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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finishing a Book and Starting Another

A reenactment taking place at Hale Farm in N.E. Ohio
After almost a year I’ve finished the fourth book in my Catherine Jewell mystery series – The Body in the Goldenrod. Now I’m only waiting for my granddaughter to finish with the covers for both the Create Space version and the e-book version. She’s told me she’s working on it. For this one, I’ll also be publishing it on my own without any help from the kid I had put up the last ones. I’m sure I can do it okay even though it may take me a little longer.

A re-enactor faking death
This book is slightly longer than my other three and has two plots going through it. The major plot takes place with a Civil War Reenactment going on in Elmwood Gardens in which one of the reenactors is murdered during one of the battles. The victim in this case is someone everyone hates so it’s no surprise he’s murdered, but it’s a hard murder to solve since there are so many people who wanted him dead. 

The other plot has Martha MacDougal, the police chief’s mother, telling Catherine Jewell about the back packing trip she took at the end of book two with that hunk of an environmentalist who came to stay at her bed and breakfast. She tells about a murder they were involved with when someone was murdered in the group of birders they joined on the trail.  Of course, I always have to add new characters, and in this case in addition to the victim and a few others, I’ve added a whole family that I spent some time developing. So much so in fact, that they will be in future books, too, because I like them so much.

So now what’s next? I have a short story I’m working on for the Writers Who Kill holiday season when we take a break from blogging. I’ve also been working on the plot for my next book, tentatively called The Murder in the Corn Maze. I haven’t written anything yet, but I know who the victim is and the how, where, and who murders the victim. Where the murder takes place, you know from the title. 
Which way should I go???
I grew up next to my grandparents’ farm where every year there were large fields of corn we played in while being careful not to break down any stalks. So I could imagine the scene except I’d never visited a corn maze. It seemed this would be the perfect time to do a little research since corn mazes are popular in October when the next book takes place. This past Saturday, Laura, who is both my beta reader and my friend from my writers group, and I went to visit a corn maze at Ridgeview Farm in Middlefield, Ohio, after first eating a tasty lunch at an Amish restaurant to build our stamina. The corn maze was fun, but we didn’t cover the whole eight acres of the maze. Laura grew tired, and I figured the twenty to thirty minutes we spent in there gave me enough of an idea to plot my own corn maze for the future murder. 
We enjoyed browsing through their little farmer’s market at the entrance, and although we weren’t in the market for pumpkins, it was fun watching kids and their parents picking out pumpkins for their Halloween Jack O’ Lanterns.

Another thing we had fun watching were the pig races with pigs approximately four or five months old, I’m guessing since I’ve never raised a pig. Three pigs were released at a time with funny names like Elvis Pigley, Sir Oinks-a-lot, and Dill Piggles. Each pig had a child volunteer cheering their pig on.
You can't imagine how fast these pigs can run.
It was a pleasant day. The weather was beautiful with blue skies and a few white clouds, and the trees still colorful in their autumn regalia. Because my normal road to Middlefield was closed, I took back roads traveling on country roads with Amish farms on both sides of the road while sharing the road with the Amish horse and buggies we passed. We saw children in a pony cart, and an Amish woman hanging out a lot of clothes on the line for what must have been a large family. There were some Amish boys mowing the yard with non-motorized push mowers. Because the terrain was slightly hilly, we often had incredible views over the countryside.

When we left Ridgeview Farm, I took Laura to The End of the Commons in Mesopotamia. It was another place she’d never been, and she loved the very large general store with so many unique and interesting things and everything the local Amish, as well as the tourists who make regular stops there, could want. We settled for single scoops of ice cream – which were huge scoops – in a cup as our late afternoon treat and sat at a table covered in Plexiglas with historical pictures. Some tables had a picture frame type of table top with artifacts from the past in there, instead. It was the perfect end to our day.

The End of the Commons

What is the best research you’ve done or would like to do?


KM Rockwood said...

Sounds like a fun trip! I'm impressed that you have the 4th book almost ready to go and are starting on the 5th.

I have to admit I do ad hoc research. Usually I'm writing about things and characters with which I am very familiar--my stories tend to rise organically from my experiences--but once in a while I need to check facts. I've found that editors often don't believe things I "know," and I have to get some verification.

The most time consuming (although not difficult) is when I need to check on something regarding circumstances in prison. One editor told me that of course there are computers in prisons, so to have a recently released inmate who had no familiarity with them was not believable. I wrote to several people I know who have been incarcerated for a lengthy time, and they eventually (time is not a major consideration in their lives) confirmed what I thought, that although there are computers in use, it is mainly staff, and every once in a while a specialized inmate worker, who uses them. Most inmates have absolutely no access at all.

