Friday, November 29, 2013

Why would ANYBODY want to write for a living? (The finale!)

I admit it...I am out there doing the Black Friday thing. Hate if you must, but for me, this is something that I actually find fun and enjoyable. And to make it even better, I go out of my way to be as kind and polite as possible to the people behind the register. I figure they have a rough day ahead...a smile will be worth its weight in gold. But if you are sitting at home reading this...enjoy!

Sitting at my desk with my Border Collie demanding my attention (she grabs her toy of choice, slips under my desk and shoves it in my lap so I will toss it across the living room...she can do this for hours!), sipping coffee, and glancing at my aquariums (my NEWEST hobby) while eating fresh berries and yogurt. I have steaks marinading for the barbecue tonight. On my KDP sales page, I am having my BEST MONTH EVER! All of this might seem trivial...but considering where I was a mere 14 months ago...where I spent 13 years of my life...this is HEAVEN. Less than a year after my return to society, I am able to quit my day job and focus on my dream job of being a writer. That is just one of the things that makes this country great...if your work hard and put all your heart into following your CAN succeed. But it ain't easy.

After the first few months of Zomblog being available, the reviews started coming in and they were surprisingly favorable. I say surprisingly because I had never intended it to be read as an actual novel. It was a warm-up exercise. Also, I started getting asked by a couple of friends who read it, "When are you gonna write the next part?" I was currently up to my eyes in Dead: The Ugly Beginning. It was going well and I was actually a bit excited because I had decided to "borrow" from George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones book. I was going to write my zombie book in rotating chapters. I had Steve, The Geeks, and Vignettes. That last chapter would just be snapshots of what was happening around the world. However, I started discovering that a few of those vignettes would have to carry over beyond just one chapter. Also, I was in the process of compiling and editing May December Publications' first anthology: Eye Witness: Zombie.

Let me take an aside moment to mention that compiling an anthology is A LOT of work. And even offering up "just" a contributor's copy is an expensive undertaking. The best parts were reading a story and feeling so blown away that somebody would send such a great story to ME! After all, we were just getting started and had not even started to gain a name for ourselves. Yet, some of those submissions for Eye Witness: Zombie really floored me. (Childish Things by William Wood and Baby Killer by Ron Harris are still two of my favorites--for very different reasons. I still giggle when I think of a man trapped inside a killer whale outfit and hopping down a hallway to try and escape zombies.) After almost three years, we are just now starting to be able to offer little stipends to some of our wonderful anthology contributors.

I decided that I would write two more books in the Zomblog series (that has since changed and I have just finished the fourth book because fans of the series have asked for it...and the readers are who I consider to be my boss). The Zomblog books would give me a break between the DEAD books. However, I was really focused on Dead: The Ugly Beginning. I completed it and decided that I wanted to release it on my son Cody's birthday. I don't know what I expected. I had sold close to a hundred copies of Zomblog by the time it came out. Yep...a hundred. Not great...but I just knew that Dead: The Ugly Beginning was going to change things. It was out for three days before it finally sold its first copy. I was beyond discouraged. How was it that nobody else was seeing my genius? Or...maybe I'm not that good. Those were the thoughts I did battle with. 

I shook off those feelings and went right to work on Zomblog II. I believed That I learned a great deal since the first one and actually had an endgame in mind for this installment. I tried to ignore the fairly abysmal sales of my first two books. Dammit! I was a good writer. I knew it. It would just take time. Folks would start coming around. It was not too long after the release of Dead: The Ugly Beginning that a group of people took it upon themselves to decide that I should not be writing. How could anybody read my work? After all, I was in prison. I should not have a life...I should not be allowed to prove to society that I am worthy of reintegration. I should be judged solely on past deeds. Even better...people with no actual knowledge decided to simply fabricate what they knew nothing about. Again...this is not a place for me to debate my criminal record, the fact that people do time and may not actually be guilty--unless you think the criminal justice system is perfect and NEVER makes a mistake--to defend myself or anything else of the sort is just pointless. However, I will say that very few publishers, editors, or writers have provided as much detail about their private life as I have. How do you know what sort of person each writer that submits to your anthology is in real life? What do you really know about that editor or publisher you work with? Everybody has skeletons in their closet...but the difference between them and me is that I keep my closet door open. I wasn't "discovered"...I put my stuff out there on my own.

This whole time, every instance where I was considering whether or not to just walk away, there was Denise telling me, "You can't quit your dream. It will happen if you just give it time." There were so many opportunities to give up. "Why would you want to write?" "Why subject yourself to this frustration?" Those questions bounced around inside my brain almost daily. The answer was simple: It's what I do. It's what I love. I don't feel whole if I am not creating something with words. I picked up my pen and dove into Zomblog II. My brain was in overdrive and I already felt story lines forming for the second book in the DEAD series. I even had a working title: Dead: Revelations. Dammit...I didn't just WANT to write. I NEEDED to write...

Every day, somebody steps off the ledge of security to follow a dream. Sadly, the landscape is littered with the decaying corpses of many a dream that has died. Many starve after they are deemed too difficult to maintain. Often, those dreams are treated by those closest to The Dreamer as brazen and filthy harlots that drag The Dreamer away from responsibility and duty. How many songs bemoan "the Boulevard of Broken Dreams"? Yet, like a siren's song, they beckon...and far too many unwary pursuers end up crashing on the rocks.

