I’ve been posting little lists of things I’ve looked up while writing these books to my Tumblr and Facebook, so I thought I’d add what I’ve posted so far to this website. Because why not?
I’m not going to put them in any particular order, because it doesn’t really matter. This is over the course of the last three or four weeks.
Things I’ve looked up online and learned about tonight while working on my book:
The band Bill Haley and His Comets (just that I was correct in pulling this band as an example of a mid-fifties, early sixties teeny bopper band. Kind of pre-Elvis more innocent early rock). A Happy Days era rock band.
Whether a woman would be showing in her third month of pregnancy, and what symptoms she may be experiencing. (most likely not. She may experience morning sickness, fatigue, swollen and sensitive breasts, darkening nipples, possible decreased sex drive)
Whether or not a teenage girl with average experience could cut her own hair from straight and parted to bangs by herself or if she’d need professional help (Yes. five hundred different instructional youtube videos helped with that one). I was also able to message a friend on facebook and ask her opinion on it as well, as I had no clue before tonight.
That’s not at all counting the many, many words I looked up in both online dictionaries and thesauruses.
That was in the two pages I wrote tonight. My point is that the internet is fucking great.
How to put pleats into a dress (there are various methods, the most straightforward involves ironing over a form and sewing. I decided it was more work than my character was willing to do at that point)
Popular sewing machines in the 1950s-60s (Singer. Duh)
Whether a doctor doing a pelvic exam in 1971 would be able to recognize that a woman was two months pregnant without any other indicators (I actually polled my Facebook people on this one and my mother responded and said that yes, if it was a first pregnancy, because of something called “Chadwick’s sign” which is a bluish discoloration in cervix, vulva and labia. I then responded asking if the pregnancy was the result of a violent assault, could this be dismissed as bruising or other damage and she said, sure, it could be.)
Popular magazine a woman might read in a doctor’s waiting room in 1971 (Family Circus. The magazine, not the comic strip)
Lots and lots about medical stirrups, speculums and latex gloves (all of which were in use in 1971)
the history of pregnancy tests and where they were at in 1971 (not quite at home kits yet. Same basic principle but it involved a lot of test tubes and solutions and chemistry and took about two hours)
The Rabbit Test (early form of pregnancy test where they would inject a rabbit (or a mouse, or a frog) with a woman’s urine, and then two days later dissect that rabbit. If the rabbit’s ovaries were larger than normal, it meant the woman was pregnant. Obviously this isn’t directly relevant in my story, but a character makes a reference to it and I wanted to make sure I understood it.)
Doctor’s head-mirrors (You know those goofy round things cartoon doctors wear on their foreheads? Apparently they used to actually use those things. There was a tiny hole in the center that they looked through and a light was aimed in their direction and they used the mirror as a kind of headlamp to see into people’s various holes. )
abortions pre-Roe V Wade (1973) (Quite a few states had repealed their anti-abortion laws between 1967 and 1973, but certainly not Utah, where this portion of the story takes place.)
Paris Hilton/Britney Spears history and timeline (just when the whole party girl, paparazzi hollywood club chick thing started)
Bridges in Nephi Utah (not many, none suitable for what I need. Google maps is great! Satellite view ftw. Train tracks it is! Orphan Black style suicide! Spoiler alert!)
The timeline between when Jim Morrison supposedly exposed himself in Miami and his death in Paris. (Subsequently, I also read a fair bit about different theories regarding how he died, most of which I knew. One I hadn’t heard (or possibly had forgotten about) was that apparently, friends of Pam, Morrison’s girlfriend, came out some twenty years later and claimed that Pam told them that Jim had mistakenly snorted heroin, believing it to be coke, and got a massive nosebleed and hemorrhaged to death, both he and Pam too zonked out to do anything about it. When I imagine Jim’s body in the grave in Pere Lachaise I picture a skeleton in a coffin, all the flesh and hair and clothes rotted away except for this pair of hard, perfect leather pants in the shape of his legs.)
