Christmas Greetings from Mary R. Woldering, Thomas Woldering and Children of Stone

A STAR TO WATCH FOR: Jupiter and Saturn Will Be the Closest They've Been in 800 Years — How to See the 'Christmas Star' The ancients always watched the stars and the changing starscape with the planets meteor showers and comets moving about. Combinations and groups of stars became legends. When a person died, particularly if they were noteworthy they joined the "gods" who had gone before them back to the sky.

I hope it isn't too cloudy that night because you'll get a conjunct to wish upon near Christmas. That it also occurs on the night of the Winter Solstice is also noteworthy. Nights have been getting longer. After that night: December 21, they get longer and the sun returns with longer days. This particular conjunct hasn't been seen in 800 years. That night, Jupiter and Saturn will align in a position known as the great conjunction, which is the point at which they're closest to each other in the night sky as seen from Earth. This phenomenon is often also referred to as the "Christmas star." While this meeting happens every 20 years or so, in 2020, the planets will be closer together than they have been since 1623. But that year, the alignment was too close to the sun to view from Earth. The last time humans were able to see a great conjunction this close was in 1226, well before telescopes were invented.

This year, Jupiter and Saturn will be just a tenth of a degree apart at their closest. To help you visualize that distance, that’s about the width of a dime if you hold one out at arm’s length.

Look for it low in the southwest sky just after sunset on Dec. 21. I'll wish on it. My wish is for all mankind to learn what peace and freedom are about and that our worries are small in the grander scope of things.


I never was a fan of my original Voices in Crystal cover from 2013. It was designed by Createspace and originally had a rust colored spacecraft in lower right because I had stated the genre was Sci-fi Fantasy. The final cover, minus the spacecraft was a pretty blue that appeared to be the interior of a cavern to me, but was non-descript. I had told them, the main character lived in a cave, but not what the cave looked like. Many people loved it, but assumed the book might be about spelunking or crystals. Nothing on the original cover led the potential reader to think of the book as Fantasy, Visionary Fiction or even Epic Fantasy. In 2019 while trying to break through an incredible writer's block about how the series would end I decided to revise the first book and clean up some of the stylistic issues as well as get a cover that said more about the book. I had looked through Pre-mades when my fourth book Heart of the Lotus was published in 2018 and never found anything I liked. No stock male was right if I decided to show the main character on the cover. No scene of Egypt was right and much of the book doesn't take place in Egypt. My aliens were sentient telepathic crystals, not greys or even "little green men" I decided the only way to go was to depict an actual scene from the book. I chose the one when Marai has seen the "star" heard the "voices" and goes in search of what just came from the sky in the distant hill.

As a side note, I had decided after Book 4 that my series would have one design that carried through each cover. I chose the Flower of Life motif because the "flower" usually represented by a lotus blossom was often used to teach sacred geometry and to show the interconnection of all things in the Universe. The Ancients taught that as we create out own realty and our own "path" it can interconnect with other "paths" or petals of increasing complexity. So the aliens or "children" as "makers" of Earthly civilization espoused that pattern as a design and a teaching tool. Their craft, inside and out bore this pattern. My son Thomas, by profession an engineer and work planner with impeccable grammar, has a hobby of designing patterns and creating simple decorations with them. He also has written and published in an anthology. He was already editing and formatting the books and volunteered to do Cover 4. Now he wanted to take on Book 1 with even better software and experience. Some might complain that I needed a "Professional" but I'd already been disappointed by those, mostly because I wouldn't be able to work one-on-one without running up a huge bill in re-done images. I liked his work and felt he was the only one who "got it". I sent a design I sketched. I also sent two other pictures - One of the orbs that led Marai to the craft, and the Rainbow flower (even though I knew the rendering wouldn't be able to show the rainbow

The result was great. Most people have agreed, although there are quite a few who see it and think it's a Christian Novel because there's a star on it and it's blue. To those folks I'd say read the blurb. When did all pictures of stars over hills become about the birth of Christ? Here's the scene I used. ******

When Marai worked up the courage to grab at one, the luminous orb leapt up, circled his shaggy head, and dove down like a cave bat to nip playfully at his braided grass sandals.

Filled with an exuberance he couldn’t explain, he ran as he grew closer to the glow. Soon, the last sand hill loomed before him.

Grains of sand.

The voices hushed in their own sense of wild excitement. Each grain of sand beneath Marai’s feet felt as if it had burst into life as he padded by. The earth buzzed like an anthill, swelling in a mad and joyous new song. Shivering tingles of pleasure shot up his legs, paralyzing him once more with madness, joy, and renewed fear.

There is something here,

In grains of sand.

Something is new.

It has never been here before, like this.

Long it has not been at all.

The voices faintly sang in his head. Now the exertion of the day and evening returned. He trudged on hesitant feet and nagging legs, wanting only to sink into the sand before he reached the summit of the dune. The greenish glow in the distance, just over a ridge of sand continued beckoning. Marai shielded his eyes then hesitantly looked over the top. The goddess he had sung to, dreamed about, and expected to find when he opened his eyes did not greet or enfold him in her burning embrace.

All the courage he’d grown in his proud march to the dune suddenly vanished. From the size of the smoldering pit, Marai knew the thing he saw was easily big enough for a small grove of date palms, a large pond, a well, and enough tent space for everyone in his extended family as well as a large caravan of traders. The edge of the thing he saw sticking partway out of the sand no more resembled his goddess Ashera and her boat of stars than he looked like one of his sheep.

The part that showed above the sand was four times his length and twice his height. It looked puffed up like newly baked flat bread, but its glowing shell appeared as smooth as pond water on a windless day.

Huge, he thought, way too hot to touch. Feel the heat from here. The shepherd sat in the sand, dumbfounded. As he watched in growing horror, the surface cooled and assumed a wet-looking milk color, honeycombed with light and tiny rainbows. The colors danced in childlike glee under the shimmering surface.

A star has fallen right out of the firmament. The shepherd bit his lips until he tasted blood but struggled with his fear frozen legs. He tried to make them work, so he could run, but he couldn’t even stand.

Damned Near Perfect (Summoned Book 2)

by C.A. King

When they were all in middle school, six young Knollville misfits were being bullied by the same rotten kid. Under the full moonlight they send up a wish that he won't bother anyone again. Ten years later, most are hanging on through video chats but have left town. After a series of bad romances and career reversals they wish again - for the perfect man. One fellow, Augustus, enters the life of each with promises of dreams fulfilled if they return to Knollville. Is he the perfect man? What could go wrong? This is a great little story that "spells" out that adage "Be Careful what you wish for." In this case they each realize a bit more about friendship and the power of wishes to cause trouble and also to heal. Well worth the 5 stars.

Fated Encounters

by Stephanie Barr

This book has five stories that introduce characters that will appear in a longer novel Catalyst. Each story sets up a situation and a potential for later encounters that will happen in the book. At first I was a bit confused that the stories didn't go on but then I re-read that these were vignettes for more. It's made me interested to see how the characters will meet and what the nature of their interaction will be.

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