Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

Feel free to read this in the form of any action movie promo you’ve ever seen or heard:


All We See is the End

runfortheflame_cover_feb19_2017From the minds of A.J. Brown and M.F. Wahl comes two horrific tales of struggle and loss you won’t soon forget.

Run For the Flame takes us into a world where an ice age has engulfed everything, driving life underground. The Sanctuary holds the last vestiges of humanity, but its walls are cracking and the ice is slowly encroaching. In their last grasp at survival, the community is forced to send their boys on an all important run for the flame … none have ever returned.

In Purple Haze, a crash landing on an uninhabited planet strands Adira and the surviving members of her crew. Surrounded by a quiet world of blue grass and purple skies, danger lurks within the beauty. Without contact to Earth and light years from home, they encounter a treacherous enemy that threatens to destroy them from the inside out.

Wahl, a #1 Wattpad featured author, and Brown whose stories have appeared in over 200 publications, use their easy styles to draw you in and hold you close. Welcome to their nightmares.

Available soon on Amazon, but you can get it free by subscribing to my newsletter at:

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.


Star date, 1/1/2013, zero one zero four in the morning. The New Year is upon us and I aim to make it better than the one that just past.

I’m sorry, 2012, but you did not live up to my expectations. I mean, seriously. Having me take a pay cut and struggle significantly to make ends meet just to keep my job was a really crappy thing for you to do. I mean, really you didn’t start things off all that well when you picked up the baton that 2011 dropped and said, ‘hey, have pneumonia until February.’

I should have known then that you were going to kick my butt.

My writing took a beating. My mental and physical state of being took a beating. My confidence, yeah, that took a good old-fashioned blanket party throw down. It took a while to get that back.

Though you did see fit to let me get two short story collections out there, one of them through Dark Continents Publishing and the other one put out by me, the sales have been underwhelming, even with the good reviews they have both received. You would think, Dear 2012, that with reviews that state things like:

“AJ Brown’s debut novella presents three short stories of moralistic caution, human failings, and dark, unrelenting horror. He has a fresh, unique voice that brings the characters to life with a skill and experience that makes this a real page turner all the way to its deliciously macabre ending.”
–Starburst Magazine


Along the Splintered Path has a more laid back pace but with plenty of meat on the bones, characters you actually care about and is steered with a confident hand. I can see big things for AJ Brown.
–Daniel Russell


This book was a surprise, well written and a touch of Stephen King. Each story was quite different, and all were intriguing and at times disturbing.

…that the books would have sold more, but for some reason the publishing gods have not seen fit to allow this.

Still, not all was terrible, though you seemed to temper little victories with equal or greater defeats.

Guess what, 2012? It’s time to move on out the way and let the New Year 2013 in the door. It’s not like you have much choice in the matter, is it? You can’t turn back time. Just ask Cher.

I have plans for this year. Goals, I say. Goals. Do you hear me, 2012?

So go ahead. Shuffle on out the door and don’t let it hit yah where your Momma split yah.

Now that he’s gone, Dear 2013, my name is A.J. I am your friend, and hopefully, you will be mine. You and I could do some wonderful things this year. Like maybe me getting back onto a regular writing schedule—a daily one like I used to have. I sure do miss those thousand words a day that the years 2006-2010 allowed me to have.

And what about submissions and publications? Your predecessor, 2012, just didn’t seem to have it in the cards for me to do much of either. You may not know this since you’re still new here, but way back in 2009 I submitted 155 stories, and 45 of them went on to get published. No, I’m not looking to submit that many stories this year, but how about a third of that total? Are you down with that?

It’s still early, my new friend, but I want you to know that you have the power to make this as good a year as you want it to be. So I’m going to head to bed in a few minutes and dream sweet dreams of the future and what you have in store for my family and I.

Just in case, Dear 2013, you want to take a look at my two collections and maybe help push them in the right direction, here are the links. I hope you enjoy them, and don’t worry, even if you don’t own a kindle, you can get them both in print.

Southern Bones

Along the Splintered Path

And hey, if you wouldn’t mind, spread the word, leave a review, maybe drop me a line and let me know if you enjoyed the books.

As I bade 2012 farewell, I gave a thanks to the readers out there on Facebook:

“I’m going to end 2012 with a thank you to everyone who picked up one of my two short story collections throughout this year. Also, a big thank you to anyone who reviewed either of the books as well. I hope you enjoyed them, and here’s to 2013.”

The ‘likes’ were cool, but the lone comment to the post made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, kind of like the Grinch when he discovered that Christmas didn’t come in boxes, packages and bags.

Thanks for writing them!

To everyone out there, you are welcome. And to Lindsey Beth Goddard, thank you for making my day with that comment.

I am going to head off to bed. I am finally tired enough to hopefully sleep more than a handful of hours. Before I go, I would like to leave you with my new favorite song, Mumford and Sons’ I Will Wait.

Have a wonderful New Year, and until we meet again, my friends…

~Tap, tap, tap~

Is this thing on?

Oh, it seems to be.

Can you hear me out there? You can? Good.

Looking out over the crowded front yard, I see a lot of familiar faces, and a few I don’t recognize. Hey, Bart. How are you? And R.C., my man, things going well? Cate. Nice to see your pretty face. Crashman, glad you could make it. Thank you all for coming to this impromptu press conference.


The reason I called this little press conference is it seems I am back to square one with the short story collection.

What’s that, Herbie? Square one? Yes, square one.

Ummm… yes, I have the stories picked, though I may take one out and replace it with another one (or two).

Yes, I do have the Acknowledgements in place. Yes, the Dedication and In Memoriam as well.

What’s that, Herbie?

No, I don’t have the entire afterward in place, but about half.

Yes? What?

Yeah… ummm… I’m about to address that.

Now, if there are no further questions, I would like to begin this press conference again.

It looks like, though I won’t be starting completely from square one, I will be starting over in some respects.

I need to rework a portion of one story—it sounds too much like something a friend of mine wrote and I don’t want there to be any confusion or anything that could be construed as plagiarism. I realized this a couple of weeks ago, and have e-mailed my friend. She said part of it sounded like her piece, but that I could change it and it wouldn’t have any effect on the story itself.

If I can’t get the kink ironed out, the story will be retracted from the collection. Simple as that.

Then there is another issue, one that I didn’t think would be an issue at all.

Recently, my friend, Lucas Pederson, drew out an image that I thought would make a great–GREAT–image. I tagged it as the cover for Southern Bones and was excited that I finally had an image in place. Then I started playing with it, looking at it as a larger piece, then as a smaller piece—thumbnail size. I checked the image to figure out what it would look like on a Kindle or iPhone or even just on the computer.

Uh oh.

There’s a problem.

The black and white pencil art, though amazing in and of itself, may not work well as a digital book cover.

I’m unhappy about that.

Wait. There is another issue. The title, Southern Bones, may not work either. There are no bones in any of the stories. Sure, there are pieces of bone in one story, but that’s it.

What’s that, Herbie? I can still call the book Southern Bones even if there is no mention of bones?

Yes, I could, but it doesn’t seem to fit.

How did I come to that conclusion?

When I realized the cover image might not work, I started trying to figure out something that would. Cate and I took pictures, but nothing jumped out to us.

Can I still use the image that was drawn for the cover? Of course, but maybe not for the cover—the title just doesn’t seem to work the way I thought it would. Unless there is another definition to the term of ‘bones’ that I don’t know about.

There are those issues and a couple of others. I want lead-ins and maybe images. The pictures probably won’t happen, at least not in the book, but I’m going to look at it either way. Who knows?

I want to give the readers their money’s worth. In order to do that, I have to feel like if I purchased this collection, would I be satisfied that my money was well spent? Don’t you want to be happy with your purchase?


I would rather put something out later than I intended, than to put something out that I wouldn’t be happy with—and, consequently, the reader wouldn’t be happy with—and ended up regretting in the long run.

I know, I’ve put this off two other times, but I think it’s for the best. I may not be completely back to square one, but I’m close enough to know there is a LOT of work that still needs to be done in order to put out a quality collection.

Before we end this press conference, I would like to say I am considering releasing a book separate from the collection, one that compiles the first ten installments of Dredging Up Memories and some bonus content that is not on the Tales of the Zombie War website.

I’m very excited about the possibilities of this.

I guess that concludes the press conference. So, if there are any questions, ask away. If not, until we meet again, my friends…

Recently, my good friend, Belinda Frisch, released her novel, Cure. In support of the release, I asked Belinda if she wanted to do a guest spot on my blog. She agreed and wouldn’t tell me the topic of her blog until I received it yesterday. Needless to say (yet I will anyway), I was humbled by her words…

Hey there, Type AJ Negative followers. I feel like I’m among kindred here because we have this wonderful friend in common, Jeff Brown. AJ, if you will. Herbie if he’s being shy, naughty, or moderating this blog.

A couple of years ago I wrote this short story, Cure, and Tales of the Zombie War picked it up. You know TOZW and this great series they have going, Dredging Up Memories? Well, Cure was a seed, a tiny little idea that hadn’t reached its full potential. That was November 2010. Fast forward to June 2012 and there have been a lot of changes. For one, I’ve developed my writing abilities far beyond where I was two years ago. Dead Spell, my YA novella, was my first experience with long-form writing and I fell in love with it.

