A Nation Torn (Again)

I’ve kept my mouth shut about this – largely because no one has any reason to care what I think, but the rioting in the states is getting stupider by the day. Since Saturday there have been daily riots and destruction, leading to at least one death when a self-proclaimed White Supremacist ran his car through a group of protestors who were marching against racism. Racism. In the 21st Century. Have we not lived long enough on this rock to get how absolutely freaking idiotic that is?

Since Saturday there have been riots of multiple people who are disagreeing about what to do with Confederate era statues. The removal of a couple of these is what sparked the two-sided protestors on Saturday, if you aren’t aware. Supremacists  (read “Nazis) were against the removal of these statues, and protested in very violent fashion, while the counter-protestors gathered in a somewhat less violent manner, only to be ran over by a car. Those vying for the removal of the statues are convinced they are a symbol of racism and discrimination that is somehow damaging their way of life, while those who wish to see them remain where they are are split between Nazis (which I DO NOT agree with) who believe the statues represent racism and that it is deserved, and the sane people who recognize that these statues are a piece of our history that should be preserved at any cost.

As a well-educated 26 year-old with Native American ancestry living near my ancestral land and the start of the Trail of Tears, I definitely get racism. I do. But do you see Native Americans up in arms about things that celebrate the racism against them – which, might I add, is pretty much everything that celebrates the arrival of the white man on this continent? No. Because we have better sense. We understand that if we revolt against the past, it changes nothing. It doesn’t bring back any of the millions of people who were killed in the largest genocide to ever disgrace the face of this planet. It doesn’t mean that the murders and mistreatment and centuries of harmful stereotypes are suddenly gone or repaired. It doesn’t magically make anything better.

What it does do is cause further discord between peoples who have been living together in the world long enough to understand that we are all the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, red, yellow, purple or orange as a pumpkin – the same blood runs through all our veins. The same creator made us all – no matter what you believe, we literally all come from the same place, whether you believe that it’s dirt shaped by God or space dust from the celestial fart scientists call the Big Bang. So what gives anyone of any color, creed or race the right to think they are superior because of the amount of melanin in their skin or their country of origin? Nothing more than pathetic, pointless ego. It’s nonsense.

This is 2017, not year 17. We know better than this. When science and religion and common sense and every single other sensible and factual thing on the planet can show you that the only differences from you and your black neighbor and her Asian neighbor and his Russian neighbor is the language your ancestors spoke and the food you grew up with (aside from predispositions to certain illnesses, of course – God knows if I don’t get completely medical and scientific here someone will call it out), why do you insist on acting like skin color and nationality matters?

In addition to this consistently pathetic ideology, how can this ridiculous and pointless violent behavior be the answer? It isn’t. Not in any possible sense of the idea. In no way is acting like a primitive moron the answer. It isn’t going to change the past and it sure isn’t going to change the future.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole issue to me right now is the fact that those people who are out there protesting these Confederate statues – which in their minds celebrate racism, violence and discrimination – are now doing so with with violence and discrimination. What? Seriously? Seeing people get run down by a car wasn’t enough to make you realize that a violent reaction – from anyone involved – is the exact opposite of what we should be doing? Apparently not, because protestors in North Carolina were filmed tearing down a Confederate statue and then taking turns kicking, punching, spitting on and otherwise desecrating it.

Why? What good does this do? These statues, which in the minds of the protestors represent the bigotry and racism that pulled this country apart for centuries, are actually there to remind us of the time that racial and political strife almost caused us to destroy ourselves completely. They stand there to represent the type of brother-hating behavior that should be avoided for the rest of time. But these neo-Nazis and misinformed spoiled brats are literally using them to do the exact opposite. Rather than looking at them as reminders not to be complete assholes to our fellow man, they are using pieces of stone and metal as an excuse to lash out at those they feel aren’t as good as them.

How will tearing these statues down change the past? It won’t. It is nothing more than an attempt to hide and erase the history that built this country. Again, it’s a terrible history. That’s obvious. But by denying that we as a nation have overcome such harmful ideas, we open ourselves up to falling in the same hole again. By allowing ourselves to become divided because of a bunch of statues, we are weakening the bonds of civility that have kept us together since these statues were erected. If we literally find ourselves killing each other in the streets because we can’t just leave a statue alone, how can we possibly pretend that we are a civilized country the rest of the world should model itself after? How can we possibly pretend that we are worthy of being called a superpower – which, by definition, is a country with dominating power and influence in multiple regions of the world at one time? And if we are still considered a superpower, how can we possibly sleep at night knowing the influence we are spreading is full of hate and ignorance and pointless violence?

I don’t know that my words matter to anyone other than myself, but this has to stop. Leave the statues alone, pick up the pieces, and move on. Open a bible or even a science book. There is ample evidence all around you that we are all the same. We all need food, water, oxygen, human interaction. We all function thanks to our nervous and digestive systems and we must take care of both to make either remain functional. We can reproduce with anyone of any race or nationality. We can interact with most anyone through the most basic of universal symbols – even if it just comes down to pointing at our stomachs to symbolize hunger or thirst. We get it. We. Are. All. The. Same. Frankly, if none of these examples convince you, just look at the blood that has been shed. Streets run red with blood that leaks out of bodies with every color skin imaginable. The bodies lie broken in the gutters, all made of the same things, all torn to shreds because of hatred that means nothing. Just look at the blood and try to understand. Because, if you don’t, blood may soon be all that is left.

Book exchange and new opportunity

I hope this week finds you all well and safe. Summer is well underway here in the states and, as always, one of the greatest literary events is the summer reading list. Recently one of my friends on social media shared a post regarding a book exchange that allows one to get to know more about their online friends, and I thought it sounded like the perfect thing to try here! So what I am challenging each and every one of you to do is join the book exchange and share it far and wide to help inspire reading and literacy to everyone you know, and with any luck to everyone they know and so on and so on.

Joining is really very simple. All you have to do is like or comment on the blog post and I’ll send you a message with specifics. After that you just send a copy of your favorite book to the person who shares the exchange before you. In this case that would be me, of course. The book can be a new or used copy, whichever you’d prefer. The exchange provides all of us with a chance, not only to read the favorite books of our online friends, but also the opportunity to have hours and hours of conversation about what makes the book great.

Personally it is conversation about literature that makes the reading experience even more amazing for me. As a writer I have tons of ideas flow through my mind as I read a book and I love to discuss these ideas with others. It’s particularly great when I can discuss my favorite book with someone else and when I can discuss someone else’s favorite book with them. So please like or comment on this post if you are interested in joining a book exchange and I’ll send you the details. After that, make your own post on your blog or on social media (or both!) and start spreading the joy!

On another note, I have sent one of my recent short stories in to attempt publication in a new journal an author friend referred me to. If I get in the journal, I will be published in the very first edition of a brand new literary journal! Hopefully I’ll hear something about the piece soon, and I’ll let you all know when I do. In the meantime I’ll keep writing and reading and I hope you’ll all join in on the book exchange and help make the experience bigger and better than ever!

Beating the Monday Blues

Mondays suck. Lets face it. But that doesn’t have to stop us from doing great things. We, as artists and writers, really need to give ourselves a bit of a schedule to follow. Some authors will find themselves needing a more strict and rigid schedule. Throughout history there are some authors who have stated that they wouldn’t let themselves do anything else until they had typed X amount of pages or written X amount of words per day. This can be quite a daunting idea for some us and for others it can honestly be nearly impossible. If we don’t have a set schedule at work it can be very hard to try and have a set schedule with out writing. This can lead us to breaking any type of schedule we may try to set. That’s not good at all.

Other of us (myself included at times) don’t like trying to demand ourselves to meet a certain deadline. Granted we may sometimes be under contract and actually have a deadline, but that doesn’t mean that we can just force ourselves to vomit out a certain amount of work just because it’s what we say we need to do. Part of this can be fixed with the inspiration I so love to write about. Even while typing this I am listening to music on my old Mp3 player to make sure I stay motivated despite the feeling of inspiration that I’ve had today. I have used the music on this player to help me write and focus on my craft for so long that I’ve had to change players three of four times because I’ve worn some of the others out and just ran out of room on one.

