It’s Spring time and virtual writer’s conferences are popping out of the ground like daisies. Spring, being a time of renewal, is a wonderful time to learn something new, or reinforce something you’ve learned in the past. On May 23, the League of Utah Writers is holding a day long virtual conference complete with live Q&A sessions.
This year, and every year, there is a great lineup of teachers sharing their experience on everything from character creation to story structure, from utilizing social media to romantic relationships. Chances are, if you have a writing related question, there will be a class tailored to fit your needs.
Because this is a virtual conference there are several perks that you can’t get in a standard conference. First and foremost, it reduces costs down to the bare minimum for attendees. There are no travel expenses and no trying to find a decent lunch or snacks. You can take a break whenever you like, pause the presentation video if you need to jot down more notes, and you’ll never have to worry if the person next to you might just start eating ranch-flavored corn nuts while you’re trying to pay attention.
If anything, you get a better educational experience and the chance to see all the presentations instead of picking and choosing between two favorites in any given time slot.
The only thing you miss out on is meeting friends and fellow writers in person, and that’s a little sad.
This year I’m teaching about getting over creative roadblocks using a few psychology hacks. There is a discussion of the role fear plays in our ability to make progress in our creative work as well as several practices that can help.
This year I’ve developed a strange fascination with fountain pens. At the beginning of the year I taught a class with the Salt Lake Genre Writers, a chapter of the League of Utah Writers, and my friend there had this gorgeous pen. They told me all about how much they loved using it and all the different people in the League who were also pen aficionados. That idea of having a gorgeous pocket-sized piece of functional art stuck in my brain.
Years before, when I had been enamored with illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy, I received a very basic fountain pen set as a gift. I didn’t do much with it then as I was much more interested in the pens specifically used in calligraphy. Fast forward to a few months ago when I finally dug that old set out, cleaned out the old crusty ink, found a few cartridges that hadn’t dried out, and gave it a try.
There’s a reason fountain pens have stood the test of time. Compared to any other pen I’ve used, a fountain pen flows smoother and faster. Dare I say it it even beats out my beloved Uniball Jetstream 1.0. My initial foray into fountain pen use had me experimenting with different pen nibs in different widths. Initially, my favorite was an extra fine chiseled tip that gave just a hint of the calligraphy feel, without looking pretentious.
For my birthday I received a gift card to go shopping for a new beautiful fountain pen. While my newly minted fountain pen friends recommended a few different brands all ranging in style and price, I was drawn to the look of the Moonman pen. With its smooth curves and clear body, not to mention an impressively huge ink reservoir, I thought this would be the perfect pen to test drive. And did I mention purple? It came in purple.
Because I’d liked the extra fine points in my old set, I chose an extra fine point for my Moonman. Little did I know that extra fine points can vary between manufacturers. My Moonman screams along the page like the worlds best gel pen, both fast and incredibly smooth, but doesn’t have the sharp edges of a chisel tip. All hobbies have a learning curve, and this is mine. I still love using it, but perhaps if I get Christmas money I’ll invest in a different style and compare the two.
All in all, writing with this beautiful pen brings me joy and elevates my morning journaling practice. I love having it out on my desk where I can look at it. It feels great in my hand. Pens can be such simple things. We forget that the experience of putting ink to paper can be more than just jotting down words, it can be an experience.
Last weekend was the annual League of Utah Writers Spring Conference. While the point of attending the conference is to learn new ideas and techniques to better our writing and understanding of the industry, the real reason many of us attend is to reconnect with all our favorite writer friends. It’s like a huge family reunion.
I was super happy to spend a few minutes with Scott, and even happier when he agreed to be interviewed as this week’s guest.
Onto the interview!
First, let’s take a minute and get to know you know you better. I imagine as a horror writer you have to face your fears on a regular basis. Tell us, what is your biggest fear?
I don’t know if I
would consider myself a horror writer – yes, I write horror, but I also write
suspense, fantasy, poetry, and even some non-fiction. That said, back to your
real question: what is it that I fear? Well, there’s only one word for that,
and that word is Sasquatch. Yes, Bigfoot, the North American Yeti, even Cain if
you want to go in the direction of David W. Patten. I think it started when I
was a small child, back in ’72 or ’73. My friends and I used to go to the local
movie theater, the cinema, whatever it was called. Our haven was a little place
called the Queen Theater located in the sleepy bedroom community of Bountiful,
Utah. Saturdays would always have a double-feature, and usually it would be
Disney. I clearly remember watching the snakes in The Living Desert paired with prairie dogs in The Vanishing Prairie, or The
Scarecrow paired with Swiss Family
Robinson. This particular Saturday, the first feature was a
pseudo-docu-drama, I don’t even remember the title, but Bigfoot was the star. I
think what was the most troubling was actual, physical evidence, Bigfoot captured
in the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, or PGF. From that moment on, I was
hooked, and terrified. I find it interesting that I’ve never written a story
about Sasquatch. Hmm???
Everyone has secrets. Tell us three things that most
people don’t know about you.
