Just Stories, Part 4

Isshin-ryu Karate … JD Cordell style!

My involvement with the martial arts …

I have had a long-held interest in the martial arts. One Christmas, I received a book called Best Karate, written by Mas Oyama, when I was 13 or 14 years old. I spent hours in my bedroom trying to learn from the book.

When I began attending the Charles H McCann Technical School in North Adams, Massachusetts, I was invited by a friend to a Uechi-ryu Karate (a very traditional Okinawan system) class in nearby Adams and started attending. But once I discovered cars and girls, that pretty much ended that … as well as my interest in scouting.

When I was stationed in Korea (12/81 to 12/82), I studied Tae Kwon Do with the battalion instructor. He was excellent. I earned a red belt, which, in that system. was the equivalent of a brown belt in the ranking system used by many styles. When I got back to the U.S., I started competing in tournaments and did okay. However, I discovered these Isshin-ryu guys who had a wicked reverse punch. They would slide up your extended kicking leg and nail you with it. I decided I needed to see what they were doing and so sought out an Isshin-ryu dojo.

Years later, I was running my own dojo and hosted tournaments. But I was very disappointed in the way things were evolving. I was never that wild about sport karate. I just did that to keep students. I saw limited techniques being used in sport karate; it was more like a game of tag. The rules seemed to violate the karate “maxims” I was trying to adhere to.

For example, in Okinawan Karate, all kicks are targeted below the waist. Step into the ring, and now all kicks must be above the waist. That seemed odd!

And kata, especially with the advent of musical kata, quickly devolved into breakdancing with some kicks thrown in.

Note: Let me just say that full-contact karate and MMA fighters of today are great athletes and some damn tough individuals. They are very good at what they do and deserve respect. It is just not “karate” as I had come to understand it.

The problem was that I do read a great deal, and I had read a lot of history about Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, and the early pioneers of Tang Hand, which later become known as Empty Hand … or Karate. I was simply not seeing the Karate I’d read so much about. Either the stories were all lies, or there was nobody around who could do that stuff anymore. I was actually ready to throw in the towel. Then I met Sensei Sherman Harrill.

Sensei Harrill was from a cross-roads in the cornfields called Carson, Iowa (near Council Bluffs). He was an ex-Marine who trained with the Isshin-ryu system’s founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s. And he was the real deal.

Everything I had ever seen paled when stacked up against what he did. No matter who you were, how big, how strong, or what you knew … he would effortlessly show you the error of your ways. Organizations, rank, who you knew did not matter. It was what you could demonstrate on the mat that counted.

So, I started over. I traveled all around the country to seminars for years to train with this guy. It was a humbling and memorable moment when I asked him how I could become his student. He laughed and replied. “well, most folks just ask.” So, I asked. And he replied, “Darren, I have seen the changes you are making in your Karate and how you train … so welcome aboard.”

That was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.

The origins of JD’s Nguyen-ryu

Nguyen-ryu is an indigenous martial art found in Vietnam. Mai’s father, Ang, was a village elder, and in the book Serpents Underfoot, a well-respected practitioner of this art. Ang taught this art to both his daughter, Mai, and the son of his old Montagnard friend, Dish. Dish and Mai both taught the art to Curtis Cordell, Mai’s American husband, and JD’s father.

Curtis tried to teach Nguyen-ryu to his son, but that old father-son thing interfered. Eventually, Curtis took his son to a dojo run by a friend of his. That Sensei taught a very traditional version of Isshin-ryu. JD did learn a great deal of Nguyen-ryu from his mother, which blended well with the Isshin-ryu.

It has been my experience that most “real” martial arts have more in common than differences. That is because when you get past all the marketing hype, it is body mechanics that determine what works … and the human body only moves powerfully so many ways.

My exposure to Nguyen-ryu

Enter Charlie Taylor, a good friend, a Vietnam veteran, and a damn good martial artist. He just showed up at my dojo one day and started helping out.

