Friday, October 18, 2013

As The Pendulum Swings

Decisions, decisions! Do you have a hard time, sometimes, choosing between one thing and another? Do you ever use a pendulum to make the choice?


I learned about pendulums way back in what (in the old days) was called Junior High School. Our science teacher explained the way farmers divided a bunch of chicks into hens and roosters.


The farmer would make a pendulum by threading a needle so it could hang down about a foot. He would hold it over each chick. It would either go around in a circle or swing back and forth. Now I can't remember which way was which for male/female, but that's the way it was done. I learned it doesn't have to be a needle, it can be anything you can hang, like a button or key.


Yes, I know you are going to say that you influence what it does and can make it swing any direction you want it to. You're just going to have to take my word that I don't do that. I hung it over my belly each time I was pregnant, and it came out right all four times. Test it out over your friends or pets. You'll see.


One of my friends uses this method to choose what she is going to order off a menu. She points to an item with her left hand and holds her keys dangling from her right. Of course to me that's no test, since anything would be right, IMO, but I tried something similar today.


I've decided to try to find a literary agent for my novel, BROUSSARD COURT. This takes a lot of research, as all writers know, to find an agent who (1) is accepting new clients and (2) likes the genre you are pitching. One of my first choices is a firm that represents one of my favorite authors. This author writes women's lit with an edge of mysticism—sort of like what I do. In researching this firm I found a couple of agents who are taking new clients. I couldn't decide which one to pitch to.


So I made a pendulum—out of a paper clip, of all things. It swung forward and back for one agent and side to side for the other. I'm taking forward and back as nodding 'yes' and side to side as shaking my head 'no'.


And in that way, I chose which agent is for me. Now it may not work out. She might not like my work. I'll let you know what happens. Nothing fast, I'm quite sure. The publishing business is a slow process.


I have a beautiful agate pendulum that I bought at a bead and stone shop some years back, but I don't know what I did with it. It probably wouldn't work any better than a paper clip, though, or a needle.


Have you ever worked with a pendulum? Let us know how it worked.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Someone Dark Has Found Me

Those readers, friends, and family who keep up with what I write know that I have a varied and quirky subject list for my stories. Leprechauns, hoo-doo, ghosts, angels, djinns, spirits, out-of-body travel, spells, the mystical properties of gemstones. Nothing is out of reach in my stories and novels, both published and yet-to-be published. That makes it hard when I'm submitting to agents and publishers. My stories don't fit into any one genre. A little bit of western. A touch of paranormal. A soupcon of romance. A dash of murder. A few spells thrown in for good measure. Sure! Why not? Because it makes it hard to find the right 'place' for them, that's why not. Publishers want specific genres, not the mystical stew I cook up.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find a book as varied in genre and quirky as those I write—if not more so.

Someone Dark Has Found Me, by John Orr, starts with three debonair, witty, attractive, private detectives (imagine Remington Steele, Sam Spade, and…well, any other good-looking, wise-cracking PI), and they meet a witch…with a W, not a B. She's a well-known restaurateur in their town of Pala Alto, California, and she needs their help, more than you'd ever believe. With disbelieving 'normal' cops trying to arrest them at every turn, it's hard to fight the evil that (or who) is trying to destroy them. It's the witch's brother, of all people. There are murders that aren't murders, an eccentric computer developer, a magic cat, sympathetic trees, and all sorts of interesting things going on. I'd try to explain it to you but I don't think I can do it as well as author John Orr did. He made the whole thing make sense. You won't get lost in this story, I promise.

Written with a lot of humor and a terrific voice, Someone Dark Has Found Me would make a great TV series, IMO. I can see this group solving 'everyday' crimes, as well as those with magic involved. I'm looking forward to another book featuring these people. The only thing I'd change is the cover. The author would be well-served to see what Farah Evers could cook up for him. She produces spot-on covers at a reasonable rate, and this book deserves a different cover.

So if you relish weird and unusual stories, and I have to assume you do or you wouldn't be reading my blog, buy a copy of Someone Dark Has Found Me by John Orr.  Enjoy!

In the meantime I'm working on a sequel to Broussard Court, the story of spirits, hoodoo, rescued people, spells, charms, protective gemstones, et al, set in New Orleans. No, you can't buy it yet, but a publisher is 'interested', so hopefully you will be able to before long. I'm working on a new cast of people the spirits are sending to Broussard Court.

