Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review of Visitations & Conversations, by Carole Bromley

(Psychic Book Press, 2018). ISBN: 9781728753348

A disclaimer to start. I am a paranormal researcher who is married to a psychic medium. My daughter is also a psychic medium. Given the sad fact that, in this day and age, a war is still being waged by many in the scientific community and other gatekeepers and cynics against giving any legitimacy to mediumship and investigative study of the paranormal, it may be easy for someone to simply say, as many do when I try to explain these things, that “You already believe, so you cannot be objective.”
That statement makes no sense. I do, however, believe that there is life in some form after death. I also believe there are portals and multiple dimensions and sentient beings that vibrate at a higher level than living human beings and so do not behave according to traditional scientific laws. And I believe that an understanding of mediumship and what we call the paranormal is vital to the progression of the human race beyond its current and very limited way of living. A little research will show you that, for over 60 years, the United States, United Kingdom, and many other countries have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the study and exploitation of these areas.
It is one thing to read a book, and another to experience the author at work. I was lucky enough some months ago to experience Bromley’s way of working by observing a reading she did for my wife. Everything that she discusses in this book about her philosophy, her methods, and her unique, humor-filled approach to psychic mediumship was on display in the reading.
This is Bromley’s second book about her life as a psychic medium. Not having read The Living Spirit, One Woman’s Battle Amongst Ghosts, Spirits and The Living (2009), I am hazarding a guess here, but, judging from the title, it seems she has made the journey to more peace of mind and ease with her gifts since the publication of her first book. This is important, because skills such as Bromley’s are not always appreciated by the majority of the public and the institutions that govern them.
Visitations & Conversations is, to my tastes—and in-line with a currently popular genre of nonfiction—a perfect blend of memoir and case studies/testimonials. With her trademark sense of humor and colorful language, Carole shares her journey from childhood to now—with its many challenges, from financial struggles, to early family deaths, to health issues and the loss of a child of her own—all of which inform her relationship with the realm of the dead in profound ways.
As Bromley states in the opening pages, “I don’t convince anyone to believe in life after death.” This is an approach that I believe is invaluable if psychic mediumship and paranormal research are going to gain more credibility—and the deck is stacked against them for many reasons, including the rampant lies and exaggerations that are part and parcel of so-called Reality TV paranormal shows. My wife and I share Bromley’s philosophy and approach. All one can do is be professional, share the messages received, and maintain peace of mind knowing you are helping people. The end-of-book testimonials would hopefully make any cynic see the value of the work she does.
That, to me, is the core of this book. Through her many case studies, including testimonials from clients, Bromley makes a strong case for how much psychic mediumship helps people make peace with the loss of loved ones, be it through infant deaths, suicides, illnesses, old age, or accidents. Human beings have mystified death to the point that it’s a shadow cast over life. To know that there is life beyond death, that those we have lost are at peace, that they are watching over us, helping us, and helping each other, is a great gift.
Another aspect of Bromley’s philosophy is that “there are no poltergeists or demons I write about.” Entities that can be called demonic are truly few and far between. People often retain their personality after death—as I have seen through my firsthand experiences—and not all are pleasant. This is by and large what people are experiencing when they assume a “demonic” presence. It is an important distinction.
A prevalent aspect of Carole’s journey is the obstacles she’s faced from the establishment and her quest to earn respect. Her credentials are impressive: “I am a Psychic Medium, Reiki Teacher, Past Life Regressionist, Spiritual Teacher, Author, [and] Oracle Card Reader.” She has been practicing her skills and developing her calling for more than 20 years. In any other field this would demand considerable respect. She also relates that she comes from a long line of people with psychic ability. This is the case with other mediums I know.
The final chapter is titled “Science v Psychic Functioning.” It does not go into detail about how government-funded psychological-operations programs (such as those run during the Cold War by the Defense and Central Intelligence Agencies and Stanford Research Institute) spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the study of people like Bromley and my wife, but governments don’t spend that kind of money on programs like Remote Viewing without some foundational belief in the truth of psychic mediumship.
Bromley refers to herself as an “Ambassador” for the deceased, and, if that was a formal position,  I would certainly nominate her. How she treats both sides of the veil with equal respect, how she feels a clear responsibility in working with and representing both worlds, and her embracing her role as intermediary and messenger even when it was difficult in her professional and personal life is inspiring. 

If you know a medium, want to know more about mediumship, or have questions about life after death, this is an excellent resource. It is also a strong example of how a sense of humor enhances both the memoir and the memoirist’s life and work.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Review of Chuck Regan’s Beneath the Fungoid Moon: Tales of Cosmic Horror and Other Oddities

(Rayguns and Mayhem/Kindle Direct Publishing, 2018).

