I composed this blog while on the road to an emergency management Mass Care Symposium. Sound intriguing? Let’s begin with the definition of “mass care.” It’s the capability to provide immediate shelter, feeding centers, basic first aid, bulk distribution of needed items, and related services to persons affected by a large-scale incident. You may be comforted to know that the Federal Emergency Management Administration — FEMA — has a mass care strategy, and that FEMA, along with the American Red Cross formed a National Mass Care Council around 2010/2011. That council is co-chaired by the American Red Cross, FEMA, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD), and is comprised of members from Big City Emergency Managers ( bigcityem.org), federal Department of Health and Human Services, Feeding America ( feedingamerica.org), North American Mission Board–Southern Baptist Convention (with their Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operations, they are a huge player in providing food relief — who knew?), and The Salvation Army. Just with that teeny bit of information, my imagination runs wild.
I attended this training as an interested citizen and for research. A large-scale emergency would be a fertile setting for a mystery. I’ve got a lead on character-building now, too. That there’s an organization called Big City Emergency Managers is too crazy. I’m thinking how several of these managers could populate a mystery novel, and I’m already imagining manager villains. Conflict and tension, critical in mystery fiction, are commonplace in emergency situations. Reading the posts of any emergency management organization further feeds the imagination. I’ve just now scrolled through reports on mass evacuation for a hurricane, liabilities in the electrical grid, and consequences of a petroleum shortage. The Mass Care Symposium I attended complements other training I’ve banked recently including participating in my county’s citizens police academy and citizens government academy. Skills and information I received from these trainings benefit my community, neighborhood, and family, as well as provides value to the volunteer organization in which I participate. I’m able to add activities like this into my schedule since I no longer face a nine-to-five job, and for that I am thankful and fortunate.
In the name of research, I’m known to embark on offbeat trips and explorations in other ways. Somewhere you can find my blog about the crazy goat man. I’m attracted to oddities, and I’ll put myself out there and go places where normal older women won’t, or don’t want to, go. I’m a bit of a low-stakes risk-taker. Fellow Mutt Mysteries author Heather Weidner and I grabbed a few friends and attended a rockin’ drag brunch, for instance. The entertainment was fabulous! I also have a fascination with abandoned buildings, especially homes. Don’t get me started on YouTube’s JPVideo abandoned house episodes. I recently told my sister about these, and now she’s hooked. That’s fine to watch for armchair exploring, but walking—stalking—the abandoned is more fun. I may or may not have approached an abandoned house recently on a walk. I have my eye on a lovely decaying large home in another neighborhood. I think they’ve seen my trespass, because new no trespassing signs have appeared on the property. Whoops. The photos from these explorations are so evocative, and I cannot help but wonder what lives were lived within.
Toss in other odd excursions, and I’m filled with ideas, memories, facts, and details that find their way into my writing. My husband laughs over dinner to hear that I toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center (hey, that’s what they really call the place . . . even I, a non-shopper, have to admit that Amazon does fulfill some of my needs!) or checked out the antique carriage museum. The Antique Truck and Tractor Museum is on the list, and my husband has signed up to accompany me there.
Oh, goodness. I thought I was finished, but I have to add how I research story settings by attending home and garden shows and tours. “Home Tour Havoc” in 50 Shades of Cabernet revolved around a home show setting. Finally, you can find me at estate sales. I return to the word “evocative.” Estate sales evoke emotional reactions in me. I feel a deep sense of place and belonging as I see and handle items a person kept to the end—items of his or her home, of his or her life. At yard sales, you’ll find items owners no longer want. At estate sales, you find items with which owners could not part.
Thanks for reading our blog. Keep checking for updates, and know that the best thing about research for fiction writing is that you can go almost anywhere and ask almost any question with the introduction, “I’m a fiction writer, can you tell me about . . .”
About Rosemary Shomaker:
Rosemary Shomaker writes about the unexpected in everyday life. She’s the woman you don’t notice in the grocery store or at church but whom you do notice at estate sales and wandering vacant lots. In all these places she’s collecting story ideas. Rosemary writes women’s fiction, paranormal, and mystery short stories, and she’s taking her first steps toward longer fiction, so stay tuned. She’s an urban planner by education, a government policy analyst by trade, and a fiction writer at heart. Rosemary credits Sisters in Crime with developing her craft and applauds the organization’s mission of promoting the ongoing advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers.