Whisper obscure facts to me

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‘Is this even possible? Maybe the car is so old it preceded shatter-resistant glass?’

Here’s what I love about Melissa Johnson, my editor at Carina – she has the nicest way of getting you to really think about your choice of words, and whether the image you think you’re conjuring is as realistic as it could be (like the “magic garage door”. But that’s another story). Right from the first round of edits, the validity of Rachel Miller, the heroine in The Stubborn Dead, being able to smash a classic car’s driver-side window into little pieces was up for debate.

For me, it was a pretty open and shut case. At the time I was taking sword fighting lessons up in Vancouver every Saturday, and not a week went by without at least three cars getting broken into in the parking lot I favoured.** I looked at the way the glass lay around the cars (from a safe distance), and didn’t think twice about using what I’d seen in my writing.

Problem is, there’s a whole industry out there designed around convincing the general public that driver-side car windows don’t break easily (and thus you need to buy their product to help escape in the event you do a movie-style plunge into a dark, frigid river etc. etc.).

Turn to YouTube, you say? There has to be some sort of proof to support either argument on there!

Yeah, no. There are as many wonderful videos showing windows being smashed in seconds, as there are clips of beefy gentlemen (or reporters) struggling to making a decent crack, let alone a clear break.

So I did what any debut author wanting to keep in her editor’s good graces would do – I went to bug an expert for details. Specifically, I took a drive down to our local Speedy Glass Auto Center to chat with their technicians. There’s nothing quite like walking up to the counter and saying something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m an author, and I need to ask you a pretty strange question – can a woman smash a classic car’s driver side window with the back end of a gun?” At which point everyone within earshot has your undivided attention.

It was a fabulous experience. TWO technicians peppered me with questions. Make of the car? ’57 Eldorado. Original or restored? Restored, but by someone who would have gotten the details just right. So he would have made an effort to buy an original Cadillac part? Knowing Kit, most likely. Alright, then that meant that the driver side window would have been tempered, not laminate. What type of a gun was used in the scene? A smaller GLOCK. And the wielder? How big were they? A fit twenty-something year old woman, who would have brought the back end down onto the glass as hard as possible. Well sure, the metal base where the clip pushes into the gun would smash that window without a problem, and the glass would break into tiny, sharp pieces.

Huzzah!

If it’s one thing I’m learning more and more in life, it’s that the majority of professionals and enthusiasts just love to share their knowledge. Which is fabulous if you’re a writer trying to create accurate scenarios, but it’s even better if you’re just plain curious about what people get up to.

So, out of curiosity, what’s the strangest or most obscure piece of information you’ve ever heard from someone else? Or do you have a skill, or outstanding amount of knowledge about a topic, that people find odd or fascinating (even if you don’t)?

**A tip for visitors to Vancouver – leave NOTHING of value visible in your car, especially if you park in a multi-level lot. Even spare change is enough of a reason for a break-in. (And don’t forget to put that GPS unit and your iPod away!) Vancouver’s a great little city full of really nice people, and we wouldn’t want your visit ruined by opportunistic thieves.

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When not devising ways to er, provide conflict for her characters, Natasha enjoys a good adventure. Especially if it involves ‘stumbling upon’ movie or TV shoots around Vancouver, hunting for G1 My Little Ponies at local thrift shops, meandering through book and toy stores, or looking into paranormal phenomena.

She can be found mostly at her blog, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr accounts. She’s also known to pop up on Tumblr, Goodreads, Google +, YouTube and at the Harlequin Community.

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Official Cover - The Stubborn Dead

The Stubborn Dead – Book 1 in the Lost Souls series – Available from Carina Press. Also available as a Kindle edition.

‘Rachel Miller thought her next job was a run-of-the-mill haunting. As a member of the Order of Rescue Mediums it’s her duty to release trapped spirits from the earthly realm. But when called to client Sylvia Elkeles’s house, she finds a wraith who doesn’t act like he should.

The Order considers the wraith an extreme threat and Rachel may be forced to use a barbaric ritual to free him—a ritual that comes with a heavy personal price. If she fails to humanely release the wraith, she’ll have her supernatural abilities bound.

When Janus Ostara—local supernatural mob boss—shows up demanding her attention, and Sylvia keeps secrets that may place Rachel in mortal danger, she doesn’t need her abilities to know something darkly sinister is at play.

Between uncovering Sylvia’s disturbing motives, and avoiding Janus, Rachel has enough on her hands without dealing with a wraith who may not realize he’s supposed to be dead…’

Comments

  1. well I can tell you from experience get the woman mad enough and she will put her fist thru the window. My sister was going thru divorce and her husband basically told her F the kids and rolled the window up. She put her fist thru the closed window of the car and hit him in the face. No gun needed just plain old anger.

  2. Oh I research tons of small silly details that no one should care about but me. For example, I spent an entire day researching dandelions to see if they closed at night. I’ve learned how to change the oil and jump start a car, purely for research. I’ve walked into bakeries, lstations and ancient language professor classrooms. I have ongoing correspondence with oceanographers and professional ballroom dancers.

    Research is fun!

  3. Mythbusters did a show about shattering either windshields and/or rear windows–it was one of the series where they were trying to re-create or else “bust” movie special effects.

    I learn a lot of really obscure but fascinating tips from that show.

    When I write, I’m not good at finding a fact to fit a situation I want in the plot. I do it the other way around–imagine the plot around the fact. I think I’d go crazy the other way around.

  4. I think writers and editors must be on homeland security watch lists for the stuff we google every day.

    Congrats on your release, Natasha!

  5. All hail Melissa Johnson! I second your praise. She is the best. For my first book I interviewed a gentleman at the Maryland Parole Commission. He answered lots of technical questions about parole hearings. For an upcoming release I interviewed a wedding planner. Like you, I found that these kind people really enjoyed talking about their work and helping my characters solve problems. It was great. Congratulations on your release! I look forward to reading it.

  6. Melissa, that thought occurs to me every time I’m on Google. Just this past week, I was mapping Washington DC, figuring out the preferred handguns for Deputy US Marshals (service handgun and backup weapon), the top sniper training school in the US…. Hmmm. I’m thinking my next post may be written from jail!

  7. * Jean S: Yikes! Was your sister okay? I imagine her hand must have been pretty cut up!

    * Inez: Absolutely! And EVERYTHING can be put down as research. Want to learn how to rappell down the side of a building? Go ahead – you never know when a character might do that, and you’ll need to know how it felt in order to ‘keep readers in the moment through accurate details’. Spot a particularly devilish looking treat at your local coffee shop? Well, you might have a character that’s a secret cake aficionado… etc. etc. Ah yes, research can be fun! ;D

    * Kristi: I LOVE Mythbusters! If you can stomach them, ‘1000 ways to die’ and ‘Deadliest Warrior’ (for the weapons and fighting style info, not so much for the matchups) are great for obscure info (and gruesome plot points) as well. ‘Surviving Disaster’ with Cade Courtley is also full of incredible tidbits. Though the ultimate show for obscure, non-PG facts you probably didn’t want to know, has to be ‘MANswers’. (Yes, they’re all Spike TV shows. No comment.) William Shatner’s ‘Wierd or What’ is pretty interesting, too.

    * Melissa: Thank you! :D

    * Rebecca: Thanks! :D Is that upcoming release ‘Snowbound with a Stranger’?

    * Elisa: LOL! OK, I have to ask (because I’m a real nosey Nellie)- where is the top sniper training school in the US (or do you have to go through an army/police program to get that training)?

  8. My sister was ok and todays auto glass actually crumbles into small balls of glass so no cuts at all. I’ll bet her hand hurt after the adreniline wore off though (she never did say) I had to go pick her up from jail so I got to find out where the Annapolis jail was

  9. Actually I think the Sig Arms schools are pretty good and the Blackwater is too. A friend of mine uses a Sig P229 for his backup.(he’s a city cop)but for me the top sniper training is from the Marine Corp

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