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May 2019: Strangest Search
~ Helen Henderson ~

CTR asked:

What is the strangest thing you’ve researched for a book? Tell us about the thing, the book it’s featured in, and your methods (i.e. search engines, interviews, Reddit testimonials, etc).

Helen Henderson said:

When I first saw this topic, I was excited. I love research and have even lectured on the topic. Then reality set in. There was no way for me to answer the question. The prompt stated research for a book, implying the research had to be done for a specific book as the book was being written. Adding to the difficulty is that the most unusual researches I’ve done was for my non-fiction articles and histories.

As a rule other than looking for images to aid in describing a locale, research into any particular activity that might be featured in the book had already been done as part one of my various careers. Research on the cockpit for “Live or Surrender to Technology” from the Hearth and Sand anthology didn’t require even leaving my chair. All I had to do was search for the childhood memory of updating airline manuals. “Echoes From The Valley” from the same book required a quick dash to the ladies room to don a hoop skirt and stash my camera, press credentials, and notebook into a basket. Now appropriately retired I walked the field of tents setup on a historic battle. With the public gone for the day and the sunsetting, it was as if I walked back in time.

Then there was the requirement of “strange.” What some might consider strange. Another person might consider the action perfectly normal. Horseback riding could be thought of as strange research for a city dweller, but would be perfectly normal part of life for a ranch hand. Learning how to shoot a bow and arrow shifts a little closer to strange, but would not quite be there yet. While I already knew how to shoot a long bow, I did have to research antique crossbows, including how to build and load them. Perhaps the most interesting information came from watching a documentary on the Terra Cotta Armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China and how ancient artisans mass-produced crossbows to be buried in the tomb. As a side note, the terra cotta soldiers themselves make an appearance in my current work in progress, Windmaster Golem.

Researching a long sword does cross the line into strange. Not surprisingly since I write sword and sorcery fantasies, I have researched how to use a sword. Besides search engines and utilizing my own list of military weaponry sites acquired from when I was a correspondent, documentaries on how modern day artisans reproduced ancient weapons and armor added an additional dimension. Attending re-enactments added a personal touch.

The prompt also asked for the book it’s featured in. The use of a sword in individual combat or as part of a battle scene has appeared in each of the Dragshi Chronicles, in WINDMASTER and WINDMASTER LEGEND, the first two books of the Windmaster Novels, and IMPRISONED IN STONE. A crossbow appeared in both WINDMASTER and DRAGON DESTINY.

I’ll end the post with the advice I always end a lecture. The Internet is an invaluable source of information. However, the sources should be evaluated and not all are created the same. And above all, hope that the authorities don’t misunderstand your searches. Sword, military tactics, poison?


Dragon Destiny by Helen Henderson cover

Dragon Destiny

[Fantasy Dragon Shifter Romance, MF]

Branin is the last dragon shifter born in over three hundred years. As a dragshi, he can take the form of his dragon soul twin, Llewlyn and knows the freedom of flight, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates.

When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared. Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, he searches the world for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia.

However, the firebrand raider, Lady Broch of Ky’port has her own plan–to wed the dragon lord — with or without his willing cooperation. And she will not tolerate anyone, not even a dragon lord or his twinned soul, from standing in her way.

Available in Ebook:


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