Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - What a Year

I just want to say on this, the last day of 2015, that I have had a wonderful year. A bumper year. A banner year.

To all my friends and fans, family and fugitives, thank you for you support and affection. You're in my thoughts and in my heart. Couldn't do what I do without you.

I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Shadows of Angels and Gnomes

Laura "L.G." Rollins
Today at the Blog Mansion we welcome Laura “L.G.” Rollins author of the new book Shadows of Angels. The Blog Mansion was snowed in that day. It was a miracle she made it at all.

Johnny: What is that four feet? Five feet of snow? My usual people haven’t been here to shove the snow.

Laura (LG): Who do you use?

J: I hired gnomes this year. They dropped off a pamphlet last summer and the price was right. But now when I need the, where’s their snow removal.

LG: Gnomes?

J: Yeah, they’re supposed to be hard working little guys. Sorry you got so wet.

LG: It was a long cold hike from the gate. My driver wouldn’t dare the drive.

J: That’s my fault. Not everyone gets out of the Blog Mansion.

L: Really?

J: Have some Christmas cookies.

L: Thanks.

J: So tell me about your new book, Shadows of Angels.

LG: Shadows of Angles is a YA Fantasy. It's about a girl, Aerbrin, whose father is murdered. But, just before he dies, he slips into her hand a small, magical Zaad Stone. Problem is, the people who killed her father to get it know she has it, and she can't access the magic inside it to save herself.

J: So fantasy. Tell me, what’s the advantage of writing fantasy over, say, something I like better?

LG: Haha, I love fantasy because it leaves so many options open. I chose not to stick with a classic fantasy world—you know, dragons, elves, etc. And instead, I opted to create my own mysterious and strange creates. For example, the Orchal named Yinn, who eats people's minds, except for the memories, she keeps those to enjoy at a later time. Or, The One With No Name. Called that because she doesn't have a name, and is cursed so that no name sticks to her. She's quite fun to talk to.

J: Shadows of Angels a young adult title, but I understand it’s dark, very dark. Tell me how dark is it?

LG: Well, truth be told I never considered it very dark, but several reviewers have come back saying it's dark. So I guess that really depends on who you ask. There is a lot of pain, evil demons, and monsters. But my main characters are good, as in morally good, as in want to stand up for what's morally right. It's just the bad guys are the opposite. Does that make a book 'dark'? I guess in today's literary market, it does. The short answer: my book is not all sunshine and daisies.

J: Wait. Was that a knock on the door? I’ll be right back.

<10 minutes later>

LG: Who was it?

J: The gnomes. They finished. I had to pay them.

Gnomes - buy local 
LG: That was fast. Maybe I should use them.

J: Yeah, you could. You’re local. You live in Salt Lake. What do you think of the Utah writing scene?

LG:I really love the writing scene here. There are so many fantastic authors who are very willing to help out and share advice. There's no way I would be published right now if I hadn't joined in the tribe.

J: Tell me about your fantasy world?

LG: It's old world. No printing press, no guns. Just bows and arrows, hunting knifes, and good ol' grit.

J: That’s a good answer but I was referring to your private life. How did you choose to be a writer?

Image for Fantasy WorldLG: Oh, that fantasy world. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was 6 or 7. I started by writing silly little poems and small books. You know the kind, where a chapter takes up half a page (because you have to leave the other half for a picture) and then you staple seven or eight pages together and say, "hey mom! I wrote a book!"

J: Where did you learn your craft?

LG: I started by copying, word for word, my favorite authors. I still do that exercise sometimes, and I always learn something more. Then I took a community class and a few years later joined ANWA, a local writing critique group.

J: This is your first book. Tell me how it came to be, what was your journey from writer to author?

Cedar Fort Publishing & MediaLG: Well, I pitched my story to an editor, in person, at a writers conference and that's how I got my contract with Cedar Fort. But that really was just the start. Then came the cover art, the edits, more edits, plans for marketing, last edits, and tweaks on the cover art. It was mostly a blast, sometimes stressful, but on the whole a great experience.

J:  How is it to work with Cedar Fort?

LG: I love working with Cedar Fort. I feel they listen to me, and are behind me 100 percent. My editor, Emma, is exceptionally awesome!

J: Where on the internet can people find out more about you and your book?
Barnes & Noble
J: Looks like it started to snow again. You best head out.

LG: Wait. I thought you said the gnomes did your snow.Your driveway’s untouched.

J: That’s what I said, but they showed me the obious issue.

LG: What?

J: Gnomes. They’re like ten inches tall. They can’t shovel that much.

LG: So what did you pay them for?

J: The managed a tunnel. So just get down on your belly and squirm you way to the road. It’s really the only way. The windchill would kill you in minutes. And you can’t stay here. That wouldn’t be fair to all my other guests.

LG: Why not?

J: Shhhh. Your car will be there to meet you when you come out.

LG: That’ll take hours. What if I don’t make it?

J: You’ll freeze but you’ll make a fine lawn ornament.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thoughts on Writing Books

I'm going to ramble a bit today. I’m boning up writing curriculum. I’ve been offered an opportunity to teach a class on writing mysteries with Lifelong Learning at the University of Utah. It’ll challenge me. It’s one thing know something well enough to do it, but it’s another to understand the process well enough to teach it to someone else. Things that are instinctive and never scrutinized must be pulled out and dissected. It's like needing a mechanic’s knowledge to drive a car.

I’ve raided libraries and bookstores for tomes on the craft, with particularly direction toward writing mysteries. Because reasons I also picked up books on writing horror which I consumed in October.

What I’ve learned from all this study is that it's easy to be intimidated by writing books.

Not the act writing books, I'm good at the, but books on how to write books.

Books about writing necessarily lay out a code rules. I have to remind myself that these rules are, as Captain Barbossa so elegantly said, “Are more like guidelines.”

But they’re not presented that way. They’re presented to avoid doubt in the novice, They’re presented as firm and fast laws.

Which means I am a criminal (or at least a rule breaker). 

The irony is that I’m doing all this writing research on the heels of my new book THE FINGER TRAP, which intentionally breaks so many rules. Compared to the tight narrative suggestions of writing advice books, my story is performance art. The theme is contained in the book itself - holding it your hands, seeing it in reality is the climax of the thematic drive which wanders and wanes to ridiculous (but hopefully entertaining) levels.

But Tony Flaner is only the most egregious of my writing crimes. Everything I write breaks this or that rule. I write to theme, a thing I’m beginning to realize is strange and untoward. I outline, but not completely. I don’t have a stable of professional and trusted beta-reader editors to steer me right in the later drafts. I often delay placing the setting of a scene until it’s almost too late. I deliberately confuse readers with dialog attribution sometimes so they consider the same idea coming from several sources. I routinely have dialog scenes with more than two people. I avoid stage direction, blocking and business as much as possible.

It's worse too. The rules are a type of cannon. Publishers and editors read these rulebooks and use them to pick their titles among slush piles. Some of them make sense, “the opening should grab the reader,” others are more arbitrary like “use only third person limited POV,” and “each sentence must serve either story or character,” but what about theme and setting? or my favorite “avoid anything that makes your book sound literary.” Wha?

I built my style loosely on Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. These make sense to me, but I also recognize their limitations and break them whenever I need to, knowing I am breaking them. The class I teach about them is called “There are No Rules - Here are Ten.” The Zen is right there in the title - There are no Rules. There really aren’t. Some things work better than other things. Some things that work now didn’t work a century ago and vice versa. This is art, not science. But it’s hard to remember this when an authority tells you the way it should be, and means it.

