Saturday, January 31, 2009

So Close, Yet So Far Away

Yup. That’s right. So close, yet so far away.

I wrote a story last year for a prompt in a writing contest, held with a private group, a members only kind of thing. It was called the Long Write. It’s kind of a Survivor meets King’s ‘The Long Walk.’ It had an immunity challenge and a story challenge, basically giving us two prompts to write on in one week. If you won the immunity—yeah, you guessed it—then it didn’t matter how much your story sucked in the main competition, you were through to the next round.

The competition was stiff, with some pretty good lesser-known writers—like myself—involved. John Lovero, Jamie Sunshine, Shanna Wynne, Michelle Garren Flye, Erik Smetana and several others. There was even a bit of trash talking going on. That’s right Lovero, just keep looking over your shoulder, I’ll be back.

I participated in this competition twice before those involved had to shut it down due to time constraints. I came in second in the first one behind Lovero and third in the second one, behind Lovero and Smetana. Winning the competition would have been cool but competing in it was a blast.


Simple. The prompts were unique and challenging. And the fact that I am ultra competitive helped. There were the standard prompts like write a story in the style of Poe or Lovecraft. Then there were the not so generic ones like the one where we had to write a humorous piece on a dog having a conversation with his heartworms. Oh and the one where we had to write a bizarro style story. My head hurt after that one.

Then there was the horror golf prompt. Ugh . . . I really do not like golf. I had to research a little bit about the various terms used in the ‘sport,’ as well as other things about it. I started two stories and didn’t like either of them. Then I started my third one. It was an erotic horror story titled “Sarah’s Course of Pleasure and Pain,” where playing only one hole mattered (Yeah, bad pun. Sorry). I don’t remember how I fared in that round—I made it through to the next one and that’s what mattered.

When the round was over I stored the story in my “I Will Never Find A Market For This” folder. Hmmm . . .

It seems I was wrong.

I had read some stories in an e-zine called SNM Horror a couple of months ago. So, I checked out the submissions guidelines and saw that they were running a contest for erotic horror stories for their February issue. I read over the very few erotic themed horror pieces I had and didn’t think they would be good enough. Then I remembered the Long Write story. I found it, opened it, read it and thought that it may have a shot. So, I edited it and sent it off.

To my joyous surprise, it came in 2nd place. Hey, that sounds about right. Second place in the Long Write, second place in the horror erotic category. And second place is money, so there’s an added bonus.

So, for anyone who wants to check it out (subliminal message: ALL OF YOU WANT TO READ THIS), it was released this morning. So, head on over to SNM Horror Magazine and peruse the stories, including ‘Sarah’s Playground,’ the story’s new title. You can find it here:

SNM Horror Magazine

You have to scroll down to find my story, but it’s there in all its glory. Check out the winning story as well, ‘Immortal Stone’ by Elizadeth Hetherington. Yes, that is the right spelling—I had to double check to make sure. Then when you are done, peruse the rest of the stories and the other things the site has to offer.


One other note and I’ll leave you for today.

My story ‘Laying Down An Old Friend’ is up at Six Sentences. This is a cool website and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing a story in just six sentences.

Check it out here:

Layind Down An Old Friend

Read it, rate it, leave a comment if you will.

For now I am done. I’ll be back tomorrow some time, probably after the Super Bowl with my wrap up of January and a few funny little stories for you all.

Until tomorrow, I am AJ and I’m out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Random Thoughts, Writing Progress and Other Stuff


This weekend my lovely wife and I were unfortunate enough to get sick. Yuck. She had it worse on Saturday. I had it worse on Sunday. But, either way, we both had it together. Isn’t that what love is all about?

Sunday evening, sick and doped up, we made our way to Catherine’s company Christmas party. What’s that, you ask? Christmas party? Uh, yeah. Haven’t you ever heard of having Christmas parties in January? Me neither, but my wife works retail and Christmas is their busiest time of the year so there was no taking time out during a money making opportunity.

At any rate, the party was at a bowling alley and had more of a man’s night out feel to it, though mostly women showed up. My wife and I bowled a couple of games with three other people. We had a pretty good time, even at the end when I was feeling worse for the wear and ready to go.

Throughout the evening our lane and the one beside us had all sorts of problems and by the end of the night when the manager at the front desk saw me coming he would say, “Lane 33, ball return?”


A few minutes later our balls would magically reappear out of the mouth of the ball return and we would all bowl again. The lane beside us was a different story. Several times during their ONE game the lane just shut off, the lights went out and the ball wasn’t returned. Their scores went wacky and they would have to start over. This happened several times. It sucked for them but they made the most of it and had a good time. They even laughed about it quite a bit.

