Thursday, August 27, 2015

And so it begins

Anyone raised with summer vacations senses the change of summer to fall with some remembered anticipation. Imprinted on us is the traditional start of school and the herald of a new year. Lazy summer days are behind us, new activity ahead. I sense it every year, even when there was nothing decidedly different between August and September, I still got all willy-winky in my tummy this time of year.

Then I became a writer—an author and coincidentally, or perhaps deliberately, my seasonal childhood schedule is reflected again. This is the beginning of what I like to think of as the Conference Season. With only a short break around Christmas, I’ll go non-stop from here through February attending and teaching at half a dozen events in several states. I’ll talk writing and breath writing and live writing and in between find time for writing.

It all kicks off this weekend in Logan with the League of Utah Writers Roundup  Conference. August 28th & 29th, where I’ll teach three classes, be part two panels and shill books while connecting with writers and authors and interesting people who love what I love.

Then I get a week off before I’m off to Denver for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Workshop, September 11-13,  where I’ll teach a class on Symbolism and another on Character Creation and Management. It’s my first trip up there and I”m not a big name to them yet so I’ll get to fly beneath the radar and get into mischief as I will.

I get back with just a few days to get ready for Salt Lake Comic Con. I love Comic Con. I’d go even if they didn’t invite me, but they did, so that makes it even cooler. I’m not sure what work I’ll have to put in yet, the panels and such haven’t been announced, but I’ll have a table with books and tie-dye at Beige 8 and I’ll party like it’s a geeky Dead Show. It’s a great event. Love me some Con.

But wait, there’s more. After Comic Con comes October and the Utah Humanities Festival, a month long state-wide event. I’ve got a thing at the Veridian on the 10th, mostly hanging out - no teaching, but later that month I’m down in St. George for the St. George Book Festival, October 23rd and 24th where I’ll again teach a class and take part in the expo. I love the desert. I’m really looking forward to that. I've also got a signing at a Barnes & Noble down there on the 23rd.

I get another chance to go to the desert when November finds me in Santa Fe at the Tony Hillerman, Wordharvest Writing Conference from the 5th to the 7th. Here I’m just attending, but I have friends there and love the trip. I take it every year.

When that’s done I get a breather except of course for the launch of my new book, THE FINGER TRAP, the first Tony Flaner mystery in mid November. I’m arranging holiday time signings where I may and plan on keeping the effort going until after LTUE when things slow down.

I’m busy. The Pavlovian anxiety I get this time of year every year is this year accurate and useful as it ramps me up for an exciting Autumn. 

Visit my EVENTS page at my website for more details on all these events and more as they come up—and they will come up. Let's hook up. I hope this season finds you busy and energized and happy and neck deep in great literature!

Gotta pack now.

Peace out,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mike Cluff, Fiction Vortex and Dark Portals

Mike Cluff
The handsome face of independent fiction
Today I invite Mike Cluff, managing editor and co-founder of Fiction Vortex to The Blog Mansion to visit the Dark Portals in the basement.

Johnny: I’ve had the first one for a while. I don’t remember it during the Realtor walk-through before I bought the place, but after a few weeks, after a few parties, rituals, and sacrifices there it was right there. It’s seasonal and comes and goes. Now there are the new ones.

Mike: Have you called an exterminator?

J: Yes. Several times. I send them down here and never see them again. By the way, want to buy a van?

Mike: Good shape?

J: Smell like chemicals and have a big plastic bug on the top.

M: Hmm. Sounds like my old school bus. Only nicer. I'll pass.

J: So what do you think?

M: I can’t say. Dark Portals aren’t my thing really.

J: I just thought since you were at Fiction Vortex you knew about this stuff.

M: It’s a different kind of thing.

J: What is Fiction Vortex exactly if not a whirling hole into a different and possibly hellish dimension?

