Friday, June 27, 2014

I AM 22 YEARS SOBER TODAY, SO I WROTE A POST CALLED "GETTING YOUR CHARACTER HIGH: WRITING ABOUT ADDICTION"


Around 9:37 am today I am  22 years clean and sober. Yep. 22 years. What the hell is that? Crazy huh. (I’ve blogged on this subject a lot over the years, such as here and here.)  I like to think the hell I put myself through helped me gain the perseverance to run marathons and write books, despite all the forces in the universe trying to stop me.

Substance abuse and addiction play a major role in many of my books. On the Lips of Children features a crystal meth addict living in a drug-smuggling tunnel who snorts bath salts. STRAY is loosely based on my experience working as a therapist in a treatment center.

And my latest release, MILK-BLOOD, features heroin addiction in a way I am pretty confident you have never seen before.

None of my books preach or try to deny anyone the choice of their drug or drink. Hell, if I could get away with it, I’d be drinking right now. But I can’t. One shot of vodka and I’m drinking for days and then using any substance I can get my hands on. My insides bleed out of my ass (literally). Strange days indeed, and the glory is, writers can make their characters bleed out just the same.

So, for my 22 year sobriety anniversary, I’m putting out a post called:

“Getting Your Character High: Writing About Addiction”
Here we go…

Torture your protagonist. Toss them into a pot of boiling water, and make the best parts come bubbling up to the top. There are lots of ways to do this, but one of the greatest and oft-used ways for authors is to write some drugs or drink into their system. Wether they have a longstanding addiction, are in recovery from addiction and relapse, or take their first hit of that strange looking pill, a character under the influence is a pivotal point in many stories. Substances turn a character inside out.  The filters are gone, the emotions are exaggerated, impulse control is low, libido may be ablaze. Memories and demons and actions they will later regret come rushing in.  

Getting your character high is similar to dropping them into that pot of boiling water. Here’s some things to consider:

What You Drop In Matters
All Substances are not equal.  A tiny dot of crystal meth holds much more power than a drop of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the variances are tremendous. I’ve been around drinking in my sobriety without a problem, but I never want to be in the same room as meth again, for if I do not leave, there will be blood. Social marijuana use, social alcohol use, and social crack use: One of these things is not like the other. 
Fuck Heineken. Pabst Blue Ribbon

Amounts and Terms
Get it right. To make it feel truthful, characters should use the right amount, the right away, with the right terms. “Weed” is the common vernacular for marijuana, right? And Dope doesn’t mean “Weed” in my parts, maybe nowhere. Dope is particular to just heroin.  Of course, if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, this all changes. Spoiled milk got the aliens high in “Alien Nation”, NZT-48 was an intellectual buzz in “Limitless” and Hobbits love their pipe-weed. Oh, the places you will go, just have inner-world consistency, and have some fun.

Research 
If your character is getting high, or trying not to get high, then go to an open AA/NA meeting.  Find some YouTube videos of people using.  Listen to songs that capture the tone of the specific substance. (RIP Lou Reed).  I’m not saying to go snort some coke, but, go snort some coke. No, don’t’ snort coke. Ask someone who snorted coke to edit your work.  Or of course you could just snort some coke. (No, don’t!)

Lots of folks hate on Lena Dunham,
but she did her research for this episode 
of Girl's where she gets all coked up


Rituals
Addicts love rituals. Your character can be on the outside looking in, and intimidated and beguiled by the strange world, or it can be part of their lexicon. Alcoholics love the ding of the bell as they enter the party store, the smell of old mop soap, seeing all those little stogies at the counter. Heroin addicts come to welcome the prick of the needle into their flesh, and the comfort of patting their front pocket and knowing there’s a pack of dope inside. Get this right, and the passages will read true to the reader. 
True Detective Rust Cohle makes little people out of his
Lone Star beer cans as part of his drinking ritual.
(Because we are the little people, and he is our maker)

The scariest moment is always just before you start
When recovering heroin addict Jane Margolis met Pinkman in Breaking Bad, you knew something had to give. Laying out the temptation and creating the set-up is a great plot builder.  If you can get readers screaming at your characters in their head, "don't do it, don't do it, no! don't!" you've won them over. A character we care about acting against their best interest is reason to read on.

One generic scene I personally hate is the character trying to stay sober, sitting at a bar stool pondering over unresolvable troubles, and in front of them is the drink they just ordered. They twirl the shot of whiskey and stare, deciding if they should drink it. I can believe a lot of things, but not this. Once you are at that point, you are already drunk. Cravings are intense, and if you’ve gone that far, you’re not going to turn anything down, and certainly not pause. It’s like taking a laxative, and trying not take a shit. You may hold on for a while, but eventually you will give in, and then it will get messy.

