New book, happy holiday

I hope everyone in the states had an awesome Independence Day yesterday! Naturally, for the rest of you, I hope it was a great Tuesday, as well. I spent my day catching up on Doctor Who and writing for the most part. It was quite pleasant. I wanted to take the time to thank everyone for reading my posts and participating recently. I’m working on some interesting pieces and still plan to try and have Maverip ready for beta readers by the end of August. It’s a rough go, and I’ve actually decided that, rather than handwriting first and then transcribing, I’m just going to type what’s left. This is as much a safety measure as a time saver.

That decision is somewhat bittersweet. Some of you know that when I started writing I wrote everything by hand, no matter what. For years that’s how I handled myself. I would write by hand for days, then type up what I’d written. That served as a sort of semi-editing process along the way, but it has been very slow going. Admittedly, I also have had dreams of leaving my original manuscripts for my children to look at someday – although my wife would argue that no one could read it anyway. I can still do that with everything leading up to this current point, but the rest may be just have to be typed so I can cut back on time and get my novel to a publisher by Halloween! Of course, that would be the perfect time to begin the publishing process on a horror novel, but I digress.  As always, anyone interested in being a beta reader for an modern, non-sparkly vampire novel please contact me and I’ll get everything set up!

But anyway, on to what we’re here for; July’s book selection! I decided to go with another new release with this month’s pick. Since the Summer is going strong, I’ve chosen a bit of a short work that promises to be really awesome. This month’s read will be “Gwendy’s Button Box,” by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King. It was released last month and has plenty of good reviews. Being a work even just partially created by King, I’m sure it will be an awesome piece. I’ll plan to post my review around July 26 or 27. I look very forward to discussing this piece with everyone and hope you enjoy your July!!

Exciting Announcement

I do apologize, friends and fans, for my absence so far this week, but I have been preparing to make a very exciting announcement. As many of you know I have been working as a library specialist for the last seven or eight months and I absolutely love it, although it doesn’t give me much of an opportunity to exercise and better develop my journalism skills.

I have always been fascinated by journalism, but had no opportunity to actually put my interest to the test until my final year of college, during which time I was made Head News Writer of my college newspaper. This job made me realize just how much I loved being a news writer/reporter and it allowed me to truly branch out and hone my skills as a writer. Upon graduation, I continued to blog and to write, but didn’t have many opportunities for practicing formal journalism – until now.

I am ecstatic to announce that I have been offered a reporter position with the Bristol Herald Courier, one of the most renowned papers in my region and I have graciously accepted. I will tentatively be starting my new job in the next two and half weeks or so and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope all of you will be able to check out my work with this paper. I plan to continue blogging at least once a week (but hopefully twice) while doing this job, but during my training and getting used to the flow of that job, things may get a bit jumpy. My wife and I are very excited about the changes coming in our near future and I can’t wait to be able to write stories and share the news of the region with all of the readers of this awesome production! Thank you all for your patience while I adjust to this much anticipated change of pace!

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Letting the World In

I know I said today’s post  was going to be about how our surroundings effect our writing, but I have been hit with something that I think may help more people. I want to talk about the way the world and the way it can support us or tear us down. So many times we see stories of writers who became little more than hermits in order to fully immerse themselves in their work either because they felt the world would taint their ideas or because they felt that any distractions would make their work more fleeting and hard to come by. On the other end of the spectrum there are jokes about those writers who sit in coffee shops with their laptops or their notebooks and welcome the world in. The latter is often imitated with memes and cartoons depicting writers sitting in coffee shops with their laptops open and a sign reading “watch me write my manuscript” propped up beside of a tip jar, obviously insinuating that any author who doesn’t lock themselves in a dungeon is only out for the attention associated with being an author. Personally, I do occasionally find the images funny, but the message behind them can be a bit offensive.

