Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND - video essays #2

A discussion of the second key poem in WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, Kali The Mother.

Kali The Mother

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is on sale all of October.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND - video essays #1

I told you I would do it—why didn't you believe me?

Today I begin a short series of video essays about WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, my psychological thriller, my literary horror, my treatise on good and evil. Ny modern noire road trip through the myths and roads of the desert.

Video Essay Introduction

The Tyger

Thursday, October 4, 2018


One crime leads to another; one time to a time before. Michael Oswald pulls it all apart as though tugging a thread on an old sweater. A theft to a murder to crimes beyond imagining, Michael Oswald doesn’t understand what he’s investigating. But he’ll remember. It began with a missing truck.

Happy October, the month of Halloween, the last true pagan holiday.

Coincidentally, look what I got:

A new cover for my horror noir WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, and to celebrate the book is on sale this month at Amazon for a pittance: 2.99 for ebook on Amazon and 9.99 for paperback at the publisher's.

I love this book. It’s literary, mystery, horror and philosophy. It’s got legs that walk on the dark side, the far side, the inside. For the next few weeks I’m going to be talking about it, not just writing about it. I’m going to try some video, the technology thing. It’s going to be fun.

Pick up a copy and send me questions if you have any. A Q&A could be fun. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Lycanthroping with Julie Frost

It's been lonely at the Blog Mansion of late. I’ve been holed up writing and fighting demons off with wet ramen noodles and stern glances. Today, however, I have a visitor, Julie Frost, a writer friend of mine with a new book I want to know about. We meet out in the garden.

Julie Frost: I have a friend who can help you with your demon prob--What is that?

Johnny Worthen: Wolfsbane, specially for you. Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

F: You know I write books about werewolves, right?

W: I’m never sure if wolfsbane is good or bad for werewolves. I’m a cat person myself.

F: Hilariously, dogs are terrified of werewolves. Cats seem to think of them as their very own fur rug-beds. But dogs are sensible creatures and cats are weirdos. Having been owned by five cats, I can say this with some assurance.

W: No argument there. My weirdos are all inside. Probably because of what you write. Tell me about your series Pack Dynamics.

F: As you may or may not know, I cut my writerly teeth on fanfiction. A few years after I made the break from fanfic to original fiction, “Iron Man” came out, and Robert Downey, Jr. became my Celebrity Boyfriend (in a completely platonic fashion, because we are both happily married). I wrote a not-Tony and not-Pepper novelette where they are kidnapped by terrorists and finally admit that they have a thing for each other, and he asks her to marry him, and she says yes. Of course, my not-Tony is a big-pharma guy who wants to cure cancer and is not quite the same narcissistic jerk that Tony is, and my not-Pepper is a werewolf, because I am me and Patrick Tracy (who is a genius) told me to, after I realized that I’d written a straight thriller-romance without a single speculative element, and I was flailing around trying to figure out how to add one. The markets for straight thriller-romance novelettes are nonexistent, whereas if you can add a speculative element to it, there are, like... five good-paying markets that will at least give it a cursory glance.

My favorite movie RDJ stars in is not “Iron Man,” however--it’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” And so, I thought, what would happen if Tony hired Harry and Perry to look into some industrial espionage for him? WACKY FUN, is what... except I didn’t want to write fanfic anymore. So I was lamenting this state of affairs, 3000 words into the story, when a kind soul tapped me on the shoulder and said “Don’t you already have a universe you can plug characters like that into?” And, well, yes. Yes, I did. I had been a short-story writer up until then--short stories picked me, not the other way around--but this thing quickly bloomed into a novel-length work without me meaning it to. It takes place before that first novelette, so not-Pepper is still hiding her lycanthropy from not-Tony. And, yes, I’ve totally gotten called on the fact that Alex and Megan are Tony and Pepper but... I don’t care, honestly. Is it fun? Yes? Then my crazy diamonds can by-golly shine on.

The basic gist of book one is “A private eye with PTSD is thrown face-first into a brutal world of werewolves, vampires, and nanotech by a pharmaceutical espionage case gone horribly awry.” The “Piles of Cash and Killer Benefits” novelette picks up a couple months after that one leaves off, with Alex and Megan and the terrorist. And then Pack Dynamics: A Price to Pay picks up a few months after that, where some of the dangling plot chickens in the first book come home to roost. The elevator pitch for that one is “A werewolf private eye confronts a group of vengeance-fueled criminals to stop them from selling Berserker Virus Murder-Wolf tech to terrorists--but when he’s offered an opportunity for payback of his own, he might save the world and lose his soul.”

Alex was supposed to be the main protag in the novels. It wasn’t until I was deciding if Ben, the Harry-analogue from KKBB, was going to live or die, 70,000 words into book one, that I realized that the whole thing was actually about Ben in the first place. Such are the vagaries of writing a novel by the seat of your pants. I don’t do that anymore. Outlines are my very good friends, though I’m still getting a handle on how to outline a novel. See above: short stories picked me, not the other way around. Novels are hard.

