In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

History Sleuthing

When I'm working on an action novel or mystery set in another time period -- like THE LONG SHADOW, set in 1850 during the Underground Railroad in Vermont -- I'm in full detective mode. I carry a small pocket notebook, file cards, pens, camera, and sometimes even a magnifying glass. And I hit the road for almost as many hours as I'm at the desk.

Most critical in triggering THE LONG SHADOW was a visit to Rokeby, the best documented Underground Railroad station in Vermont. If you'd like to visit, the site is open in summer, or drop in at the website: http://www.rokeby.org/home.html. At Rokeby are photos, letters, furnishings ... all the reality of life lived fully, more than a hundred and fifty years ago. And Director Jane Williamson's research on what "really happened" in Vermont at that time -- I can say absolutely that this was key to the adventures and view of events that unfold in the novel.

Also important, as any story takes shape, are the details of clothing, food, roadways, forests, wildlife. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife team helped me pin down the presence of wolves in 1850; a friend at the Smithsonian Institution provided resources for the "how" of 19th-century dishwashing, which I needed to know about in order to get enough detail into some family scenes. And I used early photos and drawings of the village of North Danville, Vermont, found mostly in a graduate thesis by Gerald LaMothe.

It takes more than a village to research a book properly!

This week I'm excited about visiting Chinatown in Boston, for a tense scene in the novel now unfolding at my computer: COLD MIDNIGHT. I need to know what Chinatown looked like, felt like, smelled like, in 1921. I'll fill you in on some of the discoveries next week.

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