Apr 01

Making Life Fun by Rachael Sola and Thom Byxbe – RELEASED

Perfection will never come on the first try. Perfection will never come on the last try. The beauty lies in the attempt. Joyous is the one who celebrates each and every small victory of every task he attempts. It’s not about the end result as much as it is about the risks and correcting of errors along the way. What good is falling down and remaining on the floor? It may be a hell of a lot easier to sit on the ground and cry and moan about how badly it hurt, but you know that you will eventually have to get up. Try saving yourself the time and getting up immediately. Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Imagine how much more productive your life would be if you tried something another way immediately following failure, instead of wailing about it for days on end?

Cover - Making Life Fun 400X640Life can get a little overwhelming; it can get a little hectic; it can get tiresome. Making Life Fun: Daily Devotions for the Fun-Filled Soul is a book of thirty-one daily devotions for readers to learn how to make life fun again; how to enjoy life; how to add a little spice to their life.

It doesn’t have to be black and white; being a grown up doesn’t mean all responsibilities and no fun. Rachael Sola and Thom Byxbe take it one day at a time and give readers a quote to improve that day. Each quote is followed by a short explanation, an affirmation, and an exercise to complete for the day. This style not only allows readers to really dig into the reading, but really apply it to their own lives.

With advice like, “Life is Meant to be Lived,” “Humor Makes All Things Tolerable,” and “Live and Work but Do Not Forget,” readers get insights on all parts of life and how to make each day not only livable and relaxing, but pleasurable and humorous. After one month of reading Making Life Fun: Daily Meditations for the Fun-Filled Soul, readers will have all the tools they need to turn their ordinary life into an extraordinary life.

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Mar 19

In the End by Terry Dale

And, In The End, The Love You Take,
is Equal to the Love You Make. – Paul McCartney

0718071045Bowing his head in a drizzling rain that was beginning to turn to snow, the man walked slowly across the hospital’s frigid parking lot. In the crook of one arm he was cradling a small pot of African violets, which had been his mother’s favorite flower. He had donated the rest of the plants and floral arrangements to the hospital’s cancer wing, as she had requested. He also carried a canvas bag full of cards that had been displayed on his mother’s bed-side table, the majority of them from people to whom she’d given piano lessons. In addition to the hand-written messages of affection and concern, her former students had also expressed gratitude; they thanked her for guiding them faithfully into the other-worlds of music, and for helping them decipher its language.

grand-pianoRemembering the gleaming, well-polished piano that sat by the bay window in her dining room, the man could easily envision his mother seated at its bench beside one of the many kids she’d taught. Endlessly patient, she would gently show the anxious young striver where to place their fingers on the keys and how to move them across the keyboard, occasionally reaching up to flip through the pages of the sheet music. Over time, a melody would emerge from the student’s hesitant, awkward plunkings, taking flight like the proverbial butterfly released from its drab cocoon.

clouds-parting-m.ashxShivering as he arrived at his car, the man unlocked it and leaned over to place the violets and the canvas bag on the front seat; it wasn’t until he climbed in behind the wheel that he saw an odd gap appear in the roiling, slate-gray ceiling of the sky. Beyond it, he caught a glimpse of hazy winter’s sunlight as the circular opening widened, seeming to admit a spiraling column of sparkling, wind-swept snow. Instinctively murmuring a soft goodbye, the man watched until the clouds rolled forward again, closing slowly over the opening like a celestial gate.

Notice

This is am except from Terry Dale’s next book “Raise Your Vibration: Daily Meditations For the Music Lover’s Soul” available May 2013.

Mar 16

The Seussification of Life – RELEASED

Cover - The Seussification of Life 400X600Without further ado.

It’s time for you.

To curl up on a big comfy couch

or bed or rug or chair.

Please, don’t be scared.

For you are about to visit

places within yourself.

That may have sat on a shelf for many years.

Oh dear! Never fear.

The Seussification of Life is an intriguing book that allows readers to self-analyze their life and meditate on the direction they are headed. Unlike most meditation books however, the Seussification of Life takes quotes from the famous Dr. Seuss to create a fun, loving, and creative look at life. With quotes from the doctor and unique rhymes to match, the Seussification of Life shows readers the deeper meaning behind some of the most popular Dr. Seuss quotes and how they are still applicable in adult life.

With thirty-one daily meditations, this book allows readers to find a unique perspective on life and then apply it themselves through thought-provoking exercises that require writing, playing, self-reflection, and more. Not only will readers have the opportunity to remember and reflect on their favorite Dr. Seuss quotes and books, but they’ll be able to look at life with a child-like innocence and positivity that they may have lost as they’ve aged.

Unlike any other meditation book out there, the Seussification of Life: Daily Meditations for the Movin’ and Groovin’ Soul makes self-reflection fun, creative, and exciting. Prepare to remember your favorite Seuss book, your favorite Seuss quote, and access your inner child as you meditate on your past, present, and future in this hands-on book. 

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Mar 13

Your Inner Child – RELEASED

Cover - Your Inner Child - Final 400X640How do you grow down when you grew up? It’s simple. You think about what made you happy as a child. Was it playing in the sandbox and building sandcastles? If it was, you can take a beach vacation and make sand castles on a white sandy beach while sipping a cool drink. If you enjoyed water activities as a child, you can visit a water park and have fun slipping and sliding down the water slides. Afterward, you can kick back in a lazy river and watch the world go by. Maybe you drew cartoons as a kid. You can enroll in a drawing class to reawaken your drawing skills, and then you can create a website and share your cartoon. Who knows? You could make a career change and become a cartoonist and or illustrator. Do you see how growing down can lead to happiness? All you have to do is tap into your childhood dreams and memories and put them to work in your adult life.

Everyone has an inner child waiting to come out and play whether they realize it or not. Your Inner Child will help you rediscover that little boy or girl within you that’s begging to come out. Playtime isn’t a chore, but a way to stay young at heart—creativity being awoken, senses becoming heightened.

This insightful book teaches readers that growing up doesn’t mean disconnecting from childhood; it doesn’t mean loosing sight of what you loved when you were younger; in fact it’s just the opposite. Grown ups need to have fun too. Letting off steam and acting goofy is good for you; it keeps you young at heart, it slows down the aging process—it diminishes those frown lines (but you may get laugh lines)!

Your Inner Child: Daily Meditations for the Young at Heart contains thirty-one meditations to help readers add a little fun into their daily lives. Each day starts off with a simple quote. Each quote is explained, the accompanied by a few words of wisdom in “Your Inner Child Whispers.” Each meditation also gives readers a little task or activity to allow that inner child to come out.

Whether it’s coloring in a coloring book, jumping in a puddle, or reminiscing about your favorite childhood toy, each activity will require a bit of creativity on the readers part, allowing them to add a little goofiness and fun into their daily routine.

Being an adult can be tough; skin becomes thick in order to deal with the realities of life. But, contrary to what people may think, letting out your inner child can help you deal with those harsh realities and enjoy life more. Next time life has you down, remember: Playtime + Laughter = The best medicine to heal and shift your life.

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Mar 12

To Read or Not to Read – RELEASED

Cover - To Be or Not To Be 400X640Further evidence of how much importance we put on a name is provided by other examples of name usage: for instance, addressing others by the wrong name after we have been introduced to them is a social faux pas that can create a great deal of antipathy in the one wrongly addressed and embarrassment in the one who makes the mistake. Calling people derogatory names or using another’s name in a pejorative way can cause a rift in relationships at least as inimical as the feud that was raging between the Capulet and Montague families of Romeo and Juliet.

There are not many authors who have made the impact on literature, film, and life in general than William Shakespeare. But do his ever-so-famous quotes still hold true in today’s society? To Read or Not to Read: Daily Meditations for the Shakespearean Soul looks at some of the most famous Shakespeare quotes and compares them to life today and how readers can not only still relate to what he said, but how they can apply his eloquently written words to their own life.

With thirty-one daily meditations, To Read or Not to Read will not only enrich the Shakespeare-loving soul with a healthy dose of Shakespearean knowledge, but allows readers to apply their love for Shakespeare in their everyday lives.

With quotes from The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Twelfth Night, and more, readers will get a unique reading experience they’ve not gotten anywhere else, as well as helpful life lessons, reminders, and exercises with “Reminders for the Shakespearean Soul.”healthy dose of Shakespearean knowledge, but allows readers to apply their love for Shakespeare in their everyday lives.

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Mar 08

Start by Doing – RELEASED TODAY

Start By Doing – Erik Sharp and Thom Byxbe

Cover - Start By Doing  400X640

Are you one of those people who are constantly in fear of what others think of you? Do you constantly feel anxiety because you think everyone is judging you or criticizing you? Why do you worry and concern yourself other people’s opinions? Worry about yourself. Believing what others tell you they think about you can cause you you to lose sight of taking care of what is most important, YOU.

Start by Doing is a powerful book that shows readers how to be better by illuminating love. Radiating love not only gives you the power to do, but it rubs off on others. It is this love that binds all.

This book will not only allow readers the ability to be stronger by giving them the power to believe they can influence the well-being of others, but it will give them the motivation to make the best of their lives.

With an easy-to-read tone, Start by Doing is set off by a daily quote, and ends with a a “Word for the Unmotivated Soul” helping them understand the main point of the daily meditation and quote, as well as how to implement it in their own lives.

These daily meditations will allow readers the ability to embrace the challenge of spreading love, focus on the moment, and remind people that love and compassion are all we need.

Click Here To Purchase This Book

Mar 07

Those Who Dance by Terry Dale

Those Who Dance Are Considered Insane by Those Who Cannot Hear the Music. – George Carlin

stock-footage-lone-musician-follows-railroad-tracks-belongings-on-his-back-guitar-case-sin-hand-free-to-findWith his long hair tied back in a ponytail and his clothes stained with sweat and dust, the man trudged up an isolated wilderness trail through the heat of a summer’s day. The small cross hanging around his neck bounced against his chest as he walked, and a black guitar case was strapped to his back with a frayed leather belt. In one hand, he was carrying an olive-green duffel bag.

As he scanned the rolling terrain for a suitable place to camp, the man was thinking about the harsh words of a family member a few months earlier. One of his older brothers, a successful business owner, had demanded to know why he had chosen to “waste his life” as an itinerant preacher and songwriter. Unoffended, the younger man hadn’t tried to explain the appeal of an uncomplicated existence, nor had he remarked that he considered it a privilege to express his gratitude and hard-won wisdom through music. Instead, he’d quietly answered that there was more than one way to be rich. Disgusted, his brother had turned away from him.

