Friday, July 31, 2015

Racism...can we ever escape it?

So, yesterday saw the release of my non-zombie novel, UnCivil War: A Modern Day Race War in the United States. It was a difficult thing to write knowing that there would be people angry right away. However, it is a story that I felt I needed to get out of my system. After all, it has been brewing since 1993. It is just that I never had the homefront support in my writing career that I have now. So, instead of a blurb or excerpt (which I have already done) I thought that I would share my introduction. That is a part of the book that I know many people skip just because they want to get to the story.

Have a great weekend.




This book is going to make some people angry.

I want to apologize in advance for what is probably going to be the longest forward that I have ever written. What I won’t be apologizing for is the content of this book. It is meant to get you to consider the precipice that I believe we have been walking for over two decades.

I first started tinkering with the premise for this novel way back in 1992 during the “Rodney King Riots” that swept through South Central Los Angeles. That said, I was not as dedicated to writing then as I am now. I get to do what I love for a living and this project was pulled off the shelf and given top priority when things began to unravel in Ferguson, Missouri.

The original idea was more in line with a Tom Clancy novel. I was going to write all these battle scenes and really give this epic image of a war-torn nation. Well, I am no Tom Clancy. I lack his knowledge of our military weapons and such. Sure, it is all out there and easy to research; but I eventually decided that that was not my actual message.

Yes. You read that correctly. I actually do have a message couched in this book. No, I am not going to reveal it. I think it is more important that you find it for yourself. If I tell you ahead of time, then I will have formed how you go at reading this book.

So, a few things to bring up here; I fully anticipate having people call me a racist after reading this book. White. Black. Every shade in between. There is some very unpleasant language here. Sorry, but people use this sort of language. It is difficult to write from the POV of an angry Black man or woman and not use words or introduce thoughts that can be offensive. It is also hard to write from the view of a white supremacist and have him not say things that most will consider vulgar. That is simply the way it is.

You might notice that I interchange the term “Black” and “African-American” not only in the story, but in general. Honestly, I don’t know what to use any more (and that is part of the cultural problem of talking about this subject). I have Black/African-American friends who scold me either way. Also, I use caps not only with “Black” but also with “White” just to make a point that this is a book about race. It has nothing to do with what is correct according to any style manual.

There are two semi-explicit scenes where women are sexually assaulted. I am sure many will say that I absolutely could have omitted them. Sorry, both were to push things in a certain direction. One was about hate, the other was actually about breaking a stereotype. They are unpleasant. Trust me, I know this and realize what doors that opens for reviewers and critics.

While I certainly do not believe that my having written this will inspire any sort of immediate rapprochement in the world of race relations, maybe it will get a few people talking about things if I am lucky. Even better, perhaps it will take down the walls we have of actually holding meaningful discussions about this with people of other races.

I can only speak for myself, but broaching this subject in mixed company can seem awkward at best. To me, that is part of the problem. How can we really make any headway in a problem if we can’t even talk about it? And if we think that the “Powers That Be” have any care or concern about really making changes here, then we are being delusional. There has to be a change down here at the human level. It has to come from each of us every single day.

One of the things that you often do as a writer is dream of what will come of your new release. “Will this be the one that shoots me up the charts and has me invited on talk shows and the like?” Or, more simple things such as, “Will this sell enough to pay a few bills?” I would not be honest if I did not admit my high hopes for this particular book. It is a hot topic right now, and I will openly admit that even when I got back to writing, this sat on the “to-do” shelf until things began getting hot in the news again. It almost seemed like there was a story every week about another incident involving a police officer, a gun, and minorities. I had to clean this up and take a chance.

A few things I want to make very clear, although I imagine only the hardiest few have ventured this far into my blathering, so I don’t imagine it will be read that often, but I do not have any problems with police. They are like anything else; there are the good and the bad. And as far as skin color…I simply don’t care. I have met the best and the worst people…color is not an issue on how wonderful or awful a person can be. I use overblown stereotypes throughout this book to make a story. That is why this is called fiction.

That said, do I think something like this could ever really happen? More than I do a zombie apocalypse. I refer back to a quote credited to Tom Clancy, author of the military techno-thrillers I used to devour. When referring to the terrible events of September 11, 2001, he said:
“Four planes? That many people willing to die for the same cause at the same time? If any writer would have handed in a story like this, the publisher would have just handed it back and said ‘No way. Not believable.’”

When this book was in its infancy, I was ready to include scenes of street fighting between the civilians and the military. I had this epic story that would have probably run about triple the size of the book you are holding. As I said, I was a bit of a Clancy fan. However, I do not feel that is the important part of the story. I want to make it more about how fast we can plummet down this hole if we don’t fix things. I am certain that Rome thought it would remain an empire for all eternity. We all know how that turned out. I do think we have the ability to tear ourselves down from the inside.

Believe it or not, this book has been some of the most difficult writing of my life. Most of my zombie fans will probably skip this one. Some of my hardcore “TW Brown” fans will grab it just because I penned it. However, I anticipate that this will see a much different audience than I normally see.

In the end, I hope that you are at least entertained. I hope that you will post reviews after reading this story. More than anything, I hope this will maybe get a few people talking. Laugh at the premise, but maybe consider the ramifications of that tiny “what if” possibility and see where that conversation takes you. I would LOVE to hear about it.

