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!

 

Counting My Blessings

While I’ve neglected this blog, I have been a busy little writer bee lately. I hit thirty pages for the new version of my ongoing novel project (I lost track of how many versions there’s been so far). On top of that, a freelance gig assigned me new blog posts that are longer than the ones I previously wrote for them. All good things, but between that and recovering from my knee surgery, I haven’t had much motivation left for this blog.

As usual my recovery has been the standard roller-coaster of emotions. My knee is a lot less stiff than the other one was because the surgeon completed this procedure in half the time. On the other hand, I had much more trouble walking this time around. Before I wasn’t so concerned about walking correctly because I still had one knee left to do. When trying to “be good” over the past month, I could barely out-shamble a zombie and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Thank God for the hospital’s physical therapist, who I saw for my belated four-week appointment on Saturday. Apparently I should be leading with the surgery knee instead of the recovered knee (wouldn’t you think it was the other way around??). The therapist made sure I had the technique down pat and showed me exercises to make sure my “muscles fired.”

I’m so grateful to be on the right track again. On Saturday night I went to my aunt’s house, my first social outing since the surgery (though I’ve had visitors every week). I’m still struggling a bit but I’ve improved more these last few days than I have the entire month. I’m also glad I didn’t miss dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house because I got to see my cousin and her new husband after their destination wedding last week. Although, watching their wedding video made me wish I could’ve gone to Jamaica! At least I wasn’t the only relative who couldn’t make the trip.

I’ve had a more positive outlook these past few months. Instead of cursing my misfortune of needing two consecutive surgeries, I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to fix knees that have bothered me my whole life. Still living at home at my age turned into a blessing because I didn’t have to worry about giving up an apartment and moving back home post-surgery. I’m grateful for my two best friends who have visited me every weekend in the last month. I’m even feeling optimistic about my writing again. While I still doubt I’ll make a living selling books, I’m hopeful about eventually publishing my current work-in-progress.

That said, I still dread getting back behind the wheel of my car in a month or so. I just have to remind myself of all those hours I wasted taking public transportation.

A Pantser Who Plans

“Pantser” and “Planner” are terms I picked up from then NaNoWriMo community. While I gave up on ever writing 50K words in a month (I prefer my own pace because forcing a story never works for me), I still support those who take on the challenge and adopt some of their philosophies. A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of one’s pants, meaning without an outline to guide them, while a Planner…well, plans. Neither label is better than the other  – in my opinion – and the choice completely depends on the individual.

Until recently I was a Pantser. Whenever I got inspiration for a new idea, I’d be so excited about it and start the first chapter right away. Then I would hit a wall by the second chapter. At most I made up scenes as I went. This alone made me abandon many stories because I never bothered to chip away at said wall. I’d lose interest in the idea, conclude it wasn’t as great as I thought it was, and move on to the next Great Idea. I never wanted to stop and re-examine the characters, plot or potential themes. My inspiration moved on so I went right along with it.

Inspiration is a tricky devil. It makes mediocre ideas THE BEST THING EVER and distracts me from investing in my current work. Before the story had any depth, I’d get distracted by the shiny new idea waiting to be developed. Without an outline or any idea of how the middle will flow into the conclusion, I had difficulty committing to the story. Why bother when a dozen other ideas sound much better than the one right in front of me?

My novella series “Define Reality” turned me into a Planner. It originally started as a television script, so for once I already had every single plot point mapped out. This made a huge difference when I finally wrote the novella version. I could focus on characters and theme instead of worrying about where the hell I was going with all this. Oh sure, I still had to figure out a bunch of stuff along the way, but the basics were there. I also felt comfortable adding things knowing how they fit into the overall picture. Even though I didn’t write the novella in a thirty days, I finished in less than six months and was happy with the results.

I think I will always “pants” a little bit. There will be times when I’ll go totally off-outline and add in scenes I concoct during the writing process. Going forward though, I want to put more effort into outlining the whole story. If nothing else, it’s a relief to know I won’t end up in the Middle of Nowhere without map.

Nothing much to report except I’ve been constantly adding to my novella for days now. I’m at that sweet spot where characters, backstory and plot have finally clicked together. It feels like this took a long time since my novella was a drama script first, but the script did help me figure out the plot. I’m thinking I might write a script version before all my novella and novel projects.

I might be writing so much because my surgery date is coming up fast. I know, I can always write after (especially since I won’t be able to do much else), but for some reason it’s like a giant deadline in my mind. I’m midway through my novella so part of me is curious to see if I can get it done.

Soon after I’m probably going to post it on Wattpad.com. Before that I’ll have to make a cover, but I have some Pixabay images bookmarked so it should come out okay. Most of the time I stick to writing but once in a while I like to play around with graphic design.