Are You Alarmed?

No, this post is not about the alarming things happening in the world today. Rather it’s about are you alarmed? As in, do you have an alarm system? In my WIP, If I Should Die, I recently needed to know what year saw the invention of the first closed circuit security system. Guess what I learned? A woman co-invented the first home security system in 1966. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown

photo of Marie Van Brittan Brown who I found at the bottom of the research rabbit hole I tumbled down while writing If I Should Die
The only image of Brown I could find. But I could not determine the original copyright holder.

We know little about the private life of African-American Marie Van Brittan Brown. She was born October 30, 1922 in Jamaica, Queens, New York. She became a nurse and married Albert Brown, an electrician. They had a son and a daughter.

They lived in the same neighborhood where she was born. As a nurse and an electrician, they worked irregular hours. The high crime rate in their neighborhood worried her. It worried her more since it took the police a long time to respond.

The Alarmed Peep Hole

Brown and her husband invented the first form of home security system. They used a radio-controlled wireless system. A camera slid up and down three peep-holes in the door. The three peep holes were at child height, average adult height, and tall. The camera transmitted an image of the person on the other side of the door to the homeowner’s television set. He or she could talk to the visitor behind the door too. If alarmed, the homeowner could push a panic button which alerted the police. The system also allowed the homeowner to unlock the door remotely.

Patent Granted

They jointly filed a patent in 1966. Take a look at the drawing she submitted

The U.S. Patent Office granted the patent in 1969.

It was the first closed-circuit television security system. Intended for homeowners, small businesses used it too. Brown’s patent is still in use today.

Death

Brown died February 2, 1999, at seventy-six years of age.

An Historic Mark

Brown’s invention has undoubtedly prevented many, many crimes. It has probably saved lives too. The mark she left of history is enormous.

This is the type of “rabbit hole” I can tumble down while researching a bit of history. Her invention came too late for me to use in my book. But the first motion sensor invented in 1950 came in handy.

It makes sense to me that a woman would invent this very helpful device. And this bit of history was one I had to share. Are you alarmed? Did you know about Brown?

Progress Report One: Book 2 of The Fellowship Dystopia

I’m really enjoying the writing right now. It’s fun to “play” in a world already populated with strong female characters on both sides of good and evil. What am I working on, you ask? The second book in the Fellowship Dystopia series. This is the first official progress report for that book.

Book Two

Currently titled, If I Should Die, continues the story of Miranda and Beryl about two years after the first novel, My Soul to Keep. The story sentence is

A peace-loving woman caught in a civil war must resort to violence to save lives or stick to her principles and sacrifice many.

My first draft is currently a little more than 38,000 words in length. Which is about 4/10ths of the estimated length of 100,000 words. Some characters from the first novel reappear and there are new characters to meet. Visit my Pinterest page for a sneak peek at inspirations for the characters and locations.

Characters

My recent Character Reveal posts featured characters I’ve developed for this novel. 

Covers

Not only am I writing the first draft, I’m researching cover design and cover designers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my cover for My Soul to Keep. But it’s not selling very many books. So I’m researching to see if I can keep that cover or if I need to have it re-designed. I have to make a decision soon if I want to have the cover done soon enough to publish in the late fall this year.

What do you think? 

Since life is challenging me with new responsibilities, I wanted to give you a Progress Report. Do you like this kind of Progress Report? Would you enjoy a once a month or once every two or three months progress report? Would you prefer a progress bar on my website? If you were me would you change the cover for My Soul to Keep? So many decisions! Help me out in the comments please.

What Do You Remember and How?

What do you remember and how do you remember one thing and your sibling remembers something else? Human memory is complex. We try to replicate it with computers and A.I. Technology. But we barely understand how human memory works. Or where we store our memories. Or how and what corrupts our memory. Scientific examination and study of memory only began in recent history. 

Image of a brain with lightning coming out of it illustrates memory retrieval but do you understand what you do remember and how

The Study of Memory

The scientific study of memory didn’t begin until fairly late in human history. Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909), a German psychologist, pioneered the study of memory. The “father of experimental psychology of memory” began his first experiment in late 1878. He published his study, Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology (Über das Gedächtnis in the original German), in 1885. They published the English version in 1913.

His study had many limitations. The major one being that his only subject was himself. But he made many discoveries: the forgetting curve, spacing effect, and the learning curve. You can read more about his discoveries on Wikipedia or on Flash Card Learner.

What is Memory?

Even our everyday definition of memory is complex. Memory is—

1a: the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms–began to lose his memory as he grew older

b: the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition–has a good memory for faces

2a: commemorative remembrance–erected a statue in memory of the hero

b: the fact or condition of being remembered–days of recent memory

3a: a particular act of recall or recollection–has no memory of the event

b: an image or impression of one that is remembered–fond memories of her youth

c: the time within which past events can be or are remembered–within the memory of living men

4a: a device (such as a chip) or a component of an electronic device (such as a computer or smartphone) in which information can be inserted and stored and from which it may be extracted when wanted–especially: RAM

b: capacity for storing information–512 megabytes of memory

5: a capacity for showing effects as the result of past treatment or for returning to a former condition—used especially of a material (such as metal or plastic)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

According to Boundless Psychology there is a simpler definition. Memory is “the ability of an organism to record information about things or events with the facility of recalling them later at will.”

Stages of Memory

The three stages of memory are encoding, storage, and retrieval.

Encoding is the process of receiving, processing, and combining information. 

Storage is the process by which we keep memory for a time. 

The third stage of memory, retrieval, is also called recall or recognition. Something triggers us to recall a memory and use it in a process or activity.

Types of Memory

Scientists have identified three major types of memory: Sensory, Short Term, and Long Term. 

Sensory memory is a detailed representation of an entire sensory experience. It is not a conscious process. There are many types of sensory memories. The most frequently studied include iconic (visual) memories, echoic (auditory) memories, and haptic (tactile) memories.

Short Term Memory, also known as working memory, lasts for about twenty seconds. We can only store about five to nine “items” in short term memory. However, we can move these items to long-term memory via what scientists call rehearsal. Rehearsal or repetition is the act of repeating the memory over and over. 

Long Term memory includes anything we hold in memory for longer than twenty seconds. Scientists have identified many types of long-term memory, too many to discuss in a brief, introductory blog post. 

More to Come

This blog post is a brief introduction into what you remember and how. Over the next few months we’ll look deeper into the mystery and complexities of memories retained and lost.

I find human memory fascinating. The lack of and haunting presence of memory plays a part in my series, My Soul to Keep. In the next few posts, we’ll touch on diseases of memory. Diseases you may be interested in like Alzheimer’s and dementia and White Matter disease. And if you’re interested, we’ll discuss trauma-induced memory loss. Do you have other questions or topics regarding memory that you’d like me to discuss?

Who Gets to be a Saint?

Today, Friday, November 1, 2019 is All Saints’ Day also called the Solemnity of All Saints, All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, or Feast of Saints. In celebration people light candles, say prayers or liturgies, and sometimes make offerings. It is a day during which Christians around the world honor persons who have lived a life of almost perfect virtue. The Catholic church has canonized around 3,000 people. But who gets to be a saint?

Image of statues of saints on top of a building. But Who Gets to be Saints?

Prior to the tenth century, saints became saints due to public acclaim. By the twelfth century, the Church formalized the process for conveying sainthood on a person. Officially, neither the Pope nor the Church makes people saints; Instead, they recognize what God has already done. The five-step process can take a long while.

Step 1: Waiting Period

In the Catholic tradition, one cannot become a saint until at least five years after death. It could take a lot longer. They declared Saint Bede, the theologian a saint 1,164 years after he died. The Pope can waive the waiting period. 

Once the waiting period is over or the waiver granted, the bishop in the diocese where the person died can open an investigation. The bishop gathers evidence on the person’s life and deeds, including witnesses’ testimonies.

With sufficient evidence, the bishop then sends the information to the Vatican and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

Step 3: Proof of a life of “Heroic Virtue”

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints is a panel of theologians and Cardinals. Once they accept the case, the candidate is a “servant of God.” “Servant of God” is a technical title used during the process of beatification.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints evaluates the evidence. They look for signs of the candidate’s holiness, his or her works, and signs that the candidate’s example drew people to prayer. 

Based on their evaluation, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints makes recommendations to the Pope.

If the Pope decides that the person lived a life of “heroic virtue.” Thereafter, that person has the canonical title, “venerable.”

