Somebody asked me what it’s like to be a writer. I thought about it for a bit, then said, “It’s difficult to put it into words.”
Sometimes I get confused about why I keep writing. Between the agonizing labor required to bring forth a fully finished plot and going through all of the multiple steps to format it into a professional-quality book, there’s a lot of unrewarding work. Granted, I do still get a thrill out of typing “The End” when I’m finished with the manuscript, but that’s fleeting and no longer brings tears to my eyes the way it did for the first few books.
The only difference between writing heaven and writing hell is that your books are popular in the former. The pain and labor involved are the same in both locations. I sometimes think that editors, while they are essential, are a form of lesser demon. If an editor was shown a lamp, they’d want to change the lightbulb, even if it was working. They’d replace it, then break the replacement, install an LED bulb, then finally remove that and question why the lamp was necessary in the first place. Seriously, though, I love my editor. She’s excellent and helps make my books far more readable.
The process is more expensive than you might think. Cover art, interior formatting, copyright, ISBN, and editing eats up a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, sales are more and more challenging to come by, mostly because there is so very much competition. How does a reader find my book or any book he or she wants to read? Some are poorly done with lots of errors, others are poorly written, although a certain percent are quite well done. I aspire to create books in that last category.
It’s said that everyone has a book in them. I wonder if that is meant literally, and if so, where the book is stored. Most of the body doesn’t seem to have any spare space. Getting the book out is a different matter. I was educated to write scientific research and I thought I knew how to write. It’s not all that easy, though. It takes lots of practice. The best way to get better is to keep writing. I keep telling myself that my next book will be perfect. There’s a story in the publishing world about a company that decided to publish a perfect book. It was edited hundreds of times until everyone agreed that it could be no better. Once it was printed and hit the bookstores, someone noticed that the title had a misspelled word. As I said, it’s not that easy.
But, how does a reader find a book out of the millions on Kindle, for example? The key is marketing, and that is the responsibility of the author.
Once the book is finished and uploaded to Kindle for ebook distribution and Ingram for print copies, I belatedly start thinking I should do some of this marketing stuff. I’d much rather be writing another book, of course, but I still make an effort to get the news out.
It got so bad that when I saw an old friend at a party for the first time in several years, I told him I was writing books. When he asked if I’d sold anything, I responded that I’d sold my house, my car, and all of my possessions. I don’t think he got it. He wandered off, and I later saw him pointing at me while talking to the host. I don’t know what was said, but I haven’t been asked back.
I guess whether you’re happy or not in your writing career depends on how you define success. What do I mean by that? I have it on good authority that one of the most successful authors–one who writes things that invariably make people react emotionally, cry, curse, howl, and scream in anger–is the guy who writes error messages for Microsoft.
I like it when readers comment that they loved my characters and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen in one of my books. That’s a thrill, but it doesn’t pay the bills. The fact that some readers do leave reviews helps, though. A series of excellent reviews give a book some credibility so that a potential reader who is searching for a new read might be tempted to pick the one with better reviews.
Then there are the service providers. Those are companies that exist solely to “help” authors sell books. It’s easy to spend far more than the book will ever bring in, so one has to be careful here. Fortunately, I’ve already had a good education along those lines, having taken lots of courses on real estate during my life. Ultimately, you just have to get out there and do things yourself. That’s the most important lesson.
My books do sell, and many readers have left reviews, a few have hated the stories, but most like them, so I feel happy about that. I’m also pleased with my initial decision to publish as an independent. Indie publishing has become mainstream now. There are still traditional publishers, but unless you’re already a success, your chances there are minimal. If Moses were alive now, he’d show up with the Ten Commandments, but he’d spend the next five years trying to get them published. Unless, that is, he did it himself. Then he’d have to go through the entire marketing thing to get people to read them.
At the moment, I’m two chapters from writing “The End” in my latest story, and this little screed has taken some of the time that I should have been using to tie up my work-in-progress. I guess I’ll call this a marketing effort so I can justify my effort.
BTW. I’ve never written a word on the Royal. I keep it to remind myself how hard it used to be in the pre-digital age. Can you imagine? Spell check used to mean paging through a heavy dictionary:-)
This post is generally related to world-building for authors, but with a twist. I’ve included a lot of background material on Lucid Dreams and Out-of-Body Experiences. I began studying these many years ago after an intensely personal experience that both frightened and puzzled me. As a trained scientist, I had no ready explanation. This led me to read all I could find on the subject.
Science continually discovers new things about the universe. If everything were settled and known, there would be no need for scientific inquiry. The experiences I’m going to describe are well documented by many people, and their accounts are consistent enough to allow us to draw some general conclusions. I think that if there’s no accepted scientific explanation, but there is enough anecdotal evidence, then a scientific explanation should be sought.
As part of my own exploration of these phenomena, I kept a journal by my bed for many years. I’ll provide some examples taken from it and then analyze them to help clarify the concepts.
After I’ve gone through the types of dreams and associated experiences, I will give an example of how I incorporated the idea into one of my Time-Equation Series books.
Have you ever had a dream of falling or flying? Many people have these types of dreams. How about a dream where you believe you’re awake, but you cannot move your body? These dreams are almost always indicative of an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream. Here’s an example from my journal:
About 4 a.m. I woke up, changed position, and then fell back asleep. I was walking down a sidewalk carrying a U-shaped piece of metal. There was a large pile of rocks located on the edge of a college campus. I went around them and entered a very small cave through a small opening. There was a bed inside. It had drawers under it, and I began looking into them but found nothing of interest, just some vague pieces of machinery.
Then I became aware that there was an old-fashioned kitchen range beside the bed. It had drawers, and I looked in them also. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. At this point, I saw a dark door at one end of the cave.
I went through, and suddenly the quality of the dream transitioned to a closer approximation of reality because I became aware that I was dreaming. As a result, I became “conscious” within the dream and had control of my actions.
I looked around at the room that was on the other side of the dark door. It looked like a large, dimly lit barn. There was another door to the right side of the room, and it was very dark. I looked inside the opening and made out the fact that it was a stall for horses, but there were no animals there. To the left, the room became lighter, and there was a large door that was open to the outside. I consciously bypassed that door since I felt that I would wake up if I went through it. After looking around the rest of the barn and deciding that I was satisfied and had seen everything, I decided to go outside. I jumped off a high step and landed right in front of a young man. Our eyes met, and we both smiled.
Was he another dreamer or a figment of my dream? I don’t know. I certainly didn’t expect to see him there. I walked past and turned to the left on the far end of the building. The dream faded, and I lost control and fell entirely out of consciousness and into sleep.
A brief analysis of this dream shows that it 1) started as a normal dream, perhaps clearer and more coherent than most, and then at a certain point, 2) I became aware that I was able to control my actions consciously. This is different than most dreams because we usually aren’t aware that we are dreaming, and we typically aren’t able to control what we do.
There is a slight difference here between my experience and most lucid dreams. In this dream, I didn’t exert any control over the elements in the dream. Usually, lucid dreamers are able to modify anything they encounter in their dreams. Many exercise a significant degree of control, forcing items to mutate or disappear and appear.
After I became conscious in this dream, I had a feeling of happiness and freedom. This was partly due to my sense of mastery of the environment.
I met someone in the dream who appeared to be self-directed. Was he another dreamer? This is an intriguing possibility.
Other people who have had lucid dreams report similar experiences. The critical aspect is that all of us can become conscious and then to control our actions within a dream.
Out of Body Experiences
There are different opinions as to what differentiates a lucid dream from an out-of-body experience (OBE). Lucid dreams can involve any dream environment, while OBEs often involve what I call the RTE, or Real-Time Environment. This is the local space near the dreamer’s body. It is usually the first space they encounter after exiting their body. Their physical body is often present and visible to them. In general, OBEs seem more real than Lucid Dreams and are usually experienced as an objective but different reality.
The first sign of an OBE is that it is often accompanied by an intense sensation of vibration. The second is that it may be accompanied by physical body paralysis. The third is that the dreamer may see their physical body, and the fourth is they find it easy to fly and to pass through physical barriers like walls. Also, OBEs are often accompanied by experienced sounds. Some people wake into these experiences, while others induce OBEs directly from a waking state.
These experiences require a Theta brain state. This is known as the hypnagogic state, the drowsing state before sleep when the brain waves are at a frequency between 4 and 8 cycles per second.
It’s difficult to maintain a hypnagogic state for very long after first going to bed. Most people go through several cycles of deeper sleep followed by lighter sleep or wakefulness in the course of a night. After two or three such sleep cycles it becomes easier to maintain a hypnagogic state. Consequentially you are more likely to have an OBE or lucid dream between 4 and 6 AM.
There is an experiential difference between the OBEs and Lucid Dreams. Despite the extreme freedom of movement enjoyed while experiencing an OBE, it is more like daily experience, since we can’t deliberately morph items into other items the way we can in a lucid dream.
Validating an OBE
Australian author Robert Bruce and psychic suggests that you select a playing card from a deck, making sure you don’t see the card’s face. Place the card on a high shelf somewhere in your house. The shelf should be high enough that you won’t accidentally see the card. When you find yourself in an OBE, remember to go and look at the card. You can then validate your experience when you wake up.
I tried this by placing two cards, one on each of two bookshelves on each side of our fireplace. I was drowsing before getting up.
I rolled over onto my left side and then started to go back to sleep. I suddenly became conscious that my face was bumping against the spines of a long row of books. I realized that I was having an OBE and was near the bookshelf. Then I remembered the cards, so looked and saw that the card was a black four. However, when I tried to see the suit, all I could see was a rectangle with a diagonal line crossing it, the international symbol for “No” that masks a picture of some banned action. After trying to see the suit again, I woke up.
When I checked, the card was the four of spades. The second card surprised me. It was the four of clubs.
The shelves were separated by about two meters, and the cards were on the top shelf above my head level. After thinking about the two fours for a bit, I realized that I couldn’t make out the suit because I’d somehow been trying to see both cards simultaneously and the only commonality was the black four.
This leads me to conclude that our perception is not restricted to natural bodily-imposed limitations.
Common Aspects of OBE
Somewhat more recently, I had another experience that illustrates four of the common symptoms of OBEs. Here’s a brief description:
I was drowsing in a recliner in the bedroom when I suddenly heard my name loudly called twice in a sort of nasal tone. I immediately decided to wake up and became conscious while still in a dream state. I couldn’t move my body or extremities. I know that to recover from this type of paralysis, concentrating on moving your big toe almost always works as a release. I was too panicked to remember this technique at the time. Then I saw that I was floating about 2 feet above my body. I kept trying to merge back into it with no effect.
Suddenly, there was a loud buzz that happened on the surface of my chest right over my heart. It was so startling that I popped back into my body and opened my eyes at the same time.
A brief analysis highlights the four common symptoms. First, I heard a sound–my name. Second, I experienced physical paralysis. Third, I was floating outside my body, and fourth, I experienced a strong buzz or vibration before re-entering my body.
I subsequently read that this type of vibration is attributable to the heart chakra becoming active and releasing enough energy to either start or stop the OBE.
Another experience highlights a few of the features of a typical flying OBE.
I was still sleeping after the sun had risen. Then I shot upwards to what seemed about a thousand feet above the roof of my house. I descended to tree level and proceeded to cruise down our drive and then up near the leaves of a tree. I moved closer to the leaves until I could concentrate on the details of a single leaf. I was elated over the sensation of absolute freedom of movement. Without consciously willing it, I started to become heavy and sank to the ground. Once on the ground, I couldn’t begin flying again. I woke up, regretful that the experience, which had been joyful, was so brief.
There are four aspects of this experience that are common. The first is that I was able to fly easily. The second is that I let my emotions run out of control. The third is that I focused my attention on intricate details and this close focus forced me out of the OBE. The fourth is the feeling of heaviness. Most people attribute this to the physical body recalling the astral body.
Dreaming, lucid dreaming, and OBE states can easily transition from one to the other. However, despite that mutability, the quality of experience is different, and the dreamer can easily sense this difference.
The dominant frequency in the EEG pattern is indicative of the current state of the brain. Meditation involves altering one’s brain frequency to a desired state on demand. It can take years to learn the techniques of meditation, but the same effect may be induced artificially since brain waves can be altered by listening to tone frequencies.
Listening to a click played at 4 Hz will cause brainwaves to slow down to the same frequency. This phenomenon is called entrainment or frequency following response. It can be done by playing a series of percussive sounds that gradually slow down to the theta wave level of 4 per second.
An alternate method is to play a pure low-frequency sound. The brain will adjust to match. This works for faster brainwaves but is ineffective for slower brain states because humans cannot hear extremely low frequencies. A special technique called binaural-beats is used to generate the required slow signals.
Parallel Universe Theory
The concept of parallel universes is supported to a certain extent by modern quantum physics. One interpretation states that the universe splits every time there is a choice made on a quantum level. If a photon has the alternative of going through one slit or a second slit in the classic double-slit experiment, it will go through one in one universe and through the other in a second universe. The two universes may then merge into a single universe or not.
Based on this idea, it seems to me, since our brains operate at least partially on a quantum level, that any binary decision we make would result in two universes.
If this is the case, it means that we don’t emerge from our body in the same universe in which our body resides. This removes some limitations and appears to allow our projected mind to move into various levels of the real-time environment as reported by many OBE experiencers.
Writing an OBE into a Story
In one of my novels, my male lead is a Clovis-culture hunter of about 13,000 years ago. While I was writing the book, I, purely by chance, had a rather amazing lucid dream. It was so vivid that I wrote it down and later when it became necessary to give Cadeyrin (my character) a motive for backtracking, I blended my experience into the story.
It took several rewrites to get it right, but after I finished, I had added an entire chapter in which Cadeyrin, previously trained as a Shaman, is able to determine the location of Kathleen Whitby, my modern female lead, who has accidentally translated through time to the Younger Dryas Period of the North American Pleistocene.
As an example, here’s a brief section (Copyright 2016) from chapter eight of Heart of Fire Time of Ice. I used italics to indicate where Cadeyrin entered an altered mental state.
Cadeyrin tentatively started off towards the flickering light along an old bison path worn in the prairie grass. After a few steps, he became aware that a friendly animal spirit was leading him.
Wolves suddenly howled in the near distance. The eerie sound led him to recognize his guide as his personal wolf spirit.
Together he and the spirit walked through the grass until they came to a rise, which they ascended. On the other side was the open space with his fire in the middle. It had burned down in his absence and was guttering, sending out flickers of flame as the wind ignited gasses rising from the coals. As he stepped into the open space, he sensed other spiritual entities around the area, but none intruded on his immediate consciousness.
The wolves came closer as he built up the fire, but he felt no threat from them. It was as if they were just curious about his presence and waiting to see what would happen.
The flames grew high, and his spirit guide took on a feeling of wildness mixed with joy. He followed it as it led him on a triple circuit around the fire. The flames shot out sparks, and a larger burst of flame ascended. At that moment, his companion shifted into a huge wolf-like figure. Together they raised their heads and howled upwards, and then he was following the spirit guide, traveling through the sky, far away from the fire circle.
His sense of being accompanied faded, and he ended up in a high location, as if on the peak of an immense mountain. As he looked down, he could see through both time and space. He could see his childhood: his father teaching him to hunt, one of the old women teaching him about medicinal plants, and the tribe’s path across the plains as they came from the east. He could see their excitement as they encountered herds of bison, and he felt the fullness and satiety after a successful hunt. He could see the attackers as they killed his people while he watched, hidden. He saw his path to this current place. He saw himself by his fire and then he could see his path winding into the future. He traveled towards a forest, then back, then a figure appeared, but it was unclear and hazy. He followed it, and it receded into the future. He paused, and it came back. He felt that somehow it gave him a sense of completeness and he yearned for more of that feeling.
I used many of the traditional aspects of the OBE experience in my description.
The scene is intriguing and compelling precisely because it is authentic, having been taken in large part from my own experience. That authenticity gives the reader a sense that Cadeyrin is real. He becomes a character to whom one can easily relate.
This relates to the old advice to “write what you know.” In my experience, this makes for good reading, but it also seems restrictive to may authors. After all, who has traveled in space, or met the spider aliens from Arcturus 5?
My best advice is to search for situations that you know and then use your imagination to morph them into your story. It’s your story, after all, and you’ve got the right to tell it how you want. Just remember, the more authentic it is, the more compelling it is to read.
I hope you found this discussion both interesting and useful.
Thanks for reading.
Still writing on the sequel to Cyber-Witch. Somehow it’s turned into a difficult task, although once I get to writing, the words flow well.
Meanwhile, here’s a fun word – one of my favorites, although I like them all:
Absquatulate — meaning to leave somewhere abruptly.
For some reason it always reminds me of the early Tarzan movies where Tarzan would say, “Umgahla.” (Or something like that.) The result was always that the elephant he was riding and any other nearby animals would abruptly leave the scene.
Based on that observation, Umgahla (or whatever it was that he said that sounded remotely similar) is Tarzanese for Absquatulate.
It’s just that having Tarzan holler, “Absquatulate!” seems a little out of character. It might have worked though. I’m of the opinion that most of the audience for those movies wouldn’t have known the difference. I could be wrong on that.
That’s enough rambling. Time to get back to Sophie and her problems. Most recently she’s been faced with a surreptitious attack that exploits her previous drug addiction. I’ve got to write the next few scenes in order to find out how she handles it.
On the other hand, it’s probably a good idea to write a section about another character and leave Sophie writhing in pain until I can get back to her. I’d like to find out how Snake is dealing with his (its?)* involuntary enslavement by Abubecar.
(its?)* — I can’t quite make up my mind how to deal with Snake, inasmuch as he/it is a nanite-based AI construction with some organic parts created from cells extracted from other creatures. The only thing I know is he is somehow becoming convinced that Sophie will be good to him if he ever contacts her again, despite his origin as part of a nanite-dragon that she mostly destroyed.)
The weird and strange way this story is developing is starting to get a little intimidating. Hope it works out the way I think it will.
One of my social media groups was discussing an interesting topic the other day. One that I have an opinion about, as a matter of fact. Here’s the question that started the thread (I’ve paraphrased it):
Due to my trepidation about being attacked by members of another group for asking about this, I’ve come here to ask: How important is message in stories? There is a general relationship between message and theme, but I’d like to know how much of your personal or social values do you put in your writing?
I read through the thread and concluded that in general, the consensus was it’s okay to put your values in your stories as long as you don’t preach and actively shove them in the reader’s face. The responses were thoughtful and not hysterical. (You can see why I favor that particular group.)
Here’s my personal opinion on the question:
You cannot help but instill at least part of your own values in a story since your values are both a result and a cause of how you view the world and your worldview informs your imagination.
I’m not saying it cannot be done, but I think it shouldn’t. Trying to suppress who you are while writing is tantamount to lying to your readers. I think they will, at some level, realize that and feel your story is inauthentic. That may be enough to steer them away from your work in the future. That is a result an author should strive to avoid.
On the other hand, I think you shouldn’t proselytize. That quickly gets boring for most readers and at least some of today’s readers have become sensitized by both cultural trends and education to the point that they find something to offend them in any opinion or story that varies from what they’ve been taught.
Styles of writing change and evolve, however. Modern fiction is mostly intended to entertain, but in the past, novels focused on particular values and often dropped them with all of the subtlety of hitting the reader on the head with a hod of bricks. Mark Twain used this analogy in one of his essays wherein he writes of a man who was killed by a bricklayer’s apprentice accidentally dropping his load from the roof. Twain wrote that humans were susceptible to such events, but dogs were not. That is because, as he observed, a dog would know enough to look up and would then get out of the way.
I would suggest that same foresight on the part of overly sensitive individuals would forestall a lot of the criticism directed at authors who don’t follow popular guidelines. In other words, if the book offends you, just put it down, but at least have the grace to allow others to make up their own minds about the value therein. Screaming for help and working to assemble a group attack on the author is the act of a cultural barbarian. If humans always condemned creative or different ideas, we would be sitting in a cave watching a fire and scratching flea bites.
I would argue that communicating cultural values is the main point of telling stories. Authors write stories because they love to entertain others (and would like to make money at it). They usually don’t set out to create morality plays, except in the case of some factions. There are specific groups who are actively writing science fiction and fantasy (I speak of the genre in which I write since I don’t read much else) who find it necessary to slam the reader in the face with their ideas about inclusiveness and diversity. Generally speaking, I find that such tales quickly become tedious and are often unreadable. However, I will defend the author’s right to write what they want. Let them proceed and let the market sort out the winning stories from the losers.
Let’s approach the issue from another angle. It is possible to gradually move your readers’ worldview, provided you tell a compelling story. That’s why I opt for positive character arcs that allow the protagonist to develop more self-responsibility. I firmly believe that is the first step in taking control of your life–stop being a victim of circumstances and others. Victims languish and complain. Those who have a modicum of self-responsibility will take action to change their results in life. There is no honor or glory in allowing oneself to be a victim since we always have a choice.
I firmly believe that a great author will always intend that some good come to the reader from the story. I realize that this is subject to challenge, but, overall, I think it is true. It’s just that “good” can be defined in so many different ways. Readers of horror stories find some value for which they seek, just as do readers of inspirational literature.
This viewpoint has gotten me in trouble with some ideological readers who are intolerant of any challenges to their worldview. (Fair warning: My stories are based on my love of self-responsibility, liberty, and the belief that reality is what it is and cannot be denied.) That bothered me at first because I naturally want to please everyone. Then I decided that my primary position is that if they opt to be offended, it’s their choice, not mine. I’ve found that anything in life that you cannot handle — anything that upsets you — will continue to present itself until you learn to deal with it with equanimity. As a result of my decision, I sometimes describe myself as a “dangerous” writer in the hopes that sensitive types will be warned.
As an object lesson, consider that cats always try to sit on the lap of the person in a group who most dislikes them. They’re brilliant that way and will go to great effort to help humans cope with their biases. Some dogs do the same, but with less regularity and forcefulness. Basically, the correct response here is to accept the cat’s attention and pet them. They will consider that their job is done and get on with other catness-related activities.
Ignoring them can work, but they can become importunate. In that case, you can always leave.
This last strategy also applies to critics. The general rule that all writers should understand is basically the same one that should be used with trolls in comment threads. That is to say, don’t engage with anyone who gives a hateful review. It only serves to validate their feeling of self-righteousness and stimulate them to further attacks. Of course, ignoring them may incite them also, but you don’t have to suffer their insults that way.
A person actively decides to be insulted or to ignore perceived slights. One can be offended by an entirely innocent remark directed at someone else, but that is a choice, not a mandatory requirement. Many people don’t understand that self-responsibility is a requirement for personal growth, civil discourse, and progress.
Here’s the takeaway point: if this post makes you angry … you (it’s not my responsibility) have to work on some issues:-)
I’m now working on my eleventh book “Cyber-Magic.” <see the cover concept to the left> It’s the sequel to my cyber-punk novel “Cyber-Witch”. Which hasn’t been getting much attention, by the way, although the people who’ve read it like it (note the clever use of homophonic alliteration;-)
Anyway, this one has become a problem. I’ve ventured away from what I view as hard to semi-hard science fiction and fallen out of cyber-punk gritty reality (with a drug-addicted MC) into a post-modern world where civilization has totally changed due to A.I. mediated “magic.” It’s essentially a fantasy and this is my first foray into this genre. I’m finding it difficult to gather all the strings together.
One of the problems is that “magic” allows the author to define the rules of the world. My version of magic is so powerful that there are few rules. With enough ability, a character can do almost anything. That’s not a good story line. It leads to the reader thinking, “Why not just wave your hand and solve all of the problems in chapter one? Then I wouldn’t have to waste time reading the entire book.”
Well, it’s not really that bad, but I’m seriously having difficulty defining the scope of what is possible.
Today my goal is to get my WIP in progress again.
I’m sitting on 25k words, six magicians (1 evil, 1 bad, 2 neutral or possibly allies, and 2 superstars), trolls that breed like tribbles (for you Trekkies out there), one fairy, a were-bear, an A.I. creature in the form of a snake, and an implacable dark force in the form of a distributed AI and my plot line suddenly seems inadequate, so I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for a while.
Besides paying business has picked up greatly and gets in the way. Then I’m moving. It looks like it may rain and the grass might grow and need attention. <Delete more excuses and cue sad violin music.>
This is what writer’s block looks like and I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t like it in a box. I don’t like it with a fox. I will not tolerate Writer’s Block. I will not, Sam-I-Am.
More about this struggle to come soon. <Provided the grass behaves.>
Two philosophers were walking down the street when they passed between two houses. The owners of the two houses were arguing with each other from open 2nd floor windows. One philosopher told the other, “They’ll never resolve their argument.” The second one asked, “Why?” The answer was, “They’re arguing from different premises.”
How many readers assumed that the philosophers were both men? I didn’t specify gender. It’s funny how we make assumptions based on our own ‘premises’. Readers do the same, so as writers, we need to set expectations and define premises in ways that advance our stories without confusing our readers. (He says, having been guilty of confusing readers through his close personal involvement in his writing.)
Just because it’s clear to you doesn’t mean your readers will follow it in the way you meant it. The take home part: be aware of your reader and back away enough to see their point of view.
I find that I get better at this, the more stories I write. (Or at least I think I’m getting better.)
It’s been said that you have to devote 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. I hope this doesn’t directly convert to books. I don’t think I can write 10,000 novels 🙂
For the fun of it, here’s my Grammarly stats for last week:
You were more productive than 99% of Grammarly users: 74,475 words checked
You were more accurate than 90% of Grammarly users: 772 alerts shown
You used more unique words than 97% of Grammarly users: 2,196 unique words used
And here’s my reasons and excuses:
Production: I wrote a short story and checked it twice. That was about 15k words total. I’m also making a final pass through Cyber-Witch’s 90k words prior to placing the novel on Kindle. That accounts for the rest of the Grammarly count. (I’m not done with Cyber-Witch yet, so I’ve got to put more text into the Grammarly editor.)
Problems: My, most, serious, problem, is, with, commas <sigh>.
On the good side, most of the alerts were due to writing dialogue with a lot of slang — can’t have all my characters speak perfectly.
The next issue is that Grammarly hates passive voice, but there are times when something happens to a character and it’s not their fault. If they’re being acted upon, they’re passive and I’m going to use passive voice at that time.
I decided to include this post (even though it’s a long read) in my continuing series on this site. It offers some insight into the depth of research I devote to my stories and also how I tend to blend in personal experience.
I devoted a section in Heart of Fire Time of Ice to the Clovis hunter, Cadeyrin, as he had a spiritual experience. His experience was actually drawn from one of mine, although there are significant differences, since his was designed to blend in with the story.
I’d like to start with a warning: This post contains ideas that may run counter to your personal beliefs. These beliefs may be religious or rooted in the common opinion that out-of-body experiences (OBE) have no scientific basis.
My position on this is first, that religious dogma is something generated by men to control other men. Good religious teachings lead us towards the personal experience of divine spirit. Since I believe there is only one underlying divine reality, all good religious teachings are attempting to bring us closer to that reality. If your belief conflicts with reality, then your belief is most likely not serving you in the best possible way.
Secondly, science is always discovering heretofore-unknown things about the universe. If everything were settled and known, there would be no need for scientific inquiry. The experiences dealt with in this essay are well documented and offer enough consistency to allow one to draw some general conclusions. The scientific reason for them is still open for speculation.
If it’s true, it’s true, and it doesn’t matter what package it comes in. If there is conflict between belief systems, it’s because they arise from different cultures and because men put their own spin on the truths in an attempt to control their own followers.
Have you ever had a dream of falling or flying? Many people have these types of dreams. How about a dream where you believe you’re awake, but you cannot move your body? These dreams are almost always indicative of an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream. With a little practice almost all people can have dreams in which they become aware and able to control the dream to some extent. Here’s an example from my own recent experience:
About 4 a.m. I woke up, changed position, and then fell back asleep. Shortly I was walking down a sidewalk carrying a U-shaped piece of metal. There was a large pile of rocks located on the edge of a college campus. I went around them and entered a very small cave through a small opening. There was a bed inside. It had drawers under it, and I began looking into them but found nothing of interest, just some vague pieces of machinery. Then I became aware that there was an old-fashioned kitchen range beside the bed. It had drawers and I looked in them also. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. At this point I saw a dark door at one end of the cave. I went through, and suddenly the quality of the dream transitioned to a closer approximation of reality because I became aware that I was dreaming. As a result, I became “conscious” within the dream and had control of my actions.
I looked around at the room that was on the other side of the dark door. It looked like a large, dimly lit barn. There was another door to the right side of the room, and it was very dark. I looked inside the opening and made out the fact that it was a stall for horses, but there were no animals there. To the left, the room became lighter, and there was a large door that was open to the outside. I consciously bypassed that door since I felt that I would wake up if I went through it. After looking around the rest of the barn and deciding that I was satisfied and had seen everything, I decided to go outside. I jumped off a high step, and landed right in front of a young man. Our eyes met and we both smiled. Was he another dreamer or a figment of my dream? I don’t know. I certainly didn’t expect to see him there. I walked past and turned to the left on the far end of the building. At that point the dream faded, and I lost control and fell fully out of consciousness and into sleep.
A brief analysis of this dream shows that it 1) started as a normal dream, perhaps clearer and more coherent than most, and then at a certain point, 2) I became aware that I was able to consciously control my actions. This is different than most dreams, because we usually aren’t aware that we are dreaming, and we usually aren’t able to control what we do.
There is a slight difference here between my experience and most lucid dreams. In this dream, I didn’t exert any control over the elements in the dream. Usually, lucid dreamers are able to modify anything they encounter in their dreams. Many exert a large degree of control, forcing items to mutate or disappear and appear.
Carlos Castaneda’s mentor, Don Juan, warned Carlos that one of the dangers of becoming conscious in one’s dreams was that the infatuation with control could capture his attention.
In the above dream, after I was conscious, I had a feeling of elation and freedom. This was partly due to my feeling of mastery of the environment.
I met someone inside the confines of the dream who appeared to be self-directed. Was he another dreamer? This is an intriguing possibility.
At the end of the dream my conscious control faded, and I went into a deeper level of sleep. When this happened, the whole dream became fuzzy and disjointed and then disappeared.
Other people who have had lucid dreams report similar experiences. The key aspect is that we are able to become conscious and control our actions within the dream. I’ve found the book, “Lucid Dreaming,” by Robert Waggoner, to be comprehensive and a good summary of the phenomenon.
For additional discussion on lucid dreams, Wikipedia has a fairly good article.
Out of Body Experiences
There seems to be a slight variation in opinion among authorities in what differentiates a lucid dream from an out of body experience (OBE). Generally speaking, I think that OBEs are qualitatively different from lucid dreams. Lucid dreams can involve any dream environment, while OBEs usually involve what I call the RTE or Real Time Environment. This is local space near the experiencer’s body and usually involves them exiting their body and finding themselves in close proximity to it.
There are several clear signs of an OBE. The first is that it is usually accompanied by a strong feeling of vibration. The second is that it may be accompanied by physical body paralysis. The third is that the experiencer may see their physical body and the fourth is that the experiencer finds it very easy to fly and to pass through walls. OBEs are also often accompanied by sounds. OBEs also seem more real and are usually seen as objective reality.
Both lucid dreams and OBEs may be involuntary or induced. Some people awake in either of these experiences and some can actually induce OBEs directly from a waking state. Moving directly into an OBE becomes easier with deliberate practice.
Both states are dependent upon the brain’s being in the Theta state, often known as the hypnagogic state. In this mode, the brain is cycling at a frequency between 4 and 8 cycles per second. This state is the one most people fall into just before falling asleep.
When you are tired as you first go to bed, it’s difficult to maintain a hypnagogic state for very long because it quickly degenerates into deeper sleep. Most people go through several cycles of deeper sleep followed by lighter sleep or wakefulness in the course of a night. After two or three such sleep cycles it’s much easier to maintain a hypnagogic state and consequentially you are more likely to have an OBE or lucid dream between 4 and 6 AM.
Personally, I normally have lucid dream experiences, but I’ve had several memorable OBEs. My OBEs are almost always dream induced, meaning that I transition from a dreaming sleep into an out-of-body state.
Some might call this a lucid dream, but there is a qualitative difference between the two. Despite our extreme freedom of movement while experiencing an OBE, it is more like our daily experience in that we can’t deliberately morph items into other items the way we can in a lucid dream. Here’s a brief description of one of my OBEs:
Robert Bruce mentions an interesting technique in one of his discussions. Select a playing card from a deck, making sure you don’t see the card’s face. Place the card on a high shelf somewhere in your house. The shelf should be high enough that you won’t accidentally see the card. When you find yourself in an OBE, remember to go and look at the card. You can then cross check when you wake up.
I did this, but I was a little too enthusiastic and put out two cards one on each of two bookshelves on each side of our fireplace. Nothing happened for a few weeks. Finally, one morning, I waked and rolled over onto my left side and then started to go back to sleep. I suddenly became conscious that my face was bumping against the spines of a long row of books. I said to myself, I’m having an OBE and I’m near the shelf, so I’d better look at the card. I did and became aware that the card was a black four, but when I tried to see the suit, all I could see was a rectangle with a diagonal line crossing it. This was sort of like the international symbol for “No” that you often see across a picture of a cigarette. After trying to see the suit again, I woke up.
I immediately woke my wife and told her I’d seen the card. She suggested I check it and I went and got the first card. It was the four of spades! I took it and showed her. Then I decided to check the second card. It was the four of clubs! The shelves were separated by about 8 feet of space and were about 7 feet in the air. I concluded the reason I couldn’t make out the suit was that I’d been trying to see both at the same time.
It appears that our perception is not restricted to our common bodily-imposed limitations.
Somewhat more recently, I had another experience that illustrates four of the common symptoms of OBEs. Here’s a brief description:
I was drowsing in a recliner in our bedroom when I suddenly heard my name loudly called twice in a sort of nasal tone. I immediately decided to wake up and became conscious at that moment. I couldn’t move my body or extremities. I know that to recover from this type of paralysis, concentrating on moving your big toe almost always works. For some reason I was too panicked to remember this technique at the time. I saw that I was floating about 2 feet above my body and I kept trying to merge back into it. Suddenly, there was a loud buzz that happened on the surface of my chest right over my heart. It was so startling that I popped back into my body and opened my eyes at the same time.
A brief analysis highlights the four common symptoms. First, I heard a sound-my name. Second, I experienced physical paralysis. Third, I was floating outside my body and fourth, I experienced a strong buzz or vibration which led to me re-entering my body. The vibration was similar to that of an old-fashioned doorbell in speed. It was around 1000 cycles per second by my reckoning.
This type of vibration is attributable to the heart chakra becoming active and releasing enough energy to either start or stop the OBE. Many people feel a vibration on starting the experience.
In my experience, the toe moving technique is very effective at reuniting you with your body. The only problem is that you often panic when you can’t move, and it’s difficult to remember to concentrate on your toe. The take home lesson is to set your intent to remember to move your toe.
Another experience highlights a few of the features of a typical flying OBE.
I was still sleeping after the sun had risen when I shot upwards to what seemed about a thousand feet above the roof of my house. I then went down to tree level and proceeded to cruise down our drive and then up to the leaves of a tree. I moved close to the leaves until I could concentrate on the details of a single leaf. I was exultant over the sensation of absolute freedom of movement. Suddenly I started to become heavy and gradually sank to the ground. Once on the ground, no amount of effort could start me flying again. I woke up.
There are four aspects of this experience that are common. The first is that I was able to fly easily. The second is that I let my emotions run out of control. The third is that I focused my attention on intricate details and that close focus forced me out of the OBE. The fourth is the feeling of heaviness. Most people attribute this to the physical body recalling the astral body through the silver cord.
Some people think that OBEs are simply the result of our normal perception being shut off while we’re conscious. They believe that the brain then generates a semblance of reality. I don’t think this is correct because of my card OBE described above and because of this one:
I was sleeping and dreamed I was sitting on my back porch. I was throwing fireworks into some tall, dry grass and there was a lot of smoke. This is something I would never do in my daily life. The incongruity of my actions brought me to consciousness. I moved off the porch and went to investigate. It became apparent to me that I’d somehow incorporated the firework explanation to account for the “smoke” I saw. The grass was actually wet with dew, and the smoke turned out to be a dense fog when investigated from my OBE perspective. I relaxed and slipped back out of consciousness.
I awoke and dressed to take the dog out and was somewhat amused to see that it was, indeed, a very foggy morning.
This experience has some of the elements of a lucid dream, but once I became conscious within the confines of the dream state, I moved into an OBE state. In that state I was able to move about in the area near my home. My perception became more normal and I ascribed a correct cause to what I saw. I wasn’t able to mutate the fog back into firework smoke again. The tall grass, incidentally, was in front of the house and not in back as I’d dreamed.
My point is that dreaming, lucid dreaming, and OBE states can easily transition from one to the other. However, despite that mutability, the quality of the two types of experience is completely different, and the experiencer can easily sense this difference.
Robert Bruce provides an interesting explanation of the OBE. He states that what actually happens is that an OBE is a result of a mind-split. One part of the mind remains in the body, and as the physical body falls asleep, the mind splits and an image of consciousness is projected into the etheric body that is located in and around the physical body. While the physical mind dreams, the etheric mind can be held in a hypnagogic state. When this occurs, it may project yet another copy of consciousness into the real-time zone. When this occurs, the mind is then split into the dreaming mind that remains in the physical body and the second image of consciousness that is in the energy body projected into the real-time zone. This split-off consciousness is fully capable as a second entity. Bruce states that this split can occur several times, each split-off consciousness carrying a higher level of energy. This means that higher and higher levels of astral reality may be accessed.
The problem is that the consciousness of the etheric body doesn’t realize that the split has occurred and will usually believe that it has failed in the projection attempt and then go to sleep. At the time of reintegration of the split-off consciousness with that remaining in the etheric and physical bodies, the strongest set of memories will prevail. Unfortunately, the strongest set is usually that of the physical body, since its memories have already been recorded in the physical medium of the brain. Keeping projections very short is one step that Bruce recommends as helpful to remembering the shadow memory of the higher energy consciousness upon termination of the OBE.
Brainwaves: EEG and the brain’s state
EEG (Electroencephalography) technology is used to measure brain’s electrical vibrations from the scalp. The resulting EEG record will contain frequency elements that are categorized into four states as follows:
State of Mind
0.5Hz – 4Hz
4Hz – 8Hz
8Hz – 14Hz
Relaxed but alert
14Hz – 30Hz
Highly alert and focused
The dominant frequency in the EEG pattern is considered to be the current state of the brain. Meditation is about being able to alter one’s brain frequency to a desired state on demand. In the past it often took several years to learn the techniques of meditation, but now you can have the same effect with brainwave entrainment. The benefit is that no special training or discipline is required.
By listening to sounds of various frequencies, it is possible to shift the brain frequency from one stage to another. For example, if a person is highly alert and listens to a click stimulus of 4 Hz for some time, their brain frequency will change towards the stimulus frequency. The effect will be relaxing to the person. This phenomenon is called entrainment or frequency following response.
When the brain’s frequency starts close to the desired stimulus, entrainment works more efficiently. Thus, when doing a sweep from one frequency to another, the starting frequency should be as close to the current brain state as possible. This is why the frequency starts at a high rate and then gradually slows down. If the subject is wide-awake, a decreasing frequency will gradually bring his brain activity down to a drowsy, theta level. Of course, the effect is dependent upon motivation. Just as people can refuse to be hypnotized, they can refuse to submit to this effect for the most part.
The most common way of applying a frequency stimulus to the brain is via sound. One way of accomplishing this is simply to play a series of percussive sounds that gradually slow down to theta levels of about 4 per second. This technique can be used in conjunction with a guided meditation for good effect. The click sounds will usually conflict with music since there are then two rhythm sources with clashing beats. This brings us to Binaural-Beat technology.
Another way of applying a frequency stimulus is to play a pure sound that is at a low frequency. The brain can then adjust its frequency to that of the sound. This might work for higher states of consciousness, but it won’t work for slower brain states. The problem is that humans cannot hear sounds low enough to be useful for brain entrainment to theta levels. Fortunately, a special technique called binaural-beat frequency can be used.
The way binaural beat technology works is to present the left ear with a steady tone of a certain frequency and the right ear a steady tone of a different frequency. Within the brain, these two tones are combined into their beat frequency. This signal is formed entirely by the brain and can be adjusted to the exact speed required, so a frequency of 4 cycles per second is easily achievable. When using stereo headphones, the left and right sounds mix together in the brain and form what is called a binaural beat.
Just passively listening to binaural beats does not necessarily alter your state of consciousness. For example, willingness and ability to relax and focus attention determines how effective the binaural beat stimulus is for inducing state changes. This means that you must actively try to engage in the meditation and not fight or resist it.
The point of this technology is that experience and practice of a certain brainwave state will assist the brain in learning how to change its frequency. This makes it easier for the practitioner to produce the desired brainwave state at will. Using this technology, one can learn to achieve a deep level of meditation, and, after practice, this can be attained even without listening to the entraining sounds.
The Monroe Gateway Experience
Now you have the scientific basics behind the Monroe system, so we can go on to discuss the Gateway Experience. I’ll start with some additional background.
In the 1950’s, Robert Monroe was a radio executive living with his wife and family in Virginia. One afternoon he remained at home while his family went to church. He was drowsing when a bright ray of light came out of the north and illuminated him. He felt strong vibrations and also seemed to be paralyzed. When he finally forced himself to move, the light and vibrations ceased. Over the following few weeks, the same thing happened nine times. Since he’d never heard of such a thing, he became quite concerned and fearful that he was going crazy or was very ill.
He went to his doctor, but was told that his health was fine. The experiences continued, and he gradually became used to them and even began to anticipate them. One night, he was in bed when the sensations started. His arm was hanging over the side of the bed, brushing the carpet. As the sensations continued, his fingers seemed to go through the floor and brush a nail on the other side. Then they felt wet. This startled him, and he terminated the experience by pulling his arm back. The experiences progressed until he became aware that he was floating up against the ceiling of his bedroom. When he looked down, he could see his body in bed. He dived back in and opened his eyes. This experience was quite frightening to him, but after consulting a friend who happened to be a psychologist, he began to try to leave his body systematically.
He gradually became able to leave his body at will and then began to visit friends while he was out-of-body. He sought for validation of his experiences by comparing what he saw with his friends’ memories. He was usually partially correct in what was happening. Sometimes he saw other people who weren’t in the room, sometimes he heard his friends say something they had not said, but there was enough correspondence in their memories to allow him to feel confident in his abilities.
