New Ventures, New Work, Small Businesses

Greetings, everyone! 2023 has been moving right along with crazy speed so far. I can hardly believe we are almost into the month of April already, but that means it is that much closer to warmer weather, longer days, and the blissful peace of summer vacation. At least in my neck of the woods.

This year has brought with it some insane tales of unidentified flying objects being shot down, wild chemical spills, and even more uncouth behavior from the general public, but it has also offered some awesome opportunities for those artists and small business owners who so deserve more attention.

Last month my wife and I attended a dinner at a locally franchised business that made us absolutely ecststatic. Not only was the dinner at Moe’s at the Pinnacle in Bristol,Tn. ( go there immediately!!) amazing, but the community that came together there was astounding. Another local business owner ( from Abingdon Gifting Co. ) invited several people from the community to come join her for dinner to help support Moe’s and bring attention to a great locally owned business.

As an author, photographer, entreprenuer myself, it was incredible to see the community coming together to support a local business owner. My wife and I were humbled to see the restaurant literally packed out with people wanting to support local. More than 3 dozen people attended the dinner, and many plan to make the local support a regular occurence. This thrills me.

I have always loved being able to reach out and help my business minded community members, and I’ve worked with tons of small businesses to house my books as well. It is always a pleasure to work with and support these small businesses, and I encourage each and every one of you all to do the same. Small business is the life blood of American creativity and freedom, in all honesty. Many of the huge chains and franchises we now know and love exist because people supported a local business at one point or another and allowed them the ability to succeed and expand.

I love working with local businesses and I would love to work with as many as I possibly can, so if you own, work in, or know of a business who has interest working with a self-made Appalachian author and photographer, by all means reach out to me or to them and make a recommendation.

That being said, I am thrilled to be able to share with you all some news about my work that makes me ecstatic. I have recently started working to sell my photography! I have created a page on my site here to advertise my work, and I am hoping to get some pieces into local businesses as well. If you are interested in Appalachian or Travel photography, check out the page and let me know if any of my pieces interest you.

In addition to this, I have some gallery appearances at the Small Art Gallery in St. Paul, VA. this year that promise to be hugely fun! My books will be the showcase of the exhibit this April (~April 1-May 15) and my photos will be the feature in November/December (~November/15-December/31). To get a consistent schedule of the gallery’s 2023 exhibits check out their info here.

I’ll bore you all with only one final bit of news in today’s post. I have finished the second novel in my Shadow Slayer Saga, Darkness Awakens, and have started work on a novel that will be of great interest to my Appalachian friends. This tale is going to dig deep into mountain culture and feature one of the more interesting bits of local folklore (and that is saying a lot!), so keep your eyes open for more information about it. I’ve also been working on some short stories and poems again lately, so my creative heart is pounding away like crazy!

Thank you all for checking out what I had to say today, and I’ll leave you with this reminder. Small businesses absolutely deserve our support. Make sure you do what you can to buy and shop local, everyone. It can make differences you can’t even imagine. As always, I welcome comments, questions, concerns, and communication. My novels are available worldwide and in multiple formats (including most libraries or digital library apps), so I hope you will all take the time to read and review them and make this author’s day! Enjoy your art, and enjoy your lives, everyone!

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!

Starting the Year Strong

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope January has been a good start to a new year for everyone. I know the world is still going through quite a difficult time right now, and we are seriously adjusting to what may remain the new norm for a very long time.

Personally I have found the year already has a lot to offer, and I have had a pretty amazing couple of weeks. As I have announced in earlier posts, I recently published my novel, Moonlight, (buy it here) and it has already been moving pretty well. Several copies have been purchased from all over the place and reviews are starting to come in, making me very happy.

For everyone who has read the book and left reviews, thank you. Reviews are one thing that breathe life into the work of an indie author. So many platforms that allow indies to host their works use algorithms that are based on reviews to promote works. If work A has 300 reviews, but work B only has 100, work A will be promoted to a much broader audience. Even if the reviews are worse for work A. It’s not the most helpful, by any means. I know a lot of people may not be interested in providing online reviews and feedback about the books they read, whether they liked it or not, but it is a very important step in today’s digital world. That being said, if you have read the book, please leave a review either on Amazon, as linked earlier, or on Goodreads here.

Saturday I actually had my first book signing event of the year, at a local store opened by some college friends. Appalachian Books, in lovely Norton, Va., hosted the event and held a live stream where I read a sample of the book and had a chance to answer some questions about my work and my methods. You can view that video here. It was an incredibly humbling experience, and an honor like no other. To be able to present and introduce my work in a local shop, so close to where the idea for Moonlight originated was nothing short of awesome.

I can’t thank everyone who attended, either digitally or in person, enough. You are all simply awesome. It makes me feel like I’ve done some good work when people are interested in getting their hands on it, and that is something that makes an author absolutely giddy. And to Appalachian Books, I can’t thank you all enough for hosting the event on my behalf, and for giving my books a local home where readers can come and get a little slice of Appalachian literature. Thank you to everyone over the years, from my mother and other family members, to my friends, to professors and mentors, who have all given me words of encouragement and bits of advice.

