by Shauna Roberts
Todayâ€™s Guest: Dee Ann Palmer
A former nurse, Dee Ann Palmer now writes full time under her own name and as Carolina Valdez and Carol Holman. Her latest publication as Dee Ann Palmer is the mystery story “Marathon Madness” in the anthology Landmarked for Murder (Top). This month, her Carolina Valdez alter ego publishes “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” (Amber Quill Press), an erotic e-novella about two firefighters in love.
Dee Ann, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell my prepublished self that I should learn how to research.
My latest project illustrates the importanceâ€”and the difficultyâ€”of researching a story well. As I began “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down,” I wondered whether I was crazy to tackle a story involving slow-pitch baseball, firefighting, and search and rescue. After all, it was a big chunk, and I was the one crafting the story. I didn’t have to do this! Call me doggedâ€”or maybe just plain stubbornâ€”but I stuck with it.
You need to understand those subjects weren’t entirely new to me. That’s what gave me the courage to use them. The men in my family had played baseball while I cheered from the sidelines and brought refreshments. Training to be a MIC (mobile intensive care) Nurse many years ago, I’d spent twenty hours in a fire station in a neighboring town, hanging out and riding with their paramedics. That gave me an atmosphere from which to create my own station and a glimpse into how they lived while on duty.
There are no women in this novella, but I’d recently seen a presentation to eighth-grade girls by a female firefighter, and I even knew the seventy-pound weight of their backpacks was the same whether carried by men or women.
I’ve watched “Dog Whisperer” on TV, seen TV specials on search-and-rescue teams, and, in my Sisters in Crime chapter meetings, heard an expert witness on search hounds who breeds Bloodhounds.
No matter how familiar the subjects I’d chosen were to me, I researched them. The tools I used included the Internet, personal interviews and the local library, with its interlibrary loan system, periodicals, books, and videos. I could have accessed the Internet in the library if I hadn’t had my own computers.
As an example, I decided to use a Bloodhound, but what colors did they come in? How much did they weigh? An email contact with a breeder gave me that information. I decided which color I liked and gave my hound a name. An Internet look at search and rescue teams gave me clues as to other hounds used and revealed that some are air scenters and others are ground scenters. Because Bloodhounds are ground scenters, I chose an air scenter as my second dog.
A look at online photos of the SAR team in my county as they assembled to train sparked the opening scenes of my story.
As for firefighting, I spoke by phone with a battalion chief in my town and stopped firefighters when I saw them ready to leave a call or found them in the supermarket. Did they sleep dormitory style? Who was in charge on a call? Yes, they still come down poles and only have one minute to hit the mat at the bottom once the alarm sounds. A loudspeaker tells them the nature of the call and what to roll. The captain confirms it via print out.
Because I was writing about gays, I didn’t have the courage to ask for a tour of the main firehouse in my town. I did tell one man I was writing a romance filled with macho firefighters. He just laughed.
And, yes, I read three novels about gays, bought the ebook The Joy of Gay Sex, and looked up gay toys and sexual practices on the Internet.
I checked our local firefighter job descriptions online. Googling firefighting equipment and gear led me to ask about the mat and the boots and suits they use on different calls. I saw yellow suits in the back of an engine when I spoke to some men leaving a call up my street. Yes, they leave their suits in the truck or engine.
Well, what do you knowâ€”there are trucks and there are engines! Different purposes for various calls.
Obviously, I wasn’t going to use all the information in my story, but it would’ve been stupid not to look in depth for more than I’d personally experienced. I guess the short answer to whether all that research is necessary is YES. It makes your story ring with authenticity.
Dee Ann Palmer’s Website is at http://www.DeeAnnPalmer.com and her blog at http://www.dee-ann-palmer.blogspot.com/. The anthology Landmarked for Murder can be purchased from Dee Ann or online at Amazon.com.
Her Carolina Valdez Website is at http://www.CarolinaValdez.com and her blog at http://www.carolina-valdez.blogspot.com/. “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” is available at Amber Quill Press and will be available at Amazon.com.
Uncle James wants her to investigate a murder. His, that is.More info →
Practical and entertaining advice about how to create a fulfilling retirement.More info →