Michelle L. Johnson’s novel DIVINITY now available.

Johnson cites support from Norfolk’s The Muse Writing Center for helping her succeed. Launch celebration and author book signing Friday, October 3, 7-9 p.m. at The Muse Writers Center, Norfolk, NA. Public Welcome.

For most people, the idea of writing and publishing a book is a bit overwhelming. They picture a lonely person, holed up in dark corner, searching for words to tell their stories that somehow magically arrive in the right order at the right time.

Author Michelle L. Johnson, whose novel Divinity was released by Spencer Hill Press on September 23, had a very different experience thanks to her classmates at The Muse Writing Center in Norfolk, VA.

Divinity_ebooklg“The best writers, and all the advice books on writing novels, suggest that writers find other people, ideally other writers, to give them honest, constructive feedback on their work,” Johnson says. “I was fortunate to find a group of writers through classes in fiction and memoir writing at The Muse who worked with me the entire time I was writing the novel and who each contributed to making it a better book.”

Johnson will celebrate the launch of her book with a book signing and kickoff Friday, October 3, 7-9 p.m., at The Muse Writers Center, 816 Orapax St. in Norfolk. The public is invited.

“It’s one thing to have an idea for a book or a series of books,” says Johnson, “but it’s quite another to bring that idea to reality and produce a book that can attract the attention of an agent, and then a publisher. I’ve been writing a long time, but it wasn’t until I started attending classes at The  Muse and began to work in the publishing industry that I fully understood how much getting a book published involves a lot of people working together.

The Muse Writers Center was founded in 2005 and offers courses in every genre of writing, all taught by published authors, as well as a variety of events and readings designed to support the writing and creative community  in Hampton Roads.

“One of our goals at the Muse is to encourage people to write, to provide writers with teachers who can help develop writing skills and who understand the business aspects of getting published,” says Michael Khandelwal, Executive Director of the Muse. “Most writers overlook the business aspects of publishing, so we provide information and support in that area as well.”

“I joined one of the Muse’s Fiction Studio classes, designed specifically for writers working on a novel, just as I started writing Divinity. The group had been together for almost 18 months – I took the place of someone who had moved out of town – and once they got comfortable with me and me with them, my novel took off.”

Johnson, who also represents other writers as the owner of Inklings Literary Agency, says that working with other writers who were also working on their own books helped her see her own work differently.

“The beauty of the group was its diversity, in the sense that there were eight different writers, each working on their own unique projects,” Johnson says. “We essentially saw eight different book projects evolve together, and you can’t help but learn quickly in that setting. Each writer had his or her own strengths. A couple of people were sensational at challenging and questioning the flow of the story, another was great at helping shape characters, one had an ear for dialogue, which is one of the hardest part of writing for many people, and a couple of folks were grammar generals.

“The group was also diverse in background, age, life experience, and so on, which brought different perspectives on the characters and storyline into the discussion. People often saw or felt vastly different things when they read a section, and often I’d get conflicting feedback that forced me to think through what I was trying to say, or how I was saying it. The result was an infinitely better book that was accepted by Spencer Hill Press’ urban fantasy imprint, Spence City.

“Another aspect of working with group was becoming more aware of the elements that make a good story, and a much sharper focus on the technical aspects of writing,” She says. “I became much more aware how important word choice, sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar are to making a story come to life…and even when and how to break a rule or two for effect.”

Johnson says her experience at The Muse also made it easier to work with agents, editors and her publisher as her book moved through the publishing process. “I’ve learned as an agent that many authors resist the input they get from professionals in the industry, input that’s always intended to make the book better and more successful in the market. I think I was better prepared to hear what others had to say and suggest because I understood the power writer’s gain by listening to and considering what others see and how they react to your book.

“As the writer, it’s your book and your story, and you have the final decision. But, bringing a book to market is an extremely collaborative process, and I believe writers who are open to input and actively consider it all create a better book.”

Johnson is excited about the release of Divinity, and about the chance to share its release with many of the people who helped her get the story from concept to novel to published novel.

“I’ve known since I signed the contract that I wanted the official launch event to be held at The Muse,” Johnson says. “It’s a chance to share this moment with people who helped make it possible, and to highlight the power that a supportive creative community like the one The Muse helps foster can have for individual artists. I know others have had the same experience with their projects.”

About Divinity:

When Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel. With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart. Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had. What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

To Buy Divinity:

Prince Books (Norfolk)                        http://bit.ly/1udpISH

Amazon (Book and Kindle)                 http://amzn.to/XRehSz

Barnes and Noble (Book and Nook)   http://bit.ly/1sbGpOb

Walmart                                               http://bit.ly/1uQbdln

About Michelle L. Johnson:

Michelle L. Johnson AuthorMichelle L. Johnson was born in Ohio and adopted by Canadians. They traveled all over North America, and, when they weren’t on the road, Michelle could be found with her nose buried deeply in the pages of a book. With all of her travels and adventures, she hopes to bring some of her unique perspective to the pages and to entertain others the way all of her heroes have for her. When she is not hanging out with her feathered friends, she is busy being a literary agent with Inklings Literary Agency. She says wherever she hangs her coffee mug is her home, and right now, that’s a toasty warm Jacksonville, Florida with her happy Cocker Spaniel and her small family.

This is Michelle’s second book. The Footloose Killer, a mystery set on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, was published in 2012.

Michelle L. Johnson on the Internet:

Author Website:   http://www.michelleljohnson.us/

Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/MichelleL.Johnson  (Follow her)

Twitter:                 https://www.twitter.com/MjsRetweet   (Follow her)

Goodreads:          https://www.goodreads.com/MichelleLJohnson

Book Review: DIVINITY — by Michelle L. Johnson

Divinity_ebooklgImagine your reaction if the Archangel Gabriel appeared before you and announced that he was your father, and that you’re half Archangel. Not half angel. Half Archangel.

Would that create a little upheaval in your world?

When Julia Samson, the main character in Michelle L. Johnson’s new novel Divinity meets her father – yep, that’s Gabriel, the Archangel —  Julia is pointed down a path that seems pre-determined, or least Gabriel and the other Archangels think it is. Julia, however, has overcome many challenges in her 30-some years on Earth. She’s not going let angels suddenly tell her who she is and what she’s supposed to do.

Johnson has created a great cast of characters, discarding the traditional angel persona in favor of a fresh, less powerful and more human, group of Archangels. They have a non-traditional purpose too, assigned to keep the Earth simply balanced instead of pure and good. That leaves lots of room for error and disagreement among the Archangels, and it’s clear Michael, the so-called leader of the Archangels, doesn’t have much control over his team. We meet Archangels who are stubbornly independent, manipulative, and each working his or her own agenda based on different perceptions of what balance is.

There’s something evil in this book, as you might expect, but in Divinity Johnson completely discards the traditional devil and demons-from-Hell as evil concept. She gives us instead a dark and powerful force called the A’nwel that the Archangels have never before encountered, something they can’t see or feel, and something that makes them genuinely afraid. The Archangels are vulnerable, almost human, in their response to the A’nwel. They turn to Julia because only she can see what it is, even if she’s not yet ready to face it.

The earthly cast is equally diverse, though not always truly earth-bound, and Julia’s understanding of her life and half-human, half-angel nature forces her to revisit every important relationship in life since birth.

Johnson weaves the large cast of characters around Julia as she searches for answers, all wrapped up in a multi-level universe of Earth, a level where the Archangels live that is definitely not Heaven, a mid-level that provides a great setting for several scenes, and wherever it is the A’nwel comes from.

The story weaves skillfully back and forth in time as Julia searches through her past, uncovering surprises and gaining fresh hope, while at the same time discovering her powers as an angel and searching for the A’nwel. We also move freely among the levels of Julia’s world, learning to flow between Earth, the middle level, and the higher level just as she does.

At the center of it all is Julia, and what the makes the book truly work are the complex relationships that evolve. Julia’s boyfriend Alex, his mother, and her closest friend Charlie, anchor her Earthly presence. Michael mentors her as she learns about her angel side, while her father, Gabriel, remains distant and aloof, confusing and hurting her.

Of course, Julia must deal with the A’nwel, even if she isn’t sure what it is or if it’s evil. The hunt for the A’nwel is artfully weaved into the plot as well, and the “final” confrontation forces Julia to act. Exactly how would be a spoiler, though I will tell you the 300-word epilogue will send a shiver down your spine and leave you wanting more.

To Buy Divinity:

Amazon  (Book and Kindle)                 http://amzn.to/XRehSz

Barnes and Noble  (Book and Nook)   http://bit.ly/1sbGpOb

Walmart                                               http://bit.ly/1uQbdln

Michelle L. Johnson on the Internet:

Author Website:   http://www.michelleljohnson.us/

Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/MichelleL.Johnson

Twitter:                 https://www.twitter.com/MjsRetweet

Goodreads:          https://www.goodreads.com/MichelleLJohnson

Pre-order Divinity by Michelle Johnson A

Pre-order Divinity by Michelle Johnson Amazon.com: Books http://ow.ly/x58HY

Focus and the Feel-good Experience

I learned about the power of focus and concentration yesterday.

It was a simple lesson, really, one that came from the blessing of an unexpected three hours of unscheduled time when a meeting scheduled to last all day ended early. I suddenly had a  half-day to myself.

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Small Steps

I’m trying to rearrange the way I invest my time.

I want to take better care of myself, physically and emotionally. I want to spend more time doing things I enjoy. I’m like everybody else, trying to balance a long list of want to and must do items.

The challenge isn’t any different today than it’s been for years.  I think my approach is different now.

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Not Writing

I am always thinking about writing. All day long, all evening , and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I think about writing.

My problem is that I don’t write. I’m at a loss to explain why.

I have hundreds of ideas. Ideas for stories. Concepts for novels. Memories to share. Commentaries. Essays. Observations about people or the events taking place around me. Even the occasional journal entry.

I don’t turn my ideas into finished pieces. Hell, most of the time I don’t turn them into drafts.

I have the time to write, too. Not endless hours to write and re-write and ponder the meaning of each word, but enough time to move a piece forward, to finish a short note, or to tell a little story. I can choose to write when I have the time. I can choose to make the time to write.

But I don’t.

I find other things to fill the time. Sometimes useful, even important things, and sometimes I just waste time.

Setting little goals — a small daily word count, a short blog post, even a tweet or two – hasn’t worked. Taking a class hasn’t worked. Something has kept me from my keyboard for months, and I’m trying to fight through it and start writing again.

Here’s a start. We’ll see what happens next.

Time for a Hat

I have to either let my hair grow longer, or start wearing a hat.

For the second week in a row, I winced as I combed my hair on Sunday morning. It took a moment before I finally realized the top of my head was sunburned, because my hair has thinned enough to allow the sun through.

Another sign of aging. Not one I expected, of course.

The positive side to this?  I was in the sun all day because I was busy coaching both of my daughter’s — age 7 and 9 — soccer teams. Wins in both cases, too.

The coaching keeps me young.

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Of a Valuable Life, and Other Things

I read. A lot.

I used to read books, magazines, and newspapers. The Internet changed my reading habits, because I can now access so much information so easily. With a few mouse clicks, I can gather articles and columns that interest me through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Reader.

Every now and then, I come across something that affects me so deeply I feel compelled to share it. That happened this morning. This column: Cal Thomas’ tribute to his brother is eloquent. 

The simple connection is Down syndrome. My niece, Jennifer, has Down syndrome. She will graduate from high school soon. I served on the state Board of Directors for Special Olympics of Virginia for six years. These athletes, their families and friends, and those they inspire, remind me always of the incredible potential and spirit we all have, if we simply care for and support each other.

When I finished wiping the tears from my cheeks, I started thinking about other things. Important things.

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New Year Evolutions, Part 1

I’ve read article after article this past week about New Year’s resolutions. How to make them. Why to make them. How to forgive yourself when you fail to keep your resolutions. That’s why I avoid making them.

Then I stumbled across an article that prompted me to think differently. Not about New Year’s resolutions, but about how I make small, seemingly inconsequential, decisions every day that define how I feel about myself and the way my life is unfolding.

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More Grinch: Christmas Just Keeps On Comin’

Now there are two — not one, but two — radio stations in Virginia Beach playing Christmas music 24 hours-a-day. Why am I convinced it’ll be a trio as soon as I punch the scan button in my car?

You know why.

I don’t understand why any radio market needs two stations playing Christmas music 24/7. What’s next? Dueling renditions of Jingle Bell Rock?

I’m sure there’s a reason, and some way they’re making money off it, but I can’t see either.

That’s two of the first six preset buttons on my car radio, gone until December 26. My soft rock station, gone. Along with my 70s and 80s Favorites. What’s next? (And never mind what my radio presets say about my taste in music. What’s on your preset buttons?)

Programmers beware! Touch classic rock and there will be hell to pay!


And now, on a lighter, yet related note, I share another perspective on this issue:

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