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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, December 23, 2018

Great reviews coming in

Here's a sample of one of the great the reviews coming in for All Made of Hinges. I copied his review to here for my story, but you can find his extensive review of every story in the book here.

Marching On to Glory, by John M. Olsen. This one is exciting! It also manages to bring in the truth that military leaders frequently do not take into consideration the strengths and limitations of their troops when they make their plans for conquest. It's also a good example of that genre of literature which demonstrates that a prophecy may be fulfilled in more ways than one. Join the troops of the gigantic airship, as they make their way to battle the mechanized monsters of the South, and on the way get a glimpse of what the Eternal City must be like. This one, as others, makes lovely reference to the genius works of John Moses Browning, one of which is strapped to my right hip at the moment.
Between that and The Hundred Worlds anthology, I've had a great December. Now to buckle down and finish my draft of Crystal Empire. Yeah, if you haven't heard, volume 3 of the Riland Throne trilogy went through a name change.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New short stories

It's double release week for me, with two new short stories coming out. First (just out today) is the anthology All Made of Hinges which contains my story Marching on to Glory. It's a collection of Mormon Steampunk, and is lots of fun. The idea was to include in each story some element of steampunk and some element of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints. In my case, I took the story of the Mormon Battalion and put them on an airship and armed them with steampunk-inspired repeating recoilless rifles.

I'm the editor for volume two of the Mormon Steampunk anthologies. Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel should be out in January 2019, with the third volume coming out in March 2019.

Second in line, coming out December 1st is The Hundred Worlds anthology, a shared-world where I'm writing in someone else's sandbox. This is a new experience for me, and it involved a lot of back-and-forth with other authors and the editor to make sure all the stories were consistent with each other since all our stories are in the same universe. My story Three Strikes tells of a woman with a lot of patience as she seeks justice for crimes against her family.

Both projects were put together with great editors and co-authors, and I'm happy how they have turned out. All Made of Hinges went to at least #6 on Amazon's Hot New Releases in one of their Steampunk categories today (it's first day).

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Crystal Queen Release

It's been released into the wild, to be found on Amazon and other sites. I'll have copies at FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention this week, so the whole week is sort of a blur so far with no sign of changing. :)

I received a detailed review from Guild Master Gaming which breaks things down into several categories and analyzes things quite well. You can find it here.

Later in the month, I have two book signings in the Salt Lake City area:

  • September 15, 2018 1PM at Marissa's Books, 5692 South 900 East Suite 10, Murray, UT 84121
  • September 20, 2018 7PM at The Printed Garden, 9445 S. Union Square, Suite A, Sandy, UT 84070
Time to get things ready for the rest of my busy week!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

League of Utah Writers - Quills Conference

I attended the Quills Conference this past Friday and Saturday. I took lots of notes from several amazing presentations. One of the anthologies I'm in (Apocalypse Utah) won the Silver Quill award, so now my short stories have won multiple awards either for the story itself or for the collection it's in. It's great for feeling validated as an author. Will it turn into fame or fortune? Nah. Most awards won't do that, and for those who do, it's not guaranteed. Would I ever give up the award as useless? Of course not! Awards are cool!
Me with the Apocalypse Utah award.

I took a couple different classes from Maria V. Snyder who was one of the special guests at the conference. One was on properly portraying emotions, and the other on believable YA voices. Both classes were excellent.

I also took a class on deconstruction and criticism (the academic kind) from Johnny Worthen who moved from President-Elect to President within the League last night. (More on that later.)

David R Slayton (another special guest) talked about building worlds with a fatal flaw, something that leads to conflict within the world.

Theresa Braun talked about book reviews and how Amazon treats books differently based on when you get reviews and how many you get.

James A. Hunter talked about more details of how Amazon treats metadata, and how you can get the most out of it by understanding how it's used. It's important to get your first reviews from a relevant source to help Amazon put your book in front of the right buyers.

Classes covered a wide range of topics. Two or more talked about tax and IRS issues as they apply to authors. I attended one by Therese Francis on how to look like a business.

Aaron Michael Ritchey talked about story arc and character arc and how they interact, and we ended the class with a storyline brainstorm to apply the principles. It was a lot of fun and might result in some short stories or novels from the attendees.

Lyn Worthen taught about sharpening short story skills. I've team-taught with her before and she's an expert in the field, having written a huge number of short stories and been the editor for multiple anthologies. One of her latest anthos (Mirages and Speculations) won an award last night.

I also attended a class by a local editor, Callie Stoker, on how to find and train alpha and beta readers.

All in all, it was an excellent conference. I went to great classes, hung out with old friends and new, and enjoyed the two days.

But then...

