Author: J. W. Judge (page 1 of 35)

May Madness and Some Flash Fiction

May was a wildly busy month. I worked more than fifty hours a week in my law practice. We released three episodes of The Write Approach:

And I wrote more than 10,000 of my fifth novel. I’m currently writing the last chapter of the Act II and plan to finish the novel in July. I’ll then do several rounds of editing and start querying agents.

In the meantime, here’s some flash fiction based on a conversation that occurred in a hotel room lobby.

J. W. Judge Expectant Writer May Madness and Some Flash Fiction

Interracial Interaction in a Hotel Lobby

“Howdy,” he said to the woman making her coffee at the station next to the hotel’s breakfast bar.

“Morning.” She returned the greeting. “I’ll be done in a minute.”

He smiled at her. “I’m in no rush.”

She paused stirring her artificial sweetener into the coffee that that creamer had turned blonde. “You must be from the South.”

His corners of his lips turned up. “Originally from Texas, but I’ve lived most of my adult life in Birmingham.”

She nodded as if taking a moment to appreciate what she already knew about her own powers of observation and assessment about folks.

He asked, “Was it the howdy that gave me away?”

She shook her head and returned her attention to her coffee. “Nah. Nothing like that.” She put the lid on her paper cup and made a gesture that the station was all his.

Before she turned to go, he said, “I’m curious how you knew where I was from.”

She looked him directly in the eyes. “I’m a truck driver from Jackson. It’s only when meet white people from the South that they talk to black folks. Everybody everywhere else?” She shook her head again and frowned. “Nothing.”

“Really?”

“That’s a fact.” She turned an ambled off toward the table where her breakfast waited on her.

Mid-May(hem)

I’ve written more than 5,000 words of Novel No. 5 in the first half of May. That has topped me over 47,000 words and put me at approximately the 2/3 mark for the novel. While the framework has stayed in place, many of the particulars of what I think are going to happen in a given scene between conception and conclusion. I continue to be excited about this project and have no doubt it will be my most commercially successful novel.

On May 2, my fourth novel, Casual Business with Fairies, released. You can buy it on Amazon or any other online bookstore. Here’s an early reader review.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

End of April Writing Update

If my writing in April were a landscape, it would definitely be a mountain range. So many peaks and valleys. But not the Rockies. Probably the Smoky Mountains, because the peaks weren’t all that high. I had four days in which I didn’t do any writing, and there wasn’t a single day that I hit more than a thousand words.

Still, including this update, I’ve written more than 10,000 words in April and hit some significant milestones in the writing of my fifth novel. I went over 40,000 words in the book and put it over the halfway point. In fact, this morning, I finished the third chapter in the second half of the book.

I sent the first half to my Alpha Reader a couple of weeks ago. They read it all in one sitting and provided some great feedback. I’m feeling really good about this murder-mystery. Of course, that’s subject to change without warning, because that is just the nature of writing. I reserve my right to hate everything tomorrow.


In other creative pursuits, my fourth dark fantasy novel, Casual Business with Fairies releases on Tuesday. The protagonist in that book is an insurance lawyer, who more closely resembles many aspects of my nature than any other character I’ve written. You can order it from your favorite online bookstore.

If you’re interested in the origin story of my debut novel, Vulcan Rising, I made a video about it. Available on YouTube. I plan to do similar accounts of my other novels as well.

We also had great interviews with some really impressive guests on the podcast I co-host with Barbara Hinske, The Write Approach:

Strong Showing in March

While there was a LOT going on in February and I didn’t put nearly as many words on the page (or into my Scrivener app, if we want to be more accurate) as I would have liked, the same is not true of March. The third month of year was super productive.

For the suspense/contemporary mystery novel I’m currently writing, I typed out just over 15,000 words in March (coming in a couple hundred words shy of what I did in January), which amounts to ten full chapters. The project is currently sitting at roughly 32,000 words, and the halfway point is on the horizon.

Just this week, I had my Alpha Reader (who’s worked with me on all my novels) read the first 100 pages. She read it all in one sitting (!) and gave me some great feedback.

Unrelated: I wrote an article on this blog about “What a New Story Idea Feels Like“.


On the publishing front

My fourth fantasy novel Casual Business with Fairies is now available for pre-order in all formats from your preferred online bookstores: Buy your copy now.

Casual Business with Fairies J. W. Judge not all fairy tales end with happily ever after

The Write Approach in March

Barbara Hinske and I released some really good episodes of The Write Approach in March. Our podcast downloads and YouTube views continue to grow month-over-month.

Our April episodes are lining up to deliver equally good content for listeners. Make sure to subscribe on your preferred platform so you don’t miss anything.

What a New Story Idea Feels Like

Several months ago, we released an episode of The Write Approach called “Where Do Story Ideas Come From?” in which Barbara Hinske and I talked about the various sources inspiration that had been the catalyst for novels. For my own writing, novels have arisen out of dreams and nightmares (Vulcan Rising) and from conversations with other people (Casual Business with Fairies). Even a throw-away line spoken by someone on a podcast I was listening to has sparked a short story (The Murder Tree).

But what we didn’t talk about is what a new story idea feels like when it hits you. For my daily devotional this morning, I was reading in the book of Job. In the fourth chapter, one of Job’s friends is speaking to him, and says, “A word was brought to me in secret; my ears caught a whisper of it.” Job 4:12.

What a New Story Idea Feels Like J. W. Judge Expectant Writer

Very often for me, that is what a new story idea feels like — something that I caught a whisper of. And I have to write it down before it dissipates on the wind and is lost forever. That applies not only to story ideas in whole, but to lines of dialog and particular phrases within the stories themselves. Story ideas are such fragile things until we build a house of words around them.

Now, I need to get back to writing my fifth novel. I have some ideas for the current chapter, including a couple of particular lines of dialog I’ve already jotted down, because I didn’t want the whisper of them to be carried off.

Semi-Regular Update about What I’m Working On

After writing 15,000+ words in January, most of which went into my fifth novel, February had very different things in store for me. I’ve continued to make progress in that novel (a suspense/contemporary murder mystery), and am writing what I think is the last chapter of Act I, unless the chapter goes overly long and has to be divided. That’s a thing that’s been happening fairly regularly in the book — scenes that I expect to take a few paragraphs end up taking an entire chapter. It’s been a fun experience and has lengthened the first quarter of the book.

In February, I churned out 6400 words. That total is so much lower than January because of a couple other (very time consuming things) I was working on.

Through my publishing imprint, Scarlet Oak Press, I am publishing another children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute, written by Claire E. Parsons and illustrated by Naomi L. Hudson. It’s a book about letting Mommy have a few minutes for self-care and meditation so she can better take care of her family. It’s scheduled for release on April 25. You can pre-order a copy from your favorite online bookstore.

Another thing that took a great deal of time and attention in February is that I’ve decided to attempt to obtain an agent for my fifth novel and sell it to a publisher. I did a great deal of research and came up with a list of 25 literary agents to submit it to. Now, I’ll be waiting for the next 8 weeks to hear back from each of them. If I don’t get any takers, I’ll publish it through Scarlet Oak Press, which was the initial plan. No harm, no foul.

Finally, Barbara Hinske and I released several episodes of The Write Approach in February, and we continue to be very proud of the guests we’ve interviewed and topics being discussed.

Funny Story about Last Night

At 1:00am, my wife and I wake up to some kind ruckus outside our window. There are bumping noises and some other things we couldn’t identify. We check the littles’ rooms to make sure they’re squared away.

We have some feral cats in the neighborhood. I told my wife I thought it was the cats playing with the water hose roll-up contraption. We look out all the windows that give us a view into the back yard, but don’t see any cats. The noises subside.

The absence of noise isn’t very reassuring. Whether it’s a person or an animal, just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean their gone.

J. W. Judge Expectant Writer Funny Story about Last Night

I open the gun safe and get out my pistol. I have to check the perimeter of the house. My wife asks, “Are you scared?”

I say, “I’m not very comfortable.” It was an understatement. Wish my flashlight and handgun ready, I open the front door and slip out as quietly as I can. Fortunately, the moon is bright enough that I don’t need to use the flashlight and can remain stealthy.

By the time I’m halfway around the front of the house, I realize this is almost exactly how the first few chapters of my debut novel Vulcan Rising opened (obligatory link). Fortunately for me, I didn’t discover anyone kidnapping a baby pegasus.

In fact, I don’t see anything. No cats playing and no people lurking. The only other option is that something or someone is in the basement garage, part of which is below our bedroom. I have to pluck up considerably more courage to go into the basement.

There are many more dark crooks and hidey places in the confines of the basement. Not to mention how vulnerable to anything that’s down there when you descend the stairs. But I find nothing and no one in the basement either. Both a relief and a frustration.

I lay back down in the bed, but sleep is far away. I read in the 3rd book in The Expanse for a long time. Eventually, I get sleepy again and set the book aside.

The ruckus commences again at 3:00am. I climb out of bed and turn on the outside floodlights. The noises stop.

I lay back down, wishing the night were over already. I stay awake until sometime after 3:30. I’ve only just fallen back asleep when start up again. By now I’ve determined that whatever it is, it’s definitely in the basement. I know I’m done sleeping since it’s 4:00.

The next 2 1/2 hours pass slowly as I work on book-related things for the upcoming launch of Casual Business with Fairies (another link) and wait for the rest of the house to wake up. Once everyone else is awake, I venture down to the basement again. This time, things are different.

Things are upended and scattered around. But most telling is a giant pile of cat scat sitting in one of the old car seats that we’ve never done anything with. I never see the cat, but I open the basement doors so he can skedaddle. Hoping for a better sleep session tonight.

Creating Lasting Changes for Your Writing Career

How I know The Write Approach is a podcast that can create both immediate and lasting changes for your writing career — that’s what it has done for me.

