Free Through Sunday!

Enjoy Layers of Light free on Kindle through Sunday night, March 15.

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Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“Complex and well-researched … The author does an incredible job making it all come to life in both beautiful and horrifying ways. The detail here is astounding, and the setting truly becomes a character of its own. There are solid, loving friendships formed and [the] book tells a strong, important story. I’m glad I read it.” — Long and Short Reviews

“I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked on this series. … Sure enough the characters [are] thrown on a dangerous path, full of adventure, girl power, intrigue, and gut-wrenching moments… this is another great addition to the series.” – Sharing Links and Wisdom

“The concept was great. The plot was intriguing, and the mystical aspects of the work were described well.” — Happy Booker

What is this book about?

Celebrate those who light a candle in the darkness in this compelling and eye-opening tale.

Teddie is into country music, her old pick-up truck and getting through high school with as little drama as possible. Yet somehow her best friend, Michelle, talks her into spending a semester in Darjeeling, India. The thrilling adventure turns treacherous when she uncovers a seedy underworld in which young women are bartered and sold–including her friends.
As she fights to understand a depravity she never dreamed existed, a stranger makes her an unexpected offer. He will train her to find her missing friends, but she will need to have trust in abilities she barely believes exist and more courage than she ever thought she could summon. And there will be no going back.
Given the choice between this and abandoning her friends to their horrifying fate, the decision is simple. She must rise to the challenge.
But how can she be a superhero when she doesn’t know what her power is?

But I haven’t read the first books in this series.

Fear not. Layers of Light is part of the 46. Ascending collection of six interrelated yet stand-alone novels celebrating the superhero in us all. These stories can be read in any order as they overlap in time and compliment each other.

(Layers of Light does contains some non-graphic mature content and references to human trafficking and the sex trade.)

Can I try an excerpt?

Of course you can.

Teddie knew she should have called Amy first, but she was so excited to have a pass to leave school alone that she didn’t want to wait. The constant monitoring and need to stay in groups was one more thing she hadn’t considered when she signed up for this. She knew it was for her own safety, but some days all she wanted was to get into her little pick-up truck, turn her music up loud, and drive.

Ana, the employee at Amy’s small office, apologized. Amy had left for the day.

“She’s chasing a lead on Usha and made me promise to tell no one where she was going, for Usha’s safety.”

“Can you give me the direction she went?”

“No, but she’s left the city. She won’t be back until tomorrow.”

As Teddie headed back to the bus, she realized the school expected her to be gone for a while. She could go shopping, or go visit some of the little art galleries along Nehru Road. Playing hooky for an hour would do wonders for her outlook.

She wandered around, enjoying the street art and small shops, and on her way back to school, she stopped at the mall for a soft drink. She was sitting at a little table in the food court when she saw him.

He was at the other end, staring at her. She looked away and pretended to look for something in her purse. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him stand up to his full six-feet-plus height. Her heart start to pound. He was walking in her direction. Teddie felt dizzy with fear and looked around for a stranger who could help. She got up to talk to an older woman to her left, but as she stood up fast she felt light-headed, and then she started to faint.

Teddie stood over her own collapsed body, confused. Was this another variation of these dreams? She looked up. Everyone else in the food court was ignoring her and looking at her unconscious body on the floor. The woman to her left, the one she’d hoped would help her, was gathering up her parcels to leave, not wanting to get involved.

Only the large man was looking into her awake and aware eyes. He gave a short, solemn bow, then jumped into the air and turned a perfect double-forward somersault, landing on his feet like the girl and boy had done in the snow. Not a soul in the food court noticed him.

As the strangeness of the situation sunk in, Teddie felt light-headed again. Then, she was lying on the cold tile floor, watching a security guard hurry towards her. The large man was gone.

Sometimes I Fly

I’ve always wanted to be a bird. In eighth grade I took my first trip in a plane. I squirmed with joy during take-off when it was everything I had dreamt.

I was flying.

One of my most common reoccurring dreams has always been being airborne. I’m surprised to find myself aloft, then I remember. That’s right. I always knew how to do this. I just forgot I knew. Sometimes I get details of what works, like I have to hop twice on my left foot before I jump off, but those recipes for flight have never been the same twice and not one has worked the next morning.

I keep on flying in my dreams.

When I got drunk in college, it made the room spin and made me laugh but the best part was when it made me feel like I was soaring through the air. After I graduated, I talked a friend into sky diving with me and even though I was scared, I was exhilarated, too.

Once I got my first real job, it came with this new thing called discretionary income. I signed up for flying lessons. I did fake emergency landings in fields and got okayed to fly solo. Sunday mornings, I’d drive to the little airport and spend my drinking money on an hour of airplane rental instead.

And I flew.

Then I got older. I had babies. They cried at changing cabin pressure when it made their little ears fill with pain and vacationing by car was better. I dreamt about flying, but not as often. When the dreams came, I was alone, moving silently through the air over wilderness. Maybe it was because I traveled a lot for my job, through busy airports on crowded flights, in seats that kept getting smaller. Claustrophobia kicked in. I decided conference calls worked fine.

I didn’t fly often.

Time takes some things, and it gives others. I now travel to places I’ve always wanted to go. The planes are crowded, but they’ve shown me the Andes from thirty thousand feet, and the island of Madeira sparkling in the twilight of a frothy Atlantic.

These days I write. When a sentence comes out perfect, I suck in my breath knowing it’s the best it can be. The sensation feels like flying.

When I edit my work, sometimes my words reform themselves beyond the original, and the outcome makes me laugh or cheer or cry. I am flying, then, the way I’ve always known I could, the way I was meant to do. Sometimes the realization makes me cry even more.

It’s amazing. Sometimes I fly.

The Amazing Things I Get to Do

I jumped out of a helicopter today without a parachute. I used my ability to see the future to save my mother’s life, I stared down two villains at gunpoint, I orchestrated a corporate take-over and I played with penguins. It was a great afternoon.

Years ago, I loved to read fiction and I still do. However, in recent years, that same energy has gone into  my writing  instead. Writing is hard work, and stories don’t always go as well as the writer would like, but when they do, the feeling that you are doing what your characters do is even more compelling.

These people live in my head. I know far more about them than will ever appear in my book, and when they set foot in Antarctica or on a beach in Brazil, I am there with them.

Because many of my characters have superpowers, I get the added bonus of doing things I never could in real life. Today, I wrote this scene about one of my characters who can “travel”, that is, have conscious out of body experiences.

Vanida had never used her energy body to travel to someone who was on an airplane, so she was alarmed when she ordered her body of light to seek out Yuden and found herself rising thousands of feet into the air and moving westward. It took effort not to panic and snap back into her physical body which was resting quietly on the beach in Brazil.

She was glad she had persevered, though, once she sighted the tiny plane approaching, and realized why she was where she was. The skill with which her energy body matched the speed and direction of the craft amazed her, and allowed her to cross through the metal as gently as if it had been sitting on the ground.

Tonight, I will go to sleep dreaming about flying through the air, matching my speed to that of an airplane and passing gracefully through its walls. It should be a night of sweet dreams.

It’s never too late till it is

Every once in awhile I know exactly what my husband means and those rare moments of perfect communication are gold. Such was the case with his “it’s never too late till it is.” Because it isn’t. You follow me?

27-Courage-27I still have the short-lived vantage point of watching those both a generation older and younger than me make decisions, and am always sad to hear someone decide that it’s too late for something they want. Education, relationships, children, adventures, the challenges of climbing a mountain or starting a business. My wise partner is right. Time can make some things more difficult, even much more difficult, but only we decide they are impossible. Until of course they are, at that moment when all of our chances are gone and we’ve done whatever it is we are going to do in this life. Nothing is impossible until then, and instead of finding the thought morbid, I find it oddly uplifting.

Of course, this bit of wisdom is unlikely to make it onto t-shirts anytime soon. Our culture is poorly suited to thinking about our own death, at least for more than a fleeting and uncomfortable second or two. That is why I was surprised when I continued with my task of updating the page on this blog about the music referred to in c3. Near the end of the book, my eighty-something telepath Maurice picks a song to relax him as he tries to use his telepathy to accomplish something that has never been done before by a telepath anywhere. Being a West Texas boy and life-long fan of Buddy Holly, he goes for the classic early rock song “That’ll be the Day.”

Only I wasn’t all that familiar with the lyrics to the song. They go “that’ll be the day … plonk plonk plonk … that I die.” I think that “that’ll be the day that I die” is an old expression roughly equivalent to “when pigs fly” but it is a little odd given our collective desire to never think about dying. The song came out in late 1957, and the day that Buddy Holly died was February 3, 1959.

My character Maurice, in his late eighties, probably thinks about death more than I do and I like to think, after the fact, that the fictional Maurice likes this song even more for its disturbing reminder of mortality. Being old, or at least being old well, takes courage and Maurice has an abundance of that. Please enjoy the short excerpt below to see what he is attempting.

That is how one lovely evening in mid-April Maurice found himself settling on to his couch to try something that had never been attempted. Teddie’s mother Lola was with him to make sure that he remained physically well, but she had sworn to remain mentally removed.

Maurice took a long swig of the sweet iced tea that he loved before he settled back and closed his eyes. Lola offered to put on some music for him while he relaxed and waited for the group in India to be ready. He was a West Texas boy through and through and still didn’t think that most country music held a candle to his favorite musician, Buddy Holly. Certainly not the modern stuff. He smiled as Buddy’s 1958 hit “That’ll be the Day” filled his living room and his mind.

Well, this would be the day that he would ride along in a young girl’s mind as she left her own body behind in the Himalayan dawn. He would join her as she danced into the air to travel through what Olumiji called the abode of light. In this world of waves, she could, incredible as it sounded to Maurice, find a friend a thousand miles away. Then both she and Maurice would desperately look for clues to the friend’s exact location, proving that one never knew what a day would bring.

I was so happy to find to find this wonderful recording of Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing “That’ll be the Day” live on the Ed Sullivan show on December 1, 1957. Go ahead, take a sixty year walk back into time and enjoy!

You can also listen to and purchase this classic at Amazon.

(If you enjoy reading about how the favorite songs of characters in a book can enhance a story, check out my post on greed and the Metric hit “Gold, Guns, Girls” at Never Enough on my blog for the novel d4.)

Out of body experiences

Teddie, the hero of c3, lived in my head for years and I knew what she could do, but I didn’t know what to call it. The other members of my superhero family had easy to describe skills. We had a telepathic mom. Dad, a former athlete, could slow down the passage of time. This ability shows up in lots of stories; I went ahead and called him a time warper.  Big brother Zane learned to morph his own appearance, becoming something of a real life shape changer. Big sister Ariel could see into the future.

But what about Teddie? Well, I knew that she could become invisible, and teleport somehow. It was like she could be anywhere she wanted and no one would see her. The problem was that these are magical realism books, written so as to hopefully convince my readers that the stories I tell just maybe could happen in the world in which we live. How could I ever convince a reader that a character could both turn invisible and teleport to anywhere, I wondered, as I began to write the story.

Then it hit me.  Her body doesn’t have to go anywhere. Just like Edgar Rice Burroughs sent his hero John Carter to Mars via some sort of astral projection, my hero could do the same. So I began to study astral projection. It turns out that there is quite a lot of material written on the subject, and I soon learned that it wasn’t quite what I wanted either. Astral projection technically involves going to some other plane of existence, and I wanted my hero to stay right here on earth.

No, it was an out of body experience that I was after. In an OBE, as they are affectionately called, the traveler visits a plane that exactly mirrors our physical world. They are unable to interact with the solids around them, but under the right circumstances they can return with accurate knowledge of distant objects and events.

I discovered that there are quite a few books out there that claim to be able to train you to have an out of body experience, and the internet is full of people happy to describe their own adventures doing the same. I had run into something similar while writing x0 and researching telepathy. Once again, I asked myself — do I believe any of this?

