Eating Dirt (Free Fiction)

Eating Dirt

A.J. Brown

The ground ate Ronald today.  He jumped from the tree we had climbed, landed on both feet and kept from tumbling to the ground by putting a hand on it to steady himself. 

“Your turn, Gordie,” he yelled up at me. 

I shook my head, not so certain jumping was a good idea. If I landed wrong, I could blow out my knee, break an ankle, or worse, smash my skull. 

“I … I can’t, Ronald. It’s too high, man.”

He laughed. “You’re kidding right, Gordie?”

I shook my head again. “No. It’s really high. I don’t think I can …

He gave me a boo-hoo and pretended to rub his eyes with his hands, “Quit your crying and jump, man.”

“I can’t.” I hated the whine in my voice. I hated feeling like a wimp. But that didn’t stop me from staying put where I was at in the tree, my butt perched against a thick limb, one hand hugging to the trunk.

“Don’t be a chicken, Gordie,” he yelled, as he craned his neck to look up at me. He clucked and strutted in a circle, fingers tucked in his armpits, elbows out and flapping. “Gordie is a chicken. Gordie is a chicken.”

Heat filled my face, shame filled my heart. “Am not.”

“Are too.”

autumn-351489_1920I started down, one foot on the branch beneath me, both arms holding the one I had been sitting on.

“Chickens don’t jump,” he yelled.

I tried not to listen, but he was right. It took all my courage to climb that high in the first place—heights and I never got along, but I had been afraid Ronald would pick on me, or maybe even beat me up if I didn’t climb the tree. He was mean like that. 

Looking down, my head swooned. I thought I would fall, strike a few limbs on the way down and break my head open. My heart fluttered and my stomach rolled. I grabbed a branch with one hand and wrapped my other arm around it.

“I’m not a chicken,” I yelled back, my voice shaky. “I’m just scared.”

“You’re a big, fat chicken,” Ronald yelled back as I lowered myself to the bottom limb. I was about to lower myself further so I could sit on it and drop to the ground from there. Still, breaking an ankle was possible even from only about six feet up. 

Then the ground shifted beneath him. It was like the earth moved under his feet. His eyes grew wide and he looked down. The grass parted and the ground opened up, sucking Ronald in to just below the knees. The ground closed just as quickly, like a teeth biting down on a piece of meat.

Ronald screamed.  

I screamed. 

From where I was in the tree it looked like Ronald had been pulled into the ground by some invisible mouth. I scampered back up the tree, one branch, a second one, third and fourth, until I was back up as high as I had ever been, gawking down as the ground ate Ronald.  By then, he was thigh deep in the shifting dirt and trying to grab a hold of anything to pull himself up.

“Gordie, help me!”

Too terrified to move, I could only watch. Blood appeared in the sand around his thighs and spread outward.

“Gordie, help me, please!”

Waist deep, Ronald reached out as far as he could, clawed at the ground. His hand sunk into the earth, followed by his arm up to his elbow. I climbed higher into the tree, height and I no longer bitter enemies. I closed my eyes and clutched tight to the tree with both arms as I stood on a branch I hoped would hold me.

Ronald’s screams echoed in my ears for several seconds. Then he went silent. I glanced down. Ronald was gone. A moment later, the ground burped. It’s the only thing that makes sense—an earthly burp. One of Ronald’s shoes popped up from the dirt and grass, the shoelace still knotted, a bloody sock lying limp inside it.

Now I sit high in this tree, the ground beneath me; Ronald’s shoe and sock taunting me. I know if I jump down and try to run, the earth will get me too, maybe not as quickly as it ate Ronald—it’s had a dog and two squirrels since then. Occasionally, it burps, the ground shakes and a bone or some fur pop out of the dirt. Then it settles down and waits.

I think I’ll stay here a while. Maybe the ground will go to sleep. Maybe I really am a chicken.


Back in 2010 there was an anthology titled, The Elements of Horror. As the title suggest, all the stories had to be based on an element: Earth, air, fire, water and space. When I saw the call for submissions, I wanted to write a story based on each element. I thought it was plausible seeing how the word count was under 750 words per story. I ended up writing four pieces with the only element missing being space. Two of those pieces were published in the anthology, Eating Dirt being one of them.

