Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer's Spell



I don't know about you, but Summer overwhelms me with possibilities. All of a sudden, I want to spend every minute barefoot outside, feeling like a kid & going on free-spirited adventures. Here in the mountains of Colorado, many wildflowers don't even come out until mid-Summer, each one a burst of vibrant color that seems to shout, "Look at me! Life is grand!" It always astonishes me how in the harsh, arid conditions at 9,000 feet, these wildflowers blossom with a striking beauty, as though somehow their struggle against high altitude, fierce temperatures & thin mountain air has deepened their color & verve. But when they appear, like a child, I have to dash to each one & whisper "Welcome! So glad you made it!" Yes, I'm foo-foo like that, but I also know that these alpine blossoms are an incredible reminder of the splendor that can follow sheer tenacity—and many of them carry magical messages. So I invite you today to join me on my wildflower walk & to share in the lovely moment of serendipity that occurred to me recently which resulted in my special Summer Spell. I hope it will touch your heart the way it did mine : )




Geranium
First off is the wild Geranium—with its delicate pink flower that's plentiful in high altitudes (I've seen them blossom at 11,000 feet!). Did you know that planting Geraniums around your home will protect you from negative energy & unwanted visitors? The Geraniums in the Rocky Mountains vary in color according to the soil they're in, but each color has special properties. Red Geraniums invite love & abundance, while this pretty pink one attracts friendship & love. White Geraniums raise your sensitivity to the influence of your Angels & Spirit Guides. And folklore tells us that to relieve stress, scatter Geranium petals in your bath water to help you relax (and maybe adding few bubbles & a glass of wine on the side wouldn't hurt ; ). 



Rose
Perhaps wild roses might not seem unusual to you in spring & summer, but I've seen them growing in the most rocky & windblown environments at altitudes that will make you struggle for breath! What a testimony to their endurance & strength. Rose is well known to signify & attract love, but did you know that it can also enhance the love you receive from your Angels & Spirit Guides? We all know that you must truly love yourself before you can accept love from another, so to boost your own self love, inhale deeply from this delicate flower & let its scent fill you with the divine love that your Angels long to give you. And like the Geranium, scatter Rose petals or pour Rose water into your bath as a reminder to love & nurture yourself so you can spread your love & passions into the world. Roses are also known to bring good luck, so plant them in your yard to insure abundance & to ward off negative energy.




Thistle
Now wait a minute, a weed like Thistle can't be magical, can it? But folklore assures us that this bright plant deepens your connection to the divine & invites spiritual helpers into your life, as well as guards against thieving in every way—including mental, physical & spiritually draining situations. So place the downy fluff from the Thistle under your welcome mat to keep robbers & emotional leeches away from your home, and include Thistles in your flower arrangements to invite loving Spirit Guides into your sphere. In addition, meditating on the rich, purple color of the Thistle cleanses your spirit & many people feel it offers healing for the mind as well.


Indian Paintbrush
The spectacular Indian Paintbrush is the wildflower of passion. When you stumble across it, don't pick it! Let it dwell in the earth the way it's supposed to, brightening the world with its vibrant cheer. But do know that it's no accident you came across this fiery blossom—it's a message to you from your Spirit Guides to keep following your passions. Never waste a single day on regret or what could have been—today is a pure gift to you, and you are called to celebrate it with a newness & faith that will lead you to miracles. And when those opportunities do arrive, go after them with your whole heart! Indian Paintbrush never hesitates to spread is flame-colored petals to the sun, and neither should you.


Daisy
Who doesn't love a charming daisy? We've all played that childhood game of plucking the petals while saying "He loves me, he loves me not" to foretell our future in romance. But did you know that Daisies bring joy & renewed passion for life? Place them around the house to lift your spirits, boost your mood & remind you of possibilities once again. And if you DO want to attract a joyful suitor, place some Daisy petals under your pillow & allow your dreams to guide you to the right person (with a little help from the Angels, of course!). The bright Daisy (even this delicate, high altitude one above) is also known to protect children & to encourage you to let your inner child come out to play. So take off those socks & shoes & walk in the sunshine among the Daisies whenever you can.


Sunflower
Yes, this wild, Rocky Mountain sunflower may seem small to you, but it still carries the magic of bringing good luck & making your wishes come true! They are actually native to Peru & do well in high altitudes. Eating sunflower seeds is said in folklore to bring good luck, & sleeping with the seeds under your pillow will help you germinate your deepest dreams & bring them into your life. Sunflowers are also a symbol of faithfulness (for the consistent way these blossoms follow the sun), so if you'd like to attract a faithful suitor, plant them in your garden to encourage people of truth, integrity & fidelity into your sphere. And finally, few flowers can cheer one up as much as sunflowers, so make bouquets of these sunny plant for your home to send the blues packing. 



