Some Halloween Myths

As the holiday that makes it okay to beg strangers for candy approaches, there is an uptick in Halloween crime warnings about poisoned candy, ding, dong ditch with fatal results, razor blades in homemade goods like Candy Apples and fake kidnapping rings looking to steal children for sex trafficking.  Let’s discuss a few of these.

Poisoned Candy: This is based on an actual case of a poisoned Pixy Stix.  Halloween 1974 netted the O’Bryan children (Timothy 8 and Elizabeth 5).  This is a bit complicated, so I’ll try to explain it briefly.  The O’Bryan children and some friends, were trick or treating with a handful of parents, including Ron O’Bryan, father of Timothy and Elizabeth.  At one house, the occupants didn’t answer the knocks of the children and after a few moments the kids moved on to a different house.  Ron O’Bryan joined them a few minutes later with 5 large Pixy Stix that he said he’d gotten from the house with no answer.  At the end of the evening, Ron gave two of the 5 sticks to his own children and the others were given to those that had gone trick or treating with his kids.  As the kids were getting ready for bed, Tim asked to eat some of his Halloween candy.  His father selected one of the Pixy Stix.  Tim began to feel sick and then have convulsions.  He was rushed to the hospital where it was determined he’d ingested cyanide.  Sadly, he died.  During the investigation, the remaining four Pixy Stix were tested and found to contain Cyanide.  The police went to the house where Ron claimed to receive the poisoned Pixy Stix that Timothy ate.  The police interviewed the occupants of the house and learned they had been out of town on Halloween so absolutely could not have given Ron the poisoned candy.  It was later determined that Ron poisoned the 5 Pixy Stix.  In the months leading up to Halloween he had taken out life insurance in the amount of $100,000 on each of his children.  He poisoned the Pixy Stix for the life insurance money.  He was convicted of 1st degree murder and 4 counts of attempted murder.  And he was executed by the state of Texas for his crimes.  However, this is the only confirmed case of poisoned candy in the US.

Trick Or Treat Robbery Leads to Murder:  In 1982, an Iowa couple opened the door to what they thought were trick or treaters, but the trick was on them sadly.  A man in a mask stood at their door and demanded they open their safe and give him all the money.  The couple thought it was a joke until the man barged into the house, pulled out a gun, and threatened to shoot both of them.  The husband opened the safe and gave the man the contents, then grabbed for the man’s mask.  The man shoot and killed him.  However, police quickly learned it had to be an inside job as almost no one knew about the safe.  Several members of the couple’s family has been investigated for the murder, but no arrest or conviction has been made due to lack of evidence.  However, at least one detective is positive he knows which member of the family committed the crime and he gave all his notes to a different detective when he retired and it is still being investigated.  There is hope the advent of touch DNA will solve the case, as the man left his mask at the scene.

Kidnapped for Sex Trafficking: I searched the internet for three days to find a case of a child being kidnapped on Halloween and later found to be the victim of trafficking.  I found none.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even find many kidnappings.  Mostly, I found attempted kidnappings.  Since the 1970s, it has been normal for parents to accompany children trick or treating in the US.  And there is usually a group of children chaperoned by several adults when going door to door getting candy.  This makes kidnappings difficult and usually a parent figures out what is going on which is why most of the cases I found were attempted kidnappings.  So, I’m going to say as long as a few adults accompany a group of children out trick or treating, the chances of this happening are indeed slim.  Having cell phones has increased the difficulty.

