Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Pandemic Greetings

I realized I haven’t communicated for a while. Publish or parish. I gotta write something. I gotta communicate. My fans are dying to hear from me. Fields of dying bodies, eclectic readers and tie-dye aficionados, buzzards readying their beaks. This is my fault. This blood will be on my hands. Isn’t that just how the year has been? Here I am, sitting around in my underwear on the couch shotgunning Coke Zeros with a ball point pen, scrunched atop a blanket of indeterminate color, and I’ve got to produce something. I gotta write.

This brings up the rather testy problem of figuring out what to write. If I could think of what to write don’t you think I’d be writing? I’m a writer, you know. Writing is what I do. I tell people I’m writing when I’m writing and sometimes when I’m thinking of writing and when I have to explain why I’m in my underwear at 5:00 p.m. and have to invent reasons why the blanket is that color.

But I’m a professional. I can do this. Here it is. I’ll write something. Here it comes. I’m inspired.

Recently, I celebrated Thanksgiving and there’s something about that holiday that encourages me to give thanks, or at least count a couple blessings. A countdown. That’s a kind of writing. I can do it in words. Write them down. Writing!

I have a lot of blessings. I can work from home in my underwear with Coke Zero in my chest hair. This isn’t a Covid thing. I was doing this before, so it’s a big blessing my lifestyle hasn’t been unduly altered. I can write, when I want to. Really. It’s happened. That’s a good thing. That’s important to me. Blessed. Like Brian Blessed - FLASH!

Locked away from my sane friends, barring the door to my insane ones, I’ve come to appreciate friends. And sanity. It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you’re alone. Zoom has been a lifesaver and I’ve learned that if you hold the computer just right, underwear is just fine.

I’ve come to understand what it is I actually need to survive. Food. Lots of food. More food than I used to need apparently. Food is important. Heat is nice. Blankets help when you don’t dress for the cooling temperatures. Liquids are good. Coke Zero is a liquid. So is bourbon. I checked. Wikipedia is very wise. Thanks internet knowledge core.

Hobbies are vital for survival in these days of American decline. All work and no play makes for a creepy lodge vacation. I have lots of hobbies and I’ve even found a few new ones as I keep myself within this house all day, and yard at night; pants optional. Among my new hobbies are:

    Day drinking. 



    Beard braiding.

    Eating. (That’s an old one, but I’ve been taking it to new levels.)


The last one is really a time taker. Getting on the internet, watching numbers rise and open hospital beds dwindle I’ve tried to find an easy way to judge my fellow pandemic travelers. Mostly, because my friends are sane, the judging goes out to creepy family members, strangers, and people who make the news for getting kicked off airplanes. The metric is: how much are you willing to be inconvenienced to keep other people from dying? If the answer is, "I won’t wear a mask and I won’t believe in science," you score very low on my judgment chart and I send evil waves of malevolence your way hoping you’ll lose your car keys or discover the wonders of Giardia-infused intestinal squirts. I can be mean. Don’t cross me.

I’ve also come to judge people by fashion. Tube tops after Labor Day is a privilege not a right. Crocs. Just Crocs.

I wonder if I’m not being judged too. I’m pretty sure I am. Waves of disorder waft over the domicile like whispered inside jokes. Strange things have been happening. The most alarming is that someone has cursed my washing machine. It is shrinking all my clothes, particularly my pants. A sublime spell. There’s a wizard out to get me. I must atone.

It hasn’t been a complete waste, these many months hiding from disease which is out to get me. I have found a new job. It’s a work at home gig, something I never considered to be full-time employment, but has surely risen to that, particularly in the cold weather. I am a professional door opener for cats. Yep. It’s going on my CV. There are doormen at all the nice buildings in New York (I read about them), well now at Casa Worthen, there is me. I’m not as nicely dressed, or even actually dressed sometimes. I don’t wear a hat all the time, but sometimes I do. I wait by the back sliding door ready to oblige our two cats who test the limits of their control over me by a dozen passings each day. They look at me and smile in their cat ways. I think they’d tip if they had money, but I know better than to let my cats have money. I shiver to think of the mischief they could do on Etsy alone.

So I go on with the cats and couch and the drinks and the food and the blanket whose original color is a mystery lost to time. I get by. I think. I plan. I wait for the vaccine and a return to sanity. I count my blessings. I write.

