13106731_10209260504770741_700376366_o-2.jpgSometimes I get so busy doing other things and writing other things that I often forget that I need to focus on things that are happening right now or have already happened. Like my newest book, Dredging Up Memories.

Let’s talk about this book for a second. Dredging Up Memories is the story of Hank Walker and his downward spiral into depression during the zombie apocalypse.

Zombie apocalypse? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. Before you go and judge a book by its zombies, let me put a few fears to rest:

  • The zombie apocalypse thing has been done to death! Yes, it has, but this isn’t the typical zombie story. The dead don’t play the biggest role in this book. A stuffed animal does.
  • There is no hope in zombie stories. Well, you might be right there, but how do you know if you don’t read the book?
  • Zombie stories are all about zombies rending people from limb to limb. Yes, most are, but not Dredging Up Memories.
  • There is nothing new you can do with the overdone genre. I disagree. I believe Dredging Up Memories is original. Again, the main theme is Hank Walker’s descent into depression, not the gnashing of teeth.
  • Brains. Okay, I have to bark at this for a second. Have you ever seen a zombie in any movie actually try to get to a person’s brain? No. You see them tearing into their stomachs and faces and arms and legs and necks, but you never see them actually going for brains. Besides, how would they get to it?

Here’s the thing about Dredging Up Memories: it’s human. It’s real. It has a certain mood to it that is not like other zombie stories. It doesn’t focus solely on the swarming dead and their insatiable hunger for flesh.

It is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air from all of the action only, blood and gore zombie stories that are all pretty much the same with the exception of location and character names. It is different.

If you don’t mind I would love to share a couple of reviews with you.

The first one:

Honestly, I don’t like reading zombie books.  This book however, was SO much more than your typical “zombies attack” story. This book was about the main character, Hank Walker, and his journey to survive.  It’s not just about a bunch of zombies eating people. This story is well written, with just the right amount of detail.  The story has emotions, in the characters and emotions that you yourself will feel.  I also like that there are actual towns mentioned in the book that are familiar to residents of South Carolina.  It’s easy to feel like you are there, in the town with Hank.  For me, Dredging Up Memories was a book that once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.  I just had to know what was going to happen next.  For me, I despise reading a book all the way through just to finish with a terrible ending.  I know books don’t always have the ending that we want, but it still needs to finish well.  This book I’m happy to say has a complete ending.  I won’t spoil it for you and say it was happy or sad, just complete and well finished, and I’m happy with that.  I like that this story can be a stand alone book, but I’m excited that A.J. is planning to continue Hank Walkers journey.  I definitely look forward to reading more works by the incredible author A.J. Brown.

The second one:

This book is an immersive experience. There is plenty of action, but it really puts you into the mind of a survivor. It goes heavily into the headspace and emotions of navigating a world decimated by monsters.

Those are just two of the reviews that have been written for Dredging Up Memories.

The World Smelled CleanHere is something else: Humphrey.

Who is Humphrey? Well, he is a teddy bear dressed in a bunny pajama outfit. Yes, he is a stuffed toy, but he plays a huge part in this story. How can you not want to find out how a stuffed bear becomes a central figure in a zombie apocalypse story?

So, are you interested in reading it yet? I hope so. I believe you will not be disappointed.

Come on. You know you want it. Go get Dredging Up Memories here.

And until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

C Is For Competition

Posted: May 17, 2016 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter C as in C is for Competition.

I’m all for competition. I am very competitive, to say the least. I hate losing at anything. You won’t see me let anyone win at something—if I lose, then my opponent beat me. It wasn’t given to him or her. They won. That is important for people to understand. I am not going to let you win.

Having said that, I want you to understand something: if you are a writer, you are not my competition. Let me repeat it just in case you missed it: If you are a writer, you are NOT my competition. If you think I am your competition, then just know your opponent isn’t playing.

Let me explain as briefly as I can: The reader pool is dwindling every day. I actually had someone come to the library where a convention was taking place and say, “I don’t read much.” Seriously? At an author meet and greet. Okay, that is the first problem writers face. The second one is that if a reader doesn’t read in your genre, then that pool shrinks even more. A lot of times this makes writers a little antsy. Why? It’s hard to get readers in a world where there are fewer and fewer of them.

Now, for the third problem: I have noticed over the last few years that some writers view other writers as their competition. It’s as if they say, “If that guy or gal has a nice following, what can I do to get that same following, and if I can’t get that following, how can I take some of it?” They see the dwindling reader pool and think I need to get every one of the readers and no one else can have any. And if they can’t get the reader? Well, they start playing mean.

I’ve seen writers become friends with other writers and then stab them in the back to get ahead, or use a well placed and intentionally misleading sentence on social media and then leave it for everyone else to get outraged over. Then come the flame wars where arguments escalate to personal attacks and downright childish behavior. I’ve seen writers get in good with groups, get what they need or want from them and then disappear from the group. I’ve seen people outright steal from others; their ideas, their titles, their actual words (and those folks, above all else, should be ashamed of themselves). I’ve seen memes directly attacking authors by name (and a good many of those memes are vile in their content).

The mindset is if I can make it look like I am the victim, then the readers will like me and not them. Or worse, if I can make it look like I am the victim, then the other writers will side with me and we can shame him or her out of the business. The less writers there are the better chance I have of getting more readers. That is a bad way to look at things.

It’s also called playing dirty. For a lack of a better term, it’s cheating. But sometimes you just need to cheat, right? Wrong. I’ve always found more satisfaction in doing things the right way, than by cheating your way into something. I have quit teams in sports over their willingness to cheat. I’m a firm believer in if you have to cheat to win, then you were never good enough to compete to start with.

Listen to me. I am not competing for anything in this business. I’m not competing with or against other writers. Period. I’m not competing for readers or for publishers. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus or try to screw anyone over. To me, it is not worth it. Like I said, I am competitive, but if I have to do something wrong to someone to get ahead, I would rather not get ahead. I’m also not going to glad hand people to get ahead. I want publishers to want my work because my work stands on its own, not because they are friends with me. With that said, I’m not in a competition with you. I will let my writing speak for itself.

I want readers. You do, as well. Why compete against each other? Instead, why not help each other? Why not share each other’s work on social media and with friends? Why not get to know the writers you are trying to compete against? You might be surprised; you might actually like your ‘competition.’

The bottom line is we all want the same thing: readers. Here’s something else you need to understand: readers can enjoy more than one person’s work. It’s true. A reader can like your work and mine. And guess what? If your work is better than mine, then the reader may like your work more, and that’s not about competition. That is about writing a good story. So why not let your work and your ethics speak for themselves instead of trying to one up or cheat someone who probably doesn’t know they are competing with you?

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Today, we talk about Big Time, as in B is for Big Time.

If you know me at all, then you know I am a huge fan of a local band here in Columbia called, Prettier Than Matt. Over the last year or so, my wife and I have seen them perform over two dozen times. Recently, they released a new CD titled, Better Left Said. It’s great. You should check it out. But PTM isn’t what this piece is about.

Stick with me for a minute because something Jeff Pitts (of PTM) said in an interview made me stop, rewind it back and say, ‘can you repeat that,’ to which he did because I had rewound it. The statement was in regards to the first single off the new album. Here it is:

“I think if you are going to push a single properly, even if you are not necessarily a big band, you need to treat yourself like you are a big band.”

For the sake of this, let me rewind this back so you can read it again:

“I think if you are going to push a single properly, even if you are not necessarily a big band, you need to treat yourself like you are a big band.”

After listening to that statement a few times I sat back and stared out into Nothingville for a while. Essentially, he was saying, you have to act like you belong with the big boys and girls out there. You have to take yourself seriously enough to say, ‘I’m going to do this right and it’s going to be amazing.’ You can’t look at yourself as the low man or woman on the totem pole. You have to believe that you are Big Time, even if you only play to three people on the side of the road one day.

Profound.

I contacted Jeff to see if I could use the statement and change it around to fit my needs a little. Being the total awesomeness that he is, he said sure, go ahead. That lead to an a-ha moment for me. Here it is:

“I think if you are going to push a book properly, even if you are not necessarily a big named author, you need to treat yourself like you are a big named author.”

Mic drop. Walk away. There’s nothing else to see here; nothing else to say…

Wait. Let pick the mic back up. We’re not done yet.