Not all who chase their dream are destined to fail. I am chasing a dream that so many share. I want to be a writer. Not just a person who has a few books out that are read by friends and family. Excuse me if I offend, but anybody can do that if they choose. I want to be read by thousands...millions. I want to walk into a coffee shop and see my book in somebody's hands, or hear two people chatting about it over dinner. I want to walk into a theater and see a preview for it during the "Coming Attraction" before the feature film or catch a commercial for it while I am watching HBO, AMC, or even the SyFy channel. Simply put...I want to hit the "Big Time" and achieve "Best Seller" status. I want to have sales numbers that match my KDP freebies. (To date, in 10 combined promo days, Zomblog has given away over 50,000 copies, doing over 10,000 in 48 hours on the average.)

Doesn't that seem to fly in the face of a lot of what I have said? That whole "write because you love it" thing and the "I don't want to write...I have to write!" Those are true. However, I would be lying to you and to myself if I did not admit that I covet the successful end of the spectrum. I am not afraid of fame or success. Odd as it seems, there are many people who are terrified of those two states of being. It can be a scary thing to some. By nature, many writers are not all that gregarious. They were the wallflowers or the kids picked last in gym they turned to books. Some are very uncomfortable in the spotlight and might lack certain social skills due to years of introversion. Let's face it...that is why the social media is their haven. Give a writer a keyboard and remove the actual interpersonal interactions of true relationships and they are in their realm of comfort.

In April of this last, 2012, I walked away from my "day" job. My book sales had reached a point where I could pay my bills. It was time to step off the ledge. I am fortunate that I am married to somebody who accepts my "mistress" without feeling threatened by it. With several of my books reaching triple-digit sales each month (versus triple-digit totals for the year like they did in 2011) it was time to see if I could do this.

So, why do I write? After all...isn't that what I said this whole column was going to reveal. Truthfully? Ego. For me there is no greater rush than when I get an email or letter saying that I made a person laugh or cry with nothing more than my words on paper. When I have people who make a comment about one single line in my book that they say "touched their heart" or made them feel just a bit queasy. I write because I love hearing I have become somebody's favorite. I write because I get a thrill when a story takes a turn that I never saw coming. (Like I said earlier...I don't use an outline.) When a complete stranger thinks enough of my work to spend the time to write a review like this:

"I have never been moved to write a review for the products that I have purchased on Amazon or any other site before. But after reading this book, and several others from Mr. Brown. I cannot put it off any longer.I have read several zombie books that are of good quality, and even more that were.... well to be honest, downright sucked. I saw this book on Amazon and decided to give it a shot. Well, I must tell you that as far as I am concerned, after reading Mr. Brown's books I have placed him as one of the best writers for me. I devour his books at every chance I get. I will give up sleep just to read more of his work. ... Mr. Brown has done what most authors cannot do, or have a hard time doing. And that is making me believe that this is happening. I can see this playing out in real life if this was to happen.I truly wish this author the most success available for him, simply because the more success he gets the more of his craft I will be able to enjoy. I know he reads these reviews, and I want him to know that I consider his work, his craft, his ability as a writer to be one of the greats. Thank you for sharing your story Mr. Brown." 

I could share a hundred other such things (personal update, I just received one that truly touched my life and my heart...look back a few blog posts and see for yourself.)...some from reviews, others from emails or letters. THAT is why I write. When somebody says that about your work...about what you do for a is a wonderful feeling. Many people long to hear those sorts of things at a job they hate or can barely tolerate. Can you imagine what it feels like to hear that about something that you do because you love it? I may not be wealthy yet...but I am richer now than at any point in my life. Is it scary at times? Sure. But I wouldn't give it up for anything. I get to say something every day that so few can utter as they head off to work. "I am doing what I love."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why would anybody want to be a published author? (Part 2)

It is the day before Thanksgiving. As you read this, odds are I am cooking. As a devout Food Network fan (Alton Brown is my HERO!), I have some new recipes and techniques I am dying to try! So, I leave you with my continuation of my "Why be an author" series.

When you are little, you have all those amazing dreams about what you want to be when you grow up. I grew up when some of the most common dreams were astronaut, the president, and Billy Jack. (If you don't remember Billy Jack...ask your parents or older siblings. Best Billy Jack line: "I'm gonna put my left foot on the left side of your face." How cool was it that he took his shoes off and that was the signal that he was about to kick butt!?!) But I digress...

As you grow older, life has a way of using a sniper rifle to pick off those dreams one at a time. Pretty soon, many of us settle. After all, chasing a dream is very difficult. So few can actually catch theirs. And you have to surround yourself with people who will help you overcome obstacles and face hardships. Oh yes...catching a dream can come at a steep price.

Just as my dream was about to come to fruition...I ended up in prison. This column is not about that. I have had that information on the May December Publications website since the company formed. (Of which I am NOT the registered owner, Denise is, I am merely a writer and editor.) I won't get into a debate about it or engage those who wish to try and provoke me. It started in 1989 and culminated in 1998. No matter what, I am not the man now that I was then. After three divorces, you have to start thinking "Maybe it's me." I spent my incarceration becoming a better person. I obtained my degree (only an Associates, but I did pull a 3.96 GPS...damn B in Calculus!) through Blue Mountain Community College and LSU. I took years worth of cognitive behavior courses to try and figure out why I was so full of hate and anger. I learned how to play guitar. I got a job helping inmates obtain their GED (some of my most rewarding work), and I became a hospice volunteer where I learned that no matter how bad I thought I had it...I wasn't going to die in prison. Not everybody I knew could say the same.