As he shrugged to re-position the guitar case on his chafing shoulders, an unruly gust of wind came down the trail and hurled a cloud of gravel into his eyes; blinking, the man realized with wry amusement that he had things in common with the ancient geography that surrounded him. Just as the staggered mountain ridges and towering rock formations had long endured driving rains, lightning strikes, and churning blizzards, something within him had held fast in the face of his brother’s stinging criticisms.

Having dedicated himself to the honest path that issued from the depths of his own spirit, the man was unwilling to give anything the power to disturb his peace. Because after all, above and beyond the ever-changing attacks of the elements, there was the steady influence and illumination of the sun.

Notice

This is am except from Terry Dale’s next book “Raise Your Vibration: Daily Meditations For the Music Lover’s Soul” available May 2013.

Mar 06

The Farmers’ Tale by Martin McCorkle

Important!

Martin McCorkle is the author of “Youv’e Gotta Wise Up” published by Nascent Digital Press. Watch for his latest book, a political satire titled  “An American Dream” in April.

Once upon a time in the land of Plenty, the King was playing golf. His most trusted adviser came to him, bowed down and said, “Oh Munificent One, the people have no crops.”

Although he is was annoyed, he considered the problem between the 11th and 12th hole and said, “I know what to do” and finished his round.

Later that day, the Great King sent a proclamation throughout the land of Plenty demanding that farmers “Create Crops.” He spent a trillion dollars on crop “stimulus”. He gave speeches explaining that the purpose of farming was to “create crops”. Every agriculturalist who wasn’t an “extremist” thought that what the King said was brilliant and new. The wise and learned scholars who studied agriculture in the high towers of the capital city were quite enamored by the King’s elocution.

One day the King was playing golf. His most trusted advisor came to him, bowed down and said, “Oh Benevolent Lord, the people still have no crops.”

Great was the King’s anger, for few things annoyed him more than when his words did not change things. Focusing his awesome intellect between the 3rd and 4th hole, he reasoned thusly: I am not wrong and what I have done is not the problem. There were, after all, crop shortages before me. Therefore, it must be the farmers’ fault.

“Summon the farmers to my Palace,” he commanded his advisor. “They will give account for their selfishness.”

At the appointed time, the farmers of the land of Plenty met their King in the Great Hall. He was dressed in a flowing robe and sat upon the Throne of Fairness. The King’s voice echoed throughout the expanse, “I have commanded you to create crops and you have not. Why have you defied the word of your King?”

“We cannot create crops, Oh Most Wise One,” they replied.

“Why not?” demanded the King.

“We have no land.”

The King snuffed and said, “You cannot own land! We must protect the Spotted Owl and the Kangaroo Rat. Besides, no man can own a piece of land any more than he can own a piece of sky! And if there was such a thing as ownership, the land would belong to the Native Americans and the Spaniards. The only person who can own land is me.”

“Even if we had land, there are no field workers,” said the farmers.

“The land is full of workers,” the King replied, sweeping his hand expansively.
“You must pay them at least the minimum wage, meet all OSHA requirements, satisfy immigration standards and pay the modest tax for my visionary healthcare bill.”

“But then, Oh Munificent One, we would go bankrupt,” said the farmers. “So let us have technology instead of human labor. We can use tractors to prepare the soil and harvesters to gather the crops. This will also ease the burden of man and beast.”

“Technology!” The King’s eyes burned with fire. “Technology is what got us into this problem. Tractors burn fossil fuels! Harvesters rob the poor of employment. You must make do with your windmills and solar panels. They are the path to the future!”

“But even if we had land, workers and technology,” continued the farmers, “we still could not create crops, for we have no seed.”

“Under my administration,” spoke the King, “there is only one sacred law: when someone else has more than you, you can take it from them. This law is indisputably fair. It is not my fault that the winter was long and cold, forcing those who had no food to take your seed from you. It was fair. And you cannot whine about fairness. That would be unfair.”

“Hear us, Oh King. Even if we had land, workers, technology and seed, we still could not create crops, for we need water to irrigate.”

“Water must stay in the wild rivers, flowing freely to the seas. It is a sacrilege against Nature to divert water merely for the use of man.”

“May it not irritate the King, but even if we had land, workers, technology, seed and water, we still could not create crops for we have no fertilizer.”

“Fertilizers have chemicals that harm the environment,” the King pontificated. “My EPA knows this and has forbidden or limited their use.”

“If we could beg for the indulgence of the King, for his patience is legendary, even if we had
land, workers, technology, seed, water and fertilizer, we still could not promise to create crops. Devouring insects may infest the land. Our plants themselves can fall prey to disease. A few days, even hours, of frost can ruin us. Likewise, a season of blazing heat may wither our crops. A hard rain at harvest time can thwart a whole years’ labor. Fire can completely destroy us at anytime. Against such things there is little we can do.”

The King was frustrated and asked, “Can’t you do such a simple thing as create crops?”

The farmers were silent until a frail, old voice said, “May I speak freely with His Majesty?”

“I’m all ears,” said the Gracious King.

“Long have I tilled the soil in the land of Plenty and watched the ways of men. We are farmers and can grow an abundance of food, but it cannot be done as you command. We are not gods and cannot “create” anything. You may wish to command the ground, ‘Produce grain’ or demand of the tree, ‘Produce fruit.’ But only God can do such things.

“Crops are a matter of causation, not creation. As mere men, we can only produce crops by following a series of steps that must be followed. To leave out even one step invites ruin.

“Let us own our land. For when we know that the fruit of our labor will benefit our families, we will work. Although it seems obvious to you, Oh King, that we should work for you and what you think is good, the human heart is not tuned so. A man will labor for his family, but not lift a finger for the common good.

“Let us pay our workers what we think best to pay them without restrictions. Let workers freely decide to work for us without coercion. Those of us who treat our employees well will benefit from having the best laborers. Those of us who treat our employees badly will suffer from shortsightedness.

“Let us embrace technology, both mechanical and chemical; knowing that no work is ever done without loss and rare is the medicine that has no side-effects. The only way to have no impact on the environment is to cease working.

“Let us freely sell our produce to those who would freely buy it. In this way, each farmer will plan according to the needs of those who wish to buy. When we plan well, let us keep the profits we have earned to buy more land, to experiment with new crops, to give as we see fit or to save for the future.

“Let us deal with the uncertainties of life. We know the difference between a hardworking farmer who is overcome by misfortune and a lazy farmer who fails due to sloth. We are able to find ways to help the hardworking farmer so that he may plant again. We are also able to buy the land of the fool and thus bring it into proper cultivation. In this way, the wise farmer benefits from his wisdom and the foolish one is disciplined for his folly.

“Do this, Oh Wise King, and abundance with flow like a river in the land of Plenty.”

The King scowled and said, “That way of doing things has never worked.” He commanded the farmers to return to the fields of the King. He also sent his troops with the farmers to make sure that they worked voluntarily.

A few days later, the King was playing golf. His most trusted advisor came to him, bowed down and said, “Oh Glorious Regent, the people have no jobs.”

Although he is was annoyed, he considered the problem between the 11th and 12th hole and said, “I know what to do” and finished his round…

Feb 24

10 Dr. Seuss Quotes to Inspire Writing by Celeste Teylar

Dr._SeussTheodor Seuss Geisel is best known as the beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss who wrote bestselling books such as The Cat in the Hat, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who!, and many others.

Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904 and passed away on September 24, 1991. Even though it’s been 22 years since his passing, he and his books are timeless.

To celebrate Dr. Seuss, Random House teamed up with the National Education Association (NEA) and together they urge everyone to participate in the annual Read Across America to read to a child on the evening of March 2. Even if you don’t have children, you can still pick up a Dr. Seuss book or two and read them. Inspiration can be found within the pages of a Dr. Seuss book.

 So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

Self-editing is your friend. Keep sentences short and simple. Delete words that don’t belong and avoid choppy writing. And…write for your target audience. Avoid using jargon and technical terms, unless, of course, your readers will understand them.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

Saying that you have writer’s block or can’t think of good ideas to write about is unacceptable. The best writers know that stories and ideas are everywhere. All you have to do is watch the evening news, read blogs, magazines, and newspapers; pay attention to conversations with family and friends, and read.

I start drawing, and eventually the characters involve themselves in a situation. Then in the end, I go back and try to cut out most of the preachments.”

Don’t panic if you can’t draw. When you sit down to write, imagine the images in your head that you’ll want to incorporate into a blog post, article, book, eBook, presentation, white paper, report, etc. and then start writing. Go back and edit your work or have someone else do it for you.

You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

You’ll want to stay on top of the trends within blogging, copywriting, publishing, marketing and PR, and social media. However, learn to educate yourself by reading blogs, books, and magazines in addition to attending classes, conferences and workshops.

Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!”

Sometimes, you need a change of scenery to refresh you and your writing. If you write from your home office, write from a local café at least once a week. If you have a home office, consider getting an office outside of the home. Try a co-op with a group of writers. If you’re a staff writer, ask your boss if you could work from home a few times a week.

Be awesome! Be a book nut!”

Most writers are book nuts, but it wouldn’t hurt to get out of your comfort zone. If you read the same thing over and over again, you could become bored with reading and writing. Be bold. Get out of your comfort zone and read something new TODAY!

How did it get so late so soon?”

How many times have you begun your day at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. and then looked at the clock only to discover was 8 p.m.? Most writers work late into the night without taking a break. This isn’t healthy. Stop writing for an hour and have something to eat. If you’re feeling restless, take a 15 minute break and go for a walk. Stretch your body because it will stretch your mind.

I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if people communicated what they meant to say? You can do this in your writing. Write what you want to say and mean what you write. Read your writing out loud to make sure it makes sense. If you can’t understand your writing, how do you expect a target audience to understand it?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Some writers are perfectionists. You should care about your writing and put your best work forward, even if this means scrapping a piece of writing and starting over from scratch. While it may pain you to do so, it will make you a stronger writer.

dr-seuss-theodore-geisel-oh-the-places-you-ll-goWords and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”

Don’t be afraid to incorporate media into your writing; it’s a good way to drive web traffic to websites, especially social media websites. Upload pictures to social media sites such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, and write a catchy headline and blurb. Include thought provoking images and videos within blog posts, articles, and eBooks; you and your writing will stand out from the crowd.

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss quote and how does it inspire your writing? Leave a comment.

