Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - A Look Back - The Road Grew Longer

I thought with all my heart that after the years I had endured in 2013 and 2014 that I would finally get to write a much different type of reflection on 2015.  The year even started out incredibly, even to the point I felt it was a miracle, but as I sit here now writing this on the cusp of another New Year I cannot shy away from the reality that 2015 turned out to be yet another year of trial and endurance.

I can't sugarcoat it.  I can't try to say what it is not.  I don't live in fear.  I live with reality and this reflection comes from the gut and heart.

Once again, I'm still standing, and more strides were made, and I'm still fighting forward.  It was just a case of far too many tears and far too few smiles.  But there were some smiles.

2015 started out in what I genuinely viewed as a miraculous way.  A development had occurred in my life that aimed toward what I want more than anything in all the world; a dedicated home for my heart.

I often have used the metaphors of storms, gray skies, and sunshine to indicate this crucially important aspect of my life.  For once, genuine sunshine emerged, the kind of light that I could feel in my heart.  The sunshine brings out the full me, the real me.

I felt alive.  My smile and my eyes reflected real happiness, for a change.

As the Collective Soul song Better Now says:

"Break the news out
I've got to get out
Oh I'm feeling better now"

And I did start to come alive.

Assembling children's toy sets, buying lego figures while browsing toy stores, a real Valentine's Day with a multi-course dinner and where I was able to give a gift of jewelry, trekking through snow to shovel out a mother's driveway and having a playful snowball fight, sharing a bottle of wine, playing with little noise-maker guns, cooking a family dinner all by myself, playing board games with kids and helping them with their homework, acting silly in the aisles of a grocery store while shopping, making snow angels, and all kinds of things that made my heart smile like it had not for a long, long time.

If you really want to understand me, these are some clues.  Hint, nothing in my creative fields can ever bring me genuine happiness, not of the kind that truly centers me.  That's one painful truth I know.

I began to get centered in a way that I had not been for many long years.

Things began to get even better as I had the release of Heart of a Lion approach, the first novel starring Rayden Valkyrie, the character of mine who is nearest and dearest to me.  The whole notion of having a heart of a lion resonated with me, after I had pulled out from such difficult years in 2013 and 2014, and it looked as if things were finally going to be okay and I was finally going to get to experience a new day.

My dear friend Kylie Jude made me a book trailer for Heart of a Lion, and the lyrics to it echoed my whole experience covering the past couple of years and the period of the book release, as a triumphant moment.

"You can't break me 
I will still be 
where there is need 
there I will be 
 I will keep 

The book release event for Heart of a Lion was incredible, held at Joseph-Beth Booksellers here in Lexington.  Physique competitor Carrie Rapp came and starred as our Rayden Valkyrie wearing a custom outfit matching the one on the book cover art (Book cover art was by the amazing Bonnie Wasson, and the outfit was tailored by Angela Bensusan).  There was even a custom menu for the night in the Bistro for the after party, from appetizers to entrees to desserts, and even a custom drink!  Even more wild, I was even presented with and given an actual SWORD during the signing!

When I walked out of Joseph-Beth that night with the Colonel, Eric Jude, I felt so good about everything, and that moment was even captured on camera.

Being presented with an actual sword by Isaac Hickman
My backdrop setup for the night

Carrie Rapp in costume, myself, and the daughter of a reader and friend of mine, Carrie.Sirles-O'Connor

Walking out with Eric Jude at the end of the night

Everything looked so promising.  I was centered at last, I had a book I was very proud of that had just come out.  Convention season was right around the bend.  Finally, at long, long last, it looked like I'd get to live the life I'd always wanted to have.

A balanced life.  A life in which I could love as I know I can.  A life where everything has a bit of magic because I have someone to SHARE it with.

And yes.  Once again, once more, sudden heartbreak brought the clouds back thick into my skies.

The shock of it all felt so surreal.

This time, I handled it a little stronger than the periods I suffered in 2014.  I did not question my self-worth and value, or what I had to offer.

Nevertheless, it was a very, very painful time with a lot of heartache.  I am grateful for the chance to walk again in sunshine in a way that I had not for so many years before and have not since.  I will always love her for that precious time.

The rarity of sunshine in my world makes me value it all the more. It also made for a lot of pain as I knew I had to keep moving forward, and see ahead through eyes clouded by tears.

It was, once more.  A cold day.

It is very hard to describe just how deep the pain is when things of a magnitude like this happen and you have placed your heart with someone.  But the Lacuna Coil song One Cold Day does give the best musical representation of how it feels:

"As I stand in the rain of this cold day
Tears are the words when I cannot confess the pain
Time will heal
But I don't want to feel

Cry in the rain
Release the pain

So cry now
Cry now and let it go?"

You have to keep moving forward.  And I did.

I kept up my physical training, which was progressing and the practice of martial arts gave me focus and a channel for so much pain and frustration.  It also gave me a number of small milestones, both fitness and skill-wise, to celebrate during the storm.

The song that has been such a battle-cry for me for a long time now, Pop Evil's Trenches, represents this so well.  It truly is being in the trenches, and working to fill those trenches, and not giving up, and keeping yourself going, so you can stand up above ground once more.

"I've waited all my life to get out of the trenches 
 I'm ready to fight for what I believe you can steal from me 
 I won't take this 
 Gonna fill these trenches and stand up 
Wake up, 
I won't give up 
 'Cause here I come, here I come"

It is is so hard to describe how much energy it takes, how deep you have to reach, to push ahead as hard as you can when your heart aches so much.  But I somehow found a way, even if I had to cut back on a few appearances.

One appearance I did keep, even during a very raw time of emotion for me, was a workshop for kids at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in late March.  I conducted a workshop on character creation and took the 9-12 year olds through a truly pro-level character development process. It was a fantastic experience and brought me a few smiles that I badly needed.  I thank Patricia Murphy very much for this special day.

Me with my class of 9-12 year olds for a workshop at Joseph-Beth Booksellers

I did make it to the Author's Fair in Madison, Indiana, continuing my streak there of attending every one of these.  Doing events when you are struggling internally is very hard, as you have to do all you can to be upbeat for your readers and fellow writers, and be a good guest for the book fair.  This one was not an easy one to do but I had to keep on my road. I think I delivered well as a guest for them and I did enjoy seeing readers, both new ones and those who had already come aboard my creative world.

Me at my setup at the Author's Fair in Madison Indiana, April 2015

Spring brought with it a bit of a landmark moment, a pro photo session in later April with Eric Jude of Frozen Creek Studios.  This photo session captured the significant progress made in me physically and also reflected many of the things core to my world.

It was a reminder that despite all the heartache suffered, I had indeed made many strides.

The shoot with Eric and his wife Kylie was wonderful.  I feel it captured a guy who keeps fighting forward and somehow manages to keep his head up.

I knew I was winning the battle to reclaim my physical self, and with so much going through my mind, about everything in my world, I began to notice the Camaro that had been sitting idle for several years, a 1992 25th anniversary Z-28 that had come into my life the last time I was in good physical shape.  A Z-28 that had come into my life during a tremendous period of heartache back in my college years.  

