Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paradigms of the Paranormal

Some years ago, I came across a story about the fickleness of human perception. A group of movie-goers were treated to an unexpected visitor in the form of a dancing gorilla spliced into the middle of their film. It appeared for only a second at a time, once or twice, throughout the movie. At the end of the film, scientists interviewed the audience and discovered that less than thirty per cent of viewers had acknowledged the inserted footage.  The experiment concluded that for the majority of people, they only see what they expect to see. 

How is that possible? 

Easy – the human brain is designed to filter the information it receives into categories graded by usefulness in completing everyday tasks. It would be impractical for us to be consciously aware of everything around us and in reality, for the kind of lives we lead these days full of modern conveniences, there’s just no need. So, during the course of our long and complicated interactions with the world from the day of our birth we’ve been in training. Shaped by our environment and cues from our peers, we experience life on a need-to-know basis. If it isn’t important for getting to school/work or for cleaning the house we don’t acknowledge it. It passes by in our peripheral never breaking through the barrier into our perceived reality. For the movie-goers – nobody expected to see a gorilla. The frames did not match the footage immediately before and after so for most people the scene was filtered out as an anomaly, an aberrant string of information not needed for the task in hand. 

Of course, some of us are more observant than others, more sensitive, more aware. Not necessarily of the whole swirling mass of information but a different portion of it. We’re the ones who see the gorilla and look around in awe at the fact nobody else can see what we see, feel what we feel. We’re wired differently and it’s okay because we’re still within the normal range of human capability. We still operate within normal parameters. There are those who can push a boundary or two across the full spectrum of human potential but for the majority of people these experiences are outside of what is classed as the normal range of experience. They fall into a category sometimes labelled paranormal and because they are not experienced by the majority their existence is questioned. 

Now, hot-wired into the sorting process is the fight or flight survival instinct. Fear heightens our ability to experience the world beyond our usual capabilities, any extreme of emotion does. Maybe this is why people encounter ghosts on dark, scary roads. Why they can know something bad is going to happen a moment before it does. Why in our darkest hour we can be witness to miracles. Why sometimes people only realise they’ve seen something that shouldn’t have been there long after the incident happened – it made sense at the time, but gradually the brain fills in the detail and it falls into the ‘don’t process’ category. But we can’t un-see something so what do we do with the information? People often don’t share their experiences because they sound silly, people won’t believe them, they don’t believe themselves. We’re tied into a society that coerces us to stay within the accepted boundaries of the majority. 

But you can’t hide the information forever. Sooner or later, it bubbles to the surface, exploits weaknesses in the human psyche to bleed through into our everyday lives. Myths, legends, fairy tales, stories passed down from generation to generation. Tales from the edge that pierce the veils, break through the fog that encompasses the mind, and packages the information to exist within normal limits – as make believe. 

And there we have it – make believe. Products of an overactive imagination created to entertain. 

The paranormal (insert favourite scary music here) often sends even the most practical people into a cold sweat. They won’t admit it. They’ll argue against it, explain to the poor deluded individuals that enjoy or believe in any such nonsense exactly why it’s all a load of tosh, but – put them in an unfamiliar place with an icy intermittent breeze and some unexpected noises and they’ll have goose bumps like the rest of us. They’ll talk themselves out of it afterwards. Convince themselves it was just adrenaline running wild but for those few moments, when the comfort zone of the familiar is ripped away from them, all the theories and explanations fall away and uncertainty gives way to a tiny bud of fear that maybe, just maybe there is something out there, something hiding, watching, planning. Something beyond our everyday experience that humanity has forgotten. Blocked from our conscious mind through a series of perception filters pulled over oneself to make life more bearable.

Just like the gorilla spliced into the movie.

Paranormal – outside the realm of the ordinary. That covers a lot of ground. Over the coming months you’ll find lots of info here, not only on legends, myths and fairy tales but on sci-fi, parallel dimensions, higher dimensions, and characters who jaywalk through them all (being particularly sexy in the process). Plato referred to a paradigm as the pattern used to create the cosmos. We’ll be playing around with alternate paradigms to the classic version and showing where – even if only in our over-active imaginations – one can cross into another giving birth to many a paranormal experience. 

