As any of the Banditas or any romance author will tell you, we try to use facts to keep our books authentic. This requires research. Sometimes that is as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary. Sometimes it is as complicated as interpreting a doctor's long-winded explanation of a disease process so that the author, and therefore the reader, can understand this over the course of a scene or a manuscript. Sometimes it's just plain fun!
Recently another of my critique partners, Jo Davis, asked me to accompany her to a fire station in Irving to meet and take pictures (I was the photographer!) with the team of firefighters she previously interviewed for her series coming from NAL Signet next year about a team of? you guessed it, firefighters.
What was a girl to do? Say "no" to spending an entire afternoon with real life heroes? My mama did NOT raise a stupid daughter. I of course said, "sure!"
Here we two mild-mannered romance authors are walking up to the fire station, greeted by Captain Steve Deutsch, when suddenly the guys get a call to an accident out on the highway. They usher us into the station to wait for them while they climb onto the fire engine, (which we learned is not a ladder truck) and off they go.
Now when you leave two writers alone in a strange place what do they do? Well they behave for all of five minutes. We peeked into the pantry, which was loaded with things like can after can of Campbell's soup, Gatorade, popcorn, a giant box of Oreos and the most massive canister of TUMS we'd ever seen!
Next we wander out into the engine bay where they have a second vehicle they use for chemical fires and two pontoon boats ready for hauling to the nearby lake if a call should require it. There was a treadmill out there along with a weight lifting station, with more weights than I've ever seen.
Our curiosity a bit satisfied, we wander back into the meeting room/kitchen and await they guys' return. Luckily it was a minor accident and they were back fairly quickly.
Let me introduce you to the guys of A shift. Captain Steve, is a handsome, whip-cord lean man with a deep voice and a keen intellect behind wire-rimmed glasses. Wally Harris, the driver, is a good-looking man, tall and broad of shoulder. He not only drives the truck, but mans the controls for the truck's water pumps, a job which requires skill and a knowledge of physics. Nick Franco is a firefighter, cute and happy to tell the lady writers some great stories. Not a beta man among them, ladies!
One of the things Jo wanted to learn more about was the thermal imagining camera. A fancy gizmo the firefighters use to help them distinguish different objects or bodies in dark smoky rooms or raging infernos. So once the guys returned, Wally made himself a steaming bowl of Spaghetti-O's. (Yes the lunch of heroes!) Captain Steve pointed the thermal camera at him and showed us how it gives them the temperature of Wally's body vs. the bowl of hot food vs. the cold bottle of water on the table. Way cool!
Another thing Jo, the ever-curious, wanted to know was what all equipment they'd take into a house fire. So the guys let her try on some of the equipment. The heavy jacket and the air-tank. (We learned it's a tank with room-air equivalent oxygen, or about 21% oxygen, not pure oxygen. Room-air is what you and I usually breathe. As a nurse I already knew what room-air was.) Jo also had to put on the mask, and attached to all this was the thermal imaging camera, a flashlight and the radio mic. Geesh, how do these guys walk, much less crawl into and out of fires or rescue people?
Then the piece-de-resistance. Wally hooked up one of the large hoses to the engine and Captain Steve had Jo hold onto the hose. They started with 50 lbs of pressure and water came gushing out of the hose. Then the captain had Wally crank the pressure up to 100 lbs of pressure. Jo nearly flew off the concrete drive! (The captain and Nick got a kick out of that when we returned inside for another Q&A session!)
I got to ask a few questions about Meth labs for my own work in progress (WIP), and the guys gave me some stories that would frighten most of us if we knew what was really out there. Then they explained that an engine pumps water while a ladder truck has one of those big ladders with the buckets on them.
So a big thank you to the guys and Jo. I haven't had that much fun doing research ever!
Have any of you had a great day or experience doing new research?