Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Autumn Photography

Every autumn I go on safari. Not really. I treat it as a safari, though. I pack my camera in my satchel, slip on a warm jacket, and head for the woods. What am I hunting, you may ask? Trees, leaves, nature—anything really to depict this glorious season we call fall. And that’s my Freedom Friday introduction to fall photo gathering.

A path to the foot of the woods
A path to the foot of the woods

The adventure typically begins at the foot of the woods a couple of minutes from my home. You see, I live in farm country, near where all the folks from Toronto get their corn, strawberries, and other assorted goods. How close do I live to the woods? I’ve seen foxes chase rabbits from the brush across the street into the neighbor’s backyard at 5:30 in the morning. This happened ten feet from my walk. I’ve seen multiple raccoons frenzying on garbage cans as if bitten by zombies. And I’ve smelled. Yes, smelled—skunks near where I trod. I’ve seen them, too. Tail sticking up. Those are the animals I fear most spilling from the woods. Oh, did I mention the coyotes? We have them, and they’re the dreadful parasites of our town’s existence.

As I was saying, the adventure begins at the foot of the woods. During this time of year when the forests give up their leaves, I’m there capturing it all. I suppose it has to do with the color the season exhibits. Boy, can anyone deny autumn is colorful? I think not. And here I am, in the middle of the woods, the threat of coyotes at every turn, snapping photos of anything that may inspire me to share with others.

Beautiful morning majesty
Beautiful morning majesty
The woods
The woods
Leaves that have yet to change color
Leaves that have yet to change color

The time I get the absolute best photos is either early in the morning, as the sun makes its appearance in the horizon or in the evening just when the light turns all sorts of golden hues along the edge of the tree line. I’ve taken shots in the middle of the woods just as dusk approached. Reminiscent of Dorothy’s travels through The Wizard of Oz’s Dark Forest, the day fades, the wind howls, and it does get creepy. But it doesn’t stop teenagers hitting the woods at night to have their secret rendezvous. On occasion, I’ve come across the remnant of empty bottles near a felled tree, a spot I suppose popular with the young crowd.

The log where teens hang out
The log where teens hang out
I think I know where I'm going
I think I know where I’m going
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Inside the woods
Inside the woods

The woods have paths I can walk yet there are times the leaves cover the paths making it difficult to find my way back. I’ve gotten lost several times only to find my way back after having remembered what the trees looked like from mental notes of my journey. Believe me when I say it’s not fun not knowing where you are in the grand scheme of things.

I have to say this: whenever I’m out there with my camera taking those eye-popping photos of the foliage, sometimes my breath catches. It’s as if I’m seeing things for the very first time, enjoying every moment. The colors are vivid and beautiful, the air crisp, and the area is so much at peace without human interference. I’m glad I have the woods as my fortress of solitude. Everyone needs a place of refuge. The woods are mine.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you take photos of the foliage every year? Do you have a fortress of solitude?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Autumn in Niagara

As you may know, my book released this week and things have been rather surreal around Casa Flacco. My sleep cycle has left me and I’ve been functioning on pure adrenalin. It’s a good thing. At least, I think it is. Yes, it is a good thing.

Autumn in full bloom
Autumn in full bloom

Last weekend, three days before release, on impulse my wife and I packed, loaded the kids in the car, and scooted to Niagara Falls for a weekend away from it all. I’ve described in a previous post for Freedom Friday how Niagara Falls is one of those enchanting places on earth where my wife and I relax, let time stand still, and come back with new and exciting decisions about our life together. Last weekend was no different.

We’d left late Friday afternoon, arrived at the hotel just before sunset, quickly unpacked, and headed straight for a restaurant. The big thing here in Canada is Boston Pizza. And Niagara Falls has one we enjoy going to whenever we visit.

You know, sitting there in the lounge area as dusk settled, I thought of how wonderful a family I have that we’re able to enjoy each other’s company without worrying about tomorrow, of what is and what will be. The notion came and went, as if a fleeting thought that passes through the mind and makes a quick exit through the door.

Soon after devouring the chicken wrap, washing it down with a soda and lime twist, we took a walk on Clifton Hill. If you’ve never been to the Niagara Falls’ Clifton Hill strip, I highly recommend it. It’s one thing to see the area during the day, but the night is something to behold. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but the whole area lights up like fireworks on Canada DayFourth of July to my American friends.

The SkyWheel
The SkyWheel
One of the many sights on Clifton Hill
One of the many sights on Clifton Hill

The evening was ideal. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect fall weather. During the whole time, I thought, oh, how our family’s changed. I have grown children ready to take on the world. How fast did it happen? What happened to those days when I’d purchased our first DVD player so we could watch Titanic in pristine digital? Oh my, how has time flown so fast?

The next day, Saturday morning, we headed to the continental breakfast table downstairs in the dining area. From there, we landed at the IMAX theater enjoying a tale about Niagara Falls’ myths and legends. I’d seen the movie before but had forgotten Rocky composer Bill Conti had written the score. Boy, talk about a step back in time. The music moved me to remember my youth and how I’d wanted to take on the world. Goodness, how things have changed.

We ate Mexican for lunch, then spent some time in our hotel room reading. The kids had brought a load of books to consume, and my wife and I had our tablets to keep us entertained. Here is where I have to tip my hat to the folks working in the tech department of our hotel who gave us access to the internet via free wi-fi. While some establishments implement pay-per-use, our hotel was kind enough to offer the service without spending a dime in fees.

When evening approached, our goal for the night consisted of having fun at the Guinness World Records Museum. Somehow, lists of who made more money posthumously, and of which spider had the longest leg span made us curious. I know the kids got a kick out of the freakish exhibits.

Guinness World Records Museum
Guinness World Records Museum

From there we enjoyed the nightlife, taking in some ice cream and walking in the rain. Trust me when I say, eating ice cream in the rain is something to experience first hand.

We didn’t leave Niagara until late Sunday afternoon, once we’d completed our tour of The Falls. In your lifetime, if you ever want to experience anything wondrous and exciting, Niagara Falls is the place to go. The sheer volume and magnitude of this watery beast is enough to send shivers throughout the body.

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

On our way back home, all I could hear are the rushing waves, the thundering crashes, and the surging currents of Niagara. The Falls certainly leave an impression.

Skylon Tower
Skylon Tower
Scenic fall photo
Scenic fall photo
Beautiful stream by Niagara Falls
Beautiful stream by Niagara Falls

Oh, which reminds me—our life decision this year has to do with helping our kids as much as we can. So, if you don’t see me around as much, I’m probably either helping my kids with their homework or spending some time with them in an effort to build a lasting relationship. Corny, yeah, I know. But it’s true.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you take any time away from it all? Any “unplanned” vacation heading your way?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I know, it is weird talking about fall in the middle of summer, but if you’ll amuse me for a moment, you’ll see where I’m going with this. Besides, I’m strange that way. I was the guy talking about summer vacation while it was still snowing outside. And believe me, being Canadian, although we do get quite a lot of snow, we don’t receive half as much as some of the places in the States. Anyway, let’s talk about autumn for Freedom Friday.

Small Town in Ontario, Canada
Small Town in Ontario, Canada

I like autumn. Yes, we’ve established that. I like it because of a few reasons. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving a month prior to our American counterparts. So when we’re carving up our turkey, filling our gut with tryptophan, that’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner, south of the border it’s business as usual. I suppose the reason for this stems from the fact our autumns come earlier. Yet, when I look at some of the northern states, they just as equally have fall around the same time. Therefore, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to rationalize why either we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving early or Americans celebrate it late. Don’t ask me to google it, ‘cause I’m not going to. If you know, tell me!

All right, back to this autumn and Thanksgiving bit. I enjoy our Thanksgivings here in Canada because the leaves have all changed colors and haven’t dropped to the ground yet. It makes for a perfect opportunity to take some pretty awesome shots.

Now, where I live, I’m in the middle of farm country. We have plenty of cornfields, and tons of cows, horses, sheep and any other farm animals you can probably imagine. No, not velociraptors. Well, other than Halloween. The best part? We have a vast swath of woods to discover. I have been to maybe a tenth of what my area has to offer. The rest lays dormant for me to explore.

