Thursday, June 22, 2017


They say all writing is about sex, death or writing itself. My theme is death. Always death. I’ve never written a thing without death in it. Hell, I once wrote a family Christmas poem with a body count of six. Such is my fear (dare I call it fascination?) about death.

This year death is close to me in more places than my imagination. Death has visited this year, several times. I’ve lost friends and family to the stillness after the moment. I’ve lost other things too. I’ve lost hope and optimism. I’ve passed to a new time of my life. I’m an empty nester now and the silence of an empty house is shocking. And funereal.

I’ve spent my whole life wrestling with the idea of death. Our species is cursed with the knowledge of our own mortality. It is one of our defining characteristics. I’ve studied the issue from every angle because it is never far rom my mind even at the times death was not near as it’s been lately.

The best understanding I have of death comes from two, dare I call them - Occult sources. The first is from the thirteenth card of the major arcana of the Tarot. That card, is appropriately enough, DEATH.

I don’t expect the modern reader (or any reader come to think of it) to have spent time meditating on the symbols of the tarot, so I did it for you.

The biggest takeaway from my investigation into this card is that it is not a bad card. Though it looks terrible and scary, it means “change” more than the grave. There are worse cards. The TOWER for example. You’d be hard put to spin a happy ending into a spread with that as the central force. But DEATH means change. It’s more akin to the seasons than to ruin. It’s a natural thing. That’s how the magicians who built the deck saw it and I find a solid wisdom in that.

On a similar vein, I find a terrible but also necessary understanding of death in the goddess Kali. I know this Hindu God better than I know any other save the Judeo-Christian one. I spent a year with her, studying her, meditating about her. Writing about her. The product of this search is my upcoming book, WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.

I wrote this book years ago, but it’s fitting that it’s coming out now. At this time in my life, in the place. Now. As I re-read the pages I wrote back then, with these older eyes, I’m reminded of terrible beauty which is change and time. And death. It is easy to turn one’s back on the phenomenon, cursed that we are with the knowledge of it. Denial is strong in the species (and writers) so it’s a siren call we’re happy to follow. But if we do, when death does come, for it will, it must—it is, we are unprepared.

We find ourselves struggling to comprehend it. We grasp at childish ideas and think it’s all beyond our understanding and mourn our ignorance. But that’s not true. I don’t think death is supernatural. It’s the most natural thing there is. It’s just shocking because our culture has removed it from us and we live in a season-less society of hot-house tomatoes and air conditioning. Outside our houses, in the natural world, we see the cycles as they are. Every moment, month and millennium speak of the cycles. The lesson of death and change are on a perpetual loop right in front of us, but we block it out and see lines instead of circles. forevers instead of evolutions. It’s our own fault when death surprises us. She didn’t mean to.

I’m glad to be back in WHAT IMMORTAL HAND. It’s helpful to me. It’s a dark journey, one I took with my characters, but in the end it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I faced death on a spiritual and intellectual plane when I wrote it. Now, with deeper wounds, and empty rooms, it is the cooing song of adult wisdom against the crying pains of childhood.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


“A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” 
― Jorge Luis Borges

This is a great quote and a greater idea.

I’ve long had a similar philosophy developed during high school if not before when I was consuming philosophy books and studying metaphysics. The idea was an attempt to find meaning in life, yeah, just the kind of thing an angsty teenager would need to figure out. Actually, the very thing. Anyway, the idea was that we were set upon the earth to gain experience. That was it. The truth I lighted on was to live and notice living as much as possible.

I actively pursued this goal, trying new things, feeling the indestructibility of youth and the certainty of progress for a long time. I was called a risk taker, not because I put myself in physical danger, but because I put myself in psychic danger by leaving the country for a year as a senior, switching jobs when they no longer interested me (see Tony Flaner) and, yes occasionally, putting myself in some danger with long camping trips or questionable chemicals.

I was fearless for the longest time and I think it did me good.

