Welcome to the eighth week of Turning Tales!
*This week’s writing topic: Research as inspiration.
Did you know a murderer cannot inherit property from someone they have killed? It’s called The Slayer Rule.
Welcome to the eighth week of Turning Tales: The Treasures We Find!
Write about an interesting or even bizarre fact you have come across while researching a piece of writing.
This prompt calls for a nonfiction piece. Let us in on a piece of outrageous, precious, or quietly poetic information you’ve discovered during your writing journey.
Dig deep for this one and be honest about your search history...
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While writing ‘Shrimpin’ Gold’, my third novel, my main character found his shrimping business in dire straights. Foreign competition and the operational costs to run his boat were overwhelming. His first mate had other troubles. His wife was suffering from pancreatic cancer and required immediate medical attention to survive. Neither man gave up their struggle. They continued to hope that the next net of shrimp would pay their dues. At the mouth of the Edisto River, they tangled their nets with an old wooden chest filled with Spanish gold. Their jubilation turned to frustration when they discovered the gold still belonged to Spain. In prior international court rulings, Spain has successfully argued that the gold lost by the Spanish fleets from long ago, still belongs to Spain. Just because the gold is on the bottom of the sea does not mean that Spain has lost possession. My characters were confronted with moral dilemmas of what to do next - Pay for the medical procedures required by the first mate’s wife and also save the shrimping business, or return the gold to Spain.
The snow don’t care
In researching for my wip, I found out that forensic pathologists dislikes coroners, and vice versa. Apparently coroners are elected officials that signs the paperwork and pathologists do all the dirty work without getting any power of say. Pathologists see coroners as politicians, while coroners see pathologists as a group of antisocial who doesn’t communicate well with regular civilians. This might be to the extreme what I wrote here, but after reading seven LONG interviews conducted with pathologists and coroners, those are the gists I summarized.
Kudos to the forensic pathologists too, for going to school for 12+ years, while a coroner could be any civilian who is 18+ with a high school degree and no criminal background…
Over the past few months I have been researching folklore, folk tales, and stories of cultural significance all related to Ancient beings of horror and legend. I have always been drawn to these stories as I believe they are rooted in truth and I often wonder what Gods have bled and perished on this very soil eons before we crawled from the ooze.
On this journey I have learned of Skin Walkers and Nordic Forest Gods, of worlds hidden in plain sight full of things unimaginable. Story after story of monsters and men, locked in an ancient battle of good and evil. I started to notice something on this journey. I found that it wasn’t the content that was so amazing, it was the medium. It was the passion of the Man telling the world of his terrifying sighting of the Mothman. It was the pride in the eye of the woman recounting a tale from her people’s folklore. The passing down from person to person, the retelling of history and legend. That is what I discovered along the way.
As I seek to build on my skills as a writer and an Author, I want to embrace my role as a story teller. I want to put passion and emotion behind my words. I want craft a piece that will leave the reader feeling the weight of the story within. I want to deliver it in such a way that it is not merely words on paper, but a tale to be told. What I found along the way was my love for the Art of Story Telling.
When you need to get rid of a body… bury the corpse vertically, as search crews and police will be looking for recently disturbed ground about 6 foot in width. To make it even less likely to be found, bury them an extra two feet deep and place a dead animal (ideally a small pet) on top, so when they do decide to search the disturbed earth, they think they’ve just found a burial for a pet. And finally, just to make things a little more extreme, it’s illegal to dig up or destroy endangered plants, so get your hands on one of those and they can’t do a thing…
Magic, Medicine and Math
I am writing a series that explores the nature of a sacred flower. In Book 1, the petals are used as a “magic” device, which the MC, believed to be a magician, is able to prove that it is merely manipulation, using confusion and delusions to overpower the victim. He deduces this through the victim’s physical appearance, including weight loss and dilated pupils, as well as the faint aroma of the flower. By the last book, he uses the same plant to treat his infant son, who is dying from a childhood lung disorder.
I found out after book 1 that my “fictional plant” matches the characteristics of Belladonna. Not only has Belladonna been used to change a woman’s appearance, specifically eye dilation, it has been linked to several malicious acts, including using powders and scents to knock out the victim for potential kidnapping, and sometimes, brain washing. In more recent years, it has been used to treat conditions such as asthma, bradycardia. However, the treatment possibilities are still undergoing clinical trials, as the side effects can be detrimental if not used correctly. There are Belladonna-based homeopathies available, but they are widely discouraged. Side effects of Belladonna include, but are not limited to, unconsciousness, seizures, and death.
