My Blog

This is a Test

I’m still new to all this social media stuff, and am trying to get my WordPress posts to automatically share with Twitter and Facebook. Also, I’m trying to set this thing up to where I can share individual blog posts, instead of the whole site. If this works, great! If it fails, please help! I need all the help I can get. You know…old dog…new tricks…that kind of thing lol.

Book Review of M.A. Hollstein’s Fatal Reaction: The Beginning

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Another author I have had the pleasure of meeting on Twitter is Michelle Ann Hollstein. She is the talented, multi-genre author behind the Aggie Underhill Mysteries series. Fans of fantasy reading may know her as the author of The Niberia Chronicles trilogy, or, if you prefer mystery mixed with paranormal romance, you might enjoy reading her Lost Souls series. And, if that is not enough, she is also a very talented artist with a series of non-fiction books out, titled, Who Says You Can’t Paint.

She has recently ventured into a new genre, that of sci-fi, with her Fatal Reaction series.  The first book in the series is titled, appropriately enough, “The Beginning”, and it is every bit as good as her other books with a strong plot and solid characters.

After spending a girls’ weekend in Vegas, Ellie was heading back home to California and stopped in at a dessert gas station to refuel and grab some snacks. When a woman, looking very ill and seemingly badly blistered, entered the store and started growling, Ellie wondered if the woman was okay and tried to render assistance. After the woman attacked the elderly store owner in a beastlike manner, Ellie managed to get away with her life intact, only to realize later that it was not just an isolated incident. She would soon discover that similar attacks by the “infecteds” were happening all over the world.

This is a great first book of, what looks to be, an equally great series. What is causing the people of the world to become infected, raging lunatics? Is it a terrorist plot? A biological anomaly? Predestined genetical occurance? Or is it something much bigger? I highly recommend that you read this book. The second book in the series, Fatal Reaction: Survival, has just been released, so, get in on this series from The Beginning!

To learn more about Michelle Hollstein, you can find her author page at Amazon.com, or visit her web page at http://www.MichelleHollstein.com. She’s got some really cool book trailer videos on here, also.

 

Football, Band and Hot Dogs!


Fall is my favorite time of the year. Why, you ask? The biggest reason is because the temperatures begin to drop in the South and the changing of the leaves. Living close to the Blue Ridge Mountains is great for taking day trips up to see the beautiful colors; the fiery reds, the crisp burnt oranges and the sun-kissed yellows.

The second reason is because it means that football season is soon upon us. Now I know the season is well underway, but, as I sit here, watching our local middle school playing, and waiting for the JV game to start, I figured this was as good a time as any to type out a new blog post.

Thirty-five years ago, when my family moved to small town South Carolina from Hixson Tennessee (Go Wildcats!), I was a fifteen year old sophomore, about six feet tall and 300 pounds. The day I walked in for registration the football coach walked up to me and asked, “what position do you play?” And I replied, “usually third chair trumpet, but I haven’t tried out here yet, so I don’t know.” Yes! I was a band geek! I ended up playing mellowphone (that’s a marching French horn) during marching season, French horn during concert season and trumpet with the jazz band.

Anyway…back to football. I’m not much on crowds or noise, and avoid them whenever I can. But I like watching football games, and listening to the bands, so, when I go to a game, I tend to sit as far away from the crowd as I can and still see the action. There is just something about a small town high school football game; the lights, the stadium, the concessions and the announcers voice, booming over the loudspeakers, that brings everyone together. It’s one time that social standing, class structure or what side of the tracks you come from doesn’t matter. It’s everyone united for a common goal: to cheer on their team. I’m fortunate that I live close enough to my high school alma mater to come and relive those times, 30+ years ago, in the stands and on the field, cheering and playing. And, speaking of concessions, I absolutely love hot dogs! Well, the best hot dogs I ever had was at a middle school football game several years back. Our son was playing for the middle school, and I was at one of his away games. During the first quarter I went to the concession “tent” and got two hot dogs. Now, the parents of the players of the other team were in charge of the concessions, and they had a charcoal grill set up and had several slow cookers full of homemade chili. They were so good that I went back during the second quarter and got two more, then two more at halftime and again just before they packed up! They were so good that I started looking at their school website just to see when they were playing at home again. And it wasn’t even our school! Haha!

I also live close to my college alma mater, and go to as many games as I can, although, I admit that I haven’t been the most faithful alum. I wasn’t a traditional college student, but that’s a post for another time.

Cabals of Blood: Book Review

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Another author that I have had the pleasure of meeting on Twitter is Richard Klu. Richard writes in the style of H.P. Lovecraft, commonly referred to as Cosmic Horror. His book, Cabals of Blood will be releasd October 30, and he put out a call for ARC readers. I used to read mainly sci-fi and horror in my teens, and even read some Lovecraft, so I told him I’d be an ARC reader for his new book. Since it has been decades since I read any of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, when I got the ARC copy of Cabals of Blood, I’ll admit that it took me a few tries to get into it. I went back and read some of Lovecraft’s works again to get into the rhythm of the stories. Once I found that rhythm, I had no problem reading, and enjoying Richard’s stories. What follows is my review of Cabals of Blood.

H.P. Lovecraft was an American short story writer around the turn of the twentieth century, writing in the genre of dark, horror fiction, sparking the ‘Cosmicism’ movement. While reading Richard Klu’s Cabals of Blood it is easy to see that he is a true fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and that said works have had an influence on Klu’s writing style, as evidenced in his thoughts, descriptions and characters. Richard Klu does an excellent job with drawing his readers into his stories by painting such vivid and colorful pictures of his characters and the different places to which he draws the readers’ minds. He has managed to create modern stories while keeping in the tradition of Lovecratian story telling, and, like Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, Richard Klu has created his own unique beings that become recurring characters  in a lot of his stories. I think that any fan of horror fiction, dark fiction, science fiction or H.P. Lovecraft will enjoy reading Cabals of Blood by Richard Klu. I know that I enjoyed reading in this genre again, and look forward to reading more by this author.

That’s it for my review. I hope you liked it. If you want to follow Richard, and read more of his works, he can be found on Twitter at @Richard_Klu_ and at his website: richardklu.com

Bucket List: Part 2 Graham Watkins

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When I decided I wanted to write my first book, I created a Twitter account, so I could follow writers, authors, editors and others in the business. One of the first authors I started following was Welsh author, Graham Watkins. I saw his tweet for free books, and decided to go to his website and check them out (my most favorite words in the English language – besides All-You-Can-Eat – are Free Books!), and I am so glad that I did!

Graham, who refers to himself as an “apprentice wordsmith, learning the craft” has written several books in the genres of non-fiction (Exit Strategy – his first book after retirement and The Art of the Book Fair: An Indie Authors Guide to Selling at Book Fairs), historical fiction (The Iron Masters and A White Man’s War) and, most recently, suspense/thriller (The Sicilian Defense). He is a brilliant writer, who puts a lot of time into researching his books, so that he can present the most accurate accounts of his stories possible.

However, it was his books on Welsh myths and legends that grabbed me, and put visiting Wales on my bucket list. To me, the greatest thing that defines a town is the stories that come out of them, whether it be about its history, famous people, and, yes, its legends and myths. Graham relates some very interesting tales of people and places and events from Welsh history that makes me feel that I was there, or wish I could have been. I have always been a fan of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, but never realized that so much happened in Wales. I started out by reading Secrets, Stories and Scandals of Ten Welsh Follies. One of the stories I liked the most was “Tan y Coed”, which is kind of like the ultimate man cave, completed by Sir Charles Woodall in 1894. I then read Legends and Myths from Wales – North Wales, where I read “The Death of Arthur”. Sir Bedevere has always been my favorite Round Table knight! After reading The Iron Masters Volume 1 and The Sicilian Defense I had to read more myths and legends, so I bought Welsh Myths and Legends: 80 Myths and Legends from across Wales (cover shown above), thus whetting my appetite more for wanting to see and experience this wonderful country myself.

Graham may consider himself an apprentice wordsmith, however, I have really enjoyed reading his books, and will continue to read them, always looking forward to the next one. You can find Graham on Twitter at @GrahamWriter and at his website: grahamwatkins.info

 

Bucket List: Part 1

8AD853A1-CC24-489C-B712-8A684E37995BLike many people I have a bucket list. It’s not a very long list. Just a few places I’d like to visit and things I’d like to do. I’m a pretty simple man. Also, like most I’m sure, I can’t seem to complete anything on it, because my bucket is so full of holes that I have to keep plugging it to keep what little is in there from falling out.

I’ve recently added a new place to my bucket list. That is to visit the country of Wales. Why Wales, you ask? Well… keep reading and I’ll tell you. My daddy’s family has been traced back to the mid 17th Century Scotland. Other than a few names, though, I don’t have much information on them. I do know that the spelling of my surname, Black, is of Welsh origin, and that the Black name is associated with the Scottish Clans McGregor, McClain and Lamont. Our tartan closely resembles that of Clan Gregor, who was labeled as enemies of the king and ran up into the mountains. My theory has always been that my ancestors were of Clan Gregor, who ran up into the mountains and into Wales, where the name was changed in an effort to hide and live peacefully, without  retaliation from the Crown. Again, this is just my theory. I’m not a historian, and my reasoning could be way off base.

But the reason I’ve recently added Wales to my bucket list is not to go on any genealogical expedition. It’s because I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one of Wales’ great authors, Mr Graham Watkins. Look out for Bucket List: Part 2 to learn more about Graham and his books. If you just can’t wait for Part 2, you can go to his website at, grahamwatkins.info, and check out his library.

 

River

C5873A88-4E8B-4209-9FE8-B63FCEAB9E9BWhenever I am near you, I can hear you calling me. I can feel you pulling me to you, and anticipate the time we will spend together.

I look at you, and marvel at the beauty of you. The way the warm sun glistens off of your undulations, as you glide gracefully, giving life to all in and around you.

I feel so at peace whenever I am in your presence. You are my sanctuary; my safe haven; my refuge from the world. Every anxiety, every worry, every care slowly ebbs from my head, down through my feet, as I give myself over, and feel you move over me.

