Out of Sight

So often when a new year begins we reflect on the one that has passed. We take a moment to highlight the goods and some of the bads that transpired over the previous 365 days. It’s a bit of reminiscing, but quite often it is more regret than anything. I’m not doing that this year. There are two things I want to state in this piece, both of which have to do with my writing. 

Media Booklet Butterflies and BookFirst, I know I haven’t posted much in the last three or so months. I realized something last year, something I did for a long time because, well, honestly I didn’t want to lose the few readers I have here on Type AJ Negative. Sometimes I posted things just to post them, just to keep my name in your minds and on your lips. 

The way social media works is a simple concept I think we all understand: out of sight, out of mind. The belief of many people in the business of business is if you are not constantly putting out content you will become irrelevant and disappear from the view of customers. With that in mind, I wrote blogs and posted them, sometimes a few times a week, in hopes that you, the reader, will not forget me, the writer with the handful of followers. It’s almost like panicking. ‘If I don’t put out content now I will lose readers. Put it out. Put it out. PUT IT OUT!!’

It gets to the point where putting out content is not fun. One of the reasons I write blogs and books and funny things on social media is because I want to have fun doing it. I want to enjoy the process of growing a fan base. But when I put pressure on myself, what I put out isn’t all that great. That includes blog posts.

When I realized some of the content I was putting out was meaningless, I got aggravated with myself. That is not what I set out to do. I set out to inform and entertain, not to put out mindless drivel. So, I stopped writing blogs for a while, putting out only one, I think, in the last ten weeks, and that one was important to me. That’s why I wrote it and shared it with you.

Here is the deal: I’m not going to put out things that don’t matter or that don’t inform or entertain you in some way. I want to reach you, the reader, but I don’t want to do so out of worry that if I don’t write one or two pieces each week you will leave. I will write my blogs when I have something to say. Yes, I know that means my numbers will go down. It is what it is. For those of you who stay, I thank you.

Now, the second thing is much better than the first. Though I haven’t written many blogs in the last few months, I have been writing and I have been editing and I have been working on quite a few projects. That means real content will be coming to y’all in the form of books this year. Here are a few things coming your way in the next year or so:

Interrogations, a Hank Walker novella, is in the process of going to print. It should be ready to put in your hands any day now. 

Five Deaths, a novel about ghosts, revenge and love. Oh yeah, this is one you’re going to want to get your hands on.

The One Left Behind, a novella about love, death and determination. I’m starting to see a theme here.

My Summer Vacation by Jimmy Lambert. This is another novel, not put out by Jimmy Lambert, but by me. The story is about Jimmy Lambert, a twelve-year-old boy who should have enjoyed his summer with two good friends, only to have his entire world pulled out from under him by a drunk driver, a crooked legal system and Doctor William English, the head of a boys institute who takes an instant dislike to our hero, Jimmy. Recently, I asked someone to read it. She sent me back a note stating: This story broke my heart.

Other possibilities for 2020:

Simply Put, my thoughts on telling stories and the business of it. No, this is not a how to book, but kind of an anti-how to book. It has quite a few of my philosophies, not on writing, but on storytelling, including what I call The Primary Colors of Writing. Oh, and this book has quite a few short stories laced throughout its pages.

Suzie Bantum’s Death, a novella about a woman who committed suicide by jumping into a swollen river. What caused her to take her life this way? One man sets out to find answers and he may have bitten off more than he bargained for.

Southern Darkness, The Collection. This one I’m not sure about yet. Last year I did a subscription similar to The Brown Bag Stories. There are four editions, meaning four stories. Folks paid for the subscription and I have sent out the stories on a quarterly basis. However, I’m thinking of adding one or two stories to the original four and putting out a collection. If I do this, the readers who did the subscription will get a significant discount if they purchase the print book with the extra stories in it. This is one I still haven’t decided on yet.

Okay, I guess I have said all I have to say for now. No need to drag it out, right?

Oh, one more thing: if you have read any of my books and you have not written a review for them, would you mind doing so? I would greatly appreciate it.

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

A.J. 

#everythingislifeeverythingisastory

#horrorwithheart

Closing the Wound

Some stories are harder to write than others. They take on a different meaning, a different feel. The emotional grind of killing off a character or breaking up a relationship between two lovers or two friends or even family members to further a story along, can be taxing on the writer. That grind amps up when the story is either based on real events or are the actual events themselves.

coverThat leads me to my first nonfiction book, Closing the Wound. The people in the book are not just characters, but were, at one point, living, breathing human beings and part of my life in one way or other. The events are not figments of my imagination, but the truth how I remember it. I say as I remember it because time has a way of distorting things. It can turn the eight inch bass a fisherman caught when he was twenty into a six foot marlin at the age of fifty-three. It can take the task of reeling that bass in, feeding it some line, pulling the rod back, reeling, reeling, reeling into an epic battle for survival between man and beast. Time has a way of sneaking up on us and blurring the edges of reality and fiction, sometimes to the point we don’t know which is fact and which is make believe.

When I sat down to write Closing the Wound, I was very careful about those facts and falsehoods. I recounted the events over and over how I remember them. I thought about the people, all of whom the names were changed, and the roles they played in this chapter of, not only my life, but theirs and the main topic of this story, a young boy—no, young man—who died far too soon, taken from this world by another person. I thought about how folks who know about these events might feel about them being rehashed so many years later. I thought about how some of the people are portrayed. 