I’ve since rewritten a couple of the stories, including the one you read here today. It’s short and simple and I hope you enjoyed Eating Dirt. Also, please comment on the post, like and share it to social media for me. I thank you from the top of my heart.


Two Young Ladies and a Dinosaur

I want to talk today about not worrying about what people think of you and or what you do. No, I’m not going to preach. I’m going to tell you a short story.

Today my wife, kids and myself went to a park here in Columbia. The kids wanted to climb on the rocks that spanned part of the stream that runs through the park. My wife and I wanted to get the kids to take pictures holding one of my books for promotional purposes.

We let the kids do their climbing, and yes, The Boy slipped and got his shoes wet in the water. We saw that coming and had prepared for it by making him wear an old pair of sneakers. When it came time to take a picture of the kids holding a book, neither of them wanted to. We had a feeling that would be the case as well—it is what it is.

Here is where I want to talk about not worrying about what people think. When we asked the kids to sit at a table and hold a book so Cate could get a quick picture, they both looked around, checking to see if there was anyone else around. There was, but not the way you would think. More on that in a minute. One of the children took the book and hid behind it with the cover facing out. I say ‘children,’ but you have to understand both of my kids are in their teens. My wife took the picture, then tried to get him or her to lower the book to make it look less like she or he was hiding behind it. (Yes, I am conveniently not saying which child it was.)

Both of our children seemed embarrassed by their mom wanting to take a picture with them holding a book. I get it.

Earlier I stated my children looked around to see if anyone was in the vicinity. There was. Walking toward us were three individuals, two young ladies and a dinosaur. Yes, I said dinosaur. Stick with me and I will explain.

DinosaurRight about the time my wife tried to get pictures of my children, these three individuals walked by us. I glanced to my left and saw them. The two young ladies were in their late teens or very early twenties. They had their phones out and were talking to the dinosaur. When the dinosaur responded, I realized the dinosaur was female. None of them looked our way. They went about their business as if we weren’t around. I looked to my wife, extended my hand for one of my books and took off after them. I’m not quite sure what my kids said, but I got the distinct impression they were embarrassed that I would go talk to these total strangers.

I hit the path they were on and came up on them close to the short bridge that crosses a stream. The dinosaur stood, posing next to the bridge.

“That is so awesome,” I said when I walked up to them. I was still a good fifteen feet away when I stopped.

The girl in the dinosaur suit said, “Thank you,” and smiled. “I wanted to be a dinosaur.”

“What made you want to be a dinosaur?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just wanted to be a dinosaur, so I went online and today I am a dinosaur.””
“That is awesome,” I said again, then added. “Can you do me a favor? I’m an author. Would you mind taking a picture holding my book?”

Her eyes widened, as did her smile. “Sure. I can do that.”

I handed her Cory’s Way. She turned slightly so her face wouldn’t be in the image. Cate took the picture and we both told her thank you. We talked for a moment longer and then the two young ladies and the female dinosaur went on their way.

A few minutes later we walked along the trail, heading toward the car. We ran into the two young women plus one. The dinosaur had taken off her fake skin and was now a regular young lady. I thanked her again and said she was awesome for being a dinosaur. I started to walk away, then I stopped. I turned around and asked the three young women if they liked to read. It turns out, they do. I got one of their emails and will be sending them free copies of a couple of my books as a thank you for the three minutes of their time they gave me to take a picture.

Here is my point. The dinosaur girl didn’t care what anyone thought about her. She bought a plastic dinosaur suit, put it on and went to a very popular park in downtown Lexington, South Carolina. She walked around where many kids and adults were and didn’t bat an eye. She took a picture for a total stranger and it didn’t phase her. She wanted to be a dinosaur, so she became a dinosaur. To heck with what anyone thought. This is what she wanted and she went after it. She was secure enough in who she is to do something most people wouldn’t because they would be too concerned about what people might say or think.

I wish I could be that carefree. I wish I could just throw on a dinosaur suit and be a dinosaur. I wish my kids could be dinosaurs. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all could just love the life we have and not worry about what others think of us or what we do? It’s something worth thinking about.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.


The Misadventures of …

I’ve had an idea for years—at least since 2008—but I have never really acted on it. Until now.

