Category Archives: Books

THE PREMONITION:

A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

This is the BEST real-life thriller I’ve read since Hot Zone, and it provides the basis for the hell year we all lived through in 2020.

Michael Lewis conducted the background research to explain why the US was horribly prepared to face the unfolding of a pandemic. In this book, we meet the behind-the-scenes heroes, who early on attempted to provide insight and guidance, and … were thwarted.

Read about Laura Glass, a 13-year-old in New Mexico, whose interest in disease spread for a science fair project becomes the nation’s starting point in understanding how to model Covid increases. Of course, this couldn’t happen except in a nation focused on external terrorist groups. Lewis also exposes the reader to the systemic failures of the public health system by taking us inside the lived experience of a Lilith-like character (Dr. Charity Dean) who buts heads time and again with the CDC, even before Covid. As a public health officer, she knew how her contemporaries would react as 5000 or so separate entities, at a time when a single strategy would be necessary to contain spread. Learn the history concerning the Swine Flu and why the CDC would never step up again and take the lead in a time of crisis. As an agency, the CDC emerges singularly unfit to fight anything. It is an academic study agency wholly unsuited to lead anyone anywhere.

Behind the scenes, like in a great movie, a team of maverick scientists gather online to share data and ideas. Many are highly placed, occupying careers in agencies throughout the government, risking their careers meeting covertly. Led by Carter Mecher of the VA, the team overturned previously held beliefs about the 1918 Pandemic showing that social distancing and mask wearing could make a difference. Mecher had also been  instrumental in developing a national response plan under a previous administration. For a time, the team has an influence especially when Charity Dean gets the ear of CA. Gov. Newsom in the early days of the pandemic but soon politics force her out. If this had been a Hollywood movie, the heroes would have prevailed after the fight, but this was reality and 2020 was some kind of alternate reality at that. The book ends in the spring of 2020. Bungling government institutions fail to step up, focusing on avoiding blame, and preserving the status quo. Hundreds of thousands die, the nation is divided, we fail to contain the pandemic. Big questions remain. Have we learned anything? Will we take the steps to address pervasive governmental shortcomings, or will we be the laughingstock of the world in the next pandemic, too?

Hundreds of books will be written in the years to come to trying to capture the Covid experience. This is an eye-opening one setting the stage for what unfolds. If you were constantly puzzled by the lack of governmental leadership on all levels, this book is a good starting point into gleaning an understanding.

To find my books, click on the link below.  

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Halloween Time:

Looking for a ghost story? Give this a try!

The face of the Dutch girl glared back at her with dark eyes and a mouth twisted in a cruel grimace. From the hall came a sinister laugh.

After a family trip to Amsterdam, 14-year-old Lydia finds herself closer to the past than she could have imagined. During her stay, a bizarre series of events that seem to defy all logic is set in motion. When Lydia’s life is threatened, she is forced to solve a centuries’ old mystery and uncover the truth about Annika, the angry ghost of a little Dutch girl, her story, and how their past and present connect them. Lydia finds herself closer to the past than she has ever been. But what can Lydia possibly do to help someone who died over 400 years ago?

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

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The Mystical Minute:

The premier episode of The Mystical Minute. Join Ellis for brief videos on all things mystical or spiritual. The first up is a look at what we know about NDEs (near death experiences) from the book After by Bruce Greyson.

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AFTER

By Bruce Greyson

Greyson is a psychiatrist who has been studying near death experiences (NDEs) for decades. He brings his research and a plethora of stories together in this book as he walks the reader through his process of discovery. The stories are fascinating (especially the ones where someone learns about someone’s death during an NDE only to return to life and find out that person has died). If you are familiar with NDEs, he will plow well-known ground for much of the book. You must remember that Greyson took up his work when scientists didn’t even agree on what the term NDE even meant. How far we’ve come!

The book suffers (for me) because he refused to date any of his material apparently thinking that it would make the cases sound old and trivial, but it makes it difficult to get a sense of the whole timeline. There is also a grating repeat of his insistence of his scientific perspective throughout. I get it! You’re an MD and want to be accepted by peers. (You told me that! Move on.) It’s hard not to draw a sharp contrast to the mettle of an Ian Stevenson and the constant lack of confidence Greyson reveals. Enough of my personal pet peeves though. Does the book hold value? Of course, it does.

Greyson tackles some difficult and little covered areas. Most NDE stories are positive with positive outcomes. But there are people who have negative NDEs. There are also the lesser-known downsides to NDEs. These effects and stories are covered in the chapter aptly named, Hard Landings. Grayson would also like to shift the focus of the NDE discussion away from what happens after we die to how NDEs can help people live better, more fulfilling lives. Research suggests just learning about NDEs can help people make meaningful changes in how they live. All good points.

I think this is the kind of book where the take-away message is really going to depend on who YOU are. Are you questioning the reality of NDEs? Then the linear approach of Greyson’s scientific method will appeal and do much to answer your questions. Are you already convinced of the legitimacy of the NDEs? Then, maybe, the stories and the way people are forever changed by these events will speak to you. For me, it’s always been more about what NDEs say about our understanding of reality that makes the phenomena not only intriguing- but important. Lessons from NDE research supports the idea that consciousness does not spring from the brain, but rather that the brain acts as a receiver that filters information. Science has a lot of work to do to figure out how the mind and the brain function to explain all the intricacies experienced in NDEs. These understandings will have far reaching consequences on the whole way we structure our paradigm.

Some points to ponder:

*5% (approx..) of the population has experienced an NDE. (They are COMMON!) 1in 20 Americans have had one- means you probably know someone who has.   

*NDEs happen to all genders, ages, religions, ethnic groups.

*Most experiencers are convinced some part of us continues after death.

*Studies of the brain, reveal that memories of NDEs look like memories of real events (NOT like how the brain remembers fantasies or imagined events).   

* NDEs REDUCE the fear of death (overwhelmingly!!) regardless, if the NDE was positive or negative. It also reduces the fear of living allowing more risk taking and enjoyment of life.

*Experiencers who see those who have died when no one knew they had died, may suggest a form of continued consciousness after death. THE BIG QUESTION!!!

*NDEs point out flaws in the current brain-based model of consciousness.

Added Sep 3, 2021

UPDATE: Research published in 2017 on NDEs.

https://www.iands.org/news/news/front-page-news/1060-aware-study-initial-results-are-published.html

“The AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) is a multi-hospital clinical study of the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest, including testing the validity of perceptions during the out-of-body part of near-death experiences (NDEs). Dr. Sam Parnia is the principal investigator. The initial results, from the first four years of the study, were published last December in the medical journal Resuscitation (PDF). 

Of the 2,060 cardiac arrests during the study, 140 patients survived and could be interviewed for the study. Of these, 101 patients had detailed interviews, which identified 9 patients who had an NDE. Of the 9 NDErs, two had detailed memories with awareness of the physical environment. One NDEr’s experience was verified as accurate;…”

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The Haunting of Alma Fielding (NF)

By Kate Summerscale

I actually put this book on hold before it was released thinking it was a fictional tale, so I was a bit surprised when it arrived. This is the true story of a Hungarian ghost hunter researching phenomena in England prior to WWII. Nador Fodor worked for the International Institute for Psychical Research, when in 1938, he encountered Alma Fielding, an average, middle-class housewife. Alma’s life had been turned upside down by poltergeist activity including objects flying through the air and various sorts of items appearing as apports. The case became famous in England as multiple papers vied for the story. Fodor had his own suspicions and worked diligently to discover how Alma might be producing some of the happenings. He does catch her doing some things, but others remain completely inexplicable.

Nador Fodor

This was the era of Freudian psychology, and the UK was gripped by fears of a second, paralyzing war, no one wanted. The author does a wonderful job centering Alma’s case in its historical setting. Fodor takes up the trail of Alma’s deeper, hidden consciousness. What was hidden behind her everyday appearance? A lot as it turns out. How does a person’s unprocessed trauma, grief, and unacknowledged loss mix in the psyche and materialize in daily life? And what does that mean for all of us?

