Tag Archives: witchcraft

The Idea Mill #33

It’s been a while since we strolled down to the old Idea Mill to see what it’s been grinding out. For those of you new to these posts, they are the kind of things that might feed your Muse. As a speculative fiction author, I choose things that are a bit strange.

Our first story is from India, where an electrician unearthed the carcass of an animal. Not just any animal either, this one appears at first glance to be a dinosaur. That’s cool, you might say, except this one has flesh on it. Anything that’s been dead for 65 million years or so should not have anything that isn’t fossilized.

There is some speculation in the article that it’s an aborted goat fetus. I don’t buy it, because that tail is pretty long, it appears to have canine style teeth, and there is one point where you can see through the sinus cavity. It was less than a foot long which seems to eliminate a dog of some kind. You can read the article for yourself. It has the picture, which I will not steal from them.

If you need a story with dinosaurs in the modern world, this is your foot in the door. This article likely spread pretty wide regardless of what it turns out to be. I believe fiction folks should try to stay close to the possible before asking readers for that leap of faith. A quick reference to the discovery in India and you’re off to the races. Maybe this can be used to explain the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke. Fictionally, find a few more of these all over the world and you’re set.

You could make them alien in origin too pretty easily. Ancient sailors used to plant food animals on islands they might return to one day. Maybe the aliens did this too, and they’re going to return.

Next we have a strange burial of a bunch of cauldrons. They were placed in a semicircular ditch and buried. Keep in mind that cauldrons were likely extremely valuable way back when. Valuable enough to be passed down from daughter to daughter. Iron was not something easily available, so access to it would not have been an everyday occurrence. I have no evidence to support my theory, but a cauldron was likely a major investment for a family back then.

There is some speculation about a feast in the article, which you can read here.

What would lead multiple families to part with such a valuable item? Keep in mind that cauldrons are also something referenced in witchcraft. Could this have been some kind of Christian oppression? Are there the ashes of women in them from their burnings at the stake? Could this have been the site of a powerful ancient ritual, the result of which rendered the cauldrons unusable? These might be good stories to tell.

What if the story is of the recent discovery? Could there still be some ancient magic living around this site? Maybe something best left undisturbed? Maybe the only way to keep the demon down is to put the cauldrons back… in exactly the same way they were originally placed. This could lead to some fun puzzle solving for your characters.

Our next story might not fuel everyone’s Muse, but I dig it. It’s about rosewood being given a new status on the CITES list. It’s becoming endangered. This is an important wood for stringed instruments, and now musicians are worried about crossing international borders, in some cases with instruments that are hundreds of years old. This has led to illegal logging, smuggling, and over 150 deaths. Check out the article here. The culprit is a desire for rosewood furniture in China.

People love unique settings and situations. Smugglers, killers, and jungles are great things to pepper into an adventure story. Add a few dangerous animals, maybe some tiny dinosaurs from the first article and take to the jungles. Maybe your adventurer is a musician and you can add a unique element to the character. Tie it back to China by rescuing a few Asian rhinos.

Finally, we have a story that Russian Cosmonauts swabbed the outside of the International Space Station and found bacteria. The speculation is that this is an alien life form. There is a chance that it’s a contaminant from Earth and it’s capable of surviving in space, but where is the fun in that? You can read the story for yourselves.

I like this one, because it reminds me of Jason Fogg’s origin story. You can read it in my first Experimental Notebook. There are all kinds of possibilities for something coming from outer space. Start your zombie apocalypse right here folks. Maybe a new kind of plague, or one that’s happened before, that now has a new explanation.

Maybe you prefer limiting the outbreak to the International Space Station. One of the important pieces of a good horror story is isolation and being a long way from help. How about being quarantined in space with people who now want to shake your spinal fluid into a cocktail before dinner?

One of the fun parts of the Idea Mill is laying down some plot points of a story that is based on all the articles. I’ve got to tell you this isn’t an easy group to use in one story, but I’ll give it a shot.

A young botanist is sent to the jungles to make a count of the rosewood trees. She runs into smugglers, but there is something wrong with them. They are terrified of the small dinosaurs that are picking them off like plagues of locust. One of the smugglers takes her to the site of a meteor crash. This reveals a seeding of some sort that brought the dinosaurs to our planet… once again.

Lots of running bleeding and shooting later, she discovers a site that’s been looted by treasure hunters. The only way to get rid of the dinosaurs is to repeat an ancient ritual and bury the cauldrons in a specific pattern. However she must run the looters down to determine what patterns the cauldrons were buried in. Can she do it in time, before the dinos spread all over the globe? Ticking clocks etc. Oh, and let’s add some stress by making her a concert cellist who damaged her hands to the point she cannot play. This will give her something to struggle with against the ethics of protecting the trees that provide her lovely instruments.

So what would you do with these as inspiration for your own stories? Do any of them trip your trigger? Share some ideas in the comments, I’d love to read them.

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Hallo-WE-en features Will O’ the Wisp

Will O’ the Wisp
Will O’ the Wisp is a paranormal tale from C. S. Boyack. It involves a mildly handicapped girl facing a mysterious threat. The wisp has been killing off Patty Hall’s family for generations, and she’s next on the list. It is suitable for young adult readers. It’s a perfect Halloween read.

All stories involve some kind of research. I set this story in 1974, because I wanted Patty to use her wits, and display a bit of patience in revealing this story. Suspense is a great story technique, and having high speed internet would have spoiled some of the fun.

Keep reading here…

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Will O’ the Wisp, on Lisa Burton Radio #RRBC

Lisa Burton

Welcome to another edition of Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa Burton the robot girl, and my very special guest today is Patty Hall. “Welcome to the show, Patty.”

“Thank you Miss Burton, it’s an honor to be here.”

“Oh please, call me Lisa. Tell our audience how old you are.”

“Okay, Lisa, I’m fifteen and live in rural Virginia. High School class of 1978, if I make it.”

“We’ll get to that last remark in a minute. You live with a certain disability, why don’t you tell our listeners about that. If that’s okay.”

“It’s alright. My mother makes me wear corrective leg braces. They aren’t any worse than lots of other people, and it’s embarrassing to wear them. They’ve made me a social outcast at school.”

“I wouldn’t exactly say that. You seem to have some pretty solid friends to me.”

“Pete and Laura are the best. I suppose if that’s all the friends I can have, at least I have the best.”

“I think so too. Now, you ran into a bit of trouble out in the forest, what’s that all about.”

“We’re all into star gazing. We like to look at the constellations, planets, satellites, that kind of thing. One night we saw this glowing green thingie floating through the woods. It attacked this college boy who was camping for the night. It was terrible.”

“It sounds horrible. Did you ever determine what it was?”

“It’s called a Will O’ the Wisp, and it’s more awful than you think. It went into this boy’s body and made him sick. It controlled him and made him kill my uncle. Then it made the boy drown on dry land. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like his body filled up with water and killed him.

“And that’s not the worst of it. Another one attacked one of my Mom’s friends, and she’s trying to kill me.”

“Have you told anyone about it? Maybe there’s some kind of protection available.”

“Are you kidding me. Pete and I both saw it, but nobody is going to believe us. Laura says she does, but I can tell she’s trying to be a friend. My mother would have me talking to a shrink so fast– I mean, I’m thinking about running away, but I’m afraid it would follow me.”

“You mean your mom’s friend?”

“Yeah, her, but if she drowns I think there will be another one.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know, I think it must be alien, but that’s as much as I know. It isn’t like H. G. Well’s virus is showing up to kill off the aliens for me. All I know is that it came from up Bergamot Holler. If I can find where it comes from, I might figure out how to stop it. Except my mother wants me to stay away from Bergamot Holler. She says weird things happen up there. I found out some of my ancestors died up there too, and one of them drowned on dry land.

“I mean, what if there’s an alien ship buried up there and they’re mad at my family? I don’t know. It’s all making my hair fall out, and my nose bleed.”

“It sounds dangerous to me too. It would be hard walking through the woods with leg braces, then doing it at night with something dangerous in the woods.”

“I’m kind of used to it. The woods are where we watch for satellites. My mother is making me wear these things to the Homecoming dance. I don’t even want to go, but she’s forcing me. It’s embarrassing to show up without a date. I mean, who’s going to ask the girl with braces? Then if anyone dances with me it will just be to make a joke or show off to their friends.”

“Maybe she knows you can’t go back and do it later. High School is kind of a one shot deal.”

“No thank you. I’d rather wait until college. I’ll be out of these stupid braces then. That’s assuming I live that long.”

“So what would you study?”

“I want to be an astronaut. Bent legs won’t make any difference in space, and they might even be an advantage. The Soviets have lady Cosmonauts, how much longer can the US hold out? I think if I work hard, I could be one of the first ones.”

“I think you can too, if you study hard. In the mean time, get some help and try to avoid the Will O’ the Wisp.”

“It’s not the wisp that’s trying to kill me. It’s Mrs. Matthews who’s being controlled by the wisp. Can you imagine Mom’s reaction if I accuse her friend?”

“That could be a problem–”

“Yeah, and protective custody doesn’t look too good on a college application, or an application to NASA.”

“Thank you for joining us today, Patty, and I hope you figure it all out soon.”

“Thank you, Miss Lisa.”

“Our sponsor today is Will O’ the Wisp by our own C. S. Boyack. I’ll include all the details on the website. For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”

***

img_1018There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

This book is available in two different versions, depending upon where you live.

North American Continent http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UPH6BNS

Rest of the world http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UQNDT2C

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Get it while it’s hot, Macabre Macaroni

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve tried to post some spooky themed stories in October.

I make them all micro-fiction so nobody has to panic about finding part two, or missing one in the middle.

There is a style of micro-fiction called creepy pasta. Someone eventually glommed onto that name and started a website to host stories, the whole works. I know you can’t copyright a name, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes either. Maybe someday, that person will become a friend.

That’s why I call my stories Macabre Macaroni. And here we have the lovely Lisa Burton bringing us a platter right now, so everyone dig in.

The Woodworker’s Dilema

The tiny bell above my shop door jingled. It was early in the day for tourists to be wandering. I sat down my tea, checked my face in the antique mirror, and walked into the front. “Good morning, and wel–” I crossed my arms at the sight of Reverend Whitaker. “What do you want?”

He held up his palms. “I, I come in peace. I want to discuss something with you.”

“Like closing my shop down and running me out of town? Three years now you’ve been trying to put me out of business.”

He glanced at the apothecary section, then quickly looked away. He moved a hand-blown glass vase off the table, and sat down. I suppose he never noticed the furniture and the vase were for sale.

“I hope we can put all that behind us.” He placed a small cardboard box on the table. “I’ve come to the conclusion that… Well, that maybe there is more to this world than I know.” He gestured to the seat across from him. “Please.”

“I’m just having tea. Would you like some?”

He glanced again at the apothecary section. “No, I um. Thank you.”

I slid into the chair and adjusted my apron. I waited for him to speak, not wanting to invite the condemnation papers or whatever he was up to this time.

“I have a hobby, you see. When I’m not preaching, I have a life just like everyone else. One of my parishioners knows I’m a woodworker, and asked me to remove one of her trees in exchange for the wood. She seemed very upset about the tree, so I agreed to help.

“It turns out it was a huge maple, hundreds of years old. I had to get some of the other members involved to help remove it, and haul the trunk to my farm.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“Right, um, it turns out it was all curly maple; lovely stuff really. I make knife handles, mirrors, brushes, duck calls, that kind of thing. I have so much of it, that guitar makers and violin makers are calling me.”

He placed a block of wood on the table before me. It was breathtaking. The lines and swirls had a kind of reflective quality that was mesmerizing. I looked up and pushed a hair out of my face. “It’s beautiful. I might be able to sell a few pieces for you.”

“Yes, well, that wasn’t what I had in mind, but perhaps. I was, was, am hoping you could lend a special kind of assistance.” He removed a second piece from his box and turned it towards me.

“I, um. I don’t know–”

“Please. I need to know if this is demonic, or, or witchcraft.” He loosened his collar and wiped his brow. “I can’t let anyone else have this if it’s going to, to, to curse them.”

