This week author E. Ayers, joins us with her tip. E is a writer who loves a good book and believes in true love.
E’s Tip on Writing the Historical Western World and Research
Hi, Beverley! It's always fun to visit with you and your readers. Besides, I'm so excited. I have a new book releasing today in Kindle World. A few months ago Debra Holland asked me to be part of her Kindle World. This is a fairly new thing on Amazon and allows for fan fiction. There are all sorts of worlds, but I think Debra's is the first historical western world.
She and a bunch of her friends all got together and we've each written our own stories, often bringing our own characters and worlds into hers. Pinch me! I was able to work and collaborate with Caroline Clemmons. She's a legend who has been cranking out best-selling novels forever.
I've worked closely with Cynthia Woolf and several other friends as I wrote my story using their characters and they used mine. And we all used Debra Holland's characters. We were all exchanging bits and pieces of stories to assure accuracy. It was so much fun. And not only did I make many new friends - I was awed at the ability of so many of these authors and the quality of their writing.
But the interesting thing about this group is that our stories are all different. Each author has her own take. Each has approached the world of Morgan's Crossing, Montana, differently.
I write historically correct stories. I don’t write historical facts. I write about people and how they lived and loved.
Romance back then was not what it is now. The west was settled by men. Many took wives with them, but the women didn't survive. The biggest challenge for women was childbirth and without birth control, they were having quite a few children. To make matters worse, they lost children to childhood diseases, injury, etc. Medicine was not what it is today, and out there…a doctor might have been two or three days away, and hospitals barely existed.
Men weren't looking for pretty women, but they weren't going to ignore a lovely face. They wanted strong women. Love was good and sex was better. Yet, strangely enough, it seems that the vast majority of those marriages worked.
In my story, the hero, Zeke, has contact with Henry Ketchem whose wife was by arrangement. I think this excerpt shows the difference in the west when it came to marriage. Today six fingers on a hand is virtually unheard of because the extra digit is removed almost immediately after the baby is born.
"He wrote his mother and asked for a bride. I was twenty-two at the time and still not married."
She held up her hands. "Six fingers on each hand. No one wanted me. But my grandmother insisted that I write to Henry. He said he didn't care that I had extra fingers. He was more worried about my being able to move out here and if I could cook. He promised that he was a good man and would treat me well."
Mr. Ketchem chuckled. "I don't mind those extra fingers. She's a hard working woman, and I couldn't ask for a better or prettier wife."
Zeke looked at the dark-haired woman with crystal blue eyes and porcelain white skin and smiled. He wouldn't have called her pretty.
But arranged marriages weren't just in the west. My great grandmother had an arranged marriage, and she lived in the east and came from a wealthy family. She did know the man when she married him, and I was given the impression that she could have refused, but her father would not have been happy. Was she happy and madly in love? I'll never really know, but from what I've heard, she was happy and content. He was a good man, and they lived comfortably.
Writing historical novels requires research. That's time consuming. In the beginning, it felt as though I was stopping every third line to look up something. Now I have more knowledge of the timeframe, but I'm still researching things.
I can't just go to Wikipedia and assume what I read is accurate, because often it's not. But frequently the information for certain tools or appliances can be found on websites owned by that company. Many large companies employ historians. One of the railroads provided me with so much information and even sent me a book on their history, which included things such as the cost of tickets.
Maps have driven me nuts. I had found one that showed the railroad lines. It was wonderful! Except it was wrong. The railroads were given land to build upon. The lines in areas on that map were authorized, but sometimes it was another ten years or more before those lines were built. If I had used that map, my story would have been inaccurate. Fortunes were made and fortunes were lost on the railroads as they were built. They assumed it would cost "X" amount to build the line, and in actuality, it cost anywhere from three to twenty times more.
History, as it was taught in school, is based on battles and political alliances. That's not helpful to the author writing about the time period. At least in our modern history, we have magazines and cookbooks that have survived. I have an 1860 cookbook, and the number of times I've referred to it is unreal. A few recipes make me want to gag and others look yummy. But the real surprise was found in breads and cakes. Skip that fluffy stuff we eat today. The cakes were heavy like pound cakes and sweetened with bits of chopped fruit and spiced with cloves and nutmeg. Even the breads were heavier.
Research has sent me down some odd roads on the internet and down quite a few, paved, macadam roads. I always check my sources by using other sources. I make certain they agree, and they aren't using the same source for their information. My head is now filled with trivia about the history of pens and cardboard boxes. Maybe if they had taught history in school the way I've had to research daily life, I would have paid more attention, but wars and battles were boring.
My westerns, both contemporary and historical, are sweeter than my other novels. My newest one is set in the late 1880's, and although most of the story takes place in or around Debra Holland's fictional town of Morgan's Crossing, Montana, there are direct ties to my fictional town of Creed's Crossing, Wyoming.
Montana Sky Series in Kindle World
Matilda “Matt” Berwyn, forced to live disguised as a boy in a mining town, longs to escape and blossom into the female she's always wanted to be. But her desire to leave Morgan's Crossing escalates when she realizes she's being stalked.
Stockyard hand Zeke Hillerman knows her secret and has fallen in love with her. He helps her flee to his parents’ home in the east to learn to be a lady, while he struggles to start his own ranch. As Matilda grapples with Victorian expectations of young women, Zeke’s plans for their future unravel and he realizes that the cost of her ticket out of Morgan's Crossing may have been his own heart.
Excerpt from Loving Matilda
Zeke awaken and stretched. He had found the perfect spot for sleeping. Using his bedroll as a pillow, he’d slept through the night and well into the morning hours, leaving him feeling refreshed and ready for the ride to the Reiner stockyard. He scanned the water below and didn’t see Matt. Unfortunately, he couldn't wait forever. It was important that he return to the stockyard in a timely manner. But that didn't stop the disappointment that ran through him.
As he prepared to leave, movement caught his eye and he stopped long enough to realize it was Matt. She's not playing. She really is panning for gold!
He stood there mesmerized. Whatever she was finding wasn’t small. He left his horse and went back down the pass to get a better look. A spear whizzed through the air and landed near Matt.
Zeke instantly stiffened. His rifle was with his backpack, leaving him only with his knife. There was no time to think. He had to protect Matt. He took off in a full run, his boots barely touching the ground. A blood-curdling yell resonated across the peaceful landscape as an Indian ran towards Matt. He saw the Indian attack Matt.
Zeke dove for the young man slamming him into the creek bed. With his fist raised, Zeke looked into two dark orbs that instantly widened…
"Who is he?" Gray Fox asked.
Matilda sat in the creek after she dragged the man from the water and watched him. "Not sure. Think he's going to die?"
"As hard as you hit him with that rock, he might."
As the official matchmaker for all the characters who wander through a mind full of imagination and the need to share, E. Ayers enjoys finding just the right ones to create a story.
You can find E. at:
Thanks E, for dropping by and sharing that great information on the historical western world and research.
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author’s tip or tweak.