Escorting the Dead

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AN INTERVIEW WITH TA SULLIVANpsychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison (1947). In it, the ghost of a sea captain comes back for Lucy when she’s ready to pass. I always loved that he came back for her when it was time. Many of us will have heard stories about people getting close to death who see their loved ones, or sometimes angels. Beautiful, satisfying stories. But what if they’re not stories? What if that’s precisely what happens for many of us?

I recently finished “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp” by TA Sullivan. It’s a fascinating read about her experience as a death escort for the recently departed. As a child she was sensitive, but it wasn’t until she had her own near-death experience (NDE) that her life took a turn and she started to train as a guide for the dead.

Please welcome author and photographer, TA Sullivan. Thank you for agreeing to talk about what is a difficult subject for many.

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DEATH – Why Does It Frighten Us So?

Death.

That word probably frightens people more than any other.

Why?

Because it represents the ‘great unknown.’ We know less about death than we do about outer space or the deep recesses of Earth’s oceans. After all, it’s not easy to explore a dimension or state of being that requires us to cease living. So, for most of us, death becomes the area that, like on maps of old, was marked with the words: ‘There be monsters here.’

Monsters. Demons. Angels.

 

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These are what we think of when we think about death, because that’s all we know, or at least suspect, based on the stories that we are told about the land of beyond. Of course, some people eschew the typical concept of death being a place or a continuation of some form of life. Instead, they see death as a black nothingness. Still others divide the realm of death into two states: one where demons and monsters abide, and another where angels and cherubs live.

Proof.

Of course, trying to prove if there is a type of life after the physical body dies isn’t easy to do. After all, how do you gather statistics and measurements when you have no physical form? It is just this conundrum that has plagued most of us who have died and returned. We have garnered little acceptance from the scientific community regarding our experiences simply because we lack the physical proof of what occurred. All we have is our memory of the events, and even those vary widely based on each person’s interpretation. For instance, for someone who is a strict Catholic, the experience may be interpreted through the filter of their Catholic iconography and tenets; while, someone who is an atheist may describe their experience using a filter of science or space aliens.

Some experiments have been conducted. They are usually of the sort wherein someone is forced into a chemically- or electronically-induced death, and then revived within the time limits deemed safe. While these experiments are done within the confines of labs and under the supervision of ‘specialists,’ the interpretation of what did or did not occur on the ‘other side’ (if indeed, the other side was even reached) is still up to the individual who died.

The specialists monitoring the physical side of the experiment can note data on the ‘traveler’s’ body—heart rate, brain waves, blood pressure, etc.—however, they are unable to experience what the traveler who died experienced. Scientists can site all types of speculation and theories to explain what may or may not have happened—low oxygen levels in the brain, random electrical pulses, or a bad interpretation of what was happening around the person who was ‘dead’—but without proof of whether or not the dead person actually traveled their suppositions are as bogus as their disdain of what the travelers experienced.

Been There.

Having made the roundtrip at least once in this lifetime, I suppose that until we devise some sort of carrier to ferry us (the physical us) into the realm of death and back, we will simply have to rely on our own beliefs and truths as to what awaits us when we die.

To that end, I have written my interpretation of my experiences with the hope that they help people overcome some of their fear of Death. Death isn’t anything to fear. It’s merely another step along life’s path.

 

Anyone for Pie?

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The pie that is chocolate is missing a piece.
The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.

Besides making you hungry, the two sentences have a lot in common; however, they also have some important but subtle differences. It’s learning the subtle differences that can help you use the words that and which correctly. For example, the first sentence about the chocolate pie implies there is more than one flavor of pie, but only the chocolate pie is missing a piece. The second sentence states that there is only one pie and it has a piece missing. It also offers a side note to let you know that the pie is chocolate, but that fact is not considered as important as the fact that a piece is missing. (Obviously the second sentence wasn’t written by a chocoholic.)

The word that introduces restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply essential information to the intended meaning of the sentence. This is information that the reader needs to know to understand all that the sentence states and implies. However, the word which introduces non-restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply non-essential, supplemental information to the sentence, and if left out won’t change the sentence’s meaning (stated or implied). When trying to decide whether to use that or which, ask yourself these questions:

If I take out the clause, does my sentence’s meaning remain the same? If it does, you should use which; if it doesn’t, then use the word that.

