I read thru my time travel story while I was sick, performing research and finishing up scenes that depended on the outcome of the research. One such scene involved the type of stove in the house where Mike and Adele live. This is very much a fish-out-of-water story, and my first impulse was to make it a coal stove. However, I knew gas was available at the turn of the century so I wondered if coal was still reasonable.

Part of this research involved an interview with my husband. As late as the 70s, his grandparents lived in a farmhouse with no appliances. The only electric thing they had was lights. If it required heat, it went on the wood-burning stove. Irons, toasters, kettles to warm up water–you name it.

But she lived in a farm in Kentucky. St. Augustine was electrified after the fire in 1914. Mike and Adele live in a rental near the center of town.The rental is an older house. It has electricity, but it also still has a gas supply for the lights installed in the walls, which are still operative.The rental is not a thoroughly modern house.

So I started researching early gas stoves. I found this adorable stove, but it would have been way too modern. So I dug around for stoves from the previous decade, and I found this awesome one on eBay. I almost wrote it into the story. The pilot light had to be lit each time–maybe they can have a close call with burning the house down!

But then, I kept encountering places where I already wove the coal stove into the story, so I ultimately decided to keep it. I also asked my husband if he thought they should have a gas or coal stove, and he said “coal” without hesitation. Since it went along with my instincts, I kept it. Some articles I found about rural electrification convinced me that the occasional house with an outdated stove is certainly plausible. So sometimes, you need to research to confirm you are right, rather than to look things up.

I did decide to be merciful and give them a hot water heater. You had to light it before you wanted hot water, and you’d better turn it off when you are finished. Because the tank could explode, yanno. So the opportunity for a mishap is still there.

Later in the week, I realized I was not being consistent with the placement of my bathroom (upstairs, or down?) and other details in the house so I decided to create a floorplan using Visio. I spent entirely too much time on it:


But hey! I was sick and it kept my mind occupied, and I have actually referred to it. Plus, I didn’t know Mike had a study until I sketched this out (I didn’t think there would be room for one). So I recommend floorplans of all your major settings.

One final bit of advice–keep links to or a log of all your research! While editing THE MAGIC MIRROR AND THE SEVENTH DWARF, I had to re-research a lot of my German language research in order to justify certain antiquated words (Spielmann, among others) to the copyeditor. If I had kept links, it would have saved a lot of time.

Got any experience with antiquated kitchen technology that you could share?