Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Beginning

How about some pimpage? Is that even a word? According to spell check it’s not. It doesn't matter. People make up new words all the time and I think someone else coined the word well before I used it.


First off, Happy New Year. We are eleven hours in and so far, so good. Things are always scheduled to change.

Before we completely say good bye to 2009, I want to say a couple of thing. Well, probably more than a couple. I want to talk, so sit down, grab your coffee and read. Okay? Thanks. Please, don’t read while intoxicated…

2009 GOALS:

I reached one of my goals from last year. I did manage to write 1000 words a day and nearly 400,000 words on the year. I have no clue, yet, as to how many stories I wrote. I’ll figure that out next week some time.

I didn’t reach a few of the goals. Most notably: I wanted to receive 50 acceptances from publications. I came close: 48.

I also wanted to break into the pro markets. Again, I came close, getting short-listed six times but, eventually, not getting in on all six submissions. I did, however, make quite a few semi-pro sales. It’s only the beginning, folks. Only the beginning.

The novel did not get finished. I started it. Actually, a couple of novels were started. I’m just not in full novel writing mode yet. I wrote two novellas, which I think will help me gear up for that novel writing experience and the discipline to stick with it.

So, with writing, I came close…

2010 GOALS:

Do I have to do this again?

Okay, fine. I will stick with one goal that I set for myself every year and I achieved it last year: 1000 words a day, minimum.

The second one is still to break into the pro markets.

I’m not setting my sights on a high number of publications this year—I don’t plan on submitting as much as I did last year: 156 Submissions. 48 acceptances, 11 pending, 6 withdrawals. Instead, I want to focus on something that I really thought hard about last year and worked on, especially in the last half of 2009: To make every story my best story.

I think, as writers, a lot of times we get set in our ways and we just write, either to get the words on paper or get them out of the way so we can start on something else. I am guilty of the latter. That’s not really fair to the readers or to the editors and slush readers, for that matter. Or to myself.

Something along these lines came up recently in a web forum I frequent. I was taking a poll about short stories. Why do you read them? Why do you write them? Questions like that. (For those who don’t know, I want to change the way folks view the short story. For those who write them, you know how hard it can be to come up with a complete story in less the 5000 words. For those who read them, I want to give you an experience you can remember.) Then, this statement was made by John Miller:

I hate that writers try to write a good story and submit it. I think writers should try to write the best story of their life each and every single time.

Yup, that’s right. And then there was this statement:

I don't want another good story; I want a GREAT story. I don't want to read a good hook; I want a GREAT hook. I think writers must try to write each story to be better than their competitors, better than their friends, better, better, better than what they wrote for their last story.


But, wait. There is more:

I think a story should pull the reader in, dragging the reader all the way through. Whether they get straight to the action or use a slow buildup, I don't give a rat's ass. I want to be pulled INTO the story. Whether its plot, language or strong characters, I don't care.

Did you read that last blurb? Read it again. If you are a writer, let it sink in. We should be pulling our readers in and not letting them go. It doesn’t really matter HOW we pull them in as long as we hook ‘em and hold ‘em. This is what you should be doing every time you sit down to pen a story. No, it’s not what you should be doing; it is your DUTY. Your responsibility. You should want to give your readers everything you have with every piece you write.

End of story . . . yeah, pun intended.

So, that is my biggest goal this year. To make every story better than the previous one. It’s only fair, not only for the slush readers, editors and, hopefully the readers who see my story and look at it, but for me, as well. I want you to walk away saying ‘Wow’ or ‘I need a smoke.’

A couple of things before I move on to the pimpage…

There are over 350 shopping days left until Christmas. What? Are you serious? You’re tired of hearing this crap? Me too. I want holidays to go back to being fun. I want there to be Halloween items on the shelf right up until November 1st. I want to see hearts and cupids and boxed candies and conversation hearts on the shelves until after Valentines Day. The same with Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. And, folks, I don’t want to see the first thing about shopping for Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving. Seriously.

At the rate we are going retailers are going to find a reason to build up every day of the year as a big shopping day. As it stands we have President’s Day Sales and July 4th Sales and Martin Luther King Day Sales. Come on, folks. Do we really want it to come to The 5th Amendment Day Sale? Or having a sale for the day the Redsox finally clinched a world series? I like the Sox, but come on, man…

With Christmas in mind…

This Christmas we did something a little different. My wife’s grandmother wanted to see the parade in early December. For one reason or other she was not able to get there. She told my mom-in-law, Beth, that she wanted to see one more parade before she died. This made us all pause. We don’t think about our loved ones dying, but in truth, it will happen, especially as we grow older.

