Archive for April, 2014

Music: Practical Spirituality?

This is a version of a post I did last year. I figured it was appropriate given our last discussion, on the sources of inspiration.

I appreciate practical advice. When I first stopped drinking, a friend of mine told me that sucking on a piece of candy (with real sugar) can help lessen the desire for a drink. I tried this and it worked.

Today I’d like to offer some practical advice in the spiritual realm. If that sounds like too much of an oxymoron perhaps you’ll forgive me on the grounds that I am motivated solely by a desire to inspire. Okay, I’ll stop rhyming now.

My suggestion: obtain a recording of Alessandro Striggio’s (1536/1537-1592) Mass in 40 Parts. Try to get your hands on the performance conducted by Robert Hollingworth, which is, in my humble opinion, the best available. The performance below is conducted by Herve Niquet. In addition to Striggio, it contains the music of Francesco Corteccia (1502-1571) and Orazio Benevoli (1605-1672).

One of my favorite things is to write and/or meditate to this music. For me it serves to restore order to my soul, and to get in touch with a higher, better part of me–whatever that might be called. May it help you as well.

Do you like to listen to music when you write and/or meditate? What music puts you in a different realm? I look forward to hearing from you.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

8 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 30, 2014 at 8:26 am

Categories: General Thoughts   Tags: , ,

Angel vs. Selfie?

angelLast week I purchased and read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles the subtitle promises. In the book he talks about that formidable foe resistance, and how it can keep us from practicing our chosen art.

One thing I like about the book is the distinction it makes between the amateur and the professional. The latter, Pressfield claims, is, inter alia, patient, acts in the face of fear, accepts no excuses, plays it as it lays, does not show off, doesn’t hesitate to ask for help, distances herself from her instrument, doesn’t take failure personally, and endures adversity.

A more controversial aspect of the book is Pressfield’s insistence that it is not the artist who is writing the book, making the sculpture, or painting the picture, but the muse or angel who actually does the work. The artist’s role is to take dictation from the higher source who, Pressfield admits, might just as well be labeled talent as anything otherwordly.

But there seems a genuine contradiction in the advice Pressfield offers. An artist, he says, must first show up and do the work, for starting, despite Tom Petty’s admonition about waiting, is often the hardest part. At the same time, however, we must allow ourselves to be directed by the higher source, which is more than present at the creation, but is the true power behind the finished work. But my question is what if we suit up and show up for work and the muse remains silent? What then?

selfieI like Pressfield’s book, despite this perceived contradiction, and I certainly recommend it. I feel it ranks among the best of the books out there on writing. But I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the force behind the artistic endeavor and what we might be able to do to make it speak.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

10 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 28, 2014 at 8:18 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

Addiction: A Valuable Resource

The following video is a trailer for Kevin McCauley’s “Pleasure Unwoven.” It is the best film I have seen in terms of explaining addiction and of showing how addiction is a disease. McCauley maintained a skeptical attitude toward the addiction-as-disease model, until further investigation and research showed him that addiction is a brain disorder. If you or someone you love has the disease of addiction, I strongly recommend the full video, which may be purchased on Amazon (among other places).

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Categories: Uncategorized   Tags:



corridor-sky--hallway_19-104567I became much more active my second year of community college. I joined the Politics Club and participated in voter registration drives, television coverage of local elections, and the National Model United Nations Conference. I was coming out of my shell and forcing myself to participate in life, instead of observing it like an unwilling bystander. Cribbs was mentoring me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. It felt good, really good, to be alive. I was still drinking heavily, but excelling in school and that’s all that mattered, or so I thought. Actually, I was motivated by anger more than anything, but it was constructive. I resented my home-life and I was channeling my resentment into work, though part of it was turned inward, as manifest by my drinking. It was a three-legged race to the dysfunctional finish line to see which of these two tendencies–the constructive or the destructive–would prevail.

I made the dean’s list in both the fall and spring semesters and was appointed Head Delegate to the Model U.N. Conference in New York City. However, at the conference, I drank heavily and missed a morning meeting with the U.N. ambassador whose country we were representing. Cribbs, who was running the show, was pissed, to say the least. He called me down to his room, ripped the Head Delegate’s pin off my chest, and said there wasn’t much stopping him from sending me home. I couldn’t blame him. Part of the reason I was drinking so much at the conference was my terror of people; I had to make speeches in front of hundreds of college students. This would’ve been bad enough, but I’d developed a terrible case of cystic acne on my face and back. I wore a layer of skin-toned Oxy-5 in an attempt to cover up the cysts, but it looked like stucco or topography on a map. It was horrible and excruciatingly embarrassing. Despite these obstacles, my community college delegation won top placement at the conference, one of my most memorable achievements.

Though it’s only supposed to take two years to get an Associate’s degree, I spent a third year at community college. I went part-time one semester, but also wanted to improve my grades by retaking the Statistics course I’d failed. It was also a waiting period. I desperately wanted to transfer to Vassar College for my junior and senior years and knew that, at best, I wouldn’t be accepted until the following fall. I worked hard my third year, made the dean’s list both semesters, and did the Model UN Conference in the spring. It was then that two monumental things occurred: first, I got accepted to Vassar; second, I entered into a long-term relationship.

I met Debbie through my friend Joey, who was dating Debbie’s best friend, Janet. The first time I saw Debbie she was playing tennis. Auburn hair fell in waves over her face, parted in the middle, and hung halfway down her back. She had mahogany eyes, a cute, small nose, pursed lips, and a sweet personality–shy and reserved. In some ways, it was the most mature relationship I ever had.

shadow-of-a-couple-holding-hands_19-132418Debbie and I dated for three years and I proposed marriage after two. Our relationship was only interrupted once by a hospitalization during the first summer after we met. I entered Vassar in the fall and became a slave to my work. It was one of the most productive times in my life. I promptly declared a major in Political Science and boldly stated the desire to become an international lawyer. I had no idea what an international lawyer did, but it sounded good. After graduating from high school, Debbie entered the community college from which I’d graduated, and majored in accounting. Our dates consisted of spending hours on end at the library.

