Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mining Through History to Find a Gem of a Story ... and Critique Giveaway!

Patty Hall, here, and I’d like to thank Julie and the gang for inviting me back to Seekerville. It’s always a joy to be here, though if anyone offered me a boat ride off unpubbed island, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all!

As some of you know, I am a writer who works as a first reader for Harlequin (you know, the one that gets to wade through those infamous slush piles?) and while I haven’t yet received THE CALL myself, I have been told by quite a few writing friends and editors alike that I have a knack for finding unique settings and historical events in which to set my stories. I blame my Granddaddy Smith for that. At an early age, he spun stories of family history and books that ignited my imagination as we rode home in the backseat of my Dad’s Comet. Thus, my love of history began.

Now before all you contemporary writers check out for the day, history can play an important aspect in giving your stories colors and texture. For example, my hometown welcomed the state fair every September with a loud, huge parade. School was dismissed an hour early so that all the moms could get a good parking place along the parade route. It was a big deal in our neck of the woods.

Take that information and think of it in terms of a story. Let’s say we have a heroine who grew up in this town but left under a cloud of heartache the day before graduation. Now a developer, she’s back and ready to tear down the town she grew up in. The hero is her best friend from high school, the boy who loved her and doesn’t understand why she suddenly left. To add to the conflict, let’s make him the mayor of this town who is determined to keep it as a historical site. How would you use the town’s parade in a scene to reveal the character’s motivations or internal conflicts? Here’s my try at it—forgive me for its imperfections:

Marley walked alongside him, a wave of reddish blonde hair falling to her shoulders as she tipped her head back. Her gaze moved over the crumbled brick and cracked mortar of what use to be Goldman’s department store. Was she remembering the last time they’d walked this sidewalk, talking about school and dreaming of the day they would return and make a life here in Marietta?

A life, he had hoped, they would build together.

“It wouldn’t take much to take this place down,” she said, her lips thinning into a straight line.

Matt’s stomach tightened. When had she become this consummated professional, bound and determined to change the homey feel of the town they had both grown up in? Had Marley forgotten all the good times they shared here? Maybe all she needed was a little reminder.
He pointed to a row of store fronts across the street. “Remember Eddie’s.”

She turned sharply, her gaze following the length of his arm to the familiar set of pane glass windows filled with various wares for the amateur magician. “Eddie’s is still up and running?”

“Don’t you think every town needs a magic shop?

Marley laughed, a rich throaty sound that warmed his heart like a summer day in July. She glanced at him, her eyes wide and full of unrestricted happiness. “Do you remember the first time you took me there?”

Matt nodded. “We skipped sixth period so we could get a good seat in front of the Strand so that we could see the fair parade.”

“And you dragged me into Eddie’s to get those fake cigarettes.”

“Hey, I didn’t hear you complain,” he answered, laughing down at her. “I seem to remember you were always up for a good joke.”

She punched him gently on his arm. “Until Mrs. Davis saw us and told my dad we were smoking the real things.”

“I thought it was that tattletale cousin of yours that ratted us out.”

“Taylor.” Marley’s face went blank, all the happiness from just moments ago replaced by the cool determination of the professional she had become. Her cell phone rang. She pulled her cell phone from her purse. “I’ve got to take this call if I want the demolition crew here Monday morning.”

Matt grimaced as he watched her walk away, clearly lost in the details of destroying their hometown. Had something happened between Marley and her cousin, something big enough to drive Marley out of his life? But what?

That’s what he intended to find out.

See how just a bit of history can layer your story and work to bring out a character’s internal conflict and set up the next scene?

So where are the best places to find those little bits of information that makes our stories shine like jewels?

Your Local Library:
Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE the Internet. Knowledge at your fingertips is awesome. But the first place I start my search for a new idea is in the children’s section of the library. While the adult selection of autobiographies and history books have a ton of information and can be a great resource later in the plotting process, children’s books are laid out more like bullet points, fast and to the point. Those short blurbs can fuel some fascinating ideals.

For example, years ago, my daughters were totally into the movie Pearl Harbor and made a point of reading everything they could get their hands on about World War II. So when I was standing at the checkout, a stack of books piled high in front of me, I flipped open a book my oldest had picked out. It was a book about women serving in the war. It had the usual suspects—nurses, reporters—but on the last two pages, I came across a piece of history I’d never heard before—women pilots. A few years later, the intrigue I felt over these great women garnered me the Genesis Award in Historical Romance for my manuscript, Flights of Freedom.

Another wonderful item most libraries offer are the stacks—newspapers from the area that date back over a hundred years in some cases. If you’re unsure of what historical event you’d like to center your plot around, the newspaper collection is the place for you. And if you’re a contemporary writer, you can get a feel for the setting by reading the town’s newspaper—it may even offer you a state fair or parade. Yes, the Internet offers this option too, but without the freedom of endless searching and usually at a hefty cost.

Audio/Video Histories:
When I was in college, I was assigned a term paper on World War II, a subject I found as dry as a Georgia July. That was until my father introduced me to my Uncle Sam. At 92, my uncle not only knew about WWI, he had lived as a doughboy in the trenches in France. One afternoon, tape recorder in hand, I listened for three enthralling hours as Uncle Sam relived the horrors of mustard gas, the delusion of a country promised peace and thrust into war, the memories of a country boy who traveled halfway around the world to fight a war.

