There is nothing so glorious nor more wide-spread than the unity of mankind, that partnership and sharing of interests, that dearness of the human race, which has its origin at birth, because parents love their offspring, and because the whole family is bound together by marriage and by parenthood. This sentiment gradually spreads beyond the household, first to blood relatives, then to relations acquired by marriage, then to friends and later to neighbours, then to fellow-citizens and to those who are allies and friends in public life, and finally comes to embrace the whole human race.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero
De finibus bonorum et malorum
(On the Ends of Good and Evil)
We live in a day and age of growing hatred for others. Hatred has been around since human beings were created, but never before in human history has there been so much divisiveness … and with an intensity that can only lead to extreme unjustified hatred. This level of loathing flows from one continent to another, one nation to another, one city to another, one community to another, one race to another, one gender to another, one religion to another, one political party to another … one school … one competitor … one company … one person to another … and on and on.
The hatred has become so entwined in each of our lives that we cannot escape it even in our pastimes. Look at the violence inside and surrounding sports – fights on the field between teams, while people are getting assaulted in the parking lots and stands. Not long ago, my wife, kids, and I went to see my beloved Oakland Raiders versus the Arizona Cardinals at the Cardinals’ stadium in pre-season … pre-season! During the game an argument broke out between spectators that led to a murder in the parking lot. The violence didn’t stop there. While our sons looked down from our hotel room in horror, a small mob of rabid (drunk) Cardinal fans were smashing the windows and windshields of any cars in the hotel parking lot with Oakland Raider stickers on them … 16 cars in all. Folks reading this that know American football may say, “Raiders fans always cause violence.” Not this time. The person murdered was a Raiders fan. He was murdered because he and his wife were wearing Raiders jerseys and someone cursed at his wife. He was protecting his wife when he lost his life … senseless.
The experience sickened me … to the point I have lost interest in ever seeing another live sporting event, of any sport. Professional hockey is unmitigated violence on the ice and excess vulgarity in the stands. Soccer is a player/spectator riot waiting to happen … even little league is laced with violence and hatred … little league! I told a friend recently who knows my love for the sport of boxing that I watch it because it has become the LEAST violent sport … that’s sad.
Liberals hate conservatives and vice versa … Muslims hate Christians and vice versa … blacks hate whites who hate reds, who hate browns, who hate reds, who hate whites, who hate blacks … kids hate other kids and express their hatred by wearing body armor and shooting up schools and movie theaters. Then there’s inner-city violence. For those who might think minorities only hate whites … go to Chicago. Blacks are murdering other blacks at a rate that tops some of the world’s worst war zones.
Democrats hate Republicans and vice versa … so nothing is getting done in Congress. Now that’s an efficient system for you.
And I haven't even mentioned wars between nations, because I don’t need to. There’s enough hatred in our own lives to fill a book, never mind this blog.
I'm a Judeo-Christian with conservative leanings (in keeping with my faith), so I shouldn't be considered a “bleeding heart.” Heck, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and I was the lead guitarist for a heavy metal band for bloody sake! So, I'm not expressing my views here for any other reason than … I can't stand baseless, ignorant, arrogant, selfish hatred.
To be clear, I hate … I hate what my God hates. If He hates it, I hate it. What that boils down to is … I hate selfishness. I think selfishness is the root of ALL sin and evil. I hate stupidity … not ignorance, not lack of education … stupidity. I hate bullies … I hate cowards that won't stand up for what is right, by God. I hate things, not people.
On the other hand, there are things that I love – when mankind works together – helps each other – learns from each other – teaches each other – cries for one another – laughs with one another – builds with one another – heals one another – entertains one another – worships with one another.
The unity of mankind … there is nothing so glorious.
I've written two new novels, NOTHING SO GLORIOUS (Cris De Niro, Book 5), and RESCUE FROM SANA'A (ARCHANGEL, Mission Log #2). Cris De Niro and his team do the things that I love … the things I mentioned above. Give ‘em a read. I hope you enjoy them.
Blessings & peace …
In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. --Albert Schweitzer
Though I don’t count many as one, truly, I have always been thankful for my friends. Yet, it wasn't until an extraordinary occurrence recently that I've even begun to understand the real power of friendship.
Like love—because its essence is based on love—friendship can overcome many things:
Friendship can travel across the greatest distances and remain intact.
Friendship can rise above inherent biases. It can cross gender and age and political differences.
Friendship can remain strong—even become more robust—in strife. Like steel, friendship can be made stronger by fire, stress, and the pounding of the troubles that hammer us in life.
Friendship can remain healthy in a sick body and it can remain lucid in a cloudy mind.
And as opposed to other precious commodities, real friendship has no price tag, nor is it based on quid pro quo. True friendship is free.
What I have also learned is that there is an exponential quality to friendship. Not only can it transcend death, but it can cause itself to grow even from death, and in some cases revitalize old friendships.