I love Jane
Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, the whole canon –
Northanger Abbey is my favorite. What else is there to tell? I really don’t
have a lot of secrets, but maybe there’s a lot that people just don’t know
about me. I’m a combat veteran, I’m a Mason and a card-carrying member of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which pairs nicely with my
pseudo-Nome-de-plume: The Prince of Darkness. I find that once you sit down
with a person there are lots of things you may not know about him or her, but
they aren’t really secrets. Oh, here’s a big secret: I’m an aspiring writer.
What was your most interesting experience with writing
Lovecraft’s Pillow is just the title piece in a collection of previously
published short stories, I’m not sure if you want experiences putting the
collection together, experiences with each story, or just experiences with the
lead story? The project itself took me down the road of re-learning everything
about publishing? I had previous experience in grad-school with a few college
pals – we produced seven or ten volumes of flash fiction, a novel or two, and
were lucky to break even. I have a Press, per se, Fear Knocks Press, and this
was my first paperback and eBook publication. For the last twelve years, Fear
Knocks Press has been more of a dormant project waiting to sprout, grow and
blossom. It was the home of the eZine, Fear Knocks, but that kind of went the
way of the Dodo, so…
As far as the individual
story, Lovecraft’s Pillow, that takes me back to several experiences. First,
reading Michel Houellebecq’s book, H.P.
Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, which included a Stephen King
challenge to write a story, the story. Then, I think traveling back to
Lovecraft’s hometown, Providence, Rhode Island, stopping by his grave, and
getting a feel for the region really inspired me to go through with it. It
didn’t hurt that my wife and I had just made a trip to Salem, Massachusetts,
during the month of October, and there were all kinds of things floating around
in the grey matter.
You’ve always been a wonderful support for local
authors, including myself. What is the most powerful lesson you can share with
a writer who is just starting the process of creating their stories?
Okay, this is a
great question – a wonderful question – and the answer is one I don’t think
most people are willing to take. Write a lot, write, write, write, and read a
lot, read, read, read, read even more than you write. And not just books on
craft, or books in the genre you plan to write in, books on everything; and get
out and experience life. It’s true that, as writers, we put pieces of ourselves
in the work we do. If you’ve only lived in a small town and only ventured
between your notebook, typewriter, or word processor, and the kitchen and
bathroom, you probably are going to have a very limited and unrealistic point
of view in your work. Add a few books, a few across several genres, a book or
two that you would never be caught dead reading, and you will start to open up
vistas that are ready to lend themselves to your work. Then, if you can,
travel, see the world, even the world around you. Most people would be
surprised at how many secrets wait to be discovered just outside their back
door within 5 or 10 miles of where they live. So, this begs the question, what
books would you suggest a person read? Well, how about I include a list of my
favorites at the end of this blog post?
I ask this question to everyone – What is the most
interesting thing you keep on your desk, or bring to your writing space, and
what is the story behind it.
I have a Día de
Los Muertos skull. It’s more of a planter, one of those little trinkets with a
succulent growing out of the top, the kind of plant that no one can kill. I
don’t know why, but I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things.
When I was a kid, I loved the Old Testament and Edgar Allan Poe (and comic
books). I had the opportunity to learn a few foreign languages over the years,
one of them Spanish, and it got me hooked on some of the culture and traditions
of Latin America. After traveling to several Latin American destinations, I had
lots of information to ruminate on, to use as fodder for stories. What’s
interesting, at least for me, these kinds of experiences usually do more for my
settings, the feel of the story. For some reason, and I blame Anne Rice, most
of my experiences take me back to the flavor and feel of New Orleans. If you’ve
never been, you need to go. New Orleans is much more than Mardi Gras. There’s
the whole Cajun culture, Marie Laveau and Voodoo, and the feel being at the
mercy of the elements. I think these all merge with things closer to home,
Native American legends, the Four Corners area, and a little Magical Realism
courtesy of Gabriel García Márquez or Isabel Allende. They all manifest
themselves in this little, living skull that watches me write and may even
contain my muse (wow, I never considered that until now).
What’s next? Tell us about the next big thing you’re
How about this
blog post – yes, this is actually a big thing. I’ve been going through a period
of very little productivity. We all have these moments, I’m sure. I was getting
ready to pitch an urban fantasy at the upcoming Storymakers conference, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of
Night, something a little like Harry
Potter meets Angels and Demons, but
with a female protagonist and links to Dracula and Old Testament Egypt. Like so
many projects, by the time I get to the second draft, I hate the whole thing.
So, I started an epic Fantasy novel, got 100 pages in, and then something
changed in my life, an almost spiritual manifestation, and I started something
else. I’m on a journey now, at least through the pages of the LDS canon of
scripture, to meet, greet, and try to understand every female character. I’ve
started with Eve and the wives of Noah, Ham, Shem, Japheth – I don’t think
there’s a whole lot of information there, but there’s lots of hints and
indications that there’s more to each of their stories, something that might
become creative non-fiction. I love re-reading about these characters, women
most people have never heard of, characters like Jael, Rahab, Tamar, and Dinah,
or even those that have no names like the woman at the well, the woman caught
in adultery, the handful of widows, or the queens (Vashti, Esther, Sheba, Lamanites),
or even the Daughters of Onitah – there’s got to be a story there. I’m off to a
great start. I’ve got over a hundred names to work with, so far. All that being
said, how about I give you an exclusive, a cover reveal, the story I mentioned
at the beginning. Well, here it is, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of
Night, soon to be pitched at a writing conference near you.
