TBT: The time I was in an NBA entourage


For four glorious years I rode shotgun (along with my then high school aged brother Justin) on what was probably the greatest fan experience one could ever experience. The story about how I ended up with my 14 year old brother in a bona fide NBA entourage was chronicled by my good friend Alan Siegel on the web site Deadspin.

Here’s the nut graf of a story I hope to expand upon one day. Until then, I’ll let Alan take it.


You ever wonder what it’s like to befriend a good-but-not-great NBA player, to drift along in the wake of his semi-celebrity, to be, in a way, his very own Mars Blackmon? For Brian and Justin, at least, it was pleasantly, irresistibly, even delightfully banal. It was Funyuns and dinner in Tupperware and sleepovers, and it was playing Xbox as Ricky Davis with the real Ricky Davis just a few feet away. It was weird, in part because it was all so normal

What does it mean to be critically acclaimed?

A year ago, I got word from Candlewick that MWD received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews , which I was told was a big deal. Honestly, I had no idea what Kirkus was, or that they have a history of being prickly and tough to hand out starred reviews. This isn’t my day job.

Nevertheless, I was pretty pumped about that review because it was the first official review we received. Of course, we received plenty of reviews from Goodreads, mostly good and some absurdly bad (1 goddamn star!). As an aside, what kind of sick bastard do you have to be to give a book 1 star? Seriously, if you hate it that much, STOP READING, put down the book and go outside or something. Sorry, I still get pissed thinking about it.

The truth of the matter is that this review from Kirkus was a huge ego stroke for me. I walked around mouthing the words “critically acclaimed author Brian Johnson.” It was a real high. That high continued for about three months, right until the publishing company told me that they wouldn’t pay for any book tour, that I would have to hire my own publicist, that essentially I was on my own.

I have so many conflicted feelings about the experience. The bigger part of me is grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to have a book that is in libraries all over the world, a book that I truly believe will make an impact. However, the other part of me is pissed off. I’m pissed that this book hasn’t crossed over, despite the fact that we nailed so many issues that have been percolating in 2017.  I’m pissed off that stories of female veterans haven’t been embraced by the broader public, despite the fact that women are serving on the front lines.

I guess I’m also pissed that I let myself believe that being “critically acclaimed” was the culmination of something, rather than just another step in a long journey.

I built this blog to promote MWD but I think that’s over. I’m going to use it from here on in to document my struggle, hone my craft and occasionally discuss the Boston Celtics. I doubt anyone will read this, which is good. I like starting from scratch.

“Burn your idols”


Behind the scenes of MWD: An audio diary

In anticipation of the book release in February, I sat down with my good friend and audio engineer Jacqueline Van Meter for a series of discussions on how we put this book together.

These vignettes, broken down by subject, should provide you with a solid foundation about the process that went into making MWD a reality. I’m going to sticky this to the top of the blog, so you can easily find it.

I hope you enjoy.


Another positive review! This time from Booklist


I’ve never quite known what to think of the above moment from famed actress (and former dog walking client of mine) Sally Field. On one hand, it’s kind of touching and on the other hand, it’s really sad. Then again, with all the positive praise we’re getting for MWD I’m starting to feel a little like Sally.

The latest review is from Booklist, another clearinghouse for literary reviews that help inform bookstores, libraries and other vendors pick which books they’re going to order. I feel really fortunate that now we have three positive reviews from the top 3 publications that cater to this market. Now, all we need is for a million people to buy the book. How hard could it be?

Seriously, I know it will be hard. However, I believe in the power of positive thought. With that said, here is the review in its entirety.


MWD: Hell Is Coming Home.

Johnson, Brian David (Author) and Egleson, Jan (Author) , Milevski, Laila (Illustrator), Stevens, Karl (Illustrator) Feb 2017. 160 p. Candlewick, hardcover,  $24.99. (9780763657062). 741.5.


After a tour serving in Iraq, specialist Elizabeth Mastrangelo finds it difficult to transition back into civilian life. Haunted by flashbacks, Liz only finds comfort working with a troubled dog named Brutus at an animal shelter, hoping to save him from being euthanized. This covers a lot of subject matter, from rape in the military to the treatment of our veterans at home, but at times it takes on so much the core of the narrative gets lost, and it ends up reading like a piece of journalism rather than narrative fiction. Still, it does a good job documenting the struggles of coping with PTSD, and the female perspective of the book is a welcome change of pace. Stevens and Milevski’s sketchy artwork, with heavy black ink and shading, is naturalistic, though sometimes distractingly stiff. Additionally, while this is published as YA, the lack of teen characters might limit teen appeal. In the hands of the right audience, however, this could powerfully hit home. — Peter Blenski


As a journalist I’m going to take the whole “reading like a piece of journalism” as a compliment. More to come!



More great reviews for MWD!

My first writing gig was for an indie rock publication called Lollipop Magazine, which publishers-weeklycovered the alternative scene in Boston in the 90’s.

My brother, Eric, an artist and video game enthusiast, was doing work for the magazine so he hooked my up with the editor, who promptly gave me some video games to review. Being an aspiring writer, I needed any published clips I could get,  so I eagerly took the gig, even though I have zero interest in video games and my computer at the time could barely handle the load of these games I was given to review. It tuns out that reviewing video games can be pretty taxing if you, you know, can’t actually get the games to work.

However, I also wasn’t about to give back the gig, or the $30 per article fee I was promised. So, I soldiered on, determined to complete my first assignment and turned in three reviews on games that I NEVER PLAYED. Years later, this quaint origin story scares me a little bit, as I have to rely on the honesty and ethics of book reviewers to actually read my book and, hopefully, give it a good a constructive review.

I’m thrilled to say that karma hasn’t kicked my ass on this, as recently we received word that Publishers Weekly, the gold standard of reviewers, had given MWD a glowing review.

This is good news my reader(s), positive reviews both revive the soul and help lend credibility to the endeavor. And, as my former professor and best selling author, Mitch Zuckoff tells me, the first rule of reviews is that “only the raves are right.”

You can find the review here.

And, to anyone I unintentionally misled into buying a CD Rom version of Extreme Rodeo in 1999, I’m so sorry.

MWD earns *Starred* review from Kirkus



I just got word back from Candlewick Press that MWD has received a “starred review” from Kirkus Reviews (applause sign). I was thrilled to read the positive review and after some research realized that this is kind of a big deal. I’m not sure if this means MWD will be universally loved but it’s definitely not going to be universally panned, so break out the champagne and let’s celebrate. I’ve copied my favorite pull quote below my dear reader(s).

“A gritty, hard-hitting, and honest portrayal of one young woman’s difficult journey to putting the pieces of her life back together after serving in the Iraq War… A nuanced and skillfully composed snapshot of one woman’s postwar struggle to live. (Graphic novel. 14 & up)”

Hey, that sounds like a pretty good book, eh? Click here for the full review.

So, more to come, I hope. Until then, I’m going to bask in this small victory.