Monday, March 12, 2018

Writing the paranormal

by Rain Trueax

the supernatural world in a book

After having written novels for many years, the first time the paranormal crept into one was in 2002, for a book that I had no intention of even submitting for publication-- at least at that time. It was with baby steps and some trepidation that I dipped my toe into the world of the supernatural. My hesitancy came from requiring that I learn about parts of life on earth, which might be real and definitely would be scary if they were. I still regard it as something to approach with respect and care, which is why I put the break here for those who are not interested or might be reluctant to approach the supernatural world through a different lens-- that of the paranormal romance.
Sky Daughter is a contemporary story of a young woman, having suffered great losses, who is returning to her grandfather's Idaho mountain. Maggie is looking for sanctuary. Instead, she finds a stranger, who might be dangerous. More threatening to her sense of reality is discovering her deceased grandmother considered herself to be a witch. At the same time, she instinctively comes to realize-- something unearthly is living on the mountain. Maggie will need all the help she can find to defeat it. Some of that power will come from a book her grandmother left for her, a book she is at first hesitant to even read.

When I began writing the story, I had a choice to make. Should the spiritual entity be a delusion or an actual monster? I decided at the same time the heroine figured it out.

Back then, my reluctance to have monsters be real came from concern that if I was writing about evil beings, might I draw them to me. (How does Stephen King do it without that concern? This might happen through needed research. For Sky Daughter, I read books claiming to be true experiences by those who had had scary encounters with the other side. If I used the names of demonic powers (names do have power) might that draw something evil to me? I am one of those who isn't sure what all might be out there (dang that research). 

There have been more paranormals since Sky Daughter, although they aren't all I write. One such series, Diablo Canyon, began with a dream. I had lost a beloved cat and that night, I asked for a dream to tell me if reincarnation was true. The dream didn't tell me whether my cat might return to me, but it was about reincarnation and had a powerful message about reincarnation and soul mates. I had to write the message as a novella, which led to two more (all available without the sex as novellas or with as Diablo Canyon).

For those books, I found my monsters in Native American myths. With different names, there are many similarities in the descriptions tribes had for monsters that were many hundreds of miles apart. Of course, we also have the monsters from the Old World. So far *fingers crossed & knock on wood* I haven't felt any were drawn to me, and I am continuing to write about them, as well as how to overcome them, when a story requires the other side to become a real threat.
Besides concern about learning too much about the supernatural world, there is another reason a writer might not want to write about such speculation, it involves readers getting hold of the book and being made irate when it doesn't fit their religious doctrine. 

In one of my historicals, Arizona Dawn, a reader gave the book one star, a scathing review, and said she threw it away because it had necromancy in it. By my understanding, it did not, but then I am guessing she didn't know what necromancy actually was (there are a lot of scary definitions for it out there). This is a pretty good look at it in culture and literature [10 Things you probably didn't know about necromancy]

In my book, what my upset reader probably saw as evil was when a psychic had the characters form a circle (sounds like seance but wasn't actually) and ask for wisdom regarding a problem and that the wisdom that requested would only come through white light protection and from good. There was no tapping of a glass or physical apparition. There was no request the dead actually appear but only that wisdom and insights would be granted.

Many who pray are also requesting wisdom from beyond. We just heard one example from Oprah Winfrey who said she'd only run for the Presidency if she got a firm word from God. Now hearing from God is less of a concern for those fearing necromancy. It is though an answer from the other side, and who can be sure from where that answer would come.

Today, there are psychics, who hold events, where they tell some of those in attendance that their loved one is there to give them comfort and advice. I had a friend some years back, who attended one of those events. She said she saw more entities there than the ones the psychic called upon. Many people believe finding a feather, penny or seeing a bird is an encouragement from someone on that other side. Years back a woman told me her husband gave her advice-- from the other side.

I've had friends describe when their spiritualist church asked for entities to come and show themselves through physical action-- like picking something up. She was thrilled at what happened. I'd not personally want to be in such a church with a trumpet floating through the air, but I don't disbelieve what she saw-- might wonder from where it came.

Still, given the possible problems, why write about the supernatural and mysticism, when you might draw to you bad things or lose readers?

Here's one reason-- people have talked about life's mysteries around campfires since the discovery of fire. It is in our human DNA to ponder what we cannot see. I put the supernatural into books to explore and open minds, including my own, to what might be. In my books, there is magick (and that is the correct spelling when it's not a trick) and how to deal with it in a way that is empowering and not destructive. For me, writing about the paranormal is about not letting fear control me and being open to what is out there with some caveats (more on them below).

While I personally have never seen a ghost, I have friends who have described their experiences. I am not a seer into the future but again have those who have experienced deja vu, where their dreams had come true without them asking for a prediction. I have friends who claim to have seen demons and described them. 

My own supernatural experiences don't go that way, although my dreams are sometimes amazing for the imagery and how they fit my life or a book. As a child, I was later told I had an imaginary playmate, who I named. Somewhere along the line, I quit seeing him-- or is he a spirit guide yet today? As a young person, I had a visual image of how I had died in an earlier life-- or had that come from a movie?

