|That's me having coffee atop St. Paul's Cathedral in London|
The first day in London, I wanted Angela to show Chris around some and keep him awake so he could adjust his inner clock to London time. I decided on a bus ride from her flat near Victoria Station to St. Paul's Cathedral because I had done that once or twice myself, for the same reason.
To make the trip more interesting, I wanted to point out the sights along the way. That's where Google comes in. I plotted a trip from Angela's flat to the church using Google Maps. Then, as I viewed the route, I switched to the photo view and looked for interesting landmarks along the way. Big Ben, London Eye, etc. But, I also saw other bits of information that I felt might be interesting to readers. I saw lots of black cabs, for example. Cars and busses driving down the wrong side of the road. Red double-decker buses everywhere. This gave me scenery, but also an idea for Liz to buy a double-decker bus that had been converted into a bookmobile.
Google Maps Takes the Fun Out of ResearchIn The Vengeance Squad, the protagonists travel a lot. To make it easier for me, I only let him go to places I've been. That way I can create better descriptions of the locations. As I was writing,however, I wished I was in Albuquerque again to get a bit a detail I needed for a scene. I wanted there to be a house close to the Petroglyph National Monument, but I didn't know if there was or not. In the old days, such research might require a tax-deductible trip to look around first hand. But, no longer.
I opened Google Maps in my browser and typed in Petroglyph National Monument. Then I clicked on the little orange Google man and moved him to the streets around the park. I found just what I needed. There was a whole neighborhood near the park's parking lot. Close enough to serve my needs.
From Albuquerque, my characters went to Rowe, a small town in Massachusetts I know quite well, but had not been there in the winter. Also, I had not been to a private airport in nearby North Adams that I wanted to use in my story. With Google Maps I was able to start at the airport and follow the road to Rowe. I learned there are many turns along the way. I looked for photos as I made my virtual trip in hopes of finding a winter scene but there were none. Luckily, a friend there sent me some photos taken while there was snow on the ground.
So, no longer must we go to a villa in France or spend time on a barge in the Netherlands to absorb details enough for a realistic description. All we have to do is turn on the computer.