The Debut of The I.V. AKA The Inside View

I’m going to try something different. I don’t know if it will work, but I hope it would pique your interest in my work, even if just a little.

I’m calling it The I.V. or The Inside View—a sneak peek at a story either from my collection, Along the Splintered Path, or one of the stories up at Smashwords (and maybe even some other pieces out there in the world).

This is a double-edged sword, one side meant for me, the other side meant for you, the reader. The first edge is meant to make you curious about one of my stories—or all of them. Far be it from me to limit you if you want to read my work.

The second edge is a bit sharper than the first. It’s meant for you, the reader. As much as I want you to like my work, to buy my work and to spread the news among the masses, I also don’t want you to purchase something you’re not going to like. If anything, I want you to enjoy what you read and not regret spending your money on me.

You see, writers and readers have a relationship. It’s kind of like dating. My job is entertaining you, to keep you happy. If I can’t do that, you will move on and find another guy or gal who can do the job. However, if I can entertain you enough, maybe, in return, you’ll think me worthy of your time and your reader’s mind. I’m always looking for new readers.

This first installment of The Inside View is from Phillip’s Story, the lead piece in Along the Splintered Path. This is not from the beginning of the story, but a little later on. This is part of the introduction to Hollis and Thad, brothers without enough sense to keep themselves clean, both of whom are tired of living from hand to mouth.

I hope you enjoy this first installment of The Inside View. If you do (or even if you don’t) feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think.

It’s greatly appreciated.

From Phillip’s Story

They pulled up to Burt’s Quickie Shop. Thad backed in and left the car running. They tied the bandanas around their necks and made their way for the door. For them, scouting out the place meant making sure there were no other customers. Only Burt’s beat-up truck sat in the parking lot and it was beside the store, not in front.

With that, they opened the door. The bell above the door jingled like it was supposed to, alerting Burt to new customers. Aisles of candy and chips and oils and other whatevers that all convenience stores seemed to carry lined out in front of them. Drink coolers sat along the back wall, keeping those beverages nice and cold. Splitting two of the refrigerators was a hall with three doors, two to the right, one to the left. Placards jutted out like street signs telling customers the first door on the right was for MEN, the second for WOMEN and the one on the left was for EMPLOYEES ONLY.

No need to bother with pretending to shop. They went straight to the counter where Burt swept the area behind it. There was a small television on a pedestal that dropped down from the ceiling. Screening it was a news anchor, her lips moving silently as she spoke in muted tones. Running in a ticker tape line beneath the woman was the daily news–all that’s fit to tell.

“Give us your money,” Thad said, trying to sound intimidating, even with his voice shaking.

Burt’s brows lifted and he stopped sweeping. “Get out my store, you punks.”

“Give us your money, old man or–”

“Shut up,” Thad said to Hollis and swatted at him.

“He’s giving us lip, Thad.”

Thad, older by three years and the more intelligent of the two, shook his head, swatted his brother again. “I said shut up and don’t use my damn name, dumbass.”

“I’m not a dumbass,” Hollis said.

In truth, he was. Hollis Williams, the third of five kids, all boys. He could never lay claim to being all that smart. A sixth grade education was had only after three tries and by then everyone knew he wouldn’t get far in life. Working at a McDonald’s or cleaning someone else’s trash out of bathrooms. If he was lucky, trash would be all he cleaned. Hollis wasn’t so lucky. He washed dishes at the local Mexican restaurant and he swore up and down he was the token redneck amongst all those Mexicans. Hollis had never hated Mexicans until working with them and hearing the broken English or all-too-fast Spanish they spoke. Their laughter at jokes often made him wonder if he was the butt of them. When he wasn’t washing dishes, he cleaned their bathrooms. It was an insult, he thought and his brothers ragged him about it all the time.

Thad, the oldest of the five, though he could lay no claim to being all that smart either, came to him and said, “I’m tired of strugglin’ like this. I’m gonna rob a couple stores and get some money. You want in?” Of course, Hollis wanted in.

And there they stood at the cash register in Burt’s Quickie Shop. Hollis was angry. Burt talked back to them and he would be damned if Thad didn’t just call him a dumbass again. He drew his gun and aimed it at Burt.

The round man behind the counter, his hair–or what was left of it–silver and in swirls on top in a bad comb-over, put his hands in the air. The broom dropped to the floor and made a loud CLACK that startled Hollis.

The boom of the pistol rang in his ears for several seconds after squeezing the trigger. The television behind Burt exploded in a spray of sparks and glass. Burt ducked, his hands over his head.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Thad yelled and swatted at Hollis again. “You trying to kill someone?”

Hollis stumbled over his words, his lips and tongue and jaw not wanting to work together. “I… I … It was… I… didn’t mean to. It… just–”

The creak of the men’s bathroom door was followed by the loud bang of it closing. Hollis–nervous and jumpy as hell–spun on one heel and aimed. The man’s eyes widened. They were brown. The man had bolted from the bathroom at the sound of the gunshot, probably scared enough to almost piss himself. He was buttoning his pants when the door slammed. Three fingers were still pulling up the zipper when the first of two bullets struck him. He stumbled back as the bullet tore into his chest and before he could tumble all the way to the floor, the second one took off the top of his head.

My Lazy Morning Brain

I’m drawing a blank today.

Literally, there is very little in my head. Yeah, okay. Hahahaha and all that. I heard that little comment: There’s never been too much in your head.

Yuk yuk yuk.

Seriously, today I slept in—much needed rest was had. Normally I’m up early, even on the weekends and before the sun comes up at that. This gives me plenty of time to think and write and promote, but getting up a solid two and a half hours later than usual seems to have zapped what few thoughts I have each morning.

Maybe my brain is still asleep. Maybe we should check, eh?

Hold on a sec.

Knock knock knock

Hey, anyone awake in there?

Crickets

Hmmm… is there anyone in there at all?

More crickets.

Ahem.

So, you see, I have nothing today. It appears my brain has left the building.

Could be that I’m a redneck and I’m about to do something really stupid. If so, you will know when you hear me say, ‘Hey y’all, watch this.’

Could be my brain is just tired from all the thinking I have forced on it with promoting my e-book, Along the Splintered Path, promoting others and the writing of my latest W.I.P., Her Cure.

Could be my brain is just lazy…

Hahahaha… Very funny.

Could be my heart needs to grow three sizes today…

So, I’ve sat here for a while, arms folded on my desk, the keyboard mocking me, the little blinking cursor laughing at me. There it goes again. Laughing… laughing… laughing…

I have plenty I can do. I can put together another promotion blog for a friend or two. I could write on Her Cure or even work on Dredging Up Memories. I think I’m at a turning point for Walker and things could become quite explosive in the series. I could work on an interview. Oh, no I can’t. I don’t have anymore on the plate right now and am waiting on the replies from a couple of others that I can do nothing with until I get them.

So, what to do? I think I will update the blog. I have been working on this for a while now, trying to get things up to date and trying to make sure all the links work. I’ve added some folks in the T-Cell Transfer and there are a few new interviews in the Donor Center. Check out the publications while you are here. I’ve added links to the ones where there are still links for. Some of them lead straight to the stories. Others of them lead to pages where you can purchase the book where some of my works reside.

Oh, I republished the three stories I put out early last year on Smashwords. If you want to check them out, follow the links below:

Dirty Old Town

The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House

Lost Art

I’ve thought about rewriting several stories that appeared in a contest and posting them up as an e-book collection on Smashwords, but I don’t know yet. Since they are all published stories and the zine is no longer around, I see no harm in doing so. Since they’ll be rewritten anyway, they might end up significantly longer than the original works.

I could submit a few pieces out to other publications. Both of those things will require me to engage my brain, but as we have all taken note of earlier, it seems it has disappeared from my skull.

See, I have nothing today.

Oh well…

Before I leave and continue to do nothing (since my brain clearly seems to be either asleep or rebelling) I want to thank each of you out there who has either read one (or several) of my stories and who have picked up a copy of Along the Splintered Path. I appreciate it. I really do. As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, without the readers, the writers are nothing. So, thank you for reading my work.

Well, I guess that last bit makes this blog more about thanking the readers than about nothing after all.

