My Birthmas Wish and E-Release NEWS!

Dreams shouldn’t have ceilings. Lucky for me, my parents never imposed them.

Some things haven't changed since I was 6.

Some things haven’t changed since I was 6.

This Sunday marks my 34th birthday—birthmas, as I like to call it. Each year for as long as I can remember, I’ve asked myself whether I’ve earned the numerical upgrade. If I’ve prodded further toward my dreams, the answer is yes, this year being no exception. With the release of my first novel underway, I’m feeling exceptionally grateful, particularly since a few months ago, publishing seemed far off.

When I was deciding whether to go the indie-with-an-agent publishing route, my dear friend Bill posted a blog comment that struck me straight in the heart:

Remember the big benefit concert you and your band mate put on, oh, 16 years ago, with a bunch of different local bands? I remember it because that was the first time, out of very many, that I was like, “holy ****, this person is my age, and she decides she wants to do things and just goes out and…like…DOES them!” So, yeah. I don’t know whether I could ever have the willpower or drive to do everything a self-publisher needs to do, and I know for a fact that most people don’t, but I’m pretty sure you’ll rock it in your usual way.

While I was already leaning heavily toward self-publishing, Bill reminded me of a vow I made at the ripe young age of 15. My mother was enduring a brutal battle with depression related to horrific abuse she experienced as a child. A friend in my church’s youth group had been kicked down the stairs by her abusive mother. And my best friend, Kellie, and I had recently learned to play guitar.

These events collided when Kellie and I took a dream I’d had about a song called Matarrah Taray as a sign. The otherwise nonexistent phrase quickly became a real song, the names of our beater guitars (mine Matarrah, hers Taray) and the title of a regional benefit concert to spread awareness regarding child abuse.



Many people deemed our mission sweet, but unrealistic. Fueled up with others’ skepticism and passion for the cause, we worked harder, producing press kits, a pasta charity dinner and local coffee house gigs featuring none-other-than us, while talking non-stop about all of it. Gradually, people started paying attention, and no longer in “That’s so cute!” type ways. We were featured in the morning news, a PBS documentary and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and sang the national anthem at a Minnesota Twins game dedicated to non-violence. Matarrah Taray became a two-year anti-child abuse campaign, culminating in a 16-band concert. In 1996, Kellie and I were awarded the Minnesota Peace Prize for our efforts.

You know what strikes me the most about the experience to this day? The vast number of people who described our “youthful” enthusiasm and belief that anything’s possible, notions they seemed to believe that everyone inevitably outgrows. At one point, I borderline scolded a reporter for referencing our “childlike fervor.” We’ll NEVER stop believing, I told her. Ever. Growing up doesn’t necessitate settling for non-starry skies. I still believe that.

While the accolades were lovely and we raised valuable funds and awareness for a worthy cause, Kellie and I benefitted most. Of the lessons I learned, my favorites still apply today:

  • Genuine goals and dreams are never foolish.
  • Goals and dreams are only meaningless if we withhold them.
  • People will listen (and stuff happens) if we speak up loudly and long enough.
  • Passion trumps know-how, though both are important.
  • Support and skepticism can function as high-grade fuel.
  • Music and words can change the world, if not the whole world, someone’s.
  • There’s no point in stopping dreaming and endless promise in keeping on.

Creating fiction, poetry, music, performance or visual art when our hearts say DO is among the most admirable and important work anyone can accomplish. Publishing our work traditionally or independently when our hearts say DO can turn “childlike” dreams into reality. Dreams are only meaningless when we withhold them.

My birthmas wish is that all of you reading this will take a step toward your wildest dreams. Step into your authentic self and do something awesome. (If you report back later, I’ll bake you a healthy cake.)

I’d also like to extend special thanks to my friends, family, mentors and readers for helping my most recent dream come true. My first novel hit the e-shelves this week! Talk about surreal…

If you’d like to purchase or otherwise support In Her Shadow by sharing links or “liking,” visit:

In Her Shadow on (Kindle version)
August McLaughlin on (my author page)
In Her Shadow on GoodReads

Thanks in advance for any support. ♥ If I can cheer you and your ventures on, please let me know.

***My official release, including the paperback, will take place in January. We’re going to party hardy!***

I’d LOVE to hear from you. What dream are you striving for? If you have trouble conjuring an answer, complete one of the following sentences: If I weren’t afraid (or alternate negative adjective), I would ______________________. If I could take a magic wand to my life, I would _______________________. What extra dream-seeking step are you willing to take? If still nothing pops to mind, I hope you’ll stay open to the possibilities.

Leave a comment


  1. Happy birthday. May you continue to dream hard. Sometimes I forget you are ELEVEN years younger than I am; you are wise beyond your years: an old soul, no doubt. I can’t wait to read your book and I promise to download in January! No Internet between today and December 29. Merry Christmas, August.

