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Historical Fiction Forum
Posted: 8/10/2011 7:32 AM PDT
Hi, Shar. I responded to you almost a month ago. I hope you got the information you wanted as I spent a few hours doing research for you, and I never heard back from you. You're welcome. If you have any more questions, please hesitate to ask. I sincerely mean that.
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Posted: 7/19/2011 7:32 PM PDT
Hi Lanette-- New to Webook but you mentioned that you're looking to help people with historical medicine-related questions, and I have a medical history question for a novel I'm working on. I need an injury (preferably to the back) that is consistent with WWI airplane crash of the following description: Pilot loses engine, glides back over the lines, comes to apparently good field for landing, finds out too late there are the remains of old diggings in the field, does his best, plane tips over into ditch seconds after landing. Plane type is a BE2C; pilot sits in rear seat. Observer definitely has some kind of seatbelt, I haven't yet found whether pilot does. I can get you images of a BE2C if you'd like. Results of injury: near death, pilot does survive. May be some temporary paralysis to legs. He eventually regains most mobility but remains stiff in the spine and carries a cane in case of need and to prevent possibly catastrophic loss of balance. He is mustered out of the army. Is this realistic? (There are other injuries, incidentally, but this is the most lasting.) This is for a supporting character in the novel, but I'm big on accuracy, and his injury is important thematically. If what I have is unrealistic it should be changed soon, as I'm in the process of a second draft now. What would this injury be? Could it be treated properly in the era (I would need to check my chart, but I believe the incident occurs in March of 1916)?
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Posted: 4/16/2011 6:02 AM PDT
Yep, that yellow stain could be a sinister sign. And Devi, you hit the nail on the head with the sister-in-law . . . she is such a cult fanatic that she has officiated as priestess, although she is the kings' wife/soon-to-be-widow. This is another book I'm writing based on a true story, and as usual, all the details are not provided in the historical records, so I have a lot of artistic license. What know for sure is that the sister-in-law went on a purge campaign to kill the heirs; the MC never had any children of her own, plus she courageously took it upon herself to hide the youngest grandson (her nephew) of the queen until he was old enough to be crowned. In fact he was hidden right under the queen's nose. I have a lot of interesting blanks to fill in!
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Posted: 4/16/2011 2:32 AM PDT
Continued from above- Pharmacologically, the most powerful known tropane alkaloids in existence, are – Nightshade, Datura, Mandrake (mandragora), Belladonna, Nicotiana (Tobacco), and the Petunia. The common primitive abortifacients are leaves of the Tansey plant, the leaves of the Lady Laurel, and the leaves of the Oleander, which are chewed or boiled to release their oils. Also the Hemlock, Ergot, and Savin plant, Arnica, Marsh Rosemary,and Rue. An abortive oil made from boiling the bark of certain species of the Juniper tree is also mentioned as being similar to Savin in it's properties. Hemp oil also causes severe gastrointestinal distress sufficient to abort a pregnancy. There are also emmenagogue substances that cause hemorrhagic reactions simulating menstruation, such as Safflower, and Pennyroyal, as well as the roots of Leadwart plant. ALL, were anciently available plants and research would be necessary to determine which would've been able to be easily cultivated by your antagonist. Also, there are undoubtedly numerous substance or combination known anciently, whose preparation and methodologies of use are lost to us today.
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Posted: 4/16/2011 12:42 AM PDT
Vanessa; This is a very interesting topic for adding delicious intrigue and exposition. Anciently, and within every culture, the knowledge base for uses of poisons and toxins would've been found almost entirely among women. Women would've been the ones most likely possessing the understanding of the mortal as well as medicinal uses of poisons and toxic substances. Poisoning has historically been a women's methodology for murder. However, as a highly specialized knowledge base related to pregnancy, it would've been entirely found among midwives and probably priestesses of certain fertility cults. Such knowledge would've also been highly secret and likely only passed by women of direct blood generation. It may also have been as an interesting aside, that possession or suspicion of such knowledge were the beginnings of accusations of being a sorceress or of being a witch. Unforeseen death or miscarriage has often within primitive societies been assumed explainable as having been the fault of some woman. Also, since women were likely to have been the caretakers of the very young, the elderly, and pregnancy, any time there's an unexplained event, women are presumed to be the cause of it. Women, and issues related to women, weren't of usual concern to anyone, including physicians who'd be highly unlikely ever to attend a pregnant woman or a delivery, unless it were a rare caesarian delivery. Your MC's sister-in-law would be highly unlikely to herself possess such knowledge unless she'd been skilled in the arts of a midwife which would've been highly unlikely, as midwifery was presumed always within every age and every culture to be a profession lacking prestige or social mobility or status. Presumably your antagonist would've never aspired to downward mobility of becoming a midwife. However, presenting her as a woman who'd been a priestess of a fertility cult, you could readily offer a factual supposition she'd learned such deadly arts. Still, there are numerous variables and considerations related to abortifacients and their side affects, intended and unintended affects, as well as morbidity of fertility. Abortive procedures even today carry a risk of subsequent infertility as an unintended consequence. I'm unaware of the statistics, but I would suppose they are similar to those relative to ectopic pregnancy. There are NO contemporary or historical substances known to cause permanent infertility by intended use of their application. Anyone presuming today or anciently to render a woman permanently infertile would be planning on an unintended rather than intended consequences as it would NOT be possible ever to presume such an outcome. The non-surgical abortive agents primitively available are live biological and chemical. Biological's are even today highly problematic, as their bacterial or viral characteristics are exceedingly difficult to culture, maintain, control, and safely use or disseminate. There were anciently, abortive applications of such substances under highly unusual and dangerous circumstance, that were methods of last resort as they were likely to carry an exceedingly highly probability of mortality of the woman. Introducing an irritant or infective agent directly into the vagina often had the consequence of the fetus self-aborting as the body's natural defences worked to expel the infection along with the fetus. Such a method would have a high probability of subsequent infertility caused by scarring and trauma to the reproductive organs, but just as likely to kill the woman. In a age lacking antibiotics, surviving a viral or bacterial infection sufficient to abort, would as likely kill the mother or leave lifelong residual health issues. As an aside that has nothing at all to do with this this subject, there is contained within semen, a hormone that “triggers” a subsequent hormonal co-response within women that is enabling of female reproductive health. The presence of semen within the vaginal tract causes an autonomic hormonal release that protects and invigorates the the reproductive health of woman and women who lack sex partners or have infrequent intercourse tend to have higher rates reproductive issues. There are surprisingly, a great many plants possessing naturally occurring chemical agents with abortive properties, ALL with potentially deadly side affects to one degree or another and ALL with violently ill direct affects. There are no known historical, passive abortifacients that simply expelled a live and viable fetus from the mother's body. Termination of pregnancy by chemical means is ALWAYS accompanied by violent illness and the victim presenting symptoms of physical distress. Common symptoms are dry mouth, dilated pupils, ataxia, hallucinations, respiratory distress, convulsions, coma, and death. There are also agents that are haemorrhagic. There are practical considerations to the art of producing toxins and poisons, the most important of which may be quality control. Producing such substances would be highly dependent upon the skill of the individual in cultivating and extracting the properties of the various plants having deadly alkaloids. Without exception EVERYTHING having sufficient properties to terminate a fetus is just as deadly to the mother. Therefore the trick is to control the quantity and quality of the dosage, which would presuppose that the one using the agent is also the one who has cultivated the agent, otherwise they'd have no certainty of expectation of anything other than killing the subject who is being administered the substance. Your antagonist is therefore presumed to have lovely “deadly's” growing somewhere in her garden. The age and genetic quality of the seed is a quality control issue. The nutrient character of the soil is another, as well as the nurturing and time of harvesting of the plant. Harvest too early and the alkaloid properties of the plant are underdeveloped. Harvest too late and the alkaloids are weakened by biological re-absorption of their properties by the plant itself All alkaloids are bitter or pungent to the taste and their vector for being administered is usually food and drink that will “mask” their properties. Within some primitive societies, girls often self-administered by eating the roots or chewing the leaves of the subject plant or brewing them as tea, as pre-emptive or post-coital precautions to pregnancy. Presumably, the blow job was invented by an enterprising girl who decided to cut out the middle step and just swallow the stuff that's get you pregnant.
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Posted: 4/15/2011 9:10 PM PDT
I looked for other side-effects, but the only thing I could find is that in high doses, it has a medicine taste. I've used saffron threads when I've cooked Moroccan foods, and my white counter top is permanently stained yellow, so you might want her to notice an odd yellow stain on her sister-in-law's fingers or something like that.