If you have anything you would like for me to cover in the future or if there is something you would like for me to add to Type AJ Negative, please leave a comment and I’ll consider it. Or drop me a line at Facebook

Or you can find me on Twitter (am I the only one that thinks the saying ‘Tweet me’ has some vulgar connotations to it?) at: @AJBrown36

Now, I’m off to work on the blog some more. Come visit and browse about. Leave comments on the things you see. Share with the masses, follow if you will. I promise I will not hack anyone to death…

Until we meet again, my friends…

THEN Moments and Confidence, They Feed Off Each Other

Back in December I mentioned that I wanted to go the Smashwords route with some of my short stories. I was gung ho about it, posted my first story, The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House, in January. The next few days I watched as the story received a few hits, then a couple of reviews. Things were going well.

I was happy with the results, even though I posted the short story for free, which meant I made NO money off of it. Several of my friends—writerly and non-writerly (yeah, I know it’s not a word, but if Mike Tyson can do it, so can I)—said I should have sold that piece to one of the big dogs, made some money off of it. I stayed quiet about it, my emotions suddenly mixed on what I had done.

At the same time I had sent out a query for a short story collection, had a good feeling about it. When some of the stories were requested by the editors I was stoked. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

But, wait, there’s more. I was a very busy person at the time. I had several stories out at reputable publications, fingers crossed, hopes high. Three of the stories had been shortlisted.

Yes!

Then… I say then, because that’s exactly what it was: a THEN moment. A THEN moment is where something is said or happens that changes the course of something else or the actions of others. (Yeah, I made that up and it sounds pretty damn cool). THEN moments usually change the thinking behind something and can squash enthusiasm, leaving it as nothing more than a little grease spot on the ground with its hopes bugging out the sides. It’s pretty messy for the most part.

As I was saying, all was well, though I had a smaller THEN moment with my friends chastising of giving up the story on Smashwords for free as opposed to selling it. The read THEN happened. A slightly negative review came in from a reader/writer who made suggestions as to how to improve the story. This is all fine and dandy and I would have loved the man’s thoughts before I posted the story—I may have incorporated some of his thoughts… Okay, no, I wouldn’t have. Not because they weren’t good thoughts and advice. They were. But, the feel of the story would have been changed and I’m usually uncompromising when it comes to how a story feels. I hope that makes sense. If not, this is going to be one long post.

I apologize for getting sidetracked so easily. All these thoughts run through the old kanuckle head when I’m writing.

With this gentleman’s thoughts—which I do appreciate—came a sudden decrease in the downloads of the story, which to that point had been averaging about ten a day. For a relative unknown such as myself, those are pretty good numbers. The downloads dropped from that ten to about two in less than a day. The next week saw a grand total of thirteen downloads. See, this is a THEN moment. The gentleman’s review may/may not have had a direct result in the downloads, but it appeared to have.

Negative reviews come with the territory and I really didn’t think the review was all that bad. The individual never said he didn’t like the story and didn’t say not to waste your time with it. It was how he honestly felt (I hope) and I appreciate the honest thoughts more so than the hollow, yeah, that’s great fluff your friends and family tend to give you.

Up to that point I had been working on rewriting The Woodshed, the one published story of mine that most folks really liked.

The following week saw the downloads drop to a total of nine for the week. No more reviews came in either.

Direct result of one reader’s thoughts? Maybe. Maybe not. To a writer, though, it felt like it. All of a sudden the wind was taken out of my sails.

THEN… (Yeah, had to be more than one of those in here, right?) I received the very nice letter from the publishing company about my short story collection. Everything that was said in the letter makes sense and I appreciate the time and effort that was taken to even consider my work. They weren’t going to publish the collection.

Like any normal person I was bummed. I kept quiet about it for a couple of days, not wanting to even voice the truth. Finally, I told my wife and accepted it for what it was: a rejection.

THEN… (hehehe. Yeah, there’s more) within five days of hearing back about the collection, I received e-mails from all three places my stories had been short listed. One was a form letter, the other two were well thought out personal notes.

Strike one.
Strike two.
Strike three.

Go sit on the end of the bench kid. You’re out.

Did I say all was going well earlier? Let me see… Yes. Yes, I did. Way back in the first paragraph. Last sentence.

