Posts Tagged ‘Novels’

Recently, Stitched Smile Publications put out a novel by the talented Pembroke Sinclair. The novel, Humanity’s Hope, is about seventeen year old Caleb, who survived the zombie apocalypse and his struggles there after. I had an opportunity to sit down with Pembroke and talk to her about writing, Humanity’s Hope and where her totally cool pen name came from. Please, sit back, grab a beverage and join me in my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair.

A.J.: Let’s just jump in here. Tell me, who is Pembroke Sinclair?

PS: Well, there are several answers I could give you. The funny “I’m an editor by day, zombie killer by night” response. Or the incredibly long response that explains why I started writing and how I came up with my pen name. Or I could tell you there is no Pembroke, only Zoul.

A.J.: I think I would like to hear the longer version. Why did you start writing?

PS: I’ve always been a writer. I remember as early as 3rd grade I wrote a story about a horse named Charlie that my teacher laminated. When we went back to Iowa every summer, my grandma had an electric typewriter that I would create stories on. None of those were laminated, and they should probably be completely forgotten. When I was in high school, I had a spiral notebook I wrote stories in, but I made sure it looked like I was taking notes. When I got to college, things got a little weird, and I had some professors who tore down my self-confidence and made it so I didn’t write for a very long time. I picked it up again after grad school while working at an environmental consulting firm. One of my friends convinced me it was worth trying again, so I started with a few short stories. I got addicted to getting published, but decided I didn’t like short stories, so I worked on novels.

A.J.: It never fails. Someone will tear down another person, and usually because they can, but I am glad you started writing again.

Since you bring up that tearing down and losing confidence, what was that like?

Pembroke SinclairPS: It was tough, especially considering I was taking a writing class and they were supposed to be helping me get better at writing.  Instead, they found every opportunity to inform me (and probably other students) that they would never amount to anything. One professor was a literary writer, and since I was a genre writer, she said she wouldn’t be able to fairly critique my writing. Isn’t good writing good writing no matter what genre? Either way, it cut deep.

Years later, I found out these professors (one in particular) had a habit of tearing down writers’ self-confidence—perhaps because they viewed us as competition. I don’t know. But it did give me a good view into what the publishing world would be like, and after getting over my initial hurt feelings, it helped me grow some thick skin.

I’m no longer angry at the professors for what they did. Was it mean spirited and ridiculous? Of course. But me still being angry won’t change anything. The only thing I can do is move forward and write.

A.J.: Pembroke, how did you move forward?

PS: Having encouragement from a friend really helped, and then getting some stories published really pushed that along. To be honest, getting a lot of rejections throughout my career helped, too, because I’m one of those people who loves to show others that I CAN do what you say I can’t, and I’ll prove it.

A.J.: You sound like me—I say the same thing. One thing I have learned is those who have been told can’t—or shouldn’t—do this business, are the ones who want it more and try the hardest.

PS: I think it’s because we think we have something to prove.  I absolutely question my ability to write every single day, but at the same time, I’m not going to let anyone tell me I shouldn’t be doing it.  That’s my choice, not theirs.

A.J.: You said you got addicted to publishing. Can you explain what you mean by that?

PS: If you’re an author, and you’ve ever received a slew of “NO’s” for your submissions, you know that it only takes one “YES!” to completely turn everything around. I love getting yeses—I think it goes back to my desire to prove I can and should be writing. And it’s just an amazing feeling to know my work is going to be available for people to read.

A.J.: I get that, completely. I, literally, received 100 rejections before my first acceptance, including one where the editor said I should never write another story again.

PS: I received a rejection for a YA story I wrote because a reviewer gave me a mediocre review on one of my middle grade books. I wasn’t even pitching anything to do with that particular story.

A.J.: You absolutely have to hate it when that happens.

PS: I was pissed. I did the thing you’re not supposed to do: I replied to the agent (I’m pretty sure it was an agent) and asked him what the hell he was talking about. He never responded.

A.J.: Oh my—I understand your anger, but you are right, never respond in that manner. In this day of social media, that is akin to literary suicide.

PS: I phrased it nicely, but that was the gist of it.

A.J.: Earlier, you mentioned possibly telling me where you got your pen name. Do you mind telling me now?

PS: When I was first setting out to get published, I knew I couldn’t use my real name because it’s pretty common and when you Google it, a country singer shows up. I needed a pen name so I could be found.

I was pregnant with my first child at the time, and we were looking for names for him. I thought, “Pembroke Sinclair Robinson. That kid would be destined to be a writer.” When I suggested it to my husband, his response was, “You want our kid to get beat up on the playground, don’t you?” My friend suggested I take it for myself, so I did.

Side note, Pembroke’s middle name is Alloicious.

A.J.: That is a great story—and your first child probably thanks you for not naming him that.

PS: He’s never really said …

A.J.: Let’s go back a little here. I want to touch on two things. First, why genre fiction.

PS: I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’m an English major, so I’ve read my fair share of literary—and I don’t think anything is wrong with literary—but I don’t enjoy writing it. I’ve tried, and it feels weird to me. I have a much easier time imagining myself in another world or surrounded by monsters, and I prefer to be in those worlds. Writing is an escape from reality for me, and I want to get as far away as I can.

A.J.: Before I go to the second part of this, what do you consider literary fiction?

PS: I would say literary fiction are the classics you read that are based in reality. The ones that focus on craft and language, such as Toni Morrison, Faulkner (although I would argue some of his stuff is fantasy), Hemingway, etc. Does that help?

No, wait, Faulkner is literary. I was thinking Vonnegut Jr.!

A.J.: It does help, but literary fiction is still considered, by many, to be real writing, where as genre fiction is considered for hacks. What do you feel is the difference? Or is there a difference?

PS: Oh, I’m fully aware of the distinctions between literary and genre and how literary is soooooo much better. I think the distinction comes from how people want to be labeled. If they want to seem “smarter” and more high brow, they will be “literary.” If they want to appeal to the masses, they’ll be genre. Personally, both can be incredibly intelligent and complicated (have you read Dune or the Foundation series?) and, conversely, both genres can have their crap. It’s all in what a person wants to read/write.

A.J.: Great thoughts in there, Pembroke. I agree. You seem to have some strong feelings on literary fiction—just as I do. I can totally appreciate that. Is that, maybe because of the way those who write literary fiction frown on those who write genre?

PS: Absolutely. And of course, it’s not all of them. There are always those authors who support and encourage other authors and those who are just poops–in all mediums of writing. Again, I’m an English major so I enjoy literary works. I just don’t like writing them.

A.J.: I don’t like writing them either.

Let’s switch gears. You recently had a book released. Humanity’s Hope. Can you tell me about this?

PS: I’m a huge zombie fan. I love zombies in all their mediums, and I really enjoy writing about how people survive the apocalypse—especially teens.

In most zombie stories, the heroes have no quarrels about filling the role of savior and fighting for what’s left of the world.  But when writing Humanity’s Hope, I wanted to look at a character who was reluctant about that role; who didn’t want to be in that position and who has a lot of issues with surviving when others have died.

While I truly believe there will be those people who fight hard to defeat an undead threat, I also believe there will be those who only survive.  But I don’t believe any of us will come out of the zombie apocalypse unscathed.

On top of that, I also wanted to give my main character something to set him even further apart from his fellow humans, so he’s immune from becoming a zombie.

A.J.: I’m not going to ask how he is immune—that is for you to reveal in your work. I will say I love the zombie sub-genre as well. But I also find that so many people have written the same things over and over and there is little variation. What sets Humanity’s Hope apart from other books?

PS: Of course the same things have been written over and over. The same can be said about films. That’s what works and makes money!

You know, I was typing how Hope is different from other stories, and it’s not really. There are certain elements that exist in stories, and they are portrayed through different characters and settings, but they are always there.

I guess I can say it’ s not the same because I have zombies that are different. Other than that, it’s a story about someone trying to come to terms with losing his friends and family and struggling through his day to day exist with PTSD while the living dead roam the earth.

