Today’s Writer Wednesday post is all about research.

As a Reference Librarian who has worked in many different libraries–special, scientific, and public–this is a topic I love and hate. Love it because I’m trained to be methodical and logical in my searches, and I’ve learned all sorts of useful nuggets that serve me well while playing Trivial Pursuit. Hate it because if I’m not careful, the RRH (Research Rabbit Hole) will eat up hours, even affecting the time-space continuum. (I’m a Dr. Who fan!)

I only have one rule when doing research. I set a timer and limit each question search to 45 minutes. If I can’t find the answer by then, I force myself to quit and go back to writing. (or make another cup of tea, or throw more laundry into the dryer, or clean out my linen closet–writers know exactly what I mean).

But here are three questions where I broke my rule for my adult romantic suspense WIP See Her No More. 


Question 1: Why is the 14-line sonnet between Romeo and Juliet in Act 1 Scene 5 split between Romeo and Juliet instead of being spoken by one actor (like in Shakespeare’s previous plays)?

Answer: After almost six hours of research, I found information on the internet regarding Francisco Petrarch’s (1304-1374) feelings about love relationships and how these earlier sonnets affected Shakespeare’s work, especially Romeo and Juliet. But the information, while interesting, still left me with questions. One of the articles spoke of passive heroines (which Juliet is not) and the ever-annoying insta-love phenomenon, but I wanted more about the actual use of the language.

Then fate answered this question in the most unusual way.

A few days after my search, I went to RWA in NYC. Thanks to my dear friend Diana Belchase, I found the information through one of the best sources in the world: Best-selling author Eloisa James (also known as Mary Bly, a tenured professor of English Literature at Fordham University). While her answer is too long and profound for this post, one day soon I’ll write a blog post about it. Her answer was fascinating and funny and beautiful.


Question 2: What is the best way to teach a smaller woman to fight a large, combat-trained man?

Answer: I know, I know. The question is silly since the best answer is Run. Away. Now.

But since my heroine can’t do that (and won’t have a weapon when she needs one) and the hero is desperate to teach her how to defend herself, I spent seven hours on the internet reading about how to fight and watching YouTube videos. That helped with “write blocking” both the hero/heroine training scene and the inevitable fight scene with the villain. Except I still didn’t know how it felt to be in a fight. I needed real people perspectives.

So I interviewed my neighbor who is a DEA agent (although he was kind, I could tell he didn’t want to talk about it). Then I asked my DH who’d once been a soldier and is always a wonderful source of information about anything male. But since his experience in the army was different from my hero’s, his information was helpful but not what I required. What I needed was a female perspective and I didn’t know a single woman who’d ever been in a serious fight with a much larger man (which is a really good thing!).

That’s when I found the writing teacher Tiffany Lawson Inman who taught a class about how actors choreograph fights and what emotions they must bring to the stage. Although I had to leave the class early, the information about writing emotion during a fight scene was spot-on. If Tiffany ever offers it again, you’ll know because I’ll be shouting with joy from the tiny corner office in my kitchen. (I recommend ALL of Tiffany’s classes. She’s a great teacher!)

Miss Courtney Lenaburg

Question 3: What kind of illegal anti-seizure drugs are out there and how would one of my characters find them?

Answer: All I can say is Thank God for my best friend Mary Lenaburg because there is no way I was looking this one up on the internet unless I was at some anonymous internet cafe wearing a wig and sunglasses.

Unfortunately, this answer came from a woman who dealt with this issue in real life. Some of my readers know about Mary’s daughter Courtney who suffered from an unknown seizure disorder her entire life. Because of Miss Courtney’s severe condition, she was allowed to take an anti-seizure drug imported from Canada but not approved in the U.S.

One day I took Mary to Barnes and Noble for coffee and a chat. We were there for over six hours, and she was so generous with her information. We spent two hours talking about the drug itself (how it’s taken, side effects, why it’s illegal in the U.S. etc), then the next four hours theorizing how a character in a book (not a real person!) would try to get the drug if they weren’t approved to take it. Although it was a sad topic, we had a wonderful time brainstorming all the ways a desperate character might go about obtaining this drug.

