The other day I threw my blog open to any questions you might have and someone asked about the research I’d done for Tangled Past. It’s not just historicals that I have to do research for. Even my contemporaries require research. I’m not a bodyguard, though I’ve worked with them, but that was 30 years ago. While I’ve fired a few pistols and a revolver, I am in no way an expert on guns that my guys in the Hauberk Protection series carry and use. Which means I’m always researching.
Anytime I go on a trip I’m making mental notes (and sometimes physical notes) about the area in case I ever have a character/scene around there. In restaurants and hotels I’m always looking around — at the decorations, the ambiance, the people.
For Tangled Past, I’d been to Texas, so I had an idea of the land around “Barnett Springs”, and as I answered someone on that post, I have a friend who answers my incessant horse questions. But there are little day-to-day things… Luckily I could dig back into my files of photos and notes I made during a visit to Lang Pioneer Village, a museum dedicated to preserving several houses from the Peterborough area from the 1830s through to the 1880s.When I went on line and searched through similar places in Texas, I discovered many things were the same even though the museum I visited was in a different country, a thousand miles north. Take a look at the photos I took at Lang Pioneer Village and then compare them to those at the Dallas Heritage Village, especially the Shotgun House.
So for the scene I featured about living spaces as part of my Saturday Snippet post, I used these photos of various bedrooms as inspiration for Nate’s house…
Not exactly a bath to sit down and relax in is it? This room was in a house that had been used as a hotel — this was a private room. Not everyone could afford such luxuries – many of the guests rented a bedroll that they put down in a room they shared with 6 – 8 others.
Here’s a close up of the rope bed detail. You have to regularly tighten the ropes because they would stretch during the night and you’d end up sagging into the middle.
And I looked further than just the bedroom — cooking had to be done from scratch, there was no take-out back then…
This is a modern stove for someone from the 1880s. Nate was much more interested in technology and so he’d been updating his house faster than others who may not have had such “modern conveniences”. Note the woman’s dress in this picture — no bustles and hoop skirts, or lots of ruffles the way someone in town might have dressed.
I can lose myself in research –I eagerly made notes using the maps of the cattle trails that were starting to be closed down thanks to the barbed wire fences ranchers were erecting, as the very first line of Tangled Past tells you: “Danged devil’s rope.” Jackson Kellar checked the stallion’s withers where the barbed wire had nicked it. Not every one liked the introduction of barbed wire that was quickly criss-crossing the country. Nor was everyone thrilled with how quickly technology was catching on, hence the scene where Nate and Sarah discuss a neighbor’s brand new steam powered tractor. I was fascinated by the records of marriage, and blueprints of houses, and the clippings from the Dallas Morning News and the Fayette County News from that era. I bought books on the history of Texas, took online courses on writing Native American characters (to avoid writing cliched characters), and others on “Gamblers and Lightskirts in the old West.” I tried to get my details right, because I know how sharp eyed readers can spot any mistakes a mile away. But mainly, my focus was on the characters. On making a story that could explain how three people could end up in the situation they were in. And given both my own family’s secrets from that era, along with Gizmo Guy’s strange family history too, I knew such strange alliances could happen right under people’s noses and the secrets not come out for decades. After that, it was all my imagination….