Gotta go. Roy’s at the door.

Merry Christmas 2020


Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Tomorrow the third Tony Flaner novel, IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD, falls upon the world, to sink or swim as it will. It will be out of my hands. It has been for a while, I guess, but tomorrow is the official day.

Tony and I have had a long relationship. It was Tony who convinced me to become an author, a full time writer, a schlunk who quit a day job to pursue a dream. THE FINGER TRAP was a watershed moment in my life, a moment where, for the first time, future clarity and direction shown bright and clear.

And Tony had stories to tell.

After his origin story, his "coming of age" if you will, he got to fall in love in THICKER THAN WATER—family and past and future all mixing together. Again a simulacrum of my own existence. I had two books that were wonderful.

And now Tony takes a cruise to Alaska, just like I did. It is hard to separate us two sometimes. At the time I think it was me, but when I recall that cruise now, I often see it through Tony’s eyes. 

Even then, when I stepped foot on that ship I knew that Tony walked with me. Though I remember distinctly writing another book on that trip, remember even the chapters I wrote in stolen time in a vacant barroom as the family slept in, Tony was wandering the decks, imagining mayhem. He talked me into asking the crew to show me some places usually off limits to non-fictional characters.

When I got home, Tony mulled and pondered and planned in my subconscious. A plot was formed, a cunning confusion rife with Utah connections. You can take the detective out of the state, but you can’t take the state out of the detective. Where would Flaner mystery be with it scathing social commentary? I don’t know, but Tony would’t like it.

The story was born.

IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD is Tony in full stride. His origin story is told, his growth story is there, here is Tony realized and familiar. His arc is true and in keeping with his life. Though not a series, but a serial, ie the books can be read in any order, it does repay those who’ve followed Tony from the start and hopefully encourages the latecomers to check out his earlier words. That was the plan anyway.

Now the plan is out of my hands. Tony sails alone tomorrow on the Success up the Inside Passage to Alaskan tourist towns with murder on the high seas. The world will judge.

It is a sadly sweet moment, exciting and weighty to release this. Each book is like that, but this time, with Tony here, I feel more confident that he can handle himself. He’s shown me he can and he’s eager to tell his tale. Like me, Tony loves an audience.

Bon voyage!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Changing Details

In the best of times it’s hard to keep up with the changes in society as a writer. It’s hard to keep up as a citizen with the daily stream of disaster scrolling down our Social Dilemma monitors. This is one of the reason that authors need to embrace editing. Notice I said need, not should

Case in point. When I wrote the THICKER THAN WATER, Tony Flaner’s fantastic Moab Adventure, I made jokes about marijuana. Before it came to print, Colorado had legalized it and I had some re-writes to do. Since it was a plot point I had to finesse it into new form, even projecting that Utah would get medical dispensaries, which they subsequently have.

Flip phones were a thing in the first draft of THE FINGER TRAP. I know that makes the book sound positively ancient, some antediluvian romp with big wheeled bicycles and hoop skirts, but the smart phone thing was just barely launching when the idea was burgeoning. Such is the speed of society.

In my newest Tony Flaner book, IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD, launching next week (Squeeee!), I set the action on a cruise ship. Yeah, when I wrote it, causing was still a thing. This was like last year. People were on cruse ships nine months ago, It hasn’t been that long, but my god does it feel like it has been. The story is light and sarcastic in the Flaner mold and a fantastic book I’ve very proud of, a first rate mystery with twists and chuckles if not outright, “oh my god did he really just say/do/think/smell that” moments. I did hesitate bringing it out in 2020, but I’d already made the promise and I figured that cruising would make a come-back. Eventually.

Harder to decide was the virus. Yes, a virus plays a part in the book, at least in a background way. Norovirus, also known as the cruise ship disease was/is the threat most crews fear the most. This was before our beloved Covid. I thought of changing the threatening virus, but hell if that didn’t just put the story into dark territory with an ending, I, like the rest of the world can’t guess.

So I left it with Norovirus, ran the jokes, the shower, and kept to the mystery comedy, If the book were written today, doubtless it’d be different. I probably would’t put it on a cruise ship, .who knows. 

Truth is, even in the best circumstances, there can be a considerably delay in writing a book and printing it. In speedy times, anachronisms are to be expected. Luckily, I think most readers haven’t caught up the speed of change any more than their authors have,.

