“You’re Gonna Miss This”

To me, this song is the very best of teary-eyed country music wisdom, schmaltzy and absolutely true at the same time. I’ve written a few times on this blog about the big changes I’ve made in my own life over the last several months, leaving a career and moving across the county and so on. Do I wish I’d savored things more before I changed them all? Eh ….what do you think? All I know is that I sure did a fair amount of crying as I just watched this.

Read this short excerpt from c3, and then find a tissue and enjoy “You’re Gonna Miss This” performed by Trace Adkins.

Trace AdkinsIt was the last week of school before the Christmas break started on Friday, December 16. Each of the girls was almost done with end-of-semester tests and papers, with only a couple of more deadlines left. Michelle had mixed feelings about her three-week trip back to the U.S. during the winter break, and Haley was determined to talk her parents into letting her come back to India for the next semester. Since August, Teddie had been counting the days until Sunday the eighteenth when her parents would arrive from Texas, brother Zane from Chicago and Ariel from London. The Zeitman reunions tended to be lively affairs, and if it happened at no other time during the year, they all five always managed to be together at Christmas.

Teddie knew that there would be nice hotels, and fancy meals out, and presents her mother would have insisted on hand carrying all the way over. Then Zane and Ariel would go back to their lives as grown-ups, and Teddie would go back to Texas with her parents and be a regular junior in high school. She’d get to wear her boots and jeans to school again, drive her truck to any fast food restaurant that struck her fancy, and get to blare her country music as loud as she pleased while she did so.

But the country song she heard in her head as she thought about it was “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Damn.

Now that the prospect of all those wonderful things was so close, she wasn’t nearly as excited about it as she once had been. A piece of her now was of Indian spices and silly, British-looking school uniforms and brightly colored weaves and noise and bodies closer together than any Texan would like. She enjoyed the strange way her classmates made English sound so exotic. A part of her looked at Junga every day, and even though she wasn’t going to climb it herself, a piece of her was of the mountain. She didn’t know how to say it plainer. A part of her had nestled into Darjeeling and gotten comfy, and now wasn’t so anxious to leave.

You can purchase this song at Amazon.com.

Heads Carolina

I am not the fan of country music that my character Teddie is, but there is one song in her story that skyrocketed into my list of favorite songs as I was writing this book. A good bit of how much we like music has to do with our own circumstances, doesn’t it? I wrote c3 at a time when my husband and I were contemplating a major move from Texas to one coast or the other.  I was lobbying for Oregon or Northern California, he was pushing for something along the coast in South Carolina. New Mexico became the compromise that neither of us quite wanted. Then we started talking about the mountains of Western North Carolina and everything seemed to come together.

It’s not surprising that “Heads Carolina Tails California”  by Jo Dee Messina became my theme song for a few months.  In the end “heads” won for us, but I will always think fondly of the Pacific coast, and of the restlessness in this song.

A Girl from Texas

I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about what songs they like (and their favorite foods and favorite sorts of entertainment) as I am getting to know them early in the process of creating my novels.

Each main character from my five books has a distinctive list of favorite songs, many of which are woven into the story. Teddie likes country music (and cowboy boots and Tex-Mex food). You learn this and more about her from this scene early in the novel.

At night, Teddie took refuge from all the strangeness. The collage of colors and faces and smells that permeated her world now by day subsided into the comforting greys of darkness. She lay in her bed and thought of how much she missed boots. Western boots, on her and others. Pickup trucks and country music and bar-b-que and dead armadillos in the road. Now wasn’t that stupid? Pine trees and Tex-Mex food and front lawns and churches everywhere even though her family didn’t belong to one. It was her world, and she missed its familiarity.

Luckily she had been able to keep her MP3 player, and sometimes she thought that the music was saving her sanity. She fell asleep that night crying softly and listening to the song “Texas Kind of Way” while she smelled the musty non-flower smell of her mother’s geraniums in her head. And that was the night that she starting sleepwalking.

Enjoy this video of Cody Johnson performing the song live.

The fact is that I started each of my novels off with a special song. Click to read about x0’s “Time After Time“,  y1’s “A Whole New World“, z2’s “Fame” and d4’s “Lights“.

You can purchase “A Texas Kind of Way” at Amazon.com. You can purchase c3 at Amazon.com, too.

Out of body experiences

Teddie, the hero of c3, lived in my head for years and I knew what she could do, but I didn’t know what to call it. The other members of my superhero family had easy to describe skills. We had a telepathic mom. Dad, a former athlete, could slow down the passage of time. This ability shows up in lots of stories; I went ahead and called him a time warper.  Big brother Zane learned to morph his own appearance, becoming something of a real life shape changer. Big sister Ariel could see into the future.

But what about Teddie? Well, I knew that she could become invisible, and teleport somehow. It was like she could be anywhere she wanted and no one would see her. The problem was that these are magical realism books, written so as to hopefully convince my readers that the stories I tell just maybe could happen in the world in which we live. How could I ever convince a reader that a character could both turn invisible and teleport to anywhere, I wondered, as I began to write the story.