I got an A+ on that paper, but more importantly, that tape become one of the first entries into the vast audio/video history at my college. Most universities collect these about the areas around them and make them available on the Internet for free. All you have to do is enter the subject you’re looking for into the Google search engine and let the Web do the rest.

And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget those wonderful gems of information that are our elderly family members. In a society where youth and technology are prized, it’s a crime to ignore the wealth of information these wise people have to offer. And I want to give a shout out to my grandma right here—without her stories about an antebellum house we were visiting for a wedding reception, I never would have found the main setting for one of my manuscripts.

Photo/Story Collections:
I’m a very visual person so to me, a picture truly is worth a thousand words! Which is why I love the photo collections by Arcadia Publishing. Each book offers photos along with a short description that are set in a timeline from a town’s inception to present day. Books in the collection also cover such historical events like WWII in individual cities or pastimes like baseball and road races. For visual writers having pictures in front of me helps with descriptions, promotes ideas for new scenes and acts as a photography reference. To look over their vast selection of books, go to

Another great resource is Reminisce magazine. Not only does it have fantastic pictures, it publishes firsthand stories from people or family members who lived through various times of history. It’s also a wonderful reference for period clothes and glimpses into daily life. Contact them at
In her recent article in Romantic Times, Jennifer Hudson Taylor talked about the uncanny connection between her ancestors and the characters she’d created in her books. She had researched her family tree and found that one of her Scottish grandmothers several times removed was the spitting imagine of her heroine in her novel, Highland Blessings.

As a big-family person myself, I started researching my grandparents on recently and found so many wonderful documents and stories, particularly about a grandfather who traveled to the New World soon after his wife died. In researching her, I found that she passed the same day as her father. My imagination went wild! Did she die in a plague or some tragic accident alongside her father? Or was she a victim of the religious persecution that was going on in England during that time?

Other sources:
1) Historical Societies—even the smallest town has a historical society and when it comes time to plot out a book, the resident historian can be a writer’s best friend. Most large cities charge $50 or more for a yearlong membership but offer rare papers and traveling collections that you may not find anywhere else. Plus, 
the permanent collections can spark new ideas. For example, I found out recently that Sherman’s march through Atlanta was not the biggest fire to destroy the city—the Great Fire of 1917 was.

2) The Library of Congress—you may not live in Washington, DC, but the national library and its experts are available to every citizen of this country through the Internet. Simply go to their website, and type in your questions. An expert in the field will get back to you with references and articles addressing your needs. And if you’re ever in DC, stop by and get your library card that gives you access to private areas of the website.

Thank you for graciously putting up with my nerdiness and love of research today. I would love to hear some of your own secrets for research, so feel free to share. Also, as a reader for Harlequin, I have a pretty good idea what to look for in a “must read” manuscript, so if you’ll leave a note and your email address, you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive a ten-page critique from an official Harlequin reader. Good luck! 


  1. I can't believe I'm first. It's just after midnight and my coffee is set up for tomorrow. (For those of you on FB, Einstein's is giving away free bagels.

    I'm not sure I have a research secret, other than a wife who's willing to help me look up websites. I will sleep on this and come back to it tomorrow. (Yes, I know it technically is tomorrow.)

  2. For the giveaway (I'm always up for advice), my e-mail address is


  3. Patty, thanks for the great post. As a writer of historical romance I thrive on research.

    I live in the heart of California's Gold Country. My town is home to the oldest continuously published newspaper in the state, and I love to pore over the issues, which date back to the 1850s. Taking real life events and incorporating them in my stories is such fun.

    I wonder if you've done a post for Seeekerville on being a first reader. If not, I'd enjoy hearing more about that. What a fascinating job it must be.

    I wish you well in your writing. And since you obviously love research, what are some eras you find particularly interesting?

    Since I have an agent who is guiding me through my revisions, please don't enter my name in the drawing. (Hey, Walt. I just increased your chances. :D)

  4. I wanted to add movies to the list, not so much for historical accuracy, but for scenery. For instance, if I were writing a book based in Kansas I would watch movies filmed there and pay attention to the background in each shot. I think it's a nice way to add to the multitude of research avenues and a great way to mix business with pleasure. Sometimes total immersion in your setting is needed to get it authentic. On the flip side though, I am writing a ms on 18th Century Scotland, but will not let myself watch a movie like Rob Roy until after I at least write the first draft, because I don't want anything to impact my thinking and my research shows that the movie's time line is similar to mine.

    Thanks for a chance at the great give away opportunity!

    EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

  5. Patty, I've recently begun digging once again into my family ancestry. I found out my great great grandfather fought in Tennessee's 2nd Calvary on the Union side! After the war he settled in Kansas due to family disputes as you can imagine. What's odd is that the hero of my latest story was in this very unit. When the story opens he's arriving in Kansas. I started writing this story about a year before I discovered this information about my great great grandpa.

