What do flight simulators and suits of armor have in common? (Melissa Robbins)

As someone who writes stories from World War Two, I do loads of research. All writers do. We’re walking encyclopedias and that’s why we’re awesome at pub quizzes or maybe it’s because writers also love to read.
For my latest book, my hero’s last name is Ruggles. To get the name I combined rugged and Biggles. Rugged because my teen is a rough and tumble kind of kid. Bigglesworth aka Biggles is my favorite literary pilot who has many flying adventures. Later on in my story, I needed to know the history of flight simulators. Did they even exist in WW2? Oh yes they did since 1910, but I discovered that in 1912, a William Ruggles(!) invented the Ruggles Orientator, a flight simulator. Is that fate or what that I created a name that actually exists and belonged to an inventor of a flight simulator?
But just because I’m writing a story that takes place in WW2, doesn’t mean my research won’t go beyond the 1940’s. Two of my older gentlemen flew in WW1 so I have to know some bits about that timeframe, especially the planes. And just last week, I found myself looking at suits of armor to determine if a girl could hide an item inside one.

Even when you think you have researched all you need for your story, you haven't. Just this morning, before I realized I had to write my blog post, I was researching bodies of water in northern England for a place to hide a rowboat and hopefully avoid beach minds. 


This is such a laugh because every day for me is research. My life as a novelist merely upped the frequency and duration. For example, many folks would probably assume that research for a novelist was all about exotic locations, exciting people, expeditions to learn and uncover arcane talents, tasks, and traits.  No, no, no, no my little fluffy followers, No!
The greater amount of research is filing our ideas, finding them once we’ve filed them, frowning over whether we’ve had a giant bit of memory loss, or whether we really are staring at the most potent or palatable version of any particular story or idea. Palatable you ask? Oh, yes, because quite often there is gagging involved. Uttered expletives. Incomprehensive muttering. Merely ask those whose misfortune it is to live with us. (I have secretly wondered what my dear husband did in his last life to be sentenced with me in this one, but then, it is between him and his karma, yes?)
There are scores of different programs to learn to write, to explain, to sample and try to find one that fits our little writerly brains the best. Like Dragonspeak or something of that name-ish). Mine hated me. Or I never seemed to speak with the same accent twice. Oh, and spread sheets. Those are for knowing who, when, where, and whether your manuscript is being touted at the moment—like a shiny racehorse prancing its stuff before the big race. Shall they bet on the frisky one or the calm one that is husbanding his strength for the distance? Those spreadsheet programs that I have yet to work successfully twice in a row. Yuck.
Or how about those visionaries who think we need new ways to channel our thoughts and create. Oh, how I’d like to get a barrel of those geniuses together and listen to the uproar. I can create lists, swirls, trees, barbed creations with ideas hanging off the branches. So what?
I can never find them again to interpret what seems to be a severe case of mental Turret’s syndrome with a pen. Which leads me to the other glamorous research in grammar, spelling, syntax, and other taxes like Federal income tax rules for writers.
But to a writer, the words sing. Like expiate—oh my. I’ve got to find a place for that one. The characters speak. The fingers fly across the keyboard or with pen in hand as we scramble for a scrap of paper, a napkin, or the back of one hand because being in the throes of creation is exhilarating—probably not quite like luging but quite nice, thank you. (Should you desire to look that up, the root word is luge.) Yes, we writers often know such drivel as what a ‘root’ word is. Doesn’t make cookies, but hey, every profession its tasks.
We generally say we’re researching when really we’re using it as an excuse to pursue a fascination. Like maps, like time periods, like skills, like people, like oh my, did I forget my grammar again? Humor. Angst. Hate. Love. Titillation. Ok enough. You know I really wanted to merely alliterate when I ended up doing something altogether different.
We research ourselves and attempt to find out if we’re really merely writers or insane. Some of us are still in doubt. Others are passing the judgment on to others.
Markets, editors, managers, agents, laws, contracts, all fall under our writerly scope. We know about fonts. Yes, fonts. Sounds a little something doesn’t it? Then there are the computer types and failures. Memory failures—machine of course. And then the machine makers and software wizards will change things for the better they think and confuse us again.

I would not like to go back to being a non-novelist—even with all of this research.

Researching Memory (Kate O'Hara)

Since both of my current series take place in the second half of the 20th century, I can rely on memory a good bit of the time to set the scene. However, memory is tricky. What we did last week somehow creeps into remembrance of what we did decades ago if we aren’t careful. I find I do a lot of “Wikipedia’ research on specific technology or fashions. Here are a couple of examples that might have sneaked by editing if I hadn’t done the research.

