Friday, January 14, 2022

Johnny's 2021 Read Books

 It’s time for my annual “What did Johnny Read Last Year” post.

2021 was another year for stress and unpleasant worry. To combat the decline of western civilization and implosion of capitalism, I challenged myself to read 50 books in the calendar year and successfully consumed 59. Pretty awesome.

Below is the list. You’ll see certain patterns there. I fell in love with Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin and I devoured books on Buddhism while boning up on the rise of the grain state and astrophysics. And of course, I perused a few classics.


The Totally Awesome Book of Useless Information, Noel Botham

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Ursula K. Le Guin

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller 

Ravel, Cassidy Ward

Orlando, Virginia Woolf

5


We Can Build You, Phillip K Dick

White Trash Warlock, David R. Slayton

A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking

The Counterfeit Connection, Johnny Worthen

Lady Chatterly’s Lover, D H Lawrence

10


Passage Meditation, Eknath Easwaran

No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners, Noah Rasheta

Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen

Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh

15

 

Tropic of Stupid, Tim Dorsey

Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty

Steering the Craft, Ursula K. Le Guin

Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie

20


The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

What the Buddha Taught, Walpola Rahula

Skios, Michael Frayn

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

A Briefer History of Time, Stephen Hawking

25


If Not Now, When? Infinite Monkey Anthology 

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Strong in Broken Places, LUW anthology

A Promised Land, Barack Obama

30


Stargazer, Anne Hillerman

The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler

The Upanishads, Eknath Easwaran

Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, Cory Doctorow

Radicalized, Cory Doctorow 

35


Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorow

Overclocked, Cory Doctorow

Buddhism for Beginners, Thubten Chords

Walkaway, Cory Doctorow

Maximum Bob, Elmore Leonard

40


Little Brother, Cory Doctorow

Runaway: Poppet Cycle 2, Donna J. W. Munro

Bonfire of the Vanities, Thomas Wolfe

Catwings, Ursula K. Le Guin

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

45


Catwings Return, Ursula K. Le Guin

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, Ursula K. Le Guin

Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer

Jane on Her Own, Ursula K. Le Guin

Seeing Sideways, Kristin Hersh

50


Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

Homeland, Cory Doctorow

The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers

Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling

The Man with the Golden Arm, Nelson Algren

55


The Four Seals of the Dharma, Lama Khenpo Ngedön 

Against the Grain, James C. Scott

Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright

The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber & David Wengrow

59


The challenge continues. 50 books in 2022.

Peace out,

—Johnny

Monday, November 15, 2021

Letting go of Coronam

 OF KINGS, QUEENS AND COLONIES; a Book of Coronam



This time it’s different.

Every time I launch a book, I take a moment to consider. It’s a milestone in any author’s life. Even for those authors who’ve forgotten how many books they’ve published and have three lined up for this week. It matters. It’s important. It’s emotional.

The old analogy that books are like children is real. We birth them, form them, love them and then set them out into the world. Our hands are tied then. There’s really nothing we can do after they leave. We can’t control who they meet, how they’re received. The love they get, the heartbreak. Maybe we can offer few good word here or there, a boost where we can, a defense when we’re able, but it’s the book’s life now. We only started it. Nevertheless though our power to shape its destiny is waned, our attachment has not. It is a part of us and will always be so. A reflecting however dim of ourselves. A dream we once had. An hope, a prayer, an idea we dared share.

But this one is different.

It’s been mentioned to me that I have a different voice in every genre, Tony’s sarcasm in the Flaner series is a world different from Eleanor’s longing in the Unseen. The holy madness of WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is a qualitative divergent from the seriousness of THE BRAND DEMAND. To all these genres I now add science fiction.

I write from the inside out. That is, I begin with an idea, a theme, and then form a story around that. I attribute this to my training in literature and critique as opposed to creative writing. Sometimes the theme is constructive, that is to say, another armature to compliment setting, character, and plot as a skeleton for a compelling story. Sometimes, the theme is engulfing and desperate, a long-form reach for meaning and understanding. Coronam is the latter. Coronam is my dread of history turning into fear for the future. My questions here address have to do with the individual and the community and the proposition. that society can evolve.

