Changing Seasons

Writing for a living and writing for pleasure are still proving to be quite difficult, but the urge to write is increasing by the day. The reasons for this are a bit varied; I’ve seen a lot of inspiration lately, but it is stronger today than it has been for quite some time. And I absolutely know the reason.

For the first time in a long time there has been a familiar cooling in the atmosphere and a wonderful scent started filling the air last night. It is the smell, of course, of Fall. That incredible time of year when Summer begins its slow retreat to the Southern Hemisphere and the land begins to get drowsy as the air chills.

Soon the leaves in these beautiful mountains will flash their incredible, fiery colors before making a quick descent to the ground and being covered in a blanket of refreshing snow. Not to mention the holidays that see us dressing up our faces and our houses to ward of the evil spirits that will surely walk the earth before the freezes lock them in their world for another year, and the warm feasts that put us together with our families in front of the hearty fire.

In other words, my absolute favorite time of year. Not that I don’t love the whole year, but there is something particularly magical about the end of the year. For me the combination of the end of the year magic is combining with the absolute thrill, charm and history of our new location. Living in Abingdon is adding to the usual thrill of the incoming seasons and making me NEED to write. I have three new story ideas that I am brainstorming, with big expectations.

My hindrances, of course, remain a bit of an issue, but after this weekend I think things should lighten up a bit. I have to work on Labor Day, but beyond that I expect the approach of Autumn should combine with my own ability to open doors in a major way and allow me to break the slight writers block I have been dealt recently.

One thing that I am so far unsure of is what I will do about NaNoWriMo. Last year I was able to write a 68,000 word novel in around 18 days; an accomplishment that I’m incredibly proud of. This year, with a full time job that sees me writing all day, going to late night meetings and working a shift that isn’t always predictable, I’m not sure what November will hold for me. I look to my fellow reporters on occasion and think that I may be able to still handle the pressure of NaNo; it only calls for around 1,700 words a day, after all. With the altered schedule my wife and I are currently on, I typically have at least four hours from the time I get off until the time she gets off, which should be plenty of time, right?

One way or the other I plan on making a serious effort to get something big to a publisher by the end of the year. Granted, I’ve said this since at least March, a lot of things have put some holds on that, not the least of which has been an unfortunately lackadaisical attitude by most of my beta readers which hasn’t exactly helped moral. But no excuse is a good excuse. Either way, I am making serious headway with some ideas that will lead to some excellent local color pieces for my area (if I do say so myself) and I will be setting aside some time every day to write if possible and I expect it to make a big difference.

Is there a particular time of year that any of you all feel more inclined to write? Is there anything that makes those switches inside of you flip, all of those lights coming on at once and leading to an influx of inspiration and writing? Let me know in the comments and keep up the good work!

Always keep working

I have been a terrible blogger lately. Life, it seems, can often get in the way of writing and blogging. Of course, the irony of that is that I write for a living. I was told before accepting a full time job as a reporter that if I wasn’t careful that writing for work could very easily replace writing for pleasure. I didn’t believe that, and to an extent I still don’t, but I do see the point  behind it and the truth in the statement.

I must begin my explanation for this by stating that I do, in fact, love being a reporter. I very much enjoy my job (although on a hard day I tend to complain about it as much as the next person, but that’s life), not least of all because it does allow me to write words that hundreds, if not thousands of people see on a daily basis. This is very gratifying and will certainly be good experience for the future, but the work does sometimes spill over into my free time.

Of course, such is the life of a reporter, but what some don’t understand is that when you write all day it can be very challenging to come home and write all night as well. Not only is the work writing in a very different format than novel writing, but it can be very hard on the hands, eyes, and brain to do both all of the time. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; writing is what I was made to do. It is literally what I was created for.

So the question remains; how does one manage this?

The answer is just as hard as it is easy. You have to maintain conviction, passion, and determination. As it is currently, I work around 45hours a week (getting paid for 40, but again, that’s life), come home and spend at least that much reading, watching a little television, and spending time with my wife. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I also have to find time to sleep and write. The break down makes the issue seem much more simple than it is, of course. What brings the complication in is finding motivation.

So how do you find the inspiration to write at night after writing all day? By pressing on as hard as humanly possible, of course. Personally I do my best to make time for everything, but it honestly can be hard, as I’m sure many of you know. Personally I have let the inspiration that still so frequently shows up unexpectedly to have full reign of my mind when it comes. Granted, it sometimes is fleeting and likes to toy with various ideas without settling on one, it still leaves me with a fair amount of new material.