On the side, I'm working on "Sissy and Miss Boo", about a jilted bride and an old lady who encounter murder when they 'run away' to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Let me know what you think about Someone Dark when you read it.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paranormal and Supernatural

Many years ago I read a graphic description of the meaning of the words "paranormal" and "supernatural".

In the middle of a piece of blank paper, draw a dot. This dot represents all of mankind. Now draw a circle around the dot. (The size doesn't matter.) Everything within that circle is what mankind knows and understands. We are familiar with this world within the circle. That's the 'normal' and 'natural'. But outside the circle is all the stuff we don't understand. That's the paranormal and supernatural.

The thing is—the circle keeps growing as mankind figures out how things work. From biblical times to the middle ages, the circle expanded slowly. Gathering momentum, it grew more rapidly. Draw another, larger circle around mankind and the smaller circle. Mankind observed the stars and how the earth moves around the sun. Others studied gravity, while still other men worked out geometry and other higher math that supports today's inventions. Most of those people were vilified for their opinions.  Today we can hardly keep up with the expanding circle. Maybe it's bigger than the piece of paper. What was once 'supernatural' is now commonplace.

Even if you haven't read any commentary from the 1800s about the possibility of inventions we take for granted, you can imagine the skepticism and ridicule heaped on those who might have dared suggest vehicles that carried people from America to Europe in less than a day's time, immediate communication with people all around the earth, instant photography, and all the other things we take for granted. Man would walk on the moon and come back to tell about it? Foolish dreams and foolish people to believe these things might come true. But they did begin to understand eclipses, electricity, and photography. These things were no longer paranormal events.

For a humorous look at what medieval mankind might have thought about what we consider completely understandable events and inventions, read Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. You'll get a good laugh.

But as quickly as we see the circle growing, we still keep many subjects firmly outside our circle—out there in the realm of the supernatural/paranormal. Coincidences that have purpose and meaning. Ghosts. UFOs. Miracles. Auras. Telepathy. Out of body experiences. Precognition.   People who believe these happen are often made fun of, or worse.

I once had a friend who was a retired Air Force navigator. He told me it was not uncommon for Air Force pilots and navigators to experience being followed or circled by UFOs, particularly on the Alaska to Japan flights. They no longer reported the experience. Why? Because anyone reporting a UFO was going to end up labeled a mental case and banned from flying. So they just forget it—pretend to anyone not in the plane at the time that they never saw a thing.

The whole world operates on cycles, patterns, sequences, spirals. Scientists can explain why petals grow in sets of three or five, spring follows winter, chemicals in our bodies can affect us in profound ways, sound waves we can't hear can do damage.

Remember the old TV program Beverly Hillbillies? Whenever they heard a chiming bell, someone appeared at their front door. Doorbells were outside their particular circle. It was magic to them.

Will we ever know why coincidences happen in threes? Not in my lifetime, I'll bet. Will someone figure out why some places are haunted? Maybe—maybe not. Will we discover where the UFOs come from? Yes. Someday.

The circle is getting bigger.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Signs and Omens of death

Supposedly, there are many signs or portends that announce a death is imminent. When I was writing my novel, Broussard Court, I researched a few and put them in the book. When a picture of the person falls for no reason, for example, or when a candle flickers and goes out without a cause, death is close by. I used both of those to foretell the death of one of my characters.

But I really didn't have to go any further than my family to know about death signs. My mother's mother's family knew all about them. I had heard about them all my life.

My mother's mother died when Mama was a baby, and since her father was an oilfield worker and couldn't tend to his three children, Mama was raised by her grandmother, Nancy Knight Wood, for whom I am named. When she was a little older, her mother's sisters took over the job. My great-aunt Ethel knew someone was going to die when she saw a big "ball of fire" hovering in the air. It wouldn't do to scoff at this idea; she could name the times and people whose demise was foretold in that way—including that of Uncle Jack, her sister Emma's husband. I used Aunt Ethel's 'gift'  in my story "Birth and Death in Shadow Cove" which was published recently in Elements of Life.
My mother had a sign for death, also. She dreamed about mice. I don't know what in the world mice had to do with death, but it's so. I remember the time it was brought home, so to speak.

It was a hot summer day, and as was our habit after supper each evening, my parents and I and the next door neighbors were sitting in lawn chairs between the two houses, in the shade of the house, visiting. My mother was worrying aloud, because she had dreamed about mice the night before and was worried about who was going to die. The neighbors were interested and amused by her tale of dreams of mice meaning death. My father was outright scoffing at the idea, while my mother was telling of instances it had happened.