On another note, because I suffer from dyscalculia, I have difficulty learning math concepts through traditional classes. Instead, I practice math and writing through blended techniques. This is how I learned Fibonacci’s Sequence. Like Haiku, I would say this poetic style is relatively common, but I enjoy it. Scriptura Laturalis, shown, was my first Fibonacci Sequence poem.
YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER…
A few years ago, I thought for some reason I would try to write a murder mystery short story. Even more bizarre, I decided to make it a Wild West mystery. The reason I thought of it, to this day has never been made clear, but while searching online for some ideas about getting rid of a dead horse, I came across an obscure Canadian law that is still in the books. As a proud Canadian, I was rather proud! In the story, the murderer’s wife was told to get rid of the dead horse, shot by accident. Here is the law.
“In Toronto Ontario, it is still illegal to drag a dead horse down Yonge Street on Sunday.”
Yonge Street is one of the major thoroughfares in Toronto and the traffic is worse than the highways nearby.
I put a lot of thought into how I could use this law in my story. I guess my Cowboy could have his wife drag the horse down Yonge Street from Monday to Saturday, but that was not enough fun. I changed the story to present day and wrote about how one might drag a horse down Yonge Street ON a Sunday.
You will never see the story in print and only two pair of eyes ever saw it, but my oh my, it was fun to write!
In my novel, ‘Then She Was Dead,’ the main character wakes up in a hotel bed next to a dead woman. He couldn’t remember what happened the night before. He had an issue with sleepwalking.
Does violence occur while sleepwalking? Do the sleepwalkers remember their actions? Should you disturb a sleepwalker? All good questions.
While sleepwalking is more prevalent in children, almost three and one half million adults in the United States sleepwalk. Most don’t remember their actions. It is best not to disturb or touch a sleepwalker. Sleepwalking violence has occurred. When it does, the actions are much more aggressive than any action expected from the person. Sleepwalking is typically hereditary. Oddly, one cause of sleepwalking is the lack of quality sleep.
The Mothman, Helltown and More
Over the years I have come across some pretty crazy things while researching for my writing. Stories that scared the crap out of me and others where I just couldn’t believe that it was a true story. Many of them centered around where I live here in Ohio… all within a tank of gas or less.
Maybe you’ve heard of a few, or maybe you haven’t heard of any of them. The most popular one is the Mothman. A humanoid creature reportedly seen down in Mount Pleasant, West Virginia in the late sixties. Some specialists stated that the people who saw the creature must have been experiencing something similar to sleep paralysis, which makes you see things that aren’t really there… others likened the Mothman to perhaps alien activity. A year after the initial sighting the bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia to Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed sending all the vehicles and pedestrians into the icy cold Ohio River. 46 lives were lost that day and many still believe that it was the Mothman that caused that fateful accident. Eventually an author wrote a book about it titled, ‘The Mothman Prophecies,’ which eventually was turned into a film. There have only been a few sightings since the day the bridge collapsed, but nothing like that year in the late sixties.
Helltown, Ohio was another place I stumbled upon while trying to find a good location for a Halloween story I was attempting to write. Horror is not my best genre to write for so I was trying to find some inspiration and found a place about an hour from where I live aptly called Helltown… sounds like an amazing place to live… not. Apparently prior to being called Helltown it was boring Boston, Ohio. The streets were lined with cookie cutter homes, and children filled the parks with fun and laughter. Unfortunately, the government put an end to that in 1974 when it decided to rezone Boston, Ohio into a national park. The bulldozers came and the families that lived there were forced to relocate. In 1985 a toxic dump was acquired by the National Park System and placed in Boston… why? Who knows why, but it was quickly discovered that the dump was heavily polluted after the park rangers became extremely ill and covered in rashes. Then the unthinkable happened, the dump spilled out of it’s enclosure and coated the nearby forest lands causing mass destruction and mutation of the forest animals. One famously named the ‘Peninsula Python.’ Boston was no more and Helltown reigned. It’s now an abandoned town haunted by the previous residents ghosts and a mutated monstrous snake.
There are other stories that may interest you like, Gore Orphanage a place where who were killed in a fire haunt the deserted lands or perhaps the Centralia mine fires… a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury or perhaps the legend of Bigfoot at Salt Fork State Park… half man, half giant, roaming the wooded areas of Ohio. Are you a believer or do you think they are all just scary tales?
