My Writing Process Is Fucking Spazzy

Every writer has a method. Mine has been refined over decades of writing weird stories. It begins with a stolen Meatloaf statue that I piss on and meditate in front of before I move to my computer to write.

The First Draft

No wait, that’s not true. The process of getting ideas is the easy part. I’ve got idea overflow. I’ve got lists of ideas. When one really grabs me, I crank out a first draft. My first drafts are fast and dirty. I might start with some outlining and character bios. That’s more common when I’m working on a longer piece though. The first draft is my draft. That’s where I get really sucked into the story. I let myself have as much fun as I want, knowing that I’ll add and cut a lot later. When I’m finished, I go through and do a quick copyedit. Then I put it away.

The Second Draft

A month or so later, I pull the draft out again. I print it and read through it. I do my first read through purely as a reader. I don’t have a red pen anywhere near me. I just want to experience it as a reader might. Then I go through it again, this time with the red pen. I mark up everything. If a page isn’t covered with red, I feel like I did something wrong. Check out this page of revisions from what I hope will be my fourth book, Hypnotized by Abs:

Hypnotized Edits

I beef up imagery that didn’t pop. I add scenes if I think of something weird and fun. I throw in jokes. I ruthlessly cut anything that bores me or doesn’t serve the story. When I’m done destroying the printout, I make the changes on the computer. After I’ve made the changes on the computer, I go through the draft again from top to bottom, basically doing the same thing over, but on a computer screen. I make sure there’s no big picture stuff that I missed.

I once read an article that examined the differences in the way the mind thinks when looking at printed matter versus when staring at a computer screen. Different parts of the brain come into play with each. I want to get as much of my weak little brain involved as possible, so I do edits on paper and computer. When I’ve done both, I go through and do another quick copyedit. I call this my second draft, even though there’s like three drafts in this part alone.

The Third Draft

Sometime later, I pull the manuscript out again and go through the same process. I actually have a lot of fun with these revisions. I like cutting the fat, but I also treat it like a jazz musician soloing over Begin the Beguine or some shit. The framework is there, but now I’m jazzing it up with more jokes or weird imagery or little nuances that bring the characters or the situations to life the way a little extra Artie Shaw clarinet might in that old Cole Porter song. Why the fuck am I using jazz references? Maybe it’s more like an Alex Skolnick guitar solo in a Testament song.

After that third draft, I ship it off to a publisher. “This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning.”

Upcoming Appearances

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” in Razorcake #82 (Fall 2014)
  • “Butterflies” and “Leapfrog” in Cesspool (Fall 2014)
  •  “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (Fall 2014)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

September 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

How To Tell Your Parents You Write Fucked Up Stories

Last weekend, I participated in a reading called Weepin’ & Creepin’ with Darci Schummer, author of Six Months in the Midwest. The concept was this: I would read some really weird, creepy stuff and Darci would read some really sad, weepy stuff. No problem, right?

Owly Images

Except that my mom and dad were coming. They had never been to one of my readings before. In the past, I’ve kept them away from my stuff. I’ve told them my writing can get pretty nasty. But they wanted to come to this reading, which was also my first hometown reading in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. How could I say no?

So I thought I’d just write something that wouldn’t offend anyone. What came out of me was a flash fiction piece called “How to Make a Butt-Sweat Golem.” Fail. Then I called my mom and tried to prepare her for the worst. She said, “Oh, I used to love to gross out my sisters when we were younger, so I understand.” I’m not sure she understood, but I told her it was her fault then if she got grossed out, because any grossing out that I did was probably genetic.

I called Darci. We decided on a strategy. I would read one of my more somber pieces, a little ditty called “Necksnapper.” None of this made me less nervous about reading in front of my parents and, to make matters worse, I would be reading in front of Darci’s parents and much of her family.

So I went all in. I read “Necksnapper.” I watched some of the more conservative  crowd members shake their heads and frown as I told the story of a young woman who landed a gig making a very specialized kind of erotic film. Then I read “Butt-Sweat Golem” and I got a lot of laughs. Then, of course, Darci Schummer read and just killed it with style.

