Monday, June 5, 2017

Can a man get so hopelessly lost...



I’ve been researching what I call Pathfinders for a while.

I am trying to get a real overview of what it was really like to try and get through the Rocky Mountains the first time.

Finding a route was a big part of the Louis and Clark Expedition. And they barely survived it and then only with the help of native people who were miraculously Sacagawea’s family.

John C Fremont was tasked with finding a winter passage through a farther south region of the Rockies, with Kit Carson. Okay, these guys were GOOD. But even good as they were, it took him three tries--three winters. 
On his first try he got eveyone out alive. 
His second, he lost ten men to cold and hunger and other dangers.
Third try...he made it through.

James Beckworth (or Beckwourth) was the guy who opened the California Trail. He found a way from Reno Nevada to San Francisco. This is just exactly where my story is set.

Jim Coulter and Sacagawea were with Louis and Clark. Coulter turned around at the end of the expedition and went back. He's believed to be the first man to see Yellowstone. But he was such a known story spinner no one believed him. FOR YEARS. When I research, all the maps you see are either too close or two far. All of them have major four lane highways. All of them have ME and my CELL PHONE.

Bridger walked the Rocky Mountains north from Southern Colorado to Canada. His story about leaving a man behind believed dead, is part of the movie (or a fictionalized version of the movie) The Revenant. 

Of course we don't have pictures and online bios of all the guys who did this and DIED.

My premise is, can a really trail savvy guy, in about 1850, get so lost he just plain can’t get out of the mountains? He ends up just living there. By the time he finds his way out he’s settled and doesn’t leave.

I’ve been reading about the Donner Party.

I’ve got a picture, taken at the museum beneath the St. Louis Arch that says something like, “Many pioneers headed west with directions that covered one side of a sheet of paper. That is IT!

Now most wagon trains had a guide, a trail boss, or scouts, men who knew where they were going. But what if somehow you ended up on your own? What if your wagon train was set upon by thieves and everyone died and you alone survived?

Mary Connealy would've fallen off the covered wagon and DIED.
What if the guide died or ran off?

The trail itself would probably be visible, wouldn’t it? Or are some of them less traveled? The Donner Party was trying a new and little known trail so we know it happened.

A man who knew the woods would find trails, but out there? With millions of acres uninhabited, those trails would be game trails. You could walk on them and they’d probably lead around cliffs and lead to water, but could you get anywhere? It’s a good bet a deer will never ever make a trail that leads to town.

Today, I'm talking research


Today I thought I’d talk about research, how I try and track these things down.

I always start with Wikipedia for research. I’ve heard not to trust Wiki as the final answer, but I’ve also found really invaluable sources through there. A lot of times they’ll mention where they get info.

One example: http://a.co/9xlgV3p The Reckless Breed of Men a twenty year old book about fur trappers, only available used now. I got my copy for about $7.

Another one I particularly loved, Jim White's Own Story: The Discovery and History of Carlsbad Caverns. Jim White is the man who discovered Carlsbad Cavern and it took him TWENTY YEARS to convince people there was really a huge cavern down this hole in the ground. It was so far from any road, this was in about 1920, so there were roads and cars around, but still no one would believe him.

Anyway, when I bought this book, old, used, it was
SIGNED by Jim White. I just loved that.

So Wikipedia leads me to other sources, and that includes books and also other websites.

I also use Google Maps and transform it to Google Earth so I can get a look at the terrain.

I find old maps online—I use maps of old trails a lot. You can find them with Oregon Trail, California Trail, Santa Fe Trail and all sorts of off shoots of each. I open them and modern maps and try to compare roads now to trails then. Did you know that I-80 that cuts all the way across the country, follows the Oregon Trail? The Oregon Trail followed the Platte River, then the Transcontinental Railway followed the Oregon Trail until it curved off and followed the Mormon Trail. And now Interstate 80 follows the Oregon Trail.

People went that way not because someone had broken a trail, but because it WAS a trail. Does that make sense? They went the way that worked. They used the same passes because there were passes.

I will go to Amazon and search up say…Jim White’s book, after finding there is a book through Wikipedia, then I buy that book and good old Amazon wants to help me spend my money so they’ll toss other books at me and I can hunt around.

I’m working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains right now near Lake Tahoe and I found out Mark Twain lived and worked near Tahoe for quite a while. Reading his writing about it has really helped me get the big picture.

I also like to find novels. Yes, fiction, that is set in the place I want my books. The Louis L’Amour books in our local library all have maps in the front.

When I’m buying these books I remind myself that it’s a lot less expensive than a research trip…which I never EVER get to take!!!

What I’m really having trouble with though is the VASTNESS. It’s so hard to quite imagine the brutally hard work of riding a horse or a wagon over a mountain.

The original Oregon Trail had no passage wide enough for a wagon, a horse could get through, but not a wagon, so they’d have to lower the wagons over cliffs on ropes. 

It would be days of hard labor to get wagon after wagon lowered. And maybe the whole train would make progress of about 100 feet in three days.

I don’t mind doing this. I have always loved research but in some ways I hate it too, because it’s such a time sink. I can get lost for hours tracking down details and not get a word written in my book. But I justify the time now because I realize I’ve gotten a lot of ideas for the NEXT series while researching the current one.
In fact I think I've gone on too long in this post and I apologize for that, but it's hard to imagine that ANYONE isn't fascinated by this. And yes, it's possible, I live in my own little dream world. 

What do you do for research? Where do you look? Is it on line? Or do you set your books right near you so you know what things are like? Does ANYONE ever get to go on a research trip?

Let’s talk about all the tricks of the trade in researching a book.

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of my latest release.

LONG TIME GONE

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Connealy Combines Western Action and Charming Historical Romance
The Boden clan thought their problems had ended with the death of a dangerous enemy, but have they truly uncovered the real plot to take their New Mexico ranch? Rancher Justin Boden is now in charge. He is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn't help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on.

128 comments :

  1. Research is a scary yet exciting thing to me. It can open up a whole new world...and I write contemporary! HA!

    Mary, how often do you visit the places you write about?

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    1. The Kincaid Brides series was inspired by a visit to Carlsbad Cavern. I didn't go there because of the book...just the opposite...I wrote the book because I went there.
      But mostly, nope. I never get to go anywhere. :(

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  2. How about a field trip to Colorado? I'm up for it, as long as you aren't driving!

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    1. One time, down ONE one-way street, and I'm marked for life.

      (okay, two times down a one-way street!)

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    2. Mary, did the car get quiet as everyone prayed or were your passengers screaming at you? This is another form of research. LOL

      Janet

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    3. It was JULIE and of COURSE there was screaming.
      The brat.
      And she laughs at me to this day and clearly she has trained you ALL to laugh.
      It's just that we were so busy TALKING!!!

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  3. I've been using YouTube for my contemporary research. You can find almost anything there. :) I admire historical writers who spend so much time researching their time periods.

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    1. Lisa, I never think to check there! I'll have to do that.

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    2. Lisa, treat one. Yes, I use YouTube. I was researching guns and I found youtube videos for my exactly type of historical gun and loading it was a shocker. I had no idea they packed revolvers with a bullet and power and a...well some little cloth to catch fire and the gun had a little tamping thing.
      Actual bullets as we known them weren't invented yet.

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    3. Youtube is amazing, Lisa, right? I recently had to know what was on the road from Las Cruces to Phoenix. Someone filmed their road trip and put it on their in a sped up pace. It was so helpful. You can find anything there.

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    4. Lisa I meant 'GREAT ONE' not 'TREAT ONE'. I had to read that comment about five times to figure out what in the world I meant by Treat one!
      Filmed their road trip, Tina? That's just amazing. Everything is on YouTube. We are only limited by our imagination!
      I just sometimes forget to go there and look.

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  4. Good morning, Mary! I love history. The REAL stories about REAL people. No wonder your stories are filled with adventure--you go right to the source and discover who people in past times were in reality. And then...WHAT IF?

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    1. Glynna you live in the mountains...well, in a town, but surrounded by mountains. What do you think? Could you get lost FOREVER?

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  5. Well, I don't write books but when I do research it's usually online first. Right now we're researching our next vacation. We go online for accommodations, booking the flight, things to do in the area, etc. Then I go to the library and take out books on the specifics. There's still nothing quite like looking/reading an actual book on the subject/place. I'll also talk to someone who has already been there for ideas and suggestions but I find that our family often wants to see or do things that don't interest other families. Research is usually the "anticipation" of the trip and builds the excitement!

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    1. Arletta, that's so true about the anticipation! I spend a lot of time online planning trips, too!

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    2. It's just so HARD to compare today with history. NO ROADS! No communication. Someone with woods savvy could always tell directions right? Not on really foggy days maybe, but as a rule.
      And moss grows on the north sides of trees. And they could find a stream and follow it to a river and follow a river to a settlement? Couldn't they? I'm just not sure.

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    3. Arletta, so true! My dh loves to plan a trip. You'd think it would be me as I love research. But then I do have a lot to say about the activities/sites that interest me. Some things I may never put in a book but I want to see. Often I hear about them from others. We went to Andersonville prison because Mary had researched it for a book and talked about it.

      Janet

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    4. I would love to go to Andersonville and yet it's got such a terrible history that I feel almost ashamed of wanting to see it!

      CONFLICTED!!!!!!!

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    5. Mary, I'm like that. I research and then reprimand myself for being fascinated w/history that had to be painful for others. Of course, it's okay if they prevailed.

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  6. GOOD MORNING, MARY! Thank you for this interesting post. I love it when authors make history come ALIVE!

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Hi Caryl, you're in.
      I love reading about these old pathfinders. They were so WEIRD. I mean genuine oddballs. Why else would they be so independent.
      And Jim Coulter and all his LYING. He told such tall tales that no one could pick the truth out of it. And many of them couldn't read nor write so all their reports were spinning yarns around a campfire, and the men who heard the stories would pass them on, maybe with a few 'more interesting' details. (Lies! )

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  7. Mary, with all the hardships the ground breakers and trail makers suffered it's no wonder that they had such strong character. It sounds like you're beginning an exciting series.

    Another area that is really helpful for research is genealogy. It's also another sink hole in which to be blissfully lost.

    One of my favorite research areas for contemporary is Pinterest. I make boards for my characters with their homes and settings, their vehicles, hair styles. It's maybe lighter research than the Donners but very visually helpful. But an ever bigger sucking vacuum than Facebook. I'll never understand how searching for the correct buckskin horse led to a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, but they were sure good.

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    1. LOL, Barbara!! I'm the same way with Pinterest. I can start off looking for a recipe and end up looking at all kinds of crazy stuff. And now I may go do a search for unstuffed cabbage rolls. :)

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    2. Barbara, sorta like, I go researching pictures of Carlsbad Cavern and end up looking at pictures of baby albino animals. Which were just adorable!

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    3. What are unstuffed cabbage rolls, Barbara? Meatless??

      Janet

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    4. So you think she means STUFFED? Barbara! Come back!!!

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    5. Unstuffed cabbage rolls are all the same ingredients as the stuffed ones except that you shred the cabbage and add it into the meat mixture for the last 10 minutes. It's so much easier than rolling up all those cabbage leaves.

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  8. Hi Mary, I did an Oregon Trail book and read everything I could get my hands on. I usually start with Wikipedia because it's easy to access, but I always use several sources. I'll Google a topic and work my way down the results. I like state historical societies, university Web sites, and museums. I also like online lessons for children, for classroom teachers or homeschoolers. Kids' stuff really breaks it down. I have one diagram that goes through every part of a covered wagon and names it and its function, yay. I don't tend to buy books, we don't have the room, but I take out library books and have read a lot of diaries of the Westward journey. I also read a lot of fiction, for color and ambience, but I'm careful here, some fiction writers I trust more than others.
    I too am blown away Lewis and Clark and what they accomplished. The journey was hard enough with a wagonmaster and a scout, or with a crude map. But I can't imagine being the first to chart it. Lewis and Clark remind me of Abraham, and I made a rather clunky comparison to him in my Oregon Trail book, Hebrews 11:8, by faith Abraham went out not knowing where he was to go.
    For my Post World War I series I read, read, read. It wasn't as time-consuming, New York is New York, but I mined a lot of detail about the early 1920s.
    I'm doing a contemporary now and I cheated a little, used a setting I'm VERY familiar with and gave the H and H professions I know something about, but I know if the series gets picked up I'll have to do serious research for the other two books. But that's okay, I love it.
    This week I'm working on the rewrite of my WIP and continuing to deconstruct a romance novel as Tina showed us a few months ago. I love anything I can do with a highlighter, which is why I could never resell my college textbooks.
    Please enter me in drawing, I love the Bodens!
    Kathy Bailey
    On course in New Hampshire

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    1. kaybee when you say this about Abraham, it popped into my head that Moses wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. So was he as lost as my characters?
      I like this. It's really started me thinking.
      And we know with my atrophied brain, how painful that can be.

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  9. Mary, this is all so fascinating! So far, I've only researched contemporary stories, so I haven't found all this amazing history.

    I wish I could take research trips! The only one I've done is to include some research time in a family vacation to Gatlinburg, TN. That was many years ago for my first book that sold.

    Nowadays, most of my research is online. Most of that is for career information. I make up fictional southern towns for my settings.

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    1. I've been to...say...Gettysburg. And I can see old stuff, like canteens and rifles and saddles. So in that sense, yes I go to museums some. And I've learned about THINGS more than places. And those things are interesting and useful.

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  10. Mary, I enjoyed reading about your research. I can see me researching and never getting to the writing stage! Thanx for the giveaway!!!

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    1. Hi Jennifer!
      The research is fascinating. Those mountains!
      I read about the guy who was tasked with opening a trail wide enough for a wagon on the Oregon Trail. So interesting to realize they just did NOT know the way through. The mountains were impassable, the forests impenetrable.

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    2. Jennifer, that has been my worry as well!

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  11. I do a lot of preliminary research on Wikipedia too. Learned a lot of little known facts about the Japanese during World War II, the next best thing to a sainted vampire since there's no such thing, etc. Once I purchased a book with a cutsey map of Washington DC in it to plan one of my characters on a field trip. I wish I could stay closer to home with my stories- I really do. But since I do mostly spy stories, and those often need something of an exotic setting, I'm usually out of luck there. And, no, I don't take research trips.

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    1. Boo, and I'm from Nebraska. This is good cowboy country in real life...but in fiction, seriously it's just sort of rolling hills and grass. Not much drama here outside of the weather.
      Maybe it's just because I'm from here but I have a hard time putting it into a book.

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  12. Great tips on finding research sources, Mary--thanks!

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    1. Good morning Myra! Nice to see you here!

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  13. Research fascinates me, but of what a time sink. It pays off, though as in your Boden series, Mary. I am chomping at the bit to read Long Time Gone. I bought it for my mom as a Mother's Day gift, but didn't have time to read it first - which I totally would have done given the chance! No Way Up was so amazing n- I can't wait for more Bodens

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    1. Is your mom very old, Cindy? Can you sneak it out of her house without her noticing?
      LOL

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  14. Hi Mary, Love all those old books you've found. How cool is that? I love research. My favorite way is to go there. I just went on a ride-along with the country sheriff for my current wip and it was soooo helpful. Always gives me ideas of more plot twists to put in the stories. I can tell that has happened in your writing too. When I read your books, I'm always amazed at all the little details and things you include in your stories. Happy writing.

