Category Archives: Publishing

Johnny Worthen: An Interview and a Review

I visited with author Johnny Worthen this week after reading his latest book, THE BRAND DEMAND. Johnny writes books I like to read and I wanted to give readers an insight into this mystery thriller, as well as pick his brain about some insider secrets for other aspiring authors.


Galen is political. Galen is fed up. Galen is a blackmailer.

Brand is a jerk who has money. He had an affair and Galen found out. Now Brand has
new problems.Worthen_TheBrandDemand_CMYK300dpi

A criminal and self-styled Robin Hood, Galen must face down a ruthless enemy who
does not share his ideological limitations.

In the footsteps of Edward Abbey’s THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG, THE BRAND
DEMAND follows a group of political activists who strike at the system with cunning and
guile while getting rich doing it.

Galen takes risks and money, but when his plans go awry, he quickly learns that politics
are no substitute for wits.

Galen has to come to grips with his own boundaries of action and love while running for
his life in Southern Utah. He has to stay under the radar, dodging skinheads and corporate
moguls, Latter Day Saints romance writers and cheating husbands and—of course and
always—the authorities.


Johnny, The Brand Demand is a departure from your previous works. When did you write it in relation to the others you’ve released?

I consider myself a multi-genre author. Since no one has asked me to specialize, I haven’t. “I write what I like to read. This guarantees me at least one fan.” Although my debut, BEATRYSEL is a literary horror, and my second book ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN begins a YA Paranormal trilogy, this is more a reflection of what was first out of the gate. Contemporary mystery/thriller is one of my favorite genres and I tend to write plenty of them. THE BRAND DEMAND is the first of this genre out of the gate, but not the last.

THE BRAND DEMAND was one of the first books I wrote. It was born out of the Bush years and my own frustration and imaginings. Over the years, I returned to it time and time again, tinkering and fixing, adjusting and reworking as my craft improved, until I could take it no further alone. Then I hired an editor in Nevada to help me fix it some more. When she was done, I sent it out in the world looking to get it published.

My main publisher, Jolly Fish Press, passed on it, thinking it was too controversial for that point in my career with them. JFP has me primarily as a YA author, though they are bringing out THE FINGER TRAP, a comedy noir detective thriller in the fall. They suggested I keep it in my quiver and they’d look at it again later on.

Being impatient, I didn’t wait. I submitted it to Cherokee McGhee, a small press in Virginia specializing in mysteries. Greg Lily, the publisher was wonderful to work with and bent over backwards with JFP to coordinate the release of THE BRAND DEMAND so as not interfere with my other releases this year. Another couple of edits, coordination on cover and stuff and I have become a mystery writer.


I’m not patient either! We could talk days about how you found the right publisher for your work – maybe we should in the future? But back to THE BRAND DEMAND, why a mystery with all these politics and religion thrown in?

Political ideology is the primary motivation for the protagonist, Galen Reed. It is his deeply felt beliefs in social justice that drives him to act. This ideology and its limitations and weak tethering are the crux of the book.

Religion is mentioned only insofar as it wields political power and is a central identifier in the community. THE BRAND DEMAND takes place in Utah and there is no separating the LDS church from the conservative politics in that state. Further, the LDS church has been known to reach well beyond Utah to influence social issues – Prop 8 in California being a prime example. To discuss politics in Utah and exclude the Mormon church would be dishonest.


That honest look at the world is largely what I loved about this book, as well as recognizing familiar places and history weaved in. The first chapter should come with a sensitivity warning – potentially pushing buttons left and right. Why risk possibly alienating readers in the opening pages?

I assume you’re talking about Levi, the bad bishop. THE BRAND DEMAND is an adult book. It looks at real situations, real dangers and real institutions in a fictitious way, strange as that sounds. The scene sets the theme and mood of the rest of the book; hypocrites and bad guys are made to feel uncomfortable and made to pay. What is a more telling example of a hypocrite that a clergyman taking advantage of his flock? In Utah, that flock must be Mormon. There are bad apples in every institution and to deny that is arrogance. Here I present someone who so goes against their beliefs as a philandering bishop that it becomes the perfect symbol for the rest of the book. Compare Levi to Galen as the book progresses and then at the ending.

I’m not attacking the religion, I’m attacking the hypocrites who preach it but don’t live it. I think it humanizes the church but I’ve seen that it can upset people. If they can make it through the first chapter and understand what I’m doing, readers should be in the proper mindset to understand and enjoy the rest of the book.


Well done. Personally, I love books that keep things real; grown up books that make no apologies about the world. Once past that chapter it becomes exactly as promised, a thriller that kept me guessing until the end. What is your secret to unpredictable twists?

THE BRAND DEMAND is a unique book for me because I woke one day and had the ending. I felt the triumph and tragedy of a single moment and then went to work building a book around that singular moment. I felt it like a sorrow, like a memory, an epiphany of understanding. I won’t say I worked backwards, but I always worked to that one moment.

To justify that moment, I needed a journey, I needed real life threats and stakes beyond anything a bourgeois zealot might expect to face. I needed my suburban activist to face real world pressures, violence and dangers. I needed him to realize a connection to what he was fighting for. The twists came from my cruelty in putting Galen through the trials he’d have to face to come to that moment. The details came from research and horror at the world we live in.


Is this a stand-alone novel or can readers expect more to come in Galen’s world?

Depending on the success of THE BRAND DEMAND and my publisher’s wishes, there might be more. I have laid a foundation. One thing to note for my loyal readers, is the unified world I create in my Utah novels. Characters from one book often appear in others. Look for Luke in THE FINGER TRAP this fall.


I saw the hidden gem in this one knowing your upcoming publications. I love when authors do that – a literary treasure hunt for those devoted fans. How long does it take you to write an average novel?

Honest, but lame answer: A lifetime. My life up to the point the book is finally sent to the printers is all incorporated into each book.

More useful answer: Once I decide on a project, I give myself one month to pre-write, outline and imagine, create characters, find names. Plan the attack with waypoint, scenes, ending, and theme – always theme. Once I have my pieces together, I try to write 1,666 words per day. I keep daily logs of my progress and make myself reach my goals as if it’s my job and I’ll be fired if I don’t. It’s kinda’ true and kinda’ not. It’s all insane mind-games to force me to put the black on the white. At this rate I get a book in about two months. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Then I edit the book. For some books, like THE BRAND DEMAND, the editing went on for years. For others, like my most recent works, a month is usually enough to get it where I want it to be. I write a synopsis or five and a blurb while it’s still fresh in my mind and then I let my readers have it for a run through. Then it’s off to market and I start another project.


Let’s stay on the subject of insider secrets for other aspiring writers. I envy you being this prolific writer, a new book releasing every few months. What I’m learning about the industry is most authors have numerous novels already finished while they keep their heads down, always writing more.  How many of your books are written and waiting to sell?

I have written twelve novels as of now. Six have been picked up by publishers. Of the remaining six, five are ready to be picked up by a publisher. Two are in series that begins this fall (Tony Flaner in THE FINGER TRAP). I’m expecting my publisher to pick those up by and by. The others are being shopped to agents for larger markets.


Twelve. I have a lot of writing to do if I ever expect to find similar success. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?

On the bad side, rejections surprise me. I expected them, but I also thought I’d get used to them. I haven’t and they never stop. Writing as much as I do, trying as hard as I am, I’m putting myself out there all the time. Every day I get rejected for something. It’s mentally debilitating.

On the good side, I love the other authors I’ve met. They too suffer from the rejections. They are comrades in arms. I love talking about writing, sharing with other authors, and just hanging out. I’ve met so many different authors, different kinds, different backgrounds and everything, and yet I feel a kinship to them all. The only thing better than hanging out with a bunch of writers is hanging out with a bunch of fans of my books.


I would have to agree on the genuineness of  the kinship with fellow writers. On the publishing front, are there more books we can look forward to? And if so, when?

Beyond THE BRAND DEMAND, this year I have the second book in THE UNSEEN trilogy: CELESTE. DAVID, THE UNSEEN BOOK THREE is schedule for 2016.

This fall, I release upon the world, my anti-hero slacker, detective, Tony Flaner, in the social commentary, comedy, mystery noir, THE FINGER TRAP.

While all this is happening, I’m placing my unsold titles. I have a literary horror called WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, that I won’t let go of until I get the right home. It’s awesome. I have a new crime thriller called A BLIND SQUIRREL that’s cool with a capital C. It’s one of my Utah novels so has characters from my other books in it. I just finished a YA adventure called ANDI KENDRICK: THINGS BEQUEATHED which will be a good follow-up for fans of THE UNSEEN trilogy. My un-ready book is a YA dystopian that I put aside to ferment for a while. And finally, this week marks the final days of my pre-writing for a Science Fiction book (and potential series). WIP name: Coronam.


 I can’t wait to read all of them. Where can readers find and connect with you?

Johnny and BrandWebsite





Twitter: @JohnnyWorthen

For locals in Utah, come out to the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble, Saturday April 18th from 2:00-5:00 p.m. for the official BRAND DEMAND Launch party and signing shindig. Here’s the invitation to the Launch Party Shindig

Thanks for stopping by, Johnny! Readers can check out my Goodreads review of THE BRAND DEMAND HERE. It is a fabulous read so do yourself a favor and pick it up today.

