You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

Cat_243_dover By Mary Jo

One really has to enjoy history to write historical novels.  You have to love the past, which is another country, and love creating a sense of that for readers.  As a corollary, you’d better enjoy research, too, and not just because you need to know facts to create a sense of time and place before you can set a story in the past effectively.

So research is necessary as well as fun.  (Think of Loretta’s pigs!!!)  The bonus is when you discover bits and pieces of the past that fit beautifully into a plot.  Things that you couldn’t make up if you tried.  So today, I thought I’d mention some cool finds that influenced some of my stories, or even inspired the whole thing. 

My favorite story of this type is an anecdote I found in a book on Cornish mining when I was researching mining and Methodists for Thunder and Roses.  There were a lot of mines in Wales and Cornwall, and a lot of Methodists since itinerant preachers reached out to the poor and the downtrodden, which included miners.  (The established church tended to minister mostly to the upper and middle classes.) 

It was in this mode that I read of a Cornish mine that was about to explode.  The two miners down the shaft realized this—perhaps they smelled the amount of gas.  The only way out was a single little lift bucket that could carry one man, but not two.  They stare at each other.  Who will got first and have the best chance of survival? 

1941b Then one man says to the other, “You go first.”  Not waiting around to argue, the second man jumped into the bucket and hauled himself to the surface.  Before the bucket can go down again, the mine explodes.  All the miners immediately set to work to dig out the poor devil who was trapped below, because in a hard job like mining, you take care of your own.

The work goes well, and for a miracle, they find that the timber supports had fallen in a way that provided a protected space for the man who had been caught below.  He is pulled out, not seriously injured.  My imagination constructs the scene along the lines of the second man leaning over the first and crying, “Ralph, Ralph, thank God you’re safe!  (For some reason, I always think of him as Ralph. <G>)  But why did you tell me to go first?”

The lucky survivor looked up and said, “Well, I’m a good Methodist and knew I was going to heaven, but I wasn’t so sure about you.”

I loved that story so much that I put a mine cave collapse in Thunder and Roses so I could use a variation of that scene. <g>

Controversial_countess Another bit of trivia was when I was researching the Paris Peace Conference that was held after Waterloo to decide just what they should do with Napoleon this time.  This was in pre-internet days, and I remember I had to do a lot of scrabbling before I determined as basic a fact as that the conference was held in Paris, not a return to Vienna, where the Congres was held.  (The book was The Controversial Countess, later rewritten as Petals in the Storm.) 

In those days, my research started with heading down to the main Baltimore city library, which the state had designated a research center.  It has a terrific collection, with multiple sub-levels of book storage. 

I would trot down into the city and take with me a large tote bag and fill it with books that looked useful until I couldn’t move it.  Then I’d take out the last book so I could lift the bag, barely, and stagger home. I’d go through the books, photocopying bits that were particularly useful, and I’d mine the bibliographies to find more volumes to order through interlibrary loan.  Ah, the good old days… Not that I’d trade Google for anything! 

Lord_castlereagh At any rate, while researching the book, I found a little footnote that mentioned that the British Foreign Minister, Lord Castlereagh, (left) was injured by a horse in the embassy stables.  At the height of the negotiations, he spent several days conducting business from his bed.

Cool!  This gave me a rather nifty little scene where the hero and the heroine rescue Castlereagh from being killed by the horse.  Because it’s fiction, I had them recognize that it was no accident—someone was trying to kill the British foreign minister.  It became part of my spy plot, and the hero got a chance to be heroic. 

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, the whole of my most recent book, A Distant Magic, was inspired when I read how a key leader in the British abolition movement was almost murdered by angry slave ship sailors.  It struck me how critical Thomas Clarkson’s death would have been, and how fragile the early abolition movement was.  It took a long time to turn that wisp of an idea into a story, but I never would have even tried if I hadn’t read that half page anecdote in Bury the Chains.

Of course, research is an endless treasure chest of potential material, most of which can’t be used.  Bactrian_camel When I’m researching, I buy books, use Highlighters and Post-It notes madly, and sort of fill my head with a cloud of possible material.  As I write the story, I’ll pull things out of the cloud.  “Didn’t I read something about the double baskets used to carry travelers on Bactrian camels in Central Asia?” 

So I’ll look up the reference, get the details straight, then incorporate it into the story.  When a book is finished, a lot of the cloud evaporates, especially those pieces of material that didn’t get used.  But in a pinch, I can always go back to files to verify.  Well, usually. 

The lords we write about were pretty much always landowners, which it to say, farmers.  Since I grew up on a farm, I wanted to incorporate this aspect of life into some of my books.  My most agricultural story is The Rake (originally The Rake and the Reformer), in which the hero, Reggie, becomes owner of the much loved estate where he grew up. 

Sheep_washing Part of his healing from alcoholism is through his reconnecting with the land.  One scene that people often mention to me is the sheep washing, when sheep are washed in the spring prior to being sheared.  I came across references to this in a couple of books, and it was a perfect way to show Reggie participating in a group activity with his tenants and laborers, and to give a glimpse of English country life.

Another lovely bit I found in a book where how newly cut fleeces “breathe” when they’re stacked in a storeroom.  I assume the temperature changes and air escapes, so they sigh and shift as if they’re getting more comfortable.  Again, that was incorporated into an introspective sort of scene.  This is how tapestries of story are woven, thread by thread. 

Mechanical_toy Ideas are everywhere—it’s execution that’s the real challenge.  Once I saw a listing for a remaindered book on antique mechanical toys, and it immediately came up with a subplot for obscene wind-up toys in Dancing on the Wind.  As so often happens, that subplot blossomed into an over-the-top finale featuring huge, steam-powered metal statues with murderous habits.

Of course, no matter how much research we do, there are always people who think we got it wrong, and a few can be rather rude in telling us so.  Sometimes disagreements are legitimate—there are a lot more gray areas in history than there are iron-clad facts.  But sometimes the questioner is just plain wrong.  (And to be fair, sometimes the writer is!)

My favorite example of such things happened to my friend Susan Grant when she entered a story with a female pilot heroine in a contest.  A judge told her that she should stick to writing about things she knew about.  Since Susan is an Air Force Academy graduate, was a fighter pilot instructor, and is currently a pilot for United Airlines, she got quite a chuckle out of this. <G>  ( http://susangrant.com/ )

I like to add historical notes to most of my books, since I figure that at least some readers are like me and want to know what bits are true and what is invention.  I also use this to explain some of the more unexpected pieces of history that I use.  (Yes, there really were attempts to give blood transfusions before the 20th century.  Usually disastrous, but they did happen.) 