Farm Country, Ontario, Canada
Farm Country, Ontario, Canada

What else? I love autumn because it’s not too hot and it’s definitely not too cold. I need a jacket in the mornings, but I can shed it by early afternoon. Also, it’s the rainy season, and if you’ve read my blog long enough you will know just how much I love the rain. I relish the water beating down on freshly cut grass. The smell is intoxicating. Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

My most beloved time is that sweet moment when the leaves begin to fall and the rain has yet to dampen them to a brown hue. The crackling sound under my feet drives me to want to dive into a newly raked pile.

The Woods, Ontario, Canada
The Woods, Ontario, Canada

In that time, one single moment exists I cannot resist. Late in the evening, when the wind tosses and churns the leaves into the neighbor’s yard and I stand there under a street lamp right before it begins to rain. I can feel it. That eerie feeling when everything’s about to erupt into thunder, and the lightening takes over the skies. My nostrils fill with the smell of moss. My ears hear the breeze wafting over my shoulder.

And then—it rains. Like a symphony.

I dash into the house and the skies explode as a choir of angels heralding the second coming. It’s beautiful. It’s spectacular.

Now do you see why I love autumn?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Do you like autumn weather? Is it strange talking about the fall when we’re still in the midst of summer fun?

Posted in Devotions

God’s Everlasting Love

God’s wonderful nature is unbound. He has set us apart as His sons and daughters to be partakers of His glorious plan of salvation. We no longer bear the penalty of our sins, for Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life so that we could live. No other truth is as incredible in depth, as magnificent in width and as breathtaking in height as that of knowing God loves us.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37)

In every miracle God is there showing His love for those who believe. His powerful presence is in all things He created, for by His spirit He holds all things together for good. Whatever may become of us when we perish will not hold fast. As true as the sun rises, so will we one day rise to stand before the throne of God and marvel at His heavenly countenance.

Had God not loved us, we would not exist. For as we draw breath into our lungs, God is giving us life continually. Our days are as autumn leaves falling to the ground, blown by the wind to disappear in the distance. Yet our hope lies in living once again—this time forever.

Therein is God’s everlasting love for us.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Stay Focused

We have developed the attention span of a hamster. It should not surprise anyone. After all, a typical movie at the theater cuts to a new angle or scene in roughly 0.5 seconds. Is it a wonder not all of us suffer from ADHD.

Yet, our short attention span does affect us, such that it prevents us from concentrating effectively.

How can we remain focused without sacrificing our time while doing it? How can we not feel threatened by the passing of time and accomplish our goals?

Put blinders on.

Ignore everything that goes on around us. We may be on a train or a bus reading our favorite novel, when someone sits next to us who is blaring music from his or her headset. As hard as it seems, we can either move to another seat or simply ignore the interference.

It does take some practice, but it is possible to sit next to someone who is incredibly disruptive while working through a goal.

Is there a secret?

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Col. 3:12-14 NLT throughout).

Follow the plan.

Obstacles have a way of showing up at the most inopportune time. Our main concern, though, should be about how we respond to the challenge. Do we complain to those around us? Or do we pick up from where we fell and move on?

Once a plan is in place that points to a specific goal, we ought to forget everything else in order to achieve that goal. Of course, in some cases, this is not possible. Circumstances beyond our control will cause delays. That is life. And that is okay. However, as long as we keep to the plan, we will achieve whatever we set out to do:

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise” (Prov. 6:6).

Despite its enemies, an ant will continue to accumulate food during the summer and autumn months as a means to survive during the winter.

That is what an ant does. Consider the ant.

Imagine the reward.

When all else fails, an image of receiving the reward, after we have achieved what we set out to do, is a great incentive to remain focused.

We can think of the journey being over. We can think of the relief, that after all the hard work, all the diligent study, all the trials we had to endure, all the sarcastic remarks from others, if any, all the late nights, all the early mornings, all the long treks, we can finally say we have successfully completed the work. Imagine what it would feel like if it took place tomorrow or the next day. Would that not be the most incredible feeling ever?

Hold on to that feeling. Keep it close to the heart.

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win” (1 Cor. 9:24).

There is one more thing.

With God on our side who can be against us? Every hero has an enemy. Moses had Pharaoh. Samson had the Philistines. David had Goliath. In every case, though, God was there making the way clear, fulfilling his promises and showing his love for those who followed his lead.

As long as we remain focused on the reward, we can achieve anything.

And with God on our side, the fight will be forever in our favor.

Posted in My Journey

Giving Thanks

Next Monday will be Thanksgiving for us Canadians. I can honestly say that this year has been one of the most remarkable years of my life. Never have I experienced such a powerful renewal of spirit as I have. And I believe this year is just the beginning.

The little things are what I am thankful for.

Such as when I finish shopping, a line will open up for me at checkout, saving me oodles of time later on. I enjoy how the lights going home all turn green, as if by some unforeseen miracle the lights themselves know I am on the road. It still impresses me when I arrive in a restaurant with the family with no reservation and the server gives us the last booth in the place. And I am in awe whenever I go to a movie to find it has sold out, but when ordering the ticket, a spot just happens to become available. This has happened on more than one occasion.

I am thankful for autumn, when the leaves change into a rainbow of colors, and all I can do is stand there wondering what have I done that I should so enjoy such an incredibly inspiring sight. I am thankful for this season’s rain, and the way it makes the moss on the rocks in the woods smell musty and worn. I am thankful for the lake in town, that I can watch the ducks paddle in among the fallen leaves by the shore, and relish in their simple life.

I am most of all thankful for my family—for my wife, Luana, who has supported me this year during my change from being lost to being found. I know she has prayed to God for my change in heart, as I know the kids have had their hand in it, too. I am thankful for my kids, one who is studying business, and the other who is pondering the life of a preacher. Both have been my inspiration. Both have provided me countless hours of joy.

Lastly, I cannot end this post without being thankful for my new church, where I have learned that I am worthy to go before the throne of God and worship him with my whole heart. No other place have I felt this before.

Oh, and of course, I am thankful for God patiently waiting for me (Isaiah 30:18) while I got my head straight as to realizing what is important in life. He has blessed me with peace (John 14:27). He has given me the hope that lies in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-12). He has shared with me his Sabbath rest I so truly sought for so long (Hebrews 4:9-12).

For all these things, next week’s Thanksgiving Day will be a day of absolute gratefulness in my home.

Posted in Freedom Friday

Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m so glad you’ve taken a moment of your day to visit. It truly is a pleasure to be here as well. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. To you, I tip my hat in honor of your steadfast support of my work, and for all that you do for me over the course of the year. May this year bring you good tidings.

Happy New Year
Happy New Year

As always, my goal is to entertain you.

So, what are my plans this year? Well, last year was interesting, to say the least. I wrote tons about zombies, went off on a tangent delivering my perspective of the Jodi Arias trial, and completed my Ranger Martin trilogy.

My wish for 2016 is to be able to provide you with the best entertainment you can’t find anywhere else. This will take a lot of work from my side, delivering engaging topics, discovering new theories, and highlighting my favorite things.

I think, though, it will be worth it. Much of what I have planned for 2016 will be in the context of what I come to realize as truth then impart to my readership the information as lessons learned. I may actually write more about writing given folks have been asking via email how do I maintain a site so consistently and still deliver a book a year.

You may also find me talking more about human nature, overcoming trials, and getting along.

New York Fireworks
New York Fireworks

But not everything will be serious. I’ll always continue to provide my favorite recipes, my very best photos, my vacation summaries and most of all, an honest opinion. I really want to make this new year a banner year for creativity—not only for me, but for everyone visiting my site.

If this is your first time here, have a look through my archives. I have them grouped in sections so that you can enjoy them as individual pieces or as part of a series. I’ve written my site with two purposes in mind:

  • To attract readers interested in the topics I love writing about, and
  • To support my books

Some topics, such as cooking and family life are not what one would come to expect from a writer who has written about zombies for over three years, yet I think it’s important to get to know a writer from all angles. That’s my honest opinion.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, I am in awe that you are still here. The longer I keep contributing my thoughts on my site, the more I realize how wonderful a support you have been toward my writing and me. I’m very thankful for your kind words, your generous views and most of all your ceaseless faith in what I do here, week after week.

Like I said, I’m in awe.

Now, I’m not much for resolutions, yet given today is the typical beginning of New Year’s resolutions for most people, I thought I’d add one for myself.

My resolution for 2016 is to become more transparent with my writing goals in order to provide my audience a peek into what I’m working on.

What’s that? What am I working on now? I can’t say. Shh, it’s a secret.

Oh, well. So much for resolutions.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What are you doing for New Years’ Day? Have you made any resolutions for 2016?