We went home and I readied for bed. It wasn’t even 9:30 when I told my wife whenever she wanted to go to bed was fine with me. I grabbed some stories I had printed out and sat on my bed, cross-legged and leaning against the wall. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. I awoke a little while later and tried to move. Everything from hips down had gone asleep and they didn’t wish to be bothered to do their jobs.

The next thing I knew it was morning and I had to pee—really, really bad. Sorry about flooding the house, Honey.

Medicine head went to work with no fever but a little spacey. While sitting at the computer during a down moment I started to write one of the weirdest stories I have ever penned. Even the title is interesting in and of itself. I’m not going into details because when the head is not so foggy I would like to edit it and send it out. It may be one of the better stories I have ever written.

They say drugs is how the rock and rollers do it…


Have you ever had a FLURP? You know, that thing that is kind of between a burp and throwing up but you don’t actually throw up. It’s like a little bit of acid comes up in your throat and burns like the dickens. It tastes horrible and leaves you coughing until that burning feeling goes away.

Yeah, I had one of those the other day and it was the most disgusting thing ever. I thought I would throw up after doing that. It was soooooo . . . nauseating. I drank milk for half an hour before the burning sensation went away and the taste finally faded.

Yeah, like you needed to know that, right?


The other day I took my family over to my parents’ house for a birthday party for my oldest nephew. He turned seven over the weekend. Happy birthday Ben.

While we were there, my sister pulls out a Nintendo DS and puts in the Super Mario game for that little hand held system. Folks, do me a favor: stay away from the Nintendo DS. That game is like crack. I had the shakes for a while after I put it down.

I played it for a few minutes and handed it over to my son who played it for a few minutes. Logan, my four year old, did better than I did. He gave it to my daughter, the seven year old, and she struggled with it. Enter John-John. He, like my son, is four years old. He sat down beside Chloe and looks over her shoulder.

“Get that,” he says. “Jump.”

My daughter’s man got killed. John gives her this look of utter impatience.

“No, Cho-we, you s’pose to jump. Jump. You know? Jump?”

“I tried,” Chloe says in defense of her lack of skill in the game.

For the next fifteen or so minutes, John sat there and told Chloe what to do. Each time her man got killed he fussed at her. He would throw his hands in the air, shake his head, roll his eyes and complain.

He’s got all the proper tools to be a football coach. Yup. That’s right. I’m going to start training him now so he can be a coach by the time he is ten.


My children and I wrestle a lot. Well, let me correct that. My children beat me up a lot. Yeah, that’s more like it. So, if you could help me out by sending bandages and ice packs to my home, I would appreciate it. A new heating pad would be nice, also.

I made the mistake tonight of taking my son’s ‘Doggie’ while we wrestled. He brought it into the fight so I took it from him, teasing him with it and then letting him take it from me. We do this quite often. However, tonight was a little different.

Usually, we wrestle on my bed and tonight that was the same. I had Chloe pinned because she kept going for my belly button—I am ticklish there. Logan comes up with Doggie and I take it from him while holding Chloe down with one leg. I held Doggie so Logan couldn’t get to it.

Chloe grabbed a head full of hair and pulled my head back. Yeah, she’s resourceful. She cracked me square one time before—she says she didn’t mean to but I’m not so sure. Anyway, that is for another time. So, Chloe had me by the hair, having wiggled her way into a position to do so. I had Doggie so Logan couldn’t get to it. The next thing I knew I was rolling off the bed holding my stomach. It seems my son decided to cannon ball me in the gut, knees first.

One thing is for certain: my kids will be able to take care of themselves when they get older.


My daughter came into my office after bedtime. She gave me a hug and said, “I love you, Daddy.” No better words to warm the heart. I told her I loved her, too and then I said:

“I’m going to pick you up and hold you upside down over my shoulder.”

“Okaaaaaaay,” she said.

“And then I’m going to drop you on your head.”

She nods and says. “Okay. That may be interesting.”

For those of you who didn’t laugh, there is humor in that. Now, start laughing.


On the writing front, I stand at 2 acceptances and 4 rejections so far this year. I’m batting .333, which isn’t too shabby for baseball. I honestly have no problem with that publication rate. That’s one out of every three subs getting accepted. I would like to keep that or better throughout the year.

On my quest to write 1000 words a day every day, I will admit there have been four days this month that I have not met that goal. Twice I did no writing at all. However, I sit at 43565 words for the month.

I’m excited about six or eight stories I have written this year that really have potential. I’ve set them aside for now so I can let my brain forget about them. Then I will edit them in a few weeks and send them out of the orphanage that is my hard drive and out into the world where they will hopefully find homes in publications. If they don’t, they are welcome home but you better believe their chores are going to increase.


Okay, for you horror writers out there check out The Haunt over at the Horror Mall. It’s a cool place to network and there are already over 400 folks signed up . . . and this just opened up last week.

Check out The Haunt here:

The Haunt

Also, you can still pick up a copy of Dark Distortions at Scotopia Press. My story, The Woodshed, which received a couple of recommendations for a Stoker (not enough for a preliminary nomination, though), appears within these pages.

Check it out here:

Scotopia Press


+The Horror Library+ Anthology Volume III has been out since late last year. It is filled with 30 stories from some very good writers. Gary Braunbeck, Kurt Dinan, Bentley Little, Cullen Bunn, John Everson, Jeff Strand, Lorne Dixon, A.C. Wise and many others appear in this collection.

My personal favorites include John Peters’, ‘Extra Innings,’ Matthew Lee Bain’s, ‘The Orange Mammoth,’ ‘Toll,’ by Blu Gilliand and, my favorite and probably the most disturbing story, in my opinion, is Charles Colyott’s ‘The Steel Church.’

If you haven’t checked it out, then you need to. Head over to Cutting Block Press by going here:

Cutting Block Press

Speaking of +The Horror Library+, if you are a writer and looking for a place to submit a story, they are accepting submissions for +The Horror Library+ Volume IV now. Just click the link above and check out their submissions guidelines.


One more thing before I go.

Do you know someone who has been abused? Physically? Emotionally? Mentally? If so, talk to them and try to get them to get out of any abusive relationships. Many of them are deadly for the victims and no one should have to suffer at the hands of someone they love. Especially when there is help out there.

If you are a writer, or even just a reader who would like to help the fight against abuse, please check out The Patchwork Project. It is ran by Douglas Burchill, who is a really cool dude.

If you are a writer there is a place that you can submit stories to The Patchwork Project. Though there is no pay, it is worthwhile to help bring awareness to abuse.

No, I’m not on a soapbox and I’m not preaching. But, if The Patchwork Project can help one person, then it is a success. You may know that person.

Check out The Patchwork Project here:

The Patchwork Project


That is all for now. I’ve got to go. Until next time, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Its A Lesson To Me

Not too long ago came an occasion where I had to talk to a friend of mine about his progression as a writer. He was down, maybe a little depressed with what he perceived was the world passing him by; writers that had been writing as long as or even less than he had been were surpassing him in abilities. Or, so it seemed.

In short, he was frustrated with himself.

So, I sat him down and we discussed where he was, where he wanted to be and some of his ultimate goals as a writer. I shrugged.

"I know what you're problem is," I said.

"What is it?"

"You lack confidence in yourself."

"Nah. I've always been confident, even to a fault."

"That means nothing when it comes to writing."

"Why not?"

I had to think about that for a second or ten. I hadn't expected that question. This was my answer:

"You played sports growing up, right? Writing is like a sport."

He gave me a puzzled look.

"You have to want to play a sport in order to strive to get better at it. You have to want to write in order to strive to get better at it. Then you have to practice, practice, practice to continually better your skills as an athlete. It's the same with writing. You have to practice, write everyday. It's the only real way you can improve.

"Then there is the aspect of different techniques in sports. Take for instance baseball. One pitcher may throw four different pitches: a curve ball, a fast ball, a two seam fastball and a slider. While another pitcher may only throw three pitches: a fast ball, curve and a slow breaking ball. Let's say the pitching coach came in and told his pitchers he wanted to teach them a new pitch, maybe a split finger fast ball or a knuckle ball. They would have to learn how to throw it, learn the technique, how to grip the pitch, where to release it in the pitching motion, find out what type of outs you could get with those pitches (does it induce pop ups or ground outs or can they strike the batter out with it).

"Writing is very much the same. You learn one way of writing and then you expand, step out of your comfort zone and experiment a little. This makes you a well rounded writer. It gives you more styles to play with instead of the same cookie cutter way of writing.

"Like most athletics, there are rules you have to learn. The same with writing. There are dos and don'ts. You have to learn them. In sports, you can't learn all the rules at one time so you tackle them as you go along. You do that with writing as well—you tackle the writing rules one at a time, apply them to your writing and then moving on to the next set of rules. It helps you to build your abilities, albeit slowly."

I paused. My friend looked to be taking all of this in, nodding and so forth. He even asked a few questions, which meant he was actually listening.

I continued.

"You know though, all of this means nothing if you don't have confidence in your abilities."

"But I do have confidence," he argued.

"No, you don't. Its one thing to have confidence while you are writing, but it's another thing altogether to have confidence in someone else viewing what you have put down on paper. You have to view your abilities in a way that makes others believe in you. Without that confidence you can hang it up."

My friend chewed on these thoughts for a while.

You folks out there listen to me for just a second. Writing can be achieved by learning about it, practicing it and then having confidence in it. Will that make you a great writer? Maybe. It depends on the person; the determination of each individual. Pick something out that you absolutely LOVE to do. Not that you like, but that you LOVE. It is the thing that you probably practiced the most at to be good at it. Think about it. Am I right? Yeah, I thought so.

If you want to be a good writer then you have to work at it. Some folks have a gift and it comes naturally to them. I think my friend Dameion is that way—he just has a way with words and I don't know anyone who writes better than he does. Period.

Now, my friend, the one I have been talking about, well, I see him everyday when I look in the mirror. Sometimes he's cocky, but not often. Other times he's bullheaded, yeah very often. However, all of the time he works at it, works at the writing so one day he can be the best writer that he can offer up to the public.

Oh yeah and he's pretty confident in his abilities. Sometimes he actually listens to me.

Now, get to your desks, open up your processor program and get to writing. And, while you are at it, believe in your abilities. Sometimes you are the only one who believes in you. It's up to YOU to make everyone else believe in you.

For now, I'm AJ and I'm out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's A Girl Thing and Other Nonsense

It’s a girl thing. That’s what it is: a girl thing.

Now, before I get into this, understand that I am talking about children here and some things just bother me, as a dad, which I probably wouldn’t think about if I were not a parent. One of those things is the pants with the words right on the butt. You know, words like CUTE, DIVA, BABY and things like that. These articles of clothing are made to bring attention to the female bottom. When that female is six then maybe she shouldn’t be wearing clothes with words on the butt. Just me? I hope not.

The other thing is what I would like to address now. I am constantly telling my niece to pull her pants up, your butt’s showing. Now, not all of her butt would be showing but enough of it so a person could see the booty crack. Too much butt showing for a nine year old, if you ask me. Now, I have to tell my daughter this same thing.

“Chloe, pull your pants up, your butt’s hanging out.”

My daughter has grown tired of me saying this but she still does it from time to time. Catherine bought her a belt to rectify the problem. Yet, still there are times I have to say those words: “Chloe, pull your pants up, your butt’s hanging out.”

Ah, but wait, there is more. You see I just discovered that this is INDEED a girl thing.

Today we took our children to one of the McDonald’s with the indoor play sets. While there, my son called me from atop one of the high landings within the play set. As I walked over to him I noticed two little girls, maybe under the age of five. They were heading up the large platforms in the same direction as my son. And guess what? Both of them had their butts hanging out.

I immediately turned to Catherine and said, “It’s a girl thing. They just like having their butts hang out.”

Catherine laughed at me and I pointed at the play set to the two little girls. “Their butt cracks are showing—I’m telling you it’s a girl thing.”

So, for all you dads out there having problems with your daughters about their butts hanging out don’t blame them. Blame the pants makers. Blame them for having these low rider types of pants.

The reason I think this is that you don’t see boys with pants that hug their waist letting them slide down to their hips and showing off their butts. Besides, boy undies fit differently than girl undies and the undies wouldn’t slide down to their hips unless the boy wasn’t wearing the right size underwear. Boy undies are made to hold, well, their boys in. Girl undies are made to look cute or pretty.

It’s all the clothing manufacturers’ faults. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


On another note, Chloe, Logan and myself were wrestling on my bed tonight. They were winning. I called for my wife to help but it did no good. She was in the office and oblivious to my pleas for assistance.

I am extremely ticklish and my daughter knows this. She went straight for my stomach and I flipped her off the bed (gently, mind you). She hopped back up and pounced on me as I tried to pry my son off of my head where he had a vice grip on the top of my skull. As I did so, Chloe darted in, her small hands radaring (is that even a word) in on my stomach. I flipped over, planting my belly on the bed and rolling my son off my head at the same time.

Chloe wasted no time and booty dropped onto my legs.

Whenever I am lazing around like I did most of the day I just wear an old shirt and jeans. The shirt I wore today had a hole in it right about at the right shoulder blade. Logan, hopped onto my back as Chloe tried to work her fingers between the bed and my belly button. He licked my shoulder blade through the hole in my shirt.

“Logan,” Chloe yelled. “Daddy, Logan just licked your hole.”

Of course, I started laughing.

“What?” Chloe asked. “What did I say?”

“Nothing, Sweets,” I said. “Nothing at all.”


I received my third rejection of the year yesterday and it was a fairly nice one. It said a few things nice about the story I had submitted, but ultimately, it wasn’t a fit. I’m good with that. It wasn’t a form rejection, so I can live with that.