Mariposa Lily
This spectacular wildflower is one of the jewels of the Rocky Mountains, so delicate & fragile, yet it thrives brilliantly in alpine altitudes. In folklore, Lilies signify resurrection & renewal, which is why we so often see them at funerals to represent our hopes to reunite with our loved ones in the afterlife. But magical tradition also tells us that if you come across a Lily in your everyday life, something you thought was dead to you is about to rebloom. It could be a cherished dream, your hope to find true love, or simply to get your passion back for life. The tender Lily is here to tell you that you are much tougher than you thought you were, and your courage & endurance are about to be rewarded with wonderful openings for new possibilities. So if you feel you've lost your mojo a bit, surround yourself with the fragrance of Lily in your bath or in your home & arrange Lilies bouquets to inspire your hope. These lovely flowers will send a message to your Spirit Guides that "I'm ready now to start anew—please bring the best people & situations for my happiest future." Then take a deep breath & let the past go, knowing that your Angels will carry you to exactly where you need to be.


SUMMER'S SPELL
(Items required: an old, trusted tree)
 
 
 
While I was out on my wildflower walk this year with a friend, the most incredible (& magical) thing happened—I'd dashed over to take a picture of a flower, only to look up & realize I was beside a rare Ute Prayer Tree. Believe me, I got the chills at this moment of serendipity. The Ute Tribe, which are native to the Rocky Mountains, have a custom of tying select Ponderosa Pines to the earth so that they'd be "grounded" & continue to grow with a unique curve as their branches reach to the sky. You can tell when such a tree has been deliberately altered by man (& not by heavy snowfall) when you see distinct vertical marks on the tree where the Utes used rawhide to fasten the trunk.


If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see the vertical marks that probably occurred about 250 years ago (as indicated by the redness of the tree's bark, which signifies its age). My friend & I were both stunned. Neither one of us had ever encountered a Ute Prayer Tree before, and we had a hunch it was no accident. Why? Because the purpose of the Ute Prayer Tree is for you to lay your hands upon it, like a trusted old friend, and release every care, sadness, bitterness or regret you've ever experienced in life into the tree.  This stalwart companion has existed in silent strength for centuries, has seen many people (if not civilizations) come & go, and is hardy enough to absorb any negative or limiting emotion that may try to thwart your spirit. So spontaneously, my friend & I halted our wilderness trek & took a moment to let go—release any hurt or sadness we've known—so we could be cleansed & ready for a new possibilities.

And it worked! Both of us felt as though something magical & cathartic had taken place. Afterwards, we were filled with a tingling excitement, because we know that you're never asked to release the old unless something new is coming—and we felt that our Angels had guided us to this moment because there are special things in store. After all, in order for anyone to blossom in life—find love, fulfill dreams, or take a new path leading to fulfillment—you must first get rid of old growth that's already served its purpose & be open to the new. So I'd like to invite you to do a similar Summer Spell to eliminate negativity & accept fresh opportunities into your own sphere for enhanced joy & vitality.



Directions for the Summer Spell: First off, find an old tree—preferably a tree you've known since childhood or one that you discover in a grove with a wide trunk & large canopy that's particularly aged. Then approach the tree with a kind & gentle greeting. Explain that you're going to lay your hands on it for the purpose of healing by releasing any sadness, hurt, anger or bitterness from the past that might limit you. Don't worry, trees cleanse our atmosphere all the time & generously release oxygen so we can breathe, and your tree is strong enough to take any negativity & pool it at its roots to release into the soil where it will be dissipated. Then pray or meditate (whatever you like to call it) & visualize yourself letting go of specific emotions, memories, people, or situations that no longer bring you joy or help you on your path. That doesn't mean you don't love certain individuals anymore—it simply means that you recognize you need to grow in new ways & you desire now to change course. When you're ready, feel those old memories, images & painful moments leaving your heart & your body & entering the tree in a swirl of light. There, they will sink through the bark, into the sap & down into the earth, where they will never be able to thwart the new growth of you or the tree again. Now, feel yourself completely cleansed & ready to put joyful energy back into your life. This is extremely important—it does you no good to cleanse yourself if you don't make a concerted effort to refill your heart & mind with hope, sunshine, love, & new purpose. Visualize yourself bathed in sparkling sunshine that permeates your very soul, and ask your Angels or Spirit Guides to take you by the hand & help you go forward on your journey. Imagine your greatest desires—see them clearly—and know that your guides will help you every step of the way towards fulfillment. Most importantly, thank the tree for its generosity & ask that the tree be blessed with health & new growth as well. As you walk back to your starting place, notice any blossoms nearby, or go to a flower shop & purchase flowers to place in your home to remind you of the magic of flowers & the blossoming that is about to take place in your life. Finally, be grateful. Give thanks to your Angels or Spirit Guides for this cleansing & for Summer's gift of sunshine that highlights your new journey & brings cheer to you as you go forward.

