Wicked Wednesday – Wicked Fun Research

It’s Wicked Wednesday again, and today we’re weighing in on a wicked fun type of research. Every now and then as we’re writing along, murdering people and getting our characters into all kinds of dangerous situations, we inevitably find ourselves describing a physical situation that is hard to imagine simply in our heads. So, Wickeds, when that happens, what do you do? Ask your spouse if you can push them (gently, of course) down the stairs? Enlist a friend to put you in a choke hold? Come on, ‘fess up! And what other kinds of fun research do you do for your stories?

Edith: All of the above. In addition, I visit chickens every chance I get and talk to people who keep them so I can get the details on farmer Cam’s rescue chickens correct.

I’ve just finished the first draft of an historical novel set in my town, with John Greenleaf BuggyWhittier as a secondary character, so I’m involved in research I can only confirm through old newspapers, property deeds, maps, and all manner of other sources. But material is everywhere. I went down to our local health center to have blood drawn, and sitting in the waiting room was a carriage from the period I’m writing about, the late 1800s. Of course I grabbed a pen and wrote a description of it. I’m a member of the Whittier Home Association and can wander through Whittier’s house, look at his desk, check out the accurately maintained herb garden, and best, talk to a dozen or two Whittier fans who know way more than I do (and one of whom will be reading a draft for me).

Liz: The good news is that I’m a klutz by nature. So when I needed to figure out how someone would land after a fall down the stairs, all I had to do was go back to the numerous times I’ve tumbled down on my own. Including one banner episode in my younger days where I not only fell down half the flight of stairs, but off the side with no banister in my parents’ basement and landed amidst my mother’s potato bin. Does that count?

Lobsterboat2Barb: Writing about coastal Maine, my research is often complicated by seasonality. I need to see blueberries picked, but it’s the dead of winter. I need to go to a clambake (yes my life is hard) but it hasn’t opened yet. For the next book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series, Musseled Out, I hitched a ride on a lobster boar with Captain Clive Farrin. You should totally do this if you are ever in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, by the way. It’s beautiful and informative and Captain Farrin and his sternman answered all my questions. Oh, how I suffer for my art.

ChairYSSherry: Oh, you poor thing, Barb! Since I’m writing a series with a garage sale theme I can indulge myself by considering going to them “work”. This week I’m visiting my mom in Florida. I headed out to run errands for her and after two right turns, there it was a yard sale sign beckoning to me with its siren song. I had to go. Sadly, for me (and happily for my husband who isn’t crazy about my habit) all of the things I liked were way too big for my suitcase. I had a lovely conversation with the man running the yard sale. His wife refinishes furniture or puts old things together in a new way — a skill I admire and lack!

clock_towers_of_waterbury_hJulie: I can get stuck in research. Right now, I am putting notes in my manuscript that say **find this out** so I don’t stop writing to find out something specific that turns into a three hour Google gorge. But two pieces of research are overarching for me right now. First, I am looking at and finding clock towers. And I am going to the Clock Museum this summer while I’m on vacation. Second, I need to figure out how to map a town. How long does it take Ruth to go to this house, or that store? What makes the journey’s different? And how does that impact the story? Again, right now I am working with a line drawing. But more details need to be sorted out. And I need to add a food element so I can do some research on that.

Jessie: I’ve ended up researching lots of different sorts of things because I write more than one series. In my first book, Live Free or Die, the main character is a volunteer sap buckets farm museumfire fighter and I was lucky enough to interview three different firefighters to help that story come alive.  I’ve interviewed sugar makers and conservation officers for my Sugar Grove series. Right now I am working on a historical series and have really enjoyed reading up on the late 1800s, visiting museums and interviewing the town historian in the place I am setting a new series.

One of my favorite ways to assemble my research thoughts is visually. So much of what I do as a writer, of course, uses words. Images feel like such a luxurious break and I like to use Pinterest to help me remember things and to imagine extravagantly.

Readers: What kind of research have you done? Was it fun or painful? Ask a Wicked a question about ours!

Show and Tell — Favorite Summer Beverages

It’s almost time for school to start so we decided to do our own Show and Tell.

Liz: I have a feeling some of my Wicked sisters (no pun intended) are going to discuss yummy adult beverages, so I’m going to go the healthy route. I got a new raw, organic smoothie book this week and I’m in love with it – and I’ve been trying new recipes nonstop. smoothiebookMy new summer favorite is the Summertime Anytime Watermelon + Mango recipe. If you have a Vitamix, you know how easy this will be – if you don’t, no worries – you can use any type of blender. You’ll need:

1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup almonds
4-6 ounces watermelon chunks
10-12 ounces frozen mango
1 banana
6 small kale leaves (no stalks)
Spring or coconut water
Ice if you like slushy

Grind flax and almonds in a dry blender to desired texture. Add watermelon, mango, banana, kale. Add water to get moving, add additional water as desired. Blend in ice for consistency. Kick back and enjoy summer in a cup!

Edith: In the time-honored tradition of showing, not telling, here goes.

The farmer finished the afternoon’s work of weeding, staking, harvesting. Despite the oppressive heat, the afternoon light already hinted of autumn and winter’s snows to follow. She added a few cubes of ice to a short, wide tumbler and drew the squat green bottle from the freezer. The cold-thickened liquid eased halfway up the side of the glass. She unscrewed the top of a fresh bottle of tonic water and letgin and tonic the bitter anti-malarial bubble into the rest of the space. The tropical tang of the lime as she sliced it tickled her nostrils and made her long for Key West. Settling into a deck chair, she raised the gin and tonic and toasted the sunset and summers to come.

IMG_3518Sherry: Hmmmm, methinks Liz knows us all to well! I like a gin and tonic as well as anyone but a friend of mine has me hooked on lemonade and vodka! It’s refreshing and summery! Pour a glass of  ice cold lemonade, add a shot of vodka and voila–it’s summer!

Barb: Liz does know us too well! I’m normally a wine drinker, but in tropical climates and summer anywhere, I’ve also been known to go for a margarita (not frozen, with salt) or a mojito. When my husband and I went to Cuba in January, at the resort we stayed at, everything was “inclusive” including the mojitos! I have to admit I got a little carried away.

proseccoMy go-to drink for the summer is prosecco. Due to over-exposure to cheap champagne in my early twenties, I was convinced I didn’t like sparkling wines. Then a family friend who owns a liquor store sold us a few cases of prosecco for a party, and I was all in. I love the delicious, dry, bubbly taste. Plus sparkling wines are the lowest in calories and carbs–just sayin’!

Jessie:I love my husband’s caipirinha’s with lime and cachaca but my absolute favorite drink for hot

Black Currant Vodka Tonic

weather is a Black Currant Vodka and Tonic. I make the flavored vodka at home by adding black currants to the vodka and leaving them to steep for a couple of weeks. Once the vodka is ready I pour a finger or two to the bottom of a tall glass and add tonic water. Crisp, slightly bitter, bubbly and totally thirst quenching. Plus, I love the color!

Julie: I am a summer sangria fan. And though I love sangriathis picture, I actually like red sangria. And with lots of fruit that is really a part of the drink, not just dropped in.

Readers: What’s your favorite summer drink? How about your favorite drink in a mystery? Or the one that most easily disguises a poison, perhaps?