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    1. Ah, now see, Sandra, that is so cool. Tina does that some too, doesn't she? Ride alongs and ... swat team things. So cool.
      Yes, I didn't mention talking to professionals...but they are REAL PEOPLE. That goes so totally against my rules of isolation and hibernations.

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    2. Yes! I have done two ride-alongs now and they are always information. Fly on the wall stuff, because after a bit, if you are quiet, they forget you are in the car and you really learn!!! I've now spent close to 20 hours on ride-alongs and I wish I hadn't dumped my criminal justice major in college and become a nurse.

      I would have been a good Serpico.

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    3. informative not information. Duh.

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  15. This was a great article and a very interesting to find out. I too have found my self looking for more research books when I ran across one that a series of books I read was based on.

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    1. Hi CentralEast2! Welcome to Seekerville! I love it when a novel makes me reach for a book about history of the time and place. I want to know MORE! :)

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  16. Mary, I love research, but researching the early periods of your novels must feel daunting. Sounds like the bonus of all your hard work is lots of story ideas!

    A friend's son was selling all of his Louis L'Amour novels. I wish I'd bought them.

    I've had fun researching Mt. Rushmore and Keystone, SD, during the time the presidents were carved. Now that LIH is closing, I'm not sure I'll write the story, but if I do, I'll call the Keystone Museum as I have a list of questions I hope they can answer.

    When my grandfather was old, the local library interviewed him and recorded his answers about what life was like in the more recent past. The quality of the recording isn't good, but I wonder if other libraries or historical societies have done the same.

    Janet

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    1. Janet if you come to Mt Rushmore LET ME KNOW! I AM CLOSE! (Okay, ten hours, but still!!!) I'd meet you there.

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    2. I double checked. It's SEVEN hours and 48 minutes. Totally do-able!

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    3. Not that far if we stop on the way. :-) I'd love to go again. I'm just blown away that Borglum and his miner turn carver workmen were able to do that!

      Janet

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  17. Hi Mary,
    Older adults have amazing stories. I recently met a war bride who came to the US on the first war bride ship. My parents have all sorts of photos and paperwork that go back to the late 1800s.
    Estate sales also have some good 'research' finds.

    Mary, thanks for sharing today and congrats on Long Time Gone! It sounds like another great story!

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    1. Jackie...and this goes for EVERYONE!!! I have regrets of the questions I didn't ask my grandma. WHY DIDN'T I ASK HER THIS STUFF! If you've still got an older generation, GO TALK TO THEM!!! Their lives, even if they are simple lives with little work, travel, little drama, are fascinating. They are a look at history.

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    2. My mom is 89 now and though she's still sharp, she can't remember a lot of the old stuff. I keep pounding in my head ... what do I need to ask her while I still have her. It hurts to think of wasting time when she's here and precious and ... well, I'm getting all weepy now! I love my mom for a lot more than just the old stories she can tell.

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    3. You're right Mary. I love my parents for more than just the stories they share, but they love to have people interested in their stories. I hope you have lots more time to enjoy the stories your mom remembers.

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    4. I wonder if I know stuff I should tell my kids?

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  18. Oh, my goodness, Mary! Research is my weakness. My bookshelves are full of research books. I'm concentrating on writing contemporary at the moment, but my first love is historical.

    I wrote a book called Shanghaied about two people who travel from China to 1850 San Francisco, and discover girls being transported in the hull of the ship. They fall in love, of course, but also save the girls, bust the trafficking ring, and open a mission in SF dedicated to rescuing girls from sex trafficking. I got the idea from reading about an actual mission that's still in existence today. I just LOVE research.

    Since I'm writing contemporary stories, I have to get my fix of history. So, I try to include historical events and settings whenever possible. My current WIP is about a woman who opened a dog shelter in an old Burlington railroad depot on the Transcontinental Route. The town, and series, is called Sandhills Crossing.

    Anyway, as you can tell, I could go on and on, but I really need more coffee! Who brought the coffee? I brought cinnamon rolls to share, but I need caffeine.

    Thanks for sharing today, Mary!

    ~ Renee

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    1. Renee, I love the idea of putting historical details in a contemporary book. I've enjoyed books that do that. Great idea.

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    2. And CINNAMON ROLLS!!! Oh YUM!
      Okay, I've brought in coffee, three flavors, strong, medium and a blonde roast. There are creamers and cinnamon (to go with the rolls) and chocolate sprinkles on the sideboard!

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  19. Hi Mary,

    First, I do go on research trips! Some have been close to home like the museum in SD that houses a chapel car that appeared in my 2016 novella, Railroaded into Love. But I had to go the Cheyenne, WY to revisit the Frontier Days rodeo for my contemporary romance, Reclaiming the Cowboy's Heart.

    I usually start my research by Googling the subject and reading the top links that pop us and Wikipedia is usually one! Like you, I buy books from Amazon. I've never looked for maps though which is a BRILLANT idea!!!! (Note make sure Ruthy sees that I called you BRILLANT.)

    Loved this post.

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    1. Rose you and I at the Sioux City museum. That was fun!!! And I always pick up tidbits at things like that, though often not for the book I'm currently working on. But it's NEVER wasted.
      Plus it's fun to meet you for lunch. :)

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  20. Mary, I loved this post and seeing where your mind goes as you research. :) I learned a lot from what you posted here today. And though I write contemporary, I was fascinated by what you shared, and where you get your resources. I never thought to go to Wikipedia to look for other sources. Great tip!

