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First Chapter Reveal: ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch & $25 iTunes Giveaway!

ITGIRL4LIFE 8Title: ITGIRL4LIFE
Author: Tamara Branch
Publisher: Heart Project Publishing
Pages: 98
Genre: YA/Self-Esteem
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Writer, artist and speaker, Tamara Branch serves up 40 bite-sized chapters on how to build unshakable self-confidence, honor your life, and shine bright in the world, in ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more. Packed with sage advice, life-changing insights and affirmations to help you soar, ITGIRL4LIFE offers ideas, tools and principles that you can reference and build upon, supporting you in becoming your best. Get ready to fall in love with your own wisdom, beauty and strength.

First Chapter:

KNOW WHO YOU REALLY ARE

Y OU ARE MAGNIFICENT. You are important. You matter.

You are special. You are a powerful presence on this Earth.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are good. You are a person of value. You have been blessed with wisdom, intelligence, grace, beauty, strength, peace, joy, love and creativity. You have talents and gifts beyond what you can imagine. You possess within you everything you need to thrive. You live in an abundant universe.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish. You are complete as you are. Start with that and keep building.

Power Statement

I KNOW WHO I AM.

“Your treasure is within.”

Power Statement

I HAVE SO MUCH GOING FOR ME.

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First Chapter Reveal! Unlocking the Mystery of You by D.L. Anderson

Unlocking the Mystery of YouTitle: Unlocking the Mystery of You: The Pinnacle of Purpose
Author: D.L. Anderson
Publisher: Author House
Pages: 195
Genre: Self-Help
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Do you know who the most important person in your life is? Just look in the mirror and you will see – it’s you. Whether you’re a college student, a housewife, a salesman, or the president of the United States of America, the most important person in your life is and will always be you.

That being said, your primary objective in life should be to know who you are so that you can position yourself to succeed in offices aligned with your purpose. After all, your purpose is the collective reasoning behind your existence. As one philosopher puts it, “Purpose is the only real reason you are here, for you exist because your purpose exists. Thus apart from purpose, you have no authentic motivation for living. You may very well exist, but when you’re gone, very few will ever know that you were here.”

Now for some of us discovering our purpose is simple. We understood it long before we ever became adults. For others it is not so easy, and for more reasons than I can gather. This is why the process of personal discovery is so critical; for not only does it allow you to discover your purpose. It also positions you to persistently follow the evolution of your purpose.

This is important because we are all changing every day. Consequently, our purpose will also change contingent to the season of life we are in. Still, in spite of this inevitable change and all the complexities which make understanding your purpose difficult, you will always be able to detect your purpose simply because it is the source of your fulfillment. So if you’re in a job, relationship, or any office which is persistently unfulfilling, odds are it is not aligned with your purpose – and unless you are willing to concede the awesome measures of fulfillment you would experience otherwise, you need to start thinking about making a change so that you can both enhance your life and have profound impacts in the various groups and societies you are in.

“Unlocking the Mystery of You” champions this cause focusing first and foremost on purpose and the crucial role it plays in achieving personal fulfillment and setting the stage for the individual to be a catalyst for group fulfillment. It accomplishes this goal by utilizing a purposeful roadmap designated as the Pinnacle of Purpose. The Pinnacle of Purpose is a progressive path illustrated by 7 ascending levels which, if followed sequentially, not only have the power to transform your life. It will provide you with the greatest measures of fulfillment and success life can offer. All you have to do is follow the crucial, yet simple order of purpose, beginning with confidence and concluding with peace.

So if you’re ready for a change; if you’re ready to stop sleeping on your dreams and your truest passions; if you’re tired of the status quo and living a life which feels incomplete; if you’re tired of wishing your life was better and are now prepared to do something about it; if you’re finally ready to take that ever-difficult leap of faith, then this is a book you must read. Because in this book I show you how to take that leap of faith without falling, for when you leap towards your purpose, you will always land squarely on your feet.

This is true first and foremost because your purpose is what makes you unique to every other individual in the world today, a premise which thoroughly validates the existence of every man and women on the earth. The problem is that many don’t understand their purpose. Once upon a time I didn’t either. That is until I got serious about life. It was then that I realized what purpose is.

It is the collection of all your authentic desires; it is your passion. It is your North Star and your direction; it is your life-long teacher – and above all else, it is that which causes you to press through any form or measure of adversity until you unleash your maximum potential, for it gives you the strength to hold on when you have no strength left within you to hold on.

First Chapter:

I DID IT ON PURPOSE

“I didn’t do it on purpose” was one of my favorite sayings as a child. Why? It is because this confession had gotten me out of trouble on possibly 1,000 occasions, a minor exaggeration to be sure. In any event, these 6 words were priceless because they constituted my original “get out of jail free card” and saved me in several sticky situations.

Now this card didn’t work all the time, mind you. After all, there were some things I did which I could neither honestly nor semi-honestly justify with my patented excuse, and I wasn’t going to compromise the longevity of my lucky card for any incident which was clearly inexcusable. No sir; I was going to drink from this well until the water ran dry – which it did and much sooner than I would have liked. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

Fast-forward several years in time. Here you’ll find me with a much different outlook on life and a new preferred saying. That would be, “I did it on purpose,” a definitive statement which speaks to one of the most profound realities in life. As such, I will offer it as an interest point.

Classically this is where the rubber meets the road; for as everything we do is incontestably on purpose, our consistent actions reveal who we are with regards to our inner self as opposed to our personal face-value. Accordingly, it is our actions more so than our words which tell the tale of the man or woman we’re trying to be.

Notwithstanding, this tale does not always reflect who we truly are. In this regard, some of us at face-value are pretenders who are trying to be someone they’re not. This is why establishing our life upon a firm foundation of purpose is so vital, for the consistent inundation of purpose ensures our intentions and consequent actions are perfectly aligned with our destiny. Therefore, the first step in unlocking your personal mystery is dedicating yourself to being yourself and living a life of purpose.

TRUE YOU

Now if you’re like me, you know very few people who consistently say what they mean and mean what they say. You know even fewer people who without fail practice what they preach. Why the inconsistency? For the most part it’s because their lives are established on conflicting purposes; hence the irregularity.

Then again if you’re like me, you may have noticed this contradictory trend a time or two in your own life. So what did you do? I’ll tell you what I did – I set out on a personal journey to discover a path where everything I did was not only on purpose, but with purpose; specifically purposes which reflected “the real me.”

Who am I referring to when I mention the real me? Definitively I am referring to the man I would turn out to be after I successfully established my purpose in life. That is the man I was destined to become before various conflicting factors set me off-course and led me down paths contrary to my destiny. Consequently, if there is a real me, there must be a version of me who is not as real.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone teach on the concept of true north. It was during an astronomy lecture at Ball State University. I remember thinking to myself, “If there is a true north, then what is the regular north I’ve been learning since kindergarten?”

Of course everything made more sense at the end of the lecture. Without going into the details, there are multiple manifestations of the astronomical concept of north. However, only one of these manifestations is true north; that is the direction along the earth’s surface towards the geographic North Pole. The other variations may at times be congruent and persistently similar. Yet they are not consistently the same as true north.

The same rule applies to all of us. See the majority of us exhibit multiple manifestations. The two prevailing manifestations are “you now” and “true you.” You now is the person you are at this present moment. True you is the person you will become once all of your singular purposes are properly aligned and consequently coherent. Accordingly, the search for purpose in life is actually a search for the most authentic version of you. It’s the elongated process in which you discover and are converted into true you.

STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY

The next question we must attend to is this – why is it important for us to be true to ourselves? Honestly I could provide over 100 reasons why this cause is beyond essential. However, I would like to focus on 1 in particular; that is diversity.

