Monday, September 21, 2015

Using History Mysteries to Grab Your Reader’s Attention or Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?


By Jewell Tweedt
Jewell Tweedt
Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? You probably remember that old riddle from grade school because we are curious and mysteries are fun. Historical mysteries are even more enticing because they actually occurred.

 As an American History teacher instructing technology-reared middle school students, I use mysteries to engage them. As a historical fiction writer I use historical mysteries to engage my readers. September nineteenth Prism Book Group released the second book of my Nebraska Brides series titled A Lady for the Lawman.  I used an actual Civil War-era mystery in that book to hook readers. Here is a blurb:

On special assignment from the White House to the Nebraska prairie...

Crack undercover Pinkerton agent Jason Reynolds gets the toughest assignment of his career. Sent by President U.S. Grant to Omaha to capture a loco ex-soldier accused of stealing Jefferson Davis' treasury gold, Jason falls for feisty shopkeeper Arianna Quincy. Trouble is, she's not interested. When the lunatic grabs Arianna, Jason's skills are put to the test. Can Jason get his man and save his woman?

The Confederate treasury, (this is true, folks) consisted of $800,000 (in 1865 dollars) in gold coins, bars and Mexican silver. In April 1865 the war was all but over. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, knowing he was about to be captured by the Yankees, was determined Lincoln would not get his treasury’s wealth. It was placed in flour and sugar sacks, put into six wagons and sent into the deep south guarded only by teenaged soldiers. So what happened to that gold and silver? Did the boys escape the vicious Yanks? Has the money ever been found?


Click to Buy
Read A Lady for the Lawman and find out for yourself. Send me a comment and I’ll give you some hints.  A Seekerville lady will draw names and one lucky person will receive a copy of A Lady for the Lawman.

Got your attention, didn’t I? A little research and you can add elements of mystery to your work as well.

 By the way, the answer to who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb is nobody. You can’t bury someone in a tomb BUT Grant and his wife Julia are entombed there.  

96 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

I certainly fell for that one, Jewell. That's the same idea as the one...Did you know that no one living in Borden is allowed to be buried in the Borden cemetery?
Interesting post, and I'd love to read your novel! Thank you. And Tina, I think I'm back, but not in Arizona until November.

Jan Christiansen said...

Love the idea of incorporating historical mysteries into a novel. Will have to do a little research into the many mysteries in Arizona. Thanks for this post.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hi to Marianne and Jan!

Welcome Jewell.

I'm just learning the mysteries of where I live. Lots of history in Arizona~

Cindy W. said...

Good morning Jewell. Thank you for the interesting post. I love history now but hated it during my school years. I think it was the memorization of dates that caused my disinterest.

I would love to win a copy of your book.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I would have loved to hear more about this... a lot more! Jewell, you tease!

And not about the book, especially, because you covered that well, but about searching for mysteries or constructing our own historical mysteries where fiction plays with truth and draws its own conclusions. I bet our readers are itching for more, too.

COFFEE IS HERE!!!!!!!

So, Jewell, how can our readers search our historical mysteries?

Which states have more drama? Or which regions?

How can we be sure of our facts and double check them?

Are there great online resources for this kind of historical hunting?

Thanks so much for being here today! This new historical author awaits your answers with excitement!!!!

Jackie said...

Jewell,

Nice to meet you. First, you've got the most amazing name. Especially in the age of Twitter, people are going to look at your last name more than once to see if it's Tweet(ed) or Tweedt. And how beautiful is Jewell!

I don't write historicals, but I'll be considering how I can use your advice in my contemporaries.

Thanks for sharing!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Welcome Jewell! I probably would have done a lot better in history class, if I'd had you for a teacher. It sounds like you know how to make it fun for the students.
Congratulations on your book! I agree with Jackie, your name is beautiful.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks Marianne, your comment about Borden gave me a smile. Not easier to do on an early Monday morning.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Jan, Tina and Cindy,
Thanks for your comments. History was boring to me too until I realized it was all about people. Then I was hooked!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Ruth, hi. I will answer your questions a little later this morning but for now I have to get myself off to school. I promise to check in as often as I can.

Mary Hicks said...

Hmm, VERY interesting post. I'll re-read it again after I'm fully awake. I agree with Jackie about your name. :-)

Rose said...

Hi Jewell!

Hmm...what's the sign of a good mystery writer? Writing a blog with a mystery!

Your book sounds very interesting. Good Luck.

Hope to see you again soon.

Rose

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Jackie and Jill,
Thanks for your comments. I do try to make my history classes fun but I do Not dress in period costumes like some teachers do!:) My name is unusual. Jewell was the name of an elderly neighbor my folks had befriended. Tweedt is my husband's name and it is Norwegian. The 'd' is silent.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Jewell! I love U.S. and UK history and am always intrigued by history's unsolved mysteries. I'm interested in hearing how you research and how you decide on a RESOLUTION to a "history mystery" that is in keeping with history and won't disappoint readers.

Donna said...

Jewell, you certainly got me thinking. That's not easily done this early!

Thank you for the great tips. I would love to win a copy of your book.

Sally Shupe said...

Hi, Jewell! So great to see you here. I would love to win a copy of your book! I love historical mysteries. I am researching my ancestors from Germany and found a lot of them named their kids after neighbors. I find that very interesting. What's the strangest mystery you've run across?

Jeanne T said...

As one who writes contemporary, I hadn't really thought to use historical mysteries in my stories, but I like that idea! Thank you for sharing it. :)

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Jewell.
The mystery is what makes the movie Sahara so good. Well, that and the actors. But I agree, we all love a good mystery. And lost treasure.

Thanks for the post.

Connie Queen said...

Oh, and I love your cover.

Caryl Kane said...

Hello Jewell, Thank you for the fascinating post. What "mystery" sparked your interest in history? I would love to read A LADY FOR THE LAWMAN.

Christina said...

I loved this post. I've been thinking about attempting a historical novel for years and your post has renewed my interest. I'd love to learn more about how to find out about the mysteries in one's own state or region. Would a historical society be a good place to begin, Jewell? Thanks for the post and I hope you'll do a follow up.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Mary and Rose,
Thanks for your comments. Don't we all love a good mystery?
Rose, I do hope we can get together soon.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Glynna,
The fun thing about writing fiction is that we can make our own resolutions. I had fun with the mystery in A Lady for the Lawman. Check it out.

Wilani Wahl said...

I would have loved having you for a teacher. I definitely want to read your books after this introduction to your writing. I am still in the research stage for a historical I would like to write.

Have a great week everyone!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jewell! The mystery of the confederate treasury is fascinating, a great foundation for a novel. I've used historical tidbits to trigger a story. Things like the orphan train, mail order brides, social issues of the time, but haven't used a mystery from history. You've inspired me! As a history teacher, you've got a leg up. Any tips for finding a mystery that will hook readers?

Your book sounds great! Congratulations!

Janet

Cindy Regnier said...

My son is almost (one more semester of college) a secondary level history teacher. Depending on where he goes to teach (Mom hopes its close by) how does one go about finding mysteries, unanswered or answered questions from the past in the local area? I'm thinking a historical society, a local library - Any other good ideas? And now I want to know about that Confederate treasure. . .

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Sally, the strangest mystery I have come across is that my own grandfather was married to another woman before my grandmother. Even my own mother didn't know about wife number one. This was in 1918 while he was off fighting in WWI.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Good morning Donna. Thanks for commenting.

Jewell Tweedt said...

You are welcome. Thanks for commenting on a Monday.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Sally,
Good morning.

Jewell Tweedt said...

I like Sahara too. Mathew M. Is so good in that role.

Jewell Tweedt said...

As a child I read all the Little House books. To me the mystery was how could Laura and her family live on so little and be so happy?

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Jewell!! I'm with Ruthy--TELL US MORE!!!! I know we have a lot of writers and readers here who are interested in historical fiction.

Do you have tips for incorporating history into our novels so that it doesn't sound like a history lesson? As a historical author, that's one thing I really have to work on--not including every fascinating tidbit from my research but blending it so it's a seamless part of character and plot.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Historical societies are great places to start but your library will do as well. Talk to older folks. They always have great stories. I gave a follow up book releasing Nov. 20th. It is called Christmas Bells and deals with 1870s medical care along with a sweet love story.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thank you Wilani. I guarantee if you read my books you will learn some frontier history.:)

Jewell Tweedt said...

My tip is that if you are fascinated by the mystery so will your readers!thanks for commenting today.

Jewell Tweedt said...

If your son is into history he probably reads a lot. Obscure books often bring up questions. The confederate gold one always grabs attention. I hope you will read the book and find out how I solved it.

Cara Lynn James said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jewell! I think the Civil War is fascinating and what happened to all that Confederate money is a great idea for a story.

Sally Shupe said...

Oh, wow. That's huge! While researching my ancestors, I found that my grandfather, whom my mother thought had died, (it was her ex-father-in-law so that may have had something to do with it) had actually moved to another state and married someone else after divorcing my grandmother. He died a few years later. I love family mysteries!

