Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just How Much Information Do You Need About a Place to Write a Book (A Surprise Giveaway)

By Lena Nelson Dooley


I like for my historical novels to be authentic to the time period. I search for all kinds of information to fit the situation. When writing Maggie's Journey, here are some things I found out.

The decade from 1880-1890 in Seattle, Washington Territory:
Northern Pacific Railroad reaches Spokane Falls on June 25, 1881. 
Range wars between cattlemen and sheepmen in Douglas County 1881. 
Washington Territorial Legislature creates Garfield County (out of Columbia County) on November 29, 1881. 
U.S. Army establishes Fort Spokane at the junction of the Spokane and Columbia rivers in 1882. 
Great Dayton (Columbia County) Fire 1882. 
Women form first women's club on the West Coast in Olympia on March 10, 1883. 
Women win, lose, regain, and again lose right to vote in Territorial elections between 1883 and 1888. 
Northern Pacific Railroad’s mainline between Washington and Minnesota is completed at Gold Creek, Montana, on September 8, 1883. 
Washington Territorial Legislature creates Asotin County (out of Garfield) on October 27, 1883. 
Washington Territorial Legislature creates Kittitas County (out of Klickitat) and Lincoln County (out of Whitman) on November 24, 1883. 
Washington Territorial Legislature creates Skagit County (out of Whatcom), Douglas County (out of Lincoln), and Adams and Franklin counties (out of Whitman) on November 28, 1883. 
Northern Pacific constructs a railroad bridge over Snake River at Ainsworth 1884. 
Chief Joseph and many Nez Perce, who were exiled to various reservations after their exodus to Canada was blocked in 1877, are relocated to the Colville Indian Reservation in 1885. 
Whites, Indians, and others expel Chinese from Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere during 1885 and 1886. 
Horse rancher Frank Beezley settles on Beezley Springs (Ephrata) in 1886. 
Mother Joseph builds Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane in 1886. 
John McMillan establishes Roche Harbor (San Juans) Limestone in 1886. 
Dawes Severalty Act 1887. 
Jesuit missionary Fr. Joseph Cataldo, SJ, opens Gonzaga College (now Gonzaga University) in Spokane on September 17, 1887. 
Stampede Pass tunnel opens on May 27, 1888. 
The Great Fire burns Seattle on June 6, 1889. 
The Great Fire burns Ellensburg on July 4, 1889. 
The Great Fire burns Spokane Falls on August 4, 1889. 
Washington becomes a state on November 11, 1889. 
Yakima becomes the site of the State Fair in 1889. 
Cheney Normal School (future Eastern Washington University) formally opens on October 13, 1890. 
Population of Washington state is 357,232 in 1890. 

I didn't necessarily use all this information, but it helped me flesh out the setting and time period.

To help me understand life on wagon trains, I used a number of books as well as web sites. Here's some of the information I gleaned:
McElroy traveled with his brother-in-law, Norton Bates, in a train of 16 wagons, all from Illinois. The first few days were cold and the trails were deep in mud. During one stretch they crossed the same river 27 times. The party soon realized that their wagons were overloaded - a common experience for the early travelers. McElroy and Bates lightened their load by selling 250 pounds of pilot bread, 200 pounds of flour and 50 pounds of "other stuff." When they approached the higher elevations of Wyoming, the load needed to be lightened again. The pair shortened their wagon by cutting off a third of its length, and they left behind another 500 pounds of flour, a barrel of sugar and several hundred pounds of bacon.

When they reached South Pass in western Wyoming, "our team failed wrote McElroy, and the group split. They had heard rumors that it was "sickly" at the gold mines and that it would be best to avoid them for awhile. McElroy and Bates took the advice, traded their stake in the outfit for horses, and turned north toward Oregon. The rest of the party went south toward California. McElroy arrived in Oregon City, capitol of the Oregon Territory, on August 20, 1849.

For a few months he worked at the local newspaper, the Oregon Spectator. In November he headed south for the goldfields, canoeing down the Columbia to Astoria and then taking passage on a sailing ship to San Francisco - a "very stormy trip."

McElroy wrote Sarah that he had reached the goldfields near Placerville, California, on December 1, 1849, and achieved "tolerable success for a green hand." He averaged one ounce ($16) per day. Once he mined two ounces, some days much less. A half-ounce a day was considered by the miners to be an average find. He was proud to report that he made between $300 and $400 during the month of December.

Unfortunately, his good luck did not continue - he fell sick in early January 1850 and was unable to work for three months. Sick care cost him $30 per week and soon took most of his earnings. By April he was well enough to work again, but high water made the streams difficult to mine. So he decided to return to Oregon. 

I came here for the purpose of helping to start a newspaper. The office belongs to Mr. Dryer (the man I have been working for in Portland), and he says he places the utmost confidence in me and insisted on me coming here to take charge of the mechanical and financial departments of the paper. I consented on condition that I stay no longer than until I get my affairs settled up, and until he finds someone to take my place.

Starting a newspaper in little town of Olympia was a challenge. Fewer than people lived in the area (in about "26 houses and shanties") and there were few businesses in town. Nonetheless, it was the chief population center of the territory. Seattle was still only a dream in the minds of the Denny party who had arrived at Alki Point just seven months earlier. Incidentally, Seattle did not have its first newspaper until 11 years later, in 1863, when the Seattle Gazette began publication.

Actually, you can lose yourself in the past by finding information such as this. Welcome to my world.

Speaking of my world, I recently created a new website. Check it out: www.lenanelsondooley.com 

Today, I'm having a surprise giveaway. A reader who leaves a comment will be chosen to receive the reader's choice of one of my books in my McKenna's Daughter's Series. 


If you're not familiar with my series, the heroines are identical triplets born on one of the last wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. Their mother died giving birth, and they are separated. The girls don't find out that they have sisters until near their 18th birthday. Each book is one of the sisters' story.

Maggie's Journey, which released in 2011, won the 2012 Selah Award for Historical Novel from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.

In May, Mary's Blessing was one of three finalists in the 2013 Selah Award for Romance Novel.

Catherine's Purstuit released in February 2013

60 comments:

  1. Thank you for the interesting article. I would love to win one of your books.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angela, thanks for dropping by. You're at the computer earlier than I am.

      Delete
  2. I have not read these books, but would love to! tammyredd@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, maybe you should choose Maggie's Journey if you win.

      Delete
  3. I'm with you, Lena. There is nothing like getting lost in history!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was in college, all my elective classes, both in undergraduate and graduate school were history classes. That way I could choose the era and area I wanted to know more about.

      Delete
  4. Love the interesting facts of history too. I definitely would like Catherine's Pursuit!!! I'd like to know how this story ends!!
    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathleen, have you read the other books? I hope so. The last book has spoilers about the first ones.

      Delete
  5. Clicking on the above link took me to November 2, 2011 post www.lenanelsondooley.com

    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used Blogger to create my web page, so it has the date I first started creating the web site as the Main page date. I couldn't find out how to delete the date.

      Delete
  6. Are you meaning link to be http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/

    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathleen, that's the blog where I interview other authors and promote their books. www.lenanelsondooley.com is all about me.

      Delete
  7. Ohhhhh, I finally gave in and bought the first two, I've been wanting them like forever, lol, so I really do need to win Catherine's Pursuit!

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wendy, thank you for buying the first two books. I hope you like them. Maybe you will win the last one.

      Delete
  8. a great posting...thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very interesting facts. Especially about all of those fires in 1889. I wonder if they were all somehow connected, was it arson, or maybe just a really dry year (unusual for that part of the country)?

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patty, I didn't find out about how the fires started, but since so much was built of wood, and they had no way to treat it to make fire resistant, they could spread quickly.

      Delete
  10. I will announce the winner tomorrow in a comment.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I was excited to see you mention South Pass, WY! I lived in WY for almost 10 years and had the opportunity visit South Pass a couple of times. While it's a ghost town now, it was very interesting to visit, and I understand that you could still take a pan down to the river and find small amounts of gold. Some old-timers still panned for gold there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bethany, what fun. Did you pan for gold?

