Monday, May 10, 2010

Poisons and police procedures

This week I got some writing books in the mail. Courtesy of Writer's Digest, who was having a sale, I got four new books.

A couple of them might raise some eyebrows. You see, they are all about poisons and police procedures. (The other two are on how to write mysteries.) I've been toying with the idea of writing a mystery series, and my hero/detective's super-power is his interest in all things botanical. He's a frontier physician at a Cavalry fort, and he's interested in the medicinal properties of plants and the Native American uses for prairie flora. Hence a book on poisons.

I have research books on my bookshelf, some about how to write, and others about specific eras, people, and places in history. Catalogs from 1890, fashion books, biographies of famous Minnesotans, books about lighthouses, logging, railroads, stagecoaches, forts, cowboys, and orphanages. Prison camps, racial tensions, the Progressive Era in Minnesota, frontier travel, frontier medicine, mining,....the list goes on and on.

I love history books. I love reading about places and people of long ago and dreaming about what their lives must've been like, about how they met the challenges of living in their era. I love reading about cataclysmic events, then wondering how ordinary people rose to the occasion.

So, what is the most unusual research you've done for a book? An interview? A field trip? A strange book?


  1. No field trips for me, since my story was a medieval set in England! I WOULD have loved to have gone to some castles, but alas, no money in the bank right now. So I take my trips to the library and find treasures and places to visit there. :)

    I admire you for wanting to do suspense/mystery! I think police terminology would be difficult. But maybe no as bad as medical! lol

  2. I once wrote a (fanfic) story about a character who was a drummer boy during the Civil War. From an internet search, I found a drummer from a Civil War reenactor's group. I wrote to him asking questions about the drum, drum code. He was very helpful though I wonder if he worried he was being stalked. Lol

  3. I did speak to a member of our church for hours in an interview about setting a fire. It cracked me the end of our conversation he triple-checked..."you're sure you aren't planning anything funky, right?"


    Happy Research to you.
    ~ Wendy

  4. Oh....we're supposed to do research?

    LOL!!! JK, mostly. I once went to several car dealerships to make sure my heroine had the right vehicle, and that it matched the situation. The salesman was none too happy when I told him I REALLY didn't need any help.

  5. In order to better understand the role of the undertaker in the second half of the 1800s, I got a book called The Victorian Celebration of Death. Since my stories are set in the Gold Country of California where I live, I've visited a number of pioneer cemeteries too. I learn a good deal by reading the weathered headstones.

    When I was preparing to write a scene involving a gun, a friend of mine brought his (empty) revolver over and gave me a lesson in the basics so I could accurately describe the way it would look and feel from the heroine's perspective. Gwynly was there for that bit of research and enjoyed it as much as I did.

  6. Sounds like an interesting series!

    For the last week I've been doing some Civil War research, which is new and different for me since I don't often need to research much history for my stories. (It's still a contemporary story, though.) I also read all about glass blowing and hope to do an interview on that for the new book I'm writing. Interesting stuff.

  7. I've switched time periods so often now, that I have a hodgepodge of books! I'd like to find an era that I can stick with and really become an expert! You're an inspiration!

  8. I would love to spend a day in your personal library! I am a sucker for history, too.

    Strangest research? All things dead mice. Don't ask.

  9. While I was in a bagel shop recently, I was reading over a CP's work when I ran across a discussion of trigger locks on a gun that sounded odd. There were two cops at the next table. I introduced myself as a writer and got an expert opinion.