Writer’s Research: Google-y Eyes Are Upon You

You’re deep into drafting a chapter and suddenly you need to fact-check a place, person or thing. You quickly Google it on your phone, which leads to another click, another image or word or concept. And this somehow all weaves together in a surprising symmetry that’s downright uncanny—to use a favorite word of my protagonist, Rowan Layne.

But then there’s the creepy big-brother-is-watching revelation. This happened while drafting Alienable Rights, the first novel in my Other Worldly series. I researched “tinnitus,” and within days I had brochures arriving in the mail from Utah. For hearing aids. This went on for months.

Almost as bad as the disturbing googly eyes on the pile of poop emoji.

Anything I research on my laptop results in strangely related ads attached to a Microsoft word game I play every morning to jumpstart my brain (along with coffee). Worse, I end up with similar ads in my Facebook newsfeed. And can I just say how Facebook has very limited and illogical options to choose from when selecting a reason as to why one does not favor a particular ad? Most make no sense in the context of my concerns, but I do find myself selecting “knows too much” all too often.

Of particular perplexity might be the random nature of my research subjects, or their potential alarming  implications for any big brothers watching. I do write about aliens, after all, and might have mentioned Area 51 and Space Force (not in a good way) a time or too. I’ve looked up everything from Jupiter’s moons to Newton’s apple, iridescent beetles to Roswell, from MQ-9 Reapers to satellite blocking capabilities, plus the Rhesus antigen, DNA and recessive genes. And is it any wonder Rowan and I are suspicious of drones?

But I also search innocuous statistics such as highest mountains or deepest lakes, wherein I discovered something serendipitous in terms of my subject matter. While drafting an Oregon/Washington scene towards the end of Alienable Rights, I sought details on the Columbia River. I learned it’s the largest river in the Pacific Northwest and, yes, the name Columbia comes from Columbus, which my Red Orbiter aliens poke fun at Americans about (and deservedly so).

Even better was the full name of the explorer’s ship that first travelled up the river in 1792, which was the Columbia Rediviva. When you’re writing about red orbs and Red Orbiter aliens, what were the odds? The word rediviva jumps out at you, begging for further research (plus, spellcheck doesn’t like it).

Rediviva turned out to be Montana’s state flower, and a succulent plant with pink flowers grown in the Rocky Mountain region (but I say it comes from Jupiter aka Cumulus, along with apples). Furthermore, in Latin (often popping up in my novel series) it means re-used or secondhand.

So, I tweaked history and turned the Columbia Rediviva into a repurposed red orb, with a Red Orbiter at the helm who decided to trade in his spacecraft to become a ship’s captain. This fit in nicely with my alien characters who choose Earth-bound professions and endeavors for their life’s work (think senator, astronaut, Vegas mogul, celebrity chef).

Another uncanny connection resulted from the realization that, the ear’s cochlea (researched for book 1), turns out to be part of the inner ear known as the labyrinth, which I learned (thanks, Mimi!) while drafting book 3, the recently released Aliens Abound. I’d already deemed those from Mars to be Labyrinthians, due to Mars’ Noctis Labyrinthus region, but the labyrinth itself becomes an important symbol I hadn’t contemplated when drafting books 1 and 2.

With the fourth book currently in progress, Being Alien, for which I had hopes of gallivanting off to Great Britain for research instead of travelling no further than my couch while quarantining at home, I looked up London hotels near Westminster. Somehow I stumbled upon one with an actual “bee and bee” hotel on its rooftop garden, when I already had plans to incorporate a honeybee/honeycomb theme into the Scotland portion of the story.

And just imagine what happened when I researched the Isle of Skye and a certain ancient battle flag, along with one of the fabled clan’s most celebrated chiefs…

For now, I’m getting golf advertisements (yikes) and any number of stories about St Andrews and Stonehenge popping up in my phone’s Google news feed. But it sure beats hearing aid brochures.


2 thoughts on “Writer’s Research: Google-y Eyes Are Upon You”

  1. Ads. One of the many reasons I quit facebook. So, it appears you started to digress on paragraph 6. I expected you to come back to the central topic of all the information surrepticiously collected on us digital citzens and the myriad ways Big Tech is using or outright selling that information to enrich themselves. I expected more of a fight against the modern information capitalism, especially when it infringes on our privacy, but also since it is damn annoying.

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