      Delete
    2. I did not, more's the pity! ;)

      Delete
  12. Great article. I used some of your suggestions when writing my first novel, Very Truly Yours, a contemporary novel set in historic Cape May, NJ. Local readers commented on the authenticity of the incidents based on their knowledge of the surroundings. Thanks
    @Maxwriter360
    onceuponafable.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maxine, I've had that happen to me as well.

      Delete
  13. Interesting article. I wish my library would carry these books. They sound really good.
    msbookwormlady(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay, have you asked them to. Most libraries will order books that are requested. At least those near me do.

      Delete
    2. Lena, the library that I go to in my district doesn't have the funds. They are a branch of the main library in the city and they don't have the funds either. But, I do go to another library in a different district and I think I will ask them because I do know the woman who orders books. Thanks.

      Delete
  14. I enjoyed this article so much. I love to read fiction set in these times and totally lose myself in the book I'm reading. I can't imagine what those pioneers went through. Thank you for sharing!! Please enter me in your giveaway.
    Barbara Thompson
    barbmaci61(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara, it sounds as if you would really like my books.

      Delete
  15. Thanks for the information - I'm so thankful we have advanced some! What a rough time they had. truckredford(at)Gmail(Dot)Com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eliza, yes, I wouldn't want to have to go through what they did.

      Delete
  16. I could tell by your first two books that you had done your research. I would love to own the third in this trilogy :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I haven't read any in the series yet, but am looking forward to finding them in my local library! Please enter my in the giveaway. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  18. It is so interesting to delve into past history and see how life has changed. I'm looking forward to reading your trilogy.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. KayM, I do try to make my books totally authentic to the setting and time period.

      Delete
  19. Oh, I want to read those books so bad! I love historical fiction set in the U.S.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, and I want you to read the books as well.

      Delete
  20. I really enjoyed reading your article. Also enjoyed reading Maggie's Journey. Would love a chance to win your third book. Thank you and have a blessed evening.
    Karen G.
    kmgervais(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen G, I'm glad you liked Maggie's story. I know you'll want to catch up with the two other girls as well.

      Delete
  21. Wow! How do you keep track of all that info from research?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martha, I actually keep very good files of information on my computer. I'd lose it is it were on paper.

      Delete
  22. Oh my goodness, that is a ton of info! I would really get lost in it all and totally forget what I was supposed to be researching. :) I love rabbit trails.
    Your three books listed here are on my "wish list"! Thanks for posting today!
    Susan P
    farmygirl at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, I put the files with the information in the major file for the book. It's all there together with the files of the chapters, etc.

      Delete
  23. Love how you brainstorm the period..it gave me so many ideas on a new subject for any book!!! Then I would like to say I have not read your books about the triplets( I have twins myself!) but would love to read that trio for sure. Thanks for the opportunity to win. jelliott53(AT)Hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jojo, I still want to write a book about twins as well. Probably a contemporary one.

      Delete
  24. We just arrived to Nicaragua today, for 3 months of mission work. I've read the first 2 books....I've gotta know the ending! Fingers crossed...

    missionwife@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melody, do you have a good internet connection there? I could send you a pdf file of the last book. I really like to help missionaries.

      Delete
  25. Wow, that's alot of research. Your books are great. Thank you for the opportunity.
    prettyinpurplerose(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  26. Digging around and researching different times/facts in history is one of my favorite things. Which all usually because of neat tidbits I read about in the historical ficton books it seems I've become addicted to recently!
    I have Maggie's Journey but haven't read it yet b/c I can't stand to start a series that isn't finished or that I don't own or have access to all the parts.
    Thanks for the chance to win one!
    kam110476 (@) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kam, I've had a few other readers who bought the books when they came out and didn't read them until they had all three.

      Delete
  27. I would love to read one of your book. rdunson(at)knology(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  28. I know its late but hopefully not too late . I would love to be in this contest. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maudemaxine, you're in luck. Because of the electricity problems, I haven't announced the winner yet. I'll do that now.

      Delete
  29. Because we've had so many comments, I've decided to give away two books. Here are the winners:

    Kay from NY
    Kam110476

    Please email me your mailing address to:

    SAFE[HYPHEN]LDwrites[at]flash[dot]net

    You know how to change that to make it work. If I don't hear from you by tomorrow, I'll try to email you.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Would love to read your books, Lena - thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

    bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete