A nerd thinks of presents

As Black Friday stares at us from behind a Thanksgiving girth, I am forced to think of something more fun than I was thinking of last week: buying stuff. I know you are too. Come on, we all are! It’s the American way. So let me remind you of three excellent ways to spend your money this holiday season.

  1. Donate it. Find a charity. Study that charity. If you think it is great, make sure your donation won’t line the pockets of some president or something. Then donate. It sounds cheesy, but it makes you feel good. Truly.
  2. Buy somebody else something. Might I make a few recommendations?
    1. Lit Pills. These are the coolest things ever. I’m going to purchase a few more and so should you. Which ones do I want? I want them all.
    2. Alias. This is the comic book that spawned the new Netflix series. If you think the television version of Jessica Jones has seen some shit, wait until you read about the comic book version.
    3. The Meaning of Names. One of the best books ever written by one of the best people ever.
    4. The Do-Right. If early 1920s Nebraska familial drama isn’t your bag, man, how about this subtle detective novel that I, for one, couldn’t put down? It’s also written by one of the best people ever.
    5. Star Wars Episodes I-VIIf you haven’t watched these yet, get with the zeitgeist, kids. Also, it’s 2015, better get it on the blu-ray.
    6. Tribe One. Seriously, anything by this guy. It’s Nerdcore at its finest. As an added bonus, he gives away some cuts that are basically epic.
    7. Hamilton. If you don’t know what this is, I only have one question for you. Where the hell have you been? If you can’t go see the show (like me), at least get the soundtrack. It’s . . . I’m gonna say it . . . epic.
    8. Funny T-shirts. Oh my God, there are so many places on the Internet to get them. I just gave you one link.
  3. Buy yourself something. Hell, it’s been a rough year. You deserve it.

I want you to notice how I didn’t say anything about saving it. Come on guys, it’s the holidays!

Daily Terrorism

Peace is elusive. Terror abounds. Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad all experienced it last week . . . and probably a few more places I didn’t hear about. According to some reports, the rest of the world needs to pay close attention over the next few months too . . . .

It’s everywhere.

But terrorism does not only occur on this scale. It’s small as well, it’s daily. It occurs in American high schools when transgender students are bullied out of restrooms. Terrorism happens when refugees fleeing war are turned away by entire countries (or even states). It’s there when racism becomes entrenched in the philosophy of an establishment of higher education. It’s there when people blame an entire religion for the actions of a minority. This is daily terrorism.

Our problem isn’t only a terroristic bogey man plotting a suicide bombing (though that’s obviously part of it). Our problem isn’t only the religious zealots (though again, that’s obviously part of it). However, religious zealots and terroristic bogey men are not the disease. They are merely two of the symptoms of a much more frightening illness: mankind’s lack of empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of others).

Naturally, this lack of empathy leads to a fear of ‘the other’ which leads to little kids picking on each other because of their sexuality, gender, skin color, religion, interests, socio-economic status, etc. etc. etc. It leads to countries turning away refugees, it leads to spousal abuse, it leads to rape, it leads to suicide bombings, terrorism, war . . . .

To put it simply, if we can take away anything from the recent spat of large terroristic events around the world and their smaller daily counterparts, it is the simple fact that mankind needs more empathy. If we don’t find it, things will get worse before they get better.

And haven’t things gotten bad enough already?


Parks and Rec

Last week I didn’t post for the first time in quite a while. I’d like to tell you I was taking a week off because I had all kinds of recovering to do from one heck of a Halloween weekend. I didn’t though. I was preparing for an impromptu trip to my parents’ house where I would escort my dad from Hannibal, MO to St. Louis, MO so he could undergo some serious surgery at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

I’m still in Hannibal. In fact, I’m sitting in my parents’ dining room as I type this. In an hour I’m heading back down to St. Louis to pick up my dad after a successful surgery and mending period. I’ve done this drive now four times (in addition to driving down here from Omaha, NE). Once he is finally home and settled I will return to my family, friends, and job. It’s been a stressful week and looks to be a bit stressful still.

But you know what has helped? Parks and Rec. I watched the first season while my dad was under the knife. I watched much of the second season while he was in and out of a morphine induced dreamland. Now I’m almost through the third season.

