Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

It was a short trip. One that could only be taken while the kids were in school. They were sometimes fun suckers—the kids, not the man and woman in the white car driving along 176 through the small town of Whitmire—and would have complained from the beginning of the trip until the end of it. Husband—or Dad, to the kids—didn’t do well with the complaining and whining, and often had a hard time letting things go when the fun was ruined by running mouths and attitudes. Wife—or Mom, to the kids—had the travel bug since coming home from over seas seven months earlier. The day trips kept her sane, but didn’t do much for ridding her of her traveling shoes.

He knew she took several short trips on her days off, while they were in school and he was at work. it was something she needed, and something he wouldn’t hold her back from doing. There was a serenity to it that always seemed to center her and put her at peace.

Today it was him and her, her and him. She drove along 176, leaving Whitmire behind and coming up on Union County. Not much further down the road was the town of Union. Here is where they made their grand discovery, after a few turns they came across what they gathered was downtown. It looked as if it could have come off of a sixties postcard, with the buildings along each block appearing to all be connected.

“I think they like jewelry here,” he said as she drove slowly down what they thought was the main street of town.

“Why do you say that?”

“I’ve seen four jewelry stores in two blocks.”

“Maybe.”

That was her form of an eye roll. It was the equivalent of an ‘interesting,’ from most others who really didn’t find these types of things interesting.

Then it happened. He glanced away from the road and saw the sign in the shop window. It read Friends of the Library in green hand written letters on a piece of cardboard.

“Bookstore!” he all but yelled.

“Where?”

“Right back there.” He tried turning in his seat, but it was already out of sight and they had passed through an intersection.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. It’s a bookstore.”

17039263_10212341562718915_2909203469636739807_oOne of the common bonds of she and he was their love for books. She read more than he did, but he enjoyed a good book just as much. It was something neither of their kids cared much about.

For him, it was escaping into someone else’s world for a while and letting the imagination run with the written words that drew him to books. He thought she was much the same in that respect.

She pulled the car over after passing through another intersection, and parked along the curb. They got out, she putting her purse around her neck and shoulders, and began the walk up the steadily inclining road. They passed a jewelry store on their left, and right across the street three stores down, was another one. He pointed them both out to her as they went. They crossed the street at one intersection then another, passing a bank (which was probably the most modern building in the town) and another jewelry store. As quickly as they had passed the bookstore a minute earlier, they arrived at it.

The sign did say Friends of the Library in an almost looping script, but it also said Book Store. Beside the signs were three pieces of white copy paper taped to the window. They read: Hardbacks = 1.00, Soft Backs = .50, Children’s Books = .50, in the same green looping script as the name of the store.

They looked at each other. “Book store,” he said just outside the opened door.

“But are they open?” she asked.

When he looked inside, he saw why she asked. There were no lights on. The store was cast in gray. But there were people inside. He poked his head in. There was an older woman standing ten feet away. She wore a blue top and pants and her hair was white and cut short. She held several hardback books in her hands.

“Are you open?” Wife asked.

“Oh yes. Come on in.”

They did.

The store was long and wide. The floor was concrete and in need of a good sweeping, and probably a good mopping as well. And, just as he thought while standing outside, there weren’t just no lights on, there were no lights at all. The ceiling was a standard drop style, but there were no light fixtures anywhere to be seen. In spots there were pails and even a blue kiddie pool, all of which had a little bit of water in them. When he looked at the ceiling above them, there were brown spots on the tiles.

Those tiles are going to collapse one day, he thought.

None of that really mattered at that moment. What did were the dozen or so tables to the left and right of the entrance, all of which held boxes of books. Each box had a letter on it, written in black marker and in the same script as the signs on the window. Beyond the tables were thirty or forty folded chairs, each holding more boxes on them, all marked with letters. Some of the chairs even held two or three boxes, one on top of the other. Beyond those were still more boxes on the floor and two doorways, one to the left and one to the right, that led even further back into the building.

“The boxes are alphabetical by author,” Mrs. White Hair said.

“Thank you,” Husband replied.

“Hey, there is a box of Stephen King books over here.” This was Wife. She pointed down beside one of the tables.

He walked over, bent down and started pulling books from the box. Though they weren’t all Stephen King, a handful of them were. He plucked out three. Sure, he had them already, but these covers looked like first prints. Whether they were or not didn’t matter—he would purchase them.

“The hardbacks are a dollar, “ Mrs. White Hair said from over his shoulder. “The soft backs are fifty cent.”

He gave her a courteous nod and a ‘thank you,’ and turned back to the books. In his hand were the two hardbacks and one ‘soft back.’ He smiled at the thought. It wasn’t a paperback, but a soft back. He had seen it on one of the signs on the dusty window before walking in, but it didn’t register with him until he heard the term spoken.

Husband went from the box of ‘King’ books and made his way along the tables around him. Most of the books were older—nothing within the last five or six years—and they were mostly in good shape. He made his way from the tables to the first row of chairs. There were some Harry Potter books on one chair. Kellerman was a little further down. There were a couple of Lee Child’s Jake Reacher series, but he had both of those books. There were no Barkers or Campbells but there were a few Straubs. Still, nothing he had to have and nothing he hadn’t read. He came across three chairs that had Pattersons. He passed them up without giving it much thought—not really his cup of tea.

“There’s another room in the back,” another woman said. She was short and thin and looked frail. Her skin was almost tanned and her wrinkles were deep valleys on her face. Her fingers were together in the form of a teepee.

“Another room?” he repeated.

“Yes,” she responded. Her voice was soft and sweet and she smiled a grandmotherly smile. “Back there.”

She pointed to the back right corner where a door stood open. Unlike the room they were in, there was a light coming from it and shining through the doorway, cutting an extended rectangle into the darker portion of the open floor plan of the main room.

Husband and Wife exchanged looks. She smiled. He did, as well, but maybe not as wide as she did. There was a second or two when he looked back at the light and the elongated rectangle of yellow cut into the dark of that corner where the room was, and he thought of any number of horror movies he had seen.

‘Come, little children, come into my house of candy.’

He could almost see a witch at the doorway, one finger beckoning to them.

‘Come, crawl into my oven, little children.’

There was no witch beckoning. Wife was.

“Do you want to take a look back there?”

“Sure,” Husband said.

“Go ahead and have a look,” the short, thin woman said with a smile.

Again, that witch appeared in his mind and he wondered if they were walking into a trap. He glanced back at the open front door of the Friends of the Library book store. Part of him hoped it wouldn’t be the last time he saw daylight.

Wife walked into the room, clearly with no trepidation. He followed, with just a little. And there was no wicked witch and no oven and they didn’t get stuffed in bags and carried off for dinner one day.

“Ooo … Nora Roberts,” Wife said with excitement in her voice. She began going through the boxes on the floor and pulled out several paperbacks by Roberts.

Husband looked around the room. There were a couple of tables in there, as well as a handful of shelves. Many of the books in what he thought of as the Oven Room were older than the ones in the main room. Sitting on top of a tall stack of books in front of one of the bookshelves was one with a red cover and what looked like an obscure eye with a moon behind it.

Deathman, Do Not Follow Me?” Husband said. He picked it up and thumbed through its yellowed pages. The book was short—144 pages from front to back, title page included. He flipped it over and read the enlarged yellow font:

He heard the scream float up, up, up and the screeching of the anguished brakes … and he heard the silence. Then he saw the black limousine streak away and disappear …

“Find something you like?” Wife asked.

“I believe so,” Husband responded. “You?”

She held out two Nora Roberts books. “Oh yeah.”

They made their way out of the Oven Room and into the main room. They walked up to where Mrs. White Hair stood by a table.

“Did you find a few books?” she asked.

“Yes,” Wife responded and handed her the Norah Roberts books. Husband handed over the three Kings and Deathman, Do Not Follow Me. On the table was a book titled, Vampyres. “Is this one for sale, too?”

