BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS: Chapter 4–Part 1

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My apologies for not posting this sooner. The new year has been off to a busy start!

 

Chapter 4–Part 1

After switching buses, George finally arrived in front of his apartment complex shortly after noon, thinking how not being employed left one a good deal of spare time. He lived in a gated community, though he wasn’t sure if the gate kept people out or in. It seemed more annoying than protective. All a prospective burglar had to do was walk around the gate; there was plenty of room to do so. Moreover, the gate never seemed to open and close properly. George had seen a car trapped in its metal jaws on more than occasion. Without a car, he had to walk through (or around) the gate every day and considered it not terribly problematic. The complex itself was not unique in any way and we need not spend an inordinate amount of time describing it (once you’ve seen one apartment complex—half-brick and half-beige aluminum siding— you’ve seen them all).

In any event, George climbed the stairs to his third-floor apartment, noticing that the ascent had gotten easier since he’d quit smoking. He slipped the key into the lock, opened the door, and stepped inside. Glancing around the small apartment, he observed all the extra space. It wasn’t so much that he was a minimalist in his taste for decoration and furnishings, though that is what he often told people, it was more the case that several of his possessions, most of them in fact, had gone the way of his car—that is to say, the court, in its infinite wisdom, had agreed with his wife’s plea and she maintained more than ninety-nine and seven-tenths percent of the material belongings acquired during the couple’s “marital bliss” (his wife’s terminology). In court, George pointed out that this period of ecstasy had lasted less than two years, and that, despite some pleasure and enjoyment (there was the time with the body harness), his wife’s character and disposition resembled a succubus from the netherworld. He also mentioned his suspicions of his wife’s infidelity—the numerous phone calls in the middle of the night, the seat adjustments in the car, the frequent deliveries of flowers, which George never ordered, etc. He also suggested that if the judge played his wife’s testimony backward he might hear a favorable reference or two to the Prince of Darkness. He started to add that she’d always demonstrated an aversion to sunshine and garlic before the judge cut him off. It should be noted, however, that our hero followed the sage advice of his attorney and did not let fall from his lips the phrase “spawn of Satan.” Rumor has it that after hearing the judge’s verdict, which was overwhelmingly in her favor, his wife exclaimed, “Thanks be to Lucifer!” and dashed out of the courtroom, late for a séance.

Divorce

In any event, George sat down in the chair in the living room and thought a moment.  Despite his comment to Theresa, he realized thinking constituted a threat of sorts and was not certain that the resumption of deep thought would be the best course of action. He sensed, correctly, that he was at a turning point, but knew not what he was turning away from or toward. It occurred to him that he should probably seek the counsel of his best friend, John. The two had been roommates at college and though they’d gone their separate ways, George had never completely lost touch with his pal. While George went to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D., John pursued a Master’s degree in business. His friend went on to become something of a tremendous success, at least financially; for John’s personal life had been characterized by some ups and downs. Still, George figured he could do much worse than seek his advice. John was recently remarried and had built a home in the area to accommodate his new family, which included two stepchildren, whom George had yet to meet.

George dialed and his friend picked up on the second ring. He filled John in on the details of what had recently transpired or at least his version of the events—as a wise person once said, probably a woman, there are two sides to every story and then there’s the truth. “I feel like I’m at a turning point, John, or a fork in the road. Well, not so much a fork. I mean since when do different paths look like tines? I guess it’s more like a divining rod, so to speak, a veritable—”

John interrupted for fear that identifying the appropriate metaphor would take George longer than either of them had to live. “George, let me ask you this: what exactly did you do in order to get fired?”

“Well, as I said, I didn’t exactly get fired. I mean I was fired, but then I got rehired, and then I—”

“I know, I know, but then you quit. What I’m asking is what prompted your boss’s Daley’s decision to fire you?”

“I don’t know exactly.”

“Did you do anything offensive?”

“No. In fact, I didn’t do much of anything at all. I tried to write the Glendale report, but couldn’t do it.”

“There’s your mistake.”

“Not being able to write the report?”

“Partly. But before that you said you didn’t do much of anything. Haven’t I told you time and time again that the first rule at being successful in business is to look busy, even if you’re not doing anything? You have to look as if you’re engaged in a task, the most monumental endeavor of all time, and that only you have what it takes to complete the job. Do you still operate under the illusion that people employed by successful companies like Crucial Information, Inc. actually accomplish anything? Come on, George, we’ve had this conversation so many times.”

“I know, but if I’m working for a company and they’re paying me, I believe I should be doing something that helps them. How could I collect a paycheck in good faith if I knew I wasn’t producing anything of value, or increasing their damn business, so to speak?”

“George, don’t ever let me hear you say that again!” John cried.

“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have used the word ‘damn.’”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t want to hear the words ‘good faith’ and ‘business’ in the same sentence ever again. Those words ‘good faith’ are anathema when it comes to making money. And then there’s that whole bit about you not knowing what the company does. Since when has that ever stopped anyone from starting, working for, or investing in a business? I know I’ve told you this before, George, but I’ll say it again: your problem, your number one difficulty in life is you think too much.”

“You’re right, John. I’m so glad I decided to call you. I knew you’d talk some sense into me.”

“Listen, what are you doing for dinner tonight?”

“Not much of anything.”

“Why don’t you come over? You can meet Peg and see the new house. Unfortunately, the kids are away visiting their father, but I’ve really been anxious for you to meet my wife.”

“I’d like to, but I don’t have a car—er—at this particular moment.” George was too embarrassed to admit the truth.  He’d only talked to John over the phone during the past year or so and his friend was not fully aware of his circumstances, especially his negative cash flow.

“Is your car in the garage?”

“Yeah, that’s good.”

“Huh?”