    I get all excited about research. I think it's my favorite part of writing. Thank you for sharing.

    reneelynnscott at gmail dot com

  6. Hi Patty:

    Thanks for all the helpful sources. I love history and have a teaching minor in the subject. I have found that diaries by ordinary people from the time period I am researching are invaluable for what the common person was worried about.

    Personal letters from ordinary citizens are also very insightful in many cases. I read a letter written by an Egyptian who had gone into the Roman Navy and he was telling his parents how wonderful the opportunities were. This letter was written by a scribe for the sailor on papyrus and survived the centuries in the dry Egyptian desert.

    Also a big seller during the Roman Empire were romance novels translated from the original Greek. A collection of these novels are in a book by B. P. Reardon called “Collected Ancient Greek Novels” . I suggest that if you are going to write a romance set in ancient Greece or Rome, you should read a romance novel that the people at the time were reading. : )

    I also like to walk through cemeteries and look at the names and dates. In Rome there are inscriptions on the graves such as "Dear Marcus: a dear and loyal slave". There are books of grave inscriptions from the Roman times.

    Knowing that the people you are going to write about are buried just a few feet below where you stand let’s you see them as real people. I find this moving and it helps put me in the mood to write feeling copy.

    I also acquire coins from the time period I am writing about and hold these coins from time to time as I write. I like to think that these exact coins were used to buy things by the very people I am writing about. (We have both held these coins!) This also gets me into the mood.

    BTW: you can get ancient Roman coins at little cost if they are not in good condition. Collectors want coins in good condition.

    Good luck on your books.


    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  7. Thanks for sharing your advice, and that part of a story! Very interesting. :)

    Please enter me for a chance to win the critique!



  8. Wow, what a post! I used to love looking up genealogy, etc. I love talking to my grandmas about the past too.

    Great excerpt. I liked how well you upped the tension in those few graphs.

    Please enter me for a crit! ;-)

    jessica_nelson7590 AT yahoo dot com

  9. For my books, which are set in late 16th century Japan, I've been using a few items. I do lot of history books and web resources. However, I've found some specialty books that focus on my time period. One is a collection of diary exceprts from Europeans who visited and what they saw while they were in Japan during the time period. The other is a scholary work about what Shogun got correct and incorrect. It was written by a number of Japanese history professors.

  10. Oh Patty,
    What a fun topic.
    And kid's books? That's a great idea!
    I'm a visual person too and an fan. There are all sorts of ideas from family history. I imbedded a historical element in my contemporary story based on some info I found out about my family history - and it had to do with the persecution of hte church in England, particularly the Tyndal Bible smuggling.

    And like your grandpa, Patty, my granny has sparked more stories than any other resource because of her rich storytelling.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Eva,
    Oh, movies are filled with inspiration. Sometimes a secondary character can start a brand new idea for me - or the end of the movie will cause a 'beginning' to a story of my own.

    I"m with you on the walking through old cemeteries. A couple of years ago, I walked through one in Charleston, SC right after I'd finished a 'ghost walk'. Whew...weird-spooky, but GREAT inspiration for stories, especially those involving pirates and/or the revolutionary war.

  12. Thanks for the great tips Patty. I have always wanted to join my local historical society. I will have to look into that after your encouragement! And even though my historical research is confined to Australia right now, your suggestions work just as well for me as they will for your US readers.

  13. Patty, Thanks for the great post! Even though my ms is a contemporary story, since I'm a historian for my "day job" I always try to add as many historical facts to add color to the story. I would say my only problem with research is I get so involved in finding all the treasures I probably spend more time researching than necessary.
    My e-mail address for the giveaway is Thanks for the opportunity.

  14. Welcome to Seekerville, Patty! Thanks for offering a critique to some lucky winner!

    I loved your post! I'm fascinated by history. The reason I write historical romances. :-) Your suggested research sites are fabulous! I'm printing your post. To think I was in DC last year with RWA and didn't know I could get a card for the Library of Congress. Bummer!

    My grandfather taped an oral history for the county library where he lived. The tape is grainy, but I love hearing his voice. He talked about a variety of topics. One I remember was how mad dogs terrorized the country in the days before rabies' shots. What a great element for a historical plot. Thinking Kujo.

    Vince, I love cemeteries too. I just wish I had time to explore the questions the monuments raise. We have two letters written by a Civil War relative of my husband. One line sticks with me: We're 32 miles from rebel troops with knot a cartridge in the camp. Can you imagine?

    Eva, thanks for the reminder that movies are a great way to soak up the setting and the times.

    Cracker Barrel used to sell little booklets for each decade of the 1900s with prices and ads from the times. Not sure if they still do.

    Walt's coffee is strong and hot. In other words, perfect. I brought Egg McMuffins from Micky Ds. Sorry no time to cook. Where's Ruthy?

    Again, Patty, thanks for coming!


  15. Thanks Patty!

    If anyone comes into this writing thing, thinking that choosing contemporary over historical will eliminate research, we know they're in for a surprise. I appreciate all your great resources and now I'm wondering how Marley and Matt reconcile!

  16. Patty,

    Thanks for all the research avenues. I also use museums for research, both local and national. I think that falls into your visual topic. If pictures aren't allowed in the museum, I look for postcards to take home as a reminder of how to describe a certain item or do further research on it to make sure of the actual time period it was used.

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  17. Mornin' all ... sorry I'm late getting here but, WHOA, did we have storms in Missouri last night!! It was like a ten-strob bass rock concert in our bedroom ALL night ...

    Welcome to Patty Smith Hall, one of our most knowledgeable guests, ESPECIALLY on research!! When I met Patty at ACFW a few years back, she blew me away with her unique premises for her novels. I remember staring open-mouthed, thinking ... geez, my stories/settings are reallllly BORING in comparison. But, I loved her anyway because with Patty and that cute Southern accent, you just can't help it.

    Today we have a maple pecan Kringle and an apple streusel one PLUS those darling, little, tiny danish with cheese and various fruits. Oh, man, they are my FAVS!! Plenty of hazelnut coffee to go around along with southern pecan in honor of Patty and a variety of flavored and unflavored teas for the non coffee drinkers. Dig in!

    Patty will be joining us throughout the day, so bring the questions and comments on!


  18. Walt M, Thanks for coming by! It's always a joy to see you here!

  19. WALT!! You overachiever, you!! Three comments??? Wonder who wants that critique realllllly badly ... :) And you may well be the only commenter today with the unique advantage of research via wife -- I'm impressed! I hate research SO much that I doubt my husband could coerce me to do that for him. :)

    KELI ... YES!!! Patty has done a prior blog on being a Harlequin reader and it was wonderful. Here it is for your browsing pleasure ...

    Secrets of the Slush Pile

    EVA ... oh, movies are the BEST for researching, in my opinion! Talk about getting a sense and feel for the language, setting, clothing, hairstyles, events of the era, etc.! Excellent!!

    CHRISTINA, WOW, that is pretty cool and pretty freaky about your hero being in the same unit as grandfather and you didn't KNOW it at the time! Very Rod Serlingish, if you know what I mean.

    VINCE AND PEPPER ... cemeteries ... really???? I'm thinkin' I'll stick with movies ... ones without cemetary scenes, if you don't mind.


  20. Hey girl! So nice to see a blog post from you! I hate, hate, hate research, which is why I write contemporary. Doesn't eliminate my research completely, but greatly cuts it down. :-)
    Thanks for the tips, though. They'll make my life easier when I have no choice but to - bleh - do research (double bleh).

    And I'd love to be entered in the drawing. LyndaSchab at gmail dot com

  21. Keli, thanks for dropping by and for your kind remarks. If you check the Seekerville March archives, you'll find my blog on being a first reader.

    I'm a huge fan of history in general, but right now, I'm into women in early avation. Not Amelia, oh no. I'm talking about back to the Wright Brothers.

    This love started when I was researching a series on the women pilots of WWII. These were amazing women who didn't get the attention they deserved. I'm working on the second in the series.

    But I also have a deep and abiding love for English history, particularly the Tudor and Victoria eras.

  22. This is hysterical. And quite wonderful.

    Not the post, though Patty that is and was wonderful...

    You guys carried on, including setting up coffee (Thanks, Walt!!!) until Janet showed up a little past 8:00 A.M. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!!

    Patty, I did love this. Even though I write contemps, I use history to help set the stage of emotion. I've noted a lot of strong writers do this, they 'link' back (like those leaves!!!) to times past so the reader feels threaded emotion. It really works well to deepen a story and give it roots while the conflict offers wings.

    Your post points us in the right direction to find all this stuff. Our 'links' to stronger writing.

    And Eva Maria ( I LOVE YOUR NAME!) that's such great advice, to send people to the movies for visuals of setting. So much more scope for the imagination in seeing the actual setting to help us describe it in breathing detail.

    Bless you for being here again!

    Hey, we're doing "Milk" projects today because we're studying cows...

    For real.

    So I brought some fresh cottage cheese and pineapple, home-made custard pudding, vanilla yogurt with a fruit tray and sharp cheeses with crackers.

    Ice cream later. ;)

    I love studying about Milk.


  23. Good to see you here, Eva Marie!

    I'm a huge fan of movies in the research process--I use them to study dialogue and phases for the time period I'm writing about. And series are great too--My family has really been into a couple of series lately; the HBO series, The Pacific and America, the Story of Us which shows on the History Channel.

  24. Patty, I love research, too. As a historical romance writer I'm also trying to find interesting and unique settings. It's not always easy, but it's fun.

  25. AMBER ... good luck in the contest, sweetie. This should be a REALLLLY great critique for some lucky guy or gal.

    JESSICA ... grandparents are a great source of historical info. My aunt actually helped me a lot with fun, little tidbits in A Passion Most Pure. And I admire anybody interested in genealogy because I'm not sure I have the patience for that ...

    PEPPER ... embedding cool family historical facts into a novel, contemporary or historical, is a GREAT idea and like Patty says, can really add to a story.

    DOROTHY ... I have to admit, Patty's blog today ALMOST convinces me to join my historical society too ... almost!