Dry states and the availability of alcohol in Utah in 1971 (Didn’t learn much and ended up just making it up. I figure it someone wants to drink, they’ll find a way to drink. If someone from Nephi wants to fight me about it, fucking bring it. I’m not afraid of you.)
If there are train tracks in Nephi, Utah and where they cross through town (yes. They run along and through the west side of town, running parallel to the I-15. Yay google maps!)
Not much, though I did do a fair bit of writing last night. Most of it was introspective, rather than dealing with the world.
Adoption in 1971 (specifically amongst the Mormon community. I didn’t find much that helped my story in regards to Mormons, but I did find out that because of the influx of birth control and Roe v Wade, the nature of adoption changed pretty dramatically right around that time. I think that because of the location and because it was early enough in the timeline, it would be the old cliche of the baby is born, they come in and take it away and that’s the last the mother ever hears about it.)
What genre of music is the music they play in the Fallout games? (It’s creepy and I wanted to be able to explain what it was my character was hearing in a scene. It’s big band/swing era jazz from the 40s and early 50s)
How to crochet a blanket (I didn’t really need to know how it’s done, because I’m not describing the process. I just wanted to know if it was something this character would invest their time into. It is! I wonder how many vampire stories out there have vampires that crochet blankets)
Disneyland railroad (When which locomotives were operational, and if the route changed at all over the years. I also tangentially read a fair bit about the Lilly-Belle, just because it’s interesting and now I want to ride on it)
Billie Holiday songs on youtube (for atmosphere. Also to pick a song. Also because they’re good)
Song lyrics copyright (More work than it’s worth without an agent or lawyer. Don’t bother)
Protein in milk (just curious. it came up. Milk. SYMBOLISM. I’M A WRITER)
The next biggest town near Nephi, Utah (Provo. Brigham Young University is there. And the Osmonds. It’s about 40 miles north.)
As usual, lots and lots of spelling and synonyms.
I didn’t write any yesterday or last night because I was busy, but here’s what I looked up the night before:
Swimming strokes (not much to learn there. I just needed to pick one that sounded good. Butterfly stroke)
Mormon missions (I mostly just needed to know if it was called something besides a “mission”. I knew they called themselves missionaries, but I didn’t know if missions were called missions. They are)
Glider swings (not what I thought. Went with porch swing instead)
Early labor contractions (didn’t really learn anything. Just needed to verify what I already knew)
It’s weird to think that people used to write books before the internet. That must have been terrible. Going the library to find out simple shit like that? Forgettaboutit!
uterine rupture – Researched fairly thoroughly. It’s just as depressing and horrifying of a subject as you can imagine. I’m writing about all kinds of terrible things in this book. Murder, sexual assault, self mutilation, torture. But damned if it isn’t the uterine rupture research that’s the most depressing. I ended up Facebook messaging my mother who used to be a lamaze instructor and knows pretty much everything about giving birth and learned a lot of things.
Whether EMTs can administer anesthesia – I got mixed answers on that, and decided that in 1971 in a small town in Utah, whatever I make up is probably entirely feasible. Talking to my mom I found out that EMTs can’t really do shit, but paramedics can do all sorts of things if they need to. And if the ambulance was coming for a uterine rupture, they would likely bring an actual doctor or surgeon because they would probably do a c-section on the spot (as well as a hysterectomy to stop the bleeding. Especially in the early 70s when apparently doctors were quite fond of relieving women of their uteruses)
Nurse call buttons – Just needed to know if that technology was around in the early 70s. Didn’t find what I was looking for, but for now I’m just going to assume they had something like that. My mom had the answer for that one as well. They’ve been around for quite a while. A buzzer and a light over the door to tell the nurses which room was calling.