Mrs. White Hair looked at it. “Absolutely.”

“Awesome, I’ll take it.”

They paid for the books—just under nine dollars for all of them, most of which were hardbacks, not soft backs—and left the Friends of the Library to the tune of “Come again.”

“We will,” Wife said. Husband had no doubt they would be back.

“I love book stores,” he said as they walked away, the books in a bag in one hand, her hand in the other.

AJB

 

A Memorable Road

Posted: September 6, 2016 by ajbrown in Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’d like to believe over the last few years I have developed a voice of my own, one that is so obviously mine that when someone picks up a story I have written and my name isn’t on it, they know immediately, ‘This is an A.J. Brown story.’ I’d like to believe that. In some ways I do. I believe I have a very distinct style, one that pulls you into the tales I tell. I like to say my style is conversational, kind of like if you and I were sitting in a room somewhere and we started chatting it up. ‘Hey, let me tell you this story…’

Yeah, that is how I feel about my writing.

‘Come with me,’ said the spider in a silky smooth voice. He took the hand of the little child and led him into the darkness.

I admit my style lends to long winded stories, some that plod along at an easy clip as the tale unfolds. Others move swiftly through the words, while others…swiftly plod along. Sometimes I run into someone who doesn’t like the plodding style of a story, and that is okay. Not everyone loves Stephen King. Not everyone loves J.K. Rowling. Not everyone loves James Patterson (I’m in that camp). So it’s okay if you don’t like the stories that are a little slower paced and dive more into the emotional turmoil the characters go through. It is.

Here is the thing: some stories are meant to drive fast and get from Point A to Point B. Those stories are meant to be full on action and in your face. I don’t like those types of stories, so I don’t write them. If that is what you like, then fabulous. You won’t get many of those from me. I just can’t write that way. Interestingly, I don’t drive that way either.

Other stories are meant to take the longest route from Point A to Point B, traversing miles out of the way to get there. If you like those stories, then fabulous. I like some of them, but only the ones that need to go that route, and only because any other route will not complete the story. Those stories are all backroads to a destination. I sometimes like to drive that way.

Then there are those stories that start out on the backroads, take the interstate for a couple of miles, detour at EXIT 51, bump along a dirt road for a mile or two before finding a main road again and racing, headlights shining (even in the light of day) toward its destination. Sometimes those stories speed right into the ending, leaving you breathless, while other times it eases in, like a grandmother touring her old stomping grounds and reminiscing as she does so. Just so you know, I like those stories the best. Why? Because they are memorable, and everyone wants to be remembered. Even characters in a story want to be remembered. They want people to talk about their adventures, just as if you and I were sitting in that room together and I leaned in to tell you a story. I want you to remember what I told you, not let it go through one ear and out the other.

Those are the stories I write, the ones that take you on a trip, ones I hope allow you to see the world through my characters’ eyes. I enjoy the little trips I take you on. I enjoy the little country roads and the dirt paths and the many avenues we travel together. I hope you have enjoyed them as well. If you haven’t picked up one of my books or read any of my stories, come, sit down beside me. I have a story for you.

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

 

 

13106731_10209260504770741_700376366_o-2.jpgSometimes I get so busy doing other things and writing other things that I often forget that I need to focus on things that are happening right now or have already happened. Like my newest book, Dredging Up Memories.

Let’s talk about this book for a second. Dredging Up Memories is the story of Hank Walker and his downward spiral into depression during the zombie apocalypse.

Zombie apocalypse? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. Before you go and judge a book by its zombies, let me put a few fears to rest:

  • The zombie apocalypse thing has been done to death! Yes, it has, but this isn’t the typical zombie story. The dead don’t play the biggest role in this book. A stuffed animal does.
  • There is no hope in zombie stories. Well, you might be right there, but how do you know if you don’t read the book?
  • Zombie stories are all about zombies rending people from limb to limb. Yes, most are, but not Dredging Up Memories.
  • There is nothing new you can do with the overdone genre. I disagree. I believe Dredging Up Memories is original. Again, the main theme is Hank Walker’s descent into depression, not the gnashing of teeth.
  • Brains. Okay, I have to bark at this for a second. Have you ever seen a zombie in any movie actually try to get to a person’s brain? No. You see them tearing into their stomachs and faces and arms and legs and necks, but you never see them actually going for brains. Besides, how would they get to it?

