Best Foot Forward?

Posted: July 3, 2012 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

One thing I’ve learned in life is to always try and put your best foot forward. That can be a problem for someone like me, who can’t seem to figure out which of his feet is the best one.

Hmm… tough audience tonight.

Back in January, my book, Along the Splintered Path, was released in e-book format. It is a collection of three short stories (yeah, short is in the eye of the reader, and in this case, the stories aren’t all that short) released by Dark Continents Press. It’s a good book. No, I’m not patting myself on the back or anything like that, and no, I’m not vain enough to think that it is the be all of horror fiction. I believe the book is good. I would feel that way if someone else had written it.

The sells have been mediocre, at best, but the reviews have been great. Even the lone three star review really had nothing negative to say.

At the time of release, I was sick. Very sick. I had pneumonia and went through the editing phase coughing and throwing up and not being able to sit at my desk for too long at any given time. The medicine I was on made me hyperactive and made everything taste like the bottom of Big Foot’s foot. Don’t ask me how I know what that tastes like—I don’t. I just think I do. I had to take another type of medicine to counter the vomiting that made me sleepy, but only for about half an hour at a time. In essence, I was a sick malnourished insomniac and life sucked when I was trying to get ATSP ready to be published.

When ATSP finally came out, I was excited (although sickly). I felt it was the best thing I could put out, and at the time, it was. It may still be. I guess that means I put my best foot forward. I still have no clue which foot that was.

Fast forward to the end of February. Someone mentioned that, ‘hey man, you have a book out there, but what else do you have?’

‘Well, I have a slew of short stories at various places.’

‘Are they any good?”

‘Well, duh. Of course they are.’

‘Do you own the rights to them?’

‘Most of ‘em.’

‘Then why don’t you put another collection out consisting of previously published stories? Or maybe you can put out one of those novels you have sitting on your hard drive.’

‘Why?’

I knew the answer to that question long before it was answered, but I asked anyway.

‘If folks like your work, then they’ll look for other things that you’ve written. It will keep you in their minds, especially if the work is any good.’

Yup, that’s what I was thinking, too.

At the end of February, I started looking at all the previously published stories I have out there. I was saddened by what I found. Yes, there were some good ones out there. But the more I looked at those stories, the more I realized, no, not all of them are good. Really, not even half of them are ‘good.’

I admit, I was disheartened. Why? Because I didn’t put my best foot forward. I wanted to be published and I jumped at the opportunity early on. Maybe not the best move to make, but it’s been made and I can see now that my best foot was not put forward early on in my writing ‘career.’

Here’s the thing:

I had good ideas, not so good execution on some of them. Actually, having a few of those stories executed right now sounds like a good idea.

Wow. Really tough crowd tonight.

I had no real voice. Some of the stories didn’t go anywhere. A lot of them were all kill, kill, kill. It was sad. It really was. I got discouraged, both inwardly and outwardly.

I put the project down and worked on a novel for a very talented young lady, Belinda Frisch. While working on this novel, I came to realize that if I want to erase those bad stories, then I have to make folks forget about them.

In early April I started working on Southern Bones, only stop abruptly when I found out I would be losing my job at the beginning of June. There was a silver lining to this—the company coming in to take our jobs wanted to keep us on board, so when June came, I signed on with them and, thankfully, me and most of my co-workers still have jobs.

I’m not going to say it hasn’t been tough. It has. Any unwilling transition is difficult. However, I’m getting settled in and have resumed the efforts to put out a second collection.

Just tonight I picked the final story to go in. That is subject to change between now and when it gets formatted for an e-book, but as it stands, here is the list, in no particular order:

Chet and Kay’s Not So Marvelous Adventure
Mickie’s Stars
Not Like You
Liza’s Redemption
A Family Affair
The Burning Children (Title subject to change)
The Man at the Window
The Prophet
The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House
Wild Horses
The White
The Cassidy and Owen Cemetery For Almost Dead Things
Ain’t No Heroes ‘Round Here

Interestingly enough, during a huge chunk of selecting the stories for Southern Bones, I was in the midst of the personal struggle of adjusting to my new employers while still doing the same work for the same folks that I have been working for in some capacity or other for the last 20 years.

Neither Along the Splintered Path or Southern Bones has been easy. I don’t imagine the editing phase is going to be easy for SB. I honestly don’t imagine any of it is going to be easy from here out.

What I do see is putting a better foot forward. Instead of picking all previously published stories, I chose only to pick four such pieces. The other nine are all unpublished originals.

But wait, there’s more. There really is. I have a promotional already in the works. I have thoughts for a teaser at the end of the collection.

And I think you all will like it. No, not because I wrote it, but because I really think you all will like it. Most of the stories are written in that conversational style I have adapted. I’m going to be honest with you, if you want all action, all the time, this is not the collection for you. I don’t write that way. I’m staying true to myself.

I have a dilemma, though. After re-reading and rewriting all of these stories, I can honestly say I’m not sure if they qualify as horror. Sure, they have horrific elements in them, but is that enough to classify the collection as horror? I don’t know. It’s something I will have to think about over the next few weeks as I try to figure out how to place this, as far as genre goes.

In the beginning, I made a few mistakes. I thought I had put some good works out there, but I can see now that a good chunk of them weren’t all that great. In January I started on the road to get that best foot forward and I hope to continue that with Southern Bones, and then with my novel, Cory’s Way later in the year.

Yes, putting your best foot forward is important, but sometimes you have to be able to take a few well-placed steps when your best isn’t good enough or even really your best. It happens. It’s how you adjust to those mistakes that matter.

Until we meet again…

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