I don’t watch sitcoms. For the most part, I’m not interested in them. This is not to say I think they’re pointless wastes of time or anything like that. After all, I find laughter to be one of the most powerful weapons to be used against . . . anything really.

Most of them just don’t make me laugh. I guess you could say that I don’t ‘get’ them. Sometimes I think I do, then I realize I don’t. It’s strange really.

Parks and Rec, on the other hand, has helped me through this rough patch. I had seen a couple of episodes here and there since it aired a few years ago, but I had never watched the show with any kind of overt interest. After several friends reminded me again and again . . . and again that it is the greatest thing ever, I thought now would be the perfect time to give it a try. You know, as opposed to getting work done, finishing that novel, or completing the class I’m taking at UNO.

So, while I’ve been terrified that my dad was going to die, I’ve also been able to lose myself in the adventures of Leslie Knope and the Parks and Recreation Dept. of Pawnee, IN and I’ve laughed and laughed . . . and laughed. This, naturally, has made me feel better about the whole situation. And what is art good for, if not to make you feel better?

It is official (unless of course something goes dramatically wrong in the next few seasons), I’m putting Parks and Rec up there with Third Rock from the Sun. I didn’t think there would ever be a sitcom I’d be able to say that about.


Not this guy, Ms. Knope. Not this guy. He loves powerful depictions of awesome ladies.

Happy Halloween! How about a press release in your internet social media basket?

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would remind you all of a little book I have coming out very soon . . . a little book about zombies . . . kind of.


It’s kind of scary. The Novel Fox is going to market it as sci-fi dystopian fair I believe. This, of course, is cool.

Read the press release below and please feel free to share it with your friends, your family, the media, and anyone who might want to share it with others, review it, and basically make me the first AE Stueve in the way that Ray Bradbury was the first Ray Bradbury.

As far as I’m concerned, January can’t come soon enough.

Former Press Release


When I think of my mother I think of bacon sandwiches and Pepsi, a meal she often served when I was growing up. I think of one of her favorite cartoon shows, Courage the Cowardly Dog. I think of Christmas cookies. I think of summertime playing with my little sisters in front of our trailer house while she sunbathed. I think of McDonald’s, where she worked for a good chunk of my childhood. I think of getting lost coming home from the public pool. I think of the three shih-tzus: Kneesa, Wookie, and Tumbles–I grew up with and the three labs–Sparky, Baby Girl, and Lou-Lou–who now live with her and Dad. I think of Missouri and Mark Twain. I think of that time when my sister, Angie, almost choked on a tiny pair of toy glasses while we were driving home from somewhere. Mom swerved into the gravel shoulder, leapt from the car, and shoved her finger so far down Angie’s throat that the toy glasses and all of her lunch flew out. I think of the time she called the high school and busted all three of her kids for skipping. We deserved it.

More than any of that though, when I think of my mom, I think of strength. My sisters and I joke that she really loves my dad and her dogs but only tolerates the rest of her family. If you’re not related to her . . . well . . . chances are she doesn’t even tolerate you. It’s just a joke though . . . .


It isn’t because she’s mean or that she goes out of her way to be rude to people. My mom is nice. Her strength comes from the fact that she is the last of a dying breed. She tells the truth, always. Many people have trouble with this. Hell, there are times I have trouble with this.

At the end of the day though, her willingness to say it like it is, to tell people what they need to hear when they need to hear it, regardless of their age, class, race, religion, credo, etc, etc, etc, has rubbed off on me just enough to help make me an effective teacher. And I will never be able to thank her enough for that.

She turned 56 two days ago. I like to think she’s got several more years of being strong and telling truths left. I hope so anyway, because it’s good to have that in my life.

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Here she is enjoying a drink of the Fourth of July. I’m sorry, I don’t know what she’s drinking . . . .


Lies: A Book Review



Let me tell you a story.

Four years ago Julie Rowse and I embarked upon NaNoWriMo. In one month, she wrote a memoir and I wrote a zombie novel. A little over a week ago her memoir, Lies Jane Austen Told Mewas released to the unsuspecting populace. And I could not be more thrilled.