“I mean, yeah, my car is, uh, being serviced.” This was not a complete falsehood: the condition of the car when it was repossessed forced the bank to work diligently to restore it to even a vestige of its former glory.

“Well, I can send my driver to pick you up around five if you wish.”

“You have a limo?”

“No, not exactly; it’s a Lincoln town car.”

“Wow, that’s still pretty impressive.”

“Yeah, well, Peg doesn’t like to drive, so it serves a dual purpose. Anyway, can I have him swing by later to pick you up?”

“That’ll be fine. Thanks, John.” He gave his friend directions to the complex and told him to tell the driver he’d wait for him outside the gate, so as not to inconvenience him. In actuality, our hero had not fully deciphered the terribly enigmatic process of letting someone in the gate via cell phone and was a bit embarrassed by his inability to do so, though of course there was no reason to be. For several of us, I’m sure, can relate to being inconvenienced by the very technology that is said to make our lives easier.

“I look forward to it, George. It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other.”

George spent the remainder of the afternoon thinking. By the time five o’clock rolled around, he’d worked himself into a dither. He couldn’t forget John’s words that his problem stemmed from thinking too much. Somewhat reluctantly, he admitted to himself seldom a moment passed when he was not engaged in rather deep meditation concerning a certain idea, theory, or work of philosophical import. At the end of the day, he was forced to admit that thinking had not gotten him far—especially if one considered things from a practical perspective.  For example, he knew he had to start making money soon, if only to pay his rent, utilities, alimony, and a wide variety of other bills, but exactly how to do so eluded him. George possessed the ability to think of things that have seldom if ever been contemplated; indeed, he was a walking receptacle of esoteric notions, rarefied theories, and intriguing, untested hypotheses. But when it came to making a buck, eking out an existence, he didn’t have a clue. It wasn’t that he looked down on physical labor. In fact, the reverse was true: he thought those who worked with their hands were the most remarkable and admirable people. Nor was it an aversion to work per se that prevented him from trying to make money. It was more a feeling that whatever he did or could do just didn’t seem to matter a great deal.  How could a person pick one thing and then do it all their lives? Especially when in the grand scheme of things, most occupations bore little social utility.

The driver pulled up to the curb and George ducked inside the back of the Lincoln. It was a short trip and there really wasn’t much to talk about. In less than ten minutes, the driver turned into a freshly paved, semi-circular driveway in front of a palatial home: a three-story, brick and stone structure with black awnings and shutters. The landscaping was exquisite and displayed a wide variety of plants and trees suitable for an arboretum: several lush maples and birches, azalea bushes, anemones, and ferns. On the west side of the home stood a wooden gazebo, its peaked roof glimmering in the sun. Though the backyard wasn’t fully visible, the edge of a pond and a rose-covered trellis could be glimpsed around the side. George took all of this in during the time it took to get out of the car and walk the few steps to the front porch, where John stood in anticipation of his friend’s arrival.

A word must be said concerning John’s physiognomy, and a certain amount of discretion is necessary in portraying him and his new bride, whom we’ll meet shortly. John was in his early-to-mid thirties, around the same age as George, of average height and weight. But despite his relatively young age—and I hope the reader will agree that he was young—he was slightly stooped, or hunched over and his shoulders sagged and projected outward, which caused him to appear as if he were crouching. Good posture is a rarity and this slight defect in John’s appearance might have gone unnoticed if it were not for his head and face, the combination of which were truly unique. He had unusually small eyes, ears, and nose, while his lips were rather elongated and thin. His prematurely gray hair cascaded in thin waves over his forehead and proceeded, unchecked, over his eyes and halfway down his face. These low-hanging bangs were like curtains waiting to be raised for the commencement of a play. He also breathed heavily, not in a lewd or salacious manner, but in a way that resembled panting; in the course of doing so, his tongue protruded through his teeth and was often on prominent display for friends, family, and passersby. Due to the logistics of his hair, he was also in the habit of interrupting every few words he spoke by sticking out his lower lip and blowing upward in a desperate attempt to remove the bangs from his eyes, if only to plot a proper course. He emitted a sound while doing so that was not unlike that of a cornet. So frequent were these musical interludes that we shall not mention all of them during our visit; however, the reader should keep in mind that they occurred constantly throughout and, if strung together side by side, might resemble a concerto in length, if not in melody. Overall, and I say this with great respect, his appearance was akin to that of a sheep dog and George always parted from his friend with the feeling he should contribute to the SPCA.

John greeted George warmly when he reached the top of the steps, his tongue lolling and his felicitations punctuated by a hair-blowing flourish. The two friends went inside after a brief, albeit extraordinarily polite, contestation of who should go first—with John insisting his friend should precede him, and George gently suggesting that the master of the house should cross the threshold first. Ultimately, they both conceded simultaneously and ended up sidling through the door at the same time, temporarily becoming stuck in the doorframe. They popped into the foyer and George was ushered into the dining room, which was spacious and contained a fireplace, an enormous china cabinet, and a long, mahogany table over which hung a beautifully framed reproduction of The Last Supper. George took his seat near one end of the tremendous table, while John positioned himself at the head.

“Well, John, this is, indeed, impressive,” George remarked, truly impressed.

“Thank you. We’re happy with it and so are the kids. It cost a fortune, but it’s worth it.”

George knew his friend had more than enough money to buy several homes of such elegance. John was a mogul, if a rather modest one, and he had never been able (nor had he the need) of successfully countering the urge to spend money on anything. While George could never remember exactly what constituted the bulk of John’s extremely successful enterprise, he knew his friend was in the manufacturing business and presided over a huge company that he’d inherited, along with the majority of his fortune, from his father. Though John never worked a day of manual labor in his life and had never wanted for anything, George admired him for his kindness to his friends and employees as well as his keen insight into the inner workings of the mind. Besides, the fact that John was in the business of actually making something, a rarity in this post-industrial era, garnered a great deal of respect from George. George believed that in manufacturing one could at least point to a finished product. Sure, you had to overlook the frequent outsourcing by multinational corporations to poor, developing countries and the subsequent child labor, sweatshops, and environmental degradation that occurred, but once you got over that, you could hold the finished item in your hands.

“So how’s business?” George asked.

“Oh, I can’t complain,” John replied. “And even if I did, who would listen?” This was a standard joke between the two friends and it was accompanied by some laughter and, on John’s part, a flourishing solo in an attempt to part the waves of hair that all but concealed his facial features.

“I know I’ve asked you this a thousand times before, but I can never seem to remember what it is you manufacture.”

“Oh, it’s no big deal,” John answered modestly. “I make widgets.”

“Sure you do,” George said grinning. “Everybody knows that’s the example used in economics classes to refer to any manufactured product. You know the bit about making the best widget at the cheapest price, etc.”

“Yes, I know all that. But the fact of the matter is I do make widgets, you know, the small devices and mechanisms crucial for the proper functioning of a variety of household and industrial products.”  John said this by rote, as if he had to explain what he made on a regular basis.

“Oh, well, I still say it’s a stroke of genius. I mean, who would ever think of manufacturing something that everyone is so familiar with theoretically but doesn’t seem to exist in practice. Your father was a smart man, and you’ve obviously followed in his footsteps”

“Thank you, sir, but he was no Ph.D. like a man of your intellectual import.”

“Oh, please, it’s really no big deal.”

The effusions of this mutual admiration might have continued indefinitely if not for the event that immediately transpired. At first, George only noticed that things were starting to shift, and felt a small vibration that caused the dishes in the china cabinet to shake. John noticed the puzzled look on his friend’s face and gleefully cried, “Oho, Peg’s coming!”

To be continued…

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Categories: Writing   Tags: ,

Prodding the Paranormal: Take 1!

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I’m thrilled to have one of my favorite authors as my guest today. Heather Fraser Brainerd writes in a variety of genres, including paranormal mystery, Young Adult paranormal romance, and Middle Grade fantasy. All of her work contains a hefty dose of humor. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading and reviewing all of Heather’s work and I can only say that if you want to treat yourself to some truly humorous and well-written reads, look no further than her books. Her Amazon author page can be found here.

Heather-people mover_DSC8393-2

 

I interviewed Heather awhile back about her writing (which you can read here), but today’s interview is a little different. In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve become fascinated with ghosts and UFOs, and asked anyone willing to share any personal, paranormal experiences to contact me. I was delighted to hear from Heather, who informed me that she used to live in a haunted house and that she’s currently studying mediumship. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview her, so I did.

Now let me preface this by saying that I’m not one who takes belief in things like ghosts lightly. I’ve been conducting a rather serious investigation into various aspects of the paranormal over the past year, and I have to say that with regard to certain phenomena, the best possible explanations often lie outside the realm of conventional science. I’m increasingly convinced that there are things we simply can’t explain scientifically, at least not yet. I think how only a few centuries ago we thought the sun revolved around the Earth and how only a little over a hundred years ago people laughed at the idea of a flying machine. And forget anything as preposterous as landing a person on the moon!

But I’m the last person to try to convince anyone of something they don’t or can’t believe in, so I’ll leave it at that. I should mention that another topic which I’ll be investigating soon is how people form and change their beliefs (or don’t). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I sincerely doubt political posts on Facebook have any affect! In any event, and without further ado, let me introduce the wonderfully talented Heather Fraser Brainerd!

 

Welcome, Heather, and thank you so much for joining us.

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me back.

 

How did you get interested in the paranormal?

For me, the paranormal has always been, well, normal. From the age of 10 to 18, I lived in a house that had once been part of the Underground Railroad. I’d have the occasional sighting, or other sense, of Spirit. I’ve also, from a young age, always had strong intuition. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to really trust this sense. If I’d followed my “gut” all along, I’d have saved myself some heartache! But then, heartache is part of the human experience, isn’t it?

If you don’t experience heartache, I don’t think you’re truly alive. I like what you said about the paranormal—how it’s always been “normal” for you. I was thinking today that the term “paranormal” relegates belief in things like spirits outside the normal, which makes them sound strange or weird to begin with. Maybe a better term is “parascientific.” I think there are several phenomena conventional science simply can’t measure or explain. Science is one way to look at the world, but I think there are other equally valid ways to do so. Do you agree?

I completely agree, and I love your word “parascientific.” I might borrow that one!

You’re more than welcome to 🙂

 

Please tell us more about your experiences of living in a haunted house.

For the most part, it involved simply feeling a spiritual presence from time to time, or seeing shadowy human forms. There was one occasion, however, when I saw the distinct figure of a young man across the room from me, standing by a window. He was dressed “old fashioned,” as I thought of it at the time. He was not threatening or scary in any way. In fact, he brought with him a sense of peace. I’m wondering if that could have been my first encounter with a spirit guide.

As an interesting side note, a book about the house I grew up in was written several years ago. The author’s uncle owned the house before my family purchased it, and he’d spent a lot of time there over the years. His book is a ghost story, a scary one. It tells a very different tale from my fond memories of the house. I can’t exactly recommend the book, as it was self-published (not that that’s a bad thing) and apparently didn’t receive the attention of a professional editor (which is very unfortunate), but it’s interesting that his take on the haunted house was so vastly different from mine.

House

I have to say I’m really excited about your experiences! Some people report seeing spirits that are smoky and rather transparent, while others see full-bodied apparitions. Which way did the figure of the young man appear to you?

He was somewhere in between – I could see him as if he were standing right there in front of my window, but I could just barely see the window through him.

