Category Archives: Research

Free Reign

A guest post by Tonya L. De Marco

Do I keep a depraved soul locked in my subconscious, caged unable to act on her desires? Is there a past-life sister sharing her memories with me, breathing life into my characters and infusing them with her ideals of right and wrong? Is it just good old-fashioned curiosity about what makes such characters tick? Do I admire their freedom, their lack of concern for the moral and ethical shackles that bind most of mankind?

I try not to delve too deeply within myself seeking the answers. It’s likely I have a sympathetic personality or a very open mind that allows these characters to speak to me. I give them free reign through my writing. My voice is their voice.

My stories are dark, often with twisted characters and an erotic flavor. No subject is taboo. Incest, rape, murder, cannibalism, mental illness, sacrilege, and acts against children can all be found in my published work or my work in progress. These atrocities occur in the world, I see no reason not to include them in fiction. These are the stories that need to be heard. They are the tales I’m meant to tell.

Traveling through Wyoming on a return trip home from a convention, I encountered a new character and found inspiration. Now known as the Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, we stopped in Rawlings to take a tour of what served as the territorial prison from 1901-1981. The imposing stone facade and high wall surrounding the yard were daunting, but it’s what transpired inside the fortress that still haunts me.

Stepping into cell block A, the oldest part of the prison, was an immediate shock. A chill permeated my body seeping into the very core of my bones. I wanted to weep, cry out, and run all at the same time but something held me immobile. The silent screaming of the tortured souls of the past invaded my mind and my being. I was overwhelmed with emotion flooding in all at once; hopelessness, fear, anguish, depression. I felt smothered, suffocated, controlled. The feeling of oppression was a palpable weight on my shoulders. It was as if I was being buried alive.

Collecting myself enough to follow along with the tour, the sense of straddling a line between the different times hung with me. As the guide recounted stories of some of the prison’s infamous inmates, their images played out before me as if etched on a veil hanging over my eyes. The prisoners endured remarkably deplorable and harsh conditions – cramped quarters, no heat, constant threat of violence, a cement ledge as a bed, persons convicted of petty offenses in the same general population with the most depraved criminals. The lives and circumstances of the prisoners intrigued me. I have to admit, I felt a level of respect for anyone able to survive in the inhumane situation.

I was particularly drawn to the history of a young woman inmate convicted of killing her father and incarcerated in the prison in 1908. Annie was sentenced when she was only fourteen years of age. The museum had some of her letters on display enabling me to learn more about Annie. Her voice spoke to me across the lines of time.

After returning home, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feelings I’d experienced. The sadness and hopelessness clung to me like a shroud. Deciding to immerse myself in the darkness rather than try to avoid it, I did some more research on Annie.

Annie’s letters give no indication that she was remorseful. She writes, “….a feeling or a wish came over me to kill someone and this feeling, I could not resist.” She was housed in the facility approximately a year then transferred to Colorado where she finished out most of her four year sentence before receiving a pardon. Annie’s life before and after the murder and incarceration, by all accounts I’ve found, was unremarkable. She went on to marry and have children and live a normal, quiet life until her death in 1975.

The story I’m writing is fiction so it’s inspired by Annie rather than based on her. All manner of horrific events will happen to my character, Anna, before the murder, during her stay in the prison, and after her release. I have to let go of all the emotion that overwhelmed me that day at the prison. My way of accomplishing that is to write about it. Feel the feelings and move past them as I let the characters I write experience the emotion for me.

Unlock the locks, throw open the doors, uncage the dark demons of your mind. Give them a voice through your pen and let them tell their stories. Maybe they’ll connect with the darkness in the readers and you’ll have a best-seller!

 

To learn more about the museum and Annie, follow the links below:


tonyasquareimgTonya L. De Marco is a Costume Designer, Cosplayer, published Model, and published Author. She splits her time between the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

You can visit Tonya on her Amazon Author Page, her Instagram page, her Facebook page, or on her website, TonyaLDeMarco.com.

Amnesia

Why are books better than their movie counterparts? There are several reasons, but I believe the strongest has to do with insight into the mind. We are given a telepathic link to the point of view character’s mind. But that link streams data in bits instead of a massive info dump (in good writing anyway).

