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Merry Christmas - Happy New Year!

It’s my favorite time of year with a lot of good things going on. Heck, we even have Star Wars Episode VII coming out this month. Christmas, time with family, good food, Star Wars…win, win, win and win. And....STAR WARS!

Recently I completed my writer’s workshop course and learned a few things, pumped out a great deal of writing material, got some feedback on my work, but mostly the course amped me up to push out some chapters for my book, Son of Alden. I should be publishing my novel in early 2016. If you see my A Place for Thought page explode with updates throughout the year, don’t be surprised. It's going to be a good year!

Also, my friend Adam Greven is also publishing his novel, The Knights Proper. I’m pumped for him and I cannot wait to read it. You can check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/adamwritespages/?pnref=story

Until then, it’s time to enjoy the Holiday Season. It’s my last hoorah as Booster Club President and I have a Christmas Party to plan for about 200 folks. Other than that, it’s time for chasing my kids around, Christmas music, German Christmas Markets, and eggnog. Speaking of Christmas music, I’ve put a few of my favs down below. No matter what you believe, or how you celebrate, enjoy this Holiday Season. We have a lot of "crazy" going on in the world right now too, just as there always seems to be. But it's a good time to realize how lucky we are to have what we have, and to enjoy our families and what God has blessed us with.

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Mary, Did You Know by Pentatonix

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by The Drifters

O Holy Night by Josh Groban

Writing Workshops - A New Dream Forming?

So I'm about to take three writing courses. Sure, they will go toward a certification, but honestly it's just to ramp up my writing mojo and get things going with my novel. Two of them are courses on basic plot development and self publishing practices, but one is actually a ten-week writing workshop which I'm really excited about. It's titled "Mastering the Scene: For Fiction Writers" and it's taught by Dennis Foley. From the reviews and his credentials it seems like he really knows his stuff.

Before I got my degree in History, I was originally enrolled at Shasta Community College and I bounced around from Business and English majors. I was allowed to do that because I was still doing my general courses, but I quickly found out that Business was simply not my thing, and English had too many rules that interfered with my love for writing. I didn't want to write literature, I wanted to write fiction.

But I did take two Creative Writing courses, and to this day those courses are among my top five favorites. Ancient Philosophy, Early European Warfare, and my country study on Africa & Russia are some of my other favorites. Anyway, those creative writing classes got my creative juices flowing, and I've never felt more connected with a class. Which makes me think:

What if when I got out of the military I opened up my own writing workshop?! I mean, I'll have my Masters by then, several writing certifications, my teaching credentials (because my original plan was to be a History/Government teacher), and I might even have several published novels...so I'll be credible enough to do it. I've already got a million ideas. Okay, maybe a couple dozen ideas. And to be honest about my new business concept, it would honestly take a bunch of work to establish the writing exercises I would need to keep things fresh, but at least it would be cheap to operate. I need big tables, chairs, and customers in a friendly open environment. Simple, right? Possibly paper, pens, or laptops (if I wanted to get fancy).

And I'm not talking about an online class, to make things clear. Sure, I could do that if I wanted to make a lot of money and grow/expand my business. I could do that, and I might. But I don't want to JUST do this for money, but for me because I love this sort of thing, and I think most writers would enjoy it too. And just like I hate the cellphone age and text messages/online chatting, I'd much rather have a face to face class where we can all sit together, read each other's work (and give some friendly critiques) and, you know, just hang out.

Half my military career is over, but I think I know what I'm aiming for when I get out. I'll open up my own Writer's Workshop business and publish books, full time. I'm already excited about it. Best part is that I can live just about anywhere.

Any thoughts on my idea? I know I have friends (some who are already getting published) that could possibly show up as guest speakers or even facilitate workshops with me. Fun times!!

A Beautiful Form of Writing - Music

So I’ve been told I’m a sensitive guy, and perhaps it’s true. It might even show in my choice of music. For example I enjoy a lot of songs on the acoustic guitar, romantic songs get to me (I’m not ashamed!), and often times the words of a song can move me if they mean something. Sure there are songs that I simply like to rock out to and there are songs I simply enjoy but the lyrics are rather...pointless. But overall I like songs that mean something to me, remind me of someone, or that make me want to tear my heart out. Music should always make you FEEL something.