W: There are all kinds of stories about how someone becomes a werewolf. How do yours work?

F: In the Pack Dynamics ‘verse, it’s basically transmitted by body fluids mixing. So if you’re bitten by a werewolf, their saliva gets in your bloodstream and turns you. If a werewolf bleeds into an open wound you happen to have, you get turned. I, uh, haven’t decided if it’s an STD yet because it’s never come up. I also have nanotech-created werewolves, which got really fun, really fast, because “regular” werewolves triple in mass when they shift, whereas the ones created with the tech retain their original body mass. Because science. And then that science gets cranked up to about a fifteen in book two.

W: Susceptible to silver?

F: Silver to the heart or brain is insta-death--it basically fries those organs to a crisp right then and there. Silver anywhere else burns fiercely until removed, and those wounds take longer to heal. Wolfsbane is a paralytic that dumps freezing toxins into the system; if you leave a werewolf covered in a net or tied by a rope made with it, it will eventually root into their body, flower, and then die after about three weeks, dumping toxins and killing the wolf as well. (Of course, wolfsbane--or monkshood, as it’s also known--doesn’t do humans any favors either, and will in fact kill us faster.) And rowan, or mountain ash, will make a werewolf spike a fever and hemorrhage from the wound. So you can totally stake a werewolf in my novel universe. They can also bleed to death if they’re wounded so severely that the super-healing can’t kick in fast enough.

Wolfsbane (kinda' pretty)
W: I experimented with were-weevils for a while. By the light of fluorescents ants would turn to weevils. Not very scary unless you’re a baker. Have you ever considered moving away from werewolves to other were-creatures?

F: ...Ants and weevils aren’t even in the same family--you know what—never mind. I guess wolves and humans aren’t either. I had a were-squonk in one of my short stories where Ben was investigating a “cheating spouse” case. So the possibilities of other weres in that universe are certainly there. I mined American folklore for that one--a squonk is a creature so hideous that the sight of its own reflection is enough to make it cry so hard it literally dissolves in its own tears.

W: What first drew you to werewolves?

F: I’ve loved the unloved critters from an early age, and I liked wolves before they went from “we must exterminate all these scary predators” to “what magnificent animals with a beautiful family structure,” though the attitude was beginning to turn around when I was a kid. I think that in urban fantasy, we’re seeing that same shift in attitude from “scary monster” to “someone who grows fangs and fur three nights out of the month but just wants to mow his lawn and pay his bills the rest of the time.” Monster is as monster does, as Ben is fond of saying, and there’s good and bad werewolves just like there’s good and bad people. Of course, a bad person who is also a werewolf that triples in mass when he shifts is orders of magnitude scarier than Hannibal Lector, so I can have fun with that too. Frequently.

W: Look out there, that’s a were-cantaloupe. By the light of an autumn moon, it changes to a rotting cantaloupe.

F: ...that sounds more like a zombie cantaloupe. Gross.

W: I love how you’re so active in the writing community. I see you at all the conferences, you’re a member of my League of Utah Writers chapter and a great ally. What do you find most appealing about being part of all this?

F: So many people helped me out when I was first starting, and this is, I suppose, my way of paying that forward. This business can be infuriating, mystifying, and exhilarating all at the same time, and helping people navigate through the pitfalls, or giving tips on craft, or even just the mechanics of submitting, is tons of fun for me.

W: I love how you have branded yourself. If I’m the tie-dye writer, you are the werewolf woman. Tell me about that.

F: So the novel didn’t sell until six years after I wrote it, but meantime Ben was yanking on my sleeve and going “You know you can get short stories out of this, right?” And then I realized that I could do literally anything with werewolves, and I wasn’t constrained by the novel universe in short stories, so I created a werewolf who was a mindless wolfman rage-monster when he shifted, but who had lost his legs in an IED explosion, and had Adventures With Prosthetics. I could put werewolves in the Old West. I could even put them in space! I’m working on one now for the Baen Fantasy Contest that’s swords and sorcery.

And I made a resolution about Writers of the Future--I would either win with a werewolf story, or pro out of the contest. Dave Farland, the coordinating judge, famously hates werewolf fiction. So if I could win him over, I’d know I had arrived. And, wouldn’t you know it: Achievement Unlocked--I won third place for Volume 32 with a werewolf story. That kind of solidified the werewolf thing--and expanding that story into a novel is next on my plate after I finish the Guardian Angel to Serial Killers novel I’m embroiled in right now.