Feb 18

Raise Your Vibration: Daily Meditations for the Music Lover’s Soul

 When We Die, We Will Turn Into Songs, and We Will Hear Each Other and Remember Each Other. – Rob Sheffield

Beneath a luminous Midwestern moon, three adventurous teenage boys parked their car beside a country road and began to walk through a cornfield toward an old abandoned house. Standing behind a cluster of trees, its tin roof was barely visible in the distance and the rutted lane leading out to it had long been plowed under.

cornfield-moon-tree-emily-j-photography

When the boys emerged from the rustling waist-high corn, the blond kid leading the way switched on a flashlight and they waded up to the two-story structure through deep weeds and briars. Built of red brick and wood in the 1800′s, most of the glass had fallen out of the narrow arched windows and its heavy front door hung crookedly by one rusty hinge. Forcing the door open, the blond kid played the beam of his flashlight around inside and saw swaths of wallpaper peeling from the walls and a warped wooden floor strewn with plaster. And in one corner of the otherwise-empty room, an old upright piano sat beside a broken window in a shaft of moonlight.

the_corn_field_by_theman268-d49h6fe

Traipsing inside, they all went over and crowded around the dusty antique,but when his friends shuffled off through the dimness to continue their exploration,the blond kid lagged behind. Gazing out at the sea of corn through shards of glass, he imagined the seasons changing outside the window as the decades passed, picturing wind-driven snows pelting the old piano in the winter and mud daubers lighting on its yellowed keys in the spring… then his fantasies were interrupted when his friends returned, saying that the other rooms contained only debris and that the stairs leading up to the second floor had collapsed.

1586751_origWhen they left the place a moment later, something compelled the blond kid to stop and look back. The house still sat silently among the flickering shadows, but then, very faintly, he heard a piano playing. Straining to hear as the melody dissipated like a ribbon of drifting fog, the boy decided that it was reminiscent of an old song from the Civil War era. Turning, he jogged between the corn rows to catch up with his friends. Soon they would be cruising down midnight roads with their car’s radio cranked up,carried away with the music of their own tumultuous times.

Notice

This is am except from Terry Dale’s next book “Raise Your Vibration: Daily Meditations For the Music Lover’s Soul” available March 2013.

Feb 04

10 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd on LinkedIn by Celeste Teylar

“Be different, stand out, and work your butt off.” Reba McEntire

linkedin-logo

According to LinkedIn’s Press Center, “As of January 9, 2013, LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 200 million members in over 200 countries and territories.” If you don’t have an account, open one today. If you have a LinkedIn account, you’re probably wondering how you can stand out from the crowd.

You may not be comfortable with standing out, but you’ll have to get over it if you want to get noticed on LinkedIn.

Standing out on LinkedIn is the way clients find you; how recruiters find you, and how you make connections. Here are 10 ways to stand out from the crowd on LinkedIn and get noticed.

10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd on LinkedIn and Get Noticed

Upload a professional profile with a red border. According to Jamie Turner, founder of the 60 Second Marketer, “human beings are much more likely to notice the color red than any other color in the spectrum.” In his blog post, “One Insanely Simple Trick You Can Use to Boost Your Social Media Visibility,” Jamie suggests using the Turner Box, which is the simple technique of putting a red box around your profile picture to make you stand out on social media sites.

team

Write a solid profile summary. Don’t post your resume in the Profile Summary section of LinkedIn. Instead, write a LinkedIn profile summary that differentiates you from your business or company. Show off your personality. Here’s an example for a writer: “I am a freelance copywriter with over 10 years’ experience writing for the B2B market. My focus has been on writing compelling copy for brochures, emails, newsletters, landing pages, squeeze pages, and long form sales letters. I enjoy writing and encourage you to contact me any time for a copy critique. Thanks!” Include one or two of your most recent projects.

Use recommendations wisely. Not every recommendation will help you stand out for the right reasons. Ask former and current co-workers, bosses, and clients with whom who have a trusting business relationship with to write you a clear and concise recommendation.

Write a headline that’s eye-catching. Writers know and understand the importance of writing headlines that sell. Incorporate keywords in your headline and communicate who you are and what you do.

HEADLINES formed by keys of a computer keyboard

Choose quality connections over quantity. You may be tempted to reach 500+ connections, but ask yourself, “How many of them will be quality connections? Don’t be in such a hurry to increase your connections just because everyone else has 500+ connections. You don’t know if a person’s connections are real or fake or just for show? Get to know people first and then reach out to see if there’s a mutual business relationship that can be developed. Be helpful. Be sincere.

Upgrade your LinkedIn account. Upgrading to a premium LinkedIn account gives you the ability to send InMails to anyone on LinkedIn, see additional information about members who have viewed your profile, and receive additional search results. You can upgrade to a Business, Business Plus, or Executive account.

Authors, journalists, and writers can sign up for a free 35 minute teleseminar from the LinkedIn for Journalists group for which you’ll receive a free upgrade to a premium LinkedIn account. Joining LinkedIn for Journalists is a must for those who are serious about their writing career.

Create an ad. You can create an ad on LinkedIn just like you would Google, Facebook, or Twitter. Target a specific industry, job title, function, company size, seniority, or age. Select either PPC (pay per click) or PPI (pay per impression) and choose your budget. Create an A/B Split Test to see which ad words for you. You can stop your ads at any time.

Own a company, start a company page. Adding a company page is another way you can stand out from the crowd. Create a custom header and upload your company logo. Share job postings, blog posts, pictures, videos, articles, news, and events. List your company description, specialties, and groups. Build relationships with clients and customers and – collect reviews and recommendations.

social-media-iconsConnect on other social media sites. Spend time getting to know people on other social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. Share and promote your content on these sites too.

Promote your LinkedIn account your website. Create a LinkedIn icon for your website or hire a web designer to create one for you. Place the LI icon in the top right-hand corner and or at the bottom of your website, right-hand corner. Make it easy for people to find you on LinkedIn.

To stand out on LinkedIn, you need to embrace who you are and what you do. Don’t copy another member’s profile summary or headline. If you do, you’ll be committing plagiarism and creating a bogus profile. Create a LinkedIn profile that’s unique to you.

If you want to improve your presence on LinkedIn, spend at least 15 minutes per day (or every other day) on the social media website. Join groups and add value to the discussions, be helpful. Promote your products and or services in groups that allow it.

Standing out is possible, but it could take time to develop your presence on LinkedIn. It’s better to build your presence slowly. Race to the finish line and you can miss important connections and information along the way.

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If you enjoyed this post, I’d be grateful if you shared it. Tweet it, Reddit, post it to Facebook and LinkedIn, and Pin It. Thank you!

Feb 01

Nascent Digital Press Working to Publish 300 Books This Year!

Jan 30

Storm by Erik Sharp

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Premise: January 30, 2013, a series of tornado-spawning thunderstorms race across the Midwest U.S. There is a report of an unknown man losing his life while trying to shelter himself from the fury of these storms. His name is not given, nor his location, but the story is based on fact. Whether or not it pertains directly to this unfortunate soul, others have perished in similar fashion countless times throughout the history of these natural disasters. Digest this information accordingly. Thanks for reading.

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The wind picks up. This guy is just out on his land, doing his thing, but what was his thing this day? Maybe he was on his farm, doing farm things, but what about that moment? Maybe having a smoke, petting his dog, in those last moments that he was unaware were his last moments, what was going on with this poor unfortunate guy? We can only speculate. Like I said, whatever he was doing, around him the wind gets stronger, then stronger, then louder and stronger. He looks up and notices the sky looks quite dark and violent. He sees the trees really starting to move, maybe hears thunder and lightning mixing in with the ever-growing force of the wind. Now he must be thinking, “This is getting a little crazy.” Or was he? Did he just not take it too seriously until the last minute? Or did it come up so fast that he had only so far he could go to try to escape? In his own world to himself, there he was, one lone little being against an over-whelming force of nature. What exactly happened?

Let’s say that he just was so into his own world that he thought it wasn’t going to be as serious as it was, until it was too late. Here he was, going about his own personal trip, then the weather gets strange. But by the time he realizes the unusually of this weather, it becomes violent. He realizes that now he is in a very precarious situation. The wind is really blowing now, and he hears a high-pitch noise, like a distant train getting exponentially closer by the second. He looks around, there is only a shed to protect from the elements. He instinctively hides inside, assuming that the safety of any shelter would fare better than an outright open struggle against the wrath of nature’s fury. What could be going through his mind; thoughts of the immediate safety of this hiding spot, thoughts of those he loves, thoughts of not surviving, fear, or does he let go, does he pray? Then the wind gets so loud he becomes deaf, all gets dark, everything shakes, a lot of chaos and commotion, intense violence, all in a few seconds, yet time makes it seem like a little eternity before whoosh, and he’s gone away with the storm. All of the horror over seemingly as quick as it began. And now he’s just a death, a casualty, just in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the right time depending on your perspective of everyone’s individual role in this existence. 

Now let’s also ponder if it all happened so fast, he had even less time to contemplate his dire situation. Here he is, on his trip as before, doing whatever it was he was doing. He is really into his current job or task or melodrama that he fails to notice the sky above him changing rapidly. He senses the wind but dismisses it as normal, just the front before an everyday thunderstorm. Nothing to get too worried about. Suddenly, the wind whips really strong, and then another even stronger gust, enough to get his attention, then the high-pitch noise seems to come from nowhere and be right upon him. Everything becomes a vortex of destruction around him. The noise becomes overbearing; sounds of trees breaking, the roaring of the tornado, death upon you. He dives into this little shed, mistakenly assuming that it can shield him from the fury of this monster. There is no time to think of anything, himself, those he loves, tomorrow, he is in pure adrenal survival mode. The darkness ensues. For a moment, the shed holds and maybe he gets a fraction of time to have a thought of something, of anything. But by the time that thought is finished, the whoosh comes for him, the infinite loudness grows quiet as he leaves his shell and this mortal coil. 10 minutes earlier, he would’ve never imagined this for himself, now here he is, gone with the wind. 

   Either way you choose to look at it, I hope you all have gained some perspective on how sacred time is and how none of your time should be taken for granted. At any moment, it can all change so very fast. This poor soul was here, and now he is not. One can look at it and think, “It was just his time.” One can also look at it as just another freak occurrence. The fact is that I didn’t know this guy. He may have been a total asshole and a waste of life and so his departure will be missed by no one. He may have also been the sweetest fellow in the world, a good father, noble brother, wise grandfather. Maybe he wasn’t old enough to be any of those, maybe he still had a lot of life left. The story gives no detail, no age, no location, no name. The story may not even be real, but this story has happened many times before, so for me to illustrate it holds true regardless of when and where and who. Just thought I would give you all some food for thought today as these storms continue to unfurl across the US heading East. I have immortalized this poor guy’s tragedy in words that go beyond his soon-to-be-made tombstone and his forthcoming obituary. Despite who he may or may not have been, I’ll give that to him for losing his life to Mother Nature. May he fare well wherever his soul may be. Stay alert and stay informed, eyes wide open. Love to all. 

