Thursday, February 27, 2014

26.2 Ways Writing a Novel is Like Running a Marathon (and 1 statement on how it really isn't)

Lots of things are compared to running a marathon.   It’s a marathon not a sprint, you will often hear. 

I have an unproven theory. It says that if you compare something to running a marathon, there is a 84.72% greater likelihood that you have not run a marathon.  And this goes for those who explain that writing a novel is like running a marathon. 

This sounds a bit running elitist, but part of the reason the analogy doesn’t fit is, running a marathon can actually be easy, depending on training. While I have ran marathons that pained me as if my bones were eating their way through my skin, I have had other marathons where the actual 26.2 was of the easiest of the whole training process. Cathartic as writing can be, I've never broke down in tears at the end as I do in a marathon. The tears come out slowly, over months at the keyboard.

Writing a novel is like training for a marathon. I can buy that.

Put a gun to my head and make me choose a more fitting analogy, I will say that writing a novel is like painting an irregularly shaped house.  You look at the walls with your imagination on fire, pick out all sorts of exciting colors, and start slapping up the colors with your creative juices flowing like mad. But the real work is the tiny details and preparation, taping the walls, covering the furniture, edging the corners, putting on a second and third coat.  The whole house can be painted perfectly with a rug that really brings the room together, but if you have splashed some paint where it shouldn’t be, missed a few spots, then the tiny details will wreck the big picture. At some point, you will wish you could wallpaper.

And then, when you finish painting, you invite others to see your work, but you realize there are 50 million other houses much more popular than yours who have invited others over as well. And they got cookies.  You may just sit there by yourself, with a 99 cent sale sign in your hand and watching the paint dry.

Never mind all of that, I did come up with a list. Certainly it will not fit for everyone. It’s just a first draft. Later on, I will get to the tiny details and edge around the corners. 

Ways Writing A Novel Is Like TRAINING for A Marathon

1. You will start with excitement. You will fear not finishing.

2. You have to be obsessed at times.  It will enter your dreams and take over your thoughts. You’ll pretend to be listening to others talk, but really you’re just thinking about your goals. Enjoy.

3. You have to be okay with others not ‘getting it’ along your way.

4. Careful how much you talk about your goals and who with, especially if it is your first.

5. But you do need support. Choose wisely, connect with others. Writers and Runners love to talk about what they do. Just ask, and they will. Goodreads, dailymile, running clubs and writer groups. It’s amazing how much others can inspire you.

6. Even with group support, these are solitary projects. We live, we run, and we write, as we dream – ALONE. (that’s a Joseph Conrad rip-off)

7. Be confident. Be brave. You have to be. You are doing something that will squeeze you like a tube of toothpaste so that whatever is inside will ooze out for all to see. Do it anyway.

8. There is more to know than you’ll ever know about what you are trying to do.  Don’t let that stop you. Let experience be the great teacher that it is. You learn more by failing than by fear of failing.

9. What works for others doesn’t work for everyone. It’s all an experiment of one. (that’s a George Sheehan rip-off)

10. You will have things you have to tackle in the rest of your life that seem unfair.  Everything will tug at you away from your goal. But know that, there are people who work more hours than you do, have more children, have had more house fires, and have had just as many challenges, and they get it done.

11. If you don’t really want to do this, you simply won’t. If you want to do this, you may. If you simply do do this, you certainly will.

(I said doo-doo. )

12. Take risks, dance on the edge, think big, bold, and push. In other words, “run fast and take chances” and write what you know at the start, and then write what you fear to say.

13. When you think you are almost done, you are really not even half way there. Lie to yourself about how long there is to go, and believe your own lies.

14. Do not fear going slowly, fear having stopped. 

15. Run and write with emotion and energy. Pour the day into your work. Torture your protagonist with conflict, torture your legs with miles, and then let them both recover to fight another day. 

16. The finish is just a new beginning. In some ways, it is both triumphant and incredibly sad. 

17. When you look back at your accomplishment, you will remember the process as much as the end.

18. As much as others can celebrate with you the finished product, know that they will never fully understand. 

19. Your legs and your creative juice will be dead of energy at times, but push through. A day of 3 miles or 3 sentences is sometimes just enough.

20. You will outline a plan, but crumble it up and throw it away, and then re-outline again and again.

21. Run your own race, write your own book. Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t compare your dirty bathroom with everyone else’s highlight reel. (that’s a rip-off too, but I’m not sure who from)

22. Sometimes it will feel so effortless and like a fantastic and glorious high. You will be grinning on the outside and the inside.  Tap into those moments and suck out their lifeblood. Ride the wave as far as it will take you. These are the moments to live for.

23. Your first novel and your first marathon will probably not be your best. That is a good thing.

24. Good music that has personal meaning to you will help. Write and run to music. Something that matches the tone of your running or writing.