But it’s not All Werewolves All The Time. I’ve got a space opera novelette coming out soon, along with an epic fantasy I’ll be self-pubbing with cover art from the handsome and hard-working Sean Ricks. I’ve written every shade of speculative fiction from hard SF future-science all the way to epic fantasy with magic and dragons. And of course, mixing all that is fun too. My first sale contained space dragons.

W: You’ve made the step from traditional publishing to hybrid, meaning you’re now putting out titles yourself, also called indie. Tell me about your decision to do this and how hard has it been.

F: When I finally got a handle of what book two of the Pack Dynamics series was going to be, I realized that people really should read “Piles of Cash and Killer Benefits” first, or they’d be horribly confused as to why Alex and Megan were suddenly getting married. For some reason, my Alex stories are a hard sell (I’ve sold all my Ben stories, which are mostly noir-ish hardboiled detective things, but I’ve got a pair of Alex stories sitting on my hard drive that, apparently, no one wants. It makes me sad, because I think Alex is awesome), and an Alex novelette was an even harder sell. Not because it’s a bad story (I don’t think--I hired the same guy who edited the first novel to edit the novelette and he said the shorter one was superior, and was super surprised when I told him which one I’d written first), but couple the length with the werewolf (and werewolves are a hard sell, trust me on this) and the fact that Alex is a Tony Stark analogue, and, well, no one would buy it.

And then there’s a guy in book two whom I felt needed an introduction, so I wrote a novella with his origin story. I wasn’t going to shop that one around, and I didn’t want to bother WordFire with something this short, so I decided to publish “Piles of Cash and Killer Benefits” and “In the Multitude of Mercy” together.

Deciding to do it was easy. Designing my own cover, and figuring out the different layouts for print and ebook, and all the ticky-tack formatting stuff, was less easy. Spending money on actual professional editors to give the stories a once-over was the hardest part for me, because I am notoriously tight-fisted with my cash, and I knew there was no way I’d make it back in anything like a timely fashion--which is why I ended up designing the cover myself, at the end of the day. Fortunately, I have friends who don’t blow smoke at me when I ask for an honest opinion, and the cover went from OH GOD WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WITH THAT HORRIBLE FONT to “Oh, hey, that’s cool and I actually like it the best of the three in the Pack Dynamics series.” Which is super flattering, because WordFire gave me amazing covers.

And now I’m working on a Pack Dynamics collection, which will hopefully debut at LTUE in February. Then I’ll look at other collections of previously-published stories, because those have already gone through various editors, so it’s just making the time to do it.

W: I’m always interested in breaking in stories. how did you first break into the publishing world?

F: My first sale was to a publication (now, alas, defunct) called “Renard’s Menagerie. As mentioned above, I cut my writerly teeth on fanfiction, and the first “original” story I wrote was a Firefly knockoff wherein the crew was hired to smuggle beagles to a planet with a rabbit problem, which idea was taken directly from the episode of Firefly where Wash suggests they smuggle beagles instead of cows next time. That one never sold (perhaps because I literally scraped the serial numbers off an actual Firefly story I wrote with that plot), but then I wrote one with the same crew where they were hired to transport dragon eggs from one planet to another by the eggs’ mother. That one sold to “Renard’s Menagerie,” and three others I penned afterward starring the same crew have also sold.

Now, RM was a penny-a-word publication, and it was the first place I sent that story. Nowadays, I wouldn’t do it like that, because I can’t help but think that maybe someone who paid more would have bought it. Live and learn. Start from the top and work your way down.

W: What advice would you give new writers?

F: The first rule of writing is Do What Works For You.  There is no One Thing that holds true for every writer--scratch twenty writers, and you’ll find thirty processes. It took me ages to figure out that outlining was awesome, but outlining absolutely does not work for other people for a variety of reasons, and that’s okay. I’m not using the same outline process for my latest project as I used for Pack Dynamics 2, even. And sometimes I’ll make it to the halfway point in a short story outline, get stuck, and just start writing the thing until I’ve got a handle on the characters and can finish the outline. Or not.

And I’ve got a second rule: Write What You Love. I love werewolves. I think that comes through in my writing, and so I’ve been pretty successful (not wildly successful, mind you, but it keeps me in rum money) with them. Whatever that Thing is that you love as much as I love werewolves, write it. You might not find insta-success with it, but as you start to break in and make yourself known, the readers who love that Thing will come to you.

Third rule: The first draft is the worst draft, and THAT’S OKAY. A novel or short story does not spring, fully formed and perfect, from your keyboard. It’s going to suck Let it suck. Embrace the suck. You can edit crap into not-crap. You cannot edit a blank page.