Suggested Reading List I promised. I’ve only included one title per author, and
only the ones off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ve missed several of my
favorites, several that are much better written, but what the heck. One of
these books I absolutely hated, not because it was poorly written, but because
the author made me hate every character by the end of the book. That’s got to
say something about the writing, right? I’ve included some non-fiction, short
stories, and poems as well.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus
A Fine Dark Line by Joe R. Lansdale
Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher
Speaks the Nightbird by Robert R. McCammon
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Green Mile by Stephen King
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by J.K. Rowling
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Book of Job (get a good copy with commentary)
The Tyger by William Blake
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
About K. Scott Forman
K. Scott Forman is a writer and editor. He co-edited and contributed to the first three volumes of Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction along with working on three more volumes, a novel, and a flash novel for Fast Forward Press. With the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), he selected and edited the volume It Came from the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror. Scott graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and was the recipient of the Robert Creeley Scholarship in 2007. He also received a Master of Arts and Education degree from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland. Scott teaches English Composition at Weber State University and was an adjunct faculty member at the National Cryptologic School. He has taught courses in Developmental English, Composition, Research, Writing for Math and Science, and Haiku. He is a member of the HWA and League of Utah Writers and enjoys long walks in inclement weather, sunsets with blood in them, and Metallica at volumes determined unsafe by the Surgeon General. He has had several short stories and poems published and is currently at work on the Great American Novel. He makes his home in the Rocky Mountains with his family and a collection of guitars. Find out what he’s up to at http://fearknocks.com
Lovecraft’s Pillow and other Weird Tales is K. Scott Forman’s first collection of stories that plumb the depths of imagination when the lights go out. In these 12 tales and 1 poem, we revisit Jack the Ripper (The House that Jack Built), suicide and the consequences (Mumford’s Ghost), sympathy for the devil (Neighbor of the Beast), redemption (The Rescue), PTSD (The Stranger Within), a Frankenstein short (Lost at Sea), a Lovecraftian-story inspired by Stephen King (Lovecraft’s Pillow), and more.
Today I’m thrilled to have friend and fellow author Ben Ireland with me to share his thoughts about writing and his books. Better still, I was able to read the first Billy Blacksmith book last week. If you have a kid in your life (or young-at-heart adult) who likes adventures, danger, and an unlikely hero – this is a great series.
Onto the interview!
Tell us about your journey – What led you to writing Billy Blacksmith’s story?
Billy Blacksmith is actually my second published series. The first, Kingdom City, was published by Xchyler. It’s a fun tale about government sanctioned torture, human experimentation, and the desperate struggle to survive in a dystopian city torn apart by war.
Kingdom City is dark, and sometimes brutal. Which I thought was cool when I was younger. The protagonist of Kingdom City is Autumn, a woman who is powerful, brilliant, and internally shattered by her past choices. But by the time Kingdom City: Revolt had come out in 2016, the real world felt like a darker place to me. I wanted to add some light.
One day I walked into my kitchen, the sun was shining through the window, and it’s almost like I heard a voice in my head, saying: “I’m Billy Blacksmith. I like video games, cupcakes, and baseball. My best friend is a demon, and for some reason, I, have to save the world.”
Then, question after question (Why does Billy have to save the world? Why is his best friend a demon?) The Blacksmith Legacy universe was conceived. And it’s been so much stinking fun.
But seasoned with a little darkness, because I can’t help myself.
I’ve found most authors keep special items close by when they work. What’s the most interesting thing you keep on your desk and why?
I usually have my adopted cat, Bam Bam on my lap. Does that count?
Is there a hidden lesson in the Billy Blacksmith books? If so, what is it?
No. I try really hard not to sneak a lesson into my writing. I like to leave room for the reader to make up their own mind about what is happening in the story. There are characters that say things dear to my heart, while other characters express opinions that I find abhorrent.
But then there are times where my characters say “Friendship has tangible, magical value.” So sometimes I’m not all that subtle.
If there is anything I’m trying to say, is that Billy is about the conflict about good and evil. What I want to do is make you question what good and evil really means.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?
I CAN live off 4 hours of sleep most nights. For a limited time.
What’s next? Tell us about the projects you are working on.
Currently I’m working on Bleakwood Lore. The Blacksmith Legacy: Addendum. The Billy Blacksmith books are all part of The Blacksmith Legacy universe. Bleakwood Lore is the first non-Billy Blacksmith book I’m writing in the series. It has eleven short stories from the perspective of different characters. Some you know, some you’ve only just met briefly. It was that, or have eleven opening chapters to Book Four. I’m really excited about this one. It was incredibly fun to write, and it has a lot of reveals for those who have been paying attention to the series.
The current titles in the Billy Blacksmith Universe:
About Ben Ireland
Born and raised in Australia, Ben Ireland is uniquely qualified to write about horrifying spiders and how much they would like to kill you. An award-winning writer of both Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Cyber-Horror, Ben received the Gold Quill 2017 for Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer from the League of Utah Writers. His other award-winning books include Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged, The Ironsoul; the cyber-horror series – Kingdom City, and several short stories. Learn more at BenIrelandBooks.com
Sneak Peek Excerpt from Ben’s next book, Bleakwood Lore
This is a scene from the 4th story of Bleakwood Lore. Krios—a twenty foot tall demonic spider (and ex-general of the Spider Horde)—has been trapped in the Human Realm with his princess, who happens to be a human. She’s sick, and Krios isn’t sure what to do, so he enlists the aid of a Smith’s worker to purchase some “human medicine.”
A curious, burning smell wafted through the air. Krios crept across the roof and peered over the rearmost wall of the store. The back lot of the store was not brightly lit, a large square of asphalt with several cars parked in the shadows. Around the asphalt unkempt shrubs grew, entangling themselves about a sagging metal fence. To Krios’ left, a ramp descended towards a huge door in the rear of Smith’s store.
Directly beneath him, a single human stood in the dim light. She did not seem large by human standards, with a slim figure and thin arms. Her outfit of black pants and a red collared shirt held the air a uniform. She tucked her short brown hair behind her ear and lifted a small stick to her lips. When she lowered the stick, a cloud which wreaked of burning lifted into the air, much like a demon smoking a pipe, though far less fragrant.
“Human,” Krios grunted in human language.
The woman started in surprise, looking around her for the source of the voice.
“I require drugs,” Krios said. “Are you able to help me?”
The human laughed nervously. “How do I know you’re not a cop?”
“I can assure you, I am not.” Whatever that is. “Can you help me locate drugs?”
“Yeah. I might,” she said. “What are you looking for?”
Krios dropped from the roof and landed in front of the human. “Excellent. I require your assistance immediately.”
The woman screamed and jumped backwards, tumbling over the rail behind her and down the ramp. The burning stick flew into the air, drawing an arc of bitter smoke as it fell.
Krios dashed forward after her, following her down the incline. She scuttled backwards on her hands, her eyes bulging as she took in Krios’ mighty form, until she slammed into the far wall. Her mouth was wide, her body shaking. The only thing she seemed to remember to do was breathe.
“Will you assist me?” Krios asked.
Her eyes passed over Krios, and landed on his sapphyril mandible. “Why can you . . . talk?” she said. “Please don’t eat me.”
“I will not eat you,” Krios said as reassuringly as possible.
She continued her attempts to scuttle backwards, despite the wall hindering any further movement. “What . . . what . . . what do you want?”
Krios rolled his eyes. Humans become quite stupid when you frighten them. “I told you, I require drugs.”
She laughed, though without humor. “I ain’t got a bowl big enough for you.”
It’s Friday, which means I get to bring you samples, interviews, and articles from new voices around the world. Today, I have a special treat for you. Friend and fellow author, Nicholas Adams, has given me permission to share the first chapter of his novella “Imprint” a hard sci-fi with a medical twist.
In return, I got to go have fun and answer interview questions on his blog. Go here to check it out.
First Chapter Sample of Imprint, a Novella
by Nicholas Adams
Malcolm slammed his fist against the mirror. “I’m telling you, Warden. The process isn’t ready yet!”
From under the spider web of
fractured reflections, the older man’s image steepled his fingertips. “Now that
you’ve gotten that out of your system, would you mind repositioning me so I can
see you clearly?”
Malcolm sighed, defeated. He swiped
a finger across the broken glass. The floating
screen glided across the mirror’s surface to rest within the last unblemished
that we’ve gotten that out of the way,” the man in the mirror glowered
over his thick-lensed glasses, “let me remind you of the conditions of your
Malcolm braced himself for the full
version of the warden’s favorite speech. “Your prior technological breakthrough
caused the outbreak,” he began as if reading from a teleprompter, “and in spite of your synthetic organs’ success in
treating life-threatening illnesses–,”
“You mean lifestyle threatening
illnesses,” Malcolm interjected.
The warden interlocked his fingers
and lowered them onto the black marble desktop, clearing his throat in
frustration. “Be that as it may, it was your flawed technology that caused the
disease that now threatens to wipe out humanity. And therefore, having been
charged with attempted genocide, you have been isolated above the Arctic Circle
because you promised the world you could fix this.”
Malcolm pounded his bruised
knuckles against the lavatory’s cold, metal countertop. “I know, I know! But I
need more time. And Cynthiana is the only remaining test subject. All the
others died before I could make the bio-synthetic interface work. There are
just too many variables. But, I think I’m getting closer. I just need more
The Warden glanced somewhere
off-screen and nodded to his unseen associate. “Time is not something of which
you have an abundance. Get to work Doctor. We’ll be looking forward to your
next progress report.”
Malcolm’s eyes automatically
drifted to the calendar hovering below the warden’s image. Seven Days.