You see, I've been a local chapter president in the League of Utah Writers for two and a half years. Last night they announced me as the new President-Elect of the state-wide organization, elected by the board from a field of three candidates. That means I have one or two years to learn the ropes under the current president, then one or two years as President, then one or two years as Outgoing President. It's kind of a long-term commitment to a statewide organization with hundreds of members. It will be a learning experience, and it will require me to hone my time management skills if I'm to do the job justice. I still have the day job to take care of, still have a trilogy to finish and another series to start, and someone has to do all that yard work.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What happened to June?

Bear with me to the end here because that's where the important stuff is. June was an extraordinary month. Extraordinarily busy, at least. Coming off the MisCon trip at the end of May, I figured things would settle into a pretty normal cycle as summer got underway. Silly me.
Brandon Sanderson signing a book for me at MisCon.

One week I attended two weddings and a funeral and had a book club in Austrailia talk about my book. Our grandbaby had a birthday the next week. Over the past three weeks, I've been reviewing options to install solar panels on the house and fielding visits and phone calls from several salesmen.

I won first place in the DragonComet writing contest which was announced at Fyrecon where I helped out with about seven classes, panels, and demonstrations, and had to cut that short on the last day to man a table at a community event in my hometown to drum up membership for our local chapter of the League of Utah Writers. With that win, I suppose that makes me an award-winning author. The contest had entrants from multiple countries, and I even beat out a Writers of the Future winner, and friend, who took second place.  (Sorry, Julie.)

My shiny DragonComet trophy and the book with all the winners and placers.

I also found out last week that FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention™ has two of my panel suggestions on their program for this fall to talk about writing sensory inputs beyond the big five, and how to steer your creative tendencies into the right path.

Here we are in July, and I feel a little bit dizzy.

The thing is, I got through it all and still took time to be with my family (both immediate and extended) because without them, all that other stuff wouldn't matter.

My brother-in-law and my son with their babies. That means the baby on the left and the dad on the right are cousins.
I still have a lot of things on my to-do list. I have Crystal Queen to get out on September 4th, and I've started writing Crystal Prince, the capstone of the trilogy. I have a tight schedule on some cool things at work. I have fireworks to blow up on the 4th of July. Behind all of that is family. It's why I do things, and who I do them for. Spend time with those you love.

Friday, May 25, 2018

MisCon is here!

This is my first time to MisCon in Missoula, MN, and it is shaping up to be a lot of fun. I'm about ready to head downstairs for breakfast on Day 1. I have a book signing today at the local Barnes & Noble from 10am to noon, then my con schedule starts. I will do a post-con report with pictures and stuff. Here are the events I'm helping with:

Sensing Violence (Writing)
Fri 5:00 - 5:50 PM, (Ballroom C)
Pros and Guests: Cheryl Glenn, Elliott Kay, Joseph Malik, John Olsen
Moderator: Joseph Malik
What does violence sound like? Smell like? How does it feel and taste? Are the details of violence like those we see in movies? If not, should you write them realistically or cinematically?

Pacing (Writing)
Sat 11:00 - 11:50 AM, (Ballroom B)
Pros and Guests: Tod McCoy, John Olsen, L.F. Patten (Laurey), Peter Wacks (pjwacks)
Moderator: Peter Wacks (pjwacks)
What are some effective ways to control the pacing of your scenes, chapters, and overall book? Is it structure? Paragraph-by-paragraph? Can you outline for pacing?

It Seemed Like She Was, She Thought (Writing, Makers)
Sat 4:00 - 4:50 PM, (Monster Tent)
Pros and Guests: LJ Bonham, Eric Scott Fischl, John Olsen, J.A. Pitts, Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Moderator: J.A. Pitts
In Ken Rand’s Ten Percent Solution, he advocates that you take your story and cut 10%. That includes writing tight, precise prose, among other things. What are some of the best ways to do this?

Spotlight: Olsen, Kolva, Fischl (Meet & Greet/Signing)
Sun 10:00 - 10:50 AM, (Spotlight)
Pros and Guests: Eric Scott Fischl, Sanan Kolva, John Olsen
Meet a few of our authors, get signatures, and see what they're up to these days.

Getting Armor Right (Writing, Writing)
Sun 1:00 - 1:50 PM, (Monster Tent)
Pros and Guests: LJ Bonham, John Olsen, D.L Solum
Moderator: LJ Bonham
Historical, fantastical or sport, no one wants to bleed. Let's talk about getting armor right for both visual media and writing. Practical examples provided. Come find out how it's made and how it works and why.

My short story and novel experience will play nicely into these topics. Plus, I've made two shirts of chain mail armor before. :) I will also attend several other panels for fun. It will be a great (and long) weekend.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

LDS Beta Readers Conference via YouTube

I just finished up a presentation today at an interesting conference. Rather than meeting in hotel conference rooms, this one was held entirely online. The LDS Beta Readers Conference is an annual thing put on by the folks who run a Facebook group by the same name.

