What I'm reading: Sleepless in Scotland, by Karen Hawkins
Thanks, Marvin for holding down the fort while I was running around all day yesterday.
In prep for moving, we've been getting estimates on moving our worldly goods from Florida to Colorado – eventually. Since we need the money from the sale of the house before we can buy, we don't have anywhere to live out there (aside from some imposition on the kidlets). Movers are happy to store your stuff until you're ready for it.
Since we don't know where we'll live, we don't really know which furniture will fit in a new place. Plus, the décor aspects of Florida vs. Colorado have to be considered. That which works here isn't going to look right in a mountain home. Our prospective buyers want to keep a lot of our existing furniture, which is fine with us.
But movers charge by the pound. While we're happy to ditch the bedroom set, dining room, wall units, and lots of kitchen accoutrements, parting with books is much harder. And books are heavy. I checked the USPS website, looking to see what the options were. I discovered that you can send books and other media, as long as that's all that's in the box, at a price of about 1/3 of what the movers charge per pound. Our daughter and son-in-law in Colorado said they'd be willing to store boxes of books until we find a place.
Phase two: Packing books. We had some existing boxes, but I'd filled them long before I ran out of books. Needed more. The sturdiest boxes around are liquor boxes. One of my RWA chapter members works for ABC liquors. No brainer. She brought 20 boxes to Saturday's meeting. We packed books. And more books.
Our plan: take a few boxes to the Post Office every few days and mail them. So, I set out with 3 boxes of books and lugged them into the Post Office. Only then did I learn that the USPS will NOT ship anything in liquor boxes. The clerk said that information is on their website, but it never occurred to me to look for it.
When you're writing, the same thing can happen. The hardest part of research is knowing what you don't know, and finding the answer. When you have no clue that you don't know something, errors will creep into your work.
One of the most common mistakes in people writing mysteries, or any story involving firearms, is to have a character thumb a safety off a Glock. The basic assumption: Semi-automatics have safeties. Glocks are semi-automatics. Ergo, Glocks have safeties. Not so – they do have safeties, but not the kind you thumb off.
When I was writing Finding Sarah, I was meticulous about researching things such as what time the sun would set, and what stars would be visible at a specific area in Oregon. I knew I didn't know that, because I don't live in Oregon. The on-line Farmer's Almanac is a great resource. Likewise, when my character walked down Main Street in March, I needed to know what street trees might be in bloom, so I asked my sister-in-law, who lives in Salem.
Later in the book, I needed a way to thwart Sarah's escape. I decide the most believable option would be to give the villain a car with a stick shift, so when Sarah got away, she couldn't drive his car. As a private joke, I made the car a Highlander, since I cut my writing teeth on Highland fanfiction. However, not being a car person, I had no clue that stick shifts weren't an option on any car. I assumed you could get any car you wanted either way. Luckily, a critique partner had a Highlander and knew they didn't come with a manual transmission.
Not knowing what I didn't know could have led to an embarrassing error (given that my editor was an Australian, I doubt she'd have caught that).
If you're shopping, you're going to check prices, sales, and maybe Consumer Reports or a similar publication. When you're writing, you have to consider that your basic assumptions could be way off base, and do your homework. About everything. You know what they say about making assumptions!
What resources do you use when you do research, either for writing or just life in general?
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