When he woke this morning, the sun was shining in his face. He cracked an eye and realized, ‘holy cow, I actually got some rest.’ It was a rarity for him. Sleep had not really been a friend of his. She liked to tease him, tell him she was ready for him to come to bed, big boy. Then when he did, she would leave.

This frustrated the guy—let’s just call him J. for now.

So, he would stay awake, often staring into the darkness, wondering if he could count how many times the shadows seemed to shift in the room.

At any rate, when he woke up late for a change, his head wasn’t in its usual state of fogginess. No, it was somewhat clear, not quite like a bright, sunshiney day clear, but more like a glass at a restaurant. It may be clean, but there are still specks on it.

As he lay in bed, still not quite ready to get up—he was already late in doing so, at least his mind told him as much—he pondered. You see, J. is somewhat of a writer. He likes to tell stories and he likes for people to hear/read those stories. But, lately, those stories haven’t been getting read. Probably because he hadn’t been submitting much, and those places he did submit to weren’t accepting much of his work. Yeah, they were saying, ‘great story,’ and ‘we really liked this piece,’ but in the end, many of them were still rejecting the work.

Bummer.

The problem for J. is it wore on his confidence, and he began to lose the one important thing all writers need: a desire to write.

Then came the thought he had been having for a while. Why write? Why do I even want to try anymore?

But wait, another thought came to him. It made more sense than giving up. It made a lot of sense indeed.

‘Why don’t I just start over?’

The previous night he had updated his publishing credits on his blog and realized they had dwindled in recent years. Again, not submitting a lot doesn’t help with that. But, maybe, just maybe, he needed to send some work to a few different places than he had been. Why not try and get his name back out there like he used to?

No, he’s not a big fan of For the Love markets, but if some of them took reprints, he could see submitting to them again. But what about some of the other markets that don’t offer pro rates? Pay is pay, isn’t it?

Yes, he liked that idea. It wouldn’t pay as well, and some wouldn’t pay much at all, but an acceptance and some money and exposure would do his psyche some good. Don’t you think?

‘But am I settling?’ he wondered.

Legit question.

He didn’t believe so. Here is what he told himself:

‘You have to start somewhere. You can still submit to the big dogs, but don’t forget about the smaller ones. Those are the ones that can help you get back into the game.’

Here’s the thing, sometimes you have to step back, and reevaluate the game plan. Sometimes you have to be willing to start small and work your way back up the ladder. It’s like a new job. Most folks start at the bottom and have to work and work and work their way to a promotion. Writing is the same way.

So, here he is, J.—err, A.J.—and he is applying for jobs in the short story world. Hopefully, he’ll get a few callbacks. He may even post what he sends and when and whether or not the stories get accepted, and even the comments.

It’s time to crack some knuckles and get back to work.

~CRACK~

Ouch.

No, he probably shouldn’t crack anything on his body these days.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Good evening, Readers. I hope all is going well for you. I am on the last day of a mini-vacation and have settled in for the evening. The family is away at the beach and it is just myself, the hockey game on the television behind me, and writing.

It has been a quiet day, for sure. I will say this about the quiet and being alone—I am not a creature meant to fly solo. The house feels so empty without Cate and the kids around. I don’t like it.

But being alone is something that everyone has to face from time to time. Including Hank Walker, the lead character in my zombie series, Dredging Up Memories. Hank is a good old boy thrust into a world ruled by the dead, where solitude is just as dangerous of an enemy as the biters.

I started writing this series back in 2010 as an experiment. It was originally titled, My Brothers and I, but when I realized Hank’s brothers don’t have big roles in the story that title no longer fit. However, the story is about memories, and Hank has a lot of them.

I submitted the first chapter to Tales of the Zombie War not longer after I wrote it, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to write anymore on it. I wasn’t too sure I liked it.

They accepted the piece, posted it to the site, but I still wasn’t sold on the idea of continuing the story.

Then came the comments and I was quietly humbled.

‘What I like about this is that, as a plot, it doesn’t get any simpler. However it had a real emotional impact that would come, I believe, from being in an environment where you know the victims and have to deal with them up close and personal. Yup, I like this a lot for that. AJ Brown has done a really good job of conveying the impact of that to the reader.’

And…

‘I really like this story. It is set to a realistic tone that most stories don’t have. Don’t get me wrong I like the kill everyone Rambo stories a lot too but this story was simple and emotional.’

And…

‘Haunting. Human. Bitter sweet. I loved this story! Damn fine job. I gotta say, you painted a fantastic picture of one man’s way to cope with everything, and to be honest, I saw him as myself.’

As a writer, things like those comments and others made on the website over the last few years have pushed me onward with the series. Now, here we are, sixteen chapters in and Hank has developed a little fan base. I’m thinking about turning the series into a novel when it has completed its run on the site. I’ve gone back and rewritten some of the first chapters. I’ve also decided to try and rewrite the ‘where, oh where did the virus come from?’ chapter. I’m not so certain I like it as it stands. However, what I came up with as an alternative is really cool, and I think most folks will like it, especially since it really doesn’t change hardly any of the story that follows.

There are also side stories that I am writing for the novel version. There are certain characters that Hank comes across during his search for his son. Some of them are intriguing and I’d like to know the stories behind them. What better way for me to learn that but to write their stories, and then share them with you?

Like all good things that come to an end, I have finished the series, though I haven’t sent all of them in, yet. The end is near for Dredging Up Memories, but not necessarily for the storyline. Yes, there is more coming in the future, but what that is I am not saying. I don’t think the readers will be disappointed.

If you haven’t read the series and would like to, just follow the link below and you can catch all sixteen chapters and a side story. Enjoy the read, and leave comments on the site, or here, on Type AJ Negative.

Dredging Up Memories

As always, thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…

I’m a little late on this—just a little.

April is Autism Awareness Month. I don’t know the stats on how many people have autism, but in my opinion, one person is one person too many.

I want to do something, and I want you to help me. No, I’m not asking for donations. No, I’m not asking that you put a blue light bulb on your front porch for the month. However, I am going to ask you to do something.

Before I do that, I want to tell you why I’m going to ask this of you.

My wife, Cate, has a very close friend whose oldest son is autistic. He’s such a good kid. Loving and sweet. He doesn’t eat cake, but he will eat Cate’s cupcakes. He has a great smile and he is very much a child’s child.

The boy’s name is Phillip. On April 2nd—Autism Awareness Day—his mother asked people on her Facebook page to post pictures of them wearing blue shirts. She then saved these pictures to show to Phillip. She told him, ‘See how many people love you, Phillip? See how many people support you?’

Phillip loved seeing all the pictures of people supporting him—HIM!

This is what I want you to do: If you will, take a picture of yourself or your family or your friends wearing blue shirts. If some of you would, not only wear a blue shirt, but maybe make a little sign with the words ‘For Phillip’ on it, that would be awesome. After you take those pictures, send them to me at theunderwriter36@gmail.com with your name and what state/country you are from. I will post those pictures here on Type AJ Negative, and then send links to them to Phillip’s mom, who happens to be one of my wife’s best friends.

I know not a lot of folks read this blog, but if you could, spread the word. You don’t have to send them to the blog. Just give them the information and my e-mail address. Let’s take some pictures for Phillip. Let’s show him how much he, and other children with autism, are loved. I’m calling this The Phillip Initiative or TPI. I’d like to do this through the remainder of the month of April, so please, get out your cameras, take your selfies or your group photos and show some love to a terrific child.

I’m going to thank you all in advance, and then again in May.

Taking care of an autistic child is a lot of work, but showing that child how much you support him only takes a few minutes.

Again, thank you for reading Type AJ Negative and sending along your pictures.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Today, The Wife, The Boy, The Girl, and I went to the Columbia Zombie Run at the Columbia River Park. At first we were a little disappointed. There was no one running and there were no zombies chasing. We walked…and walked…and walked. Still no people running from the walking dead. We saw some folks dressed as zombies, but they were just strolling along. This was supposed to be a zombie run. I wanted to see the dead chasing the living, maybe even to the point of the zombies running like they did in Zombieland.

Well, we didn’t really get to see much of that in the three or so hours we were there. However, they did have a zombie makeover booth, and The Girl was zombiefied:

DSC_0472

The Girl made a pretty cool looking zombie. They could have done a little more to make her appear more realistic, but The Boy was having nothing to do with the peeling skin and dripping blood.

While we walked the route, hoping to see the dead roaming about, one of the zombies walked up and gave me a knuckle bump. Yeah, a knuckle bump. Then she and the two Zs they were with posed for a picture:

DSC_0440

This dude scared the crap out of The Boy:

DSC_0464

The best thing about this event was the zombies and the women doing the makeup. They were awesome and extremely nice. They explained all the makeup they were using and even gave The Girl all sorts of options as to how gruesome she wanted to be.

Oh, and there was a little girl there dressed up as a zombie Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. All in all, it was a day right up my alley.

On the way out we passed the vendor booth for Scratch N Spin, a local music/comic shop. There were plenty of Walking Dead books and memorabilia there. I stopped and the lady womanning the booth gave me a free copy of The Walking Dead comic, which was cool in and of itself. But then we started talking about comics and the local music scene. She mentioned Scratch N Spin and did her promotional thing, which is what she was supposed to do, right?

Here’s the thing about these little festival-type events: Sometimes you meet some neat folks, and sometimes those neat folks point you in a direction or offer some advice that makes you say, ‘I never thought of that.’ This lady, her name was Becka, mentioned her brother, Eric, the owner of Scratch N Spin, at one time had a small press. Though he was no longer in the business of publishing books, she said I should talk to him.

So I did.

The Wife and I went to Scratch N Spin and to meet him. Turns out Becka had mentioned us to him before we got there.

Eric and I had a discussion, and he gave me a few ideas, all of them things I can do that won’t break the bank. Things I never thought of. I left the Scratch N Spin with a renewed enthusiasm for this business we call writing. It is something that has been missing for a long, long while.

I’ve made notes tonight, based on the conversation we had. You see, Eric explained to me a fundamental truth: you have to really work your way up in your region before you can work your way up anywhere else. He said it’s like being in a band. Little known bands tend to tour their local bars, pubs, festivals and other venues they can find. They create a circuit, and for the most part, they play within that circuit, developing fans and a following. Then, as the following grows, they expand to other regions, basically building their name, their brand. It’s a lot of work, but consistency is the key. Being consistent in where they play and making sure they play well for the crowds that show up for their concerts/gigs.

Writers, bands, artists want to be recognized, and not just locally. We get stars in our eyes when we think that someone across the world might see, read or hear our work. Sometimes we forget to take care of our own backyard. We want the entire world before building credibility. And there, my friends, is another key to it all: credibility.

Think about your favorite author or band or television/movie star. Why do you like them? They entertained you in some way or other and they became credible in your mind. They earned that credibility and they earned your time, money and love. More than likely, though, it didn’t happen overnight. It took some time, some consistency.

It’s time to earn some credibility.

###

Okay, I’ve said before that I don’t like asking folks to sell my books for me. Still, I’m not going to do that. But if you’ve read one of my two books, would you mind leaving a review on Amazon? It would help me and I would greatly—did I say GREATLY?—appreciate it.

###

Words from my latest WIP:

They pulled onto the exit ramp and Cole brought the car to a stop at the sign. He turned right onto the two-lane road. There wasn’t much to see for about a mile. Just trees and grass and litter on the ground. Then they came to the store. It, like the road they traveled, wasn’t much to see. A white building with a white door. The parking lot was dirt and gravel, and the building itself was butted up against the trees. There was a beat-up gray Bondo bucket of a truck sitting out front.

In the reflection of the glass, Sheila could see Cole smiling. His eyes dazzled the way they used to back when… She shook her head and looked away.

Cole pulled up to the side of the store, bypassing the front. He parked, turned the engine off and started to get out. The door was open and one foot on the ground before he looked back to her. “You coming?”

This time she didn’t let her reflection do the looking. She turned to him, frowned and gave a quick shake of her head. “No.”

Cole swallowed hard, nodded, and then shrugged. He closed the door behind him, not gently, but with a hard slam. Sheila’s shoulders jumped. She watched as he walked away, his head down, not held high like it used to. In that moment, Sheila’s heart cracked a little.

###

I leave you now with the word of the day. It is from my son: Deliciosity. It means delicious. As in, “This pizza is so deliciosity.”

Yes, my son makes up words the way Mike Tyson does.

Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…

My Worst Enemy

Posted: March 3, 2014 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags:

Warning:  Ranting, raving, self-loathing to follow.  This blog will be all over the place.  Guaranteed.

I am my own worst enemy.

I self evaluate way too often.  If something goes wrong somewhere I dwell on it–it doesn’t matter where, really.  Anywhere and on anything is open season and, yes, that hunter has me in its sites.  Something goes wrong at work, I self evaluate.  Something goes wrong at home, I self evaluate.  If writing sucks, I self evaluate.  If I struggle with something, I self evaluate.

I am my own worst enemy, much like a lot of characters I write about.  If you’ve read a few of my stories, you will know that a lot of my characters internalize their thoughts and give voices to those thoughts.  Often those voices poke and prod the characters, trying to get them to do something or to feel a certain way.  It’s the demon in us; the carnal nature we are all born with to turn things around on ourselves if things aren’t going right.  And if we don’t turn them on ourselves, we turn them on those around us.  After all, we want to feel good about ourselves, and if we don’t, then we beat ourselves up and we become miserable.

Hey, do you see that cartoon sign with all the arrows pointing directly at me?  Oh, the bright spot light burns the eyes.

I talk to myself, not unlike the way Golem/Smeagol did in Lord of the Rings:

My conversations aren’t usually that bad, but there is that side of me that gets angry at myself and puts me down.  My other self is a bully.  I want to punch him in the head with a raw fish.

The last six months or so of my life, that voice has been in my ear, whispering, whispering, constantly berating me, constantly telling me things I already know about myself, but saying it in such a tone that it bothers me worse than what it would if that voice wasn’t there.

Yes, I hear voices.  Does that make me crazy?

I can hear the voice, but I don’t want to listen,

Strap me down and tell me I’ll be alright.

I can feel the subliminal need

To be one with the voice and make everything alright.

~Disturbed

(Voices)

To answer my own question, no it doesn’t make me crazy.  It makes me normal in this day and age.

I’m tired–no, check that.  I’m exhausted. Work is exhausting.  Home life is exhausting.  Writing is exhausting.  Health issues are exhausting.  Thinking is exhausting.  Sleeping is exhausting.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…everything is exhausting.  I need a mental and physical time out.  I’m going to my corner and I hope there are no spiders there this time around.

On second thought, the corner hasn’t been dusted in a while so I will continue with my self loathing for a few more minutes before getting the broom and dustpan out.

I am my own worst enemy.  I’ve stated that before.

Nothing comes easy for me.  It takes a while for me to learn things, but when I have it, I have it.  Learning is frustrating.  I want to go back to school, but again, learning is frustrating for me.  Besides, I can’t afford to go to school for writing and I’m not sure where the time would come from to take the courses I want to take anyway.  Sounds like an excuse to me.

Oh, make the time.

When?

You have plenty of time, if you use it wisely.

I do use it wisely.

What about those video games you like to play?

Okay, you got me there, but I’ve cut out most of those recently.

Facebook?

Nope.  I’ve gotten away from that time suck for the most part.

How about watching television?

I don’t do that a lot, though it is March Madness time and there are a lot of great basketball games on.

Stop.  Collaborate and listen…Oh no, I didn’t just go there.

Yeah, yeah you did.

Oh, put me out of my misery now.  Please.

Seriously.  I would like to go back to school.  I could take online courses from Midlands Tech, here in wacky-weathered South Carolina, where one minute it is seventy-five degrees outside and two hours later it’s snowing.  Hmmm…maybe that’s part of the problem.  Maybe I have taken on the characteristics of the state I live in, all up and down and inconsistent.

There are four courses I would like to take, each of them costing a little over a hundred bucks, so really, not all that expensive (says the person with very little money, and who lives from paycheck to paycheck).  All the courses are writing related–something I’ve never taken and never thought I would consider doing so.

Okay, let me be honest with myself for just a minute.  I write stories.  If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you know that.  You also know that I go through spells where I completely doubt myself and my abilities.  I have two books out, one published by a small press, the other one put out by myself.  But let’s be completely honest here:  no one pays attention to my work.  Very few people buy the books and even fewer people leave reviews on them.  It’s easy for me to say no one pays attention when the facts are there to back me up.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe I am a good writer.  I am.  But I don’t write like everyone else–I have no desire to be a cookie cutter writer, thank you, thank you very much.  I like being my own writer, with my own voice.

Writing is the one thing I believe I am good at:

Things I am probably not good at, but I keep trying anyway:

Being a good parent (the toughest job out there, folks).  Just ask my daughter.  She thinks I have no clue what I’m doing.  Maybe she’s right.

Being a good husband.

Learning (did I mention how difficult it is for me to learn?).

Fixing things, you know since nothing is really ever easy for me.

Things I am not good at that I should never try to do:

Work on my car.  Ughhh…

Anything electrical.

Anything mechanical.

Things I’m good at:

Writing.

Well, maybe.  Right?  Bueller?

Hey.  I can make a mean toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

On a totally unrelated note:  I’m really not a people person.  I think I fake it pretty good from time to time.  Other times, not so well.  But I work in a field where being a people person is a must.  And, of course, being a wanna be writer, being a people person is also a must.

Though I don’t love many people (other than my family and a few select friends), I do love my readers–all eight of you.

Here’s the thing, and I’ll wrap this up in a bit, because, really, no one likes to hear anyone complaining about much of anything (though we do like to complain ourselves):  The last few months have sucked.  I’ve had a health issue that could be a big deal.  I’m not writing much.  This blog has not been updated all that much (though I would like to work on a segment titled, Morning Conversations with the Boy, based on the little talks he and I have in the mornings when I take him to school.  Funny stuff, there).  My daughter hates me (yeah, that’s a big one.  Just ask her, she’ll gladly tell you).  Work is no longer fun.  Did I mention I’m not writing much?  Well, along with that comes the confidence I used to have in my writing has tanked.  Oh, and my books aren’t selling at all.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on my house.  I could use a new car–or a new to me car.

Hmmm…seems to me like all I’m doing is bitching and moaning and complaining.  I sound like such a nag.  It’s time put me out to pasture.

Okay, now that I’ve bored you immensely, let me see if I can bring this back around.

So, what am I going to do about all of this?

A couple weeks ago I decided I spend way too much time on the internet, and the computer in general.  I decided that I was going to stop being on Facebook.  I made a post, stating as such and asked folks if they wanted to keep in touch, then drop me their e-mail address and I would say hi from time to time.  Over 1300 people in my Friends list and eight people responded.  That’s more than I expected.  I’ve made a strong effort to ease away from Crackbook.  Since then, I’ve managed to find a little time to work on editing my novel and I’ve only had to go to Detox twice.

Hey, that’s a start, Jack.

What life comes down to is attitude.  I think this Blake Griffin Red Bull commercial is awesome, because of its attitude toward life:

“You have to fall in love with the process of being great.”

If you’re not happy with your life, then you do one of two things.  You either remain unhappy or you do something to change that.  You either keep doing what you’re doing and let life keep sucking, or you try to change or make changes so that life no longer kicks you in the soft spot (and we all know where that is).

Here’s a funny thing:  that voice in my head has been mocking me the entire time I’ve been writing this.

Why are you writing this?  Why would anyone care?  Are you really going to post this on your blog?  Or are you going to just delete it when you are done?  Are you looking for pity?  You’re pathetic, did you know that?

To answer those questions:

Why are you writing this?  Because I damn well want to.

Why would anyone care?  They shouldn’t.  I’m not writing it for everyone else–I’m writing it for me, to get it out of my system, kind of like a purging.  You know, a cleansing?

Are you really going to post this on your blog?  I guess we’ll see when I’m done.

Or are you going to just delete it when you are done?  Look at the answer for the previous question.

Are you looking for pity?  Nope.

You’re pathetic, did you know that?  Sometimes I am, but so what?

It’s all about attitude, folks.  Believe me, I have a lot of it.  But a lot of the time, its not necessarily the right attitude.

I am my own worst enemy.  The question is, will I remain that way?  Or will I take the necessary steps to change that?

Here in South Carolina, we are in the midst of an ice storm.  No, not snow, but ice.  I hope the power stays on.

I haven’t posted much here lately, and not at all so far in 2014.  So, Happy New Year to you all, if you are still out there.

At the tail end of 2013 I was rewriting my novel, Cory’s Way.  All was going well.  I was making significant progress.  Then all was lost.  Most of the rewrites vanished one evening when I went to transfer them from the memory stick I had been using to my computer.  The memory stick had died.

