October 18, 2010

Learning from Reading/Writing Historical Fiction

Well, I'm up to my eyeballs in deadlines, housing issues, and life in general. So, I'm going to just share some interesting facts I've learned along the way. These are by no means all of what I've learned, but just a handful.

I gotta say, 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 buildings 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 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 onversion would be lower. So "penny candy" would actually be $.20 cents today.

And to close, I want to share a page of the Dr. Quinn web site I manage 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 just yet. Thanks for reading.

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an author, speaker, online marketing specialist, and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have 1 daughter and another baby on the way, plus an Australian Shepherd/retriever mix.

She has sold eleven books so far to Barbour Publishing, is a columnist for the ACFW e-zine, AFictionado, and writes other articles as well. Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.


Chantal said...

Hi I'm new to the blog. :) This was a very interesting post! I call Colorado Springs home (though I'm currently located in Hawaii thanks to the Army) and of course, I love history! I'm especially curious about amnesia, that sounds like something I'd like to look further into. Thanks for the information.

Diana said...

I have noticed that the movies and tv twist details to fit the script rather than the story. Kind of sad when you think about how many people get their knowledge from them instead of books. Good post, thanks Tiff.

April said...

Great post. We learn so much from the past. I enjoy historical facts.

Vickie McDonough said...

That's really interesting about Colorado Springs. I didn't realize Dr. Quinn was so far off from the truth of the town's history.

I've visited that Dr. Quinn site a number of times to get info from it. It's a good one.

Tina Dee Books said...

Love all these tidbits! Thanks, Tiff! Know you're busy, so it made it all the better to have you bring us such fun info!


Margaret @ Creative Madness Mama said...

I love this! Thank you for sharing all about this and Colorado Springs Tiff. I know Dr. Quinn has a very special place in your heart up close as it does to me from afar.

I hope and pray that one day we'll make it out there. (Then maybe our elegant toddlers could meet).

Stephen Bly said...

Tiffany: Interesting factoid about amnesia treatment then and now. Love finding this kind of info when doing research.

On the trail in ID,