Looking at that car sitting there, not running, fading paint, my heart hurt.  How had I let that happen? That's a long story, but I knew that the situation with the car was not right.

Just as I knew I haven't deserved what I've endured, that car deserved so much better.  If I was reclaiming myself and fighting my way back to being the best of me again, then that car deserved to come back to full glory and beyond.  

The car needed a name.  And there was only one that fit with the color that I wanted that car to be.  Valkyrie.  After Rayden Valkyrie and in honor of the idea of having the heart of a lion.  The color I envisioned was silver, to have Valkyrie look liked a honed sword blade gleaming in bright sunshine.  

It took many months, starting with my tremendous neighbor and friend Bob Cable and his dad getting Valkyrie off the ground again.  Then the folks at Car Masters of Lexington, KY, truly honest, kind, and dedicated folks, undertook a lot of work (one of their mechanics Tom is superb with muscle cars and you will not work with a nicer guy than Tim).  The folks at MAACO capped it off by giving Valkyrie her new silver attire.  A new stereo from Autosound and new tires from the good folks at Tire Discounters on Nicholasville Road. 

After the set of 8 new high-end injectors were put into that 5.7 L 350, the very last step, she was back and she roared.

We were together again and it sure felt good. :)

This song, "With a Full Head of Steam" by Armored Saint, is the first song I played in her when she had her new stereo system installed.  Certain cars have a spirit and she does, and when I'm driving her I can feel  the fight in her and it is like she is reminding me to keep fighting, moving onward with a full head of steam.  This song is what she and I would sing together, just like Jon Bush and Pearl Aday do in this song: I think Valkyrie would have a voice like Pearl, especially when she belts it out later in the song!

"So pristine 
Well I keep pushing onward  
With a full head of steam"

Summer got underway and I had some pleasant experiences, such as my trip to Hypericon in Nashville where I was given a fitness award.  Mind you, this is a book-centered convention, so I was a bit floored by the recognition, but some very dear friends of mine, such as Mandi Lynch and Stephania Grimm, wanted to recognize the physical journey and battle I'd been fighting in that area. It really touched me and I felt honored to be recognized like that.

My fitness award from Hypericon 2015! 

At the same time, a glimmer of hope was appearing in my world, and for a brief period I thought I might have another path back toward the sunlight.  From a beautiful walk across the bridge in Louisville to the first real birthday party I'd had in a long time, a wonderful pool party in Louisville, I allowed my heart to hope again.

Once more, disappointment and some difficult inner hurt.  An once more, nothing that made sense.

FandomFest came soon after all of that, and our literary track there was a great success. Everything ran so smoothly, the vibes were so positive, and the track and event really felt, for the second year in a row, how I knew they could be during the earlier developmental years.  Always an adventure when you work with the legendary Ken Daniels!  He and Myra have a great thing going with FandomFest and with the format it has now, it really is in a good place.

There was one moment in August that was truly special and represented the best in life.  One of my best friends Christina Butcher and my friend Evan Richardson welcomed their son Elijah into the world.  I got to visit in the hospital and hold baby Elijah.  I can only imagine how amazing and incredible it must be to have a child and it represents what is most important in life.  Life, family and love, the highest of things without question.  This day was a celebration of all of that and I was so lucky to be able to hold baby Elijah and visit with Christina and Evan there at the hospital.

Me with baby Elijah 

The second year of Imaginarium arrived in September, and took a nice step forward.  It grew in size, we had a great Guest of Honor in romance author Lori Wilde, and we added some great new things such as a Friday night rock concert and a Magic the Gathering game tournament.  The heart was there and while we still haven't gotten to meeting the costs of the event, a big stride was made and there's a lot of motivation and momentum toward our third year.  Senior staff like Frank Hall, Robin Blankenship, Eric and Kylie Jude, and Jill Campbell were true champions, and our volunteer staff shined (from Mary Holt Blankenship, to Sandy Kachurek and Resa Sandora, to all involved.),  Of course, our representative at the Crowne Plaza, Nicole Castaneda, is aces!

Me with the one and only Frank Hall at Imaginarium 2015

One fun thing that I started doing as fall arrived was beginning my journey on the Bourbon Trail here in Kentucky.  Bourbon is a big part of Kentucky, historically and in terms of industry, and seeing the distilleries has been something I've long wanted to do.  I got to do this with with the great Jude family (Eric, Kylie, Rachel their cousin Lisa Marie Ross, and Bobby Little, and ,my awesome friend Robin Blankenship came aboard for our second excursion) of course, and was able to hit Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses, netting me a third of the nine passport stamps I need to complete the official trail.  The tours were all amazing, with a lot to see, to learn, and to sample! :)

Me with Eric Jude at Jim Beam

My physical journey all this while had been proceeding very well.  Krav Maga is a great fit for me and the workouts continued to advance as my physicality enabled me to do more and more.  I've said before that Krav Maga has been a gift and a blessing these past two years, and now as I surpass where I was in my 20's and able to do things I could not do in my 20's, it becomes more self-evident. In the fall I took a photo that showed the stages from the beginning, to earlier in 2015, to later in 2015.

I had another book release in October, the 2nd volume of my Hellscapes collection of short stories. This time, the cover art was created by the uber-talented Aaron Drown of Aaron Drown Design, who writes as A. Christopher Drown and is a top-flight author by any definition (As his novel A Mage of None Magic proves).  These tales aren't for the faint of heart, but there's a moral to all of them, as it is an exploration of evil.  Perfect book to have out around Halloween too!

I also did some events and appearances, including another one at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, a place that is very special to me.  I love to encourage kids to stay strong and go for their dreams and thankfully I've been able to do that many times at PLD.  Their LitCon was a great success, and major kudos to Summer Stockwell Perry for spearheading such a wonderful thing for high school students. 

Me with some of the great students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington

The holiday season then arrived.  

In recent years, this has been a very difficult thing for me, as I haven't found a home for my heart, where I can start my own family again (whether that be becoming part of a partner's world, starting a new one, or a combination of both), and I've had so many loved ones pass away in what was already a smaller family to begin with.  It's down to just me and my sister now, and I know it's very hard on both of us when we were used to warm, joyous family holidays in the past. 

We make the most of it and had Thanksgiving with lifelong friends who we deem as family, Maria Peltier, and her daughter Michelle.  

During this time, once more a glimmer of hope occurred in that area that is most important to me.  I was so excited as just when I was girding myself for the holidays it looked as if something bright and wonderful was entering my world.  A situation I would have been absolutely happy with.  I had many very wonderful experiences, from daytime lunches, to walks in the park, to frozen yogurt forays, to a hike, to helping out with essay papers in a coffee shop, a special holiday dinner and party I held at my favorite restaurant Pete's Wok, to a big concert night seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra where I felt a touch of the Christmas magic I had not felt in so long.  

This song doesn't have lyrics, but it is one of my favorite Trans-Siberian Orchestra Songs and this is how my heart felt that night at the concert, from the 14th row back from the stage: 

Yet once more, heartache arrived.

Right in the Christmas season.

And nothing I could understand.

