Synchronicity and Six Degrees of Separation

How often do we experience odd coincidences in life that sometimes lead us in new, unexpected directions?  As a writer I try to leave myself open to these moments, especially when it affects my writing.  It may just be my lizard brain connecting dots that were there all along and I couldn’t see them.  It may be fate or a Higher Power directing me to where I should go.

Or they could just be coincidences.

For example, I’d been fussing for several months that an editor was behind schedule in reading my latest submission.  A week ago she finally made contact requesting a few revisions on the book.  This week the History Channel replayed an episode of Cities of the Underworld about Portland’s Shanghai tunnels.  I have those tunnels in a few scenes in the book and knew I should make them more prominent.  I truly needed a refresher course in how they look and how they are laid out.  The book will be a bit better for it.

Then there was the time when I was working in a museum.  We’d had a prominent display case suddenly turn up empty as exhibits got re-arranged, moved, pulled.  I temporarily filled it with some of my lace pillows, tatting, and collected bits of fine needle work.  The next tour I gave the customers commented that the daughter of a friend of theirs in Scotland was an award winning lacemaker.  As they waxed on about the accomplishments of the father, something clicked in my brain.  He’d been my professor for a term at the University of Edinburgh when I’d been on a special overseas study tour.  The lacemaking daughter had been three at the time.

Another time I gave a tour to a family of parents and adult children.  Father and son were both physicians.  We quickly ascertained that the son had done an intern rotation through the lab where my husband worked at the time and we had met at a staff party.  Not only that, he and I had attended the same junior high school – a few years apart – in Virginia Beach, Va.  The discussion went on to the cause of the epidemic that nearly wiped out a majority of Oregon tribes in 1829-1832.  My curator had read an article that it might have been malaria.  The father went looking for that article, made copies for the museum, and then went on to do a major research project demonstrating the need to make preparations for Viet Nam War veterans returning with malaria.  We have a mosquito that can carry the disease.  Another epidemic loomed on the horizon.  But thanks to his work was prevented.

Truth is stranger than fiction.  I could go on and on about coincidences.  If I included them in my books my readers would think I was stretching plot points too far.  Am I?

Or is it all fodder for the writer’s brain?


Phyllis Irene Radford blogs here regularly on Thursdays, the same day her cozy mystery “Lacing Up For Murder” is serialized on the front page of the Book View Café.

You can find more about her fiction at or visit her bookshelf


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.

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