Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SM Johnson ~ Writing when life keeps happening ~ (subtitle: The Big Shrug)

Funny thing, this life. Not as much funny ha-ha as funny-weird - ya'll know what I mean. Things start rolling along rather nicely and then... GLITCH.

It can be a roadblock, or a detour, or a wayside rest. An alternate route, a hiatus, a moment to regroup. You know what I mean - the unexpected happens.

Everyone has them - these are the bumpy cobblestones on our life's journey: the loss of a lover, the break-up with a best friend, a pregnancy with crazy hormones and the resulting infant that sucks the life out of you changes your life in wondrous and amazing ways... it's leaving a job and having to spend all your energy looking for a new one, it's the terminal illness and death of one parent, and the subsequent widowhood of another. It's learning how to deal with and coping with the status of our own health changing.

Stuff and nonsense, I call it sometimes. Mine at the moment happens to be an increase in the frequency and duration of migraine headaches, and the resulting need to try medications that make sleep feel like the best thing ever invented for the human mind and body. Which is less than productive.

I really, really, really, really wanted to release the "revamped" edition of DeVante's Children this months. And when I say really, really, really - what I mean is I wanted it with all the fierce determination of staying up late and getting up early, with eyes gritty from sleep deprivation, manic because I'd be running on pure adrenaline, astonishing you with the flair of a magician in his red satin-lined cape, filling ya'll with amazement and delight.

But so it goes, the best laid schemes o' mice an' men, and all that.

DeVante's Children still needs some work before it can become the beautiful and amazing gem that I want to present to the world in its glorified third edition, so I need to relax about my personal deadline and give myself a break. Because a very wise and wonderful and trusted friend asked me this: Do you want it done FAST or do you want it done RIGHT?

Okay, then. He knows me quite well enough to know my answer. I want it the way I want it, and if that means slowing down the release, so be it. There are a lot of great books out there to read, and I recommend ya'll go find some of them (feel free to start with my 2014 or 2015 readings lists).

This is merely a heads up post. I'm not complaining or whining or looking for sympathy. In fact, I am surrounded by people I care about a lot who are dealing with bigger and scarier nonsense.

I have a lot of great things planned for 2015. I'm just going to have a slower start than I expected. But hey, life is messy.

So what does a writer do when life intervenes? How do you write, or what can you do when you can't write? Because you can't stay awake, or you can't sit still, or you can't concentra - SQUIRREL!

#1 - EDIT.

In fits and spurts and short bursts of time, you can actually do a good bit of editing on a prior project. And sometimes editing feels like less pressure than writing new materiel.


Imagine the upcoming really intense scene, the one you really want to make sure you nail every gesture and every word exactly right. Daydream it while you wash the dishes that is the one chore that absolutely must get done today, or sorting and folding laundry so your family doesn't go to work and school naked. Memorize it. And when you do have the energy to bang it out out on the keyboard, it's right there waiting for you (like a Richard Marx song).


Sometimes instead of daydreaming the NEXT scene, I end up daydreaming the first scenes of a whole new book. Not exactly productive to the current project, but hey, I'm not going to complain. And sometimes, to completely tell you the exact opposite of #1 (EDIT) writing brand new materiel in rough draft form is the least stressful form of writing.

(that's the thing with writing - most of the "rules" are completely variable)


Author branding, update blogs, etc. I'm pretty slow at graphic design, and it's a tedious process for me of 800 tiny tweaks in a row, so one thing that makes it a lot more fun is to load up a favorite movie or TV series and devote a whole day to graphic design. Having something to watch helps me not get too frustrated.


...a bunch of fun tweets, or blog post ideas, marketing ideas, yanno - all of that tricky marketing stuff


Check out other writers in your genre - look at their cover images, fonts, book blurbs, web sites, blogs. Do they have street teams? Do they have active Facebook pages? Browse Amazon, or browse membership lists like Romance Writers of America, which usually have tons of author links. Look at how other authors brand themselves, what their author bios say... find new people to follow on Twitter, start new conversations. Look up people you admired twenty years ago and find out what they're doing today.


If you have paranormal or psychic or sci-fi elements in your story and you've never really thought about creating hard and fast rules, it can be fun to make some lists and do some brainstorming about details and limitations. And what about religion and politics in your world. Again, something that can be done in short bursts of energy and time.


Ever write a list of "100 things" about a character? It's a fun way to get to know and develop and deepen your characters. You can go deeper than "favorite color" and "favorite food" and into "happy or unhappy childhood", loving or distant parents. Did they go to college? Did they want to? What did people write in their yearbook? What kinds of jobs did they have? If they had a pet, what would it be? If you sat in their living room and looked around, what would you see? (for a hint, look at your own, then think about your mom's living room, your best friends, someone you admire, someone you don't think is very successful). The more you know about your story people, the more alive they become.

Hope you have a fun and safe weekend, my dear Darklings. Since my February is going to be overtaken by the trip of a lifetime (did I mention I expect great things in 2015?) I'm now looking at March for release of DeVante's Children. Thanks for hanging out with me.


PS - Let me introduce our newest addition... Elliot. (Or Alice, as we are suspecting the case may be).
This is a young bearded dragon, and let me tell you, after the initial duress of getting the lighting set up correctly, this is a pretty darn enjoyable lizard and a reasonably easy pet. They're not nocturnal - and they bask WAY more than they hide (ours never hides), and are alert and quite interested in everything going on in the room. (I apologize to iPhone readers for this picture being upside down - yet another glitch)

Friday, January 2, 2015

SM Johnson ~ Leelah Alcorn's note

This is important.

Leelah Alcorn left a note in her Tumblr feed for a reason. She wanted her death to be transparent. She wanted us, all of us, to understand why she was unable to continue to live.

But. Her tumblr appears to be deactivated, and her note is no longer there, and her parents are pretending that Leelah went for a walk and accidentally got hit by a truck, and I'm not sure if her parents killed her Tumblr account or what, but I do suspect parental units have some power in this regard. 

Leelah gave up her life, but I want her words to live on.

This is Important.

This is what I want people to think about (not necessarily my Darklings, because I think you guys know and have known the answers all your lives).

But Everyone Else.

Do parents own their children?

Do they?

Is it true that "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it" ?

Is it okay to lock your nine year old in a bathroom and let him die? To starve your middle schooler down to 18 pounds? To keep your disabled child's body in a refrigerator for your five year old to find a year later?

Oh sure, physical abuse is cut and dried, right? It's measurable in inches and pounds, severity of bruises, number of broken bones, how many lacerations on the back of a child's legs.

 Is it okay to brainwash your child through seclusion, social isolation, and "therapy" because you don't like the way they think or feel? Because you don't believe them when they say, "I figured it out, I'm transgender!" or maybe you believe them, but you think it's "wrong", because what? Your bible or your church says it's wrong? Where the fuck is your BRAIN, your ability to think for yourself?

Leelah was told that "God doesn't make mistakes". What an interesting phrase that is, and so many ways it can be translated. I would tell Leelah's mother - "God ain't between your kid's legs, that's biology, and biology DOES make mistakes. Ever hear of extra chromosomes, conjoined twins, missing limbs, extra digits? Biology makes LOTS of mistakes."

I don't believe in God. But if I did, I would probably agree that God doesn't make mistakes. Not one single gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer person is a mistake. They are born this way, they are perfect as the people they are, as living breathing human beings who are hurting no one by pursuing their version and vision of happiness.

No one has the right to tell someone else how to think or how to feel. Parents who attempt this are BULLIES, and this is emotional abuse, which is less easy to measure but every bit as damaging as physical abuse.

Parents don't own their children. Their job is to care for, nurture, and love those children, to support and teach them as they grow, to foster confidence, independence, and creativity. To hold them up when the world wants to knock them down. It's okay to teach them that certain situations are best met with certain behaviors, it's a great thing to teach kids manners, compassion, and respect. 

It's not okay to tell a kid, "It's not okay to be you."

Never. Never say that.

I'm sad that Leelah heard "it gets better" but didn't believe it would ever get better for her. I'm heartbroken that she wasn't able to find transgender mentors who could give her hope that someday her insides and her outsides would match enough to allow her joy. I'm sad that she didn't give herself a chance.

But now. In the spirit of Leelah, I'm posting her words.

Leelah’s Note:

If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “f*** you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s f***ed up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.


(Leelah) Josh Alcorn

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

SM Johnson ~ Hurtling into 2015

Yay! Happy New Year!

I love love love love a new year. Always have, always will. For some reason I always feel hopeful on New Year's Eve, and it's like, okay, survived the ass-kicking from last year, now I'm ready to start over again, and hope that this time I win. (yeah, silly, right?) But somehow it always feel like a clean slate.

What's new for 2015?

Well, well, well well well well, well.

Vampires. (Heh).

I expect to release "revamped" editions of my vampire books.

January 2015, look for  DeVante's Children, book 1 of the Vampire DeVante books.

"Gay people are perverts." That's what eighteen year old Daniel Winthrop hears as his father kicks him out of the house. And even though Daniel knows his dad is being unreasonable, he has plenty of questions himself about being gay.

When Daniel's first lover, Roderick, claims to be a vampire and attacks Daniel with such cruelty there could be no other explanation, Daniel realizes there are stranger things in the world than men who love men. Roderick insists that he loves Daniel, but refuses to change him, and Daniel learns his first lesson as an adult – where there is love there can also be pain.

Enter Roderick's creator, DeVante, whose personal code of ethics doesn’t allow enslaving mortals for either love or blood. DeVante reveals that Roderick’s vampire blood is poison to Daniel.

When Daniel’s half-sister gets kidnapped, he enlists the talents of his new blood-drinking friends to find her. When he brings her home, he expects to become the family hero, but discovers sometimes you really can’t go home again.

Now Daniel must figure out who he is, what he wants, and if he’s willing to kill to survive.

Also in January 2015, DeVante's Curse, Katarina's Castle 

Bonus story in the Vampire DeVante series.

In a cold, cold castle, far away from the Colombian rainforest, lives the vampire Katarina with her servent Felix, an orphan named Ernesto, and a great burning pit. From this comes DeVante, a vampire with an intractable personal code and an emotional separation from all things human.

March 2015, watch for DeVante's Coven, book 2 of the Vampire DeVante books.

When Roderick abandons new vampire Daniel to the care of his sire, DeVante, Daniel flounders under DeVante's attitude of benevolent neglect, and wonders how much autonomy DeVante will actually allow. Yearning for guidance and supervision, Daniel pursues Reed, a mortal man, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship rich with elements of BDSM.

Meanwhile, Roderick has fled to Las Vegas, where he saves the life of a young man named Tony by changing him to vampire. But when Tony wakes up, he doesn't act like a fledgling vampire should. And when the sun rises and Roderick sleeps his vampire sleep, Tony walks out into the daylight and goes home, where he accidentally changes his roommate Lily to vampire. Roderick wakes to find that he now has two brand new fledglings, neither of whom he can control. He panics and does the only thing can think to do; bring them to DeVante in San Francisco.

Vampires, mortals, and Tony, (who's something else altogether), are all beholden to DeVante for protection, though each has a special talent. DeVante begins to suspect that an outside force has brought all these children to him for some nefarious purpose, but before he can put the pieces together, the whole group is snatched and held for ransom. Can the members of DeVante's little coven can combine their talents to save themselves, in spite of their differences? And if they can, is that the definition of family?

So. There you have it, all my big news.

The decision to leave my small press publisher did not come quickly or easily. I adore Sven Davisson and Rebel Satori Press, and he's been nothing but lovely to me. But these books are in need of some updating, some rewriting, and a new look, and honestly, since I've learned how to publish ebooks myself, I really like being in control of *everything* - but mostly being in control of release dates and timing. I HATE TO WAIT. Which means.... as soon as I have a book or story ready, I want to hit publish right the heck NOW NOW NOW. Srsly. Ask my beta readers, lol. I'm always like, "Yeah, um, you don't have to drop everything and read this, but would you pretty please drop everything and read this?"

Okay, here we go, hurtling into 2015.

Happy New Year, darklings. I hope ya'll feel like it starts with a clean slate.