FF Banner

FF Banner

2012 In Review!


2012 is coming to an end. In true blogging fashion, I try and write out a year in review and map out the previous 12 months, highlighting and low lighting events that have transpired in my life.  As most years go, it was full of its ups and downs. No shocker there.  And also in true J.R. fashion, I’m glad to see 2012 go. Not that it was a “bad” year, per say, but just like everything, life moves on and we must continue to go forth and prosper. 
January was a big month – It was the start of my FINAL semester as an undergraduate student.  I went into 2012 not fully knowing how the year was going to end.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t have it all planned out.  I didn’t know where my education would take me, if I’d stay in my hometown, or if I’d move far away.  My general plan was to go where the jobs were.  It was an unsettling feeling, but at the same time, accomplished in knowing that I was just a few short months away from finally finishing up a Bachelor’s Degree at an amazing university. 
The semester progressed and I found myself taking in more of the campus, stopping to appreciate the beautiful architecture, the beautiful job the groundskeepers do, and just the overall feel of campus life.  Most students can’t wait to finish up and move on.  I could feel it deep inside that I was going to miss it terribly.  Call me crazy, but I love sitting in an academic setting, having conversations with very intelligent people on subjects I find particularly interesting.  There were a few things I wouldn’t miss – the presentations we had to give in front of a class of tons of students, the long and excruciating reading assigned to us (let’s face it, academic reading can be very mundane, even if it is an interesting topic).
March came, and I enjoyed my last spring break as a free woman.  With it came our usual storm season, which leads to a major storm that came and turned my life upside down in April.  I was a few weeks away from graduation – on the fast track to finally finishing everything up.  It was April 29th, the night before my ring ceremony where I’d be rewarded with the official Texas Tech Class Ring that I wear with pride.  It was a Sunday – I didn’t do much that day.  I remember the weather reports calling for stormy weather, but here in Texas in April, you tend to expect that anyway.  Around 7PM I went out on my front porch (this was back when I lived out in the country) and took in the weather.  I used to go out and write on my porch or just get fresh air.  The sky was dark and the humidity was thick.  Still nothing out of the ordinary for Texas in April.  I began to track a system that formed to the southwest of us.  By the path the Doppler showed and all the other ingredients with a storm, it looked to probably go just west and north of us, only skimming us.  I was a bit disappointed in it.  We needed rain.  The air began to get quite chilly (an indicator of hail) and I took the computer in to warm up. 
Not five minutes after I got in, my phone blew up with text messages and phone calls about the storm.  My mother urged me to get out of my home.  (No basement or cellar to take cover) I was apprehensive at first.  I had checked the weather and saw with my own eyes that it wasn’t coming toward us.  I chalked it up to my mom worrying about me, as a mother should.  However, my dad called and even people on Facebook alerted me to take cover, that we had tornado warnings all around us.  The storm had shifted southeast and was coming right toward my community.  I grabbed my dog, put him on a leash, and we left all of our belongings behind and ran over to my aunt’s house next door.  She also does not have a basement or cellar, and at first wasn’t taking the warnings seriously.  After several more calls and texts, she was finally convinced to go down the street to my uncle’s house where a basement was available to take cover in.
 She had a friend at her house and rather than wait, I ran down to the other house. My poor dog didn’t want to run.  I had to drag him.  I could hear hail in the distance crashing around.  It sounded like loud thuds that still echo in my mind.  We all got to my uncle’s house just in time.  Hail as large as softballs got heavier.  I could see a funnel cloud just north of the house moving up and down with each lightning flash. By this time it was completely dark outside.  We lost electricity.  My phone was our only way of telling what the weather was doing.  To make a long story short, the damage was “bad”, but definitely could’ve been worse.  My uncle’s sunroom got torn up.  The skylights got busted out and the room was under about 3 inches of water.  My house lost 5 windows and my car was completely totaled.  I don’t think anyone in my neighborhood had a roof that wasn’t totaled.  What matters most is that we were all protected.  Items were damaged and lost, but at least our lives weren’t. 
I’ll never forget that night.  What bugs me most is that I’m usually awesome at tracking weather, but even professional meteorologists were thrown off guard by the weather activity of April 29th.  For the longest time after, I was squeamish with severe weather.  I can still hear the hail shattering things, and even in a brick house it was a deafening sound.  With the help of family, we pulled through.  My dad came over the next day and helped me patch up the glass until we could replace it.  The National Weather Service was calling for a same pattern for that night, so we had to move quickly. Thankfully, they were wrong and it was a calm evening.  The day after that, we bought glass to replace what had been broken.  We spent most of the day out in the heat, patching it all up to make the place livable again. 
I was without a vehicle for almost 2 weeks, and with finals coming up, I was stressed to the hilt.  Like everything, it worked out well and I was blessed to get into a much stronger and better vehicle than what I had before.  I had wanted to get out of that small car and into another pickup, and that’s exactly what I did.  It was God’s blessing in disguise. 


Hail damage on hood of car. The entire car looked like this... 



2 of the 5 windows damaged on my house

Telephone pole split on FM 41 just west and south of where I lived 

Uncle's damaged skylight

"Small" hail from that night 


     May came and that meant graduation.  I passed my courses with flying colors and made a 4.0 for my final semester.  My goal was dean’s list, but I made the president’s list, which was even better.  I was so proud.  I finished with an overall GPA of 3.7, making me a Cum Laude graduate.  My family came to the ceremony – even my nieces and nephew.  The commencement took a long time.  I felt so awesome walking into the United Spirit Arena decked out in my graduation cap, gown, and stole.  I was an “official” RED RAIDER.  It was a very emotional day for me.  I was so hyped up that I did it, but it was sad too.  It was time to find a job and get out there in the real world.  My days as a student on the Texas Tech campus had come to a halt. 

My official class ring





That evening we had a graduation party at my parent’s house.  Tons of family came over and offered there congrats and gifts.  We had a cake, BBQ, and great company.  What more could I have wanted?  It was perfect.  I was fulfilled.  I had reached one of my goals that I had set for myself as a young child – I –always- wanted to be a Texas Tech grad, and the ring on my finger proved that I had done it.  The diploma I worked so hard for proved it. 
One thing I knew was that I needed a job, and soon.  I’m not one to like to sit around at home for too long.  I had already put out several applications long before I even graduated.  I started to apply for even more.  I figured the more I put my name out, the better my chances would be.  By the end of May, I hadn’t heard a thing from any of the places I had applied.  I started to feel down on my luck and worried about my finances.  I swallowed my pride and applied at a day care.  I swore I’d never go back to day care, but I needed income.  I got a job instantly and began working, but told myself I’d continue to search for something else.  This would just be something to do until something better fell into my lap. 
In the middle of July I got a call from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Texas Tech Medical School) asking for me to come in for an interview.  I honestly didn’t even remember what job it was – I had applied at so many places that it all ran together.  Of course I said yes to going in.  The first interview went well and I had a good feeling.  A few days later they called me for a second interview.  The next day, they were calling to offer me the job.  It is in a Family Practice Clinic within the health sciences center that allows medical students to do their residency to get board certified. I’m what I call a utility player in doing a lot around the clinic.  It is a state job and I have the best benefits I’ve ever had. There is a lot of longevity in the job, and I’m hoping to work my way up the ladder with them.  The opportunity came at the right time, and I’m blessed to be given the chance that I have.
Since then, I’ve just been living life.  We had a great Thanksgiving.  My brother and his clan came down and some of my aunts and uncles came over to spend it in my parent’s new house.  That is one thing I forgot to mention.  In April they moved into a much nicer house. 
Another highlight was scoring George Strait tickets to his final tour – The Cowboy Rides Away Tour! He will be kicking off the tour right here in Lubbock on January 18th. I was dead set on going since it is quite possibly the last time he’ll be in concert.  My brother in law found a code that allowed us to purchase them a day early, which is a good thing, seeing as the concert sold out in a record 20 minutes!
Christmas was a small one.  My brother was unable to come down and my sister spent most of her time with her in-laws since Thanksgiving was with my folks.  All in all, it was good since I was with family.  It snowed and we had a white Christmas, which I would’ve been much more excited about if I didn’t have to drive home that night. 
I wish you all a wonderful 2013! Ready or not, here it comes. I can’t say what it’ll hold for me, but I pray we all have more highlights than low lights.  Bring on the new year and bring on many blessings! 

Cheesy Thoughts




This evening I’ve taken the time to just sit back and think about things. It has truly been a cozy evening.  I have a pecan pie scented candle lit, my feet are kicked up, I’m relaxed, and I have Pandora shuffling music on my TV. Life is good, right?

That leads me to my next point.  I have recently fallen back into a negative state of mind.  I hate when I go through that phase, and yes, it can be avoided.  Life just seemed to be happening – from issues with my truck, to frustrations at work, to whatever the case may be at that point in time.  Then a wake up call happened – The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I’m not going to get into a full discussion about it, but it was a shove into reality for me.  My problems seemed VERY insignificant compared to what the people of that town were going through.  My truck got fixed (it was just a busted water pump), work frustrations are blessings in disguised… I mean, after all, I could very well not have a job and no income, right?  It’s sad that it takes someone else’s tragedy to make me realize it, but at the moment, things really aren’t that bad, regardless of how I may view situations.

The holiday season should bring the best out in people.  After work today, I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some things for our Christmas dinner.  A sweet elderly woman was slowly moving down an aisle, and each person she passed, she smiled and told them Merry Christmas.  It warmed my heart so much.  On the flip side of the coin, I could have gotten frustrated with her for not moving faster and being in the way, but I took a moment to see and hear her joy.  Most people responded with positivity. 

It is going to be a small Christmas for us this year. My brother and his family came down for Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for the wonderful family I do have, and even though we won’t have a house full for this holiday, at least we do have a home to gather in.  We will have a turkey (which I got free as a gift from my place of employment), all of the sides, and amazing desserts (one recipe I’m trying for the first time!)