Because really, you can’t invent some of this stuff.  <g>  Do you have some favorite historical tidbits that you’ve loved finding in books, or written into your own books?  Please share!

Diving_bell Mary Jo, who discovered the coolest material about diving bells for her current work in process….

105 thoughts on “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”

  1. Oh I heartily agree. The books that touch me, the ones that stay with me for weeks after, tend to be the ones that seem the most connected to the setting.
    Oh I enjoy some romps from time to time, but when I’m in a reading slump, I turn back to those really “historical” historical romance novels time and time again. To be blunt, I feel short-changed and offended when a historical romance doesn’t immerse me in the setting because I feel that in order to do the characters and their conflict justice, it MUST be entwined with the place the author has plunked them into. If not, then we end up with heroes who fought in Waterloo and come back to a cheery ton where they slap their fellow (peer) survivors on the back and heroines who didn’t lose anyone or anything in that long, eventful war–where is the conflict? The emotional texture?
    It’s because I’ve found that texture to be few and far between in the past year that I haven’t read as many historical romance novels as I have in the past. Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.

    Reply
  2. Oh I heartily agree. The books that touch me, the ones that stay with me for weeks after, tend to be the ones that seem the most connected to the setting.
    Oh I enjoy some romps from time to time, but when I’m in a reading slump, I turn back to those really “historical” historical romance novels time and time again. To be blunt, I feel short-changed and offended when a historical romance doesn’t immerse me in the setting because I feel that in order to do the characters and their conflict justice, it MUST be entwined with the place the author has plunked them into. If not, then we end up with heroes who fought in Waterloo and come back to a cheery ton where they slap their fellow (peer) survivors on the back and heroines who didn’t lose anyone or anything in that long, eventful war–where is the conflict? The emotional texture?
    It’s because I’ve found that texture to be few and far between in the past year that I haven’t read as many historical romance novels as I have in the past. Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.

    Reply
  3. Oh I heartily agree. The books that touch me, the ones that stay with me for weeks after, tend to be the ones that seem the most connected to the setting.
    Oh I enjoy some romps from time to time, but when I’m in a reading slump, I turn back to those really “historical” historical romance novels time and time again. To be blunt, I feel short-changed and offended when a historical romance doesn’t immerse me in the setting because I feel that in order to do the characters and their conflict justice, it MUST be entwined with the place the author has plunked them into. If not, then we end up with heroes who fought in Waterloo and come back to a cheery ton where they slap their fellow (peer) survivors on the back and heroines who didn’t lose anyone or anything in that long, eventful war–where is the conflict? The emotional texture?
    It’s because I’ve found that texture to be few and far between in the past year that I haven’t read as many historical romance novels as I have in the past. Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.

    Reply
  4. Oh I heartily agree. The books that touch me, the ones that stay with me for weeks after, tend to be the ones that seem the most connected to the setting.
    Oh I enjoy some romps from time to time, but when I’m in a reading slump, I turn back to those really “historical” historical romance novels time and time again. To be blunt, I feel short-changed and offended when a historical romance doesn’t immerse me in the setting because I feel that in order to do the characters and their conflict justice, it MUST be entwined with the place the author has plunked them into. If not, then we end up with heroes who fought in Waterloo and come back to a cheery ton where they slap their fellow (peer) survivors on the back and heroines who didn’t lose anyone or anything in that long, eventful war–where is the conflict? The emotional texture?
    It’s because I’ve found that texture to be few and far between in the past year that I haven’t read as many historical romance novels as I have in the past. Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.

    Reply
  5. Oh I heartily agree. The books that touch me, the ones that stay with me for weeks after, tend to be the ones that seem the most connected to the setting.
    Oh I enjoy some romps from time to time, but when I’m in a reading slump, I turn back to those really “historical” historical romance novels time and time again. To be blunt, I feel short-changed and offended when a historical romance doesn’t immerse me in the setting because I feel that in order to do the characters and their conflict justice, it MUST be entwined with the place the author has plunked them into. If not, then we end up with heroes who fought in Waterloo and come back to a cheery ton where they slap their fellow (peer) survivors on the back and heroines who didn’t lose anyone or anything in that long, eventful war–where is the conflict? The emotional texture?
    It’s because I’ve found that texture to be few and far between in the past year that I haven’t read as many historical romance novels as I have in the past. Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.

    Reply
  6. I certainly hope everybody is as meticulous a researcher as you are, because I do think I’m getting smarter as I read historicals!
    They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel. Well before the days of Wikipedia, he came in the next class and droned on about the girl who might have been queen.

    Reply
  7. I certainly hope everybody is as meticulous a researcher as you are, because I do think I’m getting smarter as I read historicals!
    They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel. Well before the days of Wikipedia, he came in the next class and droned on about the girl who might have been queen.

    Reply
  8. I certainly hope everybody is as meticulous a researcher as you are, because I do think I’m getting smarter as I read historicals!
    They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel. Well before the days of Wikipedia, he came in the next class and droned on about the girl who might have been queen.

    Reply
  9. I certainly hope everybody is as meticulous a researcher as you are, because I do think I’m getting smarter as I read historicals!
    They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel. Well before the days of Wikipedia, he came in the next class and droned on about the girl who might have been queen.

    Reply
  10. I certainly hope everybody is as meticulous a researcher as you are, because I do think I’m getting smarter as I read historicals!
    They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel. Well before the days of Wikipedia, he came in the next class and droned on about the girl who might have been queen.

    Reply
  11. This got me to thinking- almost everything I know about the Regency period, including details of Waterloo, social mores, clothing styles, etc., has been gleaned from fiction. My non-fiction reading is usually archeology/paleontology/earth sciences related. I’ve never read a biography of Beau Brummel or Wellington, a history of anything military, or a study of 19th century religious movement in Britain. But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!

    Reply
  12. This got me to thinking- almost everything I know about the Regency period, including details of Waterloo, social mores, clothing styles, etc., has been gleaned from fiction. My non-fiction reading is usually archeology/paleontology/earth sciences related. I’ve never read a biography of Beau Brummel or Wellington, a history of anything military, or a study of 19th century religious movement in Britain. But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!

