Thursday, November 10, 2016

Duct Tape Escape and Other Writing Research Shenanigans

Book research can be crazy fun. Of course what you are researching plays a big role in that, as does if you are actually getting anywhere. I have a linguistics friend who totally gets her geek-on translating old parish records that are in Danish or Norwegian. I’ve tried this, not the translation part, simply trying to decipher the name, but my grasp of early Scandinavian penmanship sucks. The initial delight at finding those particular records quickly dimmed as my lack of ability to decode the historic scratches made that jack pot of information morph into teasing frustration. This woman rocks it, and loves it! She did decipher those records and I found out I have a Finnish great-grandma who immigrated to northern Norway.

So yes, my research super power is not making out historic handwritten records. I can watch equine events for hours on end, though. I’m talking double digits in the same day kind of time. I love that kind of research, studying and understanding whatever my topic is, picking up those nuances of details and tucking away in my visceral memory until I can sit down to write next. I can’t always swing it in person, mind you. For instance, horse events in southern Alberta are considerably more accessible to me that CSIS agents (i.e. Gabe from Kiss Me in the Rain’s previous career). And don’t get me started on how many hours I blow through when doing genealogy research. I get sucked in and promise myself just another few minutes. Usually four hours, and several rabbit holes later, I finally look up and notice how much time has passed.

Spy Tips
Last week another writer friend and I decided to do a bit of field testing on some CIA spy tips I found in the book Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life, by Jason Hanson. I came across the book when I was cruising the reference section at a local bookstore. It caught my eye for a few reasons. First of all throw spy secrets in the title of anything and it is going to sound pretty darn interesting. I often include agent and/or law enforcement types in my fiction and am always keeping an eye out for research material. Score. I’ve also started paying more attention to titles by current and/or former law enforcement types as I am collaborating with a homicide detective on a non-fiction universal life-lessons book. So yeah, this book jumped out at me like crazy.

Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life shares techniques and strategies to keep you alive while in dangerous situations that Hanson has learned on the job. Spy Secrets has been a fascinating read so far, if a bit dooms-day. But I figure that’s the point he was going for in his book, staying alive if shit hits the fan. For any of the fellow anthro-nerds out there who find the study of people and culture interesting, you might want to check it out for that, even if learning evasive driving is not on your bucket list.

Field Testing
As I mentioned before, I just started it, but there is a ton of information that a novelist could use in there. For instance, I was telling another author friend, Makenzi Fisk about it and shared I wanted to try the get-out-of-being-duct-taped part. She is a retired police officer and I figured she would dig it, or at least understand my awe at some of the maneuverers. Of course she said, “I have duct tape. Want to try it now?”
This is why authors schedule writing sessions with other authors. Because when cool stuff like this comes up, we have someone to try it with. The impromptu duct-tape session was a hoot. And successful, the first try anyway. It was pretty awesome ripping those binds. But for the second time Makenzi asked me to not keep my elbows together when she taped them, just to see the difference. I couldn’t get the angle to rip, I couldn’t get out! I did manage to squirm my hands out of them, but it demonstrated just how important it can be to follow those directions. Check out the video Makenzie made of our get-out-of-duct-tape escapades.

I hope you are never duct-taped for realsies, that this video simply gives you a few moments of entertainment or maybe some information to include within the pages of your next book.

Happy Researching!

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