Every Day

Happy Friday! I hope this week went by swimmingly for you all. This is rather unexpected, as it came to me on a whim, but here is a surprise, mid-month book review! Recently I’ve been seeing the movie trailer for the upcoming release “Every Day,” and it has intrigued me in a major way. The concept as laid out in the trailer, of a person who wakes up every morning in a new body, a new person, with no solid life and no link to the rest of the world beyond that of their current host, called to me like crazy. I immediately knew I had to go see it. Needless to say, when I realized it was based on a book , I obviously had to read it.

As I’m on a strict reading schedule for the year I wasn’t sure when the opportunity would arise. Yesterday afternoon I saw the trailer again and was once more convinced I had to read the book, preferably before the movie’s February 23 release. On a whim I decided to check the OverDrive app, a free app that allows you to check out ebooks from hundreds of participating libraries (an app that I’ve obviously fallen in love with) for the book. When I saw it was available the choice was made before I even realized it.

I was immersed in the story from the first word. David Levithan’s story of this person, this genderless, identityless, familyless, homeless person bouncing from consciousness to consciousness every single day, never able to control the transition, the destination, is incredible. Obviously, if you haven’t read it, you may want to put a pin in this post and do that. As you can tell, it’s pretty easy to read the book quickly, since I completed it in probably a combined reading time of 6 or 8 hours. So, go read. I’ll wait.

Now, I’m assuming you completed the book and are ready for discussion? Good, let’s!

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is incredible. I do like my YA novels as well as most other forms of literature, and this book is a YA novel that reads like both classic and modern fiction. It is something that feels so natural that you sometimes find it easy to forget you’re reading a book and not just directly connecting with the thoughts of the main character, a loving but mysterious soul whose only identifier is the self-prescribed moniker of “A,” set up early in A’s 16-year life to give them (the most suiting pronoun) something to hang on to, something to anchor to to prevent themselves from going mad while bouncing from life to life with no control.

As I said, the concept is great. I was immediately drawn to feel sympathy for this character. As someone that puts a lot of stock in the protective and loving character of family, reading this tale of someone who has never been able to feel that solidity really made me invested in the book. A’s story is something that holds incredible strength, purpose, possibility, and much sadness. I loved the absolute unpredictability of the story as the reader is brought along with A to enter the lives of numerous individuals from all races, genders, levels of health, and family situations.

I enjoyed that we are brought in after A has lived this way for 16 years, no explanation of how or why they are living this life, and no certain answers of whether it is possible to stop or slow it down. We come into the story on day 5,994 in the body of Justin, who the reader is quickly ready to dislike. Before long we are introduced to shy, timid Rhiannon, who is the reason for everything that happens in the book. One thing I was drawn to throughout this novel is the undeniable feeling of love that A feels for Rhiannon almost instantly. As someone who has never spent more than 24 hours with any one person or group of people, the idea that such a powerful connection can be made almost instantly with Rhiannon is incredibly intense. Levithan throws A and the reader into this tale head first and keeps at it through the entire text, presenting a love story so complete, so without boundaries, so without restriction and full of possibility that it can literally leave you reeling.

I was enamored with A’s immediate connection with Rhiannon, their undeniable infatuation that even transcended Rhiannon’s connection with A’s host of the day, Justin. The description of A’s life being turned completely upside down by something as common as love is a concept that really put the world into incredible perspective. Knowing that this character, who has never had the time to experience something the rest of us take for granted and consider normal, is thrown completely through a loop by this one thing is extremely powerful. A running theme through this book that is lying just below the surface is that something as unbelievably thrilling as being able to bounce from life to life consistently, never having to worry about tomorrow, never having to face responsibility and knowing that no matter how good or bad your situation is, a change is literally less than 24 hours away is nothing compared to the unpredictability of falling in love. It’s something that you can get lost in.

I love the repeated mentions A makes of the experience they have had. Multiple times while speaking with Rhiannon as well as just reflecting on their own A talks about how they may not have had many consistent and average life experiences that a 16-year-oldĀ  would normally get, but that they have had countless experiences that are typically lost on individuals. The concept of getting to experience life from more than 6,000 sets of eyes in more than 6,000 settings and more than 6,000 family situations is both liberating and exhausting to me. I like to live my life thinking that every day brings us something new, but this expands on that concept to a point that I feel like I have trouble wrapping my head around it. It is just another of the many reminders of how small we all truly are.

Levithan touches many times on the concept of homosexuality and love, repeatedly speaking through A’s point of view while living in the bodies of males, females, transgender individuals all of varying sexuality. Here he touches heavily on the concept of humanity versus gender and identity. A feels just as much love for Rhiannon while in the body of a female as they do a male, just as much passion for this one girl while in the body of someone she’s never met as they do while in the body of her boyfriend of over a year. This speaks volumes to me. Many people in the world today have very differing ideas when it comes to sexuality and ‘normality’, right and wrong, and average and ‘weird.’ But A knew none of that. They knew just as much as they felt from day to day, minute to minute, and what they knew above all else was a love so intense that it literally transcended all else.