I sent copies of their letters, including the stamp on the envelopes that say "Inmate mail--this is a prison" and she finally believed me.

Jim Jackson said...

I consider life as research -- I never know when something I've seen or done will show up in a story. I do try to visit actual places I use in my books and stories and if I plan to use a place, I'll take lots of pictures to remind me.

Fingers crossed for an easy final passage of book four into print.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

Great question, Gloria. My favorite? I set a book at a resort in Naples, FL. My family had a condo there so when I visited, I went to the resort (in the ms. fictional) and interviewed the security manager. He was wonderful. One scene I set in the spa, so of course, a friend and I had to go to the spa for a massage. If I ever get that book published I could deduct the expense. Nothing like a hard day of research!

Warren Bull said...

My best research experience was when I was reading the collected writing of Abraham Lincoln and discovered he'd outlined just what I needed to write a mystery about one of his cases.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, one of the things I love about your Jesse Damon series is the fact that you know what you're writing about. That comes through your books clearly. I hope you'll be writing more books in that series.

Jim, that's true for me, also. I've lived a long life with lots of life experiences that I draw on for both books and short stories. That's why I feel I know and like your Seamus McCree. I see you in him.

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. that sounds like wonderful research. When I wrote "The Lure of the Rainbow" that made it into the FISH NETS anthology, I knew absolutely nothing about fly fishing. So I not only got books out of the library to read, I also called some guy, who had written an article about in my local paper. He thought it was a prank call at first, but then gave me an answer I didn't want because it didn't go with my plot. So at a concert, I approached a man wearing a shirt with fish on it and asked him and got an answer that worked with my plot. From then on whenever I went to a concert there - I go to many there - he would ask me about the story. When I told him it had been accepted, I gave him a copy of the story.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, that had to have been the most exciting of research projects. I've read several biographies of him, and admire him immensely. Truly, he was our best president, in my opinion.

carla said...

I've done great research on planes. Was once flying to Oklahoma and sat next to a guy who was an environmental engineer. I was researching industrial toxins for a novel, so the poor guy was stuck answering questions for me the entire flight!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Gloria, I'm looking forward to reading about the reenactment. They truly are fascinating events to watch and provide lots of opportunity for research. Currently, I'm researching strip joints, which is a delicate topic. What surprises me are the sources where I'm learning information!

Gloria Alden said...

Carla, don't you just love meeting people who give you great ideas? I'll bet he didn't mind answering your questions, at all.

Paula, how interesting for you. Are you visiting them for your research??? I'm curious about those sources you've found. Maybe you can email me and tell me about them.

Shari Randall said...

For now, I've stayed pretty well within my zone, but I'd like to set a story near the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I'm planning to do some exploring.
Your corn maze story sounds intriguing!
Paula, I think I speak for all of us when I say you are going to have to blog about your strip club research. There's a strip club in my town which I thought was a restaurant. I was chatting with one of my daughter's high school boyfriends when he clued me in that, uh, no, we did not want to go to dinner at the Paper Moon.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I love the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's where I backpacked on the Appalachian Trail for short trips of 4 or 5 days. It's also where my subplot takes place in the book I just finished. I wrote from my experience there which did not include a murder. :-)

Kara Cerise said...

Your trip to the corn maze sounds fun, Gloria. I've seen them, but have never walked through one.

A few years ago while on a vacation I stopped by a small town in Nebraska to research the 1893 Cowboy Race. The local historical society even had the pelt from the horse that won.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, on our way home from Rocky Mountain National Park years ago, we stopped for the night in a small town in the middle of miles and miles of corn fields. We stayed in a small campgrounds that happened to be next to a museum. It was absolutely fascinating and we were there for several hours before hitting the road for home. I don't remember what you mentioned, but it still makes me wonder if it was the same museum. It was quite an amazing museum with all it had for such a small very rural town.

Patg said...

I have to agree with James, life is research. I wrote about what I know and have lived with and through most all of it. Otherwise, it is stuff I've seen other people experience. For this new book--will my editor ever be finished--I had to call my ex-room mate from NY to remember some of the other room mates we had. And I had to ask Liz Zelvin if she remembered 'casual' dress for the streets of NY in 1963. She had to contact a friend of hers. It was quite funny, but we got it.

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, I call on my life experiences, too. At least as much as possible. I also pick up bits and pieces from reading the newspapers, certain characters and jobs that might work for characters with some changes, of course. And then I have characters based on people I know or knew with enough changes not to be too obvious, although I've made them positive characters.