Fourth rule, which is really a corollary to the third: Your baby might be ugly even after several drafts. Grow rhino skin, and accept criticism with grace. When my editor told me that a character in my first novel either needed more to do, or needed to be excised completely, I had to be talked off a ledge--and then I sat down, took her out (I couldn’t take her out of the universe, because I’d written several shorts with her in them, but I sent her on a Australian vacation), and gave her scenes to other characters in the story, making those people more awesome in the process. And now I get to write the story where she comes home from her Australian vacation to find that her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend got wolferized in the course of a case she thought they could work from a desk. Listen to your critics--but also remember at the end of the day it’s your story. If they’re asking you to change something fundamental, or to write something that wouldn’t even be yours by the time you finished, you’re allowed to say “no.” I put my foot down several times in book two (and explained why), or made subtle changes that kept the editor happy but didn’t change what I was actually going for. Also remember that when someone tells you that something is wrong, they’re usually right--but when they tell you how to fix it, they might very well be wrong. If it makes you slap your forehead, that’s a clue.

W: Where can my readers find out more about you?




Twitter: @JulieCFrost


W: Here’s the most successful lycanthropic experiment yet. Under the rays of the summer sun, this grass turns to straw!

F: Looks like you just didn’t water it.

W: Weregrass!

F: Broken sprinkler.

W: Cynic.

F: Ouch! It bit me.

W: Told you.

F: Hey, why am I suddenly growing fangs, fur, and claws...

W: Prepare to photosynthesize!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Salt Lake City Weekly Interview

This week's blog is simple. It's a link to a fun interview I did with Scott Renshaw at the Salt Lake City Weekly newspaper. Here it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I’d like to announce the existence of 

This new short story anthology was written, editing, and created by my League of Utah Writers chapter, The Infinite Monkeys.

We debuted the book at this year's QUILLS conference and it sold out in a day!

I am honored and excited to be a part of it. Not only do I have a story in it—the shortest one by far at one hundred words—but I got to edit some of it and work with a great group of enthusiastic writers. We debuted many of them here.

Ostensibly the book was centered around the zodiac, astrological signs, but that was just twelve writing prompts that quickly led into other places. Each story is wonderful, diverse, dark or funny. It’s a celebration of writing, a foray into the publishing world, and a testament to the power of creativity.

I recommend you pick up a copy, maybe a dozen. Christmas is coming. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My FanX Schedule

—September 6-8, 2018 

100 South West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Thursday, September 6, 2018 


The Heart & Soul of Storytelling:
Writing to Theme

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. — Room 151 A
Raise your work to literary levels by consciously incorporating themes. Learn how to identify what you’re trying to say and actively nurture the subtler but greater questions you’re addressing. Enhance your writing with symbols as signposts, layers of grays and depths of meaning. Give the literary critics something to enjoy.

Friday, September 7, 2018 


Turning Ideas Into Novels

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. — Room 255B
Have you ever had a great idea, but didn't know the steps to take to make it into something more? Join authors and creators as they discuss the steps from brainstorming to outlining to all the different ways you can take your process and turn and idea into a novel.

With Cindy Grigg, C.B. Lee (Moderator), Tricia Levenseller, John M. Olsen, Rebecca Rode, J.P. Roth, Johnny Worthen

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My speech from Quills

League of Utah Writers, Quills Conference 2018
Incoming President's speech (by me - Johnny Worthen)
Published by request.

So… here we are.
We pushed it off for a year, but here we are. Again.
Yeah. Hi.
I’m Johnny Worthen and I am your leader. I am the new president. Throw me a parade!
Before I bask in the glory and reverence I so richly deserve, let me say that if I have seen farther it is because I stand atop the pile of my enemies mouldering corpses.
Really though. I take over this venerable and noble institution at a time when its course is set and right. My job is just not to sink it. My job is maintenance. For this gift I’d like to give thanks to our new past-president, my friend and inspiration, Jared Quan!
Give it up for Jared!
Also give it up for the fantastic people behind this our best conference ever. The planning committee, board and volunteers.
And of course our awesome guests.
This fantastic conference is a testament to everyone’s hard work and dedication. We are a non-profit organization. We are run by volunteers, talented, energetic, dedicated volunteers. Or as I like to call them my friends.
To me this is what the League of Utah Writers has always been about. 
It’s about friends. It’s about community. It’s about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and it’s about giving back. I have long believed that the only way to achieve one’s dreams is to help others achieve theirs. It is not a burden but a privilege to do so. There are prizes for participation. Tonight I stand before you as a glowing example of the truth of that statement.
Thanks to the League of Utah Writers, my dreams have been, are being, and will be fulfilled.
That’s what community does.
All around me are my friends—a community of artists who share the joys and depressions, the triumphs and the trophies, who understand  truth of a phrase that comes to you as fall asleep. The mighty power of the oxford comma.
We come together because, unlike the propaganda of division thrown daily in our faces, we recognize that there is more—much more—that unites us than divides us. That is community. That is the League of Utah Writers.

