Back from The Dark

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Welcome back to Blunderstone Rookery, my friends. The absence was not planned and certainly not welcome, but no matter the circumstances surrounding the pause, it has now become another chapter in my writing journey–a story in an of itself, I am finding.

But my absence from the blog is part of a larger issue I have been facing–an absence from writing. It’s a personal chapter that I will simply call “The Dark.”

The Dark

I think there is a moment–or several moments–that occur for all writers where the momentum stops, the characters fall silent, and the creativity dries up.

No more words.

No more world building.

No more story to tell.

Only darkness in your mind.

I can’t pinpoint the exact day when I realized what was happening, but I do remember the scene: Spring of 2015–coming off another successful NaNoWriMo venture, and prepared to actually edit and shape this manuscript into a published novel–my debut. Finally, I would transition from writer to author.

Then the Dark descended.

7:00 am, an hour before work, lying in bed along in the dark of the early dawn, motionless, and worst of all–content.

Years of dedication to the craft, hours of brainstorming, creating, and revising, and all I could do was stare at the ceiling fan. The next day it was the same routine; the next week and month followed in the same fashion.

It’s not that my life had slowed or become uneventful. Quite the contrary. I had a new role at work and had even started graduate school that summer. But as I lie there enveloped in darkness, I understood that the busy schedule wasn’t to blame. This was something else entirely; I had always made time to write during the busiest times in my life.

No, this time, I was done.

No passion, no desire, and worst of all no need to write.

The void was real and it was massive. I say “was” but in some ways, I’m still bridging the gap between my dreams and my reality.

Through the Dark I looked for a light; my previous fires having slowly died out over the years. It was this quest for a spark that kept me from giving up entirely. I stayed active on Twitter, started this blog, and interacted with the finest writers and storytellers the internet has ever known (even if I felt like I was largely wasting everyone’s time). The support kept me afloat as I waded through a sea of apathy.

What makes apathy worse than doubt? With doubt, you never really believe in your ability; with apathy, you have seen what you are capable of, but aren’t concerned with making progress. You become caged, trapped in a cycle of disdain for your own ideas and effort.

It’s taken more than a full year for me to begin shaking off the Dark. This post is an attempt to start writing regularly, expressing my thought and fears constructively, and sharing my creativity with those who find it worthwhile.

I’m still not certain why the Dark took over or why I allowed it to strip me to within an inch of quitting altogether. But in hitting that point in my writing journey, and with nothing left on the outside to motivate me, I learned a valuable lesson:

Sometimes all you have left is your dream, your soul, and a pencil.

And sometimes…that’s enough.

Write on my Pen Pals–the world needs your story–and mine.

Cheers,

Matt

Getting to Know: Matt Orlando

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Another fantastic writer tag from my good friend Mollie Wallace over at Mollie’s Musings. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter. You’ll be better for it: promise.

In this “getting to know you” tag, I’ll answer 25 questions that are apparently on your mind. Let’s get started, shall we?

  1. What is you middle name?
    Lee. I share it with my maternal grandfather—a man who sadly passed away before my mother was born. Proud to carry the name on in his honor.
  1. What was your favorite subject at school?
    High School: U.S. History
    College: Single Camera Production
    Grad School: Audience Insight (1 part anthropology, 1 part psychology, 1 part marketing)
  1. What is your favorite drink?
    Non-alcoholic: Black coffee
    Alcoholic: Old Fashioned

coffeeold fashioned

  1. Favorite food?
    An Orlando family recipe: Chicken and pork chop spaghetti
  1. What is the last thing you bought?
    Another semester of grad school.
  1. Is there anything I should know?
    I feel like at this stage in my life I should know more about who I am—but that journey seems to be on-going. I’m not sure if it would ever be good to solve that mystery.

thinking

  1. Favorite color?
    Orange—the more electric, the better.
  1. Do you have any pets?
    A cat named Eli and a dog named Bella. The latter is my ghost detector—when she’s not hiding from thunderstorms.
  1. Favorite perfume?
    Not an expert on perfume, but I do enjoy the Vineyard scent from Yankee Candle, does that count? It’s how I imagine a villa in an small Italian village smelling in the Fall, as a cool breeze drifts through the open windows causing the curtains to slow dance in the evening.

    Annnnd, I’m back.