Razor blades in Homemade Goods: When I was a child, god forbid I get a candy apple or rice Krispie Treat that came out of someone’s kitchen.  My parents were convinced that these homemade goods might contain anything from razor blades to straight pins to needles, to HIV tainted blood.  I couldn’t find any evidence this had happened in the history of trick or treating in the US.  Probably because it defies common sense.  If you’ve ever eaten a candy apple, you know there is no way to stick a razor blade in it.  Furthermore, straight pins aren’t that stiff, and bend when they try to pierce a ripe apple and I did try this just to see how it would work.  Needles those are the things that went in.  But needles are not bite friendly.  They are longer than the bite of most adults and definitely longer than the bite of a child.  In order to end up with a needle in the mouth, the bite would need to be deep enough to pull the needle completely out of the apple.  Otherwise, it’s going to stick out of the mouth.  Also, while people have been known to swallow needles, they are always instances where the person was sucking on it or holding it between their teeth.  If you managed to get the needle out without it sticking out of your mouth from your bite into the apple, it’s still a stick of metal in a piece of crunchy fruit.  This is important, because apples have to be chewed and teeth hitting a needle while chewing is something we would all notice, even the most unobservant child would figure out it was there before they swallowed it.  As for the HIV tainted treats… again this isn’t real plausible.  Rice Krispie treats and Candy apples might be served cold and they might not be “cooked” but elements of them are; marshmallow has to be melted as does caramel.  Both melt only after being exposed to prolonged temps around 180 degrees which is why they burn you if you touch them.  Yes, it eventually cools, but blood born illnesses can’t survive these temps.  So even if you smeared an apple with blood and then dipped it in the caramel, the initial dipping would kill the virus.  Same with rice krispie treats.  Now, you could try to add the blood after it had cooled, but people are going to notice it, even if you dye the marshamallows red, you’ll never get it the same shade of red/brown that blood is.  Same for caramel (I am willing to try dying caramel though, just because I’m not sure it will take the color). And good lord, have you seen the size of a razor blade?  No one is accidentally swallow one of these from a homemade candy treat.  There has never been an instance of homemade Halloween treats containing poison.  A few cases of food poisoning, but that’s because shit happens and it definitely isn’t the same as say cyanide or arsenic or ricin.  The closest I could find to one of these strange scenarios happening was a little boy in New Jersey cutting himself on an open pocket knife that was put in his trick or treat bag.  However, it was a cheap kid’s pocket knife and the “closing mechanism” turned out to suck and even investigators couldn’t get it to stay closed.

Now, there are two other crimes I could mention here.  We’ll start with the murder of Karl Jackson in 1998.  Karl had just turned 21.  He and his girlfriend had gone over to a friend’s house to pick up the girlfriend’s 2 year old child from a kid’s Halloween party in the Bronx.  Karl noticed some teens throwing eggs, got out of his car where he was waiting on his girlfriend, and went over to them, admonishing them for throwing the eggs.  After the lecture, Karl went back to his car and as he sat in the driver’s seat, one of the teens walked over to his window and shot him at point blank in the head.

In 2008, TJ Darrisaw was 12 years old when he was murdered.  Darrisaw, his father, and his younger brother knocked on the door of a house where Quentin Patrick lived and were mowed down by gunfire from an AK-47.  Patrick thought the trick or treaters were rival gang members come to kill him.  He did look outside and assumed the masked children and their father were there to kill him.  He fired 29 shots through the front door and the walls near it.  Despite receiving multiple gunshot wounds, Darrisaw’s father and younger brother survived.  The investigation showed that Quentin Patrick did indeed have his porch light on that night, the understood signal in the US that the occupants are handing out candy.

So kick back and enjoy your candy and remember you are far more likely to be killed by someone you know, than by a stranger, even on Halloween.

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Holiday Crime Stats (Some might Surprise You)

Every year someone tells me that Halloween has a high murder rate.  And every year, I point out that person is wrong.  As a matter of fact, Halloween has a low murder rate.  I think it’s because we aren’t forced to be with family.  Anyway, I decided this year, I’d get a post written that I can just refer these “Halloween is murder night” people to.

  • Property crime does see a slight increase on Halloween.  Probably because all teens are basically sociopaths and find egging houses and TPing front yards as fun.  Although last year, a friend of mine who did not hand out candy found someone had hurled fresh piles of dog poop at their house (so weird and so gross).
  • The three weeks or so before Christmas could be called “Crime Weeks”.  Christmas seems to bring out the worst in everybody, even criminals.  Burglary, home invasions, murders, and suicides increase around Christmas.  Drug overdoses also see an minor uptick.
  • And it’s not just crime and drugs affected by Christmas.  People with mental health issues like anxiety and depression find December a difficult month to deal with.
  • Personal debt increases and in many cases, it takes several months to pay it off, which leads to people being crankier after the New Year starts according to researchers at Duke that did an economics and mental health study a decade or so ago.
  • In 2nd place for Holidays make crime and our mental health worse, is Thanksgiving.
  • Even Easter and Valentine’s day is “more stressful” than Halloween.

Having said Halloween has a low murder rate, murders do still happen on Halloween.  But it’s no different than a Tuesday as far as murder rates go.

Murder & Crime Scenes Before the 1950s

Yesterday, I discussed the Villisca Axe Murders and J. N. Wilkerson and someone sent me a note about why on earth there weren’t detectives in the 1912.  Murder before the 1950s was handled much differently than it is now days.  Hell, even in 1950 it was handled much differently than it is in 2018.

First off, in 1912 the discovery of fingerprints was new.  The discovery that humans left fingerprints when they touched things was also still new.  Yep, humans spent thousands of years looking at their finger tips without realizing that sometimes when they touched shit, they left fingerprints.  I know that sounds crazy, but it makes a lot of sense actually…

People understood that dirty hands left marks on clean surfaces, but that really just meant cleaning whatever clean surface some asshat had touched and left dirt on.  And everyone had fingerprints, why wouldn’t they all be the same, unless you had scarred them and lots of people had scarred fingerprints, so again why would anyone think they were unique to every person on the planet?

Forensics really wasn’t a thing.  Not like we think of them.  Forensics was in its infancy in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  And between the beginning of homo sapien sapien to now, it was pretty much standard operating procedure to let every Tom, Dick, Harry, their wives, their parents, and their kids tramp through a murder scene.  It was a social event.  “Oh, did you hear about Marvin?  He was murdered, me and the family is headed over there now to see how gruesome it is.”  Yes, things like that happened, often.

The Villisca Axe Murders deviated from this a bit, the sheriff at the time called out the national guard to try and stop people from going through the house.  And those that did get through before the guard showed up, did so without the bodies being present, which was also unusual.

And no, most police departments didn’t have detectives.  Hell, most of them didn’t have many officers.  Think Mayberry folks.  The reason the sheriff of Montgomery County called the national guard to protect the Villisca murder site was because even with a population of nearly 2,000, there weren’t enough full and part time officers to do the job.  They weren’t busy with other crimes, they just didn’t exist.

Furthermore, forensics wasn’t the only science in its infancy, psychology was too.  I’m sure Freud and Jung would have had some ideas about the murderer, but they wouldn’t have been terribly helpful.

Finally, while serial killers had popped up by 1912, they definitely weren’t at the forefront of most people’s minds.  And those that had been caught, hadn’t been caught by police forces.

Private detective agencies were well funded.  They could train their investigators (and usually did).  And they had resources that most city and county law enforcement didn’t.  The Bureau of Investigation didn’t open until 1908 and they didn’t cut their teeth on serial killers or general murders.  And when they did finally have some experience in investigating crime, they mostly went after organized crime and bootleggers, not murderers or multiple murderers.

The Villisca Axe Murders & The Man Looking to Get Rich

1912 Villisca, Iowa was a small, small town, with a handful of businesses and some train tracks.  Unfortunately, it was about to become famous across the nation.  On the morning of June 10, 1912, six members of the Moore family and two girls that had stayed over with the Moore daughters were found bludgeoned to death.  The case remains unsolved.

However, author Troy Taylor makes a fairly good case that it was a string of murders committed by a train hopping serial killer in his book Murdered In Their Beds.  I’ve been a fairly avid reader of Troy Taylor for at least a decade, maybe more.  Recently, I was told Bill James – the father of Sabermetrics – had turned his vast practical stat knowledge towards researching the exact same topic and that his book The Man From the Train was even better.  So I grabbed it.

