Ya’ll, I love writing stories that mix romance with suspense and intrigue. There’s just something about overcoming a difficult situation to get to a HEA (Happily Ever After) that is deeply satisfying for me. Like most things in life, if you have to work for something, then achieving it is more rewarding. You will cherish it more.
Having said that, those of you who know me by now understand only too well my need to insert as much realism as possible into my stories. The goal is not perfection, exactly, but it is to be believable at the least. I know from personal experience, if I am reading a story or watching a movie and something happens that I KNOW is not right, it basically ruins it for me. I’m unable to enjoy the rest because I’m too hyper aware of figuring out what else is wrong. I’m not talking about those offerings in the fantasy and sci-fi world but rather the ones that are touted as being based in reality. I can forgive the small stuff – George Washington’s horse is black instead of gray? I can live with that. George Washington crossing the Mississippi instead of the Delaware – nope. Can’t handle it. George Washington flying a UFO across America? That one doesn’t bother me as much because it’s obviously a parody or a Sci-Fi take. (By the way, loved Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter!)
By now I’m thinking you are wondering what all my rambling on is about. Well, the point is I believe in being reasonable with suspense of disbelief. I know different people have different levels they can tolerate and I have to find a level that I am comfortable with. In my Team Cerberus series, I have taken a few liberties but mostly I have followed the groundwork Susan Stoker laid in her Seal of Protection series as my guys live in her world. I still do a lot of research while writing to make sure things that haven’t been established already are as realistic as possible. It’s a fine line I walk.
That brings me to yesterday.
I’m currently working on a novella for another collaboration for Inkspell Publishing. “Summer” is the theme for this one. Unlike Defending Demma, my contribution to Can’t Buy Me Love last year, I’ve decided to make this one completely outside of my Team Cerberus universe. True to my nature, I can’t just have a summer romance, I have to throw in some intrigue, a little suspense and eh… let’s chunk a murder at it while we’re there. I’ve decided to set this one in my own home turf as well – Meridian, Mississippi.
I began writing away and realized that all I knew about crime scenes was what I saw on Criminal Minds, NCIS, and Law & Order. I hee-hawed back and forth for a while trying to decide if I would just bite the bullet and write what I thought it should be or if I needed to find out more.
Find out more, it is.
Google can only get you so far in life. Don’t get me wrong, the world wide web is awesome for most things, but if the information isn’t OUT THERE, you can’t retrieve it. What to do?
I called the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department.
Yep. I called them big as you please, but the conversation was a little… uneasy.
The lady that answered the call was pleasant. No doubt she was expecting just about anything other than me. I had rehearsed in my mind what I was going to say but of course, that’s not how it came out.
Rehearsed: “Hello, my name is Melissa and I am an author of romantic suspense novels. I’m currently working on a piece that will take place in Lauderdale County and would like to find out some information about procedures regarding crime scene investigations.”
Actual: “Uh, hi. I’m trying to find out some information about how murders are investigated and what you guys look for when you are working a case.” I took a breath and tried again. “My name is Melissa and I live in Meridian. I write books and need some information about investigating a murder.”
Nailed it. Not.
The lady hesitated a moment and in this sort of unsure voice said, “Okay. Let me have someone contact you.” She took my information and hung up.
Then it dawned on me. I just called the po-po and basically asked them to investigate me for murder.
While butterflies dive-bombed my stomach, I went to Facebook and posted what I had done. It was all in a joking type manner. I asked for my friends to please call the sheriff’s department and assure them I really am a writer and not a closet sociopath if I happen to drop off the face of the Earth for a while – ie get arrested. I got some laughs, a bit of advice but only one person assured me they would have my back (thanks Sister T!). One friend even commented it would be great fodder for a future book but basically I would be on my own. Thanks guys, love you too!
The short of it is Ward Calhoun from the Sheriff’s department did return my call within the hour. Those of you who live in our area know he is the public relations person for the LCSD. I explained my situation to him and he very graciously explained procedure to me and answered my questions. Thank you, Mr. Calhoun for your invaluable help!
So, now I have what I need to carry on with the so far, unnamed novella. Most of what I had supposed was correct but there are a few things that will need changing. In the meantime, I dodged another bullet and added another item to my growing list of naughtiness. Now I’m a money laundering / terrorist/ human trafficking / drug cartel / murderer. At least as far as my browser history dictates. The life of a writer, right? Who knew!
I’ll never be able to fly again…
On the other side – yes, Jackie, I do have an idea for a new story due to this incident. We’ll have to see where it goes from here.
Until next time, ya’ll stay safe and on the good side of the law. I would try to do the same but well, we are talking about me, right?