Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Big Events at the League of Utah Writers

THE FINGER TRAP won the DIAMOND QUILL Award from the League of Utah Writers last Saturday at the annual Fall Conference. I was blown away. The Diamond Quill is the highest award the league offers for published work. It represents the highest score given by third-party judges across all categories, young adult, non-fiction, fiction —all of it. There’s only each year and this year, Tony Flaner (and I) got it.

THE FINGER TRAP is my most personal. It was the book that convinced me to try to become a professional author. This was the shove off the cliff, the character that dragged me into the dream. Its existence completes its theme, this award is the crown upon that idea. This is validation the likes of which I never imagined I would see. Yeah, I’m pretty happy about this.

CELESTE won a RECOMMENDED READ QUILL, kind of a third place Bronze Medal in the Young Adult category. Not bad for the middle book of a trilogy I thought. Eleanor continues to amaze me.

And for my sins, I was made President Elect of the League of Utah Writers. I’ll follow the wonderful Jared Quan who took the gavel this year from Chris Todd Miller. President is a three year commitment; elect, president and past president. I’ve joined this group and will wield ultimate power over the organization in 2018 where I plan to use its resources to possibly build a monster insect to take over the world and make me king or something else. Plans are still in flux.

Founded in 1935, at 81 years old, The League of Utah Writers is Utah’s oldest and foremost writing organization. It provides education and opportunities to its members and community involvement across the state. It has been very good to me, as you can see above. Also it has linked me with some of the the coolest, most generous, fellow writers and sufferers on the planet.

When I began this journey into art and publishing, I did so with a list of ideas that would help me survive and navigate the rough waters of I was entering. One of those rules was to the idea that to achieve your dreams you must help others achieve theirs. Other rules, corollaries to this perhaps, were the idea to “give back” and to “say yes” to opportunities.

These all come together in this chance to be part of a great organization with vision and enthusiasm. It is a reward unto itself.

The key to happiness is gratitude. The poorest man can be happy if grateful, the richest miserable for thanklessness. This goes to the heart of mental health, a struggle I and many artists wrestle with creatively and personally. I can say though that I am, this day, truly grateful for the many great things that are happening to me and which I can share.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fall Classes

The fools at the University of Utah Lifelong Learning Center have given me more chances to corrupt the population. I'm teaching two classes come October: one a practical writing class, the other a cultural movie thing just in time for Halloween.

Follow the links below to sign up. They're going to be freakin' awesome! Fun, informative and full of brightly colored shirts and enthusiasm.

LITERARY QUERYING - The Art of Rejection: a hard-core six week class on Querying. Brush up your manuscript, assemble your pieces and go to battle with the gatekeepers of literature. I'll show you what you need, where to attack. Tricks and plans.

POPULAR HORROR AS CULTURAL MIRROR: What are we afraid of? Drawing mostly from film and visual arts, we will survey popular horror in western culture. From Dracula to The Zombie Apocalypse, we’ll break down recurring themes and villains, associate them historically to take the pulse of a culture, its changing trends and deepest fears as shown in its darkest fiction.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

LUW 2016 Fall Conference

It's just over a week away and I'm getting so stoked for this year's League of Utah Writers Fall Conference. I've been involved in the planning and construction of this year's event and promises to be the most ambitious event the League of Utah Writers has ever put on.

It's a two day event, Friday and Saturday, September 23-24th at the Provo Marriott. Here's the link: LUW Fall 2016

Beyond being behind the curtain, I'll be taking pitches for Omnium Gatherum -  looking for the next new cool dark fiction masterpiece. I'll be teaching several classes and sitting in some awesome panels. Here's my schedule.

Friday September 23, 2016

11:00 a.m. –12:00 noon 
NEBO room

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Panel: Panel: How to Scare Your Audience (Horror)

5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Presentation: Layering: Writing That Does More - Me & Callie Stoker

Saturday, September 24, 2016

9:00 a.m. –10:00 a.m.
Presentation: A Glimpse of Horror

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Panel: Books You Should Have Read

3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Presentation: Mystery Theory

5:30 p.m. – 6: 30 p.m.
Panel: LUW Progress and Visions - Getting the Most from your Membership 

6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Panel: The Do's and Don'ts of Presenting Yourself as an Author 

Wow, I didn't know how much I had to do until I just put it up, just now. I'll be a busy boy. And this doesn't even include bar-con.

