Between the Lines: Solving #Alchemy Riddles in #Haunted #Melody #paranormal #romance


Courtesy Alchemy Pictures

In Haunted Melody (Secrets of Roseville Book 2), Zak Markel has arrived in Roseville, TN, in search of the missing ingredient to make the Philosopher’s Stone, or Sorcerer’s Stone. According to legend, the resulting substance has the power to cure among other properties. He’s hoping, a Hail Mary attempt, that it will cure his brother’s brain tumors threatening his eye sight. Zak is following the steps within an ancient alchemist’s journal, but does not adequately understand what he should be doing.


There’s a very good reason why this present-day chemist is struggling. Here’s a bit about the ways alchemists obscured and hid the procedures and ingredients from the “unworthy.” I’ve pulled from a paper I wrote for grad school, but have tried to make it less academic and thus easier to read.

First, Decknamen or cover names served an important function for the alchemist. They are code words that replaced the usual name for a given substance with a word “that has some link, literal or metaphorical, with the substance intended.”(1) Such as, a symbol for silver might be the moon because of its light properties, and a symbol for gold might be the sun since the sun has golden light. This practice enabled the alchemist to protect the valuable content of his writings so that only the true alchemists could access the knowledge. The American alchemist, George Starkey, for example, protected his findings by using secretive language in his literature as well as employing his own Decknamen, writing many of his books under the name of Eirantheus Philalethes. Starkey is a very interesting person, by the way, who used all of these techniques in his own journal, much like the journal Zak is referring to in Haunted Melody. See what I did there? <grin>

The secrecy that obscures alchemical literature is well known, if not well understood. Secretive writing is often associated with activities before the advent of modern science and people often view these writings “as nonscientific or …largely or purely fictitious.” Yet for the alchemical writers, like Starkey, “secrecy…marked out the items of greatest value.”(2) The alchemists’ wanted to protect the information from those who were not worthy as well as from those who could profit from the knowledge. Not too different from today, don’t you think? Protecting our discoveries from others who could copy it and sell the resulting products or whatever?

Alchemistic language has always used words and symbols in such a way that they created a complex allegorical language. Other devices alchemists used to obscure yet reveal their meanings include riddles linked to images; riddles answered by a conundrum; and “dispersion de la science”—providing pieces of the whole solution in separate sections of one work: “At a crucial point of the discussion, the alchemist would break off or change the subject, only to resume it at some seemingly unrelated or distant locus.”(3) That left the reader to solve the riddle through careful reading of the texts, a process fraught with the specter of misinterpretation and thus failure.

Alchemical authors also used syncope and parathesis. Syncope shortened the actual process, often leaving out one or more steps or ingredients. Parathesis used the idea of multiplication of ideas, seemingly needlessly calling a specific item by a multiple of synonyms. Often these techniques are used in tandem.

  1. Principe, Lawrence M. The Secrets of Alchemy. 18.
  2. Newman, William R. and Lawrence M. Principe. Alchemy Tried in the Fire. 179.
  3. Newman, William R. Gehennical Fire. 116–17.

For Zak, it takes quite some time for him to find a book at the Golden Owl Books and Brews store that solves the riddle for him. TOnce he understands, how will he use his new-found knowledge? Will he succeed in his desperate attempt to help his brother? Find out when the book releases March 28. See below for where you can pre-order your copy so it will be in your inbox as soon as possible.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


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Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

(Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Remnants.)

Amazon USA:

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