“There’s never been a question that I loved you. I doubt even in the measure of it. It was more than could be counted, and still, less than you deserved.
“For years I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how. The words were too small, nonsensical even, when compared to the feeling.
“There was air. There was you. Both essential to me. One to keep me alive, and the other to show me the value of that state.”
Voices In My Head, (c) J. A. Brown, Storyteller February 2, 2017
Word on the street was that I could escape here; on a path that belonged only to me, and it would take me anywhere I had the will and determination to go. When I opened the door to Cafe Passé, I was surer than ever they had lied to me. I went in anyway, unable to pass up the possibility that they might be right.
Inside, red neon tangled obscure runes on the walls, the secret language of rebirth and deliverance, that combined with the warmer than average temperature, to give the room a womblike ambiance.
There were five round tables, covered in white clothes that went all the way down to the floor. Each table had one chair, and a Rever. Three of the tables were already occupied by Reverants, dreaming travelers, whose entire right hands were concealed inside the shiny silver Rever’s, as their current existence was being over written by the music and drugs. One look told me they were completely outside themselves, their bodies abandoned in the wake of a chemically harmonious liftoff.
Scanning the room, I studied them, and wondered if their choices had taken them to the past, the potential future, or a sideways reality that was better than this one. My fists clenched in impotent fury and doubt. I needed this to be real!
“It’s a simple process,” the woman taking my payment, and scheduling my appointment told me. “Just come in, sit down at the table, and put your hand in the Rever. It hurts like death, but when the music starts, and drugs are pumping, it’s all good.”
Determined to do this right, my drug of choice was 835T, commonly known as BEST. One hit cost me a lifetime, but with BEST, one is all it took. “If you hit the ride right, you can slide right off this world, and into the best one you could ever have. Hell, even better, you get to stay there. A soul reborn into a better version of the life you’ve already failed.” Technically, it was suicide, but that was illegal, and so the talking heads spun Revering into a lifestyle choice; a do over, to make things right.
Revering wasn’t something done on a whim. It took money, planning and commitment. I’d thought about this for years, how old I would be, what time I would do it, right down to the minute, but for all of my life what had eluded me was the track. I had lived in this cursed existence for forty-two years before I found it.
I heard it only once, just a snippet, but I knew the Beastie Boys, Shadrach was the track I needed to take me there. It was old, and at first that pissed me off. I could have gone so much sooner than forty-two, but then it hit me. I needed to be ready, to get my head right, and even though the song had been written a hundred years before I was born, and fifty years before Revering existed, I wasn’t ready until now.
Clutching this this pounding gritty key in the curves of my grey matter, I would compress my essence into invisible waves of soul glide, and aimed like a bullet at an alternate universe, I would fire myself into the life of the man I should have been, in a world where I would be the fourth man in the fire, and I would find all the things lost or denied to me because once upon a time I turned left.
I approached the first empty table, and noticed a card that read, All Along the Watchtower. Someone wanted to be a hero, a mystical knight. That was someone else. I put the card down, trying to image who would choose such a fate? I thought of lingering to meet them, or at least see this would be hero with my own eyes, but I shook it off, refusing the distraction of a look into a world where I would never belong.
At the last empty table I saw Shadrach on the card. I pulled the chair out, and sat down quickly, afraid even now I would change my mind after coming so far. That cowardice and self-doubt were just two of the many reasons I wanted out. I took a deep breath, looked at the door, maybe hoping for a glimpse of the mystical knight, stuck my hand into the Rever, and started to slide.
©J.A. Brown, Storyteller-January 17, 2017
I’ve been working on a novel for the past three months. It was going smashingly well, until I realized how it had to end, and it was an ending I didn’t want. For most of those three months my intellect has been at war with my creative side, and not nearly enough writing has been done with regards to this novel.
What writing has been going on, you ask? Half a dozen short stories that have been submitted to various publications for their consideration. I have not sold one yet, but doing so is a bucket list item for me, so I’m not giving that up until I can check it off.