During that long period of my life, I had two choices: give up and become what is expected of me...or become the man I knew I could become if I was willing to work. I chose the latter. I set a goal of having three full-length books ready to go upon my release. I didn't count Dakota (which I received a letter from an actual New York agency who wanted to represent me while I was sitting in jail. I told them it wasn't a good time and I would have to pass.) It was during my pursuit of my degree that one of the teachers told me after I'd written a short zombie piece for a creative writing course, "You need to be writing all the time. You have a gift." That evening, during a phone call home to my wife, I mentioned writing a blog. Only, it would be fictional. It would be the story of a guy who lives through the zombie apocalypse. Denise said that if I wrote it and sent it to her, she would post it on an actual blog that she would create for me. Like I said earlier...if you chase your dreams, you need somebody who is willing to have your back and be there to support you.  The dream was about to become tangible...

I've met and spoken with a number of writers who mourn the lack of family support. I hear them vent in frustration about how nobody--neither friends nor family--has so much as cracked a cover of even one of their stories. I can certainly understand their frustration and even hurt feelings. However, let me just take one moment to remind you that your family is NOT your target audience! I understand that you want those close to you to see just how amazingly talented you happen to be...but they are not ever going to BUY one of your books. 

Now that I have spewed my hypocritical line of drivel...let me remind you that it was lack of support that drove me away from my dream time and again. The real truth is that we (referring to us writing types) are a very selfish bunch. Our pursuit of being a writer takes up far more time than most people realize (unless they are married to or in a relationship with a writer). It is not something that can normally be considered a couples, team. or group effort. It is a solitary effort that demands ALL of our focus. We shut out those same friends and family members who we later ask to read our latest piece. That is sorta like bringing home a girlfriend (or boyfriend) and asking your wife (or husband) to fix dinner for the three of you.

Our job requires that we try to find ways to make strangers interested in our wares. While we may make claims like "I don't write for the money." If you are trying to make a living at being a writer...that is a HUGE contradiction. I will admit here to all who care to read this that I am absolutely in this to make a living. I will sell out in a Florida Flash. I have a family to support. Last I checked, the electric company does not accept a pat on the back in lieu of payment. They want cash. Therefore...I need my books to sell.

This brings me back to where I left off yesterday: Zomblog. I finally had somebody who supported me once again. This time, she was willing to do more than just give me the green light. I need to make it clear that I NEVER intended for Zomblog to see print. It was a warm-up exercise as I got in shape to write my DEAD series. I actually wrote it day-by-day. When I felt I was ready to move on to my "real" novel, I wrapped it up. All the while, Denise was posting it in daily installments. It gained a bit of a following, including a small press. An offer was made to me to compile the entries and release it as a novel. I was blown away. I may have sprained my tongue saying "Yes!" so fast. Just before it was due to be released, the publisher wanted to change the contract. In short....more money for them and less for me. My response is not suitable for family viewing, but you get the point. I said "No thanks."

Just as fast as it had begun, the ride was coming to an end. kinda like an amusement park. You stand in line for three hours to ride a seventy second roller coaster. I was disappointed, but not devastated. After all, the DEAD series was my focus. However, Denise was not satisfied with that outcome. My wife (who happens to hold a Masters in accounting and business) filed all the paperwork and created a company using the copyright tag I used for my writing--May December Publications. I have used that dating back to when I wrote Dakota. My daughter Ronni was born on December 15th, my son Cody was born on May 30th, and my son Alexander was born on December 13th...hence, May December Publications, LLC. It was under that label that Denise had Zomblog printed. I received it for Christmas 2009. When you get a book sent in to you in prison, it is always neat...when it is YOUR is inexplicably cool.

Having somebody in your life who not only understands, but actively supports your dream of being a writer is a treat. It is a luxury that I do not take for granted. My first several books, (the first two DEAD books, the first two Zomblog books, and Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales Volume 1) were handwritten by me, then sent home and typed by Denise. After several back and forth mailings and numerous edits over the phone, those books saw daylight. So...the truth is that none of that would have happened when it did had it not been for such amazing support.

So, the books started becoming available. The first month of release, I think Zomblog sold six copies. Disappointed does not quite cover it. The rush and the thrill of holding a physical copy of my book was quickly deflated by the reality of next to no sales. It was time to delve into the seedy underbelly of the writing world--the part none of us likes to talk about. Promotion. There is a fine line between promoting and being a nuisance. Also, just as I sat down to start on Dead: The Ugly Beginning, a letter came in and asked when the next book in the Zomblog series was going to be released. What next book? Crap...this was gonna be a bit harder than I thought.

Return Friday for the conclusion...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why would anybody want to write for a living?

The week of Thanksgiving is one I take seriously. I am in the kitchen almost every single day leading up to the grand finale. So, since I still need to be able to spend time on my upcoming DEAD release (DEAD: Darkness Before Dawn--Due January 30, 2014!) I have pulled on of my favorite posts for re-broadcast. Since I get new followers all the time, some of you might have missed the prior times this has run. 

Now...why would anybody want to write for a living?

I've heard that question a few times in my life. (Including from ex-wives.) To me, the simple fact that you would have to ask means that you won't be happy (or perhaps even understand) my answer. I am going to share my own personal reasons here. Some of them will seem silly, a few will definitely sound selfish. Still, they are mine and I am not ashamed of them.

First off, if you know me personally, it comes as no surprise that I am a bit of an attention whore. Simply put, I like being in the spotlight. I've been the lead singer and a guitarist for a few bands. Nothing major...but an absolute blast. I've played in front of a few hundred people. Even on the tiniest stage, I always treated it like it was a packed arena full of thousands. I put my heart into it every time I stepped up to the mic. When I strapped on my guitar, I felt like Ace Frehley or Stevie Ray Vaughn...even though I played

I have a hefty amount of stage credits to my name; having been in shows like Pippin, Oliver, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The World According to Snoopy. I discovered my knack for the stage in high school and decided to pursue it into adulthood. I feel fortunate. I never auditioned for a show that I wasn't cast in during those years. I have a ton of great memories from that era in my life.

