Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guestpost: Adventures in Research: Dispatches from the Front

Book Giveaways:

Open Season -- One signed Hardcover edition
Retribution -- One signed paperback
Run into the Wind -- One signed paperback
The Fool's Journey --One signed paperback

 Adventures in Research: Dispatches from the Front

Jon Reisfeld
Jon Reisfeld
“Research is fun; writing is hard work.” That's how Jean M. Auel, author of The Clan of the Cave Bears novel series, summed up these two vital aspects of the creative process during an interview with blogger Meredith Allard.
Auel takes her research quite seriously. She has read a small library's worth of books, articles and other materials (totalling nearly 4,000 items by her calculations). She's traveled to Europe to explore Neanderthal sites firsthand. She's poked around in their caves, tried her hand at making stone tools and stone-age rope. She's even tried to cure animal hides “by natural means.”
“Without some of those first-hand experiences,” she told Allard, “I would never have been able to write the books the way I did. It was necessary and, in the process, I've met some fascinating people.”
Auel's globe-trotting “research adventures” may seem exotic by many writers' standards, but was that what made the experience so much fun for her? To gain some perspective, we asked a few authors featured on The Last Way Station Mega Book Tour to share their own tales from the front lines of research. The feedback we received suggests Auel had it right: research is fun. Getting out from behind the computer keyboard and screen, under almost any circumstances, will put a smile on a writer's face ... and provide plenty of material for fresh, new stories to tell. The Mega Book tour, which I founded, is named in honor of my novelette, The Last Way Station. It represents a new, tag-team approach to virtual book touring. When you finish reading this post, please click here to enter our tour sweepstakes (Grand Prize: a Kindle Fire) and here to learn more about our featured authors.

Maryann Miller: Pursuing the Naked Truth

Maryann Miller
Maryann Miller
“The first victim in my new murder mystery, Stalking Season,is a 19-year old girl who, on a lark, takes a job dancing at a gentleman's club. Obviously, the job doesn't quite work out the way she hopes.
“To find out how a girl might get hired to work in such a place, I planned a ‘field trip’ to a gentleman’s club in downtown Dallas. My son, David, who loves to go on research excursions, accompanied me. He was especially excited about this trip. What a dedicated research assistant he is!
“We met with the club’s manager in the early afternoon, at a time when few patrons were there. The manager explained that, at that time of day, only one or two of the girls would be dancing. That was one or two more than I was interested in watching, but David immediately suggested that we return later, when the club would be in full swing. At that point, I don’t think his mind was on research anymore. At least not the ‘ask a lot of questions and get a lot of information’ type of research I was pursuing.
“In fact, as the manager and I walked through the main area of the club, I suddenly realized we were alone. David was no longer bringing up the rear. I glanced back and saw him standing, frozen in place, before one of the dancers, completely mesmerized by her performance. I gave him one of those classic ‘mom’ looks, and he got offended. ‘This is research,’ he protested. ‘You never know how detailed you may want to get later when you describe how the girls dance. I'm taking notes!’ “
Open Season
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Open Season Story Summary.Amid racial tensions and the deadly force controversy sweeping the city of Dallas Homicide detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson are unlikely and unwilling partners. They both see the pairing as better PR than policy.
Their first case, dubbed ‘the Mall Murders’, begins with the death of a maintenance worker at one of the Metroplex shopping malls. A security guard is then killed at another mall. The final murder victim is a young window dresser, whose body is left like a mannequin behind the glass of an exclusive boutique at the Galleria Mall.

Lynn Hubbard: Remembering Our Past

Lynn Hubbard
Lynn Hubbard
“History is all around us, you just have to take the time to notice ... and remember. Last fall, I had an idea for a new book set during the Revolutionary War, but I needed more. I need to be inspired to write. So, I threw the kids and dog in the car and headed northeast to Virginia, site of the Continental Army’s final, definitive victory at the ‘Battle of Yorktown.’ I have always had a passion for history and, in particular, for the Revolutionary War era, and I wanted to go to the heart of it.
“The thousand mile trip took us across many state lines. When we arrived at Virginia, we followed the Blue Ridge Parkway north along what may have been the same path confederate soldiers took when they marched north to defeat at Gettysburg. Even with all the modern buildings and traffic on that route today, you can still get a sense of history and American pride.
“Near Yorktown, at a point where the York River meets the Chesapeake Bay, I stood on the shore, with the breeze blowing through my hair, and I could almost taste the gun powder in the air. Closing my eyes, I pictured the massive sailing ships in the harbor and I felt the fear and excitement of those on board.
“At a specialty shop, I picked up a period licorice stick. Not the modern, candy kind but the actual twig or root. Licorice has been used as a medical aid for thousands of years. They used it, at the time of the Revolutionary War, to treat coughs and pain, to clean their teeth and to purify their blood and innards. I offered to buy a stick for each of my kids but got no takers. I cautiously eyed the twig before finally putting it in my mouth, and gnawing on it. It wasn't too bad. I headed down the road, chewing my minty tasting stick, and feeling at one with the past as my kids trailed along behind me, leading the dog on his leash and shaking their heads at me in equal parts wonderment and disbelief.”
Run into the Wind Story Summary.Determined to take charge of her own life after her family was slaughtered before her eyes; Sabrina Lovett heads west and hops off a train to start anew. Hiding from her affluent brother, she takes on the guise of a boy. Everything was going well until the exasperating new Sherriff came to town.
Brock Stafford was used to being in control. He was irritated to no end by the stable boy "Will" who challenged him at every turn. Aggravated by his own reaction to the boy, he tries to ignore him completely until tragedy brings them together. Sabrina trusts Brock with her life; but can she trust him with her secret?

Kristina Jackson: There’s No Substitute for Experience

Kristina Jackson
Kristina Jackson
“I plan on writing erotica under the pen name Kay Darling. Why? Oh, that is simple. My mind is already as twisted as a corkscrew and as dirty as a chimney sweep’s ear hole! I recently suggested to my ‘dearly beloved’ that we ‘try out’ some advanced sex positions so that I could see if they would work well in the book. Of course, he did not complain. But he might the next time …
“We had started our lovemaking the usual way: with me on top. No problem. Then, we moved around to accommodate the new position. Without getting too graphic, the woman and man sit opposite each other. Then, the woman drapes her legs over the man's shoulders to make sure things 'line up' properly. The woman has to support her weight by putting her arms out behind her. The sensation this new position achieved was, to put it mildly, well worth the effort. As the throws of passion overcame us, I pushed a little too hard on one of my shoulders and it partially dislocated! Suddenly, ‘agony’ replaced ‘ecstasy’ and I just about screamed, barely able to support my weight anymore. A quick adjustment allowed me to reposition myself so that I could now dig my good shoulder into the mattress, hoping, all the while that my husband wouldn’t notice anything was wrong. Instead, I quickly derailed the entire operation.
“I should mention that I have EDS. It causes my shoulders to pop out fairly regularly. Nevertheless, even in the name of research, I doubt we will be trying out that position again any time soon!”
The Fool’s Journey Story Summary.Can tarot cards really help a young woman whose life is not all it’s cracked up to be? Moira is frustrated by her life and even more so because she just doesn’t know what to do about it. A spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a psychic fair to get a tarot reading changes all of that. The Tarot reading helps her realize and see exactly what she should do. Moira’s friends and family start to question her sanity when she consults pieces of card for guidance. When she decides to quit her job, sell her house and move away, they’re sure of it. What do Tarot cards mean? Can they help her find out about herself and guide her to a happier future? What has an encounter with a poltergeist and a haunted chest have to do with Moira’s journey to find fulfillment?

Kelsey Miller: Proper Bookstore Etiquette

Kristina Jackson
Kristina Jackson
“All of the characters in my book, Retribution, have … odd names, like “Faolan” and “Kenric.” I do this, deliberately, to give each character a name that describes his or her personality. In other words, if a character is opinionated, I would give him a name that means ’opinionated.‘
“Of course, I don’t keep all these names conveniently rolling around in my head. So, when I started writing my novel, at 16, I used to search for suitable names on the Internet. But the Internet is, well, cluttered, and I occasionally had difficulty coming up with names that made sense.
“Eventually, my searching turned up a reverse baby name dictionary. Instead of listing the names first and then their meanings, this marvelous book works the other way around. The very next day I went to the bookstore with my mom and asked if they had the book in stock. They did! And it had so many names in it that I could barely contain myself.
“It was at about this point, as I was joyously engrossed in that book, that I ran into my mom. She took one look at the book and blanched. “Kelsey," she asked shakily, "is there something you need to tell me?”
“I thought she was joking. I mean, come on, if a sixteen-year-old has the focus and discipline to write a book, it’s pretty unlikely she also has the time, and inclination, to turn her mom into an early grandmother. But mom was serious. A few awkward moments passed before I realized I would have to respond. ‘No, Mom,’ I said, ‘I’m NOT pregnant, I just need to name my characters!’
“My advice? Keep your distance from baby-naming books when Mom’s around ... particularly if you’re still a teenager!”
The Fool’s Journey Story Summary.Not all Vampires drink blood...
More cunning and intuitive than the other wolves in his Family, Faolan has never had a problem killing their Vampire enemies. Yet even he is unprepared for the two Changelings—newly turned Vampires—who attack him one day during his patrol. The Changelings make no move to kill Faolan, and puzzled by their strange behavior, he flees. Before the wolves can determine the cause, Faolan is attacked again.
Faolan barely has time to parry the Vampire’s blows before he is ripped from his wolf form. Cowering as a human, Faolan waits for death, yet the Vampire inexplicably spares his life--but her action comes with a price.
The Vampire claims she does not drink blood. Instead, she has vowed to kill her nemesis, Hunter, an elusive vampire with special abilities responsible for a tragedy the Vampire refuses to disclose. She compels Faolan into joining her on a week-long journey to acquire information from Hunter's retired executioner. Faolan’s father forces him into going, and after the Vampire saves his life, Faolan realizes that the two of them will be partners for much longer than seven days.
Faolan and the Vampire are bound together by a force older than any of them can imagine, and only they can hope to defeat Hunter. However, the Vampire has not been entirely truthful. What is she keeping from Faolan? And will he be able to learn her secret before both of them get killed?


  1. What fun to read all the other stories of research adventures. It's amazing what we will go through to get the facts and all the facts.

  2. Great topic! Thanks for posting.

  3. Great post! Always great to see how authors go about doing their thing... and I'm constantly learning new techniques or new ieas from posts like this... keep them coming!

    Armand Rosamilia

  4. Great Guest post! I love getting to see how the minds of authors work! I also found a couple books I wouldn't mind reading!