I guess searching for blessings was heavy on my heart tonight.  There’s been so much sadness in the news lately that I had to get my mind on something else.  I have amazing friends, some far away and some close by, some I’ve never met in person, and some who I have known for years.  As I look at a shelf near me, I see all of the Christmas cards that were sent to me this year.  It’s full of various styles, colors, and pictures with personalized messages inside them for me.  I mailed out a big stack myself, and as I placed stamps on each one, I didn’t think about all of the postage I had to pay for – I thought about all of the great people I was sending each one to and how I’m glad I went through a ton of stamps to mail them all out. 

I recently had a conversation with a new friend I found through my writing.  Without even really “knowing” me, they helped me out just by their kind words and positive attitude.  I jokingly posted a picture of some candy that looked like coal that was in my stocking at work.  Just as I would expect, they responded and said that eventually it becomes a diamond.  I hope one day I can get to the point that with whatever response I have, it will always be positive like that. That has spurred up another thought in my head.  A couple of years ago I was walking the Texas Tech campus with a friend and he pointed out all of the beautiful flowers around the school.  I responded with “They’re just gonna die anyway.” Looking back on that memory, I have to laugh.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that.  He was trying to admire the hard work the Texas Tech groundskeepers put into it, and I just let that spew out of my mouth without a second thought.  I’m glad I don’t do that now.

I guess the main point of this blog entry is trying to find positive in everything.  That pile of dishes in the sink? At least you are blessed with food to cause that dreaded chore that I avoid like the plague.  The busted water pump on your pickup? Hey, you have a vehicle to drive.  That 6AM alarm blaring when you’re dead asleep?  You’ve got a job to go to and a steady income, and though it isn’t making you rich in the least bit, at least you have something.  So many others aren’t as fortunate. 

I want to wish all of you a happy holiday season.  May the New Year bring you love, happiness, and good fortune.  Keep that chin up! I know, I know… I need to take my own advice! 

A Reader's Kind Message




Recently, I had a reader write back to me about my newest release, Fight for Absolution.  They were nice enough to take the time to write me on my Facebook author page, and let me know some personal things and why they liked the book so much.  I thought I'd share this person's thoughts in hopes that it would help spread the word and allow others to hear a first hand account at an actual reader's experience with reading my most recent work. The message contains small spoilers, but nothing too bad to ruin the first book for you. Here is your warning if you don't want to be spoiled at all....


You gave me a lot of insightful material to mull over as I got acquainted with Ryan. You asked somewhere if a sequel would be appreciated..... a resounding YES. Sometimes characters just need to go on with their lives un-noticed, but I'd like to see what happens as Ryan struggles to find peace AND victory in his life, not only with Molly and Mom but with Junior and Mariah. Her story is all too familiar in my line of work. I am in recovery myself and watching some of the young people who walk through the doors of the *************** (censored to respect anonymity) whether by choice or mandate, I often wonder if enough seeds will be planted to ensure a hearty root of recovery. Bearing the fruit of the 12 steps is more than not just drinking and drugging. This job is my attempt to give back something to the fellowship that saved my life and saved me from myself and my self destructive ways. I so see Ryan in the folks who are at *********, even now. Their battle is just beginning and I wonder if they are up for the fight for life or if we fail them they will continue to have lives of futile dysfunction. I believed that others but not myself were born with some "coping gene" that helped them get through the rough places. I really believed this and I also knew I had not received such a "gene" in my DNA makeup. I know better now, and Fight for Absolution really hit home. Thank you. Keep on writing, and keep on offering hope where there often is none.

Here is the second message sent:

Let me encourage you to keep writing. There is an audience out there and as word gets around about your work people will find their way to opening the pages and immersing themselves in the stories that hold so much truth and wisdom. The young man at the rehab right now to whom I gave the titles of your books is eager to "get it". He is looking and searching for answers and hope. He's 20 years old. We won't run out of addicts or alcoholics any time soon. It's a sad commentary. They don't want to pay "human service workers" premium pay, but it's not for money that folks serve this population. Sad to say, job security will be there no matter how much information is out there. Drugs is big business. The shiney adds for alcohol glorify drinking. Be encouraged you too are opening eyes to truth.

I am thankful for any feedback and response I get for my work, especially when it's pertaining to something like this.  Knowing that I could help even just -one- person is a victory for me and makes the art of writing worth every ounce of energy and second I put into it.  A simple message is an amazing confidence boost during a time when I question why I even continue to do what I do, so I again want to say a HUGE thanks to the person who took the time to write me these messages (they asked to remain anonymous), as well as to others who write reviews, email, and say things on my Facebook author page.  If what I wrote is good enough to recommend to people going through real life struggles, I feel great in knowing that Ryan Shay's story might be that extra jolt needed to help someone else accomplish a better life and find sobriety. 


Not only do I appreciate positive feedback, but constructive criticism is also helpful.  I strive to be a better author each and every day, so contacting me about concerns/editing problems/typos/etc is also something I like to hear.  If no one is letting me know this stuff, it's hard to improve. 


For those interested, here is all of my contact information:


Email: JTateAuthor@yahoo.com


Facebook: J.R. Tate


Twitter: @JTateAuthor


Or you can leave me a comment right here on my blog.  The method to contact me is based on your preference, and I'll be quick to write you back! As always, a review on Amazon is amazing as well! 


Happy reading to all, and may you all have a wonderful weekend and holiday ahead!   

