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.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Some Odd Ramblings and Pimping Out Some Friends

February is upon us, the Super Bowl is over and I throw props out to the Steelers and my friend Jessica, who is a true blue, Pittsburgh born fan. Congratulations Pittsburgh and Jessica. Thanks to Pittsburgh winning I won’t be rewriting that song those kids sang in the video you sent me.


My son goes to our church day school. Sometimes Catherine will sub for an absentee teacher and stay after and watch the children during staff meetings. Last Thursday there was a staff meeting and my wife hung out with the staff’s children in the nursery. Logan, my son, made Catherine lunch with the various play foods they had.

“Where’s my drink?” she asked after he served her lunch with no beverage.

A moment later he came back to her ‘table’ and gave her a ketchup bottle.

“Is this Coke?” Catherine asked.

Logan rolled his eyes. “Nooooooo. It’s beer.”

Oh boy.


Speaking of my son, tonight it was just he and I for a while. We played Hot Wheels and then we started to wrestle—a favorite past time of his. Somehow during the wrestling he sat on my hand and put both of his feet on my shoulder, putting me in one of those arm locks you see in the fake wrestling on television. I couldn’t help but laugh and then wonder where he learned this trick. We don’t watch wrestling. Not since my daughter was about three.

The next thing I knew we had morphed into cars—more importantly, characters from one of the Hot Wheels movies. I became Torro and he became Bert. We ran through the house, engines revving, tires screeching, racing through the World Race. At one point my son ran from the front room and into the kitchen. He grabbed the doorjamb and headed for the hallway and the bedrooms.

One slight problem.

Logan didn’t let go. As his feet went up in the air and my son went sideways he didn’t miss a beat. He squealed his ‘tires’ while he was airborne and sideways. He looked like a skateboarder without the board. I tried to catch him but somehow or other I missed and he landed on his . . . feet.

I stood there amazed, my engine suddenly idling without so much as a pop-pop-pop. My son, however, took off through the hallway and back into my bedroom where he leapt onto the bed without slowing down.


One more thing about ‘the boy’ and I’ll move on to other topics. Just before his bedtime we were watching that same Hot Wheels movie that we had been pretending to be characters from. It was the end of the movie and I stood up and stretched. Logan had his Hot Wheels tracks out—much like the ones in the movie—and had been playing as the movie rolled on.

At the end is a song by Smashmouth called “Hot.” I had my back to Logan but I could hear him singing the words he knew. I glanced down in time to see him dancing to the ‘hot, hot, hot, hot’ part.

He stopped dancing and looked at me. He shrugged and put his arms out by his side.

“What, Daddy?” he asked with a sheepish grin. “What?”

Do you remember those days when your parents would see you dancing or singing or talking to yourself and get all embarrassed when you realized they were watching you? If so, this was one of those moments.


This past weekend we all went on a nature walk along the new Cherokee Indian Trail in Cayce, just off Old State Road. The sign at the beginning said it was 2.5 miles long. Umm . . . using a word from my daughter: whatever. I think it may have been twice that length. We ended up carrying Logan halfway through it. That was a LONG walk for his little legs. The good thing is he slept well that night. We all did.

At any rate, we took some cool pictures and had a lot of fun. We found this really heavy chain not too far from a bridge and what looked like an axle of an old vehicle—the closer we got to it we realized it was the wheels and axle of possibly and old semi. How it got all the way back there is beyond me. I got some great story ideas, especially when we saw this log that looked like it could have been an alligator sitting just out of the water with his jaws exposed. No, it wasn’t a gator, just a log. Which is a good thing.


The month of January ended with me holding steady to a couple of writing goals.

The first of these is my thousand words a day quota. Yeah, I sound like a big bad cop.

“Excuse me, Mr. Brown, did you reach your quota for the day?”

”Why, yes sir I did.”

“Are you certain?”

“Umm . . . Pick up the phone the call is free. Safe Auto. . .”

Yeah, I know that was cheesy but that commercial played during the Super Bowl last night and I remembered thinking it was near idiotic but still funny. Poor cops.

Anyway, I did hold strong to my thousand words a day goal, surpassing the monthly objective of 31,000 words by a whopping 22,000 words. I ended the month of January with 53,327 words written. That translates to 28 stories, some shorter than others, some longer. I would say that was a good start to the writing portion of the year.

I subbed out 26 stories and heard back from nine of them within that time period. Three accepts and six rejects. Still, that’s not a bad average. That puts me at only 6% of my goal of 50 publications within the year of 2009. Still, it’s a head start and I’m excited about the progress so far.

I’ll start back submitting tomorrow. I have six or seven places I’m looking at right now. If you have any suggestions for places to submit to, pass them along. Don’t be shy. I don’t bite.


Just a couple of more things. An acquaintance of mine, John Mantooth, has a story in Shroud Magazine. John is a tremendous writer. I wish I could tell you that you could read it online but you can’t. So, why don’t you head on over to this link and order you a copy:

Shroud Magazine

Chris Perridas, a good friend of mine, recently wrote the introduction to the limited edition of Andersen Prunty’s ‘Market Adjustment.’

As Fran Friel put it, he is too humble of a man to toot his own horn so why don’t we do it for him. You can check out the limited edition of ‘Market Adjustment’ with Chris’ introduction here:

Market Adjustment

Now, for those of you not keeping score at home, my story, Sarah’s Playground, is currently up at SNM Magazine. It came in second place in their erotic horror contest for the February edition of SNM Magazine.

Check it out here:

SNM Horror Magazine

You have to scroll down a little in order to read the story.

Now, can I ask someone a favor? I try and keep a copy of each story I get published in a book. Most of the time I can print out the online stories at work. But, since this is a blocked site at work I can’t do that with this one. And, since I have no printer at home, I can’t print it out here. Would someone mind printing this one out for me and mailing it to me? If so, just send me a message and let me know you can do this. Please?

I would greatly appreciate it.

I think that is about it for now. So, until next time, I’m AJ and I’m out.