#MentalHealthMonth Playing With Enlightenment

Playing with Enlightenment

-Excerpt from “Life As Play!” by Mark Johnson

It is difficult to discuss enlightenment in general because enlightenment means something different to everyone and because it is paradoxical. Most people think enlightenment is a peaceful, blissful, formless realm beyond the manifest world and outside of space and time. This is only partially correct because it is a paradox.

It is paradoxical because enlightenment includes duality and is simultaneously beyond it.

A lot of people who study Eastern religions are busily quieting their minds and emotions and are waiting for “enlightening” to strike. This is what the Buddha and Shankara taught and what I meditated on for almost 20 years. I have friends who are professional meditators. They can sit without a single thought appearing in their minds for hours at a time. However, I have rocks in my backyard that can do the same thing. Is this the apex of life on this planet? The Oneness as Emptiness is only part of the story. The manifest realm is also an expression of the great Oneness. Our task now is to figure out how best to manifest that ground of being in the evolving, material world. We must merge the transcendent with the immanent.

The analogy of the Ocean with its waves is the best way I know to describe the paradox of being both at the same time. Waves provide a good analogy for people because each wave has a discernible, separate existence. Each has a unique size, direction, speed, and shape – and they make a lot of noise, just as I do! There is also no real separation between them and the totality of the Ocean.

So, imagine yourself as an average wave rolling along, minding your own business, and some guru wave tells you, “You are the entirety of the ocean, and you can experience yourself as such.” All you have to do is meditate your ass off, become a vegetarian, and take up Tai Ji, or, if you are the trusting, devotional type, you can surrender to Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah.

So now they become a seeker with a mission! A wave in search of wetness! Nothing like a little meaning in life to actually get a person to do something other than consume stuff to compensate for that endless dark pit of need in the middle of one’s chest. The fanatic edge that sometimes comes with a little meaning in one’s life can drive a seeker for several thousand lifetimes; in spite of a few setbacks such as exhaustion, depression, and the sneaky feeling you are wasting a lot of time.

Some people start wave hopping to find the wetness, and others start perfecting their own wave to get wetter than the other waves. What keeps that cycle going is the fact that every time someone gets weary, another spiritual teacher comes along with the perfect technique for experiencing wetness, and off they go again until they finally drop. And then, “POW,” a moment of unity consciousness.

If you stop striving for wetness in order to succeed in experiencing it, it will not work. You have to stop everything, which includes stopping everything. That is why not too many people actually do it. It is scary to surrender everything you think you are and allow the great Oneness to continue running the show.

Some of the best “strivers” I have ever met are the Zen folks. They tirelessly scale that “enlightenment” mountain going straight up the slopes, while most people meander around the well-worn paths, smelling the flowers and eating the strawberries at every turn.

You would expect the Buddhist religion to turn out a lot of enlightened individuals every year, wouldn’t you? I didn’t find that to be the case. So, what is wrong with this picture? The more a wave pursues its own wetness as a goal, the further away the wave gets from being its wetness.

As I mentioned before, the tendency to take up spirituality as a cure for your psychological problems is called “spiritual bypassing.” You try to bypass all your problems with the magic bullet of meditation. It sounds good and looks good and actually works to some degree, but without doing the foundational psychological work along the way, nothing much is going to change, in my opinion.

Too many people and meditation teachers in particular, honestly think every problem can be solved with meditation. If you are out of work and depressed, and your guru tells you to meditate more, it is probably time to get another teacher and to find a job.

On the other hand (there is always another “on the other hand” when dealing with paradox), I often see people busying themselves by digging into their childhood traumas in self-help workshops or with their psychiatrist or therapist. Those “archeological digs” can sometimes lead to greater insight into why we do what we do, but far too often, it is simply another expression of narcissism.

I had a client who washed her hands a hundred times a day and knew exactly why she did it, but she still could not stop. I sometimes think some folks would be a lot better off if they spent their day helping people in a homeless shelter instead of incessantly talking about their problems.

The most common expression of narcissistic behavior I see is the incessant striving for enlightenment. The deep reason you don’t make much progress even after decades of meditation and self-help workshops is that you are doing it for yourself. When people take the focus off themselves for even a short time, they find their personal problems miraculously dissolving. That’s due to their no longer giving little obsessions the energy needed to perpetuate. Try it. Don’t think about yourself for an entire day and see what happens.

Let’s say that while indulging in narcissistic pursuits, a person accidentally experiences a spiritual awakening. After all, even a blind squirrel will find an acorn occasionally. It is like a wave briefly glimpsing itself as the entirety of the Ocean. You think you have arrived! But then, the memory fades, and you are back identifying with your old familiar ego/wave again – warts and all.

What good is a spiritual awakening if the wave that experienced it is distorted after experiencing itself as the Ocean? This is often what happens. This means the person must continue to work hard on psychological evolution in order to sustain the awakening. Your personal evolution will continue smoothly if you allow it to happen naturally and don’t force anything with your obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

This means:

It is more important to be integrated and authentic at whatever stage you find yourself than to hotly pursue enlightenment with a distorted and desperate psyche.

Few Westerners have training in the multitude of Chinese disciplines that Mark Johnson has. In addition to Tai Chi instruction, Mark specializes in Qigong (which is self-healing through moving high frequency energies throughout the body.) He also taught three styles of Feng Shui (which is the study of the energies of an area) and he was also involved in writing one of the most popular versions of the E Jing (which is China’s ancient classic on how things change). He also teaches Chinese calligraphy to his students on his many trips to China. Mark has integrated these disciplines in creative ways for over fifty years. He has also founded Integral Tao Centers in Taos New Mexico, Tulsa Oklahoma, New York, and California where he now resides. 

Mark Johnson’s decades-long global spiritual journey culminated with his book, “Life As Play”

Live Compassionately, Intuitively, Spontaneously, and Miracles Will Happen!,“ an initiation into a life of Play. Mark encourages you to take the plunge into the unknown and mystery of your own life where every action becomes an effortless, appropriate response to whatever life brings you.

Life As Play” is available for purchase at Amazon. Audiobook coming soon to Audible.

You can find out about Mark Johnson by finding him on Facebook (@lifeatplaybook).

This post was shared to bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health and it’s importance to any person’s overall health. It was also shared to help end the stigma on Mental Health in collaboration with Farrow Communications @FARROWCOMMS.

#MentalHealthMonth The Problem: Stress Kills

An Excerpt From

“The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy”

By Barry Shore the “Ambassador of Joy”

______________________________________________________________________

The Problem: STRESS…Kills!

Not directly. More like death by a thousand sighs.

It’s insidious. Invidious, invasive, and, if continuous and not stopped, will ruin Your physical, mental, and spiritual being.

Stress is a common occurrence. While You can’t remove every stressor from Your life, it’s possible to manage and reduce stress and maintain your health. This is important because chronic stress can cause mental fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness, obesity, skin ailments, heart issues, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.

Yes, that list of symptoms observed across the population tells You that You’re not alone in this battle.

But even when You know the physical and mental effects of stress, You may be unaware of the different stages of stress, known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). When You understand the different stages of stress and how the body responds in these stages, it’s easier to identify signs of chronic stress in Yourself.

I’m writing this in the year 2020. The world is beset with panic, disease, and economic and societal ruin.

Right now, the most searched word in the world after Covid (and its related causes/cures) is STRESS. It’s affecting everyone.

STRESS is an acronym that I use to describe how to deal with the effects of untoward circumstances. Essentially there are three factors that cause STRESS.

These are and have always been:

• Money

• Work

• Home

Yes, these are universal and constant. Even in the best of times.

There are however two divergent ways to deal with STRESS, both revealed in my insights.

STRESS can stand for: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Sabotage.

There is little need to go into depth regarding each of the three stressors above. It is self-evident that money issues can and do cause tremendous pressures. The same for work. And, certainly, for home/family. Often in times of recession and disaster, these factors are intertwined and exacerbate one another. They truly cause a stomach-turning reality.

STRESS can also mean: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Success.

Same exact situation/s dealt with in a different way/s. Your response to the stomach-turning reality makes all the difference. Struggling is the continual and real test of life. And it’s something we all face every single day.

