One of the things I like best about writing fiction is that I get to play God by creating worlds and the people in them. Even so, my places and people have to be plausible. That’s where research comes in. Like most authors, I’m certain I’m on FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security watchlists because I’ve Googled such things as “bugging devices,” “retrieving deleted emails,” and “pipe bombs.” But I’m not a threat — just a Midwestern writer with a wild imagination.
Where my research takes me is amazing. So while editing a draft of God on Mayhem Street, I decided to list my Google searches for that day (March 30, 2016). Here there are:
- How to speak with an Italian accent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GKrnCOJqkE
- Synonym for cannoli: http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/cannoli?s=t
- List of American literary awards: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_literary_awards
- What do morphine lollipops look like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fentanyl#Lozenges
- 1985-1986 US Network TV Schedule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985%E2%80%9386_United_States_network_television_schedule
- Made for TV movies in January, 1986, the movie “Murrow”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091576/
- Top slang terms of the 1980s: http://coolestwords.com/content/top-15-slangs-terms-80%E2%80%99s
- Early morning farm chores – my editor wanted to know if young Leo and Eddie’s ages were appropriate for the farm chores I gave them. I found this article: Age-appropriate farm (and outside) chores: https://www.weedemandreap.com/age-appropriate-farm-chores/
- Symptoms of pneumonia: https://www.webmd.com/lung/tc/pneumonia-what-happens. But I needed to know what symptoms Leo had that would cause his father to rush him to the hospital so I found: site: http://www.sickkids.ca/VisitingSickKids/emergency/Is-it-emergency/index.html – Aha! Leo had a high fever and labored breathing and was very sleepy.
Sometimes I feel that what I’ve written was always meant to be — serendipitous research proves it! For instance, I had to figure out what would make 12-year-old Leo stay up past his bedtime on a winter school night. Leo’s interests were cars, motorcycles, and writing. He couldn’t remember not wanting to be a journalist.
Leo would have been 12 in 1986 and at that time there was no movie streaming and no DVDs, though VCRs were popular. Also popular were made-for-TV movies. As you can see from my list above, I researched what movies would have aired in January of 1986 and up popped “Murrow” about the American journalist Edward R. Murrow — a movie Leo would have sold his soul to watch. I actually got chills.
I’m grateful that I live in an age where I can research anything on my computer. But there are times when I need to talk to a live person about such things as police procedures in Marquette Country, Wisconsin or the best way to poison cows. In-person research is the most time-consuming, but also the most fun because of the people I meet. Tune in for future newsletters to hear about these adventures.
I’m sponsoring a terrific Christmas event through Kindle. No purchase necessary. Just click on the icon below and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway (look for the cover of Carpe Diem, Illinois!). You’ll have a chance to win a 7″ Kindle Fire, Kindle cover, Booklover Coffee Mug, Reader T-shirt, and more. The Giveaway ends Dec. 31st. You can enter every day!
Where you can find me:
Instagram: I’ve started to post pictures of my favorite places to write in the Madison, Wisconsin area. Check it out!
Books & Beer, Columbus, WI, January 25, 2018, 7 p.m. I’m looking forward to another lively discussion of Carpe Diem, Illinois. This book club is open to the public — join us! If you would like me to talk to your book club, simply contact me.
UW-Madison Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication , April 12-15, 2018. I’ll be busy helping writers practice their pitches to agents, presenting how-to write information, and more. Writers — registration or this premier writing conference is now open!
Stocking stuffer ideas: for the Kindle lover on your list, the prices for the e-book versions of my books are reduced this month only. Carpe Diem, Illinois is a meager $1.99.