Monday, August 5, 2013

Wiki & Google & Me - Research

When I get asked how I research my books I answer Google +Wiki.
that's really about it.
Whatever word I'm interested in  Google + Wiki
Caverns wiki
I type that into Google
New Mexico wiki
Andersonville Prison wiki
And here comes Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
It's the one two punch, the Google Wiki combo
But everyone once in a while I get out from behind my computer
and go get my hands on something.
I'm amazed how often that sparks really rich, creative ideas.
 So last week I went to a Civil War Museum in Minnesota.
This is it (above).
The Prospect House & Civil War Museum
 They were having a festival so it was even more interesting than I expected.
I went in with no plan (much like I write my books!!!)
and just wanted to learn and maybe to touch!
I'd like to think it's the cowboy shoot-'em-up genre in which I write, but I just love historical guns. This lady(above), in period appropriate costume,
sat behind this table of authentic Civil War Era guns and knives.
 And here is a case of Confederate currency.
Money is unbelievable difficult to pin down.
It was not always the standardized system we have today.
 And sometimes when I'm walking through museums I strike gold.
I did that in this picture, above.
A Yellow Boy Rifle.
I'd never heard of a Yellow Boy before I began my most recent WIP.
Then I found a reference to it and how widespread it's use
and have one of my heroes carrying a Yellow Boy.
And here one is. And the man who was standing beside me knew all about it. All about guns in general. He showed me how to load it and cock it.
I think he'd have let me pick it up but I didn't want to push my luck.
I also didn't want to end up face down on the floor
with a SWAT team member's foot on my neck
It's such a small thing, but now when my hero is drawing his rifle I've got a visual.
I can really see him cocking the gun, loading the gun.
I can see that brass plate that gave it the nickname Yellow Boy.
And I try NOT to dwell on details like that, but I think you can see in an author's work when she knows what she'd talking about. (I hope not since mostly I don't!!!)

Now it's your turn.

Tell me about research. It's not just for historical fiction.
If you've ever set a book anywhere outside your home town you know that!!!

Tell me about a time you got out from behind your desk and really touched something.
Tell me if it helped or affected how you wrote in any way.

Or if you have never done that, then tell me about something great you found during research that made it all worthwhile.
And be on the lookout for a Yellow Boy Rifle in an upcoming release by Mary Connealy.

Leave any comment to get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of


Melissa Jagears said...

It wasn't as fun as going to the actual site since it doesn't exist anymore, but I got my hands on the folder of the county's entire stash of clippings on a particular historical place. All I knew is I wanted to set a story on the county's poor farm. I went in with no story whatsoever, but left with one I had to write!

If you go to the library's historical archives of the county where your historical house/institution resides(d), they might have a folder of all kinds of things, newspaper clippings, ledgers, etc. of the place--anything that even remotely mentions it. I got a story just from old newspaper clippings--and tons of random historical detail to throw in.

Mary Cline said...

About 20 summers ago may daughter and I were going to write a story together. We both (and she was fairly young at the time) got hung up on research and never did writ the story. It really was her story not mine, I hope she will write it some day.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

The historical I'm writing at the moment is about the Chinese immigrants who worked on the railroad around 1865. I'd taken some history classes in college on it and had lots of books... but never wanted to write a story of my own until I saw this picture book called 'Coolies' by Yin and Chris Sontpiet.

The blurb is "Shek marvels at the new world as he and his brother, Little Wong, arrive in California. Along with hundreds of other workers, the brothers are going to build a great railroad across the West. They plan to save enough money so that their mother and little brothers can join them in America. But as days grow into months, they endure many hardships-exhausting work, discrimination, and treacherous avalanches. Inspired by actual events, this story reveals the harsh truth about life for the Chinese railroad workers in 1865, while celebrating their perseverance and bravery."

But it's the beautiful illustrations that really made the era spring to life.

That museum is COOOOOOOOOOL.

But wait, does this mean Mary is writing a Civil War book?

Lilsis said...

Mary, since I am not a writer I seldom do research. I do search for health information, recipes. and places to visit and I decided I would enjoy the museum you mentioned!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, we're supposed to talk about stepping out of our cave? Um, I've been to San Francisco Bay's Angel Island Immigration center where a couple hundred thousand Chinese were held for years because the laws denied them entry to America. They wrote poetry all over the walls.

This is a beautiful site about it:

Connie said...

I don't write exactly and haven't done much research. The one time I did I used an encyclopedia. I'm old enough to remember using them. I didn't have access to a computer then and I probably wouldn't have known what to do with it or how to use the internet(in it's infancy at the time). I have gone into some museums and loved the ability to look at the things that were used in that time and place. Got to see a great exhibit on Egypt not long ago. The pieces were very interesting and sometimes beautiful.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love the gun display!!!!

And knives. Oh for a hero that's good with a knife.

Or a heroine, LOL, remembering Montana Rose!

Connealy, what a fun venture.

Virginia, that's a great time in history and not well known or talked about here in the East. I can totally see you bringing it to life for the readers!

Connie!!!! Isn't it fascinating to actually SEE the artifacts or tools, clothes, etc.???

I love the Internet for research, but I love the 3-D of actually seeing, touching, envisioning.

Nothing like it!

My most recent research was in in vitro fertilization, Greek yogurt making, Tres Leches cakes, NYC, Homeless people, Salvation Army and budget cuts costing police jobs, minimizing forces.

A hodge podge but so fun!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Virginia, that website is a gold mine of thoughtful information.

Oh my stars...

I remember reading about the railroad deaths in a James Michener book...

Centennial, maybe???? And Hawaii???

I don't remember which one, but that ripe history of careless use of human life and explosions was pervasive and just plain wrong.

Jackie said...

I like to know about a place before I write about it. So I've stuck to coastal Carolina and KY.

This fall I'm going to Spain to visit my son who will be there for a semester. I plan to take lots of notes and pictures.

Thanks for sharing your process. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Rose said...


I start with Google. I do read Wiki, but don't always trust it as factual so I use it as a jumping off place to lead me to other sites.

I'm kind of old school, I will buy a non-fiction book if I think it's going to help me with my research. Unfortunely, sometimes even THAT doesn't give me the information I need. Nothing is better than 'hands on'.

Jenny Blake said...

Wow that would be cool I am fascinated with the civil war. I am not a writer but I loved learning facts on my tour of historical highlights in America. Some of the things I learnt at Gettysburg were really chilling. I learnt not to bake bread when a battle is raging as the only civilian killed was baking bread. Seeing the area of the battle and the numbers of people involved was mind boggling.

AS a reader having seen some of the places I have read about makes books more real too. I remember my first time in America when I saw a barn for the first time and I was Oh wow they really do look like that. It may sound strange to others but our barns or sheds are different and seeing it in the flesh so to speak makes it more real.

Dont enter me I have my own copy of this book on kindle.
(now back to watching the cricket if I can stay awake).

Audra Harders said...

Mary, what a wonderful adventure! I love museums, no matter what they hold. You hit the jackpot on this trip.

Google and Wiki make life so easy when researching anything. At least for a starting point. I can't spend HOURS drilling down deeper with each suggested site they list.

Very time consuming in a good way : )

Thanks for the walk through Civil War history. I'm fascinated by that era, but I think I'll leaving the writing of those novels to others, LOL!

kaybee said...

MARY, this is an interesting post. I am a fervent convert to Wikipedia and Google (especially when the computer's working right). I remember encyclopedias and index cards. I still have TONS of research somewhere in my house from a previous unpubbed novel. Ew. But it doesn't help me much to do computer research because I PRINT EVERYTHING OUT and highlight stuff. Which doesn't help the planet, but does help a visual old-school writer. Anyway, I recycle. Thinking of doing a Colonial/Revolutionary when I come up for air. I know Boston like the back of my hand and make frequent pilgrimages to Lexington and Concord. I also live near Portsmouth, NH, another key town. Maybe it's time to "write what I know," ha ha.
RUTHY, you certainly have eclectic interests. Yogurt? Reproductive technology? Will they be in the same book?
ROSE, I'd probably buy really good reference books if I had a place to put them. Note to self, tell husband no more used book sales.
When I'm retired AND published, I want to take trips to the places I write about. Time and money aren't there right now, but it's my plan. I wish I had a time travel machine. I want to go to the Harlem Renaissance.
Please put me in the drawing! Sounds like a good read for Labor Day Weekend.
Kathy Bailey

Karen Kirst said...

Hi Mary! I wasn't all that interested in history until I started writing historical romance. Imagining how the people lived really jumpstarted my enthusiasm. I'm currently in the middle of my first series, Smoky Mountain Matches, which is based in 1880s Gatlinburg and the Smokies. Since there are log cabins and churches and a grist mill still standing in Cades Cove, I often visit there. I'm blessed in that it's only about an hour away. Plus, there are tons of informational books about the area that help. For instance, I had planned for my characters to have a root cellar until I read that, because of the topography, most families in that area didn't have those. They used apple houses carved into the sides of hills. I put that into my book.
Thanks for your post! Finding those unique details really make a story come alive.

Sherri Shackelford said...

We've had some fun trips to forts and grain mills as a family. I love that kind of stuff!

Cindy Regnier said...

My dad has a long time rifle. I'm not sure exactly what that is but a writer found him during a research project. He got a newspaper article and a brief claim to fame. That's my favorite - when something seems commonplace to me because it always was part of my life but is exciting to someone else. That's what research is all about. Love finding those things!

Barbara Haropolous said...

Hi Mary! I've not actually go up from my chair, but I wanted to respond since I was recently accused of NOT doing my research! In my latest release, I have a character who is in the National Guard, and he's stationed in Pheonixville, PA. A REAL, LIVE PLACE! I was accused of making it up. It's an easy Google search. Really burned my buns.

I've also internet researched the county in which my series is based, as well as Philadelphia. My other unreleased series is based in NJ< where I grew up so I should know all about it, right? ;-)

Besides, there is such thing as poetic license and suspension of belief in fiction. I have a somewhat "historical fiction" WIP that I've been doing a lot of research on. Only the past 50 years, but events play into the story.

This is my first time here in Seekerville. I'll be reading through! Thanks for the FB post.

Mary Connealy said...

Melissa I have done this, gone in to look at something and come out with a story.
Or looked at something and a year later that memory sparks a story.
That's how much current series TROUBLE IN TEXAS came about. I was researching Andersonville Prison for THE KINCAID BRIDES SERIES and some of the things I read left such a deep impression that they sparked the idea for the next series and while researching Andersonville, I came up with a woman who was in there disguised as a man and ....
Oh, the next series started brewing.

Mary Connealy said...

