Not too long ago I wrote a longer short story titled, The Forgetful Man’s Disease. The story is set in the old Mill Village in West Columbia. It was a place I spent a lot of my childhood. The main character is based on my grandfather and many of the characters within the story are based on people I knew from the area.

Tonight, my brother-in-law, Stephen, came over and we talked about Dredging Up Memories, my second novel. (If you don’t have a copy of it, you can get it HERE). While we were talking, he on the couch across from me, and the house somewhat warm and a crime show playing on the television in the background, the subject turned to my grandfather.

I couldn’t help but talk about him and a particular story he told me.

My grandfather was a good guy. He preached and taught Sunday School for many, many years. He told great jokes—his timing was impeccable. But even better, he told awesome stories. Some of them have ended up in some of my own stories. One of them I would like to tell you about right now. It is a touch of real life that no one gets to see too often.

When I was around eleven, my brother and I began to grow apart. He was thirteen and the things we once had in common were nonexistent. Before that, we had been thick as thieves. We argued a lot and the first of several fist fights took place not too long before my grandfather asked me if I wanted to shoot marbles ‘out in the yard.’

Of course, I wanted to shoot marbles. I loved marbles.

My grandfather took me out in the yard and wiped the sand away from a small area. He drew a circle and we poured my bag of marbles into it. He picked a medium sized cow and I did the same. We walked a few feet away and began to shoot the cows at the marbles in the circle. For several minutes we played, each of us knocking marbles out of the circle, claiming them and putting them in our own separate piles.

When there were only two marbles left in the circle, my grandfather stopped playing. He looked at me and said, “Let me tell you about these two marbles.”

This meant he was going to tell a story. I always looked forward to his stories.

He plucked the two marbles from the circle and held them in his palm. He said, “This circle is your family. These marbles are your family members.” He motioned to the marbles in our two piles when he said that.

He then held up the two marbles. “These two marbles are you and your brother.”

He set them back in the circle and took his cow—what most folks would call a shooter—and took a shot at the two marbles. The cow struck home, scattering the two marbles. One of them left the circle. The other one remained inside.

As my grandfather always did, he told his story without a ton of dramatics, but with a straightforward message.

“Even if your brother leaves the circle, he is still your brother. That will never change.”

He picked up the marble that had left the circle and set it next to the other ones.

“Your family will always be your family. Your brother will always be your brother.”

He stood, patted me on the shoulder and nodded. I think he was proud of himself. He then walked off, leaving me looking at the two marbles in the circle and thinking about the lesson he had just taught me.

Though my brother and I would drift apart over the years, he has always been my brother. And that was his point. We would always be brothers, no matter what happened, no matter what direction we went in.

When I started writing, I tried to capture the flare my grandfather had with telling stories. Sometimes I succeed. Other times I don’t. But here is what I shoot for every time: I want my stories to stick, like my grandfather’s lesson that day. If you remember one of my stories and if one of them moved you, then I have done my job. It is what my grandfather did, and those are hefty shoes to follow in.

One more thing: that was the last time my grandfather and I played marbles. Yes, his lesson stuck.

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

I have 1484 ‘friends’ on my Facebook page. Whether I know all 1484 of them personally doesn’t matter. At some point we made a mutual agreement to become acquainted. One of us sought out the other one and said ‘hello.’ The other one responded by accepting that ‘hello’ and becoming friends.

Isn’t that how life happens, how friendships are born?

I find it interesting that we view total strangers as friends. I have never actually met, face to face, with probably 1300 or more of these friends. Still, those perfect strangers are my friends. But what I—and more than likely, you—fail to realize is on the other side of the device (where you are reading this right now) is a person. For me there are 1484 people looking back. Of those 1484 people, probably less than 200 of them actually interact with me. I’m okay with that.

Why?

Well, because they are all people and they have lives and cares and worries. They have dreams and ambitions. Some are sick and in need of prayer or comforting words. Others are fine and life is being very good to them right now. But all of them are people.

A little perspective if you will. On my friends list:

There are rich folks and there are poor folks and there are those in between.

There are folks from every state in the United States.

There are folks from England, Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia and, yes, the Middle East.

There are folks who work as lawyers and nurses and teachers.

There are folks who work as bartenders and taxi drivers and in retail stores.

There are folks who work in factories and in restaurants.

There are folks who work in the business of religion and others who work in the business of politics.

There are cops and firemen.

There are single moms and single dads raising their children the best they can.

There are married couples raising their children the best they can.

There are gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

There are straight folks, too.

There are musicians and voice instructors.

There are successful writers, as well as fledgling ones with dreams of writing for a living.

There are readers who love books.

There are Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, Non-Denominationals, Methodists, Nazarenes, Atheists, Agnostics and maybe even a Satanists or two. And yes, there are Muslims, as well.

There are liberals and there are conservatives.

There are folks who like heavy metal music. Others who like rap. Still, others who like classical, and some who like country and some who like bubblegum pop. There are those who like it all.

There are sports fans and there are folks who can’t stand sports.

There are those who love movies and television.

There are those who don’t care much for either.

There are those who love The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and those who have never seen the first episode of one or both shows.

There are those who will only drive a Chevy or a Ford.

There are high school friends on here, too.

There are whites, blacks, Asians, and Native Americans.

Why does any of this matter? Simple: all of them are people. People with hopes and dreams, and people who just want to make it home to their loved ones at the end of the day. They, like you and I, have feelings. They, like you and I, have ambitions. They, like most of us, are saddened by events where people are killed recklessly and needlessly because of hate and fear.

During this week where America celebrated its independence, at least seven people died who should still be alive today. The key word isn’t black or cop. The key word here is ‘people.’ Seven people are dead and millions more are angry and some are even enraged to the point of…hate.

Today I sit at my kitchen table having not only celebrated my nation’s independence, but also my birthday. Seven people will never see another birthday. Their families are forever changed, and many of them are mad, not just at those who killed them, but at other people as well—people who have nothing to do with the events that unfolded this week.

There are those who want revenge and those who want to take away someone else’s freedoms and those who want justice now. There are those who will lump everyone into a category because of a few people’s actions. There are those who will scream and demand change, demand our government do something about this.

Here’s the problem with that: change will never come about until we, the people, change our way of thinking and change our hearts. We, the people, are the only ones that can bring positive change. Not our governments and not our laws. The people. The same folks I have mentioned up above can make a change, but in order to do so, we have to change our hearts, we have to learn how to be compassionate again. We have to learn to love our neighbor. If we can have total strangers on a social media site that we call friends, and some of which we come to cherish and possibly even love, then why can’t we do the same to the people we come in contact with every single day of our lives?

I’m reminded of the song Under Pressure, by Queen and David Bowie. At the end they come to the conclusion that it is love that can make a difference in every person’s life. But love is so old fashioned…

And love dares you to care for

The people on the edge of the night

And love dares you to change our way of

Caring about ourselves

The way I see it is, love dares you to look in the mirror, but we don’t want to do that. We want to lay blame somewhere else. We, as a people—not as a nation, as a people—need to step back and look at ourselves, and make a change, starting with ourselves. If we don’t, I fear for myself, my children, my friends, my fellow people. Because, the way I see it is if we don’t make a change in our hearts and our mindset soon, then we will never have true freedom again. We will all be prisoners to fear and rage and hate, and no one will be safe.

This, well, this is how I see it. Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Passion…

Posted: July 1, 2016 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve always thought to be truly good at anything you have to be passionate about it. You have to want it more than you want anything else. Essentially, you can’t do it halfway.

I’ve mentioned in the past how I played a lot of basketball when I was a kid. Though I loved football and baseball as well, I was better at basketball than those other two. I began playing basketball when my friend, Tony, moved in two houses down from us. He was the first black kid I had ever met and we became fast friends. He showed me a place where we could play basketball everyday if we wanted to. It was a gym where there were no other white kids.

(A little caveat, if you will: I had wanted to play basketball before meeting Tony, and we had a goal nailed to a tree in our yard. My dad had shown me how to do a lot of things necessary to play basketball, but at the age of ten, I still wasn’t all that great at any of them. But that is a story for another day.)

It was daunting at first, being the only white kid there. I was called a lot of names that could be considered racist. That didn’t bother me. What did bother me was losing all the time. The first few times I went there, I was humiliated; I was played right out of the gym. I am crazy competitive and losing is a bad thing now, and was a horrible thing back then. One day I stopped going there to play, and started going just to watch. I watched how the older kids played, how they dribbled, the way they shot the ball, the way they passed. I watched the way they played defense. I listened to their trash talk, even as I sat in the bleachers and wasn’t even playing.

I watched.

And I watched some more.

Still, I watched.

I took the things I saw in that gym home with me and practiced them in my backyard. I didn’t say anything or ask for help. I just tried to figure out how this guy could do this and that guy could do that, and holy cow, how did he do what he did?  Then I went back to the gym. I still got beat on a regular basis by the older, more experienced players, but I was beginning to figure out the game and how to score and play defense and how to win.

Eventually, I did win. And I continued to win. The White Boy Cracker became one of them and the derogatory remarks faded all together.

The only reason that happened was because I was passionate about the game of basketball. I worked hard at learning everything I could about it. I worked hard at figuring out how to get better and how to beat my opponents. No one worked harder than I did.

No one.

That leads me to writing. I have often spoke about how I was told by one editor I should never write another story, that I just wasn’t good at it and never would be. It was an insult—and solely his opinion.

I have also mentioned how I queried a publisher once in hopes of having a short story collection put out by them and received a response something like, ‘Are you the A.J. Brown who has stories published here, here and here?’ My response was, ‘Yes, I am.’ To which I never heard back from the publisher.

I’m not going to rehash all of that in detail here, but I will say, just like when I was learning how to play basketball, I stopped writing after both of those interactions, but not because I was giving up. Oh no. It was because I needed to learn more. I needed to become a better writer. In order to do that, I had to get quiet, pay attention, and become passionate about the craft of writing.

I know it is cliche to say writing is a craft, but it really is an art form. I often say writing stories is like writing songs that have no music accompanying them. Again, that is for later.

For now, I need to stress passion. I pour myself into my stories. I don’t write anything I feel is going to suck. If I don’t enjoy writing it, then I stop. Why? Because if I don’t enjoy writing the story, what are the chances you, the readers, will enjoy reading the story? Pretty slim, folks. Pretty slim.

I have a desire. No, it is not a dream, but a desire. That desire is to have readers—and a LOT of them. That desire is to have people want my stories. That’s not a dream. It’s a desire. With that desire comes passion. I am so passionate about writing stories that I don’t do things the way everyone else does. No, that does not make me eccentric. I just don’t think a lot of writing is good these days because everyone is writing the same thing, in the same voice, and in the same way as everyone else.

My passion for writing and getting my name out there is so strong it hurts sometimes. No, that doesn’t mean I am suffering for my craft. That means I want this so bad I can taste it. It means, like when I was a kid and playing basketball in a gym of older, more experienced men, I will not be outworked on this.

Will I ever make millions at writing? Probably not. Making a living writing is one of the hardest things to accomplish. But I bet it would be so rewarding. If I want to make a living doing this or if I want more than the readers I have now, then I have to work at it, and work hard. I am just passionate enough about the written word that I can tell you without doubt, no one will outwork me. My desire, though it is a mountain to climb, is a desire like no dream ever was. My passion…there is no rival to it.

One more thing: it is because of that passion and belief in myself that you should pick up one (or all) of my books. I believe you can read that passion and desire in my words. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Don’t you want to find out for yourself? If so, follow this LINK. You won’t be sorry.

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

D is for Determination

Posted: June 4, 2016 by ajbrown in Uncategorized

I have this saying: If you believe you are destined for greatness, then how can you fail? 

I believe that I am destined to be a great writer. I also believe I am getting close to where I want to be with my writing, just not with the success I still believe can and will happen one day.

Having said that, how can I fail? Easy: if I do nothing to pursue greatness then I will never become great. Does that make sense? Let me repeat it. If I do nothing to pursue greatness then I will never become great.

Have you ever wanted something so bad it hurt? Maybe it was the love of another person. Maybe it was a job. Maybe you wanted to win at something. Maybe you wanted to accomplish something you didn’t think you could, and after you tried, failing hurt as bad or worse than that desire for accomplishment.

Did you give up when things didn’t quite go the way you wanted it to that first time? What if that person you really liked didn’t seem to notice you? Did you say, ‘that person is out of my league?’ Did you admire from afar and never truly try to win that person over? What about the job you wanted? Did you put in an application and a resume for it? Did you follow up after putting in the application and submitting the resume? Or did you just cross your fingers and hope they liked you enough to call you back for an interview? What about competition? What if you lost that first time you played a game and gave up? Would you accomplish anything by quitting? What about that thing you wanted to accomplish but didn’t succeed in doing so the first time? Did you say, ‘it’s not worth it?’

If you did any of the above, then that is how you can go about not achieving greatness. Here is a little secret that so many people close their eyes to (and I apologize if I offend anyone with this statement): So many people get an idea in their head that if they do something then they will be great, but then they don’t think about how to actually go about doing it and becoming great in and of itself. They get delusional about how things work and then wonder why greatness hasn’t been achieved when the effort to achieve it is not put in. Truth: In order to create, do something, or become great you will suffer. By suffer, I don’t mean fires of Hell suffering or putting a sack cloth on and sitting in the road as a tornado looms. What I mean is if you work hard enough at something you will have setbacks. It is just part of the business. Even when things go well at first, you will have setbacks. And those setbacks hurt.

Since I am a writer, let me use this as an opportunity to state: writing is difficult when done right. No, I don’t mean just the writing aspect of it, but the entire package. Writing, editing, proofing, researching publishers, submitting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, did I say waiting? Yeah, waiting. Then rejections, researching some more, submitting again, waiting (X12). Then acceptance at some point! Yay! Then comes more editing, marketing, more editing, more marketing, and all that other stuff that comes after a book is released.

1e71d66cb15dd173639294182c885ab8IT IS HARD WORK.

This brings me to today’s title: D is for Determination.

Determination is what leads to greatness. No one who failed and quit became great. No one. Doctor Seuss became great after he had been rejected time after time. Henry Ford failed miserably before forming Ford Motor Company. Michael Jordan didn’t win a championship until his eighth year in the NBA.

Failure is inevitable. It is what you do after you fail that defines how great…or not…you become.

How about a little story about me and when I first started trying to get published? When I set out to get my work published I was kind of stupid about it. I had these grand notions that I was a pretty good writer. I had great concepts. I had great vision. One problem: my writing sucked. I hated writing growing up, so I didn’t really pay attention in school when it came to that particular subject. Naturally, I wrote like a third grader with the way I put sentences together. Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Third graders could write better than I could.

Still, I set out to get published. Here is a truth that would have made most folks give up: Before I received my first acceptance letter I was rejected exactly one hundred times. Take that number in. One hundred rejections. I was determined. I didn’t want to give up until I had gotten at least one acceptance. It was frustrating and at the time I didn’t have many stories I could put out there, so I would read the rejections in hopes of gleaming something from them that could help me figure out why my stories weren’t accepted. Most of them were form letters that didn’t help.

Then it happened. A little place on the web called House-of-Pain.com picked up my story, Diane’s a Whore and Simeon’s Payback. It was a vampire story and up to that point, the best thing I had written. I had done it. I had gotten my first publication and it felt awesome. I was excited. I was thrilled. I was bitten by the bug that comes with acceptance. It’s like a drug and I wanted more of it.

Then something else occurred, and I will keep this short. A while later I received a rejection from an editor, who in his letter said, ‘Stop writing. You are not good at it. You should never write another story.’

Ouch. Burn. As the kids these days like to say, ‘You got roasted.’ That stung. That hurt. That made me sit back and ponder if it was even worth pursuing anymore. Then I got mad and determined to prove this guy wrong. I spent several years working on various things I needed to do to become a better writer. I paid attention when other writers talked about how to do something and then I asked questions. Then I worked for months on each thing I needed to learn to make myself better. When I felt I was better at one thing, I switched gears and worked on something else.

