Alexander publishes horror book

Hannah Gross

NLJ file photo

Austen Kenney purchases Michael Alexander’s new book, “Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves,” during the Weston County Art Council’s Warm Summer Nights on Main Street in Newcastle Aug. 21. 

Hannah Gross

NLJ Correspondent


“I’ve always wanted to be a writer. That’s been a lifelong dream,” said Newcastle High School English teacher Michael Alexander.

And on July 5, Alexander published his first book, “Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves,” a collection of nine short horror stories. He has received positive feedback for his book, but “a relatively consistent critique is that a lot of the stories utilize common tropes.” However, that was the intention behind the writings, so while he welcomes constructive criticism, Alexander said, there are some critiques horror writers learn to avoid. 

Inspired by literary heroes such as Stephan King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson, Alexander said, he has always been fascinated with the horror genre, and his love for horror was sparked during middle school when he studied the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Alexander said he loved magicians as a child and felt that what the writers of horror accomplished in a short number of pages was similar to what a magician like David Copperfield accomplished on the stage. Spending many of his childhood years with his paternal grandmother, Alexander was allowed to watch — for better or for worse — any scary movie to his heart’s content, he said. 

“I was spoiled as a child,” he said, with a smile. 

Because of his love for writing, Alexander has been writing stories here and there for a number of years, but recently, he said, he reached a time in both his personal and professional life that allowed him enough free time to be productive in his writing. From the time of inspiration to the final revisions, it takes Alexander about a month to put together a story, and most of the stories in his book were written in the past year or two, although a couple were completed a few years before publication.

However, this is not the first time Alexander’s work has been published. Seven of the stories in his book, as well as a poem and two other stories, were previously published in various ways within the past year or so. 

Alexander said the digital age has made the publication process easier and faster, although waiting can still be “painful.” He often sends his work to multiple markets to see where it will “get a bite,” but he said he should send it to just one or two markets, get feedback and then make the necessary changes before sending it off to others. However, Alexander said, jokingly, that he’s too impatient for that. 

His work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, SERIAL Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction and others, but he is most proud of his story “In the Hot Seat,” which was published by the J.J. Outré Review, an online market that is more “discerning” than other markets. According to Alexander, approximately 95% of submissions get rejected.

“It was quite an honor and really exciting,” Alexander said. “I’m proud of that.” 

The inspiration behind his stories often comes from “very random” sources, and for one particular story, Alexander remembers standing in the kitchen washing dishes and hearing a train whistle. That whistle is what got the wheels turning. Writing a story is much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he said, in the sense that one must assemble the pieces and sometimes manipulate or turn them to fit. It can be “exciting” at times but also “terribly frustrating.” 

Alexander said he likes writing because, despite the hard work, it’s also rewarding to watch the story grow and develop. Stepping back and looking at the progress he’s made gives him a “great feeling” of accomplishment, he said. 

“I’m no good at building things with my hands, so I like to build things with my mind,” Alexander said. 

Every story needs a theme and good plot line, according to Alexander, and every writer needs to find what works for him. He added that it’s important to have a “willingness to return to a work and make necessary changes” but also to recognize that not all ideas are going to work.

“A good story needs to have a solid skeletal structure,” Alexander said. “I’ve certainly written some stinkers that I’ve abandoned.”

He hopes to continue writing more books and short stories and might even attempt a longer story in the future. 

“That is the short-term goal to put together another collection,” Alexander said. “For now, I’m content to stick to short stories.”

A paperback version of his book, published under his full name Michael Jess Alexander, is available on
any online bookstore, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million for $6.99. A Kindle edition can be purchased for $2.99. He also has a website for his stories and poems:


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