Currently, my word count for the month of January resides at a little over 31,000 words. I’m happy with that progress. I have three stories I am currently working on, one of which is going to reach that 10K mark. The other two stories I’m not quite sure how long they will be but I know one of them will be at least 6K.

I have no problems with that either, even though there are not many markets out there for longer works. If you have followed me over the past year, then you know that I prefer to let stories breathe and tell themselves. I just come along for the ride.


Okay, shameless plug time. My story The Woodshed is in the Dark Distortions anthology that came out last year. You can still get copies of the anthology by visiting Scotopia Press’s website.

Scotopia Press

There are other really good stories in there besides The Woodshed but I’m kind of bias on this one—I love the story I placed there and I’m happy that Scotopia Press accepted it. Molly Feese is a wonderful editor and easy to work with, though my knuckles do hurt from the way she kept smacking them with a ruler whenever I reached for the cookie jar.

Also, my Six Sentences story appeared on Saturday at Six Sentences. You can check it out by going here.

Six Sentences

Leave a comment, rate it if you will.


They’re calling for snow here tonight. How about them apples? My son has never seen snow up close and personal so I kind of hope it happens just so he can get a chance to play in it.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fight, Write Or Die and Other Notes

My children often make me laugh, simply because of things they say or do or reactions they may have to things I say or do. My daughter, whom I write about a lot, often gets that chuckle out of me, even when she is in psycho mode, as she has been in today.

Ah, psycho mode. My daughter really hit it home today and I had to get on her a lot. I felt bad about it but there is only so much lip you can take from anyone, much less a child. But, that is really a story for another day.

The story for today in How My Children Scare Me is as follows:

Catherine and I were standing in the doorway of our bedroom. Well, I was in the doorway. She was in the bedroom. I said something, she remarked back.

“Woman, don’t make me come over there,” I said and pointed, jokingly, mind you.

She put her arms out and said, “Come on over here.”

She went all thug on me with the arm gestures and posturing. I started toward her and then stopped. We stood nose to nose and then it dawned on me: she was trying to provoke me into a wrestling match. Normally I would be all up for this, pun intended. But, there is something you need to know about the whole scenario that was about to play itself out: my two children are my wife’s henchmen.

Yes, you read right. My wife has her henchmen and they are seven and four years of age and vicious.

Catherine could be in the bedroom and I could be in the front room. She could laugh at a comment someone made on the phone and all of a sudden I hear one of my kids say, “Quick, Mommy’s in trouble.” The next thing you know Chloe and Logan run into the room where I am at and start wailing on me. I’m not talking love taps here, folks. I’m talking honest to goodness wailing, as if they were beating up someone their own size.

So as we stood toe to toe and I was about to pick her up and drop her to the bed in one of the Underwriter’s famous moves (inside joke, sorry folks for those who don’t know), it dawned on me. I started to chuckle.

“I know why you can be so confident in yourself right now and why you don’t back down but try to egg me on.”

“Why is that?” she said all innocent-like.

“Because all you have to do is laugh or scream out and they’ll come running.”

She smiled. “That’s right. Don’t forget it.”

Catherine made a fist at me and all I could do is shake my head and walk away.

Now, I’m sure some of you are saying, “what? Walk away?”

Yeah, I walked away. No, I’m not one to shy away from some good old wrestling with the wife. The truth is my children scare the living crap out of me. I am of the firm belief that they really are trying to hurt me when we wrestle. My son, Logan, doesn’t even call it wrestling. He yells out, “I’m gonna beat you up, Daddy,” before he tries to tackle me.

They head butt, folks.

They hit, folks.

They kick, folks.

My daughter even likes to pull hair.

To quote Linus Van Pelt: I’m doomed.

Once the little ones have a hold of me they can be vicious. And all the while, Catherine is usually laughing in the background.

And they say I’m the one who needs to be nicer to folks?


In writing news, I received my second rejection yesterday, this one from Shock Totem for a story I really want someone to pick up one day. But, that is okay because today I had a story accepted. This story may end up being the basis to something much longer. It is titled, “The Legend of Hollis Williams,” and I wrote it specifically for the website Six Sentences. What’s even better about this is that it goes live tomorrow!

So, check it out when you get a chance:

Six Sentences

That puts me at two acceptances for a 4% total of where I want to be at the end of the year. Remember, my goal is 50 publications THIS year.


On another note I have done pretty good with keeping my 1000 words a day pace going. As of yesterday I was sitting at 26,572 words in the first fifteen days of the year. That’s better than 11,000 words more than what I wanted at this point.


Though my story, The Woodshed, may not garner a full Stoker nomination I did receive word today that it got a second recommendation. Obviously, this made me feel good, but since we’re not supposed to lobby HWA members to read and recommend our stories for Stokers, it will more than likely fall short of the amount of recommendations needed to garner an out and out nomination.