I wanted to cry out.  How much heartache can a person take?  Does the Universe think I'm made of Titanium?

Dammit, it hurts SO deep.  I always give my best, I having a loving heart, I am always kind, I am always giving, and yet it always seems it gets tossed aside as if it were nothing.

I'll never understand that. It never gets any easier. And yes, I know with absolute certainty I deserve better in light of what I offer. At least I believe in myself and know that, no matter how much my heart hurts.

I just couldn't believe what had happened, and the song A Day in My Life by Five Finger Death Punch really hits home hard in regard to this latest hurt.

"Feels like I'm falling away
Getting deeper and deeper everyday
And like nothing has changed or ever will
It seems like I'm going insane
Getting farther and farther everyday
I just swallow the pain
And always will
Welcome to a day in my life"

Deep breath.

I have to keep moving forward as long as I'm breathing.

I have to give myself a chance that things will indeed change and someone special will recognize what I have to offer, will appreciate me, and will give my heart a home.  And they will discover that they have won the lottery because they'll have a dedicated, loyal, steadfast, big-hearted and caring guy ready to give them the adventure of a lifetime.

So, after enduring a particularly painful Christmas period, I thought I'd just look to wrap the year up quietly.  Another tough one, another year of trial with a high dose of heartache, and some strides in a few areas.

I then decided to make one final statement.

Over a year ago, I was still too anxiety-ridden to take my shirt off at a beach or pool.  I realized, here in late December of 2015, that I had become confident in myself, no matter what, and I have changed how I view myself in many ways.

So I took a selfie of myself wearing an unbuttoned flannel shirt, showing some of my chest and the flatter stomach I've attained.  I posted in on my mainstream social media areas such as Facebook and Instagram.

It was my way of saying I was still standing tall and believe in myself more than ever.  A year ago afraid to take my shirt off at a pool, now posting a pic with exposed chest and stomach right there in public on Facebook.

It was a self-affirmation.  It was a statement of confidence and belief in myself.

I never expected the response, especially from a very, very talented romance and erotica author who has indicated she will use me as a cover model for one of her books.  This meant so very much to me, as a cover for an author is not just personal, but also the representation in marketing their book and selling books.  To hear that an established romance author that I highly respect would like to use me for a cover model meant a ton to me on many levels and was a tremendous validation of the 2 years of very, very hard work that's been involved in reclaiming my physical self.

It was a lightning bolt of positive energy at a time when I've been surrounded by a lot of darkness.  It meant so much that I told her I'd be willing to be clean-shaven and even cut my hair if the look for her book cover required it!

So where do things stand as 2015 comes to a close?

I believe in myself.  I'm a fighter.  I'm still standing.

It brings to mind a song that played over the baseball field loudspeakers when a 12 year old boy took the mound in a championship game as an underdog.  He, and his father, were the only two that truly believed it could be done.  That boy struck out the first three batters he faced and led his team to win a championship.

Now, many years later, that twelve year old boy has become a man and embraced a warrior's path.  He is stepping into 2016 as an underdog once again, against great odds.

Don't underestimate him.

The 2016 version of him, like the recent cover of the song, is full of fire and fury.  I make no predictions about 2016 but I am going to come out swinging and I'm hitting harder than ever these days.

"Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive
So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive"

Friday, December 25, 2015

Love is Far, Far More Than a Feeling

This Christmas is yet another one that I woke up alone, surrounded by heavy silence.  In my mind, I remember the kinds of Christmas days I had in the past, and what Christmas is filled with; a spirit flowing with generosity, affection, good will, and everything that involves love's essence.

Sometimes the periods of trial in your life bring you to a greater appreciation and understanding of something.  You gain a different perspective when you are in the fires, one that brings you a greater level of clarity.

I have heard it said and written that love is just a feeling.  Here, reflecting upon what Christmas is all about, contrasting the Christmases of present and past, I find myself thinking about love and what love really is.

When I come across those who say love is just a feeling, I want to tell them a resounding no, that they are very, very mistaken.  Love is far, far more than a feeling.

Many wonderful feelings can emanate from a state of love.  The presence of real love can take you into a state of rapturous joy.  It can bring you a sense of inner peace and contentment that is timeless. It can invigorate you to where you regain the sense of wonder and things being new that a child has.  It can raise you to heights and depths of intimacy and passion not possible without its presence.

Yet the feelings, no matter how wonderful they might be, should never be confused with the core that gives life to them.  They are reflections and manifestations, but they are not the substance.

The English language has a tremendous range of words to be used for expression and description, but when it comes to love I often find it to be very inadequate.  Many other cultures have multiple words for love, such as the ancient Greeks.  With their concepts of agape, or an unconditional type of love, like that between a parent and child, or philia, the brotherly/sisterly love that is reflected in friendships, or eros, the passionate love between a couple, I believe the Greeks arrived at the deeper and more multi-faceted nature of genuine love.

Genuine love reaches the state where the equation of "one plus one equals one" is not just possible, but the consummate reality.  So much is encompassed by love that it is impossible for me to capture all of it in just one essay, but perhaps I can show a few of its facets using what I have learned about love at this stage of my journey.  It is my intention to illustrate enough of it to demonstrate my view of when genuine love is present.

With the presence of love, even the dynamic of feelings is transformed.  Joy is derived from the recognition of joy in the other person.  The sense of inner peace is empowered by the sense of inner peace in the other person.  The thrill of wonder takes life when seeing the shine in the eyes of the other person.  The feeling of intimacy is heightened in recognizing the passion in the other person. The very nature of feelings is changed due to the shared experience and bond with the person that you love.

But feelings, however they might manifest and take new forms in a state of love, are only a small part of it. Genuine love brings about a number of qualities, many of which require effort and conscious dedication to maintain and build upon over time.

Love brings about a sense of patience and compromise, and that means you gain the kind of patience to allow the other person space to compromise in areas where it will improve and strengthen a given relationship.  No two individuals are the same, and inevitably there will be differences that come to light.  Sometimes the differences can lead to exposure to new things that you come to truly enjoy, and at other times you come to enjoy something you would not otherwise like simply because you recognize the pleasure and happiness that it brings the one that you love.  Compromise in a state of genuine love is not about giving in, it is about embracing.

Changes in the way you do things, or how you conduct daily affairs, can bring about greater harmony between two people, growing the bond between them.  But these changes and adjustments are only made possible with the ability to compromise and the patience to achieve that and let it take root, both with yourself and the one you love.  Genuine love enables and involves this kind of patience and compromise.

Genuine love involves a sense of empowerment, both regarding yourself and the one that you love.  When you have achieved a state of genuine love, over time there will be inevitable growth in self-confidence and a sense of self-worth, both in terms of oneself as well as the other person.  These areas of growth reflect in the very way that you both carry yourself each and every day, and are easily recognizable by others.  You take pride in the one you love, and you also take pride in who you are.  

The love you bring another and the love they give you drives both of you to continually grow and become better people.  It is about uplift and betterment in all things, and this will show itself in so many ways within a relationship that contains genuine love. Sometimes, it can be wonderfully transforming, taking one who perceived themselves as broken and bringing them to a place where they shine like new, brighter than ever before.  Genuine love always seeks the best for another, and at the same time asks you to seek the best in yourself.

Genuine love brings you onto a path that is not convenient or easy  It is not something discarded at the first obstacle or challenge.  It often requires deep sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that brings you into some manner of hardship or incurring a significant cost to yourself, but you embrace and undertake it if it leads to the betterment and well-being of the one you love.  You sacrifice because they are worth every sacrifice.

Generosity is present where there is genuine love.  The desire to celebrate the other person and express your own recognition of their value and worth leads to a generous and giving spirit.  You go the extra mile to bring something more to a special occasion.  You put more thought into gestures that are made and gifts that are given.  You even get creative with surprises and instigating new adventures.  A generous spirit pervades all of it, as you delight in the other person, show them how you take delight in them, and make it clear how greatly you value them.

A guardian spirit inevitably comes over you when you love somebody, in a way that governs both yourself and how you approach the world at large.  In your desire to protect one you love, you seek to do no harm to them, first and foremost.  The natural extension of that is to protect them from outside harm, to a level where you will stand forward no matter what the odds are to defend them, even to the point that it requires your own life.  It truly is a state of being where if others seek to harm one that you love, they will find you blocking their path, with both of your feet firmly planted on the ground.

One of the hardest things about genuine love is the acceptance of vulnerability, but that is also one of the biggest signs of love's presence.  In opening yourself up on the deepest and most intimate levels to another person, you become vulnerable, and it can take a lot of courage to do take that step.  But in embracing that kind of vulnerability, you reach a depth in the relationship with the other person that is both rare and precious.  While you can be wounded greatly when this is violated, when it is not the kind of connection created leads to a true union between two spirits.  You discover that in vulnerability there is tremendous strength.

Love, in all of its facets and aspects, draws its strength from a foundation of trust.  You trust that the other person will care for your heart, when you place it into their hands.  You trust that they seek your well-being and betterment.  You trust in what they tell you and express, and this also means that you are open with them as well.  Without trust, which in love involves the deepest kind of belief in the other person and who they are, the other aspects are not possible.

Genuine love is capable of miracles and guiding us toward our best selves.  It is worth fighting for, worth making every effort, and, in my view, the greatest part of life itself.  Genuine love gives life meaning.  

That's why, as I sit here alone on a Christmas morning, I can say without hesitation that I feel very sorry for those who say that love is merely a feeling.  In their own words, they reveal that they do not understand what love truly is.

Love is far, far more than a feeling.

And with that, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, as Christmas is all about love.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

During Holiday Trials, Moving Forward is the Only Choice

In many homes tonight there is the warm glow of lights, the laughter of children, embraces of affection, kisses between loved ones, and the very air sparks with the magic of Christmas.  It is a wonderful time with expressions of generosity, good will, love and the kinds of things that give strength and vitality to life itself. 

Yet tonight I have to give voice to others, for whom this time is a very difficult trial, a period to endure and find a way to make it through.  For myself, and a great many others, it is a bitter, cold and lonely time, and for those such as us it is no exaggeration to say that demons swarm like no other time of year.  

The reasons are different for many, whether they are tied to experiences of deep grief, hardships, heartbreak, or a combination of all of those, but the shadow cast over the holiday season has a similar feel for those experiencing it as a trial. 

It is hard to put the feelings into words that those who have not gone through it can understand.  I could speak of the heaviness of heart, the sting of the memories of the days when Christmas held magic and promise, the chill of uncertainty, and how my very spirit feels as if it is suffocating.

It does not diminish me in any way to discuss these kinds of feelings openly  For better or for worse, I have never hidden who I am and I have nothing to hide.  If anything, rising tomorrow and doing what I can to move forward reflects a kind of inner strength that I believe is a great attribute and something that I can draw upon for a better day.  

I have not given up on seeing the dawn of a day when the magic of Christmas returns to my world.  I may be a lone warrior at the moment, but I desire a family of my own.  The trials I have been through will only serve to reinforce my dedication, appreciation, generosity, and joy toward that family I can truly call my own. 

Somewhere in the depths of the current darkness, a certain wisdom and strength can be found.  The hardships and trials of the present  preparing you for a better day in the future, the setbacks and heartaches bringing you greater appreciation for the time when your heart finally finds a home.  

You know you won't take that day for granted, and you also understand that you will walk each and every day in gratitude when that day is reached.  The special one that takes my hand for that journey will find a depth of heart from me of a kind they may have never imagined possible, bringing with it a level of commitment, generosity, and affection that will fill their world with light and joy.  

Is it hard to face a Christmas like this one, knowing that it will be yet another passing of the holiday where the magic is absent, and another year will pass before you may even have a chance to feel that magic again?  Of course it is hard.  Brutally hard.  Incredibly difficult.  But avoiding that stark reality or its harsh nature does me no good.  You can only address what is, and only by facing the demons do you discover what you have to do to pull yourself up and move forward.  

The skies may be churning with dense clouds of storm at the present, but I will press onward and I will make every effort to reach that place where my skies shine with the Light of a Thousand Suns. I encourage all others going through difficult Christmas to do all you can to keep moving forward. Even in the midst of the darkness, I say the magic can be found again.  Give yourself that chance. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2016 Looms. Will This Finally Be the Year?

As I've mentioned before, the holidays are a real trial period for me, for many reasons.  They have turned into something to get through and endure, not something that I enjoy anymore.  I do think I can return to the days when I loved the holiday season more than any other time of the year, but that time is not here yet.

Before I get too frustrated, I look at what's been percolating in the past year.  I've made more strides professionally and in early 2016 I will be getting underway with the development of the largest project I've ever tackled, one that will return me to the world of movie-making.  I'm going to be moving forward with the development of a potential TV Pilot based on my character Rayden Valkyrie, from my novel Heart of a Lion.  That's a world that holds a lot of potential for excitement, new horizons and new doors to open.

Physically, I've come to a place where I'm in the best shape I've been in since my 20's, and able to do some physical acts that I could not do back then.  Training has been solid and consistent.  I am always adding new elements and even today I added in some new kettlebell exercises.  Krav Maga has become a wonderful part of my world and something that gets me through the worst of days.  By the time spring rolls around, I think I can reach an amazing place in my physical journey, both skill-wise in martial arts as well as in my physical body.

Writing-wise, I am now underway on the follow-up to Heart of a Lion and also the 4th book in the Fires in Eden Series.  Both of those projects will be big parts of early 2016, and at least one of them should see release in this coming year.  It is also likely that a new volume of Hellscapes and possibly another Chronicles of Ave volume could come to light in the forthcoming year.

Seventh Star Press has made excellent strides, and some exciting new authors coupled with an array of new titles from our core author family give many reasons to expect 2016 to be a big step forward.  There is a lot of positive energy and momentum heading into the beginning of this new year.

I have some exciting things looming in in terms of some conventions I am looking to participate in, both as an author and as a representative of Seventh Star Press.  Some will take me to places like Las Vegas in 2016.  Those are always grand adventures with lots of new people to meet, new networking opportunities, and inevitably the birth of new projects.