    I confess much of my research is done online. I find myself spending hours trying to find the nuances of a job that will provide unique angles for my stories. Or learning how to do things (like fix a leak under the kitchen sink, lay hardwood floors, learn the tango, etc). You Tube has been helpful for some of these, and also answering questions that I have for helping my story along. I read some books, but I find hopping online is faster for me.

    As for research trips, I haven't gone on any, but I guess if I wanted to set a story in Hawaii, I could count our trips to visit family as research . . .right? :) As long as I actually do some research, of course.

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    1. Jeanne, there is plenty of research for a contemporary book. All mine is historical of course, but contemporary books need research, too.

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  21. Research is probably the bane of my writing career. All those glorious rabbit trails that lead to other story ideas, distracting me from the purpose on hand, but setting me up with enough books that I could keep writing for the next century. It is probably my favorite part of writing.

    I've found a gold mine in old congressional sessions that are free online in googlebooks; they have tons of information on the current Indian situations across the country, plus plenty regarding the civil war (and I'm sure much more, but I typically focus on that era). Wading through the reports can be daunting at times, and you have to bear in mind they're written from the perspective of a government agent, but there are some incredible stories hidden in those reports!

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    1. Wow, Rachael, I've never EVER heard of this before.
      I did read that in total, the Louis and Clark Expedition had...by the men who went on it...over one MILLION words written. Not just Louis and Clark kept detailed records. All the men did...which makes me reconsider if I'm right about Coulter being able to read and write. Hmmmm

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  22. Fun post, Mary! I love doing research. I also like to travel to places that might figure into my writing, although I haven't specifically traveled far away for writing research.

    I am setting my novel in Nebraska because it's about a tornado and Nebraska is a great setting for that.

    No need to put me in the drawing. I already got the book from you at the Wordsowers and you signed it for me!

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    1. Yeah, Nebraska and tornadoes...WHOOPIE...we're good at those!
      I've only set one book in Nebraska, a novella. I guess I just feel like this is NORMAL and I want to write about somewhere else???

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  23. Oh, the never-ending rabbit hole of research, particularly online. Mary, fascinating stuff here! I write contemporary but I love learning. So, when my character's daughter ends up with appendicitis, I spent hours reading about complications and one thing led to another, etc, even though in the end it took up two paragraphs.

    I'm planning on a book set on a Maple farm in Vermont and I'll interview a friend who owns a large farm not far from me.

    It's all worth it. Readers expect and appreciate accuracy. So whether it's history, or facts about your setting or anything, really, you've got to get it right.

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    1. See, Josee, perfect example of how contemporaries require research.

      In fact in some ways contemporary needs almost MORE because the knowledge is right in front of people and they notice if you get it wrong.

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  24. I am currently working on a historical novel of the Cherokee Indians in NC before the Trail of Tears. I have always had a fascination with this story. Even though I am not Cherokee, I was given a Cherokee name since I was born in Hiawassee, Georgia (old Cherokee Territory, My parents went to a pageant of the Cherokee in Cherokee NC in 1953. There they learned of the hero for the Cherokee Tsali who gave his life so the Cherokee could remain in NC and not have to go to Oklahoma. Tsali's wife's name was Wilani. All my life I've tried to find out about Wilani but have not been able to, I finally decided to write my own story.

    For a couple years now I have been gathering books on the Cherokee and also since I live 30 minutes from Cherokee, I have gone to the museum and asked questions.

    When I began writing the book I ran into opposition during Nanowrimo, when one of the others in my regional group said the Cherokee's would oppose me because they don't want people writing about the Cherokee who are not Cherokee. I have noticed they are rather closed mouth about their traditions and things. I prayed about it and have continued writing. Al Lacey wrote a book about the Cherokee I read years ago. I ordered a print copy of the book and am rereading it now.

    A couple of months ago, I was with a friend in Cherokee looking through the gift shops. I always look through the books to see if they have one I don't have that would be helpful. In the process I was looking at a book that was titled Your name in Cherokee. I commented to my friend "Surely this book will have my name in it," But alas it didn't. One of the ladies behind the counter asked what my name was. Low and behold she was a cousin of Tsali's family. She said there really was a Wilani. I had always wondered if she had been made up for the pageant since I could never find her in any books.

    I'm trying to make this book as authentic as I can. I have had to google certain traditions like what they would do when a baby was born or when someone was married.

    One of the ladies in my church lives on the Cherokee reservation but she said she doesn't know the answers to my questions.

    I enjoyed this post.

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    1. Wilani, I LOVE THAT ABOUT YOUR NAME! And so cool that you met someone who knew about the original Wilani! It's a beautiful name.
      I understand your misgivings about writing about another culture. I don't know what to say.
      Did you hear that Larry Gatlin wrote a musical play about Quanah Parker. Quanah is a Comanche warrior, half wife, his mother a kidnapped child who loved her husband and child and was 'reunited' with her white family against her will, when she'd been married to her Comanche husband for a long time. Fascinating story. But the play has been burdened with it being written by a white man, even though Gatlin is 1/4 Indian.