They schedule presentations for 30 or 60 minutes and schedule them on a Saturday. The cool part is that if you can't be there, you can go back later and watch the videos. Some are done live, and some are recorded beforehand.

I know some of the presenters, but not all of them. Those I know are great folks able to share good information on writing. It was great to take part in the event and share a little time with fans of writing. You can find my video presentation here:

While I'm on a YouTube kick, you can also hear a flash fiction piece I did called The Art of Getting Lost, read by Zach Bjorge.

And one last YouTube bit, I joined a Fantasy Fiends podcast at the release of Crystal King last fall that you can find here.

Stuff I had to learn to do the YouTube live presentation:

  • Configuring OBS Studio (Picture in picture is a cool effect)
  • Learning the YouTube Creator Studio interface
  • Hooking up OBS as the source for my streaming
  • Deciding not to care what my voice sounds like
Overall, was a reasonable learning curve. The only trouble was when one of my audio sources didn't work and I had the wrong one selected. It took me a few minutes to straighten that out and I had to trim seven minutes and thirty seconds from the start of the video. Luckily I started about eight minutes early so my timeslot was within a minute of perfect. :)

Friday, February 23, 2018

LTUE 2018 Report

Life, the Universe, and Everything was a great success. For those not in the know, it's a writer symposium held each spring in Provo, Utah. It's growing and has expanded from the Mariott hotel to include some rooms across the street in the Provo Convention Center.

I attended several panel discussions and was a panelist on three this year. I'll go through everything in chronological order.

One bit of sad news is that my new phone doesn't take pictures as well as my old phone did, so you'll have to deal with amateur photos from a bad camera.

Write like you're running out of time

The authors on this panel shared ideas on what being productive means. For some, it's a book or two a year. For others, closer to eight books a year. Everyone needs to find the path that fits them and matches their goals.

So you want a revolution

These folks covered the differences between uprising and revolution and talked about how control of power (including magic in fantasy settings) gives control of the government. Any good revolution needs publicity, a plan, and an idea of what they'll do next. One of the more interesting topics was that of strategic losses. George Washington had a horrible record of many losses and few victories, but all of his losses gained important benefits.

Kaffeeklatsch with Larry Correia

Larry has an endless supply of personal funny stories even without delving into his books. He also took a lot of questions. I asked about what to look for in a publisher's marketing plan for a book release. His response was, "Don't expect much." Unless you're one of the big names, publishers won't put a big push behind a new book, especially from a new author.

Kaffeeklatsch with Sarah Hoyt

Sarah talked about a wide range of things including the process of how some of her books came to be. She also answered questions. We had a great hour hearing about collaborations and success stories.

Andre Norton: Grand Dame of science fiction and fantasy

This panel was a lot of fun to be on. I had a ton of notes, and I'd read "The Jargoon Pard" and another book or two as homework. She had a love of time travel, cats, crystals, ESP and other mental powers, mysterious alien races, and had a strong sense of good guys vs. bad guys.

Writers of the Future gathering

I've got a stack of "Honorable Mention" certificates and one "Semifinalist" from Writers of the Future, so I showed up to a little meet-n-greet set up to honor yet another winner from Utah. There were no real presentations, but Dave Farland talked to us for a bit about the contest and how Utah always seems to have a disproportionate number of people in each category.

Write what you know

Unlike what you might expect with that name for a title, there was a lot of discussion on how to write stuff you might not be an expert at. Of course, L. E. Modesitt has a diverse history with an amazing range of skills, and he's used them in his writing. But nobody here had experience with riding in space ships. Take what you know, extrapolate where you can, find experts to help you, and make up something that sounds good for the rest.

Writers of the Future: Utah's 20th winner

Dave Farland talked along with three past winners about what goes into a winning story. Some of it was reminders of the basics like including try/fail cycles, and making sure you have good character, setting, and conflict in the first two pages (or less). The idea, the story, and the style are each graded when they evaluate submissions.

Jo Walton Keynote

And here's the evidence that either my camera stinks or I don't know how to run it. Sorry.

Jo talked about what an individual can to as a genre writer to improve the field. This included loving what you write. This doesn't necessarily conflict with writing to a particular market or audience.

Writing science fiction tropes

I was on this panel, and forgot to have someone take a picture. I know this may crush your deprived soul, but I think you'll get over it.

We talked about how tropes are not always bad. In fact, tropes are not only useful, but necessary to writing fiction that resonates with the reader. Tropes are a wonderful shorthand to get ideas across quickly. You have to be careful not to use the old cliche tropes in the same old boring ways is all. You can even use the old cliches if you put a new and interesting twist on them.


Both Melissa McShane and Dave Butler are friends, so this one was a fun panel to attend. I seem to have shown up to several things with Dave Farland, as well.

Prewriting is an interesting topic since some people do without it entirely (called pantsers), while others may obsess over it so much they never get to their writing. Based on your writing style, it can help to have an idea where you're going and have that in writing so you can refer to it.

Writing Steampunk

I remembered to hand off my camera for a picture. It seems other people can take better pictures with it than I can. It might be time to experiment with taking pictures to figure out how it works best. You can see I got out my wooden bowtie with the spinning gears for this panel.

We had some differing opinions on exactly what steampunk was, but for the most part we agreed that it was a very welcoming umbrella which included a lot of ground. The sub-genre of steampunk has only been named fairly recently, but the community and ideas grandfathered in several works by H. G. Wells and others who died before the term was invented because their writing (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) fit perfectly.

When the term Steampunk first popped up, some people wanted it to be a dark, gritty afair. The costumers got ahold of it and spun the idea on its ear and made it bright, shiny, and full of hope for a world with Victorian manners and futuristic technology as someone from the 1800's might see it.

Book Signing

We had a book signing Friday night, and I met an online acquaintance, Kal Spriggs, face to face for the first time so I had to get a picture. My wife took the picture, and my camera must like her better than it likes me.

Then there was the incident when I had Sarah Hoyt sign three books for me. She was about to sign the first book when Larry Correia distracted her somehow. The small print here says, "This book has the wrong inscription. It's Larry Correia's fault." Then she made Larry sign it as if it were a written confession.

Powered Armor: Design and tactics

Yes, me taking another fuzzy picture. I must figure this out.

I attended this one specifically because I'd just had one of my short stories, "Unacceptable Losses," accepted for an anthology. It has powered armor as a major part of the story. It turns out that most of what I did matched up with what these guys (three military guys and a scientist) had to say about how powered armor would likely work and what you would need to watch out for. That made me happy. One thing I may have forgotten to address is the problem of managing heat, particularly from weapons.

Short Stories in a nutshell

How do you cause an emotional response in your reader with something as small as a short story? There are some tricks you can pull such as putting children in peril, but you can't do the same thing every time. you have to build investment in a character quickly. One way is to show the character holding back their emotions (just barely) so the reader is free to bust loose for them.

You need to get quickly to where interesting characters are doing interesting things. One trick I heard is that editors may skip to the end of even a story that starts really well just to see if it's been botched at the end. Eric James Stone said those good stories with the bad endings are the worst because the editor has now wasted the time to read the whole thing before rejecting it.

Todd McCaffrey keynote

Oops, forgot a picture again. Todd talked about a lot of things, including writing with his mother. He told some fun stories about how they'd agreed to collaborate on something, and to do so, she would kill a dragon to set up a storyline he was working on. She called him in tears. "I can't kill the dragon!" Sometimes you have to work things out in a different way.

He talked a little about old Chinese curses, only two of which I was familiar with.
  • May you live in interesting times.
  • May you be noticed by people in high places.
  • May you get what you wish for.
  • May ALL your dreams come true.

Trace the Stars benefit anthology

I went to a little open house for this benefit anthology designed to help finance the LTUE symposium. I've submitted a story to it, and I've made it past one editor. I have my fingers crossed. This would be a nice one to get into even though it won't pay the authors. It's good to give back to LTUE, which is one reason I like to help on panels. It would also be really cool to be in a book with the authors already on board.

Writing Children

Huh. Another missing picture. I must have been distracted.

This is writing characters who are children, not children who write. It can be annoying to have little kids who behave like undersized adults, but it can also fail miserably if you make the character too realistic since most children wouldn't deal with situations writers put their characters into. They need to be believable even if they're extraordinary in some way.

The concept also varies based on who your audience is. If you write for kids, you may write differently than if you're writing for adults and have kids as side characters.

Writing Battle Scenes

Hey, that picture wasn't half bad. Maybe I'm getting the hang of it.

I've addended several panels on action scenes in the past, but this was geared specifically to battles. I wanted to beef up my knowledge base since the next book I'm writing (Crystal Prince) is going to include a war with six kingdoms. That's a lot of complexity.

Skirmishes are more hit and run while battles are more organized and planned out (at least until it starts).

Pacing can vary from the overall panoramic view a commander might see all the way down to the sheer panic felt by someone on the front line.

Two suggestions I picked up are to avoid the blow-by-blow of an entire battle since that would take forever. Also, avoid descriptions that are all I... I... He... He... since that comes off as checklisting the fight to make sure you've got all the actions in the right place. It's better to hit a couple of details, then zoom out and shortcut the fighting.

For dialog, remember that dangerous jobs often lead to odd humor and coping skills.


So, there you have it. Another LTUE is in the books. My next appearance (aside from teaching calligraphy at Wizarding Days tomorrow) will be the League of Utah Writers spring conference.