And if you have a minute, please let me know in the comments below if this spell worked for you! Have a joyful Summer :D



If you love the gentle enchantment of
nature & spells, check out my
magical novels on Amazon & Kindle!

http://www.amazon.com/Diane-J.-Reed/e/B0071FXGOE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1406901739&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Diane-J.-Reed/e/B0071FXGOE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1406901739&sr=8-1
 
(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of popular social networks like facebook or pinterest. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fairy Tale Sex & New Adult Romance



Everything old is new again. You’ve often heard this well-worn cliché, but nothing brings it home better than the skyrocketing rise in popularity for a new literary genre that publishers are calling “new adult romance”. What, exactly, is new adult romance? Quite frankly, literature that focuses on young people from about the ages of 18-24 who are encountering their first sexual relationships (with the accent being on relationships—not necessarily their first one-night stand or bump and grind in the back of a car). Why all the shout? Because though you may not realize it, the reading ages of 18-24 used to be death in the publishing industry. Publishers and marketers have known for decades that their bread and butter came from readers who are ages 25-55—the largest demographic of book buyers around the world. But then something happened—welcome to the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. All of a sudden, younger people were reading in droves. And as if on cue, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer appeared, single-handedly hooking teenagers on a book and film franchise that addressed all of their angst and need for a book boyfriend or girlfriend. Young adult fiction became a huge force in the publishing industry, but there was only one problem: these readers grew up. And they wanted to keep on reading . . .

Enter new adult romance!

Now, you can’t swing a dead cat in a bookstore without seeing new adult romances plastered all over the shelves. Titles like Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Lick by Kylie Scott, and My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron address this unique age bracket that is testing out adulthood and what it means to have a possibly fulfilling relationship that includes sex. But let’s face it—our first sexual relationships often crash and burn because we’re just beginning to figure out who we are and what we want, and new adult romances address the relationship minefields that often plague us in our twenties. It’s as though, in high school, we are given a script for how to lead our lives (stay in school, study hard, don’t do drugs or get pregnant), but in our late teens and early twenties, the script gets a lot hazier. Okay, maybe you want to graduate from college or try to get a good job, but what about relationships? You’re old enough to vote now, you probably don’t live with mommy and daddy anymore, and no one’s around to tell you “no” about much of anything. So you experiment with sex, boyfriends or girlfriends, and try to figure out what feels right to you in ways that no previous set of “rules” can quite apply. All by yourself, you figure out relationships are messy and hard to define. And at this point, you’d really like books that reflect this sea of possibilities as well as their pitfalls. As Margo Lipshultz, senior editor at Harlequin, says of new adult books, “These characters do have more freedom [and] less parental supervision. They’re in charge of their own lives, but they’re figuring out how to navigate those lives for the first time, and they're making mistakes along the way: trusting the wrong person, or falling for the guy that they know is bad for them” (Bookish.com, July 1, 2013). So along with this new-found maturity in our twenties come very high emotional stakes. You don’t necessarily have mommy and daddy’s shoulders to cry on about your choices anymore, and you probably want to test out relationships that your relatives might not approve of. And thank god! Because if you don’t get out there and make a few mistakes, you might become one of those pitiful people who marries far too young before they really know who they are, becoming that all-too familiar shell of a human being by their forties. We’ve all met people who didn’t do enough experimentation in their early years, only to do so much later in life when it becomes awkward or downright embarrassing. (Seriously? You want to die your hair purple, get tattoos and piercings, and date people way too young for you at age 45? Icky!). The twenties are that golden time when, if you have any sense, you’ll hopefully venture forth into that dark wilderness to figure out who you really are, and let yourself do all those crazy things in the name of finding love. As Sylvia Day, a well-known romance author, says of new adult readers, “These people are so young and they’re setting out on their own for the first time and feeling that first blush of love and that huge hormonal reaction. Your love was insane—you can’t stop thinking about them, you’re calling each other all the time. All of that—that whole overblown sense of drama—is what’s in New Adult” (Bookish.com, July 1, 2013).

But wait a second—

I can think of a centuries-old literary genre that has been addressing this age bracket, and all the crazy, love-lorn machinations that accompany new adulthood, for about as long as mankind has been walking this earth. And it’s called fairy tales.
Rapunzel
Yes, fairy tales! Think about it—how old do you think Snow White was when she was lying in that glass casket, about to be “awakened” by a dashing young man? Or Rapunzel when she was letting down her golden hair for that handsome prince? Hello—though fairy tales rarely are specific about the age of their characters who’re about to blossom into sexuality, they’re generally taken to be of “marriageable age.” In times of old, that particularly angsty age bracket can range anywhere from 16-22 (depending on which scholar or version you listen to). This is a very similar demographic that the more recent new adult romances address. What’s more, there are several fascinating features that many popular fairy tales often have in common with new adult romances, and they are the following:

1.      The main characters are considered of “marriageable” age for their culture, anywhere from 16-24.

2.      The main characters set upon a journey away from home where they are no longer supervised by their parents or caregivers.

3.      The main characters encounter obstacles that there are no ready answers for—they must figure out the path forward for themselves.

4.      The main characters encounter male or female partners who often provide their first serious encounter with the opposite sex that might lead to a long-term relationship.

5.      The main characters (whether overtly or metaphorically) have an intimate encounter with the male or female that they fancy.

So let’s take a look at two of the most popular fairy tales of all time: Rapunzel and Snow White, to see how they are indicative of the same classic scenarios in the more recent new adult romance genre.

In Rapunzel, we all know that this poor young woman was sequestered in a tower around the age of 12 (depending on the version) as she was just about to approach puberty, locked away by a nasty fairy, sorceress, or godmother (again, depending on the version). But as Rapunzel blossoms into marriageable age some years later, along comes a dashing prince who ventures through the forest and finds her through the echoes of her beautiful song. It’s important to note that the prince has left the comfort of the castle and his parents’ supervision and taken the classic new adult journey (often through the wild woods, an interesting metaphor for the unknown) to find his possible mate. Thereafter, we hear the prince state his famous words, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” Obviously, most psychoanalytical literary critics view his call as metaphorical for his desire for sexual intimacy. Interestingly, however, it is now Rapunzel’s choice whether to invite this young man into her private chamber. At first we are told she is “frightened”—yet she decides to do so anyway. New adult romances are all about such angst-filled choices, particularly ones that are made without “permission” from other adults, and could have long-term consequences. Luckily, Rapunzel and the prince are said to have “lived in joy and pleasure for a long time” which results in her pregnancy with twins. How fascinating that there is no wedding involved in this story, and Rapunzel at one point says to the evil fairy/sorceress/godmother “Why is it that my clothes are all too tight?” Though Rapunzel may seem naïve, she’s encountered one of the real-world consequences of new adult sex: parenthood. Another consequence is the disapproval of elders, and the fairy/sorceress/godmother becomes so irate that she cuts off Rapunzel’s hair, banishes her to the wilderness, and informs the prince that he’ll never find her again. But true love—often the biggest goal in new adult romances—wins out! Though the prince loses his sight and wanders in the forest for a dark period, Rapunzel eventually finds him in the wilderness and her tears of joy restore his sight as the lovers are reunited.

I absolutely adore this particular fairy tale because it clearly shows that both female and male characters have a long and arduous journey through the “wilderness” to ultimately find their most suitable long-term relationships. Just having sex with each other isn’t enough to secure happily-ever-after—there is a difficult path ahead towards adulthood that they must tread before they are settled with one another, a path that sometimes means bucking against the approval of their elders. Yet how wise fairy tales are for not offering a simple formula for happiness! Anyone who truly reads fairy tales knows how complex and full of puzzling twists they can be, but for new adults in particular, they offer something of a road map to the arduous minefield we all must navigate towards maturity.

Characters in fairy tales often go through a period of wandering
 in the wilderness before reaching maturity & finding true love

Similarly, Snow White contributes another glimpse into the complexities and angst-filled stakes that are often involved in truly becoming a “grown up” who makes his or her own relationship choices. As we know, Snow White has the stepmother from hell who envies her like crazy—and true to most new adult romances, there aren’t adults around who’ll be of much help on one’s journey and may even be a thwarting influence. At a tender age (some versions say 7, but archaic versions hint that Snow White had reached puberty), the evil stepmother hires a huntsman to take Snow White out to the woods to kill her. Here we are at the woods again! That classic metaphor for no rules and no society—a place where you must figure out your way forward by yourself. Yet precisely at this wild place, Snow White inspires the pity (and some say sexual attraction) of this huntsman, who feels sorry for her and lies about her death to the evil stepmother. What happens next is very intriguing—Snow White hides out and sets up “house” with a bunch of men, the iconic dwarves. More archaic versions say they were miners, later called “dwarves” to lessen the sexual tension, because such a job favors people of shorter stature. And many psychoanalytical critics see her living situation as a metaphor for Snow White “shacking up” with various boyfriends on her road to new adulthood in order to try on various female roles—for we know in the fairy tale that she “tested all the beds”. In return for her cooking, cleaning, and washing, the dwarves promise Snow White that “you can stay with us, and you shall have everything you want.” Sounds like a classic live-in relationship to me, but I have to wonder if perhaps these men are assigned “dwarf” status in the fairy tale because they don’t quite measure up to the ultimate long-term partner Snow White is seeking.

