Elizabeth: Writer’s Bucket List

A while back Kay posted about a Writer’s Police Academy  that is being held this August at the International Public Safety Training Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The conference – which includes sessions on police procedures and the opportunity for some shooting range practice – sounded like just what I needed to give my mystery-story-in-process a shot of realism.  Had I perfected the ability to be in two places at one time, I’d have signed up in a New York minute.

Though the timing didn’t work out, the Academy got me thinking about what other things I’d put on my list of Things To Do, in an effort to infuse my stories with a little extra realism.  In no particular order, here are a few things I came up with:

Ready, Aim, Fire!

As those who read the scene in my May Short Story post will recall, my Regency WIP includes a feisty heroine who gets in a spot of trouble at a house party with a bow & arrow.  Having never shot (or even held one), my ability to describe her actions with any degree of detail are sadly limited to what I’ve read on the subject.  Getting some real-life experience is definitely on my list and should be fairly easy to obtain, though finding a left-handed instructor might be a challenge.  The hero in the same book has more than a little experience with firing a gun (he served in the Army, after all).  While there are shooting ranges aplenty that I could avail myself of, what I really need to find is one that specializes in antique weapons.  After all, firing a rifle or pistol from 1814 is likely to be a bit different than one from today.  I will definitely need to do some more research for this item.

Police training for novices

My Cozy Mystery WIP – that’s Cassie & Nicolai’s story for you Friday Writing Sprint fans – features a police detective along with an FBI agent.  Sadly, I’ve never held either of those positions, so my knowledge doesn’t extend any further that what I’ve read or seen on television.  Conveniently, a flyer promoting an upcoming “Citizens Police Academy” just arrived in the mail.  With crime scene investigation and an officer-ride-along, it sounds like just the ticket for increasing my knowledge.  Plus, you get a “free” shirt!  The class doesn’t start until the fall, but I’ll definitely be sending in my application.  Fingers crossed that I’m one of the lucky 25 participants.

Sail Away

Though it’s not yet a WIP, when I finished my NaNo contemporary story a while back, I sketched out a follow-on story involving a group of “digital nomads” who are spending a year (or maybe not that long) sailing and working around the world.    While heading out to sea for a year might be taking the whole research idea a little too seriously, it would obviously be nice if I had some basic knowledge about boating and a feel for how, logistically, living and working on a boat would work.  I could Google “how does a sailboat work”, but I’m guessing it would be a lot more fun to actually spend some time on a sailboat; preferably with a shirtless, hunky-guy for extra inspiration.   Maybe, for that extra dose of realism, I should visit a tropical island or two as well – all in the name of research, of course!

I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add to the list, but for now I better get back to doing some actual writing.

So, what would you put on your bucket list, for the sake of infusing your writing with a little extra realism?

12 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Writer’s Bucket List

  1. (-: I should go to more nightclubs, but I dread being that creepy older woman in the corner, taking notes. My youth was wasted reading, I’m afraid.

    I would adore taking a long trip to New York, and spending some real time in the city and also in the surrounding country of upstate. A lot of my stories are based on historical New York City, or near-future rural NY State. I’d love to hit some of the old campgrounds, and visit places where they had Chataquas and all that business. Who knows what stories a trip to Niagara Falls could inspire? Unfortunately, I’m going to have to be making some money writing before I can afford such a trip! (So, I guess fortunately, I’ve got double the inspiration there.)

    I would love to explore some costuming options, too. In general, my characters aren’t that fashion-forward, but I have a couple who really know how to dress (so unlike myself!). It’d be fun to get some fashion advice, and also make a few really outlandish costumes for promotional purposes.

    • Michaeline, those all sound like very fun research options. I know what you mean about not wanting to be that creepy woman in the corner taking notes though – that’s pretty much how I feel every time I whip out my notebook in public.

      • LOL, wouldn’t mind it in a Starbucks, but definitely don’t want to be confronted in a nightclub. Assuming they’d let me in (-:. We don’t have a lot of nightclubs in town, anyway. A couple of shabby jazz bars is about it, I think. Which . . . would make nice settings, I’m sure.

    • Michaeline, depending on your time period, you should check out Unique Vintage (uniquevintage.com). They have lots of cool vintage wear, including accessories, that might lead to a little bit of time wasted on the internet. 🙂

  2. So I’m not sure this gets you exactly what you’re looking for i.e., firing old weapons, but it might connect you with the right people: https://napoleonichistoricalsociety.org/. Perhaps there are locals who are collectors and who can walk you through the process of loading and firing rifles and pistols. I connected with someone in England awhile back who specialized in selling/restoring old firearms and he suggested a few books that walk you through the care and maintenance of old firearms.

