Thursday, December 31, 2009

Static Movement Special Print Edition 2

Check out the recently released Static Movement Special Print Edition Volume 2. My story, 'Broken Hearted Savior' appears there within. Read on for a blurb and contributors.

I would like to thank Kyle Naden for providing the image for my story—he is a brilliant young artist in his mid-teens. Kyle has inspired several of my short stories and his illustration for 'Broken Hearted Savior' catches the story in a unique light.

Editor Chris Bartholomew created the ezine Static Movement in order to publish stories readers get lost in. The ezine Static Movement has been around for years, a starting point for new writers and a test of mettle for seasoned pros. The stories in this anthology come directly from the ezine, ranging from speculative to literary fiction, written by some of the most well-known up-and-coming writers out there such as Eric S. Brown, John Klawitter and P.S. Gifford. Illustrations and artwork enhance each story. Prices for similar products in bookstores target around $20.00, but you can purchase Static Movement Print Special No. 2 for $10.00.

Waiting-by Ken Head
Expiry-by Mo Irvine
Down the Corridors of Life Purloined-by Anthony G. Bernstein
See Mouse Fly-by John Klawitter
Me & MB-by John Klawitter
The Collector-by Sarah Frost Mellor
Whispering through the Veil-by J.T. Evans
Hands of Mercy-by John “JAM” Arthur Miller
The Herbs of Andali-by James P. Wagner
Those Left Behind-by Kevin Wallis
Scary Story-by Leonardo “Leo” John Miller
The Nightmare-by Vincent “Vinnie” Logan Miller
The Disappearance of Alice P. Liddell-by Michael Hanson
Stealing Skyward (creative nonfiction)-by Joshua Michael Johnson
The Wikid Pedia: A Reminder, A Warning, A Short History-by James A. Stewart
Falling Away-by T.L. Bodine
Awaken to a Nightmare-by Brian Barnett
Dinnertime-by Rick McQuiston
The Cull-by John Irvine
Earth Bound-Elliot Richard Dorfman
Walking the Winds at Dawn (Falling through the Clouds at Night)-by Justin Curtis
Work at Home Job-James P. Wagner
Broken Hearted Savior-by A.J. Brown
Emotion Eaters-by Scott Wilson
Taedium Mortis-by Louise Norlie
The Call-by John Stanton
At the Seaside , by the Sea-by Florence Stanton
FETCH!-by Ken Goldman
Swan Maiden-by Tala Bar
She-by Shelly Muir
Ill Met in Turquoise Sunset-by Glen Held
The Chest (a tribute to Edgar Allen Poe's “The Gold Bug”)-by S. Copperstone
Static Movement-by John “JAM” Arthur Miller
Silent Delivery-by Jamie K. Schmidt
Behind Closed Doors-by Charlotte Emma Gledson
The Wranglers-by Eric S. Brown
The Dentist Visit-by P.S. Gifford
Poetry by:
Lee Kuruganti
William Wolford
Ken Head
Jonathan Crider
John C. Mannone
Michael H. Hanson
Brandon L. Rucker
Deborah Walker
P.S. Gifford


Shane McKenzie
Lucas Pederson
John Stanton
Jack S. Rogers
Lee Kuruganti
Kyle Naden

You can go here for the purchasing information:

Static Movement

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bonded By Blood II: A Romance In Red

Welcome, ye dark visceral explorers, to the second-born anthology of SNM Horror Magazine, featuring 20 of the darkest short stories published and brought to you exclusively from SNM Horror Mag. These are the new voices of horror today and our next generation of tomorrow’s pioneers. We finally unleash them back upon the Earth to haunt the sleep of the living and wake the Dead from their slumber. Yes, Bonded by Blood II!

SNM Horror Mag is honored to showcase them in this crypt we call our best of anthology. It features only the SOTM over 18 months. Also included are 2 bonus tracks from the Chief Editor; one of which is a collaborative story with SNM author Joel Peterson. We have built this hallowed Mausoleum from the grave on up and have brought it into daylight by way of darkness. We hope you welcome and embrace it. We have exhumed only the very darkest from our blackened crypt. If you like cerebral, suggestive horror that isn’t afraid to cross new thresholds in shocking the reader and making them think twice, then look no further.

We have finally been rated the #1 Online Horror Magazine of 2009! Thank you for your kind support of the featured writers herein as they are paid royalties for every sale. We really took our time to do this one right and have featured the best 20 stories of over 800 submissions from the last 18 months! We hope it reflects your highest standards. Please recommend us and support our endeavor.

We know you will discover some dark talent and enjoy the featured stories. The best way to show your support to the authors is to buy their books and visit their websites posted at the bottom of each story and in their bios. We have both new male and female horror authors for you to choose from. We hope that you find it disturbing. May it darken your daydreams…and illuminate your nightmares!

Here is the lineup in order for Bonded By Blood II:

James Cheetham - Bumper Shine
Dianna Street - Making Of A Monster
James Woodcock - The Suffering
Jen Conley - Old Hag's Syndrome
Allison Rogers - Gravedigger
Elizadeth Hetherington - Immortal Stone
A.J. Brown - Sarah's Playground
J.C. Lira - A Head Full Of Bad Animals
Jack Burton - The Gambler
Suzie Bradshaw - Wagging Tongues
Steven Marshall - I Dream of Death
A.R. Braun - The Interloper
Brett Graham - Dr. Spindle's House
Daniel Fabiani -Grave Offerings
Adrian Ludens - Cold Feet
Stacy Bolli - Behind Dark Corners
Liz Strange- Night of Stolen Dreams
Kerry Morgan - Blood Brothers
Brian Johnpeer - The Pen
SNM & Joel Peterson - Love Gently Bleeds

20 short stories, 250 pages, 94,000 words. Retail Price: $15.95 + S&H

In closing, we leave you with the foreword written by Wendy Brewer, Copy Editor for Edward Lee and Editor of the Dark Hart anthologies.

“Many years ago, I took on the arduous task of editor for a “For the Luv” horror ezine called The Murder Hole. There was no monetary gratification for myself, for the woman who hosted the website, or for any of the contributors. Yet month after month I was overwhelmed with submissions and I still managed to put forth issues highlighting some of the best dark fiction out there. From well-established writers to semi-established writers working their way to the top, to newbies, I’ve watched over the years as many of the authors I published moved on to become award-winning novelists, mass-market novelists, even publishers and editors. It’s kind of like watching your babies growing up to be successful in doing what they love and do best: writing.

That being said, I completely understand what Steven N. Marshall puts into his ezine each and every month. It takes a lot of dedication. It takes a lot of hard work. It requires enthusiasm and unconstrained loyalty to his chosen path, even in the face of adversity; perseverance overcoming animosity. And Steve manages to pull it off, putting out a new issue every month with style and flair, overwhelmingly denoting the true reasons he continues.

It’s all about “for the love of.”

The authors published by SNM every month demonstrate that same love and dedication. Reading the stories in this anthology, you can’t help but see the love these writers have for their craft of writing. Their best efforts shine through brilliantly in every story, adding new twists to old plots, bending rules, breaking out of the proverbial ‘box’, showing the readers that not only do they love to write, but they write for a simple reason: They want to entertain you, the reader.

This yearly crowning achievement published by SNM is a work of love, devotion and commitment by the authors and editors for those who enjoy and appreciate the efforts put forth by all involved. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, packed with compelling horror and dark fiction that will keep you turning the pages long after you should have turned the lights out and gone to bed.

I was truly honored when Steve had approached me about doing the introduction for this anthology. The anthologies he puts out prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the writing and creating of stories and the genuine objective to entertain isn’t all about money. It’s about literary achievement in the horror community and becoming known. It doesn’t happen overnight!

The editors know this.
The contributors know this.
Now the readers know this.
It’s all about telling a story.
And, most importantly…

It’s all about “for the love of.”

I was very impressed by this anthology. The consistency of quality writing, they way that each story stands apart from one another, the literary prose, the haunting residual in the mind, makes this a perfect masterpiece of fiction. It is comprised of the Stories of the Month for a year and a half, over careful consideration and selection from a top-rated magazine that publishes cerebral, psychological horror; horror that isn’t afraid to cross taboo thresholds, yet suggest something so menacing that the reader is grateful it’s kept offstage. Let these brave pioneers of the next Poe and Lovecraft generation whisper their dark secrets into your soul and haunt you in the most eerie, personal way: through the power of suggestion and the art of horrific eloquence. My favorite type of reading!”

Wendy Brewer, Copy Editor for Edward Lee.

Order your copy of Bonded By Blood II today or die trying!

Thank you for your loyalty and support to SNM Horror Mag.

The SNM Mausoleum is now built…and the Dead have been ripped from the Crypt and exhumed from the Tomb!

Darkest Wishes,
Steven Nicholas Marshall
Senior Editor / Moderator
SNM Horror Magazine

Friday, December 11, 2009


Down the street a truck appears, adorned in reds and greens, its lights shining. The driver honks and waves a meaty hand as he passes through the crowd of onlookers. Three fingers are missing, a pinky and thumb form an odd L shape. "Merry Christmas," he bellows. It comes out "Mare-wee Cwis-moss."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Again, It Continues...

