Monthly Archives: July 2012

Paranormal Surprise

Last night, we had a preliminary investigation in a neighborhood more known for custom rims than paranormal activity.

The family contacted us in seeming desperation. A week earlier, they had moved out of the house when scratches appeared on their son’s arm. They were now staying with relatives.

The house was two stories with a basement and attic, bought for much less than a new car, the family was doing their best to return it to a livable state. The small house and the condition of disrepair meant simple things like going up the stairs could be treacherous. The basement was especially cluttered and moldy. It was not the most pleasant environment I’ve done an investigation in.

We had plenty of people to do interviews, so I acted as a backup to the psychics. We have a rule that, for safety reasons, we never go into a space alone, and yet, strong psychics sometimes like to have some space, so they know they aren’t reading  someone else’s impressions. I floated back and forth, keeping my digital recorder handy through the investigation.

Compared to our last two investigations, where we dealt with strong negative forces, this house didn’t seem too bad. There seemed to be some energy upstairs which was more confused than negative. The rest of the house seemed pretty neutral. While we haven’t evaluated all the evidence, looked for EVPs, etc. We seemed to be getting the feel that the house was relatively harmless.

Personally, I did have a curious incident. Because the family was freaking out, we decided to do a general house blessing before we left. I followed behind Cat, who was going around using a Sage essence spray–a little easier on the nose than a smudge stick. I followed her for two reasons, the buddy system and so I could add a little Reiki energy.

Because of how neutral the house had been, I’d let my shielding slip. And as I was standing in the upstairs hallway, outside the bathroom, where we had experienced the most odd energy, I felt a stabbing pain in my back, and I felt the energy drain out of me. I figured that either my appendix had burst or something had tapped into me for energy.

As I was taking some deep breaths, trying to recover, Cat said, “There’s something here, it wants to cross over,” and she crossed it over with seeming ease, as I leaned on the door frame.

This is only speculation, but I believe an earthbound took power from me so it had enough juice to talk to Cat loud and clear.

Thoughts on Dialogue

People tell me I write dialogue reasonably well. So, I decided to put down my thoughts about it.

Now there are a lot of rules that people will tell you about when to use “said*,” sentence length and voice, but in my experience, you can ignore those as long as you follow two simple guidelines.

  1. Dialogue sounds like conversation.
  2. Dialogue is not conversation.

At first glance, there seems to be a bit of contradiction in these two statements. And there is a little, but I believe that good dialogue resides in that ambiguity.

For example, here’s what I think speech sounds like.

   “How’s your mother?” he said as he unfolded his napkin.

“She’s fine,” she said guardedly.

“So, you know, um, how your mother has that horse?” he asked.

“What about it?” she answered.

“Well, I, uh, saw a picture of it the other day. Or maybe its perfect twin. I mean, I can’t be absolutely certain…”


He looked down at his hands. “The picture was old, like really old.”

She narrowed her eyes. “How old?”

He looked up, momentarily meeting her gaze. “Um, well, it was taken in 1873.”

She sighed. “Desmond, for the last time, our horse cannot travel in time.”

This first example is consistant with the way people hold a conversation. However, let me tighten it up for dialogue:

   “So, you know how your mother has that horse?” he asked as he unfolded his napkin.

“What about it?” she answered, her eyes narrowing in anticipation of his next statement.

He looked down at his hands. “I saw a picture of it the other day.” He paused for effect, and then raised his gaze to meet hers. “A picture taken in 1873.”

She sighed. “Desmond, for the last time, our horse cannot travel in time.”

My first example contains a lot of unnecessary words, the back-and-forth of niceties required by the inaccuracy of the spoken word.  I supposed you could argue that it also contains more nuance, but honestly, all that junk just seems to get in the way of the story.

Just because I like to show that there is an exception to everything in writing, the woman in our example may be the kind of person who expects you to inquire after the fortune of her mother. In this case, the question of “How’s your mother?” becomes important, either by its presence or by its absence.

And given that there are always exceptions, while “said” is tried and true, don’t be afraid to mix it up once in a while. Even the most egregious sins can be forgiven once a chapter. Just don’t make a habit of it.

* Lately, I’ve been reading a bit of P. G. Wodehouse, and I love the way he pokes fun at dialogue tagging.

In introducing this uncle by marriage, I showed him to be a man who, in moments of keen emotion, had a tendency to say ‘What?’ and keep on saying it. He did so now. ‘What? What? What? What? What?’ he ejaculated, making five in all. ‘What?’ he added, bringing it up to the round half dozen.
–Joy in the Morning, 1946

Fangs Just Got One Step Closer

My next novel, Fangs for Nothing, has been sent for typesetting. At this point, it is out of my hands, which makes me more than a little anxious.

The back cover art for Fangs. My artist rocks.

I know that, hidden in the 65,000 words, there are probably a dozen or more errors, that will be set in ink with my name on them. I will just have to let them go.

Also, part of me is worried that people who loved Minion won’t like Fangs. I have few enough fans as it is.

I guess I could have titled this post Second Book Jitters.

I know you’re not supposed to get too attached to your books. I know you’re supposed to let them go and start writing the next one, but Fangs is my baby.

I originally wrote Fangs as a Nanowrimo book. The title was This Sucks. It weighed in at a meager 52,500 words, but I finished Nanowrimo and realized that writing books was my calling. Since then, it has been re-written around 5 times (some parts more like 20) as I have been learning the craft as well as I can so that I might do it justice.

Fangs is rude. Fangs is crass. Fangs contains scenes which are just plain wrong. It has nasty gore, inappropriate sexual situations, and bad puns. It makes Benny Hill look politically correct and Seinfeld seem plot-driven.

It is, quite simply, my finest work.

Do it for the fun

After being on several writing panels at Convergence, reading books on writing, and perusing many writers’ blogs over the years, I have noticed a disturbing trend. Everyone wants to be a big name, but once you “go big” it isn’t nearly as much fun anymore. You have to worry about sales and deadlines and contracts and all kinds of nasty things.

Currently, I don’t have deadlines other than those I set for myself. I can spend time just writing for fun. And one of my favorite ways to write for fun is Nanawrimo, National Novel Writing Month.

Nanowrimo is a challenge held every Novmeber, which dares you to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have participated in it several times, and while I haven’t always produced salable material, I’ve always had fun doing it.

I think Nanowrimo gives authors two great opportunities. First, if you haven’t ever written a book, you can spend a month of your life and find out if you really have the knack. Secondly, it gives us all permission to suck.

This really sucks

I believe writers tend to take themselves too seriously, and when this happens, their ability to be creative disappears. You have to write with your heart on your sleeve, letting clichès and mixed metaphors fly like moths to a flame.

This year, Nanowrimo is expanding and offering Camp Nanowrimo in June and August for people who don’t want to do Nanowrimo in November. So, I’ve decided to go for it.

I’m not so secure in my suckuality that I’ll be posting my addled scribbling on a blog anywhere though.

I don’t have a plot for my Nano piece, but I do have a concept and a title. The book will be called High Moon, and feature stoner werewolves.

More badly answered questions: Psychics

At the end of my Paranormal TV panel at Convergence, an audience member called on the panel to give their opinions on psychics. I started to answer, realized I was rambling worse than usual, and gave up.

Maybe I was just tired. It was 12:30 AM. Yes, that sounds like a good enough excuse.

In truth, I have had several good experiences with psychics. I know medical intuitives who can look at your picture and tell what ails you. I have known very accurate mediums. I have been read to my satisfaction by palm, tarot, and intuition.

Here are some good experiences I’ve had with psychics:

A medium friend of mine did a reading for my mother. During that reading, she said that my grandmother was coming through wearing a red polka-dot apron. My mother didn’t remember such an apron, but later found one looking through a box of my grandmother’s belongings.

I had two very accurate readings with a palmist (I know, it sounds just as ludicrous to me.) At the end of the second reading, she warned me that my father was working too hard. I laughed it off because my father is retired, and mostly putters around in his yard. A few days later, I found out that he was working 12 hour days helping a local farmer get in his crops.

I was working a paranormal investigation with two psychics who had never before met. Before we all met up, one of the psychics, who had been in the building previously, told me about a residual of a rape which had occurred in the basement of the building. When the new psychic, who had not heard the rape story walked down to the basement, she immediately picked up on it and described the same event.

Here are some caveats:

While I’ve had good luck with psychics I admit there are well-documented charlatans out there.

I have met many psychics who are “hot”  one day and “cold” the next. I myself fall into this category. I often get intuitive impressions, but I can’t guarantee I’m more accurate than someone guessing randomly. Also, I have met powerful psychics who get caught up in their own ego trip and start imposing their own opinions on their readings.

There is a good deal of psychology which tells us that we find patterns that aren’t there.

I’ve never met a psychic with the ability to pick lottery numbers.

I‘ve had psychic readings and experiences which have blown my mind. I’ve also had some which couldn’t blow my nose.

I know some great people who think they are psychic and seem to get good information most of the time. They aren’t trying to rip anyone off, and they spend most of their time trying to help people for free. So, until proven otherwise, I am going to choose to believe in their talent–up to a point. If one of them calls me up and tells me to move to Calcutta, I’m not going.

A Convergence Newb in King Arthur’s Court

This week, I attended Convergence in the Twin Cities for the first time. It was a great experience, but the number of attendees (we saw badge numbers over 6000) combined with sleep deprivation sometimes left me a little frazzled.

I look on as Kelly McCullough gesticulates

Because of the huge number of people, we had to stay in one of the overflow hotels. This was all right, because they ran shuttles both from the hotel we were in and from the host hotel, though finding out the schedule the first day was a little nerve-racking. The first night, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to make it back to my hotel.

The programming page of the Convergence website suggested signing up for 10 panels if you wanted to be on three. I signed up for nine, including some that were a bit of a “Hail Mary”, assuming I would get 2 or three. I ended up on seven panels.

My least favorite topic as a panelist was “Keeping the next book fresh,” which I’ve pictured above. While I enjoyed meeting Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Kelly McCullough, and Tamora Pierce, I felt a little under-qualified for this panel as I haven’t published a lot, and I never have trouble coming up with fresh ideas.

My favorite topic as a panelist was “Women of Star Trek.” I was honestly worried about this panel. I know how people get about their Star Trek. At one moment, I came to a realization that I was speaking to over 100 people about Star Trek. I was almost moved to tears of happiness, but I held them back, as the might have seemed awkward to the other people in the room.

My favorite event as an attendee was “Verbing the Noun” a stand-up comedy act by comedian Joseph Scrimshaw. I owe a special thanks to my wife, Stephanie for talking me out of bailing when I saw how big the audience was going to be.

The containment unit from the Ghostbusters room

I also attended the famous Convergence room parties. My favorites were the Ghostbusters room, the Star Trek room, and the Orange room, where I tried an Orange Crush and cake-flavored vodka drink and a orange Jello shot.

By Saturday night, I had honestly had enough con. I’d already done so much stuff, seen so many cool costumes and gotten so little sleep, I kind of ran out of gas. I ended up sitting on the hotel patio, talking with friends. Then, I went back to hotel early (midnight) so I could get some sleep.

On Sunday, right before I left, I had an awesome reading. It wasn’t highly attended, but the people that were there laughed their asses off. It’s always fun seeing people appreciate your work first hand.

How I got into the Paranormal

On his radio show a couple weeks ago, Father Mike asked me why I got into the paranormal. I gave the simple answer that I started because my wife was into it. This was because I thought my real answer would take too long.

For the sake of sanity, I’m going to organize this chronologically. 

When you farm, you are tied to the land, which meant my family didn’t move around. However, we were not the only ones in the house I grew up in. I was born late, my sisters were in high school by the time I came along, and even before I was born, they had experiences in our house.

I’ve heard stories about my sisters’ experiences. They would catch glimpses of people out of the corner of their eyes. Once they saw a full bodied apparition of a man in white wearing a helmet. On another occasion, my mother witnessed them both get repeatedly pinched by an unseen force. My dad didn’t believe anything was in the house, but my mother insisted they sleep in the small, downstairs bedroom.

When I was a child, I always felt unwelcome in the upstairs, where I was supposed to sleep. Every night, I would get up after about an hour, come downstairs and sleep on the sofa. I eventually took over a small side room in the upstairs, but whenever I needed to go into the other areas, to grab something out of the storage room  or a dark closet, I always felt nervous, like I was intruding on someone. I could feel people watching me. I used to bargain. “Okay, I’m just here to get a couple things, and I’ll be as quick as I can.”

When my wife and a close friend told me they were going to start a mediumship group, I was scared out of my mind.

I started with a mediumship group around 2 years ago. We intently tried to develop our ability to speak to spirits for over a year. Some of us were better at it than others. I have to admit, I was a slow learner. I was also afraid to get anything. It was also in this group that I met the members of Quantum Psi Paranormal.

One of the group members suggested we watch a program called Psychic Kids, a History Channel reality show where psychics would spend a week or two with children whose psychic gifts were troubling them. While my abilities were not as strong as many of these pre-teens, I was amazed at how much the stories of these children paralleled my own.

I’m going to preface this next segment by saying that I have never done much religiously or had more the a cursory interest in the bible. However, one day, a certain bible verse popped into my head so I looked it up. The verse explained that the dead had no power over the living. For some reason, this message changed my outlook entirely.

During the next few months, our mediumship group changed focus to any kind of psychic development. People drifted away and came back, like they do in any group, but things seemed to be going pretty well. Then one night, we suffered what some call a demonic attack, what some call trickster energy. No matter what you call it, one thing was clear, the group would never be the same again. We split down pretty even lines, those who did not want to deal with negative forces and those who wanted to fight them.

They say that trickster energy is transformative, making people question their base assumptions. Some people that night were scared. Some people were angry. I was overcome that night with the feeling that I wanted to fight dark forces. Where I once felt fear, I felt a bottomless well of calm.

At this point, I was in close contact with Darcie McGrath, leader of Quantum Psi. My wife had done some investigations with her, and I had already gone on an investigation with Johnson County Paranormal. Darcie had recently experienced some turnover, and because of my wife’s association, I was essentially drafted into the group.

So, I didn’t really go seeking contact with the paranormal, it’s just been with me my entire life. I’ve just decided I no longer need to be afraid of it.