The Best Part of Writing: The Research

In my last book, The Darkest Thread, teenage sisters go missing in Vermont’s mysterious Bennington Triangle, and it’s up to K-9 search and rescue handler Jamie Flint and her dogs to find them. Naturally, lots of unsavory things happen and it’s not nearly as easy as you’d think, before the mystery is ultimately solved and the search is done. I spent a lot of time on reading, interviews, and treks for that novel, including talking to a multitude of K-9 search and rescue handlers. That, to me, is one of the best parts of this whole writing gig. Oh, sure, the writing can be lovely, actually having a completed book is great, and I’m invariably tickled when the royalties come in… The readings and the signings and the readers are, likewise, Very Good Things in this business. But having an excuse to go out and do stuff that I’ve always wanted to do but otherwise may be too timid — that pretty much rocks.

In my next Flint K-9 Search and Rescue novel, two guides and a group of at-risk teens in a wilderness expedition school vanish while out dog sledding. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Yes indeed.

Sunday afternoon, I drove the hour and a half up to Bethel and settled in at the Inn at the Rostay, a rustic, no-frills little place on Route 2 that was perfect for my purposes. There was a microwave and a fridge, a comfortable bed with a handmade quilt, free Wifi, and a doable price tag. Definitely everything I was looking for.

The next morning, Caroline Blair-Smith — co-owner of Mornington Crescent Sled Dogs — picked me up in her truck, and we headed out. The truck was equipped with a special rig containing eight separate compartments for the dogs, while the sled was perched atop that. From there, we were off.

I’m not going to go into great detail here about the whole adventure, except to say… Well, it was awesome and I highly recommend giving it a whirl if it’s something you have any interest in. I knew Caroline from my days working at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, so I knew I would be in good hands, the dogs would be well cared for, and she would be able to answer any questions I might have. I was right on all three counts. And because a picture truly is worth a thousand words, here are some shots of my day out on the trail.

Caroline Blair-Smith getting the sled and gear set for our trek.

Caroline and her dogs barreling toward me on the trail.

The team anxiously wait to get moving again.

A view of the mountains and forest around Grafton Notch.

Those are just a few of the shots I got while out on the trail. I will note that it’s a lot harder to take photos than you’d think when your fingers are cold and the world is whizzing by and you’re trying to hang on to a sled behind eight very eager pups who just want to move. So, less photos than I might have gotten otherwise, but I wanted my focus to be more on the experience itself than on recording the whole thing for posterity. I’m pleased at making that decision, though, because I feel like I’m much better prepared to describe the whole thing for the book than I would have been if I’d been worrying about framing the perfect shot. Someday, perhaps I’ll figure out how to do both.

Jen Blood is author of the USA Today-bestselling Erin Solomon mysteries and the newly released The Darkest Thread, the first novel in the Flint K-9 Search and Rescue Mysteries. To learn more, visit 

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8 Responses to The Best Part of Writing: The Research

  1. C.T. Collier says:

    Enjoyed this post so much, Jen! What a great way to see the winter wilderness. The excitement of the dogs came through beautifully in your shot. Looking forward to the book 🙂 –kate

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Sounds wonderful! Jealous! (And – yes – research is almost always fun!)

  3. So cool, Jen! Have much fun it must have been. I’m sure the speed, exhilaration and yes, danger, will translate to the page

  4. Karen Pullen says:

    I have always wanted to ride in a dog sled. Seeing your pictures and hearing about your experiences means I’ll move it further up the list. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

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