For this post, you're going to have to blame Hiddlestoner and fellow Entangled author AD Marrow. Saturday she posted on her Facebook about how some of her research terms were going to get her put on a watch list of some kind. Now, I've been worried about this for the past 4 years ever since I looked up "elephant-hair rope", "C4 explosions", "black powder" and "puppies" all in one day's research session. (My kid was 3 at the time. So ... puppies.) Other authors started commenting, though, with their odd search terms. Much hilarity ensued, sure, but more importantly, I didn't feel weird. When authors talk to one another there's this glorious moment of understanding. Your weird matches my weird! Hooray! So, this conversation turned into a list of sorts and I wanted to bring it here so we can all share and discuss.
I can't imagine what doing authorly research was like before the Internet. Seriously. Going into a library and asking for help finding recipes for bombs? Or burlesque? Or maps of cities? Or a single phrase in a random foreign language? Besides, reading an encyclopedia doesn't give you the same experience of a building demolition as a video on YouTube. Also, I realize I need to know something in the moment I'm writing it. I can then pop open Google and have an answer right then and there. With pictures. (Not always a good thing.)
For example, this week a scene took a completely different turn that I thought it would in the outline. A weapon that I was planning to use changed and I had no clue if it was feasible for the weapon to match the wound I needed... so I spent some time researching shotgun wounds. (There are things that cannot be unseen. Within 5 minutes of my first search, I was in tears and nearly vomiting.) But I needed to know. Turned out that was the wrong way to go, so I had to further adjust the scene to deal with that pesky thing we call reality. Again, we have to write from a place of truth...this means we have to look. We have to put ourselves through the weird research and get ourselves put on the watch lists so that we can make a truer piece of fiction.
Anyway, enough of that pedantic stuff. Let's get to the fun part. While this list doesn't encompass every bit of "professional" research I've done, it's my greatest hits.
- Various kinds of explosions (C4, black powder, ANFO...needed to see differences in impact, damage etc)
- Circus history and jargon (this could be my Christmas list forever)
- Embalming techniques (past and present) as well as the order of operations in a modern embalming
- Autopsy procedures
- Swords/blades of varying kinds
- The White House Rose Garden
- Strip clubs
- Hundreds of mythological figures and creatures from dozens of pantheons/traditions/folk tales
- Aliases used by the Secret Service for past Presidents, Vice Presidents and family members.
- IT procedures
- Various actors/actresses/public figures that I'm using as a character reference. (It's not stalking. It's research.)
- Hospice procedures
- Death rites, particularly Jewish traditions
- Transgender issues from the POV of the person transitioning (YouTube is a godsend for this. Also, I'm blessed with friends willing to share their experiences.)
- Maps.... so many maps including Chicago, Las Vegas and various points of the UK.
- Images of specific locations (God Bless Google Street View!!)
- Poker variations
- Las Vegas landmarks that are not casinos or strip joints (they exist!)
- Vintage cars, particularly Oldsmobiles
- car garages and tools
- Law enforcement procedures, particularly those following a death
- Lethal injection procedures
- Prison mental health practices
- the works of Shakespeare
- elephant-hair rope
- Clown College
- various firearms
- Wounds (shotgun, handgun, burns, lacerations) *NOTE: This site is not for the faint of heart.*
- Foundries and industrial furnaces
- Your Mom
- (okay, not really that last one)
- Russian phrases
- French obsenities
- Greek landmarks
- Clever gifs and pics for the blog. That in and of itself can be playing Russian Roulette sometimes. I dare you to find a picture of a blue waffle that you can show your children. *nods* Also? DO NOT Google "cream pie" without turning the safeties on. *shudder*
So yeah... I'm sure there's more, I just can't remember it all. My best sources are Wikipedia (for the resource links and images, mostly), QI, Mythbusters, and ye olde Google image search. Personal interviews have been crucial as well in certain cases. I'm very fortunate to have friends in the medical field, mental health and social work, law enforcement, IT, tattoo art, burlesque, circus entertainment, military, auto repair...you name it, I probably know someone that can talk to me. If I don't know someone in the field/situation I need, I can ask around the friends I *do* have or crowdsource. (Thanks, Twitter!) Then, there's actual books. I've picked up several circus history books and mythology collections because I use them so often. I've got a few of those tourist books floating around, too. Also? Google Maps. I would be literally lost without it. Love me some Google Maps.
Obviously, not all of this list is going to get me put on some super secret black bag watch list. (Although, there is this odd non-descript van down the street.) But if I ever disappear...please, come looking for me. I don't know how convincing my screams of "But I'm an author!" will be.
What about you? What's on your list of search terms? What's going to get you thrown into Gitmo? What are your go-to resources? Share!