If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Accidental Research Helps a Plot


Rosemary Krupar, a third grade teacher I taught with who has remained a friend, asked me if I’d like to go on a field trip on a day when there was no school. She’d set up three local stops with Matt Sorrick, a professor of science education from Hiram College who would lead and instruct the students in the world that exists in nature. Well, I didn’t have the time to give up a whole day, but I was too tempted by what seemed like a fun day to refuse her offer.

So last Friday we met in the school parking lot. Rosemary was there when I arrived as well as one student. Soon six more students came along with one father, who took the day off to experience this with his daughter, and Matt pulled up in the college van.  Everyone piled into the van while I followed in my car since the last stop was only about five miles from my home.

Our first stop was at the Monroe Orchard and Farm Market. It was far more interesting than I’d thought it would be. Sue Monroe told us everything we could possibly want to know about running a large orchard of fruit trees – 27 varieties of apples alone, as well as peaches, cherries and pears. They also grow raspberries and strawberries and have a large field of pumpkins, and they make maple syrup during maple syrup season. She gave us some of the history of the farm which has been in her husband’s family since 1938, but it was much older than that.

After we walked around a bit in the orchards we went inside through their selling area with so many delicious things to choose from. From there we entered the area where the apples are sorted and cleaned. Her daughter Amanda was working there. Amanda and her sister were former students of mine. She got a degree in botany and is now working in the family business in that capacity as well as doing other things that needed done. Apples were in a machine being washed with water. When they came out they bounced down rollers until they got on a big circular drum like table with a felt top where they were again jostled about as they dried. 

Amanda picked each one up, inspected it for any defects and then only if it was perfect, did she put it in a plastic bag for sale. Any blemished apples were relegated to a separate container for cider.  To make the best cider, I learned, there should be at least four different kinds of apples. Using only one variety makes a cider that isn’t as tasty. From there we went into a large insulated room filled with huge crates of apples going up to the ceiling. Those had to be put in place by fork lifts. The next room had tall shelves filled with bagged apples ready for sale. Our next stop was a working area where we were each given a fresh, crunchy, juicy apple to eat and a small cup of cider while Sue Monroe answered any questions the students or adults had. Before we left, we went outside and up a large embankment to the doors the barn we’d been in that’s more than a century old. There we saw that it was jam-packed full of wooden crates they make in the winter months.


Our next stop was the Hiram Biology Field Lab where we looked at snakes, toads, frogs, fish and salamanders before our lunch. 

After eating we explored the woods looking at various things Matt  pointed out. The kids hunted for and found numerous salamanders. Matt instructed them on how to handle them carefully, identify the type, and to return them to the place where they were found as well as replacing any log turned over to its original position since under each log is a mini habitat.
Our final stop was Nelson Ledges State Park with large rocks, crevices, cliffs, a waterfall, and narrow tunnels between huge rocks; a fun, but very dangerous place for kids who don’t listen and insist on climbing and running. Matt told us the geology of the rocks brought down by the huge glaciers and what in many places caused a split between what was once a single huge rock formation into two separate ones.

Our seven students were actively involved and interested, but kept the four adults on their toes as we moved on from place to place. I think I was a little more nervous than the other three because one of my former students fell to his death there when he was a fifteen year old Boy Scout on a hike with his troop. His father was the Boy Scout leader. There have also been a lot of other accidental deaths and serious injuries from falls there over the years.


It was a good day. The weather was cool, but sunny. I got my kid fix, and they were good even though they were dashing around like playful puppies everywhere we went. The adults were pleasant companions and the young father and I really hit it off getting acquainted. He was also kind enough to help me across rocks as we crossed back and forth across the stream at the field station and also around and over rocks blocking paths at the ledges. One narrow crevice we went through ended in a rock too high for me to step up on so Matt gave me a hand there. The kids just shimmied up. We’d had a lot of rain the previous week making the rocks and leaves on the ground slippery in places so I moved carefully.


So what part of this fun day is going to be used in a book? I doubt if Nelson Ledges will be or the Hiram Biology Field Station, at least for now. In book five “Murder in the Corn Maze” which has no plot yet. I am going to use what I’ve learned about running a huge orchard business. It’s the right time of year; they’re busy, and I know where to go when I need more questions answered. Next week I’m also planning on going to a corn maze for the first time for more research for that book.

What fun things have you done that ended up being in a book or short story?

Or if you’re not a writer, what have you done that you think would work well in a plot?




19 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I prefer using locations I have personally experienced, but I never know when a place I’ve visited or an experience I’ve had will be just the right thing for a story.

When I was in Columbia, SC for the SC Bookfest earlier this year, fellow WWK blogger suggested I use Columbia in one of my Seamus McCree novels. That got me thinking and in my current WIP, I have a few scenes set in Columbia, because it worked for the plot.

~ Jim

Kara Cerise said...

How fun, Gloria. I went apple pickng two weeks ago and there was a group of energetic children on a school field trip running around picking apples like they were on a treasure hunt. I loved their enthusiasm.

I visited the Badlands of South Dakota last year and plan to use that setting in a couple of historicals.

Paula Gail Benson said...

