I'll admit I'm a reference book junkie. I love reference books and have bought enough to overfill the shelf in my office. It's gotten so bad that I have to check my shelves before I buy any more reference books because on more than a few occasions I was ready to buy a book only to discover I already owned it!
While I'm not a heavy plotter, I do love research. Having the reference books handy sometimes helps to jump start me when I'm stuck. For instance, when I'm first starting a story and know very little about it, I check out a book called Writer's Guide to Places. I can peruse the pages, find out interesting things about a particular part of the country such as Indiana has a town called Santa Claus. That might help spark an idea about a Christmas story some day. And I absolutely love Christmas stories so don't be surprised if you see a story set in Santa Claus, Indiana from me down the road. And more highways intersect in Indiana than anywhere else in the country, which is why Indiana is nicknamed "Cross Roads of America". Hmm, it has a series feel to me.
Another good book is Careers for Your Characters. Just skimming through that book helps to get me started shaping a character.
Of course, not all research can be done with books. I happen to have a wealth of police research available to me in my neighborhood (5 police officers, including one on the S.W.A.T. Team, live on my street. ) and even in my own home. My husband, Tom, a former Marine and graduate of the Army Ranger School is also a police officer in a neighboring town. So anytime I'm wondering about what my character would do or how the police would handle a situation, all I have to do it ask my husband or invite Officer Dave over for coffee and Dave and Tom can fill me in on anything I need to know.
My neighbors know I write romantic suspense. It's a good thing. But every once in a while they do forget and I scare them. I got excited about a book idea once and called my neighbor who works as a Med Tech screening blood. The phone conversation went something like this. "Hi, it's me. If I want to make it look like I killed someone and use a lot of blood so it looks like they died but they didn't, how much blood would I need and how could I do it so no one would think the blood came from a blood bank?" Silence. "You are writing a book, Lisa, right? Please tell me you are." After her heart started beating again, she explained the correct way I could make something like this happen IN MY BOOK.
Research is important. Do it wrong and your readers will immediately be pulled out of the story. Get it right and readers will become completely engrossed in the story so that they'll feel like they're living it along with the characters.
Okay, it's September and that means I've pulled out my crock pot again. I love my crock pot because when I remember to set it in the morning and then get lost in my writing for the day, I'm usually exhausted by dinner time and tempted to order a pizza. Putting dinner in the crock pot always feels like someone else has cooked dinner for me. Here's a new recipe for those who love to use their crock pot!
Corned Beef and Cabbage
3-4 lbs. corned beef brisket
1 large onion quartered
4 medium potatoes quartered
2-3 large carrots cut into 1 inch size pieces
cabbage cut into wedges
Put all the vegetables except for cabbage on the bottom of the crock pot and then place the corned beef brisket on top. If the corned beef came with a spice packet, sprinkle that over the meat. If not, season the beef with peppercorns. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water over the brisket. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours. Add cabbage wedges to the top of the crock pot, turn to high and cook for an additional hour. Enjoy!
Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello