Fireworks copa new years eve

There’s something oddly satisfying about being exhausted at the end of the year. It makes me feel as though I squeezed out every experience and capitalized on every opportunity. It’s not true, of course. I enjoyed tons of down time and did a respectable amount of vegging—most of which involved going to the movies and binge watching Netflix and Hulu, and reading a few dozen books.

Recreational reading is something I do while I’m brushing my teeth, drying my hair, or waiting—for just about anything. My husband finds it particularly amusing when I’m reading upside down or knotted up like a human pretzel. Apparently, this is one of the reasons he married me—ongoing amusement. But my point is that I don’t often just kick back and read, unless it’s for research. Instead, I read sporadic pages from the moment I wake until the moment I fall asleep, which is usually when the Kindle falls into my face! Hardback books are a bitch.

In spite of all this entertaining relaxation—and my current giddy exhaustion—I do feel like I made the most of good ole 2014.

I started the year by digesting some welcome validation and encouraging guidance from Penguin Random House editor Tom Colgan while at the same time embracing some unvarnished critiques from New York Times bestselling authors and writing gurus Tom Monteleone and David Morrell. All of this inspired me to embark on a major overhaul of my manuscript. My husband couldn’t believe that I was going to start from scratch but hey… once I see something, I can’t un-see it.

Changes needed to be made, not just in the manuscript but in me. So that’s what I did—I upped my game as a writer, cut 20,000 words before even beginning to work, and wrote what I hoped would be an awesome novel.

Five months later, my dear friend Jonathan Maberry (another NY Times bestselling author) read the resulting finished product and gave me this response, “With RIO’S CROSS, Tori Eldridge looks for light and hope in the darkest corners of the human heart.  She mixes mysticism and horror with hope and courage to conjure real magic.” My squealing happy dance—up and down the hall like a hyped-up puppy—was another amusing treat for my husband. I was thrilled, but I still needed to get confirmation from my writing mentor.

Tom Monteleone kept his opinions close to the chest all through the International Thriller Writers annual conference. It seemed that we talked about everything but my manuscript that he had so graciously read for the second time. Then, when Thrillerfest was over and we finished a memorable pastrami Benedict, he looked up and smiled. “Tori,” he said, “this is a different book!”

I was flying high that day. If the year had ended there, I would have been satisfied. But there was more. The Year of the Wooden Horse lived up to its powerfully dynamic energy. It took off in unexpected directions, charging, bucking, and stopping with heart-wrenching suddenness, daring me to hang on for the ride.

Just before the year began, I was interviewed by Pam Stack about my expanded e-book edition of EMPOWERED LIVING: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection. Pam was so pleased with our chat that she invited me back two more times in three weeks! In January, she invited me to host my own podcast on her Authors on the Air global Radio Network. So, with a couple of week’s notice, I put up a Facebook page, created a whole new website for myself, got a gorgeous slack key guitar song from Jim Kimo West, lined up some fascinating guests, learned how to record and edit, and launched Empowered Living Radio!

I did forty-five shows! Each and every one of those conversations enriched my life. I spoke with famous authors like Anne RiceMarianne WilliamsonSteve Berry, Heather Graham, and F. Paul Wilson (to name just a few)—not about books but about life. I spoke with inspiring guests about important topics like mental illness with an author suffering from Bipolar, asylum with the judge who helped write the USA bill, freedom with an asylee from Yemen, Alzheimer’s with a journalist who’s living with Early Onset, and fitness with one of the leading spokespeople for MS. I heard astounding experiences of surviving domestic violencesurviving a severed leg in sub-zero weather alone in the woods, and even surviving in the Himalayas on the TV show Naked and Afraid. I spoke with an army colonel in Saudi Arabia and a journalist in London. I enjoyed candid conversations with dear friends like Sandra Brannan, Jonathan Maberry, Thomas F. Monteleone, David Morrell, Elle Lothlorien about everything from paying it forward to laughter, grief, and online dating. I made new friends and deepened existing relationships and was overwhelmed by the positive energy and profound insights of my guests. I even spent an afternoon with Shamar Rinpoche, the 14th reincarnated Red Hat Lama of Tibet! The joy and wisdom that he shared was made all the more precious when he departed this lifetime, two months later. Forty-five shows and over sixty guests! You can find them all on the Empowered Living Radio page of my website.

It seemed that many of my friends were losing loved ones in 2014. When my childhood friend passed from the Earth, she left a hole that all of us who knew and loved her struggled to fill with precious memories and love. We continue to do so.

The green wooden horse charged ahead through 2014, propelling our eldest son up the corporate ladder and our youngest son through his final year of college. It also marked the fruition of an eleven year dream for my husband. I wrote a blog about all the ways we celebrated THE EQUALIZER. It was a highlight of the year to sit in the theater with Denzel Washington and Chloe Grace Moretz watching Tony’s film premiere at the Toronto Film Festival!

The excitement continued as I dove into my next book project fueled by fascinating cultural research, surprising story developments, and cool innovative writing technology to keep it all straight. Then to top off the year, my first short story was published in the Best of 2014 issue of Suspense Magazine. A perfect end to a productive year.
Farewell 2014. You were fruitful, frugal, emotional, and exciting. Thanks for the wild ride.

Tori Eldridge
Tori Eldridge is a Honolulu-born writer, a 5th degree black belt ninja, and a former actress, dancer, singer on Broadway, television, and film. She writes action-packed, culturally-rich thrillers and mystically intriguing suspense, empowering non-fiction, and has taught ninjutsu and empowerment across the country.
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