There are so many different types of psalms, meant to be put to music. They are individual to their authors, but with common themes and original ‘tweaks’ in form. Here is one of my own.
Alphabetical Acrostic Psalm (individual lament)
Alleluia, Alleluia, all my days I will praise my Lord
Blessed is the name of the Lord of Hosts
Consume my darkness with the light of your spirit
Darkness cannot stand against your light
Expunge my sin as though it had never been
Forgive my transgressions, though they are many
Grant me your peace Lord
Hear my prayers, through the intercession of your son, Jesus
In the depths of my soul I cry to you
Judge me with mercy, not as I deserve
Kindness and love are mine through you
Love and mercy are your nature
Make clean my heart within me
Nor let any darkness prevail
Open my eyes to your laws
Place my footsteps on the straight path
Quiet the clamour of the world, Lord
Renew me, Oh God, who makes all things new
Silence the temptation to stray from your ways
Take me as your own, Almighty Father
Until the end of my days, I am yours
Verily, I am yours forever
Walking in the light of your spirit
Xulting in your power and glory
Yea, I will sing out my soul to you
Zealous in your praise for evermore
While investigating whether or not pepper, like salt, had any impact on ghosts, I stumbled across an illusion technique called “Pepper’s ghost.” Commonly used in theatres, cinema, concerts, amusement parks, and other entertainment mediums, Pepper’s ghost is named for John Henry Pepper, who spread word of the effect.
The technique involves a stage arranged into two areas, only one of which can be seen by the audience. The one that the audience cannot see is known as the blue room, the other one being the main room. Oftentimes, the blue room is hidden to the side of the main room. A plate of glass is placed in the main room, with great care being given to ensure the audience can see as little as possible. With the technique, an actor can stand in the blue room and be reflected onto the stage in the main room.
If the main room’s lights are bright but the blue room’s are not, Pepper’s ghost cannot be seen. When the lighting is increased in the blue room (and usually decreased in the main room as well, though this is for dramatic effect more than anything else), the ghost can be seen.
As fascinating as Pepper’s ghost is, I still have yet to learn whether or not real ground pepper has any impact on ghosts.
There are many knots that tie the world together. This rabbithole goes deep and once discovered, knots are impossible to unsee. They are everywhere and the uses are manifold. They are part of the physics theories that explain quantum reality, but one does not need to delve that deep to partake of the fruits of this field.
Behold the humble square knot:
- Take the two strands in your left hand and right hand, overlap left over right and pull snug.
- Take the new left and right strands again in hand and this time overlap the right strand over the left strand and pull snug again.
This ties a ‘dressed’ square knot, simple and very useful. One may have accidentally tied one of these many times without being aware, but more likely its cousin the granny knot (left over right, then left under right) was tied instead, a weaker form of this knot that may slip more easily.
In general, a knot is strongest when it is dressed, i.e. when the strands move more organically over each other and do not take sharp turns and create undue pressure on the rope.
Why does this even matter, one might ponder. Well in some sense, anything worth doing is worth doing well and when one ties a knot the expectation should be that the knot stays tied as long as you want it to. In the case of the square knot, one of its aliases is the ‘surgeons knot.’ Surgeons use this to secure stitches. It is a simple and strong knot. There may be more complicated knots that are more secure, but to tie such knots one would lose precious time and complexity can lead to errors. The square knot has proven good enough and until someone proves that any knot is clearly superior to this one in the surgical setting, it will likely remain the tradition to tie the square knot for sutures.
For the next knot, do step 1 above but instead of the 2nd step, make a bend with the right hand strand and loop it over the left hand strand, then pull the left handed strand through into another bend and now one has the bow knot, which is a form of a hitch knot. The advantage of a hitch is that it is easy to release, pull the loose ends and the bow releases easily. A good feature for tying a shoe, not so much for tying a stitch (use the square knot for that). The bow knot can be tied incorrectly as likely many people do without knowing this. If the shoe bow does not lie perpendicular to the shoe after tying, it is likely a
Magic of Chemistry
I had a story that revolved around broke college students needing to make a quick buck—which opened up loads of options for part-time jobs. But the traditional route is overrated, especially in a scenario of college students who have gone from worried to absolutely desperate. Why be a pizza driver when books open a whole new world of possibilities?
So, after realizing that they all probably took general education classes together, I started digging into the topic of chemistry.
These students were in a prestigious university, and everyone was willing to do anything in order to receive a good grade—whether it be studying long hours into the night, cheating, finding ways to get out of exams, or simply turning to Adderall.
Now, I am not a promoter of doing illicit substances in order to get a good grade… but these students most definitely do! They realized that they could readily make Adderall in the labs after hours, and selling it was just as easy as selling cookies on the courtyard.
What makes the story go sideways is when the lab goes from creating the studying-stimulant drug to a new substance entirely by accidentally adding a methyl group. If you’ve taken college chemistry before—or simply scrolled through Google—you’ll know that they made C17H21NO4, also known as meth.
The differences between what we give people with ADHD and an incredibly addictive substance is not seen with the naked eye, only through the understanding of the chemical compound as well as its final form of intake!
Here’s another one I just came across - in the 1400’s in Britain; a law was passed that a man only allowed to beat his wide with a stick if it was no wider than the width of his thumb, hence the term “rule of thumb” in modern language.
I was stumbling about through Greek and Roman history after being inspired to write one of my current books—I was interested in their culture, the way people communicated, what was polite and what wasn’t, and most importantly, what they did for fun.
Usually, what first comes to mind is the philosophers of the Greeks, and the women who wrote in silent, as well the vicious Roman soldiers.
Then I found out that the Romans were not just soldiers due to their fanatic loyalty to the nation, but also because they simply liked killing or watching someone get killed for fun. I knew that Romans killed loads of people back in their day, but never really understood just how high the numbers were.
In the infamous Colosseum of Rome, an upward of 8,000 combat deaths occurred a year—that rounds to 21 kills per day.
Can you imagine, after a day of work, you walk past a giant stone building where the number of people being slaughtered could happen at the rate of one every hour? It kinda just goes to show how wicked their entertainment is compared to our modern forms of Netflix or YouTube haha
Ever been trapped in a box??
Oh my! Whoever opened this box and let me breathe fresh air, I can’t thank you enough. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be in a box in a box in a box box box. Say that fast and it sounds like, well, I don’t know but it amused me while I was in here. You know I was so bored, well no, I’m not a board, I’m a rock. So while I was in here, I was really rockin it! And the music coming from the car, really helped. I don’t know who was driving, but at one point, we came to a sudden stop and the box and the box and the box box box…. (I couldn’t resist) went sliding across the trunk of the car…WEEEEEEE! Kind of fun, sorta kina in a way maybe. Until we came to the sudden stop! I didn’t have my seatbelt on. Oh, well never mind. I tried to cry for help, but I have no lips and I’ve never done that so I didn’t know how. HELLLP!!! I did it! A bit too late, but boy! That felt good. Kind of like sticks and stones, will break your bones… well not really. Can you tell, I have excessive talking disorder? Well everyone in this family has something! What are you laughing at?? Don’t laugh at me! I’m gonna cry! Waaaaa! Whew! That felt good. It’s amazing what you will do when you are stoned…oops, did I say that???
We did Dirty Santa lastyear. So I decided to find a rock, put it in a box, in another box and in another box. Attached to the rock was a gift card, thank goodness. But also in that box, was a note addressed to whoever the poor soul was who decided to open it. The instructions were, they had to read it out loud to the rest of us crazy people. This is not an original idea, I got it from a friend. The letter is my idea. Of course. LOL
A good one for a spooky story, Fetus papyraceous occurs when one twin dies early in pregnancy and becomes mummified in the uterus, looking and feeling like hard paper when it is delivered with the living twin. It can cause problems in labour if the dead twin comes first, because the irregular shape doesn’t stimulate the neck of the womb to open and can also block the way out for the living twin. Perhaps I should say here that this was not research for a story, but that I am a retired midwife and have seen this…
I can envisage a Halloween story about a vengeful papyrus fetus coming to life and haunting, or taking action against, the survivor who ‘stole’ the life it feels that it should have had. .
Gabelle (thanks wikipedia)
The Gabelle was a very unpopular tax on salt in France that was established during the mid-14th century and lasted, with brief lapses and revisions, until 1946.
In France, the gabelle was originally an indirect tax that was applied to agricultural and industrial commodities, such as bed sheets, wheat, spices, and wine. However, from the 14th century onward, the gabelle was limited and solely referred to the French crown’s taxation of salt.
