The Average Joe

Posted: November 10, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
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A few years ago I wrote the forward to a short story collection by an author I admire and respect.  I want to share with you the first few paragraphs of this.  Stick with me here.  There is a reason for this.

Picture this:

He looks like any other person, hair a dirty brown, eyes of blue, maybe a Texas Longhorns cap on his head, some shadowed whiskers on his chin.  He may even look like the guy next door or that Kiefer Sutherland fellow, but without the intense stare.  He sits at a table on the patio of some barbecue joint or coffee house, beverage of choice in front of him (I’m willing to bet it’s the barbecue joint, and the beverage of choice is an ale called Arrogant Bastard, which is somewhat of a contradiction if you know him).

A lady sits across from him, dark-haired, olive-complexioned, eyes a soft brown.  They chit and chat about life, the day behind them and the one before them, kids and animals and work and money and probably the Astros.  Craig Biggio may come up in the conversation.  Yeah, if he were still with the Astros then just maybe…

They look like the average couple in America.  And they are.  But then she asks one question, her voice like music to his ears, and the conversation becomes less like the average couple in America and more like two business partners discussing strategy.  In this case, they discuss storylines. 

“So, what are you working on?” she asks, sipping her tea (or maybe she likes that Arrogant Bastard as well).

He shakes his head, smiles.  There is mischief in the gleam in his eyes, in the upturn of his lips.  He ponders for a moment before speaking.  Is this something she really wants to hear?  Is this something that’s going to make her gawk at him, her eyes wide, jaw open and ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

He shrugs and puts his hands out as if he is going to tell about the largest fish ever caught.  “There’s this guy and he’s kind of a jerk to his kids and wife and he kicks the crap out of them just because he can.  He’s a real douchebag.  But, what he doesn’t know is that there is this creature…this thing…watching him from the mirror and…”

And the story, which was nothing more than an idea moments earlier, begins to form as he talks, his voice growing more and more excited.  He wipes his lips with one hand.  “Hold on, Babe,” he says and pulls a notepad from his back pocket and a pen from his shirt.  “I need to write this down.”

This is the way it is for Kevin Wallis, the average man with above average dreams; a man who pens his darkness onto paper… 

I wrote this introduction for Kevin Wallis for his collection, Beneath the Surface of Things.  It’s a fabulous book of stories and I was honored to get to work with him on it, and blown away when he asked me to write the intro.  When I sat down to write this, I wanted to relay something to the readers that I felt was important, and that was that Mr. Wallis was an average Joe with a wife and a job and a life.  He’s just like you and just like me and just like that person sitting in Starbucks with his red cup and reading Stephen King.  He’s a person with dreams and ambitions and fears and likes and dislikes.  He loves someone and she loves him back.  He works hard.  He raises his kids the best he can.  He’s the average Joe, like you and I.

What’s the point?

At some point in life, we were all the average Joe or the average Jane.  We started out simple enough, most of us with the innocence of youth blinding us from the realities of this world.  Then we started making our way in life, following paths chosen for us at first and then that we chose later on.  We found our niche and that’s the direction we go.  Some of us stay average.   Some of us go above or below and some of us just excel so far beyond average.

But what’s the difference between average and above average and phenomenal?  Well, I believe one of those things is determination.  Another one is desire.  But I think the glue that holds determination and desire together and sparks the engine that runs the car to success is expectation.  The higher the expectation the higher you can soar (and, yes, the harder life can crash back down).

Expectation is a mindset.  That’s the best way I can put it.  If you have low expectations for yourself, don’t think you’re going to go very far.  But if you believe in yourself and your abilities, your expectations are going to be at a higher level.  They will also be harder to achieve, but that just fuels the determination and desire to keep working and reaching for those lofty expectations.

If you don’t believe you can do something, then guess what?  You’re right.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think they could do something achieve what they think they can’t do.  The average Joe can have an above average expectation for himself.  Every single person who has succeeded in the world had expectations for themselves, and most of them were high, expectations that weren’t necessarily within reach.  They didn’t settle for average.

There’s this group out there who sings this song.  You may have heard of them: the X Ambassadors.  The song? Renegades. I love the lyrics, but I especially dig this part:

All hail the underdogs All hail the new kids All hail the outlaws Spielberg’s and Kubrick’s

It’s our time to make a move It’s our time to make amends It’s our time to break the rules Let’s begin

If you ask me, the song is about determination and doing something to change the way things are done.  I’m probably wrong, but that’s what I get from it.

Expectations dictate what you do and how you do it.  If you don’t believe in yourself, then your expectations are terribly low.  If you want to achieve something great, you have to change your mindset, you have to change your expectations, you have to be willing to reach higher.

Before I go, let me tell you a little bit about someone else.

There’s this guy.  He doesn’t sleep all that well.  He loves his coffee and his wife and kids, not necessarily in that order.  He believes in Christ.  He has dark hair and blue eyes and a constantly dislocated thumb.  He works hard for a living at a job he sometimes likes.  He loves milk.  He loves strawberry Kool-Aid.  His favorite big music group is Pearl Jam.  His favorite local groups are Prettier Than Matt and Deleveled.  He’s a huge University of Michigan fan.  He likes to laugh and often tells corny jokes.  He has regrets and pains.  He is currently typing this blog, but by the time you read it he will be on to something else.  He—I—am the average Joe and I’m an underdog and I break the rules and for the longest time I had average expectations, and my results have been average, at best.

I no longer expect average of myself.  My expectations are higher, and sometimes that makes working a daytime job more difficult.  It makes not being where I want to be a little more frustrating.  It also makes me work harder to get better and better with each story I put out.  I expect phenomenal things and they are coming.  Please, come along with me.  Hop in the car.  Let’s take this ride together.  I’ve already put the key in the ignition and the engine is rumbling.  It’s time to put this baby in gear and get rolling.  Buckle up.  It’s going to be fun.  Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.


SC Strong…

Posted: October 14, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
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I live in South Carolina. In case you haven’t heard, my state hasn’t necessarily had a good year. To be honest, my state hasn’t had the best reputation for years. According to statistics (and who made these statistics up, I don’t know) we are one of the worst in driving, one of the worst in education and have one of the highest domestic abuse rates in the nation. Sometimes I feel like we are viewed as the armpit of the nation.

Sometimes perception isn’t reality.

Let me tell you about the year we have had in four points:

  1. At the beginning of April a black man was shot and killed by a white cop in Charleston.
  2. Just a little over two months later, in the middle of June, a young man walks into a church in Charleston, prays with the worshippers there and then kills nine of them.
  3. The Confederate Flag, having flown on the state house grounds for years, comes down in July.
  4. Here, at the beginning of October, quite possibly the worst natural disaster strikes in the rains and floods that devastated parts of the state. It was termed the 1000 Year Rains.

