Monday, March 28, 2011

The Things You Do For Love (And Research)

Book research. I love it. Here's what I've done in the last two weeks for my current manuscript:

1) Traveled to Fort Bowie in southern Arizona. Think of the strangest, most desolate Twilight Zone episode you've ever seen.  Sprinkle in some heat, rocks, and prickly cactus and you've got Fort Bowie.  You can practically feel the spirits of The Apache Kid and Geronimo floating around at this historical site. Very spooky.  The battles at this site are legendary.

2) Watched lots of episodes of MAN VS. WILD, especially the episodes where the hunky Bear Grylls survives in the desert.  The one where he had to claw his way out of the Sonoran Desert was particularly cool.  Who knew there were so many uses for creosote and octotillo?!  I'm a total sucker for the survival shows.

3) Experimented with plants.  Finding water in the desert is a challenge and I wondered how people did it back before you could simply turn a faucet.  I'd read somewhere that the desert always provided, despite its harshness. That's kind of stuck with me.  Since the desert is full of nothing but cactus and dry washes (especially when there hasn't been any rain in months), I wondered whether you could get water from a barrel cactus or saguaro. You can. At the base of the cactus, where the plant holds its water, you can make a slit between the spines and draw water.  Careful, though. Those needles are killer.  You won't find gushing water but there is definitely moisture.

Writers: Have you had to do any research lately? Readers: Do you notice the details of well-researched novels?

13 comments:

Donna Cummings said...

Wow, great info. I lived in Texas for a couple of my formative years, and learned the hard way NOT to try to pluck the pretty yellow flower off a cactus. LOL Guess I was doing research even when I didn't realize it!

Heather M. Gardner said...

I saw you mentioned Bear the other day too. I love watching him but we make fun of him too. He always has a reason to get naked and he really likes to pee on things. All kinds of things. We take bets before each show.

I appreciate the details in books as long as they don't sound like a text book.

Cold As Heaven said...

Looks liek you're doing some fabulous research. In partucular, I would been happy to follow you on #1 >:)

Cold As Heaven

Angelina Rain said...

I hate doing research. I try to get away without it if possible, but there are things I sometimes need to look up. I recently had to research genetic engineering for a story plot. My husband can’t wait until I start writing the many mafia related thrillers I have in mind. He wants to help me with all that research as he’s a big mob movie addict.

When reading a book, I highly appreciate when the author does research and put the accurate info in the story. It makes me respect the author. That’s part of the reason why I loved Captive Spirit so much.

Talli Roland said...

Wow! You're certainly dedicated!

I've been doing a lot of Marilyn Monroe research for my current WIP. It's really fascinating stuff!

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

I suck at research but love to read anything on the middle ages and visiting medieval town. Who knows that reading might end up in a high fantasy novel :)

Linda Leszczuk said...

That's funny. The last blog I read this morning was by an author who hated doing research. I'm afraid I'm more on her side of the fence. Either I resist doing research (most of the time) or I get caught up in it and wander way off what I was trying to find out in the first place.

Sierra Gardner said...

I'm actually currently researching for a ghost story so I get to go check out some local haunted houses and ghost hunting groups. Awesome!

Sherri said...

Love a well researched story as long as I'm not hit over the head with the info! No recent research but I need to look up some stuff for my current WIP, nothing so interesting as finding water in the desert, sigh.

Anne R. Allen said...

I love doing research. My problem is I do too much and try to put it all in the book. Bad idea. So now I try to write most of my first draft before I do the research. Then I know what I'm going to really need and what's just for fun and intellectual curiosity.

Jenny Schwartz said...

The things Bear Grylls eats icks me out. And when they wriggle as he puts them in his mouth... ew

As for research, I love it. When I'm reading it's kind of neat if a book introduces me to one new thing I'd never heard of. But not too much. For me, fiction is fiction. I read non-fiction when I want info dumps :)

Marianne Arkins said...

I'm kind of anal about research ... the other day I nearly drove off the road looking at a tow truck (my hero drives one) because I needed to see a particular detail.

A few years ago, I was writing historical shorts set in the 40s and 50s ... and the research drive me NUTS. Fascinating, but it really made writing a very, very slow process because I questioned everything (for good reason -- for instance, in the 40s the car my heroine drove didn't just use a key, it also had a "start" button).

As a reader, I definitely notice details that require research. It's important!

fasulent said...

Great post! I wish you could follow up on this topic!

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