The Warden leaned over to press the
button that would end their video-call but paused with his arm hanging in the
air. “If you don’t have something significant to report,” he said not looking
at Malcolm, “I’m afraid I’ll have to recommend that your exile will end, and
we’ll begin the proceedings to schedule your execution.”
Malcolm slammed both palms on the
broken mirror. “But, my wife’s condition. She’s terminal. You’ll be sentencing
her to death too!”
“No, Doctor Silvestra, you’ve
already done that.”
Before Malcolm could respond the
warden’s image blinked out of existence, leaving him alone with only his
all my fault. I’ve killed her. I’ve killed them all.
Malcolm’s shoulders quaked, as
stifled tears dripped into the stainless steel sink. The flood of anguish
pressing against the emotional dam broke through.
can’t lose her. I just can’t. The rest of the planet be damned, but I can’t lose her.
Staring past his reflection,
Malcolm spotted the ornately framed award hanging over his cluttered workbench.
His stomach twisted. Several years before, when he received the plaque, he felt
only pride and achievement.
Now, however, the image only served
to remind him of his failure to keep a promise to Cynthiana; to completely
restore her health, or, at least, free from her scars and debilitating pain.
Lettering under the bas-relief
sculpture seemed to mock him. His eyes scanned the plaque, landing on the
keywords that seemed to highlight his failure. Life Sciences Award, Innovative
Breakthrough, Synthetic Organ Replacement.
The fancy words reminded him of his
triumph—the 3D Nano-Modeling machine that built other devices on a microscopic
level. Building on his wife’s work in Neural-Mapping, together they developed
artificial organs that could mimic its
Newspaper clippings covering his
wall displayed headlines from around the globe. Phrases like Miracle, Saves the Life, and Cure for
Death seemed to stand out like random street lamps in a darkened city.
Other news articles littering the
wall reminded him of what he now fought against; a plague of biblical
proportions. Headlines reading Mystery, Deadly, Burn Victims, and Horrific
glared at him. The mainstream media sensationalized the outbreak by calling it The Scald.
Malcolm seemed to be the only one
who actually understood where the plague
came from; his Nano-modeler, v.8.14.
Long before he saw the correlation
between his machine and the outbreak, The Scald had already sentenced anyone
with an artificial organ to a slow, painful death.
With his newest Nano-modeler,
v.10.27, Malcolm began his exile, with
Cynthiana and a dozen dying volunteers at
a self-sufficient research bunker in the Northwest Territories.
The collapse of civilization seemed
to take only a matter of weeks.
Accusations of bio-warfare crossed every known geographic and political border
until the truth of Malcolm’s plague became public knowledge.
Riots, looting, and doomsday
prophets littered the streets around the world. Malcolm barely got Cynthiana
and himself to the bunker before the bombs fell, dooming the planet in a
However, how the world ended no
longer mattered to him. Not since The Scald ravaged his wife. Not even the
failed experiments and deaths of the other subjects made an impact on him.
Cynthiana’s body yielded to the
lesions faster than any recorded case, forcing her to remain in a pool of
bio-nutrient gel 24 hours a day. The Scald had inflicted a rare side effect on
her; three-quarters of her body became paralyzed and unresponsive to any
Malcolm could not help flashing back to the days before The Scald took away her independence.
Nicholas Adams grew up in the small, rural town of Boring, OR with his six brothers and sisters.
After graduating from High School in Gresham, OR he attended BYU-ID and received his Associates Degree in Pre-Med. From there he returned to Portland, OR and attended Portland State University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology/Pre-Med before changing his career track to Architecture.
He completed his second Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at Portland State University before going on to achieve his Master of Architecture Degree from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT.
After his graduation he and his wife moved to the Phoenix Arizona area where they adopted four children over the next eight years.
Nicholas currently lives in the Salt Lake City area where he is an Associate member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the League of Utah Writers.
His other interests include movies, singing and motorcycles.
For every single person the path leading to fulfillment and success looks different. Some prefer small consistent goals, some crave the big marathon push, and then there’s Jared Quan. Known around the Utah writing community as the guy who gets stuff done (and never sleeps), he often shares his favorite quote:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Jared is the champion of volunteering. Every year he donates countless hours, well into the hundreds, giving his time, his ideas, and his drive to the organizations he loves. Today, he shares his story with us.
I Rolled a Life Changing 20 and You Can Too.
By: Jared Quan
Four years ago, my second book “Changing Wax” was published.
I had accomplished my lifelong dream, and no one had any idea who I was.
Getting published was a massive struggle that took nine years to happen, and I
was exhausted. Antsy to do something, but not ready to take on another book, I
had an epiphany. I would use my knowledge and experience to make it my mission
to help people achieve their dreams. I had no idea what that single decision
would lead to.
After talking it through with my wife and we figured out
that I could volunteer a couple hours a week. I went out looking for ways to get
involved. Which was not nearly as easy as it sounded. I stumbled into my first
opportunity after taking a shot in the dark and emailing the Mayor of West
Jordan. Mayor Rolfe recommend that I join the West Jordan Arts Council. Shortly
after I was appointed to the West Jordan Arts Council by the West Jordan city
council. Serving on the Literary Committee under an amazing Literary Arts Chair
John Pulver, I started to learn the ropes on how to do more in the community.
At the exact same time this was happening I met Johnny
Worthen who recommend that I check out the League of Utah Writers. During my
very first meeting with the Oquirrh Chapter it was announced by Chapter
President Eliza Crosby that they needed a new Vice President, after a massive
internal debate (and texts from my wife encouraging me to volunteer), I
volunteered. Under Eliza, I was starting to learn about how the League worked
and what things I could do to help.
I worked on a few projects with the Arts Council and the
League which embolden me to find some additional small projects. I volunteered
to help author David Armstrong at the Davis County Fair, volunteered to help acclaimed
artist Roger Whiting at the DIY Festival, helped staff the League table at LTUE
and Storymakers. I started to figure out how much time I could spend on
projects and started to figure out how to better utilize the resources I have
Fast forward to today, after dozens and dozens of projects,
and events, I am now on five non-profit boards (League of Utah Writers,
Storymakers, Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, Eagle Mountain Arts
Alliance, and Big World Network), I work four jobs (VLCM, Lyft, Real Salt Lake,
and being an author), and spend time with my wife and five kids. My mission
transformed into a passion, and then into a dream. I get to help people every
day reach their dreams.
As you can see, I didn’t get into volunteering to gain
position or rewards other than seeing people succeed. However, I discovered
that volunteering selflessly was like rolling a 20-sided dice over and over.
The number would randomly throw unexpected rewards. The key being that the service
had to be selfless.
Like a waking dream I found myself sitting in front of
hundreds of people at the LTUE conference 2019. I was sitting off to the side
waiting for my turn to be a special guest with the Writing Excuses Podcast. I
had rolled a 20, and I was being honored with a tremendous opportunity. I knew
however, that even in this moment, it wasn’t about me, it was an opportunity to
help others find ways to figure out what I had found out.
I watch as special guest Natasha Ence and Rosalyn Collings
Eves, do an amazing job on the podcast. Then it was my turn to sit with the
amazing team of Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard
Tayler. We talked about volunteering and ways to find opportunities to
volunteer. It was amazing.
When people had found out that I had selected to be on
Writing Excuses, everyone asked how I had accomplished such a thing. I told
people that I wasn’t sure, but I was honored to have such an opportunity, and
talk about selflessly volunteering.
Everyday I wake up and live my dream of helping people. If you add the goal, mission or passion of helping people by volunteering (not just in the writing community), you will be rolling a 20 side dice that will change your life. It will help you accomplish amazing things and give you opportunities beyond your imagination. I have to thank all the amazing people for giving me the chance to volunteer and taking a chance on me. You just have to take a chance on yourself and volunteer. I would love to see you out there.
About today’s guest –
Jared Quan is a video game addict and writer published in genres from Spy-Thriller to Horror/Supernatural, to Fantasy-Comedy. His work includes Ezekial’s Gun, Changing Wax, Classified, Pathological Passion, (Futuristic/Romance/Steampunk, which he co-wrote with his wife), Unclassified, and Prepped (a story in the Apocalypse Utah anthology).
He has extensively served the community in roles from the President for the League of Utah Writers, Board Member of the Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, Grants Director of the Eagle Mountain Arts Alliance, Executive Director of Big World Network, Chair of the West Jordan Arts Council, serving on the Utah Poet Laureate Selection Committee, Recruiting Chair of the Association of IT Professional Utah Chapter, as well as serving as a general volunteer for countless events and organizations.
Jared was given the Gold Volunteer Service Award by the President of the United States for his over 1,500 hours of service to the writing community from 2015 to 2017. He has also received recognition and awards from the Governor and Lt. Governor of Utah for his volunteering.
He lives in Eagle Mountain with his supportive wife and five children.
Changing Wax is an action adventure comedy, taking place in the fantasy world of Wax, which resides just seven hundred sixty-two thousand, five hundred twenty-two million and five light years from Earth (give or take half a light year depending on Earth’s rotation). Wax revolves around rules established in the ancient Master Book of Magic, rules that don’t always follow basic logic or sanity. The story follows three adventurers: Gorath the misfortunate monk who can’t seem to get anything right, Odd Drip the Imp who is too smart for his own good, and Thomas Twostead, a teenage girl born on the wrong side of Wax’s never-ending war between Light and Dark. In the end, their teaming up might decide the fate of the world, while seemingly defying the will of the Master Book of Magic. Or are they…?
Tales of wise, ancient dragons hoarding treasure, terrorizing villages, and doing battle with noble heroes have long fascinated us. But dragons were not born old and wise, nor were heroes born brave and noble.Wings of Change gathers tales of young dragons growing into their scales and claws, and human youths making choices that shape their destinies – destinies that will be forever changed by their interaction with the dragons that share their world.
My story “Saffron Dragon” is about a blind Bangladeshi girl who discovers a dragon lives in her dreams. She must learn to both trust herself and the dragon to find her place in the world.
