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Tell me – Ripley Patton

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

The last "Tell Me" for 2012! I’m running a little late. I’ve been out and about with family. Ripley is a fab author who discovered that something she made up is now real. How cool is that?

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I made something up, and now it's real.

I made up a rare birth defect; not the most helpful thing to invent, I'll admit, but it was necessary for the sake of story.

I came up with this idea for my new YA paranormal thriller, Ghost Hand, that someone could be born with a missing limb, without a hand or a foot or a nose, but that their soul, the immaterial counterpart to their material flesh, would still manifest as that missing limb. Born with a mass of ethereal energy where their flesh should be, they have to learn how to control and manipulate that energy to navigate their disability. I named this birth defect Psyche Sans Soma which means "life without flesh," (PSS for short) and I bestowed it upon babies across my novel's world like some kind of disgruntled fairy or avenging angel. And the babies grew up to be teenagers. And life got complicated.

I have long had this theory that if human imagination can conceive something, it can be real. Throughout history, we've seen countless inventions and crazy dreams made manifest simply because man first imagined them. Airplanes, jet packs, robots, space travel, and I don't think this phenomenon is limited to the tropes of science fiction alone. Dragons don't exist right now. Maybe they never existed in the past (though that is debatable). But humans have begun to play with cloning, and DNA, and genetic engineering. I don't think it is a stretch to think that someday a dragon may exist. Or a unicorn. Or a werewolf.

But I wasn't thinking about that theory when I invented a birth defect. I mean, I knew it was real to me, in my mind and in my book, but I didn't think about how it might become real to others.

Then one day I got an e-mail from one of my beta readers. She'd begun reading Ghost Hand and had looked PSS up on the internet, surprised that she couldn’t find anything about it. She hadn't realized I'd made it up.

Then a friend sent me a link to a news story from New Scientist titled; Woman's missing digits grow back in phantom form.

And now that Ghost Hand is out in the world in e-book and paperback (and getting great reviews, I might add) the instances of PSS becoming real should be even more frequent.

A couple days ago, a fan e-mailed me and said, "I looked up PSS on the internet, and there were tons of links about it, all leading back to you and your book."

I'm proud of that.

I'm made something up, and now it's real. That's all a writer can ever really hope for.