What Is So Historical About Research?

By Tammy Trail

When I began to write my first novel, I knew it would be a historical. I love history. I love the idea of our nation being shaped by hardworking men and women who sacrificed to live in an untamed country. I chose Frontier/American Revolution because that’s what I like to read.

I began of course with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. I was given advice from a writer friend to research everything for accuracy and keep notes on where I found that information. I may need it later to educate or confirm my research.

If you just google Historical Research, you will find a plethora of options. Historical research involves examining past events to draw conclusions about the future. That is one definition I found. Instead of drawing conclusions about the future, we who write historical fiction pour our definition of past events and how they might have affected our characters onto the page.

Some material that may help in your research are newspapers, diaries, letters, speeches, or interview a person with firsthand knowledge. Museums, historical societies, and old pictures are helpful too. I would really love to take a “research” trip one of these days. Williamsburg Virginia has been calling my name for years.

Other information you may need to research.

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Trades
  • Politics
  • Travel
  • Weapons

In my American Revolutionary story, politics plays a huge role because it set the social and economic climate for that period. I read about some of the lesser known places and heroes that played a part in our winning independence from Great Britain.  I also asked myself what roles would a woman have played during the American Revolution? How does life go on when your men are away from home?

I have even read novels from other authors who write in my chosen time to get a feel for that era. I stay away from books that have a plot like my own. Some authors write blogs about their extensive research to share with others. Something as simple as shoes were totally different over 200 years ago. Beware of doing so much research that your story becomes bogged down with just facts, and not enough story. You can do too much research and never introduce your character to the world.

I have used Pinterest to keep pictures of my character’s lives. I can look at them and imagine what the interior of a home would look like, how my heroine may have dressed for chores, or how she may have dressed for a party.

I also dabbled in writing a western set in Wyoming territory in the early 1800s.  My heroine is a Chinese national who arrives in San Francisco on a ship. During my research for that story, I found a ship that sailed from China to that port in 1854. Now some of the other facts in my story had to be changed to fit that timeline. And that’s OK. It adds authenticity. I also needed to learn about the US Calvary, Indian tribes who were indigenous to that part of the country, and what obstacles my heroine might encounter because she was not born in the United States.

When you have all your questions answered and you begin to write, chances are you will find you have more questions. Keep researching or seek out an experienced author. I find that someone is always happy to help.

Writing Prompt: In what year did the following events take place?

  • Senator Daniel Webster endorses a bill as a measure to avert a possible civil war.
  • Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President of the United States.
  • California is admitted as the 31st state.
  • P.T. Barnum introduces Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind to an American audience.

Click to Tweet: What Is So Historical About Research @InspiredPrompts #writetip #amwriting

 

From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: No Elves in Nan Nan’s Kitchen

By Steve Connolly

Photo from Pixabay

The house at 106 Cadima Avenue in Coral Gables, my grandmother’s house, will be one of those addresses that stick in my memory banks forever.  As a kid, I was fortunate to spend time with her during my summer vacations from school.

My grandmother was known as Nan Nan to her 33 grandchildren. She was fondly given this name by my oldest cousin, Cathy Tracy Dickinson. I am not sure where she came up with such a moniker, but it stuck over many years.

A visit to Nan Nan’s house broke up the endless summer days of playing army with my buddies, shooting basketballs, or fighting with my brothers. With Nan Nan you were guaranteed to have an adventure. When I was very young, I remember her walking me to the park to do arts & crafts.  Later years we would walk several miles to downtown Coral Gables for a hot fudge sundae. For a real treat, we would hop a city bus to downtown Miami. We would explore parks, museums, libraries or go to a movie. Being the oldest of five (Peter waited until we moved to New Hampshire to be born) I enjoyed the personal time she spent with me.

I remember my grandmother as the school librarian at a small Christian School.  I’m told Nan Nan started teaching there as the Home Economics instructor. Later at the age of sixty, she continued her education and became the school’s librarian. Being a Home Ec teacher I often wondered if this is why she was a fantastic cook. I have known only one other Home Ec teacher in my life, Mrs. Bernice Kyte, and she, too, was an excellent cook.

