Summer in a New World

Hello there, everyone! I hope this fine August is treating you all well so far. The world definitely looks a lot different than it did this time last year, and for many that hasn’t been the kindest change. The virus that has plagued our planet for the last 10 or so months has certainly changed the way everyday life looks in ways we couldn’t even have predicted.

For me, since last I spoke with you all, I have lost one job due to circumstances we are all faced with, and gained another. In about a week I will be entering new territory that I’ve been preparing for my entire life. I have accepted a position as an English teacher in a neighboring county and I will be covering classes at all high school levels. This is a dream come true for me, and brings me a level of excitement I haven’t felt about my career choices in some time. The chance to impart knowledge and love of literature and the written word to future generations is something I have wanted for longer than I even remember. It’s one of the reasons I believe I was created to be a writer and the main reason I feel such a passion for the word itself. Now, that chance becomes a reality as I embark on one of the greatest work avenues I have ever had the chance to enjoy.

In addition to this, I finally have seen some breaks in the creative wall that has hindered my writing so much since we entered Plagueland 2020. I have begun work on a series of stories involving pirates, the supernatural, and world wide adventure the likes of which I’ve never encountered. I already have such a knowledge and a working love of these characters that I can’t wait to share them with you all. I have laid down a few thousand words of their tales so far, but that’s nowhere near the end. Although I have found several gaps in the writer’s block that has affected so many of us, it still hinders me often. I am working hard to shatter that wall and push forward with these works, as well as the release of my novel “Moonlight” in the very near future. I hope to have some big news on those things for you all soon!

Even more importantly, the month of July gave me the happiest day of my life when I got to marry my absolute best friend and soul mate, and the most beautiful woman in the world. After changing dates, venues, guest numbers and so much more, we finally were able to join in matrimony with a number of our closest friends and family. The ceremony was beautiful and our lives as husband and wife have been nothing short of great so far. I look very forward to a life filled with adventure and love with this incredible woman by my side.

One thing I have learned over the last handful of months is that we really should never give up. When faced with adversity we, as a species (and as creatives, who some would argue are their own separate species apart from the average Homo Sapien) must double down our effort and push forward. In many cases that is not the easiest thing to do, as we all know, but the results can often lead us to greater happiness than we even anticipated. I know many of us have felt the urge to give up as life seems to crash down around us during this pandemic, but I am here to encourage each and every one of you to carry on a little further. Keep your head up just a little longer. The hard times are not here to break us down, but to give us come calluses and show us more about how strong we are.

In light of the absolute destructive nature of this pandemic on everything we know to be “normal” I am reminded of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is the technique of piecing together shattered pottery pieces with lacquer infused with silver or gold. Rather than hide the cracks and imperfections in the final product, Kintsugi emphasizes them, strenghtening the bond of the broken pieces with the beautiful gold and showing that adversity did not end that work of art. We will all be faced with hard times in life, but at the end of the day what really shows who we are is how we react to these challenges. Will we lay down and give up, or stand up taller and stronger with our golden calluses shining in the sun and push forward until we meet our goals?

I think I know the path many of you will choose. Creative souls, generous souls, helpful souls do not just lay down and quit. We don’t take no for an answer. “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” as the fantastic poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy said. Those who are placed here to make life better for others, whether you be artists, writers, musicians, pastors, therapists, educators, parents, or someone else who has a chance to encourage and inspire, know that challenges are things to overcome, not gates to bar you off from your path. As we approach another month of a very different world, remember that. If you’ve been knocked down by all the mess the world is in, stand up and force your way back onto your path. This isn’t the end. This is just another bend in the road.

I plan to keep writing, keep publishing, keep teaching, keep traveling, keep blogging, keep living my incredible life with my wife, and I look forward to sharing more of all this with you all. What challenges have you overcome in the midst of this different and unexpected summer? More importantly, what are you going to do to overcome those challenges? Comment away and, as always, feel free to share far and wide with anyone who may need a little boost!