At any rate, if you would like to read The Woodshed, you need to purchase Dark Distortions Volume I. It was put out by Scotopia Press and Molly Feese did a wonderful job of editing the story. She is one of those editors you just love to work with.

Check out Scotopia Press and Dark Distortions here:

Scotopia Press


And one final thought. When I was writing for NaNoWriMo someone posted a thread in a forum about a neat little website that helped them reach their goal of 1667 words per day, which is the minimum amount in order to reach 50,000 words in one month and consistently write every day.

The website is called Write Or Die.

I had completely forgotten about this website until the other day when I stumbled on it when looking for something else. I had a few minutes so I clicked on the site and then typed in that I wanted to type for 10 minutes. The pressure to write without stopping was intriguing since I like to stop and mess around in the middle of writing. Not for long, mind you, but only for a minute or two. I’ve actually stopped writing this three times since I sat down about fifteen minutes ago.

I typed and typed and then the timer went off and I kept on typing. I ended up typing for about twenty minutes and putting out 884 words. They may not have been the best quality of words but it did what I wanted it to do: forced me to write without stopping. Even though I only did it in the medium mode, I still felt the need to just type. It was like there was a gun pointing at me from inside the computer, warning me to write and not stop, lest I pay for it with a bullet to the brain. A zombie I am not so I don’t really have a reason to want a bullet to the brain, yah know?

If you want to check out Write or Die, look here:

Write or Die

Well, that’s it for now. Until next time, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Questions About the Homeless and An Update

I have a few questions today. I hope some of you who read this would take the time to answer them.

Something came up in our office yesterday and a story idea came to mind. I've pondered it since then and have been wondering what other people think about certain things dealing with the homeless.

I want HONEST answers. I posed these questions to a writing workshop today and got some pretty interesting replies.

1. When a homeless person approaches you on the street what do you do?

2. What do you think about the people who hold up signs like, Will Work For Food or Homeless, Please Help?

3. Do homeless or street people scare you? If so, why?

Remember, I really would like honest answers on this--it won't help my story if the majority of the answers are politically correct. Uggh, I can’t believe I actually wrote those two words.


Yesterday I received my first rejection of the young year. It wasn’t too disheartening since the editors gave some good feedback on it and I can see what they are saying. It is a place I will submit to again in the near future and a story I will be working on to make it better and send it back out.

With a rejection in the hip pocket I awaited other replies for the ten stories I have submitted since the first of the year.

Lo and behold, this evening I check my e-mail and see a second response to a submission. With trepidation, I opened it and read it. Yeah, I’m smiling now. My story, Sarah’s Playground, was accepted for the February edition of SNM Magazine. To quote my good friend, John Miller: YIPPIE.

That’s one down, forty-nine to go. So, that’s what, 2% of the way to my goal?


My daily word count has been going well. Here it is, the thirteenth of January and I sit at a little over 21,000 words for the month. That’s 8,000 words over my daily goal. I’m pleased with that but the year is still very early and things tend to change. Hopefully, the enthusiasm won’t wane in the coming months.


I want to wish my older brother, Larry, a happy birthday. Tomorrow (January 14) is his fortieth birthday. Congratulations on making it this far.


Sorry to say I don’t have any humorous stories of my children tonight. Well, I do, but I’m pretty tired and I am heading to bed shortly. Tune in next time for another episode of How My Children Scare Me.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Old Friend and Hubba Bubba Bubblegum

On Thursday an old friend from my childhood called me up. His name is Tony and he lives in Raleigh now. He tells me he is coming to town this weekend. Unfortunately, his uncle had passed away and he would be coming to town for the funeral.

“Let’s get together,” he said.

I agreed.

So, tonight I went out to dinner with who I would consider to be one of my life long friends. We ate wings, watched the Ravens beat the Titans (YAY!) and talked. We did some reminiscing but not as much as I thought we might. Instead, we talked about the here and now, our lives as they are today.

It was a good conversation. It felt like old times, sort of. It’s odd, you know, seeing someone you have always been close to and not missing a beat, as if we still lived two houses down from each other. But, really, that’s the way it supposed to be with friends. Time may pass and miles may separate, but that bond has always been there.

Tony and I met when we were around nine or so. I believe he was nine and I was ten at the time. He was the first black kid on our street and we bonded instantly. From that day forth we were rarely apart, on through our high school days.

Tony reminded me of something that I had never forgotten but warmed me to hear it. Neither of our families were what you would consider well off. Not by any standards. I guess that’s what makes these old memories so special.