25. Talking about it, reading blogs about it, tweeting about it, writing cute lists; all these things are no substitute for actually doing it. 

26. You can’t wait for the ideal running or writing conditions. You go to war with the army you have

26.2. You should be a bit scared. Terrified. Everything worth doing is. There is fear at the start of every marathon, and fear in putting yourself out there on paper. You are trying, pushing yourself, not accepting limits, and expressing your power with action and with words. Each day you do something towards your goal is a valiant one.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short time and time again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself a worthy cause; who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vacation Day to Write

I took the day off work today. A vacation day. The plan is to write for four hours straight. I am sitting at a Paneras with an endless supply of coffee and frequent trips for bagels. I have taken days off work for 20 mile runs before, but never just to write. Of course, I fear I will blow it, so that is why I am here at Panera instead of at home, where the chores and duties of the house will call for me.
 I have my Dr. Dre Power Beat headphones on, listening to IN A GADDA DA VIDA on repeat to match the tone of my project. 4 hours of writing will be rewarded by an hour of running. My first run in a week.
 Blogging about writing isn't writing. I am blowing it already. Maybe I should have ran first. Maybe I should get a French Toast bagel. Better check my twitter feed. Pop over to Goodreads. Check my amazon rank. Oh, look, fresh muffin tops.
4 hours is up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Age Group

 Beware runners in age group 45-49!  I have joined your ranks today. 

I may be slow and injury prone, but I'm HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF.

Actually, I haven't ran in a week. After testing the results of my cortisone shot, which so far are inconclusive, I became sidelined by a debilitating stomach flu.

The only aid station I am encountering is fulled with little medicine cups of Pepto Bismo.

I actually like the taste of Pepto Bismo. Things could be worse.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Audiobook is here! Listen to a Sample

The audiobook of On the Lips of Children is here. It has been brought to life by Bob Dunsworth, who has narrated for a slew of authors much more powerful than I such as Richard Laymon, Scott Nicholson, and Rick Hautala. This will make for perfect listening for your next dark trail run. Download on amazon,, or itunes. 

Here's a slideshow to the retail sample. The sample is from the prologue, which is of the more dark and graphic parts of the book, but certainly memorable.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chasing the Dragon. Free everywhere

It's now completely FREE everywhere
Running to Get High

"This book is everything I want in a book about running... Mark Matthews is one of the best runner/writers working today."  -Jennifer Graham, author of "Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner."

"This isn't just your run of the mill advice book. Yes, you will get tips on how to run your best marathon, you will get suggestions on how to prepare for that race, and you will learn new ways to run faster. What else do you get? Nothing short of the author's heart and soul."  -Chris Gibson, "The RUNiverse" 

"Exuberant, passionate, and full of runnerly love, not to mention great practical advice." -Caleb Daniloff, author of "Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time"

Download the Kindle Version from Amazon.

Free on Barnes and Noble

Multiple Versions free on Smashwords

Friday, February 21, 2014

Woke Up In Hell

48 degrees never came as promised to Michigan this week. Instead we got two bouts of snow, and now slush, and a wind advisory.

Inside my house, a stomach flu went around, and nothing I eat will stay down. I'm frail and weak like a dying pope.

In Sochi, USA choked after leading 2-0 against Canada.

And I have a 2nd grade science project to finish.

Monday, February 17, 2014

3 Things That Make Me Happy

Michigan Runner’s Rejoice! The temperature will be rising all week, topping out at an expected high of 48 on Friday. That is going to feel like 100 degrees, and the sidewalks and streets are sure to be clear of ice. (Right?!) I ran outside Saturday and did loops at a generously salted church parking lot, but this week, the whole world will be accessible and glacier free. Headphones, long sleeve shirt, shoes and shorts are all I need. 

The best hockey in the world. Bigger rinks so skaters can show their skill, players motivated by pride and not money. I am rooting for USA, sure, but there is something extraordinary about watching Detroit hometown hero Pavel Datysuk score a goal and then seeing a faint trace of a smile on (LGBT oppressor) Vladimir Putin’s face. Canada will be challenged, Russia feels pressure to win on their home turf, and USA should be in the mix. All of it is glorious. The most wonderful time of the decade for Hockey fans is the Winter Olympics.

Too injured to play for Detroit, scores goals for Russia

The atmosphere of the show is so thick that it seeps from my plasma TV into my room and changes the whole aura of the house. Matthew McConaughey's character is masterful in delivering his dark philosophyof dread. Woody Harrelson trying to be husband and dad but being just as fucked up makes a perfect partner. Not to mention that the whole thing is a flashback and you can see how the characters have evolved but not really sure how they got there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Audiobook of "On the Lips of Children" Coming Soon

The audiobook version of "On the Lips of Children" is coming soon through  I listened to the narration over the last few days and approved it last night. It will be available on, Amazon, and Itunes.

