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Two West Texas natives are hoping to make a name for themselves in the world of writing, all while using Sweetwater as the backdrop for their most recent book.
Jon L. Brown grew up in Sweetwater during the 1960s and '70s while his father, Mike, served as the District Conservationist at the Soil Conservation Service. While his brothers Jack and Jim graduated from Sweetwater High School, Jon's family moved after his sophomore year to Mount Pleasant, Texas.
It was in this new town where Jon would meet his wife, Judy. She, too, has ties to West Texas, as she spent her youth in Seminole and Tahoka.
While Judy taught elementary school and junior high reading, Jon was a high school math teacher who later worked as a school administrator and elementary school principal. After 26 and 27 years in the field of education, respectively, Jon and Judy retired.
With their free time, the couple decided to try their hand at writing and illustrating children's books. Additionally, Jon began writing some young adult and adult fiction books.
His most recent work, "Ghost of the Ax Grinder," is a suspenseful thriller. But, locals who enjoy the horror genre might have another reason to take a greater interest into the book.
"Many times [Jon] has shared with us stories of an old haunted house on the southeast side of [Sweetwater] (that used to be visible just north of the Interstate) that he and his brothers frequented," said Judy. "He based his latest book on those stories where Sweetwater gets terrorized by the ghost of Bogus Tom."
According to the book's synopsis, Bogus Tom is a bullied and harassed teenager who can no longer take the insults and goes on a killing rampage during the 1920s. When the local sheriff takes Tom down, his final words are "I'm still not done."
The book then fast forwards, decades later, to a group of students from Sweetwater High School. When they accidentally summon Bogus Tom's ghost, they turn to their parents for help, but Bogus Tom picks up where he left off, leading to martial law, the evacuation of the entire town, and the sole sanctuary of a small, old church in downtown Sweetwater.
Jon has always considered Sweetwater--with the local staples of Mustang Bowl and Allen's Chicken--as his hometown, leading him to use the community as the location of the book. Since he moved here in 1973, the story was forming in Jon's mind, especially following Jon's run through the old house with his brother Jim and his friend Gary just before their Saturday night curfew.
And thirty-nine years later, the manuscript for "Ghost of the Ax Grinder" was completed, bringing Sweetwater face-to-face with a horror story.
"I love Sweetwater and would never want anything bad like this to happen there," said Jon. "At the same time, I have seen several of the horror stories coming out of Hollywood and thought to myself that I could do better."
Additionally, Jon wrote a screenplay for the story. While he wished that the script could have been drafted before the novel, he would love to see the book come to life on the silver screen.
"If there is a chance that this could actually make it into a movie, of all the places we have lived, I would want Sweetwater to benefit financially. I am certainly not Stephen King, but the story and the ending are pretty cool," added Jon.
In the meantime, the Browns are taking it one step at a time, by making this work, their three children's stories, and a western originally written by Jon's father available on Amazon.com.
"We have gone through the typical process of sending queries to publishers and agents," explained Judy, "but the frustration level can get pretty high when they are (more often than not) returned unopened."
By using the online publishing method--which is recommended by several books for obtaining a publisher/agent, the Browns hope to attract someone's attention. But they also have an understanding that in the Digital Age, a publishing contract "may not be as important as it used to be."
However, Jon's most recent book will be unveiled this week, a fifteen-year project. "Opening the Windows of Time" is also set in Sweetwater, where physicist Frank Taylor has created a device that allows him to see every single thing a person has said or done.
The service is offered to the Holy Catholic Church, as well as the Texas Rangers and U.S. Army in their efforts to fight crime. The technology is envied by nations worldwide, but Dr. Taylor refuses to turn it over.
Frank's machine then solves historical mysteries, but then uncovers--on national television--corruption within the White House. Unraveling the lies from President Purvis in the process--in which Dr. Taylor doesn't tolerate liars, the Commander in Chief wants him dead.
To learn more about Jon and Judy's book "Ghost of the Ax Grinder," visit Amazon.com and enter the book title in the search bar. The book can be obtained an e-book for Kindle.