Who I Really Am

My life has been filled with an uncanny love of literature, an unquenchable obsession with the written word, and a passion for the arts that absolutely can’t be rivaled. I have lived my entire life with a book in my hand, a pen in my pocket, and written words surrounding my every move. I have always been drawn to books and literature. The very thought of books ignites a fire in my heart like nothing else. I struggled for a bit in my youth with just what that meant for me, often finding myself reading where my peers were playing sports and writing in my free time when others were hunting and carrying on in their own way. More often than not I was the guy in school who would be seen with a novel as big as his head and more interest in the library than the gym or the football field. People often questioned why I loved books the way I did, and they often got various answers, but one thing always stayed the same, whether I voiced it or not; it’s who I am.

By the time I made it to high school and realized that I wanted to be a writer, another seed planted itself in my mind. My junior year of high school I found myself in Larry Hypes’s class. This was a man who had quite a reputation for being an excellent teacher at Tazewell High School – often noted as such by the various non-academically minded students who professed how little they liked his class. But it was here that I flourished. I found myself in the midst of literature I hadn’t covered before, and where new light was shed on works that I was familiar with, and something clicked inside of me. I realized, somewhere deep within myself that there was a whole new world of literature appreciation for me to embrace – in the form of teaching. I grew closer to Mr. Hypes through that year, finding his ideas often matched my own and his methods opened up the written word in ways I hadn’t experienced before. As I went through the year, reading and writing more than ever, the idea of teaching dug itself deeper in my conscious.

I had been asked about teaching before this, of course, and I had shrugged it off with little more than a thought. I was too young to know for sure what I wanted. I knew I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world, to experience the incredible sensations the world has to offer, and I wanted to make a difference. Teaching was something for old men and women, for huge brains with more knowledge than they knew what to do with and too little adventure left in their hearts to care. It couldn’t be for me. But suddenly it was in my mind, in my heart. During those formative years the idea remained, although buried by the urgency of graduations and colleges, by new novel ideas and dreams of publication. I continued to embrace the craft, feeling with new heights the impressive weight and passion of literature and the world. As new concepts were introduced to me by new professors, I grew more and more fascinated with the concepts that lived through the centuries, feeling sometimes that they were put down on paper and flowed through the ebb of time to plant themselves in my very soul.

I explored this new literature with a ravenous passion as the seed that had planted itself within me grew to new levels. Subtly allowing myself to accept the possibility of education, I entered the teaching program in college. The concepts and ideas brought a sense of calm to my mind where before there was a mild form of panic when I considered what career path I could embark on while seeking publication. In addition to exploring theories and methods of standard education I was allowed the opportunity to observe. The very word itself is a disservice to what I experienced. I was able to join educators in their pursuit, spreading knowledge to kids of various ages. I observed in a number of classrooms in a number of grades, and always felt the same things. Wonder. Passion. A desire for education that encompassed all else – perhaps not from every student, but no matter what classroom I was in, the feeling was alive. As much as this feeling enlightened me, I allowed life to get in the way. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say I put the idea of teaching on the back burner. Dreams were replaced with jobs. I placed myself in position to make money and allowed goals to slip into the background.

Recently, though, the urge to teach has raised its head again. The desire to spread my knowledge and love of literature to new generations has become such an immovable mountain within myself that I can’t ignore it. Each passing day brings new ideas, new elements of literature, new things I want to teach my future students. I can barely go an hour without having some new project, a new element of one of my favorite books or facets of literature that I can explain to students taking over my thoughts. It’s becoming more and more a yearning with each passing moment. My life is tied with literature, the art of the written word is fused into every fiber of my being, and nothing could make more sense than to share that passion with others. More than ever I want to give back to the world what my favorite professors have given to me. As the world changes, literature becoming more of an afterthought as technology rises to all new levels, it is ever more important to me to give it a voice. Despite its strong presence, the written word can’t pick itself up and introduce itself to the coming ages. So it’s up to teachers. It’s up to people like myself for whom the passion never sleeps. I will stand in the face of the darkness of the world and shed the light of passion on its battle-scarred face.

