October 18, 2008

Learning As You Write/Read Historical Western Fiction

Well, it's my first day here, and I'm back-dating this post so it appears on my scheduled date of the 18th. Forgive me for being late. The weekend that fell on my post-date was hectic and rather full. But I'm here now, and I'm not sure what I'll post each month, but I'll try not to disappoint. :)

First, a little about me and my books as they stand right now. I'm a multi-published author with a heart for westerns and midwest or western settings in the mid-to-late 1800's. However, none of those stories sold at first. So, I began my publishing career with 3 books set during Colonial times and 3 books during the Industrial Revolution set in Detroit. My 3rd book releases in December, and the next set of 3 are in 2009. My goal is to branch into western historical fiction, though, and Tina gladly welcomed me here to share in my love of the wild west.

To start, I'll say that you find out some rather interesting tidbits and facts about what really happened in the west when you do research for books or read books where the author has done detailed research.

For example, I spent 6 years watching one of my favorite TV shows, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and loved the idea of it being set in Colorado Springs. Well, at the time, I was also on a discussion forum for the show and several history buffs posted links for further research on topics covered in the episodes. I bookmarked them and years later, when I began my own research for my books set in Colorado and Wyoming, I revisited them.

Interesting fact: Colorado Springs didn't exist until 1871, and it was annexed as a city for the rich and upper class who settled there due to the climate and the hot springs. Elaborate hotels and resorts were the primary focal points.

On Dr. Quinn, they had the town existing in the 1860's as a rough and tumble town with a few building and just 2 streets that crossed at the center of "town" where the bell stood.

I live in the *real* Colorado Springs now, and just from the research I've done here in this town, my entire concept of the start of this town has changed dramatically. Just goes to show you can't always trust what you see on TV. :)

Interesting fact: It could take a full month (at least) by horse to travel from near Denver to Mesa Verde in 1875. Both are in the same state of Colorado. Today, the trip would only take a few hours.\

Interesting fact: Amnesia before the turn of the 20th century was compared or likened to sleepwalking. If someone was found to have it, it was recommended that you *not* shock the person too much by telling them the truth about who they were or who you were in connection to them. Doctors believed if you did, the shock could cause irreparable damage to the person's brain and they might never remember.

Today, doctors realize just the opposite today, and immersing the person in familiar settings, with familiar people, doing familiar things is the key to helping the person regain the memory lost.

I discovered this while consulting a medical journal and several books for one of my upcoming books that includes a woman suffering from amnesia. It provided a lot of opportunity for humor and fun, as well as frustration and pain on the part of several characters.

Interesting fact: Silver mines became almost as popular as gold in Colorado, and quite often the silver mined and processed bore unique markings from the mines where the silver originated.

Unlike today, where you pretty much have 2 primary mints in the United States from where all coins originate, the unique markings could help lead investigators to specific mines and towns based upon the coins they find.

Another series I have includes just this instance, with a reporter for the Chicago Tribune traveling to Durango, Colorado, to investigate a murder and some coins found in the victim's pocket. Of course, he encounters far more than he expected. And with Pinkerton agents on his trail along with a feisty female wanting to accompany him on his investigations, not to mention his own dark past from the War Between the States, it's an action-packed western adventure waiting to happen.

Interesting fact: Money has decreased in value over the years, to the point that items which cost $1.00 in 1875 would cost about $20.00 today (in a rough estimate) depending upon where you live, as in more rural areas the conversion would be lower. So "penny candy" would actually be $.20 cents today.

I know Vickie did a post earlier this month on money, but I wanted to share a page of the Dr. Quinn web site which features some fun facts connected to money.

Colorado Springs Bank

That's all for me for now. I hope you've enjoyed this little tidbits. Next month, I'll be back with something else. Not sure what. Thanks for reading.


Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

HI Tiff,
Interesting post. You made learning info enjoyable.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Welcome, Tiff. Good post.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Thanks, Lena. Feels good to be here among friends.

Susan Page Davis said...

Tiff, I love the Dr. Quinn site. I don't think you mentioned that you maintain it??? Is that not right? It's fun visiting the various buildings in the "town" there, and educational, too.

Erica Vetsch said...

Tiff, very nice post. I'll be checking in here at Bustles and Spurs often, as the subject matter is right up my alley. :)

Jeanne Marie Leach said...

Good job, Tiff. I loved Dr. Quinn, but it didn't take me long to find out the historical inacuracies. They also had the train coming to town in the last 1870's, which didn't happen until later. When the train did arrive, Colorado Springs was little more than a couple run-down buildings on an old stage stop.

I look forward to more of your informative posts.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Yes, Susan, I have been running the web site since the final year of the show's run in 1997. Everything it is today, though, is a result of the fans and their many contributions. It's been great adding all of the pieces for further study and research.

Erica, thanks for the encouragement. Look forward to hanging out here. :)

Jeanne, yeah, I figured you would notice inaccuracies right away, living here in Colorado and all. But it took me until the 3rd season to figure it all out. It's always fun to compare the real truth to what others portray as truth.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Oh, and Patricia, somehow I missed your comment. Thanks for the kudos. Glad you enjoyed the post.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Enjoyed your post, Tiff. I love Colorado Springs and lived in Aurora for nearly 8 years. I just LOVE CO and the Rockies,in fact my first book, No Place For a Lady coming out in Jan.& takes place in CO. Yikes, you and Jeanne may find something wrong in my book but I did my best to keep it as accurate as possible.:)

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Thanks, Brenda. Living here is awesome, and I wouldn't move back East for anything in the world. :) As for finding errors in your book, don't fret. Jeanne I promise not to be too picky. *winks* Congrats on your first novel though! How exciting!

Molly Noble Bull said...

Good post.
I was and am a Dr. Quinn fan. I would love to have it all on DVD so I could watch it whenever I wanted.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Oh, I obviously am as well. In fact, we first "met" because I announced my enjoyment of this show...if you recall that many years ago. :)

As for the DVDs, I'm selling my season sets because I was given the series megaset which has them all in one place. I'll email you privately.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that I loved your blog. I am also a Dr. Quinn fan and have visited your site many times. Cool Beans. I have just been rewatching series. They have come down in price on amazon and I can now afford them
;->. I should be getting season 4 soon. Oh another couple of inaccuries is that a proper woman would never leave the house without a hat, let alone her hair being down. Although Jane Seymore has such lovely hair. Also they would never have rode astride a horse or have worn pants.


Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Evelyn, thanks for letting me know you love the Dr. Quinn site. It's fun being in charge of it. Glad to also hear that you can buy the season sets. I'm selling mine right now for $35 each since I own the megaset. :)

And as for the other inaccuracies...you're quite right. LOL! So much about how they portrayed Dr. Mike being proper wasn't proper at all. Of course, the contradiction to how she was raised vs. how relaxed she was in Colorado Springs was likely accurate.