I had so much fun featuring Candace J Thomas here on the blog last week that I invited another dear author friend to come join us this week. Be sure to stop by her blog to see her wonderful interview with yours truly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writer friends are the best.
Today we have John M Olsen with us. He is a fellow Immortal Works author who also has roots back at Xchyler Publishing. In fact, he and I met during the same event where I met Candace back in 2015. John is also currently president elect of the League of Utah Writers and just this summer released The Crystal Queen, the sequel to his first book The Crystal King.
My big question for John is:
Why should adults read fantasy?
A man by the name of G. K. Chesterson said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
Adults also know dragons exist. We face them every day. Maybe your dragon is a mortgage or a boss with a personality disorder. Maybe your dragon is a disability or a dear friend who refuses to make good life choices. Many of us like to escape into fantasy worlds, but there is much more than escape going on as we march page by page through a fantasy world. These worlds of the imagination are fraught with peril and doom, and good storytelling puts us on the edge of our seat as we hope good overcomes evil, or that true love will conquer all.
I love themes that confirm my faith in the goodness of humanity and of the universe, especially when we see so much entropy and failure if not outright evil. The bad guys may take the upper hand as a story progresses, but in the end, they will lose. Fantasy, at least the sort I prefer, shines a beacon of success despite the odds and illuminates a path forward. If the hero of your story can achieve great things, then you as a reader can as well, no matter how dark the night.
This is why I write, too. I love to write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, something all readers can relate to. I’m a regular guy. Most readers are regular folks, too. Few achieve great fame or fortune, and the world spins on its merry way oblivious to our existence. But history is filled with true stories of ordinary people who stepped up just like fantasy characters to do what nobody could expect. We have power we don’t recognize. Power we don’t understand, and power we don’t use. But we will recognize, understand, and use that power as we learn by example. As long as we immerse ourselves in stories of success and never give up on ourselves and those around us, we put ourselves on a path to change lives, and through that to change the world.
Fantasy gives us power over reality’s dragons.
A huge thanks to John for joining us and for his insightful thoughts on why fantasy is so important for readers of all ages, not just kids.
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You can find John all over the place, here are some handy links:
Motivated by his lifelong love of reading, John M. Olsen writes about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to entertain and inspire others. His father’s library started him on this journey as a teenager, and he now owns and expands that library to pass his passion on to the next generation of avid readers.
He loves to create things, whether writing novels or short stories or working in his secret lair equipped with dangerous power tools. In all cases, he applies engineering principles and processes to the task at hand, often in unpredictable ways. He usually prefers “Renaissance Man” to “Mad Scientist” as a goal and aesthetic.
He lives in Utah with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children and a constantly changing subset of extended family.
Check out his ramblings on his blog. Safety goggles are optional but recommended.
Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. You can follow here on WordPress, or choose your favorite social media – I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
For the longest time I’ve struggled with a perfection complex. If it’s not a perfect fit with what is “supposed” to be done, I get crazy anxious and most of the time end up not starting. This might explain why this novel has taken so long, and why I don’t post here as often as I should. Go figure. It’s my stone to push, which leads me into what I’d like to talk about today.
The other reason I haven’t posted for a while is that, until recently, I haven’t figured out what my message is, or in industry speak, my brand. Thanks to the amazing and talented J.H. Moncrieff and this years Quills Conference hosted by the League of Utah Writers, I finally think I get it.
If you like noble but dark stories, beautiful Gothic architecture, interesting history tidbits, magic, and finding the best in the worst circumstances – you’re going to like it here.
Today’s history lesson
Within the boundless reaches of Greek Mythology (Greek! – sorry, inside joke) is the story of the sinner Sisyphus who was condemned to push a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down day after day. Sisyphus was a cunning trickster during his life. When he died, Hades came for him. Instead of going peacefully, Sisyphus “tested” his new handcuffs on him and tossed him in a closet for a couple of days. I’d be a bit peeved too.
Shenanigans ensued. No one could die because Hades had gone missing. When Sisyphus freed Hades, the cunning trickster was promptly ordered to go to the underworld for his eternal assignment. But – he had another trick up his sleeve. Through a series of bureaucratic loopholes involving a missing coin and an improper burial, Sisyphus managed to sweet talk Persephone into letting him return to his wife and set things straight – and then cheated death until Hades hauled him back to the underworld a number of years later.
For his crimes, and for royally annoying Hades, he was sentenced to to hard labor of the most frustrating kind – rolling a boulder up a hill for no good reason for eternity.
To this day, when people have a frustrating and/or pointless job to do, the story of Sisyphus comes to mind.
What is a Stonebearer?
In the Stonebearer’s Betrayal universe there is a society formally called the Stonebearers of the Khandashii. These are the magic users. Simply put, those belonging to this society possess a power that enables them to manipulate the world around them and grants them relative immortality. They can still be killed, but they will not die of old age or disease. The term “Stonebearer” comes from the stone they wear that enables them to use their power safely. The Khandashii is the name of the power itself – and is a brilliant topic for another post.
