Short and quick today. I’m participating in a Halloween Book Blast. Check it out for a bunch of Halloween themed reading. https://sites.google.com/a/myaddictionisreading.com/halloween-book-blast-2018/home
Short and quick today. I’m participating in a Halloween Book Blast. Check it out for a bunch of Halloween themed reading. https://sites.google.com/a/myaddictionisreading.com/halloween-book-blast-2018/home
It’s been a long time since we visited the Idea Mill, here on Entertaining Stories. I’ve kept my eyes open for articles, and they haven’t been all that good lately. In typical fashion, I always wait until I have three – but two good ones show up at the same time, leaving me with four.
If this is your first visit to the Idea Mill, I have a category in the sidebar where you can check out the previous posts. I use push feeds to send me news about things that might help my fiction. Think of them like Muse food. I can’t possibly use them all, and maybe something will bring your own Muse to the table.
Our first article involves humans returning to the moon one day. Scientists have long speculated there might be underground lava tubes on the moon that would make a great location for a human colony. A team of Japanese and American scientists proved the theory, and they even identified a suitable location.
In speculative fiction, you can always change things up to suit yourself. Maybe you want Mars instead; shouldn’t be a huge leap of faith. Maybe you want some basis for a fantasy where one of your races lives in underground colonies. This could be a starting point for your research.
I really like the image in the article that shows a huge underground cell holding a city the size of Philadelphia with plenty of room to spare. If you think of Earth’s atmosphere as being similar to an ocean, then why couldn’t you fill the entire cell with oxygen and allow the inhabitants to moon-hop without space suits? I think I could sell that in a story. If you get plants to grow, they might even help with the oxygen. You can read the article here.
That giant cell where the people must live is also a perfect setting for horror of some kind. Help is a long way off, and you can’t just run away.
Our next one involves a new finding that the squirrel fur trade may have helped spread leprosy in medieval England. I think what amazes me the most is the idea there even was a squirrel fur trade. I mean squirrels never seemed to make much of an impact on the red carpet decades ago when fur was in fashion. Marilyn Monroe never posed snuggled inside a squirrel fur stole and nothing else. I can see trade like this spreading diseases way back then. They didn’t have some of the regulations, FDA, and other folks watching over them.
Need a fantasy character who hasn’t been done to death? Tired of burley woodsmen and handsome princes? How about a squirrel fur trader? How about a bunch of orphans who catch squirrels to survive? Could there be a fur trader’s guild in your fantasy city? Maybe even a guild war when opossum fur starts becoming more economical?
Learn about the spread of disease by squirrel fur trading at this site.
Our next article involves an idea that’s been floating around for a long time. Mosquitos carry a lot of diseases that are harmful to humans. They are also hard to control using current methods, because the old methods were so devastating to the environment. When I first read about this, the idea was to introduce a deadly mosquito venereal disease into the larger population in hopes that it would kill them all off. That idea never went away, it seems. Today it’s back with a new hair-brained basis. The FDA has approved a method of using sterile male mosquitos to introduce into the wild. In theory these would mate with the bad mosquitos (apparently the bad ones are always females) leaving all the eggs as duds.
Now, if this could actually happen, repeated treatments could lead to an extinction of the bad mosquitos. Their method cracks me up, though. They will produce these mosquitos in a lab, then hand separate the males from the females, before boxing them up to ship to areas where Zika and yellow fever are prominent.
If they’re going to use labor to hand separate the mosquitos, I almost think they’d be better off to send that same labor into the swamps with fly-swatters. Anyway, you can read the article here, then we’ll speculate about it.
Maybe you caught on to the term in the article about weaponized mosquitos. If they can manipulate the little buggers to this extent, it isn’t much of a leap to turn them into biological weapons to use against humans. Some of this might even play into my next novel that I’m going to call Grinders. (I need to give it some thought.) Maybe you write thrillers, and can pit the CDC against a terrorist cell utilizing weaponized mosquitos to carry out its evil plans. Maybe you want to project this out a few years and have the Endangered Species Act trying to protect the now-endangered bad mosquitos. It could be CDC vs the Endangered Species Act, while the terrorists are getting away.
Like I said, I hold some of these articles for months, then always seem to get two at the last moment. This time is no exception, so we have one more. Where the mosquito article bordered on mad science, this one moves right in and sets up shop. Scientists have been merging human and rat brains in a laboratory. They even have a cute name for the human parts called organoids.
This one plays right into my Grinders novel, and I already have rats involved. The article explores the idea of ethics and rights if the animals are part human, and questions what kind of consciousness they might have. I’ve got news for them, all animals are conscious to a degree. They all protect their babies, understand the need for food and water, and many are much more incredible.
Writing a courtroom type story that’s reflective of the Scopes Monkey Trials, one where eventually a rat testifies, seems like low hanging fruit to me. It could be good, but it’s just not what I write. I can see a plague of intelligent rats causing all kinds of problems. Maybe they set up street gangs and start taking lunches from school children. They form organized raids on restaurants and bakeries. Maybe they even fight back by using swarms of biting rats to kill those who oppose them.
It wouldn’t take much of a stretch to use other species if you have the science behind this project. You could go all Michael Chichton on the story. Read the article right here.
One of the fun parts, and it gets harder with four articles, is to rough out a story using all the articles. I have space, a medieval fur trade, and two modified animals to deal with…
A colony of humans is living on the moon in a fully functional underground city. They are dependent upon Earth for many of the things they need for survival. These people are dependent upon a line of super intelligent rats to help them delve deeper into the lava tubes. The rats can explore places we cannot go, and assess whether it’s worth digging through to the next area.
It’s cold on the moon, and the rats want something warmer than their natural fur. A shipment of squirrel fur arrives from Earth, and a cottage industry is born – making fur coats for rats. The fur is infected with a virus that is deadly to humans. The best hope is in the form of modified mosquitos that will transmit a cure for the disease. However, the cure is deadly for the rats.
While the ship carrying the cure is on its way, the rats rise up to destroy the humans before they can destroy the rats.
That’s it, some ideas to kick your Muse in the pants; check. A corny outline to have some fun with; check.
I’ve got to say the last two have me thinking, and I think the Research Sirens are on their way to the writing cabin.
I stayed up until midnight playing video games with my son. I knew I'd pay for it today, but did it anyway.
Frankie, the alarm dog, got me up at 4:30. I should be overjoyed that she gave me twenty minutes longer than my alarm clock usually does. It's a flex day, so maybe I'll grab a nap this after noon.
I hacked out another micro-fiction while the dogs managed to go back to sleep. Then I grabbed a fresh coffee and sat beside the footboard of my bed.
A slurping noise moved from the darkness to just the other side of the footboard. A black tentacle slid a Nylabone out on the floor beside me.
“Black is a new look for you, isn't it?”
“Oh, you know me. Always trying something new. I think it makes me scarier in the dark.”
“You could be onto something. Things you can't quite see are more frightening. What's with the dog toy?”
“Oh, Frankie and Otto were tugging at it yesterday and it flew under the bed. I thought she might need it back.”
“Not for much longer. I think her puppy teeth are almost all gone now.”
“Good thing too. Those babies are sharp. I had to steal a Bandaid while you guys were sleeping.”
“No problem, that's why they're there.”
“So what brings you to talk to the old under-the-bed monster today?”
“You're going to have to be more specific.”
“Okay, tragedy is a time honored kind of story. When done well, it produces a powerful emotional experience for the reader–“
“Right a PEE, I read your blog. Too funny.”
“As I was going to say, it seems to be out of favor today.”
“Times change and all that.”
“Maybe they do, but maybe they shouldn't. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after in real life. Fiction should reflect real life.”
“Riiiight. You write stories about spacemen, witches, and dwarves.”
“Okay, but I try to get real human emotions into them.”
“You still haven't told me what specifically brings you here today.”
“I nearly wrote a Greek tragedy a few years ago with The Cock of the South. I chickened out, and didn't completely go that route. Well, I've gone and done it again.”
