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!

Progress Inspires Progress

Hello everyone! I hope this summer has proven to be wonderful for you all in as many ways as possible. Things have been quite busy on my end, between traveling, preparing for a new school year, and going to as many book signings and events I can possibly line up. Somewhere along the way I even managed, after endless encouragement from my incredible wife, to publish another novel! Just to give you a short heads up on all of these things, let me break it down.

Many of you will know or remember that I recently published my beloved novel, the long awaited vampire extravaganza, Maverip! I managed to swing it so the first printing of the Appalachian horror novel was published on the exact 124 year anniversary of Bram Stoker’s gothic powerhouse, Dracula. That alone is just jaw-dropping for me. That book has been such a huge part of my life for the last ten year that, to see the first part in print and being sold – sold out, I might add – is such an immense blessing.

This weekend, tomorrow (August 14, 2021 – Free Comic Book Day in the U.S.!) in fact, will see the debut of in person sales of my latest novel, a fantasy epic that explores the sword and sorcery tropes that have long fascinated me as a reader. The book, Journey to the Winter Lands: Shadow Slayer Saga Number One, explores the world of Turadorsa, a land where a literal darkness is threatening to consume the world again. Magic has been both stigmatized and sought after with ferocious intensity after many of those who could wield its dangerous power were eradicated. When shadows return and start attacking the people of Turadorsa, a group of travelers will be sent on a quest to find the mysterious “Bhaltair” with no explanation of who, or what, the word even refers to. Their search takes them into the heart of the mysterious Winter Lands, where snow never stops falling and legend has long since forgotten the challenges that face the wanderers.

This book is one that I have spent countless hours pondering over, doing research for, and developing history for. I loved the world-building element of fantasy writing. It’s not anything I had ever had to do for my horror novels, of course. Most of my work is set in the Appalachian Mountains, which are some of the oldest mountains in the world, so there isn’t a lot of geographical development that has to go into them, aside from placing my stories somewhere I could explain. With creating an entirely new world, however, I got to decide where my mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans would be. I got to create flora and fauna and myths and legends to my heart’s content. And, as the title indicates, the journey is far from over, so I still have plenty of creative license to build and destroy!

Seeing those books, any of my work really, in print, is an incredible inspiration to me. Writing has been a release for me most of my life, and has often brought me through some of the darkest times I have had. Often, it has gone hand in hand with reading. If ever I grew tired of creating, or hit a wall and needed a break, I could pick up a book and escape into a world created by another artitstic mind. The written word is an incredible life-saver, and its hypnotic hold on me will hopefully never cease. Despite how much I know the works of other authors has helped get me through some hard times, aside from just entertaining me and bringing joy, I have had a hard time reflecting that potential back to my own work. It has always been a hope that my words could bring someone through hard times and encourage them as much as I have been encouraged and empowered by the many authors whose words now make up part of my soul, but I never felt they were ready or worthy. I never felt like anyone would honestly want my work the way I want the work of others. So I tended to sit on them forever and not give them a chance. In essence, I smothered them.

My wife has been indescribably instrumental in encouraging me to give my books life by letting them out into the world. As much as I love reading the work of others and writing my own, it has been a whole new type of thrill seeing others get excited about my work. Seeing a look of interest or hearing an exclamation of excitement when I describe what my books are about is an instant sense of amazement. Could someone out there really be that interested in the words, the story, the idea that came from my head? After endless discussions with my wife, and much self-exploration, I leapt forward and gave these two novels the freedom from over-editing and over-thinking they deserved. The reception for Maverip has been nothing short of awesome, so far. I haven’t gotten written reviews, but everyone I have spoken to has been immediately drawn by the subject matter and hooked by the intro, which in itself makes me feel accomplished. I am hoping for a similar embrace for Journey to the Winter Lands tomorrow!

My point in all this is that we, as creatives, should never feel fear to release our work to the world. We have been given incredible talents and motivation to create a piece that no one else could create. That goes for any medium. Whether you excel at writing 3,000 word epic poems, or you’re just really good and sip and paint type art pieces, that work is yours and you need – deserve – to own it. Those words that you strung together, those brush strokes that give your work its unique flare, that little bit of extra twang you can pull from an instrument that lets everyone know that piece is YOU, it all deserves to be cherished and shared. Granted, I know some people literally only create for themselves and I am in no way disparaging that. If that is your intention, I will never deny the validity of that desire. But for those who want others to see their work, who yearn to make a difference with something they created from the ideas in their head, I am here to tell you the time is now. You can edit and re-edit, and edit a third, fourth, tenth time. But that work needs a life. It desires to be enjoyed by others, just as you desire for others to enjoy it.

I am of the mindset that, no matter what we create, it has an audience. There are 8 billion of us on this rock, and there are things out there for all of us. This world is virtually overflowing with art in all forms and formats and unique elements that we are all able to love. The more I create, and the more I publish and let my work have the freedom it desires, the more I realize we should all make that a priority. We create these works of art, much as our beloved Gothic Swiss doctor pieced together his creature, and they deserve the same spark of life that sallow-skinned newborn did. I encourage you, when you finish your art, don’t hoard it (unless that’s why you create it of course). Make it the best you possibly can, and by all means, understand that may take differing amounts of time for each piece. There is no one size fits all solution to art. But, once you have improved as much as you can, once that piece is no longer in need of polishing, or you have run out of polish to give, provide it with freedom. Breathe into your art the life-giving breath of publicity. Spew your work of art forth into the maw of humanity and wait for the right person to grasp and cling to it for dear life. Don’t let it suffocate in a darkened closet, because, as much as it hurts to admit, that decay will seep out. It will infect everything you do. The fear of imperfection and lack of outside enjoyment will become a scar on everything new you produce and, if allowed, it can even stop up the creative fount as it is.

So, what are you waiting for? Release those works, put yourself and your art out there. Inspire the masses with your ability, but, most importantly, inspire yourself with your courage, your accomplishments, your creations. What’s the point of struggling to win a trophy if you just lock it in a closet and keep the light off? Bring it out, let the sun shine on it, let others see it and enjoy it with you. And, don’t forget, if anyone rains on your parade with their negativity, open your umbrella and shake that nonsense right off. You are an incredible human for being able to create – no one else can do it like you can do it. That’s why it’s YOUR creation, not theirs.

If you’re in the Wise County, Virginia region on Saturday August 14th, swing into Cavalier Comics in Wise to say hello and grab your copy of any of my print works. There will be a selection of free goodies, as well as a sale by the store owner, so there will definitely be plenty of fun for everyone. I hope to see you all there, and I hope to see all your work flourish very soon!!

Summer of Fun

Happy Summer, everyone! I hope you’ve all been doing well this year as things slowly slip into a semblance of an old version of “normal.” We have seen several changes lately, not the least of which is adjusting to a move and getting into the swing of Summer.

This summer has also seen plenty of book signings, with several more lined up, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I have been blessed to be able to share my work with a large number of my Appalachian neighbors and beyond, and it is fantastic knowing people are out there reading my work. I can only hope I am providing a good quality bit of summer reading material!

On another note, I am pleased to say I have been hard at work on producing a sequel to last year’s hit “Moonlight,” and I have been diving into round one of edits for my newly completed fantasy novel, for which I can’t settle on a title. Things are looking very interesting and productive in the near future and I am excited to continue sharing that progress with you all.

Finally, the biggest reason I am bouncing off the walls right now is that I am two days away from my one year anniversary with my incredible wife. She has helped make me happier than I have ever been. I can never repay the support and love she gives every single day. She has been by my side at every single event and signing I have had all summer and she continues to encourage me to produce new work and publish new material. She makes sure we are always looking at the positive things around us, keeps me on my toes, and never ceases to dazzle and impress me with the wonderful job she does every single day.

On top of doing all that, and working tirelessly with me to move and get everything set up in our new place, she planned our upcoming honeymoon/anniversary cruise that we’ve been yearning for! Because of God’s grace and my wife’s tireless dedication, we are embarking our first Carnival cruise on the exact day of our one year anniversary! We will be seeing most every state in the southeastern U.S. on the journey to port, and we will stop in the Bahamas as well as the Dominican Republic on the ship! We are so thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to share the experience with my favorite person in the world, and share the memories and inspiration it brings with all of you!

Needless to say, the last 12 months have been the best of my life, and I absolutely can not wait to see what the rest of our lives have in store for us. From travel, to laughter and great days at home, every second with you is an adventure, honey. Thank you for being amazing!