As always, I want to thank you for taking a chance and picking up my book. I want to thank my many Beta readers who helped make this a better read (Jeff Shoemaker, Jamie Smith, Leesa Austin, April Cable, Heath Stallcup…you were all wonderful…and Melena Duff, you are simply priceless) without each of you, this book would be not be what it is. Thanks to my wife for her support and for leaving me to an empty house every day so I can make up stories. Last but not least, I want to thank the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day—the members of the law enforcement community, the military, and all who serve the public. Criticism is easy, praise is often lacking, and so let me just say that I am grateful for all of you

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Extinction Point

Extinction Point Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This brings a fun and new twist to the Apocalypse genre. I honestly did not have any idea what to expect, but this book pulled me in from the start. Obviously no spoilers, but this twisted little story introduces you to a strong, smart female protagonist in Emily Baxter.

Now, I will say that this first book is set up, and it leaves A LOT of open questions. There were scenes where I really wanted to know what the heck was going on with the various "things" that formed after the red rain. I will be continuing this adventure very soon.

***Note for the audio version, the narrator was fantastic and helped to convey Emily's personality very well. She even managed to handle the rough job of capturing a "screaming cry" without blowing out my ears.***

View all my reviews

Next year for sure! Maybe sooner.

There is a saying..."Maybe next year." It is easy to use for things like that ten pounds you promised to lose when you made that New Year's resolution, or when that $500 million lotto ticket was one by somebody else. Often, we make those statements with very little heart or conviction. We simply do not believe that next year will change that much.


As some of you might recall, I was set to launch a blog tour this August. I even had a few willing cohorts who were ready to put their name beside mine on the "Tour Banner". I actually thought that would be the hard part...the gathering of willing participants. Turned out to be sort of easy.


Where the tour fell short was in landing spots. I had two people (not actually on the tour) that said yes when it came to being a host for my blog tour that I called "Wanna See Something Really Scary?" Mostly I got a lot of dead air...no reply...basically a wall of silence. However, I did receive one reply.


I won't quote, but the gist was that, due to some rather hostile and threatening messages that promised to boycott this person's blog and never buy their books again, they would be wise NOT to offer their blog as a stop for my tour. Really? Okay, I get the person not wanting any heat, and I am a person who believes my burdens to carry are my own. However, it gets a bit tired when a handful of nut cases rant and rave, allowing them to dictate who can associate with whom and all that nonsense. It is likely not going to change anything, but I do look forward to the day when I am officially off paper in June of 2021 (slang for no longer having to report to my PO). That is the day I will actually be able to tell my side publically. Sure, most will not want to hear it, but at least I won't have to just sit on my hands and allow a few idiots to have their unchallenged say about what they supposedly know about me.


This nonsense has already cost me two jobs because my editing clients bowed to the pressure. Hell, one of them kept me on as an editor for almost another year in secret and has even credited my work to a different person until finally saying he "felt bad" about only being able to deal with me in secret and realized that having me as his editing booty call (my words there, not his) was a douche bag thing to be doing.


I realize that even this post will probably fan a flame or two, but pussy footing is not my thing. I have just hit the 20,000 units sold mark on my Audio books. (Maybe not huge numbers by comparison to some, but it keeps food on the table in my house.) My book sales have passed the 100,000 mark long ago and continue to do well enough that I can call this my full-time employment. All of that with this supposed cloud over my head. So, to the people who so graciously accepted my tour invite...we are merely delayed, because, much like everything else that has been placed in front of me...I will climb it and leave it in the dust. To those who have bailed...get over yourselves. These people (bullies) only have the power that YOU give them. Every person who has met me face-to-face and looked me in the eye while I have answered their questions and given my side of things has accepted me (including a step-daughter and mother-n-law who both hated me to their core BEFORE we met). And while some will always hate because it just comes easier to them, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate those who have crossed that imaginary line drawn in the sand by an ignorant few. You are truly appreciated. And just know that I will never quit or give up, nor will I give you reason to regret having shown faith in me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stop making excuses. I will GIVE you one.

Okay, the only person who gets a real pass on this is my friend who works in the library. She has a legitimate reason to avoid certain formats in the literature market. No, I am  not talking about genres, and this article has nothing to do with such things. What I am talking about is the rise of the audio book. 

I can already feel some of you closing the window on this page, but stick with me for a moment here. I don;t expect to change your views, but I am simply asking you to be open to considering what I am about to say. First, let's all remember back when the first ereaders hit the market. The general consensus was that it would never make it...people wanted to hold a physical book...smell the pages...all that stuff. Cool, I can dig that stance. Still, I know that I personally caused one of those PODS to suffer serious damage because of the number of physical books I owned. Also, room became a premium in my home. It made dusting a real chore. 

My kindle(s) save more space and reduce the weight load on my floors by a few tons. Add in the price point of the normal indie book and I can snag 5 or 6 books for the price of one. So, what does that have to do with audio books? People are using the same arguments. It is the same old arguments...it is 8-Track versus cassette...versus CD...versus MP3(4) all over again.

Every day, I take my dogs for a walk. That is almost an hour of my day that I now enjoy listening to an audio book. I can let my pups enjoy their morning while I listen to a new story that my busy day does not allow for me to get to in print. Then, at bed time, I can churn through a few pages before falling asleep of a different book. However, many Audible titles will sync to your ereader and let you pick up where the audio left off and you can purchase both at a significant discount if that is your thing.

Additionally, I keep a separate title on my phone which syncs with my car when I get in. That is for the wife and I to listen to whenever we go some place. Those titles take a little longer, but it is fun to share a story with somebody, and we get to enjoy something together.

Audio is a wonderful format. It lets you enjoy a story during those down times and keeps your TBR list somewhat manageable. Try it. You might hate it, but then again...you might not. And here is the deal, if you are on the fence, I will hook you up with ANY title of mine that is out on Audible for free. All you need to do is try the 30 day trial. Quit if you hate it, but then you can at least say you tried. Shoot me an email with "NO MORE EXCUSES" in the subject, and after checking out TW Brown titles on Audible.com, tell me the title you want to snag for free. (email twbrown.maydecpub@gmail.com)

Honestly, I thought I would be uninstalling the app from my phone in less than a week...three years later, I am still using Audible and I have about 200+ titles in my library. Many are genres that I would have likely skipped entirely if just confining myself to reading. (The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick is a great example.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Being able to admit that you can't.


Many of you might know that I brought home a "rescue" Umbrella Cockatoo several months ago. He was 14 years old and had been obviously abused. You could not be near him while holding a glass (apparently water or some such liquid was likely thrown at/on him) or if you held anything that looked like a stick or was even made of wood. 

Spooky had problems, but I fell in love with him and brought him home. I did my research and discovered things that I would need to know in order to hopefully help him transition to a happy, healthy bird. I imagine you can see where this is going.


Recently, we added Lisa to our home. She was owned by one man for 18 years, but apparently when he got a new girlfriend and his African grey did not like her...he got rid of THE GREY! She plucked her legs bare as well as some areas of her body and the tops of her wing "shoulders". With plenty of love to give, I thought this was wonderful, I had room in my heart for Spooky and Lisa. Spooky apparently did not agree. He became angry and hostile almost overnight. Even after we placed him and Lisa on different floors of the house where they would never see each other, his mood did not improve.



He would sometimes scream for hours at a time. Now, knowing that the 'Too has a loud voice, I had no problems when he liked to "sing" with the music being played. But this was different. This was not singing, it was screaming and even a screech that was like a seagull (but much louder). Things came to a head when he began to slam his face into his cage very hard to the point that I feared for his safety. He even broke a couple of his Umbrella feathers on top of his head.

It was a heartbreaking decision, but we have placed Spooky with a rescue that will not be placing him in another house ever again. This will be his new Forever Home with a man who specializes in birds that have big problems. I will admit to you here that I shed a few tears that day, but I also knew that he was very unhappy for whatever reason and that I was not capable of giving him what he wanted despite my best efforts. 


I will miss my buddy. But I know that I did the right thing for HIM. It was not necessarily for me, and it was difficult to admit that I lacked the ability to do what was needed, but in the end, Spooky deserves a shot, and being with a person who rehabs damaged birds is going to be a healthier alternative for him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Snapshot--Leeds, England peek?


No sense me yammering...you came for this:

The door shut and Simon stood rooted to his spot for several seconds before he slumped in acceptance. It was obvious that the crazy old bat was not going to come back any time soon. He scowled one more time for good measure and then began to unload everything in the carry bag.
He still could not believe that Mrs. Raye had grabbed him when he started to chase after Shadiyah. She had told him to grab the bags and bring them along.

“But—” he began to protest.

“No time for buts,” Mrs. Raye had scolded. “Food is going to be harder and harder to come by for the foreseeable future.”

He had scooped up the bag, and that was where his current problem resided: guilt. Perhaps if he had just sprinted and caught up with Shadiyah, he would have been able to deal with a situation that she should not.

“You are been a bleeding wanker,” Simon whispered,

Did he think that he would have been able to stop what had happened to Assi? Certainly not. It was clear that the terrible events were well underway before they managed to get back to the flat. Shadiyah had exacted vengeance; certainly not a way that would have been acceptable a few Weeks ago before the zombies had come. Still, she had killed a living person—actually, she had killed three.

Simon knew from his time as a trainee that killing a person could be mentally destructive to the person committing the act. Most people were not wired to be okay with taking a life. Guilt almost always manifested itself in some manner…eventually. How would Shaddi deal with the whole situation?

Of course, if anybody could get to the other side of something so traumatic and continue on with their life, she was one of those special few. That made Simon’s eyes drift over to Assi.

He had concerns when it came to the young girl. He remembered her as being somewhat delicate.  Add in her age, and this girl was a recipe for disaster. As callous as it might seem, now was not a time when you had the luxury of being able to care for somebody with serious issues.

A soft moan from the lump on the floor that was Shadiyah caused Simon to start and then scurry over to see if he could offer any help. She was trying to sit up, but there was an instant when she froze. Then, without warning, she threw off the blanket and rolled away, coming up to her knees. Her face was a rictus of malevolent anger. Her normally soft, beautiful large, brown eyes were little more than slits, and he lips curled back in an actual snarl.

“Sh-Shaddi?” Simon managed from a mouth that had suddenly gone completely dry, void of even a hint of saliva. “It’s me…Simon Woods.”

He saw her eyes dart to the figure that was her sister, and it actually made her face twist into an even angrier, hate-filled expression. It sent a chill through him and his hand had unconsciously started to drift for the metal baton he had hanging from his belt.

“Where are they?” she spat. Her eyes scanned the room and then locked on Simon. Did she think he might try to cause her harm?

“Mrs. Raye had me deposit them in the flat next door. She did not think that it was a good idea to have the bodies around any longer than necessary.” Simon forced his hand down to his side, being very careful to move it as slowly as possible.

When the woman stood up suddenly, Simon feared that she would insist on going next door to perhaps see the results of her handiwork…or perhaps add him to that list. Instead, she walked to her sister and knelt beside the girl.

“Tomorrow was to be her sixteenth birthday,” Shadiyah whispered as she stroked her sleeping sister’s face.

There was a long and, for Simon at least, uncomfortable silence. At some point, Assi had opened her eyes. Simon wished that she hadn’t. They were glazed over, obviously she was still alive since he could see her chest rise and fall with each breath, but that spark of life was absent from her eyes as she stared straight up at the ceiling.

When the sun finally dipped so low that the flat was shrouded in dark shadows that would eventually join to form a blanket of pure darkness, he felt a sense of relief that embarrassed him. He considered several times about simply excusing himself and slipping out to leave the sisters in peace.

Could they have peace? a voice taunted him from the depths of his mind.

“Maybe you should go, Simon,” Shadiyah finally said from the darkness.

Part of him wanted to protest. Now more than ever, this woman needed somebody to help her carry this terrible burden. The problem was that he had no idea how he could possibly help. With a sigh, he rose and left the flat.

“How are they?” the voice said from directly behind Simon, causing him to jump. He was almost certain that he’d let go just a bit with his bladder.

“I don’t rightly know,” Simon admitted. “The girl woke up, but she is just staring up like she has no more life in her than those deaders.”

“And Shadiyah?” Mrs. Raye pressed, getting up from the rocking chair that she’d dragged out to the hall and set in front of her door.

Simon had to blink a few times to be sure he was not imagining things. Lanterns had been placed all along the hallway in both directions to offer up just enough light to see. As his eyes scanned the scene, he was certain that the body count in this hall had increased by several new additions.

“Boy!” Mrs. Raye was now right in front of him, snapping her fingers. He shook his head and blinked.

“Sorry…umm…Shadiyah seems…okay?” He was not sure that was even remotely the correct word to use to describe her, but at least she was moving about, talking…things like that which he had to take as some sort of good sign. Right?

“Well, you and I need to make a choice here and now.”

“And what choice would that be?” Simon’s eyes came to rest on the body of a boy no older than seven. He clearly had bites taken out of his arms, but somehow that did not seem as bad as the way he had the handle of a kitchen knife jutting from one eye socket.

“Are we going to stay here and try to make the best of this terrible nightmare, or are we going to seek out someplace else?”

Simon returned his focus to Mrs. Raye. That had actually been his own thoughts just before he had encountered them while he was chasing those—

The feeling punched him in the gut with enough force to cause him to actually drop to his knees. He had been chasing some punks who were running around the tower apparently causing trouble for the surprisingly few tenants remaining here in the Towers. His mind drifted back to the past couple of days…

***

“I’m scared, Simon,” Miranda said before moaning and curling up into a tight fetal position on her bed.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Was it really THAT good?

Yes! The answer is an emphatic "YES!" This past weekend, J-Fell Presents and the overwhelming talent that Jason Fellman has assembled put on an epic performance. This year, Harefest V must be considered the premiere concert event of the year; not just locally, but nationwide.



Where else could you see 13 bands ranging from Heart to Metallica over a two day period, and pay less than $150 for not one, but two people to attend? That was the case as over 3000 people per day converged on Pat's Acres in Canby, Oregon (the new venue replacing the back lot of the Wild Hare Saloon due to such a large crowd) to be rocked long and hard.


Okay, so the "real" bands were not in attendance, but if you have checked the lineups in most of the bands that I am about to talk about (in their Tribute form), you will see that they often lack all of their original members. Additionally, Tribute bands really do try harder. As a long time attendee of the concert scene starting back in the 70s, I have seen some VERY disappointing and lackluster performances from the actual bands. What makes the Tribute scene so amazing is that these people truly love what they do, and they are genuinely appreciative of the people who come to see them play. Ask yourself this, how many times have you sipped a beverage and talked about what you just saw with the members of Van Halen? 


Oh, I imagine you could purchase some special package ticket deal and the band would zip past you in some reception room. But at pretty much every show that I have attended in the Tribute scene, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the band members and actually having normal conversations. 


But, back to the show. Day one kicked off with the Unchained boys coming on strong with perhaps the best Van Halen Tribute look, sound, and feel (basically all the good stuff from the 80s Van Halen heyday minus DLR forgetting the words or stumbling  around in a drunken stupor). Brad "Shreddy Van Halen" Halleck wins the "Best Smile" award as he becomes the guitar legend from my youth. The entire band put on an excellent show and got the crowd primed for what was to be a night of the "hard stuff". The easiest way to describe an Unchained show is a party for your ears that leaves you feeling good, but wanting just a bit more.


Lovedrive wins the "Lazarus Award". This it a Scorpions Tribute band that vanished from the scene for a few years, but has come back stronger than ever and are not afraid to pull out the deep tracks that will have you rushing home after and pulling out your old Scorps collection and skipping all the hits just to hear those amazing non-radio songs that the band pumped out. Additionally, when they take the stage, you are almost positive that Klaus Meine is up there belting out the tunes. Vocally, this is a band that is an example of perfection. Toss in the fact that they absolutely shred their set with an obvious love of their material, and Lovedrive is a band to add to your "Must See" list. From start to finish, they had the crowd in a frenzy.


Crazy Train followed with Tim Tugg allowing the spirit of Ozzy to take over his body for an hour. This is a band with perhaps the most amazing bass player on the Tribute scene in Rickey Lepinski. They took the stage as darkness fell, and it was fitting as their sound seeped into the night and drew the crowd closer to the stage. The spot on sound of these guys was a treat as always with Dan Bates putting forth some of the slickest guitar work that two hands can manage. Simply put, these guys are a highlight reel from start to finish.


If you ask the members of many of the other Tribute bands, they will tell you that Appetite for Deception is the best there is on the scene. They have the look and feel of the classic G-n-R band that took the music world by storm back in the 80s. For me, Guns-and-Roses is one of those bands that I have an "I remember where I was" when I first heard them. I was not disappointed. A-f-D took me back to some great memories with their set. If I had to make any critique, it would be the choice of their closing number. The song was spot on, but just seemed like an odd way to end. However, in keeping with the G-n-R attitude, I would not be surprised if that is by design. This band has the walk-off down perfect as the song ends and they just leave. Naturally...the audience wants more. 


That would bring us to Motorbreath. These guys bring on some serious Metallica chops with a drummer in Joe Spencer that should get together with Lepinski and see which one runs out of energy first. Seriously, the drum-and-bass engine of this motor is 8 cylinders of serious metal with Mark Trees as the massive bass monster from Hell. With Kevin Staley as the growling front man and Bob Capka on guitar, the audience was given something stronger than any coffee to keep them awake into the wee hours of the morning. Nobody can say that they did not get more than their money's worth after day one...but that is the thing; it was ONLY DAY ONE!


Day two was a scorcher and the sun had many fans seeking a number of ways to cool off. Any area that provided shade was elbow-to-elbow as all but the most stalwart rock fans braved the heat when day two opened with Jukebox Heroes.


With this being my first time seeing this Foreigner Tribute band, I was not only impressed with the vocals, but for me, the highlight was the killer saxophone player! I could rave about how they took on all the hits with ease and sounded great (I was hoping for Star Rider, but maybe finding a flute player as good as their sax man was too tall of an order. Note to Band: The lead singer from Barracuda plays flute. Just making a request.)


The sounds of Foreigner was an excellent way to get the day rolling. And this band does not disappoint. As with the other bands, these guys came out to the crowd after their fantastic set and posed for pictures as well as mingling. What made that even more impressive was the fact that front man Rich Ray would be returning to the stage with Zeppelin Tribute, Ramble On in just over an hour.


Keeping the mellow vibe, while still kicking it up a notch , the award winning Tribute band, Petty Fever gave the heat something to compete with. This would make two bands in a row that I would be seeing for the first time. Kudos to Jason Fellman for having such an eye for talent. Frank Murray is not only a visual ringer for 70s, 80s, and 90s rock icon Tom Petty, but his vocals were crystal. 


The shadows were growing longer, but it was still scorching on stage with Ramble On taking the crowd back to the days when Led Zeppelin cranked from every 8-Track player up and down the strip. This is one of those bands that can be tricky. There is a musicality to Zeppelin that hides under the crunch. Ramble On obviously understands this fact. 


The Heart Tribute band, Barracuda, is another band that makes you feel as if you stepped into a time machine. This band was also one of the most difficult when it came to choosing a picture to share. They hold the distinction of being the only female act at Harefest V. (Jason, I beg you, scour the globe for a Joan Jett act!) These ladies are just so amazing. Vocally, Donna Caruk is so damn good that you will fall in love with Heart all over again. They put on a spectacular show and were the perfect bridge from day to evening. 


With the sun down, it was time for Steelhorse, the Bon Jovi Tribute band. This is a group that has become my "dirty little secret". Honestly, back in their prime, I was not a Bon Jovi fan. Probably because Jon Bon Jovi is so damn pretty. Mark Thomas could be JBJ's twin. Not only that, but I think he has magic powers, because he converted me into a fan last year at Harefest IV when I saw him for the first time. It was more of the same this year as the band cast their web over the crowd and owned the stage. This is a Tribute band at its best. I say that because these guys have that look and feel. They exude "Rock Star" the entire time they are on stage.


What can be said about Journey Tribute band Stone in Love that has not been said? They are superb, and that rests on the shoulders of the super-talented Kevin Hahn, but is amplified by the deceptive harmonies that take place vocally underneath Hahn's Perry-esque range. This band came out with what could very well be the show closing performance despite there being two bands remaining. Hit after hit came and the band took full advantage of a light show that made the entire venue glow with pinks and purples. The best way to describe their set? WOW!


The penultimate band of the night was relative newcomer, Grand Royale. This Beastie Boys Tribute band was actually the act I was most excited to see. Having caught them at another venue a couple of months ago, I felt like my appetite had barely begun to be satisfied. I was in luck at Harefest V with a set from three bad boys you know so well. They absolutely did not disappoint. If I did not mention their band, The White Castle Crew, I would be remiss. I still do not know the name of the bass player, but he brings some serious funk to the set. When they said goodnight, it left one more band...


Shoot to Thrill would put the exclamation point on two days' worth of some amazing music. This is AC/DC with the volume turned up to 12. The look is there, and if you ever witnessed Angus and his trademark leg-and-head bounce as he strutted and hopped around the stage, then you can appreciate the work that Shoot to Thrill puts in to reproduce the experience.  

When it was over, I did not hear one person complain. Perhaps that was due to my hearing not being as sharp as it had been 48 hours prior...or maybe J-Fell Presents and the Wild Hare Saloon actually managed to come together and create the ultimate outdoor music festival. Yeah...I am betting it was the latter. This event offered the biggest bang for your buck and sent a total of around 6,000 people out those gates over two nights combined with some memories that will last forever. Along the way, a lot of people are now able to say, "Hey! This weekend I met the (singer, guitarist, drummer, etc.) of this band that YOU have to see next time they play." 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Overcoming Negativity.


They lurk in the shadows...some stand out in broad daylight. They are the beasts known as "Naysayers". They wait for you to accomplish something...or even better...come close to a goal before they strike with what seems like surgical precision. You may be sitting beside one...you may be unfortunate enough to live with one. 

Early on in my life, I was foolish enough to listen to that sort of thing. It wasn't until my third marriage that I met somebody who, upon discovering a box full of my writing, told me that I absolutely had to pursue that dream. I was even more fortunate when I found Denise. She not only spoke those same words, but she pushed me and engineered the feat of compiling one of my scribblings into book form and presenting it to me, Christmas 2009. That is when I held the copy of Zomblog in my hands for the first time.


