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Research

Updates, Recent Research and Upcoming Series Review

This summer has been pretty active. The action started when I was laid off. The timing was actually pretty good because over the next couple of weeks, I was needed to help with a family illness that came up during the same time. And then we went to a long-planned wedding. I made three trips across Florida in five weeks. When we got back, I received a job offer, which I accepted. I started a week later. Just after that, we had to bundle my daughter off to camp. Which involved a huge amount of shopping and packing. She came back the following week, which meant a round of unpacking and laundry, and the week after that, we made another trip across the state.

This weekend, I’m having a little downtime.

Recent Research

While polishing up East of Yesterday, I had to revamp a scene where a group of young men must sneak into a camp and retrieve some stolen items. One of them needed to cover for the noise they were making, so I decided to have him sing a song. Since he’s from the Revolutionary War era, he sings an almost-forgotten song from that era. Here’s the opening verses:

THAT seat of science, Athens,
And earth’s proud mistress, Rome;
Where now are all their glories?
We scarce can find a tomb.
Then guard your rights, Americans,
Nor stoop to lawless sway;
Oppose, oppose, oppose,
oppose, For North America.

We led fair Freedom hither,
And lo, the desert smiled!
A paradise of pleasure
Was opened in the wild!
Your harvest, bold Americans,
No power shall snatch away!
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For free America.

You can find the full song at Bartleby.

Upcoming Review

I recently read the first three books in an excellent epic fantasy (and warrior woman!) series, and I’ve written a series review.

Any reviews I post here are for books I’ve purchased and enjoyed. I generally don’t post negative reviews because I don’t usually finish books that I’m not enjoying. Sometimes, people still contact me for book reviews, but I have not requested any material from anyone since I closed down Debuts & Reviews. Katie and I briefly discussed reviewing again, but I ultimately had to bow out, because if I were to make this a review blog again, something else in my life would have to go.

I have the series review scheduled to post on Monday.

Recent Research – 80s Jewelry and Old Highways

Silver Hoop EarringsAt left are a pair of earrings from the 80s. I remember these, but I never wore any, myself. I tried pierced ears when I was thirteen, but I always had ear-aches and I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the constant pain. So I let them close up and never re-pierced them.

I’ve known some women who wore earrings like these, and they no longer had holes in their earlobes–they had vertical dashes. {wince}

I had to research this just now because my character in 1915 needed an item from the future.

“What are you looking for?” Adele asked.

“A suitable anachronism to take you to the future,” Abe replied. He pulled out a pair of silver earrings. They were giant hoops—Adele thought she could wear them as bracelets. “I take it your ears are pierced?”

She lifted her brows at them. “Yeah, but I don’t think they can take that kind of weight.”

“Nonsense. Women from the ‘80s wore them all the time. And these will take you all the way there, if you ever need to go.”

Adele took out her tiny studs, and fastened in the earrings. She could almost feel her earlobes getting longer.

Sometimes, I research things only to figure out that I don’t really need to go into all that detail in my story. Here are some things I decided to leave out:

  • Inheritance laws regarding children in the foster system in South Carolina, in the 80s and 90s. Eventually, I decided that the story would not be enhanced by adding this detail.
  • Classifications of gemstones. Too much info, not enough relevance.
  • The interior configuration of a certain make and model of obscure older car. yes, a few collectors might still have one of these cars. But are they likely to be in my target readership? And if they are, are they likely to care about the nit-picky plot point that I was worried about?

US-1 in the 50s One thing I did research was which decade US-1 was widened from 2 lanes to 4. Yes, this information really was out there, and I was even able to confirm it from more than one source. This enabled me to write a nice, atmospheric little sub-scene.

Back when I first started writing this book, I researched the entire original route of US-1. Various parts of the road have been rerouted from that time, so US-1 now travels through towns that it did not travel through back then. I’m going to need to refind that bit of research; hopefully I kept it bookmarked, somewhere. Next book, I’m going to include a bibliography in my gazetteer.

