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← Click to join my mailing list and receive a free copy of my short story Crystal Servants, delivered through MyBookCave. Learn about some of the major players in my novel Crystal King and its sequels Crystal Queen and Crystal Empire.

Adrian, a spy for the King, sees a nobleman murder a servant. His desire for truth is pitted against the dangers of a high-stakes political game. When his friend Draken insists on pursuing justice, Adrian must protect those he cares about as the political games of powerful men alter the lives of everyone around him.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

John's Unsupervised Kitchen Adventures

 I decided today to make banana bread because we had some bananas that had gone past their peel-and-eat-by date. Then I remembered we had some blackberries in the fridge we needed to use. Kelly’s gone for the weekend to visit with family in Arizona and Nevada, so I have free reign of the kitchen. Some of my kitchen adventures turn out great, and others, not so much. Kelly sometimes rolls her eyes as if to say “What made you think that would work?”

It turns out I couldn’t find the baking flour, so I substituted whole wheat. Then the berry banana bread recipe called for strawberries or raspberries. Blackberries are a good enough substitute since they’re sorta like raspberries. Except for seeds. Blackberry seeds are horrible rocklike bits that are impossible to chew.

I got out the appropriate attachments to the mixer and ran all the berries through it to remove the seeds. Success! I now had a bowl of seedless berry goo.

The recipe also called for chopped nuts, but I ignored that part. It's a custom recipe already, and I didn't want to add walnuts. Everything went according to plan as a nice double recipe. I mixed it, ignored the deep purple color of the batter, and poured it into a multi-mini-loaf tray and two smallish loaf pans, and popped them all into the oven.

Then I noticed we had lemons, and leftover berry goo that didn’t fit into the bread recipe. Time for a smoothie! I squeezed a lemon, dumped in some of the berry goo, a third of a cup of sugar, some ice, and some leftover cream from making ice cream a couple weeks back. I threw in some mint from the front flowerbed just because I thought it would taste good. Kelly got a fancy new blender a couple months ago, and it takes reading a manual to make it do much of anything. I figured it out and blended everything up.

That was a good smoothie. It didn’t last long, and I had a whole hour to wait for the bread in the oven. I figured it would be fun to document my unsupervised kitchen antics, so I turned on the oven light, opened it up, and took a picture of the delicious-looking little loaves about half-way through their cook time.

The loaves aren’t as purple as I thought they’d be. More of a dark brown like I’d put cocoa in the mix. It was close enough to expectations that I wasn’t worried. But…


I put in the big tray of eight and two single loaf pans. Way up there at the back of the upper rack sat a third loaf pan. Not one of mine. Look at the top edge of the picture to the far right and you can barely see the bottom of an extra loaf pan.

It turns out that we made zucchini bread about two weeks ago. One of those pans never made it out of the oven since it got put way back where you can’t see it without bending down really low. A week ago, one of the kids baked stuffed peppers in the oven. We couldn’t figure out where the burned smell came from since the food came out great, and it hadn’t overflowed or spilled. Pretty weird, huh?

Then I discovered the culprit as I took my picture. I pulled the wayward loaf pan out before it could blacken any more or set of a smoke alarm. I snapped a picture and texted it to Kelly, who at the time was half-way between Mesa, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. As I write this, she probably hasn’t seen the escapee loaf yet. It stuck as I tried to remove it. Nobody's eating that lump of charcoal.

After an hour of baking, I checked on my creation, rubbing my hands together like an anxious Dr. Frankenstein. The metal probe I poked into the loaves came out clean. (I’m an engineer, not a baker. Probe sounds more accurate than metal toothpick thing-a-ma-jig.) It turns out the little loaves cooked faster and got a bit overcooked, even at ten minutes under the recommended time. Kelly probably could have warned me about that if she were here. Either that, or the small loaves overcooked in sympathy for their two-week-old incinerated brother-loaf.

You’re supposed to let them sit for ten minutes, and then move them from the pans to a wire cooling rack. I gave it at least five minutes as I stared at them, willing them to cool faster. Then I gave them at least one more minute as I chose a bread knife.

There’s just a hint of purple at the center that's hard to see in the pictures, and the crust is a deep brown caused by the whole wheat flour and berries. The larger loaves didn’t overcook at all, indifferent toward the plight of the extra-crispy zucchini stowaway loaf.