Through the creation of my fantastic worlds, I found not only a better understanding of history but hope for the future. The key, and here is a spoiler I suppose, is knowledge. I believe we already have the other main ingredient to make it work—compassion—or at least we can find it. That is a certainty.

OF KINGS, QUEENS AND COLONIES. Coronam.


A different thing in my writing career. It’s an homage to the great epic science fiction authors of the past, those greats who weened me in the day. Asimov’s FOUNDATION TRILOGY, THE FOUR LORDS OF THE DIAMOND and of course and most importantly, Frank Herbert’s DUNE. Every writer who read these growing up, breeds within them a desire to make their own epic, to join those ranks, to participate in grand storytelling. Coronam is mine. 

It is a complex piece, multiple points of view, many worlds, as many weaving plot lines and history echoes all held together firmly by the idea of evolution and new chances. I have a beautiful queen fighting for her thrown and for her people against a rising tyrant. I have a pirate lover sworn to her side; a zealous priest doing God’s own work, however cruel it may be; a doomed colony with good intentions but bad luck; and a child whose suffering turns to enlightenment. These are alien worlds with familiar shapes, people who look different but aren’t. There is environmental danger, human caused and natural. A sun who warms the planets and makes the miracle that is the system, but is volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous.

Now, on the eve of its release I can only hope that it’ll be well received. It is dense, more DUNE than TWILIGHT, if you know what I mean. It flows in longing ideas and evocative prose. It is epic.

It is different.

I wrote the book because I wanted to read it. That anyone else wanted to, is a bonus. That a fantastic press like Flame Tree wanted to publish it, puts me over the the moon—all of them! It is out of my hands now. I did the best I could and now it stands on its own.

But this time it’s different.

This time the stage is bigger, the distribution world-wide, the fan base potentially global. It’s intimidating. I won’t lie, this book could make me. Or break me.

And anything in between.

All we can ever ask for in life is a chance, right? Do our best and be content? The severing of art from artist which happens whenever a work is finished and released, teaches this lesson in harsh helplessness. The book has its own life now, will have its own fans. We are related but not the same. Our fates will be forever different and yet shared. I have set the solar-sails to catch the storms of the sun. It sails now without me. Others now have the control. But I buoyed in optimism, confident in my team, excited for possibility, and steeling myself for whatever may comes, equally vulnerable to success and failure. I’ve been here before.

But this time it’s different.

Familiar, but new. This is history repeating itself, in micro and macro, fantasy and reality. But this time it’s different. This time it’s bigger. This time the stakes are higher.

OF KINGS, QUEENS AND COLONIES: A Book of Coronam. Humanity gets another chance, but will anything be different?


Thanks for your support.

—Johnny

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Awards are cool


I teach it and I try to live it, but it rain’t always easy. Writing —art in general I suppose, is subjective and hard, full of rejection and heart ache. Any validation of one’s work is welcome and big validation, say, like winning awards from your peers is an absolute wonder. 

At this year’s League of Utah Writers Quills Conference, yours truly won several awards. 

I won two Olive Woolley Burt Awards, the new name for the League of Utah Writers non-published writing contest. I dominated the short fiction category with two wins.

My short story Kintsugi, won a First Honorable Mention. This story renamed to Hardened Scars, will appear in the upcoming anthology STRONG IN BROKEN PLACES, coming this winter. It’s the story of a woman coming to terms with her abusive father.

My short story, The Last Chance won Third Place. This story appears in IF NOT NOW, WHEN? a league chapter anthology released at Quills from the Infinite Monkeys. In this story, a horror or possibly a thriller, an up-and-coming senator meets an old school mate at a midnight cafe called The Last Chance.

In the Novel category of the Quills Contest, which honors published books by league members only, I again did very well. It was a very tight contest this year, with several ties and a crowded slate.

My Tony Flaner mystery novella, THE KNICKKNACK CASE, won a Recommend Read Quill.

MY Tony Flaner mystery novel, IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD, won a Silver Quill. I got a trophy for this one.

High honors. I’m humbled and happy beyond giddy.

Rock on Tony! All the tony Flaner mysteries are available now, click the links below. However, THE KNICKKNACK CASE can be had for free by joining my mailing list here.

Interestingly and excitedly, I have to note that all Tony Flaner’s books have now won awards.

THE FINGER TRAP, Diamond Quill, - best book of the year

THICKER THAN WATER, Recommended Read

THE KNICKKNACK CASE, Recommended Read

IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD, Silver Quill

Thank you all for your love and support. Help me praise the gods of subjectively and taste by joining me in a happy dance. You can do it from your chair if you want, just your arms and head, or like me, you could circle the room in a tie-dye toga imitating cartoon dogs.






Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Letting go of Tony, THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION

Each time a book of mine sets off into the world I’m possessed by a certain sadness. I think it’s akin to the feeling any parent has when watching a child move on, out of their control and protection. There’s a sense of wonder at the act but also self-doubt, did I do everything I could to prepare them? Will they be liked?

THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION is no different, and yet different. It’s my latest book, which means I’ve done this a few times before and so should be an old hat at this. I’m buoyed by the knowledge that readers of this book probably have endured a few previous iterations of Tony Flaner and so know what they’re getting into. There’s a huge relief in knowing that, in putting a book into the hands of fans and friends. There Is also however the worry that I’ll disappoint, that the very people I’m most grateful to, the ones who allowed me to produce this book, won’t like it, that I’ll fail to meet exceptions. That it won't meet the level of its predecessors. That the previous novels, if they were good, were more the result of luck than my skill.

This is imposter syndrome. It is a common thing among creatives, I hear. I know few authors, if any, who don’t wrestle with this idea to some degree. We are so used to rejection that any kind of acceptance seems like a dream, a lucky break, an undeserved theft of affection and attention. There’s also always the phenomenon of not understanding how any book was made. No two projects of mine have manifested the same way ; I get an idea and write it, somehow. In looking back over a project, it’s a blur of energy, effort, and emotion. Did I do that or was I possessed? There’s a disassociation involved that furthers the idea of separateness, of falseness and fakery.

I talked to a big author once – damn if I can remember her name now, such is me, but I’ll never forget what she said about getting books on the New York Times Best Seller List and other accolades she’d earned. Each time, she said, it was worse. It was the con extended. There was never a feeling of “oh, yeah, now I deserve this.” Instead it was that somehow the lie had gotten bigger. She compared it to “leveling up,” that each time the feeling grew and her need of acceptance had to grow too – a new boss level and she needed to just face it.

I’m a big fish in my little pond. For my entire career I’ve been punching above my weight class. I’ve used my special powers of being memorable to my advantage. I’ve used my rampant insecurity to hide myself behind wit and humor. Self-effacing and boisterous, I am shielded. These have served me well, but they’re temporary fixes. In the time of twilight, staring at a blank page, riding the train home, wondering at my Amazon page, I can’t help feeling that the con has gotten out of hand, and at any moment, I’ll be revealed as the fake I am.

Yeah, I write comedies.

This is the theme of THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION. I explore the idea of forgeries in personality and art, all while Tony himself wrestles with his insecurities. He’s never understood what Allie sees in him. He’s seldom taken a hard look at his own work and wondered if he fell into the success or earned it. Usually he is immune from such heady thoughts, but Tony may be growing up a bit. Life is descending and comparisons are inevitable, especially with a high school reunion coming up and an old rival making moves on his lover.

A nice set up personally, but why stop there? The world is full of fakes, creators and artist are all characters in their own worlds, facades, personalities with values defined by expectation. It is a major subject, strangely easy to write about, and unfortunately, unsolvable.

