Ego Stroking

I just got this email from Kirkus Reviews about my novel. If only this wasn’t a marketing pitch. #FeetOnTheGround

Hi A. J.,
As the new year takes off, we’re looking back at some of our most successful and positive Indie Reviews…that’s YOU! Because Power received our coveted Recommended Review, I wanted to let you know that we have extended our exclusive New Year, New Life special to help breath new life back into your marketing promotions in 2017! Congrats!!

Looking forward to hearing back from you,

Client Promotions & Advertising Manager

I Was Physically Assaulted Today

I was physically and verbally assaulted today. It’s OK, other than a stiff neck, I’m fine. A 6’ 2”, 225 pound guy in his twenties, apparently autistic, was having a violent episode at a convenience store I happened to stop at to check the air in my tires. He left the side of his caretaker and called me a rude name as he walked past my car. I could tell he had some sort of handicap, and chose to ignore the insult and turned my body away from the individual to reduce the possibility of conflict. What I didn’t expect was to be hit in the back of the neck while I was bent over filling my tire.

As I tried to make sense of what had just happened, the caretaker appeared at my side and explained the autism and violent episode. I said no problem, I understood, but was thinking, guy—your skills need some work. While he was trying to make sure I wasn’t upset, his charge tore the mirror off of an old SUV parked at the farthest pump from me. I was thinking the caretaker was being way too passive in handling his charge. Why didn’t he yell out to me that I was about to be attacked? Why was he trying to make sure I wasn’t going to do something in retaliation instead of preventing his guy from destroying other people’s property. It made me think of a body man for a powerful politician trying to contain the damage he had no control over stopping.

This was all relevant to me because my nephew is autistic. While I’m aware that some autistics can act out in rage, I have never experienced it with my nephew. I cannot say enough about the care he received after being born and he is engaged with the world around him because of that care. He still doesn’t know when I’m pulling his leg, but by god, he went from a diagnosis of not being able to walk or talk to being one hell of a guy. He swims with the Mission Viejo Nadadors, is a musician, finishing high school, has a great sense of humor, and an active intellect. My sister Carrie and her husband Zach have fought all these years to get him the help he needs and it shows.

I don’t know the story behind the guy who attacked me today. I hold no ill will or hard feelings toward him. I understood before it happened that he was leading a challenging life. I hope he gets the help he needs to deal with his anger, to become a more engaged member of society. In the meantime, I hope the caretaker learns from this incident and seeks better tools for handling his charge. The next victim might not be so understanding.

The ironic part? I watched Fight Club last night. I should have seen it coming. The good news is that someday you’ll find this incident in a future story I’ll write. I’m not one to waste a scene.

To learn more about Autism, go here:

Suffering is Strength

I am truly blessed. If you had suffered the past year with me, you’d be saying WTF? But at the end of the day, the people who matter most were with me and laughing. That makes all the pain and suffering worth it. I’ll be honest, I nearly died twice this year from medical issues. Deal with that. At the lows, well, if you have to ask, you have never come close to death. Tasting the possibility as a solution.

In the last year I nearly died, wrote a novel, created amazing poems that maybe two people have read, healed the pain of an animal, sustained the life of plants that should have died, and created visual pleasure with my landscaping. I rocked hitting bottom.

Why? Because each and every step kept me alive and moving forward. Most every one I came in contact with either accepted the idiosyncrasies, or shrugged their shoulders and moved on. You can do this too.

Rock hitting bottom. Accept that life hits you below the belt. Do your best work when the world says you are finished. Accept that you are doing your best even at your worst.

Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and protect you—or just go out in a blaze of glory.

Whatever you do, don’t sit still, accept mediocrity, or just give up. Let go, but don’t give up. The entirety of the world is waiting for someone like you to grab a hold and not let go. Are you the one?

Where’s My Flocking Coffee?

I was sitting on my couch, looking out into the woods across the street enjoying the snow flocked view and contemplating the bottom of my mug and the need to refill it, but Kali was curled up next to me with her head and paw on my lap. I really didn’t need another cup of coffee and decided that I would give up caffeine once again. Eventually I start anew because of a long trip or what else would you order while writing in a Starbucks while on the road?

Eventually, I forced the leaden pooch off my lap and back to the floor so I could rise up and fill my mug one last time and start my chores. After fifteen minutes of staging materials for retiling the upstairs shower/tub, I thought, where did I leave my coffee? I wandered through the house searching everywhere I’d been, but no cup. Of course, it was in the microwave and I had ignored the multiple reminder beeps. About a month ago I found two mugs in my office microwave. It sits lower than my line of sight, so the first went unnoticed when I placed the second one in days later.

This happens because I make a primitive form of espresso using a French press, then add cold water to make an Americano. If I do not stand in front of the microwave for the minute it takes to warm the mixture, there is a good chance I’ll end up playing the game “Where’s My Coffee?” in about ten or fifteen minutes.

It isn’t so much that I am absent minded, but rather in the moment most of my day. Laying something down and moving on to the next thing is an invitation to forget about the object because it is no longer useful for what I am doing—now, be it a physical chore or writing the next chapter of my novel.

Clarity of mind and purpose can be enhanced by coffee, but I don’t need it to get there, so I might as well let it go. Again. For now.

Special Offers

Betty’s third adventure is going to the editor soon. The first two books, MONEY & POWER both received high praise from Kirkus Reviews (Best Books and Recommendations list). This is your chance to get one of the first edition, first printing, numbered 1-100, signed by the author copies of CONTROL. Purchase the complete set for $50 and you will receive MONEY and POWER right away, and your signed, numbered copy of CONTROL hot off the press when it is released.

This will be your only chance to get these special copies of my third novel, destined to be another critically acclaimed thriller. Will Betty finally get her revenge for the murder of her fiancee, José? Do she and Tom find a way to be together, at last? Will the World Order Cabal be destroyed? These questions, and more, are answered in the thrilling third installment of The Betty Chronicles.

Do you belong to a Book Club? Have you ever had the author of the book you read join you for the get together? Now you can! Purchase a mixed case of MONEY & POWER (15 copies of each) for $450 delivered (lower 48 states) and A. J. Mahler will coordinate with your group to appear at your book club. A special bonus is available to the first twenty clubs who order—fifteen Advanced Reader Copies of CONTROL at no additional cost.

Go directly to the online store

The online store is a secure credit card system managed by Square.

These novels are also available through traditional booksellers such as Prairie Lights, Iowa Book, Barnes & Noble—any bookstore actually.

Nearing the Finish Line

I am so close to finishing the first draft of CONTROL, I can taste the sweet nectar of completion, and not just the end of a single book, but the culmination of a trilogy. But, I am also burned out having written nearly half of the novel in the past month. I have been enjoying the marvelous spring weather in downtown Iowa City, sitting on the benches, people watching, as I simultaneously people watch my characters. Unfortunately, today is the start of a heat wave and I am relegated to my writer’s desk and the A/C is on standby for the onslaught. I only have a short way to go and it feels a lot like running a marathon when you get past twenty-four miles and your legs are cramping up. The best part is almost at hand and you just want to sit down and not run.

So, I am going to suck it up and finish this awesome story with a verve and sinew it deserves. Anything short of that will get fixed in the edit process. I promise.


Today I am thankful for all of the blessings I have received and the people who have lifted me up or pushed me in the back to keep going. Ten years ago I knew I needed to make many changes in my life, but making writing my career was only a dream. To the people who backstopped me as I fumbled around trying to get to this place today, you are the gravy, the dressing, the cranberry, and the pie with fresh whipped topping of my life. The Kirkus Reviews I (we) received yesterday are the affirmation that it was all worth it, that you were right to stand by and behind me, to hold me up, to calm me when I forgot that there was a plan greater than me. Those who smoothed the waters of my troubled life are my greatest earthly treasure. God is good.

Something Different

I have written 3,500 words in the past eighteen hours, roughing out the ending of my first stand alone novel, Severance. These characters have been stewing in my mind for several years and they are ready. It feels like I had them in a crockpot, simmering away. All of the ingredients where in there, I guess I just needed to stir it around a bit, before I could write the first paragraphs—really getting the flavor of the story right.

The end came to me recently, I was playing around with it in my head for the past couple of weeks, waiting impatiently for the words to come, but after kayaking on the Cedar River yesterday, soaking in the sun, feeling the frigid snowmelt water with my bare hands and feet, I was ready to write it out. Tears welled in my eyes as I typed the final lines. I could feel the survivors’ pain, joy, and heartfelt desire to make something new from what had been lost. I wish I could share more with you, but it will be some time before it winds its way through the edit process and publishing. I will keep you posted.

Gideon’s Looking

I am working on the manuscript for Control, Volume III of The Betty Chronicles. Like Lee Child, I do not plot out my novels in advance, though I do think of major points that may or may not end up in the story depending how the writing goes. To be fair, after writing my initial thoughts of a story, usually a 2,000 word essay on characters and conflicts, I rarely look over the notes again.

I just finished a chapter that is a major pivot point in several relationships. I would say more, but it would be a spoiler. I sit here with a smug smile on my face knowing that a couple of threads that have been hanging loose for a very long time are now woven properly into the story, at just the right point. You will know it when you read it. #Betty #Tom #Howell #Ernesto