I’m fairly certain there are at least ten songs my wife wants to erase from her memory because of how many times I’ve listened to them in our house. My new thing in the last few years has been to listen to Youtube videos where people cover songs rather than listening to the original. You wouldn’t believe the talent that is out there. There are some incredibly gifted people on this planet with a passion for music, and some of these covers are better than the original versions (while some are not, but they are still beautiful). Some of them COMPLETELY change the song and make it their own. It is incredible.

Here is a hauntingly beautiful song (and artist). Her name is Marie Digby and she covers “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak:

It helps when the singer is absolutely stunning, right? I’m not going to lie, Marie Digby captures me with more than her musical ability. But just to show I’m not just another creep stalking women on Youtube, here is my main man, Aaron Lewis, covering “Black” by Pearl Jam:

This next one is from American Idol, which I honestly haven’t watched in years, but Haley Reinhart’s sexy/raspy voice performing “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals is perfect. And the fact that she gets in front of hundreds of people, sings it live on stage, and sings the beginning with no instrumental support…phew! She’s got talent AND guts. Millions watched this particular season and I’m still amazed she didn’t win by this performance alone.

Here is one of my favorites, and it's a little more upbeat for the rock fans. This cover of Tool’s “46 and 2” is done by students of the O’Keefe Music Foundation. They are incredible, and I could rock out to these kids playing any day. If I had money I’d give them all scholarships, but hopefully someone granted them some cash at some point. The drummer kicks butt too, by the way.

Here is another great cover by a group called Pentatonix who all have great voices. They cover “Say Something”, one of my favorites, a song by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera:

For the next one I couldn’t even decide what song cover to put on here, because these guys can rock it no matter what they play. I love their sense of humor, and they are wicked talented. This particular video is awesome and it cracks me up since they (and the whole audience) dressed up in costume for the video. Here is 2Cellos covering “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. Definitely check out their other covers though, such as “Welcome to the Jungle”, “With or Without You” and “Smooth Criminal”. Their classical renditions are top notch as well!

And finally, one of the best songs of all time in a beautiful cover by Boyce Avenue, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton. Check out Boyce Avenue. They are good. They cover Justin T’s “Mirrors” with Fifth Harmony and it’s incredible. Eh, what the heck, I’ll throw that one down at the bottom as an extra. :)

Well I have a million of these and we could be here forever. Hope you enjoyed the music as you tapped into a portion of my spiritual side! Ha!

Boyce Avenue Cover of "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the last few weeks. Honestly, it’s been up and down for the past year or so. I guess there’s a reason people repeat the saying, “When it rains, it pours.”

Someone in my family is losing their home. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, to be sure, but it means a lot to them and to me. Losing a home isn’t easy, and it just happens to be one of the places I call home and go back to visit. We even built the house, believe it or not, but the house will no longer belong to the family in a few short days. But a house isn’t home because of the building itself or because of the stuff that’s in it. That’s something I have to repeat to myself over and over again and that I also try to teach my children. If we lost our house and all of our possessions, I would be happy to start all over with my wife and my kids (and my pups, of course). A home is home because of the people who reside there. The older I get the more I realize that stuff is…just stuff.

That being said, there are also a multitude of people on both sides of my family (as well as friends) having children, getting married, graduating from this or that, and even a few divorces (which are almost never pretty). Some of them I find out about after they’ve already happened since I’m a bit out of the loop living way out here, making me feel a little detached from my loved ones. Heck, sometimes I just want to have a beer with a few of my friends back home.

Worse still, I recently lost someone very dear to me in my family. It’s hard on me because this person meant a great deal to me, but even more because I know she meant the world to a great many people in my family. When you add to that the ramifications of death, contemplating what comes next, religion, spirituality and the unknown, losing someone you love can mess with your mind rather quickly.

And here I am across the Atlantic, unable to be where I should be, and unable to comfort my friends and family appropriately. At least…I couldn’t comfort them in person. Thank God for Skype and social media…did I just thank God for social media? I hate Facebook sometimes, but have to admit that it has its uses.

In the end it’s important to know that work, business, and life in general might take you places where you’re not in close proximity to your family and friends. It can be hard, and there are things you most definitely miss out on when it happens. But when it happens I like to think of the positive things, and it truly helps.