My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. Visiting her house, the first thing we kids would do is check in the bottom cupboard to see if there were any cookies in her original Tupperware container. And you know, we were never disappointed. Nan Nan had several cookie recipes that we loved as kids. One was her Chocolate Chip cookies and another was her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies. For years I have tried to duplicate her Chocolate Chip cookies without success. She must have kept something secret as I have her original recipe and have never successfully made them good as she did. One of her many cooking shortcuts must have been an unwritten instruction in her recipe. Someday I may resolve this mystery!

Click to tweet: My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. #holidays @InspiredPrompt

However, I have mastered her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies recipe. I know they are good as my wife often forbids me to make them. She claims they are addictive. I must disagree with her as I can limit myself to ten or twelve of them a day! I hope you enjoy them. Make sure and pay attention to the little tricks Nan Nan taught me about making these cookies.

Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies (must be her original name)

  • 1-1/2 Cups of Sugar
  • 2-1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon of Salt
  • 14 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature (or squishy)
  • 3 teaspoons of Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs plus the Egg White of One Egg
  • ¼ teaspoon of Nutmeg

 It is best to start off by having all your ingredients measured out – this way you can double check and prevent missing something. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees after you evenly space the racks in the center of the oven.

  1. Next, sift into a separate bowl all the dry ingredients (except the nutmeg).
  2. With an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat till light and fluffy
  3. Mix in the egg products one at a time beating until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Slowly mix in the flour to the egg/sugar mixture – about ½ cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary (You may need to chill the dough depending on your eggs).
  5. Roll the dough into one-inch size balls. Then roll them in a mixture of sugar and nutmeg (I always measure by eye – personal taste can dictate this – for Christmas use colored sugar)
  6. Put onto cookie sheets – I find aluminum sheets work the best.
  7. Start one sheet on the lower oven rack and bake 5 minutes. After 5 minutes move it to the top rack. When the 5 minutes is up, check to make sure the cookies are slightly browned around the bottom edges.  Time may have to be adjusted according to your oven.
  8. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack – I start mine out flat then stack them after a few minutes to let them fully cool.
  9. Wash your sheets in cool water between batches – Careful not to burn yourself.

My grandmother lived just shy of her 101st birthday.  She was an incredible person whom I think of most days.  In my house of five boys and one girl, it was required that we all learned to cook. Thinking of the skills I have developed over the years I find the majority are from things my grandmother taught me.  And by the way, my grandmother’s daughter, my Mom is a great cook too!

My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes

I love the title for this month’s blog post. I had different relationships with both of my grandmothers. They each taught me so much in the precious time I had with them. After our family moved from the city, I used to spend a few weeks each summer with my Grandma Milem.

She lived in a cul-de-sac with other homes filled with folks much like herself; elderly, with grown children. There were very few kids my age living, or visiting in that semi-circle of homes; so I ended up spending a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa. This is the place where I learned to sew, embroider, and watch Grandma cook. A favorite family memory: she loved to whistle while she worked.

There was always fresh produce on Grandma’s table. Tomatoes sliced on a plate, cucumbers bathed in vinegar, or swimming in sour cream with dill, and onion stalks with their greenery spilling out of the top of a glass of water. She taught my mother how to can the benefits from our garden, her bread and butter pickles were the best! We had jars and jars of corn, green beans and tomatoes. Grandma would take zucchini home and come back to visit with loaves of zucchini bread!

I have fond memories of holiday gatherings. Wonderful smells would fill the house. There were no store bought pies here, no sir. Everything was made by hand, and if you went home hungry it was your fault.

By the time I became a teenager, Grandpa had passed away and their home had been sold. Grandma called herself a vagabond; she lived from place to place. Mostly with her grown children in different parts of the country. She would visit us in southern California for a couple of months, she would then divide the rest of the year between Arizona, South Carolina, or Ohio.