Stephen King, for example eschews theme and symbolism unless he finds it in his own work after writing it. He doesn’t put anything there deliberately, but he’s not adverse to finding something later and making the most of it. I however put them there. He also writes from situation instead of outline. Most authorities will grant, mostly because of King I’d wager, that outline isn’t always necessary, but in the books I'm reading they are highly recommended. This makes sense because these authors have written a non-fiction book. They think in outlines. That’s how non-fiction books are. Makes sense.

Outline or not outline—that’s inside baseball, beneath the hood mechanics, so to speak. The test of anything is the product. Does it work? Is it interesting? Does it say something? Very often the positive answer to these questions comes not because a book followed the rules, but because it broke them. Formula is consistent but seldom great. 

One day computers may be able to produce books to formula. It’s possible. Plug in enough rules, change the variables, and pop, you have a new thriller or mystery or romance (the most cited formulaic genres). But they’ll never be great because they’ve followed the rules.

That’s doesn't help my feeling of intimidation from the voice of authority speaking to me from the ivory pages of how-to books. I keep most of the rules instinctively because I’ve been influenced by books that used most of them. But I break the rules. I break them hard and deliberately sometimes—see THE FINGER TRAP for an example of my playful disregard for convention. Sometimes I can’t follow the rules because, frankly they’re boring and cliche and though they might work in the aggregate, they didn't work in this situation, or in that book, or from this point of view. 

All this recent study has made me very aware of the arbitrary “rules” of writing and I’ll be able to share them coherently with an eager class of mystery authors next year. I’ve known them for a long time, absorbed them and disregarded them in turn. Now, I can catalog them all. Bully for us.

But, of course, being so deep in advice books, I can’t help but readdress my own work, past and present, by their guidelines. Like I said, it's making me honest. Luckily, from the safety of published authorship, I can apply them like any piece of advice or criticism; “you’re right, I’ll change it,” “you’re right, I can’t/won’t change it,” or “you’re wrong.” And going on, I'll continue to feel my way ahead as I always have.

No one gets all the rules right, even the rules that are right like grammar, passive voice and punctuation. Stephen King admitted in his On Writing that it’s a matter of “do as I say, not as I do.” That’s authoritative writing advice in a nutshell. 

But I prefer Pablo Picasso's quote: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

When the only way out is deeper in…

A genre-bending, voice-driven, modern noir, comedy, 
coming of age, mid-life crisis, social satire, detective mystery. 
With quiche.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Short Stories In Plain Sight with Mimi Williams

James Ward Kirk Publishing just released a new anthology called HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Here’s the blurb:
Often times, horror hides in open view. We’ve all heard the stories of the quiet neighbor whose basement became a chamber of evil; the kind woman who slipped her foot into her slipper and discovered a brown recluse spider; or the young child who lured a classmate into the woods. Every day, in the bright light of our lives, evil happens. It comes from the most ordinary places, the most ordinary circumstances, and the most ordinary people. These stories will pull back the curtains, throw open the doors, and reveal the truth of the evils that hide in plain sight. Sometimes evil is sitting in the next seat over. Sometimes it looks like a freckled face boy, or the kindly old woman, or the sweet puppy. Pull back the curtains on the creepy house or see where the Brown Recluse lies in wait for the unsuspecting victim. Be wary of the person next to you, that cat in the tree, or even that thing that lurks in the dark of your mind. Sometimes you just have to look, and you'll find the horror around us.

Within its pages is my story, THE LOST CURSE OF THE WITCH’S NEST, which is a freaking fantastic tale unlike anything you've ever read. Really. HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT was edited by Mimi Williams, a really nice and talented person who’s been to the Mansion before, though under a different name (Kim Williams-Justesen)

I invited Mimi by the Blog Mansion to celebrate the anthology launch, toast its success and chat about writing.

Johnny: Have some champagne and cookies to celebrate.

Mimi: No. I’ll pass. You have a reputation for killing visitors at the Blog Mansion.

J: Can’t argue that. So, is this the first anthology you’ve edited?