For example: I’m in Europe. I’ve got a great career. My wife and kids are with me (thank goodness). My family back home knows that we love them, and I have ample ways of staying in touch with them even if I don’t get to give out free hugs very often. And SOMETIMES they even get to come out to Europe and visit us which is a priceless experience in itself. We’ve also made so many friends who have practically become our overseas (and out of state) family, and this alone made it all worth it. Friends that I will always have no matter how often we part ways. And I get to go to places like this:


There is a lot to be thankful for. But to the grandparents who miss the grandkids, to my wife and kids who miss our entire family, and to my friends who I rarely get to see: Thanks for your support, for being understanding and for making those sacrifices. When next we meet, free hugs on me. Or a beer, if you’d prefer a beer. :)

On Writing: The Adventure

What does it take to be a writer? That’s a good question and ten bucks says that people have differing opinions on the subject. So what DOES make a writer a writer? Probably not writing with a “so” at the beginning of a sentence, or using all caps to make a point, for starters. But this is a blog and I do what I want, English teachers be damned! There is a reason I switched from a degree in English to something with less rules.

Anyone labeled a “writer” MUST desire to be published, be desperately hoping to have millions of people in their readership (or even a few thousand readers would be nice, I’m sure). A writer must desire to have people dying to read their next novel (not literally dying, of course – slight nod to Mr. Stephen King there), waiting to purchase your next screenplay, and maybe even making the New York Times Best Seller’s list. Right?

Now that’s all awesome. That’s the dream, but only for some.

There are a lot of writers out there. In truth, to be a writer it is simple: You must…wait for it…almost there…WRITE! That’s it. It’s that simple. And hey look! Dictionary.com even states that a writer is, “a person who writes or is able to write.” Now it’s the fifth definition down on the list, but it counts! My point stands, yeah!


Now I have read a great many books “on writing”, and have probably spent a good deal of time learning about writing when maybe I should have simply put some ink to paper instead. For me, however, sometimes the story behind what makes a writer choose to write is altogether fun in itself. It’s a craft, an art, even a way of life for many people. There are actually people that don’t go to work in the way that many of us do. They simply write. That IS their job. Sounds amazing, right? Too bad 97% of them don't make any money writing, or I’d do it too. I could probably live like that, not worried about money, but it’s not just about me anymore. Having kids changes things, so I have a day job. Bummer.

Everyone has a different take on how writing should be accomplished, for what reasons one should write, and on what makes any work of fiction or non-fiction “a good read”. One writer will never make all readers happy. That’s why there are different genres, and countless mediums that act as an outlet for writers.

I was lucky enough to have met one of the most accomplished writers, Stephen King, in 2013. I’ve loved many of his books and have hated others, or at least in most cases I could not stand the endings to a few of them. A man who has been publishing for longer than I’ve been alive (by many years), who knows his craft, and who as an author has more money than anyone I can think of (other than J.R.R Tolkien and JK Rowling, writers of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, respectively), King still manages not to please everyone. Yet he pleases enough to have a networth of 400 million, it would seem.


Anyway, I read his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” about…oh I don’t know, seven years ago or so. I also listened to the audio format where he narrated the whole thing. Pretty cool, in a creepy sort of way, honestly. Most of his book is about his life, why he writes, and about how his wife rescued his first work from the trash which became his first big hit. It’s not just a book about how to write, but it’s the adventure of what led him to write, his struggle, and how he hit the big time. Meeting him at Ramstein Air Base in 2013 was a great experience, and if I could have lunch with anyone living he’d probably be on my top 10 list.

What makes ME write? The same thing that makes me read: The Adventure.

In the end, and I have to tell myself this all the time, if you’re a writer…JUST WRITE something already! Actually, I have to tell myself that right now. “Get back to work, Steve.”

My Favorite Person - AMB

For the first time in a long time it feels like we have it all figured out. I am caught up with things at work. Our family is solid. The kids are growing. One of them is about to start school. The house is clean. The car is paid off. Promotion is on its way. Our checkbook is all in order because we budget like crazy.

Did you notice that I said “we” a few times back there? I’m not on my own in this. There is a reason that they say, “Behind every good man there’s a great woman.” Personally, I like the, “Behind every great man there’s a woman rolling her eyes.” If that’s not the truth I don’t know what is.

But if we’re going to be HONEST, there is no “behind” anything here. Andrea is with me and by my side. Often times, since we're being honest… she’s leagues ahead of me. For example:

My wife got her degree (with honors) in 2011. I got off my butt and got mine in 2013. I couldn’t have my children thinking their dad was an idiot, so I had to struggle for that “with honors” on my diploma. So much pressure! Thanks for that, Andrea. It’s a good thing I’m all caught up now…OH, BUT WAIT! Then she goes and starts her master’s degree so I had to enroll in my master’s program. Then she’s getting certifications in Information Technology, reading books (that look more like massive encyclopedias for nerds) and studying like a mad person to make herself more marketable.