I knew stepping into life as a writer that I would have to endure the slings and arrows that come with a past. And honestly, I am of the mindset that there will always be some people who want to bring you down no matter how "good" or "bad" you may be as a person. The reality is that the entertainment industry (and yes, writers must be included under that banner no matter how well-known they may or may not be) is a bit of a cesspool. And in this age where self-publication had become so simple...the number of "writers" has exploded.

There is an unfortunate undercurrent created by the influx of people that compete for your hard-earned dollar. Some people do not feel there is enough room for themselves and others and will result to any means to bring others down. Whether it is "troll" reviews or social media hate campaigns, people have freedom to act out in the safe confines of their desk where they sit as sentinels over their own "dirty little secrets" while trying to bring to light any flaws that they can find in others.


I made a choice long ago to be as transparent as possible. Sure, it meant opening doors that might allow people to see the unflattering aspects of my life; however, it also meant that I would not be living a life of deception. Because of that choice, I have met some wonderful people who are willing to be my friend. Sure, I have also invited more than your average share of personal attacks. I actually support both sides. There are people who have endured terrible horrors in their lives, and no words that I possess can ease the pain they feel every single day.

What I can do (and make my continued best efforts at) is to live a life each day that justifies and earns the faith those who have called themselves my friend (and meant it) have placed in me. That means walking a little straighter, working a little harder, and above all else...being appreciative. But there is one more part to it...and it is admittedly selfish. I strive to succeed where others would have me fail. I approach each and every day with the mindset that I can not and will not be beaten. My success will always be just a bit more difficult to attain, but it is attainable.


So, when the "Naysayers" start to sing...and I notice that it ALWAYS coincides with times when I am experiencing success...I forge ahead determined to do just a little bit better. Sure the temptation to quit will arise, but you have to decide if you are willing to give anybody that much power over YOUR life.

So, if you have been busting your ass to lose a few pounds and that one person who can't stand to see you make it to your goal asks, "Hey...are you putting on a few pounds?", don't throw up the white flag and tear into a bag of cookies or a quart of ice cream...remind yourself that you are doing very well,your goals are being reached...and that person will have to wake up to their miserable self for the rest of his or her life.


One last thought...resist the urge to say "nanny-nanny boo-boo". Simply enjoy the victory.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stop contributing to the delinquency of lunatics.

Let's face it. We all stop and look when we pass by a car wreck. Do we REALLY want to see an actual mangled body being pulled from the wreckage? Perhaps some people do...but for the most part, the answer is no. Yet, we are compelled to look.

It is part of our culture now to gawk at the misfortunes of others. I hearken back to the Charlie Sheen meltdown. It was a national spectacle. He started selling tickets! He may have been crazy, but he was still thinking clearly enough to cash in on the public gullible enough to spend their cash.

We see it every day. Out loud, we complain to others. Yet, we have created the monster. You. Yes you. You are to blame for these nutcases. You engage them in debates that will have no winner. Yet, you feel drawn to try and state your case.

Stop!

All you are doing is feeding the sole purpose for a majority of these lunatics' existence: Attention. They crave it, and you give it. "But it is harmless," you reply. Really. Let's talk about some harmless nuts who sold their brand of crazy. Make no mistake, these are salesmen. And they only need to make you nod your head once to hook you. 

Names to remember: Jim Jones (The People's Temple), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Marshall Applewhite (Heaven's Gate), Charles Manson.

Yes, there are certainly more extreme versions, but tossing those names out detracts from the idea I am trying to expound upon. My point is simple: Walk away from the madness. Hurt them where it matters...ignore them. If you are on the social media with these vitriol spewing folks, use the block function. If you are sitting on the sideline, waiting for the inevitable implosion...shame on you. Simply remove yourself and congratulate yourself for no longer being part of the problem. Because if you think you are not part of it in your silence...you are wrong. You are still an AUDIENCE. That is the desire of these pathetic individuals. 

Ask yourself this question: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The answer?

Who cares.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How can you be so lucky?


Nothing is more amazing to me as when I meet a random stranger that is also one of my readers. I mean, yeah, I see the monthly sales reports. I know in my mind that people read my books. I just don't ever expect to meet somebody out of the blue...in public.


In the past few weeks it has actually happened a few times. One time in particular during our camping trip, the couple that took the spot we were vacating, it seems the guy was a fan. That was sort of cool. It caught me off guard, and I was pretty surprised. I guess I just don't expect that sort of thing.


This last time happened just the other day at the Portland Thunder game. Okay, so you might think that would be no big deal, after all, I am a sponsor and my DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon book is actually given away at the game for those who buy the "Zombie Row" package. However, what made this stand out was being able to talk to somebody who had obviously read my DEAD series and was very much a fan of the books.


Even more interesting, I guess the person has been two rows behind us as season ticket holders, and when she realized that I was "That TW Brown", she delayed in actually approaching me. She did not want "to be a bother" or something to that effect. All I could say to that was, "It is never a bother to meet somebody who allows me to do what I love for a living." In reality, the honor is mine. Seriously, I see me every single day, and it is not that exciting. Show up when I am doing laundry or cleaning up around the bird cages...not a lot of glamour I can promise.


I guess what I am trying to say is that I honestly enjoy being able to talk to people about my books. I love the comments, questions, and even the critiques. How could I not...I get to write about and chat casually about zombies?! Seriously?