M:: It is! It's not the first editing I've done, but I've never developed the theme, collected the stories, done all the edits, and put the collection together.

J: How was it? How long did it take?

M: From start to finish, about 3 months. That's from the time James hired me, we developed the concept, to the release this week. A very quick pace, but I think that kept things fresh. Like fresh meat. Mmmmm.

J: How’d you get involved with James Ward Kirk Publishing? Tell us who they are?

M: I met James through Facebook (how else do you meet people these days?) and then learned about his publishing business when I had a story accepted for the TOYS IN THE ATTIC anthology. JWK publishes horror, sci-fi, and fiction by both individual authors and in anthologies. James is a very knowledgeable publisher and editor, as well as a talented writer himself. 

J: Short stories are challenging for me. I prefer long form. I have a hard time writing my name in under a page. What do you think are the strengths of the format?

M: People today are in a time crunch. Many read on their phones or tablets when they can squeeze a few moments in. Short stories allow you to get a rewarding read compressed into a small space, and if you have to put down an anthology, you don't lose track of where you are in the story. You can pick up anywhere! Short stories are also great because they take less time to write than novels, so an author can feel they've achieved an excellent result without the arduous undertaking a novel can be. A good writer can pack a lot of detail and value into a short story. They've been around for ages, and it looks like they are still growing in popularity.

J: I'm sure happy with my contribution to the anthology, THE LOST CURSE OF THE WITCH’S NEST.

Erin Britt's newest novel
M: Was that a question?

J: No, a plug for my story, THE LOST CURSE OF THE WITCH’S NEST in the new anthology HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

M: We already said that.

J: Can’t hurt to say it again. in the new anthology HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

M: Yes it can. There are other stories in the anthology too.

J: But none as good as mine.

M: Not while you’re holding a crossbow leveled at me.

J: There’s poetry in the book too isn’t there?

M: Can I talk about it since you didn’t write it?

J: Sure as long we remember that my excellent story THE LOST CURSE OF THE WITCH’S NEST is in the book. Tell us about the poetry.

M: There are some wonderful, creepy poems. Your good friend Erin R. Britt contributed two of them! Each of them is a different style and completely awesome. I love that I got to read and edit so many excellent poems for this collection.

J: Sounds like a great anthology that includes my—

M: Yeah... we know your story THE LOST CURSE OF THE WITCH’S NEST. You know you’re not getting paid any more for your story right? You’ve been paid. That’s it.

J: I know, but I love that story. I want people to read it.

M:. Level the crossbow at them, then! You know, you could put an eye out with that thing. Like, specifically, one of mine!

J: You began your career with Middle Grade books, KISS, KISS BARK and HEY RANGER. Then you went to horror with BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS before crossing into Young Adult with THE DEEPEST BLUE. Now you’re an editor. Is this a journey of discovery, necessity or happenstance?

M: Sheer stupid luck! And a desire to try different things. I love words, I love language. I'm a self-professed word nerd, so anything that involves words is my thing. I love alphabet soup, I play Scrabble, I love anagrams . . . you get the idea.

J: You look green.

M: I don’t feel well.

J: Oh, that’s because poisoned you. With a micro-needle in my ring when we shook hands. But don’t worry, I left the antidote in plain sight.

M: Oh… the cookies? The champagne?

J: No. The bottle marked “antidote” on the table.

M: That would have been the last thing I”d have thought.

Available Now
includes my story

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Letting go of Tony

What a fantastic year I’ve had. A hat trick - three books published in three different genres. 

THE BRAND DEMAND, my first completed novel, my first mystery, first sex scene, first publisher east of the Mississippi. Controversial, cathartic. Unread. Sigh.

CELESTE, the continuation of my best-selling, much-loved YA series THE UNSEEN. A love letter to my families—broken, whole and healing.

And now THE FINGER TRAP, the first Tony Flaner mystery.