True, there are those individuals out there who walk around basically telling everyone they meet that they are a ‘writer’ who seem to be waiting for some sort of praise for their unexpressed talent. Speaking from the viewpoint of both author and critic; it’s not about how many people you tell you’re a writer, it’s about how many people who tell others how good your work is. That’s the measure of a great writer, to me. Imagine how different things would have been for J.K. Rowling if she had walked around London stopping people on the street and telling them that she was working on a story about a hidden world of magic and turmoil that was centered around a boy who had survived a killing curse. Most people would have laughed her off and given her a minor congratulations, maybe telling her the idea sounded great, and walked away without another thought about the boy who lived. But that’s not what she did. She let her passion guide her (and yes, I understand she didn’t lock herself away to do it, that’s part of my point) and she finished her tale, submitting it to a publisher only after being told by someone else that it was great. She didn’t broadcast her ideas or boast that she had them, she wrote. She didn’t lock herself in a dungeon while doing it, but she didn’t hang a sign around her neck telling everyone she was writing, either.

I talk about passion a lot in these blogs, and I know a lot of you know what I’m talking about. Passion for your work can be one of the powerful things in the world and it can guide you better than anything toward the right place. The image and idea of the starving artist is one that has grown famous over the centuries because it is painfully real. So many times writers and artists alike will let the world in in a way that makes them discouraged or tells them that they have little or no chance of success. Other artists feel the pain of the term because they do the opposite. They lock themselves away, feeling the passion of their work in private and never discuss it with anyone or pursue any outlet to share the work. They have this amazing talent and they get in their own way and prevent the world from seeing it. So what is the point here? The title of the article speaks different things to different people, and therein lies the point. Some people look at the possibility of letting the world in as terrifying and they lock their doors and write in secrecy, while others take it almost as a challenge and they choose to shove the idea of their work down anyone’s throat who will let them. In order to be successful and feel fulfilled and allow the passion of your work to spread to the world you must find the balance between the two. You have to let the world in enough that you aren’t terrified of others reading/seeing your work but you can’t run around waving your pages in the air and screaming I’M A WRITER to anyone who will let you.

For those of us who have dealt with the urge to do both, the comfort zone between the two may come easier than for those who haven’t, naturally, but it’s something that you’ll have to find for yourself. Maybe you have friends and neighbors who don’t mind hearing you talk about being a writer or an artist and would love to sit for hours discussing your accomplishments and ideas. Then again, maybe you have family members who couldn’t possibly care less – or even ones who feel that being an artist is just a cop out and will never allow you to see success. Whatever the situation is, true satisfaction with your talent is going to be very hard to come by if you find yourself living either of these extremes. Some things to keep in mind are that, no matter how good you are, there are going to be people out there who don’t care that you’re an artist. There are going to be people who don’t like your work. And, whether we like to admit it or not, all of us at some point WILL feel the sting of rejection.

It’s how you react to these things that can make the difference in success and failure. Taking dislike to heart is just another way of letting the world in too much, but not listening to constructive criticism (i.e. not adjusting your grammar when someone tells you there is a problem, etc…) is an example of a kind of locking yourself away and not letting the world in at all. As artists we have to be able to walk the fine line of understanding criticism and considering the words being said and taking it too seriously and tearing our work to shreds because there may be a mistake with it. This post really goes hand in hand with the rejection posts of last week, and the message is one we can all take to heart. The world, our surroundings, our friends and families can all be wonderful inspirations. They can make us feel wonderful and encourage us, helping us become one of the best at our particular craft. But if we let too much in, if we allow the negative to take hold and if we don’t keep our composure when seeking publicity the world can lead us to falling lower than ever and leave us in a hole that we have trouble climbing out of.

I hope you all have the right kind of passion and know where to draw the line at letting the world in. If you have any questions about this or any other topic, feel free to comment. Also, if you have any topic ideas you’d like to see me write on feel free to let me know. I’m always open to discussion on just about any topic and I love knowing I’m engaging my readers and, hopefully, helping at least one person with my posts. Fell free to share this post and any other with anyone who may benefit from it. Please subscribe, share and weigh in on the topics that interest you!

Giving In

I do apologize that this post will be going up a day later than I’d prefer – we were plagued by Old Man Winter again here in my neck of the woods and that put me a bit behind. But now I’m whittling away at the topic I talked about last week. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

I’ve mentioned countless times before in my blogs and when speaking about writing that, for a good artist (no matter the medium), you may often find yourself sitting down and producing a work that turns out unlike what you thought it would be. Often times you will sit down with your pen and paper (if you’re old school like myself) or in front of the computer with the spark of an idea and it seems like when you start to let it out the floodgates open and before you know it you’re knee deep in pages and working on a part of the story that you hadn’t even known was going to happen.

This is when you know you’re really meant to do the work you do, and most especially that you’re seriously meant to produce that particular piece, no matter what it is. I included that last part because, as I discussed in depth on Thursday, we may find that occasionally we’ll produce a piece that we aren’t particularly fond of, but those pieces can still be of crucial importance, especially if they are ones that write themselves in this manner. I refer to it as a story that writes itself for the obvious reasons, of course, but some people still feel this is an odd way to put it, so I’ll give a bit of description.

Sometimes when we get an idea for a story or a piece we find ourselves writing it without even having to really think about where things are going or what is happening. If the piece is a long one, like a novel, the process may take quite some time and we may find ourselves unable to think of anything else at times. In a case like this a lot of people find that the second they sit down to work on the piece it takes off like a rocket and they produce immense amounts of work without even trying. You’ll find yourself realizing that you know exactly what should happen, exactly what your characters should say and do and exactly what they are feeling without even considering it. When this happens, in my opinion it is a sign that this work is not only going to be great, but that you were MEANT to do it.

I’ve heard a lot of quotes that more or less say that when you have a story idea you should definitely write it because no one else can do it the way you can. I want to take that even farther by saying that when you have a piece that can virtually write itself while using you as a medium, then that piece is one you are definitely meant to write and it is one that you should put on the forefront of your schedule. When you can feel and hear everything within the story as you’re putting it on paper, almost as if the characters are speaking through you and the whole piece is telling you where it should go, then you have a piece that is writing itself.

Sometimes this feeling is one that will irk people or confuse them, but it really shouldn’t. In my opinion this is the type of work that is the most rewarding because, at the end of the day, you have a piece that worked its way out of you and is now just waiting to be consumed by someone else. These types of works are often very in depth, very active, very alive. And that is perfect. When and if you are able to grab a piece like this from the depths of your brain, you may be a little startled at it, may even be tempted to let it go and throw your line out again and try to hook something different. DON’T.

For a piece to come to the surface and be so developed that you can pull it directly from your subconscious as if the muse herself is whispering it in your ear, that is a real blessing. That piece is absolutely yours and you should embrace it wholeheartedly. Take my advice on this one. The next time you sit down to write and you feel the story running away with you, let it. Let the idea take you to the ends of the Earth and back, and don’t dare let it go. It may be the most rewarding thing you have ever done.

As an addendum to this post, I would like to add that I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog again ( I know, I know) and would love to have feedback on what you all think would work. As of right now I am thinking of calling the page “Writing is Life”, which is the name of a page I currently run. Also, for those writers (or other artists) interested, I would love for you to join said Facebook page “Writing is Life”. If you  have trouble finding it, let me know and I’ll link it in my next blog. If there are any topics you’d like to see me touch on, feel free to let me know in the comments or in a private message. I hope you all were able to relate to this post!

Did I Really Write This?

This topic is one that may sound a bit odd right out of the gate, but hopefully I can explain it in a way that will make sense. This idea comes from my post from last week as well and the intention is to explain what it’s like to produce a work that you don’t particularly care for and why you shouldn’t give up on those pieces.

In my own experience ideas can come from just about anywhere and can lead to just about any type of work. The plus side of this is that you can stumble upon many ideas in a day and that one may even relate to another in ways that you wouldn’t previously have thought. One important thing that I must touch on in this post is that quite often when the muse comes to us, no matter what type of work you do, there will be many times that, if you let it, the work will just flow through you and put itself down onto paper without much real effort from you. In essence you are a conduit for an idea or a piece that is so powerful that it knows exactly what it needs, where it needs to go. The characters will often know exactly where they need to show up, what they should say or think and how they should feel and, rather than you having to brainstorm for hours on end to find the right turn of phrase, they will tell you if you let them. That has to do with surrendering yourself to the piece and letting it work its magic, but that is another post- likely my next.