I didn’t know how to relax and transferred all my obsessive tendencies to my schoolwork. As a high school dropout at a prestigious college, I had much to prove and felt less than on campus both academically and materially. I had neither the educational background nor the financial means of my classmates; they went to Aspen on spring break and I went to the pizza parlor. My academic success was fueled by such comparisons. While I wasn’t drinking, I was simply substituting one addiction for another–though at least schoolwork was more productive.  The fact that Debbie didn’t drink helped a great deal.

The Vassar campus is gorgeous. Gothic buildings and old brick structures look a little like brownstones in the city. Antique streetlights guard the walkways and cast a mellow glow over the surrounding paths. The library resembles a castle and an iron gate, sort of like a portcullis, monitors entry and exit from campus. There is a beautiful lake on the property, aptly named “Sunset Lake,” with a small footbridge across the shallow end. It was there that I first kissed Debbie. I walked for hours through this idyllic Eden, conversing with the ghosts of intellectuals. I felt like a pauper at a banquet. I tried to put as much distance between my family and myself and used the bridge to higher learning as the surest form of escape. I really don’t think I would have done as well in college if I hadn’t done so poorly in high school; everything I learned was new. And new is enchanting.

I became an intern in the Political Science Department and presented an award-winning paper at the Naval Academy in Maryland.  But I was motivated by anger more than anything. Now, anger can be constructive, if it’s channeled properly, but it only takes you so far. I ended up feeling exhausted more than accomplished, which is sad; for despite the fact that my intellect was developing and growing, I wasn’t–at least not emotionally. I seemed to be waiting for the time when I could relax and be a child, a little boy, since I felt robbed of a childhood. This feeling was so deep and so inextricably connected to my essence, that I didn’t even realize it then.

20140407_vassarcollege_largeI am convinced to this day that education saved my life and helped turn me away from the dark and desolate path I’d started down. One of my hopes, as I’ve expressed before, is that there be more education in rehabs and prisons. And loving grace; yes, please let there be more loving grace.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

1 comment - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 26, 2014 at 4:15 am

Categories: General Thoughts   Tags: , ,

My Interview with Nicole Maddalo Dixon


my picture

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I am a new author currently promoting my first traditionally published book, Bandita Bonita: Romancing Billy the Kid. In addition, I am working on Book II and have completed about 80,000 words.


What genre(s) do you write in?

My book falls under Historical Fiction, though the historical facts are quite accurate.


What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

I think most authors who write historical fiction have a tendency to rely more on the fictional aspect in order to create the story they want to tell.  But I had a certain objective when I chose to write this novel, and it excluded the use of simple fiction. I used fiction as a means of attempting to create a 3-D character of William H. Bonney  to help perpetuate the truth about him. I like to refer to my book as a “Bio-Novel” (a biographical account of a historical figure told in the format of a novel). I had a responsibility to Billy and others who lived the life of the story I wanted to tell, and so I bent fiction to meet fact, rather than the other way around. The main focus is on Billy with my female protagonist assuming the challenge of describing/discussing him to the audience, making an effort to explain not only what happened and how Billy’s legend grew, but also Billy’s personality, which is based on historical record and witness accounts. It was not intended to be a simple novel about Billy, but rather a key historical account told in a way that will hopefully achieve mass appeal in order to help bring out the truth of who he was and what he represented to a broader demographic. He’s popular enough, he doesn’t need my help, but I wanted to see if I could expand that popularity.


Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

I do have a publisher: Sunstone Press out of Santa Fe, NM


How many revisions do you make to something before it sees the light of day?

I revise as I write, and then when the product is finished, it goes through 2 more true edits. Afterwards, my editor goes through it and gives it back for me to go through 2 more times. So, in total, I guess it’s fair to say I give it 4 edits, excluding my editor’s own revisions.


Who or what inspires you to write?

I have wanted to write since I was six years old, and I have been writing since that age. I can’t explain what inspires me to write except to say that it is something very innate. I think I can say fairly, though, that it’s a fun escape and I enjoy creating new worlds. I’m probably very much like a musician who has to shut himself (or herself) away and play his heart out.


Do you have a set of writing goals that you try to accomplish each day?

No, I do not have a set of writing goals—I never give myself deadlines or any such thing. I write when the mood strikes me; I will never even think of touching my keyboard to write my work if I am not in that zone. If what you write is something you expect others to want to read, then it means giving it your best—you owe it to them and you certainly owe it to your work. That excludes, however, when my editor needs my work back within a certain time frame; then I have no choice but to have a goal.


Do you outline your stories or are you a non-outline person?

Creativity should have no boundaries, and writing is no different, therefore I am a non-outline person, at least so far.

That said, writing Bandita was easy since I am so familiar with Billy’s life. Before I decided to sit down and write my story I went over it again and again in my mind for three years, so I already had a great idea as to what happens first, second, and third. I did, however, need to check my facts, which I did in earnest, and that included making sure certain events happened before others. In that respect there were key points I needed to follow.


What is one thing about you that you’d like your readers to know?

That I write with great emotion. One of the things I dislike about reading some books is picking up on the flatness of the words (dialogue/narration). When I write, it comes from my soul–it comes from my heart, so what you are reading was well thought out and very meaningful. Never do I throw verbiage in my work just to get through it. Everything has to matter.


What are your three favorite books?

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (though I loathe Jesse James by Ron Hansen), True Grit by Charles Portis, and The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid by Bob Boze Bell. His book is written in outline format and he has illustrated it beautifully. I absolutely love looking through it. There are several other books of course, but these three at least pertain to my genre and are in fact three of my favorites.


Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King is my favorite author because he has this magnificent tendency to pull you into the hopelessness and despair of a dire situation with his writing. You really feel the horror that his characters are subjected to.