I've also gone through two hard years developing the Imaginarium Convention, which is an event based entirely around creative writing.  The third year is primed to really take off.  In fact, we just landed a tremendous Guest of Honor, the one and only Brian Keene.  Imaginarium is something that I take a lot of pride in for what it does in empowering writers, filmmakers, musicians and other artists.

Despite all pitfalls and disappointments, I believe in myself.  I've paid a lot of dues at this juncture, and I've said for awhile the best is yet to come.  There are signs that those days may well be on the horizon, or at least a big step closer will be achievable with the coming of this new year.

Looking at it that way, I have a little more with me to help endure the holidays.  I have taken steps to change my world, and know that I can transform it entirely, and take things to an all-new level.  I will definitely give it my best shot.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Krav Maga - A True Blessing and Gift

The name itself means "contact combat" in Hebrew.  It is a system founded by Imre Lichtenfeld, a very courageous man who had the fire to resist during the 1930's and beyond.  It has been developed extensively by the Israeli military, drawing off a number of various styles of martial arts, ranging from judo, to akido, to boxing, and others.

Its very symbol has an opening in it, signifying the openness to new ideas and evolving.  It is focused on practicality and things that work.  Techniques effective for an abundance of situations are what is emphasized.

The workouts are intense and strenuous, challenging you to give it your all.  I can testify to the results, as Krav Maga has been at the core of my workouts for over the past 18 months, a period that has seen me drop over 170 lbs and 8 pants sizes as I set my mind on regaining myself.  Growing up I had training in Kung-Fu, Wu-Shu and Karate, but nothing ever resonated with me like Krav Maga has.

I wrote a recent post on Retzev, a mindset at the core of Krav Maga that reflects it's Hebrew meaning, essentially "continuous motion".  I absolutely love the dynamic core of this approach, to Krav Maga itself and how its mindset can be applied to all aspects of life.

Everyone that knows me has heard me say how it is of utmost importance to keep moving forward, to keep moving onward and upward.  Retzev reflects that, and that is reinforced each and every day in my training.

From combative drills to combinations, from flexibility work to conditioning exercises, to heavy bag work, my core workout is constantly evolving with what's in it and the techniques practiced. I can say without doubt that I give it my all in every workout, everything is left behind when I finished, and a soaked t-shirt is thrown in the laundry bin.

From fitness to mindset, Krav Maga has been a blessing and gift.  I spring out of bed in a limber state in the morning, and am at a weight I haven't seen since I was 21.  I am very confident in being able to handle myself in self-defense situations and can happily "talk down" an aggressive person knowing that if they cross the line and initiate aggression I am going to be able to handle it efficiently, powerfully and very quickly.

Every day I feel stronger, faster, and more youthful.  The essence of what I train in fits my physical strengths well, and are efficient in every way.

I am very grateful for the gift of Krav Maga.  It is a system open to new input and development, it is focused on things that work, and it delivers in so many spheres, mentally, physically, and even spiritually.

Keep moving forward.  Retzev!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Just a Few Updates Both Personal and Book-related

This week and last week have been incredibly busy. Blog tours are definitely big projects for an author, at least if you want to do one justice.  I've had two back to back, one coinciding with the release of Hellscapes, Volume II last week and this week for Heart of a Lion.

The posts, interviews, and reviews have gone very well. I got several amazing reviews for Hellscapes, Volume II, and have already added a couple more good ones for Heart of a Lion this week.  I hope everyone is enjoying the guest posts and interviews, as they do shed more light on my personal world, my writing, my approaches to writing, and both Hellscapes II and Heart of a Lion in particular.  It does take a lot of work to do a blog tour.  For example, I rounded out three guest posts today that totaled about 4,100 words.  That's a good chunk of output, writing-wise.

I really make every effort to make each post special and I think that comes across to anyone who reads of them.  I put in the extra effort out of respect for the blog hosts and readers, as I want to give both my very best.  I really enjoyed putting together the three new posts, one that has a list of theme songs I picked for Heart of a Lion, another that lists my "sweet sixteen" of all-time fantasy movies, and one that discusses five of my most inspirational heroines from history, legend and screen.

The blog tour for Heart of a Lion wraps up Sunday, and then the Fire HD 8 contest I sponsored that covered both tours (Heart of a Lion and Hellscapes, Volume II).  I intend to get a little downtime after that as I've had the afterburner going solid for this period.

I have been hitting my training really hard.  Krav Maga workouts are really intensive and I have been seeing more progress physically.  I really look forward to the daily workouts, as they are a period in which I clear my mind and also let a lot of things out.  Today I had a Danzig playlist cranking on the speakers and I hit it hard. I have been having some of my best workouts ever lately and am very focused on my training.

Saturday I'll be going on a tour of the Wild Turkey Distillery, joining my good friends Eric and Kylie Jude, Rachel Jude, Lisa Marie Ross, Bobby Little and Robin Blankenship.  Time to get another stamp on my Bourbon Trail passport book.  Should be a lot of fun and I'm REALLY looking forward to it after going full throttle recently.

I'll close out with a photo of me with my brand new Pete's Wok t-shirt. As folks who know me are well-aware, Pete's Wok is my favorite eatery of all time, and Pete Spencer, the owner, inspired the Lee Chen character in my Fires in Eden series.  I sometimes eat there five times in a week.  Ahhh. the life of a bachelor (though I'd love to change that status, LOL).  But the food is great, I eat healthy, and I support a great family and their business.  A win-win all around! :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hellscapes II Now Available on eBook Format, Plus New Contest and Blog Activities!

Hellscapes, Volume II is now available in eBook format. here are some direct links to the Kindle, Kobo, and iTunes versions, Nook should be live shortly.

You can get Hellscapes, Volume II for $2.99 at the following links:

Nook version will be live shortly.

Also, there's a big blog tour underway! here are some links to some of the early posts and activities, some of which include the brand new contest featuring a Fire HD 8 as a grand prize! :)

Beauty in Ruins: Guest Post from me about writing horror and how it has helped me grow and expand my literary horizons

Kentucky Geek Girl: Brand new interview talking about my favorite horror movie, music, and themes in Hellscapes II

Shells Interviews: A guest post from me about the concept of levels or dimensions of Hell and personal hells, and how that applies to the new book.

Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn: Guest post about my favorite childhood Halloweens.

Check them out and be sure to leave a comment at the places you visit! :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cover Art Reveal for My Latest, Hellscapes, Volume II

Really excited to share this, the cover art by Aaron Drown of Aaron Drown Design for Hellscapes, Volume II.  The eBook arrives on Monday, to coincide with a big blog tour that includes a contest featuring a Kindle Fire HD8 as a grand prize.  Going to be a lot of fun, I'm working up some good posts for many stops, doing interviews on others, and there will be several reviews.   Definitely looking to be a busy week.  But hope you all find this cover cool! I feel very strongly about this latest installment, as does my editor on this one, Scott Sandridge, and I'll be looking forward to hearing what the readers think! :)

Synopsis: Return to the nightmarish, shadowy realms of Hell in the latest installment of the Hellscapes series by Stephen Zimmer. Six brand new, macabre tales of the infernal await you … but be that you only visit these realms, you do not want to share the fates of the inhabitants you will encounter!

