE'S DAY ~ Remembering to Listen

This "Happy Heart Day" or "Universal Love Day" I am re-posting this poem from early 2014.  It is a reminder to myself, shared with others, that Love speaks differently for different people - even when our native languages are the same.

So while it is the duty of loving to try and communicate in a way that your beloved(s) will understand, it is also the responsibility of being beloved (and loving in return) to listen for the many ways and many voices in which love expresses itself.  More than that, it is one of the ultimate expressions of love to learn to accept those ways and voices as they are, and not as you would have them be.

Listening for Love
By Judith Cullen  (c) 2014

Love doesn’t sound like
What you expected it to
It sneaks up on you
And takes various surprising forms

You want it say,
“Let me move these things out of your way.”
But it ends up saying,
“I made tuna salad.  Want some for your lunch?”

You want it to say,
“You look tired, let me do the dishes”
But it ends up saying,
“There was a sale on strawberries. I bought five flats!”

You have to listen hard
And with your whole heart
The voice of love is cunning

It sneaks up where you aren’t listening

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NEW ESSAY: How a Non-Sports Fan Finds Satisfaction in the 2015 NFL Post Season

The Journeys of Triumph and Adversity
 Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2015

I am not a huge sports fan.  I am not a hater either; it has just never been my thing.  Acknowledging that we are none of us ever completely of one “type”, I am the art-theater-literature geek in the family.  Yet I have found myself in the last two winters being the “sports fan enabler” in our household.  I cook hot dogs, make cocoa, popcorn, and dish up ice cream or whatever else might be the desired accent to the game-watching experience.

I think my dis-relationship with sports goes back to early days.  I have never had much athletic prowess or even a glimmer of talent.  My one brief, shining moment in sports came in elementary school where it became clear I was a desirable player to have on ones team in dodgeball due to my great skill at avoiding the ball in question.  I had enough arm strength to lob the red rubber sphere over the heads of the opposing team to my team in the “jail” section, while managing to avoid being out myself.  A talent for avoidance is not really highly prized in most sports outside of recess time.

Yet, for the last two winters I have gotten wrapped up in the ascendancy of the Seattle Seahawks, our “home” team, in the annals of American football history.  For dyed-in-the-wool sports fans, I am sure the appeal is familiar.  Since we have established that I do not possess a strong competitive gene, then there has to be something else which appeals to my nature.  It is the stories that swirl around it that fascinate me, and observing the great drama of reactions to those stories.  Colorful characters, expanded plot lines (sometimes painfully so), moments of high drama and ludicrous comedy: it’s some of the best theater I have seen in years!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I am so pleased to announce that there will be three releases this year, and a possible fourth that I and keeping close to my vest just at the moment, as it is a large work in progress.  Besides, there's lot's of excitement to be found in the three definite titles in the works for this year.

I am thrilled that beloved cartoonist and illustrator Rick Geary has accepted my commission to do black and white line illustrations for my story The Blackberry Which will be released this year in a collection called  THE BLACKBERRY & OTHER TALES THAT CREEP.  This collection of short stories will include some of my popular spooky stores, such as Walter's Sunday, Her Own Words and some new tales including Gorak the Gobbler. I am pleased to share one of the rough conceptual sketches that Rick and I have been discussing which just might possibly become the cover of this book!

I'd share more, but I don't want to spoil it.

Also due to release this year is A TRIO OF IRISH TALES II, with a new adventure with my character Liam from A Shadow by the Gate entitled The Fairy Tree. Also to be included is a slightly twisted take on the Romeo & Juliet saga, set in Ireland simultaneously  in current times, and against the riots of 1793: Two Houses.  There'll be more adventures mixing modern characters with the lore and mythology that soaks the verdant Emerald Isle.

Finally, BEAUTY ON THE INTERSTATE will feature stories and essays around commuting on Interstate 5 - an activity that I am engaged in several times weekly.

"The Highway is a great rolling stage for drama.  Some are grand and expansive, complete with flashing lights, bells, and confrontations of life and death.  Others of these rolling epochs are simple moments of delight and justice, for where would tragedy be, without comedy?"

Stay tuned for updates and excerpts as this year's titles role to completion.

Also, check me out on Tacoma's LAUREATE LISTENING PROJECT, where my poem "December Sojourn" is one of the works featured in this wonderful project conceived by poet Lucas Smiraldo.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NEW POEM . . ."Beach House Dream"

I have been busy doing design work, and my post-it notes with thoughts for stories and poems have reached critical mass.  Let's not talk about what's on the micro-recorder!

I can mark one off the list now. That collection of stuck together post-its which I transcribed today to a single sheet of notepaper before I lost any of the thoughts.  This was a dream I had.  I woke up knowing it was a poem.

I have been told that dreams with water indicate great emotions.  This one was ultra vivid: the driftwood natural gray of the beach house, the vibrant carpet of pebbles, the amazing variety of waves. I wonder what this one meant, with its great rushes of water in and out of the cove?

Beach House Dream
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2015

Eyes blinking shut, in the cool
Silent, grey quiet of a Sunday.
Mists cradling a mind, morning
Drifting into solace.

A cove, fringed with beach houses
A place we’ve never been before.
In a house fully steeped in 
My grandfather’s craft.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

NEW HABITS - Starting 2015 On the "Write" Path

Well, here we are.  It's a new year and the air is thick with good intentions!

I spent time leading up to January 1 reading articles and posts on creativity and writing rituals.  It all can sound very mystic, but I understand the truth of this.  For years, when I design, there are certain things I must do before I begin.  The drafting table must be clean (not just cleared) and all my templates and rules must also likewise be ritually bathed.  Yes, I still use a pencil!  Sue me!

I found this post by picture book writer Marcie Colleen to be among the most interesting that I read, and I am definitely going to look into Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit.

So, I got a candle (shown above with my new minion Stuart) and I began to craft my own ritual.  An odd coincidence, I got a book of inspirational word-finds in my stocking at Christmas.  I thought it was a mistake. Word-finds are my Mom's province.  On a whim I started lighting the candle and doing the word-find for ten minutes before I began writing.  It seems to work really well at focusing my brain.  So, we'll see how it goes - this might just be the start of a pattern.

Here is the first found fruit on this new path.  I am not sure what the form is, except it is the form this needed to be in.  It is TOTALLY inspired by the act of lighting the candle, which also ignited memories of trying to learn meditation.  It is something I have yet to master - I always end up putting myself to sleep.  So much for the power of the conscious mind!  Enjoy and Happy New Year:

Learning to Meditate – Hymn to a desired spirituality
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2015

Focus on the inner flame
Breathe deep and capture, exhale, release.
Clear your thoughts and simply be.
Wisdom of creation, waiting for me.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR with Notes to Myself

To Thine Own Self 
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

I came into the possession of a literary journal recently.  I took it home, excited to turn its pages and enjoy the work of fellow scribes.  That I would consider myself a peer with people recognized as “Literary Fellows” as these were, is a major step in confidence in itself.  I may be a humble self-published writer of fiction and essays, but I felt I deserved to belong simply because I do consider myself a writer.  By the same token, after years of qualifying my stage design work with the word “craftsman,” I now do regard myself as an artist.

I began to read the first essay.  I stopped.  I couldn’t read it.  The form was so self-conscious that I was distracted from the words.  “Maybe it is just this author” I thought and turned the page to another story.  Same thing, another composition so wrapped in its form and its own erudition.  “I’m not stupid,” I thought.  But these works made me feel so, because there was an “it” to be got, and I just didn’t.  I realized that I was waiting for someone to tell me a story, to transport me into a world of their imagination and thoughts.  Note to self: I love stories.