Writer Wednesday – Research in the Middle of the Night

So I’m writing this series. At least I want it to be a mystery series. Actually a paranormal mystery series. A humorous paranormal mystery series. Think Stephanie Plum pushing fifty with an X Files mash-up.

Eileen Charbonneau once gave writers some great advice: stick your heroine up a tree and keep throwing stones at her.

I have my heroine, Elizabeth Peacock, in a difficult situation, a widow financially dependent on her daughter because her husband did not have insurance, etc. Elizabeth is working two part time jobs, one as a freelance writer for a local daily newspaper and the other as a receptionist in a friend’s funeral home. Her old car (she gave up her Lexus) is impounded in the first book and her best friend (the funeral director) lends her an older hearse to drive, which causes some problems in the first book.  In future books Elizabeth will meet a famous general who’s been dead for more than 150 years and a man who gets life in prison for being a “werewolf.” All she wants is a full time job with health and retirement benefits, but no one in her hometown needs someone with a Masters in Art History.

So in my second book of the series, I’m sticking her up that tree (putting her in a new situation…making her a reenactor at Gettysburg) and I’ve begun to throw the stones (like learning that her deceased husband may have had an illegitimate child who now wants part of a non-existent estate).

But I needed something to connect Elizabeth and the 150 year old general, something important to the general but not so important to Elizabeth because she will need to give it up at the end. I was awake for part of last night thinking about it and I decided on a book.

I got out of bed and went to the computer to start my research.

First I thought it would be one of the general’s own books. So I researched books that would be used at West Point during the 1840s. I was not happy with the results.

Then I thought about books published during the time period the general was at West Point.  I’d almost decided on Walden but I was not sure a general would enjoy reading about someone who gave up normal life to live in nature.

I kept looking, increasing the time period, since it didn’t have to be when he was at West Point. Then I saw The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Acton Bell (Anne Bronte) and everything clicked into place. It would be his fiancé’s book, his fiancé that he loved and was never to marry.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall-inside cover

Research is wonderful but it can also lead one into a rabbit hole of different tunnels.

Trust me, I know.

I will be reading Anne Bronte’s book while writing this one.

Excuse me while I get all the information about the above-mentioned fiance….


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