One of my most recent accomplishments is a short story that I was able to completely revamp and elaborate on so I could send it to a journal for consideration. Even if I don’t make it into that particular publication, I can honestly say that I’m much happier with the current version of said short story than I was with the previous one. But the thing that I may be most involved in right now, aside from editing Maverip, is a new story that I have been inspired to write that (at least so far) has a very elaborate plot with a story spanning centuries. I don’t want to say much more about it currently, as the idea is still very fresh and I’m toying with plot lines, but I have decided to include a small sample that really excites me. I would love to have any and all feedback you all have on this piece. I would also love to hear how you all balance writing, motivation and everyday life. Leave me comments or send me messages, however you would like to communicate! I hope you all enjoy the small sample!

“Jonas woke suddenly, breathing heavily and sweating. He stared into the dark, waiting for his breath to slow. He felt himself drifting off to sleep when the image rushed back to his conscious. He saw the women, aged and wrinkled yet somehow vibrant, covered in blood and nothing else. Fire blazed in the middle of the clearing, filled with a shadow that made him scream aloud in the night. Looking into the fire Jonas was certain that he had looked into the very eyes of the devil himself.”

Bridging the Gap

I don’t know why, but for some reason graduation is weighing on my mind this week. It could be because a couple of times this week I let Youtube play through a list of songs that, inevitably, led to some of the ones I associate with high school and graduation. I seriously can’t believe it has been seven years since I left Tazewell High School to never walk those hallowed halls as a student again. I can still remember a lot about high school, and honestly some days it feels impossible that I am actually in my 20’s and no longer a teenager.

A lot has happened in the years since high school, and life has put me through many twists and turns. No matter how much I hate to admit it, I’m not the exact same guy I was back then. I’m a little older, a lot (I think) wiser, and a lot more experienced and I have much bigger goals than just getting through the semester and into summer. Granted, some of my goals are the same; I still want to make a difference in the world, I still want that best-selling novel to help me take the world by storm, and I still want to see as much of the world as possible before my time is over. But most of all, I want to be accomplished. I want to know that, when I leave this world, people will know who I was. I want to write the words that will astound people for generations to come. I would like to be able to look down from Heaven and see, even decades after I’m gone, that there are scholars out there studying my work and teaching it to the masses.

I’ve talked about all of this before, and I know it’s something a lot of people want. Maybe it is largely just that human urge to never really die. According to James Dean; “If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.” I think I finally fully understand what that means, and I agree with it completely. If some part of us can truly exist after we are gone, and if someone somewhere continues to contemplate our life or our ideas, then maybe death itself isn’t quite so final. So ominous.

That’s always the fear, I think. We want to know that, even once we’re gone, we will never be forgotten. Honestly, I fully admit that’s something I want. If the world is still spinning after I’m gone I want there to be people out there who remember me and what I’ve done. The good thing about this is that it can be done in many ways. One of the best is by being a good, strong person and setting an example others can actually follow. Our children can be the legacy that makes the world remember who we are. The way our children see us can create an impact that will impact their lives forever, and in turn can impact the lives of countless others.  As I’m getting more and more used to post-college life and as my wife and I begin to consider our future, I’m realizing more and more that this sort of legacy is one that I am also looking very forward to and it is one that is very much multi-faceted. The impact we have on the world, quite often, starts with the impact we have at home. Some of us occasionally let that truth escape us, but fortunately it is something that I’ve caught onto.

I look back over my life and I find very little I would even consider changing. I might not be rich, and I might not be world famous – YET – but I have done some pretty awesome stuff, had some pretty awesome experiences and I have an amazing wife that I can’t wait to change the world with. My question for each of you now is this; if you had to be remembered for one thing in your life, just one thing, what would it be? And, if you’d like a bonus question; what have you done so far to make sure that happens.

Personally, I’d like the world to remember that I was someone who never let a challenge get me down and who always kept my eyes on God and the prize at hand while loving with my whole heart and helping others as often as possible. So far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job for the most part, but I can always step it up. Particularly in the whole confidence area, of course, since the main reason I haven’t sent a novel to a publishing house or agent is because I  feel unworthy, but that’s a different story altogether!  So how do you all plan to bridge the gap? What are you leaving behind when you go that could make you a household name?