I’m always amazed by how many people have had experiences with spirits—in fact, every culture throughout history has expressed such experiences. Do they think that lends validity to them?

Absolutely. As part of my Anthropology studies, spiritual matters were a common theme. Perhaps, on some level, that’s what drew me to the field.

 

What exactly is mediumship?

To me, it is simply the ability to receive messages from those who have passed on. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept, but have only started to study it over the past year. This involves taking classes conducted by an experienced medium and reading lots of books on the subject. Though I initially rejected the idea, I’ve started to accept that I have this ability, at least to some degree. I’ve received specific messages, from certain spirits, that were later confirmed. I’m not here to convince anyone of my credibility, but those messages proved to me that I was truly receiving information from Spirit. Since I’ve always been my own worst critic, accepting that this ability is real has been a challenge.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 9.32.56 PM

Can you tell us a little more about the classes you’re taking? Also, can you share a specific message you received that was later confirmed?

In the classes, we learn how to ground ourselves, how to meditate and open to positive Spirit (as well as how to protect ourselves from negative energy), how to interpret spiritual signs (such as animal signs), as well as any other topic that occurs to any of us! It’s a very open-discussion setting.

Speaking of signs, as I sit here typing this, my mother texts me a picture of my 5th birthday. I’m sitting at the table, a pretty pink cake before me, and my grandfather is standing behind me with his hands on the arms of my chair, protectively. His spirit is often with me. I think he approves of this interview.

As for a specific message… okay, this is something I haven’t shared with more than a handful of people, so I’m being quite brave right now. Last summer, while meditating, my grandmother’s friend came to me – a woman who’d just passed about four months prior. I didn’t recognize her at first, as she looked to be in her fifties, younger than when I met her. Once it clicked and I knew who she was, she showed me a man in a hat or cap. He was entering an alleyway. The words “avoid the dark alley” came to me, and I knew that the man was her grandson. I honestly didn’t know what to do with the information. I’ve never met her grandson. We have a mutual friend, but he would’ve thought I was nuts if I said, “Hey, could you tell him his dead grandma said to avoid the dark alley?” Plus, I didn’t know if the alley was literal or metaphorical. I tried to send the grandson the message while meditating, but either he didn’t get it, or chose to ignore it. A few days later, he went down a literal dark alley and something rather bad ensued. He’s okay now, thankfully, but I feel strongly that his grandmother was trying to protect him.

 

What do you say to people who think the paranormal is only for the credulous?

As you said in your intro, I’m not trying to convince anyone of something they don’t believe. After my early experiences with Spirit, I put all such things on the mental back burner for a long time. But early last year, my mom casually mentioned that she and my sister were going to an introduction to mediumship class at “that barn place.” I was instantly intrigued, feeling called to join them, despite the fact that it was the dead of winter and I really just wanted to stay in my cozy house on that cold, blustery evening. I went to the barn – Soleil Wellness (click here for their website) – and felt like I’d found my tribe. I’ve been taking classes there ever since – not just mediumship, but everything from meditation to Reiki training.

And maybe I am just being credulous, but mediumship makes sense for me. I have epilepsy, which is essentially excessive brain activity. Perhaps the fact that my brain is “wired” differently makes me more open to messages from Spirit.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 9.41.15 PM

I love what you said about how mediumship makes sense to you. I think that’s what life essentially boils down to: finding a worldview that makes sense to us, and hopefully realizing that other worldviews, as long as they don’t hurt anyone, are just as acceptable as our own. Have you ever encountered skepticism regarding your experiences and beliefs?

Matt, your thoughts on worldviews really resonate with me. Wouldn’t the world (and Facebook) be a much nicer place if we all embraced that idea? And no, I haven’t encountered skepticism, because I’ve kept this aspect of my life very private. But, during a Winter Solstice celebration, I received this message from the Universe: “Now is the time to share your uniqueness to the world. We need your gifts.” So here I am! Thank you for allowing me to share.

 

What’s next for you in terms of reading, writing, and mediumship?

As for reading, I alternate between novels and books on spiritual and metaphysical topics. On the writing front, my brother/co-author Dave and I have the fourth book in our José Picada, PI, series due out later this year. And in terms of mediumship, I’d like to join a development circle. I’m also studying to become a Reiki Master, and am enjoying every step of my spiritual journey.

I can’t wait for the next José Picada book! Would you please share some of your favorite books on spiritual and metaphysical topics?

Thank you! This book will wrap up the series, so we’re excited to share it.

James Van Praagh’s Heaven and Earth is an excellent introduction to spiritual and psychic gifts. I also like The Spiritual Power of Empathy by Cyndi Dale. For a light-hearted, approachable book on the “basics” of mediumship, try Theresa Caputo’s There’s More to Life Than This. I particularly like the section at the end that is from the point of view of Theresa’s ghost writer (never was a literary term so accurate).

Thanks again for hosting me!

It’s been my pleasure. Please come back soon. Also, please keep me informed of your writing projects and your experiences with Spirit. I have to say the more I hear such experiences from very credible people such as yourself, the more I know the universe is a lot more complicated than I once thought.

Thanks for reading! If you have any personal, paranormal experiences you’d like to share, please contact me. All the very best.

Photo by Rich Brainerd (http://richbrainerd.com/)

Photo by Rich Brainerd (http://richbrainerd.com/)

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 16, 2017 at 5:50 am

Categories: Paranormal   Tags: , , , , , ,

Some Thoughts on the New Year

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First things first: Happy New Year! I wish you peace, joy, and love this year and always, as well as much creative productivity.

happy-new-year-picture

I’ve made some resolutions for this year. How about you? I have about half a dozen. They include things like eating healthier, exercising, writing more, those sorts of things. I think I’m going to work on incorporating them one at a time, though, because otherwise I’ll get overwhelmed.

cat

One of my resolutions is to blog more often. I know I need to do a much better job of staying in touch. So this is me, trying to keep my resolution.

I’ve also made a decision concerning the content of this blog. I began it as a blog on dual diagnosis, writing, and author interviews. I still want to do those topics, but I also want to expand the focus to include interesting information I come across while researching (including stuff on early Christianity), interviews with agents, editors, and publishers, and the occasional book review. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by such things as ghosts/hauntings and UFOs, so I’ll blog about those topics as well. If you’ve ever had any experiences with the paranormal that you’d like to share, please contact me.

ufo

In terms of writing projects this year, the second novel in the Nicholas Branson series should be available by September. I’m also going to finish researching and start writing the third book in the series, so the time gap between novels isn’t too large. Finally, I’ll be writing a book on the history of the Russ House in Marianna, Florida, located near the site of a Civil War battle that took place in September of 1864. Allegedly, the house has its share of paranormal activity, and I look forward to exploring it and writing about my experiences.

I should also add that my role as a writer is becoming increasingly clear, or maybe it’s just been reinforced over the past few years. I am committed to writing stories that make people think, and that include views and perspectives not often seen in the (mainstream) media. I intend to write more about this, but for now I want to finish up this post so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something 🙂

Thank you so much for all of your support, my friends.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 5, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Categories: General Thoughts   Tags:

The Real Magic

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The Real Magic

Guest Post by Bob Atkinson

When invited to contribute to the 7 Blogs series, I considered memories, humorous anecdotes, and any number of other ideas. What came to me instead was a passage from the novel I’m currently writing. As Christmas Eve is nearly upon us, it seems especially apropos. I hope it touches you.

He reached down to the bottom of the bed and felt around in the darkness until he encountered the filled stocking he knew his father had left there. Then he reached over to his brother’s side of the bed and located his stocking, reassuring himself that one was no bigger than the other.

He knew what was in there. The sole bulged with the inevitable apple and orange. In the heel he could make out the unmistakable shape of a pink sugar mouse, that little jaw breaker which only seemed to appear in the shops at this time of year. There would be a handkerchief, or something equally useless, then something that felt like a pencil case, or perhaps one of the packets of Edinburgh rock his mother had brought with her on her last trip home from the hospital. At the top of the stocking would be the usual chocolate hollow Santa Claus.

Individually there wasn’t a lot there on which to base the special magic of Christmas Eve…

Read More…

 

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Bio:

Bestselling Author Bob Atkinson writes time-travel/alternate reality novels set in the magical Scottish Highlands he calls home. His first two books, The Last Sunset and its sequel Red Sky in the Morning, predict a very different America, had the Scots beaten off the English in a great deciding battle.

 

Contact Bob:

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Goodreads

Website

 

castle

 

This concludes the 7 Must-Read Holiday blogs series. We hope you’ve enjoyed it!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 23, 2016 at 5:56 am

Categories: Guest Post   Tags: , ,

The Year Our Christmas Tree was a Chair

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The Year Our Christmas Tree was a Chair

Guest Post by Shaila Patel

As Christmas memories go, mine probably hint at the same nostalgia and youthful excitement as most of yours, with maybe two important exceptions. One, my parents are immigrants from India, and we aren’t Christian—although that didn’t stop us from celebrating. And two, holiday dinners didn’t resemble anything close to what I’d seen on A Christmas Carol or the Brady Bunch. No goose, turkey, or ham. Not even fish. Our everyday menu usually consisted of Indian vegetarian food, and as I got older, special occasions called for the only meat dish my vegetarian mom ever made: Onion Chicken Curry. My sisters and I never failed to drop everything and ruuuun to the kitchen for dinner!
(I suppose this is where I need an I digress—not really my style, but you get the picture.)
Because of TV, school, friends, and co-workers, Christmas became a hodgepodge of this is what you should do and this will be fun for the girls and don’t let them feel left out. Ever the eager parents, they purchased a tree, strung lights, and bought into the idea of Santa like it would help us get into Harvard one day…

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Bio:
Shaila Patel writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Her debut novel, SOULMATED, releases on January 24, 2017 (Month 9 Books) and won the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Paranormal Awards for Young Adults.
You can reach out to her online at:
Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2btIJLK
Goodreads SOULMATED page: http://bit.ly/2aX5aJU
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/ZonSpSM

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 22, 2016 at 5:56 am

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The Turkey That Almost Wasn’t

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The Turkey That Almost Wasn’t

Guest Post by A. J. Lape

My fondest memories of the holiday season revolve around the tradition of simply being together—like drawing names with relatives and friends, hiding behind the couch to watch my mom wrap presents, getting a bag of candy from church, white elephant gifts, and trying to dodge a turkey tryptophan coma. It’s hard for me to nail down one memory, but when I was asked to participate in the Holiday Blog Hop, one particular holiday stuck out. It was Christmastime a few years back. My husband and I had both our families over for the holidays along with some of our dearest friends. We divvied up the menu between us, and my responsibilities included the biggie—the cooking of the Christmas ham and a holiday bird. Sounded easy enough…right? I mean, you put a ham in the oven and with a turkey you just follow the directions. Anyway, my husband bought a twenty-one pound turkey at Costco (love that place) and a Reynolds Wrap roasting bag. Only a moron could screw that up…

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 21, 2016 at 8:03 am

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Surviving the Holidays

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Surviving the Holidays

 

For some people the holidays are a great time to get together with family and friends. For others holidays bring an even greater sense of loneliness and isolation. I especially speak of those who suffer from depression, or some other form of mental illness, as well as those who are chemically dependent. People who suffer from this combination of illnesses, known as the dual diagnosed, are doubly marginalized from society, for both mental illness and addiction are two of the most stigmatized ailments there are. Here are some tips for surviving the holidays for people who suffer from one or both maladies or know someone who does.