I lifted the piece and turned it in my hand. I detected nothing evil about it. “I think it is exactly what it appears to be; a cry for help.”

“But from whom, and what kind of help? Can you tell me anything?”

I tossed the wood between my hands to get a reading, but got nothing. “Are there any more messages?”

“Not so far, just this one. Can you help?”

“Perhaps, but we’ll have to work on it together. You find a way to count the tree rings. That will tell us what year it was planted. Figure out what age the message came from too. Then find out who owned the property at that time. Search also for news from those years; tragedy, missing persons, unsolved crimes, a reason to ask for help.”

“What will you do?”

“I’ll try some divinations. I will also interview the woman who owned the tree. She may have dreamed something, or noticed strange things. Together, we may be able to figure out something. Right now, do not discount that this message came to you. It is your help being sought. It looks like whoever sent it knew how to write, and they chose not to use cursive script. Possibly they were too young to know it. That is all I know today.”

“Thank you, and – this is hard to admit, but I may have been wrong about you.”

“Your culture has been wrong for centuries. Perhaps you and I can change that.”

***

You guys know me, I’m always trying out new things. This time it was pictures to enhance the story. What do you think? Did the pictures help more than a lengthy description would?

Just a couple of quick announcements. Both of my Experimental Notebooks contain short stories and micro-fiction. Many of those have a paranormal bent to them. If you need something to keep you awake at night, maybe one of those would do the trick.

This week is also the free week for my novel Panama. If you like historical fiction with some creep factor involved, this might be the story for you.

 

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Let’s saddle up and chase some demons

I may have mentioned that I'm doing a bunch of October promotions. Some are in groups, some are solo efforts, and some involve host blogs. This one is all on me, but it might benefit you. My book, Panama, is going to be free all this week. There are always some quirks with Amazon, and international date lines, but it should be free by the time this posts.

This is actually my most reliable selling book. It only spiked once and that was a long time ago. It regularly sells a copy here and there, and folks seem to like it.

The dawning of the twentieth century was a strange time. There were unexplored areas of the world. There were wild Indians, places an outlaw could escape, and radar couldn't find ships at sea.

Steam power ruled the day, and the industrial revolution was in full swing. Europe was mostly ruled by monarchs, before World War One changed all of that.

The French wanted to build a canal across the isthmus of Panama in what was then Colombia. This was no light undertaking, and workers died in the thousands from diseases, and more than a few industrial accidents.

I put a lot of research into this one, and it's where I learned that a dose of reality helps sell the fantastic. There are period appropriate celebrity cameos, and with the exception of one, they were where the book represents when they appear in the story.

Ethan and Coop are old friends. They both served in different cavalry troops, because Coop is black. The black cavalry were called Buffalo Soldiers by the Indians. They wound up on San Juan Hill together in the Spanish American War. Both of them have experience with paranormal goings on, and that's why President Roosevelt approached them. There is something unspeakable going on at the canal construction zone.

I spent a considerable amount of time dealing with the prejudices of the era too. Coop's life and viewpoint are different than Ethan's.

Most of the construction workers were chasing fortune and glory. They came from all over the world in pursuit of high wages. I went out of my way to make my construction zone an international community.

The boys run into plenty of magical issues when they get there, and I tried to make that international too. You'll find a bit of witchcraft, some shamanism, and even some hoodoo along the way. The problem is all caused by a demon, but there is a power behind him that must be dealt with. Right in the middle of their project, the Panamanians decided to try for independence. This brings the Americans, the Panamanians, and the Colombians into some tense situations.

To make matters worse, there is a Carlist rebel who is trying to gain the former Spanish colonies back for his want-to-be king. The Carlist movement involved someone who arguably could have been king of Spain. This is called a pretender to the throne, and they still exist to this day. I know some of you get into this stuff, and you might appreciate the Wikipedia brief.

I stumbled across this post the other day, and saved the link for you. They are extracting an entire steam train from underneath Lake Gatun. This lake was created as part of the workings of the canal. The post I had went down last night, so I Googled another one for you. Check out French trains.

So there you have it; a strange mixture of the old world and the new. A strange mixture of cultures, and magic. If you're up to the task, grab your straw hat, holster your six shooter, and saddle up. This week the books are on me, and I hope you enjoy Panama.

 

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The Idea Mill # 17

It’s time for another Idea Mill post. My regulars know what these are, but I’ll explain a bit for new readers. I set up several push feeds to drive me news about things I’m interested in. I collect articles that kick my Muse in the pants, and share them with everyone after I have enough.

If you enjoy these, they have their own category in my sidebar. Explore to your heart’s content.

Sadly, Zite magazine is going away soon. I am forced to migrate over to Flipboard. Their interface and custom features suck compared to Zite. I have to shoehorn my wants into their categories as opposed to ones I customize. I may have to hit the App Store later today to see what else there is. I’m open to suggestions.

The first one is an archaeological dig they think might be a witch grave. This girl was malnourished, and her soft tissues were burnt away prior to her being tossed into a pit and covered up. There are any number of things that could have happened here, including a house fire. This grave was near another identical grave that was discovered earlier.

It could be that the girls were locked up and starved. Eventually they were burned at the stake and tossed away. Read about the discovery here. They are planning on DNA testing to see if the girls were related.

I don’t know that I have to speculate much here. This adds credibility to any witchcraft story. Maybe there are tidbits here to add a bit more realism.

This next one needs some time to percolate. Daydream about it and let your Muse work it over. Scientists just grew electrical wires and components inside roses. In one case they were able to use electricity to lighten or darken the leaves. This can ramp up the photosynthesis process. They also talk about using plants to one day generate power. Read all about it in this article.

I like this one on many fronts. I think it can fluff up your science fiction in many ways. There could be conflict between destroying the rainforest, and replacing it with some kind of Frankenstein plants that make electricity and oxygen. What might the downside be? Maybe it provides oxygen and light for your spaceship.

Maybe this is the first step toward a plant based takeover. It’s like a zombie apocalypse or the Terminator, but with plants.

Fantasy doesn’t get left behind either. What if some alternate race learned how to grow steel inside gigantic trees. What special qualities might the weapons made from it have? Druidic magic? Electrical powers? What?

Finally, scientists have been able to grow human vocal cord tissue in the lab. This is actually pretty cool in a real world sense. It seems the ultimate goal is restoration for those who had cancer and various injuries. They tested the material out in canine larynxes, and it appears to make human sounds when manipulated. Read it here. (Caution, you have to wait for an advertisement.)

You don’t have to limit your speculation to this particular tissue. There will be an industry growing our spare parts one day. I wrote a short story about this in my Experimental Notebook, but you can take it a lot of directions.

What if unexpected traits of the original donor come with the transplant? You could really screw up your character’s life here. What if a famous singer donated the tissue, then a recipient comes along to compete in the entertainment industry?

These last two articles really trip my trigger. I still have my bio-hacker/grinder outline, and am going to add a sticky note to it after this posts.

I always try to end these with a cheesy story idea were all three elements are incorporated. This time it isn’t as hard as the last few. Here we go.

A city crew is tearing out the landscaping to replant new electricity generating plants. They place the living power grid over the burial site of actual witches who were burned alive.

The roots reach into the graves. Strange threats and warnings start happening on electrical devices, but nobody can figure it out.

An old laboratory beagle uses his superior olfactory powers and learns the truth. When the flowers bloom, the pollen is going to deliver a curse upon the entire city. He has human vocal cords, but there is a disconnect between his canine mind and human parts. Can he deliver the news in time?

Have fun with these. Do they inspire any of you who write speculative fiction? Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments. Does anyone have a good replacement for Zite magazine they can suggest?

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What I wanted out of this story

Hey gang, I'm over at Emily Martens' blog today. The topic is personal goals as an author.

The Frighteningly Fun Halloween Tour
What I wanted out of this story
I've blogged many times about how I set challenges for myself with each novel. These won't be evident to the reader, but they help me grow as an author. At various times, the challenge is as simple as writing a buddy story, or using fairy tale structure… Read more over at Emily's place.

 

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