    KARNOLD, NO FAIR!!! A historian by day and an author by night??? I'm jealous because I can just imagine how good you are at research. Wanna freelance job????

    JANET ... your books are ALWAYS so rich in historical fact and feel, that I have to admit to being a little jealous. If I read a Janet Dean book, I am SO there in that era and likely to stay there long after I finish the book because Janet is THAT good!

    DEB ... uh, I would probably be one of those idiots who would think that there would be little or no research in a contemporary, so forgive me. I guess it stands to reason that research is needed in ANY time period for true authenticity. Sorry! : /

    ROSE ... museums!! Great idea ... and fun, too! I may not be partial to research, but I DO love museums.

    Mornin', PATTY! I'll turn this over to you, girl, because I will be heading out for most of the day, but will pop in later.


  26. Oh, I just saw the cemetery part of Vince's and missed that in Patty's.

    Darn kids.

    I go to cemeteries all the time. Examine gravestones, names, carvings, family alignments, configurations. You can tell so much from a community from their graves. How things change over a century or two.

    Boston's historic cemetery has the onus of having skulls and crossbones decorating a lot of the stones. Really. Truly. And things that look like ogres. Grim reapers.

    Those Colonists knew how to do it right, LOL!!!! And if you research some of the names, you come up with really devout Christians who have these odd adornments on their stones. Talk about macabre.

    I find that having a feeling for an area's past gives me an edge on representing it more accurately in the present.

    Of course Connealy would just call me psycho and be done with it.

    It's great to have friends. Mostly.

  27. Julie,

    What can I say on the "research via wife" comment. I don't read Japanese near as well as I used to Even at my best, my reading skills were upper level elementary/lower level junior high. (I was a little better speaking it. When people asked how good my Japanese was, I always told them I sounded like a middle school kid who'd swallowed a collegiate dictionary.)

  28. Christina, thanks for stopping by this morning.

    Wow, how brave of your grandfather to stand up to his family and friends and follow his convictions. It makes me wonder about the path he had to take to make that decision.

    Don't you just love how family history can come alive in your stories?

  29. Since I'm working on a paranormal romance right now, I haven't done *that much* research really. If I have a question, I usually head over to yahoo or google and just type what I'm looking for into their search engine. I'm lazy that way ;-)


  30. Vince, always nice to see you here!

    And thanks for the great tips. I've always loved walking through graveyards, even as a young girl. Just thinking about the life some of those people lived sparked my imagination!

  31. Amber and Jessica, thanks for coming by. And thanks for your comments about the scene I used--it was written just for this blog.

  32. Walt M, good to see you here this morning.

    Wow, Japan. You've already blown me away with the amount of research you've had to do to write your manuscript. How did you find those books and did you have to have them translated into English?

  33. Pepper, always a pleasure to hear from you!

    Your grandfather was involved in the Tyndal Bible? So was mine! At least that's what I found out about a month ago--he was one of the people who took up translating the Bible when Tyndal was either imprisoned or died. I about fell over when I discovered that!

    Can't wait to see you next week at Ridgecrest!

  34. Dorothy, thank you for dropping by this morning.

    Historical societies are fantastic--two of the ones I belong to in my area were absolutely free and offered old books and pictures from the town's early beginnings.

    I'm not sure but it would seem that even in Australia, they would have some kind of historical society you could join that would give you the ability to access information online. The Library of Congress does.

  35. Karnold, I envy you--a historian in the daytime! What a great job!

    I understand what you mean about getting lost in the research--I found so many interesting and unknown facts involving WWII that I could have spent a lifetime reading all the data. Thank goodness, I have a husband who has a knack for telling me when it's time to push away from the table and write!

  36. Hi Janet, thanks for having me this morning. It's always such an honor to be in the same company with this group of talented people.

    I LOVE my Library of Congress card--carry it with me wherever I go. But the great thing about it is you can get information that is not made public, even over the internet. All you have to do is punch in your library number, ask your questions and a scholar on the topic will contact you with a list of articles you can reference. I would suggest that everyone make use of this free resource if you ever find yourself in DC.

    And yes, Cracker Barrel still sells those books that take you back to a certain year. So does Walmart.

  37. Debra, thanks for coming by and your lovely comments. I'm afraid I don't know how Marley and Matt will end--that scene was written solely for use on this blog. Just wished I had down some editing before I sent it out into the world. ~Grin~

  38. Wow, Patty!! Thanks so much for all this great info. Even for contemporary writers!

    I've already visited several sites you mentioned and have bookmarked them. Thanks so much for visiting us again!

  39. I also meant to say I really enjoyed your excerpt! I want to read more! :)

  40. Rose, I love museums! It's one of those places I love to go with my dad to on our father/daughter days together.

    Make sure you take advantage of the volunteers there--I visited an avation museum in Dallas, Texas a few years and had the honor of meeting a former B-17 bomber pilot who shared his stories of the women pilots from WWII. But that wasn't all--He took me to a P-51 on exhibit, pushed the velvet ropes aside and told me to get in. Right then and there, he gave me a flying lession on the plane I would be writing about! I was in awe!

  41. Hi Patty, Welcome to Seekerville. We always love our visitors. smile

    Great topic. I love the research too and even though I write contemps, there is still a lot of research to do. My favorite part.

    I guess my tip is travel. My dh loves to travel so when I decide on a setting for my wip, its easy to talk him into going there. You really get a feel for the community, setting and history when you're walking in the same places as your characters.

    Thanks again. And thanks Walt for the coffee set up and bagels from Einstein's.

  42. Lynda--Hey Girl! So glad to see you here! Thanks for coming by!

  43. Ruth, thank you for having me. It's always a joy to be here!

    And the reason I haven't mentioned the lovely spread is I'm trying to watch my girlish figure--I'm heading to Ridgecrest this weekend and I need to be able to fit into my clothes!

  44. Great post, Patty. Never would have thought of the children's books thing. Excellent suggestion!

    And I love that story opening. Wonder what happens next?

  45. Hi Patty,

    Great post! I haven't done a lot of research for my books, but I have embarked on an ancestor search and am now TOTALLY addicted to the Ancestry sites. I'm even doing my husband's family tree now! It's amazing the things you find out and how your imagination just flies with possibilities sometimes.

    I hope to someday be able to use some of the stories in a book.

    Also I love that you're a first reader - a job I'd love. Do you get to do it from home? (I will check out your previous post to learn all about it!)

    Thanks for sharing and I'd be thrilled to be entered in the contest.


    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  46. Cara, if you're interested in unique historical events, the Library of Congress data base is for you! There are a couple of people there who can give you tons of historical facts that not even a history scholar has heard.

    One such fact that the curator shared with me--when the Declaration of Independence was ratified, Congress had to get the news to all of the colonies. So they hired a printer, a woman, to make copies of the document so that it could be returned to them for their signatures.

    The interesting part--the woman's name is along the bottom of all the copies, making the only woman who signed the Declaration of Independence! If those copies had been captured by the British before the members of Congress signed them, she would have been the only one tried for Treason to the Crown.

    Cool stuff, huh?

  47. Megalicious, glad to have you here in Seekerville!

    Being a historical writer, it's hard for me to wrap my brain around paranormal so I'm thankful for writers like you who's work appeal to those fans.

  48. Hey Missy! Thanks for having me here today!

    And thanks for your comments about my little scene--I wrote it just for this blog(though now looking at it, I wished I had edited a bit more before pushing the button.) So we may never know what happens to these two. ~grin~

  49. Patty,

    My research tools are in English. The diary excerpts for the sailors that were in Japan were mostly translated from Portuguese by a Jesuit historian. I've also relied on sources from Western specialists. My attempts to get questions answered by Japanese sources have not received any response.

  50. Patrica and Susan, thanks for being here this morning!

    As a first reader, I do work from home, which is a blessing. It gives me time to write and do my other job, that of a research director for a small nutritional supplement company.

    So you see--I do research A LOT.

  51. Sandra, thanks for having me. As I've said before, Seekerville is one of the first sites I visit each morning.

    Traveling is a great research tool! Though I love to visit different places, I haven't been able to until recently when my girls finally graduated and left for school. But my husband has traveled all over the world and as a favor to me, he takes pictures for me to study and use when I create a setting. He's a sweetheart.

  52. Blogger ate my comment! Three times! AARGH!!! It was a good one, too.

  53. It was about how my librarians helped me find resources for researching my local area for the late 1800's time period. It was fascinating and scintillating. And Blogger ate it.

  54. Wow, Walt, I'm impressed you tracked those works down. They had to be extremely rare!

    And I'll pray you hear from your sources in Japan soon.

  55. I LOVE historical societies. There are no more passionate people than those dear souls who volunteer at at county historical societies. I have found them unfailingly helpful and encouraging, with unflagging energy for unearthing documents, maps, and photos.

  56. Melanie, I LOVE my librarians! I have one, Nan, who is a former professor of Women's Studies at the University of North Carolina--she is so great. I can run an idea by her and she'll have tons of sources to share on the subject. So yes, become best friends with your librarians--

  57. Patty, you know I believe you'll get off of Unpublished Island within the year. That is by Dec. 31.

    And for anyone else reading this, don't forget the goldmine and If you go to advanced search in the books, you can limit by year and find out amazining details and wonderful original documents. I use it for things like finding out if a phrase was used at the time, medical care, people's thoughts on subjects... Books published before 1923 are in the public domain, so you can download the full text. Many have pictures and drawings and diagrams and maps. Prices are listed for things, too.

  58. Forgot to mention: Don't include me in the drawing. I get them from Patty for free. LOL

  59. Julie, I was in the bathroom, primping when the words of your post finally hit me.

    YOUR BOOKS BORING! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! If I could write one-tenth as good as you do, I would be a happy woman!

    Thanks for having me here--I always enjoy spending time with such dear friends.

  60. Erica, you are so right about historical societies. Whenever I'm plotting out a new book, I always run it by the town historian just to see if it would fit that period of history. They are lovely people who don't mind spending an afternoon with a yet-to-be published writer.

  61. WOW Patty!! Great stuff!! Thanks for letting us know about your very informative article!!


    Nora :D
    Finding Hope Through Fiction

  62. Laurie Alice, thanks for coming by. Ladies and gentlemen, this woman is the mistress of regency era historical research. Many of today's bestselling authors of that era go to Laurie Alice for historical accuracy.

    She's also a great mentor, a fantastic critique partner and a dear, dear friend.

  63. A history buff. A woman after my own heart.
    And to get zinged with an idea while you're in the middle of something else, well, that's where all the best ideas come from.

    Thanks Patty

  64. Excellent post, Patty! I love to research history and genealogy. I find that it really brings my stories to life and it is so much fun. I usually writer historical fiction, but whenever I write anything contemporary there always seems to be some history that sneaks in. I think you're right about making a story authentic with bits of history. Great resource list!


  65. Oh yeah, Patty.
    You're going to be at Ridgecrest too?!? Woohoo!
    How on earth will I find you?

    Get this -
    My ancester was Rowland Taylor - one of the marytrs in Foxes Book of the Martyrs. He married a lady named Margaret Tyndal :-)...Hmmmm, reportedly to have been either a sister or cousin of William.

    So, I took that idea with it ;-)

  66. Melanie, I'm taking appropriate behind the scenes actions on your behalf with Mr. Blogger.

    Which means I'm telling Teeeeena because she's WAY meaner than me.


    As hard as that is to even imagine.

  67. Hey, lunch!!!!

    Dudes. Homemade mac and cheese and barbecued baby backs. I feel a hint of summer comin' on.

    Anybody got some slaw????? Bring it on.

    And sweet tea. Hot coffee. The Ohio Valley is getting pummeled with storms again (SO STINKIN' Sorry, guys!!!!) so we've got some comfort food going on.

    And sweet cream pie. To die for.

    Feast away.

  68. Patty, I am in awe of you who write historical fiction. Seriously in awe. As a librarian, I guess I see how much research CAN be done, and what little I've done for my contemporary was enough for me!

    My favorite research? When I talked DH into vacationing where my book takes place - for research purposes, of course - on the beach of South Carolina... Hey, it worked... :)

    PLEASE enter me in the drawing! You can find me at:

    Thanks for a great blog - and I loved your "slush pile" blog, too!


  69. Talking about ideas coming to you out of nowhere reminded me of a story.

    We were driving home from town and we had to go past the town cemetery. It was right by the highway, no big deal.

    Our headlights somehow flashed on one of the headstones and it glowed, just for a split second, while we were driving home.

    I wrote a whole book in that second. It's still there in my head. Very Nightmare on Elm Street. But it's pretty good. Teenagers, murder, ghouls, retribution.

    I think we'd all enjoy it.

  70. Hi Everyone:

    All these comments have made me view research in a new way. There is ‘data’ research and there is ‘feeling’ or ‘emotional’ research.

    How about this second type of research? Do you do it? How many ways can it be done?

    Going into the catacombs under Rome and seeing thousands of bones stacked in alcoves and knowing these may be early Christians and knowing that Christians held services there: how could this not change the depth of your writing?

    ‘Feeling’ research is like ‘knowing in 3-D’.

    I love the idea of getting into an actual old P-51. Some of these old planes still offer rides at air shows. A ride on a B-17 was going for $300 in Tulsa one year. I missed it.

    To all my cemetery friends: have you tried it at midnight on a foggy night?

    BTW: I think Janet meant by ‘boring books’ those that bore into your very being and forever change you for the better.


  71. thanks for the insight today, Patty. Day trips down history lane are the best. I've researched several timeframes. Right now I'm writing a futuristic time travel and have had to do a bit more study of time travel then I expected. What else can you do when your characters what to jump around space and time

    I think books are the best for research, especially the old musty ones that hold a secret all their own. I am amazed at how sparse some of the newer history books can be with some of the facts.

    I like cemeteries, especially the old sections

  72. I really liked the idea of traveling for research. Total immersion and getting first hand information at all the great museums, etc. Only problem is, I think I'd have to be published first before I could try writing it off as a business expense? ;) Oh well, back to popcorn and movies - popcorn anyone?

  73. Patty,
    Thanks for returning to Seekerville. Glad we didn't scare you off! :)

    Loved your mention of children's books being a source of inspiration.

    For medical info, I use the CDC. The information they provide on the Web is extensive. I've also called and requested to speak to a subject-matter-expert on a particular topic. Often those one-on-one interviews provide more specific info as well as great quotes.

    So good seeing you at the ACFW WORD meeting last month! Hope your back is feeling better!

  74. Reminisce is a wonderful magazine. Mom subscribes.

    YAY for history. YAY for kids! (I have a double major: history and elementary education. I like people, though they're either young or dead huh...)

    Since we have a brand spankin' new library with an amazing children's section, hear hear.

    Rice University in Houston used to let you wander through the stacks and peruse old papers. I did a paper on the Crystal Palace in London, I think 1851 or so. I actually picked up contemporary newspapers reporting on the event. It was amazing and let me put the event into context with other things going on. The ads were especially of interest to me.

    Excellent post. Thanks so much. I'm short on time today so haven't read previous comments. Please do enter me if you've not already drawn. may at maythek9spy dot com

  75. Patty, thanks for this great post! I am a history lover from way back. My family always visited historical sites on vacations and I'm continuing the tradition. I asked my son what he wants to do for his upcoming birthday and he answered, "Visit some place that's historical"! Ahhh...I've taught him well.

    I loved your contemporary story with the historic twist. Would love to know how it turns out!


  76. PATTY!! What sweet thing to say -- THANK YOU!

    Mostly I meant my settings and historical depth are boring (at least compared to yours, girl!!) because I am primarily a character-driven writer and unfortunately setting and history take a back seat with me. Gosh, I HOPE my characters aren't boring ... or at least they keep me awake at the computer ... :)

    You're rockin' today, Patty, and I am printing this blog off because the info is THAT good!! Thanks for another great blog, girlfriend.


  77. Hey Pepper, that's so cool about your ancestor. Some great grandfather on my mother's side was one of the people who translated the Bible when Tyndal died or was imprisoned--not sure of the history.

    And one of my ancester's first wife died along with her father right before he left for America. Made me start thinking about the possibilities--plague, religious persecution or maybe just a carriage accident. . .

    Trust me, you'll see me at the conference.

  78. Patty Hall...I just love you.

    Great post as always!


  79. Mary, I knew you were a woman after my own heart when I read your first stand alone. And Lord only knows how many ideas that's hit me while cleaning porcelin! LOL

  80. i enjoyed this posting very much :) even though i am not a writer...i have learned so much by reading this post and all of the comments :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  81. Regina, thanks for dropping by but more importantly, thank you for being a librarian! Whether you know it or not, you influence young readers and change lives every day.

  82. Miss Patty,
    If you don't mind reading something where the only romance is between married people (wed to each other, shockingly), with no historical value whatsoever except to immortalize shoe designers and chain restaurants, I'd be a fool to pass up the opportunity for a professional critique.

  83. Late to the party but still enthusiastic!

    Great post! And don't forget interlibrary loan.

    Go to your reference desk and ask if any libraries close by have the book you want and they will have it delivered to you. And so many libraries have free internet research sites for patrons. These are pay sites but free thru your library. Ask what is available.

  84. I love the library too! In fact, I have to make sure that I have a good amount of time because the clock seems to move faster when I'm in the library. No quick in and out for me.

    All these resources you've listed Patty are wonderful ones to use. Thanks for printing it all in one place. I've visited many resources, but then when I go to find them again it takes me awhile. I need to get better at writing down web addresses and good places where ideas hide.

  85. Oops. Forgot my email.


  86. Great post. It's getting saved to my Google Notebook. How fun that you get to read for Harlequin! Hope your "call" comes soon!

    dallenco [at] gmail [dot] com

  87. Cheryl--I love you too, girl!

    Tina--Thanks for mentioning interlibrary loan. It's one of the tools my friend, Nan pointed me toward when I started researching my new WIP. I haven't used it as much as I should, but what I have seen is useful.

    Debby--I'm not easily scared! After all, I'm a writer! I'll have to look into the CDC. Right now, my big medical resources are Pub-Med and the FDA.

    And to all of the seekers, thank you for having me. I have throughly enjoyed being here!

  88. KC--how much fun it must have been going through the stacks, especially English newspapers. I bet it was interesting to research the Crystal Palace.

    Mary--Great idea, making family vacations into historical adventures. Sounds like your son loves it!

    Lisa--I read all sorts of manuscripts so you're good.

    Diana--Great to find a kindred spirit who loves the library.

    Debbie--you're right. It is fun to read for Harlequin.

    Thanks for everyone for participating in the discussion today. I truly appreciate it.

  89. Great post, Patty! I'm also a first reader for Harlequin and I'm always excited to meet another.

    I'll be praying you move off unpubbed island soon! You're obviously a great writer. =)

  90. Antiques Roadshow and flea markets are one of my favorite ways to research, and also, historical reenactments.
    Wonderful post!

    mahereenie (at) yahoo (dot) com

  91. Thank you for your post, Patty. I love research, too, and can get lost in the happiness of it. More good resources can be found in the book and gift shops of historical sites and museums--books often published through University research programs or endorsed through museums. I love to "haunt" grave yards, looking for interesting names and common dates of death that might indicate epidemics or fire or flood, etc. And libraries, historical societies and newspapers offer files of old newspapers. It is fascinating to learn what information our potential characters knew and how they learned it at the time. I love to walk the land my characters walked, play the music they played, and cook some of the foods common to the them. It helps me step into their heads. Blessings on your writing and research!

  92. Patty,
    I love this post. Such a treasure trove of information.

  93. What a great post. I really enjoyed it.

    Nicole.Zoltack AT

  94. Okay, I'm late, but I really enjoyed the post, Robin. I may not have met you in person, but we've been Facebook friends for awhile so I feel like your friend. And I have a lot of respect for what you've accomplished. Bless you.

    Thank you, Sandra. Ya done good. :)

  95. My niece is researching our family tree now and I have tried to help her with information a s she needs it, whatever I can remember. I can always use advice.


  96. NERDS UNITE! I love research too, Patty. :=)