In a most glorious way, that’s what has happened to me.
Three years ago a dear friend of mine died, my rock brother (for those who don’t know, many years ago I was the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band AMERICADE) and friend, AMERICADE’s drummer Walt Woodward III.
I hadn't communicated with any of the other band members in many years, but I felt compelled to reach out to them. Breaking up a band—like breaking up anything—can be painful and produce hard feelings, but I still needed to contact them to tell them about our fallen brother. The result was more than I anticipated … in many ways.
In fact, it was a blessed, glorious thing for all of us.
What I found was that time eroded the hard feelings, but not our friendships. Indeed, it became apparent to me that—not only did our friendships survive the long time lapse—but it overcame old disagreements and even ire.
Friendship had emerged victorious and it sprung up even from death.
But the story didn't end there. One of the people I reached out to three years ago was the producer of our last album, the legendary Jeff Glixman, who was producer of—among many other rock icons—KANSAS.
As it is between producer and band—for a time—Jeff became the fifth member of AMERICADE. So, I felt an obligation to tell Jeff about Walt’s death. Yet in that bearing of bad news—once again—friendship showed its amazing power.
Though we hadn't spoken in almost three decades, from the moment Jeff and I heard each other’s voice our friendship was rekindled. I think I can speak for Jeff when I say I got off the phone three years ago feeling like no time has gone by since we spoke last.
Here’s where glorious happens.
On that phone call three years ago, Jeff asked me what I was up to. I told him I was in the process of writing and publishing my first novel.
He was blown away.
You see, Jeff had always been an avid reader. He asked me to send him a copy of my first book, and since then, over the last two years, I continued to send him copies of each of the sequels.
It’s important to note that I sent Jeff the books solely out of friendship. I had no veiled agenda, nor did I even contemplate him taking any more than a reader's interest in my works. I wasn't sending him the books for any other reason than I wanted him to enjoy them – and I wanted him to be proud of me. Keep in mind, Jeff was my mentor in music. I recorded with him when I was only 21-years-old. Though I grew older, I never changed my feelings of respect for him.
What does this all have to do with the power of friendship?
Last week, Jeff contacted me by phone. He told me a most extraordinary thing.
Jeff told me he had given the Cris De Niro novels to his close friend, the equally-legendary KANSAS drummer Phil Ehart.
Now it was I who was blown away.
Jeff said that Phil had also become one of Cris’s biggest fans. But that wasn't all. I was incredibly surprised with what he called to say … or rather to propose.
Oh … and what’s more … Phil joined him on the call! I had never spoken to Phil before. Combine that with the fact that—like most people my age—KANSAS was one of my favorite all-time bands and you can imagine the thrill I felt.
There I was, still sitting in my underwear (it was an early morning call) and on the other line(s) were two of my heroes telling me that they were my biggest fans and that they were interested in managing me!
On top of being dressed entirely inappropriately, I was left speechless.
So Jeff and Phil did the talking.
They explained to me that they loved my character Cris and the series so much that they took it upon themselves to introduce it to their friends and the people they were working with in Hollywood.
They went on to tell me that, as God would have it, an executive producer and producer fell in love with Cris too. What's more, the interest was serious enough that I needed to give them the legal right to represent me to them.
So, last Sunday Jeff, Phil, and I signed a contract making them my personal managers!
Yes, nothing is in stone with the producers and there are miles to go before Cris De Niro will ever make it to screen even with their interest, but I cannot help being profoundly impressed, humbled, and very grateful to Him above for this outstanding opportunity and show of support from two icons … two friends – one old and one new.
And all of this came from the death of a friend.
The power of friendship.
Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends. –William Butler Yeats
p.s. Special thanks to Passive Guy … another person I’m blessed to call friend.
Back in October, when I began researching the first book in a new series, I came across a remarkable story. A group of CIA operatives murdered by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, in December 2009. Of the seven patriots that lost their lives that day, the story of one amazing woman remained with me. Her name was Elizabeth Hanson.
You can read more about Ms. Hanson and the incident itself here: "Who Was Elizabeth Hanson." Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick was the person who investigated the tragedy. He wrote a book about it: THE TRIPLE AGENT.
Though the incident was tragic, it wasn't what lingered in my soul. As I contemplated, I started rereading the article on the website. That's when it occurred to me - it was something that I read that remained with me. It was a slogan written on a paperweight that Ms. Hanson kept on her desk. A question,
"What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
My first reaction was - any person that had that for their motto must be ... must have been exceptional.
I asked myself the question.
But before an answer came to me, other individuals started popping into my head - my dad ... my wife ... the great inventor I apprenticed under as a journeyman mechanical engineer. Still others, heroes from the Bible and from history. Then more - people who overcame physical, financial, and psychological obstacles.
