Today is the anniversary of the last day that Denise Pannell spoke with her oldest son, Nate. Nate died as a result of bleeding from an arteriovenous malformation, a congenital disorder of blood vessels in the brain. He was 13. In honor of him and his wonderful family, I want to share two excerpts from my upcoming book, Little Voices. Without Nate, Denise, John, and Jack, I wouldn't be here today.
* * As I was preparing this post, Nate came in to share more timely messages with Denise, John, and Jack. I reached out to Denise and we were both in tears. He knew exactly what to share and when to share it. I'll never stop being amazed by how all of this works. He is helping his family (and others like me) from the other side, and in this moment, I'm at a loss for words to express my gratitude. Only tears and love.
Excerpt from Chapter 2
During a break that day, I sat down at my computer and opened up Facebook. Surfing the feed helped me feel grounded in reality and connected to my friends and family who weren’t living in LA. Sitting at my desk in the kitchen while I scarfed down a sandwich, I perused the feed, laughing at jokes and fawning over baby photos until I landed on a post about a memorial celebration. I was immediately drawn to the photos of a young boy named Nate Pannell, who had passed away in the town I grew up in—Defiance, Ohio. He was the son of two fellow Defiance High School alumni a bit older than me. I knew of them but didn’t know them well. Staring at the photo of Nate, I heard what I thought was his voice. It rang in my head. I was terrified at first. Was this real? I wasn’t sure if I was really talking to him, or if my mind was making it all up. After all, I’d never experienced anything like this while surfing Facebook.
Staring at his photo, I could see him in my mind’s eye, and chills ran up and down my body. I noticed the chills were predominantly on the left side of my body and made note of that, too. I had no idea what it meant, but it stood out.
I suspended disbelief long enough to hear Nate talk about his family and share specific messages he wanted me to share with them. That part terrified me, but I continued listening while I reached for a pen and paper to write down what he was saying. In between his messages, I asked him, in my mind, if he had more to share. He would either say yes and continue or no and then plead with me to reach out to his parents.
After he spoke, I sat frozen in my chair, thinking about what just happened. The last thing I wanted to do was reach out to grieving parents, who may or may not receive my guidance well. Their family had been through so much already. What if I was wrong and none of it was real? What if they saw me as someone trying to somehow take advantage of their situation? I didn’t know how I’d react if someone reached out to me this way. Finally, I rose from my chair, knowing I needed time to think about all of it, and beelined it for our bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed with my notes in hand, I knew I had a choice to make. For now, it was to hide what had happened and go about life as normal. Normal was easier.
I opened the drawer of my bedside table and stuffed the messages inside. I knew I needed time, so I waited to be filled with courage and knowledge that what Nate asked me to do was the right thing.
The courage came two days later when I least expected it. I wasn’t even thinking about Nate until, out of the blue, peace came over me. Still terrified to take the next step, I obsessed over what it would mean to try. Even if they slammed the door in my face. Even if I was going to be the laughingstock of my hometown after word got around. I gently pulled my notes out of the drawer and crafted a quick introductory message to his mom, Denise. I nervously hit the send button, hoping that I was doing the right thing. And it was indeed the right thing. Denise responded kindly, which started a back-and-forth exchange that led to a phone call and, later, an in-person meeting in Defiance when I was home visiting my parents.
About four years after I shared Nate’s messages with his family, I asked Nate’s father, John, if he wouldn’t mind writing what the experience was like for them. By that time, I was running a nonprofit that helped grieving parents and thought a testimonial about his experience would be helpful for other parents.
John agreed, and about a week later, he shared his account of their experience with me via email. As I read the letter, I slowly sat back in my chair, astonished by what John wrote:
“Almost four years ago, I was just surviving being a bereaved parent of a child who has passed away. It was a daily struggle getting through a day without a total meltdown and the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life in the role of a grieving parent. It was in the midst of one of my many meltdowns that I remember my wife coming upstairs, in tears, telling me she got a message from Nate, our son who had passed away at the age of 13 from an AVM. I tried to listen to what she was telling me, but it seemed Greek to me because I couldn’t get past my own doubt. She tells me that she got an email from this lady in California about how strange it may seem, but she thinks she has a message for us from our son. If we were willing, we could give her a call.