    Reply
  13. This got me to thinking- almost everything I know about the Regency period, including details of Waterloo, social mores, clothing styles, etc., has been gleaned from fiction. My non-fiction reading is usually archeology/paleontology/earth sciences related. I’ve never read a biography of Beau Brummel or Wellington, a history of anything military, or a study of 19th century religious movement in Britain. But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!

    Reply
  14. This got me to thinking- almost everything I know about the Regency period, including details of Waterloo, social mores, clothing styles, etc., has been gleaned from fiction. My non-fiction reading is usually archeology/paleontology/earth sciences related. I’ve never read a biography of Beau Brummel or Wellington, a history of anything military, or a study of 19th century religious movement in Britain. But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!

    Reply
  15. This got me to thinking- almost everything I know about the Regency period, including details of Waterloo, social mores, clothing styles, etc., has been gleaned from fiction. My non-fiction reading is usually archeology/paleontology/earth sciences related. I’ve never read a biography of Beau Brummel or Wellington, a history of anything military, or a study of 19th century religious movement in Britain. But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!

    Reply
  16. What a fantastic post! I love the “strange (but true)” bits of history that I stumble across, and I horde them up for books. I also love the tiny things, like quotes, that I come across. I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!).

    Reply
  17. What a fantastic post! I love the “strange (but true)” bits of history that I stumble across, and I horde them up for books. I also love the tiny things, like quotes, that I come across. I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!).

    Reply
  18. What a fantastic post! I love the “strange (but true)” bits of history that I stumble across, and I horde them up for books. I also love the tiny things, like quotes, that I come across. I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!).

    Reply
  19. What a fantastic post! I love the “strange (but true)” bits of history that I stumble across, and I horde them up for books. I also love the tiny things, like quotes, that I come across. I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!).

    Reply
  20. What a fantastic post! I love the “strange (but true)” bits of history that I stumble across, and I horde them up for books. I also love the tiny things, like quotes, that I come across. I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!).

    Reply
  21. Great post, Mary Jo! I love those historical “too good to be true” types of things.
    As Maggie said, I get smarter as I read historicals.
    My favorite bits of history are the questionable ones. The “what ifs” historians can’t quite agree upon. Like Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witch-hunter General who died in 1647. Some say he “quietly” died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own “swimming” test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.
    Nina

    Reply
  22. Great post, Mary Jo! I love those historical “too good to be true” types of things.
    As Maggie said, I get smarter as I read historicals.
    My favorite bits of history are the questionable ones. The “what ifs” historians can’t quite agree upon. Like Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witch-hunter General who died in 1647. Some say he “quietly” died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own “swimming” test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.
    Nina

    Reply
  23. Great post, Mary Jo! I love those historical “too good to be true” types of things.
    As Maggie said, I get smarter as I read historicals.
    My favorite bits of history are the questionable ones. The “what ifs” historians can’t quite agree upon. Like Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witch-hunter General who died in 1647. Some say he “quietly” died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own “swimming” test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.
    Nina

    Reply
  24. Great post, Mary Jo! I love those historical “too good to be true” types of things.
    As Maggie said, I get smarter as I read historicals.
    My favorite bits of history are the questionable ones. The “what ifs” historians can’t quite agree upon. Like Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witch-hunter General who died in 1647. Some say he “quietly” died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own “swimming” test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.
    Nina

    Reply
  25. Great post, Mary Jo! I love those historical “too good to be true” types of things.
    As Maggie said, I get smarter as I read historicals.
    My favorite bits of history are the questionable ones. The “what ifs” historians can’t quite agree upon. Like Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witch-hunter General who died in 1647. Some say he “quietly” died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own “swimming” test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.
    Nina

    Reply
  26. Oh, I forgot to add that the town where Hopkins was supposedly “tried” was also the birthplace of William Godwin, one of the first exponents of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means).
    A touch of poetic justice, perhaps?

    Reply
  27. Oh, I forgot to add that the town where Hopkins was supposedly “tried” was also the birthplace of William Godwin, one of the first exponents of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means).
    A touch of poetic justice, perhaps?

    Reply
  28. Oh, I forgot to add that the town where Hopkins was supposedly “tried” was also the birthplace of William Godwin, one of the first exponents of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means).
    A touch of poetic justice, perhaps?

    Reply
  29. Oh, I forgot to add that the town where Hopkins was supposedly “tried” was also the birthplace of William Godwin, one of the first exponents of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means).
    A touch of poetic justice, perhaps?

    Reply
  30. Oh, I forgot to add that the town where Hopkins was supposedly “tried” was also the birthplace of William Godwin, one of the first exponents of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means).
    A touch of poetic justice, perhaps?

    Reply
  31. From MJP:
    >>Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.<< I do hope you're right, Angela. One hurdle in this area is the decreasing length of books. Publishers want shorter books to keep costs down, and time-pressed readers don't always feel up to tackling big fat books, but it's a lot harder to do rich, layered historicals at a word count of 90-100K. But we can -try.- >>They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel.<< LOL! It was a good day for your history class. 🙂 But it's to his credit that he did the research and told the class about Arbella. >> But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!>>
    We try, Gretchen! Some stories don’t require as much history as others, but I think that if the author has done her homework, there’s a sense of plausibility about the story. When it’s missing, the story just sort of floats there.
    >>I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!). >>
    That definitely sounds poetic, Kalen. 🙂 I’m more prone to just toss scraps of paper, newspaper articles, etc. into the book folders that I set up. (Sometimes well before the book is actually written.)
    << Some say he "quietly" died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own "swimming" test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.<< I imagine TB is more likely, but one can hope....:) Mary Jo

    Reply
  32. From MJP:
    >>Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.<< I do hope you're right, Angela. One hurdle in this area is the decreasing length of books. Publishers want shorter books to keep costs down, and time-pressed readers don't always feel up to tackling big fat books, but it's a lot harder to do rich, layered historicals at a word count of 90-100K. But we can -try.- >>They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel.<< LOL! It was a good day for your history class. 🙂 But it's to his credit that he did the research and told the class about Arbella. >> But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!>>
    We try, Gretchen! Some stories don’t require as much history as others, but I think that if the author has done her homework, there’s a sense of plausibility about the story. When it’s missing, the story just sort of floats there.
    >>I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!). >>
    That definitely sounds poetic, Kalen. 🙂 I’m more prone to just toss scraps of paper, newspaper articles, etc. into the book folders that I set up. (Sometimes well before the book is actually written.)
    << Some say he "quietly" died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own "swimming" test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.<< I imagine TB is more likely, but one can hope....:) Mary Jo

