Over the years, I've done a lot of things to research scenes for my books, a few of them kinky (I'll spare my husband's pride by not revealing all the gadgets I've made him "try"), and some of them challenging, like training for and running a half-marathon. My main character in the Body Movers
series, Carlotta Wren, works for Neiman Marcus, so I visited the department store many times to observe customers and clerks. I attended special events, like a Manolo Blahnik shoe-signing, and some trunk shoes. (I learned that Neiman Marcus accepts only American Express and their own store credit card, plus cash and checks, but no Visa, no MasterCard.) In preparation to writing scenes in the cigar bar Moody's, I visited a great cigar bar in Charleston, South Carolina and learned the proper way to cut, light, and smoke a cigar, plus all the accoutrements involved. When I was looking for an exacting hobby for my ex-coroner body mover Cooper Craft, I settled on building miniatures and spent many hours in museums and poring over books viewing miniatures. (To combine two elements, I decided that he would create miniature vignettes in cigar boxes that he gets from Moody's.) I had a pathologist friend of mine score me a body bag so I could get a feel for the real thing. (By the way, I tried to buy a body bag on eBay, but couldn't win an auction; WHO is buying all these body bags online? You can't convince me it's other fiction writers.) In Body Movers
, the heroine's younger brother, Wesley Wren, is a gambler who's in debt to two loan sharks. His game of choice is Texas Hold 'Em poker, so I read several books on the game and the psyche of players, made my husband play with me ad nauseum, and I watched poker tournaments on TV until my eyes crossed. Also, when you're a fiction writer, it pays to have resources: I have a friend whose personal network is huge and includes people from all walks of life. I called him once and said, "I need to know how to rig a car to blow up, but not so bad that it would kill the occupants." Without missing a beat (or asking why), he said, "Give me ten minutes, I have to call a guy." Ten minutes later he called me back, and said, "Okay, here's what you do..." He once got me information on the best place in the Chattahoochee River to dump a car with a body inside!
But one of the craziest things I've done to research a scene: ask my husband to close me up in our sofa bed to see if a body would fit. He's accustomed to my strange requests, but this time he was incredulous. "Are you insane?" he shouted, then gestured to the office building that faces our living room window. "That's all I need is for some bored employee to see me stuffing you in the sofa bed and call 911!"
But he did it. And I fit! (Ladies, don't try this at home unless you really trust your husband.)
For the sake of research I've even completed the coursework to become a private investigator in the state of Georgia... more on that tomorrow!