A.J.: Fair enough. Do you mind sharing an excerpt with the readers at the end of this interview?

PS: Not at all.

A.J.: Awesome. Okay, if you have a few more minutes, I would like to ask a couple more questions. What do you enjoy most about writing and publishing?

PS: I enjoy being able to escape. I enjoy exploring the question of what it means to be human (I haven’t found an answer yet). I enjoy sharing my stories with others and seeing readers enjoy them.

A.J.: Okay, on the flip side, what do you dislike about writing and publishing?

PS: The length of time it takes me to get a story on the page. It would be so much easier if I could plug the computer into my head and THINK my story onto the page. When it comes to publishing, I wish there could be more camaraderie and support among authors. We’re all in this together. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Not that everyone does this, but those that do need to stop.

A.J.: I absolutely agree, we are in this together. I’ve always viewed this as a family, even though there are some family members we want to just stay away.

Now, other than Humanity’s Hope, you have some other works out, correct?

PS: I do. Several fiction stories and nonfiction works.

I write the nonfiction under my real name. Just to make it nice and confusing.

A.J.: Okay, treat me like a writer just starting out. What would you tell me?

PS: Have fun. Publishing is full of rejection and others who want to see you fail, but if you write because you enjoy writing and have fun creating your stories, you’ve already shown the world you can be successful.

A.J.: I like that. I like that a lot. Sound advice.

Okay, before I let you go, is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

PS: Thank you for reading my work.  Without you, there’d be no reason to do what I do.

A.J.: One more thing: where can readers find you?

PS: You can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

A.J.: Pembroke Sinclair, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. It was nice to get to know you.

PS: Thank you!  I appreciate you taking the time also!

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair. Now, here is a sneak peak at Humanity’s Hope:

1906894769Caleb sprinted across the dirt road. His leg muscles burned. He was barely able to get his feet off the ground. The backpack slammed into his lower back with every step—the straps dug into his shoulders. As he approached the low wall, he slid into a crouch, turning so his back would contact the stones first. The pressure of the backpack pressed into his ribcage—squeezing the air out of his lungs. He pressed his lips together and let the stream flow out of his nose. He tried his best to keep it silent—a task that proved difficult with every pant. His lungs screamed for air. He wanted to draw in large, gasping breaths, but they would be too loud and attract unwanted attention. The undead were just on the other side of the wall, unaware of his presence, and he intended to keep it that way.

Caleb’s gaze drifted back to the road and fell on his sister, Nina, and Len, his chemistry partner from school. They ran toward him as fast as they could with their heavy backpacks that hunched them over. Or perhaps it was an attempt to make themselves smaller so they were less noticeable—Caleb couldn’t tell. They slid up to the wall on either side of Caleb and attempted to control their breathing.

This was a terrible place to hide—they all knew it. It was too open, too exposed, but there weren’t any other choices. The squat wall was right at the edge of a fallow field, across the dirt road they had been traversing in the hopes of finding civilization. They found the wall in a vast, rural landscape. The three of them were lucky there was something. They had come around a bend in the road and up a small hill, and there they were—zombies—shuffling aimlessly through the countryside. Caleb had to suppress his shocked gasp. They came out here because the urban areas had become too dangerous. There were too many zombies. The supplies had either been pillaged or were too difficult to get to. The country was supposed to be their hope, their salvation. So far, it wasn’t. The farmhouse was still ways away, about 50 yards. At least that was what Caleb assumed. He was horrible at judging distances. It didn’t matter anyway. With the zombies in front of them, the house was as accessible as another planet. But they couldn’t stay out in the open, either.

The look on Len’s face reflected the turmoil Caleb felt inside. His eyes were wide, his face red from exertion. His head was cocked to the side, his jaw muscles tight. The look asked: “What do we do now?” Caleb had no answer.

When they set out that morning to look for food, they had told themselves the zombies had been confined to the cities. Why? Because they had to believe something. They had to think there was still a chance.

Caleb lowered his gaze to the ground. There was no way to respond to Len’s silent question. They just had to wait it out—make their move when they got the opportunity. Caleb glanced over his shoulder at his sister. She slumped against the wall, her legs sprawled out in front of her, her chin resting on her chest. His stomach tightened as he took in her pose. She wasn’t going to be able to move quickly from that position. She needed to be ready. Yet, he felt for her. What was the point of being ready if it meant they had to keep running? His legs shook underneath him as he held his crouch. It would have been such a relief to plop onto his butt and take the weight off his legs. He could’ve placed his arms around Nina’s shoulders and pulled her close. They could have relaxed in their misery. Instead, he gently backhanded her arm. When she looked at him, he thrust his thumb into the air. With an eye roll and deliberate movements, Nina moved into a crouch, removing the gun from the back of her waistband.

Caleb focused on the weapon in his hands. It was there so often, it was like an appendage. He rarely noticed it anymore. But neither of the guns would do them much good; there weren’t enough bullets to take out the threat. Even if they fired their remaining rounds, all it would do was draw more zombies to their location.

Caleb turned his attention away from his gun and stretched up to look over the wall. As soon as his eyes broke the surface, he scanned the area before sinking back down. His heart pounded against his ribs, his throat tightened. An undead lumbered close to the wall—too close. One wrong move or sound and they were spotted. He licked his lips and felt the sweat slide down his spine. If they stayed quiet, the zombies would keep moving. They just had to wait it out.

A low, soft grumbling filled the air. At first, Caleb wasn’t convinced he’d heard it. It was so low, he could have imagined it. He had hoped he’d imagined it. But then Len wrapped his arms around his midsection and squeezed. The rumbling grew louder. It was hard to hide the sounds of hunger. Caleb’s eyes grew wide. He shifted his stance so he could explode onto his feet.

The rotted hand reached over the wall and swiped the air between Caleb and Len. There were no other options. All of them sprang to their feet. The crowd of rotting flesh was converging on their position. Caleb extended his arms and lined up his sights. The crack of the gun echoed loudly in the country air; the corpse slumped onto the wall. All three of them jumped over the wall and ran toward the house. The path took them directly toward the zombies; they had to be fast enough to get by them.

Caleb’s extremities tingled with adrenaline, his footsteps thumped rhythmically on the hard, dry ground. He sucked in long gasps of air, but his lungs still burned for oxygen. He caught glimpses of the other two out of the corner of his eyes. The undead drew nearer. Their arms outstretched, waiting to snag their prey. Caleb zig-zagged across the field. He ducked under a pair of arms, then shouldered a zombie out of the way. Its bones crunched against his shoulder, teeth gnashed close to his ear, driving him forward with more urgency. The house grew larger with every step he took. Almost there.

A short yip followed by a grunt sounded behind him. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Len stumbled then fell. Caleb’s heart leapt into his throat. He skidded to a stop, turning to help his friend. Caleb was about to step toward Len, but he was stopped in his tracks. The action caused him to lose his balance. His arms flailed through the air to keep Caleb from falling over. An incessant, strong tugging kept him from moving forward. He turned to see Nina jerking on his backpack. Her eyes were wide and glistening with tears. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head violently. Caleb glanced again at Len, who reached for Caleb, his mouth open in a silent plea, tears running down his cheeks. Caleb reached toward him. Len’s plea turned into a scream as a zombie bit into his calf. A dark ring of blood stained his jeans and grew larger. Another zombie latched onto the fingers of his extended hand. The crunch as it bit through his bones rattled in Caleb’s skull. He pulled his hand into his chest.

Caleb turned at that point. There was nothing more he could do. His sister grabbed his wrist, and they ran into the house. They took the stairs two at a time and headed into a bedroom on the right. After closing the door, they scanned the area, checking under the bed and in the closet. Clear. His sister collapsed face first onto the bed. From the way her body shook, Caleb could tell she was crying. He leaned back until his pack connected with the door. His legs gave out, and he slid to the floor. Pulling his knees to his chest, he wrapped his arms around his head and tried to disappear into himself.

And then there were two.

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For the better part of the last seventeen months I’ve gotten to work with Lisa Vasquez, owner of Stitched Smile Publications, graphic designer and author. She’s witty and funny and believes in shenanigans. She is also hard working, dedicated and determined. I think this is why we get along, even though our personalities should clash.

Back in January, Lisa released her novel, The Unfleshed. Recently, I sat down to talk with Lisa about the new novel, among other things.

AJ: Before we get into the nitty gritty, tell us a little bit about Lisa Vasquez, the person.

LV: That’s the question I dread the most when doing interviews. I often put myself into separate boxes.

Lisa, the author, has been writing since she was in the 4th grade. My debut book, The Unsaintly, was released a few years ago and is my favorite work because it was my first published accomplishment. I just released my new novel, The Unfleshed this year and I’m currently working on my next novel as well as a few short stories.

Lisa, the book cover designer, has been doing covers for three years and it’s one of my favorite hobbies-turned-professions.

Lisa, the publisher, began her company in January of 2016 and is proud to say we have doubled our growth since then. We have amazing staff and authors. I love what the company stands for and how we support indie authors and help them learn to improve their craft and build their business.

AJ: That is a lot of Lisa! I would actually like to talk about Lisa, the author, for now. You said you started writing in the fourth grade? How did that come about?

LV: I had this teacher who was awesome. She engaged us and did all she could to spark a real love of reading. We did fun activities like completing stories when given the opening paragraph, doing stories from pictures (what’s going on here?) and then sometimes we did skits. I was in love with the whole process and in seeing what my fellow budding authors came up with.

So a shout out, if she ever sees it, to Mrs. Reese!

AJ: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

LV: Unfortunately, I don’t. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about.

AJ: Boy do I know that. I can’t recall the first story I wrote in school either, but that was because I hated writing back then. Now I wish I had been a better student.

Let’s talk The Unfleshed. What was the inspiration for this story?

51m6V9lTKQLLV: The Unfleshed was inspired by a few things. One of the important influences was Frankenstein (which led into Bride of Frankenstein). In the front of the book, I go into the story of how my father and I sat watching it after he had become ill with renal failure. They added him onto the transplant list and it suddenly became this dark blanket over our family.

Back then we had no internet so it was a time of reading thick medical books. We were pretty young at the time, I think I was about 13 (I’m the oldest).

My dad always used opportunities like this to talk to us about things. Comparing situations from movies or songs to real life scenarios. It was a cool way to open doors of discussion that might have been awkward or avoided otherwise. So we’re there and we’re watching, and he says, “Who would’ve thought when Mary Shelley wrote this, that one day taking body parts from people who died would give life to someone else? And that someday this wouldn’t be science fiction, but reality?” And it stayed with me every single day until today. It probably always will.

AJ: Parental lessons, especially given in this manner, always seem to stick the most. Having read The Unfleshed, I really want to know where Angus Wulfe came from.

LV: Angus came from a dark place. All my characters come from my head but this was me vs me. I tackled some heavy issues I won’t go into publicly. He also came from my love of Thomas Harris’ character, Hannibal Lecter. Somehow, this vile human was loved as much as he was hated. I wanted to be able to expose that in this story. The psychology of how we can empathize, even with monsters.

AJ: You put Angus through a hellacious childhood that we only get to see a glimpse of. I know this is part of character building, but at any point did you look at young Angus as a little boy and wonder, ‘why the heck am I doing this to him?’

LV: No, because that is reality. In order for the reader to relate, I have to make it real.

AJ: Oh absolutely. I have to ask this since you brought up Frankenstein: when The Unfleshed was published, did you scream, “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!”?

LV: Damn right! haha!

AJ: Hahahahahaha. Did you enjoy the … umm … how do I put this … the scenes where Angus inflicted his doctorly will on his patients?

LV: Actually, I did. I have to admit there was a tiny, evil giggle during those scenes. I might have some issues. That’s between us, though.

AJ: Us and all the readers out there. My favorite character in the book was actually a secondary character. Marshall. Tell me a little about him and where he came from.

LV: Oh yes, poor Marshall. Marshall is the balance in the story. No one is “all bad” and no one is “all good” in life. Some may come close, but to me, I feel like life puts us in situations and really tests our moral compass. If Angus hadn’t gone through his childhood, he might be Marshall, and vice versa. I like having a complex but balanced story that explores human nature. Marshall is “the conscience” in the story.

AJ: Marshall reminded me of Renfield from Dracula, but a little more tragic.

LV: He does kind of remind me of him in a way.

AJ: How long did you work on The Unfleshed?

LV: Hmm … well I wrote The Unfleshed as a short story back in early 2000. It was much different then. I changed it around because I wanted to change up the “zombie” craze a little. I mean technically, Frankenstein could be a zombie! I liked the idea of it and ran with it. Instead of zombies walking around, we had Frankensteins. It took a year to rewrite and about a year to polish it up.

AJ: A lot of The Unfleshed is steeped in history and in the medical field. Is that a direct relation to what went on with your father during your childhood?

LV: It did, but it didn’t seem realistic to have like … say a baker bringing people back to life. It had to be something believable. Since it’s set back in the 1300’s, there wasn’t education like there is today. When you were old enough to walk, you were old enough to work. But having the experience of my dad being sick and having an education in the sciences, it directly influenced the story.

AJ: Speaking of the setting, why did you set it back in the 1300s?

LV: Well it was the time of the plague for one. And secondly, I love time pieces. I love anything medieval or historical. They’re very interesting times.

AJ: Speaking of historical, you have another book titled, Unsaintly, that is somewhat historical as well. Tell us a little about this one.

LV: Unsaintly is a book about good and evil and everything in between. It’s spiritual, fantastical, and horror altogether.

AJ: Now, that one took you a little longer to write than The Unfleshed, right?

LV: Unsaintly took me ten years to write! Haha, so yes, a little longer

AJ: Ten years? Wow, that is a long time.

LV: Most of it was self doubt. The other part consisted of research and computer crashes

AJ: Computer crashes suck. So, Lisa, tell me, if you can, what do you want the readers to come away with from The Unfleshed?

LV: I’d like them to love the characters and enjoy the story. I hope they understand the complexities of the characters while getting a good old fashioned horror story. And finally, I hope I gave readers who enjoy the classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) something special.

AJ: Fair enough. Before I let you go, tell me what does the future hold for Lisa Vasquez, writer?

LV: More writing. As long as there is a story to be told I’ll be letting the demons out. I have a female assassin who’s getting antsy to be heard. She’s been in there longer than Unsaintly. And my Viking Werewolves are pacing their cages.

AJ: Very nice, Lisa. Very nice. I’m going to let you go now, but do you mind telling the readers where they can find you and your work?

LV: Sure!

Twitter: unsaintly

Instagram: unsaintly

Lisa Vasquez on Facebook

Unsaintly Website

And of course  Stitched Smile Publications Website

You can find The Unfleshed on Amazon here.

Recently I read an article titled, Dear Writers: Stop Releasing So Many Novels. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here: https://ryanlanz.com/2017/02/26/dear-writer-stop-releasing-so-many-novels/.

I think the author of this blog had some fairly valid points. I also saw where quite a few of the comments on his post were negative and contradictory to what he stated. I think one of the key aspects to this piece is the author clearly stating it was his opinion. A lot of folks missed that before pulling out the whips, chains and knives.

I am a fairly prolific writer. It doesn’t take me long to pound out a thousand words or more. If I really wanted to, I could easily write 6 or 7 novels in a year. No, that is not bragging, just stating an honest fact. However, I have no desires to put out that many books in one year.

I am a plodder. What I mean is I plod along in my stories, often reading what I wrote previously before I write the next day. I am methodical in that approach, which allows me to get into the mindset (even if for just ten minutes at a time) of my current WIP(s). This allows me to pound out those thousand words a day with relative ease.

Just because I can write a bunch of words doesn’t mean they are all good words or that they should all see the light of day. In truth, over half the stories I write I would never show the world. I could probably put out 8 or 9 volumes titled Crap I’ve Written with the amount of stories I’ve completed that should NEVER be read by any reader.

So often in marketing, the idea is to hit the customer with catch phrases and logos over and over again. Repetition is the key to people remembering who we are or what product we are selling. People making sales pitches will often say the same thing three times, with each one having more emphasis than the last. Again, this tactic is often used to get you to remember what is being said (or sold).

This same mindset seems to have taken hold here in the business of publishing. It is one thing to have your advertisements and logos in front of people. It is another thing to write a novel and put it out as quickly as possible. And then do it again. And again. And again.

The argument here isn’t necessarily about how many words someone can put out in a day, week, month, year. The argument isn’t even about putting out one novel as opposed to six. The argument is how many quality works can someone put out in any given time period?

I know, from experience, that I can put out a lot of good work in a short amount of time. Does that mean it is my best work? Not necessarily. Does that mean it needs to go from concept to written to published in a couple of months? Not necessarily. There are no real facts supporting time from start to finish equating to poor or good quality. I say that as someone who believes in taking my time in getting from one project to another. I don’t rush them, no matter how bad I want them to be done and out the door for people to read. If it is not ready, it is not ready.

But that is me. I plod along. Some people race along at breakneck speeds. We are all different.

I don’t believe I could ever put out six or seven novels in one year. I could write a ton of short stories, but novels? Nope. I just don’t see that happening. But some folks can. And of those some folks, some of them probably put out quality book after quality book. My question: how many of them can do it?

Something at the end of that article really stuck with me, though, and I believe it is somewhat accurate: Drafting a novel quickly is not the problem; rather, the problem is releasing everything that touches a Word document within six months of conception in an attempt to inflate the number of works attached to your name.

I think a lot of folks took offense to this. I know writers who do this very thing, who have said they do this very thing. This amounts to the whole marketing concept of hit them hard and continuously with ads about you and your product. In our case, put out as many titles as you can in a short amount of time to keep your name in front of the readers. Eventually, someone is going to see your name enough to think ‘hey, I should read something this person put out.’ This is subliminal advertising at its best, kind of like the theaters showing us people with food and drinks in their hands going into the movies. Doesn’t that just make you want to go get the jumbo popcorn soaked in heart attack butter and the mega-bladder buster soda?

The mindset seems to be ‘the more I have out there, the better chance I have of making sells.’ While that may be true in many cases, I go back to should you or I do that? I know I can put out a ton of work in a year. That doesn’t mean I will put out a ton of work in a year. I’m not going to pad my catalogue with inferior stories just because I can. It’s not fair to me and it is not fair to the reader.

What it boils down to is the reader. Without them there are no books being bought and read and no need for us to publish. The writer is not the person who is important here. It is the reader. It’s not just about getting readers, but getting them and making sure they are happy with what you put out time and time again.

I want to give readers an experience, and not just any experience, but one they won’t forget. It’s like buying a burger. I’m not going to pay six or seven bucks for a burger at McDonald’s. Two bucks tops, and that would be because I am hungry and their burgers are relatively inexpensive, though friendly service seems to always be lacking. However, if I go to Fuddruckers, I expect to pay between six and eight dollars for one of their burgers. The quality of the food is great and the service is always friendly, therefore I would pay a higher price for it. I also come away more satisfied with the money I spent based on the quality of the food I ate and the service I received. My experience is worth more money at one establishment than at the other.

It’s the same with reading. I want you to have a great experience when reading my stories. I want you to feel you received the value out of them that you paid for. I want you to say, ‘that story was so good I would buy it again.’ Not that you would buy the same story, but hopefully, you would try something else on the menu. That menu would be the catalogue of books you can choose from. You read Dredging Up Memories and liked it? Why not read Cory’s Way? Hey, Along the Splintered Path was good? Why not curl up on your couch with A Stitch of Madness? I believe in the menu I present to you. I believe in its quality. It’s not McDonald’s.

If you paid five or ten or even fifteen dollars for something I wrote, I want you to feel you got your money’s worth. I want you to feel like you received Fuddruckers, not McDonalds. But I’ll be honest with you, if I put out five or six books in a year, you would be getting the Quickie Mart on the corner of Not Good Street and This Sucks Avenue, and that’s not what I want.

I know some folks might not like some of what I wrote here. It’s not meant to be offensive and it is not angst driven. Sure, there are some folks who can put out quality work every single time they sit to write. Sure, there are some folks—some being the key word here—who can put out three, four, seven books in a year and they are professionally done and are quality stories. I absolutely believe that. But most people can’t.

I’m never going to say you should do this or you should do that or you shouldn’t do something. Each person does things their own way. If you can put out six quality novels in one year, I say, ‘wow’ and ‘congratulations’ to you. It’s not easy to put out one or two quality works in a year, so it is amazing when someone can put out many quality titles over a twelve month period.

For me, and for you, the readers, I want you to have a great experience with my stories. If that means I only put out one book or two tops over a year period, then so be it. I would rather do it that way, than to bombard you with mediocre stories that do nothing for you.

The article I read was hit or miss. Some would agree with the author. Others would not and that is okay. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on my thoughts, and the writer of that article should probably not expect a one hundred percent approval rating, either. But he hit on some things I have griped about over the years and he made me think, and that is always a good thing. And I hope I made you think, even if it was just about burgers.

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

A.J.

__________

All We See is the End

From the minds of A.J. Brown and M.F. Wahl comes two horrific tales of struggle and loss you won’t soon forget.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 2.35.48 PM.pngRun For the Flame takes us into a world where an ice age has engulfed everything, driving life underground. The Sanctuary holds the last vestiges of humanity, but its walls are cracking and the ice is slowly encroaching. In their last grasp at survival, the community is forced to send their boys on an all important run for the flame … none have ever returned.

In Purple Haze, a crash landing on an uninhabited planet strands Adira and the surviving members of her crew. Surrounded by a quiet world of blue grass and purple skies, danger lurks within the beauty. Without contact to Earth and light years from home, they encounter a treacherous enemy that threatens to destroy them from the inside out.

Wahl, a #1 Wattpad featured author, and Brown, whose stories have appeared in over 200 publications, use their easy styles to draw you in and hold you close. Welcome to their nightmares.

Get the ebook on Amazon today.

Recently, Stitched Smile Publications put a multiple author anthology titled Unleashed: Monsters Vs Zombies. During the release party for this book, I met a lady who brimmed over with excitement. Having talked with her briefly during that party, I thought it might be time that you, Faithful Readers, get to meet her. Welcome G. Marie Merante to my world (and yours).

AJB: Tell me a little bit about you.

51oc1pr0byl-_ux250_GMM: I’ve lived in the same town all my life. Its very rural and if you blink, you miss the center of town. For the past 20 years, I’ve lived six minutes down the road from the house I grew up in, moving after I got married. I’ve been with my husband for 25 years, have three kids…well, men now-ages 31,19 and 18. And I might as well throw in my two dogs, three cats and my bird—an African Grey.

I work part time in an amazing bookstore, as well as have the day job, and of course the writing, which I’m always thinking about, or working on in between.

To add more about the me … besides writing, I study martial arts.

AJB: You’ve lived in the same town your entire life? I ask that like it is shocking, but I have mostly lived in the same town my entire life as well, only moving out of it for about a year.

GMM: Well … I moved here when I was seven, but since I have zero memory of anything before I was five, its basically all my life..lol

AJB: I shift gears a lot, so let’s talk about working in a bookstore. Do you enjoy it?

GMM: Its pretty amazing. The bookstore is iconic. Its well known in the world of Indie bookstores and it draws incredible authors. In the past I have met Neil Gaiman there, and this past year, Buzz Aldrin, Kate Hudson ( who I almost knocked over) and Lindsey Vonn. The list of authors is immense, so the store has amazing history and a great vibe, almost a Hogwarts feeling when you walk in. And to be around piles and piles of books, there is a weird coziness to it, a very peaceful feeling.

AJB: Oh wow. I would love to work in a small bookstore like that, one where I could get lost in the pages every chance I got.

GMM: Unfortunately, there is not much time to read while working, between helping customers, or shelving. I wish I could just absorb each book just by touching them.

AJB: That would be awesome, but then you would lose the experience of reading and feeling the characters and seeing their lives through their eyes.

GMM: Very true. I do most of my ‘reading’ on audio. Fortunately, my day job allows me to listen all day, so I’m constantly going from one book to another. I have about 260 books in my Audio library.

AJB: 260 audio books? Holy cow. I have to be honest here: I have only listened to two audio books in my entire life and they are both for my books.

51jmndlm9dl-_uy250_GMM: That’s a great way to do final edits on your own work. Reading out loud has never worked for me, so downloading your own pages to an audio file is always my last phase of edits before putting a book to bed and querying.

AJB: Well, I didn’t do the audio for them–I listened to the audio versions that were put out by my publisher and voiced by John Malone. He captured my writing wonderfully.

GMM: Ahh. That’s awesome!! Well … editing tip for you..lol

AJB: I’ll keep that in mind.

GMM: Oh … and THANK GOD for audio books … I would go crazy with my day job.

I go through 3-4 books a week, depending on their length. Harry Potter, thats taking a bit more than a week each.

AJB:
I’m curious, who is the nicest celebrity you have met there?

GMM:  They’ve all been very nice, but Neil Gaiman was just amazing. Stardust is one of my favorite movies, and I told him that. He shook my hand and said most American’s have never even seen the movie. He signed my book and told me to DREAM. Which I do.

AJB: I have heard Gaiman is a truly nice person, which is something you always hope to hear about celebrities.

GMM: Its completely true. If you ever listen to any of the audio books that he narrates, what he sounds like on the audio is exactly his personality. The nicest guy ever.

AJB: That is awesome to hear.

Let’s shift gears again. You also mentioned you study martial arts.

GMM: Yes.

AJB: How did you come to that?

GMM: My husband was studying when we met, but then we got away from it. About five years ago, we decided to take classes with our two youngest boys who were still in middle school then (both are graduated from High School now.)

We believe in self defense, and I especially believe women should learn to defend themselves.

AJB: I’ve never taken martial arts. It is as much about discipline as it is self defense, right?

GMM: It is. In the school I go to that is instilled in the younger kids more. Respect. Listen to you parents, Do your homework. No testing for your next belt if your teachers don’t sign off agreeing the kids are well behaved and doing their work.

As adults, you should really have that down already … lol.

AJB: Maybe I should get my children into it.

GMM: Absolutely!! Its great for self esteem and its not at all about fighting. If you are at the right school, you are told to avoid confrontation, respect the art.

You learn to defend yourself, but with that comes responsibility. Ok … I sound like Spiderman now.

AJB: Hahahaha … Spiderman is okay in my book. But I hate his outfit from the earlier comics.

GMM: Spiderman has a very special place in my heart.

AJB: He does know how to weave a tangled web.

Let’s switch gears again and talk about writing.

GMM: Ok.

AJB: When did you get an inkling you may want to be a writer?

51xswnz8vl-_uy250_GMM: High school. English class. The teacher recommended I submit my creative writing projects to a high school literary magazine (Its been so long, I’ve forgotten the name of it). I wrote many short stories and poems. When I was about 23, I wrote my first book, a children’s book, and even typed it up on my typewriter. But it wasn’t until I was taking a college course in my thirties—a creative writing course—that the teacher told me I should be doing nothing else but writing children’s stories.

That was when I decided to write seriously

I wrote my first novel length book after that, then rewrote it about 10 times over 8 years.

I can’t even call it revising, they were total rewrites.

After I finally put that book to bed, did a bit of querying—maybe five queries and all rejections, I started another book. By this time, I had discovered Twitter, which was still pretty new at that point. There were agents and authors on there and I found out about Nanowrimo, so I decided it was the perfect time to start a new book. I wrote 30k of a vampire book before deciding I needed to do too much research to continue (Virgo … perfectionist). So I put that book aside, and started a new one—a dystopian and won Nano, writing 50k words in two weeks (don’t ask..I have zero idea how I pulled it off).

I finished the book in April, revisions and all. By September, I was querying the agents I had met on Twitter. A year later, I signed with the first agent I queried. But we didn’t go out to publishers for another seven months. By that time, dystopians were out. The book did not sell because the market was flooded.

I parted ways with her about a year and half later.

Since then, I’ve written two more books, one which I’ve been working on for four years and I’m querying for now. I also have  two fulls out at this time. The other I’m working on revisions again.

I also have about four new books on the burner … no idea which I’m going to write next.

AJB: The life and trials of a writer.

GMM: Yup. And two shorts, one with Stitched Smile Publications, and another that was picked up last April.

AJB: Let’s backtrack a little bit here. Tell me a little about that teacher who encouraged you to write in high school. Was he a cool teacher? Influential? Did you like him?

GMM: He was my favorite teacher, the kind that brings out the creativity in you. The class was small, maybe 20-25 people, so he read and graded the stories right in front of the students. That was when he told me I should be doing nothing else but writing for a living. He told me he has not seen a student writing like mine in many years.

I was stunned. At that  point, it had been several years since I wrote anything.

He started me on my journey. Planted the seed. And today, the short I wrote that day is still in the works. I’m revamping it, possibly turning it in a full length novel. (When I was young, 7-10yrs old,  when we visited my Nana, I used to go on witch hunts in the woods with my cousins and a boy who was my Nana’s neighbor. The story is based on those hunts.)

AJB: I love teachers like that. I wish there were more of them. Isn’t it interesting how one person can set the course for someone else by having a belief in that person?

GMM: Absolutely. His words still wring in my ears anytime I doubt my self, which is often. He was amazing. He obviously had passion that ebbed over into his students.

AJB: Writers have a habit of losing belief in themselves. Sometimes we need a push and a memory can often serve as that push. I’m glad to hear you had a teacher who can push you now, all these years after his encouragement.

Now, let’s talk about the two short stories you currently have out.

GMM: Sure!

45b45f94c1fe8fa41859dbf0ecfa9a4eAJB: First let’s discuss the one with SSP. Crystal Blue Waters, am I correct?

GMM: You are correct.

AJB: Tell me about Crystal Blue Waters.

GMM: Violene is a vampire forced out of Miami by the zombie out break, and back to her birthplace, a remote island in the Caribbean, in order to survive, only the tropical waters are not as safe as she thought, and its up to her to save her island.

AJB: Having read this, I thought it was a neat concept I think readers will enjoy. I might be wrong here, but is this your first publication?

GMM: It is.

AJB: Well, let me congratulate you on your first publication and make a toast to many, many more in the future.

GMM: Thank you!! Its very exciting. I have my contract with SSP framed. Its in my bookcase.

AJB:
You do? That is awesome. I am happy for you.

Marie, do you have a favorite genre to write in?

GMM: Not particularly, though I tend to write dark. The book I am querying now is a YA historical/magical realism. I am revising a dark YA contemporary romance. I have two zombie books slated. Another one that I think would be classified as Literary fiction. Its what ever comes to me.

AJB: Diversity is a good thing.

Earlier you said you have ideas for other books. Do you find it difficult to focus on one idea or to choose which idea to write on when you have multiple ones in your head?

GMM: Its horrific. When ideas come to me, I get like little snippets of movies that just appear. Then they are stuck in my head. I carry a pile of notebooks with me because I’m constantly jumping from one to the other, constantly writing notes. I’ve had a particularly hard time trying to figure out which new book to work on. I have a few chapters for two of them, plot notes for the others. I’ve decided to wait on those while I revise the YA contemporary romance. That story is most prominent in my mind right now.

AJB: Then I would go with the one that is at the forefront of your thoughts.

GMM: Exactly. I’m adding a secondary story line that is going to parallel the existing story, so its is new writing, not all revising. Which makes it a bit more satisfying.

