Life, she just keeps getting weirder

So.  I’m 41 years old.  And yesterday my paradigm totally shifted.  This is not about writing. This is about family, and yearnings that go back nearly 40 years. But first, some background:

I was born in 1971.  My parents divorced shortly after I was born, though they maintained some kind of relationship.  The last time I saw my dad was in 1973.  I have no memory of him at all.  I grew up knowing his name, and that was it.

My mother died in 1977.  I was adopted by friends of the family.  Those people did their best, but their best wasn’t much.  They divorced in 1982, and she sank, due to an illness that eventually killed her, into abusive behaviors.  I grew up being yelled at, beaten, and told that I was worthless.  I was told my mother had been a prostitute who dropped me on a street corner and called my adopted mom to come take me.  I was told she died of a drug overdose.  I was told my father was a murderer.  All lies, as I discovered when the State removed me from that home and gave me into the care of my mother’s sister again when I was fifteen.

I know my real mom wasn’t a saint.  She was a pothead, and a bad mother.  I spent most of my first five years living with my grandmother and aunt and, after grandma died too young in 1975, with those “friends of the family.”  But she was no prostitute.  She didn’t throw me away; she loved me fiercely, which is why she allowed me to live with those others–she knew what she was.  And she didn’t die of an overdose; she died of a heart attack from morbid obesity and the same heart condition that killed my grandmother–a heart condition I seem to have escaped, if my cardiologist is right.

And my father was no murderer.  But he was a meth addict, and I never saw him again.  He died in 1993, just as he was cleaning his life up, victim of a stupid vehicle vs. pedestrian accident in which he was the pedestrian.

I grew up desperately wanting a family that didn’t seem to hate me.  And I got one in my aunt, her husband, and their kids, born when I was 19-22, who regard me as their big brother, and whom I love very much.  But I always wondered if there were more out there, abandoned by my father like I had been.

In searching for more information about the father I never knew, I found my uncle, and reference to a wife.  Sadly, my Uncle had never found her.  I tracked her down a few weeks ago, and she gave me the news that shifted my reality.  She said my father had had another son.

At first I thought she must be mistaken; I have a half-sister on my mother’s side, but there was no evidence of other children of my father.  But she had a name to give me, and a city of birth.  She gave me those yesterday, and I put the Google-Fu to work.

And six hours later, I found my brother.

Let me say that again, because it’s important: I found my brother.

He lives in Oregon, though he was born in San Francisco.  He’s twelve years younger than I am; I’ll turn 42 just a few weeks before he turns 30 this summer.  He has a wife, as I do.  He has a daughter, as I do.  And unlike me, he’s having another kid in just a few weeks.

And like me, he’s always wanted a brother, and missed having one.

I don’t think either of us is dumb enough to think that we’re going to have a magical relationship as if we’d grown up together.  But we have a chance to build an adult relationship.  And we’re both as excited as hell about it.

What is going on in American culture?

And I specify American culture because while I have a bunch of head-knowledge about other nations, I’ve only visited Mexico so far (You’re next, UK!), and I would hesitate to say I knew a lot about that culture after only two weeks there.  

Anyway, what’s bugging me was brought on by comments on an article on a local website.  A gay couple was kicked out of a local mall for holding hands and kissing.  The security guard kicked them out, claiming it was policy no matter if it was a heterosexual couple or a homosexual one.   The local news station went undercover, and witnessed many straight couples doing the same things the gay men had been doing–and nobody said a word.  The mall manager refused comment. 

That’s all pathetic enough, but the comment section is when my blood pressure really took off.  I’m used to the sort of “OMG GAY PEOPLE KISSING THAT’S SO GROSS” nonsense that populates this kind of thread; let’s set them aside.  Time will deal with those morons. 

No, what bothered me was the plethora of comments saying something like “Good! Nobody should be doing that in front of children, not even straight couples!”

Seriously, WTF? Since when is it harmful for kids to see a man kiss his wife?  Or girlfriend?  We’re not talking “tonsil dueling,” here, we’re talking about a quick kiss.  And there are people there who think that’s too much for children to see.  

Back when The Matrix Reloaded came out, my younger sister, then 12, asked me to take her to see it.  I asked her mom what she thought, and she asked if it was “inappropriate.”  I admitted that yes, there was rather a lot of violence, including people getting shot, dying on-camera, “bad” language, etc.  She said “Oh, I don’t care about that stuff!  I just don’t want her to see a sex scene!”

Say WHAT?  Watching two characters who are lovers show that love is worse than watching something like 40 people dying on screen, and many more off-screen?  Really?  

This isn’t just my family, either.  I’ve seen parents at the game store, warned by an employee that the game they are about to buy their elementary-school kid is rated “M,” meaning it’s meant for adults, scoff at the violence warning and ask “Is there sex in it?”  One woman refused to buy her kid Mass Effect, one of the best-written games in the last few years, because the employee admitted there’s a love scene in which you see a part of a woman’s thigh.  

Now, it’s not like I think kids should be watching porn, or even less-explicit love scenes.  But there is something wrong with a society that thinks it’s more important a kid not see a nude human making love than that they not see a man get his head blown off.  