Then it hit me.  Her body doesn’t have to go anywhere. Just like Edgar Rice Burroughs sent his hero John Carter to Mars via some sort of astral projection, my hero could do the same. So I began to study astral projection. It turns out that there is quite a lot of material written on the subject, and I soon learned that it wasn’t quite what I wanted either. Astral projection technically involves going to some other plane of existence, and I wanted my hero to stay right here on earth.

No, it was an out of body experience that I was after. In an OBE, as they are affectionately called, the traveler visits a plane that exactly mirrors our physical world. They are unable to interact with the solids around them, but under the right circumstances they can return with accurate knowledge of distant objects and events.

I discovered that there are quite a few books out there that claim to be able to train you to have an out of body experience, and the internet is full of people happy to describe their own adventures doing the same. I had run into something similar while writing x0 and researching telepathy. Once again, I asked myself — do I believe any of this?

I was a scientist before I retired, a geophysicist to be specific. It is not surprising that I default to a belief in the laws of nature and I approach anything else with skepticism. Thanks to my background, though, I also know that the universe naturally behaves in many strange ways that we can’t explain, and that the more physics you know, the stranger some of it gets.

true voice 1As I read of these OBEs, I do admit that a few of the authors came across as scam artists, and a couple others seemed out-and-out deluded, at least to me. But most fell into neither of those categories. From their writing at least, they appeared both rational and sincere. I decided that a lot of the folks describing their out of body experiences were just very imaginative people, and the secret lay in how they chose to see things. But did that describe them all? Reading through many of their stories I concluded that I had no idea how possible, much less how common, real OBEs are. Maybe the world has many real life Teddies. In fact, maybe an entire c3 organization exists.

You can see some of my own thought processes in this excerpt from c3, when Teddie first begins the training to turn her innate abilities into a well developed skill.

Lhatu swallowed hard. He had known before he ever agreed to do this that the next few sentences would be the most difficult part.

“Let me back up, please. Amy, you see the world from inside you, so to speak. What I mean is that even though human consciousness is not understood very well, we think that it comes from inside of our bodies, inside of our brains. Some people imagine that they leave their bodies behind and wander off while they sleep or even as they go into a trance, and quite a few books have been written on the subject.”

“Sure,” Amy said. “Astral projection. I’ve heard of it. You think it’s impossible?”

“No, I’m saying that in most cases the person is just experiencing a lucid dream, or a creative daydream—harmless and even somewhat consciousness-expanding. I’ve no quarrel with this, it just doesn’t involve really leaving their bodies in, well, in the way that I do.”

“Oh.” The sarcasm was back. “So most other people can’t really do this, but you can.”

“Yes.” Lhatu said it simply, without embarrassment or pride. “And I’ve been trained to do it better since birth. I work for the people who trained me. I serve as their chief scout and trainer.”

“Is this shadowy organization that sneaks around watching kids run by some kind of a crime organization by any chance?” Amy asked.

“No. It’s a sort of informal monarchy and it’s run by my grandmother.”

“Oh.” Amy honestly didn’t know what to say.

“Look, there aren’t a lot of people who can do this naturally,” Lhatu went on. “It’s not nearly as common as, say, telepathy, which of course isn’t all that common at either. Most travelers—and we refer to it as traveling—most travelers start to have out-of-body experiences some time in their teens. It’s not always the case, but often some sort of trauma, or a series of traumatic events, encourages this ability. Feeling powerless, being powerless, needing to escape and having no other means to do so can sometimes set this ability in motion if the young person is prone to it to begin with.”

Lhatu gave Amy a long hard look. “It shouldn’t surprise you that more females develop this ability than males. Not that there aren’t plenty of young males in this world trapped in awful situations, too. And obviously most young people of either gender can never do this, no matter how desperate they become. Like everything else human, this ability seems to come from a combination of genes, environment and the very essence of the person themselves.”

Lhatu turned to Teddie. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Teddie looked down embarrassed, and Amy got it.

“Teddie? Is that what this is all about? Your dreams? Seeing Usha at the bus station leaving for Gangtok? Seeing her flee into Bhutan? You think now that this is all real?” Amy asked.

“I guess so,” Teddie said. “At least this good friend of my mom’s thinks it is because this guy here told him so, and now I’m supposed to stay here and be trained so that I can help them find Michelle and Usha both.”

“I’m scared, Amy.” The words popped out of Teddie’s mouth before she could call them back. “I’m not sure I want to learn how to be a freak.” She gave Lhatu a little bit of an apologetic smile. “No offense.”

“None taken,” he said. “This is absolutely your choice, Teddie, and it will continue to be so. You may quit or pause the training at any time you are the least bit uncomfortable.” Then he added with his own small smile back. “We are all kind of freaks already in our own way, you know? This will just make you a more talented freak.”

“Talented freak. I do kind of like that.” Teddie smiled back more confidently, and for the sake of her young friend, Amy decided to put her own skepticism on hold.

Like my character Amy, I too put my skepticism on hold as I did my research, and I did my best to treat the subject matter itself with an open mind.

No, I didn’t try the training to induce an out-of-body experience, and I’m not sure if I ever will. I may be a little like my character Amy in more ways than one. As Amy points out in my book, the state of not knowing is sometimes the best state to be in.

Here are two of my favorite sources of information on the subject: