27 April, 2009

What "Finding Emmaus" Is All About

“Finding Emmaus”, book one of The Lodestarre series, is a complex, dark historic fantasy about love and loss, obsession and the abuse of power, human frailties and a determination to live a life that matters.

The psychiatric community has confused Empathic personality traits with mental illness with tragic results, leading two Empaths, living three hundred years apart, on personal journeys to learn the true nature of Empathy. Transcending time and death to right a centuries-old wrong, they inadvertently uncover a multi-billion dollar conspiracy in which millions of Americans are being misdiagnosed and drugged for no other reason than the enormous income they generate.

Francis Nettleton, 17th century Empath, grew into adulthood believing himself to be insane. Eminently moral but the product of a society steeped in myths and misconceptions, he makes some less-than-prudent decisions which set in motion a murder for which he cannot forgive himself, a murder which will reverberate through four families and three centuries.

Three hundred years later, enter Katherine Spencer. After years of being hospitalized and drugged, she is given a rare opportunity: a second chance at life. At fifty-four, after being told that, rather than being insane, she’s more than likely Empathic, she sets out to find Francis and the legendary Lodestarre, both 300 years gone, in the hopes she can finally learn to live.

In the process of finding herself and mastering her newly-discovered abilities, Katherine unwittingly becomes the champion for the voiceless millions who are being victimized by a corporate machine of such omnipotent political power that she literally puts her life on the line when she challenges the all-but-unstoppable pharmaceutical industry, America’s most powerful and affluent lobby.

Then, into Katherine’s life comes Sally Cavanaugh, powerful - though novice - Empath with a secret infatuation which eventually transforms into a full-blown obsession. Overshadowing her ability to discern right from wrong, this obsession just might jeopardize every good thing in her life and everyone else’s - just to get what she wants.

In Wiccan tradition, there is the Book of Shadows; in Christianity, the Bible; even the secular world has its encyclopedias. But for Empaths, there was nothing of the sort until Francis Nettleton sacrificed everything and made it his life’s mission to create one authoritative body of knowledge, one central set of guiding principles - and he named it The Lodestarre. This manuscript is nothing less than the lifelong, selfless passion of one man’s profound desire to put an end to the relentless persecution and needless suffering of anyone who did not - or could not - fit the societal mold.

“Finding Emmaus” is an intricate, meticulously-researched, deeply disturbing, suspenseful tale of love and sacrifice, brutality and greed, courage and politics and madness and faith. It is a story with a huge cast of characters who will keep you guessing what will happen, what they will do and what choices they will make from one minute to the next as they weave in and out of the story and each others’ lives.

Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

15 April, 2009

Inspiration, Alan Rickman Style

Part-way into writing “Finding Emmaus”, I came across an Alan Rickman interview on YouTube. The topic was “Snow Cake”, a very moving film which I adore.

The interviewer (whom I cannot remember) had asked Mr. Rickman a question about finding a balance between sorrow and humor in a movie such as this, which intertwines several stories simultaneously, all of which are profoundly sad. Mr. Rickman’s response was, “All good writing has humor in it.”

Naturally, my brain leapt directly into its databanks, searching the already-written portions of my book for instances of humor, in fear that my readers might, after turning the final page, sink into months of depression, wishing they’d never heard of a bookstore. But then he said something which really blew me away. I mean really. The long-range effect of his next two words - yes, just two words, nine letters - was a permanent shift in the way I write.

He said, “Even Ibsen.”

Several things happened in rapid succession:

The camera never left Mr. Rickman’s face, so I never actually witnessed the interviewer’s reaction to those words. However, based on Mr. Rickman’s subsequent reaction, I got the distinct impression those two words went completely over the interviewer’s head. Not only didn’t he see it coming, he never saw it as it flew on by and departed.

Meanwhile, I was thinking, “Ibsen? Humor?? Hmmm. Hmmm? Nah…” I remember Ibsen from school and I don’t recall a whole lot of giggling in the classroom.

Then I thought, “Well, maybe he was joking.” Except he didn’t look like he was. So then I thought, “OK, this is an educated man, probably well-read, maybe there’s another Ibsen I’m not aware of.”

So I Googled the name and of course I came up with the one and only. I got my hands on copies of “A Doll’s House”, “An Enemy of the People” and “Ghosts”, bound and determined to find the humor that Mr. Rickman, a man I very much respect and admire, had said would be there.

All this happened right about the same time “Creditors” opened in London - a play Mr. Rickman was directing. In the hopes that I’d see it, I decided I needed to read that play as well, just so I’d know what to expect once I got to the theater. I’d read lots of reviews, most of them good, all of them claiming this play to be ‘darkly comic’.

So there I was, pouring through Ibsen and Strindberg, becoming increasingly agitated as the pages went by. Something was wrong. I wasn’t laughing. But I kept reading. I’m sorry, it wasn’t funny to me, just pathetic. I never even cracked a smile.

And then my dream was realized, I made it to London and got to see “Creditors”. And I LOVED IT! Not only did I smile, I roared.

