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 . . . .

Banned Books and Pills

Did you know it’s Banned Books Week? Happy Banned Books Week! Do you know what Banned Books Week is? Briefly, the website says that it is a time for book publishers, sellers, writers, teacher, readers . . . everyone, to gather together and “celebrate our freedom to read” while simultaneously bringing “attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.”

And it’s great. It’s warm. It’s noble. It’s all things good. I support it.

It also makes me sad though. I’m sad because we have to have Banned Books Week. There are still people who fear masterpieces like PersepolisThere are parents out there who cringe at the prospect of their children reading Totally JoeI could go on and on, but mentioning those two is disheartening enough . . . .

Fear is ugly folks. It leads to . . . bad things.

On a more positive note, I’ve been immortalized in LitPill form here. You should get one, then you too can have a cool sticker/pill version of me. If that doesn’t make you feel better during Banned Book Week, then nothing will!


This week marks the return of Autumn, my favorite season. The slight chill, the pumpkin spice, and the strange, pleasant melancholy as life gently drifts off to sleep, have always pleased me. But the following poems can say all that and more far better than I can.

“End of Summer” by Stanley Kunitz

“To Autumn” by John Keats

“September Tomatoes” by Karina Barowicz

“Halloween Party” by Kenn Nesbitt

“Song of the Witches” by William Shakespeare

“Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg

“Final Autumn” by Annie Finch

I think I like Autumn so much because it is a time to reflect on summer’s adventure, ponder the mysteries of winter, and relax, knowing spring’s troublesome life will once again–and before we know it–be sprouting up.

These poems tell of this. Take a moment, read through them. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.




That was Then

When I was in 8th grade I wrote my first novel-length piece . . . or maybe it was 7th grade. I can’t remember. One of those two. I know it was middle school.


I remember writing it with such zeal, such surety. It was science-fiction, epic in nature, grotesquely violent in presentation, and horrible in most literary matters. Think of it as Star Wars without Joseph Campbell’s assist, covered in a heavy helping of blood. My main character’s name is Mike. When readers first see him, he is a small boy who is brutally attacked by a monster of a man named Wood Chuck. Another man–who had been a police officer on earth before he was sucked into a vortex to this strange planet–named him that after he saved him from certain death at the hands of the interminable villain, Wood Chuck. I can’t remember what the man’s name is . . . which is odd since a good chunk of the narrative is in his voice . . . .


In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this story is not good. But you know what? It is an amazing example of what an overactive imagination can do when it isn’t hindered by self-doubt and worry. I have a friend who is also a writer who once told me he hated reading craft books, not because they were bad but because they had the opposite effect on him than what the authors intend. They scare him. After reading them, he is in an almost panicked state whenever he tries to pick up a pen or type on a keyboard. I never understood that. I’ve always loved craft books–learning about how to better what I do.

But I’m beginning to understand . . . I think. A few months ago I completed the final edits on a novel that will be available soon. Since that time I’ve felt a certain paralysis when I stare at the screen or pick up a pen to jot down a quick story. I’ve tried various remedies. I’ve written a few short stories, dabbled with some novels, but self-doubt keeps popping up, a desire to finish before I’m done enrages my slow-moving mind and forces me to stop.

Or rather, I force myself, because, let’s be honest, there is no outside force here, despite what Elizabeth Gilbert might want us to believe. I love the concept, Ms. Gilbert, am enthralled by the idea, but recently I can’t seem to grasp it the way I should. Sadly, I also can’t seem to pick up that crazy notion that I had when I was a boy first discovering the magic of the written word (from the side of the writer).

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not stopping. This isn’t the end of AE Stueve, the writer.

I’m simply struggling, as we all do from time to time.

Thought I’d share it with you, dear readers, and see if you have any advice.

Well, do you?

I am Zato Ino



Zato Ino, the wandering blindswords-pig in the Usagi Yojimbo universe created by Stan Sakai, has always been one of my favorite literary characters. He’s great. He’s surly. His skill with a blade is nearly unmatched and his sense of smell is unmatched. Most importantly though, he’s driven by a simple desire for a peaceful life that has resonated with me since I was a child.

zato ino peace

Unfortunately, because of Zato Ino’s blindness during a time where that handicap is considered something to be laughed at and derided, he is a target for bullies and idiots. So, because he is different–something other-than–he struggles to find his peace. He’s labeled an outlaw and his life is one never-ending battle after another.

I can relate. No, I’m not blind. I can’t use a sword to save my life. Chances are, my nose is no better or worse than yours. Also, it’s been many moons and seasons since I was last labeled an outlaw. That said, I know what it feels like to be something other-than. I know what it feels like to want peace but to find it unreachable because I was unlike most people around me. It’s hard to be weird.

I am a writer and I love drama in my stories. I love crafting it. I love reading it. I love coming up with insane situations for characters to find their ways out of (or not). I can lose myself there. But when I come up to this world, the one I share with all of you, I want peace. I want a quiet home on a quiet street with quiet neighbors. I want to enjoy a beer on a cool evening with my dog at my side without fear of police involvement or ignorant harassment. I want boring.

I’m a weird guy, I know. I’ve tried not to be. Once, when I was 18 I decided to give up reading comic books and being concerned with counter culture interests. I even stopped writing. I was going to become ‘normal.’ Let’s just say it didn’t work out. Another time, in my third or fourth year of teaching, I decided I was going to go for a more traditional look so students and co-workers would stop hypothesizing about my past and present. I cut my hair, trimmed my beard. I even decided to rein in my normal classroom antics. I thought that maybe it would make me stand out a little less. I was mistaken.


Like Zato Ino, all I want is the freedom to be who I am without the world coming down on me, judging me, or telling me I’m wrong. Like Zato Ino, I want to relax. I want to enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer without having to look over my shoulder all the time, without having to defend my actions, without having to defend myself.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone wants, really? And if that’s so, then at the end of the day, aren’t we all Zato Ino, really?

Sakai writes and draws a comic book that is profound in its simultaneous simplicity/complexity. Zato Ino is only one example that proves this. Over the last week my life has been filled with the kind of drama I avoid, the kind of drama that destroys peace. I’ve found solace in Zato Ino’s tale and anyone who has ever wanted to do nothing more than be him or herself without fear of judgement, betrayal, or derision will as well.

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Zato Ino and his pet tokageSpot, fight for their lives against the bounty hunter Gen (another great, conflicted character).

16,000 Words

I spent this weekend working on some final edits for Julie Rowse’s upcoming memoir. I’m predicting it’s going to take the world by storm, but that’s just me. Also, that’s not what I’m writing about today.

Today I’m writing about how I spent last weekend. I spent it writing a novel.My family was out-of-town and I had few obligations. Being a writer, I wrote. I went all out to, folks, all out. I am working on this novel about a guy in the 1920s in a small town in Nebraska who is raising a kid with super powers. Think Superman from Pa Kent’s perspective, roughly. There’s also a serial killer. The country is also teetering on economic collapse. I’m doing a lot of research and taking a lot from real life experience. Not the killer part or the economic collapse part. My kids, in case you didn’t know, have super powers. I’m technically not allowed to talk about it. In fact, I’m a little worried the Men in Black might take down this post or something.

That’s a different story for a different day though.


I posted on Twitter and Facebook that I was going to write a novel in 12 hours:

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I received an appropriate response from the incomparable Liz Kay:

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In case you are wondering, I failed to write the novel.

I did, however, get 16,000 words out in less than 12 hours. If you don’t know much about writing, know this: that is an accomplishment. Are the words I wrote that day mostly awful? Yes. Is it a bare-bones beginning to a story I think might have some potential to be awesome? No. It is a bare-bones beginning to a story I’m certain will be awesome when it’s done. But let me illustrate the process for you:

  • It may take a few months to get a rough draft.
  • Then, it may take a few more months to get it to a place where I am willing to share it with more than just the closest confidants.
  • When I finally share it with writerly friends for comments and suggestions I will wait for weeks in nervous anticipation.
  • Once I receive comments and suggestions, I will begin rewrites. This will take-at minimum-a month or so.
  • Depending on how happy I am with the finished product at this point, I will either find other writerly friends to critique it or begin the most dreaded part of the writing process: submissions.
  • Now I am lucky enough to have recently signed a contract for “first refusal rights” which means I know exactly where to send my manuscript once it’s finished.
  • If this place does not want the story though, submissions begin in earnest. This is when I ask myself if I want to find an agent or if I want to keep submitting to smaller presses . . . .
    • Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question . . . yet.

When all is said and done, I am looking at approximately a year’s worth of time focusing on the characters and events in this novel, trying to tighten the language, establishing the world, developing the setting, getting the story as close to perfect as possible. It never will be perfect though. Even if it is published. In fact, it will haunt me for the rest of my life, as everything I write that gets published does. For the record, everything I write that doesn’t get published haunts me as well, for a completely different set of reasons.

Writing is difficult. It is not difficult the way teaching, working in a steel mill, flipping burgers, farming, pumping gas, washing dishes, driving, making pizzas, cooking in a deli, maintaining a dairy cooler, counting crops, mentoring, advising, tutoring, coordinating volunteers, managing an office, mowing lawns, doing yard work, delivering newspapers, running a cash register, stocking shelves, or raising children is difficult.

But it is difficult in its own unique way. For me, it’s not a vacation. It’s not a hobby. It’s a living. Sure, right now I supplement that living by teaching. But make no mistake, when I call myself a writer, I say so with no irony.

Last weekend I wrote 16,000 words. I am a writer.


EAB Publishing’s first novel was David Atkinson’s The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes. Though publishing this surrealistic answer to  Waiting for Godot was a joint decision between myself, EAB president Tim Benson, and the other editors, I pushed for it. I explain why here.

Since many people have told me it is nice to read my explanation about why I picked Atkinson’s book for publication, I thought I’d do it for Braxton to.

Like to read it? Here it goes . . . .

When Benson brought Braxton to my attention, I was not eager to read it. A vampire hunter book? I thought. Seriously? If it isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayerwhat’s the point? But I gave it a try because Benson is my boss and Jeremy Morong, the talented man who wrote it, was, at the time, an acquaintance.  I’d like to think he has since become a friend. But that’s another story for another time.


As soon as I opened the manuscript I was pulled into a strange new world of monsters and monster hunters, a world that has a surreal, frightening, and fun feel to it. In a way, it is a world that reminds me of Sunnydale, CA, only in a different time. The characters are as realistic as the characters who inhabit that town after all, and the scenarios are just as otherworldly. A few hours after starting the manuscript, I looked up from my computer screen to see how long it had been. At this point, I was about halfway through the book and wanted to call Benson to say, “Yes,” but, being a true editor, I had to finish it first. So I returned to the story.

When I was done, I wished I had saved the last few chapters to finish some other time. So I told Benson EAB should publish this book. And I think that’s my litmus test. If I find myself reading for enjoyment instead of out of my editorial duty, I know I’ve hit on a story I love.

But what is it that makes The Adventures of Braxton Revere so lovable? Honestly, it’s a little bit of everything but most significantly, the characters. As has been noted by at least one reviewer, the characters aren’t really characters at all, but real people. This, dear reader, is worth about a million hit points in your literary arsenal. Our hero, Braxton, is a man unsure of himself, but determined to do right. Is he a great man? No. His hamartia is evident in all of his actions. This, of course, humanizes him more than most pulp heroes. His friend and only sympathizer, Taylor, brings comedy and complexity to the story. Finally Patch, an homage to everyone’s favorite science experiment gone wrong (Frankenstein’s monster), helps throw not only Braxton’s concept of monster out the window, but readers’ as well.

What I mean to say is that the beauty of this novel lies in its characters’ tricky complexities. Yes, it is a fun adventure that is readily readable for pretty much anyone old enough to handle some undead action. I mean, this should be evidenced by its release. Did you know it has an exclusive one-time-only O Comic Con variant cover that you can no longer purchase? It does. I have it. It’s totally awesome and looks like a classic video game cartridge. It’s whatever. No big deal.

Here it is:


So it looks like a fun read, and to be sure it is. But there is more going on here . . . .

The story begins in medias res with this brilliant quote:

  • “When word was brought to me of the von Braun tragedy, I wasted no time springing to action. I saddled Midnight and together we stormed toward New London. The sleepy burg had once had big ideas of being something more. Don’t we all?”

This line’s greatness lives in its dual complexity/simplicity. On the surface, its meaning is obvious. Readers know something bad has happened and the narrator (Braxton) wants to help. But dig deeper and it’s clear this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill pulp adventure. In these few sentences, readers also learn Braxton has a  somewhat self-defeatist mindset and perhaps something of a grudge against New London. We wonder why. We want more.

Morong delivers. His voice is strong. His point is clear. Though this is an adventure/journey story on par with some of the best pulp I’ve read, with twists and turns, talking skulls, witches, vampires, and all sorts of things that go bump in the night, that isn’t all there is to this tale. There is something about friendship and camaraderie that can’t be denied. There is something about acceptance and family. There is something good. No, it isn’t a book that wears its messages on its sleeve, but that’s only because Morong is too good of a writer to do that. He manipulates us into becoming friends with Braxton and crew. He manipulates us into caring whether or not they defeat the great evil that is Ralugard the vampire. Morong manipulates us into believing it’s all real.

That’s why I like this book of a rough and rugged vampire hunter with a fool and a monster for best friends. Sure, it may seem like simply a fun pulp adventure (and there would be nothing wrong with that). But like I said, there is something more. It’s Morong’s heart and beliefs opened up for all to see; but done in such a way that we do not know we are looking at it. We are simply spending time with our friends as they try to save each other and mankind from the monster under our collective bed.

For the next week, EAB Publishing is letting the digital copy of this book go for only $1.00. I suggest you give it a gander.