In her first–of what will hopefully be many–literary outing, Rowse describes her dating life from the ages of five to 40. She waxes philosophical on Jane Austen‘s ideas of romantic love. She also takes stabs at John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. But that’s not all, folks! In addition to popping off about the lies of the likes of Austen, Hughes, and Crowe, Rowse questions some of her religion’s social beliefs. And while she may be critical on all of these fronts, she also comes at them from an angle of love.

If this seems like a lot, it is. Rowse’s complex relationships with these authors and her religion as she goes through life are what makes this book so interesting . . . . Well that and–coming from a professional liar–her unabashed honesty.

I am, for the most part, a fiction writer. I weave lies to get at the truth. It’s a paradoxical mess that is, on occasion, successful. So non-fiction amazes me, particularly non-fiction that is as honest and raw as Rowse’s. In the book, which, upon first glance, may seem like a tongue-in-cheek romp through one woman’s romantic trails, à la Bridget Jones’s Diary, readers are gifted with an unabashedly honest woman who shows how foolish she can be,  how angry she can be, how loving, how hard, how soft, and finally and most profoundly, how human.

From her first pseudo-engagement to the boy next door when she was five through to her grownup attempts at online dating, Rowse struggles through relationship after relationship. Her eyes are always on the prize Mormon culture, Jane Austen, Cameron Crowe, and John Hughes have told her she must obtain to really and truly be a woman: marriage. In a series of sugary highs partnered with rotten lows, she gives readers the sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly truth of it all.

Dating is hard. Finding a long-term partner is even harder. But thanks to the culture she grew up in and books she has read, for Rowse, being what she considers unsuccessful in both has been the hardest. In 200 pages she works through it all though, making me laugh, cry, get angry, and find solace in her words. I laugh because Rowse makes it easy to laugh with her. I cry because she makes it hard at times not to cry for her, and I find solace because through it all, she retains her faith. For a faithless man like myself, that can be a beautiful thing.

And maybe that’s why I like this book so much. It is life without filters, it is faith unfettered by society, and is the struggle to get by made universal in its specificity.

Sometimes it may be difficult to experience, but it is always beautiful.

Who doesn’t like beauty?


So my dad turned 58 yesterday. He’s a truck driver. He’s been doing that for  . . . I don’t know . . . like 15 years now . . . or something. Before that he worked at a steel mill for 25 years. Before that, he worked at a tire shop.

My mom has told me stories of watching him, as a young man, slinging these giant truck tires across the shop parking lot. I can see him, in my mind’s eye, long hair, dark as death, flowing in some melodramatic wind, as he worked. I bet he looked pretty badass. I’m told he was indifferent about this job. He enjoyed working with the cars that came in, but I guess the pay wasn’t quite high enough to make him like it. This makes sense, considering he worked there as a teen father (of me).

I don’t have to imagine him at the steel mill, walking around in steel-toed boots and shouting over the roar of the cranes, the cutters, the line, and everything else that contributes to the cacophony of sound that exists like a living thing in your average steel mill. I saw him there because I worked there for a time. He hated this job. But he did it, without complaint, for the aforementioned 25 years. I managed a few months separated by school years . . . .


I don’t have to imagine him at the wheel of a big rig either. I’ve seen him and his happiness there confounds me. I couldn’t do it the way he does, over night quite a bit, alone for hours. I’d be asleep, in a ditch, as my load spilled all over the highway. Not my dad though. He loves it. He turns on the radio and listens to classic rock as the road unfolds before him. I’m not sure he is ever more comfortable as he is when he is alone in that truck, cruising along.

He’s a solitary man, after all.

He’s also a good man. Though he may be distant, he is not lacking in the ability to love. Along with my mom, he created me, molded me, and essentially made me the man I am today. I can’t give him a birthday present that would successfully reflect my gratitude. So instead, I write this post because I’m not good at much–for instance, working in a tire shop or steel mill or driving a truck–but I like to think I’m a solid writer.

Happy birthday, Dad.


Dad, babysitting his grandkids. He’s an expert.

And don’t worry, Mom. Your birthday is coming soon . . . .