“Do you remember how we would walk to school and we would stop off and by that bubble gum?”

“Hubba Bubba bubble gum,” I said. “Never forget it.”

He flashed that brilliant smile that made many a female’s heart pitter-patter. “Yeah, Hubba Bubba bubblegum.”

“Even though I didn’t have much money, you always said, I got you, man.”

I chuckled. You know that memory chuckle?

“You remember in high school how we would catch the city bus and we would stop and get biscuits. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to get one and you would say I got you, man?”

“Yeah, those were great biscuits.”

“I just wanted to say thank you,” he said and he set a football jersey on the table—a Steve Smith jersey.

Wow. That’s all I could say. Well, that and thank you.

We talked some more, recalling some brief things about our childhood friendship. Then we started talking football. Yeah, two men together eating wings, it’s bound to happen. But, it felt so right.

We talked about Uncle Bulldog and a little about his life. We talked about another friend of ours who died on Tuesday. He was only 38. We talked about my family and his family and I knew when he dropped me off tonight I would miss him dearly.

And I do.

Tomorrow Tony’s family will lay to rest Uncle Bulldog and the he will head back to Raleigh. We will go about our lives as usual. But, I know I will miss him a little more now. You see, time never slows. His dad is seventy and his mother is sixty-three. My parents are both in their early sixties as well. Years have passed and we’ve grown older, had children, pursued dreams. And Tony is still one of my two closest friends. The other one is another friend from school—Keith. He lives three blocks from me and we work together.

I sit here at this computer and I type this meager piece about our friendship and my mind is rushing back to the past recalling the Hubba Bubba bubblegum, the pick-up football and basketball games, taking about girls, riding the bus together; those great biscuits, hanging out at his house with his mom, Pinky Mae and his brothers and sisters, talking trash about his Cowboys and whatever team I happen to be pulling for at the time, music and jokes and just good old times.

Good old times? Yeah, that’s what they were. Yeah, we had our share of rough times. I venture to say, as our parents get older, we will have a few more. I’m not looking forward to that.

This is one of those times I’m not really sure how to end something. There are so many things I could write, but I don’t think there is enough space to put it all. So, I’ll leave by saying these things:

Cherish each day, each person you love. In the blink of an eye time catches up to you and you’re wondering what happened to it.

To Uncle Bulldog and Chico Davis, we will miss you and may God bless you in your journey home.

To Tony, thank you for always being there, always being my friend and I miss you.

To my other family, Pinky Mae, Janice, Shirley, John, Don and Hoghead (don’t ask), may God bless you and keep you.

And, for you, the reader who took the time to read this sentimentality of mine, thank you. For, without you, I would have no real reasons to write, would I?

I’m AJ and I’m going to go see if I can find some Hubba Bubba bubblegum. Until next time, I’m out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Go Ahead and Smile and Other Thoughts

I really don’t like to smile that often. It’s been that way for a long time—back since I was in my teens or so. This is a problem. You see, I made that resolution to be a kinder gentler Jeff—even if no one thinks I can do it—and I plan on giving it my best effort.

My friend, Chris Perridas, suggested that I smile more, that it actually can affect my attitude and the folks around me as well. So, I thought about it and decided to give it a go.

I walked down the hall this morning and smiled at one of the ladies as I passed her desk. And, yah know what happened? She frowned. She looked at me like I had lost my mind, like I was just a little on the nuts-o side of things. I felt like Wednesday Adams all of a sudden. You know that scene in the movie, Adams Family Values where she is forced to smile and it scared everyone in the camp? Yup, that’s what I felt like.

I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. If I’m going to scare people when I smile, well maybe I shouldn’t do it that often after all.

The good thing is I’m still not being negative about things and I’m still trying to be . . . gasp . . . nice.

Stay tuned.


On to other things.

My son likes to wake me up in the mornings—especially on Saturdays, the only day I get to sleep until it’s daylight. He crawls up in the bed between Catherine and myself.

“Hey, Daddy,” he says and smacks me in the head. “Daddy, I want to get up. Can you get up? Can you play with me? Can I have some drink? Daddy. Daddy, get up.”

I usually open one eye and look at the smiling face that is inches from my head.

“Hey, little buddy, lay down and go back to sleep.”

I usually try to get him to lie down between us but that doesn’t work.

“Daddy, come on. Get up.”

He crawls out the bed and tugs on my foot.

“Logan, wake your momma up.”

“No,” he says and lets go of my foot.

“Why not?”

“I scared to.”

Though I’ve heard this dozens of times it always gets me. “What?”

“I scared to wake Mommy up.”


“She’ll get mad.”

I usually sit up at this. “Are you afraid to wake Daddy up?”