Charlie had served several tours in Vietnam as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the region of Vietnam my books focus on. He was a quiet guy, but when the mood struck, he had some fantastic stories to tell about his experiences in Vietnam. I am sure he embellished them a bit to make them more fun to listen too, but there was something the stories and his eyes when he told them that led you to understand that there was an element of truth to each one.

Charlie was also a highly-skilled martial artist, and there was nothing “superfluous” in what he did. I remember spending time training what was essentially a “silent sentry removal” technique with him and being shocked and a bit disturbed at the ease with which it worked. I still remember asking him, rhetorically,

“And, you’ve used this before.”

He just looked at me kind of funny and replied. ‘On a few occasions.”

While he knew a few of the kata, Charlie didn’t practice Isshin -ryu. In fact, many of our workouts consisted of me teaching him more Isshin-ryu kata. He practiced what he called Nguyen-ryu. Charlie claimed he’d learned it from his grandfather, who’d married a Vietnamese girl while stationed in Japan after WWII. This girl’s father was a skilled practitioner of the style, and after a suitable period of denials, consented to teach it to his daughter’s round-eyed husband.

I know it sounds like a movie plot. And maybe it is. I can neither prove nor disprove Charlie’s claims. However, I can definitely vouch for his abilities. Charlie could be damn scary when he was “in the zone,” much like my former instructor, Sensei Harrill. Those who have trained with Sensei Harrill will understand what I am referring to. We called it “shark eyes.”

Charlie breaking three boards (no spacers) with a ridge-hand at a demo in Norris, TN.

Charlie did have an honorary 5th-degree black belt in Isshin-ryu Karate signed by Harold Long. However, he always claimed it was not worth the paper it was written on. It seems Charlie had impressed Harold Long with his abilities while training for a period at Long’s school in Knoxville, Tennessee, but, as mentioned earlier, had only learned a few of the kata. He held no official rank in Nguyen-ryu, so he always wore a white belt.

I will say that the kid’s classes loved it when Charlie regaled them with stories of his early training days. He always referred to them as “Papaw Days.”

Unfortunately, Charlie passed away several years ago from several medical conditions, several of which I am sure originated with his several tours of duty in Vietnam. Several of the threads in Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on past discussions with Charlie. And I think Charlie may be resurrected from the dead for a character in the next book in the series titled Reciprocity. I think he would like that.

Martial Arts scenes in the two books …

I have seen a large man knocked unconscious with a punch to the shoulder. I do not know too many people who could do that. Sensei Harrill certainly could. And, his “fence post punch” was something to behold. You did not want to get hit with it.

On more than one occasion, MMA fighters or cage fighters from the casino’s in Council Bluff would make their way to his dojo after hearing about this karate guy who had a reputation for being a badass. Every one of them left with a new appreciation for karate … well, at least Sherman Harrill’s version.

The technique JD uses to take out the drug smuggler in the trail from Laos into Vietnam is simply one of my variations on Charlie Taylor’s sentry removal technique.

Putting it all together

I like to think my stories are written to entertain, but there is so much more to them, at least for me. They are ways to remember, record, and share the people I have known, places I have been, things I have seen, and the stories I have heard, as well as the possibilities those things can combine to create.

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JD Cordell is going international!

I have often wondered about the value, for authors, of Kindle Unlimited.

Clearly it is great for readers!

I mean, having access to read almost everything in the Kindle store for one monthly subscription fee, if you are an avid reader, is a great deal.

Does Kindle Unlimited truly benefit authors?

The response from authors I have heard or read is pretty much split down the middle. About half of the writers love it, saying KU is the source for much of their revenue. The other half claims it is too limiting, and they prefer to have access to other eBook distribution channels.

And I still am undecided because it does lock your ebook into Amazon for your 90-day period of KU enrollment, which renews automatically. However, at the end of any 90 days, you can opt-out. I have not opted-out yet because I haven’t really explored other venues to sell the ebook through.

However, I have discovered that Kindle Unlimited (KU) has allowed me to reach readers in countries I never expected. And, that is pretty darn cool!

I was going over my KDP reports, and I noticed the KU readers from the UK, Australia, and India have read Montagnard. The UK, I expected. I have friends there, and after all, we are two countries separated by a common language. Even Australia was not a huge surprise, I mean, they speak English too .. well, sort of! 🙂

I was surprised and delighted to see people in India were reading Montagnard. That really made my day. I certainly hope they enjoyed it, and I appreciate it very much! I haven’t yet gotten any reviews from India that I am aware of, but perhaps that will come over time.

However, I did recently receive a review from a Goodreads reader who had this to say!

Needless to say, this lady’s review made my day!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of the other posts on my blog by clicking here!

And by all means, if you enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. As you can see, it is getting rave reviews!

Tunes for Tuesday: Monday, Monday!

The Mamas and the Papas were an American folk rock vocal group formed in 1965 and performed until 1968. The group was a defining force in the music scene of the counterculture of the 1960s. The band was comprised of John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips (born Holly Gilliam). Their unique sound was based on harmonic vocal arrangements by John Phillips, the songwriter, musician, and leader of the group who adapted folk to the new beat style of the early 1960s.

California Dreamin’ (Released 1965)

The song was written in 1963 while John Phillips and Michelle Phillips were living in New York City during an unusually cold winter. Michelle was missing sunny California. During this period, John and Michelle Phillips were members of the folk group the New Journeymen, which evolved into The Mamas and the Papas.

Monday, Monday (Released 1966)

This song was written by John Phillips and recorded by the Mamas and the Papas in 1966. Background instruments were played by members of The Wrecking Crew. This song was the group’s only #1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and the first time this had been achieved by a recording act containing both genders.

I Saw Her Again (Released 1966)

Recorded in 1966 and co-written by band members John Phillips and Denny Doherty, this song peaked at number one on the RPM Canadian Singles Chart, number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, and number five on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart the week of July 30, 1966.

Dedicated To The One I Love (Released 1967)

This song, written by Lowman Pauling and Ralph Bass, became a hit for The “5” Royales, The Shirelles, and The Mamas and the Papas. The “5” Royales version was re-released in 1961 and charted at number 81 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1967, The Mamas and the Papas released their more popular cover version on the Dunhill label, and it climbed to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The number 1 spot was taken by “Happy Together” by The Turtles.

Creeque Alley (Release 1967)

Creeque Alley is an autobiographical hit single written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips in 1967, telling how the group was formed and its early years. The song peaked at #5 on the US Billboard pop singles chart the week of Memorial Day in 1967. It reached #9 on the UK charts and #4 on the Australian and Canadian charts.

The lyrics mention, directly or indirectly, many artists and bands who were part of the folk music scene at the time. Several locations significant to The Mamas and the Papas’ story are also mentioned. Michelle is referred to in the lyrics by her nickname “Michi” (“John and Michi were getting kind of itchy, just to leave the folk music behind”).

The song contains a repeated line that ends the first three verses, “No one’s getting fat, ‘cept Mama Cass,” a reference to the fact Elliot was making the most money, not to her life long battle with obesity. Cass Elliot thought it was hilarious. The final lyric line, “And California Dreamin’ is becoming a reality”, is a reference to their hit song “California Dreamin'”, and marks the point at which the group achieved its breakthrough, leaving behind the tough lifestyle described in the rest of the song.

Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Released 1968)

“Dream a Little Dream of Me” is a song from1931 written by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt with lyrics by Gus Kahn. It was first recorded in February 1931 by Ozzie Nelson. A popular standard, it has seen more than 60 other versions recorded. One of the highest chart ratings for this song was by The Mamas and the Papas in 1968 with Cass Elliot on lead vocals.

There was only one Mama Cass!

Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen; September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and actress best known for her time with the Mamas and the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. In 1998, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her work with the Mamas and the Papas.

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of the other Tunes for Tuesday posts on my blog by clicking here!

And, if you enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It’s getting great reviews … even from Kirkus!

POW/MIA Recognition Day

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 by a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, each subsequent president has continued the tradition, commemorating the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

A national ceremony is held on every National POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Pentagon featuring members of each branch of military service and the participation of high-ranking officials.

In addition to the national ceremony, many observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day can be found across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools, veterans’ facilities, homes, and private businesses.

No matter where they are held, these National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those held captive and returned, and those who remain missing.

According to the Department of Defense, approximately 83,114 Americans are still missing today.

In past years, I have seen Missing Man Honors tables set up in restaurants I have visited on this day. It never fails to bring a lump to my throat.

Missing Man Honors

Let me take a moment to explain the significance of the Missing Man Honors to those who may not understand. This is how the table is typically set at military and veteran clubs, and private businesses and homes.

The tables I have seen are typically set for one, with the single empty chair representing all missing American servicemembers. It will sometimes be done with a setting for six, with each chair representing the missing Americans from each of the services, including the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and civilian.

There is great symbolism in how the table is set.

The table is round to symbolize our everlasting concern.

The table cloth is white and represents the purity of motive in answering the call to serve.

A single red rose is placed on the table to remind us of the lives of these Americans and their friends and loved ones who keep the faith.

The yellow ribbon represents our continued uncertainty, hope for their return, and determination to account for them.

A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured or missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of the missing and their families.

The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The glass is inverted, symbolizing their inability to share a toast.

The chair is empty … because these great Americans are missing.

Traditions such as these honor those who fought and sacrificed so Americans today can live in Freedom.

Freedom is such a precious gift, a gift paid for by blood during the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and other conflicts.

Politics is for politicians. The American fighting men and women put the politics aside and just do their job. All Americans should remember the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call and served in defense of freedom, and it is especially important to remember those who have not yet come home.

Veteran To Veteran

So what is Veteran’s Referring Veterans?

Founded by a veteran, Justin Clark, after being medically retired from the military, the mission of Veterans Referring Veterans is to become a trusted partner with veterans who own businesses and to provide a web-based directory where consumers can connect with and select veteran-owned companies. But it is so much more than that!

How does it work?

I have been intrigued by this organization for some time seeing their posts on both Instagram and Facebook. Justin Clark hosts “Happy Hours” every Thursday night via the group on Facebook, where veteran-owned businesses are highlighted. This week the featured company will be Four Brothers Mead. These four veteran brothers based in Missouri make a Viking era honey-based wine known as Mead. They wanted to produce the best Old World Mead by using only superior, locally harvested pure honey. I have yet to try it, but by several accounts, they have succeeded.

I joined after participating in a happy hour in which a veteran who now writes children’s books was highlighted.

Veterans Referring Veterans is very active on social media including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. There is also a VRV podcast.

If you are interested in learning a bit more, here is a video clip explaining what Veterans Referring Veterans is all about.

So what is the catch?

Well, there really is none. Joining is very affordable. You can design your own profile and upload images. You join in on “happy hours” and other events, meet other veteran business owners, and help spread the word for each other. If you choose you, you can also travel to larger events in other locations. VRV is now in 24 states and even Germany. The growth has been incredible.

Current member veteran-owned businesses include:

  • Automotive
  • Business and Law
  • Entertainment
  • Financial
  • Health and Beauty
  • Home
  • Marketing
  • Medical
  • Pets
  • Recreational
  • Restaurants
  • Technology
  • Yard
  • Miscellaneous

Please go to the Veterans Referring Veterans website if you are looking for help in these areas.

I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of the other posts on my blog by clicking here!

If you enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It’s getting great reviews … even from Kirkus!

Tunes for Tuesday: Young kids … Old Rock

And I don’t mean young kids in a disparaging way!

I just really do get such a kick seeing these younger rockers doing such a great job rockin’ out to the music of my generation. And some of them are really very good … great guitarists, great vocals, great drummers … just a really great sound.

A while ago I subscribed to a few channels by these kids on YouTube. I love classic rock, so it is great to listen to. And, it does my heart good to see these kids enjoying the music of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s!

Speaking of doing your Heart some good, check this young band called August out with their guest vocalist at a Battle of the Potomac band competition.

Barracuda (cover by August)

This band, Iron Cross, simply rocks. The guitarist, Andrei Cerbu, is freaking amazing and Andreea Munteanu can really belt out a song as well. Check this out!

Shoot to Thrill (cover by Iron Cross)

This is another Andrei Cerbu band (The guy must be really busy. He sure cranks out a lot of videos … and they are all tremendous and showcase a variety of young performers.

Don’t Treat Be Bad (cover by Shut Up & Kiss Me)

This next video is a young female drummer named Sina, who is absolutely phenomenal. This is her tribute to the legendary drummer for The Who, Keith Moon.

Keith Moon was not a conventional drummer. He did not play to establish a rhythm for the rest of the instruments. He played along with the vocals or the main melody of the song.

To Keith, drums were another lead instrument, and he used his incredible speed to place fills in places where they weren’t supposed to be … and he made them work brilliantly.

Won’t Get Fooled Again is full of examples of this. The combination of continually playing intricate fills while keeping the beat … with the added element of what is essentially a drum solo towards the end makes “Won’t Get Fooled Again” one of the most complex drumming performances ever recorded – and Sina crushes it! It is perfect! And that, my friends, is really amazing.

Most people can’t really appreciate how difficult this is to play.

I hope you can truly appreciate what you just saw! A flawless performance by a young lady doing a drum cover of an extremely difficult song by one of the best rock bands in the world and a drummer who is one of the very best in history.

She may very well be the first drummer in music history where the bands will need to audition for her!

Alright, I will end this one with one more of Andrei Cerbu’s collaborations. I really like these kids, and wish them the absolute best. They are simply fantastic performers with bright futures ahead of them. Check out this cover of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet with drummer Sina, vocalist Victoria K, and Andrei again.

Black Velvet (Sina, Victoria K, and Adrei Cerbu)

Crap, okay! Just one more, How about a little GNR? This one features Andrei Cerbu again, but this time with vocalist Smaranda Marian.

I guess I should also include an original number by these kids as well. What the heck! After all this, what is one more?

Go Away (Iron Cross, original)

Okay, I have to make myself stop here. I could go on and on! So much great music … so little time!

I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of my other Tunes for Tuesday posts by clicking here!

And, if you like reading an award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It got a great review from Kirkus Reviews!

I will never forget …

A day that is forever seared into my memory.

I still remember driving to work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and hearing Phil Williams, a local radio celebrity talking about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. I remember thinking … what a horrible accident … those poor people in the plane.

I was thinking a small private plane had accidentally hit one of the towers …

But Phil kept talking, and I could not believe what I was hearing. Then I remember thinking, it must be some kind of a practical joke! But it would have been a horrible joke. I just could not fathom what was happening.

Then, when I got to work and entered the Student Center, I saw that crowds were gathered, staring at the many TV monitors located throughout the lobby area. I saw the second jet hit a tower. It was a day that changed my life forever. It was an attack on Freedom … and the American way of life.

Americans are certainly not perfect, but the ideals America was founded on are …

America is not just a country. It is an idea, and it is an idea that is worth fighting for … the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are more than just cool-sounding words from the Declaration of Independence. These are the core values that are then enshrined and protected by the U.S. Constitution.

It saddens me how many Americans today have no understanding of, or appreciation for, the gift our Founding Father left to us. Far too many spend their time caught up in perceived petty grievances and playing the victim card and miss out on the fantastic opportunities that only this country provides.

September 11, 2001

That day created a patriotic fervor that was shared by many across this great country. In me, it has not lessened since. It reminded me, like nothing else ever had, of the oath I took on July 17, 1979.

I, Darren C Gilbert, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

I just went back and rechecked … that oath has no expiration date.

The United States of America has been a force for good for most of its 244 years. While mistakes have been made, no other county sacrificed so much for the betterment of mankind around the globe. Any errors that have been made are due to the imperfect nature of Americans being human, and that is something we should all be able to forgive.

I will end my post with two of my favorite quotes by William Wallace from the movie Braveheart.

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

We all end up dead, it’s just a question of how and why.

William Wallace, Braveheart

God Bless The USA!

I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you like reading an award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It also got a great review from Kirkus Reviews!

Just Stories, Part 3

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

Edmund Burke

That is the short version attributed to Edmund Burke. It is actually derived from a longer work titled Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770).

Defining Good and Evil …

As old fashioned as it might seem, I do believe in good and evil. And I strongly agree with Edmund Burke that for evil to triumph, all that is needed is for good men to sit by and do nothing.

And I certainly understand that the world we live in is not always so black and white. No, I am not racist; I am merely using an analogy that far predates the politically charged various versions of racism we must try to sort through today.

There is a great deal of gray in the world. However, social order and civilization are dependent on defining what lawful and unlawful behavior is. And, some actions are almost unanimously deemed as reprehensible (or evil). These, even in today’s upside-down world, would typically include stealing, murder, rape, slavery, human trafficking, genocide, etc.

Complete pacifism only leads to one of two possible places …

What are those two places? Simply stated, they are slavery or extinction.

You might argue that it is a bit extreme. I argue it is not. History is chock-full of examples supporting this concept, going back thousands of years. And, those who fail to study history are far too often doomed to repeat it.

I have thirty-five plus years of martial arts training. I served in the U.S. military and graduated from the best private bodyguard training school in the United States. I understand what really evil people can do, and refusing to stand up to them typically does not stop them.

I am reminded of a dinner party I was at many years ago. One of the guests was a local radio station disc jockey, and I soon discovered, an avowed pacifist. He asked me how I could justify owning guns and also teaching people how to beat up other people. I simply answered that I do not teach people how to hurt other people. I teach people how to stop people from hurting them or people they care about.

He scoffed at that. So I gave him a scenario (we had just recently had our first home invasion in Anderson County in the news, where an elderly couple was tied to chairs, brutally beaten, and robbed). I asked him if he were home at night with his wife and three young children, and violent people invaded his home with the intent to harm his family, would he just step out of the way because he “did not believe in violence,” or would he try to protect his family?

He thought about that for a minute, then answered that he would have to try to protect them. I then told him that the only real difference between him and me was that I would have much a better chance of succeeding. His final comment was something like, “Wow, you’ve cut me to the quick on that. I have to think about that.”

Sometimes, good people must do bad things to stop evil people!

Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think…of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It is in this quote that we can see the defense for my comment above. The difference for me is in the character of the person and the reason for the act. Yes, good people can sometimes be called on to do bad things to protect those they care about. But they do it out of necessity, not for fun, personal gain, or on a whim. And therefore, they are willing to stand before God and be judged for their deeds.

This is the reference JD makes near the end of Montagnard.  It is also how, in real life, a Navy SEAL like Chris Kyle or Rob O’Neil, or any soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine, would be able to justify to themselves what they do and sleep at night.

Poster for the movie Act of Valor.

Evil does exist in this world. Often, it cannot be reasoned with, appeased, or avoided. Sometimes, it must be faced down. There have been a few instances in my life where I made the choice to stand against evil. I do not regret those decisions and I do not believe God will hold them against me when my time comes. 

My stories, at their core, are about facing down that evil.

The third installment in the JD Cordell Action Series I am calling Reciprocity, will delve into the dark world of human trafficking, which I think any sound-minded individual would consider an evil blight on humanity.

If you enjoyed this little philosophical meandering, please take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you like reading an award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my award-winning novel, Montagnard.