Miss Courtney Lenaburg

Side note: Miss Courtney passed away ago in December 2014. While we all mourned this sweet girl’s passing, her mother bravely blogged about Courtney’s life and the joy she shared with others. Mary is now a published author who writes and speaks on the dignity of life and death. She is working on two memoirs about her family’s experience. If you have the time, and a ton of tissues, I urge you to visit Mary’s site at You will not regret the time you spend immersed in Her Story. I promise!

In keeping with the spirit of this blog today, two of my 2012 GH Firebird sisters have new releases which required time in the RRH.


Kristen Ethridge’s new Love Inspired inspirational romance The Doctor’s Unexpected Family.


Dr. Pete Shipley is on a mission to save lives and he’s ready to move to another corner of the world where his skills are needed. City Councilwoman Angela Ruiz is a single parent fighting to save her hometown after Hurricane Hope tears through Port Provident, leaving destruction across the community she has sworn to serve. Together, they team up to found The Grace Space, a Christian-based community gathering spot in the heart of Angela’s district, where residents can get food, household goods, and basic medical care while Port Provident rebuilds after the storm.

When Pete’s appointment to an international medical mission comes, will the doctor follow his lifelong dream and leave Port Provident, The Grace Space, and Angela and her daughter—or will he stay with the family he didn’t expect to love and realize he can change the world without leaving home?

Hurricane Hope: One storm changes Port Provident forever…and for good.

5173qQ-9q0L._UY250_Natalie Meg Evan’s second book The Milliner’s Secret is a heart-wrenching love story set in wartime Paris.

London,1937. A talented young woman travels to Paris with a stranger. The promise of an exciting career as a milliner beckons, but she is about to fall in love with the enemy…

Londoner Cora Masson has reinvented herself as Coralie de Lirac, fabricating an aristocratic background to launch herself as a fashionable milliner. When the Nazis invade, the influence of a high-ranking lover, Dietrich, saves her business. But while Coralie retains her position as designer to a style-hungry elite, Paris is approaching its darkest hour.

Faced with the cruel reality of war and love, Coralie must make a difficult choice – protect herself or find the courage to fight for her friends, her freedom and everything she believes in.

Now I’d love to know what questions have taken you down the RRH!

Thank your for spending the day with us. Below is a link of my Golden Heart sisters who are participating in today’s blog party. Hope to see you next month!

Historical romance writers –  Wendy LaCapra | Sweet and Inspirational writers –  Kristen Ethridge | Novels with Romantic Elements – Jean Willett – Natalie Meg Evans | Romantic Suspense – Carol Post – Sharon Wray | Paranormal writers – Kay Hudson – Pamela Kopfler | Contemporary romance writers –  Kat Cantrell  – Priscilla Kissinger 


Writer Wednesday List

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray and Mary Lenaburg.

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  1. Wow, even as a lover of literature, I hadn’t ever pondered your Shakespeare question. Kudos to you for going to a great resource– Eloisa James! I’ll have to buy you a cup of coffee sometime so I can hear what she said. 🙂

    I bet that combat class was wonderful! What a great idea as way to get a sense of how the fight feels and what goes through you mind and body in the throes of the action. My mom, daughters and I took a RAD (rape, aggression, defense) course years ago and it was wonderful! Have to say, I started out feeling nervous, but wound up feeling empowered by my inner strength. But you’re right, the very first thing they said was: If at all possible, RUN AWAY!

    Mary’s sharing of everything Courtney and their entire family has gone through is absolutely amazing! Their strength and perseverance and love for each other is beautiful. What a blessing that she was able to share her knowledge, gleaned during the most difficult of situations, to help you.

    I enjoyed going down your rabbit hole with you– and will totally use your timer idea as a life line to reality and responsibility the next time I start researching. Thanks for the tip!

    1. I wish we lived close enough to have a cup of tea together, Priscilla. I’d love to spend hours telling you everything I learned about that play. It was fascinating. (in a geeky, literary kind of way).
      It was so wonderful to see you in NYC and I hope we get to see each other again soon!

  2. What a lovely and insightful post, Sharon! I, too, would love to hear more about the answer to question #1. 🙂 And, like Pris, I took a course called Model Mugging in Boston in which a huge, padded man attacks repeatedly and women learn to fend him off. The course was equal parts therapy and empowerment, and I’ve never had to use the suggested tactics, but I’m glad I had the experience. Of course, the #1 suggestion was be aware and attempt to thwart the need for confrontation in the first place.