This can be problematic if not done right. We all love a good twist ending. That mental whiplash, once everything seems to be resolved, can be an exhilarating experience. I remember watching the Sixth Sense when the child psychologist discovers he’s dead.

I immediately wanted to watch the movie again. When I did, it was a totally different experience. But the twist wouldn’t have worked if he knew he was dead all along. Consider that for a moment. In twists where the characters know what is going on, but not the reader, a twist comes across more like fraud than hand-clapping thrill.

That’s because there is an unspoken agreement between the reader and writer. The writer promises a good story, an exciting tale, an emotional journey. The reader promises to go along with the ride and believe the words and trust the characters as they are presented. When the reader discovers that the characters were withholding critical information, even though there had been an apparent telepathic link, then that trust is broken and the reader feels deceived, not entertained.

There are many ways to help the reader discover along with the POV characters so that discovery becomes a journey. The one gimmick I’d like to discuss is amnesia.

The Maze Runner did it well, forbidding the reader much of the world where juveniles run mazes. Because of Thomas’s amnesia, the reader is sucked into the story, waiting with baited breath every bit of information they can glean together from the world before them.

I recently read a book where amnesia was used well. Sleeper Protocol by Kevin Ikenberry was a fantastic sci-fi novel where the main character discovers his identity and memories through a series of scientific supported phases under the supposition that rediscovery (integration) can be detrimental to the mind if it happens too quickly.

The sixth sense was essentially an amnesia story, disguised. That’s why it worked so well.

Others, like Dan Brown’s Inferno, use amnesia as a tool to propose a purpose and deciding event for the character in order to up the stakes, or increase the drama and embellish the character arc.

Arguably one of the best amnesia tales is Jason Borne whose head wound left him with no prior memory although he had exceptional skills, spoke foreign languages, knew martial arts and spy craft and so on. Also it allowed the reader to empathize with someone who killed people for a living.

Fifty First Dates used amnesia to tell an incredible, funny, and yet heart-wrenching love story.

I myself have an amnesia novel in the works. It’s temporary and as it wears off, the reader discovers the apocalyptic world, as fascinating as it appears, isn’t at all what it seams and instead turns into an exciting thriller.

To write the piece, I did extensive research on the brain and memory loss. In my world, it has to be, believable. Basically there are different parts of the brain where memory is stored. Episodic memory involving experiences and events are different than Semantic Memory involving facts and concepts. These two types are stored in separate parts of the brain. This is why Jason Borne doesn’t remember any specific event but he knows at this altitude he can flat out run for thirty minutes and not break a sweat.

This is also why is would not make sense for Thomas of Maze Runner to recall his name but nothing else. Unless of course there was some medical, scientific, magical reasoning for it that James Dashner covers well.

What are some of your favorite amnesia stories?

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.

Thank You, Baby

A guest post by Heidi Wilde.

Those of you who know me know that short fiction is not my strong suit, but it is a goal of mine to really get to the heart of a story and cut out the nonessential fluff. The 55-word story format is new to me so I did some research and found many personal sites and even an article in Family Medicine written in June of 2010 by Dr. Colleen Fogarty, a writer and a family physician. In her article she states “These stories… have been used to teach family medicine faculty development fellows. Writers and readers of 55 word stories gain insight into key moments of the healing arts; the brevity of the pieces adds to both the writing and reading impact.”

The article explains what goes into a good 55-word story and recounts one session of a writing seminar Dr. Fogarty held for other physicians and included the stories they wrote in the 15 minutes she allotted them. The familiarity of the subject matter and story components coupled with seeing their results inspired me to experiment on my own.

The night I found the article I had been called to an emergency C-section. It was one of many I’ve been called to over the years, but after reading that article I thought it would be a perfect story for a first attempt. With any emergency there is stress and anxiety and then enormous relief when you have a good outcome.

 

Thank You, Baby

“I need help in here!” the nurse called before running back to the patient’s room.

“We’re losing the baby’s heartbeat with each contraction. Is the cord wrapped around his neck?”

Please, baby, be okay. They’re the only words in my mind. Every time.

A cut.

A tug.

Overwhelming anxiety.

A cry.