Then the phone rang. My mother went in the house to answer it. It was her family calling.

Her cousin Bud was closest to her in age. Her Aunt Emma had nursed both Bud and Mama when they were infants.  That hot summer day he had been fishing with a friend. The boat overturned and Bud had a heart attack and drowned while trying to swim to shore.

No one made fun of Mama's dreams any more.

Fortunately, I didn't inherit any 'gift' of foretelling death. I'm glad. It's something I don't want. But I like writing about such things. They are such a puzzle. There are so many 'why's, all unanswered.

There was at least one person in my lineage whose gift foretold good things, not bad. This happened just after the Civil War, the story goes, so it must have been Nancy Knight's mother, Rebecca Little Knight, who had the vision of her son standing in the doorway, leaning against the side. "It must mean he has been killed," the people around her said. "No," she replied. "It means he is safe and coming home to me." And he was. And he did. And leaned in the doorway just as the vision had foretold.

Happy visions and dreams!


Saturday, July 6, 2013



Are coincidences signs? Are they leading you along a path—the path you are supposed to travel? What happens if you ignore them and go a different direction? Some people say nothing bad will happen. Others can point to a time when a coincidence kept them from being in an accident, or led them to something good.

There is an old story I've heard told from the pulpit of a church more than once.

There was a terrible flood. The river was rising and the people were told to evacuate their homes and go to higher ground. One old man wouldn't leave. The police went door-to-door telling people to move out. The old man said, "I'm not going. God will save me."

The water got up to the second floor. The rescue unit sent a boat to save the old man, but he wouldn't get in it. "God will save me," he said.

When the water got even higher and the old man had moved up onto the roof, they sent a helicopter. "Grab the ladder," they called down to him. "No, thank you," the old man answered. "God will save me."

The old man drowned.

When he got to heaven and met God, he asked, "God, I put all my faith in you. Why didn't you save me?"

God answered. "Well, I sent you a boat and a helicopter. What else did you expect?"

In other words, we shouldn't ignore signs.

I used to sell real estate. One day when I was on duty a woman came in. I'll call her Sue. Here is her story.

Her husband was a chemist at the paper mill near our town. They were a young couple. He was right out of college and this was his first job. He hated the job. He hated where he worked. He hated the type chemistry he was doing. They hated the town. They hated the school system their children would have attended had they not gone to church school. The only thing they liked was the fundamentalist church they attended.

They had been praying fervently about the situation, asking God to provide a different life for them. Now, the husband's favorite college professor was a supervisor at a plant in another state, and had offered the husband a job doing the kind of chemistry he loved—at a substantial raise.


Her dilemma that day was that she didn't know whether to list their house for sale or not. God hadn't told her.

It just so happened I had another couple I had been showing houses for over a year. The husband had been driving well over a hundred miles a day commuting to his work in our town. To say she was picky about a house was an understatement. I had been showing her homes for so long we had become good friends. We knew all about each other's kids and hobbies and such. I'll call her Rita.

I knew Sue's home was just what Rita was looking for. Perfect size. Perfect neighborhood. Perfect price. So I asked Sue if she would permit a 'one time showing'. That is a listing to show to one customer only. No sign. No ad. Just the one couple looking at it.

Rita and husband loved it. Made a full price offer.

Sue and husband turned it down.

God hadn't told them whether to sell or not.

Coincidences or signs?  God sends a boat. God sends a helicopter. He sends a job. He sends a raise. He sends a buyer for your house.

Can you recognize signs? Do you ignore coincidences?


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More death

Coincidences, big and little. Do they mean something? Or are they just that—coincidences? It's up to you to decide. All I'm trying to do is make you more aware of them—encourage you to start watching for them.

Here's a sad set of 'death comes in threes'.

A few months ago my daughter told me she had reconnected with an old college friend. I'll call her 'Mary'. They hadn't been close friends, but they were more than just acquaintances. They hadn't been in touch since college—many years. Facebook had done what Facebook is really good for, reconnecting people, and they had gone through the "what are you doing now" routine. Weeks later, my daughter got the news that Mary had committed suicide.

Not long after that there was news of another death.

