2 Thumbs Up for “11.22.63”

11.22.63“11.22.63” by Stephen King

Summary: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Recommendation: Yes (in fact, if I could, I would give this book a dozen stars)

Review:

Not since “Bag of Bones” have I enjoyed a Stephen King novel as much as I have this one. In fact, I would say that this one may just tie with “Bag of Bones” as my top favorite book.

Touted as an alternate history/time travel novel (which is a genre I love), for me this book was more about the characters that peopled it. Stephen King’s understanding of human nature is obvious in the way his characters slip into your mind and your life. When I had to break from reading the book, I still thought about the characters; wondering what they might be doing at that moment, as if they were living human beings instead of just fictional characters.

If you’re looking for constant thrills and adventure that keep you on edge until the end of the book, this is not the book for you. While it has thrilling and edgier moments, it also has a lot of pathos, romance, and relationship building. This is a book about people caught up in situations that they want to capture, change, examine, or build. It isn’t a book about car chases, shoot outs, or winning the race; although, there are enough chases, spying, secrets, and edge-of-your-seat moments to keep you enthralled.

Overall, though, this is a book about people. To me, the core of the book was about the characters and the travails that forged their humanity. It is the Stephen King writing that I fell in love with way back at the beginning of his career. This is the magic that that I’ve always admired him for—the magic of writing real-life characters that are at times more real than the people we interact with on a daily basis.

If I could, I would give Mr. King a huge hug to thank him for giving us another of his marvelously peopled, and lovingly executed books. The ending may be bittersweet, but the book contains enough life lessons and thought-provoking insights to keep someone like me rereading it for years to come.

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Psychopomp vs. Grim Reaper

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What’s the difference between a grim reaper and a psychopomp (other than the fact that psychopomp sounds much cooler; while grim reaper has become a Halloween and horror story cliche and an overused media trope)?

Both are spiritual entities that assist the soul to cross over to the afterlife; so, what really makes them different?

grim reapers:

  • actually take lives
  • are considered the personification of death or demons
  • escort souls to the afterlife, but are primarily associated with the underworld
  • are identified with Halloween and horror stories, so present themselves as frightening figures or demons
  • bring fear, regret, and despair to those they interact with

So, in brief, grim reapers are the personification of death and demons. They represents all the fears of the unknown that people still harbor about death, dying, and the afterlife.

psychopomps:

  • wait until the person has died
  • act as guides and escorts between planes
  • are identified with angels and demigods
  • can present themselves as friends or relatives of the dying person
  • bring comfort, solace, and hope to the dying

Briefly, psychopomps are angel-like beings. They represent all the hope, love, and spiritual comfort that people expect and hope for when they die.

A grim reaper is a much more grisly being than a psychopomp. In fact, the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse (Death) is depicted as a grim reaper. You can’t get much more grisly than that. Whereas Psychopomps, when depicted in human form, are usually shown as angels—gentle, kind, and with an ethereal glow about them. This is just one of the fundamental differences between a psychopomp and a grim reaper.

Reapers are, as their countenance depicts, there to reap your soul. However, they are not there to ease the soul’s hurt or turmoil during the transition. If anything, they may deliberately make the crossing as traumatic as possible. This is because it is their job to fulfill every fear that the transitioning soul has regarding death and dying.

However, when psychopomps come, they counter the soul’s fear and try to ease the trauma. Psychopomps attempt to show the soul that death is just a new beginning and not a fearsome or pain-filled event.

Neither option is wrong or right. In fact, both options are needed so that every soul can have a wide range of experiences. Some people embrace death and the act of dying because they’ve had nothing but positive experiences. So, perhaps they need a less-positive experience to understand and develop compassion for those who are more fearful of dying. Just as those who are ‘deathly’ afraid of dying may need several positive experiences before they begin to understand that the experience of dying isn’t always something to fear. It is simply another part of life. A moving beyond this reality by the spiritual part of you.

The real key to dying (besides not doing it), is to understand that the choice of guide (grim reaper or psychopomp) is up to you. You get to decide what type of death experience you will have. So, if you want something traumatic and eventful because you feel the need to learn some spiritual lesson, then (by all means) let the grim reaper be your escort. However, if what you want is something more tranquil and a little less gruesome, then call on that psychopomp. Either one will come when you ‘call.’ And either one will give you whatever type of experience you desire. Therefore, only you can decide whether your experience of death requires a grim reaper or a psychopomp.

So, which will it be?

DEATH – Why Does It Frighten Us So?

Death.

That word probably frightens people more than any other.

Why?

Because it represents the ‘great unknown.’ We know less about death than we do about outer space or the deep recesses of Earth’s oceans. After all, it’s not easy to explore a dimension or state of being that requires us to cease living. So, for most of us, death becomes the area that, like on maps of old, was marked with the words: ‘There be monsters here.’