As a result of his years of practice, he developed a concept of the structure of the non-material world. He states that there are three locales. Locale 1 is closely related to what we call the real world. Travel in this locale is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. The experiencer finds that they have some unusual abilities which allow them to fly, to pass through walls, and to move almost instantly from one location to another.
Locale 2 is much deeper, and the experiencer is likely to meet predeceased people he knows. This is the level of thought, and the principles of thought apply. Like calls to like. When one desires to move, one simply thinks of the destination and is there. Inner desire to arrive at a location is most important. This is very similar to the law of attraction that allows us to successfully generate results in daily life. Monroe found that communication with entities he met at this level was usually by means of passing a “thought ball” of understanding from one to the other. Linear communication was not necessary. If you’ve meditated much, you might have found that you sometimes arrive at a complex understanding instantly without going through the linear sequence of thought. This is much the same thing as Monroe found in Locale 2.
Locale 3 is a level he found which seems to parallel that of our normal Earth. There were significant differences in technology, however. He explored this level mostly by merging with his double who lived there.
In his books, he gives a description of his ‘second body.’ It has some weight, is sometimes visible to his friends, and he can produce a sensation of touching his friends. The second body is formless but may take on any form required. He tried to locate the traditionally described silver cord connecting his second body with his physical body but was usually unaware of it.
Should you decide to read his three books, they must be read in sequence. If you were to start with the third book, you’d probably throw it down thinking that the author was crazy. One warning I will give is that the first book describes some of his more frightening experiences. He took his own biases and fears with him, and they show in his writings. For example, he recounts sensing some small, soft entities clinging to his back. He describes going through extreme maneuvers to dislodge them under the assumption that they meant him harm. Finally, he realized that they were his cats that had died and were clinging to him for their own security. This allowed him to deal with them without fear.
As an example of the odd sorts of experiences you may have, here’s another of mine:
I was sleeping, and it was well after midnight. I woke up lying on the floor beside the bed with my head at the foot of the bed. There was about five feet between the bed and the wall, so there was plenty of space for my body. I looked around a bit in surprise because I didn’t remember getting out of bed and certainly didn’t remember lying down on the floor with my head pointed towards the closet door. At this time, I realized that I was out-of-body. The room was dark, but there was enough light to see the furniture. As I looked, I saw a cat standing on the floor near my head. Without thinking I began to rub its head. It started to purr and acted very content that it was getting attention. At the time, we had a Siamese cat, but this was a strange cat. It was rather large and was marked in black and white tuxedo colors, except that the black was more tabby striped. I didn’t know the animal, but it was friendly, and I was happy to pat it. After awhile the cat left, and I moved back towards my bed. It was my intent to go back to sleep, and I must have reached that point prior to reintegrating with my physical body, since I don’t remember reentry.
The interesting thing about this experience was that my son, who was living over a thousand miles away, had just adopted a cat. I had no idea what it looked like, not having seen a picture at that time. When I finally visited him, his cat was marked exactly like the cat I’d seen in my OBE. The markings were not that common either. The black part of the tuxedo pattern was actually gray with tabby stripes appearing near the white part of its coat. My assumption is that the cat came to visit me, but I’m not sure why.
This experience was interesting but not exactly earth shattering in spiritual terms. Other times, I’ve received guidance in such a way that I was aware that it was coming from sources outside of my immediate body of knowledge. Usually, this type of guidance is accompanied with a spiritual boost that can lead to increases in insight.
Parallel Universe Theory
I have an alternate theory of OBE. Some of the reported experiences that I’ve mentioned above and that don’t have an easy explanation in conventional thinking may be reconciled with the aid of the concept of parallel universes.
The idea of parallel universes is supported by modern quantum physics. There is one theory that explains the odd ways in which quantum particles behave. Very briefly, it implies that the universe splits every time there is a choice made on a quantum level. For example, if a photon has the alternative of going through one slit or a second slit in the classic double-slit experiment, it will go through one in one universe and through the other in a second universe. The two universes may then merge into a single universe or not. This is a gross over-simplification, of course, but it’s adequate to advance my idea.
I first began thinking about this concept while rereading Robert Bruce’s description of the mind split effect. It seemed to me that since our brains operate at least partially on a quantum level, that it would be likely that any binary decision we make would result in two universes. In one universe, we would do one action and in the other, we would do the action corresponding to the other half of the binary decision.
What this might mean is that when we project out of our body, we don’t project into the same universe in which the part of us that remains in our body resides. This split allows us to move into numerous alternate universes. These universes have traditionally been classified as various levels of the real-time zone and the astral zone and others.
This provides a possible explanation of Monroe’s locales and the fact that he often saw things that did not occur in the “real” universe. In some universes, his friends might be saying the things he heard and reported. In others, they may not. In some, there might be additional people present, or the building or décor might be different. The implication I draw is that OBEs are real and possibly scientifically explainable events.
There are numerous other resources available on the Internet for those who want to study this topic. It’s an interesting subject and one that you can easily experiment with in the privacy of your own home.
I had a good time working with the prehistoric animals mentioned in my story Heart of Fire Time of Ice. Who isn’t intrigued with creatures such as saber-tooth tigers? (Well, maybe not everyone.)
I couldn’t weave every possible animal into the story, but I used a number of the larger and more prominent ones that I thought my readers would be likely to know.
I made an effort to have the animals behave in ways that are consistent with what we know about them based on similar modern species. My description of their behavior is based on my imagination only and not to be taken as factual.
The saber-tooth tigers’ habits are still a matter of great speculation. No one has been able to satisfactorily explain how they used their enormous canines. The lengthy teeth seem to have been too fragile for the type of hunting techniques used by most of today’s big cats.
I made the assumption that the saber-toothed cats were more like lions and hunted primarily in groups. This would seem to be a necessity, considering the large size of many of the prey animals of the period.
One idea that I took into consideration was that the large numbers of herbivores would inevitably lead to numerous predators. It seems to me that humans of the period would be exposed to a lot of random predation. The large predators most likely wouldn’t actively seek out humans, but they most assuredly wouldn’t turn down a tasty snack, if they happened upon one.
In the next section, you’ll find a partially annotated list of Pleistocene animals. I’ve made some notes on animals that are not commonly known. Not all of them found their way into the plot. In addition, the list is not exhaustive, nor is it in the order in which the animals appear in the story.
MEGA-FAUNA AND OTHER ANIMALS
This section contains a partial list of animals that early North American humans might have encountered. It is not intended to be complete.
Birds – Grouse and other upland game birds, along with most of the ancestors of today’s birds, including many species of ducks and geese. Birds of prey, such as eagles, would have been more common.
Bison – Two species existed in America
Black Bear – The common black bear would be larger due to the necessity of surviving in the colder climate
Giant short-faced bear – six-feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours. This bear would have been the most dangerous, single predator. It would have been very difficult to kill using Paleolithic weapons. It would have been possibly one-third to one-half larger than modern polar bears.
Grizzly Bear – as dangerous to humans then as it is today
Lesser short-faced bear – Closer to grizzly size. Bears were a valuable source of meat and fat for early settlers. Early accounts reveal that they were an important food for American Indians. They frequently diced up venison (which is very lean) and fried it in bear fat. One would expect the Clovis people to have done the same.
