3-Book Deal with Baen Books

From Publishers Marketplace:  “Jon F. Merz’s THE SHADOW WARRIOR: The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul, which imagines a trained assassin in a world where rival factions and dark sorcery are churning a land which is on the cusp of invasion, and the assassins may hold the keys to power, for both sides; SLAVERS OF THE SILK ROAD and THE TEMPLE OF DEMONS, to Jim Minz at Baen Books, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2013, by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary (World English).”

So that’s one of the big things coming down the road: my first foray into Fantasy. For those who have been following along closely, the SHADOW WARRIOR series is based on my currently on-sale ebook novella NINJA, with the same character Ran taking center stage as a newly-minted operative for an intelligence organization. Additionally, the first book will feature zombies – or rather, my take on them. So for those of you who love all things zombie, you’ll have some fun for sure. The books will be a mix of martial arts, sorcery, brash heroes and heroines, and the political landscape of a world about to be embroiled in the chaos of invasion from an unknown power.

In other words, nonstop crazy fun.

To say I’m excited about writing this trilogy is a vast understatement. Fantasy was the first genre I ever read seriously in and to be able to paint on such a broad canvas is pretty thrilling. Equally exciting is that I get to work with Jim Minz, one of the foremost editors in the genre – and I fully expect that I will learn a tremendous amount from him, which will only help improve my writing even more.

I’ll be posting more news as I receive it. Jim and I are slated to schedule a meeting in November sometime so we can flesh out the series a bit more. And then, of course, there will be the cover art – oh, man I can’t wait to see that!

The Power of Compassion

One of the things that I’ve often struggled with in my life is the idea of tolerating wrongdoings. From my perspective, if someone – including myself – does something wrong, they should be held accountable for that and then take steps to rectify the situation. By and large, I don’t apply this so much to myself and the various haters I’ve encountered, but rather to the people I respect and love. If someone wrongs them or maligns them or does something stupid, you can bet it’s going to create a big ol’ problem. This has happened numerous times in my life and I’ve usually been extremely active in dealing with it: sometimes tactfully and other times much more tangibly. The idea of turning the other cheek has never appealed to me because when I’ve done that in the past, the people at fault viewed my turning the other cheek as a tacit condoning of their actions. So I’ve done the exact opposite and gotten right in their faces. Sometimes this has corrected the situation and other times, it has not. But the idea of concealing my disgust or tolerating such behavior has always been a struggle.

When I started training in martial arts, the notion that ridiculous behavior be tolerated was never an option. There was always a protocol. There was always a set of guidelines. Practitioners were expected to conduct themselves with honor and loyalty and be upstanding citizens, showing respect to their seniors and instructors, helping others, and generally being productive members of society. In the event that someone failed to live up to or abide by those standards, they were given a warning to correct themselves. If they corrected their behavior, all was well. We all make mistakes, after all.

But if that person did not correct their ways, then other measures were employed to rectify the situation. Such was the way. As a practitioner, we’d all pledged to abide by the rules set forth by our instructor. If we couldn’t live up to that commitment, or did something to harm the reputation of the lineage or school, there would – sometimes literally – be hell to pay.

Since starting my training in Ninjutsu, there have been a host of individuals who have come through the dojo and fizzled out for one reason or another. As the years have gone on since I started training, I have always marveled at my teacher’s response to such people. Whereas I am much more confrontational about dealing with the situations these individuals have created through their reckless disregard, my teacher has always shown them compassion and done very little, superficially speaking, to affect things.

From one perspective, this compassion could be viewed as a weakness. The reckless and disrespectful individuals go on their merry way thinking that they put one over on my teacher or that they somehow came out on top of the situation or that my teacher isn’t really as tough as others have made him out to be. Their vanity and ego make them feel proud and superior to everyone else involved. “Hey, look at me. I called those guys idiots and disrespected the school and no one did a damned thing about it. I’m awesome. King of the jungle!”

