Category: research

Why Researching What You Write Is So Important

According to Wikipedia, “The rod of Asclepius is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing.” Greek mythology states Asclepius practiced medicine and chose the symbol because as people heal and become rejuvenated, its the same process a snake goes through when shedding its dry and withered skin.*

Loads of medical organizations across the world use the symbol including the American Medical Association and American Veterinary Association to name a couple.

Although all the organizations use the basic image differently, the rod is always there, just tweaked a little bit.


You’ve probably seen this symbol used for medicine too:

This symbol has two snakes instead of the one, and has wings stretching around the back. It’s called a Caduceus. The US Army medical corps adopted this logo in the early nineteen hundreds and since then, the symbol has spread throughout the medical industry like wildfire.

You may be thinking, like I was at first, that the symbols look the same. Why are medical professionals making such a fuss about other organizations using the Caduceus instead of the Rod?

Because the historical connotation of the Caduceus is that of “commerce, theft, deception and death.”**

Sure, if you go back far enough there are mentions of the wings representing the negotiation and commerce aspect of Hermes (although his means were not honorable) and the snakes representing the alchemist side of Mercury, but researchers have found more associations to trickery and corruption than the healing arts.***

So…as you write, make sure you research well. A few tiny alterations that may not seem like a big thing at the time (adding a serpent and wings) can change a symbol from something innocent and well-intentioned to something corrupt and vile. Get it right. Research the hell out of your genre and the area where your story is set.

And the next time you go into a doctor’s office, take a look at the writing–or symbols–on the wall.

Pretty cool findings, huh?

*”Asklepios’ reptile was a healing creature: in ancient mythology the snake, whose skin was shed and rejuvenated, symbolized eternity and restoration of life and health” Albert R. Jonsen, The New Medicine and the Old Ethics, Harvard University Press, 1990, p122;
**Engle, Bernice (Dec 1929). “The Use of Mercury’s Caduceus as a Medical Emblem”. The Classical Journal 25 (1): 205.
***Friedlander, Walter J (1992). The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine‬. Greenwood Press

Research, Fort Point, and a Giveaway Reminder!

Many people see the Golden Gate for what it is. A stretch of beautiful bridge that spans San Francisco Bay. A landmark that’s often blanketed in curtains of fog.

But many people fail to see what’s beneath it. No, I’m not talking about the goliath ships that sail beneath it’s frame. Nor am I talking about the whales that visit the inland shores.

I’m talking about Fort Point.

The fortress stood strong, protecting San Francisco harbor from attack during the Civil War. (As it turns out, Confederate ships were on their way into SF Bay, ready to attack the Fort and control the west, when they discovered the war had ended. Only a few weeks earlier and there might’ve been a battle between the South and the West!) During World War II, Fort Point was used to keep a watchful eye on the anti-submarine net that stretched across the mouth of the bay and back.

Now, it’s a National Historic Site. An awesome one. It also happens to be the scene for my kick-ass climax of my work-in-progress. I researched the heck out of the place online. I tapped into every resource I could find. (Mainly Google, Wikipedia, and the Fort Point site itself.) But for some reason, my vision fell short.

I didn’t just want to know about the Fort. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I wanted to feel it. The fading brick and mortar walls. The dusty stone floor. I wanted to know if chills would creep up my neck when I descended down one of the three steep (and very dark) staircases. I wanted to feel that unforgiving San Francisco wind bite at my face when I traipsed along the roof.

And boy, did I get what I asked for. All that, and then some.

Take a gander…

*The drive over the Bay Bridge

*Can you see Fort Point? It’s the tiny building under the Golden Gate on the left.

*A closer view

*The courtyard

*Me behind bars.

*One of the MANY cannons.

*And me again, conquering a stack of 128-lb cannon balls. These deadly puppies could skip over the ocean waves and blast through the hull of a ship from a whopping two miles away!

*One of those creepy hallways I knew was there. My camera lit up the halls pretty good, but in reality they were DARK. Such good material. I’m gonna use the heck out of every spooky nook and cranny.

*View of the light tower from the roof. It was SO COLD. I couldn’t stay up there longer than about five minutes. I can’t imagine what it would be like in winter…at night.

Overall, I’m glad I went. My huge climactic battle scene is going to have so much more dimension than it would have before. It’s one thing to read about Fort Point’s haunts online…it’s something else entirely to experience it first hand.

**Side note: Don’t forget Sophie Littlefield’s book giveaway ends tomorrow. I’m going to choose a winner randomly from the people who commented on that specific Author Spotlight post. If you’re interested in entering, you can find information on the giveaway under “Labels” and “Sophie Littlefield” or “Pararomance Contests”.