Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Break for Research

Did you know that calico is a plain woven textile made of unbleached cotton? The cloth would be died bright colours and often printed with a floral pattern. So much printed calico was imported by the United States that Americans now refer to the printed pattern as calico, not the cloth itself.

I didn't need this much information about the fabric. All I needed to know was that calico was being used in America during the Civil War. My character isn't going to get into a discussion about the etymology of the term. (Calico is named for the city in India where it was originally woven - Calicut.) She certainly isn't going to get into a socio-political discussion on the de-industrialization of India during the colonial period. Yet, looking up one little fact led me down that road.

Research is addictive. You look up a textile and end up reading about the history of trade in the British Empire. A couple of months ago, I was looking for a reference about slave quarters and by the time I was done, I was ready for my character to start her own revolution.

A fragment of what I research will end up in my stories. In part, this is because I end up going off on tangents. Mostly, it's because research supports the story like an easel supports a painting. It has to be there, but it's not the focus of attention.

PS: The research did come in handy writing my monthly post for Cowboy Kisses.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coffee, Cops, and Collecting

It's Monday morning and Deadly Legacy is starting a four-day free promotion on Kindle. I need caffeine and inspiration. A trip to Tim Horton's provides both.

Coffee: an essential supplement for writers and police officers alike. It keeps us focused, alert and ready to face (or create) threats to life, limb and public property.

Coffee shops: a source of coffee, social interaction, and (in my case at least) a place to waylay officers of the law with questions about uniform and gear.

Coffee cups: vessels to serve (and protect) our coffee. Something to collect (in my case at least). Often an expression of our personalities, preferences and workplaces.

You don't see many cops with travel mugs, but you might notice that the younger officers tend to have Starbucks cups and the older ones are rolling up the rim at Tim Hortons. (Speaking of which, I just got ANOTHER "Please play again".) Of course, on the highways, Tim Hortons pretty much corners the market in Canada.

I'm guessing that we'd see more show of personality in stations where keeping a mug on hand is practical. In fact, I count on that in Deadly Legacy.

There were always coffee cups, some half-filled with five-day-old sludge, some clean. 'World's Best Mom' or 'Dad' or 'Fisherman' could be found among the collection, along with the inevitable 'Detectives do it with cuffs.' Clean or dirty, you didn't touch another cop's mug. Kate found hers in the drying rack of the kitchenette, despite the fact she was sure she had left it in the sink. She dialed up a dark roast and set it under the coffee machine to fill.
Free March 4-7, 2013

Left to right: Dick Tracy character mug from fantasiescometrue.com; Police mug from occupationgifts.com; Mountie mug from Marc Tetro collection (I have this mug at home); Ontario Provincial Police mug from OPP Shop (on my wish list).