AJB: Just a couple of more questions and I’ll let you go. You said you have another short story out. Can you tell me about it?

GMM: Sure. Its with Dead Silent Publishing out of the UK, that is also a production company, focused solely on zombies. My short is called All Dressed in White, which takes place about a year after the zombie outbreak. A bride who was scratched and wakes up the morning of her wedding realizes she only has hours to live before she turns. So its a countdown of her preparing for the wedding, because its the last thing she wants to do, and a countdown to her becoming a zombie.

AJB:
Oh cool. That is something I think I would like to read.

GMM: Awesome! It has a twist at the end..

AJB: Okay, Marie, I just have one more question for you: where can readers find you?

GMM: G. Marie Merante on Facebook

G. Marie Merante on Twitter

G. Marie Merante’s Amazon Author Page

For story boards: Pinterest

I used to have a website, but took it down to make changes and well … I need to work on it.

AJB: Thank you for your time Marie, it has been nice talking with you.

GMM: Thank you so much!

AJB: You are welcome.

Check out G. Marie Merante in both Monsters Vs Zombies and Zombie Chunks and look for more from her in the future.

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

 

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

A Straight Line? Not Quite.

Posted: November 27, 2014 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , ,

‘You don’t always get to your destiny in a straight line…’

Isn’t that the truth?

I read that recently.  There was more to the statement, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll just use the above quoted sentence for now.

When I sit down to write a story, generally speaking, I have an idea where I want it to go.  Not always, but most of the time.  I kind of have an idea about the main character and things he/she will have to face over the course of the story.  Sometimes, however, those characters have minds of their own and they decide they want to go in a different direction than I want them to.  There’s that straight line, or lack there of.

I’m sure I’m not alone in the fight for control over the characters of my stories.  I’m sure other writers have this same parent to child conversation or argument with their characters from time to time:

‘You will do what I told you to do, and that is that.’

‘I don’t want to do that.’

‘I don’t care.  That is how you will be written.  End of discussion.’

‘I’m not doing it and you can’t make me.’

‘I can’t make you?  I can’t make you?  Are you sure about that?’

‘You can’t make me.’

‘Oh, we’ll see about that, young man (or woman).’

And things really get out of hand with all the screaming and yelling and slamming of doors and the ‘I hate you,’ and ‘I know, but I still love you,’ to the ‘you open that door up right now, young woman (or man), and you do what I told you to,’ to the ‘I can’t wait until I leave this place.’  It’s a truly vicious cycle.

Read the following and I’ll relate it back to the main point.  I promise.

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 and 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?

This is the blurb for my debut novel, Cory’s Way.  I began working on this book in the summer of 2008, hoping to write a short story about a young boy who is befriended by a homeless man one day while trying to escape a pair of bullies out to put a beating on him.

I had a direction.  I had the characters.  I had the scenery.  I had a straight line.  I was good to go, right?

Sadly, I made it through the first four or five chapters before I realized there was no real story, and if there’s no story, well, it’s just a bunch of words that doesn’t truly have a direction.

There’s that straight line issue again.  And again, there was the lack there of, or in this case, a line that just abruptly ended.  It was a roadblock of sorts, and Cory and Mr. Washington and the Burnette Brothers and Gina had all ran right into the wall.

Cory’s Way was shelved for a couple years.  It was no different than any of the multitude of stories started and destined to not be finished.  I really thought I had worked my last on it.

In the summer of 2010 I read a news article about a man who had kidnapped someone.  I won’t go into details of that article here–it’s not necessary for this particular blog.  However, after reading the article, I knew why I had thought Cory’s Way was not really a story:  Good stories are like real life, they have conflict.  There was no real conflict, other than the bullies chasing Cory at the beginning of the story.

There was also no emotional connection anywhere.  At this point Cory’s father leaving wasn’t even part of the story.  Neither was his mother moving them away or ninety percent of the story after chapter four.  For all it was worth, Mr. Washington could have been the holly jolly St. Nick and the Burnette Brothers could have been a flying trapeze duo.

But I had another line to follow and this one was as straight as it could be.  I followed it, allowing the story and the characters to lead the way, and yes, that line stayed straight.  Until one character didn’t seem to want to play nice with the others.  He exited, stage left, folks.  Yeah, that straight line had another detour in it.

Still, there’s more.  Characters came and things were done and scenes were created, all of them taking that straight line and detouring several times until the end had been reached, and guess what?  Even the ending was different than I originally thought, and I think it is more appropriate and satisfying than I had planned.  This time, the characters were right in taking over the story, and what they came up with was so much better than I had come up with.  And they did it along a line that wasn’t quite straight.

Cory’s Way didn’t happen in a straight line.  If it would have, I don’t think it would be as good.  Here’s the thing:  The point is not to always make it to the end of the trip by going from point A to point B.  The point is to enjoy the ride along the way.  A major joy of writing is tagging along and seeing where the characters take you.  It’s the same with reading.  So, enjoy the ride, enjoy the story.

Until we meet again, my friends…

(For those wondering, the complete quote that led to this post is:  You don’t always get to your destiny in a straight line.  Sometimes God takes you on a detour as He prepares you for where He is taking you.)

 

Cory’s Way, A Novel Print Version

Posted: November 6, 2014 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Good evening…ummm…or morning or afternoon. How about just good day? Hmmm…it may be night where you are right now. Well, good whatever time it is where you are.

Let’s just jump right into the blog today, why don’t we?

The e-book for my first novel, Cory’s Way, is set to be released on December 6th. It’s a special day because it’s my son’s birthday as well and he has always asked me, ‘when are you going to do something for me in your books?’ Yes, on the day my boy turns 10, I am going to release my e-book—it’s a way of doing something for him in my books and making it even more special for myself.

However, the print book is ready to go. We have decided to go ahead and release the print version and pre-orders will be taken starting tonight, November 6th. Wait. Before you click on over to Createspace or Amazon, read on. I want to save you some money.

After creating the print version of Cory’s Way, I set everything up so it could be printed on demand through Createspace. Then I checked the pricing. Holy Cow Batmen (and Women). I was stunned to see how expensive I would have to price the books to make less than four dollars in profit. It’s crazy. Here’s a little math for you:

*What follows is full disclosure of the pricing of the print version of Cory’s Way.

The minimum list price is $10.33. At that price, I would make $2.00 (if purchased through Amazon) and you would still have to pay shipping, which is around $4.00 or so. So, you would pay around 15 bucks for the book. Honestly, that’s not too bad for you. It’s not too good for me. [The Createspace Store royalty would be a much better $4.15 per book, but who actually purchases through the CS Store?]

I decided to bump it up to $15.00 to see what the royalties would be. At that price, I come out better, at $4.87 a book (through Amazon), but you, the readers end up paying around $20.00 for it with shipping. [The CS Store would give me a total of $7.87 per books—not too bad for me, but again, who actually purchases through the CS Store?)

This has caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Why? It’s simple: I want you to read my books. I also want to make a little money from those books, but I don’t want to gouge you, the readers, in the process.

After a lot of deliberation and much discussion with my lovely wife, Cate, we came up with a plan. (Well, she came up with the plan. She’s good that way.) What’s the plan? We opened an online store for the book. Yes, that’s right, and it should be repeated: we opened an online store for the book.

Stick with me for a second. If you follow the link at the end of this blog, you can go to the Square store that has Cory’s Way for sale. Here’s the way it works: There are two items on this page (at least so far). Those items are for Cory’s Way for local folks and Cory’s Way for folks the book would need to be shipped to. Yes, there is a difference in pricing. Why? The ones that have to be shipped include the price of shipping, so they’re a little more expensive. Those prices are:

Local: $10.00

Non-Local: $13.00 (shipping included)

Those prices are significantly cheaper than the $15.00 list price (not including shipping) on Createspace and Amazon.

There’s one more perk to buying from this website: Since I ship them, each one will be hand signed.