Certainly diversity is a prominent pillar of every progressive society. For an example consider a football team and ask yourself this question – how effective would a team be if everyone on the offense was a quarterback and everyone on the defense was a linebacker? Trust me; not only would this team be unsuccessful. They wouldn’t be very enjoyable to watch (unless perhaps you were rooting for the opposing team).

Therefore, I would ask you to consider this follow-up question – if everyone in your society (e.g. business unit, family or organization) were a carbon copy of the person next to them, how successful would your society be? Think about it.

Here’s the next point I would like to make – every progressive society is depicted by roles which are fulfilled by the successful administration of an over-arching, correlating assignment (which I will consciously refer to as an office throughout this composition). A principal key to the success of each society, then, is that each office is occupied by the person best suited to fulfill its corresponding roles. In every other case, the inclusive lack from a poor arrangement will prevent the society from reaching its full potential. As such, it would continually degenerate until corrective actions are taken.

Almost 10 years ago I was the Director of Consulting Services at one of the largest IT firms based out of Indiana. There I enjoyed managing one of my favorite and most successful teams. It was also one of my most diverse teams, a crucial factor which positioned us to incur awesome measures of success; more success than we would have achieved otherwise.

Upon understanding this development, I began actively looking for ways to increase the diversity of our team. Thus whenever I interviewed potential candidates to fill open positions, I first considered the members currently on the team. Then I not only looked for the candidate who exceeded my expectations; I also looked for someone who would add diversity to our group.

Masterfully my strategy proved correct every time the team grew. By gradually increasing the diversity of our team, we found ourselves consistently innovated with new ideas, processes, and ways of thinking in general.

Sure we had a pretty large group of seasoned professionals who possessed awesome talents and the ability to get a lot done. However, the greatest source of our strength was not our numbers or our expertise. It was our diversity and the awesome opportunities it presented us.THE WORLD NEEDS YOU

At the same time, I learned that managing and participating in a diverse group presents several challenges. In particular, it forces each team member to regularly rethink and often recalibrate their views. These actions (though very necessary) are sometimes difficult because many of us have a hard time considering or admitting when we are wrong or when our way of doing things is not necessarily the best way to get things done.

Fortunately there was no one in our group who was too terribly rigid that they couldn’t see past their own methodologies. Hence this is not where I encountered most of my challenges. These unforeseen happenstances transpired as a result of the inverse scenario; explicitly some team members became discouraged when their ideas were not adopted by the group and began to withdraw.

Consensus is my preferred way to lead and always has been. So I recognized I was indirectly responsible for the withdrawal that was occurring. In consequence, I had to upgrade my management strategy to account for this unanticipated offshoot.

In time I came up with the perfect solution. I met individually with those who were withdrawn from the group and reassured them that they were critical to the team’s success. More importantly I told them why. In doing so, I reminded them why I hired them and described future scenarios where I was confident their expertise and background would be crucial to the team’s continued success.

The lesson I learned then was sure – there are peaks and valleys in everyone’s life. For that reason, we can not allow for the valleys to cause us to lose sight of the value of our role as it pertains to the group’s success. Neither can we allow the peaks to deceive us into believing we’re “all that,” for no one person will ever exceed the value and potential of a progressive group or society.

What it all comes down to is this – the world needs you. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just consider all of your offices in life and ask yourself this question – who is better suited to fulfill each of my offices than me?

See I’m convinced the vast majority of us have at least one life office which no one can fulfill better than we can. For those of you who are unconvinced, this does not mean the world doesn’t need you. Quite the contrary; what the world needs is for you to find a way to succeed in the offices you were called to and in the roles you were destined to fulfill.

Now the cause behind this need is certain and one which I hope you will never forget. Therefore I will offer it as an interest point.

This matter lends itself to why societies degenerate. It is because critical roles are not being fulfilled by the person best suited to fulfill them. Consequently, the correlating offices are either empty or occupied by someone less qualified – and alas, everyone involved will suffer the consequences in the end and after all.

BE YOURSELF

“Everybody has an office,” I declared to an adult group to whom I was delivering a spiritual lecture.

“The problem,” I told them, “is that many fail to recognize their purpose in life because they are fatally trying to be someone they’re not.” Then I shared with them a profound statement which I will offer as another interest point.

Understandably death in this context is not literal. It is figurative. That is to say, the longer you try to be someone you’re not, the farther you will migrate away from your true self. Stay on this path long enough and you will be so far removed from your true self that he or she will be metaphorically deceased – and as it is scarcely possible, we all perceive the likelihood of raising someone from the dead (metaphorically or literally).

Now I was able to make this decisive declaration for one simple cause – I had been there. Admittedly, I knew what it was like to lose sight of my true self because I was too busy trying to be someone who I thought was better than me; namely someone who I thought the world would better appreciate.

That’s when I realized I had effectually become a self-contradiction. By trying to be someone I was not, I was contradicting my own existence as well as decreasing my personal value.

While on this regressive road, I began to understand the nature of our world and found it to be similar to that of a spoiled child. You know the type. You’ve seen them throwing themselves out in grocery stores and acting unruly in restaurants all across the country. The $500 question is simply why?

Here’s the answer – a spoiled child doesn’t really know what they want. Consequently, the worst thing for them is a parent who constantly bends over backwards to meet their child’s unrealistic and unfounded demands, for these actions only work to reinforce the deficits of the child. This is true even though the parent is merely trying to be appreciated by giving the child what they presume he or she wants.

What these parents fail to realize is tragically classic; that is the child does not know what he or she wants. This is precisely why they are often only able to appreciate one thing; that is a parent who will stop spoiling them and teach them the true meaning of appreciation.

Trust me; it’s bad business when you have parents trying to befriend a child, for every parent should focus first and foremost on being a credible authority as this is the first step in effectively raising children. This is especially the case during their informative years.

How does this example relate to you and the world? Well I’ll tell you. The world is like a spoiled child in that it is by default inappreciative. Consequently, it will never appreciate those who bend over backwards trying to be someone they presume everyone will accept. On the contrary, the only way the world will appreciate you is if you stop trying to be everyone’s friend and start being yourself.

Again I ask you to trust me and faithfully consider the following statement – being yourself is the only thing you’ll ever truly be good at. This truism speaks to another interest point.

On this wise, the one sure way to tell if you appreciate yourself is by determining how committed you are to being yourself. Or as the young people tell it, “Just do you.”

Certainly this is the only way you will ever unlock your personal mystery because again, as the young people say, you are “keeping it real.” In essence, you are being yourself in every situation. This allows people to know what to expect out of you regardless of the situation or circumstances you are in.

Markedly this is exactly when the world will begin to appreciate you, for you will have proven yourself to be reliable – and who doesn’t appreciate someone who they can consistently count on?

All the same, as wonderful as this occasion is, enduring appreciation does not come painlessly. Neither does it come quickly. Contrasting, it comes tenderly and gradually. The same way a small child does not instantly appreciate the discipline of a wise parent, the world will not immediately appreciate the value of an authentic man or woman.

Do not be troubled by this reality, for in time this value will surely be realized. You just have to be committed to standing up for yourself even when you’re standing alone – and there will be several instances when you are.

ARE YOU READY TO WALK THE PATH?

How does this all relate to living a life of purpose? Decisively everything we have discussed thus far is only possible if we have effectively established our unique purposes in life. In this regard, your life purposes (i.e. the distinct causes which collective constitute your purpose) are like tour guides. Their job is to guide you along the path which leads to your destiny.

As for me, I’ve walked this path in my life and have achieved awesome levels of fulfillment and success. From now, I want to share what I have learned by leaving behind breadcrumbs for others to follow. Therefore, the following pages of this book will speak to the aforementioned path of fulfillment and provide various life examples for both validation and understanding.

All things considered, everything in life is a choice (with the lone exception of physiological involuntary actions). Thus conclusively, if you choose to follow this path, I can make you the following guarantee – even though you will endure various seasons of grind and change, you will eventually acquire the greatest measures of fulfillment and success the world has to offer. That’s my personal guarantee.

So if this pledge sounds like a good deal to you, keep reading this book. I’m going to show you how I got there and how you can get there too.

On the other hand, if you decide not to follow this path or some similar path, I can guarantee you the opposite. Regrettably you will fail to acquire the greatest measures of fulfillment and success while never realizing your true potential. Furthermore, you will still endure various seasons of grind and change.

Granted this is not the classic life-or-death scenario; not even close. However, the quality of your life is at stake. Thus the question of the hour is simply this – how much fulfillment and success are you prepared to leave on the table?

THE SUMMATION

The majority of us will reach a point in our lives where we discover that we are not authentic reflections of the man or woman inside. As an ill-advised traveler, we’ve deviated from the beaten path and gotten lost.

All the same, course correction is not a difficult matter. All we need is a map. Enter: the Pinnacle of Purpose, a dedicated roadmap which provides purposeful direction along the path which leads to true you and concludes with the greatest allotment of fulfillment and success this life can afford.

What is more, the Pinnacle of Purpose (as illustrated in this composition) provides ample instructions and advice on how to handle various situations which could potentially cause us to lose our way. This manner of intelligence is critical because our world is unfortunately filled with haters and doubters. Disappointingly these losers in life are going to invest time in throwing stones at us as we carry on our quest.

Now in submitting this warning, I would advise each reader not to be overly concerned about this matter. See I’m not only going to show you how to become immune to these unwarranted acts. I’m also going to show you how to use these stones to help you get to where you are going. Advantageously I’m going to show you how to turn their throwing stones into your stepping stones.

Last but surely not least, I’m going to lay a foundation for achieving self- actualization by discussing the importance of excelling in each of our life offices – and although the full disclosure of this process will be addressed in the next composition in this series, it is imperative for each purpose seeker to understand how important it is to always give our best effort in every life situation. For once we establish this model way of living, and everything else will begin to seamlessly fall into place. This brings me to my final world on this lecture.

No matter what anyone tells you, the world needs you. Therefore, if you don’t know who you are, it’s time you found out. Only then will you be truly appreciated and wholly succeed in those offices you were called to fulfill.

 

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships by Eve Picquette

Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships 2Title: Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships: 10 Shift Keys – What Your Angels Have Been Trying to Tell You for Centuries
Author: Eve Picquette
Publisher: Enchanted Eve, Inc.
Pages: 78
Genre: Self Help/Inspiration
Format: Paperback

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How many times have you read or seen something that made you want to change your life and relationships – but you didn’t know how? Introduced by two angels, Hope and Impatience, Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships – What Your Angels Have Been Trying to Tell You for Centuries… answers the “how” question. Eve Picquette shows readers how to:

  • Open their hearts to love
  • Shift their lives, using 10 keys—how-to-do-it ideas created with the help of angels of inspiration—to change in real and satisfying ways.

In this lighthearted, uplifting, and beautifully illustrated gift book, each chapter opens with images of the author’s angels and quotes she believes were angel-inspired sometime in history. Readers may also download companion MP3 Mini Meditations available on Amazon.com. They are “Dared to Shift” their thoughts and behaviors and these shifts will improve lives and relationships: • Shift 1: Always Connect to Love • Shift 2: Just Stop It, Really • Shift 3: It’s All About You • Shift 4: It’s Not About You • Shift 5: Give Up on the Past • Shift 6: Expect the Best Future • Shift 7: Appreciate Everything Now • Shift 8: Re-Choose Your Relationships • Shift 9: Handle Conflict with Grace • Shift 10: Love So it Can be Felt.

If you are ready to try these simple shifts, the results will amaze you. Every encouraging and comforting word in this beautifully illustrated self-help book will lead you to the path of peace, happiness, and fulfillment. A treasure to own, it would also serve as a thoughtful, caring, and loving gift.

First Chapter:

You probably would like some magic stardust to change your life and your relationships. You may have been trying to be loving, light hearted and to live a happy life, but it has been less than a success. Perhaps you read something and decide to change. But you don’t know exactly how and quickly fall back into the same patterns, just as I did. This book will give you practical shifts you can make in your life. I will be showing you what the angels had been trying to show me for years: how to shift to love, open my heart, and have happier relationships. If you make these shifts, you will become more relaxed, have more fun, and draw in the very best from your relationships. You will have the magic stardust.

There are only two reasons to make these shifts:

  • You will feel lighter and happier.
  • You will attract people, places and events, which are also lighter and happier.

When you are feeling lighter and happier and have attracted the same, you will find that your relationships have evolved, as well. They will be fixed in amazing ways. The easiest way to explain this is to think about each of your relationships as a teeter-totter. You are on one end and your partner, child, boss, or friend is on the other end. When you shift to lighten your heart, it is like lightening the weight on your end of the teeter-totter. The person on the other end must change, as well. But you cannot control what choices the other person will make. Sometimes the other person may change in ways that are happy and pleasing and keep things in balance. Sometimes the other person will refuse to play and will move away from the relationship. If so, it will be OK. Because you are shifting your life to happiness and love—another partner, friend, or job will show up to take their place. They will have lighter hearts and be in balance with the changes you are making to lighten your heart and enjoy your life.

It would be nice to just ask your angels to sprinkle some stardust on all the difficult people in your life—swish! But, unfortunately, all those people have free choice, so you can only hope to influence them in a positive way. The very best way to influence the difficult people in your life is to connect to love, yourself. Whenever you are not feeling light and happy, just stop whatever you are doing or thinking and connect to love and ask for an open heart. When you do this, it will be like magic stardust for you—your vibration will raise, you will feel better, and this transformation will influence everyone around you in a positive way. The first Shift Key is learning that there is always magic stardust for you. You can always connect to love at any time, in any circumstance.

When I was learning this—I had it all backward. I wanted to get more love from others. But I did not have my own connection to love. I thought if I could change everyone else, I would be happy. As it turns out, I could not get anyone to change even one little bit. I had read many of the self-help books published in the last twenty-five years and become an authority on why I was sabotaging myself, and why my childhood or other experiences might be causing my pain. Everything I learned was helpful, but most of what I learned just made me want to change other people and circumstances beyond my control.

I also thought that working on my own education and accomplishments would make me more lovable and happy. I consistently chose with my head, then second-guessed my choices. I was accepted into medical school, and then chose not to attend. Later I became an attorney, not because I really wanted to be an attorney, but to make up for my “mistake” in not going to medical school. I was mostly concerned with how others would view me. My accomplishments were not from my heart. I am glad for all I accomplished as nothing we learn is ever wasted. But I was mostly operating out of worry and fear, not love.

I later found that I was making two major errors and even though the results were poor – I didn’t know what else to do.

  • First – I was trying my best to be and do what I thought everyone wanted me to be and do.
  • When that didn’t seem to be working out, I often made a second mistake. I waited and hoped that others would change to be who I wanted them to be.

I was trying so hard to do it right and be good enough – I wasn’t really being myself. Then, instead of moving on when a relationship, job or situation did not meet my needs – I waited and waited – hoping that others would somehow change (despite strong evidence to the contrary!).

I wanted to stop wishing and hoping that others would change, so that I could be happy. I asked my angels to show me an answer: How could I love and respect myself and have harmonious and happy relationships, at the same time? This book contains the answers I found. The secret was to connect to love and then shift in the only areas where I had some control – my own thoughts, feelings and actions. When my own heart was right, then everyone and everything around me sorted out with the law of attraction. When I connected to love and my inner world (my heart) was right – so was my outer world.

