Monday, August 5, 2013

Is that you, universe?

So, when a publisher actually asks you to write something for them, what do you say? 

a) It's not really a period of history that I'm familiar with.
b) It sounds like a lot of research. 
c) I'm not sure I'm the right person for the job.

If you answered d, you are like me. Dive straight on in and worry about getting those pesky "facts" right later. 

So the project in question is for my pseudonym. She's been busy this year, so much so that I've neglected my other writing. But I don't regret it. It's nice to get a cheque every month, right? 

Anyway, a publisher asked me to write a Western. 

Here is a list of things I know nothing about: 

1. The American West
2. Cowboys
3. Gold mining
4. Horses 
5. The Oregon Trail
6. Railroads 
7. All of the above and much more 

A story set in a city in the 1800s? Easy as. But a story set on the frontier? Um...what's the difference between a state and a territory anyway? And also, what did cowboys actually do? 

But it's okay. You don't want to weigh down a story with too much detail. It's a romance, right? It's about the people, and the thing with people is we're much the same as we ever were. Different social mores and attitudes, but the same basic needs, desires and hopes. But not the same underwear. 


Anyway, I researched a bit about Wyoming in the 1860s and decided that yep, that was perfect. And while there is a lot of information out there on life in the Old West, much of it is spurious at best. Because, you know, what did a shot of whiskey cost in 1860? Anywhere between 10 and 75 cents, apparently, but that really doesn't narrow it down much. 

And then, just when I was thinking I'd never find just the right little details to pull this thing together, I got a sign from the universe. And the sign said "Antique and Secondhand Books". And it was on a shop. And inside the shop I found this

Sections include clothing, horse trappings, transportation, and firearms. It could not be more perfect. 

Cheers, universe. I owe you one. 

P.S. If you could also supply me with some beta readers who know their stuff when it comes to the Old West, that would be great. 


What's your luckiest research find? 


  1. Oooh, sounds awesome! Enjoy! Wyoming is a beautiful place. All big and empty! My friend and I drove around a storm there. We were convinced we would drive into it, but we never did.

    Have fun!

    1. Thanks, Miss Cole! It's a fun project, and there will be, not really, because I know nothing about guns. But my guy might just get his revenge with a straight razor.

      Woot! Violence and bloodshed!

  2. Congratulations on being asked by a publisher to write a book. What a nice switch from asking a publisher to publish your book. :-)

    And congratulations on finding just the right book to help you with details. I hope you'll let us know when the book is finished, title and pseudonym.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! It is a nice change.

      Not sure that I'm ready to let my pseudonym collide with my real world yet, though... :)

  3. This sounds most excellent. And don't worry too much about the history - Jack Schaefer wrote his first four westerns, including "Shane," without ever leaving the east. He did all his research and then simply acted like he knew what he was talking about.

    Also, I love how one of the first things you research is their underwear. :-)

    And for beta readers, why, land's sake, let me slap on my chaps and I'll hogtie all errors with my crackerjack lariat.

    1. I actually understood your last sentence. That means I'm learning stuff, right?

      And of course the first thing I research is underwear...because you know it's going to feature!

  4. I answered d too! I mean, I'm always worrying about getting the facts right later anyway, so I might as well. I'm afraid I don't know anyone who's good with 1800's Old West or any books on it, but it looks like you have a good start with that Look of the Old West. I have to say, I'm impressed that you're writing about a specific period in another country's history.

    1. It's certainly a big jump from the history that I'm familiar with, but it's been a lot of fun so far! And, on the plus side, I now want to visit Wyoming.

  5. Lovely, Jen--congratulations! That paycheck makes the research all worth it ;) Aaaand you'll have learned a whole bunch about something you didn't know, which maybe might be useful--essential even--for a story that will make you famous (filthy rich, too, but who gives a plugged nickel about money). I'm a firm believer that we should pay better attention when the universe throws these random things our way... Like Chekhov's gun, they're going to come into play before the curtain comes down :)

  6. Thanks, Guilie! I doubt it will make me rich or famous --- historicals do notoriously badly -- but I love them!

    And yes, I love how sometimes everything just comes together :)



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