My first book, Along the Splintered Path, was released at the beginning of 2012 by Dark Continents Publishing. Up to that point I had never been more excited in my writing ‘career’, as it is. A lot of work went into the collection. Two stories were completely rewritten while one of them was a brand new piece.

At the time of its release I was in a phase of my writing process where I sought to make my stories sound authentic. In order to do that I would have to make all of the dialogue sound as real and believable and accurate as possible, as if someone would actually say the words I had the characters saying. Not that I didn’t already have realistic sounding dialogue, but I generally steered away from swear words. Having characters using foul language equaled authenticity. Or so I told myself.

The book was released and I was immensely proud of it. It received a few good reviews and it sold right out of the gate. I couldn’t have been happier, especially with it being a first book (even if it was a collection).

Then something happened, something that made me less proud of what I had accomplished.

Someone I knew wanted to read the book. This someone didn’t care much for bad language. Suddenly I was uncomfortable with the book, with letting someone read it. Suddenly I wished I had not put so much ‘authentic language’ in it.

Let’s stop here for a second. Not too long ago (well, maybe long enough ago that it was before Along the Splintered Path came out) I wrote a blog about using strong language in writing. I argued for the language, stating quite simply that some words don’t have the same oomph as others.

I view swear words as emphasis words. When someone says a swear word you notice it, you hear it. Immediately you understand the impact of the word in the context of the sentence. Almost always, even in joking around, the swear word stands out. Let me give you an example:

Damn it! As opposed to, Dang it!

You just read those two statements. Admit it, you said the first one more emphatically. Even if you only said the words in your mind, chances are the first one was stronger than the second one.

Here’s the thing, not all words can be replaced with other words. It’s like medicine. Not all medicines have a generic equivalent. If they did we would all buy the knock-off brand and save us a bit of money. Swear words are the name brand words and their softer, not as offending equivalents are the generic versions. The problem is, though the generic medicines work as good as their name brand counterparts, the generic equivalent of a swear word doesn’t have the same impact.

Again, let’s use ‘damn’ as our name brand word. What are its generic equivalents? Dang. Darn. Dagnabbit. Say them. Go ahead. Say them. I’ll wait. Make sure and say all four of them.

Let’s take a look at it now.

Dagnabbit just sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It sounds like something Ned Flanders from The Simpsons would say. Many of you just cringed. That’s okay. I did, too.

Darn and Dang, well they’re okay. But they’re not the same as, oh, I don’t know: Damn.

Admit it. When you read that last ‘damn’ just now you felt the emphasis of it, didn’t you?

This was my argument for using swear words in writing.

Let’s go back to what I was saying before. I used a lot of swear words in Along the Splintered Path. Honestly, the dialogue sounded more authentic with them. But there is a problem with this. I don’t use many swear words in real life. I’m not comfortable hearing many of them come out of my mouth. I don’t want my kids to hear me say them. I don’t use them at work because they sound unprofessional. I don’t use them in general discussions because, quite honestly, they are not needed. I can’t say I don’t use them when I’m mad, but even then it is usually only one of four words, none of which starts with a F or a G plus a D. When I hear other people talking and every other word that comes out of their mouth is a swear word I walk away or I turn the channel if I am watching television or I turn off the movie or I stop reading the book. It’s not that I’m a prude, I just don’t think swearing is all that necessary.

If I don’t use swear words in life, why would I use them in my books?

Back to the person I knew who wanted to read the book. I was embarrassed to tell her, ‘I’m not sure you’ll like it. There’s a lot of language in it.’

‘But you wrote it,’ she said.

‘Yes,’ I responded and went on to explain that I wanted the characters to be as realistic as possible and that meant they had to swear because, you know, that’s what people do and I really wanted the characters to be real and…

‘But you don’t swear,’ she responded.

Guess what? She was right. Not all people swear. Not all people care to hear others swearing. Not all people care to read stories where swearing is prevalent throughout.

And I don’t swear a lot.

Here’s the point to all of this, and it doesn’t just pertain to swearing. If you do something that you would be embarrassed to tell someone or to have someone see/read/hear it, maybe you shouldn’t do it. If doing that thing makes you uncomfortable when someone ask you about it, then maybe you shouldn’t do it. Or maybe you shouldn’t have done it.

And then there’s the fact that I had to explain why I had written all the swear words in the first place. If you have to explain your actions, chances are they are actions you should not have taken.

I learned this lesson from that friend. And it embarrassed me. I couldn’t, in good conscious, say, ‘you’ll love this book, but you’re going to have to overlook all the cussing.’ I told the person the truth. ‘You may not like the book.’ And it hurt to say that. I knew the person wouldn’t buy the book, and if they did, they probably would have looked at me differently afterward, maybe even shook their head in disgust at how man F-Bombs I dropped between the front and back cover.

Some of you may say, ‘so what? That person can get over it.’ Yeah, maybe so, but to me, it would be like one of my parents or my wife being disappointed in me. They might get over it, but it would always be in the back of my mind that they had been disappointed in me for something I did.

There’s also this thing called a first impression. This was my first book. Sure, I made a good first impression on a few folks, but what of the ones who may have liked the story, but didn’t care much for all the language? Here’s the thing: I want readers of all ages, male and female. I’m not naïve enough to think I can win over everyone, but I would rather not push away those readers who would otherwise like my work.

Some of you think I’m being ridiculous or over sensitive or maybe even over thinking this. I assure you, I am not.

I went back and reread Along the Splintered Path not too long ago. I cringed with each swear word. Then I took the swear words out and rearranged the sentences and do you know what happened? The stories were just as good without the foul language and the dialogue was just as realistic.

When I rewrote Cory’s Way, my first novel, I specifically targeted swear words to cut. I rewrote sentences in order to take those words out. I even rewrote one entire chapter just so I could take out one word. Are there a couple words in there that are strong? Yeah, but nothing like before I edited it and no actual swear words. I even took out a paragraph that I thought I went overboard with. And guess what? I believe in Cory’s Way, one hundred percent. I believe it’s a great book, one that has very little language in it. I am so confident in this story that I have given books to people with the understanding that: ‘You don’t have to pay me now. Read the book. If you like it, then you give me the money for it. If you don’t, you give me the book back.’ All of them have paid me for the book. Anyone thirteen years of age or older can read Cory’s Way, and they will like it. And I am not ashamed to let anyone read it. As writers, we should never be ashamed to let people read our work. If we are, well, maybe we shouldn’t be writing it.

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

And Your Mother Was There

Posted: February 27, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

My mom and I don’t always see things on the same level. We don’t always agree or see things eye to eye. We argue and sometimes those arguments get heated. Sometimes things are just bad. There’s no other way to explain it. We’re both opinionated and bull headed. We both speak our minds, which is not always good, especially when we are in disagreement on something.

If there’s one thing we agree on, it’s my dad. We both love him and the thought of something bad happening to him terrifies us both. So, when he went in for quadruple heart surgery we both had a shared interest: his health. There was no arguing or bickering or petty disagreements. There was a silent bond that wasn’t spoken. Yet, there was a story told, one I didn’t know of, though my mom swears she told it to me before.

This story, which I will tell you about in a moment made my mom’s eyes tear up. It was a result of Dad coming out of surgery and going into recovery. We would be allowed to see him about an hour after the surgery. Mom asked if I wanted to see him. Of course I did, but not with tubes in his mouth and all sorts of lines going in and out of him. I have seen these things before and it’s not something I haven’t been able to handle in the past. But this is my dad and I chose not to see him that way. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep the tears out of my eyes, even knowing he was going to be okay.

And this led to the story.

If you can, picture this: We sat in a large open room. Chairs were set up in a square in each corner where at least ten to twelve people could sit as a family or a group. We sat in the far corner, furthest from the entrance, but also in full view of that entrance. The woman(my mom)—not young, but not old either—had sat in the same spot for most of the time waiting for someone to tell us Dad was out of surgery. Across from her sat her second and third born children. That would be me and my baby brother, the one affectionately known as Mutt. Some of you will get that reference. Others of you won’t.

I had voiced my decision to not see Dad with all the wires, tubes and i.v.’s hooked up to him. I wasn’t sure what Mom would think about this or even what she might say. What she said surprised me a little.

‘I understand,’ Mom said. ‘It was like when you were in the hospital with all those wires hooked up to you.’

I gave her an odd look, I guess. She clarified her statement.

‘When you were a kid.’

The light came on. Long story short: When I was a kid I was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Some things transpired and I died.

Let’s stop here for a moment.

If I died, how can I be typing this? Yeah, I would ask that question, too. The answer? They revived me.

Now, stick with me for a minute as I try to recall Mom’s words, though I probably won’t get them a hundred percent right.