In my first Greek Fire novel, Aphrodite on the Half Shell, the female character (me, since I write in first person) needed to make a phone call from her guy’s apartment. I initially wrote he finished his call in the next room and handed her the phone. In reading through later, it occurred to me I’d better find out exactly WHEN cordless phones became available. I was surprised to learn they were not patented until about 1970 and not in use much until 1990. They seem such an integral part of most homes today.

Since the story takes place in 1964, I made a trip down memory lane and visualized what sort of phones I had in my own home at that time. I remembered having a blue princess phone on my kitchen desk, so I gave the same equipment to him with the following comment: “He pointed to a powder blue princess phone on his bed table—just like the one on my desk at home. We even had similar taste in phones.” I did double check the year the princess phone was released and my memory was correct.

In the second of the Greek Fire novels, I wear a borrowed cocktail dress. I looked up the fashions of late 1965 and noted it was the beginning of the mini skirt fad. I used the information in the description of the dress: “A friend at work who was about the same dress size offered to loan me one. I was a lot taller, so the hemline was really short on me. I looked through a few fashion magazines during the week to figure out what I should wear and saw the big splash designer Mary Quant had created with the introduction of her “mini-skirt” styles. Pam’s dress wasn’t quite that short, but it certainly did show plenty of leg.”

In the third book, I comment on using my first in-home dishwasher. I double-checked its availability before 1966 as well as a Jacuzzi tub and a few other renovations featured in the Edwardian home. They all suited both my memory and Wikipedia. I also am careful when referencing music or entertainment of the era. I have changed a song or movie because it wasn’t released at the time of the story.

Of course, you have to keep references current as well or they’re lost on the reader. In my Seeker series, which takes place in the 1990s, I had a line I thought was descriptive, but found most people under 60 didn’t get it. It referenced Ed Wood, one of the early horror movie producers.  I looked up when Tim Burton released his first few strange movies and they fit into the right time frame. The line now reads: “It was like watching a strange collection of Tim Burton cutting room remains.” So, even if you “lived” the era and think you know what was popular, it’s worth a few seconds to do the research and make sure your technology, fashion and even movie references are timely.

Kate O’Hara - who was recently told I don’t write romance, but light erotica! I guess it’s in the mind’s eye of the reader ;-)

My Researching Goes On and On (Z. Minor)

I am researching 1820-1821 England once again, or I should say still. I have started the second story in the Sisterhood of the Coin series. Nicola Highbridge story is the first book in the series, which is being published by The Wild Rose Press.

Mara Highbridge is the main character for the second book and I have been looking for historical information that can be used as part of the plot for a romantic suspense novel. I only look for enough information for the first draft of my story. Once I have the story completed – beginning, middle and end. I will go back through the story, add detail, and find any additional information to complete the story. Sometimes I add or take out information. I try hard not to give a history lesson but show real people with real problems.

Here is my example: Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, was beheaded 8 months after her husband. I found that to be a little strange – why not behead them at the same time. So “WHAT IF” it was discovered she was pregnant. The French people, I believe, would have revolted against killing a woman who was pregnant. Being she hadn’t been living with her husband for more than a year—who could be the father of her child? I found information Marie Antoinette, a book has been written about it, had an affair with a Count from Sweden. He could be the father?? Then I start thinking more “WHAT IF”.

Back to my story – Mara was raised by a foster mother and overhears a conversation that she looks so much like her mother that it is surprising no one has noticed. Because her older foster sister, Nicola (first book) has found her parents, she is determined to do so as well.

Using the researched facts – Mara will discover who her birth parents are and how she was smuggled out of the prison where she was born and brought to England to be raised. Of course, I have found other researched information about the time period which will be added to the story, such as human trafficking – which I discovered has been going on since time began. Embezzling money from innocent people is another facet that might play apart in the plot. Bernie Madoff wasn’t the first and I am sure won’t be the last crook caught stealing from investors.  The one in 1821 got hung for his efforts. Of course Mara’s love interest, Barnaby, just happens to work for the government and with his contacts, he and Nicola’s husband, help ferret out the evil people in Mara’s life. Love triumphs and wins the day for Mara and Barnaby.

I have discovered the fabric of the world in 1820-1821 is much different than today. Interesting enough people haven’t changed – greed, murdered, lust, dishonesty, love, and hope are the same no matter the place or time.