My daughter is a teacher. About ten years ago she had "Ellis" in her fourth-grade classroom, and a couple of years later she taught his sister, "Alice". She became acquainted with Ellis and Alice's grandmother and great-grandmother, as did I, and we kept the friendship through the years. Ellis was a real handful back then and continued to be at odds with the establishment as he grew up. Then came the sad news. Ellis had committed suicide. He was only twenty-one years old.

My daughter said, "That's two suicides. Who'll be the third, I wonder?"

Within the month a close mutual friend of ours got the news. Her son had taken his life.

As sad as these deaths are, I can't help think that the saddest part is that they didn't realize they didn't get out of anything by ending their lives prematurely.

You see, life is like a classroom. You (and I) are here to learn something. What we have to learn—what we struggle with—is different for each of us. But whatever it is, we have to learn it. If we don't, we'll face the same challenge in our next lifetime. If you end your current life early, you'll have to start all over again from the beginning. Might as well buckle down and learn the lesson this time.

There's really no such thing as death, you see. We move from this plane of existence to another, back and forth, as we experience and learn. Whatever you struggle with is your lesson. Once you master it, it won't be hard again.

I wonder if our coincidences are clues to our lessons. Hmm…. I'll have to think about that.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Why do things happen in threes? I don't have a clue. Of course, incidents don't always come in triplicate, but I'll bet if you start paying attention you'll find it occurs more often than you are aware of. Not just big things, like death, but small things, too.

My husband used to tease me about this one. I have a habit of sticking change into my pocket, intending to put it in my billfold later. In the autumn, when I start wearing coats and jackets I haven't gotten out of the closet since the spring, I inevitably find a bill or two tucked away. Find it in two garments? There'll always be a third to come with money hidden away. It's nice to find a little extra cash.

Here's an odd set of three that happened a couple of weeks ago. I have small tube lights beneath my kitchen cabinets. They have been there since I had my kitchen remodeled about five years ago, and one of them has remained on almost continuously since then, to give a little light in the kitchen at night. One evening it gave way and fell to the cabinet below, scattering tiny bits of white plastic all over the cabinet and floor.

A day or two later I was changing the sheets on my bed and decided it was time to wash the blanket. It was a king-sized maroon blanket, one of the kind as soft as velvet—some sort of fuzz on a mesh core. It had been showing a few signs of wear, but when it came out of the washer it had dissolved into piles of maroon lint.  I had cleaned up the white plastic bits in the kitchen only to have maroon fluff in the washer and on the floor with a trail out the back door.

A couple of days passed. I was cleaning out closets and dividing clothes and shoes into 'keep' and 'donate'. I came across a pair of shoes I hadn't worn in a couple of years. They had slipped to the back of the closet and I forgot about them. When I got dressed to go meet friends for lunch I thought I'd wear those shoes. They used to be favorites. I wore them back and forth around the house when I noticed the crumbly black stuff all over the floors. You guessed it. The foam soles on the shoes were falling apart as I walked, leaving a trail of black bits all over the house. Three things fell into tiny bits and made a mess. I'm glad that set is over!

The one that really puzzles me concerns the books I read. Now I must explain that I have books all over my house. My mother-in-law once told me if I got rid of all the books I'd have room to put things. What I want room for is books. They are in shelves, in piles, in boxes under the bed, in all sorts of places. My Kindle has seventeen pages of books I will eventually read. I buy them new and used. I buy them online, at yard sales, and at the Friends of the Library sales. Some are reference books, but most are fiction. I read several different genres. The books aren't particularly similar in nature to each other in any other way. BUT…

Often when I read one book, then a second, I notice the second one has one or more noticeable likenesses to the first in some way. It may be the heroine has the same job in both books. It may be their dogs have the same name. Maybe both stories start when the dog runs away. They may make the same references to songs or books. Perhaps there is a flood or a wind storm. If that happens in two books, it'll happen in the third. I could be blindfolded and pick up a book out of a pile, and it will have several similarities to the first two. Different authors, different genres, it doesn't matter. There will be several distinct likenesses to each other that have nothing to do with my choosing those books. They don't become apparent until I read them.

The most recent time that happened, the evolving plots had the story take place in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. That's a nice place, I'm sure, but I didn't pick out a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a mystery because they all happened in the same area. The blurbs I read before buying the books didn't indicate the location, only the plot. Next time this happens I make note of the names of the books and pass them along to you.

Next time—another set of three deaths. So sad.

Do you have any stories to tell? Start watching for sets of three in your life and tell us about them.