Thursday, June 26, 2014

Letting go of ELEANOR

The Blog Mansion is quiet today. No guests, no interviews. No goblin masquerade. I cancelled it. My collection of edible picture frames lie uneaten, the ferret ranch is strangely quiet. I sit here in one of my many studies, contemplating the coming days and the release of Eleanor, my beloved Eleanor, upon the world.

This Saturday is the official-release of ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN. I’ll be at the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble, from 12:-00-3:00 signing books, reading excerpts and living the dream.

Here’s the flyer. Feel free to download it, print it and hand it out on street corners to passersby.

I’ve never had a book launch before. Never had a signing just for me. Never had a book in Barnes & Noble before. All big steps and all very exciting.

But now, before the thrill overtakes me, I’m contemplative. I’ve been thinking a lot about Eleanor lately. Dreaming of her, talking to her, thinking she’s in the next room like one of my children, just out of sight, but can hear me. is a strange deeply personal parable of growing up. It’s about an outsider. It’s about appearances and prejudice. It’s about loss, survival and family. It’s about wealth in penury, love in tragedy, hope in fear.

I’d like to claim credit for it, for ELEANOR and the entire UNSEEN series, but ultimately, I have to admit that it was Eleanor who wrote the story. I just recorded events.

She is lovely and wondrous, flawed and vulnerable. She is strong. She is alive. And three days before I let her go, send her into the world unaccompanied, I feel a strange nostalgia, not unlike I did when my son graduated.

She’s out of my hands now, has been I guess for a while, but now, today at The Blog Mansion, I am coming to terms with it.

I know she will have a happy meaningful life. Not unlike my biological kids, Eleanor will carry the best parts of me forward. It’s sobering and wonderful and deserves a moment of reflection.

See you Saturday. See you next week.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Angela Hartley and Metal People

Angela Hartley
Debut urban fantasy author Angela Hartley is in a kerfuffle over a copper child. I try to help.

Johnny: It would help if I knew what urban fantasy is. What is it?

Angela: Urban Fantasy’s a lot like you, Johnny. It’s placed in the real world, but has magical undertones. Does that help any?

J: Nope. Doesn’t help. Here’s a Steel Overseer will that work?

A: Uhm, no. The chemical make-up of steel is man-made. It’s not even on my list of seven metals. Plus, this is paper...

J: How about a jade monkey? I have one around here somewhere.

A: I hear those are nice, but no. Again, I need copper, as in Copper Descent. Focus.

J: I’ve got an Iron Lady.

A: Wait a second, Isn’t that?

J: Margaret Thatcher. I have a couple around here. You’re welcome to one.

Iron Lady
A: Uh no, but can I ask why you thought she’d be a good fit for a Native American story?

J: This is harder than I thought it would be. Good thing I have a huge collection of metallically themed things.

*Angela stares at the sharp, rusty metal objects protruding out in every direction with her eyes as big as saucers.*

A: Yes you do. Perhaps I should wait outside. I haven’t had a tetanus shot in twenty years, and I’d hate to ruin such a perfect track record.

J: Oh no you don’t. To help me narrow it down, maybe you should tell me about your book, Copper Descent.

A: Nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas has been told her entire life that the dark god of her ancestors will someday claim her. She didn’t ask to be the Copper Child. She wants a normal life with love and security, but has found herself literally in bed with Lucifer. It’s a story about fate and circumstances, but most of all, personal choice. Think Pocahontas meets Fallout Boy and you’ll get the picture.
This Fallout Boy?

J: It’s the first book in a series right, the Sentient Chronicles? A Trilogy?

*Johnny disappears under a mountain of shifting artifacts as Angela dodges the knives and swords he tosses out. Finally, she grabs a shield that narrowly misses her head and avoids the rest of Johnny’s missiles.*

A: There’s actually seven, each represents a different metal. The series follows three separate groups of characters that all come together in the fourth book. I centered the premise on Lucifer and his evolution. It follows his fall, his rise, and ultimately his return to the angel city. Seriously, are you aiming for my head?

*A golden mace hits the shield with a loud thunk. Johnny grins sheepishly and shrugs, but doesn’t answer the question.*

J: What? Huh? Uhm. No? How goes work on the other books?

A: Pretty good so far. I’m hoping to release one a year for the next —

Copper Man
J: Oh, look what I found! A copper man. We’re getting close.

A: You’re not paying attention are you?

J: It’s my bit and I’m sticking with it. You know how long I’ve waited to pull all this out?

A: Why?

J: There you see?

A: No, but I understand what’s going on here. My dad was a hoarder too. You don’t have to live like this. I can get you help.