She said:

‘I prayed and prayed that God would let my baby live. And I felt like the prayers were getting pushed down, getting pushed back. I kept praying, God, let my baby live. And it kept getting pushed down. I knew what God wanted me to say, that His will be done, but I couldn’t do it.’

At this point there were tears in Mom’s eyes. I said nothing. What could I say? I never recalled hearing the story, so, to me, it was very new and very raw and very real with emotion.

She continued:

‘Finally, I prayed and I said, ‘Lord, I know what you want me to say, but this is as close as I can get to it, if it’s Your will, let my baby live.’

To steal from the movie Grease. I got chills, they’re multiplying.

‘Almost immediately after praying that, I got the peace that passes understanding and I knew you would be okay. I knew my baby was alive.

Two days later you woke up and you said…I was here on your right and your grandmother was on your left and you said, ‘I just visited the most beautiful place.’ And you turned to Momma (my grandmother) and said, ‘And your mother was there.’

‘You were in Heaven and you saw her there.’

My great grandmother died when I was two. I don’t remember her, though according to Mom, she loved me and hugged and snuggled with me and I let her do it and was content to be loved and hugged and snuggled.

Out of body experience? Mom believes so. I have no reason to disagree.

If you know anything about me, you know I write dark stories and that I’ve always been fascinated by the darkness of the human soul. Mom said she’s always thought that my interest in these things is related to that event. She may just be right.

And, if you know anything about me at all, then you know I have faith in God, in Jesus, and you also know I’ve always been a little different in my approach on a lot of things in life. I am my own person and I like it that way. Do I believe I paid Heaven a little visit and that I saw my great grandmother? You bet.

Do I believe in the power of prayer? Yup.

My mom wiped her eyes and gave me a smile. She understood why I felt the way I did. Why? Because she had seen me in a similar position when I was a little kid. She had seen me unconscious with wires and i.v’s hooked up to my body. It couldn’t have been easy for her.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it now: nothing makes you appreciate life more than death.

I lived through death years ago. I was prayed through it. Today, my dad is alive and he was prayed through it. I know many out there don’t believe in God and Jesus, but I do. My family does.

One more thing. I’ve thought on this story a lot tonight and I’ll probably think on it a lot going forward. It’s a story I am happy I heard. It explains a lot.

I got chills, they’re multiplying…

I don’t know how things will be going forward. But I know that moment will always be special, real and raw with emotion. And I understand a few things about myself that I never did before. It’s interesting how one story can make you see things differently.

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

I don’t have a vagina.

Now that that’s out the way, let me explain. It’s true. I don’t have a vagina. And, you, the readers of the world and other writers of the world, don’t care. You don’t look at me and say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror and he has a penis, so we probably shouldn’t take his work all that seriously.’ You don’t do that, do you? Do you?

Of course you don’t. Why would you? It sounds absurd. Yes, absurd.

Let me break this down. It’s one thing to say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror so we probably shouldn’t take him all that seriously.’ I get that. Some people don’t think writing horror is difficult. I kindly point out that the two hardest things to do in entertainment of any type are to scare people and to make them laugh. It’s not easy. Go ahead, try. At any rate, horror may not be your cup of tea and if it isn’t, that’s fine and you would probably not think there is much literary value in the darker worlds horror writers create. I get it.

However, it’s something else all together to say, ‘he has a penis, so let’s not take him seriously.’ Really? What does my penis have to do with anything I write? Nothing. It doesn’t whisper to me the words to say. It doesn’t think for me.

A few hypothetical questions:

If I told you I was a horror writer, would you call me a whore? Would you say I’m a whorror writer? When you look at my bio image do you automatically say, ‘hey, he’s a hunk of a man, so clearly he can’t put two words together or even form a coherent sentence? (For the record, if you called me a hunk of a man, I would laugh, then I would cry, then I would laugh and cry at the same time—I know what I look like and I am what I am.) Would you think I wrote with my penis? If that were possible, I think I would sell How To Videos. But I just can’t make it hold a pen or type. It’s just not happening.

See how ridiculous that sounds? Nobody is going to asks these questions of a man. Nobody is going to look at a guy and think ‘he’s so hot he can’t write or that he uses his penis to write. It just doesn’t happen.

Now, let me ask you one more question. Are you ready for this? Here goes:

What if I was a woman and said I wrote horror?

Wow. Things got quiet in here.

I want you to think about this for a moment. If I were a woman, would you view me any differently? Would you view my writing any differently? Would you view my abilities to tell a good story any differently? Would you think that I am beneath you or subpar to you, especially if you are a man? Would you think I couldn’t write as well as any man out there?

The sad thing about this is, for some, maybe even many people that I realize, the answer would be ‘yes.’ And most of those people would be men.

And why is that? (Disclaimer: the thoughts to this answer are my views and opinions and are only accurate if they apply to someone who thinks this way. If it doesn’t apply to you, then you are awesome.) My honest opinion is that men (I’m generalizing here, folks) have a superiority complex and many of them feel that no woman is equal to, or greater than, the penis swinging gender. I don’t know where this heightened sense of self-importance and self-absorbance comes from, but its kind of meh…it’s kind of stupid. No, it’s not kind of stupid, it’s all the way stupid.

As a friend of mine put it so eloquently: this goes back to the cave man days where the man hit the woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave. ‘I am cave man, hear me roar.’

Have we not advanced any further in society than that? Do we still have the cave man mentality? Sadly, there are a few men out there that do.

Just because I have a penis doesn’t mean I am better than someone who has a vagina. In fact, that someone can do something totally amazing that I can’t: give birth to life. That is, as I’ve said before, bad-assery. Wait, there is more. Not only do they give birth to life, but they also love the life they created, even though that life destroyed their bodies. Okay, men, do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Go give birth to another person.

So, how did that work out?

It didn’t? Hmmm…

Okay, some of you are probably thinking this topic isn’t serious. But, it is. Very much so. February is Women in Horror month and I have seen more men bashing these writers than I think I ever have before. It’s ridiculous.

Recently, I read a blog post written by Stephanie M. Wytovich, a writer. The title? Take the Whore Out of Horror. You can find it HERE.

Miss Wytovich wrote of a conversation she had with an individual. The following is an excerpt from her blog post (used with permission):

Stranger: “Writer, huh. So what do you write?”

Me: “I write speculative fiction.”

Stranger: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Genre fiction. I’m a horror writer.”

Stranger: “A whore writer?” *immature giggles*

Me: “No, a horror writer? *death stare*

Stranger: “Same thing. So whore fiction, eh?

A whore writer? Really? That has never, ever happened to me. Is that because I’ve never come across someone so witty as to come up with that? Is it because I’m not pretty? No. It’s neither of those. I think it’s because I don’t have a vagina. I really do.

The term whore is degrading in and of itself. It is defined as a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money. Do you really, honestly, think it is okay to call someone a whore? If so, then know a lot of men who may fall under that term.

For the record, if anyone were to ever call my wife, daughter, sister, mom, nieces, female friends, this, I will beat the piss out of them. And I’m sure many of you men out there would feel the same way if someone said that about one of your loved ones. Why, then, would we call a woman that if it offends us when someone calls our loved ones that?

Answer a question: What does gender have to do with it? Seriously? What does gender have to do with how good someone writes or how good someone does his or her job? What does gender have to do with any type of artistic creativity? What does being female or male have to do with anything in this business of writing/publishing?

Nothing.

Let me repeat:

N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I want to try and stick to the horror writing subject here, so I want to quote something else Miss Wytovich said in her blog about female horror writers:

We are WOMEN working in HORROR and we are PROFESSIONALS.

Why did she say this in bold and capitalizing three key words? Because of the paragraph before that:

This issue, beyond every issue that there is in publishing, and in horror, is what I have the biggest problem with. I’ve talked about stigmas and clichés a lot this month, but the notion that women in horror are nothing more than what their bodies portray them to be, is ridiculous. And it’s immature. And it’s offensive.

She’s right. But she left off a few things. It’s not only immature and offensive, it’s narrow-minded and outdated. It’s cave mannish. It’s a few other things, but I’m trying to keep from being snarky and rude.

I want to say this to anyone who thinks that women are lesser than men in the horror world, you clearly haven’t had the pleasure of reading the likes of Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Fran Friel, Belinda Frisch, Chantal Noordeloos, Anne Michaud, A.C. Wise, Lisa Morton, Tracie McBride, Mary Shelley and (my favorite) Shirley Jackson. These are all very good writers who happen to be women. Does that make them any less than writers who just happen to be men? Nope. Not at all.