Luckily, Jeff and his wife, Cate, enjoyed reading Dead Spell. Jeff sent me a great review and pointed out a few, eh hem, flaws. So embarrassing, but a lesson worth learning: no matter how many times you look at things, you’ll miss something. This brings me to the point of my guest post: AJ rocks. Yes, you heard it here, folks, and while I can imagine his cheeks blushing with embarrassment, he deserves some major praise.

Not only is he a talented author and a devoted, voracious reader, he is also a genuinely brilliant editor. When it came time that Cure needed its turn with the red pen, there wasn’t anyone else I wanted to work with more than Jeff. He is thorough, attentive, and committed. He is what made me be able to sing from the rooftops that I’m the author of Cure. I’m not afraid of flaws because Jeff made sure there weren’t any. He helped me put out a top-quality novel and I’m forever indebted to the countless hours he spent listening to me whine on Facebook chat.

You see, a good editor has an eye for plot holes, character flaws, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. He can spot when some dialect needs tweaking and is fluent in redneck, which came in handy writing my character, Billy. Jeff pointed out places where he felt things could be done better or different and I ran with them. I didn’t question him when he said, “no way this character would do or say that.” I followed his sage advice and I know, without a doubt, that Cure is better for it. I call dibs on him for Afterbirth, Cure’s sequel, so be prepared to arm-wrestle me for his attention in another few months.

We’ve all been watching AJ’s trial with the day job and his vacillations between writer, editor, and productive member of corporate America. There are a lot of reasons to question publishing these days, not the least of which is favoritism and nepotism over talent, but writers and editors like AJ are a rare breed. Talented and not afraid of hard work, I know his faith will pull him through. I hope my cheerleading helps him the way that his has helped me.

Now, to talk a bit about our “baby”.


Here’s the official blurb for Cure:

“Dark, disturbing, and deliciously addictive”
–R.A. Evans, author of Asylum Lake

Welcome to the Nixon Healing and Research Center, refuge for the indigent sick, and playground for the maniacal Dr. Howard Nixon whose cancer research has him dabbling in the undead. His human-zombie breeding program is falling apart and only Miranda Penton can save it.

Miranda gave up her budding military career to marry a fellow soldier but when their first child is stillborn, it’s more tragedy than their new marriage can handle. One year later, following her painful divorce, Miranda accepts an unexpected job offer to join Nixon’s security team. Her recruitment is part of Nixon’s dark plan and she quickly becomes one of his captives.

Nixon impregnates Miranda with a zombie fetus, but her imprisonment at the center is short-lived. A rescue team led by Scott, her estranged ex-husband, releases her and the infected on the unsuspecting hospital population.

The virus is spreading and must be contained. The center is going into lock-down. The group’s escape is threatened by a homicidal security guard and a raging storm. The town of Strandville is ground zero for the zombie apocalypse and Miranda must escape because the fate of humanity lies with her unborn child.

Only 5-star reviews so far, which is a testament to both my and Jeff’s hard work. Here’s what a couple of readers have said:

“Lets face it, original is hard to come by. Everything has been done and tried. But what makes a book unique and refreshingly stimulating, is the author’s ability to breathe life into their characters, and send them on a course that you are compelled to follow along. Cure delivers just that. It is a rotten breath of fresh air with a premise that I haven’t seen in any other Zombie novels.”

“I purchased this book for my Kindle on release day. Once I started reading, I was immediately drawn into the story and could not/ did not want to put it down until I read the entire story in one sitting! Without giving away the story, the author pulls you into a dark and twisted world, full of vividly graphic details that keep you in suspense as you delve deeper into the story to see what happens next. Immediately frustrated after reading the last words on the page because I can’t move on to the sequel! Ugh! I want to read more…I want to know what happens next! ! Drama, horror, suspense, love, loss and some intense zombie action…you can check all the boxes!”

As part of this guest post, I’m giving away (2) Kindle copies to randomly selected commenters. Tell me why you love zombies or confess your biggest medical fear and you’re in the running. Stay tuned for winner announcements on June 30th. I’ll need your email address to send them. Good luck and thanks for hanging with me.

Author Bio:

Belinda Frisch’s fiction has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone Horror, and Tales of Zombie War. She is an honorable mention winner in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition and the author of DEAD SPELL, CRISIS HOSPITAL, TALES FROM THE WORLD, THE WARD, AND THE BEDSIDE and the newly released CURE, the first in the Strandville Zombie Series.

You can find me blogging about writing and reading on my blog . My Facebook fan page is the best place to stay current with giveaways, reviews, and upcoming projects. I Tweet, randomly, about my books and others’ at @B_Frisch. And my Amazon author fan page lists all my available titles.