Come join me and the cream of Utah's writing community.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016

Awesome new vest!
Salt Lake Comic Con is one of my favorite events of the year. It’s a family reunion of geeks and authors, celebrities and fans. It is an experience not wholly unlike a Dead show - full of sights and sounds, experiences and knowledge. It’s a sensory overload, taxing on the body and soul Three days later and I’m still recovering; the gleam of the event is still bright in my mind.

I mixed things up a bit this year at Salt Lake Comic Con— I decided to actually hang out at my booth instead of wandering around, or rather, hang out more at my booth. As such, I got to see a lot more costumes, meet a lot more fans and sell a lot more books. I sold out of DAVID every day and now I don’t have a copy left for my shelf until resupply arrives. This is partially my underestimating my great fans, but mostly due to the support of my great fans! Thanks guys!

I took a lot of pictures, but not nearly enough. Here a few of the better ones.

At the Mark Hammil event

My son getting "Crazy Eyes" from watching Mark Hammil

Hanging with David Powers

Don't Starve


By Hades those are great costumes

Never give up! Never surrender.

Believe it or not, this is my publicist.

Some old time religion

Making friends

Meeting fans

More fans

Small bug problem


Surprisingly terrifying

The teletubby formerly known as Prince



With Tyler Whitesides

Spreading the good words

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DAVID's launch

Last Saturday I launched DAVID, The Unseen Book 3 at King's English Bookstore. I was surrounded by fans, friends, and family, which are all the same thing. I sold out of books, which was cool. It was a wonderful afternoon. My eternal thanks to all who came.

Here's the speech I gave for the occasion, commemorated at The Blog Mansion for all internet access.

DAVID Launch Event Speech 
August 27th 2016 (3:00-5:30 p.m.)

(Reading: First 2 pages of DAVID.)

The relationship between an author and his characters is a strange metaphysical one. The lives I explore in my books have a certain factualness about them that rivals my real experiences. 

The characters feel real to me, feel realer in fact than the people I think I know outside of the pages. Certainly my ability to enter their minds has bred an intimacy that I don’t share with other people, but still, they are fictional character, literary devices, symbolic constructs. I have a wife (who isn’t here) children who are, and friend, fans, real people. My agent is here. 

Yet here we have a girl, Eleanor by name, not a living person but realer to me than most of you.

Though my mind knows that my little girl from Wyoming is a fiction, my heart and my memories argue otherwise.

When I do not see you, my friends, right in front of me, in the now, talking and laughing with me, you are but a fond memory, a cherished experience. At those times when we are apart, you are not so different than Eleanor and David. 

And the places the same— Eugene Oregon, Jamesford Wyoming - I see them both, I’ve experienced them both. Good and bad, wet and dry. I’ve lived them both.

This is the magic of reading. It is immersive hallucination that rivals and exceeds actual experience. The power of imagination, the strength of story telling, the alchemy of the symbols creates new realities. It’s undeniable.

In my heart, the differences between reality and fiction is not important. Source is irrelevant, only the substance matters. There is only experience and love.

I love ELEANOR. She is a part of me. I made her. She has surprised me, angered me, made me proud, and made me cry. 

I’ve likened her to my kids and will again. I do now.

Since ELEANOR was conceived, I have seen both my sons graduate. It is a bitter sweet thing to watch them go out in the world. But that is the way of things. So now Eleanor too, is off into the world.

Eleanor’s story “wraps up” in DAVID. I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that it is a fitting conclusion. I reached the end of the thematic arc I started back in the first chapter— in the first sentence of BOOK ONE. And it is pleasing to me to have it so. 

Fiction gives me the power to put pattern, meaning and theme into my characters lives; things I that I have sought, but not always found in my own. These are luxuries to be sure.

This book is dedicated to my friends who have helped me so much and been there for me and suffered and rejoiced and understood as this thing happened.

Thank you. I could not have done it without you.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Letting go of DAVID

It’s a milestone, not an end. With the release of DAVID, the third and final book of the Unseen Trilogy, Eleanor’s story is… wrapping up.

A moment comes, happens and then passes. Life goes on. The significance of the moment a resonating echo that will reverberate over the rest of our lives, a ripple in still water that propels outward in ever diminishing strengths, but never null.

This is DAVID, for Eleanor and for me.

The Unseen trilogy is to me now, an old series. I wrote it so long ago—book three was done and to the publisher before book one was released. I’ve written many books since then that it is difficult for me now to even remember how I wrote it and who I was when I did. They are an echo in my creative life, a loud one, still bouncing off the walls of my work. A good one; a trumpet and a cry, and now with DAVID, a howl.

There’s no doubt that my career as an author has so far been defined and will be defined by my scared little girl from Wyoming. I have learned so much about myself, about life and about the publishing world since the start of this Unseen adventure. I can’t but notice the parallel between that and Eleanor’s own development.

The Unseen is a trilogy, not a series. Eleanor’s character arc defined the structure before the first word hit the keyboard. I knew when I started book one where book three would end up, emotionally at any rate. The details of the climax and events steered themselves a bit, Eleanor’s own growth before my eyes on the very pages she inhabited surprised and delighted me and directed me to new friends and changing enemies. Trust, redemption and always change were constantly at the center of my thinking. Eleanor would change (forgive the obvious pun), but so too would the rest of the cast. Friends become foes, and vice versa. The setting too would undergo alteration and new life. For better or worse, it would happen and survival meant adapting to it all.

The serenity prayer is a good lens to see Eleanor with: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to know the difference.” Eleanor is uniquely positioned to change the things she cannot accept but then has to accept the changes that are she.

Should I only be so strong.

With DAVID’s release I am acutely aware that my signature series (so far) has concluded. It scares me. The ripples and echoes from it will doubtlessly send me along for some time, but the future is spooky without Eleanor. It keeps me up at night.

I have other books coming, six right now actually, including two excellent young adult titles I consider spiritual successors to Eleanor, but obviously they're not the same. And as of now, they’ve yet to find the right publishers.

I am now five years into my ten year plan to be an overnight success. Even with a decent pedigree of successful titles, I still struggle. The realities of the publishing world are the challenges that I, as a writer, must adapt to or work to change. I’m working and adapting as fast as these old cells and bones can, but still the pain drives me nuts. There’s even some issue with the printing of DAVID in time for my launch party on Saturday August 27th at King’s English Bookstore. (see what I did there?)

I’m told it’ll all be fine, contingencies are set up, but it’s still nerve wracking. It goes far to reinforce the truth that every writer must face: the only control you have in this business is in the writing of the book. Once it’s out to edit, move aside. Once it’s at the publisher’s, have a seat and wait. Letting go is part of the game.

Visiting Hemingway's Grave
It’s another facet of a strange moment of my life. A lot has happened recently, events big and small, subtle and deep. I suppose every milestone, when recognized as such, draws the thinking mind to self reflection. It’s like a graduation, a wedding. A little like a death. A moment to consider. Take stock. Mourn because it’s over while trying to celebrate that it happened. It’s a passing. A wrapping up, but not an end. There are no endings. Art is never finished, only abandoned, and Eleanor’s story must be abandoned. I said all I wanted to say, went all the places I needed to. Maybe one day there’ll be a continuation, but I am content with the series now. Happy with it really. Proud of it out of my skull, to be honest, but still, it is over. Wrapped up and offered up to the world on its own terms. I let go.

DAVID is dedicated to my friends who have helped me so much in my journey here. The kind words, encouragement, shared struggles, and excitement. The fan mail. Writing is a lonely business. It’s easy to get lost in your own head—required really. It’s beyond joyous to have people outside ready to support me. Fans waiting to read. People who love my Eleanor as much as I do.

I will miss my little girl because she has grown up. I can no longer directly effect her shape or direction. It's been this way for a while, but with DAVID, she's set and on her way. Out of the house, so to speak. I will miss her, like my own daughter, like my own kids growing up—triumphant and strong, but still moving on.

But this is the way of things. Change, trust, redemption. Support from friends and loved ones.

Carry on.

It is a good thing.

If you can reach it, come to KING’S ENGLISH BOOKSTORE on Saturday August 27th 3:00-5:30 p.m. for the official launch party for DAVID

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Advice for Writers

Advice for writers: Quit.

Do that. Quit. Stop doing this. Do something else. Anything else. Stop this thing. Take another path. Don’t try to be an author. Give it up. Really. 


I’m serious.

Put down the pen, turn off the word processor. Plant a tree, save a cat from a shelter, take up music. Reject rejection, embrace reason. Understand the odds. Denounce self-torture, bleed from the knees instead of the heart. Relax. Enjoy your life.

Quit writing. 

Try. Try hard.

If you can—success! You’re off to the races. Your misery quotient will be a fraction of what you were heading for. Your life will be simpler, safer, stabler. 

If you can’t quit writing… if you can't… well, if you can’t, I guess you’re a writer.