Sophie Conquers Point 19

Loyston Point (or Point 19)

Labor Day, Sophie and I decided to hike to Point 19 on Norris Lake. Norris Lake was formed in the 1930s when TVA constructed the Norris Dam on the Clinch River to control flooding and generate power. The dam is a straight gravity-type dam 1860 feet long and 265 feet high. It has a maximum generating capacity of 126 megawatts.

I have many great memories of Point 19. When I left the military. I fell in with a group of guys from Clinton, Tennessee, and we would fish off the point, swim, camp, sometimes have bonfires and drink a few beers.

Back then, when the lake level was down, we could drive around the shoreline to the point if you had 4-wheel drive. Sometimes, I would hike it on foot. Had to watch out for copperhead snakes, though. Or, you could park at a gate and walk in on an old, partially graveled road. This trip, Sophie and I opted for the latter.

It is about 1.5 miles to the point via the old road. When I was younger, I hiked it several times, carrying a cooler full of ice and beer. Not sure I would want to do that now. We met one couple who were on the way back out. The had given up before reaching the point.

Sophie stopped to sample some of the vegetation on the way in. I guess she is somewhat of a survivalist.

I was amazed at how high the water level was. I remember it varies a great deal depending on the amount of rainfall in a given period, but often it was a good twenty or thirty feet from this ledge to the water below. There used to be an old rope attached to that old tree that we would swing out on. Sometimes it was a long time before you hit the water.

The water level was up in the trees on the other side of the point.

The town of Loyston

Over to the left in this picture sits what was once the town of Loyston. The inhabitants had all evacuated when the dam was built. While I have never personally seen it, I have been told that during dry seasons, when the lake gets really low, you can sometimes see the tops of old grain silos sticking out of the water. It is usually pretty deep. Right off the ledge where we would jump, I have been told it averages about 400 feet. Rumor has it that back in the day, stolen cars, once they had been stripped of anything useful, were pushed off the ledge never to be recovered. Could be just a local legend, though, who knows?

Sophie didn’t care about any of this though. She was just having a blast rescuing the sticks I threw into the lake from the ledge!

While I didn’t get any pictures, I was amazed by the number of boats of all shapes and sizes that sailed on past us with Trump 2020 flags on them. Most of them waved as they went by.

I couldn’t help but think how good it felt to be home … back in East Tennessee!

If you enjoyed this little outdoor adventure post, please take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you like reading a pretty darn good action-adventure story, check out my award-winning novel, Montagnard.

Tunes for Tuesday: Blues Deluxe

Joe Bonamassa is probably the most gifted guitarist I have ever seen and listened to in my life. I saw him play in Knoxville, Tennessee and was utterly blown away. It was about a three-hour set. In the middle, the band went off stage for a break. Bonamassa just grabbed an acoustic guitar and continued to amaze the audience. I have never before or since heard anyone play an acoustic guitar the way he did.

Mountain Time (Live From The Royal Albert Hall, 2019)

Now that is a grand performance.

Blues Deluxe (2007)

While a blues guitarist, Joe Bonamassa also covers some really great rock as well. However, Led Zeppelin, despite their moniker as the founders of Heavy Metal, was essentially a blues-based band. Here Bonamassa performs one of my all-time favorite blues songs by Zeppelin.

I Can’t Quit You Baby (KTBA Cruise 2019)

Your really need to watch this video to the end. It is freaking amazing! A great showcase of both Joe Bonamassa and Jimmy Page’s guitar virtuosity.

For those of you who, like me, love to take the guitar ride, here is an awesome guitar duel between Joe Bonamassa, Tommy Emanuel, and Josh Smith. Check this shit out!

I will just end this post here … with this great video, Remembering BB King, that Joe Bonamassa did for his mentor and friend, BB King.

If you enjoyed this Tunes for Tuesday post, please take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you happen to love reading great action-adventure stories, check out my award-winning novel, Montagnard.