Z. Minor
Author of Historical Romantic & Contemporary Suspense Novels

Current Research? by J Vincent

Until I was hit by a severe bout of pneumonia in mid-March I was researching the Lines of the Torres Vedras in Portugal.  These were lines of fortifications built in 1809-10 on order of the then General, but future Duke of Wellington outside of Lisbon.  These “Lines” of forts, escarpments, trenches, and outlooks were a masterpiece that stopped French Marshal Massena and his army in their tracks. But that’s probably more information than you need or want.
I used several sources to ferret out the topography around Lisbon and Busaco (one of the villages in the lines where there was a battle as Massena approached the lines) and the villages in the area.  I usually use the google searches as a starting point and then delve into my resource books.  Sir Charles Oman’s seven volume series on the Peninsular War is a main source. I also have books on the war by several other participants present at the events plus modern day researchers.  Napier, Londonderry, Haythornthwaite, Muir, and Fletcher are some of the main author’s I use for this topic.

I lost three weeks with the pneumonia and then well, you know what a medical roller-coaster my health has been on for years.  My current research is on laminectomies which equals another bigger loss of time.  I am beginning to wonder if my writing days are behind me.  Every time I have tried to get back into this book life intervenes.  I have four chapters written but think they may have to be put aside and parts used as flashbacks throughout the book--IF I could just get writing.  I’ve given myself all the lectures about wasting time (anyone know of Free Cell Anonymous Chapter nearby?), not setting priorities or goals. I have Rox’s photo on my desk and can almost hear the whip cracking but all to no avail.  As yet.  I still hope to get my act together.  After all I have the fourth Honour book waiting to be published.  I just need to get the fifth written! 

Do I just raise the white flag and the next time someone asks me if I’m still a writer, say “No.”
Do I keep trying to get this book written?  Any ideas on how to jump start that appreciated.

Research is Essential (Katherine Pritchett)

What do the Russian mafia, burn surgery and recovery, and Secret Service protection for Presidential candidates have in common? All are subjects I am researching for my work in progress and the "next two projects."

It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Just put “Russian mafia” into the search bar, and follow a few of those links. Did you know that there are estimated to be over 6,000 such criminal groups in Russia? Even though the head of the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol denies any organizations such as this exist, in the 1990’s it was deemed the greatest threat to U.S national security. However, the rumor I’m pursuing for the third book in the Richard Matthews series is that the Russian mafia never cancels a hit. And when they set a hit, as they did on Richard for his part in diverting nuclear war in Korea in The Judas Seat, it’s not just the target, it’s the whole family. That, coupled with an obsessed stalker from More Than a Point of Honor, form the basis for Convergence.

Wild Rose editor Rhonda Penders’ question, “Can this be a series?” prompted my research into what point at which a Presidential candidate begins Secret Service protection. In the sequel to soon-to-be-released What the River Knows, our hero Scott Aylward has to pull security duty as our Governor makes a “big announcement.” While Scott watches people who paid thousands of dollars for the privilege of being at the dinner, he remembers one of his mother’s favorite phrases, “A little shame is a good thing.” Just as the Governor begins his speech, a comely female server hops naked to a table at the back of the room, shouting that the Governor is not the moral leader he appears to be. We’ll see if A Little Shame makes it to press.

But the current work in progress, a romance entitled Love’s Crossroads, presents a real challenge. My ex was an EMT for many years, but since we’ve been divorced for nearly 20 years, I haven’t stayed current with emergency medical practices. So, I have to find something besides the use of MAST trousers to trigger a confrontation between the female paramedic and the surgeon. And then I have to ensure my cardiac arrest procedures are accurate or vague enough to suffice as the two begin to respect each other. Then finally, when he is injured trying to keep her from harm’s way on an emergency response, the mechanics of injury, field response, in-hospital follow-up care and rehabilitation have to be accurate.

Although the strength of the story line and compelling characters should cause a reader to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves fully in your story, inaccuracies can jar them out of their immersion. Trust me, no matter what subject you write about, at least one reader is an expert on that subject and will call you out if you make a mistake. I recently read an otherwise excellent story where the author had the mother driving a Ford Impala. I have to confess, I set the book down and wondered what other errors I would find. Finally, though, the mystery of how the story would play out and the characters grow pulled me back in, and I finished the book. It was an excellent read, but I will never forget the Ford Impala. Let accuracy be the goal all of us strive for.