After all the cool chats I’ve been having with other authors about Reincarnation, I had a bizarre experience of my own, that I had to RUN to the keyboard to tell ya’ll about.
First, I should probably confess that I am wholly open to the idea of Reincarnation. You may not be. And that’s okay. My experience was still weird – like, Twilight Zone weird.
So there I sat, writing my novella, SHADY LADY, at my publisher’s request. SHADY LADY is an Adult Western Historical Romance novella in 1879, in Dodge City, and the hero is an outlaw named Cass.
As I was writing, I came to a scene in the novella where I needed to invent a “prize” that would interest Wyatt Earp (one of the Deputy Marshals of Dodge.) This prize needed to interest Earp so much, that he would consider placing an outrageous bet on Cass’s knife-throwing skills. Suddenly, this little voice pipes up in my brain: “Make the prize an ivory-inlaid Colt.”
And I think, “Where the heck did THAT idea come from? A Colt? Why a Colt?”
Then I think, “Hmm. Well, MAYBE a gun could work. But this Colt would have to be a FAMOUS Colt. A one-of-a-kind Colt. It would have to carry enough sentimental value to make readers believe that an American gun-fighting legend, like Wyatt Earp, might actually covet it” (even though technically, Earp was relatively unknown as a lawman in 1879.)
“Pearl” was born in that moment. However, the idea of Pearl raised other questions: What kind of Colt was Pearl? (Colt manufactured dozens of revolvers.) What caliber was Pearl? And where did the brothel madam (who was staking Pearl) get such a unique and potentially infamous revolver?
Next, the voice whispers in my brain, “Navy Colt. .36 Caliber. Wild Bill.”
And I think, “Uh . . . Okay. Weird. But . . . whatever.”
So I set off on my fact-finding mission. It never occurred to me that my “idea” wasn’t just a random idea, until I started researching on the Internet.
In order for you to understand how weird my “innate expertise” on guns and Wild Bill was, let me confess:
a) I know next to nothing about revolvers, and even less about their calibers.
b) I know next to nothing about Wild Bill Hickok.
Well, GUESS WHAT!!
James Butler Hickok (“Wild Bill”) did, in fact, own two (count ‘em, TWO), ivory-inlaid .36 caliber Navy Colt Revolvers, which he kept in a sash that he wore around his waist.
I also learned that he served as a Pony Express rider, a gunfighter, and the City Marshal of Abilene, KS (a cowtown) for a time. However, he was assassinated three years before my novella opens. He died in Deadwood, S.D. – NOT in Kansas.
When I learned that the “little whispers” in my brain could actually be verified by Internet research, I officially freaked out! I mean, how could I have POSSIBLY known that Wild Bill carried two, ivory-inlaid Navy Colts? (Insert Twilight Zone theme here.)
Okay. So maybe, JUST MAYBE, I read about Wild Bill years and years ago, and my incredibly malleable brain filed the fact away deep in my subconscious.
And maybe, JUST MAYBE, I was able to access this random fact about Navy Colt calibers, exactly at the right moment, when I needed it.
However, this explanation feels like a stretch to me, since I NEVER remember arbitrary numbers – like old Master Lock combinations – many years later, when I suddenly need them. I have to look them up in a file.
Of course, you’re probably thinking the Reincarnation idea is the greater stretch. But you know what? I am SO IN SYNCH with the Old West that it’s kind of freaky. I have NEVER had a fantasy book pour out of my brain as fast as this Western novella did. (I wrote SHADY LADY in 3 weeks.)
I have often considered that historical eras appeal to me as a reader and a writer because they feel “comfortable” in some way. For instance, I love to read about Celtic history, medieval England, and Elizabethan England. I also love to read fiction set during the American Civil War.
However, when I visited a Civil War battlefield – Gettysburg, to be precise — I was seized by an inexplicable despair, an overwhelming grief that actually made me tear-up. I couldn’t shake my sadness until I drove off the property. (Note: Today is Nov. 19, one day after I originally published this post and the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Only 2 minutes long – compared with the largely forgotten, 2-hour oration by another speaker on the same podium – Lincoln’s cherished and well-remembered “address” can be found here. Oh. And guess who got chills re-reading it for the first time since high school?)
Other historical eras give me the hee-bee geebies, too. For instance, I nearly crawled out of my skin – couldn’t breathe – the first time I watched the movie, Titanic. During the dramatic scene where viewers see the Titanic turn vertical, preparing to go down for the last time, panic struck me like a bolt out of the blue.
I had to force myself to sit in the theater, rather than flee for “air.” The visceral, physical terror of, “No way out,” kept growing inside of me. And no, I have NEVER had a similar reaction while watching other historical action-adventure movies. For instance, I’ve watched World War II airplanes get gunned down without batting an eyelash.
While researching another novel, I stumbled across photographs depicting implements of torture used on witches in Germany. The photographs were extremely “dry” and “technical” – in other words, no sensationalized images with horrific, screaming faces accompanied them. Nevertheless, I became physically ill (nauseous) at the sight of those torture tools. I had to close the book.
Conversely, while reading about the Burning Times in Salem, MA, and witch hangings in England, I didn’t have any reaction whatsoever. But when I started reading about witch-burnings in Scotland? Oh yeah. Freaked out bad.
Did I live during the Old West? Was I drowned on a sinking ship? Did I fight at Gettysburg? Was I burned to death for witchcraft?
No one will ever know for sure. But it sure makes an interesting story!
How about you? What do you think about Reincarnation? Have you ever had reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, you lived during another historical period? Let us know in the Comments section, below.