What this boils down to is, yes, I want to make money off my books, but no, I don’t want to gouge the readers in order to do so. I want you to enjoy my work, but I don’t want you to spend $20.00 if you don’t have to. I wanted to make this a win-win for both of us. In this way, I think I have. I hope you feel the same way.

Before you go to the website, let me give you the synopsis to the book (which you can find in the descriptions of both items):

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?

Intrigued? I hope so.

If you would like to purchase the print book of Cory’s Way, please follow this link:

https://squareup.com/market/aj-brown

As soon as the first order of books comes in, I’m shipping all orders out. It may take up to a week for them to get in, but as soon as they do, all orders will go out.

Before I go, I want to thank you for taking the time to follow Type AJ Negative or to follow my author page on Facebook or for purchasing any of my books. I truly appreciate it.

Until we meet again, my friends…

 

 

 

 

Here in South Carolina, we are in the midst of an ice storm.  No, not snow, but ice.  I hope the power stays on.

I haven’t posted much here lately, and not at all so far in 2014.  So, Happy New Year to you all, if you are still out there.

At the tail end of 2013 I was rewriting my novel, Cory’s Way.  All was going well.  I was making significant progress.  Then all was lost.  Most of the rewrites vanished one evening when I went to transfer them from the memory stick I had been using to my computer.  The memory stick had died.

I almost cried.  Seriously.  I had written two completely new chapters and rewritten 16 others.  If you are a writer, you do one of a few things.  A) You drink for several days, drowning your sorrows at the loss of so much work.  B) You start over and say, ‘hey, I can do better than that.’  C) You sit back, get bummed and don’t write anything or work on anything for almost two months.

I went with the door lettered C.

Then I woke one morning after having a dream.  Yes, I had a dream.  It was a vision of the cover of my novel, Her Cure.  I was inspired.  I spent the next week working on the novel, doing a first edit and changing things around, deleting others.  Then I did something I have never done.  I asked for beta readers.  Surprisingly, several people wanted to do it.  I was scared.  Intimidated, even.

Beta copies were sent out.  I’ve heard back from one who has completed their read over and has sent me a hardcopy of her thoughts.  They are VERY GOOD thoughts.  I’m chomping at the bit to get started on the second pass through.  I think I will start that on the 15th of February.  I know the other beta readers are not finished, but that’s okay for now.  I have plenty to go on based on the one’s thoughts.  And I can go back and cross check everything the others say.  I just want to get started.

My fingers are crossed for a spring or early summer release of Her Cure.  Am I going traditional with this?  Probably not, but I honestly don’t know at this point.

In other news I finally submitted two short stories a couple weeks ago.  It is the first time in over six months that I sent work out.

Rejections (or acceptances) forthcoming.

***

The Boy went to turn the light on in The Girl’s room.

The Girl:  Don’t turn my light on.

The Boy:  Why not?  Is your life all dark and gloomy?

***

My Review of Nameless, The Darkness Comes, by Mercedes M. Yardley:

I think I start just about every review with a caveat:  I am not a book reviewer.  But I am a writer, and reviews are important to us, so I try and review all the books I read.

Now that that is out the way, let’s get on with this, shall we?

Being a fan of the small press, I often look for books that interest me based on their book blurbs.  I’m one of those readers who will purchase books based solely on whether I like the blurb or not.  The blurb for this book was short and to the point, and it interested me for two reasons:  One it was short and to the point and two it was by a writer I like.

The blurb:

LUNA MASTERSON SEES DEMONS. She has been dealing with the demonic all her life, so when her brother gets tangled up with a demon named Sparkles, ‘Luna the Lunatic’ rolls in on her motorcycle to save the day. Armed with the ability to harm demons, her scathing sarcasm, and a hefty chip on her shoulder, Luna gathers the most unusual of allies, teaming up with a green-eyed heroin addict and a snarky demon ‘of some import.’ After all, outcasts of a feather should stick together…even until the end

I finished Mercedes M. Yardley’s debut novel, Nameless, The Darkness Comes, the first book in the Bone Angel Trilogy, last night.  Being a fan of Yardley’s short stories, I was excited to see her write a novel, and I was one of those folks who bought it as soon as it was released.  Yeah, I’m cool that way.

If you read the blurb posted above, you learn that this book is about Luna, a young woman cursed with the ability to see demons.  Poor Luna.  Why not Unicorns or fairies? I guess we can’t choose our curses.  But there is so much more to Luna Masterson’s demon eyes.  I’m not going to give the story away here, but I will note there are some very important characters that I think Yardley did a good job bringing to life:  Her brother, Seth, is kind of a wimp (understatement of the year, folks), even when he’s trying to be tough.  Reed Taylor, her love interest, and Mouth, a demon who is not whole-heartedly out to get Luna.  And the Tiptoe Shadow.  Yeah, that’s right, the Tiptoe Shadow.  Cool name, eh?

I enjoyed the way Mouth and the Tiptoe Shadow were developed—she seems to have a knack for creating demons with mmmm personalities.  Yeah, the mmmm is intentional.

Nameless had a few twists and turns in it, a couple of which I didn’t really see coming, which is a good thing.  There were a couple of reveals that Yardley played on and, in the end, they were important to Luna’s character building, though, honestly, I don’t think, as a reader, I realized it until the story was over.  That, too, is a good thing.

Also, Nameless is told by Luna, in the first person, and the voice holds true all the way to the end.  Through all the events Luna’s voice was hers and not someone else’s, whether she was angry or sad or happy (though that was a rare moment or two), Yardley kept Luna’s voice, how she speaks, how she thinks, how she acts and reacts, consistent.  Yes, another very good thing.

Now, this would not be a real review, an honest one, if I didn’t point out a couple things that I thought were off with the book.  There were a few moments where words were omitted or added in places they shouldn’t have been.  These are things I notice in a lot of books these days and they are easy mistakes to make.  Even during the editing phase, these things happen.  I can overlook those, but others can’t.

The story takes place over several months—I didn’t realize this until the end of the book, which is probably just me.  I thought the story took place over a week or two, not months.

**SPOILER ALERT**

No, I’m not going to tell you about the story, but about the one thing I thought was left as a loose end.  Maybe it was intentional, but I don’t think so.  Near the end of the book, Seth is told he needs to be strong, stronger than he has ever been, which really means, just don’t be a wimp, okay, Seth?  However, that never came to be.  I kept expecting him to bust in and save the day, but he didn’t.  For me, and again, this may just be me, I count the writer mentioning something like, ‘dude, you have to be stronger than ever before’ as a promise the writer makes to the reader:  Dear reader, I am mentioning this because I will come back to it later in the story.  There were several little promises made throughout Nameless and all of them, except for this particular one, were kept.

**END SPOILER ALERT**

All in all, Nameless, The Darkness Comes, did not disappoint me.  It had an easy flowing and consistent voice, and the storyline was solid.  The main character (whose name I believe is short for Lunatic) was believable, as were her supporting cast.  There was a resolution to the problem and a set up for book two at the end.  There is violence.  There is anger.  There is love.  There is sadness.  There is desperation.

I look forward to book two of the Bone Angel Trilogy.  For my rating system, I give it four and a half bones out of five.

Pick it up.  Give it a read.  Enjoy.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Since the beginning of July I have been rewriting stories I wrote years ago, back before I really knew how to write or even cared. For me, writing was just something I did when I had nightmares and didn’t wish to have them again. I had no intentions of ever pursuing a writing career.

Obviously, things have changed…

And to be completely honest, what I wrote five years ago sucks compared to what I wrote four years ago and is appalling compared to what I write now. In order to make some of those older works publishable, I need to rewrite them.

As I stated in the opening paragraph, I set out to correct the many mistakes I have made in the words I wrote so long ago. As of this writing I have rewritten two stories and am almost two thirds of the way through a third one.

That may not seem like much, but in that same time period, I also wrote a novel titled, Cory’s Way, which I hope to one day get published. I’m not really sure what genre the novel would fall under. It’s not my usual horror, per say, but it does have a couple of horrific elements.