Of all my books, this one, THE FINGER TRAP, is the most personal. Each one is a part of me, a dissection of some part of my psyche, some vexing question I’m trying to get at, some itch I need to scratch, some reliving of some trauma. Each protagonist, each character is a reflection of me, the author. But then there’s Tony Flaner.

A couple of dapper Flaneurs
Tony is an everyman slacker. He’s had an easy life. He’s had more hobbies than you’ve had socks, more jobs than you’ve had shoes. He’s a lazy smart-ass in a world of trouble—divorce, generational alienation and murder. Yeah, murder.

Okay, Tony Flaner is not exactly me, actually pretty far afield in most ways, but what what he represents, by action, speech, and attitude is what I wish for. What that is, I have represented in the very structure of the book, by it’s indulgence, tangents and length.

Let me explain.

It all comes from a pun of the name. I pun lots of names. Most of them actually. They’re cues for me so I remember who and what they're about. Eleanor ANDERS - (Anders comes from the Danish for “change”). GALEN Reed (Galen is a doctor who cures ills). 

Charles Baudelaire
— the king of fun!
And now, dear world, Tony FLANER. Flaner is a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the Flaneur, a "stroller," "lounger," "saunterer," or "loafer." Believe it or not, these are not bad attributes. Wrapped within this concept is the idea of Carpe Diem, "seize the day." There was an architectural movement developed around this concept. If you’ve ever gone to a park and taken a path that weaves and turns, goes out of its way to this tree, that fountain, that other bench over ther before arriving, that is the application of the concept of Flaneur. There’s a destination to be sure, but the journey is not to be missed. This is the lesson that I explored in my murder mystery, mid-life-crisis, coming of age modern noir social satire, THE FINGER TRAP. Really.

The book is deliberately long. Originally, I had it at 150,000 words because I’d heard that was the maximum word count for a novel before you had to call it something else, like an “epic” or a “cinderblock.” That was meta - the form speaking to the content in the art. The long pleasant journey. Editors and agents, publishers and common sense cut it back to a tight (?) 125K, but it’s still long as it was intended.

The book is voiced. It’s tangental. It’s indulgent. It’s funny. There’s a solid connecting plot leading the journey but the story is the Flaneur, or Flaner.

Tony’s not perfect. Oh, god no. In a sense, I may have created an ideal of attitude, but he also has the vices of his virtue. He’s lazy, flippant, weak, selfish, opinionated, often out of touch, and ultimately a vicim of his own capriciousness—he’s never finished a thing in his life. He’s an “eighty-percenter” — he goes so far in a thing but then when it gets tough, when he’s got to double down to go farther, he loses interest and gives up.

This is much me.

But I’m trying to do better.

Tony’s array of hobbies, his collection of jobs, is a mirror to my own wanderings. And the book, his book, my book—THE FINGER TRAP is again Meta in that I pushed past the eighty percent and saw it through. I wrote it, worked it, pushed it and never gave up on it until now, here, this month, it’s alive and in print.

Upon each new book release I feel a certain vulnerability, but this one is different. There’s a zen here even though this is the most “out there” title I’ve ever published. It is the most daring, experimental, vulgar, personal and fun. People will either love it or hate it; I foresee little middle ground. That's all okay, because it is unabashedly what it is. For that reason, I think, I am strangely calm about letting Tony loose.

I love this book. It is an icon on my shelf, a triumph in my life, a holy artifact of tenacity and success in a sea of weakness and failures. It overcame rejection and its own limitations. I’m proud of it. It’s good. It has pieces of every genre I like and then some. It still bursts me to laughter when I read it (Chapter 6 is a masterpiece, if I say so myself) and years after it was conceived, written, and shopped, I still completely relate to what and why Tony does what he does. It speaks to me as if the writer had known my very soul. 

I pray THE FINGER TRAP is popular and finds an audience because I have written three Tony Flaner mysteries so far, but in truth, for this book, the “Ideal Reader,” as Stephen King would say, has always been me.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re still required to buy a copy. Maybe two. Three would be best, just load up your Christmas list with them. Send the gift of saunter, a fun journey of a whodunnit filled with adult tantrums, sarcasm, local color and far away places. Feel free to like it, feel free to love it, feel free to relate. Feel free.

Thanks Tony!

When the only way out is deeper in…

A voice-driven, modern noir, comedy, coming of age, mid-life crisis, 
social satire, detective mystery. 
With quiche.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Farewell Wordharvest

I attended my first Wordharvest, Tony Hillerman Conference back in 2012, the first year of my insane journey into writing. Since then it’s been an annual pilgrimage for me, a trek across the desert in the fall, always over my birthday, to Santa Fe to see how things are done in New Mexico.

Tony Hillerman
It took two days to drive down there, but that was alright because it was through some of the most beautiful country I know. Michelle would go with me and we’d make it a couple’s vacation, at least until we got there and I’d disappear in classes and she’d spend the days exploring the city. We’d attend the formal banquet and then take the short way home and make it back in a a day.

I met some great people down there, members of the tribe of writers I’ve come to appreciate so much. I’d see them only there, but every year we’d meet again and renew friendships in a strange familial way that set that conference apart. Since it was a small conference, I got to meet and befriend real heavy weights in the business. Anne Hillerman I must count as one of my most favorite people now. David Morrell and I are chums. Steve Havill was also a regular and this  year I got to buy Steve Brewer a drink. I hobnobbed with agents and Big 5 editors and met the new Tony Hillerman Prize winners and kept company with authors of all stripes. It helped my career, I won’t deny it. The knowledge and connections are invaluable and still serve me.

But all good things must come to an end. After eleven conferences spanning twelve years, the conference is no more. This year was the last one. I knew this going down this year and I won’t deny that it cast a little shadow in my heart as I hugged and talked to my friends wondering when I might see them again now that things were ending. Luckily, we have the internet and I have a car and writers run into each other if they try.

I go to a lot of conferences. I go to learn and network and just hang with my people. Each one has a different feel to it, a different vibe. Some are similar, but each is unique and none was as unique as Wordharvest. Whether it was the mystery angle, or the western scene, the Tony Hillerman fans, the contest, the mature attendees or the green chiles, it had a flavor all its own. Snow in the desert. It was distinct and wonderful and I’m going to miss it. 

Steve Brewer, Anne Hillerman and Me
At times like this I remember that great quote from Dr. Suess: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." I count myself lucky that I got to attend as many Wordharvests as I did and grateful I was there for the end.

When fall rolls around next year, and my birthday approaches, it’s going to feel weird not to be planning a trip to New Mexico. When that happens, I’ll make myself some green chile stew, toast my friends with a good drink, and write some words worth reading.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Again to the Desert

I’m about to set off on my third autumnal desert adventure this year. It began a few weeks ago with a trip to Arches with my friends and family. Two weeks later, I was in St. George for the Book Festival, and now, I’m making the trip to Santa Fe for the Tony Hillerman, Wordharvest Writing Conference.

I love the desert. I love fall. I really love the desert in fall.

There is something truly magical about place and time. Fall, as I’ve blogged before, is a natural trigger for anxiety for me, a call to change, for new endeavors and challenges. A dying perhaps, but also a bolt of sudden determination to achieve something while there’s still time. It’s a metaphor I guess for my writing career, started so late in life. But it’s always been that way for me. The desert meanwhile is a holy place. It is not accident to me that the God of our culture rose from the desert. There is something in the stillness of sand and distance to horizon that shrinks me and fills me with wonder that any of this is happening, my life, the world, the universe itself.

The desert of Southern Utah is taupe, crimson and rust. Sandstone. It is a redness that unites the fluid in my veins to the rock of my region, and a taupe that reminds me of my upturned palms. The season is reflected there in cottonwoods and frost, in a feeling of time different from the heat. It is a unifying point in my psyche.