Here’s the problem: this is a prejudice. It’s a mindset. In order to change a prejudice toward anything, you first have to change the mindset. We are all people, regardless of gender, color, creed or sexual preferences. At the end of the day, we are all people. What makes anyone better than anyone else? Nothing. I think it was the band Depeche Mode who asked what makes a man hate another man. I want to ask, what makes a man better than a woman?

Nothing. There’s that word again.

Just because you were born with a penis doesn’t make you better than someone born with a vagina.

As a person, I want to be treated with respect. I want to make a living and support my family. I want to enjoy any successes I earn and learn from the failures I have along the way. As a writer, I want readers and I want people to buy my books and I want to be treated equally among my peers. So, why shouldn’t our female horror writers be treated the same? Why shouldn’t they want the same? Why shouldn’t we, the male population, respect them the same way we respect other men? The answers, in order are they should, they should and we should.

I said it’s a prejudice and a mindset. It is. If someone looks down on someone because of their gender or race or whatever, then it is a prejudice, and prejudice is learned. Some will argue with me, and that’s fine, but I stand by this: prejudice is learned (and in many cases, taught). If someone hurt you and they are not the same color as you, then you may develop an idea that all people of that color would do the same thing. You learned something from an experience and then it was attached to all people of that color, as if every single person of that color would do the same thing. That’s not a good way to think. Or maybe someone taught you it’s okay to treat women poorly. Or maybe you just do it because you can. It doesn’t matter where the behavior comes from, it’s just not acceptable.

I am fortunate enough that I was taught to treat women with respect. I am fortunate that I was taught that every person should be treated with a bare minimum of respect, no matter who they are and that you should never, ever go below that minimum level. I am fortunate that I can sit back and take criticism from women and take advice from women and even seek that advice out from women. Why? Because I’m no better than they are, and in most cases, women are far better than I am.

Women have played significant roles in helping me with all three of my books. Tracie McBride edited Along the Splintered Path. Paula Ray helped me with the title and the bio. My wife helped me select the stories for Southern Bones and proofed them when the edits were finished. She also proofed Cory’s Way. Bailey Hunter did the cover lay out. Sue Babcock helped edit it and Paula Ray pointed out a few important things that, if they hadn’t been caught, could have had negative implications on what readers thought. I wouldn’t change any of the work they did on my books and I enjoyed working with each of them. Note the key word there: with. They didn’t work for me, we worked with each other, giving an equal amount of effort on the projects, the way it should be.

I guess I’m old school. I still hold doors for women. I still carry heavy items for them. I still let them get in an elevator before me and I offer to help them if I see they need help (and sometimes when they don’t). I still stand up in a crowded room and offer them my seat. I still hold women in high regard. When did we lose the ability to be gentlemen and don’t say it began with woman’s lib–that’s a cop out.

I want to take one more tidbit from Miss Wytovich’s blog. It’s very important, and it’s every single thing that the writing profession should be:

Let’s all just realize that the label of female horror writer shouldn’t even exist.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It’s as simple and true as that.

Miss Wytovich hit it on the head. You never hear someone say ‘he’s a male horror writer.’ Then why should you hear ‘she’s a female horror writer’? Gender doesn’t matter. The ability to tell a great story does. I don’t care if you are male or female, if you can write a story that I like, that engages me and that I connect with, then I will read your work.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It really is as simple and true as that.

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

(I would like to thank Stephanie M. Wytovich for allowing me to use portions of her blog post for this particular post. Also, please check out her blog, Join Me In the Madhouse.)

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to.

Dear Rod Labbe,

A lot of people are eating your lunch right now. A lot of people are pretty unhappy with you. You managed to tick off a lot of folks with your rant blasting horror writers. That’s probably not the best of ideas, but hey, you did it, so now a lot of people don’t like you.

You probably don’t care, though. After all, you are Rod Labbe, the guy who wrote the book and…wait, who?

Never mind. To quote The Rock, ‘It doesn’t matter’ who you are. What does matter are your words. These are things you can never take back. So, you have a book out. Great. So, you have another one coming out later this year. Good for you. But, really, does that make you Stephen King? No. No, it doesn’t. And it doesn’t grant you license to be—and I am putting it very lightly—a jerk.

In case you forgot your words (and for those who don’t know), here they are:

“The sheer number of people who call themselves “horror writers” astounds me. I consider myself just a writer, somebody who’s up for anything if the challenge is interesting enough. In college, I wrote for the campus newspapers, edited the literary magazines and jumped into freelancing once I had my diploma. I pretty much worked in anonymity, and I like that. Now, however, with the publication of my first novel and a second one to come later this year, I’ve found that I must “network” to get my name “out there.” And via this networking, I’ve encountered people who VERY SERIOUSLY consider themselves horror writers of the highest caliber.

They don’t welcome criticism on any level and don’t appreciate being questioned. They form “horror writing groups and associations” and band together with other like-minded writers for support and promotion. They do library readings, sign their novels on people’s lawns, pose for pictures as ghouls and monsters (the women are especially guilty of this; most of them look like hags anyway), and self-publish their work.

As a result, the marketplace has been flooded with junk, which brings down the overall quality of everything being offered. Their stuff will appear on Amazon.com, all wildly applauded by friends and family, who eagerly post to “lift up” the poor writer and perhaps push for more sales. “Five stars!” they’ll gush, when all the while, the book/novella/short story is full of typos and misspellings and bad syntax. Shameful.

Everywhere I turn, I encounter these deluded individuals. They obviously have some great need to be “somebody,” and it makes them feel good to be recognized. Hey, I’m all for that–but I also believe you must hone your craft, educate yourself, and pay your dues. You don’t become a horror writer merely because you suddenly feel like one. It’s like any creative art. First, you need the talent, and then you need to polish it to a high sheen.

Skipping these steps results in what I’ve been seeing: deluded “writers” who proudly strut around with absolutely nothing to back up the bravado.” – Rod Labbe

What most folks are upset about is calling female horror writers hags: They do library readings, sign their novels on people’s lawns, pose for pictures as ghouls and monsters (the women are especially guilty of this; most of them look like hags anyway)…

::Blink Blink::

(I intentionally did not take the sentence out of context, by the way.)

Before I continue on, I want to agree with you on one thing: the market place has been flooded with junk. But, Mr. Labbe, a lot of that junk is not self-published. A lot of it is put out by the bigger pubs. I’ve gotten to where I don’t care much for a lot of the Big Six publications, simply because they honestly don’t take as much care in editing as they used to. If it’s a big name, get the book out there and don’t worry about mistakes. People will read the books anyway. This is (mostly) the mentality of the big publications these days. Sure, there are those writers that put out their NaNoWriMo novels without doing much editing, and sure those tend to not be the best works in the world. But, let’s be honest, people would buy King’s grocery list if they could. I bet that’s some award winning writing right there. So, I agree with you. There is a lot of junk out there. Kudos for recognizing that.

Okay, now back to the hag thing.

Why, Mr. Labbe? Why would you say something like that? Do you not get how insensitive and arrogant that is? Okay, you know what? Forget the insensitive part. Do you not realize how arrogant that is? Just in case you don’t realize how disrespectful that statement is, let me ask you a couple to three questions:

Are you married to a woman? Is she a hag?

Do you have a mom? Surely, you do. Someone—a woman—gave birth to you, right? Is she a hag?

Do you have a daughter? Is she a hag?

Of course, if you are like any other person, you probably just got a little angry. My apologies. I’m not saying they are hags at all. I’m posing simple questions. I’m sure if you are married to a woman, you don’t consider your wife a hag. I’m sure if you have/had a mother, you don’t consider her a hag. I’m sure if you have a daughter, you don’t consider her a hag. But guess what? With your statement above, you insulted some men’s wives and mothers and daughters and girlfriends and cousins and aunts and so on and so on.

They are not hags. They are women. Strong, beautiful people. And, dude, just in case you don’t know this, women bleed for a week at a time and they don’t die. That is totally bad-assery right there. (Yeah, I made the word up. Does that make me a Mr. Hag?)

They do library readings, sign their novels on people’s lawns, pose for pictures as ghouls and monsters

Tell me, Mr. Labbe, how do you connect with your readers? Do you send out a newsletter? Do you go to book signings? Do you do interviews? Do you take the time out of your day to personally interact with your fans? I’m sure you probably do something, right? Or are you one of those that say “I will let my words connect to the readers.” If so, good for you. I also like to let my words connect with the readers. However, I like to actually talk to the readers and give back to them, because, guess what, Sir? Without them, it doesn’t matter how many books you publish. If you have no readers, then you have no sales. These other writers are doing what they can to accommodate readers and that goes a LONG WAY TO GETTING AND KEEPING THEM. Oh, wait. Did I just use all caps in that sentence? I did. I did use all caps. Thank you, Tweety Bird, for the inspiration.

Do you know what readers like, other than good books? Accessible authors. Take notes, Sir. Doing library readings and book signings on someone’s lawn and posing for pictures dressed as characters or just in general is being accessible. It doesn’t make you less of a writer and it doesn’t make you a hag. It makes you endearing to the reader nation out there.

Let me pause for just a second here and allow me to introduce myself: My name is A.J. Brown. I like to write dark things. By no means do I consider myself a horror author or a horror writer or a horror anything, except maybe a horror lover. I don’t even consider myself an author or a writer. Just a story teller.

But I know a lot of horror writers and you, Sir, have insulted a lot of those folks. You see, you didn’t just insult women, you insulted a LOT of writers, men and women alike. You called them deluded. I’m not sure that is the right word though.

Delude: impose a misleading belief upon (someone); deceive; fool.

“too many theorists have deluded the public”

synonyms: mislead, deceive, fool, take in, trick, dupe, hoodwink, gull, lead on…

Unless you are saying these individuals have a misleading or deceiving belief about themselves, then I’m not even sure that’s the right word. Delusional may have worked better since that essentially means to self deceive (or even to self delude). But it doesn’t matter. Clearly what you meant is that these writers have a false sense of self worth and self importance, which kind of leads me back to you and your self value. I’m just going to guess you think highly of yourself, so highly in fact, that you find yourself above these other ‘lesser writers and hags.’ How does that make you any different?

Mr. Labbe, I would like to teach you a word that I think will do you a lot of good going forward in your writing career: Humility.

Defined as: a modest or low view of one’s own importance: humbleness.

Synonyms include: modesty, meekness, diffidence, unassertiveness

Biblically speaking:

Proverbs 16: 18-19

18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. 19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.…

Humility. Learn it, Sir. It will save you a lot of grief in the future.

I don’t mind your views. You are entitled to them, but remember, you can never take words back once they are out in the air, once they are on paper, or worse, on social media.

Before you start questioning who I am, I have no problems telling you, I am nobody. I am just a person who tells stories and does a pretty good job of it. Before you start questioning who these other writers are, ask yourself, Who am I and who am I to judge others?

Oh, and you owe a LOT of women an apology, one I honestly don’t think they will get.

With that in mind, I want to say this: To the women out there who read Mr. Labbe’s rant, I apologize, not for him, but for the rest of the male population. Not all of us are like Mr. Labbe. Many of us are gentlemen and are loving and caring and supportive and we love you the way you are, strong, beautiful, powerful, witty, caring, awesome, and a whole bunch of other words. I apologize to you all because just one man can make us all look like jerks.

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

 

 

 

 

 

You guys and gals are in for a treat. Today I want to draw a little blood from a very talented young lady. If you’ve never read anything by her, then you are missing out. She writes in a smooth, easy way that even some of the more brutal scenes can make you squirm without you realizing you are doing so. Today I would like to invite Chantal Noordeloos to the Donor Center for a little Pinch. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much.

Draw blood? *blinks* They didn’t tell you how squeamish I am? Be warned, I might faint. I know, I know… I write really gruesome things. But that works for me… see, I know I’m onto something when I feel like I may lose consciousness at any time.

Chantal, before we get to your new book, let’s talk about Coyote. Tell me about her and the series she is in.

I love talking about Coyote! *suppresses a little squee* She’s one of my own favourite characters. Well, she shares first place with my version of Lucifer (Even Hell Has Standards and Celestials) and Soulman (Deeply Twisted), but she’s definitely up there.

So, what would you like me to tell you about Coyote? That her partner and best friend, Caesar, is a former slave, who knows a little magic? Or that she’s a bounty hunter who has a special kind of target? She hunts creatures that are called Outlanders. They’re not exactly aliens, but they are definitely not from this world. Outlanders travel through the rips of reality, from one world to the next, often by accident. The worlds can be completely different realities, but sometimes they are just an alternate dimension from the earth.

It’s up to the hunters to track the wandering Outlanders down. Not all Outlanders are dangerous monsters, so Coyote and Caesar have to find out which of their bounties need to be killed, and which need to be protected.

The series is made out of separate stories that make up one whole main tale.

I use a little bit of everything in there, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird West, which gives me a lot of freedom to play around with the setting. I use a few historical facts, and even characters, but I play around with them too. Bending them to my will, if you like. *insert devious laughter here*

Unlike my horror work, I’ve kept Coyote accessible for different ages, though I wouldn’t say it’s Young Adult. The characters are too old for that, for one, but I like to think a younger audience will appreciate the novels as well.

The Coyote series definitely expresses my more ‘fun side’.

Are there more books to come in the Coyote series?

*hooks thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans, and balances on the heels of her feet* Yup, there sure are. *drops the cowboy act, because she’s just not very good at it*.

There are two books out so far. Coyote: The Outlander is the first novel, and it is the introduction to the setting and the characters. Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly is actually the first book that digs deeper into the main story line. It brings out some of the bigger antagonists, and I get to play around with a mysterious circus, what’s not fun about that? The next book in the series will be Coyote: The Rip Walker.

I have at least five books planned in this series to finish the story line that I started. It really depends on how well the series is received if there are going to be more than five.

Now, let’s talk Angel Manor. Tell the readers a little about this novel, if you don’t mind.

I guess I can’t just get away with posting the blurb, can I? *cheeky grin*. Ehm, okay, a little bit about Angel Manor… Well, for one, it’s the name of the house Freya inherits from her batty old aunt. The mansion gets its name from the stone angels that are placed in front of it. They are the only remains from the old cloister that once stood in its place, which burned down in the 19th century, killing all but two people.

Sounds like a pretty stereotypical set up for a haunted house novel, right? I can tell you, it’s not. I may have put a few extra layers in there.

Angel Manor should come with a warning label, there are some very graphic and explicit descriptions in the pages. I like to think it’s not a full on ‘Splatterpunk’ novel, though. I did put a lot more emphasis on the story than I did on the gore, but it’s definitely bloody.

Where did the idea for Angel Manor come from?

Well, this nun came to my house and… no, just kidding. I’m trying to remember if I ever actually met a real nun…

But, I digress. Ehm… where did I get my idea from?

It started that I really wanted to write a haunted house story. They’re one of my favorite tropes within the horror genre, and I just had to write my own. Personally I love using tropes, and I always hope that I am able to do something a little surprising with them.

The idea behind it actually came from another series I’m working on, called Celestials. I’ve written the first book already several times, but I’m still not satisfied with it, so this year I’m rewriting it again (for the last time I hope).

There are elements in that series that I could use for something else too, and I thought it would be perfect for Angel Manor.

Initially I was going to do more with the dead children in the book, that was my first concept. The idea of Angel Manor having been an orphanage really creeped me out, but as I was writing it, the nuns took over for me. They were stronger characters than the children were, and most of the scenes I wrote with the kids were cut out.

The nuns were a conscious choice, they were a perfect fit with the back story, be a good choice to run a 19th century orphanage, and be scary on top of that too. *throws confetti* I call that a win.

As for the stone angels. I knew I wanted to throw in a hint of a Celestial presence, and I was totally inspired by Dr. Who’s weeping Angels. Though, these angels are very different, the visual image of them still plays a part.

Angel Manor is book one of a series? How do you envision this series going forward?

Without giving away too many spoilers, there will be two more books. All of them center around the house, however, the next two books will also have parts set in different locations. There will be more focus on the secret that lies beneath the manor.

As I mentioned before, there are ties with the Celestials series. Both will be set in the same time period, and their stories are interlinked. That doesn’t mean you have to read both series to understand the stories. They are two separate entities, but I think it will be fun for the reader to see familiar things when they read them. I might cross over certain characters, and I shall definitely be using similar events.

Horrific Tales Publishing put out Angel Manor. How was your experience with them?

Publishing is always a bit of a roller coaster ride. It’s nice when a book is well received and the sales are good. Horrific Tales does a lot to promote its books.

One last question: Do you think you’d make a good nun?

I don’t know if the other nuns would appreciate my lack of faith. *grins*. I am not a good follower, so, no, I don’t think I would make a good nun. And the thought of living with nothing but women for the rest of my life terrifies me. When I was a teenager I lived in a boarding school for a year, where the housing situation was ‘all girls’. (We went to school with boys too, but we weren’t allowed in each other’s houses, not even the common rooms). That was all the ‘all girl’ experience I’m willing to have in one lifetime.

Okay, see painless, right?

