Oh The Things You’ll Research!

It’s funny the crazy things you come up with to research when you’re writing. I’ll admit when I’m doing Draft 1, especially during NaNo, I’m not really paying much attention to really in-depth detail. Unless I’ve really planned ahead and done the work ahead of time. I’m just trying to get the info down. So when I can do a quick Google search and find what I’m looking for in a nice, easy-to-use bit, that just makes my day. I can get back to writing and not have to waste hours researching.

That is, after all, a constant threat to productivity. All it takes is one or two searches, and suddenly you’re off on research for the next 2+ hours, wondering why your word count isn’t going anywhere.

Well not this gal! (At least not today…)

Here are some of the amusing things I’ve had the pleasure of researching the last few days, and what I’ve learned.


Archaic Medical Terms

I never had an appreciation for just how many words meant ‘alcoholic’ until I looked over this list. It includes everything from Brandy Face and Brandy Nose, to Blue Devils and Barrel Fever. It’s really a good example of how different practitioners in different areas of the world came up with multiple terms for the same affliction. You take for granted that everybody calls it the same thing today.

They say that the number of words you use to describe something in a language symbolizes just how important it is to that culture. If that’s the case, alcohol was incredibly important.


Gambling in Japan

Did I mention I’m working on a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan fiction piece for Camp NaNo this July? I don’t want to give too many details, but the job for one of the characters was to work as a dealer in a casino. Unfortunately I found out that casinos are illegal in Japan. Who knew? It apparently keeps coming up as a possibility to get passed, and has a good amount of popularity, but it keeps getting struck down. So I had flub my story a bit so that it would work.

I wanted to make sure that the world was plausible. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, but I didn’t want the reader to have to stretch too far to see that it could happen. What I thought was interesting was this:

On April 4, 2011, Shintaro Ishihara, the current Tokyo Governor, have spoken against the pachinko parlours, arguing that the popular game together with vending machines eat up about 1000kWh. He said that following the consequences the earthquake of March 11, 2011, the government asked people to reduce energy consumption, but asking wasn’t enough and the government order should have been enacted.


(Pulled from Wikipedia. I know not the best resource in the world, but I thought the idea was interesting.)

I guess I never really considered just how much energy a casino would waste. I don’t really live near one, and have never visited one either, but I can guess that Las Vegas is probably an enormous power house. Especially when you consider that it can be seen from outer space.


Seriously that is Vegas at Night. It looks like it’s surrounded by ocean instead of desert.

So I can totally understand why the current Tokyo Governor is not wanting them put in.

(But I can do what I want in fiction, right?)

They Rocked into Germany

I’ve wanted to post about this for a little while, simply because I’m a big fan of history, and an even bigger fan of fighting battles without drawing blood. This whole story epitomizes that:

When an Army of Artists Fooled Hitler


I like to feel the base when I ride to battle!

I know what you’re thinking: you can’t simply rock your way into Mordor, but that’s totally what they did. Just with the sound of an army instead of amazing guitar riffs. Oh and the tanks they had with them on this super dangerous & secret mission? Inflatable. These folks must have had the nerve of steel to do this, and they carried it out without a hitch for a full year.

I can’t even imagine the guts that would take. On top of that, their 20 operations throughout the war are estimated to have saved 15,000 – 30,000 U.S. lives, not to mention the lives of other nations.

There’s just so much I love about this concept: a high-stakes situation being played on a bluff. I know there are plenty of stories like this in history, including the fake movie in the Iranian hostage crisis, the cleverness of spies during the Civil War, among countless others; but it’s great to see what a mixture of ingenuity, artistic talent, and guts can accomplish. It’s a testament to the fact that big problems can be solved with a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Sometimes I think it feels easier to take the obvious action instead of betting on a dangerous side-route, especially when you’re dealing with something as big as World War II.

In plenty of stories that I write, I tend to lean toward characters that are not at all what they appear to be. I’ve made a werewolf pretend to be the victim of a vampire to fool an old man, and turned a cute baby into a coarse detective’s worst partner. It’s important to see that there are plenty of things that shouldn’t be taken at face value in life, but it’s also necessary to imagine: What if?

You never know if you’ll be cherry picked to paint the super top secret project of creating an inflatable tank.

Plotting for Camp

I felt all old-school yesterday pulling out a pencil and notecards to start jotting down plot points for my Camp NaNo novel. Normally I use Scrivener for all of my plotting and planning. Instead I pulled up my Scrivener project and worked on character templates while I started writing out cards. Sometimes having a pencil and paper really helps you get your ideas down.

I’ve always considered myself more of a pantser and I would have merely a smidgeon’s idea of a plot at this point in the game. I thought that was what I had yesterday, until I started writing out notecards. I must have ended up with at least ten or more plot pieces, and the storyline wasn’t even completed. All of that stuff I had figured out in my head, but writing it down gave it permanence. I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to start with come Monday, but it looks like I’m more than ready for next month.

Once again I love the character templates they provide in Scrivener. They’re pretty simple, but really helped me pin down a few of these characters. I have a bit more planning ahead of me before I’ll feel fully comfortable diving in come Monday, but overall I think this is the most prepared I’ve been before writing a novel.

I guess we’ll see how well that works out! I’ll be posting my regular updates on here as I make progress throughout the month, so expect many more posts on the way.

Leaving with a bit of inspiration for my fellow Campers out there.



Maps and Trains of the 1880s

So a few nights ago I did a whole bunch of research for my NaNo novel, a supernatural adventure tale set in 1880s New Orleans. I had to figure out of what kind of method they would use to travel from the location I left off in the last book, a city in Texas, to New Orleans. Now that sounds a lot easier than it actually was.

I knew they would be traveling by train. That much I had figured out, but the details were still nagging at me. How long would that take? What kind of seating does an overnight train have? Would they have their own little cubby hole or would they need to be mindful of people sitting close around them?

Considering the “special needs” of my main characters, these were very important facts to know. Luckily I have the internet, and there are all sorts of details if you have the time and patience to go sorting through it.

  • LA & New Orleans Maps – Louisiana and New Orleans maps for as far back as 1722, complete with one that shows just how devastating the fire of 1788 was to the city. I have a feeling I’ll be referencing this one a bunch.
  • Absolute Write Water Cooler – When is this site *not* on your resource listing? Some excellent resources and links here that really helped me pinpoint my research. Having a timeframe for train travel, and more importantly knowing what tracks were in use when, I discovered was absolutely essential.
  • Missouri Pacific Railroad Map – I hate to say it, but I don’t quite remember where I picked this image up from. It was early in my researching, and you end up following different links, you know how it is. I think it might have been from Central Pacific Railroad Museum site, but I can’t recall. Anyway, it’s a huge file, so I’ve linked it on the side.
  • Rails West – Another cool site that helped me get a handle on how long a typical train ride would be. Apparently it would take 7 days to go across country, but often there would be a stopover location for a day or two. This site also helped me figure out the sleeping arrangements in 1880s train travel: Pullman Sleepers.

The Pullman Sleepers were pretty fascinating, and how they were configured would greatly impact the storyline. Here is a good example:

Those large glass cases over the head? They fold out into beds, like so:

Kind of amazing to see the kind of close quarters you would have to take during that time period. We have a much different definition of personal space these days. Of course the really updated version looked far more like something we would expect to see these days:

Anyway that’s all I have for today. Just random interesting tidbits from my latest writing! You never know where it’ll take you, am I right?

Update 9/2019 – I noticed a lot of the images in this post were broken since they were posted on Photobucket ages ago. So I’ve transferred them over to my main site for hosting. This is one of my most visited posts on my site after all these years, so I’m hoping this helps!