George Carlin was right: “When you’re born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.”


The world turns and times change….

And a milestone begins tomorrow.  My daughter begins Kindergarten.  Holy crap.  It seems like yesterday that she was a tiny baby sleeping on my chest.

Because she starts school early this year (her school starts Kindergarten early to get the kids into the routine), I have two weeks of daily freedom before I have to go back to work.  Some of this I’ll use to get back on the exercise wagon, some to clean the house without distraction, but a lot of it will be either playing video games, going on day trips, and writing my curriculum for the next year.  And sleeping.

My curriculum… I had thought I’d be teaching American Literature this year, but apparently not.  My schedule is:

  • 0 Period: Journalism
  • 1st , 2nd, 5th Periods: 9th Grade
  • 4th, 6th Periods: Advanced 9th Grade.
  • 3rd: Prep

The plus side of that is that I won’t have to be planning for more than 2 classes.  Technically, the Adv. 9 is a different prep than normal English 9, but the real difference is in higher expectations and deeper exploration of texts.  Instead of Multiple Choice quizzes, it’s all essay questions, two more essays per year, etc.  So it’s a LOT less work than I’ve been doing the past few years, except for the teaching part.

But before I go back, I want to relax.  And get some writing done.  Finally.


I started this blog as a way of trying to reclaim my writing–to motivate me to write more often.  I need to do more, it seems.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of sitting at home every day trying to write.  If I could, I dare say I’d have a novel done by now.  But that’s not my life.  I’m a full time teacher, a grad student, and the father of a four year-old girl who (rightly so) loves to spend time with her daddy and who, perhaps more importantly, her daddy loves to spend time with.  How’s that for a bad sentence?

This isn’t an excuse–there is still time for writing, and I could carve out some more time.  I could go to the coffee shop down the street (for now) when it’s my wife’s turn to put our daughter to bed.  Or I could dig out my office (which for the past six months was the temporary abode of our niece, and is thus covered in junk that isn’t mine) and go in there during those times so I can concetrate (writing in front of the TV works sometimes, but not often).

The problem is that I spend so much creative juice, so to speak, in my job that when I go home I feel like the LAST thing I want to do is try to squeeze out of my head whatever it is Jason and Azhan, or Teren, or Callie, are doing just now.  But if I don’t, then I’ll never reach the point where I can be a full-time writer.

So I’ll need to get on that.  And on getting my fiddling skills back on track.  And on playing that bloody Bodhran I asked for for Christmas 2009 and play only when I’m alone.

I’m a hell of a procrastinator.  Time to nip that crap in the bud.

What happened to the War for Earth?

I had this series I was working on, called The War for Earth.  The first book was Pathfinder, though I knew I’d have to change that before (not to mention if) I published, because a space opera novel came out in 2011 with the same title.  It was about a guy who discovers the hyperspace pathways back to Earth, which has been “lost” for half a millenium… and discovers that Earth is a dead world, and the remains of the human race are victims of the biggest con-job in known history.  And he, along with a relatively few others, starts a war over it.  The saga was going to be based on the history of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain, and the twisted and painful history of that relationship would have informed the story development across the trilogy.

I was halfway through the writing of the first draft, and I’d plotted the rest of the first book, when I lost my hard drive.  All data was gone.  I thought I had a backup from only a month before… but I didn’t.  Due to a mistake I had made recently in backup maintenance, I had a two year old backup. 


Anyway, I got a new drive, and started trying to recreate Pathfinder.  But I just can’t seem to make it happen.  I’ve tried several times to get working on it, and my enthusiasm has just… shriveled up and died.  It’s like I’m still grieving the draft I had. 

So now I’m working on  new idea, one I’d put on the back burner while working on the Earth saga.  This one is about a mage who rediscovers an ancient magic and awakens it to save his nation… but in doing so begins a war that may tear his whole world apart. 

It’s a stand-alone novel at present, but I have ideas to spin off into a series of it becomes warranted.  It’s called (for now) Warden’s Call.

Wow. Just writing this up gave me an idea that could drastically alter the direction I was going to go for the ending. Thanks!

Why is this here?

Hello.  For those of you who know me, bear with me a moment while I initiate the newbies.

Ok, Newbies.  Over here.

All right.  My name is Michael Johnston.  I’m a high school English teacher, a husband, and a father, with the importance of each role rising and falling depending on my location on the Earth, who I’m with, and where the alien signals controlling my brain are coming from that day.  Wait.  Strike that last part.

Ok, old guys.  Come back.

I am also aspiring to be an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.  That’s what this blog is for.  I’ve already got a personal blog, which I’ve been using since 2001, over at Livejournal, under another name.  But when I thought about blogging about books and writing, I realized that I could either dig through ten years of posts about anything from my job to my cat’s latest puke to endless stupid internet memes I took part in, or I could start fresh here.  So that old blog will remain active for things I want to share only with personal friends, and this one will be for friends as well as possible future audiences.  We’ll see how that one works out.

Anyway, welcome.  Real posts soon, but right now my family wants to watch a movie, so Husband and Father wins out.