Keep That Pilot Burning

“The man who says he can, and the man who says he can not … are both correct.”


Some people will always believe they can do anything. Others, however, will always believe they can’t do anything. The difference between the two is one word: Belief. One type of person believes he can and one type of person believes he cannot. Both beliefs are correct.

The person who believes he can do something will try and try and try until he accomplishes his goal. He has confidence in himself, in his abilities. He has absolute faith that he will succeed. He believes himself. Though he may fail, he won’t give up. Determination is a strong suit.

(Huh … this reads like a horoscope.)

The person who believes he can’t do something might still try to do it and might even try earnestly. He might fail, maybe even spectacularly. It is in failing where he loses steam, where he thinks ‘why did I even try this?’ He may not even try at all. “I can’t do that,” more than likely will come from his lips and once he has spoken it aloud, it is cemented in his psyche. His resolution is fairly strong, not in his ability to do something, but in his inability.

Let me stop here and switch gears. When I was coming up there was a television show called The Facts of Life. I loved this show (actually, I was totally in love with Blaire Warner). I’m not going to go into details about what this show was about, because that is not the point. One actress, outside the main cast, who made several appearances on the show was Geri Jewell. This lady has cerebral palsy.

As described by Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain damage. The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth. Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Geri Jewell went on to become an actress and a stand up comedian.

I tell you all of that so I can tell you this: there is a video on Youtube (which I hope you will watch) where Jewell does a standup routine. In this particular video she talks about how she was asked to do celebrity sports events, but never got to actually play a sport. She goes on to say how she approached the producer about it and then maybe, possibly told a small lie that she could play tennis. She then states this:

“One of the reasons I have accomplished what I have accomplished in my life is I’ve always seen where I want to go in my mind and I go there. I always create the vision …”

She continues through her routine, then at the end she states after a nice story about how she got a role on Deadwood:

“Life has ebbs and flows, yings and yangs. Life can be very difficult sometimes, but we think we can’t go on. And you know what? You gotta always, always believe in yourself. Because even when I busted my neck and had to start all over, I always had a little pilot light inside of me that I never let out. Don’t ever let your pilot light go out and don’t let somebody put it out. Reach your dreams. Do what my mom always said: you have to try. You never know what you can do unless you try, and never give up on reaching your dreams and never underestimate the power of the human spirit.”

Geri Jewell absolutely refused to let her disability deter her from her dreams. She went after what she wanted. She knew where she wanted to go and she created a vision and she went after it. She tried.

I admit, there have been times I have said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I admit the moment I stated this out loud, or even silently in the vault that is my head, I immediately took the possibility of trying off the table. The moment I refused to try these things I failed, maybe not at the thing I didn’t attempt, but for not even trying, for not even seeing if it was possible.

Things I said I couldn’t do:

  • Write a story
  • Get a story published
  • Write a novel
  • Have a publisher put out one of my books
  • Self publish a book
  • Do a convention/festival
  • Do a live reading
  • Do a video

Those are just a handful of things I told myself I couldn’t do. Because of that mindset, it took me a long time to do any of those things. Here is what was accomplished once the mindset changed:

  • Write a story—Wrote first story on June 29, 1993, titled Chuckie. It was bad.
  • Get a story published—published first story on House-of-Pain website in December, 2002.
  • Write a novel—wrote first novel in 1996, titled Reaper’s Run. It is not very good.
  • Have a publisher put out one of my books—Along the Splintered Path was released by Dark Continents Publishing in January, 2012.
  • Self Publish a book—Southern Bones was released in October 2012. Not many copies sold, but it was a great accomplishment for me.
  • Do a convention/festival—First convention was in April, 2015, at the Cayce Festival of the Arts.
  • Do a live reading—First live reading was in April of 2017 at the Cayce Festival of the Arts. The story was titled, Wilson’s Last Walk.
  • Do a video—First video was of Wilson’s Last Walk at the Cayce Festival of the Arts. My brother in law filmed it.

These things may seem small, but they were huge for me. They were breakthroughs. They were also moments of truth. These were moments where I realized I could do something I previously thought was impossible; they were things I told myself I could never do, so why try? I was wrong.