I'm not longer fearless, or as fearless as I was. I got squashed here and there, was betrayed more often than I care to remember and lost some of my pluck. I lost people to distance, time and death. I fell into a rut. My courage slipped to fear as my aura of invulnerability dissipated. I got pneumonia. My knees weakened, memory slacked, finances got scary. I retreated a little.

But through all of it, I tried to pay attention.

Today I sit on the verge of another adventure, one again of my own choosing. It’s a simple thing, a move—a hellish, complicated, expensive, hard, down-sizing move, and while my back aches from boxing and my calendar runneth over with handyman visits and shinglers, there is a definite part of me watching it all and recording it.

I’m collecting experience.

It makes me—a writer, an artist, a conscious human being.


Another favorite quote of mine.

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."
The Waking, by Theodore Roethke

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

FyreCon 2017

It is convention season and I'm proud to say that I'm a big part of the debut of a new creativity focused convention called FyreCon. I hope you've heard of it, if not, look into it. It's a writers and artists, classes for enthusiasts of all levels. This three day event begins Thursday June 8 and goes to Saturday June 10tha and is all at the Weber State-Davis college.

Here's the link to learn more. Walk-in welcome (i.e. you can register at the door)

June 8-10
Weber State University Davis
2750 University Park Boulevard
Layton, UT 84041

It promises to be a great summer event and I'm stoked to teach my guts out at it. I have a lot to say and I'm teaching my favorite classes. Heres' my schedule:

Thursday, June 8, 2007

PRESENTATION: Writing for Young Adults  
4:30-5:20 p.m. 
Building D3
Room 307
Writing Room 2

Friday June 9, 2007

PANEL: Books the influenced the Authors
11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

Aaron Blaylock, Callie Stoker (M), Dave Butler, Johnny Worthen, and Wendy Knight
Panel Room 3
Building D2
Room 301


2:30 p.m.

PRESENTATION: Writing to Theme
5:30-7:20 p.m.

Building D3
Room 302

Saturday June 10, 2007

PANEL: Underused Conflicts: What are They and How They Make Your Story Stronger
12:30-1:20 p.m. 

C Michelle Jefferies, Gama Ray Martinez, Johnny Worthen, and M.K. Hutchins (M)
Panel Room 3
Building D2
Room 301

PRESENTATION: Character Creation and Management, The D&D Way1:30-3:20 p.m.
Building D3
Room 306

PRESENTATION: There are No Rules; Here are Ten
3:30 - 4:20 p.m. 

Building D3
Room 307

PANEL: Writing Humor
6:30-7:20 p.m.

Aaron Blaylock, Alyson Peterson (M), Johnny Worthen, and Robert J Defendi
Building D2
Room 110

See you there!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Editing Workshop

This Saturday I'll be participating in the League of Utah Writers Summer Prequel Editing Workshop. That's a mouthful, probably should edit that down, but if only I knew how... good thing this workshop is happening. It's a four hour long workshop from 12:00-4:00 covering, well, editing, but from a different point of view. We've invited traditional publishers and self-publishers the differences and techniques of each. I suspect there'll be a lot of overlap, but also copious amounts of information for the writer looking to improve their craft. We're calling this a prequel because it is kind of part of the Fall Conference on October 6 & 7th and anyone who attends this will get a discount to that conference.

Here's the link and cool graphic. There's still time to sign up, still room in the limited space. For now. There might be tickets at the door, but they'll probably haze you or something, so get your tickets now.

12:00 Welcome
12:10-1:40 TJ Da Roza (Jolly Fish):
Editing the Publisher Way
1:40-1:50 Break
1:50-3:20 Melissa McShane Proffitt
and Jana S. Brown:
Editing the Indie Way
3:20-3:30 Break
3:30-4:00 Panel from all guests

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Eight Seconds — WonHundredWordWednesdays

Continuing the challenge of writing a one hundred word story, I present today my quick response this writing prompt: AS I PUT MY HAND ON THE HANDLE. It also plays for Taurus writing prompt.