Owly Images

After the reading, I got caught up in the crowd and didn’t have a chance to check with my parents. The next day, they called and gushed about how great it was, how professional it was. They weren’t grossed out at all. My mom even mentioned that she read my first book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, and it didn’t bother her. Maybe she skipped over the whole meat tenderizer penis mutilation scene?

I’m happy that my parents didn’t leave thinking I’m a total lunatic, but now I’m left with a new dilemma: What the hell will I have to write that will freak my mom and dad out?

How Much MP Johnson Can You Take?

The Driftless Area Review did a whole week of features about yours truly. If you want to see how much of my bullshit you can stomach, dive in:

Upcoming Appearances

  • FallCon – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/4
  • Carnival of Souls Residency – Grumpy’s Downtown – Minneapolis, MN – 10/4
  • Twin Cities Book Festival – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/11
  • Crypticon – Ramada – Bloomington, MN – 10/24-10/26
  • BizarroCon – Edgefield Manor – Portland, OR – 11/13-11/16

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” in Razorcake #82 (Fall 2014)
  • “Butterflies” and “Leapfrog” in Cesspool (Fall 2014)
  •  “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (TBD)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

August 31, 2014 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Know Your Gender Jargon

Since the release of my latest book, Dungeons & Drag Queens, I’ve seen a lot of different terms used to describe the main character, Sleazella LaRuse: transvestite, crossdresser, tranny, shemale, etc. These terms are not interchangeable! To help readers get their vocab in line, I offer the following glossary of gender jargon:

Drag queen: Typically (but not always) gay men who don over-the-top female gear. Drag is an amazing, subversive form of self-expression that is also an intensely multifaceted form of art. Not only are these girls fucking with gender norms, they’re doing makeup, choreography, fashion design, music, comedy. Sleazella LaRuse from Dungeons & Drag Queens is a drag queen!

Dungeons And Drag Queens

Female impersonator: Someone who impersonates females, often professionally. Kinda, sorta the same as a drag queen. I’ve noticed that this term was preferred by professional drag queens of years past.

Transvestite: Guys, often hetero, who dress like women. The clothes are usually closer to a genetic female’s average day-to-day wardrobe than a drag queen’s. There usually isn’t a performance aspect. These ladies are often in the closet. Not the same as a drag queen, really.

Crossdresser: More or less the same as transvestites. This term tends to be preferred by some in that crowd, as it’s less clinical. Within this community, people tend to refer to crossdressing as just dressing.

Trans, transgender and transsexual: Okay, so there are distinctions between these terms, and the terms seem to be evolving. Trans and transgender are umbrella terms that cover transsexuals and more. Transsexuals are people born one gender but identify psychologically and emotionally with the other, and often use medical means to realign. Getting into the details on this is way out of scope for my silly blog, but it’s important to understand the basics. Know that these terms are not interchangeable with drag queen.

Tranny and shemale: Tranny may seem like a cute, short version of transsexual, but it’s not. Many consider it derogatory. Shemale is totally a porn word and seems unwelcome by most. My thinking is this: Life is fucking hard. If you can make it a touch more comfortable for someone else just by changing up your vocab a little and not saying “tranny” or “shemale,” it seems like a no brainer to me.

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. And also, I’m no expert. I can almost guarantee I’ve fucked something up in the above definitions. I’m just hoping to get people pointed in the right direction. Watch interviews with RuPaul. Read Kate Bornstein. Read the books Topside Press is putting out. Laverne Cox has been making the talk show rounds giving some interviews that will make your brain expand super fast. Youtube that shit.

August 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Do You Like Strange Sex?

Last year, I read a story called “Groupie” to a rowdy crowd at the Eagle’s Club in Green Bay. About halfway through the piece, a girl in the front row covered her mouth and ran for the exit, looking all pukey. After my reading, she came up to me and told me that she just couldn’t stay and listen to the whole thing. She was too grossed out. Then she said, “I will never forget that for the rest of my life.” That’s the sort of reaction that really warms my little heart.

“Groupie” is now available in Strange Sex 2: The Second Cumming from StrangeHouse Books.