Does the sentence feel as if it needs a comma? If so, this might indicate that you need to use the word which, because the clause it introduces is preceded by a comma. (The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.)

So, when you’re putting together your sentence and wondering if you need to put in a that or a which, you need to think about what the point of the sentence is. What is it that you want the readers to know—do they need to know that a piece of pie is missing, or that a piece of chocolate pie is missing. Now, before you run out and get yourself a piece of chocolate pie, try the short quiz I’ve included below.

Quiz
The four sentences below need either the word that or which. Determine the word needed based on whether the adjoining information is necessary for the reader to understand the message or whether the information is just nice to know.
Note: Remember to place a comma before any clause introduced by which.

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified.
  • The application requires a logon and password [that/which] prevents unauthorized access.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting [that/which] was already rescheduled twice.

The answers and explanations are below:

Answers:

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified. The information “…that were verified” tells us exactly what type of instructions. You need the additional information to clarify the sentence; therefore, you need to use that.
  • The application requires a logon and password, [that/which] prevents unauthorized access. The information that the logon and password prevent unauthorized access is interesting, but it isn’t essential; therefore, you need to use a comma and the word which.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days. Because the report is only showing accounts that were closed in the past 30 days, you need to use that; otherwise it would read as if the report were showing every account.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting, [that/which] was already rescheduled twice. The information about the meeting being rescheduled twice is not essential to understanding that the ABC project meeting was canceled; therefore, you need to put in a comma and use which.

So, now go ahead and get that piece of pie.

Telling the Story

psychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2Do you know the difference between a novel and a non-fiction book? A non-fiction book is based in truth. However, the biggest mistake that non-fiction authors make is equating truth with a dry recitation of facts rather than the telling of a story. Despite your history teacher’s attempts to bore you with lists of dates and tables of facts, history can (and is) actually interesting. People want to know why something happened or why someone acted or reacted as they did. They want to understand the reason for events, and that’s where your story telling ability comes in. You need to show them why; you need to give them the story surrounding the event.

All stories, both fiction and non-fiction, are just that—stories. When writing a memoir, biography, or other bit of non-fiction, you still need to follow the same guidelines as an author writing a novel; however, you have a major advantage. Your story is already loosely defined for you. You have the timeline, timeframe, characters, major conflicts, and key dramatic elements, all you need to do is add the story components.

You need to develop your characters so that your readers can see them the way you do—are they shy, dynamic, geeky, or ne’er do well? The characters need depth, life, purpose, and motivation to go along with that dramatic moment. Does the moment you’re recording have to do with star-crossed lovers, a robbery gone wrong, a heroic deed, or just a crazy moment that changed the character’s life? You also need to build up the environment. What was the time period like, the culture, and the society? Help your readers understand your character’s perspectives, actions, and reactions. (For instance, the American culture and societal mores are much different today than they were in the 1970’s and understanding that can help the reader connect with the character and their plight.)

Also, just as a fictional character has wants, needs, fears, and motivations, so do your non-fictional characters. By using a first- or third-person point of view, action verbs, and a show-not-tell writing style you can catapult your readers into the story and help them appreciate the little slice of true life that you are sharing with them.

Here’s an example of a memoir that, while historically accurate, is rather dry:

In 1973, Terry got a job for the local newspaper. She did many jobs while there, such as typesetting, layout and design, and bundling (which is the bundling of flyers, ads, and other inserts with the paper). However, her favorite job was junior reporter.

Her first really major story involved the murder of a local schoolteacher. When the body was discovered, Terry was at the school to cover the latest protests.

Here is that same example, but written in a more story-like way:

1973 was a tumultuous year. It was the time of flower power, (Viet Nam) war protests, hippies dropping out, dropping in, and dropping acid, flag and bra burnings, and it was the year that Terry saw her first murder victim.

As a junior reporter for the local paper, she was at the school covering the latest protest when the screams ripped through the air.

 

Now, which memoir would you rather read?

4 Free Marketing Tools for Authors

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Most authors are not sales people. We tend to be loners and introverts, rather than extroverts and life-of-the-party types. Because of this temperament, many of us find that selling our books doesn’t come easily. Yet, without a bit of marketing, our books and other writings are unnoticed and often overlooked.

For each reader out there, there are at least a 1000 books that “hit the shelves” every day. Yet, without something to entice readers to find them, most of these books may never find a single reader, and many may only be found by the author’s friends and family. Yet, every book has 4 free, built-in sales and marketing points that many of us authors overlook.