A couple of weeks ago Cate and I worked the Cayce Festival of the Arts right down the road from where I grew up and at the high school I graduated from. We had my books and her bookmarks out. I did a reading of one of my short stories, which went better than expected. It was a long day, but a good one. We did okay, as far as sells were concerned. We enjoyed ourselves and we met some cool people.

One thing Cate noticed that I didn’t (probably because she is much better about these things than I am) is how many children came to our table with their parents wanting books. She noted that at least a dozen little kids came to our table looking for children’s books. Unfortunately, they walked away empty handed.

“Are you ever going to write that children’s book you talked about a few years ago?” she asked me.

“I don’t know,” I responded. “I’ve played around with the idea, but I’ve never really tried to write it.”

“You should.”

“Why is that?”

She went on to explain how many kids walked away, disappointed I didn’t have any children’s books (especially seeing how we had a stuffed teddy bear in bunny pajamas on the table).

Later that evening we talked about it again. A couple of days passed and we talked about it again.

It’s not like I don’t already have a concept for the book. I do. I think it is a good idea. I also think it will be fun to write. With that in mind, I am attempting to write a children’s book. It is a daunting task, but one I look forward to.

Let me be honest here: writing a children’s book is completely out of my element. It’s nothing like writing a short story or novel. It is completely different and new to me. It will be a learning experience, and hopefully, something I can apply to my writing as a whole, going forward.

I’m excited about this, and I hope you are, too.

Over the next few weeks I will post updates here. Part of the reason for that is to hold myself accountable. By putting this out there, it makes me stay true to my word and do it. Hopefully, if you are not excited about this right now, you will be by the end of the process.

Consider this the first update.

April 8th: Cate and I worked the Cayce Festival of the Arts and she suggested writing a children’s book.

April 9th: Scoured the computer for a file I wrote back in 2008. It took me half an hour to find it, but there it was under Misadventures of Scarecrow Girl and Pumpkin Boy. I Opened the file and read the contents—all 1489 words.

This is where I put my head in my hands and said, “What the heck was I thinking when I wrote that drivel?” It wasn’t that it was bad, but it wouldn’t do for a children’s book.

April 11th: Cate and I went to the library and checked out a few children’s books of various lengths and subjects.

April 13th: I sat down with pad and pencil and the stack of children’s books and read. I made notes in my handy dandy notebook (come on, please tell me someone got the reference), paying close attention to how much text was on the pages and how many pages were in each book. Just for the record, there was a lot more text than I expected and the average pages in each book was 28 (most of the books ran from 26-32 pages in length).

April 14th, 15th & 16th: Online research about children’s books and how to write them. There is a lot of content on the interwebs. Most of them said very similar things in what is needed in a children’s books. Notes were made. Thoughts were had. Ideas were forthcoming.

April 17th & 18th: Here is where I did a lot of reading on the actual rules of writing children’s books. As any of you who follow this page knows, I often break the rules of writing. Many writers think I suck because of that. The readers, however, like the way I write, so I break the rules when it is warranted. The thing about children’s books, though, is you can’t really break a lot of the rules. They are a tough crowd and their attention spans are not quite as long as an adult’s (for the most part). The structure, amount of pages and words and the types of words used are very important to holding that attention span.

Several pages in the notepad were filled, some of them highlighted—these are what I took as some of the most important points to remember.  I will refer back to this over and over as I go forward.

April 18th: Started outlining what I hope will be a good story. Brainstorming, complete with the thunder, lightning and rain in the brain.

April 19th: Finished the outline at lunch and read it over. There is a dilemma and a moral and it is not preachy. I like it. I think you will, as well.

April 19th: Getting more excited about this.

There is one other thing I haven’t told you. My kids, The Girl and The Boy, want to illustrate the book. This excites me as much as writing the actual story. It remains to be seen if they will actually do it, but the opportunity is there for them.

So, that is what I have for now. The beginnings of a children’s book. I hope it turns out the way I want it to. If it does, there may be more of these in the future. i don’t know yet.

What I do know is I am excited. I think I have said that a few times here in this post. I hope you all are as excited.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.