I agree that Bill James’ book is better.  And by the end of it, I was thoroughly convinced that yes, Villisca was one in a long series of murders committed by a man he refers to as The Man From The Train.  It also reminded me of my original theory on why the axe murders went unsolved for a century… J. N. Wilkerson.

It’s nearly impossible to do any in depth study of the murders and not come across the name J. N. Wilkerson.  Wilkerson was a private detective that worked for the Burns agency out of Kansas City.  And one of those guys that stands on both sides of the law.  Before the 1950s, nearly all murders that didn’t happen in a major metropolis were investigated by private detectives, usually paid for by something called a reward fund.  Or if the family had money, by the family.  Professional detectives working for police departments just weren’t really a thing at the time.

The Burns Agency was the Midwest version of the Pinkerton Agency in New York City.  And the majority of their investigators were on the up and up.  But there’s always a few bad eggs when there’s an endless supply of money to be made from murder.  And J. N. Wilkerson was one of those bad eggs.

Wilkerson was put in charge of the investigation in Villisca, Iowa after the original detective was given a promotion and moved to Chicago.  I have always been of the opinion, that Wilkerson had no desire to solve the murders, because it was more profitable to keep investigating them.  He even accused at least one man he knew to be innocent in an attempt to blackmail him.  Frank Jones, the accused, didn’t go for it and eventually he sued Wilkerson for slander, which would make it even more profitable to not solve the murders.

Of course, even if Wilkerson hadn’t been a tool, the murders still probably wouldn’t have been solved, simply because serial killers were rare and the linked cases were never investigated as a whole.  Wilkerson just made it more difficult for detectives interested in solving the murders that had occurred in multiple states from Oregon to Texas to Iowa, because he became doggedly determined to hold Frank Jones accountable for as many things as possible after the slander case – which Jones lost.

Eventually, Wilkerson was fired by the Burns Agency, because Villisca wasn’t the only place he was uninterested in getting justice as long as there was money to be made.  By then, the Burns Agency’s reputation had taken a huge ding and several places like Kansas City where they were headquartered canceled the standing contract they had with the agency and started their own professional investigative division.

Also, the reason Villisca is better remembered in this possible string of murders over any of the others is because of Wilkerson.  As other cities that had these brutal murders went back to daily life, Wilkerson was having weekly town hall meetings, trying to drum up support (and therefore money) to continue his investigation.  He even told a fellow detective that as long as he could keep the people of Villisca angry and in a panic, they would give him all the money they could to keep him on the case.

And they did.  At one meeting, a rich local farmer decided to take the payment matters into his own hands and started a register of locals who pledged money to the reward fund from which Wilkerson was paid.  The richest man in Villisca would categorically refuse, because he didn’t trust Wilkerson and why should he since it was Frank Jones.

I actually recommend both books, by both authors for different reasons.  And the more I learn about the other cases mentioned in their books.  The more convinced I become that the Villisca Axe Murders were committed by a serial killer.

Personal Responsibility

I’ve been researching the hell out of Ketamine the last month trying, increasing my knowledge to show my doctor that I really have thought about it a lot and I’m not just trying to rush into getting a Ketamine prescription all willy-nilly.  As well as reading case studies, I asked in my support groups for any personal experiences they’ve had with Ketamine and their CRPS.

Most of the responses were along the lines of “we keep it in the backs of our minds as a maybe in case all else fails”.  I’m pretty close to the “all else failed” part.  The hydrocodone helps, but trying to keep to just 2 pills a day sometimes is maddeningly awful because sometimes my pain is far greater than what 2 hydrocodone can handle.

But this one woman floored me.  She wrote “my best friend overdosed on Ketamine one night after getting drunk, so I am trying to convince my state’s government to increase restrictions on prescriptions of it.  Um, what the fuck?!

It’s a tragic story.  And ketamine does run the risk of death and coma, especially if mixed with alcohol, as does almost every other medication available.  However, you want to take away a medication from the X millions of people in your state because your friend made the decision to ignore the “DO NOT MIX WITH ALCOHOL” warnings?  That doesn’t even make sense.

Ketamine can be used as a last resort medication for some types of depression, as well as lowering pain levels in some people with chronic pain.  Why would you even think this was okay?  What happened to forcing people to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions.

If I weigh the risks of ketamine use against the effects of my disease and then my doctor and I decide that Ketamine is an option for me, it seems like I should be allowed to use it regardless of what Joe Blow did that resulted in his death.

If I take it and it kills me, that’s just the way it goes, I knew the risk was there.  It will be sad for my friends and family and readers, but none of them should raise a banner to get Ketamine banned just because my body decided to react badly to it.  Or because I made the choice to ignore warning labels and probably a discussion with my pharmacist where I had to sign at the end to say that I had received verbal counseling on the risks and understood them.

Ultimately, I am responsible for making those choices, regardless of the outcome.

 

Fine Line Between Criminal and Law Enforcement

I’m willing to bet most of US readers will be familiar with the name Wyatt Earp.  Most of what you know about Wyatt Earp is not exactly the truth.  One of the things all those stories does get right though, Wyatt Earp made a name for himself as a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas as well as a US Marshal in Tombstone, Arizona.

Oh, and the shoot out at the OK Corral was real… Mostly.  Earp really did decide to clean up an outlaw gang in Tombstone, the Cochise Cowboys.  And like most shoot outs it was bloody.  Here’s the kicker about it.  Earp had actually committed a crime at a previous date with many members of the Cowboys and owed them money.  Virgil Earp was the marshal of Tombstone and the Cowboys took their revenge out on him when they couldn’t get to Wyatt.  It was an unhappy time for the entire Earp clan as Virgil was left maimed from the encounter with the Cowboys and Morgan Earp was later murdered by the Cowboys.

And if you think it’s shocking that our most celebrated US Marshal was also a crook, I’m here to bust that fantasy.  Many US Marshals in the late 1800s and early 1900s were both Marshals and criminals.  And they were rarely prosecuted, although a few were lynched.

I was reminded by this fact while listening to a true crime book by none other than Bill James the creator of the famous sabermetrics analysis system of of baseball players.  The book has been good so far as he tries to make a case for a serial killer being responsible for the Villasca, Iowa ax murders.

It reminded me of something else as well; police detectives are a relatively new phenomenon.  Before the police got their own detectives, the standard operating procedure was for the police to hire private detectives like the Pinkerton Agency in New York.

At the time, it was these private agencies that had the money to invest in whatever forensics were available and most of their detectives went through some form of training.  While we have all probably heard of the Pinkertons, it should be noted that there were lots of private detective agencies across the US, the Pinkertons were just the most famous.

Also, there were lots of crime concepts that didn’t exist.  For example, stranger murders just didn’t happen that often unless money was the motive.  Because of this, many cases went cold and scapegoats were found, tried, and convicted to appease the public.

The book I’m listening to attempts to make a case that there were a string of murders committed that were probably committed by the same man.  And he is responsible for the Villasca Axe Murders as well.  Of course, it’s all theory, but it’s interesting to listen to.  It’s called The Man from the Train and I highly recommend it to any true crime readers.  James seems to have researched the killings quite thoroughly from the stand point of a statistician.

October Reads

I get asked about what movies I watch every year, but strangely no one asks what books I’m reading/listening to.  Now, I can listen to audiobooks while writing or while playing video games or while just taking it easy.  It isn’t quite as fast as reading a book myself, but I get distracted easily on Lyrica and it’s easier to keep my place in an audiobook than a book or ebook.  So weird.

So here’s a list of books I have read or listened to in October.  Some are scarier than others and some are on here not because they scare me now, but because they are books that are good Halloween reads for those not wanting to get into a truly scary book.

