supposed to die

If you don't something about a subject, find someone who does

I do not own a gun. I would never own a gun. I also don't know a lot about guns. But sometimes I write about characters for whom the reverse of all these things is true. That's where research comes in.

I have fired weapons on an machine gunFBI gun range. I have done firearms simulation training (FATS) at the FBI, at the Writers Police Academy, and at Tualatin's excellent Threat Dynamics (one of the few places like it open to civilians).

If you don't know about something, do as much reading as you can. Start with the Internet, then maybe progress to textbooks for professionals. (Although there are a few photos in Practical Homicide Investigation I wish I could unsee.) See if you can have a real-life experience.

After that try to have someone who is an expert in the field vet what you write.

For The Night She Disappeared, one of the experts I interviewed was a person who worked on a sheriff's dive team.

For The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, I had an expert in bioweapons read what I had written about hanta virus and bioweapons.  I had done as much research on my own as I could, but we all know that can only take you so far.

I am sure I still make errors. But I try really hard not to.

Everyone who writes books or for movies or TV loves the idea of a safety on a gun. Taking it off ratchets up the suspense.  You know you're one step closer to someone dying. But if you write that a character is switching off the safety, do yourself a favor and make sure the gun you are writing about actually has one.  This is what I've seen in just the last week. Neither of these guns has a safety.

gun errors

Glock mistakes
Several of my author friends have interviewed my Beloved Husband as part of their research--he monitors the state safety radio network. Which means he knows a lot about how emergency communications work, and police radios, and so forth.

The down side is that whenever we watch cop shows, he's always saying, "Oh, that wouldn't work that way." "They wouldn't have radio reception in the underground parking garage." "Why aren't they using their radios for communication instead of their cell phones?" :)
I know things are sometimes done for dramatic purposes. But look at all the tension inherent in the reality: no radio reception in the underground parking garage could make things a LOT more interesting.
This weekend I was emailing back and forth with one of the top DNA experts. He helped me get my plot untangled. I'm very lucky!
That is too cool. I did consult my bro (a chemist who works with solar powered technology) for my epubbed YA novel, and I hope I did his knowledge justice!