  1. What was the last picture you took with your phone?
    Out on a jog, looking for inspiration and I found it:

baseball

  1. Do you speak any other languages?
    Some Spanish, but my goal is to become fluent in Italian.
  1. How many siblings do you have?
    One older brother.
  1. What is your favorite shop?
    I don’t do a lot of shopping, but I could spend hours in a fully-stocked Lids.
  1. Favorite restaurant?
    Texas: Growing up and now when I visit my parents–Casa Ole; Tex-Mex that is more comfort food than gourmet dining.
    Michigan: A fantastic pizza place at an Amtrak depot called Silver Beach Pizza. Look out and see Lake Michigan and the beach.
  1. What phone do you have?
    iPhone 6
  1. How tall are you?
    Just over 5’ 10.
  1. Can you cook?
    I’d say so, though I’m a little out-of-practice as of late. Working to perfect that family recipe I mentioned earlier.
  1. Have you ever been stung by a bee?
    Three times that I can remember, most recently about four years ago—on my right ear while hiking at a local park.
  1. What is your best childhood memory?
    Not a specific moment, but my first year playing baseball. I was the catcher, and my team made it to the city championship game. I’ve been in love with the game ever since.

catch

  1. How would your friends describe you?
    Depends on which one’s you’d ask. I think most of them would say I’m quick-witted, kind, but with a streak of stubbornness. Leave a comment below if you’d like to chime in. We’re all friends here.
  1. Watch TV or read?
    TV to help dull my mind after a long day; reading to inspire my creativity.
  1. eBook or Paperback?
    Paperback all the way. I’m slowly adopting ebooks.
  1. Plane or train?
    Trains: Slower, but it gives you time to relax and think—you know, when you’re not surrounded by people who had a few too many the night before.
  1. What is your definition of family?
    The people in your life—not necessarily bound by blood—who make you a better person and who always find a way to make you feel at home (physically and emotionally).
  1. Why did you choose to be a writer?
    After failing at art and music, I finally found a way to express my feelings, opinions, and observations in a way that challenged my creativity—and it has changed my life.

Hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better. Have additional questions? Want more explanation on those listed above? Just ask in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to satisfy your inquisitive spirit.

Cheers!

Matt

Celebrating Charles Dickens: The Best of Times

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When I start to discuss Charles Dickens and his many accomplished works, the reaction usually goes something like this: ugh! Charles Dickens—I had to read that in high school.

That? Yes, that. One of the greatest authors of all time reduced to a demonstrative pronoun.

Today marks the 146th anniversary of his death, so to honor Dickens’ contributions to the literary world, I want to take a moment and explain this about that.

That story

It’s difficult to identify which of Dickens’ novels was most influential on society, which was his true masterpiece, or which had the most memorable characters. But, I think it’s fair to say that A Christmas Carol is the story many of us connect with on a variety of levels; greed, remorse, introspection, family, friends, charity, and of course the magical, transformative power the Christmas spirit has on the human spirit. Not only did Dickens give us memorable words like scrooge and famous quotes like “God bless us, everyone” or “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year”, but he gave future writers a phenomenal lesson in how to create (and describe) the ultimate anti-hero: Ebenezer Scrooge.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.

That word

To say Dickens had a way with words would be the understatement of a lifetime. He not only wrote with masterful description, he also invented words when those that existed didn’t quite get the point across. Here are a few classic Dickens originals:

  • Butterfingers
  • Abuzz
  • The creeps
  • Devil-may-care
  • Flummox
  • On the (a) rampage

What’s the perfect word to describe something in your story? Maybe it hasn’t been coined yet. Challenge yourself to take risks with words and context clues to give your readers an original experience.

That commentary

Beyond the colorful characters and creative words, a Charles Dickens novel will contain social commentary of the Victorian age—specifically on the treatment of orphans and child abuse, the poor, and those who were condemned to serve time in debtors’ prison.

In a letter dated from 1858 to his friend Wilkie Collins, Dickens wrote:

“Everything that happens…shows beyond the mistake that you can’t shut out the world; that you are in it, to be of it; that you get yourself into a false position the moment you try to sever yourself from it; that you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the best of yourself into the bargain.”

Who can forget his description of little Oliver Twist asking for more gruel from the orphanage’s cook:

Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity: “Please sir, I want some more.”

 

When I think of what it means for a writer to “write dangerously,” I think of that. That idea, that mentality, that word, that character, that story…

That author.

Cheers,

Matt

Sunshine Blogger Award: 11 Questions

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Ah yes, just basking in the glow of…well, I’m not sure exactly (sunshine?), but for some reason I can’t resist the urge to pose knowingly into the distance while actually looking at absolutely nothing. Bonus points for the mysterious silhouetting.