What a great experience, Gloria! You definitely did the right thing by going. Your description made me feel as if I got to go along, too. I'm sure you'll find a story idea stem from the event.
Jim, I'm looking forward to reading about Seamus' trip to Columbia.
Each year, I try to go to the Washington, Georgia, Spring Home Tour. Washington is called "the town where the Confederacy died" because it is where the gold from the Confederate Treasury can last be traced. I think there's a story to be found there.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I've thought of sending Catherine somewhere else sometime so she isn't always finding bodies in Portage Falls. In my next book, I will be having a subplot with Martha, the mother of the police chief, telling her story, including a murder, from her backpacking trip she took in book two. It will use an area I backpacked in numerous times. You have or are living in three locations that make it good for you to move Seamus around in.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, the only apples I pick are from the old apple trees around my house. They're mostly small and blemished ones, but they're good for applesauce and I used them in a pie or two back in the day I still baked. They're hard to mow around and under because I leave the branches hanging to the ground so my little great-grandkids can pick them, too. Almost all the apples are put into buckets in the barn for my ponies.

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, what a wonderful trip that must be. I agree there would be a great story or novel to be found there. It would be a time of year for me when spring hasn't yet arrived here. I've thought of taking an early spring trip to Savannah, Georgia, because I hear that's a beautiful town, too.

Warren Bull said...

Even in historical novels an author can use the current landscape of the setting. It may not show directly in the writing but knowing helps the writer feel in control. I've written about Manhattan, Kansas and I've learned about the environment.

Shari Randall said...

What a nice time you had, Gloria! Now I want to go apple picking.
I used a beach town setting for my short story and WIP, a combination of the things I liked best from my New England youth and places I've lived and visited.
Paula - I hope you find that gold!

Nancy Adams said...

Gloria, that sounds like such a fun day!

As for my writing, after numerous trips to Paris over the years, I finally came up with a story that I could set there, hopefully the first book in a series, although it then turned out that there were many details where I needed further research. Yes, it's nice when that research is something we enjoy already.

Then, just a few weeks ago we visited a crafts festival in a nearby town and walking back from the festival came upon an incredibly cool shop that sells stone sculptures. Most of them were outside, and it was such a magical collection of dragons and saints and all kinds of wonderful statues that I thought "I really have to find a story to set here!" I guess that's when you know the writing has gotten in your blood.

Glad you're having fun with the books!

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I love New England and have gone on a lot of vacations there. I've set numerous short stories in different sections of New England because of this. Right now I'm writing a series of short stories set in Vermont with the same protagonist. I'm working on the third now for our holiday short stories on Writers Who Kill.

Gloria Alden said...

Nancy, what a wonderful place to research. I've been to Great Britain several times, Italy twice, Israel, Greece and Spain once, but I've never been to Paris. I hope to go there someday. I think the shop with statues opens up all sorts of possibilities especially for a short story.

Patg said...

Apple country, out here we think Washington, and now I realize that tours like yours are probably available here too. Hmmm.
I recently attended an event put on by the Extention Services of Oregon. I'm not a member, but my friend's mother in law is a director of one group AND so is my sister in law. Who knew? Not much of an outdoor person, and most assuredly not a farmer, I didn't think I'd find the speaker interesting. He was a TV personality that has a show, Grant's Getaways, locally. It covers Oregon's great places to visit and he has also written a book, 101 Fun Getaways in Oregon. Well, he was a very good speaker, so his talk went well, and he eventually mentioned something that made my ears perk up. Seems after WW2 women manned the fire towers in the Tillamook Forest. They had interviews with 2 of those women and they had interesting and funny stories to tell. A picture of one of the towers looked like the trunk of a 100-foot tree with a house perched on top, and the skinniest ladder going up the side with no protection around it. Brave women indeed. Of course, not a human interest writer, my mind moved to mayhem, mystery and paranormal. I hope I can think up a story THAT hasn't been told before, because I know there are many books and stories about these watch towers.
Patg

Carla Damron said...

Gloria, this sounds like a fun adventure. It's interesting how almost any life experience can be fodder for our writing, isn't it?

E. B. Davis said...

I turned a weird experience I had at our neighborhood Sound beach into a short story. The weird experience turned out to have something to do with a crazy neighbor. But we later found out he often takes in renters with criminal pasts, so my fiction may have been more real than I thought.

Gloria, I grew up in PA where there are a lot of factories. In school, we took field trips to the factories, which I found fascinating. Of course, many of the factories processed food like, Hershey's, York Peppermint Patty, Schmidt's Bakery, Reeses's.... What's not to like!

KM said...

I love tours of processing/manufacturing facilities. In Provence this last summer, we visited an olive oil press and a winery. I've worked in a few heavy industries myself, but to see the care with which Kellogg and other food processors operate is really interesting.

There's a lot of apple (and other fruit) processing going on near where I live. A few years ago, a worker (who was chief of the local volunteer fire department, so you would think he was be safety conscious) was killed by a gas leak at an applesauce/juice processing plant. There's got to be a novel in there somewhere!

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, I would have loved to be at that talk. I think it would make an excellent plot for a story or book. I hope you pursue it.

Gloria Alden said...

You're right about that, Carla. Of course, it takes a creative mind to think of ways something would work.

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. that was a bit of a creepy coincidence. Still it worked well for you.

Candy factories as a kid would be fascinating. I was in a small facility once at the back of a candy store where they made candy. Chocolate is one of my favorite fragrances. Yum.

Gloria Alden said...

Your knowledge of factories and the way they operate is one of the things that makes your Jesse Damon novels so good, KM. That and working with cons and ex-cons. Your books ring true like many don't.

You would think someone like a fireman would be more safety conscious, but then there may have been circumstances that made him unaware of the gas leak. Who knows, but it's sad when it happens.