Adult Truth #15

#15I think the freezer deserves a light as well.”

Why not? Illumination certainly would make finding that long forgotten frozen bagged hunk of round steak you placed in there eight months ago an easier task. This is one of those questions that nobody has taken the time to answer.

How does this truth relate to writing? Again, you’ll have to stretch your imagination a bit, and use your creativity. When I read this I thought of freezers and lights and my mind leaped to exploring the world around us. Somebody had to make an observation and take note of it. A freezer doesn’t have a light. At least most don’t. My sister’s does, but her fridge and freezer is so crammed with stuff even she doesn’t know what’s in there and a light makes no difference because she hasn’t taken the time to explore and to throw away things. For example both she and her hubby know the six pack of beer has been expired for over a year but I guess they’re trying for the world’s record of how long they can keep cans of beer. On one of my visits I excavated two packages of beef sticks she thought had gone bad. They hadn’t and I snarfed one package by myself.

Anyway, I wanted to discuss exploring the world around you. For years I’ve explored. I drive down country roads and dirt roads and dead end roads until they prove to BE dead ends. I’ve unintentionally (and a few times intentionally) trespassed to see where the road led. One example of my exploring is the time I was coming home from Iowa City. I lived in Oskaloosa so I knew my destination. I knew the boundary roads of Highway 92 to the south, Interstate 80 to the north, and U.S. Highway 63 to the west. Whenever I encountered the southern or western boundary roads, I could just drive straight into Oskaloosa. Within that ‘box’ I could explore, usually by driving west until the first turn south, then south until the next turn west and so on. Country roads, paved roads, whatever.

Unfortunately, this trip occurred a day or two after a pretty good rain had passed through so some of the roads were muddy and some of the creeks running high. I don’t recall what small town I’d passed through before turning south again, this time onto a greasy road where my Olds Omega’s tires were getting little to no traction. I’d gone about a half mile and wound up looking at a high creek running over the road. I couldn’t risk traversing it so I turned around-barely-and headed back. But the tires were gaining no ground and about three hundreds yards from my goal, I had used a little too much pressure on the accelerator, gunning the engine and blew a gasket. What a mess. The tow truck driver wasn’t about to risk getting stuck and I was rescued by a farmer who drove his tractor in, hooked up a chain, and pulled me out.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson.

January 1, 2012, long about 2 am. I’m driving home from a friend’s house in Des Moines after a party and decide to do the zigzag route again. I knew my boundary roads but only got as far as Carlisle before I ran into trouble. I’d upgraded (ha!) from a Olds through several other cars to a glorified paperweight otherwise known as a Chevy Tracker. On the south side of Carlisle, just north of Highway 5, there is a road that leads out of town. And, just my luck, ran out of the right to be called a proper road. The entire area is a floodplain, made that way by Mother Nature. I descended from crest into pure mud since the previous year’s winter was warm and a little rainy. I managed to get about an eighth of a mile before giving up but, unfortunately, couldn’t get turned around and wound up half in the ditch.

However, I wasn’t the only fool out on the roads that night. Two other dumbheads had tried the same road before me and also wound up stuck. They were in worse condition because they were farther along. So, I walked back into town through ankle high mud and fifty mile per hour winds (which had knocked over the ROAD CLOSED sign) to call my friend to come pick me up.

My experience had a happy ending, though. The next morning when my dad (who was staying with friends in Des Moines) drove me back out there, we discovered that the mud had frozen over enough I could, with a little pushing, drive out without the help and the cost of a tow.

But this New Year’s experience netted me a scene for the next Mallory Petersen story. She will also get stuck out on that same stretch of road trying to follow an adulterer.

In Mallory’s second novel, Alpha, the climactic scene takes place at the Des Moines rail yard. The setting where I have the bad guys and good guys meet is a real place and I discovered it by, ahem, going where I wasn’t supposed to go but was only informed later that it was an indiscretion by a railroad representative who refused to assist me further in my research. Nuts to him, though, because I obtained what I wanted from other people. There is a dirt maintenance road on the perimeter of the rail yard and it dead ends under the East 30th Street bridge. I love the neighborhood and it was perfect for my story.

So I encourage you to explore your world. Don’t be afraid to drive down a lonely looking road or a dirt track. You might make a wonderful discovery or the experience may spark an idea for a story.

Sure, you run the risk of being the next victim of the mutated cannibals living in the shack by the swamp, but seriously, what are the odds?

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Food for Thought – Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse

Johnny's Italian SteakhouseJohnny’s Italian Steakhouse

6075 Mills Civic Parkway

West Des Moines, IA 50266

Phone: 515-333-5665 Fax: 515-309-3359

6800 Fleur Dr.

Des Moines, IA 50321

Phone: 515-287-0847 Fax: 515-287-0850

……………………………………..

Today we find Lori Campisi back home after a Friday night out after a long, tedious case. She is speaking through her encoded video conferencing software to her contact back in Washington, D.C.

“How ya doin’ Fox!” John Hundt said. He threw his arms wide and his feet dangled off the high backed chair. Lori saw nothing but shadows behind him but knew he faced an array of monitors. She probably interrupted one of his video games.

“Mr. Hundt,” Lori acknowledged. She had long ago stopped cringing whenever he called her Fox but still just tolerated when he called her ‘baby’.

“Did my information help you nab the bank babes?”

Yesterday, she received the dossier on one Lucy ‘Lucifer’ Lynn Kiger who claimed to be Satan’s mistress. She ran a coven of witches. While not busy making sacrifices to their evil leader, they robbed banks. One per month for the last four months. Hundt had sent background information for the coven’s other robberies in Kansas and Florida.

“Yes, it was very helpful, although the arrests weren’t enjoyable.”

“I would have loved to have been in on the capture.”

“No doubt,” she said and gave a wry smile.

Every police force who had previously investigated knew the pattern. Two days after each robbery, officials discovered the ground in clearings in local state parks. Lori was able to narrow down the choices and mustered the necessary forces so that after the most recent robbery, They capture and arrested the coven…dancing naked around a lit pentagram.

“You’re back late,” Hundt said.

“I went out for dinner,” she said. “I wanted some place quiet with a serene atmosphere.”

“Did you find such a place?”

“Yes…and no. Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse. There are two locations in Des Moines. I visited the one on Mills Civic Parkway about a mile from the interstate. Backside of the Holiday Inn.”

“So what was it like?”

“Very low illumination. Abstract paintings. Deep set booths. Very elegant.”

“You still sound disappointed, baby. What happened?”

She sighed. “I realize that society has changed. People used to get dressed to go out, especially if they planned on going to a fancy place. Now…well, the family seated next to me were casually dressed and I don’t mind casual. But the teenage daughter wore frayed jean shorts.”

“Not very haute couture.”

“Hardly. I also didn’t get much of the peacefulness I desired. The large family at another table had two young children, one of whom babbled and squeaked and gurgled sounds that I expect from animals. She didn’t seem to understand her mother’s shushing her. I tried to listen to the Italian-Americanized-music.”

“Too bad. How was the food?”

“I knew going in it was going to be expensive. They did have a variety of Italian style appetizers. Betta Bruschetta, Zucchini Fries, and Famous Iron Skillet Potatoes to name a few. I suspect the latter choice I gave you was a fancy way to say ‘hashbrowns with cheese’.

Hundt laughed. “Italian diner.”

“I chose the Calimari for ten dollars. The menu also had several soups and salads, of course, but their main entrees were the steaks. Johnny’s Bone-In Ribeye, 18 ounce, for $33. Drunken steak, which was

Top sirloin marinated in Samuel Adams® & special herbs, garlic cream sauce. Stuffed Pork Chops. Johnny’s Veal Sinatra: Veal sautéed with shrimp, crab meat, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic and light cream sauce.

“What did you have?”

The Char-broiled Ribeye. Twelve ounces for $25. I ordered it medium but it ran the gamut from medium-rare to medium-well. I was offered only one side with a loaded potato costing extra. I chose the mixed vegetables. I keep expecting the vegetables to have some taste, but I think every restaurant orders from the same place. Or else they all have a standard way of cooking them. The steak was good, though with more fat than I would have liked.”