I hope you all have an amazing weekend and enjoy what life gives you while making the most of everything. If you missed my last post, hop back and check it out and let me know if you’re interested in joining a book club! If there are any topics you’d like to discuss, feel free to drop me a message or leave a comment here. Have an awesome day!

The Inspiration of Life

Last week the world suffered one of the worst tragedies the year has seen – which is saying a lot considering the vast amount of talent 2016 has cost us. Dr. Ralph Stanley, one of the greatest artists in the world, a man who contributed even more than he ever understood to my region, went to his Heavenly home on Thursday. I can honestly say this loss cut me very deeply. As a lover of music (and a player of it when time allows, although I would say even at my best I’m on the very bottom of mediocrity) and an artist who strives to bring my region a strong voice, Ralph Stanley meant a lot to me.

Growing up in Southwest Virginia, the culture and roots of bluegrass and folk music always struck something deep within me (even if I often prefer the power of a good hard rock song) but the voice of Ralph Stanley was one of the ones that always stuck with me. The wailing vibrato that brought to life some of the greatest hymns and folk tunes to ever be written was and is one of the most powerful and recognizable and meaningful voices I’ve ever heard and I will never forget the power it brings to the table. And honestly, as an artist, that is all we can ever really hope for, is it not? To know that at least one person out there who encounters our work finds something so powerful and meaningful within it that it even inspires them to create something of their own is, to me, one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable.

So how do we make this happen? How do we rise above the masses of other individuals who have interests similar to our own in order to be at the top of our game? Passion. Knowledge. Individuality. These things can have so much more impact than we realize sometimes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it countless more times in my life I’m sure, but passion is something that completely alters everything. You may not have to be passionate about everything you do, but you definitely need to make a real effort to do the things that you are passionate about. That is one thing that made Ralph Stanley so monumental. He had an extreme passion for music and he had an incredible passion for the region he called home. So often in his music he called out to his home, his family, his history and his savior. These are what were important to Ralph. These are the things he knew and loved, and these are the things that brought people to his music and made them want to come back again and again.

When it comes to individuality, there are a number of ways to make yourself different from others. The way Ralph did it was often by using his natural gift, which was the voice God gave him. He was quoted as saying that it was his voice that set him apart from others. It was something no one else had. God had given it to him. The same goes for the ideas in our head. Some say that there isn’t a story out there that hasn’t been told, and that may be true. But I would put money on the fact that, similar idea or not, no one has ever told the story in quite the same way you would. So why wait? Why hesitate? Your ideas, your talents, your strength are all unique to you, and you owe it to the world to set those things free, whether it be through writing, music, painting or anything else.

I’ll leave you something that has always given me a little motivation, no matter what mood I’m in when I think of it, but I read a quote some time ago that had a similar message to this post, but it ended with words that truly gave me chills and inspired me immensely; someone out there needs your book. So get up, go paint, go write, go play your music. Whatever it is, get out there and do it, because someone out there NEEDS your work.

Thank you all for coming back and checking out this post. If you haven’t yet, please check out the rest of the new site and go read my last blog post which includes a free and exclusive story that I wanted my subscribers to have first crack at. Leave me comments and let me know what you think of my posts, my stories, the site, or just whatever you’d like to say!

Huge Announcement and New Work

Hello friends and fans!! I’m coming to you live on my brand spanking new site, and it feels great! As many of you know I used to have a separate site from my blog that, although fairly successful, left something to be desired for me. After this year’s writers symposium I found myself in a state of improved ambition and confidence, as is usually the case, and I came home to tell my wife that I wanted to make some changes and set some goals for myself and that I needed her to help. She didn’t hesitate for a second.

We put our heads together and worked out some things that needed to happen, the first of which was to get a new website going for me and keep it going and updated regularly. I relied on her expertise to build the site, and together we got the ball rolling. So, here, with a whole new round of current headshots, the migration of my old blog and followers and the inclusion of a brand new newsletter (which I sincerely hope you’ll all subscribe to) I give you my new site! Take some time and browse through at your leisure, but not before taking a peek at one of the things I have been most excited about in recent weeks.

On the bottom of this post I am going to include my latest short story, completely free and exclusively for followers of my blog! I got this story idea while working on the presentation I was teaching at last year’s symposium and I let it cook for a while before jotting a version down.  After this year’s event I looked at it again and decided that I would update it and put it out to give you all the first chance to read it! The story itself draws from folk tale styles and local color writing in my area, and is honestly unlike anything I’ve done before.  I hope you’ll all take the time to read it and give me some honest feedback, because it may end up being part of a larger announcement and project soon. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the story and the site and I’ll be writing again soon!

