The Past Rekindled

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Escorting the Dead

 ellisnelson

AN INTERVIEW WITH TA SULLIVANpsychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison (1947). In it, the ghost of a sea captain comes back for Lucy when she’s ready to pass. I always loved that he came back for her when it was time. Many of us will have heard stories about people getting close to death who see their loved ones, or sometimes angels. Beautiful, satisfying stories. But what if they’re not stories? What if that’s precisely what happens for many of us?

I recently finished “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp” by TA Sullivan. It’s a fascinating read about her experience as a death escort for the recently departed. As a child she was sensitive, but it wasn’t until she had her own near-death experience (NDE) that her life took a turn and she started to train as a guide for the dead.

Please welcome author and photographer, TA Sullivan. Thank you for agreeing to talk about what is a difficult subject for many.

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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?

Sorry…no kooky cats

I got lost in the wilds of YouTube the other day. It’s a crazy place out there. Lots of strangeness, craziness, and things that should be none-of-your-bizness but people put it out there for the world at large to see, anyway.

When I finally wandered back to my own little corner of the world, hours (nearly a whole day) had passed. And yet nothing had been accomplished (although, I did admire several hilarious cat videos). It’s amazing how such small bits of no-purpose videos can suck you in.

At first, I was glad to simply escape with my life and my sanity. But after a little thought (very little, actually), I decided that maybe I should throw some of my own hey-look-I’m-on-YouTube-too videos out there. Unfortunately, without any crazy cats or other cute animals (well…except for my husband, who is adorable and fluffy) I didn’t know what I could share.

Then my BFF reminded me that I have books. Books that I’m actually trying to encourage people to buy. “…but what has that got to do with crazy old lady or kooky cat videos?” I asked her. Oddly enough, it seems that you can create videos even if all you have is words. Isn’t that something? Who would have thought it?

So, here it is…my own attempt at a YouTube video (I promise, next time I’ll find a crazy old lady or a kooky cat ; )

 

 

Every Author Needs an Editor…not just independents

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.

I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)

As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.

My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor:  Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.

So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).

Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.

(Coming soon:  “The Globe of Souls”  Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)GOS Front Cover - 6x9 - 150 PPI

 

 

 

Escorting the Dead…a reboot

escortingcoverI updated some of the material.

I added some bonus material.

I reformatted the interior.

And I redesigned the cover in anticipation of the companion book, “More from the Masters,” which is due to come out this fall.

So, the rebooted version is available in ebook! (I’m still waiting for CreateSpace to
approve the paperback version.)

Escorting the Dead from Amazon.com

Oooooh, More Kudos

Ooooh, more positive reviews. I just love hearing from the folks who have read my books. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or negative review—though I prefer the positive responses—it’s just nice to get feedback. After all, how can I improve my writing if people don’t tell me what does or doesn’t work for them? So, thank you all for your comments, and please, keep ‘em coming.

On dreams and dream symbolsOnDreamsCover_Smashwords_withtext

From Mr. W:

I’ve tried a lot of different ways to interpret the dreams I have, and this book seems the best. A lot of other sources don’t have the symbols or objects that were in my dreams, but this book does. It’s been really helpful.

From Ms. T:

This is one of the more interesting and (I think) accurate dream dictionaries in a long time. I found the introductory section about the different stages of dreams very fascinating. I’ve been using it now for a while to help interpret my dreams and it’s been spot on. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to know what their dreams are about.

Escorting the Dead: My Life as
a Psychopomp
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From Mr. A:

This book was great! I’ve been working with hospice patients for several years, and the information in this book has helped me tremendously. Several of my patients even requested that I read the book to them, and I was amazed at how it seemed to ease their fears of what awaited them. Very helpful and very hopeful.

From Ms. S:

I especially loved all the examples that the author included. They helped make the information more personal and definitely added pathos to the experiences. I also appreciated the bits of humour that the author used to express his/herself.

I do wish the book had been longer; I was disappointed to have it end, and do hope that there is a second volume with more examples and more quotes from the Masters.