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Friday
Jan312014

Time Traveling with That Romantic Christmas Man

For most of us, the words Christmas and romance evoke feelings of joy, fond childhood memories and the exciting possibility that something wonderful could happen just around the next bell-ringing, corner Santa Claus. 

 As a child in a French-Canadian family, my imaginative and romantic nature was drawn to the romance and mystery of the first Christmas.  I wanted to be transported back in time to experience that glorious first night where shepherds, angels, wise men and a bright star changed the mythology, religion and the world forever.  I imagined myself hovering in the heavens with the angels, meeting a cute shepherd boy and roaming the dark hills under cold, glistening stars, and riding a camel with a bearded wise man.

 After I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, I decided to write my first Christmas story.  It was entitled The Man From Christmas.  I was living in Atlanta at the time and was surrounded by stories about the American Civil War.  My story was about a handsome Rebel Cavalry officer who came galloping into our backyard one snowy Christmas Eve (although it never snowed in Atlanta).  When I burst out the back door, nightgown billowing, hair blowing, eyes glowing, he charged toward me with saber drawn, exclaiming.  “There she is!  The girl of my dreams!”  He swung me up onto his horse and we rode off to 1863, where love and adventure knew no bounds or reason, except for the problem of how I was going to get back home to my time, since my beloved officer was killed heroically in battle.  No problem.  I met another man, an alchemist, who swept me off to 18th century France.  He was a dark, brooding prince, cunningly skillful at unhooking my diamond necklace and my inhibitions.  

 I re-read the story recently and cringed, quickly slipping the over-heated thing back into the coffee-stained manila envelope, and hiding it in the back closet, next to my husband’s can of WD-40. 

 As I grew older, it was the Christmas music, the midnight mass on Christmas Eve and the traditions of gift-giving and candlelight carol-singing that uplifted me, and sent my overworked imagination into a delicious Christmas-pudding frenzy.  I transported myself back to the “olden days” of one-horse open sleigh rides, gas lights and snowy kisses with Charles Heath (my second imagined Christmas man) who escorted me to his imposing and massive Victorian house, where he proposed marriage under the mistletoe, next to a gleaming fireplace.  Did I want to marry him?  He was handsome and rich, yes, but, he was also... well, a little too nice.  I had my eyes set on Austen Landis, the town rascal.

 But I was hooked on the genre.  Time, travel, and romance: three beguiling words, alive with so many alluring possibilities.  Each word fires up even the driest of imaginations.  Each word promises the glamour of adventure and romance, and I can never resist reading them and writing them.

 Elyse Douglas’ newest novel, The Christmas Town, is a light and breezy Time Travel Romance about two successful modern women who get lost in a snowstorm, cross a covered bridge and wind up back in 1943, in a small Vermont town.  They meet two soldiers, who are about to be sent off to war.  They fall in love and struggle to return to their own time, caught between new love and their wish to return home.  A Christmas miracle changes them all forever. 

 Whether you prefer the steamy Time Travel Romances or the cleaner, lighter style, Time Travel Romances allow you to escape for a time into an almost mystical world of hope, adventure and romance.  A friend recently said “These novels make me feel bigger than my little house and small town.  I can travel to distant places and be a beautiful adored woman, for at least a little while.”   

By the way, The Man From Christmas has reappeared in my closet, crooking his finger at me, beckoning.  There is a strange eerie light shimmering around him, suggesting a time travel journey?  Shall I be petulant, remote and coy?  Shall I go with him?  Christmas is just around the corner.

 

Copyright © 2014 Elyse Douglas

 

Wednesday
Mar132013

The Journal Journey

Everyone has a story.  We are a living story from birth to death.   As Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”  We have a part, a story.

But for most of us, the real story remains hidden, waiting to be uncovered.  It lies buried in unexamined moments, fragments of fleeting memories or learned responses; in recurrent fears that toss up old emotions, words and actions that dictate how we live.  We slowly become an old story.  An old boring tale.  We become a lived character, not a living one.  So our story—our personal story—the one that most of us once believed would be grand and exciting and meaningful, gradually becomes stagnant and too often joyless.

Journal writing, if practiced with the intention for self-discovery, is a powerful tool in helping us find and live our authentic story.  If we are honest and fearless, if we are persistent, it helps to peel away old and withered layers.  It reveals the truth of where we are and where our hidden talents and strengths lie.  

It leads to a new story—to a new life where our story becomes a continuous great adventure.  It reveals where we, the hero or heroine, must battle demons and antagonists, discover friends and lovers, find and lose jobs, win, fall into despair, rise up to a new rebirth, discover new lands and, quite possibly, rediscover our true self: the One who sent us on out on our original adventure. 

Though dramatic, this has often been my experience in keeping a journal and acting on the revelations I have received.

