No, not the Internet kind. I adore researching things online. History, science, geography, you name it. I’ve studied it all, sometimes just for fun. But the kind of research where I have to talk to actual people? That stuff scares the bejeezus out of me.
Early on in my fiction career, this wasn’t an issue. I wrote paranormal stories where none of the places were real. I could make up anything and everything and I didn’t have to answer for my choices. Over time, however, my writing crept more and more into the real world, until in my newest release, From the Ashes, I’ve set the story practically in my back yard.
From the Ashes takes place in Seattle. Not just Seattle, but in Capitol Hill, a neighborhood where I used to live. It starts out in the Central District, also one of my former neighborhoods, and involves a fire station that I pass as I drive between my home and downtown. Heck, it even involves a billboard that used to hang above that fire station.
Add references to the Animal Shelter, the University of Washington… There was no way around it I had to make actual phone calls! Gasp.
With shaking hands, I went on the Internet to find phone numbers, fully expecting that when I called people, they’d scream at me, “You want to write WHAT? You want to know WHAT? That’s none of your business, Missy!”
The first person I reached was a delightful woman at the University of Washington Financial Aid office. She seemed nothing but happy to answer my questions. I can’t express to you how shocked I was. Nice people! Being nice! Who knew?
As it turned out, everyone I spoke to was kind, courteous, and with rare exception, completely unsurprised to find that an author might need information for a book. In fact, Kyle Moore, the Public Information Office for the Seattle Fire Department was amazing. I love him. If I hadn’t already planned to write more Seattle firefighter books, I would have decided to turn From the Ashes into a series right then and there.
Folks arrive at writing from a variety of backgrounds. For those who’ve been journalists, research probably comes as second nature. Of course you would call up a place and ask about their policies. How else would you create details?
I, on the other hand, became an author after years of science and medical writing. In research, and especially in clinical research, employees are not allowed to say anything about what they are working on. Like, ANYTHING. All my previous work required non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality statements, and a stiff upper lip. This chitty-chatting with strangers is new to me.
Now, I’m empowered. Maybe I’ll tour fire stations or take a gun safety class. I’ll venture out into the big, scary world to get more tidbits to use in my stories. For all you new writers, I hope you learn from my experience. Research doesn’t have to be scary and people aren’t going to be mean to you. At least, not if you set your story in Seattle.
As for the rest of the country, I’ll admit, I’m still scared. J
Want more Daisy Harris? There’s an excerpt below! Comment for a chance to win any book from her backlist.
Birkenstock-wearing glamour girl and mother of two by immaculate conception, Daisy Harris still isn’t sure if she writes erotica. Her romances start out innocently enough. However, her characters behave like complete sluts. Much to Miss Harris’s dismay the sex tends to get completely out of hand.
She writes about fantastical creatures and about young men getting their freak on, and she’s never missed an episode of The Walking Dead.
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He wanted a boyfriend. What he got was a hero.
When an accident burns down Jesse’s apartment, he’s left broke and homeless, with a giant dog and a college schedule he can’t afford to maintain. And no family who’s willing to take him in.
Lucky for him, a sexy fireman offers him a place to stay. The drawback? The fireman’s big Latino family lives next door, and they don’t know their son is gay.
Tomas’s parents made their way in America with hard work and by accepting help when it was offered, so he won’t let Jesse drop out of school just so he can afford a place to live. Besides, Jesse’s the perfect roommate—funny, sweet and breathtakingly cute. He climbs into Tomas’s bed and tugs at his heart. Until Jesse starts pushing for more.
Their passion enflames their bodies but threatens to crush Tomas’s family. Tomas is willing to fight for Jesse, but after losing everything, Jesse isn’t sure he can bear to risk his one remaining possession—his heart.
“I’m…” The words I’m sorry hung on Tomas’s lips, but he wasn’t sure what he was sorry for. He hated that he’d hurt Jesse, and hated even more how the idea of Jesse not being able to sit down turned him on.
“Let’s not talk about it.” Jesse picked up his plate and started eating. Focused on the screen, he kept a foot of space between their legs.
Tomas ate a couple of potato chips. The salt scalded his tongue, and he got up to grab a soda out of the refrigerator. Though he wanted to say something as he walked away, he didn’t know what.
He only had beer and milk, and Tomas frowned, thinking they needed to get to the store over the weekend. “You want a beer?” he asked Jesse.
Things were normal, but completely different. Tomas wished they could go back to how things were—when Jesse and he hung out like friends. But he wouldn’t have given up what they’d just done together for anything. It had been…he didn’t know.
Wonderful and scary? Tomas only knew he wouldn’t take it back.