    Reply
  33. From MJP:
    >>Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.<< I do hope you're right, Angela. One hurdle in this area is the decreasing length of books. Publishers want shorter books to keep costs down, and time-pressed readers don't always feel up to tackling big fat books, but it's a lot harder to do rich, layered historicals at a word count of 90-100K. But we can -try.- >>They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel.<< LOL! It was a good day for your history class. 🙂 But it's to his credit that he did the research and told the class about Arbella. >> But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!>>
    We try, Gretchen! Some stories don’t require as much history as others, but I think that if the author has done her homework, there’s a sense of plausibility about the story. When it’s missing, the story just sort of floats there.
    >>I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!). >>
    That definitely sounds poetic, Kalen. 🙂 I’m more prone to just toss scraps of paper, newspaper articles, etc. into the book folders that I set up. (Sometimes well before the book is actually written.)
    << Some say he "quietly" died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own "swimming" test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.<< I imagine TB is more likely, but one can hope....:) Mary Jo

    Reply
  34. From MJP:
    >>Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.<< I do hope you're right, Angela. One hurdle in this area is the decreasing length of books. Publishers want shorter books to keep costs down, and time-pressed readers don't always feel up to tackling big fat books, but it's a lot harder to do rich, layered historicals at a word count of 90-100K. But we can -try.- >>They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel.<< LOL! It was a good day for your history class. 🙂 But it's to his credit that he did the research and told the class about Arbella. >> But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!>>
    We try, Gretchen! Some stories don’t require as much history as others, but I think that if the author has done her homework, there’s a sense of plausibility about the story. When it’s missing, the story just sort of floats there.
    >>I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!). >>
    That definitely sounds poetic, Kalen. 🙂 I’m more prone to just toss scraps of paper, newspaper articles, etc. into the book folders that I set up. (Sometimes well before the book is actually written.)
    << Some say he "quietly" died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own "swimming" test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.<< I imagine TB is more likely, but one can hope....:) Mary Jo

    Reply
  35. From MJP:
    >>Hopefully, the tide is turning backwards to those rich, layered, historically-authentic historical romances.<< I do hope you're right, Angela. One hurdle in this area is the decreasing length of books. Publishers want shorter books to keep costs down, and time-pressed readers don't always feel up to tackling big fat books, but it's a lot harder to do rich, layered historicals at a word count of 90-100K. But we can -try.- >>They are much more engaging than Mr. Fish’s high school World History class, where I once stumped him about Arbella Stuart after reading about her in a historical novel.<< LOL! It was a good day for your history class. 🙂 But it's to his credit that he did the research and told the class about Arbella. >> But I know a surprising amount about all, thanks to the research my favorite authors have undertaken on behalf of their readers. So thanks,wenches, for being both entertaining and educational. As a teacher, I know how hard that can be!>>
    We try, Gretchen! Some stories don’t require as much history as others, but I think that if the author has done her homework, there’s a sense of plausibility about the story. When it’s missing, the story just sort of floats there.
    >>I keep a journal that I jot all this stuff down in so I don’t lose it (I think that’s the poet in me, LOL!). >>
    That definitely sounds poetic, Kalen. 🙂 I’m more prone to just toss scraps of paper, newspaper articles, etc. into the book folders that I set up. (Sometimes well before the book is actually written.)
    << Some say he "quietly" died of TB in his home. Some say disgruntled villagers caught Hopkins and subjected him to his own "swimming" test. He floated, and thus hanged as a witch.<< I imagine TB is more likely, but one can hope....:) Mary Jo

    Reply
  36. An incident that made me stop mid-research to think, “There’s a story there, though I’m not sure I’m the one to write it”:
    When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record. The author of the history I was reading speculated about whether any of them saw Moscow, served in Spain, etc.

    Reply
  37. An incident that made me stop mid-research to think, “There’s a story there, though I’m not sure I’m the one to write it”:
    When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record. The author of the history I was reading speculated about whether any of them saw Moscow, served in Spain, etc.

    Reply
  38. An incident that made me stop mid-research to think, “There’s a story there, though I’m not sure I’m the one to write it”:
    When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record. The author of the history I was reading speculated about whether any of them saw Moscow, served in Spain, etc.

    Reply
  39. An incident that made me stop mid-research to think, “There’s a story there, though I’m not sure I’m the one to write it”:
    When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record. The author of the history I was reading speculated about whether any of them saw Moscow, served in Spain, etc.

    Reply
  40. An incident that made me stop mid-research to think, “There’s a story there, though I’m not sure I’m the one to write it”:
    When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record. The author of the history I was reading speculated about whether any of them saw Moscow, served in Spain, etc.

    Reply
  41. Wonderful post. Enjoyed the bits about the mine cave-in, and the sheepskins.
    I love going to the library and gathering up potential sources of treasure. My current budget makes me a library-girl. Sometimes I buy used books on Amazon, occasionally paying more for postage than for the books, and it’s pure pleasure to mark them all up.
    The oddest tid-bit I’ve yet used comes from the history of stage magicians. There was an early 19th century conjuror who claimed to cut the head off a fowl, and then restore it to life. It was done with tables and two chickens.
    My manuscript is a paranormal, so in my story the fowl is truly restored. 🙂 Ah, the power of the pen.

    Reply
  42. Wonderful post. Enjoyed the bits about the mine cave-in, and the sheepskins.
    I love going to the library and gathering up potential sources of treasure. My current budget makes me a library-girl. Sometimes I buy used books on Amazon, occasionally paying more for postage than for the books, and it’s pure pleasure to mark them all up.
    The oddest tid-bit I’ve yet used comes from the history of stage magicians. There was an early 19th century conjuror who claimed to cut the head off a fowl, and then restore it to life. It was done with tables and two chickens.
    My manuscript is a paranormal, so in my story the fowl is truly restored. 🙂 Ah, the power of the pen.

