A Slow Start

Happy January, everyone. I hope 2023 is starting off on the right foot with you all. I know these first couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for most of us, but with that hopefully has come plenty of good.

Personally, I have seen a fair bit of success and happiness come about early on this year, with one novel finalized and entering the publication process and plenty of events in the making. That’s right, for those who haven’t heard, my latest novel is officially in production! The author proof is en route to me even now, and should be at home waiting for me to approve or modify it. That feeling is one that, even on my 7th book (holy cow, seven books??!!) doesn’t get old. To see my writing on the page, my reality played out there in novel format is nothing short of amazing. If you don’t yet know that feeling, I can’t wait until you do. It will make that imposter syndrome flee – even if just for only a moment or two.

In addition to the novel I have coming out soon, I have another that I have been trying to finish since last year. My fantasy sequel, “Darkness Awakens: Shadow Slayer Saga Number 2,” is more than 50,000 words, with plenty of great story so far, and I’m not even sure when it will be complete. I have been pushing myself to get plenty of writing in, but I have begun to fall into a slump.

Between setting up events, returning to work after the holidays, adjusting to the new year, and trying to maintain my sanity, it has been a wild ride. I feel the urge to write and create, and have even been coming up with new story ideas left and right, but the ability to focus and make real progress on any one particular work has eluded me. For years I have tried to help and encourage my fellow writers and creators through their slumps and blocks, but I haven’t been able to break mine. In all fairness, this isn’t so much a block of ideas or a lack of feeling for the story itself. I just feel like my voice is slogging through the mud whenever I try to write. It’s like my creative drive got stuck on slow motion.

As I’ve told you all many times before, no amount of struggle comes without its reward, so I know I simply need to keep pushing. My main goal for making this post, in addition to wishing you all the happiest of new years, was to see if anyone else was feeling that creative backlog as well. Are you trying to get a new project going and having trouble, or have you slipped off the path of completion on a work that already has a strong base? Those slumps can truly mess up a good schedule of creation, that’s for sure, but they can’t be allowed to win!

I’m choosing to follow my urge to create and push myself forward, no matter how slow it is. Once those ideas start flowing really strongly again these days of slumps and struggling will seem far away, like they usually do. In the meantime, though, let me share with you the cover for my new novel as I prepare to set a release date.

I am so pumped about this book, guys. Maverip (the original was one giant book that I split up for length) is my magnum opus thus far. The book that has been with me for more than a decade, characters that have been like family to me. Well, you know, family that you torture and terrify with vampires, pain, constant fear of death and the like. So, family. I can’t wait for you to get to check out this next stage of the adventure, too. It promises to be great fun and will change the way the modern vampire tale is perceived by some, I hope.

For more access to future works of mine, make sure you subscribe to my free newsletter, follow me on social media, and subscribe to my Patreon (http://patreon.com/DameanMathews). I am working on my schedule of events for the year, so be sure to jump over to my events and appearances page regularly to see what is coming!

Finally, if you have been feeling that beginning of the year slump, what have you done to get over it? Have you been able to push your way through the mire to the golden light of creation on the other side? If not, we’ll get there together! Comment or message me to share your journey.

Returning Home

Greetings and Salutations, everyone! We are growing ever closer to the spookiest time of year, quickly chased by the merriest time of year. In other words, I am absolutely in my element! I have been immersing myself in all things horror for the last few weeks, as opposed to the rest of the year when I immerse myself in all things horror. It’s very exclusive. As I near another busy time of year, filled with events and signings and all manner of awesome opportunities to meet you all, I have to tell you about the most recent one.

On October 9th I was honored to do a discussion and reading in my beloved hometown of Tazewell, Va. Being from said small town, the Appalachian tradition of ‘coming home’ took on a new meaning for this event. The Tazewell Historical Society asked me to do the event, which was held in the recently revamped and reopened Tazewell Train Station, formerly known as ‘the old depot.’

The old depot had been abandoned, just sitting in its historic spot, going back to the earth for years, decades even. Fading, dirty bricks, boarded windows and doors, vines crawling up the sides with reckless abandon, the building was exactly something that would inspire this little horror lover’s heart (and there may or may not be something in the works based on this). The coolest thing about this is the fact that I lived less than a quarter mile away from the building. I passed it every time I was going home, every time I left to go anywhere. It was always a figure of history that loomed on the edge of my vision, and instilled curiosity consistently. I may or may not have tried various times to take a peek inside the building, with never a spark of luck, so this was an even more interesting opportunity.