Yet in due time, Snow White’s experimental lifestyle infuriates the evil stepmother once she finds out that the young woman is still alive. In famous fashion, the stepmother disguises herself as the old farmer’s wife and offers her a “poisoned apple” that kills her. It doesn’t take a psychological genius to see the parallels to the “fruit of knowledge” that Adam and Eve ate of, or that this apple is perhaps a metaphor for sexual activity that “kills” Snow White’s younger self. Could it be that during her time in the woods with the dwarves, Snow White experimented with sexual relationships that changed her from a child to a woman forever, yet left her wanting? And the stepmother merely reminded her of this with the apple—that she is no longer a young girl? This is a huge theme in current new adult romances—that after experimenting and pursuing the “one,” many young women feel adrift and emotionally “comatose” due to the crash and burn nature of early sexual relationships. After all, Snow White is later placed in a “glass coffin,” not a heavy box made of wood with metal hinges—one that she could easily break out of if she has a single breath of life left in her. And even more peculiarly, her coffin is set on display in the forest for all to see. Metaphorically, it makes one wonder if Snow White is very much alive, but too emotionally drained by her previous relationships or experiences to allow herself to be a bold adult woman just yet. She’s in a holding pattern, emotionally and sexually, wearied by her former experiences and perhaps merely waiting for “the one” (that new adult romance characters so often long for) to awaken her into a happier adult relationship. However, as if by magic (or perhaps Snow White’s intuitive wisdom to lay low and wait for what she truly wants), her Prince Charming does appear, and with a brave kiss “awakens” her to her happily ever after with him. Well, duh—“awakening” moments in fairy tales are often a more palatable way of describing intimate contact, particularly after ancient fairy tales were scrubbed of sexual details and innuendos by the Grimm Brothers in order to sell to broader audiences as nursery tales in 1857. (Their 1812 edition of fairy tales often left in the sexual connotations). After such an “awakening,” this young woman, who’s already been through her wilderness experience and associated with several men, is said to have finally found her true love.
 
The Prince discovers Snow White in the glass coffin

Again, what I love about Snow White, similar to Rapunzel, is how frequently these fairy tale characters at the brink of adulthood must wander through the wilderness to find their way to maturity. Even Prince Charming in Snow White has to venture into the forest and take chances with some serious risks involved. After all, why, oh why, does he approach a creepy glass coffin and open it in order to kiss a supposedly dead total stranger? That’s crazy! But you often have to go through a lot of crazy as a new adult to find a rewarding relationship. Blind dates, online dating websites, trusting potential mates who turn out to have baggage, or are emotionally scary, or are downright stalkers—this phase of young adulthood is filled with emotional minefields and genuine risk. But as the classic saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince—or princess. No guts, no glory! And in fairy tales as well as modern new adult romances, the stakes are always high. That’s because heartbreak, let alone pregnancy or the possible transmission of sexual diseases, has real-world consequences.

But if you never muster the courage to continue on your journey towards adulthood, you’ll forever remain emotionally locked in Rapunzel’s tall tower or Snow White’s glass coffin. The one thing that fairy tales and new adult romances have most in common is that true love requires bravery. And perhaps this is why we love these characters so much. They could take the easy way out and follow the rules or do what’s expected of them to lead a psychologically stale life. But instead they keep going through dark times to grab that chance at true love and genuine happiness. It doesn’t mean that their paths are always easy. But if they can survive their journeys through the wilderness (both sexually and by bucking society’s rules) their reward is a meaningful and fulfilling adult relationship. And isn’t that what most of us really want? Though new adult romances shed a fresh light on the precarious nature of this necessary growth phase of entering adulthood, the desires and dreams of all of us to find true love and fulfillment in our adult lives is as old and as beautiful as fairy tales themselves.
If you love new adult romance with a touch of fairy tale magic, check out my new adult novel STONE OF THIEVES, now available on Kindle & in paperback at Amazon.


Sources for Article:
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. The Annotated Brothers Grimm. Edited with a Preface and Notes by Maria Tatar. W. W. Norton & Company; The Bicentennial Edition, October 15, 2012.

Zutter, Natalie. What Is ‘New Adult’? Romance Editors and Authors Tell All. Bookish.com, July 1, 2013. http://www.bookish.com/articles/what-is-new-adult-romance-editors-and-authors-tell-all.

(This article was originally written by Diane J. Reed for www.onceuponafans.com and is used with their permission.)

(Photo credit note: All images on my website are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stone of Thieves: A Sexy Romance To Steal Your Heart!



Stone of Thieves is here! A sexy, new adult romance & the HOT stand-alone sequel to Robin in the Hood that will make you believe once again in true love. You don't need to read Robin in the Hood to enjoy this magical & sensuous adventure as Robin & her boyfriend Creek journey to Italy to find her long-lost mother. There, Robin discovers the dark secrets behind her true gypsy heritage through the powerful Stone of Thieves. Check out the book description:

The Stone of Thieves . . . for centuries its magnetic draw has twisted the hearts of ambitious men and women with the promise of power, passion, and intrigue until it fell into the hands of unlikely thieves Robin and her boyfriend Creek. But can they steal their destiny away from the curse that pursues this magnificent ruby heart? As the stone begins to spread its sorcery, Robin races to find her long-lost mother in Italy in the hopes of discovering the truth about her unique gypsy heritage and the ruby heart that is rumored to steal souls. Yet when the desire for this stone by powerful members of her family threatens their very lives, Creek decides to take matters into his own hands to protect Robin, his greatest treasure of all . . .
 


I had so much fun writing this novel & exploring various aspects of gypsy traditions that I could share with readers. One thing that appealed to me is the lure of freedom in gypsy culture to explore your identity, which is particularly important for my main character Robin as she transitions to young womanhood & has to sort through the lies about her past & how she wants to redefine her future.



After all, Robin McArthur used to attend an uptight boarding school, but as she roams the Italian countryside in search for her mother, she gets swept away by the beauty and grandeur of Italy & the nudgings of they gypsy woman Zuhna, who urges her to follow her heart. And where does her heart lead—to a more profound love with Creek, of course!



Creek...the very same man who'd kill to protect Robin & who encourages her to find her real mother & unravel the mysteries of her identity so she'll be whole in body, mind, and spirit. It is Creek in Stone of Thieves who also teaches Robin how to be a woman as they encounter their first intimate moment inside an enchanting gypsy wagon.
 
 
 Yet becoming a "woman" in every sense of the word means that Robin poses a new threat to her Italian relatives as she mystically becomes the next Gypsy Queen—and this means they'll stop at nothing to take her life. While the clock is ticking, Robin races to find her mother, using the power of the gypsies' Ruby Heart (the Stone of Thieves) to outwit those who have persecuted her kind for centuries.

Can true love conquer all? Hell yeah...

Is Creek's love enough to protect Robin through their ordeal? I'll let you find out—and I truly hope you enjoy this sexy & magical thrill ride that brings Robin & Creek deeper together than ever before. If you do get the chance to read Stone of Thieves, I'd love to hear what you think! Until then, as they gypsies say, Baxti hai sastimos tiri patragi! (Wishes to you for luck & good health!)

The following are links to buy Stone of Thieves on Kindle:
For U.S. Kindle, click here
For U.K. Kindle, click here
For Canadian Kindle, click here
For Australian Kindle, click here
 
(Photo credit note: All images on my website are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )
 

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Mother's Angel Visit


Can you spot the Angel in this photo? Okay, I'll admit it—I'm an Angel Junkie. I believe there are Angels all around us, nurturing us along & whispering in our ears, not only to provide wisdom & protection but also to lead us toward joy. I've lost track of how many times a song came on at the grocery store that was just what I needed to hear, or a book fell off the shelf that gave my heart solace or opened up a whole new journey for me. I've even seen strangers who seemingly popped out of nowhere to say a few discerning words or dispense almost unearthly advice—and I later wondered if they were Angels. If you've ever read my post "Angels Among Us" (you can click on it here), then you already know I believe I've had some direct contact with otherworldly assistance. Not because I was seeking it out (I don't attend Angel channeling seminars or meditate on archangels), but simply because my mother had always taught me, as Shakespeare once said, that "There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy." In other words, she encouraged us to be open to ideas that sometimes bypass the limitations of our brains & can only be understood in the heart.


And one thing my mother ardently believed is that joy not only attracts Angels but every good thing in your life. Where she got all this wisdom was a mystery to me as a child, but as I grew older and learned, bit by bit over the years, more about her, I found out exactly why she was so wise. My mother's father abandoned her family in the Midwest when she was a baby, and her own mother died at the age of 42 of alcoholism. My mother's childhood was spent in poverty being tended to by strangers in bars during the Great Depression, and life for her was very tough. Never once did I hear her complain about her childhood, however, because in her eyes, she saw her relatives as broken people who were doing everything they could—and not many people had it much better back then. Yet the one thing my mother learned early on to survive was to tap in to that "still, small voice" that always led her to a more positive journey. This was long before New Age philosophy entered the picture or you could watch Oprah talking to cutting-edge spiritual pundits on TV. As a result, my mother's "spiritual radar" was finely tuned. She was downright spooky in her ability to "read" everyone she met, and if she ever gave you advice you damn well listened because her perceptions were uncanny. The closest thing I've ever seen to someone like my mother was that wonderful woman in the kitchen baking cookies who turned out to be the great Oracle in the film The Matrix. Seemingly a benign housewife, she's the one who knows far more about Neo's (Keanu Reeves) situation & future than he does—and luckily, he's smart enough to recognize a highly-developed soul when he sees one.


So even though my mother's body was later in life racked by a debilitating auto-immune disorder & advanced arthritis, I wish I could impart to you the way her face SHINED. People came from all around just to be near her & to fill up their weary spirits. Our kitchen was always packed with visitors because every one who left my mother's presence felt stronger, brighter, and more able to see their path forward because of her strength & glow. Yet she was no namby pamby woman who spouted limp-wristed cliches like "Have a nice day." She was as strong as a military general with a soaring heart to match—because every day she talked to her Angels. Not in moans & complaints but in celebration. Yes, we were that peculiar family that ran around the house singing heart-bolstering songs and banging pots & pans & thanking God nearly every time we turned around for sunshine! Food! Health! And a fabulous new day! My mother didn't give a rip if anybody thought she was crazy town—she knew that like attracts like, what you say with your mouth will come to pass, and truly smart people invite Angels to their parties. Because above all, Angels love parties. 

As you can imagine, life with my mother was a BALL.


