February Roundup

2.1 A Thing About Life

I woke up this morning at 4:38. That might seem early. I’ve been somewhat of an insomniac for a huge chunk of my life, but I’ve been sleeping well since mid-January. I don’t know why, but I won’t complain about it. So, there I was, awake and thinking I would go back to sleep. I didn’t. I finally got up just before 5:30.

I let my dog out and started the coffee. As I waited, I sat on the couch and stared at the blank television. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I just sit, not focused on anything, my mind silent for several minutes. Eventually, the brain wakes up and I find myself, not thinking, but reflecting on life, on things I want to accomplish, on where I feel I should be at this point in my life. This morning was no different.

I thought about my dad, who is dealing with heart failure. I thought about my job, a place I haven’t been happy at in a long while. I thought about how sore I was from being under the house for most of the day before. I thought about writing and how much I wish I could afford to do this for a living. 

Then my mind shifted gears. I thought about how people hate each other. I thought about how politicians wage war on each other and divide our country. I thought about the little girl who was kidnapped and later found dead earlier this month—she was from my hometown and I know the area she lived and died in. I thought about the young man who had been found dead in the woods not far from where he was last seen four years ago. He had been a friend of my brother-in-law. My mind could have been the video for Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.

I don’t understand our country, our world. I don’t understand why we are so divisive. Opinions used to be just that: opinions. We used to be able to have them without others getting upset about it. Anger seems to be an issue with people these days—it’s everywhere you look. We’re an angry world, and I fear that will be the downfall of mankind. 

I write dark stories. Sometimes I write certain stories to understand the psychology behind motives and actions. I don’t write them to justify a means to what someone would do, but to understand why they would do these things. 

The first line of my soon to be released novel, Five Deaths, is quite telling of what the book is about and the mindset of the main character:

I’ve committed five murders in my life, all of them justifiable. 

The main character, Andrew Colson, goes onto to tell the story of those five murders. In his mind, all five are justified, but are they really? For me, it was a look into the mind of what could be considered a serial killer. Is he a serial killer? Well, I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves when the book comes out.

Back to my thoughts. I’ve learned its easy to be mean to people, to insult those different from us, to cheat and steal and care only about ourselves and those in our immediate circle. It’s easy to intimidate people and hurt people. We see it on the news every day from local events all the way up to our government and to events around the world. Sadly, it seems like kindness, humility and love are falling by the wayside. Can we reverse this trend? I hope so. I hope so.

2.2 My Summer Vacation by Jimmy Lambert

My third novel, My Summer Vacation by Jimmy Lambert, is slated for a mid-March release in print form. Yes, you read that right. I am releasing the print version of this novel first. In April, I will release the e-book version for those who prefer using e-readers, such as a Kindle. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-25 at 3.31.06 PMI hope to have a few book signings for My Summer Vacation by Jimmy Lambert, mostly in the South Carolina area, but hopefully in Georgia and North Carolina, as well.

The following is the synopsis for the novel.

On the third day of summer vacation in 1979, three boys walked along the side of a road, laughing, talking about baseball cards, swimming at Booger’s Pond and Sarah Tucker, the prettiest girl in school. How could they know a few minutes later one of them would be dead, one crippled and one about to face the worse summer of his life? 

Wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jimmy Lambert is sent to The Mannassah Hall Institute for Boys. On his first day there, Doctor William English strikes him. It would be the first of many Jimmy would suffer at the hands of guards and inmates. Fighting back is an option, but could it have dire consequences?

As Jimmy loses hope, two unlikely people come to his aid. Will they be in time to save him from the bullies at The Mannassah Hall Institute for Boys? Or will they be too late?

I’m excited about the storyline and I will give y’all more details as the release date gets finalized.

2.3 Simply Put

Another book, Simply Put, is more of a theory on writing and rules and some of the things they don’t tell you about when you get into the business of publishing, is set to be released on March 31st. Though there are a few chapters about writing, this is not a how-to book on writing. A lot of the things in Simply Put are my observations in the publishing world. There are a handful of short stories throughout the book as well. 

I have put off releasing Simply Put for almost three years, unsure if I even wanted to put it out. Who wants to read a book about writing and storytelling and publishing from someone who is not a bigtime author? Maybe no one. But that is okay. 

Simply Put will not be released in e-book format. As of this writing, it will be a print book only deal.

One more thing about this and I will move on: I chose March 31st as the release date for Simply Put because my friend, Jennifer Miller, who wrote a piece for this book, passed away on that date in 2019. I miss her, our conversations about life and writing and dreams. I will release it on that day in honor of her.

2.4 For the Love of Coffee

My house on Valentine’s Day morning:

Cates Coffee CupI received a sweet card from Cate. The first line said, “I love you more than coffee.”

This was a red flag moment for me. I went to my wife and said, “I’m not so sure you love me more than coffee.”

She smiled. “I do love you more than coffee,” she said. “Well, maybe it’s a close tie.”

The Boy, having heard this conversation: “Dang, Dad, you lost to coffee.”

Yes, son, yes, I did.

2.5 Everything is Life, Everything is a Story

Go back to part 2.1 up above for a second. I mentioned Five Deaths, a novel that is slated for release later this year. This story is less about the supernatural and more about real life, about revenge and love and sadness. 