In the next five years she will be making at least two times more than I do whether she chooses to go photography fulltime or back into IT: Mark me on that.

The point is that she’s kicking my butt and always keeping me on my toes. Maybe she knows it, maybe she doesn’t. And I’ve got to watch out because now she’s in Karate with my son and will one day be able to take me out (if she’s not able to already). Maybe I shouldn’t even post this and risk embarrassing her because I personally don’t like roundhouse kicks to the face…

What this post is really about though is to say thank you to my wife. Some people don’t realize that men and women who stay home with their kids put up with a lot of BS and they SACRIFICE a great deal every day: Like their sanity. For five years, the first five years of my children’s lives, she stayed home with them. Every. Single. Day. (Give or take) And you know what? They are and will be better people to have been around her during that time. I’m glad she was willing to make that choice to raise them and that she had that option. Not everyone does.

And before anyone thinks that she resents our children for having stayed home, please know that she doesn't. She got a lot out of this deal too, having had priceless time with our children that not everyone gets to experience. And she's thankful for it. At the same time, however, she did put aside her career. Five years outside of our career field in technology can be a real career killer. Not to mention my career forces her to live overseas away from family. These things are good and bad in many ways, but in the end there IS some sacrificing going on.

She didn’t stop at simply being a stay at home mom, however. She took care of our kids and took names while doing it. She completed her degree. She started a photography business (got a German business license too) and has been mentioned by famous photographers that you can read about in magazines. Yeah, she’s that good. Heck, she got Cisco Certified last month! How do you keep up with someone like this? The list goes on and on, and it all happens WHILE she feeds the kids, teaches them, reads to them, plays with them, puts them in sports, activities and God knows what else. My brain can’t even comprehend it all. Really, it can’t. I won’t even mention the things that she does for me, for our family, for our military family, and for animals everywhere that we’ve lived. We’d be here forever if I tried.

So Andrea, thank you for being the most beautiful and intelligent person that I know.

Some of her work is down below to show off the greatness that is Andrea Marie Brest, the photographer:

Her work can be found here: http://www.andreamariestudio.com/

Please check it out. And that's my dog, by the way. His name is Dexter, he is a border collie, and he is a STUD.

Everything Looks More Beautiful - In 3D

Happy Friday! Who's watching a movie tonight?!

I am a total sucker for 3D movies, although I’ll admit that I prefer to watch them at home as opposed to watching them at the theater (with very few exceptions). For the record, I purchased my 47” LG 3D TV for about 399 on sale several years ago which is an INSANELY good price compared to what some spend on their home entertainment systems. Shop around and wait for deals if you can unless you must have that 60 inch 4K Smart TV which will run you thousands of dollars. My PS3 acts as my 3D Blu-Ray player. The PS3 isn’t new, but it’s still one amazing piece of machinery. Not sure if I plan on having the Xbox vs. Playstation argument here. Maybe one day. Maybe. Both the new Xbox One and the PS4 play Blu-rays, which is a good thing since we're talking 3D right now.

Below are a few of my favorite 3D movies and the experiences associated with them:


For the longest time this was my favorite movie to watch at home in 3D. They did an incredible job with the 3D content.

There is something incredible about watching a helicopter hover right in front of me in my own living room, or seeing the inside environment of Iron Man’s helmet with 3D graphic displays. They don’t overdue the 3D in Avengers, which is good because it makes things look a bit too cheesy when they do that. Instead they give you the well-rounded 3D experience that makes it look believable and lifelike which is good. I mean, when you’re at Disneyland and they do the whole POP OUT at you like in Honey I Shrunk the Audience it’s all in good fun, but when you do that in a multi-million dollar movie…it does nothing but ruin the whole experience. I want to feel like I’m there looking at the Hulk destroy stuff. I don’t want the hulk to pop awkwardly out of my TV screen bringing me back to my living room. I can’t wait to own the new version in 3D and see how they’ve improved things, because the first Avengers movie is outstanding in 3D format.

Star Trek Into Darkness

First off, I love the actors in this movie. The first one was amazing as well, but unfortunately it was not made in 3D format. That’s fine, as there are times I simply want to watch an HD 2D film. Anyway, with the second installment of this particular Star Trek franchise they added the actor Benedict Cumberbatch to the mix. He is one outstanding actor. His Sherlock show is a lot of fun too. He wasn’t someone I would have originally imagined to have played the character Khan, but he definitely pulled it off.

There is a bit of action in this movie, and all space movies tend to be a good time when in 3D. I’ve heard complaints from those who watched it in 3D in the movie theater, but I had no such qualms while watching it in my home. Usually when I go to the theater I watch movies in 2D so as not to be disappointed (and to save money because I’m a scrooge). Nothing is worse than spending extra money for 3D content only to HATE the 3D content.

Isn’t it the worst when there is ONLY a 3D showing and you have no choice other than to watch the 3D version or go home? Not cool, theater. Not cool. Although sometimes you'll stick around and be pleasantly surprised, and others you just end up with a 3D headache and some tired eyes.

The Hobbit Trilogy

I want to start off honestly and say that I do not currently own the third Hobbit movie on 3D Blu-Ray. So I can’t talk to that one yet. And (ooh this is a big geek sin to admit), I honestly have not even watched the Battle of the Five Armies yet…YIKES!

I know, I know, I can’t believe it either. I keep meaning to watch it. I’ve even tried to find it a few times at the store. This weekend…I WILL WATCH IT! I promise. Maybe. My sister’s family is in Germany visiting…and…you know, things happen. I’ll TRY to watch it.

Anyhow, the first two movies in 3D are a lot of fun. There is something fantastically cool about feeling like you’re INSIDE a Hobbit hole. I mean, this is stuff you probably read as a child and the story is now coming to life right in front of you. The majestic world of Middle Earth coming alive in my house; Priceless. What more could a fantasy geek like me ask for?

Some people say these movies are too boring, and some people say they are too fast paced with too much action ruining the quality of the story they remembered as a kid. Which to me means they did the movie “just right” if you balance those two complaints. For me: it’s the adventure mixed with the experience. You’re in a hobbit hole, a bunch of hungry dwarves show up, and then they sing an eerie song before the adventure begins while they tell stories of a great and terrible dragon. It’s simple in its beauty, and the story comes to life in a magical way.

Yet we all have people in our family who fall asleep to this stuff. Luckily I love them and refuse to disown them even though they probably deserve it…

I was originally skeptical when they were bringing Lord of the Rings and then the Hobbit to the big screen, but have to admit they did a bang up job. And even more than that, they got more kids (and adult kids) to read the books. Win-win. That’s how I see it, anyway.


This movie in a way was the father? No. Mother? No…Eywa of modern 3D movies. It’s the first one I remember seeing with the new 3D technology (not really new, but they made it affordable and marketable).

To be quite honesty, the movie's story isn’t perfect and is even a bit cheesy. I’ve seen comparisons with the Pocahontas screenplay and have to admit there are some scary similarities. The explorer from “another world”. Unobtainium in place of gold. The Na’vi people instead of Native Americans. The two love birds falling for each other even though they’re from different worlds. The list goes on and on.

But once you move on from all that…the movie is beautiful. I watched this four times with my family within a matter of a week. My son Nathan was a baby at the time and even he sat through it. Even though he didn’t tell me, “Dad, this is amazing. I want to grab those glowing firefly things and drool all over them,” he said it all with his eyes.

When I go to a movie I want to leave with a certain feeling. It’s honestly only happened a few times to this level. But I want to leave feeling like I just watched something magical. I remember it when my parents took me to watch Aladdin. I remember when my father took me to see the first Jurassic Park on opening day. Then maybe the Matrix, Braveheart, and Lord of the Rings. These movies blew my mind in one way or another.

The 3D feast that was Avatar was so much fun that we left the movie in silence, awestruck for a short time. Then we all exploded, all talking at once. So much so that we went back to watch it again the following day. THAT is what a movie experience is all about. Giddy excitement. Something that gives your eyeballs a feast. Awes you. Or tugs at your heart-strings.

This movie is probably the only instance where I enjoyed the 3D effects (or the movie as a whole) in the theater more than I enjoyed owning it at home. Perhaps it was just extra exciting to experience it with my entire family back home. Good times. If you haven’t seen it you’re missing out on some beautiful displays of color and movement all glorified in 3D.

What are some of your incredible movie experiences, and what do you think made them incredible? The people with you? The anticipation? The movie itself? The popcorn? Simply how you felt that day? Or was it because the movie was in 3D and was AwEsOmE SaUcE?

Please share your experiences, and Happy Freitag from Germany.

Suggested Reading - Part I

There is (almost) nothing better than a good book. I’ve read many books and hope to read a great many more in my lifetime. Hopefully I publish a few as well. But the “to read” list continues to grow like it does for many of us, and it’s sad to say that we are simply not able to read them all.

So my plan was to give you a list of a few of my personal favorites. I’ll have to do this kind of thing multiple times and I might even do a few full book reviews (as well as movie reviews). Soon I plan on having a blog post dedicated to books adapted to film and get into everything; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But for now the list:

The Thief of Always, by Clive Barker

My mother had me reading at an early age. I loved to read around the house, and to have her read to me when I was a little guy. Many people in my family read quite a bit. But the Thief of Always was the first book that hooked me like no book had ever done before. I was in seventh grade and it was in my elective study class. A short class period where you could do homework, classwork, study, etc. No thank you to all of that. Instead, I mostly read books. When I grabbed this particular book…and when it grabbed me, I was there reading before the bell rang. I was also barely getting to my next class on time each day because I did not want to leave. I'd also like to mention that the most beautiful girl in school (in my opinion) sat next to me. Sure, I flirted with her throughout the year. But not while I read this book. Truth be told, I don't even know if I talked to her at all during this time.

The story is kind of eerie, just like the cover art. But it’s fascinating. My wife and I regularly read stories to our kids almost every night, or I’ll make up a story or two. Once my son is old enough this will be one of the first chapter books that I’ll read to him. It’s an adventure, particularly for the young, or those who have young hearts. It gets the imagination flowing. It makes me want to write children books and get other children to WANT to read. Thanks Clive Barker, for grabbing my attention at an early age.

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin

How could I not put this on here? I’ve spent more time reading, rereading, and discussing theories on forums and with my friends about ASOIAF than any other work of fiction. Due to HBO’s Game of Thrones series, many people already know about this material. It’s gritty, it’s violent at times, sexual at times, and anyone can die. And often times…they do. It’s why Andrea (the wife) stopped reading. She’s not the only one, but for some of us, WE LOVE IT.

I’ve also listened to them TWICE in audio format. If you do, and you don’t mind an English accent, listen to them by the narrator Sir Roy Dotrice. He’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records for the third book, A Storm of Swords, for having the most characters with unique voices. It’s like you’re there, and you’ll zone out at times and forget that you exist. It’s a great story, and George R.R. Martin is a tremendously talented writer.

Imagine this (because it really happened). I was stationed at Holloman AFB and was running on our quarter mile track. It just so happens that I was listening to ASOIAF read by Roy Dotrice. Suddenly this guy comes up to me and grabs me by the shoulder and asks me if I am okay. I was literally (Andrea hates it when people use this word, so I'm leaving it)standing perfectly still on the track, no longer running, listening to the "Red Wedding" scene take place. At the time HBO's Game of Thrones did not exist, which meant the Lieutenant Colonel who approached me had ZERO idea what ASOIAF was. I'm willing to bet he thought I was a nutcase. But George's writing and Roy Dotrice's narration is THAT powerful.

The amount of fleshed out characters in these books is incredible, and I personally love the heraldry, coats of arms and history that Martin developed in his writings. It's no wonder that millions are addicted to his books, that it's translated into many languages and published in a multitude of countries. Truly incredible stuff.

Pillars of the Earth

This is perhaps my favorite book of all time, if that sort of thing is even possible. It’s a historical fiction that involves a variety of characters whose lives revolve around the construction of a fictitious cathedral. It’s got love, revenge, hatred, politics (both government and church politics…almost the same thing during those times), and everything else you could ask for. When the characters are starving, you FEEL for them. There has only been a few times where I have read a book and I’ve hated the villain quite as much as Ken Follett made me hate one in his novel. This book even made Oprah Winfrey’s reading list many years after I had passed the book around to my family members. I remember my mom saying, “That’s not on Oprah’s list, it’s on Stephen’s list!” I love you mom.

In short: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett…READ IT!

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t know how Pat did it, but he somehow combined two of the greatest things into one within his book: Music and fiction. I don’t even know how to explain that comment, but the protagonist’s life revolves around a great many things, one of which is music. To me, The Name of the Wind is a new fantasy epic where the main character reminds me a great deal of Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey. And that’s a very, very good thing. The characters are wonderful, and the way he tells the story is refreshing.

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe.

You may have heard of me.”

