Researching and Disappointment

You know when you’re writing and you’re trying not to get distracted by details or even character names if you can’t come up with one, so you end up with a scene like this?

Diana sniffs the ground at the base of the tree, “Whoah, that’s weird… I’ve never smelled…”

She doesn’t get the chance to finish that sentence because that’s the moment I notice the eyes all around us and jump in front of her, teeth bared. It’s not wolves. They’re too low to the ground. And they’re not growling. They’re whistling.

Have you ever seen a human wig? Terrifying things. Bodiless beings of hair and net that seem to levitate on the mammal who wears them. Imagine a long-haired blonde wig stepping out of the shadow of the forest. But this wig has red eyes. And his equally hairy friends are carrying what looks like the lids of catfood tins, decorated with symbols I don’t recognize.

He casts his weird red eyes over us, from the dirtiest corgi you’ve ever seen, to a small hissing rabbit pointing a stick at them with visceral malice, and me, the obvious threat of the team.

“I am AWESOME WARRIOR NAME” the long-haired wig says, his voice eerily reminding me of Pallas, that deep baritone coming out of a body that really didn’t seem to be able to contain it, “you have trespassed into our territory, and must leave.”

Now, spoiler alert, I had envisioned these new hairy threats as chinchillas. I like the word, I like the idea of a squadron of chinchillas for Emmy to deal with. But until this week when I read the scene over again and started to do some research, I didn’t know that the mammal in my head didn’t match the mammal in real life.

Chinchillas are not known to be hairy animals that look like wigs. It turns out, I was thinking of Peruvian long-haired guinea pigs.

A squadron of guinea pigs just doesn’t have the same ring as a squadron of chinchillas. I mean, I think most normal humans think NEITHER of those sound especially terrifying but I really love the visual image of this squadron of wigs running into battle.

Should I just get over the coolness of the word ‘chinchilla’ and go with the guinea pigs?

 

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Triple launch bonanza!

all-three-book-event4

I’m very fortunate to be able to launch PICKLES VS THE ZOMBIES with two fantastic kids authors – Bev Katz and Joanne Levy this September!

September 7, at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington 
September 8, at Indigo Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto

pickles vs. the zombies cover_dec 20

EVENT: East Bound Conference June 7

I’m speaking at the East Bound Conference on June 7th, and for the first time for my Newfoundland fans,  I will be available for book signings!

I’m on-stage at 8:15 on Friday, June 7th as part of a panel discussion Breaking through the Noise: How to Increase the Canadian Presence for Books in a Digital World: Case studies in other media

But I will be at the conference as an attendee for the rest of the time, so ping me on Twitter if you’re going!

Opioids in the 1930s

Opium smokers in the East End of London, London Illustrated News, 1874

As part of my research for book 4, I’ve been reading up on morphine addiction in the early part of the 20th century. I found out, for example, that Sigmund Freud died of a morphine overdose that was administered by his own doctor in an assisted suicide (Freud had mouth cancer and decided he was done at the age of 83 in 1939).

Addiction to morphine was called the ‘soldiers disease’ as many fighting men came back from the first world war (and second) addicted to the pain killer.

Laudanum (a pill or tincture made from opium and sometimes the addition of saffron, castor, ambergris, musk and nutmeg) was widely used in the 16th century, and well into the 20th.

Although many drugs containing opium were required to be labelled at the beginning of the 20th century, they were also commonly available without a prescription.

My first exposure to an opium den was in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” one of my less favourite Holmes tales. Watson goes to find Holmes in the opium den down a “vile alley” on Upper Swandam Lane. In London in the 1930s, opium dens could be found in and around Pennyfields and the Limehouse Causeway.

map-limehouse.png

From what I’ve read, the description of the seediness and danger around these drug dens were both racially charged and more negative than real. But, any drug den, whether it’s in the 1930s or today, will attract a certain kind of customer, so the danger was probably accurately described. For example:

In a talk at the Docklands Museum on 28th January 2007, Dr. John Seed from Roehampton University explored some of the realities of Chinese life in Limehouse from 1900 – 1940. He showed how public responses to several drug scandals, to interracial marriage, to housing shortages and unemployment, contributed to an enduring myth: the idea of a Chinatown in Limehouse that never really existed. Read more here.

An anti-opium movement sprang up in response, mostly as a method of controlling the populace from “deviant” behaviours, but doctors were still prescribing various opioids as a method of pain control.

Riding the London underground

I’m writing a scene today where Portia catches sight of a suspect standing on the platform of a London tube stop, and I always like to watch this video when writing about that specific setting (and I’m very lucky such source material exists).

It’s from the 1930s, and hosted by the Kinolibrary Film Collections:

You can subscribe to the Kinolibrary on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfM-3hDSJkd2M_YGSn8oVkw

Pre-order Pickles vs the Zombies

Just so you know, publishers LOVE it when pre-sales of books go well. And happy publishers usually leads to happy authors, so if you were thinking Pickles might make an awesome gift OR you just wanted to be the first to get your hot little paws on a copy, this is your chance!

Buy Pickles vs the Zombies at

My Double Life event


https://www.facebook.com/events/421700485052173/

Gotta love this event title and the panellists I am thrilled to be included with! Come by Ryerson on Tuesday and hear how we balance our “Double Lives.”

UPDATE: They posted the talk, so if you missed it, catch up here:
https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/64/Watch/15394.aspx

Sisters in Crime event

If you’re in the Toronto area, I’ll be speaking at the March 21st Sisters in Crime event at the Toronto Public Library, Northern District Branch, 40 Orchard View Blvd!

Come by and hear all about Portia’s transition from YA detective to adult.

RSVP on Facebook here, and please help spread the word!