We are a varied group of poets, genre-ists, memoir-ists, essayists, novelists— masochists all. We unite because we can, because we must. We are the only ones who understand us.
We are magicians in the true sense of the word, spells of words translated across time and space. Thought, intent, knowledge and emotion, we play in the psyche, meld minds, speak beyond the grave. So let it be written. We move in that special kind of telepathy Stephen King talked about. Every letter, syllable, word and phrase, paragraph chapter, tome and catalog changes the universe. Changes the universe. I feel sorry for the people who don’t do what we do. So mote it be! So say we all!
Together we fight rejection and editors. Subjective fickleness and fad. It is crazy to do this. 
We are all insane, but what good company we keep!
Jared said something that has resonated with me for years. It’s not his quote, but we’re writers. We steal outright and conceal our sources. Anyway he said, “if you want to go fast, go alone. I you want to go far, go together.” Here we are!
Without this group, all of you, this institution, this energy, this support and love, I would have long since given up on this, my dream, my happiest endeavor, my writing.
I am honored to have earned the trust of the board and the league. I thank you for this chance.
I should warn you though that I will fuck up. I will make mistakes. I press the limits. I will. I’m good at that. Lots of practice. But if I fall, I know I shall not fall far. For I have the greatest net of friends in the world to catch me and steer me right. From neophytes newly initiated, to chapter presidents, board members, and executives, and the new president elect John Olsen, who if things get too bad will have me assassinated and take over.
Give it up!
This is Quills. This is by far the most ambitious conference the league has ever held. So far. We have five or six major event a year for all types and levels of writer. Quills is the crowning moment, the one made for advanced seekers. We are intimate and professional. Which is good because I often say that all writers are like prostitutes just looking for a better pimp, the analogy fits.
This year’s theme was Read Write and Repeat. It wasn’t used much because the names Quills was so new and cool we concentrated on it. But the idea was sound. Read Write Repeat. Stay hooked on books. We need more users out there. The first one’s free, after that… yeah, well there are libraries. I guess they’re all kind of free. Literacy is intelligence and after seeing what the opposite of intelligence can do, I big fan of smart. Read, write, repeat. Be artists. Be smart artists.
Anne Hillerman
Wrapping up and looking forward I’d like to announce the theme for the next year and next Quills. “Live in Letters.” This is a continuation of the theme of literacy and the life writing.
I’d like to announce also now our first special guest for Quills 2019. The wonderful, and talented, all-around cool, best-selling author of American Mystery Anne Hillerman. Anne shall hang out with us next time.
Anne Hillerman! I am living the dream!
That’s all I got— I’m humbled and excited. I’m happy. I’m among friends.
Live in Letters everyone, they are magick!
I thank you!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

One week until Quills!

I am so excited for Quills. It's going to be a complete blast. It is a dream conference for me. A chance to hang with the tribe and meet new members for the first time. I get to meet my hero, Tim Dorsey and teach and drink and eat and chill... so cool!

If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. You can now buy single day passes and banquet tickets along with the Thursday Prequel Workshops and regular stuff.

This magnificent and intimated conference is the height of the writing scene in Utah. Come and create!

Here’s my schedule:

Thursday, August 23, 2018 

Prequel: Querying: The Art of Rejection 
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Summit 

Welcome Mixer/Reception
7:00 – 10:00 p.m. — Garden

Friday, August 24, 2018 

New Attendees Orientation 
8:15 - 8:45 a.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Tim Dorsey Interview
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. — Ballroom 2

Presentation: Deeper Reading for Deeper Writing: Introduction to Deconstruction
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. — Connor

5:45 - 6:45 p.m. — Atrium

Saturday, August 25, 2018 

Panel: Live Critique: Adult SFF/Horror
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. — Aspen
Presentation: Outlining: A map not a death sentence
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Live Critique: Mystery, Thrillers, Suspense, Crime
5:45 - 6:45 pm. — Willow

Awards Banquet - Incoming President Speech
7:30 - 10:00 p.m. — Ballroom

Thursday, August 9, 2018

CORONAM - A Crowning Personal Achievement

It is done.

I finished it. At least the first draft.

My epic social science fiction, CORONAM, is done.

I am in shock. I am on air. I am in awe.

Now you know I write a lot of books. Have written a lot of books. I have. It’s what I do. I love it. Every book I write, every project I begin is a wonderful new adventure. I think of myself as an artist and so with each one, I press myself harder, I challenge myself more, I take bigger risks and get more ambitious.

That was the genesis of CORONAM.

And boy, was it ambitious.

As with all projects it’s hard to pin down a moment of beginning. Prewriting is often subconscious and goes on for years. The way I do things though, I can put a definite date on the actual beginning of writing. The first “Once upon a time” so to speak. It was April 12, 2015. I finished it August 4, 2018.

That’s 1210 days of writing. 39 and 3/4 months. 3.31 years.

It is a trilogy. It is epic.

I have a rule to “Finish What I Start.” This one really tested that. In fact, it was so trying, that between books one and two I actually took time off to write a mystery. Much less complicated.

Book two took fourteen months (the muddled middle in action). It was only because of my great writers group, The Infinite Monkeys and our Fall Writing Retreat that I was able to kick start it again and blaze through it with extra momentum to carry on to three and now have it all done. Thanks guys!

It’s not that the books are boring or that they lagged. They didn’t. They’re great, I think. The pinnacle of my power (so far). It’s just, as many writers will attest, it’s hard to keep interest in long projects. I had distractions and lots of career fear, new responsibilities and a plethora (yes I said plethora) of day to day worry that only a left-leaning American can appreciate.

But I got book two done and then book three and the entire arc was done.

One central idea, planned and executed. Not random. Connected and united. Not a false note in it. From the first word to the last sigh, all driving forward to a promise fulfilled.

When I say epic, I mean it in every sense of the word. The series encompasses centuries of history, has a score of main characters, spans the stars and wrestles with ideas, social and philosophical, that have plagued mankind since the beginning. And it’s long.

127.688 words (three edits)

146,828 words (three edits)

161,204 words (first draft)

Total: 435,720 words.

I know this spits in the face of all the gatekeepers who say to write novellas and short books, but this isn’t that. This is my DUNE, my FOUNDATION TRILOGY, my EARTHSEED. This is the series I’ve always wanted to write.

And I did it.

My creative life has been orbiting this series for so long—for years. It was the center of my life. I feel a bit untethered now, a bit afraid, but also, truly, supremely proud.

This is a life’s achievement for me.

Will it get published? I don’t know. My agent is trying, but it’s hell out there, and epic literary social science fiction is not exactly the current craze. I hope it does sell though. It may not be for everyone, but I think it could find an audience.

But I wrote it for me and that is enough. My motto: “I write what I want to read, that guarantees me at least one fan.”

Editing awaits.

Finish what you start, push yourself, and don’t give up!

The payoff is worth the pain.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quills 2018 - get excited!

Quills is less than a month away and I am excited! (Yes, I used an exclamation point, and italics, just now - that should tell you something.)

Quills is the new name for the League of Utah Writers fall conference and awards banquet. We renamed it because we’re changing it. We’re looking to make it an regional event not just local. To this end we’ve invited many guests the Utah crowd has never heard before. New voices and perspectives, opportunities galore. We have agents and editors and writers and scribblers, and the gang will all be there. 

It’s limited to 300 people, so it’ll be intimate and information packed. It’s the kind of event where you can sit with your future agent, chew the fat with with New York Times best seller and play games in the bar with an editor. It’s a conference. It’s networking. It’s a party.

The League of Utah Writers Quills awards banquet is Saturday and me, yours truly, will complete my many years coup of becoming president of the League. Big night.

There will even be a Thursday prequel full of half-day workshops that you can sign up for separately.

You can sign up to pitch your work to agents and editors.

If you are a writer or want to be and you are within traveling distance of this event you need to come.

This is the big one.

Friday and Saturday, October 24th and 25th, 2018
(Prequel Thursday 23rd)

480 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108 
(801) 581-1000

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Poem of Worry

You have to let them try
You have to let them fail
You have to let them get hurt
You have to know you will not always be there
So they must
They might
They will
They can

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sad State

My glasses have taught me to ignore my peripheral vision. A heavy prescription, narrow lenses, loose frames are making me a cripple. Those side spaces are out of focus outside my eyes or closer, the frames. If I reacted to things out there, I’d be jumping in fear at every tilt of my head -the lens edge coming to get me, blur motion and structures.. It’s a terrible thing. It means I walk into low branches and break cups on other cups. It’s a terrible sign of my aging that I can only trust what I see right in front of me.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Musing on the Pure Amateur

I am always impressed by my creative writing classes. There is so much originality and energy that not a class goes by that I don’t say, honestly, “I wish I’d have written that.” It’s particularly true in the more amateur classes where writers haven’t been spoiled by the “rules of writing” the very poisons I’m spreading in my lessons. Free from the censorship of agreed-upon forms and strategies, marvelous things happen organically.

There’s Picasso’s old adage that one needs to learn the rules like a professional so they can break them like an artist. When you don’t know the rules, sometimes the same effect happens. It reminds me that the rules are misnamed. They’re not rules, not laws. Not even conventions. They are observations of pattern and attempts to define and quantify something that defies it. "X is beautiful therefore for something to be beautiful it must be like X." It is a cart before the horse thing. Shallow and uninspired.

In the publishing world where interns read for imitation more than for innovation, the rules are fixed and demanding mileposts, but in the peace and space of a creative writing class, pure expression from pent up artists is like new bird song on a safari.

