Welcome to the first day of "8 Days of Amazing Authors" (that's not really what the celebration is called, but it easily could be. Today I get to spotlight the author that started it all for me. This author was the first author I friended on Twitter and Facebook (he was my first Twitter follower EVER), heck he was the first author I ever reached out to. He is also the reason I started blogging. A little over two years ago I picked up Exiled (which is FREE on Amazon by the way) and fell in love... with the book. I picked it up based on the cover and then the synopsis. The premise of the story had me eager to devour the words on the page. And boy did I devour it. Once I finished it I promptly purchased Shift and devoured it and then died while I waited for book 3. But an amazing thing happened after I finished reading Exiled. I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Okay that happens a lot, but this was the first time since I was in High School that a book crept into my mind and took up lease. I wanted to shout my praises of this series from the rooftops. I did in fact tell everyone I knew that they needed to read it and I probably drove everyone I love and know a little crazy talking about it. So I looked for a different way to shout it. I discovered this awesome thing called book blogs (yea I was clueless back then) and decided that would be the perfect way to share my love of this series. It was. And it still is. M.R. Merrick or Matt has now finished that series, which I loved and devoured eagerly. He is now working on his next book, which of course I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on, Sacred Cities.
With all that it is only natural that he is the author to kick off my celebration. Today Matt is giving us a very personal look into his life.....
Before I became a writer, life was different, to say the least. I had a lot of jobs, and by a lot, I mean too many. It wasn't that I couldn't keep a job, it's that I couldn't maintain any level of happiness at one place. In fact, at most of the places I worked, I set a goal and made it my top priority to reach it as soon as possible. I moved up the ladder very quickly at each job, and once I was there, I became bored. This boredom turned into me being unhappy. I'd pick apart all the things that were terrible at my current place of employment until I'd convinced myself I had to find something new. Something new would make me happy. When I found that something new, I'd love it for six to twelve months, and then the descent would begin again. Until I found writing.
Writing brought a sense of balance to my life. Not in some all-powerful way that changes everything, but in an all-powerful way that literally CHANGES EVERYTHING. For the first time I was happy with more than just my personal life. I was happy with the work I was doing too. Truly happy. I wasn't in search of fame and fortune, I was in search for a place where I fit. I had known in the back of my mind that the problem all those years had been me, I just didn't want to admit it. And here I was with this fiery new passion for something I never knew I loved, and it was somehow different. It enraptured me. I wrote for years, never stopping. I published Exiled first, then Shift. As the reviews came in, I learned that for the most part, I had managed to reach people who enjoyed what I was creating. I made friends, met readers that liked what I could create and it inspired me even further. I wasn't getting bored with this like I had everything else. If anything, my passion was growing with each page I turned. I poured my soul into Release and Endure, completing my first series. This was five years of work I still loved doing, and it was just the beginning. I was about to really get into this world of books, and then life crashed down around me.
I had been writing from home full-time for a year, happier than I'd ever been. And then I suffered a loss that I let devastate me to the point I could hardly recognize my life. I let this loss tear me apart inside and out. It owned me completely. I stopped writing, I avoided social media, and slowly my books' ranks, sales numbers, and popularity fell. After about seven months the income vanished and reality slapped me in the face. I wouldn't be able to pay all my bills soon. My family couldn't survive solely on my wife's income. I hadn't written anything new, I had stopped promoting my novels, and with the exception of a few people who constantly reached out to me to maintain a friendship, I had lost touch with the publishing world. I promised myself week after week I'd get back to it. I told myself I had readers waiting and I had a passion for writing. I owed it to myself and to them to keep going. Then the next week would come around and I wouldn't write a word. My wife encouraged me, trying to remind me how happy I had been with books. Occasionally I'd sit at my computer and stare that the screen, certain that some magical form of inspiration would hit and I'd take off in a sprint of words that would come together into some career recovering explosion. Once that happened I'd be back in the action and life would be good again. The truth was, I was in the midst of a heavy depression, something I had never experienced, and it left me not wanting to do a thing. Getting out of bed was a challenge. If not for my children, I'd have spent weeks just laying there. Between those two beautiful girls and my amazing wife, it was all that kept me going. Before this moment, I had thought depression was a frame of mind. Stop being sad and be happy. It's that simple. Boy was I wrong.