But that moment before decisions are made can make the reader's heart stop and their interest zoom in. 
Which pill do you take?
All You Have to do is read the labels
Substances work with much better consistency than most things in our life.  In fact, the reason drugs are so enticing is that they work. Want to feel a certain way, there’s something out there for you.  Anything your character wants can be found in a drug. Confidence, creativity, strength, expansion of consciousness.  Eventually  the drugs will do the opposite that you hoped for, but while the character is falling into the pits of hell, it can feel like flying.
      "Most people don't know how they're gonna feel from one moment to the next. But a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you gotta do is look at the labels on the little bottles." ~ 'Bob’ from Drugstore Cowboy.
You got to believe Dillon read Junky 
before playing Bob on Drugstore Cowboy

Perceptions and Prose
When characters uses substances, perceptions are altered, and this is where your prose should change. First person point of view will certainly change the most, followed by third person limited. The deeper you are in the POV the more affected the prose will be. 

Make the sentences reflect the substance: Drunkards will have big, bold dreams, or violent impulses. Any good drunk is always telling you how much they love you or how much they hate you.  Heroin will make you feel soft and warm, like a return to the womb where everything is beautiful and has its place; the ants in the grass are just doing their thing. Cocaine will have your brain and tongue electric with tangential philosophies. 

Of course, the pain of craving for and detoxing from these substances will have a visceral effect unique to the substances. Making your characters detox and crave is twice as much fun as getting them high. The possibilities are endless, and characters going through the cycle of addiction transform as much as any werewolf.

Thought patterns and Narrator Reliability.
Characters getting high will rationalize insanity until their choices seem perfectly reasonable and actually preferable. Their internal dialogue will be filled with lies. What's more fun writing than that?

Similar to this, there’s tons of options to hide an addicts true intent with behavior that may seem contrary to expectations.  Addicts lie, they deny, then they die. 

There’s a great passage in Michele Miller's upcoming novel (and ABNA semi-finalist), Lower Power, where a craving crack cocaine addict can’t find a way to afford any drugs so instead he goes to visit his son. As we travel alongside him, we think this could be a redeeming quality, until he steals the very  necklace he gave his son from around his neck to pawn for crack money. That’s verity. Parents get high everyday by selling back their kids Xbox games to Gamestop so they can get a 5 dollar crack rock.

Surroundings
Unlike the pits of hell for murderers and rapists, there are no fences in the pits of hell  for addicts, for if an addict tries to climb out of their pit of hell, another addict grabs them by the ankle and pulls them back down.  Want to put your character around some nastiness and see how they respond, send them to a crack house or a dive bar. It’s a pot of bubbling madness in there, and your character's madness is sure to boil right out of them just the same.

So there’s some thoughts. Not sure if anyone is listening as I look around the table, but that’s okay, this sharing is important for me and I'm grateful for the chance.  I’d love to write a post on how to write someone newly sober since sobriety to me has been stranger than any fiction or any addiction. It took a lot more courage to live stone cold sober 24 hours a day than to clutch onto that 40 ouncer like it’s my baby bottle. 

For a great read on a newly sober person navigating reality filled with some wonderful humor, try “Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Scoblic.

For a great story on addiction that I think will blow your mind to pieces, check out

$2.99 for kindle 
$6.65 paperback




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MILK-BLOOD IS NOW AVAILABLE, AND I HAVE MANY PEOPLE TO THANK


MILK-BLOOD has arrived.
I put it on sale yesterday, and overnight it found its way into the top 100 horror novels on amazon.


"The most original horror novel I've read in years," says The Horror Bookshelf.

I really need to thank a few folks.
First, my wife and family for putting up with me. I've had this story in my veins for some time, and spent many hours letting it bleed out. Being the spouse of one with such an obsession is not easy

Thanks to Kealan Patrick Burke for making the outsides shine, and to Richard Thomas for making the insides glisten. Both were a joy to work with.

So many writers have given me support. Thanks to John F.D. Taff, for the the force is strong in you. Julie Hutchings, for urging me to let it take as long as it takes. Peter Rosch, for being a level 9 paranoid who still trusted me. Shana Festa, a true bookie-monster. Michele Miller, for all kinds of support. Joe Hart, for helping me with Wicked Run Press, and thanks to a list of authors who's morsels of kind words kept me fully fed including Jan Kozlowski, J.C. Michaels, Weston Kincade, and more recently, Craig McGray, Adam Light, and I'm certain a writer or two I've forgotten and to be named later. 

Thanks to Beta-readers, Author Gary Ceclia, and Charlene, Deborah, and Chris from Goodreads, who helped shape the story in so many ways. 

$2.99 kindle
$6.99 paperback

Monday, June 23, 2014

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: WRITING, RUNNING, AND CHASING THE DRAGON


Chasing the Dragon: if all goes as planned, I will have 22 years sober this week. Friday morning, June 27th, about 9:30 am.

 Running: Ran 15 miles last week, largely pain-free, but slow enough that a drunken penguin passed me with his family. Still, I think I had more joy to my waddle than the whole flock of penguins did, so I win. 

 Writing: Ready to hit publish on MILK-BLOOD any day now.
Advance reviews are coming in fast and furious on Goodreads, and they may be more intense than the story itself. Here's a sample:

 “An incredibly powerful story and one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. Guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat!”—The Horror Bookshelf 

 “The originality and tension of the urban horror story, Milk-Blood is evident on every page. Matthews takes you to some very dark places, twists and turns, with the rabbit hole going deeper and deeper, until there is no way out. Not for the faint of heart, this story of love, loss, family and acceptance is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.” — Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss 

"I had to keep on reading no matter what, not able to break its spell." -Goodreads Reader and Librarian

“What a dark, twisted and bizarre book this was. One of the most striking urban horror stories I have read in a long time.” —Author Adam Light 

"This is a helluva story. A discomforting tale of true inner city horrors, told by characters so real they pop off the page. Add the supernatural mix to the story and it really grabs you by the throat. Very much recommended!" — John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths 

"Is it too soon to refer to Mark Matthews as the Stephen King of Addiction stories? MILK-BLOOD is grippingly disturbing, and if you've spent any time around addicts and the insane, it simply doesn't seem at all farfetched." -Peter Rosch, author of My Dead Friend Sarah

Friday, June 20, 2014

A JUNKY RUNNER AND HIS MONEY

Running is supposed to be the simplest activities, easily accessible, and without economic barriers. The barefoot movement isn't just about running as we were born to do, but running more ‘naked,' more simple. Running without a watch, without shoes, just hitting stride after stride and living off of mother earth. So it should be cheap, right?

But there is money to be spent on this sport. Are you a barefoot runner? you probably wear special shoes to help you run barefoot. Before you even lace up, there are special pre-run elixirs to help you run farther and faster, which makes it more important you also buy special post-run elixirs for recovery. Compression socks for your calves, compression helmets for your head. Earphones that fit, watches that measure every bit of data, and that slimey stuff so your nipples don't bleed. Plus, you'll need reflectors so you don’t get hit by a car, and spikes for your shoes so you can run on ice.

Run for a while and pretty soon you'll want to run all over the earth. You'll pay thousands to go run New York, Chicago, Boston, and then take trips to Disney just to run through Cinderella's castle wearing Pluto ears.
Priceless, huh
But it’s all worth it, and the high of running is priceless. The reason I write books is to get some cash to pay for running gear, since running brings me the creativity to get ideas to write books so I can get enough cash to pay for running gear.

And these days, the price is steep. In the last 60 days, I’ve paid $1,000 for a MRI  and another $400 for massage therapy that has been grinding away at the scar tissue in my leg (results have been freakin amazing so far).

I’ve ran about 25 miles during this time, just started up two weeks ago. It amounts to almost 70 bucks per mile.

Yep, it’s an expensive high, this running, but if I knew exactly what would work and where to toss my money, I’d pay double. Problem is, I toss it about and try to see what works, and it doesn't always hit the mark. That compression helmet I think was a damn waste, as, I fear, maybe was the MRI. A junky runner and his money are soon parted.

Monday, June 16, 2014

DETROIT "WRITE-A-HOUSE" - FREE HOUSE FOR WRITERS

Coincidence is just God's way of remaining anonymous, and the powers of coincidence just brought the coolest program to my attention. 

Write A House is a writer's residency program that is taking applications to give away a house. They are renovating vacant homes, and giving away to writers.
Young Detroit Builders and Write-A-House at Work
The program struck home since a partially burnt, vacant home on a street of Detroit is the setting for my next book, MILK-BLOOD, to be released in July. The house in Milk-Blood is occupied by a mentally ill, heroin-addicted squatter named Jervis. Had this home been renovated, and a writer allowed to flourish in the home, my story could not have been written. 


Applications for the first Write A House home will close on June 21, 2014 at noon. APPLY HERE

Or if you'd like to donate, there is a crowd-fund here:

A few words from their website:
Write A House is a different kind of writer’s residency program. The Detroit writers and urban activists who founded the organization in 2012 did so with one goal: use vocational training to renovate vacant homes and then give these homes to writers. We don’t know of another movement like this, but then Detroit is a unique place. Our idea supports literary arts, vocational education, neighborhood stabilization, and the creation of more vibrant cities.

And since I know a few of you are saying "Detroit? what's it like to live there?"

The neighborhood is in Detroit, north of Hamtramck (a tiny city surrounded on all four sides by Detroit) and south of the Davison Freeway. The neighborhood is sometimes called No Ham or Banglatown. It is a neighborhood with an older Polish population, an established African-American population, and a growing Bangladeshi population. It is also home to a number of artists as well as the headquarters of the visual arts non-profit Power House Productions. They helped inspire us with their thoughtful use of arts as a community development and engagement tool. They are great neighbors!

Detroit has some of the nastiest urban blight around, this is no lie. But it is also an incredible city. There are pockets of fantastic communities springing forth, a downtown that can be mistaken for Chicago on any friday night with the Tiger game letting out, live bands playing in the street, and a theater district as good as any city outside of New York.  I also like to believe that if you lived your entire life in a rose garden, you'd write some pretty shitty prose. 

I would hate to be thought of as one who exploits the darker side of Detroit without doing anything about it, and that is why I respect this movement so much, and I am going to donate one dollar per paperback copy of Milk-Blood I sell in July.(full disclosure, I make around a $1.30 per paperback, which will be priced at $6.99).

Also, if you have donated to Write-A-House, or you go donate now, I will provide you with a free digital copy of Milk-Blood. Just message me here.


Much love to Write-A-House. 



Friday, June 13, 2014

"Just Like His Father" -FATHER'S DAY AND SOBRIETY

I was at a training by Claudia Black and heard her explain how if a mother or father gets high on heroin, they are abandoning their own child as much as if they had left them in a dumpster. As a recovering alcoholic, for me to put a substance in my body would feel just the same. Fortunately, my children have only known me sober, and I plan to keep it that way. 

Here's a powerful video about a father who got sober during his child's early years, but did not stay that way. I found the poem and performance incredibly moving. Happy Father's Day.
 

Patrick Roche - "21" (CUPSI 2014)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, ASK A RUNNER PERSON




Love this quote, and experience tells me it is true. When you are busy you are most productive. Right on the verge of combusting, but moving fast enough that all your engines are firing.  You use your time more efficiently and are always planning ahead, doing the 7 habits of highly effective people most effectively.

Over the last 2 months when I wasn't running, I had hours of time slots per week that were usually taken up by running, but I didn’t accomplish much more with the time. Time sped up while I slowed down. I just started running this week, and I can already feel the difference. My neurons fire a bit faster. The synapses snap to a bigger beat. I have a touch more bravado and a sprinkle more courage and confidence. It just gets your blood flowing, gives more focus, detoxes the evil out so you can attack things with more precision. Multi-tasking becomes natural.

Just ten miles last week did this. I’m working as author/publisher getting ready to release MILK-BLOOD, working with the editor, formatting copies, writing out guest blog posts. (Plus there's my nightly meeting with the devil, 12 pm midnight sharp.)  It's also the end of the school year which means classroom parties, band concerts, ceremonies. Plus the mandatory Game of Thrones viewing, catching up on Silicon Valley, watching the Stanley Cup, and reading for an hour a day. If I hadn't taken three runs this week, I'd accomlish much less. 

 Running actually doesn’t take from your time, it gives you more time by slowing things down while speeding you up. That's why during marathon training, your whole world seems so intense. The intensity of training bleeds into everything you do. 

If you want something done, ask a runner person.

Friday, June 6, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO "ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN"


ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN is One Years Old today!

Happy Birthday to you, Cha Cha Cha

*Smashes its face into cake*


On June 6th, 2013, the book was published, and what a cool year it has been. The novel has received 68 reviews, 34 of them five stars, 30 of them four stars, and 1 glorious one star review that I have tattooed on my arse, word for word. The book's received some great praise from book reviewers, horror websites, run bloggers, and has been as high as the number three suspense/horror novel on amazon.

What perhaps is most important is that this is just so God-Damned FUN!!! To write and not be read saddens me, so I am ecstatic that the book is being read and the words are now scattered like ashes across the brains of humans everywhere.

