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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.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Genre


I have a presentation where I talk about lessons learned from 163 short story submissions over the course of eight years. I broke it down mostly by genre. Counting poetry as its own little sub-category, I wrote short pieces in eleven genres. That's a lot. Here's how they break down.

  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tale
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • Mainstrem
  • Poetry
  • Post-Apocalyptic
  • Religion
  • Science Fiction
  • Steampunk
  • Urband Fantasy

Short stories are my experimental space. I try new things to see what works. I'd never spread myself so thin with novels. (John takes a peek at his novel-length writing...)

Oops. Guess what. I may not be quite as scattered, but here's the list of my novel-length fiction genres.

  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Biography (fictionalized)
  • Military Historical Fantasy (sort of a genre mash-up)
I've also done technical writing included in about five or six how-to books related to computer graphics and artificial intelligence, but that was something like thirty years ago. Does that still count? Not really for the discussion on genre.

Many people tell authors to find a genre they love and to stick with it to have an easier path to success. This is because readers may like the science fiction I write, but may not be into fantasy. Sticking to one genre gives an author a more cohesive audience, and helps readers to find new stuff to read in their favorite genre by following the author.

The thing about that is that I think of myself as more of a generalized creator than an author in a specific genre. I grew up with my dad's library alphebetized by author. Thrillers and westerns sat next to science fiction and fantasy. I inherited that library and it sits in the room behind me on some shelves I built. It's still alphabetical by author.

This generalized concept of a creative doesn't stick to just writing, either. I've written software as my profession and as a hobby for decades. I do woodworking and calligraphy. I tinker with microcontrollers to run fancy Christmas lights. I've built a ukulele and Irish tin whistles. I still have a lego set that went with me to Brazil over 50 years ago. I like to creat things, and stories are one of those things I create.

I may focus primarily on one genre at a time (like how I'm doing more science fiction shorts now, and releasing my Polecat Protocol series this year), but my interests range pretty widely.

If you dig a little, I'm sure you'll find you have a list like mine, but with different content. If you want to bring out your creative side, maybe you will want to focus on one thing, like drawing dog portraits or bronze sculpture casting. Focus is a great way to become an expert and gain both skill and recognition. For others, being a generalist like me might work better.

Find your creative path and enjoy the ride.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Coincidence or Convergence?


It's Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who died while serving in the military. It's also been a weekend with an interesting coincidence.

I have a book coming out in the next few weeks called "High Hopes." It's an adventure story set in World War I about Marines, Biplanes, and gargoyles. It turns out that the publisher emailed me yesterday asking for some extra info such as an author bio and photo, and any dedication or acknowledgments.

Due to the holiday weekend, as well as the subject matter of the book, I thought I'd write a dedication a little different from my normal entry.

To those who have risked or given their lives defending others.
And, as always, to Kelly.

Through this dedication, I'm able to take part in Memorial Day just a little bit more than normal. You see, I have two brothers, a son, a nephew, several neighbors, and a whole raft of friends who have served in the military. They all lived through their time on active duty, so I remember them on Veteran's Day instead.

For Memorial Day, my gratitude reaches to cover those I don't know who have given their lives. It's a small thing, but if you gather enough small things, it's no longer small.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Apex Writers Group

I gave a presentation to the Apex Writers Group tonight talking about how to overcome the fear of failure. I had a long list of stories and examples, and had a lot of fun with the topic. If you're not failing from time to time, you're not setting high enough goals.



As one example,I set a goal in 2017 to receive 30 short story rejections, so I turned the negative of rejections into a scoring mechanism. I ended that year with 41 submissions, 34 rejections, and 7 sales. Without the weird goal, I wouldn't have submitted nearly as much or paid as much attention to submitting my short stories.

Speaking to that writing group can give you a strong case of Imposter Syndrome. If you look at their website, they list Brandon Sanderson and other NY Times bestseller authors as past presenters.

If you're interested in writing, check them out to see if the group is a good fit for you. It was Dave Farland's brainchild, but it's carrying on with others at the helm now that Dave's gone.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Upcoming Writers Conference

 We have a local writing conference coming up on April 23rd, 2022. Most of it will be online so you can sign up to attend the event from anywhere and view classes at your convenience. There will be an in-person keynote, but I think even that will be streamed live to attendees. For the book signing, that's a hard one to handle online, so you're on your own there. :)


I've recorded three different classes for the conference.

  • Making Infinite Worlds in Finite Time
  • Short Story Prep and Submission
  • Care and Feeding of Your Amazon Author Account (This class is brand new.)
Our spring conference is a one-day event, but the recorded classes will be available to all attendees both before and after the one live day. Come join us for a great conference!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2021 Review, 2022 Goals

 2021 was the year for stacking things up in the pipeline. I published three short stories and a poem, which is the least I’ve published in several years. The stories were each from a different genre, and the poem was my second published work of poetry, which I suppose means the first poem wasn’t a fluke. Each of these anthologies is cross-genre, so I've included a note to tell you the genre of my contribution.

Death by Misadventure, in Unmasked (Urban Fantasy)

Living on Borrowed Time, in Strong at Broken Places (Fantasy)

Time Machines Only Go One Way, in If Not Now, When (Science Fiction)

Peter Sinks, in Beyond Beehives (Poetry)

2022 will be the year of the pipeline. Remember that I mentioned I was stacking things up? I have a military UF novel coming out through a small press in Q1. I have a 50K-word science fiction short story collection to format and release in Q2 or early Q3. I’ll use the collection as a promo piece by including chapter 1 of the next novel in the queue. I’ve written two books of a trilogy with the third outlined, and I want to release them in Q3 and Q4 about a month or two apart.

If you’re local, or if I bumped into you at 20 Books to 50K in Vegas this past November, you might have seen the awesome cover art I picked up for the trilogy.

So that makes five novel-length releases planned for 2022. It’s not quite as scary as it sounds, since that only requires writing one novel from scratch, with the rest patiently waiting for me to get to them. The scariest part is the marketing plan for the trilogy. I have an experienced editor and an experienced book formatter (also both authors) in my group of gaming friends, so I’ll draw on a team of experts as I jump into the new year with both feet.

Now that I’ve shared my 2021 results and my 2022 goals, y’all can hold my feet to the fire as you watch for future reports. 😊


Thursday, December 16, 2021

More Anthologies

 I like to contribute to anthologies. You can tell that with a quick look at my Amazon author page. The short stories are a great way to experiment with new styles, techniques, and genres, and some calls for contributors have a narrow focus that can spur some interesting ideas.

This past month, the League of Utah Writers has published two anthologies, and my role differs between them.


The League published "Strong at Broken Places" on November 30th. This one was a lot of fun for me since I helped to pick the theme, contributed a story to it, helped to judge the stories, and got to write the foreword. The theme is based on an Ernest Hemingway quote, "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." I took that quote and chose to emphasize the idea of strength gained through adversity. My story in that volume is a fantasy story called Living on Borrowed Time where a young man is falsely imprisoned and meets a deranged magician the evening before they're both to be executed.


Then, on December 14th, "Beyond Behives: Poetry & Prose Commemorating Utah's First 125 Years of Statehood" came out. I wrote a poem for that one based on an overnight winter scouting trip I took once to Peter Sinks, one of the coldest places in the lower 48 states. It's record low is -69°F. Rogers Pass in Montana has a record one degree colder, and Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska holds the record of -80°F.

If you're looking for opportunities to contribute to things like that, check with members of your local writing community, or visit the Submission Grinder for ideas on where to submit stories and poetry.

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…

PLOT TWIST!

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.