Denise called her and they spoke for almost an hour. Denise was trying to relay the information from the four pages of notes she took while Kiersten talked. The only comfort this brought to me was that for the first time since Nate’s death, I had seen tears of joy versus tears of sorrow. Denise and Kiersten kept in contact, but I kept my distance. One day, I remember Denise telling me that Kiersten was going to be in the area and wanted to meet with us.
Out of obligation to Denise, growing skepticism, and just a dash of curiosity, I agreed to meet with Kiersten. My anxiety level that day was extremely high. I remember when Kiersten sat down with us at our dining room table. It was my wife, our younger son, Jack, my wife’s aunt Sally, Kiersten, and myself. There was a lot of small talk, and I listened intently trying to find what the catch was. Over the next three and a half hours, what I got were answers, hope, and explanations. I had questions on authenticity as to who Kiersten was and what her motives were. I found Kiersten to be one of the most genuine people I have had the pleasure of meeting. She spoke from the heart. She relayed to us information as it was interpreted by her. What I found was she spoke with a gift. Her heart was pure. Her interpretation spot-on. She offered validation that was unquestionably accurate. She gave us peace knowing that our son was fine. Kiersten taught me events that occur are not just coincidences.
Kiersten opened up a form of communication between my son and me that allowed me to go from being a grieving parent just existing to being a bereaved parent who is allowed to live. She has helped us by being a conduit for question-and-answer sessions, she has taught us what it means to look for the hidden meaning; most importantly, she gave us our youngest son back. You see, until that time, there wasn’t much communication between him, his mother, and me. I know a large amount of time that first night meeting Kiersten, she spent talking with Jack. I have never asked either one what exactly was said, but whatever it was made a difference in that young man’s life.
Meeting Kiersten and being open to her gift has not taken away the fact that we lost our oldest son. That is something we live with every day. Having Kiersten reaching out to us, opening herself up to us, putting it all out there, all for us, and never asking for anything in return, has given us peace.
Kiersten, I know that my statement doesn’t even start to do justice to what you have given us.
Up until then, I had no idea the impact the messages and visit made on his entire family. I knew they greatly appreciated that I reached out to them, but I didn’t fully grasp how much it shaped the course of their lives.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I read about the healing that Nate had facilitated by sharing messages with me. Of course, I knew what the whole experience did for me, and I’m eternally grateful. Nate and his beautiful family helped me understand that what I was experiencing wasn’t just my imagination. It was very real and very important for all of us. I just had to have the courage to trust.
(Three years later …during one of the darkest times in my life when Scott and I were separated and I was struggling to understand why I couldn’t manage to leave an abusive relationship with Tony…)
Excerpt from Chapter 14
…By the end of 2016, I was more isolated than I’d ever been in my life. Tony made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of many of my nearest and dearest, for one reason or another. I found myself hiding the fact that I was meeting up with friends when he was on the road. While I was still occasionally helping friends from an intuitive and Reiki space, the lack of kids in spirit coming to me for help was even more pronounced.
Deep down, I knew it had a lot to do with my relationship with him, but I really didn’t want to acknowledge that part. Thankfully, not everyone in spirit had abandoned me: Carrie, Jason, and Nate were chiming in more and more. Jason was coming through quite a bit as a guide, telling me that I knew the answer to the question I was asking. He also said he knew it was something I had to come to on my own, in my own time. Lastly, he warned me about the drug I was addicted to: Tony. As someone who knew the pain of childhood sexual abuse and subsequently battled lifelong addiction, he knew the subject well. Nate came through, on the anniversary of his death, with a message for his mom, as well as a message for me:
Kiers, pull yourself up by the bootstraps! You can do this. He’s not right for you and you know it.
Every now and then, I’ll feel Nate around me, even though I know he’s here more often than I notice him. I wish so much for his wonderful family that he was still here in body rather than spirit, but I’m also eternally grateful for his guidance and support. Without Nate and the other kids in spirit guiding me, I don’t know that I’d be alive today.
To Nate, Denise, John, and Nicholas (Jack)…thank you. To quote John, I know "thank you” doesn’t even start to do justice to what you have given me.
* Read more about Nate here: Nathanial Pannell Life Story & Time Line - Memorial
In light of what’s happening with Roe Vs Wade, I want to share what I’ve learned about abortion as a trusted intuitive medium.
