Sometimes You Just Gotta Go There

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As a writer, I think it helps to have been to the places you write about. I wrote about the Grand Canyon and New York City in my series. I’d been to both places. Research is a big part of any book. The more you do, the more it helps the book come alive.

Add in history and you’ve got your work cut out for you. As you know, if you follow my blog, I’m reading the Outlander series. The author had to do a massive amount of research. She started with Scotland and the Highlander uprising and ended in North America pre-Revolutionary War. And that’s only in the four books I’ve read. I’m sure there’s more to come.

Since I like to read historical fiction and am considering writing one myself, I just had to invite my author friend, Mysti Parker, to guest blog today. She has recently released a historical romance novel. She has visited the places she wrote about and it’s an interesting journey. Love the cover, Mysti!

Travelling for Research

By Mysti Parker

I’ve never been what you’d call a history buff, but I had to become one when I wrote A Time for Everything. The idea came to me in 2010, and I began a very rough draft. I decided that I really should see these places where the story was to take place. That’s what researchers do, right? We took a trip to middle Tennessee, just the husband and I (always nice to be alone) and spent a weekend touring Franklin, Nashville, Brentwood, and Lebanon. These four towns all played parts in the story. But what I found in them truly fueled the fire of the book’s plot.

Middle Tennessee, like much of Kentucky where I live, is a beautiful symphony of rolling hills, green meadows, small farms and cozy communities nestled in quiet valleys. But during the Civil War, this area was anything but idyllic. Take Franklin, for instance. One of the bloodiest battles of the war swept through the town on November 30, 1864, leaving behind a trail of bullet-riddled soldiers, houses, and even civilian casualties.

Today, this horrific period in history is commemorated with historical sites that offer tours. We visited many of these, including the Lotz House, where German immigrant and master woodworker Johann Lotz and family had to evacuate before the battle reached their home. They sought shelter along with a couple dozen neighbors in basement of the Carter house across the street. In this beautiful historic home turned museum, you can still see the bullet holes in the original woodwork.

Just a short drive out of town is Carnton Plantation, where the McGavock family’s home became a field hospital. If you ever get a chance to visit, make sure to take the tour. It’s a fascinating and enlightening story of just how bad things could be when a battle is literally raging at your doorstep. In the home, you can still see the blood stains on the wooden floors upstairs. Here, you’ll see the window where a field surgeon tossed out amputated limbs. Arms, legs, hands, and feet of these unfortunate men supposedly formed a pile as high as the smokehouse.

The story of Carrie McGavock, however, was the most compelling. Once the war was over, and bodies buried hastily in shallow graves across the countryside, she decided to dedicate a parcel of their land as a Confederate cemetery. She began the arduous task of identifying these men when possible, and relocating their bodies to a proper, marked resting place. Her story inspired Robert Hicks to write Widow of the South, which I bought in the Carnton Plantation gift shop.

That book, along with several others like the real-life diary of a Confederate widow, A Woman’s Civil War by Cornelia Peake McDonald, helped me fill in the gaps of Portia’s story. Accounts of the Tennessee men who fought for both sides, and walking the ground they lived and died upon, helped bring Beau to life.

I think I could have written A Time for Everything without ever having stepped foot into Tennessee, but it wouldn’t have been the same book. Without touring the places firsthand and hearing such memorable and personal accounts, I don’t believe the story would have felt real enough. But I’ll let you readers decide that for yourself.

Profile Pic 2015 150x226  Buy her book here.           A Time for Everything  

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Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Today is for remembering those who died while serving this country’s armed forces. Veterans Day celebrates all who serve and served in the armed forces.

My dad didn’t die in the war, but he passed away at an early age. Every Memorial Day reminds me to make a visit to the cemetery. When we arrive, seeing all the flags by the gravestones make me proud and sad at the same time.

Dad was very patriotic. Whenever the Star Spangled Banner played on TV, he’d stand and salute or place his hand over his heart. He was a veteran of World War II, serving in Wales and England with a medical unit. His twin brother saw action in Europe. He belonged to the American Legion and had a special licence plate–one I remember to this day–AL1005. When we didn’t finish our dinner, he’d say, “Children in Europe are starving.” My sister and I would giggle, but knew he was quite serious.

So Dad, on this day, I want to tell you, you’re remembered. You were a good father. You served your country. You were patriotic. Thank you for setting the example. And hopefully you can see the salute I give you on this special day.

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What’s Your Decade?

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Do you have a favorite? Decade that is. Seems like everyone has one. They are even themes for parties.

The Fifties always seemed to be a favorite but I’ve noticed the Seventies is starting to edge it out. I saw a picture of someone attending a Nineties party and I wanted to shout, “Too soon!”

People seem to lump fashion, music, art and way of life into decades. How did that happen? When one decade ended, the next was given a blank slant and told to start something new? Or did it just work out that way?

The Twenties became the backdrop for my time travel novels. I had to research clothes and music but also had many of my grandmother’s old pictures. I think I chose that time period because it felt so familiar.

Lots happened in that decade, starting with Prohibition right down to modern fashion for both men and women. Crazy dances like the Charleston and the “talkies” –movies with sound—were big hits. The Twenties took people into the modern era.

So I guess looking at life through decades is kind of cool. It puts history in perspective in smaller bites. We can analyze time easier that way.

So let’s have a little fun. Choose your favorite decade. It can be one when you weren’t even alive. Do a little research, learn about it.  I was surprised to learn that telephones, refrigerators and indoor plumbing were quite common place. Don’t know why I thought they weren’t. It just seemed like so long ago.