I had a cat put her claws in my leg as I was answering these questions, does that count? *cheeky wink*

***

Excerpt from Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly

“You won’t be the first bounty hunter I’ve killed, little girl.” The Outlander guffawed, spittle flying from his lips. “And you won’t be the last.” He puffed up his impressive chest, and Coyote could not hide her smile. She liked to see overconfidence in an opponent.

“Are you sure about that, fat man?” She ran the palm of her hand across the butt of her gun, the way an owner would stroke a cat. There is something alluring and powerful about having a shooting iron on my hip. “Because you won’t be the first Outlander I kill.”

“You need to be a good shot to kill me with that.” The Outlander’s froggy eyes gleamed with pleasure, and his large lips rubbed against each other. With two hands, he lifted his stomach a few inches and let it drop again. “And trust me, no matter how good you are, you won’t be good enough. I never stay down long.” The creature leered at her as if he had a secret, and Coyote nodded—her smile never faded.

“They told me that about you.” She pulled her derby away from her eyes. “That’s a neat trick, being able to come back from the dead. Oh, I’m aware of that particular talent of yours.”

The Outlander blinked at her, his face betraying his surprise.

“I can see how you killed a lot of bounty hunters with that particular skill. They probably never saw it coming.” She winked at him. “It’s a little inconvenient, to say the least, to shoot an Outlander and have him get back up.” Coyote squinted her eyes and then shrugged. “It’s nothing I can’t work around.”

The Outlander let out a boisterous laugh—more spittle flew from his liver lips—and he revealed a set of grey broken teeth.

“You can work around my immortality?” He laughed again, and his whole body shook.

“You’re not immortal, fat man,” Coyote retorted with a warm smile. “People who can’t die are immortal. You can die; you’re just hard to kill.”

The Outlander slapped the thick flesh of his belly and rubbed it slowly, the smile still prominent on his pudgy face. “You think you can shoot me with that pea shooter of yours?” His voice took on a metallic quality, like nails dragged across iron.

“I know I can shoot you with my pea shooter. I am one heck of a shot.”

“And you think you can kill me with your iron bullets?”

“Iron bullets alone won’t do the trick, but I hear that Huzela juice in your blood will help those bullets kill you just fine.”

The rubbing motion stopped and the Outlander gawked at Coyote.

“Caesar?” Coyote’s tone was soft and smug, and the Outlander jumped a little when Caesar touched him. The big creature turned just in time to see the little man with coal black skin run from harm’s way. Caesar held a large, intricate copper syringe with a curved needle in his hand, and Coyote chuckled at the sight. The fat creature roared in outrage.

“What have you done to me, you bitch?” He charged toward Coyote, and she could see the color in his eyes turn from yellow to red.

Excerpt from Angel Manor

The bodies of fallen children lay scattered around the room, their blood coagulating in a pool covering over half the chapel floor. The whimpers coming from the survivors were little more than a pitiful hum.

Agatha had thought her mission noble when she’d first joined the order, but this suffering overwhelmed her with nausea and regret. There was a better way than this needless waste of young life, Agatha was sure of it.

“We could save thousands of lives by sacrificing but a few. Sister Anne and I have studied the texts, and we’re pretty confident we can do it… tonight even. We made all the preparations, just in case you changed your mind. The sacrifice required is relatively small compared…”

The Reverend Mother’s hand lashed out, connecting with Agatha’s cheek with a loud crack. Pain spread out in tiny pinpricks across her face. Shocked, she clutched her face and looked at the Mother Superior.

“Enough of this!” Spittle flew from the Reverend Mother’s lips. “Your rituals are pagan, we serve our Lord here as we were instructed. You had best mind what blasphemous words you utter here, Sister Agatha. The Lord does not look kindly upon heathens.” The older woman’s face relaxed slightly, and her expression turned from angry to stern. “We will never speak of this again. Now go and make the sacrifices required of us.” The old woman shoved her forward with a force that belied her frail appearance. Agatha slipped on a puddle of blood, her legs sprawling under her like an awkward doe’s. She fell to the ground, her wrists and elbow hitting the floor hard. Pain shot up through her arms, her naked body shivering on the cold stones. She looked up to see the Mother Superior walk away, leaving bloody footsteps in her wake. Agatha’s eyes followed her until she passed the body of little Margaret. The young girl lay with her neck twisted at an impossible angle, eyes staring lifelessly at the horror within the chapel.

I must find Anne. Sister Agatha scrambled to her feet, her hands and legs stained with cold sticky blood. She glanced at the carnage around her and then she ran, the soles of her feet slapping against stone, the impact rattling her teeth.

She ran from the chapel, through the narrow passages, and across the great cloister. The Sister felt the cold eyes of the twelve stone angels lining the walls of the large open area look down on her. Slowing her pace, she glanced up at the imposing statues. Even knowing stone couldn’t judge her, she found it difficult not to imagine God peering down through those blank eyes. A shudder ran through her spine, and she picked up her pace, not stopping until she reached the library.

“Anne…” Her voice reverberated off the high walls, echoing parts of her words back at her. “Sister Anne?”

A voice came from behind her. “Sister Agatha…”

***

Whew. Smooth, energetic writing. If you haven’t read Chantal, you need to. I hope you enjoyed the interview. I know I did and I look forward to more from Chantal.

You can find Chantal at any of the following places:

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/pon4e66

Blog: http://chantalnoordeloos.blogspot.nl/

Website: http://www.chantalnoordeloos.info

Twitter: C_Noordeloos

Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/puy2t87

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/kb3oswg

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned before about the nurses and how some of them are slightly sadistic. Well, today we get to meet an old friend of mine who just happens to work in the medical field and he likes to kill people, but not in real life. You know, because that would be bad and well, it is what it is. Sadistic, maybe? Yes, I do think so. Coming to the Donor Center today is Kevin Wallis, a master of the pinch.

Let’s talk Soulmates, why don’t we? Tell us about your novel, Mr. Wallis.

Soulmates developed from an idea I had for a story about 15 years ago. I was shooting pool with a buddy when the song Eulogy by Tool came on the jukebox. In the song is the line “Not all martyrs see divinity,” and over the next couple of hours I was more interested in the story idea that had popped into my head than in the game. I’m sure I won, but still.

Over the years I had filled countless notebooks with, well, notes on the story, but of course the final version turned out nothing like what I originally had planned. Basically it’s the story of a man who discovers through an act of violence that he cannot die, and how he reconciles this with his desire to one day see his deceased wife in the afterlife. There are others with this ability, and I tried to explore the vastly different ways people would handle having such a gift, and whether they would use their immortality to help or hurt.

I have had some people respond to this idea with, “Oh, it’s Highlander,” but let me just clear the record and say I HAVE NEVER SEEN THE DAMN MOVIE!

Soulmates is your first novel. Before releasing it you wrote mainly short stories. Why did you decide on a novel?

When I first came up with the Soulmates idea, I had not started writing seriously yet. I had dabbled in fiction since I was a kid, but this idea was so intriguing I decided to give it a try. So I wrote the prologue to the novel. Basically 35,000 words of crap. That’s right, 35,000 words on a PROLOGUE. (For you non-writer types, this comes out to about 125 pages. Of prologue.) I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. It took many more years of writing short stories, gathering hundreds of rejections, finally gaining enough experience to land a few professional sales, and eventually publishing an anthology of my stuff before I had the guts to try a novel. I still have the occasional short story idea pop into my head, still often inspired by a song I might hear (Chevelle’s Hunter Eats Hunter gave me a wicked idea a few days ago), but I want to focus mainly on novels now. Hopefully people will want to read them.

Julie Ann Dawson owns and runs Bards and Sages, the press that published Soulmates. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple stories published by Bards and Sages Quarterly, but I would think working with someone on a novel would be different than working with them on a short story. What was it like working with Julie and her staff?

Julie Dawson and Bards & Sages have been nothing but supportive and professional in publishing both Soulmates and my previous collection in 2010, Beneath the Surface of Things. When I originally contacted Julie, it was with more than a little trepidation because B&S had already rejected several of my short story submissions. But I figured this meant they had high standards and only published what they saw as exceptional works, and this is what I wanted. I had a bad experience with another publisher at another small press company before, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth concerning the entire process, but Julie has since eliminated any lingering doubts I had on the professionalism of some small presses. Plus, she decided to turn my work into audio books, as well, so this makes me do cartwheels of glee. Which is the title of my next book.

Any chance we get another novel from Mr. Wallis?

Definitely. Just not sure when. I have the first few chapters of a new one written but it’s been slow going. The next one isn’t so much a horror novel, but more of a suspense story. Knowing me, though, it’ll wind up being my sickest one yet. They always do.

One last thing: Do you enjoy giving people shots?

Only if the needles are dull and rusty.