What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on Book II of Bandita.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

Well, of course it would be Billy. There is so much to learn about him that Billy aficionados would love to know.


What are you currently reading?

Currently I am reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.


What makes good writing?

Emotion. A good way to capture emotion is to spend time with your characters and learn to care for and love them so that you feel what they feel. This way their trials and tribulations matter to the author and it really comes through on the page.

Also experience. I don’t think anyone can really argue that understanding your own feelings under certain circumstances helps you relate them through your characters when you place them in particular situations.

Some writers will argue that technique and institutional education make good writing, but I disagree. I believe it can absolutely contribute, but heart and soul, and blood, sweat and tears are what make writing flow. I have never had any focused formal education in writing; I learned what I know from being an avid reader and life experience.


Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?

There are many themes and messages scattered throughout my book. A major one is the oppression of women during the Victorian era; my female protagonist symbolizes this point. Another, which may be a bit more subtle, is the detriment of lynch mob mentality and the damage it can do.  Something else a reader could garner is that sometimes things are not always what they seem; that the powers that be make the rules and the reports, leading good people to beliefs that may be incorrect.


How do you keep sane as a writer?

Well, it’s not always easy—it depends on how deeply you are involved in writing. Fortunately for me I am married and have my husband to help me escape. Writing is a very lonely endeavor, as well as it should be since it is the writer’s mind creating a special world. It’s hard to turn the writing switch off; even when we sleep it’s turned on. But to answer this question directly, I get in my car and drive.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Ha, Scarlett O’Hara, of course!


Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?

So many books have changed my life. Reading is so very important in general and if I hadn’t read as much as I have, then I wouldn’t have any idea how to write. But…unequivocally, it was reading Fredrick Nolan’s The West of Billy the Kid. I have been fascinated by Billy for 25 years, but reading his book got me started on reading other works on the Kid from him, as well as other books on Billy in general, which led me to want to write my own. And because of that, I achieved my lifetime goal of wanting to be a published writer.


If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called?

I sincerely doubt anyone could be bothered to write a book about my life, but okay, I’ll try and play this game. If someone were to write a book about my life, I suppose it would be called Handle With Care, ha ha  ;o)


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Yes, my sanity!  In addition, I work an eight hour day job and I write when I get home and on weekends. So maybe I sacrifice weekends and those relaxing moments after work though it doesn’t feel that way. My heart belongs to writing.


What obstacles, if any, have you encountered in being a writer?

Oddly enough, I haven’t encountered too many obstacles at this point. I wrote my book in about 3 ½ months (remember, it took 3 years of planning it out mentally before I wrote it), and was fortunate enough to be published within a month and a half. Since my life revolves around writing and planning a career with it, I have yet to consider anything an obstacle—there are just simply things I need to do to reach my goal.  I guess, however, it would be fair to say that marketing yourself is an obstacle in and of itself. Or maybe more of a speed bump.


What do you like best/least about writing?

What I like best is creating new worlds; people, dialogue, situations—having my characters play out interesting scenarios and resolving issues.

What I like least is the frustration that comes with constantly having to double-check my facts, especially when I must do this several times in one sitting. I also dislike the loneliness. I’m a bit of a shut-in when I’m concentrating on my writing. I can’t remember the last time I went out with my friends. I do see my family a lot, though, so it’s not as if I’m a complete hermit. I also dislike having to wait until my product is finished because I’m usually raring to go and get it published, but unfortunately, taking one’s time is a necessary evil.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Be prepared to do the work and don’t slack off to present a reader with half-assed work because you don’t feel like going through the motions. If you choose to write, make sure that it’s what you really want to do because it’s a difficult endeavor. If you love to do it as I do it’s all worth it and you deal with the adversity that presents itself with grace and accept it as part of your calling—you are willing to fight for your story when it’s rejected time and time again.

But if you aren’t sure about writing, you will run into snags and hardship and may abandon your effort. Writing is a very, very hard task. If you love it, you’ll handle it with ease. If you don’t, then it’s not for you and you may want to begin thinking of something else. If you plan to write, just know it isn’t any cakewalk. And don’t expect others to help you out—be prepared to be on your own. Be prepared for the loneliness that comes with the territory. Most people, your friends, and even family, don’t want to discuss your roadblocks or ideas, and they can’t understand what you’re going through, so realize that it’s just you and your words. But I can promise you that the achievement is completely worth it. Remember: Not many people can write a novel. Many people only wish they could.


What is one question you wish I asked, but didn’t?

What is it that got me into writing about my subject matter, though that may not be very important at all insofar as this interview is concerned.


Please share your social media links with us:

Publisher: Sunstone Press



Amazon Author Page:

Twitter: @NikkiMDixon

Facebook Page:

Facebook Bandita Page:

Facebook Author Page:



True West Blog Site:


Thank you NICOLE MADDALO DIXON for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.



I am sixteen. Taking me toward what was to be the inevitable conclusion of my maidenhood was the Union Pacific railway, seeming to speed me along to this undesirable milestone after a wearisome, long steamship journey around the eastern coast to the Gulf. Smoke from the cigars and cigarettes of the other passengers caused my eyes to glaze. I blinked. A tear fell and rolled down my cheek, surprising me. I was stronger than this, or so I thought. I had been planning for this, albeit against my will, for all of my life. Sixteen years’ worth of wrapping my feelings in an emotional corset of whalebone and repeating over and over that I was meant for nothing more than what my family wanted. I was a pawn in a game that God himself seemed to have created for me, and His will should not be refused.  The thing about whalebone though, it hurts.

I wiped the little tear away. No more came. Wheel against track sang me a lullaby and I allowed it to lull my mind into some other place in some other time where I could do as I pleased.