MARY CLINE I wrote my first book after my daughter, then about 10 - 12 years old, wrote a really intriguing story for a class assignment...about the Bermuda Triangle and why boats REALLY disappear there!
I asked her if I could take the story and make it longer...make it book length.
She said, "Go write your own book and leave mine alone!"
So I did!

Mary Connealy said...

VIRGINIA the Civil War is all backstory, as it has been in most books I've written because every man fought in that war...or avoided fighting in that war which is also interesting.
If he did he was changed by it.
If he didn't, there's a reason.

Mary Connealy said...

Also VIRGINIA I think the story of all the Chinese immigrants who built the railroad is fascinating. And also the aftermath of it. All the China Towns that cropped up. How the Chinese made a life for themselves in America. I think there are important lessons to be learned from that to apply to today's influx of immigrants.
Unfortunately I don't think we're learning any of those lessons.

Mary Connealy said...

LILSIS Thanks for commenting. Being a writer is NOT required. :)
Yes, we're all doing research.
I'LL ADD HERE I do not END my research with Wiki. I begin it.
So often Wiki will mention books or names or websites that are about the subject and I often leave Wiki, with my concrete well-sourced clues and read more and more and more!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I like the premise that if a man fought in the Civil War, he was changed...

And if he didn't there was a reason.

Dave's favorite movie is Shenandoah.

Great glimpse of both sides of a powerful coin.

Mary Connealy said...

CONNIE I just love museums. I was in one once with a sand box and you were supposed to it was a faux archeological site. I found a MASTODON TOOTH . The museum guide said it was real.
I stood there holding that tooth and wrote an entire book in my head in about one minute.
Not in my genre however! :)

Mary Connealy said...

RUTHY Go look at the display table of guns again. There's a Bowie Knife. it's HUGE. I had no idea a Bowie Knife was so big.
Now, I know what I'm talking about if a hero ever has one.

Mary Connealy said...

JACKIE! Spain would be so cool! (well, honestly, most anywhere is cool, since I mostly stay behind my desk!)
Have a great time and remember, if you're writing is set in America, you can use all of this for backstory!

Mary Connealy said...

Very smart to NOT trust Wiki. I use it as a starting point.
Then I usually start Googling names used in Wiki, which leads me to websites.
And I watch for books, especially first person accounts written in the time my book is set.
When I was writing my book set in the Grand Canyon I had to do so much research. I ended up owning a stack of books about the Canyon and it's history. I forgave myself the expense by thinking how much less expensive the books were than a trip. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

JACKIE JACKIE I'm going to Spain this fall specifically for research. What part of Spain? Oh my. We must get in touch.

Mary Connealy said...

JENNY I put a lot of posts up, during calving seasons, about my husband and how he handles the new calves.
I'm getting used to the idea that people just find it fascinating. Cattle are just such a normal part of our lives. But most people never get near a cow. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

MARY I love that museum. We have one in Phoenix where I used to take my students because they would let the children touch all the cool western stuff. If you come out this way I will be sure and let you know. It is all western historical pioneer settlement era things, Native American things, Civil War things (yep a battle was fought in Arizona)

Mary Connealy said...

AUDRA I always think research is such a time sink. I go to find out the dates Andersonville Prison opened and closed so my hero, Seth Kincaid won't be in a prison that doesn't exit, and four hours later, I'm still reading. And later than that, all those neat facts are rattling around in my head and I've got six book ideas.

Mary Connealy said...

So I love research but also almost hate it because I need to be WRITING MY BOOKS!!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

For CURRENT OF LOVE the research was very hands on. My husband and I took that cruise up the Mississippi and I interviewed the workers on the steamboat. So I just had to come up with a story. The steamboat was just too romantic. smile

For PRICE OF VICTORY my hubby joined a bicycle club and raced so I could get on the inside track of that sport. I met several women pros who were so helpful in writing that book.

Jeanne T said...

For my first book, I took ballroom dancing lessons, so I could understand what my characters had to learn, mistakes they would have made and how it felt. I loved it.

For one of my lessons I got to dance with a number of men who had no clue what they were doing, so I got some good material that day. ;o) I know, that sounds bad, but it helped me better understand my characters. :)

Loved this, Mary!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Just a caution. Anyone can upload info onto wikipedia so you really need to double check anything you find on there. Find at least two other sources that will verify what you find.

Mary Connealy said...

HI KAYBEE you want to know something AWFUL????
I just threw away our encyclopedia.
I threw away 26 (or maybe more) huge volumes. It just felt sinful, but neither I nor My Cowboy had opened one of them for years.
We used to go crack open a book so often when we'd be watching a movie or such, to check some interesting fact we'd heard.
Now, I pull my laptop over and google the fact.
It was sad though. And it felt wrong.
But man did we need the space!

Mary Connealy said...

KAREN KIRST a group of local writers,.. ROSE is one of them... and I try to go to tourist attractions in our area. All those places people travel from other states to see and the local people never go to. We've seen some cool stuff (like the Mastodon Tooth).
Just like your One Hour Away site, you don't have to drive for days to find really interesting stuff.

Mary Connealy said...

SHERRIE I have to go to Fort Atkinson. It's less than an hour from my home and I've been there twice. Once right when they were starting it and Once at night, for some interesting
'Mystery Tour' thing they do.
I have never seen what I understand is a very nicely rebuilt, historically accurate fort in the day light!
Okay, that does it, I'm going today. (wait, what if it's not open on Mondays?! I'd better check first)

Mary Connealy said...

CINDY REGNIER we don't have historical guns but My Cowboy did get a rifle out once for me to handle when I was writing SHARPSHOOTER IN PETTICOATS I was trying to figure out how Mandy McClellen Gray Linscott could get her gun into action FAST.

Mary Connealy said...

Thanks for leaving a comment.
I know EXACTLY what you mean about those stinging letters about historical mistakes.
Mostly people are really kind, but once in a while they get a little TESTY!!!
Hang in there. It sounds like you know your stuff! :)

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy the backstory of the hero of my current WIP, for the series AFTER the Trouble in Texas Series, is Shenandoah. Such a lot of terrible things when on there during the war because it was right on the boarder and all the loyalties to the North and South were divided.
And it was a rich place with train travel already established before the war so you were an easy train ride to Washington DC, New York City, the ocean, very established and civilized place and it was just absolutely devastated by the Civil War. You understand of course that this is backstory.
My hero now lives in Wyoming. Driven from his family's home by the death of all his family and the hatreds of his neighbors who fought for the South while he fought for the North. He's starting a new life in the Wild West...and there he finds my heroine, who also fought in the war! Disguised as a man. LOL I'm having so much fun!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Mary! I really should be doing edits, but I had to say hi!
My Medieval books were partially inspired by my trip to Germany where I spent 6 weeks in a Medieval town that was founded around 1000 AD and had lots of amazing Medieval buildings and history. And I loved visiting those old churches and the old Marktplatz and houses. Oh my! The only thing it lacked was a castle, but we also went to nearby towns that did have a castle, as well as a Medieval graveyard complete with amazing mausaleums (sorry, too lazy to look up how to spell that). I also hope to finish my Alabama series set in the 1880's, and when I start working on it again, I have lots of places I can visit nearby for inspiration!

Thanks for sharing your yellow boy story! That's so fun. :-) Now back to edits. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

SANDRA Wow, girl that is real research. I love it!
And you are so right about Wiki. Be VERY CAREFUL about what you use. Confirm it somewhere else. Especially anything that smacks of 'insider' information...or personal opinions of someone's character.

Mary Connealy said...

MELANIE only a fellow author could see me gushing about a 'Yellow Boy' rifle and call it fun.

We're kind of a strange bunch, I'm afraid. (Okay, I'll just speak for myself!) :)

Clari Dees said...

I love the pictures, Mary! Especially the Yellow Boy. I've heard/read about that gun somewhere before, but can't remember where. (Probably from my dad. He's a fount of knowledge when it comes to guns. New or historical.) Hands-on research is a lot of fun. Especially when it comes to guns. My favorite rifle to shoot at the range is an old lever-action Winchester that belonged to my great-uncle. I have always liked the fact that it looks like it belongs in an Old West movie.

Susan Anne Mason said...

That sounds fascinating, Mary! I would have loved to hold the gun too!

Most of my research is on-line. But we just got back from vacation, and I tried to memorize the sound and smell of the ocean (for my newest w.i.p.). And took lots of pictures of the quaint buildings in Cape May, NJ as inspiration for my pretend small town. :)

We were also in Washington DC and went to a few of the museums. I dragged my husband and son to the American History museum, thinking there'd be a lot of stuff from the Mayflower on up about the settlers, etc. and was so disappointed that the main focus was (sorry to anyone this may offend) WAR. We Canadians are SO different that way. But my son loved all the weapons!

Oh well... I did get to see the first ladies ball gowns over the years! Very cool.

Throw my name in the hat, please!


Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Mary! Love the pics from the research you slipped in on your travels to Minnesota! There's so much info available on the internet, that it certainly makes rsearching books much easier than in "the olden days!" But you can't beat hands-on research when you can squeeze in the time and fit it into your budget. There are just some things you don't even KNOW need to be researched, wouldn't have known to Google, if you hadn't been right there on the spot seeing, touching, smelling, tasting. However, I always remind myself that Diana Gabaldon wrote her "Outlander" before she'd ever set foot on Scottish soil--yet she was praised for her accuracy of descriptions!

Melissa Jagears said...

Oh, and as for gun research, I just ask my hubby. I mean, he's so much easier to ask than google!

"I need a gun that someone in 1884 would covet enough to pay money he doesn't have budgeted to obtain it. He's a marshal, he's in Wyoming."

And my hubby sits there and thinks. Then: "He'd probably want a Henry Repeater because he likely carries the new Colt single action revolver that uses the same cartridge" Tada! I double check his dates and I'm good. He's so handy.

I do believe that's how I learned about the Yellow Boy, he brought that one up in some brainstorming session once ...

Anything in my books about guns that sounds like I know my stuff is because HE knows his stuff. :)

ellenparkerwrites said...

Enjoy doing that sort of research even though I do not write historical.
I always start with Google. But the most enlightening research so far was an actual visit to a commercial Christmas tree farm (researching setting). It was summer, they were generous with time and information and I got something intangible from our visit to the fields. Plus some great photos that lived on my office wall during the writing.


Mary Curry said...

Fun article, Mary.

I love research trips. I'm planning one right now to Maine for the RomSuspense I'm working on.

Truthfully, the family wanted to go to Maine, but in my mind it's a research trip. ;)

I had the kind of childhood where my parents dragged us to historical sites wherever we went. Dragged isn't really the right word since I loved that part.
Fort Ticonderoga, Colonial Williamsburg, etc. (is it any wonder I love the colonial/revolutionary period

Boone Hall and a bunch of other plantations (side trips on the drive to Florida).

My favorite research trip was one I took to Williamsburg and Carter's Grove Plantation. I learned about tunnels that were built from the main house down to the river bank so the family could escape in the event of attack. That bit of info resolved a plot problem for me.

DebH said...

I love your research stuff, Mary. My nephew loves all things cowboy and would LOVE to hear about a Yellow Boy. The youngster wishes he was born in the era that you write about. He lives near Greeley, CO and daddy is a trucker - maybe the little dude could visit your Cowboy sometime... he'd probably love it.

Anyhoo, I do a lot of wiki+Bing re"searching". Wiki is definitely a starter place for jumping toward facts and inspiring ideas.

I'm hoping to write a scuba diving romance one of these days since that's how hubby and I met. There's loads of stories, info, etc I've stored away from working on a couple of dive boats. Oh, the people that one meets...

please put me in the Stetson for a shot at your book.

Mary Hicks said...

Enjoyed your post, MaryC. Research is my weak link. I don't like to stop writing and dig around in stuff.:-)

It's not a little thing that you now have a visual for when your cowboy draws his gun, that's a HUGE thing!!

The more clearly we see it, the better we can 'show' the reader!
Don't ya think... :-)

Courtney Faith said...

Right now, I'm just writing, and I'll fiddle with a little research later. (It's a contemporary.) I love historicals, though I don't think I could ever write them. And I love that I figured you wrote this post just by the gun pictures :) haha!
Please enter me.

Mary Connealy said...

CLARI DEES I love that you go to shooting ranges with an old Winchester.

That's just my idea of fun. (I know, I'm a little weird)

Mary Connealy said...

SUSAN ANN MASON sorry about the war focus. I actually find war fascinating at the same time I can't figure out for the life of me why we have them. They're just such tragedy. I can't believe in this day and age people haven't decided war isn't worth it.
Which doesn't mean I don't understand that we have to defend ourselves.
But why oh why can't we find a better way?

Mary Connealy said...

Glynna, I'm not positive but I think Diane Gabaldon may be the exception to all the rules.

Mary Connealy said...

Melissa, he IS handy. Wow. I love that.
My Yellow Boy Rifle loaded in a very strange way. The guy talking about it didn't touch it, but he pointed and there was no display case so we were right there. He talked about twisting this and pushing that and loading here and cocking there and firing and reloading.
I will say this for me....I'm getting better at asking questions. Because I once had an actual Winchester 73 in my hands (a replica....Rose's husband had one and I met him and he brought it along at my request...he doesn't necessarily just carry it everywhere!)
After I'd seen it and held it and talked quite a bit and left, I thought of MORE QUESTIONS. So I'm starting to just QUIZ people relentlessly who fail to run when they see me coming. :)

Mary Connealy said...

ELLEN I must be a writer because I know just how interested I'd be in a Christmas Tree Farm in the summer. I've got so many questions. WRITE THAT BOOK, GIRL!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good morning, Mary and Seekerville.

I am currently researching tiramisu, pignoli and biscotti di Prato. No it's no easy, but I am willing to sacrifice for accuracy.

Mary Connealy said...

Tina, This is an inspiring comment!
I think I'll go research a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I love having my Library of Congress card.

I think I may have mentioned this before but I found a picture of my pediatrician in a newspaper's "man on the street" column from the forties. She had a cute little steampunk type hat on.

What I learned from that experience is never to ignore references with names that don't match your idea of where information should be found. I keep looking up medical tags. Her name kept coming up in "Post War Army Funding." That was the topic of the interview.

No need to put me in for the book. You know how hard I worked to get my signed copy.

Peace, Julie

Helen Gray said...

A couple of weeks ago hubby and I spent the day touring the bootheel area of our state. It gave me a clearer picture for my new wip.

Fresh coffee is here.


Julianna Rowe said...

What an interesting post! It reminds me of my family's countless visits to antique stores & shows. We love history. My Dad used to have a gun from the French & Indian War. How random is it when you find that you are(were) living in the same house that your ancestors did? There's an cool story behind that revelation..;) I have done much research for school papers, and some for my own interest...on such subjects as: Beatrix Potter, Helen Keller, Robert E. Lee..and recently, "Custer's ""Last Stand"",Jezebel, and Hamlet(THAT, was good[Hamlet: The Christian Prince]). However, my favorite was Victorian Living, however I soon realized that would not wish to live in that time period. But, it was soo interesting to study. The Custer paper was a real eye-opener. I love all of your books that I have read. I often find that what I research is based upon what bits of history that catch my eye in the books that I read.I was homeschooled, I love to learn, and researching is one of my favorite parts of college..For me, it never ends...;)

Jan Drexler said...

Whenever I go to visit my parents in northern Indiana Amish Country (a two day drive from here, and a twice a year event), I drag my Dad and my poor husband along on my research drives.

You see, I've set my books in the same area where my Dad grew up, and where his family has lived for generations.

So my husband drives, I gaze out the window drinking in the scenery, and my Dad tells stories.

Then we go to stores and restaurants (off the beaten path) where I listen to the Amish people talk and watch their gestures and facial expressions.

I watch buggies go by - there's nothing like the clip-clop of a horse's hooves on asphalt. It isn't an historical thing, though, so I have my dear husband drive into the country so I can listen to the hooves on a gravel road.

Yup, I love those research trips. I just absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Amish country. And it's great time spent with my Dad.

Mary Connealy said...

DebH, that is such a perfect 'write what you know' idea. Plus it's different and interesting.

Jan Drexler said...