And here is the point to all of this: if you think you can’t do something and you never try, then you will never be able to do it. You automatically take the ability to do something out of your hands when you say ‘I can’t.’ Negativity will always breed negativity. ‘I can’t’ is one of the worst negatives you can impose on yourself.

Go after your dreams. Don’t let self doubt get in the way of you accomplishing something great. Believe in yourself. If it helps, take baby steps and build your confidence. It’s like climbing a ladder. In order to climb it you have to place one foot on the bottom rung, then the next foot on the second rung. Then you pull yourself up with your hands on the rungs above your head and push with your feet on the rungs below. The more you climb, the higher you go.

There are things I regret never doing because I didn’t believe I could do it, or I was afraid what others might think. Or maybe I was just afraid of failing. This has been steadily going by the wayside with me as I realize I am the obstacle I have been trying to hurdle my entire life.

One more thing and I will let you go. Geri Jewell hit on something I think is very important. It goes right along with believing in yourself. She stated that she had a pilot light on. Never, ever let anyone extinguish that fire, that desire to do something. Those people are not you. Those people do not share in your ambition. Those people who tell you that you can’t accomplish something don’t believe in you … and quite possibly, they don’t believe in themselves. Many people who tell you that you can’t accomplish something also don’t think they can do that very thing either. Their mindset is if they can’t do it, then how can you?

It’s like a mirror. You look in it and you see your reflection. When naysayers look at you and put you down or discourage you from chasing your dream, that accomplishment, they are just looking in the mirror and seeing themselves. And who they see in that mirror is someone who can’t—maybe even won’t—try to do what you want to do.

Don’t let them put out your pilot light.

I’ve struggled my entire writing career with what I should or should not do. Should I change this? Should I listen to this person? Should I try this? Should I submit to this place? Should I be concerned with what others think of me? Should I even continue with this gig? I’m at the point in my life where none of that should matter anymore. A lot of it doesn’t matter. What matters is am I happy? If I am happy with where I am at in life, then what others think really doesn’t matter. If I’m not happy, then it is up to me to make myself happy. It’s my pilot light. How much I turn up the heat in the stove is up to me.

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


2016 and A New Set of Goals


Dear Faithful Readers,

Happy New Year. Really. Happy New Year. I hope you are well and let’s all look forward to a better year in 2016 than we had in 2015 (even if you had a good 2015). There are a few things I set out to do each year. No, they are not resolutions, they are goals. Last year I wanted to create an author page on Facebook and get at least 100 likes. I wanted to put out at least two books. I wanted to create a better fan base. I wanted to be further along at the end of 2015 than I was at the beginning of it. These were goals I had. For the most part, I achieved them.

I did create an author page on Facebook. At the end of 2015 it had 190 likes. I only put one book out, but if I include Cory’s Way, which was put out at the end of 2014, I kind of achieved that goal. I created a bigger fan base (and even got some Roadies in the mix). I am further along now than I was at the beginning of last year.

Here is where I have to be honest with you all: as much as I’m happy about those things, I’m not happy with where I am at in the publishing world. I was hoping for a more publishers would look at my work (and a couple have) and want to put some of it out. Two publishers for certain are putting out books in 2016 and there is a third interested in a particular storyline, but that one is not concrete yet. And now, I need to be even more honest: I am to blame for not getting the attention I want. Yes, I worked at it a lot over the last few years, (the last two in particular), but not as hard as I could have. This falls on me to do better.

This year I have a couple of loftier goals. They will take a lot of work, but I’m up for the challenge. Are you ready to see the list? Here we go:

  • Promote my work better than I do (very important goal).
  • Write a blog at least once a week.
  • To go with the writing blogs, to get more viewership than 2015. Last year I had 3042 views (or 8.33 views per day) to Type AJ Negative.
  • Double the amount of likes on my FB author page (from 190 to 380).
  • Put out five books this year. Yes, I said five.
  • Write another novel.
  • Finish the Hank Walker Novella, Interrogations (yeah, this is going to be cool).
  • Attend five book promotion functions (festivals, conventions, etc…).

All of those are attainable goals. With a bit of work, they are all doable.

Since one of those is to promote my work better, I think I will go ahead and start that right here, right now with this:

Coming to a device near you (preferably in your hand where you can read it), A Stitch of Madness, a three story collection being released by Stitched Smile Publications on January 6th 2016.

Stitch Cover 3Madness: extremely foolish behavior.

Imprisoned for the murder of his best friend, Johnny Cleary sets out to tell what happened on the day Bobby “Buster” Lennon died, but are the words he writes true or does the deception run deeper.

Madness: the state of being mentally ill, especially severely.

There is something wrong with Irene. Momma’s dead and a ragdoll speaks to her in a voice that is hauntingly familiar. And what about the stitches, the very things that just might hold Irene together?

Madness: a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.

After an odd stranger pays Robert Wallenger a visit, his world begins to unravel and the past comes rushing back, along with a sickly sweet scent.

There is madness in everyone. For most, the madness never surfaces. For others, all it takes is one thing, big or small, for them to spiral out of control.

This is the first of several books I hope to put out this year. If you like my other work, you’ll enjoy A Stitch of Madness.

There is also a Facebook release party, taking place on the 6th. Please come by, enjoy the festivities and contests and interaction with others at A Stitch of Madness Release Party.

Hmmm…that wasn’t so painful. Okay, maybe it was a little painful, simply because it feels weird trying to promote my work. This year is going to be a good year. I hope you come along for the ride and let’s make this the best year ever. Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.






Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

Star date, 1/1/2013, zero one zero four in the morning. The New Year is upon us and I aim to make it better than the one that just past.

I’m sorry, 2012, but you did not live up to my expectations. I mean, seriously. Having me take a pay cut and struggle significantly to make ends meet just to keep my job was a really crappy thing for you to do. I mean, really you didn’t start things off all that well when you picked up the baton that 2011 dropped and said, ‘hey, have pneumonia until February.’

I should have known then that you were going to kick my butt.

My writing took a beating. My mental and physical state of being took a beating. My confidence, yeah, that took a good old-fashioned blanket party throw down. It took a while to get that back.

Though you did see fit to let me get two short story collections out there, one of them through Dark Continents Publishing and the other one put out by me, the sales have been underwhelming, even with the good reviews they have both received. You would think, Dear 2012, that with reviews that state things like:

“AJ Brown’s debut novella presents three short stories of moralistic caution, human failings, and dark, unrelenting horror. He has a fresh, unique voice that brings the characters to life with a skill and experience that makes this a real page turner all the way to its deliciously macabre ending.”
–Starburst Magazine


Along the Splintered Path has a more laid back pace but with plenty of meat on the bones, characters you actually care about and is steered with a confident hand. I can see big things for AJ Brown.
–Daniel Russell


This book was a surprise, well written and a touch of Stephen King. Each story was quite different, and all were intriguing and at times disturbing.

…that the books would have sold more, but for some reason the publishing gods have not seen fit to allow this.

Still, not all was terrible, though you seemed to temper little victories with equal or greater defeats.

Guess what, 2012? It’s time to move on out the way and let the New Year 2013 in the door. It’s not like you have much choice in the matter, is it? You can’t turn back time. Just ask Cher.

I have plans for this year. Goals, I say. Goals. Do you hear me, 2012?

So go ahead. Shuffle on out the door and don’t let it hit yah where your Momma split yah.

Now that he’s gone, Dear 2013, my name is A.J. I am your friend, and hopefully, you will be mine. You and I could do some wonderful things this year. Like maybe me getting back onto a regular writing schedule—a daily one like I used to have. I sure do miss those thousand words a day that the years 2006-2010 allowed me to have.

And what about submissions and publications? Your predecessor, 2012, just didn’t seem to have it in the cards for me to do much of either. You may not know this since you’re still new here, but way back in 2009 I submitted 155 stories, and 45 of them went on to get published. No, I’m not looking to submit that many stories this year, but how about a third of that total? Are you down with that?

It’s still early, my new friend, but I want you to know that you have the power to make this as good a year as you want it to be. So I’m going to head to bed in a few minutes and dream sweet dreams of the future and what you have in store for my family and I.

