Historical Research and Julie Lence

 

Hello Everyone. I’m western historical romance author Julie Lence. This is my first time blogging on Petticoats and Pistols and I’d like to thank the Fillies for having me. When I asked Linda what I should write about, she suggested I write about something that was in one of my stories, such as a boardinghouse. That got me to thinking about many of the authentic things I have in my stories and how research has played an important role in this, so I decided to write about specific things I’ve researched for each of my books.

Luck of the Draw is my first published work. I began writing the story back in the early 90’s when I didn’t know a thing about writing. Through the years I added and deleted scenes and always wondered if what I was writing made sense and was true to the timeframe. I decided to have the book professionally edited and found someone to work with. She went page by page editing everything; spelling, punctuation, dialogue and plot. Finally, she asked me a question that pertained to the timeframe of the story: was chocolate readily available in the west in the 1860?

As an avid reader of western romance, I’d read about characters feasting on chocolate cake, so I’d always assumed chocolate was available back then. But I didn’t know for sure, so chocolate became my first research topic.

I didn’t have the internet at this time, so I relied on books from the library. I learned a lot about the cacao bean and how it made its way around the world, eventually landing in Europe where folks enjoyed a hot chocolaty drink that we know today as hot cocoa. Eventually, Europeans brought the cacao bean to the United States and powdered chocolate was sold in small tins in mercantiles. Americans enjoyed the hot chocolaty drink, too, and also used the powdered cocoa to make chocolate cake. Needless to say, I was happy about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second work is Lady Luck. The bulk of the story takes place in a gaming hall on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. I wanted my story to be as true to that timeframe  and location as possible, but again, I didn’t have the internet. Back to the library I went. My research led to a small cove along the water. Yerba Buena Cove and the ships that were permanently dry docked in the cove were being filled in with sand and businesses were being built on top of them. I thought this was a fascinating piece of history and included it in the story, but more fascinating were the ships themselves. I had to have one for my gaming hall, so I took liberty and moved my ship to the Barbary Coast, hoping the Barbary and Yerba Buena Cove were close in location to each other. Later, when the hubby had the internet connected to the home computer, I found some street maps of 1860 San Francisco and was happy to discover the liberties I took were true. The Barbary Coast and Yerba Buena Cove were not far from each, and they were on the same stretch of coastline.

Luck of the Draw and Lady Luck are part of a series about the Weston brothers, cowboys making a living raising beef and breaking horses on the family ranch. In the third story, No Luck At All, the hero is a cowboy at heart, but he’s also a doctor. I wanted Creel to attend medical school in Boston and to meet and marry a Boston socialite, because his mother was a Boston socialite and she played an important role in the first two books. I wrote the story, way back when and shelved it for when I could go back to it and make it better. When I did, that little research bug kicked in and I was back on the internet. I had to prove to myself and to my readers that it was indeed possible for Creel to attend college and medical school in Boston so he could meet and fall in love with his Boston socialite. The internet opened up a whole new world to me; histories of schools and colleges and discoveries made in the medical profession. Creel was able to obtain his education and medical degree at Massachusetts General, which was also connected to Harvard. Today the two schools are one. I also happened upon the discovery of ether and how to apply it to a patient. I’m not one for blood, guts and gore, but this was another fascinating piece of information I had to incorporate into the story, thus the scene where Bob is attacked by a mountain lion was born and Creel’s talent as a doctor shined.

My love for the old west doesn’t stop at cowboys. Outlaws played an important role back then and I had one from my first two books in desperate need of his own story. Buck is ornery and temperamental and had always escaped the law in his looting, raiding and shooting, until now. He was also in need of a good eye-opener as to why he should settle down with the woman he loves and what better reason could there be than having been sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, with a sentence to be hung. I’d figured out his escape, but the prison itself kept bugging me. Or rather, what prison could I place him in. Since his story, Zanna’s Outlaw, takes place in Texas, I wanted him somewhere close to that state. My first thought was Yuma, but Yuma didn’t exist yet, so-you guessed it. Back to the internet I went, and found Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas. There wasn’t a lot of information on the prison, at least not what I wanted to know and that was what did it actually look like on the inside? Again, I had to take liberty with some things, but the nickname for the prison, ‘The Walls’, and the bell tower and the fact the prisoners seeded cotton is true. The prison is still in existence, and if I ever get to Texas, I would love to take a tour.

Lydia’s Gunslinger is my current release. This book didn’t require much research, as it takes place in the same town as Zanna’s Outlaw. One establishment that is linked to both stories is Miller’s Saloon. The inside of Miller’s wasn’t important since there are numerous photos on the internet of old western saloons, but I wanted to know how easy it was for Miller to keep his saloon stocked, especially in a nowhere town such as Revolving Point. I researched the origins of beer and learned so much, from original breweries, to methods of transportation, to the birth of the beer glass, to brewery owners striking deals with saloon owners to only stock their beer that I couldn’t possibly mention everything. In the end, I decided to leave Miller and his saloon alone and garnered from my research that beer wagons went far and wide to keep saloons well-stocked.

Research had never held much of an interest for me until I began writing. Now, I could spend all day on the internet chasing down the smallest detail. Life back in the 1800’s was hard, but it was also fascinating. And I enjoy proving what I think is true as much as I enjoy learning about new things, like Yerba Buena Cove in Lady Luck. And what color uniforms the police officers wore in 1860 San Francisco.

To read an excerpt from any of my books, please visit my website at: www.julielence.comOne lucky visitor to Petticoats and Pistols today will receive a free download of No Luck At All.

Have a great day everyone and thank you for reading. I always enjoy talking about the west!

Guest Blogger

25 Comments

  1. Loved your chocolate research – did you taste any as well, just to be sure? One of the pleasures of life – I’m glad they could have had some in the old West if they needed cheered up.

  2. The internet sure makes research a lot easier to sift through!

  3. Good morning Pageturner: I’m sorry to say, I did not taste any chocolate from back then. Mainly, when the question was put to me, I was thankful and relieved to have found that chocolate did exist in the U.S. back then. I do have several cowboy cookbooks. One is filled with recipes from the 1800’s. I have out my own spin on some of them and found they are quite good, like pork and onions fried up in a skillet. Some, though, I wouldn’t touch. Have a great day and thank you for visiting. Julie

  4. Hey Vicki:
    After reading your book, I’m sure you’ve spent days researching, too. Yours was so full of info and procedures–I can’t begin to imagine how you incorporated it into the story without making it seem like reading an encyclopedia. I like the 1800’s so research does not seem a chore. It’s interesting, especially when I find pictures and can relate the descriptions/details to the item. Thank you for visiting with me. Juls

  5. I could also spend all day researching information about something that may seem silly or insignificant to someone else. When you incorporate minute, casual details into the story – it truly brings it to life. Though it (hopefullly) reads seamlessly, it hints at hours of research!! I love it. I sometimes listen to historians in awe thinking “I want to be able to know and remember all these little tidbits of information!” It was fun to read your thoughts – thanks for sharing that great authors aren’t ‘born with’ a special nineteenth century microchip in their brain 😛

  6. I’ve read all of Julie’s books and have enjoyed every one of them. After reading her first, Luck of the Draw, I remember thinking this author really knows her western history – and she knows how to tell a captivating story. I’d recommend any of her books to those of you who love to read historical western romances. Nice post, Julie.

  7. Julie, we’re so happy to have you blog with us. Maybe you’ll do it again sometime. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing books so I thoroughly understand where you’re coming from. I’m always discovering so much that I didn’t know. And it’s these little largely unknown facts that give a story richness and depth. And how neat it is when you guess at something then later find out it was a historical fact.

    Love the cover of Lydia’s Gunslinger! Wishing you much success with it and all your books.

  8. I forgot to mention that I went on a cruise in January and got to see some awesome Mayan ruins. Our tour guide told us that chocolate was the Mayan form of currency. He had some cocoa beans and let us taste them and it was really good. Tasted so much like semi-sweet chocolate that we buy today.

  9. Wow, Linda! That is awesome that you were able to get a taste of the cocoa bean. I would enjoy a visit to the Mayan ruins, but I’m not one to fly so I’ll see them through pictures.
    American history, mostly the 1800’s, was my favorite part in history class. We spent a lot of time on the more famous inventions and inventors and city life, mostly factories and the child workers, but not much on the day-to-day life. Where I am in the west, we have several small museums that have household and farm tools on display, and my absolute favorite, the stagecoach, so I don’t have to completely rely on the internet, though that is the quicker way.
    I would enjoy coming back and doing another blog–just give me a topic. Glad you like the cover to Lydia’s Gunslinger. That was my third attempt at using someone’s material and tweaking it to my own personal taste for the cover.

  10. Hi Kristy: Glad you enjoyed my thoughts on research. I think my favorite one was researching the prison. Though I didn’t get very far as to what it actually looked like on the inside, it was interesting to read about the prison being built and how the inmates seeded cotton. My favorite was the bell tower and I had to have that mentioned in the story. To not have done so would have taken away from the uniqueness of Huntsville.

  11. Hi Stacey:
    Thank you for joining me here today, and everyday. A better critique partner doesn’t exist.

  12. Julie, great post. I find research to be one of the most fascinating thing about writing historicals, but it can be problematic too. I’ve been known to go down rabbit trails that took me far off course for days at a time 🙂

  13. Hi Julie, welcome to Wildflower Junction. Sure hope this is the first of many visits! It’s always terrific to gather another Western writer into the herd. Your books sound terrific, and I’m gonna search them out on Kindle. Stacey is a good friend and if she highly recommends them, well, that’s all I need. God bless and thanks for stopping by today.

  14. I love learning while reading fiction. I think the reason I enjoy historicals the most is because of all the research I know must go into the writing (although I know all writers have to research certain things). Maybe I enjoy it so much because I like learning about the past. Us readers really appreciate how you authors seem to mix the story and the facts into such a flowing and interesting read.

  15. Hello Julie, thank you for sharing with us today! I love learning bits here and there whether through reading a book or deciding to look something up myself… so many things one can find out about…
    You are a new to me author… I will have to keep your books in mind! Happy April! 😀

  16. Hello Winnie: It’s nice to meet you. I know what you mean about straying off course. One thread leads to another and to another. Sometimes, I forget where I started. But it is always fun to learn something and maybe tuck it away for future use.

  17. Hi Tanya: It’s great to meet you, too. Thank you for having me as a guest today. I always enjoy getting to work with other writers and hostesses within the western romance genre. I hope to be back again. Stacey and I have worked together for a few years now. We make a great team in our writing careers. Have a great day!

  18. Hello Catslady: Thank you so much for the kind words. Research is a lot of work–I can spend hours at it–but it is also fun. Especially when the subject is one of interest. I always enjoy adding something ‘real’ to my stories, even if that something is small. I have a western handbook filled with figures of speech to cooking to clothing and I rely on that a lot for those small things. Thank you for chatting with me today.

  19. Hi Colleen: Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. I also like learning new things about the west. It’s a subject that has always been dear to me, especially horses. When I read, I do so for pleasure, but if it’s a western romance, you can bet I always learn something new. Have a great day!

  20. Hi Julie!
    Betcha thought I wasn’t gonna show up since it’s so late in the day. Don’t give up on me–here I am, finally! We’ve had some bad storms all last night and continuing on through the day today, so I’m having to be careful about getting on the computer. There’s a lull right now, so I’m here, finally, to welcome you to Wildflower Junction. I want to say, your books just look wonderful, and I really love it when there’s some research that shows through in the books I read, no matter the genre. I’m so glad you came to join us today, and truly enjoyed reading your post and learning about your research and your books!
    Hugs,
    Cheryl P.

  21. Hi Cheryl: Thank you so much, for reading the blog, liking my books, but mostly for your help in getting me on here. I truly appreciate the chance to work with you, Linda and the other ladies. P&P is such a great place to learn and meet new people who love the west like we do.
    Keep safe through the storms. I hope you’re not in the Dallas area. I’m seeing the posts on FB from my weatherman here in CO and it’s terrible what’s happened down there. Have a great night,
    Hugs,
    Julie

  22. Love the blog. Don’t think that I have read any of your books, but I am definatly planning on it.

  23. Hi Connie: Glad you enjoyed what I wrote. Hope the books keep you entertained. should you get one. Have a great night.

  24. You would be a new author to me and I love trying new authors work. Must check out your books.

  25. Hello Quilt Lady: I’ve been around for a few years, but this is my first time blogging on P&P. Hope you find something of interest to you in one of my books. Have a great night and thank you for taking the tme to respond here.

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