Devising a Mathematical Formula for Time Travel

So my husband forwarded me a funny:

Math Geek Funny

It took me a moment to get it, but when I did, I just knew that I had to work out a time-travel formula for East of Yesterday. I broke out my calculator, and got to work.

I mostly did this for fun. I didn’t expect it to be useful for the story.

I am not usually much of a math geek. I got as far as College Algebra, when I ambitiously took an accelerated class. I barely kept up. Matrices almost blew out my brain cells. College Algebra was my only C in college. After that, I barely clung to the Honor Roll. If I had taken the regular class, I might have moved on from there, but as it was, I was done. So I have never learned calculus. It’s right behind Latin on the list of things I want to learn before I die.

Anyway, I started with a real-life formula related to the one spoofed above:

Time = Distance / Speed

And I played with the numbers until I found a formula that worked for the travel times in my story. Here’s the formula for going back in time.

ThB = (ds)2

Time-hours Back equals distance times speed squared.

I suppose an example would be instructive.

distance = 100 miles
speed = 50mph

100 x 50 = 5000
5000 squared = 25,000,000 timehours

25,000,000 timehours divided by 8760 hours per year equals 2853.881 timedays
Divided by 356 days = 7.82 years traveled back.

I ignored leap years. This is fiction, after all. Here’s the formula to move forward.

ThF = π((ds)2)

Time-hours Forward equals pi times (distance times speed squared)

Why pi? Because what fun is a make-believe formula without it? Besides, I wanted travel to the future to be roughly three times “faster” than travel to the past, so I thought, why not pi? The only argument against it was because time is linear, not circular. But a character in my story had another opinion:

“So.” He clapped his hands together, obviously at a loss for what to say, “how was your trip?”

“Faster than I expected,” Adele said. “At least, the time-traveling part was. The rest of it was pretty awful.”

“Oh, yes—that.” He seemed relieved to be on a familiar subject. “It’s the added velocity of time that you experienced.”

“Added velocity?”

“Well, time moves forward, after all. So when you move forward in time, you have all that velocity behind you. When you go back, you have to work against that velocity. The multiplier is pi, to be precise, although I don’t know why that makes sense, since there is nothing circular about time.” He paused and then snapped his fingers. “Unless you’re traveling in time. Of course! Now it makes perfect sense.” He pulled a notebook out of his pocket and began to write.

(Please excuse the crudity of these paragraphs. I have not had a chance to edit or revise.)

Someone who has taken calc could perhaps critique my formulas. All I know is the numbers work for my story, and they let me know when the characters have moved too quickly (or slowly). And it made for some interesting revisions.

So the effort turned out to be more useful than I thought.

Pressing on to The End

My last post was very valuable to me. I have sorted out all the issues with the manuscript, and am now pressing on to the end. I had to cut about 3000 words of redundant and irrelevant scenes, but once I did that, I had nothing in front of me except blank pages and plot markers. Therefore, I was able to write almost 4000 words since my last post.They all came in a rush–just like they have done for most of this book. Too bad I got mired in so many plot changes…

This experience has shown me that I need to post weekly–it keeps my inspiration flowing.

Recent Research

This week, I researched STDs and confirmed an earlier decision that one of my characters is going to get syphilis. Naturally, he totally deserves it. But he’s kind of an ally to my protagonists–a shades-of-gray type of character–so they’ll have to get him fixed up in a future book. He just has to get north of 1950 or so.

Why syphilis? Mostly because it is curable. I want to use the guy in future books. And I need him healthy.

I noticed something … well, disturbing when I was doing the research. Here is a bust of a man with advanced syphilis. Note the skull protrusions:

Tertiary syphilis head

And now, a beloved character from children’s animated film:

90s-Hunchback-of-Notre-DameI am fairly weirded out.

Research Road Trip?

Google Maps has been greatly helpful with imagery from the various towns and cities that my characters pass on the road-trip portion of my novel, but I keep thinking that I’d like to make the drive for real. It would involve driving up to South Carolina, and driving back down south on my non-interstate route. It will probably be a three day trip–one day there, and allow for two days back. So this may be something I’ll do early next year. All my vacation for this year is spoken for. If I do this, I will definitely be posting on it. My family loves long car trips–even my daughter–so I expect it to be a good time for all.

Multibook Commitment

Another thing I decided on in the last few weeks was that this will definitely be a multibook commitment. I toyed with the idea of trying to tie everything up in one book, but it would end up being about 150,000 words and would definitely have pacing problems, because the last 25,000 or so words have been sloping toward an ending. Plus, I know how I am going to segue into that book.

So that’s it for now. Thanks for the support and encouraging words.

Recent Research – An Eyewitness Account of Florida in the 20s

Last week, I ran across an old email, and promptly went online to eBay, created an account, and purchased a treasure-hunting DVD, packed full of information.

Have a taken up a new hobby, you may ask?

No. I don’t have time for the ones I have.

Modern treasure hunting these days is done with a metal detector. At least, that–I don’t know much about treasure-hunting. I have no metal detector, and I don’t plan to get one. But in order to find good places to hunt, these treasure hunters (as they call themselves) pour (and I do mean, pour) over old maps, books and even postcards.

So I ordered this disk. It has so much information, mostly in the form of high-resolution maps, that the creator had to put it on a DVD. Most (but not all!) of the maps were too macro for my use, as I have already found several maps that are excellent resources, including one that names every street in St. Augustine. The postcards were fun, but not as interesting as even the maps.

But the books made it worth the cost of the DVD. Could I have found the books online, myself? Maybe. If I had known what to look for.

One book is a perfectly delightful travelogue, published in 1922 (the very year where much of my story takes place), describing this woman’s journey across Florida in search of a suitable place to spend the winter. The title is Florida Days, and the author is Vilma M. Goodman. Here are the opening paragraphs:

SOME of my adventures and experiences may be of value to tourists of limited means ( like myself ) , who go to Florida not only for recreation and change of climate, but to gain strength and to rest.

I met ladies in Florida who were not invalids, and only needed pleasant surroundings to be benefited by their trip South.

After one or two trying experiences, they grew disheartened (disgusted I might say), and without remaining long enough to get sufficiently rested, after a long journey, booked on the first train or steamer North.

I am indeed thankful that I had the courage and strength to pack my trunk and change my environment by traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast of Florida.

Clearly, this woman knows how to write, and how to engage her reader. I read on. It did not take me long to reach this description of the city of Jacksonville, my hometown:

I SPENT a very pleasant day on board the “Huron,” and it was with regret that I landed in Jacksonville
and saw the last of these agreeable people. I remained on deck all morning to get the first glimpse of
Florida, and I must say that the flat, bare land—with here and there a few stunted trees and shanties—did not make a very striking impression.

Ouch. I read on. She then describes some of the rigors of travel back in those days:

I then went to Palatka by bus, and then up the St. Johns River by boat. The stars came out just as the “Osceola” left her landing.

A description of the wonderful time she had on board the “Osceola” follows. Then:

I got on at Palatka at about 8 P. M. on November 27th and landed at Sanford the next day at noon. The weather was fair. I then drove about twenty-five miles (by bus) to Orlando, a small Garden of Eden, where I rested only a day at the Empire Hotel.

She loved Orlando, but was duty-bound to travel on to the mysterious town of A___, where she promised to be the guest of Mrs. X___. She very kindly anonymized any unpleasant experience she had with anyone or any place in this manner.

I disliked leaving this beauty-spot the next morning in order to keep an unimportant appointment with a lady in A , but duty seemed to call. I rose about five and left on the Tampa bus at 7 A. M., arriving in Tampa at 12:30, almost broiled to a “frazzle” in the front seat, by the combined efforts of the engine and a burning, welcome sun. How I regretted that I did not travel on the Atlantic Coast Line then.

The heat in Tampa one cannot describe; one can only feel…

Things aren’t looking up. They don’t get much better.

After lunch, a few hours on the shady balcony revived me, and at 4:45 P. M. railroad time I left by boat and arrived in A at 7:30 P. M., and then began the search for the street car to take me to the bungalow of Mrs. X .

Little things stand out. She refers to 4:45 “railroad time”. I knew what she meant by that, because I had already researched the establishment of Standard Time. Before Standard Time, local times were pretty much set by the railroads. According to Wikipedia, Standard Time was established by the late 19th century. But who am I going to believe, Wikipedia, or this eyewitness speaking to me from across the years?

The very last leg of her journey was the worst:

I got on the [street]car at 7:45 P. M. and handed the conductor my fare and the address, asking him to let me off when he reached the street. He looked at me, then at my baggage, and sorrowfully shook his head. “That street, the last one on this line, is not cut through on this side, (they call this the Jungle), and you could never find it in the dark, and you see it’s been raining (I saw all right) and walking several blocks you’d get very wet at the crossings.” I looked around. Everything was dark and dismal in this Jungle. I shuddered, and when the car made its final stop, I investigated further, but, at the Conductor’s sensible suggestion, rode back to town and hired an auto to take me to my destination. After more than thirty minutes’ riding back and forth, through rivers of water, I at last found the house and Mrs. X at home.

The mysterious location of A___ could be any one of dozens of coastal towns, but the mention of streetcars makes me think  the town must not be too small, and was only 2 hours and 45 minutes away from Tampa by boat.

This last excerpt has another fascinating tidbit in life in the early 20s:

I had a $25.00 money-order in my possession which I wanted to cash at the Post Office and, for the purpose of identification, I took my savings-bankbook with me, as well as my Military (State) Census card, and a card addressed to me by a friend that very week from Tannersville, N. Y., in care of Mrs. X at A . I cashed the money-order upon presenting all my credentials and went to a cafeteria to lunch, after which I sat on a bench of the principal business street waiting for Miss B , my steamer acquaintance, to join me for an afternoon’s outing. I had half an hour’s time and got up to walk up and down the street, and when I returned to the place of meeting, I missed my work-bag, containing the passbook, cards, etc., mentioned.

I love all the detail! She actually cashed her money-order (nice to know they existed back then) by presenting a military census card (whatever that was), her bank savings-book (anyone remember those?) and a letter.

And she lost her purse. You would not believe all the trouble this causes her, especially with her hostess.

If you would like to read this little gem, send me a note and I’ll email you the PDF. Since it was published in 1922, it is legal for me to do so.

Dratted, Overcrowded Brain

Today, I got a nice email from Zillow. Why, you ask, would Zillow send me a nice email? Because of this post. They asked that I embed a link in it, and even though the link was rather real-estate-y and this is not a real estate blog, I did what they asked. Because they asked so nicely. Who knows? Maybe the cool architecture will inspire one of you to move to St. Augustine one day.

Lesson learned: It never hurts to ask.

Anyway, when I reviewed the post, I realized I had never written a promised follow-up. Even though I took the trip to St. Augustine and drove down the streets I mentioned. (In my Jeep. With the top down, of course.)

I keep doing that. Forgetting stuff I say I’ll do. I guess I need to come up with a reminder system. So I am going to brush off my old Google Calendar account–the one where I used to keep track of debuts–and have it send me reminders. Because apparently, this brain is overcrowded.

In fact, I think I’d better write a procedure for writing up blog posts. Because I evidently need all the help I can get.

(Nah. Cause if I do, I’m sure to forget I wrote the dratted thing.)

A Science Fiction Historical?

So for the last six weeks or so, I have been writing and rewriting the “big reveal” scene in East of Yesterday, trying to nail down the basics of time travel.

(Yeah, so the book is almost done, and I still had not figured out the rules of time travel. But in many ways, the story shaped the rules.)

I wrote an exhaustive scene that walked through all the whys and wherefores. Even as I was getting through it, I knew it was a bit much to expect the reader to absorb, but I kept going because I knew I could always cut. I finished it up, went to the point at the end of the story where I left off, and realized that what I just wrote would not work with what I already had. Did I want to change the story? No. It is all plotted, and I like it, and it works, story-wise.

So I threw out the Big Reveal scene (3000 words) and wrote a much shorter scene that left most everything in the dark, and gave a few kernels of info to the reader, and let my story stand. And I was happy. This was much better. I thought I was done.

But. Then.

On the way to work the other day (I probably better never give up the idea of going to work, because these epiphanies during morning or evening drives have happened more often than I can recall), I had a marvelous idea. It was one of those “Aaaah. Now that works!” moments.

So I wrote it all into my wiki today. And I realized that this is no longer fantasy-based time-travel. It’s science fiction. Everything I base it on comes from science–except just a couple things.

One fantasy element–a mental power–is about as fantasy-like as a Vulcan mind-meld. It is certainly not as fantastic as the Force. And not as powerful as the dragon time-jumps in Dragonriders of Pern.

The other fantasy element is the supposed temporal qualities of silver. I used silver because (1) the pure silver content in sterling silver jewelry is quite high and (2) because silver does have a legendary history as an esoteric metal, which I used slightly.

The scientific elements that I had to research came from the Periodic Table of the Elements, the stellar history of planetary ores, alloys vs. pure elemental metals, the Chronoception sense, also known as our perception of the passage of time, and (lightly) time as a fourth dimension.

So two fantasy elements vs. five science elements.

I’m still calling it a time travel historical, but I feel happier about this because I always thought of time travel as a geeky science fiction thing, and now the story comes closer to what I intended.

So, now to rewrite that scene for the fourth time. And then to get on with the ending.

Upcoming This Week – Guest Author and Squatters

I am reviving my Sunday updates this week because I actually have something to report.

First will be part one of my squatter story. It turned out to be a story long enough for two posts because it actually is a story with two parts. I have part one ready to go for tomorrow.

Also this week I am tentatively starting to have author guests again. You guys know I enjoy a good historical romance, and her latest novel has a all the hallmarks of a sweet romance. Just for fun, here’s the blurb without the title, and with all names removed. You can probably Google a few sentences if you are interested:

___ ___ is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of ___ steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man ___ craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

[her sister] is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

This post will be on Wednesday.

And for fun, I’ll leave you with a snip from East of Yesterday. Some of you may remember the days before this particular little modern convenience.

One night in mid-June, during a rare spell of dry weather, Mike spied a dim light on Dora’s back porch, and realized she was sitting out there. With a grin, he thought of an excuse to go outside. He went outside and picked up a trash can where paper wrappings had been accumulating—wax paper from the bread and meat, packing paper used by grocers, plus the odd carton and box—and took it outside to the burning can.

He had been startled to discover—although he should not have been—that trash collection did not exist in the early 20s. Glass milk bottles were reused and paper waste was burned. Food waste was the most difficult to dispose of—dogs were recommended. Otherwise, you simply generated as little trash as possible, kept it in cans with tight-fitting lids, and made frequent trips to the dump. Mike was aghast to learn that the local dump was in fact, the local swamp.

And so once a week or so, he burned the paper trash. The neighbors did the same thing. The smoke had an unexpected benefit of keeping mosquitoes at bay.

He glanced over at Dora as she sat on her back porch, a smoky candle burning next to her. He waved. “Evening Mrs. Latham.”

“Good evening,” she said.

Act nonchalant, he told himself. He walked up to the burning can, dumped in the papers,  stuffed them in, struck a match, and lit it. They caught and began to burn rapidly. Dora came up on her side of the fence.

If this brings back memories, then anecdotes are always welcome! I’ll post my own in the comments.

1920s Pop Culture – Swoonworthy Leading Men

In order to make East of Yesterday a fully immerse experience, I decided to look up some 1920s eye candy, and what better way to start than with Hollywood?

