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Sunday, February 28, 2016

RESEARCH CAN BE A BLAST...LITERALLY

By Linda Swift

    In case we haven't met, I'm Linda Swift and I write a variety of genres (yes, I know that successful writers stick to one genre and gain a loyal following but that's not what I do). At different stages of my life I have focused on different genres. In the Year BG (before Google), I wrote speculative fiction. At that time, research was done (gasp) in brick and mortar libraries and one needed to know how to use the Dewey Decimal System.

    The stories I was writing evolved from events or images that nagged at my mind and wouldn't let go. They often required knowledge I didn't have and I was hesitant to ask a librarian if she had any material relating to certain subjects. So I decided to ask people I thought should be able to help me due to their professional experience.

    Ever since a family vacation in Chattanooga, I had been haunted by the elevator at Ruby Falls. Its doors were like an open cage and one could see the slick rock walls as it descended almost three hundred feet  underground. It was difficult to find anyone who could give me the information I needed about elevators. For instance, if an elevator stopped in its descent due to a power outage, what would happen to someone trapped between the cage and rock wall when power returned?A fellow teacher took an interest in the question and found all the facts I needed to write a plausible story. My husband was able to "talk me through" the dead generator and how to troubleshoot that problem. "The Good News" was the result.

     A co-worker was an epileptic and she had instructed me on what to do if she had a seizure at school, which she once did, so that was a real-life experience. A nurse was able to enlighten me on Epilepsy. This became "Give It All You've Got."

    Visits to my grandparents in a nursing home, then a hospital, gave me firsthand observation for another story. A comment by my grandmother became the title--"Nathan, the Buttercups Are Blooming."


    I was living in Alabama at the time and Kudzu was rampant. I needed facts about its rate of growth and how to kill it. I called a pest control company and asked questions. The man offered to  send someone to eradicate the vines so I had to explain why I needed the name of a good weed killer but not an exterminator. He got so engrossed in the story, he wanted to hear the entire plot. Through our conversations, I learned that the aggressive vine grows inches every day in season; and the "dead" vines remain when dormant and then resume growth to quickly spread further. While I was writing the story, I happened to notice that Kudzu vines were creeping through my back fence from the field behind it and thought I might need the exterminator after all. My creepy story about the creeping Kuduz was called "Winner Take All."

           Note:Winner Take All is now available as an audible-audio edition (Hear  a free sample at this Amazon link below.) 

Winner Take All 
by Linda Swift 
Link: http://amzn.com/B01BH5GPMS

    To write a story about a school busing incident, inspired by current events, I had to learn how a Molotov cocktail was made. Since I taught in elementary school, I didn't imagine any of my fellow teachers had the answer and I was hesitant to ask the high school science teachers. So I called the police department with the question. Before the police detective gave me an answer, he asked my name, address and other personal questions. Apparently satisfied, he told me what I needed to know. My questions included what size cocktail would be needed to blow up four people; how long it would burn after lighting before exploding; what type material would be best for a wick. I have an idea that my name remained on the police records for a long while, and looking back, I'm thankful nothing happened in the town that might have made me a "person of interest." This story was published as "Three To Make Ready."

   
You can read my collection of these stories in "Take Five" which has just been released with a new cover (and all of the single short story covers in full color inside). $2.99 at Amazon. Link: http://amzn.com/B0096R15T8 

Or if you would like a single story, buy them by titles:

The Good News; Give It All You've Got; Nathan, the Buttercups Are Blooming; Winner Take All; Three To Make Ready.

Each of the five is available separately from Amazon for 99cents at Books by Linda Swift.


Visit me here:
https://www.facebook.com/linda.swift.359?fref=ts and www.lindaswift.net
See all of my books at  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Books+by+Linda+Swift                                                                                 

15 comments:

  1. Loved the behind the scenes tour of how you came up with your stories. That always fascinates me. :) How exciting to have your story available at Audible.