I watched the sunrise over a mesa in St. George. I can’t remember the last time I actually saw the dawn like that. I was high up on a mesa — the airport actually. If you don’t know, St. George has an airport atop a central mesa. It’s amazing. The writing workshops were being held in a building nearby and I’d arrived early to get my bearings and was rewarded with seeing that sunrise. The city itself occupies space between mesas and seems to have been tucked away in a valley of fallen monoliths.

The morning sun lit up that city and cliffs. The granite temple in the center of town of course glowed with an alabaster brilliance, but more so did the crimson cliffs surrounding the people, making everything seem small but warm. The light on the rock was so vivid and deep I thought of muted lava. Trees of the season, orange and yellow leaves, the fruits of fall, caught the rays and glowed as if burning in the hues. The air was desert crisp and clear and I thought I could see forever.

My picture doesn't do it justice.
Those same clear skies were in Arches when I was there. The night was so full of stars it seemed fake after so long in the city. We picked out those constellations we knew and named the ones we didn’t, "Leroy the Melancholy on his Chariot of Cats," "The Flat Tire," and "The War of 1812." the smell of clean sand and rock, friends and family. It was another holy moment, another desert.

I’ll cross the desert again and go deeper and higher to Santa Fe. I could fly down, but the drive down is half the trip. Hours in the desert, smelling the cottonwood and sage, sands and skies, it’s an excuse in itself. The changing season, life hanging on. Transition. High in the desert, there may be snow in New Mexico to great me. It will be welcome punctuation to the lessens of the “wasteland.”

I never exit a desert the same man as I entered it, and no fall has left me unscarred.

Three trips this year. Moab, St. George and Santa Fe. Three face-to-faces with the desert, the season, myself.

Come the desert. Come the sacrament of sand and cedar. Come the turning of the world. Come make me small and wonderful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

BEATRYSEL's power to summon

There is a recurring magickal moment when I sell books in person. I have seen it many times in many places. Someone approaches my table and points to BEATRYSEL and says, "What's that?" in that one certain way. I'd not mentioned the book, I'd not pitched the demon lover, I only have BEATRYSEL out, the cover on display. It's as if they're drawn to it— summoned to it. It draws them from across a room, past other vendors, other authors, other books, past best-sellers, and famous titles, to my table, past the books with award stickers, past ELEANOR and BRAND, to the dark love tale in the winter rain to the teal circle and mournful eye.

I warn them what it is. I tell them of its origin, its accuracy, its fabric. I'd not have someone hate me for my writing, so I warn them about BEATRYSEL. And they always buy a copy and clutch it like a tome and I smile.

I know then I have a fan, I know I've met one of "those" people, one like me. It is a thrill that goes beyond the author moment and informs my view of the universe.

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

THE FINGER TRAP Launch Party Announcement

Announcing the official launch party event for 


A modern noir, social satire, coming of age mid-life crisis detective story, 
with quiche.

Be there or be a schmuck.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 St. George Book Festival - On My Way!

Next week I’m heading south for my second consecutive visit with the St. George Book Festival

The festival runs from Monday October 19th though Saturday October 24th. There are events happening all week. I'm involved Thursday through Saturday.

Now a sister festival to the big Utah Humanities Book Festival, the St. George Book Festival is a gem in the desert. 

There’s something for everyone.

For writers it’s an opportunity to talk to people who’ve been there, who have struggled the struggles you are having. It’s a time to talk to veterans and learn moves. It’s a time to put some theoretical on your practical and some practical on your theoretical. It’s about the craft, the art, the words. It’s about fellowship.

For readers, it’s about the hows and the whys. It’s about finding art that speaks to you, that excites your soul and challenges your mind. It’s about the community of artists around you and love you more than you'll know. A celebration of verse and narrative. It’s a a chance to connect with authors and their stories and find that gem of a tale that will change your perspective forever.

