William H. Johnson

Archive for the ‘The Dark Province’ Category

2011 Year In Review: Ten Writing-Related Things I am Thankful For

In Dark Province Book Two, Reflection, The Dark Province, The Trubaker Orphanage on January 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

New reviews: In 2011, readers and book bloggers spoke their mind about my debut novel, THE DARK PROVINCE. The reviews were as diverse as the nations they hailed from but you know what? I’m thankful for all of them; for the 5 stars and the 1 star—I appreciated them all. Art is meant to have personal meaning whether it evokes I think everyone can relate to this in one way or another – who can honestly say they haven’t struggled with their faith, especially in times of hardship?” or it evokes With [the main character’s] roots firmly entrenched in a certain religious ideology, he had a difficult time having an open mind, and it struck the wrong chord in me.” I’m grateful for everyone who has taken the journey.

TFWScribes: Around February I was invited to jump into writing discussions with writers Jamal Hankins, Christie Taylor, and Chandra Harkins. What later formed was a closely woven family of artists who have committed themselves to challenging discussion of social issues and the craft as well as the advocacy of each other’s goals. This group is more than just a writer’s group, they are truly kindred spirits.

Completion of New Novel : In the spring of 1997 I wrote a short film that became a turning point for me in how I approached the craft. It was driven by heart and inspiration rather than heady ideas. Since then that work has evolved as I have grown, never ready to be told. In 2011 that old story spoke up and demanded to be written as a manuscript. I’m happy to say it got its wish. The book is called THE TRUBAKER ORPHANAGE and God willing it will be out over the summer of 2013 if not sooner.

Progress in Dark Province Sequel: How great it is to be reminded from time to time that there are readers who are counting the days for a sequel? It’s extremely gratifying. As an artist there is no way to know how that piece will taste when it does finally reach their dinner plate. But having completed half of the manuscript and all of the story summary, I can say that SHE IS RISEN will be sculpted with the same fervent passion and love that her predecessor was.

Twitter followers: I am so grateful for chats at all hours about every and any thing that is life or writing. You’re funny, thoughtful, passionate people who have joined my journey to the tune of 2,915 of you. I am thankful for you all.

Facebook friends: Whether you’re in my writing world or friends from the various eras of my personal life you have kept me connected, creative, and inspired. Thank you so much!

LitChat/StoryCraft/UFChat/WriteChat/Writersroad/Bookmarket:  A freelance writer in Manhattan Beach, California told me back in 2009 that twitter was a great place for writers to come together. I had no idea. Twitter chats have been amazing. While my graduate school program and volunteer work kept me away for the latter part of the year, I am still a Litchattic and every other chattic there is. Thanks to the great moderators who keep these excellent forums open and vibrant.

Dark Province Webseries: On November 6, a group of actors came together in Los Angeles to read the first 7 episodes of a Dark Province web series that is in the exploratory phases. What angels they were to put their considerable gifts to action if just for an afternoon table read. So much love to each one of them.

Kat Magendie’s “Writing Out the Fear”: The first guest writer on my blog was author Kat Magendie. Not only does this author have a beautiful soul but she can write like southern soulful cooking! She graced my blog with some motivational words of encouragement to any writer who hits a wall and struggles to keep the flame lit. Thank you Kat! I hope your heart is mending well this holiday season.

Guest posting on Cathryn Louis’ Blog: As Kat blessed my blog with a little inspiration, Cathryn Louis gave me license to be scandalous on hers. I was honored to post a little symbolic cross-section of my literary infidelity as I swung back and forth between the worlds of RISEN and TRUBAKER. Thank you and God bless!

A DARK PROVINCE Web Series?

In The Dark Province on November 2, 2011 at 11:13 am

I’ve given it more than serious thought. I’ve written seven webisodic scripts each 8 pages or less. I have bounced them off of critique partners. I’ve picked up the phone and reconnected with my director of photography from a film I made on 35mm twelve years ago…and I’ve scheduled a actor’s table reading of the 7-webisode first season for this Sunday at a studio in Los Angeles.

Yes, I’ve given this at least some “serious thought.”

In this age of new media and the ability for artists to bridge the gaps between themselves and readers/viewers, I truly believe the landscape if changing. I have said before that I believe e-book is the new paperback. In the same way I am starting to believe that the web is the new “small screen”.