Still, I always had that yearning to write. It has been part of me since I was a kid telling bedtime stories to my  teddy bear. I have just loved the idea of sharing a story. I was the kid on the camp outs who had a million ghost stories. When I got to high school, I took every writing class I could get in to. When the teacher in my Creative Writing class would ask if anybody wanted to share their work, I always raised my hand. The payoff would come after class when the other kids would give their feedback. My favorite comment came from the pretty girl who didn't ever remember my name. "You should write for a living." I'd like to say that she finally remembered my name I was still invisible to her. Still, she did smile and occasionally say hello in passing. (Wasn't high school great?!) The biggest thing that I kept hearing was that I had a knack for creating something on paper.

The problem I faced when I was young is nothing that hasn't plagued most teenagers: focus. I was in the Navy...seeing the world. I enlisted as a submarine sonar technician right out of high school. It was the 80s. The US and the (still in existence) USSR did not get along. My job was to find and classify Soviet contacts of interest. Very Hunt for Red October. I would write in fits and starts for several years.

In 1989, when I left the US Navy, I would seriously consider what I wanted to do with my life. It always came back to writing. Whether I was writing comedy bits for the morning show at the radio station, or ad copy (the least glamorous writing job EVER!)...writing was my love. Next time I will dish up dirt on a relationship that almost put me out of action forever...and the one that restarted me on this path.

My love of stories goes back to when I was little. My grandfather taught me to read at an early age. I already had the basics down by the time I started school. In fact, my grandmother told me that I came home from my first day of kindergarten very disappointed. "All they taught was numbers to 10 and started on the ABC's. Who doesn't know that?" Was apparently my first words off the bus. I did, however, happen to walk out of the library--despite the librarian's insistence that I choose a book with more pictures--with my first "big boy book. Savage Sam: Son of Old Yeller. (For the record, I had no idea who 'Old Yeller' was...yet.)

As I settled down enough to start getting serious, I was plunging headlong into marriage number 2. There were a lot of bad things about that marriage, but I will stick to the ones that are relevant to my writing. I started laying down the groundwork for an idea inspired by my time in Charleston, South Carolina. My ship, FF-1079, the USS Bowen, was doing circles waiting for a fog to lift. Looking at the city in the fog, it was like being back in time. The city has fought to preserve its "Old South" heritage. The downtown area is almost a shrine to history. That gave birth to Dakota--my first novel.

I started spending a little time each morning with my notepad and my coffee. When I felt ready, I moved to my computer. (A Commodore 128D!) The words started flashing across the screen and I was underway. However, about five or six weeks into it, my wife (and eventually ex-wife number 2) told me "You are wasting your time with that! Nobody is gonna read it. You should be spending that time with me!" So, I put it in a box and shoved in to the back of the closet where it would stay until I moved out one Memorial Day weekend.

Once again, my dreams of writing were put where most dreams go...away. After all, isn't that why they call them dreams? Once I freed myself of that matrimonial bond, I drifted around with no purpose. I had jobs ranging from club DJ to home automation technical support. (Yep...I yawned just typing that last part.)

Eventually I went back to my old stand-bye of being a waiter and a bartender at some of Seattle's nicer establishments. That is where I met wife number 3. For as terrible as I was as her husband (every bit of the fault in that divorce is truly mine...I was awful...not violent, but words can be far more damaging if used {im}properly) I actually owe a big part of where I am now to her. She found "the box." When she asked me who wrote all the stuff she had been reading that day while I was at work slinging drinks to the business elite...I shrugged and admitted to the deed. I don't know what I expected, but it was not the response she gave me.  Her words to me that day were simple. "You have to write. I may not know much...but I know what I see here is good. I also know that you will always wonder about what might have been." So...I got a Brother word processor (that would eventually be replaced by my P133, 2GB hard drive desktop computer) and I went to work. This time it would be different. However...things would not go exactly as planned...

Friday, November 22, 2013

My first list of the season...

I know there are some out there who HATE Christmas music. I am just the opposite...I can listen to it in July and it had nothing to do with the holiday...I just dig the music. Personally, Christmas was never a favorite season of mine when I was young for personal reasons that would just be a downer to read, so we will skip it. Yet, the music has always really done it for me. And now there is just some VERY COOL stuff. I know these lists are share yours.

I had to really think it over to narrow down MY top 10. (And most if not all of the can be found on my Spotify playlist "The Cool Christmas Collection".)

#10 The Waitresses...perhaps the best "Story" song EVER! Patty was under appreciated.

#9 Dino! The man was awesome!

#8 Bing & Bowie...I actually watched this special that spawned this classic...

#7 This was hard to put at 7..I like it WAY more...but it gets tough from here for me.

#6 I never miss this...and will NEVER grow tired of this classic.

#5 Okay, I cheated here...I know it is three songs, but it is MY list.

#4 Today's female pop tarts got nothing on the original Cat Woman!

#3 Karen Carpenter was my FIRST crush!

#2 I am a sucker for the instrumentals...

#1 The guitar work simply blows me away and the power behind this piece is amazing!

Now...I have to include a couple of "honorable mentions" just because they are fun.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The camel knows...IT'S HUMP DAY!!! So laugh dammit!

It is a week before Thanksgiving Eve. Is that a thing? Well I just made it a thing. Today, I decided to share a peek at my sense of humor. I found this stuff by mistake a couple of years ago and can't get enough. The very first one I saw turned out to be THE fan favorite. These may not be politically correct...but neither am I and they are freakin' funny.

Take a look:

But it got so much feedback that they eventually had to throw down in a remake...

And then...this October...they met for a third time...