Netflix married your favorite bookstore
M: Hellish is such a subjective word... And it's not dimension, it would be dimensions, plural. Fiction Vortex is a doorway to multiple universes. We call them 'serial boxes'. They're unique, collaborative, creative spaces that release fiction in multiple serials, each of which contains multiple episodes. We've found two of said shared universes or serial boxes and have more in sight. It's almost like Netflix married your favorite bookstore. There are so many stories, it will make your mind melt. So, not exactly hellish.

J: I was thinking it was another name for a slush pile.

M: That's what we tell our interns. It's sort of like a safety blanket for them.

J: How long has Fiction Vortex been around?

M: Well the original Fiction Vortex opened in 2013 as a short story magazine, but it fluctuated, and proved unable to sustain itself . Through our serial boxes approach we are creating a new approach for authors to publish their work.

J: What kind of things do you publish?

M: Basically all genres contained in the speculative fiction spectrum. Our masthead states: Serious imagination, serious fun, serial fiction for the digital age. It's all in serial/episodic format. Each serial will have at least six episodes, and the episodes range from ten to twenty thousand words, or about forty pages.

J: How often do you publish Fiction Vortex?

M: Right now there are two active serial boxes, so once things go into full speed in September, we will produce two episodes a week. Every first episode of each serial is free--readers try it out and then see if they want to pay a buck for each additional episode.

J: Where do you get your content?

M: The co-founders, David Mark Brown, Jonathon Clapier and myself, to name a few, are writing the first serials. We are seeding the first two serial boxes, and will open these shared universes to other authors through a submission process. We want to prove the business model, show that we have a solid base of paying readers. Then when new authors come along, they already have an audience in the Vortex.

J: That sounds like a much safer thing than my spiraling doorway to the abyss.

M: Probably, but we sill have problems?

J: What? You mean publishing quality original fiction isn’t super easy?

M: No it’s not.

J: I was being sarcastic.

M: It’s hard to tell with all the howling portals.

J: What can my readers do to help?

M: We need to get the word out about Fiction Vortex and its serial boxes.  Serial fiction isn't new, it's just new in this day and age. People binge on TV episodes, so why not written episodes? That is how Dickens did it. So, yeah, we need people to get sucked into the vortex and bring their friends along for the ride. If your readers could shout out on the rooftops about this new/old idea, that would be amazing.

J: You should do a kickstarter.

M: We are. Right here: FICTION VORTEX KICKSTARTER <-- go here people and support Fiction Vortex.

J: Where on the internets can peeps find out more about Fiction Vortex and the campaign?


J: I think my portals like that idea. They’re really moving now.

M: Are those your exterminators climbing out?

J: Might be. I can’t remember them all. Might be the gas people, or those salesman who woke me up from my nap that time.

M: Maybe he’s from another dimension?:

J: I think they are.

M: How can you tell?

J: I recognize them. That’s Ron Townsend, Lamonte McLemore, Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr..

M: Who are they?

J: The 5th Dimension.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jason King and tough politics

Jason King
(not the same king who hates universal healthcare)
Today at The Blog Mansion I welcome author Jason King, who’s celebrating the release of his new book. THE SOULLESS GRAVE.

Johnny: THE SOULLESS GRAVE is a great title. I assume it’s a collection of essays about the state of the Republican Party in America.

Jason: Eh, no. It’s a fantasy.

Johnny: Fantasy. Right. Sounds like the GOP to me.

Jason: High fantasy.

Johnny: That’s kind of a broad brush, but I don’t know about everyone’s personal habits. If you say the GOP is high, then I’ll go along.

Jason: No, the book. THE SOULLESS GRAVE. The series. It’s fiction.

Johnny: You didn’t back up your essays with factual sources? I’m disappointed.

Jason: It’s a fantasy series, like LORD OF THE RINGS, and George RR Martin’s SWORDS OF FIRE AND ICE. Mine is called THE AGE OF INFINITE series. It’s not about contemporary politics or parties.

Johnny: Really?

Jason: Really. Now do you understand?

Johnny: Oh. Well after that last debate you can see why I’d think It was about the GOP. Plus your first book is called LURE OF FOOLS. It was an honest mistake.

