Mystery Mondays: Laurel S. Peterson on The Tension Of Believing

To kick of the 206-2017 season of Mystery Mondays, we have Laurel S. Peterson joining us today. We’re celebrating her new release, SHADOW NOTES, published by Barking Rain Press, and she’s going tell us about…


by Laurel S. Peterson

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kristina. I’m honored to be here.

Part of the core of my novel Shadow Notes is my own wrestling over the validity of intuitive or “psychic” powers. I have friends who tell me they “know” things, that they are connected with aspects of experience that are unseen by most people. I have had moments in my life where I also have had experiences like this. One vivid moment was when I was a teenager, sitting on a park bench somewhere in Europe waiting for my parents. I had a sudden flash where I understood that I could have been, could be, any of the people walking by me. We were all the same, while at the same time we had ended up in different bodies. It was a moment of profound oneness with all that was around me.

Another time, I was waiting for a response from a literary agent. Two days before I got the letter, I became absolutely certain that she had rejected me. (Of course, we all carry some of this around, I imagine!) It was the kind of certainty I’ve experienced on one or two other occasions, one of which was an acceptance. Where did that certainty come from? Where did that awareness of one-ness come from? I don’t have an explanation for it, and the rational, scientific skeptic in me says those kinds of moments are explainable if I understood brains better—or if I would just allow myself to believe. Believing isn’t something I’m so good at.

My protagonist, Clara Montague, has dreams and gets visions of things through touching. In one instance, she foresees a character’s death when she grabs that person’s hand; in her dreams, she sees a wave of blood falling toward her and her mother. The dreams repeat and intensify until Clara can figure out what’s causing them.

Because I’m not sure how I feel about this, or because I don’t know how to resolve the tension between my friends’ assertions about their very real experiences and my own secret belief that there is no such thing (not so secret anymore!), the only place for me to tackle it is in my fiction. I love my friends. I believe them. I worry about them. I don’t see my way clear to one point of view or the other; I have to hold both in tension within me all the time. Clara herself maintains this kind of tension; she doesn’t want her gift. She believes her mother has the same gift, but Constance refuses to discuss it with her. She doesn’t want to act on her gift, but if she doesn’t, she is physically and psychologically damaged by her attempts to suppress it. Early in the book, we learn she spent some time in a Swiss psychiatric hospital.

I think one of the hardest things we do as human beings is to learn to accept that there are things we can’t resolve, that opposite things can both be true at the same time. The simple example I give my students is that we can love and hate the same person at the same time. The fun part, the part that makes us interesting, is that complexity. Accepting it isn’t easy, but it’s much more interesting than if it weren’t there at all.

What do you think about intuition? Do psychic phenomena exist? Is this something you’ve experienced? What kinds of opposites you find hard to resolve? Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your comments.

WHO IS Laurel S. Peterson?

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College. Her mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was just released by Barking Rain Press. She has published two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press, 2010); a full length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in 2017. In 2016 – 2017, she is serving as the town of Norwalk’s Poet Laureate. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled (Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). You can find her at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter: @laurelwriter49.


Shadow Notes Cover compressedSHADOW NOTES:  Clara Montague didn’t even want to come home. Her mother, Constance Montague, never liked her—or listened to her—but now they have to get along or they will both end up in jail or dead.

Clara always suspected she and Constance share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara is twenty, she dreams her beloved father dies of a heart attack, and Constance claims she is being hysterical. Then he dies.

Furious and betrayed, Clara leaves for fifteen years to tour the world, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she can’t ignore it, no matter how she feels. Shortly after Clara returns home, Constance’s therapist Hugh Woodward is murdered and Constance is jailed for the crime.

Since her mother refuses to tell her anything, Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies, to dig out Constance’s secrets. First, however, she must determine whether the Winters, wealthy socialites with political ambitions, are lying and what their motivations are for helping her. In addition, why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?

Starting to explore Constance’s past, Clara discovers a closet full of books on trauma and gets a midnight visit from a hooded intruder wielding a knife, who tries to scare her off her investigation. But her dreams become more demanding and there’s a second murder. Realizing she can’t run back to Paris as she wishes, she works with the town’s sexy new police chief to find the truth about Hugh’s murder and its connection to her mother’s past. Only in finding the connection will she be able to figure out how those secrets have shaped both Constance’s life and her own. Only in finding the connection will they finally be able to heal their relationship.



13 thoughts on “Mystery Mondays: Laurel S. Peterson on The Tension Of Believing

  1. Laurel, was the park in Amsterdam? There might have been some powerful drug fumes floating around. (Just kidding!) My middle child exhibited define ESP when he was very small, but not since then. He commented on what I had dreamed the night before, that I was frustrated playing tennis. I hadn’t played tennis for a couple of years. He told me I shouldn’t get so upset when I can’t hit the tennis ball. He also knew that a friend’s mother was trying to call me. I check the time and later found out she had tried to call me right then! This was pre-cell phone. Eerie stuff!

    There are also the Australians aborigines.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read a wonderful book years ago called “Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind” by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, Ph.D. She did a good job of taking a skeptical yet believing point of view. Humans have so many ways of seeing and understanding the world. That’s what makes it so interesting, I think! Thanks for stopping by, Kaye.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Conrats, Laurel, on your publishing Shadow Notes with Barking Rain Press. The fun is just beginning. I look forward to reading your fascinating story! Thanks for sharing this story, Kristina.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Kristina, and nice to meet you Laurel!
    This was a very interesting read!

    The intuition is one of the most fascinating topics to me. I’ve been pondering this matter a lot recently. Mostly as it relates to the writers process and how it affects our productivity. Cool stuff!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that kind of intuition is another interesting area. I guess I tend to
      Think of that as my unconscious working on the problem even when I’m not. Is that a different thing than these other perceptions? Or something along the same continuum? Interesting stuff to ponder. Thanks for stopping

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Laurel. I recently asked a psychologist are intuition and subconscious the same thing? The answer is no. Ok, but I bet there’s some interrelationship that we’re not seeing. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this. Fun stuff! Nice interview and very interesting book premise. I think I’ll download a sample.


        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Benjamin: I can see that each thing would have a different role to play, and yet the experience of those two things often feels very similar to me–as if it comes from “nowhere”! I hope you enjoy the sample. Thanks again for your interesting comments! Cheers, Laurel

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. Thanks for bringing up the topic.

    I dream the future with considerable accuracy, though I only did it on purpose once at the request of a friend. I saw her in a closet sorting through pictures in an empty house or apartment, with nothing else left but an old blue vacuum cleaner. When I told her the dream, she recognized the old vac as something her husband owned in his condo in another state–they were living apart while she was in graduate school. My dream came true many month later, when they were getting ready to live together again and she was furious with him for not cleaning the condo and leaving it for her. She, at that point in the closet, was doubting she could live with him again.

    If you’re interested in the subject, I’ve blogged a little about psychic phenomena and have provided the links. I’ve done a lot of research in academic journals as well as books like Larry Dossey’s One MInd.


    1. Thanks, Amber for all those resources. I’ve read Dossey and am familiar with PEARS, But thanks for adding to the personal piece of this. It’s a fascinating aspect of human experience.
      Cheers, Laurel

      Liked by 1 person

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