I’m glad not everyone in my classes wants to publish. Without the rock tumbler commercialization rules their work can stay beautiful and unique, jagged edged and true. They can explore their voices and meanings. They listen to me however, as I tell them the rules of italics as I see them, show them to shave unnecessary words, develop disdain for passive voice and dialog tags and form them into a projectile more accessible to the masses. But I feel a little dirty for doing it. There’s a majesty in the untrained, unsoiled writer. One who has been taught be reading more than rote, expression more than convention.

The dream of course is that they can remain true to their visions, overcome the learning curve to join Picasso at the other end. True and effective.

I just hope that somewhere in their notebooks they keep those turns of phrase, sentences, paragraphs and words that move me in these classes to wish I had written them.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE HUNGER book signing this Saturday

I've been involved in the Utah Horror scene since it began. I was one of the original members of Utah's only chapter of the HWA (Horror Writers Association). Every year they sponsor and promote an anthology of short stories centered around the state with a particular theme. This year, the theme was THE HUNGER. Not only was my little story called AUDRA'S CONFESSION selected to be in it, but I had the distinct honor of editing many of the stories, polishing them up and such. I am very proud of this book. My name appears on it twice, which is a milepost of some kind.

This Saturday at the Jordan Landing Barnes & Noble store in West Jordan Utah, I'm meeting up with a few of the authors for sit down signing event. If you're in the neighborhood, swing by and say hello.

Saturday June 30, 2018
 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

7151 Plaza Center Drive

West Jordan, UT 84084

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

FyreCon 2018

The second FyreCon is set for this weekend and I'll be there. Unlike most conferences I attend, this one is dedicated to arts of all kinds, not just writing. Though the bardic arts will be well represented, visual artists will be abundant. There'll be physical artists there besides. It's a good time. If you're up in Layton way, you should check it out.

Below is my planned schedule. Saturday might change (conflicts arising) but Thursday and Friday are set. Come on out!

Weber State University-Davis Campus

2750 University Park Boulevard
Layton, Utah 84041 

Johnny's FyreCon Schedule:

Thursday, June 21, 2018 

3-TO-1 Editing Mystery Session
12:00 - 12:50 pm Buidling D2 Room 306

PRESENTATION: The Faceted Story
3:00 pm- 3:50 pm Building D2 Room 318

Friday, June 22, 2018

PANEL: Writing a Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror Romance
11:00 am - 11:50 am Building D2 Room 110
Johnny Worthen, Christie Craig, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Natalie Whipple, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro 

PANEL: Portrayal of Death and Dying: Discussing the Philosophy of the Memento Mori
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm Building D2 Room 111
Johnny Worthen, Daxon Levine, Graham Bradley, Jodi L. Milner

PANEL: More than the Mistress of All Evil: Does Explaining Away Character's Evil Through Backstories Help or Hurt Friday
3:00 pm - 3:50 pm Building D2 Room 110
Johnny Worthen, David Farland, Dan Willis, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
PRESENTATION: Mistakes Were Made
5:00 pm - 7:50 pm Building D3 Room 339

Saturday, June 23, 2018* 

PANEL: Writing YA that Isn't Adults in Teens Bodies
9:00 am - 10:00 am Building D2 Room 301
Johnny Worthen, Christie Craig, David Powers King, Ryan Decaria, Sabine Berlin

PANEL: Literary Literacy: Books You Should Read
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Building D2 Room 111
Johnny Worthen, Michael Darling, Sabine Berlin, Eric Swedin, Jill Bowers

* I have conflicting events Saturday, but I'm going to try to make these panels.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Symposium - This Saturday

This Saturday is the League of Utah Writers Summer Symposium.

This one day conference is for all our friends and members up north in Logan but it'll be worth the trip from anywhere. The program is fantastic, lunch is included. It's cheap and you should  go. There I said it. I'm teaching and panelling and hanging out in a place that isn't over hot with friends old and new. I love these things. See you there.

Saturday June 16, 2018
Registration Opens at 8:30 a.m.

Eccles Conference Center,
Utah State University
5005 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Time Quake with Chris Mandeville

Chris Mandeville
It’s been a while since I’ve had another author out to the Blog Mansion. I’ve cleaned the place, fumigated, got some new carpets in, fed the put sharks, put Stranger Things lights around the evil vortex. It’s nice. I invited a friend of mine, Chris Mandeville to check it out. She has a new book out so it was easy to lure her into my web under the guise of a blog tour post. Plus since her book is about time travel, and I got to break out my Time Spinner Mark IV®.

Chris: Is that a Time Spinner Mark IV?

Johnny: Yeah, I got it on eBay. Used.

C: I heard those were unreliable. Flakey.

J: Nonsense, I'll show you. Here I'll turn it on.

C: Quake.

J: What’s your book called?