Having the power means enduring the responsibility of being a guardian of mankind, regardless of the prejudice and superstitions mankind have curated to hate any one who demonstrates supernatural abilities. This, paired with a centuries long life, is often more of a burden than a blessing. Like Sisyphus, to many it seems like an endless frustrating punishment.
What are some of the frustrating things you’ve had to do? For me, it’s got to be trying to make a bed when a toddler wants to play on top of it. Or laundry … there’s ALWAYS more laundry, it’s never done! Or … working with flaky people who don’t know how much they don’t get it.
Share your frustrations down in the comments!
Stonebearer’s Betrayal is entering the final stages of production and we’re steadily getting ready for its November release. Currently we are refining the details on the cover. I can’t tell you how excited/terrified I am to reach this point. Everything is so, so real.
Other publishing news – If you like dragons, I will be part of a dragon themed YA anthology coming out earlyish next year. If you’re at FanX, one of my flash fiction pieces will be read at the Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday LIVE podcast, Friday, Sept. 7th at 6pm (255a).
Stonebearer’s Betrayal comes out November 2018 through the amazing people at Immortal Works Press and will be available on Amazon.
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Around these parts, writers are drawn to writing conferences more readily and faster than cats chasing a laser pointer. For those of us who have been around for a few years, a writing conference is a great excuse to hang out with our awesome writer friends and claim it as a business expense. For newer writers, a writing conference is a place to find new friends and feel supported all while learning the tricks of the trade.
The League of Utah writers held their annual conference October 6-7. Even better, they let me come play. I got to moderate a panel titled “Mindfulness and the Modern Author” where we explored the importance of finding your center and using mindfulness techniques to acheive greater focus and more importantly, get more and better words on the page. On the panel with me were Jef Huntsman, Peggy Eddleman, Lauri Schoenfeld, Amanda Luzzader, and Dan Allen. If you are nice to me, I might do a blog post about the key points in the future.
One of the other perks once you’ve been around for a while is the chance to volunteer. On a whim I asked to help out and the next thing I knew, I was in charge of the special guest check-ins in the green room. Major Score. I got to spend the majority of my conference doing what I like best, having conversations with some of my favorite local authors, including our keynote Kevin J Anderson. I also had access to the best snacks.
While I didn’t get to go to as many classes as I would have liked, I did get to go to a few. DK Godard did an amazing presentation on the use of ballistics gel and let us play with some that he brought. Liesl Seborg taught about how authors can get involved with their local libraries, Patrick Tracy did a mini workshop on flash fiction and let us play with some random generated story prompts. I wrote a story about an astronaut waking up from a medical hypersleep and being hit on by an alien who thinks he’s cute. He rejects her because he’s still tired. I might just post it here if I get brave enough. There was also an insightful lecture given by John Patten about leadership for those in the league in leadership positions, including myself, one of their chapter presidents.
All in all, a terrific conference, fabulous guests, good food, and good memories.
The 2017 Utah writing conference season kicks off with the ever popular, and oh-so-affordable “Life, the Universe, and Everything” symposium on science fiction and fantasy. I’ve attended this particular conference a handful of times as a hopeful starry-eyed participant in the past.
However, this year for the first time ever, they let me play with the big kids. That’s right, yours truly got to be an expert panelist. If that wasn’t exciting enough, I got to be a panel moderator as well, which is a huge first.
It’s hard not to read too deeply into the committee’s choice to include me, a mere short storyist. My qualifications as an author are still a bit thin. There are so many super talented and super published authors in Utah that you can’t throw a rock without hitting one. I’d love to say I was picked because they had seen some of my presentation work before and they were impressed.
The truth is, I apparently have in-depth knowledge of several obscure fields of study, knowledge that most gals in my position don’t have. I also volunteered to be part of several obscure panels. My first panel discussed the realities of what happens at death. I haven’t personally died yet, so my experience is limited there. I’m holding off on trying it out until it goes on sale. Instead, I have worked in health care for both humans and animals and seen plenty of death that way. My fellow panelists included a firefighter, a seasoned RN and personal friend, a physicians assistant obsessed with cellular biology, and the moderator who I still haven’t figured out the background on. In fairness, he’s still puzzling out mine.
The other panel centered on the visual comedy of Rowan Atkinson. I know, I laughed too. death goes so well with visual comedy. On the panel was the founder of the LTUE conference itself, Dave Doering, and the TMA track head, Nick Mills, and another guy who apparently spent his childhood the precisely the same way I spent mine, watching late night PBS when all the British comedies came on. Yes, I didn’t have that many friends, why do you ask? Needless to say, having two fairly influential people on the panel stressed me out to no end.
To sum up – I had a great time and I believe that my panels went well. I wanted to attend a few other panels and perhaps glean a few nuggets of new writerly wisdom, but instead I hung around with writing friends instead, which honestly is the best part of the conference anyway.
A huge shout out to the following awesome people who let me play and were kind enough to let me hang out with them: Jared Quan, President of the League of Utah Writers; Candace Thomas, Eliza Crosby (who got a full manuscript request – you go girl!), Sarah Seeley, Chris Roche, DawnRay Ammon, Jenna Eatough, and all my other LTUE talented friends!
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