Needless to say when I was asked if I would be interested in doing a presentation on Appalachian Myth and Legend, along with a reading of some of my work, I leapt on the chance. The fact that it was going to be held in the depot building was just icing on the cake.

To prepare for the event I examined much of what I already knew of myth and wives’ tales that exist in Tazewell. There are a fair number of those, but one that has always interested me is that of Devil’s Slide Cave, otherwise known as Higginbotham #1. Supposedly farmers that live and work near this cave, which rests just off the road at the foot of a mountain, have heard moans and cries of unknown origin coming from within. Animals that get too near the cave are said to die soon after or simply disappear. A group of spelunkers and cave mappers went into the cave and reported a sinkhole not far from the entrance. Once they made their way down they went several miles in (I’ve heard they may have spent as much as two days within, but I’m not sure of that part). Eventually they found another dropoff and began hearing the sounds they had been told about. They lowered themselves down to the full extent of their equipment and reported that they couldn’t quite reach the bottom, although they could see it. The group claimed to have seen a set of heavy iron doors at the bottom of the hole, through which the sounds of Hell itself could be heard and a great heat could be felt. I’ve heard the tale several times throughout my life, but I have never gotten to explore the cave, as it is on private land.

Being a lover of all things lore and myth, I made the connection here with the Devil’s Looking Glass in Erwin, Tn. and several other evil seeming legends, of which there are no shortage. The group of people that showed up to listen and converse with me were fantastic, and it was honestly an amazing event. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine how I could be so blessed to be able to experience that thing of wonder, the Appalachian Homecoming. Getting to present some of my work and my research, an object of my passion, that close to where I spent some of my most formative years – in a home that was and is still passed down through my family I might add – is nothing short of a blessing that I am ever so thankful for.

That, I think, is something we all sort of hope for. To be able to return to our origin with our story strapped to our back, not in an act of desperation, but an act of triumph. To be able to return home and say “look at what I’ve done. I’m here because I WANT to be here, not because I have to be.” It is a feeling of success and achievement that I hope I can always keep with me. Having a passion for the arts is by no means an easy journey, and it does not often come with the sort of instant gratification the world is growing more and more used to, but this truly makes me feel like I am on the right path. I have had my ups and downs lately with my work, especially while striving to revamp my website, up my market presence, and make myself more widely known. Sometimes it seems like I’m just pounding my fists against a brick wall, hoping against all odds to bring it down. On the bad days, it seems this is a futile attempt, but on the good days, every now and then, one or two of those bricks come tumbling down. These last few weeks, those bricks are tumbling, and I can’t be more thankful for that.

I know, of course, that every journey is one of ups and downs. As happy and successful as I feel this week, I may end up feeling just as unsuccesseful next week, but the key and point of this post, is that sense of failure, that ever-present nag that is imposter syndrome, is false. Your journey is always successful as long as you don’t give up on yourself. You have to push through the bad days, the low times, the negative commentary, and realize that these are merely speedbumps. Tests. They are nothing more than life’s way of making sure you don’t get moving too fast or flying too high before you slow down and take a tumble. Your time of ultimate achievement, your moment in the spotlight, will absolutely come. But no amount hemming and hawing, whining and crying, forcing and threatening will make it happen. It will happen when you have overcome those obstacles and truly have everything you need to embrace the big finish.

So, my advice, as always, is to keep going. Push through the pain, the bad days, the sadness. Never let a road block cause you to come to a full stop. Turn the wheel and seek out a different path. Have faith in yourself and your journey. Fight your way through the hard days and enjoy every moment of the good ones. Most importantly, remember those good feelings and use them to keep you motivated through the bad. One day, you too may have that storybook ‘homecoming’ and it will be a moment you can definitely be proud of.

If you need anyone to talk to or motivate you through those hard times, I am always available as well. You can find me on social media, use the contact page on the site, comment on a post, or use any other method you can to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help any way I can. Also, my amazing wife filmed my presentation at the depot and I have since uploaded it to Youtube. You can watch it here, if you’re interested. Have a great rest of the week, everyone. I look forward to hearing from you!

Celebrating Spooky Month with Mountain Song & Story

Happy October, everyone!! I have been leaping into this spooky season with plenty of awesome projects and events so far. My most recent short story collection, “When These Mountains Talk: Tales of Horror From the Heart of Appalachia” was released on October 1st, and it has gotten great attention so far. In addition to that, I had a huge and awesome experience I wanted to share with you all.