“It sounds like you had an average experience for a ritzy place.”

She shrugged. “My waitress was very attentive and the other waiters I overheard at other tables seem to act friendly toward the patrons.”

“What are your plans for the rest of the evening?”

“A hot shower and early to bed.”

“Would you like to join me in battling underground leviathans threatening mankind? I just picked up the 3-D version. I could easily tie you in to the home base here?”

“You know I deal with enough actual supernatural monsters as it is. I don’t need to blast some virtual demons to smithereens.”

“Leviathans,” he corrected. “Not demons.”

“Good night, John.”

Pleasant dreams, baby!”

And she signed off to go do what she promised. A shower and sleep.

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Chapters – II

C02It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons. I often need to buy things during ‘siesta’ time-this should be banned.”

I’m sure if the person had spoken to the mayor, he would have made a new law right then and there. Sheesh!

***

This brings up the topic of schedules. Since the move back in October, ’13 to a bigger city (well, a suburb of a metropolitan area) and a new job, my schedule has been rearranged. At the time of this writing most of my weeknights could be occupied with activities.

Monday – relatively free

Tuesday – a regular writers group that I had joined back in 2000

Wednesday – my taekwondo club’s class in Oskaloosa

Thursday – the Marion County Writers Workshop

Plus working the night shift at the Holiday Inn Express five or more nights per week. Plus, Sisters in Crime on the third Saturday of each month. Plus, taekwondo activities on a lot of weekends.

Also, I started online courses so evening activities save for the Thursday night group, has been curtailed while I hit the books.

So when do I find time to read and write? Good question. Again, at the time of this writing I’m between semesters so the evenings are free. I’m catching up on shows and visiting the Monday through Thursday places.

Work is where I’m busier than at the previous two establishments. More people, more night audit responsibilities. However, I make sure all my work is done and find time to eek out a chapter or so on some nights. Downtime from the regular duties are taken up by bits of cleaning and catching up on some of my books, mostly listening to audio books.

Writing at home is difficult with the myriad distractions. Food, the cat, the Internet so easy to access.

Discipline is the key.

I love my days off-or nights off as it were-but they sometimes mess with my sleep schedule. If I don’t have commitments I tend to sleep a lot when I want to be doing other things. I make a vow to find time to write, but, naughty me, I usually don’t.

Discipline is the key. I have to make time to write. I have to make time to reach my goal. People are asking me about my next book and I keep telling them I’m working on them. I am. It’s a slow process but the writers groups keep me motivated.

Where do you find or make time to write?

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Determination

DeterminationThis is along the lines of perseverance but I think where perseverance tends to lean toward trying and not giving up, determination comes before.

If you persevere for something, you are going to try and try, overcome whatever obstacle in your path. Tagging along with this can be a determination-al mindset that you are determined-dedicated-to reach your goal.

However, I view determination as riding higher than perseverance. It sits above and is the constant factor after the achievement is committed to. You have said, “I’m going to achieve this.” This stays with you throughout the journey. You may have problems. You have setbacks or delays, but you’ve already made up your mind that you are going to succeed.

At the time of this writing I had made a determination, at the end of 2013, to finish the edits/rewrites/revisions for three stories and to be ready to submit them within the calendar year of 2014. That’s a hefty goal. However, I already had all three manuscripts completed and much already edited.

Night of Wine and Ghosts – I finally was able to create a catalyst for the events in the story. The plot had been missing this vital factor for years. I had one, but not one strong enough to enjoy and on which to expand.

Delta – I need to add a few more scenes, change the time line a bit, and then hit it hard for basic editing.

New Year Gone – My dream would be to add about 20-30,000 more words but I’m not sure where. I don’t want to add obvious filler. The story is basically complete as is but I’m not sure if it’s lengthy enough to be accepted.

I made the above determination because I felt I had been fooling around, jumping from story to story and not accomplishing anything. Of course one of my setbacks was a five month stint in a camper trailer and a screwy work schedule. Since October of 2013 I’ve been back among friends and familiar territory and even though I’m still busy at work, I will find time to write.