Folks, Kevin Wallis is a cool dude with a love of needles and horror fiction. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and alongside Kevin on various projects over the years. His short story collection, Beneath the Surface of Things is exactly as it sounds. He tried to get beneath the surface of the human persona and peel back the layers until exposing the true person inside.

Soulmates is a good, easy, fast-paced read that any fan of horror will enjoy. Check him out on Amazon and Bards and Sages Publishing at the following links:

Soulmates

Beneath the Surface of Things

Bards and Sages Publishing

Book Pricing and Value

Posted: January 9, 2015 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Good day Faithful Readers. I would like to take a moment or two to address something that, as a writer, is important to me. Pricing of books. Uh oh. Did I just get a collective groan and roll of the eyes? Hold on. Hold on. Stick with me for a few minutes. The reason I want to talk about book pricing is because it is a hot button for a lot of readers, writers and publishers. The other reason is because of a video I watched back in December of an author who wanted to respond to what I took as a mean-spirited e-mail directed at her. Her response held all of the true emotions I think anyone would go through after reading such an e-mail. However, she doesn’t show any anger, an emotion I thought would have been justified.

The e-mail was a direct result of the Person in Question (PIQ from here on out) having to spend $4.99 on an e-book. Personally, I don’t think that is high, not for a novel and certainly not for one that the PIQ said was quite possibly the best thing that author had ever written. There are two things I really want to touch on about this particular subject based on the video response of the author.

The first is based on a statement in the e-mail:

…While the books are beautifully written, I don’t get why you have to charge so much for your books. It doesn’t take that much to write a book these days or publish it. Everyone is doing it…

I completely disagree with this statement, especially the ‘it doesn’t take much to write a book these days’ portion. And here is why: there is one component to writing a book that every author must have in order to do so. That is time. Without time there is no book. Without taking that time and placing your butt in a chair for hours on end there is no book. Without taking that time and researching the subject matter there is no book. Without taking that time and figuring out which direction to go with the storyline or which characters you really want to develop there is no story. Without taking that time to find an editor and a cover artist and beta readers and proofreaders and then doing all the edits there is no book. Without taking that time to format the book, preview it, reformat it, preview it again, the book is shoddy at best. Without taking that time and doing all the marketing and promotional work people don’t know about the book.

Here’s the thing about time: you never get it back. You never get the time invested into the book back. You never get the time away from your family and friends back. You never get the hours and hours back. I’m a firm believer in time is the greatest asset a person has, and for writers, they just don’t seem to ever have enough of it. There is no hourly wage for writers when it comes to the amount of time they spend writing, editing, and promoting books.

The other thing about that particular statement I disagree with is it doesn’t take a lot to write a book. For authors, it is not just about writing a book, but telling a story. For me, if I write a story and by the end of it, I think it sucks, well guess who never gets to read it: you, the readers. If it sucks, it sucks. That’s the bottom line. If I struggle to write a story, then I know you will struggle to read it, so it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day.

Good writers look at their work as an art form. For them, it is important that the story is pleasing to the mind. Just like a painter or a sculptor wants to wow people with visual beauty, and just like a musician wants the listeners to truly enjoy what they hear, good writers want their words to engage the readers, to be enjoyable to the readers, to be pleasing to the readers.

However, there are those out there who jot down a few words, create a cover and do no edits and throw them online for sale. They, well, they make things more difficult for the ones who put in real time and effort to bring you, the readers, an enjoyable experience. They must be the ones the PIQ refers to when she/he said, ‘everyone is doing it.’

This leads me to the second point, which is also something the PIQ said in his/her e-mail: the PIQ read the book, said it was great and then returned it because the PIQ didn’t feel he/she should have to pay $4.99 for an e-book. Let me see if I got this straight: The PIQ purchased the book. The PIQ read the book. The PIQ then returned the book after coming to the conclusion that the book was the best thing the author had ever written. It sounds to me like the PIQ quite possibly enjoyed the book.

Honestly, and maybe this is just me here, but this strikes me as very close to stealing. He/she read the book and then demanded his/her money back, not because the product wasn’t good, but because she/he felt it was overpriced. Yeah, I know there is such a thing as buyer’s remorse, but this isn’t the case. If the PIQ didn’t like the price of the book, maybe he/she shouldn’t have bought it. You’re not going to go to Barnes and Nobel or Books A Million, buy a book, read it and then take it back. You’re not going to go to a restaurant, order a meal, eat it and then refuse to pay for it, even though it was the best meal you’ve ever eaten. The PIQ essentially received the product for free by returning it.

How is that right? How is that even allowed?

You bought it. You read it. You enjoyed it. You keep it.

Dear Faithful Readers, I would never want you to be dissatisfied with one of my books, but is it fair to get the product, enjoy the product and then not pay for it? If you did that in the restaurant I mentioned above you would be arrested and carted off to jail. How in the world is this allowed?

This bothers me. It doesn’t anger me so much as it saddens me. The reader admittedly enjoyed the book. That’s what I keep going back to. If the PIQ enjoyed it, why would it not be worth the 4.99 price tag?

And another thing: writers don’t make that much money off a sale. So having the book returned, even though it was the best thing the author had ever written…that stings. And it’s wrong. There are no two sides of this coin. Sure, someone out there will play devil’s advocate and argue for the reader, but go back to what the PIQ said, and any argument that can be made would be invalid.

Writers don’t price books high, we price them low. The big publishers, they price books high. But us little guys and gals, we don’t. We price them low for two reasons: 1) We are mostly unknown and want readers to purchase our books and read them. (Though this is the case for many of us, and yes, we want readers, I will not give my books away for free. Free sales are not sales and many folks who get the books for free don’t read them, and even fewer leave reviews about them or tell folks about them.) And, 2) Writers understand the value of both money and time. We try to give you a good value for your hard earned dollar and we try to make sure we don’t waste your time by putting out garbage.

Sure, writing is easy. It’s as simple as putting one word after another. However, forming coherent sentences that make sense, and creating a story out of those coherent sentences is not as easy as some believe. Sure, anyone can write ‘See Spot Run,’ but telling us what Spot looks like, where he is running and why he is running is an entirely different thing…and much harder.

There is a component to everything people spend their money on. It is Value. What may be too high at 4.99 for some, isn’t high enough for others. For a writer, musician, painter, sculptor, singer and so on, we value our work much higher than what we sell it for. But we know, in order to get it into customers’ hands, we have to sell it low.

It’s all in how much you value something. I’m not a fan of porterhouse steaks, so guess what I won’t pay a lot of money for? I do, however, value a good book and will pay a little more for one of those than I would a porterhouse steak.

Let me put it another way: Do you like Starbucks coffee? Or any coffee that you buy from anywhere, for that matter? What does that generally run you? Four dollars? Five? Six? If you like that particular coffee, then there is a good chance you are going to buy it at somewhere between four and six or seven dollars. How long does it take to make that coffee? Two minutes? Four minutes? Let’s just say five minutes. How long does it take to drink that coffee? Ten minutes? Twenty Minutes? Let’s just say it takes forty minutes to drink a cup of coffee that took five minutes to make that you spent five bucks on.

How about a little perspective from a writer’s point of view? I began working on my novel, Cory’s Way, in 2008. It was released on Amazon in December of 2014 for the same amount of money ($4.99) as the young lady’s book who was told in an e-mail that someone returned her book because it was too expensive (even though she enjoyed it and thought it was the best work the writer had ever done, and that it was beautifully written, no less). What took me six years to put out cost the same price as a cup of coffee that takes five minutes to make and forty minutes to drink. A twelve ounce drink is worth $4.99, but an e-book is not? I guess it really is in how and what people value.

Let me say this last thing: If you buy a book and read it, please keep it. It’s only fair and it’s the right thing to do. As a writer, I work hard to offer you the best I can give you. Most of us do. Honestly, and again, this may be me, but when the PIQ returned the book because he/she thought it was too much, though enjoyable and the best thing that writer had ever written, he/she belittled the value of the book to the writer. Yes, I used the word belittled. Some may disagree, but that’s okay. This is how I feel. Let me tell you, the value of that book to that writer is so much more than $4.99, but the sting of having to give that little bit of money back after the book was read and loved…that just hurts…and it’s wrong. There are no two ways about this. It was wrong.

You bought it. You read it. You loved it. You keep it.

Thank you for coming by today, and I hope I didn’t bore you too much with this particular blog. Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…

 

 

Zombies. They’re the in crowd, the monsters everyone is talking about right now. They kill indiscriminately. One bite, even just a pinch of the teeth, and you’re as good as dead, well undead. With that in mind, let’s bring in Greg Ferrel, the author of the Humanity’s Hope series.

Let me get straight to the point: Why zombies?

Zombies rock. They are the epitome of an unstoppable enemy that wants nothing more than to kill you. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers they don’t scare me as much. They are one being, a serious threat, yes, but still just one being. They always seem to have a weakness you can exploit to survive. Zombies have one, too, but they are legion. Shoot one in the head four more come running, shambling, crawling or whatever and they wont stop until you run out of gas and become dinner. They have always been my favorite of the movie monsters, and as far back as I can remember I had a plan for the coming apocalypse more thought out then I had my plan if it didn’t happen.

Tell us about Humanity’s Hope, the series.

Humanity’s Hope came from my belief that it would be possible with the right people and the right mindset that you could survive the apocalypse and have hope again.

It starts out as a group of close friends who have built a safe haven in a neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, that one of them lived in when the outbreak happened fifteen months earlier. They have a wall built protecting them inside from the slabs, which is their name for the zombies, or even other humans who would want to take from them. They have weapons scavenged from overun military convoys and many other places. They have limited electricity from solar panels on one of the houses and ample food supplies. Life is looking good for them and they are survivng well.

All hell breaks loose on them though shortly afterwards. They face two impending threats from the north and the south and the camp comes under attack.

As the smoke clears there is loss and confusion as the survivors deal with the aftermath. A revelation from one of the residents reveals a much more sinister world that threatens their survival. But there is also hope as one of them goes through a change after being bitten.

While the people in Tallahassee are trying to survive another group of people scattered all around the world are attempting to reconnect with each other. These people have lived a very secretive yet powerful life and want nothing more than to regain their lofty position controlling the events of the world. Is there more to them then just their lofty position and what is their ultimate goal?

Hutch is a man on two missions. The first is to kill slabs and he is good at it. One at a time is too slow and he is not a patient man. With a twenty year carer as a Navy SEAL recently behind him he has the know how to cause massive damage to the slab population. His second mission is his secret. Follow him as he travels across the country doing what only he can do the way he does it.

The stories of these groups will become intertwined and a much more secret history of the world will be revealed as the series moves on. History is written by the survivors not the dead, what we know may not be the truth.

If you had to convince someone to pick up the Humanity’s Hope series instead of another book (or series), what would you say?

Humanity’s Hope is not just another zombie survival book. It is an adventure as you follow not just one group of people but at times up to four differnet groups of people in various locations of the world. The story will span 3000 years as the origin of the zombie plague goes back farther than we could ever imagine. Before it is over you will find out that the zombies aren’t the only monster the survivors will have to deal with but they might end up with a few on their side too.

It is also a more positive look at the apocalypse and I prove that you don’t have to go over the top with the language or violence to get your point across about what is going on. Even though there is some language in it I have had a few parents feel very comfortable letting their teenagers read it saying it’s nothing worse than they hear on network television.

It is a page turning, fast paced ride that many readers have written to me complaining that the book ruined any chance of getting a good nights sleep. They couldn’t put it down until long after they had planned on reading for the night.

Greg, what do you believe is the most important part of telling a story?

Make the reader want to turn the page. Keep it interesting and keep it moving. Some readers might want you to spend two pages describing the mole on the side of someones face, but I think most of them want to get a good story full of fun interesting characters. I love a good story where the action keeps coming at you to the point where you find yourself breathing faster and faster not even realizing you are doing it. But not at the expense of quality action. I feel it needs to have a reason for happening though, a gunfight or fistfight that has no impact on the outcome of the story is stupid it needs to carry through either changing the character or the outcome of the story.

Including Humanity’s Hope, what stories does Greg Ferrel have for us in the future?

I have just released my first non monster book on January 5th called Nothing Ever Happens Here. It is a coming of age story of two boys having the night of their lives, good and bad, as they try to get to a party to meet up with some girls they like. They face off against nudists, bullies, cops, witches, shotguns and so much more. The great part is that all the events are based on real life experiences I had growing up. It is something very different than my first two books and is being received very well by reviewers.

I plan on wrapping up the last three books as well as two or three short story books in the Humanity’s Hope series in 2015. As soon as I wrap those up I will be jumping right into my next series which will be a fantasy series I am keeping under wraps until I can get to work on it.

I have to ask this question because I think you and I are of the same mindset. You have a saying: “I’m not an author, I’m a storyteller.” I say the exact same thing. In your mind, what is the difference between an author and a storyteller?

I view the difference of the two are similar to the way you classify baseball players. You can play for years in the minors but wont be taken seriously about your skill until you make it to the big leagues. Then you are a professional ball player, a Major Leaguer. For me I feel like I am just a storyteller until I am taken seriously by my peers up top in the publishing world in New York. I do feel like I will one day accept that title of author even though at heart I will always be a storyteller.

Here is a brief excerpt from Humanity’s Hope : Camp H:

It has been three days since Hutch had arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and he has been on a recon watch since arriving. Not because of slabs, though. This time it is because of a human, he thinks. He came here to see the famed PGA golf course Harbor Bay, and he has arrived. But instead of finding a grossly-overgrown golf course; he, instead, finds that it is in incredible shape almost pristine. That doesn’t make sense, and he is on watch waiting to see who is taking care of it.

He had a hellacious time getting here as almost every bridge to the area was either destroyed or impassable. The only bridge to Harbor Bay was completely destroyed and under water from end to end. So he had to abandon his vehicle on the other side of the river and swim across, bringing as much weaponry as he could with him, which wasn’t much. Since arriving, he has not seen a single slab in the area or any human for that matter; but he has found several dead corpses lying around that indicates someone cleaned house here. And then he found the golf course and has been waiting for any sign of its keeper.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch catches the first sign of movement since he arrived; and it catches him a little off guard. In a small golf cart, with a set of golf clubs on the back, sits one lone old man.   He is dressed as you would expect someone heading out to play golf for the day to be dressed. He wears long black-and-white plaid pants with a bright yellow polo shirt and a straw hat keeping the sun out of his eyes. He watches as the lone man cuts his cart across the backyard of one of the houses bordering the fairway of the first hole and parks at the tee box and then approaches it with a club and ball in hand.

Hutch continues watching all this from his hiding spot on the third floor of another house bordering the golf course. He thinks at first that maybe he is imagining this scene before his eyes. And then thinks it again as he watches the little old man, who can’t be more than five feet tall and weigh about a hundred and ten pounds, hit his first drive and watches it go about 325 yards straight down the fairway. Hutch, with his physical shape, would love to one day be able to hit a drive that far, and he is impressed. However, none of this thinking is helping his confusion on what is going on around here.

Hutch watches the little old man scoot from hole to hole; and by the time he rounds out of sight heading to the fifth hole, Hutch has his score at two under par already. With him out of sight and no other human spotted, he thinks maybe it is time to approach the old man and see if he can get some answers. So he grabs one lone rifle and heads downstairs and out the back door to find him.

As Hutch opens the back door, he is startled by the sight of the golf cart he was just watching sitting on the back patio of the house. He turns to see where its occupant is and finds himself staring straight down the barrel of a .357 magnum with the old man looking down its barrel back at him.

“Can I help you, sonny?” The old man asks.

Okay, zombie lovers, let’s show Mr. Greg Ferrell some love. Feel free to leave comments at the end of this post.  Thank you, Greg, for coming in and spending a little time with us, here at Type AJ Negative.

You can find out about all of his books at www.humanityshope.com

You can also follow him at humanityshope series on Facebook.

 

Quiet reflection. Some folks may have seen the title of this blog and decided they didn’t want to read it, thinking that this is just another one of those posts about someone reflecting on the year that has passed. Well, quite frankly, they are right…and wrong. Yes, this piece is about reflecting on the past, but it’s also about the future, about a goal we all have: living life.

You’ve heard me say this before, so stick with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

Our world today is a very negative place. We hear about tragedies day in and day out. It gets kind of old. Cops shooting people. Terrorists beheading innocent people. Schools being shot up. Men beating and raping women. People hating others because of skin color or sexual preference or religious or political differences. People killing others because one didn’t like the other’s favorite sports team. Drugs and greed and divorces and suicides and crime. Just turn on the television and you see it in all of its overhyped glory.

But it’s not just tragedies that make the world such a negative place. There are people—a lot of them, by the way—who are not happy unless they are miserable and unless everyone else knows about it. And don’t let someone else have it worse than they do. So many people have poor pitty me syndrome. Misery loves company and all that. It’s mind numbing.

I want to do something positive. I want to do something that doesn’t bring people down, but lifts them up.

But before I can do that I must reflect on my life, on me for a few moments.

