Tag: Life

Interviewed by A Crazy Man

I adore Paul Goblirsch of Thunderstorm Books, and I’m honored that he continues to believe in my writing and publishes my works. As a special treat for his members a couple months ago, he did an interview with me. Now that they’ve all seen therapists and dealt with the trauma, we’re releasing it on the rest of you… Enjoy! (And go buy some of his books!!)

10 Questions for Kelli Owen

  1. 1. Exactly how many times have you recommended to your publisher to add masturbation to make your story better?

Just that one time. But he was slightly crazy. He questioned motivation for something. The masturbation was originally there and I had removed it. When I told *cough* him *cough* that, he responded with “Ohhhhh, put it back!”

2. White Picket Prisons vs Six Days.  Who wins and is it by knockout or decision?

Ouch. Um. Six Days is like your first true love. You never really stop caring about it. But White Picket Prisons… Hey, wait a minute. How come I have to answer this? I asked YOU this question and you refused to answer because it was too difficult a decision. So why? Ohhh, I see. You’re just evil. Okay. Fine. Where was I? Oh yeah, first love vs your college boyfriend.

White Picket Prisons. By decision. While my favorite will always be “whatever I’m working on” because I feel you had better be in love with it to do it justice, in this instance and given these options, WPP wins. I’m stronger now—in both voice and style. I have more time and knowledge under my belt. There are more levels to the story. It’s richer, and well… there’s masturbation.

3. What are the best and worse things about working in the small press?

It’s like being one of the kids in those “special” classes. You get treated very well by your teachers, lots of one-on-one time, but the “normal” kids don’t always want to play with you. In other words, the involvement is awesome. I love being asked my opinion on art and layout and sig sheets and all the fun fancy stuff. The distribution (and some would argue cost of books, but they’re collectibles) is really the only downfall, but ebooks change everything about that.

4. What is your favorite Thunderstorm line, especially now that you have had work in nearly all of them?

This smells like a trick question! Define “favorite.”

I love the small, easy to carry Elementals. Not a lot of people are doing collection lines, so it was awesome to be invited to put together Black Bubbles for White Lightning. I was thrilled to be the maiden voyage of Maelstrom—and the box edition is sexy as hell. Set’s Quartet was really fun and unexpected. WPP is coming out in both Black Voltage and Hard Rain series, and I’m very intrigued to see how that works out. I love them all… If I have to pick, then I’ve got to go with Black Voltage or Elementals. Love both formats, and both series have lots to choose from.

Now then, how exactly do I get into Supercell?

5. Tell us what it was like to receive a dead bird in the mail.  Where you excited?

LOL! That was Keene. I got the teddy bears left on my picnic table. A dirty, beat-up momma bear holding two cubs and a separate boy bear. Garage sale toys at best. Creeeeeepppy. Yeah, I was REAL excited. I was so excited, after I dusted for fingerprints, I shut down my facebook page to the general public.

6. Answer one, and only one, of the following questions:

  1. Where do you get your ideas?
  2. Since you are a writer, you must be rich, can I borrow some money?
  3. I have a great idea, if I share it and you write the story, can we submit it together and split the profits?

Har har har… Although by ‘c’ I’m guessing you’ve met my sister. You know darn well how much money I make so ‘b’ is a moot point. We’ll go with ‘a’.

I get my ideas from EVERYWHERE.

I’m weird. I admit it. I blame my mom (who brings a 6 year-old to see Jaws on the big screen?!). I don’t see things like normal people. You may see two people having coffee—I see two people plotting to murder their boss. You hear someone say something as they intended—I hear what an evil antagonist would be hiding between the lines. A lot of writers I know have a brain that plays “what if” all the time. I used to think that’s what I was doing. Then I realized no, I’m just strange and imagine the worst when I see things.

I also pull from my messed up dreams. Bob (Ford) says it’s not natural to have nightmares as often as I do, but I can use 80% of them, so I figure it’s okay that my muse is a sadist.

7. Do you ever think you will revisit The Neighborhood?  Do you think this is the fan favorite of your work so far?

You know, when I wrote it, I didn’t think I’d ever go back there. But several writers have said I should and a lot of readers have requested it. We’ll see. I don’t have anything for it right now, but who knows, I might see someone having coffee tomorrow and be hit with an idea (which will be put on the backburner for at least two years… I have a backlog!)

