amazing the factoids I’ve gathered, writing as a full-time novelist for
the last ten years. I know tidbits on all kinds of things. Sometimes
the weirdest of things. All because at one point or another, I’ve
needed them in a book. If I had to list every piece of data I’ve
researched, the list would take me a week to type. Here are just a few
questions for which I’ve had to find answers.
1. Do teeth ever float? (dentist
question, of course)
2. Who’s present at a C-section?
3. The moon phase on a certain
night one year in the future, when my book is taking place. (online
research. Great Web site at http://stardate.org/nightsky/moon/)
4. What time the sun will
rise/set on a certain day in a certain town a year in the future.
(online at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html. This site
also gives moon phases.)
5. What times the tide will go
out/come in on a certain beach on a certain day a year in the future.
6. How does strychnine kill you?
7. What would a judge do if
he/she heard someone had threatened a jury member?
8. How does a forensic artist
recreate a face from a bare skull?
9. How does a detective make a
mold of a footprint?
10. How does a mass spectrometer
11. What are the exceptions to
the hearsay rule in law?
12. What’s the procedure for
doing a sweep of a room for bugging devices?
13. What are the various ways to
bug a phone?
14. How can you track someone’s
whereabouts through his or her cell phone?
How many officers serve on the police force of a town of seventeen
hundred people, and how do they run their shifts?
16. How do night vision goggles
work, and what are the choices in buying a pair?
17. Does a car rental agency
ever make a copy of a renter’s driver’s license?
18. In Idaho, can you tape
record a conversation when only one person in that conversation knows
it’s being recorded? (Answer: Yes. This is not true in many states.)
19. How is Pitocin (drug used to
induce labor) administered?
How long before a cigarette
in a couch burns a house down?
21. What’s the frequency for
Oakland, California, air space?
22. How do forensic
anthropologists determine gender/age from scattered human bones?
23. What’s the procedure for a
24. How long before wild animals
eat a corpse in the woods?
25. At what stage of development
was DNA use in forensics in 1992?
26. What kind of little wild
animal might steal bones?
27. On car dealership lots,
where are the keys kept for all the new cars? (Answer: In a lock box on
the car. The sales person carries a key to get into the lock boxes.)
28. Are the windows in the
parking lot shuttles at a certain airport tinted?
29. Where do out-of-state media
get their big news trucks?
30. Under what conditions can a
single hair yield useable DNA?
As my life continues, so do my
questions. Writing is not just a career. It’s a way of life. I always
keep my eyes open, never knowing what factoid I happen upon may wind up
in a book. True, most of the time it’s the other way around—I’m writing
a novel and see what I need to research. Still, numerous times I’ve
heard an interesting fact and thought, “Hmmm, what if . . . ?”