Jewell Tweedt said...

I try to weave bits and pieces into the story. If I tell too much people get turned off. I am always sure to make my locations accurate. For example I mention Hanscom Park in a story. That park really did exist at the time period. So check your facts and keep the lecture part short.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks Cara,
I had fun with it. check out my A Bride for the Sheriff. It is the first book in my Nebraska Bride Series. A Lady for the Lawman is the second. Thanks for commenting today.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Following up on Jewell's Little House comment... I love the simplicity and joy revealed in Laura's stories, to me that's the utter charm of prairie romance.

To see people risk everything to build a dream, that totally works with my pull yourself up by the bootstraps nature.

I write prairie romance now, and I'm having so much fun with it, mostly because of the simple aspects of a not-so-simple post Civil War time. I love weaving in Women's Rights, and the social mores of the time... and then showing how people working together made do.

I love it!

It always reminds me of the lyrics 'The gift to be simple and the gift to be free..." Those two things can work in perfect harmony.

Missy Tippens said...

What fun! I love a good mystery. You've got me curious now! :)

Barbara Scott said...

I'm with Ruthy and Myra, Jewell! I want to hear more about your research methods. :) There's a story that's circulated in our family forever that 7 pony-loads of gold were hidden in a cave along the Gasconade River in the Ozarks. I wonder if it stems from the same Confederate mystery? Love, love, love history!!

Oh, and please put me in your drawing for a copy of A LADY FOR THE LAWMAN. I'm intrigued.

Missy Tippens said...

Good questions, Ruthy!

Mary Connealy said...

No one is 'buried' in Grant's Tomb? Are you sure that's right?
I've always wondered about that, but not enough to actually check!

Mary Connealy said...

Jewell's love of history really comes out in her books. Read them for the fun, and then keep them for RESEARCH, because she really makes it her thing to get the history right!

Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Jewell I just loved this post. I too wish I had a history teacher like you! I have always been pulled in by mystery, and I bet I would have loved you! History never remotely came alive for me. I am grateful that it did come alive for my son. His highschool teacher so completely inspired him, he is studying now to be a history teacher. He is also the one I come to for all the facts now. I eats and sleeps history. He even plays video games that are historical in nature. Love that!

I loved Ruthy and Myra's questions and look forward to your responses. Thank you for sharing today! You were a treat!



Mary Connealy said...

The thing that I love about history is, yes, like Jewell says, the PEOPLE. But what history is really made up of is HEROES.
These men and women who's names have survived down through history lived HEROIC lives.
History is the natural setting for drama, conflict, war, hate, love, survival, glory and brutality because only HUGE THINGS are passed on.
Sometimes in research it's hard to find the little everyday thing. How much did a dozen eggs cost.
How big was a normal house.
These small things that work their way quietly into a book and give it authenticity are often hard to fine. But men who sacrificed their lives? Woman who stood strong in the face of danger, even death. Men who won wars! Oh, yes, history is full of all of that glory!!!! Wonderful inspiration. I'm always amazed at the ability we have to make such glory BORING! :( I try not to do that in my books.

Mary Connealy said...

Have you ever read much about Roanoke an early American settlement that VANISHED? So fun to read the speculation.

Mary Connealy said...

Clive Cussler does the best work with history and mysteries.
His books always start in the far distant past and it's great reading but you're thinking, "What in the world can this possibly have to do with this book?"

AND THEN IT DOES HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT! Very cool.

Mary Connealy said...

I think all the 'Hitler got away' stories are just wild conspiracy theories, those are always fascinating.

Gen. Patton was killed rather than died in a car wreck.

Abe Lincoln was kidnapped instead of shot, and held for ransom.

Even George Washington and the cherry tree is a cool old story that is probably more fable than fact, but created to show the staunch courage and honesty of the man.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Jewell,

Very interesting post to me. Jefferson Davis camped out the night before he was captured in the small town I grew up in. There's a statue that marks the spot. Naturally, I've heard all the folklore about the Confederate gold, but my westerns are mostly set in Nebraska. Most of my research came from local people (I live in Georgia) whose ancestors settled in Nebraska and have preserved the history in family books. The fourth novel in my series is going to be about the Georgia connection--what brought these Nebraska settlers to Georgia. It's not exactly a mystery, but you probably won't find it in history books.

Jewell Tweedt said...

I agree totally.

Connie Queen said...