Strange Sex 2: The Second Cumming

This is the third StrangeHouse anthology I’ve appeared in, after Strange Fucking Stories and A Very StrangeHous Christmas. I doubt it will be the last. I love what Kevin Strange and his crew are doing. They’ve developed their own sick and twisted personality that is unlike any other bizarro or horror publisher out there, and I think a lot of my stories fit in well.

Flashback Weekend Was A Blast!

Last weekend, I set up my table and sold books at Flashback Weekend. The cool as hell Eric Hendrixson, author of Bucket of Face from Eraserhead Press, volunteered to be my table buddy. It was his first horror convention! I also got to meet fellow StrangeHouse Books luminaries John Bruni (Tales of Questionable Taste) and Brian Williamson. And I scored a bunch of unopened packs of Cyndi Lauper trading cards circa 1985.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by my table and bought books or just nerded out with me.

Upcoming Appearances

  • Weepin’ & Creepin': A Reading With Darci Schummer & MP Johnson – Volume One Gallery – Eau Claire, WI – 8/23 3:00 PM
  • FallCon – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/4
  • Twin Cities Book Festival – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/11
  • Crypticon – Ramada – Bloomington, MN – 10/24-10/26
  • BizarroCon – Edgefield Manor – Portland, OR – 11/13-11/16

Weepin Small

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” in Razorcake #82 (Fall 2014)
  • “Butterflies” and “Leapfrog” in Cesspool (Fall 2014)
  •  “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (TBD)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

August 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm 2 comments

Wonderland Book Awards Finalist?

For those who don’t know, the Wonderland Book Award is the most prestigious (and I think only) award dedicated solely to the bizarro fiction genre. Somehow, my first book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, got nominated.

Wonderland Book Awards

It was one of fifty or so books on the preliminary list. I thought that alone was pretty cool. But now it has made the final ballot. It’s one of only five books in the running for the best novel category, as voted on by bizarro fiction fans from around the world. Also in this category, Carlton Mellick III, the father of bizarro, for his book Quicksand House. This is insane!

I’m feeling pretty honored. Other nominees include Steve Lowe, Brian Allen Carr and Matthew Revert. So, yeah, four highly respected bizarro authors and me.

I Read Stuff Too!

I don’t just write shit. I also read shit. Fellow bizarro maker Jamie Grefe posted a piece in which I discuss three of the most recent books that really got me going. Of course, this involves Danzig! Check it out: Three Reads with MP Johnson.


August 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Giving You The Fingers

I’ve been wandering all over tarnation spreading the word about Dungeons & Drag Queens, my new bizarro book. I tabled at Days of the Dead in Indianapolis. I did a reading in Green Bay at the Crunchy Frog, after which an audience member told me: “My students would love your writing. I teach juvenile delinquents.” Easily one of the best compliments I have ever received. I also did a reading in San Francisco at Borderlands Books, where I got my first window display:

Dungeons & Drag Queens Window Display

How cool is that? I’ve discovered that an awesome byproduct of putting out books is that I get opportunities like these to make new friends, party and nerd out about weird books and horror in general. Next, I’ll be hanging out at Flashback Weekend in Chicago from August 8th through the 10th.

“The Songwriter’s Fingers”

On Friday, Revolver published my latest piece of flash fiction. It’s called “The Songwriter’s Fingers.” I try not to be cocky about the stuff I write, but this is likely the best story I’ve ever written. I’m really proud of it, and I’m super proud that a highly regarded lit journal like Revolver accepted it for publication. It’s part of their new mixtape series. Check it out in Revolver’s literary mixtape: Love & System.

I Want Candy

The Next Best Book Blog recently asked me what authors eat. I don’t know what authors eat, but I know what I eat: candy. Lots of fucking candy. Read more in my entry to the Eat Like An Author series.

You Want ‘Cake?

