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.