Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Would You Look?

Twice in the last week someone has emailed requesting links to resources. Since I needed to write a post anyway, I decided to write it on resources I use in case there's anyone else who may need them.

As most of you know, I write historicals so many of my links have to do with daily life in the late 19th century. These include:
- clothing
- food

Horses play a predominant role in many of my stories and I’ve found the simplest answers can often be found using 4H websites geared to youngsters. For example, the University of Alberta  has an online 4-H Horse Reference Manual with answers to almost every aspect of caring for a horse. It includes breeds and colors of horses as well as equipment and tack. If you need specific information like how fast a horse can travel in a day, you can check in with western writer and literary agent, Terry Burns who has an excellent article on his website entitled, ‘How Fast Could They Travel’. For vet care, there are sites like  which covers topics, articles and discussions on horses.

Another invaluable tool I’ve discovered is Yahoo Groups. There are thousands of groups for almost any subject. When we owned goats, I belonged to groups for veterinary care, goat breeding, dairy goats and show goats. There are over 18,000 groups to do with horses. Mind you, some are for horse farms with horses for sale, but that’s only a small part of them. I did a quick search on numismatics because it’s of interest to me and found 94 groups. Anyone need to know about medieval coins? There’s a group for it. What about you fantasy writers… I typed that in the search box and it came back with 843 groups. And yes, there is even a group to discuss the price of tea in china.

While writing Emma’s Outlaw, I realized I needed to talk to someone with knowledge of letterpress printing equipment similar to those used by small newspaper offices throughout the west in the latter part of the 19th century. Naturally, I searched the yahoo groups. After reviewing all the choices, I decided to join PPLetterpress. In the spot where it asks why I want to join, I told them about writing Emma’s Outlaw and how I needed information on Letterpress equipment. Accepted into the group, my introductory email laid out exactly what my story was about and what kind of information I needed. The responses started coming in almost immediately. Oh my. I loved the interest it generated as half the emails wanted to know more about Emma and offered printing career suggestions for her. Several people emailed me privately with detailed information and offered to stand by in case I had further questions. Joining this one group was one of the smartest research moves I’ve ever made. And best of all, it was easy and free.

eHarlequin has a new thread called Medication Station where you can go for medical help from other writers. It started as help for prescription ideas but I see other medical questions appearing. Writers with medical experience can at least guide you in the right direction if they can’t help you themself. You’ll have to become a member of the  first but there are so many valuable threads under the Write Stuff forum, it’ll be worth it.

If I need ideas for my western heroines, a visit to the Legends of America site soon sparks my imagination. This list shows American women in all walks of life including bandits, gamblers, painted ladies, pioneers, physicians and real-life heroines.

What are your favourite research sites?


Karyn Good said...

Since I'm not very organized I don't have any links to share off the top of my head. I like to bop around a lot and see what I can find. I like the yahoo groups idea. I've never thought of looking there for information!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Actually Karyn, I was familiar with the yahoo groups long before I joined the Inkwell Inspirations blog. That's our 'club room'. I was going to suggest the Chicks start one up but we already have our calendar on google. I know there are google groups but I'm not familiar with them or how they work.

Many authors, like Mary Balogh, have their own yahoo groups as well. It provides a clubhouse setting to announce new books and for readers to have access to the authors. On Mary's group, they discuss her old books, quiver with anticipation over her new ones, and let other readers know which books they can't seem to find.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Excellent resources, Anita, and thanks for the horse links :) I have a bunch of obscure little resources I've saved for very particular things I needed to know, and some general ones related to, say, obscure details of feminine hygiene, birth control, and medical treatments in medieval times, or on opium, or on the surprisingly huge list of medieval classifications for forms of divination. Suffice it to say, I'd offer some links, but I don't know if anyone would need them.

Rosalie's Medieval Woman, however, is one with enough info that I'll put it up. I know at least it's relevant to Janet's work :)

Also the small but helpful What Tree is it? and the BC Tree Book for when I either can't remember the name of a certain tree, or I'm trying to add more variety and detail, rather than just saying 'tree' all the time (although my protag doesn't know tree types).

For very very specific, obscure details, I also go to the Absolute Write research forums. With such a large community, there's always some one who has an answer, or can help direct a writer where to find things. For example in a current few scenes I've had horse + gear swim through a lake twice, soaked in a downpour, and more to come. I know tack care, I know horse endurance decently, and I know riders + wet tack/blankets is bound to produce chafing at the least, but the people on those forums gave me a rundown on my precise scenario, based on their own horse knowledge. Fabulous stuff.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
You are definitely the Research Goddess! What great links and resources you've listed here.

I'm particularly interested in the research sites about horses. Horses figure prominently in one of my WIPs so I think I need to do some more in depth research. I'm glad to have so many places to look.


Anne Germaine said...

This post is a great resource Anita! I know I will come back to it as my current wip is somehow set on a ranch (??? I know nothing about ranching!). Thank you!

Linda Ford said...

Wow, Anita, what good resources you have provided. I grateful.

Linda Ford

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hayley, those are some good sites you've mentioned. Especially the Absolute Write research forum. I used to have this one on my list but it must've been before my big computer crash last year. Thanks for mentioning it.

It looks like I might be going to you for horse information instead of the other way around. :D


Anita Mae Draper said...

Jana and Anne - I would really take a look at yahoo groups. It takes time to filter through them and join, but once you post a question, you can be fairly sure of a quick, honest response based on experience. Not to say that most research sites have wrong information, but it's time consuming to find the exact info you need. The yahoo groups are on a more personal basis and if they don't know the answer, they can usually point you in another helpful direction. Which is what I presume the Absolute Write Research Forum does.

And if all else fails, see hayley. LOL

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Linda, nice to see you here. I suspect you have your own list of resources for the time of the 'Dirty 30s'. I really like that you cover that period in our history.

I want to book you for a Sat blogpost when your next book comes out. Keep missing you somehow. :(

Thanks for visiting us.