I’m not perfect. In God’s eyes I’m a sinner, though redeemed by Jesus’ blood. But I’m not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes, both accidentally and on purpose. What? How can a mistake be on purpose? That’s simple: if you choose to do something even though you know it is wrong or that it can hurt someone, then that is intentional, and it’s a mistake. I’ve done this. I will make many more mistakes during my lifetime. I will be selfish. I will be angry. I will be judgmental. I will, from time to time, be lazy or obstinate. I will intentionally not do something someone has asked me to do (I will also unintentionally do the same thing). I am human. It’s the one quality every person in the world shares, no matter race, religion, political standing, religious beliefs, economical status—we are all human.

When I was younger I didn’t care what people thought of me. I spoke my mind, regardless of someone’s feelings. I held grudges for a long time. If I didn’t like you, I let you know. I was all about loving some me. Man, what a jerk. But I’m older now and I’ve watched the world change, just as my parents did and their parents before them and so on. I can honestly say not all change is good, just as not all change is bad. I have changed. Just ask anyone who knows me. Some of it has been good. And other things, well, not so much.

For the record, I’m not setting goals for myself. I think most goals are set ups to fail. Why? Because a lot of goals are so lofty attaining them is near impossible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think setting goals is a bad idea, as long as you work to follow through with them. But let’s face it, most people make New Year’s Resolutions to be better people or to lose weight or to find a new job or to not be so danged lazy all the time or whatever. By the second week of the year, for the most part, those goals are wrecked and often times we are left feeling as if we failed and that we can’t start back over and try again. Two things: You can try again and you can start over. Yes, they are one and the same. Thank you for noticing. There is always that whole, ‘it’s just a New Year’s resolution, and no one keeps them’ mindset.

One more thing before I get to the gist of this. As I mentioned earlier, I am reflecting quite a bit on my life right now. Over the last few months I have learned something about myself I don’t like: I’m very negative. I have a negative attitude on a lot of things, and I do not like that. Look, I used a negative in that last sentence, but that’s not what I mean (oo0, look, another negative). I’ve never really had a positive outlook on things. I’m always thinking the worst about things, and let me tell you, that is a bad thing. Why? Because people pick up on that negativity and it can rub off on others.

Now, here’s the deal:

I’m going to do something and I hope others will get involved with it. It’s called the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign. What is the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign? Well, I never thought you’d ask, but since you did: The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is taking a day and living it for someone else. No, not literally–you can’t live someone else’s life, unless you’ve murdered them and stolen their identity, but that’s frowned upon in society, so let’s steer clear of that. Okay?

The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is simply living your life every day. Living. Do you understand? So often we wait for tragedy to kick-start our lives. So often it takes a death or near death experience for people to open their eyes and see that life is a gift that we so often take for granted. The people in our lives are gifts that we also take for granted. Our health, our jobs, our homes, our abilities, the things we have both earned and been given. These are all gifts. Sometimes life sucks. I know. I’ve been there and probably will be there again. If I’m honest with you all, there is one part of my life that sucks right now and has for the last couple years, and I’ve let that suckage control a large part of the rest of my life. Again, if I’m honest, it’s a gift. One that I may not always want, and one that I definitely need in order to support my family, but one that I haven’t been happy with for a couple years now. Sometimes we just have to make the best of a situation we don’t like, and I haven’t done that, and that, folks, is on me. I have had a negative attitude in that aspect of my life and it affects everything I do.

It affects how I have lived.

Living…Let’s take the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign just a step further. We’ve all known someone or heard of someone who has passed away or who struggles with various issues in life. It is for those people that we live for. To take a moment during the day and say, ‘hey, I’m going to live my day for this person,’ and then remember that person as you go through the day. The thinking behind this is simple. If I had to live one day of my life for someone else I would want it to be something that person could remember. It’s like a dedication page in a book. I dedicate this book to Gramma Haygoode and so on and so on. Only, this isn’t a book, it’s a day of your life. And what better to dedicate to someone than a day of your life in his or her honor?

I know, it sounds cheesy, right? Wrong. How often do we see an athlete dedicate a game or a season to someone? How often do we see someone doing something nice in honor of someone else? How often do we hear someone say after accomplishing something, ‘this is for…?’ So, why not dedicate a day to a person?

Or, why not dedicate each day to someone different? This is what I want to do: I want to dedicate each day to someone. I want to live life, not live the mundane. No, I don’t have to do anything special each day. No need to jump out of planes or try to mark off things on a bucket list (which I do not have one of). That’s not the point. The point is to live life happily, to live life with a smile and appreciate every second of every day. The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is about enjoying life, and if living a day or a series of days or even a year’s worth of days helps us live life happily, then why not do it?

Today, the first day of the year, I have chosen to live life, not just for myself, but for others as well. Today, the first day of the year, though I have not felt well, I have chosen to live this day for my son, Logan. He is my little buddy, and yes, sometimes he drives me nuts, but he, like my little girl, Chloe, is awesome, and today, I lived for him, not feeling well and all.

One more thing, try this: do a random act of kindness for someone you don’t know and expect nothing in return. Don’t boast about it. And be humble when you do it. Not only will you make someone else’s day, you will make your own day as well. I believe if we, as a people, did one random act of kindness each week, the world would be a better place.

I’ve always ended my blogs with ‘until we meet again my friends.’ Well, that’s changing. Why? Because I love Ellen Degeneres, and I love how she ends her shows. Going forward, I will end my blogs like this: Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…

Now Out, Cory’s Way

Posted: December 6, 2014 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m going to make this quick today. After six years of working on Cory’s Way in one capacity or other, my debut novel has finally been released to the world in e-book format. You can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

You can also get it in print by either looking it up on Amazon or by going to my online store HERE. If you buy it through my store, then you save a few bucks and you get it signed by me.

If you haven’t heard about Cory’s Way, then read the next few paragraphs to learn more about it.

After his father leaves in the middle of the night, Cory Maddox and his mom, Gina, are forced to start over. Left alone while Gina tries to work her way out of debt, Cory deals with life as the new kid in school with no friends. Fleeing from the school bullies, Cory ends up under an overpass where an old homeless man lives. After being saved from the bullies, Cory and the homeless man, Mr. Washington, become friends.

But things don’t get any easier for Cory. Children are disappearing from around the state, and the bullies haven’t forgotten his escape the first time they went after him. And there is something wrong with Mr. Washington…something terribly wrong.

Accompanied by his only two friends and the unlikeliest of allies, Cory sets out to keep a promise to the ailing homeless man. Will Cory and his friends find a way to keep the promise, or will the journey prove too difficult for them?

Like it? I hope so.

The first two reviews are in as well:

An extraordinary story about a boy who learns that he must follow his heart when it comes to doing the right thing, even against Mom’s wishes. Well written, tense, and engaging, with all the emotional impact I love in a story, I found myself rooting for Cory through his difficult journey to find himself and keep a promise. The story wrapped me in Cory’s world and I didn’t want to put it down, even when finished. Because of the darker aspects of the story, it is best suited to anyone, young or old, over 13 or so. Highly recommended.

And:

Adult or Young Adult? That, friends, is the question. I’ve been accused of being an adult. Im in my early 30’s, so it’s probably a fair accusation. So what does it mean to be in your early 30’s in the year 2014? It means you were a child of the 80’s. What does being a child of the 80’s mean? It means I know what it is to be a Goonie. When I hear someone say they need to phone home, I point a finger in the air and say, ‘Elleee ot.’ Vanilla Ice is not a desert, and cowabunga is a real word. It means movies like Stand by Me and The Sandlot Kids are amongst my favourite of all time. A grown man enjoys watching movies about the hardships of being a kid? Why? Because I was one. As an adult you notice the things you didn’t as a youngster, you reminisce and you saviour. Also, I enjoy them now because I enjoyed them then.

This book, Corys Way, has that instant classic feel of an 80’s movie. You will connect, you will feel, you will know Cory. As an adult you will remember the simple conversations between boys and girls, moms and sons. As a Young Adult, I believe you will relate, but also, enjoy. Such a ride. The real horror, is because you feel like you know these kids, feel like you are one of these kids.

You will smile…but…beware. You will also cringe. You may even put the book down a minute, to catch your breath. Moments of horror and gore, maybe a bit too much for the young…but maybe it’ll hook them. For a young adult, this is the type of book to get you hooked to the horror genre.

So, Adult or Young Adult? Well that’s easy…BOTH! Feel the horror.

Though I don’t classify Cory’s Way as a horror novel, there are a couple of horrific moments within. To me, Cory’s Way is more of a coming of age story with a touch of dark content.

If you want a good read, why don’t you get your copy of Cory’s Way? It’s really only a click away.

Until we meet again, my friends…