Here are two examples of authors who have talked about their own writing practices, which led to me implementing their ideas.

Crossover Characters with Kevin Tumlinson

In Ep. 6, Kevin Tumlinson talked about crossing over characters from one series to another to drive readers across different properties and increase sales.

I did this in Casual Business with Fairies for a character from The Zauberi Chronicles. I thought it would be a quick cameo, but the character ended up sticking around and making real contributions to the story.

Driving Reader Interest with David Ellis

In Ep. 5, David Ellis talked about keeping reader interest/engagement at the forefront of the way he structures his books. He does this in part with shorter chapters, which he learned from co-writing with James Patterson.

I’m now doing this in my novels. Most of the chapters in Casual Business with Fairies ranged from 1200-1500 words. I’m three chapters into my fifth novel and am using the same chapter-length approach.

You can find episodes of The Write Approach on your favorite podcast app, at our website (https://writeapproachpod.com/), or on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@thewriteapproach).

Casual Business with Fairies: The Novel I Didn’t Expect to Write

I never know where the inspiration for stories is going to come from. My debut novel, Vulcan Rising (link), arose out of a really strange dream and a couple of peculiar interactions with my five year old. One of my short stories, “The Murder Tree” (link) opened with a line that I derived from an off-hand remark made by the host of a podcast I was listening to.

But this story had a different path. In the Spring of 2022, I was involved in a conversation with several other parents about the tooth fairy and how everyone handles it. The group is rather eclectic, and the responses were diverse. During the discussion, one of parents made a statement about why they don’t participate in the tooth fairy myth: “We don’t do casual business with fairies.”

Casual Business with Fairies Coming May 2, 2023 Not all fairytales end with happily ever after

That sentence lodged itself in my brain, and out of it, this novel was born. But this is not the novel I intended to write.

After I wrote Forging Bonds (link), which completed the first trilogy of The Zauberi Chronicles series, I had planned to switch tracks. There was a horror story I wanted to write, but after outlining it and writing a chapter or two, I found it difficult to engage with. This may be hard to believe, but it was just too grim of a story. The really disconcerting part is that the story is based on a nightmare I woke up from one night.

When the horror story didn’t work out, I started outlining a murder mystery novel … also based on a dream I had. But for whatever reason, the muse wasn’t having it.

Next, I had in mind that I would finish one of the novels I had abandoned before starting Vulcan Rising. But Casual Business with Fairies (link) latched onto me like a spider monkey. Even though I had only the vaguest of ideas for a premise, I began to write. Five thousand words into the story, I still had no idea what it would become, but I kept the faith that I would figure it out. I had been in a similar position with my second novel, Seeking Sanctuary, and I would work my way out of it again.

Casual Business with Fairies surprised me at every turn. Each time I thought I had the story and characters figured out, things went a different direction. It was both exhilarating and frustrating. But in the end, I think it became the book that it was meant to be. Most of all, I hope it’s a story that you enjoy.

Books I Read in 2022

Here’s a broadly-applicable statement — 2022 was a mixed bag. It’s true of the books I read too. Going back to 2003 when I first started keeping up with this, I’ve used a 4-star rating system that is entirely subjective. Here’s a list of the books I read in 2022 and the rating I assigned to each.

Fiction

  • Brandon Sanderson, Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archives), 3 stars
  • Stephen King, Billy Summers, 3.5 stars
  • Gillian Flynn, Dark Places, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, Edgedancer, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, Shadows of Self (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Bonnie Kistler, The Cage, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Stephen King, The Outsider, 3 stars
  • Peter Straub, If You Could See Me Now, 2.5 stars
  • Stephen King, Elevation, 3.5 stars
  • Stephen King, The Wind Through the Key Hole (The Dark Tower), 3.5 stars
  • Michael Crichton, Dragon Teeth, 3.5 stars
  • Brian Panowich, Like Lions, 3.5 stars
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility, 3.5 stars
  • James S. A. Corey, Leviathon Wakes (The Expanse), 4 stars
  • Michael Crichton, Next, 3 stars
  • John Scalzi, The Kaiju Preservation Society, 3.5 stars
  • James S. A. Corey, Caliban’s War (The Expanse), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries), 3.5 stars

Non-Fiction

  • James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, 3 stars
  • Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights, 3 stars
  • Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers, 3 stars
  • Dean Wesley Smith, How to Write a Novel in Half a Month, 2.5 stars
  • Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven, 3.5 stars
  • Jennifer Hilt, Horror Trope Thesaurus, 3 stars

Books I Wrote

I also published three books in 2022. I’d be remiss not to include those in the list as well. I certainly read them (several times) before they entered the world. I will refrain from rating them though. That’s a bridge too far, even for me.

  • J. W. Judge, Seeking Sanctuary (The Zauberi Chronicles, Book 2) (link)
  • J. W. Judge, Forging Bonds (The Zauberi Chronicles, Book 3) (link)
  • J. W. Judge, Write Your Novel One Day at a Time: How to Write a Novel While Having a Career, a Family, and a Life (link)