Some of you know my story, but some of you don’t. In a nutshell, I suddenly started channeling messages from children who have passed on when I turned 36. (I'll be 49 in September.) I never believed in mediumship and am, by nature, extremely science-minded. As you can imagine, this was all very hard for me to process in the beginning of my stranger-than-fiction journey. I wasn’t looking for any of it—the kids simply found me. Eventually, I developed partnerships with detectives around the country because many of the kids had been murdered in their lifetime. They wanted me to pass specific information regarding their cases. With that said, murder victims aren’t the only souls who come to me. I channel messages from souls who were miscarried and aborted, too. And I’ve shared messages from those souls with countless moms over the past decade who’ve endured those experiences. Now, this is not something I do for money—it’s all volunteer-based. And I can’t make a soul/spirit come to me; they simply come when they want. Sometimes they share messages and ask me to hold onto them for later…when their parents are guided to me. You can read more about my journey (and WHY all of this happened to me) in my upcoming book, Little Voices. Decorated NYPD Detective (ret) Mark Pucci wrote the foreword for my memoir and we recently launched a nonprofit together called The National Institute for Law and Justice (nilj.org).
Today, I want to share what I hear from souls who’ve been aborted. First of all, our kids pick us to be their parents. Whether they come into the world and live a full human life or not. Where abortion is concerned, they say that they knew about it from the get go and even influenced the mother’s decision so there are NO hard feelings. There is only love and compassion for their mom, and many times, the same soul will come back through the mother at a later time to be born into the world. (This happens a lot with miscarriages, too.) Sometimes they simply remain in spirit form as a guardian angel for their mom and family. Abortion is not considered murder by any means. It’s an experience that the soul agreed to experience, in tandem, with the mother’s soul.
There is so much shame and misunderstanding around abortion (and miscarriages). I, personally, endured a miscarriage after Nat and Grace were born. I know that soul is a guardian for me, and I’m forever grateful for her.
It’s hard for all of us (me included) to wrap our heads and hearts around the meaning of life because it’s not something we can easily understand with our rational human minds. But if you take a bird’s eye view at our collective evolution over the past 100 years, you can see where we were on the right side of history, leading with respect and love for all human beings regardless of race, class, and gender. When we lead with love and compassion for self and others, we’re moving all of us forward for generations to come. When we lead from a place of control, fear, shame, restriction, and separation, we’re not.
Considering what I just shared about the soul’s view of abortion, do you think the movement to overturn Roe vs Wade leads from a place of love and compassion or control, restriction, and fear?
I know my answer. And I know our 19-year-old daughter’s answer. Last night, while we were getting ready for bed, she sent me this text:
“I’m very scared.”
My heart sunk into my stomach. Naturally, I did my best to calm her fears but I knew it wasn’t enough. I shared articles about what states like CA and OR are doing to protect women's rights. But I knew I couldn’t say for certain that she wouldn’t—that women and girls wouldn’t—lose their right to control their own bodies. A few minutes later, my phone lit up again with her reply.
“It’s so depressing knowing that in this world I’m only considered a mother for a child and a body for a man.”
It really is, baby girl, it really is.
*Posted with my daughter's permission.
I recently learned that book trailers are a thing. Who knew? In this article below, I share the 7-step formula (and design programs) that I used to craft my book trailer for my upcoming memoir, Little Voices. I hope it helps take the guess work out of creating your own trailer! (3 MIN READ.)
Also, check out my book trailer at the bottom of this article....
I’m a huge fan of movie trailers. My ADD brain loves them. I mean, what’s not to love, really? They’re quick, to-the-point, and share just enough to make you want to spend $20 at the movies.
Bravo to whomever came up with the fairly-new-to-the-market book trailer. I had no idea there was such a thing until after I inked a traditional book deal.
If you’re like most authors (me, included), we’re not shelling out thousands of dollars for a publicist or creative marketing agency. We’re doing most of the marketing and PR outreach ourselves. Starting six months prior to the scheduled book launch.
Before I crafted my trailer, I watched hundreds of book trailers to get a feel for length and content. Most have a running time of 30 seconds to one minute and 30 seconds. Next, I researched the formula.
Based on what I saw online, the formula goes like this:
So, there you have it. It was relatively painless once I got into the process. Learning the programs is the easy part (there are tons of tutorials out on YouTube). Crafting a script that moved the trailer along at a good pace for 1 minute and 30 seconds was the hard part.
I hope this article helps you become the next Scorsese of book trailers. If you do take my advice, I’d love to see your finished product. Reach out and let me know where to find it!
Against all odds—and without millions of followers—I sold a memoir. You can, too!
I landed a book deal for my memoir, and I’m not the least bit famous. Nor am I a professional writer by trade.
So, how did I do it?
It only took 44 rejections over two years. And a unique story.
This was the key--the unique story. If you’re hoping to land a traditional publishing deal for your memoir but you don’t have a Kardashian-like following, think long and hard about how your story differs from others in the marketplace.
In my other life—as mentor to start-up founders—the first question I ask entrepreneurs is how does their product/idea/service differ from what’s in the marketplace already. It’s also what was asked of me when I swam with the Sharks on Shark Tank in 2011. In the literary world, it doesn’t seem to be top of mind for many of the amazing writers I’ve met. Their writing skills far exceed mine and they have incredible true stories to tell, but figuring out what makes their book a must-have for publishers is not the first thing they’re thinking about.
I get why it’s this way—the process of writing a book is a massive, gnarly animal in itself. Who wants to think about marketing when you’re just trying to get your damn book written?! And most people don’t look at things from a marketing perspective. As a lifelong marketer, I do. Annoyingly so, at times.
So, here’s my advice…
Research the Marketplace
Before you dive into writing your memoir, start researching what’s out there that looks similar to yours. And then come up with reasons it’s not similar. I’ll use my memoir, Little Voices, as an example. There are a million memoirs written by psychic mediums and folks who’ve endured near death experiences. And then there’s mine…
Little Voices stands out from other books on the market in the following ways:
Think about what type of memoir you’d like to write and sell.
My agent was very clear when we met that memoir (spiritual memoir, at that) is a VERY hard sell unless you’re famous. If you check out Publisher’s Marketplace (they have a monthly subscription), you can see what publishing house acquiring editors are buying. In my case, I knew (intuitively) that I had to push forward with the traditional memoir style, i.e., braided essay; however, I wasn’t necessarily opposed to transforming my book into more of a “narrative nonfiction with how-to” format. It’s an easier sell. If all doors had been closed to me to sell my book as a memoir, I wouldn’t have changed it up and tried to sell it as self-help. I ultimately didn’t change the structure of mine because I got a book deal.
Here’s what I mean by narrative nonfiction with how-to…
If you organize your book by topics/lessons—telling your story to match the topics/lessons per chapter and then including tips the reader can use to make their own lives better—you’ve got a winning combo. And it doesn’t put you squarely in the memoir category competing against the Demi Moore’s of the world. Your book will be categorized as self-help, but you’ll still be telling your story.
So, there you have it. I hope what I’ve shared helps make the book-selling process easier for you. Reading about your life will help me in my life. I want to read your book, and I want to see you succeed! It might take more than 44 rejections and more than two years of pitching, but you can do this.
If you tell agents and editors of the publishing world WHY your story stands out—and why it’s worth the risk for them— you’ll be well on your way to landing the book deal of your dreams.
#writer #author #memoir #adviceforwriters #nonfiction #bookdeal #posthillpress #simonandschuster #kierstenhathcock #littlevoices #advice
You know that moment you realize you're the luckiest person in the world?! Well, I had one of those moments about a month ago. My favorite painter in the world (and wonderful friend) agreed to let me use a photo of one of her paintings as the base of the cover of my book.
Over the years, Erica and I have talked about using her artwork on my cover, but I really didn't know if I'd ever get published. It was long before I had an agent or even a finished manuscript. And honestly, I didn't know how it would work.
And then it all came together. Magically. Post Hill Press loved the idea, too, and put a cover artist to work making the cover art right for publishing (colors, scale, etc).
In this blog, I want to share more of Erica's background and work. If you haven't seen her paintings before, you're in for a treat.
Erica Vhay is known for capturing the emotion and movement of a moment in time. Her fascination with patterns and negative shapes can be seen in both her figurative and abstract work - with her focus on the negative shapes as much as the positive.
From a family of artists, her mother was a painter and her great grandfather was the 20th century American sculptor Gutzon Borglum - most notably known for his sculpting of Mt. Rushmore. Other influences in her work can be seen in Egon Sheile, John Singer Sargent, and the more recent Malcolm Leipke and Michael Carson.
Erica attended college at the University of Oregon where she studied sculpture and drawing. Although she has been creating art since she was a child, she has focused solely on painting for the last 20 years. Originally from Nevada, Arizona has been her home for the last 23 years.
Altamira, Jackson Hole, Wy
Altamira, Scottsdale, Az
Brix. Flagstaff, AZ
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org | ericavhay.com