Nurse uniforms in the early 1970s – I (correctly) assumed that they wore the traditional nurse outfit with the weird cap. I always think of Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Apparently the cap was the source of some drama around that time, as it was being phased out. I’ve always found those uniforms creepy and was glad to see that they were still around in 1971. My mom said that by 1978 (when I was born) the nurses wore the modern style scrubs, so that transition must have happened during the 70s. I commented to my mom that it was weird that they would wear pristine white uniforms when their jobs were so dirty, and she pointed out that it was specifically because their jobs were so dirty that they wore the white uniform. It was to reassure the patient that the nurses were clean. She also said that the traditional uniform with the weird cap was derivative from catholic hospitals where the nurses were nuns in full nun gear and habits.
pitocin – A drug used to induce labor. I needed a way for someone to maliciously induce a uterine rupture and my mom suggested pitocin, which was used to induce labor. Apparently it was typically administered with a slow drip IV, to avoid exactly that. But there was a tablet form called “buccal pitocin” that was apparently really unstable and unpredictable. It basically caused the women to start contracting constantly. I guess it was pretty easy to accidentally kill a woman with the wrong dose. Basically explodes her uterus.
I just started chapter 3 of that character’s backstory and it’s very exciting. Now we’re in a country bar outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee and some fuckers about about to get crazy vampire murdered. Finally. Enough of this pregnant teenager drama!
whether 911 calls in 1971 would have been recorded. Stopped trying to figure that one out. Turned out it didn’t matter because I skipped that aspect of the story entirely.
Major Hospitals in Utah (the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake seems like the most obvious place to send a baby in need. Specifically, its offshoot the Primary Children’s Medical Center
More music for a particular character. Hung up on Billy Holiday, though I tried out some Nina Simone. Really liked the song Strange Fruit, which has some pretty disturbing imagery in it. But it’s about lynching and racial violence, so probably not appropriate for my purposes. Not that it really matters, because it’s a book, and it’s not like the song is playing for anyone but me. I just like to be able to provide a little suggestion for atmosphere.
Recovery for a hysterectomy (six weeks or so, the first two are pretty much straight up bed ridden hell)
Spiritual services in a Mormon hospital in the 70s – (didn’t find much specifics, but it seems that they’ve got interfaith chaplains like most other hospitals. Seems that even Mormon owned hospitals provided chapel services for other faiths. Not that it matters for my character, but I was curious)
Whether a 1965 Cadillac Eldorado (or De Ville, I haven’t decided for sure yet) had an automatic trunk locking system. It did. Also power windows. Cool.
Almost done with this chapter and this segment of the book. Pretty soon it will be time to move onto a new time and location. That’s intimidating as heck!
This particular time/location/character has covered two major chapters. Collectively it’s only about 40 pages (27,170 words) but it feels like I’ve been working on it forever. This is all leading up to this character becoming a vampire, so it’s really pretty far “off Island” (which is what I call the b-story or flashbacks. The main story is “on Island”. It’s a Lost thing) but whatever, I can divide it up however I want. Hell, I can write only backstory for as long as I want and write the On Island stuff last, once I know everything there is to know about the characters, and then pick and choose which flashbacks I want to drop in whenever I want.
Chattanooga, TN (Needed a midsized city in Tennessee. Not familiar with the area personally. Rode through there once on a Greyhound. Either way, the name won me over. Not gonna spend much time there. Just kill a dude and move on.)
Bordellos and brothels in San Francisco in the late 1800s (Specifically in the area called The Barbary Coast, which I learned about tonight. Big time red light district. Burned down in 1910)
Salazar (Just the name. Cool sounding name. Googled it. Got bored. Named a vampire pimp Salazar)
Good french names for a whore house. (Le Pret Femme – The Ready Woman. Not a lot of room for subtlety in the Barbary Coast! Yay for online translators!)
