S.G. Browne

The Writing Life: You Are Not Alone

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

The above quote was taken from Robert De Niro’s presentation for the Best Screenwriting category at the 2014 Academy Awards. I don’t know who was responsible for writing the words spoken by De Niro, but whoever wrote them perfectly captured the mindset of a writer.

Writers are a unique animal. We sit for hours alone in front of a computer, making up imaginary worlds populated with imaginary people, often spending more time with our fictional creations than with real human beings. You can make the argument that when it comes to certain people, this isn’t always a bad thing.

The problem is that we spend so much time alone in our own heads that we often feel isolated—not just physically but emotionally. Most of our closest friends and family, even our spouses or partners, no matter how much they love us and care about us, they can’t always relate to how we feel when something isn’t working. They don’t know what it’s like to be lost or stuck creatively. They don’t understand how the 500 words we managed to squeeze out of our heads and fingers one bloody letter at a time during four frustrating hours feels like utter failure compared to all of the writers on Facebook and Twitter pumping out 5,000 words. Before lunch.

And so, many of us sit there in front of our computers, alone and struggling, thinking that all of these other writers who are more prolific or successful than we are have it all figured out and know what they’re doing and we believe that no one else is going through what we’re going through.

The truth is, we are not alone.

Every writer experiences self-doubt. Sometimes it just couch surfs for a couple of nights, while other times it buys a timeshare and stays in your guest room for a month, but it’s there. Trust me. It’s there.

Self-loathing is another house guest who shows up in the mind of a writer, causing us to compare our writing to that of other writers and making us feel like we’re garbage and leaving us wondering why anyone would ever want to read a single pathetic word we’ve ever written.

Procrastination only adds to the self-loathing, as we feel like losers for wasting our time playing video games or binge-watching Netflix or spending hours on Facebook and Twitter instead of doing what we’re supposed to be doing: writing.

We get moody when we’re not channeling our inner Fitzgerald or Vonnegut or Austen. We get depressed. We get anxious. We get frustrated. We allow a single negative one-star review from some moron on Amazon to completely ruin the thirty-two five-star reviews that sing our praises. And we experience envy and jealousy when other writers earn the success that we think we deserve.

It’s okay to feel these things. While you don’t want the envy and jealousy to control you, or allow the self-doubt to take up permanent residence, all of this is normal. It’s part of being a writer. Understand this and embrace this and know that this path you’ve chosen matters. You’re creating. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. And that’s more important than word counts or five-star reviews.

You are a writer. And you are not alone.

*This post appeared originally April 15, 2014, on SFSignal.com.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 12:54 pm

Less Than Hero: My Super Inspirations

B82pUXECAAAKNl3If you haven’t had a chance to check out the back cover copy for my new novel Less Than Hero, here’s the gist in a nutshell:

A group of professional human guinea pigs who make their living testing experimental drugs in Phase I clinical trials develop unusual side effects that they  project on to petty criminals who prey upon the homeless and helpless of New York City.

So yes, my superheros make people vomit, develop rashes, and suffer from convulsions and rapid weight gain.

Obviously these aren’t your classic superheroes. No men of steel or dark knights. No caped crusaders with superhuman strength or masked crime fighters with spider-sense. No one who is faster than a speeding bullet or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s more like:

Faster than a spreading rash! More powerful than dry heaves! Able to put villains to sleep with a single yawn!

Mystery_Men_film_posterMy superheroes have more in common with the band of crime fighters in Mystery Men than they do with The Avengers. As a matter of fact, Mystery Men is one of the main superhero inspirations/influences for Less Than Hero.

I saw Mystery Men in the theater back in 1999 and loved it. The next year I saw X-Men, followed by Unbreakable, both of which made a lasting impression on my imagination. I didn’t know it at the time, but those three films would be instrumental in the eventual writing of Less Than Hero.

UnliXMen1posterke a significant portion of today’s superhero fans, I don’t have a background in comic books. I didn’t read superhero comics as a kid and I don’t read them now. But I watched a lot of superhero cartoons and TV shows growing up and I enjoy catching superhero films at the multiplex. However, while I’m a fan of the Spider-Man and Batman and Avengers franchises, certain superhero films strike a chord more than the others.

Mystery Men appealed to me because the heroes were just ordinary people with unusual talents who wanted to make a difference. Plus I loved the humor. X-Men hooked me with the concept of mutants and its social commentary on prejudice and discrimination. And I loved Unbreakable because it was about an ordinary man discovering his extraordinary abilities and, eventually, a purpose that gave his life meaning.

UnbreakableposterwillisIn a way, Less Than Hero encompasses aspects of all three films. The characters, while they exist on the fringe of society, are normal people who end up wanting to make a difference, with the main character, and several of the others, searching for meaning in their lives. And while there aren’t any themes of prejudice or discrimination, there’s a definite social commentary on prescription drugs and their side effects.

Less Than Hero is the modern prescription for our over-medicated society, coming to save the day March 17, 2015.

Filed under: Less Than Hero,Movies and Books,Novels — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:26 am

How To Care For and Feed Your Author

Congratulations! You’ve just brought home a new favorite author. Or maybe you already had a favorite author, or several favorite authors, and you’ve decided to add to your growing family/library.

While this is a happy time in your life, we understand it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to figure out how to manage your time and where to make room for them on your shelves. Not to mention all of the sleepless nights spent staying up late reading.

We’re here to help.

Fortunately, not all authors require the same amount of feeding and care. Some are New York Times bestsellers who have developed a great deal of independence and manage to do fine on their own, while others are nurtured by large cult followings or Hollywood film adaptations. Then there are all of the rest who struggle to get the attention they need.

More than ever, the majority of today’s authors depend on word-of-mouth to help sell their books. The marketing and publicity departments at most publishing houses don’t have the time or financial resources to promote the average author, and most authors don’t have the financial resources to hire an outside publicist. Chances are, they’re working a day job, maybe two, just to pay their bills so they can spend their free time writing.

That’s where you, the reader, come in.

While you’ve already taken that first step and brought a new author into your loving home, here are some simple things you can do to help play a role in their success:

  • Re-tweet posts by your favorite authors on Twitter, especially those tweets that mention their books
  • Like and Share posts by your favorite authors on Facebook. The more you Like and Share, the more the posts will be seen by other people who might not have otherwise heard of the authors.
  • Spread the word. Tell your family and friends. Share your love for your favorite authors on social networks.
  • Write reviews for your favorite authors on Amazon
  • Buy a copy of your favorite author’s book for a friend or a family member

If you can find the time to do one or more of the items on the above list, you will help your favorite authors to stay fed and warm. And with any luck, when they grow up, they can repay your kindness by publishing more books.


Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 10:47 pm

Awesome Mix Vol. 2

I’m a big fan of incorporating songs into my novels, whether they’re playing in the background, referred to by name, or quoted by one of my characters. I’ve done this in my novels Breathers, Fated, and Big Egos. Music helps to set the mood of a scene and can add another dimension to a novel or short story.

When it comes to movies, I love a good soundtrack. The right song can resonate emotionally and leave a lasting impression, creating favorite movie soundtrack moments. Like Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in the bus scene from Almost Famous. Or “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies at the end of Fight Club.

Sometimes the soundtrack not only helps to set the mood, but is essential to the film. Other times, it’s part of the plot.

In last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy (which was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences of 2014), the soundtrack is woven in via a mixed tape called Awesome Mix Vol. 1 that the main character (Chris Pratt) was given by his mother. After her death, he gets abducted by a spaceship and 26 years later, our hero appears on another planet still listening to that same mixed tape.

On 2014 Earth, the songs on the playlist, most of which were popular in the 1970s, might seem retro or dated or cheesy by those who don’t appreciate Elvin Bishop or The Five Stairsteps.

But placed in the context of another world filled with action and adventure and where the fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of a displaced kid from Earth who still uses a Walkman cassette player, songs like “Come and Get Your Love” and “Escape (the Pina Colada Song)” are sweet, comical, and mesh perfectly with the film and the characters. In a way, the soundtrack is like a character itself.

So, inspired by the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, I’ve compiled my own Awesome Mix Vol. 2 playlist, listed below in alphabetical order. I limited the playlist to twelve songs to match the number of songs in the original mix and also stuck with the 1970s era. (Full disclosure: I unabashedly listen to a number of the songs in this playlist on a regular basis.)

 Awesome Mix Vol. 2
“Baby Come Back” by Player
“Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band
“Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1” by Marvin Gaye
“Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren
“Ladies Night” by Kool & The Gang
“No Matter What” by Badfinger
“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
“September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire
“Shambala” by Three Dog Night
“Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
“Sister Golden Hair” by America
“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate

So what are some of your favorite soundtrack moments? And what are some of the songs you would put on your Awesome Mix playlist?

Filed under: Movies and Books,Music,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 7:04 am