Yup, it’s been a sucky year for a state that most folks kind of, well, look down on. But let me fill you in on something you may not know, and I’ll use those same four points to tell you.

Point 1: At the beginning of April a black man was shot and killed by a white cop in Charleston. In case you missed it, the whole thing was caught on video by a passerby who witnessed it. Do you know what happened? The cop lost his job and was immediately arrested. Currently he is in jail and probably will be for a long time.

But wait, there is more. Do you know what happened next? Of course you do. The city of Charleston rioted and looted and destroyed the very place they lived. People died and they had to call in the National Guard and…Oh wait. That actually didn’t happen. No, it didn’t. There were no riots. There was no looting. There was no uprising demanding justice. Why? Because the Charleston police were swift in acting and they did the right thing. They didn’t make excuses like so many other departments.

Point 2: Just a little over two months later, in the middle of June, a young man walks into a church in Charleston, prays with the worshippers there and then kills nine of them. The young man’s name is Dylan Roof and he lived just a few miles from where I do in a place I know well. After he was caught the next day he reportedly said he thought about not going through with the shootings, that the church members had been so nice to him.

Hate is a powerful thing and it drove him to follow through with his plans.

Guess what? The riots started then. It was insane. Oh wait. No, they didn’t. Do you want to know what happened next? The families of those killed stood up and said, ‘We forgive him.’ Did you catch that? Instead of spouting hate, they spoke forgiveness. They spoke love. Crazy concept, this forgiveness.

Point 3: The Confederate Flag, having flown on the state house grounds for years, comes down in July. I’m going to be honest with you, this one had me worried. There was a lot of folks for it coming down and a lot of folks opposed to it. And those opposite view points were vocal and vehement. The weeks leading up to the flag coming down were tense. From the office building I work in I can see the state house—it’s less than two blocks away. If I walk outside the front doors and look to my left, I can see the front steps of the capital building where several rallies took place. I’m not going to lie, I was concerned that there would be some fireworks, and I don’t mean the ooohhhh and aaaahhhh type either.

Then it finally happened. Yeah, you guessed it, riots. And a lot of them. There was even bloo—wait, that’s not right. Sure there were some folks that were disgruntled over it, but there was no violence. Nobody was hurt in the taking down of the flag. Well, some were butt hurt, but that’s about it. As a matter of fact, when the KKK and the Black Panthers from OTHER states decided they wanted to come down and make trouble, the state and the Columbia Police Department made no bones about it: if you come here to cause trouble, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

No violence occurred. No bloodshed. One KKK member became overheated and the image that was plastered all over social media was nothing short of amazing: a black state trooper helping the KKK member. It didn’t matter that this man was part of a hate group, one that hated the trooper’s race.

You see, a lot of us here don’t necessarily see the color of the skin.

Point 4: Here, at the beginning of October, quite possibly the worst natural disaster strikes in the rains and floods that devastated parts of the state. It was termed the 1000 Year Rains.

A buddy of mine, his name is Greg, and he is an amateur weatherman. The entire week leading up to the rains that fell (in some places as much as 20 inches in less than 24 hours), Greg was sending out text bulletins to people on his weather list. He constantly said things were shaping up to be historic. Greg, you are awesome, and thank you for the warnings. All week long I got to see weather maps and hear his thoughts on what could happen. But this is South Carolina. How often do weathermen, professional or otherwise, get it right?

Then it actually happened.

The rains came. The floods followed. Roads were wiped out. Bridges were damaged. Houses were destroyed. Devastation is the only word I can use for what happened. Maybe catastrophic is a better word.

It was crazy. There was mass looting. There were people panicking. There was pillaging. Ummm…no, there wasn’t. But let me tell you what there was: there were men in john boats going down streets that just hours before cars would have traveled along, searching for people in need, pulling people from houses or from their roofs. Police and firefighters and EMS workers and civilians alike were doing their best to save people from harm.

In the aftermath, many people had lost so much, and yes, over a dozen folks lost their lives. But then the most awesome thing happened. Even while it still rained, people began donating money and food and basic items to churches and charities and Harvest Hope. Money donations were given to aid in the recovery. Above all of that, the people of South Carolina banded together. Volunteers came from every walk of life to help those with flood damage, to help them gather up what was left of their stuff and help them move away or help them begin the clean-up. They were there to give hugs and comfort and to say prayers and offer up whatever help they could give. Hundreds of thousands of bottles of water were given out to people who had no water.

It didn’t matter what color you were or what your religious beliefs were or which political party you associated yourself with or even what status you held in the community. What mattered was, do you need help? If so, we’re here for you.

An entire state came together and it was brother and sister and nothing else mattered.

There wasn’t much by the way of looting. From my understanding there were six people arrested for looting. Six. And the government has already said that those six folks will be prosecuted and given the maximum sentence possible. Six people. That’s all.

You know, South Carolina may not be known for much more than our Famously Hot Summers and a few statistics that may or may not matter, but when the chips are down, well, let’s just say other states can take notes on how this fine state that I live in acted swiftly for justice, forgave the brutality of a mass killing, kept the possible uproars and riots at bay and came together when disaster struck.

We’re still recovering. It’s a long road. People are hurting.

I think my buddy, Keith, put it best when we talked about this the other night. “This could be God’s way of unifying us.”

Maybe, my friend.

South Carolina. I was born and raised here. I lay my head down every night here. I met my wife here. I work and contribute to society here. I’m proud to be a South Carolinian.

This is South Carolina. We are SC Strong and that’s something to be proud of.

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







Sometimes we meet people and become friends with them over the briefest of moments. Though that friend is not around often, you find that even after years pass it’s only like yesterday since you were in contact with that friend last. This the case in real life, but also in the writing world. Recently, I was fortunate to reconnect with a writer friend and we had us a nice sit down, albeit through FB Messenger. So, sit back, relax and This Is Erin MacCallum.

AJ: Erin, it has been a long time since we last chatted. I believe that was for Zombie Killer Bill.

EM: Thank you for the chance to be here again, Jeff! Last time we chatted would have been back in 2010. Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.

AJ: 2010 seems like yesterday. How have you been since then?

EM: I’ve been doing well! I’ve started working on a few projects and living life as well as anyone can.

AJ: Can you tell me about some of the projects?

EM: The usual writing projects and I’ve started two webpages. One is my Author’s Page and the other is a book blog called The Reader’s Hollow, where I feature and review everything from bestsellers to indies.

AJ: Two webpages? I have a hard time keeping up with one. Before we getting to the writing projects, tell me about The Reader’s Hollow.

EM: I started The Reader’s Hollow in 2012 because I felt detached from the writing community and what was coming out on the indie scene. This seemed like a great way to connect, and it went from a once a week hobby to almost every day. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

AJ: Detached from the writing community? How?