The point of that description was to come to the fact that, every now and again, we might come upon a finished product that we’ve labored on for hours, take one look at it and feel absolute contempt. We might think the work in front of us is the worst thing we’ve ever produced, may even be almost ashamed of it. It can be written to perfection with not a single mistake to speak of, yet we just don’t feel the passion for it that we may feel for other pieces. When this happens the temptation to crumple the piece up and toss it in the wastebasket may be almost too strong to resist – but you really need to resist it.

Personally, as I’ve said before, I’ve had works that I love and hate. I’ve had things come from my mind that I think no one will like or buy and it ends up being someone’s favorite. Like I said last week; my first rejection came from a work I adored and my first publication was a work I didn’t care much for at all. That’s just how it goes sometimes. I know I always tend to refer to Stephen King in these posts, but that’s because he’s my favorite author. He literally threw Carrie in the trash because he hated it so bad. He felt it would never be a hit, it would never even be good, but his wife convinced him not to give up. What happened? Carrie got picked up almost right after completion and put King on the road to being the true master of modern literary horror.

On the other hand, as an artist, we may feel a particular attraction to a piece that comes to us and we may decide to spend untold amounts of time on the piece and end up having to publish some of our lesser liked things just to keep afloat and not become lost in the tide. My real humbling experience in this area came when I was invited to a publication reception for that piece I didn’t like very much.

I was sitting at a table with a number of people who had somewhere between 20 and 60 years on me, easily. I hadn’t really spoken to anyone, hadn’t introduced myself to most of them and was generally in awe at being invited to read my piece at an honest to goodness literary reception. Many of these people, I would later find out, are actually a part of the Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild and arrange the annual symposium I taught at last summer, and they had known each other for years. While sitting in near silence on my end of the table, the man who arranged the reception asked one of the older ladies what she thought of the issue of the Clinch Mountain Review we had all been featured in.

She responded in a way that astounds me and flatters me to this day. She said she felt the issue was one of the strongest in the last few years and that she particularly loved the piece by Damean Mathews. She said she felt my use of imagery and symbolism was just great and she had a wonderful time reading the piece. The editor of the journal, who knew who I was smiled at me as I looked at the lady, who has since become a friend of mine, and thanked her very much for complementing me so much. My heart was in my throat, pounding hard enough to deafen me, and I couldn’t have been happier. The piece that I had published was one that I felt sure was just going to fall to the wayside and end up being forgotten because it wasn’t much good at all, but this clearly wasn’t the case.

My point here is really something I’ve said many many times. We are always our own harshest critic. We will tear our work and ourselves down time and time again and will be absolutely relentless in our efforts to convince ourselves that we have failed in some way or another. But why? All of our pieces come to us for a reason, right? Each and every idea that we have been blessed to have flow through our minds has done so for a reason. Some pieces we will naturally be more drawn to, just as we will be drawn to certain pieces of literature over others, but many factors can come into play there. So many things have to be taken into account in these cases that there really isn’t enough space in one to post to list them all. But one thing we must never do as artists of any kind is give up on a piece. It has come to us for a reason and we must treat it as such.

I understand some of us draw or write only for ourselves, never letting anyone else see our work, but this post can even still apply to cases like that. We must never look at any one piece of our work as being more or less worthy than another. They have all been given to us for a reason and, whether anyone else will ever see the work, we must recognize that it is ours and it is important and special in its own right. That’s not to say that we still can’t have a favorite piece of our own work that we feel expresses who we are as an artist better than another piece might, because that is just nature. We will always be drawn to certain things and we may always feel a little less attached to others, but no matter how we feel, we need to give all of our pieces equal respect, because that piece you  hate, the one that part of you might wish you’d never written or that you might wonder what it means that you did, might end up being your biggest hit – or at least one that puts you on the map.

Rejection

This is a word that strikes fear and dread in the heart and mind of any artist who wants their work to be viewed and enjoyed (and, honestly, the vast majority of us do. I think it’s King who likes to remind us that writers write so the work can be read!). The mere idea of rejection can discourage more people than exist on the market as a whole. Many of us who aren’t all that scared by the idea of rejection become terrified of what might happen after we actually do receive one. Does it mean we are failures? Does it mean we will never become the master of our particular trade? Does it mean that no one will like our work and we should just go off the grid and never let our faces be seen by another living human again? NO.