And I have no doubt that after my mother passed away, she became an Angel. In fact, during her life she was always looking forward to it. And yes, I even had a vision of her once in her new role. She appeared to me while I was in the kitchen baking cookies for holiday guests (how appropriate!) & no one else saw her but me. Yet her presence felt so natural that for a moment, like an idiot, I didn't register anything was unusual, though she'd been dead for over a year. That's because she didn't feel like a ghost at all—she radiated light & warmth. And when my brain suddenly kicked in & I recognized that this was a unique & sacred moment, I suddenly gasped, "Mother! The kingdom of God?" Those were the only words my stunned self could spit out—I wanted to know what it was like for her in Heaven or whatever dimension she went to. My mother merely smiled & replied with gusto, "You're going to love it!" before she disappeared. The overwhelming feeling I got from her is that she's very busy. She's an Angel now doing what she loves best—helping other people endure & shine brightly, only without the health restrictions that she had in her earthly life. And it didn't go unnoticed by me that she appeared during a time while I was baking & experiencing joy. That's what my mother imparted to me—that the path of delight is indeed the path of Angels. As she always said, "Never underestimate the power of joy. Every moment of laughter & dancing holds the seed of triumph & victory."

So while I was on a walk on a sunny spring afternoon recently near Mother's Day, feeling particularly happy for the warm weather & the sun on my back, I happened to look up in the sky & see a spontaneous Angel image in the clouds. Of course, I had to smile and say "thank you" for the Angel's gentle visit—because for all I know, it could be my own mother. And one of the things I'm most grateful for as we approach Mother's Day is the way my mother taught us to be open to serendipity—those random moments of sheer delight—for these are the pearls that we string together to make our lives  bright. I hope your Mother's Day will sparkle & be filled with those simple moments of sheer joy that open your heart to eternity.

If you would like to read my post about my mother's health miracle, click here.


P.S. Keep on the lookout this month for the debut of my new novel Stone of Thieves, the incendiary sequel to Robin in the Hood! After reading this post, now you know why I so often feature feathers & other reminders of Angels in my fiction <3

 

(Photo credit note: All images on my website are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )

Friday, April 4, 2014

Soul Gems

 
The other day I had a profound dream—the kind that makes you feel as if your soul is trying to talk to you, but can't get your attention any other way. Okay, I'll admit I'm the type of person whose dreams are so vivid, I still remember one I had when I was five years old. And there were several that came to me when I was eleven that I felt were prophetic for the course of my life. Yeah, I'm woo-woo that way. I'm that spooky friend who calls you up & says, "You know, I had a really powerful dream about you last night & I think it's meant to tell you something about your future." Recently, I even dreamed a friend of mine was in a bookstore signing her debut novel with posters hanging everywhere of the beautiful cover. I hadn't chatted with her for about a year, but the dream was so vivid I simply had to email her to tell her success was around the corner. Her response? She had decided to quit writing that day!  The angels must have been tapping me on the shoulder with this message, because after I gave her that boost, she finished her debut novel in only a few weeks & sold it to a major publisher for six figures!
 
So yeah, I guess you could say I believe in listening to your dreams.
 

 
But sometimes my dreams bring messages for me. In my latest one, I had walked into a turquoise shop in the Southwest that sells heirloom pieces of jewelry & Native American artwork. A small group of Navajo artists & silversmiths were there having lunch. They greeted me kindly & offered me a meal, happy to chat about their wares and their day. The problem? I couldn't hear them.  
 
 
(Navajo silversmiths circa 1900 & the present)
 
 
In my dream, the shop was very humble, yet the walls were surrounded by high tech gadgets—computers, ipads, stereos & plasma TVs—blaring music, news & videos so loudly I couldn't catch a word the Navajo were trying to say, much less enjoy listening to them describe how they create their artistic works. Frustrated, I began running around the shop trying to find the off switches & wires to unplug all these confounded devices.  Finally, one of the men turned to me and said with a gentle voice, "Come back another day when your heart can hear."

I woke up slayed. To me, it was pretty obvious what my dream was trying to say. With all of the high tech devices & social media we have competing for our constant attention, it's so easy to get caught up in the electronic whirl & lose touch with the people we love & the whispers of our souls. And as I got out of bed that morning, I realized I was still wearing one of my very favorite turquoise bracelets.


Yes, I know it looks rather ordinary with its humble design & modest-sized stone, but it's by far one of the most valuable pieces I own. It was the first piece of jewelry given to me by my mother, who bought it directly from the Navajo on a reservation in the 1970s in Arizona. The stone at the center came from the renowned Kingman mine, which produces "Kingman blue"—an intensely blue strain of nuggets with a black matrix that often flashes silver, which comes from a rare vein in Ithaca Peak that has been exhausted since 1972. These stones are so vibrant & distinctive that I've had turquoise collectors stop me on the street & ask to buy it.
 
But no dice.
 
Kingman blue turquoise
 
Why? Because I consider this bracelet a "Soul Gem." A rare article in my possession that connects me not only to my mother but also to the spirits of those who created such artistry in the Navajo tradition. And yeah, call me woo-woo, but I believe these special items carry with them the positive energy from those who came before us, acting as conduits of their love, trust, guidance, and comfort. It doesn't matter if these items are made of stone, metal, paper or wood, or are considered worthless to other people. What makes a Soul Gem special is the place it occupies in our hearts—and its unique ability to quiet our spirits & help us listen to our souls once again. 
 