Every time you, as the author, publish one of your works, you need to provide:

  1. A book cover

Think about it. What makes potential readers select a book written by an unknown author from an overwhelming list of unknown authors? The cover. Whether at a brick and mortar book store or online, a winning cover can make potential readers stop and check out your book. You need to create a cover that is unique and eye-catching, but the design also has to visually convey what your book is about. If your story is about space exploration, don’t show an image of a haunted house. And if it’s about vampires, don’t use space ships (well…unless it’s a book about space vampires). Worst of all, though, don’t give potential readers a blank cover with just the title and your name on it. That says you don’t care enough about the readers to even try to entice them.

  1. A book synopsis

I remember at a book conference, one of the guest author panelists said, if you can’t summarize your story, then you don’t understand your own plotline. What is the main arc of your story? What is it your characters are trying to do, solve, resolve, or accomplish? But don’t get side-tracked by subplots, just summarize the main idea of your story.

Every distribution site I’ve seen asks authors to provide a summary of the book (some even ask for two summaries—a long summary consisting of 1000 words, and a short summary containing only 200 words). That’s where you can really shine; after all, writing is what you do, right? So, give the reader something great.

If a potential reader has stopped to consider your cover, the next thing that reader will want is an overview of what the book is about. Give your potential readers the high-points of the story; give them a reason to want your book over someone else’s. There are millions of science fiction, romance, and murder mystery stories out there, why should they read yours?

  1. An author write up

Many readers also want to know something about you, the author. They want to know who you are and what makes you tick. They need to know what makes you worthy of their time, or what qualifies you to be an author on a specific topic? However, when you answer these questions, don’t go overboard, yet don’t be too skimpy, either.

Some authors feel that they need to include their whole resume in their author bio; while others feel they don’t need to include any information at all. The truth of it is, many readers of fiction and non-fiction want a way to relate to you as a person; it helps them decide whether they want to give your work a chance. For instance, if you put in your author bio that you love chocolate, potential readers can go, “Ooooh, so do I.” Or perhaps you are a volunteer, a mother, or a person who rescues animals, if it relates to your book topic, tell the reader. It helps them relate to you, and it helps them accept that you just might know something about your book topic.

You especially need to include some biographical information if the book is non-fiction. That’s because potential readers are even more insistent on knowing that the author is someone they can trust to give them information on this particular topic. Potential readers want to know that if the book is about art history that you have the knowledge, background, or credentials to write knowledgably about that topic.

  1. A book sample

Some authors shy away from including book samples. Perhaps they feel they don’t need to give away their hard work. Yet, how else can potential readers gauge whether your writing style and their reading styles will mesh? How do they know they want to travel the story world with you as their guide if they can’t see your writing style? In a brick and mortar store, a reader can always pull the book off the shelf and read a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters. If you don’t give them the same chance when shopping online, then you’re tossing away possible sales.

As an author, you need to give the reader every possible chance to find you, find out about you, and to find out about your characters and your story. Personally, as a reader, the above-mentioned 4 items are key to whether I’ll buy your book. So, make sure you include them; because, when you use them, and use them well, you make your book shine.

It’s Now Free on Amazon, too!

Amazon.com finally caught up with the other distributors, so now you can get Mastering Meditation free for your Kindle, too. Try some of the different meditations from the book, and see which of them works for you.

Do you wonder what types of lives you might have lived previously, or what lives you might live in the future? Using the regression and progression meditation techniques included in the book can help you find out. The book also contains some examples of past and future life memories.

So, download your free copy today, and happy reading! (Please don’t forget to write up a review and post it ; )

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Cover Design by DL-Designs and Digital Art

Mastering Meditation…

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It’s FREE, and it’s coming soon!

Did you ever want to try meditation but didn’t know what type? Or maybe you didn’t know there were different types of meditations? Well, there are. And in my soon-to-be-released FREE book, Mastering Meditation, you can check out the different types of meditation, try some of the different meditations from the book, and see which of them works for you. Do you want to relax? Or are you looking for help or guidance?

Do you wonder what types of lives you might have lived previously, or what lives you might live in the future? Using the regression and progression meditation techniques included in the book can help you find out. The book also contains some examples of past life memories as recalled by me and several others who have used these meditation techniques. So, get ready…this FREE book is coming soon.