9/11; How One Day Changed The World

Fifteen years ago the world was rocked by the news that planes had struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia and a field in Pennsylvania. Just under 3,000 people in New York lost their lives in an act that is still under scrutiny by many, but that is not the point of this post. I’m sure you’re all aware I have my conspiracies about a number of things, but this is not the time. Those who lost their lives never had the chance to really consider who had put them in such a situation. They just knew they had to act if there was any chance of staying alive.

I remember the day fairly clearly – well parts of it. I remember being in school that morning and feeling like something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just felt something wasn’t normal. I was in fifth grade at the time, with more innocence than many fifth graders have these days, thanks to such acts, and my school pretty much left the decision of making the announcement in the hands of the teachers, from what I recall. I know, one way or another, that my teacher did not tell us what had happened. Being a kind, old-fashioned woman, I imagine she was still doing her best to shield us from the harsh reality that awaited us. Or perhaps she just thought it best to allow our parents to describe the situation to us.

Of course, the secret couldn’t really be kept. Some teachers did tell their students what happened, some even letting their students watch the news while the stories broke. The rumors spread between bathroom breaks and lunch break, one student who was friends with someone in a class that heard the news getting the scoop as best they could before passing it along. Before long we all knew that something had happened, but none of us at that time had the capacity for understanding how to describe just how bad it was.

After school I waited for my mother to pick me up, and heard the workers in the daycare programs talking about it in sort of hushed tones, as there were a variety of age groups gathered around. Still, I gleaned what I could from the conversation, not knowing exactly what buildings had been hit, but picking up that some planes had crashed, one not too far from my Virginia home. Once my mother arrived, the severity of the news began to sink in. She worked for a government agency at that time, in a production company that made parts for night vision goggles, missiles and mining equipment. She told me that many people had been afraid they would also be hit, adding to the panic she had felt. The radio produced a steady stream of news reports of bombings, fires, rescue attempts and a steadily rising death toll.

Once we got home I remember doing my homework and trying to study and read and write while my mother watched news reports that repeatedly showed video of the planes striking the World Trade Center, which I finally recognized as being one of the most memorable parts of the New York skyline. Reports came in of possible retaliation, and eventual bombing in the Middle East. Still with the videos coming in, the reports of death, knowing that many people had lost loved ones in the tragedy, there were two things that really brought it home to me and made me realize just how massive this was and how much it would change the world. They may seem odd, but many of you may also understand.

My mother insisted that we ride out later that evening to get gas because many reports were saying prices would begin to go up, some even suggesting a possible shortage, I think. I remember sitting in the passenger side of the car as we rode through our hometown, trying to find a gas station with lines short enough to wait in. Dozens of cars were lined up at every station we found, as everyone around us had heard the same thing we had – this was, I might add for anyone younger than myself, the last of the $1.00/gallon or less gas prices in our country – and wanted to fill up as quickly as possible. I don’t know for sure why this drove it home for me, but it was very shocking to see that sort of thing in my normally quiet town.

The other thing that really made it sink in was the radio reports that I heard while trying to sleep that night. For a bit of background; music is and has always been a huge part of my life. For many years I would sleep with the radio on all night, and eventually got a radio I could program to go off at a certain time and then be my alarm clock the next morning. Music has always been something that I use to make my life greater. That night, however, things were very different. On the Country station I listened to (I’m not that big of a country fan these days, but I was a product of my location) there was a heavy mix of news reports from all over the world about the event and the reaction to it and a barrage of exceedingly patriotic music (including, if I recall, at least one version of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American”). On the rock station I listened to they played a lot of regular music, but it was often interrupted by news reports, sound bites of people crying and sirens. I think the sirens remain one of my most disturbing memories of trying to sleep that night.