EM: I just didn’t know what was going on or really all that was out there and wanted to find ways of doing it online. I live out in the boonies so local gatherings like at the library weren’t always easy to do.

AJ: So this is a way for you to connect, not only with the writing community, but the reading community as well?

EM: Nail on the head, Jeff.

AJ: I’d like to come back to this later, but for now, let’s talk writing and publishing. You have a series of books out right now. Tell me about those.

The Demons Grave ImageEM: I do! It’s The Demon’s Grave trilogy which is a dark urban fantasy about a group of college kids who find themselves trespassing in an alternative universe and must face their secrets and fears in order to get home.

AJ: Interesting concept. Where did the idea for The Demon’s Grave come from?

EM: I wrote it originally when I was 13. To be honest, I cannot remember. At the time I was an organic writer. I had a chapter and just let it take me places. Then over the years I’ve added and subtracted until I just couldn’t anymore.

AJ: That’s interesting. Then your love for writing started at a very early age?

EM: Oh yes, around eight years old. I wrote a trilogy back then and bound it in duct tape to make it fit in the shelf. After that I became a bit obsessed with telling stories.

AJ: Ahhh, I think you just hit it on the head this time. Telling stories. Stephen King has said time and time again that it is always about the story. Nothing else matters but the story. It’s not about the writing. I think a lot of writers miss that. With that in mind, do you consider yourself a writer who tells stories or a story teller who writes?

EM: I think I’m trying to figure that out right now. I complicated a lot of my stories by overthinking, and you won’t believe how many unfinished manuscripts I’ve collected. Recently, I’ve been trying to adopt being a storyteller again. It hasn’t been easy but I find I do better if I get the story out and ask questions later.

AJ: The struggle is real!

EM: Haha, yes the struggle never ends.

AJ: I think the really good writers excel in storytelling. They don’t just write the action and the scenes, but they tell the entire story as the story tells them to write it.

EM: I like that point of view. I’m going to have to pocket that for those low moments of self-doubt.

AJ: We all have those moments, but I think once we gain our confidence, telling the stories becomes easier and easier.

EM: Thanks! That’s what I’m aiming for.

AJ: You said the series is a trilogy, right? Have they all come out already?EM:

EM: Yes! Book 2: Midnight Ruling & Book 3: The Haunting are both out and available. I was really lucky to have gotten a few amazing editors (Matthew Baugh, Jessica Meigs & Lori Titus) and graphic artist (Amygdala Designs) to help me get these all out so close together.

AJ: I don’t know Baugh or Meigs, but I know Lori and she is an awesome person.

EM: Yes, she is! I really liked working with her.

AJ: Tell me about your process for writing.

EM: The writing process, this last year, has been a rough outline and I write the scenes I’m excited about, then I start to pull it all together and try to follow the outline, but it doesn’t always go that way. I always try to keep Pixar in mind, haha. I’ve yet to predict one of those awesome cartoons. The writers are brilliant at misleading and scratching out the most obvious storylines.

AJ: That’s actually a really good way to look at things. Pixar really does tend to throw curve balls at the audience. That’s definitely something to think about.

How did you go from Zombies to demons?

EM: I don’t think I can stick with just one kind of monster. There’s so many good stories to spin and the more I’ve ignored an idea, the more it’s haunted me. Next it might be ghosts, or witches, or vampires. Do you find you can stick with just one genre when those voices come calling?

AJ: Honestly, I don’t have a genre anymore. I stopped writing for a genre about four or five years ago. For me, I didn’t like the restrictions of genre writing or even labeling myself as a horror writer.

EM: Smart

AJ: So, tell me, zombies, demons, ghosts, vampires maybe. What about the human monster? That is the monster I like to tackle. As you evolve as a writer, do you think you could lean toward writing about the very real horrors of humanity?

EM: Ha! Funny you should say that. My current WIP is a historical about a serial killer’s daughter. I got the idea from reading about H.H. Holmes and how he had a public execution, and then it’s revealed that he had wives and children. I couldn’t imagine the discrimination that would come with a last name that’s attached to a human monster, especially back then.

AJ: Now that’s my type of storyline.

EM: Hopefully it works out. Haha.

I bought Cory’s Way a while back but have yet to crack it. If that’s your type of storyline I should move that book further up the TBR list! I’m really digging dark thrillers lately.

AJ: Cory’s Way is kind of along the lines of The Body (or so I’ve been told). It has a few unique twists in it. I think anyone would love it. I think I just plugged my book during your interview.

EM: I was hoping you would. I hear it’s good. More people might want to check it out, you never know!

AJ: Thank you, Erin. I believe the story is good, and according to the readers I’ve heard from, so do they.

Let me throw something out to you. I have always been a big Stephen King fan and I find a lot of wisdom in his words. One of those nuggets of wisdom came from his book On Writing. In it he said that the writer is the story’s first reader. With that in mind, when I sit to write, I sit to learn about the story as well. I know a story is good when it takes unexpected turns and leaves me nodding, smiling, in tears or on the verge of cussing.

When you write, do you look at it anything like that?

EM: Oh yes, sometimes it can leave me frustrated, but in the end it benefits the overall story more often than not. And that’s a good book, On Writing, my husband got it for me for Christmas last year. It has a lot of those nuggets you mentioned. I’m not completely done as I find I have to stew over some of the points he makes but I’m leaning a lot!

AJ:  On Writing is the only book, well, on writing, which I have read. I found a lot of what King had to say about writing was practical and not a book of do’s and don’ts.

EM: Absolutely, I also find there’s no sure-fire way for everyone. That’s the awesome thing about writing, no two writers have the same journey.

AJ: Exactly, Erin. What works for me may not work for you and what works for you may not work for someone else. That is the beauty of it. There is only the story and how it is told.

Okay, Erin, let’s rewind for a minute and go back to The Reader’s Hollow. Do you do the book reviews for it, and if so, how would other writers be able to take advantage of this?

EM: Yes, we do reviews, interviews, guest posts and Spotlight posts for us and book tours. If any author wants to apply they can see our review policy.

AJ: Very nice.

With writing, what goals do you have for yourself?

EM: To never stop and to always get better and learn what I can. I stopped writing back when I was 18-25ish and as much as I needed an experience in the outside world, I was lost without this outlet.

AJ: Yes, this outlet can be a sanity saver.

Do you find it difficult to market, not just your books, but you?

EM: I did at first, but opportunity is everywhere to market a book. It was just a bit scary at first, and it’s a slow process, but it’s never ending and new ideas are out there every day. As for marketing myself, it was deciding to just be myself and if people like me, cool, if not, well that’s life.