The inspiration for this story was partially based on a short story I wrote titled, Picket Fences. If you have read it, then you know it is about a man who builds picket fences around graves in honor of his deceased sister. There’s also a kernel of reality in the inspiration to Five Deaths. When I was a child, I read about a man who killed his autistic stepson in an eerily similar way Billie Jumper died in Five Deaths. I remember how horrible I felt after reading about it in the newspaper. What I don’t remember is what happened to the stepfather. My mind created a scenario for what could possibly happen and that scenario made it into Five Deaths. It was based in real life.

When I write, I try to make things as close to real to life as possible, even if it has supernatural or impossible elements to it. At the end of the day, everything is about life. Everything, good or bad, is about life, living and dying. And in that same vein, everything about life is also a story. Some of the best stories I have written over the years comes from the mundane, every day events of life. This is why our focus this year is on Everything is Life, Everything is a Story. #everythingislifeeverythingisastory. If you tag me in anything on social media, do you mind using this hashtag? 

2.6 Farewell

Thank you for reading today. I hope you enjoyed this post. Also, please share this post and leave comments. I appreciate it.

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

A.J. 

How ‘Bout Some News?

Good evening.

I know. I know. It’s been a short while since I’ve updated the blog. There is dust on the floors and desk, and oh my goodness, look at the caked on grime on the monitor. There are cobwebs in the corners and, ugghh, look at the crud on the ceiling fan blades.

I’m going to be sneezing by the time I get done cleaning.

This will be a short update. If you have followed the blog any length of time, you know I went through a major change, one that GREATLY affects my writing. I had to make some decisions, which have led me to some changes. There are more to follow, I’m sure.

With this change in my writing, I hope those who read Along the Splintered Path or any of my other stories, will still enjoy what I put out. The style will be the same, the character development will not change. Some of the narration will change, as will other parts that I think needs to be addressed. But the stories… the stories are the main thing and they will still be good old A.J. Brown pieces.

With that in mind, I would like to remind folks of a couple of things:

The previously mentioned Along the Splintered Path is currently on sale at Amazon for a paltry .99. That’s right. Not even a full dollar. It will remain that way for the entire month of May. If you haven’t picked up a copy of ATSP yet, I ask you to consider doing so. And, if you pick up a copy, if you would consider leaving a review, that would be great. And this writer would greatly appreciate it.

You can find Along the Splintered Path here

And then there is this:

Midnight Echo Magazine

One of my stories will appear in this publication very soon. Check out the link for a teaser.

That story is a bit taboo and I’m proud of the piece. Though I can say, I may not write another story like it—I’m not the same person or writer who wrote that piece a while back. I am a different person and writer now, but I’m very proud of this piece and this publication.

One more thing and I’ll be done.

I am working on a new collection. This one I will not be shopping around. I’m going at this one alone. It will be titled, Southern Bones, and it will consist of at least thirteen stories, most of them previously published, but no longer able to be found. However they will all be rewritten pieces. And, guess what? There will be a couple of originals in there as well.

So far, four titles have been selected:

Three Hundred Seventy-Eight
Satanas
Liza’s Redemption
Dirty Old Town

How about a little teaser? A brief portion, from Satanas, a story about a ghostly bull.

Wayne reached the fence first, hopping over the top rail with ease. Jimmy followed him, but his foot got caught on one of the boards and he tumbled to the ground. His arm snapped, the bone tearing through skin. Blood spattered the ground. He let out a string of screams and rolled around on the ground clutching the wounded arm. Waylon dove under the bottom rail, rolling to one side. He got to his knees pretty quickly and looked back.

We yelled for William to get up and run (all of us except for Jimmy, who was screaming in pain, yelled, our hearts in our throats and probably muffling our voices). Wayne stood on the lower railing of the fence waving his arms madly. He looked like a third base coach in baseball, one arm rotating over and over as if he were waving a runner to go home, go home Johnny boy and don’t stop until you’re back in the dugout. Waylon stayed on the ground, his hands in his hair as if he were going to pull all of it out. My hands were cupped to the sides of my mouth and my throat hurt from yelling so loud. My ears popped and began to ring.

William slowly stood as if he were dazed. He held his stomach, then started to run, but something was wrong. He stumbled and fell to his knees. His mouth hung open and his face had become pink. Our yells turned into screams of panic as Satanas barreled down on William, its head down, its horns outward.

William got to his feet and staggered a few feet. He still held onto one of the apples. I wanted to close my eyes. I wanted to run home and get in the bed, pull the blankets over my head and stay there the rest of spring break, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t look away no matter how bad I wanted to.

Sometimes the world slows down during events as they happen. It’s as if God is giving you a chance to do something about it, to avoid a disaster and possibly even save a life or two. Time didn’t slow down and there was no saving William. He stumbled a few feet, one hand clutching tight to his stomach. He looked up at us just before Satanas reached him. His face was flushed red and it was obvious to me he had been trying to regain his breath with little success. His eyes snapped open and I swear they came out of their sockets–in truth they didn’t–when Satanas plowed into him, its horns ripping through William’s back and chest. A spray of blood exploded from his mouth and chest and that bull lifted him high in the air…

That’s all for now. I’m going to try and get back to updating the blog on an every two to three day basis. Thank you for reading.

Until we meet again, my friends, read on, read long.