Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Misery loves company.

The one thing that no one prepares you for adequately as a writer is how much rejection there truly is in this career.

I love writing. I write for myself. That’s been my goal from the beginning. I’ve had the luxury of doing this by virtue of time and lack of success. Though things are changing, I’ve done this too long to change now. I try to please myself and then I confidently strike out to to look for like minds who will appreciate my genius and help me toward my goal of intergalactic domination and basic income.

However, even shielded behind such a safe metric for success, I have been stunned by the sheer power of consistent rejection. 

I write a lot. I query a lot. A lot. I send out emails, and letters, packages and good vibes and in return I get hurt.

It's been my schedule to send out five queries per week for whatever projects I have. A total of five. Why five? Why not more? Because that’s all the rejection I can handle.

At five rejections a week I can just maintain the walls. I have just the power to fight off that amount of erosion, of doubt, of hopelessness, of facing a one in a million a chance to reach the goals I aspire to. It’s daunting and it’s relentless.

I try to look at the bright side, to tell myself that “I’m trying.” I mount my rejections on the back of a door as sick trophies to remind me of… something. I print out the emails, don’t tear up the letters, but tape them all up to see, now ten papers thick in my study. And there they hang. It’s a ritual not unlike flushing a toilet I guess.

Sometimes I get personal rejections. They’re rare. Often they’re form letters but usually it's silence. “If you haven’t heard from us in six weeks, we’ve passed on your project. Go die in a ditch, you talentless hack,” is a common declaration on queryable websites.

I’m by nature a happy and confident person, but I tell you, I’ve been tested by this career.

Writing is about honesty and vulnerability. It requires an artist sensitivity. And there's the rub: sensitivity. I bleed on paper and then try to sell my bandages. Of course rejection hurts - I have open wounds.

I'm getting better at rejection. It's part of the job. Since I've had some success, I'm excited about the future. But this took time and effort. I had to climb a mountain of No's for each Yes. 

For therapy and as a public service to writers everywhere, I’ve decided to explore this dark underbelly of the creative process with the help of my friends.  

Over the next few months as space allows on the Blog Mansion I’m going to host a wide variety of authors and other people in the publishing world to delve into rejection. I’m hoping to learn something, or at the least recognize that I'm not alone in this. It's easy to forget.

Stay tuned in this space.

PS - there's a give-away on Goodreads for THE BRAND DEMAND at the top of this page. Three copies signed. It's a great book. Go enter if you haven't. Or better yet, buy a copy from your local respectable independent bookstore or the less respectable online sources that are ever so convenient.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015


THE BRAND DEMAND book launch
Sugarhouse Barnes and Noble
Saturday, April 18th 2:00-5:00

Welcome everyone to the official launch of my third novel, THE BRAND DEMAND. Before I take your money and sign books and bask in the glow of a life’s dream made manifest I thought I’d take a minute and tell you how it came about.

I began my journey as a writer with a specific fan base in mind: Me. My motto, “I write what I like to read, this guarantees me at least one fan,” began with my first completed novel, THE BRAND DEMAND. I wrote it because I wanted to, — no - needed to vent. It was born out the my own frustration at a time when I felt lost in a sea of bigotry, hypocrisy and rampant corruption. Yes, the kernel of the idea for this book was born during the Bush Years.

I’m not sure a lot has been worked out in with the world since then, but thanks to the BRAND DEMAND, I’ve worked out a few things.

I remember distinctly that when I got around to writing THE BRAND DEMAND I woke up  with the ending, the climax of the book. I knew at once that my angst ended in that climax, the very climax that survives in the book today. 

I knew where I was, and I knew where I was going, but at the time I didn’t understand how the two connected. I discovered that by writing THE BRAND DEMAND.

Tip O’Neill, the later Speaker of the House ,famously said that all politics is local. He meant that people understand policy by its immediate effects around them. 

As THE BRAND DEMAND flowed out out onto the page, I saw the invariable course that began with frustration and polemics, smoothly, inevitably, naturally flow into a personal experience of love, companionship and personal decision. The two ends of the book, my conscious frustration and the subconscious answer connected through Galen Reed’s journey. Theory into action. Personal understanding of communal ideas.

What I saw is that though politics is local, it is ultimately personal. It’s one thing to extrapolate a belief from an ideology, but the truth of any idea, comes from personal revelation.

Looking back I’m not surprised that my manifesto morphed into an intimate quest for self awareness, purpose and decision. Regardless of what else is happening in my life, the existentialist questions are never far from me. I explore them and hopefully come to some nuanced understanding of myself and the universe.

Damn, that makes the book sound so heavy. That’s not the case. THE BRAND DEMAND is a romping adventure. A love story, a mystery, a thriller. There’s even a sex scene in it, that I’m kind of proud of. 

I want you to buy a copy. I hope you read it. I think you’ll like it.

"Do what you can, when you can."

Thanks for coming.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Letting Go of BRAND

I’m talking about THE BRAND DEMAND. The official launch party is only a day or two away - this Saturday 2:00 - 5:00 at the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble.

The book’s actually been available for a while if you looked to get it online. It had a strange release since it had to be slid before my other books this year, CELESTE and THE FINGER TRAP. It’s an exciting year for me and strange. Very strange.

Schedules not withstanding, I’ve mentally fixed this Saturday as birthday for THE BRAND DEMANDand today I’m feeling all the mixed emotions of a father before delivery; excitement, hope, worry.

I’ve been here before but I can tell you that the emotional impact is hardly lessened from the first time I saw my name on a bound book. With BEATRYSEL, I was ecstatic beyond words, my debut, dark and brooding, powerful and personal - a book about magick is a manifestation of the same. It still sends shivers up my spine. I love that book. It has been well received.

Then came ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN a totally different kind of book. Emotional and vulnerable, still with a supernatural element, but a character study of change and hardship. I love that book and it has been very well received, winning the Gold Quill from the League of Utah Writers for Best YA in the state. It became an Amazon best seller. Most people who know my work, know ELEANOR.

And now for something completely different: THE BRAND DEMAND.

Three novels, three totally different audiences. My excitement for this one is more than ever tinged with worry.

I have a freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. “I write what I like to read. This guarantees me at least one fan.” I read lots of things. I want to experiment and explore. I write lots of books. I didn’t get my first book picked up until I had half a dozen in the can.

But freedom has its cost. There is a natural expectation that a writer is aligned with a singular genre. At conferences and conventions, whenever I meet anyone and proudly proclaim my vocation as an author, I’m forever struggling with the immediate follow-up question “So, what do you write?”

The expected answer is something like “young adult fiction,” “horror,” “sci-fi,” “mystery”  – a quick label that they can use to grasp my interest and their likelihood to read me. But it doesn’t work like that for me. I have to enter into a nuanced conversation explaining how I write in multiple genres. If there’s a central thread through my work, I might say “literary genre fiction” is close, but that doesn’t sound right.

I wonder if it just sounds like I’m a rank amateur, that I don’t specialize because I can’t, don’t have the concentration, skill or professional courtesy to do what's expected. Truth is I haven’t specialized because I haven’t had to. One day, I’ll get a big contract that’ll demand all of my attention in a single direction, but that day hasn’t come yet. Since I write on spec, and I write for myself, I write in multiple genres.

Before I come off sounding like some kind of literary saint, let me tell you the deep brooding fear that comes with this: audience alienation. I invite disappointment. Readers who picked up BEATRYSEL and loved the occult grit and mayhem there, might be put off by the slow burn of ELEANOR. Fans of THE UNSEEN, in love with the tender vulnerability of my Wyoming girl, might follow my name to THE BRAND DEMAND and, expecting cheesecake, get a big plate of meat and potatoes.

I’m mixing metaphors, but that’s appropriate. Though all my books have my name on them, they are all different. The audience for one book is not necessarily the same for the next one. Occult horror, paranormal character study, contemporary political mystery. Uh, yeah, that’s a wide spectrum for only three books.

I’m probably overthinking this. My fans hopefully have come to understand me and what I’m doing from the books and stories I have out. They appreciate my words, my subtexts and symbols, my questions and style. They will be drawn my skill to anything I write. Or not. <gulp>

THE BRAND DEMAND is an excellent book, full of intrigue, adventure and danger. It poses cultural questions and personal responses. It’s got more local color than a Utah Travel Brochure. It’s a fantastic addition to my menagerie, er, I mean library of titles.

It’s an adult book. It’s meant to illicit responses while entertaining readers. It has the potential to get me ostracized from my state or bring me a whole new wave of fans.

And that is the issue. Fans. With each new title, as excellent as my books are are, unless you’re a personal friend of mine and follow my name to the different bookshelves of you book store, I have to cultivate a new fan base for each title.

I’m not worried about the THE BRAND DEMAND. It’s a great book, a smooth ride, easy to get into, easy to enjoy. I’m proud of it and excited to see it go free into the literary world. It’ll find its readers and they’ll dig it. BRAND fans will have an easy transition into my next genre of detective noir in the fall when Tony Flaner arrives in THE FINGER TRAP. Lovers of that book, will be at home with BRAND. Here at least I’ll be able to share readers. I hope.

Getting readers is hard work. If I were to specialize in one genre I’d have a much easier time drawing existing fans to new titles, but alas, that ship has sailed. I have to live with my slavish devotion to my one guaranteed fan and sail the course I’m on. It’s an adventure.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hard Questions for Christine Haggerty

Author and Fighter (she kills parents and some children)
Christine Haggerty, award-winning author of the THE PLAGUE LEGACY series, hates children but can’t act out in public due to established social norms. Therefore she writes stories about them in hardship. I lured Christine to The Blog Mansion to face some hard questions.

Johnny: Tea or coffee?

Christine: Coffee. IV style, please.

J: Paper or plastic?

C: You mean for the dead bodies? Better stick with plastic. It helps with the smell.

J: Why do you hate children so much?

C: It’s not that I hate children. If you think about it, I really hate the parents because I killed them all off. At least the children were left alive…mostly.

J: I’ve read your books, ACQUISITIONS and ASSETS and your kids are imperiled all the time. Did you set your books in a dystopian future to avoid Child Protection Services intervention?

C: I chose a dystopian future to wipe out many of our social rules, including Child Protection Services. I do keep track of all the kids in my stories, though. Everyone has a tracking chip implanted at the base of their necks. It’s really hard to lose track of a child…or a dead body.

J: You vision of the future in THE PLAGUE LEGACY is a decimated wasteland. What happened?

C: Plague and general mayhem. It’s what happens to things when there are no more construction workers or handymen. Things fall apart.

J: What is the attraction of dystopian literature in today’s society?

C: I think dystopian gives our society a connection to the raw survival and fight for humanity that we’ve lost in the digital age. Most of the people in our society shop for food at a grocery store and buy clothes at the mall. We’re not out hunting or pillaging and I think we like to fantasize that if the world fell apart and we no longer had Google and Sonic drive-thrus, we’d still be able to get in touch with our instincts and survive.

J: Tell us about Cam and tell us why you hate him so much? Does he remind you of someone?

C: Well, handsome, crafty, and loyal…he does sort of remind me of you.

J: If Kanye and Kim were drowning in your pool and you could only save one of them, what kind of sandwich would you make?

C: Pickled Kanye on rye.

J: ASSETS is filled with action, lots of fighting. Really well done there. What’s your secret to writing such good fighting scenes?

C: Fight scenes are my specialty. As an English teacher and a black belt in Shotokan karate, I’ve had a lot of practice with both the writing and the fighting. Next week I’ll be in Nashville to present at the first Authors Combat Academy. I’ll also be rocking it in my gi pants as a rental ninja.

J: What are you doing for promotion? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

C: For promotion, I’ve mostly relied on social media to reach current and new fans. It’s so-so. If readers sign up for my newsletter by May 1, they’ll get a free pre-release ebook copy of The Grimm Chronicles: One, Two, Blood on my Shoe.

J: What happens if you’re scared half to death twice?

C: By then, I’ve killed whatever it was that scared me.

J: Are you’re having a launch event for ASSETS?

C: Yes! I’m appearing on The Blog Mansion.

J: If the #2 Pencil is the most popular pencil in the world, why isn’t it #1?

C: Who’s on first?

J: Where on the Internet can people find out more about you?
Author’s Combat Academy

J: Have you ever wondered why we cook bacon and bake cookies?

C: No, but I’ve wondered why we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Galen's Theme – THE BRAND DEMAND

In an interview I did this week for THE BRAND DEMAND, I was asked what music I listen to when I write. Though ideally I write in silence, the better to hear my own thoughts, sometimes I have background music playing to get me in the mood. I'm often inspired by music for my stories and sometimes I have a specific song that speaks to the piece. THE BRAND DEMAND doesn't have an overarching song like ELEANOR or some of my other works, but I recalled a moment in the first chapter where Galen is home alone. He puts on music and settles in to his hermetic existence.

Before taking his coat off, bag still in hand, he switched on his stereo. His house filled with music and voices, ethereal, feminine and haunting. Lonely, but not as lonely as before. (The Brand Demand, p.7)

Here is the song I had in mind for this scene:

I'm a big Cocteau Twins fan, so naturally my characters are too. It is a beautiful song, but lonely - played on a stereo in an empty house.  It is Galen's Theme.

THE BRAND DEMAND Now Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.