Fight for Absolution Now Available


Announcing the release of Fight for Absolution


Description:
Ryan Shay wants to forget his past. Afraid to confront his demons, it's a miracle he hasn't wound up a statistic in the war on drugs. When he hits rock bottom, he finds a reason to change his ways and break the chains of an abusive childhood that have held him captive his whole life. He's determined to succeed, and not just for himself, but for someone who needs him. His struggles to become a better man and redeem himself make his fight for absolution worth more than anything he has ever experienced before.

From the Author:
Forgiveness won't change the past - but can do a lot for a future. This book was an idea I have thought about for several years.  I am fascinated with the human mind, from addictions, to deep rooted psychology - it is a topic I'm always thinking about.  This story poured out and I wrote it faster than any book I've ever mused about. I was a bit worried about the subject matter at first, which is why it took me so long to actually give the idea a second thought, but now that it is published, I am thankful I did it. It became a journey far more exciting, emotional, and thrilling than I ever imagined it could be. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Soon To Be Released - Fight for Absolution




Here is the official cover for my soon to be released book, Fight for Absolution.  I have not written out a summary for this book yet, but it is about a man’s struggle to get over his past, his addictions, and his inner demons that have paralyzed his life and hindered any chance of him becoming the man he knows he can be.  It’s different from anything I’ve ever written before, and I’ve been mulling over the idea for a couple of years now.  When I finally started writing it, the words just poured out. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

It is going through the editing process and I hope to have it released by the middle of October, if not sooner. 

Happy reading to all! 

Perseverance !!


            

          Wow, looking at my blog, it’s been since May that I’ve posted an update. So much has happened in just these few short months.  The most important is my graduation from Texas Tech University! It took me awhile, but I finally did it! There’s been lots of life changing things I’m in the middle of doing right now as well.  To make a long story short, life has been going my way.  I’m truly blessed to be where I’m at right now.
            After graduation, I felt sad.  Yeah, I’m admitting that.  What kind of person is depressed after such an accomplishment?  That person is me! Believe it or not, it’s common to sort of mourn graduation.  I did some research and many graduates go through stages sort of what people go through when they experience death close to them.  Weird, right? I thought so, too, but since I actually experienced it first hand, I’m a believer now. 
            The days shortly after graduation were depressing.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I would wake up and actually feel a loss in my life.  I knew the job hunting had to commence, but I felt uninspired.  I just knew I’d end up back doing jobs I did before even being in school, and that really made me upset.  I don’t know how people can sit around at home with nothing to do.  I thought I’d be okay, but after a few days, I was driving myself insane! I didn’t want to spend money in fear of how long I’d be without a job, and the walls around me got so old.
            I had been applying for jobs since March but had no bites.  I continued to put tons of applications out.  I knew the more I got my name out, the better it’d be, but I went through some hard times.  I felt discouraged.  I found myself angry and cynical at people – all right after a time I should’ve been happiest for finally achieving my goal of having a degree from a university I’ve dreamt about going to my whole life. 
            I was tired of not having income, so at the end of May I broke down and applied at a preschool.  I got the job almost instantly and kept telling myself that while it’s not what I want to do, it’s an income and it’s giving me something to do.  I told myself I’d continue to put out applications and actively search for something better.  I continued to get rejection emails and snail mail.  Each generic response put me deeper into a hole. 
            In the middle of July, I had a voicemail on my phone from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to schedule an interview.  To keep this short and to the point, after two interviews and more of a waiting game, I got the job.  I’m currently on my fourth week there, and things are finally starting to click in. 
            I guess the main idea of this blog post is to persevere and keep trying.  The economy is bad right now. Jobs are few and far between.  It’s normal for graduates to have to revert back to jobs they had before completing their degrees.  Bide your time, keep trucking and applying, and eventually a better opportunity will come along.  I’m the last person to say be positive, because I generally can be pessimistic, but this whole experience since May has really been an eye opener and I feel I’m becoming a better person because of it.  Even though I felt discouraged, I continued to plug away.  I’ve even had phone calls since accepting this job, and sadly, have also received rejection letters that I just toss aside and think nothing of. 
            So now I can say that I have a degree from Texas Tech University, and am also working for the great institution at their Medical School.  I owe all of my glory to God.  Through Him, I persevered.  I allowed him to lead me down the path he wanted me to go down, and things are becoming so much better.
            I’m also in the process of moving.  Labor Day weekend is my move in date! 
            Life is good, things are great.  And to all of you who check in for book updates – I’m about half way through a new idea of a story I’m hoping many will like.  I barely started the idea a month ago, and the muse is really flowing.  It’s an idea I’ve toyed around with for a long while, and it finally begged to be written.
            Happy reading to all, and God bless you! 

Nature's Fury


The largest hail stone I could get to without getting hurt! There were bigger ones than this! 

Broken telephone pole on Farm to Market Highway 41 just west of my house

I'm finally getting around to writing about last weekend.  For those who are not on my personal Facebook page or don't know me, you're probably wondering why I have fallen off of the face of the earth.  Last Sunday, April 29th, 2012, my community was hit with a massive hail storm around 8:00 PM.  The National Weather Service has not confirmed a tornado, but local meteorologists are saying yes, we had one.  I saw the funnel with my own two eyes, so regardless of what NWS is saying, we did experience a tornado in this area.  The damage even reflects that of twisting winds, rather than straight line winds that can sometimes appear to be tornadic damage.  

