I Can’t Help Myself

May 28, 2010

It’s not Eternal Ones related, but I was on the Today Show yesterday, talking about my very first book, Kiki Strike. Check out the video!

And a big thanks to all of the people I met at BEA yesterday! I hope you all enjoy The Eternal Ones!


(Above: Somewhere there’s a five-year-old who can solve this.)

I often find myself thinking about a kid I knew in grade school. Outside of PE, he wasn’t at all remarkable. In fact, I can’t remember ever having another class with him (though I must have had many–we lived in a small town with a small elementary school). On Fridays, our PE coach stopped forcing us to do things like square dance (oh, the horror!) and let us enjoy free play. John P. would put on the only record he owned  (Another One Bites the Dust by Queen) and make his way to the gymnastics mat.

Before most of us were able to complete a good somersault, John could perform the most amazing stunts I’d ever seen. Even in the first grade, he could execute perfect front flips, back flips, twists, and walkovers. I used to sit on the floor and watch in complete awe. He was totally fearless, and I was certain he’d be in the Olympics one day.

Now here’s the thing. I don’t know much about John (he disappeared from my life sometime before high school and I have no idea where he is today), but from what I’ve been told, he never had a minute of training. Not ONE. No one ever said, here’s how you can handspring across a gym floor without killing yourself or others. John just knew. One day he arrived in gym class and the show began.

When I first read about reincarnation in the fourth or fifth grade, I began to suspect that John had once been a member of a traveling circus.

I’ve heard a lot of people try to explain how some kids know how to do things before they’ve been taught. (Mozart being the most obvious example. He was composing music at the age of five.) But having seen a true child prodigy in action, all the explanations seem ridiculous. If there’s a logical reason John could do what he did, I certainly haven’t found it yet.

Mom? Is That You?

May 24, 2010

I’ve noticed that my brand new blog has quite a few readers today. I’m hoping a few of you may not be related to me! So who are you? (I’d really love to know.) And what do you want from me? (Have questions? I’ll answer them. Complaints? I’ll pretend to listen politely. Lavish praise? Oh please have lavish praise. I adore lavish praise.)

Why Reincarnation?

May 23, 2010

The question I’m asked most frequently these days is, “Why did you write about reincarnation?” It’s a subject that first captured my attention back when I was in grade school. At that time, I thought it explained oh so much. (Like why I was so strange. And why my parents sometimes looked at me as if I’d recently arrived from another planet.) And of course its always nice to imagine that you might have been someone more “interesting” in previous existence.  Like Amelia Earhart or Miley Cyrus. (heh)

(The other question I’m always asked is, “Do you believe?” Here’s my answer. I like to keep an open mind. And as I said, I find the subject extremely interesting. Believing is something very, very different.)

It was only a few years back that I began thinking of reincarnation as a possible subject for a novel. That’s when I came across the book Old Souls by journalist Tom Shroder. (Highly recommended.) The book follows Dr. Ian Stevenson (note the nod to the name in my book), the western world’s foremost expert on the subject of reincarnation. Once head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, Dr. Stevenson devoted four decades of his life to the scientific study of reincarnation. And some of the things he found . . . let’s just say they make a girl think.

Dr. Stevenson was fascinated by the stories children sometimes tell of “other lives.” (Need an example? Click here.) In our culture, these stories are often dismissed as flights of fancy. Stevenson wondered if there might be another explanation. He traveled around the world collecting the stories and studying the children who told them. Some of his most interesting case studies were brought together in the book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. (So named because, while he found a great deal of evidence, Stevenson never believed he’d found the “smoking gun.”) Here’s a little taste, taken from Wikipedia:

One boy in Beirut described being a 25-year-old mechanic who died after being hit by a speeding car on a beach road. Witnesses said the boy gave the name of the driver, as well as the names of his sisters, parents, and cousins, and the location of the crash. The details matched the life of a man who had died years before the child was born, and who was apparently unconnected to the child’s family. In such cases, Stevenson sought alternative explanations—that the child had discovered the information in a normal way, that the witnesses were lying to him or to themselves, or that the case boiled down to coincidence  . . . in scores of cases, no alternative explanation seemed to suffice.

I’m not sure I’d recommend Dr. Stevenson’s book unless you’re really interested in reincarnation. It is quite dry, as scientific studies should be. But . . . wow.

I just moved into a new apartment. It’s an 1852 townhouse in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. I love everything about it. Even the ghost.

On at least three occasions, I have been lying on my bed with my sixteen-month-old daughter, trying to convince her to go to sleep, when something rather unsettling has happened. My daughter sits bolt upright, points to an empty corner of the room and begins laughing hysterically. The first time it happened, I bolted. (Yes, I remembered to take the kid with me.) The second time, I watched a little longer, only to get completely freaked out . . . and bolt. (My heroines are always much braver than I.) Last night, I didn’t budge. And I swear, there had to be someone in that corner making the baby laugh. (Oh please, PLEASE don’t let it be a dead clown.)

As ghosts go, this one seems pretty pleasant. I’ve had more than one run-in with our not-so-solid friends, and I think I might be able to get used to sharing my house with this guy. (At least I think it’s a guy.)

And for the record, I’m only a LITTLE BIT nuts.

Come Say Hi at BEA

May 21, 2010

If you’re going to be in New York for the show, stop by and say hi! I’ll be at the Penguin booth from 2:30 to 3:30 on May 27th!

I came across the poster shown above just the other day. It’s an artist’s view of Gramercy Park in Manhattan, and it was part of a subway ad campaign a while back. I really wish I had found the image while I was writing The Eternal Ones, because it does a great job of capturing my feelings about the park. (Though I can’t quite understand the kitty. Anyone know what that’s about?)

I have a feeling that the artist intended the park to look like a sunny, green oasis in the center of the city. But it comes off as a wee bit sinister, wouldn’t you say? Almost as if it were luring unsuspecting visitors into a trap. (Once again, the kitty doesn’t help.)

For those of you unfamiliar with New York City, Gramercy Park is one of the only private gardens in town. It’s circled by a tall, wrought-iron gate, and in the very center of the greenery is a statue of a man whose brother killed Abraham Lincoln. But the really creepy part? It’s always locked, and there’s almost never anyone inside. I’ve lived in New York for almost 20 years. I’ve never known anyone with a key to Gramercy Park. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone strolling the garden’s paths.

The mansions surrounding the park only add to the ambiance. Years ago, I attended a memorial service at the National Arts Club. The experience made such an impression that I kept the building in the back of my mind for over a decade, waiting for a chance to use it. Some readers may have noticed a few similarities between the National Arts Club building and the mansion that houses the Ouroboros Society. Let’s just say that it’s not a coincidence.

I hope I haven’t scared you away. Next time you’re in New York, you really should pay a visit. Lost City did an excellent guide to the Gramercy Park neighborhood. Check it out here.