But we do want to continue performing our craft at the level we are now and we do want to improve. We may find it hard, or even impossible to do that if we let the world get in the way of our productivity. Yes, it’s Monday, and yes that means we are going back to work and/or school and are feeling the typical mourning over the loss of the weekend, but Mondays can be positive as well. Mondays can symbolize the beginning of a whole new week of work. This can be the week where we tackle that hard chapter and vow to gain something from it. Or maybe this is the week we complete that particularly hard painting or song. Maybe it’s even just the week we convince ourselves to pick up the tools of our trade and produce SOMETHING. Mondays can be real downers. They can kill our spirit and motivation and bring us so low that we don’t even have the ability to produce anything at all that week. But they can also mean a lot. They can be the day we start the ending to our latest novel, or start that new painting, or the day we start writing our own music instead of just learning what has already been done. Monday may come at the worst possible time, but it can also bring us a never-ending realm of possibilities. Don’t waste them!!!!

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 ways to broadcast yourself!

One of the most important things to any up and coming author or artist of any sort is finding an audience, reaching your audience, getting your name and work out there. However you want to phrase it, that’s the issue. In honesty, it shouldn’t be as much of an issue as it is, given today’s society and technology, etc. But that’s really where the problem comes into play. Not only are there a plethora of people in the world today, there is an untold number that want to be artists and writers and all manner of things. Unfortunately, however, there are so many ways and places one can be placed online or advertised online that it is easy for others to overlook them, and in turn overlook their own opportunity and so forth. I want to share a little bit of information that I have found somewhat helpful in the last few days especially; blogging having your work advertised on other sites makes an unequivocal difference. One of the best things to do on blog sites, actually is to network and share. Which is where I think we could all help each other here. We need to share each other’s work and blogs and everything that we can. This will help each and every one of us to reach a new network of people, and if those people are asked to do the same, soon we will be in the presence of audiences we never could have reached on our own!

Recently I have submitted my work for display on two very important and high-traffic literature sites in the hopes that it will help spread my name, and so far it’s worked fairly well. I encourage each and every one of you to do the same. Goodreads.com and Authorsden.com are great places to advertise your work.

Another thing that is immensely helpful, as I’ve said, is blogging. Ask other bloggers to share your work and your sites and give you reviews. If you have shares, reviews and a fan base, others will be attracted to your work. I really want to help everyone here, so I’m going to extend the first invitation. If any of you would like me to share your blog, a portion of your work, or even just mention your name anywhere in my own network, please let me know. All I ask is that the favor be returned. Share my blog, my website, my name, anything and everything you can in your network and we will share the links with one another so we can see how many people see it. This can seriously start a chain reaction if we treat it right and can lead to a great number of us getting in the market in a great way. One of the biggest things we absolutely have to remember is that we are indeed a team, and teamwork is sometimes exactly what it takes to move mountains.

So there is your challenge, fans. Tell me you want me to boost or promote you in my own network, and do the same for me and we will both reach a broad new fan base. In addition to promoting you, I’m going to go further and commit that anyone who shares my work and I see it or get a link for it, etc. you will receive a free copy of my next publication, just because. Here is the link to my Author’s Den profile for your own viewing and to give you all an idea of what to put in your own.
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?id=183154

Just to refresh your memory. The ways to reach new audiences;
1) Broadcast! Talk about and share your links and work anywhere you can
2) Author’s/Artist’s profiles; there are a number of web sites that exist only to help promote the starving artist- use them!
3) Coordinate; Help each other, advertise for each other, promote each other. Become a family and work together for the better of everyone
4) Blog; Share your work on your blog, share your blog on other sites, and especially reach to bloggers (particularly professional bloggers who a lot of people listen to)
5) HAVE CONFIDENCE AND FAITH! You have to believe in yourself and your work in order for someone else to do the same. Be proud of your work, it’s who you are. If you love it, others will too. Just share it and spread it and help spread that of your peers and let them do the same for you and let the fear of inadequacy or failure or whatever it is you’re afraid of melt away.

As always, thanks for reading and comments are very welcome. Please share my work and allow me to share yours, it really can change a huge number of lives.

The Avoidance of Inspiration-killing Stress

Authors can seriously be crippled by the lack of a proper atmosphere. This is a huge helpful tip for anyone who hasn’t figured out the full deal for themselves, and a great pointer for someone currently trying to figure out how best to do their work.

Step #1; Find your happy place. Overlook the cliché of that statement, it holds vast truth and importance. You have to find where the you write best. It may be somewhere quiet, it may be somewhere loud, it may not even be the same place all of the time, but you have to use it when you find it. While the place may take some time to find, you’ll definitely know it when you do. It will be the place your writing comes most naturally and easily, and where the flow of your words is best. The atmosphere must be perfect to get optimum work, for a lot of people anyway. Granted that, as much as anything else, can vary from person to person, it is something that absolutely must be paid attention to. Your work area is your happy place, your safe place, your haven, and it must fit your standards to the finest points. Whether you like it quiet or loud, bright or dim, crowded or completely empty, it must be the place that most helps you do what you do best.

Step #2; You must find your time also. Most people can write at nearly anytime, but there will be a certain time of day (not necessarily an hour or minute per se, but more a generalization like morning, dawn, dusk, afternoon, evening, night) that they find their work absolutely at the top of its game. This must be taken advantage of. That is the best way to deal with your day, and can even be a great stress reliever in itself. Just finding what time works best for you gives you an idea of how you can literally schedule your entire day around your writing and get top quality work without having to edit as much (which always helps in the end).

Step 3; Utilize every second of your time. Setting up a schedule will definitely help this, especially if you have taken the time to follow the first two steps. Going to your ‘happy place’ at the time that you have found to be your best work period is going to make you feel you have become increasingly accomplished in the craft, and help to complete your project as quickly as possible.

These steps are probably fairly generic to most people, but they can still be very helpful to new authors, and we can all admit that it never hurts to be reminded of such things. Life can cut its way in on us and ruin our mood and inspiration. Stress has killed more books throughout history than book burning protesters have, most likely, and we have to do all that we can to fight it at every turn. These steps will help most authors on their way to success (or at least completion of projects), and I really would like to hear what you all think about them. If they have helped, let me know. And if they haven’t let me know also, and hopefully you’ll share why they have or haven’t. And if you have any more tips definitely leave them in the comments, and of course you will get all of the credit. I look forward to hearing from everyone.

-Damean

Dealing With Fraud

This will be a fairly short post I think, but one that is going to help a lot of people potentially. One of the biggest things you need to be on the lookout for as an author, especially if you are looking into trying to use online resources to get your name out there, is fraud. There are countless websites and individuals out there who would love nothing more than to take your money and leave you high and dry, and worse off than you were to begin with. If you are searching for online publication you have to be very very careful about who you trust.

One thing that is very beneficial to you in this field is caution. Google, although perhaps not the absolute most reliable 100% of the time, can be your best friend here. You need to Google the name and stats of any person or website you are considering before you entrust your work to them. If they are fraudulent there is a good chance you aren’t the first person they’ve tricked- but they’d love you to be next. An easy way to tell if these sites or individuals are trying to pull one over on you is whether or not they try to charge you before even looking at your work. This is something that can easily be forgotten when you’re being given a great pitch, believe me. I recently fell victim to one of these too-good-to-be-true situations and very nearly wasted my money trying to get somewhere with it.

Research is going to be your absolute best friend as you are starting out in this business, and a very reliable companion once you’re name is out there. Success can be ruined by falling into a scam. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone of you anymore than I want it to happen to me, so take heed here. 99% of the time Professionals will not charge you money to read your work, and they will not ask for a fee just to talk to you or give you opportunities. Do your research and enter this with caution, or you may well end up at the bottom of a deep dark whole of scam and trouble.