But first, I’m going to open and close with this:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

 

Cultivate a sense of gratitude for what you have

It’s amazing how much there is to be grateful for. If you are reading this, you’re alive, literate, and most likely free. These are amazing gifts in and of themselves. You probably also have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your stomach. True, you may not have everything you want, but chances are good that you have the basics, and when it comes down to it, that’s a lot to be grateful for. If you’ve ever been without the basics, think back on those times; if you’ve never been without, you’re more blessed than you realize.

 

Don’t spend the holidays alone

When I get depressed, my modus operandi is to isolate myself. This is a bad strategy. The sense of loneliness and sadness that depression brings is only exacerbated by being alone. With some important exceptions, spending the holiday with others is better than spending it alone. If this involves associating with people you don’t know that well, so be it. It’s hard to stay depressed when you’re among a group of people. Of course, all poisonous people, those that are harmful in one way or another to our well-being should be avoided, especially during this time, as the holidays seem to be a particularly vulnerable time for many folks.

 

Treat yourself well

Now is not the time to forget all those things that bring you comfort. If reading is your passion, then by all means read. If you like baths, take a long one. This is true for walks and exercise as well. Don’t stop taking care of yourself just because it’s the holiday season. More often than not, if I find my mood slipping it’s because I’m not doing something to maintain my sense of well-being.

 

Urge surf

It’s normal to want to drink/drug around the holidays, especially because others are doing it—even those who normally wouldn’t indulge (how ‘bout them fab office parties?). But news flash: the days surrounding the holidays are just like all the others, and you need to be ever vigilant when a craving strikes. One of the best strategies I know is to urge surf. Based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, it essentially means riding the wave of craving. Yes, you want to drink (or drug, or eat a huge piece of pie). Okay, feel it, feel that desire. But rest assuredly in this: the desire is going to pass, just like all the others have. The craving for a drink/other drug is not always going to be as intense and everlasting as it feels at this moment. I promise you. Get to the other side of the wave, let it break and deposit you safely on shore. With a little practice, this strategy can work wonders.

 

Put off anxiety until the final moment

This is a trick I use against the demon of anxiety. It is essentially a delaying tactic, but if you follow it to its logical conclusion, I assure you that you can get past even the worst moments of anxiety and stress. It is simply this: don’t let the person/place/situation that is making you nervous make you so until the exact moment you have to experience him/her/it. This relies on the idea that the thought of something is actually worse than the thing itself. And 9 times out of 10 it is. If you fear waking up alone on Christmas morning, try not to let it get you down for days or weeks ahead of time. Instead, say to yourself, “Okay, is this the moment when I wake up alone on Christmas morning?” Except when it is that moment the answer to the question will be no. If it is not immediately in front of you, why worry about it? It won’t do any good at all. And the revelation for me came when I actually got to the moment for the anxiety-provoking incident to occur. Because then I found that the stress during that moment was relatively minor compared to all the stress that had led up to it. If you’ve ever survived a stressful situation, I’m sure you can relate. Oh, and if you’ve survived one stressful moment, chances are great that you’ll survive another one. When I remember all the stressful things I’ve gotten past, it gives me confidence to face the next stressful thing.

 

Don’t have unrealistic expectations for the holidays

Don’t get caught thinking that the holiday is going to solve all your problems, that underneath the tree you will find solutions and anodynes to all your pains and troubles. Maybe it worked that way when we were kids (remember how much you wanted that remote-controlled R2D2?), but no longer. By the time we’ve reached this point in life there are no quick fixes to our happiness, even if it sometimes seems that way. Happiness comes from one day at a time lived to the best of our ability; it is a by-product of a long-term effort. Remembering that should help keep things in perspective.

 

Remember what the season is about

Here’s a hint: it’s not about me or you. In a twist on a familiar refrain, Ask not what the holidays can do for you, but what you can do for the holidays. The holiday is really about giving to others, but I don’t have to tell you that, right?

 

Try to recapture the wonder of childhood

Remember the holidays of your childhood? Remember the wonder and magic of it all? Try to recapture that sensation. Something that helps me do this is writing down all the joyous memories of holidays past. I remember that the days right before Christmas seemed endless and that I would have done anything to make the time pass. I remember the whiteness and purity of snow, of the magic-frosted mornings filled with hot chocolate and restless anticipation of The Big Day. I remember the holiday songs streaming throughout the lavishly decorated stores that seemed to hold anything a child could ever wish for. I remember making sugar cookies with my mom and decorating them with different colored icing in thick white tubes. I remember the incredible magic of seeing the brightly colored presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and thinking how tired Santa Claus must be from delivering toys to every child in the world. But most of all, I remember the people, my two beautiful, long-haired sisters, and my mother and father. My parents are gone now, and one of my sisters has multiple sclerosis, but in my memory my family is young, vibrant, and healthy.

 

This too shall pass

When the pain feels like it will last forever, please realize that it won’t. There will come a day when you’ll smile again, love again, laugh again, and get enjoyment out of the things you used to. I know that it may seem impossible to believe at times, but please trust me on this one.

 

Please get help if you need it. There is absolutely no shame in it at all. In fact, the only shame lies in not getting the help you need. People are out there who can, will, and want to help. Here’s an excellent place to start:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

 

Please know that I care and that I’m always reachable by email: matthewpetersbooks@gmail.com.

Wishing you the most loving, joyful, and peaceful of holidays,

Matthew

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 19, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Categories: General Thoughts   Tags: , , ,

My Wish List for You this Holiday Season

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My Wish List for You this Holiday Season

Guest Post by Emily Kaplan

While desperate parents try to hunt down the latest must-have Hachimal-Tickle-Me-Cabbage-Patch toy, I’d like to offer you a few wish list items of a different kind. Note that these aren’t tongue-in-cheek genie wishes that backfire. They are exactly what they seem to be, so take them at face value.

