Books for Researching Medicine for Your Historical Fiction

medicine, research, books, novels, historical fiction

I teach on-line classes on medical history before 1840 and Georgian and Regency military medicine. As a result, I've read a number of books on medical history. Below are some books to help get you started on your historical medicine research for your historical fiction.

A Field Guide to Germs Wayne Biddle

Stephan Talty

Revolutionary Medicine 1700-1800 Keith C Wilbure M.D.

Salisbury, England

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house, MompessonThe Governess Tales series, for which I wrote the first book, The Cinderella Governess, begins in Salisbury, England at the fictional Madame Dubois's School for Young Ladies. Our inspiration for the school was the Mompesson House in Salisbury. If you've seen the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibiliy then you will recognize this house as Mrs. Palmer's London residence. It's a museum which is open to the public.

To help you get in the mood for the romance of the series, I've decided to post some pictures of Salisbury from my last trip to England. I hope you find them as inspiring as I did.

Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England

Salisbury Cathedral
 Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England

 Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England

A view of the cathedral from across the River Avon.

Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England

Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England, sheep
The sheep in the fields near the cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England

Salisbury Cathedral, Regency, England, sheep

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon
Houses and streets on the River Avon.

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, historic house

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, old church, St. George Church

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house, history

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Streets and houses in Salisbury

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house, pub, Red Lion, Inn

Salisbury, Regency, England, River Avon, street, house

Tea Cart Beverage Station Makeover

efore and after, tea cart, beverage station, outdoors, makeover, DIY, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

I happened to have my grandmother's old wrought iron tea cart in our gazebo. It was starting to look a little tired so I decided to repaint it for an upcoming party. I've seen a lot of pictures lately of turquoise tea cart/beverage stations like this one.

Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

As a result, I decided to step away from my tried and true Rust-oleum black and go with something much bolder. Here is the tea cart before.

efore and after, tea cart, beverage station, outdoors, makeover, DIY, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

I cleaned it with liquid dish soap and water and got the dirt off and then took out the inserts. Sadly, I did't take pictures of the painting process, but it involved one and a half cans of this baby.

Teal Tea Cart, Beverage Station, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

And here it is, all cleaned up and ready for summer!

before and after, tea cart, beverage station, outdoors, makeover, DIY, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

before and after, tea cart, beverage station, outdoors, makeover, DIY, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

before and after, tea cart, beverage station, outdoors, makeover, DIY, Turquoise Tea Cart, Beverage Station

A great little cart to help guests stay cool during a fun summer party!

If you need a book to enjoy this summer, please check out mine.

Tips for Doing Hands-On Research for a Historical Novel

how to, writing, historical fiction, research

Reading non-fiction books is a great way to research different time periods, careers or industries. However, nothing beats talking to an expert in order to really get the details of a specific industry or occupation correct. There are a wealth of people for contemporary writers to turn to in order to learn. Who should a historical novelist speak with in an effort to better understand or accurately portray their chosen time period?

Interpretive guides at historical sights are a great resource for historical writers. Interpretive guides are well versed in their time periods and historical facts, and they love to share what they know.
surgical instruments, history, Yorktown
I had the chance to speak with two very well informed guides at Yorktown when I was there a few years ago. We discussed 18th century medicine and surgical techniques. At the time, I was writing a scene about removing a musket ball from a man's arm. One advantage to speaking with someone about the procedure instead of just reading about it was the ability to ask questions. At the Yorktown surgical tent, different medicine in small jars as well as an array of surgical tools were available to touch. One guide clutched a musket ball in his fist and then had me "extract" the ball using ball forceps. Sounds easy, right? It's not, and I ended up pinching the poor man's hand. The lesson drove home the importance of the patient being awake during the operation to help guide the surgeon, and how a surgeon needed speed to perform the operation with minimal damage. I also learned that vinegar was used as an antiseptic and that the wound probably wouldn't have been sutured. These were important details.

Another great aspect of historical sights is the ability to experience history with your senses. At Yorktown, muskets and cannons were fired. I've written scene with both in many of my stories, and I've described them based on my research or movies. However, some aspects such as the feel of the cannon boom in your chest and the way it echos off of everything are difficult to gather from films and books. Learning these details through "hands-on" experience helps make my writing more realistic and vivid.
The next time you need information on a particular aspect of your chosen time period, think about the different museums or groups in your area that you might be able to speak with. Near where I live, there is The San Diego Maritime Museum which has the 19th century ship The Star of India and the HMS Surprise from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World with Russell Crowe. I've visited both ships and spoken with the interpretive guides numerous times while doing research for my various books, a list of which can be found here. If you don't live near a historic museum then go on-line. Many historic sights have emails or phone numbers that you can use to contact the experts. Also, the next time you're on vacation, try and take advantage of the historic sites you might be travelling near. Even if you don't use what you learn in your current work, file it away for the future. You never know when some fact from an interpretive guide might come in handy.

Tips for Staying Healthy as a Writer

health, recipe, writer, how to,

Writing is hard work but you do it sitting down. Hours on your tush may be great for your word count but it can spell trouble for your health. Below are some tips for staying healthy while you write.

1) Establish a Daily Exercise Habit -  Pick an activity that you like, one you are likely to stick with and make it a part of your daily routine. The first thing I do every morning is go for a walk in my very hilly neighborhood or I put in one of my The Firm DVDs and pump some iron. I do it before I do anything else, that way I won't make excuses later in the day for why I can't exercise. Don't think of exercise as grueling but as a chance to clear your mind and think. Sometime, the best ideas come to me when I'm out walking, and the fresh air and sunshine energizes me.

White Bean Chicken Chili2) Control the Food That Comes Into the House - You won't eat what you don't buy. If chocolate is your weakness, and you know you won't stop at one Hershey's Kiss, then don't buy them. You are in charge of what you eat.

The same goes for having quick but healthy options on hand for meals. When a deadline looms, it's easy to order a pizza because you don't have time for much else. However, having an easy Crock-Pot recipe or two to fall back on can save the day. Here is one for white bean chicken chili that is super easy and one of my favorites.

Throw the food in the Crock Pot in the morning and by dinner you'll have a homemade and healthy meal waiting for you and your family. If you forget to start the Crock Pot (I've done that), then have some quick cooking but healthy options in the freezer. Costco's frozen spinach ravioli is one item that I love, and it's a lot healthier than takeout. Spaghetti is another good option. A box of noodles and a jar of sauce are shelf stable and a lifesaver when you haven't been to the store in a while.

3) Drink More Water - I keep a Cool Gear cup with a lid beside my computer when I'm working. The lid keeps me from spilling anything on my laptop and the water allows me to stress binge without adding any calories. Also, having to get up on a regular basis to refill the cup means I get much needed steps throughout the day. I add lemon or carbonate it to give it some flavor.

4) Get Out of the House - This is important for your mental health. Writing can be a very solitary experience, and while it's fun to talk to the characters in your head, you need to talk to real people too. You also need to talk to non-writers and indulge in non-wring activities. Not only will it make your life well rounded but it will increase your creativity and add the depth of life experience to your writing. One thing I do outside of writing is Karate. It keeps me active, helps me focus, and gets me out of the house.

5) Find What Works for You - Everything I listed above works for me but it may not work for you. Find an exercise you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routing. Discover some quick and easy healthy foods and keep them on hand. Play with adding things to your water until you find a taste that suites you. Pick non-writing activities that you enjoy and then indulge in them. Whatever you do, take care of yourself. Finding ways to stay healthy will help you become a happier and more productive writer.

If you enjoyed these tips, the check out my books. They are a great way to help you relax.

Tea in Bath, England

A few years ago, my husband and I were in Bath, England on Thanksgiving Day. We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving while across the pond with tea in the famous Pump Room in Bath. Here are some pictures to take you back to your time in Bath or to make you look forward to visiting the beautiful old city.

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England
Near the entrance to the Pump Room and Roman Baths

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England, tea sandwiches, scones
Great food!

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England, king's spring, spring water

The King's Spring where you can take the waters of Bath.

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England, Roman bath

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England, Roman baths

Views of the outside of the Pump Room from the historic Roman Baths.

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England, Roman Bath
View of the Roman Baths from the Pump Room

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England

High Tea, Pump Room, Bath, England

Beautiful piano music plays while you eat.

If you enjoyed this peek into a historic setting, and tea, please check out my books, they have both. 

Sources of Writing Inspiration

writing, how to, research, romance novels,

Inspiration often strikes in the most unlikely places. OK, that isn’t entirely true. As a rabid reader of non-fiction history, it’s hard for me to get through a non-fiction history book without slapping a sticky tab on some story idea. It's one of the reasons I still love hard copies of research books. I don’t always use the story idea right away but the sticky tab makes it easy to come back to the idea at a later date. This had been the case behind the inspiration for many of my historical romance novels.

My novel The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets, centers on Rafe, a destitute Baron, and Cornelia, a widowed Comtesse, who must recover a book of traitors' names or face ruin. The idea for The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets first took hold when I was reading a biography of Nell Gwyn, one of King Charles’ II of England’s mistresses. The book mentioned a register listing the names of all King Charles' affairs that was kept by the woman who'd slipped the ladies in and out of Whitehall. The book was lost to history. Wouldn’t it be great if it were suddenly found? The idea of writing a story about a similar book reemerging to shock and ruin members of society never left me. Eventually, the idea became Rafe and Cornelia’s story.

English countryside, English sheep, England
In order to write their story, and give my gambling scenes and my characters more depth, I had to learn how to play Regency era card games which led to a blog post on the subject. You can read the post here. I also had to research limestone deposits in the Weald of England and how they could make a man rich. It was quite a mish-mash of research reading, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I also garnered a few more story ideas for future books. I have to buy sticky tabs in bulk!

British pub, pub, London, England, Nell Gwynn
Researching their story was a treat because I had to delve into the less elegant aspects of life in Regency England. It was fun to read about seedy coffee houses and the laws governing treason. A great book for this is The Regency Underworld by Donald A. Low. A few lines in this book about the Duke of Rutland's bastard daughter eventually sparked the idea for my heroine and her past in A Too Convenient Marriage. See how that happens? You do some research for one story and pretty soon you have ideas for other stories or blog posts.

The next time you're searching for something to write about, pick up a research book on a subject that interests you and see what inspires your writing.

If you enjoyed these ideas for how to garner story ideas, please check out my books and see how the stories turned out.

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