I’m a news junkie.
There, I’ve said it.
It’s an addiction I developed over the 25 years (or so) that I spent working for daily newspapers in California. I began as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News, served as the City Editor and Executive Editor for smaller papers in the Central Valley and ended as an Assistant Metro Editor with the Modesto Bee, a McClatchy newspaper.
This part of my career taught me to write fast, tersely and to self-edit my work…let alone editing other’s stories. But I cherish the work I did developing, assigning and framing stories. I called it the “What If” syndrome. It’s the curiosity that leads you to ask questions.
After I left the “biz” in 2000, I stayed addicted to newspapers until about three years ago. I subscribed to the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly. I have some guilt that the Amazonian rainforest gave up too many trees to feed my appetite for the printed word.
Now I’ve cut back and get most of my news from broadcast media. PBS, BBC, Al Jazeera, local and national broadcast channels, MSNBC, CNN. It doesn’t take the place of the Sunday Times, but I try to keep up with what’s happening in the world.
This addiction comes in handy in my fiction writing. Over and above the “What If” syndrome, I mine the news for plots, red herrings, characters.
In the Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries, Amy and her police reporter, Clarice, find themselves immersed in not only a murder or two, but events that are shaping their world. “Labeled for Death” looks as the financial impact the winegrape growing industry has on the Central Valley and California. The plot is based loosely on an actual case of a winery knowingly substituting a lower grade winegrape for the higher priced Zinfandel grapes.
“Delta for Death,” published in May, is built around the severe drought in California, the jockeying for scarce water and the very controversial Delta Tunnels proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed.
I don’t ignore current world events in my totally fictional world of the Kandesky vampires, either.
They may be 500 years old. They may be headquartered in a Hungarian castle. But they also own Kandesky Enterprises, a family-held conglomerate that has munitions factories in the Czech Republic, cattle ranches in Argentina, textile design and manufacturing plants in several Central European countries and their flagship property, SNAP.
SNAP is a daily TV show (think Entertainment Tonight) and a weekly magazine (US, People, e.g.) that covers the world’s gossip from the world’s celebrities. They produce TV editions for all the European and South American markets—as well as North America—and are headquartered in LA…gossip central for the rich, super-rich, notable and aristocracy.
Book Nine of the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, SNAP: I, Vampire launched this week. In it, the Kandeskys take on a shadowy arms dealer who brokers arms sales from their munitions factories to Middle East terrorists.
I’m not sure I’d recommend being a news junkie. Like all addictions, it’s hard to break, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s “research” when I spend all that time with the TV on. At least now, I feed the cat, cook dinner, fold laundry, do dishes while the news is on.
Not quite the luxury of spending a quiet hours or so reading newspapers (and doing the crossword puzzles) over coffee during the morning.
This appetite has left me with a brain stuffed with trivia that I’ll probably never use…and may not even be able to recall as needed. Aaaah, maybe I’ll find a way to buy more memory! There’s a thought.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.
Her Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, has received “must read” reviews from the Paranormal Romance Guild and was the best paranormal vampire series of 2014. The series is SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, Danube: A Tale of Murder , SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Nights, SNAP: All That Jazz, SNAP: I, Vampire .