I’ve often heard writers talk about the bizarre things they research for their stories. They laugh (a little nervously), and say that if the government were monitoring their Google searches, Homeland Security would probably be on their doorstep within minutes. Speaking for myself, I know that my personal library contains a few suspect reference books, and I might have accidentally left a book on poisons on the coffee table while hosting a family barbecue. (No, really, I forgot it was there. I wasn’t trying to scare off my in-laws.)
Travel research can also be really bizarre. Cool – and tax deductible – but also twisted in a way only authors can appreciate. I’ve twice been to a creepy cemetery in the boondocks of Pennsylvania, researching for The Caged Graves.
I climbed a pyramid in Mexico to plan out the climax of my urban fantasy, The Eighth Day, and took some of the usual, tourist-y pictures.
But I also scoped out the one spot where my hero Jax and his guardian Riley could hunker down and be shielded from bullets if the bad guy were shooting at them from the top of the pyramid. As far as I know, no other tourists at the Pyramid of the Sun were calculating line of sight for guns that day unless they happened to be a) terrorists or b) other writers.
For my most recent release, The Inquisitor’s Mark, the second book in the Eighth Day series, I visited the Central Park Zoo for the specific purpose of breaking into the snow leopard enclosure. Uh, fictionally breaking into it, that is.
You see, in the second book, Jax and two of his friends are being chased through the zoo by bad guys, and my original plan was for them to climb the plexiglass wall overlooking the polar bear exhibit, hang from the opposite side, and then drop into the enclosure. I didn’t even visit the zoo to plan the scene – just looked at pictures online and wrote it all out.
But one of my editors (a frequent zoo visitor) pointed out that the beloved Central Park polar bear, Gus, had recently died and that the fate of this exhibit was uncertain. It might get turned into a penguin exhibit. Hiding with penguins didn’t have the same impact as hiding with polar bears. But the only other carnivores at the Central Park Zoo are the snow leopards, and that enclosure is completed fenced in, including the top of it. How would Jax and his friends get in?
The only solution to this plot dilemma was a trip to NYC and Central Park Zoo to see the enclosure for myself. Suffice it to say, I did figure out a way to get inside. While I was documenting this with pictures, one of the snow leopards sauntered into view, delighting the zoo-goers, who snapped dozens of pictures. If I had been one of them, I’d be showing you a photo of a snow leopard now. Unfortunately, all I’ve got for you are eye-bolts. I missed the leopard.
And to top-off my weirdo visit to the zoo, I posted some pictures on Facebook and declared triumphantly that I’d found a “flaw” in the snow leopard enclosure.
OMG, one of my FB friends posted, I hope you reported it!!!!!
Sigh. Another Homeland Security moment.
***Thanks a bunch for coming by, Dianne, and readers, I will announce the winner of the giveaway next Monday. Have a great week!