Research for the Book: Overview (originally published on 10/23/2010 on CandG site))

To write Cricket and Grey I have had to do a lot of research on surprising things like: how fast a Clydesdale pulling a covered wagon travels, what is the best all-purpose pistol for a person living in the woods who might need to protect themselves against both humans and large animals, what is the role of Mormon women in the Mormon community, and what the hell is pemmican and would Cricket need to know how to make it?

I spent eight hours one day just looking up weapons.  I learned so much I impressed my kid and husband who know all about them already.  Most of my research is necessarily online and so the quality of my sources varies greatly.  Because this is a fiction book I have some slack in this regard, this isn’t a “how to survive post oil” non-fiction book that someone might need to rely on for actual survival.   It’s a novel.

Never the less, I want the details in my novel to be as authentic as possible within my fictional world.  Sometimes it isn’t enough to read about weapons and in my case, having never actually shot a gun in my life, my research demanded that I actually know what it feels like to shoot a gun before writing about someone else shooting one.  I have gone shooting with an experienced shooter and a person I consider to be an expert in weapons (who is also a local lawyer) named Terence McLaughlin.  He and his good friend Louis taught me about gun safety and basic shooting.  I was able to shoot several different types of pistols and even a twelve gauge rifle.  Even if I never need to describe an actual gun in detail in the book, I think it makes a difference that I have held some different pistols and know in my skin what it feels like to shoot different gauges, I think readers will know that I know.

In other areas I am my own expert.  The book was originally inspired by all the homesteading projects I’ve been learning to do and practicing for the last ten years of my life: canning, drying, and growing food.  Foraging for blackberries in California has extended to elderberries, comfrey, nettles, and most recently mushrooms here in Oregon.  Learning to recognize herbs and wildflowers in the wild is something I enjoy a great deal and which my main character Cricket makes her living at.  My mother has a certificate in herbology and has taught me to make decoctions, an anti-fungal salve, and tinctures.  She and I have had a great time together coming up with lists of the  10 most essential herbs for the urban homesteader to have on hand and she’s taken me to herbal shops and pored over many recipes and projects with me.

These projects I’ve been learning on my own for years because it’s a passion of mine inspire a lot of thinking because processing food takes a great deal of time and yet it is meditative; peeling 25 pounds of blanched peaches uses up a very small part of the brain leaving the rest to contemplate the actions of the hands and to ask about the deeper meaning of these simple labor intensive activities.  What if all people forgot how to preserve their own food but the fuel that runs the big factories who do it for us runs out and we suddenly all have to do it for ourselves again?  Is preserving our own food worth all the time and effort it takes?

The answer to that is: it is absolutely worth it to be capable of preserving your own food because someone has to do it and some day you may not be able to afford to pay companies to do it for you.  It’s a muscle we all need to flex, even in small part, so that the collective knowledge and power inherent in doing things for ourselves remains useful and readily available to us.

One of the biggest questions I have is what will we all do if there isn’t enough fuel to power the plants making medicine for us all?  What if simple things like band-aids become first aid luxuries only the very rich can afford?  What if antibacterial ointments and washes are no-longer being manufactured?  What if the average person didn’t have access to hospitals or even if they had access, what if no one but the very rich could afford to go to them?  (Which is half true already.)  What do we all need to know how to do to keep ourselves alive?  What will be the most needed medicine making skills?  What herbal knowledge will people most desperately need?

These are the questions and the points of interest which inspired me to answer them in a fictional exploration of “what if?”.  In asking all these questions I am learning a lot of things I didn’t used to know.  Not all of what I’m learning will have an actual place in the story but everything I’m learning is informing its direction and its richness.  I am going to put all the links to my online resources below so that you can read for yourself about the different weapons I’ve been exploring, the different pieces of odd information I’ve needed to gather.  I don’t want to lose track of where I’ve been for my research so it’s also a bit of an archive for myself.  The links don’t all represent expert sources, some of them are but others are queer little bits I found interesting that added texture to other things I found.

I will continue to add things to my research list as I find new ones.

Links to sources of information for the book Cricket and Grey (in no particular order):

A hunting knife Cricket might carry

Bow Weapon

Clydesdale Breeders of the USA

Columbia River Knife and Tool

Cool Facts about Pigeons

Kershaw Knives

Recovery from Mormonism

Cricket’s favorite semi-automatic pistol

Sailor Song Lyrics

The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland Oregon

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