Insecure Writer's Support Group Day and Writing Research Queries Consolidated (sounds like a detective agency!)

Can you believe the A to Z Challenge is over?

It seems like lately, every time I stop to think, I find myself asking "where has the week gone? the month? the year?" Everything's moving so quickly!

I think this feeling is coming over me more than usual lately, despite (or maybe because of?) the fact that I don't read as often, and spend many hours in a week just sitting and playing with the toddler.

Look out for an A to Z Reflections post soon!

Meanwhile, it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

The optional May IWSG Day Question is: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

A great question. I like blogging about research weirdness!

I recently wrote a post called Need Research Help! Here are the items I listed for my contemporary romantic suspense The Charm of Time:
  • What's a good midlife crisis sort of car for a recently divorced man in his late 30s? He's Scottish, living in Switzerland...
  • This is a bit darker, but I need some details on surviving a basal cell carcinoma surgery -- is there any radiation or chemo in the follow up? What are the day to day pain levels and side effects?
  • What are some good resources for Scottish slang? I don't need Irvine Welsh level dialogue, more the inflections and word choices of someone who was in high school in Edinburgh in the early 90s and has been living abroad for over a decade. So far I've picked up a new Christopher Brookmyre to read (I've read his Pandaemonium but that was mostly younger kids)... What other novels would be good?
  • Does anyone know anything about the police system in Switzerland? I need basic information on hierarchies, how often the different cantonal systems communicate and some procedural details with regard to murder -- are statements taken from all witnesses right away? Does one have to leave an address with the police if it's close to Christmas and one is travelling out of the country?
  • What is it like to travel to the Isle of Lewis? What's the ferry like? The roads between villages? Opening and closing times for shops and pubs? [This is something I hope to research in person sometime!]
  • What are some good menu items for lunch and dinner at a fancy spa hotel with a famous chef?

Here's some of my writing research for my paranormal and the stories set in the 15th Century:

Rome, Rhymes and Risk (15th Century):
  • metalwork and trading
  • marriage and burial rites
  • more parts of ships and nautical terms (these never stick in my head)
  • clothing in fashionable Roman homes
  • Cem, the exiled brother of Sultan Bayezid
  • layout of the town of Cadiz
  • hills and villages on the mainland beyond Cadiz - where would one be taken if one had the misfortune to be kidnapped?
  • donkeys and horses and mules, oh my! (Adam Heine's got an awesome reference for horse travel times)

Druid's Moon (paranormal):

  • druids and their tombs
  • Welsh myths and legends
  • Cornish myths and legends
  • archaeological key words
  • fairy tales, especially genre staples for Beauty and the Beast tales
  • noble families of England, Scotland and Wales
  • mythical sea creatures

I did some research for Out of the Water and Captive of the Sea in England on metals and 15th century buildings... For these stories I also needed to know all about:
  • Columbus' sailing schedules
  • the cloth trade in London
  • basic dates and times for the Wars of the Roses in 1970
  • sailing times between Spain and Italy and Greece and Constantinople
  • caves on the island of Capri
  • the layout of Malta
  • marriage rites in the Ottoman Empire and in London
  • Welsh legends (again!)
  • various diseases
  • the hierarchy of the Sultan's court
  • words in Ladino and Spanish and Ottoman and Welsh...

Two older posts show some of the topics I researched and wondered about at the start of drafting Out of the Water:
  • caves in the Mediterranean region
  • Cistercians vs Benedictines
  • how to defeat or outrun Saracen pirates
  • what fruits grow in which seasons?
  • medieval and Renaissance meteorites and volcanoes
  • was chivalry dying out by the end of the 15th Century?
  • monetary systems and “passports” in the Renaissance
  • sailing without a map or compass
  • how to dress as and pretend you’re a nun
  • leather shoes and how long they might last
  • the Inquisition - hierarchy, major dates, etc.
  • the Ottoman Empire and its welcome of Jews during the Inquisition
  • travel in 1492 - overland? ships on the Meditteranean? passports, papers, etc. between countries?
  • foods readily available when travelling on foot across Spain - loquats? oranges? berries? fish?
  • flora and fauna in Spain in 1492
  • Columbus' journey - ports and dates
  • Judaism in 1492
  • other major events in 1492 - art, books, etc.
  • daily schedule in a monastery
  • holy days in Judaism and Catholicism throughout the year
  • moon phases 
Some of these items never made it into the story -- especially the meteorites! I don't even remember what the nun question referred to!