Our angels have been trying to tell us this down through the ages. However, in the last few years, science is confirming the importance of connecting to love and its impact on our world. Joe Dispenza in his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, notes research indicating that we are each part of a vast, invisible field of energy, which contains all possible realities and actually responds to our thoughts and our feelings. We can use our minds and emotions to create our reality. The neuroscientist, Dr. Newberg, in his book, How God Changes Your Brain, explains how just thinking of the word God and contemplative practices enhance the neural functioning of the brain in ways that improve physical and emotional health, no matter the religion or belief – as long as it is based on peace, love and compassion. The Institute of HeartMath research shows that positive thoughts actually add energy to our system and negative thoughts dissipate our energy. Our heart energy extends out three feet and more, influencing whatever is around us, as well as connecting to those we love around the world.

Opening our hearts and feeling love, appreciation and compassion have a powerful beneficial effect on how we relate to life. I learned from Dr. David Hawkins’s book, Power versus Force, that we all vibrate on an energy scale that ranges from low vibrations of despair, loneliness, and sadness up to the higher vibrations of hope, peace, happiness, and joy. Further, whatever level we are at determines what we attract—like attracts like.

  • High vibrations —Happiness, Peace, and Joy
  • On the way up —Hope, Expectation, and Contentment
  • Low vibrations —Despair, Guilt, and Shame

Our emotions are based on how we interpret events and what we are thinking about. Our energy or vibration level is determined by the emotions we feel. Our vibration then determines what we attract and the outcome of our interactions with others and our world. So why don’t we all just move up to joy? Usually because most of us grew up learning unhappy behaviors from our parents, who also wanted to live happy lives, but didn’t know how. Unless we connect to love – it is difficult to

break these unhappy patterns.

So no wonder I was not getting what I wanted! My attitude, emotions, and vibration were often fearful and worried or critical and negative. When I was critical and negative, that was the type of experience I was going to attract. I realized why the Law of Attraction wasn’t working for me. I began to think of my thoughts as a flock of ducks flying through the sky. I could say some nice affirmations about what I wanted – that gave me three or four ducks going in the right direction. However, I had habitual thoughts and feelings of doubt, fear and unworthiness. Those twenty ducks were circling or going the wrong way, so chaos reigned. The universe responded not to my affirmations, but to my primary energy and vibration of fear and doubt. Law of attraction sounded good, if I could just stay in peace and joy – and attract that! But I didn’t know how to shut off the anxious, negative perspective. I found that the easiest way was to simply ask for help and ask to be filled with the energy of unconditional love.

I had signed up to go to an Angel Conference presented by Doreen Virtue, but was hesitant to go. The universe knew I sincerely wanted help—when I ask I always get assistance. I usually recognize the angel’s hand only in retrospect. But this time, I actually heard a voice in my heart say, “Atlanta, Atlanta.” Since the conference was in Atlanta, that helped me find the courage to go. At that time Doreen had recorded a beautiful short meditation. I found the best way to get out of my negative thoughts was by listening to this. All I needed was a few minutes of quiet time. I felt the peace the first time I tried it. Later, if I found my thoughts drifting into negativity, I just paused a moment and asked for help again. I opened my heart to the energy of love and gratitude. I began connecting to light and love this way about fifteen years ago, and it has made a profound difference in my life.

No matter what you are facing, connecting with the source of love and light in the universe (the power running the universe) will help. You may wonder how this will improve your relationships, but when you connect to the power of love, you can see yourself and others with a love that creates miracles. There is a power that spins the world and holds the stars and planets in place. That same power is available to you at all times. You may call it Source, you may call it God; you can think of it as delivered by angels of unconditional love or the power that created the galaxies. It truly does not matter. It is light and love flowing to all of us, no matter what our belief or religion. The power is love, and it does not discriminate. You do not have to believe in it; all you have to do is hold out your hands. It keeps you alive, and you cannot turn it off. You can only temporarily cut off part of the flow—the part that would make you fully alive, vibrant, happy, and at peace.

So your first shift key is to quiet your mind and open your heart. I want to emphasize—I am not recommending some formal meditation practice; often, just five minutes will move you up the emotional scale from fear to hope. The secret is not long meditation, but repeated requests throughout the day and a change in your emotions and vibration. You will receive help and see your situation with the eyes of love. If you ask, you will receive that magic stardust,

When you walk in nature, listen to uplifting music; close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, your heart responds. When you ask for help from Source or the angels of unconditional love, or when you repeat a comforting phrase, you are slowing down enough to notice and connect to the light and power of the universe. If you ask to be filled with the energy of unconditional love, you will feel your vibration rise, and you will feel better. If you are fearful or upset, you will become calmer. If you’re angry or frustrated, you will move up to hope and see answers more clearly. It will help you with the rest of the Shift Keys. It will raise your energy and vibration and make it more likely that you will attract what you want and reach your dreams. But even more important, it will connect you to love. You will see that everything, no matter how it appears, is really working out for you—right now.

You may be thinking that if that worked, it would be a miracle. It is.

ANYONE ELSE THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?

You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too.

—Anandamurti

If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.

—Alan Cohen

So many mornings I have chosen email over meditation…. I override the call to feel myself—the call to pray, or meditate, or be fully awake. Prayer comes in all forms and each one spoken brings grace to the day. —Danielle LaPorte

Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside. —Margaret Walker

You don’t have to go looking for love when it’s where you come from. —Erhard

You are today where your thoughts brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. —James L. Allen

Everything that exists, … is vibration in motion—and all of it is managed by the powerful Law of Attraction. —Abraham-Hicks

And my favorite:

If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.  —Ani Pema Chodron

DARE TO SHIFT

Shift and connect to the energy of love and gratitude every single day. Put five to ten minutes on your calendar today. I cannot urge you more strongly—try it for a week and prove me wrong! I am not talking about long meditation – I believe that most of us are here to live our lives, rather than sit in contemplation. But we need to pause long enough to stop the negative thoughts and emotions, which are cutting off our supply of loving energy. We need to ask to be filled, here and now, with the energy of life, light and the power of love. We need to take the time to be lifted with the energy of love, to raise our vibration and open our hearts.

  • If you feel you have no time, just take a few minutes in the car in a parking lot. I have done some of my best connection in the car, or waiting for an appointment in a place where I could close my eyes and relax. If I am in a really stressful situation, I excuse myself for just five minutes (even if I have to retreat to the restroom). I breathe deeply and ask for calm and clarity or whatever I need. I ask to be filled with light and to see the situation with love. This has helped me respond and make decisions in a clear and positive way.
  • Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply; ask for help and repeat a soothing phrase. I like the phrase All is well. If you have time, you can use a short meditation or soothing music without words.
  • Ignore any negative thoughts or your to-do list—repeat your request to be flooded with love and light and continue relaxing, breathing slowly.
  • Once you feel some peace and love, if you want, you can also ask for specific help. You can ask for clarity on a problem at work; the ability to see your partner or children with more loving eyes; or the ability to see your own goals clearly, without worrying about everyone else. Then let it go, and continue the day.
  • Do not ask for predictions on the future, because both you and others have free choice. You can choose again at any time, and change your future. The angels do not predict the future, but angel messengers of unconditional love or the love and light of the universe can help you recognize what makes you light and happy and help you move toward the best next step for you. So ask to clearly know what choice will bring you and others the most love and happiness now.
  • Note – This is asking for help in living your life. This is not about channeling, predicting the future, or connecting with anything other than the light of love or Source. The Source of unconditional love and light only wants you to choose and will help you follow your choices – Source, angels or the light of unconditional love never dictates your path, you have free choice. But connecting to love will lighten any path you choose, increasing your freedom and joy.
  • Only accept loving thoughts that lighten your heart. If a thought makes you feel heavy or burdened, it is a lie. Ignore it and expect positive inspiration later. Ask to be raised above critical vibration. See all negative thoughts fade away with the stardust of love. Ask to connect to the loving truth of unconditional love and that loving truth will make you feel light and free.
  • Note: Sometimes you will know that you must do something, like apologize, that you don’t want to do – but thinking of completing that task will lighten your heart with relief and you will feel that it is right and true. Sometimes what is best for you won’t make everyone else happy, but it will make your heart lighter.
  • You will receive help. You may get an immediate thought or idea when you ask and open your heart to unconditional love—or, at a later time, you will hear a song or snippet of conversation, speak with someone, or find a book or magazine article that seems meant to open your eyes to new possibilities or gives you a new insight. But remember – if it is the true direction for you – it will make you feel lighter and happier – not burdened, guilty or fearful. Your inner knowing is from light and love – learn to trust it.