I was a scientist before I retired, a geophysicist to be specific. It is not surprising that I default to a belief in the laws of nature and I approach anything else with skepticism. Thanks to my background, though, I also know that the universe naturally behaves in many strange ways that we can’t explain, and that the more physics you know, the stranger some of it gets.

true voice 1As I read of these OBEs, I do admit that a few of the authors came across as scam artists, and a couple others seemed out-and-out deluded, at least to me. But most fell into neither of those categories. From their writing at least, they appeared both rational and sincere. I decided that a lot of the folks describing their out of body experiences were just very imaginative people, and the secret lay in how they chose to see things. But did that describe them all? Reading through many of their stories I concluded that I had no idea how possible, much less how common, real OBEs are. Maybe the world has many real life Teddies. In fact, maybe an entire c3 organization exists.

You can see some of my own thought processes in this excerpt from c3, when Teddie first begins the training to turn her innate abilities into a well developed skill.

Lhatu swallowed hard. He had known before he ever agreed to do this that the next few sentences would be the most difficult part.

“Let me back up, please. Amy, you see the world from inside you, so to speak. What I mean is that even though human consciousness is not understood very well, we think that it comes from inside of our bodies, inside of our brains. Some people imagine that they leave their bodies behind and wander off while they sleep or even as they go into a trance, and quite a few books have been written on the subject.”

“Sure,” Amy said. “Astral projection. I’ve heard of it. You think it’s impossible?”

“No, I’m saying that in most cases the person is just experiencing a lucid dream, or a creative daydream—harmless and even somewhat consciousness-expanding. I’ve no quarrel with this, it just doesn’t involve really leaving their bodies in, well, in the way that I do.”

“Oh.” The sarcasm was back. “So most other people can’t really do this, but you can.”

“Yes.” Lhatu said it simply, without embarrassment or pride. “And I’ve been trained to do it better since birth. I work for the people who trained me. I serve as their chief scout and trainer.”

“Is this shadowy organization that sneaks around watching kids run by some kind of a crime organization by any chance?” Amy asked.

“No. It’s a sort of informal monarchy and it’s run by my grandmother.”

“Oh.” Amy honestly didn’t know what to say.

“Look, there aren’t a lot of people who can do this naturally,” Lhatu went on. “It’s not nearly as common as, say, telepathy, which of course isn’t all that common at either. Most travelers—and we refer to it as traveling—most travelers start to have out-of-body experiences some time in their teens. It’s not always the case, but often some sort of trauma, or a series of traumatic events, encourages this ability. Feeling powerless, being powerless, needing to escape and having no other means to do so can sometimes set this ability in motion if the young person is prone to it to begin with.”

Lhatu gave Amy a long hard look. “It shouldn’t surprise you that more females develop this ability than males. Not that there aren’t plenty of young males in this world trapped in awful situations, too. And obviously most young people of either gender can never do this, no matter how desperate they become. Like everything else human, this ability seems to come from a combination of genes, environment and the very essence of the person themselves.”

Lhatu turned to Teddie. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Teddie looked down embarrassed, and Amy got it.

“Teddie? Is that what this is all about? Your dreams? Seeing Usha at the bus station leaving for Gangtok? Seeing her flee into Bhutan? You think now that this is all real?” Amy asked.

“I guess so,” Teddie said. “At least this good friend of my mom’s thinks it is because this guy here told him so, and now I’m supposed to stay here and be trained so that I can help them find Michelle and Usha both.”

“I’m scared, Amy.” The words popped out of Teddie’s mouth before she could call them back. “I’m not sure I want to learn how to be a freak.” She gave Lhatu a little bit of an apologetic smile. “No offense.”

“None taken,” he said. “This is absolutely your choice, Teddie, and it will continue to be so. You may quit or pause the training at any time you are the least bit uncomfortable.” Then he added with his own small smile back. “We are all kind of freaks already in our own way, you know? This will just make you a more talented freak.”

“Talented freak. I do kind of like that.” Teddie smiled back more confidently, and for the sake of her young friend, Amy decided to put her own skepticism on hold.

Like my character Amy, I too put my skepticism on hold as I did my research, and I did my best to treat the subject matter itself with an open mind.

No, I didn’t try the training to induce an out-of-body experience, and I’m not sure if I ever will. I may be a little like my character Amy in more ways than one. As Amy points out in my book, the state of not knowing is sometimes the best state to be in.

Here are two of my favorite sources of information on the subject:

What is the most lucid dream you have ever had?

Psychedelic 11My c3 hero Teddie convinces herself that her out-of-body experiences are merely lucid dreams. This is a condition that supposedly occurs when your body is fast asleep but your mind is wide awake. It doesn’t happen often, but apparently it does occur. One study estimated that about one in ten people report such dreams, and that they feel “real” in a way that other dreams never do.

Have you ever had one?

I remember having two in my life, and each affected me deeply at the time. In both cases once I was fully awake I understood that what had occurred wasn’t real, but none-the-less the events I experienced in the dream overpowered me for days and stuck with me for years. Both dreams ended up ultimately affecting some of the most significant decisions I have ever made. Things turned out well, though I don’t know that I can credit the dreams for that. Perhaps they only left me more sure of what I needed to do.

Teddie will turn out to do far more than have lucid dreams. Before the book is done she will understand out-of-body experiences in ways I suspect that I never will. I’m intrigued by the idea of flying through the air, weightless, silent and invisible, but I’m not convinced that it happens for anyone and I’m fairly sure it isn’t in my future.

I am content with my dreams having provided me with two wondrous experiences that gave me windows into other worlds that I will never forget. I also appreciate the irony that that they offered me a sense of certainty that no real world piece of information or advice could ever have provided.

(Thanks to the Fractal Enlightenment Facebook Page for the great image above.)

Out of your body or out of your mind?

Psychedelic 6Teddie, the hero of c3, has lived in my head since 2010 and I always knew what she could do, but I didn’t know what to call it. The other members of my superhero family have easy to name skills. We have a telepathic mom. Dad, who is a former athlete, can slow down the passage of time, making him appear quicker and more physical skilled than he really is. I call him a time warper.  Big brother Zane has learned to morph his own appearance, becoming something of a real life shape changer.

But Teddie? Well, she can become invisible, I would tell people. And she can teleport somehow. Like she can be anywhere she wants and no one can see her. It’s possible. Trust me.

Why care if it is possible? Well, these are magical realism books, written so as to hopefully convince my readers that they just maybe could happen in the world in which we live. How am I ever going to convince a reader that a character could both turn invisible and teleport to anywhere, I wondered as I began to write the story.

Then it hit me.  Her body doesn’t have to go anywhere. Just like Edgar Rice Burroughs sent his hero John Carter to Mars via some sort of astral projection, my hero could do the same. So I began to study astral projection and learned that it wasn’t quite what I wanted either. Teddie doesn’t need to go to some other plane of existence.

An out of body experience was what I was after. Did you know that there are books out there that will train you on how to have an out of body experience, and the internet is full of people happy to describe their own adventures doing the same? I didn’t, but I ran into something similar while writing x0 and researching telepathy. Both times I had to ask myself — do I believe any of this? Does it matter if I believe it?

I am a scientist in my real job, a geophysicist to be specific. I believe in the laws of nature and my default mode is skeptical. Thanks to my background, though, I also know that the universe behaves in many strange ways that we can’t explain, and that the more physics you know the stranger some of it gets.

true voice 1So, I don’t know. Maybe a real life Teddie exists out there.In fact, maybe an entire c3 organization does. My assessment is that almost anything is possible. Probably a lot of these folks describing out of body experiences are just very imaginative people, and the answer lies in how they choose to see things. Maybe a few of them actually are scam artists or out-and-out deluded but certainly not all of them by any means. Given that, I did my best to treat the people I encountered with respect and the subject matter itself with an open mind.

No, I haven’t actually tried the training to induce an out-of-body experience, and I’m not sure if I ever will. I may be a little like my character Amy, recognizing that for me the state of not knowing for sure is sometimes a good one. Besides, I’m on to writing the next book now, as Teddie’s big sister Ariel struggles with seeing the future. Can anyone actually  predict what will happen? If so, how does it work? I’m busy trying to figure it out.

(Please drop by the Facebook pages of Psychedelic Adventure and Your True Voice and give them a like for the great images shown above.)