Sight Unseen

Confessions of a Tea leaf Reader


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Out of the Box, One More Time

Small disclaimer. Senseless tech talk included.

I don’t do straight lines. I don’t pack well. I don’t fold things in littler sizes. I’m hopeless at organizing things into closets, drawers, and I really don’t read instructions well.

It either makes me really creative or dyslexic. Point of fact I’m both. Once someone tells me there’s only one way to do something, I feel positively pinched until I find my way around it.

I’m currently getting ready to publish the second volume of Sight Unseen, The Inverted Cup. I have these lovely cup drawings, one for each story, that I can easily put into a print book. Illustrations on a Kindle aren’t so easy. You can do a comic book or child’s book with illustrations on every page, or no pictures at all.

So I currently have my mobi file with the pictures in it up for Kindle review. It’s been stalled for a week.

Why do we push outside the box? More to the question is why do we insist on boxes.

It’s safer. It’s easier. It’s plug and play. And in the same way, I’ve never taken a survey that asked anything relevant. Sometimes in the effort to be easy and safe, we lose something so much more wonderful.

884 drawn to the sun 8As an artist, I’ve never been able to keep things in a square. It’s no surprise I’m struggling with it here.

If anyone has a magic easy answer for this, I’m ready for rescue. Get on your white horse and come on over. I have no clue how to fight this. And I will thank you and heap glory on your head.

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks I can hand you all a wonderful Kindle book with illustrations. If it all blows up, I’ll be able to hand you a wonderful book. And a gallery of pictures up on the web.

 

 

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And That’s the Truth! Raspberry Noise in the Background

bigstock-hand-drawn-hamsa-93473891I’m still wrapping my head around having been told that I was writing stories that were a portal to hell. I find myself in that kind of argument in my head that ends with me screaming, “And that’s the truth!” What a grace that those are only in my head. I’d really hate to have someone quote me when I’m screaming.

It’s reminded me of the story teller’s truth. Everyone tells you the truth. And everyone lies.

We’re used to the newspaper version of truth. Just the facts, mam. Dates, times, places, things you can prove.

Lately, we’ve noticed an erosion of truth in politics. It may never have been there in force, but it’s down to grit thin. I always know that we’re past truth when someone, anyone screams “You lie!” I’ve always found the person screaming usually the least credible. but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about history. I’m talking about our personal stories that we use to define ourselves.

Viewpoint is particularly objective. If I say you wore a green sweater, and you were wearing a red dress, does it change the story? Probably not, unless the red dress preceded you murdering someone and was to make me think of blood. Or your green sweater showed your affiliation for Ireland or Earth causes. So the details we tell in a story are probably fabrication we use to underline what we’re trying to say.

Every story has two viewpoints. The storyteller’s viewpoint, and the listener’s. A good storyteller always tells a story directly to that listener, to what they need to hear and what will be helpful to them. A story that only takes in the teller’s point of view, is usually useless to everyone else. But it has a very special value for the teller. It helps them redefine the past. And to redefine themselves.

But what about the bones of the story? When Harper wrote To Kill A Mocking Bird, that amazing book about crossing color lines to honor truth, there was another much less happy book in her desk drawer that was probably much more true to the time and her experience. Can truth be the affirmation of what might be? What should be?

I think all great stories walk this line. We use fiction to show people what might have been. What could be. What could have happened. It’s not true. But it bears the bones of truth. Everyone tells the truth. Sometimes it’s what they want you to hear, or what they think you want to hear, or a truth that would heal you if you let it. Or a truth that heals them. Even if it isn’t actually true it frames the truth we would like to grow into. And everyone lies a little. Sorry. Can’t help it. Comes with wearing a meat suit. We can’t help but stretch things a bit for our own benefit.

When we stretch a story, perhaps we’re stretching our own possibilities. For growth. For forgiveness. For change. If we look a bit better, I’m not so sure that is so terribly wrong.

So if I walked up the the portal of hell, and through grace found my way back, does that make my story a portal to hell? Or any less the truth? Or a bad thing for someone to hear?

I don’t think so. And that’s the truth.


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Sanitized for Your Protection: Working with Historical (or Hysterical) Characters

lunch is servedIt’s sort of a natural to tell ghost stories about famous people who have died. After all, they’re dead. But they live in song and story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

dorothy parkerLunch is Served is about my mother’s favorite poet, Dorothy Parker.

My mother, Margaret Eddy was a child of the twenties. She went to speakeasies. She read all the authors from the disillusioned souls from WWI. She loved all the wild dances. She loved wit and cleverness, and she loved Dorothy Parker, perhaps the wittiest and wickedest woman of that time.

 

Algonquin_Round_Table]

The Algonquin Round Table was a loose group of brilliant writers, authors, actors and comics who generally joined each other for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. Hemingway, Benchley, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Noel Coward, Wollcott and many others met in a group that referred to itself as The Vicious Circle, for their edgy conversation and their cruel wit. Dorothy Parker led the parade, as a critic, poet and short story writer who once said she got up every morning and sharpened her tongue.