Along with me came my governess, Colleen. I loved her more than I loved my own cold and distant mother. Colleen cared for me for the last ten years, since leaving Ireland after her husband passed away from cholera. She was only twenty-one then. Though I did not know him I grieved yet for her silently. Outwardly, I had a role to play, and I was not to yield to governesses as if they were contemporaries, but alone with Colleen, I learned I could behave as freely as I wanted, and just between us two, when I was younger, I could laugh and play childish pranks which Colleen only played at being irritated with. But she never spoke about her husband, and I took my cue from her silence on the matter, never asking her about something so personal. Yet in the books I read and kept secret from my family, books which were considered refuse among my kind, where love was rampant and passionate, and women swooned for men who caught them, I imagined that this is what it must have been like for her and her husband. I romanticized them, holding each other tightly, in love. The same sort of love I had wanted and prayed I would receive when I came of age and it was time to do my duty for my family and marry a man of their choosing. I prayed so very hard that he would by chance be a man with whom I would fall hopelessly in love, and he with me, and we would live a life of happiness, fulfilling both my dreams and the plans of my family.

I wondered if Colleen still thought of him, her husband; if her heart was cracked beyond repair, for she never loved another, not to my knowledge. She still wore her ring. Though I had never experienced love outwardly, I certainly had inwardly. It spread like wildfire from the chest throughout the limbs making one weak with bliss.  In my books I was the heroine, and the male protagonist the lover who chased me until I could stand it no more and must give in to him and my own desire. I wanted it to be like this for me, but alas, it was not.

I knew these romantic dreams of mine were merely childish whimsy, entirely impractical and purposeless in life, so instead, I was to marry a man whom I did not love; a man who exemplified valuable credentials, and I was to marry him in a place far away—the one variable I had never considered; to wed a man and live by his side in a place a far from home—a place of which loathsome stories of horror were told. Indian massacres, brothels full of diseased women who gave their bodies to mean men for a meager sum, men who shot each other dead in the street over a suspected cheat during a game of poker. Is this really the life my father wanted for me? No…it was what he wanted for his already considerably vast bank roll. I was hardly a thought in the matter.


I stepped onto the back porch and saw a boy sitting next to John in the buggy. His head was down, his clothes fairly soiled and coming apart at the seams in places. His boots were well worn. The brim of his hat was tipped low; I could not see his face in its entirety, and when he stepped from the buggy he kept his head down. I could, however, see that his hair was flaxen considering it was much too long and unable to be completely concealed beneath his hat. I would have wagered that each of the soles of his boots were a stitch away from liberating themselves.

John stepped down and walked around the front of the cart until he was standing next to the boy.  He looked up at me and introduced the stranger. “Elucia, this is William Bonney.” Lowering his face mischievously before jauntily adding, “The thief who took my horses.”

Judging by his youthful appearance, I wondered, was this truly the boy who had stolen John’s horses?  And if so, why on earth would John want to offer him a place here at his home, trusting him with his property? I was annoyed and upset that John should not think of my safety, placing me in close enough proximity to a creature such as that. I should not be made to feel so uncertain in my own home. The west was a truly remarkable place, accepting and entertaining such scoundrels. I would have guessed that such a slight, tender aged boy, who could have been no older than I, should have lacked a mountain’s worth of experience in the career of a true horse thief, or any kind of thief for that matter. The boy looked up at me reluctantly when John introduced us, “William, this is my fiancée, Miss Howard.”

“Hello, William.” I dispassionately offered.

His demeanor was shy. I extended my arm to him in the customary way one might in offering a greeting. At first he seemed both perplexed and full of trepidation by my gesture as if uncertain how to respond. Tentatively he took my hand and reservedly said, “Hi.”

He respectively removed his hat and lowered his head, and I smiled in spite of myself; I would not have counted on his manners being so intact.

His looks appealed to me: blue eyes made vivid by the early afternoon sun’s glare, and such delicate, feminine features set in the context of a man’s face, giving him an appealing countenance. I noted his lengthy eyebrows, the same flaxen color of his hair, and how dramatically they framed both eyes. His slightly aquiline nose gave his face a satisfactory sort of character, especially when coupled by the other aforementioned attributes. I noticed that his white teeth entertained a hint of an overbite, his front teeth slightly bucked. His skin was fair, but his cheeks and the bridge of his nose were colored by the sun. His boyish good-looks were, without argument, very pleasant.

He returned my smile, and I found this simple rustic creature completely endearing. I could not help but like him immediately at the outset.

“Please, call me Elucia.” I offered, surprised by my own cordiality and suggestion of familiarity.

We all three stood silently a moment after the introduction. I looked again to William and attempted to meet his gaze, but no sooner had I made eye contact did he timidly lower his eyes towards the ground again, nervous.

John explained he would be taking William to his store in order to arrange him the necessary supplies he would need, but the boy, William, still only looked down, staring at his boots, holding his hat in his hands anxiously as I stood alongside him and continued to stare, attempting to talk with him and make small conversation.  When I spoke I saw that he tried to hold my gaze, but it would slip and he would look down before attempting to again look at me. He appeared fretful, and I suppose this was because I stared so unintentionally impolitely at him. My manners ought to have been better than this, but I was taken aback by my own feelings of interest for this boy. I was taken even further aback when he looked down again for a mere second before looking back at me with a slight grin that had found its way across his lips. My stomach felt fluttery. I could see straight away why John had brought this thief home. His charisma and charm were arguably a physical trait. It was hard to overlook, and harder still to ignore.




Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

4 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 23, 2014 at 7:00 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

Dual Diagnosis–Take One

flowers--beauty_19-142032It was spring.  I was sixteen, no longer in school, and unemployed. My mother and stepfather got out of treatment  to find I’d dropped out of high school. Neither were pleased. Sure, kids my age should be in school, but parents were supposed to be home raising their children–not in a psych ward, or a homeless shelter for drunks. If they weren’t fulfilling their end of the bargain, then neither would I.

I ended up spending a lot of time at my dad’s tiny apartment. Every night I stayed over, we’d go to the store to buy essentials. While this meant food and other snacks, I always managed to convince him to buy me a six-pack (or two) and some cigarettes. We’d sit around and talk, while I smoked and drank. Occasionally, he’d have a beer with me, but it made me uncomfortable unless there was enough to get me drunk.

One afternoon we were sitting in the living room watching TV. I must’ve realized my life was going nowhere. It’s hard to get a job when you’re sixteen and not in school–not that I was looking for a job, but it would’ve been hard if I were. I was drunk, which was usual, but I was thinking about the future, which wasn’t. I made the decision then and there to apply to community college. I’m not sure what motivated my decision; after all, I’d failed nearly everything in high school and there was no reason to believe I’d be more successful in college. I went there that same week to take a skills test to determine an appropriate field of study. I did well–well enough, in fact, to secure a place in the honors’ program, which started in the fall. While it may be true that all you need to get into community college is a pen, I was proud of my achievement.

Getting into the program was much cause for celebration–indeed, waking up in the morning was reason enough to tie one on. Now that I had a plan for the fall, however, I really let loose.  When the summer of my seventeenth year rolled around I was a candidate for detox. I checked into the psych ward my mom had entered the previous year, for I had substance abuse issues and clinical depression. The combination of a genetic predisposition to depression and alcoholism, with one exacerbating the other, was something I struggled with from early on. I’d been on an anti-depressant since I was fifteen. Of course, with the amount I was drinking, it was hard to determine where my substance abuse ended and my depression began. For me, at least, drinking initially alleviated the depression, and made me feel normal. What inevitably happened, however, was the daily consumption of alcohol created an addiction; it took more and more booze to create the same effect and after a while I’d sink to a lower baseline of depression than when I began drinking. I’d then attempt to drink more to feel better, which left me at a lower psychological baseline and so on in a vicious, perpetual, downward spiral.

asclepion-tunnel_19-116279I don’t remember much about my first hospitalization, but I think it lasted two weeks. My mom and stepfather weren’t drinking at the time and they came to visit just about every night, along with my dad. I do recall feeling very safe and at home. There were two people to a room and as long as you weren’t bunking with a total psychotic it wasn’t that bad, especially since smoking inside the hospital was permitted in those days. We had groups every day and recreational therapy, during which I made my first wallet. Summers have always been difficult for me and I’d fall apart in June and July several times during the years to follow. The thought of entering college in the fall, however, kept me going that first summer I was hospitalized. For some reason, I thought it might be the answer to my increasingly insoluble life.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

10 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 22, 2014 at 8:31 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags: , ,

Writing & Procrastination

sky_21018610I want to talk about procrastination and writing because it’s been a problem for me and probably countless others.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary to procrastinate means: to be slow or late about doing something that should be done; to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.

Ouch to the latter definition, but is there some truth to it?

I think there are two main ways to think about our job as writers.

One is to think of ourselves as literary artistes: we sit around waiting for the muse to hit, and write only when the inspiration moves us.

The second way is to think of ourselves as auto mechanics: we show up for our job, diagnose what needs to be done, and then go about doing it. Two things I would bet money on:

  1. Those writers who think of themselves as mechanics are less likely to procrastinate than those who think of themselves as artistes.
  1. Those who think of themselves as mechanics are less susceptible to writer’s block.


Because writing is a job, just like any other. You have to suit up and show up in order for it to happen, and that often means getting your butt in a chair and staring at a blank screen for some indeterminate amount of time, but sitting in the chair and staring nonetheless.

Now I want to offer a strategy to those of you (like me) who sometimes suffer from procrastination. I call it the 1-word goal strategy. It’s simple, and it goes like this: The next time you are stuck, or procrastinating, or have writer’s block, or whatever you want to call it that keeps you from writing, try this. Force yourself to sit in your chair with your WIP on the screen. Next, simply type one word that comes next, the first word of a new sentence or the next word in the sentence if you’ve left off in mid-air. Like Lays potato chips you probably won’t be able to limit yourself to just one (word).

Give this a shot the next time you get stuck, and please let me know how it works.

Last, but not least, I pose this question: Is writer’s block simply nothing more than procrastination by another name?

As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this matter.

auto-mechanics_2373333Best wishes and keep writing.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

10 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 21, 2014 at 6:35 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

My Interview with Kirsten Everett





I know it is impolite to ask a woman’s age, but in this case, I’m going to make an exception. How old are you now? How old were you when you wrote Eclipse Child and how old were you when you wrote Escaping Extinction?

I’ve dreamed up many books since I started writing but the first one that I self-published Eclipse Child I started writing a few weeks after my fourteenth birthday. Just more than half a year later I began working on my sequel, Escaping Extinction. I spent most of my mid-term break (in between studying for exams) writing because I just couldn’t stop. Less than a year later in 2014 I’m fifteen years old and I’ve reached my dream.


What exactly is an Eclipse Child?

An Eclipse Child is a person who is gifted with the ability to turn invisible (by manipulating shadows) whilst also having glowing hair and cells that regenerate faster than usual.


When did you first become interested in saving the rhinos?

In the last few weeks of 2012 I was on a game drive with my family and I saw a rhino and her calf. It was about five o’clock in the morning yet that sight woke me up; if I could pinpoint my interest to one specific event it would be that moment. I couldn’t believe that anyone would want to hurt such a majestic animal. As we drove away from the two rhinos I couldn’t help but realize how vulnerable they were so I promised myself that I would stand up for them. That was one of the reasons that I actually wrote Eclipse Child and Escaping Extinction I felt I had to use my talent to help these animals.


If you could tell people one reason why it is important to save the rhinos what would it be?

Frankly, there are so many reasons out there but I think the main one is that: We all have an obligation to take care of our environment–and rhinos are a very special part of that in Africa. So we need to save these majestic, helpless animals from greedy poachers.

What made you want to write in the first place?

Reading was one of my passions when I was younger (and it still is). It was an outlet that entertained my imagination and through it I learnt many important things about life. But, reading wasn’t enough to satisfy me so when I was nine years old I started writing. I fell in love with it so wrote as much as I could until I’d filled an entire notebook. That was when I started dreaming of being an author, and, being the determined little girl that I was, I set myself a goal; by the age of sixteen one of my books would be published. Well, when I published my book on Amazon last year I reached my goal two years early.


Tell us a little about your writing process. For example, do you use an outline or do you just make it up as you go along?

I started writing Eclipse Child whilst I was at a game lodge so the little notebook I had with me soon contained pages and pages of scribbling, that’s because I like to record most of the ideas I have. So, when I had my original ideas written down I started scribbling my idea of how the plot was going to flow and then I carried on from there.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

I’ve read this question in many interviews but I never really thought that one day I would be asked it. To be honest, the best thing that you can do if you want to be a writer is to daydream. Sure you should read, read, read but without inspiration and some ideas you’ll have a hard time getting anywhere. Another thing that an author must always remember is to never give up because even when everything is going wrong there will be something great around the corner. The key to being a really good author besides the two things I’ve already mentioned is to write about something that you’re passionate about. That will make the book connect with readers really well and you’ll enjoy the process even more.


What are your three favorite books?

My three favourite books are definitely The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Selection by Kiera Cass and Divergent by Veronica Roth.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

Just less than a year ago I would’ve answered this question with one of my favourite author’s names but right now I think the person would be Ian Player. He was one of the people who saved the rhinos from going extinct not so long ago. I would love to have a conversation with him.

Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?

The main message I am trying to teach my readers in my two books is that we have to be willing to do what we can to save the rhino species or else they will go extinct. We have to show the world that we (as the youth) are willing to stand up for what we believe in.


How do you keep sane as a writer?

I try going through every day reminding myself to smile because for some reason when I smile nothing looks as bad as I originally thought it was. So, smiling gets me through all of my obstacles but I think the main things that keep me sane are my family, my friends, God, my dogs and as much as I detest it sometimes, my runs in the evenings.


Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that any books have changed my life but one of the books I’ve read certainly opened my eyes and convinced me to start standing up for the vulnerable members of society. This book was called The Last Rhino, by Lawrence Anthony and Graeme Spence.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

I used to watch TV every night when I was younger but as soon as I started writing I gave up my precious couch time to sit in front of the computer or at my desk with a notebook and just write, write, write. Yet, that wasn’t the only thing I had to give up in order to write I also had to quit yoga after doing it for seven years and I spent less time with my little sister (I do regret that).

What obstacles, if any, have you encountered in being a writer?

Being a fifteen year old author comes with its own set of obstacles. I have to juggle school, debating, sports, family time, trying to save the rhino species and writing as well. But, as hard as it is sometimes I enjoy everything I do and I am willing to put in the extra hours to get my message across.


Please share your social media links with us:


Twitter: @KirstenAwrite


Amazon: Eclipse Child

Amazon: Escaping Extinction


Thank you KIRSTEN EVERETT for sharing your time with us. You are truly an inspiration. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.




Eclipse Child

Bethany Clark is special. Not because of her passion for rhinos or her captured parents but because of what she is. An Eclipse Child.
Being able to turn invisible, have glowing hair and the ability to regenerate cells means she is the perfect weapon.
Tricked into a new world filled with merciless greed can she do what is right even when the odds are piled against her?

Excerpt from Eclipse Child

I froze in the bushes opposite a grey building. From the outside it didn’t look imposing but my parents had told me that being on the other side of a locked cell was terrifying. This place was a prison; a very special prison for very special people. My family fitted into that category easily. Having glowing hair and invisibility powers that we could control seemed to change us from ordinary people into hunted victims.

‘Did they catch you?’ was the first question my best friend asked me. Maya was the closest person I had to being a sister. When I was scared at night she was the person to comfort me, but unfortunately my trust in her had put her in danger. A danger that I had promised myself I would exterminate and with Hunter gone my parents would be free as well.

‘No, I’m fine but this time they brought policemen. I don’t understand how Hunter can possibly have them all brainwashed enough to fire bullets at me.’

Today had been the first time that the man who had kidnapped my parents had come to my school searching for me. Some parents would worry if they knew that I spent hours of my life running away from the bad guys; but since my parents had fallen prey to the very people who were after me, it was the best solution.

‘Don’t forget to say hello to your parents for me.’ She sounded more excited than I felt. This place had always given me the creeps; I used to blame the painters for using such a ghostly colour though now I knew better. This very place oozed the evil that its owner was full of.

I turned my phone off and tightened the strap on my backpack. Wrapping myself in layers of shadows I stepped onto the road immediately invisible. Every single step from now on my parents had done before me in chains. I felt an icy hand clasp my heart, my hair started glowing but worse than all of that was the fact that the moon slipped behind the clouds. Being an Eclipse Child we knew more about the rest of our galaxy than anyone else and right now I felt more alone in the world than ever before. The single glowing flower was the sign I had been dreading. I was the only one of my kind free to roam. Hunter would be more determined than ever to catch me.

I had a number on my head.

Number 1.

‘The sooner I manage to free my parents the sooner we can get started on helping the rest.’ I whispered just to make sure the words sunk in. With my mind I pulled the shadows closer to me and broke into a run.

My skin crawled as I stepped closer to the marble staircase. The fastest way to the top of the building was by elevator yet that wasn’t an option; I had to take the stairs. For the umpteenth time I wished I had been given wings instead of glowing hair; it would make my life so much easier.





Escaping Extinction

Bethany traded her freedom for a symbol of hope, yet that wasn’t enough. Now the rhino species is on the brink of extinction and, though the conservation army is strong, their enemies are stronger.
Determined not to give up, Bethany figures out a way to give her army a fighting chance. But the question is, even with her advantage; is it enough to help this species in Escaping Extinction?