Lefty Smith and the Right Handed Corn

“I’ve seen some mighty queer things in my travels,” the old man said.

I nodded and smiled, agreeing with him without saying much. I didn’t really have any plans that I needed to hurry and fulfill, and somehow I thought I wouldn’t have been able to walk away even if I wanted to. I don’t know what it was about the man, but just hearing that phrase and seeing his strange brand of fashion and body language, I felt like I had to listen to him.

I settled into the seat across from him, looking over his tattered jeans and faded deep blue button down shirt that he wore over dirty, scuffed boots. I had seen him once or twice in the last ten years while I helped my father work the store, usually sitting around the woodstove right where he was now, where all of the old timers in five counties eventually end up at some point or another.

“Yep,” he said as I nodded for him to continue. “Some mighty queer things.”

The store was empty that morning and I could tell I was in for the long haul, so I reached to the pot on the stove beside of me and poured myself a cup of coffee, topping off his chipped mug as he held it out.

“I went to the deep South to lay claim to my heritage,” the old man said, his dark eyes meeting mine and seeming to pin me to my chair. “My father fought in the Civil War before moving north to Ohio. I made a straight shot to the Mason-Dixon line and stayed a night near the border of North Carolina before heading down to Georgia.”

“I camped out in a field under the stars on the border of Virginia, eating a bit of the road provisions I’d packed and passing out in no time, the sounds of the night always make for the best lullaby,” he added, a smile on his face.

“I woke up the next morning when the sun got just over the tops of the rows of corn to the east of me and began driving. Before long I came across a batch of cars and machinery set up in a field and stopped in to see what proved to be a lively county fair.”

I could tell the man was getting into the story, his right leg thrown over the left, his foot bobbing higher and higher the more he talked.

“At first everything seemed fairly normal,” he continued. “There was music, food, some games… and a whole lot of corn. I didn’t think much of that, since the fair was set up in the middle of the largest corn field I’d ever seen. The more I looked, though, the weirder it got. I noticed something weird about the people, too,” he said, leaning forward and looking at me with squinty eyes set deep in his wrinkled face, a mischievous grin exposing his age-worn teeth..

“Everyone I saw eating this corn was eating it with their right hand. Only their right hand. Skewers were stabbed into one end of the corn and everyone was gripping it with their right hand while their left dangled freely, occasionally coming to life to swat a pest or pick at a piece of fabric in their shirts. I was a bit confused, I admit. I thought maybe I’d just stumbled into a community of overly-ambitious right-handers who still viewed Southpaws a thing of the devil,” he laughed as he imagined the sight again.

“Being adventurous in my youth I decided, come life or limb, to test my theory. I walked amongst the din of conversation between old friends and neighbors and plucked my dime down and got my own steaming ear, slathered butter up and down over the golden kernels and sat down in the middle of everyone, my left hand gripping the stick so tight the knuckles were white.”

He leaned back and cackled, drinking deeply of his coffee while I sipped my own, finding myself more interested in this mystery than I cared to admit.

“I noticed a few of those closest to me stop eating and look at me in horror,” he said, clearly loving the opportunity to share his tale. “As I took my first tender, juicy bite I felt the butter run down my chin as the corn rolled around in my mouth like hot coals, burning everything they touched.”

“As I chewed I noticed a low murmur run through the crowd. ‘Lefty’, I would hear one whisper, to another or to themselves I couldn’t tell. Before long all other sounds had stopped and most every eye was on me. Halfway through my corn I looked up and smiled, asking my neighbor what was the matter. He only shook his head at first, eventually cracking out the one word I’d heard for about five minutes. Lefty.”

“I couldn’t describe my confusion if I tried. Were they commenting on my eating habits alone, or trying to insult me by being derogatory,” the old man said, his amusement showing on every part of his face.

“Laying my corn down on the table and wiping my mouth with my shirt collar, I spoke up in my own defense.”

“ ‘I apologize if I offended anyone with my eating, but I’m not actually left handed,’ I told them.”

“At first no one spoke. Then a man, a little shorter than most, sitting a little straighter than others, made himself known.”

“ ‘It ain’t a matter of being left handed, sir,’ he said. ‘We’re all just shocked that you don’t seem to care about the curse.’ ”

“ ‘Curse,’ I laughed, ‘I didn’t know about any curse. I was just driving through and saw the fair and thought I’d stop in.’ ”

“A dull roar went through the crowd as they collectively relayed that a stranger was breaching some curse they were scared of.”