So what do you all have in store for the rest of the summer? Any vacations coming back to the schedule, or are you taking some time to relax at home? Feel free to share anything at all, and be sure to check out my events page to see where my next appearance is going to be. As of now I’ll be spending 3 days at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, VA. during the week of July 25-31 so come on out!

A New Decade

April is coming to a close in yet another year, this one filled with nearly as many surprises as the last. Hopefully the first four months of 2021 have gone well for all of you. I can honestly say there have been some pretty interesting changes come about so far this year, not the least of which is my entrance into the third decade of my life on this big blue ball.

That’s right, last weekend I celebrated my birthday and the start of my 30th year of life. It hardly seems possible, if I’m being honest. I don’t feel a day over 75… wait? But seriously, I feel like 30 years old is a pretty good milestone. I don’t feel like I should be that old, though. I still find myself looking around for an adult when I have a question about something I’m working on, only to realize I am the adult. Nevermind that I typically know the answer I’m looking for anyway, my brain doesn’t want to accept that it has pondered life’s larger questions for three decades already.

I was able to celebrate my birthday in a pretty fantastic way, thanks to my amazing wife. We got some great food, and I got some fantastic gifts (not the least of which was the full series of “The Office” on DVD with more than 15 hours of extras) and we spent the actual day of my birthday enjoying the Flower and Food Festival at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tn. Arriving shortly before the park opened, we spent the entire day celebrating great rides, delicious semi-international cuisine, and wonderful Appalachian culture in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was definitely a day to remember.

All of that got me thinking, of course, about just what sort of wonderful memories I had created throughout the day and my life, and what others I would still be able to create within my life span. There are a lot of things I want to do in my life. Plenty of travel, cruising, writing, exploring nature, and having a fantastic life with my wife. Frankly, continuing to think about the things I want to do is making me quite excited for the years to come and what they will hold. But it is also making me beyond thankful that I have had the opportunities I have had already in this life.

I have seen a lot of things in my short 30 years (ouch, saying it that way kind of stings a bit…) and I have accomplished a fair bit as well. As of now my books are being sold, not only by me personally and on Amazon, but in several local stores as well. I have created a page for those locations here, to make it easy to find!

That being said, I have to admit I have been struggling recently with feeling like I have truly accomplished anything in my life. Between receiving more rejections than I care to admit on my recent agent queries for Maverip and seeing fluctuations in my sales for Moonlight and Tales of the Mysterious and the Macabre, it has been a touch and go situation for my own positivity lately. My wife has done an amazing job reminding me that I have plenty to be proud of and feel accomplished for, however. As of this writing, my books are being sold in 3 book stores and 3 local boutique and general store type locations. It’s kind of hard to believe, but I do fully appreciate the magnitude of that figure. To know that there are people in two states able to physically walk into a store and see my work on the shelves of a store is a fantastic feeling.

I plan to continue trying to expand my distribution to new locations and continue writing and publishing more work as well. Mainly, with this post, I just wanted to take the time to encourage you all and remind anyone reading that, no matter how old you are or what stage of life you find yourself in, you have unlimited possibilities for what you can accomplish. You might not have achieved every goal you wanted to achieve, and you might not feel like things are going exactly as planned, but the only way to change that is by not giving up. Believe me when I tell you I know it is not always easy, by any means, but it is definitely worth it. One day soon you will look back at when you didn’t think these things were possible and you won’t believe how much you have done!

As a tip for those days where you feel you haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile – because they will come, believe me, I recommend removing yourself from the situation for a moment and looking at your work with an outside view. Look at the creative works you have completed, especially if people are paying money to enjoy them and are talking about them in a positive way. Take a moment to truly examine the magnitude of what you have done. Look at the personal goals you have achieved and the things you have to hold dear. Frankly, seeing it in that light may well make you more proud than you ever thought you would have a right to be. From there, I recommend setting realistic goals to look back on later. Finish that chapter, that painting, complete the edits you have been putting off. It will make a difference, which may well be the thing that continues to inspire you and help you believe in your work and yourself in the long run. I am always available to help with encouraging and inspiring, too. Don’t hesitate to talk to me about the ongoing frustrations of being a creative in this climate – believe me I know!

Keep your eyes open for more news coming up, and enjoy every minute of your lives. Another year will be starting before we know it!