I almost cried.  Seriously.  I had written two completely new chapters and rewritten 16 others.  If you are a writer, you do one of a few things.  A) You drink for several days, drowning your sorrows at the loss of so much work.  B) You start over and say, ‘hey, I can do better than that.’  C) You sit back, get bummed and don’t write anything or work on anything for almost two months.

I went with the door lettered C.

Then I woke one morning after having a dream.  Yes, I had a dream.  It was a vision of the cover of my novel, Her Cure.  I was inspired.  I spent the next week working on the novel, doing a first edit and changing things around, deleting others.  Then I did something I have never done.  I asked for beta readers.  Surprisingly, several people wanted to do it.  I was scared.  Intimidated, even.

Beta copies were sent out.  I’ve heard back from one who has completed their read over and has sent me a hardcopy of her thoughts.  They are VERY GOOD thoughts.  I’m chomping at the bit to get started on the second pass through.  I think I will start that on the 15th of February.  I know the other beta readers are not finished, but that’s okay for now.  I have plenty to go on based on the one’s thoughts.  And I can go back and cross check everything the others say.  I just want to get started.

My fingers are crossed for a spring or early summer release of Her Cure.  Am I going traditional with this?  Probably not, but I honestly don’t know at this point.

In other news I finally submitted two short stories a couple weeks ago.  It is the first time in over six months that I sent work out.

Rejections (or acceptances) forthcoming.

***

The Boy went to turn the light on in The Girl’s room.

The Girl:  Don’t turn my light on.

The Boy:  Why not?  Is your life all dark and gloomy?

***

My Review of Nameless, The Darkness Comes, by Mercedes M. Yardley:

I think I start just about every review with a caveat:  I am not a book reviewer.  But I am a writer, and reviews are important to us, so I try and review all the books I read.

Now that that is out the way, let’s get on with this, shall we?

Being a fan of the small press, I often look for books that interest me based on their book blurbs.  I’m one of those readers who will purchase books based solely on whether I like the blurb or not.  The blurb for this book was short and to the point, and it interested me for two reasons:  One it was short and to the point and two it was by a writer I like.

The blurb:

LUNA MASTERSON SEES DEMONS. She has been dealing with the demonic all her life, so when her brother gets tangled up with a demon named Sparkles, ‘Luna the Lunatic’ rolls in on her motorcycle to save the day. Armed with the ability to harm demons, her scathing sarcasm, and a hefty chip on her shoulder, Luna gathers the most unusual of allies, teaming up with a green-eyed heroin addict and a snarky demon ‘of some import.’ After all, outcasts of a feather should stick together…even until the end

I finished Mercedes M. Yardley’s debut novel, Nameless, The Darkness Comes, the first book in the Bone Angel Trilogy, last night.  Being a fan of Yardley’s short stories, I was excited to see her write a novel, and I was one of those folks who bought it as soon as it was released.  Yeah, I’m cool that way.

If you read the blurb posted above, you learn that this book is about Luna, a young woman cursed with the ability to see demons.  Poor Luna.  Why not Unicorns or fairies? I guess we can’t choose our curses.  But there is so much more to Luna Masterson’s demon eyes.  I’m not going to give the story away here, but I will note there are some very important characters that I think Yardley did a good job bringing to life:  Her brother, Seth, is kind of a wimp (understatement of the year, folks), even when he’s trying to be tough.  Reed Taylor, her love interest, and Mouth, a demon who is not whole-heartedly out to get Luna.  And the Tiptoe Shadow.  Yeah, that’s right, the Tiptoe Shadow.  Cool name, eh?

I enjoyed the way Mouth and the Tiptoe Shadow were developed—she seems to have a knack for creating demons with mmmm personalities.  Yeah, the mmmm is intentional.

Nameless had a few twists and turns in it, a couple of which I didn’t really see coming, which is a good thing.  There were a couple of reveals that Yardley played on and, in the end, they were important to Luna’s character building, though, honestly, I don’t think, as a reader, I realized it until the story was over.  That, too, is a good thing.

Also, Nameless is told by Luna, in the first person, and the voice holds true all the way to the end.  Through all the events Luna’s voice was hers and not someone else’s, whether she was angry or sad or happy (though that was a rare moment or two), Yardley kept Luna’s voice, how she speaks, how she thinks, how she acts and reacts, consistent.  Yes, another very good thing.

Now, this would not be a real review, an honest one, if I didn’t point out a couple things that I thought were off with the book.  There were a few moments where words were omitted or added in places they shouldn’t have been.  These are things I notice in a lot of books these days and they are easy mistakes to make.  Even during the editing phase, these things happen.  I can overlook those, but others can’t.

The story takes place over several months—I didn’t realize this until the end of the book, which is probably just me.  I thought the story took place over a week or two, not months.

**SPOILER ALERT**

No, I’m not going to tell you about the story, but about the one thing I thought was left as a loose end.  Maybe it was intentional, but I don’t think so.  Near the end of the book, Seth is told he needs to be strong, stronger than he has ever been, which really means, just don’t be a wimp, okay, Seth?  However, that never came to be.  I kept expecting him to bust in and save the day, but he didn’t.  For me, and again, this may just be me, I count the writer mentioning something like, ‘dude, you have to be stronger than ever before’ as a promise the writer makes to the reader:  Dear reader, I am mentioning this because I will come back to it later in the story.  There were several little promises made throughout Nameless and all of them, except for this particular one, were kept.

**END SPOILER ALERT**

All in all, Nameless, The Darkness Comes, did not disappoint me.  It had an easy flowing and consistent voice, and the storyline was solid.  The main character (whose name I believe is short for Lunatic) was believable, as were her supporting cast.  There was a resolution to the problem and a set up for book two at the end.  There is violence.  There is anger.  There is love.  There is sadness.  There is desperation.

I look forward to book two of the Bone Angel Trilogy.  For my rating system, I give it four and a half bones out of five.

Pick it up.  Give it a read.  Enjoy.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Darren, the Joey Ramon Look-alike

Posted: December 24, 2013 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I want to put a bullet in his head.

The thought was simple, to the point, and exactly what Dutch wanted.  The world sucked these days, and honestly, the holidays were the worst, Christmas being the big lie of them all.

Dutch walked up the street, passing cars lined along the road, his guitar case slung over his shoulder.  Occasionally he passed a few folks getting out of those cars, their jackets buttoned or zipped all the way to their necks, ski hats on their heads, ear muffs over, well, isn’t that obvious enough?  They carried their fold out stadium chairs and blankets, and a few of them even had bags, thermoses and doughnuts (the last of those supplied by the Krispy Kreme four blocks from where Dutch parked his car).  A couple of times he gave a nod, only to not  get one in return.  Yeah, the world sucked, and Christmas was the epitome of that suckage.

Half a block away, he could see the police car as it made a left turn onto the street he was on.  It circled back and blocked off the road.  He still had time.  Seeing the cop would have made some men run—especially men with the intentions he had—but not Dutch.  They wouldn’t notice him, and if they did, no one would remember him.  He looked like an ordinary middle-aged man holding onto his dreams of being a rock star.  By the time they figured out where the shot came from, he would be long gone and his disguise—a graying beard, green contacts, a ball cap happily proclaiming he loved the local college team—would be burning in a 55 gallon drum down on Hobo Row.  And the gun?  A smile crossed his face.  Some cop was in a heap of trouble when he was finished—never leave your car door unlocked when there’s a rifle on the front seat.  Idiot.

He rounded the corner of The Sewing Shop.  The little store used to be a Kress all those years ago, back when dime stores were as popular as dollar stores are now.  He leaned on an old rail—the same one that had been there when he was a kid and his grandma had worked as a cashier at Kress.  For a brief moment he was taken back to the days when he would sit at the back of the store, at the small diner there, and would eat a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich and drink a root beer float—an honest to God root beer float, with IBC root beer and Pet vanilla ice cream.  Christmas back then wasn’t as commercialized as it is now.  No, there were none of those Black Friday sales, Pre-Black Friday sales, Late Evening Thanksgiving Day sales, and there was no mad rush to get the latest overpriced toy.  People actually enjoyed the season—the season, mind you!—without the whole need for bigger, better, more expensive gifts.  Oh, how he missed those days.

A couple walked by him, clearly having seen better days before marriage and laziness had kicked in and the pounds were packed on.  The woman pulled a red wagon with two kids in it who were old enough to walk on their own two feet.  The man carried everything else—the chairs, blankets and, yes, somehow he managed a box of those doughnuts.  Lagging behind was a teenaged boy, his hair black and covering his eyes, his clothes a little dirty and as black as his hair.  His hands were shoved down deep in their pockets and he walked hunched over as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders.  He could have passed for Joey Ramone when he was a teenager.

“Come on, Darren,” Mom called without looking back.  “We want to get a good seat so your brother and sister can get a lot of candy.”

“Whatever,” Darren said back.

Dutch almost chuckled, but refrained.  No need to give them a memory they could recall later.  It didn’t look like Darren cared too much about the candy or the parade.  He understood how Darren felt.  The holidays and all their suckage, and there he was, guitar case slung over the shoulder, the perfect Ebenezer Scrooge just waiting for the party to get started so he could crash it.

“Don’t ‘whatever’ your mother,” Dad said, whipping around as fast as his portly body would let him while trying not to drop anything.  Especially not the doughnuts, Dutch thought.

Darren stopped.  Though Dutch couldn’t see his eyes, he could feel the disdain the boy had for his family.  Maybe Dutch should do him a favor and just lie in wait for them, maybe put that bullet he had for good old St. Nick in Dad’s brain instead.  He shook his head.  No, that wouldn’t do, that wouldn’t do at all.

He checked his watch.  Half an hour to go.  Then he watched the Happy family, Mom, Dad, Darren and the Siblings Duo.  Darren leaned against a light post near the edge of the street and said very little to anyone.  Mom and Dad set up the chairs, then laid a blanket out in front of them.  The Siblings Duo sat on them and constantly argued back and forth.  A couple off to their left moved their seats down a few feet.  Mom wasted no time, spreading her’s and Dad’s chairs out, taking up space that someone else could have used.

Dutch shook his head, grit his teeth.  They were America—the epitome of what the country had become.  Selfish and arrogant and rude.  No wonder Darren didn’t want to be with them.

A police siren wailed, a loud whoopwhoop that hurt Dutch’s ears.  The parade was starting.  Looks like they were just waiting for the sun to go all the way down.  His thoughts took him back to his childhood days again, when Grandma and Grandpa would take him to the parade, not at night, but during the day.  He remembered how the floats started rumbling down the street around ten in the morning on Saturdays (to him, it was the only Saturday of the year that was worth leaving hot chocolate and cartoons behind for something outside in the cold).  And it had been on a different street—the same one the Krispy Kreme was on now—and he would sit between his grandparents on the edge of the sidewalk.  There were no folding stadium chairs or blankets placed on cold concrete.  There were no doughnuts or hot chocolate from thermoses.  There were certainly no complaints or whining.  Those drew swats on the bottom and a swift exit from the festivities.

The cop drove by, his blue lights like strobes.  Dutch looked away.  The first vehicle crept by, a truck with a Christmas tree in the back, lit up with fake presents beneath it.  The people riding in the truck’s bed with the tree were bundled up and waving, their smiles seemingly frozen to their faces.

Walking on either side and behind the truck were various teenagers and women holding bags of candy.  They ran to both sides of the road, dropping candy into outstretched hands, skipping a few kids here and there—though probably not intentionally—and moving along at a brisk rate to keep up with their float.  Several of the kids who didn’t get candy poked their lips out.  A couple of parents complained loudly that their child was missed, then grumbled some more when the givers ignored them.

He shook his head.  Tis the season of giving and grinching and complaining, as well.

Dutch turned, went back the way he came, careful not to draw attention to himself.  He rounded the backside of the building, scanned the parking lot for any stragglers who may have just arrived.  When he saw none, he made his way along the back until he came to the ladder bolted to the block structure.  The store’s name may have changed, but that old ladder was there when he was a kid. How many times had he shimmied up and hung out on the roof where nobody could see him?  He had no clue, but it was good to see that some things hadn’t changed so much.

He could hear some folks cheering, hear the amped up high voltage music of Trans Siberian Orchestra as another float passed by, probably with a few men being pulled on a trailer and playing air guitar.  That made him smile, if only for a moment.

Again, he looked around, and saw no one.  Dutch climbed, the guitar case shifting from side to side as he did so.  He reached the flat roof and pulled himself all the way up.  So far, so good.  He pulled a pin light from his coat pocket, flicked it on.  Though the flashlight itself was no bigger than a tube of lipstick, the glow of white that it put out stretched several feet in front of him, making it easy to walk along the roof without stumbling over anything that could have been left behind by kids who ventured up there over the years.

At the edge of the front of the building, he peered over a wall that was about two feet in height, plenty enough space that if he needed to duck quickly he could do so.  The tail end of one float that was nothing more than strung lights on the hood and top and bumper of a beat up sedan passed right in front of the Happy family.  A marching band followed—he saw the black and garnet colors lit up by white lights that had been attached to the uniforms and knew it was the band from his alma mater.  He watched as they passed by and then another vehicle took its place, creeping along slowly.  The next car blared a song about white Christmases.  Following behind the car were several people carrying bags—more candy givers.  They looked happy to be passing out the treats to the children, but like the ones from earlier, they couldn’t hit everyone.  It would have been impossible to make sure each kid had a small candy cane or tootsie roll or whatever was being given out.  And, like before, the Happy family was passed over.  This time Mom stood, though it was a struggle to get to her feet.  The stadium seat seemed to exhale in relief once Mom was up.

There was a moment where it looked as if Dad would say something.  He raised a hand as if to say, ‘calm down,’ then dropped it without so much as muttering the first word.

Several others watched as she yelled at one of the candy givers.  The woman— who couldn’t be too far removed from her teens—gave her a shocked, wide-eyed look before hurrying away, crossing the street to the other side.  Darren shook his head—an embarrassment was what his mom was, and probably his dad, as well.

Dutch placed the pin light in his mouth and unsnapped the guitar case.  The rifle fit neatly inside—though barely.  He turned off the pin light and placed it back in his pocket before picking the rifle up.  It was light, and that was a good thing.  Dutch peered through the site, aiming it toward the sky and staring at the stars.  Lowering the gun, he nodded.  The site was accurate—he had tested it the day before out in the country where his own Mom and Dad used to live before they died a couple years previous.  All four cans he placed on fence posts went down, no bullets wasted on misses.

Another float passed, this time carrying the mayor and his wife sitting on the trunk of a convertible.  They waved sporadically, the wife in a heavy fur coat, her hands covered by thick gloves, but still she shivered right along with everyone else.

The Temple Cars came an hour into the parade, nothing more than suped-up go-carts driven by older men who were part of the local Lodge Chapter.  They zoomed in and out, almost hitting each other as they made their figure eights.  When he was a kid, the Temple Cars were his favorite part.  The smell of the exhaust, the way the tires squealed with each turn, the loud motors, the near to death moments as the cars grew dangerously close to the sidewalks.

Darren pushed off the light pole, uncrossed his arms.  The look of disinterest left his face and he flexed his fingers.  From where Dutch sat on the rooftop, it looked like Darren was suddenly nervous.  Darren stepped around Mom.  She swatted at him, no doubt a gesture of ‘move your butt.’  Still, he moved closer to the sidewalk.  He knelt down next to the Siblings Duo.

Dutch watched, a steady wonder growing in his mind.

“What are you about to do?”

Could his loathing for his family be so strong that he would…

“Don’t do it, kid.”

A thought, fleeting as it was, ran across Dutch’s mind.  Here he held a rifle with the intent to put a bullet in the icon of All That is Wrong With Christmas and he was suddenly afraid that some teenager living in a hell wrought by his family was about to push his brother and sister into the oncoming go-carts.  His chest tightened and he swallowed hard as he watched Darren intently.

Then it happened.  Instead of pushing the Siblings Duo into the road, Darren put his arms around their stomachs and pulled them back, just as the first of the Temple Cars reached them.

Dutch released his breath, his chest deflating.

Darren sat down on the concrete behind his siblings, no longer a statue against a light post, no longer a sulking member of society.

The floats passed, and one by one, Darren pointed out things the siblings didn’t seem to know.  Dutch watched as candy givers went by and Darren helped his brother and sister to their feet and stretched their arms out so the candy givers would see them.  The Siblings Duo squealed happily each time a candy cane was placed in their hands.  At one point, the little girl gave Darren one of the peppermint treats, and in a display of true emotion, Darren openly hugged her, his Joey Ramone rebellious persona gone in an instant.

Loud cheers drew his attention from Darren.  People were beginning to stand about a block away.  In the distance was a red fire truck, and sitting on the back was Santa Clause.  He waved his white-gloved hands to the crowds and he was probably smiling broadly beneath the frosty white beard.

Dutch lifted the rifle, looped the strap around one elbow and set the stock in his shoulder.  He sited Santa, drew a bead on the jolly old man’s forehead.

“Come on, fat boy,” he said, and lined up the shot.  Another hundred yards and Santa would be at the intersection, just thirty or so yards from the Happy family.  He let the site trace its way to the perfect spot.

As Santa neared, the people on that block began to stand.  Mom and Dad Happy struggled to get up from their seats, but Darren had little issue at all with picking up the Sibling Duo, one in each arm, and holding them so they could see better.

Dutch took several deep breaths, letting each one out slowly.  His hands began to sweat, and that trigger finger grew itchy.

He glanced back to Darren.  His sister held him around the neck, the brother holding tight to one of his arms.

Back to Santa.  Just a few more yards and it would be all over.  He lined up the shot again as if he were lining up a ten-point buck out in the country.  It was an easy kill.

Another glance back to Darren.  The siblings looked happy.  There was no more Joey Ramone left in the teen—even the punk rocker look seemed to change with the smile that had grown on his face.

Santa was now beyond the shot point.  Sure, he could line it up further down, but he had no desire to.  Dutch lowered the gun and watched as Santa past by the Happy family, as the two little children in the teenagers arms screamed and waved.  And Darren was smiling wide as he looked, not at Santa Clause, but at his siblings.

He set the gun back in the guitar case, then stood and watched as the crowds dispersed.  It was a while before he made his way across the building and down the ladder, the guitar case strapped over one shoulder and across his back.  He shoved his hands into his coat pockets and smiled.  His thoughts came back to Darren and how protective he was of the Sibling Duo and how he picked them both up so they could see Santa Clause better.  The parents might not have been worth the air they breathed, but Darren, the Joey Ramone look alike…in him Dutch saw hope.

He made his usual walk, starting down at the very end of the manmade path.  On most nights, the walk ended for him beneath the bridge that crossed the river at the other end of the Riverwalk.  It was there, beneath that bridge, where Kross would find shelter from rain and sometimes the cold, by crawling up the embankment and bedding down where concrete met dirt at its highest point, and far enough off the path that no one would notice him.  Especially not one of the retired city cops that had the job as security along the six miles or so of the path.

It was dark and cool—but not cold, thankfully.  His light coat wasn’t quite warm enough for a cold night, but he hoped to get a different one, maybe trade in the one he wore for a heavier version at the Salvation Army or even the Goodwill, if they allowed it.  On normal nights he walked that concrete sidewalk alone, occasionally passing another walker, or jogger, usually someone with a dog.  There were bikers and boarders as well, especially in the warmer months when the daylight hours lasted well into the eight o’clock hour.  But this wasn’t a warmer month.  It was definitely a cooler one and the days were shorter, giving way to evening around the same time most folks left their office jobs.

Kross tucked his hands into his pockets, lowered his head and wondered where breakfast would come from in the morning.  Supper had been a stale, hard bagel that he had to wipe something—what, he didn’t know—off of it.  It was chewy, but it was food, and bagels tended to stay on the stomach far longer than most foods he ate these days.  Though it was bland and he would have liked some water to wash it down with, it was better than nothing, for sure.

A jogger passed going in the opposite direction, her head up, a blond ponytail bobbing from side to side.  She seemed oblivious to the homeless man walking the same path.  He gave a shrug at this, but didn’t turn to watch her go, like most men probably would have.  Kross, knowing someone like that would be revolted if he even said, ‘hello,’ saw no reason to look, to follow her with his eyes and dream of something that could never happen.  He was, after all, invisible to those with lives, with clean clothes, three meals a day (with snacks in between or a coffee from Starbucks), and a roof over their heads.  Yeah, he was invisible to everyone, except the police or the owners of restaurants who throw out their leftovers in the dumpsters behind the buildings, only to get mad at him when they catch him digging around for food.

He wound his way along the sidewalk, passing under the occasional light, passing by the occasional EMERGENCY HELP boxes—one press of the button and the retired cop comes a running, or at least in his shiny golf cart with the red lights on—passing by benches to either side, none of which held young couples or even solo folks sitting on.

Kross looked up, stopped in his tracks.  Off in the distance he saw lights, but they were dim and on the ground and there were two rows of them, one on each side of the sidewalk.  He took a few steps forward and heard something he didn’t normally hear, something he hadn’t really heard in a long time, not that he paid much attention to holidays or even the seasons.  To Kross, the seasons were warm, hot, cool, cold, and right then it was cool, not cold, so why the music?  Why the singing?  Why the…Christmas carols?

He walked toward the lights, noticed they were in bags.  Just beyond the bagged lights were people standing around.  Off to the edge of the sidewalk beyond the crowd was a small band of women playing instruments, a violin, banjo, upright base, acoustic guitar, and was that a tambourine?  Yes, yes it was.  He moved closer, stopped about fifteen feet from the gathering of people.  The women singing had a country, bluegrass sound, right out of the backwoods, Kross thought.  As he stood there, they sang The First Noel and Silent Night, and the violinist stood out among them.  Kross couldn’t tell if she were really young and just very good, or really old and just very short, and still very good.  After finishing Silent Night, he clapped, like everyone else, and walked by them.  He glanced at the violinist and still couldn’t tell if she were young or old or maybe somewhere in between.

No one spoke to him, but moved aside as he passed, as if pushed by a force field.

Invisible, he thought, and hunched his shoulders.

A little further down a man stood off to the side of the path, another crowd had gathered around him.  He played a saxophone—Hark the Herald Angel was the tune of choice.  Kross tapped his toe and folded his arms over his chest as he listened.  Again, when the song was done, he made his way through the crowds, unnoticed, or maybe noticed and ignored.  He thought it was a little bit of both.

He reached another group, a Baptist men’s choir.  They sang a song he didn’t know, harmonizing the best they could, but still managing to sound like a group of cats on a hot tin roof.  He went on by, not waiting for their song to end.  Still, no one paid him any attention.  He thought for a moment that the little girl with the glasses and light-up shoes noticed him, but did she really?  Nah, his mind told him.

As he passed the men’s choir and left the crowd behind, he noticed a sign with their name on it.  Beneath their name were the words, SPREADING THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT WITH EVERYONE.

Christmas spirit, he wondered.  Yeah, sure, they have the Christmas spirit. Bah Humbug. 

There were two other bands and in between them stood a hot chocolate stand set up, complete with snacks and apple cider as well.  As he approached the stand hoping for a fresh drink for a change and something to wash down that nasty bagel taste, several people cut in front of him.

As if I weren’t here. 

Kross sighed heavily.  His shoulders slouched further down, his head lowered.   He walked a little slower now, not paying attention to anyone else there, any of those folks who have encroached on his nightly walk to his nightly bed beneath the bridge.  His stomach hurt, maybe from the stale bagel, but quite possibly from the lack of being.  It was Christmas, after all, the season for giving, the season to be jolly, to be happy, to show love to your fellow human…being.

Further down, he came to a group of adults playing hand bells.  Unlike the other times, he stayed in the shadows, just off the path and away from the largest of the crowds so far.  They played beautifully, like a well-tuned machine, not missing a note.  When they finished, the crowd clapped loud.  Several folks headed away, looking for another group to perform for them.

Kross stayed in the shadows.  There were eight of them, seven women, mostly older, and one man, probably the youngest of the group.  There was one woman, near the center of the group, who seemed to be one of the main ringers.  She was younger, her brown hair pulled out of her face with a ribbon, her motions fluid and smooth.  She was smiling, and it never left her face.

The tinkles of the bells held his attention, mesmerized him.  He didn’t know how long he stood there—until the last of the carols had been rung by the hand bellers—but for a short while, he felt the Christmas spirit spill through him.  When the show ended, he stood a while longer in the shadows as the crowd dispersed, some speaking of how good the music was, how amazing the bell ringers were.

Kross ducked his head and stepped beyond the last of the lit up paper bags.  The brief Christmas spirit fled him with the last of the rung bells.  He was well into the darkness along the path when he heard someone calling from behind.

“Excuse me.”  It was a female voice and it was soft and sweet.

He walked on.  Surely, no one was speaking to him.

“Excuse me, sir.”

Kross stopped and looked back.

The young woman from the hand bells stood in front of him.  She was still smiling.  In her hands she held a Styrofoam cup.

“Are you talking to me?” Kross asked, expecting her to recoil from his raspy voice.

“Yes,” she said and held the cup out to him.  “I thought you might like a cup of cocoa.”

“Cocoa?”

“Yes.  Unless you would like some apple cider.”

“No.  No.  Cocoa is fine, thank you.  I haven’t had cocoa in years.”  He took the cup from her and put it to his lips.  He could feel the warmth rising from the cup.  The first sip was hot and burned his tongue, but he didn’t care.  It tasted great and made him think of Christmases as a kid at his Grandma’s house.

“Thank you,” he said and smiled, something he rarely ever did.

“Have a merry Christmas, sir.”

Sir? 

“You too.”

The girl turned and left.  This time he watched her go, but not because he thought there would ever be a chance of anything.  No, he watched her go because he was no longer invisible, at least not to someone.  To someone, he was still a person, still a being…

Kross took another sip of the hot cocoa, relished the warmth.  Tonight maybe the bridge wouldn’t be so cold.  As he walked away he hummed, a song about Christmas…

When Is the Right Time?

Posted: December 5, 2013 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I started a story recently, one that has been difficult to write.  No, I’m not struggling with the plot or the characters or any of that other stuff that can make writing like wading through an ocean full of muddy waves and crocodiles.  It’s the subject matter that is difficult.  Many men won’t understand this, but any woman who as been through a miscarriage will.  And there is my dilemma, the story is—as you have probably guessed by now—about a woman having a miscarriage.

I wrote the first dozen or so pages without having the first clue as to how a woman would deal with, or even the symptoms of a miscarriage.  That, in and of itself, was not a wise idea.  So, I put a call out to my friends on Facebook, asking anyone who was willing to answer questions to contact me.  Please.  Several very helpful women and one gentleman contacted me, willing to offer up any information I needed.  Two of the women, in particular, went into the details of their miscarriages.  What I learned was sad and tragic and so hard on the women, and yes, the man who responded, as well.

I learned so much I didn’t know and I’m glad I asked for the help.  Now, the story that has begged me to write it for a couple weeks now will, not only be written, but will be written accurately.  It will, I have no doubt, be one of the most emotionally charged pieces I have ever written.  As it should.

Everyone I spoke to said that their miscarriages happened years ago.  I found this interesting.  There were no recent accounts of miscarriages discussed.  Does that mean time really does heal all wounds?  No, I don’t think so.  Though time doesn’t heal all wounds, the edge of pain seems to ease up after a while, and that dulling of pain is, in many ways, a type of healing.

This has made me think harder about a subject I have often thought about in the past:  How long should a writer wait before writing about a true to life tragedy?  Let me be a little more forward here:  How soon after an event like 9/11 or Sandy Hook or Hurricane Sandy can a fictional story be written based on the events or similar events?  It was a long while before I read a story based on the events of 9/11.  It’s been a year, and I have no doubts that any fictional piece about shootings in any school (like King’s novella, Rage) would not be received very well right now.

