It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but rest assured my little elves are hard at work on goodies for you. Here’s an update.
The Organ Donor
The 15th anniversary edition of my first novel, The Organ Donor, is on track for a November release from Bloodshot Books. I went all self-indulgent with this one, penning a 6,000-word afterword for the new edition, laying out the whole sordid story about my real-life encounter with Chinese organ trafficking. The publisher hired the estimable Deena Warner to do the cover art and design, which I hope to show you soon. I’m again working with filmmaker John Johnson to foolishly spend any royalties I earn from this edition on a fun book trailer. (Watch past book trailers at this link.) More information about The Organ Donor.
The Dagger of God
The what?! What ‘chu talkin’ about, Willis? That’s right; there’s another novel in the sausage-making factory. This one is a trunk novel, a ghost story about the Civil War, Ku Klux Klan, and ugly racial violence. As if that’s topical. I enjoy reading/performing stories, so I’m trying something new: recording my own audio book. It’s been a fun experiment so far but fraught with frustrations as my basement office isn’t exactly a sound booth (chugga-chugga laundry machines behind me, and idiot felines scratching on my window screen), and my microphone picks up every breath pop, inhalation, and squishy lip parting that I make. Probably the most successful aspect of this venture will be the blooper reel. There’s also the challenge of keeping character voices distinct. My main character is a Southern belle who alternately sounds like Scarlett O’Hara or Matt-Warner-forgetting-his-character’s-voice. But when it’s done, I nevertheless intend to release it on the Amazon ACX platform and possibly on Youtube. If successful, it will make one long car trip bearable for you. Listening to an audiobook really is the best way to travel.
And on the personal front . . .
The website design business keeps the “busy” in business. I mean, day-um. Deena Warner Design continues to be in high demand for author websites. I’m also spending a significant portion of time working for First Arriving, a marketing firm in high demand for fire department websites. My writing career currently occupies the 530-630am hour most weekdays, and these two firms occupy everything else — that is, everything not taken up by my high-energy 6- and 8-year-old boys, who are scary smart.
On top of all that, I’ve become ever more entrenched in Total Defense Martial Arts, which provides boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu instruction to the Staunton area. Starting in January, I’ll assume primary responsibility for teaching BJJ to kids between 6 and 16. I’m also in talks with Staunton Montessori School to volunteer for two months as a self-defense instructor to 7-9th graders, teaching them the joys of escaping headlocks, bear hugs, and chokes.
That’s about it. Please stay tuned for all the happenings this fall.
I’ll be with the Total Defense Martial Arts team at Rockfish Valley Fire Department, on Rt 151 in Afton, Sunday starting 1pm doing jiujitsu demonstrations during a community fair. Drop by and see me get hip thrown about a hundred times! You might even get to choke me!
Here’s the Facebook event page. The occasion is the Kids Dream Foundation car, truck, bike & tractor trailer show to help sick and underprivileged kids and their famlies.
Here’s a video I put together about my friend Johnny Morales. I help him to teach the kids class at Total Defense Martial Arts. It includes a clip at the end of him kicking my ass. Enjoy!
My local newspaper, the News Leader, interviewed me as part of a massive piece coming out tomorrow about Staunton martial arts schools. The online version, which you can read here, has some sweet video of my instructor throwing my ass to the ground. No, I was not suspended from school growing up.
There’s a troubling myth being propagated in our national culture. It says winning — success — is everything. That if you lose a fight or other contest, you’re worthless. We saw this in the juvenile commentary after the Dec. 31 UFC women’s bantamweight bout between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, and we’ve continually heard this from our president and his sycophants.
I’m coming up on four years now as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on the mat applies to life in general. It’s that it’s okay to lose. It’s how we learn.
There’s a spirtual aspect to this if you’re a fan of Taoism. The yin-yang symbol is one of motion: the white and black halves tumble over each other, propelling each through the cycle of development. The Tao Te Ching says, “Yield and overcome; bend and be straight.” Because when I accept defeat, I release my ego. I acknowledge that someone else might be better than I am at a particular task, that someone might even be stronger or more intelligent. When I accept the Socratic paradox that wisdom begins with knowing that I know nothing, then I am ready to learn from others.
The opposite of this is someone ruled by ego. He whines and lies if he thinks he’s going to lose, and he swaggers and taunts when he wins. He gaslights when objective truths don’t serve his popularity. And he learns nothing. When this person is an average Joe, it’s a tragedy. When this person is a national leader, it’s a catastrophe.
There’s probably nothing I can do to solve the problems at the top of our government. All I can do is ride the storm out, spending that time teaching the next generation the equanimity it will need for actual success. In the meantime, I entertain the fantasy that Ronda Rousey and Hillary Clinton will set their sails in these winds of fate. So, you’re not a world-champion mixed martial artist, and you’re not a president. So what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Ride the sailboat to where you should be now.
Here’s me this morning.
Johnny Morales of Total Defense Martial Arts has published a cool video interview of me that includes training footage. It shows some of the fun we have 3 times a week. I didn’t start doing this until a month shy of my 40th birthday. It’s never too late to start a healthy lifestyle.
Total Defense Martial Arts has reprinted my first-person account of beginning to train a seriously difficult martial art in my 40s. A few things have changed since its first publication last year: I’m now a blue belt, and I hardly ever get injured anymore, but the basic sentiments about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s positive influence on my life remain the same.
This has been a thin summer for me news-wise as I’ve been loading the metaphorical gun with more stuff to fire at you down the road. Another novel is in the can and with beta readers, and I’ll soon begin work on a long short story that’s been commissioned by a specialty publisher. Mark your calendars for Oct. 1, when I’ll be a guest at Con of the Mountain in Clifton Forge, VA.
Here’s the newest stuff in print. Do yourself a favor, and check it out, eh?
On the personal front, family life keeps me busy. Here are some pictures. Enjoy!
Ever heard the sailing term “in irons”? It means your sailboat is pointed straight into the wind so that wind can’t fill your sails. The jib and mainsail luff about, and it’s damn-near impossible to get moving again.
Having your writing rejected or criticized can have the same effect. One of my mentees is dealing with that special hell of creative depression right now. My answer is what I would tell any beginning writer dealing with self doubt and rejection. After all, it’s what I tell myself every day:
Get used to it, because it doesn’t matter how good of a writer you become. People will continue to find flaws in everything, and it’s just a matter of deciding what feedback you agree with.
Writing can be a tough craft to get down, and the only thing for it is to keep trying. I’ve lately been analogizing the process to learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We recognize there that everyone has certain inherent attributes — youth or weight or athletic ability — that might make them more or less talented. There’s nothing to be done for that. But everyone, no matter how stunted or brilliant, still has it within them to earn a black belt through hard work. All it takes is time on the mat.
So we’ve all been there. Many of us often revisit there. I get rejected all the time, and it frequently leaves me depressed. Rejection sucks every time. But I’m in it for life, no matter the outcome, so I’ll keep trying.
Keep writing what brings you pleasure. Don’t worry about what genres they’re in or whether you’re writing in too many. Just do it until you find your own voice. Categorization will come later.