“And you're worried it will make people mad. You're looking at it from the wrong side of the mirror. For every one of those happy endings, a monster dies somewhere. Do you know how many of my friends are hanging around the Union Hall just waiting for another story?”
“All of em, and they aren't going to get another story because the author killed them off.”
“Don't you guys always manage to stick a hand out of the grave right at the end, or open your eyes suddenly?”
“Only in horror. Not every monster story is technically a horror story.”
“That's all great, and I appreciate that monsters would understand, but they don't buy many books these days.”
“So it's a commercial thing?”
“Not exactly, it's a story for my blog.”
“Now you're just being stupid. Those things have the lifespan of a gnat. Eight hours later the readership forgets all about them.”
“Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. They don't swarm back and re-read the posts, but the story might stick with them.”
“Yeah, that's a good point. Is this for your macaroni thing?”
“It's called Macabre Macaroni, and yeah.”
“Maybe you can bracket it with something happy on either side. End with one that isn't a tragedy. They always remember the last one.”
“So bury it in the middle somewhere?”
“That's my opinion.”
“Thanks Under-The-Bed Monster, I owe you one.”
“You owe me several, but who's counting.”
My wife has a thing for weeds. Maybe I've written about this before, but she buys them and decorates the house with them. I'm not a fan, but I don't hate them either. Maybe indifferent is the right word here.
Saturday night she was visiting family in Nevada. I was home watching puppies and taking care of Otto. My son and I stayed up late playing Diablo III because it has a new expansion pack.
Otto stirred in the middle of the night. He's been doing this due to pain, and sometimes he needs to go outside. He wasn't grumbling about the pain, and he had a pretty good weekend. At this pace, he'll be back to his old shenanigans in a couple of months.
This time he was upset about something. He didn't bark, like he would if a neighbor dog barked or someone was in the park next door, but something had him shook up. I walked over to him and put a hand on his head.
Then I heard something like the sound of water being poured on a hard floor. That's the best way to describe it. It had to have been about three AM, and I also thought of a rattlesnake, but that would be completely absurd.
I opened the bedroom door to peek into the kitchen. It's the only hard surface we have right now. Then I heard it again. It was behind me.
I walked to my nightstand and turned on the lights, and it sounded from my wife's jar of weeds. Now the windows are closed and they are away from the air conditioning vent too. I glanced left and right of them; nothing.
It sounded again. This time the weeds toward the middle were vibrating. The megaphone shaped arrangement seemed to be causing a mild amplification to the noise.
My first thought was mouse, but we haven't had a mouse ever since we moved to Idaho.
It sounded again, and I picked up on the rhythm of the noise. I shook the vase, but couldn't get it to sound again. I am certain that a moth fluttered in there and got stuck.
At this point the puppies were thoroughly interested too, so I forced them all to go outside and go potty… Otto too. When they finished, I went back to sleep and never gave it a second thought.
As an author, you can bet I chalked it up. I may never use it, but it could enhance a story or turn into a Macabre Macaroni type story at some time.
Has anything like this ever happened to you in the middle of the night?
We haven't visited the old Idea Mill for some time. To be honest, I've been busy, and the articles haven't really caught the attention of my Muse. I finally have three, so it's time to truck them out again.
For my new readers, I use push feeds to get the kind of news I want to read. This pushes archeology, cutting edge science, and even a few creepy feeds directly to me. I bookmark those that have some merit and share them here. There is an Idea Mill category in my sidebar if you want to skim the old ones.
Our first article is about a ship called the SS Baychimo. In 1931 she got stuck in the ice. This was the last time she had a crew. That didn't stop her from sailing the arctic without a crew. She was spotted for years, and there were several attempts to salvage her, but she was having none of it. She was last seen in 1969. I'll let the article do the math, and it says 38 years. You can read more here.
I like this, because it happened. It isn't some fantasy idea concocted by an author, and it lends real credibility to any ghost ship fiction you might want to write. You could give her a personality and write a kids book about her finishing her mission without a crew. You could also haunt the crap out of her and it's a perfect setting for a horror story. Isolation is a must for a good horror story, and hundreds of miles at sea is pretty isolated.