My point is, go out and buy IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD now and enjoy an excellent read,

Stay safe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Join Tony for a cruise

I’ve been on three cruises in my life. Cruising here is means riding a big floating hotel in the ocean for a while as opposed to driving slowly up main street with a bucket of chicken looking for girls on Friday night. 

Each cruise had its own flavor, some were demonstrably better than others. The best, hands down was our cruise to Alaska. It was so good in fact, that I took Tony Flaner along, at least in theory. I should have written the whole thing off as a research trip, but alas, Tony took too long to get his act together and fall onto the page.

Nevertheless, cruising. Yes, we’re about cruising today. It’s not for everyone. And lately, I’d say it not for anyone. Covid has turned it all into a real mess. Tony only had to contend with Norovirus, “cruise ship flu” when he went. Not that that was the real danger. There were badgers out there that menaced him more. Kinda.

So, although I’d recommend Alaska cruising up the Inside Passage most days, these aren’t most days, and I can’t now. But that’s okay, because you can go with Tony Flaner up the coast of Alaska and have more adventure and butter drenched desserts than you could dream of in your Overeaters Anonymous midnight meeting.

Remember, that when you read a book, your synapses react and reform as if the experiences you’re reading about actually are happening to you. So… yeah, I’m offering you an Alaskan cruise for the low low price of $5.99 for the ebook and $17.99 for the all inclusive paperback. Boarding begins on October 15, but reservations are being taken now at:


Be safe everyone and read on!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Historical Document

 I was asked by Jared Quan, the current League of Utah Writers Historian to do a set of interviews discussing my career and the place of the League in it along with other stories of daring dashing do. He'll get around to editing it all together in a more concise format, but in the meantime, the first interview was conducted and uploaded. Here it is, for those interested in my writing journey

That's it for now. Catch you next week.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Chasing Tomorrow

 So this happened.

I'm in this.

This marks my second short story reprint. My tale, The Lodge which originally appeared in Peaks of Madness, was selected by the League of Utah Writers to be included in this year's award-winning anthology. I say award winning anthology, because in order to be considered for the book, the story has to have placed in the League of Utah Writers writing contest, which The Lodge did. It won a Second Honorable Mention in the category of Horror, which is kind of like a fourth place. I'll take it.

Anytime I get words in print, I celebrate. Chasing Tom

Check out Chasing Tomorrow for a collection of excellent stories. It's cheap on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The weekend, the wife and I

We have access to an old family cabin up in Flaming Gorge. It’s not ours. It’s our relatives, but once in a while we get up there. We did that last weekend, just the wife and I.

The old cabin is running down. The furniture shows the years, older than my kids. The carpet remembers the Berlin Wall. Once a luxurious getaway, now it’s a rustic getaway, but a getaway it was.

For so many years it has been a part of my summer. A week there on the lake, in the woods, in the family room. Games, music, swimming, talking. The whole bunch of us. This time however, it was just the wife and I.

Little time we had, not the whole week, just a couple of days between shifts at the hospital, pressures of publishing pouring into my hourglass, concerns that would wait, but not long. So we took the not long and we went. Just the wife I.

Once it stood alone in a meadow, but now there are neighbors. Close and view-blocking. But they weren’t there this weekend. And it was just the wife I.

I had brought the usual. A pile of books coated in good intention, a computer for music, iPhones for internet tethering.

Do you see it?

The phone. The computer. It would not be just the wife and I as long as the world could appear in my screen. Many’s a trip I don’t change a thing about my daily routine except the view out the window and the mouse hair on my chair. Working as usual, distracting myself as usual, keeping up on things, which I’ve learned is more properly called “doomscrolling” in this hellish time.

How can there ever be space for just the wife and I under those circumstances?

Seeking that space, we went, but took the wire with us.

Without the other voices of the family. In the cooling cabin, under a four hour thunderstorm burying us in hail, we resisted the siren call.

We left it turned off.

We read. We sat. We walked. We ate. We drank. We talked. We saw a snake, a coyote, cows and crows, hummingbirds and mice. We were together in the quiet of the woods.