    Reply
  43. Wonderful post. Enjoyed the bits about the mine cave-in, and the sheepskins.
    I love going to the library and gathering up potential sources of treasure. My current budget makes me a library-girl. Sometimes I buy used books on Amazon, occasionally paying more for postage than for the books, and it’s pure pleasure to mark them all up.
    The oddest tid-bit I’ve yet used comes from the history of stage magicians. There was an early 19th century conjuror who claimed to cut the head off a fowl, and then restore it to life. It was done with tables and two chickens.
    My manuscript is a paranormal, so in my story the fowl is truly restored. 🙂 Ah, the power of the pen.

    Reply
  44. Wonderful post. Enjoyed the bits about the mine cave-in, and the sheepskins.
    I love going to the library and gathering up potential sources of treasure. My current budget makes me a library-girl. Sometimes I buy used books on Amazon, occasionally paying more for postage than for the books, and it’s pure pleasure to mark them all up.
    The oddest tid-bit I’ve yet used comes from the history of stage magicians. There was an early 19th century conjuror who claimed to cut the head off a fowl, and then restore it to life. It was done with tables and two chickens.
    My manuscript is a paranormal, so in my story the fowl is truly restored. 🙂 Ah, the power of the pen.

    Reply
  45. Wonderful post. Enjoyed the bits about the mine cave-in, and the sheepskins.
    I love going to the library and gathering up potential sources of treasure. My current budget makes me a library-girl. Sometimes I buy used books on Amazon, occasionally paying more for postage than for the books, and it’s pure pleasure to mark them all up.
    The oddest tid-bit I’ve yet used comes from the history of stage magicians. There was an early 19th century conjuror who claimed to cut the head off a fowl, and then restore it to life. It was done with tables and two chickens.
    My manuscript is a paranormal, so in my story the fowl is truly restored. 🙂 Ah, the power of the pen.

    Reply
  46. Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide. I learned that in Regency England doctors used to demonstrate the gas’ effects at parties. I ended up writing such a party into my story.

    Reply
  47. Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide. I learned that in Regency England doctors used to demonstrate the gas’ effects at parties. I ended up writing such a party into my story.

    Reply
  48. Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide. I learned that in Regency England doctors used to demonstrate the gas’ effects at parties. I ended up writing such a party into my story.

    Reply
  49. Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide. I learned that in Regency England doctors used to demonstrate the gas’ effects at parties. I ended up writing such a party into my story.

    Reply
  50. Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide. I learned that in Regency England doctors used to demonstrate the gas’ effects at parties. I ended up writing such a party into my story.

    Reply
  51. From MJP:
    >>When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record.<< You're right, Susan--that's GREAT material! My guess is that when the French were ready to leave Egypt, the Sudanese draftees took off south for home, but maybe a few of them became part of the Grand Armee permanently. <>Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide.<< Isn't it cool stuff? I researched nitrous oxide for Dancing on the Wind, but I had a bunch of degenerates using it rather than doctors. Doctors -still- use it--a medical gentleman of my acquaintance told me about 'blue bag parties' when he was in dental school. 🙂 These sorts of details really enrich a story. Mary Jo Reply

  52. From MJP:
    >>When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record.<< You're right, Susan--that's GREAT material! My guess is that when the French were ready to leave Egypt, the Sudanese draftees took off south for home, but maybe a few of them became part of the Grand Armee permanently. <>Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide.<< Isn't it cool stuff? I researched nitrous oxide for Dancing on the Wind, but I had a bunch of degenerates using it rather than doctors. Doctors -still- use it--a medical gentleman of my acquaintance told me about 'blue bag parties' when he was in dental school. 🙂 These sorts of details really enrich a story. Mary Jo Reply

  53. From MJP:
    >>When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record.<< You're right, Susan--that's GREAT material! My guess is that when the French were ready to leave Egypt, the Sudanese draftees took off south for home, but maybe a few of them became part of the Grand Armee permanently. <>Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide.<< Isn't it cool stuff? I researched nitrous oxide for Dancing on the Wind, but I had a bunch of degenerates using it rather than doctors. Doctors -still- use it--a medical gentleman of my acquaintance told me about 'blue bag parties' when he was in dental school. 🙂 These sorts of details really enrich a story. Mary Jo Reply

  54. From MJP:
    >>When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record.<< You're right, Susan--that's GREAT material! My guess is that when the French were ready to leave Egypt, the Sudanese draftees took off south for home, but maybe a few of them became part of the Grand Armee permanently. <>Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide.<< Isn't it cool stuff? I researched nitrous oxide for Dancing on the Wind, but I had a bunch of degenerates using it rather than doctors. Doctors -still- use it--a medical gentleman of my acquaintance told me about 'blue bag parties' when he was in dental school. 🙂 These sorts of details really enrich a story. Mary Jo Reply

  55. From MJP:
    >>When the French under Napoleon were campaigning in Egypt, one of the regiments upon finding itself under strength went out and bought some Sudanese slaves from the market, freed them, and enlisted them as soldiers. Apparently they fought well, though they kind of fade out of the record.<< You're right, Susan--that's GREAT material! My guess is that when the French were ready to leave Egypt, the Sudanese draftees took off south for home, but maybe a few of them became part of the Grand Armee permanently. <>Research can provide great story ideas. For my book I had to research the history of nitrous oxide.<< Isn't it cool stuff? I researched nitrous oxide for Dancing on the Wind, but I had a bunch of degenerates using it rather than doctors. Doctors -still- use it--a medical gentleman of my acquaintance told me about 'blue bag parties' when he was in dental school. 🙂 These sorts of details really enrich a story. Mary Jo Reply

  56. If it hadn’t been for historical fiction, I would never have learned about Napoleon’s first love Desiree, who married one of his generals and became Queen of Sweden. I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

    Reply
  57. If it hadn’t been for historical fiction, I would never have learned about Napoleon’s first love Desiree, who married one of his generals and became Queen of Sweden. I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

    Reply
  58. If it hadn’t been for historical fiction, I would never have learned about Napoleon’s first love Desiree, who married one of his generals and became Queen of Sweden. I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

    Reply
  59. If it hadn’t been for historical fiction, I would never have learned about Napoleon’s first love Desiree, who married one of his generals and became Queen of Sweden. I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

    Reply
  60. If it hadn’t been for historical fiction, I would never have learned about Napoleon’s first love Desiree, who married one of his generals and became Queen of Sweden. I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

    Reply
  61. Am really enjoying this discussion, thanks, Mary Jo. One of the things that fascinate me about other writers is the thing that “seeds” a story and makes a curious anecdote or interesting fact ignite the imagination.
    I once saw an old engraving of aristocrats being carried over the alps in baskets, hefted by local peasants and I immediately knew I had to write a Grand Tour story to use it. And my research for that book led me to a rare book of letters written by a young woman travelling the same route that my heroine did at the same time. They’re wonderful letters, witty and entertaining and descriptive.
    And years ago I had a job reading century-old newspapers for a professor in the State Library, and while looking for his info, I came across so many wonderful bits and pieces. One was a story about a gentleman card cheat who’d been dumped on the first ship leaving Sydney harbour. He became the father of the heroine of my third historical.
    I used the reports of child labour investigations for the hero’s background in another book of mine. That was on the internet.
    It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.

