Yikes, I was so busy a: taking care of kittens (okay, playing with them); b: putting Advantage and new collars/tags on our resident felines (got all but one of ’em!); and c: researching and writing on FIXATION last night that I totally forgot to put up a post for this morning! And I don’t have any cute pictures on hand to toss up and caption so I’ll have to actually have… gasp… CONTENT.
Which brings me to the research portion of my c: category up there.
I’ve never been huge on preemptive research for my projects. If I need to find out something specific, sure, I’ll grab a book or use Google and figure out what I need on the spot. I’ve written a lot about what I know (places, subjects, clothes, food, zombies) and didn’t really need a lot of help getting going on stories or novels. I find the more I write, however, the more I’ve been relying on research to lend credibility to even the most fantastical plot elements (zombies, shamans, were-jaguars, flu vaccines gone REALLY wrong, and just how would the military deal with a zombie outbreak?) on one of my current projects, I’ve been using it to help spark ideas to expand a short story into a book.
FIXATION was originally a short story for the Ravenous Romance anthology FANGBANGERS (I’ll let you figure the title out) about a girl with psychic powers who encounters a shape-shifting jaguar shaman trapped at a place loosely based on the Exotic Feline Breeding Facility, where I’ve volunteered for over twelve years to varying degrees. I did a little research for the story on Meso-American cultures, trying to figure out where would be the best place to have my shaman originate, what culture I wanted to use as the historical starting point and inspiration for names/gods/goddesses/type of magic … stuff like that. I spent about an hour trolling the web and our home library for what I needed. And then the story pretty much wrote itself.
The book, however, has been proving more problematic because my writing muscles over the last few months have not been exercised as much as they’d been the previous three years. For a number of reasons to be found in my blog archives, I pretty much took a break from writing with the exception of re-reading my first Ashley Parker (formerly Ashley Drake) novel with an eye towards revising for its paperback re-release with Titan Books. So my brain has been very reluctant to get back with the program as far as coming up with fresh ideas. I could make a bad joke about not needing fresh ideas for a zombie novel, but I’ll just let that one sit and rot. HAH!
ANYway, a friend of mine (thank you, Maureen!) loaned me a bunch of books on South and Central American culture, shamans, spirit animals. I’m halfway through JAGUAR (about Alan Rabinowitz, the man who established the world’s first jaguar preserve in Belize) and it’s fascinating, heart-breaking, and the most random bits have sparked ideas and filled in huge gaping plot holes. The actual writing is still coming very slowly compared to my previous speed (I am a word count whore, okay? I admit it!), but it’s coming and I’m putting the time in.
All in all my attitude towards research has changed and I’m no longer looking at it as taking away from my writing but rather a part of the process as a whole. Of course, I have to watch that I don’t use it as an excuse to not put the time in on the actual writing and acquisition of precious word count. I’m great at rationalizing and I do love to read. As with many other things in life it’s all about balance. And word count. And kittens.