Some years ago, I was trying to decide whether I had enough experience of the paranormal to write about it. I made a list of the odd things that had happened to me or around me in my life. I was surprised to hit twenty-five without trying.
Some of these were very simple: the habit coins had of flipping themselves to the floor when I was in a room alone. Some were more complex, like the student who came to me after class and asked what languages I spoke.
“A little Spanish, a little German, a little French,” I said. “Why?”
“Oh, it’s my mother-in-law,” she said. “She goes into these trances and when she does she’s on top of a pyramid in the middle of a wind-swept desert, and there’s these men in robes standing beside her and the leader is talking to her, trying to get her to stay, and she’s answering him.”
“I could recommend a couple of psychological services,” I said.
My student shook her head.
“No, thanks,” she said. “We’re just trying to find out what she’s saying.”
I didn’t pursue the matter, but I was struck by the matter-of-fact way my student accepted what was happening to her family.
Over the years since then, it’s become more and more my opinion that what we call the paranormal is about as much normal as para. We all live our lives within the confines of habit and logic that occasionally get challenged by something outside them. Generally we shrug it off, or accept it, though without letting the event change our lives or our outlook in any way.
My point is that most us who experience the paranormal experience paranormal light. The strange touches the edges of our self-created universe and passes on. Nothing to be afraid of; nothing, apparently, to understand. Nothing to see here. We continue on.
This attitude underlies my writing, I think. I’m interested in the paranormal—some of the odd things that happen to my character Kestrel Murphy in Majix, like the no-smoking demonstration, are things that I have done, and what I wrote is what happened to me—but I don’t delve into it too deeply. If it wants to come to me, I’ll try to be open to it. If it doesn’t, I have plenty of other things to do.
I think a lot of the paranormal depends on the attitude one takes toward life. In Majix, Kestrel begins by thinking of it as a means of controlling reality. From her Aunt Ariel she learns that it’s more a way of perceiving reality. As Rogers and Hammerstein told us, “A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/Are happ’ning every day.” Who would want to argue with two of America’s most insightful Broadway philosophers? Not this YA novelist.
Of course, for a novel like The Juliet Spell, a casual attitude wouldn’t work. When a young woman accidentally conjures the kid brother of William Shakespeare into her kitchen and ends up getting cast in Romeo and Juliet alongside him, this man from the past can’t just wander in the door and sit down. There have to be consequences. They have to be big, and unintended, just as conjuring him in the first place was unintended. In The Juliet Spell, the time stream starts to divert in ways it should not, even while the dream production goes forward and love begins to blossom.
But that’s fiction, not life.
In life, the mysterious touches us and moves on. For me, it’s enough to know that strange things can happen and, simple and quirky as they are, they can make good stories.
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Check out Doug’s musings and offerings at: www.DouglasRees.com.
You can find Majix: Notes from a Serious Teen Witch at: http://www.eharlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=21776
And The Juliet Spell at: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=24497