Step four: Verified miracles

Beatification is the next stage. Beatification requires a miracle. After their death, the candidate must have inspired people to prayers. If the candidate is already in heaven, the candidate brings the prayer request to God’s attention. God grants the prayer request, performs or causes the miracle

To be a miracle, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints must verify the incident(s). The Congregation looks for evidence that proves that the incident is a miracle. For example, a person’s incurable medical condition is cured after prayer to a venerable. If that cure has no logical medical explanation, they will probably accept it as a miracle. 

The one exception is someone who died for their faith, a martyr. The Pope may grant a martyr beatification without this fourth step.

Once the Pope grants beatification, the individual has the canonical title, “Blessed.”

Step Five: Canonization

Normally, the Congregation verifies a second miracle before canonization can take place. (Remember the martyr is the exception.)

During the canonization ceremony, the Pope conducts a special Mass, reading aloud the individual’s life history and then chanting a prayer in Latin that declares the person a saint.

Canonization is infallible and irrevocable.

Disclaimer

I am not a Catholic. I have no firsthand knowledge of the religion or the practices mentioned here. My knowledge comes from consulting those more knowledgeable than I in person and in written literature. Please check out Catholic Online for more information. 

Any errors or inadvertent disrespect in this information are mine. Kindly point out my errors and I will correct them.

Research Becomes Story

Yes, as with most of my research, this article is part of my research. To create the world of the My Soul to Keep series, I studied several religions. I borrowed heavily from Western religions and their traditions. 

In book two of the series, they have attributed a miracle to a character you met in book one. They grant that person a highly honored position in the Fellowship. It will be up to the reader to decide if this person deserved the honor or not. 

I am working hard on book two and hope to have it published in late 2020. Were you familiar with the five-steps for who gets to be a saint? What traditions do you observe on All Saints’ Day? 

Outtake from Fellowship & A Lesson

I’m deep in the last minute edits for Fellowship before I send it to the proofreader. Writing a book in the same world as My Soul to Keep that is not a sequel, has been interesting. So this week, I want to share an outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned about writing before research.

I am both a planner and a pantser. By that I mean, I write the story with a general outline. Since the outline isn’t very detailed I often go “off on a tangent.” I let the characters take me places that often end up on the cutting room floor as this excerpt did after I learned an important lesson.

Image of a call button for a walkie talkie for my outtake from Fellowship and a lesson

Before Research

Ian opened and closed his fists over and over. It was weird. He’d never been afraid of hiking through the mountains before. It’s not right. Not fair. The Blue Ridge Mountains are my mountains. It was where Pop had taught him to hunt and fish and think.

Pop was wrong about the Fellowship though. He thought it just needed some improvements. Pop used to talk about a time when he was young when he could walk where ever he wanted, even the streets of Lynchburg, without fear. Pop had said that was before the Prophet Josiah Shephard and billionaire J. D. Wagner created the Fellowship. Pop said at first it was about love and God and good stuff so he wanted to save that part of the Fellowship. Ian wasn’t about to try to save the Fellowship. Not after what they’d done.

When he got back to the old neighborhood his sense of danger increased. He pulled his collar up and the bill of his cap down. He couldn’t afford to be identified. One of these neighbors had turned his parents in. How could he find out who? His reporter’s brain didn’t give him an answer. He couldn’t interview people. Or visit the newspaper morgue—not that that would do him any good. How did he stay hidden and find out who betrayed his family? If it were just him, he’d not care. He’d suss out the details. But he owed it to Ma and Pop to keep Leslie and Travis and Kenny safe. So he couldn’t just go up to Monty’s house and knock like he used to.

He made a second circuit and passed the park again. Kids were playing, swinging, running around. A dark-haired boy about Kenny’s age ran smack into Ian’s legs.

“Whoa, kid. Watch where you’re going.”

The boy looked up at Ian. “Sorry mister.” The kid’s walkie talkie squawked. “Paulie. Come in Paulie.”

Ian caught his breath and squatted on his heels to be eye-level with the kid. “Say, if you let me use your walkie talkie for a minute, we’ll call it even, okay?”

The boy gave him a dubious look then stared at his walkie talkie.

“Don’t worry. I’ll give it back.” He grabbed the walkie talkie. For a moment he thought the kid wouldn’t let go, then he released it. “I’m gonna take three giant steps,” Ian said. “You can still see me, but I can talk to my buddy.” It was a long shot, but Monty loved to listen to CB radios and said he got kid chatter all the time. Ian took three giant steps and changed the walkie talkie’s channel. “This is Thorn calling Blackbird. Thorn to Blackbird. Do you read?”

Nothing but static answered. Ian glanced back at the little boy whose dubious look had changed to a pout.

“Thorn to Blackbird. I have a situation.”

“This is Blackbird,” Monty answered. “How do I know this is really Thorn?”

“I’ll meet you at the GTH in ten,” Ian said. “Over.”

“Holy cow. It really is you?” Monty sounded almost reverent. “Meet at the GTH in ten. Over and out.”

Ian’s chest filled with air and hope for the first time in days. He changed the walkie’s channel back and returned the walkie talkie to the little boy. “Thanks, little man.”

He zig-zagged through the park to be certain no one followed him. His steps were more sure, more energetic than they had been. His circuitous route still got him to the Green Tree House five minutes early.

He climbed the rope, crawled inside the patched-together little house, and pulled the rope up behind him.

Four and a half minutes later someone thumped a three-three-four rhythm on the tree. Ian peeked out. Monty flashed a mouthful of white teeth up at him.

Monty climbed into the tree house and bumped his fists against Ian’s shoulder. “Man, it’s good to see you,” Monty said.“What happened? Your whole family— I was afraid that you all were—you know.”

“Ma, Pop, and Henry were.” Ian’s throat thickened.

Monty gaped at him. “How did you—?”

“I was at the paper, the kids were at school…” Somehow Ian couldn’t say more.

“Where have you been?” Monty asked. “You look like you’ve slept in your clothes.”

Ian gave him a wan smile. “I did. All of our stuff was gone. I grabbed some stuff, but blankets, a hatchet, and a knife doesn’t help much.”

“Wow.” Monty scratched his neck. “I’ll be you’re hungry.” He pulled a napkin-wrapped lump out of one pocket then the other, handed them to Ian.

One napkin held a sandwich, the other an apple. Roast beef! Ian wolfed down half of the sandwich in two bites. “Thanks, man,” he muttered and took another big bite.

Monty folded his legs Indian-style. “Maybe you could hide in my basement?”

Ian shook his head. “Thanks, but we can’t put you in danger.”

“We? Who else made it?”

“Leslie, Travis, and Kenny.”

Monty’s mouth made an “O” but no sound came out. He closed his mouth and gave Ian an expectant look.

“I need help, Monty. We’re cold and hungry.”

Monty snickered at that one.

“We need a tent, clothes, food, and a hunting rifle.” Ian looked down at his feet. This asking for help was hard.

Monty rubbed his chin. “Mother has been collecting for the poor. I could bring you some blankets and canned goods, she’ll never miss them.”

Ian swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. “That would be great.” He hesitated. “I could really use a hunting rifle. Know where I could get one?”

Monty wrinkled his brow and pressed his lips together, his concentrating face. “You know I’d have to get a license approved through the Second Sphere to get a rifle. I sure as heck don’t want to bring them down on you. I’ll have to think on that one and a tent. Haven’t ever seen a tent donated.”

“Sure,” Ian said, his voice showed more of his disappointment than he’d meant to do. He forced a smile. “Don’t do anything that’ll get you in trouble. Canned foods and blankets will be a big help.”


The Real World

I don’t remember what prompted me to look up walkie-talkies after I wrote the scene, but I did.

The first device to be widely nicknamed a “walkie-talkie” was developed by the US military during World War II, the backpacked Motorola SCR-300.

Wikipedia

The first handheld walkie-talkie was the AM SCR-536 transceiver from 1941, also made by Motorola, named the Handie-Talkie (HT). 

Wikipedia

After the war, surplus handheld radios made it into the market. The public called them “walkie-talkies.” At least one toy version of the handheld radios first appeared in the 1950s from Remco. Their limited availability, popularity, and particularly their limited range made them not acceptable for use in this story. Gulp. Lesson learned: do your research before writing thousands of words. Or, do as I did, but be prepared to cut your darlings.

The scene was cut. I used surplus Handie-Talkies instead of walkie-talkies.

Shameless Plug

You’ll have to read the book to see how the Handie-Talkie became important in the story. The book is available for preorder on Amazon. You can read an early draft of the beginning of Fellowship or check out the book page. And, if you are a Facebook user, follow my page and search for and join the group “Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans for my launch party. (Date to be announced soon.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned. Sometimes lessons are expensive. Sometimes they are simply a lesson for this story.