Kate Summerscale worked with Fodor’s original case notes and interviewed some who knew  Alma. The case is fascinating but what is even more so, is the impact the case had- although not many realize it…

Freud

Eventually, Nador Fordor sought out and received a letter from Sigmund Freud supporting the likelihood of his conclusions about Alma’s case. Fodor went on to practice psychoanalysis in New York. In 1951, he coined the phrase, “poltergeist psychosis”- where  a mental shock can release a poltergeist personality. Fodor felt that the objects leaping into life were caused by Alma’s feelings where the poltergeist acted as her agent. (Hey folks- this is mind over matter…) Fodor’s account of Alma’s case was published in On the Trail of the Poltergeist (1958). Fodor acknowledged that from a clinical point of view, BOTH Alma’s hoaxes and authentic poltergeist activity pointed to a real human who was suffering.

This new understanding of poltergeist phenomena would emerge in the culture through books and movies. Fodor served as a consultant on the movie for Shirley Jackson’s book, The Haunting of Hill House (1959). Jackson was familiar with Fodor’s theories and used them in her portrayal of Eleanor Vance. Eleanor was portrayed as sane, experiencing weird things around her. Modern portrayals of hauntings from Carrie to The Babadook, allow for many interpretations- often combining real and imagined, psychological and supernatural.

Decades after Fodor’s work, his ideas on trauma have become commonplace. Central to Alma’s story, was the idea that a horrific trauma could be wiped from her consciousness.  Today, the recovery of traumatic memory remains problematic, but acknowledged. The book provides an interesting window into the power of the subconscious and the time period Alma’s story emerges.        

To find my books, click on the link below.

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THE SIN EATER:

A NOVEL by Megan Campisi

I’ve been intrigued by the notion of sin-eaters since I saw a movie concerning the topic years ago (The Last Sin Eater, 2007). Recently, I spotted this YA historical fiction work on the theme. It’s an intriguing book with a nice murder mystery at its heart.

But what is a sin-eater? Sin-eaters are designated individuals within a community who consume ritual foods thereby taking on the sins of a deceased person. The foods symbolize (or absorb, depending on your perspective) the sins and through ingestion, the sin-eater acquires the sin thereby absolving the deceased, and paving the way for entry into heaven. Historically, the practice is associated with Wales and the English counties bordering Wales.  

In the book, The Sin Eater, 14-year-old, May, is made a sin-eater after stealing a loaf of bread during the reign of Elizabeth I. Marked as a sin-eater and shunned by society, May eventually seeks out an older woman in the same situation. This woman mentors May in this hard life through example because verbal communication is forbidden. Sin-eaters are well fed and outcasts who are redeemed only upon death, having faithfully served their purpose—or so May is led to believe. Things are turned upside down when the older sin-eater refuses  to consume a deer heart for a royal governess who’s died. Refusing to do so costs her life. May loses her teacher and ends up center stage in a mystery of death and intrigue involving the royal bloodline.    

I enjoyed the book because it is an imaginative tale about something very little is known about. And yet, it did exist culturally, and the legacy carried on to some extent in areas including western England, Wales, Bavaria, and 17th century Dutch America. Campisi’s novel is now available in paperback.    

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THE FASHIONABLE GHOST

This is the time of year of ghosts, spooks, specters. Americans love a good ghost story, don’t we? I’ve always thought so. This week, I found a few statistics that surprised me. A Harris Poll (2013) found 43% of us believe in ghosts and 20% (according to the Pew Research Center) report an encounter with a ghost or presence. All I can say is really? That all? Actually, I suppose the number is quite high given the prevailing material paradigm.

When writing my ghost tale, I stuck to the notion of the white, insubstantial energy form portrayed in many traditional stories. Annika in Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds appeared this way but also took solid shape when Lydia time traveled back to the 17th century. My portrayal of a ghost had both wispy and life-like appearances. Not unlike stories that have come down to us from ghost lore. While many spirits have appeared in flimsy diaphanous, white apparel—some haven’t. Some have donned colorful clothing they’d be comfortable wearing in daily life. Specters fitted out in armor, monk’s robes, or silken gowns are common enough. Some of these appear solid and fully fleshed out. Real, in fact. There are reports of people shaking hands or trying to, with some of these ghosts. Naked ghosts are rarely reported, cultural propriety prevails even for those stuck between worlds.

As we approach Halloween and the veil thins, it’s good to keep an open mind. I’ve had a few experiences that leave me highly suspicious of our understanding of reality. One of those instances is highlighted in the dedication of Timeless Tulips, the others I’ll save for another occasion.