Thanks, AJ, for hosting me and for helping me make Cure the best it can be.

Just a quick note today:

My three story collection, Along the Splintered Path, is currently free at Amazon (and will be for the next five days). If you have wanted to pick it up, but haven’t been able to afford it–trust me, I know how money is tight these days–then now is your chance to get it free.

No money down.

No money later.

No money period.

So… browse on over to Amazon and get your copy of Along the Splintered Path.

Did I say it was free?

Yup, it is.

Check it out here: Along the Splintered Path

I have a favor to ask of all you fine readers. If you wouldn’t mind hitting that ‘Like’ button on the Amazon page, I would appreciate it. I recently heard that ‘Likes’ and reviews help you get better backing and a better push from Amazon. I don’t know how true that is, but it can’t hurt, right?

Also, if you have the time and the desire, would you mind leaving a review? Again, I would greatly appreciate it.

Just in case you haven’t heard, Along the Splintered Path is currently free at Amazon.

Don’t walk.

Don’t run.

Just browse over to Amazon and pick up a copy.

Thank you, very much, for your support and I hope you enjoy the read.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Oh my. It’s here. The new phonebooks are here…

Oh, wait, that’s not right. While I do feel a little like Steve Martin from the movie The Jerk right now, the new phonebooks don’t arrive until February around these parts.

What has arrived is my three story compilation, Along the Splintered Path. Officially, it was released yesterday by Dark Continents Publishing, but sometimes it takes a day or so for it to appear on Amazon. I’m here to say that, yes, it is now Alive—Alive, I tell you… mwa ha ha ha ha—at Amazon.


I like to make things easy for the readers, so here is the link to the Amazon page:

Along the Splintered Path

If you, the readers, wouldn’t mind picking up a copy and reading it, I would appreciate it. Seeing that it is priced at 2.99, I’d say that’s a deal, wouldn’t you?

Also, if you feel inclined to, would you mind leaving your thoughts about the collection? If not, I’m okay with that. I’m just glad you wanted to read it.

Also, the first of what I hope is many interviews is now live at BREATHE, Michelle Garren Flye’s blog. You can check it out here:


Drop a comment, say hey to Michelle and peruse her blog—lots of good stuff going on there.

Also, I want to mention that my collection is one of ten released by Dark Continents Publishing in what is The Tales of Darkness and Dismay book release. Twelve authors, Ten books. In the coming weeks, I will post blogs and, hopefully interviews, for all of them. Stay tuned. You won’t be sorry.

For now, I’m A.J. and I’m out…

Good morning, afternoon, evening, Friday to you all where ever you may be. Today is December 30th of the year 2011. Just two days left before we ring in 2012. Hopefully the New Year will bring joy and happiness and peace to us all.

Okay, I’m done with the sappiness…

I have good news and hopefully you all will like it.

Two things happen at the beginning of this year. First, my story, In the Shadows They Hide will appear in the anthology Night Terrors II, put out by Blood Bound Books.

The second one—and this is the one I’ve been chomping at the bits for: Dark Continents Publishing will release a three story collection of mine titled Along the Splintered Path on Monday, January 2nd. It is part of an e-book launch titled Tales of Darkness and Dismay. There are ten books in this launch and I’m glad that one of them is mine.

My little collection includes the reworked version of The Woodshed (which originally came out in 2008 in the anthology Dark Distortions put out by the now defunct Scotopia Press). This version is better, reworked half a dozen times since then. If you’ve never read The Woodshed, well, you’re in for a treat.

’Round These Bones, another older tale that was originally quite flat in it’s story telling and around 2300 words has been reworked and tops out at near 10K words now, is also in this collection.

Finally, but certainly not the least of these three stories, is Phillip’s Story, about a homeless man who comes into some money that, literally, falls from the sky. Ahh… but there is more to Phillip’s Story than that. It is two stories intertwined, two destinies colliding in time. Of the three stories, this is my favorite.

At the end of this is the cover, but before I post it, I wanted to say a little thanks to some folks who helped get this collection ready for submission:

Neil Buchanan
Kevin Wallis
Gay Degani
Lucas Pederson

And a very special thanks to my friend, Paula Ray, who helped me with my bio and the collection’s title.

Also, I’d like to thank Dark Continents Publishing for the opportunity to put this out. Several times in 2011 I had collections fall through and I got really frustrated… even thought about not writing for a while. My wife talked me out of that. Thank you, Cate. (Most of you know my wife as Catherine, but she prefers Cate…)

Now, here’s one thing I need to say for certain: I’m not an avid fan of reading those ‘self help’ books, the ones that tell you the rules and tell you things that really don’t make sense. However, if you are a writer (or a reader) I strongly encourage you to read Stephen King’s On Writing. This is the only book I will ever suggest to any writer to read. It taught me more in the two weeks it took me to read it (I’m a notoriously slow reader) than anything else about telling stories.