I wrote at the time: "I was pleasantly surprised to see that, after I had written it as taking place on a Tuesday, I found out that Columbus really did sail on a Tuesday!"

That's the best part about writing research -- the serendipitous synchronicity of what you're looking for and what you learn. Another recent one was when I took a current ecclesiastical building near our village and turned it into a girls' school in the 1930s -- only to discover that that's exactly what this building had once been!

Finally, I once had a post called Help! Can You Identify This Item? Here's the item in question:

On display at the Talbott Tavern, Bardstown, Kentucky

What's been your favourite research item?
Have you had serendipitous research moments?


Karen Baldwin said…
Your research on Druid's Moon looks fascinating. You obviously keep very good notes. Wish I was that organised. And isn't it fun with serendipity comes into our lives? Oh, and the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw that metal thingy is...a medical torture dildo. But that would be absurd, I know.
Hi Deniz - well you've given yourself this research ... I know I've sent ideas re the Scottish dialect ... there are certainly one or two bloggers from Scotland who might be able to help further.

That 'thing' looks something out of an aircraft that crash landed - what exactly I don't know ... perhaps a propeller shaft?

Well done on completing the A-Z ... take care and good luck with all your projects - cheers Hilary
Crystal Collier said…
Awesome. Anything historically based is instantly mind-grabbing, but that meteorite one totally surprised me. Very cool! My weirdest research was for a spy book and regarded melting a body. Lovely, eh?
Nancy Gideon said…
Oh, I have serious research envy now! It's always been my favorite part of writing. I've had a scrap of fact launch plots on more than one occasion. Oh, and that time flying is in the eye and age of the beholder. Ask the toddler. They think it takes forever for everything.
Nicola said…
Lots of research going on there. I'd love to research marriages and actually attend them all. I love a good wedding. I did attend a Greek wedding once. It was amazing - over 600 guests (that was considered small) and my life, they know how to celebrate. I'll never forget the experience. Great post, Deniz.
That's a lot of research. Some of that you can save for the next book or two.
dolorah said…
Feels like you got a college education with all that?
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks all! Isn't researching all these things fascinating? And there's always a new topic waiting round the corner...
Holy crap that's a lot of research. See, that's why I like writing over-the-top fantasy, so I can just make everything up. :-P
Deniz Bevan said…
Ooh, worldbuilding! Yes, that's the way to go! But I'd want to be as good as Tolkien and worry that I wasn't...
DMS said…
Lots of interesting research topics! I have done quite a bit of research that never showed up in my writing. I have also used the research I have done and then later edited out those parts. Still, always interesting to learn new things. :)
Jemi Fraser said…
So many cool things to learn and know! I always learn a whole lot more than what makes its way into the story too. But I still like learning it :)
Wow, those are thorough lists! Your questions at the top intrigue me about what kind of story you're writing. Good luck!
Nick Wilford said…
Looks like your research is very intensive! Great stuff. I'd like to visit the Isle of Lewis too... As for Scottish books, you could try Ian Rankin's Rebus novels (set in Edinburgh). It's not a major level of slang, but there's a few words in there.
Nas said…
Awesome Deniz. Your research sounds fascinating!
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks, all!
I just wrote a short story and every time I start something new I hope there will be less research, or that it will be about things I know already, and it never happens! Now I need to know about hybrid buses, nuclear winters, and how long canned food lasts...
I tried reading the first Rebus book once, but couldn't get into it -- that was a long time ago, think I'll try again!