Chinese female names – (Chao-xing. Supposedly means “morning star”. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, but it sounds good. I may change that character’s name down the road, as I didn’t expect that character to become an important character. Originally I meant for her to get killed by said vampire pimp, but when it came time to get it done, Salazar actually ended up being intimidated out of business. Turns out Chao-xing is actually a fucking badass Vampire pimp herself and scared the bajesus out of Salazar enough that he closed up shop and got the fuck out of San Francisco)
Saint Sebastian (just needed to know which was the guy with all the arrows coming out of him. You know, the one in Carrie’s prayer closet. This had to do with how Chao-xing intimidated Salazar. She murdered one of his girls and hung her from a thirty foot ceiling riddled with knives and swords)
Cities in California during the gold rush (needed to know where vampires fleeing San Francisco might go. Major cities and obvious destinations. Sacramento and Oregon)
The actual location and position of a human heart in a person’s chest. (You know, for staking. Though I’m handling that differently than traditional vampire stories. I’m handling most aspects of this story differently than traditional vampire stories)
Sunset times in Arizona in the winter – 5:30-6ish. I’m not sure if that’s when they start or finish, so I set this part of the story closer to 6:30. I give my vampires a little bit of leeway. While they aren’t playing baseball because it’s a little cloudy, they can still catch the tail end of a sunset without worrying about dying a terrible death.
cesarean section – It was left over from the previous chapter, but I needed to learn some fact or another. I don’t even remember what it was.
Popular brands of cigarettes in the 1970s – I didn’t get any specific information, but I figure we’re in the west, might as well go with the classic Marlboro Reds.
Disposable lighters in the 70s – Surprisingly, disposable plastic lighters didn’t come out until 1974. They started with the Gillette Cricket, and then Bic came out with their famous lighter. Either way, good old fashioned matches won that round.
Rolling Stone covers in 1970. – Had classic options like the death of Hendrix and Janis and the Altamont tragedy, but decided to go with Charles Manson, because why not. It turned into a pretty lengthy analysis of the Manson trial (which would have been in full swing around when this story took place) and how it impacted this character. Worked out well.
The timing of the Manson trial – See above.
Serial killers in the late sixties and early seventies. – For the sake of comparison, I needed another newsworthy monster. I thought perhaps John Wayne Gacy, but he didn’t start until 72, too late for my purposes. Went with the Zodiac Killer. More interesting anyway.
The Stonewall Riots and the perception of homosexuality in the early 70s – Stonewall was 1969 and the first gay pride parade in America was in Chicago in 1970. A teenage character in 1971 is considering the possibility that the woman she’s running away with is a lesbian, and I’m trying to realistically estimate what a 16 year old girl in 1971 would think about that. For the sake of story (IE, it won’t work for her to be completely repelled by the idea) and in an attempt to show the character as fairly bright and perceptive, I’m going to write her as open minded about it, unintimidated but also confident in her own heterosexuality. FOR NOW. DUN DUN DUUUN. Nah, it’s not going to go there. I don’t think. We’ll see.
Anyway, I’m done for the night. More tomorrow I hope. It’s going well.
The distance between Flagstaff, Arizona and Nephi, Utah and how long it would take to drive it.– It’s about a six to seven hour drive. Maybe cutting it a little close for my purposes, but it’s doable.
The American Civil War – Just some dates. Mostly when it started and stopped. I know very little about the civil war.
The Transcontinental Railway – Dates and routes. Ended up ditching it entirely and went with a wagon train. Easier to imagine a group of vampires attacking a wagon train than attacking an actual train. The actual train would probably be more spectacular, but doesn’t really work with the tone of what I’m doing. Besides, the attack that happens has to be able to be dismissed as a random act of violence, probably by a group of disgruntled natives. That’s easier to buy when it’s 30 people in a wagon train than an actual train full of people. The wagon train attack up in the mountains sounds scarier too. Train attack just kind of sounds fun.
The Donner Party – See above. Just curious. I already knew a fair bit about the Donner party, but I wanted to know if they would have passed before or after when my group gets attacked. They were a fair bit before, and in the winter. My group (smartly) went over the pass in the summer. Too bad they got murdered and kidnapped anyway.
VW Bug dashboard lights – I wasn’t able to find out much, unfortunately. I needed to know how they were illuminated. I assume they had to be in some way, or else you wouldn’t be able to tell how fast you were going at night.
What year the bug that Ted Bundy drove was – 68, though I remember Ann Rule saying in her book Stranger Beside Me that he went through a series of Bugs over the years, so I’m not too worried about getting the year right. I’m putting him in an older one, like 62. From what I can tell, the interior (which is what I’m mostly concerned with) is virtually the same as the 68. It looks like the design of the beetle didn’t change dramatically over that decade
Didn’t do a lot of research tonight. Wrote six pages and most of it was a character’s transition from living person to vampire. I initially started off describing it in purely biological terms. What she physically felt as she went through the process. But then I went back and added a bunch of nightmarish psychological stuff as well. She’s basically dying and coming back to life. That’s probably going to be an upsetting experience.
But it’s also an experience that doesn’t require much research. I did end up looking at pictures of Mike Nesmith, because he figured into it a bit, but I already know everything I need to know about him. Mostly it was just inspiration, not research.
the interior of a 56 Lincoln Town Car (No such thing. The Town Car wasn’t introduced until 1959, and even then it wasn’t actually a town car, but a sub-name of the Lincoln Continental. The actual Town Car wasn’t produced until 1981. So whatever, so the guy drives a 56 Continental That works too.)
Expensive Designer black dress (“Versace Lace-Knit Dress in Black” Went into google and searched for “expensive designer black dress” and ended up with a bunch of inexpensive black dresses masquerading as designer black dresses. So I grabbed a random designer name out of my limited memory banks and searched for “Versace black dress” and found some that worked. Luckily, Donatella Versace has apparently made some very attractive, sexy black dresses. I picked one that both looked good and was expensive (over 1600 pounds on the website I found it on http://www.polyvore.com/versace_lace-knit_dress_in_black/thing?id=80322259) and hoped it wasn’t too obvious that I know absolutely nothing about fashion designers or dresses.)
Which model of relatively modern Jaguar would have a sun roof (2012 Jaguar XF)
What the the steering wheel of that Jaguar is made out of (leather, naturally, though I had to check to be sure.)
Whether pure MDMA is ecstasy or simply the active ingredient in ecstasy (MDMA is ecstasy, so it’s the active ingredient and is also the drug itself, though often what people call ecstasy is actually a combination of MDMA and other drugs and fillers, or even other drugs and fillers and no MDMA at all. It’s the same thing we used to worry about with Acid back before ecstasy existed. LSD is acid, but not all acid is pure LSD. Or that’s what I thought until tonight. Apparently, while it’s possible that the recipe for LSD can be manipulated and shifted, for the most part most LSD you get is actually LSD. What we were told (which turns out to be be mostly urban legend) that most LSD was actually a mixture of a bunch of crazy drugs that could turn you into a psychotic monster, foaming at the mouth and attacking your neighbors like a werewolf. That it might be angel dust or amphetamines or any number of scary, non-mind-opening drugs. As it turns out, the dose needed for LSD generally is pretty much the only drug in its class that can be fit on the delivery system for acid (typically blotter paper or sugar cubes). Apparently, whatever dose of meth or PCP or crack or whatever you would need to fuck you up is not large enough (or, for that matter, available in the dropper distribution method) to pass off as acid. So acid is either acid or, if it’s not, it’s likely nothing.
None of this is relevant to my story, it just branched off of my basic question about MDMA (which I know almost nothing about and now know just a tiny bit about).
Now I want to find some acid. I have no idea how to go about doing that. I need to go back in time and talk to myself when I was 19.
Who am I kidding, I’m not going to do any acid. I’m too old and too far removed from society for that. I’d probably die)