I will. I’ve made that determination. Even with online course which will take up evenings, I will write. I’m back with my cool writers group and have brought along a friend who also enjoys the quality of the group. This group, as much as anything, will keep me persevering. But I made the determination of my goal.

Yes, I know it will be tough but I’m going to give it my best shot.

What have you determined are your goals? How are they progressing?

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Toys

toysThere are times that I don’t enjoy being an adult. Sometimes I want to be a child again.

I get this feeling whenever I read a book with a child in it playing with a toy.

See, that’s the key word. Toy. Sometimes, I don’t like the word. It brings back an aching nostalgia. Two years away from being fifty, I miss my childhood toys. My bunny, play pistols, Tonka toys, trucks and cars, rocket ships, puzzles, games. Okay, I gave my toy cars away as a Christmas present one year to my niece. I don’t regret doing so, just, sometimes I miss them.

I miss playing like a child. I regret the broken toys because I am sad they broke. I didn’t understand their worth. I understand today the worth of those old toys. The Lincoln Logs, the pinball machine, the drum set, even something as simple as a baseball and glove. Playing catch with dad. Going up to the football field with him to shoot off the model rockets. Putting puzzles together with mom. Playing board games and making up skits with my sister.

I see a toy today and I think that some kid will enjoy this…for a little while. The old idea is true, that kids get a new toy, play with it for awhile, then get bored and forget it. It ends up dusty and ignored at the bottom of a box. It’s the same with any toy that comes out of a vending machine, a cereal box, or given away with fast food meals.

I love my nieces and it may sound strange, but I don’t like shopping for Christmas presents for them. I know they are happy with the gifts, but I don’t like to buy toys. The kind of toys I mentioned above, that get forgotten. I don’t even like going into the toy store anymore. It’s too depressing. I can’t stand to pass a mom and child walk through the toy store with the kid gawking and wanting everything he/she sees. It’s too depressing. To hear a child whine and cry because he/she is refused that one cool looking toy is too heartbreaking. I just want to explain to the kid, “Don’t you understand?” Sigh!

I don’t know. Maybe that’s what you do. You buy things knowing they’ll be left someplace, forgotten, not played with after a period of times. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I cherish the very few times I was able to spend with the older nieces playing with them and their toys. Stickers and games and the entire wardrobe of Barbie accessories. (Sorry, but the doll makers really need to make those damn shoes so they stay on Barbie’s feet.) Doing an art project with Rebecca and having to apologize for my clumsiness with scissors. Putting a puzzle together with Jessica.

Maybe I’m the only one to feel this way. I don’t want my nieces to grow up and not know what their childhood was worth. I’m not saying I regret mine or wish it were different. I wish, however, that I knew the value of it at the time so that I could have enjoyed it that much more because of that knowledge. It’s why I sometimes want to go back, to be a child again. To draw with crayons or shoot imaginary bad guys coming down the stairs. To race cars around the room. To play with my old toys and not to forget or discard them.

I think I’ll stop now or else I may get tears on my keyboard. My heart aches enough as it is.

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Gray’s Lake Author’s Fair

Yes, yes, another event that happened almost two months ago. See what you missed? Mark your calendar for next year – September 26 at the Brenton Skate Plaza.

Sunday, September 21.

Sunny day. Nice view of Gray’s Lake.

SAM_0090

 

Nearly 40 authors. Walkers and joggers and bicyclists and dogs, dogs, dogs.

And windy.

SAM_0087

This was the first year for the Gray’s Lake Author’s Fair. We gathered on the south terrace with set up time at ten in the morning. Set up was a challenge. We were fifteen feet above the surface of the lake and the wind blew.

SAM_0086 SAM_0088

Each author brought his or her own table and chairs. Most everybody had tablecloths and the concept was strategic arrangement. Because the wind blew.

Some artists brought partitions from which they hung various pieces of art. During set up, one partition fell over…because the wind blew.

All day.

I thought about wearing a short sleeved shirt and tie but thought I might attract more people with my taekwondo uniform. I was glad I wore it because the sun was warm but the wind was cool.

214

However…it was a nice day with a steady trickle of people passing through.

