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Worry about those you love and write about what you know

I’m not telepathic, but sometimes I pretend that I am.

For me, it’s more than an entertaining daydream. The main hero of the novel I am finishing is a telepath, and the more I see the world through her eyes, the better I can tell her story.

Some days, I’m ready to improve the world with my psychic skills. If I could just know what my congressman’s aide was really thinking, could I convince him to recommend supporting this legislation to his boss? And then it might pass in the House by one vote? And then, and then, the course of the entire world might change?

Other days, I sink into banal curiosity. Hmmm. That man looks interesting. I wonder what he’s thinking.

But more often than not, me-the-pretend-telepath pretty much acts like me, which is a person who tends to worry about all sorts of things. The crux of the problem is that I’ve always had a what-if sort of mind. What if the engines on your boat quit? What if the subway isn’t running? What if the wind blows that thing over? I make up scenarios the way some people flirt, or snack, or scratch themselves. It’s just what I do.

The result is that I tend to be better prepared than most, and if you’re traveling with me you might appreciate that. The downside, as you might guess, is that I can be a pain in the ass.

Every so often someone attempts to correct my personality by telling me to relax.This is an important aside to those of you who have friends or family like me. “Relax” and “calm down” are not useful instructions to give to a worrier. In fact, they are probably not useful to anyone.

Last week, someone surprised me by finding the perfect thing to say instead.

It was April and I was visiting Boston. I had ignored weather reports of possible snow because, well, for once I was trying not to be that person who brings the down parka because of a 40 per cent chance. So I had on leaky tennis shoes with soaked cotton socks, a coat with a broken zipper, and no other cold weather or rain gear. It was pelting wet sleet and the temperature was dropping  as the sun set. Yes, I had succeeded at not over-preparing for the situation.

I did tell you this was April, right? Oh, and we were about to embark on a pub crawl. We were carrying stuffed animals we had just bought at the science museum because they were on sale and now mine was getting soaked, but that was a minor problem. I was cold and wet and miserable most of all because this never happens to me. I’m the one you can count on to pull three collapsible umbrellas out of my purse to help everyone else. I have had very little practice at being the doofus who thought everything was going to be fine, and I learned that it isn’t a role I enjoy.

So I went and stood under a one foot overhang and tried not to cry. Then, someone in my party walked up and did something magic. He said –

“What one thing can I do to help you?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.”

“Okay I’ll pick one. Take either my hat or my scarf.”

“No, I can’t do that. You brought them both, you should have them.”

He ignored me and put his hat on my head. Normally that would have been annoying but, you know, the hat was really warm and dry in the inside.

“Okay, just the hat.”

The hat worked pretty well. A little comfort can sometimes make a big difference and I calmed down without anybody telling me to. Go figure. We had a great time visiting bars and drinking beer and hearing stories about Samuel Adams that may or may not have been partially true and the next day the sun came out and all was well. I’ve noticed that tends to happen.

I got two things out of the experience. One was a better sense of what to say the next time I’m with someone who needs to get a grip. “What one thing could I do to make it better?” is a brilliant question.

The other? I’m better off being me. I turns out that preparing for the scenarios I imagine doesn’t bring me down or keep me from enjoying myself. It’s my own way of flowing through life. Like any other personality trait, there is such a thing as too much. But in my case, there is also too little. I’m fine like I am.

Ditto for my ongoing concern about those I love. I don’t get to drive them crazy, but I do get to love them in my own way.

When I got home, I wrote the following scene in my book. My protagonist Lola is boarding a flight to Antarctica, fleeing all sorts of evil and mayhem. But when she gets a few minutes, she worries about the others in her family, and she uses her telepathy to check in on them. It’s what I would do if I was a telepath.

They had been warned that the flight would be long, cold and uncomfortable, and had been given ear plugs for the noise and medication that would calm their stomachs and make them drowsy. Alex and Maurice took their pills without hesitation, but Lola held off. She hadn’t had an awake minute to herself in days, and she just wanted to savor the solitude brought on by the engine noise as she checked in on the rest of the family.

She squirmed in the thick parka and uncomfortable jump seat buckle, but finally managed to settle in well enough to relax. She found her two daughters and friend Vanida sipping rum drinks on a beach in Brazil. What? Where? And wasn’t it kind of early in the day for rum drinks? Well, at least they were safe. But what were they doing there? She got that they were part of a plan to rescue Zane and Nell and Yuden. Not a plan, the plan, the one that Maurice and Alex were not telling her about and which was going to happen tonight. Tonight?