Included in the pages of Hellscapes, Volume II:

In “The Cavern”, a man finds his way into a nightmare, subterranean world that leads to an even greater, and more devastating, revelation.

A police officer takes pleasure in violently executing his duties and it appears to be open season in “The Riot” when he is part of an operation sent to crack down on a gathering of people protesting an economic summit nearby. But this is an operation that is going to take a very different kind of turn, one that opens his eyes to a new reality.

A woman finds herself stranded on a high, rocky ledge, along with many other men and women, surrounded by a frothing sea in “Above as Below”. Shadows glide beneath the surface and soon she will discover what lurks within the depths.

“Spots Do Not Change” tells the story of a man who has never had any qualms lying, cheating, or deceiving the women in his life. A reckoning day looms as he comes to understand that his actions have harmed the lives of many others, actions that in the realms of Hell take on forms of their own.

Having spun webs of intrigue and personal destruction at the heights of national politics throughout his life, a man finds webs of another sort to present grave danger when he finds himself lost within a strange wilderness in “Weaving Webs”.

Many are drawn to “The Club” in the heart of the decaying, shadow-filled city of Malizia, hoping for some entertainment and release, or even safety from the monstrous dangers lurking in the darkness. One man struggling against amnesia finds his way to the seemingly popular establishment and its confines give him momentary hope; until he discovers the nature of this night club and those who run it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Philosophy of Krav Maga's Retzev and Daily Life.

The core of my martial arts training these days centers on Krav Maga, an amazing system that I have come to love due to the no-nonsense approach it embraces.  Everything resonates with a vibe of practicality, and the workouts are very intensive.

It is not a system that involves memorization of long katas, but instead focuses on an array of core building blocks that are under constant scrutiny and evolution based on outcomes in real-life encounters and situations. I've found it to suit my own mindset very well and look forward to my daily workouts.

Martial arts offers a path that brings together a focus of mind, body and spirit in a disciplined manner, and I often find myself making observations and recognizing areas where martial arts ideas and principles can be applied to many other areas of life.

Within the heart of Krav Maga is the principle of  retzev, which is a Hebrew term that essentially means "continuous motion".   Retzev is seen all throughout the practice of Krav Maga in a seamless integration of defensive and offensive techniques.  In a nutshell, it results in eliminating "dead space", in reacting to an attack, counterattacking and continuing (appropriate levels) of physical combat techniques to subdue the threat.

With retzev, you find yourself entering a flow of movement, where you aren't "thinking" about the next move as much as you are executing a continuum that is honed from a foundation of hard training and drilling in an array of combatives.

I have given a lot of thought to the idea of retzev and what it means on deeper levels.  Life has dealt me quite a few trials along the way, and I find myself in a few at the moment.

The questions facing all of us in times of trial is how to react.  When bad things happen, I like the idea that retzev brings to mind.  One must "defend", "counterattack" and continue on the offensive, and keep in a mode of continuous motion.  Staying inert is the only sure way to be overcome in life.  Reaction and forward action gives you the fighting chance to overcome life's hurdles.  

To overcome personal hardships, one must go into a mode of positive action in a flow gleaned from one's personal foundation and values.  This, in many ways, reflects the idea of retzev, only applied to the combat of life, an arena that is not fair, often is filled with ambushes and things that come at you, and must be reacted to and dealt with.

When life comes at you, you must act in response and keep moving forward, which gets at the idea of continuous motion as understood in retzev.  Martial arts truly does offer a mindset that can be applied across all spheres and I am very grateful for the practice of Krav Maga for keeping the idea of retzev forefront in my own mind when navigating the rougher patches of life.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How About a Rayden Valkyrie TV Show?

Why not?

She's got an honor code that is worth taking a look at, there would be loads of action, some steamy scenes, and far more than a few cool SFX/monster elements.  I think audiences would embrace and love Rayden not demonstrate how she would make a fantastic central character for an episodic TV series?

I've been looking for a project to get back into movie-making and the answer has been staring me in the face. This amazing character has called out to me once more.  I have heard many times from readers how strongly Rayden has connected with them after they have read Heart of a Lion, and I've commented often how strongly Rayden has connected with me.

The content is strong. The message is strong.  It has mainstream appeal.  So why not?

It's not going to be easy.  It will involve a Kickstarter campaign, most likely, and an ensuing production that has to attain a high production value worthy of the content.  But I know of many exceptionally talented folks who I can bring into the project to reach the level that it needs to be.

I've waited for awhile to find the right movie project to get back into, as I want to be sure it's done right.  With a Rayden Valkyrie pilot episode, there is a lot to draw from story-wise that would not require massive scale ala "Game of Thrones." There are a lot of wilderness-based options with Rayden that would not require casts of thousands or massive sets.

Do a few things exceptionally well.  That would be the key.  Bringing across her character in a high production value episode.

It is VERY doable. We would have to be very diligent in who took on the role of Rayden, as there is a lot of dimension to her, but I know we could find the right individual.  I feel that to the core.

It's going to get very interesting and I hope that everyone who has read Heart of a Lion and loved Rayden will help us get the word out on the Kickstarter that is forthcoming.

Stay tuned.... ;)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stiff Upper Lip

Sometimes, you just have to set a laser focus and get things done, even if you are tired, or dealing with stress/ emotions, or anything else.  This past week has been a good example of that. Every day, I've gotten a lot done for the press, I've proceeded excellently with my training, and while it hasn't been overly fun or entertaining, I do feel a sense of achievement as I write this late Saturday night.

We've had some new releases at the press, many ongoing blog tours, some new ones coming up, and a few other important initiatives.  Realistically, there are not enough hours in the day to cover it all, but I've hurled myself into it as best I can and have to say a lot of ground has been covered.

I've been working on my website as well, adding some new pages, and fun ones at that.  Z-tracks, which focuses on music I've been listening to, and I've also got pages in place dedicated to my physical journey/training, and the restoration of that Z-28 that means so much to me.  I will be sharing the story behind that car, by the way, so it will make sense as to why that car is special.  The physical journey page will hopefully show others who were in my situation that transformation is not just possible, but DOABLE.  I really hope to encourage those on the same journey as me, in terms of taking charge of the physical self.

Training wise, I had a killer workout today that marks the 11th day out of the last twelve that I've had solid, high-intensity sessions (the other day being a much-needed rest day).  Making progress all the time and was able to integrate some new, advanced martial arts techniques into my routine.  Those moments are milestones of sorts, though I notice improvements in my execution of all other areas.  My main workout is being tweaked and honed all the time and the results continue, so I know it's working! :)

The week ahead should be busy, and I will be preparing for the release of Hellscapes II during Halloween week, so that should be pretty exciting. :)

Stay tuned, October is going to be very active!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Moving Forward

I started the year on a high note, finding what I call sunshine, only to have things take an unexpected turn that I couldn't do anything about. Nevertheless, I gathered myself up and looked toward summer as a time to get back to the sunshine.

Did it happen? I guess it was a mix. I continued to train hard in martial arts, continued to shed pounds, get stronger, faster and fitter to the point that I have lost over 170 lbs over the past 18 months. I am in the best shape I've been in since my early 20's and getting better daily. Refocusing on martial arts has been a godsend, comprehensive improvement in strength, flexibility, endurance and mental focus. That has truly been a positive and one that I look forward to each and every day.

I've enjoyed the restoration of my 1992 Z28, a heritage edition, 25th anniversary coupe. I continue to make improvements to Valkyrie (the name I gave her), and this week alone I have a brand new dashboard cap and snazzy floor mats with silver Z28 logos on black coming in. She's running great and I've enjoyed having her back in my world.

Career-wise I have had some excellent moments. Imaginarium 2015 went very well, grew larger, ran smoother and improved. I also have Hellscapes 2 looming, set to come out Halloween week. I feel the writing in it takes another step forward and is a progression off of Volume I, a feeling shared by my editor on this one. The artwork turned out fantastic, by Aaron Drown of Aaron Drown Designs. I can't wait to share it, it really captures the vibe of this volume and series.

The personal front has been a disappointment. I really wanted to have a partner in crime ... I envisioned taking a special someone to explore Alaska, go to see a rock show in Vegas, and even a cruise later this fall. The dream is still there, even if the reality isn't. But I'm not giving up and I really believe that someone will figure out what I have to offer and thrive. That time isn't now, though, and I just have to steel myself and keep moving forward. It's all anyone can do.

The fall looms and I've found myself with a mixture of feelings. I'm working very hard, working out very hard, and continuing in my interests such as martial arts, guitar playing and writing. The personal side may still be elusive, for whatever reason, but I do know that things can change for the better in a heartbeat. Let's hope it does! :)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cover Art for Hellscapes 2 is Coming VERY Soon! I Saw the Illustration Tonight!

It is always an exciting moment getting to see the cover imagery for one of your books for the first time, and tonight was the 11th time I've experienced this! Aaron Drown, of Aaron Drown Design (follow on twitter @adrowndesign) simply knocked it out of the park. As I mentioned in a Facebook post, this artwork could legitimately be used for a Slayer album cover! It fits the book perfectly and I cannot wait to reveal this cover publicly. I'm very proud of the tales in Hellscapes II, and share my editor's opinion that this new set is a strong progression from the tales in volume 1. Now I've got a cover to represent it very powerfully and I am really thrilled! Stay tuned, I hope to have the full cover image with titling to reveal very shortly, as the book comes out near the end of October!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

New Blog Tours Up For Sign-Ups! Heart of a Lion and Hellscapes II!

I have a couple of blog tours up for sign-ups.  They take place the final week of October and the first week of November, for Hellscapes Volume 2 and Heart of a Lion, respectively.

We are looking for book bloggers and reviewers to host activities ranging from interviews, reviews and perhaps other activities for these two week-long tours.  I really want to put a lot of effort into these two weeks, so if you know some book blogs, or are a book blogger yourself, please do have a look!  I want to make these fun and informative visits.  I really enjoy blog tours and am excited about these two back to back tours!

The signups for Hellscapes 2, which will be coming out that week, is at:

The signups for Heart of a Lion, which is already available, is at:

Take a look and signup or share with those who might be interested in hosting a visit!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Checking in, Post-Imaginarium 2015

Things have definitely been busy, to say the least.  Imaginarium 2015 wrapped last weekend and by all measures was a definite step forward.  The convention grew and ran smoother and I have heard wonderful feedback from many of the attendees.

It was quite a challenge, as we don't have that large of a staff, and one of our key staffers couldn't make it due to some health precautions.  The couple weeks leading up to it were a whirlwhind for sure.  I slept a little, got a workout in each day and the rest of each day was FILLED with activity.  

I really believe in this convention though.  It can do some very special things for the writing community on many levels.  The networking and connection opportunities are everywhere, and it is in a very welcoming environment where the New York Times bestselling author and the unpublished writer alike can talk and get to know one another.  I love that aspect about Imaginarium and will strive to maintain that in the future.

I will be posting up some more about Imaginarium here, but things are about to get very busy with both the press and myself... and regarding my own work, Hellscapes II is JUST around the corner. :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Works in Progress and Other Updates

Been quite a summer so far, and gearing up for a busy late summer and fall.  Going to be posting some updates here on works in progress and other things going on, as I know I've been slack over here on my personal blog.

On the personal side, I've continued to have some challenges, but there's some good things too.  I'm training as hard as I ever have and recently got down just under the weight I was at when I still was playing baseball at age 21.  So far over 153 lbs down over the 6 month journey, and it's been good enough that a company is talking to me about representing a supplement line, believe it or not.  If this actually happens, it would be pretty amazing to say the least.

Me with Valkyrie, my restored 1992 Z28
I also resurrected/restored my 1992 Z-28 Camaro.  There's a big story behind this car, it's very personal, and I kind of let it go during the years when I was suffering the losses of my parents, etc.  It had fallen into rougher shape but I've brought it back with a vengeance, making sure that not only is it as good as before, but better. I have named the vehicle Valkyrie, in honor of Rayden Valkyrie, and she has a new silver paint job, shining like a steel blade in the sun.

Me with reader Breanna Broad
in Madison, IN at That Book Place
In June I got out and about a little, hitting a signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Hypericon in Nashville, and a signing at That Book Place in Madison, Indiana.  All were good events, and now I'm gearing up to oversee the Writers Track at Fandom Fest in Louisville August 7-9.  Just beyond is Imaginarium 2015, taking place September 11-13 this year.

I recently handed in the manuscript for Hellscapes, Vol. 2 to my editor on this one, Scott Sandridge.  This will be my next book release, but I'm immersing into two projects at the moment.  It's high time to work on the 4th Fires in Eden novel, the follow-up to Spirit of Fire.  I am also going to be working on the next Rayden Valkyrie novel, the 2nd in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy and the follow-up to Heart of a Lion.  In the past, I have not posted a lot about works in progress, but I intended to do so from here going forward.  I'm really going to push myself to grow and make further strides as a writer with each of these projects.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Night Trek in a Storm and a Recognizing a Life Metaphor

I went out last night for a several mile night trek, as I tend to do most days.  Usually average about 6 miles, sometimes more, sometimes a little less, but it is part of my world and a great time to reflect on things.  Everything is quiet and conducive to settling into a thoughtful mode.

Last night I headed out earlier than usual, about 9pm, as I was set to have a conversation later that evening with a friend of mine who has become, in a manner of speaking, a kind of life coach with the insights, understanding and guidance she displays about my journey.  (She's one of the wisest individuals I have ever known and tough as iron.  Though just in her thirties, she's like a modern day Shaolin Monk in some ways!).

Little did I know, but I picked the exact hour that Lexington got hit with a wave of storms.  I had my rain gear on, but as I got underway I got hit with quite the downpour.  I might be a little crazy, but I tend to tough things like this out, and I continued.

This particular storm came in bursts, with periods of downpour separated by periods with light rainfall or no rainfall at all.  These shifts occurred, I began to reflect that this particular night trek was, in a way, a metaphor for my own journey and it made it all the more imperative that I complete my mission.