Favorite? No. Actually, I’d honestly guess that’s their least favorite. Waiting Out Winter seems to be everyone’s go-to choice.

8. What is it like living with another writer?  How does it affect your work?  When is Bob (Ford) going to finish The Compound?

I live with a writer? Hmmm… Wait, I live with another person? I thought I just lived with that open laptop and the strange shadow wearing its writing hat that sits behind it… because all he does lately is write—on break, during work, after work, all night, while driving, in the shower—to finish The Compound for you. And every time you bring it up I giggle myself silly at his reactions. Thank you for that.

But seriously, it’s nice. We have different writing methods, but it’s all good. It’s awesome to have someone who understands when your eyes glaze over it’s because the muse has grabbed you. We recognize and respect it—we’ll both just stop talking if we see the other doing that because we get it. And we both understand writing is not always done at the keyboard. He never gives me shit when I need to play Guitar Hero while I’m working through something.

Affect the work? Maybe in the sense that if one of us is writing the other feels compelled to do so, or jealous if they can’t for whatever reason at that moment. So as long as one of us has a deadline, we’re both writing and that’s good (and no, I don’t need more from you… you’re getting a novella and two more books in the next two years, but feel free to give him another deadline after The Compound—just don’t tell him I said that!)

9. Ebook question…what the fuck is up with those things?

HAHAHAHAHA… those are the strange little files that aren’t really physical but people can still enjoy them. You know, those things I conned you into expanding into =)

Once upon a time I was hesitant regarding eBooks, or defiant—it depends how well you know me which word you’d choose. But times change, technology advances, and I guess I don’t care what format they prefer, so long as people are still reading. EBooks were once the “adventurous” route, or “experimental,” now they’re pretty much a standard simultaneous release for new material. They’re going to become stronger, not weaker, as a market and viable format. Though I still hate to think they may be the way of the future and regular books could become nothing but a token collectible only the shelves of only the rich or elderly. I like the smell of books, the feel in your hands, the way they don’t argue with you or make you sleep on the couch.

10. Finish this joke:  A writer, an accountant, and a gypsy all walk into a bar…

And order a shot of tequila, a coffee, and a bottle of water? Yeah, I know I’m a weird combination, but I never let my personalities play together… those drinks would taste really gross mixed together!

Tearing Down the Past

Saturday-Sucked, part 2…

I moved a lot as a child. From Wisconsin to Texas and back, and quite a bit around Superior. By the time I got to high school, I had gone to five of the six elementary schools and knew 80% of the kids in our town of 36,000. As such, I didn’t really have any attachment to the places we lived. I don’t truly have a “childhood home”. Oh I have memories at this one and that one. But none of the memories are of the house itself.

Save one.

For the last half of fourth grade and the first half of fifth, I lived in a huge monster of a Victorian house. It was gorgeous. It had sliding glass doors, hand-carved cherry wood throughout, hidden passages, a dumbwaiter in my bedroom, strange rooms that no one liked, and an odd walkway through a section of the walls that may have been underground railroad. It was cool as hell.

And haunted.

My sister and mother and I all agree to this without any hesitation. We lived there with someone else. I’ve told friends about this house over the years and the woman who stood in the attic window. I’ve explained how one of us would stand on the street and watch, and the other would go to the attic room and stand in the window, waving their arms to the horror and dismay of the one on the street. She was there. You were standing right next to her! There were footsteps heard going up and down those stairs all night long. There was a basement room that none of us could stand in without wanting to run. Things happened that could not be explained. It was haunted. We know this. We don’t question it one bit… and the following residents must have agreed, because they boarded up that attic window in no time flat.

I’ve actually written quite a bit about the year I spent in this house. This was where we lived when I nailed my sister in the forehead from across the room with my hairbrush, because she was touching my books. This was the house I started writing short stories instead of just poetry. This was where we experienced the tent worm attack that has since turned into the novella Waiting Out Winter (and referenced in my short story “The Man Who Slept Through Tomorrow” in Shroud #6). This was the house of the moose skull that’s in my novel Six Days. The nearby graveyard we explored is in a novel I’ll be working on later (2023 update, this is Floaters). The ghost in the attic has a whole novel dedicated to her. Unfortunately, this is also a house filled with horrible memories, some of which have also been muse fodder—but I don’t dwell on those, and no, I won’t tell you which stories. Whenever I’m standing at the edge of a major decision, I have a reoccurring dream which includes the trap door in the attic of this old mansion. This house came with memories for the muse and cemented lifelong beliefs in the afterlife and paranormal experiences. This house, overall, was a major turning point in my childhood. In my life.

