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!