But enough about me, let’s get on with the blog that’s…oh, 11 questions about me. Hmmm. A gracious “thank you” to the fantastic, the talented, the always enjoyable Mollie Wallace over at Mollie’s Musings for including me in this tag challenge. So, without further ado, here are my 11 questions:

Uno: Do you have any tattoos? If so, details please—who, what, where, when, why and how. If not, would you ever get one? Do you know what you’d get?

A quick check…annnnnd, no. The answer to 1 is 0.

giphy

So now the question becomes would I ever get one, and what would it be. Here’s the thing, I like the idea of tattoos, and respect the heck out of people who can commit to a design, but I prefer the option to opt out at a later date if I start to get buyer’s remorse. So, my ideal temporary tattoo design would be something fierce like THIS!

lion

Or you know, a bunny or something.

Due: What’s the first thing you notice about a guy or girl?

This is going to sound lame, but I’m fine with that: smile, then eyes. For me, a smile is the window to the heart and the eyes are the windows to the soul. Together, they show (not tell) me the personality of the person. It requires you to pay attention–not in that creepy YA way of staring–but in the attentive way that allows you to pick up on the slightest flicker of truth in someone’s face. You know, the truth that prevents most of us from being stellar poker players.

Tre: If you’re the hero, what does the villain look like?

Hands down, this is my favorite question. Alright, let’s see if I can articulate an answer that does this inquiry justice. In my case, I honestly believe that the villain of my story is my reflection. Think about it: there are an endless number of outside antagonists that exist during our lifetime (e.g. bullies, bosses, friends, lovers, strangers, Mondays, etc.). But the single greatest thing that has the power to challenge me, torment me, speak uncomfortable truths at me, and get the best of me is…myself. If I’m the hero, I’m also the villain.

Quattro: Three fun things you’d want with you on a desert island (nothing practical please :p)

  1. A green light saber (pretend to be a Jedi, plus cool to use in the dark).
  2. A copy of Treasure Island (might as well think like a pirate).
  3. A Slip-n-Slide with ramp–like these guys!!

Cinque: If you could create a creature from scratch, what would it look like? (*cough* Tom Hiddleston)

I love mythology, so I think it would be a Pegasus that means business…part war horse, part never having to wait in a TSA line ever again.

pegasus

Sei: Do you believe in soulmates (romantic, platonic or both)?

A resounding–both! I’m not sure how else it’s possible to explain being completely in sync with someone else. Life has a funny way of leading you on a path to certain people: the ones who have a way of touching your soul, and who transcend space & time, your conscious & subconscious, and life & death.

Sette: If you had to work with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

Bridget Solstone from my 2013 NaNoWriMo story Terra Nullius. She’s got a rebellious streak that I admire, and a realness that inspires those around her to never accept their own status quo.

Otto: What’s the craziest thing you want to do and why?

Spend a month going all Man vs. Wild in the woods. I have zero survival skills, but the resulting adventure has a magnetic draw.

Nove: What is your favorite word? Least favorite?

Most four letter words are my favorite. Let’s be real, few things are better for the soul than a good ol’ fashioned swear word. Least favorite? cancer.

Dieci: What’s the last picture you took on your phone or camera?

My view from a local library on Sunday.

lib

Undici: List someone you know and describe them in five words.

My grandfather, who has been gone for 18 years, but has never left my heart.

Strong
Loving
Patriot
Selfless
True

paw paw

Those are my 11. Thank you Mollie, for including me in this awesome tag. I sincerely can’t thank you and Holly Evans enough for keeping this little blog active while I finish out grad school.

Keep the creativity flowing, my friends, and never ever stop writing!

Cheers,

Matt

20 Facts About Yours Truly


I was tagged by the wonderful, the fantastic and all-around talented, Holly Evans to take part in this friendly challenge…and who am I to not oblige? Hopefully this is as entertaining for you as it is completely bizarre for me. Take notes, there could be a quiz later.

Without further ado: The Randomness of Matt.

1. I have broken both my legs. Not at the same time: once when I was a wee lad of four (I was thrown from the top of a cardboard box–just trust me on this one), and once when I was 12 (roller skating, not much with the graceful).

2. Let’s keep this injury train rolling, shall we? Ever notice that scar on my left eyebrow: I tried to catch a baseball with my face. It won.

3. My favorite Disney villain is…Scar. We have a bond.

4. You’re all familiar with the Godfather books/movies, I presume, and Marlon Brando’s character Don Corleone. Turns out Corleone is a city on the island of Sicily, and the name translates to lion-hearted. My Orlando ancestors originated from that same city.

5. As a radio news reporter in 2007, I won the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Award for Best Documentary thanks to my stellar series leading up to and including the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

6. Lightning is the most awesome force of nature and pictures like this never get old (the Northern Lights are a close second).


7. On the topic of weather, a quiet room and a steady thunderstorm are my ideal conditions for creativity.

8. The name of this blog, Blunderstone Rookery, is a tribute to Charles Dickens and his novel David Copperfield.

9. I once had the local director of the FBI question whether Matt Orlando was my real name or just a “radio name.” Shouldn’t he, of all people, already know the answer?

10. I believe my Patronus would be a mule. It’s my nickname in vintage baseball, and perfectly fits my hard-working nature and….occasional stubbornness.

11. I play 1858-style vintage baseball.

12. I own my dog Bella for two primary reasons in this order: 1. Ghost Detector, 2. Loyal Companion.


13. The number 13 really weirds me out. That’s about the only thing I’m remotely suspicious about.

14. Austin Powers is pretty much me trying to reverse any vehicle.

15. Meet the Robinsons is a severely underrated Disney movie. Keep moving forward!

16. When I was 15, my dream was to be a Sportscenter anchor.

17. I have nicknamed my sketches ‘cave drawings’ because…stick figures.

18. I wore out my copy of Counting Crows: Across a Wire in high school.

19. Reading puts me to sleep, like within ten minutes. Should make for an interesting summer.

20. Nothing beats the smell of lilacs in the spring.

Well, that’s a wrap on my 20 fun facts. If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the list! Thanks for stopping by the manor.

Cheers,

Matt

 

A Look Back: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

  
Happy Thursday! Welcome back to the library at Blunderstone Rookery. Today we take a look back at a story that examines hope, determination, and the quest to become more than we are — through the eyes of a young bird. Join me as we explore the world of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

I’ll never forget the first time I read this remarkable tale by Richard Bach–mainly because it was only a few years ago. But even though I discovered it only recently, the impact this story has had on my ability to dream and imagine is immeasurable. Before we get into what makes Jonathan Livingston Seagull so inspiring, let me set the scene for you. About four years ago, I was having a rough day at work–struggling to find motivation, frustrated with my writing abilities, and generally searching for some of that new perspective we discussed last week. A dear friend of mine suggested I read a book she had recently finished–promising I would likely find whatever it was I was looking for within its pages. Grumpy and quite reluctantly, I took the book, waited for co-workers to clear out for lunch, jammed on my headphones, and dialed into one of those ‘sad’ stations on Pandora.

The book is less than 100 pages and many of them include black and white photos of seagulls in flight. ‘Fine,’ I grumbled, ‘I’ll make short work of this over lunch and get back to being ornery.’ Certainly not one of my finer moments.

I read the first page and tried desperately to ignore Bach’s beautiful descriptions: 


Before I hit the final word on the first page, something truly unexpected happened: a rendition of Slumber My Darling featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss began playing over my Pandora station. I’m not exaggerating when I say the entire office seemed to melt away as melody, harmony, lyric, and prose combined to create the most perfect reading experience I have ever had.

And then the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull continued as I hit replay over and over to keep the rhythm of music and words in time with the flight of the bird. I was swept away to the seagull’s home and felt a connection with this character that to this day is indescribable.

“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the albatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!”

“I don’t mind being bone and feathers, mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”

Jonathan’s journey, failures, and triumphs are heartbreaking and breathtaking. Feel free to give yourself an hour to read about a seagull’s story that is one of the best examples of the human spirit I have ever read. Bonus if you put Slumber My Darling on repeat. 

I look back at this book because it is a reminder to try and see more in ourselves and abilities–just like the shunned little bird who just wanted to know what he could and couldn’t do in the air. Whether it’s in our jobs, our writing, our creativity, or our relationships–Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s story reminds us:


Bach’s dedication page simply reads: To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all.

What is one of your favorite inspirational stories? Have you ever connected with a book in such a way that the world around you disappears? I’d love to hear about your experiences and recommendations.

Keep flying, my friends. Until next time…

Matt

Time, Creativity, and Passion

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Hello friends new and old–welcome to Blunderstone Rookery. Please find the most comfy chair in the parlor, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and let’s enjoy our time together.

Time

Speaking of time, it has been a villain of sorts over the past several months–keeping us apart with the tenacity of a father of star-crossed lovers. In some cases, time has blocked me from the manor so that I can focus on my studies. As some of you know, I began graduate school last August and have poured nearly all of my available time into writing academically instead of creatively. As of this week, I am halfway through the program and am steadily marching toward a May 2017 graduation date.

In other cases, time has served as a scapegoat to justify my absence as a creative writer. So, what is it that really holds me back from the art that I love? Doubt, fear, anxiety–and one some of us writers might not consider–creativity.

Creativity

Sounds strange that creativity can be a deterrent to creative writing, but it’s a reality that many of us as writers face. We’ve all benefited from and been held captive by creativity; the classic double-edged sword. Lately, my journey to create has come to a standstill, or at the very least a crawl.

Occasionally, a few thoughts and words will spark a fire of inspiration, but it is quickly extinguished by life. I have reflected many times on what has caused this sudden apprehensiveness to create. Why do I approach writing like a middle-schooler at his first dance? What’s wrong with me?

This week, I discovered the answer: nothing is wrong with me (okay, that’s somewhat debatable), but let’s just say my brain isn’t broken. I realized that sometimes we all need to step away from creating ( for days, weeks, or even months) in order to start experiencing again.

It’s not that my creativity was running out of steam, rather my unique experiences in life were becoming limited. I spent so much time searching for inspiration by reading, watching and trying to mimic others, that I forgot to stop studying the craft and start living, observing, and participating in the life that was happening all around me.

Not enjoying the passion for interests and people outside of writing was causing a creative failure.

Passion

Writers need to have a voice, a stance, a passion about something in order to create meaningful, emotional, and authentic stories. As much as I hate to admit it, daydreaming only takes you so far…the past only takes you so far. New passions and new people offer one of the most important resources to any writer–new perspectives.

You might be wondering: “So Matt, what’s this new passion of yours?” I honestly don’t know yet. But I do know that I won’t discover it if I don’t stop relentlessly pursuing experiences that are now ancient history. How many times am I going to retell basically the same story? In some ways, the act of discovery has become my new passion. Places, people, sights, and sounds.

Going forward, the BSR Blog will continue to become a main part of my week. Only by describing new observations and experiences can I hope to recapture the creativity that fueled my early writing. I’ve learned you don’t need to write every day–but as writers, we should observe something new every day.

When we nurture those experiences, creativity will begin to bloom and new adventures will present themselves as a blank canvas ready to be filled in with the brush strokes of a ballpoint pen and the full color of an active imagination.

So raise a glass with me, as we toast–Time, Creativity, and Passion.

And new Perspectives.

Cheers,

Matt

 

Writer Bucket List

It’s been several months of isolation here at Blunderstone Rookery as I focus on my education, however the summertime looks promising for a return to sharing my thoughts and experiences with you.

So what has caused me to break my silence? It’s simple: sometimes all you need is something special to spark your creative thought processes again. I owe this particular assist to the lovely and talented Mollie Wallace from Mollie’s Musings. She recently tagged me in a challenge to identify my Writer Bucket List. At once I grabbed a pencil and a notebook and began jotting down some thoughts. So a tip of the cap and a permanent seat by the fire for Ms. Wallace here at the manor.

I invite you to get comfortable in the Parlor, sink into a squishy chair, and grab a pint of port as I share with you some of the dreams I have as a writer; my Writer Bucket List (in no particular order).

1. Have someone tattoo my words on their body

This one has been on my list for quite a long time. I honestly have no idea why this is so appealing to me as a writer. Perhaps it has something to do with the boldness of the act itself, and that the reader would find the words so powerful as to never want to part with them. Plus, it’s cool as hell!

2. Receive a formal rejection letter

It sounds weird to want to be rejected, but that will be the moment I know I’m serious about becoming an author. The rejection signifies the next step of the writing journey, and one step closer to a “yes.” It will also mean I have completed the sometimes agonizing drafting and editing process, and have officially put my little darlings out into the vicious wild world.

3. Sell one book to someone I don’t know

Anytime you tell a non-writer friend that you have begun writing a novel, there are the usual requests for free copies of said story once you “hit it big.” Not that I’m in this to make money, not at all, but it would be cool for someone who is grabbed by the story itself to take the time to purchase and discover my work–and hopefully not trash it on Goodreads. But even that would be a small victory!

4. Sit next to someone reading my book

Similar to #3, it would be so awesome to be sitting next to a total stranger on a plane, train, or in a coffee shop who is reading my published works. This thought came to me last week as I was sitting on a plane next to a gentleman who was immersed in a book for the entire three hour flight. Maybe next time it will be my story.