Journal writing steadies and focuses our thoughts.  Quiets and sharpens the mind.  Then, gradually, and sometimes instantly, our contemplated and often spontaneous words on the page begin to reveal a story.  Our real story.  It offers helpful ideas and pathways to further growth and discovery.  It shows us how we have lived and how we are currently living.  How we see the world and what we believe about it.  How we have created the world for ourselves and continue to do so with the paint brush of our beliefs, thoughts and actions. 

We begin to see the world we have chosen, whether we like it or not.  Once we make that discovery, we can change it—change our story from the inside out and choose to live another, more realized and conscious life.  Amazingly, we can even transcend that story and witness it, like a reader reading us, our character and our story, on the page.

As the Buddha said:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises from our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make our world.

Another great meditation master Swami Muktananda said:

The mind is the instrument by which you detect the inner world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Foolish consistency
is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Journal writing is a simple and natural process.  It should be as easy as breathing.  As rewarding as admiring the changing seasons or watching a child grow.  It is simply getting to know yourself intimately, so that, ultimately, it’s a process that strengthens the mind, opens the heart and reveals your true inner beauty.  We can then offer those back to the world. 

 My experience has been that by practicing journal writing faithfully, it grants startling truths and practical answers.  It reveals the truth simply, directly and sometimes poetically.  I have discovered remarkable things about myself and am often reminded of something Saint Francis of Assisi said

The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.

Journal writing is a wonderful journey of fun and discovery.  So discover your story, secrets and all, and begin living it fully and fearlessly.

Copyright © 2013 Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the author The Astrologer's Daughter, Wanting Rita and The Christmas Diary.

Wednesday
Oct032012

Wanting Rita Audio Sample

Tuesday
Oct022012

The eBook Alien

We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed.              
Lawrence Clark Powell
(1906 - 2001)
Librarian and author

 

Fewer people are reading more, but in more formats than ever before, according to the results of a series of telephone surveys carried out by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Once upon a time, on the edge of the Milky Way, there was a small blue planet spinning around the sun.  Ubiquitous on that planet was a thing called traditional publishing.  It had clear guidelines and rules that went something like this: the author finished his/her book, then submitted a query letter to a publishing house directly or through his/her agent.  An editor at the house read the letter and made the decision to publish the book or not, based on whether the project “was right for them.”  If the house agreed to publish the book, it purchased the rights from the writer and paid an advance on future royalties.  The house invested in book design and packaging.  They ordered as many copies of the book as they thought would sell, then marketed the book and distributed it to the public.  This process could take months or even a year before the book finally appeared in book stores.

Then, something strange happened: rectangular electronic creatures suddenly appeared.  It was as if an alien craft from a 1950’s sci fi movie had burst like a fireball across the sky, crashed into earth and released it passengers, alien creatures called eBook. Fear and loathing spread throughout the publishing world, as eBook propagated itself, spreading its viral influence globally.  Publishers, proofers, editors and readers paced back and forth (picture them wearing white lab coats, scrutinizing those 1950s beeping, blinking computers) searching for some way to stop this indomitable creature that could hold more than 2000 books in its little glowing body.  What was the antidote?  What was to be done?

“It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.”
― Penelope Lively

 “There are lots of great ideas in my book, but as a cohesive unit, my book is only held together with glue at the spine.
 Or it would be, if it weren’t an eBook. 
”
― Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

Can anyone give birth to an eBook?  Yes.  Any manuscript in a word processing format can very quickly be transformed into an eBook, and you, as the author, control the packaging, the pricing, the proofing and editing.  The book can be placed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iTunes and additional sites, where it will be available for purchase almost immediately, or certainly within a few days.  Once its listed, there’s no waiting, no shipping, and no inventory storage. 

There are three things to keep in mind with regard to publishing an eBook, however.  First, garbage in, garbage out—even if it that garbage has a beautifully designed garbage bag.  If one is a lover of the craft of writing, one should insure that the book is carefully written, edited and proofed.  Secondly, a professionally designed book cover is essential.  It separates the amateurs from the pros.  Third, the big one.  Publicity.  If you do not promote your work, it will lie off in the high weeds somewhere and never be seen, even if it’s the most dazzling flower in the field. 

Publishing an eBook is a great adventure.  Like any adventure, it’s challenging, frustrating, rewarding and demanding.  But if you love books and the process of communicating, it offers a unique and satisfying journey.

So is the eBook a good alien or a bad alien?  As with any innovation, it has its detractors and admirers.  People who love the feel and smell of books despair that books will disappear.  They like holding a book while reading in bed or on the beach.  On the other hand, some voracious readers—people who read one or more books a week— welcome the opportunity to surf the net and download as many as they want, without having to drive into a shopping mall or parking lot and spend time in a bookstore or library.  For $1.99, cheaper than a movie, they can be entertained or enlightened for 8-10 hours. 

As writers and avid readers, we like to think of eBooks as another option; they don’t take the place of hardback or paperback books, they are in addition to them.  Sometimes we buy books in bookstores, and sometimes we download books onto our Kindle.  It’s as simple as that. 

As John Grisham recently said on CNN “The emergence of eBooks is phenomenal. A year ago, my last book, “The Confession” was published. It was the first time we released the digital version of the book the same day as the hardback. After one year, my total sales are 40% digital and 60% hardback and the numbers have gone up. That’s obviously good news for me because more people are reading the books.”

Copyright © 2012 Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse Douglas’ four novels include: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Wanting Rita, The Christmas Diary and Christmas Ever After. They live in New York City.

 

Sunday
Apr012012

My 134-Year-Old Kentucky “Uncle”

He was the oldest man in the world. He rarely wore shoes and chewed tobacco constantly. He claimed he grew 3 sets of teeth during his long life. And when he died on July 5, 1922, his oldest child was 99 years old and his youngest only seven. Other men in the mountains lived to be old men, but none ever came close to John Shell.

This was my great, great grandfather, fondly known in the family as Uncle Johnny Shell (actually spelled Schell, according to my 100-year-old grandmother who had the same last name). Shell was a gunsmith, (his Kentucky Flintlock Rifle was recently auctioned for $40,250.00) a miller, a wainwright (repaired wagons) and a blacksmith. He made knives, axes, hammers, spinning wheels, looms, and whiskey. He was also widely known to be an exceptional storyteller.

Yes, back in 1922, my Uncle John Shell was purported to be 132 years old when he finally shed his old—very old—mortal coil.  Fact or fiction?  Well, we’ll probably never know for sure.  Like I said, he was a great storyteller.

Perhaps I inherited some small measure of his storytelling genes, although I confess I am striving to impress upon the world that I am not galloping toward 100, but am, in fact, retrogressing, gracefully, to the fine and stable age of 40.  As they say, only time will tell, but we all know how this story will end.

But I digress. 

Uncle Johnny was born in 1788 near the Roaring River in East Tennessee.  The family eventually settled in Leslie County, Kentucky, near what today is part of Harlan, KY. 

John Shell recalled the earthquake which rumbled through Kentucky in 1811, saying that it came in December, early in the morning and lasted for two days, shaking the dishes from the table and pictures from the walls. He could call to mind when the stars fell at night “long in bunches and one after the other” in 1837 or 1838.  John knew Daniel Boone and remembered him killing bear, deer and wild turkeys.

When the Civil War broke out, Shell rode all the way to Virginia to fight for the Confederacy. “When John Shell arrived in Virginia and finally got to see Robert E. Lee to enlist to fight for the Confederacy,” relates Shell descendent Naomi A. Middleton Taylor in a family history, “Robert E. Lee said to him, ‘Sir, I admire you for riding this far. But sir, I cannot take you because of your age.’ John Shell was disappointed. You see, he was 74 years old.”

Below is an excerpt from an article about Naomi A. Middleton Taylor whose book, My Legacy, traces her family genealogy, with the primary focus being on John Shell.  The article was written by Rachel E. Sheeley.

Taylor started her research at the Wayne County Historical Museum, where she was fortunately referred to Harry Hunter at the Smithsonian Institution. Hunter, a native Hoosier, assisted her with research on Shell that is recorded in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

John Shell was born in 1788 near the Roaring River in the territory of Tennessee to gunsmith Samuel and Mary Ann Shell. He learned the rifle-making trade from his father and was reputed to have been friends with Daniel Boone.

According to Taylor’s book, John Shell was always willing to fight for his beliefs.  ‘When the War of 1812 broke out, John Shell was 24 years old; when the Mexican War broke out in 1845, John Shell was 57 years old; when the Civil War broke out, John Shell rode all the way to Virginia to fight for Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy.’

John Shell moved to Kentucky when he was in his 30s. He and his first wife had 12 children. She lived to be 117.

When he married for a second time, it was to a much younger woman, Elizabeth “Betsy” Chappell Shell.

In 1915, the Shells had a son, James Albert Shell. The infant's father was 126 years old.

Middleton’s father—John Shell’s great-grandson—was just a year older than the infant.

John Shell’s longevity was celebrated at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, Ky., when he was age 131. According to a document in the Smithsonian, John Shell was able to produce a receipt for his poll tax—for which he would have had to have been 21 to pay—that was dated 1809.

After the appearance at the fair, John Shell is reputed to have gone back to his Grassy Creek home where he won a shooting challenge against three young men with a gun he made.

According to Taylor’s book, John Shell went hunting in 1922 when he was 132 years old and got caught in a storm. He became so ill he died.

‘He was an incredible gentleman,’ Taylor said.

Taylor said there are people who dispute John Shell’s advanced age, and to them she says, “Fooey.”

Her manuscript has been accepted for the Library of Congress.