Jason: Do you do any research before these interviews?

Johnny: Sure I do. Look at this list of questions I prepared. Probably have to throw them all out now. 

Jason: Here’s a catalog page. It may help.

Johnny: Okay. Well, maybe I can salvage a few questions and we can still have the interview.

Jason: I’d like that.

Johnny: Okay, umh. What’s your series about specifically?

Jason: It’s about a land called Shaelar where class distinction is largely based on ownership of magical artifacts called “talises.” These talises are powered by enormous crystal monoliths called Apeira wells, and mankind has built their cities around them.

Johnny: How would you describe your first administration, I mean book, A LURE OF FOOLS?

Jason: ..…A face paced action adventure with lots of magic and excitement. In it a peasant named Jekaran gets ahold of the most powerful talis in the world; a sentient sword that turns him into a super hero.

Johnny: Getting into THE SOULLESS GRAVE, Kairah, with oracular powers, has a vision of a wasteland. How do think this vision will play with the voters?

Jason:  Well Kairah’s vision is of a wasteland that is humanity’s past and Shaelar’s future. So I think the only one who would vote for that would be a Libertarian.

Johnny: What are Ezra’s views on renewable energy?

Jason: I’m not sure that question applies….

Johnny: How would you reply to the allegations that Jekaran is just tool to further a Koch Brother funded plutocracy and The Eater’s evil plans?

Jason:  What do the Koch brothers have to do with my book?

Johnny: The Eater. Duh.

Jason: Jekaran wouldn't like being called a tool.

Johnny: What limitations do you see needing to be put in place to protect the world from the Sword of Invincible Shadow?

Jason: That still sounds like a political question.

Johnny: Another dodge I think my readers can see though your propaganda. What kind of spin can are putting on Ezra’s connections with the Rikujo crime syndicate? Don’t you think his links to organized crime automatically make him unfit to govern, er, I mean, be a lead character in your book?

Jason: Well at least you’re trying….Ezra regrets his time in the criminal syndicate, and has tried to reform his life. That’s why he became a farmer. Like all of us he has regrets, and is trying to make things right by changing himself.

Illusionary spell craft surveillance
 is un-American!

Restore the Fourth Amendment!
Johnny: Do you think there should be Fourth Amendment limits on illusionary spell craft surveillance employed by Jenoc?

Jason:  What the hell, Johnny!

Johnny: It's not like I can't find out. I'll just check your email logs for that one. So.. uhm, what bold ideas does your book put forth to guarantee peace in our time? What guarantee do we have that there will not be another talis war on Shaelar?

Jason: War is always a possibility.

Johnny: Argentus faces multiple warrants and is considered by many to be a brigand. How can you justify having him as part of your campaign—I mean, book?

Jason: *sigh* Like with any good story, internal conflict makes for interesting characters.

Johnny: What can we look forward to in Book 3? Will the King of Aiestal finally propose universal health care?

Jason: Book 3 will be the finale, but I can’t say much more than that without spoilers. As for universal health care? Let’s put it this way, the king owns slaves and isn’t much concerned with the health of his people.

Johnny: I know the type. How did you first break into being an author?

Jason: I pitched to James Wymore at LTUE, and he liked my manuscript. Before that I had lots of setbacks and rejection.

Johnny: Tell me about your relationship with your shady SuperPac, I mean publisher, Curiosity Quills?

Jason: CQ is a fast growing mid-size press that was founded by authors, so they are very author-minded in their contracts and service. They’ve been good to me.

Johnny: Where can likely readers find out more about your platform?


Johnny: Cool. See how slick that was? I just had to switch around the questions a little bit and no one will know there was any confusion at all.

Jason: Seamless.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amanda Yardley Luzzader, of Cats, Flies and Owls

Amanda Luzzader (& book)
Today at the Blog Mansion I have Amanda Yardley Luzzader this year’s president of the League of Utah Writers. I’m rather fond of Amanda not just because she’s pretty and talented, and usually wins 90% of the short fiction awards, but also because she has reigned beside me this year. I am of course The Utah Writer of the Year while Amanda’s been the President.