When I first wrote this book, I was on the fence wether to self-publish or not, and am very grateful that Richard Thomas alerted me to the open submissions over at Books of the Dead Press, and that they agreed to publish the book. They've taught me so much, I've meet some great people and authors, and I'm kind of digging it. The excitement has certainly boiled over, and my next book will be on amazon next month.

I am so grateful for the support I've received from some awesome Run Bloggers, Book Bloggers, and for the book-signing opportunity from Running Fit, the premier shoe store in Michigan (the book is on their shelves!) and from so many awesome people at goodreads.

Here's a list of THANK YOU's with links, and I'm grateful for all of you. (Sorry for anyone I may have missed.)
  
The Horror News Network
Liz Loves Books
Shana Festa at The Bookie-Monster
Jeff at Detroit Runner
Ty at TyRunman
Author David Ecles
An Eclective Bookshelf
A Readers Review Blog
The Horror Honeys
Author and Editor Weston Kincade
Author Jan Kozlowski
Author Michael Garza
Author Michele Miller
Author Julie Hutchings
Salty Running (Halloween Contest)
Author John F.D. Taff
Author Chris Irvin
Author Bracken MacLeod
Cassie's House of Horrors
Senor Zombie
Author Trista Borgwardt
Running Fit
The Horror Bookshelf
Promote Horror
Reviewer David Spell 
Ravenous Reads
Char's Horror Corner
Miss Zippy
Author Sacha Scoblic
Dawna from The Kindle Book Review
Jill Will Run
Nikki at Horror After Dark 

I really appreciate your support. You're good people, and you won the chocolate factory, and if interested, also a copy of my next book:

Coming in July



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

NATIONAL RUNNING DAY. HAVE YOU CHECKED YOUR SCAR TISSUE LATELY?


"I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains, I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in crooked line." ~The Indigo Girls  

"Scar tissue that I wish you saw." ~The Red Hot Chili Peppers

National Running Day! To me, this is like St. Patrick's day is for alcoholics, just another day to do our thing but reflect more on doing it. Fortunately, I have just started running after a 45 day lay off due to injury.

I went on my second run of the week. First one was a 3 miler, and today it was 4.

I was going to write a long story about my injury, but I will try to sum it up quickly.  Doctors are just people dressed up as doctors. Sometimes they say you have a tear in your quad, but it's an old tear that has healed over from the many weeks in a row you've already taken off running over the past year and a half.  That white mass they see on the MRI is scar tissue. Or it could be a smudge of spilled chobani yogurt. Either way, it is not a muscle that is still torn, even if their doctorate degree tells you so.

The tear in my quad was there indeed, but now it’s a muscle-hampering burning golf-ball sized piece of scar tissue. I learned that after many adventures to find a cure. I visited dark alleys, a couple of fortune tellers, a sage on a mountain top with poor wireless connections, but the best help I've found is at Tri-Covery massage right in my back yard.

For the last 3 weeks, I've been getting the scar tissue massaged out of me. When I say massage, you may think it is comforting, but it is painful. An elbow digs and grinds into the spot and it slowly dissipates. I laugh to make it hurt less, and do my best to not tighten and fight it. I can feel it in there, like a little baby alien ready to burst out of me, only it is fading, and will soon be gone. 

I would never have discovered this problem had I not asked for help from other runners. Advice from runners can be a tricky thing. The only thing more annoying than "always gives advice Runner Guy" is "always one-ups you Runner Guy". But I’ve been hitting up others openly, including blogger TyRunman and  Cait Chock and getting much needed thoughts.

My best thinking got me here, so I needed help. 

Cait Chock, the only creator of a comic book designed for runners on the earth,  was one of the first who mentioned the scar tissue thing. This was something the doctors and specialists didn't even bother with, for they were too busy trying to fix my knee. ("It's not the knee, it's the muscle tissue," I said to more than one doctor, but the myth of poor runner's knee persists).

Of course, this all could be a false positive, but every time I walk into Tri-Covery massage the burning mass of molten evil ju-ju is getting smaller and smaller, and it has helped more than the mutliple doctors I have seen. Had I followed the Orthopedic specialist from the renowned Core Institute, I would just be resting and nothing would change.

If you are within a stones throw of Novi, Run, don't walk over to Tri-Covery Massage. Kelsey has been the one working on me and I've made promises to pay her multiple thousands if she gets me running again (shhhh, I can't afford that, but don't let her know) but all their staff are wicked smart and good.

Thanks to them, to Cait, I'm hoping I can complain about regular niggles and not this one ever again.





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