I made this post to let you all know that I’m on my way to doing something about it. I have started the application process to get my provisional teaching license in order to get the ball rolling. I allowed my dreams to sit on the shelf for far too long. Writing has been and always will be first and foremost. I am a writer by nature, by purpose, by passion – and in the same ways, I’m now all too happy to realize, I am a teacher. I let myself sit on this idea, this dream, this inexplicable desire, for far too long. I’m not afraid to admit that. I sought jobs and career choices that kept me in the written word and allowed me stay alongside of my desires, but now I am pursuing them all wholeheartedly. No more hiding, no more waiting. This is who I really am, guys, and I couldn’t be happier to admit that. I will be keeping you all updated as my pursuit continues. With any luck I’ll be teaching by the time the next school year starts and getting my life going in a direction that, until now, I’ve only dreamed of.

Book number four, and special announcement

Hey everyone! It’s that time again! I’m really getting back into being able to have book discussions with those willing to participate. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of these last few months and I hope things will start to pick up even more and we’ll get more interaction soon. Regardless, the time has come to pick up this month’s book.

This particular book was suggested by one of my former teachers and a woman whom I have the utmost respect for. Mrs. Presley, of Tazewell high School, made this suggestion because some of her students have asked to cover the book. The piece in question, another YA novel, is the 2007 work “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. This is a book that has kind of been on the back of my radar since it was part of the curriculum for a  YA college course a few years ago. I really look forward to diving into the piece, but I have to admit that it may not be for everyone.

The book details the aftermath of a girl who committed suicide. She left 13 tapes for those who are responsible for or contributed to her suicide. For those of you who may face emotional pain, it may not be the best book to read, but I think it can be handled if it is read with care. Either way, I look very forward to this book and the discussion that will follow!

In other news; I don’t know if anyone noticed, but this blog is officially over 100 posts! That is just awesome. I’ve been blogging for around four years in total (of course, not all of those posts exist here). Of course, it has been touch and go at times, and some months were better than others, but it’s been something I’ve worked hard at improving. In light of the great news of the blog’s development, I decided that it was high time for an extra special giveaway!

For those of you who may not have seen the news before, I have been working on revamping my existing collection with updated stories, and perhaps some new material. The plan after that is to put the newly remade piece on a different platform and finally get it put in print! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. Unfortunately I am also somewhat terrified of this prospect and have found reason after reason to put it off. But I’m done with that. I’m ready to get my work out to a new audience and see what else awaits!

In case you’re wondering why I brought this up again, it’s pretty simple. I want to give away that print book! Right now I’m planning to give away at least one signed copy of the book. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is like, comment on or share this post. The comment can be anything from giving me a book suggestion or telling me what you’ve thought about the blog in your time checking it out. Feel free to give me any and all suggestions on anything and everything you want. Everyone who does this will be entered to win an exclusive autographed first edition copy of this collection once it’s in print. I plan to run this contest until March 1, so we’ll have plenty of people to choose from!

Share this post far and wide to help me get the word out on both the book and the giveaway, ladies and gents! I look  forward to keeping everything going, and here’s to another 100!

Big Things!

Greetings friends and fans! I know, I know, absences of late have been dreadful, but what can I say? School and work have been taking a great deal of my free time, and what they haven’t consumed I’ve been spending working on a number of things ranging from my three jobs, NaNoWriMo, and life in general.

Number two in the list of awesome things I have to tell you guys is the most recent and the one that may not excite any of you (although I sincerely hope you’ll all check it out). I have started my very own vlog series, to give everyone a glimpse inside the life of a college author (don’t you just love it when they use the title in the work itself…) and to show my friends and fans who I really am. Too long have I remained just a voice in the black and white, a light in the darkness (at least to me), now I want people to really see me for me!! So here’s your chance;
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2EU_YW9qBDfFWAB01Nc6wA
Finally, the very exciting and next to oldest news; I have been asked to be a presenter at the 2015 Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Symposium at SWCC! The Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild reached out to me and asked me to do a presentation relating zombie, the undead and horror fiction to the Appalachian region. They literally told me that they feel I am successful enough in my genre that I am fully ready and capable to teach it to others! The feelings that gave me! I couldn’t describe if I tried! I was elated and honored and touched and moved and excited and scared…and so many other things! Anyway, more information on all of these things is to come, but in the meantime you have the link to my Youtube channel so please subscribe and view and interact all you wish! In case anyone might be interested in attending the symposium this summer, here is the link to that information; https://appheritagewritersym.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading and being a part of this, guys. I really hope you all participate and stay in touch!

