In The Air Around Us

When I finished my talk to a large civic group last month and took questions, a lady’s hand shot up. “Where do you get your ideas?”

I shrugged. “They’re everywhere. Willie Nelson once said that songs are just floating in the air and all we have to do was reach up and grab them. It’s the same for me when I’m writing. They come from nowhere, and everywhere.”

I’d been discussing my most recent upcoming release and a gentleman on the front row spoke up. “So did your idea for Hard Country come from the news or is it totally from your imagination?”

The question was one of those softballs I love. “It’s real, in a sense. A few years ago, we had a ranch in Oklahoma that should have been heaven, and it was in most cases, but our house was across a gravel road, three hundred yards from a ‘buy house’. Cars ran the roads at all hours of the day and night, coming and going to buy drugs.

“during the same period of time, meth-heads broke into our place more than once, kicking in the door and ransacking the house. I got pretty good at repairing door frames and locks, that did little good. Then they stole my brother-in-law’s truck and we learned that the first place the thieves drove it to that night was buy house to trade some of our stolen items for drugs. The law was little help, because more than one member of that small-town sheriff’s department were related to the dealers, so they tended to look the other way.

“It took an unconnected DPS officer to arrest one of the criminals before they launched an investigation. It did little good, and as far as I know, they were still selling drugs out of the old trailer house today. That idea eventually became the basis for the first Tucker Snow novel that will release August 1, 2023.”

Another hand. “So do you have any ideas for another book?”

“I have dozens, and some of them will never be written by me.”

“Name one.”

“Are you a writer looking for ideas?”

The audience laughed and the lady answered. “No, I just like to hear what writers are thinking.”

“When you’re talking to a thriller or mystery writer, they’re most likely thinking of interesting ways to kill you.” I paused for effect and she gave a nervous laugh that the others enjoyed. “But here’s one you might be interested in, because I believe my grandson has a paranormal connection some people won’t believe…”

And that gave me the idea for today’s post. Consider this proposal for your consideration.

My two-year-old grandson, Caden, piqued my interest in a possible book when he could barely talk. Sunday afternoons are usually pure chaos at our house as both daughters and their families come over to what we call here in Texas, supper. All five kids always want to get in the pool, and that’s where our story starts.

That weekend the Bride bought floats and several water toys, including a package of old-fashioned water guns. The older kids immediately filled them from the pool and commenced to spirting each other and any unwary adult who might wander past. I was one of the first victims, and in response, I took up arms and looked for a target, immediately ruling out the Bride.

Caden saw me and that’s when things got weird. This kid who only watched Bubble Guppies and Paw Patrol grabbed one of the water pistols and squeezed the trigger. His eyes lit up when the stream of water shot out, and the next thing I knew he held the plastic gun at High Ready, looking for a target.

He saw me and I swear this is true, advanced using sophisticated footwork, as if trained by a SWAT team. His form was perfect, and if you want to see an example, find any video of a trained soldier or law enforcement officer moving up in a dangerous situation. He was letter perfect and he shot me several times before ducking out of sight with his back against a wide support pillar under our huge patio cover.

The Bride saw him holding the pistol against his chest, still at High Ready, as I proceeded to find an angle on him. That twenty-four-month-old moved with me, keeping the column between us, then turned the corner to fire again before procceding, again, looking like he’d spent years in the military, or as a law enforcement officer.

Let me make this clear, this kid performed as a trained, seasoned warrior and at that age, had never seen anything like it on TV. Neither of his parents watched movies when the kids were up, because his dad works most nights and is interested in nothing but sports. Good or bad, that son-in-law who only had a vague notion of who John Wayne was, cared nothing for war or cop movies or series.

That wasn’t all. When we wrestled, Caden had moves. He never retreats, but attacks. If one of us played chase with him, he used one hand to slap things in our path to slow us down. If you’ve ever read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, Lee describes his protagonist when he was a child. He could have been describing Caden.

When he was threer, he loved to play policeman, and wanted to put us in cuffs.

The Bride’s “office” became a jail.

That made us think he’d been on this earth before. I started thinking about reincarnation and remembered two well-researched events involving a boy and girl who are prime examples of this phenomenon.

James Leninger began to experience nightmares at the age of two. When his parents woke him up, they report he kept saying repeating the same story. “He developed a habit of saying “airplane crash on fire,” and slamming his toy planes nose first into the family’s coffee table. When they woke him from those bad dreams, he often shouted, “Little man can’t get out!” (Jim B. Tucker, M.D. University of Virginia.)

He repeated this behavior over and over, producing dozens of scratches and dents on the table and began to describe being an American pilot in WWII who was killed when his plane was shot down by the Japanese during the battle of Iwo Jima. He gave details that included the name of an American aircraft carrier, the Natoma, the first and last name of a friend who was on the ship with him, and a location and other specifics about the fatal crash, Somewhere around three years of age, he described how a Corsair plane reacted upon takeoff, always pulling to the left, and that particular war plane’s tires and tendencies for them wear out.

His parents eventually discovered a close correspondence between James’ statements and the death of a World War II pilot named Jack Larson. They eventually tracked Jack down and the veteran remembered Huston who was a pilot and friend. He described how Huston’s plane hit by Japanese gunfire and he saw the explosion when on the plane’s nose. Jack confirmed they both took off from the aircraft carrier Natoma, and saw Huston’s plane crash in the ocean, reporting that the nose was on fire.

Little James told his parents his last images from that past life was the sky covered by water, and his feet trying to kick the plane’s clear canopy open, and then nothing.

It gives me chills.

They released a book titled, Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation Of A World War II Fighter Pilot.

Here’s one of many interesting studies of their fascinating story:

And a detailed, well-researched article:

The more I researched that youngster who is now an adult, it reminded me of another account I read way back when I was in college. It revolved around an Indian girl, Shanti Devi, who was born in 1926.

Not long after she learned to speak, Shanti told her parents about a past life in a town neither she nor her parents had ever been to. Small events reminded her of former memories in India, such as foods she enjoyed, or the clothes she used to wear.

As the years passed, Shanti remembered her name in a past life was Lugdi, and she died shortly after delivering a son in 1925. She even added details about labor pains and surgical procedures she endured. She described in detail the shops and streets in town, and though she refused to reveal her husband’s name, the youngster described a man with fair skin, a wart on his left cheek, and wore reading glasses.

At around age ten, an uncle decided to investigate her continuing and detailed claims about a past life in Mathura,75 miles away. Her story panned out, and the man she insisted was her husband existed. They took Shanti there, hiring a driver to follow her directions without question.

She led them directly to her former house. Devi’s father went in first, and in an effort to trip her up, had the man’s relative come forward, telling her it was her former husband. She said no, it was his her “husband’s” brother, but when Pandit Kedarnath Chaube came to the door, she threw her arms around him and wept, shocking everyone. She said he was her husband, and even identified others by name, including children and the child she says she delivered, and other familial relationships. Shani eventually became part of their family and died in 1987.

There are dozens of websites that discuss this story. Here’s one:

Whether or not you believe these stories or not, or believe in reincarnation, the fact is they are great concepts that can lead to interesting books in hundreds of different ways.

Feel free to steal these ideas because I don’t need ‘em. They are flying in the air all around us.


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About Reavis Wortham

Two time Spur Award winning author Reavis Z. Wortham pens the Texas Red River historical mystery series, and the high-octane Sonny Hawke contemporary western thrillers. His new Tucker Snow series begins in 2022. The Red River books are set in rural Northeast Texas in the 1960s. Kirkus Reviews listed his first novel in a Starred Review, The Rock Hole, as one of the “Top 12 Mysteries of 2011.” His Sonny Hawke series from Kensington Publishing features Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke and debuted in 2018 with Hawke’s Prey. Hawke’s War, the second in this series won the Spur Award from the Western Writers Association of America as the Best Mass Market Paperback of 2019. He also garnered a second Spur for Hawke’s Target in 2020. A frequent speaker at literary events across the country. Reavis also teaches seminars on mystery and thriller writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to writing conventions, to the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC. He frequently speaks to smaller groups, encouraging future authors, and offers dozens of tips for them to avoid the writing pitfalls and hazards he has survived. His most popular talk is entitled, My Road to Publication, and Other Great Disasters. He has been a newspaper columnist and magazine writer since 1988, penning over 2,000 columns and articles, and has been the Humor Editor for Texas Fish and Game Magazine for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Shana, live in Northeast Texas. All his works are available at your favorite online bookstore or outlet, in all formats. Check out his website at “Burrows, Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The cinematic characters have substance and a pulse. They walk off the page and talk Texas.” —The Dallas Morning News On his most recent Red River novel, Laying Bones: “Captivating. Wortham adroitly balances richly nuanced human drama with two-fisted action, and displays a knack for the striking phrase (‘R.B. was the best drunk driver in the county, and I don’t believe he run off in here on his own’). This entry is sure to win the author new fans.” —Publishers Weekly “Well-drawn characters and clever blending of light and dark kept this reader thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” —Mystery Scene Magazine

