Tag Archives: outbreak

As authors, what do we do with it?

I’m in a quiet house this morning. My daughter is here, and she brought a Rottweiler puppy with her. These all belong to her room mate, and nobody seems to want this one. He’s cute as hell and they’re trying to give him away. I tried to snap a photo for you guys, but he’s kind of a perpetual motion machine. He looks more like a Black and Tan coonhound right now. They never got His tail docked, but I have a hunch this will change once he fills out. You’ll have to make due with Frankie and I.

As authors, we’re all kind of observant. There is a lot going on around us right now, and I wondered what to do with it all.

I remember my grandparents talking about quarantines and such. One of my grandmother’s sisters was quarantined at Ellis Island, because they thought she looked sickly. Grandma had to make her way to Utah alone. They were both children. I think grandma was eleven at the time, and her sister was a similar age. One parent in Wales, the other in Utah and they shipped them between the parents.

I’ve heard them talk about the kind of quarantines we see today, but always thought that was something for the history books. Something to use in one of my historical pieces, or maybe fantasy. Here we are in the 21st Century and living it. I told my son he should grab a couple of rolls of toilet paper and try to find a girlfriend this weekend. “Hey, baby. I have toilet paper.”

I added some quarantine issues to Viral Blues, but obviously got a few things wrong. I hope this doesn’t kill the enjoyment of the story. I had my quarantines limited to specific areas, and I never anticipated the hoarding and shortages that we’re seeing.

When I think about my Lanternfish project (70,000 words and growing) the Coronavirus isn’t going to make a difference. It’s set in a fantasy world, and nothing will have to change.

That may not be the case with my side project, currently called The Ballad of Mrs. Malony. (10,000 words and now what?) I dealt with some monsters in Viral Blues, but an intentional spreading of disease was the undertone of the story. This poses some issues for me. The Hat stories are set in the modern world. Sure it’s supernatural/paranormal, but in our world. I’ve already dealt with a virus in this series.

In the stories, Lizzie and the Pythons are a cover band that allows me to move them around the country to discover new paranormal adventures. Nice trick for an author. However, bands play in nightclubs. Those are all closed today. How realistic is it to have them doing this in their stories? I don’t want to trash what I’ve already created, but I have to admit the opportunity to show them out of work and have Lizzie bicker with The Hat over such things has merit. Maybe they have to deal with looters and riots. The Hat always said humans are the worst monsters of all.

Part of the problem is that I have long term plans for them. I have two and a half more books living in my head, and changing continuity of their story isn’t something I relish. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s a great way to lose interest in writing them.

In a perfect world, this will all blow over in six months. I’ll look like a genius to future readers, because I have my virus story in the continuity of the characters, and nobody will check the publication dates and compare them to the current outbreak. Fun times for everyone, etc.

What about our future projects? Are all of the real world stories going to have to acknowledge the happenings of 2020? Our world will change because of this, whether it involves where people work, health insurance, vaccines, or any number of things. Our economy will change, too. Should we all hold off on real world settings until we see where we’re headed? It might seem odd to readers if the world looks like 2019, but they’re reading it in 2022. Maybe traditional things will become a page in the history books, and having fictional kids going door to door on Halloween will be an archaic reference. Big family Thanksgiving??? I think you can see where I’m going with this.

I decided years ago that any science fiction I write is better in the near future. I don’t think I write outer space all that well. Honestly, it’s okay not to be great at everything. Having some parameters on my imagination is a good thing. However, I have a nearly complete storyboard for a post apocalyptic story. The world tore itself apart, and I can draw from some of the things I see going on today. But, do I have to acknowledge 2020 in some small way? Today would be part of history in the setting this story will take place in.

You’ll probably see me around next week as I continue touring Grinders around. This is some of my near future science fiction, and doesn’t reference Coronavirus at all. It didn’t exist when I was writing it.

I’ve talked about my concerns with writing around the outbreak. I also have to admit it offers some new and realistic opportunity. Your super spy runs into a roadblock because the airports are closed. Cute romance involves a quarantine, but they both live in the same building. Heroic stories about coming up with a vaccine, or delivering one to a decimated area. There are some possibilities here. We can use the selfishness, create new forms of prejudice, add some riots, all of these make good story turns.