  2. Great post, August! I’ve always said that there’s a difference between dreams and goals. Dreams are more like wishes, and goals…well, those need a plan and action. 🙂 Dreams will never happen unless we DO something about them. I’m so happy for you and your “doing”! *hugs*

  3. August, Merry Birthday and Happy Christmas. May you realize all your dreams and then dream bigger. 🙂

  4. happy birthmas and congratulations! z

  5. Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and congratulations on the publication of your book (phew! that’s a lot). Love the reporter’s comment. Makes you wonder what she/he ate for breakfast. Certainly not anything with childlike fervor. Best wishes —

  6. Happy birthmas, girlie! And big ol’ fat congrats on the book. *squeeze*

  7. Merry Birthmas, August. I’ll hop over to GoodReads to add your book to my TBR stack. I’d love to download the Kindle e-version today, but Huey P. ACKard will not open my Kindle for PC file. (His replacement is wrapped and under the tree. I get it on Sunday. Woot!)

    I definitely want a copy of the paperback version when it’s available and will likely pester you mercilessly for a signed version. You have been warned.

    On a personal note, in addition to all the KUDOS you deserve, you have inspired me to experience more, try harder, and give myself permission to step outside my comfort zone. It’s not so scary out here. Actually, it’s quite stimulating. 😉

    Your personal story rocks with spunk and drive. I love that about you.

    • I can’t tell you what your personal note means, Gloria. I’m touched and ever appreciative of your wonderful support. Lots of love to you and yours. Cheers to staying stimulated! 😉

  8. Congrats on your book release, August! Happy BD and Merry Christmas, too. 🙂

  9. Happy Birthmas and Congratulations August! It must be so exciting! I am looking forward to reading it!

  10. Catherine Johnson

     /  December 20, 2012

    Wow that was an amazing achievement, August. I’m so proud of you. And have a wonderful birthday, you deserve it 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading it too.

  11. Kourtney Heintz

     /  December 20, 2012

    Happy Birthmas August! Wonderful inspiring post. Congrats for stepping out there and making your dreams a reality. 🙂

  12. Hey, if you’re turning thirty-four, that means you’re no longer half my age! Does that mean you’re catching up?! Nah, that’s just how we “older folks” like to think. Anyway, I fully expect to be assisting you with your writing projects for decades to come. Happy birthday, GOTB.

  13. Happy Birthday, August! Wow, I thought you were younger than I am, because you do look like a 26-27 year old, so yeah you definitely pass for 26, whereas me? Ah, I doubt it., haha. Anyway, I hope you have a great celebration this week and enjoy the party! 🙂

    And about my dreams? My wildest dreams? Ah, seriously? 🙂 OK. They are: to publish my books in English with either Random House, Penguin, or HarperCollins and become the first Indonesian to do so. And one day, if they think I am good enough, maybe becoming the first Indonesian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature? But the drive for an award is comparably small and truly meaningless to the drive to produce literary woks that would move and inspire people. I guess the strongest drive has always been to serve humanity through the written words, so it would be my dreams to have books published and to have people read them and eventually tell me how my books have impacts on their life. Anything extra is a blessing. Period. I guess even if I have to I die the following day after they tell me that, I’d die a happy man. 😉

    Finally, cannot wait for the paperback, will definitely place an order! 🙂

    In the meantime, take care, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! 🙂

    Subhn Zein

    • Age is so relative… As long as we live well and toward our dreams, I say the more the merrier. And regardless of how old/young you are, you look great. 🙂

      Keep writing and dreaming those dreams. When we put them out there, along with hard work and faith, most anything is possible. I personally can’t wait to read your work, and witness as your aspirations come true.

      Have wonderful holidays, Subhan. Thanks for the wonderful support!

  14. mgmillerbooks

     /  December 20, 2012

    Happy everything! I believe in karma; therefore, only the best will come to you.

  15. #PS: please delete the ‘I’ after ‘to’ before ‘die’ above. I haven’t been very friendly with my Ipad. Thank you..

  16. Happy Birthday! Merry Christmas! Congratulations! OMG!! You’re awesome!

    When I read this post, I was reminded of a saying that I like to remind myself of once in a while, “All of the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one small candle.”

    Let’s all be candles and bathe the world in light.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  17. Congratulations on the book! Just downloaded it. Look forward to reading it in the future. 🙂

  18. Happy Birthday August. What a spectacular gift to share with all of us…your story is inspiring and a reminder to never stop reaching for the stars. I love it. I feel all fired up and energized…

    I got a little dream inside me that I’ve been nurturing and growing…and I have no doubt that someday I’ll see it come true. Cause like you, I believe we are never too old or limited to start anew and fresh and our mind is the only limit to our ability to accomplish amazing things! If you believe it, you can achieve it!

    Here’s to you and your uberlicious success! BAM!

  19. Happy birthday, August! And huge congrats on your debut novel! How exciting to see all of your hard work come to fruition. You made a decision and you made that happen!

    Also, you were such a cute kidlet! And the bubble thought above your head made me smile. I LOVE this blog post! It has such a powerful and inspiring message. What a fantastic kid you were. You not only had a dream, you took your idea and put it into action. You made it come true. And people took notice. Awesome!!!

    You’re a ‘mover & a shaker.’ You make things happen! And that’s what makes the world go round. 🙂

    Merry Christmas & lots of success on your book & all of your dreams!

  20. Oops! Forgot to answer your questions. I’m 55, and I admit I’m not very techy savy, but six months ago, I decided to build a social media platform. Remember, I’m a total dunce when it comes to computers yet I took the plunge. Long story short, I managed to build my web site (yay!), tried all sort of other SM stuff and discovered I enjoy FB & Youtube best. Yep. Grandma has her own Youtube channel and I now have close to 100 videos! Pick up new subscribers almost daily. LOL! It’s crazy, but I’m having a blast. My first e-book due in the Spring, and have started a new writing project.

    BTW… for a spoonful of inspiration, I just shared your blog post with my critique peeps.

    Thanks again, August! 🙂

  21. Coleen Patrick

     /  December 20, 2012

    Happy Birthday August. Many happy, healthy and dream-filled more. I love your positive, can do attitude. 🙂

  22. Wow. Just, wow. August, this piece is so timely – although EVERY time is the right time to remember to follow your dreams and listen to your inner voice. Thanks for sharing a piece of your personal history – I have great admiration for what you accomplished at such a young age. 🙂

  23. Congratulations on your e-release, August! And Merry Birthmas! 🙂

  24. August, you are so inspiring! You are one determined gal, and I’m in awe of what you’ve done already. Major congrats on the upcoming book release! Looking forward to it! 😀

  25. August, Happy Birthday! Thank you for all your reflective writing, the giggles you supplied and the healthy spirit that emanates from your pages! Here is to a most successful 2013!

  26. August –
    What a womderful time for you! HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHMAS! And a special congratulations on the self-publishing of your book! My smile grew so wide when I read you had it published. I don’t know if you remember, but earlier this summer I read a blurb of your book from your website & asked you where I could buy your book because it sounded like something I would like. So, it’s been an awesome day for you in so many wonderful ways, and a good day for me because I finally get to read your bk! Hugs to you!

    p.s. I will get back to you about the dreams I have in mind. I am still workng on how to see them better. I think 2013 is going to be my year!

  27. mgedwards

     /  December 20, 2012

    Happy birthmas, August. A big congratulations on the book — may it be a runaway bestseller. You’ve shown time and again how talented you are; your story about “Matarrah Taray” is inspiring and touching. Keep on dreaming. If I can publish one or two books next year, my dream for 2013 will be fulfilled.

  28. Reblogged this on Gloria Richard and commented:
    I connect with August McLaughlin’s words on many levels. I have nothing for my blog today that compares to the positive message in her most recent post.

    I’m not being lazy. Really.

    The picture of her as a six year old with caption, “I’d tell you what I’m thinking, but then you might say NO.” Closing out the old year and ringing in the new, I bring you a post that encourages following your dreams. Link to download her new release IN HER SHADOW. Print version to be released in January.

    Well-done, August!

    • Thanks for the wonderful support, Gloria! I’m touched that my post struck a chord with you. Cheers and best wishes for a wonderful 2012 finale. 😉

  29. Happy birthmas, dear August, and congratulations on your e-book release. I’ll be off to download as soon as I post this comment. What an exciting time! You’ve packed a lot of living into your young life and yet, there you are, perched on brink of yet another new adventure. I believe you already know the secret to a successful life … never stop stepping “toward your wildest dreams”. Onward!

  30. Congrats on the release of your book! That’s awesome. Great uplifting post too, as always. I love your writing.

  31. Thanks to Gloria Richard for re-blogging this post, August. So many points made that I hold as dear truths, I can’t even wrap my head around them to write a coherent comment, except to agree, we can never let our inner child’s light dim. That would be catastrophe.

    This struck a particular chord: Music and words can change the world, if not the whole world, someone’s.

    My current novel deals with this issue, an idealistic reporter who must tame her goals. She may not rebuild the world from the ground up, but she can make changes.

    You guessed it, on my way to purchase. Well deserved publication. I’m with Bill when he expresses his faith that you will rock it.

  32. inkspeare

     /  December 21, 2012

    Happy Birthday; may success follow you every way you go. Thank you for this inspirational post 🙂

  33. A very merry, happy birthmas to you, August! (Lovely name, btw.) I enjoyed this post, and I think it so relevant what with the many societal and economical changes. As my Pa would say, “Things just ain’t being done the way they used to.” Well, maybe he didn’t have the southern accent, but the sentiment is there for sure. 😉

    For me, achieving dreams is all about perspective. For those who see their dreams as goals that must, must, must be met in a certain amount of time, I believe they miss out on half the journey, on half the experience. But for those who can appreciate the climb and the descent, I believe the victory is theirs. Sadly, not all dreams come true, but that does not mean we come away empty handed — not if we don’t want to; for hands are magical things, capable of changing shape depending on what we clutch.

    Thanks again for sharing these thoughts!

    And very nice to meet you,
    ~ Cara

  34. Terrific news and I love the idea that your novel will be available both as an e-novel and on the shelves. That’s a great marketing ploy these days. I’m looking forward to the read and wishing you every success. Happy holidays.

  35. Happy birthmas, August, and congrats on your release. May 2013 bring you much happiness and success. 🙂

  36. Kim Gane

     /  December 21, 2012

    First, happiest of birthmases to you, August! This post was very meaningful to me, and I hope to complete my own novel and publish in 2013. I was conflicted about traditional vs. self publishing, as well. You may have convinced me, or rather, your friend Bill’s comment may have. My biggest challenge has been the “butt in chair” rule–especially, “butt off social media”! If all I’m doing is pre-marketing, then I not writing, or at least it enough. I’ll be employing the Grab 15 method to commit myself to ACTUALLY DOING THE WRITING after the holidays are over. Thank you, as always, for your inspiration & wisdom!

  37. I’m so glad I got over here to read this. Beautiful post, August. You’re a real go getter. I honestly believe your novel will fly up the charts. I liked you and your novel and added you to my Goodreads. Such an exciting time. Yay!

    Now for some equally exciting stuff – Happy Birthmas! Celebrate and be merry. 😀

  38. Happy Birthmas, August. What a touching post, I love that you and your friend decided what to do and did it. And i’m sure that attitude will serve you well for all your birthdays to come. When you read success stories, many of them fell down, didn’t succeed the first time, or took a very long time to get there. But they have one thing in common and that is the “I can do it” attitude that you share. Stick to it and your dreams will come true! Best of luck with the book. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jessica! Success is a funny thing, right? Not giving up seems like a great measuring tool to me. 😉 May your holidays, dreams and belief in them be bright.

  39. Happy Birthday, my friend. hope the day was great.

  40. Congrats on your novel! It will be a big smash hit. The most important thing for artists is to keep doing what we love. You are a bright shining light in this world. xx

  41. Wow, I’m late to the party, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this post. Your story is inspiration, August. Happy belated birthmas. Wishing you great success with your upcoming release!

  42. What a passion filled woman you are!! I love how you and your friend proved everyone wrong and that you took on such a serious issue as child abuse. Fantastic!

    I haven’t bought a Kindle yet, so will be waiting for your paperback version next month! Congrats on going the self-pub route! 🙂

  43. We achieve our dreams in the end, I think – but as you say, only if we believe in them first. Happy birthday – and congrats on the book coming out! All the best for a great success with it & good sales and reviews.

  44. August, an amazing and uplifting post! Your journey with your friend Kellie started with an idea that grew so big and touched so many lives. I especially love this line from your other friend ‘this person is my age, and she decides she wants to do things and just goes out and…like…DOES them!’ Rock on! Those are words to live by and its never to late to start DOING – right? As for me….
    If I weren’t afraid, I would stop worrying about losing people I loved because I feel I don’t deserve to be so wonderfully loved forever.
    If I could take a magic wand to my life, I would not erase a thing for all I cherish now may be different.
    Happy Birthday!

  45. Reading this post had me reflect on my own experiences as a teenage musician. In those days, it never occurred to me that it might be futile or unrealistic to play with my band — somehow the notion that I had to “be realistic” popped in there later on in adulthood. I’m proud to say, though, that I’ve once again abandoned “realism” and am back to pursuing music with a vengeance.

  46. Shannon Esposito

     /  January 2, 2013

    Hi, August. I just stopped in to wish you a happy new year & now I see I’ve missed your birthday so Happy Birthday, too! lol. This is a beautiful and inspiring story. We need more peeps like you and your friend in the world. I have a painting in my kitchen that says “It will cost you nothing to dream But everything not to.” I try to live my life by this.

  47. Hi August,
    Happy New Year Lady and all the best for 2013. May you reach all the goals that you undertake to do.

  48. The world is yours, August!

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