I was determined.

Was it fun? Not particularly. But did I need to do it? Yup. Am I better for it now? Absolutely.

When you want something—and I mean really want something—then go after it. I would rather try and fail over and over again, than to never know if I could have succeeded because I didn’t try. And where has this gotten me? Well, with reviews like this one (for A Stitch of Madness):

The stories, oh, the stories. I can’t write anything about each one that hasn’t been so eloquently written in these other reviews. So I’ll tell you about the writer, A.J. Brown, in my own words and from my own perspective; I am a horror fan who is also a writer. Brown is a writer’s writer (emphasis added: boldface type that’s also italicized and underlined). Stepping back from the stories themselves, here’s a thing: Brown can write in a feminine point of view. Is that rare for a male writer? Well, Stephen King mastered it in “Carrie” but I don’t think he’s done anything since that had what I am talking about (sorry Uncle Stevie). It’s that subtle sense of mixing the testosterone-laden hard-driving spinning of a tale with the softly-whispered voice of an innocent. This art is at its most beautiful and horrible in the story “Stitch”. It is an art that Brown has mastered. (1) I want Brown to keep writing for the rest of his life, and (2) I hope he outlives me.

The reviewer wants me to continue writing and she wants me to do so while outliving her. I’m to assume she means she doesn’t want me to pass before her because she wants to keep reading my work. That, to me, is high praise. That also speaks of determination paying off.

Never give up on your dreams. Never quit because something is hard and you failed at it. As Alfred told Batman, ‘Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.’

That is determination at its heart: picking ourselves up.

Just my thoughts.

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

The other day I was walking down the hall at work when someone called me from behind. I turned to see a woman coming toward me. She asked me a question, one that I didn’t have the answer to immediately. I said to her, ‘follow me, walk this way.’ Then I pretended to be Igor from the movie, Young Frankenstein, with his short cane. In the movie he goes down some steps, using a cane he pulls from his boot, and then he hands it to Mr. Frankenstein, to which Mr. Frankenstein goes down the steps in the same manner as Igor. Whew, I hope that made sense. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the clip.

0At the end of the clip did you notice how Frankenstein’s face changed, like he couldn’t believe he had just done exactly what Igor had told him to do and in the manner igor had done it? I think a lot of folks are like Frankenstein in the respect that they will do things without thinking about it to ‘fit in.’ Sometimes they do things knowingly to fit in, things they wouldn’t normally do or that they said they would never do.

This brings us to my topic: Conformity. You all know how much I like the definitions of words so you should be used to this by now:

Conformity: compliance with standards, rules, or laws. Behavior in accordance with socially accepted conventions or standards.

Ahem.

I think compliance to most things are okay, like at the job by following the rules or by obeying the laws of the road when driving, or not cheating on your spouse. Things like that. Those aren’t bad things. But what I want to hit on isn’t necessarily compliance, but conformity or changing who you are for someone(s) else or to fit in.

If you know me at all, then you know I am a T-shirt wearing, jeans loving guy. I do not compromise on that when I get home and I slip out of the work garb. I’m not one of those guys you will see wearing sandals or pastel colored golf shirts. I don’t primp before I go out. I loathe ties and nice, dressy clothes. I dress comfortably and I’ve never cared if other folks like it or not. I am not willing to conform to someone else’s standards.

I won’t change who I am to fit in with a group of people either. I believe you like me for who I am or you hate me for who I am. At the end of the day I have to go to bed with me and the person in my head. You don’t. I admit I have mellowed over the years, but that comes with having a great wife who has put up with me and my issues and attitudes. But that is not conformity or compliance. That is a man with limited intelligence using what God gave him.

I’m also that way with my writing. I do not conform to all the rules or what is expected. Sure, there are rules you need to follow. You need to have an actual story to tell. You need to have a reason to tell that story. You need characters and you need resolution to the problem the character faces.

Honestly, though, that is all I care about. Let me explain.