RudolphValentinoRudolph Valentino

Broody Rudolph sports a slicked-back look, a clean-shaven face and often, a cigarette. While reading his background, I learned that the only job he could hold down before becoming an actor was as a taxi-dancer, another part of 1920s pop culture that I had no idea about.

Valentino led a colorful, short life. His masculinity came into question and men compared him unfavorably to Douglas Fairbanks. Men who tried to ape Valentino’s slick look were called Vaselinos.

Douglas FairbanksDouglas Fairbanks Sr (1926 The Black Pirate)

So here he is. Confident and sinewy, Fairbanks played the perfect pirate, swashbuckler and superhero. If he were around today, I can see him sporting his abs. But in the 20s, biceps and pecs were apparently the thing, as they are featured in many of his pictures. I wonder if he shaved his chest for this shot.

Gotta love the swooning girl.

JohnGilbertJohn Gilbert

I had not heard of John Gilbert before, but he was another of Valentino’s rivals. His career spanned the 20s and the early 30s. He successfully made the transition to voice acting, but he became the victim of a producer who couldn’t stand him, and therefore fulfilled his contract with Gilbert by giving him inferior films.

Gilbert made the best of it, and after a few flops, finally got good roles again. But it was too late; his career never revived, even though Greta Garbo, pictured with him here, tried to help.

I think I like his look the best of the three.

Recent Research – Zillow and Google Earth

As you may already know, the main setting for East of Yesterday is in the  early 1920s, St. Augustine, Florida.

Today, I really wanted to nail down the area of town in which a certain person lives. My requirements were that the the neighborhood had to be modest during the 20s, with older houses (for back then) and small lots. And, of course, the neighborhood had to exist.

St. Augustine 1914 MapSo I called up my long-bookmarked scrollable, zoomable map of St. Augustine in 1914. And I pulled up Google Maps and zoomed it in as well. And I started strolling down the streets courtesy of Street View, checking out streets.

Many of the streets I discarded as too prosperous. One street looked perfect–Hope Street. The houses were just the style I was looking for. So I decided that I needed more info–the kind of info that comes from property data. So I brought up Zillow, I punched in Hope Street, St. Augustine*, and started pulling up houses.

They were all built in 1925. Well, maybe there were a few that weren’t, but all the ones I clicked were. I don’t know what was there before 1925–other than the street itself, which is on my historical map–but I figured it was a good bet that there were no houses there. So I moved on.

Eventually, after chasing down some streets that turned out to be unnamed on my map, or streets that exist now, but didn’t exist then, I settled on Pine Street. It is on the edge of a field that borders the Matanzas River. (The street is not, itself, riverfront property, and the field is likely swamp) Some of the houses are modern, but others were built in 1900 and earlier. Which is perfect.

So this was my procedure:

  1. Find likely street on historical map.
  2. Look up street on Google Maps. All of the streets I looked at still exist today. (During the course of this research, I have found that very few streets ever are actually destroyed.) Juxtaposition if necessary, in the case of renamed streets.
  3. Verify that the street has houses on it. It is entirely possible that some of the houseless streets had houses once upon a time, but if I couldn’t verify it, I moved on.
  4. Take a stroll down the street using Google Street View. Are the houses too big? Is the street too wide? In one case, the street turned out to be an alley, and I saw some rather intrusive photos into people’s back yards.
  5. If all looks good, bring up the street on Zillow, and start pulling up property information. Confirm that the house was built before 1910.

My next step is to take a drive down Pine Street in real life. Since, according to modern mapping software,  there still is a field across the street, it somewhat confirms my suspicion that it is swampland, but I want to confirm that. I also need to drive down Bridge Street, which is where my protagonists live. The last time I took a history trip through St. Augustine, we drove down ML King Avenue, which was Central Avenue in the 20s, which, in the story, causes all kinds of fun confusion.

That’s sure to result in a road trip post.

* Updated to add Zillow link because they–the Zillow people–asked so nicely.