“No,” he says but he doesn’t just say no. He says “Nooooooooooooo.”

Yeah, he drags it out like I’ve just asked him a dumb question. So, what do I do? I get up.

I tell you this because I’m the one who took the initiative to try and become kinder and gentler and my son is afraid to wake up his mother. What’s up with that?


On the writing front I have subbed out eight stories since the first and have hopes for each one. Now, just to sit back and wait for the responses. Fingers crossed and all.

The writing is coming along nicely as well. I wanted to write one thousand words a day and so far I sit at 15167 and counting. I should finish up a six thousand word story tomorrow and I have a few other things I want to get started in the next few days.

I haven’t started back on the novel yet, but I’m going to soon.

Okay, I’m done for now—the Bull Crap System game is about to start back and I’m pulling for Florida. Though I’m not a big fan of the Gators, I do like Tim Tebow. I’ve been pulling for the Florida Tebows in this one.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The New Year and A Few Resolutions That I Won't Keep

Let’s start the year off on the right foot: HAPPY NEW YEAR to all you folks out there.

It’s been a while, I know, but a lot has been going on and I haven’t been posting as much as I should. I know. I know. Bad, bad AJ. But, hey, it’s life and it is what it is, right?

Okay, here we go. It is January 5th—the first Monday of the New Year. I’ve set for myself some goals with my writing and would like to share them to all of the three people who read my posts. I set goals every year but these are a bit different. They are a little tougher and will make me work harder if I want to reach them.

Here they are in no specific order:

1) I want to write 1000 words a day. Every day. Yeah, that one might be tough. If you do the math that’s 365,000 words this year. Personally, I think that is attainable. For an update on that: So far this year (all of 5 days), I’ve written 4 flash stories and 2 short stories, which equals a little over 8000 words so far.

Now, just to keep that enthusiasm and pace…

2) I want to publish 50 stories this year. Yeah, that’s a LOT and that may be a little tougher, considering the most stories I’ve ever published in one year is 27. But, I’m thinking positive here and setting the sights kind of high on purpose.

3) I want to get paid more this year than last year for my stories. I have a goal of 500 bucks, which isn’t a lot but when you consider the small press, it’s a bunch.

4) Here is the part that may be toughest of all for me: I want to branch out more. I want to write some things that are not horror related. I’m already breaking a sweat on this one. That nervous tick is coming back and I’m grinding my teeth.

5) Finish the novel I started for NaNoWriMo. I reached the word count easily enough but I haven’t really worked on it since reaching the goal. The story is too good not to finish.

And then there is the final goal for this year: To write more blogs and network a little better than in the past. That includes these little pieces like the one I am writing now.

Okay, if you have read this far, I would like to point out my personal New Year’s resolution, which I almost blew on the first day.

Catherine, my lovely wife, and I were talking and I said to her, “Hey, Babe,” (Yeah, that’s what I call my wife), “I think I’m going to try and be a kinder, gentler Jeff this year.” For those not in the know, the J in AJ stands for Jefferson but I go by Jeff. Don’t call me Jeffery or Jeffy. It might get you—oh wait, I almost blew it again.

“Really? Again?” Catherine said as she stirred her coffee full of creamer that could put hair on your chest, but thankfully, not hers.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, feigning that I was wounded by her two words.

“Didn’t you try to be nice before?”

“Well, yeah, but that was a while back.”


“What? You don’t think I can do it?”

She didn’t really answer the question, per say, but she did say, “Well, I heard you tell Keith that a couple of years ago and he started laughing at you.” She gave me one of her pretty smiles. I think she was trying not to laugh at me.

“Yeah, but that was a few years ago.”

“Okay, if you think you can do it.”

At this point I am waiting for her to say something like, I will support you or back you up on this, but NO, that never came. Just, “Okay, if you think you can do it.”

“You don’t think I can, do you?”

She glanced at me. It was one of those looks that said everything. No, she doesn’t believe I can do it.

“You see, this is why I can’t do it. No one believes I can be a kinder, gentler Jeff. This is why I don’t make it past the first day.”

After that she was laughing, but I think it was one of those, ‘you’re pathetic’ laughs.

I walked away. And, as I sit here now, my muse on my shoulder whispering in my ear and rubbing his hands together, I have decided to use this disbelief as motivation. It’s bulletin board material, folks, and if I cared to use Facebook I would put it on the bulletin board there. But, I don’t care to use Facebook that often so I’ll just post it on my forehead and look in the mirror each morning.

By the way, I haven’t blown it yet and I’m five days in. I think the excessive writing has a lot to do with that.

Okay, I am finished running my mouth or fingers, depending on how you look at it. Until next time—and there will be a next time—I am AJ and I’m out.