Monday, January 30, 2012
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.
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?
Adios, Ta-ta, Slan, nestaevavoomatse, and bye ya’ll. Thanks for having me visit today.