Mary,
I remember reading about a huge herd of cattle that disappeared during a thunderstorm on a cattle drive. The cowboys searched and searched but couldn't find them. About 50 years later someone found a cave w/a bunch of longhorn bones. They think the cattle from that drive ran into the cave and then drowned when the water flowed in there.

This was supposed to be true.

Might use this someday in one of my stories.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Yes!

DebH said...

You had me at mystery Jewell. I love mysteries. Hard core Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew reader during childhood. Loved the Encyclopedia Brown short stories too.

I am going to have to check out your book (put me in the draw please). It sounds so cool. Have you ever used unsolved mysteries for your stories? Just wondering, since it sort of sounds like the Jefferson Davis mystery was solved (unless you're baiting the hook a bit more *grin*).

I'm no good at writing Historicals, but I love reading them. I will keep in mind how to add a bit of mystery into my stories. I like the idea you've presented here in Seekerville today. Very cool. I love learning something new every day and Seekerville usually provides that something. Awesome!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Barb, I read a lot so when something intrigues me I stop and google it to see what turns up. Plus being a history buff and teacher I ask my kids a lot of questions which lead to more discoveries. For example today they are writing about the lost colony of Roanoke. Type in 1587 Lost Colony of Roanoke and see what pops up!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Grant and his wife are entombed there not buried!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Awww. Thanks Mary. My goal is to pack as much adventure into mine as you do.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks. As soon as school is dismissed I will be able to give more complete answers.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jewell and welcome to Seekerville. What an interesting post and full of teasers for sure. smile

Last spring I visited Omaha and toured a live history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park which is in Fort Calhoun outside Omaha. Is that the fort your hero was sent to? And was your heroine working there? You would have loved the live history day with all dressed in costume and bringing history alive.

Thanks for sharing with us today. Have fun.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Funny you should mention that. My kids are researching and writing about that topic today. I try to combine writing and history together to encourage kids to be more creative.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Steven Ambrose is wonderful too.

Jamie Adams said...

I love historicals and mystery and stories with Pinkerton agents. I'm so glad to have read this post today, I'll be looking for your books.

Mary Connealy said...

I've done three straight up mysteries in my life.
Are we talking about writing mysteries? I don't think so, we're talking about mysteries in history that spark story ideas.

HOWEVER because I'm off track in my thinking, I will say that I've done three straight mysteries in my life. My books almost all have suspense elements and action but usually we know the bad guy up front and that's the soul of a mystery, right? For the reader to solve the crime along with the characters?

Anyway, I found mystery writing, and I'm talking about those quirky, light hearted cozy mysteries I wrote for Barbour Publishing years ago...to be the most complex writing of my life. It was really HARD to leave clues and red herrings, to misdirect your characters and (hopefully) your readers without cheating and leaving stupid clues that meant nothing, to tie up loose threads and have the proper 'bad-buy-reveal' moment.

Writing mysteries is a mystery to me.

Jewell Tweedt said...

I agree. I am reading about Meriweather Lewis now and if he was killed rather than commit suicide. I still say suicide.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Wow,
I love those kind of connections. My westerns are set in Nebraska too. Are we soul mates?:)

Mary Connealy said...

Prairie life was simple, Ruthy, except for the back breaking work of course. From 'Can See to Can't See'.

What I always think of is how Breakfast, as we know it today is usually a bowl of cold cereal eaten fast on our way out the door to work with the words 'it's the most important meal of the day' ringing in our ears. (It also rings if you SKIP IT)

But what we forget is that when Pa Ingalls came in for breakfast, he'd always been working for two or three hours. He needed FOOD. Breakfast wasn't something he did to 'be good' because nutritionists said so. The man was HUNGRY. In those days breakfast probably was absolutely important.

Now we do little heavy work and in many ways LUNCH is the meal we eat a few hours after we get up. So why isn't LUNCH the most important meal of the day.

That's something that's changed since the simplicity of backbreaking work from before dawn to after dark 365 days a year. No wonder God told us we needed a day of rest!

Jewell Tweedt said...

You should Connie!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Deb, the mystery hasn't been solved. I just put my spin on what I think happened. :)

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Sandra, I have been to that fort but it isn't the one mentioned in my book. I still remember learning to make candles there and having a ball. Okay I am a nerd. That's my idea of fun.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks. Pinkertons were soooo cool. at one time there were more of them than army soldiers.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Yup. I am working on one now set in Okoboji, Iowa and it's tough. Fun, but tough.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Mary you are so right and those farm breakfasts were huge. Or so they tell me.

Debby Giusti said...

