Monday, October 12, 2009
A Burning Cigarette in a Couch...
How long does it take a burning cigarette left in a couch to catch a house on fire?
It’s amazing the factoids I’ve gathered, writing as a full-time novelist for the last ten years. I know tidbits on all kinds of things. Sometimes the weirdest of things. All because at one point or another, I’ve needed them in a book. If I had to list every piece of data I've researched, the list would take me a week to type. Here are just a few questions for which I've had to find answers.
1. Do teeth ever float? (dentist question, of course)
2. Who’s present at a C-section? (doc question)
3. The moon phase on a certain night one year in the future, when my book is taking place. (online research. Great web site at: http://stardate.org/nightsky/moon/)
4. What time the sun will rise/set on a certain day in a certain town a year in the future. (online at: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html. This site also gives moon phases.)
5. What times the tide will go out/come in on a certain beach on a certain day a year in the future. (online: http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/)
6. How does strychnine kill you?
7. What would a judge do if he/she heard someone had threatened a jury member?
8. How does a forensic artist recreate a face from a bare skull?
9. How does a detective make a mold of a footprint?
10. How does a mass spectrometer microscope work?
11. What are the exceptions to the hearsay rule in law?
12. What’s the procedure for doing a sweep of a room for bugging devices?
13. What are the various ways to bug a phone?
14. How can you track someone’s whereabouts through their cell phone?
15. How many officers serve on the police force of a town of 1700 people, and how do they run their shifts?
16. How do night vision goggles work, and what are the choices in buying a pair?
17. Does a car rental agency ever make a copy of a renter’s driver’s license?
18. In Idaho, can you tape record a conversation when only one person in that conversation knows it’s being recorded? (Answer: yes. This is not true of many states.)
19. How is Pitocin (drug used to induce labor) administered?
20. How long before a cigarette in a couch burns a house down?
21. What’s the frequency for Oakland, California air space?
22. How do forensic anthropologists determine gender/age from scattered human bones?
23. What’s the procedure for a private adoption?
24. How long before wild animals eat a corpse in the woods?
25. At what stage of development was DNA in 1992?
26. What kind of little wild animal might steal bones?
27. On car dealership lots, where are the keys kept for all the new cars? (Answer: in a lock box on the car. The sales person carries a key to get into the lock boxes.)
28. Are the windows in the parking lot shuttles at a certain airport tinted?
29. Where do out-of-state media get their big news trucks?
30. Under what conditions can a single hair yield useable DNA?
Readers—did you ever stop to think of all the things novelists have to learn just to write one book? Writers—you have some interesting research questions of your own? Let's hear them. Who knows, maybe you’ll mention a factoid I'll need to know some day...
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