Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Research Finds

It’s Wicked Wednesday, when we all weigh in on a topic. Today we’re dishing on our best research finds. Sometimes when we’re looking for one piece of information, we find something totally different – and better. And with it, perhaps, comes a totally new idea for a book, or story, or a predicament in which to place our characters. We love when that happens! So Wickeds, what’s your fave find that you can’t wait to use?

Jessie:Thanks for posing this question, Liz!  I just adore slipping down the rabbit hole of research and coming back up with something unexpected! Mine is a bit of research I already used. In my first book, Live Free or Die my protagonist is a postmistress. I had been considering having the mystery involve valuable stamps. As I began researching stamp collecting on the internet I stumbled across information about the privilege of franking which is the right to use one’s signature instead of affixing postage to a letter.

As I explored the practice further I discovered that it was said Millard Fillmore used this right to excess and even continued to do so after his term in office had expired and along with it the privilege. That tidbit made me curious about Fillmore and his character. The things I turned up in my further research sent my story in an entirely new and far more interesting direction.

Two-women-on-safety-bicycles-2-ha-penniesEdith: Since I’m working on an historical mystery set in 1888, my life has been all research, all the time lately, and I love it. What fun to read about the new “safety” bicycle – you know, the one with two equal-sized wheels – and see pictures of women on them. To learn that fountain pens were also fairly new, so you didn’t have to dip again for every line you wrote. And to read that the knowledge of causes of infection was beginning to be widespread. Just this morning I added a mention of Annie Oakley (a Quaker, too!), since she was famous during that time. All of these bits have enriched parts of my story, even if they haven’t let led to a totally new story. Not to say they won’t, though!

Liz: In the first mystery I wrote (as yet unpublished), which took place in a funeral home, my character’s ‘friendship’ with a somewhat unsavory but completely irresistible guy led me to an interesting way to dispose of a body. Apparently, if you offer a person to a python of a certain size, it will swallow it and over the course of weeks, digest it nearly completely. In most cases, only some yellow discharge-like matter is the only evidence a person ever existed. I hate snakes, but I thought that was very cool. I also learned it was best to have a warm corpse, otherwise you had to “infuse” the corpse with the scent of rats so it would eat it. I’ll leave that part to your imagination.

IMG_3738Sherry: One of the most fun things I did as part of the research process was a police ride along with Julie’s cousin, Sgt. Patrick Towle, who is a police officer in Bedford, Massachusetts. My fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts is based on Bedford. While we didn’t have any major crimes occur, Patrick drove us all over town. I lived in the area for five years and found out more in that few hours than I thought possible. Bodies have been dumped there, there are old missile silos in Bedford, there’s an urban legend that there are nukes on Hanscom Air Force Base. He showed us the house where an unsolved murder occurred. I’m using a lot of what he told us in my series.

Julie: I love this topic. I have become a receptacle of information about crime potential. Once people find out you write mysteries, the gates are open. Dinner conversations take a morbid turn, your friend who brews beer tells you the many ways that process could be used to kill someone, your sister texts you from a parking lot because of something she overheard. They all swirl around, waiting for a chance to be used in the plot.

Barb: In my short story, “Bread Baby” an executive assistant for a media mogul opens a package to find a baby, made of bread. As I wrote the story, I didn’t know, at least consciously, what was going to be in the package until the narrator opened it. Then I had to wonder, bread babies, is that a thing? It turns out (thank you Mr. Google) it is. The Andean Indians of Peru offer bread babies or Tantawawa to their ancestors on the Day of the Dead.

But most tantawawa look like this:

tanta-wawa-2 tantawawa






I described my bread baby as “perfectly rendered.” “Like a sculptor carved him.” So was that possible? My digging found a guy in Thailand  who created near-autopsy perfect renderings of gruesome body parts out of bread, like this.

body parts bodyparts 2






Yes, it is true. Everything humans can do, some human being is out there doing.

12 Thoughts

  1. Very interesting. I find new books when I am browsing my library website for one and another sounds good too.

  2. Ain’t research grand? Last year I visited the place in Philadelphia that’s a model for Nell’s museum in the Museum Mysteries (I used to work at the real place). One of my old friends there asked if I knew about the pit they found in the basement when they were doing renovations–I didn’t. (No, not a well–it’s dry. Of course I had to use that. He didn’t tell me what (if anything) they found in the pit, so I got to make up whatever I wanted to put there–and what they found surprised even me.

  3. That picture should come with a warning, Barb! But somehow now I’m laughing. And a pit in the basement of a museum — that is a mystery!

  4. What a fabulous feature! I love all of these interesting tidbits. And I’m going to be mulling over the python information for a while. That might just be the best method of disposing of a body ever. And while I love snakes. well … that’s just creepy. 🙂

  5. Oh… if I can write this without seeing those photos again—or throwing up on my keyboard—I’ll try to remember my thoughts and comment! Barb… I adore you… but!

    Edith and Jessie, I love historical research, and I enjoy books that incorporate interesting facts of the past but aren’t necessarily historical novels. Edith, Steve and I love the old photo of the women with the “safety” bicycles. Beautiful!

    Sherry, we seem to connect in some odd ways! When I was growing up I lived off-and-on in a town very near Bedford that’s called Billerica. Lots of body dumps there. When I was in 6th grade our class had a field trip to the Nike Missile silo in Bedford. Why? Why? Why? Oh yeah. We got to vote. The Peabody Museum at Harvard or watch radar blips. More boys than girls in the class. Really not fair!

    But… Sheila! I had a student job at the Peabody and helped identify “artifacts” for repatriation to tribes. Ooh. Oooh. Ooooh. Scary place!!! No no no… I will never again work in a museum. Nope. That’s it. Still have nightmares.Yeeeeeeee! Blech! Blech! Blech!

    Liz, relatives in Salem were the owners of the funeral home that came and got my grandmother’s body from her house—an aunt swore this to me—without a doctor’s having been to the house and certifying her death.

    Barb. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat bread again. I didn’t know you could get PTSD from looking at photos. Now I think maybe you can. I have to redirect my attention now!

    1. I agree with you on those bread pictures Reine! I can’t believe you were in the silos! I lived off of Old Billerica Road so of course I know where Billerica is! How very interesting!

      1. Oh… we weren’t in the silos, Sherry. We just visited the Nike missile site and the trailer that housed the radar. Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip. Blip. “Can we eat lunch now, Mrs. Carnella?”

        You live on Old Billerica Road? Wow. No kidding… what a coincidence! If you live near Nutting’s Lake you’re near one of the most infamous dump sites.

  6. Julie, I knew I missed someone fast forwarding past the corpse bread! I know you’re in book jail right now, but when you come up for air, I’d love to hear about the weirdest story someone told you!

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