A Sample of My Research

December 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm (dark fantasy, Elevation, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

(Image: rough sketch of one of the cover concepts for Sleep Escapes Us)

Despite the fact that I write dark fantasy and horror, I do a fair amount of research for my NaNoWriNo novels. Since I’m using a mythological backdrop, I search for as much relevant information on the mythologies I’m using and the area where the myths originated. In the case of Sleep Escapes Us, I actually wanted to set the story in Ancient Thrace and the surrounding regions, so I felt some elements should be historically accurate, despite the fantasy and supernatural aspects of the tale.

I also like to include a certain amount of realism in my fantasy and horror tales, even if the events never did, or never would, happen. In this instance, I wanted some validity to my herbalist character, Kerza’s skill-base. This is what I came up with…

The Flora of Sleep Escapes Us

When I started my research into Ancient Thrace for Sleep Escapes Us, I was pleased to stumble across information from Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Pseudo-Apuleius’ Herbarius , sources that discussed the Dacian names for plants along with their English and Latin names and the uses for some of the specimens mentioned. I planned on having Kerza knowledgeable in herbalism, so I knew it would be a great resource for my story. It turned out there were several places I could make use of the information beyond the witch’s remedies and incenses. Here are the various points in the story where the Dacian flora came into play:

In chapter 3, Zalmoxis prepares to sacrifice Zelmis using a zuuster club, which is the Dacian term for wormwood (Artemisia arborescens or Tree Wormwood). This is shrub with a woody base, and a club would have to be made from securing a bundle of the woody stems into a solid bunch with some heft. It may have been supplemented with a more solid core, of wood or stone in order to issue a lethal blow. The plant was believed to be linked to things psychic and death/afterlife.

In chapter 5, Alina asks her father, afflicted by infection, where she can find the diesema (mullein or verbascum) to purge his blood. It is used again later in Kerza’s treatments for Sur. Mullein has been used historically to treat everything from colds to colics, although mullein remedies meant to be drunk have to be finely filtered to eliminate the irritating hairs. Mullein contains glycyrrhizin compounds with bactericide, concentrated in the flowers. Different extracts have varying levels of efficiency against bacteria.

In chapter 9, Kerza prepares an herbal remedy in the form of a tea. In addition to diesema, she also mentions using diassathel (wavyleaf mullein or verbascum sinuatum – sathel signifies “sieve”), which has similar properties to diesema, and lax (purslane or portulaca oleracea, supposedly used as a laxative), which was historically used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.

In chapter 11, Kerza tries to escape Sur’s company by excusing herself to gather kinouboila (wild pumpkin or cucurbita foetidissima), but Sur follows. Supposed medicinal benefits include using pulverized root in tea to speed protracted labor in childbirth, tea made from boiled peeled roots is used to induce vomiting, powdered seeds and flowers mixed with saliva reduce swellings and dried root ground to a powder, mixed with cold water, can be drunk for laxative.

In chapter 14, Kerza makes a stomach soothing tea from salia (anise or pimpinella tragium – having a carminative effect to settle the stomach), tuedila (peppermint or menthe x piperita – reduces abdominal pain and stomach irritation) and a bit of amalusta (chamomile or matricaria recutita – used to treat sore stomach and an irritable bowel syndrome). She also finds gonoleta ( gromwell or lithospermum tenuiflorum- used as an oral contraceptive).

In chapter 18, Kerza uses incense made from dracontos (rosemary or rosemarinus officinalis – used in incenses as it was considered a divinatory herb, possibly because its use in large quantities can cause seizures) and ziodela (sweet marjoram or origanum majorana – used historically as an incense, a mild sedative). She then anoints Alina and Zareus with holy oil made from azila (hound’s tongue or cynoglossum – it softens and soothes the skin, but it has a narcotic effect, depressing the nervous system) and hormia (annual clary or salvia horminum – primarily for aromatic purposes, a soothing/relaxing effect).

I was pleased to have a source that allowed me to have proper names for the herbs and assured what I was using was native to the area. This was probably one of the most useful results of my research for Sleep Escapes Us.

    Sleep Escapes Us is available in first draft format, posted by chapter, on Scribd.com and will remain there in full until the end of December. If you would like to read it (by year’s end), you can find the first chapter at:


Also – this month marks the release of the ebook version of Elevation, the sequel to Fervor (the print version to follow at a later date). You can purchase it at Smashwords or Amazon:



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