As a writer, I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been saying, here I am and hoping people will notice me. That’s the wrong mindset. The right mindset is saying, here I am and expecting people to notice me. If a person approaches an endeavor with the attitude of I’ll give it a go and if it doesn’t work, oh well, then most of the time it’s not going to work. Oh well.

No. No. No. No. NO. NO. NO! NO! NO!!!!!!!

NO!

Listen. If you want to get anywhere in this business you need confidence in yourself. You need to say: ‘Self, I am Big Time.’ Even if you aren’t, tell yourself you are. Believe you are. Strive to become what you want to be by having the confidence to believe in yourself. I tell people all the time, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. People follow others who exude confidence, even if their confidence is made up and only in their heads.

But, really, this isn’t about following leaders. It’s about following dreams, and if you are going to do that, then you need to believe you can accomplish that dream. Treating yourself like you are  Big Time can go along way to realizing that dream.

But what is Big Time? Well, if you are a writer, it is being able to make a good living off of your words. It is name recognition. It’s having someone say, ‘aren’t you the guy who wrote the book?’ And then it is you being able to say, ‘Yes, I am that guy.’ You’re not going to get to that point by just hoping things will happen. You have to make them happen, which means you have to work.

If you know me, then you know I don’t care much for lazy people. Lazy people don’t generally make it in this business because, simply put: this business is a lot of work. Making it happen requires doing more than just talking about it. It is doing it. It is managing your time wisely and getting the most out of it.

Big Time takes effort, but it also takes desire and passion. Have you ever noticed folks who are passionate about something generally go all in? When you are passionate about something you go full tilt, guns blazing, and you throw everything you have into it. Passion will drive you to do a lot of things you didn’t think was possible. Like, write a story, then edit it, then re-edit it and then re-re-edit it before researching a market for it. Then submit it and wait (be patient, this process takes a while) and then hopefully get picked up. Then there are the edits the publisher does and the marketing and more marketing and even more marketing. It’s not easy, but if you want to be Big Time then you are going to have to go all in. All or nothing, Baby, and that is the bottom line.

If you want to be Big Time then do things that make you feel Big Time. And don’t be a wall flower. This is your work. Sell it. Sell you. Make people want to buy your books. Put the time in to make them good, but also put the time in to promote them. Develop a strategy and go out and put that strategy in motion. You are the biggest supporter of you. Remember that. If you aren’t supporting your cause, then no one else will.

Here’s something else to remember: be yourself, be genuine. Don’t be like everyone else. Don’t be like your idols. Don’t be a cookie cutter writer. Instead, break the mold and do things your way. Literally, think outside of the box. You have to set yourself apart from everyone else. Write differently. Market differently. Be different. How do you do all of that? That’s not for me to say. Everyone has to figure it out on their own and in their own timing. However you do it, just do it. Most importantly, do it right. Don’t rush things just because you want to get something published–it is better to have one very good work out than ten subpar works. Quality is always more important than quality. Do it right from beginning to end.

You’ve heard this term before, but if you want to be Big Time, you really do have to go big or go home. For me, well, I’m all in and I’m going big. Why? Because Big Time is calling me.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A couple of weeks ago I got to sit down with one of the editors for Stitched Smile Publications. Her name is Donelle Pardee Whiting. She’s smart and witty and funny. She’s also a really good editor and has just recently gotten back into writing fiction. We sat down, as always, at a computer screen and chatted. I had my coffee and a comfortable seat on the couch. I’m not sure where she was sitting. What I am sure about is she surprised me with some of her answers.

AJ: Donelle, tell me a little bit about you.

DPW: Oh you would start with the question I hate the most. Well, let’s see. I am married with one son and three (soon to be four) grandkids.

I love to read, but I go in cycles. I don’t stick to one genre. I read horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, suspense, mystery. I guess it would have been easier to say everything except straight up romance.

I like to spend time outside. Skiing, camping, hiking, sitting at the beach. Wherever my mood takes me. I absolutely love being out on the Harley with my husband.

And I enjoy traveling. I have been blessed with a mom who likes to take me with her on trips.

AJ: Hold the phone: Harley? I would have never guessed that. Tell me more about how you got into that.

DPW:  I didn’t always love Harleys. But I did like motorcycles. In college I had a few friends who rode. When we were dating, my husband had a Kawasaki, but he always wanted a Harley. So, through his eyes (I let him keep those) I started to see the appeal. They’re growly and tough. And if treated right, they last a long time. There is a long history behind them. Although my husband is more knowledgeable about that than I am.

Strigoi COverAJ: If you had to choose between a Kawasaki or a Harley, I’m guessing you would go with the Harley?

DPW: While the only truly important thing to me is my husband is the one in the “driver’s seat,” I would definitely choose to have the Harley. A few years back I took a class to get my motorcycle license. Now I have to save my pennies so I can get one of my own.

I love to ride on the back, but unfortunately, I only get to ride when my husband is able. I won’t take his out. That’s his baby. I didn’t even want my name on the registration when he bought it six years ago.

Still don’t.

I almost forgot. We had a Suzuki Katana before the Harley. I still prefer the Harley.

AJ:  Most folks I know love their Harleys. Let’s step back a minute and talk about your reading preferences. Anything except romance?

DWP: Right. I have nothing against people who like a good romance. I have, in the past, read a few. When I was younger…by several years . And occasionally, in the past I have read works by Nora Roberts, but I prefer her books under the name J.D. Robb. I have nothing against romance, I just don’t need to be romanced. It’s nice when there is a spontaneous gesture, but I don’t expect it, so to me getting lost in a straight up romance novel is akin to getting lost in what a person feels is missing from their life. I could be wrong, but that is what it feels like to me. Plus, a lot of those books are formulaic and predictable. I don’t even really enjoy romance movies. I will watch some rom-com films, but I have to really like the actors. I prefer movies that are in line with my reading tastes.

I think I just figured out something else. I don’t like meek, subservient, female characters. I am not saying the character has to be Xena, the Warrior Princess. She can have weaknesses, or a softness to her, but I don’t like when a female character is portrayed as needing a man to rescue her or to make her feel like her life has meaning. I like that I can count on my husband to be there for me, and to help me. I don’t need for him to, but I like that he is there. Especially, those rare times when there is something I can’t do like fix my car.

AJ: You hit on something very deep here. Getting lost in a straight up romance novel is akin to getting lost in what a person feels is missing from their life. I’ve said something similar to this when referencing erotica and romance and have been blasted for it. Since reading is essentially losing yourself in a book or story, do you find that sometimes people really do read certain types of books to fulfill something missing in their lives?

DWP: Oh boy. I opened the door, so time to step through. I get lost in a good story. And I am perfectly okay with getting lost in a story. But, is it always a matter of it being a case of something missing in real life? It can be, and it can’t be.

Let me explain where I am going.

I love reading fantasy stories. A high school friend introduced me to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and I loved them. It opened a whole new world of reading material for me. Until then I read the typical girl young adult fare. But, those books, and starting to read my mom’s Stephen King books, really grabbed me. I learned I didn’t have to lock myself in to one writing style, one genre, or even one author. It wasn’t just the books either. My dad was a huge sci-fi fan. He and I would stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Tales From the Darkside together. He introduced me to Doctor Who and Star Trek and Star Wars. Getting lost in a good Doctor Who episode doesn’t mean I feel like traveling through time and space is missing from my life. Would it be fun if the Doctor was real and came to sweep me into an adventure? You bet.

But, romance to me is different. It is similar to the soap operas that began airing in the…what, 60s? In my opinion, they target lonely, dissatisfied women. There is nothing wrong with reading them. They are not my style. The problem becomes when they become a substitute for what is really out there waiting. Very much like video games. It becomes all encompassing. There is a difference between losing oneself in a good book for a bit, and getting completely lost and missing what life has to offer.

AJ: Wow. That is deep, Donelle. I get what you mean completely. I have heard a lot of women mention before that they love their romance novels because of the fantasy feel to it. It’s not always bad to fantasize, but to get caught up in that fantasy and not live is another thing all together.

Where do we go after that answer? What is your favorite style to read?

DWP: Now that is tough.

I mentioned I loved The Hobbit and LOTR, and I have read the Game of Thrones books. And while I love Tolkein’s work and like Game of Thrones, they are a bit ploddy – I know, not a word – in spots. I do enjoy a descriptive, easy going style, I guess. Honestly, I never really thought about it much. But thinking about it now, I really do enjoy a more conversational style. As if I were sitting with the author in a coffee shop and he/she is telling me a story. Just me. It draws you in. I do not really enjoy lengthy, preachy styles. I have a hard time with non-fiction because there usually is no lightness to it. Working on Strigoi: The First Family with Michael Freeman was interesting because there was the historical element to it. I love history, and I did not want to lose that. I feel like I am rambling, but you asked. I guess I don’t really have a favorite. The style has to fit the story. Some stories are meant to be told in a light-hearted way, or a conversational way, or a more straight forward manner. What is important to me is it is done well.

AJ: Personally, I love the conversational style. Speaking of Strigoi, tell me about that.

Strychnine COverDPW: Strigoi is a re-imagining of the Dracula origin mythos. It is written in a historical fiction style. There is a historical background with fictional elements weaved in, similar to the way Hollywood presents their “based on a true story” films. Some examples would be Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and 47 Ronin (my favorite). We know from history those three events happened. But did they happen exactly that way? Were all those characters really there? Same with Strigoi. We know Vlad Dracula’s lineage, and we know what happened to his family. We also know the Bram Stoker version. So, Michael and I *tweaked* the myth, although he did all the, as I say, heavy lifting.

AJ: You came to be co-author of this book, correct?

DPW:  Correct.

AJ: How did that happen?

DPW: There were actually two books I eventually co-authored with Michael. The other is Strychine, a werewolf story. Anyway, after joining Stitched Smile Publications as an editor – shout out to David Youngquist, a freelance editing client, who put me in touch with Jackie Chin of Zombiepalooza Radio fame who put me in touch with SSP’s CEO Lisa Vasquez – Michael’s two books were given to me for editing. Unfortunately, both books required a lot of reworking through no fault of his. I mean, you’ve seen his writing.

It is my understanding Strychnine was slated for a film, but whoever was going to do the film wanted to make too many changes, so Michael pulled it and submitted it to Lisa. Strigoi was submitted for re-release under Stitched. The previous editor, in my opinion, dropped the ball. Michael said he trusted me to be thorough. After some discussion, he decided we should team up and I should go ahead and do the corrections and whatever rewrites I thought were needed. He put a lot of trust in me. I have to admit, it felt good. I mean, he is extremely talented in both writing and with his film work, and I was the new kid to the party. We agreed to continue a writing partnership. There are three more screenplays he wrote that I will be converting to book form. I enjoy working with him. However, I am not giving up on the editing. That is what got me where I am now. And, I have some other projects, as well.

AJ: So, then you guys pretty much hit it off so well the collaboration works. It is hard to find a good writing partner these days.

How has the editing phase of your job with SSP gone?

DPW: Busy. But also very rewarding. I am enjoying myself immensely. I love what I do, and the people I am getting to know are fantastic. It’s like everything I have done before has led to this. This is what I am meant to do.

AJ: Why do you say that? Why do you say this is what you are meant to do? I always find it intriguing when someone says that.

DPW: Because even in school as a kid, I would help classmates with their papers. Plus, when I was a kid I would write stories using characters from movies or shows I saw. And I have never given up on my dream to be a published author. Put it aside for a bit but never lost it.

AJ: So, then you have always been the helpful type?

DPW: When I can, yes. There are times I have to say no. But, if it is in my capabilities and when I can I will.

AJ: So, let’s turn back to Strigoi and Strychnine. Both books were released at the same time. Why did you and Michael go with a dual release?

DPW: As far as I know it was a publisher decision. To be honest, I never asked.

AJ: Okay, how about a break from the seriousness? Give me one word answers for the following questions:

Vampire or Werewolf?

DPW: Werewolf

AJ: Beer or wine?

DPW: Wine.

AJ: Are you a fan of Darth Vader?

DPW: No.

AJ: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

DPW:
That’s tough. Near a beach, but not too far from the mountains. I know, more than one word.

AJ: That is okay–I knew that one would be.

Favorite food?

DPW: Chocolate

AJ: Okay, now let’s get serious again. Are you working on any solo writing endeavors right now?

DPW: Always. I have a book with dragons that has been back burnered since 1995. I like to say the dragons were too young, so they were maturing in their caves in my head. They are awake now. Plus, I have some short stories in need of being written. Thought of one today while out and about. And I have another co-author project with someone else, but her identity is currently a secret until she chooses to come out of the veil and into the light.

In a way it is still sinking in that I am published as an author and not just as my previous “identity” as a journalist.

AJ: I understand that. I think it should always continue to sink in. That way you keep working hard at it.

DPW: Yep. Finding my rhythm.

AJ: Rythm. That leads us right into my next question. I’m a music guy, so with that said, recently Prince passed away. His manager said this about him: “His music did the talking.” He did some amazing things in the music business. As a writer, what do you wish to accomplish with your writing?

DPW: A very good question. I don’t write for others, so to speak. I write what is in my own head, my own imagination. However, when I share that part of me I hope people join me for the ride and are able to put aside their own worries and such and just live in that moment, to be a part of my world.

AJ: Have you been reading my notes?

DPW: Ahahaha. Nope. We just think alike.

AJ: Okay, let me throw this at you: I am a reader. I have never read anything by you. Sell me on you, not just you the writer, but Donelle, the person as well.

DPW: I am not afraid to admit I am human, I am not perfect. However, I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and take some chances. I love to have fun and I like to share the fun. And I am more than willing to fly my Geek Flag. And, if I can get one person to join every so often I am a success. Especially if we can share a laugh.

AJ: And you know I like to laugh.

DPW: Very much so. I am even willing to laugh at myself. I prefer not taking life too seriously. More fun that way.

AJ: What, if anything, would you do different with your writing or editing?

DPW: When I edit, I go through more than once. I approach it like a treasure hunt. There are corrections to be made and I want to find where they are. With my writing, I am a firm believer in self-editing. I will go over it with a critical eye before saying it is done. And even then, I know it needs another set of eyes because I miss things because I know what it is supposed to say and I auto-correct in my head.

AJ: Are you sure you are not looking at my notes?

DPW: LOL.

AJ: Okay, one or two more questions and I will let you go. If you could sit down with any living writer and have a conversation with him or her, who would it be and what would you talk about?

DWP: Stephen King. He has overcome challenges in his life. He never gave up. And he doesn’t let his critics beat him down. He marches to his own music. So, I guess that, in addition to finding his rhythm, his routine. Keeping balance in his life and, well, his dogs. One is Molly the Thing of Evil. The other is the angelic one. Can’t recall its name, though.

AJ: I would have said King as well.

DPW: Great minds.

AJ: I’m sorry–you have slipped a notch if we are thinking alike.

DPW: Nope. Means you have been elevated.

AJ: Hahahaha—nicely done.

DPW: Thankee, sai.

AJ:
Donelle, Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers out there?

DWP: Never stop reading. Never stop dreaming. And, thanks for joining me on the ride. I’ll see you on the next page.

AJ: The next page is a good place to meet.

You can find Donelle on Amazon and her website, Pardee Time.  You can also fine Donelle on Facebook. Show some love for Donelle and leave her some comments.

As always, until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

 

A is for Accessible

Posted: April 29, 2016 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

After doing the post, L is for Lazy, I realized that there are so many more topics I could do with this particular format. I had already figured out at least four others I wanted to tackle. Sitting back and thinking on it, I came to the conclusion that I should have started at the beginning of the alphabet and worked my way down. I didn’t. Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Today I would like the letter A to bring you today’s topic. In other words: A is for Accessible. Let’s look at this for a couple of minutes.

Accessible is defined as easily reached, easily understood, easily, approachable, susceptible, easy for the physically challenged to use and observable from another world. I don’t know where that last one came from, but it’s in there. What we are going to focus on is the approachable aspect of accessible. Sticking with the definitions here, approachable is defined as not aloof and not difficult to talk to or meet with.

One of the easier parts of writing is talking about your work to folks who want to know about it. If you are too shy or too afraid to talk about your work, then this may not be the business for you, because if you start to get somewhere with your writing, folks are going to want to talk about, not just your work, but you as well. They are going to want to get to know you, the person, as well as you, the writer.

It’s inevitable and it can be a good thing…or a bad one.

