A Decade of Change

Hey there, friends and fans! I hope things are going swimmingly for you as we rapidly approach another change of season. Days are growing shorter and (if almost imperceptibly in some areas) cooler, football has started again, leaves are falling, and geese are flocking. With the cooler, foggy mornings comes the inevitable spookiness of Autumn and Halloween. It is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the beginning of my favorite time of year. That’s something that, for me, has never changed over the years. But, like the seasons, many things have.

Over the weekend I celebrated my ten year high school reunion. Many alumni of the Tazewell High School Class of 2009 reconvened in our home town and spent days catching up, remembering those we’ve lost, and reliving old glories. It was an absolutely fantastic series of events and gatherings, and, while I couldn’t join in all the festivities, I am beyond ecstatic for what I attended. It was wonderful to catch up with my classmates. Realizing that you spent somewhere between 4 and 12 years of your life seeing the same people nearly every day for at least 8 months out of the year and then just scattered to the wind after graduation is crazy. Of course, some people are able to reconnect or stay connected thanks to social media and more conventional means of communication, but in a class of more than 100, sometimes people disappear.

As those of us who made it to the reunion discussed our lives, our accomplishments, our future plans, we realized something that I’m sure everyone can relate to. Our lives were not at all what we anticipated they would be. Old plans and career goals transitioned to new ones, old looks and styles changed with the times. Ultimately, what makes us happy sometimes changes.

This inspired me a lot. Seeing the things that have changed about all of us, the ways we have grown and become, for lack of a better term, adult, is incredible. As I pondered this, though, I also noticed the things that didn’t change. Entering the company of our peers was, surprisingly, effortless. Once we got past the initial questions of reacquaintance it was like the years melted away. Laughter rolled as we shared memories and experiences from bygone days.

This was accompanied by the deep-seated comfort that, of the things that have changed, some things remain the same. Of the small alterations in my ideology and personality my love of music, travel, arts, and literature are still huge parts of my life. My writing remains my ultimate goal, the core of my person, and one of my biggest personal accomplishments. That thought brings me a comfort. Each of us showed, despite the ways we are different, we are also the same people we were a decade ago.

My senior class developed a farewell video that each of us got a copy of shortly before graduation. In it many of our classmates were asked to give a quick statement about what they planned to do after school. It’s no real surprise that some of those ideas changed over time, of course. We watched the video together and had a good laugh at how differently our lives turned out from what we anticipated. From some of us planning to own businesses or follow certain educational paths, to those who were planning to leap into the world of professional sports, few of us made accurate predictions. Yet, I saw something of the past in each of us. No matter where our lives took us, our spirits followed, stayed strong.

The point of this post, especially for anyone going through an altering state of life, whether it be a graduation, a job change, or something else is is: don’t forget who you are. Whether your plans go exactly as you’d imagined or not, you are still the person you were when you made them. I believe there are some fundamental things that make us who we are and, no matter what else may come or go, these things still remain. For myself writing, reading, music, and travel are some of these. Whether I think about it very often or not, I’m always aware that those things are there. It’s a comfort in the day-to-day and a window, not only to my past, but to myself.

That’s what I advise you to hold on to as life batters us about. Grasp those fundamental qualities that make you who you are and cling to them. It can be difficult at times, as life’s challenges get tougher, but it can be done. When you look back on your past, whether it be one year or one hundred years later, knowing that, at your core, you remain the same person can make a lot of difference. As we all go forward and pick up life’s reins again, leaving our reminiscing for another day, I implore everyone to try and focus on at least one thing that makes you who you are. Think of something you have, love, or do, that makes you feel like you. Then keep an eye on it going forward. You might be surprised to see just what happens.

The featured image here is the facade of my high school and the statue of our mascot, taken while our reunion weekend was going strong,

December Announcement

Happy December,  everyone! As we enter the final leg of 2017, I hope we all get to enjoy a month filled with joy, warmth, family and great times. Last month’s book was a great, long read, so this month I’m picking something that is light, easy, and meaningful.

For our December read, we’re going to cover O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” This tale of selflessness and love is a timely story that we all know, even if not by name. It’s a very short piece, the shortest I’ve reviewed for the book club, so it should be very easy for us all to read even during the mad rush that is December!

I’ll plan to publish my review of this story in the first week of the new year to get us started right,  so keep your eyes open for that.

In the meantime I am absolutely beside myself to announce that I have finally finished Maverip. This novel has been nearly a decade in the making and I couldn’t be happier that it has come to a conclusion. At the moment I’m writing this I’m a little over two thirds of the way through my first edit,  with the novel coming in over 141,000 words. I plan to send the book to beta readers ASAP and take it through at least one more round of edits before sending out query letters.