It sounds cute. As a role model, Dorothy left a lot to be desired. She was a four-sheets-to-the-wind alcoholic with a brutal streak. But funny. Very, very funny.

terrible with raisinsSo it was particularly fun to use her as a character in a story. It was an insight to my mother, and a new set of deliciously mean-spirited quotes. And my mother communicated almost strictly in literary quotes.

Since Dorothy and Robert Benchley were almost inseparable in life, I wrote them as ghosts together having taken a bet with each other. I used their own words and hope I got their spirits if not themselves.

I hope I was fair to them in this story. Because of my mother, they are both heroes of mine, in a kind of don’t-want- to- be-them-but-I-admire-them way. It’s impossible for me not to quote them. But as a historian once told me, what we write about people has probably been sanitized for your protection. It often needs to be. We don’t want anyone to know all our warts and flaws. I’m very glad my mother really wasn’t Dorothy.

Anyway, Lunch Is Served is a love story, told by an idiot, signifying not very much but a love of wisecracks. It’s up on the site for you to read now, You’ll also find it in the upcoming book, The Inverted Cup.

 


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Double Dammed: The Art of Discarding the Judgement of Others

sight unseen the inverted cup front coverI need to apologize to you all. I had an attack of cowardice lately. After several disturbances in my home, I had some people come in to see if they could tell what was wrong. They said my book was opening a portal to hell and I should stop it.

My first response, since I respect these folk was to say. “Ok. What do you mean by stop it?”

“Throw it away. It’s not good for you.”

I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. I thanked them very kindly and hid under the sofa for at least a week, metaphorically. When I finally came back I was too demoralized to write at all. Or to prep my new book. I worked on Don’s new book, Conformed to the Image, getting illustrations and book designing out of the way. It’s available on Amazon now as a Kindle book.

But I couldn’t face my own. Thank God I’d handed it to my friend Chuck Ott who is making it presentable and shiny correct in his patient and kind way.

I figured out that there’s plenty of time to throw something out and decided to wait on all of that.

Now I’m almost professional when it comes to being thrown out of churches. I’ve been thrown out of churches for crying too much, for refusing another parishioner’s perceived right to run the church, for politics of one sort or another. I’ve learned of late to leave before I’m asked. I’ve also learned that leaving a church has nothing to do with leaving God. It’s simply walking into another room, none better than the other, just maybe a little more suited to your thoughts and notions. In a way, it disabuses you of the notion that there is somewhere on the earth where you’re really at home. We are all travelers in a strange land, some of us stranger than others.

Yesterday it came to me, that if I had written a strange set of stories, that others of my faith would be afraid to write, I’d written ones true to my experience. I’d written what was true, and that was my best. Not factually true, but true in essence. Nothing to be ashamed of. Not damned. But certainly damming. It shut me up in a way I think really unhelpful.

tea room tales w

Tea Room Tales

So I’m back at it.I’m preparing the second volume of Sight Unseen, The Inverted Cup a series of stories about life as a psychic. I hope I can count on your support to break down my dam. Tea Room Tales, the first book is out and available, and has many stories up on this site for your enjoyment. Look for new stories up regularly.

 

 

 

don conformed to his image kindle

 

Don’s book, Conformed to the Image, is on Amazon now. If you want to read a good historic time travel book with some strange and lovely twists, I recommend it highly to it. I’m prejudiced, but I think you’ll really enjoy it.

And of course, it’s not damned. It’s not even darned. It’s a lovely story.

If you are brave enough to walk with me, I’ll tell you the truth as I know it. But I can’t promise no one will question whether it was a good path or a wise path, or total folly. My stories often draw flack. It seems to be my job.


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What Is there to Fear? What Haunts a Ghost?

So often, when I talk about being psychic people tell me how cool that would be. That’s not been my experience. It has its cool moments, but it’s largely just another window I  get to look through. The view is varied.

So often I have people tell me that the psychic plane is safe. That there is nothing out there that can hurt you. I remember thinking that way. Until I did meet something that could hurt and terrorize me.

We don’t culturally believe much in evil nowadays. I think that’s fair if we’re speaking of people. Most people, barring sociopaths, aren’t really very evil or very good. They’re a mixture of many things, mostly childish and sometimes selfish. But not really evil. You can see their reasons. They may not be reasons you could support but you can understand them.

Dead people are just people. They are some bits good, some not so good. Judging them is a painful exercise in self-examination. None of us do that well. We all fall short. But it’s rare to find ghosts that mean nothing but harm.

Spirits are more pure. Pure good. Pure evil. And since they really have little business here with people, the ones we run into contact with are almost predisposed to evil since they shouldn’t be here.

What is the difference? How can you tell? The biggest tell is what these things can do. Is it whispering in the basement? Waking you with a banging tree limb? Making the room cold? Those are low energy exercises. That’s probably a ghost.