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  25. Love the lengths you go in order to make your stories authentic, Mary. And I love the suggestion of talking to older people for the oral history they know--the rich understanding of life in earlier times (or you can also slide their old books into your purse before you leave a relative's house--yes). I had a relative who was a Colorado gold miner back in the day and I got a lot of information as a child that I wished I'd written down. What I have saved from him is all the really great rock and mineral specimens he brought out from the mines (not gold except a few small veins in some quartz samples). I later researched that mining era because of the family connection and was fascinated by the wild West that Leadville, CO was back then. Like Renee, I try to use some of the history as an influence on my contemporary stories and settings. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Darlene I think this is so important. I hope everyone who reads this DOES IT!

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    2. That is, I hope everyone talks with their elders.

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    3. Darlene researching the Comstock Lode is wild, too. They were digging for Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold. And finding very little, not enough to start a gold rush. And it took their YEARS to realize all this weird black rock they were digging through, hating, searching for gold, was in fact a mountain made out of raw silver.

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    4. Yes, similar ore history in Colorado--I have some "rockhound" worthy samples of raw silver ore from Leadville that were saved because no one thought so much about that ore until the gold mines became less profitable. Then the silver mines took off and Horace Tabor and his second wife Baby Doe were the scandal of the state because she was something of a gold digger and was the cause of him leaving his first wife. She did love him to the end though. But mining fortunes do change and Horace died broke. Baby Doe lived in poverty for her remaining days. A sad end to a beautiful romance.

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    5. Darlene, that's interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing!

      Janet

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    6. I love that you know this stuff, Darlene. I can tell how much you enjoy talking about it. I do to!

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  26. I could imagine someone being lost for a very long time, especially in the mountains. Maybe it's because I could lost so easily. The land's pretty flat here.
    I went hiking one time at Beaver's Bend by myself. It was fall and most of the camping sites were empty. I was on a trail, but even with that I suddenly felt very alone. Did they have mountain lions up there? I had neglected to put the main office's number into my phone, IF I could get reception. Suddenly a lot of good writings ideas come to your mind.

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    1. Connie!!! That's so TRUE! I'm a little directionally challenged.
      sigh

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  27. Oh, gosh, this is wonderful.... I love research. I love trying to see things through another's eyes, and imagining what things would have been like... and when you watch a movie about the trails west, very few give that sense of vastness... but if you look at a map, and envision ALL YOU WOULD PASS getting there... oh mylanta, it's out of this world big. And people walked it. With a wagon and a team.

    It humbles me.

    I should stop whining.

    I should stop whining RIGHT NOW.

    Because those people had guts. Goals. Grit.

    Mary, I brought CINNAMON ROLLS because it's chilly here and I thought folks would like them.

    Maybe I'm just hungry.

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    1. But whining is all part of your charm, Ruthy. DON'T STOP!!!

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    2. It's 106 here, and yet...cinnamon rolls sound darn good.

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    3. There is no weather that cinnamon rolls cannot overcome.

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    1. We had cinnamon rolls and coffee earlier but it's gone now, so thank you!!!

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  29. I would love to read this book, can't wait.

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    1. They're coming, Quilt Lady.
      We've named them
      The Accidental Guardian
      The Reluctant Warrior
      The Unexpected Champion

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  30. LOL, Mary, your mind just FASCINATES me, my friend, which is why your books fascinate me and so many readers!!

    You said: "The original Oregon Trail had no passage wide enough for a wagon, a horse could get through, but not a wagon, so they’d have to lower the wagons over cliffs on ropes."

    WOW! That is just plain mind-boggling, which is another reason why the Old West is so interesting (besides the fact that YOU write about it!).

    You asked: "What do you do for research? Where do you look? Is it on line? Or do you set your books right near you so you know what things are like?"

    Unlike you, Mare, research doesn't take me down a sinkhole because I try to do as little as possible. ;) But I did buy a really cool book about Isle of Hope (where my latest trilogy is set) that I love. It has an old-fashioned pic of some people from the island on the cover and lots more inside, so that was fun to read.

    But mostly I glean all my research info from the Internet. And my latest book is basically set on a lake, which really comes in handy since I now live on a lake with all the wonderful sounds and smells.

    You also asked "Does ANYONE ever get to go on a research trip?"

    Well, I had a research trip to Isle of Hope all planned two years ago, but we sold our house and the buyers wanted in as soon as possible, so I had to nix the trip to pack up and move instead. However, I still plan to go ... someday.

    And I'm ashamed to say that I have never been to Boston, where my first seven books are set, mostly because Keith had a bad experience in Boston once, so refuses to go with me. :|

    But my San Fran series was a blast to write because I've been there several times AND because my editor lived there a good part of her life, so I really felt compelled to get the setting right. Consequently, I dug into the history big time to come up with some reallllly fun stuff, convincing me that, mmm ... maybe this research stuff isn't so bad after all ... ;)

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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    1. Julie it is so hard to twist my mind around just how wild the west was. Not like gun fighting wild, VAST and unexplored and full of forbidding cliffs and mountains and weather and grizzlies.
      It's just so hard to wrap my mind around it.

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  31. Oh how I love research... and it can be a complete time sinker for me, too! So far I have written stories about the area I live I because the history is so rich and I love learning about where I live. I do a lot of google searches and use those as jumping points for further research. I am blessed to have a fantastic library that has subscriptions to all sorts of digital material. I can read newspapers all the way back to the early 1800's all around the country with the click of a button. I also LOVE Google Books because I am often able to find and use time period books for free. Unpublished = no funds for big research trips. YouTube has been great for how to videos like how to put on a bustle dress or how to use the bathroom in one - very helpful for genre night at ACFW. I love visiting local history places and the Cincinnati area is rich with them. Believe it or not my local library used booked sales has been amazing for acruing research books cheaply. If I find a book that I could potentially use in the future, I go ahead and buy it. Goodwill has also allowed me to find gems like a binder book written by a woman in the 1960s on how to live of the land. Priceless for information like how to butcher a pig (country girl at heart but an unfortunate city dweller for my whole life). Okay, now I have gone on too long.

    Thanks for sharing, Mary!

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    1. Crystal, that book about living off the land is so interesting. Like those were her personal notes? And who was smart enough to at least give it away instead of throwing it away!

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    2. Crystal I've sort of stumbled into some Google books but I don't really use that as a source. I need to. Great suggestion.
      So are you wearing a bustle to Genre night this year? Make sure and see me!

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    3. I am not going this year, but next year I will be. If I meet my weight goal, I will be wearing a new dress, and I can't wait! And yes, I agree! I am so glad they donated the book instead of throwing it away. It is full of priceless information not easily found on the internet.

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  32. I can't imagine how small a person would feel in the middle of all that wilderness! Several of my ancestors came across the plains and mountains to settle in the Salt Lake Valley, and one even went back to help rescue a handcart company that left too late and got stranded in the mountains in winter. He said that they were down to eating the leather from the harnesses. It's fascinating to read his journal entries. I enjoyed the details of early trailblazing and map-making in A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz. It was such hard and dangerous work.

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    1. Wow, Heidi, that's so fascinating! is his journal published? Is it something I can buy? If it's not you should consider publishing it.
      And I haven't read Moonbow Night. I'll go look it up.

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  33. I find that I need to gather lots of information with research, yet only use a small portion of what I've uncovered. I need the full scope of info where the reader only needs a detail or two.

    I remember fondly all the Old West shows that aired in my youth. Death Valley Days, Wagon Train, Judge Roy Bean, Gunsmoke... I'm dating myself. I grew up immersed in American history. I fear the youth today are much less knowledgeable about our country's early years.

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    1. This is so true, Debby. I'll read and research and buy books and in the end use a paragraph of all I've learned.

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  34. I like destination research, if possible. I'm planning at trip to the Amish area in Ohio this summer. Can't wait!

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    1. How fun, Debby! Is it near Indiana? If so, hope on over. We have Amish here too.

      Janet

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    2. Have you been there before, Debby? I was there once. I flew into Canton OH and rented a car and found my way to the Amish-ish Bed and Breakfast where I was staying.
      Then Barbour Publishing sent people to drive me around. God bless them.

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    3. Debby, my husband's family is from that area. There's a restaurant called The Amish Door that is simply phenomenal. Have fun.

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  35. Mary, I'm sure a trail savvy guy could get lost in the Rockies and never find his way out. He'd decide to build a lean to or shack just to survive the winter, then he'd try all summer, making improvements on the land, just in case he never made it out. Thing is where does he meet the heroine? Is it years later and he finally makes it to civilization?

    Janet

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    1. He's out there four years alone. By then he's build a cabin and rounded up a few wild cattle and a man comes wandering through and decides to hire on to work for him, but this guy knows where a town is. But by then, my hero, is settled. It's about six MORE years before the heroine shows up.

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    2. Makes sense. So why did the heroine come there? Lost?

      Janet

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  36. Research done for writing seems much more fun than it was in high school and college. Google, Wikipedia and Ask.com are my go to spots. Great post, Mary! Thanks for sharing your methods. Congratulations on Long Time Gone. Great cover!

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    1. Jill sometimes school exasperates me just because they don't make this stuff fun.
      I mean HISTORY is full of action, wars, heroes, villains. Great acts of valor, terrible, nail biting drama. It's fascinating.
      And science? Go for a walk with a two year old sometime. They can't hardly move they're so busy stopping to pick up every rock and stick and leaf.
      They love to watch every animal.
      That is a natural love of earth science.

      But school manages to make everything so HARD and BORING that they stamp out that natural curiosity in a child

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    2. I've heard that a person who's read Gone with the Wind knows more about the Civil War than the average high school graduate. Well written historical fiction is a natural teaching tool. And so fun a kid doesn't even notice he's learning anything!

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  37. This was so interesting, Mary. I use the online research sites, too, but I also enjoy traveling to small towns with museums and/or a library and looking at the books that were donated by local residents. The librarians and volunteers are always so helpful. I also scour small town yard sales as I travel through and have found so many books that someone long ago wrote for their grandkids, etc. Those are the books that give me the best glimpse of day-to-day life. It's so cool that you found one that was autographed! I also grab up any old calendars (with writing on them), old catalogs (I think we talked last time about what an awesome resource the Sears and Roebuck catalog is), journals, photographs, etc. that I find at thrift stores. Cool stuff. I file it (haha, more like pile it) for future use if I don't need it now. One of my favorite books was written by a elderly newspaper woman in the 1960s who talked about all the old people she interviewed in her younger days (these people lived during the late 1800s). It was truly fascinating. I love research!! (can you tell?) Thanks for a fun post!

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    1. Laura, about two or three years ago I made a commitment to get out from behind my computer and go places, I mean local places. Like Museums. I was doing pretty well but I kinda lost my edge. You've inspired me to try again.

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  38. I wish I could go on research trips. Sigh. That would be so fun. I would definitely go research some castles over in Europe... yeah, I'm sure that will go over well my parents. I've learned that sometimes instead of going on trips so you can research your story, you can base your research off of places that you CAN go. For instance we go to a Medieval Faire, and so I'm going to write about characters going to a Medieval Faire (plus that's almost as close as getting research for fantasy/medieval stories you can get short of traveling to Europe and visiting hundreds of years olf villages, crumbling castles and the like).

    No need to enter me for the drawing for you book, I already own it.

    On a completely unrelated side note, I have a procedure coming up tomorrow, where they are going to cut open the roof of my mouth and drill through bone... and yeah, it's not going to be pretty. So I would really appreciate prayers that it will go well. I know it's probably no big deal, and that a lot of people have gone through much worse, but I'm still pretty freaked out. I've never unwillingly lost consciousness before, I've never been purposefully cut open, I've never even had stitches! So yeah, it's a lot of scary firsts.

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    1. Praying for you, Nicki! And I love your idea about research at a Medieval Faire - great idea.

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    2. I'm praying for you, Nicki! And I'll make sure the Seekers get this comment and know about it!
      God bless you.

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    3. I'll be praying for your surgery, Nicki!

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    4. Nicki, praying for you and for this dental procedure. Asking the Lord to fill you with His peace. We'll be in prayer tomorrow for you, as well! Sending hugs and love!

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  39. Mary, thank you for your post. You've made me remember one reason I don't write historicals: I would never stop researching and would read all the fascinating books I picked up for researching a book. I love original sources and tracking little minute details down. Some of those books sound fascinating, and I remember reading a long time ago about Jessie Fremont Benton, Fremont's daughter. Even writing contemporary, though, I have to make sure I don't go off on tangents when I research. YouTube and the internet are great tools. I do need to start interviewing and talking to more people, however. I love reading about how other authors research their books.

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    1. Glad to remind you, Tanya. :)

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    2. Jessie Fremont Benton--best selling author who recorded her husband John C Fremont's adventures and sold them as novels. She pretty much supported the family and was either left behind, living with her father Senator Thomas Hart Benton, or being dragged, with her five children, around to army posts. And by all accounts she was brilliant, loved her husband, supported his career and was a tough political activist in her own right. She is one of the reasons California came into the union a free state instead of a slave state. She was militantly anti-slavery, very unusual for a woman of her era.

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  40. Loved this post, Mary - - makes me want to read and learn more about those explorers and trails. I enjoy research and primarily use online sources and books. But taking a "real" research trip would be such fun!

    Nicki, I'm also praying for your surgery! I'm sure this is very scary for you, but know that lots of prayers are covering you. Gentle hugs, Patti Jo

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    1. I just love these guys, Patti Jo. I'm praying for you and your daughter and grandbaby, too.
      God bless you all.

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  41. I am not a writer, just a reader. I do however love research. I follow several blogs because the authors comment on the research they do and give links. Following those links is wonderful, but you do get sucked in not realizing until much later just how long it has been. I appreciate the time and effort an author takes to do research for their books. The details and accuracy add so much to the story. Glad this round of research has given you more inspiration and information for more books.
    The West is such a vast and varied place. It offers so many possibilities for good and exciting stories.

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    1. librarypa, the VARIED is what is so cool. You can't just say, "The Rocky Mountains." Those mountains are so different from north to south. Wow, they are endlessly fascinating.

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  42. I am not a writer but am an avid reader and love history (and your books). Enjoyed the article - fascinating! With my interest in genealogy, I have done a great deal of original source document, reference book, and online resource research, as most of my family came to the US in the late 1600's to mid 1700's. It is interesting following the gradual population movement and general background details of life in different centuries.

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    1. CC My sister is the genealogy expert in our family and she is so into it. What she learns is so fun and interesting.
      I have an ancestor who came to the US in 1635, or so. 15 years after Jamestown. I love that.
      I also have family that are straight potato famine Irish who got here right around the Civil War, so my ancestors are all over the timeline!

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  43. This is fascinating research! I love everything western, and this authenticity really puts the reader in the location and into the elements. It's so exciting to know where your readers are and build their home (or passage) there. Thanks for this article! Looking forward to reading Long Time Gone. I've so enjoyed the series! Blessings to you.

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    1. Hi Rebecca. I do love reading about these guys (and Sacagawea, not all guys!), and the little, surprising tidbits of history are exciting to me.

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  44. Mary, I'm really late reading this but love it. I use books from the library, YouTube videos, research books I own, google, Wikipedia. Research is scary but kind of fun. I've never taken a research trip, but every time I vacation I write down interesting facts and load up on brochures and pamphlets.

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  45. When I began working as a librarian in our small public library, our only options for research and reference were books and magazines. Searching online came much later so I am used to looking for old books to further my knowledge. I must say that Google has made everything so much easier and even though I use Wikipedia, I have always cautioned patrons to check further on the facts they find there. Mary, thanks for sharing and I would love to be entered in your drawing.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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