We were entertained by jazzy, bluesy, big band-y, Don C. Brown who played two saxophones and flute (no, not at the same time).

SAM_0094

And authors. I met authors from Sioux City, one who traveled the world attending World Cup Soccer, and many friends I see often.

SAM_0089

Thanks to Larry Stumbo for putting this on. I hope we do this next year…where we can avoid the wind.

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Montezuma All Iowa Authors’ Conference

Oh my goodness, this was almost two months ago.”

Yeah, I know, but I’ve had other things come up so give me a break.

This event happened on September 20th of this year.

Year 5

This year saw a new location but the usual contingent of wonderful speakers. We met at the Community Grace Church’s new hall. Round tables were set up for authors selling books and everyone received binders and conference information.

SparkleAbbey-Photo-Web

First up was the pair known as Sparkle Abbey who spoke about needing conflict in stories.

kylie_brant

Kylie Brant spoke of some of her experiences in her writing career.

JocelynGreen

Jocelyn Green discussed a list of common mistakes novelists make.

scott-caweltiA8E282D44FBC Brother's Blood

Scott Cawelti had an interesting discussion on the writing of his book Brother’s Blood, which is about a true Iowa murder case.

ZacharyMichaelJack

Zachary Michael Jack held a discussion on exploring different genres and how ‘cross polination’ of genres might work. He also held two mini critique sessions after the conference for those who wanted to discuss works in progress.

donaldharstad

Donald Harstad, former Iowa police officer talked about cops and writing and promoted his latest novel, November Rain.

Door prizes were given away, including a Kindle Fire.

All in all a pretty good conference hosted by J.O. and Debbie Parker of Our Front Porch Books in Montezuma. Contact them for next year’s conference.

http://www.ourfrontporchbooks.com/

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Around The Globe With: Kathryn Daugherty

This morning I’m awakened early by this week’s featured author. It’s one of my friends from the weekly writers’ group I attend in Knoxville. Into the transporter we go and I set the destination controls and before we take off, she pushes a button on the side of the console, one I’ve never seen before.

Soon we’re in Nashville, at the Grand Ol’ Opry. But not just at the Opry, but the Opry as it celebrates 75 years. The year is 2000. Who knew the transporter could travel in time. (I begin to wonder if the dealer sold be an old TARDIS…)

I look at the musician scheduled to perform and they run the gamut from Barbara Mandrell to Garth Brooks, from Loretta Lynn to Vince Gil.

Anyway, on with the interview while I try to figure out if getting back to 2014 will be as easy as getting to 2000. Or maybe I should first find a few companies in which to invest…

1. Who are you and what make you the most fascinating person in your city?

I’m Kathryn Daugherty, an author who has written short stories and published one contemporary woman’s fiction novel A Case of Hearts. In my real life I’m married to a talented, generous, kindhearted man. He is my soul mate and is the basis for all my heroes in my fiction and otherwise. I’m a mother of five, two that are my natural children, three that are my children by choice. There are four handsome boys and one beautiful daughter. I’m a Grandmother of seven, six beautiful girls and one handsome boy. We have a German Wirehair pointer that is our only child living at home at this time of our life. We live on the Des Moines River and have the blessing of enjoying the beauty the area has to offer. Wildlife, eagles, the season’s change in the trees and fields. Living a life of peace and comfort.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret(unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t wish to reveal secrets, cause they’re secrets. I will say I do have a deep side, and a fun side. I love classic country music from the 70’s and 80’s. My favorites, George Strait, my husbands and my favorite song to dance to is “Amarillo by Morning”. Of course Garth Brooks, (Unanswered Prayers). Reba McIntire, (The Greatest Man I Never Knew). Country music is an inspiration for LOVE.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a rocket scientist?

Writing has been a lifelong passion, letters, journals, diaries. I’ve played around writing short stories and a few novels started and never finished in the bottom of desk drawers for several years. Didn’t get serious until 2005. Up until then I had worked in many careers. I think one time I figured up how many jobs I’d had in my working career and it was over 30 different positions. My favorite career is author. As far as a rocket scientist math and science, not so much, would be a terrible fit.

4. Writers are readers. With which authors would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I’ve been fortunate to share a meal with several of my favorite authors. The author of this blog being one, Stephen Brayton. Others include Lee Collins, Helen Boertje, Michael Van Netta, Carol Reed, Larry and Marilyn Brown, Charlotte Shivvers, Teresa and Bob Tallman, Katherine Hinkson, Jacque Leigh, Darlene Miller, Natalie Ogbourne, Robert Hutzell, Ashley Lovell, Cassie Den Hartog. All of the above are writers in the Marion County Writers Workshop. Eating and meeting with this group gives us all a sense of community. Writing is a solitary profession; meeting weekly with this group of writers is a breath of inspiration. Helping each other become better writers, an opportunity to make a difference. Other writers that I’ve enjoyed meeting with include, Wendy and Charles Siefken, Mike Daugherty, (no relation), Grace Augustine, so many writers encouraging writers.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book be great company?

My story “A Case of Hearts” is a story or Family, Friendship, and of course LOVE. My characters could be the neighbor next door, the shop owner down the street, or someone in your family. I’ll let a few of my review comments from the readers speak for the book. “Combination of romance and law,” “hope, faith and real life emotion,” “research makes story real,” “characters we care about” “romance without being graphic,” “book you can’t put down,” “touches on concept of doing what is right and caring about others,” “characters are engaging.” This makes “A Case of Hearts” great company.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

My story “A Case of Hearts” was started as a short story. The story grew out of my imagination When it came to the legal aspects of the story I wanted it to be right. I contacted a friend, Laura Folkerts. Laura is an attorney and she graciously went through what I wrote of my legal proceedings. She corrected glaring errors and advised me of the proper procedures. She helped me make the legal part of my story real.

The novel I’m working on is set in Weeping Water, Nebraska. I’m making a trip in the near future to check out the community. I also have flashbacks to 1969, years I do remember. The story also has information about Vietnam so I’m doing extensive research to make sure I have the information correct.

In regard to character development, I want my characters to be real people so I observe and hope to capture genuine qualities of human nature. I outline to a point, then let the story develop at its own pace. I edit as I go mostly going back over each chapter several times. When I wrote “A Case of Hearts” it took over four years to write. The stack of paper in my rewrites stands three feet tall. Yes I do a lot of rewrites.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any Advice?”

My advice for someone who wants to write is to begin. Put the pen to paper and tell your story. Take classes on development and structure but tell the story you have to write.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

I believe we all have a purpose and we must pursue our dreams. I believe pennies we find on the street or in odd places come from the angels. I believe that LOVE is the answer to many questions. I believe we must all “Remember Who We Are” when we leave home.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

My next story is a parallel story of a thirty-something and a sixty-something woman who meet on a plane and find their lives intertwined. The past comes to haunt and preserve their future. The working title: “She Promised Her Heart”.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

My website is http://www.kathryndaugherty.com you will find short stories and my blog “Thoughts from My Window on the River”.

A Case of Hearts can be purchased at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/A-Case-Hearts-Kathryn-Daugherty/dp/0985807792/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414732406&sr=8-1&keywords=a+case+of+hearts

Barnes and Noble online http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-case-of-hearts-kathryn-daugherty/1116744609?ean=9780985807795 or her website http://www.kathryndaugherty.com or by visiting http://www.thewriteplace.biz/bookstore/product/36-a-case-of-hearts

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Research Rejection, Part III


rejection 3I posted the idea for this blog on Facebook wanting some comments and asking if other authors had experienced rejection. My thanks to David Schlosser and Bob Dunbar who responded with an example each. I can’t make up this stuff so I’ll let them tell their short stories in their own words:


david schlosserDavid Schlosser:
I once wrote a scene in which a veterinarian sedates a bad guy and contacted the head of the US association of veterinary anesthetists to conduct research. He was polite and responsive until I asked what sort of chemical cocktail a vet would have access to in a vet clinic that would knock out a human. Then he said (IMHO, wisely, though it hadn’t occurred to me until he said), “Because I don’t know you, I don’t think I should answer that question.”

bob dunbarBob Dunbar: When I was doing research for my novel about the Alamo, a colonel in the Mexican army refused to allow me access to their archives, claiming that the Mexican army had never massacred anyone at any time during its history.

