Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tangled Paths by J. Leigh: Guest Post



A lot of people often ask me 'what inspired you to write Way Walkers', and I've found that to be a tough question to nail down, simply because of the amount of time I've been working on the project. I started this world at eleven years old, so it's encompassed more than 2/3s of my lifetime at this point, and the sheer volume of influences that have been poured into the cup of Way Walkers in that timeframe has been vast. Too vast to count.

However, the fantasy world of Way Walkers is hinged upon a deep understanding of the afterlife, and ghosts, spirits, demons and all things that go bump in the night figure prominently throughout. Since this is Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews, and because I have an odd habit of writing with the TV on, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite paranormal TV shows, and talk a little bit about how watching them helped shape the paranormal backdrop of Way Walkers.


The X-files

1993-2004, Fox network

What it's about: FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are a miss-matched pair of conspiracy-theorist and conservative partnered up to investigate the Agency's 'unexplained' case files, which range from UFOs, to ghosts, to psychic phenomena, to the Jersey Devil and many more.

Why it's great: At the time, there was nothing else like this out there. It was the first show (at least that I'd ever seen) to go really into the weird--while still centering on a pair of partners whose relationship made the show all the more engaging.

How it influenced Way Walkers: I loved the balance between the desire to believe in the unexplained and the desire to remain grounded in the reality of science and proof. This show also taught me about character development in a way that no other show has ever, ever done. It was a very slow climb for Mulder to become more grounded, and for Scully to become more open to the paranormal, but the show did it and did it well. It's a standard I hold myself to even today.


Ghost Hunters

2004-present, Sci-Fi channel

What it's about: Camera crews follow Jay, Grant and the rest of the team of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) on their visits to homes and historical venues in search of proof of the afterlife.

Why it's great: Despite a lot of parodies that claim otherwise, the TAPS team does not go running into every location, jumping at every noise and screaming 'it’s a ghost!' They approach each case with a very methodical, scientific professionalism (with a few exceptions as seen in the 'dude, run' episode--they are human after all) that leaves plenty of room for the viewer to decide what is really paranormal and what's not. They'll never tell you it's a ghost, but they'll let you know they don't have a natural explanation.

How it influenced Way Walkers: Ghosts are people too. And science can prove it someday. These are pretty huge concepts that run throughout Walkers. I wanted to find the balance between a spiritual society and scientific one, and watching the very no-nonsense approach of these guys really allowed me to flesh out how most people in the Walkers world would approach the concept of ghosts, demons and spirits when armed with what they know to be concrete knowledge of what those things exactly are.



2005-2011, NBC then CBS network

What it's about: Patricia Arquette is a legal assistant and mother of three who talks to ghosts, has dreams about the future and overall struggles with her gifts.  Until, one day, she begins using her abilities to help on the criminal cases she sees every day.

Why it's great: While there were a couple of 'I see dead people' type shows running at the time, this one, based in part on the real-life police-helping medium Allison Dubua, had a much more 'humanizing' effect to it. While other shows hinged on creepy 'jump' factors from their ghostly visitors and had special effects budgets, this one was more subtle, with more believable storylines. Now while Arquette's performances leaned toward being a little over the top at times, the persona of Allison's high-strung, ghost bothered personality made it an easy pill to swallow given how well-done the rest of it was. It kept you guessing, with twists and turns that left you with the feeling that what you were seeing could still occur in the reality.

How it influenced Way Walkers: There is a single scene in the second or third part of the pilot episode, where Allison is sitting in her car in the rain, ranting and raving at her husband over the loss of a buried body due to flooding. "I'm too sensitive to be a paralegal, I'm too sensitive to be a lawyer, I'm so sensitive that I know who murdered that boy, I'm sensitive that I know where he buried the body, but I'm not sensitive enough to predict a freaking hurricane?!" She banged her fists against the wet windows, tears falling down her face. "What's the point of me, being so sensitive if I can't do anything to help?"

That scene alone not only struck the chord in me that got me addicted to the show, but also brought home a very real concept that's best summed-up in the words of one of my precognitive characters: “There is always this grand question of ‘why’--a search for reason when it comes to precognitive vision. Why do we see what we see, verses something else, or not at all.  To prevent an event from occurring, or to bring it about?  To drive us mad, or serve as warning of what ‘might have been?’  No. The truth is far more mundane and simple: you see what you see because you are precognitive- because you were able to see it.  It is the very definition of the Ability--to see the possibilities of what may be.”

Basically, sometimes there is no great pattern, no dues ex machina driving the visions of character. Sometimes, they just see things, and that is hard to accept. This concept, and the struggle to deal with it, fed very heavily into my precognitive character Jathen, whom Tangled Paths is centered upon.



Destination Truth

2007-present, Sci-fi channel

What it's about: Josh Gates and team head into remote areas of the US and foreign countries in search of local legends, monsters, ghosts and all things unexplained.

Why it's great: Like Ghost Hunters, the show is based on a platform de-bunking the mythos and proving that what's going bump in the night is really just a whole lot of imaginations run wild. Now while there certainly are a few unexplainable encounters and evidence, (check the episode where they found unidentified species ape of DNA off a clump of hair in yeti country) when Josh and crew do prove that the terrifying beast rampaging through wilds is a just a misidentified native animal, they sum it up with a kind of respect for other cultures and legends that is quite refreshing, and often fun. Josh will literally spelunk into anywhere (Easter Island episode), eat anything the locals give him, drive whatever nightmare of a vehicle the producers choose to torture him with, and he does it with the comic flair of game show host married to an investigative reporter and a diplomat. On top of the thrills, chills and beautiful backdrops of literally every continent on the planet (they did Antarctica last season), the show is funny. And not in a poke-fun-at-other-cultures funny, but a 'my god what did we get ourselves into' kind of humor. Really, it's an amazing show.

How it influenced Way Walkers: Better question to ask is: how did it not? This show influenced monsters, mayhem, cultures, creatures, races, humor, and the all-important suspense. It made me see how different people can find similarity in other cultures and how some parts of the world are just so alien from others. Comradely, teamwork, and fun--it's all there, thanks to Josh Gates.


Psychic Kids

2008-?, A&E network

What it's about: Psychic/Medium Chip Coffey and clinical psychologist/director Dr. Lisa Miller help psychic children and their families cope, validate, empower and understand psychic abilities.

Why it's great: Whatever else you might think about the paranormal, these kids are real. They are really scared, they are genuinely struggling, and they are absolutely experiencing something most of the human population does not. And Chip and Lisa tackle it head on, with parents who are either believers or skeptics. They give these kids direction and support, and set up ways for them to prove to themselves whether or not what's happening to them is real. By the end, the relationships with the child and their parents are changed forever, usually for the good.

How it influenced Way Walkers: Chip and Lisa train these kids. It's not long term as the things they teach are only done over a weekend's time, but what they go over has formed the basis for a lot of the 'learning' sequences in Way Walkers. Listening to the kids I was able to discover just how much psychic ability can vary, and how a person's state of mind can taint what they are seeing/sensing. It added a lot of the more realistic insecurities to my characters and opened my mind to the possibilities that even well-trained Talents might not have all the answers.


So, that's my list, though there are many many more great shows out there. Paranormal Witness, Celebrity Ghost Stories, A Haunting, The Haunted, Paranormal State, Ghost Lab, My Ghost Story, The Haunting of.., all to just name a few. They're all worth watching, so check them out and get inspired!

Way Walkers: Tangled Paths

The Tazu Saga: Book One

J. Leigh

Twelve Ways create a thousand tangled paths.

Hatched from an egg but unable to shift into dragon form, Jathen is a Moot among the Tazu. His rightful throne is forbidden him because of his transformative handicap, and neither his culture nor his religion offer acceptance of his perceived flaws.

Driven by wounded anger, Jathen strikes out across the vast world beyond Tazu borders, desperate to find a place where he feels accepted and whole. Though he travels with the most trusted of companions, sabotage and conspiracy soon strike his quest. Jathen and his allies must struggle against man and magic alike, at the mercy of forces beyond their ken.

As Jathen presses on, his questions of belonging are surrounded by more of identity, loyalty, and betrayal. Where will the path of his destiny lead, and will he follow or fall?



J. Leigh wrote her first novel at the tender age of eleven, delving deep into the extensive fantasy world she entitled Way Walkers. Since then, she has never really left, though occasionally does emerge to enjoy the company of friends, family, horror movies and the ever-popular sushi dinner.

She currently lives in southern New Jersey with a chow-chow, several cats and fictional cast of hundreds.

Leigh’s published works include a ‘choose your own’ type interactive novel Way Walkers: University with Choice of Games.

Visit J. Leigh’s blog:
Way Walkers Guide


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