    Back to the Napoleonic Historical Society…If you check the News tab, you’ll see they’re having a reenactment of the Spanish Campaign attacks on Badajoz & Ciudad Rodrigo this weekend, but it’s in Old Fort Erie (in southern Ontario near Niagara Falls). So not close, but not in Europe, either! They may have more reenactments like this in the future, so it might be worthwhile to join.

    As for my bucket list, I’m going on a writer’s cruise this September and we’re traveling to Falmouth, Jamaica, which will likely be the setting for one of my books (Georgian Caribbean town), so I can check that off. And I definitely want to return to Florence, Italy, and learn more about the art there, where it came from (the Medici family), and see if I can figure out a story involving an art heist or fake art or something. Whether set in the present day or past, I’m not sure. I’ll have to see what happens if I go back. I definitely won’t take the kids on my return visit, though. 🙂 I love them, but I want to be able to stand in front of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” for hours and study it. They’re not so much into that at 8 and 9 years old. LOL

    I also want to get to Scotland for book research (Jilly and I talked about going last year, but had to put that on hold). Perhaps we’ll get around to that in the future.

    • Justine – thanks for the link to the Napoleonic Historical Society; I’ll definitely check them out. I’m sure there are re-enactment societies that I could find in the states as well. Even if they are from the US perspective, they would have been using similar (or the same) weapons.

      As for Scotland, I am heading there in a few months. Just for fun though, not for research, though perhaps I’ll get some story inspiration while I’m there. Hope you get a chance to go as well, sooner rather than later.

  3. Jennifer, who comments here sometimes, has done the Citizens’ Police Academy thing. It sounded fascinating and full of great material. I was wildly jealous. Fingers crossed your application will be successful. Oh– and if I recall correctly, Jennifer knows how to shoot a bow and arrow, too. She sent me some notes a while back. If you’d like, I’ll see if I can find them.

    I’ve been getting lots of great worldbuilding from immersive history dvds. It’s great fun to watch the presenters living as they would have in an earlier time period, making rushlights and brewing beer, weaving fabrics and cooking pottage. I bet I’d learn even more if I participated in some kind of reenactment, but it looks quite uncomfortable. I think I’d rather watch and learn from the comfort of my sofa, and gloss over the inconvenient truths about washing, and changes of clothes, and fleas/lice, and toilets 😉 .

    • I recommend brewing some soda. It’s not as intensive as wine or beer or whatever, and it is ever-so-educational! I have made root beer carbonated with yeast, although ginger ale might be more to your taste. (-: My kitchen ceiling bears witness to the drama! I even started a space drama from the experience — a bunch of homesick spacers attempt to brew root beer on a space station . . . the conflict was heroines vs. yeast, so it was impossible to bring off in the end, but I still often think of that idea. Maybe I need to give the yeast some sentience . . . .

  4. The protagonist in my current WIP is a former dancer, and the one in the second demon book is a painter. I’m lucky to have friends who are professional dancers and artists to ask questions, but I’d really like to know more about those things from the inside. So, I’m thinking a chance to job shadow people in the professions I write about would be good.

  5. What citizens police academy did you apply to, Elizabeth? I attended the Alameda Co. citizens academy, which was interesting. The talks were well-organized for the most part, but the highlights were visits to the morgue, county jail, and youth detention center. But there are others. I understand the FBI has one; that would be the most valuable for me.

    I think I tend to write about stuff that I either already know about, or I don’t need to know much—I don’t seem to do a lot of research, and what I do is more because I enjoy it than the book would suffer if I didn’t include it. For the current WIP, I spent a fun afternoon researching the working conditions of professional cheerleaders, who have a significant scene. But I have zero interest in going to professional cheerleading camp!

  6. I have a contemporary romance series, on hold for now. A significant character in Books 1 and 2, and the hero of Book 3, is a chef/restaurant owner. When I told the folks at my favorite restaurant, the GM said before I write that book, she’ll arrange for me to do a tour of duty–work in the kitchen, go to the manager meetings, wait tables, see the office. I believe they usually do something similar as an induction for their new restaurant managers. I didn’t take her up on her kind offer, but when I go back to those books (which I will do, some day), then if the opportunity is still available, I definitely will!

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