Monday, October 03, 2016


As a certified nerd, I have always loved research. After my parents bought me a set of encyclopedias for my tenth birthday (before Google, folks), I was one of the kids who read the volumes for fun. I probably still would, but that old, 26-volume set was donated to charity a decade ago to free up bookshelf space. Now I rely on my personal Texas research books and good old Google and Wikipedia.  

While investigating one subject, I find numerous related ideas for other writings. In addition, I love reading interesting stories about people and places associated with my books. I don’t mind taking road trips for research trips, either.

Last year when writing O’NEILL’S TEXAS BRIDE, I delved into coal mining in Texas in the mid-nineteenth century. Until I lived in North Central Texas, I associated the Appalachian states with coal. I was surprised to learn that there have been numerous coal mines in Texas. There was even a town named Coal.

As is a hazard of research, I was caught up in the manner in which coal was mined centuries ago—the parts of which involving women and children were positively gross. Going off on a tandem as I often do is a distinct possibility and can be a serious time sink.

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Another time I got carried away is researching Irish Travelers for the book THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. Anything Irish fascinates me. I was fortunate enough to see Travelers in Ireland and their restored wagons in museums. In addition, I learned there was a large settlement of Travelers in a Fort Worth suburb.

For the same book, I wanted to know more about Lost Maples State Natural Area. On a trip back from San Antonio, my youngest daughter and I detoured by Lost Maples. No, it’s not on the way from San Antonio to Fort Worth, but we pretended it was and had a lovely time.

For my contemporary, GRANT ME THE MOON in COME LOVE A COWBOY, I researched Garza and Clovis archeological sites. The fictional hero found a site on his ranch that rivaled a Garza site in—wait for it—Garza County near Post. I learned new facts about prehistoric settlements. A few tidbits even made it into the book.

When researching railroad travel for THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, I really went overboard and visited several railroad museums and corresponded with museums in other parts of the country. Fascinating stuff, especially the MKT in Denison. Unfortunately, that museum was the victim of a squeeze by business interests and was closed. What a shame! My research yielded a two-inch binder filled with information on all aspects of nineteenth-century travel plus several books on the subject. Not wasted, since I’ve used the information in other books plus shared information with several friends.

The ranches I use for my Stone Mountain Texas/Men of Stone Mountain series were discovered on an historical tour of Palo Pinto County years ago. Barbara Belding Gibson had just released her book titled PAINTED POLE. She and her husband allowed visitors to tour their gorgeous, historic ranch, which was the perfect setting for my series. They preserved the original cabin and incorporated it into the current home. I've since toured her home two more times and have visited other historic ranches such as Johnson's League Ranch on a similar tour. Sadly, Mrs. Gibson passed away a few years ago at a moderately young age.

Masterson Ranch Line Shack at
the National Ranching Heritage Center
For ranch buildings, I love visiting the National Ranching Heritage Center on the campus of Texas Tech in Lubbock. Homes and outbuildings from all over West Texas have been located and restored in this living outdoor museum that is adjacent to the university museum. Everything from a dugout to a luxurious nineteenth century home to the barn from the 6666 Ranch can be seen. 

I wish I could be the type researcher who goes directly to a fact, determines that’s all he/she needs, and gets back to writing. Nope. Probably never going to happen. ☺

Do you enjoy research? Do you insist books you read portray historic facts correctly or do you allow the author leeway?


jrlindermuth said...

Like you, I love research. Straying from the original target can produce some interesting tidbits that may or may not end up in a story. Still, always fun to learn something new. I wasn't aware of coal mining in Texas. Interesting post.

katsrus said...

I love learning about how an author researches for their books.
Sue B