How You deal with the reality of these issues determines how Your physical and mental wellbeing will be affected. Certainly, You can’t be cavalier. Yet You can utilize practices, tips, and tools to enable You to direct Your mind and guide Your body to avoid falling prey to a pity party which can lead to the use/abuse of medications, alcohol, or to other aberrant behavior.

Mind is the master. Once You grasp this fundamental fact and leverage this powerful tool, You can and will achieve success under all circumstances and vicissitudes.

How do You maintain inner strength during stressful periods?

Consider a submarine. As the ship goes down, the pressure (strength) inside needs to increase to counterbalance the pressure outside. Likewise, when we are in stressful situations, we must make sure our internal strength is adequate to offset the external forces pushing against us.

Anger also produces stress. Have You ever known people whose lives seemed to have a thin veneer of civility and calm, yet once the surface was scratched, anger bubbled up like a volcano? Stress and anger go hand-in-glove.

We also know that there are two types of stress: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is healthy because it pulls You up. Think of a flower on a stem. Without turgor pressure, the stem droops. Without the fluids pushing through the cells, the flower dies. We can grow limp as well. A useful example of the sort of pressure that pulls us up is the sense of awe or reverence of God.

Horizontal stresses pull us apart and create damage. Designing our lives to meet others’ demands and standards is horizontal. All the current talk about self-image leads to horizontal stress. I do not mean that we should have no concept of self-worth. But we want to have a clear definition of self-worth that comes from knowing we were brought into this world for a purpose. That knowledge is a settled knowledge and doesn’t change just because of what others think or say.

In our competitive society there is another prevailing stress—the fear of losing. The specter of losing by our choosing stresses us. When we make one decision, we give up other options. These are the “Y” points. Marriage and career are two of the biggest examples. One of the pitfalls of our current day is buyer’s remorse. “If I choose the left fork and it grows dull, I opt out and choose another road.” This is a mistake. The stress of always looking around for the better option steals the joy of commitment.

The true test of life is never in what happens to us.

It is always in how we choose to respond to situations.

As we’ll learn later in the 11 Strategies, the six most important words You can learn and internalize are:

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

Repeat this. Often. Think about it. Internalize and utilize.

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

Barry Shore, the Ambassador of Joy hosts

“The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy” by Barry Shore is available on Amazon and Apple Books. For more information, check out Barry’s website and follow him @barryeshore on Facebook, or Instagram.

This post was shared to bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health and it’s importance to any person’s overall health. It was also shared to help end the stigma on Mental Health in collaboration with Farrow Communications @FARROWCOMMS.

Want to support Ending the Stigma on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention? Consider purchasing an End The Stigma backpack from The Smart Cookie Philes caused-based merchandise shop Cookies For a Cause here. 100% of the proceeds go to Project Semicolon, a mental health non-profit surrounded on suicide prevention and ending the stigma on talking about one’s own struggle with mental health.

#ForImmediateRelease: Author Chelsea DeVries is set to appear at RVA BookLovers Festival 2021

One Girl Revolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 2021

Taking Local Bookish Love to the Internet:

3rd Annual RV(irtual)A Booklovers’ Festival

Chelsea DeVries is delighted to announce they will be participating in the Author Expo at the 3rd Annual RVA Booklovers’ Festival this Saturday, May 8, 2021 from 11 am to 5 pm EST! This year’s event, RV(irtual)A Booklovers’ Festival, will be accordingly hosted online on Hopin. Register for your free ticket here!

The Festival’s Author Expo will feature books by authors of many genres from around the country, as well as indie presses and literacy organizations. The Main Stage will boast several excellent panels like Framing History through Fiction, Middle Grade Magic, and Get Lucky: Romance, featuring authors like Amanda Quick and Simon Van Booy. The Kids’ Stage will feature book readings all day long, while the Poet-tree Stage will explore some spoken word, readings, panels, and more, emceed by Virginia’s first ever…

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#PoeticPerspective With Author Shaye Baker

The Smart Cookie: Shaye, thanks for joining me today. What was the moment you realized you should use poetry to share your story?

S Baker: Thank you. I was in the process of writing a full-length horror novel when my life became its own horror story. I received a world-shattering phone call that my brother died in a car accident. It was sudden, like the snap-of-the-finger. The only platform I had to share my thoughts was, sadly, a journal. I’m an introvert, and don’t do well with a lot of social activity. Poetry allowed me to express everything I was feeling, processing.

The Smart Cookie: What inspires the ideas behind the poems you write?

S.Baker: My brother lived and worked as a musician; he’s a brilliant pianist. He travelled the world, playing for Holland Airlines B. B. King band. When he passed away, I realized how great his impact on this earth was, and wrote my poems to leave my own legacy. He may be physically gone, but his presence, art, photos, memories, are very much alive, fossilized within the people he loved.

The Smart Cookie: Outside of poetry, would you ever consider writing a memoir to share your full story? 

I toyed with the idea, in my full-length horror novel there are striking resemblances. I would consider it. 

The Smart Cookie: Has writing this collection helped you find peace despite the tragedy?

S. Baker: It has, you couldn’t imagine what this collection has meant to my family and I. So. Yes, it has been cathartic. Great question, by the way

The Smart Cookie: What is a Cerebral Fossil?

S. Baker: Another great question. So. A fossil is any trace or remains of any once living thing. Cerebral Fossil is the memories, art, thoughts, poetry, books, text messages, love notes, social media posts etc. left behind by any once living being. It’s deeper than that, but I’m okay with my concept inspiring personal interpretations for others. 

The Smart Cookie: Any advice for anyone who resonates with this collection?

S. Baker: Be vulnerable. Allow yourself to feel and don’t stop yourself from seeing where those feelings take you.  If your feelings lead to calling your brother or sister in the middle of night and saying “I love you,” then do it. I’m an introvert, and I don’t always pick up the phone or reach out to people because social settings drain me. Still, I wish I could go back and do more. I am doing more now.

#PoeticPerspective With Best-Selling Poet Molly S. Hillery

Today, my guest of this new series is Molly S. Hillery Best-Selling Author of Bare Roots and Recently Released Follow-up collection The Medicine That Burns.

The Smart Cookie: Molly, Thank you for joining me today. Any writer would definitely agree that the act and art of writing is in itself very cathartic. What was the moment you realized you should write poetry to share your story?

Molly: That’s a great question! I have always wanted to become an author and I always loved journaling and writing as a child. After what I went through in my teen years, I really felt like sharing my perspective. I didn’t write for fame or fortune, it was just special to me to be able to share my story and fulfill my dream of publishing.

The Smart Cookie: You write about real human struggles related to trauma and mental illness. What inspires your ideas for poems?

Molly: All of my poems come from my own experience and perspective. A lot of the poems I wrote in bare roots were inspired by blogs I had published in early 2015, that I fit together into a cohesive narrative. Many of the poems in The Medicine That Burns were written in first-person perspective from journals and many were written following therapy sessions.

The Smart Cookie: Outside of poetry, would you ever consider writing a memoir to share your full story?

Molly: I think in their own way, both of my collections are a memoir. They are just more stylized and easier to digest, in my opinion. Readers who have read both books will have a pretty solid idea on what I have been through throughout my life!

The Smart Cookie: I think in their own way, both of my collections are a memoir. They are just more stylized and easier to digest, in my opinion. Readers who have read both books will have a pretty solid idea on what I have been through throughout my life!

Molly: On the good days, I feel creative and enjoy writing and being artistic, like painting and collaging. I love to just relax and unwind after a full workday, so the normal Netflix, snuggling with my dog, and talking to friends on the internet works for me! I also spend a lot of time with my family these days, which has been a nice change of pace. My nephew will be three this summer!

The Smart Cookie: Bare Roots and your upcoming release Medicine That Burns share similar truths about the after effects of trauma and traumatic experiences but Bare Roots uses a resilient view while Medicine that Burns is darker, raw, and emotive. What was the writing process like for each book, and which one to you felt like more of a release than anything?

Molly: The writing processes for both books were very, very different. I wrote, edited, and published bare roots in four months. I worked on it almost addictively; my husband and I were going through a rough time and I almost used writing the book as a safe haven/escape. My perspective on life really changed after my divorce; Four years passed between the two books and I lived a lot of life in between then. I started writing The Medicine That Burns in quarantine last year when I was on furlough from work. This process was a lot slower, and I took my time with it. 

The Smart Cookie: What are your final words to those who are broken and bruised, and resonate with your poetry?

Molly: It sounds cliche but, that you are not alone, and that there is hope. I also really encourage people with trauma to continue to seek out appropriate treatment, because seeking the wrong kind of care can make things worse. At the end of The Medicine That Burns, I share some modalities of therapy that have helped me– I even had a medical procedure done to aid in symptoms. I want to share these with people in hopes that they can find relief in some of their symptoms, too. Trauma informed care is essential to recovery.

To find out more about Molly and her poetry, visit mollyhillery.com

#WomensHistoryMonth Celebrate Independent Female Writers

Being a female to me has always been such a blessing. I have always honored my femininity and relished in surpassing obstacles left and right in order to show myself and the world that a woman of both strength and power is one who doesn’t back down from a challenge, one who looks to break records and defy stereotypes, and always is there to lend a helping hand to any and all, but especially to fellow women.

Releasing my poetry book was a very trying experience for me. Not traumatic as that would have been ironic as my collection is about my traumatic experience working in a toxic workplace, falling in love, and getting my heartbroken, also while discussing my asexuality, my perserverance despite mental illness and struggling with suicidal ideation multiple times in my life, and being unaware that I actually was suffering with symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome since birth.

It took me a bit to wrap my head around this diagnosis following my book release but honestly I didn’t get the fanfare I thought I would have with my release but I think it just takes time and resilience.

Yet, as March is Women’s History Month, I decided I wanted to ride and die alongside 11 other writers that I’ve befriended over years, months, and even weeks before and since releasing my own poetry collection.

Without further ado, let’s celebrate these 12 powerful women and their incredible feats in literature and poetry.

  1. Das Herz by Sayda Hope

My review for this book is forthcoming but this book is a great mix between Dracula, 1917, and the Vampire Diaries. It’s only 170 pages so it took me a few hours to read, and the battle scenes will have you on the edge of your seat. Sayda Hope’s series Das Herz is a part of a forthcoming series. Read this first installment today so you are ready for the next book’s release.

2. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

I already reviewed this book, I raved about this book, if you can’t tell this book really resonated with me.

There is so much power in this story, the main character is a female, the poetic prose is lyrical, and it was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award.

I personally got excited for Tiffany the other day while in Books a Million browsing and seeing her book on the store shelves was very cool for me.

This female writer also waited 20 years to see this book published and in print as it’s inspired by the true story of her mother Betty’s upbringing.

3. When My Mind Winds Up by Jennifer Ervig

This book opened doors for me I always believed I would never walk through. It opened up my personal discovery of my mental health which then led me to find out I had Asperger’s so I basically feel very attached to this book but if you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or any other mental health issue, this book has practical entries like a devotional that allow you to read it and apply the tips each and every day. It’s something I plan to re-read often throughout the rest of my life.

4. Grandfather’s Will by Rebecca Lange

This book has yet to be released but the summary looks enticing if you are looking for a Danielle Steel novel with a whodunnit spin. The author, currently resides in Germany, has written several other books that are historical fiction or Christian fiction. Definitely set your alarm for April 3, 2021 and get a copy when it releases exclusively on Amazon.

5. I Found My Heart by Stacie Ann Green-Taylor

My review of this book will be available in April but as soon as I found this poet was releasing a poetry collection, I rushed to support her because it’s what you do, and her words were filled with absolute brevity and truth. Plus, I am aiming to support more black voices as well because once again, it’s what you do.

6. Sticks and Stones by Chelsea DeVries

Did you really think I would share about fellow female writers without including myself. This book is broken up into two sections: Sticks and Stones. It is a themed around the overall metaphor that you can and should turn your pain into poetry, whether that pain was from undiagnosed Asperger’s, being bullied and ostracized, bullies in the workplace, falling in love with the wrong person, or falling in love with a twin flame who ran away, and broke your heart.

It is written with the intention to help all those who hurt find healing and strength that resonates no matter what obstacles or giants we face.