As much as I hate the cliché way it sounds, I think I lost a good portion of my innocent view of the world that night. My mother told me at least once during the evening that the world as we knew it was over. I didn’t have a clue what exactly that might mean, but as the next 15 years shaped me and made me the man I am today, I think I have a clear understanding of it. Looking back at how things were before that day – a task which, for me, largely just means looking back on the 90’s – I almost can’t fathom that the world used to be a much easier place to live in. People used to care so much more about one another and be so much more free with their security measures. I will never again walk up to a building with a bag and be certain it won’t be searched. I will never be able to run into an airport ten minutes before a flight takes off and be able to make it onto the plane. My children will never know what it is like to take a plane from one place or another without having their entire person searched relentlessly. My children will never get to see a (recent) movie about New York and see those two, gallant towers dominating the skyline.

I could go on and on about what has changed since that day, but I’m sure those of you who have read this far have probably had enough, as many of you may remember life before the events that shaped the future of U.S. Homeland Security. I would like to hear what you all remember about the day. Leave me a comment below or send me a message sharing the story of your day on September 11, 2001. Were you near one of the sites? How has your life changed since that day? I would love to hear from you and I would really appreciate it if you would share this with anyone who has a story to tell about the day.

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. Not that hard, 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 45 hours a week (getting paid for 40, but again, that’s life), come home and spend at least that much reading and watching a little television. 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 I begin to consider my 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 and had some pretty awesome experiences. 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!

Light up the Darkness

A lot of things have happened in the world in the last week, and most of it hasn’t been very good. The hate and intolerance that holds us back as a species is still running rampant in our society, and it is something I don’t often address. I try to stay out of public affairs and generally avoid discussing things of this nature because I have a very strong opinion on the matter. I believe in love and peace. I believe in loving what we love and not having to hide who we are, no matter who we are around. Despite my sometimes near crippling social anxiety when it comes to being in a crowd, I still love making sure I have the opportunity to share my opinions – something which many people, even in the 21st century, are still persecuted for.

The world reacted roughly when acts of terrorism were announced in the last month; bombings, looting, a night club shooting that left 50 people dead just because someone didn’t agree with whom they loved. And the past week has been similar. In case you haven’t caught the news in your part of the world, a young black man was killed earlier this week in the U.S. by police officers in what can be considered nothing short of police brutality. Many people reacted harshly, calling all cops corrupt and racist, allowing the hate that has kept us back for so long continue to rule their lives. That hate led to a sniper opening fire on police in Texas and taking the lives of five officers who put their lives on the line to keep others safe.

While those matters are terrible, something that hasn’t gotten a lot of mass media attention is the fact that there were also two shootings in my part of the country within 24 hours of one another. The first, taking place early Thursday morning, claimed the life of an innocent woman who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That woman worked for the same newspaper that I work for. She was killed in cold blood while on the way to work, while four others were injured by the same shooter. The next day someone reported being shot by an unknown assailant for an unknown reason. Why? Why have we allowed ourselves to be bogged down by the senseless hate and racism and every other pointless thing that does nothing but cause pain?

I’ve been thinking on this for a bit and I think that one of the biggest problems is that we don’t address it unless we have to. In everyday life, when there hasn’t been an assault, a shooting or an act of terrorism, how often does racism and hate come across your mind? Even if you have a prejudice against someone, be it over race or not, how often do you look at yourself and say “wow, that’s racist/prejudiced?” Not at all. Because unless someone has performed an act that complies with the extreme ideas of racism and hate, we sweep it under the rug. Humans don’t want to live in misery and fear. We want to enjoy life and act as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way we live, even if deep within us boils a cauldron of hatred.

Realizing this got me thinking a lot about light and darkness. A bit cliché, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I thought about the difference between happiness, which is light and hatred, which is obviously dark. We look at the world with blinders on more often than not because it is easier to believe everyone is happy and there are no problems with anything than it is to look at the problems and try to find a solution. This leads to things like hate and racism being stored away to be ignored until we are forced, by some tragedy, to address them again. This lead me to thinking of the things that grow in light vs. things that grow in darkness. The concept might sound overly simple when saying it like that, but it does make sense.

