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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

03 December 2006

How Do You Do It

The info Kathrynn posted on riding "aside" is amazing. I confess to knowing very little about horses and have used various experts to help me with details. It's great to have one "in house."

In my last bit I introduced you to Major General Lord Blayney, the 11th Lord Blayney and the most famous of the lot. He wrote a comprehensive and surprisingly entertaining account of his experiences as a prisoner of war. The book, "Narrative of a Forced Journey Through Spain and France, as a Prisoner of War, in the years 1810-1814" is hard to find. The only print copy I have discovered in the US is at the New York Public Library. To my surprise the two volumes are not in the rare book room but as easily available as any book in the collection, which is to say you have to sit for a photo ID, request the book and then wait until it is brought to you. Rather like the Library of Congress but the staff at the New York Public Library is not as friendly or as efficient.

Efficiency is not something I am entitled to complain about. Somewhere on my desk, in its drawers, on the bookshelves around me or in a folder, maybe even transcribed and saved on the computer are all the notes I took when I read the Blayney book over a three day period in 2004 (that was two computers ago) I cannot find those notes anywhere. So my plan to share my favorite bits will have to be tabled. With my apologies.

By way of an interesting tidbit of Blayney family history, I can tell you that the Major General's son, Cadwallader, was the 12th and last Lord Blayney. Though he lived until 1874 he sold Castleblayney to Henry Thomas Hope in 1842. Hope is best known for his prize possession The Hope Diamond which he inherited from his uncle in 1839.

The Hopes lived at Castleblayney and made many improvements to the house and grounds. Isn't that nice. What I really want to know is if the diamond was ever in residence with them. There is no firm information on that but then they weren't Blayneys so little is written of them in the family's published genealogy. This will now send me off to play around with Google in hopes of finding more Hope Diamond details. The question is where will I put those notes so that I can find them three years from now?

Please, please tell me how you research pros keep track of your research. I am not a detail person and need notes for the minutia so many easily keep track of. I have tried various methods of organization: note cards, note books, files, computer files and can only thank heaven that I can usually find what I am looking for. Not a very professional approach but I am being honest here. Anyone care to share?

Mary

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm like you, Mary when it come to research. I'm waiting to see what others have to say so I can learn, too!

I have a general question for all, research? Where do you start? If I'm writing my book in Regency England where should I start. I have very basic knowledge of the period but need to research what life was like, duels and period houses.

Thanks!

6:09 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Where do you start . . . I think the most important things to understand are the basics: How titles worked, how primogeniture and inheritance worked, what they considered honorable and dishonorable. This are the kinds of things that, should you get them wrong, can make a story you’ve invested months (or years!) in historically impossible (e.g. If your book’s villainess is the wife of a peer who murdered him so she would inherit his fortune and estates. This is historically/legally impossible, so you’ve wasted your time).

One you have a solid grounding in the period you can move on to the more ephemeral aspects (clothes, food, etc.). This kind of stuff is almost as important as the major stuff, but it’s easier to “fudge”.

The Beau Monde (a chapter of Romance Writers of America) has a wonderful—and public!—collection of links that is a wonderful place to start.

And Mary, I defiantly recommend del.icio.us as a way to keep track of your bookmarks. It’s so much better than just filing them in your bookmark section, because you can cross reference them.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Judy T said...

Research is so important, even the little details. I was just reading a story where a reference is made to using emetic to make a horse bring up something it had eaten. The problem with this plot device is that "horses are physiologically incapable of vomiting or regurgitating." The author could have used a dog and been fine, but they didn't.

One of my friends keeps all her research on slips of paper, and heaven forbid if one is lost. LOL! I either store information in the story document I'm writing (I'll catch up to it eventually) or I use a document labeled notes - a text doc for internet info, like links. I also burn a disk every week or two, just in case. I discovered the hard way that it's best to unplug a pc during a thunderstorm becasue a lightening strike really can blow up your computer, even with a surge protector.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Judy! So right, horses have a sphincter at the neck of the stomach where the esophagus joins...the sphinctor is so tight, nothing can come up from the stomach. Injesta takes a one way trip. Like you said, horses can't vomit, but they can belch! I've heard one and seen him do it. Wow. ;-)

As for research collections, Mary I try everything. I have bookmark list on my computer that's as long as my arm. I scan and take pictures with my digital camera (which is why the shapes of the images are sorta odd sometimes), and I buy old books from used book stores---then tab anything with post-it "I might use someday."

My office at home is exploding!

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Judy T said...

Oh, dear Kathrynn, thank you for making me LOL! Your memory of hearing a horse burp brought back vivid memories of my handsome, grey Arab/Appy doing exactly that, in my face. As long as I live, I will never forget my own stupification (the rudesby) or that sleepy-eyed, innocent look he gave me. Who me?

12:18 PM  

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