I've got to say it. I kind of love this month's insecure writer's question--What's the strangest thing you've ever googled? I love it because I know writers and research. We often joke about the weird stuff we've looked up online. We hope the FBI won't show up at our doorsteps because we were trying to figure out how to make a bomb that would blow the roof off an imaginary city hall.
I've had my share of strange google adventures over the years. It's hard to pick out a strangest moment, really. Questions arise. I may be writing fiction, but I always try to be accurate with my details about how things work or used to work. There was the time when I had to figure out how to make sausage. Literally. The time I set sail on a clipper ship. Most recently, I had to do a google search for sex festivals. (Yeah, they're a real thing.)
Sometimes great ideas show up when you're looking for something else. While I was writing The P-town Queen, a romantic comedy about a down on her luck oceanographer and a chef who is running from the mob (which will soon be re-released under my pen name, Annie Hoff), I needed to know about beached whales.
Nikki, my main character, is a biologist. As I was once a bio major, I understood that not much would gross Nikki out. Her research assistant, Parker--who is a chef (it's a long story) gets grossed out easily. Which makes for some good comedy. The story is set in Provincetown on Cape Cod. The summer before I wrote the book, there had been several whales beached along the bay. I did some research and discovered that, though every effort is made to save these animals, occasionally one dies. Which leaves a large whale carcass on the beach. How do you dispose of such a carcass? My inquiring mind needed to know. And my muse was gleefully imagining that, whatever it was, it would turn the stomach of squeamish Parker.
I talked about the research with friends, and my friend Sherry wondered aloud if I'd ever heard about the blown up whale. I hadn't. I googled it. Sherry was kind enough to send me a you-tube link (which isn't quite google, but close). The video was diabolically gross and funny, perfect for the story I was writing. And so, the blown up whale became part of the book, maybe the funniest part of book.
The cop stared blankly at Max. “Dr. Silva,” I said, holding out my hand. “Massachusetts Bay Commission.” I wasn’t part of the commission strictly speaking, but with Ned’s incessant need for publicity, who’d quibble
when there was a dead whale body stinking up the beach? The cop brightened as soon as I said the magic words.
“The fish folks?” he asked.
“That’s right. These are my colleagues.”
“Oh.” The cop glanced around as though trying to decide what to do with us. “I think we’ve got the whale situation covered.”
At that point, a guy in a jacket labeled SWAT came over. Our new cop friend introduced us.
“Oh, good,” said the SWAT man, a guy named Herman LeBlanc. “Just the experts we need.” Then he asked, with all due seriousness, how much TNT did we, in our expert opinions, think was necessary to blow up a
whale carcass. “We’ve got ten tons under her,” he said, “but we’re thinking we ought to put down another ten. We want to make sure we get her good, in small enough pieces so the tide can take her out. If we can manage it.”
Max looked like he was going to have an apoplexy. He put his hands to his head and called the whole idea imbecilic.
I, on the other hand, realized that we could call them imbecilic all we wanted. Somebody wanted to blow up a whale and, come hell or high tide, they were going to blow up a whale. Besides which, I do have a little bit of bad girl in me. “Ten more ought to do her,” I told Officer LeBlanc