As I put my hand on the handle to open the gate, I gave Art one more excited look. He kept his eyes fixed on the bull’s head between his legs, glancing at one horn and then the other. 
“Ready?” I said.
The bull wiggled and shivered. Art clenched his teeth.
“Ready?” I said again.
Barely audible response.
“Eh, no actually,” said Art. “Get me the hell out of here.”
“Go!” I threw the handle and off they went.
Art’s no longer talking to me, but he’ll come around. He’s pretty proud of that new belt buckle.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spring Into Books 2017

This Saturday is SPRING INTO BOOKS—a great annual event at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan City.

This is a fun event because it mixes readers with writers, which is the holy grail of writing events. I'll be there with my books and my tie-dye and my boisterous publisher-scaring bluster.

But there's more. At 2:00, I'll be reading, for the first time publicly, an excerpt from my upcoming book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.

Come for the reading, stay for the books. See you there.


Saturday May 20, 2017— 2;00-6:00 p.m.

Viridian Event Center
8030 S. 1825 W.
West Jordan, Utah 84088


2:00 p.m. 
main lobby

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Theological Horror

My favorite horror sub-genre is theological, it’s a flavor of psychological thriller but with cultural as well as personal dimensions.

These aren’t very common. I know of maybe five in the category, two are mine, but I find it fascinating how one culture’s gods are another’s devil. Baal became Satan, Kali the devil. Evil is the result of an aggressive PR campaign and the product of a limited world view.

In a magickal world view, power is everywhere. Gods, angels, rocks. The very water we drink, the air and elements are potent and worship worthy. All is energy, facets of a greater thing we are unable to describe in a single name outside of God, which is too loaded a term for magickal use. To the outside world, the magician deals with forces they have not business playing with. It’s a hubris to toy in God’s play box, but that is what they do. There’s an immediate characterization of one who dares to work magick, a willful character, an actor, one striving for greater things, taking greater risks, traveling the taboo roads. This is the basis of BEATRYSEL, my debut novel. I go to great lengths to accurately depict this thriving world view. In the mainstream they are definitely a counter-culture, but a humanistic one in the face of a materialistic society.

What defines our culture—American culture, western culture, is the dual nature of theology. We have good and evil. These are of course value judgments. One person’s good is another person’s evil. A freedom fighter is a rebel to the establishment. It’s all relative. The universe doesn’t make value judgements; man does.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this idea of right/wrong, good/evil is the foundational concept of faith. But it’s not universal. In my upcoming book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND (coming September from Omnium Gatherum Media), I posit an eastern religion upon American soil. Indian pantheons have taken root. Their cults and castes are an unseen presence. The Thugs, followers of Kali, highwaymen, dacoits, killers do their holy work upon the lonely highways. This is great fodder for horror, but the true terror of the piece comes not from the killings, but the acceptance of it.

At the root of Hinduism, the universe is not a binary, but a triad. There are many gods but the three primal ones, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva represent the creator, sustainer and transformer (destroyer). Life is a cycle and each has its place and season. There is necessary sacrifice, destruction and culling. I challenge the reader to examine this concept, to accept it and possibly embrace it. I went down the rabbit hole for this one and met with Shiva’s consort, Kali, in her many forms—lover, killer, supreme force. The record of my journey is WHAT IMMORTAL HAND. It is a bold piece, literary and dark, steeped in the cruel realities of nature and the limiting imagination of polite society.

It all comes back to Hamlet’s timeless quote: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” When we challenge our core ideas of right and wrong, good and evil—God Himself, we are in some truly unsettling waters. Here there are dangerous tides and thrilling undercurrents, madness beneath the surface. This is a place where only horror can truly thrive.

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND — Michael is called of God; just not that God.

Painting by Sean Ricks