I remind everyone of my own ghost tale offering, Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds. The e-book has been discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for all of October. The print copy is also available.  

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

TIMELESS TULIPS, DARK DIAMONDS- A GHOST STORY

When fourteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease.

When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but now Lydia must face what she may have inadvertently brought home with her. A vengeful ghost!

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

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THE GHOST STORY

IN LITERATURE

This time of year as the days grow short and the air crisp, Halloween lurks just around the corner, my thoughts turn to those creepy tales told before the fire. Ghosts figure in many of them and the traditional ghost story has a long history. Every culture produced oral and/or written stories of ghosts.

Among the earliest written examples, Homer’s Odyssey depicts a journey into the underworld where the hero finds ghosts of the dead. A haunted house was portrayed by Plautus, the Roman playwright in his work entitled, Mostellaria. The ghost bound in chains was perhaps first described by Pliny the Younger in another haunted place tale. The Roman writer, Seneca was also fond of using ghosts in his tragedies. These classical examples would start to set the stage for the development of ghost stories in our own culture and day.

In celebration of the deep roots of this tradition, I remind everyone of my own ghost tale offering. The e-book has been discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for all of October. The print copy is also available.  

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

TIMELESS TULIPS, DARK DIAMONDS- A GHOST STORY

When fourteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease. When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but now Lydia must face what she may have inadvertently brought home with her. A vengeful ghost.

E-book: sale $2.99 https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

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MORE MIRACLE THAN BIRD

by Alice Miller

(Spoiler Alert)

The strange book title comes from the poem “Sailing to Byzantium” by WB Yeats. This historical fiction tale addresses the life of a young socialite. During WWI, Georgie Hyde-Lees breaks free from maternal control and arrives in London to nurse soldiers. Through her mother’s connections she meets WB Yeats, the famous poet many years her senior. Interested in the occult, Georgie enlists Yeats’ help in securing an invitation into the Order (The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). The author’s descriptions of a young woman trapped by conventional society’s rules and expectations are well drawn. Georgie falls for Yeats, but the reader remains hard pressed to understand the attraction Georgie exhibits. Certainly, he treats her poorly throughout their relationship. At the time of their meeting, WB struggles with his professional writing career faltering.   

Georgie

Presented with the option of another suitor, an officer who is her contemporary and a suitable match, Georgie sends him packing. Regardless that her mother and friends warn her that Yeats still loves a woman from his past (Maud Gonne), headstrong Georgie doggedly pursues Yeats. Yeats strings her along through his reconnection with Maud and then Maud’s daughter, Isesult.

Maud Gonne

Georgie’s stubbornness eventually pays off. Turned down by everyone else, Yeats finally marries Georgie. Neither are happy in the marriage but to keep Yeats’ attention (at least for a while), Georgie takes up automatic writing. Very keen to engage in all things esoteric, Yeats focuses just enough on his wife. That satisfies Georgie even though she knows she’s perpetrating a fraud. Eventually, Yeats’ poems benefit from the pursuit of the greater unknown.

WB & Georgie

Having read the reviews on Amazon after reading the book, most people agree the writing is exceptional, although the pacing suffers in a few places. The depiction of the period and societal constraints are interesting and well done. My biggest gripe is that the book is basically a very sad, one-sided romance. I had hoped for a journey into a mystical world of secret societies where Georgie actually had some PSI ability. At least on that level, she might have shared a connection with the older poet. Apparently not, she duped her husband for years if this fiction reflects reality.    

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CONTEST TIME!

Sept. 14, 2020:

CONTEST WINNER: Cornelia Weber! She will receive a print copy of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS. Congrats Cornelia!!

Enter to win a free print copy of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS.

What’s it about?

Glad you asked!!

A troubled, sixteen-year-old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake off the mountain. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

Interested?

Leave a comment below to enter. Blake is traveling in the Himalayas, where would you travel if anything was possible right now? I’ll draw one winner from all those who comment and mail the book to a US address. (Sorry everyone out of country. I’ll try an e-book contest later, so check back.) Contest closes Sept. 14, 2020, noon MT.

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