Jewell,

I went back and re-looked the Confederate Gold mystery when I was writing PLAIN DANGER that comes out in FEB. It's a contemp suspense with a tie in to the Civil War. I didn't use the missing Confederate gold, but included some other tidbits. However, the missing gold is cause for speculation. I'll be interested to see in how you used it in your story.

Thanks for being with us today!

Debby Giusti said...

My local independent bookstore closed recently--BOO HOO!--and the book seller sold all her stock. I picked up two interested collectors' books:

The Civil War Letters of Dr. Harvey Black

and

Point Lookout Prison Camp for Confederates

Interesting info that will probably play into a future story or two or three! :)

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks Debby for reading my blog.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Ohh, very cool. I love it when I find volumes that speak to me. I have waaaay too mNy books.

DebH said...

The mystery hasn't been solved? Even more cool. I love reading about people's take on historical mysteries.

I know about the missing colony of Roanoke because I live in Virginia Beach. In North Carolina, near the lost colony's location, they put on a play about the colony and the first European child to be born there. Apparently it is a great honor for a local baby to get chosen to portray the first child. Most of the time they have a doll, but the time I went to see the play, they had the real baby. Fun stuff.

Jeanne T said...

CONNIE, I thought of Sahara too! That's a great example of a history mystery. :)

Sandy Smith said...

Very interesting Jewell. Please enter me in the drawing. Your book sounds fascinating. I agree with the others who want to know more. Maybe you would do a part 2 blog for us one of these days? I love historical fiction and I love mysteries, and I really do enjoy reading historical mysteries. Thanks for being here.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Interesting, I know her name was Virginia Dare but what do you think happened to the colony?https://www.facebook.com/gayn.lewis/posts/709751615836001

Jewell Tweedt said...

I wound be happy to do a part 2. Seekerville ladies I'll come back anytime.

Julie Lessman said...

WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE, JEWELL, and although I'm not much of a mystery reader, I do think there's a wealth of wonderful hidden treasure and mystery to be discovered in a historical novel, just by virtue of the fact that we can reveal actual people and things of that era to our readers, maybe for the first time. I find that my own research and discovery of a time period helps to excite me about the era so that I can, in turn, hopefully pass that excitement on to my reader. So I consider that a true treasure, and the fact that these are tidbits of history that a lot of people don't know, therein the mystery! ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Jewell Tweedt said...

Exactly. My stories are western romances but I like to throw a curve in here and there by adding in tidbits from history like the missing rebel gold. Thanks for commenting Julie and it is great to be back on Seekerville.

Chill N said...

Oh my gosh ... I was a Civil War major for about six months and ...

Wait, I need to start over. I was not a major in the Civil War. For about six months, the Civil War was my major in college.

Okay, now that that's clear ... I obviously wasn't paying close attention in classes because I never heard about the missing Confederate treasury. What an awesome mystery!

Yes, you have me keen to find out more. Please enter my name in the drawing. May there be lots of sales for A Lady for the Lawman.

Three cheers for you for teaching American History!

Nancy C

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks Nancy. I will. I bet you could teach me a lot about The War Between the States. Thanks for commenting.

Loves To Read said...

Very interesting post and your book also sounds like an interesting read!

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thank you. I hope you'll take a look at my books.

Walt Mussell said...

This looks wonderful, and I do know the lure of using an historical mystery. If I ever get my 16th century Japanese trilogy published, I do try to answer one mystery in there.

How do you feel about actually putting real characters into your novels? Do real figures from history make any appearances?

Tanya Agler said...

Dear Jewell,

I used to love that show on PBS about History's Mysteries. Your post brought back memories of that show.

Today I was reading (more like skimming) two books about the West, and what was fascinating was they both gave two totally different backgrounds about a major historical figure. One said he grew up well off while the other talked about his impoverished single mother, and they both gave different viewpoints about the fate of his first marriage. So I felt there was a mystery alone in the way these two sources depicted one man.

Thanks for the post. I love mysteries, and I love history so of course, i love the merging of the two as well.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Walt,
I do use President Grant in this book. It was fun to read up on him and write him in. I thank you for commenting.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Hi Tanya, that is curious . Thanks for commenting tonight.

Jewell Tweedt said...

Thanks to everyone who commented today. I will ask a Seekerville lady to pick a name from a hat tomorrow. This was fun. GOODNIGHT!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Jewell,
Your Grant's Tomb question reminded me that President Grant's pre-Civil War home is in Galena, IL. He only lived in it a short time and it's open to the public now.