“ ‘The curse ought not to be ignored,’ said the man. ‘Maybe if you heard the story and find out what happens to them that don’t listen you’d respect it more.’ ”

“What could I say,” the old man asked me, his story still thrilling him, his foot bobbing higher than ever as he drained his cup, shaking his head and continuing the tale when I held out the pot to offer him more.

“ ‘I’m a guest in your town,’ I told them, putting on my best southern charm just as my father had taught me, ‘and I’ll listen to anything you’d like to tell me.’ ”

“ ‘Good,’ the little man said. ‘It ain’t something we take lightly around here. I’ll get Tom Hunter to tell the story, since he’s most directly involved.’ ”

“ ‘Thank ye, Doctor,’ said a man no younger than 60 who looked to be nearly as wide as he was tall. ‘I’ll ask ye to listen kindly, stranger.’ ”

“ ‘Fact of it is, my grandfather was the third Hunter in line that owned this here farm. The town nearby was still sorta new, made of a buncha cast-offs from the Civil War. Fact is, this very field was the site of a major battle in the area. Nigh 200 lives were lost in this place. ‘F ya ask me it’s the blood in the ground what makes the corn grow so tall.’ ”

“ ‘But anyway. ‘Twas the night before the town’s first fair and my grandfather was out with the mayor and some of the church deacons, pickin’ corn for the event. Knowin’ they’d need a lot, the men worked late into the night, only stopping to empty their baskets into the wagon they had.’

“ ‘Long ‘bout one in the mornin’, way he told, they finished one row and was movin’ to another when they saw ‘im.’ ”

“ ‘Saw who,’ I asked the farmer, genuinely unable to hide my curiosity.”

“ ‘Lefty Smith. A veteran of the great war that hadn’t lasted a month after coming home. Mean as sin and twice as scary is what his own wife said about him. Lefty was called Lefty because he got his right arm blowed off in the battle. It was an infection in his blood what finally killed him off.’ ”

“ ‘He was dead?’ ”

“ ‘Been dead about 3 months,’ Hunter told me. ‘ Infection took him quick. But not before he got mean. Terrorized the whole dern town, he did. Started claimin’ everything left and right as bein’ his left-handed property. That’s where the curse come from.’ ”

“ ‘From the dead man,’ I asked him, doing my best not to let my skepticism show.”

“ ‘Yessir. My granddaddy and half the church was out in this very field, like I said. They was pickin’ away for the fair when it happened. They went from one row to the next and seen him standin’ there.’ ”

“ ‘Lefty?’ ”

‘Yessir, Lefty Smith, a haint if a haint there ever was, standin’ there munchin’ a ear of corn. Granddaddy said they stopped dead and Lefty looked at ‘em with that mean old look in his eyes, threw down his ear of corn and grabbed another off the stalk.’

“ ‘Listen here,’ he said to ‘em, pullin’ the shuck off with his teeth, ‘Y’all better not be givin away my corn tomorrow.’ ”

“ ‘Your corn,’ my granddaddy spoke up, ‘Lefty Smith you know this is my field. Has been for 30 years.’ ”

“ ‘Your field or not, Jeb Hunter, you keep away from my corn. You can take all the right-handed corn you want, but you mark my words – all the left-handed corn in this field is mine and any man I see eatin’ it will pay the price.’ ”

“ ‘What happened then,’ I asked Hunter,” the old man told me, seeing I was just as interested as I could imagine he had been.

“ ‘Well they ran,’ Hunter said with a laugh. ‘They hauled tail out of that field and spread the word about the curse. That was almost 50 years ago and I’ll tell you now, only a handful of people in that time has eaten any left-handed corn – and each time it’s ended bad.’ ”

“ ‘I do appreciate the warning, Mr. Hunter but I’ve finished over half an ear with my left hand and I haven’t seen any trouble,” the old man said with a cackle. “Do you know what he said?”

“I have no idea,” I told him.

“He looked at me real serious and said ‘well, how’d it taste?’ ”

“I told him honest that it was actually pretty delicious. Then he asked me if it was hot or cold.”

“ ‘Quite hot,’ I told him.”

“ ‘Did it burn your mouth,’ he asked.”

“ ‘As a matter of fact it did cause a little discomfort,’ I told him.”

