The Book Thief

No, I’m not talking about the recent and popular novel by the same name. (Admittedly, I haven’t even read it yet but am told it is excellent.) I’m talking about the “Idea That Got Away” – presumably into somebody else’s head.
Say what, B.C.?
Just the other day I was watching an episode of ‘Supernatural’ (love those hunky brothers and awesome tunes!) and realized that the exact premise of the episode was a story idea I had squirreled away in the “Trunk” portion of my writing folder.  Now I’m sure a few of you are wondering what my “Trunk” is, so I’ll tell you.  The “Trunk” portion of my writing folder is where I store all the small ideas I get that don’t seem to go anywhere after a short time.  Most of the time these are short stories that I’d hoped to elaborate into something longer (since I am a novelist by preference), or they are stories I didn’t think were quite up to snuff – whether it was due to plot holes, stilted writing, or just corny ideas.  But seeing this episode of ‘Supernatural’ made me go back into my writing folder and re-read the story idea I’d had (according to the date and time stamp on the entry) more than 3 years ago and waaaay before the show’s writer’s came up with it.
What was it that made me decide this story wasn’t good enough?  Clearly, the idea had been good enough to use as a premise for a fairly well-known television show, so it couldn’t have been that.  (Although I did see the annotation I’d made at the end of the idea summary that simply stated ‘Credible enough?‘)  It hadn’t been that I wanted to later turn the idea into a longer story because the folder contained only an idea summary and the original scene that demanded to be written.  So what had kept me from fleshing out the idea I’d had before the damn lovely writers at ‘Supernatural’ and making my own profit from this idea?  After a good deal of thought, I was pretty sure I had figured out what the problem with this idea ended up being.

Oh, yes, folks!  The end-all, be-all of book thieves – doubt.  Self doubt is probably the single-most killer of stories all over the world.  One could equate doubt to the heart attack; the #1 killer.
Many people could argue that lack of time and motivation kills more stories than ever doubt could.  But I’d like to point out the millions (upon probably millions) of novels, short stories, lyrics, and poems that are floating around in existence, unpublished due to that nagging little thought in the back of their author’s brains.  What I write isn’t good enough; what I write will never be as good as (fill in the blank).
Several years ago a teacher once told me to “Forget coming up with something original.  There are no original ideas anymore in literature; they’ve all been done and redone.  But what you should do is try to make the ideas that are already out there as YOU as possible.  Because any new ingredient added to an old recipe makes it new and yours.”  I took this advice and ran with it.  I realized that plots for stories, while varied slightly, are pretty tried and true and it would be impossible to come up with a 100% unique story that no one had ever heard before.  But what I could do is lend my voice, my personality, and how I write to these stories.
Now I’m not saying that I go out and rip off other people’s plots.  But you have to admit that girl-meets-boy is a pretty straight forward plot whether it’s with were-girl-meets-vamp-boy or alien girl-meets-human boy or princess-meets-stable boy or even normal girl-meets-normal boy?  But it’s my voice that changes the story and makes it unique to me and for the reader. So back to my original thought – the book thief that is self doubt.
Self doubt is the one thing that all writers have, no matter how successful they’ve been in the past.  Everyone who has an idea scrutinizes that idea (whether it’s before they write it, while they write it, or after they write it) under the harshest light.  Because that idea has to win out against every doubt we might have for that story.  (In my case, my doubt was that the idea might not be credible to the readers.)  Clearly I found my idea lacking in some way; somehow it didn’t measure up.  The true irony is that 3 years later I’m watching it on a nationally syndicated television show where millions of viewers thought it was plenty credible – at least if two hunky brothers listening to awesome tunes were included.  Just makes me realize that any time that little voice talks up and asks me if what I’m writing is good enough, I should just tell it to fuck off…
And then write two hunky brothers listening to awesome tunes into the mix.

B.C. Brown

Less is More – To Blog or Not To Blog

I am a writer.  I write fiction.  I do not write non-fiction.

These are three statements I made recently to someone after they’d found out that I wrote and wanted to know more about me.  (Strange how being a writer makes people want to find out more about you.  Perhaps it’s because if they ask about your writing and what you write they might not actually have to read it?)  After I’d gotten through the nitty gritty of what I wrote, how often I wrote, and (of course) the annoyance delight of what inspires me to write, this individual finally asked where they can view some of my writing.  I arrogantly proudly directed them to my website and this blog.  The person stopped, blinked and asked me a question I’d never been asked before…”If you don’t write non-fiction, why do you blog?”

I stopped.  I had to think about my answer to that because, frankly, they were correct.  If I considered myself a fiction writer alone, why would I blog about non-fiction topics of interest?  This took me a minute as possible reasons raced through my little red noggin. 

Why do I blog?  Three things came immediately to mind:

  1. I’m egotistical. I like to help people.
  2. I like the sound of my own voice – even on paper/screen. People like to hear from “experts” and they think I’m some sort of one on writing.
  3. I’m egotistical. I enjoy blogging.

I thought these were very reasonable and true statements.   And our conversation ended there.  Until nearly a week later when I ran into this same individual at the grocer.  To my astonishment, she had gone and read my entire website and every article I’d written on this blog.  Stalker?  She’d even read over some of the notes I had on Facebook, although those are very limited let me tell you. Then she popped back up with another question that I had to pause and ponder… “Why don’t you blog more?”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to ponder this one as long as I had the other.  I simply told her, “Less is more.  The less often I blog, the more interested people seem to be when I do post.”  I’ve had a lot of people contradict me on this.  I even had one author today (which is what made me think of this conversation and write this post) mention that when he blogs daily, his “hits” go up.  And I know of at least one other author who posts to her blog daily (and she seems to excel at it too), and she seems to experience quite a high number of traffic to her site.  But my thought on the matter has always been less is more.  It’s the simplistic law of supply and demand.  The lower the supple, the higher the demand. 

It has always seemed so to me in writing. I know the authors who come out with a novel every 3 months are not nearly as anticipated and do not experience the high sales volume that authors who only have novels that come out every year to two years.  Perhaps that’s not the case in blogging?

But then I have to question – What do I write about every day?  My life is not nearly interesting enough to discuss the mundane activities of it; I am a rather ordinary dull boring individual – that’s why I write fiction.  And, while I am plucky and do have some rather strange thoughts and ideas, I don’t have those ‘interesting-enough-to-be-of-any-interest-others’ kind of ideas on a daily basis.  So if the demand is for me to blog on a more regular basis, what do I fill the space with?  Recipes (I don’t cook), stories about kids (I don’t have any), my personal life (Uh, trust me, no), what then?

I’m left then blogging about what I know and love – writing.  So in an effort to not beat to death the horse I love, I had to tell the woman I was talking to that, despite evidence to the fact that blogging more frequently might increase traffic to my site and bring more attention to me, I would have to go as I’ve been going – slow and steady with less is more.  If I didn’t and began writing whatever lame or trivial fact came to my mind then I wouldn’t be any better than those writers who churned out unimaginative fluff for the sake of a paycheck.  However, I did make a mental promise to myself to not leave my readers hanging for, say, four months without so much as a ‘bite me’ ‘how do ya do?’

Feel free, of course, to chime in your thoughts on the matter of blogging frequency.  What do you enjoy blogging on or reading about?  Do you enjoy the fact that I blog solely about writing, or would you like to read more articles on other topics?  I like words – gift me with some of yours!

B.C. Brown

Dying Light of Ember’s Bright…

As you all know, it has been some time since I last posted. Many of you know the reasons why. Full-time author and full-time paycheck-earner attempted to add full-time school and full-time business entrepreneurship to her stuffed scheduled. And then, of course, there was an attempt at least at a social life! HAHA  However, there have been a lot of rumors circulating as to one aspect of my life very recently, and so I’ve found myself needing to admit to something I’d rather not. But since myself and the one other person involved are the best to address the issue, and he has already done so on his blog (and quite eloquently, might I add), I felt it was time I do the same.

To borrow a line from my good friend J. Travis Grundon’s blog – They Killed a Mockingbird…

For more than ten years I’ve harbored the secret dream of owning and operating my own bookstore.  In the Fall of 2010 my best friend for more than a decade (make that closer to one and a half! ha) decided to take the plunge and open The Mockingbird Book Emporium in Vincennes, Indiana.  The peoples’ lament of not having a bookstore had resonated with the two of us, and with fire in our bellies we thought we could make a decent go of it – at least a passable go at it.

The anticipation of the store was nearly palpable, and we were bombarded with “future” customers asking “How long? How long? How LONG?” This may have given us a bit of over-inflated glow concerning the desire of the Vincennes people to have a bookstore, but we sincerely had hoped not. We worked tirelessly to get the store running as quickly as possible.  And in September of 2010, we opened with a blow-out grand opening that included a special event by St. Louis author Joe Schwartz and an appearance by the mayor, with the local newspaper in attendance.

But the fanfare quickly died away, the shine wearing off in as little as the first month in operation.  After nearly 4 months of dwindling sales, sometimes full weeks going by without so much as a single customer, we kept hearing “This is just what this town needs!” and “Finally! A bookstore. I’ll be back when I have a moment to actually browse.”  But those moments never came – no one’s schedule magically opened up to reveal extra time to let them come in and support “what this town needs”.  And, while we did have a few very loyal customers, and cherish them more than anything, the lack of enthusiasm or even flat interest from the rest of the populace was overwhelming.

This said, many can understand how mine and Trav’s own enthusiasm for the store began to wane.  How the fire we had turned to ember.  But we continued to fan those ember’s hoping for some sort of pheonix to rise from the quickly accumulating ash.  But, as the weeks progressed and our frustration for the lack of support of a town that can house so many bars, fast food restaurants, and tattoo parlors but can’t manage to support one small used bookstore, we learned a valuable lesson.

There isn’t a pheonix inside those ashes; there is only choking debris.  And we were choking on the dying embers of our own dream.

So, with heavy hearts and aching souls, we have decided to close the Mockingbird Book Emporium.  That Vincennes desperately needs a bookstore is not a question – literature is the fuel for imagination and creativity, and without it, a town would certainly stifle and stagnate.  But perhaps the ample lubrication of alcohol, preservatives of processed foods, and ever-lasting permanence of ink will manage to preserve the town longer than it should. Who knows?

In part two of my news to report, I am sad to announce the death of my publisher, Papercut Books. (Also to quote my good friend, J. Travis Grundon) Papercuts hurt. 

Thrilled beyond belief to find a fledgling company with the vision to take chances on unknown authors and an honest and up-front business practice, I did not worry when the company went through an initial rough patch.  (As many know, there was a loss of key personnel in the beginning which ended up putting quite a bit of strain on the creative director when he suddenly had to become publisher and CEO.)  But things appeared to be shaping up with the addition of a new benefactor…who, sadly, had to back out as soon as he joined – leaving the company a one-man with limited revenue venture again. 

Their announcement of closing has left me again on the elusive search for a publisher.  However, I have chosen to taken on a whole new approach to my writing.  I’m admitting to my limitations.  I am a writer and a dang good one (or so I’ve been told).  And, while school and paycheck-earning are not two things I can eliminate from my life, I want my focus of life to be my writing.  What I mean by being a writer means that I am not an agent.  I am not a graphic designer.  I am not a publisher.  And, despite a fondness for blue pencils, I am not an editor.  What I am is a creator of worlds.  And I do that frequently; far too frequently to try to be my own agent, my own graphic designer, my own publisher, and my own editor.

While there are several of my writing associates out there that are screaming at me that I can represent myself and saying things like “Why should you PAY someone else to do what you can do?” I am resolute in my standpoint now.  I have been a long-standing advocate against non-agent-hood, but some recent reflection has shown me that I am a good writer and by trying to be all of the above mentioned I am seriously doing my writing a dis-service.  My two-hour-a-day writing schedule has become 15 minutes of writing and an half and forty-five minutes of cover design, extensive editing, and publisher research.  I’d say my scale was a little broken, wouldn’t you?

So, if anyone knows of reputable agents accepting new clients, I’d appreciate any information you might have.  I’ll still need to dedicate some of my writing time to researching and querying agents, but I found that I can do that while earning the paycheck instead of using my writing time for that – it’s a win-win! HAHA

All right, dearies, so that is the extent of everything happening in the life of author B.C. Brown at the moment.  Now repeat after me… Being a writer must be sooooo glamorous!


B.C. Brown