Rejection can be the thing that holds aspiring artists back from attempting to get their work out on the market and, for those who do make the attempt and feel the terrible weight of the rejection it can be the thing that kills their ambition to ever try again. But why? We can look at the wide world of art and literature and see that everything big on the market obviously has some level of following, whether we are particularly fans of it or not. For that matter, how many times have you gotten your friends or family to watch, read or listen to something that you love only to have them tell you it’s not up their alley (whether saying it that nicely or not). Why can’t it be that way with our work?

When looking at the world through our own eyes we often see that we want or like things of a certain type and we think that no one else can possibly see it a different way – until they do. So why can’t our work be a part of this same reflection. There are things we love and things we hate, but no how we feel about something, there are countless other people in the world who may feel the exact opposite. We may be absolutely in love with our latest piece of work and feel that there is absolutely no way anyone can feel any different about it, and when we realize they do we think that that’s it. Once we’ve received one rejection it is so easy to imagine that no one will ever like that piece (or, depending on your level of self esteem, any of your work at all), and give up on it.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If we can like something that no one else does -or more so if someone else can like something that we don’t, why do we tell ourselves that one rejection on one piece of work is doom for our whole career? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. The first time I submitted a piece I was 17 years old and I submitted it to a very large publication that I was more excited about than I can describe. The work in question was my very first completed short story (which, despite not being my best piece by far, I was very proud of) and I waited somewhere between three and six months for a response. When I finally got it and tore it open my heart collapsed as I read my very first rejection. It was simple, some would even say cold, saying that they could not use my work in their publication. There was no personal touch, not even an actual signature, just a stamp. I was devastated. I felt like I was wasting my time with the story ideas flowing through my head – at first.

Soon the defiance that makes up a good portion of my character came back full swing and I put the feelings of humiliation behind me, as hard as it was, and kept writing. After all, being a King fan, I knew that when he was first starting out he received so many rejections that he had to put them on his wall with a railroad spike because a nail stopped holding them up. So I wrote more, jotting down my ideas on notebooks, putting them in my phone, even literally writing one or two on napkins while at work one day when I forgot to bring a notepad. But I was still wounded. I didn’t attempt another submission for around two years. I finally broke down and submitted to the Clinch Mountain Review, the literary and arts journal of the college I was attending at the time. I did this in a hurry, submitting a piece that I had written in the span of a few hours (a piece that actually weighed my mind down so much that by the time I could start writing it I hated it already) on the last day of the deadline.

I wasn’t thrilled that this piece was the only one I felt ready to try with, but I sucked it up and sent it out, knowing if I didn’t get back on the horse at that point, I may never do so again. Barely two months later (if memory serves) I received the notification that this piece, a piece I almost loathed and felt was unworthy of any recognition, had been accepted into the journal. This piece actually got published, and became my first ever publication. I wasn’t fond of the story at all when I submitted it, feeling that it wasn’t my best work by far. I still feel this way, but imagine the feeling I got when I realized if the piece that I thought may be one of my worst was good enough for publication. Elation doesn’t even cover it. I held on to that feeling with each subsequent attempt I made at publication and, until yesterday, I had only received one other rejection in my writing career.

Earlier this month I went on a bit of a submitting spree, sending pieces out to the wind and hoping to expand my audience and get more recognition, etc… Yesterday I received an email telling me that one of the pieces I felt most confident about had been rejected. The editor told me that he felt humbled to have read the work but couldn’t find a place for it in the Spring edition of the journal. It was that little twist of irony that inspired this post actually (and I’ve since been inspired to write two more for the future; one on personal rejections vs. impersonal and one on works you like vs. ones you don’t. If you’re particularly interested – or uninterested- in either of those posts let me know), because I find it moderately hilarious, if a little frustrating, that my first publication was a story I didn’t like and my first rejection of 2016 was a piece I felt pretty confident in.