J: How about a Silver Surfer? (superhero)

A: No. Unfortunately, he’s trademarked by Marvel.

J: You are so negative. Tell me story, where’d you get the idea?

Silver Surfer
(not good enough for Angela)
A: I first started writing Copper Descent to explore a dark figure that always appeared in my work. He was always lurking in the shadow waiting to cause all sorts of mayhem. I wanted him gone, and I figured the best way to get rid of him was to tell his story. Once he started talking, he didn’t want to stop, and I found I had and interesting meshing of the book of Enoch, Paradise Lost, and Native American folklore tied into a pretty copper package.

J: And your characters? The non-metallic ones, where’d they come?

A: I like to get into people’s heads and try to understand why they are who they are. Fictional people are no different from the real. If you give them the opportunity and safety to be themselves, you’ll discover things you never would have known otherwise.

J: What age group?
A: The series is classified as New Adult. It’s dark, edgy, and very sexy.

J: No hot make-out scenes with a billion dollar movie star?

A: No movie star, but Lucifer does take the form of devastatingly beautiful rock star named Sinclair Devereux. My main character has some pretty hot make-out scenes with him.

J: Am I in it? Hero maybe? Eccentric troll perhaps?

A: I could make that happen in the next book, but are you sure this is what you want?  People who wind up in my pages generally die horrible, agonizingly painful deaths. Unfortunately, I don’t write warm and fuzzy, and I wouldn’t be capable of controlling your fate anymore than I can control my own.

J: I’m getting close. Look. A golden child.

A:  I don’t even know what to say to that…

J: I’m surprised you ever got a publisher as picky as you are. How did you get one by the way? What was your journey from writer to author?
Golden Child

A: Six years from the first draft to publishing contract. Some would say the stars aligned, but the truth is I worked my butt off. I went through countless rejection letters and a lot of tears. Eventually, I had to accept that I wasn’t perfect (shocking, I know). I swallowed my pride, and realize I needed other writers to help me grow. I would never be where I am today without the amazing support system we have in our little writing community.

J: What authors inspire you?

A: When I was young, I read a lot of Stephen King. I love the way he can build tension effortlessly. Cassandra Claire is simply amazing. She can create a scene as vivid as any imagination will allow. I adore Jude Devereaux’s quirky humor and how the damsels are always saving the knights in her historical fiction. Johnny Worthen is releasing The Unseen: Eleanor on the 28th of this month, and I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy. All I can say is WOW. The story is so beautiful and unassuming.

J: I love you. Dump what's his name and move in. I'll give you gold. Have a Golden Girl.

A: Isn't that a murder victim? From a movie.

J: Quite a collector's item.

A: You keep it.

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

J: Here’s a silver lady.

A: Right gender, wrong color.

J: Picky picky picky.

A: A woman has to have standards.

J: So I guess you don’t want to see my Iron Man?

A: You have an iron man? *perks up*

J: No, I have Robert Downey Junior, the billion dollar movie star I mentioned before. He’s in the back suiting up for you.

A: Really? Robert Downey Jr?

J: Yeah.

A: I’d see that. Make out scene you say? Well, the next book is Iron Resolve. I should probably check out the Iron Man for research purposes, of course.

J: Hypothetically speaking?

A: Uhm, Sure!  I’ll be right back. *opens dressing room door*

J: But he might not be decent.

A: Oh, he’s decent. More than decent.

*closes dressing room door*

Iron Man
(I'd do him)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dan Levinson and A Taste of Armageddon

Dan Levinson
Casualty of War
Dan Levinson, New York screenwriter, playwright, actor and now novelist arrived at The Blog Mansion at a very tense time. He caught me in my battle room, but over a glass of Tranya I got to know him.

Dan: The Tranya’s delicious, Johnny. Where’d you come by it?

Johnny: I hope you relish it as much as I. I have some contacts within the First Federation. Of course, any more detail than that and I’ll have to annihilate you at a cellular level. Can’t take any chances, you know.

D: I understand completely. *he looks around* This control room is impressive.

Johnny: It’s futuristic, and mostly automatic. Cuts down on labor costs. Hard to keep good people, especially in the middle of a war.

D: You're at war?

J: Yes there we're in the middle of an attack now. I’m feuding with a nearby blog called The Blog Bungalow. They had a Code 7-10 in effect, but those never work, so I made contact and boom. We’re at war.

D: Code 7-10?

Command Room and Battle Map
J: You don’t know? It means “Don’t Approach—Danger!”

D: Right. It’s like one of those “Do Not Touch” signs over a big red button. You can’t not touch that thing.

J: I’m glad you get me, Dan. Now, just hold on while I activate the interceptors. Okay. Returning fire…. And done. So, you’ve got a book. Fires of Man. It’s got a war in it too, right? 

D: Yes, it’s between two neighboring nations, Orion and Calchis. They’re secretly recruiting psions—people with the ability to manipulate energy, and reality itself, at a level of thought. These are two countries that have been at odds for a long time, but now they’re at a stalemate. Most of the world thinks they’ve reached some kind of understanding, and their continued conflict is kept under wraps, as is the existence of these soldiers. The psions are human weapons of mass destruction, with the ability to avoid collateral damage, and no risk of lasting consequences like nuclear fallout.

J: So super mental powers. Cool. What level of technology is it? Space flight or spears? Have they evolved war into the art as I have?
D: Johnny, I don’t think anyone has your flair for warfare. But I think they do a pretty good job. It’s a level of technology equivalent to our own; everything from electric cars to satellite surveillance.

J: What does the title mean, Fires of Man?

D: It works on multiple levels, I think. Most overtly, it refers to the explosive powers the characters can use. But it also evokes the familiar phrase “the fires of war.” And, to me, it represents the ever-advancing juggernaut of human industry, and the effects, both good and bad, thereof.

J: That's cool. So it’s science fiction, but I’ve also seen it called general fiction. Why do you suppose that is?

D: It blurs the line. I’ve even heard some call it fantasy; if it was in a medieval-type setting, I have no doubt the characters would consider their powers magic, as opposed to grounded in science. Additionally, there’s no presence of the advanced tech you usually find in sci-fi. Instead, the “science fiction” aspect is personalized; it’s about these powers. It’s sci-fi in the same sense that the mutant abilities of the X-Men are, essentially, sci-fi.

J: Oh, here’s the Blog Bungalow council telling me to surrender again.

Blog Bungalow Counsel
What a bunch of schmucks.
D: They never learn, do they?

J: You’re telling me. We’ve been at this for years. So, is there a lot of intrigue in Fires of Man?

D: Absolutely. The politics of this world are integral to the story. And the fact that these nations are keeping both psionic powers, and the conflict itself, a secret creates plenty of tension. There’s shady stuff going on, especially in Calchis. One of the main characters is a Calchan covert operative who goes by the moniker “Agent.” He’s up to no good, and is a rather sinister individual, I might add.

J: So it’s the first book of a series, Psionic Earth. Like me, you’re looking at a long war. How’re the other books coming?

D: The manuscript of the second book, Shadows Collide, is with our wonderful mutual publisher, being edited, and I’m writing the first draft of the third book, Prophet Rising.

J: Damn, that was good hit. Look at that devastation. Interceptors couldn’t reload fast enough.

D: I didn’t feel a thing. The shock absorption on your shielding is impressive.

J: I’ll say. Just look at the map.

D: It appears you’re taking heavy fire.

J: Not to worry. I’m going to send in a gas attack. One second.

D: What about the Geneva Convention?

J: Does this look like Geneva? Or a convention? We’re at war man! Those lowliife Blog Bungalow baboons will get what’s coming to them! No offense to baboons, of course. I’ll poison their pool, peel their wallpaper, soil their carpets! Or as near as I can. They’d do the same to me.

D: Oh? The place looks immaculate.

J: Well, yeah, that was all hyperbole. I’m not actually interested in hurting the Blog Bungalow’s bungalow. There’s some great art and decorating in there. It’s the body count that matters.

D: You’re as ruthless as you are eloquent, Johnny.

J: I have a way with words. And warfare. Now tell me about being a screenwriter. Does that pay? Have you done anything I might have seen? That I could mention at your eulogy?

D: My eulogy? Is there something you’re not telling me?

J: It’s just in case.

D: Alas, most screenwriters are paid very little. The “million dollar screenplay” is a rare thing indeed, akin to the northern white rhinoceros, or the Corvan gilvos. I haven’t yet had any of my work produced. But I have some things I’m working on that you may see, sooner or later. Building a career in screenwriting is much like building a career as an author: It requires a dedication to your craft, a willingness to take risks, and strong support from mentors, friends, readers, people who can help you become a better and better writer.

J: I have to admit I’m envious of you living in New York, right in the heart of the industry. Do you have an agent? Can you hook me up?

D: I don’t, but I’m about to shop around another property to agencies, once I finish some rewrites. And yes, New York is an extraordinary place to live. I love it.

*the intercom crackles*

J: Hold on. They want to negotiate. I’ll send my diplomat. Assuming he’s not dead. Ambassador Fox, are you dead?