Keeping Yourself Motivated

Everyone has that one (or more) thing that motivates them like no other. It might be something as complex as running for 5 miles in the morning, or it might be little more than a breath of wind through the leaves of a tree, but no matter what it is, it’s yours. This motivation is something that God instilled in you for a reason, remember that first. Secondly the thing that is really crucial is to figure out exactly what gives you that undying motivation that will allow you to write the next great masterpiece or paint the Sistine Chapel. It might be easy to find at times, but at others it might seem like you’ll never find it, and in these times the urge to give up may be great. Don’t. No matter what, if writing is really your passion you absolutely can NOT give up. Honestly that’s the case with any passion. Particularly one that others might not understand and ones that may not always just spill out effortlessly. However, it would be helpful in times of hardships to remember the times when it does pour out like water, but that’s another story altogether. You have to just sit down and get that motivation- even if it’s just from a memory of the thing that gives you that great inspiration. Not meaning to sound like a preacher here, but it really is the inspiration that moves us all. Yes, you’ll hear people say that if you’re a real writer you’ll write no matter what, and I’m not saying that isn’t true. That isn’t to say, however, that everyone doesn’t have that thing or those things that places the inspiration in your head and heart, it merely means that you can’t use a lack of inspiration as an excuse. Because some people do. There are those out there who use that as a crutch, saying that “I would write, but the motivation and inspiration aren’t there”. That’s shit. If you’re really passionate about something you’ll do it, plain and simple. Yes, it might be hard if you’re not feeling particularly motivated or inspired, but I find that, honestly if you push yourself just a little and get the ball rolling your own work can become the motivation you need to continue. You might look at that statement in regards to the rest of this post and say “well then what’s the point of all this”. The point is that yes, the path we as authors have chosen can be very hard, but it doesn’t mean we can give up. Inspiration can come at the drop of a hat one day and take hours to find on another, but the point is that we have work to do. Our voices deserve to be heard, do they not? We have a story inside of us that wants to be told so why should we place such a simplistic excuse on letting it out? You may also notice that I’ve used the words Inspiration and Motivation here somewhat fluidly and interchangeably despite their technical differences. That’s because, in my case at least, once I’m inspired I’m motivated and vice versa, therefore I think of the two as fairly synonymous. Inspiration or Motivation, whatever you prefer to call it, can leave a serious hole in your intentions when they aren’t there, I won’t pretend that they don’t. But you can’t let that control you or your work. It’s about you and what you want, what you know is best. You have to set out and take the initiative, and very often you’ll find that it leads to a determination that is just as helpful. We all have our little things that help us get started, and they can be very diverse even within ourselves. For instance, one thing that helps me get going- and actually helped me set the real path for my Maverip series- is a good powerful thunderstorm. Anything powerful and God given can give me that feeling at times. Another thing you might find is that your inspiration might change. This is completely natural. The work within you has a mind of its own, your characters often have very real voices, and just as much as our tastes change, so do theirs. What made them present themselves today might not tomorrow. It’s completely normal and actually very interesting in my opinion. So don’t fret if that is the case. That’s about it for this post. The main things to remember are that inspiration and motivation are very important to a writer, but you can’t use them as a crutch or an excuse. When they are there, it’s important not to waste them, and when you have an idea that is nagging to get out it’s important to listen. That might be the subject of my next post. As always, if anyone has any thoughts or comments, feel free to leave them, and if you have any suggestions feel free to contact me with them.