    Reply
  62. Am really enjoying this discussion, thanks, Mary Jo. One of the things that fascinate me about other writers is the thing that “seeds” a story and makes a curious anecdote or interesting fact ignite the imagination.
    I once saw an old engraving of aristocrats being carried over the alps in baskets, hefted by local peasants and I immediately knew I had to write a Grand Tour story to use it. And my research for that book led me to a rare book of letters written by a young woman travelling the same route that my heroine did at the same time. They’re wonderful letters, witty and entertaining and descriptive.
    And years ago I had a job reading century-old newspapers for a professor in the State Library, and while looking for his info, I came across so many wonderful bits and pieces. One was a story about a gentleman card cheat who’d been dumped on the first ship leaving Sydney harbour. He became the father of the heroine of my third historical.
    I used the reports of child labour investigations for the hero’s background in another book of mine. That was on the internet.
    It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.

    Reply
  63. Am really enjoying this discussion, thanks, Mary Jo. One of the things that fascinate me about other writers is the thing that “seeds” a story and makes a curious anecdote or interesting fact ignite the imagination.
    I once saw an old engraving of aristocrats being carried over the alps in baskets, hefted by local peasants and I immediately knew I had to write a Grand Tour story to use it. And my research for that book led me to a rare book of letters written by a young woman travelling the same route that my heroine did at the same time. They’re wonderful letters, witty and entertaining and descriptive.
    And years ago I had a job reading century-old newspapers for a professor in the State Library, and while looking for his info, I came across so many wonderful bits and pieces. One was a story about a gentleman card cheat who’d been dumped on the first ship leaving Sydney harbour. He became the father of the heroine of my third historical.
    I used the reports of child labour investigations for the hero’s background in another book of mine. That was on the internet.
    It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.

    Reply
  64. Am really enjoying this discussion, thanks, Mary Jo. One of the things that fascinate me about other writers is the thing that “seeds” a story and makes a curious anecdote or interesting fact ignite the imagination.
    I once saw an old engraving of aristocrats being carried over the alps in baskets, hefted by local peasants and I immediately knew I had to write a Grand Tour story to use it. And my research for that book led me to a rare book of letters written by a young woman travelling the same route that my heroine did at the same time. They’re wonderful letters, witty and entertaining and descriptive.
    And years ago I had a job reading century-old newspapers for a professor in the State Library, and while looking for his info, I came across so many wonderful bits and pieces. One was a story about a gentleman card cheat who’d been dumped on the first ship leaving Sydney harbour. He became the father of the heroine of my third historical.
    I used the reports of child labour investigations for the hero’s background in another book of mine. That was on the internet.
    It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.

    Reply
  65. Am really enjoying this discussion, thanks, Mary Jo. One of the things that fascinate me about other writers is the thing that “seeds” a story and makes a curious anecdote or interesting fact ignite the imagination.
    I once saw an old engraving of aristocrats being carried over the alps in baskets, hefted by local peasants and I immediately knew I had to write a Grand Tour story to use it. And my research for that book led me to a rare book of letters written by a young woman travelling the same route that my heroine did at the same time. They’re wonderful letters, witty and entertaining and descriptive.
    And years ago I had a job reading century-old newspapers for a professor in the State Library, and while looking for his info, I came across so many wonderful bits and pieces. One was a story about a gentleman card cheat who’d been dumped on the first ship leaving Sydney harbour. He became the father of the heroine of my third historical.
    I used the reports of child labour investigations for the hero’s background in another book of mine. That was on the internet.
    It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.

    Reply
  66. Mary Jo! I got a google alert on your comment and it led me here. What a GREAT blog! And it was fun to remember that long-ago judge’s comment to me. Shoot that must have been back in 1998 or so. To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. 🙂

    Reply
  67. Mary Jo! I got a google alert on your comment and it led me here. What a GREAT blog! And it was fun to remember that long-ago judge’s comment to me. Shoot that must have been back in 1998 or so. To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. 🙂

    Reply
  68. Mary Jo! I got a google alert on your comment and it led me here. What a GREAT blog! And it was fun to remember that long-ago judge’s comment to me. Shoot that must have been back in 1998 or so. To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. 🙂

    Reply
  69. Mary Jo! I got a google alert on your comment and it led me here. What a GREAT blog! And it was fun to remember that long-ago judge’s comment to me. Shoot that must have been back in 1998 or so. To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. 🙂

    Reply
  70. Mary Jo! I got a google alert on your comment and it led me here. What a GREAT blog! And it was fun to remember that long-ago judge’s comment to me. Shoot that must have been back in 1998 or so. To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. 🙂

    Reply
  71. From MJP:
    >>I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.<< I'm the same--a great story can take me to places I'd never imagined. >>It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.<< Anne, that's so true, and there's a corollary: I find that when something interests me and I start collecting articles or books on the subject, pretty soon the Lizard Brain hands me a story idea that includes the material that interests me. THere is a reason why writers are so curious--curiosity provides us with endless material! >>To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. :)<< Susan, so nice that you dropped by! I always loved the story about the contest judge, but hadn't known that she generously offered to help you connect with someone who knew about flying. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  72. From MJP:
    >>I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.<< I'm the same--a great story can take me to places I'd never imagined. >>It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.<< Anne, that's so true, and there's a corollary: I find that when something interests me and I start collecting articles or books on the subject, pretty soon the Lizard Brain hands me a story idea that includes the material that interests me. THere is a reason why writers are so curious--curiosity provides us with endless material! >>To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. :)<< Susan, so nice that you dropped by! I always loved the story about the contest judge, but hadn't known that she generously offered to help you connect with someone who knew about flying. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  73. From MJP:
    >>I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.<< I'm the same--a great story can take me to places I'd never imagined. >>It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.<< Anne, that's so true, and there's a corollary: I find that when something interests me and I start collecting articles or books on the subject, pretty soon the Lizard Brain hands me a story idea that includes the material that interests me. THere is a reason why writers are so curious--curiosity provides us with endless material! >>To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. :)<< Susan, so nice that you dropped by! I always loved the story about the contest judge, but hadn't known that she generously offered to help you connect with someone who knew about flying. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  74. From MJP:
    >>I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.<< I'm the same--a great story can take me to places I'd never imagined. >>It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.<< Anne, that's so true, and there's a corollary: I find that when something interests me and I start collecting articles or books on the subject, pretty soon the Lizard Brain hands me a story idea that includes the material that interests me. THere is a reason why writers are so curious--curiosity provides us with endless material! >>To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. :)<< Susan, so nice that you dropped by! I always loved the story about the contest judge, but hadn't known that she generously offered to help you connect with someone who knew about flying. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  75. From MJP:
    >>I’ve always been a history geek, but historical fiction has opened me up to other eras of history that I might never have learned about, like Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.<< I'm the same--a great story can take me to places I'd never imagined. >>It’s just brilliant to be able to get access to such things. And we’re so lucky to be able to incorporate our interests into our work.<< Anne, that's so true, and there's a corollary: I find that when something interests me and I start collecting articles or books on the subject, pretty soon the Lizard Brain hands me a story idea that includes the material that interests me. THere is a reason why writers are so curious--curiosity provides us with endless material! >>To the judge’s credit, she did offer to put me in touch with her cousin or a friend of a cousin who knew a guy who’d flown in Vietnam. He’d be able to tell me somethin’ about airplanes. :)<< Susan, so nice that you dropped by! I always loved the story about the contest judge, but hadn't known that she generously offered to help you connect with someone who knew about flying. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  76. Yesterday I did a search (I can’t remember WHY!) for “getting there” and was led to a New Yorker archive article about an early McNally (Rand-McNally connection) who took his wife on a honeymoon to Minnesota (from Chicago) in 1907, taking photos at every turning along the way, in order to make an early version of a TripTik or something like that. The URL is http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/24/060424fa_fact . It got me thinking about how difficult it must have been to navigate during the Regency, once one got beyond the beaten path. I wonder if anybody ever started out for Gretna Green and got lost? It seems likely enough; I know more than one person who can’t find his way around even today!

    Reply
  77. Yesterday I did a search (I can’t remember WHY!) for “getting there” and was led to a New Yorker archive article about an early McNally (Rand-McNally connection) who took his wife on a honeymoon to Minnesota (from Chicago) in 1907, taking photos at every turning along the way, in order to make an early version of a TripTik or something like that. The URL is http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/24/060424fa_fact . It got me thinking about how difficult it must have been to navigate during the Regency, once one got beyond the beaten path. I wonder if anybody ever started out for Gretna Green and got lost? It seems likely enough; I know more than one person who can’t find his way around even today!

    Reply
  78. Yesterday I did a search (I can’t remember WHY!) for “getting there” and was led to a New Yorker archive article about an early McNally (Rand-McNally connection) who took his wife on a honeymoon to Minnesota (from Chicago) in 1907, taking photos at every turning along the way, in order to make an early version of a TripTik or something like that. The URL is http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/24/060424fa_fact . It got me thinking about how difficult it must have been to navigate during the Regency, once one got beyond the beaten path. I wonder if anybody ever started out for Gretna Green and got lost? It seems likely enough; I know more than one person who can’t find his way around even today!

    Reply
  79. Yesterday I did a search (I can’t remember WHY!) for “getting there” and was led to a New Yorker archive article about an early McNally (Rand-McNally connection) who took his wife on a honeymoon to Minnesota (from Chicago) in 1907, taking photos at every turning along the way, in order to make an early version of a TripTik or something like that. The URL is http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/24/060424fa_fact . It got me thinking about how difficult it must have been to navigate during the Regency, once one got beyond the beaten path. I wonder if anybody ever started out for Gretna Green and got lost? It seems likely enough; I know more than one person who can’t find his way around even today!

    Reply
  80. Yesterday I did a search (I can’t remember WHY!) for “getting there” and was led to a New Yorker archive article about an early McNally (Rand-McNally connection) who took his wife on a honeymoon to Minnesota (from Chicago) in 1907, taking photos at every turning along the way, in order to make an early version of a TripTik or something like that. The URL is http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/24/060424fa_fact . It got me thinking about how difficult it must have been to navigate during the Regency, once one got beyond the beaten path. I wonder if anybody ever started out for Gretna Green and got lost? It seems likely enough; I know more than one person who can’t find his way around even today!

    Reply
  81. And roads are not always clearly marked! I totally took a wrong fork on a back mountain road up by Yosemite last week. Luckily I know the area pretty well and I quickly figured out that the road I was on would come out very near the one I was looking for . . . and I had a full tank of gas. LOL!

    Reply
  82. And roads are not always clearly marked! I totally took a wrong fork on a back mountain road up by Yosemite last week. Luckily I know the area pretty well and I quickly figured out that the road I was on would come out very near the one I was looking for . . . and I had a full tank of gas. LOL!

    Reply
  83. And roads are not always clearly marked! I totally took a wrong fork on a back mountain road up by Yosemite last week. Luckily I know the area pretty well and I quickly figured out that the road I was on would come out very near the one I was looking for . . . and I had a full tank of gas. LOL!

    Reply
  84. And roads are not always clearly marked! I totally took a wrong fork on a back mountain road up by Yosemite last week. Luckily I know the area pretty well and I quickly figured out that the road I was on would come out very near the one I was looking for . . . and I had a full tank of gas. LOL!

    Reply
  85. And roads are not always clearly marked! I totally took a wrong fork on a back mountain road up by Yosemite last week. Luckily I know the area pretty well and I quickly figured out that the road I was on would come out very near the one I was looking for . . . and I had a full tank of gas. LOL!

    Reply
  86. Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales. My WIP is a bit of a road story, and lately I’ve been toggling between the 1790 map to see where the roads and villages were to the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.

    Reply
  87. Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales. My WIP is a bit of a road story, and lately I’ve been toggling between the 1790 map to see where the roads and villages were to the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.

    Reply
  88. Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales. My WIP is a bit of a road story, and lately I’ve been toggling between the 1790 map to see where the roads and villages were to the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.

    Reply
  89. Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales. My WIP is a bit of a road story, and lately I’ve been toggling between the 1790 map to see where the roads and villages were to the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.

    Reply
  90. Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales. My WIP is a bit of a road story, and lately I’ve been toggling between the 1790 map to see where the roads and villages were to the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.

    Reply
  91. Mary Jo, I loved your post. My current home of Portland, Oregon got its name when settlers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove tossed a penny to decide on the name of their new town. Lovejoy, from Boston, wanted to name it Boston. Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
    Since the subject of nitrous oxide came up, I’ll confess that I spent the night at a frat house at MIT once in college (don’t ask) and the frat boys sat in a circle, took hits off nitrous oxide tanks, and passed out. Then they woke up and did it again. It was an interesting evening. . .I wonder what those guys are doing now? Probably running the CDC or Los Alamos or SDI or something.

    Reply
  92. Mary Jo, I loved your post. My current home of Portland, Oregon got its name when settlers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove tossed a penny to decide on the name of their new town. Lovejoy, from Boston, wanted to name it Boston. Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
    Since the subject of nitrous oxide came up, I’ll confess that I spent the night at a frat house at MIT once in college (don’t ask) and the frat boys sat in a circle, took hits off nitrous oxide tanks, and passed out. Then they woke up and did it again. It was an interesting evening. . .I wonder what those guys are doing now? Probably running the CDC or Los Alamos or SDI or something.

    Reply
  93. Mary Jo, I loved your post. My current home of Portland, Oregon got its name when settlers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove tossed a penny to decide on the name of their new town. Lovejoy, from Boston, wanted to name it Boston. Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
    Since the subject of nitrous oxide came up, I’ll confess that I spent the night at a frat house at MIT once in college (don’t ask) and the frat boys sat in a circle, took hits off nitrous oxide tanks, and passed out. Then they woke up and did it again. It was an interesting evening. . .I wonder what those guys are doing now? Probably running the CDC or Los Alamos or SDI or something.

    Reply
  94. Mary Jo, I loved your post. My current home of Portland, Oregon got its name when settlers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove tossed a penny to decide on the name of their new town. Lovejoy, from Boston, wanted to name it Boston. Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
    Since the subject of nitrous oxide came up, I’ll confess that I spent the night at a frat house at MIT once in college (don’t ask) and the frat boys sat in a circle, took hits off nitrous oxide tanks, and passed out. Then they woke up and did it again. It was an interesting evening. . .I wonder what those guys are doing now? Probably running the CDC or Los Alamos or SDI or something.

    Reply
  95. Mary Jo, I loved your post. My current home of Portland, Oregon got its name when settlers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove tossed a penny to decide on the name of their new town. Lovejoy, from Boston, wanted to name it Boston. Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
    Since the subject of nitrous oxide came up, I’ll confess that I spent the night at a frat house at MIT once in college (don’t ask) and the frat boys sat in a circle, took hits off nitrous oxide tanks, and passed out. Then they woke up and did it again. It was an interesting evening. . .I wonder what those guys are doing now? Probably running the CDC or Los Alamos or SDI or something.

    Reply
  96. From MJP:
    >>Did anyone else see the episode of “Worst Jobs in History” where they wash sheep? I think it’s the “Worst Rural Jobs” episode. Man what a chore. << Sorry I missed that! Though as a country girl myself, I can think of worse jobs. 🙂 >>Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales.<< Interesting, Susan W! I had no idea. Must check this out. RevMelinda, funny how Portland got its name. As to the nitrous oxide--my research suggests that it's more fun and less destructive than a lot of highs, so maybe those MIT guys were brighter than the average frat boy. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  97. From MJP:
    >>Did anyone else see the episode of “Worst Jobs in History” where they wash sheep? I think it’s the “Worst Rural Jobs” episode. Man what a chore. << Sorry I missed that! Though as a country girl myself, I can think of worse jobs. 🙂 >>Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales.<< Interesting, Susan W! I had no idea. Must check this out. RevMelinda, funny how Portland got its name. As to the nitrous oxide--my research suggests that it's more fun and less destructive than a lot of highs, so maybe those MIT guys were brighter than the average frat boy. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  98. From MJP:
    >>Did anyone else see the episode of “Worst Jobs in History” where they wash sheep? I think it’s the “Worst Rural Jobs” episode. Man what a chore. << Sorry I missed that! Though as a country girl myself, I can think of worse jobs. 🙂 >>Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales.<< Interesting, Susan W! I had no idea. Must check this out. RevMelinda, funny how Portland got its name. As to the nitrous oxide--my research suggests that it's more fun and less destructive than a lot of highs, so maybe those MIT guys were brighter than the average frat boy. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  99. From MJP:
    >>Did anyone else see the episode of “Worst Jobs in History” where they wash sheep? I think it’s the “Worst Rural Jobs” episode. Man what a chore. << Sorry I missed that! Though as a country girl myself, I can think of worse jobs. 🙂 >>Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales.<< Interesting, Susan W! I had no idea. Must check this out. RevMelinda, funny how Portland got its name. As to the nitrous oxide--my research suggests that it's more fun and less destructive than a lot of highs, so maybe those MIT guys were brighter than the average frat boy. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply
  100. From MJP:
    >>Did anyone else see the episode of “Worst Jobs in History” where they wash sheep? I think it’s the “Worst Rural Jobs” episode. Man what a chore. << Sorry I missed that! Though as a country girl myself, I can think of worse jobs. 🙂 >>Any other Google Earth fans here? There’s a feature that overlays the globe with antique maps, including a 1790 map of England and Wales.<< Interesting, Susan W! I had no idea. Must check this out. RevMelinda, funny how Portland got its name. As to the nitrous oxide--my research suggests that it's more fun and less destructive than a lot of highs, so maybe those MIT guys were brighter than the average frat boy. 🙂 Mary Jo

    Reply

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