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Come See Us at Utah’s Biggest Liar Tonight

It’s that time again, when my family competes for the honor of being Utah’s Biggest Liar. My six year-year-old Aspen, my nine-year-old Ariah, and myself are all finalists. I worked with my daughters to take their ideas and spin them into tall tales. We’ve been workshopping their stories at home, and we’re ready to perform. Aspen will be telling about the time she was abducted by a hawk. Ariah will be telling about the time she and George Washington waged a war against bad eating habits, and I’ll be telling about the time I stole Sylvester Stallone’s Filet Mignon.

To my understanding, Aspen was the youngest-ever storyteller to perform at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Ariah has taken home two first place awards, two second place awards, and a bunch of Audience Choice Awards from the Utath’s Biggest Liar contest. I’ve taken home two second place awards and several Audience Choice awards. The plus side to all this is that we’re always awarded more tickets than we know what to do with for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (pretty much our favorite time of the year). Thus it’s always been in our financial advantage to compete :-). Though it’s not about the awards. We just like storytelling and, especially, lying. It’s also fun to rub shoulders with so many other talented performers and to enjoy an evening on laughing till it hurts.

Anyway, so if you want to come see us tonight in Orem, UT, the youth contest starts at 5:30, and the adult contest starts at 7:00. This time should be especially epic, as the contest will end with a performance from national storyteller Bill Lepp, one of the funniest men alive. More details here.

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Release Date Announced

Last month I held an album art contest for my project VALHALLA – A NORDIC ROCK OPERA. The hosting site,, predicted about 30 designs. We got over a hundred! The concept of the album excited the imaginations of many artists, and there were some phenomenal designs to choose from. While it was hard to choose just one, this design seemed the best fit for the album.

It’s been over a year since the conception of this project. Though I haven’t met a single goal as far as deadlines, it’s still been an incredible ride. I collaborated with family and friends to write, compose, record, and produce some fantastic music. I got to meet and work with many talented musicians. Together we entertained many audiences (with our most recent concert last month). I’ve networked with a supportive community and generous benefactors. I’ve pre-sold many albums and learned a lot about the music industry. And, of course, I’ve fallen in love with all things viking. Recently, at a writer’s conference, I was honored to share my learning on a panel about Norse mythology.

The setbacks and delays have been resolved, and for the past several weeks, I’ve been working with our producer just about every night to finalize the album. With hundreds — maybe thousands — of vocal and instrument tracks and an ongoing struggle to polish and balance it all, I’ve learned that art truly cannot be rushed. That being said, I can say with confidence that we’ll be done before Fenrir the wolf catches up with the sun, issuing in the great day of Ragnarok. In fact, I believe we’re down to a couple weeks left of work, so I’m committing to March 31st as the official release date. So hold on to your helmets. It’s time to get this ship sailing!

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I Fight an Old Lady for Pop Tarts

We were out of milk, and it was my turn to go shopping. This was a time in our marriage when money was tight. And I don’t know where my wife got the crazy idea that I’m some sort of reckless spender, but for whatever reason, she made me promise to only get what I was able to carry out of the store.

So I went to the grocery store, grabbed a gallon of milk, and walked straight to checkout aisle. Yes, I was tempted by the Pop Tarts, but come on, I had will power. The cashier asked if I wanted to donate five dollars to help the monkeys in Asia. I did not want to help the monkeys in Asia. She asked if I would like to reduce waste by choosing not to have my milk in a bag. Truthfully, I was feeling guilty about the monkeys, so I said yes.

And that was that. Until, on my way out of the grocery store, I noticed that Cap’n Crunch and M&M’s and were buy-one-get-one free, and I thought, what good is milk without Cap’n Crunch? And you can’t just have a bowl of Cap’n Crunch without M&M’s. In the long run, these amazing deals would save us money. I’d be stupid not to buy. So with the gallon of milk and two bags of M&M’s in one arm and two boxes of Cap’n Crunch in the other arm, I made my way back to the checkout aisle. I was still only getting what I was able to carry out of the store. My conscience was clear.

Then it occurred to me that our dishes were dirty, which would make eating the Cap’n Crunch exceedingly difficult. True, I could wash the dishes, but if time is money, I would be saving money be eliminating the need to do the dishes in the first place. So I picked up packages of seventy-two Styrofoam bowls and fifty plastic spoons. By now my arms were completely full, which was fine, because I was done spending. I told the cashier that I did not want to help the monkeys, which still made me feel bad, so again I opted to save the planet by not using bags. I’d already made it this far. Surely I could make it to the car.

And I would have gone to my car had not the manager announced over the P.A. that all baked goods were now fifty percent off. Now I know you, like my wife, are thinking I have some sort of spending problem, but if I didn’t buy some bagels, they would go to waste. And how could I, in good conscience, try to save the planet by not using plastic bags while simultaneously turning a blind eyes to the wasting of precious resources in the form of bagels? So I picked up a few dozen, though I didn’t put them in bags, because I felt really bad about those monkeys.

Now, carrying a gallon of milk, two boxes of Cap’n Crunch, two bags of M&M’s, seventy-two Styrofoam bowls, fifty plastic spoons, and thirty-six bagels proved to be a formidable challenge. I probably looked kind of stupid. However, all I had to do was thread my arms and legs through the holes in the bagels, and then I didn’t look stupid anymore. It’s a little-known fact that that’s why bagels have holes, stemming from medieval times, when they were used as both food and armor.

Then I had a disturbing realization. Bagels are completely useless without cream cheese. Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs for eight measly ounces of cream cheese? You would be stupid not to buy it in bulk, which is two cents cheaper per ounce. I was going to pick up the ten pound bucket, but it didn’t have a handle, so I had to go with the twenty pound bucket, which I hung around my neck. Now lest you think I was getting reckless with my spending, I remind you that cream cheese was a need, not a want.

However, as my net weight was increasing, I found it more and more difficult to walk as a bagel-man. Luckily, the grocery store provided these electric shopping carts – you know, the ones reserved for cripples and old ladies – and as long as I carried the groceries on my lap, I was still following the rules.

So I hopped on the vehicle and took a spin around the store, looking for more deals. And it must have been my lucky day, because Pop Tart boxes were ten for the price of nine! The only problem was, the crippled, old lady in the other electric cart also had her eye on the pop tarts, and there was a limited supply. In a mad dash, we raced each other to load up our carts.

I claimed my tenth box fair and square, so you can imagine my shock when the old lady snatched it right out of my hands and drove off. Believe me when I say I had every intention of respecting the elderly, but if I didn’t buy ten, I wouldn’t get the deal! So I chased her. Cruising at five miles per hour, the chase went through the junk food aisle, around a corner, past the deli, and into the produce section, which I normally avoided on principle. She threw a can of chili at me, but I veered to the left. As we circled around the apples and oranges, I was closing in on her. With one hand on the accelerator, I leaned forward to snatch the Pop Tarts from her basket. Then, in the last moment, she pulled a left, and before I saw it coming, I crashed into the bread aisle.

Normally, a small vehicle traveling at five miles per hour wouldn’t have been sufficient to knock over an entire aisle, but I remind you that energy equals mass times acceleration, and with a gallon of milk, two boxes of Cap’n Crunch, two bags of M&M’s, seventy-two Styrofoam bowls, fifty plastic spoons, thirty-six bagels, twenty pounds of cream cheese, and nine boxes of Pop Tarts … I had mass. The bread aisle crashed onto the baby food aisle. The baby food aisle crashed on the baking aisle. And like dominoes, the carnage went on and on.

It was okay. I would pay for it all on credit, which wasn’t real money anyway. Besides, considering how much money I was saving, it was like the store was paying me! Meanwhile, the old lady was driving toward the checkout stand. At five miles per hour, I knew I’d never be able to catch up with her. so I did what I had to. I grabbed a two liter bottle of Coca Cola, unscrewed the lid, and loaded it with Pop Rocks, Alka Seltzers, and an entire package of Mentos. With my left hand on the accelerator, I held my makeshift jet engine beneath my right arm as my craft lurched into motion, accelerated, and rose above the floor. I looked down as the checkout stand passed beneath me. Then I looked forward as I crashed the front doors, soared over the parking lot, and landed in a dumpster. On the bright side, was had been true to my promise. I only got what was I able to care out of the store. Except for the gallon of milk, which kind of burst upon impact. But then, who wanted milk anyway?

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I Steal Sylvester Stallone’s Filet Mignon

I was a rotund, little tike. According to my parents, they had to hide the butter or I’d eat it by the cube. One baby picture shows me plopped among dandelions, and believe me when I say plopped. I looked like Jabba the Hut. Perhaps this would explain my lifelong affinity for food. While I no longer eat to excess, I am a fan of the vast world of culinary arts.

Hence, I’ve always hated it when good food goes to waste. Nothing says entitled Americans more than garbage cans full of half-eaten pizza.