Since I’m rambling, here’s one more Boyack thought for you. When the media creates the next generation of heroes for us, I hope they skip over the sports stars, the box office heroes, and the musical starlets who can’t seem to wear enough clothes. Maybe there ought to be some space reserved for the scientists, the CDC workers, even the truck drivers, and those who are serving our elderly. I would watch their awards show.

Talk to me people. Do we need to rethink our works in progress? Are you excited to fictionalize the things you see going on today? Do we need to reassess what a real hero is? I know you’re all home, and if you’re reading blogs this weekend, I’d love to hear from you.

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The Idea Mill #21

It's about time for a trip to the old Idea Mill. This is a regular feature of my blog where I discuss ideas that come to me in the news.

I set up a bunch of push feeds and get news I might be interested in pushed my direction. When something clicks with me, I save the link until I have enough to make one of these posts.

The idea is that maybe it will pique your imagination too. Some of these ideas might make a great story element, others might fuel an entire novel.

Let's dive right into our first story.

We start with an outbreak in the American Midwest that's probably over by now. At the time of this article the body count is at eighteen. It involves a rare bacteria called Elizabethkingia.

This is what appeals to me. I really can't let go of a character named Elizabeth Kingia who turns out to be patient zero in a disaster story. She's a modern day Typhoid Mary who spreads a disease everywhere she goes. It wouldn't be hard to turn her into a supernatural character if that was your mindset. Maybe she's the daughter of the horseman, Pestilence.

I just love the name. I'm sorry about the real life situation, but this kind of thing lends a bit of realism to a plague story. This is a real bacteria. It's really called Elizabethkingia. It's really causing problems. You can read the article I saw here.

In this story, a mummified sailor was found floating on his yacht. It is believed he could have been dead for up to seven years. A genuine ghost ship in the modern era. Police say he split from his wife, and believe she died of cancer. He was last documented in 2009.

This kind of story can lend some real authority to any ghost ship story. There are any number of Flying Dutchman type stories, and this story gives them legs.

When I think about this story, the sailor isn't the problem. What killed him is the problem. You could put him on a spaceship, a train, or whatever you want. I see him as the opening scene in the story though. Read the article, with a picture, here.

Finally we have curses. I was first exposed to this in a television show called Rome. Curses were scratched out on sheets of lead. In this case, they had to get to the underworld, and they were placed in someone's grave. I suppose this made whoever's grave it was into some kind of afterlife messenger.

This television show caused me to research until I found the prayer/curse stones I used in Panama. Counterclockwise for a curse, clockwise for a prayer.

The story is that someone didn't like a barkeep and his wife very much. Here is the translation:

“Cast your hate upon Phanagora and Demetrios and their tavern and their property and their possessions. I will bind my enemy Demetrios, and Phanagora, in blood and in ashes, with all the dead…”

“I will bind you in such a bind, Demetrios, as strong as is possible, and I will smite down a kynotos on [your] tongue.”

One of the things that appeals to me from the article is the idea of a professional curse writer. I can imagine that writing wasn't a common skill, and that sheets of lead weren't something easily procured either. This means a professional curse writer could probably charge a steep fee. I want to be a professional curse writer in my next life. Maybe this writing gig could be more profitable then. (Just joking… Not really, I want to be a professional curse writer.)

I can imagine a husband and wife working in a city. He is a professional curse writer, she sells counter curses, like the eye amulets or phallic symbols in previous Idea Mill posts. They might make fun main characters in a con job type story. Read the story yourself here.

These are fun, because there are recent news stories to support them. Part of the Idea Mill is me coming up with a corny story that incorporates all of the ideas. My goal is to spark your imagination.

Let's say Elizabeth Kingia is spreading a disease around … Let's use Southern Europe somewhere. A professional curse writer causes her so much trouble that she flees the country on a chartered boat.

Authorities in a new country find the boat run aground. The only person aboard is the mummified captain. There is no evidence of who his passenger was, or what cargo he was hauling.

Elizabeth Kingia is free to spread the plague to England, America, Australia, wherever you want to send her. You'll have to come up with some kind of hero to chase her down, but this is the root of a story. I would probably make my hero the professional curse writer and bring his wife along for color and backup.

 

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