I started all of this after reading Stephen King’s On Writing, a book I gleamed many important lessons from. One of those things is quite simple and something I had never thought about before: To write bravely. In other words, don’t be afraid to tackle a story. No, no, no. I’m not talking about being afraid to write a story because of its content, but more along the lines of looking at a story and not being intimidated by the possibility of its length and scope or even how much time it may take.

I admit that every time I tried to write a novel over the last couple years, I froze up. The very thought of writing something so large didn’t necessarily intimidate me. It did put a mental road block in place and there was no way around that. Let me see if I can say it the way my friend John Miller once did:

Writing is like relationships.

Flash fiction stories are like one night stands. You get your sex, then move on. No strings (or emotions) attached. Just kind of Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. Flash Fiction stories are more or less quick thoughts jotted down. Glimpses of stories that could be grander in scale. No strings (or emotions) attached.

Short stories are like dating. You put more effort in to the other person, trying to impress them and hoping for a second, third and fourth dates and who knows what from there. With the short story you put more effort into crafting the story, giving a little more details and character development, getting attached, if you will. even getting a little more emotionally involved.

Novellas–that happy place between short stories and full blown novels–are relationships. You’ve dated enough to realize that you might just like the other person and you want to take that next step. It’s going steady and putting all your marbles into the other person’s marble bag. With the novella you’re making more of a commitment, but not THE commitment. You’re saying, I’m really going to look into creating the characters and scenery and the plot. You give the story more of your time, your heart and a fraction of your soul.

The novel is like marriage. This is full blown commitment, ’til death do ye part, brought together by God and let no man break the binds that God has created. This is like the holy grail of relationships. You are saying, babe, I’m yours and yours alone. It is supposed to be forever. Key words there: supposed to be. When writing a novel you are committing yourself to a long term goal of conflicts and resolution, plots and subplots, multiple character development, scenery and details and many, many (oh so many) words. I have quite a few failed novel marriages. I could give Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money.

I’m not afraid of commitment. I’m happily married and have a job I’ve been at for 7 years now (the previous job I worked at for fourteen years). But, when it comes to writing, I like the short story. Anything below novel length I’m happy with. The moment the word novel comes into play, I freeze up, much like men who are terrified of marriage do when the woman mentions it. I run from novels as if it were the alter that threatened to steal away my freedom.

I never realized that until reading On Writing.

Part of me thought, “I can write ten short stories in the same time it takes to write one novel.” That part of me is correct. It also bellowed, “You’ll never finish a novel so why even start? You’ll be wasting all of that valuable time writing something you’ll never finish.”

Most of the time that would be true.

I realized then that my problem wasn’t that I could write ten short stories in the same time span it would take to write a novel. It was that I was afraid of losing that time to an incomplete task. I hate when others waste my time and even more so when I waste it.

The day after my birthday I sat down at my computer in the bedroom, a blank document open and the cursor blinking. It laughed at me, telling me I wouldn’t get ten thousand words in before I scrapped the idea. The cursor was wrong. I sat down, not intent on writing a novel, but intent on tackling a story that had novel potential. My goal was to simply write the story. If it turned out to be a short story I was fine with that. And if it turned into a novel, I was fine with that also.

Thirty days, 64,000 words and 225 pages later I wrote The End on the last page of the story. It had turned into a novel after all, albeit a short one. I had conquered the beast, that hideous dragon that stood between me and a novel.

Don’t click that mouse yet. There’s more.

I realized I avoided rewriting stories for the same reason I avoided writing novels: I didn’t want to waste my time rewriting something already written. Not when I could put my efforts into something new and better and… This is a stupid way of thinking.

Editing a story is one thing. Rewriting it is another matter all together. It’s starting over and keeping some parts of stories and scrapping others. In order to start rewriting, you have to view a story differently. It’s a different mindset. Just like writing a novel is different from writing a short story. It’s a commitment.

I have wanted to put out a short story collection for a while now, but so far I have no takers. That’s okay and I understand why: all the collections I had submitted had no real theme, nothing really tying the stories together in one book. I scoured my computer of almost a thousand short stories and novellas, most of which I had written since 2004. I came up with a list of forty or so stories that I thought could fit nicely in a collection. Then I started trimming the list down by rereading the stories and determining if I liked it enough to add it to the list of possibles.

In my mind that list was going to go through Hell. Each story was going to have to convince me to rewrite it, to make it better, to consider it for a golden ticket. Hey, this isn’t Hollywood, but it is A.J. Television where reality is a nonfactor and imagination is everything. For me to actually rewrite the pieces, they were going to have to stand out.

At the moment, four stories have made the cut and none of them are under nine thousand words. Three of those four stories were previously published and two of those have been completely overhauled. The endings aren’t the same, the characters are more alive and the situations are more thought out. Yes, situations, not plots. Life is not a series of plot lines. Life is a series of situations (You guessed it, I got that from On Writing as well) that we put ourselves into and get ourselves out of. Shouldn’t stories be the same way?

I’m happy with the two finished pieces and the third one looks pretty good as well. One of those four stories I didn’t have to rewrite at all, just kind of clean behind its ears a little and make it presentable. By the end of the year I should have somewhere between ten and twelve pieces completely rewritten, something I thought daunting before, but not so much now. I hope to be able to shop this around at the beginning of next year, and I already have a title for it: Southern Bones.

For the first time in my writing ‘career’ I am excited about rewrites and novels, something I never thought would happen.

Before I let you go and get back to rewriting Yellow May, a cool little story (well, big story) about a world covered in mold and what it is capable of doing to folks, I must make a confession. While reading On Writing, the part where I sat back and thought awfully hard about how I write came, not in the middle of a portion about actually tackling the story. It came in a part of the book about writing what you know. Not lecturing, mind you, but writing what you know. In that part, King mentions another writer, John Grisham. John Grisham knows lawyers and he writes quite well about them. It was in the middle of King mentioning Grisham that I sat back and did my deep thinking.

What you know makes you unique… Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know…

The epiphany: I was my own enemy; that it was myself, my mentality, that kept me from writing a novel or rewriting my short stories. I’ve mapped that enemy’s position and even cornered him against the wall in my head. I have my gun trained on him as I sit to write. If he so much as twitches… mentally, he’ll get it and he won’t like it when he does. No, no, I’m not going to kill him. Maim him maybe. I want to keep him around and look at him when I start to get wary of tackling a writing project. Besides, I need a punching bag every once in a while.

I’m sure that’s not what King meant, but for my interpretation of those words, it’s made all the difference in my writing…

Now, I’m off. I have stories to tell and, hopefully you’ll come along for the ride…

My friend, Michelle Garren Flye, has a novel out. Yes, I know a lot of other folks do as well, but Michelle is my friend, so…

At any rate, her book is titled Secrets of the Lotus and, yes, it is a romance novel, which normally would make my gag reflex kick in. But, not in this case and not only because Michelle is my friend, as I mentioned above. Michelle is a terrific writer and her characters can suck you in (for the men in the audience, please behave for two minutes) and her storylines are always engaging and keep you reading.

Not only that, but Michelle is doing a donation drive. For the ENTIRE year of 2011 she’s donating all of her royalties to charities—a different one each month. How cool is that? So, if you buy Secrets of the Lotus not only will you get a great read, but you will also help the charity that Michelle donates to in that particular month. It’s a win-win situation, especially since the book is not that expensive.

Secrets of the Lotus

If you would like to purchase Secrets of the Lotus, please follow the link below and it will take you to the Lyrical Press website where you can pick you up a copy or two or three and help a charity at the same time.

http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=81&products_id=273

And when you’re done with that, go check out Michelle’s blog/website, BREATHE.

http://michellegflye.wordpress.com/

And if you want to read an interview that Herbie had with Michelle, go here:

https://typeajnegative.wordpress.com/blood-donors/michelle-garren-flye-pricks-a-finger-and-kills-commas/

Thank you for reading and thank you if you purchased one of Michelle’s books. It is truly worth it on all counts.