That meant she better leave this alone. She tiptoed back into her own mind and let her consciousness settle back into the rough vibrations of the ride.

What about Xuha? Was he okay? Eggs. She smelled eggs. Xuha had ordered a late room service breakfast and at this moment he was delighted with the sunny side up concoction into which he was dipping his toast. Okay. What about Zane? He was being served food as well, by a friendly older man who was, oh my, the co-pilot of the private aircraft which Zane had boarded a few hours ago which would ultimately take him to New York.

And why was he going to New York? On a private jet? He wasn’t thinking about that right now. She felt her son recline into the plush, roomy seat and sip his very hot, very tasty coffee, which he was enjoying a great deal.

Lola sighed and reach a heavily gloved hand into the knapsack her hosts had given her. She took a sip of her water and found one of the energy bars they’d provided for the trip. She tore the wrapper open and chewed the sawdust-like contents, wishing she had eggs and hot coffee. Maybe even coffee and rum. Reluctantly she took one of the airsickness tablets and swallowed it. With any luck she wouldn’t wake up for another thousand miles.

(For a companion post see Cease worrying when you can and write about what you know. For more excerpts from my new novel visit Am I sure I’m Sherrie?, Point of View, and The Amazing Things I Get to Do.)

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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The trouble with telepathy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with telepathy. Writing about it, understanding it, using technology to develop it, and how humans would respond to it.

My recent fascination was prompted by an article in Popular Mechanics called Brain-to-Brain Communication Is Closer Than You Think. Lest you decide that Popular Mechanics has taken an unexpected new age turn, let me point out that the subtitle of the article is “Don’t call it telepathy, but call it very cool.”

The article describes a successful experiment in which a video game player wearing an electroencephalography cap (which records brain activity) decides when to shoot, and a second player in another room wearing a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil (which emits a focused electrical current) over the part of his brain that controls finger movement, does the actual shooting.

Researcher Chantel Prat at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and one of the designers of the experiment cautions that “This is not the X-Men version of telepathy where you hear a disembodied voice. … Whatever shape [this] takes is going to be very different than listening to someone’s thoughts in your head.”

magicYes, it may not be the classic telepathy of fiction, but we are talking about direct brain to brain communication here, aided by modern technology. The article goes on to address possible real life uses including already successful work on adapting a brain-to-machine interface to help paralyzed patients walk by using their brain signals to control prosthetic devices. This is cool, and it is really happening.

It reminded me of an article I read a while back about how neuroscientists have recreated movie clips by looking at a person’s brainwaves. It also reminded me of the waves made by Mark Zuckerberg in 2015 when he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

He was referring to an advanced form of this sort of brain-to-brain communication, using something like a VR headset to encode brain signals into bits and send them to another person for decoding and playback. You can read more about this in my post Telepathy and Technology, where I quote The Washington Post as responding with “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges.” True. Cool things like this tend to have a ton of implications that we haven’t considered.

The second thing to set my synapses firing about mind reading was hearing about Connie Willis’s new book Crosstalk. I haven’t read it yet for a few reasons, one of which is that I’m not that big a fan of her writing based on To Say Nothing of the Dog, her one book I have read. But that was written twenty years ago and it’s time to give this science fiction great another chance.

ganzfeldThen I read an interview with her in Wired. The quote that got me was “Willis does enjoy writing about the paranormal, but as far as she’s concerned it’s pure fiction. For her new novel Crosstalk, a romantic comedy about telepathy, she did extensive research into the history of psychic claims, including the notorious Rhine experiments. ‘I found no evidence at all of actual telepathy,’ she says. ‘I don’t buy it.'”

A lot of people would agree with her. However, I was put off by her tone. How odd to write a book about an ability and yet to harbor no feel for how it could be possible, and no sense of “maybe, if ….” to help bring the magic to life. I probably will read Crosstalk eventually, but now I’m in less of a hurry to do so.

However, Ms. Willis does make an interesting observation in the interview. She says “Let’s say telepathy became the norm … the first thing that people would begin to do would be to attempt to stop that, for themselves at least. They would try to build barriers, mental barriers or physical barriers—I don’t know, tinfoil hats maybe or something—that would prevent other people from being able to read their thoughts … I don’t think most relationships could survive if you knew virtually everything that flitted through the head of your partner.” Good point, In fact, a very good point.

And this brings me to the third reason why telepathy is heavy on my mind these days. I’m finishing a book of my own, the sixth book in 46. Ascending, and it is revisiting my hero Lola and her organization of telepaths. Obviously new problems have arisen, including the discovery of non-empathic telepaths, once thought to be impossible. As my heroes and villains go to increasing lengths to keep each other out of their heads, I’m forced to confront just how difficult day-to-day life would be in a world where telepathy is common. It’s forced me to revisit my own world-building, and to better define my own fictional ideas about what telepathy is.

I’ve had to conclude that while technologically aided brain-to-brain communication is cool, is likely, and poses dangers, it is not what I am writing about. I’m also trying not to write about X-men style sentences popping unbidden into the heads of others. Rather, I’m playing with the idea of extreme empathy. I postulate emotional connections between skilled receivers that enable the exchange of ideas without words or machines, and I’m having some fun finding the charms and the limits of my particular theories.

Do I believe in them? I tell people that I’m a scientist first, and a writer of science fiction second. To me, being a scientist means believing that any thing is possible. It also means knowing that while many things are highly improbable, the universe has a way of surprising us, no matter how much we think we already know.

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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A way to wish you joy and peace

sunriseI woke up to this sunrise today,  a reminder that every day brings us a fresh chance to embrace, improve and enjoy this wonderful gift we call life.

It’s been a tough couple of months for me, and for others who want to encourage tolerance and empathy. I’m looking for positive ways to deal with my concerns about the direction in which my country is headed, and I hope that you are too. Lucky for me, my sister, who is full of good ideas, had a suggestion for me.

With her encouragement, I reviewed, edited and sorted through the 159 posts on this blog and put the best of them into a new book called “Face Painting for World Peace.” This short (121 page) volume of essays attempts to be both humorous and thought provoking as it examines what I like to call “intra-species harmony” (aka world peace) from a wide variety of angles.

The eBook is available for FREE on Smashwords, for a short time. Soon it will be published on Amazon as well, and distributed by Barnes & Nobel, Apple and other retailers, at which point I will be required to charge ninety-nine cents. This is not intended to be a money making project; I have pledged to donate half of all proceeds to “Doctors Without Borders”.

Here is the description:

I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. From early 2012 on I have maintained a blog in which I often write about empathy and peace. I have arranged these short essays in book form, to be published for Christmas 2016. A lot has changed in the world over the past four years, but what has not changed is how I continue to cherish time with those I love, and how others do the same throughout the world. This book is my holiday card; my way of wishing hope, joy and peace to every human on earth, with no exceptions.

Please download, please enjoy, and please share with others. Meanwhile, I will try to wake up every day during this coming year, catch a glimpse of that beautiful dawn, and then seek out positive ways to add my voice to the chorus still being sung by those who believe that kindness should guide our politics, our words and our actions. I invite you to sing along, too.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in being better, empathy, peace, writing

 

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World Peace Update

Psychedelic 12I’ve been hearing the words to the protest song Eve of Destruction in my head a lot lately, and I don’t suppose that is a good thing. My mind likes to take the opening phrase “The Eastern World  — it is exploding” and substitute other places.You know, like Syria, Ferguson Missouri and the Gaza strip. Every day brings a sad new verse.

One theory is that I’m losing it. Another is that is world really does feel like it is exploding. Unfortunately, I’ve just found some evidence to support this second theory. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, out of 165 countries right now only 11 are not involved in some sort of conflict. Eleven. That would be 93% of the world that is at war, one way or another.

Granted the study considers having a fighting presence in foreign conflicts as “being at war” (really ought to count, don’t you think), and it also acknowledges internal conflicts with clear sides and loss of life (i.e. civil war). The most disturbing fact, according to The Independent, is that from World War Two up to 2007, there was an overall growing tendency for less conflict in the world. The trend has now reversed sharply and it continues to go the wrong way. As I said, the whole freaking world, it is exploding.

There is a third reason I can’t get this song out of my head and I know what it is. As I move d4, my fun novel about the future, on to beta readers and my editor, I am letting go emotionally of beautiful Ariel and her wild adventures and turning my heart and mind to the next book, the last one in the collection. It will be about the whole Zeitman family but will feature Lola and her cadre of telepaths as they take on a type of menace that they thought could not exist.

It will all start when Lola finally writes her article Face Painting for World Peace and encounters those who want anything but a world in which people get along well with each other. I’m writing Lola’s article now and it’s got me thinking. The tools for understanding others and developing empathy have never been more available to all. How can we be fighting more wars in more places? Who stands to gain?

And where are these eleven peaceful places? Some may not be high on your list to visit, some may. Those of us who remember The Eve of Destruction being sung by Barry McGuire as a protest song against the Vietnam War will appreciate the irony that the eleven countries currently not at war are Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil and  ….. drum roll please ….. Vietnam.

“Eve of Destruction” was written in 1965 by P. F. Sloan. Enjoy Barry McGuire’s recording on YouTube here.

Also please drop by the Facebook page of Psychedelic Adventure and give them a quick like for the great image above.

 

 

 

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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in peace, writing

 

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Ranked number one!

number 1Excuse the childlike excitement here, but c3 has achieved a milestone for me and I’m having trouble sitting still long enough to type about it. I’m just finishing my first Kindle Select giveaway for my new book, and it has managed to hit number one in its subcategory of metaphysical fiction. It even made it well into the top 100 for all genre fiction (beating out a LOT of erotica) and as high as 58 for all science fiction and fantasy.

I am truly excited about this new book which I believe manages to expand my overall story of a family with subtle, believable superpowers while still offering a unique and exciting plot. It also furthers my tale of how these heroes work together to make a better world.

As of midnight tonight, c3 is no longer free on Amazon, but it’s incredibly cheap, with a lot of thrills for just $2.99. You can pick it up here.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in writing

 

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A mind traveling 16-year-old seeks her kidnapped friends.

My 4th novel is out on Kindle today! Please check out Teddie’s story here at Amazon and share it with others if you enjoy it.

c3 cover smallc3 Synopsis:

Teddie’s life as a sixteen year old hasn’t always been easy, but nothing has prepared her for the unexpected dangers she encounters as an exchange student in Darjeeling. A frightening world in which young girls are bartered and sold stretches its icy fingers into the beautiful resort town and touches her friends one by one.

Terrified, Teddie finds that her own mind develops a unique ability for locating her friends and that an ancient group of mind travelers is willing to train her to use her new skill to save these girls. It will require trust in ideas she barely believes, and more courage than has ever been expected of her. When it becomes clear that the alternative is her friends’ deaths and the unchecked growth of an evil crime lord’s empire, Teddie accepts the challenge and shows those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.

c3 is part of 46. Ascending, my collection of loosely interrelated novels about five very different family members who each discover that they can do the extraordinary when circumstances require it. I have designed these books to be read as stand alone stories or in any order.

If you enjoy c3, consider z2, the tale of Teddie’s father as he learns to use his ability to warp time to protect Teddie and her friends against a threat from a white supremacy movement at Teddie’s high school, available here. You may also enjoy y1, the story of Teddie’s brother Zane as he develops an odd ability to alter his appearance. You can get it here. Of course please check out x0, the subject of this blog and the story of Teddie’s telepathic mother as she finds herself the unlikely hero in a rescue mission in Nigeria.

c3 is out on on Kindle starting today (January 31, 2014). It will be available in paperback and in other electronic bookstores early this summer.

Also, check out my new blog for c3 here. Not only will I feature fun tidbits about the book and information about giveaways, but I will also be blogging about the struggles faced by real life young women the world over, and be telling stories of the true heroes amongst them.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in my other novels, writing

 

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it grows and grows

4 coversI’m building a world. It’s very much like the world we live in, but the differences are what make it worth visiting. In my special universe, there is a growing number of telepaths, working as agents of empathy. They belong to an organization known as x0, and its members rescue and train others as they work for world peace.

There is also one very unique shape shifter, whose friends each celebrate their own uniqueness in an organization called y1. Meanwhile an aging athlete has formed a group known as z2 for those who are able to slow down time, or who are trying to understand the nature of time better.

Now there is another secret organization, with a power and mission all of its own. Please consider visiting the universe of c3 in late December, and join a teenager from Texas as she comes to terms with a skill set unlike any other.

#SFWApro

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in empathy, my other novels

 

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