Behold, my wishes for you this season:

 

1. Less Paperwork

Paperwork, red tape, or hassle. It’s all the same. Let’s reduce that mess. Turn that dial way down.

“Ace report, Linda. But I don’t caaaaaare.”

2. The Return of a Memory You Haven’t Thought of in a While

“We’re totally remembering the same thing, aren’t we?!”

3. A Creepy But Harmless Internet Friend

Not like this guy.

4. A Close Call

“MapQuest says to go straight.”

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Bio:

Emily is freezing her tuckus off in Northern Illinois where she lives with her husband, author JD Kaplan, kids, and dog. She’s currently working on her fourth snarky Josie Tucker mystery.

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 19, 2016 at 5:50 am

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Chapter 3 of BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS

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I hope you enjoy the next installment of my novel.

Chapter 3

 

During the bus ride back to his apartment, George began to reconsider his threat to start thinking. For this particular man, little could be more fraught with peril than the resumption of deep thought. He had plenty of time to reconsider since the city bus made several stops and George had to switch twice before he was close to his complex, which was only eight miles from his place of employment…or former place of employment.

His choice of transportation reflected an intense concern for the preservation of the environment, or what was left of it. He didn’t wish to contribute even a small portion of noxious fumes that congeal in the air and rise to the uppermost reaches of the atmosphere like a sacrificial tribute to some pagan god. No, he would not be so careless. He would not be so thoughtless as to add to that destruction…Plus, he’d lost his car in the divorce settlement and not being a man of means, it was ride the bus or walk.

The forces that shaped George, that carved his being and made him unique were, unfortunately, less Rodin than rodent. This is not to compare our protagonist to vermin, but only to note that the fickle finger of fate had treated him poorly, in a way that resembled a baby’s diaper, both in content and aroma.

In the not too distant past, George had lived a different life, one of depth and meaning—or at least it had held meaning for him. A few years prior, he had married, obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy, and been well on his way toward achieving the pinnacle of success for any academic: namely, thinking and writing himself into utter obscurity. Things had been going well at the small private college where he taught, an institution founded by Baptists. He offered several courses on philosophy, political science, and history. He also taught a course on microbiology; he didn’t know meiosis from halitosis, but it was a small college and as the dean was fond of saying, “Sometimes, we just have to stretch the soup a little.” Nonetheless, our hero taught the course with great enthusiasm, having read somewhere that when making a weak point, be sure to pound the pulpit.

As do many fine academicians, George attended several conferences, including one where he presented a summary of his dissertation, a paper entitled “The Hermeneutic and Phenomenological Foundations of Metaphysical Ontology: A Brief Introduction.” He chose the subtitle to indicate he’d only uncovered the tip of the iceberg on the topic and to tantalize his reading audience with the prospect of the equally brilliant (if mind-numbing and utterly incomprehensible) treatises that might follow. George himself had no idea what he was saying, either in his dissertation or in the conference paper, but his efforts had been enough to secure his degree and a tenure-track position. His colleagues couldn’t decipher his work either, but since no one was confident enough to critique it, he was given the benefit of the doubt and considered brilliant, ahead of his time, and on the cutting edge of philosophical achievement. All of this is not to single George out for undue criticism and to cast aspersions on his outstanding intellect.  For in many ways he was just like the rest of his academic colleagues: he possessed the same absent-mindedness and mastery of the esoteric, the same avoidance of anything that smacked of common sense and clarity, or even remotely resembled reality. He was just slightly more gifted in his ability to complicate the simple and obscure the obvious—the trademark of any well-honed mind. It was this more than anything that led to his reputation as a great scholar.

Perhaps garnering respect from those he admired had gone to his head, for in the weeks following the conference he paraded around the college with a swelled ego…among other things.  The person who seemed to appreciate his work the most was the secretary of the department, a young, beautiful, and outgoing woman who possessed several tremendous assets—at least two of which were apparent upon meeting her. She’d made several copies of his paper for her family, friends, and neighbors and relayed this information to George who finally felt he was getting the recognition he deserved, even if it was from people he’d never met (and who may not have really existed).

One day the secretary came into his office and asked George for a full explanation of his ideas. Eager to oblige, he expatiated brilliantly on the methods used in the study and the sources consulted. He recounted in painstaking detail how he’d arrived at his trenchant conclusions in a way that was truly admirable. During the discourse, the secretary, who apparently had other ideas, reached over and started to unzip his pants. She then undid her skirt and dropped it to the floor, displaying the black nylons and garters she’d donned in anticipation of the unfurling of George’s—er—lifetime work. To his credit, our hero fought desperately to regain his train of thought, but he had been completely derailed. The details of the remainder of the encounter are not fit for print, but suffice it to say that George eventually succumbed (or is it succambed?).

Unfortunately, for the sake of his career, but perhaps for the betterment of humankind, one of the deans of the college passed by George’s window at the time of the indiscretion, and had seen a side of his colleague he never knew existed—actually, he knew it existed, but prayed it would remain covered. The dean also caught more than a glance of the secretary, but found that…well, a little less repugnant. At that point, the good dean, who was nearing the age of retirement, issued his own (please pardon the use of the term) ejaculation—albeit a decorous one that the reader can be sure made favorable reference to the divine—and collapsed in a heap. He remained unconscious for a full ten minutes. The outcome (maybe “result” is a better choice of words): our hero was called to task and eventually fired. The dean justified his decision by saying that George’s behavior was “unbecoming to a man in his position” (a rather unfortunate way of phrasing things, if I must say so myself). The secretary remained employed and, by some accounts, got a raise and a substantial bonus around the holidays. However, it was suggested that her assets, while excellent, should be displayed a little less prominently around the office. There was even talk of a certain surgical procedure (I think the Latin phrase for the operation is reductio ad absurdum) that would help lighten her burden. Of course, this suggestion, in keeping with the religious foundations of the college, was cast in the most holy light: reference was made to the Gospel, where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

