Jerks & Irks XXXIX: My Death is Surely in the Details

With my novella, Blood in the Past off to the editor for the next few days, I’ve had a lot to think about…Like the most annoying part of the writing process (at least for this series): RESEARCH.

I had to research all sorts of little details that I didn’t think would really make a real difference, but that I wanted to get right nonetheless. What sort of hours do police officers work? When do their shifts begin and end? Was the Franklin Institute (a Philadelphia Museum) around in 2002? When was it last renovated? How are law enforcement funerals handled? What songs are usually played? Can a person shoot themselves in the head and have the bullet circumvent their actual brain? What kind of minimal damage would still occur? How does a hospital’s pharmacy department operate?

Blah, blah, blah.

The most irksome part though? My sources ending their very detailed answers and explanations with “But every precinct/hospital/case is different.”


My Blood for Blood Series takes place in a real city, Philadelphia, and many scenes took place in a real hospital, University of Pennsylvania Hospital. My sources’ information, however useful, was more generalized. So what’s an author to do?

Well, there’s not much I could do about the Philadelphia police department. It is what it is, ya know. (But I definitely plan on befriending a Philly cop during the revisions of Blood in the Paint.) The hospital, however, I could do something about. I changed it to a fictitious one. New name: West Philadelphia General Hospital. West Philly Gen, for short. The changes weren’t too extensive, so I was able to do them at the last minute before Blood in the Past went to the editor. Luckily for me, when I googled “West Philly Gen” I found that there was a “Philadelphia General” from 1919-1977 in virtually the SAME area as present-day UPENN Hospital! So, of course, I threw that in the narrative, to add a touch of realism to the setting. 😉

Problem solved!

So what do you guys think? Is a fictitious hospital (or any organization) the way to go over a real-life one? Weigh-in in the comments section!

Oh, and one more thing! Those that are signed up for my mailing list will receive an exclusive peek at the first chapter of Blood in the Past, as soon as it’s edited! If you haven’t joined yet, what are you waiting for? Click Here!



Location, Location, Location! (For your novel)

My novel is set in Philadelphia, PA. Not because I adore the so-called City of Brotherly love, but because it was convenient. When I first started Blood in the Paint, I was living in Philadelphia. I now live not too far from it. Therefore I can just hop on over the bridge and scout locations for scenes, such as UPENN hospital. The rest of the series will undoubtedly take place in the same city, however, I think I want to spread my wings a little. Why?

  1. I follow a lot of fellow authors on Facebook. A few of them have mentioned the settings of their new books. I’m jealous.
  2. The last few books I’ve read have been set in Spain, Bavaria, Boston, and Italy. Reminds me that possibilities are endless.
  3. I recently watched an episode of Drugs, Inc about the heroin epidemic in Alaska. (apparently Alaska has a worse rep than Detroit. Who knew?) Not only did I suddenly want to write a story about the grittiest areas in a corner of the world that gets half a day of darkness for part of the year, but I also wished I had seen this particular episode before my grand heroin search.

So where are your WIP’s set? Do you have a dream setting for a future project?

“Excuse Me, Where Do You Keep Your Coma Patients?”

Awhile back I wrote a post about purposely getting arrested so I could see the inside of a police station and accurately portray it in my novel. Click here for that post.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an update about how I got myself arrested and Hubby-pants had to bail me out so I could continue my dream of becoming an author. I did however visit the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) because — you guessed it– I needed to know what the inside looked like in order to accurately portray it in my novel. How much all of these minor, but accurate, portrayals mean to the readers I’ll never know. Still, I don’t want to offend the staff of the ICU by stating their department is on the 8th floor when it’s really on the 12th floor. People have gotten hate mail for lesser transgressions, I’m sure.

So Hubby-pants and I headed to HUP yesterday among our other errands. Why did Hubby-pants accompany me, you ask? Two reasons. 1. He’s a much better city driver. I would have gotten into a fender bender, freaked out to the cops on the scene, let the words “serial killer” slip as I tried to explain where I was going,  and gotten myself arrested. (But then, at least I would’ve seen the inside of the police station, so I guess all would not have been lost.) 2. Because he is level-headed and even on the walk from the car to the hospital he said to me “You might want to not say words like ‘murder’ and ‘serial killer’ while you’re talking to them in there.” Very useful advice.

We entered HUP and there was a young woman security officer sitting behind a narrow little podium of a desk. I gave her my spiel:

ME: “Hi! I’m writing a novel and a scene takes place in this hospital, do you mind if I ask you a few quick questions?”

(She stared blankly at us for a few seconds then agreed to answer the questions.)

ME: “Do you have a separate department for anesthesiology?”

(She stared blankly at us some more and then admitted she had no idea.)

ME: “Okay, what floor are the coma patients on?”

She said she didn’t know because they would be in the main hospital across the street. Hmm, I thought we were in the main hospital. There was a gift shop and everything. Oh well, across the street we went.

There we found a delightful woman who seemed excited to help me with all of my strange questions…but she was on her way to lunch (which was probably why she was so damn happy in the first place). The remaining woman was not quite as delightful. Not at all delightful, really, although I can’t say how she would have been if we caught her about to clock out for lunch. Again, I go over my spiel:

ME: “Hi! I’m writing a novel and a scene takes place in this hospital, do you mind if I ask you a few quick questions?”

(I don’t even remember her exact response because she was so positively evil, but I do remember her hesitantly agreeing.)

ME: “Do you have a separate department for anesthesiology?”

LADY: “No, there’s no department for anesthesiology.”

(She could have been more forthcoming there, but at this point I didn’t want to pry with extra questions, I just wanted to get my initial questions answered and get out of there. But I am to assume that the anesthesiologists just wander the halls looking for people to “put under,” right?)

ME: “Where do you keep your coma patients?

LADY: “They’re everywhere.”

(Everywhere? I wanted to ask if they could be found in storage closets and out-of-order elevators and if I found one would I win a prize like the all-brown bag of M&M’s, but I contained myself and managed to get her to elaborate)

ME: “Ok, so they’re in the ICU department, or…?

LADY: “We have eight ICU’s.”

ME: “Okay then, this is a big ass hospital. Last question, what kind of pharmacy do you have within the hospital? Not for people leaving but for the doctors to access for their patients, is it a dispensary, or a person the doctors go to, or…how does that work?”

LADY: “They go from floor to floor.”

ME: “Ok, so there’s pharmacist with a cart that goes to each floor and delivers whatever is needed?”

LADY: “Yes.”

(Now that I asked about powerful narcotics, the conversation took a slight tumble downhill.)

LADY: “Now, where are you from?”

(There was obvious eye-narrowing and some neck movement here. Yikes!)

ME: “I’m…from…nowhere…?”

(Hubby-pants jumped in here as I’m sure he sensed a freak-out in my future.)

HP: “We’re from Collingswood. New Jersey. She’s writing a book. You want her business card so you can follow her blog and buy her book when it gets published?”

(I meekly looked up at him…)

ME: “I left the business cards in the car.”

And then we hastily thanked the mean lady and left the hospital lobby as quickly as possible. Cheers to research everyone! *clinks glass*