That’s a very surreal realization. This book has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I almost don’t know what to think with it being at this stage. I love it. Through the years I’ve had an incredible amount of support from everyone in my life and it means the world to me. Thank you all for everything.  If anyone else would like to be a beta reader, feel free to reach out and let me know. With any luck I’ll have queries going out by the time 2018 gets here.

Either way, this has been one doozy of a year and I look forward to riding it out with a story of love and sacrifice. I look forward to hearing what you all think!!

An Incredible and Humbling Experience

Hey there friends and fans. I hope you are all doing well and that your craft and passion is going smoothly. My own work has been up and down as usual, leading me to feel a bit of self doubt and woe, made all the much worse by the fact that I have graduated college for the second time and still find myself having trouble getting full-time employment. But I digress.

As many of you may know or have remembered, this weekend brought one of the things I most look forward to in the year; the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium. I first started attending the symposium four years ago and quickly fell in love with it. The opportunities provided by this convention are almost endless. A large portion of the Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild are present every year. These individuals are all successful authors, many of whom have a good portion of publications under their belts. The symposium consists of two days worth of workshops where these authors are asked to present and teach about an element of the craft, a specific genre or something of the sort (publication, editing, etc…always something that will be helpful to other authors). Each year there is one, at least slightly more famous, author who is asked to be the keynote speaker.

My personal experience with this symposium is that it is wonderful. Each year I have left the events feeling more confident in my work, my abilities and my future as a writer. In fact, some of you may remember that it was the symposium itself that led me to creating this very blog. How’s that for awesome? Anyway, this year’s experience was one that stood apart from my three previous ones for a number of reasons. Lately I have been a bit worried that my work isn’t quite up to par, that I haven’t accomplished anything, that I haven’t done anything positive or made anything of myself. I now realize that is because I haven’t done it all yet. My list of accomplishments (please forgive me here, I’m not trying to boast. I’m merely trying to show you all that accomplishments aren’t just huge goals or obstacles to overcome) is fairly large. As a student I was managing editor of a literary journal for two years and head news writer for a newspaper for one, because people had confidence in my writing. I have completed two of the three (or four) novels in my Maverip series. I have met the love of my life and gotten engaged. The list goes on and on.

I came to this realization because of the symposium. This year was particularly unique for me for a couple of reasons. One; I was asked to present a workshop. Me. The guy who feels like he’s a failure at least half the time. Members of the committee asked me if I would lend my expertise in the field of the supernatural to do a panel on Zombies and the Un-Dead in relation to Appalachian Literature. I humbly accepted and worked hard on a presentation that I may discuss later this week.

It was a success. People from all walks of life- at least one of whom was not the least bit interested in the topic until hearing me speak on it- attended and raved about the workshop. I had a number of people tell me how great it was and how much I made them think. One even thanked me for the ideas I had given her. On the second day I had people who had been unable to attend my workshop approaching me throughout the entire day telling me they’d heard such wonderful things that they wished they’d prioritized better. This made me feel like I was doing something right. I was beyond humbled to have these successful authors suddenly become my peers, while others became my temporary students. And the feeling that I was absolutely blessed only grew as I got the compliments I’ve mentioned. But one experience remains.

This year’s keynote speaker was the author Jeffery Deaver. For those of you who don’t know, Deaver is the author of the book The Bone Collector (and many more). I was able to get this genius’s autograph, speak to him face to face and even take a selfie with him. But the true humbling and mystifying part was that I got to be in a book signing with him. By that I don’t just mean that I fanboy’d and got his signature (which I did, obviously), but I was actually sitting at my own table, with some of my work in front of me, being asked for MY autograph. I literally signed my work while an international bestselling author was one table over signing his own. I’ve never felt anything like that.

I told you all of this because I was trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to brag or exalt myself, I do promise that. My point here is this; We can’t let ourselves get down about things. No, I’m not a Nobel Prize winner yet. Not am I on the New York Times bestseller list. But I am an author. I am a good author (at least based on what I’m told). I have completed works, and even self-published some pieces on Amazon. Too often do we allow ourselves to believe that we haven’t done anything with our lives in one way or another. We are our own worst critic, and if we aren’t careful that experience can ruin us. If we wake up every day and tell ourselves that we are failures and haven’t or won’t achieve anything then we are setting ourselves ip for failure. We have to look at the things we have done, set minor goals and proceed. We are strong and we can do whatever we intend, whatever we dream. Don’t forget that. Stand strong, believe in yourself and try hard!

Support A Good Cause!!

Hey guys, I just wanted to give you all a reminder about UpLive. The site has been up and running strong since Sunday and has gotten a lot of positive feedback, but there are countless people out there who could use the type of inspirational messages we are trying to send. It’s going to take all of us working together to get it going strong and spread far and wide, so please make the effort. Go to the site, read the posts, share it with everyone you know. Share this post if you don’t want to do that. Just make sure that you help spread the message. There might be someone out there whose life really could be saved by the type of inspiration this site can give. It only takes a second to share, so come on guys, help us all out. In the meantime, whether you draw inspiration from it or not, I hope you will take the time to read the posts and appreciate the feeling behind them and the talent of those who have written them. If you like them, let the writers know. Feel free to comment and share. This is more for the public and those who need it than it is for us, either way. We don’t need gratification. We just want to help those who need it or could use it. Anyway, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day and a great first half of the week! The link to UpLive is below, please share and enjoy.

http://www.uplivedaily.com/

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.

Networking is Key

Greetings people! It has been a while since I made an honest to goodness blog post that wasn’t just an update on myself. This one, long overdo, is going to be moderately short unless I run into a rant, which many of you know is very possible for me. I want to talk a little bit about networking, though.

Networking is incredibly important for any author, from the newcomer that was just published an hour ago to the man who has had 50 books published over 20 years. Without networking hundreds, if not thousands, of books (and authors) can go unnoticed, fall through the cracks and be left by the wayside. This is the last thing any of us want to happen to ourselves- and the last thing I want for any of you, faithful friends and fans! So what do we do to combat it? Network. Network. Network.

What is networking,some of you may ask. It is, quite simply, spreading your name and work as far and wide as you can, especially to those people whom you know are interested in your particular style or genre.Networking might sound like an easy thing to do, but believe me, that isn’t always the case. There are 7 billion some odd people in the world, and while the chances of anyone else writing your exact same piece are fairly slim, there are countless others who are writing in a genre or style comparable to yours, don’t kid yourself for a second to think otherwise. That’s not to say your work isn’t important, don’t get me wrong. Like I’ve said before; if there is a work inside you that wants out, it is for a reason and you owe it to yourself, the world and the work itself to get it out there to the best of your ability.

Networking can help with that. One way to do this, of course, is to blog about your work to others who may be interested. Another, and very important way, is social media. Social Media can be a huge help, or a huge dud for authors. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of people trying to promote their own work, or the work of someone else (and I’m a part of a number of them for this very reason) but there are going to be people on there who will want to hear what you have to say. This is one thing that can be your saving grace. If you can find the right circle of people to market to on social media, a good portion of your networking is kind of done for you.

LinkedIn and other sites of the like are sometimes helpful, particularly if you can find other authors who are in your boat. Building relationships with other authors and readers is another way that you can be exceedingly successful. If your audience knows you on even the most superficial of personal levels, they’ll be more interested in hearing what you have to say and reading your work. One way to build this relationship and allow others in for interaction is by making a website. It gives you a way to show everything you do and allows others to comment directly to you in any way they’d like. Being a part of chats, symposiums and anything that allows authors and readers to interact can be hugely helpful. Really, anything that allows your potential audience to see the human side of you and make you more than just a name on a piece of paper. This is what is going to help.

I’m preparing to begin taking the symposium route this summer, as I have been asked to present at the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Symposium at Southwest Virginia Community College in June. I made a post about that late last year, but as a recap I’m doing a presentation on a topic that, right now, is roughly titled; “Zombies and the Undead in Appalachian Literature”. All of the information about the symposium can be found here; https://appheritagewritersym.wordpress.com/ The site will be updated with specifics on each presenter and their workshops soon, so check back on it often. Hopefully some of you will attend, because I’d love for you all to have the experience- because I can attest to how enriching it truly is- and because I’d LOVE to meet you all.

In addition to this, I have created a vlog channel in order to attempt to let you all and fans of my other work see a bit into my life and see who I really am. The vlog channel will also include advice and talks of my works, and will see much more regular entries than this site does. That’s not because I favor it or anything, but because it’s much easier to pull out my phone and film a few minutes of me talking than it is for me to rush to a computer (or just an area with good phone signal) and pull up a website or an app and type everything out. The link to that channel is here; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2EU_YW9qBDfFWAB01Nc6wA It’s very new, but I hope you’ll all watch and subscribe.

Anyway, I’ll cut this off for tonight. Anyone with comments, questions or any concerns is always welcome to contact me in any way possible. I look very forward to hearing from everyone! Good luck, Good year, and Happy Writing!!

My First Worthy Poem

I thought I would give you all another sample of my writing today, this time of a different genre. I want to first say that I am not a poet by any means. This poem is merely a fluke, and it is one of two that I felt worthy to ever share with anyone. This poem was published in the literary journal Jimson Weed and has given me a lot of satisfaction and positive feedback. If any of you like this poem let me know and I will explain more about its origin and inspiration.

 

I

By Damean Mathews

 

I watch the wind blow through the trees

I hear the fairies’ footsteps playing on the breeze

I watch as the world spins beneath me

I watch from above; seeing all, being seen by none

I watch alone, apart from them, yet a part of all

I am all, I am none

Always watching, never touching

I am everything

I am nothing