FBILogoNo, we authors don’t have it easy when it comes to research. When trying to find out information on child pornography I called the FBI. I repeatedly said I wasn’t involved with it, didn’t want to be involved with it, had zero interest in other than some facts to put in a story. I wonder if I ended up on a watch list anyway.

Osky-PD

When I talked to the Oskaloosa police regarding heroin for Mallory’s next adventure, again I made it clear several times I didn’t want the drug, didn’t want to sell the drug, didn’t want to be involved with the drug, and had no plans to buy any quantity. I just needed information.

Since I don’t want to end this on a low note, let me highlight some successes.

One of the best two interviews I had were with a nurse and a counselor who provided me loads of material on addiction. Both will receive a mention on the acknowledgments page and probably a signed book.

BlankParkZoo

Another great adventure was had with a friend from high school who helped me ‘do the zoo’ for a future story. She definitely will receive a free book.

As I mentioned I put people I meet into my books in some fashion. Many writers do this. I hear stories and live through experiences that I remember, write down, and save for future reference. A former landlord and some previous neighbor tenants are bound for a future story…and not as likeable people, but hey, it’s their own fault. Lol.

Advice to the general public: please help out a writer when asked. Watch how you act and what you say around writers. You might end up in a story…

Please share your research woes and wins below.

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Research Rejection, Part II

rejection 2My first rejection came from a rude secretary in the Quad Cities when I was driving the route Mallory took in Beta. I stopped at a plant that processed meat gelatin. (Yeah, sounds disgusting to me, too) When I asked the secretary if there was a PR person available she told me one didn’t exist. When I asked her who might help me, she said he wasn’t available. I gave her my name and contact information and I think she threw it in the trash when I left. Maybe she was upset that construction in the building was so loud or maybe ‘rude’ was her personality. Anyway, she ended up being rude to Mallory in the story.

My next stop was at the meat processors in downtown Davenport. The flustered receptionist was baffled at what I wanted, flapped a hand at an employee directory, and disappeared. When I spoke with the correct employee, she told me she couldn’t help me because of proprietary reasons. Again, I didn’t want to steal secrets, I just wanted general information on how the pig slaughtering process went. Nope, no go. I ended up speaking with a friend who worked in a similar plant in Ottumwa and he gave me the information and no corporate sabotage was committed. The flustered receptionist went into the book.

I put these next two rejections as one because they involved the same bit of research. For Alpha, I needed information about railroads and train cars. I knew someone who worked at a repair shop in Albia. I traveled all the way down there, saw the ‘Visitors Welcome’, elevated to the third floor, asked to speak to the employee and was told, curtly, no. No reason given, end of conversation. I should have given my information to pass along, but felt it probably would have also ended up in the trash. So much for the welcome sign.train

Then I visited the Des Moines rail yard with a friend. We took pictures of signs and trains and discovered a maintenance dirt road that ran along the north side and dead-ended under a bridge. I thought the location was the perfect spot for the climactic scene in Alpha. But I still needed specific information about trains. I stopped into an employee break room and was directed to another office where I was given a number to a representative in Omaha.

Back home I called the number, gave the guy my schtick, and happened to mention that I had visited the Des Moines location and that I had driven the maintenance road. He told me I had trespassed and to not do it again. Oops! Anyway, I emailed him a list of questions and he didn’t respond. Sigh! I ended up getting the information one morning from a former railroad worker who was a guest at the motel at which I worked.

Then there’s the latest one with the casino. I also called a local media representative since the woman I spoke with at the casino told me they worked with media, but although he didn’t outright reject me, he couldn’t offer the kind of assistance I wanted. Left to fend for myself, I discovered a bunch of factoids on my own via the Internet.

Of course, this means I can’t use the actual name of the casino/racetrack in the story. I do not want anything to come back upon me even though nothing bad happens in the chapter, no crimes committed. That’s okay, I’ve changed the names of other businesses.

Next week, I’ll present some examples of rejection from other authors.

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