Just like that (imagine me snapping my fingers really loudly) my confidence took a significant hit. Like any other writer who has a run of rejections or close but not good enough moments, I was bummed. Frustrated. Blah blah blah…

I sound like a whiny little bastard, don’t I? Please, let me continue to lament for a moment more.

All of these THEN moments… and I questioned myself, yet again. But, there was one more in there. I decided to push on with the edits to The Woodshed. I was nearly done when disaster struck. I won’t go into the details, but the edits to The Woodshed were somehow deleted—by complete accident. I was only a couple of pages from being done when the disaster happened.

If you’ve ever slowly let the air out of a balloon you will know exactly how I felt. I deflated after that. I’m not going to lie. I cussed, fussed, raised a ruckus. (Yeah, I’m poetically inclined.) My shoulders sagged in defeat. The ball game was over and my team had lost. I stared at the computer for what must have been minutes but seemed like hours.

For the next three weeks I wrote exactly ZERO stories. I stayed quiet about it, not wanting to be bothered with writing or really anything writing related. I stopped posting new things on my official web presence, Type AJ Negative. My desire to write faded like the hopes of a nerdy teen next to the football captain with the homecoming queen about to choose her date for the night. (I apologize to any nerdy teens out there who may read this. May the force be with you and all that jazz.)

Now STOP. Collaborate and listen… (oh boy)

Here in lies a HUGE problem for writers. We tend to lose our confidence fairly quick. What takes months and even years to build up can be dashed in a moment—kind of like the real world. We tend to forget the positive things that have happened along the yellow brick road. (I’ve always wondered why the color yellow was chosen. Just how did that brick road become yellow? Think about it and get back to me.)

So, let me see here. Positives. Positives. Oh, where art thou, Positives? Oh, wait, here they are, in the drawer marked POSITIVES. Wow, kind of dusty looking. Doesn’t appear to have been perused in a while. Hold on. Let me open this bad… boy… up… Seems to be stuck…

Mmm…(okay, this is where you picture me struggling, both hands on the handle, pulling as hard as I can to get the drawer o… pen…) Whoa. Ouch.

Whew. It’s open now. Let’s take a look inside.

Well, what do you know? There’s the file on The Woodshed. Holy cow. It received two recommendations for a Stoker. (Ah, but the negative wants to creep up and say, yeah, but it didn’t receive a nomination. Shut-up, Mr. Negativity.)

Michelle Lee reviewed the anthology, Dark Distortions, in which The Woodshed was published and had this to say:

“The Woodshed” by AJ Brown is one of the best stories of this anthology. Brown delves beyond the mere surface in this tale of a childhood survivor of abuse haunted by his abusers and presents an unflinching look at domestic violence. He refuses to shy away from the worst but also layers deeper effects, making the characters more sympathetic and believable.

There’s a positive. Makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

My story, Mother Weeps, was nominated for a Pushcart Award.

Then there’s that little zombie series I have going on at The Tales of the Zombie War. Folks seem to like it and I hope it continues beyond the first three installments. I have the next three written and ready to go, so yeah, I really hope it continues. Some of the comments are pretty cool and, as a writer, makes me feel better about my abilities:

Excellent, the detail is sharp and I can really feel this guy. Please keep going.

***

I love this series. I had to reread it from the beginning just to get the full effect once more. You write in a manner that makes me feel what the character is feeling. The despair, loneliness, and hurt that this man feels is so well conveyed. Keep writing man. They are incredible.

***

And this one made my head swell just a little:

I love this series! Really great writing. I think this says a lot about your talent. When your reader stops seeing the story through your character’s eyes and starts seeing it through their own, you’ve accomplished something. Good Work.

My first pro sale was to Necrotic Tissue with a short piece titled, Picket Fences.

So, there are some positives here. There are others. These are the things that writers should hold onto when they get a little down in the dumps.

THEN… (Yes, there is another of these things, but this time it’s a good one.) Recently, I received a friend request over on my Facebook page from a young woman. I had never heard her name before, but she put a personal note on there, mentioned The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House and that she enjoyed it.

