How About A Birthday Contest or Two?

July is my birthday month. Normally, I’m not big on birthdays. To me, they are just another number. This one is different. I turn 50 on July 8th. That is a big deal birthday. I want to celebrate this one. And I will. All. Month. Long.

I want you, my readers, to come celebrate as well. To do that, we are having two contests during the month of July. They are big contests.

The first one is called 50 Years & 50 Books. Here is how it works:

If we sell 50 print books in the month of July, then we will give away a complete set of my print books to one person. That is 15 books, including a bonus book that has not been released yet, that is slated to come out in August. That is a $157.00 value. The books will be signed, but not personalized. The reason for this is if you purchase a print book, even if you only have that one, you will get another one in the complete set. If you want to give that book away, then I want you to be able to do so without having your name inscribed in it.

Now, here is the important stuff: 1) The books have to be purchased directly through myself or Cate, either on our social media pages or through my website. AMAZON PURCHASES DO NOT COUNT. Please understand that last sentence. If you purchase a print book through Amazon, thank you, but it will not count toward this contest. 2) I hate doing this, but I can’t ship a big box of books internationally. It sucks. I wish I could afford to. That means I can only ship within the United States. I apologize to my international friends and fans. I just can’t afford to do that. 3) 49 books is not 50. 28 books is not 50. The goal is 50, in honor of the age I will turn this month. If we don’t reach 50 or higher, then there is no drawing for the complete set of print books. That sounds pretty crappy, but it really isn’t. The contest is 50 Years and 50 Books. 4) All book orders will be sent out in mid-August, AFTER the contest is over. This will allow us time to package and mail out the books.

I hope this sounds good to y’all and I hope we sell enough books to be able to send out a full set to one person.

The second contest doesn’t cost any money (unless you want to spend some, then by all means, spend away). It is called. 50 Years & 50 Reviews.

If we receive 50 book reviews in the month of July, then we will give away one complete set of my digital books. That’s 15 books, including one yet to be released. 

Now, here is the important information: 1) Book reviews need to be sent to me or Cate, either on our social media pages or through PM’s or through my website, Type AJ Negative. We would also like you to post the review on your social media page (or blog if you have one). AMAZON REVIEWS DO NOT COUNT. If you place a review on Amazon, thank you, but it doesn’t go toward the contest. 2) Book reviews must be new. They cannot be reviews already left somewhere else. 3) Book reviews can be of any of my books. 4) Like with the 50 Years & 50 Books contest, the goal is 50 reviews here. Not 49. If we don’t reach the goal of 50 reviews, there is no drawing. 

You can leave reviews at the following places (as well as your personal social media pages, websites and blogs):

My author page:

https://www.facebook.com/typeajnegative/

The 50 Years Contests Page:

https://typeajnegative.com/50-years-contests/

Or by sending me or Cate a PM through our various social media pages.

I realize I did not post Cate’s information here. Those who know my wife also know her social media pages and they are set to private, so I will not be adding it here. Those who know Cate, please feel free to contact her directly.

There you have it: two great contests in honor of my birthday. I don’t do these things too often, so I hope you will participate. 

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

A.J.

18

A young man walks along a path in a small town cemetery. In his right hand is a paper bag, the open end folded shut. He wears a pare of black Converse sneakers with his initials printed on the heel end, and blue jeans, ones with holes that run up and down both legs. His hair is a little long and there is stubble on his face. It’s young stubble, the type that only males in that in-between stage of life of being a kid and becoming an adult can grow. He is seventeen and he has made this same walk every year since he can remember.

He parked his car outside the rusted steel gates of the graveyard, preferring to walk the distance to the marker he intends to visit. It’s that walk that allows him to prepare him for his emotions, the ones surely to come on this day. 

The young man veers off the path and across the lush green lawn. In some places, the grass hasn’t been cut and it grows higher than in others. But where he walks today, the lawn may not be freshly cut, but someone had gone over it in the last week or two. Though the morning was a little warmer than most for this time of year, there is still a little dew left on the grass that hasn’t burned off with the rise of the sun, or in this case, the hiding of the sun behind tinted gray clouds. 

He lifts his arm and looks at the watch on his wrist. 

10:20.

He nods and continues along the headstones of the deceased, paying no attention to the names or the years of life etched in them, or the epitaphs so eloquently written by loved ones who no longer visit those they wish to never forget. There is a lump in his throat and every breath he takes is a little shaky and getting shakier as he goes. 

No, he’s not sick or afraid or running from anything. This young man is going forward, running toward something, facing a truth. 

A bird lands on the ground fifteen feet in front of him, cocks its head to the side and looks at him with its curiously beady black eyes. It flaps its wings once, twice, then flies away. He continues forward, the lump in his throat seemingly getting larger, his breaths harder to take. He looks back at his watch.

10:24.

Then the young man stops in front of a headstone that is nothing special in shape or size or expense, but it is everything special to him, for who it belongs to. He opens the bag and pulls out a Mountain Dew and a Snickers candy bar. He set the bag down and reaches into his back pocket for the folded piece of paper there.

His watch now reads 10:26.

The young man sits down in front of the stone. He reads the name there, reads the date of birth, and more importantly, the date of death: 9-11-2001. The lump in his throat is a heavy rock and the tears he had held back now begin to flow. His breaths are raspy and his hands shake as he unfolds the paper and sets it on the ground in front of him. He then opens one end of the candy bar and follows that by popping the top on his soda and sets them both on the ground. 

He glances at his watch one final time.

10:28.

He picks up the letter. It is short and written in his stick-like scrawl. With the grief of a child who lost a parent, he reads the words he wrote.

Dear Dad,

Eighteen years ago today you died. You never got to hold me. You never even got to meet me. Mom gave birth to me three days later as she mourned you—as the nation mourned. 

He takes a deep breath, releases it and tries hard not to think about the truth his mother told him about his father, that he’s not buried there, that his body is not in the ground where he sits, that only one shoe—a black Converse with his initials on the back—was ever found in the rubble of the collapsed building he had been in that day.

He swallows hard, trying to get the lump in his throat to go away, then reads more of his letter.

I never got to throw a baseball with you. We never got to have father and son time. You never got to tell me dirty jokes and I’ll never be able to ask you for advice about women. 

He wipes his eyes with the palm of one hand, then continues.

Though I never knew you, I love you. Mom has told me a lot about you and I know you would have been a great father, just as you were a great husband to her. I hope I can be half the man you were, and I hope, wherever you are, you are proud of me. 

As tears stream down his face, the young man, soon to be eighteen years of age, says the final words of his letter.

I love you, Dad. I love you. 

  

I love you.

The young man sets the letter on the ground and puts his face in his hands. He sobs, letting the grief of a love never felt from a man he never met, flow from him. After several minutes, he wipes his eyes again, then his nose. He takes a deep, shuddering breath, lets it go and picks up the candy bar—his dad’s favorite—pulls the wrapper completely off and takes a bite of it. Then he raises the Mountain Dew—his dad’s favorite drink—to the air and taps the headstone with it. He only drinks a couple of sips, then sets the drink and the half eaten candy bar on his father’s headstone.

Heart broken, the young man picks up the paper bag and the candy wrapper and stands. He walks away, leaving the letter by the marker, his head down. Tomorrow will be better, but today … today will always be difficult.

AJB

9/11/2019

18

Celebrating TEN

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.

~GULP~

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.

“Yes.”

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.