Razorcake #81 is out now. Nonprofit punk rock. Interviews with M.O.T.O. and more. I did some reviews, which you can read online too (although you’re cooler if you buy a copy of the zine):

August 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

American Nightmare And A Brutal Writing Beatdown

My newest short story, “Pear People from Planet 13,” is now available in American Nightmare from Kraken Press. Check out the sweet tentacle wonderfulness of the cover:

American Nightmare

“Pear People from Planet 13,” believe it or not, is my homage to 1950s B-movies, particularly the ones with strange things from outer space. Oddly enough, it’s also inspired by a story relayed to me by the mother of one of my best friends. The anthology was edited by George Cotronis, who did the cover art too. It also features weird horror stories by Max Booth III, Rachel Anding and other party animals.

American Nightmare is available in print or on Kindle at Amazon.

I Got My Ass Whooped

Last week, I participated in Revolver’s Write Fight. I was sent a writing prompt and given an hour to put a story together. I wrote a goofy little ditty about hope chests, beer cans and umbilical cords. My competitor wrote something about fancy beer and relationships. Our stories were published and readers voted on their favorite. My flash fiction piece put up a nice fight. It got over 100 votes, which is sweet. But it wasn’t enough to take the win. Read “Full Fridge” and see if you can figure out why I lost.

The Final Success Of A Professional Small Animal Inside-Outer

Could City Press just dropped a second printing of my last chapbook, The Final Failure of a Professional Small Animal Inside-Outer. This time, it’s got a fancy red cover. Grab a copy if you don’t have one yet (or if you need multiple copies because you’re some kind of pervy MP Johnson completist). Some of my best short story work is in this book.

June 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

About the Author

MP Johnson is an author, a zine creator, a B-movie extra and an obsessive music fan. Learn more.

MP Johnson’s Books

 photo e4226bc9-74c4-41d6-ac10-0592d33cf5be_zps1e32b6d2.jpg 04.14 - Dungeons & Drag Queens  photo f47efb7e-a7fa-436d-acbc-453f408c36eb_zpsc26ca74f.jpg 02.13 - The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone

Recent Releases

 photo 19bc4e5c-3e5e-4ccd-a287-acc6f843e2a7_zps17db0e84.jpg "Groupie" in Strange Sex 2  photo 19a5375e-54ad-4a87-9d34-f3787a51039c_zps15579f41.jpg "Ex-Punk" in Axes of Evil  photo 2f36a2ae-aaae-4efa-a197-06305674bcca_zps790c2a3b.jpg "Pear People from Planet 13" in American Nightmare  photo 71d5d9ff-ee5f-4610-a273-72c4da3a5a0b_zps93cbb3e2.jpg "Hearts and Caterpillars" in Strange Fucking Stories  photo d44e2742-7421-4cfc-be65-e20eeb686ef2_zps62203d97.jpg "Vagalyn's Flying Head" in Bizarro Bizarro  photo dcef9f1b-11ac-4540-912a-04e771df3d41_zps6e27d092.jpg Freak Tension #15  photo 3d46a228-3c7e-4165-bc36-8520abe91756_zpsd37008d4.jpg "Do Not Buy" in A Very StrangeHouse Christmas  photo f8ea640b-9b8e-453d-88de-0cc7c11cb794_zps26d5bcca.jpg "Loving Arms" in Diabolic Tales III  photo 256099ff-2b52-4e40-9d31-9c8602956a8b_zpsd37102ce.jpg "Lake Street" in In Heaven, Everything Is Fine FinalFailureCover-22 The Final Failure of a Professional Small Animal Inside-Outer Freak Tension 14 photo FreakTension14-1.jpg Freak Tension #14 Photobucket "Killer Nails" in Steamy Screams Photobucket "Reason to Clean" in Made You Flinch Photobucket "Record Collector Scum" in Necrotic Tissue #14 Photobucket "Clown Underground" in Out of the Gutter #7 Photobucket "Drag Queen Vs. Zombies" in Zombiality Photobucket "A Cowboy has to Ride" in This Ain't No Rodeo Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting "Complete Breakfast" in Withersin's Unkindness Anthology Photobucket "No Hands" in Dark Animus #10/11 Photobucket "Ahlana Demona" in Polluto: The Anti-Pop Culture Journal #2 Photobucket "Skill Crane" in Black Ink Horror #3

Contact Info

Email bizarro horror writer MP Johnson at: freaktensionATyahooDOTcom



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