In my opinion anyone who reads this book can learn invaluable lessons from it. As a straight, white male born into a middle class Christian family I admittedly haven’t had to face much adversity on the forefront of my love life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it. Having friends of different sexual preferences, different identities, from different backgrounds, I do my best to be understanding of every situation that can present itself to my peers, but nothing could have prepared me for the raw description in this book. Levithan doesn’t stand up and turn this book into an in-your-face statement about love and life and acceptance, but I feel like it can definitely serve as one. A repeatedly tells Rhiannon that they have never felt like a boy or a girl themselves, they’ve only taken on the identity of the body they inhabited that day. Even with that explanation we see Rhiannon’s hesitation to consider anything beyond the standard she understands, reminding us all of the classic view of the world’s typical attitude toward anything that doesn’t seem “cookie cutter” and average.

With this book so fresh on my mind and so high on my list of must-reads, I’m hard pressed to find much about it that I wasn’t impressed with. I would have liked a lot more explanation, or at least possibility about who or what A is, and how their life is possible. Of course, that could well be coming in the follow-up text this October. Throughout the book there are hints of possibility that A is not the only person with this gift/curse of freedom and experience. I would love more of an explanation about that. I would also love a first-hand account of someone who wakes up the day after A has lived in them. We get Nathan and Rhiannon’s explanations, as different as they are, but I feel like I need more. I would also be interested in a first hand POV of the experience the person has while A is running the show. I imagine we may get something of this during the follow up text “Another Day” that is out now. But since it’s not on OverDrive, I’ll have to make a trip to the library to find out.

I feel like I could ramble on if I wanted to, but I’d love to have more discussion with you all about your thoughts. Leave your comments about this book below and be sure to tell me what you think about the ideas in the text. Have you read the follow up from Rhiannon’s point of view? If so, how does it hold up? Did this book open your eyes in any way or make you think about the world? I hope so. A book that can make us think can change the world, right? I think that’s one of the most special things about this book. It reveals the importance of true, raw love. It shows us that nothing but love matters. Of course, if the world focused more on love than the anger and prejudice we are faced with daily, we wouldn’t have to have books expressing its importance, would we? Leave your comments, share your thoughts and tell me what other books you’d like me to review. Look for the series review of the Harry Potter books in April, and keep reading along with me!

The Gift of the Magi

As 2017 winds down, it is time to post the final review of the year!! I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful Christmas (or whichever of the awesome year-end holidays you celebrate) and made some incredible memories. Personally, my Christmas was celebrated a couple of days early with my family and my in-laws and many great memories were made. I am also ecstatic to say that I received a most excellent new leather jacket and a new laptop that has come in wonderfully handy in working on my latest project, a fantasy novel like nothing I’ve ever attempted. But the details of that will come in a later post!

Today we are talking about the much beloved story “The Gift of the Magi.” This story has long held a special place in my heart and the hearts of many due to its strong moral suggestions and the selfless acts presented by our characters, Jim and Della. What instantly strikes me about the story is O. Henry’s nonchalant way of presenting a view that life is basically little more than a series of sniffles, sobs and smiles “with sniffles predominating.”

That statement is an incredibly powerful view of everyday life, and its cynicism makes the actions of the characters all that much more memorable and interesting. Jim and Della, of course, are near to celebrating Christmas, and both have sacrificed something very dear to them in order to help make the thing dear to the other more beautiful. I find it most enthralling that O. Henry makes Della of such a pure attitude that, when reflecting on the watch clasp, she does not say anything about the gift making James more presentable or proud – she instead says the item is “nearer to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.”

To me that is the worth the world. Even in their poverty – having to sell their precious items to give each other gifts – Della still sees the worth of humanity and love over the material world. She is not at all concerned with the way James looks with his leather watch clasp, but instead wants something that is worthy of being attached to Jim’s watch.

A similar mention of humanity’s worth over the material comes from Della describing her hair. It is said that, if given the chance, she would dangle her hair out the window in order to depreciate the Queen of Sheba’s jewels. I absolutely love this. O. Henry presents us with a pair of characters who live life with an immense appreciation for simplicity. Jim and Della literally sell their precious things – Jim’s watch and Della’s hair – in order to give the other a gift to celebrate the possessions they love.

An act like this – a selfless sacrifice made in order to benefit the happiness of another – is a gift that we should all be so lucky to offer someone in this lifetime. Indeed, the author finds the sacrifice such a high honor that he compares Jim and Della to the Wise Men who crossed great distances to bring gifts to the Christ child, the original magi. It is the acts of selflessness, of love, of sacrifice that give us all hope. O. Henry knew this centuries ago and we, as a literary people, have been reading about it ever since.

I don’t have any negative comments to make about this short work. I could dwell on the magic of sacrifice and love for hours, but I think the most important thing to say is that we, as a people, should remember to always find more value in humanity and love than in the material world. We should always find ways to express our love to each other selflessly and stop putting so much value on things. In the end, it’s more often the love we shared that we will be remembered by, not the things we had.

Anyway, that’s the last review of 2017, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you’ve enjoyed this year of my book club, and I look forward to revisiting the whole thing next year. As always, I’d love to have your suggestions for future reads. I hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve and Day, and be sure to go into 2018 with high hopes, plenty of love and a smile on your face!!

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!!!!

Your Work, Your Audience, Your Knowledge

I know I’ve written on and touched on this subject a number of times, but it has once more surfaced in my mind and in my work. For any artist there is a very specific thing, or a number of things about which you are going to be most passionate and in turn, most knowledgeable about. This is what your subject matter should be. It seems a bit obvious, but the amount of people out there who try to write on something about which they are completely clueless is surprising and disturbing. You should never betray what you know and love. You know what you love, and more importantly you KNOW what you love. The things that you are inspired to write about are often going to be things which you have an outstanding knowledge of, because you already love them. Granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not going to have to do research on anything by any means. Just as much as you can have outstanding knowledge of or passion for such things as the specific laws of your hometown, you can also have a passion for a general subject, such as life on the beaches of North Carolina that you’ll have to do some research on for specifics. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, that is what you need to write about. Don’t listen to anyone who says that your desired subject matter is not going to sell. That’s complete crap. If you love, someone else out there is going to love it too, and even if it isn’t their favorite subject your passion will bleed into the work if you do it right, and they will feel that. Don’t think for a second your audience isn’t going to feel your love. If you are truly loving your work, no matter the subject matter, your audience will feel your passion in their hands and their very hearts while they read it. That is the mark of a truly great writer; make your audience FEEL. But that’s another post entirely. I just felt the need to remind all of my readers here that no matter what else you do, you HAVE to write your passion. A very dear friend of mine, and extreme supporter of my writing has given me some flack about my subject matter on a number of occasions, but afterwards he always stops me with a very serious piece of advice that I would like to share here before I go. Coming from a professional, published author (myself) and an even more successful likewise published author and member of one of the most prestigious writing guilds in the country here it is in my own words.

Don’t listen to others. Don’t write what others write just because they write it. You know what you want to write. You know what is in your heart, soul and mind. That’s what you have to write. You know it best. You carry it with you all of the time and you know it at a depth that others can only wonder at, but no matter how obscure the subject matter might seem you the world it’s yours. You know it and you love it, and if you put that onto the pages and into the work, the audience will feel it and then THEY’LL know and love it too. Don’t think for a second they won’t. That’s their job after all. You’re the story teller and they’re the receivers.

That is the best advice I can give anyone I think. I’m going to wrap up with a few more pieces of advice from my own mind and experience. Don’t forget these statement; they’ll get you far. Feel free to comment and contact me with anything you have to say and remember these pieces of advice. If you can’t provide them (your audience) with something to feel then there is no proper exchange. You have to feel it first and put those feelings into your work- put your blood, sweat and tears into the work, so the audience can feel them as well. Only then can there truly be an exchange of literature. If you don’t believe that, go back and read works from the Romantic Period. Those authors had true feelings that they spilled into their work, and no matter how much or how little you know about the subject, you’re enthralled because you can FEEL the piece itself. Feelings bring work to life. You have to remember that. So please, I ask everyone who has any sort of artistic passion, DO NOT work on something you aren’t passionate about. Don’t try to pass off dead work. You HAVE to give it life, you have to give it feeling and passion. That is the only way to bring literature, or any sort of art, to life and make it worthwhile for you and for the audience. Don’t ignore that passion that’s in your heart, no matter how much you’re afraid someone won’t like it or will criticize it. It’s your passion, and someone else WILL love it too, if only because they feel your own love within it. So don’t keep that from the world. It’s your job, your calling, your duty even to share this passion with a slowly dying and passionless world. We are the lifesavers, and we can’t let the world die with us. Remember that. Thank you all for reading.

My First Major Publication

I want to start here by thanking everyone who has supported me to no end. Your loyalty and guidance has meant more to me than you will ever know. I love you all and I want to remind you that without you none of this would be possible. I thank God for giving me this gift for words that I hope to use to make a name for myself in the world and hopefully inspire countless generations of artists to carry on the great and noble work. Thank you all again.

From there I go on to make my announcement. I have finally self-published my first major short story. It went live on Amazon Kindle sites worldwide a little before 1 A.M. this morning. Thank you all for being here to celebrate with me. I hope you will all follow the link and get your copy of this story that I hope is the beginning of a hugely influential and amazing career. Thank you all again, and as always feedback is more than welcome.

http://www.amazon.com/Reservoir-ebook/dp/B00ED1T5Y4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1375850563&sr=1-1&keywords=Damean+Mathews