Going Forward

Dear Faithful Readers,

This is going to be a short post.

2016 was crazy. I think we all know there were a lot of meh things to come out of the year. There were a lot of negatives, as well.

Though there were quite a bit of negative things going on in the world, there were a few things that were positive for me. I put out two books this year (a far cry from the five I wanted to put out, but still they were published). The two books were a three story collection titled, A Stitch of Madness. The other was my novel, Dredging Up Memories. Both of these books were put out by Stitched Smile Publications. I also became part of the SSP staff during the year and made some friends, a couple probably for life. So, there are some positives.

In 2016 I bit off a little more than I could chew. Part of this was due to being overzealous and wanting to try and get my name out there more than it was at the time. I added a lot to my plate that wasn’t there the previous two years and also added quite a bit to a marketing campaign I started in 2014. Early on a lot of the things I did looked as if they would pay off. Then June and July came and life happened. My focus shifted for a few months. When that happened, my blog, newsletter and writing suffered in silence.

Year two of The Brown Bag Stories also came to an end. For those who know what The Brown Bag Stories are, I will have an announcement about that soon. For those who don’t, feel free to ask about it and I will gladly let you in on the hubbub.

In October I started gearing up for 2017 in hopes of rekindling the push I started two years ago at the end of 2014. One of the things I would like to do is make this blog more interactive. I would love to hear your voices, Faithful Readers. I would love to hear what you have to say. I’d love to hear what you want to know about me or maybe even about my characters and stories.

So, let’s talk, what would you like to see in 2017 (and beyond)?

See, I told you it would be short. Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

The Brown Bag Stories and The Writer’s Voice

Every writer has his or her own voice. No, not the voice they speak with, but the voice they narrate with, the voice they tell stories with. That voice creates the feel of the stories they write. Sometimes, if a writer is particularly lucky, they find their voice quickly. Most of the time, that’s not the case. It’s like a game of Hide and Seek with the writer doing the searching while the voice does the hiding.

It took me years to find my voice. Once I did I knew it was the voice I wanted to write in. But just finding it isn’t good enough. Once I found the voice I had to develop it, I had to hone it, make it mine. That took as long, if not longer, as finding it did.

This became the subject of a conversation between my good friend, Dawn, and myself, recently as we sat in the living room of my house. I sat across from her on one of the kitchen chairs while my wife and her mom talked on the couch. Every once in a while the conversations would cross paths and mingle for a moment or two, but for the most part, they were separate. Dawn made note of something in my writing style, in my voice, something she liked: It’s like the reader is part of the story.

Keep this in mind for a second.

I call my voice ‘conversational,’ because that’s what it is. I like to write in the same tone as if I were having a conversation with someone (or many someones). I like to try and get the reader to feel something while reading my stories. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. I want you, the reader, to feel like you are part of the story, that you are there.

I write the way I do because I want you to feel something. I want you to feel the sadness or the happiness of the characters. I want you to feel their pain or (gasp) the love. I want you to feel their sickness. I want you to feel. If you feel something from reading one of my stories, then I’ve done my job.

Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing that the author of a story is also its first reader. I agree, and with that in mind I write stories I like and that I think you will, as well. When you pick up one of my books or any of The Brown Bag Stories I mail out each month, it should be like getting in a car with the characters. They’ll take you on a road trip and try to entertain you. If at any point during the trip you lose interest, well, then I failed you, because at that moment all you want is for the trip to be over, and it should never be that way. You should enjoy every second of the trip as you go, not just the destination, but the journey.

I want you to walk away from one of my books satisfied. I’m a conversationalist in my writing voice. I want you to be part of the story. And that’s why I write the way I do.

***

Before I go, I just realized something a couple paragraphs up, it’s something that I don’t think I have ever posted here on my blog. For that, I apologize and feel a little embarrassed over. Let me explain:

Back in April I started creating a booklet called The Brown Bag Stories. This was to be a 12 month long endeavor. It is partially a way to get my stories into hands of readers, but also a way for me to give to those same readers. These booklets are not professionally made magazines, but they are like mini-mags, holding one short story in each one of them, plus my author notes about the stories contained therein. We started putting these out in June, leaving them at coffee shops and comic book stores and anywhere else that allowed us to. I mail a handful of them out each month as well.

Oh, and the good thing about these booklets? They’re free. You don’t have to pay a dime for them. All you have to do is ask.

This is kind of my way of letting you read some of my work for free, to let you determine if you want to take a chance on me and my work, a chance that might one day have you purchase one (or all) of my books and/or tell others about my work. My hope is you like the stories and would want more of them.

At the moment, this is just a 12 month thing. The first seven issues have been released to the world. There are five left, including a Valentine’s Day story that may or may not be more of a lady’s treat. Sorry guys–it’s the one time of year that I get to show a sensitive, somewhat romantic side.