  • 77 Shadow Street (Dean Koontz)
  • Something Wicked this way Comes (Ray Bradbury – such a classic)
  • The Talisman (Peter Straub & Stephen King)
  • Black House (Peter Straub & Stephen King)
  • Jurassic Park (Michael Crieghton – I know everyone just said um, what?  Seriously the book is not as feel good special as the movie and John Hammond is not a lovable kook that just wants to give the world dinosaurs and Alan Grant is partially responsible for the disaster that is Jurassic Park and well, Ian Malcolm was spot on actually, oh and the deaths are definitely not implied in the book like they are in the movie, we get to see slashing claws, dripping jaws, and red mists)
  • Rose Madder (Stephen King)
  • The Hellfire Club (Peter Straub)
  • Mister B. Gone (Clive Barker – So Barker has written some scary novels and scary short stories – Midnight Meat Train with Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones is from volume one of the Books of Blood Barker’s short story collections, but Mister B. Gone is more comedy than horror, although it might qualify as comedic horror I suppose – it’s also quite short for a Barker novel)
  • I tried listening to both The Stand and The Shining by Stephen King, but the narrator annoyed me greatly and I stopped both about 30 minutes into them.  However, both books are insanely more frightening than the movies
  • The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Laroux) – So this is one of the few Gothic horror novels I enjoy immensely.  But I’m a sucker for a sociopath trying to prove he’s in love, like most Gothic horror, it would also qualify as an unrequited romance novel with a female heroine that needs a good shouting at (PS: someone keeps telling me I always spell heroine wrong…  Heroin is the drug, Heroine is a woman worthy of admiring.

Now go forth and read books!

The Boogeyman (or Boogeymen)

Nearly every culture has a boogeyman.  Many of them have been appropriated and made famous in modern books and movies.  Once when I was a child, I was told about a man who wasn’t so much a man as a monster that sort of looked like a man.  He was tall and thin and he didn’t have skin.  He roamed the Earth kidnapping children for their bones, which he tore from them and put them into his own body, helping strengthen his own brittle bones.

Many, many years later, I was reading one of volumes of the Books of Blood by Clive Barker (they are a collection of short stories and there are several volumes – more on that later, I’ll get on a tangent and forget where I was going with this).  The story was called Rawhead Rex and it was a fictional story about the monster Rawhead & Bloody Bones that I had heard as a child.  He’s a Gaelic boogeyman of Irish and Scottish tradition.

And boogeymen come in all shapes, sizes, appearances, and special powers, but the majority prey on children.  You’d better be good or Rawhead and Bloody Bones will come take your bones! 

Interestingly, while the practice of telling our children spook stories to encourage good behavior has decreased, the number of boogeymen have grown.  And they have changed, modernizing for lack of a better term.  Gone are the days when Rawhead and Bloody bones haunted the nightmares of children, replaced by more modern incantations of boogeymen like Slenderman.

Also, in modern days, with the invention of TV, VCRs, DVDs, and streaming, you can bring practically any pop culture boogeyman into your home that you want.  Movies like Pumpkinhead and most slasher films such as Friday the 13th deal with the concept of a boogeyman.

Oddly, while most of us see huge differences between Jason Vorhees and Pumpkinhead, those differences are mostly cosmetic.  Both are hominid, primal, and use death as punishment for transgressions.  Jason is the more human of the two and wields a machete, where as Pumpkinhead is certainly more spiritual spook than former person with claws and the ability to squash human skulls in his bare hands – but as I said, these are just cosmetic differences because they both stalk their victims and punish transgressions, just like every other boogeyman story available.

And the actions of these boogeymen illustrate the other major update on the concept of a boogeyman.  They punish teens, not children.  No longer is it about “minding your parents and being good, polite boys and girls” it’s about following societal norms expected of teens; premarital sex, underage drinking, drug use, shitty driving, running away from home, and the list goes on and on.  Aiming these boogeymen at teens is why all these films have the same basic character types like the jock, the nerd, the stoner, the easy girl.  Teens are supposed to be able to find their own “character” within these tales and relate to them and therefore, when their symbolic character gets punished (usually violently) they can internalize it as “that could be me.”

Boogeymen aren’t going away anytime soon, we need them.  Whether we are making films that appeal to teens to convince them not to do drugs, drink excessively, or have premarital sex, boogeymen are a part of the societal collective.  And we change them and use them as we find a need.

Summoning A Demon

My interest in the demonic is mostly a thought exercise.  I don’t believe in it.  However, I have always had a fascination for religion and the paranormal and evil, and the demonic falls into all three of those categories.

The other day, The Onion (my favorite fake news site) ran an article about kids who learn Latin having an easier time of summoning a demon.  Because here’s the thing, if I’m wrong and the demonic does exist, it obviously isn’t that easy for them to cause mayhem or possess people.

Since we don’t deal with demonic possession frequently, it can’t be that easy to become possessed or summon a demon or it would happen all the time.  However, something I read recently stated that to become demonically possessed or to be able to summon a demon requires a desire to do so.  In other words, you would need to really, truly want it to happen, not just going through the motions because you are filled with teenage angst.  Which explains why everyone who dabbles in research of the demonic doesn’t become possessed and/or fails to summon a demon.  Maybe their heart isn’t in it.  I’m talking about people like me.

I don’t need or want to be possessed because I have enough problems in my life.  It would be rather redundant in my opinion.

Something else I read talked about needing to have something to offer a demon to summon it or entice it to possess you.  And apparently your immortal soul isn’t enough.  You need to have some kind of power.  In other words, I probably can’t become possessed or summon a demon because A: (see redundant comment) and B: What am I going to offer to write the demon’s biography?  I don’t have any real power or influence to offer.  Even knowing a smidge of Latin isn’t going to help me become possessed or summon a demon.

I’ve had someone point out to me that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convinced people he didn’t exist.  But what if it’s the opposite?  What if the greatest trick ever pulled was convincing people that the devil does exist?

Just so we’re clear, I said I don’t believe in the demonic, but I do believe in the possibility of the demonic, which is why I haven’t cleared a spot on my garage floor to draw a summoning circle to offer my soul up in exchange for becoming an infinitely more marketable author or cure my CRPS.  I have been known to be wrong before and knowing my luck, if I did it to prove the demonic didn’t exist, they would in fact exist and I’d be screwed in the after life.  I guess you could call me an agnostic on the demonic and unwilling to be a guinea pig to see what happens.  I’ll leave that for someone braver than me.

Outlining Explained for the Non-Writer

I mentioned I was going to start trying to outline a little more, see if that counteracts the brain fog Lyrica causes.  First, let me explain a bit about how I write, because it will explain why the Lyrica is such a problem that I’m trying outlining.

There are basically two kinds of writers: Pantsers and planners.  I’m a pantser.  I get an idea, I sit down at my computer, put my fingers on the keyboard and away we go.  When the ideas are flowing this means I may write for three or four hours before I take my fingers from the keyboard.  And it means I might be doing the pee-pee dance in my chair, because stopping to empty my bladder is distracting.  It also means that if the writing is flowing, I miss meals.  I miss text messages and phone calls, because I often put my cell phone on do not disturb when I’m writing.

This hyper focus is how I write entire novels in just 7 days.  It works for me.  My favorite books ever have been created via the hyperfocus I can achieve while pantsing it.  These include Fortified DreamsDark Resurrections, The Dysfunctional Affair – the original, the novel, not the novella, Demonic Dreams, and Natural Born Exorcist.  Most of these books were written before Lyrica entered my life.  And while I love Demonic and Natural Born Exorcist (NBE), I had to fix them after I was done writing them.  I’m not talking got the first draft written and need to polish it up.  I’m talking dropped plot lines, which isn’t something I’ve had a lot of experience with, it’s a new thing and a side effect of the medications I must take for my CRPS.  And I’m sure the CRPS plays some role as well.