Here’s the thing about Dredging Up Memories: it’s human. It’s real. It has a certain mood to it that is not like other zombie stories. It doesn’t focus solely on the swarming dead and their insatiable hunger for flesh.

It is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air from all of the action only, blood and gore zombie stories that are all pretty much the same with the exception of location and character names. It is different.

If you don’t mind I would love to share a couple of reviews with you.

The first one:

Honestly, I don’t like reading zombie books.  This book however, was SO much more than your typical “zombies attack” story. This book was about the main character, Hank Walker, and his journey to survive.  It’s not just about a bunch of zombies eating people. This story is well written, with just the right amount of detail.  The story has emotions, in the characters and emotions that you yourself will feel.  I also like that there are actual towns mentioned in the book that are familiar to residents of South Carolina.  It’s easy to feel like you are there, in the town with Hank.  For me, Dredging Up Memories was a book that once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.  I just had to know what was going to happen next.  For me, I despise reading a book all the way through just to finish with a terrible ending.  I know books don’t always have the ending that we want, but it still needs to finish well.  This book I’m happy to say has a complete ending.  I won’t spoil it for you and say it was happy or sad, just complete and well finished, and I’m happy with that.  I like that this story can be a stand alone book, but I’m excited that A.J. is planning to continue Hank Walkers journey.  I definitely look forward to reading more works by the incredible author A.J. Brown.

The second one:

This book is an immersive experience. There is plenty of action, but it really puts you into the mind of a survivor. It goes heavily into the headspace and emotions of navigating a world decimated by monsters.

Those are just two of the reviews that have been written for Dredging Up Memories.

The World Smelled CleanHere is something else: Humphrey.

Who is Humphrey? Well, he is a teddy bear dressed in a bunny pajama outfit. Yes, he is a stuffed toy, but he plays a huge part in this story. How can you not want to find out how a stuffed bear becomes a central figure in a zombie apocalypse story?

So, are you interested in reading it yet? I hope so. I believe you will not be disappointed.

Come on. You know you want it. Go get Dredging Up Memories here.

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

Back in 2007 Stephen King wrote an article for the New York Times called, ‘What Ails the Short Story.’  I think it was a small way to promote “The Best American Short Stories 2007,” in which Mr. King edited.  Aside from that, it is an article I read several times a year when I need to be reminded why I write mostly short stories instead of focusing on novels, like so many other writers.  It also makes me wonder, ‘why do I write short stories again?’

After reading the article, there are things I take from it each time, and usually they are the same things.  Occasionally, I find a little nugget I may have missed the last half dozen times I read the piece. 

The biggest thing that stands out to me (and which is the one thing I get from it each and every time I read it) is the readership of short stories is dwindling.  And all us writers and wanna-be writers have to compete for those readers.  It’s not just the case of getting a reader’s attention.  It’s also a case of getting the editors and publishers to take notice, which is as hard as getting readers.

With that in mind, a lot of writers tend to write for editors and publishers, not for themselves, and certainly not for the readers they seek.  This is where we, the writers, tend to lose the most readers.  When we stop writing for them, then we may as well stop writing altogether. 

As a writer who scours the Internet looking for places to submit my work to, I often find some of the craziest submission calls.  Zombie Cheerleaders in Death Cheer.  Radioactive hair follicles.  What happens when a werewolf falls in love with a zombie?  Find out in Love Bites.  Honestly, these are not stories that I think a lot of readers would care for.  I certainly have no desires to read these things.  Or to write them.

I have, on many occasions, written stories geared toward the call for submissions.  I have, on many occasions, had those stories rejected.  Hmmm…so, now I have a bunch of stories based on some pig demon who likes girls who wear bacon undergarments (and other various oddities a well) and no home for them.  This is the danger of writing a story directed at a theme oriented publication.  Not only that, you are not writing for the reader.  You are writing for the editor and the publisher, and their opinions are subjective at best.  Most of them choose what they like to read, not necessarily what the every day, average Jane or Joe likes. 

Personally, I think that is a mistake.  I have a whole digital library of stories I have written for publications that have no homes, stories I wrote for specific themes that were rejected for one reason or other.  I didn’t write any of them for me or for the readers out there.  Sadly, that is the truth.  The results of writing for editors and publishers have lead to maybe five publications.  Probably less.

I haven’t written a story directed toward a specific publication in several years, and I don’t plan on doing it again.

How passionate can you be if you are trying to write a story for a publication just because you want to get in that publication?  Think about it?  Honestly, the stories I wrote for theme based publications lacked real emotion, real characters.  It lacked reality.  The stories out and out sucked. 

Passion.  Believability.  Realistic characters and emotions.  Yup, a lot of stories—short and long—are missing these traits.  I think that is why I don’t care much for many novels.  If those traits I mentioned are missing, then why would I want to read a 500 page story when I would barely be able to make it through ten pages?

And what about our audiences?  King states—correctly so—that a lot of the reading audience of the short story magazines and websites are other writers trying to figure out what the publication is looking for.  Of course it is.  That’s what these publications tell us to do.  Read a couple of issues of our mag before you submit to us.  The problem is not a ton of actual readers are reading this stuff these days. 

So, not only are the readers not reading short stories, but a chunk of those who are reading are writers who are competing for the same few spots with the rest of us.  That means the audience is even smaller than we thought.

This is crazy.

Where have all the readers gone?

Let me see if I can figure this out.  The readers haven’t gone anywhere.  They just turned their attention to other things.  Why?  Well, we are a society that is all about being entertained now—right now—and we’re not very patient.  A lot of writers no longer develop stories because, quite frankly, if the story doesn’t grab us by the end of the first page, we feel like we are wasting our time.  A lot of folks don’t get passed the first few paragraphs. 

Answer this question:

Why would I, a reader, want to read your work?  What sets it apart from everything else out there?  (Okay, so that was two questions.  I can count.  Really…I can.)

It has taken me a LONG time to figure this out.  Why would anyone want to read anything I have ever written?  What makes my work different than everyone else’s?  Maybe nothing, but maybe…maybe something. 

Are you ready for this?

I care.

Yup.  That’s my answer to why you should read my work.

I care. 

I care about the readers’ time.  I care about wasting that time—something I hope no reader ever feels they have done after reading something I have written.

Do I care about making money?  I’d be lying if I said I don’t. 

But what I care about the most is writing good stories.  What I care about are the readers enjoying those stories. 

I’ve often said without readers, a writer is nothing.  I believe that whole-heartedly.  Writers are only as good as the readers make them.  Sure, we can write something great, but if no one reads it then no one knows just how great it is.  But—yes, there is always a but—if one person reads it and likes it, the chances of them telling someone else increases.  And what if that someone likes the story?  Yeah, those chances of word of mouth marketing increase again and again and again. 

That does not happen if you waste the readers’ time. 

Care about your work, people.  Care about the characters you create, the situations you put them in, and the resolutions of those situations.  Care about your readers.  If you care about them, then, over time, they will care about your work.  That is one way to get a little piece of that fading audience of short story readers. 

Try and set yourselves apart—give the readers a reason to like your work, and in turn, like you.  Our audience is dwindling.  We need to give them a reason to keep reading. 

I’m still working on it, but I’m on my way. 

Until we meet again, my friends…

 

 

I remember as a child getting comic books from a little book store out on Edmund Highway toward the small town of South Congaree (if one could call it that at the time). My dad would take my brother and I to this book store on a lazy Saturday afternoon and we would peruse boxes and boxes of comics at the back of the store, while Dad perused shelves and shelves of books at the front of it. For some reason I keep thinking that we went on Sundays, but I’m not totally sure of that. None-the-less, Larry and I were comic book junkies. He was all superheroes and I was all Dracula and Frankenstein and Conan the Barbarian.