I have many other pieces of turquoise jewelry (I'm a bit of a hoarder, as you can see from this small sample above from my collection), but price never dictates value to me. True Soul Gems carry an energy of love & wisdom that far exceed their humble appearances. So for me, an army medal of my father's, an old perfume bottle that reminds me of my mother's scent, a poem written on a napkin by my twin sister when she was 14—these are the Soul Gems that I will treasure forever. One of my favorites is a threadbare copy of The Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats that's yellowed & torn, with dozens of underlines & dog-eared pages. It's the small book I've often taken backpacking with me to read at night by flash light. Why is this volume so dear? Because the famous poet took it upon himself to canvas the Irish countryside in the 1920s to record the rural people's stories of their experiences with fairy lore & magic before their stories died out, and then translated them from Gaelic to English to preserve for posterity. The stories are so beautiful & raw that they always touch my heart. And for me, even the act of holding this book in my hands is something sacred that invites centuries of enchantment & wisdom to penetrate my soul. I feel such a book helps me step away from the distractions of daily life & encourages my heart to "hear" better, just like the Navajo man mentioned in my dream.


Do you have a Soul Gem in your possession? A photograph, a lock of hair, a cherished piece of jewelry or heirloom tool that means the world to you? I'd love to hear your story, if you have the time! And I've also recently started the Soul Gems Book Club on Goodreads (& on my website) so we can share those beautiful & wise books that have shaped our lives or touched our souls. Whether a book club appeals to you, or you're more the type to refresh your spirit by gardening, visiting old friends, or taking a country stroll, I encourage you to spend time with your Soul Gems & engage in activities that help you get in touch with you again. And maybe, you'll hear those quiet whispers of the heart that can lead you to your dreams <3 


If you're interested in the Soul Gems Book Club, please visit
 
And here's my most recent VIDEO on why Dear Maymie,
our Soul Gems Book Club selection for April, touched my heart:
 
(Photo credit note: All images on my website are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sparkling Heart

 
Spring comes in March, so of course I'm out there jogging my butt off in preparation for the warmer weather! Who doesn't like to wear more body-flattering clothing than a turtleneck sweater & winter parka all the time? Like the maiden in the above picture with the narrow waist, perfect ball gown and bouncy hair, I like to greet the magic of spring with a sense of excitement & adventure without having to worry about my midriff bulge. But with the lighter layers & cute, clingy spring fashions comes the (gulp!) need for a more serious fitness plan. Since I live in Colorado, my favorite butt-busting hill is a nearby ridge at 9,000 feet where I like to run that has a 500-foot elevation gain. Why? Because the road is made of nice, soft dirt and has a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains. So while I'm out there huffing & puffing (and ready to blow the nearest house down), if I can just take my eyes off my tired feet for an instant, I can let the scenic view set my thoughts a little higher than the usual "Lord have mercy—am I really going to survive this?"


But today, it all of sudden hit me that my fitness journey isn't about survival at all. Or about beating myself up over whether I did this number of miles in that amount of time. As I stared at my feet trudging across the soft, granite-laden dirt, I suddenly realized how beautiful this moment is. This pudgy, tortoise-jogging-pace moment—regardless of my ultimate goal to finally shed those winter pounds or top my achievement from yesterday. Because it's my heart that gives this moment meaning—my brave, yearning, tenacious, (and dare I say it?) heroic heart. Ultimately, no one really cares how streamlined I look in a slinky dress or pair of skinny jeans with high heels. But what's truly beautiful is that gallant heart who gets out there & tries to ascend that mountain, day after day after day . . .
 

And for the first time, I just took a deep breath and appreciated my heart and all its beautiful dreams & ambitions, no matter how silly or serious they may seem at times. That wonderful ability of the human heart to lift its sights and TRY . . .

 

Could it be that the very act of wishing, and then believing in that wish strongly enough to set feet in relentless motion, is more beautiful than any ball gown or castle in the air my mind might conjure? Because when I'm at the bottom, and not the "perfection" that I aspire to, my soul is perhaps the most noble of all. I find out what I'm made of—one foot after the other, focused on vision & hope. And as I looked at the footprints I'd made in in the mountain dirt, I thought to myself that their image is as lovely as any lofty dream. This is the evidence of a spirit who never gives up—on her life or on her goals. And even if I never find the path towards my version of happily ever after, those footprints made in faith are perhaps the most rewarding of all.

 
Castles crumble, kingdoms fall, dreams can die, and ball gowns can certainly fade or fall out of fashion. But the joy of spring for me is the chance to step outside & enjoy the journey. And perhaps to relish in the crystalline quality of my soul most of all . . .

I hope as the warmer breezes come & flowers begin to spring up, that you will honor the one who does the seeing, the smelling & the feeling & the believing along your way. And that you will treasure each moment you get to spend with the stirrings of your own sparkling heart.
 


(Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of facebook, pinterest, or other popular social networks. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! : )