Unplugged for a weekend, in an old cabin in familiar forest, it was just the wife and I.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

In The Wake of Captain Lord preorder

Hello Friends,

We're in new waters, cold and icy, glacial in fact. Silly. Murderous. We’re in Alaska. The Inside Passage and Tony Flaner has issues, some of them aren’t even personal.

I’m thrilled to announce that IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD pre-orders is available.

In the Wake of Captain Lord

If you’re thinking, “Gee, I really want something great to read in October,” this is just the thing for you. There are people who think that far ahead, I’m told. People who make use of their wedding crock-pots and plan a meal the day before they’ll eat it. Those kinds of people. I’m not judging.

Follow this link to place an ebook Pre-Order and be prepared!

Thank you. Carry on.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020


I am so excited. If you haven't heard already, here it is. Tony Flaner is back! His third novel-length adventure is set on the high seas, or rather, kinda causing a coastline, But there's water—salt water. And bears and eagles and murder


Coming soon!

Cold murder and old flames sailing the Inside Passage

Tony doesn't know why he did it. He just went. Forgetting to even call Allie, he boarded a plane and then a cruise ship to Alaska. While he's trying to figure out what is wrong with him, he has to figure out how an old college crush can get out of a murder charge when she admits to stabbing her millionaire husband.

Tony Flaner is back, and his newest case is his coldest and most complicated yet. Can he avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet along with the bullets shot at him? Eh, no. Of course he can't.

Tourism, murder and blame aboard an Alaskan Cruise Ship full of multi-level marketers, comedians, and killers and all bound for trouble.

Impulsive, sarcastic, Tony Flaner takes a trip down denial when he joins a luxury cruise without telling anyone until he’s gone. Responsibility has never been one of his strong points, but this is one for the books.

Aboard the Royal Danish Cruise line ship Success, Tony wrestles with his failings while murder is afoot. As fate would have it, an old flame is on board, along with a multitude of multi-level marketers – The Pod People. When the flame’s S.O. turns up D.O.A, it’s S.O.S for Tony to break a complex web of mayhem and murder in the short time it takes to binge on butter buffets and bear brawls, pondering personality problems along the Alaskan coastline.

Coming October 15, 2020

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Quills 2020 Virtual Conference August 13-16th+


I want to invite all you writers out there to come to Quills, the League of Utah Writers Fall Writing Conference. This event will be virtual so the whole world can come. It’ll have scores of recorded classes that’ll be available for some time, including early access for those who register soon. there’ll be live Zoom workshops with great authors and teachers, me included, so that’s cool. Chances to pitch to agents and editor and a general virtual new normal Covid-19 writing fest. Here’s the flyer and check it out at August 13-16 plus (classes stay online for a while).

By the way, League of Utah members get $40 off the conference cost. Membership costs $30. You can thus get deep discount and join a League of Utah Chapter and Zoom in with us for critique and more writing goodness. Just saying. My main chapter is called the Infinite Monkeys. More info here: You don't have to live in the state to join. Lockdown has opened the world.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Great News in Johnnyland

I've been sitting on the news as it developed, as we moved through negotiations in a pandemic across time zones and oceans. For many moons I have been silent, waiting, hoping, working. Buoyed by my agent, Terri Baranowski at Gateway Literary, I told a few earlier this week, but now, for sure, today, it is in the can.

I have just signed the biggest contract of my career. My epic science fiction series has a publisher. And a really good one. Flame Tree Press has acquired the rights to my Coronam Trilogy!


Flame Tree is an international publisher with offices in New York and London, globally distributed through Simon and Schuster which makes me now an international author, or I will be when CORONAM begins in 2021.


Happy Dance!

I really adore this series. It’s timely, epic and vast. It’s Dune meets Childhood’s End with a detour through Sixteenth Century history and a long stop at Roanoke. I call it social science fiction because of its themes and rhythms.

It’s a happy day.

I may be locked in my house, cringing at current affairs beyond my control, but the contract is signed and I am exploding with excitement. Writers tend to be isolated souls, weathering constant rejection and loneliness, seeking validation of any kind. For any author, a moment like this is historic, meaningful and rare. A longed for relief that justifies the pain and confirms the faith.

Thanks for sharing this with me.

Stay tuned and stay safe,

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Grifty Shades of Fey

I had the honor of being part of an unusual project this past year. Fiction Vortex, always on the cutting edge of publishing, arranged for the publication of an anthology of original stories about Faeries, with undercurrents.

