Monday, January 30, 2012

Kaki Warner-Naturally I Had To Look It Up!

It's our pleasure to welcome former Texas native Kaki Warner to our blog. In between her years as a mother, teacher, commercial artist, reluctant collection agent and surly secretary, Kaki fooled around with writing. Then, in 2008, after twenty-five years of procrastination, she sent her first (and only) manuscript out into world. That book, PIECES OF SKY, was published by Berkley in January 2010. Today, she has five books in print, a RITA on her mantle, and two RITA Finalist pins on her collar. But here’s the thing; all this wonderfulness happened AFTER she went on Social Security. (Some of us are just late bloomers, apparently). So take a note from her. Never give up. Ever.
Today, although they’ll always be Texans at heart (and proud graduates of UT), she and her husband are happily retired on a mountaintop in Washington doing whatever they feel like doing—which in her case is writing, enjoying the wildlife, and watching her husband do the cooking for a change. Kaki is very generously giving a copy of COLORADA DAWN to one lucky commenter. So sorry but this is for US residents only.

Thanks, Ruby, for inviting me to share with you the exciting world of research.

Actually, it can be a pain. Especially if you’re up against a deadline and are easily distracted.
There I was, doing research for the Blood Rose Trilogy (about 3 brothers struggling to save their ranch in New Mexico during the 1870s), reading up on pepperbox pistols versus double derringers when an odd word caught my eye. Epizootic. Hmmm…

I remembered my grandmother used that word to scare us kids away from something we were about to touch, eat, drink, poke at with a stick, or whatever. “Ya’ll quit that,” she’d yell out the screen door. “That thing’ll give you the epizootic.” At the time, I thought it was some sort of digestive disturbance—the word just has that kind of sound, doesn’t it?

Naturally, I had to look it up.

Not only is there such a word (any rapidly spreading ailment that strikes a single species), there was also something called The Great Epizootic of 1872, which struck only horses. Ga-zillions of them. So many that the entire transportation system of the US was brought to a standstill. Cargo ships went unloaded, deliveries stopped, locomotives ran out of coal, fires when unchecked without horses to pull the water wagons, and out West, Indian wars were fought on foot. By the time the epidemic ended, four million horses were dead, with urban areas being the hardest hit because of overcrowding in downtown horse hotels. Wait. Horse hotels? Hmmm…

Naturally, I had to look it up.

Four stories or more, with an outside ramp up to each level, where open stalls stood side by side. Having raised horses, I can promise they’re the most inefficient food processors on the planet. Feed a flake of hay, shovel twice that in residuals. I won’t even mention the flies or stink. I’d think they’d have to build a slaughterhouse next door just to sweeten the air. And did they stall mares next to stallions? If so, how did they keep unwanted fraternization from taking place after lights out? It isn’t like they had floor monitors passing out horse condoms. Or did they? Hmmm…

Naturally, I had to look that up, too.

No, they didn’t have floor monitors or horse condoms. But they did have human condoms, patented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear and marketed a few years later as Dr. Power’s French Preventatives. And they were actually made of vulcanized rubber. Which is probably where that expression “laying rubber” originated. Or did it? Hmmm…

You see why I struggle with deadlines.

Mostly, I bring it on myself. Remember PIECES OF SKY? Book 1 of the Blood Rose Trilogy? 2011 Rita winner? No? Well, read it. You’ll like it, I promise. Anyway, I decided for authenticity and since it’s set in New Mexico, I should include some Spanish-speaking characters. So I dredged up the few Spanish words I know (mostly food items), augmented that with a Spanish-English dictionary, had a friend supply a substantial dirty word list, and typed away.

Book 2, OPEN COUNTRY. Same characters, fewer dirty Spanish words, but then this crabby Scotsman shows up with an entirely different accent and speech pattern and some weird phrases of his own. Yet that wasn’t as hard as studying up on medical procedures back then without nauseating myself. But I persevered, because I’m that kind of person.

Book 3, CHASING THE SUN. Some Spanish, a little Scots Gaelic, and just for the helluvit, national monetary problems and Catholic nun stuff. (Those folks have a lot of rules. Just so you know). But I was learning.

Or so I thought.

Then I start the next trilogy—The Runaway Brides—about four women heading West in 1870 to start new lives but get more than they bargained for when they’re stranded in a dying Colorado mining town. Four women. How hard could that be? But for variety, I decided to give each of them different backgrounds, voices, and speech patterns.

Enter the cast from Book 1, HEARTBREAK CREEK: a Southern princess and her half-black half-sister (not too hard, since I’m sorta from Louisiana), an Englishwoman (I’d done an Englishwoman before, so that wasn’t too hard, either), a Yankee (not bad, since they’re all over the place), and…wait for it…a Cheyenne Dog Soldier! YEA! So now I have to study up on them (a tough group for sure), the Sun Dance Ceremony (Gads!) and the language itself (do you know how many vowels those guys use? In a six letter word there might be three in a row: Haaahe (hello). Try saying that three times without laughing).

But then in Book2, COLORADO DAWN, I entered a whole new realm of insanity by adding photography (really dangerous back then—as in blow off your fingers and set your hair on fire), issues with Colorado statehood, railroads, PLUS a Scottish cavalryman, which necessitated research on the British peerage, military stuff, Scotch-Irish-Gaelic dialects and creating an entire new dirty word list. I could be a sailor, I swear. Heck, I should just write gibberish and call it a whole new language.

