Wednesday, November 06, 2019

IWSG November: Researching the Unimaginable . . .

Each month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group posts a question for writers to ponder and write about. This November's question: What's the strangest thing you've ever Googled in researching a story?

I've done my fair share of researching serial killers, the mafia, how quickly rigor mortis takes effect, and royal intrigue, among many other topics. Today's response is inspired by Google research about a bar in Edinburgh and about a fish that lives on the bottom of the sea.

BACKGROUND: While living in Edinburgh to research Standing Stones, we lived in a 5th floor walk-up apartment overlooking a 16th Century Writer's Museum, located in the  courtyard in Lady Stair's Close. About half a block away, on the corner, we passed by many times a very famous bar called Deacon Brodie's Tavern. Sadly, we never visited there until I began my current romantic suspense novel.

From The Seventh Tapestry

So, I'll let my hero, Neil McDonnell, art crimes investigator, describe the history of this very special tavern, as he meets with my heroine, Sandra Robertson, curator at an Edinburgh medieval arts museum, over lunch at Deacon Brodie's Tavern:
   “Ah,” said Neil. “Now, we enjoy. So, did I tell you about Deacon Brodie?” 
    Sandra shook her head, too busy with her salad to talk. The scallops, embellished with crunchy bacon and a light vinaigrette, were perfectly cooked and chilled.
    “Brodie lived in this neighborhood back in the 1700’s, a pretty well-respected cabinet maker and locksmith. At least by day. At night, he gambled. Got into debt. Turned his locksmith skills into copying keys to mansions.” Neil paused. “Rather like today. Somebody at your museum might have been tempted for some easy money. Maybe got in over his or her head with gambling, just like Brodie. ‘Tis as much a problem today as it was then.”
    He nudged his oatcake with a fork. “Anyway, Brodie continued to steal for the next twenty years, hiding in plain sight. Until he was finally discovered and then hanged. Pretty gruesome talk for lunch.” He smiled. “Did you notice the slogan on the front of the bar?”
    “No, too noisy and too many people. But it’s nice and quiet up here.”
    “Well, the slogan is one that every Scot knows. ‘In love and life I hath no fear, as I was born of Scottish blood.’”
    “‘In love and life, I have no fear.’ I like that. I think my father would like it too.”

And now a grim, little poem, inspired entirely by research! I no longer remember why I researched hagfish. Perhaps I found a mention somewhere, but here's the resulting poem.


Almost as long as my thigh bone,
she burrows into the bottom of the ocean floor.
Spineless, she circles and scavenges
her way into the bodies of the dead and dying
and eats her way out.
She sucks life through her skin;
at the same moment she swallows,
her cartilage-teeth move horizontally in and out
on two plates, and her whiskers quiver,
catfish-like, her pink skin deepens to purple,
her skull defined as if some sluggish, evolutionary
brain were trapped within,
some mindless, predestined intelligence
behind her eyespots.
She carries her eggs casually.
If caught, she covers herself with gill-clogging slime
and twists herself into knots to escape.
I would say this hagfish is a survivor,
550 million years old,
with dark lessons for us all.

May November bring you good reading and good writing!

Why not visit what other writers have written this month, for the purpose behind the Insecure Writer's Support Group  is for writers at all stages and genres to connect with each other, sharing our doubts and celebrating the writing life.

Special thanks go to November's co-hosts: Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!