Last night I was a part of a local radio show, originating from Bristol Va’s Birthplace of Country Music Musuem called Mountain Song and Story. The weekly show, hosted by Toni Doman, features and explores different aspects of Appalachian culture by discussing various arts and crafts, cultural elements, and even some phenomena and myths. I had the chance to sit down with Toni and have a candid discussion that covered a range of topics including my work, the importance of Appalachian culture, and some of our amazing Appalachian legends.

To say I was, and am, honored is an understatement. I can’t thank Toni and everyone at Radio Bristol enough for having me on the show and allowing me to talk about my writing on such a cool platform. The episode was an hour long, and it was filled with classic regional music, and genuinely fun content. I think you would all truly enjoy hearing it. Fortunately, the episode now lives in the show’s online archives at https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/event/mountain-songs-and-stories-with-toni-doman/2022-10-06/ and can be checked out at any time. My episode is the one that aired on October 6th, if you are interested. I have to once again say thank you to Toni, my friends Wendy and Myrissa for recommending me for the show, and to everyone who helped make it possible. These opportuniites make me feel very connected with the community and help me remember how blessed I am to be able to create my art and use my voice to draw attention to our culture.

In addition to last night’s opportunity, I am ecstatic to announce that I am getting another chance to embrace our local culture this Sunday (October 9th) in my hometown of Tazewell, Va. I have been invited to present and read some of my work to a group of community members at the Tazewell Train Station – which is literally just yards away from where I spent a good number of my formative teen years and essentially grew to be the man I am today. This is a huge honor for me, as I love being able to bring my work back to my hometown and see the old stomping grounds. The event will begin at 2 pm, and I hope to see plenty of familiar and even new faces there. I truly can’t thank God enough that I have the talent and skill I do. I was truly made to write and celebrate the written word and the culture that helps make these mountains what they are, and I am ecstatic to embrace those purposes. If you are able to attend the event this weekend, that would be fantastic. If not, I completely understand, and I welcome you to check out my events page to see when and where you can see me next!

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments you’ve got for me, and I look forward to speaking with everyone. Keep reading and being spooky!

Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

As many of you know, I have an extreme love and respect for the book by Delia Owens. It has been one of my favorite pieces of literature since the day of its release. From paragraph one, the book had my attention and would not let me go. Needless to say, when I heard the official announcement it was getting the silver screen treatment I was beyond nervous. How could anyone do such fantastic, eloquent prose justice? I’m thrilled to say my worries were exceedingly unfounded.

Last night I finally got to watch the film that took the world by storm, and I’m proud to say that from the opening scenes to the last seconds of credit scrawl I was hooked once again. Owens’s world and character were brought to life in such a fantastic and thrilling manner that I was almost ashamed at being concerned. Daisy Edgar Jones breathed such a refreshing breath of life into Kya and her harsh, pain-filled early life that I found my heart reaching out to this character again. With a narration by Jones that allowed some of Owens’s more poignant lines (a phrase that is honestly such a shock it’s not even funny) to live and thrive on the big screen.

The story, if any of you are unfamiliar, is of a small town on coastal North Carolina that is rocked by the death of one of its star young men. Chase Andrews, a regular jock and good ole’ boy, who came from an old money family, is found dead in the marshes. When police consider the possibilty that this may have been a murder, the first suspect they seek is someone the townspeople call “Marsh Girl.” This opens into the sad story of Kya Clark, a sad young woman who was abandoned by her mother, siblings, and finally her abusive father in their family home. We learn of the hardships of Kya’s life, including her relationship with the dead man and the attempted rape that led her to fleeing for her life.

As a native Appalachian who grew up just a few hours from these coastal marshes, I was blown away by the cinematography and the beauty of the film. The marshland is truly a whole other world, and one that offers its own set of power, grace, and beauty. Kya’s story as told through the cinematic lens, under the production power of none other than Reese Witherspoon with close consultation by Owens herself, made my heart break again and again. I laughed, I gasped, I even found tears in my eyes on multiple occasions throughout the 2 hour film, and I would not have it any other way.

Kya’s life in the marsh was by no means easy, but the power of a pure mind and heart is exemplified in her ability to find the true beauty nature has to offer. The marsh raised Kya in its own way, and the world made sure she knew she wasn’t accepted. The strength behind a young woman’s determination is exemplified in this story, and Kya’s connection with nature is one that we can all be jealous of. I know I am. Long story short, I highly recommend this movie, and the book that gave it life, of course. Book first, of course. Once you enjoy both I’d love the hear your thoughts, too. Comment, message, whatever makes your little heart happy. I look forward to hearing from you! As always, read on, happy people.

Using Personal Success/Creative Encouragement

Happy late August, everyone! Summer is quickly drawing to a close as Fall and the holiday seasons creep ever closer. Personally, I find the cooler months tend to either be nominally more successful for creative endeavors – or they kill them completely. Rarely is there an in between. Usually that thought would mortify me, but I am working harder at understanding to allow my body and mind to work at their pace and accept that sometimes the muse just is not there.

That does not mean, however, that I am not successful. The same goes for all of you. Past accomplishments are just as important today, tomorrow, and years in the future as they were the day you achieved them. That is something that is a little difficult to believe or maintain as a creator. When we look back at a huge project we finished at an earlier date and see that we haven’t done anything of similar magnitude today, it can be a little discouraging. You may even be tempted to feel guilty about it.

Don’t. Regardless of what horrible things your mind tells you, you are still a creator, and you are still doing amazing things. Knowing that you have accomplished huge things in the past should be enough to make you excited for your potential for the present and the future. When these feelings of inadequacy spring up, and I wish I could say they wouldn’t, but they probably will, it is important to look at what encourages us as a creator.

Personally, I find there are several things that encourage and inspire me – anything from the right music, to heavy exposure to nature and peaceful surroundings. Whatever it may be, it is important that you delve into these things anytime you are feeling even moderately less than awesome. It is also crucially important that we make an effort to reach out and encourage our fellow creators. If we know that we get down and start feeling like our work isn’t good enough sometimes it only stand to reason that other creators feel the same way. I actually spoke a lot about encouragement and inspiration in a recent podcast that I’ll link here in the bottom of this post.

I have noticed a lot of times lately that people will endlessly consume the arts, and let’s face it, that’s a lot better than losing yourself in reality. That is not at all a problem, of course. The problem comes when we lose ourself in these magnificent works of art, love them to bits, but say nothing of that love to the creator. I know each and every one of you who have shared your work with others have experienced what it’s like to have someone look at your piece or listen to your song or read your story and give it no reaction or the most minimal one. It sucks.

To know that you put that piece of yourself out there and someone just walked by it and barely gave it a reaction makes you feel lower than low. To know that this story that makes your heart pound and made you so proud you wanted to share it is just given the most cursory response is like a knife in the back. So don’t do this to other creators! Make sure if there is something out there that inspires any kind of emotion in you, you tell the person who made it happen! I have a lot more to say about this in my podcast, so head on over there and check it out. “The Modern Prometheus” podcast is available pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts.

https://anchor.fm/damean-mathews/episodes/Creative-Encouragment-e1mfgc7

I also have started a Patreon geared toward writers and creators, if you haven’t heard that news. I have two tier levels that each have their own benefits, but both will offer you tips, writing exercises, free samples of my work, and more. Head on over there to become a patron and start reaping the benefits!

https://www.patreon.com/DameanMathews

As always, thank you for listening to what I have to say, and I hope you will all interact, listen to my podcast, and join me on my Patreon journey. Keep your eyes open for new work, news on my upcoming events and more! Have a great week!

Embrace Your Passions

Happy Sunday, everyone! June is upon us, and with it comes the exciting realization that I have the entire summer to write, edit, and publish more work for the next two months. Knowing I have the freedom to create at my leisure is a wonderful feeling. I have plans to write and publish several of my long-awaited works this summer, and it thrills me to think those pieces will soon be out in the world. I have a number of festivals and appearances booked for the next couple months, which promises to be an ongoing good time.

One of these events, the 2022 Clinch River Days Festival, just wrapped up yesterday. A weekend long celebration of Appalachian culture and crafts that is held on the banks of the mighty Clinch, this festival gave me the opportunity to connect with tons of new readers and discuss my writing with an entirely new audience. I had my work compared to Anne Rice and Stephen King, and even managed to spot one of my fellow vendors who purchased one of my books on the first day of the event who brought it back to read it the second day. I do have to admit seeing someone unabashedly reading my work out in the open like that thrilled me to the core.

During the event I was able to make connections with readers from as far away as Arizona, a fact that really blew my mind. One of the young ladies who picked up a copy of one of my books asked me how long I had been writing. A simple enough question, but it really got me thinking. I have been writing seriously for 15 years, almost to the day. That is simply astounding. It does not feel like it has been that long. I remember vividly the day the idea for my first novel hit me. That one is still in the works all these years later. It is one that I continue to come back to and work on from time to time, but it does not seem to be in a hurry to be completed.

That’s more than respectable of course, but I have to admit it is more the fact of time that really got me thinking. A decade and a half, nearly half my life, has been spent with these stories flowing through me. I have created worlds, destroyed villains, cast caution to the wind, embraced darkness and pushed heroes to their breaking points. I have written works that I am immensely proud of, despite whatever difficulty they have put me through during their creation. I love every second of it. When I am putting those words down, recording the challenges and events of my characters’ lives I truly feel like I am doing what I was put on this world to do. If you have not felt that kind of exhilaration, words almost can’t do it justice. To truly embrace your purpose on this earth is an amazing sensation.

While talking about my writing and my various books to everyone this weekend, I was reminded again just how much I love my craft. It is not something I take lightly, but there are times these days when it becomes hard to find the time to dedicate to that creativity I love so much. Often, when the responsibilites of the average day have completed I find myself moving toward reading, video games, spending down time with my wife, traveling and more. Sometimes, despite the thrill I get writing, it is more attractive to break away from screen time. After teaching all day and using technology in the classroom, it is a very attractive option to do literally anything but be on the computer, and handwriting my work is a lovely substitute, but it is a much slower option.

Taking those things into consideration, it is all too easy to allow myself to slip when dedicating my time to my craft. I never want to feel I am taking away from any facet of my life, and sometimes it does feel selfish to consider dedicating time to write rather than spending time with my wife after we work 8 hours a day. That is something I think all creatives face when considering what it means to devote time to themselves after having to work for a living. Spending 8 hours a day dedicated to my career often leaves me feeling drained and distracted, which makes me feel I am taking away from my wife and the rest of my life, whether I rest or devote time to those passions. One way or the other it feels that there is a problem doing both – but that is not the case.

I have expressed these worries to my wife and she insists to me that it is nonsense. Being able to enjoy every bit of life outside of careers is a very important facet of life. Every creative, everyone with a passion, everyone who has intention of enjoying their life and not simply working themselves into the grave could stand to remember that fact. My wife encourages me to dedicate time to my passions – all of my passions – which makes a huge difference to allowing myself the freedom to do so. For all creatives who read this, I think it bears repeating that it is not selfish, it is not damaging, it is not wrong to dedicate time to your passions. All of your passions. Balance is the key to having a healthy life that you are happy with and proud of. You can take the time to work, and spend time on your career in order to make a living, but once those 8 hours are complete, you need to remember life should not just be work and preparation for more work.

It is all too easy for the world to encourage us to spend our days working only to come home and spend our nights and weekends preparing for or dreading returning to work for the next shift. This is not life. This is slavery. Take the time to dedicate your life to your passions, your loves, yourself. There is no excuse for merely living to work and working to live. Embrace your passions, work to push yourself to new limits, complete those new projects and work on the old ones as well. I admit it is not always easy to allow yourself that freedom, but it immensely important to invest in yourself like this. The last thing you want is to reflect on your life in 5, 10, 15 years and have regrets about what you did or did not do, what passions you did or did not embrace, what opportunities you stood in your own way of. It’s important that you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy your life.

At the end of the day, the biggest motivation I like to remember is that the reason you are given your passions, your loves, your creative inspiration is because no one can do what you can with it. No one can paint the picture you can, invent the new product the way you can do it. No one can write the story you have in your head. It is up to you, and believe me when I say the world needs your voice. You have those inspirations and you deserve to pursue them. Who knows, maybe it will be you sitting at an event, discussing your works with an interested person who will offer the advice that inspires someone to devote themselves to their own passion. Regardless of what life throws at you, just remember life does not own you. You own it.

Pale Blue Dot

“Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.” – Carl Sagan

This quote made my mind wander in several different directions this morning, but the ultimate meaning, to me, is just how pointless such efforts are. We are all living our miniscule lives, hurtling through space on a rock that supports life, but so many people are only worried about how they can kill, dominate, or better others. It is nothing short of disgusting to know that so many people are out for nothing more than themselves and their own benefit when this planet of nearly 8 billion people is filled with pointless suffering.