I’ll call the whole-wheat-blackberry-banana bread experiment a success! Between that and the smoothie, I’m two-for-two today.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

"Unmasked" anthology

 Kevin J. Anderson is Director of a graduate writing program at Western Colorado University, and every year, his class puts together an anthology as part of their coursework. This year, the title of the anthology is "Unmasked."

A friend of mine, Melissa Dalton Martinez, is in that program, so it was a thrill to hear from her that my story "Death by Misadventure" had been accepted into the anthology. There was a strict word count limit, and I had to cut my story from 6500 words to 5000 before I could submit it. That edit pass was a painful and educational process.

The edit I just went through tonight was the result of both Melissa and Kevin running through the submitted story to fix up commas, typos, grammar, spelling, and all that fun stuff. The weird part is that reading through their edits, I saw exactly what I'd done wrong on most of them, and was surprised they'd slipped through my earlier edits. The moral of that story is that even editors need editors.

This anthology will come out later this year. I look forward to seeing it. Now it's time to finish up edits on two novels and get them both out this year. One I may have mentioned before is World War One with marines, biplanes, and gargoyles. The other is space miners fighting to survive on a distant outpost.

Yeah, I write in a lot of genres. For short stories, it's more extreme than with novels. I've published in ten genres plus poetry in short form. At least with novels, I've stuck so far to, um, three. Maybe four. But I certainly have fun with it!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Even more chickens

In case you haven't succumbed to the temptation to buy the Cracked anthology yet, here's another excerpt from my story Stray Thoughts below. You know, because everyone deserves to add funny chicken stories to their life. Twenty cooped-up authors are here to distract you from the outside world for a romp through chicken-infested goodness.

Poke the chickens to find special content and a giveaway.

This is from a little farther into Stray Thoughts than my first excerpt a few days ago, but it can still give you a feel for the flavor of my story. It's not much like the other stories in the collection, so plan for a lot of variety in how your chicken is served.

    “You all stay in the henhouse. I’d hate to see anyone take you and run off.” Delores latched the henhouse door, then ambled over to the top of the stairwell to sit in her comfy padded chair, the one with the pretty floral pattern. The chair sat behind the steel armor plating she’d assembled as a barricade across the top of the staircase. It wouldn’t do to stand up every time she had to guard her home from intruders. She waited and listened, ready to shoot if it was those blasted thugs again.
    “Hello?” It sounded more like a young girl than a thug. “Is anyone there?” Maybe a teenager.
    “Go away.”
    “I…I heard you had food up here.”
    “Unless you have a power inverter to trade, I’ve got nothing for you. Go back where you came from.” Delores couldn’t go around taking in strays. The garden had allowed her to build up a little store of dried vegetables for a rainy day, but the rooftop garden and the chickens were hers. If she started sharing, a dozen beggars would appear before long, and she couldn’t support so many. 
    The girl’s voice echoed back up the stairwell. “I can’t stay where I came from. The canned food ran out. I don’t dare go to the settlement after I saw them out hunting. I saw how they treat people there.”
    “Did they see you? Did they follow you?” Delores knew better than to care what happened to the girl, but she didn’t want trouble with the thugs from the settlement if she could avoid it.
    “No, I don’t think so.”
    “Good. Then go away, like I said.”

You can find Cracked on Amazon and review it there and on Goodreads.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Chickens galore

 I have a new story out this month, so I joined up as part of the blog tour to get the word out. Follow the blog tour here for a special contest and giveaway! This collection of stories came about because the editor, Bokerah Brumley, mentioned how funny it would be to put such a collection together as a cure for boredom induced by pandemic isolation. People responded. Within minutes, the project transformed from "wouldn't it be funny" to "here's where you send submissions."

Due to the magic of high-speed editing, I submitted a story to her within a few hours of her call for submissions. That's a record for me, but it only worked because I had a story that nearly qualified, and needed just a few tweaks. Instead of more cowbell, it needed more chickens.

Stories by:

J. F. Posthumus, Cedar Sanderson, J Trevor Robinson, Richard Paolinelli, Jane Lebak, J. D. Beckwith, Grace Bridges, Denton Salle, Margo Bond Collins, J. A Campanile, Amber Draeger, Karina Fabian, Abigail Falanga, Clair W. Kiernan, L. Jagi Lamplighter, David Millican, John M. Olsen, Dawn Witzke,Joshua M. Young, Bokerah Brumley

Here's an excerpt from my story Stray Thoughts to show a bit of the flavor of my story. Don't expect the whole collection to be like this, since mine may be the only post-apocalyptic story in the book. Interesting tidbit: I wrote the story before COVID-19 hit, so the plague of my story was NOT inspired by the real thing.

    Delores fetched today’s eggs and brought them to her outdoor kitchen.

    She turned on her hotplate and waited for it to warm up, filling the time with conversation. “You remember last year? Things were different. I had that run-down basement apartment. I was arguing with the landlord over rent when the news came on about a new strain of flu spreading real fast-like. A few hours later, the city went dark. Landlord Bob didn’t last much longer, God rest his miserable soul. Turns out it wasn’t the flu, but nobody lasted long enough to name it.” She shook her head at the memories.

    The birds always enjoyed her stories, even when she told the same ones every day. She waved a hand over the hotplate and frowned, then prodded it with a bare finger. The coiled element was cold. She wiggled the plug and the wiring, and still got no power. Shrugging, she toddled over to the power inverter that ran her tiny kitchen. The lights on it were dead.

I love the book;s attention to detail on formatting. This chicken comes from the print version.

Buy it now! Goodreads * Amazon

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Collective Darkness Anthology

 Elizabeth Suggs, the editor for a horror anthology Collective Darkness, interviewed me a couple of days ago. I wrote the forword for the collection she edited.

While I don't consider myself a horror writer, I'm in two horror anthologies put out by the Utah chapter of the Horror Writers of America. This forword was a great chance for me to introduce a work that consists of a nice mix of already-published authors and some new voices, so it's a good chance to find a new favorite author.

Click on the book to take a look at it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

League of Utah Writers, Quills Conference 2020

The League of Utah Writers Quills 2020 conference is over. It was memorable for seveal reasons.

1. I'm the new President of the League. Johnny Worthen has moved to become the Past-President and Bryan Young has become the President-Elect.

2. I got to participate in a commemorative 85th year anthology The Function of Freedom as a contributor, an editor, and in writing some closing remarks. It contains work from a wide range of League members in several genres, including poetry and essay along with speculative fiction. My story Give and Take tells of a man working to make up for a past he regrets as he slaves in the mines to extract bits of magic from the ground.

3. The conference was entirely online with some pre-recorded classes, live Q&A, live workshops, live one-on-one pitches with agents and editors, our annual writing contest awards, and even a social room for chat and networking with fellow-attendees. Live would be better in most cases, but we were able to pull people in who would otherwise never be able to come.

It was a great event and I look forward to working with a great team.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Yes, I'm still here

It's kind of funny that in February I mentioned that conference season was set to begin. COVID-19 had other plans, and I haven't been to a live conference since. I may not have a chance to mingle with fans and authors in person for the rest of the year, but health and safety are important. I'd hate to see COVID turn into a mega-con-crud infection.

For the League of Utah Writers, we moved both the spring conference and the upcoming Quills Conference in August to online formats. The Spring conference went well, and we've got some great guests lined up. This August I'll migrate from President-Elect of the League to become President, most likely for a year.

In other news, I'm actively working on a whole raft of projects.

  • I'm working with an editor on my biplanes-and-gargoyles novel, due to be published later this year.
  • I sent in edits for a Christmas ghost story about a week ago.
  • I've got a story in a re-released Earth Planetary Anthology coming out next week.
  • I just approved a proof copy of an anthology for the League of Utah Writers where I have a short story on the function of freedom, and need to send in an author bio today.
  • Add to that the short-ish sci-fi novel (under 60k words) I'm doing first-pass edits on, and my cup runneth over.
  • I've started to assemble a short story collection, pulling in several reprints and some never-published stories to round out the mix. Just today I realized I've got a short story due to be published in August that I'd failed to put into my spreadsheets, and it fits into the collection.
Later today I'll go outside with my family and cook burgers, then set off fireworks for Independence Day.

COVID has changed how I do things, but I've still got a task list longer than I can finish. :)