Most of all, I want to give a huge shoutout to my amazing wife, who has been supporting me and encouraging me to get this book out to the world for more than a year. She was right by my side when I took the book through another edit, worked out glitches and problems with my formatting, obsessed over my cover, my marketing and every other little detail I could possibly freak out about. Most importantly, she was there with me during the whole event Saturday, cheering me on and sharing the news every day leading up to it. Thank you so much, Amanda, for helping keep me grounded and keeping me confident in myself. Thank you for everything you do for me. I truly don’t know what I would do without you.

As 2021 rolls on, I hope to have more works released, and certainly will have more works finished, and I hope you will all remain on board for the ride. This week I have a few news interviews about my works, and I have some plans to hopefully bring one of my projects to a close before the end of the month as well. Again, I can’t be more thankful and appreciative of the support system I have. It means the world to me. Anyone with questions or comments, feel free to reach out, as always. Until next time, keep creating, keep reading, and keep your heads up.

Where All Light Tends To Go

As many of you know, I am a proud Appalachian man with a serious love of literature and of my region. I try, on occasion, to immerse myself in regional pieces, and see my culture from the eyes of other local authors. I recently had the pleasure of diving into the incredible novel “Where All Light Tends To Go,” by David Joy. This amazing piece of Appalachian Literature, or Appalachian Noir as Joy considers it, explores the life of Jacob McNeely, the son of a drug addict and what passes for a drug kingpin in the small mountain town.

I’ve read several Appalachian works, and know several regional authors, and this tale stands at the pinnacle of Appalachian literature for me. I immediately felt drawn in by Jacob’s story. He is an outcast in his life, largely forgotten by a mother who spends most of her time riding her current high or pursuing the next one, and pushed aside by a father who finds him to be weak and useless. A dropout, Jacob can’t even rely on his peers for comfort.

Being from a small town myself, I related to Jacob’s plight as a young Applachian man, living in a town where opportunities aren’t exactly aplenty. Jacob feels he is limited in many ways, not the least being that, as a McNeely, he is almost instantly branded a failure. He talks several times throughout the first person narrative of being trash, nothing but trash, pure McNeely trash. Our main character perhaps it explains it best by saying;

“A name like Jacob McNeely raised eyebrows and questions. In a town this small all eyes were prying eyes.”

Joy’s writing explores the depth of the Appalachian region, while tugging the heart strings in an attempt to show the truth of the struggle some feel growing up in these beautiful mountains. The McNeelys are a family that has been condemned by their choices, their actions, and the unfortunate judgement of others. Jacob, who some say has a chance to become more, struggles throughout the entire book with the penalties associated with being a McNeely and the decisions he makes because of it.

An underlying, but interesting element of the text is the repeated conflict Jacob has with religion. From his early childhood Jacob was encouraged to go to church, his mother and grandfather religious individuals for a time. His father, whom he ends up living with, however, is not the religious type. Jacob says more than once that he doesn’t believe in God, but follows that up by saying that God doesn’t answer McNeely prayers. I found this element to be very interesting, as most Appalachian literature brings religion into the text by presenting us with the heavily (if not overly) religious individuals who do nothing but judge others based on their beliefs. We get none of that from Jacob.

Jacob’s relationship with the woman he loves, his childhood best friend, Maggie, is nothing short of remarkable. We enter Jacob’s life to see him watching Maggie graduate high school (from a distance, granted), and throughout his story he is insistent that Maggie has everything it takes to get be more, to escape their small town prison and do incredible things. In essence, Jacob puts everything into Maggie that he refuses to give to himself. She becomes romanticized and placed on a pedestal that I never could quite tell if she deserves.

I think the most heart-wrenching part of Jacob’s life is the strained relationship he has with his father. Charles McNeely is, in essence, the worst kind of person. A drug pushing, abusive, womanizing fiend with no regard for life, he neglects his child and causes pain to everyone he knows. Between his father’s treatment of him, his mother’s abandonment, and his own inability to break free of the burdens placed on him, Jacob is haunted by the pain of a broken life. His pain bleeds from the pages in places, particularly during one of the hardest hitting lines in the text, which has Jacob mentioning how funny it is that it only takes one person taking the time to show you they care for the bad things in life to not seem so bad anymore.

I have no shame in admitting that I didn’t have any idea how this book would end, but, after reading it, I don’t think any other ending would have sufficed. Although not bogged down with the supernatural, or with the inescapable horror I usually seek out, this text has quickly risen to my top ten books right now. Jacob’s journey is not necessarily one for the faint of heart, but I feel like this is a book most anyone can enjoy. Fans of Appalachian literature in particular will love this representation of the difficulties of life in a small North Carolina town.

I’m the kind of reader who loves marking passages that I enjoy so I can go back and look at them later and explore their meaning and depth. Usually I try to do this with sticky tabs that I can slap on the page right beside of my preferred quote. I have no shame admitting that I used an entire stack of sticky notes for this novel, as the featured image above shows. I will absolutely be seeking out more of Joy’s writing in the near future, and will be keeping my eyes open for a chance to meet this fantastic author and delve into his creative genius. If any of you pick up this masterpiece, I would love to know what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or send me a message. As always, if you have any suggestions for a future review, or even just a book recommendation feel free to let me know!

I must leave you with this final line, that I am convinced will go down in history right alongside “So we beat on…” Though it gives nothing away, I have to admit it literally gave me chills. It is only a part of the power this text holds, and I’m sure everyone will love it.

“Only the middle ground of this wicked world mattered, the vast gap that stretched between, and those who were born with enough grit to brave it.”