I don’t often get political, and I don’t plan to here, other than to say every ounce of it is nothing short of pathetic. People starve to death on a daily basis, others struggle to pay bills for necessities that, once upon a time, were considered rights rather than privileges. All too often the rich are perfectly fine sitting on their piles of usually misgotten wealth, more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes, while others struggle to make ends meet enough to keep food in their bellies and a roof over their heads.

Gone are the days of people being able to step out in the world, stake their claim, and live off the land. Now governments want their share, while giving the hard-working public mere pittance in return. It is deplorable. The unrest and unequal share of mankind in their own joint survival leads to more crime, pain, misery, and lack of reason and progression than any advancement in the history of civilized humanity.

That word in itself, civilized, has no meaning in this day and age when considering the fact that local and state government often put spikes on street corners and bars on park benches to prevent individuals those same governments have made homeless from finding the slightest bit of comfort outside of laying in the dirt. Where are these individuals who, as often as not, have had their livelihood taken by their governing bodies in some situation or another supposed to sleep, recover, better themselves? Many shelters are overrun with those who are struggling senselessly, while regimes and billionaires just keep getting richer.

The true problem with humanity is the fact that most everyone is out for themselves. That is the curse of homo sapiens. So often we see and hear “motivational” messages telling us that we must worry only about ourselves and work only to better our lives. But at whose expense? What kind of life can anyone have and enjoy if they know their very actions and struggle for ‘betterment’ has toppled the unsteady balancing act of another? How can those individuals with more money than some world governments sleep at night knowing they do nothing to help those who are daily dying in the streets for lack of care?

I am the first to admit that I am not a fan of humans in general, and it is largely for this reason itself. Humans can be horrible creatures who have no concern for how their words and actions affect others. Those who wage war with others who may have a different religious or political belief than them, or a different skin color are among the most pathetic. Nearly as bad are those whose only concern is no longer having to wear a piece of cloth or paper on their faces because attempting to slow a global pandemic and prevent new numbers to be added to the nearly six million dead is an inconvenience they can’t be bothered with.

As a whole, my message today is simple: stop being selfish. Learn to consider the masses, the greater good, what can benefit the world as a whole rather than just yourself. Rather than waging war at every turn, consider what the world would be like if we just allowed others to love what they love, whom they love, and how they love without repurcussions as long as they are not hurting anyone else. If we looked for ways to truly spread peace instead of strife, advancement instead of bragging rights, shelter and care rather than destruction and misery, this world would be a much better place. Rather than striving to control one small portion of this wasteful blue dot, try making the lives of others a little less difficult, a little less miserable, a little less clustered. To truly make a mark on this planet, you must leave it a better place than you found it. Not the other way around. That is what I hope I can do with my commentary, and especially with my writing. I’m not perfect, but I care. I do my best to help where I can. I only hope that my ideas and words can provide a positive influence that will lead to the betterment of at least one life.

Creative Freedom

Happy January, everyone! I hope this year has proven to be peaceful and calm for everyone so far. The last two years have, of course, proven difficult for most of us, but one thing I love about the human race is that we are ridiculously resilient. We keep fighting through the worst situations and do our best to overcome. One of my favorite ways to do this is with art. As always, I maintain that art is one of the most important, rewarding, and helpful facets of life. That is why, when my amazing wife got me the opportunity to teach some writing workshops in Lebanon, Va. I leapt at the chance.

The first of my workshops is a general creative writing workshop where I plan to discuss things ranging from journals, poetry, short stories, and longer fiction. It looks to be a great night with a community of like-minded individuals all of whom will hopefully walk away with some new ideas. I will put the information for the workshop at the end of this post for anyone who is interested. I want to use this post to discuss something I plan to push in this workshop, which is the importance of creating.

I feel, as creators, we focus too much on the results of our work. It is easy to get caught up in thinking about what our work can do, where it can go, what benefits it may reap, but in today’s society we are so focused on results and the return for our output that we have lost sight of the most important part of art – enjoying it. The creation of art is one of the most cathartic, relaxing, amazing parts of being a creator, and it is fast becoming an after thought. I am the first to admit that I have even been guilty of it in the recent past.