“ ‘That was the curse,’ he told me without hesitation. ‘I bet Lefty just decided to take it easy on you seein’ as how you didn’t know about his left-handed corn.’ ”

“ ‘Well if that is the case, then I certainly appreciate Lefty’s generosity, and I’ll keep it in mind until I’m out of danger,’’ I told him.”

“I finished my corn with my right hand and was accepted as the newest member of the community. I was so respected, actually, that when I left it was insisted that I stop on my way back through. As I climbed into my car the mayor himself handed me another ear of corn for the road, which I happily munched with my left hand once I was well out of eyeshot of the superstitious new friends I had made.”

The old man sat back when he was finished and gave me the biggest, crookedest grin I’d ever seen.

“Any more evidence of the curse,” I asked him, unable to help myself.

“Sure,” he said with a wink, “I felt like I hadn’t taken three bites before I realized all the corn was gone off the cob, and I hadn’t had near my fill.”

 

There you go guys! I would really appreciate it if you would let me know what you think about the story. Send me a message or leave me a comment and now go check out the new site!!

Trying Harder

Hey there friends and fans!! I hope life has treated each and every one of you absolutely wonderfully of late.  Personally my adjustment to a new city, new job and new home has finally lead to a fairly adjusted schedule, at least for now. Hopefully things will continue to work out well.

As many of you may remember from earlier in the year, last weekend was the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium.  It was an amazing experience,  as always, and it inspired me even more to make a dedicated effort to my writing. With any luck this will work out well, since it seems that life may be calming down a bit and I will hopefully be able to set a schedule that will allow me to dedicate time each day, or at least each week,  to attempting to get something out there!

In addition to this general hope, I have decided that I am going to try a few new ways of advertising my work to anyone who may be interested, one if which I am hoping you’ll all participate in. I am starting a newsletter! I’ll be setting it up this week, and hopefully have the first one out by the weekend. I plan to make a post on here and on my Facebook author page giving the details on how to sign up for it. I plan to use it to give people an idea of what I am working on, where my works in progress are in the development and editing process and will even be giving some exclusive excerpts to those who subscribe!

My goal, in case I haven’t run it into the ground yet, is to have something in the process of publication by the end of this year. With the help of my friends and fans, as well as dedication and effort on my part, I know I can make that happen.  So I thank you all for your support and well wishes. You have no idea how much it means to me. I sincerely hope to have some new work to share with you all very soon!! Feel free to contact me and leave any and all comments you wish! I’m glad to be back!

Apology

I know it has been over two weeks since my last post, and I sincerely apologize for that, everyone. It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me.

I realized last night and this morning that today marks exactly one year since my first interview with the Bristol Herald. I can’t believe that! A year later and here I am! Also, I will be covering a discussion by Sen. MArk Warner today, and coincidentally he is the first big name interview I ever got when working for the Highland Cavalier as well! God’s blessings really are coming full circle today and I couldn’t be happier.

Since starting my new job with the Bristol Herald Courier I have gotten three cover stories, one of which was the headline and have made some very interesting new contacts.

In addition to this my wife and I found a new place to live and have been consumed with two 40 hour a week jobs, an hour and a half long commute each way for me for some of the days, and moving everything from our old place to our new one while maintaining get enough time for sleep and sanity. Needless to say it has been incredible, stressful and truly rewarding.

I just wanted to post a little something letting you all know that I am very sorry I’ve been absent, and that hopefully I will have the move completed and have more free time soon so I can start blogging again. I am including a link to one of my favorite stories of the last two weeks in the hopes that you will all read and enjoy it! God bless!

http://bit.ly/1rqNOdG

Spring Renewal

I was talking to my wife this morning about how blessed we have been and about the changes coming on us in a week or so and it hit me just how monumental the months of April and May have been for us these last three years. The blessings we are experiencing now have come to us in various forms during the spring and early summer for a few years now, and we couldn’t thank God enough for the opportunities He has given us. In 2014 she and I got our first apartment together (a studio apartment that, despite its minuscule size, was exactly what we needed at the time, and started a new phase of our lives that has brought us both immense joy. While living together the two of us have grown even closer, and I fully believe that living together while we were engaged helped us adjust very easily and avoid the shock of moving in together after marriage.

Last year, 2015, changed our lives in another positive way. My wife and graduated from our university with Bachelor’s Degrees and a world full of potential. This experience was slightly bittersweet, seeing as how we owe our Alma Mater so much. While there we learned skills that have helped us beyond measure, were introduced to people who have become some of our best friends, and found books and other works of art that have had profound impacts on us (and my writing). We visited campus again today to speak with some of our former professors and it hit us both again just how much we miss the place, not necessarily for the work or the classes, but for the environment that I don’t think either of us will ever forget. I wholeheartedly believe that the environment of a liberal arts college is one that can’t be beat and is one of the most welcoming of all – but that’s a post for another time.

Finally, keeping up with the changes that Spring brings my family and I we come to the fact that one week from today (on my birthday I might add) I will be starting my new job, the next phase of my life. In addition to just changing professions, we plan on moving to a different location, which is only going to add to our excitement (and perhaps a little to our stress during the moving process – I HATE packing). But we couldn’t be more thrilled with the possibilities ahead of us! Also, as a special note for my wife and anyone else who knows me; May of 2013 saw the release of Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, just a month after I presented a paper at two undergraduate research on the book (which just happens to be my absolute favorite!).

If the future continues to have such (hopefully good) profound and excellent bits of change and renewal for my family and I, then things should definitely remain exciting for us! So what about you guys? Have you found yourselves in the middle of great changes or on the receiving end of great blessings in the months of April and May, or during the time of Spring and early Summer? If so, feel free to leave details of your experiences below or message me with the details!

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Cutting the Red Tape

As you all know last week I made a post announcing my new job opportunity. I have received immense support and congratulations from you all and I couldn’t be more appreciative. One thing that is always a part of taking a step to better yourself and your family is the red tape associated with changing locations and jobs. My wife and I currently live around 45 minutes or an hour away from the office I’ll be working from, so we are looking to relocate to make my commute a little shorter and we are definitely seeing the red tape show up with that process. Between trying to get our student loans on a solid repayment plan to getting pre-approved for a mortage, the obstacles are everywhere. When discussing what to blog about today, my wife suggested I discuss a bit about that red tape in a way that is relevant to all of you as well (since it’s pretty much all we can focus on this week due to the mind-numbing stress of it all), and I ran with the idea.

Red tape can come in many forms for an artist, and can be as simple as checking the format on a submission, or it can be as hard as nailing down the best time and place to have a meeting with someone interested in your work. Sometimes the red tape can be easily avoided, and other times it will wrap you up until you’re almost certain you’ll never get free of it. One such instance of this comes in the form of getting your piece ready for a certain venue. For instance, you may have a piece that you have written entirely in Arial Bold, your favorite font, only to find out that the publisher you are looking into will only accept pieces submitted in Times New Roman. This isn’t that big of a deal and is really a simple fix (control + A and change the font, for those of us who don’t do computers). In this case you’ve gotten through the red tape quite simply.

Other cases may find you scrambling a bit to get your work ready. The submission process can be one of these things. Less than a decade ago most journals and publications still worked in hard copy submissions, email submissions unheard of for some of them. Unfortunately  that is no longer the case. Most large publications now only accept online submissions either via email, through Submittable or some other platform. This in itself may not be all that difficult since most of us, even if we don’t write our pieces completely on the computer, will still have a back-up electronic copy ready to go whenever it may be needed. But what can be a problem is when the journal doesn’t specify how best to submit. Most do, granted, but there are those that don’t, and this can be a big issue. If we submit via email they may not get it, or may trash it as many journals who use other platforms tell you they will do with email submissions, or they may just not get it.

One of the worst cases of pre-publishing red tape that I’ve come across recently comes into play when you are using the tactic of simultaneous submissions, which can be both helpful and maddening at the same time. Simultaneous submissions means that you send the same piece with its respective cover letter to multiple venues in order to broaden your possibilities for publication. This isn’t a secret, of course, as most journals will flat out tell you that they accept simultaneous submissions as long as you tell them if the piece has been accepted elsewhere before they get to it. Of course, there are those who say that they don’t accept them, but honestly I don’t think that is going to really stop many of us in the long run, if you’re determined to get the work out there. The complication comes in when you look at the submission guidelines for the venues in question. I occasionally go on submitting sprees where I will look at a dozen or so venues and get pieces ready to send in, and sometimes that process can take hours, even if your work fits the basics of their specifications.

