Talkin' the Talk

I recently received an email from a reader (she knows who she is. *g*) saying she was reading and enjoying LASSO THE MOON. She mentioned how she'd been transported back in time and that I must have done a lot of research. Later she emailed, admitting she doesn't usually go for period pieces, but had finished LASSO THE MOON and loved it. Obviously, I'm thrilled!

Not too long ago, my publisher sent me a few emails from readers who had written to say they don't normally like westerns, but had a blast reading LTM. That made me feel like a million bucks, let me tell you. Converting my contemporary fans wasn't as hard as I'd feared.

The trick, I think, is to weave in enough research to give the reader a feel for the period without overloading them with historical facts or details. In any era, that would be called: info dump. Or TMI. Too much information. Note, I'm talking about historical romance, not historical fiction. Two different animals. A romance reader is more interested in the developing relationship than knowing 'specifically' how soap was made in the 1800s. Finding a balance is sometimes hard. I just trimmed a section I wrote in ROMANCING THE WEST about the Desert Land Act. I'd included details that didn't really advance my story. All the reader really needs to know is that President Hayes tried to encourage economic development in the arid west. That tidbit matters. Although the research for my western books is time consuming, I really do enjoy it. Part of the fun is learning the slang. In a book called Cowboy Slang by Edgar R. "Frosty" Potter, I came across this colorful cowboy saying referring to someone who's a mite talkative.

He was "Usin' big four-letter words as nobody could savvy without an encyclopedia an' two dictionaries."

And what about this one? "Used language so polished ya could skate on it."

I love that stuff! Anyway, for those keeping score I'm currently working on my second western and the story is finally clicking so my mood is good. The only reason it's moving as slow as it is... the research. I have an entire shelf of books on the wild west and life in the 1800s, but stacked on my desk right now? Cowboy Lingo, Roadside History of Arizona, The Gunfighters, Country Folk Medicine, Horses, Cowboy Slang, Everyday Life in the Wild West, Everyday Life in the 1800s, Arizona-1878 (info on flora, population, stage coach lines, etc.), Websters Dictionary, and Roget's International Thesaurus.

What's currently on your desk?


Anna Lucia said…
Add me to the list of non-Western readers who loved LTM, Beth!

As for what's on my desk, I thought, "Oh, there won't be any good writing books on my desk..." then looked around.

Chambers Dictionary and Thesaurus (21st Birthday present - can you tell I've always been a writer?)

the Rough Guide To Morocco (research for my desert book)

Vogler's Writer's Journey (which I don't rate that high, but I find the charts useful)

Oh, and Lasso the Moon.

And that's pure coincidence!
Stacie said…
Writing the Breakout Novel and Workbook, illustrated edition of The Da Vinci Code, just finished Angels and Demons, Deception Point [previous 4 by Dan Brown], also just re-read Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister, Complete Works of William Shakespeare (along with many Shakespeare fiction and nonfiction books)...I think that's it. ;)

Wow-- the one-year anniversary of Seduced?!?! Congrats! LOVED that book (duh!)!!

:Raises hand: I'm not normally a big fan of period-literature, either. About the only piece I had read was one that started out in the 21st century, then the main character was transported back in time to save someone....Wasn't that impressed. But I loved LTM! I honestly think you can write anything well!
Bethany said…
The next book. And a website redesign. Lord, I need help... why I tackle everything at once is beyond me. :-)
Beth Ciotta said…
Anna, I converted you, too? Yee-haw! So glad you liked LTM. As to your desk, you've got some heavy hitters there. Say, what don't you like about Vogler's Writes Jurney? Curious.

Stacie, wow. You beat me in the 'what's on my desk' category. interesting variety. Oh, and, yes, SEDUCED has been out a year now. So weird! Time flies and all that. Thank you for the kind words on LTM!!!

Bethany... Feeling overwhelmed are you? *g* Deciding on a new website design is a toughy. i mean you want to make the RIGHT impression/statement, whatever that is. Good luck!
Taylor said…
History projects + The DaVinci Code (for English) + In Cold Blood (Again, for English). Oh, and Ordinary People (Once more: For English!). Time I take to read them? Good question. Haha I'm glad to hear about all this research Beth. I get annoyed at times when I read historical fiction and know their facts are wrong! It's annoying! But I'm glad to hear you put alot of time and effort into making sure things are correct. A gold star for you, Beth!
Anna Lucia said…
Um... I think I don't much like it because a friend said it would 'change my life' in a writing sense, and I read it and just went... "uh, okay."

Most of it was fairly obvious to me, but I found the extended example thing he used of the Home Tribe rather tedious, his voice a little annoying, and the whole treatment a little too... precious? But that's purely a personal thing, and coming at it purely from the romance writer angle. I'm aware that The Writer's Journey is 'bigger' than that.

The bits I need are about 20% of the book, so I'm naturally going to find the presence of the other 80% a bit annoying. ;-)

It's interesting because I struggle with Vogler because it's not enough of a text book, yet Stephen King's "On Writing" is even less of a text book, and yet I love it.

Irrational, moi? Never. ;-)

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