Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Vampire Flick

“The Vampire Flick” is an online story, which will hopefully be written by many authors.

The idea is that you write your contribution based on reading only the preceding part, and at the end we will have an interesting (and strange!) story.

If you are interested in taking up the challenge and want to write the next part, then read Part 6 ONLY below and post the next part on your blog/website with a link to my part (#6). Also, post a comment at the the source (or @necol66 on Twitter, since he seems to know what's going on) if you are taking up the challenge to contribute to this story.

Here is Part 6 (it’s short, but a good set up, I think):

“No, thank you,” Scarlett said. She stood, her legs shaking. A rush of nausea swept through her and the world spun.

“Are you okay?” Sasha asked, steadied Scarlett with a hand gripping her sister’s elbow.

Scarlett nodded, jerked her arm free. “I’m fine. Why don’t you go ahead and get the humiliation over with, okay?”

A laugh tore from Sasha and she threw back her head. She calmed, level her stare at her sister, a smile tracing across her thin lips. “You’re not getting off that easy. I’ve got you right where I want you.”

Scarlett watched as her sister walked off, a hum trailing behind, a song from their younger days, when the animosity wasn’t so strong, the anger wasn’t so damning. Clenching her teeth, Scarlett went the other way, hands balled into fists.

“I need to kill,” she said and sniffed the air. Food stirred in the not so far away distance.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Living With Primary Colors


It's cold outside. You know it's so if I say it's so. Cold air doesn't normally bother me. I prefer cooler temperatures over heat any day. Record lows stretch across America and it's no different here in the south, where frigid temperatures have walloped us. And they are calling for possible snow and ice in a few days. I have mixed feelings about this. Snow would be nice—my kids would love it. Ice is a different story. Ice is bad. Bad, I say. I don't want ice.

That is a few days away, so for now I want to talk diets. Uggh… diets. Who came up with this word? It's appropriate: Diet, because you are dying to eat.

Catherine and I started a diet on New Year's Day. Yeah, I know, what was I thinking, right? That maybe it was time I got back into shape and . . . gasps . . . started eating a little healthier. I love cow and chicken and pig—they are just so delicious in all their variables, especially the nugget, finger and burger style. They're just not that healthy for you and I'm 39 so maybe my health should be looked at a little differently now.

Catherine spent the morning figuring out the 'points' I'm allowed to use for food. Wow, points… Seriously? Yeah, seriously. There are a certain number of points I am allowed and I'm not supposed to go over it. Interestingly enough, Diet Coke has zero points and I've seen a lot of women drinking it like it's going out of style. Can that really help your diet?

Imagine Linus Van Pelt saying the word "Doomed" over and over and you have my expression and feelings just before starting this diet. We started the diet and after four days I have done pretty well. Laying in bed last night I started thinking and then I started speaking.

"Hey, Honey, if I don't use up all the points I have for each week, can I roll them over into the next week?"

This is the way the man's mind works. If I had leftover points I could roll them over into the next week and eat more of the stuff I like.

"No," she said sharply. "These are not like rollover minutes—you can't carry them over. Once the day is gone, the points are gone."

"Well, why not?"

"You just can't. It defeats the purpose."

No rollover points. Okay, does that mean I can't splurge on Superbowl Sunday and have a pizza?

[Deep sigh.] It was worth the effort, eh?

Interestingly enough, I haven't really been all that hungry since starting the diet. I've stuck with it, for the most part, and I haven't starved like I thought I would. We'll see how it works out. I'll keep you posted.

On to the main focus of this article. Recently I've been toying with the basics of writing. No, not nouns and verbs and the differences of to, too, and two. The actual basics of writing.

NOTE: Before reading any further, please understand that these thoughts are purely my opinion. Not fact. I have not researched this in any way shape or form. This is just the way I see writing in its most basic form.

Writing, in its simplest form, is like the primary colors and the two neutral colors. Let me see if I can explain this the way I see it in my head. Hold on a second…

"Hey, Charlie, are you up there?"