If You Build It …

Off 601 in Lugoff, South Carolina is a field. Well, it was a field at one time. I’m guessing it was just a big, open expanse of land that maybe had some trees on it, some shrubbery, possibly a few holes in the ground. Part of the land is on a hill that leads up to a couple of houses. That really doesn’t matter much, but who knows, it might before we’re all said and done here.

Cate saw the field before I did. She slowed before we reached it. Then I saw it. My eyes widened. It was a baseball field. One that looked like it had seen much better days. I looked at her, wide-eyed and somewhat excited. I’ll say this: I don’t think she understands my love for baseball fields. I’m not even sure I understand it. There is an attraction, a pull, like a magnet (the field is the magnet and I am every bit the metal) that makes me smile every time I see a ball park. Not just any field. Little league fields. There is an eternal innocence to youth baseball that I find is left behind on the field, long after the games are over and the kids are gone. Maybe it is this innocence that intrigues me so much about these ball parks.

This ball fDSCN1936ield was different though, and it was evident before we even got out the car near the outfield fence. It was huge—the outfield was deep, as in minor league deep. The fence was old and falling down in spots. Weeds covered it from top to bottom and stretching its full length. There was also an orange in the outfield. Yes, I am talking about the fruit here. I don’t know why there was an orange there, but there was.

As we walked from the outfield to the infield, I saw it was similar to any old field that hasn’t seen a game in months or years … or decades. The outfield grass encroached on the infield. The bases were dirty and worn, but they were supposed to be. The pitcher’s mound wasn’t really a mound and home plate sat all alone near the backstop, which was grassy and on a slight incline.

The dugouts were small wooden structures. The benches inside were made of wood and cinder blocks. In one of the dugouts were buckets and some tools and a couple of baseball bats. Beyond the field were bleachers made of metal and blocks and wood. And yes, there was a bathroom away from the field itself, complete with running water, but no lights.

DSCN1944Further from the field and toward those houses were toys and five guard dogs that barked the entire time we were there. I’m guessing the owners of the field live there.

Unlike most of the ball fields I’ve visited, this one didn’t have my imagination running with the ghosts of children’s past. No, this time, I was reminded of the movie A Field of Dreams and the one phrase from it that most people will probably quote before I even write it here.

If you build it, they will come.

I got that impression as I stood on the field, just behind home plate. I could hear saws cutting boards. I could hear hammers pounding nails. I could hear chainsaws cutting down dead trees and I could hear someone’s truck pulling stumps free from where they were anchored in deep, its engine revving, its wheels digging into the ground until either the truck bogged down or the rooted stump came free, being pulled like a pesky broken tooth. I could hear rakes going across the grounds and see tillers digging up the infield before being leveled out, possibly with two by fours weighted down on each end, dragging the ground behind a truck or a mule or maybe even two or three guys, sweating and straining.

They would be tired at the end of the day, but guess what? These men and women would come back the next day and work on it some more. Someone had to put that fence up in the outfield and build those dugouts and bleachers. Someone had to spend money for those supplies and all of the equipment needed to turn a field of trees and holes into a field of dreams.

DSCN1951Then, as I stepped off the field to get a picture from the bleachers I saw a sign. It was nothing more than a metal placard affixed to the cyclone fence stretching down the first base line. It read:


A few things about this, starting from the end of this sign and working my way to the top. Liable: the builders of this park knew the possibilities that someone could get hurt, so if they did, it wouldn’t be the owners’ responsibility to foot the bill. It’s sad they had to do that, but I wonder if someone tried to sue them because their kid got hurt there. That leads to the enter at your own risk statement. It is there as a warning. Again, it would not be the owners’ responsibility to make sure everyone is safe—it is clearly implied with the sign.

The third thing, I believe, lends right into the second. Play safely. That doesn’t mean don’t play hard. It means play safe, for you, your teammates and the opposing teams’ players, as well.

DSCN1942The fourth and fifth things are the hallmarks to a field like this: This beautiful park was created through hard work for your enjoyment. I wonder if the builder or builders of this park had little boys (or girls) who wanted to play ball, but had nowhere to do so. I wonder if the parents didn’t say, ‘hey, let’s give our kids somewhere to play, somewhere everyone can play.’ And so they built the park. To be cliche, it was a labor of love.

I imagine, from the way it looked, the park had been there for a while, and many kids had come and gone, including those the park was originally built for.

Not once while we were there did I picture kids playing a game. But I could see those adults, both men and women, building the park. Day after day, they worked, until it was complete. I don’t know if there was a ceremony where the first pitch was thrown out, but I can imagine those adults who put in all that hard work probably sat in the bleachers and smiled and cheered with joy, their hearts swelling with pride as their kids played the game they loved.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Baseball and Life

I went for a walk by myself this morning. The sky was overcast and there was a breeze blowing in. It was nice enough out that the chill from the breeze didn’t make it too cool to where shorts and a t-shirt. The birds chirped madly and flew about from tree to tree and power line to power line.

A storm was coming. Or so it seemed.

This much is almost certain. When the birds act as they do right then, a storm is coming. My grandfather taught me that one day while standing on his back porch when I was a teenager and he was still around and life had yet to slap me in the face a few times.

Back to this morning. As I always do when I am by myself and want to walk, I drove the two miles to the middle school my daughter went to and my son now attends. Behind it is a baseball park. A walking path circles the park. This is where where I walk.

When I go on these walks I tend to pray for the first half of it. I don’t look at it as prayer though. I look at it as a conversation, though one sided, with God. It’s not a ‘hey I need something’ type of thing, or a ‘hey I screwed up type’ of thing. For me, these mornings are a ‘hey, I just want to talk,’ type of thing. They are good for me, good for my soul.

The second half of these walks is when I think about writing, but mostly, I just think about baseball. Seriously. At the end of these walks and before I go to my car, I walk to the baseball complex. There are four fields in the main section and a fifth field off to the side (this is where the younger kids play tee ball). In the center of the main section is the concessions and bathrooms. There are metal bleachers on each side of each field.

Today I walked to one of the fields and stared through the fencing surrounding it. The grass was freshly cut, the field newly raked. There were perfect chalk lines marking the first and third base lines, the batters boxes and the on deck circles. The pitcher’s mound had been recently formed, with the rubber in the center of it.

12734126_10208347032850778_986475889973690833_nThis is going to sound crazy, but for the first time since I was a kid, I didn’t miss playing the game. What I did miss—do miss—is coaching. I miss watching the lights turn on for a kid once he or she ‘got it’. I miss cheering the kids on or throwing batting practice. I miss those tougher teaching moments that is difficult for the kid, but what they don’t realize is it is difficult for the coaches as well. We want to make them better, teach them the game, but a good coach teaches them not only the game, but to have fun and to carry that over into life.

That brings me to my point today. Baseball is a unifying sport. You may not like the game and that is okay. But for those who do play it and for their families, it is unifying.

One season I was fortunate enough to coach a special needs child. It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of. Another season, our head coach had heart issues and ended up missing most of the season because of heart surgery. I met kids and parents and grandparents. I saw kids with two parents in the household and kids with just the one. I also met kids whose parents were absent and grandparents had taken them in. Baseball, for these kids, meant a couple of hours away from the reality of no mom and no dad.

Baseball is life. No, I don’t mean that baseball should be lived and breathed like oxygen. I mean baseball is life.

In a typical game there are nine innings with a break between each half inning as the teams switch sides. Batters go into the field and fielders come up to bat. Each team gets three outs an inning to score as many times as they can. There are hits and walks and strikeouts and pop outs and ground outs and long fly ball outs. This is much like life.

Let’s just say each inning is equivalent to ten years of life. That would make the first inning the growing years of childhood. The second inning, the learning who you are years. The third inning would be the years of establishing who you are as an adult. And the next three innings would be the working years. I know, that sounds absurd, but it’s not. Not really. The last three innings are the golden years, and if you are fortunate enough to make it further than the age of ninety then you go into extra innings.

There are times we do things well and get hits. Sometimes we do great things and those amount to doubles and triples. Then we do a couple of things that are fantastic or amazing or awesome or whatever you wish to call it. Those are home runs. There are times we succeed in a venture. Each one of those is a run scored. Sometimes we help someone succeed. Those are runs batted in. And yes, just like in baseball, those folks with the many runs, rbi’s and home runs are generally the stars.

Then there are the outs. Sometimes we strike out. These are the times when we just don’t try all that hard at something. Then you have pop outs and fly outs and ground outs. Those are the efforts we put in, but we still don’t succeed at something. The average batting average in major league baseball is between .260 and .275. That means the average player gets a hit only 26% to 27.5% of the time. That equals one out of every four plate appearances. This means failures are easier to achieve than successes.

Occasionally, we get a walk in life, a gift that we don’t have to earn. Those moments don’t come around all that often, so best to relish them while we can.

Sometimes in baseball, as in life, we get a lucky bounce. Sometimes, that bounce isn’t so lucky after all. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Hits, outs, walks, runs … it is all life.

Baseball takes effort. You learn how to hit by practicing. You learn how to throw by practicing. Life is the same. You learn how to write by practicing. You learn how to drive by practicing. You learn how to do various things in life by working at it. So many similarities.

In my life I have hit four home runs. Being saved. Marrying my wife and being a father to my two kids. In my life I’ve had quite a few good hits, a couple of walks and a lot of outs. But here is the thing: I’ve worked really hard at life. I’ve lived life and played baseball. I’ve taken my outs in stride with my hits and runs and I will continue to do so as the innings of my life play out. I encourage you to do the same.

As I stood at the baseball field this morning, I listened to the world around me. The wind was blowing and the flag flapped with it. The chord and metal hooks that hold the flag in place clanked against the flag pole. There were crows cawing and other birds chirping and flying about. Somewhere a dog barked. It was a moment to sit in the dugout and reflect on the game of my life so far. Are there things I would like to change? Sure. Are there things I would have liked to succeed at? Absolutely. Would I change anything. No.

Then I walked away, not missing the game I loved, but knowing that I gave both the game and my life to this date all I have. I’m good with that. The bat’s on my shoulder, a glove dangling from it as I leave the dugout and head back into the game. How’s your game coming along? Are you swinging for the fences, or riding the bench? Don’t ride the bench. Get in there and play ball.

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


Thoughts On Things

My daughter has a great smile and her laugh is contagious.

My son is a comedian/Batman/ninja turtle/Sonic the Hedgehog/Jedi Warrior/Lego Maniac ball of energy.

My wife is beautiful, my heart and my center. She grounds me.

Life is short.

Some may argue that point, but for most people, life is entirely too short. There are things we want to do–the bucket list, so to speak–that we have never been able to do. There are places we want to go that we have never been. There are things we want to accomplish with our lives that we haven’t had the chance to accomplish.

Why? Why haven’t we accomplished some of those things we want to? Money? Okay, I get that one. Time? Meh. That is a point that is mute for the most part. Do you watch television? Play video games? How about that great time sucker, Facebook? Do you surf the internet? There’s your time, slipping, slipping, slipping through your fingers.

We take for granted the time we do have. We don’t use it wisely enough. Sure, I understand watching television and playing on the computer and Facebook and videogames and a whole host of other things, but the truth is we don’t use our time wisely.

Wait. It’s not just about being more efficient with our use of the time given us, it’s also about motivation. How many of us are just plain lazy? Or maybe we’re too tired when we get off work. Maybe we’re a little–or a lot–of both.

I’m just going to sit here and drink one beer (or in my case, a Strawberry Kool-Aid) and watch one television show and then I’ll get up and go write or go do that thing I want to do. How often do we say, or at the very least, think that? That one drink turns into several and that one television show turns into three hours and by the time we realize it, it’s time to go to bed.

I guess I’ll just do it tomorrow.


Good intentions and all that jazz.

[[Side Note: Before I go any further, if you have children, they are–or should be–a dominant part of your life and I can understand if you don’t get to some things you would like to do. Still, making the time is an effort worth pursuing. End Side Note.]]

The truth is if you want to do something YOU have to pursue it. If you want to climb the mountain, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you want to publish that great American novel, well you have to write it first and that starts with penning the first word.

I know this is cliché, but you only get out of life what you put into it. If your efforts are centered around doing very little, then life will give you very little in return. If your efforts are centered around what it is in it for me, then you miss out on the joys of giving and helping others. If your life is about work, work, work, sure you may have riches and material things. But life isn’t just about money and material things. The Rolling Stones made note of that in their song As Tears Go By.

Life is about living and happiness and worth. Remember that.

By worth, I mean self worth. How you view yourself. Your self worth is more valuable than what anyone can ever think about you. I’ve always been the type to say, you don’t like me? Your loss. I still feel that way. Again, I use a cliché here, but in order for most folks to find their worth, they must love themselves first. Love yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for you. If you love yourself, then you will have that to fall back on when people disappoint you (and they will disappoint you). You will always be able to bounce back when you love and believe in yourself.

I’ve strayed from my original thoughts, but that’s okay. I do that in real life, so why not in my stories and blogs? It is who I am. Honestly, I rarely know what it is I want to write about when I sit down, but I know that life is short.

Be all that you can be. In order to do that, you have to put forth some effort. Give it the old college try. Swing for the fences and all those other clichés. You have to be willing to live and push fear aside.

Part of those swinging for the fences attitudes are goals. No, this is not some New Year’s resolution thing, just thoughts.

Goal setting is literally focusing on something you wish to accomplish. Those things can be long term and short term. I find it easiest to set a long term goal with several short term goals as stepping stones toward the main objective. For instance:

I have a long term goal of submitting 52 stories to various publications in 2013. That may seem like a lot, but that is far beneath the 147 stories I submitted in 2010. How am I going to achieve this goal? Let me see. There are 52 weeks in a year, so it makes sense to set short term goals of one submission a week. So in seeking my 52 submissions in the calendar year of 2013, I have set for myself 53 goals to achieve it (yes it is 53: One for each week and the final goal of 52 for the year).

I also wish to write twelve stories in 2013. I know, that is not many at all, but considering my other goals for writing and considering my stories aren’t typically the under five thousand words variety, twelve will be a significant accomplishment (especially if you factor in that at least one of those will be a novel). So, how am I going to achieve that goal? Right: One story a month for twelve months will help me accomplish my objective of twelve stories for the calendar year. So, as you can see I currently have 66 goals that I wish to accomplish for 2013.

But wait, there is a 67th one in there already. Did you notice it? That’s right. I want to write at least one novel-length story. This goes into the major goal category, to which I now have three of them: 52 submissions, 12 short stories and a novel.

I would like to accomplish something I think is a little more difficult than all of those previous goals. 365 thousand words in one year. It’s daunting, but could be simple if I break it down into daily goals: 1000 words (or more) a day every day. Not too ambitious.

There was a stretch of several months where life, and more specifically, my job got in the way of doing much of anything when I was done at the end of each day. The one area that suffered because of the exhaustion (both physically and mentally) was my blog. One of my goals is to write 52 blogs (including interviews) for Type AJ Negative. You guessed it: that would be one a week. I also want to put the humor back into them. I feel like I became entirely too serious this year (the real world has a way of doing that to you).

Those are not the only things writing or personal-related that I want to accomplish this year. There is significantly more, but I wanted to focus on short term goals leading to the completion of long term objectives

More importantly, I want to achieve something this year. I want to feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do. To use yet another cliché, you can do anything when you set your mind to it. How seriously are you–am I–at setting your mind to do something?

What’s the thing I want to achieve this year (and every day for the rest of my life, for that matter)? I want to teach my children to value themselves, to value their time, to believe in their abilities, to reach for the stars and don’t settle for the tree tops. I want to teach them to use their imaginations, to broaden their way of thinking. In order to do that I have to reach for the stars as well, and not settle for the tree tops and set goals for myself.

I guess this turned into one of those New Year’s resolution blogs after all. Not my intention. But, as I mentioned earlier, I usually don’t know what I’m going to write when I sit down, so I’ll take it.


On Christmas Eve me and The Boy spent most of the day together. We went to the theater and watched Rise of the Guardians and then went to get something to eat. He went to McDonalds. I chose Taco Bell. Not that I really wanted that, but it was right next to the McDonalds and since it was pouring down rain I didn’t want to drive anywhere else.

As we sat in the Taco Bell waiting for my food, I grabbed The Boy’s head and noogied him. Then I acted surprised, like I had found something mysterious in his hair.

“Oh no,” I said.

“What?” He responded.

“There’s something wrong with your hair.”


“I need to shave it off.”

He pulled away from me, hands out in front of him and waving frantically. “No, no, no. You can’t do that.”


He gave me a look of, what? Indignation? Yeah, that was it. He looked at me as if I should know the answer to that question. Then he said, and I’m not sure how serious he was, “Because I’m too beautiful.”

There is no conceit in my family. The Boy got it all.

Until our paths cross again, my friends…

A Bit of Nostalgia

So Christmas has come and gone and left its mark on the world. Gifts were given, Christmas shows were watched, food was eaten, people were visited and… to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. I’ve never been a big fan of the Christmas season, but I try to be cheerful and I try to get into the Christmas spirit…

But, really, sometimes it’s just hard to… Then other times it’s not so tough… I’m not sure which one it was this year, maybe an in between?

For those out there, I hope you all had a great Christmas.

And Ma Nature was only a day late for us. We almost had a white Christmas. But, she gave it to us on Boxing Day so, I guess that means we have a white Boxing Day instead. This means I have excited children, even if the snow is only sticking on the grass in the front and melting in the back—yeah, I know, it’s weird.

This post is not about Christmas though. It’s about Baseball. No, not professional baseball, but baseball in its purest form: little league, tee ball, coach’s pitch… yeah that baseball. Wow, I just used the word baseball four times… oops, now five times in one paragraph. Oh well. Baseball…

On Christmas Eve my wife and daughter did the annual women’s shopping that her family always does. In the meantime, that left the boy and me together. We ate at Arby’s and then played Star Wars. Guess who won? I can give you a hint: it wasn’t me. After that we went to the park, played chase.

Ohh, let me tell you what that stinker did. He fell down while I was chasing him. When I caught up to him he was on the ground and I was about to attack him (because that’s what monsters do, yah know) and he cries out:

Logan: Ouch, ouch, ouch.
Me: Are you okay?
Logan: I hurt my leg. I hurt my leg.
I helped him up and brushed his pants off.
Me: Which leg did you hurt?
Logan, as he runs away: hahahahaha… stinker…

Yes, he tricked me, much like his mother does.

We left that park and went to the baseball park where my son hopped on his scooter and rode around the ball fields. As he did this, I walked onto the first field, looked out over the red clay infield and the once green but now brown grass. The bases were still in place. Lying between second and third just on the outfield grass was a baseball. I walked onto the field, picked the ball up and gripped it tight. I rolled it over on my palm, ran my fingers along the strings, rubbed the ball, wiping away any wetness that may have still been on it from the rains a few days earlier.

Being a writer, my mind began to roam. I stepped off the field and back through the dugout. My son was doing ‘tricks’ with his scooter and I watched him, a smile on my face. When he raced off, I followed, passing the concessions stand in the center of the complex. By then baseball was entrenched in my mind.

I love baseball. Understand this, I’m no longer a fan of pro baseball—PED’s and money hungry players and agents, cheaters and teams trying to stack the tables so they can win. I’ve lost a lot of respect for the professionals—it’s a game and they’ve lost sight of that. I love the little leagues, when the kids are still kids and enjoy playing (if not practicing) the game.

I love the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of the ping of bat on ball, the kids cheering for each other and making calls at the other teams: We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher and other sayings that really make no sense at all. I love the tastes of hot dogs and chili fries and nachos with cheese. I love the sound of parents cheering and boys laughing. I love coaches who want to teach (not so much the coaches who only want to win) and kids who want to learn. I love pre-game batting practices and getting to the ballpark just a little early. I love when the lights come on, bathing the world in a white glow that centers on the diamond. I love when the children play the game and it’s still about having fun.

That is the baseball I love.

As I watched my son, I recalled the two seasons of Tee Ball that he played and how much fun it was, not just to watch him and the other kids playing, but helping coach the teams.

It took me back to when I was a kid. I wasn’t a very good hitter, but I was an okay fielder. I would have never made baseball a career—definitely never was good enough to do so. However, I miss the feel of playing, the anticipation of stepping onto the field, of how it felt to catch a ball and throw it to first base, to swing and miss or, if I was lucky, make contact. Boy, I miss those days…

If you have children or even if you don’t, go out to the ball field one day, listen to the sounds, watch the joy in those wondrous faces. If you’ve never loved baseball before that, you will by the time you leave…

For now I’m AJ and I have children who want to go outside and play in the spotty snow…