Time Spinner Mark IV
C: Allie Bennett is a fifteen-year-old con artist and pickpocket, who's on her last chance at an end-of-the-line foster home. She learns that her mom—who disappeared when she was ten—isn’t a crazy but is actually a time traveler, and Allie’s one, too. She joins a crew of time traveling thieves and goes back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to pull the heist of the century and find her mom. But time travelers are hunted, her crew might be killers, everyone has a secret agenda, and she must pull off the con of her life to make it out alive.

J: What’s it about?

C: This is a science fiction-based time travel story with primarily teen characters, so it falls under YA time travel. I find that adults are enjoying it too, though.

J: What’s the genre and target audience?

C: Mystery is my favorite genre to read. I love mysteries, suspense, and thrillers based on solving a crime.

J: I like how there’s a heist involved. I’m a big crime reader. Are you?

C: So far no visitors have identified themselves as time travelers, but I’m on the lookout for someone to tell me they’re from the future. I’ll definitely listen to any advice they share, especially about lottery numbers.

J: Do time travelers ever show up at your door and tell you not to do something? Happens to me all the time.

C: Parker Hayden Media is my publisher. They believed in me from the beginning and have published all three of my books to date. I couldn’t be happier with my publishing team.

J: Who’s publishing your book?

C: I was trying to write a mystery, but it wasn’t going well. I have a lot of fun reading mysteries, but was having absolutely no fun writing one, so I set it aside to write something fun. The most fun thing I could think of was a YA time travel.

J: Where’d the idea for the book come from?

C: My son’s former college roommate, Rashed AlAkroka, is an incredible artist. I’ve been in awe of his work for years. He told me that he’d love to create cover art for me if I was ever interested. I feel incredibly fortunate that he offered, and am ridiculously happy with the result.

J: How’d you get your cover?

C: The editing process was surprisingly easy and relatively painless. My editor is very skilled, smart, and detail-oriented, and she did a great job of looking at the big picture, checking continuity, pointing out confusing areas, and asking me the right questions. After her initial pass, I made changes to the manuscript, incorporating her suggestions and corrections, as well as feedback from my critique group and beta readers. Then my editor did a final proofread. I don’t think it could have gone much more smoothly.

J: How was the editing process?

C: I have book two in the works, with plans to wrap up the character and plot arcs in book three. After that, I will likely write another set of three books in this series. I’m already brainstorming clues to integrate now for future storylines. Today the planning is going well, but if you ask me next week I might have a different answer—a writer is likely to hit snags in any story, but writing time travel can be particularly sticky and frequently makes my brain hurt!

J: I see it’s a series, how’s that coming?

C: “In Real Time” is actually an important concept in the books. Being “in real time” refers to being in your natural timeline—the one you were born in. When you are in your real time, you are subject to any changes in the timeline. But when you time travel, you are out of your real time and are unaffected by changes to the timeline—you remember the timeline you lived through, even if it gets changed. Yes, I know it’s confusing!

J: When I saw “In Real Time” as the series name, I thought of some kind of gimmick, like a choose your own adventure. Is there more to it than a cool name?

C: I’ve always liked making up stories. I don’t recall when I first started writing them down, but there’s evidence dating back to when I was about ten years old. It’s funny but, as much as I enjoyed writing, I never considered writing for a living. I didn’t come around to that idea until after I’d tried a few other career paths and didn’t feel satisfied creatively. My first novel began in 1990 while I was still working in an advertising agency in Los Angeles. The idea came to me as a “what if” concept: what if when you dream you meet up with the “souls” or consciousnesses of other people who are dreaming. That concept grew into my practice novel, “The Spider Prophet.” I worked on that story for many years, writing and rewriting, learning and starting over. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day, but it served me well as I learned my craft. The next novel I wrote was Seeds, which was published in 2015.

J: I’m always interested in how people get started, their first book, their break-in moment. What’s yours?

C: There are so many things I like about writers' conferences! I like being in an environment where the focus is writing. I like learning and sharing with other writers. I like the feeling of community. And I find such joy and energy when I teach about writing. Attending a writer’s conference fuels me.

J: We met at a writers conference. What do you like about them?

C: I’ve never lived in San Francisco, but it’s one of my favorite cities. I attended the University of California at Berkeley, and during one summer I took BART under the Bay to “The City” (i.e. San Francisco) for a summer job. I love the architecture, the people, and energy of San Francisco, and I hope that I captured some of that in Quake. (Phew, dodged that hundred thousand dollar bullet!)

J: Did you live in San Fransisco? If you do can you lend me a hundred thousand dollars?


J: Where can my peeps find out more about you?

C: Quake was released May 29, 2018. The next installment in the series will be out before the end of the year.

J: When is your book coming out?

C: Flakey.

J: I think you're right. Time's all messed up. What did you say this was?