In 1999, we were all called to my Uncle’s home in Ohio to say our good-byes. Hospice had advised that Grandma would be leaving us soon. A memory from that time, so precious to me  was when my Uncle’s home lost power, and there was no air conditioning. My cousins and I took newspaper and made fans. Then we went into the bedroom where Grandma rested and fanned her while singing hymns. If you listened real close you could hear her humming along.

When asking my cousins which recipe they remembered most from Grandma’s Kitchen our memories varied.  But we all think of her as a constant reminder of our childhood, and her great cooking abilities. I just found out recently that one of my cousins had  snagged her recipe box! Oh what a treasure! She then proceeded to send me a picture of all of those recipes. So, per her request, I am happily sharing Grandma Milem’s pancake recipe.

 

Grandma Milem’s Pancakes

1 Egg
1 1/4 cup Buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup of Baking soda
1 1/4 Cups of Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
2 Tbs. Soft shortening
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt

Mix the dry ingredients together well. The shortening should be soft like butter at room temperature. Add shortening, and  buttermilk; stir well. Let batter rest for a minute or two before pouring on hot griddle.

Click to Tweet: My Grandma’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes #holiday #memories .@InspiredPrompts

From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

By Jennifer Hallmark

Mamaw’s chocolate pie. Rich, creamy filling in a flaky crust with no meringue or whipped topping. No, sir. Mamaw didn’t like meringue. My dad’s parents spent a lot of their life in Arizona before moving back to Alabama to retire. My brother, Jesse Lee Dison III, and I enjoyed visiting my dad’s parents during our teen-age years, a time to get out of the house.

When Mamaw passed in 2010, my brother, living in Alaska, could not make the trip. But he had a way to honor our grandmother. He wrote a tribute which he had me place in a stand-up photo frame and asked my mom to bake a chocolate pie. We set them in the funeral parlor, a fitting acknowledgement of her love and cooking skills…

Here’s what Jesse wrote:

Since I could not attend I wanted to have something there that meant a lot to me when I think of Mamaw.  Now chocolate pie may seem like an odd thing, but every time we would get together that was one thing that I knew she would have and what I looked forward to.  Without the whipped cream! Whenever I see a chocolate pie, it reminds me of her and I know that they won’t be as good as hers. Just a very special memory to me.

Most of my memories of her would range from her being mean, not letting me answer the phone when my girlfriend was calling (had to climb through a window to grab the phone), to her relationship with Papaw.  I truly believe that strong family trees start at the roots and you learn from what you watch while growing up.  Mamaw and Papaw had that relationship where you know they loved each other and it was passed on although not out loud, but through watching and being around them.

Being in Alaska has been hard since it is so far away.  Holidays are hard because I miss being there with all the family.  When Mamaw would yell “Jesse” and Papaw, my dad and I would holler “yes” at the same time. She would get so mad.  I know when I would call to talk to her and hear everyone in the background it would bring back good memories.  To know that all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have and are raising close strong families in today’s society is a testament to how great Mamaw and Papaw were.

I am saddened by Mamaw’s passing but I know she is where she wants to be now, with my dad and Papaw.  And someday we will all be together.

And I know we will. Here’s her pie recipe. You can always add meringue or whipped topping, of course. 🙂

Click to tweet: Just in time for the holidays. Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie. #InspiredPrompt #food

Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Blend together sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a boiler. Add milk. Cook over low heat. Stir constantly util the mixture has thickened. Add a small amount of hot mixture to beaten egg yolks, stirring well. Add to mixture. Cook until it is a thick consistency. Add vanilla and butter or margarine. Pour into baked pie shell. Let cool…

A Third Grandmother

By Darcy Fornier

For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.

When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.

I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.

I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.

In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.

Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.

In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.

Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.

I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.

In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.

A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.

But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.

Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.

I still miss her. So much.

Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.

Click to tweet: Grandma Ada Mae had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. #Family #InspiredPrompt

Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.


Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.

When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.

Readers can find me at my blog:

https://peculiarmissdarcy.wordpress.com

And on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DarcyFornierWriter