Everything I have written since reading this book, including a novel titled, Cory’s Way, is so much better because I read On Writing. You see, King doesn’t give you a bunch of rules and crap. He just tells you the truth about writing and that truth is, well, to tell the truth in your fiction and make the reader fall into the story, make them believe that what you have written is happening.

I’ve often said that in today’s world of writing and publishing, there is not enough ‘alive’ story telling. What I mean is that so many writers these days just tell cut and dry, action oriented stories that have no real life to them. They don’t let their stories breathe. King lets his stories breathe more so than anyone I have ever read (sometimes with a bit too much breathing that borders on hyperventilating). The point is, don’t restrict yourself because you don’t think someone will pick up what you have written. Good stories find a way to get published.

Cory’s Way was originally supposed to be a novel, but I found the task of writing it extremely daunting and decided to turn it into a short story. The story didn’t want to be so short and it grew and grew and grew (and I let it) until it turned into a novel that I am proud of. Hopefully, in the coming year, I can find a home for it, as well…

I’m going to go now, but before I do, here is the cover of Along the Splintered Path. I think it embodies the stories in the collection. I’ll post links to the collection when it comes out. If you purchase it, I appreciate it—more than you will ever know. If not, times are tough, and I understand. I thank you for considering it anyway.

Until next time, I’m A.J. and I’m out…

Along The Splintered Path, Book Cover

[Herbie’s Note: No paths were splintered in the writing of this blog.]

A couple weeks ago, I lamented on how 2011 has not been the banner year for me, as far as writing goes. 2010 had been a boon and I thought things were looking up. Then came 2011 and, well, I came back down to earth (in a meteor crashing from outer space kind of way).

In that blog I also mentioned something about things may be changing. I’m here to tell you now that something good is on the way.

We’ll start with a few publications that accepted stories that have either recently came out or will be coming out very soon.

I know… I know… some of these I probably should have mentioned before, but, like I said, it’s felt like a down year so the enthusiasm hasn’t always been there to blog about it.

Shame on me.

Not again, though.

I’m almost positive I did throw a blurb up for this first publication, but just in case:

The Horror Zine picked up a story I co-wrote a couple years ago with Diane Smith (a very talented lady I may add) after entering it in a flash fiction contest that I had no business writing for. Interestingly enough our stories were as similar as they were dissimilar. The story, The Third Edge of Power was submitted by Diane and accepted by Jeani Rector for The Horror Zine. It came out in August and I’m quite proud of the story.

[Side Note: I must add that Diane did most of the work on this after it was written, so I really can’t take much credit for the story finding a home. This was all Diane’s doing and I thank her for pushing on with this one. End Side Note]

Back in October of 2010, Necrotic Tissue picked up my story, Picket Fences for Issue #12. It was the editor’s choice, chosen, I believe, by Daniel Russell. It was my first pro paying story and another reason to believe I was finally on the way up (if only by one rung of the ladder).

Sadly, Necrotic Tissue shut down after Issue #14 (which came out in April, 2011). When I say sadly, I really mean it. NT was my favorite horror publication and I have several of their issues. I wish I had all 14 of them.

There is a good note to this. R. Scott McCoy, the owner of Necrotic Tissue, decided to put out a best of NT earlier this year. It came out in October. My previously mentioned story, Picket Fences is in there, along with some very good writers (Nate Lambert, Cate Gardner, Robert Eccles, Daniel Russell, Greg Hall, Brian Hardin, to name a few).

You can find this collection at Amazon, but I’ll make it easy for you. Just follow the link:

Best of Necrotic Tissue

[Side Note #2: In 2012 I plan to rewrite Picket Fences, detailing more of what the story is about. The original version was an experimental story trying to use what I considered ‘future tense.’ Though I love the story in it’s current state, I want to go down that road again and write it in a more traditional style. It may even end up being a novella or… something longer. End Side Note #2]

In November, A Hacked-up Holiday Massacre came out. This is a Pill Hill Press publication, edited by Shane McKenzie, who has recently left PHP to start his own publishing company: Sinister Grin Press.

As the title suggest, all the stories are based on Holidays. Mine was Mother’s Day and it’s a story titled Remember What I Said About Living Out In the Country?. Yeah, long name, I know. Better than my story appearing in this anthology is that it appears in there with the likes of Jack Ketcham, Joe Lansdale, Bentley Little, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, Kevin Wallis, Steve Lowe, Lee Thompson and others. I was thoroughly honored to get into this publication.

Again, I’m going to make this easy for you. If you want to check it out, you can follow either the above referenced link to Pill Hill Press and check out their bookshop or you can follow the following link to the Amazon page where it can be purchased as well:

A Hacked-up Holiday Massacre

Just recently, my short story, Skipping Stones was published by Dark Moon Books in an anthology titled Frightmares, A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror and edited by Stan Swanson. All the stories (and there’s a LOT of them totaling a whopping 129) are less than 500 words in length.

Skipping Stones is a reworked story after having let it sit and stew for a couple years. In it’s original form, it was less than 200 words.

You can check out Dark Moon Books from the link above and you can check out the Amazon page by following this link: Frightmares, A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror

[Side Note #3: This not so banner year looks like it hasn’t turned out so bad after all. End Side Note #3]

Coming soon from Blood Bound Books, my story, In the Shadows They Hide will appear in the anthology Night Terrors II, edited by Marc Ciccarone.

In the Shadows They Hide is one of my favorite stories that I have written. I think the title tells a lot about the story. And you readers, I really think you’ll dig this one. I’ll keep you updated on it when it comes out.

If I haven’t bored you to tears yet, let me throw in a couple of other stories that have come out during the year that I know I’ve plugged, but while I’m at it, I may as well do so again.

Flowers In Her Hair came out in the spring, published by Liquid Imagination, which is edited by Kevin Wallis. The story also has an audio version, read by Bob Eccles, another talented individual with a great radio voice.

You can read or listen to the story here: Flowers In Her Hair

After a couple years and over a dozen tries at finding a home for Summer Jumpers it was finally picked up by The Gloaming earlier this year. This story had been accepted twice previous, but both of the zines folded before the publication dates. It was short-listed half a dozen more times, so it was good to finally give the story a place to be read. Sadly, I can’t seem to link to it because it no longer appears to be on the website.

[Side Note #4: If you would like to read Summer Jumpers as it appeared in The Gloaming, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do for you. End Side Note #4]

One of my favorite stories to write over the last couple years has been a series titled Dredging Up Memories. This series has been so generously put out by the good folks over at Tales of the Zombie Wars. It’s (kind of obviously, given the site name) a zombie tale and follows the trials of a lone man dealing with the world gone to Hell in a hand basket, the loss of family and friends and what he discovers about the zombies… or, rather the people who have turned into them. You can find the first six parts of the ongoing series here: Dredging Up Memories

I’m going to end this blog tonight with a simple thank you to those who have read my work this year or in the last five years or so that I have pursued this dream of being a writer. It’s an up and down roller coaster that would never go up without all of you. For the writer, having no readers is the worst thing that could happen. If I have touched just one person with any of my words of fiction, then I’ve succeeded at being a writer. If you’ve liked one of my stories (or even if you didn’t) thank you for reading.

As the New Year rings in, I have some good news, which I had originally intended to share here, but I seem to have gone on a different path with this blog. So, in order to avoid turning this into a 3000-word piece, check back here in the next day or so.

For now, I’m A.J. and I’m out…

I would like to be up front about something before I go forth with this book review: I am not a book reviewer. There are reasons for this. One reason is that when I am editing others’ work, I am often a bit harsh. On occasion, writers of those works at those moments didn’t care much for how I went about explaining things. I used to be soft of folks so it took a while for me to be brutally honest about someone’s work. I’ve found sometimes you have to be a little rough on folks to get their attention, to make them listen. While I do tend to be hard on folks, I rarely ever end an editing job without something positive to say. For me, I try to balance the negatives with the positives in order that the writer can see that, even if he/she is struggling with a particular issue, there is hope and giving up should not be an option.

With that in mind, I don’t review many books simply because, though I know I can give fair and impartial thoughts, sometimes the writer simply can’t handle my opinion or the way I give it. The key word there is opinion. The other reason is I am a notoriously slow reader. It’s not that I can’t read fast–I can when I have to–but I don’t like to breeze through stories and not get the full effect the writer intended.

However, I got my keyboard calloused fingers on a book about six or so weeks ago and, after reading the first couple of pages, I was engrossed in the story. Ten minutes and twenty-five pages later I stopped reading. Did you catch that? Twenty-five pages in ten minutes (or maybe fifteen, but definitely no more than that). That’s a lot for me in such a small span of time.

I set the book down just long enough for my wife to pick it up and begin reading it. In my household that is all of about three seconds. She read it in a couple of hours and told me, “You really need to finish this book.” Finishing the book was my intention before the lovely lady picked it up.

I turned back to the first page and started over. I read through half the book that night and finished it the next day. For a person who takes six months to finish a three hundred page book, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Five paragraphs in to this, one would think I would have already offered up the title of the book and the author or even a little bit about this novel, but I havenn’t. On purpose. Remember, I’m not a book reviewer. So, I need you, the reader, to understand that though I am a writer, I am a reader (just like you) and I like to be engrossed in what I am reading. Understand? Good.

Dead Spell, by Belinda Frisch, is my type of book. It’s quick paced, but not all action all the time. There are enough descriptions to get the feel of the scenery and the people in it without overdoing it. And it has something that not many stories have (at least for me): a few really good cringe-worthy scenes. If you can make me squirm just a little, then you’ve done your job, and Belinda Frisch did her job.

A brief synopsis without giving too much away: Teen-aged Harmony struggles with living in a world where her mom has issues of her own and a ghostly figure named Tom haunts her on a regular basis. Her best friend, Brea, also has problems, but not nearly to the extent as Harmony. Brea has to help Harmony figure out who Tom is before it’s too late–for both of them.

I can’t really say too much more without spoilers, so I’ll try and talk around it a little.

As the story unfolds we find out how tight the bond is between the two girls and how Brea’s mother wants nothing more than for her to stay away from Harmony. There is a bit of mystery behind her reasons, which in the end, make complete sense. We also get to see more of Tom, the apparition tormenting Harmony, as well as Brea’s boyfriend and mother, who are somewhat over protective and, in the mother’s case, overbearing.

Again, I am not one to give away all the information, but in the end, the story takes an unexpected turn that gave me a satisfying smile. And that’s pretty hard to do these days.

This book could have easily taken that turn into young adult horror, but it stayed in the more adult arena. That is my opinion. Others may disagree and I’m fine with that. It does have the feel of a young adult title, but it also has things in there that definitely fit the more adult crowd. There are drugs, a bit of sex (and who doesn’t like them a bit of sex?), some paranormal activity, some violence, both inflicted upon and self-inflicted by the characters. There are lies and deceit and… gasps… a little bit of romance as well, but not too much and not enough to make me gag, thankfully. There is heartache and a bit of redemption as well. There are no glittery vampires or hunky werewolves and that made me a happy reader.

The real key to this book is not only the story, but the ease at which it was written. There is no flowery language to wade through, no purple prose. The characters come to life and, believe me, when certain events happen, you feel it. There is no extra padding of descriptions in order to make the story longer. It comes in at a relatively modest 198 pages, which is right around the forty to fifty thousand word mark. Belinda Frisch’s writing in Dead Spell is simple and easy to read.

If you like heavy descriptions and a lot of fluff, then this book is not for you. However, if you like a quick paced, easy to read story, you’ve found your book of choice in Dead Spell.

Will everyone like this book? Probably not. Nothing is ever liked by everyone. Will the majority enjoy Dead Spell? I am going to say they would. What I find refreshing about this novel is that it was written with the reader in mind, not the editor, not the publisher. It’s a story that the reader can understand without having to go back and reread portions of it just to ‘make sure.’ You don’t get lost when the plot takes an unexpected turn. I like that.

Everyone has a rating system of stars and what have you. What can my rating system be? Let me see… Stars? No. Skulls? No. Bones? No. Hair follicles? Yeah, right. How about blood drops? Sure, that works. I give Dead Spell five out of five richly red blood drops. Go pick up a copy. I think you’ll like it.

You can purchase Dead Spell at Amazon

Also, check out Belinda Frisch’s home page at:
Belinda Frisch, Writer With A Dark Side

Celebrating TEN

Posted: May 9, 2011 by ajbrown in Announcements
Tags: , , , ,

First things first. Today is my daughter’s tenth birthday. Wow. I can’t believe it. My Chloe is ten (officially at 7:07 pm) and I am just blown away. Where has the past decade gone?

So, in honor of my daughter’s birthday I am going to repost some of the blogs I’ve written over the last couple of years that involve Chloe and some of the things she has said and/or done. I hope you enjoy these little tales of mostly humor.

Before I do the reposts I would like to talk about this past weekend and Chloe’s birthday party. Chloe likes to skate and for the second time in three years she wanted her party to be at the skating rink. Hey, no problem. The kids get worn out and it’s not that expensive. It’s a win/win deal.

There was the peace cake sign, made by my wife. There were also several of her friends–all girls with the exception of Logan (known affectionately as, The Boy) and Chip (the boy who Chloe has been in love with since she was five or six years old). There were family members there as well, but let’s be honest, my kids don’t care about which family members show up as long as their friends are there and presents are aplenty.

Like any party, there were moments… you know, moments…

Logan bowled for bodies and wiped out Catherine, Chloe and Hailey (the cousin, who is parented by the couple I refer to as the Douches of Columbia). It was a perfect strike. You have to understand that the boy has learned how to skate and pick up speed, but he still has yet to learn how to stop. He is my unintentional Kick Buttowski–or is it intentional?? Hmm…

I’ve often said if you are going to show off, make certain what you are doing. Or at least, make sure not everyone is watching you.

