featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, August 31, 2015


Author Marilyn A. Johnston is an award-winning writer whose short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in several anthologies. She also writes under the pen name cj petterson. Learn more about her at the Lyrical Pens blog.

I love crafting, really. I love the precision that a well-crafted product requires . . . unless you’re a Jackson Pollock.

When my sons were small, I created artificial flower arrangements, first in plastic then in silk. I ran out of interest at exactly the same time that I ran out of venues to display my treasures—my home, my family’s homes, my friends, my neighbors, gifts to unsuspecting acquaintances.

Next, I took up sewing. Bought scads of material and made every curtain, drape, swag and jabot in the house. My frugal husband admired my handiwork, and I put the sewing machine away.

Then I spent a lot of money on glass cutters, soldering irons, copper came/tape, lead came, flux, pliers, etc., etc., and took classes in leaded glass. That lasted until I had completed a colorful but poorly constructed piece to hang in my kitchen window (it never got there.) Some lucky crafter was able to purchase the box of remaining glass and all the tools for about $15 when I moved.  

After I traded months of snow and ice in Michigan for months of hot and humid on the Gulf Coast, I took classes in Spanish, how to construct a Koi pond, and creative writing. I bought a camera, thinking I would love to get into photography and discovered I don’t have my son’s skill for putting out a beautiful final photo. (Gosh, he’s good.) I took art classes and painted two fairly wonderful lighthouse scenes, gave them away to a friend who lives on Dauphin Island, and put my easel and art supplies away. Several bags of jewelry-making baubles and wires reside in a container in my bedroom. I never built the Koi pond (too much work to maintain,) but I can still speak a little Spanish.

I’m a been-there-done-that kind of person. I love learning new things, but I jump from one thing to the other. Except words. The creative writing class stuck, and I’ve managed to stay with writing. I not only love the syntax of words, but I can (and do) jump from one form of writing to another, from haiku and free verse to nonfiction and fiction to short stories and novels.

Choosing Carter, my latest contemporary romantic suspense novel, is a result of the writing class. I wrote the first scene, seven pages long, in that class, then put it away and wrote other things. I had it ready for publication three years ago but put it away again. Then I took a deep breath and submitted it to Crimson Romance in May of this year. The ePub version launched August 17.

Many scenes in the novel are variations of things I’ve done. I once took an Outward Bound trip and spent five-and-a-half-days white water rafting in Colorado (the setting of the novel.) I spent two days driving a doors-off, stick-shift Wrangler (also in the novel) on a Jeep Jamboree off-road adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, sometimes over boulders as big as my living room! It seemed natural to let my protagonist enjoy my adventures since she was in Colorado. Just so you know, those adventures of mine were more than twenty years ago.

Choosing Carter
Bryn McKay has always tried to save her brother from his risky choices, but a near-tragic truck accident landed him in prison and her in the hospital. Now, a year later, he's converted to radical Islam and escaped, vowing revenge on the people who put him there, including his sister.

To clear her mind, Bryn goes on a rafting trip with her best friend, naturalist and outdoor guide Carter Danielson - and she wouldn't mind if things turned romantic. Unfortunately, Carter is a recovering alcoholic who shies away from commitment. That is, until the two of them stumble across her brother and must flee for their lives.

Will Carter figure out where his heart lies, or will Bryn face her biggest fear: watching someone she loves die?


Angela Adams said...

Hello, Marilyn/CJ! It was an honor to share the stage with you last Fall with Crimson's bundle, "Running to Love." "Choosing Carter" has a unique and interesting premise -- best wishes!

M. Johnston said...

cj Sez: Gee, Angela. Thanks so much. That was a fun event. I was really excited when one of my Facebook friends was a winner of that bundle . . . so she got your book as well. And back at you with best wishes for your future success.

stanalei said...

I admire those who craft. I stick with writing for now. the story sounds great, Marilyn! Congrats on the release.

Martha Crites said...

Nice, Marilyn. Living a creative life, be it craft or writing, always makes it fun to get out of bed in the morning.

Lynn said...

You live an interesting life, CJ! I enjoyed your post, getting to know you a little better.

M. Johnston said...

cj Sez: Thanks so much for stopping by, stanalei. I truly love crafting; I just love to try as many as I can. If you get a chance to read Choosing Carter, I hope you enjoy it. The protag voice is a lot like mine . . . wonder how that works? %>}

M. Johnston said...

Hi Martha Crites. I agree. The creative life is a lot of fun; tho' it makes my kids nuts because they don't know what I'm going to get into next.

All best (that's a new writerly phrase I've learned).

Marilyn and cj

M. Johnston said...

Hey there, Lynn. I'm glad you enjoyed the "great reveal." I think my sons don't realize exactly how much stuff I try to get into . . . and out of. So far so good. I even hesitated letting them have the website address ::grin::

Marilyn and cj

M. Johnston said...

Thank you very much, Lois, for allowing me to post this blog on your wonderful website. This was a fun piece, and I appreciate the exposure.

Best of luck for great success with all your projects.

Marilyn and cj