Relief.

Thank you, baby.

 

After that article I visited many blogs where people had posted their 55-word stories to see if I could get a feel for the form and rhythm. There were many that affected me, some that I found myself thinking of days later, and some that just made me roll my eyes. I went back to the ones that stuck in my mind to figure out why they had had such an impact and to hopefully be able to learn from them.

Truthfully, the invitation for this post scared me and my initial (knee jerk) response was to decline, especially since I had never heard of this format before. But no improvement will occur without effort and a challenge, so I accepted. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to share what I’ve learned and created. I hope you will be able to take something of value away from my post.

 

The Storm Caster

I feel the storm’s power surging through me. It’s explosive. I stand arms outstretched while the wind, my

wind, wreaks havoc.

I could tear the trees from the ground; send them crashing into houses nearby. I could…

Then I see my neighbor laughing at me through his window.

Ahh, I remember.

I’m an ordinary man.

 

Relaxing

I step into the hottub with a contented sigh. Sinking under the water briefly, I wet my hair and face, then

float.

How relaxing!

Slowly, the water thickens. To my horror it seeps into my mouth and eyes, but leaves my nose free.

Minutes pass.

The last thing I feel: two fingers covering my nostrils.

 

Guest Writer Bio:

Heidi Wilde - with bangs!Heidi A. Wilde is a Respiratory Therapist by night and aspiring author by day. She spends her nights dragging people back from the brink of death, but she has dedicated her daylight hours to the pursuit of all things writing. Current projects include a Children’s “How to” Poetry book, a Regency romance series as well as a foray into the realm of Steampunk. She attributes the bulk of what knowledge she can claim to attendance in fabulous programs such as Superstars Writing Seminars, Dave Farland’s workshops and various conventions.

Healing in Science Fiction

It’s important to do your homework when writing, especially about science.

In the recent past, I’ve read a number of stories and novels in the Sci-Fi genre that utilize some version of a healing agent. Sometimes this is a salve or injection or maybe a bath like in Wanted. The authors of these stories try to give some indication of science behind the concoction. The explanation will usually toss around some terms including antibiotics.

Antibiotics don’t work anymore.

One hundred years ago, before antibiotics, people might get a bacterial infection from scraping their knee or slicing their finger. The infection would “fester” meaning the bacterial colonies would spread and eventually the person could go into septic shock. We called this blood poisoning when I was a kid, but basically it’s where the bacteria has taken such control of a body that it can’t fight back and will eventually die.

Penicillin changed all that.

All the sudden folks that underwent surgeries, recovered rather than going sepsis. We could do more intricate, outpatient procedures (as opposed to chopping off an infected limb and cauterizing the wound).

You get the point. Antibiotics were awesome.

But they were never a fix-all. They don’t affect viruses, fungi, algae, or cancer. Just bacteria. And some estimate that there are millions of types of bacteria. So antibiotics don’t have an affect on all of them. In fact, within a year of introducing penicillin into the medical world, scientists discovered strands of bacteria that had already become resistant to penicillin, meaning it no longer worked to ward of infection from those strands.

That’s why they developed amoxicillin and cephalexin and erythromycin and Biaxin and Floxin and Levaquin and so many more. But just as quickly as the antibiotics are introduced, bacteria finds a way to morph, change some how and become resistant. No new antibiotic has been developed since the 1980s. And the “last resort” known as Colistin is kept under lock and key, barely used just in case the bacteria develop resistance through exposure. And sure enough, it’s all ready happening.

So you see, Antibiotics don’t work anymore. At least not in the future. In fact, Dr. Fukuda of the World Health Organization stated that “the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”

Now doesn’t that sound more like science fiction than a concoction using antibiotics as a cure-all?

So what is science doing about it?

healingNow for the science nonfiction. Scientists are developing all sorts of new technology to help prevent the apocalypse. Nanoparticles as treatments and delivery mechanisms of other treatments, viruses for the same purpose, enzymes that fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria now called “Superbugs” and the development of other antimicrobial agents like small molecules that mimic the human immune system—specifically antimicrobial peptides.

Bottom line, do your homework. Don’t just spout off something that a reader might perceive to diminish your credibility.

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.