My First Interview as an Author

Check out this very insightful interview over at Amy Bank’s blog today.

My Interview with Author Terra Luft

It was fun to be the author interviewed rather than doing the interview (and hoping someday someone would want to interview me). Thanks for having me, Amy!

The Third Birthday That Almost Wasn’t

I’ve gotten good at living in the moment and appreciating every day as if it might be my last, each milestone a cause for pause and celebration no matter how small. I turned another year older in January which marks the third birthday that almost wasn’t. What a year it’s been on so many fronts.

Being published brings a new level of insanity I had no idea awaited me. Promoting a book is more demanding work than creating the story in the first place. The editing process was a whirlwind and consumed most of the holidays. Now we are neck deep in blog tours and article writing and cross promoting and networking and planning the unofficial release party at LTUE next week. I did more writing in January than any January on record but the majority of production was NOT on my current novel. How to keep up with everything and still continue to produce the next book has become the latest thing I need to learn. Regardless, I wouldn’t trade the experience and the thrill for anything. I have an author page on Amazon. Seriously. Amazon. I still wake up sometimes and forget it is real. I’m published.

This year also brought me a new association of authors and thrust me into the non-profit world. It is an amazing group and my closest friends from my writing group are part of it. Bonus! The group happened to put together a lunch on my birthday. But, I have a demanding day job so I couldn’t make a Wednesday lunch work. I was sad, but that’s life and the day job pays for it so what can you do? Unexpectedly, my calendar opened up and I had the afternoon free so I took it off to celebrate my birthday. It was the perfect lunch full of tiaras, signing each others books, group photos, selfies and raucous conversation certain to make fellow diners uncomfortable. “How many does he have?” “Did she leave him?” “I had to kill her off last night.” I’m certain the fifteen of us all talking over one another was like a tornado in an otherwise subdued setting. We hadn’t all been together since before the holidays and it was a loud reunion. It was the perfect start to my birthday. I sat there in the midst of award winning authors, successful editors, non-profit founders, a lawyer and just plain powerful writers all brought together because of our love of writing. I marvel that they had become my people. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I came home to my new business cards in the mail. I’m official! Everything is moving at the speed of light careening me deeper into this life of my dreams. It still feels surreal. If this birthday had been stolen from me back in 2011, none of this would have happened.

2015-01-21 15.55.40

For my birthday I got a sparkly “Birthday Girl” tiara from one of my friends. It started with a mention and snowballed into a new thing we do. Writing fueled by a tiara on your head. All the most bad-ass chick writers I know are doing it. Enough of us we’ve formed a collective. I may or may not have more than one. I’ll never tell! Maybe this is the key to figuring out how to promote and create at the same time. (How did I ever write in solitude before?)

The best and most freeing part of this birthday that almost never was is owning the new number proudly. I am forty-three. Something about being faced with the real possibility of never seeing the number get bigger than thirty-nine makes it much more of a celebration to see forty-three. It is liberating not giving a shit what the number is. So many people cringe at the thought of disclosing their true age. I say own it – the alternative to that number getting bigger as we get older is far, far worse. I know FORTY THREE never felt better. I’m loving every minute of this stolen year I am grateful to be celebrating. Here’s to many more to come!

Interview: Callie Stoker, Editor

CallieheadshotAs part of the official launch, I have the privilege of interviewing the talented Callie Stoker, Editor of Secrets & Doors available from Crimson Edge Publishing. Callie is a freelance editor and owner of The Manuscript Doctor.






Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).

In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.

Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.


In my own history as a reader, I never knew the value of an anthology and rarely picked them up. A collection of short stories gives you a taste of the writing style of many authors and could be the way you find your next favorite, or decide which novels you’re willing to take a chance on. Being one of the authors in this anthology, I know exactly what went into creating my individual piece. The editing process is more of a mystery. I wanted some insights – secrets even – so I sat down with Callie to get all the insider information I could.

Secrets & Doors is an anthology with eleven authors, but your name is the only one on the cover. How does that work?

The decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Some anthologies will include the author’s names on the cover, although that can often result in a busy and confusing image. For this anthology it was decided that a streamlined cover with a beautiful image would sell best, and I think we are all very pleased with the result. The editor is often the driving force behind the creation of an anthology, sending out a call for submissions and choosing from those submissions, and thus usually receives a publishing credit on the cover. The creation process for this anthology was a cohesive and synergistic one. Although my name ended up on the cover, that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible work by the Secret Door Society in writing, polishing, and perfecting their stories. I think we accomplished a lot with this collection and I’m very proud of it.

Tell us about your journey. How did you become an editor?

I started out as a writer! A wonderful group of me and three women expressed an equal desire to write, so we formed a writing group called Once Upon a Keyboard. This was ten years ago and since then, two of the women have been published, I became an editor, and we gained a new member, a copy editor, over a year ago.

My shift from writer to editor is expressed perfectly in my favorite quote by E.B. White, “An editor is a person that knows more about writing than writers do, but has escaped the terrible desire to write.” This fact was a frustration to me early on when my writing buddies would talk about their stories with such passion and I struggled to eke out a plot from a single idea. My passion emerged as I read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work. I was able to see the weakness while praising the strengths. I could clearly define what wasn’t working and put them on the path of how to make it successful.

I’ve spent the last several years intensely educating myself in the craft of writing. I believe that a good editor teaches and instructs while critiquing so that the author is left uplifted and inspired to apply a better understanding of craft to their future work.callielogo

I launched my personal business in 2014 and its success has shown me the current need writers have of an editor that can not only correct punctuation and grammar, but supply individualized instruction based on writing craft.

What goes into editing an anthology?

Anthologies are a collection of short works (stories, essays or poems) tied together by a common theme. It is the editor, often called the curating editor, who sends out a call for stories fitting the theme and reads and selects from the submittals. The curating editor also chooses the order of the stories so that each transition creates the best experience for the reader. Finally, the curating editor takes the lead in the editing process, completing or overseeing the stages of revisal.

What do you like the most about the editing process?

I am unendingly impressed by the creativity of writers. It is often said that there are no more “new ideas,” yet there are also infinite new perspectives on old ideas. I often feel privileged to read a writer’s fledgling ideas and witness as they develop. I love helping the author see how their ideas can be coaxed and nurtured into a successful story by helping them understand what kind of a story they are writing and how to make each scene and each character leap off the page.

Anything you wish you didn’t have to do as an editor?

At times I’ll need to change the tense or point of view of an entire manuscript which can be a little tedious. At the same time, making these changes is extremely satisfying when the end result is a clean draft. Proofreading may be the most tedious of tasks, but there are creative ways to go about it like changing up the font and size of the document to trick your eyes into seeing it for the first time, or reading the manuscript backwards so that you forget the story or the grammar and see only the typos or misspelled words. Sometimes I enjoy mixing up my content editing work with these tasks.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing client list that keeps me always reading and editing. These clients include published authors, unpublished writers, screenwriters, bloggers, and non-fiction writers. I am currently working with a publisher on the second book of a series and look forward to working in the future as a freelance editor for publishers.

Any free advice to any aspiring writers out there?

First: Read. Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside your genre. Read the greats. Read the current stuff. A big part of storytelling is about story tropes. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, they are a recognized story form and there is a reason they exist: because they are story types that are repeated again and again. When you know the tropes, you are better equipped to treat them correctly in your own writing and to know what has come before and how to build on it. I can promise you that your level of reading will affect the depth of your writing and increase your creativity.

Second: Know what kind of story you are writing. This may seem simple and obvious, but I’m not just talking about genre and demographics (although knowing these is also important). Are you telling an adventure story? A mystery? Is this a character development story or a save the world story? The best tool for discovering this is Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient. If you don’t know it, learn it. Every story is either a Milieu (Setting), Idea, Character, or Event story, or a mixture of these. When you know the story you are writing you’ll know where to begin and end your story, what conflicts to focus on, and how to create the most satisfying arc for your characters. This is the number one thing I work on with my clients.

Where can readers find you?

Please visit my website,, to see what kind of services a freelance editor can offer. If you are curious about what level of critique could help your own work, you can submit your first chapter through my website for a free sample edit. Perhaps a personal editor is exactly what your writing needs to get you to the next level.

Also find me on Facebook and Google+ as “The Manuscript Doctor” or Twitter @themanuscriptdr

Check out my writing group’s website, We’ve compiled the best articles, links, videos and podcasts on writing advice. We’ve done the research so you can do the writing.


If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Secrets & Doors, you can do so at the following links.



Secrets and Doors Anthology – Coming Soon

I was going to write a big post about what is happening with my story in the anthology* releasing next month.  But, then the publisher wrote this great article. I’m just going to point you all to it so you can hear directly from the source.

Secrets and Doors Anthology – Coming Soon.

It has been such an honor to be part of this project with The Secret Door Society. There are amazing stories for everyone to enjoy and we get to help in the cause for a very common but terrible disease.

Next up: the cover reveal sometime next week! Stay tuned…

*Anthology = a fancy term for a collection of short stories. A great way to sample the work of many authors to determine if you like their style enough to pick up an entire novel.