And I wanted to show Bob the famous haunted house of my childhood.

I had planned to do better than a drive-by—I was going to knock on the door and explain I lived there as a child and ask if I could walk through. I was going to see if I could stand in that basement room now. I planned to find out if I was even able to climb those attic steps. I was going to say good-bye to old ghosts—both the house’s and my own. I was going to get an adult visual of the rooms and passageways for the novel. And I was going to rescue the journal I forgot, above the 3rd tile from the left of the drop-ceiling in my old bedroom.

But the house is gone.

My sister told me they tore it down and I couldn’t believe it. I think I was actually in denial. They couldn’t have. It was one of the oldest houses in town. Of course, it was in a town that loves to tear down its history and replace it with concrete and glass. So after we went treasure hunting on Saturday, I had mom drive past. I had to see this for myself. And I found it was true.

It was gone.

The massive porch, gone. The weird twisting back entry, gone. The huge windows and cool little gables, gone. Hell, even the sidewalk to the front street was gone. There’s nothing there but a dirt patch to hold my ghosts. I was shocked. I was saddened. About a decade beforehand, when I saw they had sold the lot across the way and my favorite reading tree had been downed in lieu of a garage, I was stung with loss. This went deeper. I had a hard time comprehending what was right in front of me—nothing.

The ride home included mom and I rehashing for Bob several of the ghostie’s tricks. She reminded me of the storm that scared the crap out of us. I recalled the shadows that seemed darker than they should have been and the sounds we could not explain. And I repeatedly droned, “I cannot believe they tore it down.”

And as we neared my parents’ house a thought dawned on me, “Where will the ghost go?”

My ghosts are buried in the soil. If you believe that events can haunt a location, I may actually be one of the ghosts in that ground. But I was referring to our mystery maid (the attic window was the servant quarters, so we had all agreed years ago that it was a servant’s ghost). Where will she go? How will she walk the stairs that are no longer there? How will she slam the door that has been dragged away to some salvage yard? What will she do? Where will she go?

And the more we thought about it, the more we questioned it. Where do ghosts go when you tear down their haunting grounds?

I got home and hopped on Google hoping to find pictures to use as reference for the novel. There was nothing. Mom laughed, “Well, no one can fact check. You can just make shit up now.” Yeah, I love turrets, but that house didn’t have any…and it won’t in the novel either. Realizing her snark was met with sadness, she told me that the woman that lived there before us probably had pictures and that she ran into her all the time at garage sales and such. I told her to ask next time and she agreed. Case closed.

I thought.

The universe is goofy. Just when you need something the most, it delivers. I had taken a one-two punch Saturday—between the teacher’s estate sale and my house being gone—and was feeling beaten. I was deep in thought, dredging through memories of both school and that house. And still in that funk when we returned to the estate sale Sunday.

And the universe provided.

There was Mrs. Farmer, chatting up my mom as I came around a corner. And yes, she has pictures. She also has my address now and will be sending me what she’s got. I have to wonder if the ghostie will show up in them or not.

They say “you can never go home again.” This time, they weren’t joking, but I’ve got pictures coming in the mail. And as mom says, I’m writing it all down and making my ghost immortal, even if the walls that held her are gone…


(updated to include titles and links to book mentioned pre-publication. ko 2/10/15. updated again in 2023, I never got those pictures…)

Life’s half-off sale

Poll+Apple+for+TeacherWell, I’m back from Wisconsin. It was an emotional trip this time… because apparently, Murphy thought I needed blog material. So let start with Saturday-Sucked part 1: Life’s half-off sale.

I love finding treasures among the stacks—antique stores, strange little second-hand shops, estate sales, etc. I blame my mother for this. I grew up going to every little out of the way stop she could find, and still giggle knowing her habit of slamming on the breaks to check out a country garage sale or out of the way antique store.

And I blame her for this blog entry.