And so I was forced to come to a very sad conclusion: obviously something is missing in me, some internal mechanism which would otherwise allow me to comprehend and appreciate a play with the same depth of emotion with which I understand the rolling narrative of the novel. Must be a some defect in my DNA. I’m missing that gene. Just as some folks will never wiggle their ears and others will never roll up their tongues to resemble a bakery pastry, I just don’t read plays right (*sigh*).

But I also get to live with something else, something I will cherish and hold dear for the rest of my life. Those two words, “Even Ibsen”, inspired me to think deeply about what I write, about what is vitally important in my stories. Life, even in its most profoundly tragic moments, gives us a break - as in the way we humans will fondly recount an amusing story about a recently-lost loved one, even at a funeral.

Mr. Rickman’s words changed the way I write, but more than that, they forever altered the way I observe when I read.

Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to thank him in person.

Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

14 April, 2009

Seeing Is Part Of Believing - Musings of an Author

One of the things I went out of my way to avoid while I was writing "Finding Emmaus" was physical descriptions of my characters. With few exceptions, I kept them very superficial:
- Frank is tall and, at 60-something years old, has grey hair
- Hannah Moreland is petite and hyperactive, much like an arachnid
- Alice Bond is tall and stately, very slender, moving through her home and her life like a wraith
- Katherine is short with long hair and Sally has a figure to die for

But that’s about as detailed as I got in most cases and that was deliberate.

As readers become more and more involved in a book, I think they ‘see’ what’s going on inside their heads and, as part of that, ‘see’ images of the people who play out the story, and imagine the people in a way that makes the story more meaningful to them.

My feeling was that I would detract from that individual, highly personal experience if I superimposed some arbitrary physical description of a character which might be contrary to what the reader needed to see in order to believe in it.

And that would benefit neither the reader nor the writer - and do the story itself a great injustice.

11 April, 2009

New Family Member Introduces Herself

OK - so this is nothing about the book, but it's exciting news nevertheless and needs to be announced:

My son and daughter-in-law called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that they just had their latest sonogram and the baby is girl! Her name is going to be Mia Rose. What a trip!

Maybe she'll be fascinated by Empaths and want to write a book about all things Empathic, just like her Grandma .....

I'm beside myself with excitement. I never had a little girl so I never got to buy all those sweet dresses and hair bows and all the things I wanted to buy. And, of course, now I'm Grandma, so it's my moral obligation to buy all that stuff and spoil her ROTTEN, right???

Of course, if she's anything at all like me, she'll be a tomboy (just like I was) and be so busy beating up all the boys and playing football and wading into the pond to catch frogs and proving she's not afraid to jump off the roof of the garage that I'll never get to buy any of those adorable little dresses!

Have a blessed Easter everyone!

06 April, 2009

Update from the publisher - I guess they like Empaths, too!

Finding Emmaus is a dark historic fantasy, two concurrent stories, one set in the 17th century and the other in the 21st - a story about Empaths and ghosts, ignorance, victimization and obsession, a story in which each of the two principle characters, Frank in the 1600’s and Katherine in present day, has a quest which neither can complete on their own.

Tomorrow I have the conference call with the publisher and, in advance of that, my contact person there sent me the production plan and the pre-production comments. I wanted to share with you what the editorial staff wrote in their report about my book:
'The Lodestarre' is a richly described historical fantasy that weaves elements of the fantastic with actual facts and figures. Alternating viewpoints in different eras maintain a strong pace for the story, reveal intimate truths about Frank and Katherine, and strengthen their intertwined tales. The text is engaging and well-written with few errors.

Talk about feeling gratitude! I've written a novel that a group of professionals call 'rich', 'strong', 'engaging 'and 'well-written'. A first-time author, the only agent I ever approached, the only publisher we submitted to and now this. If that’s not God at work, I cannot imagine what is.

05 April, 2009

From "The Lodestarre": Katherine's Musings on Faith and Being Empathic

Being an Empath is not easy. Some call it a gift, some call it a curse. Whichever it is, Empaths have two choices: hide away and suffer through it the best you can until death finally brings relief, or learn to live with it - and live.

And I believe that starts with faith. But faith can be a tricky thing.

Some people use ‘faith’ as a weapon, something with which to punish themselves, thinking (wrongly) if it’s not strong enough or consistent enough or blind enough then they must be doing it wrong. And if they don’t get a particular result they want, that self-flagellation suddenly seems justified (You see? Had I done it better…).

But I don’t believe that’s the way it works. I don’t believe God is some vindictive son-of-a-$#@%$ sitting up there on a cloud just waiting for me to screw up so he can deny me my heart’s desire.

I struggled with the question of faith for a long time. Oh, I've no doubt that God exists, that He’s all around me, that I’m His daughter and therefore He loves me, that He listens to me with infinite patience, even when I ask the same things over and over again (and does not roll His eyes no matter how many times I come back for reassurance!). I believe He wants me to have my heart’s desire and I know He answers my prayers with astounding regularity.

But none of that ever interfered with my ability to riddle myself with doubts and then beat myself up because surely faith requires the absence of doubt, does it not?? (the answer is, ‘Of course not!’)

I've never prayed for my Empathic abilities to go away, although I suppose others have, and I can understand why. It’s a hard thing we live with. But I think ‘understanding’ changes everything.

Empathy will never be something we carry lightly. We will still feel the pain. But with understanding - and faith - we can step out of the dark.

Copyright © 2008 by Pamela S. K. Glasner, All Rights Reserved

03 April, 2009

From "The Lodestarre": Katherine's Musings on What It Is Like To Be An Untrained Empath

Empathy is based 100% on feelings, sometimes physical, but primarily emotional. There are no words or pictures, no past or future; it's all about feelings and sensations, and time has no relevance. An Empath can be psychic or telepathic, but those are completely separate phenomena.

Empathic events involve other people's feelings, not the Empath’s, but an untrained Empath has no way to know this. An untrained Empath does not have the necessary tools to distinguish between their own feelings and the sensory output of others.

The biggest problem for the uneducated Empath is it’s hard to identify.

No-one is supposed to hear voices or see hallucinations, but everyone is supposed to have feelings, so there's nothing concrete to describe as being unusual or out of the ordinary, which is why it's so hard to differentiate between being an Empath and not. What would the Empath say? ‘I’m having a feeling” ??

But just try to imagine what it must be like; imagine experiencing other people's feelings. And, of course, it would only be the most powerful ones. Being glad you're about to eat a tuna sandwich at your favorite restaurant might make you glad, but is not likely to elicit a whole lot of passion.

So - pretend you are an Empath but you don’t know it, and pretend you are walking down the street. As you walk, you cross paths with of a very angry man. Empathic events are not always about proximity, but we’ll use proximity for this example. You’re walking along and you’re feeling fine and then suddenly, for not reason, for just those few moments as you and the angry man pass each other, you feel absolutely furious. The anger comes on like a tidal wave.

Then the man is gone and it's over. And your anger slowly fades. And you’re slowly starting to feel like yourself again, except that now you approach a woman who is desperately sad. And as she passes, your mood swings from fading fury to intense grief. Suddenly all you want to do is double over and sob, but in reality, there's nothing for you to cry about. Then she's gone and just as equilibrium is starting to return, along comes a man who just got the job of his dreams and he's ecstatic - and before you’ve really had a chance to recover from the rage and the tears, your ragged emotions slingshot abruptly from anguish to euphoria.

Can you imagine what it must be like? How confusing and frightening?

Now try doing that in the mall at Christmas time…

Or at Chicago O’Hare Airport in the midst of a sudden snow squall…

Copyright © 2008 by Pamela S. K. Glasner, All Rights Reserved

Continuing the Creation of a Dark Historic Fantasy About Empaths

From “Finding Emmaus”:
Empath Katherine Shares Her Feelings About Being Empathic

I'm experiencing that same feeling I get when something bad is about to happen. No, that's wrong. I’m not Prescient, I’m Empathic, which means it's the same feeling I get when something IS happening or HAS happened and someone is reacting to it and I, in turn, am reacting to them. It's almost as though I can sense some shift in the universe, some energy that's emitted, even as the event occurs.

Concurrent with that is the knowledge that I cannot prevent it or in any way assist the person it's happening to because I'm in the dark: I've no idea what it is or to whom it's happening.

But what if I did? What then? Would Paul have listened last year if I’d told him his partner was having a heart attack? Would Michael's wife have believed me, or thanked me, for telling her he was being murdered across town as we sat there in the laundromat? Could I have done anything to prepare Toni's family for the pain headed their way? Of course not.

This is not TV and I'm not Alison Dubois and I'm not going to neatly solve the world's problems or save the day in 60 minutes. Even if my abilities were more predictable, more psychic or telepathic than Empathic, I'd still have be very judicious or face ridicule and condemnation at every turn - and more isolation than I already experience. No-one would thank me. No-one wants anyone to be paranormal.

I hate that word. It reeks of bigotry. Maybe supernatural is a better word. But what I do is not super. It's commonplace. But don’t tell anyone that. They don’t like it.

I was watching ‘Practical Magic’ the other day and towards the end of the movie, one woman recalls a time she "heard" her daughter across town crying from a nightmare. The Aunt's reaction is, "There's a little witch in all of us." But that's not about being a Witch - it's about being Empathic.

I’m being Empathic when I ‘know’ someone is reacting emotionally to something that’s happened, or is in the process of happening. I’m being Empathic when I ‘know’ I’m being lied to. I’m being Empathic when (and I really love this one!) I know a character in a movie is lying because I can feel the ‘lie energy’ which emanates from the actor who knows his character is lying! How’s that for a trip???

But that said, I’m still not some deviation from humanity. And I’m not all that unique. I’m a boringly normal woman who has a working knowledge of an ability common to millions of people in this world.

I’m just not too blind or frightened or narrow-minded to see it or to say out loud.