During skate nights they have races for different age groups. The age group for 11 to 13 year olds was the next to last race. Only two people participated–a guy and a girl. Now, you may think this would be a boring race, and you would be right. Except, in the middle of it something happened.

Most of you know I don’t like show-offs and I don’t like to bring attention to myself, so when the girl (color and ethnicity left out on purpose so no one can get a clear image in their heads and claim racism) wearing the tiara and tight pants and brightly colored shirt strutted out onto the floor like she was the Queen of England, you couldn’t help but wonder how in the world could this chick win a speed race against a guy. Well, she didn’t.

The guy gave the girl a sizable cushion at the start so when the man on the P.A. system said ‘Go,’ the girl could have taken off and been halfway around the track before the guy even started. But, no. She had to stand there, posing and looking at everyone like they were slightly nuts, as if she were supposed to be gawked at and ogled by her masses of adoring fans. The guy tried to be a gentleman, so when he passed her, he stopped and motioned for her to race, even putting his arms out before him in a ‘ladies first’ gesture.

You would think she would begin racing, right? Wrong. It took the group of folks she came with yelling for her to go to get her to take off. Even then, she went slow, showing off her elegance and grace. She then did this spin type of motion and… her skate shot out from under her. It was a Batman kind of moment with a solid WHAM as she struck the floor. Her face took the brunt of the blow. The tiara skittered across the floor. This was clearly a skating FAIL.

This is NOT funny in the least. This could have been tragic. She could have been hurt. Her group ran to her, as did her opponent. There was concern on everyone’s faces. But, what did the girl do? She refused the help offered to her, both by the people in her group and then the guy who she was supposed to race against. She eventually skated off the floor in defiance, the tiara back on her head and her friends shaking their heads. There were chuckles.

Some will not like what I am about to say, but: It’s nice to see arrogance rewarded properly.


Now, onto a tale of Chloe, originally posted in February of 2008, when Chloe was six:

True story, and maybe I’m telling on myself here. Anyway, read on. Most of you may find this humorous.

Today I went to the store with my daughter, Chloe. We were going for milk, a little bit of candy and a Hotwheels movie for my son. Logan—my aforementioned son—was not feeling very well and he wanted me to sit in his room with him while he lay down.

“You take care of me, Daddy,” he kept saying.

He looked so pitiful holding his little tummy. A few minutes later he got up and went and sat with his mommy. My daughter and I left for Walgreen’s, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to spend money.

We find the milk and the candy with no problems. The movie was a different story. We looked everywhere and came up empty. We went through every movie we could find and it just wasn’t there.

That brings me to the gist of my story. Chloe and I walked up to the cash register. But, wait, I had no cash on me. My wife had the checkbook.


I fished out my wallet. I plucked out the debit card and stared at it for a moment. This is a foreign object for me, by the way. Up to that moment, I had only used it once in the four years I have had it. I flipped it over in my fingers as the pretty young cashier rang up the milk, gummy life savors and the ring pop. She told me the total and I looked at her dumbfounded.

She pointed to the card scanner with the keypad and pen attached to it.

“Do I scan this side?” I asked.


My daughter rolled her eyes. Mind you, she’s six.

I swiped my card and watched the green screen as it said, PROCESSING.

A moment later the cashier frowned and leaned over her counter to look at the screen. She handed me the little pen and I glanced up at her, a confused look upon my face.

“Oh,” I said as it dawned on me. “My PIN number. I’ve got to put my PIN number in.”

She giggled and my daughter shook her head.

I punched in the four numbers. Again, I drew a blank. That is when my daughter finally chimed in.

“Do you want cash back, Daddy? No.”

I read the screen and pressed NO.

“Is the amount right, Daddy? Yes.”

I read the screen again and pressed YES.

“Let’s go, Daddy.”

I picked up the bag with the milk in it and looked up at the cashier. She was trying not to laugh.

“It’s okay,” I said. “She does this to me all the time.”

My daughter just shook her head.

“Such a woman,” I said.

When I got home, I told my wife what happened and she did what you are probably doing right now: She laughed.

I like dealing in cash. I am that guy you see on the commercials who forks over the cash right in the middle of some smoothly running machine-like atmosphere where all is harmonious until he gets to the register to pay. Then everything crashes and he gets thousands of annoyed stares.

I think those days are officially over for me. Especially if my daughter can do a debit card transaction at six and I look stupid trying to figure it out. I think it is time for me to catch up with the times. I hate the Debit Card Era.

Leave it to a woman—albeit a little one—to make a grown, somewhat not stupid guy feel stupid.

Thank you, Chloe.