Before I had access to the internet, the research I did for my writing was at the library or through phone calls or in travel books and encyclopedias from my own shelves. Even then it was difficult for me to stay on task when I started researching a question. I’ve always been intrigued by trivia, and learning one new fact often raised more questions I felt compelled to answer even when they had nothing to do with my story. Now that most of the information in the world is literally at my fingertips, I can spend hours lost in the web if I’m not careful. One question leads to another, one link leads to another I simply can’t resist clicking. Somehow I start a geographical search and end up reading recipes for homemade sausages I have no intention of making. Before I know it, a couple hours have passed and I’ve written half the words I set for my daily goal.
This is an example of one of those sessions yesterday:
I’m working on the second book set in a fictional vacation resort on Lake Livingston in Texas. It’s been years since I visited that area in person, so I’ve had to refresh my memory a few times with internet searches and photos. I mentioned that the heroine’s family had lived on the lake since the early 1950s. And then I remembered that the lake is a man-made reservoir and realized I wasn’t sure exactly when it had been created. Simple, right? Search the history of the lake. Two minutes later, I had my answer. The reservoir was created in 1969. Whew, glad I checked. Though I’ve made a few mistakes in my more than 100 books, I try very hard to be accurate. A simple change in the story, which meant I could get straight back to work.
But, while I’m here, maybe I could look at a few more photos from vacation resorts similar to the one I’m creating just to make sure I have the general atmosphere of the area. Oh, here’s a cute photo of a little boy holding up a fish. He’s adorable. Look at those freckles. A little freckle-faced boy. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes. Why did that name pop into my head? Oh, right. My favorite holiday tradition is watching the movie “White Christmas” with my daughters. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes was the brother of Betty and Judy Haynes. I remember they showed a photograph of him – seems like I read somewhere whose picture they showed. Search. Oh, yes, it was the actor who’d played Alfalfa in the Our Gang shows. Carl Switzer. Whatever happened to him? Search. Oh, how sad. He was shot in a drunken brawl at the young age of 31. I love the movie “White Christmas.” It’s over a hundred degrees outside again (more than twenty days so far this summer of one-hundred-plus temps in Arkansas), and dreaming of Christmastime is certainly tempting. Remember that song, Snow, Snow, Snow from the movie? I’d love to see snow now. I remember that Vera Ellen’s voice was dubbed in the movie, but what was the name of the singer again? Oh, yes, Trudy Stevens. And — wow, here’s something I never knew! Rosemary Clooney sang both parts in the song, “Sisters!” I knew Vera Ellen died of anorexia (so sad and so obvious in the movie), but when was that again? Hmm, I didn’t know Fred Astaire turned down the role of Phil Davis (Danny Kaye’s part) after reading the script. Or that Donald O’Connor was then signed for the role but had to drop out for health reasons. I can’t imagine anyone other than Danny Kaye in that role! Did you know Danny Kaye was an accomplished chef and actually made his own sausages?
Even now, I’m fighting the urge to search the name Danny Kaye, which would probably lead to more interesting trivia about the actor, which would lead to the history of UNICEF, and perhaps on to Audrey Hepburn …
No. I really need to work today. It’s going to be over a hundred yet again, so sitting in the AC writing with the Olympics playing quietly in the background actually sounds appealing. Wonder if Audrey Hepburn ever attended the Olympics. How many actors participated … Johnny Weissmuller was an Olympic athlete, right? Wonder how many medals he won. Speaking of Olympic records …
Wait. What was I doing?
Okay, back to writing. At some point today, I need to check on how many types of fish are caught in Lake Livingston. I’m afraid to look now, because I have a word count goal to meet before breaking for lunch. But maybe just a little peek … Hmm, fish recipes. I wonder if there’s such a thing as fish sausages?
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