The web allows viewers three key conveniences:

1)   Whether it’s Netflix or Hulu or some other web-based viewing channel, the viewer can watch a show they like at a time of their choosing. As a dad, director, author, coach, I just don’t care enough about any show to watch or even DVR at a designated time of the week. That doesn’t mean I won’t love it. I watched the re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA on Netflix and think it’s possibly one of the top 5 shows of any kind television has ever produced.

2)   If you come into the middle of a show, all the previous episodes are there waiting for you so that you can easily catch up. And not just one at a time, you can watch two or three episodes on that day you have time and then a couple more three days later when you have time again. This is true of short form web series as well. I jumped into THE GUILD during season 3 and went back and quickly caught up.

3)   Short form web series gives you the intimacy of something different, something niche that can build its way to a larger audience. THE GUILD is a comedy about online gamers. ANYONE BUT ME is a show about a teenage lesbian couple and the challenges of being who they are to the world and to each other. Both shows may have been met with skepticism by mainstream TV but were just what the doctor ordered for their adoring audience on the web.

The face of web series is also changing. The top shows online don’t appear like the budget-less pioneers of a second ago.  No show encapsulates that for me than Electronic Arts’ new DRAGON AGE: REDEMPTION. This is a fantasy action adventure series in short form starring (and written by) new media entertainment empress Felicia Day. Sure it’s no AVATAR but there nothing budget-less about this exciting new venture.

I can’t help but be encouraged by this new inspiration. It feels…right…fun…refreshing. THE DARK PROVINCE is a fantasy adventure that I feel can translate well to this format. It’s dark, introspective qualities would thrive there, and scores of people who might not otherwise get to experience the story might get to visit this world and these characters that I’m so passionate about.

First things first, the script. Actor’s reading on Sunday. I’ll post and let you know how that goes.

DARK PROVINCE Book Two is Underway!

In Dark Province Book Two, News, The Dark Province on July 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

The majority of the first fifteen four or five star reviews on Amazon mention or request a sequel:

“I look forward to my next visit to The Dark Province.” –Walko

“Thanks, William Johnson, for The Dark Province: Son of Duprin, and if you read this, please write a sequel.” –Gadget Girl

“I’ll be waiting.” –mimibimi “Ravenous Reader”

Who am I to say no to satisfied readers? A sequel to THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN is underway! It has been in its planning stages since before the first book’s release. I am proud to say that the yet titled DARK PROVINCE SEQUEL is out of initial development and in the process of being written.

It feels great to be working on a new manuscript. But more than that, its feels great to be back in the Dark Province universe; to look out across the still waters of the Great Sea, to meditate under the light of the Oron moon, to feel the warm humid air on my skin at the Port of Metwihn and to pull my coat close to guard from the chilled weather at the Jekkemi port at Dinamin. It’s great to be back.

THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN which has been described by some readers as a hybrid of fantasy and other genres will, in the sequel, descend deeper into the fantasy genre in terms of magical element and fierce fantastic creatures. Having been through the journey of awakening as Calvin Gooding breaks from the beliefs of his pasts, we will now be led into the throws of revolution. This all being done while maintaining the intimate style of the original novel.

I will be sharing this journey of creation on my blog along with tips and other reflections. I am grateful to you my readers for your support and enthusiasm of this book and the upcoming sequel. I am very much looking forward to delivering you another enjoyable read.

Centreville Author Discusses Inspiration (via The CENTRE VIEW)

In Press, The Dark Province on July 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

The following is an interview published in the April 22-28 edition of Clifton, Virginia’s CENTRE VIEW newspaper. Interviewed by Senitra McCombs.

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Author William H. Johnson, Centreville native, talked about his debut novel “The Dark Province: Son of Duprin,” who motivates him and why he would like to have dinner with former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Johnson will be talking about the novel as well as signing copies at Mei’s Asian Bistro, 434 Washington Boulevard in Arlington this coming Saturday, April 24, from 2-4 p.m.

What is your book about?

WJ: “The Dark Province: Son of Duprin” is an adult epic fantasy adventure, set in an originally created world. It follows the quest of Calvin Gooding, a man who is forced to deny the strict religion of his homeland to follow his faith into a forbidden country that to even enter is grounds for excommunication and condemnation. But it is his only hope to save his dying sister’s life.

How did you come up with the title? Does it have any symbolism?

WJ: “The Dark Province” is the name that Calvin’s people use when referring to the land across the sea to which they are forbidden to travel. The symbolism is from the Duprinite belief that going there brings out the darkness of your soul.

Are there any themes or an overall message you want readers to walk away from the book with?

WJ: To me, the primary literary theme is religion vs. faith. So often they’re spoken of together. But aren’t there times when a person has to choose one or the other? This doesn’t have to necessarily relate to the conventional definition of religion either. Any system of beliefs that founds a person’s worldview can count as religion. A time may come when one must choose between their loyalty to those beliefs and following a feeling that resonates deeply in their soul in order to proceed forward in life. In Calvin’s case, his decision is this: does he risk the damnation of his soul to save his sister’s life? Or does he bow to the demands of his cultural heritage and accept her fate and passage to the next world?

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

WJ: It started with musing on the duplicity of the public role of sex and intimacy in our culture. Sex’s public persona in our culture is one heavy with racial and ethnic stereotypes, hard-line moral judgments, and an ongoing stream of stories from the media about crippling abuses by people in power from our schools to our largest religious institutions — yet in private quarters it is about connection and a certain knowing of another person. We so often brand its mention as “dirty” or “inappropriate” and relate it to sort of a lower class of thinking. Meanwhile the most successful businesses use it to sell their products: movies, beer, fast food, cereal, and cell phones, to name a few. This duplicity fascinates me as an artist. I had a fairly strict religious upbringing and thought it would be interesting to juxtapose a very liberal sensual world with one of strict moral convictions.

How did you become an author? Was it a childhood dream?

WJ: I have been telling stories and writing them down since I was quite young but I would say it was high school when I realized how important writing was as a means of expression and exploration and what it could be for me. I’ve written screenplays, staged plays, and poetry. But when it came time to create a piece that I would point to as a true sample of my work, I wrote a novel. For me writing fiction has it all.

What was the hardest or difficult part of writing the novel?

WJ: Coming face to face with some of the difficult emotions it brought up. I really allowed myself the space to walk with this very flawed main character. As he was being challenged by his own fears and prejudices, so was I.

Where or who do you draw your inspiration from?

WJ: Everything and everyone from my own personal experiences about people and social issues; my own emotional reactions to what I see and hear drive my need to write and tell stories.

What’s your favorite spot in the area or do you have a favorite childhood memory?

WJ: I was born at Fairfax Hospital and lived my whole live in Chantilly and Clifton up until college. I would say my favorite spot is the stadium in Centreville High. Having participated in varsity football and track & field I have a lot of memories there. Also the Ruby Tuesdays in Centreville, I also have memories there with family and friends.

If you could have dinner with anyone famous who would it be and why?

WJ: Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. He was always such a class act while being a respected and effective leader. I would enjoy talking to him about how he inspired the best out of so many people over such long span of time.

DARK PROVINCE now available on Amazon’s kindle reader

In News, The Dark Province on May 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Imagine your twin sister is dying and your religion tells you to let her go. Rejoice it says in her passage to the next world. But your faith tells you there is a way to save her. To do it, you must follow the promise of a sorceress into a land so abhorrent to your people that your very soul will be damned simply by going there and you may never again be welcomed back home. Do you go?

Now imagine such an adult epic fantasy adventure was available to download to a comfy-on-the-eyes Amazon kindle…would you click? 😀

Enjoy, Kindle-ites!

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By the way, if you prefer a copy in  paperback, signed by the  author, that you can enjoy while holding in your hand, go to www.darkprovince.com. I’m guessing you won’t let me sign your kindle. And rightly so.

The Prologue of THE DARK PROVINCE

In The Dark Province, Writing Sample on March 13, 2010 at 2:14 pm

The following is an excerpt from THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN:

Let me first say that I apologize for nothing—not an action, not even a thought. Not for the caress of an angel’s bare flesh, and not for the deviant touch that transgressed, none of it. I will not off er the slightest notion of an apology for a single breath of life I lived and breathed in the Dark Province.

As I look upon each of your faces, I see those I once loved most; my brothers, my sisters, my countrymen, even my own mother has come. I know what you’ve come for. You’ve come for the truth. Our homeland has been submerged into the crimson bowels of a gruesome civil war. The integrity of our precious culture stands in the shadow of extinction. But what’s worse, it is our hands that threaten it—the very hands that have sought to raise it up like a lamp for the entire world to see, believe, and join us in the pride of our faith.

You’ve come with the hope that the truth will end your suffering.

I must tell you, the truth you seek is not what you’ll find here. That truth, the one you yearn for, the one we’ve been bred to pursue, is a cunning temptress. In her gaze, we are weaker than the feeblest of men. The moment we believe we have her firmly in our arms, she turns to liquid and slips through our fingers.

What I have for you, my brothers, is simply a story. One only a sober mind can receive. One I thank the Almighty Goddess for every single day. It is only by Her amazing grace that I, a man convicted of high treason against the Holy Nation of Duprin, can come before you in the land of the living. Believe me when I tell you my heart breaks
with yours over the bloodshed back home. Despite Duprin’s calls for my public execution, I still love her from the center of my core to the calloused skin on the palms of my hands.

I am not so naïve, however, as to think that all of you have come to hear me speak. No doubt, one or more of you have come to carry out my sentence.

Have mercy on my mother, dear friend, whichever of these gathered you are. While she may well be prepared to witness my end, please, allow her and all who have traveled here to the Dark Province tonight to know what really happened to my sister Marilyn. Because the answers you all seek so desperately in your hearts begin with her.

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ORDER AUTHOR SIGNED COPY NOW (for unsigned copy click here)

My Book the Mail Order Bride

In Reflection, The Dark Province on March 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Any moment now, that doorbell will ring and a person in a delivery service uniform will hand me a package. Inside will be a full color, printed copy of THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN.  It could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could Monday.

In that moment, six years of development, writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading – six years of passion, courage, determination, focus, and defiance against inner demons that constantly told me it could never be – will arrive encapsulated in a 392 page, perfect bound, 5.5 in. x 8.5 in. novel with a glossy full color cover.

Even as I work daily to market my first promotional event, FREE SHIPPING WEEKEND, which will take place online starting Saturday, March 13th at 12:00am EST and continuing through Sunday at midnight, I make sure to find a quiet place to take it all in.

Book releases are frequently compared to births. The writer is the proud parent who labors to bring that baby into the world. However, as I sit in my office, only eight days away from releasing the book on my website, I see it also like a wedding.

Up to this point, my novel has only been read by my transcriber, beta readers, professional evaluators, editors, proofreaders, my wife and me. On March 13th, however, I will take the first orders from the reading public and a new relationship will begin between book and reader.

In this age of electronic media those who have already pledged orders of the new bride span at least 12 states and territories in the United States. The honeymoon will take place in California, Virginia, Michigan, South Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Oregon, Illinois, and American Samoa. Of course Daddy won’t be there. Rightly so. This will be a private, intimate moment for the new couple.

I wish the couple well, believe me. I wish them to understand each other, enjoy a trusting closeness, and of course, a lot of love.

Out of the womb and into the wedding chapel, how’s that for growing up fast?

The Book Cover: from concept to final

In Indie Publishing, The Dark Province on February 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

The concept began as a brainstorm between my wife and I about the book’s mood and themes. I remember being young and quite struck by the jewel-like eyes on the cover of a book of short horror stories called “Tales from the Midnight Hour.”

THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN is in no way a horror story, but it was, in part, inspired by how shame is used as a tool in our society. I felt a  connection between a book of “devilish tales” and one wrought with themes that many find uncomfortable to discuss:  sex and religion.

Step 1: Initial concept sketch by Miya Johnson

Back in November, my wife sketched my cover idea and scanned it to a computer to give my designer something to work with. It consisted of two elements: 1) a woman’s blue eyes that had been almost completely flooded by an an orange hue.  2) The image of a man walking into the light. The former image was created to inspire intrigue and display a certain  sense of mysticism that goes hand and hand with the book’s fantasy landscape. The latter image was chosen to represent a journey from which mankind does not return.

Step 2: Professional designer creates a polished interpretation of concept sketch.

In mid January I received the first pass at the book’s cover. I thought they did a really nice job particularly with the eyes. I also appreciated the layout of the title and the use of blacks and grays as the color scheme behind the bright yellow-orange lettering. What I felt was missing was the beauty of the woman whose striking eyes sat poised to grab a prospective reader’s attention. As well, some in my inner circle expressed that the cover could be a bit genre confusing to prospective readers. As one producer/director friend stated during a facebook chat, “It’s badass, Bill, but I wonder if it’s a little thriller-ish.

In addition to the sketch, I had sent the designer a rough rendering in a word doc that featured Angelina Jolie’s eyes as an example of sensuality. The objective was to display a breath of the “Dark Province’s” seductive culture. I used this and an additional visual that included more shading around the eyes to communicate these ideas to the designer.

Step 3: Author and designer collaborate to add texture and depth to the woman behind the mist. Viola! A new book cover is born!

A thoughtful discussion between the designer and I turned out to be a success! Attention was paid to the eyes and eyelashes to restore the woman’s femininity without softening the cover’s most striking elements. The illusions that gave the woman a more flat, thriller sort of look were shaded and replaced with a more dynamic cloud-like design. This added depth to the image and texture, elements that I felt benefited the entire cover’s presentation.

How I Auditioned a Sorceress

In The Dark Province on February 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Imagine the beloved characters in your epic novel crammed into a small room or hallway in North Hollywood, California. There is a half to a third full water cooler nearby only as a courtesy…your characters should have known to bring their own water bottle if they were thirsty. There’s a small clipboard with a sign in sheet attached to it, asking for their name, time-in, and agent’s information. To fill out the sign in sheet they have a choice between a pen that barely writes or one that has been chewed on. Sure, each one of them has an “appointment,” but the casting agents are running two hours behind and leaving means not having a chance to get a part…in their own story.

Pretty twisted, huh?

That’s kind of what I put my characters through when developing THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN. Before Calvin Gooding, before there was even an expanded world to dwell in, there were the women of Tiyll; about thirty or so unique female characters that were given exotic names and paired with others who might be their close confidants. That was it. In fact these names only existed on a series of post-it notes that were scattered across my workstation.

When I realized I needed a sorceress that’s when they all came running. It must have been what I put in the breakdowns.

[SORCERESS]
Female, extremely powerful, natural leader, appearing 28-32, actual age unknown.

Into the audition room walked Tjetta D’jiaree (pronounced DAY-jee-are-ree). I’m not one who is particularly attracted to blonds but ,WOW, what a knockout! She had eyes like gentle waterfalls, a glistening blue that appeared softened by a dawn’s misty rain. Her golden hair, pulled back from her face, shined as smooth as marble.

But could she act?

She read a little from prepared sides. Blah Blah Blah. She did well enough. I decided to put Miss Tjetta on the spot—told her to improvise a moment with me where she described someone she adored.  Without flinching, she put the sides on the floor near her feet and took a step toward where I was sitting.

“Come,” she said, reaching out her hand. “There’s something I want you to see.”

It was pretty good. I stood and took her hand to see where she’d go with it. Continuing her work with staggering focus she gestured into the space beside us.

“She’s marvelous, isn’t she?”

“Who?” I replied. Tjetta laughed softly.

“I was referring to the city.” I was struck by her poise and commitment to a moment.

“You referred to the city as a ‘she,’” I said. “Why?”

She turned to me, leveling me with a welcoming look that seemed to shut the rest of the room out around us.

“Don’t you refer to those you adore more affectionately?”

She got the part.

Mom calls THE DARK PROVINCE my “freedom piece”

In Motivational, The Dark Province on February 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

My mom and I have a running joke about THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN. It’s that she, being a devout Pentecostal Christian from the old school, is my greatest advocate despite the fact that it is still undetermined whether she’ll actually read the book due to its mature content.  Deep down that very content causes my own well-trained inner moralist to raise a brow.

Last Sunday, having spent the day in bed with a cold after stress and workaholism over launch plans and preparations had worn me down, I thought it a good time to reach out to my mother.  As I had done many times before, I shared with her that indeed some nervousness lingered in me as I prepared to share this work with the world.  After all, I am her son, and was raised quite strictly in her and my father’s traditions.

At this my mother paused and said, “Well—this is your freedom piece.”

Freedom piece.  I liked the sound of it.

She elaborated.  And frankly I was kind of shocked.  I grew up in a home where dancing, movies of all ratings and secular music were forbidden. Yet here my own mother, the matriarch of that very home was very casually counseling me on my creative breakthrough and how I had finally gotten to the place where I felt like I could say the things I had always struggled to express.

Hm.  Another check in the never-doubt-the-wisdom-of-moms category.

After we got off the phone I thought about what that meant: freedom piece. A declaration of freedom is a momentous occasion. It happens when a person or people proclaim their bondage ended and greet the next phase of their collective journey with exuberant arms.

Indeed, this is a breakthrough for me as a writer that will pave the way for more growth in the honest way I’ve always wanted; despite my inner conflict I chose artistic integrity over some form of moral censorship. This is the beginning of a new phase of my life, however things turn out.

I’m reminded, therefore, that I get to choose to be exuberant just as I chose artistic truth over sugar-coating. I’ve pledged my best effort and am willing to let the rest happen as it is best for all.

Damnit, that’s what I’m going to do…or “Darn it”…if you’re reading this, Mom. 😉