For all it’s a celebration of the humanities, that most wise of all disciplines - for it is the discipline where Wisdom is taught, if it can be. It is the discipline that teaches how to think. it’s the one that challenges you to find meaning in chaos and depth in the shallows. It is the human condition. Come see how your fellow humans are dealing with it in words.

I have a book signing on Thursday at The Red Cliffs Mall Barnes & Noble (1720 East Red Cliffs Drive, St. George, UT 84790) with ELEANOR and CELESTE. Maybe a bit of BRAND DEMAND and a good hint or two of THE FINGER TRAP. Come by. Chill. Keep an old hippy company.

On Friday, I’m teaching a break out class as part of The Writer's Journey: One-day Writing Workshop at Dixie Applied Technology (E.R. Training Center). Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.  My class is called “There are no rules - here are 10,” an examination of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It's a great class about style and choices, excellent information and tips for writers of all levels. Click here to sign up. It's a cheap date, a totally token fee - $5 advance, $10 at the door. This doesn't even cover the cost of the air. Considering how much great information and how many great people will be there, it's a complete steal. Steal it.

I’ll also be at the Book Expo on Saturday all day. This will be at the Spooky Town Fair - Opens to general public at 10:00 a.m. I'll be there selling books of all delicious flavors.

The whole festival is a great experience. I would not be going again if it sucked. I'll be there talking and learning and hanging out with like-minded wisdom loving bibliophiles and humans partaking of the human experience like myself. 

You should come down. Look for me. I’ll be in tie-dye.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October + Chuggie = Chugtober!

Longtime friend and writing buddy Brent Michael Kelley is doing stuff. With Chuggie. Chuggie!

During the 31 days of Chugtober Omnium Gatherum and Brent Michael Kelley are sponsoring six contests. Each contest has an exciting prize. We’re giving away witch fingers, tchotchkes, ebooks and other stuff.  There are lots of ways to earn entries.

At the end of Chugtober the person who has accrued the most entries to all the contests will win the grand prize, a 7 inch wifi Kindle Fire loaded with all the Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe books and a few extra surprises.

Contest 1: Chuggie and the Fish Eating Contest is underway. Folks can totally enlist at: 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015

Got me a hat!
At Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, I had one vendor table, three guest panels, and about hundred twenty thousand friends.

It was four days of hectic mayhem. I'm including the set up day which was Wednesday. I had my good friend, Athena Jones to help me. Ben, her son by birth, mine by association helped as well. Thanks to all the other vendors who remembered their supplies - tape, pins and such, and Athena's resources, we got it together in short order.

Then the Convention began. Wow.

There's an energy in a Comic Con that's unlike anything else in the world. It's a gathering of the tribe, fans, geeks and glory. It's a collection of the most amazing wares anywhere in halls full of icons. Smiles and excitement, tired kids and dazed zealots. Cosplay, heroes, stars and celebs. Like I said, it's like being surrounded by a hundred twenty-thousand of your closest friends.

Here are some of them.


Jesus saves.

A superb Dalek. Not the droid I was looking for though.

These jokers were cool.

Nux! Shiny and chrome.

Crow and Tom. 
Johnny, Jim and Julia

Me and Jafar.


Me and my neighbor, Totrro.

Timelords rule!

Awesome, but not the droid I was looking for.

It totally geeked out on the MST3K guys. They were five tables from me.

Now that's a knife.

And they had freakin' laser beams on their heads!

My vote for best Cosplay at the con.

This is the droid I was looking for.

Me and Peter Orullian

Larry Correia and I

Me and Brandon Mull

A sweet cosplay family

The biggest autograph book I'd ever seen.

My other vote for best cosplay of the Con.

Hauntingly cool.

Big shout out and thanks to the creators and contributors of Salt Lake Comic Con, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, also Blake Casselman, Ryan Call and all the volunteers for making this the best Comic Con yet and the premier geek-fest in the state! See you at Fan-X in 2016.