And perhaps this would explain how I became a bum … not a full-time bum, but a bum at heart. It began in high school with challenges of manliness, such as who would dare eat the grossest thing off the floor. Then, as a starving college student, dumpster diving became a cherished way of life. And to my wife’s chagrin, old habits die hard.

I mean, why pay a premium price at a restaurant when there’s perfectly good food at the table right next to you? When, on occasion, I stealthily grab an unloved order of sweet potato fries before the busboy chucks it, my wife invariably covers her face with shame. Philosophically, she agrees with the whole not wasting thing. She just can’t get behind the whole doing it in public thing.

One time, for our anniversary, we were having dinner at La Caille, the most expensive restaurant in Utah. To stay under budget, my wife got a salad, and I ordered from the kids’ menu. A lot of famous people come to eat here, so we were only a little surprised when when we realized that the guy sitting two tables away was Sylvester Stallone. I think he was in Salt Lake City for the shooting of a new action film. He ordered the filet mignon, all sixty-eight dollars of it. Then he said to the waitress, “Just put it on the union’s tab.”

It was hard not to stare at my childhood hero, the real-life incarnation of Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. He just leaned back in his chair, showing off those manly guns. When, at last, his steaming entree arrived, he took a single bite of it before answering a buzzing phone.

“Yeah?” he said. “’Ow ya doin’, uh? I’ll be right there.” Then he put on his jacket and walked right out of the restaurant. I could see through the window as he hopped onto a motorcycle and drove off. Meanwhile his forsaken filet mignon steamed on.

You can probably guess where this story is going. So could my wife. “Don’t even think about it,” she whispered.

“But it’s gonna go to waste,” I whispered.

“What if he comes back?”

“He completely left the restaurant. If I don’t grab it, the busboy will.”

“I forbid you to get off your chair.”

On one hand, she was my wife, and this was our anniversary. On the other hand, it was Silver Stallone’s filet mignon! If I didn’t eat it, somewhere in heaven a cow would cry. Even if I had to sleep on the couch that night, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I pulled a fast one and nabbed it before anyone noticed. As my wife hid her face behind a glass of water, I chowed down on that sumptuous goodness. It practically melted in my mouth.

I was halfway through it when Sylvester Stallone reentered the building. “My meeting was cancelled,” he said to the waitress. Then he resumed his seat, looked around, and said, “Who took my food?” I’d seen that frown before … moments before fifty Viet Cong soldiers met their violent deaths.

That was when the first camera flash went off. Then there was another. Sitting throughout the restaurant, disguised as dinner guests, were the paparazzi. All at once they stood up from their chairs and let loose a barrage of flashes. There must have been twenty photographers.

As my wife ran to hide in the bathroom, Stallone stood up and explained to a woman with a microphone, “Someone took my food, and whoever it was, I’m gonna find him.”

Thankfully, the waitress calmed him down, reasoning that the busboy must have taken it away, and she promised to bring him a new entree.

Stallone took his seat, though his eyes continued to scan the room.

I tried to wolf down the rest of the filet mignon as fast as possible, but it wasn’t fast enough. His eye dead set on me, Stallone stood up and walked toward our table.

Desperate to destroy the evidence, I grabbed a bottle of hot sauce and poured it all over the steak, but it was still recognizable. So I reached over to the next table, grabbed a half-drunken bottle of claret de bordeaux, doused the steak, then knocked over our table’s candle.

My plate erupted with flames, and Stallone stepped back. He gave me a good look and asked, “Is that the filet mignon?”

“No,” I said, “this is the flaming mignon.”

He nodded. “I’ve never had the flaming mignon. How is it?”

Trying to look nonchalant, I relaxed my left hand on the table while, with my right hand, I took a bite of the very spicy, flaming steak. It was painful in every regard. “It’s … nice.” I must have been trying a little too hard to look nonchalant, because I hadn’t realized that my left sleeve had caught fire, which was quickly spreading up my arm.

In a panic, I doused myself with the remainder of the claret de bordeaux, only this proved to be less than intelligent, as it caused the rest of me to catch fire. Luckily, Stallone had his wits about him. Like a true action hero, he grabbed a nearby table cloth, rolled it up, and beat the fire off of me … not to mention the tar out of me. In the process, he shattered my chair and several of my bones, but at least it put the fire out.

Meanwhile the cameras were flashing like crazy. Stallone turned to the woman with the microphone and modestly explained that he was just doing his duty. Though he seemed eager to get away from the paparazzi. He was in the process of putting on his jacket when the waitress returned with a new, steaming plate of filet mignon.