"Here they come," a kid shouts, others echo his words. Eyes open wide in anticipation and little ones squirm in their seats; blankets come off as they stomp their feet, kicking up clouds of dust.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It continues

There's no snow this year; streets are covered in dust and dirt, debris from crumbling buildings, worn by time, weather and the passing wars. Few trees have stood the test of bombs and bullets, fewer windows remain intact.

A breeze blows along Main Street, lifting grit and trash into the air. Many cover their faces, kids cry out from the sting of sand in eyes; some adults shake their heads and wonder why others choose not to wear protective goggles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Story In Pieces

So, I decided to do this story on Facebook, posting excerpts with updates. Sadly, I can only post 420 characters at a time, which amounts to about 130-140 words, depending on spaces. The parts will be posted each day starting today and going through Christmas Eve.

But, wait, AJ, I said to myself. What if folks don't use Facebook? Well, then they are out of luck. Ah, but Mr. Self wouldn't allow that. Other egos stepped in, I was beaten 48 times with a wet noodle--that actually hurts, by the way--and finally, the powers that be gave in to the masses and said post the story, in parts, on Blogger and MySpace.

So, here we are, myself and all of my other selves (one of them looking over my shoulder making sure I do this right) bringing you some Christmas cheer.

The story is titled 'Not Like It Use To Be.'

Enjoy and come back tomorrow to read more.

Thank you.

I'm AJ and I'm out and here is the beginning of 'Not Like It Used To Be.'


Families line the streets, kids bundled in coats, hats, gloves and blankets. Adults stand or sit in folding chairs, hands in pockets or laps, their excitement matching the children's. A chill hugs each person tight. Teeth clatter, legs shake and dance, trying to stay warm. Hot chocolate and coffee work for a while but fade, leaving shivers along spines.

"How much longer, Momma?" they asks, young eyes and hearts waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of an elf or reindeer or Santa Clause. Maybe some candy will get tossed their way.

"Not much longer," mothers and fathers announce, some happily, others with a chagrin that sits in their stomachs like heavy rocks. Christmas isn't like it was when they were kids, back when December meant presents and eggnog and feasts, parties and family get-togethers, Christmas lights and holiday specials on television. Snow-filled streets meant sledding and snowmen, snow angels and snow ball fights.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commitment? Really? Do I Have To?

It starts at an early age. What's that? What starts at an early age? The fear of commitment starts at an early age with many males.

What are you talking about, AJ? Seriously? Are you on the strawberry Kool-Aid again?

Hold on. Hold on. I can explain this if you have a minute or five.

My son is four years old. He is a fairly well adjusted child who likes Hot Wheels, Lightning McQueen and beating up his daddy. Other hobbies include watching Sid the Science Kid, running really fast and beating up his daddy.

There is a theme here.

Last year Logan went to a three year old pre-kindergarten class three days a week. He was one of only four boys in the class. The other fifteen children were, you guessed it, little girls with ponytails and shiny eyes. One of the boys left a few weeks into the school year, leaving three boys and fifteen girls. It kind of reminds me of that old Jan and Dean song, Surf City. Instead of two girls for every boy, it was more like five girls for every boy.

There was one child among these young ladies that was smitten with my son. She's a cute little child with dark hair and dark eyes. A few weeks into the school year she got up the courage to play with Logan. After that she played with him on a regular basis. Then it happened.

"Logan Brown," she says in all seriousness. "I'm going to marry you."

The blood in my son’s face drained out, leaving a pale mask of his normally cheerful persona. It happened another couple of times with that same little girl. When I asked him about it, he covered his head with his blanket and refused to come out.

That was last year…

Logan is now in four-year-old pre-kindergarten going four days a week. The ratio of boys to girls is no longer five girls to every boy—it's almost even. However, recently, it happened again. My son was minding his own business after school, running and playing with his friends out on the front lawn while parents talked and gossiped.

A little girl with dimples and a ponytail and a year younger than Logan walked up to him.

"Logan," she said. "When I grow up, I'm going to marry you."


That is what appeared on my boy's face. Fright. Not because the girl is scary—she's quite adorable. But, because, now, twice in two years, girls have proclaimed their desires to marry him—and they were/are only three years old.

My son now has the pressure of two lasses wanting to marry him. What is he going to do when he gets older and falls in love?

I imagine his girlfriend asking, "Are we ever going to get married?"

A look of terror is going to sweep over my son's face and he is going to run for the hills. He is going to remember these two little girls coming to him at such a young and tender (and impressionable) age, about their desires to marry him, and he is going to freak out. It's too much pressure. Too much anxiety.

How do we avoid this?

Unfortunately, we can't. There will always be the added dread of relationships, both beginning and ending, that will haunt every individual throughout their lives. Sweaty palms, tongues that knot up when the object of our affection is around, stupidity… Yes, we all do stupid things for our loved ones. Don't deny it. Look back and you will find at least one stupid thing you’ve done for a loved one that you wouldn't do for anyone else.

Ahh, I have gotten off course. If any of you women out there have men who are afraid to or don't seem to want to commit, step back. Don't nag him or fuss at him. Don’t give him the ‘or else’ ultimatum. Think about a possible childhood event that has caused him severe trauma, such as a little girl at age three saying "I am going to marry you."

For many men, this is the root of commitment fears…

That will be a nickel please.


In the Silence of this Room can be purchased now at The Grey Sparrow Press website. Go here for more details:

In the Silence of this Room

My story, "Walking on Red Brick Road," is within these pages.


Being a University of Michigan fan, I was pleased to see Michigan win this weekend and both Ohio State and Notre Dame lose.

It's really the little things that bring me so much joy in life.


Cool places worth checking out:

Necrotic Tissue

The Patchwork Project


Dark Recesses



Paula Ray did an interview with me last week and she has posted it up at her blog page, Back Space Junkie. It's rather lengthy. Read, leave comments. Check it out here:

Back Space Junkie


And, one other thing—yeah, I’m on the Strawberry Kool-Aid again.

I'm AJ and I'm out…

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kids . . . Yah Gotta Love 'Em

It’s been a hectic week, with a sick one in tow and missing several days of work. I did very little writing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

In weeks like this I look for little nuggets of laughter to carry me from day to day. I share with you a couple of them now:

My son has been ill most of the week with a fever, cough and ear infection. When little ones are sick they become wimpy lumps of flesh—much like most grown men. My son is NOT like this. Though he was down at times, he was still hyper and active. The two of us sat in the recliner, he on my right, a blanket on his legs, juice in one hand. Sid the Science Kid played on the television. Out of the blue my son makes a statement.

“Daddy,” he said. “I want to beat you up.”

He followed this statement with an elbow to my stomach.

He caught me off guard, to say the least.

“I thought you weren’t feeling well,” I said.

“I’m better. I’m going to beat you up.”

Another elbow followed.

And, this is the way it is when my youngest is sick—ill until he has an opportunity for a sucker punch.


My daughter is in love with Nick Jonas. Yes, my eight year old is in love with a “rock star.”

I guess that’s okay. Better than being in love with Manson, eh?


As we all know, it is October, and October means Halloween. What better song than ‘This is Halloween’ by Marilyn Manson than to celebrate the coolest ‘holiday’ of the year?


Speaking of Halloween, my sister asked my niece and nephews what they wish to be for Halloween.

“I want to be a vampire,” Annemarie, the oldest, said.

Okay, as long as she doesn’t sparkle, I guess that is okay.

John, the four year old said, “Turn on ‘Can’t Stop,’” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anna complied. John immediately pointed to John Frusciante, the guitarist. Okay, that’s easy enough.

Then she turned to Ben, the middle child. At seven, Ben is somewhat of a follower and has a hard time making decisions. So, when it came time for him to answer, he was less inclined to give his own thoughts.

“Ben, what do you want to be for Halloween?” my sister asked.

He shrugged. “Annemarie has a good idea, so I’ll do that.”

My sister, ever the patient one, rolled her eyes and knelt down (not that she really needed to kneel down, she is two inches under five feet tall—I don’t care what she says). “Ben, I want to know what YOU want to be for Halloween.”

Ben has an evil smile. He gives her this particular smile, his eyes gleam and he says, “I want to be a whoopee cushion.”

I’m so proud of him. . .


The State Fair has arrived here in not so sunny South Carolina. Catherine and I took the kids on this gray, cool day. The corn dogs were great, as were the Fiske Fries. Chloe did the rock climbing, which surprised me. Though she didn’t make it to the top, she did go almost all the way up. She made the mistake of looking down and became scared when she realized how high up she was.

Logan perked up after being sick all week and rode as many rides as he could, some of them half a dozen times. They both rode the children’s roller coasters—several times. As a parent, I get more enjoyment and fulfillment out of watching my children have fun.


Did I mention my daughter loves Nick Jonas?


My dog has Extreme ADD. Seriously. She has no attention span what so ever.


Chloe held a book in her hands and read off several jokes. If you know my daughter, you also know that she is matter of fact when she is reading, especially jokes from books.

She read, “What type of phone does the ocean have?”

I confess, most of these types of jokes I don’t know. Kids jokes. They are so simple, they are brilliant.

“I don’t know,” I said and leaned back in my desk chair.

“Shell Phones,” she said, her eyebrows rose, her head swiveling. “Duhhhh… Get it Cell phone, shell phone?”

That’s my daughter.

Did I mention my daughter loves Nick Jonas?


A free concert series has started on the grounds of the historic Columbia Motor Speedway. One of my favorite local bands played last night in the open field that used to be the racetrack. There was beer for the drinkers and food for the eaters and, well, not much for the children.

I guess it was like Woodstock, but without the weed…


I would like to throw out a promotion for Cutting Block Press’ new collection, Butcher Shop Quartet Volume II. For a glimpse of the book, read further:

The Breach, by Greggard Pennance

Jared, one of the few survivors from the crash of flight 319, is visited in his dreams by one of the perished passengers. Needing answers, he is drawn to the site of the wreckage -- 140 feet deep in the Atlantic. What Jared finds there is beyond extraordinary, and it sets him on a path to make choices that will determine much more than his own fate.

Road Rash, by Simon Janus

After a botched bank robbery in which the rest of his team is lost, Straley escapes on foot. Toting the loot, he is desperate for a set of wheels. Then his luck seems to turn his way, as he finds the car he needs, but soon he learns that it has come at a terrible price - in acquiring it, he's contracted an aggressive skin rash, and soon it is ravaging his body. When he receives his diagnosis, a terrible curse, he learns that he must use up the last of his loot in attempt to rid himself of this infliction. He must journey into the depths of Central America, where he will find the answer he needs … or doesn't need.

Bodies Raining, by Rick J. Brown.

As a young boy, Corey is the only witness to an atmospheric miracle that will signal the beginning of the end of civilization. Years later, after a virulent disease has ravaged the Earth, and with no safe way to dispose of the corpses, Corey must leave his wife to work in space as a 'body dropper'. While human corpses pile up on the surface of the moon, he is sent to the surface to unravel a mystery. There Corey finds that even the most unimaginable of events can be natural, up to and including personal vengeance.

Condemned, Written by Vince Churchill, Story by Ray Brown (R. Lenard Brown)

In a blink the world changes, but Quentin is too busy having illicit sex to notice. It isn't long before things in the Midwestern town of Benson become strange. People are different, neighbors violent. He learns that the Rapture has occurred, and that he was mistakenly left behind. As all Hell breaks loose, Quentin finds himself in the race of his life, and he has one chance to reclaim his salvation. Accompanied by two gun-toting preachers, he must reach the Church of the First God before sunrise, and all that stands in his way is a long night and the enraged souls of the damned.

Check it out at:

Butcher Shop Quartet II


Did I mention my daughter loves Nick Jonas?

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out…

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Tough Week...

Normally, I do very little writing related work on the weekends, especially with football season here! Florida at LSU tonight, though I won’t see much of that game. Michigan is playing at the same time against ranked Iowa.

I know you aren’t reading this to find out about my love of football. Just wait until I start talking hockey . . .

Anyway . . .

It was a rough week for me on the submissions front. Nine rejections, two of which were shortlisted stories at paying publications. The others were also from paying places, yet not shortlisted. It is during weeks like this where the lack of good news can cause a dip in confidence for many writers. I admit that I was a little frustrated with one of the rejections—I REALLY thought the story would get in. All this really means is that I’ll rework the stories and send them back out.

Not too long ago, this type of week would have gotten me down and made me ponder why I even write. I will be honest, this week did make me question certain things about my writing . . . and that is a good thing. Yes, that’s right: a good thing. When I get frustrated like this, I start researching, studying and try to better my abilities. I can smile at this moment because I have discovered that there is a significant flaw within my writing: Often I don’t use my words wisely. Every word should count—and I have a habit of not doing that. This is a chance for me to grow as a writer; a chance to improve on the craft.

This leads me to other writers. If you are a writer and you are reading this, first of all, thank you. Second, a rejection is a stepping-stone. It may feel like a lily pad and you may feel like you are sinking because you are standing on that lily pad. But, rejections are not always bad. If you take the negative and turn it into a positive by working harder and honing your skills as a writer, then the rejection is not just something to paper the wall with.

Rejections can cause a writer to lose confidence in him/herself. Don’t ever doubt yourself or your abilities. My dad has always said, if you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? I believe in myself. I believe I am getting better. I believe I will continue to get better and will finally get into some of those publications I have been pestering over the last couple of years. You publications know who you are—I’m coming, and eventually, you will like something I write . . . I hope . . .


On to other news.

In my last post I mentioned Grey Sparrow Press. I am mentioning them again. Yes, they are a literary market but Diane Smith and Dean Lawson have a great thing going over there. The website is beautiful, easy to navigate and enjoyable.

Check them out at: Grey Sparrow Journal

There is another reason I put this plug in here twice within a week: Grey Sparrow Press has released a collection of fiction, poetry and artwork titled, In the Silence of this Room. This book has been in the works for about two years, and well worth the wait. Holy cow. In the Silence of this Room is a beautiful hardback book with glossy pages, color pictures, a smooth dust jacket. Beautiful. That’s the only way I can describe it.

And, then there is one other fact: My story, “Walking on Red Brick Road,” appears within these pages. I’m very proud to be part of this publication and thank Diane Smith for using “Walking on Red Brick Road.”

Check it out here:

In the Silence of this Room


And, to add to this, here are the recent stories that have gone up on various publications this month. Check them out if you haven’t already.

Apartment 306 at SNM Horror Magazine

Release at The Monsters Next Door

House of Horror

These Eyes at Dark and Dreary Magazine

These Eyes at Dark and Dreary Magazine

Chapiesky at Flashes In the Dark

Broken Hearted Savior at Static Movement


I would like to leave you folks with a video. I saw this last week. Being a parent, I can appreciate it. If you are a parent—and more specifically, a mom—I’m sure you will be able to relate to this. If you are not a parent, well, just remember this song when you become one.


I’m AJ and I’m out.

Monday, October 5, 2009


While talking to my friend, Dameion, recently, we came to the conclusion that, as writers, there is something that we should always do or be or make sure happens, in the event that one or both of us become popular, if not famous writers.

What is it, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Really? Well, go ahead and ask. I can wait.

Okay, much better.

In order to get a following of any sort, a story must be entertaining. But, that's not the thing we should make sure and do; however, it is a major component of getting that following that all writers want, which leads to the thing we should always do. We are told to follow this rule and that rule and these rules over here and what this person says is gold and we should listen to them. It's aggravating, to be honest. However, even if a person follows all the rules, it doesn't mean the story is great. It just means you have a well-written piece. There is a significant difference between a well-written story and an . . . entertaining one. If a story doesn't entertain the reader, it really doesn't matter how well it is written—it won't keep the reader's interest and, thus, won't get read all the way through.

I put this in here because it was one of the things we discussed at length. We also noted that everyone, including editors, have their favorite types of stories and, though one publication may reject your work, there are others out there who may accept it. Again, it goes back to entertainment, back to keeping the reader reading.

Entertainment: Vital to the success of a writer. I think we writers should take on a new motto: How may I entertain you? And no, I don't mean going the route of a brothel or a street corner hooker. I mean just what it says: as writers, how can we entertain you, the readers? What do you want to see? Yes, I know you want originality, but beyond that, what intrigues you? What do you like to read? What do you dislike? In order to entertain you, we the writers, need to know what you, the readers, like.

Notice, I didn't ask this question of the editors? I did this on purpose. Yes, I know editors are an important piece of the submission pie, and what they like is very important. Editors, like writers, are readers first. However, editors have seen just about everything out there so they tend to be a little more jaded and writing fresh material is sometimes impossible. Unless . . . we know what you readers like.

If we are able to entertain you, then we develop somewhat of a following. I found out, recently, that I have a fan. Yes, just one, but one can lead to two, two to four, four to eight and, as you can see, there is a progression. Having a fan has made me realize that there is a great amount of pressure that comes with someone liking your work. What if something gets published that she doesn't like? What if it takes a few months to get something else published and there is nothing new out there on the market for her to read? More so, what if I stop entertaining this individual? Well, there goes the fan club. Knowing there is someone out there who enjoys my work, other than myself, that is, makes me strive harder to continue trying to get published and trying to entertain everyone. And, if not everyone, I want to continue pleasing the individual who enjoys my work.

With entertainment, hopefully, comes a little bit of popularity. What happens a lot of times when folks become popular or famous? Well, their head swells and hats no longer fit the way they used to. The ego comes to life. Not in everyone, mind you, but in plenty of folks. What happens then? The author becomes less accessible to the readers. And that brings us to the answer of the question. Dear readers what we must make sure to do and always remain to you is: be accessible. Not only should we remain accessible, but our stories should remain accessible as well.