We would get these books, take them home and spend all afternoon reading them. I often read mine several times in the course of the week. Rarely did we miss an opportunity to go get comics. It’s one of those memories I cherish from my childhood. We would take the comics back (or most of them, anyway) and get a store credit. Mrs. Laura and Mr. Al were great about making sure we were able to get new comics when we came in. Dad was, too.

Let me stop here for a second.

We would take the comics back and get a store credit.

Keep that in mind for later.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, so these little trips that my dad would make with us were like birthday or Christmas moments to us. I knew that they were special and that Dad was doing something kind and generous because he loved his boys and he wanted us to enjoy one of his great passions: reading. Store credit was important. Larry and I would look at the piece of paper Mrs. Laura filled out with a dollar amount, and then we would choose our comics based on that number. It was the ultimate in getting the most for your money.

Back then we got books any way we could: going to the book store on Edmund Highway, yard sales and flea markets. Occasionally a book would be given to us.

I was an avid reader as a kid, but very slow about it. I’m still very slow in reading today, but not because it takes me a while to comprehend, but because I take in each sentence, each paragraph, and I picture the story as it unfolds.

Fast Forward a little now.

I’m much older and Mrs. Laura and Mr. Al are gone, as is the bookstore we frequented so often as children. I don’t read comics like I used to. Instead I read other books, mostly novels and short story collections.

I am also a writer. I’m not a mid-lister or even a low-lister. I’m just a writer who wants to see my work published and who wants to see my stories in the hands of readers. If that means my stories need to be e-pubbed, then I’ll go with that. If that means they need to be in print format, I’ll go with that. If that means both, then so be it. My goal is to entertain readers, to find that happy medium of writing enjoyment and fulfillment, as well as giving readers something they want to read and something they will remember.

The publishing world is constantly changing. Thirty years ago, e-books were an unfathomable concept. Today, print books seem almost prehistoric. Thirty years ago, there were no e-zines or websites where you could submit short stories or novellas or even novels. There were physical addresses, not e-mails, and you had to print your manuscript out, put it in a big envelope or box and mail it out to agents, editors and publishers. It was a lot harder to get noticed back then.

Today, getting published is easier. You can do it all yourself with the e-pub world (and the print world for that matter). Many call it vanity or self publishing. I lean toward the self publishing term, because that is really what it is. We can call it Indie, meaning Independent publishing. I’m good with that as well.

With Indie or self publishing, or even traditional publishing, it comes down to one thing for the writer: how much are you willing to work at it. Writing is work. Writing is hard work. Don’t be fooled by some of the success stories out there:

I’ve never written anything before and this just popped in my head so I wrote it and now I’m a bagillionaire and am loved by the masses.

There are very few folks that can just sit down, pen a story and have it do phenomenally well, and that’s going the traditional route. It’s tougher going the Indie road, which is narrow and crowded with every other Indie writer out there. People shove and push and elbow their way along the streets of Storyville, peddling their wares on Facebook Avenue, Twitter Street, Pinterest Boulevard, Tumbler Road, Goodreads Circle, Blog Trail and a whole host of other places.

Readers have a ton of choices these days. The Big Six no longer really control the business. Sure, they still have a huge stake in it, but readers can go to Amazon or Smashwords or Pubit and a few other sources and browse items and titles until they find what they are looking for.

I’ve said these last 900 words or so in order to address something that is going on out there right now, and sadly, I am guilty of it.

Reading is not what it used to be. There are other things that are fighting for the consumers’ attention (especially children). Video games and the internet and television are easy distractions, and for children, probably a little more entertaining than when I grew up and books and an imagination were all you needed to escape the world for a while. Attention spans are shorter.

Reading needs to continue to be entertaining and not work. Which brings me to one of the trends of Indie publishing and traditionally published authors as well: making readers work.