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Posted: 4/15/2011 5:54 PM PDT
That's a really good idea. Since they both live at the palace, the sister-in-law could easily put it into the MC's food. Would there be any strange side effects that she wouldn't think much about at the time, but might give her an "Aha" moment later?
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Posted: 4/15/2011 1:51 PM PDT
I couldn't find anything which would cause sterilization in a single dose; although, there are herbs taken over several months that have been reported to cause permanent sterilization. But, I think I have the perfect herb for you. The stigma of a crocus flower (saffron threads) has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times. In large doses it can be used as an aboritifacient and has been known to cause death. Since miscarriages can, in some cases, lead to sterilization that might be the way to go.
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Posted: 4/15/2011 12:32 PM PDT
Angelica is an effective herb in ending pregnancies, but it doesn't sterilize. I had two comprehensive herb books, but the better of the two was ruined in a house fire. I'll have to do some research and get back with you. The trick will also be in finding an herb that would have been present in Jericho or possibly Egypt during the Bronze Age.
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Posted: 4/15/2011 6:43 AM PDT
Devi - what about your Lara of the Rock HF? Is it finished?
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Posted: 4/15/2011 6:38 AM PDT
I am wondering about how to off my character - well not off her exactly - but sterilize her involuntarily. This takes place in the late iron age and the chick has an evil sister-in-law who wants to get rid of all the potential family heirs (except her own offspring of course). The evil sister-in-law gives the MC some kind of infusion that ends the pregnancy and makes her sterile. I don't have the herbal knowledge for this and need to do some research. I tried to divorce webook, but he keeps showing up on my doorstep with wilted flowers. I keep coming back because of RCR and you guys - you are great critics and you make me laugh.
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Posted: 4/14/2011 5:39 AM PDT
That would be cool. You need to write it. I've read historical fiction, I like it, but I have no current interest in writing it. My favorites, btw, are those that were not historical at the time they were written. I like reading about the cultural perspective of the people who wrote about it as they experienced it. IF I ever write a historical, it will be right after I read a couple of books from a certain time and place so I can get a feel of the voice and the people. Did I know about Jackie Cochran? No. Did I know midwives had more success in the 19th century than doctors? Yep. Not only did I learn that in nursing school, but I did a lot of research on midwives after my horrible experience with my first child. My second child was born with the aid of a midwife, and I enjoyed it so much I almost wish I had more children. But the problem is I gotta raise them. :(
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Posted: 4/13/2011 6:00 PM PDT
I continue to regard the PTF as an old boyfriend who's repeatedly rejected me, then is always drunk diialing me wanting to know if I'm lonely. Yeah...., not really. Not anymore. We won't be doing that. Historical fiction is time and research intensive and unless you REALLY like reading history, is probably less rewarding than any other genre which you might choose to write. Lanette, did you know that Jackie Cochran, one of 20th centuries most amazing women and America's first woman test pilot ever to break the sound barrier, began life in a migrant lumber camp in Florida, where she never attended school and where she learned to be a midwife and the age of twelve? Midwifery was the beginning of the lives of a number of extraordinary American women, and it's a subject that offers tremendous fiction potential, and one you absolutley could do!!!!! Also, in 19th century London, the mortality stats for live births by midwifes were only a fraction of those of licensed physicians. Women and infants routinely died at the hands of doctors whereas rarely at the hands of midwives. A fictional mystery of an American midwife traveling to England and finding herself immersed in a medical mystery would be way cool, as well as a woman battling the medial establishment and its backward neanderthal attitudes toward women.
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Posted: 4/11/2011 7:34 PM PDT
I don't write historical fiction, but I'm looking for an excuse to start using my research knowledge of medical history. I've already corrected one P2F entry because of an error in medical practices for the time period, and I would very much love to help anyone with medical questions for their historical novel.
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Posted: 4/11/2011 6:24 PM PDT
If you like Spillane, Chandler, Tolstoy, Dumas, Twain, Michner, Follet, Auel, Amy Tan, and even Diana Gabaldon - the list goes on and on - we now have a new forum to discuss our favorite authors. How can we emulate them and hone our craft? Are any of you submitting historical fiction on Page to Fame? How are your scores? Do you think the audience here is receptive?
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