What I mean in this instance is the way you have to submit. The minor, but potentially devastating red tape. In my experience, most journals have their own way they prefer to get submissions. Most of the time this, in some way or another, involves having your piece attached to an email, often with no name or labels other than the title in the piece itself in order to maintain anonymity until chosen, while the body of your email gives you a chance to tell them your name and perhaps give a summary of the piece and why you think it fits, and a small bio. But there are the exceptions. I’ve come across editors who tell those interested in submitting to put their name and submission title in the subject of the email and copy and paste their piece in the body of the email, saying any messages received with attachments will be discarded without being viewed. Now, in the era of the ever hungry computer virus, I can understand that to a point, but when preparing multiple submissions, one little slip-up can result in a rejection or even having your submission overlooked by default.

The same goes with the red tape in life. If we forget to dot an ‘i’ or cross a ‘t’ our whole process could come crashing back down just for us to have to start all over again. Granted, the margin of error in things like a mortage application varies quite a bit than, say, a short story submission to The New Yorker, it’s all relative in its own way. In this day and age we definitely have to make absolutely certain that we have an eye for detail, because the red tape can sometimes be a bit confusing, but with the proper determination and the right amount of preparation you’ll be through it before you know it, sitting in a new house or opening your sample copy of the journal with your story as the center piece. Obviously I haven’t covered all of the possibilities here, so what other forms of red tape have you all encountered in your journeys, and how did you cut through it to make it where you are now?

In the meantime, if any of you have a topic suggestion, I ask that you definitely get it to me. Leave your comments below and happy writing!

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The Road to Greatness

Last week I made a post talking about what I would like to be remembered for. I asked for feedback from my readers and got some great responses as well, and it made me think about something that I’ve often had on my mind in regards to writing and the future. The simplest way to say it is this; I want to be great. Not just at writing, mind you, but that is the task at hand here. I want to be great, I want to wow people, and I want to create something that is not just going to be remembered, but something that is worthy of remembering.

One of my favorite movies (developed from an amazing book that I am just now getting my hands on) that addresses this best is Eddie and The Cruisers. Eddie Wilson was a man with a passion that few people could understand. It burned inside of him so hot and so strong that he literally couldn’t be happy unless he was letting it out in his music. He struck it big with an album and his band toured the East Coast for a while before things got a little hairy. The movie, obviously straying a bit, portrayed this by having The Cruisers cut an album with a different style of music than most people were used to in the 50’s, which the execs of their label flat out condemned. Eddie, driven mad by rage, left the studio and wasn’t seen again (spoiler alert), at least not until the second movie. Eddie left in a rage because his passion, the thing that he felt he was created to do, was being stomped on, his ideas being viewed as poor quality. Eddie felt immensely betrayed at being told his ideas weren’t good enough and he uttered a statement which always sends chills through me.

“If I can’t be great then there’s no sense in ever playing music again.”

Since I first put pen to paper I have felt this way about my writing. But during that time; during the writing, the stress, the feeling that I’ll never make it to the top of anyone’s slush pile long enough for my work to be considered, I’ve never taken the time to define exactly what ‘great’ is. To Eddie Wilson it was creating a sound unlike anyone has ever heard before. But what is it to me? After some deliberating and thinking, I think I have one potential tentative definition to strive for.

To me great is; having someone read my work and be inspired or moved by it. Having someone read one of my books and rethink what they thought they knew of the topic before finding my work. Having someone who considers one of my book to be one of their favorites. Maybe even someone who can’t stop thinking about words that I wrote, something that I created. To me that’s great. Of course a million dollar book deal, book signings in at least 5 major U.S. cities and a book tour where I get to read from and discuss my work after riding the top of the best seller list would also be great, I think the others hold a similar impact. At least for the person affected by the work.

That leads me to another instance of asking for all of you to tell me your own opinions on the matter. We all want to be great at our respective crafts, to have the satisfaction of knowing that we did our best and that our best is pretty darn good, but what exactly puts us over that line? So tell me, when you all think about what constitutes greatness in regards to your work, what exactly do you see? Are you presenting your art work to a group of a few dozen at a private show, playing music for a state leader, or are you sitting around the campfire telling scary stories to your children and knowing that the story will then be passed down to your grandchildren because the words were so powerful they stuck and became a solid foundation in your child’s memory? Leave a comment or, if that’s too open, send me a message and tell me what you think of when you think of greatness. What level do you think your work must reach before you will finally consider yourself having achieved greatness? And, furthermore, why?

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I welcome all comments and questions. If any of you have a topic suggestion, I ask that you definitely get it to me. I would love to know that I’m talking about the things that you all want to hear more about. Leave your comments below and happy writing!

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