Monsters. Demons. Angels.

 

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These are what we think of when we think about death, because that’s all we know, or at least suspect, based on the stories that we are told about the land of beyond. Of course, some people eschew the typical concept of death being a place or a continuation of some form of life. Instead, they see death as a black nothingness. Still others divide the realm of death into two states: one where demons and monsters abide, and another where angels and cherubs live.

Proof.

Of course, trying to prove if there is a type of life after the physical body dies isn’t easy to do. After all, how do you gather statistics and measurements when you have no physical form? It is just this conundrum that has plagued most of us who have died and returned. We have garnered little acceptance from the scientific community regarding our experiences simply because we lack the physical proof of what occurred. All we have is our memory of the events, and even those vary widely based on each person’s interpretation. For instance, for someone who is a strict Catholic, the experience may be interpreted through the filter of their Catholic iconography and tenets; while, someone who is an atheist may describe their experience using a filter of science or space aliens.

Some experiments have been conducted. They are usually of the sort wherein someone is forced into a chemically- or electronically-induced death, and then revived within the time limits deemed safe. While these experiments are done within the confines of labs and under the supervision of ‘specialists,’ the interpretation of what did or did not occur on the ‘other side’ (if indeed, the other side was even reached) is still up to the individual who died.

The specialists monitoring the physical side of the experiment can note data on the ‘traveler’s’ body—heart rate, brain waves, blood pressure, etc.—however, they are unable to experience what the traveler who died experienced. Scientists can site all types of speculation and theories to explain what may or may not have happened—low oxygen levels in the brain, random electrical pulses, or a bad interpretation of what was happening around the person who was ‘dead’—but without proof of whether or not the dead person actually traveled their suppositions are as bogus as their disdain of what the travelers experienced.

Been There.

Having made the roundtrip at least once in this lifetime, I suppose that until we devise some sort of carrier to ferry us (the physical us) into the realm of death and back, we will simply have to rely on our own beliefs and truths as to what awaits us when we die.

To that end, I have written my interpretation of my experiences with the hope that they help people overcome some of their fear of Death. Death isn’t anything to fear. It’s merely another step along life’s path.

 

Coming This Fall

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A lot has changed since I last announced that I was writing a paranormal romance. I had the story all planned out; unfortunately, once I got into it, the characters had a whole ‘nother idea. In fact, the characters pretty much wrote the whole thing for me. Now, it’s just up to me to get everything finalized. (You know, edited, proofed, rewritten…all that ‘fun’ production stuff ; )

Anyway, here’s the synopsis for “The Past Rekindled,” the first book in my paranormal romance series about Terra McGinley—techwriting guru by day and tran’zr by night.

Synopsis:

I’m Terra McGinley…technical writer and tran’zr (short for transitioner to the afterlife). With Death out to get me, I don’t know what to do or who to trust.

My new tran’zr partner is tall, dark, handsome, and completely annoying. While he’s checking the rule books and noting every little infraction, I’m helping people move on–even if it means bending those rules a bit.

In the real world, I’m stuck working with my high school crush. Although he hurt and betrayed me back then, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if we had gotten together. Is it too late, or should I take the risk?

Short Blurb:

Finding love is the last thing on Terra McGinley’s mind as she divides her time between writing how-to procedures and escorting visitors to the astral plane. But when one of her charges contacts Terra and her new partner for help, they encounter Death, who has his own plans for Terra. Now she must decide who she can trust with her life and her heart – past love or new partner?

One of the issues I haven’t yet worked out is whether to use my current pen name – TA Sullivan; or my real name – Tricia Sullivan. There’s a whole controversy over using different pen names for different genres. Some say it’s better because it helps your audiences identify with you for a specific type of book. However, there’s a whole other group that believes once you have your brand established with a name you should stick with that.

I’m not sure which school of thought I identify with; however, I do know that I have a completely different issue that I keep tripping over. There is already an established author with the name Tricia Sullivan. (In fact, she and I were nearly collaborators on my first book–a different story.) I’m not sure if the duplication of names would be to her benefit/detriment or mine. So, in keeping with my current indecisiveness, my wonderful book cover designers have allowed me to put both drafts out here for your perusal. Let me know what you think…do you like it, hate it, have no opinion about it?

To say I’m excited is an understatement. But then, every time I get one of my books done I’m excited. Each book is a labor of love, because I love the book, but I also love my readers. So, I want each reader to love my creations as much as I do (an impossible dream…but then again, who knows. And that’s why I #keepwriting. ; )

 

 

 

 

Immortal Death

Choices Cover 03I watched an episode of Through the Wormhole the other night. It was about different types of scientists who were (desperately) working toward finding a way to make people immortal. Some biologists were busy studying creatures that had lifespans that lasted hundreds of years; while other bio-specialists were busy mucking around with DNA and genomes in an attempt to ensure that all future children would be ‘perfect’ (and who defines what is perfect?). Still other scientists were busy seeking a way to create a non-biological or only partial biological body that could house our brains/souls so that we would never have to worry about sickness or death again.

Yet, no one ever explained why this is so important. Why would someone want to live forever? Are most people so afraid of dying that they would prefer becoming some sort of robot? Unfortunately, whenever I think of a world full of immortal people, I become very frightened. To me, it would be a curse to have to live for hundreds of years. People rarely change. They form opinions, habits, preconceptions, and ideologies and seldom do they allow these ingrained mindsets to shift. So, do you really want to see what happens to the world when someone like Hitler (or Trump), who is afraid of everyone and everything, lives forever?

And if that thought doesn’t scare you, how about all the overcrowding and lack of natural resources that would occur when people stop dying? Talk about a dystopian world. Nothing but blighted cities, with polluted air too foul to breathe, no viable drinking water, and food…yeah, let’s all take our protein pill.

Rather than wasting our time and resources on trying to make people immortal, I think we would do better as a species to spend some time trying to help planet Earth cope with the load of humans she already carries. I also think we should spend more time recognizing and coping with the fact that death is real. It’s not going away and it’s not something to be feared. Death isn’t the end of everything. It isn’t a permanent ‘dirt nap’ or a ‘deep dark hole of nothingness.’ It is simply the end of one physical existence and the continuation of life. Your sentience, the awareness that comprises your true being isn’t limited by the container you call your body. That is simply a conveyance, a method of operating and participating in the physical world.

Just because one body fails doesn’t mean your life is over. Your life as Sam or Jessica is over, yes, but you pick another life, another set of parents, another body, and you start again. Now, you can try out some other options. Maybe as Sam/Jessica you didn’t like the way things worked out in terms of your romantic life. Okay, now as Joe/Abby you can try some different options and see if those romances work out the way you want them to.

But the best part is that when you pick up this new body, you also lose many of the old preconceptions and prejudices that you had. It’s a whole new fresh start. Talk about a science lab. Physical life is just one big classroom where you can study biology, sociology, psychology, mathematics, physics, zoology and every other type of science there is. And if science isn’t your thing, then you can focus on music, art, drama, or medicine.

So, instead of trying to be immortal, maybe we should think about what we want to do next. After all, death is just another step in that long road we call life. It’s nothing to be afraid of, I know…I’ve been to the other side, and I’ve come back. It’s different, but different doesn’t have to be scary.  Psychopomp 3D - DLS - 8pxls - 2

Still True Today

I’ve been reading some books (old and new) on quantum physics and quantum mechanics, and I was fascinated by the discussions regarding probability waves. Back in the late 1700’s a scientist named Thomas Young (1773-1829) conducted an experiment, that was soon repeated by other physicists and is even now repeated in schools as a training tool.

The experiment goes like this:

Youngsexperiment

He created a black box that had a back wall of light-sensitive materials and contained just two small holes at the front to allow light in. He removed the covering over the two small holes and let the light go into the box. Then, when he later opened the box, he saw that instead of the two bars that he was expecting when the light entered the two holes, there were 4. Curious, he increased the holes to 3. Instead of getting six bars, though, he found that he had 5 bars. Even more curious, he made 4 holes, but this time the number of bars actually decreased. His conclusion was that the light traveled in waves and the waves interfered with each other, thus creating the “irregular” patterns of light bars in his results.

This conclusion held for many decades. Scientists would draw wave patterns to demonstrate how they interfered with one another, and used mathematics to “prove” this conclusion. Then, other physicists came along that questioned this wave theory. After all, they had calculations to show that light wasn’t a wave, it was a particle. Therefore, the interference patterns shouldn’t be occurring the way everyone assumed.

To test their theory of particles, they devised a way to allow a single photon through the hole and into the black box. To determine that just one photon got through, they set up monitors on the back side of each pin hole. That way, they would know that only one photon was being released and which hole it was going through. This was because they deduced that if one photon went through at a time, then there was no way it could interfere with itself, and that would mean that there would be no interference patterns, thereby disproving the waves theory and proving that light (and energy) traveled as particles (see Figure 2).

2-slotphotonmonitor

What they discovered was that the photon seemed to travel in a wave-like pattern until it passed the monitor. Once detected, the photon traveled as a particle until colliding with the back wall. This wave-to-particle motion became known as probability waves. That is, photons (and all sub-atomic and atomic particles—all energy) create waves of probabilities until a determination is made.