As much as I wish I could, I know I can’t hold you. As you continue to move, I know that you belong to others. So I leave you, longing for the next time we can be together.

But shhh…I am the one here now, and this is my time.
(The photo above was taken at my favorite spot on the river near my house)

Happy Anniversary

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Twenty-seven years ago today my life changed for the better. That was the day that my trophy wife and I said, “I do” in front of a packed church of friends, family and a lot of other people from the church and community. After a year long engagement she still wanted to marry me. Go figure. I make no secret in the fact that she literally saved my life way back then, and have openly admitted that to anyone who cared to listen. If she hadn’t come along when she did I don’t even want to think of where or what I would be right now. I wasn’t in a good place in my life, and was wandering aimlessly at twenty-two years of age. Because of her, and her unwavering dedication to our marriage, our family and our home, I have so much more than I ever thought I would ever have or deserve.

Through this past twenty-eight years together, twenty-seven married, she has managed to keep me grounded and focused, in spite of myself, and I have accomplished so much that I wouldn’t have left to my own devices. I am the father to two very incredible children, whom I affectionately refer to as our  ‘adult offspring’ and of whom I am extremely proud. I am a college graduate, a homeowner, my truck is paid for, I am well-known and respected in my community, and I have managed to remain in the same career field for the past twenty-one years, even though time, wanderlust and ADD have often made me want to throw it away and do something completely different. Now I can see the light at the end of the retirement tunnel. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I owe who and what I am to her.

We have definitely pushed our vows to the edge of the envelope, especially the “through the bad times” part with our various illnesses. Now that we are empty nesters and she is retired, maybe we can focus more on the “through the good times” part of the vows.

Thank you, Lynn for not giving up on me, even though I have, and will probably continue to give you good reason to lol. I Love You, my trophy wife.

WORK UP AMERICA!!

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If we want to make America great again, we have to make America WORK again. I’m not talking about creating jobs. There are jobs out there. I see “Now Hiring” and “Help Wanted” signs all over. No…I’m talking about the ones who refuse to work, because it’s easier, and apparently more profitable, to sit at home and get a check, while I bust my butt to provide for my family – and theirs, too! Now, I’ve never been one to say we need to do something, then just sit back and wait for it to happen. I do have some ideas about this that, may or may not make sense, but at least I’m throwing something out there. What does make sense is the more people working, the more money floating around in the economy. Also, it gives people something to do…a reason to get up in the morning.

From my 21 years in my current career I know that there are barriers to obtaining – and keeping – gainful employment, such as addiction, mental and physical disabilities and educational barriers to name a few. I’m not a huge fan of big government. In fact, I’m anti-partisan, but that’s beside the point. I think that the federal government and individual states should be working together to put more money into programs and service providers whose main function is to help others overcome such barriers. I would even support tax breaks for these providers, dependent upon the number of people they help and place into employment-ready status. Unemployment is a national problem, and should be tackled AS A NATION! There are resources that the Feds have that states don’t have, and the same for states that the Feds don’t have. Merge people!! Now…for the big idea…read on…

The biggest issue facing many states across the nation is infrastructure. Roads, drainage, utilities, bridges and buildings all need repairs and upkeep. Taxes for gas and cigarettes and booze, blah, blah, blah, keep being imposed to “cover costs”, but nothing is getting done. Stop the fake check claims and put those that are able to work! The federal government needs to turn some things over to the individual states, but they also need to work more closely with them on others and make sure they have the resources to do what needs to be done. If a person can work, then you tell them, “You want your benefits? Okay, this company needs workers, so you are going to report to them and work for them. You will be paid minimum wage, and you will have minimum health and medical benefits for you and your family. The health and medical will be at no cost to you and your gross minimum wage salary will be taxed and deducted from your monthly benefits. If you refuse to work, or you lose your job because of your own devices, you lose your benefits. It’s that simple.”

Here’s where the Feds and the states come in. Employers can’t afford to hire a lot of workers due to salaries and health insurance, however, more workers would mean more contracts, which means more money for the contractor. The Feds would already be paying the salary for the extra workers through the above mentioned benefits check (thus subtracting their salary from the benefit check). Then you get a few insurance companies to offer minimum coverage for the employee and their family (which also could be deducted from their check), and the employer has more workers for no more cost to them. Offer tax breaks for the participating insurance companies and also to the employer for every one they hire full-time, once their economic status improves.

I hope this isn’t too confusing. Like I said, it may or may not make sense. From 1933-1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a federal program that offered work and educational opportunities for young single men. I’ve said for decades that we need to bring back a modern version of the CCC to rebuild our infrastructure. So, two things from this blog:

1. Federal and state governments need to merge and work together, and…

2. WORK UP AMERICA!!

A Little Poetry: Part 1

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I.

Oh, were it but a cloudless night, and the full moon was high up in its realm, then I would tilt your face up toward the sky, so that the man in the moon could gaze upon it and know that such beauty existed on the earth as it does in the heavens.

II.

When I see you I like to think that, somewhere in time our paths have crossed and, in that crossing of space and time, we smiled a little smile to each other, and warmed each other’s heart.