Across borders, salt smuggling was common and the methods ingenious.
- my own imagination follows, but I bet it is true -
One miller sent his buxom wife out with padded breast cloths. When she returned to the shop, she looked just the same, though most of the cloth was now in her basket and her breasts were augmented by packages of salt, instead of cloth.
I have a stye (fiction, based on fact)
Why did I ask my ex to meet me here? I had heard that he is up to his old tricks again, manipulative b*****d. He’s aggressive and can be violent when he’s had a few. It was bad enough when he was with me, but now, he’s latched onto a sweet kid who is too gentle and innocent to figure out what he’s up to. She has money, you see, and he wants it.
“Oh, hi”, I greeted him as he entered the pub, “Over here.”
“That eye looks sore, did someone beat you up?” I ignored him, he was the only one who ever did that. He’s put me in hospital twice, there wasn’t going to be a third time. “What have you found?” he enquired; my excuse for a meeting.
“Yeah, Is this yours?” I offered him the Armani chronograph, which I had bought a couple of days ago. “I found it in the bedroom when I was packing up.”
“Yes, I wondered where it had got to.” he lied nonchalantly. I knew he couldn’t resist the easy theft. My conscience felt clearer as I decided to go ahead.
“Want a drink?”
“Pint of Bitter. Get them in, would you? I need to go to the loo.” Lying toe rag! He just wanted to manipulate me into paying for the drinks. That suited me fine. I went to the bar, collecting a pint of bitter and a glass of white wine. Under the pretext of putting in an eye drop, I slipped the drops onto his bitter and went to collect some pork scratchings. I heard that the drops were a bit salty, so the scratchings should mask the saltiness a bit.
“I suppose I should say thanks,” he commented as he sat down, stuffing his face with the snacks. “It’s a nice watch and I wouldn’t want to have lost it.” Idiot! He was downing his beer like a parched man in a desert.
“I’ll get some more scratchings.” The bowl only had a couple in there now and I hadn’t had any.
“And more beer. How about a sandwich?”
I gave him a look and went to put in the order. He was pushing his luck.
When I got back to the table, he was looking a bit green.
“Yeah, fine, just feeling a bit squiffy”.
“My turn for the loo.” I said happily and made, my way over the other side of the bar area. I was up the stairs when I heard him fall.
Truth: Visine eye drops are available over the counter and contain Tetrahydrozoline which is poisonous when taken orally. The symptoms mimic a heart attack and can be fatal if enough is ingested.
The world of dance
For the last few years I’ve been working on brainstorming, planning and writing a celebrity romance series with swing dance elements. The main character is supposed to be a pro level jazz and swing dancer with a performance troupe background. At the start of book one he’s known as a dancer even though he wants to have a more normal college experience.
From the start I understood that I’d need to do research into more advanced choreography. My severely limited beginning to intermediate rep wasn’t going to cut it.
My first bit of research consisted of watching u tube videos. I was surprised by the scope of what I found. I’d only attempted a single drop. The first time I even saw anyone pull off a double drop was while watching one of the videos. Same with a specific alternate hand double spin combo. Don’t even get me started on flips. Or the insanity of a handstand into single leg hook while your partner isn’t even holding onto you after the hook happens.
After seeing what was possible for someone at an advanced level the character’s decision to continue teaching his love interest throughout the series made a lot more sense.
Something that didn’t come into play until later in the process was the conflict between the dancer and his ‘best friend’. The friend goes down a dark path during college. Including ultimately destroying the budding romance. His motivation stemmed from more than jealousy. The friend had held a grudge against the dancer since High School. When the dancer’s troupe partner had been his friend’s crush. Even though they’d had a short summer romance she’d broken his heart by going to New York to follow her dream of becoming a professional dancer.
The conflict lead to the creation of a High School series as well. I couldn’t have that much backstory without going back to where it started. The High School series had its own separate research topic. College dance program audition process and schedule.
Raise your hand if you knew that college dance programs require all students applying to send photos. Or that some also require a taped audition video to pre vet before asking a student to audition in person. Programs hold auditions in mid January or February.
My research caused me to edit certain things in the series. Including changing when the girl makes a difficult audition vs. first date decision. As well as softening the main character a bit. He’d never been too supportive of her because of his strict traditional upbringing. Making him be able to compromise and even slightly rebel against the upbringing to help her showed his growth in the series. Which made the double heat break he goes through even more devastating.