Friday, November 14, 2014

A Friend and Muse—Meeting James Matlack Raney

A FEW years ago, I came across an author on Facebook who had recently published his first middle grades novel, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves. I bought it on Kindle initially so I could read it during my school's Read-A-Latte, a day when we could bring our classes to the library and just have them read books, enjoy some coffee or hot cocoa, and a light snack. Well, all of my classes participated in this event, and I finished the novel in just a few periods, finding it a refreshing and engaging read for all ages.

This was my first exposure to James Matlack Raney.

Since then, I have read the second book in the Jim Morgan trilogy—Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull—and this book blew me away with the vibrant imagery, spot on characterization, and fantasy world elements that I enjoy so much. Not long after reading the first novel, we started chatting on Facebook, and since then we've talked about our own books, writing in general, book publishing, promoting through social media, etc.

He was also kind enough to help me with a film treatment I was asked to write for my own debut novel, Task Force: Gaea. We spent hours over the course of a few days discussing this project, and his advice on books to read on the subject was invaluable. I am truly grateful for all of the time and effort he put into helping me make my project as strong as it could be. Not many people would take time of our their own lives to help someone they hardly know like that—he's truly a good-hearted person.

Having read James' works and talked with him, I found myself inspired in my own writing. A gifted writer, his advice and thoughts on various topics have come across as helpful without being the least bit condescending or pedantic. He truly knows his stuff. As I finished my second novel (and now my third), I can honestly say he was integral in helping to inspire me as a fellow author and a friend.

A few months ago, he re-purposed his blog—Storygazing—to showcase author's short fiction and poetry, and I was humbled when he asked me to contribute as well. The works that those authors have posted have been some unique and inspiring pieces, truly evocative of the inspired mind. As like minded storytellers, we both appreciate the written word and the effect it can have on others. My hope is that Storygazing will become an ongoing repository for creative works that people will enjoy for years to come.

Recently, while I was in Los Angeles for Bent-Con, I had the opportunity to meet James the night before I left, and it was like meeting an old friend. I have to admit: I was a little nervous. He's a role model and a sounding board, and I hoped I wouldn't make a fool out of myself. Our three-hour-long conversation couldn't have been more at ease, however, spanning comics, books, writing, movies, school, and even my favorite topic, Wonder Woman. 

Whenever I meet author friends, I feel like I'm meeting a member of an extended literary family, and in this case, I was meeting a brother. My hope is that we can make that meet up a yearly occurrence when I am out in Los Angeles.

It's not often one gets to meet a Muse, and I feel especially lucky to have had the chance to chat with someone whom I respect highly and for whom I want nothing but success.

Writing is a journey for the author as much as it for the reader, and reading compelling stories that can stand the test of time is something we all enjoy. I've only been an author for a short time (although I've been a writer for as long as I could hold a pen), and knowing others who would rather sit and write than do much else makes me feel more validated.

James' third novel in this series, Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World, comes out December 1, 2014, and I've been waiting quite a while to read it. You should definitely join the adventure of Jim Morgan—you won't be disappointed.

As his bio states, "James Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own," and I think we're all the better for it!

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