“Just throw it away,” he said. “I gotta go.” And like that, he zipped up his jacket and left the building. It almost looked like was trying to hide something. Of course, the paparazzi followed him out.

I was in pain. It took all my strength to grab a new chair from the neighboring table.

My wife, hearing that the noise had died down, returned from the restroom and resumed her seat. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” she said.

“I have,” I said. “Alcohol makes a terrible fire retardant.” I wasn’t interested in pursuing the conversation further, so I buried my sorrows in my twenty dollar macaroni and cheese. At least I tried to. “Hey, I said, who took my food?”

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George Washington and I Blow Up a Hostess Factory

One day my mom bought a statue of George Washington from the home and garden store. She thought it would be a nice addition to our house. The only problem was, the house was a mess, so we had to keep the statue in my room. And it’s not that I hold anything short of reverence for the father of our nation, but there was something unsettling about those stony eyes staring at me … all night long. In my most vulnerable moment, I may or may not have taken a hammer to it.

What was my surprise when the stone crumbled away, revealing the secret within. The reason it looked so life-like was because it was sculpted around the real George Washington, who was staring right back at me!

I asked, “How are you still alive?”

“My constituents wanted to preserve me for a future time when I would be needed again,” he said, “so they dipped me in carbonite.”

“Oh,” I said, “I think that happened to Han Solo too.”

“Tell me, what national crisis calls for my generalship? Have the British returned?”


“Are we at war with France?”


“Surely there must be a dire reason to awake me from centuries of slumber.”

“Sorry, it was an accident. Would you like a Twinkie?”

“What’s it made out of?”

I didn’t know, so I read the ingredients on the box. “Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium acid pyrophosphate …”

George barred his wooden teeth. “Americans eat this garbage?”

“All the time.”

“What have we become, a nation of fatties?”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so we did some research and learned that two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third are obese. Diet-induced maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis are at all-time highs.

“I see why I’ve returned,” said George. “I must lead the war against bad eating habits. Are you with me?”

I was.

The war was really fun. First we went to the music store and bought a portable snare drum and bell. Then we walked through the neighborhood. I played the drum while George rang the bell and shouted, “Eat your vegetables!” We handed out fliers listing the harmful ingredients in junk food, though not many people were interested.

As George became more determined, we picked up some carrots and cucumbers at the grocery store and stuffed them into mailboxes. Some people got mad, so we had to run from house to house. But the most exciting part was when George procured some explosives. (I never asked how he got them. I mean … he’s George Washington!) We waited until midnight, and then we put on some ski masks and blew up the Hostess factory.

That was when things got ugly. A police officer saw us running away from the scene (because neither of us knew how to drive a car), and we were put in jail. Still, George kept his head high. All night long, he told me stories about harder times at Valley Forge and crossing the Delaware. He said he was proud of me for serving my country, and I felt really good.

The next day, we met with a judge. He didn’t know what to do, because I was a minor, and George was … George Washington! So he decided to let us off the hook if George renounced his terrorist allegiances by eating a Twinkie.

“Don’t do it, George!” I cried.

George fought an inner battle, but in the end, he took a bite of the Twinkie, saying, “A Twinkie is a sometimes food.”

After all that adventure, we decided that America wasn’t ready for the return of George Washington, so we went to a carbonite specialist, who preserved the father of our nation for another two-hundred years. But before the great man sank into the lonely, steamy pit, he looked up at me and said, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

“I will,” I promised.

Eventually my mom returned him to the home and garden store. It was hard to say goodbye. There are some who might call our war a failure, but as for this American, before I indulge in high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil, I think of George and listen to my conscience … because I really don’t want to end up with wooden teeth.

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I’m Carried Away by a Hawk

When I was six, I had to present a report on a species of birds. I chose hawks, because they’re vicious predators who rise above the competition and swoop down to take what they want … like me. Furthermore, we lived by a mountain, and now and then we could see a hawk circling around the sky, a perfect opportunity for observational science.

According to my research, hawks loved to eat birds, lizards, mice, and other small animals. In fact, they’ve even been known to carry away dogs. This got me thinking. Our dog, was so heavy, I couldn’t even pick him up. And I lifted weights. So if a hawk could carry away a big, heavy thing like her, then why not me?

As soon as I had this exciting realization, I ran outside and waved my arms. I even saw the hawk, but she wasn’t interested. I happened to know that hawks especially love to eat rabbits, so I put on some bunny ears and hopped up and down. That caught her attention, which got me thinking. Hawks are also known for carrying their prey way up high, then dropping them to their deaths. This made me slightly nervous, so I did the logical thing and played dead.