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Karen. You can see why Google is my best friend. Much less hazardous to research now. And yes, having an audible book is really gratifying and David Quimby did a great job reading it. And soon I'll have my book of poems available, read by Becky Doughty. I love the way she reads poetry. My thanks to Rebecca for exploring this new outlet for her authors' work and making it happen. And thanks to you for a new cover for Winner Take All.

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    1. You're very welcome. :) So wonderful about your book of poems being available at Audible too. Yes, I agree, I'm thrilled Becca is exploring new options for our books.

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  3. Now that's some fascinating research, Linda. Sometimes it takes an adventure to really get the scoop on a story element. I come from a time before Google--heck, before computers, so I know how to dig into a book to find answers to burning questions. Still, my favorite is to experience something the way you did--just get up in there and do a thing.
    I once took a cooking class that taught us all about cooking with herbs and kudzu. When it blooms, it smells good. It's not really something I want to eat, but good to know in case the world is about to end. My nephew tried to grow it once. I think he was just trying to shock us all, but the vine died. Obviously my nephew does not have a green thumb. Thank goodness.
    There used to be a site called "Ask Jives". I used that for a while.
    A great article, Linda. I wish you all the best.

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    1. Sarah, I'm horrified that anyone would try to grow Kudzu. It is literally taking the South and doesn't need any help. And yes, your nephew is sadly lacking a green thumb! I knew they used Kudzu for animal feed but I don't recall seeing anything about human consumption before. Interesting. Thanks for commenting and for the nice compliment.

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  4. I remember doing skip tracing before google.

    I love the thrill of the hunt with research.

    Denise

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    1. I agree that doing research is fun, especially when one gets lucky. I find I often get sidetracked with information I hadn't expected and that sometimes takes me in a different direction in my story I'm working on. Thanks for visiting today.

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  5. Our poor children and grandchildren will never know the feel of a good encyclopedia nor the use of the card catalog.... They won't understand how you had to get off the computer so mom could use the phone or how the phone was attached to the wall!

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    1. Melissa, do you remember when every child or family with children had to have a set of encyclopedias in their home. The encyclopedia salesmen used to tell us our kids would lack the resources to keep up with their schoolwork if they didn't have this in their home. Oh, my goodness, wall phones, and not being able to use phone and computer at the same time. That sure bring back memories! And now my husband and I are using two computers online at once. We've come a long way, haven't we? But sometimes I long for kinder, gentler time when we were young and innocent.

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  6. Odd, isn't it, how research can become entertainment for some of us. Since I love Texas History, I must watch how much time I spend on side trips on the internets. I'll begin with one topic, and before I know it, I'm off on another.
    You're a master as research, Linda. Your Civil War stories prove that. I'd never try to write anything set in the South during the CW. I'd be spotted right off as a fraud.
    TAKE FIVE is a collection of wonderful stories, each one different, yet each one within. the realm of "speculative fiction." Since I had never heard of that genre, I feel educated now through your work.
    Great post!

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  7. Thank you for your lovely compliments of my work, Celia. I treasure your opinion. I'd love to write about Texas in historical times as you do but I'd never be able to speak in a believable voice. And as for speculative fiction, don't apologize. I'd never heard of it either, until Rebecca told me that was what I was writing!
    And yes, I can relate to getting sidetracked doing research. But that is half the fun, and so often that leads to other story ideas or adds a new dimension to the story we are researching.

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  8. Celia, I was remiss in not taking the time to thank you for your help in getting my pictures on this blog and instruction on setting up the text. It was greatly appreciated.

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  9. Thank you for reminding writers that there is more to research than a few clicks of the keyboard. In my conference lectures I always remind the authors that not everthing is on the net (at least not yet, thankfully) and to evaluate what is there as far as accuracy. Of course, having written non-fiction, histories, been a correspondent, even though I now write fantasy, science fiction, and historical westerns, I am prejudiced towards research done BG.

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  10. Helen, I am impressed with your vast field of experience and your varied genres. I feel there are some things about a location that can't be learned on Google. I really like to have some actual contact with the settings I use when possible. I think you need that in order to write with a voice of authority that readers trust. I have heard it aid that you need not tell all you have learned about anything but have more knowledge about it than you tell. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comments.

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