The Amazing Things I Get to Do

I jumped out of a helicopter today without a parachute. I used my ability to see the future to save my mother’s life, I stared down two villains at gunpoint, I orchestrated a corporate take-over and I played with penguins. It was a great afternoon.

Years ago, I loved to read fiction and I still do. However, in recent years, that same energy has gone into  my writing  instead. Writing is hard work, and stories don’t always go as well as the writer would like, but when they do, the feeling that you are doing what your characters do is even more compelling.

These people live in my head. I know far more about them than will ever appear in my book, and when they set foot in Antarctica or on a beach in Brazil, I am there with them.

Because many of my characters have superpowers, I get the added bonus of doing things I never could in real life. Today, I wrote this scene about one of my characters who can “travel”, that is, have conscious out of body experiences.

Vanida had never used her energy body to travel to someone who was on an airplane, so she was alarmed when she ordered her body of light to seek out Yuden and found herself rising thousands of feet into the air and moving westward. It took effort not to panic and snap back into her physical body which was resting quietly on the beach in Brazil.

She was glad she had persevered, though, once she sighted the tiny plane approaching, and realized why she was where she was. The skill with which her energy body matched the speed and direction of the craft amazed her, and allowed her to cross through the metal as gently as if it had been sitting on the ground.

Tonight, I will go to sleep dreaming about flying through the air, matching my speed to that of an airplane and passing gracefully through its walls. It should be a night of sweet dreams.

It’s never too late till it is

Every once in awhile I know exactly what my husband means and those rare moments of perfect communication are gold. Such was the case with his “it’s never too late till it is.” Because it isn’t. You follow me?

27-Courage-27I still have the short-lived vantage point of watching those both a generation older and younger than me make decisions, and am always sad to hear someone decide that it’s too late for something they want. Education, relationships, children, adventures, the challenges of climbing a mountain or starting a business. My wise partner is right. Time can make some things more difficult, even much more difficult, but only we decide they are impossible. Until of course they are, at that moment when all of our chances are gone and we’ve done whatever it is we are going to do in this life. Nothing is impossible until then, and instead of finding the thought morbid, I find it oddly uplifting.

Of course, this bit of wisdom is unlikely to make it onto t-shirts anytime soon. Our culture is poorly suited to thinking about our own death, at least for more than a fleeting and uncomfortable second or two. That is why I was surprised when I continued with my task of updating the page on this blog about the music referred to in c3. Near the end of the book, my eighty-something telepath Maurice picks a song to relax him as he tries to use his telepathy to accomplish something that has never been done before by a telepath anywhere. Being a West Texas boy and life-long fan of Buddy Holly, he goes for the classic early rock song “That’ll be the Day.”

Only I wasn’t all that familiar with the lyrics to the song. They go “that’ll be the day … plonk plonk plonk … that I die.” I think that “that’ll be the day that I die” is an old expression roughly equivalent to “when pigs fly” but it is a little odd given our collective desire to never think about dying. The song came out in late 1957, and the day that Buddy Holly died was February 3, 1959.

My character Maurice, in his late eighties, probably thinks about death more than I do and I like to think, after the fact, that the fictional Maurice likes this song even more for its disturbing reminder of mortality. Being old, or at least being old well, takes courage and Maurice has an abundance of that. Please enjoy the short excerpt below to see what he is attempting.

That is how one lovely evening in mid-April Maurice found himself settling on to his couch to try something that had never been attempted. Teddie’s mother Lola was with him to make sure that he remained physically well, but she had sworn to remain mentally removed.

Maurice took a long swig of the sweet iced tea that he loved before he settled back and closed his eyes. Lola offered to put on some music for him while he relaxed and waited for the group in India to be ready. He was a West Texas boy through and through and still didn’t think that most country music held a candle to his favorite musician, Buddy Holly. Certainly not the modern stuff. He smiled as Buddy’s 1958 hit “That’ll be the Day” filled his living room and his mind.

Well, this would be the day that he would ride along in a young girl’s mind as she left her own body behind in the Himalayan dawn. He would join her as she danced into the air to travel through what Olumiji called the abode of light. In this world of waves, she could, incredible as it sounded to Maurice, find a friend a thousand miles away. Then both she and Maurice would desperately look for clues to the friend’s exact location, proving that one never knew what a day would bring.

I was so happy to find to find this wonderful recording of Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing “That’ll be the Day” live on the Ed Sullivan show on December 1, 1957. Go ahead, take a sixty year walk back into time and enjoy!

You can also listen to and purchase this classic at Amazon.

(If you enjoy reading about how the favorite songs of characters in a book can enhance a story, check out my post on greed and the Metric hit “Gold, Guns, Girls” at Never Enough on my blog for the novel d4.)

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:

What is the most lucid dream you have ever had?

Psychedelic 11My c3 hero Teddie convinces herself that her out-of-body experiences are merely lucid dreams. This is a condition that supposedly occurs when your body is fast asleep but your mind is wide awake. It doesn’t happen often, but apparently it does occur. One study estimated that about one in ten people report such dreams, and that they feel “real” in a way that other dreams never do.

Have you ever had one?

I remember having two in my life, and each affected me deeply at the time. In both cases once I was fully awake I understood that what had occurred wasn’t real, but none-the-less the events I experienced in the dream overpowered me for days and stuck with me for years. Both dreams ended up ultimately affecting some of the most significant decisions I have ever made. Things turned out well, though I don’t know that I can credit the dreams for that. Perhaps they only left me more sure of what I needed to do.

Teddie will turn out to do far more than have lucid dreams. Before the book is done she will understand out-of-body experiences in ways I suspect that I never will. I’m intrigued by the idea of flying through the air, weightless, silent and invisible, but I’m not convinced that it happens for anyone and I’m fairly sure it isn’t in my future.

I am content with my dreams having provided me with two wondrous experiences that gave me windows into other worlds that I will never forget. I also appreciate the irony that that they offered me a sense of certainty that no real world piece of information or advice could ever have provided.

(Thanks to the Fractal Enlightenment Facebook Page for the great image above.)

Out of your body or out of your mind?

Psychedelic 6Teddie, the hero of c3, has lived in my head since 2010 and I always knew what she could do, but I didn’t know what to call it. The other members of my superhero family have easy to name skills. We have a telepathic mom. Dad, who is a former athlete, can slow down the passage of time, making him appear quicker and more physical skilled than he really is. I call him a time warper.  Big brother Zane has learned to morph his own appearance, becoming something of a real life shape changer.

But Teddie? Well, she can become invisible, I would tell people. And she can teleport somehow. Like she can be anywhere she wants and no one can see her. It’s possible. Trust me.

Why care if it is possible? Well, these are magical realism books, written so as to hopefully convince my readers that they just maybe could happen in the world in which we live. How am I ever going to 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 and learned that it wasn’t quite what I wanted either. Teddie doesn’t need to go to some other plane of existence.

An out of body experience was what I was after. Did you know that there are books out there that will train you on how to have an out of body experience, and the internet is full of people happy to describe their own adventures doing the same? I didn’t, but I ran into something similar while writing x0 and researching telepathy. Both times I had to ask myself — do I believe any of this? Does it matter if I believe it?

I am a scientist in my real job, a geophysicist to be specific. I believe in the laws of nature and my default mode is skeptical. Thanks to my background, though, I also know that the universe 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 1So, I don’t know. Maybe a real life Teddie exists out there.In fact, maybe an entire c3 organization does. My assessment is that almost anything is possible. Probably a lot of these folks describing out of body experiences are just very imaginative people, and the answer lies in how they choose to see things. Maybe a few of them actually are scam artists or out-and-out deluded but certainly not all of them by any means. Given that, I did my best to treat the people I encountered with respect and the subject matter itself with an open mind.

No, I haven’t actually tried 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, recognizing that for me the state of not knowing for sure is sometimes a good one. Besides, I’m on to writing the next book now, as Teddie’s big sister Ariel struggles with seeing the future. Can anyone actually  predict what will happen? If so, how does it work? I’m busy trying to figure it out.

(Please drop by the Facebook pages of Psychedelic Adventure and Your True Voice and give them a like for the great images shown above.)

c3 is published!

Dalai 5This is the fourth time I’ve done it, and each time has been more fun than the last. Something about hitting that button to put your heart, soul and creative effort out where the world can see it  is more exciting than I ever would have expected.

C3 is my longest novel so far, and it was the most difficult to write. Some of the plot concerns the sex industry, and human trafficking. I learned more than I wanted to know about those topics while researching this book, but the seriousness of my subject matter seemed to warrant my going the extra mile to get my facts right. Other parts of the story, like climbing the world’s highest peaks, have always fascinated me. As to all the tidbits about animal sex in the book — what can I say?  It was kind of fun to research.

Now I start the necessary but far less fun task of marketing the book. It’s not my strength, but I believe in this story so firmly that I will do it anyway. Thanks to the Dalai Lama’s FB page for reminding me that there is magic and power in each new beginning.