I’m really excited to be part of this new venture. My personal interests lie on the metaphysical side and the realms of future science. In real life, if there is such a thing, I lecture in Science and Esoteric Studies. I keep up to date with research that is pushing mercilessly at the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and how we exist as sentient intelligence within it. What I see happening in research labs around the world is the paranormal being reclassified as normal and yet… we still have so much to explore. One thing is for sure, when we know our own perceptions of reality are based on a small fraction of what we actually see perhaps we should keep more of an open mind when it comes to the make-believe of others. 

I hope you’ll join us in the playground for story time and maybe we can share a few real life experiences along the way. 

Casey K

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lanyard Winners

Okay so the winners of the Sei Kitty Lanyards drawing are:

My Favorite Books, Lirasy, scj, LoriO, and Melanie Walker.

Please email me your snail mail address to send them too by December 30, 2011.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Want to Bang Batman

*yawn*  What was I talking about again?

*opens eyes*  Oh yeah... wait, wait... I remember now.  Sorry, guys-- stayed up late last night with the Christmas knitting--need to sharpen my focus a little bit!

I was going to talk about archetypes.

It's one of my favorite subjects, because it's sort of simple, and, frankly, I'm not that bright.  An archetype is an "original type"--it's a form, a mind-mannequin, a character, symbol, motif, plot, or literary situation so prevalent, that as human beings we have an instinctual recognition of it when we read it or see it in a movie or television show.  It's the very basic essence of a thing, and when we see it, we know how it's going to behave, or what's going to happen next.  When it occurs in literature of any sort, we say, "Oh!  I know what's going to happen next!  That's what ALWAYS happens when 'they' do this!"

Archetypes are squirrelly things in paranormal literature.

For one thing, the literature itself is divided into two archetypes-- there's paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and that blows people away right off.

Paranormal romance is serial romance-- it establishes a world, and each story from that world deals with a different couple and a different conflict.  A lot of shifter stories do this-- we have a pack, we have a lot of sexy guys in a pack, we want to see how they get their thing on, right? Awesome!

Urban fantasy does the same thing with establishing a world, but then it takes the main characters and uses them to explore the world.  In this case, each book is about those main characters.  Sometimes there are stories of other couples, but it's not a serial-- not everybody in the pack is going to have their happy ending elaborated on.  As long as the core characters are seen or at least alluded to, the urban fantasy is a lock, right?  I've got my Little Goddess series in urban fantasy.  Thirteen separate works, a million words in print, and Lord Green, Lady Cory, and the death of their lover Adrian figures large in every one.

Now some people will call both these types of literature "Gothic", but they'd be wrong, and I'd want to bitch slap them.  (No.  Just kidding.  I really only want to bitch slap people who cut me off in traffic or insist on not realizing that LGBT rights are CIVIL rights, goddammit, and there is no way that's ever going to change.  Mostly I'd just want to write long, boring blogposts about the real nature of the Gothic hero archetype, and, hello, here we are!)

See, Gothic literature isn't just literature with atmosphere or magic or people who wear black lipstick and have a lot of piercings.  Gothic literature has to have a Gothic hero/ine, and a Gothic heroine just turns me the hellafuck on like nobody's business.  BATMAN (the most holy of holies, the slash guy who turns my frickin' key, the holy-hot-hunk-with-a-fucked-up-psyche himself) is a Gothic hero.

The key to a Gothic hero is that he wants to be a good guy.  He wants to be a GREAT guy.  He wants to be SUCH a great guy that he aspires to do things that no other guys can do--and I don't mean in bed.  He wants to be MORE than a great guy.  He wants to be a GOD!  And when you reach for the stars and the heavens, and you're just wearing a mortal skin with a mortal brain and a mortal heart, you're going to fall, and you're going to fall fast and you're going to fall hard and you're going to crack a hole in the pavement of reality and DRAG THE REST OF REALITY DOWN WITH YOU INTO HELL.

Omigod... my panties are wet just WRITING that.

So, your Gothic hero is reaching for the stars, and when he throws a boner move, he throws it big time--and then he has to realize how his hubris has totally damaged the world, and he has to spend his life FIXING that boner move--while, at the same time, dealing with the extra skillz he earned rightfully when making that boner move in the first place.

And he'll be tortured doing it.

And THAT, my friends, is the essence of Gothic literature--and that literature is, 90% of the time, found in Urban Fantasy, and NOT Paranormal Romance.

Why, you ask?

My completely uneducated, douche-bitch-off-the-street guess is world development.  If you're writing a one-volume romance story, your hero has to be redeemable fairly quickly.  His BACKSTORY may be Gothic--he may have been Batman in his PREVIOUS life, but as we're watching him woo the panties/boxers off his favorite love-thang, he's going to be on the path to salvation, which would make him more of an American Romantic or Romantic hero.  (Yup.  I could do this archetype thing all day-- but we all have Christmas shopping to do--I'll leave those guys for another time.)

But Urban Fantasy is indefinite, and we have time to watch our Bat-guy/girl grow strong, clever, and then too big for his/her britches, and then reach for the stars and make that bigger-than-mortal mistake--and THEN watch Bat-guy/girl redeem him/her self.  I mean think about it-- that's a whole lot of verbiage if you're going to do it right.  You're going to need more than one book.

Now, my one problem with the UCF world building is that very few people know where to stop-- there are some notable series out there that are dying ignominious deaths even as the books are becoming bestsellers with every incarnation.  I know that my Little Goddess series has a plot-arc and an end--and it WILL be the end when I finally get to write it, but I'm not sure if a lot of authors do that when they start.  I think it's important for the genre that we find a way to not only watch our Batman reach for the stars and fall, but then watch him redeem himself and end--because otherwise, we're going to lose the PFB (pure fucking beauty) of this whole Gothic hero idea.  And what would that be?

There IS no place we can't come back from.  You put people in a paranormal world, give them magic powers that shoot out their ass or sexual fusion reactors that generate laser beams out their fingertips, and, beauty of beauties, they are STILL going to be PEOPLE.  And one of our human motifs, themes, ARCHETYPES for people is that they have the powers of redemption--they can come back from a terrible fall and live to be human beings again.

Which is why I love archetypes.  They're fun to look at in literature, and there are some that obviously flip my sex-switch like nothing else, but when all is said and done, an archetype is something we believe in, so completely we recognize it without words.  Redemption is an archetype--and yes, it turns me on even MORE than Batman.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paranormal Friendships-How We Met

NJ Nielsen 
Embry Carlysle 

NJ: It is amazing what an online friendship can turn into; since first meeting we have jumped ahead by leaps and bounds. All of this started over a really bad joke about me mispronouncing Y2K, and yes I pronounced it 2KY and so it began.

EM: NJ and I first met on a yahoo group I think…just a few words here and there when dropping in. Then we talked a few times on Twitter… We were both invited to join a private group through a mutual friend and that’s when we started talking more.

NJ: The realms came around because of two drunk Leprechauns and the mad orgy they could cause with 2KY… That one conversation started off a flood of ideas jumping backwards and forwards until The Realms started taking shape and with each new conversation The Realms into something more.

EM: She told me later on she thought I was a stalker, at first I laughed then I thought... really? Me? A stalker? No way. Well it did seem I was everywhere she was…guess she could think that. One night we got to talking about Y2K like she said and she couldn’t remember what it was called. When she said 2KY I couldn’t help but add my 2 cents… she laughed for hours... lots of LMAO’s

NJ: It is amazing that when two people click how easy it is for the thought patterns to align. We started out with just shifters, and now we have demons that all have their own little quirks, we have a whole Village that moves at will. We have Fey, and my favourites, the humanoid androids.

EM: I think it was my humour (humor) she first connected with (after we established I’m not said stalker) and so our conversations went. She threw this amazing idea out there and I jumped on it so fast my head spun. We connected instantly and it’s grown from there.

NJ: Each of us takes the time to listen to what the other says and if we can’t agree on something we go to a third party that will see whose idea makes more sense. Also I love the fact that our GoodReads group is so helpful when we need something validated. So many wonderful minds throwing ideas at you from every angle; it is like having a whole second family.

EM: I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else, because we share a brain... as crazy as that sounds. We totally get each other, and the truly amazing thing is we live on two far away continents from each other. Yet I would go to her before someone in the room next to me. It also feels good to make new friends whom love the paranormal world as much as the two of us do.

NJ: It feels good that between the two of us Embry and I have so much information gathered that it makes writing so easy. Even today we just had a whole new idea for a spin-off series.

EM: Like I told NJ earlier….It’s funny when you think about it, other than some language barriers and the fact that this document is Australian and word checks my American words, (humor and humour) Fate brought us together over a bottle of KY… try not to think too much on that.) I can’t wait to see where this friendship takes us…

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Everlasting Thrill of a Ghost Story

Ghost stories have been a part of humankind’s mindset ever since people had a few minutes to spare to spin the tale. They are a part of mythology from a number of different cultures, a part of some of the first stories ever written down, and still occupy a steady niche in the pop culture of today. Still there are plenty of skeptics about the real existence of ghosts, those who only believe in the here and now. I’ve always taken the opposite stance. I tend to think that if an idea has existed this long and so widespread then there has to be an element of truth in it whether it can be proven or not.

It’s impossible to say what the origins of ghost stories are. It’s been theorized that they started out of a fear of the unknown, or as cautionary tales similar to fairy tales. One of the oldest written stories is from ancient Sumer, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and was recorded on cuneiform about 2000 BC. The saga features an encounter with a ghost. After Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh seeks out his spirit. After much prodding Enkidu admits that there is a land of the dead and that the dead who aren’t remembered exist in misery. In Homer’s the Iliad, Patroclus’s ghost came to Achilles and chastises him for not having Patroclus buried.

Similar ideas exist in Chinese ghost culture where a spirit can starve and live in misery if they aren’t attended to and remembered by their families. Many cultures developed elaborate funeral rites to keep spirits appeased and away from the living. The Greeks and Romans held to the idea of ghosts lingering in places. Pliny the Younger wrote about a haunted house in his letters around 29 BC. The Egyptians held elaborate funerary rites to ensure immortality after death. The idea of ghost sickness afflicts some Native American tribes, where if a person doesn’t receive the proper burial or mourning rituals then the living can become obsessed with the recent dead. They could experience dizziness, or hallucinations, sometimes even a feeling of suffocation.

Nowadays ghost stories are still a part of our everyday culture. I cannot watch “The Grudge” with its traditional Japanese vengeful ghost, the onryo without losing a bit of sleep. There are a number of ghost hunting shows on TV. My son’s favorite is “Ghost Adventures.” He studies the episodes with devotion and has already prepared plans for his own ghost hunting career with his two best friends. Shows like these seek to either prove or debunk ghost stories. Even during Christmas time there are mentions of ghosts. Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is a favorite holiday ghost story of mine and Andy William’s song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” mentions scary ghost stories in the lyrics.

Most people that I’ve talked to can speak of an experience they’ve had with a ghost. A personal story that touched me deeply, happened just before I got married. I’d just had my wedding shower and was unpacking my gifts in my new apartment. I remember thinking how much I missed my Grammy Noyes and how I wished that she and my fiancĂ©’s Big Dad could be there for the wedding. One of the gifts I’d been given was a recipe box, filled with favorites by the people who’d attended the shower. And tucked in amongst all the rest was a recipe for my Grammy’s chocolate cake with fudge icing in her handwriting. I sensed her presence beside me, her hand on my shoulder so strongly that I burst into tears.

I love hearing other people’s own ghost stories. Please leave a comment and share them with me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Laws of Nature

In paranormal writing, a lot of people talk about the importance of world building, though the phrase “world building” always makes me giggle. The believability of the world is what makes or breaks the story, but unless you're writing about some mystical world and redrawing the map, the world is already built. The difference is really in the rules.

My Dominion series is a contemporary story based in a society where female witches are dominant because they are more powerful than most males. The normal rules of the law are pretty much the same, the layout a mirror of today's world, and the characters meet the normal moral standards. The changes I made were based on old Celtic myths, incorporating old ideas into our very modern world.

As a collector of many dust-gathering “research” materials, I have more than enough fodder for ideas, Faery Folk by Edain McCoy, Exploring the Unknown (Reader's Digest Edition), and Celtic Myth & Magick by Edain McCoy. These three books have endless supplies of good inspiration. One of which bought to like the series I've been writing for the past year.

In Celtic myth there are five elements: water, earth, air, fire and spirit. These elements offer different strengths, Air: Mobility; Fire:Transformation; Water:Purification; Earth: Stability. I see these old beliefs, and weave them into my stories. For example the testing scene in Inheritance:

I nodded, closed my eyes, and left all their scattered chattering behind. It didn’t matter that Rose didn’t shut up, or that Blond Hair looked at me like he was imagining what sex with me would be like. The earth and I knew each other well. I let it flow through me, like I was nothing more than a pebble in a lake to be shaped and guided by it. Each breath brought renewed life. I set my hands to the stump, remembering the last time, when I’d made wildflowers burst forth from the dead tree. This time I didn’t even look.

The power flowed through me in natural peaks and waves. The crowd gasped. The wood felt different beneath my hands, but I let the earth move as it wanted to, until the final wave subsided. Letting go, I opened my eyes and stared at a giant oak tree, leaves growing to a rich, bright green. No wildflowers this time. I smiled at the tree and patted its strong, new trunk, which split the old stump in half.

I've given partial control of the laws of nature to humans, which inspires other questions like, can they stop climate change, and maybe save lives from a hurricane or earthquake? The answer is unknown for the moment, mostly because it hasn't come up in my character's life. The series are about people who just happen to live in a world a little different than the one we live in, and they aren't out trying to save the world. That would be a lot to ask of one small Asian-American male witch.

So my question to all the followers out there, what makes a world real for you?

Please follow this blog and you can win a Sei kitty lanyard. We'll randomly draw 5 winners from our new followers on December 22, 2011, Solstice.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome to Paranormal Paradigms

I remember working at Barnes and Noble when Breaking Dawn first released. Lines of people waiting, teens to grandmothers sweeping in to buy this book about a girl, a vampire, and a werewolf. I didn’t get it. Sure I’d been reading paranormal fiction since I was old enough to choose what I read. Bunnicula being the first title, and having read the series a dozen times, it still doesn’t get old. But Anne Rice sort of killed vampires for me. I read the vampire series, actually enjoyed it until Memnoch the Devil came out. I stopped reading them then.

So when another author, this time in the teen genre came out as the latest thing, I didn’t want any part of it. I’d read the Harry Potter books, but my tastes ran more to adult fiction like Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, and Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. The new take on vampires wasn’t all rainbows and sexy hard-ons, but it also wasn’t the whining of Anne Rice’s vampires.

When I finally read the Meyer’s books I got it. People felt grounded again in something more mainstream. The average reader doesn’t often walk through the aisles where the header reads “Fantasy” searching for the next big read. In fast the endless rows of “Fiction” seem to garner more attention than any genre.

What Meyer did was revive a genre that had been fading back to its separated shelves. Once again genre books had found their way into those often cruised fiction shelves. So for all the good and bad, I’m glad the series exists.

The popularity of the movies in conjunction with the books have had a lot of critics grumbling that there’s nothing good left in the paranormal genre anymore. Within the m/m genre even more talk of the dying of paranormal fiction has popped up. This makes me cringe. The idea that some not so great popular fiction means that the whole genre is dying just makes me mad.

As a paranormal writer, I know where to find good fiction, and yes, it is sometimes hidden away on those separated shelves. The problem of course is that everyone sees the popular stuff, hates it and states everything must be worse. In reality, how often does the general public really agree on anything? And how often are they right? I’d say rarely.

For example, one of my favorite books of all time is a little known book called Heroes and Ghosts by S.A. Payne. It was one of the first m/m books I ever read, and though it’s certainly not the norm, since the book is published by a publisher that doesn’t normally release anything other than magazines, and it’s formatted a lot like a textbook. The story is about an alternate society in which people are manufactured to become sex pets. The main character is a very shy gay scientist who is researching extremely dangerous bugs. He accidentally finds himself saddled with a very attractive “pet,” only to discover the pet is more than the usual preprogrammed drone.

I have reread this book more than a dozen times. The cover is now worn and spine wrinkled, but the book is well loved. The love story transcends the entire book, though at times it’s heavy on the sci-fi plot than the romance, this book is really what the paranormal genre is all about for me, a hidden gem.

This book is for me, proof that the genre is not dead, but alive, healthy, and growing. The whole point of Paranormal Paradigms is just to spotlight the genre. Many authors with different view points, posting about what they love about the genre, their inspiration, and the best stories to be found in m/m paranormal. Please enjoy!