Vicki Lane is an author you keep trying to compare to other writers. Like Sharyn McCrumb, Vicki sets her Elizabeth Goodweather novels in the magic-ridden Great Smokey Mountains. Like Margaret Maron, she explores the places where the South's past and its present come together. Like Jocelyn Jackson, she gives us a clear-eyed view of southern women and their relationships with each other. Like - but of course, none of them is exactly like Vicki Lane, who sets edgy stories in a deceptively cozy rural setting and who combines the criminal mystery with the mysteries of the human heart. Today, she's here to talk to us about another influence creeping into her Elizabeth Goodweather books: the venerable (and modern!) southern tradition of "woo-woo."
Maybe it’s because I live near Asheville, NC – aka the Sedona of the East, the Lily Dale of the South, the Appalachian New Age Vortex – that I have found paranormal elements (woo-woo) invading my books. Ah, Asheville, where, when fundamentalist Christians’ cars began sporting bumper stickers reading WE STILL PRAY, the local Wiccans/Pagans/Buddhists countered with similar stickers proclaiming WE STILL CHANT.
Really, there seems to be something in the air. And I’m not the only one who’s affected. I offer a quick perusal of a calendar of upcoming events and offerings in the area to prove my point.
Try I Ching, Do-Hai, Ro Hun, Za Zen, Deeksha; Hear The Abraham Tapes; watch Consciousness Cinema, Play the Digeridoo!
What about Trance Dance or Traditional Sufi Dancing? Or you can Dance Your Prayers, Understand Your Dreams.
You’ll want to attend the Osho Indrahana Mystery School for the Awakening of the Coming New Man -- Bring a veggie brunch dish to share afterwards (no desserts).
Then there’s the Aleister Crowley Discussion or the Oneness Blessing,
And you might be ready for the Ho'Oponpono Hawaiian Healing Circle.
But wait! There’s more! You mustn’t miss the Wisdom of the Plant Devas, Egyptian Temple Science, or Toning for Peace.
Experience Soul Sounds --Sacred sound soul activation with gemstone alchemy crystal bowls, powerful sonic instruments producing harmonic vibrations that resonate the fluids in our bodies, bloodstream, organs and bone structure.
Whew! This is just a tiny selection of the offerings for the next few weeks. An embarrassment of spiritual riches.
And Spud Patrol Day: Join us in a selfless feeding of anyone in Asheville who would like a freshly baked potato with all the trimmings. No religion, no dogma, no anything but giving someone a hot baked potato.
Who doesn’t like a baked potato? But bigger things than baked potatoes are afoot in my neck of the woods. Come 11-11-11, there’s to be a Gathering. Starseeds and lightworkers are invited to the mega-crystalline vortex of Asheville, North Carolina. They say the vortex portals of Western North Carolina are emerging as the powerful energies on the planet.
So what’s a non-believer to do? (‘Vicki’s so conservative,’ as one of my New Age friends once said.)
Give in and let the fictional woo-woo roll is what I appear to have done.
It started innocently enough -- in my first book my protagonist sees a girl standing in the middle of the living room, dressed in the clothes of the early
1900’s and holding a hoe. The most rational of women, Elizabeth dismisses this ‘vision’ as a kind of waking dream. Only later does she learn the story of Little Sylvie who lived in a nearby cabin and tended the fields on which Elizabeth’s house was built.
I tried to hold to this formula in the books that followed: paranormal elements that could have a rational (if rather far-fetched) explanation. Is it faith-healing or placebo effect, Cherokee magic or coincidence? Let the reader decide.
But the lure of woo-woo (or the power of the vortex) became too strong for me. By my fifth book, a standalone, I’d succumbed to a strong combination of Appalachian witchy-woman lore and Cherokee magic, wielded by a fierce old woman. And things happen that can’t be explained away.
In my current release, Under the Skin, Elizabeth finds herself accompanying her sister to a weekend of séances. As she puts it -- “Now I was being challenged to absorb a mass of spiritualist information of the sort that my nephew Ben terms New Age Shit. But I had promised myself to approach this weekend with an open mind for my sister’s sake. Okay, then, I’d make an effort to understand this New Age . . . Stuff.”
She does and the results are . . . unexpected.
I’m told that in this Halloween (or Samhain in the Wiccan/Pagan tradition) week, the veil between the worlds of living and dead is at its thinnest. Spirits may walk; those who have passed over may speak to those still living . . . and the woo-woo may again ooze its way into my work in progress.
What can I tell you? I’m helpless, here in the mega-crystalline vortex.
Intrigued? You can find out more about Vicki's books - including excerpts and readers' guides - at her website. She talks about living and writing in Appalachia in her blog, and you can talk with her on her Facebook page.