Monday, June 21, 2010
Blogging, Multi-tasking, and Research
Whether historical or contemporary, my books are set in Texas. I do a lot of research from books and online, of course, but I also rely on the way too many research books in my persoanl library. Contemporary research books include the Writer's Digest series. My favorite is DEADLY DOSES, which I also use for historicals. TEXAS ALMANAC is always handy, as is a Texas road map to help me visualize distances. Historical research involves the same books, but I also use a collection of severak memoirs written by early settlers. Fehrenbach's LONE STAR is the most easily read of all the history books I've found. I have several medical books, the funniest of which is DR. CHASE'S RECIPES FOR EVERDAY LIFE by A, W. Chase, MD, published by the author in 1866. This book includes not only his "recipes" for various maladies, but also notes on tanning hide, building furniture, and other things people of the time needed to know. The Writers Digest WRITER'S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE WILD WEST and THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIKE IN THE 1800'S are helpful, but there are errors in these books and writers much be wary. Barbara Belding Gibson's PAINTED POLE: THE BELDINGS AND THEIR RANCHES IN PALO PINTO COUNTY is one I have used a lot. In addition, I was fortunate enough to visit the ranch a few years ago. What a treat.
I am a book fiend. I scavenge book sales, garage sales, Goodwill, and other places for books that fall in my fields of interest. One never knows when a seemingly odd book might provide just the details of authenticity to make writing credible. For instance, in case you've wondered how people entertained friends and relatives for weeks on end when living in a small one-room cabin, I found one possible answer in TEXAS TEARS AND TEXAS SUNSHINE: VOICES OF FRONTIER WOMEN (if I remember correctly). One of the memoirs talked of visiting a relative. Since the guest was a woman, she slept against the wall with the wife between her and the husband. If the guest had been a man, he would have slept on the outside, with the husband between the guest and the wife. Imagine having sex while there's another person in bed pretending not to notice! Definitely no thanks! That offers way, way too little privacy for me! Maybe those sleeping arrangements were not widespread, but the writer seemed to think it was normal. I haven't used this in a book and don't plan to, but you get the idea of how such knowledge grounds an author in pioneer life. It reminds me of the first part of Janice Woods Windle's TRUE WOMEN in which the little girl watches through cracks in the loft floor at her sister and brother-in-law "playing" under the covers in the room below. I believe there was almost no privacy for pioneer women. Which mans that, while I love reading and writing about late 19th century life in Texas as I view it but as it probably wasn't, I realize I am so blessed to live in a house with electricity, modern plumbing, air-conditioning, and doors on all the multiple rooms.
What are your favorite research books?
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