But from another perspective – one much more aligned with the actual principles of Ninjutsu – this compassionate response to idiocy is actually far stronger than it appears on the surface. First of all from the physical perspective, it takes a very strong person to refrain from paying someone a visit and smacking the living crap out of them – especially when they’ve done horrific things. Second from the mental perspective, responding with compassion is actually far more powerful in that it manipulates the offending individual on a whole other level. By compassionately addressing them and allowing them to continue on their merry way, the offending individual’s vanity envelops them like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. They feel safe and secure in their delusions of greatness and superiority. They smile and feel great, which may be exactly what we want them to feel. And third from the spiritual perspective, knowing you can either wake someone up from their delusion or keep them imprisoned in it for as long as you want, is power on a whole other level.

This past week, another such individual reared their head. It was someone we haven’t seen around the dojo in a long time and someone I used to call a friend. He posted a video and stated that it demonstrated principles of an aspect of our art – but the individual in question isn’t remotely qualified to make such a statement and by doing so, he betrayed the very fact that he has no understanding of what this aspect of our art is about. When I commented that the video did not show good principles of the art, his response was to block me and delete my comments. He then lorded about pretending that he had staged the entire thing to root out those people who really weren’t his friends. On its own, that would have been fine. I would have simply shrugged and moved on, now alerted to the fact that he was a nutcase.

But then he took it a step further and implied that the man I call my teacher and one of my closest friends for over twenty years runs a “cult.”

I viewed this statement with rage, frankly. Nothing could be further from the truth than what he had suggested. And my immediate response was to try to reach out and correct the situation. I emailed the individual and contacted him via Twitter as well, telling him that I didn’t much care what he felt about me, but to suggest that my teacher – who had also been his teacher at one time and had helped him in innumerable ways – was running a cult was beyond belief and outrageous. I suggested he immediately retract the statement and make a public apology.

I got no response.

As a final effort on my part, I sent a message via Facebook to the man’s wife and asked her to pass it along to her husband. She then wrote to my teacher and said that her husband had made himself abundantly clear to me in his responses (I received no responses from him), along with a rambling diatribe that made little sense.

Throughout this entire situation, my teacher has remained upbeat and positive. I have struggled to restrain myself from a applying a much more hands-on solution. In the old days, this individual would have been taught a serious lesson about what happens when you disrespect a man who has shown you nothing but kindness and help.

My teacher shows all of these people compassion. He allows them to stay wrapped up in that blanket of delusion, knowing the truth that they are individuals who must walk their own paths barred from progression by the grievous mistakes they make – indeed, that it may not be their time, if ever, to be awakened. And by showing them compassion, my teacher extends to them an even greater lesson: that they still – even in the depths of their deluded personal hells – have the potential to awaken to the truth and atone for their mistakes. They could still correct their course and show they possess the necessary character to admit wrongdoings and then forge ahead on the path.

This form of compassion is something I aspire to. It is a fully-realized application of Ninjutsu in the real world. Each day, we all have to deal with idiots and rude people who have no clue or behave irrationally and without regard even for those who have shown them the utmost kindness. This form of compassion becomes one more tool in the arsenal of the practitioner. I am extremely fortunate to have a teacher who can illustrate such an amazing concept even as I struggle to come to grips with its principles.

Just one more lesson to be learned on the winding and challenging path of Budo.

Guest Blog Post from Jeremy Robinson

Welcome to Jeremy Robinson’s Great Kindle Giveaway and Blog Tour.

“Hurray for free Kindles!” you say, but who the hell is Jeremy Robinson? Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the author of eleven mixed genre novels, published in ten languages, including the popular fantasy YA series, THE LAST HUNTER, and the fast-paced Jack Sigler series (also known as Chess Team—not nearly as nerdy as it sounds), PULSE, INSTINCT and THRESHOLD from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. I’m the co-author of an expanding series novellas deemed the Chesspocalypse, which take place in the Chess Team universe. If that doesn’t wet your whistle, I’m also known as Jeremy Bishop, the #1 Amazon.com horror author of THE SENTINEL and the controversial novel, TORMENT. For more about me, or my books, visit www.jeremyrobinsononline.com.

I have watched for years as my fellow authors held online events called blog tours. Some would visit ten blogs. Others, as many as ninety. And every day they would bring something different, waxing eloquent about a multitude of topics. When I finally decided to have a blog tour of my own, and settled on doing each and every weekday in October, my first thought was, “This will be cool,” which was immediately followed up by, “Holy crap, I can’t think of something interesting to say twenty times in one month!” I can barely think of something worthwhile for my own blog just once a month. The solution is what follows; each blog participating in the tour could ask me ANY three questions. That means, if the subject matter bores you, I’m not to blame! Huzzah!

But fear not. There are other rewards for sloughing through the questions and answers. I’ll be giving away two Kindles to two randomly selected readers who sign up for my newsletter. Details on the giveaway can be found below. On to the Q&A!

While writers really just want to write, I know that you do a lot of varied promotion including trailers and promo videos. Do you find this a fun and exciting way to bring on new readers?

Marketing, for the most part, is a drag for me. It’s typically very monotonous and non-creative. I was an artist and screenwriter before becoming a novelist and I’ve made a bunch of short films. So when it’s time to market a book, I often turn to video. For some books, I create video trailers. I acquire the rights to video clips, hire a voice over actor, and edit the whole thing together myself. It’s a fun process. But the real fun is the creation of viral videos—funny or shocking videos you hope will be entertaining enough for viewers to share. My first viral video campaign was for Antarktos Rising. We made ten videos. Some caught on, some didn’t, but the videos have had over 400,000 views, which is pretty good.

With the advent of ebooks and less face-out shelf space in stores, what do you think is the #1 priority for getting your titles into a reader’s hands?

It’s hard to peg any one marketing technique for e-books. There’s a lot of good ways to get the books in front of readers eyes. And what works for one author may not work for another. But before that begins, there is the question of quality. The book has to be great. The cover needs to be spectacular. The simplest way to put it is this: if my book isn’t indistinguishable from the best books put out by the big publishers, then I’m not happy. If the book is substandard, it will never benefit from word of mouth and sales will be doomed when bad reviews appear. If the cover is poor, sales will likely never take off. Quality has to be the first priority, and its often the first thing skipped as authors rush to publish their books.

As with anything, competition drives the market. Who or what do you feel is your biggest competition?

The knee-jerk reaction when considering competition is to look at other authors in the genre and think about how you can outdo them. But that’s not really the reality for most authors. In general, we authors tend to help each other more than seek out the destruction of competition. We’re not corporations. We’re creative individuals, and there actually aren’t that many of us, so we tend to stick together. More often than not, authors are happy to promote each other’s books. It’s why you see so many quotes from “competing authors” on each other’s books.

The true competition for books is other forms of media, specifically TV, movies and video games. While I have nothing against these forms of media, and honestly hope to be involved in the creation of all of them at some point, most people have turned towards these things and away from books. It’s not that books are boring, or slow. It’s that we live in a society where BAD books are forced on kids. Okay, maybe they’re not bad books, but they’re generally not fun books—the kind of books that kids want to read. This may have changed since I was a kid, but school killed reading for me. I hated it and essentially gave up on reading novels after suffering through Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Confession: I didn’t read novels until I rediscovered them as an adult. And now I write them for a living. Unfortunately, the fix for this is in the hands of schools. Kids need to be raised on good, fun books, and then we’ll have more than enough readers to go around.

Hope that was as good for you as it was for me. Now how about that kindle giveaway?
Here’s the deal: to be entered to win one of two free kindles all you have to do is visit my website—www.jeremyrobinsononline.com—and sign up for the newsletter. That’s it. The first kindle will go to a randomly chosen newsletter signup on October 31. For the second kindle, there’s a catch. The second giveaway will only be triggered if one of my kindle books hits the Amazon.com bestseller list (top 100). So pick up some books (most are just $2.99 a pop) and spread the word! If one of the books squeaks up to #100 for just a single hour, the second kindle will be given away to another randomly chosen newsletter sign up on October 31.

*When you sign up for the newsletter, be sure to include the name of the blog that referred you in the field provided. I’ll be giving away two $50 Amazon.com gift certificates to the blog that refers the most sign-ups and another to the blog who referred the first kindle winner.

** I will announce winners via Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and newsletter (which you will be signed up for!) but I’ll also e-mail the winners directly—I’ll need to know where to ship those kindles!

Thanks for spending some time with me today. Hope you enjoyed the Q&A, and good luck with the kindle giveaway!

— Jeremy Robinson

Autographed EBooks and More…

I recently began having all of my ebooks reformatted by a professional instead of doing it myself (which, I’m told produced many, many gremlins in the files) and the first four Lawson novels are now completed. They’re back on-sale at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and shortly they’ll also be available on iBooks, and most exciting – you can also get them autographed by me.