So far: It’s been an Amazon India best-seller, nominated for Book of the Year, and turning readers who don’t read poetry into fans.

For me personally, it is the beauty in the ashes of a terribly dark time and I have no shame in sharing it as well as what may come from it being out in the world in book form. I just pray it reaches those who feel stuck or as if they have no way out in time, and reminds them their story, your story, our story is far from over.

7. The Evolution of a Girl by L.E. Bowman

I didn’t know of this poet when I published my collection but as someone who is also a fan of poetry, I found this poet recently and found her words to be relatable, timely, and cookie-cut for Instagram-sharability. She’s also from Florida and I’m honored to be among her company as a fellow female poet.

8. All the Things I Should’ve Told You: Poems about Love, Grief, and Resilience by Shayla Raquel

Talk about fierce. This poet announced she was releasing her first poetry collection and I was eager to support it. The other day, March 16, 2021, she did a surprise launch and became #1 best-seller on Amazon. Since her book was released only three days ago, she has remained within the top 5 of all three categories her book fits in on Amazon. That’s definitely what I should have did with my poetry collection but next time, I will be consulting with Shayla to ensure my launch reaches the same heights.

9. To Walk on Moonbeams by Zombear Writes

Following moving Instagram accounts due to toxicity on my old one, I was searching for poets to follow to connect with. This poet is very sweet and has actively engaged with anything I’ve commented on her work or story. And she made me feel like I finally belonged in the community which is why I made a new Instagram in the first place. Originally published by Blurb, this collection about heartbreak and healing will help you find the light in the darkest of nights.

10. Bare Roots by Molly S. Hillery

Talk about somebody who’s just the kindest despite that she’s got a huge audience and has so many cool book reader photos.

This poet wrote and published this collection in 2017 but it is still charting as a best-seller on Amazon this year even. I happened to spot it on there and reached out to congratulate her because that feels entirely huge for anyone who struggles or suffers with any and all forms of mental illness or also dealt with several traumatic events.

The little wins are the moments when you feel like your strength through your trauma or struggles truly has dug roots and bloomed nicely.

11. The Sunflower With Thorns by Kleio Musa

She popped on my IG feed and I was like ok, she’s gorgeous. Then to find out she was a poet too was also inspiring. Then, I learned about her heritage and how she struggles with anxiety and depression. My review of this collection is forthcoming but there isn’t much about Kleio Musa that doesn’t act as a muse for me, as both a female and a writer.

12. Pretending to Be Normal by Liane Holliday Wiley

She doesn’t need this feature nor does it makes sense to me that someone so cool follows me on Instagram but ever since I announced that I found out I have Asperger’s, Liane has been so engaging and supportive. Reading this book for me was very cathartic as some of the same struggles also existed with myself but Liane’s story inspires the reader and proves that disability isn’t an inability just a societal label that seeks to limit the beauty and educating that people with autism and asperger’s bring to this world.

There you have it. Please be sure to add some if not all of these women to your TBR, your next book haul, and to your Instagram feed.

Each and every one of these women inspire me to keep at it, push past the disappointments and hurts, and share my empathy and caring poetic soul with the world.

#IndieAuthorSpotlight: Venture Into the World of the Undead with Sayda Hope

For Immediate Release

March 16, 2021

Chelsea DeVries

Publicist

smartcookiepr26@gmail.com

Venture Into the World of The Undead With Das Herz by Sayda Hope

In Das Herz, soldiers who survive a devastating battle to become less than human, must get the help of a woman who makes the heartless army commander recall when his dead heart could feel. Das Herz is a forthcoming series. The first installment is called Buch Eins. Sayda Hope offers a story all humans will resonate with and love to escape to.

About the book: Untoten… Undead. Eber Soldat, a soldier named Soldier.A heartless man who was thought a monster of war, until the day he truly became one. Returning from the dead, he and his men, Captain Mikhail Koza, Lieutenant Johan Thayer, and Lieutenant Adolpho Ermanno, embark on the next assignment, guarding Ambrozij Kasimir, the head of the church, a man whose power rivals even that of King Berin’s. Wanting to keep their new existence a secret to protect themselves, Eber seeks the aid of an old ally, Lorelei Zima, a beautiful woman who makes Koza wonder if she had been more to the heartless Commander at one time in their past. Her nature is playful and her abilities deadly, Lorelei proves to be of great help and at times… a little harm.

With each soldier undergoing his own session of rigor mortis, the men learn the lies and truths of the unique untoten of their homelands as they discover their differing strengths and hungers. Reaching their destination, the soldiers expect peace finally as Kasimir arrives in the tattered village of Hieb, yet it steadily becomes clear there is no rest even for the dead as the village is swarmed by untoten. The starving undead burn at the touch of Hallowed ground, giving salvation for Kasimir, but his sanctuary will be his tomb as the days pass and the untoten do not leave, forcing Kasimir to face his own starvation.

With Eber’s new mission of getting the Holy Man out of the village alive, his heartlessness may prove to be a weakness or what saves him.

About the author: My name is Sayda Hope, and I’m just someone with an imperfect life who loves escapism! I rarely write about things which echo my real life as it’s a pretty boring place. Instead, I’d rather take you to worlds no mortal eyes will ever see except within the pages of my books. Places of mystery and danger, on adventures guided by characters you’ll come to love.

Everything from other planets on outer regions of space, filled with people you connect with as though they’re beside you, to reflections of the world we know in the guise of a Victorian era New York City, morphed into something different by court trials and murder mysteries of folkloric creatures in “monster” versions of crime dramas. In the end, I strive to make unique experiences with each one of my stories because I am the one who wants to go on these adventures, to these places, with these people. I only hope that some of you wish to come along with me.

For scheduling and PR inquiries, please contact the author directly at authorsaydahope@gmail.com

You can download her press kit below.

You can purchase Das Herz on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. An audiobook is in the works and you can hear a recent podcast spot with Sayda Hope here.

New Cookies for a Cause design saves cats and dogs from kill shelters 🍪

As most of you know, I love my dogs more than anything. They are my world and basically give my life both meaning and purpose.

Yet, so many dogs and cats are killed in shelters around the USA and I don’t think any furry friend should have to die just because it hasn’t found a home. About 3 or 4 years ago, I came across Best Friends Animal Society. They are a non-profit that advocates entirely for both dogs and cats to be rescued from kill shelters so that they have a chance at a decent and humane life. Every animal has it’s purpose, right?!

In order to help them in their no-kill 2025 initiative, every hoodie and dog bandana will 100% benefit Best Friends Animal Society and their life-saving work for this planet’s most precious and vulnerable creatures.

The Hooman Hoodie is available in a selection of primary colors and runs at $48 with $20 being donated to Best Friends Animal Society.

The dog merchandise has the same “fur-ever friends” design and is available in my new Squad shop but also still benefits Best Friends Animal Society. I will be adding more designs from past squad days in the shop soon but for now get a matching Dog Bandana here. The Dog Bandana is only available in white but is very large to fit any size furbaby. It is priced at $15.97 with 10% of that going to Best Friends Animal Society.

If you or someone you know is an animal advocate, please share this with them.

Until next time, We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy 5th Birthday to The Smart Cookie Philes!

It all started with a dream five years ago…just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was not going to let anything come between me and my dream of helping authors and artists get the right exposure for their project.

Like a fairy dust kiss from above, only one month after launching the site, I got the news that I was selected as a member of Rachel Platten’s Wildfire Tour Crew.

And I will never forget her words before she sang her anthem “Fight Song” the night of the concert. They had me tearing up and I knew without a doubt that this was what I wanted to do, where I belonged, and I wanted others to feel this way too.

So I began by building my audience. I started posting book and music reviews that nobody paid me for. And I launched both my Twitter and Facebook page so I could network with the people in my niche: other writers, musicians, and people who were just looking for a place to express themselves freely without any judgement.

I created a hashtag game to get people aware of my brand messaging without cramming it down their throat.

#ESPRESSOYOURSELF was a trending hashtag on Twitter when the game launched and it was fun for a while.

Yet, it became more of a burden than a blessing and I ended it in 2018. Yet, the site began to get offers for affiliates, brands that wanted to work with us, and even a queue filled to the brim with review requests.

I took a leap of faith the following year and launched my PR firm in hopes that I could be paid to do the work that I earned a college degree in. Turns out, authors were willing to work with me because they knew me to be a genuine supporter of all things creative and especially authors. (I am a bibliophile to my core).

Today, my first ever signed client is still with my firm!

In 2018, I wanted to begin giving back in a new way so I created a merchandise line through Teespring that is 100% cause based. Each design is created with love for a cause that I believe in. And I felt like maybe there were other people who would believe in them too. In 2021, we now have over 19 products currently available and 6 cookie based designs that 100% came from my brain, although I hired an artist to create them for me, and 7 causes that they 100% support.

In 2019, I gained the most clients I ever had at one time in my firm but sadly lost most of them at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Yet, do to supportive donations and an ad campaign featuring my dogs, I was able to withstand the stormy weather and I learned how freeing it is to dance in the rain.

My reviews and marketing services are sought after from traditionally published authors, independent authors, other publicists, and even independent music blogs and musicians. My clientele and brands that we’ve worked with span from small to huge but it hasn’t at all changed the reason why I began this site: if I have a dream and a vision, chances are other people like me do too so why not work together to create a community that is inclusive and welcomes art and projects from people of all walks of life.

This year I am excited to announce that my goal for 2021 was to READ MORE and Worry Less.

With that being said, I am making reading a daily priority this year because books are the world I choose to live in, and I refuse to apologize for that. Yet, this is a business that I truly care about and want to continue to see it succeed which is why I am revamping all my services this year.

First I am launching my review service for a nominal fee and you get a lot for a little chunk of change (As always). And this week only, if you request a review for your book, I will guarantee you I will get it done in 20 days or less or it’s free. For me, I want to be accountable this year and every year to come so this guarantee will allow me to do that to start. The guarantee is only good for this week only. After 1/24/21, it’s $40 regardless of how long it takes me to read your work. Sign up here today! This unfortunately means I will no longer offer free reviews so please let people know that I no longer offer those.

Second, I am re-launching my PR services. There will be two types I offer: freelance and contract.

My freelance services are perfect for artists or authors on a limited budget or local businesses looking for marketing assistance.

Lastly, I am pleased to announce that I am raising my publicist fees. Anyone who now signs with my firm will now be required to sign an annual contract and agree to the monthly retainer fee to secure me as your publicist. Big time agencies charge way more than I am but I am willing to believe the value of my work is worth every single dollar. And besides, every dollar earned is always re-invested in making my services or my brand more curated to fit the needs of any and all clientele, and with these new prices I hope to do that but I honestly also hope to attract clients that value my services 100% and want to grow together, and trust me above anything else.

Before I end this rather long personal statement, I wanted to announce that The Smart Cookie Philes is featured in a Book Promotion Directory for 2021. It includes 180 bloggers who will feature your book as well as 40 companies (mine included) who want to help you promote your work at affordable efficient rates.

As always, you can reach me by email at smartcookiepr26@gmail.com 24 hours a day!

And thank you to everyone who has allowed me the chance to work with you, given you a safe haven to belong to, and supported me and this dream for five years!

I am so glad I took a page out of Dr. King’s book and boldly declared “I HAVE A DREAM…”

To the unicorns, the outcasts, and the dreamers,

We welcome you and I just want to say thank you all so much for sticking around.

It means so very much to me!

So much love,

Chelsea DeVries

Publicist and Founder of The Smart Cookie Philes

Salvaging 2020: My Interview with Armed With A Book’s Kriti

2020 was a rough year for everyone for various reasons but I never felt so far away from everyone myself but thankfully within the book community, we always end up meeting people who are both on the same page and also inspire us to share more of our story on blank pages..

Kriti from Armed With a Book is one of those people who I came into connection with through a client but I also really liked her review style as well as her professionalism. She has a unique way of sharing about authors, creators, and even about the people who support them such as myself as a publicist. Honestly, as I come up to my 5th year as a publicist and my own boss, it felt like such a nice way to cement that into being.

You can read her amazing post by clicking my custom creative roulette wheel below.