Is it scratching people in the shower? Throwing dishes? Shaking the walls? That’s probably a demon.

OOOPs. I said the word. It’s not popular. Sorry. It’s part of my experience. Demons are pure evil. It’s popular to have vampires with soul, demons with a heart that you can’t romantically resist. Better try. These things eat people. There’s nothing good there. It may make good drama, but it’s not real. These things are pure bad. And what is worse is that they’re thousands of years older than you and smarter than you have any hope of being. You are outgunned.

This is how I became Christian I ran into something demonic and the only defense was Christ.

Wrath is a story about ghosts haunted by ghosts and by demons. It’s the reason I learned to turn to Jesus instead of trying to deal with demons on my own. At the time someone suggested that it was,  I told them that was simplistic. But it worked. And I could not ask for help and scoff afterward.

Am I a coward? A weakling? Probably. Mostly I’m human, in spite of a few odd abilities. Humans cannot stop demons. Or bargain with them. Or fight them. Or ever counter the harm they intend. That takes something divine.

Should you feel a need to correct me, save me, reproach me, or enlighten me, understand this is my experience. Your mileage may vary. I won’t do any of those things to you.

Wrath is available in the upcoming book, Sight Unseen, Book Two, The Inverted Cup, and on the website now.

 

 

 

Tea Room Tales

Sight Unseen, Book One, Tea Room Tales, is available on Amazon now!


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Edumacation: TV’s answer to the stories around the fire.

I have a problem with reality TV. Mostly it seems so very unreal. I’m particularly put out with reality tv focused on psychic investigation. My prejudices show. I apologize for that.

Why? If you’re watching a fashion show and they offer you bad advice, all you do is look silly. If you’re watching a cooking show it may end with an immediate trip to the deli since you may find that recipe to be a five-star disaster.

The information offered is run by ratings. It’s not about education. It’s not about reality. It might be good TV.

Now, what is good TV?

It’s entertainment. Showy. Exciting. Titillating. You might learn something. It’s edumacation! Of course, that means you need to dress it up, make it sexy, make it dangerous, take big risks, and look really cool!

That’s just fine for a cooking show or a show about flipping houses. Psychic investigation is largely about people in enough pain that they’re still here after they’ve died. There’s a lot of anger there. I don’t care to be cavalier about that kind of anger. People can get hurt. There are real consequences. And the shows dance on, displaying the most dangerous practices,  taunting things that have real power to harm people, without a thought for their own personal safety, or the safety of those who we’re trying to help.

What I dislike more is to make people’s pain public. Dead or alive, people’s agonies should be private. Not a subject for a half hour of laughs and thrills.

Am I a wet blanket about psychic investigation? Uh, probably. If that means I’ll shut down something dangerous, I will. And I refuse to teach it.

Why am I such a stick about this? It’s not that I’ve never done it. I’ve seen it done badly. I’ve seen people hurt. I’ve cleaned up messes after investigations that were plain old fashioned stupid with raisens on top. I know I’m nominally writing fiction, but I won’t write something thing that doesn’t stand on a solid block of truth.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. Hence the latest story, House Cleaning. It is not geared at any particular paranormal show, because I can’t bear to watch them long enough to parody one of them. But it is based on my problems with irresponsible psychic investigation on public television.

It originated as a story told by a dear friend of mine who said the most important part of the exorcism she’d done was cleaning the refrigerator. Brilliant!

If you are a fan of these things, you have my apologies but please don’t write me to set me straight or correct me. Enjoy your show and ignore me. Just don’t try this stuff at home.

You’ll find House Cleaning in the new book coming soon, The Inverted Cup. And up on my site for a limited time.

Tea Room Tales

If you haven’t read Tea Room Tales, you can read some of the stories up on this site. Or buy the book on Amazon, either in paper or on Kindle.

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Stories that Answer Stories: Series that Write Themselves

what's in a name

What’s in a Name?

I’m still blown away by the process of writing. Mostly I’m shocked by how much one story asks and is answered by other stories. How stories demand to be written to answer questions left from stories that came before. How writing has a life of its own.

I wrote Black Paw, expecting it to be a stand-alone story. And yet there was a grey kitten at the end of it who clearly had a story of his own waiting as it were in the wings. What’s in a Name is Echo’s story, a psychic cat who refuses some mundane name made up by people, clearly for the purpose of insulting and humiliating cats.

lewis.jpg

Lewis

Did this happen? Kind of. My cat Lewis ran away last summer and did not reappear until right before Thanksgiving. Does he talk to me? Not so much except to insist I’m not generous enough with whatever I’m eating.

But he left us with the burning question. Where had he been for six months? I let Echo answer it for him.

One story pops out of your life, waves at you from inside of another story and there you are, writing the second story because the first one insisted. And you thought you might be in control.

This is an early draft of this story, but I couldn’t help but share it. You’ll find What’s in a Name on the story page, And more stories from Sight Unseen on Amazon.