A lot of people love Stephen King. I, myself, am a huge fan of his. Oh yes, even some of you writers out there secretly love him, too, even if you won't admit it. One of the reasons King is so loved is that he is accessible. Maybe not in the, hey let's call Stephen up and chat for an hour kind of way, but in a he's always out there kind of way. Also, his stories are accessible. I don't mean you can go to any bookstore out there and buy one of his novels. I mean that his stories are relatable and the every day person can say about any given character, ‘man, this guy sounds like me.’ People relate to his stories because, for the most part, his characters are every day people with every day problems in any small town around the world—just like, well, everyone else.

Go ahead say I'm wrong. Go ahead. I can wait. Oh, you have to think about this, don't you? Go ahead; ponder on as I finish up. . .

My goal, as a writer, is to entertain you. I may not be the most technically sound author out there—I've never taken any classes on writing outside of public schooling—and I may not have the big name or the backing that others have. And, I am notoriously shy about promoting myself—it all feels like bragging to me. However, I will do my best to entertain you. If, by some stroke of luck, I get somewhere in this business, I plan on staying accessible.

But, wait. There's more. Accessibility includes something else: For me, a lot of non-paying publications have helped me get my name out there. Granted, some of them have published mostly reprints, but I still send non-paying markets stories (especially if they take reprints). I feel like these ‘for the love markets’ are huge stepping-stones for writers and without them, many of us wouldn't have a chance, myself included. So, what do I do if I make a name for myself? I make sure and not forget those markets that helped me along the way.

Yeah, I know, I can make a lot of money selling REPRINTS if I make it in the writing world. But, I honestly feel like part of the reason the horror market has gone south and lots of publications have shut down is simply because once people start making it, they stop paying attention to the nonpaying or low paying markets, which, at one time, were the only places that would accept no name writers.

It’s about accessibility. It’s about remembering what got you there. It’s about entertainment. I think if you can do all three of those, then you will have some sort of success in writing.

As a writer, we put ourselves out there, we write and we bust our butts revising and submitting, getting rejected, revising, submitting again and again and again. There are those times when we want it to be all about us. Understand something: It is NEVER about us. Ever. Period. End of discussion. E.T., don’t bother calling home. Once it becomes about us and not the story and the readers we let ego get in the way and, as we’ve seen with several good writers, the quality of work goes down and so does the fan base.

I’m done rambling, for the most part, but remember: Entertainment. Accessibility. Remember where you came from.


A few things of pimpage and I am done for the night.

Have you heard of Grey Sparrow Journal? It’s literary, I know, but the folks that run it are great people. Diane Smith, Dean Lawson, Sue Haigh are all talented individuals and really nice. I know I’m not big on literary markets, but if I hit one, it’s going to be Grey Sparrow Journal. The publication is beautiful, the poetry is magnificent and the stories are great.

Check them out at: Grey Sparrow Journal

Last week when I posted my blog I left off a publication. Check out Dark and Dreary Magazine and my story “These Eyes.”

These Eyes at Dark and Dreary Magazine

Here is another cool site, but not so much for the fiction, though there is good fiction there, but for what it is about. Patchwork Project is about exposing domestic abuse, bringing it more into the light and making folks more aware about the different types of abuse out there. Douglas Churchill started this last Halloween and its year anniversary is drawing near. Go check it out, drop Doug a line. If you have stories that do NOT glorify abuse but is about that particular subject, drop him a story as well. No, it’s not paying, but it’s for a worthy cause.

The Patchwork Project


Don’t forget about SNM Horror Magazine. My story ‘Apartment 306’ is up for the month of October.

Apartment 306 at SNM Horror Magazine

Also, currently playing at The Monsters Next Door is my story ‘Release.’ It’s not for the squeamish, but I promise, it is tactful.

Release at The Monsters Next Door

Also, showing at the House of Horror are various stories in issues 1-4. Just click on the covers of each issue and read through the stories in the various rooms.

House of Horror


Thank you all for reading. Feel free to leave comments. I don’t bite all the time. Just some of the time.

I’m AJ and I’m out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Random Ramblings and Shameless Pimping

It’s October. October. Let me say it again. October.

October is my favorite month of the year. We have fall weather, leaves changing, the state fair and Halloween. We also are treated to nightly horror movies on various cable channels. There is trick-or treating and haunted houses, Halloween parties and candy corn.

Yup, October is a great month.

I’m trying to convince my daughter to be a mummy this year, but I don’t think it’s working. Last year she dressed up as Wednesday Addams and she played the part perfectly. Too perfectly. One of the candy givers asked us if she were okay when she walked off. The thing is, that is the way she normally acts…

I’m not going to say what I’m trying to convince my wife to be this year…J


So, how are you all out there?

Seriously, how are you, folks? Has life been treating you right? Let’s hope so.


Now, to the nitty gritty.

Some of you may recall some of my goals from the beginning of the year. The thousand words a day goal is still coming along nicely.

The submissions process has come along as well: 132 subs so far this year. That’s a hefty number.

Now, for the one thing I really wanted to accomplish: 50 acceptances within the year. I sit at 34, just 16 off the mark with three months remaining. I still have a little over 30 stories out there in Submission World. Cross your toes, fingers and other parts. I think the ride is just beginning.


Liquid Imagination appeared on The Funky Werepig this past weekend. Greg Hall and company gave John Miller and myself a warm welcome and a lot of laughs. Check out the show on podcasts at Talk Radio here:

Liquid Imagination on The Funky Werepig


If you would like to read some of my stories you can check them out at the following places:

Apartment 306 at SNM Horror Magazine

A Bone White Hand at House of Horror
(There are several stories up at House of Horror Magazine, including in Issues 1, 2 and 3)

Release at The Monsters Next Door

March of the Trows at Liquid Imagination

Chapiesky at Flashes In the Dark

Broken Hearted Savior at Static Movement

Wild Horses at Static Movement

Look for other stories coming up in Ruthless Peoples Magazine and Necrotic Tissue sometime in a future near you…

Thanks for reading and if you like what you’ve read, spread the word. Please…

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's A Struggle

I sat down tonight to write a story. But nothing wants to come out. My muse is telling me more pressing things need to be written.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Ummm . . . how about talk about all of those struggling publications out there?”


“Because you are a writer and without anywhere to submit to then who is going to publish your work and why would you continue writing?”

“I enjoy it.”

“Come on, AJ, tell the truth. You want to be published.”

“Well, yeah.”

“What if all the zines shut down? Where would you get published?”

My muse should have been a lawyer.

So, here I sit, keyboard in front of me, paper of notes beside the computer for a story I wanted to start on. Instead, I am going to write on something that affects all of us writers: what if there were no markets out there?

Seriously. What if we writers had nowhere to submit our stories? What if we had no one to read our works?

This is no laughing matter, folks.

Right now, the horror genre seems to be losing publication upon publication. There are many reasons why: the inability to finance those publications, under budgeting and over spending or just not being able to get enough quality submissions to fill the pages (even online pages).

It is this last part that I want to talk about.

Writers want to get paid for their work. Am I right? Of course I am. Why give something away for free when you can sell it? The good ol’ American philosophy. It may not even be an American philosophy but a philosophy nonetheless.

So many folks say, “I’m not just going to give my stories away.” And, guess what? You’re right. You shouldn’t just give your stories away. Payment is nice, but does it always have to be in money? What about getting published and receiving free publicity? What about having your story out there so the world can read it?

But, AJ, if I give my stories to a free publication, then I can only sell it as a reprint. Yup, you got me there. This is true. But, sometimes having a story appear in an e-zine where people don’t have to pay for it will get you more reads.

But, AJ, many of these e-zines don’t have much of a following. Yup, you got me there, too. You folks are good. Some places don’t have that big of a following, but hey, what if, say, maybe a story is accepted at one of these free-zines, as I like to call them, and the writers actually advertised that their stories were there?

But, AJ, a lot of folks do that. Yes, they do, but not a lot of folks advertise when they get into a free-zine. It’s a publishing credit; it builds up the resume, but a lot of folks don’t say, “Hey guys/gals, go on over to Choking Chickens dot com and read my new story about choking chickens.” If it’s good enough to submit to, then it’s good enough to advertise that you got in it.

But, wait, I’m not throwing this completely on the writers.

No, part of the blame for these free-zines or small paying markets not getting enough subs falls on the zines themselves. What? How dare I? It’s easy. So many free-zines or small paying markets won’t take reprints and this is where I think they fall down. The best places to sub to aren’t just the places that pay you, but the places that want your story, regardless if it is an unpublished story or a reprint. The point is if it is a good story, then it’s publishable.

The key to the reprints is to make sure that the author has the rights to the story and that the publication that it first appeared in is duly noted. I’m not saying accept stories that came out within the last year, but to be open to accepting reprints. Chances are, if someone thought it was good enough to publish one time it may be good enough to publish again.

But, we want all original content. Yeah, everyone does, but many writers aren’t willing to give up a story for free or for little money. It’s just the facts.

With the state of our genre and so many magazines folding for various reasons, mostly financial, some compromise may need to be given to both the writer and the publisher.

“I don’t give my stories away.” Okay, but what about reprints?

It’s a struggle to get published, especially in the paying markets. It’s a struggle to get good submissions, especially in the non-paying markets. Some of these small zines just need a boost. A name writer or two giving them permission to use a reprint could go a long way to helping the zines and the writers.

For the publications the name of the game is staying in business, getting good stories and showcasing writers. For the writer, it’s about putting one’s self out there. And being rejected over and over again. Sometimes, those free-zines can get one’s name in the light.

We writers and publishers need to compromise a little. If we don’t start compromising then there won’t be many places to submit to. Or maybe none at all. That’s not something I want to see happen.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Letter From My Muse

A few days ago I received a letter in my mental in box. This is what it said:

Dear AJ,

Have you lost your mind? Seriously. Have you lost your ever-loving mind?

Almost seven weeks ago, we were cruising along writing stories, having a good time. Things couldn’t have gotten much better. Well, you could have gotten a couple more acceptances but other than that, we were doing all right—you and I.

Then you receive this rejection and it was kind of harsh. I’ve never seen you take a rejection so. . . so much to heart. It’s as if it made you actually stop and think. Think. That’s not your job—it’s mine.

So, what did you do? What did you do, man? You kicked me to the curb. ME! What did I ever do but help you create some of the best stories you have ever written? I mean, remember The Woodshed? We sweated and bled and cursed as we wrote that one. Yeah, I know I had a few beers but I work better when I’m a little off kilter. What about Chapiesky? Remember that story? You heard the name but I came up with the story. ME! And how about Sarah’s Playground? Yeah, you didn’t want to write that little piece of semi-erotic horror now did you? Aren’t you glad you listened to me now?

Those were good times, AJ. Good times, I say.

Then you threw it all away and for what? For more technical and fundamental writing? You wanted to try ‘following the rules.’ You have never been a rule follower, why start now? Come on, AJ—when was the last time you listened to even the simplest of rules?

So, tell me, where did it get you? Hmm?

Oh, that’s right. You wrote five stories in almost seven weeks? Really? I’m so proud of you, and if you don’t recognize that—it’s sarcasm.

Five stories? We used to write that many in a week—you and I. Do you remember those days? The days when we sat at the computer taking turns tap-tapping away on the keyboard, discussing characters and settings and emotions and plots and all the other good writerly types of stuff.

AJ, we were meant to be together. Dump your new partner and come back to me. I’ll make you happy. I’ll show you the fun in writing that we used to have—I’m certain all you have done is work at it since you left me at the computer.

Please, come to your senses.


Your Muse.

Well, my muse was right about a few things. We sure did have a good time together. The stories we created—I can truly say she was my darker side. So, after nearly seven weeks of being away from her, I wrote her back.

Dear Muse,

Can you forgive me for my stupidity? I have missed you and the way we connected. You are so much more fun than my other muse—she is a real witch, always making me work while I am writing. I don’t function that way. I hate the new style she is imposing on me. It’s not working out.

Any way, I have a lot of groveling to do. If you will take me back I will be loyal from hear on out. I promise.



Yeah, I know mine was short, but really I am the typical male and my muse knows this. She can call me on any lie and make me feel like crap for even trying.

Just for the record, she and I have gotten back together and have penned two stories in less than a day. It feels good to be back in the saddle and writing with a familiar partner. Sadly, she has obtained a whip since we were last together—and she likes to use it.


Over the last few weeks I did try and experiment with following the rules of writing. I will say that I have never wasted so much time in my life. It was horrible. My creativity left me, the words fled, the thoughts vanished and I stared at a blank screen for hours. It was my first significant bout with Writer’s Block.

After starting on a story recently and getting stuck on it, I said screw it and rewrote the piece using my old style, old voice and just let the story live. Talk about the feeling of freedom.

Be wary—AJ is back…


In other news, you can catch a couple of my stories online now.

First there is my story, “Broken Hearted Savior,” up at Static Movement. Chris Bartholomew has had this e-zine running for a long time and it just keeps getting better. Check out “Broken Hearted Savior” here:

Broken Hearted Savior at Static Movement

While you are at it, check out the other stories there. Drop Chris a line and tell her AJ sent you. No, I won’t get any money or anything, but hopefully Chris will get a little more traffic to her site.

You can also catch my short zombie story, “Staying Dead,” at The House of Horrors. It’s a new online zine that is run by S. E. Cox. She has worked hard at getting this up and running and it shows a lot of promise. Read “Staying Dead” here:

Staying Dead at The House of Horrors

Have you heard of Sonar 4 Publications? Shells Walter has put together a fine company and she is all about helping writers out. She should be commended for her efforts, which seem tireless. They’ve released a handful of collections recently and are on the rise. One of them, From the Mouth, is a collection of flash fiction. There are some great reads in this collection, the least of which is my story, “Rust.” Other writers in this collection include Kevin Wallis, Dawn Allison, LB Goddard, Cassandra Lee among others. You can order a copy of this anthology and the others in the Sonar 4 lineup by going to their website:

Sonar 4 Publications


Other topics of note are:

Check out the folks at Choate Road. Greg Hall runs the 13-block road so be wary of all sorts of things that go bump in the night. There is a cool interview with Louise Bohmer in the Meet the Neighbors section. Check out all of the entertaining pages and catch them on MySpace as well. For their website, go here:

Choate Road

Also, check out the Funky Werepig every Sunday night at 9 EDT on Talk Radio. They constantly have great guests and there is even a chat room where you can party with other listeners. This past Sunday the Sinister Minister himself, Maurice Broaddus showed up as the Werepig’s guest. Don’t worry if you missed previous episodes, you can catch them in the archives. I’ll make it easy for you. Go here for the archives and a listing of the next couple of shows:

The Funky Werepig

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back soon. Hopefully it won’t be six weeks from now but next week. Until next time, be safe.

I’m AJ and I’m out.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Give Them A Chance

I sat down to write this morning, a story in mind, a character to develop, a plot to work on. I went into the story with an open mind and a fresh attitude. I admit I haven't been in the best of moods lately so many of my stories haven't been coming out the way I want them to. Things just haven't been going the way they should. It shows in my writing. Well, it shows everywhere, but especially in my writing.

Writing isn't something I can just do straight through. I have to have the right mindset. Also, I need breaks. Every few hundred words or so I have to stop and do something else for a minute or two, then start back up. So, that is what I did today. I wrote about four hundred words, stopped for a second and checked my e-mail and looked at a web forum that I frequent (probably too much). A good friend of mine had posted a true story in this forum and I read it. It was about a young special needs boy who wanted to play baseball and the boys who let him play with them and how they aided him in succeeding in the game. The boy was a hero for a day and for the remainder of his short life he didn't forget the events of that afternoon. Sadly, the child died a few months later. The story was heart wrenchingly beautiful.

I leaned back in my chair, thinking of those events, picturing the little boy hitting a weak ground ball back to the pitcher. The pitcher intentionally overthrew first base. The other players followed suit, overthrowing each base and then cheering for him to run home, to score, to hit a game winning grand slam.

Some call it sportsmanship. I call it humanity. It's hard to let someone win at something—we are a competitive lot, us humans. But what these kids did was more than sportsmanship. It was more than humanity. It was all about giving someone a chance.

Do you understand what I'm getting at here?

They gave this kid—this boy who wasn't like them in many ways—an opportunity to do something they were physically gifted to do—something this child was NOT physically gifted to do. They gave him a chance to belong, to feel as if he were just one of the guys out playing ball before supper time.

In our world of money and competition and selfishness, these children put aside winning for the benefit of one person, one not like them. It was one of the greatest things each of these kids will ever do.

Isn't that what life is about? Giving? Helping?

Do you want to achieve greatness?? Do you want to feel good about what you are doing? Then take a page from these kids' books and give of yourself, put someone else ahead of you. Forget winning for a while. Forget being the best for a while. Forget about yourself for a while. Forget about money and fame and whatever else you want or feel you deserve in life. It's hard to do. Even for me, mister highly competitive himself.

Look around you. There's someone in everyone's life that we steer clear of, not because they're mean or snobby or have treated you wrong. No, we steer clear of these people because they are different. They're not like us. Maybe they're significantly overweight and you don't want to be seen with someone of that size for fear of what your friends may say. Wait, maybe the person is not as attractive as your standards would dictate for you to talk to them. Maybe they're too short or too tall or too thin or talk different or have a different skin color. Maybe they walk funny or are missing a limb or in a wheel chair. Maybe they have a disability or maybe they are an elderly person who smells like muscle and joint cream. Maybe it's the new person on the job or at the church or in the neighborhood. Maybe it's a homeless person. Who is it? Maybe it's someone in your own family that you've shunned or that you are not proud to call a family member. Yeah, we all have one of those, don't we?

I have a habit of attracting odd balls. Everywhere I go they seem to flock to me. Odd balls. You get that? Maybe they aren't so odd after all. Maybe, to them, I'm the odd ball? Maybe, to them, I'm the weirdo. You never know, do you?

Let's change gears here for a second but try to stay on the same track. In the everyday world we see all those seminars and pamphlets and television programs and books on self help or how to be successful. Education has a lot to do with it. So does drive and determination. You have to be willing to work at something to be successful at it. I say that all the time about writing. But, there is one thing that these self help/be successful guides leave out. In order to be successful, somewhere along the way, someone has to give you a chance. Someone has to say 'give it a shot.' Kind of like those boys did that day.

I don't care what anyone says, NO ONE gets anywhere without someone else giving them an opportunity to do so. We are given the prospect to succeed or fail every day. At our jobs, at our homes, out and about in everyday life. Success or failure is there for the taking. In order to have either of those you have to take a chance.

Okay, stick with me a little longer here.

I like to believe I am a decent writer—not great, not bad. I like to think that everyone would like my stories. Eh, not so much. For every acceptance letter I receive I get seven or eight rejections. It's the game of percentages and my percentages aren't too good right now. However, there are enough publications out there willing to give a no name like myself an opportunity to showcase my meager abilities. All it takes is the right person reading the right story at the right time. That can only happen when someone is willing to take a chance with someone they've never heard of. It's an endorsement on your abilities when an editor likes something of yours enough that they would publish it.

Even in the world of writing, which really is a cut throat sort of business, the right person at the right time can help create a success story. Or maybe gives the writer encouragement to continue on. For me, that person is Boyd Harris. I've mentioned him numerous times in the past and with good cause. It was his encouragement in a rejection letter that led me to trying harder, joining a workshop and learning the craft of writing. His encouragement came when I was at a crossroads with writing. I wanted to give up since it appeared no one liked anything I wrote at the time. He pointed me in the right direction and I didn't give in and quit like I thought of doing. I'd like to think I am a better writer because of it.

Life is really all about the choices you make. If you choose to do right by others, generally they do right by you. If you choose to do wrong by others, well, it is easier for bad deeds to get noticed and get talked about than good ones and people talk when the talking is juicy.

I've been a bit long winded today and I thank you for sticking with me through it all. Just remember this: You never know when something you do will affect someone in a way that changes them forever. Please, like those children who let the little boy play baseball with them, make sure the affect you have is a positive one.

I'm AJ and I'm out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Short Goodnight Story

Her fingers reach for me but I resist.

"Not right now," I say, but she insists I come to bed.

With a deep sigh, I give into her wishes and make my way to the room. I know I'll feel better when we're done. As I climb into bed, Sleep's sweet arms wrap around me. I close my eyes and she takes me…

(And you thought it would be dirty, didn't you?)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rambling On and On Like I Tend To Do

Sometimes life is funny. Other times it takes a whiz on you. Still other times it plays little jokes and leaves you dazed and very confused. Yet, other times it is just life. We get frustrated, sad and angry during rough times; happy, joyous, elated during good times; apathetic during those times that we’ve taken all we can take and given all we can give but nothing seems to go right. We shrug, we move on.

The sun eventually shines again.

Writing is very much the same. There are moments where we can’t get any words onto paper—at least words that make sense and that would be worth publishing. But, then there’s those times where we can’t type or write fast enough, the story just pours out like water, splashing onto the paper or monitor and forming a tightly woven tale that leaves us exhausted but fulfilled when we are done, kind of like sex. There are moments where we can’t get anyone to accept a submission and the rejections pile up one after the other, making us wonder why we even try. Counter those moments with the ones where you get a handful of acceptances in a row and your name is getting out there.

It’s an ebb and flow.

Our economy is very much the same but during the leaner times things seem dire and a little bleaker. Money is the driving force of this great nation of ours. Greed is a deciding factor for many companies when hiring and (mostly) firing. I’m not certain there’s really a pursuit of happiness anymore. It’s become a pursuit of possessions and monetary things and it is that pursuit that has put America in the hole it is in right now. Less spending by the higher ups, including the government, could save jobs and homes.

The bailout is not a solution, just throwing good money after bad. But that is for another day. I don’t feel like politics on this day.

It’s been a few weeks since my last note and there have been both the dry times of writing and the flourish that comes with the territory. There has been an ebb and a flow.

So, let’s see where we sit with some of the writing goals.

The writing 1,000 words a day thing has come along nicely. So far for the year I sit at a healthy overage of words. The breakdown is simple:

January: 53327
February: 37659
March: 33329

That’s roughly 124,000 words written in three months. I would say that goal is being met so far. April is sitting around 14,000 for the month. The good thing about those 138,000 words is that most of them are completed stories. Some of them are pieces that won’t meet the light of day, while others should get published fairly easily.

The next goal is to work on a novel. Nope, I haven’t even come close to that one yet. However, I did outline one last week and I’m ready to get working on it.

My other goal, the one I want more than any of the other ones and the one that’s a little loftier than any of the other ones is the publication goal. If you’ll recall way back at the beginning of January I stated I would like to get 50 acceptances this year. It’s a tough feat but one I am shooting for.

As of right now I sit at 11 acceptances since January 1st. That puts me at 22% of my goal. Many of those have come in recent days. To put that in perspective, I had 16 acceptances for the 12 months that made up last year.

Right now you can catch “Where Colors Go To Die,” over at SNM Horror Magazine. It’s my second story placed there. It was a third place entry to their April themed contest. I like what Steven Marshall has going on there and it’s going to get better and better.

Since “Where Colors Go To Die” ended up third I’m going to have to try a little harder to get that first place story.

You can find “Where Colors Go To Die” Here

While you are at it check out the other stories too and Lillith’s interviews. You won’t be sorry you did.

Now for a few pieces that won’t come out until later on:

Sinister Tales picked up “I Carved Her Name Upon My Skin.” The print issue is coming out on April 15. If you would like to buy a copy check out their website at:

Sinister Tales

“Losing Grandma” was picked up by Everyday Fiction. It may not pay a lot but they have a large following so the exposure is worth more than the money. You can read Every Day Fiction at their website or subscribe to their e-mail list and receive the story of the day in your inbox EVERY DAY. If this is of interest to you, check them out here:

Every Day Fiction

Allegory picked up an odd piece I wrote last year titled, “Throwin’ Dem Bones.” It was a fun write and I’m sure you will enjoy the read. It is set to debut on May 1.

“The Dead Don’t Like the Sounds of Basketballs” will be appearing in the Tooth Decay Anthology over the summer. The anthology is being put out by Sonar 4 Publications and the closer we get to the publishing date the more information I will give out.

And “Sarah’s Playground” is going to make another appearance, courtesy of the folks at SNM Horror Magazine. They just picked SP up for their Bonded By Blood II Anthology, due out in January of 2010.

I’m stoked. Now, let’s keep that train rolling.

Chris Bartholomew runs a publication titled Static Movement Online. She always has good fiction and interviews up. Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chris. You can check it out here:

Static Movement Online

I leave you with a simple thank you for reading. I apologize for not having any humor in this installment. Maybe next time.

For all of you out there, have a good day and a safe and happy Easter. For now I’m AJ and I’m out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I Wonder Sometimes

Good evening. I like to start things with the word ‘good.’ It is a greeting that doesn’t suggest that all is crap in the world around us. Usually it’s all down hill from there anyway, so why not start off with the best and work my way down?

That’s not exactly true. A lot of folks think that when you see that ‘good’ word at the front it’s time to bend over. Yeah, yeah, I know most of the time that’s true but not all the time and hopefully, not when you encounter me in a dark alley and I’m holding a rubber chicken over my head, wearing platform shoes and singing We Are the Champions. In that case if I use the word ‘good’ in any form, I would advise running.

Anyway . . .

I’m wondering a few things tonight. First off, why does the media insist on telling us every minute detail about every celebrity’s life? Seriously, do I really care if the president finally has a first dog or first cat? No. Do I care what Jen said to whichever girl Brad is with at the time? No. Do I care what color panties Ashley Judd wears? Well . . . Oh, wait. No.

It’s not important to me and I wish the media would just stop. It’s going to get to the point one day where even the most mundane thing the average Joe does is going to be in the tabloids.


Who cares?

I wonder why most people start counting at one and not zero. It seems to me that zero is the first number. Or am I missing something here?

I also wonder about speculative fiction. Why does it put off so many people? Now, before you answer that question, understand this: Why do people asks why did this happen or that happen in speculative fiction? Shouldn’t we leave something to the imagination or does everyone need their hands held while they read these days?

I think Shaun Ryan asked a pretty simple question when dealing with speculative fiction when he said: If there is no speculation or reflection on the part of the reader after they finish your story, if they don't sit and ponder what you just said and how it might fit into their view of the universe, why bother?

I love this statement, because, in my opinion, it holds a basic truth to it: why bother if you can’t make your reader think? Got yah thinking now, don’t I?


Recently I have been debating the state of the short story—especially the flash story. For those of you who have followed me over the recent months (or years if you are a glutton for punishment) you will know that I constantly say that today we live in a world with the McDonald’s Mentality. We’re in that time period where everything has to be done fast and if it takes too long, well then we want nothing to do with it. It’s got to be quick for our on the go lifestyles.

