Between the Lines: Planning Her Escape Route #research #history #amwriting

She needed to flee but to where? That question had me searching the historic records for a place for Evelyn, along with Nathaniel, to move at the end of Evelyn’s Promise. Somewhere on the new frontier, now that the American Revolution had ended. Somewhere dangerous yet appealing to the adventurous and courageous. Somewhere her friends and family would object to her attempting to make the arduous journey.

 

Yazoo-Georgia_Controversy
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

After some digging, I found the Yazoo Lands and the ensuing land scandal. The area encompasses what is now northern Alabama and was largely inhabited by Indians, or the ancestors of the people today we call Native Americans. The area only sparsely had white people settling on land, trying to start new towns and cities.

 

Having identified the ultimate destination, then I had to study the historic maps to determine the route they would most likely take to wend their way across hostile land and territory. How would a lady with an infant travel from the eastern coast near Charlestown (present-day Charleston), South Carolina, across rough roads and trails, crossing swollen rivers, mountains, and forests to the edge of the newly independent country?

As difficult as it must have been, she’d most likely travel by wagon as far as possible. Perhaps later she’d be forced to ride astride through the roughest terrain, but for my purposes, she’d start out in a wagon of some fashion. Which she did through the end of the story, which ends long before she would have reached her destination.

I believe in understanding the situations my characters would have faced in their day and with the constraints of the society and the technology available. Adhering as closely as possible, based on research, to the realities of life in the 18th century enriches the context of the stories. People then faced very different challenges on a day-to-day basis than we do today. The speed with which we can travel across America, and indeed the world, would be truly astonishing to people living in the 1700s. That’s one aspect of life in the past that I’ve tried to underscore for my readers. Did I succeed?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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Between the Lines: Mapping the Past #research #history

The where of a story anchors the characters as well as the readers regarding the place and time of the tale. In order to write my A More Perfect Union series, I needed to create a visual of the city of Charles Town, South Carolina, during the American Revolution versus the Charleston of today. Since my characters mainly lived inside the city limits, understanding those limits versus today’s boundaries was imperative.

My husband and I visited Charleston twice over the years it took me to write the four stories. The first time we stayed in the John Rutledge Bed and Breakfast, specifically so I could experience the sights and sounds of the home where one of South Carolina’s first governors lived in the 18th century. We also took a walking tour of the historic district with all of the 18th century homes and some of the cobble stone streets. And we enjoyed an elegant meal at McCrady’s Tavern off of Bay Street, a place where George Washington ate on his southern tour during his first term as president. If you haven’t been to this beautiful and charming historic city, I strongly encourage you to make it a destination for a future vacation.

Charleston MapI realized early on a visual aid would be beneficial. So I located a hand-drawn map of the city as it appeared during my time period. Of course, it was too small for my purpose of locating where my characters would live and the kind of houses they’d live in. So with the help of my creative son, I (read: he) made an enlarged copy and I glued it to a piece of poster board.

Then I chose images from the walking tour guide of several houses, ones that seemed to suit the life styles of my characters. I glued those onto the map, along with the picture of how I imagine my characters would look. I also marked the locations of the market and a few other places mentioned in my stories to ensure that I accurately described how the characters navigated through the streets of the city to go various places.

I don’t often make visual aids, such as my map, but it proved useful indeed. Especially when Emily had to visit Samantha in Emily’s Vow (Book 1) and when Benjamin escorted Amy to Samantha’s house in Amy’s Choice (Book 2). Also Samantha, in Samantha’s Secret (Book 3), needed to walk from her home to where Benjamin stayed at Captain Sullivan’s quarters above his import shop. Or when Evelyn, in Evelyn’s Promise (Book 4), had to find her parents when they were out for a stroll. To learn more about each of the stories in the A More Perfect Union series, please visit my website where you’ll find their descriptions and where you can purchase them.

AMPU Covers-4Like most historical fiction/romance authors, accuracy is important to the extent possible based on source materials. Sometimes we can’t know the answer to a question because it’s not documented. But in this case, having the street map ensured I could describe the town as it existed during the time period of my series.

Thanks for stopping by! Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Between the Lines: Locating and Using Wild Edible Plants #research #history #food

Exploring various aspects of the past often brings some surprising insights to the present. In Amy’s Choice (A More Perfect Union Book 2), Amy accompanies Samantha on her trips into the forest in search of particular plants to use to flavor their meals and also for medicinal purposes. Having sent them into the woods, I had to determine what Samantha would find. But to be more challenging, what would she find in November in South Carolina along the eastern seaboard?

chickweed-pictureI bought a couple of books on edible wild plants and began reading with an eye for possibilities. I had to make sure the plants were native to the south, grew near to the coast though not ocean side, since the manor house is in the country perhaps fifteen miles from the ocean. The plants also had to be growing in November, or at least living in some phase of its life cycle.

lambs-quartersTo be honest, I’d given myself quite a challenge! But I finally found a few plants she could locate and use. They included chickweed (at left), lamb’s quarters (at right), and white pine tree bark (below). Are you surprised by that last one? I sure was when I came across it in my reading as a good flavoring for stews and soups. (Images courtesy of the Edible Wild Foods and the Eastern_White_Pine_-_treeNational Arborists sites.)

I had considered searching the fields and woods behind my house for what we could harvest, but haven’t garnered the courage necessary. Imagine if I choose the wrong plant, or pick it at the wrong time, and it’s not safe to eat. Or if I didn’t prepare it correctly. My confidence is pretty low on this score, so I rather envy Samantha’s ability to choose the right plants and know the proper preparation and cooking methods for them.

Have you experimented with edible wild plants? Are you able to locate and use them, unlike me? Can you teach me how? (grin)

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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Between the Lines: How to (not) cure a gunshot wound in 1782 #research #history #medicine

One of the most important aspects of a good story is conflict, organic and unavoidable conflict between the main characters. In Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union Book 3), Samantha clashes with Dr. Trenton Cunningham over medical practices. She’s a midwife and healer, relying upon her herbs and concoctions. He is a trained doctor, having studied at the university in Philadelphia (though he would have preferred studying at Edinburgh University, but with the American Revolution in full swing, that was out of the question).

At the end of Amy’s Choice (Book 2), Benjamin Hanson had been shot. Now Samantha and Trent are called upon to heal him, but they had to butt heads over whose methods to employ. Up until this point, writing the story was easy. But now the research kicks in when I asked myself, what would each of them believe needed to be done and how could they be at odds over the final choice? And then how might they agree and work together?

Docter at YorktownI’ve seen the kinds of instruments doctors used during the American Revolution, both at the Williamsburg museum and at the encampment reenactment at Yorktown. Note the instruments on the table that the doctor would have used for whatever ailed his patient. (Also note that no women were allowed to be trained as a doctor in the 18th century.) A mortar and pestle for crushing herbs into medicine. A chisel and clamps, neither of which I want to think about too long. I’m sure he had a saw around somewhere for cases of gangrene infection, to cut off the leg above the infection. Bottles of various medicinal pills and powders. The pewter bowl with handle was used to catch the blood when bleeding a patient.

LancetsLancets were used to cut a patient, to bleed him in an attempt to balance the body’s Four Humors. This technique was used on George Washington on his final day alive (December 14, 1799), three or four times apparently, but he died anyway from a putrid throat that had swollen shut and suffocated him.Both of those displays sent shivers down my back at the idea of using them. But that was the reality for my characters, so I had to press on.

To answer my questions, I consulted my go-to reference for 18th century medicine, Southern Folk Medicine, 1750-1820 by Kay. K. Moss. She directed the Eighteenth-Century Backcountry Lifeways Studies Programs at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina, for twenty years and continues to do research as an adjunct curator. A graduate Southern Folk Medicine coverof Duke University, she is also the author of The Backcountry Housewife: A Study of Eighteenth-Century Foods; Decorative Motifs from the Southern Backcountry, 1750–1825; and Journey to the Piedmont Past.

I perused the various options Ms. Moss included in the book. Bleedings? The four bodily humors? Emetics and purges? Poultices and salves? Astronomical considerations? Ultimately I was unsure which would be reasonable and the best for strong conflict between Samantha and Trent. So I contacted Ms. Moss at the Schiele Museum, explained why I was reaching out to her, and she graciously agreed to answer my questions via email. She sent me a long, detailed response to the instruments and salves and medicines and how they could be employed and most importantly which ones my characters would be most likely to use. Very helpful and fascinating to read about. It also makes me very, very glad to live in the 21st century!

So when you read Samantha and Trent’s story, you’ll learn what those methods are based on my understanding of Ms. Moss’ professional advice. Of course, the fun part of writing the story was pitting the two against each other even as their awareness and desire grows stronger with each encounter.

What do you think? Would you care to have a doctor or healer using any of these tools and instruments on you to make you feel better?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

SamanthsSecretCOVERP.P.S. Want to read Samantha’s Secret? Here’s where you can purchase a copy of your own. Happy reading!

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