Jan 21

10 Techniques to Improving Writing Skills by Celeste Teylar

writingIt’s one thing to say you’re a writer. It’s another to take writing seriously enough that you strive to improve your writing skills every day.

Ask any writer if they read and the answer will be “yes.” However, it takes more than reading newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs, and books to improve your writing skills. You must immerse yourself in the world of writing and be 100% committed to the craft.

To help you become the best writer you can be; here are 10 techniques to improve your writing skills.

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10 No-Nonsense Techniques to Improving Writing Skills

Journal

Believe it or not journaling can help you improve your writing skills. It can also help you discover new story ideas that could be developed into the latest best-seller.

When you journal, don’t censor your words. Allow them to flow freely.

Participate in Writing Prompts

Writer’s Digest, Creative Copy Challenge, and other writing resources provide writers with writing exercises and prompts. These are good ways to improve your writing and test out story ideas.

Rewrite Blog Posts

If you have a blog, go back a couple of years and rewrite and repurpose a few blog posts. You may be surprised how much your writing has improved throughout the years.

wsjRewrite Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Choose your favorite newspaper or magazine and rewrite a couple of the articles. Challenge yourself to write a stronger headline and copy.

Google Alerts

Setup a Google Alert for writing, writing skills, book writing, and other alerts and follow the latest stories. Read what other writers are doing to improve their writing skills.

Read beyond what you normally read

If you have a hunkering for fantasy, Sci-Fi, romance, memoirs, YA, NA, middle grade, self-help, or whatever tickles your writer’s fancy, get out of your comfort zone and read something different. Stretch your mind and you’ll stretch your writing skills.

Most-Popular-The-Worst-and-My-Favorite1Comment on Your Favorite Blog Posts

Challenge yourself to write in-depth comments instead of the tired familiar, “Great post!” or “Thanks for sharing this brilliant information.” These vacant comments do not add to the conversation, nor do they improve your writing skills. Here’s a tip: if you want to get noticed by the blog owner and taken seriously, write a decent comment.

Join a Writer’s Group

Don’t be shy about sharing your writing. One of the greatest ways to improve your writing is to join a writer’s group where you’ll receive valuable feedback such as how to strengthen introductions, how to develop characters, how to write stronger scenes, and more. Please note: you may have to test out a few groups before you find groups that work for you.

Attend a Writer’s Conference or Workshop

When I lived in Chandler, Arizona, I was blessed to have found Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ. The owners schedule writing workshops throughout the year. Not only did I meet fellow aspiring authors, I met published authors who shared their writing tips and tricks such as the importance of using an outline when you write fiction and non-fiction.

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Writer’s conferences and workshops are good places to meet editors, literary agents, publishers, and other writers. You can take a class or two and improve your writing skills in no time. And… the contacts you make are invaluable to your writing career.

Write!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you must write to improve your writing skills. Try to write at least 1,000 words each day or every other day. When you think you’ve finished writing, write some more. And when you think you’ve really finished writing, keep writing!

To improve your writing, you need to write five days a week, 50 weeks per year, if not more. The craft of writing is one that requires dedication and time. If you’re serious about being a published author, you need to write and write and write.

If you want to improve your writing skills and write a best-seller, start writing at least 1,000 words every day.

Being a skilled writer and published author is not an impossible dream. It’s closer to reality than you might have believed.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be grateful if you shared it. Tweet it, post it to Facebook, and Pin It. Thank you!

Jan 14

What I Know by Jolene Patterson

Notice

We welcome author Jolene Patterson to Nascent Digital Press as a Guest Author. We are proud to post an original poem of her’s. We are sure you will see more of her here at Nascent Digital Press.

What I Know For sure350x263I have not often studied the brain. Before you, words like cortex and lobe
mattered only because they exist in the intellectual space where I live.
I know little of neurotransmitters, except that mine are somehow conspiring
to make me write this poem. Thank God for that.

I know there are words that make me feel like a child tracing her fingers
over the first story told in multi-syllable bits. I know you can read these words
through my skull when you try to sound out what I’m thinking.

I’m talking about big words, words like serotonin and fluoxetine and panacea,
which means “cure-all,” and does not exist. I’m talking about the fine print,
the doctor’s scripts, the words I can’t pronounce.

I know you kick, hard and involuntary, in your sleep, trying to find a place to shelve
the words that trip the tongue and stall the mind. I know there are thoughts
I cannot know: the subtext of the storybooks I read. I know you cannot tell me
what they mean, except that they have truncated our dreams.

Jan 01

Positive Writing Can Increase Happiness

Writing is an amazing creative and emotional outlet. I know not everyone enjoys writing, but there are many ways to use writing to infiltrate positivity into our life and to focus on more upbeat and encouraging things.

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I know that since I’ve been writing here for Nascent Digital Press, and for my personal development blog Concepts, Ideas, Thoughts and Bullsh!t, I have had an opportunity to develop greater awareness and mindfulness about the thoughts and emotions that pervade my life.

Writing therapy has been utilized and shown effective to help people process and regulate emotions, particularly for dealing with past trauma.

Research has also shown that writing can increase peoples’ positive emotions and moods. One research study revealed that when a group of participants wrote about positive emotional experiences it related to a significant increase in measures of life-satisfaction.

Writing can help people gain a sense of mastery over the topic they are writing about, offering a greater sense of control, and can help them to find preferred outcomes, and establish goals and solutions for problems they may be dealing with.

How can you start incorporating positive writing in your life?

Here are a few suggestions.

Write a9628250-think-positive-write-on-black-boardbout future life goals.

By writing down where we want to be in the future it can help you visualize and move toward this desired state. Writing down goals makes them much more concrete and tangible, and can lead to a greater sense of hope and optimism for the future.

Journal about the positive experiences you had today.

Many people keep journals or diaries to process their emotions and make sense of their life. By incorporating positive experiences into these entries we can increase our psychological well-being and satisfaction. The idea of a gratitude journal relates to this notion. Keeping a log of what you appreciate and feel grateful for each day will open your eyes to the blessings that surround you.

Start a blog about things and ideas that inspire you.

Learning and sharing information with others is a wonderful source of self-growth and enrichment. When we learn something valuable that provides us a sense of joy, amusement, or inspiration having a source to share this with others can be very gratifying.

PositiveWrite a happiness essay about your life experiences.

Choose a positive and wonderful memory you have and write about this experience in as much detail as you can. Often peoples’ negative and traumatic memories are what is most easily triggered and focused on. Making effort to revisit and concentrate on your positive memories can offer a way to bring more positive emotions into your life.

Write a happy and positive song or poem.

Often artistic outlets are consider to be a source of catharsis for emotional turmoil and angst, but there are many poems and songs full of positive messages about love, joy, happiness, and resilience. We can use our creativity to be more positive and to instill this in others lives.

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Writing can help us to minimize the intensity of negative emotions and can also increase our level of positivity and life-satisfaction. It can help us find greater meaning and value, increase motivation, and feel more contentment. Uncovering ways to incorporate and focus on positive ideas, whether through writing, music, or movies will make a major difference in your life.

Dec 31

The PORTAL by Terry Dale

2984980734_044247eeb0Once again, the man felt himself falling through the cloud-wrinkled skies of a recurring nocturnal dream…

not plummeting with the heaviness of a dropped stone, but drifting and spinning on unseen currents like a sun-curled leaf. Far beneath him, like an ancient ark left behind by receding floodwaters, lay a massive, moss-covered guitar of weather-darkened wood. With its long neck propped across a low, forested ridge and its curved body resting in fields of grass and wildflowers, its smooth surface had been warped and pitted by the passage of time, and the strings stretched across its circular sound-hole were rusting and draped with vines. Floating down above the creaking structure, he heard the strings vibrate in the wind as he slipped between them; descending a short distance into the shadows, he landed on his feet with a gentle jolt. Sensing the familiar presence, he fumbled for his lighter and then there she was, standing before him in the golden radiance of its flame. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she whispered, stepping toward him. Plunging them both into darkness again as he dropped his lighter, he pulled her into his arms with a fierce sense of gratitude and relief, and buried his face in the warmth of her neck…

He stayed in these moments until he could no longer resist waking… and then revisited them behind closed eyes. A songwriter by trade, he had a natural affinity for the symbolic language of night visions. Just as cloud-cover concealed the jeweled lights of the earth, and oceanic depths obscured the unimaginably exotic terrain beneath them… so did the clamor of consciousness conspire to hide spiritual things. But he knew that the riddles arising from the drained silence of sleep often signified sacred messages, given to be pondered and unraveled.

Crawling out of bed, he threw the heavy quilt aside and pulled an old pair of jeans on over his long-johns; walking over to the frosted windows, he watched for a moment as the morning traffic moved sluggishly between the grayish banks of snow and ice that the snow-plows had created. He thought again about the iconic guitar that appeared in his dreams… and how sometimes, it rested beneath sun-blasted skies, wind-swept and half-submerged in shifting sands; and how at other times, it rocked on star-lit tides or lay in the evening shadows of a stone-walled canyon. He supposed that the kaleidoscopic shifting of sky-conditions represented a sequence of emotions… and the changing of dream-scapes, the changing of external circumstances. But whose emotions, and whose circumstances? His…? Or the woman who waited for him at the core of each vision?

2518856903_37b0688022_mHer features were strangely indistinct. Did this mean they’d never met before? Or did it mean that they’d encountered each other in the past, and he hadn’t really recognized her? All he knew for sure was how good it felt to stand inside the circle of her arms, and experience the grace of her mere existence. Her instinctive kindness and understanding were like cleansing fires, cauterizing the unhealed injuries within him even as they illuminated his faded nobility in sprays of benevolent sparks. And although he was uncertain of her name, he knew who she was… and for that reason, there was nothing he would hesitate to ask of her, or fear to confide; no struggle so grim that he wouldn’t engage in on her behalf… or take on, in order to be with her.

Still thinking of the woman, he turned away from the window and proceeded into the kitchen, where he took a mug down from one of the cabinets and plugged in the coffee-maker. Then he grabbed an acoustic guitar that was leaning against the wall and pulled a chair out from the kitchen table, where a notebook and a fountain-pen were laying in a shaft of late-December sunlight. Cradling the guitar in his lap as he tightened some loose strings, he remembered the blurred, discordant threads that had run through his own years in the past— all the times he’d spent walking along the crumbling twilight roads that led into the realms of drug and alcohol addiction. Eventually those roads had disintegrated completely, leaving him to wander through a trackless, devastated wasteland of his own creation… and he felt lucky to have made it out.

But now that he thought about it, it was when he’d begun to make wise and necessary changes in his life that the dreams had begun. He didn’t know where the woman was, or exactly what she’d been going through, but he realized they were being brought into alignment…

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and like the strings of a musical instrument, when the elements of a shared destiny were in tune, beautiful things could happen. Strumming a few tentative chords, he picked up the fountain pen and pulled the notebook toward him; opening it to a fresh, blank page, he began to write a love song.

Dec 30

Resolution by Lynn Greenleaf

Resolved: I am never making another New Year’s resolution!

 

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Anne couldn’t help smiling at her own foolishness. Her mother’s words kept echoing down through the years, “Never say, ‘Never,’ because the minute you do, the Universe finds a way to make you eat those words.”

“I love it when an expression of hypocrisy and a conundrum end up in the same sentence,” she thought.

She just was not feeling like celebrating or making resolutions. She had left far too much undone to start over but re-examining old regrets wasn’t a clean break either. She kept thinking about past years’ resolutions. Last year it was fudge. The year before that alcohol. Seemed like every time she gave up one addiction, another one reared its monstrous head. She was sick of it. “Why does my past haunt me at New Year’s?” she wondered.

She wished she could fast forward to some year in the future so that she could be remembering this January First as “way back in 2013.” Unfortunately, she was old enough that it wouldn’t be that many years when a look back to 2013 might just give her a glimpse of herself from the casket being wheeled into church for her own memorial service. Well, except all those who mattered in her life knew that she has opted for cremation without any further ado, with her body in a casket and all that.

She had been considering having her cadaver donated to a medical school. “Do they want a fat old lady corpse,” she wondered, “Or, are they more picky these days? Maybe it costs more to pickle a fat body so they reject those offers.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Anne,” she thought, “How morbid are you planning to get? Why don’t you just sit down and plan a pity party and get it over with?”

Anne realized she was getting really negative and decided it was time to start practicing some positivity. “So, what would I really like to experience in 2013?” she asked herself.

With that question, she felt herself float into a reverie. As if in a dream, she began seeing illusions.

It was a dark and stormy night. “Wait a minute here,” she thought, “What kind of cliched beginning is that?” She shook her head. At first the reverie cleared for a moment, then slowly reappeared. She heard a clock begin to strike the midnight hour. As the first gong died away, she began to see movement in the shadows. Like transparencies rippling in the dusk. With each strike of the bell, though, they became clearer. As the last strike faded, they began to speak.

An older man spoke first, “Why do you berate yourself?” he said.

“Can he read my mind?” she asked herself. Why else would he ask her that question if he hadn’t been ‘listening’ to her own thoughts of self-reproach?

Next an older woman came closer to her and said, “All you need is within you. Find your heart and you will find your way.”

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She recognized them now. She had just been looking at Carlos Barrios’ Book of Destiny on her Kindle. It seemed these were the Mayan elders, speaking words of wisdom. This was a new experience for her. Though she had been taught over the years to visualize her dreams and aspirations, she had not ever been able to conjure an image from her heart’s desire. Here she was now in the middle of a magical moment in which images from beyond her wildest dreams had been evoked without any effort on her part.

She was in awe. “Here it is the eve of the New Year 2013. The ancient Mayan calendar has ended, but the Mayans are here gifting me with their insight from the ages.”

With the term forming a new definition in her mind, Anne felt the gratitude of years-old petitions being answered wash over her.

“Thank you,” she whispered to the elders as they began to vanish from her sight, “Thank you for leading me to resolution.”

Dec 29

Fireplace Thoughts for a New Year by Katherine Burik

home-peopleRusty sat by the fireplace and considered the year. He was content. This was a good year. A little rocky at the start but the year smoothed out as it unfolded. Lots of changes early on. A new home. New people. But he got used to it. All in all a pretty good year.

What makes a good year? A question I don’t think about all that often. The idea doesn’t come up often. I just go from day to day just trying to take it all in without thinking much about specifics. I guess a good year means survival for one thing. But more than survival, a good year means being surrounded by good people, people who love me. Making my people happy.

I am not sure how much control I really have over my life anyway. How much control does anyone have to make plans and resolutions? We are all subject to whims of life. Now I sound like a philosopher. How ridiculous. Get over yourself, kid.

If I am being honest, though, sometimes I feel a little helpful and dependent. That feeling comes over me more often these days. I used to be so independent. I would tear around from one project to another, from one person to another flitting here and there in a whirlwind of action. Not so much these days. I am content with less. Quiet peaceful contentment is my goal lately.

How much influence do I really have these days? I am slower. I don’t get out like I used to. Stairs are tough. My back aches and sleeping is so much more enticing than it might have been before. I see Kate in the corner hard at work at the computer again. Where does she get all that energy? These days I like to watch her but it is harder to keep up.

Next year seems so far away. The idea of planning and making resolutions seems like a lot of effort.

Buck up, kiddo! I still have things to do, places to go, people to see don’t I? I love being with Kate. We go way back, since I was young and full of energy. She still loves to run in the morning. These days I jog to the corner and wait till she comes back. It is all I can do but at least I am still getting out there.

87398048988733510_At8KXgZ2_bBeing with people I love is all I ask. Seeing the people I love happy comes back to me tenfold even if I am slower now than when I was younger.

I am a little concerned about the kids. They don’t come around like they used to, don’t pay much attention to me when they do come by. I don’t get out like I used to so I can’t go visit as often.

Cut it out. I am still in the game, aren’t I? I can still make the effort. So what if I am a little slower. Next year will be great. I want to walk more frequently, every day out of the house for a while to get some fresh air. I want to travel, see the kids, and see new places. I would like to go somewhere warm where I can play in the water, swim every day if I want. Smile.

“Rusty, come on boy. Time for a walk. Good boy, let me get your leash. Let’s get in a little run before dinner. Good boy!”

It’s going to be a great year!

Dec 26

Nascent Digital Press 2012 Title Catalog Trailer

This is how I spent my Christmas Eve and Day.
This took about 16 hours all together. Enjoy

Dec 24

Christmas Eve by Rachael Sola

His birthday is the day after Christmas Day, so two days from now. I will not see him, and I will not see him for New Year’s Eve.

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You know, they say who you spend New Year’s with is who you’ll spend the rest of the year with. It looks like this Christmas there is no serendipity in my black leather gloves. There is no glow in the snow that falls; there is no twinkle in stars above my head. I suck down the last drop of naked chardonnay, trying to fall to the bottom of a whole other world.

I climb into my family’s hot tub in the dark and watch the lights of the water turn over and over again. Bubbles float from underneath my legs and I watch my pale skin reflect red then blue then green. I sink down and drop my head beneath the surface. The heat licks my skin and the soft hair on my neck rises. It is snowing outside, but I am safe inside this hot motion. The song “Colorado Girl” plays from my phone over and over again. With every pluck of the guitar and note of his voice, I am taken away to his arms.

“The promise in her smile
Shames the mountains tall
She bring the sun to shining
Tell the rain to fall”

I rise up to the surface and heave a great breath. He sent me the song a few days ago; he said that I might like it and that I should have a happy Christmas. I wished him a wonderful birthday. He is a shy boy with not much to say to me, and I am wrapped around his artist’s fingers like a black, leather glove. An advertisement on my phone breaks my spell, and I am torn from him. I look around the lonely dark room and think of my sleeping family on the floor above me. The house is filled the color of coal, surrounded by silent woods and quiet suburban homes. The Christmas tree in the living room glistens with snowflakes and candles and red ribbons tied around its branches. I have become much of a cynic this year, but still I am in love with a decorated pine tree welcomed into a home.

I cover myself in a robe, and tiptoe outside. Snow clings to my wet hair and eyelashes as I look above me. Earlier I ran around the block and thought I saw my first shooting star. And so I wished that I may see the boy I am in love with, I may share some serendipity. My sister said, instead, that it was a meteor shower. Stars shone above me, forever surrounding our humble little planet. I often take myself away from here, and I rise to the top of the atmosphere like bubbles and watch the earth tilt and move about the sky. It takes away my troubles; it gives me reason to believe that my thoughts are minuscule when the world still turns like a loyal Christmas top.

I do not know what this holiday means any longer. I have always felt more partial, however, to this night. To Christmas Eve, over Christmas Day. It is the twenty-forth of December that tickles me. After everyone has gone to bed, after the stockings are hung and the candles lit. If there is any serendipity for this celebration, there is on this night. Last year there were the mountains, those Rocky Mountains looking over me as I danced across Denver. There are no more mountains tall, but an earthy side at ground level. Long trees that change and sway around me, the luscious, humid fog of Michigan’s peninsula. I close my eyes and begin to shiver, but I do not go inside. I sing, instead.

“Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright.”

There are no shooting stars, there are no meteor showers. I then climb inside as I realize I am chattering. I drop my robe and run across the house, past the Christmas tree, and practically dive into the hot tub once again. I am weightless. The lights still turn from red to blue to green. My body floats to the surface and twirls ever so slightly across the surface. When I begin to think too much, I sink and splash my arms as I cannot breathe. I try again, straightening my back and closing my eyes. I wish to float again. For only a moment I do, and then I collapse inside the water as I must be trying too hard. I pull back my hair from my face and blink water from my eyes.

christmas-eve-375WI am about to climb out and fill a large glass with more wine, but then I hear something. I wrap myself in my damp robe, and tiptoe across the tile floor. I peer around the corner, where a man is leaning over the Christmas tree, placing presents beneath the brazen branches. This man is not in red, he does not have a white beard, nor does he have a large belly. My daddy is playing Santa, as he does every year since I was a little girl. He fills the space beneath the tree with clumsily wrapped presents, with his big old engineer handwriting on them in black permanent marker. He shakes his hand in pain as a tree needle pricks him, and then he carries on. He fills the four stockings hung up on the mantle, and he moves across the carpet in his big old slippers. He stops at my late mother’s stocking, and he strokes the angel embroidered on it. My father does not shed a tear, my father does not frown. He smiles back at the angel, and fills her stocking with goodies, as he always does. He takes one bite of a cookie, throws it back on the plate, and tosses the rest in the trash. My father has never been one for treats. His children are grown now, worrying about things like shy guys and chardonnay, and his wife has been passed for several years now. Tears swell and drip down my face like the rest of the water droplets I am covered in. My father is the first person I ever did fall in love with, and my father is the man I model the men in my life after. I thank God that he is the man that he is.

My father clumsily sneaks back up the stairs, and I am left peaking around the corner, on this silent Christmas Eve.

I whisper to the tilted earth, the showers of meteors, the bubbles that rise to the top, and to all that may wish for serendipity on a night such as this,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Dec 24

The Christmas Key by Terry Dale

photo_6783_resize-300WThe bent, silver-haired woman stood in the window and waved as her grand-daughter’s car crunched out of the driveway, diamond clouds of snow swirling in the headlights.

Through the darkened windows of the vehicle she could vaguely see her three great- grandkids in the back seat, tumbling over each other like puppies as they returned her wave. After the car drove away down rutted, ice-scattered avenues, the old woman settled herself in a comfortable rocking chair to watch the snow fall. Reflected behind her in the window-glass, a small Christmas tree stood in one corner of the candle-lit room as Christmas carols streamed from the speakers of a vintage floor stereo.

Almost overwhelmed by the weight of ornaments and colored lights, and draped generously with strings of popcorn and silver icicles, the tree had held a special fascination for her youngest great-grandson. Smiling to herself, the old woman remembered the boy reaching out with a pudgy finger to touch one particular decoration, and asking what that “funny one” was supposed to be. As she’d reached into a large shopping bag to hand each of the children a neatly wrapped gift, she’d patiently explained that the ornate iron skeleton key was the original key to their old farmhouse, which her husband had bought shortly after they were married and which they’d lived in for over forty years. She’d told them that after her husband’s health issues had forced them to move to town, he’d sprayed the key with gold paint and hung it on their Christmas tree each year with a red ribbon.

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As the little ones had excitedly torn the wrapping paper from their packages and her grand-daughter had encouraged her to open the presents they’d brought her, the old woman had quietly added that she and her husband were still in their teens when they’d met at a party on Christmas Eve. She hadn’t mentioned that for every holiday season thereafter, he’d reminded her that her love was the best gift he ever could’ve received.

Now, as sporadic gusts of wind swept around the corners of the tiny house and the candles flickered slightly in a cool draft, the old woman turned through her memories as if they were the faded, beautifully-rendered illustrations in an antiquated book. She could still envision their gray-shingled, two-story farmhouse with the crooked, weather-beaten outbuildings behind it, and picture their children playing tag under the American elms and sugar maple trees in the front yard. She would never forget the sweet aroma of the honeysuckle vines by the back door, or the sight of her husband’s work-boots sitting on the porch, heavy with the rich, black mud of the Illinois cornfields.

Distracted from her thoughts by a silent interval between the songs on the radio, the old woman noticed that the snow was coming down more heavily now and that the street-light on the corner was shuddering in the cross-winds. Then the first strains of another Christmas carol filled the room, played on a violin and accompanied by a classical guitar, and her mind strayed to a fence-enclosed cemetery at the edge of town. As she pictured the deep, star-lit snowdrifts shifting across her husband’s grave beneath the frigid, dark-blue sky, a subtle but certain instinct informed her that before much longer, she would be joining him—and she was glad. Behind her, she imagined a multitude of ghosts from past decades shimmering transparently around the Christmas tree, and the presence of angels. Nestled in the pine branches, the sturdy iron key seemed to hang in a golden aura of peace and patience, as if destined from the very beginning to turn in the lock of some Heavenly door.

Dec 21

A Coven Meets at Christmas by Lynn Greenleaf

It was her first Christmas alone so Sarah didn’t put up any Christmas decorations. She was wondering if she could get away with not celebrating Christmas at all this year but do what she wanted to do, have a Winter Solstice ritual with her group-the twelve other women and herself.

UntitledThat’s why Christmas was celebrated in the darkest time of the year, wasn’t it? Did she dare come out of the closet about her secret longing for the “old ways?” Instead of putting up a tree with lights that celebrated the coming of the Son, she could light candles and a have a yule log and blazing luminaria to celebrate the return of the Sun as the ancients did, rejoicing that the Earth would warm again.

But what would she do if her kids and their dad found out? Her parents were long gone so that wasn’t an issue. She kept going back and forth about it? If Jonathan and Ellen found out, would they tell their dad? But, how could they find out anyway? They were gone to their dad’s for the whole Winter school break.

She shuddered, though, thinking of the last time they were gone to Chicago on their break. She had seriously considered having the New Moon celebration at her house but the kids had gotten sick, and Jack had driven them back to St. Paul without calling her first. He had just assumed that she’d be sitting there with nothing to do, waiting for their return. Which she was, of course. Thank the Goddess she hadn’t had a circle of women chanting and drumming and dancing around the fire pit in the back yard.

She couldn’t remember now why she had decided at the last minute that she wasn’t ready to have the Summer Solstice ritual at her house-a feeling that the time wasn’t right. Her intuition always guided her, though, She wasn’t always fully aware of its prompting, but the synchronicity of events often laid a pathway for her to follow without the need for full conscious knowledge of what was going on.

It kind of scared her; she had to admit. In her group she professed to know the workings of women’s spirit. She believed in the immanence of the Goddess, the sacredness of certain calendar days when the veil between the worlds was thinned to the point of full transparency. She chanted to the rising of the crescent moon with its single star hung in the sky beside it, “We all come from the Goddess and to her we shall return,” the sweet voices of the women she loved rising with the waxing moon.

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She’d felt the trance-like state that the candles, the burning sage, and the murmuring of the voices of her coven induced in all of them.

She had cast spells. With full knowledge that the spell didn’t work magic on anybody but herself, the outward manifestation helping her to focus her own spiritual energy. She realized it worked the same way their robes and head coverings worked, engaging every aspect of their physical selves, so their eternal selves had a chance to stir. The enthrallment of the manifest unlocks that which is beyond the material.
Sarah loved the way it made her feel, free from the constraints of her mundane life, powerful with women’s power, engaged by energy she never felt when men were around.

Isis…Astarte…Diana…Hecate…Demeter…Kali…In..a..a..na…

Her own voice powerful and strong as she called the goddess names, she almost levitated in her own joyousness as the last notes of the drawn out “Inana” drifted in the night sky and died away.

It made her feel bad, though. She was the mother of a son, still young enough to be included in women’s circles if she chose, (which she didn’t dare to choose, of course) but growing up. Another year, two at most, and he wouldn’t be welcome any more even if she got the guts to bring him with her when they gathered.

It was too dangerous. Jack would have them taken from her in a flash, conjuring the court in his own witchy ways, convincing the judge that her religion was a bad influence on their young minds, insinuating that Wiccan practices were not only not in the best interest of Christian children, but that her gatherings with her women’s group were some kind of lesbian recruitment ceremony. How is it that guys immediately go there about women enjoying time together, as if male bonding was some sort of sacred activity but women’s bonding was scurrilous and perverse?

Well, she wouldn’t think about it now. She had a day or two to make up her mind to tell the women whether she was ready or not. She’d contemplate the possibilities; she’d relax into consideration of her growing role, her gradual awakening to her own potentiality. There was no doubt she would attend whether it was happening at her house or not. She wouldn’t miss the pagan holidays even if she had to lie to the kids and their dad about where she was going.

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Maybe she’d wait another year or two to have the Winter Solstice at her own house, until Jonathan was too old to be included. She was happy participating on the periphery for now. Maybe when Ellen went away to school. It wasn’t like the Solstice was going to quit occurring every year. The seasons came and went, rounding out the cycle every calendar from Solstice to Solstice, from Equinox to Equinox, and in between, Samhain, Brigid, Beltane and Lammas, each with its own special secrets and suggestions for a fuller life. Yes, she had time…maybe she’d wait until she was coming into her “Crone-age;” then her years as the Mother would be past, and she would come into the fullness of the years of the Wise Woman.

She could wait to decide. The Goddess had waited all the years of the patriarchy before beginning to re-emerge. She herself could wait a little while longer

Dec 21

Twelve Candles by Courtney Alexis

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This wasn’t a typical Christmas for Anna. This would be her very first Christmas as a family, the three of them. She picked out the perfect tree on a crisp and clear December evening. It was the exact size and shape she had been looking to buy for over a week. You would think bringing along her son, Andrew, she would have just settled on one. She tried not to have her ten-month-old out in the cold any longer than necessary. But no, not this year. This year, everything had to be extra special.

She purchased a dozen holiday candles, placing eleven of them around the living room and one on the mantel. Every night after all is said and done and Andrew is sound asleep in his crib, Anna would light eleven of them. She had a special plan for the very last one above the fireplace. She would make herself a cup of chamomile tea, throw her long, thick brown hair up into a bun, change into her pajamas, and listen to her and Jack’s favorite CD, Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits.

Anna felt as if she had been planning this Christmas well before the superstores began building their holiday displays in late October. She knew that if she planned accordingly, the time would fly by until Christmas Eve arrived. She made sure to keep herself busy, adding a new holiday decoration to their home each week. Anna had never been a good cook, but she certainly felt like a good baker. You couldn’t even count how many holiday cookies and treats she made each week and mailed off to friends and family around the world. She even went as far as creating most of the holiday decorations in their home. From picture frames, to wreathes, to blankets and pillows.

She used every spare minute to design her home for this very special upcoming night. A month before Christmas Eve, she began organizing for the big day. She picked out her outfit and Andrew’s outfit, what she would make for dinner and dessert, and Christmas morning breakfast. The more she organized and planned, the happier she was. She would catch herself smiling as she would sew or see herself in the mirror, staring back with her bold, blue eyes, thinking, “any day now”.

It was two days before Christmas Eve and she had not gotten more than four hours of sleep each night for the past week, not just because Andrew would awake every once in a while, but because she would wake up with butterflies in her stomach and her hands shaking with anticipation. In forty-eight hours, Anna would be experiencing one of the most important moments of her life.

She awoke the next morning, literally jumping out of bed. Normally, Andrew was the first to wake up as Anna would hear him down the hallway. She knew that tomorrow was the day. As she finished bathing and dressing her son for the day, she looked into his deep, sparking brown eyes, softly whispering, “you look just like him”. For a moment, the two of them smiled at one another, both feeling each other’s emotions. Andrew more-or-less confused and Anna feeling her heart beat out of her chest. Andrew then stumbled to his feet, making his way to his bedroom to play.

She missed Jack so much. More than anything she missed his touch. Jack always had a way of calming her down during difficult times just by the way he would gently caress her cheek with his rough, yet soft hand. He always knew how to look at her, too. She stood about a foot shorter than him so any time they would hug, Anna comfortably fit right below his chin. He would hug her tight and as they let go of one another, he would pull her right back in, look at her with his dark, strong brown eyes and say, “I love you now and always”. She missed hearing those words every day. She couldn’t even tell you the last time she heard his voice.