George’s wife had been informed of his “extracurricular activities” by an anonymous source. To make a short story long, which according to the secretary, and George’s ex-wife, could only serve to benefit our hero, he did not go down without a fight. Initially, he claimed that the accusation was “fallacious,” but realized he was on shaky ground. He then argued that he’d actually been conducting fieldwork and should not be upbraided for his actions. In particular, and in a way that would make any deep-thinking man proud, George tied his behavior to one of the most unimpeachable philosophical authorities of all time: Plato. He pointed out that in his most famous work, The Republic, Plato said justice entails abandoning any attachment to the particular and embracing the universal. In Plato’s just community, which only existed in theory, the best men mated with the best women and the offspring were the concern of the entire community. There would be no pesky family ties (i.e., attachment to the particular) to prevent justice from reigning supreme. For how else could brilliant offspring and upstanding future members of the community be guaranteed? Since the secretary was, indeed, a fine specimen, George thought he was on firm ground. He even said he might be able to secure a grant for his attempt to put into practice what had hitherto existed only in theory.

When that failed to elicit the desired response, he fell back on an even weightier authority, one on which even the Baptist founders of the college had to acknowledge. George noted that in his allegiance to the religious foundations of the institution he’d been perusing the Bible, that he made it a tradition to read from the Old Testament before going to bed (eventually he’d work his way up to the Gospels, he explained, but wanted to be thorough). In any event, he pointed out that he’d never realized how much lust, adultery, and incest was depicted in the holy book, and that the devil had tricked him into sin. After all, if some of the biblical patriarchs were not immune to such vulgarities, how could he, George, a common, ordinary—though admittedly brilliant—man be above such a thing? For some reason, neither his employers nor his wife found either argument convincing. While he somewhat begrudgingly understood his wife’s reaction—and her decision to oppose his attempt to “transform thought into action” by the more prosaic act of filing for divorce—he couldn’t help but feel that his colleagues’ disdain was motivated, at least in part, by his “success” with the beautiful young secretary.

It was usually during the bus ride that his thoughts turned to such better times. Now he was living alone and attempting to pursue a different occupation, in part because he blamed his ill fortune on the academic community. After all, company executives were often caught in somewhat compromising positions and it didn’t seem to matter. In fact, if memory served him correct, even one of the occupants of the White House had lent a slightly salacious tone to the term Oval Office. But in the pristine (choke) and moral (cough) milieu of academia, licentiousness was bound to bring bad consequences. I apologize to the gracious reader for the coughing fit that struck while writing the last sentence and promise to avoid such outbursts (even if unintentional or, at the most, subconscious) for the remainder of our story.

The cessation of George’s reveries coincided with the bus coming to a stop, accompanied by the familiar hiss and slight jarring of the passengers that occurs whenever such a large vehicle attempts to brake. Our noteworthy patron of public transportation rose from his seat (helped a bit by the sputtered lurching of the bus), nodded a gesture of solemn gratitude to the driver, as if to convey that successfully navigating through downtown traffic was nothing less than miraculous, and descended the steps.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 18, 2016 at 4:30 pm

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The Christmas with No Ice Cream

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The Christmas with No Ice Cream

Guest Post by Mica Rossi

My earliest memories are bound up in the celebrations of my extended family. It was not uncommon to have three or four generations in the house during each holiday, birthday, or anniversary. Every single one of the women was a great cook, and smells would waft out of open windows in the summer or hit you as soon as you walked through the door in the winter. Of them all, Christmas was the best and my mother’s favorite.

This particular Christmas, I was five years old. I’d been having a series of sore throats throughout that year and spent a lot of time home from school. Mom and I made delicate string decorations with crochet thread, starch and lots of glitter. We made taffy and fudge and sprinkle cookies with melted white chocolate icing. Pipe cleaners got bent into figure skaters, and we created frilly little skirts for them out of crepe paper streamers. Yards and yards of construction paper chains hung from the wood moldings and swooped over the tree.

The days dragged until Christmas and my anticipation spiraled. My little sister wasn’t sure what all the excitement was about, but she loved sticking her fingers into the dough Mom rolled out on the table as much as she enjoyed munching on the stray cookie that found its way into her hands. At not quite three, she was way too young to remember the treat I knew was coming on Christmas Eve, the milk, eggs and vanilla my dad would crank together in a frosty steel bucket to make the frozen delight we had only once a year. But I knew, and I marked off each day on the calendar with a green crayon.

That might seem like a lot to remember from such a young age, but I’ll never forget that Christmas, because it was the Christmas without ice cream…

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Bio:

Mica Rossi has been writing since she was in the second grade and barely able to form her letters properly. Her short works have been featured in several anthologies, and she is furiously scribbling through various drafts of her second novel, a contemporary romance set during the Christmas season.

Her first book, Once in a Blue Moon, was selected as a spearhead novel for the ‘White Satin Romance’ line at Melange Books and will shortly be brought in-house to Camelot Publishing and re-released in February of 2016 in a revised edition. Just think about a gorgeous member of the Aos Sidhe running into the one woman in Boston who has a vendetta against all things magical, and you’ll understand why sparks fly against the backdrop of hot summer days and starry nights in the city.

Mica’s latest release, Heart Songs, is a collection of poetry and short stories published in April of 2016. It’s a compilation of the emotional journeys we all take through our lives. From friendship and love to the depths of despair and back again, the author digs into the human experience with humor and grace.

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 18, 2016 at 11:05 am

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