Saturday, mom said there was an estate sale. She was told it was for a photographer/professor. Bob and I looked at each other, imagining the books that may be there, and gleefully agreed to go check it out with her. We all hopped in the car and headed into town to find treasures.

Now, as I said, I love estate sales. Everything but the kitchen sink, and sometimes even those, are tagged for clearance. You can find books and dishes and furniture, antiques and games and even dice. But I generally run into a problem at them—because I’m a sentimental pansy. At some point during every estate sale, I see something with a price tag on it that just shouldn’t be for sale. Something that rings of history with personal value. Something that smells like a family heirloom an unknowing relative has put out for sale. Something that just should not be sold for any amount, because it has intrinsic value rather than commercial.

This maudlin moment generally comes with an overwhelming sadness, as I realize I’m walking through someone’s life. This person spent a lifetime collecting these items, and their family has put a price tag on everything important, trivial, hand picked, purchased on vacation, etc. It’s depressing and kills the treasure hunting bug in me. The feeling then twists into something morbid and I wonder what my estate sale will look like. What will they put a price tag on that they shouldn’t. What item should be passed along to my grandchild, but will instead be marked $3… half-off tomorrow?

That moment struck me when I saw the wedding veil for $15. Something in me twisted and cracked and the fun became sadness. I continued to walk through the house, but there was a cloud over me now. I went to the basement and saw tools and old jars and boxes of photographs and the dark room. I found Bob and we briefly discussed our belief that the deceased may have been a writer due to telltale items on his bookshelves, and questioned whether the family knew the value of the antique photography equipment or not.

And then I saw a table completely covered with photos of nature and still shots, in both color and black and white. Above the table was an 8×10 glossy “Photography of Richard Leighty.”


I froze. My stomach flipped. My mouth went dry. Tears threatened my mascara.

Bob asked if I was okay. I wasn’t. I was speechless. I think I may have shook my head and mumbled something to let him know that I thought this was my English teacher’s house. And I darted up the stairs to find the girl at the cash register.

Happy and bubbly, she talked to everyone as she took their cash and gave away her loved one’s memories. I stood in front of her for a moment unable to form words. My mom, at a nearby bookshelf, gave me a questioning look. I finally popped the shock-bubble in my voice box and asked the girl, “Is this Richard Leighty the high school English teacher?”

“Yes it is.”

A flush of emotion ran through me that I could not control and my eyes watered up.

“Is he…. gone?” I cringed, afraid of the answer. Afraid that one of the most amazing teachers in existence was no longer in existence.

“Oh no, he’s in assisted living.”

I may never be able to explain the cool spread of relief that met with a renewed anger at his memories being sold. I talked to the girl for a few moments about him. Mom and I rehashed classroom memories (she had him years before I did). Bob came up from the basement to tell us  another student of Leighty’s was talking to him downstairs and telling him how great this guy was.

And I looked at the book in my hand that I had pulled from a shelf before my discovery. A book of poetry from one of my favorite inspirational teachers suddenly had much more value than the $2 written on the inside cover. I looked around the house with different eyes. I handed it to Bob for checkout and talked to mom for a moment. Then I basically ran from the house for fresh air.

We talked about him all the way back to mom’s. We told Bob what kind of man he was, and what kind of teacher he was, and I relived some of my favorite high school moments. Mom talked about treasure hunting and how, while it may be morbid, she enjoys it more when she knows who it belonged to. I wasn’t sure I agreed with that.

I had two amazing English teachers—one that sharpened the pencil and one that beat me with a red pen. They are absolutely part of the reason that I do what I do. I’ve talked about them before and I’m sure I will for years to come. After much talk and consoling, I remembered that people get old. People die. But memories don’t. My closing comment on the thought was a very serious, “He needs to stay with us long enough to get a copy of my novel.” And we went back Sunday morning for the half-off sale—I needed to get his address, so I could send him a copy of the novel when it comes out.

We went back that morning, and with a bit of depression I looked through the house again. I got an 8×10 dragonfly photo he’d done, a coffee cup from his kitchen that says “those who can, teach”, and his copy of The Exorcist. Because it was his copy.

And I snagged his old wire-rim glasses.

After all, he had looked at me over their edge, repeatedly, as he beat me into what I am. They may not have enough value for the family, but they are full of memories for me. And they deserve a place on my bookshelf…

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