I’ve also thought about possibly making them digital in the end–maybe even creating a TBBS blog or website dedicated solely to the little booklets.

If you would like to receive a copy of The Brown Bag Stories, drop me a line at ajbrown36@bellsouth.net, with your name and address and I’ll send them out to you. If you would like any of the previous editions, let me know and I’ll send those along as well. And remember, they’re free. What more could you ask for?

Until we meet again, my friends…

The Goings On ‘Round Here

Faithful Readers,

I’ve been a busy boy, folks.

Since my last post, The Ever Changing Momentum, back in June—yeah, that long ago—a lot has happened.

Let me see if I can recite this as short and as concise as possible.

I finished up the edits on Cory’s Way, my novel. It now sits in the hands of the proofreader. Troy Rider, the artist who provided the cover art for Southern Bones, is currently working on the image for Cory’s Way. I’ve seen the framework for it. Yes, I’m excited. The talented Paula Ray wrote the introduction and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s getting closer to being complete.

Okay, before you ask who is publishing Cory’s Way, let me go ahead and say, I am.

What?

You idiot. You’re not serious are you?

Yes. Yes, I’m serious.

I see it like this: No one cares about my writing the way I do. No one. I probably take longer to put these things out than a publisher would. I go over my work multiple times and even then I go over it again. I’m extremely hard on myself. Not that a publisher wouldn’t be—they probably would—but I know what I want to do.

I know a publisher has more resources. And I bet a few of you are thinking I’m taking the easy way out. Ummm…no. Doing this by myself is far from easy. I’ve had a book put out through a publisher (Along the Splintered Path). It was much easier to do it that way. I’ve also put out a book on my own. It took me almost a year to put out Southern Bones once I started working on it.

A year? Yes, a year.

That’s nothing. I’ve been working on Cory’s Way since 2008. It’s been a long journey.

I hope you all will pick up a copy when it’s released. I think it’s a good book, but then again, I was the story’s first reader (as Stephen King puts it) and I so enjoyed it.

Before Cory’s Way sees the light of day, my novella, The Forgetful Man’s Disease, will come out. It’s the story of Homer Grigsby, a man who outlived all of his friends and his wife; a man the ghosts of his past like to pay a visit to on occasion when the hard wiring in his brain begins to short out. And sometimes the ghosts know more than the living do.

Then there is The Brown Bag Stories.

What is that, you ask?

Why, it’s none other than a booklet I created to give away to people and coffee shops and libraries and anywhere else that will allow me to place them in their venues. Each booklet contains one short story, some of them previously published, while others have never been published. The booklets are really, really expensive.

How expensive?

They are absolutely FREE. That’s right. They are all of zero dollars and zero cents. I don’t know how anyone can afford them.

If you want a copy of the latest edition (or even the back issues) leave me a comment in the comments section or e-mail me at ajbrown36@bellsouth.net and I’ll get your home address and send them out to you. And, yes, the shipping is FREE.

Here’s the deal. Like Cory’s Way and The Forgetful Man’s Disease and Southern Bones, I’m doing the work. It’s not easy. It’s time consuming. It’s sometimes a headache. I do the formatting. I have the copies made and I do the folding and stapling as well. It’s not easy. It may be cliché, but it’s a labor of love, from me to you, Faithful Readers.

Last, but not least, I’m working on two novels right now. One of them is still untitled. The other is a piece titled, I’m Still Standing, it may be the most brutal and difficult thing I have ever written. In the end, it just may be the most satisfying story when all is said and done.

So, since the last post, the momentum has picked up. I’m excited. I hope you are, as well.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a touch of humor. I tell a lot of stories here about The Boy. He is a staple for comedy, being funny and not even realizing it. This time I want to tell you about something that happened recently at Target, and The Boy was not the star of the show this time. Yes, he was involved, but his sister stole the show.

We were in line to check out. In order, it was The Wife, The Girl, The Boy and The Me. The kids had their own money and were paying for their stuff. The Boy tried to cut in front of The Girl, the way kids would do.

The Girl: I was in front of you.
The Boy: No, you weren’t.
The Me: Yes, she was. Get back behind her.
The Boy: (Pokes his lip out and gets behind The Girl. He then pokes me in the stomach.)
The Me: Stop.
The Boy: (Giggles and pokes me in the stomach. Hey, this isn’t Facebook and I don’t like being poked)
The Me: Stop.
The Boy: (Giggles again and pokes me in the stomach, yet again.)
The Me: I’m going to thump you in the nose if you don’t stop.
The Boy: That won’t hurt.
The Me: Yes it will. It will make your nose bleed.
The Boy: So. I broke your nose…twice.
[SIDE NOTE: Yes, he broke my nose twice while we were playing. Long story.]
The Me: By accident.
The Girl: Yeah, that’s what you tell your friends.
The Family: LAUGHTER

Yes, she got the sarcastic gene.

Until we meet again, my friends…