Do you ever look into the deep green shadows of a primeval forest and wonder what those secret depths hold? Do you like to write about your new and inventive discoveries while sipping a glass of fragrant wine? Do you enjoy the creative process? Then I hope you will stop a spell, enjoy the adventure, and travel with me as we imagine the possibilities...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The JOY of Research

There is a body on a steeple.  I’m not going to tell you how it got there, nor how it came down.  Neither the before nor after is very pretty, though it is quite interesting.  I guess you figured the guy is dead?  Yep, shore ‘nuff.  What I’m going to tell you about is the research involved.  (Did I mention that this is in my book, a fictional fantasy?  No?  Ooops!) 

Okay, I’d already decided a body would be on a steeple in the middle of good ol’ T-town.  Next, I needed to decide which steeple.  Our fair city is full of beautiful churches whose spires reach to the heavens and are topped by various styles of crosses.  I needed a church that would be visible from a wide area and have a cross strong enough to hold a body for four to six hours.  At least until our heroes spot it.

After checking out Tallahassee from the 22nd floor of the State Capitol, I found two churches that fit the bill.  The first Saturday morning I could, I drove downtown, parked, and investigated the grounds around the churches in relation to the height of the steeple and the effect it will have on the story.  Great.  Decision made.  No problem.  I go home.  Type.

Now I’ve got the dead guy on the steeple, and need to get him down.  That sounds easy, but wait!  Even though I delve into fantasy and fiction, I like the real parts real and to make sense.  That way when I need people to suspend belief for the fantastical parts, they will.  There are options, therefore I need to find out how tall that beautiful spire is so I can see if the Fire Department is able to reach the steeple.  Phone call to church goes somewhat like this: 

“Good morning, I’m Peggy, a local author.  I’m writing a book that takes place in Tallahassee.  Can you tell me the height of your steeple?  Please?”  Now, you may ask why I didn’t mention the dead body?  Well, what church is going to tell me the height of their steeple if they know there is a body draped on it?  And then, you see, I can’t lie to the church.  Do NOT want to piss off God.  Bad form, there.  Omission is a wonderful thing.  The young lady, after placing me on hold, came back with the information.  Very nice lady.

Now to contact the Fire Department and find out how high their ladders reach.  (Do not read further if you work in the capitol or one of the other tall buildings in town.)  Another question – have you ever tried to call the Fire Department just to talk to someone?  The only number I could find was 911.  Okay, I am NOT calling 911 to ask how high the Fire Department’s ladders go.  Not in this lifetime.  So at lunch one day, I hop in my beautiful red jeep and drive to the firehouse just off Tennessee Street, park in an appropriate spot, and walk to the large cavernous opening exactly in time to have the sirens blare and two huge red trucks to go barreling out two feet from my startled nose.  (My nose is still not happy with me after that, I assure you.) 

After the fire trucks leave, I carefully ease my upset nose around the corner and quickly follow it with my entire body.  There is a door waaaay in the back and I can see shadows through the milky glass which signifies people, or one very large Dalmatian.  The two men who opened the door, sans dog, after my knock, were very nice.  I introduced myself with my full name, that I was an author, and needed some help with research for a book.  Sure, they say and lean back in their chairs, grinning at each other.  One crosses his hands on his chest and tilts his chair onto the back two rungs.  (A little further, I think, and he’ll need the services of his own EMTs if that chair falls.)  I ask how high their longest ladders reach.  They ask, “Why?”  Oh, dear, here goes…  “I need to know if they can reach a body on the gold-bricked church’s steeple.”  It would be difficult to tell you how quickly those men leaped from their chairs, looked at each other, then sideways at me, and all but pushed me out of the way to stare outside.  “Not that steeple, I say,” and point to the majestic one slightly to the right of where they were looking.

“But there isn’t a body up there.”  They look accusingly at me.  “Of course there isn’t, I told you, this is fiction… in a book?”  Now they move a little bit away from me and once again look at each other as if to say… we’ve got a live one.  I know that look, I’ve more than likely had it on my face when someone calls my office and the first thing out of their mouth is:  “I’m not crazy….” 

After a moment of silence, I decide to remind them.  “Um, the size of your ladder?”  They tell me.  I thank them and, being the conscientious person I am, ask their names because I’d like to publicly acknowledge them in my book.  “Oh, you don’t need our names,” they both say and back away from me, hands palm out in front of their bodies.  “We’re happy to help.”    

So you know, the ladders in the fire trucks do not reach to the top of the steeple – not even close.  I did check out cranes, and they do, but it would take a long time to get one through downtown during Sunday morning traffic.  Awesome.  I now know how my guy gets off the steeple.  You know what they say, what goes up, must come down.

And I still want to say thank you to the Tennessee Street Fire Department for answering my question… and yes, I do know, they are always happy to help.

 Imagining all the possibilities,



  1. Loved it, Peggy!

    This is so incredibly, true and important:

    "Even though I delve into fantasy and fiction, I like the real parts real and to make sense. That way when I need people to suspend belief for the fantastical parts, they will."

    I would add that even the fantasy parts that require suspension of belief also need to be logical.

    Now I have a question for you. Was the body skewered on the steeple? :)

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment - I'm sorry I didn't catch that you did earlier. Yes, the body was skewered on the steeple!

  2. Did you have to do any research in getting the body on the steeple? LOL

    1. Nope - I know precisely how it got there - and you will too, if I can finish the edits and take my 141,000 word behemoth to closer to 100,000 words.