I thought hard on just who is telling the story. And this was the sticking point for me. Everyone has their versions of events, from as close to factual as you can get to the downright outrageous. For me, these are the facts as I recall them. The key to this entire story is it is my recollection. I didn’t seek out anyone else in the telling of this story. I used the facts and my memory to tell it. If someone else wishes to tell this story in their own manner, from their own perspective, then have at it. But for me—and for you—this is my story. 

Before I go, I want to talk about the cover. It’s a rusty lock on an old door. It symbolizes that this story is over for me. I have closed the doors on it and have locked them. It symbolizes that there is nothing left to tell; I have poured my soul out and I can’t pour anymore.

I hope you will consider coming along with me on the journey to the end of this story. If you do, I hope you will consider leaving a review as well. Those things are important to us little guys.

If you would like to pick up a digital copy of Closing the Wound, you can do so by going here.

If you would like to pick up a physical copy of Closing the Wound, you do so by going here.

As always, thank you for reading, and until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

 

A Piece of the Audience…err…Pie

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…

 

 

The Warm and Fuzzy

~Ahem~

Let me preface this for my sister [yes, my favorite sister out of three siblings, two of which are boys] before I write this piece: I will do something similar for you. Now, P-Shorty just hold onto your boot straps for a while longer.

~Ahem~

Since that’s out the way, let me continue.

You may have heard by now that I have a three story collection out there on Amazon titled Along the Splintered Path. If you haven’t heard before now, well, now you have. Follow the link above and check it out. The reviews have been really good so far.

[[Side Note: I know that was a shameless plug and here is a shameless request to go along with that shameless plug: if you have read Along the Splintered Path, would you mind leaving a review? People really do read those things before deciding on buying a book. End Side Note]]

Occasionally in life you have a chance to do something nice for someone. Many folks don’t take these opportunities. We live in a world where it’s all about ME and if we can’t get anything out of it, well, then we’re not going to do it.

Let me say this to that mindset: When you do something nice for someone you do get something out of it. You get the satisfaction of helping a person(s) with something they needed and that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. And if feeling that does nothing for you… well, go ahead and stop reading now because nothing I say from here on will interest you.

As I mentioned above, recently a three story collection was published by Dark Continents Publishing in what is their Tales of Darkness and Dismay e-book release. I’ve done a bit of advertising and seeking out websites to review the book, as well as seeking out places to do guest blogs and interviews. Marketing is tough work.

[[Side Note: To you writers out there, if you have any suggestions on where to send requests to, I’m completely open to listening. Just drop me a note. It’s much appreciated. End Side Note]]

A few of my friends and family were not happy with me because I didn’t tell hardly anyone about the book until right before it came out. I did that on purpose and I’ll explain it briefly here: A few times last year things in the works fell through. I had mentioned these things to friends and family and then those things didn’t come to fruition. I’m not really the superstitious type, but I got tired of telling folks, ‘no, it’s not happening now,’ so I kept this one under wraps until it was a done deal. No need to jinx myself, you know?

In the process of telling folks after it came out, I missed a few people. One of them is a lady I have worked with for a while now. She and I had an instant bond when I saw her reading a Stephen King book when I first met her. We talked off and on after that. When I told her I was going to try my hand at writing, she encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

Do you get the idea that she maybe encouraged me?

Besides my wife, she is the only other person who truly believed that I could succeed (as much as success can be had) if I worked hard at it.

Occasionally she would read one of my stories or ask if I had anything for her to look at and I would give her the current project.

She has been a constant believer in me and my abilities. Even when I wasn’t so sure.

I passed by her desk recently and we started chatting about King’s 11/22/63. After a couple of minutes my book came up. The lady was excited. Her eyes dazzled—dazzled, I say—and her face lit up.

But, then the shine faded when she said she doesn’t have a Kindle and she doesn’t use a computer at home.

As a writer I want to get to as many readers as I can. But, this was one reader who wouldn’t be purchasing the e-book. I wasn’t disappointed that I wouldn’t be making a sell. I was disappointed that someone who had constantly believed in me and encouraged me wouldn’t be able to get the book.

I went back to my office and an idea formed. I have the PDF version of the story. I have the cover art. Why not make her a book? No, it wouldn’t be perfect bound like the presses but still… it was something in print that she could hold and read in bed if she wanted to.

I had the book printed out along with the cover art. Then I went to a local copy shop and had them bind the book with a clear front (there is a reason for this) and a hard vinyl back. Then I took it back to my office, pulled out a black Sharpie and signed the clear cover with her name, my name and sandwiched in between were the words:

Thank you for always believing…

A couple hours later I went back to see my friend.

“I have something for you.”

She gave me a curious look.

“It’s not much and it’s not an official print copy, but I had this made for you.” I proceeded to hand over a copy of my little collection.

Her face lit up and I swear her eyes got wet. She gave me a big hug and said ‘thank you’ several times. She then said, “I have every story you’ve ever sent me printed out and in a box at home.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. I wanted to keep them for when you get famous. I can say I knew you when.”

There is more to this, but that is the gist of the story. You see, she believed in me, she thought I could do this writing thing. I’m going to be honest, I was never sure I could do it. Granted, I’ve not done much, but even a little success is more than a lot of folks have.

I walked away feeling all warm and fuzzy. I may not have made a sell, but I did keep a long time fan happy, one who always believed in me. And, really, isn’t that what this is all about?