I have known Chuck Regan and his work for a long time. Three decades, actually. I started as a fan of his comic books, including Nether Age of Maga—a post-apocalyptic vision that’s everything from Plato to P. K. Dick. His skills as an artist—he’s known for his attention to detail and authenticity in his science fiction–based designs—translate successfully into prose. Regan has always had fun using made up words and he incorporates just the right amount of pop culture references in his work to give us grounding in the odd.
Regan’s vision has always been dark, but with touches of comedy and hope in all the right places. He opens his About the Author section at the end of this collection by saying he’s technically not an author because he has yet to publish a novel. But I’ve read several of his longer works in whole or in part, and “author” certainly applies. He is as much a technician of the craft of storytelling as any author I know. He’s even created a workbook for writers of long-form stories called Give Your Hero Bad Breath: A Character, Plot and World-Building Workbook that I have incorporated into my starting routine for new stories.
Beneath the Fungoid Moon is a collection of seven short stories, each with an opening passage about the history of the piece. For budding writers and those who want to see how the sausage gets made for writers in the thorny world of publishing, these introductions are invaluable.
The first story in the collection is “They Bite.” Before I share my thoughts, I have to say that I. Love. Tropes. I received a custom t-shirt for my fiftieth birthday this year that says, “You say trope like it’s a bad thing.” Tropes are our gateway into something new so that, no matter how bizarre or unfamiliar the story, there are things onto which we can grab hold. They are the mile-markers in a genre.
“The Bite” packs a lot of tropes into a tight, terrifying tale. It’s got hordes of angry insects; the meta- and micro-storylines of a city defending while a family defends; plenty of psychological aspects that explore the metaphors that make good horror so resonant; the destruction wrought from economic greed; the Star Trek red-shirt expendability of emergency medical personnel; and the attempted escape in the family vehicle—to name the most prevalent.
And Regan isn’t shy about it. At one point he writes, “Dan was scared his father might be losing it like they did in the old disaster movies.” Because that’s most likely how it would/will be when the bad stuff starts to go down. Social media will be flooded with posts saying “It’s just like in… [film, book, TV show].” Because writers help society Rehearse. Call it empathy, vicarious living, willing suspension of disbelief… Robert Heinlein and other masters of sci-fi were on retainer with the Department of Defense. If they could dream it, the military–industrial–intelligence complex could build it. And they have.
“Embrace of the Jabberwock” is an homage to both the Lewis Carroll poem and the works of HP Lovecraft (of which I can only say, don’t dismiss the possibility that Lovecraft was more of a reporter than a fiction writer). Regan really captures the underground nerd culture of hackers and online gaming aficionados (I have two of the latter sleeping off an all-nighter upstairs in my house as I type. Quietly…).
If Lovecraft was writing in the twenty-first-century uber-tech landscape, he would have written this story. Here we have the Web, the Deep Web with all its many horrors, and then the Beyond-the-Web, which could be a partial driver for the other two. Especially if you see in the data-eating AI tree all the grasping tentacles of Cthulhu.
This story weaves together not only Carroll and Lovecraft but films like the Matrix and Into the Mouth of Madness and the wacky world of back-alley occultists.
And we are left with the lingering question so often posed by Stephen King and perhaps evidenced in the Slenderman phenomena: can we, if we write these things well enough, actually pen them into existence? Maybe we already have.
“Friday Night Karaoke” is a riff on Purgatory. I love the focus on the nature of music to trigger memory. Regan’s vivid character descriptions are fully on display. It’s also a fun homage to the 1980s music scene, especially for a guy who’s just turned 50—I may have mentioned that—and grew up on the iconic songs that are woven into the story. Regan also does a fine job of revealing an illuminating backstory.
The next two stories are horror Westerns, a sub-genre that I have started working in because, with the deep metaphoric landscape that has always been the heart and soul of the Western, comes plenty of opportunity and overlap to play with the mechanisms of horror. The first story, “Headhunter” uses the trope of the bounty hunter and the second, “Jester’s Bliss” (which my literary website first published a version of about 10 years ago), uses as its frame the traveling carnival, although the parallel storyline of a frontier family being attacked on the trail is just as strong. Regan’s sense of physical landscape and vivid detail (again showing his background in visual art) makes this a perfect sub-genre for his talents.
The final story, “Rafter Man,” is a tapestry of many of the tropes in the previous stories, and is the only one told in the first person—via a Poe-esque, unreliable narrator who juices up the ride. This psychological mind-trip works well alone but is the perfect button/summation for the collection.
You can learn more about Chuck Regan and his writing, illustrations, and workbook at http://www.chuckregan.com. There will also be updates on some current long-form works he is creating, including a series of six novellas he describes as a “Superhero Noir.”

Pay attention: You might learn something that might just save your life in the bizarro years to come.