Yep, you read that right. Autographed, baby.

It’s always cool getting a book signed and for a while, one of the complaints about ebooks is that you can’t do that. No longer. Autography is a fantastic company that has pioneered an app on the iPad along with a storefront that lets me autograph a book for you. Once I’ve autographed it, you receive an email telling you that you can go and purchase the ebook and then you go to the site, pay and then download the ebook. It’s that simple.

So, how’s the quality? Outstanding. Seriously. I’ve been playing with it for a few days and it’s astounding how much it looks like an actual pen and ink signature. Plus, I can personalize a message to you, add a photo, and do a bunch of other stuff. The page then gets inserted directly into the ebook file for you to see when you read it. How cool is that?

Want to get the Lawson books autographed? All you’ve got to do is send me an email: jonfmerz AT verizon DOT net along with any message choices and then I’ll take it from there. You’ll get an email once the ebook is ready to paid for and downloaded.

A lot of other things are happening. My latest newsletter went out yesterday with details of my new 3-book deal with Baen Books for a brand new Fantasy series. I’ve launched Supernatural Ink. a new author collective promising excellence in digital entertainment along with three other authors – and we’re giving away a FREE ebook! (Go to the site for details) The Lawson books are going to be translated into Spanish. The ebooks will be up on Overdrive (which services a gazillion libraries) very soon. And a host of other good things are afoot. If you didn’t see the newsletter, you can access it here – but you really ought to subscribe.

Okay, let’s get some autographs done! Have a great weekend everyone!

New England Warrior Camp 2011

This past weekend was the 14th annual New England Warrior Camp, a gathering of the very best Ninjutsu practitioners from across the United States for three days of intensive training. My good friend Ken Savage runs the camp – it was his creation back in 1997 after passing his 5th degree black belt test – and truly creates an environment each year where participants are able to “explore, challenge, and develop their warrior spirit.” Everything about the camp is designed to do just that: from the rustic living conditions in Boy Scout cabins (some folks pitch tents) to the meals themselves (no real special dietary considerations), camp goers are encouraged to try and adapt to the conditions in order to better forge their spirit as they walk the path of warriorship. As Ken brilliantly explains, warriors should not be “hothouse flowers” only able to the thrive under the best conditions; they must be able to thrive even in the worst.

Registration began on Friday at 3pm and I arrived around 3:15, wandering up to the White Lodge to check in and say hello to Ken. It’s always great to see him, since I don’t get to all that often because we live a good distance from each other. But no matter the distance, the shared bond of fun, hard training and experiences always dispels any of the “ring rust” and it’s great seeing one of my closest friends I’ve known for twenty years. After dropping the ton of stuff I’d brought this year, including copies of THE KENSEI to sell during the meals, I said good-bye to my family and started to settle in. Paul Etherington showed up and once we were done putting our gear into our room, we headed up for the first training session that Ken teaches. I always love Ken’s session because it’s usually focused on developing some skills that we don’t always get a chance to explore in the confines of a traditional dojo. This year, he focused on shoten no jutsu or literally, “climbing to the heavens.” The idea is to develop skills at running up steep inclines and eventually, vertical walls. To that end, we had planks of various inclinations set up near walls. Once we ran up them and caught the top of the wall, the task was to crest the wall without compromising ourselves through a revealing silhouette, move smoothly over the wall and then return for another go. For some folks, this was the first time they’d ever tried such techniques, but true to the ethos of the camp, they got right out there and accomplished it in excellent style.

We moved from there to breaking up into five-man teams. At one of the activity pavilions, the walls stood about eight to twelve feet high and each five-man team had to form a two-man bridge. Three other teams members would then climb up this “two-man bridge” and come over the wall. One of the two men who had helped the others would then put his back against the wall, and form a hand step for the other man to climb and then be pulled up. The other four would then lean over and pull the last man up and over the wall. Again, camp participants got the chance to practice on walls of varying heights. I always enjoy putting things like this to the test, so since I was the smallest member of my team (along with Paul, Ken Richardson, George K., and Dan) I made sure to be one of the bridge members and the last man to go up two times. It’s amazing how efficient these techniques are – even though they are literally hundreds of years old. You know they work when guys who weigh at least a hundred pounds more than you are able to climb up your body and you don’t suffer any damage. It really breeds a level of confidence in the material we study.

After Ken’s class, Paul and I grabbed some food off-site, since no meals are served that first night. We talked about the weekend ahead and by the time we returned, our third roommate, Mr. Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center and the featured and seniormost teacher of the weekend, had arrived. We headed of to the Chippanyonk Fire Circle for the official opening of the weekend. When we arrived, the logs were filled with participants. Close to one hundred camp goers chose to be a part of this year’s event – folks from all as far away as California, Florida, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, and more, waited as Ken explained how the camp came into being and what he wanted them to get out of it. Each of the teachers got up briefly and explained what their segment would focus on for the weekend. This year’s theme, set by Ken, was a “return to zero through kihon happo.” It was beautifully illustrated by a painting that Hatsumi-sensei, the 34th Grandmaster of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu, had given Ken and Ken had emblazoned that on some really incredible T-shirts.

Once the first circle was finished, we moved out to the Ellis Lands, a large open field further out on the reservation. There, we practiced escaping and evading against sword strikes. This is challenging enough in well-lit dojo conditions. Doing it in the pitch dark, with very little ambient light, is even tougher. Along with the physical techniques, we looked at projection and reception of the attacker’s intent to do harm. Some of Ken’s students demonstrated the techniques we would be practicing and did a great job. We broke into small groups and I got a chance to practice with Paul and Dennis Mahoney on the edge of the field under the pine trees. What with the drizzle coming down, the tall grass, and the normal assortment of creeping vines in the undergrowth, footwork, leaping, and more were all soundly tested.

Following this session, five of Ken’s students performed techniques that were required for them to move officially ahead as 5th kyu grades – halfway to black belt. Having endured six months of extremely arduous training that would test the mettle of even hardened veterans of the art, these five showed exemplary skill and fortitude and all passed their examinations. (Big congrats to Andrew, Rob, Kyle, Jack, and Matt for successfully earning their 5th kyu!) Then it was time to crash for the night.

Humidity and excitement plagued the sleep of many, but Saturday dawned bright and early. Camp goers journeyed back out to the Ellis Lands for an early morning gyo session of naturalistic whole body conditioning drills led by Ken. Afterward, with breakfast tucked away (served up by the always colorful personality of Ed, the cook) we all trooped back out for the first training session with Mark Davis. Two hours of punching, kicking, throws, locks, and much more all seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye. Sweaty and excited campers moved back for a lunch before the afternoon sessions got underway.

As the clouds threatened, Paul and I set up on opposite sides of the Ellis Lands for our 2-hour segments while my old friend Matt Venier led the live blade cutting segment with swords and tanto knives in another area of camp. Matty showcased some of the blades that he has made himself out at his forge in western Massachusetts. And beauty and efficacy of these blades is quite amazing. Seeing them in person is even better!

The focus of my presentation this year was on projection and reception of energy using examples from the kihon happo (eight fundamental techniques) to illustrate projection, reception, focused projection, and focused reception in a four-level class that had people striking and throwing all over the place. I have so much fun teaching and getting to train with all sorts of new people and old friends that those two hours zip by in no time. I know Paul had a blast, and given the smiles on the faces of his participants, they did as well.

After an interesting dinner on Saturday night (Ed called it his “interpretation” of chicken pot pie, heh heh) Ken Richardson held a class focused on several techniques from the style of Chinese martial arts that he practices and teaches through his excellent organization “No Weapon Needed,” which is dedicated to helping inner city youth steer clear of gang violence. Ken’s perspective on martial arts has been honed through a lifetime of training and brutally hard life experiences that have shaped the manner and style of what he teaches. Ken has also trained in Ninjutsu and remains a very dear friend to everyone who comes into contact with him. With the dining hall packed, he put on a really intriguing class. And perhaps most heartening was the open-mindedness displayed by the participants: they might practice a different style of martial arts, but just as Ken Richardson does, they viewed his class with an open mind and heart and showed their ability to truly appreciate different ideas and perspectives, rather than closing themselves off to the potential of finding something very cool to enhance their own training and world experience.

Up to the Chippanyonk fire circle, Saturday’s discussion focused on a Q&A session with the various instructors as camp goers tossed questions out regarding their own training, experiences at camp, or ideas and thoughts on the concepts of warriorship. After a brief ceremony of tossing intention sticks into the waning fire and seeing the flames eagerly spring back to life as they devoured those plackets of wood and turned the tangible into the ethereal, we headed up to the old activity pavilion where Ken laid out the groundwork for Saturday night’s tactical exercise. This year, camp goers were broken up into four teams and sent to a starting point. By now, it was truly dark out, making the exercise that much more challenging. Each team had to traverse a course, consisting of using shoten no jutsu vertical wall running skills to climb over a wall, enter a facility, rope climb to exfiltrate that facility, head over to another pavilion and enter that using the two-man bridge techniques, and then make their way up to the top of a fire tower before ending up at a giant bonfire in another area of the camp. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the woods were populated by Tengu, camp staff armed with padded swords who would ambush or attack the groups as they made their way from target to target. Some other factors increased the difficulty for participants, and as a referee, I got the chance to watch all the groups approach the fire tower and try to make their way unscathed through that part of the course. Unfortunately for them, the fire tower was manned by three “whackers,” who made sure the groups were treated to an impromptu percussion concert as they came by. 🙂 As I waited for groups to approach, the woods elsewhere were filled with the sounds of roving Tengu making their presence felt. I remarked to Dennis that at one point it sounded a bit like the artillery part of the 1812 Overture.

After Saturday’s exercise concluded, the nine shidoshi (5th dan and higher ranks) and their teacher Mark Davis, made their way to another part of the camp where some other activity was conducted. Following this, we returned to the Henderson Lodge and enjoyed the usual Saturday night campfire that saw the inevitable presence of Spam and the unusual pairings that normally follow (spam with peanut butter, marshmallows, etc.) as informally led by the Camp’s other “chef” Mike Zaino, who while not having graduated by Le Cordon Bleu, nonetheless brings a certain exuberance to his unique Spam recipes. By now, it was roughly 2am and we headed off to bed.

Sunday brought more rain along with another gyo session for those able to rise early. After breakfast, Dennis Mahoney led a segment on use of kamae (postures) as a way of protecting yourself while Leon Drucker taught a segment on swordsmanship as seen from various schools within and outside of our system of study. It’s always hard for me to believe how quickly the Camp passes by once we get going, but inevitably, lunch rolled around and then it was back down to the hill to take Mark Davis’ final session of the Camp. As Ken says, he always opens and closes camp with Mark and the segment is always the sort-of “last hurrah” before Camp ends. By now, camp goers were a crusty, sweaty bunch but still eager for training. And Mark delivered as he always does. We bent and twisted and rolled and punched and kicked for two hours.

At the conclusion of Mark’s segment, Ken said some final words, received a very nice gift from Ken Richardson, and then it was time to move on out. Camp finished with good-byes, handshakes, and hugs as participants moved off, heading back to their lives and their own paths.

Camp this year was an extremely fun time for me. It was great to reconnect with old friends, meet some new friends that I’ve only known through Facebook, see some extremely talented practitioners advance in rank, and enhance friendships with tons of wonderful people. It’s always incredible to see the absence of politics – while so many other ninjutsu organizations squabble about who is the “real thing,” or who is the latest “guru du jour,” the Camp is free from such pettiness. What is so amazing about the people who attend is that they prefer to put their energy into exploring, challenging, and developing their warrior spirit through the austerity of training rather than engage in the simple-mindedness and immaturity of politicking. It’s a phenomenal group of people to surround yourself with and, selfishly speaking, it always reinvigorates my spirit and commitment to this art.

After fourteen years of New England Warrior Camp, I can confidently say that it never fails to produce some of the best training experiences and memories for all who attend. Ken Savage does an incredible job and he really pays it forward by holding this event each and every year. I hope he continues for many more years to come. Thanks to everyone who helped make it such a success; thanks to Ken for having me be a part of it; thanks to all my friends and fellow practitioners for charging me up for another year (okay, honestly, right now I’m pretty crusty, but I *will* be charged up once I get another nap, lol) and I look forward to continuing my own journey down the warrior’s path knowing that I am walking that path with so many kindred spirits.

Until next year!