It took me a long time to grasp what I was dealing with. I wouldn't admit it to myself at first, and when I finally did, I refused to take medication for it. That probably made the experience much more painful than it needed to be, and as such it took me a lot longer to come back from it. It took a toll on me in every way. I was always in pain, my body ached, and my life was vacant of ambition. A few months of dealing with that and I realized I had to do something, so I started handing out resumes, took a new job in sales, and went back to my old life as a full-time employee. I would work five days a week for someone else, helping their dream stay alive while mine just faded into darkness. I wasn't happy with this new job like I used to be when taking on a new challenge. It was just there. Something I had to do to stay alive and keep my bills and credit rating on the positive side of the fence. The only difference between my life then compared to before I wrote books was that when I got off work, instead of sitting down to watch movies and play video games, I sat staring at a black television screen. I couldn't even bring myself to turn it on. I told myself how I should be writing, and I'd let the guilt eat at me, refusing to let myself even enjoy a movie, another passion of mine. Life became a wash of grey. I wasn't living, I was barely surviving.
Over time, with a lot of work and the love of some very dear people around me, I began writing again. I had an idea for a new story, leaving my half-written Nova Chronicles in a digital folder to gather specs of cyber dust, and I started a new journey. One that would take two boys from the happy and beautiful world they had been born into, and throw them into complete chaos. Nightmares would come to life, fear would become as common as the breath they took, and the odds would be against them at every corner. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and last but not least, Man vs. Himself. I'd torture those kids the same way if not worse than I tormented myself. At first it was therapeutic. It wasn't something I had to publish, it was just an escape. It was a start. But as the words came and pages turned, something different happened. It was no longer just a release. It was a story that began to come to life. This is the story that reignited my passion and helped me edge myself closer to the sanity I remembered. It's the story that reminded me who I was, who I wanted to be, and gave me another chance to rediscover my love for creating. In a lot of ways, it was the light that guided me from darkness. This book is still a work-in-progress, the first draft nearly complete, but it's drawn me back in so completely I can't help but be thankful. As Exiled birthed a new life for me and gave me a place I fit, Sacred Cities is the anchor that kept me grounded through a funnel of self-destructive thoughts and depression. As much as any one friend helped me, the words helped me. I realized nobody took them away from me, I just stopped letting them work their magic.
Over this past year, I regret a lot of things. I regret letting a simple loss derail me so completely, I regret not pushing through the pain and forcing myself to write so I didn't have to lose my dream, I regret pushing my world away and shutting myself out, but mostly I regret not asking for help. I regret being prideful and letting it help tear me down to near-destruction. I learned a lot of hard lessons, none more important than when the world takes a bite out of you and the storm comes, sometimes all you can do is hold on. You can't fight everything and sometimes you cannot win. Sometimes you just have to endure.
Depression is a scary thing. You don't realize you're in a fight for your life, and even if you did, you don't have the energy to fight it. You simply exist in solitude. You think there will never be a way out. Nothing will ever be okay, the clouds will never leave, and you're destined to live your life like this until someday you lose your grip and spiral through the storm for eternity. I had to continue to tell myself to hold on for just one more moment, and I found I could. And when the next moment came, I told myself those same words again, and suddenly a day has passed. Eventually I came to an understanding of just how strong I was, and that only I could pull myself out of this pit. Each step I took stunned me. I was amazed at what I could overcome, even when just remaining positive was a battle in itself. As each day passed, I found I was both proud and disappointed. Proud of how I had managed to fight through and hold on, and disappointed that I let it consume me so much in the first place. Disappointed to discover just how human I really was.
Here I am, telling you things that are probably far too personal to be sharing, but what is this world if not a place to feel exposed and truthful? Are we not all strangers at times, even to ourselves? Ì think sometimes a stranger’s truth can set you free, or start you on a journey to finding your own. As I begin my ascent back into the publishing world, starting at the bottom once again and preparing to chase that dream I discovered all those years ago and let slip away, the motto I can't forget is "Don't let go." Those words mean something entirely different to me now than they did eighteen months ago, as does the word friend. So if you find yourself in the dark searching for a light, just remember sometimes the switch is only a step away, and if it's further, there's probably someone in your life, maybe someone you don't realize is there, willing to turn it on for you.
The moment you feel you want to give up is probably the moment when everything is about to change. Don't let go.
*When I first read this post, it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this with us Matt. I'm glad you found your way out. Thanks for kicking off my celebration, I am honored to know you.
And now for some goodies.... Up for Grabs
|Wing Necklace from Devri Walls|
|Aurora Sky Swag Pack|
Various ebooks by featured authors