It was such a wild experience listening to the narration. After first listening to auditions from a few narrators, I worked out a deal with Bob Dunsworth. Dunsworth has narrated books for horror and dark fiction authors such as Richard Laymon, Rick Hautala, and Scott Nicholson. He's done Bud Light commercials, promos for Bruce Springsteen,  and voices from Transformers. And he brought the pages of On the Lips of Children to life.
Voice Actor Bob Dunsworth

The voice of Dante and the the children, "T" and "Q" are done especially well. My Ipad was turned up to max volume, and the narration echoed through my house as if I myself were trapped in the cave, listening to Dante screaming "FODDEEERRRR."  Hearing the feral kids from the drug tunnel ask the oblivious Lyric "want to play with us?" was all so insidious and cool. I have to believe this is the next best thing to having your book made into a movie.

If you haven't read the book, it is now available for kindle at the reduced price of $2.99. If you haven't heard the book, then, well, you haven't had the characters whisper in your ear.

I have this dream of someone listening to the audiobook as they run the Ocean Beach Bike Path in San Diego, the true setting which the novel is based on. It would need to be at 4:30 am in the dark, same as my original run was two years ago when the story came to me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Running Comic Book by Cait Chock

Something new and trendy was gifted to me for my thoughts. A digital comic book called:

Effective Mental Strategy: Race Better by Out-thinking your Brain: An Informative Comic Book for Runners!

 The author and illustrator is Cait Chock, who has written articles for Running Times and Runners World and ran in the 2004 World Junior Track Championships. She set the then US High School 5k record and ran for a living as a Professional Nike Runner. These days, she also does running art and shirts.

I have followed Cait's blog for years. She is a wealth of information, and she speaks of it with confidence, charm, and humor. There is running wisdom in her veins, and now it comes with comics. This is what makes it cutting edge. Most runners have read plenty of running tips in their travels, but in this comic book style, it is like a person is speaking with you. There's a feel good vibe and Cait's love for running, writing, and artwork shine through. The visuals pop out of the page. I read it on my Ipad which I think a book like this is made for. The professional runners' thoughts were a great addition. This is a comic book sized work, and not a full piece of non-fiction, but I can only hope it is part of a larger series to come.

Here are some Ipad screenshots: 

 **Check out her blog here: The Arty RunnerChick
and her book here.

Also Available on Amazon for Kindle

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lego Movie: Everything Was Awesome (Even the Irony)

The Lego Movie is a great, creative, and fun film in a Pee Wee's Big Adventure kind of way. Like any good episode of Adventure Time, The Regular Show, or Spongebob, kids will miss out on some of the subversive jokes, but that's okay, because the laughs shoot out at you rapid-fire style. 

But, did anybody see the irony here? The 'bad guys' of the movie demand rigid conformity and will use that to take over the world. There are some hilarious moments and spoofs on those who blindly follow instructions. The good guys are the "master-builders" who will save the universe using artistic free form. The movie is a proponent of free play & creativity. 

But Lego has been selling sets which demand exactly the opposite. They have boxed sets with rigid instructions. Don't follow them, and you'll never have your pirate ship or Millennium Falcon. Only a bunch of mishaped pieces sure to be stepped on by barefeet in the dark and make you scream. 

Gone are the days when you just bought a bunch of different colored pieces in different sizes, and came up with what you imagined. The 'Master Builders' Lego thinks will save the world have been phased out by Lego themselves. 

Enough of that. The movie is great. So good, that we went out and bought the Xbox 360 game the next day, and it is a worthy video game version of the movie. (The 90 minute commercial worked on me.) The song "Everything Was Awesome", the phrase, "Honey, where's my pants?" "Taco Tuesday", and fear of the Kragle are certain to be part of our lexicon. 

Good Cop/Bad Cop. Favorite Movie character

Favorite Character to play in the Xbox Video Game

In other Monday Morning News: 
My post-cortisone shot runs have gone splendid! I felt a bit 'tingly' and odd, partly because a big huge needle had just been inside of me. I am being guardedly optimistic since I have been here before. Once I add more speed and more miles I will be able to tell if it made a difference. But for now, Everything Is Awesome.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

SWEET CORTISONE, "Da Da Da Da" and a Philip Seymour Hoffman Follow-Up

Where it began: 17 months ago.  September 2012. Two weeks out from the New York City Marathon.

 During a 13 mile run I tore the bottom of my quad. I was in front of a Big Boy restaurant, at 8 Mile and Farmington Road and ended up walking home with a limp. The restaurant has since closed down, but my injury remains. 

Despite rest periods of 3 weeks on at least 4 occasions, and another 6 week rest,  it still flares up again as soon as serious running begins. I saw my regular doctor and a sports doctor during this time which didn't provide answers. The 3 marathons I ran during these same 17 months didn’t help much. I finally I got a referral to the Core Institute.

 The Core Institute is pretty bad ass. They didn’t offer any voodoo cures, but did give me a cortisone shot.  My second cortisone shot of my life. My first was for bone spurs in my ankle and hurt as if  they were sucking out the marrow without anesthesia. This one was pretty easy and just burnt a bit. An MRI is the next option if the cortisone shot doesn’t seem to work.

I’m anxious and geeked to start running more than my 3 to 5 miles for all the regular reasons, and because my RUNWELL shirt arrived. (What's RUNWELL? an organization who uses the running lifestyle to combat addiction.) I want to cruise around the streets wearing it and incite small riots to follow me Forest Gump style. I also need to pick an event to start raising funds. Initially I had my eye on the Rock CF half marathon, but I may skip spring entirely and just do a couple fall events.
 Question for the day: Is there something odd about taking a substance by needle and having it injected so that I can run for an agency that fights drug abuse? Hmmmm…
If I start rummaging through car-wash garbage bins looking for 10¢ returnables to buy my next shot of cortisone, then it certainly is. For now, I’m just hoping it can return me to my drug of choice: Running to detox my mind, body, and spirit, headphones rockin my noggin, and two healthy legs beneath me.
Sweet Cortisone. Good times never seemed so good. 
Prayin it works. 
*Philip Seymour Hoffman follow up: Arresting the drug dealers who sold him the heroin seems so misguided here. Not that heroin should be legal or that they shouldn't be arrested,(I'm pro pot legalization, but not heroin) but Philip was a 'grown-ass man' as they say, and it just seems like a misguided effort at justice.

Articles all over the place are citing his words; "I know I"m going to die if I keep using" as particularly prophetic. 99% of addicts have said this, so it hardly qualifies as news.

  I am amazed at some of the lack of empathy with cold responses such as:
  "What a waste. He stuck a needle in his arm. How disgraceful. What the hell is wrong with him?" 
Well, he certainly was not a victim here. We are all responsible for our own recovery. He was completely responsible to stay clean, and did so for 23 years which is a miracle. His tragic death was a result of his own actions. But I think if folks could somehow understand or experience the power of a heroin craving and what it biologically does to the mind, they would sing a different song. 
I just stuck a needle in my leg with the purpose of getting high. Fortunately that 'high' is the healthy option of going for a run, but I kept running even though I knew it was destroying my leg. Really, we all are seeking some kind of peace, and to think drug addicts are that much different than any of us seems to me its own form of self-righteous delusion.

I don't think anyone at the Core Institute is getting arrested today. 
Cortisone Injection
Heroin Injection

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman and 23 Years of Sobriety

Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug addiction in his early 20's, but then got sober at 22. He stayed sober for 23 years.

After 23 years he relapsed.

23 years to me means his sobriety had fully 'grown up.' But still, his addiction didn't go away and was growing as well.  

He went back into treatment after the relapse, but sobriety didn't stick this time and he apparently has died of a drug overdose. 

I am no Philip Seymour Hoffman, but my sobriety has followed his path. I got sober at the same age, and am approaching my 23 years of sobriety. Certainly my path will follow his if I choose to pick up a substance again. Like some vampire sleeping in its coffin ready to be released and suck the blood out of my veins and those around me, I know it is waiting to explode and make up for lost time.

I don't know this just because it happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman, I know this because I feel it inside of me.Right in my gut.

The cliche is that while you are staying sober, your addiction is doing push ups and getting stronger too, waiting for you to slip. It's as if every second sober there's more power to the cravings and urges that build behind the damn of your sobriety. Once it cracks, the longer it's been dormant the more powerful the surge. Addiction has gotten hungry after not being fed for so long. It goes berserk.

And Philip Seymour Hoffman had 'it' as an actor. I'm not versed enough in drama to say what 'it' is, but he had so many intangibles. Facial expressions that spoke volumes. Range of emotions with his voice and body that let him take on some powerful roles. If any actor is worthy of the elegance of a three part name, it is him. You never felt like he was acting, and that he was as powerful, deep, and conflicted as any of the characters he plays. 

23 years of sobriety are inspiring. He touched many of us. The relapse is a tragic reminder that the damn that holds back addiction can crack for everyone. You are not done fighting addiction as long as you live.

"I didn't go out looking for negative characters. I went out looking for people who have a struggle and a fight to tackle. That's what interests me."

Lullabies for Suffering is Now Available on Kindle

Lullabies for Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror is now available on Kindle!   For Lullabies for Suffering on Amazon: Click Here...