Slow down partner. Why not take a break from the hustle and bustle of the world and read a four thousand-word story? Why not let a story slowly suck you in just before spitting you out? (You men can get your minds out of the gutter now.) I think writing has become a lost art. Yeah, a lot of people are good at it—a lot of people are so much better at it than I am. However, a lot of people use that cookie cutter, it’s got to be this way and not that way format. They want something tried and true and are afraid to step out on a limb, put their neck out there so someone can lop off their head. Yeah, I know the publishing world isn’t too receptive to things that don’t follow the typical rules of writing, but them and you may be missing out on some great stories because of ‘rules.’

Weren’t rules made to be broken?

I’ve been experimenting a lot with my fiction lately, trying not to stay in that old rut that us writers get into. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it. Well, I want to break it and change it and mold it into something different. I want to change the way people view the short story. It isn’t always about what follows the rules the best, but what story is the best story told. That’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I want to do. Change the short story world, one imperfect story at a time.

Wish me luck—I may need it.


As of today I sit at 10,601 words written on the month of March, keeping with my thousand words a day goal. I’m still holding strong and looking to continue doing so.

So far for the year I sit at 101,587 words. I think that’s a good number. What do you think?


Don’t forget I have an interview up at SNM Horror Magazine. I know many of you will want to read the Romero interview, but if you can read it and then the next two interviews you will see my ugly mug, donning my always there sunglasses and then my interview. It’s a fun read and Kasandora Lilith asked some great questions.

You can find it here: SNM Horror Magazine Interview


A couple of other notes and I’ll be off.

I received a couple of acceptances in the last few days. I’m pretty stoked about both of them. The first one is my short story, “I Carved Her Name Upon My Skin,” to Sinister Tales. It’s slated to debut on April 15th. As the date gets closer I’ll keep you updated on where it can be purchased.

The other acceptance is to a place I’ve wanted to get into ever since I heard of them: Every Day Fiction. They accepted my story, Losing Grandma, for publication. As soon as I know the date, I’ll let you all know.

That’s about it for now. I’m tired and have a few other things to do. For now I’m AJ and I’m out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow In South Carolina? Yeah, Right.

February has come and gone and, just like that we are at the beginning of March.

Here in the heart of South Carolina we have managed to survive the Winter Storm of 2009 getting so much snow that we . . . couldn't even see it. I awoke on Monday morning expecting to see anywhere from three to six inches of snow on the ground and saw exactly . . . none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

My children were disappointed, as I'm sure most, if not all, the children of Columbia were when they got up to see their yards just as they had been left the day before. We were Snowless in Columbia but still there were inclement weather delays and closings. Are you serious? Closings? Yes, many schools and businesses closed on Monday because of the threat of winter weather.

Amazing. It's going to suck when South Carolina gets some real winter weather. "Shut the state down. Call the president. Declare South Carolina a disaster area and pray for financial relief."

On the news we'll see some redneck, probably from my family, with a beer in her hand, her hair all messed up and stubble on her chin, crying about her coon dogs' tongues being stuck to the bumper of her pick up truck. You know, the one with the shot gun rack in the window and the squirrel tail on the extended antenna.

Snow. In Columbia? Yeah right.


Sometimes it's nice to say I told yah so. So, here we go:



I think this is going to be a short blog today. I have a lot to do and not near enough time to do it in.

For those keeping track, February was a down month for writing. I still met my thousand words a day goal and ended up with 37659 words on the month.

However, I only received two acceptances for submissions I sent out, bringing my total to just five for the year or only 10% of what I would like to have by the end of the year. I admit I got a little discouraged when one story was rejected—I just KNEW it was going to make it into the publication I sent it to, so when it didn't I got bummed for a couple of hours. Put that in the 'don't count your chickens before they hatch' category and move on. Nothing to see here, folks. It's all under control.


A couple of other things:

I was interviewed for SNM Horror Magazine and it is live here:

SNM Interview

You'll need to scroll down and try to make it pass the Romero interview and the two that follow. If you can do that and get over my ugly mug, read the interview. I would appreciate it.

Also, 2M Magazine is not accepting submissions. The short version of the fiction guidelines are as follows:

Stories up to 1500 words. This is a firm word count. 2M will not publish any fiction longer than 1500 words. Stories can be horror, fantasy or action/suspense. They pay 1 cent per word. If you have something you want to send along, send it to:

Though the website is not currently up, you can find the full guidelines here:

2M Guidelinese


That's about it for today. I'm AJ and I'm out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aggravating &%^$#* and Other Stuff

Sometimes I get aggravated. Maybe I shouldn’t, but hey, I’m human. Or at least that’s what they tell me. I’m not so sure I believe them. Most of the time I get aggravated over stupid stuff. I will be the first to admit that my patience meter is never really at a high level of tolerance. Sometimes, however, I believe that my ire is justified.

Example #1:

When we pick my daughter up from school we go through the carpool. We have a number that hangs on the rearview mirror. When we drive around to the side fence a teacher calls Chloe’s name and walks her out to the car. She hops in and we go on our merry way. Today there was an SUV in front of me and when their child was in the vehicle the driver decided not to stay in line and whip out around other cars picking their kids up. The driver almost hit the car that was at the front of the line.

But wait, it gets better.

At the stop sign the driver made a right. There just so happens to be a crossing guard there. While the guard and two children were in the middle of the road, the driver tries to go around them in front of them. The guard, Mr. Wilson (does every school have a Mr. Wilson??), hurried the kids across the street and the SUV sped off.

Needless to say, I got aggravated.

Example #2:

Again, someone in a car. This time it is a woman and she runs right up on my bumper. She whips out in front of a car in the lane beside me and passes by. I glance at her as she is zooming past. She wasn’t even looking at the road but in a bag that was on her lap. It looked as if her KNEE was the only thing steering the vehicle. She zoomed on down the street, swerving back and forth in her lane and right on top of other cars, who eventually got out of her way.

Needless to say, I got aggravated.

Example #3:

I’m an idiot.

Needless to say, I get aggravated at myself.

Example #4:

I was at the pet store with my lovely wife. We were searching for some turtle food for Turquoise O’Malley, our turtle. Yes, I like to state the obvious. The prices are on the shelves just below the items. While we searched for the right foods for O’Malley we looked at the prices and compared the stickers with the items on the containers. NONE OF THEM MATCHED UP.


None of the price tag descriptions matched the items above it (or below it for that matter). We spent several minutes comparing items to tags, not wanting to get up to the cash register and see that something was really five bucks more than the tag said.

Why? Why can’t the stores have the items marked properly? Why? Someone, please tell me why?

Needless to say, I got aggravated.

Example #5:

See example #3.

You get the picture by now, right?


On to writing related stuff.

For those of you keeping track, I have a 1000 words a day minimum for writing. That’s minimum. As of this morning I sit at 30052 words for the month of February and a little over 80,000 words for the year. This is a good thing. What makes it even better is most of the stories I have started I have finished. This means I am writing more and finishing more of projects. I’m happy about that.

As for the publishing goal, well, I sit at 5 so far for the year, which is about 10% of my annual goal of 50 pubs in a single year. I know it’s an awfully high number but what good would it do if I set the goal low enough that I knew I could attain it?

Two of them came out in the last two weeks. One of them is a story called “Stupor.” It’s got a little more language in it than I normally use. You can find it at The Flash Fiction Offensive. Follow this link and give it a read:

Stupor at Flash Fiction Offensive

The other one is a story titled “Do You Know Me?” It is a look at the battered victims of abuse. It appears at The Patchwork Project, a site dedicated to bringing awareness of abuse in the world. You can find it here:

Do You Know Me at Patchwork Project

Also, my story “Sarah’s Playground,” Which came in second place for the erotic horror contest held by SNM Horror Magazine can be found here:

Sarahs Playground at SNM Magazine

Scroll down a little bit and read the story. It was chosen as the SNM story of the month, so I’m good with second place.


I’m tired now—it’s been a long day. I think I’ll go take a shower and call it Thursday. Night everyone.

I’m AJ and I’m out.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


That's right. It's coming.


Want to know more?

I'll fill you in later.

Just know--2M is coming.

Peace. I'm out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Real Value


It’s a simple word. The implications of it, however, are not so simple.

This is how Webster defines it:


1. A numerical quantity measured or assigned or computed; "the value assigned was 16 milliseconds".
2. The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable; "the Shakespearean Shylock is of dubious value in the modern world".
3. The amount (of money or goods or services) that is considered to be a fair equivalent for something else; "he tried to estimate the value of the produce at normal prices".
4. Relative darkness or lightness of a color: "I establish the colors and principal values by organizing the painting into three values--dark, medium...and light"-Joe Hing Lowe.
5. (music) the relative duration of a musical note.
6. An ideal accepted by some individual or group; "he has old-fashioned values".


1. Fix or determine the value of; assign a value to, as of jewelry or art work.
2. Hold dear; "I prize these old photographs".
3. Regard highly; think much of.
4. Place a value on; judge the worth of something; "I will have the family jewels appraised by a professional".
5. Estimate the value of something.


How about this one:

Value: the worth of something to any individual (s), regardless of the worth to another individual (s).

Just recently a friend of mine, a very enthusiastic individual, made a statement that struck me. I don’t know why, but the moment he said it a thought came to mind. Here is what he said (used with permission):

I love creating value where previously there was no value!!

Of course he was talking about a publication and I believe he will indeed create value where there is none right now. However, the words went deeper for me.

Let me explain. One of the most valuable things I own is an old—I mean OLD—Black and Decker drill my dad gave to me a couple of years ago. It’s near priceless for me. First of all, I watched my dad use this drill when I was a kid and then when I became a teen he let me use it. It’s big, it’s powerful, it can break your wrists if you are not holding it correctly and the bit catches. Trust me, I know.

I was over at my parents’ house one day and Dad was cleaning out his tool shed. He asked if I wanted an old toolbox, which I said yes. Then he picked up an old sander and a couple of other tools. “Put these in your car, take them home with you.”

I did as Dad said. Then he pulled out the old drill and handed it to me.

“Dad, I can’t take this,” I said.

“Yeah you can. Take it.”

He shoved the drill into my hands and I stared at it. I think I was in shock that he was actually giving it to me. I set it on the front seat—the other tools went in the trunk. When I got home, I put a bit in it and clamped down a piece of wood. I drilled several holes just for the sake of doing so.

The board is hanging in my garage, its many holes in it. I use the drill whenever I work on anything, even putting long screws in things. One time I thought I had broken the drill—my dad taught me how to get bits out when I don’t have a chuck key for it. I gripped the spinning assembly and it stopped, just like always, but then it wouldn’t go back into place.

I was devastated. Seriously. I was upset that I had broken the drill. I finally managed to get it unlocked and let out a deep sigh of relief.

It is one of my most prized possessions. Its value to me is like the MasterCard commercial: PRICELESS. For me, this Black and Decker drill would be worth more than it would be to say, my wife, or a friend who works construction who has three or four drills . . . or, really anyone. The VALUE of that drill can never be replaced with money or another one like it.

This is because of the attachment to it. It was my dad’s. It’s now mine. Hopefully it will still be working when my son gets old enough to use it. It’s as much an heirloom for me as your mother’s fine china.

Go back to the statement for a minute.

I love creating value where previously there was no value!!

That is what happened to that drill the day Dad gave it to me. It may have been only worth a couple of bucks if we tried to sell it in a yard sale, but when it went from his hands to mine, the true value of it soared. We made some value out of something with little value to it anymore.

Do you see where I am going with this? Do you see?

If not, let me clarify.

Each person has something that they cherish. It could be a stuffed animal a loved one gave to them. (I have a little stuffed raccoon that was given to me when I was six and had surgery on my ears. His name is Rocky. I still have him today. My raccoon is 32 years old and a very valued possession). It could be a piece of jewelry. Maybe it’s a ticket to a sporting event or a concert. Who knows?

You do.

That thing that you cherish, think about it for a minute. Now, think about it a little more. How many people would actually say it has any real value? To them it may just be a piece of junk, but to you it’s something far more precious.

My son has a little blanket he got from my work when he was born. It has a dog head and arms and is white with black spots. His first name is embroidered at the bottom of it. Logan simply cause it his ‘Doggie.’ To my four year old this blanket is everything. When he gets a boo boo (yeah I use that word) he wants his Doggie. He will wrap it around the boo boo if he can and hold it there. If he is crying, he usually stops within a few seconds. He lays Doggie on his pillow at night and lays his head on it. He talks to Doggie a lot and we rarely leave the house without him.

We asked Logan what Doggie’s name was and he looked at us with a DUH expression on his face. He said, “Doggie Brown.” The blanket is family to him. That’s value. That’s real value.

It may not mean much to anyone else, but without Doggie, Logan will not go to sleep, no matter how tired he is.

Now, I know this is not what my friend meant when he made his statement, but this is how it struck me. Since he was referring to a publication, let me put it into a more writing oriented perspective.

Think about a publication you want to get into. Think about an award you want. Think about something that you want out of your writing experience. What is it? Popularity? Money? Both? To be a Best Seller? An award winner? What is it?

What if it is just to get your first publication? That’s big, folks. But, say your first publication is an online, non paying market. Does that make the publication less of a big deal? No, it doesn’t. That first publication for the writer means someone somewhere liked what he/she wrote enough to publish it. It may not be a big deal to the writer who has published 200 stories and has made some money off of it, but it is to that writer getting that first publication. That publication is the most valuable one there is—it builds confidence, if not monetary gains.

Now do you get it? What may be worth nothing to you may be worth the world to someone else.

Again, I know this is not what my friend meant—he meant marketing and getting the name of a publication out there; getting folks fired up about it and bringing in revenue and the like. But, for me, the statement stirred other thoughts about the true meaning of the word VALUE as used in every day life.

There are other ways to take that word but, for me, this is my view on it. I’ll say this and then I’m done: If you see something that is insignificant to you but important to someone else, try to find out why it is important, why they cherish something the way you do. There may be a touching story behind it. One that you can take home with you and think about; one that may change your view on the value of things in one’s life.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

No Rules, She Won and A Cross

I’ve got a new saying. Sometimes I come up with something that I really like or I play with words or slogans, changing them slightly. A couple of months ago while explaining confidence in one’s ability to write I used sports as an example. Basically, the only way an athlete becomes good is to practice, practice, practice. Then, as they get better at their chosen sport, they gain confidence in their skills.

Writing is much the same way. You have to practice at it, learn from your mistakes and continue to grow as a writer. At the end of this I told the young lady, “No rules, just write.” This is an obvious play on Outback Steakhouse’s “No Rules, Just Right,” slogan. I thought it was cool and it fit the topic. I’ve used it a couple of times since then. I really like it.

I really do.

It reminds me to not worry about the writing but to just do it; keep working at it. One day that hard work and dedication will pay off. Maybe not in a Super Bowl or World Series but maybe in a big publication or something of the like.

The more I say it, the more I think it goes right along with my mindset. I won’t cut a story short so it can fit in a word count. If the story needs to be 12,000 words, then I let the story complete itself. I don’t hold it to that three to five thousand word range. I let the story live.

No Rules, Just Write.

Say it a few times. Think about it. Give it a shot.

No Rules, Just Write.


Umm . . . she won.

Yeah, that's right. She won.

Who? What? Who won what?

Oh, yeah, I guess it would help if you knew who won what, right? Say that five times real fast.

Fran Friel, a dear friend of mine, won the Black Quill Reader's Choice Award for her collection of short stories, Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales. This collection, put out around this time last year by Apex Book Company is anchored by the novella, Mama's Boy, a Stoker finalist two years ago.

If you haven't picked this collection up you should. There is something in it for just about everyone who loves good horror stories. There is a pirate story, a story told from a dog's point of view, a deal with the devil type of tale and a delusional yarn with the feel of Psycho to it among others.

Fran is deserving of this award and the fact that the readers chose her makes it very special. For those of you who voted for Fran, I thank you. I'm sure she will do the same when it sinks in.

To go with this award, Fran has made the preliminary ballot for the Stokers. The finalists and winners will be announced in the not too distant future.

If you will, congratulate Fran if you know her. If you don't, well, you don't know what you're missing. She is truly a wonderful person and a great writer. And a true inspiration for folks like me.

So, Fran, big sis, congratulations from your L'il Brother. Here's to future success!

You can find the collection at Apex Book Company here:

Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales


In other news of the not so weird:

In my quest for 1000 words a day every day I find myself sitting at 10777 words for the month of February. I’ve written a couple of really cool stories so far this month and I’m excited about editing them. One of them has me really stoked and hopefully in the coming months I can announce it has been published.

Going into today I was a bit concerned. I had received three rejections this month. The two that were not form rejections were nice and one of them very informative on why they weren’t taking the story. I appreciate the comments and thoughts. It’s not every day the editors will tell you why they don’t like a particular story. Especially since many publications get two and three hundred submissions a month and space and time are of limited quantity.

I was 0 for 3 on the month when I received my first acceptance of February. The place is called Flash Fiction Offensive, a fairly new site. The story is called “Stupor.” The editor, Rey Gonzalez, pointed out something that could strengthen the piece and I’m going to work on it tonight and probably tomorrow, but as it stands, “Stupor” is slated to come out next Friday.

You can check out Flash Fiction Offensive here:

Flash Fiction Offensive

Read some of their stories in their archives here: FFO Archives

Also, my story, Sarah’s Playground, is currently up at SNM Horror Magazine. It came in second place in their erotic horror themed contest. Second place. So close. So close.

SNM Horror Magazine Sarah’s Playground

Be warned. Language, nudity, sex. It’s all in there, as well as golfing and dead men. Scroll down the page and give it a read.


This is the section where I usually pimp my friends. Since I already pimped out Fran (for those of you speed readers who may have missed it, look up a few paragraphs), I will take a moment to mention John Rowlands.

John has a new short short up at Six Sentences, a website where you can only use six sentences to tell a story. Yeah, I know—kind of obvious, huh?

His story is titled “The Cross.” It’s a good piece, kind of chilling when you think about the topic. Stop by and give it a read, rate the story and leave him a comment. I’m sure John would appreciate it.

The Cross

I guess that’s about it for now, so until next time, I’m AJ and I’m out.