I am currently nearly 77,000 words into the sequel for my 2020 novel Moonlight, and I found myself trying to think about how my audience would react to a crucial plot point last week. I have known this was the way the plot is going since June, and I’ve been building toward it every time I write, but I became so focused on the end result I began second-guessing myself. It got so bad that I was stressing myself out over it to the point of being completely unable to produce more than a couple hundred words a day. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is a good amount of output, and there is nothing at all wrong with producing that much, but I felt like I had more to produce each day and was unable to do so. I walked away from each attempt to write feeling like I was holding onto more than I had been able to release, which is never helpful. My stress over my potential audience’s reaction was causing me to suffer from what I can only consider mental constipation, until I realized (after encouraging words from my wife) that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. This is my creation, a world that exists in my mind, and I know what it needs to move forward. I know how incredible it feels to have the release and freedom to create without considering what may happen in the future.

My point from all this is that we, as creators and artists for our respective crafts, owe ourselves the freedom of living in the moment. The sweet release of not thinking about our work in terms of return, end result, reaction, or anything else is so beautiful it can literally save our lives. I’ve mentioned several times before that my writing saved my life, and I know people whose talents and passions have done the same for them. If we offer ourselves the chance to create, without tangles, without expectations, without considering where it could go or where it could take us our art will feel richer and fuller than we could imagine. Utilizing the true freedom of passion and giving yourself the ability to create without thinking about the end result is the exact reason art exists.

I’ve often heard various quotes from different artists and influencers throughout history that, more or less, say it doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is as long as you let yourself create it. That message has always been important, but it was only after dealing with this recent development that it hit me just how true it is. So, that is the challenge I want to issue to all of my creative readers here. Be free. Offer yourself the gift of creation without expectation. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your creation is. It’s yours. You need to do it for you, not for anyone or anything else. You should create because it is important to you, because it is your passion. You should not be afraid to create because you think you aren’t good enough. There is no such thing as good enough.

True creative freedom means it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at something, you just DO. Create. Feel. Be alive. Be passionate. Let it out. The next time you set out to create, don’t think about the quality of the work. Just create. If you suck, suck. But do it honestly. If you are singer, don’t be afraid to belt it out, even if you sound like an elephant seal with laryngitis. If you play music, play to your heart’s content, even if you sound like a ghostly cacophony of rusted hinges. Do not allow fear of comparison stop your passion in its tracks. Just free yourself and let the passion flow.

I sincerely hope you will all take this message to heart and allow yourselves the freedom to create without expectations or limitations. If you are interested in some fun writing workshops, feel free to follow the link below to register. I know some of you aren’t anywhere near Lebanon, Va. and it won’t be possible to attend in person, but there is a Zoom option for the workshops if anyone is interested. We typically open the Zoom if we know someone is interested, so if you would like to attend that way please reach out to me and let me know that is your preference and we can make it happen. The first workshop is tomorrow, Thursday, 1/13/22. After this month, weather permitting, they will take place on the first Thursday of every month.

https://swcc-school-of-the-arts.square.site/

As always, I always love talking to anyone who resonates with my posts. If you feel like you can relate, or want to respond in any way feel free to reach out via comment or send me a message through my website.

Action and Reaction

Happy Friday, everyone. We are officially slipping into the ‘Ber’ months and I am pretty pumped to be entering my favorite time of year again. Yes, those of you who know me personally know I am somewhat obsessed with the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas seasons, and you can imagine I am leaping into the best time of year head first. I’ve been working hard at getting my recent releases out to as many new audiences as I can and trying to pick up some new events along the way, but unfortunately that has been difficult of late. With cases of this dreaded plague back on the rise two of the events I’ve lined up have been canceled and everyone – myself included – have returned to higher than average safety protocols. I fully support this, I might add. I would rather everyone be safe than run the risk of getting sick for a festival’s sake. I was fortunate, however, to attend one event on August 14th, and headline my own book signing last weekend. Both of these events proved to be a blast where I got to meet several new people and recieved some incredibly warm welcome that definitely made my day.

Free Comic Book Day on August 14th took me to my favorite comic shop, Cavalier Comics, in Wise, Va. I was set up with some other local artists and we had the chance to showcase our work to dozens of awesome folks who came in to chat with us. During this event I actually released my newest novel, Journey to the Winter Lands, in a limited first edition printing and it got great response. So much so that I have extended the first edition run and had to order a second printing (which I’m already about halfway sold out of). One young man stands out in particular during that day, which is kind of what I want to center this post around.

I met a young man early in the day who was thrilled to pick up my newest book and even wanted to have his photo with me and talked to me for a good few minutes about how exciting it was to meet a local author and get to have that face-to-face interaction. He quickly revealed he is also an author and artist and was very pleased to meet another. Needless to say, this made my mood soar. So often people ask how artists and authors stand ocassional rejection, being overlooked, not always making tons of money and other less than flattering facts of life. The answer is pretty simple when you consider reactions like that.

For myself as an author I have to say I have always been more interested in having people read and experience my work rather than focusing on the money it can bring. Don’t get me wrong, my dream is to ride the top of the best seller list and write something the whole world wants to read, but who doesn’t want that? It is so immediately thrilling and exceedingly gratifying for me to know that even just one person gained some inspiration and joy from my work, though. Being asked to give advice, and take photos, and talk about the craft and my methods of creating with an aspiring author and artist was an exprience that, above all, reminded me what it was like to be starting out.

I don’t consider myself a professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel like I have a good deal of creative and publication experience to draw off of right now, so I like to use that to my advantage when possible. It was those types of connections that helped keep me motivated when I was starting out. I made contacts within my local authors guild, of which I am now a member, and got any and every piece of advice I could. Knowing that, if nothing else, my words may have helped inspire the next generation of creative success, is nothing short of flattering.

I have ridden that feeling for a while, right up until my latest event at Tall Tales Bookshop in Greeneville, Tn. on Saturday, where I received another incredibly warm welcome. A representative of Community Insurance in Greeneville came into the book store shortly after I got started and brought me a box of cookies to welcome me to the town and wish me luck on the event. That, honestly, is one of the things I love about our Appalachian region as a whole. Small town generosity and Southern charm never cease to amaze me. I had an incredible time at the event, feeling the warmest welcome from every person I encountered that day. I loved the bookstore as well, finding a few pieces of literary greatness I’ve been looking for for a while.

Overall one point behind this post is a pretty simple one to me. If you like an artist’s work, tell them. I know I’ve said that before, but it holds true even more the longer I am involved in the world of creative arts. Speaking with someone who enjoys my work is just an absolute blessing. I love being able to talk about my craft – particularly my personal contributions to the world of literature – with anyone who will listen, but knowing that person has read and enjoyed words that I created brings me a level of satisfaction I can’t even begin to describe. In short, it absolutely shows me that pushing forward through a lack of reviews or purchases or even a complete media blackout on my work is worth it for those few moments. When you encounter someone who truly enjoys your work and is not afraid to tell you it does a lot to remove doubt. And, believe me, for any creative out there doubt is a very real curse. Self-doubt is something that can utterly cripple a creative, so those brief moments of “hey, maybe I don’t totally suck” can be the difference between that person releasing another piece or throwing in the towel forever.

Another reason I wanted to make this post is to remind those creatives who have maybe forgotten what it’s like to be new to their craft how important it is to be kind and supportive of those joining our noble pursuits. An artist or creative just starting their journey into the world of releasing their products into the wind is, unfortunately, a fragile creature that often should be handled with care and encouragement. When someone who is just starting out reaches out for advice or even slight validation one bad experience can make them close that creative door forever. It is so important for those of us with some experience in the matter to be kind and uplifting if we are asked for advice or approached by someone wanting to talk to us about getting started. I’ve seen some people be outright nasty to fans or newcomers to the craft who are approaching them for help or advice and it is disgusting. I always try to be as kind as I can and encouraging, but honest. If someone is approaching something in a way that has traditionally been more trouble than it is worth I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I don’t want to steer anyone down a path that will be harder for them in the long run. In general, the most helpful thing I can say is we should always strive to uplift and help one another. Life is hard enough without us all being jerks to each other.

I hope this post finds you all doing well throughout another tough time with health and safety. We all are struggling along as best we can, but I understand how truly difficult it can be. Personally, I can report that it hasn’t been as much of a destroyer of inspiration and motivation as last year was. I have been able to work on some new projects that I am very excited about. I hope to have some announcements on upcoming projects, as well as upcoming events soon. Unfortunately, two of my September events have been canceled, but I do have a book singing lined up for September 18 at Appalachian Books in Norton, Va. This store is one of my absolute favorites so I hope to see as many of you there as possible. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with any stories of your experiences as a creative, reach out for any advice or comments on the craft in general, and by all means, please remember to review the work of any creative whose work you enjoy. It can make their day. I hope everyone who had gotten copies of my works has enjoyed them and will give them a review so they can reach all new audiences as well. Make sure to believe in your own work and don’t be afraid to reach outside of your comfort zone to get what you want. Art makes the world go ’round, so make sure you are doing your part!