Last Sunday I saw that the weather was changing, so I did what I usually do and go sit out on my porch and watch.  The temperature plummeted from a warm 85-90 degree mark down into the lower 70's within thirty minutes.  I totally didn't see the signs and I usually do.  I knew the storm forming was going to be a big one, but it appeared to be moving more northerly and westerly from us, so I figured we'd get some downbursts and a little bit of rain, but the northern part of the county would get the brunt of it. The weather got really cold (another dead ringer for signs of hail) so I went in the house. The wind was strong and I didn't think I'd see much else.

Not five minutes after I went in, my phone blew up with text messages and calls from people, warning me to get out of my house. (I don't have a basement or cellar) A tornado warning had been issued for the southern part of the county, with a hook and wall cloud headed right toward my location.  I was baffled.  I asked my mother, "When did this happen?"  The storm that was moving west of us had shifted southeast.  Two storms collided and formed a monster of a supercell.  If it would have been daytime, I would have chased, but a few years back I swore to myself I would never do it at night ever again, and I really think it was a good decision, because even the storm chasers and meteorologists around here had no clue what the storm was going to do.  

After receiving several warnings to leave my home, I grabbed my dog Wyatt, put him on a leash, and left my stuff behind.  I went next door to my aunt's house, and she too, does not have a basement or cellar.  When the news finally said a tornado was on the ground just west of here, we decided to head to my uncle's house where there is a basement available.  I sprinted down the road to my uncle's, unsure of where the storm was even located.  Wind howled around me and I could hear massive hail stones hitting structures in the distance, each thud getting louder as it got closer to me.  My poor dog was terrified and I had to yank his leash to get him to run with me.  

To make a long story short, everyone is okay and things could have been so much worse.  There was a lot of damage out here, and sad to say, other people's homes ended up even worse off than mine.  I lost 5 windows and my car was totaled.  We got new glass put up in the windows and I already got another vehicle to drive.  My insurance company is supposed to come this week to haul off my poor little Cobalt that now looks like a golf ball with all of the hail dimples in it.  The windshield was completely obliterated as well.  

My totaled Chevrolet Cobalt. Every panel on the car sustained hail damage


As an amateur storm chaser, I've seen some really interesting things in regard to the weather.  However, April 29th was a first for me.  I had never seen hail as big as I did that night.  The biggest I personally saw was baseball sized hail, but there were reports of grapefruit sized as well, and from the damage, I definitely believe it.  We got some much needed rain, but it's a shame all of the severe stuff had to come with it.  I really hope that the severe stuff stays away for awhile.  Bring all of the rain and mild thunderstorms, but keep the horrible hail and tornadoes away.  

And on a side note pertaining to my writing - I'm actually in the process of writing a story about a storm chaser encountering strong and killer weather patterns.  You'd think something like this would help my muse on the story, but as of right now, I'm debating on putting it on hold for awhile! 

Happy reading to all! 

Through Smoke - The Paperback!

Front cover




(Click on blog entry to view entire blog post in a pop up window.)

I am officially announcing that Through Smoke is now available in paperback! It is 226 pages and I'm pricing it at $9.99. Right now, as far as I know, it is only available on Amazon.com. The Kindle version is also available as well. I know that ebooks are what is in style now and what is more common in general, but seeing my book as a paper copy feels great. It will be nice actually showing someone it. I've even had a few people request I sign a copy!  I've had several people tell me that they would read it if it were available as a paperback, so now, to those of you who told me that, no more excuses! :-P Just kidding!

Back cover
I'm planning on eventually making Backfire: Sequel to Through Smoke and Dance With the Devil available in paperback as well! The process of doing it through Createspace was not near as hard as I thought!

    Happy reading!




Making Your Own Happiness


           

(To see full blog entry, click to open the entire post!)        


      I’m sitting here listening to a Jillian Michaels podcast and I have to say, I really enjoy what she talks about.  This particular one was titled “The Power of Forgiveness.” The podcast is about 45 minutes long, and they cover other things during this time as well.  I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t one to jump on the Jillian bandwagon at first.  About a year ago I tried doing her 30-day shred workout and was not a fan at all.  Don’t get me wrong, the workout got me sweating and probably would be helpful, but I’m not in agreement that you need to work out 7 days a week.  I believe you need to take a few days to allow for muscle repair. 
            Anyway, I’m rambling, but if you’re a reader of my blogs, you know that I tend to get off on tangents! Well, I will now admit that I’m on the Jillian Michaels bandwagon.  Not only is she a fitness guru, but her podcasts are insightful.  She has some awesome blogs to read. I even downloaded an app on my phone that has some of her recipes, workout moves, and other blogs. I love her honesty.  She’s blunt, she speaks her mind, and she gives respect to receive it.  She has overcome a lot of obstacles and is a powerhouse in the fitness world now. 
            To get on topic with this blog, I just have to say that I’ve been working out consistently, 5 days a week for 1-2 hours, for a month now.  I’ve been seeing minor results… nothing too ground breaking, but that’s not really the point.  I’ve seen a lot of positive changes in my mood, for one thing.  During and after a workout I feel very euphoric.  I’m very happy, and even after I’m finished I feel like I have so much energy where I can just continue to do physical activity all day.  Studies have shown that when a person is on a regular workout regime, that it doesn’t just positively affect their physicality.  It is also a psychological benefit and helps many people with depression, anxiety, and low self esteem.  Today really proves that.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I usually don’t work out.  Those are my days to take a break since school really wears me out. I do get a good walk in between my classes and walking back to my car.  I have to park in a commuter lot that’s far away. 
Anyway, today I was very cranky.  I couldn’t put my finger on why I was in such a sour mood… and then it occurred to me… I haven’t worked out.  I think fitness is becoming my anti depressant again.  I say again because I’ve always been an athlete, but in the past few years I haven’t worked out quite as much as I should have.  In high school I participated in cross country running, basketball, and golf – and contrary to what some believe, golf IS a sport, especially how we played it in high school. We were not allowed to use carts and we had to carry our bags… for 18 holes. Sometimes I felt I got a better workout in with that than with the cross-country running.  Now that I’m back on track and really working my body, It’s craving that physical challenge everyday.  Today it didn’t get it, and my brain is having a “WTF” moment! If I wasn’t a believer in exercise making you happy before, this would definitely be a game changer.  I’m living proof that it does. 
Even if huge physical results aren’t being shown just yet, the benefits are outweighing the costs for me.  I’ve been happier, I feel better, and my energy level has increased.  I’m sleeping well at night and I know that my health is slowly but surely getting better.  It takes one step at a time.
 I saw a really awesome picture that said, “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.”  Remember that every journey begins with a single step, no matter what you are out there to accomplish and conquer.  


Backfire - Sequel to Through Smoke Now Available!


I just wanted to announce that Backfire – Sequel to Through Smoke, is now available in the Amazon store!


Michael McGinnis returns in this sequel to Through Smoke.

While visiting his brother in Texas, he is struck by the devastation wrought by the drought and wildfires. Learning the fire departments are staffed mostly by volunteers, he feels compelled to stay and help. Having little experience with this type of firefighting, Michael is forced to learn the basics quickly, making him vulnerable to the deteriorating situations in the largest and most destructive wildfire in Texas history. Eva is forced to go back home to New York with the constant worry of his safety on her mind.

With danger closing in on him, Michael comes to terms with what is important and must make a crucial decision that can change the lives of everyone he knows.

HAPPY READING! 

New Project Idea


After talking with my writing buddy about different possible books to do in the future, we came up with an idea that I’m going to try out.  I’m thinking about compiling several short stories together all based on the same characters.  The short stories are going to be based on everyday life of a family of four.  Before you go thinking that it’s going to be boring about things we all endure, I’m going to try to make it as entertaining as possible. My goal is for the reader to come across this book and find that it is a way to vent from their own personal lives.  Maybe the reader can relate to things the family endures, or be thankful that they have never experienced certain events and tribulations that they have read about.

So far I have two stories done.  I’m trying to do a few comedic stories, a few emotional stories, a few sad stories, as well as a few “steamy” ones.  Right now, what I’ve come up with in regard to characters is a working class, blue collar group of people who live in Texas, right outside of Austin to be exact.  The father is going to be a basic handy man around town, the mom is an administrative assistant at a farmer’s cooperative, and the two kids (a boy and a girl), are teenagers.

I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out just yet. It’s in its very early developmental stages on how I want to tackle this new project.  Right now I’m really excited about the new idea.  I know of a lot of authors who have several short story books out there and have had some good response from them.  It probably won’t be a long book and I will probably sell it for pretty cheap.

And to those who are wondering, I am also still considering a book three to Through Smoke.  I want to see how the sequel, “Backfire,” is going to do. I’m hoping to get it published on Monday (March 12) at the latest. It has gone through several edits and I want to do one more run through before I make it available to readers. 

If you’ve got any questions or comments, or any opinion on this new idea that I’m pursuing, feel free to let me know here on the blog, on the Facebook author page, or through email.  All of my contact information is at the top of the page on the right!

Happy reading! 

Your/You're... And Other Things....


           

          As everyone knows, humans have pet peeves.  We all have those certain things that really grind our gears and get us going.  I have to admit that when it comes to this, I’m not quite “normal.”  I let weird and unusual things bug me that people normally wouldn’t think about.  I could probably write about this all night, but I’ll try and keep the list to a minimum!

            1. The way people use your and you’re.  It GRINDS MY GEARS when someone puts “YOUR amazing” “YOUR beautiful” “YOUR immature”  PEOPLE. When YOU’RE saying something IS something, it is YOU’RE, the contraction for YOU ARE! It is a helping verb. “YOU ARE beautiful” “YOU ARE amazing” “YOU ARE immature.” On the other end, YOUR is a possessive pronoun, expressing something that belongs to you.  So therefore, “beautiful, immature, and amazing” do NOT belong to you! A proper way to use YOUR would be “Your dog barks a lot.”  “Your mom is a kind woman.” A simple way to avoid using YOUR/YOU’RE the wrong way is to think to yourself, is this a situation where I would actually say, “YOU ARE”, or is it not?  It’s a simple fix, yet it is abused sooooo much!

            2. I know as humans, we are not supposed to judge people, but I have to mention a pet peeve of mine in regard to clothing and hygiene of people I see at school.  It really bugs me that I know girls who actually take the time to look like they’ve just rolled out of bed.  They literally get up and take time to try to pull off that bed head look.  Why?  If you’re… (Yes, proper usage of you’re… wink) going to take all that time to look like trash, why not take the time and look presentable?  They style their hair in messy ponytails and still take time to put on makeup.  Hmm. I just don’t get it.  Also, I can’t stand when they wear those Ugg boots with sweat pants or shorts.  It looks ridiculous, and it’s the typical sorority girl look. Let me make myself clear. I’m not dissing on the Greek community – I just tend to notice that the majority of girls who try to pull off this look belong to a sorority.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go to school everyday dressed up, but my point is that I don’t take hours with a goal to look worn out.  If I look worn out, it’s because I am, not because I took the time to make myself look that way. 

            3. As a student at a very large campus, I have to walk pretty far distances to get to class.  As you enter campus, there are an immense amount of pedestrian signs and warnings for drivers to yield to walkers.  There are crosswalks in various places, but really, what’s the point of finding one?  There have been times that I’ve stood at the crosswalk, waiting as traffic goes, only to find that NO ONE yields for us.  Buses, bikers, and even the campus cops refuse to stop and allow a walker to go across. I’m now in my fourth semester at Tech and have learned that you pretty much just have to walk out and hope the drivers see you in time to stop if you ever want to get across the street.  What really gets me is that I have seen cops give jaywalking tickets to people for not using crosswalks.  HUH? Why does this happen?  Shouldn’t people be getting in trouble for not yielding for pedestrians as the law states?  Campus police is another topic I will not talk about right now.  That will get me on a whole other rant that should be saved for another day. 

            These are just three pet peeves I have been noticing a lot lately. My list could go on forever on things that really bug me.  Don’t get the wrong idea from this blog entry.  I might sound like this grumpy old person who just sits around and finds the negative in stuff, but I’m not. Sometimes it’s fun to toss around certain things that get under people’s skin.  A lot of times, I try to find the humor in it all and get a laugh out of it.  I have friends and family that know the things that frustrate me and go out of their way to point things out, just to turn a potentially “GRRR” situation into a silly one. 
            One thing I hope you can pull away from this is the YOUR/YOU’RE thing.  It’s a simple fix, and one that seems to be getting worse.  Then again, maybe I’m just noticing it more for other reasons. 
            YOU’RE (you are) amazing for taking the time to read this blog and YOUR brain (possession) will thank you for the new, crazy knowledge you have acquired in the time it took you to read this!
            Seriously folks, let’s get a grasp on the your/you’re thing. Happy reading! 

Wildfire - Nature's Fury

            
Smoke wall during the Bastrop fire in September of 2011. (This photo is not mine) 

           Back a few years ago, I got excited about springtime coming.  For the second year in a row, I can honestly say that I am dreading it.  As most people in America know, 2011 wasn’t a kind year to Texas in regard to rainfall and moisture.  We experienced the worst drought in history for this state and many old timers were comparing conditions to that of the dust bowl days.  I’m sad to report that meteorologists are calling for a carbon copy of last year for us.

            (Deep Sigh)

            Used to I waited in anticipation for the warmer weather to come, the longer days, and most of all, the storm season that this region usually saw.  Last year I think we got maybe three good storms for the entire year, and if I remember correctly, one of those came in October of all months!
            For those of you who are not familiar with the way Texas fire departments work, many are run by volunteers.  In fact, men and women whose day jobs are not firefighting control around 75% of departments.  First responders hold a special spot in my heart.  My father was a Lieutenant with Woodrow Fire Department for over twenty years.  He is now a paramedic.  I see what kind of stress jobs like that do to a person, yet they still do it for one main reason – to help people.
97% of the state of Texas was declared in a drought and burn bans were issued everywhere.  About 27,000 fires broke out, incinerating almost 4 million acres of land.  The fire season started up in west Texas and progressed across most of the state.  Most know about the infamous Bastrop County fire that forced major evacuations of many towns in that area.  This fire is referred to as the most catastrophic fire in Texas history. 
            Fire departments all across the state were worn thin.  Men and women dedicated hundreds of hours to help to try to control these burns, and keep in mind, most were volunteers, not even pulling in a paycheck for their time spent out there on the front lines.  Volunteer fire fighting funds were also cut drastically in 2011, leaving people in charge of paying for their own gear, which is very expensive.  My thanks goes out to the men and women who worked hard to keep the citizens of Texas safe.  Long hours, dangerous situations, and times when it seemed impossible to put the huge walls of flames out are just a few of the things these dedicated people endured during the wildfire season. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have someone come to your home and declare a mandatory evacuation.  How would a person even decide what to take with them?  It would be horrible to think that the next time you came home that it could very well be burned to the ground. 
            I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my novel Through Smoke that is based on the 2011 wildfire season here in Texas.  I am about halfway through with the manuscript and am really hoping that I can do the situation justice.  I’ve thought about a possible goal as to when I plan on having it published, but who am I kidding? I rarely get it done in the time I say! Right now it’s just very unpredictable with my school schedule, but I started writing this back in late November and am already half way done, so if I can keep the pace up the release date could possibly be soon!
            I will finish this blog entry with me saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who dedicated their time during the Texas wildfire season of 2011.  With the way the weather patterns are looking for the upcoming months, it appears that we are in for some more of it for 2012.  We’ll just have to keep praying for that rain and continue to offer support where we can. 
God bless all of you first responders out there!

