So draws to an end another year. I can look back at 2022 as one filled with peaks and valleys. One filled with a lot of promise that delivered and also stocked with a lot of grief, angst and exhaustion.

I’ll choose to give reverence but not dwell upon the negatives such as the passing of loved ones, the loss of employment and comrades I truly loved (albeit my layoff was a mere blink), my fiancée’s cancer scare and the heartache of betrayal. Fatherhood demands (and it did, boy did it) the utmost priority even when nurturing a relatively new romance and you bring it all together under pressure. The teenage years can suck it, point blank, and I’m no different from any parent fielding the fails and fallacies that come within. The victories are few, the frustration twofold. As Kurt Vonnegut wisely waxes, so it goes. We’re forced to adapt and find the resiliency to respond as parents must.

On the flipside, I’m very blessed to have had exuberance, triumphs, forward motion, physical and spiritual growth and above all, expanding my networks to twice they were prior to 2022. I’ve said it before in my videos where I sought to pump up other job-seekers, your network says everything about you. It’s paid off for me this year in the scores of people who rallied to my cause during my brief layoff. You all have my return love and loyalty.

Despite the ongoing trials in our lives since September, this will be a year I’ll look back upon with pride with the release of my short story collection, Coming of Rage, the title story drawing a nomination for this year’s Pushcart Prize. I wrote the stories in my old apartment after my separation and divorce, a couple months before TJ, an old friend from many pasts, came back into my life like a tempest of love. I wrote most of the stories on a butt-breaking bar stool at a breakfast nook in that apartment, feeling the momentary isolation and uncertainty of my life’s direction. Some were written on the weeks I had my son, getting up at 4:30 a.m. many days before he woke to write and polish these stories. The satisfaction I feel from Coming of Rage’s launch is something I’ve held onto like a good luck locket. I’m even prouder my publisher, Raw Earth Ink, has asked for a sequel story collection, which I am nearly finished writing for 2023 publication.

2022 brought me the opportunity to meet many writers throughout the year, at the Star Trek and sci-fi-themed convention, Shore Leave, for one. It came here at WordPress, meeting so many of you and getting to know you off the grid. I was able to build an audience here and though my past few months have been less than prolific due to a tumble effect of life events, I feel optimistic in the growth this page has made. Granted, my posts lately have been more off-topic to the theme of roads lesser traveled, but travel has been limited due to the aforementioned changes and hurdles. I appreciate all of you for sticking with me, as I do the people who gave me glowing reviews of Coming of Rage. A special shout-out to Willow Croft, who conducted not one, but two interviews with me in ’22. It’s been a pleasure kindling a friendship with you, lady.

My fiancée, TJ and I had a wonderful trip to Disney for just ourselves this year and a long weekend beach trip with the kiddo, but moving in together and preparing for our future wedding in the fall of ’23 took precedence. Our time out was spent more in the company of friends and family all of 2022 and building our respective networks in the creative and esoteric communities. TJ not only kicked cancer’s behind this year, but she had a number of book signings for The Healthy Witch and Four Little Witches. I’m happy to report I will likewise be on the promotional trail in the new year for Coming of Rage and its eventual sequel, Turning the Page.

I look to get myself back in the groove in 2023, here at Roads Lesser Traveled, along with my other writing endeavors while refining my duties in my new position in mortgage title. The juggle and the struggle is real, but we have a wedding to look forward to and new projects to complete and hawk out there. TJ will have an oracle card set based on The Healthy Witch come out this spring. The time has come for both of us to kick our lives as a couple and as individual writers up to the next level.

This includes the addition of two new kittens to our family, Ezio and MJ. They were brought to us from a litter by TJ’s son and they have sparked a spirit of joy in our household. These adorable fuzzbutts have been with us since they were two months old and have already bonded with all of us. Bast be praised.

2022, thank you for all that was good. Thank you also for the hard parts; it forces me to keep evolving. I ran a Spartan Trail race and competed in my first DEKA event, the latter proving you can train your tail off and still have your butt handed to you. It’s sobering and oddly uplifting, as it sparks that fire inside me to have another go at DEKA and whatever else my body will give me, fitness-wise in ’23. My motto, especially for my videos at TikTok, has been “Keep grindin’.”

Much love to all the people I spent time and grew with this year, many for the first time, others reunited after decades past between us. It’s refreshing knowing people can just pick right back up after long runs of time. May the new year bring even more of my friends whom I’ve inadvertently neglected to the table along with brand new faces. As I mentioned, my network doubled this past year and I look forward to adding more this one upcoming.

Whatever it is that drives you, my friends, go forward in 2023 and beyond and capture it for yourself. I’ve captured the love of my life. I’ve captured a new audience after losing all but handfuls of my prior readership in music and horror journalism. I’ve reinvented myself and every step is slow, if adventurous. Fear is the enemy to your own progress. Go forward and conquer. Thank you for reading, as always…

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

“Hubris,” Spoken Word by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I shot my first spoken word video for a piece I wrote titled “Hubris.” I felt a piece of myself yearning to come out and I treated the entire session like I would’ve at open mike events I performed at years ago. Here is the transcript of the poetry piece, “Hubris.”


By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

In my vanity, with or without imbibing,

I often think kicking open black doors

held sentry by interwoven golden scimitars, unguarded

leads to a bounty of greener pastures

a treasure laid and left by the divine

if one simply has the wherewithal to risk the unavoidable gashes

and the potential for beguiling catastrophe

sometimes the pursuit of happiness

is nothing more than a fool’s errand

no matter an accompanying pocketful of citrine

for luck and love

or a fistful of amethyst for reciprocal defense

a national lottery ticket often has better odds at a payoff

in the quest for mortal satisfaction

I can’t help but wonder sometimes

if ancestors laugh or shake their heads dismissively

when they catch you pleasuring yourself from the other side

or if they cheer you on when it comes with a partner

and it makes me laugh only to myself

thinking they invisibly face palm their invisible former selves

watching their descendants stumble, fall and choke as must do

evolution oblivion catcalled by celestial perverts

a dangling tiger’s eye between the breast

trumps a washout kind of day

whether you dwell in a shanty or amongst porcelain walls

even when you’re soft-spoken and complacent beneath the sun

yet you morph into a voluminous warrior of words

in literary combat against the espresso machine at an open mike

fueled, not by caffeine

but by ego and desperation

and you give louder voice, even still,

against defiance, counterpoint, and ennui

projected at you by people you love

or once loved

or think you once loved

rebellion equates rejection

equates burden equates self-defeat

you can’t help the obdurate

you can’t hold onto obsidian for longer than bare minimum

not everyone values the lapis lazuli

much less sees the excavating path to the latter’s

reviving ultramarine

the final folly of those who care too much

is believing they make a tangible difference

realness is both soft and hard to the touch

yet true comfort lies inside

a steeping cup of introspection and a burning incense of empathy

the lover of life held in check

by too much crippling static inside air

which rages against the suffocation

as it would at pollution and apathy

the madness comes from banging missed advice against the surrounding plaster

from those who would devalue effort and persistence

and those who would cheat themselves short

and you even shorter

sometimes there’s just no helping others

who don’t want the help

nor the sycophantic inspiration shared between old and young

a passing of life data often mistaken for narcissism

it’s like a rotary phone ringing to dead air

or an unclaimed pass to the fast track

tears of joy can still cloud

climaxes can still hurt as much as they release

desire means we never stop living

mining our paths towards our own blue heaven

in completely the wrong direction…