My writer's notebook contains sketches of pocket watches, DaVinci designs and ancient whales, notes about "hasty pudding" (corn meal mush), the definitions of ravines, chasms, and gullies (because they are all different), and legends about everything from mythical beasts such as the goat-sucking chupacabra to treasure supposedly buried on California Mission land. (No scanner, so I can't show you my actual pages, but the pics in this post give you the flavor.)
|Santa Barbara Mission|
My research has carried me to "The Early California Population Project," a web site housing historic records of, you guessed it, California's early population. I also get to visit sites with lists of Native American names (so I can find a Miwok name for a character), sites devoted to old-west slang and costumes. The internet is a Wonderland!
|Rose Hill Cemetary (Antioch CA)|
I've the advantage of homeschooling my 4th grade twins here in California, so it's the year for CA history. :) I read them Sid Fleischman's By The Great Horn Spoon. (Great web site for that book too.) Now we're reading Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, by Kristiana Gregory, and from the American Girls Collection, we're reading the Josefina books. For myself, I just picked up Daughter of Joy: A Novel of Gold Rush California by Joann Levy.
And my sources aren't just books and web sites. You'd be surprised what the people around you know. An online writer friend gave me tips about chupacabra and a friend's little girl knew more about ancient whales than most college professors. Well... I suppose if the particular professor's specialty was ancient sea life, it would be a different matter. :p
Then then there are films. I've been interested in traditional westerns and (woo-hoo!) "The Wild Wild West" (the 60's TV show, as opposed to the movie.) That thing's kickass! You've got this guy, James West, riding around in a train with his sidekick who makes all of these James Bond style gadgets for him. But it's kind of steam punk because it's, of course, old west. (Alas, Twelve Keys has no trains. They don't fit with my time period. But by a strange twist, the characters develop steam powered motorcycles. Go figure fantasy!)
And while my first book, Syzygy, brought me to San Francisco to look at buildings and ride on commuter trains, and into clubs to hear loud music--Twelve Keys, is getting me outdoors. I'm looking at hills, plants, and animals. What color exactly is a red-tail hawk's wing and how big is a coyote? These are important questions. :)
So, it's total immersion. I've even started wearing suspenders. I tried to get my husband to buy me a pocket watch (an item central to the plot), but so far--no go. LOL
|"Wild Wild West" between scene thingy|