 

WHAT WILL I GET OUT OF THIS?

Purpose and Peace

When I first moved to Arizona, I had a job I enjoyed and was living the life I thought I wanted, but life still felt like a daily struggle. I decided to make the drive to work a sort of prayer for help and an appreciation of my blessings. I repeated soothing phrases, over and over, asking my angels and the source of unconditional love and light to lift my energy and give me the grace to enjoy the day and bring good to all I met. By the time I got to work, I was feeling a sense of purpose and a light heart, ready to face the day. I had connected with love and begun to understand that the connection to love, not any external events, was what made me happy.

Clarity

I wanted to find an interesting program for my daughter when she was going through some difficult experiences. I asked for help, and within a few days I got it. On a flight for a conference, I was seated right next to a woman who was part of an organization that did wonderful weekend programs for teenagers. She was able to tell me all about the program. I took my daughter to this weekend program in Seattle the next week. It was a life-changing event and helped her to come to terms with some of the unhappy things in her life, such as the recent death of her great-grandfather. I knew I had connected to love and had received a wonderful answer.

Deep Happiness

You are so loved, and you will find that when you connect to love, you can feel happiness and peace, no matter what is happening around you. This will help you see your relationships with eyes of love and respond to your partner, family, and friends from a stronger, happier, heart-centered place. You will begin to expect blessings and miracles. You will see the difference in how you relate to everyone when first you open your heart and connect to love.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Childre, D. (1999) The HeartMath Solution, NY HarperCollins

Dispenza, J. (2013) Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, Hay House

Dyer, W. (2012) I Am: Wishes Fulfilled (CD)

Newberg, A., Waldman, M. (2010 ) How God Changes Your Brain, Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, NY, Random House

Schmidt, J. (2003) Still, Still, Still MP3

Tabell, R. (2012) The Lord’s Prayer MP3

Picquette, E. (2012) “Connecting to Love,” track on Mini Meditation—Shift Keys MP3

Virtue, D. (2004) Chakra Clearing (book and CD)

For an easy click on book list of all the reference books – go to AdvisorIsIn.com

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College for Convicts by Christopher Zoukis

College for ConvictsTitle: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

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Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

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Not Without My Father Release Day Blitz!

Not Without My Father Release Day Blitz banner

We’re happy to be hosting Andra Watkins and her NOT WITHOUT MY FATHER Release Day Blitz today!

About the Book:

Not Without My Father 2

Title: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace

Author: Andra Watkins
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

About the Author:

Andra Watkins 4

Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Her latest book is the memoir, Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace.

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First Chapter Reveal: Daughter of the Fallen by Madeline Wynn *Win $50 Amazon Gift Card*

Daughter of the Fallen 2Title: Daughter of the Fallen
Author: Madeline Wynn
Publisher: Book Baby
Pages: 250
Genre: YA paranormal
Format: Kindle

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Most sixteen-year olds aren’t worried about the fate of their immortal souls. May Krieg should be.

Typically, honor student May’s biggest problems have revolved around her super-hot arch-rival, Jack. But when a school project takes them ghost-hunting in a local cemetery, she discovers that an ominous force roams in the darkness around her.

And it follows her home.

It claws its way into her life, burning messages into her wall and imprinting them onto her body. Even worse, she can’t tell if it’s trying to possess her… or protect her.

May’s thoughts soon become actions, causing the target of her anger severe physical pain and giving her a rush the likes of which she has never experienced. She quickly realizes that she needs to find a way to reign in this power before she kills someone. May hates the pleasure it gives her, hates herself for hurting others, but she can’t stop.

As her entire world shatters around her, she is forced to ask what her soul is worth– and who would she risk losing her soul to save?

First Chapter:

This is New England. And in New England, a town without a good witch hanging or ghost story just, well, isn’t considered to be a real town. So when I walk past the iron gate of the cemetery and feel the urge to bolt riding up my legs like a herd of football players bum-rushing the food counter on taco day, I set my shoulders and do my best to cowboy up.

Set between imposing stone walls and punctured by large granite fists, Hillside Cemetery definitely looks like it deserves its sinister reputation, making my attempt at bravery rather brief. “This place sucks. Maybe we should just go.”

“Here, watch your step,” Cay says and holds out his hand to help me over the uneven cobbles just on the other side of the entry. Once we make it over the stones, he drops my hand and pulls the recording equipment out of the duffle.

We’ve been friends ever since kindergarten, when some boy taunted me for living in a “little troll house.” Cay, the kickball king, told him that it was actually a gingerbread house, and everybody knows that only fairy princesses live in gingerbread houses.

He was wrong, of course; it was witches who lived in the gingerbread houses, a fact I pointed out to him later, but I gave him props for the effort. We’ve been “Cay and May” ever since, but the whole dating thing still feels… awkward.

“Is this all from school or is Jack bringing some of his dad’s?” I swipe an errant curl of hair out of my face and cringe at my surroundings as I reach for the big videocamera. Why does it have to be so dark? Why can’t people ghost hunt in the daylight? You can still supposed get sound bites and whatever in the daytime, right? It’s not like ghosts go anywhere or sleep or, you know, whatever.

“Well, the big stuff is the professional gear with night vision from school. And then we have my stuff.” Cay stops in front of a wide tomb, laying his multiple cameras and his mini video recorder along the top like they are the most precious things in the world. “Weird that Mr. Dowd put both you and Jack on my team.”

“Yeah, weird.” And a nightmare. If it wasn’t for Jack, I’d be ranked first in our year, and, unlike Jack, if I don’t earn a ton of scholarship money for college, then I can’t go.

Cay fumbles with the equipment, his breath rising in great grey puffs of frost, lingering in his dark bob of curls. I shiver.

A BMW pulls up in front of the entry gate, looking sleek and new and out of place.

I run an unsteady hand through my untamable hair…right…Jack.

He gets out of the car and strides towards us, stepping out into the camera’s lights: short blond hair, high cheekbones, and a long neck leading to strong shoulders. Everyone at school, except for me, that is, adores him because he’s rich, intelligent and supposedly lost his virginity to a Victoria’s Secret model.

Watching the god-like way he strides across the cemetery, you can almost believe the hype. He lifts his eyes to meet mine as he nods a greeting. My heart flips.

Of course, it would be easier to dislike him if he wasn’t so damn… hot. I shake my head. I hate that about him, too.

“You’re late.” I grab the sound gear from Cay and hand it to him, eyeing the orange-clad harpy of a girl trailing after him.

“I had to pick up Alicia.” He indicates the thing as he straps on the professional sound gear. “And respond to your post on the AP History board about gun control.”

I huff. “You think we should arm everyone with a credit card?”

“What I think is irrelevant, Mason.” Jack’s the only one in the universe who calls me by my full name. “It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted that matters.” He holds out his hand to help me navigate my way over a broken tomb. I ignore it. He smirks, “Or do you not support the Bill Of Rights?”

God, please keep me from throttling him tonight. Cay clears his throat.

“WTF, losers? A graveyard?” Alicia Impestio. Wearing her designer hoodie unzipped so that she reveals way more skin than she has to, her straight brown hair is bleached at the tips and held off of her over-tanned face by some rhinestone-studded catastrophe. I grit my teeth.

“Hey Alicia, glad you could make it.” Cay holds the minicam out towards her and helps her onto the cobbled path of the graveyard.

“Whatever.” Alicia grabs the mini and swats at Cay’s hand as she struggles to gain a foothold. A challenging endeavor, I’m sure, for someone wearing flip-flops in November.

She gives me the once-over, lips curling.

“You really wore that?” She asks, mouth open with disdain.

“Alicia…” Jack’s voice is low, menacing.

“I mean” –she gives me the once-over and sneers- “Aren’t the Kardashians some of you people? They at least know how to dress. But, then again, they also know who their daddy is.”

That’s Alicia: hitting where it hurts. I blink through the stinging at my eyes as my mind races to find something snarky to say…something to…

“Alicia,” Jack snaps. “Stop.”

“Fine, but tell Clay Aiken over there to hurry it. I’m cold.”

Jack makes a motion with his head to indicate that Cay should ignore her as he adjusts the weight of the portable boom on his back.

“Okay, I’m filming.” I say and catch the low-hanging harvest moon before panning down to Cay.

“In three, two, one…”

“This is Cayden Robison of Chase Hills High Broadcasting reporting on site at Hillside Cemetery. In 1734, three witches were reportedly hung just up the road, on the town green and buried, here, in this cemetery, in unmarked graves.”

“Then, in 1864, three men were arrested for grave digging, and ever since, people have reported strange things not only here, but especially out behind the burial grounds, in the woods.” Cay runs his hand along the top of a worn tombstone.

“Reports of paranormal activity really began to pick up in the past thirty years.” He pauses, and I pan the camera over to the creepy oak and the broken bench beneath it, hands a little unsteady. “Some people claim to hear voices, others see full-body apparitions, but most convincingly, in the 1980s, some kids back here partying say that they found satanists performing rituals in the woods. They watched as the group made a make-shift temple of one of the half-buried barite mines in the woods, and claim that the men actually raised a demon.”

He stops, looking intently into the lens of my camera. I flex my fingers, my breath rushed, like I’ve been running.

“Tonight, we’re going to dig for the truth and see if Hillside Cemetery is actually haunted.” Cays smiles.

Deep breath, May. It’s just a story. Fairytales. There’s no such thing as demons, or ghosts.

Cay motions with his hand to indicate that the “official” filming has ended and that now the “ghosthunting” part of the project begins. Why couldn’t we report on the old tavern, or maybe on one of the farms like everyone else? I blow onto my fingers to keep them warm before turning off the main light of the camera and switching to night vision.

A dog barks. I jump. Looking at the shadows clinging to the crooked, thin stones more cautiously, my heartbeat ticks up. Stupid dog.

Jack, eyeing me with something like concern, takes a step in my direction.

“So, what exactly are we looking for? Has anybody actually taped any evidence here?” I ask, trying to put some steel in my voice. Don’t look stupid in front of Jack, May. He’s not freaked out and you shouldn’t be either.

“Lots of people have caught pictures and stuff… a few good EVPs.” Cay stops and explains as he snaps a bunch of still shots. “Electronic Voice Phenomena. Voices of ghosts are usually at such a low frequency that human ears can’t pick them up, but you can catch them on tape.”

Cay walks, holding out both a still camera and a wand-like mini-recorder in front of him.

I follow, looking over my shoulder. “Sounds like a bad recording…or interference.”

Jack laughs soundlessly as we slowly follow Cay’s movements. Is it wrong to say that I’m happy Jack’s here? I mean, it would be better if it was someone else, of course….

Cay storms around the tomb and wags his finger at me, dry leaves crunching beneath his feet. “It’s not interference, jeez May, didn’t you read those links I sent you?”

No. The whole ghost thing is ridiculous. The trees at the edge of the cemetery, though, are freakish. Black and dripping with shadows… I absolutely would have read a link about a barite mine lurking somewhere beneath those trees.

“This is creepy.” Alicia says, “Jack, we’re going to Eric’s party later, right?”

Jack glares at her.

“Whatever.” She purses her lips and tosses the minicam on the ground, “I’m going back to the car.”

Thank you, God.

Cay’s sweet, boyish features twist at Alicia’s defection. “We’ll do some EVP work, first, OK?” He messes with his digital voice recorder for a minute before holding the wand-like thing before him. He presses record. “Testing.”

We wait. The frost from our breath hovers around us, filling the darkness with fog, hiding us from the trees.

Cay looks to me. Then he pushes stop. He plays back the recording and we hear him say, “Testing.”

Jack shuffles his feet, trying to lower the boom over where Cay is standing in the least conspicuous manner possible. A strange, cool feeling falls over me. My teeth clench against it.

“Shhhh, May. Do you feel that?” Cay holds out his arm, listening.

My body tenses. “Feel what?” I ask, angry at myself for my quickening heartbeat.

“It just dropped like ten degrees. Ghosts need energy to manifest, and when they’re about to appear, you find a cold spot. Just like this.” He grins.

Swallowing my galloping heartbeat, I refrain from mentioning that it is always cold in November in Connecticut. But a wall of cold that hits suddenly, in a graveyard, while trying to talk to the dead…

“Is anybody here with us tonight?” Cay asks, holding the recorder out before him. “Is there anything you would like to say to us?”

We wait in the silence of the night, Cay with the tiny, handheld voice recorder and Jack with the pro gear and mic, both recording, both waiting…

The cold sits at the bottom of my stomach like a virus, lying, waiting to rear up and make me ill. I keep the camera on Cay with shaking hands, black hair falling in front of my eyes, but I don’t dare swat at them, in case I miss the shot.

Cay plays the tape back. He waits, holding his breath as we hear his voice asking the first question, and thankfully only a blank pause before we hear him ask the second and I relax, shoulders softening, but just then, just as he moves to turn off the playback, a sound, a groaning, emanates from the small machine he holds in his hand.

“Go.”

“What the hell was that?” I shriek, jumping in time with Cay and reaching out to grab at Jack’s shirt.

“It sounds like it’s saying ‘go’, hot damn!” Cay shouts triumphantly. “We like totally made contact!”

Jack looks at my hand on his shirt and smiles. I let go. Crap!

“Mason, this ghost hunting stuff is all bull, you know that, right?”

Heart slamming, I hold my feet steady beneath my pounding heart. Bull, yeah, bull, right, I do know that. I nod at him, breath heavy.

“Here, I’ll show you.” Jack lowers the long wand microphone to his feet. Arm muscles tensing as he pulls the battery pack off of his back, he plays back the feedback on the main sound recorder. He fast forwards then hits play. We hear Cay ask his questions and…I hold my breath…and…and…nothing. Jack’s right. Nothing groaned. Nothing said “go”.

Thank God.

“The EVP recorder’s more sensitive.” Cay says incredulously as he points the EVP recorder at Jack’s set lips. “It’s specially set up to pick up more sound waves than standard equipment.”

“More sensitive than professional sound gear?” Jack raises his eyebrow and looks me in the eye.

“He pre-recorded it, Mason. He’s faking.”

“Cay?”

“I’m not lying, May, I swear!” He hops around a cracked tombstone and grabs my hand in his,

“Promise.”

“Right.” Jack shrugs off the rest of the soundgear. “Using an assignment on local history as an excuse to play ghost hunter was a bad idea, Cay. Faking a ghost sighting or hearing or whatever to impress your girlfriend is just wrong.”

“We’ve just experienced something supernatural here!” Cay turns to face Jack, looking wiry standing against Jack’s athletic physique.

“No, we haven’t.” Jack’s eyes meet mine and my heart flounders… not sure as to what the hell it should be doing. “He’s lying to you, Mason.”

My heart tightens, falls.

“I am not, you dick!” Cay shoves Jack in the chest.

Jack doesn’t push back, he just straightens out and looks to me again, “Maybe you should ask him what else he’s lying to you about, Mason?”

“May, you’ve known me like your whole life, you know I wouldn’t fake this.” I look into Cay’s eyes, searching for the truth. He wouldn’t. For one, he’s not that smart. And he wouldn’t fake something like this. Not on purpose. Not if it would mean tricking me. Maybe Alicia tampered with this stuff somehow… And what the hell is Jack implying?

“He wouldn’t lie, Jack.” I look across the field to the blackened woods. “Not to me. It must be the equipment.”

Jack’s face closes…he’s pissed. “For your sake, I hope that’s true.” He hands me the sound equipment. “I can wait by the car if you want me to, but I won’t be part of this.”

“Just go.” Cay demands, getting in Jack’s face.

Jack raises his eyes to mine. My heart amps up. I force my eyes to the ground. I don’t want him to go. Safety in numbers and all that.

Wait, Jack’s walking away….

I turn to Cay. “Why is he so sure you’re making this up?”

Cay looks at his feet. “Probably just pissed he’s not in charge of something for once.”

“Maybe.” I watch Jack’s form seem to disappear into the trees and tombs beneath the light of the moon.

“Come on.” He looks over at Jack’s retreating form and says at full volume, “I’m your boyfriend and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

Jack stops, back tight, and Cay sports a defiant grin as he ushers me closer to the tree line.

After a long moment, Cay clears his throat and talks into the wand-like EVP machine. “We’re here to talk to you.”

Leaves crunch beneath his feet as he picks his way through the tall blades of yellowed grass and creeps down towards the woods. I ask, “Wait, Cay, where are you going?”

He hits ‘record’, ignoring me.

“We want to talk to you.” Cay calls, talking to the dead as he motions for me to follow him, trampling twisted fronds of dead milkweed as he crosses the field of graves and approaches the trees.

My heartbeat ticks up even further by the sudden stillness of the trees. No owls, no wind, even the yippy dogs from the condos have stopped. My feet stay planted, rooted… I really don’t want to go near those trees. Much less walk around in them.

“Would you like to say something to us?” He waits for what seems like a year, then stops recording.

He meets my eyes over the top of the view screen. He pushes ‘play’.

We wait. I feel a trickle of sweat down my chest, sliding over my racing heart…I swallow the lump in my throat…waiting…

Merciful silence. I let out a breath of relief. Thank God. That first voice was probably just the wind, or Cay doing something beneath his….

Go away.” The voice is loud enough to hear, coming from the woods, and my heart takes a great leap, stomach trembling. Cay’s eyes widen, and just before I drop the camera and run back to the car, he grabs my arm, and holds me steady, fear like a giant nail in my chest…. and we hear it again, the voice, low, dark, barely above a whisper. “Demons.”

Cay shivers with excitement. “Did you hear that? Were you recording? Did you catch what it was saying? This is like totally amazing!”

“It was crystal clear what it was saying, Cay! And it means we need to get the hell out of here right now!” My breath leaves short, angry clouds of frost in the air around me, and I struggle to keep a good shot on anything as I look into his delighted face.

No way. No way. This is bull. I’m being punked or something, right? He has to have paid someone to hide in the trees. He didn’t tell me because he wanted me to look scared on film. He’ll tell me later, we’ll laugh about it later…

“No way, it means we’re going into the woods! How many times do you get a chance to possibly catch an inhuman haunting on film! This is like wicked hot.” Cay hops a thin sapling and walks into the forest.

“Cay, please, let’s just go back to the car. We’ve got more than enough for our three minute assignment.” I say, voice thin. Please don’t make me go in there.

Breathe, May, breathe. It’s just trees, dammit. You like trees. I look up to try and find Cay.

But he’s gone, walking into the misshapen wood, trees bending, scooping at the ground instead of the sky. I peer into the shadowed forest, and then back to the graveyard. Dampening my pounding heart, I square my shoulders and try and think strong, think tough. I can’t let Cay go in there alone. He’ll trip on a rock or something and get himself killed. I take a deep breath, hope to God this isn’t a mistake, and take a step into the trees.

The woods are definitely worse than the graveyard. The graveyard has some sense of form, some light. The woods here are a mess of fallen vines, thorn bushes and half-broken, half-dead trees and their sickly, barren limbs above. Holding onto the peeling bark of an old birch tree, I allow my eyes to adjust to the new degree of darkness.

Having better vision through the lens of the camera than I do with my own eyes, I raise the camera and slowly make my way through the chaos. I follow Cay’s movements with the camera, watching his lanky form appear and reappear onscreen ahead of me, asking more questions of the voice.

There are things here. I feel them, watching, waiting, my skin tingles at the sensation, as if it has sprouted thousands of tiny, needle-like thorns. The only sounds in here come from us, which is…well… wrong.

“Ugh! That totally sucks! May, go around, I got caught in this nasty puddle here. Oh, wow that’s cold.” Cay says, shaking his foot and hopping around some saplings.

“We should go.” I say. “It’s hard to shoot in here.” My path around the freezing mud leads me either through a patch of thorny undergrowth or over a massive downed tree.

Right, over the tree it is then. I lower the camera and let it dangle around my neck and use both hands to grab the log and climb up and over. Landing on the other side, I pull a leaf out of my hair. Wait…why does it feel like the ground here isn’t frozen? My feet sink…what’s going on? Did I step into a pile of decaying leaves?

The ground gives beneath my feet and the forest floor rushes up to my eyes.

A moment of dark free fall and confusion ends with the clarity of impact. Pain bursts my body. Burning up through my legs, through my lungs, through thoughts of anything. Anything but the pain…erasing everything.

I can’t breathe. Like a fish on a dock, I fumble as my lungs torturously pull in raw, slicing clouds of oxygen. Short, excruciating breaths, but I have to….

“Cay” I call for my friend, somewhere above me, but the sound that leaves my throat is too low, too guttural to carry.

I’m wallowing, covered in something. Oh crap. Am I in a grave? I can’t tell; I can’t see anything. My heart is on overdrive. The smell is noxious. I wipe some of the sludge off my face, only to smear more of it near my eyes. It clings to my sweater, wet, cold, beneath my filthy coat. The stench, oh God I can’t see. What is this?

The only light filters in from a small hole somewhere maybe eight feet over my head.

Are there bones? What is that smell? Decaying leaves? No, too deep, and the smell is rancid, like something is dying, or has died, leaving me lying in a pool of decomposing flesh. Oh please God, tell me I am not in a puddle of rotting bodily fluids. The noxious fluid clings to me, burning my nostrils as I try and stop the heaving of my chest and I gag.

“May! May can you hear me? Are you OK? Oh crap, I like can’t like believe this, if you can hear me, I am like calling 911, ok? Are you bleeding?”

“Cay.” I try again, a low moan as my body’s initial numbness turns to tiny pricks, like millions of biting ants running up and down the length of my body as my nerves surge back up. I lay on my side, curled up in the mire.

Fighting pain, fighting panic, I look around me. And see nothing. The dark is absolute. I move my head to look at my quivering, bleeding hands. They don’t seem to be broken. Okay, this is good. Well, maybe not good, but I’m not dead, and that’s at least something. Just calm down and think your way out of this. Check your legs.

My right leg is sore, throbbing, but okay. I move my left foot and waves of agony reverberate up my leg. I exhale forcefully, trying to exorcise some of the throbbing so I can focus.

“Cay!” My voice is a low, whiny croak…not enough…not enough…

My eyes adjust, slowly, so slowly. I lean on my aching left hip. My phone. Open the phone. I pull my cell out of my pocket. Hands trembling, I flip the phone open. The ambient light I’m counting on fades to black, as if snuffed. Damn! I just charged the stupid thing this afternoon. It’s so cold, so dark…

Breathe, just breathe.

“Cayden Robinson. I’m at Hillside. No. My friend, she fell into like a hole…I don’t know, yes, a hole…no…look, you like have to get her out like now….” His voice fades.

Breathe in…His voice echoes down to where I lay in a pool of grayish light. Breathe out….I look around at the walls, and see nothing. Nothing but darkness. Focus, May! Breathe in….Cay is up there, not too far above you, and you will be able to call to him in a minute, once your breathing steadies.

Breath out… “Cay!” I call, voice finally unlocking.

“Oh my God!” He fumbles, kicking debris down into the hole, “May!”

“Just stay calm, OK?” He calls, “The EMTs told me to tell you not to move because you might have a neck injury or something.”

Not move? Stay calm? Seriously? I feel my cheeks moisten and I stifle a yowl. Breathe in….

I wish I could see into the dark around me. Then at least I would be able to know where I am. Sitting in the only light makes me feel like I’m onstage.

Remembering the light on the camera, I fumble around my surrounding area, only to finding more mud. Hot dammit!

“I’m going to look around and see if I can find something to help you out with, OK? Like a stick or something.” Cay calls.

I sit, cold, trying to stay calm. But I feel…something….

I feel it. I am not alone. The tips of my fingers go numb. Something is here…around…watching….

Cay returns to the edge of the hole and he leans his head over. “I don’t want you to like, freak out or anything, but I think you’re in the shaft.”

The temperature plummets and my stomach lurches, “What shaft?” I ask, voice hoarse.

“Like, the shaft, May. I think I just found the entrance over there, it look like it’s sealed and all.”

My heart flutters. “Cay, are you talking about the mine shaft? The one the …..”

“Yeah.” Cay murmers. “But don’t panic. Help is totally on its way.”

Asshole! Don’t panic? Is he for real? I’m in the satanist’s shaft and he tells me not to panic!?!?

Something shuffles in the dark not three feet from where I’m laying. My heart shifts, “Something just moved, Cay.”

Cay’s head is back in the light. “It’s probably just a mouse, May, relax.” His voice is tight.

Right, a mouse. But it sounds bigger…

I hear a low-level snarling. Bile dribbles down my throat, burning as it goes. “Cay, there is something down here.”

The color slowly drains from my cheeks and all feeling rushes to my core. Growling. Something is here. Growling. Oh God help me. Growling.

My mind frantically searches, wishing I could see anything in the darkness. My throat tightens and I am barely able to whisper. “Help me.”

“May, here.” Cay drops a glowstick down the opening, and I watch with horror as it illuminates a large, growing mass of shadow against the rock of the wall. No. The shadow is vaguely human in form, and can’t be cast by me. No. I’m on the wrong side of the light. My blood ices. Please somebody help me.

Move! May, move! I tug at my legs desperately and back away from the sounds, but it feels like I am surrounded. I have nowhere to go. I have no escape. The light of the glowstick fades before it hits the floor, swallowed by the darkness, as if absorbed by this thing, and I hear the sound of the video camera’s plastic casing being ripped, shredded.

“Cay!” Shrieking, I clamor at the wall behind me, looking for some sort of grip to try and pull myself out of the mineshaft, hands only finding slick stone. Then I feel it, hot breath on the back of my neck. “Get me the hell out of here now! There is something down here and it’s huge!”

“May! Hold on! Help! I’m gonna, I just, like…”

The black is absolute, but I feel it, breath tickling at my skin, everywhere, nowhere, my fingers scraping at the rock wall, trying to find a hold, a way out. “Get me out of here! Please! I feel it, it’s everywhere!”

“May! What’s going on? Are you OK? Help! Somebody!” Cay’s screams are desperate above me as I fall to my knees, the air taking on life a life of its own as my fingers bleed, clawing against the rock. Can’t think. I hear another sharp, angry voice somewhere above me. Can’t breathe. I lunge right to try and avoid touching the mass of darkness to my left, but my head bangs hard against the rock wall and I can’t keep my eyes open.

It all goes black.

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College for Convicts Book Blast

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We’re happy to be hosting Christopher Zoukis and his COLLEGE FOR CONVICTS Book Blast today!

About the Book:

College for Convicts

Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

Purchase at AMAZON

Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

About the Author:

Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a 28-year-old writer who is incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active advocate for prison education and prisoners’ rights in this nation’s prison systems, a noted legal commentator and practitioner, and a prolific writer of books, articles, and legal treatise.

Criminal Justice Books

Mr. Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland and Company, 2014), United Blood Nation: The Story of the East Coast Bloods (Headpress, 2015), the Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2014), and Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012).

Legal Articles

In addition to his books, Mr. Zoukis is also a contributing writer at Huffington Post, Blog Critics, and Prison Legal News, and is a New York Journal of Books authorized book reviewer. His book reviews, articles, and essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine, AND Society, along with content being syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, Yahoo News, and the FedCURE News Network.

Writing Awards

In 2011, Mr. Zoukis’ creative work won PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for his screenplay “Healing Bin Laden” (Drama-Second Place) and his short story “Jesusland” (Fiction-Honorable Mention). And in 2014, Mr. Zoukis’ Directory of Federal Prisons e-book won the prestigious Independent Book Publishers Association’s Silver Benjamin Franklin Digital Book Award.

Websites and Legal Writing Commitments

In addition to his award winning writing, Mr. Zoukis is the founder of PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. He is a contributing writer at Prison Legal News and the Huffington Post, along with being a former staff writer at the State and Federal Criminal Law Review, The Update: Federal Criminal and Immigration Law, and the Texas Criminal Law Review.

Legal Projects

Currently, Mr. Zoukis is engaged in a number of larger legal and non-legal projects. On the legal side, he is currently suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons over their refusal to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), lack of adequate dental care for federal inmates, and is assisting several inmates seeking treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) that is in line with prevailing community standards of care and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Professional Standards. Mr. Zoukis is currently assisting two transgender federal inmates in suits against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (along with counseling and handling administrative remedies for half a dozen others), and is litigating on behalf of both prisoners in the Virginia State Supreme Court in an effort to effectuate name changes.

Writing and advocating for prison education and prisoners’ rights isn’t all that Mr. Zoukis has been doing behind bars. He has taught a popular course to over 100 fellow prisoners entitled “Writing and Publishing”, and regularly advises fellow inmates and prison consulting groups about matters surrounding Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy and the federal regulations governing it.

Mr. Zoukis has become successful in the administrative and regulatory prison litigation realm and is now a sought after consultant on a number of matters (both in-prison and out-of-prison). Following his release from custody in 2018, he plans to go into the prison consulting and litigation field.

Non-Legal Projects

On the non-legal side, Mr. Zoukis’ literary team — which is headed by Rachel Sentes of Gal Friday Publicity, Greg Aunapu of the Salkind Literary Agency, and Dr. Randall Radic of Middle Street Publishing — are currently pitching several of Mr. Zoukis’ novels and nonfiction works to publishers in the United States and Canada. Two such titles are Mr. Zoukis’ Facing Federal Incarceration book, and his debut science-fiction novel Hamish.

Legal Credentials and Associations

Mr. Zoukis holds numerous legal credentials as to paralegal studies and certification. These include the following credentials from the Blackstone Career Institute:

  • Diploma in Paralegal Studies (with distinction)
  • Advanced Certificate in Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Advanced Certificate in Civil Litigation
  • Advanced Certificate in Business & Corporate Law

He is also a graduate of the Long Ridge Writers Group and graduated from Global University’s Certified Minister Certificate Program. Mr. Zoukis is currently enrolled at Adams State University, where he is nearing the completion of an additional Paralegal Certificate, and his Bachelors of Arts in Sociology (with an emphasis in criminology) degree.

Mr. Zoukis maintains strong ties with the prison, prison education, legal, and writing communities through his memberships with related organizations, several of which include:

  • American Bar Association, including:
  • ABA Criminal Justice Section
  • ABA Section on Litigation
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Correctional Association
  • Correctional Education Association
  • National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
  • National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • National Legal Aid & Defender Association, including:
  • NLA Appellate Defender Section
  • National Writers Association
  • National Writers Union
  • PEN American Center
  • Pennsylvania Prison Society
  • Society of Professional Journalists

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