So, if you have managed to waste this much of your day already...let me bring you one more from Season 3 and one for my literary friends from Season 2...this first one touches on something more general from the recent pop, have a laugh and enjoy the rest of your week.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The review that made people cry.

I have a ritual in the morning where I log on and check my most recent reviews. It is my version of Groundhog's Day. If the reviews are bad (not too often, but it is a reality of this line of work), then the day will be least until I shake it off. Which, by the way, takes about an hour or two.

Last week, I was checking out the most recent just like any other day, only what I read sort of changed my life. I realize that might sound cliche, but I am absolutely serious. I shared it with a few friends and it brought a couple to tears.

As an author, you hope to get the reader to feel REAL emotions. To know that words you strung together on paper made somebody laugh or cry is the ultimate payoff...or so I thought. I want to share a review I received for book one of my DEAD series, DEAD: The Ugly Beginning. I won't say a word after, because after that review, I have nothing left to say.

"This was one of those books you keep going back to and wanting to get, but not quite yet for whatever reason. One of my concerns was cost, not of one book, if I remember correctly the first one is free. After that they are $4.99 Ish. It is not that I don't feel that it is worth it, authors put a lot of hard work into their books. A lot of heart & soul as well. I just read quite a bit & if you don't watch out you can spend a ton of money in one month and like most people we have to watch our spending. Anyway I kept coming back to this series, the author also plans on 12 books for this series plus some companion books that do cost less, but still ...I couldn't take it any more & I got this. It just looked soooo good! And it was! I am totally hooked! Sorry honey, I'll sell a kidney on ebay or something! I am already on book 5 & I usually review as I go because I like to give the best most honest review I can give but I just could not tear myself away from this series. One of the things for me that tells me this author is really good is if he takes me away, into the world he is writing about. Like most people I have problems, in my case it is my health. I have quite a bit of pain due to some health problems and when I can get so into a book that I don't notice my pain as much. ....well that is quite the gift. So thank you Mr. Brown! You gave me a nice break, an escape, and I really appreciate it. You have to have some pretty amazing talent to be able to take people away from whatever the problem is in their own world. We all need an escape & for people that read, as I have said before authors are our superheros that save us from our pain or whatever problems we have & after all that $4.99 seems like a pretty good deal! So once again THANK YOU! Read this book, you're going to really enjoy it. You may as well go ahead and get the next few while you are at it."

Friday, November 15, 2013

If you don't help...who will?

Some of us may not really know much about the Philippines. But the reality is that a lot of people are in a bad way right now. Those of you who felt Hurricane Sandy, or endured the horrific disaster that was Katrina know all to well just how bad of a mood Mother Nature can get into.

I am not going to hit you over the head with pictures of children sitting in front of the ruins of their can see that on the news. What I am going to do is give you an exponential amount of "stuff" if you spend $3.99 on a box set of books that contain 13 stories from an amazing assortment of authors. You get some very chilling stuff while helping take the chill away and maybe putting some warm food in a belly or two.
Look at all that horror goodness just waiting!

Th Grim Winter Box Set is $3.99 on Amazon. If you purchase it, not only will EVERY penny of the proceeds be matched by May December Publications, but an anonymous donor has also agreed to match the total as well in a donation to Red Cross. Also, my share of the royalties (as well as that from some of the other authors in the collection) will be added to that final check.

As an added bonus, every single review written (with the Verified Amazon Purchase tag) will receive a code from me good for the audio book version of DEAD: The Ugly Beginning as soon as it is released. Now, since I can only give these Audible codes to US customers, I will offer any ebook title that I have written to the wonderful folks outside of the United States in lieu of an audio book. The only thing I need is for the reviewer to send me an email at so I know where to send their prize.

So, in a spend $3.99 and Red Cross gets almost $10. You write a review, and you get a freebie that can be worth as much as $25! If you can show me the down side to that...I don't think I want to know you because you are a serious downer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When the crazy person is you...

I can admit it...I used to have anger issues. Still do to an extent. Only, they are much less volatile and no longer result in somebody getting punched in the face. (And yes...more often than not, that person was usually me.) The thing is, I took some very serious looks at myself. Some of it was kind of embarrassing. Funny how the mind can twist reality.

Many people go through life on a rampage. They are constantly in some form of turmoil...usually at the receiving end of some wrong or another. Or at least that is how they see it. But here is a little something to consider (and when I did was a real punch in the gut)...if drama swirls around you like an F5 tornado...


It is a very hard thing for many of us to see that we are often the instruments of our own destruction. A few things to consider...
  1. If you are always right...then you are probably SO wrong.
  2. If people keep leaving...YOU are probably driving them away.
  3. If you don't NEED are probably lying to yourself.
  4. If you never ask for are certain not to get any.
One of the most common and easiest walls that we put up (I say we because I know I am not the only person to have dealt with or is currently dealing with this issue) is a victim stance. It is so much easier to be right when EVERYBODY in the world has it out for you. If you are constantly a "victim" of some perceived wrong or slight...then you need to see where your own culpability lies.

I say all of this for a reason. This is the holiday season. For many, it is the worst time of the year. Suicide rates go through the roof because all of those individuals living safely behind the walls that they have constructed suddenly feel the sting of loneliness. The realization that all of their relations are superficial at best becomes a new reason to feel miserable. "Why doesn't anybody like me?" swirls around in the brain until they commit the ultimate act of selfishness: suicide.

The hardest part of breaking out of this cycle is coming to the realization that SOMETIMES you are wrong. Trust me, from personal experience that led to three divorces and a lot of hangovers, that first step is a leap of faith. And the road will be a hard one. However, there is a reward at the end far greater than anything you have ever experienced:

Love and Life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To all who have or do serve...

