Tuesday, May 12, 2015

35 Crazy Things I Had to Research for My Books

Writers know that behind every story, there's caffeine, blood, sweat, tears, and a hilarious Google history.

So the other day on Twitter I asked the #amwriting community what were some of the craziest things they had to research for their books. The responses were both fascinating and entertaining, to say the least.

 All this to say, I decided to take a break from talking about How To Write Things and list some of the crazy stuff I had to research for the three WIPs that have occupied my writerly time these past two years.

1. The Grande ArmeƩ's cannon horse color coordination

Yes, this was actually a thing.

2. How seats are numbered at Turner Field in Atlanta

3. Qing Dynasty Chinese marriage traditions

4. The history of Hebrew Lexiconography

One of these, basically.

5. Hawaiian leprosy colonies

Moloka'i colony in the 1880s

6. How to fold a letter in the Regency Era

Now I just need to know how to read it! Diagonal, backwards, and across, all to save paper.

7. Hurling (which is a pretty awesome sport)

8. 1920s slang

Some of my favorites are "booshwashing" (chatting uselessly), and "drugstore cowboy" (a guy who hangs around the street dressed up looking for a girl)

9. How to wreck a steam engine effectively

10. The Tailteann Games

The Tailteann Games were the Ancient Irish Olympics, though they pre-dated the Olympics by far. In the 1920s the Games had a hugely popular but sadly short-lived revival. 

11. The history of the can-can

Well, can you?

12. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

13. If Benedictine monasteries take mail

According to the original order, nope.

14. Tsunami wave patterns

Turned out to be a whole lot more complicated than I thought.

15. Heterochromia

16. Insane child monarchs

This is Peter III of Russia, better known as Catherine the Great's husband. His favorite past time was to play war with his pet rats.

17. Luddite Rebellion

18. Trestle bridge construction

19. Cowboy boots

20. Goats

21. Pirate code (which ruined parts of Pirates of the Caribbean for me the first time I watched it)

22. What time of year it's safe to hike Mount Fuji. Also, the haunted forests around it.

They say the trees look like they're walking

23. Grab and go slave auctions

As if they weren't bad enough. Someone would fire a gun and the buyers would run in and snatch the first slave they wanted.

24. Chinese water torture

25. How to brew poteen, negus, and vodka

Poteen = Irish potato moonshine. Negus = spiced wine, AKA Regency Era equivalent of Starbucks. Vodka = well, vodka.

26. How soon to RSVP to a Regency Era ball

Do it ASAP.

27. Celtic cattle raids

Celts took their raids seriously. Really seriously. This is Cu Chulainn. In the Irish fable The Cattle Raid of Cooley, nearby Queen Medb decides she wants Cu's buddy's bull and launches a massive war against him where hundreds of people die... all for a bull. 

28. Pre-Roman cosmetics

Ground beetle shells and berry juice, anyone?

29. The wattage level of a room full of candles

Only about 15 watts, apparently.

30. Thai noodle carts

31. How to creel spinning mules, and what type of grease was used on the machine

Watch your fingers. Creeling is taking the empty bobbins off and replacing them. Spinning mules were greased with vegetable fat.

32. The Taiping Rebellion's Heavenly Army

Included divisions especially for women and children

33. The Carol of the Bells

The original Ukrainian song was about spring, and included lyrics about lambs, flowers, and birds flying through your window.

34. The Georgia Aquarium's Dolphin Show room's layout

35. Russian thunder god totem poles

Yeah, don't ask.

There you go.

What are some crazy things you've had to research?


  1. I had to research civil war era maps and articles, and one of the pages I found was actually blocked by the federal government. I was a little freaked out, especially when I found out that everyone else in my history class had the same problem. XD

    1. LOL wow!!! I haven't had that happen yet, but I probably will, as one of my upcoming WIPs is set in WW2.

    2. Haha, wow WW2, that sound like a lot of research. :)