As I write this, I can’t quite believe it. I’ve made an annual tradition of publishing a blog post each birthday. They might be thoughts on this past year, on my life, my experiences, or on random bits and pieces from the last decades of my life. (Find previous birthday blog posts here, here, and here. Last year’s focused on the explosion of computer technology since my birth and the current era of instant gratification.) The fact that there are now five decades behind me is astonishing. To paraphrase what Captain Picard once said, it’s a somber realization that there are now more years behind than ahead. Perhaps I could have also said this at forty, but here’s to hoping I’ll make a hundred.
Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. I’m happy I’ve made fifty. It was a concept alien to me as a teenager. At the time, fifty year-olds seemed ancient. They seemed not only old, but decrepit and riddled with disease and rot and failing brains. It makes me laugh to think this now. After all, here I am still physically feeling like a teenager. Sure, I suffer the odd ache and pain and weird malady, but no more than I experienced at sixteen! After all, teenagers suffer medical issues as well. I think we often forget this as we grow older. Back in the 1980’s, I once pinched a nerve in my neck and it affected me for months. It was torture. I also had ligament strains in my knee, muscle pulls, and various illnesses like strep throat that sprang up from nowhere for days or weeks at a time. Do I suffer from more of these ailments now that I’m old and “decrepit?” No, not at all. If anything, there are fewer issues (knock on wood). Migraines, as per usual, but that’s it. I’ve added chiropractic treatments to my weekly regimen, and have been having adjustments for more than five years now. I think these have helped keep me healthy.
My opinion as a teen was clearly wrong!
My writing career has progressing steadily since The Furnace in 2013. My sixth book, Fatal Depth, is in the pipeline now. I’ve written more books that are in the wings, just waiting to emerge. (I have four completed and in data storage; two of them are the beginnings of brand new series.) My books continue to sell, and reviews are generally positive.
But I post too much about my career as a novelist sometimes. It’s something writers are forced to do — self promote — and for a self-professed INFJ that’s often a difficult thing to do. So I’ll put it aside for this post and focus on the real issues that I’m thankful for this year, and on this birthday.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF READING TO YOUR CHILDREN
It would definitely be family. My two daughters astonish and amaze me each day. They are the loves of my life. They are great people, great students, kind, respectful, considerate, thoughtful, intelligent, and … well, I could go on and on. I’ve raised them, nurtured them, read to them every day when they were younger, cooked for them, helped them with homework and more, but they have made me who I am today. There’s no doubt of that. They’ve had more impact on me than maybe I’ve had on them. I’m usually very private about my family, but this birthday is different. These two girls are THE major bright spots in my life, and I will never neglect this fact, take it for granted, nor forget.
I think the best thing my wife and I have done — a decision we made nearly twenty years ago — was to buy books for the kids whenever they wanted. There was never a question about why they wanted a certain book, or the fact that it wasn’t their birthday yet. We never said something like, “You have too many books” or “Maybe wait for Christmas.” We bought books whenever our daughters wanted them. It has been the best investment we’ve ever made. The positive effects on creativity, imagination, and the ability to express themselves as intelligent and well-spoken individuals says volumes. I recommend this for every parent reading this blog post. Don’t make reading something just for special occasions or something that’s just compulsory in school. Give them books all the time. Give them a book whenever you see them looking at one fondly. Make it a part of life. And don’t make them feel like you’re doing something nice for them! Don’t try to make them feel guilty or that they must express gratitude for the gift. It’s not a gift — a book is a necessary part of life. If you force them to be thankful, they’ll end up resenting it. Just do it and wait for the positive results. Trust me, it will pay off. Read to them from the day they’re born, buy them books, stoke the creativity and the thirst to learn, and watch them become active learners and incredibly creative people. It might be that there’s no real trick to parenting, that sometimes you just get lucky (or unlucky) … but the single best thing I believe you can do for your kids is to inspire them to read. My parents did this for me. If you are expecting a child now, or have young children, it’s time to start. Maybe in ten years or more you’ll contact me and tell me that I was right.
When I was Young …
I’ve written a ton over the past few years on this blog about the movies that inspire me, my favorite directors, my favorite authors and so on, but I’ve never written about the books I read as a youngster under the age of, say, ten. The books that inspired me to keep reading, and to eventually discover Asimov, Crichton, Heinlein, Poe, and Christie. Here are a few covers. Do you know them?
This birthday is a milestone. Fifty years old. I look back at what I’ve achieved in my life, and there are things I’m proud of, for sure. But raising two girls with my wife has been the greatest achievement. They have made me who I am. Here I am reflecting back on my life at five decades in, and I’m not writing about the horror movies I’ve seen, the John Carpenter films I love, the Asimov or Agatha Christie books I’ve revisited, the video games like Last of Us I’ve played … instead I’m writing about my two daughters and why we should always buy books for our children. That says a lot, I think.
Here are a few pictures from this year’s birthday.
It’s an underwater-themed cake to highlight the importance of my current thriller series, The Rise of Oceania. Note the kelp on the sides and the bubbles along the base and on the top. Thanks, girls! I love you! It was delicious!
Presents from a Friend
My family watched this movie after dinner. We all loved it.
My daughters gave me a jar of fifty notes to read over the next several weeks. Each is about why they love me (cue the tears). I’ve opened these ones so far … pretty sweet and eclectic! What a great and touching gift!
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“Reading The Savage Deeps is like watching a movie … mesmerizing … Torpedoes, mines, imploded subs, and bodies litter the ocean floor … Johnston is an author skilled in bringing life to his characters through dialogue, engaging readers’ emotions by their behaviors and thinking, and creating brilliant settings, all of which play out like scenes in a movie.” — Five Stars from Readers’ Favorite
“The Savage Deeps delivers on every level.” — SFcrowsnest
“The Savage Deeps is like a futuristic Das Boot with a lot of intense action and some interesting technology … full of spine-tingling thrills … I give The Savage Deeps a five star rating.” — A Thrill A Week
Praise for THE WAR BENEATH
“If you’re looking for a techno-thriller combining Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and John Le Carré, The War Beneath will satisfy … a ripping good yarn, a genuine page-turner.” — Amazing Stories
“One very riveting, intelligent read!” — Readers’ Favorite
“If you like novels like The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising,
you will certainly enjoy The War Beneath.” — A Thrill A Week
“If you’re here for thrills, the book will deliver.” — The Cambridge Geek
“… an engaging world that is highly believable …” — The Future Fire
“This is a tense, gripping science fiction/thriller of which Tom Clancy might well be proud . . . When I say it is gripping, that is the simple truth.” — Ardath Mayhar
“… a thrill ride from beginning to end …” — SFcrowsnest
“… if you like Clancy and le Carré with a hint of Forsyth thrown in,
you’ll love The War Beneath.” — Colonel Jonathan P. Brazee (RET),
2017 Nebula Award & 2018 Dragon Award Finalist
“Fast-paced, good old-fashioned Cold War espionage … a great escape!” — The Minerva Reader