I love when someone ask me a question about one of my stories or about the writing process or even about me as it pertains to my work. I enjoy telling them about myself and where a story came from. Years ago I couldn’t do that. I thought it was bragging, and that was something I was raised not to do. I have since come to realize it isn’t bragging if you can back it up. Most folks who brag about themselves can’t back it up. When it comes to writing, I am finally at that point where I feel I can finally put my money where my mouth is.

Though I have come to be able to talk about myself, my work and where I am at with it, it wasn’t until last year at the Cayce Festival of the Arts that I became acutely aware that what I say and what I do greatly affects me, the writer, the person, the brand. And yes, you are a brand, like it or not.

What I realized is if I don’t learn how to talk about myself, and do so with confidence, then very few people are going to buy my work. But it’s not just talking about me. It’s cultivating a relationship with the readers. It’s being on social media and interacting with them. It’s shaking hands and smiling for pictures at events. It’s signing books or pamphlets or bookmarks or even a shirt someone is wearing. It is caring about them, and no, that doesn’t mean caring to gain something. It is genuinely caring about your readers. Because here is the thing: if you don’t care, they will know. And if you are fake, they will know that, too. You have to be real, not real fake.

I want people to read my work. I want people to know who I am and to say, ‘hey, that guy is a great writer, and he is so cool, too.’ I want my readers to understand that I am just like them. The only difference is I write some pretty cool words and form them into stories.

If you’re a writer and you don’t talk about yourself or your work, then you aren’t going to go very far. You have to put in the work to get anything out of it. That means making yourself accessible to readers–also known as fans–and giving them a reason to want your work. What sets you apart? Why should I care? Why should I buy something from you? Give me a reason to support you with my money and my time and my word of mouth. The only way to do that is to be accessible.

Are you on social media? Get to know the people on your friends list or the folks that you follow. Do you have a blog? Give the readers something to look forward to. Give them a free short story or a teaser to an upcoming book. Do you have a website? Change the content of it as frequently as you can, no less than once a week. Do things for the readers. It’s hard, but with a bit of work and dedication and honesty, you will find that more readers will seek you out and more folks will want to know you, and hopefully that turns into sales.

On the same token, if you are a jerk or if you respond negatively to a bad review or comment made about you or your work, then that news will spread like wildfire and those same readers you wanted will vanish in a hurry. It is a difficult line to toe because we are human and we have feelings and when someone says something negative about us or our work, then we get defensive. We get mad. We get rude. And then we say or do something that kills our brand. Think I’m kidding? I’ve seen it happen over and over. And it’s not pretty.

Being accessible doesn’t mean letting folks take over all of your time or tell you how to do what you do best. Being accessible is about being able to relate to readers and connecting with them. It’s letting them see a small part of you, the part that helps them make up their mind if they like you or not, and in return will take a chance on your work.

If you are a writer, being accessible is part of the business—a necessary part. With social media being the engine that drives the car, it is easier to be accessible now than ever before. What are you waiting for?

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

 

If you have followed this space for any length of time, then you know I enjoy doing interviews with folks I like. Most of those folks are writers or publishers. Some of them, like Christy Thornbrugh, is neither. However, she is linked to the writing world that I am a part of. You see, back in January, my book A Stitch of Madness was published by Stitched Smile Publications. A couple of weeks later I received a very unique gift in the mail. It was a patch and it is so totally cool.

After receiving the patch, I wanted to get to know Christy a little better. I found out she is a genuinely nice person who truly enjoys helping people. One evening, we sat, she in her world, me in mine, and we chatted.

ASOM PatchEnjoy.

AJ: Christy, let’s start with a little bit about you. Tell me who is Christy Thornbrugh?

CT: She is a Wife and a mother. She is family oriented. A horror and zombie lover. I love to read and watch all horror and zombie movies. On Facebook I am admin of Zombie Book of the Month and the Mike Evans Fan Club.

I enjoy helping others when i can.

AJ: You enjoy helping others where you can? How do you help others?

CT: I volunteer at the school once a week for the teachers. I do what I can to help the author community by sharing and talking and buying books. A lot of my daughters’ friends’ moms cannot sew so I am always helping them with things they need fixed. I just volunteer my time when its needed. I baby sit for a friend of mine in the summer so she does not have to pay someone. She is a single mom who needs that money for her family.

AJ: Those are all great things, things that a lot of folks don’t do for others. Sadly, we live in a time where people are only concerned about themselves, so it is refreshing to see someone offer their time and services to others. If you don’t mind, I would like to focus on one of them.

CT: Yes, sir

AJ: You said “I do what I can to help the author community by sharing and talking and buying books.” It’s pretty important for authors to have folks who will do that. Why is it important for you to do it?

CT: I review as well. I did not realize how hard it was for authors to get people to find and buy their work, and then also leave a review. I really thought reviews were not a big deal, until I became friends with a lot of authors and I started to see how important it is for fans and friends to help them by getting the word out and let them know how important it is, as well as to share and review.

AJ: You are absolutely correct–reviews are crucial, and so is telling others about the books, Word of mouth can go a long way. But you do something that I have never seen before. You also incorporate your sewing into promotional items for these authors, correct?

CT: Yes, it is. I started to make embroidery patches as author swag. I made some patches for a friend of mine that he wanted of his grandpa and all his grandkids’ names. Then I got emailed and asked ‘what do you think you can do to make a patch for my book?’ It’s a blast working with everyone on them and working on ideas to create the best patch we can to represent their book. And the fans have loved it.

Embroidery by Christy LogoAJ: Do you get author input on the patches or do you come up with them on your own and run with it?

CT: I like to get author input on them. There have been some that say ‘I trust you. Let me see what you can do.’ They will say zombie something or another and ‘I work my magic.’ If i get a blank and cannot think of anything I will ask them what a major factor is in their book or what the fans love the most. If I had not read it have them tell me a little on it.

AJ: And you have become quite popular with this talent. People want these. Not just the fans but the authors, too. Am I right?

CT: Yes, sir. It seems in the last few months word of mouth has been doing wonders for me. I had a few others say ‘I have heard all about your awesome patches, tell me more.’ I just love it.

AJ: How does it make you feel to hear all this? I know you said you love it, but how does it really make you feel about your work?

CT: Honestly, I get scared and worried with every order that something is not right or it does not look good and that they will hate it. I think it’s an artist thing. But once they get it and say they love it I feel relieved and great. It’s a good feeling that I am making something people love and it makes them happy, so that makes me happy. I have patches now in the UK, Romania and Sweden. I tease my kids and say your mom is worldwide with her patches.

AJ: Worldwide is a great thing. You also just hit on something that I think every author (or artist, for that matter) struggles through: fear that something will not be right and people will not like it. Tell me, for you, what is that like?

CT: It’s a scary feeling, I guess I see imperfections on everything, but everyone else says they are perfect. I think it’s having people judge you and wondering if your work will be accepted

AJ: It is good to see someone who is not a writer understand that aspect. That is what we go through every single time we put something out for someone to read. It is scary. It really is.

Tell me about your favorite patch you made for an author.

Mark Tufo Patch Image for CT InterviewCT: That is mean. That’s like asking what your favorite book is that you wrote. Seems like I will make one and it will be my new favorite, and not saying to suck up but i truly loved your patch. I will have to go with the one I made for Mark Tufo, as his was the first author patch that I made.

AJ: Now, you make these for publishers as well, right?

CT: Yes. I already have. I made some for Stitched Smile Publications.

AJ: So, this has become kind of like a side business for you, then?

CT: For some reason I still see it as a working hobby. I do it out of my house. I wanted something to help my family so I can stay home with my kids

AJ: A working hobby is a good thing, as long as you continue to enjoy the hobby.

CT: I do enjoy it a lot.

AJ: Since this is a working hobby, do you take orders?

CT: Yes. I take small or big orders. It does not matter to me. As long as it’s something I can do I will. There is a T-shirt shop in our town and I do embroidery for them. Also here in town, friends or people who hear about me will bring things for me to embroidery for them. I have a Facebook page and a Etsy shop.

I get orders from FB friends as well. They want something special on a hat or shirt or their own patch of some kind.

AJ: What is the largest order you have ever had?

CT: The largest order from Facebook was 100 patches. The largest order from a business in town was about 75 hats and 20 shirts

AJ: Wow. With orders that large, it probably takes a while to do. How long does it take you to do one patch and does it go faster after you’ve done a certain patch a few times?

CT: With it just being me both those took 4 or 5 days each. I am lucky to have understanding customers with things like that. Depending on the size and detail in a patch it can take about 30 mins or so to do one. But if the order is more than one I use a larger hoop and my machine can do more than one. Most of the time I can fit 6 patches in one hoop so that takes out the set up time for it.

I set up stabilizer, get the patch material in in the hoop, then stitch it out. Then I add the iron on backing to it and trim and seal (burn) the edges of each patch so they don’t fray or fall apart.

AJ: That is a lot to do (or it seems like a lot).

CT: It does seem like a lot. it’s steps that need to be done. Just like with your writing. You need your editor and betas and I am sure other steps but it just takes time to make each one great.

AJ: How long have you been doing this and what got you into it?

CT: I have been making patches for authors for a couple of years, but I have been embroidering for twelve. I started sewing when I had my first daughter, who is thirteen now. I started making her clothes and things and I wanted to add more detail so got a small cheap machine. And grew from there

AJ: And you have been doing it ever since.

CT: Yes, I have. I’ve been teaching my girls to sew now.

AJ: And do they enjoy it as much as their mom?

CT: No not really. LOL. But they like the fact that they can make something their selves with help. It was funny, though, when my teen had a home economics class, they did a sewing project this year. Everyone asked her questions and how to do things when the teacher was busy, since she knew how to sew already

AJ: Nice. Christy, we’re going to wrap up here soon, but would you mind telling me how and where we can order your work?

CT: Embroidery by Christy Facebook Page

My Etsy page.

Email -tigger15623@hotmail.com

AJ: Outstanding, Christy. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to tell everyone about your working hobby?

CT: I would just like everyone to know that I do my best to make what they want. Each item is made by me. I do my best to keep prices affordable. And that they should feel good when ordering for me as it’s not going to a huge company that needs to pay for their three houses. It helps pay for my kid’s lunches, school supplies, clothes they need and things for them.

AJ: Very nice. A small business with small business needs.

CT: Very true

AJ: Thank you, Christy, for your time. I’m going to let you get back to doing what you love to do.

CT: You are welcome. Thank you for your time and allowing me to share my embroidery.

Y’all, give Christy a shout out, a hello, an order or ten. She’s a classy lady with a big heart.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

This blog is brought to you by the letter L. Rebel LDoes that take you back? If you know the reference then you, sir or ma’am, might be awesome.

Sesame Street was one of my favorite shows when I was growing up. That and The Price Is Right could keep me entertained all morning. If you have seen the show, then you know that many of the skits on it had to do with that letter (or whatever the number of the day was). In this case we’ll make the number of the day 1. Why, because this is the first blog in a series.

Let me go ahead and apologize right now. Some folks might get upset with some of what I am going to say. If so, well…yeah, it is what it is. Here is something that is a truth about writers: we don’t tend to speak our minds completely when writing our blogs or tweeting or Facebooking. Some of us don’t want to offend readers or other writers, and others of us just don’t care who we offend and sitting in front of a monitor or mobile device makes it easy to be who we are not. Then there are those that have that happy medium, in which they can speak the truth in a manner so eloquent that even if it is offensive it doesn’t come across that way. This is a hard place to get to. Those are the ones who can balance out being real and honest, yet not offend people. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

So, let’s get to this.

L is for Lazy. There. It’s out there. Lazy is defined (as an adjective) as unwilling to work or use energy.

Lazy is often used for someone who just won’t do anything, even if it will benefit that person. Here is another truth: a lot of writers fall into this category. I did not say all, and I did not say a majority of writers. I said a lot of writers fall into this category. If you aren’t one of them, then none of this applies to you. However, if you are one of them, maybe you should listen up.

First, let me clarify something. I am not a well-known writer. I have my fans and I have my roadies and I have folks who may or may not like my work. They may be few (or they may be many, I don’t know), but they are loyal. Since I am not a King or a Koontz or a Patterson you may not want to listen to me. You may not think that what I have to say matters since I am not of the ranks of the masters. If that is the case, just go ahead and click the X in the upper right hand corner. I’ll wait.

Now that everyone is done clicking the X, I hope there are some of you still out there willing to hear me out.

So, you are a writer. Great. So, you have a computer hard drive full of stories. Great. So, you want people to read them. Great. Where are you getting the readers from? The reading pool is dwindling, so where are you getting them? More importantly, how are you getting them?

For the sake of argument, let’s say you get a book published by a publisher. In order to get to that stage, you’ve done a little bit of work already. You’ve written a story. Hopefully, you cleaned it up. You researched the market for a publisher. You submitted it. Then you waited (and that is hard to do). Your story got accepted (Yay You!). Edits were done. I hope you approved or disapproved (some, if warranted) them. Then you approved the cover art, right?

Screeeeek

Stop. Before the book was published did you promote it at all? Did your publisher promote it? Did you tell your friends and family? Did you contact the local newspaper and see if they would do a piece on it? Did you post it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and…and…and…all of the other social media platforms you could find? Did you try things like Thunderclap? Did you have an online book release party? Did you generate buzz for the book?

You didn’t? Okay. Well, that’s unfortunate, but hey, you can still salvage your sells.

Your book has been published now. How are you promoting it? One post on social media a week? Well, that’s a start. What about blogging? What about a website? What about Facebook groups and author take overs? What about trying to get on podcasts or have interviews done on local radio shows? How about trying the local paper again? What about the library? Many libraries like local authors. How about book conventions or festivals?

Have you done any of these? If not, you’re killing your book, your publisher and your career.

‘But it’s the publisher’s job.’

Well…yes and no. Yes, the publisher should promote and market your book. That is part of how they do business. They should have a marketing plan that goes beyond Facebook. They should also work with you, the author, on this marketing plan so that it fits both parties’ needs. So, yes, it is the publisher’s job.

It is your job as well. Here is why: it is your book and your book will only be as successful as you make it. First you have to write a good book, have it edited (not by yourself), and get it published. But then the work really begins. Promoting your own work is vital to the success of your book, and in turn, you. If you want to leave it up to the publisher to do all of the marketing, go right ahead. Unless your publisher has some big bucks there is a good chance the publisher can only reach so many.

This is where you come in. This is where you cannot be lazy. You have social media. Use it. Don’t spam people, but use social media to post pictures of the cover, links so people can purchase the book, write blogs, not just for you, but for other writers’ blogs. If you just do one thing a day it will help get your name out there and get the book out there.

You think I’m nuts, don’t you? Well, look at it this way: say you want a job, so you go out and you put in an application at one place and then you wait for that one place to call you and say, ‘hey, you’ve got the job.’ Unless your resume is phenomenal and you are great in that field, chances are you’re going to be waiting around for a long while. You either don’t really want a job or you are very confident in yourself. Most of the time it’s the former of the two.

In order to get a job, you’re not just going to put in one application. You’ll put in several and then you will follow up with the jobs that you applied to. Eventually the people at a place of employment is going to say, ‘hey, this person keeps contacting us, maybe they really do want a job.’ By constantly saying, ‘her I am,’ the employers eventually notice you. If you don’t do that, most of them don’t notice you.

If you don’t market your own books, how do you expect readers to find you? If you don’t say, ‘here I am’ how do you expect people to know you have written a book?

Look at it this way: The readers are your employers. You wanCookie monster Lt to get a job with them as their author of choice. You have to put in the application (that would be the story, and getting it published is the resume). Then you have to let them know you are seriously interested in the job. This requires you to do something besides write. This requires you to not sit on the sidelines while the publisher does all of the marketing. Because here are two truths: 1: Some publishers do not market their writers. It’s counterproductive, but it happens more than we think. 2: If the publisher has ten books out, then that publisher is marketing and promoting ten books. If you do the simple math that would be ten percent of their marketing time and promotions goes to your book. If you market your own work, one hundred percent of your time and promotions can go to your book.

But wait, there is more. Don’t just market your work. Get to know the authors under the publisher’s umbrella. Talk to them. Then, once you know each other, promote their work as well. In return, hopefully, they will promote your work. This not only helps you, but it helps other authors and the publisher. The more you, as the author, promote your own work (and others) the better chance you have of getting further along in this business.

But…but…but…that’s a lot of work!

Well, yeah. And this is where L is for Lazy comes into play. You see, so many writers complain about why they aren’t doing well, why their books aren’t selling. What are the other folks doing that I am not? You know, things like that. If you rely solely on the publisher to market you, then you are not doing your share of the work. The publisher can only do so much. You, the writer, have to take control of your work. If you want it to go somewhere you have to grab the bull by the horns and make it go the way you want it to. That isn’t going to happen without saying, ‘hey, here I am. Come read my work.’

This is not a business for lazy folks. It’s a business for hard working people. The lazy need not apply. If you are lazy and you have the mindset of ‘I’m the author, let the publisher and everyone else promote me,’ then please, stop. You’re just hurting yourself and no one really wants to hear the complaining when things don’t go your way.

One more truth before I go: Do you like when someone waste your time? Do you like when you feel like you could have done something better with the time you lost because of someone else? It’s somewhat infuriating, isn’t it? Well, if someone believes in you enough to publish your book and market it, and you do nothing, then you are wasting their time. You are wasting their efforts. And no one likes their time and efforts to be wasted. No one. Not me. Not you. Not the publisher. Not the readers.

I, personally, do not like lazy people. It’s probably my biggest pet peeve. I can’t stomach it. At all. Part of that is because the lazy folks I know tend to blame everyone else for nothing going right for them, when all they had to do was help themselves and use a little bit of energy and things would have gone in a different way.

L is for Lazy. I beg you, if you are of the mindset that you are a writer and not a marketer, please, for your own sake, change that. If you don’t, you will find yourself wondering, ‘why is no one buying my book?’ And you might even blame someone else for this. It’s like being blind to something important—you just won’t see the truth.

I hope some of you stuck around until the end. And if so, I will say what I always say: until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

 

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Posted: March 23, 2016 by ajbrown in Uncategorized

Here we are, you and I, on this page, me writing, you reading. It’s a good combination if you ask me. We both get what we want, right? I get to write something cool. You get to read something cool. Does that sound good to you? I hope so, because it sure does to me.

Let me make a confession: I didn’t start out enjoying writing fiction. As a matter of fact, I hated it. In school I wrote the bare minimum to get a passing grade. I did enjoy writing songs and jokes and things like that, but fiction…meh.

Let me be even more honest with you. When I began enjoying the act of writing fiction, I did it solely for me. I wasn’t any good at it, though I thought I was. The key word here is thought. I believed, like so many other writers, that I could be the next Stephen King. And why not? He was (and still is) my favorite author, and up to that point I had read everything he had written, and it didn’t seem that difficult, so why couldn’t I be as good, if not better, than he is?

Ummm…because I sucked. That’s why. And, worse than that, I wasn’t really trying to get better. I was just putting words in front of words. Do you want proof of how bad I wrote when I first started? I apologize now for what you are about to read.

[[“How are you doing, other than being pissed at Bryan?” Chris asked.

“I’m okay, I guess . . .“ she started to say.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Bryan questioned as he came around the corner.

“Go screw yourself!” Lindsey exclaimed.

“I’d rather screw you.”

“Enough, Bryan!” Chris intervened.

“Yeah, go ahead and take up for your piece of meat . . .“

“Bryan, I said that’s enough,” Chris said without raising his voice.

“What’s wrong, Chris? Don’t like the way I act toward your whore?” Bryan yelled.

Stepping toward Bryan, Chris grabbed his shirt and put a finger in his face. He got close enough to kiss Bryan if that was what he wanted to do.  Fortunately, that was not his intentions.]]

This was written way back when I first started, nearly 20 years ago. It is amateurish, at best, second grade level, at worst. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It’s from a piece titled, Mirror Mirror and it really, really sucked. But at the time, I wasn’t trying to get published. I was just writing and enjoying it and not getting any better.

Then I was asked, ‘why don’t you try to get published?’

I said, ‘why not? I’m pretty good.’

Delusional. That’s what I was.

Still, I managed to get something published. It took exactly one hundred rejections, but it finally happened. I will tell you this: getting published is like a drug. Once it happens, you want it to happen again and again and again. And it did happen again and again and again, and I really thought I would be rolling in the dough once people knew who I was.

I am the next Stephen King, baby. That was my mindset.

Then reality happened. I subbed a story to a publisher and he responded with a curt letter that said, and I’m paraphrasing here because the sting from it was bad: you should never write another story again.

I was brought down by one rejection letter. Forget all the other ones. They didn’t matter. They were mostly form rejections that didn’t really mean anything to me. However, that one was personal. It was an insult to my abilities. I stewed for quite a while on that one, even ranting and raving to my wife about it.

Do you want some more honesty? I got mad. I still didn’t write for the readers. I wrote to prove that editor wrong. For the next several years I wrote angry, but I still didn’t get any better. That only happened much later when I joined an online writing group. I met some great folks who taught me quite a bit about writing and about patience. I learned.

Though I became a better writer, I still wasn’t all that great. I was lazy. I didn’t want to work to make myself better. I was in a hurry to write crappy story after crappy story. Here is where rubber meets the road: I had a lot of people telling me I was good, and a lot of people publishing my work, so I thought I was good. But I wasn’t. If I was, then those people would have paid me for the work and I would have had the courage to submit more to paying markets. As it stood, I was comfortable in those non-paying markets. They stroked my weak ego. And I wrote, not because I enjoyed it or because of the art of it or even because I wanted to entertain the readers. Nope. I wrote because I wanted my ego stroked. I wanted to feel like I was good at something I truly wasn’t. Believe me I felt good about it for a while.

Then Reality Check #2 happened. Remember, I thought I was good. I thought I was great. I still thought I was the next Stephen King. I just hadn’t been discovered yet. What an idiot. I thought wrong.

I began inquiring about putting out a short story collection. I had a bunch of publications under my belt and I was good. No. I was great. Everyone wanted my work. Are you ready for the sting? I submitted my query to a publishing company I respected. They put out good books and the owner was fairly well known. I enquired about doing a collection with them. The following is the exchange in e-mails that took place after my enquiry:

Are you the A.J. Brown who has stories published in this anthology and that anthology and this anthology? (names of publications withheld on purpose)

My instant thought was, he has heard of me. So I responded. Yes, I am.

I waited.

And waited.

And never heard back from him.

You may say, that’s rude. You may say, maybe his e-mail response got lost in the ether. You may say, maybe he never received your reply to his question. That is well and good, but I am almost certain none of that occurred. What I believe happened is this: he knew who I was, but not for anything good, so when I responded with a proud, yes, I am, he already knew he wasn’t going to work with me. There’s no need for him to respond, after all, I’d get the message after a while, right?

Well, yeah, actually, I did. Though he never responded, I heard him loud and clear. After allowing myself a bit of a pity party, I stopped and looked at everything I had ever done up to that point. Most of it was just okay. Some of it was bad. There were a handful of pieces that were actually good.

That was in 2010.

It was then that I decided to take a hard look at my writing style and voice. Everything I had written up to that point was void of emotion, void of any real character development, void of good dialogue, void of good writing. A lot of what I wrote was the same regurgitated crap that everyone else was putting out. It was then that I made the conscious effort to become a better writer. It was then that I decided I was not going to do what everyone else was doing. It was then that I decided to be my own writer.

It was then that I began to get better. I developed the style and voice I use now. I stopped believing in plot and formulaic writing and said, ‘hey, I’m just going to write and not worry about everyone else.’ I’m going to tell stories I want to hear.

Are you okay for one more truth? I hope so, because this is somewhat of a confession that I think most writers will not make, though I believe it to be true for the majority of us.

I do not write for you, the readers.

If you did not click the little X in the upper right corner, then that means you want to hear the rest of this. For that, I am thankful. If you have just a couple more minutes, let me explain my statement, which comes after having thought a ton on the subject.

I do not write for you, the readers. I write for me, the reader. I write what I want to read. I write the things that I enjoy reading. I don’t write like everyone else on purpose. And here is the truth within the truth: if I do not like what I write, then how can I expect you, the readers, to like what I write? That’s the bottom line.

Do I want to entertain the readers? Sure. Do I want them to like my stories? Absolutely. Do I write for them? No. I don’t. I’m sorry. I’m just telling you truth. It sounds nice to say ‘I write for the reader.’ It sounds noble. It is endearing to hear. It’s just not true.

Don’t miss this, though. As I said a couple of paragraphs up, I write for myself, I write what I like. Don’t miss this: if I don’t enjoy the story I write, how can I expect you to enjoy it? If we are honest with ourselves and you, then we will all admit that we write for ourselves, for our enjoyment, because we know if we believe it is good and if we truly enjoy it, then you will, as well. I repeat, don’t miss this, don’t miss how important it is for us, the writers, to write what we like and enjoy. By doing it that way the end product is so much better for you, the readers. If we do it the other way; if we write for anyone but ourselves to start with, then you get the same crap I put out for the first 10 or so years of me pursuing publishing.

Bottom line? I write for myself so you don’t crap in the end.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A Chat With Jennifer Miller

Posted: March 6, 2016 by ajbrown in Uncategorized

This year I have received the honor of being invited into the 2016 edition of The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror. This anthology is put together by the very nice Jennifer Miller. She and I sat down, computer screen to computer screen, and had a chat one evening in late February.

A.J.: Jenna Miller, tell me a little about you.

J.M.: Well, I’m 38 years old. I live in the Rocky Mountains. I have three gorgeous kids (my inspiration). I love the outdoors, video games, various crafts, writing and helping other writers.

A.J.: Video games? A woman after my own heart. Which video games do you like to play?

J.M.: LOL – Oh, you know, they change. I’m a huge fan of MMOs, so currently that’s Lord of the Rings Online (so fun). I love Magic the Gathering, so I’m really into that new Magic: Puzzle Quest (for mobile), and those two are all I’ve really been playing lately.

A.J.: I have never played Magic the Gathering—I hear it is addictive.

J.M.: To say there are a few decks around here is an understatement. We all like to play (the kids too), but I almost prefer digital versions to real cards.

A.J.: I love Munchkin. Have you ever played that one?

J.M.: No. I’ve heard it’s fun though.

A.J.: It’s ridiculously fun. It’s like a goofy version of Magic.

Let’s see, you write?

J.M.: Sometimes.

A.J.: What do you like to write?

J.M.: I’m drawn to dark fiction, mostly horror, though I do like to do darker fantasy and sci-fi as well.

A.J.: How long have you been writing, Jenna?

LGOH CoverJ.M.: I’ve been writing forever, but only more seriously since 2005, after my daughter was born.

A.J.: Was she part of your inspiration to write seriously?

J.M.: Not really. Though I did write a lot of my first novel while holding (feeding) her. A lot of it was that I had always wanted to. Then a buddy of mine had been published, and that was like a kick in the pants. I knew that if he could do it, I could do it.

A.J.: So it became proving ground for you? Did you have to prove to yourself that you could do it?

J.M.: In a lot of ways, yes. As you probably know, a lot of writers, or any artists really, are not often all that confident in what they are capable of. I’m no different, though I’m a wee bit more confident now than I was back then.

A.J.: Did the publishing help you get your confidence?

J.M.: It did, and it didn’t. It did, because I did it! It didn’t, because the publisher I went with (my mistake for not doing research on them beforehand) was a total scam.

But, because of that, I met people who read my stuff and liked it, and published it. I made friends who encouraged me. THAT gave me the confidence to really write and also made me want to do that for others. A lot of the time, all it takes is one person to believe in you. I have people who did that for me, and I like to do it for others.

A.J.: I know exactly what you mean. All it takes is one person to believe in you. So you help other writers now? What do you do to help them?

J.M.: Well, I run a writer’s group through Facebook called, Word Weavers. I try to post things that encourage creative writing. I invite other writers to ask questions, seek advice, start discussions, etc.

I work with a few writers behind the scenes with their editing and writing skills (mainly new writers who have come to the group or through my anthologies).

And that brings me to the anthologies I do. Though, it hasn’t been plural in a couple years. I run two anthologies, The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror and The Ladies and Gentlemen of Fantasy. In both I encourage, both old hats and new writers, to contribute, hone their craft, and challenge them to a unique writing experience.

A.J.: Word Weavers? Tell me about that. How did that come to be?

J.M.: It was actually a few of us who all had that first scam publisher – and we wanted to start a group for writers by writers that would help fight against things like that. It evolved from there to doing weekly spotlights to promote our authors, we made trading cards (like MTG cards, but for writers we used them like virtual business cards), we encouraged folks to social network, make writer buddies, share publications that were accepting subs, give and seek advice, ask and answer questions, etc. etc.

That was all on MySpace. Once we migrated here, the group kind of died, but we still post things weekly, and I still even offer to make trading cards now and again.

We even did a few anthologies through the group – which is what got me started on my own.

A.J.: Do you have this group on FB also?

J.M.: We do – though we don’t do near as much with it now as we used to. Mainly it’s me posting weekly writing prompts and challenges, as well as a thread for folks to promote themselves each week. Word Weavers Facebook Page

A.J.: Let’s talk about LGOH. How did that come about?

J.M.: Well in 2007 I wanted to start an anthology series that would feature women in horror. I wanted to have photos and more in-depth biographies so that people could learn more about the writers behind the stories. I wanted to call it Ladies of Horror.

At the time, a few of our guy friends thought I should do one for men as well, The Gentlemen of Horror.

I did one in 2008, and started another, then I had life hit pretty hard, so I handed it off to an indie publisher, who put out the 2009 edition. I got the rights back at the end of 2010 and started again in 2013.

I feature seven men and seven women in each edition. They are each allowed 10k words of horror fiction used how they see fit (though it is less if flash or poetry). Each contributor gets an in-depth bio and photos.

It gets better every year, and I’ve worked with some amazing writers and artists over the last three years, and I hope that I’ll get to work with many more over many more years.

A.J.: What makes LGOH different from the other anthologies out there?

J.M.: I feel there’s two things that make it different. One is how I run it. I do “invite only” in which writers must query beforehand with sample writing and reasons for wanting to do the anthology. Then I decide who to invite. Then I invite, and then we work on the writing, the bios, the photos.

And that is the second thing. The bios. They are longer than the norm at around 700 words. They contain more information than most “little blurb” bios. And, they are written by other contributors. I pair up the writers in male/female teams and they write the biographies for their partners (not their own), so that is unique. Then I ask for four photos to lace in, to show more of who they are.

I can add a third in that each contributor section is unique and can have anywhere from one epic yarn to ten pieces of poetry and flash and anything you can think of in between.

A.J.: And you try to make it fun?

J.M.: I do. I also try to encourage each group to social network, make friends, expand their “groups,” so to speak, as each year I do get writers from all over, new and old, and some who have worked together, and some who never have at all.

I add them all to a little FB group and try to keep them as in the loop as I can about what I’m doing (editing, formatting, herding cats, promo stuff, whatever) and how things are going at each stage of the anthology.

A.J.: Am I correct in saying all the profits go to charity?

J.M.: Yes, everything that we get in royalties from both KDP and Createspace I send to The American Cancer Society. I do this in May and October (which is, just before each anthology comes out, on Halloween for Horror and April fools for the fantasy (but, there has not been a fantasy last year or this year – next year’s is in the planning stages, woot!)). I don’t recoup any costs. Every penny that comes in from sales goes to them.

A.J.: That is awesome. How has your experience been with the authors of LGOH?

J.M.: I have worked with some of the most amazing and wonderful people. The writers who contribute to the LGOH are really dedicated, caring and fantastic people to work with and have fun with. I love getting to know them and their work each year.

A.J.: So, what is slated for you, the writer, in the future?

J.M.: This year I am a Lady of Horror, so I’m working on one big story for that. Then I am re-doing my personal anthology, Ceremony of Chaos. And lastly, my son and I are working on a project (slowly) that will be a web based choose your own (dark) adventure kind of thing in which we’ve got a couple other writers on hand who will be helping us with.

“Who will be helping”? That reads funny.

A.J.: Yeah, it reads funny, but that’s okay.

I have a couple more questions, one of which revolves around your son. He has taken up writing, right?

J.M.: Yes, he has – fairly diligently as well.

A.J.: Is he following in his mom’s footsteps?

J.M.: Gods, I hope not! I hope he does better than I do. But in all seriousness, yeah, I think that’s part of his reasoning behind wanting to write in the first place. However, now that he’s done it, like the rest of us, he finds he wants and needs to.

A.J.: That is an awesome influence to have on your child. I bet that felt good the first time he told you he wanted to give it a try.