I forgot to add that I love doing local research trips, too...for that cowboy/homesteading series I'll be writing in the future...someday.

There's just something about living an hour away from Deadwood. THE Deadwood. Will Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and the whole shebang. Gold miners, ranchers, saloon girls, gambling, soldiers and Lakota.

It'll have to be after I get done with all the Amish stories in my head, though...

Mary Connealy said...

Mary Hicks. I stood in my kitchen and we fooled around with the strap Mandy McClellen wore hooked to her rifle so she could sling the rifle across her back.
I was going for the way John Wayne cocked his rifle by twirling it in the close-to-ending scene in True Grit.
Remember that? "I aim to kill you, Ned. Or see you hanged at Judge Parkers convenience."
Robert Duvall says, "That's mighty bold talk for a one-eyed fat man."
John replied in a way best not typed here, clamps his reins in his teeth and charges, twirling a rifle, six-gun in the other hand, galloping....a man with True Grit.

Mary Connealy said...

Courtney Faith, such strange things inspire me. It's that What If thing that pops up in a writer's brain.
I see a rifle and I'm all in. The story rages away while I stand and stare. :)

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

Oh, but that research can be a slippery slope. That’s my take. Double check any info on the internet. Much of what is on the internet is wrong.

About that slippery slope: Was that Yellow Boy a Winchester or an Uberti? Did it fire 44 rim fire Henry shells or 45 Colt? Was it side loading or tube loading? I’m no gun expert but a Louis L’Amour fan loves gun facts. If you gave any, then unspoken facts follow.

My advice is to know more about the historical facts than you are putting in the story. That way you are writing from the ‘overflow’ and you'll be more likely to sound authentic and avoid mistakes. A western historian with ten history books published told me this when I started teaching. “Always teach from the overflow. If all you know is what’s in the textbook, you’re dead.”

Please let me know which book the ‘Yellow Boy’ is going to appear! : )


Mary Connealy said...

Julie Hilton Steele, signing your book was an honor. No matter that I'm gotten books published, I just am lost at those big conferences.
I don't know no one neither.

Mary Connealy said...

HELEN I once took a train ride through north New Mexico, near Chama NM.
The way those Aspen trees grew up the sides of mountains was so interesting, and the way they 'quaked'. I have that in my mind now when I write about aspens and a lot of mountainous areas.

Mary Connealy said...

JULIANNA ROWE I live in my husband's grandfather's house. But we're talking 90 years old, not super duper old in a historical sense. I love old houses and buildings.

Mary Connealy said...

this sentence right here:
So my husband drives, I gaze out the window drinking in the scenery, and my Dad tells stories.

I just love this.
Have you heard the saying 'when an old man dies a library burns down'?

You are so smart to listen to your dad's stories while he's here to tell them.

Mary Connealy said...

I don't know.

Note the nifty italics???
The Yellow Boy is in book one of a new series with a working title of Wyoming Wild Women about women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men.
After the war.
The war is backstory.
One of the heroes, I think it's of book #2, carries a Yellow Boy. Very passing references until his story comes up, then the Yellow Boy will be more prominent.

Debby Giusti said...

What a lovely museum, Mary. Loved learning about the Yellow Boy rifle.

I make frequent trips to Fort Benning, GA, for my Military Investigations series and take lots of pictures. I've used the new museum there in past releases, and the commanding general's house will be featured in a future story.

Also included an area of Sarasota in my March 2014 release. Jan told me about it. Thanks, Jan! Janet was there this summer and shared her experience. Plus, I used Google Maps to actually see the streets and community. Also found lots of pictures. Amazing how much we can learn about an area on the Internet.

Julie Lessman said...

UH-OH ... I saw the word "research" in the title and I cringed.

Saw that Mary wrote the post, and I smiled.

Mary, you make even research fun, darlin', so thanks for the smile and the great post.


Pam Hillman said...

Loving all these comments.

I'm speaking Saturday to a historical society about how authors of fiction can find one little nugget (or a mastodon tooth, if you will) in a museum or society records and write an entire story around it! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, last week I watched "Who do you think you are?" with my friend Karen and the episode had a famous singer (young, blonde, sang at President Obama's inauguration, I think) and her great-great (great?) grandfather was at Andersonville.

What those men went through was HORRIFIC!

Pam Hillman said...


I love it that Melanie "thinks" in Medieval German! lol

Pam Hillman said...

Oooh, BLT sandwich research.

Yes, I am so there!


Pam Hillman said...

One hour at the treadmill desk, 1.2 miles, 173 calories, AND Seeker blog read and comments read.

Oh, and that included lunch and a bottle of water.

I wonder if it would be sensory overload if I added headphones and listened to music at the same time???

Talk about multi-tasking!

Mary Hicks said...

You've made me want to watch 'True Grit' again, Mary. It's been a long time.:-)

A strap works, no matter what kind of shooting us gals do.

I use a heavy-duty strap on my camera that allows me to swing it to my back when I need both hands to climb a steep hill... or eat juicy wild plums.

Juice is not good for cameras.:-)

Piper Huguley said...

I love going on research field trips! I managed to get my husband to take our honeymoon in the lovely cities of Charleston and Savannah to do research (it helped that those were the places we could afford!)

I love Carter's Grove too, Mary Curry! *waving*

But sometimes, there are research sites right where you live that can be helpful...I only recently visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. house. One of my fellow Lucky 13ers asked me to take her there before RWA. And there was great stuff there for my WIP!

