Psychics Versus Skeptics

I’ve always had a deep love of the paranormal. From a young age I enjoyed TV shows and books with a fantasy element. Then when I started writing, I mostly focused on the supernatural genre. The novel I’m writing now highlights psychic phenomenon.

Oddly enough, this transitioned to my real life. Over the years more than one person told me about their psychic experience or encounter with a ghost. At this point I’m not even fazed by it. If a friend tells me “hey, I saw a ghost!” my response is “okay, cool, what was it like?” I’m not so gullible that I believe every story I hear, but it’s happened often enough now that I don’t dismiss it either. Besides, it’s something interesting to talk about for the moment. Why not?

I’ve never seen a ghost myself though, or had a notable psychic experience. Go figure. Apparently I’m just a magnet for people who have.

The novel I’m working on explores psychic phenomenon, but with less fantasy – meaning I’m not going to throw in vampires and werewolves later on. In the real world there are psychics who inspire TV shows and work with the police. I’m fascinated by this weird dynamic going on – thousands of fans believe in mediums, while a major percentage of the population doesn’t believe at all. (Well, I realize the dynamic isn’t unique to this issue – it also applies to religion, climate change, etc. – but I’m talking about psychics.) Every psychic who emerges in the spotlight is immediately called a fake or a scam artist. Since all video can be edited, I wonder what it would take to convince non-believers once and for all. Maybe one day scientists will produce indisputable proof.

Then again, that would bring on another set of problems. Maybe we’re not meant to know for sure.

Working on my novel led me to read some non-fiction written by psychics. The first was The Other Side and Back by Sylvia Browne (with Lindsay Harrison). Talk about weird coincidences – this book had been in my house for years and I finally decided to read it. Apparently my mom got it from someone, so for a long time it was “that random book under the table in the basement.”

I found myself interested in her version of the afterlife. I’ve always liked the idea of reincarnation – it sounds so much more exciting than floating around on a cloud for eternity, you know? I even started a novel about reincarnation before…well, moving on to another story. Browne also talked about angels, spirit guides, and learning what you’re supposed to learn in this life so you’re more informed in the next.

These elements showed up in Theresa Caputo’s (and Kristina Grish’s) There’s More to Life Than This. I don’t watch Long Island Medium on a regular basis but I relate to her. We have vastly different personalities, but I’m also an Italian, Catholic New Yorker. Queens is right next to Long Island, so there’s actually a – very slim – chance we could cross paths one day. I thought it was interesting that, like Browne, Caputo spoke about spirit guides, angels, and learning life’s lessons.

Side note – I like that she explained how she can be Catholic and believe in reincarnation. I struggled with that concept myself and never expected to receive reassurance in a book. Plus, in a book about signs from Spirit, she kept referring to the date June 9th…which is my birthday. It’s also the day Caputo’s grandmother passed. When she mentioned her daughter’s knee surgery and June 9th in the same section, I was a little spooked!

But I’m a skeptic at heart. Really, I swear. I’m open-minded but I’m not naive. Any skeptic worth their salt would argue that Caputo copied Browne’s version of the spirit world and added her own voice. Maybe she did read Browne’s book at some point. However I still find the similarities worth pursuing, especially when I might be able to incorporate them in my novel. Next on my list is Allison DuBois’ Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye. And yes, I was a big fan of Medium!

 

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Now Posting Some Content on Medium.com

My writerly self has been all over the place for a long while. I don’t know if I want to work on fan fiction, original work, even personal essays. Plus The Holidays are distracting so when I’m not with family I’m watching Christmas movies on Netflix or Youtube. Maybe it’s time I read an actual book again rather than online articles about how much the Gilmore Girls revival sucked.

Anyway, while rambling on tumblr about how much I can’t stand Rory Gilmore, I remembered a website I bookmarked a while back. Medium.com is basically a social network for the types of posts I like to write, aka, long-winded editorials that make the author sound smart when we’re really just ranting about the world. Any posts related to media and pop culture – mostly TV shows – will be posted here. I might move my baking posts there depending on how it goes.

Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays everyone!

Book Review: “Louisiana Longshot” by Jana DeLeon

A plot reminiscent of “Miss Congeniality” mixes with the small town zaniness of a Stephanie Plum novel in this story about an undercover CIA assassin. Fortune Redding expects nothing but boredom when she’s forced to hide out in Sinful, Louisiana. This changes when, on her first day of acting as the great-niece of an elderly woman who recently passed, the estate’s dog digs up a human bone. “Sandy-Sue Morrow” (the real identity of an ex-beauty queen vacationing in Europe) gets pulled into the mystery against her will by a secret society of old ladies who claim to run the town. So much for lying low – all Fortune can do is hope the deputy doesn’t run a background check on her fake name and blow her cover.

While Fortune’s antics can be a little over-the-top, I enjoyed her unlikely friendship with locals Gertie and Ida Belle. The character of Fortune herself is rough around the edges (as expected given her career) but grew on me throughout the story. Fortune’s sarcastic narrative provides a funny commentary on the situations and characters around her, particularly her new friends. The mystery wraps up after surprising revelations about Marge, the deceased great-aunt who left the house to Sandy-Sue.

You can download the first book of the “Miss Forune” series for free here.

Book Review: “A Gift of Ghosts” by Sarah Wynde

Akira Malone is a physicist. Her ability to communicate with ghosts is a “quirk,” a nuisance she does her best to avoid. She doesn’t even believe that ghosts are souls. They’re probably leftover energy, she reasons, and she can’t help them anyway. Not one has ever mentioned a “bright light.” Most she’s encountered just disappear without explanation, possibly converted into another form of energy.

Her instinct is to run when Zane Latimer hires her because of her quirk. In the end though, she can’t resist the top-of-the-line lab and intriguing research. She accepts the offer and moves to Tassamara, Florida, a town where hiding her quirk might not be an issue anymore. Apparently they’ve seen stranger things.

The book shines when focused on the author’s version of the spirit world. Ghosts Dillon and Rose are two of the most entertaining characters. It’s interesting that ghosts are not all good or all bad, but depend on individual’s energy. Akira’s scientific viewpoint creates a mystery that carries the story – what are ghosts, and where do they go when they disappear forever?

You can download the first Tassamara novel for free here.

Book Review: “Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper” by JL Bryan

Ellie Jordan is an expert at removing ghosts from haunted houses, and she prefers to work alone. She’s not happy when her long-time mentor/parental figure, former detective Calvin Eckhart, forces her to pair up with trust-funder college graduate Stacey Ray Tolbert. Newbie Stacey doesn’t understand yet that ghost trapping is serious business, so she gets an education real quick when their next case is a very haunted mansion owned by the Treadwell family.

The reluctant friendship between Ellie and Stacey is a highlight of the book. It’s not the fast BFF-ship a reader might expect but they’re not enemies either. Lighthearted jokester Stacey is a contrast to Ellie’s strict professionalism, and slowly wins Ellie over by not running away from the scary ghosts. They both need this courage as they run into all kinds of harmful spirits, particularly those related to the mansion’s long, scandalous history. The creepy horror-movie factor increases the more Ellie and Stacey investigate.

This story does feel like it’s divided in two because of the multiple hauntings, but I didn’t mind as much since the dark, spooky ending satisfied. All the characters’ interactions, particularly those of the resourceful protagonist, make the book an enjoyable read. You can download the first installment of the series for free here.

Life Is Short – I’m Reading Whatever I Want

Whenever the subject of literature comes up, you’d think I’d be the first one to say how I love Jane Austen or Mark Twain or any number of authors we’re forced to read in high school. Writers are supposed to love the classics, right? They’re the best of all time, the epitome of “good writing.” I should have a long list of classics that changed my life, which I often rattle off in order of influence.

Here’s the thing – I don’t. I love reading though. From the beginning I devoured any book I got my hands on and could spend hours in a bookstore. This is also true now. What I didn’t love was being forced to read classic literature in school. My friend from high school and I still joke about how we both fell asleep reading Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Sure, I liked “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby,” but I wouldn’t call them my favorites of all time.

What do I read? Anything else. I love genre fiction, always have. Give me a good mystery, supernatural or even a romance novel any day. My Kindle app has a growing collection of Nora Roberts trilogies (mostly her paranormal romances). Sometimes I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, but I always have one or multiple “currently reading” novels. Lately I surf Kindle for self-published ebooks or read works uploaded onto social media websites. To me it doesn’t matter what people read as long as they don’t fall asleep while reading it.

(Personally speaking, it’s ironic because with music the opposite applies – I prefer The Rolling Stones, Motown, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel. This phenomenon only happens with classic literature over thirty years old.)

Maybe I’d seek out more classics if I came across one I liked just as much as a contemporary novel, but it hasn’t happened yet. Now, that doesn’t mean classics don’t have value. They do because they influenced the authors who are on my Kindle app. They shaped the way we tell stories in the present day.

Unfortunately, I just can’t bring myself to read them.

I do hope I’ll come across a classic I absolutely love and finally get it. Once in a while I feel guilty about all this, but time is precious and I won’t force myself to read a book solely because librarians think I should. I’ll still write what I want and hopefully, some day, people will read my stories because they love genre fiction too.

I Miss Having a Bookshelf

I know, I know – “You call yourself a writer and you don’t have a bookshelf? What’s wrong with you? Next you’ll say you don’t have a library card!” Hear me out, okay? (And for the record I do have a library card!)

My family and I live in a three-bedroom detached house in Queens, and I use the term bedroom loosely. Two are average and the third is the size of a walk-in closet. I started out with the bigger room, but after a few years I voluntarily traded for the tiny one because it had more privacy. The bigger room my sister now uses also has the only actual closet in any of the “three” bedrooms, including the so-called master. Her room also has the only door to the backyard. (This house has the weirdest construction ever, I swear.) So you see how both a supposed grown adult and a teenage girl would have issues with it. Even now my sister regrets instigating the trade.

For the most part I don’t care about the space. It’s a place for me to sleep when I’m not hanging out downstairs in the finished basement/lower level/potential apartment. When I graduated college I had delusions that I would be living in my own place soon anyway, so why obsess over a room in my family home? The part of me that hasn’t completely given up hope still feels this way.

When chatting with my friend a while back, I realized that I miss having a bookshelf. When I was a teenager we had a huge colonial – three bedrooms, not including a private sitting area attached to the master, a finished attic room and an unfinished basement. Plenty of storage for everyone’s stuff. Built-in shelves in the spare room housed my library of YA books and junior novelizations (the latter probably led to my fanfiction obsession now that I think about it). Sadly we got rid of almost all of them when we moved and I dormed at college.

Now I wish I had at least one bookcase. In my own hypothetical house or condo in the far-off, hypothetical future, I want an entire room with wall-to-wall bookshelves. This will not double as my office though, because all those novels would be endlessly distracting. My office would have writing resource books and large desk for my desktop computer. For the most part I stay in the present, but sometimes it’s nice to fantasize.

For now I’ll have to settle for the Kindle app on my phone and laptop. I’m not an ebook snob so I’ll gladly buy that version to save space. It’s just that I would like to buy regular paperbacks without thinking “Where the hell am I going to put these?”

Book Review: “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate

After browsing the selection of FREE ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle section, I realized I wanted “Dear Journal” to be part-book review blog. I love to spread the word about great finds.

My first pick is “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate, book one in her “Welcome to Daily, Texas” series. I’ve always lived in the New York boroughs so I romanticize the idea of small-town life (Staten Island can be like a small town, but it’s not the same). While there are fewer businesses, and I wouldn’t want everyone knowing my business, I’d like to try it somewhere down the line. This is why I can enjoy books, Hallmark movies and country songs about the lifestyle. Even if an author’s portrayal is an exaggeration, how would I know? It’s similar to when doctors can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy because of the inaccurate medical jargon, but most fans aren’t bothered at all.

What I like about “Talk of the Town” is that it’s more than you’d expect from the summary. On the surface it looks like a typical city-girl-meets-country-boy tale, Hollywood-meets-small town America, and I was sold on that alone. Then I picked up spiritual undertones, a theme about questioning where we are in life. (I’ve already mentioned I’m not religious but I can be interested when it shows up in media. For a while I was even hooked on Touched by an Angel reruns. Goes along with that “appreciating the passion/beliefs of others” mindset.) The book runs deeper than anticipated thanks to Daily native Imagene Doll. Her story about finding herself after her husband’s passing is just as endearing as the younger characters’ love story. Meanwhile, co-main character/reality show producer’s assistant Mandalay Florentino has second thoughts about her fast-paced Los Angeles lifestyle and the direction of her career.

There are two more in the series I plan to read next. You can download “Talk of the Town” here.