Writers often find themselves in strange places for the sake of research. Sometimes we take the old standby advice of "write what you know" when we're pounding out a new story. Other times we do the opposite, step outside our comfort zones into the outer limits.
And sometimes, we let our friends talk us into venturing Out There, just in case we might see or hear something useful and/or interesting that would fit in a future book, like this:
No, mystery fans, those laundry baskets do not contain wigs for customers of the Big,Tall & Downright Gigantic catalog. These are just a few of the hundreds of containers of wool encountered last week when former Femmes Deborah Adams and Julie Wray Herman took me away from my comfort zone and out to the country. So while Charlaine celebrated her #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and while Dana beheld the wonders of Italy and Greece, I was at the Sheep, Wool and Fiber Show at the Dickson County Fairgrounds.
I am a city person. I don't do country well. Nor do I do craft-y things well. None of that mattered. I had such a great time being with my friends and learning all new stuff from the crafts people and sheep-savvy vendors.
When we walked into the first shed, we met Galena, a lovely lady from the Ukraine, who showed us how to use a spinning wheel:
Julie immediately got into the spirit of things. Galena showed her how to make yarn from combed wool with a drop spindle:
Since that takes coordination, I knew I couldn't do it. Farther along though, we stopped at a booth where two ladies showed us needle felting techniques. They used combed and dyed wool to decorate all sorts of fabric products:
Not sure I'll ever be able to do that either, but at least this one didn't involve spinning parts.
I wish I'd taken pictures of the Icelandic sheep wool we saw at a booth. According to the lady who owned them, these beautiful creatures were much smarter than the average sheep. I asked if they were in fact from Iceland. She said yes, they were descendants of Icelandic sheep who were descended from those brought over by Vikings. Wow, Viking bleaters in Tennessee. You learn something every day.
Who knows if I will ever use anything we saw in a future mystery. Maybe in a historical, set out in the country? Some of those farm implements looked like good weapon possibilities. The needles and the spindles, definitely. Not so sure about the spinning wheel. I guess somebody could trip over one and knock themselves out. Maybe I could do a mystery where the sheep are the detectives ... no, somebody has already done that. How about a serial killer who leaves little-bitty marks on his victims and it turns out to be a rabbit?
That red eye is a dead giveaway.
Research is fun and one of the good things about being a writer. The best part about it though are the special friends you make along the way.