The last time I stopped having fun on a story, I just stopped writing it all together, and moved on to something else. I haven’t done that yet, because I want to tell this story. I genuinely want to tell this story, but I think I am afraid of what I might learn about myself in the process.
It would be so easy to stop, go write some sexy, fluffy, funny stuff that makes you laugh, and maybe say nice things to me, and I want that, too, but not only that. I want to be able to tell any story, in any genre, and in any way I choose, and I don’t want to fold because of criticism or having to re-invent myself, or because it was hard, and I was afraid.
Now, I either find a way to move on and finish, or put it down and let the fear win for now. I really don’t know how that’s going to go.
I’ve been stuck in a kitchen in Kansas for a month now, on the edge of a moment. It was a big moment, and the sheer size and importance of it to my story, and my characters, left me reaching for words that never seemed quite good enough.
I’m out now, but I cheated. Much like Dorothy did, when she was trying to get the hell out of Kansas, too. She hopped a tornado, I just faded out. But it’s early and this is a first draft. Maybe I gotta storm coming my way, too.
Meantime, this is the mood of my characters, and coincidentally, also the mood of your storyteller.
As always the album cover will take you to iTunes for a purchase or a free sample.
Red Earth & Pouring Rain
Nothing about this is easy. If any part of it was, then I would probably lose interest, and quit. I love that about myself, and I hate that about myself sometimes, too.
I’ve spent the better part of my life either holding on or letting go, never in the right places, but I don’t think that makes me a snowflake. We all do that. I think it might just be life, or as close as we get to that, and all it means.
There are many questions that you will see over and over again in author interviews. Where do your ideas come from? How do you start writing? How much of you is in the story you are telling?
There are standard answers you will see, as well. My ideas come from everywhere. You start writing by opening up Word, or getting a piece of paper and just putting it down. You write what you know.
I’ve never seen anyone ask, why do you write? And if I did, the answer would probably be more varied because to me, the why of it is the real question. My answer is because I have to. Part of me has always known this, but I ignored that for years. Looking back, I think I didn’t write for so long because I was engaged in some kind of self punishment for some real or imagined slight. Writing makes me happy, and I didn’t think I deserved to be happy, so I found reasons to not do it.
Sometimes, I still engage in that, and refuse to let myself write, all the while wondering why it is so easy to do things that tear me down, and so hard to do something that makes me feel like my existence is meaningful and real and valid. Then I think, you write what you know, and I realize that my years spent not writing were still not wasted, because I was learning things that I could someday write about, if I learned to love myself enough to accept that gift. And I do see writing as a gift. Not because I think it’s great writing, or that it will make a profound impact on the world, but because of the way it feels inside me when I do it.
Sometimes, to write, I have to make myself stop thinking. My logical mind wants to plot and plan out everything, while my creative mind wants to just make pretty stuff, and invite you all over to share the finished product. I think this is why I like music so much. I can put a song on repeat and calm my logical mind into silence so that my creative side can cover herself in paint and glitter, and make stories. It’s a trick, probably even a cheap one at that, but it does work, most of the time.
So, the writing part for me is making the rational side of my brain shut up, and letting my creative side free, but nothing about this is easy. Even when you have an idea, it can be hard to land, because as the story starts to flow you have ideas about what you want to see happen, but so do the characters you are creating. I know how that sounds, but for me at least, it’s true.
They want things, need things, and as you invest and grow them you want to give them those things, because you care about them, but because of who I am, and the things I know, I can’t always give them those things. I’m not made that way, at least not completely. Sometimes, yes, because sometimes there is a HEA, but if I am true to the characters and the things I know, it’s not something that I can promise, or even want to promise.
This is where my rational mind wakes up, and starts telling me that I have only two choices. Either tell the story the way I want to tell it, or tell the story the way others want it to be. My creative side rebels, and starts demanding a third option, and around we go, arguing and not writing.
My creative side wants to live in fields of rainbows where unicorns graze and HEA is an everyday occurrence, and my rational side sighs in frustration, and demands to know why I tricked it to sleep if I wasn’t going to tell a real goddamned story that reflects the things I know. When the fighting is done I wind up in the middle, tired and bloody, and wondering if I should quit.
The answer is no, because none of this is easy. If it were, I would probably lose interest, and quit.
And we’re still not writing.
My first publishing experience was more about the technical aspects than the creative. How do you upload to Amazon, B&N, etc, and how do you format a file, which if you have done this, you know is no simple thing. Each vendor wants a different format, and figuring them all out was a challenge. The story was already written, so I was able to focus on learning the technical stuff when it came time to put it out there. However, once the tech was conquered I learned that marketing is hard, and the story I had written was genre bending, which added another layer of complexity I was completely unprepared to handle.
The first book, Dreams is all about the two lead characters, and the start of their relationship. I wanted it to be so intimate that you felt as though you were a part of their story. I think I did that. There are heaps of sex scenes, rather hot ones, I think, as they find their way through figuring out who they are as individuals, and whether they work together.
When it came time to label it, I chose to use the word EROTICA. I did that because I didn’t want to fool anyone. Logically, I thought, that if someone was brave enough to read the book, I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable with unexpected graphic intimate sex. Looking back, I think the word EROTICA was a death knell for the audience I was trying to reach, because it seems EROTICA has come to mean BDSM, and that is not what Dreams is about. I should have used ROMANCE, PARANORMAL ROMANCE specifically, but I was trying to make sure that the reader was ready for the journey they were undertaking.
I found out quickly that EROTICA is almost impossible to market as a new indie author. Amazon will not advertise it for you, even if you pay them. Most of the bloggers I approached turned me down flat because they “didn’t review those kinds of books,” a decision that seemed to be based solely on the label EROTICA. The fact that it was PARANORMAL, about a girl and her vampire, closed the doors on sites that handled EROTICA, and the fact that it was EROTICA closed the doors on PARANORMAL sites.
The second book, Nightmares, is different still. The characters maintain an intimate adult relationship, but we move into THRILLER/ADVENTURE, and so the people who refused EROTICA are now uncertain they want to read the second book at all, because I changed the genre, from their perspective, and so on with the third, which adds in other elements, but still has healthy adult relationships happening with the characters.
I share this because these are the arguments behind my rational mind telling me I have two choices. Tell the story you want to tell, or tell the story that people want to read. I still want the third option.
These experiences have challenged my ability to tell a story. They have made me hesitant to follow my muse, because what good is a story that no one reads? Is it like a tree in the forest?
I love the entire Dreams Series. I am incredibly proud of it as well. I love the female lead who knows her mind and is strong and capable and doesn’t shy away from her wishes or her choices because she has learned in her life that things don’t come easy, and how to hold on to something really good when you find it.
The people who have read the series have only kind things to say, and seemed to have enjoyed it, which makes me happy. It also makes me sad because my failure to market it successfully has deprived so many of a chance to share in this adventure. I wouldn’t go back and change anything about the story, only the label my rational mind insisted on of EROTICA.
And here I am, still not writing.
Will I be an author who tells cut and dried easily labeled stories that do not contain sex because that’s what most people seem to want to read, or will I just tell a damned story the way it wants to be told, and break all the rules because that’s who I am and what I know, even if there seems to be no place in this world for the kinds of stories I tell?
My characters want things, my readers want things, I want things. How do I find the place where all these things converge?
And that’s where my creative mind comes in covered in paint and glitter, and starts to dance around singing about making something pretty. It’ll be fine, she says, hopping from one foot to the other. Let’s just tell a story!
She looks so happy, I can’t tell her no. So, I’m going to turn the music on, stop thinking for awhile, and just write.
Previous: Part 3 Why People Hire Ad Agencies
Today I am going to introduce you to my new leading man. Everyone, this is Evan Eastman. Evan Eastman, this is everyone. 🙂
Evan is the male lead in my new novel, but ladies, don’t let the pretty fool you, there is much more to this one than meets the eye. 😉
To be continued…