AJ: Okay, here’s the scenario: we are, face to face at a convention. I am a reader and you are the writer. I come up to your booth. You want me to buy your book. Sell it to me.

EM: Hi! What brings you to the con today?

AJ: I just thought it would be a good way to spend my day. What are you selling?

EM: Books! This bunch would be my urban fantasy trilogy called The Demon’s Grave. It’s my latest pride and joy. Are you a reader? Writer?

AJ: I am a reader. I like dark books with good character development.

EM: This might be right up your alley. I’ve been working on these characters for over ten years. Ha! That doesn’t keep them very safe though. It’s in a demonic world and there are some dark scenes, but it’s all to build up the ending.

AJ: Demonic? I don’t know if I would be into that. (How do you react to someone saying that?)

EM: That’s alright! There’s also zombies, doppelgängers and nightmares. The demon is an overlord and it’s where he’s trapped. We each like different things though. Most of my favorite horror elements are in the trilogy, like some of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Are you a classic monster fan at all?

AJ: I do like the classics.

EM: I tried to keep it true with evil vampires and even have less supernatural moments like facing old bullies. As an adult I always thought that would be an experience.

AJ: I’m sold. I like the classic monsters, not the sparkly ones.

EM: Yea!

Usually here I’m also asking them about what books they really enjoyed and if I know any, I like to talk about them. If not its movies or I let them go if they’re still browsing. I always welcome people wandering back to visit, too. Cons can be so much stress and so much fun.

AJ: Selling yourself can be daunting, but it looks like you have a handle on that.

Before we go, is there anything you would like to add? Anything you would like to tell the readers?

EM: Just to keep supporting Indies. There are some gems out there and I want to thank you, Jeff, for taking the time to interview me and having one of the funnest methods for doing them!

AJ: It was truly my pleasure, Erin.


About The Demon’s Grave:

When strange shadows and messages plague Nora’s daily life she fears for her sanity. To escape questions from her family, Nora joins her friends on a weekend getaway. Despite not liking Aidan Birket, Nora finds his remote, Victorian house charming. Until they discover the marble doorway on the third floor and, against Nora’s better judgment, they open it.

Trespassing into an unfamiliar world called the Demon’s Grave, the group face a charismatic demon and six nightmarish Challenges as punishment. Those that make it to the end can go home, but those that don’t will be his forever. Friendships are tested, secrets revealed and sacrifices will be made.

Nora battles zombies, doppelgängers, eyeless bikers, and the demon—whose interests are more than just a game of cat and mouse. If it’s all in her head, then it should be easy. But, if not, it means the demon knows about her sticky past, and the death of her twin sister.

Excerpt from The Demon’s Grave:

“Aidan,” I insisted in a whisper.

A few car lengths north of the Chevy a stereo crackled to life. An echoing voice sang followed by a choir of voices that doo de doo’ed in the background. The slow song sounded like something from the 1950’s.

Read and I exchanged a curious glance as the echoing main voice mentioned a game. Read pulled his hand from mine and we both wiped our slick palms on our jeans.

“What is it?” I asked Aidan. “What should we be looking for?”

He didn’t answer, his eyes kept wandering to the cars then down the street and to the motorbikes.

Read’s shoulders sagged, exasperated. He looked ready to say something when the roar of an engine smothered the music as well as my yelp. It stopped Read cold.

Aidan jumped and grabbed my arm as if I were the one to save him.

Craning my neck to see if there was a single vehicle taking up the roadway, I saw none. It had been so loud I couldn’t pinpoint the direction it came from.

The music began to take over the street once more, a new song erupting from the crackling speakers.

Between shallow breaths, Aidan said, “come on.”

Before Read or I could question him, Aidan stood up and started in long, purposeful strides, the kind that was harder to stop.

Read nudged me to move, or rather shoved me. Panicked, we hurried to Aidan. Looking to him, our pace quickened to keep up. Aidan stared straight ahead. His lean figure was rigid, but he hadn’t slowed.

Keeping close to the buildings, we passed the occupied car playing music. I could see three teenage boys inside. The muffled vintage music carried through the window.

I felt the scream choke in my throat as we passed. The passengers didn’t have eyes.

Their shapeless pale faces lacked not only the eyes but also mouths. The skin where lips should be had stretched horizontally, sealing any opening. The only portion of their faces that was noticeable was the lump of their nose—without nostrils. Even their hair was all the same color, styled the same, with a part in the middle, and they wore the same collared shirt and slacks.

I thought to myself, It’s just a few of the faceless, nameless people of this city, like any other…right? Maybe the demon had a sense of sick, very sick, humor.

I could hear, the eerie chorus of voices within the car, making it all the more surreal.

The three boys in the car watched us pass, as is if they could see. They turned their heads as we hurried along and I found myself staring back for as long as I could.


I’m going to try and make this short, but I can’t promise anything.  If you’ve followed this space, then you have heard the name Michelle Garren Flye.  She has been a good writer friend of mine for at least the last ten years.  Michelle recently wrote a blog titled,  Writers: Don’t Wait. Write A Banned Book Today.  No, it’s not about writing books that get banned, but about writing the story that wants to come out.  It’s about not writing what others think will sell, but writing what you want to write, how you want to write it.  You can read the blog by following the link above.  It’s a good read.  You should check it out when you are done here.

I agree with Michelle’s thoughts.  Writers have gone away from the art of writing and have settled for the formula for what publishers think will sell.  It may not be a great story, but it followed the formula, therefore it is publishable.  I disagree, but that is for another blog.  A good many writers are enjoying success by using the formula of write a lot of action, few descriptions and lots of language and sex (hey, sex sells).  There is a little more to the formula, but one of the keys is a publisher has to believe they can make money off the story.  Whether the book is good or not, if it is sellable, it will get published.

The problem?  Everyone is writing in the same manner and writing the same subjects.  They are (and you have heard this before from me) cookie cutter writers.  Sure, there are those that are doing well writing like everyone else, so why change?  Well, you change because you want to give the readers the very best you can.  That’s right.  You should write with your readers in mind.  Who would have thought?  You have to tell them the best story you can, not the best book you can.  There is a difference.  Anyone can write a book, but not everyone can tell a story.

So often we forget that it is about the story.  Not the writing, not the marketing, not the selling and not the book reviews.  It is always the story.  Tell the story and tell it in your own, unique style.  Don’t be like everyone else.  Be yourself.  Be the writer the story wants to be told through.

Don’t be a cookie cutter writer.  Don’t be like everyone else.  Develop your own style.  Develop your own voice.  Find that way of writing that makes you happy and makes you want to write.  But, most importantly, write the story that wants to be written.

This is something I strongly believe in.  This is why I write the way I write.  I believe in my way of telling stories.  I believe it is an art form.  I learned a lot of my style from my grandfather.  I loved hearing him tell stories.  I don’t want to be like anyone else.  I don’t want to write the way everyone else does.  I tried it.  I didn’t like it.

