Words have always been AJ Millen’s friends. She started telling stories young, and she’s still at it. During the 1980s, she worked as a reporter in England, but in 1989, she left for a six-month semester in Greece. That was the plan, until a brown-eyed boy from Samos persuaded her to stay. Today, he’s her husband and father to their 19-year-old son.
Today, she lives in Athens and works in Corporate Communications. To date, AJ has participated in two collaborative novel writing projects and had stories published in three anthologies. Her work also featured in evenings of tales performed at independent theatres in Brighton, and she was a winner in the AuthorTrope “I Made The Darkness” writing contest.
Read more of her words at http://shemeanswellbut.blogspot.com
Here’s an excerpt from Mandi’s story, The Black Rose:
Susie didn’t say much at dinner. She didn’t need to. Will ordered for her, like he always did. She didn’t dare defy him by saying she didn’t fancy steak tonight.
She chewed diligently at the meat, trying to ignore the twinge of her bruised jaw, just as she had tried to avoid Will’s critical glare as she picked at the prawn cocktail starter he’d chosen for her. The lemon juice in the dressing had made her lip smart, and she really didn’t like prawns all that much. She looked up to see Will staring pointedly at her.
“Eat up, princess,” he said. “I’m spending good money on that sirloin. For you. You need the iron. Got to look after yourself, and my boy.”
“It might be a girl,” she murmured under her breath. She made sure it wasn’t loud enough to be heard above the tinkling piano in the corner of the candlelit restaurant packed with couples dressed up to the nines, desperate to convince themselves that they were all madly in love.
The thought flitted across her mind that Will’s treatment before they left the house probably did more harm to the child inside her than a slight iron deficiency that would be easily corrected with a prescription from the family doctor. She dismissed it before she acknowledged it, fearful that Will could read her conscious thoughts and take revenge for her imaginary betrayal. Again.
Her eyes strayed down to the single red rose laying on the linen tablecloth next to her dessert fork. It had come with a card, obviously dictated by Will to the florist, in a curling baroque script that bore no resemblance to his practical heavy hand:
Susie shuddered inwardly as she read it again. No doubt, others would find it romantic in its simplicity. To her, it sounded like a life sentence.
Mandi also has some thoughts about love and horror:
1. Do you have a real life horror story of love gone wrong in your life?
Doesn’t everyone? Perhaps not in the “Hammer Horror” sense, but I’ve had my share of romantic disasters: a boy threatening to kill himself if I didn’t come back to him (he didn’t); being stood up on my birthday; the fun and games of my marriage breaking down when I was just 22 (yes, I know. We married at 19, I thought I was mature. I wasn’t.)
I’m a little cynical about the whole ‘heart & flowers’ romantic package, though I do believe in love in all its forms. It just worries me that so many people seem to accept “love” at any cost, for fear of being alone. Sometimes, alone is what we need to be to figure out who we are and what we really want. In fact, my best ever Valentine’s Day was when I was single, and it involved jumping fully clothed into a pool…. but that’s another story.
I believe the best love is not about fireworks and passion, it’s mundane, everyday, in it for the long haul. If you can survive seeing each other at your worst and bickering over the practicalities of daily life, and still feel at home when you look across the table at ‘your person’, you know something is right. Fortunately, that is what I’ve had for the past 26 years.
2. What do you find makes the combination of love and horror such a potent combination?
I think it is the juxtaposition of our high expectations for the ideal romantic scenario, usually fed into a frenzy by the media and commercial interests, colliding head-on with reality in all its dirty, sordid, painful glory. And the lengths we will go to the name of love.
3. What was the source of your inspiration for your Valentine’s Day horror story?
Again, we come back to why some people put up with the unacceptable in the name of love, and what it takes to break that habit. I was also inspired by a friend who spent some time in prison after attacking her then husband with a knife after years of systematic abuse, both physical and psychological. Strangely enough, her crime and her punishment were what finally freed her.
Publisher and CEO,