Just in case, Dear 2013, you want to take a look at my two collections and maybe help push them in the right direction, here are the links. I hope you enjoy them, and don’t worry, even if you don’t own a kindle, you can get them both in print.

Southern Bones

Along the Splintered Path

And hey, if you wouldn’t mind, spread the word, leave a review, maybe drop me a line and let me know if you enjoyed the books.

As I bade 2012 farewell, I gave a thanks to the readers out there on Facebook:

“I’m going to end 2012 with a thank you to everyone who picked up one of my two short story collections throughout this year. Also, a big thank you to anyone who reviewed either of the books as well. I hope you enjoyed them, and here’s to 2013.”

The ‘likes’ were cool, but the lone comment to the post made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, kind of like the Grinch when he discovered that Christmas didn’t come in boxes, packages and bags.

Thanks for writing them!

To everyone out there, you are welcome. And to Lindsey Beth Goddard, thank you for making my day with that comment.

I am going to head off to bed. I am finally tired enough to hopefully sleep more than a handful of hours. Before I go, I would like to leave you with my new favorite song, Mumford and Sons’ I Will Wait.

Have a wonderful New Year, and until we meet again, my friends…

Thoughts On Things

My daughter has a great smile and her laugh is contagious.

My son is a comedian/Batman/ninja turtle/Sonic the Hedgehog/Jedi Warrior/Lego Maniac ball of energy.

My wife is beautiful, my heart and my center. She grounds me.

Life is short.

Some may argue that point, but for most people, life is entirely too short. There are things we want to do–the bucket list, so to speak–that we have never been able to do. There are places we want to go that we have never been. There are things we want to accomplish with our lives that we haven’t had the chance to accomplish.

Why? Why haven’t we accomplished some of those things we want to? Money? Okay, I get that one. Time? Meh. That is a point that is mute for the most part. Do you watch television? Play video games? How about that great time sucker, Facebook? Do you surf the internet? There’s your time, slipping, slipping, slipping through your fingers.

We take for granted the time we do have. We don’t use it wisely enough. Sure, I understand watching television and playing on the computer and Facebook and videogames and a whole host of other things, but the truth is we don’t use our time wisely.

Wait. It’s not just about being more efficient with our use of the time given us, it’s also about motivation. How many of us are just plain lazy? Or maybe we’re too tired when we get off work. Maybe we’re a little–or a lot–of both.

I’m just going to sit here and drink one beer (or in my case, a Strawberry Kool-Aid) and watch one television show and then I’ll get up and go write or go do that thing I want to do. How often do we say, or at the very least, think that? That one drink turns into several and that one television show turns into three hours and by the time we realize it, it’s time to go to bed.

I guess I’ll just do it tomorrow.


Good intentions and all that jazz.

[[Side Note: Before I go any further, if you have children, they are–or should be–a dominant part of your life and I can understand if you don’t get to some things you would like to do. Still, making the time is an effort worth pursuing. End Side Note.]]

The truth is if you want to do something YOU have to pursue it. If you want to climb the mountain, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you want to publish that great American novel, well you have to write it first and that starts with penning the first word.

I know this is cliché, but you only get out of life what you put into it. If your efforts are centered around doing very little, then life will give you very little in return. If your efforts are centered around what it is in it for me, then you miss out on the joys of giving and helping others. If your life is about work, work, work, sure you may have riches and material things. But life isn’t just about money and material things. The Rolling Stones made note of that in their song As Tears Go By.

Life is about living and happiness and worth. Remember that.

By worth, I mean self worth. How you view yourself. Your self worth is more valuable than what anyone can ever think about you. I’ve always been the type to say, you don’t like me? Your loss. I still feel that way. Again, I use a cliché here, but in order for most folks to find their worth, they must love themselves first. Love yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for you. If you love yourself, then you will have that to fall back on when people disappoint you (and they will disappoint you). You will always be able to bounce back when you love and believe in yourself.

I’ve strayed from my original thoughts, but that’s okay. I do that in real life, so why not in my stories and blogs? It is who I am. Honestly, I rarely know what it is I want to write about when I sit down, but I know that life is short.

