Paula looks at the research she did for her heroes’ occupations.
Write what you know, ‘they’ say. If I followed that advice, my
heroes would have jobs that I know something about. Instead, Paul (in Changing the Future) was a volcano
expert, and Luke (in Irish Intrigue)
was a veterinary surgeon. My knowledge of these two occupations was very
limited, to say the least.
Here’s an excerpt when Lisa is watching Paul on television:
Paul was being
interviewed at Manchester Airport. “Yes, Mount Lakuda’s providing us with some
interesting developments at the moment. There’s been quite an increase of
activity this past week.”
“And when you get to
Iceland, what are the main things you’ll be doing?” the interviewer asked.
“I’ll be working with
the scientists at the Iceland Volcano Research Centre. I was out there a couple
of weeks ago and I’ve been in close contact with Dr. Kristjan Dagsson, the head
of the Centre.”
“There are reports of
a bulge on the side of the volcano. How significant is this?”
“On its own, a
swelling wouldn’t be considered serious. Plenty of volcanoes develop these
bulges, which indicate the movement of magma, often several miles below the
surface. We’re more concerned about the heightened level of seismic activity
and sulfur dioxide levels.”
“I understand there
have been several earthquakes in the last few weeks.”
“What we call an
earthquake swarm, yes, a lot of small tremors, but none with a magnitude higher
than three. Scientists at the Centre have been working around the clock
analysing and interpreting the data from all the sensory equipment on Mount
Lakuda, and I’ll be joining them.”
“Is this the build-up
to a full-scale eruption?”
“Not necessarily. It’s being monitored carefully but it’s very difficult to predict
whether this activity will lead to any major eruption.”
persisted. “If it does erupt, is there likely to be an ash cloud like the one
which caused such major disruption to air traffic?”
“The ash cloud was due
to a combination of factors, mainly linked to the jet stream, none of which are
present in the case of Mount Lakuda.”
“Thank you, Dr.
Hamilton.” The interviewer turned to face the camera again. “Dr Paul Hamilton,
a leading authority on volcanoes, was talking about Mount Lakuda in Iceland.
Returning you now to the studio.”
Here’s the scene that resulted from the YouTube videos:
Charley followed Jan
into an inner office where a bank of black and white screens covered one wall.
Jan pointed to one of them. “That’s Duchess in her birthing box. She’s very
restless, so I don’t think it’ll be long now.”
Charley caught a
glimpse of Luke running experienced hands around the mare’s swollen belly
before he disappeared out of camera range. Soon afterwards, he came into the
office, followed by the sturdy round-faced man she recognised from Waterside.
“Best to let her get
on with it now,” he said. “I don’t want her holding on to the foal because
we’re standing there watching her.”
“Could she do that?”
He nodded. “It’s quite
common. In fact—” He peered at the screen. “If I’m not mistaken, she’s started
to expel the birth sac. See, she was waiting for us to leave her alone.”
They all watched as
the mare rose clumsily to her feet and walked a few steps. When she turned, the
white sac was visible.
Rory peered at the
screen. “Come on, Duchess,” he whispered.
“You can see the
foal’s hoof now,” Jan said.
They bunched around
the screen, and Charley held her breath as the foal’s forelegs appeared.
“This was when things
went wrong last time,” Luke whispered in her ear. “The head was positioned
wrongly, and she couldn’t push it out.”
The tension in the
office was palpable as the mare strained, until with one heaving contraction,
the foal’s head started to appear.
Luke blew out his
breath. “Whoa, almost home and dry now.”
When the head was
fully out, he raised his clenched fist in triumph, and Rory punched the air.
“Okay, Rory, get
yourself across there to welcome your new baby.” Luke turned to her. “Coming?”
“Will Duchess be all
right with people watching?”
“Aye, the rest of the
foal will have slithered out of her by the time we get there.”
When they reached the
birthing box, Luke’s prediction proved correct. The foal writhed and kicked in
the sac that still surrounded it.
exclaimed softly as they stood by the wooden railing at one side of the box.
“Duchess looked round as if to say, Where did you come from? That’s so—so—”
Her voice choked, and
Luke slipped his arm around her shoulders. “I think she’s saying, Hang on
there, kid. Gi’ me a few minutes to draw breath, and then I’ll be sorting ye
She laughed and rested
her head against his shoulder, blinking as tears flooded her eyes. “Seeing the
first few moments of an animal’s life is magical, isn’t it?”
He tightened his arm
around her. “It’s something I’ve seen countless times, but the magic never goes
away. Her maternal instincts will kick in and she’ll lick the sac away. Before
you know it, the foal will be up and nursing. After that, I can check them both
It happened exactly as
Luke said. The foal struggled to its feet, wobbling and staggering until
Duchess nudged her baby to her teat.
Charley clasped her
hand to her mouth and the tears trickled down her cheeks.
If I had only written about ‘what I know’, I would have
missed the fascination of discovering a lot of interesting information about
volcanoes and veterinary work. Although the research can take time (often many
hours), in the end it can actually prove more satisfying than only writing what
you know. Oh, and my team did once win a pub quiz by one point because I was
able to answer a question about the gases produced by a volcano!