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012


2011 has come and gone, and while it wasn’t all that bad of a year, I’m glad to say goodbye to it.  I’ve had some good things happen in this year, and compared to 2009 and 2010, I think my family was long overdue for a somewhat good year. 
As some of you know, in 2009 I lost my grandma and my Pepa.  In 2010 I lost my Mema.  As 2011 came along, the family was still grieving over losing three people in the matter of a year and a half.  I remember just a few years ago, priding myself on still having three of my grandparents.  I blinked and suddenly they were gone.  The reason I bring this up is because in 2011, I feel that my family has split apart.  One of my Mema’s biggest fears was the family going their separate ways once she was gone, and low and behold, it’s happening.  I’ve been stuck in the middle of a lot of drama that I shouldn’t have been.  There have been arguments, petty disputes, and situations I really wish I didn’t have to hear about.  It has completely changed me as a person, and throughout the past few months, I have felt myself withdrawing from certain people, and I really hate being that way. However, if it means keeping the drama out of my life, I’m going to do it, because I have better things to do and other things to accomplish in bettering myself. I know this happens with all families, and I just wish things would stop. 
I’ve even had people tell me what I can and can’t post on the internet in regard to my grandparents.  All four of my grandparents were amazing people.  They said, did, and accomplished things I could only dream of doing.  A lot of what I’m saying here in this blog is what my cousin recently said in a letter that she mailed to all of us, and as I read it, I felt as if she was reading my mind.  I couldn’t have agreed with her more.  If something one of them said could teach and change someone’s life, I’m going to post it.  If I feel that it helps me cope with their passing, I’m going to post it.  Sometimes putting their quotes or sayings on the internet is a way of honoring them, not exposing them.  I really am not happy with the fact that someone feels like they have a right to tell me what I can and can’t say on my personal Facebook account, on my blog, or anywhere for that matter. 
The bickering and fighting that my family has endured in 2011 has made me want to pack up and get out of here for a while.  I hate the fact that I’m feeling like I’m being chased off, but until things change, it’s going to stay that way.  I love it where I live.  I’m out in the country where it’s quiet, but I’m also a safe distance away from a good-sized city.  But since all of this has happened, each day it’s getting easier for me to say goodbye.  As I’ve said, I’ve already pulled away from a lot of family. 
But, to try and be positive, a lot of good things have happened in 2011 as well.  I was declared a degree candidate with Texas Tech University and filed my intent to graduate for May of 2012.  For the fall semester of 2011 I made the Dean’s List and finished with a 3.75 GPA. My goal going in to the semester was to make the list, so I was more than thrilled when I found out that I had accomplished it. 
In April I went down to San Antonio to take part in the last Friday Night Lights screening for Gridiron Heroes, a charity for football players who have suffered spinal cord injuries.  I got to mingle and hang out with the cast, and it is a night I will never forget.  In May, I participated in a celebrity golf tournament in Bastrop, TX, which helps The Buoniconti Fund to cure Paralysis.  It was hard work out in the Texas heat, but it was worth every second.  I got on a first name basis with Kyle Chandler, an actor that I have been following since I was eight years old and first saw in the movie Pure Country with George Strait. It was surreal to hear him call me out by name. I also got to meet other celebrities, and the majority of the people there were amazing. I hope to get to do it again next year, but with graduation around the date that the tournament is, it’s quite iffy.  I’ll know more as the date nears.
The summer of 2011 for Texas wasn’t the best.  We set several records for heat and had the worst drought in history.  Many old timers were comparing it to the dust bowl days.  I have lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen it as dry as it was.  I have never seen so many wild fires either.  God bless all of the men and women who are out there, most volunteer, who have had to fight these horrible fires.  In October we experienced a haboob that was over 7,000 feet high.  I watched it roll in, and honestly, was pretty scared.  I usually don’t get scared with stuff like that. 
2011 has been pretty good for my books as well.  I published Through Smoke in February and Dance With the Devil in November.  For the month of December, they both had record-breaking sales and great exposure.  I hope to carry on that success through 2012. 
I have gained new friends and lost others.  Many people have wronged me, and I’m sure I’ve wronged others as well.  One thing that I have really learned is that there is no weakness in forgiveness.  But, on the other side of the coin, I may forgive, but I certainly won’t forget!
2011 wasn’t all that bad.  I know things could always be worse than they are, so I have to just keep thanking God for everything and remember that he is in control.  2012 is here.  Lot’s of big things coming up - Graduation in May, which means it’s time to finally get that career rolling.  It’s scary and exciting, all at the same time.
May you all have a wonderful 2012!