Western Camel – the Western Camel was a migrating herd animal
Cave Lion – Pantera Atrox – The American Cave Lion was 40% larger than modern African Lions
Cheetah – The American Cheetah was unrelated to today’s African Cheetah. It was larger than modern cheetahs.
Coyote – possibly a little larger than modern coyotes
Deer of various species
Dire wolf – more closely related to coyotes than gray wolves. Larger and heavier than gray wolves.
Fish – many species, including the Saber-tooth Salmon which was nine-feet long
Glyptotherium – A giant armadillo-like creature; probably a swamp dweller and unlikely to occur near the glaciers
Homotherium – unique hyena-like scimitar-toothed cats that were probably pack hunters, smaller than Smilodon
Horse – became extinct in America, only to be re-introduced by the Spanish
Jaguar – Larger than modern Jaguars
Llama – at least two species, herd animals
Lynx –This small, solitary hunter was also larger than modern versions.
Mammoth – various species of which the Columbian Mammoth is the one referred to in the story. It could weigh upwards of 20,000 pounds.
Mastodon – smaller than the mammoths. They most likely either lived a solitary life or lived in small groups
Puma/Mountain lion – probably larger than the modern animal
Rabbit and other rodents
Skunk and other mustelids such as weasels, etc. Wolverines would have been an occasional danger to humans. They’ve been known to kill both wolves and bears.
Giant ground sloth – ten feet tall or more with huge claws – probably found singly or with cubs, but not in groups
Peccary – small pigs, found today in the American Southwest
Pronghorn – 14 species existed; only one exists today
Saiga – antelope
Tapir – most likely swamp-dwelling and unlikely to be far north
Wolf – Gray wolves might have been about the size of today’s Gray wolf. While there are other species of wolf in America, the story restricts itself to the Gray Timber Wolf.
Today, in contrast to the Pleistocene period, the largest North American land animal is the American Bison. The largest predator is the Polar Bear, followed by the Kodiak Bear. A Giant Short-faced bear (illustration above) would probably be almost one-quarter larger than a polar bear.
To a human, either would be a fearsome predator, although not invulnerable. The Inuit used primitive weapons to kill polar bears and the Clovis culture probably would have done the same.
I’ve decided to post some of my notes from the time I was writing Heart of Fire Time of Ice in order to give you an insight into my writing process and also to explain (partly) the context in which I set the story.
I made the decision, when I was first starting to write novels, to research the known scientific aspects of all of my stories. (Some of my stories involve pure imagination, particularly when other planets and alien life-forms are involved.) There is a fine line between spending so much time researching that the story does not get written and simply making things up to give the story a superficial aspect of reality. I try to compromise, researching enough to provide meaningful and mostly scientifically accepted facts or at least theories, but not getting hung up on becoming an expert on the topics I’m researching. This post involves analyzing the climate factors that would have impacted the world that my main characters inhabit for most of the story.
Readers will know that the story involves time travel with a modern woman inadvertently transferred into the Pleistocene period. My heroine, Kathleen, ends up in the later part of the period known as the Younger Dryas. With that being said, I’ll present my notes below:
STORY RESEARCH and NOTES
Researching the Pleistocene forces one to become aware of the climate. The glaciers were the most prominent feature of life. Their presence modified climate, provided an avenue for man to colonize North America and impacted the migration routes and habits of animals. The glacial ice was thousands of feet thick and extended south past the present day Great Lakes.
Near the end of the Pleistocene, Earth had moved into a warming period, and the glaciers started to retreat and melt. The melt-water runoff mostly flowed down the Mississippi river valley. The water flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, was warmed in the shallows of the Gulf and eventually joined the Gulf Stream flowing north. The Gulf Stream acted as a conveyor belt to carry the warmer water’s heat to the northern part of the Atlantic.
The period of the Pleistocene known as the Younger Dryas was apparently initiated by a perfect storm of adverse events. One theory is that an asteroid struck the thickest part of the ice sheet above the Great Lake area. The impact would have vaporized the miles-thick ice, leaving no crater and no evidence and killed millions of creatures including any humans unfortunate enough to live nearby. This is the scenario that I use in the story. (Cadeyrin, the Clovis hunter who is the other main character, had heard of a huge flood when he was a child, and the weather had changed quickly after that event, causing his people to move westward.)
The meteorite (or possibly comet) would have freed melt-water and chunks of ice that could have blocked the Mississippi river. The theory is that the melt-water was then forced to find a new pathway, flowing into the north Atlantic along the St. Lawrence River.
The cold, fresh water would have the effect of displacing the Gulf Stream. Without its warming effect, the north Atlantic conveyor system would break down. This would have resulted in global temperature drops that would cause the glacial ice to begin to grow again.
The increase in glacial ice would then have locked up atmospheric water causing the climate to become vastly dryer. There is geological evidence of huge dust storms that killed vegetation during this period. This would starve the mega-fauna that depended on large amounts of easy grazing.
Based on what is called the Solutrean hypothesis (not currently held in favor by anthropologists), the Clovis people were present on the eastern coast of the North American continent (in fact, there are far more Clovis projectiles found there than elsewhere, lending credence to this idea). Dust and intense north Atlantic storms would probably have caused them to head west, searching for better conditions. It would be very cold and dry there, also, and that would result in less prey, forcing the humans to fight for resources. This scenario nicely sets up the story’s conflict between the Paleo-Indians and the Clovis people. It also works perfectly for my story, so that is why I selected it. In addition, it involves a migration of people from Europe that was quite likely possible. We know that Vikings reached the new world and possibly humans from Ireland and the British Isles, so why not an earlier migration, especially when the climate would have created very low sea levels, leaving the Grand Banks out of water and allowing men to hunt the forests which have left trees that are still found on the sea bottom there.
Thirty species of animals, including several species of rabbits and skunks, became extinct in the Younger Dryas, and Clovis technology also disappeared. Clovis projectiles were replaced with the Folsom variant and other forms of more modern arrowheads. Possibly the Clovis people themselves modified their signature projectile points into the Folsom form. There isn’t a tremendous difference in the points, save in the fluting. Extending the length of the center flute on both sides of the point seems to be a simple advancement that would allow the point to be re-sharpened and re-used more easily when broken.
The Younger Dryas period saw nearly eighty percent of the mega-fauna disappear, leaving mostly bison with a few of the other species. One would expect the carnivores to survive a little longer than herbivores. In the time of this story, the remaining carnivores have turned to scavenging hunted prey and predating on humans more than previously.
While it’s easy to make the assumption that the presence of humans with enhanced killing skills was responsible for the extinction of the large herd animals, it seems more probable to me that the harsh climate and lack of vegetation impacted the mega-fauna to a greater degree than the relatively few human hunters. Despite the near extinction of the American Bison by meat and hide hunters using firearms in the 1800’s, the Bison survived quite nicely for thousands of years prior to that, even while being hunted by the American Indians using Paleolithic weapons and fire-drives.
As to the thought that fire-drives caused the extinction of most of the mega-fauna, I would say that fire-drives depend upon large, open grasslands with dry grass to provide fuel. Lightning-caused fires often burn such areas, and the fauna would have been at least somewhat used to surviving burning prairies as a matter of course.
Still, without time-travel, it’s mostly speculation. However, this is a fictional story, after all, and who is to say that the world of Cadeyrin didn’t exist?