One way or the other, I think the point of this post has been made to you all. Opinions are unique to each and every one of us, just as our fingerprints and thought processes are. We can be absolutely in love with something that everyone else we knows despises, but that’s fine. There are over seven billion people in the world (as I so love to remind you all) and the chances of every single one of them feeling the same about ANYTHING, particularly your work is just preposterous. Of the people on this planet there are going to be some who adore your work, and there are going to be those who despise it. The goal is to find the right group and let them enjoy your piece, even if it isn’t your favorite. Don’t let the idea of rejection cripple you, and don’t ever give up just because you’ve been rejected. Whenever you feel things aren’t going to get better just remember that a dozen publishers rejected Harry Potter- or do what I do and remind yourself of King’s railroad spike and realize that, if you don’t give up one day it WILL happen for you. You’ve just got to have faith and find your audience.

New Channel, Big Sale, Free Story!

Hello friends and fans! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and great start to your Memorial Day.I am working very diligently to find ways to bring you all the sort of advice and inspiration that you enjoy with this blog, and here are some ways that I have thought of. First off, I have finished reading the first book for my book club and I’m very excited to post my commentary video on Tuesday! I sincerely hope you will all join in on the fun and take part in the discussion. In the meantime I have decided to do a few things to help my work become more available to everyone who is interested. First off; my work “The Reaper and Other Tales” is now 50% off! That’s right, my bestselling work, a collection of short stories and poems spanning over three years worth of work is now available for half price! In addition to that, I have decided to put up another piece of my work here, for you all to have and (hopefully) enjoy! The story I’m posting here is one that was inspired by the big snow storms we had here in Southwest Virginia back in February.

Also, don’t forget about the new site, UpLive, that is now up and running. My first contribution to the site will be posted on Thursday, so don’t forget! The writers contributing to this site are some very talented people, and I am honored to work alongside them. Please share the site with everyone who could use a little pick me up or some inspiration. Here is that link;
http://www.uplivedaily.com/

I hope you will all take part in my book club and share it with everyone you know, also. This can really be a huge thing if we all pitch in and join the discussion! That link is here;
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57mZlzf3sIL_rayJsxbFZQ

As for the sale I have begun, I hope you all enjoy the work and share it as well. If you do (or particularly don’t) enjoy the work, please give it a review. That is very important with this type of work. Here is the link to that book;
http://www.amazon.com/Reaper-other-tales-Damean-Mathews-ebook/dp/B00FSJX8DE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432567429&sr=8-1&keywords=The+reaper+and+other+tales

And finally, at long last, here is the story that I have decided to share with you all. Please feel free to comment on the work and give me any and all feedback on the blog and any of my efforts that you would like. Without further ado, here is the story entitled “The Last Survivor”.

The Last Survivor

Ice covers everything. Pain fills my body as the debilitating cold pierces all five layers I’m wearing, but I can’t stop. The cold is bitter, wind blowing in my face, drying my lips beyond repair. The frigid air chills and solidifies the blood that seeps from my cracked mouth. I close my eyes as I stumble on, feeling the sharp ice that has already formed over their bare, moist surfaces.

Opening them again, I see the bridge, my final destination and the stone river below it. There are no cars moving, their inhabitants long dead; murdered or frozen. The winter set in days ago, all forecasts seeing no end to the arctic freeze. I’m the last survivor of my group, possibly the last on earth. And I feel so alone. The railing of the bridge is coated in ice. I can barely climb on. Stripping off two coats, I prepare myself. The river below is frozen solid, the water still and unyielding.

The wind pierces my skin now as I lean forward, letting the frigid air swallow me up. Almost 1,000 feet below, the river rises up to meet me as the arctic air does its work. The ice takes my body as its own, I cannot move, can’t even blink away my nearly painless fate as one final thought crawls through my rapidly slowing brain. At least it will be fast…

The last survivor watches from his glass prison as the woman plunges downward. She lands ten yards from his ship, frozen in its place on the water, her body shattering into a million pieces as he feeds the last log onto the guttering fire. He can’t help but wonder, as his last few minutes of life are devoured by the flame, how long it will take for his own end to find him.