I don’t like most books because I truly feel you can take the name of an author off of one book and put it on another book and no one would realize the same author didn’t write both books. So many books are written to a formula these days, and though that formula may work for pounding out book after book, it doesn’t work for separating who wrote what. It also doesn’t engage me at all.

We are cranking out books at a crazy rate. What once took years for one book to be released now takes months (thanks to the digital book world). We have inundated the readers with so many choices, which is good, but a lot of those choices are poorly written and the stories are weak at best, which is bad. It’s quantity over quality these days, when it should be the other way around.

Part of the issue falls right into conformity. I stated there are rules that need to be followed and I also stated that there are only a few that I think are set in stone. The others, I believe are guidelines and some of them are outdated guidelines. For instance, perfect grammar.

Raise your hand if you use perfect grammar in your every day life? I do not see any hands.

I’m not a fan of perfect grammar. Have you ever noticed how people talk? Most of them do not speak with perfect grammar. They speak with accents and flawed enunciations of words. Perfect grammar is boring. I write like I talk. I am from the south and I have a southern accent. The grammar in my writing—or the incorrect grammar—is intentional. I’m not saying grammar is a bad thing, but I think, like everything else, if it doesn’t fit what you are writing, then don’t use it. (Yes, I am sure I will hear about this, but this is what I believe.) I will not comply or conform on this.

I believe dialogue is important, both external with another character and internal with the main character. But I also believe the dialogue needs to sound real and the timing and placing of the dialogue is important. I want characters to sound like they are real people, not one dimensional words on paper. That will never change and it is something that I pick apart when I edit. People hate me because of that. I’m okay with it. I will not comply or conform on this.

I’m not an all action all the time writer. I like build ups. I like learning about the characters and peppering the story with important details and emotions. I like evoking ‘the feels’ of a story onto the reader. If I can get them to feel what the character is going through then I have succeeded. I don’t know how many times I have had stories rejected because they weren’t all action all the time, even though the stories were well written and engaging. Yeah, go figure. Still, I’m not changing my voice or style to get published. I believe in my work and I know it is good. I will not comply and I will not conform on this.

Unfortunately, too many people just go with what everyone else is doing. The book world is becoming like so many other facets of the rest of he world: it is becoming fad oriented. What is the latest rage? Vampire and werewolf love stories? That’s what we should write on. Dinosaur Erotica? Sure, let’s do that. (seriously, that is a thing and it saddens me) I get it. I want to sell books, too. But I have no desires to write on those topics, no matter how well they are doing. I will write on the topics I wish to write on. And I will not write on the topics I do not wish to write on.

But that is me. What about you? What do you want to write on? Don’t be afraid to write about what you want to because it isn’t mainstream or because you don’t think others will like it. You have to write for yourself and enjoy doing so in other for others to enjoy your work.

I view a lot of conformity as fear-based. We change something about ourselves because we are afraid if we don’t someone may not like us or we may not get something we want. It is one thing to change a destructive behavior to better yourselves and those around you, but it is another thing to change something you don’t want to in order to fit in. In this day and age, why do we still need to fit in to groups of people who may or may not like us?

Go back up to that video clip. Take a look at Igor (who was played by Marty Feldman). Clearly, he did not fit in with anyone else and he did not conform at all during the movie. Now, go back and look at Frankenstein, played by Gene Wilder. Just that one instance in the movie shows that even those certain of themselves can conform just for a moment or two. He didn’t know Igor at all at that point, so what did he do? Without thinking he did as Igor told him to. It made for a funny moment in the movie. (For the record, I am certain most folks don’t see what Frankenstein did was conformity. It is only an illustration to the way we, as people, think from moment to moment. To be socially or professionally accepted we conform to the norm instead of just be who we are.)

Image-Of-Popeye-In-Smiling-FaceI’m a firm believer in be who you are and don’t let anyone change that in you. If you change something about yourself, then it needs to be something you want to change. As Popeye boldly states, “I am what I am.”

You are what you are. And you should stay who you are, right down to how you write the words you write.

I want to change the face of writing as we know it. That can never happen if I conform and write what everyone else writes. I want to be like a great musician with my words and bring about that change. It will not happen by writing like someone else.

Just my thoughts…

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

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.