Moments later, the hawk dived down, clutched me in her talons, and whisked me into the sky. It was neat. And I must have been a pretty good actor, because she didn’t drop me to my death. Instead, she carried me up the mountainside to a great big nest at the top of a fifty foot cliff.

I still tried to play dead, but then my rabbit ears fell off, and the jig was up. The hawk screeched her consternation at being duped, and I, being well-educated in hawkology, screeched back. To translate, I said, “I’m sorry to have deceived you, but I felt it necessary in order to conduct a proper interview. I’m doing a report on hawks, you see, and I’d like to ask you some questions.”

The hawk was flattered. She said that she always wanted to be interviewed. She showed me her eggs and her rabbit skulls. I asked her if it’s true that hawks push their babies out of nests to teach them how to fly.

“It is,” replied the hawk. “Would you like to me do it to you so you can learn to fly?”

“I don’t think that would work,” I said, “because I don’t have wings.”

“Oh, it’s not wings that make you fly,” said the hawk, “it’s the hawk diet. Here, just have a few bites of this rabbit carcass and you’ll be able to fly.”

“I’m pretty sure you need wings to fly,” I said.

“What do you know about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that the hawk had a point, so I ate some of the rabbit carcass. It was awful. Then I stood at the edge of the nest, and the hawk pushed me off. It was really scary. I flapped my arms, I tried to think happy thoughts, but I just couldn’t fly. Luckily, there were some springy trees to pad my fall, though not without some scrapes and bruises.

The hawk met me at the bottom. “That was some excellent flying,” she said.

“I just fell,” I said.

“Oh no, you were definitely flying.”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t fly.”

“What do you now about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that hawks aren’t very smart. Though in her defense, when she saw my bruise, she felt really bad and offered me a rabbit skull as a get-well gift. I politely declined. “Can you take me home now?” I asked.

And so she took me home. “Maybe next time we can play at your house,” she said.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.

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Download My New eBook for Free (Today Only)

Gideon Cover-smallAs I promised to fans at the LTUE Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium last weekend, I’m giving away ebooks of my new Young Adult, Urban Fantasy novel, Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool, for free. I’m looking for beta readers to give feedback before it goes to the publisher. Please let me know what you think and, if you like it, leave a review on Amazon. Your reviews make a big difference in the success of the book. And any feedback you can send me, even if only about grammar errors, is appreciated. If you absolutely hate the book, let me know! This will help me gauge my audience, and I’ll graciously thank you for your time. But you only have until midnight tonight to download the eBook, so don’t snooze!

Download from Amazon

Gideon Greenwich, a delinquent nerd, is given two choices: join the football team or be expelled.

To be “initiated” into the team, Gideon attends a violent fraternity party, where he has a startling discovery: the jocks are being controlled by an evil god of sports! As the conspiracy unfolds, it appears that the entire school has been hijacked by otherworldly beings posing as teachers. To resist their dark powers, Gideon must look beyond social cliques and team up with star quarterback Doug Rock and the beautiful cheerleader Cynthia McDaniels.

Together, the unlikely friends take on the god of sports, the goddess of fashion, and the god of popularity. But defying the “gods of cool” takes courage, a willingness to look stupid, and mind-bending adventures through paralell universes.

In this thoughtful and hilarious critique of high school life, National Award-winning storyteller Stephen Gashler will make you question what it means to be “cool.”

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Come to Our Free Mid-winter Concert

26197891_1655463567826390_2482441952407977067_oTeresa and I have been following a number of new years resolutions, such as eating only whole foods, exercising more, and taking our music more seriously. Specifically, we’re hoping to perform a concert every month. Today will be our first one for the year. It’s in Provo, it’s free, and there will be food. We would love it if you could come.

Find deliverance from the dismal, deathly dearth on winter with a free evening of magical, marvelous music by award-winning husband and wife duo, the great and glorious Gashlers. They’ll pull out the old cello, guitar, and banjo to flabbergast your faculties with frabjous fantasies. Recommended for hearty humans of all ages. Refreshments provided. See the Facebook event.

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The Greatest Gift a Man Could Give A Woman

pexels-photo-63576I was pondering on the question, “What is the greatest gift a man could give a woman?” And then it came to me, so surely and suddenly that there was no reason to consult an actual woman. What a  woman thinks the answer might be would invariably pale beneath what I know the answer to be.

The greatest gift a man could give to a woman is a live, spontaneous, and unannounced recreation of the music video of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The more it scares her, the better it would be.