To make her feel at home, I took her through my cat sanctuary.

Johnny: They’re all free-range, kill-free, organic kibble recipe-fed feral cats.

Amanda: That’s a lot of cats.

J: Are you allergic?

A: To tie-dye? I'm not sure.

J: We'll find out. I figured you’d be right at home here.

A: Why?

J: The cats. I’ve had trouble rounding them all up. I figured you could help me herd them into the paddock there.

A: Herd cats?

J: You’re the president of the League of Utah Writers. What’s the difference?

A: Good point.

We took our 100% organic gluten-free cattle prods and went to work.

J: How’d you get involved with The League of Utah Writers?

A: In our chapter we call it "writing in solitude." That's what I was doing. I was writing by myself and not making the kind of progress I wanted make. I found my writing group when I joined the League. They were terrific. I learned a lot and felt like I was also making a contribution.

J: What’s the advantage to writers in joining?

A: To me, really, it's about connecting with the writing community, like I was saying before. Once you find your place in this community, things start happening.

J: How’d you get involved in running the thing?

A: All I can tell you is that I joined and then a while later it was kind of like Lord of the Flies. I don't remember everything -- there was a fire and a pig's head on a spear, and the next thing I knew I was president of the whole mob.

J: What challenges have you had?

A: This year has been full of challenges. All I can say is, haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate and the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake. Baby, I'm just gonna shake it off.

J: That Tom there has rabies. Be careful.

A: I think that cat is actually a member of my writing group. His poetry is bitchen.

J: Yeah? Wait I think I know it. He does have rabies. So Big Conference coming up.

A: Yep. Maybe we should use nets.

J: To get people to go?

A: No for the cats.

J: That’s cheating. All you can do is announce to them that there’s an opportunity and hope the take advantage of it.

A: Are we talking about cats or writers?

J: I lost track. Tell me about the conference. When and where?

A: August 28-29 at the Riverwoods Conference Center in Logan, Utah. There's a buffet.

J: Still room for more people?

A: People? Yes. Replicants, too.

J: I'll tell Deckard to stay home. How would people sign up?

A: Go here:

J: Last year you had the best keynote speaker ever, the best speech ever, the best tie-dyed Writer of the Year ever. What poor slob gets to follow me?

Dean Wesley Smith
A: You did great, Johnny! This year our keynote speaker is Dean Wesley Smith, who is not a replicant, but is a USA Today bestseller. He is a well-known franchise genre fiction writer who has sold over 10 million books and has made a living as a writer for the last forty years.

J: Poor SOB. I feel sorry for the people who didn’t see me there last year. Luckily, I’m there this year too. I’m doing all kinds of stuff. Have you seen my EVENTS page with all my panels and presentations? It’s so cool.

A: I may have glanced at it.

J: When you’re not doing this what do you do?

A: President of LUW or herding cats?

J: Yes.

A: I'm an editor at an environmental consulting firm, and I have two young boys with very high energy.

J: What do you like to write?

A: I started nonfiction, and then moved into sci-fi fantasy novels, and I've published a few of my pieces, but this year I've mostly specialized in writing e-mails.

J: Where can my readers find out more about your writing?

J: We share ink in Old Scratch and Owl Hoots. That makes us ink-brothers.

A: And scratch brothers.

J: I get it - Old Scratch.

A: No these cats are vicious. I haven’t gotten them to do anything but scratch me. I’m bleeding all over.

J: Well, that’s what you get for trying to herd cats, madam President, you do the best you can with the tools you have.

A: And get scratched up.

J: And just frustrated because we’re ill equipped, underfunded, and second-guessed.

A: Who’s second guessing us?

J: Guess?

A: That was a long way to go for a bad joke.

J: I hope you appreciate it.

A: Now you sound like a volunteer president.

J: I’ll keep to my cats.