They were men and women of all ages and races. Some were known the world over, while others virtually anonymous. Yet, it occurred to me that all of these exceptional people had the same thing in common. They live(d) their lives in the spirit of that question. They live(d) their lives as if they knew they could not fail.
Each of them have achieved great goals in their own ways. Each of them have accomplished so much and not just financially; some spiritually, and others charitably. All of them have added chapters to the human story. And though their success stories be diverse, to me, the source of their success can be traced to the way they live(d) their lives.
"Fearlessly" is a silly word that should never be applied to people who have accomplished great feats. For without fear, whether it be fear of harm ... or loss of life ... or of failure ... or of letting others down, there would be no challenge. And without challenge, there is no overcoming, no accomplishment, no victory.
People that have accomplished great things are not individuals devoid of fear, but those who succeed by overcoming it. I'm sure you know some, perhaps even you are one. They are people of strong character, indomitable, relentless, tenacious ... extraordinary individuals. They don't quit though they are not always the strongest or fastest or smartest or boldest.
But they are always the bravest.
For bravery is not the trait of a fearless person, lest the reckless actions of a fool be considered brave. Bravery is the quality that allows us to overcome our fears and succeed.
It is said that, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Perhaps then, overcoming that fear is the end of wisdom - its completion, leading to true oneness with the Most High.
For me, the answer to Ms. Hanson's motto is, "Exactly what I'm doing. Each evening, with fear, saying a prayer of thanks and asking for forgiveness, wisdom, and strength ... only to rise early the next morning renewed, brave and inspired. My prayers answered, in measure, according to my faith."
How about you? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
I hope you read, THE EAGLE'S PLUME (ARCHANGEL, Mission Log #1). It is dedicated to the memory of a brave woman ... a patriot ... and yet another hero never mentioned, Elizabeth Hanson.
God values friendship.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:13-15)
We are told by God that laying down your life for your friend is the greatest love. There are many heroic and virtuous examples through time - military personnel, firefighters and law enforcement sacrificing their lives to save and protect others. Images of soldiers and Marines jumping on grenades and firefighters running into burning buildings come to mind, but there are also other not-so-obvious examples that are rarely mentioned -sacrifices made by parents for their children and children for their parents; husbands for wives and wives for husbands; and the most powerful examples - strangers for other strangers.
And I'm not just talking about taking a bullet for someone, like the Secret Service pledge they will, for the President. It is no less glorious or valiant for parents to "lay down their lives" by devoting their lives and livelihoods to giving their children the greatest opportunities to succeed; or a son or daughter taking on the responsibility of caring for a parent or grandparent. How about a husband or wife that works so that the other can attend college or build a business? Is that not also "laying down one's life?"
Then there are the very special few - the strangers - you know, the people that volunteer their time - for no money, or fame, or glory, or awards, or trophies - to care for other strangers. Not just contributing to a charity, but contributing the most vital thing any human being can - their time.
I have been honored to know a few people that have laid down their lives for me - teachers and mentors that have devoted their lives to guiding and informing; ministers that remain at the ready to council; coaches that go above and beyond to see that their players have all they need, not just to compete in sport, but in life.
They call us friends.
And I consider them all heroes.
When I thought about what my new novel, PROJECT 111 is really about ... I could say it's about sacrifice, loyalty, honor ... but what I think it's really about is ... friendship.
Cris De Niro cares for all the people he employs. He considers them more than employees. He considers them friends, and he proves his friendship in PROJECT 111 by laying his life down for one, in particular.
I hope you'll consider reading it and when you do, maybe you'll think of people that you know that lay their lives down for others, or for you. (You can find PROJECT 111 here)
By the way, I consider everyone that takes the time and spends the money to read my books ... my friends. I'm very grateful.
(A writer's feelings, written down the morning after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut)
I'm a writer, but I have no words
that can bring comfort, or ease pain.
The terror that the children must have suffered.
The fear that the adult victims suffered.
The unending pain the parents, and siblings, and spouses, and children of the victims will suffer everyday hereafter.
The broken families.
The shattered dreams.
The missing laughter and smiles.
Never to hug or hold again.
For all those who suffered loss,
The quiet brings pain
and the darkness, tears.
Nothing will ever explain it away.
There are no words.
Only faith that loved ones will be reunited
in the Kingdom that comes.
I'll cry some tears tonight
for all those whose eyes have run dry.
And embrace my wife and sons
a little tighter ... just a little tighter.
Some years ago I met Philip Norbert. Our sons were playing on the same little league baseball team. From our love of everything artistic (and our irreverent sense of humor), we quickly became friends. Philip is a talented director. We talk all the time about the convergence of the various medias - books, cinema, TV, audio, gaming. We talked also about the various platforms on which our converged art is now available - TV, radio, computers, tablets, phones, eReaders.
Countless pints over the past few years have led to some very cool conversations. So many possibilities. So many opportunities to interact, cooperate, and create.
Among Philip's many talents is his uncanny ability to bring together people. Not just any people. People who are motivated to create in this new era of art-meets-media. Writers - cinematographers - audio experts - actors - photographers - graphic designers - artists - technical experts like lighting directors - riggers - editors - website designers - marketing experts. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE! Their creativity, their expertise, and their artist souls motivate me!
We get together, bend an arm and dream, but with the resolve to turn our dreams into reality. While some of our ideas, dreams, and visions will take time to realize, some can be accomplished today, like this new series trailer.
What's a series trailer? Well, it's my idea to, instead of creating individual book trailers, create an audio-visual promo piece that encompasses an entire series. For indie publishers like me, it can save lots of money, and at the same time, it allows us to focus more money on ONE trailer, thus allowing the trailer to be of much higher quality. It also serves to tie together the individual novels of a series in the eyes of the reader.
The Cris De Niro series trailer could not have been created without the extraordinary talents and effort of Philip Norbert of Inklinker. Along with Philip's most excellent Inklinker team, most noteworthy - Brad Hill (Cinematographer/Editor) and John McClain (Audio/Editing).
I'll be promoting Inklinker more in the near future because they are simply the best at what they do. They will soon become a one-stop shopping for indie publishers and authors who need anything by way of - video content (series trailers, book trailers Q&A/Interviews, active content, etc) - graphic design (book covers, inside artwork, logos, branding, etc) - audio and audiobook creation - website design - advertisement creation, social network marketing, etc ... all with a cohesive idea. An indie will be able to form a long-term relationship with Inklinker and by utilizing one trusted source, save time, effort, and money.
I'm excited about the trailer and wanted to share a little about my friends at Inklinker. They are based in Las Vegas, Nevada but travel the globe creating the best content available anywhere.
If you want to contact Philip, there is a "Contact Us" on the Inklinker website (tell 'em g sent you) or you can reach out to me and I can introduce you.
I hope you enjoy the trailer. If you do, please "Like" it on YouTube and share it.
Blessings & Peace,
I believe real friendship is an action of love – the outward concern and regard for others. It strengthens when overcoming trial and, like wine, it grows tenderer and becomes more robust over time. Even when there is no contact, real friendship does not wane, for while it is an act, it is not particularly based on activity.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At the time, I was single, earning a very good wage and spreading my good fortune around with those I considered friends. I considered dozens friends, and a handful even good friends. Nevertheless, I was soon to learn something the great playwright Euripides wrote over 400 years before Christ was born, “… prosperity is full of friends.”
It doesn't stop with them though. From the bloggers, to the reviewers, to the readers - all the supporters of indie published authors are the warmest community of individuals I have ever come across.
I can illustrate why I'm bubbling over by telling you my journey to my 1st audiobook, _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_. It started with a re-posting of a piece from Neil Gaiman’s Journal that my friend Passive Guy shared on his awesome "The Passive Voice" blog. Gaiman wrote about "ACX" - the Audiobook Creation Exchange.
Nothing about his genealogy, his family, his friends … he had all three.
No mention of his tenure with the one company for which he worked faithfully for 19 years ... or of his success starting his own business, a business that was the best in its industry for 26 years.
A writer is born with the soul of an artist.
At birth, an empty vessel, but soon to be filled with knowledge and shaped by history, memories, people, places, and times ... from long ago, and those that have not yet come. To express the writer's soul, craft is studied and technique learned. Art is then created and the writer's voice emerges. That voice can be as subtle as a whisper or as loud as thunder from the heavens, yet both can be heard with the same clarity.
A writer's heart beats the same as the hearts of others, yet it races when an idea is born; it breaks, expressing someone else's pain; it leaps for joy when it's exposed honestly; and it bleeds continually, though the body remains healthy and alive.
A writer is at heart a creator, a storyteller, a dreamer, a visionary, a time traveler, and a prophet. A writer's reality is not limited to the four dimensions. The natural laws do not inhibit nor does convention impede or tradition restrict a writer's point of view. Stories are told in many languages - the languages of love or war or comedy or tragedy, with the eloquence and panache of a bard or with the simple elegance of a bumpkin.
A writer's prose is shaped by experiences - good and bad, happy and sad. From moments so profound they change the world, and from lifetimes that pass meaningless to others, a writer can transpose both with the same conviction.
A story is a journey and the writer is the guide. Straying off the path and exploring the wilderness is allowed, even encouraged, but if the reader gets lost, it's the writer's fault. Nevertheless, a writer fails, not when a reader is not moved; but when, as a reader, the writer is not moved.
God, Himself, wrote the 10 into stone with his own finger. He told the epic of mankind, our origins and our future, in a book. For me, there is no more noble a cause and no more honorable a vocation than to say, like Him, I am a writer.
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