Be all that you can be. In order to do that, you have to put forth some effort. Give it the old college try. Swing for the fences and all those other clichés. You have to be willing to live and push fear aside.

Part of those swinging for the fences attitudes are goals. No, this is not some New Year’s resolution thing, just thoughts.

Goal setting is literally focusing on something you wish to accomplish. Those things can be long term and short term. I find it easiest to set a long term goal with several short term goals as stepping stones toward the main objective. For instance:

I have a long term goal of submitting 52 stories to various publications in 2013. That may seem like a lot, but that is far beneath the 147 stories I submitted in 2010. How am I going to achieve this goal? Let me see. There are 52 weeks in a year, so it makes sense to set short term goals of one submission a week. So in seeking my 52 submissions in the calendar year of 2013, I have set for myself 53 goals to achieve it (yes it is 53: One for each week and the final goal of 52 for the year).

I also wish to write twelve stories in 2013. I know, that is not many at all, but considering my other goals for writing and considering my stories aren’t typically the under five thousand words variety, twelve will be a significant accomplishment (especially if you factor in that at least one of those will be a novel). So, how am I going to achieve that goal? Right: One story a month for twelve months will help me accomplish my objective of twelve stories for the calendar year. So, as you can see I currently have 66 goals that I wish to accomplish for 2013.

But wait, there is a 67th one in there already. Did you notice it? That’s right. I want to write at least one novel-length story. This goes into the major goal category, to which I now have three of them: 52 submissions, 12 short stories and a novel.

I would like to accomplish something I think is a little more difficult than all of those previous goals. 365 thousand words in one year. It’s daunting, but could be simple if I break it down into daily goals: 1000 words (or more) a day every day. Not too ambitious.

There was a stretch of several months where life, and more specifically, my job got in the way of doing much of anything when I was done at the end of each day. The one area that suffered because of the exhaustion (both physically and mentally) was my blog. One of my goals is to write 52 blogs (including interviews) for Type AJ Negative. You guessed it: that would be one a week. I also want to put the humor back into them. I feel like I became entirely too serious this year (the real world has a way of doing that to you).

Those are not the only things writing or personal-related that I want to accomplish this year. There is significantly more, but I wanted to focus on short term goals leading to the completion of long term objectives

More importantly, I want to achieve something this year. I want to feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do. To use yet another cliché, you can do anything when you set your mind to it. How seriously are you–am I–at setting your mind to do something?

What’s the thing I want to achieve this year (and every day for the rest of my life, for that matter)? I want to teach my children to value themselves, to value their time, to believe in their abilities, to reach for the stars and don’t settle for the tree tops. I want to teach them to use their imaginations, to broaden their way of thinking. In order to do that I have to reach for the stars as well, and not settle for the tree tops and set goals for myself.

I guess this turned into one of those New Year’s resolution blogs after all. Not my intention. But, as I mentioned earlier, I usually don’t know what I’m going to write when I sit down, so I’ll take it.


On Christmas Eve me and The Boy spent most of the day together. We went to the theater and watched Rise of the Guardians and then went to get something to eat. He went to McDonalds. I chose Taco Bell. Not that I really wanted that, but it was right next to the McDonalds and since it was pouring down rain I didn’t want to drive anywhere else.

As we sat in the Taco Bell waiting for my food, I grabbed The Boy’s head and noogied him. Then I acted surprised, like I had found something mysterious in his hair.

“Oh no,” I said.

“What?” He responded.

“There’s something wrong with your hair.”


“I need to shave it off.”

He pulled away from me, hands out in front of him and waving frantically. “No, no, no. You can’t do that.”


He gave me a look of, what? Indignation? Yeah, that was it. He looked at me as if I should know the answer to that question. Then he said, and I’m not sure how serious he was, “Because I’m too beautiful.”

There is no conceit in my family. The Boy got it all.

Until our paths cross again, my friends…

The Not So Banner Year: 2011

Wow, here we are at the end of another year. Christmas is a week or so away and the New Year is right around the corner. I have to admit, 2011 has not been a banner year for getting stories published. In all honesty, 2011 has been one of my more down years since I first started out.

