Research Isn't Work
I always thought history was boring, probably because about the only thing I remember is memorizing dates for the reigns of monarchs (I’m from Canada, so we focused on British history). And I don’t do well with memorizing.
But give me a tidbit of historical information, like the Pony Express, and I’m off to the races. And while not all research is historical, I thought you might be interested in a list of places where you can do research.
- Your local library: Most libraries have a local history section or a genealogy section, and in larger towns and cities, you will likely also find newspaper archives. Look for books written during the time period you’re writing about.
- Historical societies: often have diaries and journals of residents, albums of pictures, and lots of newspaper and magazine clippings. Most do a calendar each year as a fund raiser, so ask for back copies that are probably reduced in price now.
- Historical markers: Most states have dozens of historical markers along the highways. Don’t be afraid to get off the highway for a few miles and follow a rutted trail into the middle of a huge meadow to discover a single marker about an obscure Civil War Battle that few have heard of.
- Trail Interpretation Centers: Not only do they talk about the trail but usually they include history of the local area as well.
- Visitor Centers: Often the people who work or volunteer at these centers are locals who know the local history or have an interest in a special piece of history.
- State Park centers and gift shops: The people who work here usually know a lot about the area, or know the people in the area who know a lot.
- Museums: There are museums for just about every interest. I have visited airplane and glider museums; Pony Express museums; Old Western Town museums; War museums; aircraft carrier museum; police and military museum; firearms museums; stagecoach museum; carriage museum; and automobile museums.
- History Museums: Particularly in larger cities, these museums bring in and rotate through a variety of exhibits during the year. Become a member and get on their mailing list to stay up to date. For example, Denver recently had the Sherlock Holmes exhibit and the Poison exhibit.
- Entertainment attractions: For example, in Las Vegas, there are virtual reality-type shows where you can be a CSI and walk through a crime scene, look at evidence, and enter a report as to your findings.
- Movies: I like to watch movies set in the time period I’m currently writing in. The closer the movie was made to the event the better, I’ve found.
For my latest release, Echoes of the Heart, I spent a lot of time in museums, in the library, online, and in the car driving from one Pony Express station to the next. While I haven’t covered the entire trail, I hope to. Which will probably germinate more stories about the Pony Express.
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid publisher who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. Her current release, Echoes of the Heart, a 9-in-1 novella collection titled "Pony Express Romance Collection" released April 1. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She will be teaching an online course for American Christian Fiction Writers in June 2017, “Don’t let your subplots sink your story”. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both.