Do you ever feel like you should come with a warning label?
I do. A lot.
This is one of those times.
When I’m doing research, I’d rather talk to people in the field as opposed to reading about it. I always end up with some oddball question that can’t be answered by a book or website. I also like hands on research. This is how I ended up taking a ten week citizens’ police academy course. Yes. It was just as hilariously awkward as you’d think it would be. But, it was totally worth it in terms of research material as well as meeting people I genuinely like and respect.
My other favorite research method is cold calling. This is when I try to repress the fact that I’m actually very shy, suck it up and start making phone calls to people in the field that I’m writing about. I usually end up having to explain myself to at least one or two of the office staff before being allowed to leave a vaguely awkward sounding voicemail message where I hope against hope that my subject calls me back.
I’d like to tell you about Bill. He called me back. He’s probably regretting it with every fiber of his being at the moment, but more on that later.
Many of you know that I set my werebear shifter story in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Why, you might wonder? Well, I wanted someplace that black bears would be relatively common. I wanted an area I knew well-ish. And hey, honestly? I just really like that area.
So anyway, I called the Baraga DNR (Department of Natural Resources) office since that was the town in which I’d decided to set my story. The very nice secretary passed me along to Bill’s voicemail and a while later he called me back. I explained that I was an author and that I’d like some information about bears. He kindly obliged, told me some awesome stories about bears, Michigan’s bat population and how DNR officers jump out of helicopters to tag moose.
He asked a little more about me and my books, and I explained the erotic romance genre and the popularity of ménage as well as shape shifter stories. He was clearly baffled, but a good sport about it. I asked him if I could cite him on the acknowledgment page, and he kindly agreed. Now, when I cite a source, I always do a full citation. So if it’s one of my cop buddies, I spell out their name, rank and department. I did the same thing with Bill.
Just Right released with the rest of the books in the Not Quite Wicked series and went on to do quite well. I wrote the next book in the series and went off that summer to vacation in the Upper Peninsula. While I was there, I got to meet Bill. He’s just as awesome in person as he is on the phone. He’s funny, knowledgeable and tells great stories. He took me, the hubby, our kids, one of my brothers and 2 of my nephews into an iron mine. We did the tour and then he got permission to take us off the tour track farther back into the mine where it was dark, wet, muddy, rife with debris and giant holes in the ground. More importantly, there were bats.
It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis that I love bats. Well, so does Bill. In fact, the locals call him Batman.
He is, understandably, not amused by this.
But he is a bat specialist. He showed us where a few young males were hanging out the inside of the rock walls and fluttering around. He gave us all kinds of great info. I loved it and so did the rest of the fam. We went out to lunch, then Bill took us to the Millie Mine Bat Viewing station. Of course, it was daytime and the bats were snoozing, but I was still pleased to see they had a safe place to sleep. All in all it was a great day, and I was so glad to get a chance to thank Bill in person for helping me with my research.
Fast forward to the end of this school year. Per Bill’s request, I sent him a signed copy of the Not Quite Wicked anthology. Apparently, said copy of the book got passed around the office, Bill was mocked mercilessly because he’d been involved with a “sex book”. And that’s when it got a little ugly. He was ridiculed endlessly because I’d been too thorough when listing out the location in the acknowledgments.
I was terrified that this absolutely wonderful guy was going to lose his job because I was doing my job and documenting. He’d gone out of his way to help me out with info, not to mention, spending his day off with my family, and I had jeopardized his position. In short, I felt like utter shit.
I offered to call/write and apologize to everyone in the office if need be. He didn’t think it would be necessary, but he told me he’d let me know if it came to that. Well, the school year ended, and I didn’t hear anything. Summer wore on…nothing. Finally, it was vacation time. I thought about calling to see how things were going, but time got away from me. Also I totally chickened out. While vacationing in the UP, I even drove past the Baraga DNR office on my way to Copper Harbor, and I thought about stopping. I even talked to Brynn about it from the road. I think she dared me to stop in and say hi, but that seemed like a terri-bad idea, so I kept driving.
Well, I got a phone call today. It was Bill.
My stomach immediately sank when I saw the area code. I was terrified that he was going to tell me he’d lost his job and it was all my fault.
I’m pleased to report that this wasn’t the case. Although, there’s other…stuff.
Apparently, last night was the DNR Wildlife Division Annual In-service where they hand out awards. I’m imagining it to be like the Academy Awards with more fur and claws and far fewer sequins and borrowed jewelry. I could be wrong though. Maybe the DNR peeps like bling as much as Hollywood.
Anyway, in addition to the other awards, the fine folk at the DNR give out the Bone (formerly Boner) Award every year. From my understanding, it’s given to someone who’s done something especially boneheaded—an epically stupid blunder. And I think we all know who this year’s recipient was.
And who’s responsible for him getting this award?
Why, yes. That would be me. This is where the warning label comes in.
Bill ended up receiving the award (a bone mounted to a piece of wood) with a big ole poster of the cover of Just Right, with his face photoshopped in there somewhere, while someone read passages of the story. Aloud. Evidently, there was a bit of trouble finding non-dirty bits to read. Oops.
Oh yeah…and? They retired the award last night. Apparently, they don’t think it can get any worse than this. I feel certain I could disabuse them of that notion quickly enough. After all, I’m not considered a cautionary tale for nothing.
According to Bill, had he known he was going to receive this honor, he would have called me up and made me go to the ceremony with him. (Not cool, Bill.) Luckily, for me, he didn’t.
However, he thinks that sales may spike this week because many of the attendees were googling me on their smart phones. (Yay…I think…) He also said that if he’d had a stack of the books, he could have sold them all last night.
And apparently, as punishment, when I’m on vacation next summer, I have to stop at the DNR office and get my picture taken with Bill and the Boner Award. I can only imagine how truly, truly horrible and awkward this will be. But after what poor Bill has gone through, it’s the least I can do. I also plan to take him out to lunch. There will likely be a blog about it. Unless I die of embarrassment before I can post.
Hope springs eternal.