Very soon Not A Drop to Drink will be finding its way to bookstores and libraries, but before that happens I wanted to talk a little bit about a quality that one of my characters possess - the ability to find water underground by using a forked stick that reacts to the presence of the water.
It's been called dousing, and also water-witching. In the world of Not A Drop to Drink, where clean water is rare and fiercely protected, those with the ability to find water are valuable people. I chose to use the term water-witching for the skill, in an attempt to draw a parallel between the well-known witch hunts of early America and it's European predecessors.
Well... that might have been a mistake.
Some of my early reviewers seemed a little baffled that I threw a paranormal angle into a very stark and realistic survival tale. The honest truth is that I didn't intend it that way, as I personally don't view dousing as a paranormal activity.
I live in a very rural part of Ohio. The vast majority of us have our own wells, and most of us had a douser find it for us. I've always viewed dousing as an ability that some people have, no different than a double-jointed elbow or being ambidextrous. To me, being able to douse water was part of being closely tied to the earth and nature. Water witching is about being connected to this world, not a different one.
I'm also aware that the efficacy of dousing is something that's debatable, which doesn't surprise me. However, for what it's worth, I do think it's an effective way of finding water, and recent events in Africa back me up on that. Even more interesting, the article I link to here from Popular Mechanics includes a scientific theory that successful dousers are perhaps reacting to subtle electromagnetic gradients that result when natural fissures and water flows create changes in the electrical properties of rock and soil.
And while I'm as big of a fan as the paranormal as the next X-Files fan, it's that kind of science-based thinking that makes me buy into dousing as a skill, and consequently that's the angle I approached it from when writing Not A Drop to Drink.