The Season of Passage, by Christopher Pike

My wife introduced this one to me and it’s one of our favorites. It’s a science fiction novel about Earth and Mars, and it’s got vampires. For the record, there is something truly frightening about being alone out in space with a vampire. I’m not going to lie: this book gave me all sorts of ideas for a novel or two. There was something I really liked about the female protagonist and her inner dialogue. Plus the history of what was once Mars made it interesting all by itself. The bad thing about this book is that it can be hard to find due to limited print. But find it. Totally worth it.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas

This is THE classic. If you wanted to start reading classics, this is the place to start. Sure, Hamlet is great and so are many of Shakespeare’s other works. But they can be difficult to read for some (most), and you should read something that won’t turn you away from the classics right off the bat. In fact, I need to start reading more classics again. There’s a reason they are classics and have survived the ages. Makes you wonder what books from this century will pass the test of time…

But The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most colorful, rich, massive stories I have ever read. It was translated from French and is a very old style of storytelling, which can turn many off at first. But I assure you, this book is outstanding and will make you feel a variety of emotions. The movie with Jim Caviezel is great, and one of my favorites. Honestly, however, it cuts out a massive portion of the true story which is very sad. But with a book as massive as The Count of Monte Cristo, it’s not surprising they had to cut it down a bit. Watch the movie, but more importantly, read the book. I’ve read it a few times at different stages in my life, and I’ve enjoyed it each and every time.

The Sword of Truth Series, by Terry Goodkind

Wizard’s First Rule is the first book of many when it comes to the Sword of Truth series, but it can stand alone. This is what I told my wife when we swapped books when we first moved to Germany nearly ten years ago. She handed me Life Expectancy (great book) by Dean Koontz, and I handed her Wizard’s First Rule. We each read them, and then she continued to read each and every Sword of Truth novel until she was caught up with me. We both had to wait for the 10th or 11th novel to get published, and then we each bought our own copy because we didn’t want to wait for each other to finish before getting to start ourselves.

Lots of my fantasy reading friends will disagree with me for putting this series on here. I’ll admit that Terry Goodkind isn’t the best writer. But he is a phenomenal story teller and has wonderful character development. Sometimes that’s all you want and need. Sometimes it’s all about the adventure. He may not be George R. R. Martin, and each sentence might not be a work of art. He might be heavy handed in his beliefs and in supporting Ayn Rand’s philosophy. But the story rings true. This series has characters that are living with me still to this day who I simply cannot forget. Andrea and I reference portions of this series all of the time and it’s as if it’s our own inside joke.

From this story comes one of my favorite characters of all time, Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor. The story behind the Confessors, their powers, and how they wield their power for the good of the “Midlands” is captivating. Honestly, when I first saw my wife with her long hair flowing down her back, a certain Confessor came to my mind instantly. That’s how I like my women: intelligent and beautiful. Both my wife Andrea and Kahlan Amnell from the books are such people. It's as if Kahlan is a real person, and both Andrea and I know and love her.

So much happens in these stories. It’s a true adventure and I encourage everyone who enjoys a good fantasy novel to at least give the first one a try.

Give them all a shot if you're willing, or put them on your "to read" list.

NOTE FROM STEPHEN: My goal is to put these out every Wednesday morning. (I reserve the right to post more often than that, of course). Happy reading. :)

Are You Not Entertained!!! - Because I Am

As promised, this blog entry is going to be nothing but fun. No serious stuff here.

To start the fun off I’m going to say that I love stand-up comedy…because laughing is important. If you haven’t laughed today, SOMETHING in this post is going to make you chuckle at least a little bit. That’s the goal. I might have already got you with how ridiculous I look as Mad Hatter Steve...

One of my favorite comedians is Louis CK. He's been around for a while and if you haven’t heard his stuff you should check him out, unless of course you’re overly sensitive. He talks about some…well, let’s just say he goes right up to “the line”, crosses it, and then urinates while he spins in a circle. But he does it intelligently, if that makes sense.

Anyway, the video below is perfect because it’s Louis CK, he's on Conan O'Brien's show (who I love), AND it’s also about how stupid cell phones are. And if there is one thing I hate it’s how "smart" phones are RUINING the current generation. It's also not one of his over the top topics either, so we should be safe. Here it is:


Also, my personal favorite vid (of Louis) if you have the time (although it’s in poor quality on Youtube):


CK made the news not too long ago for his "disturbing" monologue on SNL, but I won't post it here. At least not this time.

Well now that we got comedy out of the way it’s time to get my GEEK ON. It’s time to see one of the best fan made videos out there that answers one of the most important questions ever to have been posed in an online forum. The question: Who would win in a fight to the death, Batman or Darth Vader? Enjoy.


I’m honestly more of a Marvel guy myself, but when it comes to the DC Universe, Batman is the best by far. However, one can not underestimate the power of the Force, obviously.

Now if that video outcome had you disappointed, perhaps you’d like to see what Batman does on his time off when he’s not fighting crime or the Dark Side. You know, when he raises his kids and stuff:


Alright guys, that’s probably enough of your time for now. I have plenty more videos to share since the internet is pretty infinite as of late, but for now I hope one of these made you laugh or at least gave you a good time. If not, try to keep a straight face during this last one. Have a great day.


**The last video was my last workplace's very own version of being "Rick Roll'd". Getting someone to click on that link by mistake was a moment of glory.**

NOTE: Also, this is my first "auto post" that I scheduled to post while I'm at work. Just, to you know, try it because I'm a geek like that. Hopefully it works! It's supposed to automatically update on FB too. Pretty cool...if it works.

Things You Want - Things That You Need

We all want things in life. We all have desires, goals and fanciful dreams. Who wouldn’t want to win the lottery, right? Who doesn’t want to hit the jackpot?

The simple truth is: Money is overrated.

I still enjoy the saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure does buy a lot of other things that make me happy.” It’s a funny quip. It’s even true, but it’s not COMPLETELY accurate in my opinion.
The title of my blog entry should honestly be, “Things you want, and things that you *think* you need”. The truth is that most people think that they need things, when in the end they are just that: Things. What do we truly need, anyway? Food, water and shelter? Maybe a few other things like medical providers during an emergency? Possibly a vehicle to get to work? Oh boy, now things just got complicated. What kind of vehicle do we actually NEED to get to work?

Now I’m not picking on people who own nice cars. Honestly, I’m not. Coming from a guy who’s had a 65 and a 66 Ford Mustang, it would be wrong to say that I don’t appreciate nice cars or that I don’t think people should own them. But we honestly don’t “need” them. They’re extras. And by themselves they don’t make us happy, although I have a few close friends and family members who would argue this point.

**Here's one of my Mustangs just to show that I do think cars can be awesome**

When I first got married in April of 06 my wife and I moved to Germany for our first tour. We were young like many of our friends, only most of our friends were single. This meant that we made more money and we didn’t have to live in the dorms. Yet we did not have internet or cable for the first three years we were together. I don’t think we could do that again, as I’m not even sure how I would pay bills without the internet. And how would I write my blog!?!!! Anyway, we also had used furniture. We drove used cars. We actually didn’t get our first smart phones until this year. That’s right, I said it. We got them THIS YEAR. First smart phones in 2015, to which my friend Justin wrote me a message, “Welcome to 2008”.

But you know what? I miss those simple days sometimes. We had no kids back then, just each other (and maybe a dog or two or three). We spent time together. We read a lot of books. We hiked through forests. We explored Europe and met new people. We made some great friends. We were not paying for things that we did not need. Instead we ran around being young, living life. Zero distractions to get in our way.

Then we had kids and our lives were ruined…I’m kidding. But that’s a different post for later.

I challenge everyone to look around you and see what you have, think about what you want, and try to figure out what you really need. Not enough people budget and live below their means. Not enough people put money away when they probably could. Maybe you’re not able to save cash every month or every year, because things happen. But then again, we’re back to the idea that money isn’t everything anyway.

Things I enjoy that make me happier than money? Time with family and friends. A good meal. A glass of wine. A good movie. A good book. Those are all wonderful things. Of course some of those things cost money, but not so much when you don’t spend the money in other places.

Someone once told me, and I don’t remember who it was, that we all die and leave our possessions behind. That a poor man can see the same stars, ocean, redwood trees, and sunsets that a billionaire can see…all for free. Just by being alive you can experience so much, but we waste a great deal of our lives pursuing things that we think we need when there is so much to enjoy for free. Sure, the billionaire probably has ocean front property and arguably has a better view of the ocean and or sunset. But is he happier than the poor man? Just food for thought.

**Billionaires and poor men alike can see things like this. The cost of enjoying nature: Free-ninety-nine**

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold, all that you need is in your soul.” Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simple Man

"All you need is love" - The Beatles

Note: I promise my next post will be more lighthearted and fun