The Daily Journal, Tuesday, April 16

In today’s Journal

▪ We’re a strange lot
▪ Topic: Mentoring (or Not), A Cautionary Tale
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

We’re a strange lot, we humans. I left work and turned on the television yesterday, then flipped through news channels (all of the “biggies” as well as a few lesser-knowns) for coverage of the Notre Dame tragedy.

There was good coverage for about an hour, complete with all the drama of disbelieving news anchors, trembling in their chairs as they guided on-scene witnesses through first-hand accounts of what was happening at the moment.

Then news came down that the fire was most likely caused by an accident. That it resulted from something one of the workers did while working to renovate the cathedral.

It wasn’t terrorism.

And coverage stopped.

Know what? The fire was still what the anchors themselves called a “tragedy of global proportions.” We still lost much of an almost 1000 year old landmark.

But terrorists didn’t do it (apparently). There was no explosion. No lives were lost. Old new. Let’s move on.

And I realized (again) why I stopped watching television news shows some 10 years ago.

The burning and loss of Notre Dame Cathedral is a massive tragedy. One reporter said Paris is more than a beautiful city. It’s an idea. And Notre Dame Cathedral is the heart of that idea.

I agree. But like all great tragedies, it wasn’t meant to be sensationalized in the first place. Better that those whose hearts were actually harmed by its loss commiserate over the horrific event among themselves.

As the throngs of people of all faiths, nationalities and walks of life did on the streets of Paris. And as countless others around the world did and are doing long after the television networks simply lost interest.

Shame on them.

Topic: Sources of Research

I recently saw a post on why writers shouldn’t use films (and ostensibly, probably, television shows) for research. (This was not Michaele’s recent excellent post at PWW.)

I almost shared the suspect post in today’s “Of Interest” but it had several typos (Goes to credibility, Your Honor) and at least one glaring (to me) inaccuracy, so I couldn’t bring myself to share it. (I won’t divulge the name of the writer or of the post, so please don’t ask.)

Then another thought occurred: Frankly, I didn’t think this was a problem anyway.

Research is necessarily a conscious-mind activity. Which begs the question: Does anyone actively, consciously use films or television shows for research?

I don’t even use “real-time” TV shows like “Cops” or “Live P.D.” for research because most of what I see there is too boring to go into a novel.

Of course things we see and hear in our everyday lives seep into our subconscious mind. Many of those things come out eventually in our fiction.

But most of us understand that films and television shows, even those that are based on real-life or historical events, are fictions.

Films and television shows aren’t intended to be factual representations of real life. They aren’t intended to be used for research. They’re intended to entertain, period.

I don’t do what I would call extensive research when I write fiction. There, I said it. I do what I call “spot” research, probably 99% of it online.

If I’m not personally certain of a fact, I pop out of the story, spend maybe ten minutes (if that) learning what I need to know, then pop back into the story and continue writing.

For example, yesterday I learned that a direct flight from Aden, Yemen to London, England takes a little less than 9 hours. (For some reason, I though it would be much longer.)

I also learned that there are “very few” direct flights from Aden to Heathrow. But my sources (I checked three) didn’t say there were “none.” And I’m writing a novel, so I fudged a bit and gave the POV character a direct flight. Because…

1. doing so wasn’t completely inaccurate.
2. my story is FICTION.

If a conscientious, disbelieving, reader bothered to look up flights from Aden to London, all he would find, as I did, is that there are “very few” direct flights.

Had even one of my sources said there were “never” direct flights, I’d have added a few sentences, had the character spend a brief layover in another airport, then fly on to London.

I hasten to add that research is important. It’s important to get details — even (or maybe especially) minuscule, obscure details — right in your story.

That’s why, for example, I would never call a magazine for a small-arms weapon a “clip.” Because even if most readers would skip right over that misnomer, why risk running off the few readers who know the difference?

Granted, I know a lot about small-arms. But I don’t know everything.

So before I hand my POV character a Beretta or Glock or Heckler & Koch or Sig-Sauer or (gasp!) Kimber semi-automaic pistol, I visit the manufacturer’s site and spend a few minutes browsing handguns.

I read the specs of each weapon so I know how many rounds a magazine will hold. I look at the photos so I can identify and accurately name a smaller-frame weapon if the POV character is a female.

I’ve never owned or fired a Glock semi-automatic pistol. But I know the Glock 19 is intended for smaller hands and the Glock 17 is meant for larger hands. (Key “difference between the glock 19 and the glock 17” into a search engine.)

I also know that a cop in foot-pursuit of a dangerous, armed criminal on a busy city sidewalk wouldn’t “aim for his leg” because it’s an all-but-impossible shot.

But there’s more to it than that.

In the space of those few seconds, the cop would weigh the welfare of the public if he didn’t fire against the welfare of the public if he did.

Then, if he chose to fire, he would stop, bring himself under control, and aim carefully for center mass. Chances are, he would also be using hollow-point ammunition (another factor he would have weighed) because it probably wouldn’t pass through the perp and endanger innocent lives.

I know that because I used to carry a .357 magnum S&W Model 19 Combat Magnum as a police officer. And it was loaded with hollow-point rounds. I even took the time to carve a shallow + in the top of the bullet because I thought it might improve the mushroom effect.

(As an aside, a “citizens group” in the community once lodged a complaint against the PD for allowing its officers to carry hollow-point ammo instead of copper-jacketed ammo. Their reasoning was that a copper-jacketed round would do less damage to the perp on its way through his body. They hadn’t considered the damage it might do to others after it passed through. Nor, apparently, had they considered the damage any .357 magnum bullet would do on impact with the perp.)

But I digress. The point is, yes, do what research you need to do. But no (if you have to be told), don’t believe everything you see or read as you’re being entertained.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t view films or television shows as a primary source of factual information.

Except maybe “Forensic Files.” That one’s pretty good. (grin)

Rolled out around 3:30 and made my way to the Hovel where (as you can tell above) I enganged in a one-man grouch fest. Sorry about that. Maybe.

I’m still exhausted from yesterday. No telling how that will play out today. I guess we’ll see. to the house at 6:30 for a break.

I feel much better, but I’m going to take a vacation day today. There are some things I need to shop for, and I’ll probably have to drive to Sierra Vista (more and larger stores). And then an acquaintance might stop by this afternoon for a visit.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

Wow. See “Nancy Drew – Immortal Female Detective” at

See “The Book Bible” at

See Duke Southard’s “Sustaining an Accidental Series” at

See “Up for a RONE Award. Need Your Help” at Good luck, Terry!

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1400 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1400

Writing of Blackwell Ops 6: Charlie Task (novel)

Day 1…… 2774 words. Total words to date…… 2774
Day 2…… 1776 words. Total words to date…… 4550
Day 3…… 4190 words. Total words to date…… 8740
Day 4…… 2662 words. Total words to date…… 11402
Day 5…… 2087 words. Total words to date…… 13489
Day 6…… 2220 words. Total words to date…… 15709
Day 7…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 25747
Total fiction words for the year………… 243548
Total nonfiction words for the month… 20010
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 97080
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 340628

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 42
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31