This one almost didn't make the list, but I decided to add it at the last minute. It's about gene splicing and designer babies. For you deep researchers out there, there are some great scientific terms that would be a great place to start your research. Read all about it here.
Let's face it, superheroes and their supervillains are all the rage right now. This seems like a great backstory for those characters. Maybe you prefer a different spin and develop a world where everyone is tall and attractive. Messing with nature could lead to unintended consequences. I have a bulldog for crying out loud. They are famous for the health issues associated with overbreeding. Take this to a human level, and perfect specimens might be more susceptible to health issues from pollution, or the common cold, or can't process sunlight into vitamins.
Finally, this one is more of a story element than something that would drive a whole plot. (In my mind. Your mind might be better.) There is a liquid that people can breathe in. It sounds pretty high tech, but it's called perfluorocarbon. I did a bit of digging, and found out it's also used in makeup and as a potential artificial blood. Read all about it here. Apparently it carries oxygen really well.
The first thing that comes to my mind is Mr. Freeze's wife in her liquid filled tube to preserve her life. Luke Skywalker went through some of this too. I have a need in a future story for a situation like this, and may have to use the word to explain how it's done. Thank God, I have it saved forever in The Idea Mill. Maybe it would make a great preservative for those deep space journeys to another planet. You know, the ones that take twenty years.
So part of these posts involves me outlining a corny story using all three. Let's see where this goes.
In a planet filled with designer perfect people, someone discovers the SS Baychimo. By now it is an archeological treasure to be explored and preserved. Unfortunately the researchers catch some ancient disease like Measles from the wreck. Their immune systems are compromised and any of the ancient vaccines aren't going to work. Make sure to make a political statement one way or the other about vaccinations. Doesn't matter to me which way, but this kind of story should make a hot-button point.
With a looming shortage of perfluorocarbon to preserve the dying, someone needs to act fast. This is where the second class citizens, produced the old fashioned way, will come into play. They are heartier and can work around the sick and dying with less risk. They are on the verge of a vaccine that will save the day. They've been treated like second class citizens for centuries, and there is some doubt about whether they will act, or simply let nature take it's course and rid them of the designer population.
How about it, you guys. Do any of these kick your Muse in the rear? Maybe you prefer a vat of designer babies, preserved in perfluorocarbon, being shipped to a distant planet. Their spaceship is called the SS Baychimo. Someone discovers them a thousand years later, and they're all still alive. What would you write based upon one of these?
Coming at you with one, point twenty-one jigawatts of power, all across the known galaxy and into the spiritual realms, this is Lisa Burton Radio, the only show out there that interviews the characters from the books you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and with me today is Finn McLachlan. He and his friend Cain have been observing some pretty unusual situations lately. “Welcome to the show, Finn.”
“Thanks, Lisa. When they said robot girl, I pictured a female C3PO or R2D2, which you’re so much not. Totally a good thing.”
“Thanks, Finn. My bio says you’re in high school and you have a girlfriend named Lindsey. What can you tell us about her?”
“Somebody crossed their wires, sweetheart. Lindsey is one massively cool girl, but she’s into Cain, my best friend, who’s currently trapped in the web of the reigning mean girl, Erin. I know, high school drama, right? He needs to grow a set and dump her, but the dude’s worried about hurting her feelings. Told him empty shells like her don’t have feelings. Lindsey’s the first girl I’ve met who might be worthy of him.”
“Wow, now that’s a best friend. So what kind of unusual situations have been going on?”
“I think my boy, Cain, is in trouble. Strange things are afoot at the Shannon home – namely in Cain’s bedroom and the attic – the door to the attic is in his room. Doors opening and closing on their own, writing in condensation on a mirror, his cat hissing and growling at things no one can see. And get this – the temperature was 90+ degrees outside, but he could see his breath in an attic with no air conditioning. But only in a certain corner of the room. Kind of creepy, right? I thought maybe Cain was just imagining things – I mean, the guy’s really into horror movies and books, so I thought he’d just had some nightmares you know? Guess I should have known he wasn’t that creative.
“So he got this idea to set up an old camcorder to record what went on in his room while he was sleeping, when a lot of the weird stuff has been happening – maybe get some proof. When he woke up the next morning, the camera was lying on the floor across the room, like someone – or something – had thrown it.”
“Okay, we discuss some weird situations on this show, but that’s pretty far out there.”
“Well, sweetheart, it’s about to get even weirder. We played back that video and saw the attic door open on its own, then the mattress dipped on his bed, like a person had sat on it. After a few seconds, his hair moved away from his face, like someone was running their fingers through it. Really freaky stuff. Next thing you know, clothes start flying off his bed, the camera gets knocked sideways, and the screen goes white, then to static. I worked with the recording, frame by frame, and that’s when we caught our first glimpse of Sarah, the ghost, vengeful banshee, or whatever you want to call her, who’s decided to make herself at home in Cain’s humble abode. After we talked with her – yeah, we actually spoke with a ghost – we kinda got the impression she wasn’t of the Casper variety, if you know what I mean.
“So, it turns out Lindsey’s Aunt Mona owns a metaphysical store down on King Street and she might possess a tad more than the normal five senses and could offer some help. And right now, she’s the only lifeline we’ve got.”
“Well — Maybe Aunt Mona can help exorcise Sarah somehow. Stranger things have happened.”
“Something’s got to happen soon, because we’ve already got a dead body –did I forget to mention that? Considering the guy’s head was nearly separated from his body, I’d say it wasn’t from natural causes.”
“Is there any connection to Sarah?”
“He’s one of three guys Sarah said was responsible for killing her. Cain and I warned the other two, but they think we’re making up all this ghostly vengeance stuff. Sarah seems stronger after murdering the first guy, and I bet she’s got something special planned for the other two. The girl’s got breathtaking anger management issues.”
“This is way off the beaten path. I think you guys should tell the authorities, and find some outside experienced help.”
“Seems like that would have been a logical step, right? Until Sarah threatened Cain’s family – and I consider his mom and sister just as much my family as his. Then there’s the weird way Cain’s been acting…but it’s probably nothing.”
“You can tell us Finn. It’s that kind of show. What’s on your mind?”
“Well…..Cain’s more of a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of guy and stays away from the spotlight, but lately it seems like….maybe he’s not completely Cain. Say there’s a chance, before Sarah got stronger, she needed a little help with her killings to-do list. It could make someone wonder. Someone who doesn’t know him like I do.”
“Oh my God! Have you told him? What are you going to do?”
“I’m thinking something along the lines of ghostly possession intervention. If that’s not a thing, it should be.”
“I think you should tell him, but you need to make sure it’s really him you’re talking to. I don’t know if that means daylight, hallowed ground, or just away from the house, but he needs to know.”
“He may not believe me, but it’s time to lay all the cards on the table. We need to know everything we’re up against and then make a game plan. I’ll give Sarah the fight of her miserable, undead life before I let her hurt Cain or anyone else I care about.”
“Oh I’m so sorry. Too bad you can’t just call in Hellboy or someone to take care of it all. I really feel for you guys, and wish you the best of luck. We’re about out of time. Do you have any final comments for our listeners today?”
“Totally off topic, but how do you feel about younger men? Is the whole dating a human thing frowned upon as a general rule or is that more of just a guideline? I’m single, you know. I’ll give you a call if I live through this.”
“I’m flattered, Cain, but I’m totally into my career right now. I’m sure there are some nice girls in you’re hometown who would appreciate a local hero.
“If you want to find out what happens to Finn, Cain, and Lindsey, pick up the book, Sarah, by Teri Polen. I’ll include all the important deets on the website. Help me keep the lights on around here by using those sharing buttons, I’m sure Finn and Teri would appreciate it, and would do it for you when your character appears on the show.
“If you’d like one of your characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio, drop me a line. I’m always looking for guests. For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”
Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.
A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.
Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.
Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, is her first novel. Visit her online at www.teripolen.com