That’s the cheat. I will spoil my new book, a little. I do not solve this problem with Tony in THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION, though I try. I investigate and tease, I exemplify and simplify, but the underlying issue is hardly revolved. I land on a moment of recognition regarding the impermanence of it all and take hope in that. My answer? The best anyone can do is to do their best  and hope their armor is strong enough to protect them from not their failures, but from their successes.

The book is a fun mystery, a trek around my area with all its hypocrisies and ironies. Tony is in his element, smog messing with his senses, problems of his own creation, old friends reaching out for help he’s not sure he can deliver on. A new boss. A time to level up.

And so with stirring trepidation and the sure knowledge that I have failed in whatever grand experiment I undertook and will be revealed as the imposter I am, I can only hope that my readers see through these faults and find a friend, enjoy the ride, sympathize, empathize, euthanize their own fears with a few hours of Tony Flaner in THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION.



THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION, A Tony Flaner Mystery

Now available in paperback, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION

 Drum Roll please (funnier than a spring roll, and fewer than a cinnamon).

I present to you, my beloved readers, the next Tony Flaner adventure, 

THE COUNTERFEIT CONNECTION

    After months of nothing, insecure sleuth Tony Flaner gets four cases in one night. Two of them are paying; a background check and a missing person. One is for family pride, the other is personal—because Tony is taking everything personally. A rival detective is talking smack, and a looming high school reunion threatens disaster, exposure, and maybe the loss of his girlfriend. Tony’s angsty teenage son is going through phases which may now include crime, but not appreciation of the new fifty-thousand dollar car Tony gave him for Christmas.

    Tony must face international intrigue, falling fame, angry dogs, and the dreaded—God help him—domestic case, all the while drowning in the mental sludge of imposter-syndrome and the real pollution of the infamous Salt Lake City inversion. Even the air isn’t real.

    Actors and agents, hippies and obsessions, a Burmese coup, and the worst song ever from Rogers and Hammerstein test Tony’s luck, skill, and patience as he uncovers the Counterfeit Connection.

 Behold the cover!


Behold also that it is available on Amazon at this very moment for pre-order. Actual release date is set for June 15, 2021, a Tuesday, because, according to the mountain, all new books are released on a Tuesday. If someone knows why, please email me. I’m not making that up. I heard it somewhere and don’t wholly understand it. First person to give me a good answer will get a free ebook of mine. Something nice.




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

ELEANOR Reborn

Eleanor is not what she appears to be. 

 Hey book fans, readers, groupies, stalkers, slow assassins, hateful critics, loving angels and Cherubim or all striped. ELEANOR, and THE UNSEEN series is reborn.

The story of this best-selling award-winning series is a story of my career in many ways. I wrote it get attention for THE FINGER TRAP and the off-genre comic mysteries therein. I quickly fell deep in love with the book, the series and the concept. I sold the series along with THE FINGER TRAP, to Jolly Fish Press and had good times for all. Winning several awards, the League of Utah Writers Gold Quill for ELANOR as best young adult book of the year and a Silver Quill the next year for CELESTE. For a brief lovely period they reached the top of the Amazon Young Adult best-selling list.

When Jolly Fish was acquired by North Star Editions, THE UNSEEN, went with them, though Tony in. THE FINGER TRAP bailed since NSE didn't really want more in that series. Now after the years of that, THE UNSEEN has returned to me.

Wasting no time, the books remain in print, and now have these awesome new covers,






I really love the new covers, all original art specifically commissioned for the series. Each one emotionally tracks the progress the lonely, scared, and finally avenging Eleanor.

Available now at Amazon.

    It was a gamble for Eleanor to rejoin humanity, but she was driven to it. She’d been too successful forgetting. The last vestiges of her family hung by a thread in her transformed brain and drove her to be reckless. 

    Ten years later, Eleanor hides in plain sight. She is an average girl getting average grades in a small Wyoming town: poor but happy, lonely but loved. Her mother, Tabitha, is there for her and that’s all she’s ever needed. But now her mother is sick and David has returned. The only friend she’d ever had, the only other person who knows her secret, is back. And Eleanor again becomes reckless. 

    Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.