Beth and her husband, Lon, came up with a wonderful idea. She approached Catherine and I about it. Then several of us approached other members in the family.

What is it we did? Well, we wanted to give her a parade. Sadly, we could only get five cars rounded up and just enough family members so we could put on a mini-parade for them. We met up at the church a couple of blocks from their home on the lake. We decorated our cars with foam snowflakes and lights and posters. My wife dubbed our daughter Junior Miss Snowflake 2009 and she sat on the driver’s side door (with my arm around her) and waved like a princess as we drove by their house.

Trans Siberian Orchestra played loud from Lon’s truck, which had Beth and a few others, my son included, sitting in the bed next to a lit up Christmas tree.

“This is one of the best presents I’ve ever received.” That is what Catherine’s grandmother said.

It’s a memory that those of us who participated will remember for the rest of our lives. It’s something I wouldn’t let my children miss out on.

During the Christmas season so many folks are all about spending money for the best presents and, sadly, many folks like to be recognized for what they give. It’s an ego thing.

Maybe, just maybe, the best present isn’t one you can buy in a store. Maybe, just maybe, the best present can sometimes be the gift of your time. It’s something that you can never get back and it is one of the greatest gifts of all.

For those who participated in this gift of love and time, thank you. Thank you all. I, for one, would like to see this become a family tradition…

Okay, now for one more goal for 2010:

To be better at networking, blogging and putting myself out there. I hate doing it—it sounds so much like bragging. But, truth be told, if I want to make a name for myself, then I need to network better, to reach out more.

How about that for a segue?

Now for the pimpage.

My short story, ‘Dead Characters’ has been picked up by SNM Horror Magazine. It’s in January’s Issue #1. Also, my friend Suzie Bradshaw has a story in there as well. It is the story of the month and appears in Issue 2. It is titled ‘Devil In Cowboy Pajamas.’ After you read ‘Dead Characters,’ take a look at Suzie’s stories (and the others as well). Leave a comment in the guest book, let Steve Marshall know how much you like the new edition.

Dead Characters at SNM Horror Magazine

‘Sarah’s Playground’ is in the anthology Bonded By Blood II: A Romance In Red, put out by SNM Horror Magazine. This is a beautiful book. The cover is amazing and the forward is by Wendy Brewer. Details on purchasing can be found here:

Bonded By Blood II A Romance In Red

Liquid Imagination has just released their first anthology. It is the Static Movement Special Edition Print Volume II. For the most part this is a best of collection of the online magazine, Static Movement, owned and operated by Chris Bartholomew. Along with the best stories, you get quite a few poems. Each story is accompanied by illustrations.

My story, ‘Broken Hearted Savior,’ appears in this special edition collection and is illustrated by Kyle Naden. His illustration captures the story in a unique way. Thank you, Kyle, for the wonderful artwork for ‘Broken Hearted Savior.’

You can pick up the collection at a relatively inexpensive price of $10.00. First off, you can check out Chris’ Static Movement here:

Static Movement

Now, you can order the special edition print collection here:

Static Movement Special Edition Print Volume II

My flash story, ‘The Crimson Spider’ was picked up in December by The New Flesh. It’s a reprint but rewritten completely before I sent it in. You can check it out here:

The Crimson Spider at The New Flesh Magazine

Leave a howl if you will.

Okay, I’m done being longwinded. Please, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Feel free, also, to leave comments.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out…


  1. I had a long comment that was lost. Suffice it to say, there were so many good things in this blog, that it could have been split into 3 blogs. I love your tenacity to set goals, because that's the only way, in my humble opinion, of meeting any dream in life. I was very much surprised that you quoted me, but flattered and willing to attempt my to take my own desires as advice. There are so many cool books out there.

  2. I love your goal of making each story better than the last. I love your stories now, and I'll be waiting expectantly, as you announce the publication of a new story.

    And what your family did for your wife's grandmother was awesome. Just awesome.

    Thanks for such a powerful blog. Good luck in the new year on meeting all your goals.