If you put a plant in total darkness, does it flourish? No. It might struggle on feebly for some time, but it can’t be healthy because overall, most plants need sun to live. The same goes with love. You can’t shut it away and never use it. It won’t last. It needs exposure, it needs fresh air, it needs to be EXPRESSED.  But hate… you put hate in a dark corner of your soul and pretend it doesn’t exist and it will thrive. It will grow and grow and consume everything until you are full of the hatred that leads to innocent people being gunned down in the street.

So often we want to look at ourselves and say that nothing is wrong with the way we think or feel, that we are fully happy and fully right in our way of life. But do you avoid certain people because of what they look like or what they believe? Racism and prejudice aren’t just about killing someone who is different than you. It often starts just by thinking “that’s different. I don’t care for that.” But that can’t be the case, can it? Just because you instinctively cross the street if you see a black man walking towards you, or you wait for the next elevator because the woman who just got on this one is wearing a hijab, that isn’t racism, is it? Yes. And it’s the denial of that fact that leads to the problems in this world.

We can’t go on acting like it’s OK to bash someone because of how they live. That is not human, guys. You can’t wake up one morning and give change to a homeless man and then go home and talk about how dumb your neighbor is because he buys a new car every year. That’s hate. You can’t say that the person who hung a black man 70 years ago was racist and then call a black man you see on the street a thug because he dresses differently than you. That’s not how life should work. We can not keep acting like being different is wrong. You are not going to find a single person on the face of this planet who likes everything you do in the same way that you do. That would make us all robots.

We have the free will to make out own choices for a reason. God put us all here on this rock and said “Love thy neighbor”. Are you loving your neighbor when you walk down the road and badmouth someone for having darker skin than you? No. Are you loving your neighbor when you drive by a mosque and think about how ridiculous the people inside look as they pray facing Mecca? Absolutely not. It is one thing to recognize that someone is different, but it is another thing entirely to feel they are inferior because of it.

This is an issue, people. It is not something that we need to continue letting go un-discussed. Racism will not go away until we stop hiding it. We are all on this planet together and it is meant for us all to live in peace. We can’t do that if we keep pretending we don’t have a problem. People are going to keep dying if we can’t learn to accept that everyone is different. That’s all it takes. We need to look at the world and say “there are over 7 billion of us here, and not one of us is completely alike. And that is perfectly fine.” Until we learn to do that, innocent lives will continue to be lost and pain will continue to be felt. I will leave you with a quote from one of the best human rights advocates I’ve ever studied; Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley.

“Light up the Darkness.”

That is what we have to do. We have to look at the world and look at ourselves and stop hiding what issues exist. If we have a problem with someone due to race, religion or anything else we have to stop acting as if that is normal and OK. Because it is not. We have to shine a light on those bits of darkness and accept that we have an issue with something. And then we need to find a way to deal with it that does not involve violence. Taking the life of someone we don’t agree with is not a solution. We have to find a way to live together in peace. As much as I hate to say it, in times like these I see a group of leaders like those in “The Giver”, and I think they may have had some good points. They did away with religion and race and even the ability to see color – because mankind couldn’t handle it. Unfortunately with that went the chance for individuality, opinion and emotion. Is that what we want, people? An existence that is literally just that? This world, this life, is precious. For everyone. Not just the people you agree with. We have to learn that before it is too late.

Light up the darkness.

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 knowing that I wanted to make some changes and set some goals for myself .

I 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. 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!!

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 graduated college twice. 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/

Halloween Collection!!!

Just as a reminder on this most epic of holidays, I have been featured in a very awesome Halloween collection of shorts and I would love for everyone to get it and let me know what you think. Below are links for both a paid and free version of the collection (the free one is in PDF format) and I would love it if everyone would get it, share it and read at least my story (because I want you all to love it) and let everyone know about it. There are a lot of authors in here who really deserve the recognition, so let’s help them out!!!

FWG Presents: Hallowe’en Drabbles (FREE FICTION)

http://www.amazon.com/Jack-o-Lantern-Tales-Treats-Tricks-Halloween-ebook/dp/B00OZ1SI36/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414763282&sr=8-1&keywords=Jack-o-lantern+tales+of+treats+and+tricks