December Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life announcement and this month’s book!

Hey there friends and fans, I have to apologize for posting this so late, but it has been a crazy week. I know you all were expecting April’s book club announcement on Tuesday, but I was working on getting paperwork and everything in order so I could make another announcement. Many of you know that I have spent the last year as a county reporter for my local newspaper. During that time I have written stories on everything from local government meetings to the return of a once regionally extinct species of fish. I learned a lot during that time, but I have now accepted a position in another area that promises to be equally rewarding.

Beginning April 12 I will be a Communications Associate with the Barter Theatre. Those of you in the U.S have probably heard about the theatre, but for those that aren’t or haven’t; the Barter is the State Theatre of Virginia and has a very rich history in Abingdon. It was founded in the 1930’s and offered local farmers the chance to trade some of their excess vegetables in lieu of cash for a ticket to a play. It has always been a really amazing place to go and I am beyond excited to have the opportunity. In this position I will be doing a lot of social media marketing and interacting as well as working with advertising and general media information for the theatre. I’m excited to see what awesome things await! I hope some of you will be able to come visit the theatre and give me a shout ahead of time so I can say hello!

On another note, next week is also a big deal for me because I will be presenting my work “Lefty Smith and the Right-Handed Corn” at the opening night for this Spring’s issue of Jimson Weed, the journal I used to manage. This piece is one that I really enjoy, partly because it is my first published attempt at including local folklore in a short story. Of course this legend is completely fabricated, but it is still enjoyable to me. The event will be held on April 11 at 6:30 p.m. on the campus of UVa-Wise if anyone in the area wants to attend!

Finally, in the interest of keeping this post fairly short, I’ll tell you about this month’s book. I think the idea works very well, since the movie adaptation of this particular book comes out at the end of the month. After looking at a number of dystopian and semi-dystopian possibilities, I chose Dave Eggers’ “The Circle.” This book, published in 2013, follows the life of Mae, the newest employee of the ever-involved Circle. The book highlights Mae’s journey through an increasingly transparent life as The Circle breaks into every possible means of modern technology, even getting to the point where people are convinced to wear body cameras 24/7 in the interest of making their lives known to the public. The book explores a lot of themes, but heavily focuses on whether or not all of the convenience and involvement introduced by The Circle is actually an advantage or a problem.

As one more aside; the revamping of my collection is coming along nicely and I have decided to include some additional works, including some exclusive, never-before-seen work! I will hopefully have a rough version of this work ready in the next month or so, and I may well seek out some beta readers! If any of you are interested in that possibility, just let me know and we’ll get it figured out!

I think we’ll have a great month with this book and I look very forward to discussing the work! I apologize ahead of time if I post a little sparsely as I adjust to the change of employment, but fortunately I won’t have to deal with a 100+ mile move this time! I hope you all have had a great beginning of April, and I look forward with speaking to everyone about “The Circle,” the job, or anything else. As always, share this far and wide to get plenty of eyes on it!

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!

The Inspiration of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huge Announcement and New Work

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

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

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

Lefty Smith and the Right Handed Corn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ ‘He was dead?’ ”

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

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

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

“ ‘Lefty?’ ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have no idea,” I told him.

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

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

“ ‘Quite hot,’ I told him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Trying Harder

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

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

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

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

Collection is Published!

Hey guys, I am deeply sorry for my absence, but with school, work, life, and all of the stresses I’ve been really stretched thin. But I somehow found the time to finish this collection and put it on Amazon! Please feel free to lend this book from your device to another device; I’m really jut trying to get my name out there and showcase my work as much as possible. Anyway, enjoy!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Reaper-other-tales-ebook/dp/B00FSJX8DE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1381579729&sr=8-2&keywords=damean+mathews

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

Working on a Masterpiece (part 2)

As I mentioned before, passion is a very crucial thing when it comes to writing. Your passion will make your audience love your work even more, which is going to help you in the long run of course. But another bit of caution I must throw out there in relation to this fact, and to the first half of this post has to do once more with rejection.

There is a very good chance all of us are going to be rejected at least once at some point or another and we must learn the best way to react. There are a number of ways rejection can happen, just as there are a number of ways we can take it when it does (and yes, one is likely going to rely on the other). One thing that you must not do, however, is despair. Rejection does not mean your career is over. Not by a long shot. You have to keep trying. You’re never going to get published if you don’t get your stuff out there. That is one of the truest things I could say to you, really. You have to try and spread your work before your work can reach the world, and I have to remind you again; the world deserves it. If you don’t send your work out there, it will never get the chance to gain an audience. Rejection does not mean that you are a failure by any means. It just means you have to try all that much harder. The world deserves it, your work deserves it; You deserve it.

Your reaction to rejection is a very deciding factor in your career. You can’t just receive a rejection letter in the mail and then throw your work away and quit. That suggests that writing was never really anything more than a route to fame; which is usually the air mark of someone who wasn’t really destined to write anyway. Your rejection may give you a chance to fine tune your work and turn it into something even you didn’t imagine it could be. There are many possibilities for improvement that are presented us, and we can’t take every rejection as a shutting down of or a direct attack on our work. That will only lead to bitterness and a loss of the real essence of the craft, which is shameful. Too much has been done to the art of writing over the years for those who are meant to continue the legacy to join in on the cheapening of the craft, but alas that too is a different post.

Largely the point of this post is going to be summed up here. Passion is typically the ruling factor in things of the heart, which is what real literature is; a direct line to the writer’s heart and soul. We are all going to be passionate about our work at some point, and many of us are going to be passionate about all of our work all of the time. That is why it is crucial for us to keep a level head when we feel our work come under scrutinization of any sort. If we react harshly it could basically ruin our potential career. I’ve heard of people who have been rejected who’ve gone off on the person who rejected them, taken helpful criticism as cheap shots to their work, given up on the craft of writing and even destroyed their work. This is the exact opposite of what we as authors should do. We, who are supposed to be lovers of the craft, should respect it, and by respecting it we should be able to handle criticism and opinions of our own work and actively work to fix whatever problems that may exist in order to better honor the real art of writing.

My next post will, I think. be about maintaining the sanctity of our own work when under criticism, and making sure our work remains our own. As always feedback is welcome in any form. Hope this was helpful.