It's a handsome book and I share pages with such friends and inspirations as David Farland, Patti Larsen and Michaelbrent Collings. Michael Cluff is another great and longtime friend.

My contribution, A BARGAIN WELL MET, took me out of my comfort zone. I'm not a fantasy guy usually. Sci Fi I can do. gritty contemporary, magical realism, urban fantasy sure, but trope fantasy was a challenge. I finally focussed on my own back yard, on a piece of untended land our laziness has created but which has a long tradition. A fairy garden. The inspiration caught and one of my most tender stories ever was born.

If you're looking for a great read in these hard times, might I recommend GRIFTY SHADES OF FEY.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Charm

My WHAT IMMORTAL HAND just got a new cover. Here it is.

Pretty cool huh?

Why a new cover? Glad you asked. This is actually the book’s third cover. The first was this:

Then this:

Finally this:

I like them all. They’re all cool and eye-catching, but the first two failed to capture the essence of the book, at least from a marketing standpoint.

The book is a literary supernatural thriller, a horror perhaps. Compelling, scary, brooding, even disturbing. The previous covers failed to adequately express this. One would like to think that a cover is just a way to keep the pages together, but in the real world of commerce and business (shudder), it has to make promises of content and mood, so the buyer knows what they’re looking at, so they will be more informed to investigate, and so buy the book and so make everyone happy.

This is a great book. I am very proud of it, a feeling shared by my publisher. It is a testament to out faith in it that we are still tweaking this wonderful tale to expand its audience.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, do so now. I’ll wait. Amazon Link


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My 2019 Reading Success

One of my 2019 resolutions was to read fifty books. I am here to announce that I hit that goal and more. As I make the same pledge again, fifty for 2020, let me share with you my lovely list of sixty—yes sixty books—that I consumed this year.

It is a potpourri of subjects, some self severing, some recollections. Fiction, non-fiction, read, listened to, written and edited. Not a moment spent reading these books was wasted, in fact having thoroughly embraced the literary lifestyle, I will confess that reading is an absolute joy. Do yourself a favor; read. There’s nothing like it. Pleasure, wisdom, fancy.

Books read by Johnny, 2019:

Writing as a Sacred Path, Jill Jepson
Becoming, Michelle Obama
Art Matters, Neil Gaiman
While Mortals Sleep, Kurt Vonnegut
The Curse of Lono, Hunter S. Thompson

Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano
One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz

Donn’s Hill, Caryn Larrinaga
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
How Dams Fall, Will Falk
No Sunscreen for the Dead, Tim Dorsey
Decline and Fall, John Michael Greer

Generation of Swine, Hunter S. Thompson
The Secrets of Story, Matt Bird
The Counterfeit Connection, Johnny Worthen
Beyond the Cabin, Jared Nathan Garrett
Rubberneck at the Cloud Nine Club (Club Cloud and Queen), Victor O’Neal

Nothing is True, Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev
Song of the Lion, Anne Hillerman
Thicker Than Water, Johnny Worthen
2,000 to 10,000 Words, Rachel Aaron
Hocus Pocus, Kurt Vonnegut

Mr. Paradiso, Elmore Leonard
True Hallucinations, Terence McKenna
A Magical Education, John Michael Greer
Cave of Bones, Anne Hillerman
Squirm, Carl Hiaason

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Homo Deus, Yuval North Harari
Deck Three, Bryan Young
Lady Bits, Kate Jonez
She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
The Tale Teller, Anne Hillerman
Deadly Gratitude, Lori Donnester
Damned, Chuck Palahniuk
The Blessing Way, Tony Hillerman

In The Wake of Captain Lord, Johnny Worthen
Doomed, Chuck Palahniuk
The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Write to Market, Chris Fox

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Practicing Mind, Thomas M. Sterner
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder

Revelation; Poppet Book 1, Donna Munro
Authority, Jeff VanderMeer
Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer
The Many-Headed Hydra, Peter Linebaugh & Marcus Rediker
Candide The Optimist, Voltaire

Warpaths; Invasions of North America, Ian K. Steele
The Hermit of Big Horn County, Johnny Worthen
Empire of Light, Alex Harrow
On Fire, Naomi Klein
Between Two Hills, Johnny Worthen

Join me in another fifty this year.