Quarters in the sonar shack were a bit snug.

From 1983 to 1989, I served in the United States Navy. I was a sonar technician during a time when we were sort of like rock stars. The Tom Clancy novel The Hunt for Red October had just come out. It created such a fuss that we were actually briefed on how to respond to any questions about how close some of the information may or may not have been. President Reagan was in charge and the Soviet Union was still in one piece. It was all kind of crazy. And at 18 years was my ticket to see the world.

I believe that every young man and woman should serve right out of high school. Seriously, how many of us really knew what we wanted to do with our lives back then. Also, the military is a great way to experience some things that you will never get a chance to do otherwise.

I was able to play football on the ice cap at the North Pole...visit places like Cairo, Egypt...Rome, Italy...Barcelona, Spain...and Nice, France. I met my best friend, Steve Hobart...and I met my first wife (who Denise and I are friends with to this day).

Above all, I learned just how good we have it here in this country. You truly gain a new appreciation for the United States and all it has to offer once you see the plight of others. I learned how important it was to preserve our great nation's freedoms.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the men and women who serve now and have done so in the past. You do more than you realize at the time, and for far less appreciation than you deserve. You have come home to protesters and an ungrateful nation on more than one have missed the birth of children...first steps...and struggled with the helplessness of not being there during family tragedies. And some of you left, never to return...or did so in a draped box.

So thank you for all you do, and I am proud to say that I gave my time, while humbled by those who continue to do so.

Friday, November 8, 2013

It is all about you today.

It is Friday. You don't want to read some long-winded post, and I don't want to write one. SO, let's make this simple...

I post this on my Author TW Brown Facebook page, if you have not stopped in yet and hit the "LIKE" button yet, I invite you to click here and do so.  (Which is where some of you might have found today's which case, I thank you!) The good news is that I have word that the audio book of DEAD: The Ugly Beginning is almost ready for me to review and approve. So...who wants a copy the day it comes out? (I wish that I could make this available to my amazing readers outside of CONUS, but for some reason, Audible has not gotten their stuff together on that front as of yet...but I am talking to people up the chain of command, so be patient.)

All you have to do to win is a review of ANY of my other Audible titles ON (Click HERE to get to my Audible portal.) Then, return to my Author TW Brown Facebook page and tell me you have done so in the thread where this blog post was originally shared. That will instantly enter you in the drawing where one lucky person will receive the freebie THE DAY it is made available on You have until Monday morning to enter.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Time to start thinking about lists...

The holiday season is it or not. Over the next two months, there will be the usual "Best of..." lists. So, in keeping with the tradition, I will have some of my own. However, me being me, I will also be including some "Worst of..." lists. 

I realize that will open the floodgates of criticism, but I am okay with that. Hey...I fully expect to be on both of those lists. If not my own, then certainly somebody else's. So, take some time and think it over. What lists would you be interested in seeing? games...television shows?

Also, what about resolutions? You know you make them...but how many do we keep? Fitness clubs are a nightmare during the months of January and February...but by March, you have no problems getting your equipment.

On a personal note, I want to thank you all. Your amazing support and loyalty to my books has made my dream come true. I hope I continue to deserve it.

Last, I just want to say that I am really thinking about getting more serious with my poker playing. I watched Reiss take down Farber last night for the WSOP championship and an 8.3 million dollar payday. For 23 years old, that kid has ice in his veins. What a player! I don't expect to hit the circuit any time soon (or ever), but I have been playing quite a lot in my spare time and really enjoy the tension.

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo and a peek at the new DEAD.

I write every single day. It is what I do for a living. Still, I enjoy being involved with NaNoWriMo because it is such a great program and does so much to promote literacy. This year, I am using the time to try and finish the 8th book in the DEAD series, DEAD: Spring.

I have decided to give you a sneak peek at some raw, unedited footage from chapter one.

