One of the fun parts about being a mystery writer is doing research. Clearly, there are the basic forms including searching the Internet, going to the library and interviewing people. Then comes another whole realm of research—visiting specific locations you are writing about. My three published mysteries take place in Hawaii, Colorado and California. Since I grew up in Hawaii, spent time in California and now live in Colorado, I’m acquainted with all three locations. But for my recently published Senior Moments Are Murder, I needed to become more familiar with Venice Beach, California. Fortunately, my daughter lived there for several years, so my wife and I went to visit a number of times. I spent my spare time wandering around Venice Beach. You couldn’t ask for a better place to people watch. Along the boardwalk you’ll find every imaginable size, shape, and type of people in any costume you can or can’t imagine. There are rollerskaters, street performers, sellers hawking their wares, graffiti artists, beachgoers and gawkers. There are also canals in Venice Beach that are worth seeing—only a three block stretch but beautiful.
My upcoming novel, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, takes place on an Alaskan cruise ship, so my wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise as a research expedition for me (tough tour of duty).
The other form of research I get involved in is experimentation. As an example, I had a scene where someone my weight (150 pounds), would need to float in water using only inflated toy balloons. So my research question was: how many balloons would it take to support me in the water? Before you read further, make your guess. At the time I needed an answer to this question, I was still working full time and traveling several times a month to Orange County, California. On one of my trips I bought some balloons and some fishing net. When I got back to the motel that night, I went down to the pool to experiment. I blew up some balloons, stuffed them in the netting and jumped in the pool to see how many balloons would be needed to hold me up in the water. When I did this, there were a group of people in the hot tub watching this weird guy play with balloons. Undeterred, I performed my experiment. I thought it would take about six balloons to keep my afloat, so I started with six and found that number provided more than enough buoyancy. Then I eliminated balloons, one at a time, until I discovered the answer—one balloon could keep me afloat. Afterwards, I went over to the hot tub, which led to a number of questions and a chance for me to pitch my books to a new audience. Hey, everything is an opportunity when you’re a writer.