Now that I have escaped, at least temporarily, from the mundane world of the grading of countless essay outlines and final exams,  it is time to return to my first love: the writing and revising of novels. I have waited — perhaps, too long — to get back to these creative endeavors, at least according to my well-meaning friends who have urged me to put aside my attempts to help students with their efforts and to return to my own.

I have worked in different genres over the years — even in a different venue such as writing screenplays, which my learned professor in graduate student told me were too literary — but have returned to my first love: science-fiction and the paranormal. I only list science-fiction before the paranormal because it has a better ring to it as a sentence. In the realm of science-fiction, I am not so much interested in the aliens and space travel aspect, which have engulfed the movie theater screens since I was a lad watching such classics as IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE from the front seat of my father’s small-town movie theater auditoriums. I have never lost my love of science-fiction, but I have found more compelling possibilities to exist in the concept of time-travel. I have two time-travel novels that I would like to discuss somewhere in the pages of this blog — MIND JOURNEY and its sequel THE LAST TIME I SAW ATLANTIS. These novels deal with the worlds beyond time that I mention in the title.

Nor have I lost my love of motion pictures. I still write reviews of films for and other online publications. My grandfather, father, and brother were all theater owners, and one of the areas for my PhD is film studies — thus my attempts to write screenplays under the watchful eye of one particularly stern professor. That I have now become a stern professor myself is, evidently, at least here in China, a matter of record. The word “serious” has been attached to my name by administrators, Chinese teachers, and Chinese students alike — a term that sometimes causes me to chuckle because, after all, what I do in the classroom and when grading papers is what we are supposed to do. This does not mean, however, that I have become too serious to enjoy films and literature that deal with themes that we used to call horror but now often label the “paranormal.”  This new label perhaps lends respectability to the horror genre; perhaps it suggests something which I believe to be true: that we are getting closer to proving that worlds beyond the mortal one around us exist. Many programs on cable TV show case studies of actual events where people have encountered entities and occurrences that come from the other side of the river.

As for me, I am more interested in ghosts than anything. However, I am yet to write about them. In my trilogy of supernatural or paranormal novels, I deal with fabricated creatures from ancient Greece (my love of Greek mythology comes into play here) who supposedly can travel through the fourth dimension and re-appear anywhere along the time-line of the history of this world. They are able to manifest themselves in creatures that many people in Southeast Asia believe exist even today in such countries at Malaysia and Indonesia. It was from friends from these two countries that I got the idea for the novel DARK NEIGHBORHOODS, a long novel that I didn’t actually complete until I first came to China years ago to teach literature and writing. I had no idea at the time that I would write a sequel to DARK NEIGHBORHOODS which takes place, solely, in China. It is called DARK CORRIDORS. The same major character of Harper Paget, descended from an ancestor who was burned at the stake for falsely being accused of being a witch, continues as a protagonist. He encounters his old enemies — the dimension-traveling vampire-like creatures– here in China.

Two books on these creatures would seem to be enough, but, for some reason, as other writers know, characters sometimes take on a life of their own and, as it turned out, demanded more time. So the third novel DARK JOURNEYS was born. This novel takes place in both countries — in China and in Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River, in the small river town where I grew up as a boy with the fictional name of Warrick. At one time, I was going to write a mainstream novel about my boyhood there, which included my experiences in my father’s Quonset hut theater on Main Street, but I could never remain satisfied with its being more than a turgid melodrama that I titled WATERFIELD. Whether the original small-town is any better served as the setting for the third novel in my horror/supernatural/paranormal series remains for others to decide.

At any rate, these novels are my deviation from the world of mainstream fiction. That world that I stick my toe into with a series of novels begins with VIRGO-STONE, the title of this blog. The protagonist, Alexander Barteau, meets with his brother and other family members on his sister’s farm outside of the small Illinois town of Creekville. The family owns the local movie theater (theaters again!) which is now closed but is being used, they discover, for some unscrupulous purpose. Old wounds re-open when family members get together; issues are once again raised that are barely, if at all, resolved.

When I decided to come to China after the HBC where I had taught for seventeen years in Atlanta lost its accreditation, I had a hard time trying to make up my mind about whether I should write about my experiences in a journalist non-fiction manner or as another work of fiction. After discussing this with many people and realizing the problems I could get into with real names, I opted for the fictional venue. Thus I came up with INTERNATIONAL HOUSE, a name that I actually did coin, when asked to come up with one, for the building where the Foreign Affairs Office and all of the foreigners, as they called the international teachers, resided. Alex Barteau continues as the protagonist and, for a while, keeps in touch with his family back in the US. He meets and falls in love with a Chinese teacher – a relationship that turns into a friendship that lasts for several years, even after Alex returns to the States.

FOREIGNERS is the novel that picks up when Alex returns to China after spending a year in Atlanta. He works first in a Sino-US program with a university in Indiana, goes to teach for a private language institute in northern China, and then relocates to still another university in a rural area miles away from a metropolitan area.   The relationships and tribulations he encounters in these three places are too complex to mention here at this time. Let me merely add that what Alex encounters regarding the level of maturity among college-age students and the structuring of educational priorities surprises him on several levels.

If I don’t only devote this blog to the paranormal and science-fiction novels — as well as to paranormal incidents and experiences that anyone wishes to share with us — I may get into the background of those mainstream works within these pages.

Right now, this is what we have, and we will see where it goes.

Send me your real-life ghost stories, if you wish. I already have received some stories from colleagues in Anshan, China, regarding evidence of different types of paranormal encounters in the above-mentioned residence of foreign teachers.

See you on the other side of the river.

Chukk  (Charles Justus Garard, Jr. PhD.)