“Sure.” Jesse squinted at the screen. “What movie is this?”
Tomas came into the living room and handed Jesse a beer over the back of the couch. “Rambo: First Blood.”
Jesse nodded. He snuck a look at Tomas out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t seem angry, more nervous.
Fuck. What kind of man was Tomas to screw a guy and then not even say thank you or that was awesome? Apparently an asshole, because he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“Stallone’s pumped, but I can’t really see why anyone ever thought he was hot.” Jesse ate his burger and drank his beer. He put his feet up on the coffee table. His attitude seemed a little too relaxed. Like he was trying to breeze right past the fact they’d had sex.
Tomas didn’t mind. He was grateful. “My brother’s got all his movies.”He looked to the entertainment center—the entire shelf devoted to Rambo and Rocky. Maybe Diego had been trying to toughen Tomas up by leaving the videos in the garage house. Diego hadn’t lived there since he and his wife moved out.
“I like the fighting, but I never thought he was good-looking.” Tomas drank a sip of his beer. He took his first bite of hamburger. It tasted better than he expected. The onion and garlic salt really did work wonders.
Jesse had insisted they buy shakers of the stuff at Target.
Whatever the fuck else happened between them, Tomas didn’t want to lose Jesse as a friend. Hell, as a roommate or life partner. Or whatever the heck you were supposed to call a guy who was to him what Jesse was.
“I dunno. Michael mentioned him once.” Jesse chuckled.
“Why’s that funny?”
“Oh, because Michael’s always on a high horse about political stuff.” Jesse kept his eyes on the screen. He was blushing, so Tomas made sure not to watch him too hard.
“But he’s totally turned on by pumped-up guys who can barely string two words together.” Jesse screwed up his face. “Adrian! Adrian!” His Stallone impersonation sucked.
“Funny.” Tomas finished his burger and started in on the chips. He wanted to ask Jesse what his type was. After all, Tomas didn’t have a college degree and wasn’t planning to get one. He was pretty built. Not Stallone built, but still. A lot bigger than any of the guys he’d seen Jesse hang out with.
“Yeah. He’s such a hypocrite.”
They watched Stallone spraying machine gun fire for a few minutes. Tomas gathered courage from the man on the screen. If Rambo could survive a POW camp and hide out in the jungle while kicking ass, Tomas could figure out what to say to Jesse. “I don’t want you to move out.”
Jesse darted a glance in his direction, but then went back to watching the movie. “I know.” There was a little smile on his face, just on one side.
Tomas wanted to touch him again. Jesse wouldn’t stop him, but Tomas couldn’t quite do it, at least not yet. He needed time to sort out things in his head first. “So you’ll stay?”
He hated having to ask. He wanted to tell Jesse to stay, to grab and kiss him and convince him with his body.
“Yeah, I guess.” Jesse kept his attention on the screen. “For now.”
“Okay.” Tomas smiled. Funny, but he liked how Jesse kept him at arm’s length. Sometimes Tomas hated Jesse’s walls, but at times like this he loved that Jesse was so self-contained.
“Do you want the bed or the couch tonight? I’m pretty beat.” Jesse put his dish and bottle in the kitchen before coming back to the couch. He turned sideways and put his feet up on the cushions. Not close enough he was touching Tomas, but closer than he’d been before.
Tomas loved him so much.
“You take the bed.” Tomas stroked the top of Jesse’s foot. The connection of skin made him shiver. “I got it last night.” He wanted to kiss Jesse’s cheek. So he did. Then he got up and did the dishes.
Jesse gave him a small but cheeky wink. “You’re only giving me the bed because the sheets are gross.”
Tomas laughed. He’d forgotten about that. “I’ll put some new ones on for you, fancy boy.”
“I can do it.” Jesse went to the closet for fresh sheets, but folded out the loveseat to make that bed first. The scene felt warm and homey, the way Tomas felt with Jesse every night.
“Jess—” Tomas started.
Jesse cut him off. “Y’know…” He looked up, holding a pillow half-stuffed into a pillowcase. His hazel eyes were honest and open. “You don’t have to be perfect.”
Tomas’s chest hurt, as if Jesse had shot him straight through. His heart was bleeding, but that was okay, because it bled for the skinny, pretty boy standing in the middle of his living room. “Jess—”
“You don’t have to be perfect.” Jesse shook his head. He swallowed hard, but then smiled. “I still like you.”
“Fuck, Jess.” Tomas blinked back tears. He couldn’t tell if he was happy or sad, only that Jesse had every part of him. “I like you so much.”
Jesse nodded. He smiled down at what he was doing and finished stuffing the pillowcase. “I know.”
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