5. Coin a word or phrase

This is such a “be careful what you wish for” bucket list item. Perhaps I should amend it to “coin a cool word or phrase” because the possibility exists that I end up being known as the writer who tried to make “fetch” happen.

Mean-Girls-stop-trying-to-make-fetch-happen

That aside, can you image one of your words or phrases sneaking into Webster’s? Jiggy, anyone?

gettin-jiggy-wit-it

6. Inspire imagination and creativity in fellow writers

Ok, so I’m getting a little sentimental with this one, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I talked about the power of words back in the #1 item (tattooing), but I think the only thing stronger is the power to inspire creativity. Have you ever been so influenced by someone’s written words that you go full daydream? Now that’s taking your work to a whole new level.

7. Go from “Writer” to “Author”

You hear it all the time when building your brand: “don’t call yourself an aspiring writer, if you’re writing then you’re a writer.” Touche and completely true. However, there is a big difference between being a writer and an author–enough of a difference, in fact, that it keeps this writer with his head planted firmly in the clouds; searching for that one idea to rally behind, and creating lots of other fantastic stories along the way.

There you have it, my Writer Bucket List. No clue if I’ll ever achieve any or all of them, but the pursuit of the goal is half the fun. Keep writing, and stop by Blunderstone Rookery anytime. The doors are always open, and the fire and friendship is always warm.

Matt

 

The Stranger at the Manor

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News has been slow at the manor for several weeks now. I’ve kept the doors shut and have spent many hours out on the veranda – thinking. Day after day. Week after week.

A character has been knocking at the front door of Blunderstone Rookery, but I have denied him access. From the upper floors, I have watched him pace the grounds, seeking to get my attention – ready to tell his story.

He’s a curious sort of fellow, possessing a strong build but amiable swagger. I begin to wonder if I am an impostor; that perhaps this man is the true owner of Blunderstone Rookery come back to reclaim his estate. But, no, he explores the property with an almost childlike fascination. Far from childlike is his appearance. A rugged beard accents his jaw rather than hides it, and his shaved head is as smooth as his confidence. A tailored, full-length coat dances at his heels in the cool autumn air. He spies me perched on the veranda, and smiles.

I know this man. I’ve seen him before, but where? In the neighborhood? Out on a stroll? In a tavern? He turns and strides over toward the oaken front doors, raises a heavy hand, and knocks. The rapping echoes in from the parlor walls, up the spiral staircase, beyond the library, and out to the veranda. He’s seen me. I must let him in. But that’s when I realize, I already have.

He is me.

You don’t often find men talking openly about self-confidence, and in my case, body issues. But that is what I am facing. The stranger at the manor is the man I imagine myself to be, the hero of my own story. As a writer, I have created a number of male leads who are daring, bold, fit. Throughout my life, I have fluctuated between those three characteristics. For the most part, I have accepted who and what I am – knowing that my confidence and physical fitness levels come in waves.

This time, though, it’s about limits. I have reached my limits of acceptance and know that to implement any amount of meaningful change I must push past my physical limitations and lead a healthier lifestyle. Escaping stress and emotions through food and inactivity has to stop. I must greet the stranger at the manor as a friend and welcome him with open arms. Together we will face the demons who are soon to follow – knocking, knocking.

Early tomorrow morning, I will begin a new journey with a new character, a new hero – me.

Shock the world,

Matt

7/7/7 Writing Challenge…Accepted!

Sorry all for the lag between posts. Grad school has been good, but intense. But I’m glad to be back and excited about this post.

I was nominated for the 7/7/7 writing challenge by Jean at Miz Writer Lady and Eliesha at Sharpening The Quill and host of #stqwriterschat on Twitter (Sunday mornings at 9:30 CT). Do yourself a favor and check out what these talented ladies have to say about writing!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Find page 7 of your WIP
  2. Find Line 7 of page 7
  3. Share the next 7 Sentences
  4. Nominate 7 other writers
This is taken from my Work in Progress — Askers Well. The main character, Brenn Bailey is about to leave a behavioral rehab facility after spending three years locked away for a crime she didn’t commit. We join her in the lobby, as she awaits her official release:

Brenn remained fixated on the gargoyle. The human half of the face was heroic and noble. The reptile half was menacing and primal.

“It’s an ancient symbol.”

Ms. Marx’s voice jolted Brenn from her study.

“It represents the two sides in every human being—man and beast,” the head nurse continued. “Our job at the Brodsky Behavioral Enhancement Center is to slay the beast.”

There it is. Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into this story!

Cheers,

Matt