All In a Day’s Work.

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Today was another typical writing day. I wrote a few pages on my new story. (Tentatively called: The Fairy Godmother’s Guide to Saving Troubled Teenagers.) I looked up gopher facts on the internet, called a gold coin company, called the post office to check postal rates to Ireland, weighed a gallon of milk on the bathroom scale, and did some math.

That’s the thing about writing fiction. You never know what bizarre thing you’ll be researching next. It all came about because I have a leprechaun in the story who wants to be mailed to Ireland along with his pot of gold. The heroine first mistakes him for a gopher (thus I had to see how tall gophers are—5 to 12 inches for those of you who are curious, although to tell you the truth I’m wondering about the accuracy of the 12 inch gopher. I mean, I’ve lived in several different states with gophers. I have yet to see a foot-tall rodent strolling through my yard. Which I suppose is a good thing. They probably eat cats.)

After learning vital gopher facts, I had to call a gold place to see how heavy a pot of gold would be so I could calculate shipping costs. Wow, if you hadn’t realized it before: Gold is really expensive. One pound costs 9,489.60. The nice man at the gold place (hereafter called the gold guy) couldn’t tell me how much a pot of gold weighed, but he did tell me that gold is 20 times denser than water. So, you know in the movies when characters are throwing gold bricks around—it’s all lies. That’s right, Hollywood is not being accurate. Shocking, I know.

The gold guy said that if you had a brick of gold the size of a loaf or bread, (and wouldn’t that be nice since gold is 9,489.60 a pound?) you would not be able to lift it. I suppose that would make it hard to flee with it during an earthquake, hurricane or other natural disaster. So if you are shopping for gold, I wouldn’t recommend the loaf size bricks.

Since gold guy told me that gold is 20 times denser than water, I took a jug of milk (close enough to water) and weighed it on the bathroom scale. It weighed nine pounds. If the pot of gold were half the size of a gallon of milk, it would weigh ninety pounds. Which means that despite what I told my math teacher, I really did need to learn how to do story problems.

I then called the friendly folks at the post office and asked how much it would be to send a ninety pound package to Ireland. I did not mention that the package would also carry a leprechaun, because really, how much can those weigh? Besides, I didn’t want them to hang up on me.

It turns out—just in case you were ever thinking about mailing a pot of gold to Ireland—that they do not send ninety pound packages. Their limit is seventy pounds. Oh well, my pot of gold just shrunk because I am too lazy to call Federal express and see if they will do it.

And yes, these really are how details of a story are decided despite what my English teacher told me about how everything in a story is symbolic. (Don’t fret, literary lovers; Steinbeck, I’m sure would have called Federal Express. He was just that way about writing.)

Tomorrow is a new day. One just wonders who I will be calling next.


  1. Annette Lyon
    August 24, 2007 at 6:20 am

    I’m rolling over here–classic!

  2. Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts)
    August 24, 2007 at 7:15 am

    Ah, the intricacies of a writing mind. Janette, you having me rolling over howling with laughter. It took a similar journey to determine how long it would take a 1912 train to go from one point to the next, stopping at appropriate cities for reasons pertinent to the story. And oh yeah, were those towns/cities even there in 1912? Been there done that, although mine wasn’t nearly as hysterical. In fact, it wasn’t funny at all. I’m writing the wrong stuff!

  3. Marsha Ward
    August 24, 2007 at 9:40 am

    I’m sure the people out in the dorm hallway are wondering what’s going on in my room, from the volume of sound that I imagine is creeping through the cracks of the doorframe. I’m just howling here, Janette. Thanks for a terrific blog on research [snort, cackle].

  4. Heather B. Moore
    August 24, 2007 at 11:28 am

    LOL! You need to include this in a section of author notes at the back of your book.

  5. Karen Hoover
    August 24, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Holy cow, that was hilarious! I’m still laughing.

  6. Stephanie Humphreys
    August 24, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I wish my research was that fun!

  7. Tristi Pinkston
    August 24, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    That sounds like so much fun — I want to start weighing beverages on my scale, too!!

  8. Karlene
    August 24, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    If your books are half as funny as your research, they’ve got to be good!

    Uh-oh. Did I just admit I hadn’t read any of them? Sorry. They are on my list.

  9. Julie Wright
    August 24, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    HAHAHAAA! Janette I love you, love your books, love the fact that you are always funny and make my day better!

  10. Josi
    August 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    LOL–my research has centered around how to say ‘sleeping with’ in spanish, but not to mean taking a nap, and what kind of guns are most commonly smuggled over the US/Mexican border. Oh, and types of high-heels and fabrics. I’m learning so much.

  11. Shanna Blythe
    August 27, 2007 at 6:16 am

    I always laugh at your blogs! And the other day, when I was trying to discover how much money ATM machines hold I thought of this blog!

  12. Janette Rallison
    August 27, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Hmmm. That makes me wonder . . . how much money does an ATM hold?

  13. Kari Diane Pike
    August 29, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Trust me, gophers can get to be a foot tall. The little devils. Thanks for the laughs!

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