Lesson learned: distant field trips are great, but sometimes there is great stuff right where you live as well!

I had a hard time getting the book at RWA...please put me in for the drawing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

BLT research????

I'm in!

I don't get to play with guns as much as Mary does.

And so goes the new day.

But I might be able to thwart a terrorist attack by manipulating wifi instructions...

Save millions....

And not be late for dinner.


And that sounds like fun, too!!!

Mary Connealy said...

I've been going to the Prospect House and Civil War Museum annually (we go fishing at the same lake in Minnesota every year) and I've watched them turn this old house crammed with junk into something fantastic.
The 'junk' turns out to be a family who's never thrown anything away. It was full of 150 Civil War memorabilia, the original builder fought in the Civil War.
It's just been so cool to see the place get more polished and see all the things they've found and the history they've uncovered about those things.
One room is full of so many Civil War era things, Like The Yellow Boy Rifle.
And a Spencer Repeating Rifle. newspaper clippings from those times. The money. Shirt sleeves with bullet holes. Pictures and a real cannon ball. I'm just not even close to naming a fraction of the things.
Some of the newspaper clippings have scrawled on them things like, "Not a good account of the battle. I was there."
Stuff like that.
The first day there was a festival and I got busy talking to people outside, like the lady with the guns and a couple of men were there, too, telling stories. And they shot off a cannon and there was music. Anyway, I never got to the rest of the house. So I went TWICE.

Mary Connealy said...

Pam, you're an example to us all.

Mary Curry said...

Piper said

Lesson learned: distant field trips are great, but sometimes there is great stuff right where you live as well!

So true! When I worked on Wall Street I loved to explore the Revolutionary War/Federal Era remains. There's a really cool place in lower Manhattan where there is glass covering artifacts. If you stop and look down, there is an entire tavern room foundation and some artifacts. It's fun to imagine what might have transpired there back in the day.

This link shows what it looks like on the surface. You can't see down in it because of the reflection of the buildings.

Mary Connealy said...

PIPER you are so right about finding the cool stuff near you. We don't give the local points of interest enough respect. (or at least I don't) I'm trying to change that.

Mary Connealy said...

Mary, you mean like they build on top of it but somehow preserved it under the floor? That's so interesting.
I think back east they have a really hard time balancing the new with the old...because so much really important history went on in those places.
In the Midwest, not so much old stuff. 100 old is really old here. A very few things go back 150 years.
Back east things can be 200-300 years old without too much trouble.

llmarmalade said...

History is my obsession and WWI is my passion so research for my story is fun. But I just read a new book and I'm gonna have to make some serious changes to my WIP to make it fit. On the other hand my hero can join pretty much any division I want and I'll just adjust the state to fit.( my research on state history is lacking but that'll change) I found out that the author of my history textbook I'm referring to never went to France before he wrote it and only used maps.
Elizabeth Wilcox

Mary Curry said...

They did, Mary. This paragraph sort of describes what happened.

This project paved the way for future excavations in Lower Manhattan, by showing that the shallow basements of the city's older buildings had not necessarily destroyed archaeological sites, and important finds might still be made far beneath the modern urban maze.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I love museums that don't just 'display' things, but you can get real information. I guess that's what you want if you started out at an early age at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry!!

Pam said...

I'm a reader, not a writer, but because of some of the books I've read, I've done research into the topic to learn more. Sometimes it's reading the actual books, other times because of author blogs that make me want to learn more. Tamera Alexander gives great info on her website and blogs about the Belle Meade Plantation and Belmont Mansion, which are both settings of her latest books. When I read about Andersonville Prison in Mary's Kincaid Brides books, I remembered I have a cookbook compiled by the Andersonville Guild. The recipes are interspersed with a few historical tidbits. I think it's fun to take these "bunny trails."


Jan Drexler said...

Mary Connealy, you need to go to a Civil War re-enactment, but I can't think of any that might be close to you. Missouri, maybe?

I bet Melissa Jagears would know.

Mary Connealy said...

llmarmalade Sounds like you need a trip to France, girl.

(don't we all!)


Mary Connealy said...

Mary Curry, that's so interesting. I read once how many levels most basements had in NYC and it's stunning, like basements that go down six floors or more.

Shade of National Treasure.

Mary Connealy said...

girlygirlhoosier I know what you mean. I take pictures of WORDS in museums almost as much as I take pictures of things. I want to remember details and dates and names and places and that's all in the signs.
I went to a local museum once with such cool stuff but no SIGNS. C'mon, I need signs and dates and I need them NOW!

Mary Connealy said...

PAM Bunny trails is about right, you start reading and before you know it you're so far from where you started you might not be able to even remember what you started out hunting for! Thanks for commenting. Seekerville isn't just for writers. We love readers here!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Jan, I've read really extensive accounts of Civil War battles and I find it amazing the extent to which each tiny detail is known.

I'd love to go to a re-enactment.
Didn't they just have some huge one at Gettyburg? For an anniversary?

Mary Connealy said...

This all reminds me that there's a sweet little museum near me that I haven't been to in a while. (besides the fort) I'm going to get to both of them before the summer is over!
I VOW IT!!!!

Chill N said...

Research -- love it! I live within a 30 mile radius of the areas I use for inspiration, but thank heavens I don't live in the times I write about. There was no a/c around here in the 1880s. Because this is a county that loves its history, I encounter research everywhere -- the genealogy section in the library, little local museums, historical groups and re-enactors, memories of stories old-timers heard from parents and grandparents, historical markers, old cemeteries. So many ideas; so little time.

By far the "research" that affected me the most was when I decided -- totally on a whim -- to turn left instead of right on a highway, went up a hill ... and miles and miles of mesas and a river stretched to a far-away horizon. That was the land where my characters grew up, the land that shaped them, and I suddenly knew more about them than will ever be in their stories :-)

Another fun post, Mary. Thanks!

Nancy C

Walt Mussell said...

Research? How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I've been watching a lot of Japanese historical dramas these days. I take notes on EVERYTHING: what the servants are wearing, the tools they use, etc. I do the same thing with the books in my home research library (where I have items that college students likely refer to as "textbooks").

One of the biggest challenges with using historical dramas is that sometimes the dates are based on the lunar calendar, so the dates don't match what I know and the translator doesn't realize it either. (e.g. Imagine watching a WWII film and seeing a line that says Pearl Harbor was bombed in November.)

I use Wikipedia, but I always need to verify it with separate sources as errors supposedly abound.

Mary Hicks said...

Nancy, you almost brought tears to my eyes...

*By far the "research" that affected me the most was when I decided -- totally on a whim -- to turn left instead of right on a highway, went up a hill ... and miles and miles of mesas and a river stretched to a far-away horizon. That was the land where my characters grew up, the land that shaped them, and I suddenly knew more about them than will ever be in their stories :-)*
I like that!

Mary Connealy said...

NANCY I just love that by seeing the land your characters lived on you knew more about them.
How absolutely true.
Land, geography, can be a character. Blizzards, mountains, wildlife, fires, all add drama in ways sometimes people can't. Or in addition to how people can.

Mary Connealy said...

WALT I really watch so much TV/Movies and read books differently, especially when they fit my genre.
I am fascinated by small things and really aware if something has a jarring affect and seems out of place.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh yes!!! I LOVE actually visiting the places I write about. Since I've got a series of coming novels set in France, that's not always possible. But I do have a story set about an hour and a half from where I live, and you can bet I took a little research trip on up to Eagle Harbor Michigan to look at the town and harbor. Now when I have ships coming into port or a boat headed out, I can actually envision the harbor and the dangerous rocks rimming the outside. Makes for good story fodder. :-)

Janet Dean said...

Mary, never heard of a Yellow Boy Rifle before. Fascinating tidbit. I'm sure your interest made that man's day!

My husband's parents had a musket. Was that Revolutionary War era? Very long and large to tote around.

Guns actually scare me. But I did fire a rifle once or maybe it was a shotgun. LOL My brothers made me shoot it.


Dianna Shuford said...

Hi Mary! It's late, I know, but work started back today. I'm just now getting the time to sit down.

I will have to say you've picked my least favorite subject: research.

Warning: beware of wiki- be careful because anyone can post whether they're an expert or not. We've had several instances of a student using info from wikipedia that was not correct. Not saying don't use it, just verify what's there, especially if it's an important fact.

I mainly use the computer a lot for research simply because I don't have a lot of time. Since I write Romantic-Suspense I usually look in places such as the FBI/GBI websites and other law enforcement type information sources.

Janet Dean said...

Anyone coming to ACFW in Indianapolis and interested in early 1800s history might want to visit Conner's Prairie, a reenactment village that's fabulous.


CatMom said...

I LOVE our Georgia coast, and there's so much history there. The historical romance I've been working on for several years (it's gone through some MAJOR changes, LOL) is set in that area. Since our coast is also where my family usually vacations, I have lots of books, photos, etc. on that area. ~ Just thinking about it makes me ready to head back down there *sigh*. Hugs, Patti Jo (who is thrilled to have a copy of A BRIDE FOR ALL SEASONS that YOU gave me at RWA!!)

mom2abcd said...

I love using real life stories from history and my family tree is full of interesting material! Fun to research and solve the puzzles, but fun to flesh out the bare facts and imagine what life was like then for that widowed mother with ten children and no refrigerator, microwave, or furnace!

Mary Preston said...

I love history. I love visiting museums and reading about it. I would find the research fascinating. I doubt I'd get much writing done if I did write.

Carole Jarvis said...

I'm just a reader, but wanted to say that historical fiction is my favorite genre and I can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into research. I just finished a romance by Regina Scott where the hero was working to develop a safety lamp for mining. Very interesting!

Barbara Thompson said...

I'm just a reader, not a writer. I appreciate all the hard work the authors do to give us enjoyment in reading a book. I love history. My Mother and I research our family history. I still enjoy going to the Library, Clerk of Court and other places also to find more information. You never know what you may find!
Barbara Thompson

Deb Garland said...

Last weekend, I sailed to San Juan Island and anchored in Garrison Bay so that I could attend a two-day Pig War encampment, complete with Candlelight Ball in the English Camp barracks. It was here that I discovered the young couple I want to use in my historical romance novel. I also discovered a better occupation for my heroine to stay true to the facts of this 1859-1872 event I am using for my setting.

Rachel Jones said...

Being a novice writer, I am submerged in learning craft. And like many other writers out there, I have a full time job. So at this point I rely on the internet and trips to my local library for all my research. I do have visions of one day having the time to pursue other avenues of research.

Ginger Solomon said...

When we first moved to where we live now, I went on a tour with my kids of what's called Old Town Madison. I wasn't writing at the time, but I loved learning about the area.

One day I will write a book based there - I've even done additional research. It just isn't time yet. :)