Once that determination is made, they select one of the probabilities and make it a reality. If the photon is detected, it selects the probability of this reality and the path on which it was detected. If the photon is not detected, then it is free to select this reality or any other. So, until a choice is made, all possibilities exist. However, even though a decision is made, the other possibilities don’t just go away, they also become reality, just not in our world.

Can you understand why I find this so fascinating? Basically, quantum physics is expressing the philosophy of choice (albeit in a manner more acceptable to those who are more logic and mathematically based).

For example, let’s go back to the photon. We release a photon and it’s traveling in a wave-like way. We decide to detect it, so now it exists in our reality, but the other wave (the one not being detected) doesn’t just fade away, after all, energy doesn’t disappear, it merely takes on another form. (Energy is a constant.) Instead, the remaining wave(s) simply enters a reality where the photon wasn’t detected. By following this idea, we see a more balanced reality, a more balanced world. It also fits with the basic principal of an equal, and opposite reaction. If we chose not to detect the photon, then the photon would no longer exist in our reality, but would, instead, be in a reality where it was detected.

So, every time you make a choice, that unselected choice doesn’t simply fade away, it becomes a separate bubble of reality, a separate and opposing energy loop. It may only last for a moment, or it may last for many years, creating its own branches and its own parallel realities, it all depends on the size of the choice. If the choice is something small with little impact on your life and your world, then the bubble will most likely be small and may resolve itself quickly, returning back to the originator of the probability wave (you). On the other hand, if it’s something large, with a lot of impact on your life, then it may last decades (perhaps even the entire life).

Let’s say you decide to watch a televised sitcom instead of reading a book one night. That’s not a big choice, and may have very little impact on your life. Therefore, this little bubble wherein you read your book instead of watching the sitcom, may only last for the night, or for a couple of days, before merging back into your reality. Now let’s say that your fiancé just asked you to marry him. That’s a choice that will make a large impact on your life. In this case, whichever choice you don’t take, will most likely endure throughout the entire life of the alternate you.

If you decide to marry, then your alternate is going to say no. This alternate life then will be far different than the one you will be living, and the two may not merge until one or both of you die.

Because of the impact of this decision, each alternate reality will continue to create other alternates with the various decisions that come up. The reality where you married may bring choices of kids or no kids, career choices, and others, while the reality where you didn’t marry, may bring other marriage proposals, other opportunities perhaps to travel, or for career. Each of these will result in a large impact, which will result in even more alternates.

Whew, confusing isn’t it, trying to imagine all those realities? But as you try to wrap your mind around it, can you see how this fits with the concept of imbalance seeking to restore itself to balance?

The concept of imbalance seeking to become balanced isn’t new, and it isn’t just from the philosophy of choice. Scientists have talked about it for a long time, and this simply adds another rock to the foundation of its truth.

If a choice results in a probability wave containing two options, and only one is selected, then if that second option simply fades away, it would make our world very imbalanced. But, if another reality were created in which that option also became a reality (the rules of duality applying here), then that would create a balance between both of our worlds/realities. And when the two realities merged back together, that would simply consolidate the balance into one source again.

According to both science and philosophy, no energy is lost, no decision is left unexperienced, because all possibilities exist Somewhere.

It’s fascinating reading some of these books on quantum physics and realizing just how much they echo some of the more current philosophies and metaphysical ideas of our times.

 

Where is Love?

wave washed heart and pink shovel_4500Where has the romantic gone?

How did she become lost?

Where is the lonely little girl who constantly poured her soul

Into a few choice words—laying bare her life, her heart, and her mind?

I have searched everywhere, yet she remains lost.

I see a form; it could be her.

Instead I am confronted with some glowering old woman

Whose sour disposition seeps forth from every seam of her face,

and every pore of her skin.

Like the odor of spoiled meat, it surrounds her in a miasma,

full of despair and dislike.

When she sees me, she grabs my sleeve

and demands querulously, “Where is love? Where has it gone?”

“I was a young woman once—in love with life and filled with joy.

Now, here I am dressed in these rags. My hair is coarse and my

face is wrinkled. I do not understand. How did I come to be this way?”

Her tears follow the runnels of her face

until they tumble free and splash against her shawl.

Her claw-like fingers still grip my sleeve

and I find myself patting her age-speckled hand.

Love is so fleeting, so swiftly fading.

With its departure do we lose our youth,

our beauty and our way.

Feeling her pain, I turn her toward the light.

Wiping away her tears, I softly explain

that love is there, in front of her.

For within the light all is joy,

and within the light all is music,

and within the light everything is love.

With a look of awe, she releases me

and reaches toward the light.

As she shuffles forward, her countenance changes.

Her face grows smoother, and her back straighter,

and as the glow surrounds her, somewhere deep

within myself I feel the tones of love resound.