As the last hours of the evening came to an end, she knew this would be the last night she would ever have to go without hearing Jack’s laugh or seeing his smile ever again. Andrew had a difficult time falling asleep. It’s as if he knew Daddy would be home in the morning. Anna sensed it, too. Along with Andrew’s restlessness came Anna’s. She kept telling herself, “Just fall asleep already, you’re going to look horrible in the morning”. She finally had to make her way to the medicine cabinet in their master bathroom to take a sleep aid. Twenty minutes later, she finally dozed off.

Anna’s sleep aid worked so well she actually awoke refreshed and energized. Instead of jumping out of bed with excitement, she turned over to Jack’s side of the bed and smiled. She rubbed his pillow, hugged his sweater she slept with every night, and said to herself, “my husband comes home today”. Surprisingly enough, Andrew was still sleeping. This was a good thing, as she was able to get in the shower and dress herself just in time, as Andrew woke up minutes later. She cooked an extra special breakfast for the two of them. Anna was so excited about heading to the airport in an hour, she couldn’t stomach her food. Her son, on the other hand, ate as if he hadn’t eaten in two days.

On a typical day, Anna would normally allow Andrew to freely explore their home as she hand-washed the dishes, but not today. As much as she despised their dishwasher (she was very old-fashioned), she knew the faster they were washed, the sooner the two of them could leave. Afterward, she bathed and dressed Andrew in the outfit she picked out four weeks ago, packed up his diaper bag, and they were headed for the car. Just as Anna reached for the door handle, she took a quick glimpse of herself in the mirror hanging near the front door. Butterflies consumed her stomach and a huge grin came across her face as she looked at her son in her arms and said, “are you ready?”

The drive to the Chicago airport was a forty-five minute drive, but with anticipation building up inside of her, it felt more like five hours. As they arrived and made their way through security, Anna noticed the time on her wrist watch. Jack’s flight wouldn’t be in for another hour. Thankfully, she had packed a few toys for Andrew to play with. As Andrew was busy playing with his toy cars and trucks on the floor in front of her, Anna thought it would be a good time to check herself over. She wanted to look absolutely perfect for Jack. She had dressed in his favorite colors on her and styled her hair exactly the way she knew he liked. She wore loose curls over her shoulders, a light blue wispy, button-down shirt, and a dark blue pair of jeans which Jack bought her two years ago. She checked over her makeup with her compact, touching up her lipstick, and fixing any stray hairs that may have gotten misplaced. Right as she was about the close up her compact, she heard over the speaker system say, “flight 367 has arrived on time”. Her stomach flipped and Andrew could sense something exciting was about to happen.

She quickly packed up her son’s toys, gathered Andrew in her arms, and headed for the exit ramp. She wasn’t the only one expecting a loved one to walk off of the plane. Anna looked around and observed several other military spouses eagerly awaiting their other half’s arrival. She couldn’t bare a moment longer. She had been waiting for this Christmas Eve for over a year. She just wanted to see him already. Andrew seemed confused and could feel his mother’s anxiousness.

Finally, the moment had come. As Anna peered through the other soldiers in uniform exiting, she saw him. There he was, her husband. The love of her life. The father of her son. Her best friend. Jack spotted her and Andrew immediately. Standing at 6’2”, he dropped his two bags, and quickly walked toward his family. He had been longing for this moment that seemed as if it took centuries to get to. Anna had tears in her eyes. She felt her whole body become weak, but she knew she wanted to keep Andrew in her arms. The only people Anna and Jack saw in the whole airport was the three of them. As Jack came face-to-face with Andrew and his wife, he grabbed his wife’s face and gave her the most meaningful kiss since the day the two of them said, “I do”. Everything was right again in their world and for the first time, they were together as a family. As Anna handed Andrew off to his father, she finally got to say the words she had been patiently waiting to say for ten months.

“Jack, meet your son, Andrew”.

Andrew looked at his father for the very first time in person. He had only ever seen pictures of him in their home. Anna would point to pictures and try to explain to him that the man he is looking at is his father. Jack and Anna had been afraid Andrew wouldn’t know how to react to meeting him for the first time. As Jack held his son in his arms, something magnificent happened. Andrew leaned into him and rested his head on Jack’s shoulder, as if saying, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you, Daddy”.

Jack kissed Andrew on the forehead and sighed in relief. He then leaned in to Anna and kissed her nose. Anna couldn‘t stop looking at the two of them. She finally had her family all together. This is how it was meant to be. She felt complete for the very first time in her life.

The three of them exited the airport together and journeyed home. Anna prepared Jack’s favorite meal, roast beef, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Together, the three of them enjoyed their first meal at their dining room table. After dinner, they all made their way to the living room, as Jack started up the fireplace and Andrew played with his toys by the tree. Anna showed Jack the dozen candles she placed around the living room. She walked him over to the mantel, revealing the one candle in which she had yet to light.

12Jack asked, “why haven’t you lit this one yet?” Anna smiled and whispered, “you’ve been gone for eleven months. That’s eleven months without me and ten months without your son. I saved this candle as a representation of our very last month apart and very first month together as a family. Please, do the honor of lighting it, sweetheart.”

Jack smiled at his wife, thinking to himself, “how did I get this lucky to have married my best friend and the mother of my son?”

He reached for the lighter sitting next to the candle and lit it for the first time. Anna felt a weight lift from her chest. The wait was over. The long year leading up to this moment had happened. She had her husband back and Andrew had his father. That night, the three of them fell asleep on the living room floor, in front of their fireplace, curled up in the blankets and pillows Anna had made.

Dec 20

Christmas Magic by Donna Faith

Henry came into the bedroom and gently stroking his wife Mary’s head said, “Honey Christmas is almost here, you know what that means. The children and grandchildren will be coming over, good food, you know how much you love Christmas.”

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He sat there and began to remember their first Christmas together, years ago. It was back in December of nineteen-fifty that they first met. He was working in his father’s malt shop when he first caught a glimpse of her. She had the most red hair her had ever seen and a smile that seemed to fill the room.

As he came over to serve her and her friends, he tried to figure out how he could ask her out. However, he just choked up. As he took their order he kept finding reasons to come over to their stools.

Finally, all of her friends left and she was just sitting alone sipping on her chocolate malt. He grabbed a rag and came over to the table as if to wash it. He introduced himself but choked up and could not find his voice to ask her out.

Just as he was leaving to go back behind the counter, he heard Mary call out, “How long do I have to sit here before you ask me out.” Henry turned around and looking into her pretty hazel eyes said, “Would you like to go to a movie Saturday night?” Mary agreed and from that point on they were inseparable.

By Christmas that year they were engaged and got married that following Valentines Day. He and his wife called Christmas time, a magical time when anything was possible. They should know they just celebrated their sixty-first anniversary.

Henry said, “Sweetheart, I am going to go call the kids to find out what time they are coming over, I will be back in a little while.” He walked down the stairs slowly, his age was quickly catching up with him.

After several phone calls, Henry had everything set for Christmas, and couldn’t wait to tell his beautiful bride that the final plans were made, the children would be over tomorrow. He called out to his wife lovingly, “Honey, I will be up in a minute, I want to turn all the lights off. I love you.” Henry quickly turned off all of the Christmas lights and the television, though he had not watched it in weeks, he left it on.

As he got ready for bed, Henry began to remember Christmases past, wonderful times, yes they were even magical times. Two of their four children were born in December. Why, they chose to celebrate their wedding anniversary at Christmas rather than the day they wed. He soon fell asleep praying that this Christmas would be more magical than nay other.

The house was filled with the sounds and smells of Christmas as their children, grandchildren, even their great grandchildren were there to celebrate. They all told their mother just how beautiful she looked this year. Julia their oldest daughter brushed her mother’s hair back and gently tied it with a pink ribbon. Tears filled her eyes yet she would not cry for the sake of her family especially their father.

They ate, played games, they read the story of the Nativity, played but all too soon it was time for everyone to leave. Soon, the house was empty again, and Henry could hear the whoosh of the machine that kept his wife’s heart beating and filing her lungs with oxygen.

Traditional Santa Claus3_600WHe came in and sat down next to his wife, he was so tired. He said, “Well honey I think that was about the best Christmas we have ever spent together.” Of course, there was no answer in return. He sat back on the recliner next to the bed as he had for the last 5 years, holding her hand as he fell asleep.

He prayed for the Lord to let him and his wife dance one last dance for Christmas. Every year until she had her stroke, Henry and Mary danced a special anniversary dance at a few minutes to midnight. As he prayed he fell asleep reminiscing about Christmases past.

Soon his old heart gave out, and as he opened his eyes, he saw his beautiful wife all dressed in white. She had her arms out ready to dance. That Christmas magic worked that night. He received his wish as he and his wife went home to dance on the gold paved streets of glory.

Dec 19

He’s Real if You Want Him to Be by Stephen Raburn

You know Santa Claus isn’t real, don’t you?” my older brother asked me, somewhat exasperated at my naiveté.

“Yes,” I replied matter-of-factly, with my eyes rolling slightly.

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In actuality, it was the first time I’d even considered the possibility. Now, I just felt stupid. Like I was the oldest kid in the world who still believed in Santa.

I asked my mama.

“Tommy said Santa Claus isn’t real. Is that true?”

“He’s real if you want him to be, son,” Mama said.

Maybe deep down I’d known for some time, but I wasn’t ready to let it go. Maybe I knew that, if I did, Christmas would never feel the same again and in the deep recesses of my mind I wanted to hold onto this little piece of childhood just a little while longer.

tree_275WBut things started to make better sense. Like when Mama told me not to expect too much for Christmas this year, times were tough. I knew times were tough but that didn’t really seem to matter when it came to being naughty or nice. Now I get it.

To say times were tough is an understatement.

The coal mine closed down and Daddy hadn’t worked in almost a year. We had food on the table but not much else. Daddy was gone a lot, I remember. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to learn that he spent most nights hunting coon and most days drinking moonshine from a still he had hidden in the woods behind the house. It’s hard on a man when he loses the only work he’s ever known. I remember my mama crying a lot and being awakened in the middle of the night to the sounds of the two of them fighting.

Besides, it didn’t much feel like Christmas anyway. Most winters are mild in the deep south, but this year was particularly warm. Most trees were still covered with leaves until a vicious thunderstorm roared through and blew them all to the ground, just a couple days before Christmas. It hadn’t snowed in three or four years. I’d never experienced a white Christmas and wanted one more than just about anything. Every night I prayed for snow.