Research. A pain, but still fascinating stuff. Unless you’re in a rush, or are easily distracted.

As readers, do you enjoy all the little research tidbits, or do you find them distracting?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my latest release, COLORADO DAWN. And for summaries and excerpts of all my books, visit me at

Adios, Ta-ta, Slan, nestaevavoomatse, and bye ya’ll. Thanks for having me visit today.


Ruby Johnson said...

Kaki: Thanks so much for visiting us here in Texas. I have read all of your books and thoroughly enjoyed them. I think little bits of history in a story makes the period come alive for the reader.

Thorne Anderson said...

Thanks so much for the good advice. It is interesting to find out just when things were invited.
Good post

Thorne said...

Ooops! Sorry I meant invented.

Kaki said...

Thanks for inviting me Ruby. And for reading my books. I'm glad you liked them.

And Thorne--what a great name! Thanks for coming by.

George said...

Kaki’s examples are well proportioned and anchor the story in time. If a writer goes overboard with research details it can be distracting: Kaki’s style told me she’s disciplined to use the ‘fascinating stuff’ in the right mix.

Thank you, Kaki, for coming to our blog and reminding me research tidbits can be a healthy additive to story.

Kaki and Ruby -- Overuse of research information can be distracting. Tom Clancy comes to mind. It’s as if he wants to prove the research homework has been done.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS on your writing success--and Greetings from a fellow Texan!

I have read all of your books and have Colorado Dawn on my Wish List. I intend to order it soon but would LOVE to win it from you instead. (I hope you will autograph it!)

Please enter my name in the drawing.


Laura T

Anonymous said...

There is no one more scatter brained when I read some new fact and have to check it out. I can walk across the room and lose my train of thought. I love your books so just keep on throwing those crazy tidbits in for us to wonder about!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Kaki, I'm so happy to have found you! Not only is your post informative, it is fun. I can hardly wait to read your books, and I'll start with the first and work forward. Of course, I'd love to win one!

Like you, I can get lost in research. I have to force myself to get only what I need and then get on with it. Hard, isn't it?

Kaki said...

George, I agree--too much detail can pull the reader from the story (I've been accused of doing that--which you can probably tell. HA!)

Laura, thanks for reading my books--they were all fun to write. COLORADO DAWN is one of my favorites because of the Scottish connection--my grandfather was a Scotsman.

Anonymous, I appreciate that you've read my books, too. And I know just what you mean about losing your train of thought. In fact, I forgot what I was about to say...

Thanks for dropping by, Caroline, and good luck on winning a copy of COLORADO DAWN. And you're right, it is hard to limit myself to what's perinent. But it's all fun stuff.

Coops said...

I like all the little details. Isn't that half the point of reading something historical? Gotta go, working on my patent for horse condoms...

Martha Lawson said...

I love, love learning all the little details about a different time period! I have read about condoms being used in the 1800's in other books! Amazing what we think is new and modern, only to find out different. I look forward to reading your books, they sound great! American historicals were my first love.

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Virginia said...

What a great post Kaki! I love your books and have read them all except the last one Colorado Dawn and still looking for it. Love your books and am always recommending them to everyone I know. Your post reminded me of when I was growing up,if any one was sick they had the epizootic, so I hadn't heard the word in several years until you brought it up in your post. Didn't matter what you had it was always the epizootic. Thanks for the chance to win your book.

Kaki said...

LOL. Coops you may be too late. There actually is something similar to horse condoms--except they use them for artificial insemination. And they're REALLY long. (Sorry. Don't know why I shared that).

Thanks for coming by, Martha. I hope you'll give my books a chance--maybe you'll even win one!

Hi, Virginia. Isn't epizootic a great word? One of those terms that could cover anything. Thanks for reading my books. And good luck on winning a copy of CD. I think you'd like it.

J.A. Bennett said...

What a great post Kaki! Besides cracking me up, you've given me hope and encouragement about researching for my own work. Thank you!

eyeballlucy said...

Love to have a chance to win 'Colorado Dawn' by Kaki Warner...really enjoyed the interview with Kaki.......a wonderful inspiring

Kaki said...

J.A., don't feel intimidated by research. It's so much easier now with the internet. Granted, not all of it is vetted perfectly (as I well know), but it still is a lot quicker than it used to be.

Eyeballlucy (I bet there's a story behind that name)good luck on winning a copy of the book. And I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Thanks for coming by.

Lana Douglas said...

I'm a researcher by profession, so it's normal for me to clog my head with interesting, useless trivia, and spend hours (no, days) acquiring it. If nothing else, I'm an interesting person to talk to at a cocktail party.

I enjoyed your post and look forward to reading your books. You're missing a balmy, mid-70's day in Ft. Worth.

Kaki said...

I certainly am missing your lovely weather, Lana. But not for long--my husband and I are planning a road trip to Dallas to surprise my daughter on her birthday (so don't tell). It'll be a refreshing change from the weather up here.

Ellis Vidler said...

Fun post, Kaki, and one I can identify with. Research leads me down blind alleys, distracts me from the task at hand, and mostly entertains me. If it's really interesting, I want to find a way to include it.
Your books sound good. I must try them. Happy sales.

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