I’ll be honest, when 9/11 happened, I sat up that night handwriting a story titled, Allegiance.  I’ve never typed it, but I remember the way I felt when I wrote it   The news was on and it was late and I was tired, but I couldn’t pull myself away from the scenes of the planes crashing into the building and the towers falling.  I remember one scene from early in the day, where one of the planes had tore through one of the towers and there were a few people standing in the gaping hole the plane had left behind.  I have often wondered if any of those people made it out of the building.  There’s another image from the newspaper of a man hurtling to his death, having jumped from the building instead of facing the possibilities of burning alive or being crushed when the towers fell.

Forget being a writer for a moment.  As a person, I wondered what I would do in that same situation.  Would I have jumped?  Would I have stood at that hole looking out?  Would I have had enough sense to say, ‘we need to get out of here, now’?  What would it have been like to have been in that stairwell, trying to get to the bottom while firemen tried to make their way up?  What were the firemen thinking as they rushed to their deaths?  I’ve always thought about these things, but other than the one story I wrote the night of the attacks, I’ve never written another piece on it.

Sandy Hook happened a year ago.  I can’t begin to imagine the grief those parents and family members felt—still feel, now.  But what was Adam Lanza thinking when he walked into that school and started shooting adults and children alike?  What was going through his head that could make him do this?

What about the Boston Marathon bombing?

What about the Tsunami that hit Asia?  Or the typhoon that recently struck the Philippines?

What about…

How about when?  When is it okay to write a fictional story based on these events or similar ones?  My next question would be why is it not okay to write about them when they happen?  While the events are fresh in your mind, while the pain of it all is still stinging the heart?  Is it insensitive to write about these things when they happen?  Why?

My answer to this is simple:  It is okay to write about them when you’ve had a chance to digest them, when the information is all out there, when you feel your heart strings being tugged in that direction.  In other words, I think it is okay to write about them when you, the writer, feel it is okay for, you, the writer, to write about them.  All I say is be respectful to those folks who endured the tragedy at hand.  If you show respect for the subject, then by all means, write away.  One other thing:  if it is something that can happen, that has happened, then it is a real, tangible thing that you can feel.  If that is the case, then write about it in your own special way.  But be respectful and write nothing disparaging.

I’ve never written about Sandy Hook—I have two children in public schools, and have yet to be able to create a story about something so very close to my own heart.  I may never write about something with that particular storyline.  I’m not certain I can.  The time may never be right for me to write such a story.

I’ve always invited people to comment, to discuss anything on Type AJ Negative.  I do so today, as well.  Tell me, writers, when do you feel it is okay to write about real life tragic events?  Tell me, readers, how long do you wait before picking up something about those real life tragic events?  Why do you feel the way you do?  What do you consider appropriate in addressing these tragedies?

I think it is up to each individual on when the time is right, but you may have a different opinion.  I want to hear it.  But for now, I must go.  I look forward to your thoughts, and until we meet again, my friends…

Broken Shells

Posted: November 30, 2013 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Mazzy wanted to walk on the beach.  I thought she was crazy.  I’ve always thought she was a little nuts, anyway.  It was bitter cold—twenty-six degrees, and it was well after noon, so the temperature wasn’t going to rise much, if any at all.  The sun was as high in the sky as it would go before making its descent back the other way.  The wind blew off the ocean, dropping the temperature another ten or so degrees.  We had tried the beach earlier, but that gust whipped her blond hair about her head.  It cut through my coat and sweater and the t beneath it. It made my face hurt and my nose run and my body oh so cold.  We gave up then after only a few minutes.

Still, Mazzy wanted to walk on the beach.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘I want to look for shells.’

‘Shells?’

‘Yes.  Seashells.’

‘I know what you mean.  Why do you want to look for them now?’

‘We can add them to your collection.’

With that, I donned my long shirt, my sweater and jacket.  She pulled on only a thin coat, not enough to keep the chill from her skin, much less the wind from her bones.

‘You’ll be cold,’ I said.

She regarded me with pale blue eyes that hid a truth in them that I didn’t see.

It didn’t take long to get to the beach.  My hands shoved deep into jean pockets, I still shivered, even with the layers I wore.  Mazzy gave no indication she was cold at all.

There were clouds rolling in, brought by the wind.  A threat of rain hung in the air.

‘We shouldn’t stay out long,’ I said.

‘You can always go back,’ she remarked, knowing I wouldn’t leave her.

For the next hour we picked up shells to add to a collection I had started years before, when I was only a child of six.  I picked up one with frozen fingers, dropped it back to the sand, and plucked it up again.  By then the sun was setting behind the darkened clouds, casting a purple hue in the sky.  I stared at the piece for a moment, before flipping it into the incoming tide.

‘Why do you throw back the broken ones?’ Mazzy asked.  In her hand she held the curved piece of a shell—it was just a piece, and nothing more.

‘It’s broken—it’s not worth anything.’

Again, she regarded me with those pale blue eyes.  They were sadder than I had ever seen.  She held up her piece, turned it over in her hand.  ‘Is that how you see them?  Just broken pieces that have no meaning.  Pieces so insignificant you can’t see the beauty in them?’

‘There is no beauty in broken things.’

She frowned, turned her head down and whispered, ‘A shell is like a life—fragile and easily broken.  Each one should be looked at for what it is: once something beautiful before the world destroyed it, before people destroyed it.’  Then she dropped the broken shell back to the sand, and turned away from me.

I wanted to chase after her, but I couldn’t.  Even if it had been a hot sunny day, my legs would not have moved, and my voice certainly couldn’t be bothered to speak up when I needed it to most.  It was the single biggest mistake of my life.

I looked to the sand.  The piece of shell was there.  I bent, picked it up and had a hard time standing upright, thanks to the cold that had seeped into my bones.  With the dying sun sinking further into the horizon, I caught a glimpse of the purple edge of the shell, the way it turned red, then pink.  It was a beautiful fragment of something much larger.  It was like Mazzy, and in that moment I understood her grief.

Life had been cruel to her, but she kept going, kept putting one foot in front of the other…at least until then.

‘Mazzy,’ I called, but she was gone.  I looked up the beach in the direction she had gone, but didn’t see her.  I saw shoe prints in the sand that led to the water.  You can figure it out from there, right?  I don’t need to go into all the details of how I called her name until I was hoarse, or that I ran into the water up to my knees, even as the tide rolled in harder and harder, pushed along by the bellowing wind, or how her body washed up on the shore three days later, bloated and blue and nipped at by hungry fish, or how I cried until no more tears would come and still my heart lay shattered in millions of tiny pieces.  Or do I?

All that really matters is Mazzy is dead, and I can’t help but believe part of it is my fault.  The words I said echo in my skull, haunting me daily, keeping me awake until the early hours of morning.

There is no beauty in broken things.

I was wrong.

Mazzy was a broken shell, but she was beautiful in her own special way.

I once had a collection of seashells.  They were whole and carefully cleaned and sat in boxes in my closet.  They were beautiful.  They still sit in their boxes, but I haven’t added any to them since Mazzy left.  Now I walk the beach in search of the beauty of broken shells…