    1. I will have to write a blog post on that Romeo and Juliet question. My current manuscript is a loose retelling of the story (with a HEA!) and I really wanted to understand how Shakespeare used language to build intimacy. Now I just have to figure out how to do that with my own writing!
      And for the fight question, I really wanted to have my heroine run away. But we’re not allowed to do that anymore. LOL.

  3. Oh, my rabbit hole is Italy right now. It’s necessary for my current work-in-progress.
    I loved hearing about someone else who has to set a timer. When I first started my research, I didn’t and sitting for hours is not a good thing. I could use a good methodical way of keeping the information, though….so, next time we meet 🙂

    As for women and fighting– I attended the Writer’s Police Academy a couple of years ago. One class was all about self-defense using an Israeli style of contact combat called Krav Maga. Needless to say, I learned to yell [not something I do in an emergency], hit a huge dummy [something else I’ve never done- the instructor made me do it again after my first try–said it was not hard enough to swat a fly], learned the proper balance and some contact hits to disable a man so I could RUN. I know you may need another Rabbit Hole to fall into 🙂 Enjoy.

    1. I’ve been putting off my research of Italy because I need to finish this current manuscript. But I hope to do that soon so I can dig into the history of Rome, Venice, and Verona. 🙂
      I always wanted to go to WPA and maybe one day I’ll get a chance to do that. In the meantime, I will have to search Krav Maga. The only thing I know about it is what I watched on a Simpsons episode. And satire is not something my heroine can use to save herself. 🙂

      1. I took a little course on Krav Maga from our local police force with my daughter when she was in high school. At one point, we both had a big, burly policeman on top of us (playing rapist) whom we had to escape from using Krav Maga techniques! It was odd, awkward, but very interesting. The best thing I learned was that if you are grabbed from behind, don’t try to break free of the arm grip around your waist or chest or under your armpits. Go DOWN–fall through the arm stricture. They don’t expect you to go downward. Also, I learned that in Isreal, everyone learns Krav Maga, from the young to the elderly, both sexes, too.

        Great post! BTW, I’m dying to hear the rest about Romeo and Juliet, too! And isn’t Mary’s family story remarkable! I love seeing Courtney’s face!

  4. tamrabaumann says:

    Great post, Sharon! As I happened to crash yours and Diana’s party when Eliosa (Sorry about that!) I was lucky enough to hear her answer to your question. Just goes to show that sometimes old fashion research can sometimes still be the best!

    1. I am so glad you “crashed” our answer session! Didn’t she give a wonderful answer? Of course, I felt like a geek even asking the question. But if I can’t ask an English professor, who can I ask? 🙂

  5. I think you really have to tell us more about Eloisa’s answer to the question about Romeo and Juliet. Fight scenes are tricky, though slowed-down utube videos can be very informative. My son recently showed me how to knock somebody out using the side of your elbow against the opponents jaw. He insisted I try it on him; well, you wouldn’t really, would you? As he’s 6′ 2″ and I’m 5′ 3″ I managed to poke him in the throat. He reeled back, shouting, ‘Whoah, mum, low blow!’ So now I know what to do.

    I know what you mean about the rabbit hole. A dark corridor with endless sub-corridors, with sub-sub-corridors and so on, so you may never get back into the light.

    1. I will write a blog post about it, Natalie. It’s a really interesting question and Eloisa gave me a marvelous answer.
      I need to take another self-defense course. It’s something on my to-do list for the fall. 🙂
      Maybe we’ll meet one day in the rabbit hole. I tend to spend too much time there!

  6. Kieran, I had no idea you and your daughter took a Krav Maga class. I would’ve loved to do that with you!
    And since you’re the eight person to ask me today about the R&J question, I will definitely write up a blog about it soon! 🙂

  7. Sharon, I’ve been down the rabbit hole more than a few times (and more for my historical books than my paranormals); it’s always fun but–whoosh–where did the day go?

    1. I know, Kay. That’s why I have to use a timer. If I don’t, I lose time and eventually days. 🙂

  8. Great post, Sharon. The timer is a great idea. I live by schedules, which keeps me aware of the time and accomplishes the same thing. What a blessing to have a friend that could give you such in depth information from personal experience.

  9. Just reread this and still love it, Sharon. Your posts are truly wonderful.

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