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.