One day this decade will be part of the group. Makes you wonder how it will be remembered. Fashion forward or party costumes? It probably won’t be long before we find out.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Euclid Beach 1Whenever you’re writing a novel, I don’t care who you are, you rely on memories. There are stories tucked in the back of your mind itching to be set free. Characters might be based on people you know and scenes set on experiences you’ve had. Since it’s summer, I thought I’d share a memory that came to mind after reading about the long closed Euclid Beach Park in the paper.  It brought back old childhood memories.

 

Euclid Beach was a magical place to little kids back in the day. Why? That is a question my son asks. What’s so great about Euclid Beach? He, who has been exposed to every kind of park from Disney to Busch Gardens to Cedar Point.  Well, in those days, there weren’t a lot of places that catered to kids except Roller Rinks. We didn’t have all the choices kids have today. We only had three channels to choose from on one television set. Hard to believe, isn’t it, kids?GoldenTicket

 

On the last day of school, we would all get that golden ticket. Yeah, I stole that from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but give me a break. I’m a teacher and it’s one of my favorite books.  The ticket was actually yellow and it listed all the rides you could go on for free.

 

At the park, you usually bought tickets for each ride. Some rides were worth more tickets, like the Flying Turns, and were excluded on the golden ticket. If you wanted to ride, you had to pay.

I think we had to go on a certain day for the ticket to be valid, something like School Days. Euclid Beach wasn’t a far drive but to a kid it seemed far away.  We usually went with friends or cousins.

 

Once we entered the park, the first ride we ran to was The Bug.  It was great because you could fit a lot of kids in the circle of seats. Whoever was on the wrong end would get smashed by the rest of us. We always did our best to smash that person with a few extra pushes, too.  The Rocket Ships were usually next.  Two fit in a seat and the ships would leave the concrete pad and swing out and around in a circle. It was a thrill! And one of my favorites.

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Afterward, we’d head down the midway past Laughing Sal and the Fun House. Never seemed like much fun to me, just the opposite. It was pretty scary. Sal would be in one of the corners of the outside of the building, supposedly laughing, but to me it was a sign to stay far away. I don’t remember going in there until I was much older.

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over the falls

Laugh in the Dark was not to be missed. Those type of rides are now referred to as a  dark ride because, well, it was in the dark. You’d travel inside a dark building in cars on a track and things would light up to scare you. I think my all time favorite dark ride was Over the Falls. You sat in a four person boat; two in front and two in back, and weren’t even strapped in. The boat went through a tunnel and scenes lit up but were not scary. When you came out of the tunnel you started chugging up the hill and then dropped straight down into a pool of water…without ever falling out. To this day, I never understood why not. I know there’s a scientific explanation but still…

 
Euclid Beach had many coasters, too. The Racing Coasters were fun because they took off at the same time and everyone wanted to come back first and win. They were the tamest of the coasters. We talked my mom into going on it one year. She was afraid of coasters and most rides. Well, we never heard the end of it. She hated it and repeated the story many times how we made her go! The kids loved the fact she went on a coaster. We thought it was great and, of course, funny.

coaster I always remember coming to the back edge of the park. The last ride was the Flying Scooters. They looked like butterflies and you moved the wing back and forth to make the scooter go up in the air. There was a trailer park community beyond that and people were not allowed to walk through. I never remember going down to the lake although the park sat right by it. We’d stopped at the trailer park and felt we came to the end of the line.

 When it was time to go home, we’d stop for ice cream cones and buy popcorn balls and taffy to take home. What a great ending to a long day.

So, to answer my son’s question, what’s so great about Euclid Beach? Hard to put into words but I think my answer would be the same every time…the memories.

 

Horse Sense

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Since I have no real experience or great knowledge about these magnificent animals, I wonder why I keep putting horses in my stories. I’m definitely not an expert on the subject. I grew up watching them on TV so I always felt they were part of my life. I’m not talking about the My Little Pony era.  I go back a little farther than that for my childhood. I’m talking real, live horses like Trigger, Roy Roger’s horse, and the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver, of the “Hi, Ho, Silver” fame. And let’s not forget Zorro riding his white horse in the opening credits of his show and pulling the animal up and onto its back legs as he gives a wave. Those were real horses and men depended on them.

Roy Rogers and Trigger                             lr_silv8

One more show on my list also deserves a shout out…Bonanza.4horses

It was on for over a decade. Pa Cartwright and his three boys would ride up on their horses during the show’s introduction, stop and smile for the camera. The horses took them everywhere–into town, out on the range and chasing bad guys. My favorite Cartwright was Little Joe and I loved his horse, too. Cochise was a beautiful paint horse that had wonderful patterns of white on it. I wanted one just like it.

So how could any little girl during that era not love horses? I was one of many who did, I’m sure. Then it happened. My sister and I begged to go horseback riding during a vacation at a resort where there were stables. I was probably eleven or twelve at the time. All the riders were in a pen, dismounting at the end of the journey and my horse decided to pin me with its hindquarters against the fence. If you’ve stopped laughing and are wondering what part exactly are the hindquarters, I looked it up. It’s the top part of the horse above the back leg. I don’t remember how long it took to be rescued but it felt like hours. Needless to say, I was traumatized, never to ride or go near a horse again.

So why use them in my stories? I’ll tell you a little secret. I still love them. They are beautiful and majestic and I long to ride one the correct, proper way. I can feel the wind in my hair as I proficiently gallop along in my imagination. And right before my dismount, I have the horse rear high in the air and I give a quick salute, just like Zorro, and say, “Hi, Ho, Silver!” Oh, wait, that’s the Lone Ranger…but you get the picture.

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