If you’re a writer, take a chance and write something that you want to write, not something you think will sell.  If you are a reader, take a chance on someone you’ve never heard of.  That person might become your new favorite writer.

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


Posted: September 10, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized



The World Trade Center south tower (L) bursts into flames after being struck by hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 as the north tower burns following an earlier attack by a hijacked airliner in New York City in this September 11, 2001 file photo. REUTERS/Sean Adair/Files (UNITED STATES DISASTER POLITICS)



In this comic strip image released by King Features Syndicate, a scene commemorating Sept. 11, is shown in the Pajama Diaries comic strip. With the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks falling on a Sunday, more than 90 cartoonists with five different syndicates have banded together to dedicate their strips on Sept. 11 to those whose lives were lost in the attacks. (AP Photo/King Features Syndicate)

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words…

Good evening zombie readers. Stop for just a second. Stop browsing the internet for your next Z-poc book. Come, sit down with me for a minute and let me enlighten you on this, The Tales of the Nothing Man, the first offering from the Dunne Brothers, Justin and Robert. Seriously, if you are not sitting down, do so. If you’re walking around with your Kindle in your hand or on an app on your tablet or phone, stop doing so for a minute or three and come in a little closer. I don’t want to get too loud, but I do want you to get what I am about to say.

The Tales of the Nothing Man is a zombie story unlike any that I have read. We are given several characters to follow, and though that should be confusing, it is not. We are also given the somewhat mystical being of The Nothing Man, a Clint Eastwood type who wears snakeskin boots and bloodied black jeans and a flannelette shirt, tucked in for good measure. Then there is the Crow, the bridge between each story of the survivors in this book.

Before I go any further, let me take a sip of reality and state, the writing of The Tales of the Nothing Man is fresh and unique. The Dunne’s, who hail from Australia, spin the tales of each character with a voice that is both serious and cheeky. It’s almost as if they wrote the book the way they talk with none of the pretentiousness that many writers, well, write with. I enjoyed the tone and the way they seemed to stay true to their writing style, even as they mixed in different characters, none of whom have actual names. We are given names like The Lady, The Old Man and The Crazy Kettle Guy (among others), and of course The Nothing Man. (By the way, there are names to characters in this story, but they are ones you don’t actually get to meet, which I think enriches the lack of names for the main characters.)

There is also a repetition in the introductions of each characters: the description of The Nothing Man. But more than that there is also a repetition in the lack of formal greetings or friendly catching up or cautious sizing up. It gives each story the connection and familiarity that déjà vu would someone who swears he’s been here or seen this or even done this before.

The stories, though separate from one another, are connected, not just by The Crow and The Nothing Man, but also in the fact that all of the survivors lived for a reason, as if The Nothing Man knew they were in need of saving and appeared to give them a hand, one that would leave each of them wondering more about him and would also lead them all to the same place for a final showdown with the dead and their clicking mouths.

I’ve intentionally been vague on the storyline, not wanting to give too much of it away, but I will say this, The Tales of the Nothing Man has a deeper meaning to it than I think most people realize. Let me explain. I’ve read this book twice. When I went to write this review, I decided to read it the second time around. It was during the second reading, as I sat slouched on my couch, that I caught something I completely missed the first time around. I sat up, my eyes probably a little wider than before and I heard myself say, ‘Son of a biscuit.’ (Yes, I said biscuit.) As I do with all reviews that I write, I made a note of this on a pad and then finished reading the book. Then I went back and read that part again, and again.

‘How did I miss that?’ I asked myself. ‘How did I miss that? I can’t believe it.’

You see, there is a touch of mystery in this book that slowly unravels, revealing itself so subtly in the end that makes the story so much deeper and makes The Nothing Man and each person’s story richer. I’m not going to give this mystery away, but when you read this book, pay close attention to the details, especially where The Crow is concerned.

I truly enjoyed the story of The Nothing Man and the characters in them, and how they meet up. The ending is a nice little bow on the package, but the subtle mystery of it is what makes this story so powerful for me. The mystery has the right type of Ah Ha moment.

Oh, before I let you go, Zombie Readers, the actual names used in The Tales of the Nothing Man have a deeper meaning. It’s like the Easter eggs hidden in so many movies and television shows. Clever.

Thank you, Zombie Readers, for taking the time to read this review. If you are looking for something different, give The Tales of the Nothing Man a read.

I give this a 5 out of 5 blood drops.

You can pick up a copy of The Tales of the Nothing Man HERE.

Now, you can get up and go about your business.  Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…





Cory’s Way, An Excerpt

Posted: September 5, 2015 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , ,

Good evening Faithful Readers.

I am ashamed to admit something. It’s not something like a crime or an addiction or even something as simple as a desire to eat all the donuts at the donut shop (though that part is true, and would probably be considered an addiction). It’s something I can’t believe I haven’t actually done here on Type AJ Negative. So often I talk of writing and life here. So often I promote other writers’ works. So often I do interviews for other writers here. But, not so often, I promote my own work. And, as far as I can tell, I’ve never actually posted a passage from my novel here.





I have some great work out there. Two short story collections and a novel, and over the last year or so, I have done very little promoting of my own work. I’m sitting here shaking my head as I think about this.

Well, that changes right now with an excerpt from Cory’s Way, my novel. Are you ready for this? Good. Hop in the car with me. It’s okay. Just open the door, get in and strap on your seatbelt (it is the law, after all) and we’ll go for a ride. We’ll take a short journey into the world of Corey Maddox. If you’re ready, let’s ride:


On the day Cory Maddox met George Washington—not the first president, but a black man whose skin was as dark as tomorrow night—he was running for his life. Or so it seemed. Behind him, followed the Burnette brothers, their feet thumping on the blacktop like a couple of galloping horses. They yelled for him to stop running, that sooner or later they would catch him and when they did he would regret making them chase him. Obscenities followed. His Sanity screamed, begging for Cory to heed his warning.

(Run! Run! Run! They’re going to kill you!)

Cory’s side burned; a stitch stabbed straight through from front to back. His legs ached and threatened to send him to the ground if he didn’t, at least, stop for a second and catch his wind. His breaths came out in labored gasps through an open mouth. His book bag jostled on his back, bouncing from side to side, occasionally knocking him off balance. It wasn’t enough to really slow him down, but he held onto the straps tighter, making the running more awkward. At one point, Cory thought of tossing it to the ground, just let the Burnette brothers have it. He could run faster and it might appease them long enough for him to make it home alive.

His mind scrambled to make sense of everything, tried to figure out why they were chasing him. Just what had he done to anger them?

Snippets of thoughts danced in his mind. ‘Hey, new kid…What do yah have for lunch…’ Someone shoved him. His lunch tray clattered on the cafeteria floor, his hands out in front to try and break the fall. There were bruises on his palms. He was certain there were bruises on his knees as well. A teacher, tall and lanky, hair the color of a storm cloud, eyes full with lightning, appeared. Her voice silenced the laughter of the other kids. An ‘oh shit,’ was trailed by a ‘we’ll get you later, new kid.’

Cory’s legs screamed, his calves joining his thighs in protests. The stitch in his left side was united with the one in his right. Tears seeped from his eyes, partially from fear, but more from the ache of his weakening body. It was only a matter of time before it finally gave up and dropped him to the concrete.

“Look out,” Cory yelled just before passing an old man, his cane out in front of him, thick-lensed glasses hanging on the bridge of his nose. Somehow he managed not to crash into the old man. That would have been bad. If anything, it would have slowed him down enough for the Burnette brothers to catch up to him. They didn’t seem like the type that would worry about an old man who had fallen and probably had no way of getting up. If, by a very small chance, they did stop and head the other way, the old man would have probably been hurt, and that may have been worse than a beating.

Neither of those things came to pass. Cory skirted by the old man, stumbled, righted himself, and ran on.

(Almost took the Nestea plunge, there, Cory.)

He darted across the street, barely looking both ways before doing so. Cory tripped as he hopped onto the sidewalk, planted his hand in front of him and almost ended up sprawled out on the concrete. Instead, he caught himself and ran on.

A stone zipped overhead, landing a few feet in front of him.

Rocks?! his mind screamed.

(What else could it be, dimwit?)

Fear pushed him harder.

They gained ground, their voices louder. They were laughing.

Home was four blocks away along the street. It was less than two if he went beneath the underpass just ahead.

(Yeah, that’s what we want to do. Run into the darkness where rats and spiders and other creepy crawlies are, and maybe even a mad man or two…)


I hope you enjoyed the short ride around the block and the little peek into Cory’s world. If you enjoyed it, you can pick up a digital copy at that well-known Kindle book provider, Amazon, HERE.

As always, I thank you, Faithful Readers, for sticking with me through my travels in the world of writing and publishing. Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…




Plotting Kills My Creativity

Posted: September 2, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I’m not a plotter.  There.  I said it.

I know there are a lot of writers out there who will say I should plot my work, that I should outline my stories or even think some of them out.  I do think a lot of my stories out, but I don’t believe in plotting.

Wait.  Wait!  Put down those torches and pitchforks.  No need to burn me at the stake.  Yeah, it’s dark outside, but lynching is not the way to go here.

Let me explain.  I’ve always thought that plotting out stories restricts the actual storytelling.  I kills the creative process.  I’m not entirely sure some of the greatest writers in the history of literature plotted out there stories.  I’m almost certain many of them didn’t sit at their wooden tables, an oil lamp on just a few inches from their parchment and plume.

‘Hmmm…maybe I should put her in this situation.  Oh, but wait.  What if I do this to her?  Ohhh, yeah, this would be awesome.  I think, maybe, if she did this, then he would do that, and they would do this…oh yeah.  Brilliant stuff.  And we can end it like this.  Amazing.’

Seriously, folks, do we really think Twain and Poe and Hemingway outlined everything they wrote?  What about Dickens?  Sure, they may have jotted down some things they didn’t want to forget, but to completely outline the story?  I don’t believe it.

I’m a fan of flying by my seat.  Not literally.  I don’t have buttwings so stop looking.  Most of my stories come from seeing something or hearing something and the immediate image or thought that comes to mind is generally what I start writing.  I like to get in the car and ride along with the characters.  Sometimes we will poke along, while other times we speed at a breakneck pace that threatens to cave the windshield in and cause us to wreck and splinter our bodies along the roadside.  For me, being in the car with those characters is where the thrill is.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, and they do.  And that’s what makes it exciting.

I won’t sit here and lie and say I don’t actually jot down notes, especially if I am somewhere that I can’t actually write.  But outlining kills the story for me.  Why is that?  Why does outlining kill the story?  Well, the answer is simple:  when I complete an outline I already know the entire story, and therefore, I no longer have the desire to write it.  I know what’s going to happen, so there is no thrill.  I can no longer go along for the ride.  I can no longer watch as the story plays out, the characters doing their thing and me writing it down like an ancient scribe.

It’s a total bummer.

For me, it is always about the story.  It’s always about the entertainment I get out of writing the stories.  It’s also about the entertainment I hope you get when reading the stories I write.  If I lose interest in the story, how do I expect you to keep interest in it?  So, you see, plotting is a bad thing for me.

I do believe in situations.  You want to put your characters in situations where they either get out of it alive or they don’t, and if they do get out of it, they either change for the better or for the worse.  Situations.  Not plot.

Stephen King said in his introduction to Salem’s Lot, that storytelling is as natural as breathing and that plotting is the literary equivalent to artificial respiration (not an exact quote, mind you), and I believe he is correct.  Storytelling should feel natural.  Not stifled.  Not rushed.  Not necessarily grammatically correct, either.  Storytelling should be as natural as having a conversation with someone you are close to.  Plotting doesn’t have that natural feel.

So, I don’t plot.  I don’t enjoy it.  I lose interest in stories when I do plot them out.  And to prove it, I can look in my notebooks and see hundreds of ideas for stories.  Many of the idea stories were written.  But then I can see twenty-five pages of plotting—from beginning to end with the guts all there in the middle—and none of those stories have ever been written.

I don’t fault those who plot.  If it works for you, then do it.  It just doesn’t work for me.  So, if you want to come along with me, take a ride with me and my characters, then just know I’m going for that ride as well.  And maybe we can all enjoy it as the stories unfold.

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

This Is…Lisa Vasquez

Posted: August 16, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized

Recently, Lisa Vasquez’s novel, The Unsaintly Chronicles, The Anti-God came out.  I had followed the pre-release buzz around it and thought I might just have to give it a read.  I caught up with Lisa shortly after the release. We sat down for a little chat that Sunday afternoon.  Folks, this is Lisa Vasquez.

AJ:  You’ve been on vacation the last week or so? How was it?

LV:   My vacation was amazing. I needed to decompress after the previous month’s events.

Unsaintly ImageAJ:  Good to hear you had a great vacation. If I’m correct, the day you left for vacation was the day The Anti-God came out.  Is that correct?

LV:  It was the day before. Right up to the very minute.  Seems like I’m always burning the candle at both ends.

AJ:  Sometimes publishing can be like that, right down to the last minute with all the fine details that need to get worked out.

Can you tell me about the book?

LV:  Sure! The book is about the journey of Isabel. She’s pretty oblivious to the fact that there’s this plane where God and his “family” of angels (Lucifer, included, of course) walk alongside the humans. So God and Lucifer are talking, enjoying the weather…a game of chess and discussing things. Isabel is pretty Renaissance for the times. She has decided that she doesn’t want to marry and that her duty will be to serve God and her people. She convinces the Pope to grant her permission to pursue this path and not marry her intended. This obviously puts her in God’s favor. Lucifer gets pissed (again) and decides to wage war and corrupt Isabel. With these two distracted, the audience is introduced to a new nemesis, Heresy.  And she’s the “Void” that has been there since the beginning of time.

The book is a true tug at someone’s faith…I mean we always ask ourselves…am I doing the right thing? What happens if this isn’t the right path? What if the other religion is right and we’re wrong?

AJ:  Interesting concept. What type of research did you do for this story?

LV:  Well when I started, I was already on a journey to finding my peace. What I mean is, I was born Catholic, I went to a Baptist Church.  I then shifted around a bit to a Lutheran church and I never felt “at home”. I didn’t feel the “rapture” and I didn’t feel my soul was at rest. So my research was honestly me sitting down and studying religion. Then as I got through part of it, my father died and then my grandmother, who was my best friend, followed by my step-father, who I was also very close to. I was angry. I was closed off. And then I met a woman, whose name I credited at the end of the book, and she was a former nun. How cool is that?? And she told me all kinds of things about her time on that path.

AJ:  I’m going to ask this because I think you bring up a good point here. I believe everyone asks themselves (at one point or other) if they are on that right path or if they are going to Heaven or Hell (even those who I believe would deny such thoughts). I know I have wondered this before–plenty of times. Was there any time before, during or after, writing The Anti-God that you thought this?

LV:  Always. But to be frank…

AJ:  I would prefer you being Lisa, but if you want to be Frank, go right ahead. I hear he’s a good guy. (and the drummer goes, bah dum dum dum).

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

LV:  Ha! There was a Lisa Frank! She was the sticker lady…Wait, scratch that! That’ll give away my age!

AJ:  Too late. I’m so researching that!  You were saying?

LV:  I don’t believe in God or Heaven or Evil in the same way as I did. I think I relate more to a spiritual path…maybe even a Taoist …but not the poly-deity worshipping kind. I know…It’s confusing.

AJ:  Do you consider The Unsaintly Chronicles, The Anti-God, a journey into the spiritual world?

LV:  I consider The Unsaintly a Dark Fantasy, based on a real life person’s (Isabel) spiritual journey.

With a twist of horror.  I’m making my own genre.  Dark Horror Fantasy

AJ:  That’s a great description.  Dark Horror Fantasy? That sounds like a great genre mashup.

LV:  I think so too!

AJ:  This isn’t your first foray into the publishing world, right?

LV:  No, I actually published just the prologue to this story before because I felt it was so different from the rest of the story that maybe folks would “get me” if I took them in baby steps on the journey. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad! I did very well. But then when I took a look at the finished product… I kind worked it out that I could put it back in. I experimented. So now anyone that has the first The Unsaintly book, has a collector’s item because I am no longer selling it that way. I also did a short story that was published. I have had several poems published (years back) and I’m working with Burning Willow Press, helping them out.

AJ:  If I’m correct, one of your stories appears alongside one of mine in the anthology The Gathering Hoarde.

LV:  You’re correct! Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.

AJ:  Tell me about Burning Willow Press and what you do with them.

LV:  Ah, yes. Burning Willow is a publisher that is very much about its authors. They have a lot of say in the end result of their stories. So in essence, they’re selling themselves, and have the power to do so, rather than the publisher creating who they are. We are very close knit. My position with them is Cover Designer Head uh..Person or some such. Haha! I dunno my official title, I just know I fix, create, and help design the covers. I also did their logo.

AJ:  I’ve seen your work.  It’s well done.

LV:  Thank you! I think practice makes perfect and I’m learning a lot as I go.

AJ:  Speaking of your designs, am I correct in saying you have (or will have) your own design business?

LV:  I do have my own. Darque Halo Designs. I’ve been doing graphics for a pretty long time, but book covers are a new thing. Started with my own and people really liked my style, so I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work on other covers from amazing authors.

AJ:  Did you do the work on Unsaintly?

LV:  I did. For both of them, yes.

AJ:  If those are examples of your work, then they are great examples for the public to see.

LV:  Thank you! I appreciate that, very much.

AJ:  How did you end up working with BWP?

LV:  I ended up working for Burning Willow when I did Kindra Sowder’s cover for her Executioner Series, Follow the Ashes (book 1).

I think they had seen some of my other work and really wanted me on the project.  Then it seemed a natural progression to work for their company

AJ:  It’s always interesting how people meet one another and then help one another and that leads to working together.

Along with your writing and design work for BWP, you are also Editor-in-Chief of Inked Muse Press Magazine.

LV:  Yes that’s correct. I wanted a magazine that didn’t follow the imprint of other horror magazines. I wanted a magazine that addressed horror but also focused on the writing.

AJ:  With that in mind, is IMPM taking submissions from writers?

LV:  Always. I want big house authors and small press authors alike.

AJ:  What types of work does IMPM accept?

LV:  We take short stories, editorials, interviews, reviews, just about anything related to the horror genre

AJ:  Do you have a link to the website, so if writers would like to look into IMPM they could find it?


Anyone that wants to submit something for consideration is welcome to. Right now the magazine is quarterly but if the demand calls for it, we may change the frequency.

AJ:  Sounds good to me. Thank you for that information.

LV:  Sure!

AJ:  I want to change gears for just a second and ask a couple of short questions.  Why horror, as opposed to other genres?

LV:  I love the thrill of horror. I believe that without embracing darkness we cannot embrace the light. I was raised on horror, my father and my step father were very big fans and I learned to appreciate the genre from them. Also, growing up, I had friends that had the same interest. One of whom is still my best friend and partner to this day, Paul McVay.

AJ:  This is awesome: I believe that without embracing darkness we cannot embrace the light.

Favorite horror author?

LV:  Ohhh that’s hard. I change with my moods.  I’m such a Libra. I mean there’s the standard, Stephen King. But I love Thomas Harris, Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, Mark Tufo.  OK, I can’t decide.

AJ:  Fair enough. How about your favorite horror movie?

LV: The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, and Dawn of the Dead (the newer version)

AJ:  Nice. Great choices.

Okay, just a couple of more questions and I’ll let you go rest up from your vacation.

You said you’re creating your own genre: Dark Horror Fantasy. Ideally, what type of story would that encompass?

LV:  First, I want horror to be epic. A mix of real experiences and things that “could” happen. But I love epic stories, real fables.  I’m part Greek so I embrace that whole theatrical, tragedy, Clash of the Titans type of story. Things that make your imagination stretch. Things that you never WANT to see if they exist. I have entire worlds inside my head. I love developing them and the people. And that’s part of the inspiration for The Unsaintly. I mean what’s scarier than Revelations?

AJ:  Nothing is scarier than Revelations if you are a spiritual person (other than Hell).

LV:  I’d probably bang on Hell’s door if I saw a dragon and riders in the sky

AJ:  How can readers get ahold of Lisa Vasquez?

LV:  I’m pretty accessible through my website:, on twitter @unsaintly, on and just about everything else.

AJ:  Where can readers find your work?

LV:  My books are on Kindle and Amazon. I believe online I have global distribution. And if they want signed copies, they can order them off my website.  Also, they can find me through the Horror Writers Association. They’ve been a huge help to me as well. So I’ve been giving back time to them and the genre

AJ:  You brought up the HWA.  I have been reluctant to join the HWA. What made you join them and, if you don’t mind, tell me about your experience with the HWA?

LV:  HWA went through a rough year. They lost an integral part of their organization with the passing of their president. Lisa Morton stepped up to the plate along with the other officers. I came to the HWA because I read that you should join writers groups for support and to learn about your trade. Joe McKinney is part of the HWA, Jonathan Maberry is also a part of the HWA. People forget that it is entirely volunteer, so they criticize the sometimes lengthy wait in replies, etc… Hey these guys work hard, they work full time jobs, and they are writers too.  They have to balance all of that and then keep answering the questions of all of us fledgling, aspiring writers. They offer free help. They offer mentorships, they help with contract questions and back up authors being taken advantage of. I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.

AJ:  Thank you for that information. I knew Rocky Woods had passed away after a brave fight with ALS and I knew he had been working hard with HWA for a while.  And I saw where Lisa Morton had stepped in.

I’m a reader. Convince me to buy your work

LV:  Convince you? I think you or anyone who wants something different should buy my books. If you want to be drawn into the world, if you want to think and have your ideas tested. I’m all about pushing the line and experimenting.  People who give my books a read usually end up loving what they read.

AJ:  I love that type of confidence. You have me convinced.

One more thing. As a writer, what do you wish to accomplish with your work?

LV:  I’d love it if people read my books, as simple as that sounds. And I’d like to bridge the gap of men vs. women in this genre. I don’t want to write romance, so please read, share, and review! My readers are everything to me. I love hearing their thoughts. I love the fact that a few people have said they have had crazy dreams after reading my work. Most of all, I would love to keep hearing “I can’t wait for your next book”.

AJ:  I am the same way with wanting folks to read and enjoy and want my work.

LV:  If you’re in it for the money, you’re not in it at all.

AJ:  Is there anything else you would like to say, Lisa?

LV:  If you’re interested in finding out what was really in the beginning, or what happens when you cannot enter Heaven or Hell, then check out The Unsaintly Chronicles: The Anti-God, the first book of a series.

I can almost assure you, that if you love stories about angels, demons, and other frightening creatures, without the same ole stories told a different way, you’ll love this book.

AJ:  Lisa Vasquez, thank you for hanging out with me for a little while. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

LV:  Thank you very much for taking the time to have me!

Aspire to Inspire

Posted: July 23, 2015 by ajbrown in Inspire, Jackie Chin, Writing, Zombiepalooza

In my last post I wrote about public shaming and everyone piling on just because they can.  I also wrote about how an editor requested a story of mine that he had seen online and then proceeded to bash me and tell me I should never write anything ever again.

It was shameful behavior.

Today, I want to talk about something else, something inspiring.  Oh, wait.  I just want to talk about being an inspiration to people.  Clearly, the reviewer in the previous post was not an inspiration to the writer.  If anything, he was a detriment to the writer and his ego (come on, we all know that sometimes our egos need a good stroke).

My grandfather was one of my greatest inspirations I ever had.  He told great stories.  He painted vivid pictures as he told those stories, and I loved hearing them.  My wife, Cate, pushed me to keep writing when I wanted to stop.  She inspired me by telling me I was good at it and that I loved it, and that one day…one day, Baby, I would break through.  They were positive influences.  They were inspirations.

A couple years ago someone read one of my stories online and liked it so much that she decided to try and write.  She contacted me and told me this, and for a little while, we chatted back and forth about writing.

I had inspired her.

That was an awesome feeling.

That leads me to today’s thoughts.  My friend, Jackie Chin, posted a meme on Facebook, that terrific social media platform we all know and love.  The meme was actually a picture of her.  The meme says:

Jackie Chin Inspire Image

Just in case you don’t know, Jackie is the host of the radio show, Zombiepalooza.  It’s a live radio show she host on Youtube.  It airs every Friday night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.  She gives a voice to a lot of writers that otherwise wouldn’t have one, and she always tries to keep a positive attitude, even when things don’t go quite right.

When I saw the image on Facebook, I recalled my wife not letting me quit when I wanted to.  She had been right.  I love to write, to tell stories.  If I would have quit, I would have probably been very unhappy.  Cate is my greatest supporter (and critic).  She is my greatest inspiration.

This is what Jackie was talking about.  Jackie is an inspiration, but I don’t think she realizes it…yet.  A lot of writers have gotten a lot of free publicity because of her. A lot of people have gotten their names out to an audience who would have never heard of them without appearing on Zombiepalooza.

But how, A.J.?  How is she an inspiration?  Simple.  If she is willing to help so many authors, then why wouldn’t someone else be willing to help others as well?  Maybe not in the same capacity as Jackie and her radio show, but in other ways.  How about posting something on Facebook about someone’s work to help spread the word?  Or maybe write a blog post about a book you read?  Or maybe just opening the door for someone who has his/her arms full.  It’s not hard to help folks and it gives you a great feeling when you do this.

Inspiration isn’t just doing something that makes someone want to do something else.  It’s also championing these people.  It’s the constant, ‘I think you can do it,’ and ‘don’t give up, you’re so close,’ and ‘keep going, you can do this.’

It’s believing in that person.  Sometimes all it takes is for someone to believe in someone else to make good things happen.

I believe in Jackie’s show, Zombiepalooza.  I don’t just say that.  I’ve listened to it.  I’ve watched it on Youtube.  I’ve seen her posts on social media.  She’s always working, working, working, but not just to make her show great, but for the authors she interviews and for the listeners who tune in.

But there is another place inspiration comes from.  That is in gratitude.  Saying thank you to someone when they do something nice for you, or help you out, or when they buy you lunch.  ‘Thank you’ goes a long way in having people want to help you again.

I’ve never been on Jackie’s show, but as someone who has listened to and watched it, thank you for doing this, for the writers and the listeners.  You are an inspiration.

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