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?
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