So, if you are out and about, and we ever cross paths, don't ask yourself if you should "bother" me. It is never a bother to talk to you. You allowed me to live my dream. Come over and say hello. I want to leave you with the cover reveal for DEAD: End...due this coming October.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Hello face...meet Mr. Egg.

So, as some of you might know, I am dipping my toes into a book that has absolutely no zombies. It is a fairly common thing for writers to trumpet their newest successes for all to share (or envy if that is your thing). Showing the world how awesome you are is just one of those things people like to do. What we hate is admitting our defeats or less-than-par performances. It allows those who wish us ill to crow and squee with delight while also casting those who reveal such things in perhaps a less than favorable light.

Yeah, well, I am here to say that we don;t always hit the ball out of the park. In fact, it is in missing the mark that we often find our biggest potential for growth. If it all came easy, how would we be able to really celebrate the accomplishments. I am a believer that you can't really know happiness unless you have experienced sadness, you cannot triumph unless you have failed.

Speaking of fail...

Uncivil War: A Modern Day War in the United States is due to be released on July 30th. That being said, I decided it would be nice to give it a rolling start by putting it up for pre-release. Perhaps "rolling" was an exaggeration. (Notice that I did not say "running"?) After a week...I have sold a whopping two copies. I gotta admit...that stings. I would by lying if I said otherwise. While I was/am certainly not expecting "DEAD" numbers, I can say that I had hopes that were just a tad higher.

Now, that does not mean that the sky is falling. A book can gain some buzz after it has come out and landed in a few hands. And, I can honestly say that I am not much of a pre-order kind of guy (unless it is a video game with bonus features thrown in for those who pre-order).

And of course the only other thing I have to compare it to is the 11th DEAD book and the DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon title. Those popped 3 and 4 digit pre-release stats, but that is a known entity. This new title is its own monster (with zero monsters appearing).

While I can openly admit my disappointment, I can also, at the same time, re-gain an appreciation for where my book sales have gone in the past couple of years. I do recall the days when 30-40 sales a month from all my titles combines was reason to celebrate. I can still remember the giddiness when I had one title actually break into double digits for the month.

I realized the past few days just how blessed I am. Sure, I still hold high hopes for my upcoming book. It is a stand alone title using modern day events as a stepping stone. The possibility is there for this book to catch fire and actually eclipse my DEAD series in commercial sales. However, it is equally possible that this book sits beside Dakota as a title that I am proud to have written, but sells relatively few copies.

It would have been easy for me to just skip this book and never dust it off (the idea originated back in 1993 during the Rodney King Riots). However, this was one of those titles that I had to write because I love being able to empty my brain onto paper (or into the computer as the case may be these days). 

Funny, when I sat down to write this, I was kinda bummed. But along the way, something happened. I remember that I write because I LOVE it! This is the best job in the world. How lucky am I that I get do do what I dreamed of doing since I was a teenager?!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Got a half hour to kill?

So, you got a half hour to kill...well, I can help. Below is the video of my running of the 2015 Rugged Maniac in Portland, Oregon. I even put in a soundtrack of my band to help pass the time. (Yeah, that is me on vocals as well as guitar.) Have a great Wednesday!




And did you know that you can subscribe to my "channel" to be notified whenever I post something new? Well, it is true!

Monday, July 6, 2015

DO NOT ask for what you don't REALLY want.

To keep this from seeming overly heavy, I will intersperse this offering with pictures of puppies and flowers. This is the best I can do to lighten the mood, because I have a few things I want to (in golf lingo) grip and rip. So with no further delays...a cute puppy and a guitar signed by George Romero.



Some of you reading this might post reviews from time to time. Many of you WAIT for reviews to be posted about your work. (I know I check EVERY MORNING!) So, this one might sting a bit. If you are feeling a bit cranky after reading this and think that perhaps I am a giant ass hat, then you are probably one of the offenders. So here it is...we all love to read reviews about our stuff provided that the review is good, glowing, and says we are absolutely the most talented-yet-sadly-undiscovered writer in existence. I have spoken ad nauseum when it comes to complaining about reviews. Sadly, some still miss the point, or get it and choose to ignore it. A bad review stings. I would be a big fat liar if I said I haven't read a negative review of my work and wanted to just drop my head and weep. (Time for pretty flowers.)


But get past the haters and trolls and maybe focus on a few strangers out there who don't know you from Bupkiss. This is a 2 Star review from my book Dakota: "I don't often write a review that is less than complimentary as I know I could not do well writing. However, this was a disappointing read to me. Beginning with two Seattle cops and ending up in the "War of Northern Agression" is a stretch; one I did not particularly enjoy. The characters are well developed, the story is well told, but I just could not wrap my mind around traveling back in time! What's the point? And what did that have to do with the drug war in Seattle? Though I did finish the book, I don't think I will be seeking this author out again. I gave the book two stars simply because the prose is beautifully put together; but the story line is disappointing.

Now here is the product description from Amazon.com:"Dakota Riley is a member of the Seattle Drug Task Force. During an investigation into an international drug smuggling ring, he loses his best friend and partner. To add insult to injury, he is assigned an African-American rookie, Marc Bradley.Seeking revenge rather than justice, Dakota ditches the rookie…and almost gets himself killed. After leaving the hospital for a ‘forced’ vacation, Dakota and Marc head to Marc’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.A day out on a fishing boat goes wrong when a mysterious storm arrives. The boat is destroyed, and the two men wash ashore…in 1861, just prior to the start of the American Civil War." This is now my favorite "negative" review of all time. Good character development...well told story...beautifully put together prose.

Now, of course not all negative" reviews are that glowing, but if you read between the lines on some, you may find points brought up that are actually helpful. And if edits are repeatedly mentioned...FIX IT! I had a person take an ax to Zomblog...she didn't think that the story went anywhere, and I had too many characters who muddled up the story because they were mentioned in one page and killed in the next. SHE WAS RIGHT! But I learned from that BEFORE her review, so I thanked her and asked if she would read Zomblog II. She loved it, gave it 4 stars and asked for more of my stuff. Which brings me to this next point...after more puppies...


So, you have a book written and you want it reviewed. You want to ask people...maybe even beg your readers to provide that little kindness that means more to us than they realize. You ask a few of your peers if they will take the time to read your baby and pen a review. Great. I do that (but I gotta say, writers are some of THE WORST when it comes to reviews...an issue that I still do not understand). But here is what I DON'T do. I refuse to write some flowery drivel if I read the story and think it is rubbish. Kind of hard to be the man with the "Brutally Honest Review" policy and then I spew a bunch of phony drivel about how everything is wonderful and every book I read is the next "must read" title in the literary scene. If your book reads like a bad high school theater production, I am gonna say so. BUT...and here is where it gets tricky...IT IS JUST ONE OPINION. (Hold on...time for flowers again.)


If you want a bunch of 5 star reviews from people, stick to friends and family. Or...as has been the hot topic lately...buy them. However, that means you don't get to go on some tirade when a total stranger who reads your book and thinks it is simply terrible. And here is the funny thing...no matter how good your book is, some people WILL hate your stuff. They just will. It does not mean you are a bad writer (sometimes). So, if you want me to review your book...you best be able to handle the truth. If I like it...trust that I will say so, but if I don't...well I'm not gonna write some hate-filled rant about your work, but I will say what I didn't like and why. And if the story didn't "do it" for me...I'm gonna say so. So don't ask if you don't want me to be honest, and don't get twisted if you ask anyways and I don't rant and rave. I've had friends tell me ahead of time "I'm so sorry, but I didn't like your book. Should I skip the review?" Easy answer: NO! It's okay, people. It just wasn't your cup of tea. Maybe next time. Besides, I think it looks more genuine if there is a voice of dissent amidst the praise.

As Indies, we must all suffer the slings and arrows of our brethren (and sistren). Our niche is famous for poorly edited work and sloppy production. We are also famous for going on social media jihads when we get negative reviews. It just needs to change, and WE can do better. So I challenge you all to start holding yourself to a higher standard. If we want to be taken seriously, then it is all up to us. Start with dialogue. There are some rules to writing it that A LOT of people just have never taken the time to learn. So ask, read, look it up, read...


Friday, July 3, 2015

How is that sexy?

I get to stay home every day and write. For me, that is a dream come true. My wife leaves every morning and has to work "out there" where there are actual people to deal with {shiver} and actually talk to. Since I stay home, and also since I have a bit of an OCD "problem" that involves needing things to be a certain way (read: clean), I do the housework. I cook. I tend to the yard.

Now, to me, that simply seems fair. After all, she has to drive to and from...be in a certain place at a certain time. All the stuff that goes with having a 9-to-5 (or 7-to 3:30 in her case) job is on her shoulders. While I happen to be a bit of a workaholic and suffer no issues with actually staying on task and meeting daily goals, I do not have anybody to answer to except for myself. If I don't write, I do not make money. We fall behind on things like house and car payments. A writer is only relevant if he or she continues to write (until you die and a hundred years pass so that you can be considered a classic).

I have a schedule as far as my cleaning is concerned. It keeps the house looking good and allows me to enter a room without wincing or feeling a surge of anxiety and discomfort. My wife has said on more than one occasion that "there is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to handle a vacuum" ...or do laundry...or wash dishes. You get the point.

I don't get it. I don;t find a thing "sexy" about scrubbing the tubs, showers, and sinks in our bathrooms. I find nothing alluring about a day with Murphy's and a large hardwood floor. The other morning, she was getting ready for work and I was in the middle of the morning routine which includes tending to all the assorted watering that needs doing between gardens and animals when she said something along the lines of how sexy it was while I was tromping around the chicken yard, dumping fouled water and refilling with fresh. I looked up at her as she leaned on the porch with a smile on her face. "Are you out of your mind?" I asked. "What could POSSIBLY be sexy about this?" It sure as hell was not the funky smell coming from that nasty water I was dumping out.

She has made similar statements when she comes in and I am in the kitchen with pots and pans on every burner...my latest attempt to channel Alton Brown or Alex Guarnaschelli simmering, roasting, or frying on the stove or in the oven. I just don't see it. I have an idea of what sexy is, and that ain't it. Truth be told, I often joke (usually to myself, the dogs, or the birds since the house is void of humans during the day) about my "glamorous life" as a "Best-Selling" author as I cook, clean, and take care of making sure all the bills are paid in a timely manner.

Sixty pounds ago, maybe a compliment about being "sexy" would have stuck. Sadly, even with all my hill running, tire flipping, battle-rope work and P90X, I just don't lose weight. (See earlier comments about my love for cooking.) I am a good four stones above what I would like. If I quit things like ice cream and baking, I could probably get rid of that extra load, but that is not likely. I am hitting 50 years old in September and not likely to ever dip my toe into the dating pool again. I already told Denise that I would become a happy recluse if she should ever meet a pre-mature end. (Yep, we have those morbid conversations...I have no idea why.) Life as a writer is a very singular existence. It would be some very barren soil to try and cultivate a new relationship...hmm...I am starting to wander off topic.

Anyway, this is primarily for the ladies. Perhaps you can illuminate me (and the guys who drop in to read these posts) as to why such things can be considered in any way as being "sexy". 

Have a great weekend.