Ambassador Fox
Fox: Let me see. Hm. I appear to have all my parts intact. The cook’s dead, though.

J: Tell him I’m sorry about that.

Cook: It happens.

J: Fox, hook up with Vendicar, the Blog Bungalow ambassador, and see what they want.

Fox. Yes, sir.

J: Sorry Dan, where were we? Oh yes, tell me how you came to get your book into print.

D: When I was in drama school, one of my acting teachers told me we had to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” And I did just that. Once I was confident the manuscript was in good enough shape, I submitted absolutely everywhere I could. I was thrilled when Jolly Fish Press offered me a contract, and after some consideration, I decided to sign.

A direct hit!
J: Look out! Lalalalalalala!

D: What happened?

J: They hit the command room. Lucky for me I had I personal shield.

D: What? You mean how you trilled your tongue?

J: Yeah. That counts as a shield. I’m okay.

D: Good for you.

J: It’s been nice talking to you Dan, but I’m afraid under the rules of engagement, you now have to report to the disintegration chamber to be executed as a casualty of war.

D: Which rules of engagement would those be?

Sonic Disruptors
J: Don’t make me use this. *brandishes a sonic disrupter* The clean-up’s a mess.

D: Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned hospitality?

*Johnny shocks Dan* Ouch!

J: That was the lowest setting. Now get moving. Blame the Blog Bungalow. Those guys are savages!

D: Hey, you’re the one herding me into the disintegration chamber. At the very least you could jettison me into space so I can pretend I’m Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Maybe catch a ride on a passing asteroid.
Death Chamber 12

J: That’s an idea for next time.

D: I’m not sure after disintegration there’ll be a next time.

J: Yeah, I’m still working on that one. Now, I really must ask you to get moving. You understand. This way the war rages on, but the Blog Mansion endures, its culture and furniture. Cocktail weenies and cornflakes. I go on, but the casualties pile up. It’s a war of attrition and I’m going to win it.

D: Well, at least you have your priorities straight.

J: Oh, before you get disintegrated, where can people find out more about you? If they want to send flowers and such?
D: At my site, I’m also on Facebook at, and on Twitter, @ReadDanLevinson. People can also check out Fires of Man at:
Barnes & Noble

J: Okay, now let’s go. There’s a death chamber right there. Good luck with your book.

D: Psionic powers, hoooooo!

*Dan vanishes with a crackle of energy*

J: Note to self: Recruit psionic soldiers for next engagement. Fox, how’s it going with Vendicar?

Fox: He’s ready to list their demands.

J: Good. As soon as he’s done, shoot him.

Fox: Why? Because the Blog Mansion does not negotiate with rival blogs?

J: Because I owe him ten bucks from poker night.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In the mind of Kate Jonez

Kate Jonez
Lets get into her mind
It’s not every day an author gets to literally put the screws to his publisher, let alone drive spikes into her skull. What’s a little re-programming and brain-damage among friends?

Kate Jonez is not only a prolific dark fiction writer she’s also my publisher. I brought her into the Blog Mansion to search her mind for tips and tricks of the trade and plumb her dark fiction secrets.

Johnny: The helmet really is comfortable after you wear it a little while.

Kate: Are those nails?

J: Spikes really. Think of them as long needles.

K: What do they do?

J:  They’re to hold the helmet in place and connect the sensors to your inner brain.

K: How deep do they go?

J: No more than eight inches. I’ll use the little mallet.

K: Okay. I’m beginning to feel a little weird.

J: Probably the sedative I snuck into your coffee. Or the massive electric shocks through your frontal lobes. Who can tell? As the soothing stabbing slows, tell me about dark fiction. Why do you like it?

K: Dark fiction is a way to explore fear. I think fear is a contender for the strongest human emotion. It’s definitely an interesting emotion. Fear drives people to do all sorts of things from washing their hands to building spaceships.

J: I like the term dark fantasy better than horror. What would you say is the difference between dark fantasy and horror?

K: For many readers, horror fiction, to be good, has to generate a feeling of fear. The only other genre with similar requirements is erotica. No one ever puts down a book and says I didn’t get that science fiction feeling. Even though horror is actually diverse and ever-expanding, the requirement of the spine-tingle and the fallout from the torture porn in film has tarnished horror as a genre. Hopefully, all the exciting new books coming out will improve horror’s image.

The distinction between horror and dark fantasy has more to do with point of view. Horror stories, traditionally, begin with normal people leading normal lives in familiar cities or towns. When the supernatural element is introduced into the story, the normal people fight the evil because they love their normal lives and don’t want them to be destroyed. They might win or lose, but they, and by proxy the reader, are always on the side of good. In dark fantasy the morals are usually more ambiguous. The point of view character could be a supernatural being with an agenda of his or her own, or it could be an evil or immoral character or it could be a recognizable character that transforms into something else. Both types of stories can be interesting. I think dark fantasy offers more opportunities to explore non-traditional ideas.

J: What drew you to the dark side? Terrible childhood trauma perhaps? The helmet knows all!

K: I had a very happy childhood. My sister and I each had our own cage in the basement. We used to decorate them by making daisy chains from cockroaches. Just like other kids, we looked forward to seeing our parents once a week on feeding/hosing day. Oh to return to the salad days of childhood. Good times.

J: Don’t touch the slugs. I know they tickle, but they’re an integral part of the helmet.

K: Ummm

J: Congratulations on your Bram Stoker® award nomination for Candy House. How has that affected your life?

K: Being nominated for the Bram Stoker® Award was a great honor. I’m not sure it has changed my life much, but it is a nice accomplishment to list in cover letters. It helps get my foot in the door.

J: I want you to know I’m not even remotely envious of you any more. Do you believe me?

Psychic Slug
K: No.

J: Oh? Well let me tighten this clamp a bit. How about now.

K: Still think you’re envious.

J: Okay, and now?

K: What were we talking about?

J: Good. Good. Let’s talk about Omnium Gatherum Media now. How did you get into publishing? Give me the whole sordid history.
K: Several years ago, I was hearing about all the changes in publishing and after doing quite a bit of research, I could not find any evidence that starting a small press was a bad idea. I looked for reasons not to do it. Every business takes investment of money, time and ability. I was lucky to have a workable combination of those three elements.

J: I have to say that OG has excellent taste! Besides publishing BEATRYSEL what other huge honors has the press received?

K: Omnium Gatherum, which means “this and that” in Latin, has had three titles nominated for Shirley Jackson Awards. (28 Teeth of Rage by Ennis Drake and Knock Knock and Delphine Dodd by S.P. Miskowski) All OG authors deserve prizes. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

J: Do you like editing or writing better?

Keep or chuck?
K: Writing and editing seem similar on the surface, but  are actually two completely different jobs. They are both really hard. Each causes its own variety of stress and anxiety. Writing requires tapping into emotions that are often best left buried

J: What’s the worst part of being an editor/publisher?

K: Saying no to a manuscript is the most painful part of the job. Second is working with an author who takes each and every comment I make as a personal insult.

J: What is the best part?

K: Nothing is more rewarding than when a book I’ve helped bring into the world gets the recognition it deserves. Whether it’s an award nomination or a reader review or piece of fan art, there’s no better feeling.

J: What will publishing look like in ten years?

K:  Ten years from now, once society as we know it has collapsed, stories will be written in excrement on salvaged Big Mac wrappers. We will still be arguing about whether using  our own or someone else’s excrement produces a superior product.
J: Ceremony of Flies. I haven’t seen a final copy yet. Did I get an editing credit

K: Thank you for beta reading Ceremony of Flies. Your insights were invaluable. You’ll find yourself listed in the Acknowledgments. Thank you, Johnny. You’re an excellent beta reader.

J: Well we’ll make up for that in your next book. Wait... what? Acknowledgments... really? Cool. I'll reward with a happy interlude of colorful lights and licorice scent. I’ll just tighten a couple more screws, swish on some more slug slime and hammer another spike in. There. All done. Good?

K: Blublablaugah.

J: Oh, sorry. Too tight.

Eel kind of looks like a slug
K: Goarwe uff.

J: Oh… I had an eel there instead of a slug. How’s that. better?

K: Yes.

J: So for my readers, tell us about Ceremony of Flies.

K: In Ceremony of Flies, two petty criminals find themselves inextricably linked when a stop at a roadside bar leads to murder. On the run and out of options, they reluctantly rescue a stranded boy and his dog from a lonely crossroads in the Mojave Desert and decide for the first time in their lives to do the right thing. This one selfless act unleashes a terrifying onslaught of demonic trouble as they struggle to save the boy—and themselves—from an evil far greater than they ever imagined.

Release day for the hard cover and ebook version of Ceremony of Flies is July 8th. The ebook is available for pre-order here.

DarkFuse, my publisher is doing wonderful things. You should check out all their authors.

J: Where on the internet can people find out more about you?

J: Now let me just tweek this so you’ll like long dialog passages.

K: That’ll never happen. No one speechifies like that in real…

J: How about now.

K: Gugbagaos.

J: I think we’re there.