With curiosity about reincarnation, in the '90s, I read many books about how it worked. In 1998, I spent a summer doing regressions, guided meditations claiming to take a person back to past lives they may have lived. In the fall of that year I went to a hypnotherapist as a conclusion to the research. During those months, I retrieved stories of possible lives-- not any happy ones, no queens or famous people. Some were pretty detailed with imagery I can still see. But then I am a writer, might I have created them out of my imagination?

My interest in the other side, beginning in my twenties, led to involvement in organized religion. My husband and I were adult converts to Catholicism and had our children baptized Catholics. Some years later, we joined an Evangelical church in our country community and were involved in Biblical fundamentalism. When those years came to an end, I was curious about mysticism, which led to visiting a few psychics, attending some Mind Body and Soul conventions, and a lot of reading. I bought my own decks of Tarot cards and learned to do readings. However, Tarot works, subconscious or other, I've found it sometimes even helps with a book-- although I almost never use the cards these days. During those exploring years, I also got interested in astrology for how it might impact a life through the planets. While it can seem pretty accurate for who we are born to be, I don't follow horoscopes or any of that today.

When I write of the supernatural world, it is with caveats. I use my personal belief that life is mystery. I am fascinated by the complexity and linking of the natural and supernatural world. I believe there is good and evil out there, which most of us don't see, but we might feel. My heroines or heroes, when they have spiritual powers, were born with them. My villains frequently have tried to take shortcuts to spiritual power for ill purposes. The cost of that can be very high. Being open is good but so is being wary. 

Because of my own writing (the newest paranormal, Something Waits, involves witches, gnomes and shapeshifters as well as skinwalkers), I wanted to write about this topic. In writing about it, I realized I have the supernatural only in some of my Arizona books-- not the Oregon ones. Maybe it relates to how I see Arizona as mystical due to its past with the prehistoric dwellings and its tribes with rich spiritual traditions. I am a believer that land itself has powers to draw to it good or bad and it's often why churches are put on locations that earlier peoples regarded as sacred. We often sense what we cannot see.

Through my life, I have been curious, not afraid to explore and sometimes delve into what I don't know. I have trusted that wanting it to be for good is a protection. My spiritual life has proven to be cyclical or maybe in a spiral as changes have come along with new opportunities to learn. Today, I see myself as more of a spiritual voyeur, one who is curious, interested in what others experience but mostly from the outside-- a bit of a writer's life.

Something Waits --fourth in the Hemstreet Witches series-- fifth due in June

I haven't yet but am thinking of forming a group at Facebook that would be called: Rain Trueax - Behind the Words. If you find what is behind the stories to be of interest, very little of this would relate to the supernatural (this would be open to other writers also and be a closed group), go to and sign up for my newsletter. I will send out info there about that group-- if it happens :). 


  1. Rain, I have been interested in the paranormal for many years. I have seen ghosts, have experienced the reassurance of an angel, and other things of which your posts writes. There are more things in heaven and earth than we can ever know.

  2. I agree, Caroline. The ones I know who see the 'other' side aren't always ones into New Age. It's just that they're open to what is there maybe. I enjoy hearing people's stories like yours

  3. Fascinating. I have a friend who is married to an American Indian and they have been very involved with the tribe. She has written two fictional books based on two of the many myths. But are they myths? It's an interesting look at something different. I would say I never believed in such things until I moved into my present house. Since then too many things have happened, but it's not something that I want to explore. You are by far braver than I would ever be.

  4. Well, I am a voyeur with it in that I don't go asking for the unseen to appear to me and rely on stories from others and what I read. The interesting thing about the Native American myths (if they are) is their similarity to monster stories around the world. There are certain 'types' of monsters that seem the same beings but even continents apart. It does make me wonder. The land seems to have certain things that are part of it, but what is it? Some of what we believe is conditioned by what is okay to believe in our culture :)

  5. Rain, I saw in your article how you wondered if the monsters would be drawn to you as you delved into their world and I must say that, a writer's mind is filled with whatever they are writing about, so yeah, the monsters are going to be drawn to you only because you're looking for them. The thing is, you are in control of those monsters.

    Evil is real. When I was writing my paranormal trilogy, one of the villains was a witch and I had to research witches and spells. I read passages about what witches in real life do and it not only scared me, it made me sick. I had to quit reading that particular book about people in real life practicing black witchcraft. So, I get what you mean about those monsters.

    Paranormal stories are fun to write because the author is free to summon up the imagination and create whatever they please as long as it can be made credible to the reader.

    Native American beliefs certainly lend themselves well to a paranormal story. I love those kinds of stories.

    I enjoyed this blog, Rain. I wish you all the best.

  6. Thank you, Sarah. Definitely black magick is scary. In my books, the ones practicing it are the villains. They often don't have power but draw on it from the dark side. Because it's my paranormals, I get to make the rules. Jokingly I've said too bad we can't in real life. The truth is, in real life, I'd not want to take that level of responsibility.


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