Recently, one of the writers over at Book Riot wrote an article about what readers owe authors: Readers Don’t Owe Authors #%*!. I’ve read it, followed the links to other articles, and to be honest, I’m kind of sad right now. No, not with what the writer states, but because she is right.

As a writer, I want readers to read and enjoy my books. I would also like it if they told their friends about it (especially if they liked it), but they don’t have to. There is no obligation that they should have to ‘like’ my author page on Facebook or Amazon or Goodreads. There is no obligation for them to post a book review and give me however many stars they want to. There is no obligation for them to write poignant blogs based on their experience of reading my book: OMG, you need to pick this book up!

As writers, we ask so much of our readers. We ask them to choose and purchase our book among the millions of others out there. Many of us are unknown, making the risk of getting something substandard a lot higher (at least in the minds of the readers). We ask them to stick with a story long enough to get into it and then ask them to suspend disbelief that, yes, vampires do sparkle when sprayed with Unicorn dust and women can look at men through their lashes. We ask readers to trust us, to trust that we will not cheat them in the end and have them walk away from the experience of reading our books with a good taste in their mouths. We ask them to believe that our words are worth the price tag we put on them.

Let me say this: It is my job as the writer to engage you, the reader, and to hold your attention all the way until the end of the story (or collections). It is my job to give you something you will want to talk about, that you will want to share with others.

Understand something fellow writers, we do not pay the every day, average reader to read our books. Sure, we may pay professional review services to read and review the book and share their thoughts with the world, but we don’t say, ‘hey, Reader, here’s a hundred bucks. Read my book and tell everyone about it.’

At least, I don’t. I can’t afford to, even if I wanted to.

Readers read because they want to. Readers read for enjoyment. They don’t read with the idea of leaving book reviews, and posting all over social media sites and blogging about it. Readers read because they enjoy the experience. Readers are not our personal marketing department.

As a writer, I admit that there are times I have failed to market my books as well as I should. Whose fault is that? Mine. It’s not the readers’. If I want my work to sell more, I have to market my books better. Sure, if a reader wants to help by spreading the word or leaving a review or however they choose to help, then I will be more than happy to let them. If that’s what they want to do, then go for it. But, it’s not my place to tell them that I need help promoting my book and if they liked my book, then, by George, tell the world.

It takes time to promote our books, and not many of us like to do it. So, why ask our readers to do it for us?

Writing is work. It’s hard work. Marketing is work. It’s much harder work. That is my job.

So, with all that said, I would like to apologize for my part in the whole, ‘let’s get the readers to help market my work’ scenario. It’s not your job. It’s my job. If I don’t do it well enough, then my books don’t sell. I won’t say don’t help writers you like, but I won’t say, if you don’t buy my book and tell the world about it, then you are hurting us writers. That’s BS in it’s truest since.

A reader’s job is to read. That’s it. And even then, it’s not their job, but their desire, what they enjoy doing.

I go back to the comic books I read as a kid. I go back to all the writers out there who had to make it in the business without social media or the Internet or e-books and self-publishing. Sure, word of mouth helps, but I’m certain Stephen King didn’t say, ‘will you please help me sell my books to your friends by liking it and reviewing it and whatever else you can do would be awesome.’ I can’t imagine having the time to write reviews or post on social media about all the books/comics I read growing up.

I’m not going to tell any reader not to help, because, as a writer, I appreciate when someone does like my work and when someone does think enough of it to tell others or leave a review for it. That’s the general principal behind most marketing, to sell a product so good that people will just want to buy it and then tell their friends about it and use that word of mouth to help sell things. By all means, spread the word. But I’m not going to ask you to do any of the work. That’s my job, and that’s the job of every other writer out there. And I’m certainly not going to tell you, the readers, that if you don’t purchase my work, then you aren’t supporting me. Again, BS in a pure form.

There are those websites that say things like, 20 Ways You Can Help Your Favorite Writer or Support a Writer, Buy A Book. Whatever. There is one way that you can help your favorite writer, and it’s the only one that counts. Read their work. My books haven’t sold particularly well, but I know that those who have bought them have, for the most part, read them, and enjoyed them.

I want readers to pick up one of my books and enjoy them. I don’t want them to feel like if they read my books then they have to write a review or like the Amazon page or blog about it. If they want to, go for it, but I don’t want them to feel obligated to do so—that takes the enjoyment out of reading, and we should never want to take that from them.

Readers don’t owe us a thing, but we owe them. Yes, we do. We owe them a big thank you for taking the time (and money in many cases) to read our work. Thank you to anyone who has picked up either Along the Splintered Path or Southern Bones.

The only thing I am going to ask of the readers is, please, don’t steal my work (or anyone else’s). Other than that, if you see my book at the library or a yard sale or the flea market, pick it up for that quarter or fifty cents. If someone gives you my book, just say thank you and don’t worry about whether or not I could have made money off of you purchasing the book. Readers read and that’s what I want them to do with my work. Anything else they want to do with my books after they’ve read them is really up to them. That includes going to an old bookstore on a stretch of road where a middle-aged couple sales used books and credits the kids when they return books. Maybe one of those kids will see my book and want to buy it, and maybe they would like it and decide to keep it instead of turning it back in for a store credit and a comic book.

Until we meet again my friends…

As a writer, I like when someone comments about one of my stories. I also like when I make someone wonder about me.

One day last week, a young lady that works for the same firm I do was getting on the elevator with her friend. I got on behind them. Normally (like there is really anything normal about anything I do anymore) I would joke around with them and tell some tale about elevator etiquette. Before I could do so, the young lady–we’ll call her V–said to me:

“Can I ask you a question?”

In my experience when a female ask that question, I am either a) in trouble or b) about to be in trouble.

“Sure. I may not have an answer, but I’ll try.”

She scrunched up her nose and her upper lip curled up on one side. It was a really good Rocky impersonation. “Where did that dark side come from?”

I knew what she was talking about, but I tried to play dumb, which for me isn’t that hard and it’s really not an act.

“What are you talking about?”

She shook her head. “Come on. The book.”

“Ohhhhhhh… yeah, I’ve always been like that.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve always liked the darker things.”

And that’s the thing: I work with people every day. Most of them have no clue I’m a writer. For the most part, I keep the two separated, simply because I write horror and a lot of people view horror writers as twisted, demented people who should be locked up in cages in someone’s basement. Oh wait. That’s not right, but they do think we’re twisted and demented–how else could we come up with the subjects we write about?

The answer to that last question is… ummm… real life gives us most of our subject matter, but that’s for another day.

The point is: most of the people I work with know me as a nice, helpful person (for the most part. Sometimes the niceness goes right out the window and I revert to my normal persona). So, when they read something I’ve written, it opens their eyes… or maybe it scares them a little. A few even view me differently now.

I’m okay with that.

V said, “I was reading and saying, oh… oh my…”

What V was referring to is my short story collection, Along the Splintered Path, three stories about splintered lives. She mentioned the second story in the book, ‘Round These Bones. She said it was disturbing.

There you go. I succeeded at my job. The story was intended to be disturbing and if I managed to make one person feel that way, then it was a job well done.

As writers, that’s what we want. We want to hear from people. We want to know that something we wrote did what it was supposed to do. We want to know that the readers enjoy the stories and we want to know when it made them cry or if it made them angry or sick to their stomach or even made them smile.

I’m happy with V’s feelings on the book. It did what it was meant to do.

If you would like to check out Along the Splintered Path, just go here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Pick it up. Leave a review. Writers really do want to hear from the readers. It helps us figure out what we are doing right and it helps us to know what needs to be fixed.

If you pick up the book, maybe you’ll look like this person (her name is Gina and yes, this was used with permission) while you’re reading it.

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I thank you, now, for reading, not only Along the Splintered Path, but also Type AJ Negative.

Read on and your thoughts are always welcome.

Until we meet again, my friends…