Can I blame the economy?

Maybe for a couple publications, but not all of them.

Honestly, if there is anyone to blame, it would be myself.

What? Yeah, I know, right?

It is what it is and right now, it would be mostly my fault that more stories didn’t get published this year. I have my reasons for this:

I set my goals very high this year, maybe even too high to even come close to accomplishing them. To be honest, I’ve only accomplished one goal this year: to write a novel.

I did a lot of rewrites, going back and looking over stories I wrote years ago when I had no real desire to pursue publishing my work. Oh, the horrors I read—and not because the stories were horror stories, either. Some of the stories were old favorites, while others weren’t liked all that much. However, after a bit of reworking and stretching my writer’s fingers, those stories are solid… keepers.

I read a book this year. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: ‘A.J., you only read one book this year?’ Ummm… no. I read more than that (at least two), but one book had a profound impact on me, the writer. That book was Stephen King’s On Writing. The part that really stuck with me more than anything is to learn to tell the truth in our stories, in the lies that we make up for folks to read. Also, as writers, we have to enjoy the writing process, let the story lead us along, take us for a ride.

I’ve always said that I like to let my stories breathe, let them stretch their legs and run with me tagging along behind them to see where they go. But, this reaffirmed my belief in telling a story all the way through. Damn the rules that say you have to make a story compact and all action oriented. I’m a long-winded person. I can talk. Ask anyone who knows me even somewhat well. I never shut-up. I like my stories to be rich in this way, to develop my characters and scenes and hopefully… hopefully, pen a good story.

By doing so, my stories have become increasingly longer. That’s okay with me. The problem is there are not many publications that take 10-15 thousand word stories these days.

Here’s another reason, this one bothers me more so than most of the others: I may not be good enough to crack the bigger publications.

Ouch. That stings.

By changing the way I write, by not going with the standard, boring stuff and standard action, action, action stories, I have found a style I really enjoy writing in. And, I think… I think, mind you… that the readers would like the style if given a chance to read the stories.

Thankfully, that chance is coming soon. More on that later.

Part of that style I’ve developed is story telling in a rustic voice, so to speak. Kind of like Shawn Mullins in his song, Rockabye.

It’s a voice thing that I like, that I hear when writing. Its one thing that I hope comes through in the handful of stories I’ve written with that voice.

By developing a different style and voice it has taken me out of the market for constant submissions to the various publications that still remain out there.

There is the little fact of the economy. No, not my fault, but the economy effects us all, including those publications that pay money to their writers. In many cases the money just isn’t there to go around. So, what happens? Publications fold. My favorite publication (Necrotic Tissue) went under this year. I was saddened by that, but it’s the nature of the beast.

The fortunate thing is I’ve had quite a few stories shortlisted, many of them coming up on the short end of the stick (no pun intended). Still, a shortlisted story is still better than a first opinion rejection any day.

Though the publications have been few this year, I think 2012 may shape up nicely. I’ve changed a few of the goals, made a couple of them a little more attainable.

One of those goals is to post something on the blog every week, and hopefully a couple times a week. I admit, sometimes I’m lazy when it comes to maintaining the blog/website. It can be tedious work and, honestly, sometimes I have nothing to talk about. I know. I know. Me with nothing to talk about? Right…

I’ll post those goals at the beginning of January and make it a point to keep folks updated, maybe even with a running tally of the submissions and the responses.

To go along with the blog/website thing, I would like to ask you, the readers, for your opinion. What would you like to see on Type AJ Negative? What would you like to see more of? Less of? Would you like to see more of Herbie (I hear he’s dressed as a sexy Santa Clause this year)?*

I’m nearing 1000 words now and I’ve heard that a lot of folks don’t care much for overly long blogs–not from any of you, but just in general. So, I think I’ll close up shop for the day and save the rest for another post.

Until then, Herbie says ‘Hi’ and I say have a good day.

I’m A.J. and I’m out…

[[*Herbie’s Note: Sexy Santa Clause is a reference to the television show The New Girl. If you haven’t seen the Christmas episode, you have no clue what I’m talking about, thus making this an inside joke.]]