Excerpt from Escaping Extinction

My body was frozen. I had only been locked in this ice chamber for five minutes and already my hope that I could escape was dwindling whilst my fears were increasing. This was real life. I could die here from frostbite if I didn’t figure out how to ignite a fire in my soul to melt the icy hand that clutched my heart.

I thought of everything. My family, my friends and my favourite animal but they weren’t powerful enough to raise a tiny spark in my soul. Even though I was an Eclipse Child with glowing hair, cells that could regenerate and the power to turn invisible, I was helpless against the cold yet I had to fight. The whole point of this experiment was to show my weaknesses to the people who held me captive and frankly, I was determined to make sure that page remained blank.

The air was so cold now that it hurt to breathe. There had to be something that could help me return to normality.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

12 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , ,

The First Draft–One Approach

writing-in-a-book_19-121121Today I’d like to share the process I use to write the first draft of a novel.

There is much written about where writers get their ideas, and I don’t plan on spending much time with this question. I think for many writers ideas come from reading, though some may come from real-life situations or from television/movies.

But what do you do once you have a basic idea of the story you wish to write?

The first thing I do is make sure my idea hasn’t been done already, or if it has, I try to come up with a variation on it. This involves reading extensively in the genre I’m contemplating, or at least checking with people who do read in the genre to see if I’m simply rehashing old ideas.

Among other things, I write thrillers that have a connection with real-world history. Consequently, after I formulate a basic idea of what I want to write about, and make sure it hasn’t been done to death, I read non-fiction to get the factual knowledge correct. I think research is crucial to writing fiction. This is true not only in the case of writing historical fiction or reality-based thrillers: As writers I feel we all need to do our homework and make our stories as believable and convincing as we can—that involves research.


Next, I start thinking of setting up the basic story structure. I don’t think there is anything more important than setting up the story structure effectively. It will come as no surprise to many of you that I use Dwight Swain’s approach to this issue.

In Techniques of the Selling Writer (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, see especially pp. 131-135), Swain says we need two sentences and only two sentences to encapsulate the story structure. The first sentence is a statement that deals with character, situation, and objective, and the second is a question that deals with opponent and disaster. That’s all well and good, but what does this look like in practice?

It is hard to improve on Swain’s examples so I will simply relate one of his here. Say you are writing a science-fiction story. Your basic idea is that humans start growing very tall and the main character’s objective is to find out why. So your first sentence that deals with character, situation, and objective looks something like this:

Sentence 1: When humans suddenly sprout to twelve-feet tall, John Storm tries to find out why.

The first sentence of story structure is posited in the form of a statement. In it, we have the situation (humans suddenly growing tall), the character (John Storm) and the objective (trying to find out why this is happening).

The second sentence in story structure deals with opponent and disaster and is cast in the form of a question:

Sentence 2: But can he (John Storm) defeat the traitors in high places who want to kill him in order to make the change appear to be the result of an extraterrestrial plot?

Here we have the opponent and the disaster that threatens our protagonist—namely, death.

This may sound simple, but framing story structure in such a way, really helps.

old-books_21095604After this is done, I try to write a paragraph synopsis of the story that includes the two structure sentences as well as potential answers to the story question (Sentence 2), to have an overall idea of where the story will start, how it will unfold, and how it will end (beginning, middle, and end).

Then I start fleshing out characters. Who is John Storm? Who are his opponents? Does John Storm have a sidekick? I try to answer basic questions about the characters along the lines of those I stated in a previous post.

Finally, I start to think of scenes (chapters) that must happen in the story. I try to think up a bang-up opening, because openings are huge, and start to think about what the middle of the story will look like, as John goes about trying to figure out what is happening all the while his opponents are trying to kill him. I also try to come up with a scene in my head that looks like the end of the story.

Once I have a few scenes in mind—and I do think of them in terms of movie scenes—I set about writing the opening chapter. I write the early chapters with the middle and end scenes in mind (to the extent I can think of them).

I try to write chronologically, filling in as many of the interstitial scenes as possible. There is a lot of give and take in this process, working back and forth between developing scenes, developing characters, and following my vision of what the beginning, middle, and end of the story will look like.

In terms of writing each scene (chapter), I follow the basic format developed in prior posts, using Swain’s distinction between the elements of action scenes and sequel scenes (the two main types of chapters).

I follow this along until I have written a first draft. If I’ve followed the structure set out here, my first draft is pretty solid. There will be many revisions, but the framework of the story is pretty well established.

What does your process for writing the first draft look like? I am very curious to know.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

24 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 13, 2014 at 8:05 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , ,

Environmental Factors in Dual Diagnosis

angry_21039172It is often said that alcoholism and depression are bio-psycho-social-environmental illnesses, meaning there are several factors (i.e., genetic, psychological, environmental, etc.) that go into producing them. I had the genetic predisposition for alcoholism and depression from my mother’s side of the family. Environment played its part as well, our low socioeconomic status and the arguments between my parents contributing to the onset of sadness and anxiety and eventually the use of alcohol to cope.

I do not blame anyone or anything for the way I developed. However, I would be remiss if I did not talk about my stepfather. I hope that by relating this readers might identify and be moved to share their experiences.

I was ten the last time we were evicted as a family. We were forced to move into a welfare motel, with all of the attendant indignities. My mom, who’d developed a penchant for writing obscenities on the walls of our rented houses–sometimes with lipstick, other times pen, or carved with a knife–went to work at the motel with the determination of a wacky Michelangelo. Each morning a new piece would be on display. “Fuck you Anthony” (my dad) was interspersed most frequently in a collection that also featured “Go to hell,” and “Fuck the cockroaches.” 

My sister Grace (who was six years older) and I went to live with my aunt. Though my aunt received money for taking care of us, none of it was ever spent on clothes, food, or haircuts, at least for us. I remember hobbling around in shoes I’d long outgrown and told she’d gladly buy me a new pair if she had the money. I was able to eke out an existence by scratching her dandruff-filled head and scaly legs, for which I was handsomely rewarded a quarter or a fifty-cent piece.