It had been probably a month since I had checked my Smashwords page and I hadn’t thought much about the story since. I had thought it was a mistake to put it up, that no one was reading it. THEN this young lady came along and proved me wrong. A reader liked it.

I have said over and over that writers need to be concerned with one thing: The Readers. If one person genuinely likes something you have written, then you have succeeded as a writer. I’m not talking friends and family either. I’m talking about people you don’t know.

So often we compare ourselves with other writers, where they are as opposed to where we are. That’s not a smart practice. It’s also a quick way to get disappointed with your own efforts. Don’t compare yourself with others. Plug along and do your thing. But most importantly, remember the readers. THEY are the ones that will make or break you. If you compare yourself with others, your THEN moments are going to be more and more depressing as the days pass.

I’d like to quote Joe Konrath here. From his blog, A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing, There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.

I won’t sit here and lie and say I haven’t thought about throwing in the towel. I have, quite a bit over the last year. That goes against everything I believe in: quitting is just not my style.

Konrath also talks about self publishing and his believe that you should go that route if you have a book. I have a book that I’ve never considered publishing. I think that is about to change. Also, a new story will go up at Smashwords soon, maybe even as soon as next weekend, after the new computer comes in and things won’t be so painstakingly aggravating to get done.

Right now I’m having a THEN moment. This one is a positive. Hopefully, I can string along a few of those positive THEN moments. We’ll see…

For now, though, I think I need to change the saying on my blog. There are way more A.J. Brown’s out there than I thought there were. Damn you copycats!

***

Shameless self promotion time:

If you would like to read any of the stories mentioned above, you can check a couple of them out by going to these places:

The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House at Smashwords

Dredging Up Memories at Tales of the Zombie War

Mother Weeps at Pow Fast Flash Fiction

Hopefully, The Woodshed will be ready to go up on Smashwords in the next month or so. Having to completely re-do the edits is going to take a while.

And Picket Fences appeared in Necrotic Tissue. Unfortunately, they have closed shop and I don’t know if you can still purchase a copy of it.

(Herbie’s Note: I apologize to any of my friends who feel that I should not self publish some of my work. I have nearly a thousand short stories on my hard drive and I would like to share them with readers in hopes that they will be entertained and enjoy a story that I have told.)

Smashwords and Me…

After much research I have decided to experiment a little with the epublication world, more to the point: e-books. I guess this is a bit like self publishing, which I have never really been a fan of, but unlike POD (Print On Demand) books, I chose to go the Smashwords route, which is a platform that allows you to format your story once (using their style guide) and then they, essentially, do the rest of the work for you.

I debated this decision for quite a while before finally saying why not give it a shot?

A little history on the first story, The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House:

This story would never have come about if not for Allison Hunter-Frederick. Allison posted a writing prompt in a writer’s office on the Zoetrope Virtual Studios where I am often found frequenting the offices and lurking in the shadows. The prompt was based on tinting your scenes with emotions and the scene was a house. The house was to be depicted in two different ways: describe it after winning the lottery and then describe it as if someone had been murdered there. (This exercise came from The Reviser’s Toolbox by Barry Lane).

After pondering for a few minutes, the opening line just kind of came to me. From there, the rest of the story sort of spilled out. If you’re a writer, then you understand this feeling and to deny it from running it’s course is a huge mistake.

At any rate, I let the folks in that office read the story and I mentioned I may put it up on Smashwords, but I was concerned with doing the cover since I am not all that great with graphics. In steps my friend Jack S. Rogers who offered to do the cover free of charge. Upon seeing the work he did I was blown away and asked if I could use it. Jack said of course—in a manner of speaking.

Then came what I thought would be the most daunting task: formatting the story to fit Smashwords. It was actually quite easy and I think once I do this a few times, it will be second nature, just like typing while not looking at the keys has become.

Finally, the story is up and you can download this one FOR FREE at Smashwords. Feel free to take a look—download it, read it, enjoy it and if you have a moment to spare, write a little review for the story.

It’s much appreciated.

The link to the story is here:

The Woman Who Loved the Red Stucco House

As a writer, I thank you every time you read one of my stories. Feel free to drop me a line here at Type AJ Negative or at my Facebook page. I’d love to hear what you guys and gals have to say.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out…