J.M.: It really did. I was hard on him though, which made me feel awful, but I knew I needed to be.

A.J.: Wow!. Crack the whip.

Okay, Jenna, one more thing, and I’ll let you go. Where can readers find you?

J.M.: My website is probably the best place and that is: Jennifer Miller’s Dark Fiction

A.J.: Jenna, thank you so much for your time.

J.M.: You rock. Thank you.

A.J.: Any time, any time.

You guys, please check Jenna out. She’s a great person and I have been fortunate to have known her for a while and to see her vision with the LGOH anthology. Also, all the proceeds go to The American Cancer Society, so not only can you get a great book, but you can also help a worthwhile cause.

Thank you for reading, and as always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2015

In the short time Stitched Smile Publications has been around, they have put out three separate works of fiction. One of those was released on February 17th. It is by David Owain Hughes and Alice J. Black. The novella is titled, Granville. Here is the synopsis for the book:

Stanley is a typical high school student trying to find his way through the hierarchy of study and popularity. Nobody wants to spend time with him and even his crush turned him down nine times. He spends most of his time alone in the house, cursing his mother and blaming her for driving his father away. He has a preoccupation with all things horror and his love goes beyond just watching the movies; he wants to be the star of the show.

Making masks started as a hobby that soon becomes a practiced ritual and finally, when he has the right mask and slips it on over his head, he realizes that he is transformed. He is no longer Stanley but Granville, a masked warrior who intends to get payback for all the wrongs done to him and he will hold no punches.

The town is on lock down, the people terrified of this hideous killer, all the while he waits and plans his final masterpiece before taking off.

On the day of the release, SSP threw an online Release Party. I was only able to attend the last half of the event, but in that time, I got to know Alice and David and we talked a little about Granville.

(Side Note: Being an online party, there were a few interjections into our conversation.)

AJ: Alice, David, tell me about Granville. I read the description for it, and it sounds right up my alley.

Alice: Stanley is a loner, a young boy who is pushed too far one day and snaps. He takes things into his own hands and as his degradations get worse, so do his masks…

AJ: Let’s talk concepts: David, Alice, where did the concept for this story come from?

David: I think it first started with myself – I had this idea about a hapless teen who wanted to be a serial killer. I was looking to co-write a second project with Alice.

AJ: So, then you two have worked together before?

David: Yes, this is actually our second novella.

Alice: Yeah we wrote a novella length creature feature…#

David: The first is currently in the hands of a publisher, but we can’t release details.

AJ: Nice. Tell me about Stanley?

David: He’s your typical horror geek, who has a crush on a girl at school he can’t get.

AJ: Is he somewhat of an outcast?

David: Oh, very much so. He’s pretty much tortured by his peers. He’s a ghost to the tutors. Faceless, nameless.

AJ: Bullied?

David: Yes, mentally and physically.

AJ: So, he is essentially there, but no one likes him or takes the time to get to know him? They just kind of push him around.

David: Yes, spot on. Nobody cares about Stanley – he’s a punch bag.

AJ: That’s sad.

AJ: So, Granville. That is WHO he becomes, correct?

David: Yes, that’s right.

Jennifer H: I read it and it was an excellent book. Very twisted and dark. Twists and turns you wouldn’t expect

AJ: If David had anything to do with it, I know it is dark and probably somewhat disturbing.

Jennifer H: Have you read any of his others and which ones?

AJ: I’ve read some of David’s work. Not a ton, but enough to know that his mind is a bit dark.

Jennifer H: Great I will have to look up his stuff.

AJ: Alice, when you two sat to write this, did you write one part and David write another one and you mashed it together in the end? How did the collaboration of this story go?

Alice: When we wrote, we wrote a section each, maybe 1-2k words and then emailed it across and the next person started from there until we hashed it all out. We did the same with editing.

AJ: Very nice. A true collaboration. Did either of you, at any point, not like something the other one had written and discuss it with each other to make sure it came out right?

Alice: I have to be honest and say no. It all flowed so well. We obviously changed a few bits during editing but that’s natural.

AJ: At any point during the writing of Granville, did either of you say, eh, maybe we should scale back on this scene? And did you scale back if that were the case?

Alice: I don’t think that ever came up! If anything it was pouring more on.

David: I always go out guns blazing! I don’t like holding anything back.

AJ: David, I expect nothing less from you.

David: Have you picked up something of mine prior to this?

AJ: David, I’ve read a few of your pieces online. Something for Horror Geeks I think was the last thing I read.

David: Cool. I’ve written a lot of dark, twisted stuff. I can’t get enough of it!

AJ: You also have a book with BWP, right?

David: Two, one novel and one collection of short stories.

AJ: Very nice

AJ: Of the two of you, which do you think has the darker side?

Alice: Um I think it’s hard to say. We both have dark sides. I think David is a little more explicit with his while I tend to stay a little more somber but in our own ways, we’re both very dark.

David: I think our difference in dark styles very much suit our co-writing team.

AJ: David, in what way? That intrigues me.

David: One will do something different to the other – subtly and brute force mix well.

Alice: I found I learned a lot from David. I often shy away from the more explicit side of horror, and working with him made me consider why and branch out in my own writing.

David: Alice, that’s nice of you to say.

AJ: So playing off of each other’s strengths also strengthened your own styles?

David: Oh, definitely.

AJ: Then your styles fit well together. That is good to hear. I have only done a couple of collaborations, and it has been a LONG time since I did my last one, but I loved trying to fit our styles together.

David: Alice and I get on so well – she’s like my little sister.

AJ: I’m jealous. I don’t have a writing partner like that.

David: I’m lucky in that respect. I think she only keeps me around for the laughs.

AJ: Most women keep men around for the laughs. They don’t need us.

Alice: That’s not true!

David: Which part?

Alice: We don’t just keep men around for the laughs.

AJ: You mean there are other reasons? I need to talk to my wife about this.

Alice: Haha. Maybe you should.

AJ: Alice, I think you and I are going to get along quite well.

Alice: Me too!

AJ: I know when I finish a particularly good story, I want to celebrate. When you finished Granville, did you smoke a cigarette or drink a beer?

Alice: I’m not sure I did! I was very excited about it but it wasn’t until we were accepted for publication that I really celebrated.

AJ: Tell me about the process of getting Granville published.

Alice: David could probably tell you more because he did a lot of leg work on this one

David: It was luck, I guess. I’d done some work for Lisa Vasquez and saw she was taking submissions.

AJ: So you subbed and she accepted, eh?

David: Yeah, she knew of me and my work.

AJ: Alice, tell me a little about YOU?

Alice: Um…I write mostly horror but I like to write other stuff to. I have a novel out which is a YA supernatural. That one is my baby! But I’ve got a lot of shorts out in anthologies and a novel series in the works

AJ: Tell me about the novel, if you don’t mind.

Alice: The novel is called The Doors. It’s about a young girl called Amanda who is made to move down the country when her dad gets a new job. They move into Godfrey Hall but from the get go, she doesn’t like it. There are a set of mosaic doors in the dining room that she can’t stop staring at and whenever her parents are out, the little man in the mosaic seems to move. Amanda has to figure out the mystery of the mosaic doors before it drives her insane.

AJ: Alice, you said YA? What is the age range?

Alice: I suppose for anyone who likes reading YA. I like YA but I know that some adults don’t so probably around 16-20

AJ: My daughter is almost 15. Would it be appropriate for her?

Alice: I would think so. There’s a little romance but it’s nothing heavy, more of an attraction really. Other than that it’s more than suitable. It’s available on kindle. Would you like the link?

AJ: Well, yes, I would.

Alice: The Doors on Amazon

Donelle: I think you will like this book.

AJ: I plan on getting it, Donelle. I like David’s work and Alice seems like my type of person.

Donelle: I am about halfway through.

AJ: Nice.

AJ: Is there anything else, Alice and David would like to say before I let you all go. I know it is late (or very early) where they are at.

Alice: Not that I can think of, except thank you for your support!

AJ: No problem.

If you would like to find out more about David and Alice, follow these links:

Alice J Black (Blog)

The Doors Facebook Page

Alice J Black Amazon Author Page

Granville

@DOHUGHES32

David Owain Hughes, Horror Writer (Website)

David Owain Hughes Amazon Author Page

David Owain Hughes Facebook Author Page