[Checks watch]


"Ummm . . . yeah, whatta yah need?"

"Do you still have that film on primary colors?"

"Uh . . . yeah, right here."

"Can you roll it?"



Charlie. He's such a good guy, but he often falls asleep on the job.

As you can see, all colors are based on one or more of the three primary colors of Red, Yellow and Blue. Primary colors are your most basic colors and without them you can't make other colors.

I look at writing in its most basic form kind of like the Primary Colors. Without the basics you can't write. The basics, in this case, would be words and putting them into sentences. The See Spot books are a great example of basic writing and a good place to start when learning.

See Spot run.

Basic. Red, blue and yellow.

Keep this in mind.

From the Primary Colors you can form the Secondary Colors of Orange, Purple and Green. I probably don't need to break it down but I will:

Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Red = Purple
Yellow + Blue = Green

By mixing primaries you take them out of their most basic form and create a different color. It's basically like expanding on the two colors, or in writing, expanding on a basic sentence.

Spot ran across the yard.

Not only do we see spot run, we now know where he is running. It is no longer a basic sentence, but one that begins to paint a picture. Pun intended.

From the secondary colors you can create Tertiary Colors. These colors are formed when mixing a primary color with a secondary color. They include colors such as Blue-Green and Yellow-Orange. It's a little more complex than just mixing two Primaries together. The same goes for writing. When you start mixing in details, sentences become stronger.

Now, let's change that sentence just a tad, giving it a little more detail as to what Spot is really doing:

Spot chased the ball across the yard.

The original sentence has now morphed from seeing Spot run into not only seeing him run, but also knowing that he is chasing a ball and he is doing it in a yard. We've just given Spot a reason to run. The sentence is morphing, a story is forming.

There's more.

Throw in your two main neutrals of Black and White. By mixing colors with black and white they can become richer or blander. It's really up to you. Add some White to the Red and you have Pink. Go the other way and instead of adding White, add Black and you form more or a Brick Red color. The variations are practically limitless. Writing, in my opinion, is the same way. By adding or taking away from sentences you can strengthen your writing.

Spot chased the soccer ball across the tall grass.

We've just described the ball in its most basic form (a soccer ball) and the yard Spot is running in (grassy). It is still very basic in the sentence structure but slight descriptions have been added and we know what Spot is doing. You can add to this or subtract from it and make the sentence pop or fizzle. Or you could stick with the basics—sometimes that works best.

Don't go away yet. Sit back down. Keep sipping that coffee or water or whatever it is you are drinking.

The basics are important but there is one other thing that takes the basics even further and, in my opinion, is the most important part of the entire Primary Colors Writing Philosophy.


In order to become better writers, we must understand Harmony. In essence, it is a pleasing effect produced by an arrangement of things, parts, or colors, according to the dictionary. In color schemes Harmony produces interest in a piece. It is not bland and it is not 'too busy.' It is visually pleasing to the eye, engaging, gives off a sense of order. Harmony, in art, is easy to view, pleasing to the eyes. It holds your attention longer than a chaotic blend of colors.

We, as writers, need to find the Harmony in our words. It's not just writing the words to a story that counts; it's writing the perfect words and putting them in the perfect spots. An almost perfect word in an almost perfect spot doesn't have the same effect. Finding the right spot for each word creates the Harmony you want when penning a story.

One of my favorite writers is a guy named John Mantooth. I've often thought he is a master of word placement, or word Harmony. If you've never read him, you should look him up. Brilliant writer. Brilliant.

Like colors, there are schemes and contrasts and textures that go with writing. By adding descriptions and emotions you can layer your stories, make them come alive, make the characters believable. But, it all starts with the basics. See Spot run. Go with it. What do you have to lose?

Again, these are just my opinions and I am in no way, shape or form a master at writing. This is what I have used to help me grow as a writer. Maybe it can help you as well.

For now, I'm AJ and I'm out….

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…