Vignettes XLIII

“Three more!” Gemma screamed as she swung around and buried the head of the small ax into the crown of the zombie that had been a pig-tailed girl of about seven or eight with dark brown hair.
“Where are they all coming from?” Harold managed through tears that streamed down his face as he brought his sword down with enough force to split the five-year-old from head to pelvis. The body seemed to fall apart as the putrified insides poured out in a stinking pool of chunky, blackish fluid.
Vix said nothing. She just continued on with the grim business of dispatching this small herd of zombified children as quickly as possible.
At long last, it was finally over. The grass all around them was trampled, dark and slick with gore. This idyllic countryside hill was now the scene of nightmarish violence. From its crest, they could see great distances in all directions. A few lone figures were moving in the early morning light, only visible from the waist down due to the fog...
“If I didn’t know better,” Harold was almost back to being able to breathe normally, I would say those buggers were waiting for us, almost as if they were trying to spring a surprise attack on us.”
“Don’t be daft,” Vix said with a dismissive wave. However, she had been thinking those exact same thoughts. She simply did not want to believe them because the possibilities of zombies actually planning were just too horrifying.
“But it was as if they were using the fog to stay hidden…I swear some of them had to be crouching so that we did not see them.” Harold was not going to be dissuaded from his train of thought.
“They wouldn’t do that…right?” Gemma sounded absolutely terrified.
“Standing around here talking about it is not doing us any favors.” Vix wiped off the length of her sword and slid it into the scabbard on her hip. “The cabin is just beyond those trees. If we get going, we can make it there before nightfall.”
The trio started off, but for the longest time, they seemed to forget about their normal method of staying spaced out. None of them were ready just yet to be without the perception of comfort that close proximity to a living human being brought.
They had been on foot for the past two days, forced to leave their bicycles behind when they had come to a bridge that looked to have been washed away in a terrible flood. The river was still a bit high, and there was even talk about abandoning the idea of the farmhouse until Harold weighed in.
“If we get across, we will be putting a natural barrier at our backs at least for a while,” Harold had said.
He had gone first, carrying across a coil of rope that he secured to a tree so that both Vix and Gemma would have an easier go of it. By the time both were across, he had a fire started. They had huddled around it until they had eventually dried off. By then, it had been decided that they would camp the night and push on come morning.
The morning had dawned through as filter of dense fog. By the time they had gotten moving, it was nearing midday. They had crested the first hill, coming out of the fog and enjoying the feel of the sun on their faces despite the chill in the air.
Vix had gotten their bearings and pointed in the direction that they needed to travel. There were two more hills that they would try to use as guide points. It was the second one where the small pack of zombie children had attacked.
Walking in the fog had been creepy all by istself, but as they approached the top of the hill, all of them had started to sense something. There were flashes of shadow flitting about in the fog, but it was usually gone just as quick as they were spotted. Vix had been of the mind that it was probably some dogs running wild. She never once considered the possibility of zombies simply because the shadows kept moving away and zombies never retreated.
When the first attack came, it was five of them at once coming from all sides against Harold. Vix had actually stumbled back when what almost seemed like the world erupted in a writhing nest of mottled arms that emerged from the mist to grab the large young man. Gemma had screamed. And a handful of seconds later, smallish undead bodies came at them en masse.
Vix glanced at her travelling companions and saw them just as deep in thought as she had been, She had no doubt that they were all reliving this most recent and bizarre attack. Child zombies had been a bit of a rarity. Vix had to imagine that it was due to there probably not being enough left to return. To encounter so many travelling together was definitely something that she needed to think upon. There was something odd at work.
As the sun was well into its downward journey towards the western horizon, they came to a small ridge. This was the last one. She knew it. Vix had been seeing somewhat familiar landmarks for the past hour of their walk. Up ahead was the tower belonging to a small radio station. That station had provided the soundtrack to many events in her life over the summers she had spent here.
Try as she might, Vix could not keep her pace from speeding up. She knew that there would probably be a lot of work ahead if the place even proved worth staying at, but weren’t they due for something good?
She practically sprinted up the last stretch of the hill. It was careless and a good way to run smack dab into a zombie, but she simply could not help herself. She reached the top and came to a halt, her breathing now reduced to harsh gasps. Hands on knees, she looked out over the rolling land below. The lush, green grass was even more beautiful than she remembered. The fact that it was almost waist high only made it look all that much more beautiful as the breeze caused it to ripple like verdant water.
The small house was resting like a gem almost smack dab in the middle of the great, bowl-shaped valley. There was only one problem…
“There has to be a thousand of them,” Harold whispered, causing Vix to jump.
She wanted to cry, but the tears refused to come. Instead, she simply stared at the house and the thirty foot or more foot thick ring of undead that surrounded what looked like a reinforced fence she had never seen before that circled the property.