The periods of downpour are like the big storms that events in life can bring to your personal life.  When the weather is clear, I love to look far ahead and even above into the trees and sky.  In the downpour, I had to bring my vision close in, keeping a better watch on each individual step, and in pulling my jacket in closer and with the rain beating down I was not afforded the chance to gaze about and upward.

In a way, that's like the way it is during difficult times in life.  You go into a different mode, sometimes having to pull in a bit, concentrate on getting through the day to day rather than being able to take the bigger view.  You have to watch each step to make sure you navigate your path while you tough it out and wait for the storm to break.

The pattern I experienced on the night hike, of a downpour, followed by either a clear zone or a period of light rain, definitely reflected the path of life in this regard.  Sometimes there are times where it is not a downpour but neither is it smooth sailing, and that was like the zones with the light rain.  I wasn't as restricted as I was during the downpour to get through, but neither was I afforded the ability to fully take everything in like in the clear zones.

The trek continued, with a few big downpours, a few clear zones, and a few periods of light rain, and then deeper into the hike everything settled.  The last part of the hike was completed in a clear zone and I reached my destination none the worse for wear.  I also discovered that I pulled off one of my better per mile paces.

I saw this as a reflection of the idea that despite storms and difficult periods, if you press ahead and continue through, enduring the storms in the process, you can reach the destination you are seeking and find out that you performed a journey much better than you thought you might have.  You grow along the journey, you develop and build strength, and eventually you come to a place where things settle in a little better. The storms will come, but they will pass, and the journey will meet with success.  Keep moving forward, Onward and Upward.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Coming to Cincinnati with Michael West and Selah Janel on June 13th!

Have a very special event coming soon that I wanted to highlight.  June 13th, a Saturday, at 7pm, I will be making an appearance at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati !

As I've said many, many times before, the Joseph-Beth family is foremost in my heart as an author.  I have made one previous appearance in Cincinnati's location a few years ago, but I have done every launch event for my books at the Lexington store, and have come to know and love the entire Joseph-Beth world!

On this one, I'm teaming up with a pair of friend who are also cohorts of mine at Seventh Star Press.... Selah Janel and Michael West.

For Selah, this will be a hometown appearance as she is based out of Cincinnati.  She's a fireball and a brilliant writer.  Her novel Olde School is a wonderfully fresh and creative approach to the cross-genre world, with it's blend of folklore, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and so much more.  Selah knows her stuff for sure!

Michael is a bestselling author, fresh off a top ten Amazon run for his novel Spook House.  He writes the Legacy of the Gods Series and the Harmony, Indiana novels (Spook House, Cinema of Shadows and The Wide Game) and has become one of my best friends in the book world.  A truly exceptional writer.

We will be giving a panel on writing speculative fiction.  There will be a presentation, time for Q and A, giveaways, and a period for book signing.  Afterward we will head over to the awesome Bronte Bistro for an after-event gathering.  Going to be a great, great time.

There is a Facebook event page if you are on Facebook that we encourage folks to join and share, as we will be giving more details and updates as the event nears;  Here's the link! :)

Really looking forward to this one and hope those within range of Cincinnati can make it out on the 13th of June!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

God to Gravity - Talk About An Incredible New Hard Rock Release

One of the things I want to post more often about is the music that fires me up.  As most of my readers and friends know, I have a big passion for hard rock and metal, and it is always a great moment when I discover a new band that shines through and through.

One such moment occurred recently when I came across God to Gravity.  The band's members are not so new to the music world, as it includes members whose resumes reflect bands like Stuck Mojo and Tremonti (both of which are also bands I really love).

I ordered the new CD, which you can get directly from the official site of the band at    You can also order the digital version at iTunes.  

I absolutely love this band and release.  It has infectious harmonies, great vocals, positive lyrics, and wonderful musicianship, including memorable lead guitar work (something I find to be rarer in an age where so many believe a display of technical proficiency is more important than a flow that truly grabs you). It has it all, including an arsenal of catchy hooks and a driving hard rock vibe.  

Adding to my joy is the fact that this CD exhibits good production and ... thank heaven ... was well-mastered in a way that preserves the dynamics of the music.  (I've had far enough of the brick-walled mastering and volume wars that pervade so many releases these days.).

Personal favorite tracks are headed by the song "Ready or Not", which I find to be a stunning song musically and lyrically. If I am ever blessed enough to get married, I want this song played at my wedding.  It sums up so much of what I've found to matter and be real in life.   Yes, it is a positive energy song, probably not going to win points with the nattering nabobs of negativity that are often found infesting the comments section of, but I don't lose any sleep over that type of individual to begin with.  Love the positive vibe for sure and kudos to these guys on a truly beautiful song!

My other favorites on this release include "Take What's Yours (Rise Up)", which the band SHOULD put out as a single for sure.  Great chorus and theme!  "Everything's Old" and "Until You Know" also contain a great balance of hard rock, melody, and solid choruses, which are the types of songs I tend to lean toward.

Another track that rocks kick's off the CD,  a tune called "Dying Light":

God to Gravity's debut is an amazing new melodic hard rock release and one that I recommend in a HUGE way to fans of hard rock and heavy music.   I give this one a solid 7 stars!  (Note: I use a 7 star rating system, so this is tops!)

My rating out of 7 possible stars:   7 Stars! *******

Thursday, April 30, 2015

It's a New Day

Quite a bit has happened over the past couple of months and I do need to catch up here.  I'll address some things in parts, but in a nutshell the first couple months of the new year I was in a place where I truly found happiness and I devoted a lot of my time and focus and energy on this with the desire of seeing it becoming something lasting.  Unfortunately, the decision wasn't up to me in the end and I ended up getting hit with yet another personal storm and heartbreak.. but.. I found that I had grown much stronger on an interior level and was able to weather this much, much better than the period I went through in the fall of 2014.

I never wanted it to end, but I did learn that I could find happiness and sunshine again, and going forward I am set on finding an even brighter day.  I have had an outpouring of encouragement, support, and love shown to me by a great many during this time, so many who had been thrilled to see what had happened the first couple months of the year.  I intend to give them all reason to be thrilled once more.  :)

I still had kept myself on course with my training in martial arts and fitness, as well as playing guitar and writing.  All of that accelerated even more during March and April, and on April 26th I had the first professional photos taken of me in over a year.  This photo session with Eric and Kylie Jude of Frozen Creek Studios was truly remarkable and I feel really captured and reflected the path I have taken during the past year.

I have commented about the things I've embraced that help me keep focus and get through tough times, and all of that was reflected in the photos.  As you will see below, the photos do reflect the progress of the past year... clearly the outer change shows, but the outer change also reflects the inner growth too.

I hope this shows a guy who has remained resilient, and who has fought his way forward despite some truly heartbreaking experiences.  In that way, I hope it encourages others who are enduring personal storms that it is possible to get through the dark times and keep growing and developing stronger.

I'll be chiming in on the blog here much more, on a number of things.  But let's start with some positives that taken as a whole reflect a New Day.  ;)