I fell asleep early on Christmas Eve, but was jolted awake just after midnight when I heard loud clanking and banging coming from somewhere. I was thinking that maybe another storm had come through and blown tree limbs onto the tin roof. I got up to investigate and that’s when I saw him, standing in front of the Christmas tree beside the fireplace. A man with a flowing white beard and red coat and black boots. It was Santa Claus.

Santa glanced at me and smiled a smile that danced across his entire face and called me over to give him a big hug.

“You are real, Santa,” I said.

“Of course I am,” he said. “Now where are my cookies, boy? Every year you leave me oatmeal cookies and a tall glass of milk.”

I ran as fast as I could to the kitchen and came back with cookies and milk for Santa and some for me too. His crystal blue eyes lit up when he saw them.

“I’m sorry for all the commotion. The reindeer got a little reckless landing on your roof tonight.” We both laughed.

Santa asked me if I could hold the bag open for him while he got out the presents, which were many more that I could have ever dreamed of – a bicycle for me, a basketball for my brother, a radio for my sister, a coat for Daddy and gloves for Mama… and so much more. The presents just kept coming until they were spilling out from under the tree and into the dining room.

Finally, after all the presents were put out and all the cookies eaten, Santa told me it was time for me to go back to bed and time for him to head to the next house, as he caressed my face with his gloved hand.

“But I have one more present for you,” he said. “Go look out the window.”

From the window, as I watched Santa and his sleigh disappear into the black Winter sky, I noticed the first flakes of snow begin to fall. It snowed the rest of the night and all of Christmas Day and most of the days leading up to New Years Eve. There’s no telling how many snowmen my brothers and sisters and I built or how many snowball fights we had. We’d never laughed so hard in our entire lives.

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The next Spring my daddy got a job in another town and we moved away. Mama and Daddy quit fighting and life got back to being normal. Many Christmas’s have come and gone since then, but that’s the one that I remember the most. I guess you can say it’s the best Christmas I ever had. It’s the one and only time I ever saw Santa Claus. But I’ve never since questioned his existence.

Now, when my children ask me if Santa Claus is really real, I always say “Yes, he is.”

He’s real if you want him to be.

Dec 18

After the Fall by Erik Sharp

For a Christmas Eve, the air is eerily still. Everything is quiet, but it is the kind of quiet one experiences in an unknown darkness, like in a haunted house for instance, but without fear. The streets are empty. There is no one in sight, no noises from wandering animals, the humming of life’s activities, silenced. One light flickers in a semi- on/off fashion. It’s a neon “open” sign, but the “o” doesn’t seem to be working. These are my first observations after the great flash of light. What was that light? Difficult to remember, difficult to remember anything at all.

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I move toward the sign, and the door below it. My senses seem numbed, hazy, trippy some would say, it’s almost as if I am only observing, yet I am definitely still one with some sort of body. My movement is very fluid, effortless, but shifty, like I am half here and half there. I try to focus but realize I am perfectly focused. “Just relax,” I tell myself. The fact that I am alone here doesn’t seem to register. I stop, I make sure I am awake. I am, but am I? This scene is not real, none of this looks familiar, maybe a lucid dream, I feel very content here. I am now at the door, the dim lights flashing down on me. I look at my reflection, which resembles some sort of neon indian. It’s me, but it isn’t exactly. Hmmm,… what is happening here?

The silence is shattered by a ringing. The ringing is coming from the the other side of the door. My reflection becomes it’s own entity and invites me in. I am hypnotized by it, and there is nothing to hold me back. I feel like I need to follow it, I open the door. I am inside a small bar, very small. The door disappears behind me. I notice but it seems to mean nothing. I go forward, there is the ringing again. What is this ringing coming from? Ah, there it is. I see there is a small phone on the bar. Where is the bartender? And what kind of bar is this? The bottles look unfamiliar and resemble vials and ampoules that some chemist or alchemist might use. There are glasses for drinking though. This is odd, where is everyone? It is so quiet. Then the phone rings again.

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I am now sitting. There is no recollection of going from standing to sitting but nevertheless, here I am, perched on a barstool. The phone rings again. I put my head on the bar, eyes on my arm. I need to think and remember. This is too real to be a dream, but too dreamy to be real. Where am I and what is this place and where the hell is everyone else? I raise my head and open my eyes. There is someone on the other side now, my bartender maybe? The phone rings. I cannot make out this figure’s features, yet they seem to be right in front of me. “Hello,” I say. I get no answer. The phone rings. I make a gesture like a wave and say, “Who are you? What is this?” Again, no answer, no movement, nothing. The phone rings again.

“Please,” I utter, “Please talk to me. I do not know what has happened.” The figure turns their head slightly, as if perplexed by my sense of helplessness. I notice a smell. Not a bad smell, quite the opposite actually. It is like flowers and the ocean and love and beauty and sunshine, it is intoxicating. The phone rings. I am so drawn to this aroma flooding the room and my senses and everything inside me and around me. “What is this?” I ask as if somehow I know this time the figure will answer. I hear one word, “answer.” It is the voice of a female, so soft and so pure. I wish I could see her. Her voice is beyond words, as if it eclipses right through me. The phone rings. I look at the phone. I look at the figure. I close my eyes, just wanting to let myself go into this amazing fragrance surrounding me. The phone rings.

old-black-vintage-rotary-style-telephone“Answer,” she says or whispers again. It’s as if she is speaking into my mind, telepathically yes, but more inside. I open my eyes. I look at the figure once more. “Answer my love. Time to let go,” she says, except this time from behind me. She was there, now she is here. She is holding me from behind, her head against my back. I know her. I have always known her. I do not need to see her, I know who she is, I feel who she is. I remember it all. I have missed her for so long. We have been searching for each other for eons and now two have become one again. There’s just one more thing to do, one final step. The phone rings. “You ready?’ I say as I turn to look into the eyes of my divine counterpart. I see her now, she smiles. We begin to glow as our smiles and eyes meet again for the first time in a long time. It is all the answer I need. I pick up the phone.

Another great flash of light. We disappear back into oblivion, together again, forever.

Important!

In Erik Sharp’s Own Words

After the Fall refers to several things. It refers to the season, Christmas time, the winter,being after the Fall season. It refers to after the fall of the soul, into divine feminine and masculine, and reuniting after a long separation. Also, refers to after the Fall of humanity. 

 

Dec 17

The Fish Tank – A Christmas Parable by Martin McCorkle

“IT’s coming again!”

They swam for cover; some behind the shipwreck, some under swaying plants.

The cover came off and there was light.

Then shadow. IT hovered over them.

They pushed more into hiding.

Then IT was gone.

Food floated down.

 

“IT’s coming again!”

Water churned as white chased them. They tried to escape but could not. Then IT pulled them out of the tank.

They couldn’t breathe!

Their tender bodies damaged by course cloth.

IT threw them into the air.

Splash! Into new water. Still hard to breathe. Little room to swim.

They watched IT. IT did horrible things to their tank. IT touched everything; took everything out. IT destroyed their home.

Then IT grabbed them again and threw them back into their tank. Why? Why!?

 

A new fish appeared.

“Where did you come from?” they asked.

“It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say I’ve always been here.

“Why did you come?”

“I thought it would be better if we talked fish-to-fish.

 

The Word became flesh. John 1:14

 

Dec 16

All I Want for Christmas – Memories of My Mother by Christine Cross

748352My mother grew up in a small rural Mississippi town during the Great depression era. She used to joke that they didn’t know there was a depression going on, as they were poor when it started and poor when it was over. She was the last of seven children. Usually, their Christmas presents were some fruit like oranges and perhaps a new set of clothes as most of the clothes she wore were hand me downs from her sisters.

I will never forget one Christmas eve as my mother was getting me ready for bed and I wasn’t sleepy as I was so excited about the Christmas morning to come. She started to brush my hair as was her custom every night before I went to sleep. I was holding tight the new dolly, I had just been given, as my parents always let me open one present on Christmas eve. It was a beautiful doll with long hair that I had seen in the Block’s department store that fall and they had put it in layaway back three months before Christmas for me. She was a special doll and I loved her very much. I remember asking my mother if she had ever had a special doll like mine. She said she did get a doll one Christmas, it wasn’t the doll she had hoped for as it had no hair and she had so wanted one with hair. She had seen them in the Sears catalog and one time when they went into the town of Laurel, Mississippi, she had seen one with real hair in the store window. Her parents couldn’t afford to pay that much but they somehow got her a doll that Christmas. She managed to hide her disappointment when her parents presented her with the doll and they never saw her tears she cried later that night, but she said she grew to love that dolly very much.

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When at first she told me the story it made me sad and I tried to give her my dolly, the one with hair. She just smiled and hugged me and continued brushing my hair. I’ll never forget her words that night,

“Oh baby girl, don’t you see, I did get my special doll baby with real hair, I have you and you are better than any doll I could have ever had and I love you so very much.” I looked into her eyes and saw her tears, but they were tears of joy!

Dec 15

Julius Caesar: It’s All Greek to Me. By Lynn Greenleaf

As I sit down to write this meditation, it is December 14, 2012, the day a twenty-year-old gunman went into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in the United States, and killed twenty school kids and six of the teachers and administrators of the school.

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Not all the facts are known yet about why this young man decided that it would be a good idea to commit this act. What is it that would make a young man believe that the most significant and last action he took on Earth should be killing twenty-six people and then taking his own life?

I certainly don’t know. It’s Greek to me. I know a little bit about other languages. I took four years of Latin in high school. I took two years of college French. I have been around many Spanish-speaking areas. I can recognize German, Portuguese, and Italian words when I hear them. I even learned some Arabic words when I lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for six months. Greek, however, is entirely foreign to me.

In the same way that I can’t relate to Greek, I cannot relate to this young man’s final act. Other violent acts I understand; I have screamed in frustration; Sometimes I cuss a blue streak; I have been known to lash out reflexively and hurt someone who has hurt me, accidently or on purpose. This, however, I cannot comprehend.

I am sure more “facts” will be revealed. We will learn more about what made this troubled person “tick,” but I am not sure we will ever apprehend the motivation for what seems like such an egregious deed. However, if I were to meet a Greek-speaking youth who needed my help, it would be incumbent upon me to learn how to communicate with him. In that same way, we must learn how to “speak” the language of those so disaffected by our culture that they turn to the language of rage to express themselves.

Our inability to fathom the consciousness of one who had made this type of decision cannot release us from the responsibility to continue seeking the means to learn the language of those who are alienated from society.

Reminder for the Soul: I am reminded that I have a responsibility to those who seem to be estranged from the others in their lives. I cannot use the excuse that I don’t understand. I can’t brush it off and say, “it’s Greek to me.”

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