14 thoughts on “In The Air Around Us

  1. Great post. Where did you get the IDEA for it? Do you have ideas for other posts? 😂

    • Lordy, I dreamed two ideas. A couple of nights ago that resulted in one horror story that’s too much for most people, and a crime story.

      More to come….

  2. I think it was Harlan Ellison who said, when asked where he got his ideas said “Schenectady”.

    Of course there are ideas and ideas, but I keep coming back to Stephen King’s “What if?”. Brainstorming is also helpful if you are so fortunate as to be on a first name basis with a person of similar inclination.

    It’s not so much ideas that come in a neat package all ready to go like an Instant Pot complete with instructions and all you gotta do is put it on the card at Wally World. It’s not even working from a recipe in the cooking section.

    It’s more like looking around the kitchen and thinking “What do I have here that I can make something to eat with?”

    In both cases, the well stocked pantry is a necessity and you fill your idea pantry with snippets of information, things that have happened, news, things you’ve read, things that have happened you’ve heard about.

    One thing that I regularly do is go to the internet archive where is warehoused an enormous collection of pulp magazines from the thirties to the end of the pulp era. There isd plenty pof insp[iration there.
    Very rarely does an idea present itself that says to you “You can run with this thing. Get to it.” It’s more an evolutionary ‘what if’ thing’. But when it does show up, hoo boy! off you go.

    On the other hand, sometimes you find that someone has already gone your way. Could be years ago.

    So I’ve been working on a short story about an ordinary man’s slide into criminality. And I’m reading Irwin Shaw’s collected short stories and after I’ve been working on this story of mine for a month or so, I find in Irwin Shaw’s short stories-you guessed it! a story about an ordinary man’s slide into criminality.

    I reckon that everyone’s had that experience, and I wonder how the Assembled Multitude handles that.

    • Great stuff, but they say there are only a handful of plots and we all write them from our own hand and experiences. That’s what makes them unique.

      I recently turned in a manuscript to my agent for the next Tucker Snow novel, and she said in all her years that she’s never seen that particular premise.

      So write away!

  3. I wrote a reincarnation romance called TIME AFTER TIME about a man who remembers all of his former lives and the one woman in them. He tries to convince the current her they are meant to be together by recreating moments in their past lives. It really connected with a lot of readers.

    When I was much younger, I recalled moments from several past lives, and I’ve had a strong affinity for certain time periods. Hence, one of the reasons I wrote the book.

    • The Bride and I are convinced we were together before. It’s the way we found each other, including wild coincidences and brushes with each other.

      Many believe people go through a number of incarcerations for some reason, which I suppose is the nut of today’s post.

      She and I just prepaid our funerals, and even selected the marker. I told her to add this to the back. “I wasn’t finished.”

  4. This topic of past lives/reincarnation resonates very strongly for me.
    I’m familiar with the Leninger story, having stumbled across it in a Netflix docmentary about reincarnation. It’s eerie indeed. And, while it was necessary for James to have his own life, I found myself sad for the fact that he had to suppress Jack’s memories in order to do so.
    I’ll dig into the other story. Sounds even more amazing than Leninger! Highly unusual for the past memories to strengthen as time goes on.
    As does that of your grandson! Wow. Gives me chills (the good kind, as I dearly love this topic) and I’d love to hear more!

  5. “In each of us there is an ʘther whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams . . . ” — C G Jung

    Not only does the “other” create dreams, he also makes up stories.

    I’ve been reading up on Near Death Experiences, lately. Reincarnation is often mentioned in NDE interviews.

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