I switched schools when I moved to my aunt’s house, and was confined to visiting my mom and dad, who were now separated, on the weekends. Eventually, I moved in to my mother’s apartment, while Grace continued to live with my aunt. My mom lived in a railroad flat attached to a carpet store. The front door opened on a kitchen, followed by a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom, in that order.  So embarrassed was I of the apartment and its location that I’d go across the street to the strip mall to catch the bus every morning. I felt that waiting in front of Burger King was cooler than standing in front of a carpet store with a ramshackle dwelling attached. We could not afford a television so I sold my baseball card collection to buy one.

My mother ended up managing the set of apartments attached to the back, top, and sides of the carpet store. These units were quite run-down, but larger than the three-roomed flat in which we lived. It was in this capacity that Dennis entered our lives. My mom had stopped drinking for a year or more when she met the man who would become my stepfather. From the beginning I sensed that Dennis was not good for my mom–or me.  He’d visit us frequently and it was soon thereafter, when he and my mom started dating, that her drinking resumed. Dennis drank, and drank hard; his favorite drink was straight vodka. I seldom recall him sober those first few months. While he was a diminutive man, about the same size as my dad, his drinking seemed to inflate him to five times his normal size, despite his high-pitched voice and frequent crying jags. He was recently divorced and his three children had disowned him. At one point, he’d owned a painting company, but he drank that away a couple years before he came into our lives. He’d also been in the Navy, of which he was very proud. I think my mom was attracted to him for several reasons. First, he had a job and a car; he was working at a hardware store as assistant manager of the paint department. Second, he liked to drink. Third, he reminded her of my grandfather. Finally, he was not a bad looking man, though I wondered how my mother could stand his nasally whine, crying bouts, and, increasingly, his fits of rage.

Dennis tried to win me over by including me in the dinner dates with my mom, but I wasn’t sold. I felt very uncomfortable around him and blamed him for my mom’s resumption of drinking. It was bad enough having one parent who was an alcoholic (my dad seldom drank), but when Dennis threatened to become a permanent fixture in our tiny apartment, my fear and anxiety doubled. I spent a good deal of time appealing to my mom’s reason, trying to make her see the pitfalls of becoming involved in a committed relationship with him. Several times I begged her to break things off.

Dennis got wind of my feelings. I think he heard how I felt from the neighbor, but eventually, my mom confronted him with my opposition and attempted to end things. He came to our apartment one morning before going to work. I was sitting on the bed tying my shoes and getting ready for school.  He walked in the bedroom, and put his hand out for me to shake, which I did.

“Congratulations, you son of a bitch, you won,” he said.

“No Dennis, don’t say that.” I was terrified and felt my internal tectonic plates shift in the direction of an unwelcome maturity.

“Yup, your mom doesn’t want to see me anymore. I hope you’re happy.” With that, he turned around and headed for the door.

“Dennis, don’t talk to him like that,” my mom admonished. “He’s just a kid.” I was just a kid–ten, in fact. Dennis marched past her and out the door. He staggered into his beige Oldsmobile, which swallowed him up like a whale, and left for work. I think they reconciled that night.

Eventually, my mom and I moved out of the railroad flat…and Dennis came with us. In fact, it was only because of him that we secured better housing. He was an asshole, all right, but an asshole with a job. He left the hardware store to join a painters’ union. The higher salary helped and we moved to Pleasant Valley, into a duplex that seemed palatial after the railroad flat. It was so big I had my own room. Once again, I switched schools. Dennis continued acting strangely. One morning I got up around ten. For some reason I didn’t have school that day or decided not to go. I looked outside and saw his car in the driveway. I knew he was supposed to be at work and wondered what he was doing home. Odder, however, was that he didn’t seem to be anywhere in the house or outside. My mom got up around the same time and, as the hours passed, we talked about Dennis’s potential whereabouts. Later in the afternoon, he walked into the dining area from the foyer. Apparently, he’d been hiding in the downstairs bathroom all day with a bottle.

“Jesus fucking Christ, wasn’t anybody going to look for me?” he said with the exasperation of a child lost for hours in a game of hide-and-seek. With that, he went upstairs and passed out on the bed.

It was at that house that I first witnessed the effects of Dennis’s physical battering of my mom.  There’d always been verbal abuse, but up until then, I’d never known him to strike her and he never hit me, or even came close. But eventually I started seeing black eyes and scratches appear on my mother. I felt helpless. Though Dennis was small, I was still too young and frail to do much of anything to protect her. Moreover, I was terrified of the man. I never knew what to expect, or what was coming next.  It was then I started drinking on occasion.

One day I came home from school, I was eleven or twelve at the time. I fixed myself a Tom Collins, trying to unwind from the stress of a day in the eighth grade. As the gin rose to my head, I noticed Dennis wasn’t home, which was normal, but I also saw that my mom was out, which was strange. My mother never learned to drive; she was always dependent on others to take her anywhere. Since it was only mid-afternoon, the evidence pointed in the direction that they were out together. They came home shortly afterward and said they had something to tell me, a surprise. Now at that age, most children, I assume, recall surprises that were good: a new bicycle, perhaps, or an unexpected trip to Disney World. Unfortunately, the news that day brought no such joy. Dennis and Mom had been married that day while I was at school. I had a stepfather.

As I said, I don’t blame anyone for my alcoholism and major depressive disorder, but I have felt empowered over the years by learning that environment does play a role in the presence or absence of these illnesses.

brambletye-house_2368787Dennis committed suicide when I was in my mid-twenties. At the time I was hospitalized for alcoholism and depression. The day he died, before I found out of his passing, I felt the most indescribable peace pass through me, accompanied by the realization that everything was going to be all right.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

13 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - April 11, 2014 at 7:28 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags: , , ,

Next Page »

Subscribe to my newsletter

* indicates required