Now, Demonic didn’t have a huge mystery, they aren’t those types of books, so how did I drop a plot line?  I forgot to talk about the rest of the team and what they were doing while Ace and Gabriel were trying to decide what to do about Raphael.  Which was kind of strange.  I mean the book itself was strange because the ensemble wasn’t there.  But I had thoughts about different chapters to replace the killer’s chapters that just didn’t happen because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing with them.  In NBE it was the ending.  I had a grand ending planned.  I forgot what it was.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m satisfied with the ending it has, but I know I had something different planned.  The final cemetery scene was supposed to be different, somehow, but I can’t remember how.

This writing method is why when people ask me how I came up with ideas, I struggle with an answer.  I don’t know.  I sit.  I type.  The ideas come like tidal flooding.  They aren’t something I control very well.  And quite often, it’s flood or drought with my writing style and it isn’t something I can force very well.

Okay, so outlining for me.  There are a ton of outlining methods some with weird names that make sense once you get into the outlining.  One of my college creative writing classes focused on the methods of outlining and we made all sorts of outlines.  Like one of our projects was to outline a short story (no more than 15,000 words long) using post it notes on poster board.  Blech.  During one of the outlining projects using the snowflake method, my professor and I had a long talk because I didn’t understand why everyone else was in love with these outlining methods and I wanted nothing to do with it.  And we were spending weeks on these stupid outlining method projects.  I hated it.  So he and I had a discussion one day about why I hated them, because I didn’t know why I was developing a patholical hate for outlines.

He explained it was basically the difference between Stephen King and James Patterson.  King is a pantser.  Patterson does extremely detailed outlines, which is how Patterson manages to outsource his books (co-writing them with other authors).  And we spent an hour talking about something he called a rough outline.  A rough outline is exactly what it sounds like: you put the plot, the beginning, and if you know it; the end, and a handful of bullet points that are ides that have to go into the story.  You don’t do a chapter by chapter “this is what should happen in chapter 10” like you do with a lot of outlines.

I did okay with rough outlines and have used them a few times over the years when I’ve had things that I knew needed to happen to move the book along.  So I am doing rough outlines.  They don’t tell me what’s supposed to happen in chapter 10.  They tell me the plot, the key points I need to get to the end, and maybe a few ideas I had that I want to work in.  Like the angel quota comment in NBE.  I thought of that late one night while lying in bed trying to sleep.  So I broke out my phone, wrote the idea down, and then finally managed to sleep.

Before phones, I used to keep a small notebook beside the bed for those midnight ideas.  And there were times that at 2 in the morning, as my brain was trying to settle into sleep, I had to grab the notebook and write down a rough outline for a book.  Dark Resurrections was outlined this way in the middle of the night, in the dark on my phone.  As was NBE to some degree.  Although, I didn’t write down the ending for it and I should have obviously.  But after the first day of writing on NBE, I went to bed, my head still composing the novel as I tried to sleep and sure enough, at 2 am, I ended up outlining it for the next day.  And away I went with it.  Finishing it in just 7 days.

So what does this have to do with Lyrica?  If you’ve seen the movie Up with the dog who has a thought translator, I can explain it like that.  I’m the dog.  One moment I will be thinking of one thing let’s say the chapter of a book and then it’s like “Squirrel!” and my concentration is shot and I have to reread huge sections to figure out where I was going, but even then, the original thoughts are gone, sucked into the Lyrica ethereal plane.

I am hoping the outline, which I have stuck to the wall above my laptop helps keep “Squirrel!” from happening or at least cuts down on how often it happens.  My brain has always been a bit scattered, but it has never been this bad.  It often switches topics mid thought and then forgets to return to it.  Another thing I hope the outlines combat.  And something happened the other day that helps highlight the difficulties of life on Lyrica.  I drink a lot of fluids during a day, so I am a prolific urinator, I know, TMI, but it serves a purpose.  I went to empty my bladder, and then got distracted by a text message while I was in the middle of my task and forgot I was sitting on the toilet and was done.  I think I sat there for a good three or four minutes trying to remember what I was doing.  How does one forget that?!  Yep, that is what I am battling and a big part of the reason, I am trying outlining.

 

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