Saturday, January 05, 2008

Coming Up for Air

Donis here, sending you greetings for 2008.

First, a disclaimer. It has been pointed out to me that in my last post I may have implied that I bear a resemblance to Broomhilda or perhaps Sasquatch. Let me assure everyone that I am actually quite presentable. I was simply employing hyperbole to express a certain regret that since I've grown older, I'm no longer the cutest person in any room.

And now to business. After an exhausing end of the year push, I've finally finished the manuscript of the fourth book in my series. Writing this book was quite a different experience for me than writing the previous three. In the first place, it took me a solid year to get to this point. I did quite a bit more traditional research on this book, as well. Since my series is historical, I always do a lot of research, but until now, it has mostly been of the "go there and do that or ask someone who has" variety rather than hours on Google or in the library. The difference is that Book 4 is set in a relatively large town in rather than out on the farm. In 1915, life in a large town was pretty modern. Your house probably had electricity, indoor plumbing, a telephone and an automobile in the garage, whereas life on the farm wasn't much changed from the 19th Century. Therefore, I had to find out exactly what the state of electricity, indoor plumbing, telephones, and automobiles was in 1915.

Not to mention the fact that I set some of the action on an oil field. The 1910s was the beginning of the Oklahoma oil boom, and learning enough about the early days of oil exploration and extraction to be convincing was surprisingly difficult. I could find lots of info about modern oil exploration, and a lot about the beginnings of the oil business in the 1860s, but information about the time period and place I was interested in turned out to be not so easy for me to find. Now, if I still lived in Oklahoma, I think it might have been a different story.

Part of the problem was that I wanted to discover exactly how oil field workers used nitroglycerin to clear obstructions from a well. I am writing a murder mystery, after all, and I think that blowing someone to hell with nitro seems like a colorful way to commit murder. Sadly, I have reached such a state of paranoia that I was a little bit afraid to do nitroglycerin research on my home computer, lest the NSA bust down my door in the middle of the night. So I spent many hours doing anonymous research on the library computers, and finding lots of interesting facts about nitro, about oil wells, and about the 1910s, but not all together.

Then, in a moment of blinding insight, it occurred to me that my brother, computer geek extraordinaire, who wouldn't know an oil well from his elbow, was in fact the web master for the Society of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, OK. I rang him up, and he said, "I don't hang out with the geologists, Sis, (aside: he calls me Sis. He's the only boy among a bunch of girls. He calls us all Sis. I expect it's less confusing for him.) but, I sometimes eat lunch with a nice old petroleum engineer who may have an idea."

Two or three days later, he calls me back and says, "Bill tells me you should get hold of a book called Is There Nitroglycerin In This?, which is all about the many spectacular nitro accidents that have occured on oil fields in the U.S. throughout history."

Bob's your uncle.

How I love writing!


Anonymous said...

Yea! So glad you finished book #4. I look forward to it. Have sure enjoyed books 1-3 and have recommended them to one and all. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

You might want to contact the Petoleum Museum in Odessa, Texas...they can probably tell you whatever you want to know...