“…but I still believe that it is time we create some sort of governing body,” the man said.
There were some nods of agreement in the crowd, but there were an equal amount of skeptical expressions. There were even a few cases of booing and other rude comments. Juan felt the throbbing in his skull ratchet up another notch.
“I’m full aware that the idea of government has some nasty connotations,” the man continued after the room quieted down to the point where he could be heard. “However, we now have over five hundred people living here…something needs to be done.”
Five hundred? Juan thought. When the hell did that happen?
“And what are we going to do about those signal flares?” another voice called.
This sent the entire room into a tizzy. Juan stood up; at last they had hit on something that he was ready to deal with. He could care less about creating a government, and even less about the previous suggestion that had passed by a show of hands. If they wanted to create some form of law enforcement or police, that was up to them. He didn’t want any part of it despite what Mackenzie said. He would get to the uncomfortable business in a moment, but at least now he had an opening where he felt comfortable taking the floor.
“Everybody sit down and hush!” Juan bellowed. His voice was one that carried well, and in a room this small, it was like a cannon. He glanced back at Mackenzie who gave him a smile and a nod. He had used the word ‘hush’ instead of saying ‘shut up’ like he had at the last meeting.
The assembled crowd acted like a classroom that had been taking advantage of a substitute only to have the principal walk in; in other words, there was a scurry as people sought their seats. All eyes looked up at him and you could almost hear a pin drop.
“A team is being sent first thing tomorrow,” Juan announced. “Since the flares have come from the same location each night, we have a good idea where they are originating. That means we will need people to be on stand by. If we bring in a group like the last one, I don’t want to have a person turn into a damned deader while they are waiting in line to be checked in to quarantine.”
“Is it true that you are not going?” a female voice asked.
“Absolutely true,” Juan said with a nod. “I am taking myself off the list for a while.”
Juan was surprised when there was a smattering of applause. He was even more stunned when people turned it into a standing ovation. He turned back to Mackenzie who was sporting her “I told you so” face. She had insisted that the people wanted him here for a while, that he did not have to lead every single mission. Like it or not, they saw him as the leader.
He scowled when Mackenzie gave him the raised eyebrows. She had told him that it was time he made his announcement. She said that she already knew how it was going to be received, but the words needed to come from his mouth. All of a sudden, his mouth was really dry.
“And that brings me to my next point. I know that a lot of you think things are running just fine and don’t see the need to mess with the statue quo.” A few chuckles rippled through the crowd. Juan felt his face get warm…he knew he’d screwed something up just then. Oh well, Mackenzie would tell him on the walk home. “But the facts are clear…we need to make some changes around here. After that situation the other day, even those of you not too thrilled with the idea of government have to see that we can never let that happen again.”
Two days ago, a young couple had gotten into a bit of an argument. It had happened at the bazaar where folks bartered goods and services, so just about everybody had actually seen the incident take place.
What started as yelling turned ugly quick when the young man had struck the young woman with a backhand. That act was bad enough, but he’d been wearing field gloves. Field gloves are heavy duty with stud on the outside to deal a nasty blow to a deader if you are in closed quarters and a wire mesh insert to protect from being bitten. Some folks closest were actually splattered with blood.
When a few men rushed in, the scene got ugly quick. There was a nasty fight, and at some point, blades were drawn. It set off a chain of events that many were now calling a riot. Juan had seen things like that happen in the joint. A small fight could turn into a big one in a hurry.
With everybody under such constant pressure, folks had built up a lot of steam. Once the lid came off, there was no putting the heat back in the kettle, His grandma had said that phrase a time or two in his life growing up, he’d never really understood it until now.
“That is why I am officially asking for nominations,” Juan continued. Mackenzie had already told him what she expected to hear, and he hated that she was almost always right. He hoped that this would be one of those rare instances. “We don’t have a title yet, but we obviously need somebody or a group of people to start a rules committee or something. We need to get ourselves in order. If not, we risk more like what we got the other day.”
“Juan Hoya for president!” a female voice shouted.
Juan’s eyes snapped over to the source and saw April Cable give him a wink. His scowl re-emerged. A roar of approval from the crowd only made it deepen. Did that woman have to be right about everything?
“Hold on!” Juan threw his hands up in the air. He shot a look over his shoulder. Mackenzie was nodding. He glanced down at April who was doing likewise. He’d told April ahead of time that he was going to confess his complete past to Mackenzie when they had run into each other a few days after returning. Still, they had both agreed that some of what had happened at the house didn’t need to be shared.
Juan did not exactly trust April. He was still having trouble understanding everything that had gone down between them. He actually thought she might be a bit damaged mentally from all she had been through. After hearing her story of what she had endured, he had trouble feeling anything more than pity for April.
That night, he had come home to find April in his home. Before he even had a chance to speak, April had blurted, “Mackenzie, Juan has some things he feels he needs to say. I think you should hear them.” 
The three of them had sat down around the table that night. The guilt that had been too much for Juan seemed to act as a verbal lubricant. He found himself talking more than he ever had in his life about his past. Along the way, he came clean with almost everything that had happened during those past few times out. He’d also told her about the real fate of Frank and Donna.
He had fully expected her to be done with him right then and there. As he’d confessed it all, he had not been able to look her in the eyes. He had instead just stared at his hands. When it was over, he braced for the worst. He even had a bag packed and waiting in the closet for when she told him to not just leave her house, but to leave the island.
“Oh, Juan, I’m so sorry.”
Here it comes, he thought.
But when Mackenzie knelt in front of him and took his hands in hers, kissing them, he went from miserable to confused. This was not at all going the way he’d expected.
She told him that he’d done what he thought was right. Even more strange was when she apologized for sending him out after Donna in the first place. She’d had no right. After all, hadn’t she been telling him to cut back on the risks the past several weeks? He had not told her everything about what transpired between him and April, but he did open up all the closets of the skeletons from his own past. He had laid out his entire criminal history to her. To that she had simply said that the Juan Hoya of before was not anybody that she knew personally. She only knew this current version, and that she was in love with him.
April had gotten up and come to the couple, putting her arms around both of them. “I am so happy for you both.”
Mackenzie had thanked her for being there and said something about how much she really must care to show him such support and that he was lucky to have her as a friend. None of that sat well with him.
As she was leaving, several hours after he had given what he thought were obvious and polite hints, he had made eye contact with her. She had smiled, but there was just something off about her that made him edgy. He quickly scolded himself when the thought came that he might have been better off had he let her die out there.
He snapped his attention back to the crowd that were now shouting all manner of crazy things such as “Juan for president!” and “We want Juan!”
April was no longer there in the front row. His eyes scanned the crowd. He saw a flash of red hair just as it disappeared out into the night.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Last chances to be heard. And here goes NaNoWriMo!

Sipping coffee from my porch, this is the Dawn of NaNoWriMo.

First, all of you prize winners from my Zomblog giveaway that have not emailed me...umm...hello? Free stuff waiting for you! Also, I have an Ava audio winner as well--Rachel Duncan, I am looking at you (figuratively speaking). Heath, Kensai Ed, Becca Besser, "Bullish", Kay Glass, and Jamie Hobbes...I am using your email as my checklist for the prize patrol (plus, I don't have all of your email addresses) so shoot me a note and get your prizes!

Aoife says "Claim your prize of face my doggy wrath!"

Next, Amazon finally fixed the glitch in Zomblog: Snoe's Journey...and congrats to Joshua Macer, field correspondent from the Zomblog Universe...I need you to email me with a mailing address so that I can send you your own paperback copy!

"More doggy scenes!" is Tyrion's vote for the bonus material.

And finally, NaNoWriMo is starting today. That means I will be working extra hard on the 8th DEAD book, DEAD: Spring. In addition, I will be putting the final touches on the bonus material for the second series of "Special Edition" volumes of the series. Yep, the three story lines, Steve's Story, The Geeks, and Vignettes are separated into their own volumes with about 10,000 words of "bonus" material. So, if you have a scene that you would like...maybe a reference made or just an idea that came as you read books 4, 5, & 6 where you thought, "I wonder what happened between point 'A' and 'C'. Here is your forum to make a suggestion. If chosen, you will be named specifically in the opening introduction and given proper thanks. Plus, you will see your scene brought to life and be able to point it out to all of your friends.

And now...a little something to send you away with a grin!