Monthly Archives

November 2016


This turns out to be a very basic section of my presentation. You know what sort of resources you need to pay for. The thing to remember here is that you should spend your money wisely.  So I’ll start off with a couple of suggestions:

  1. If you’re looking at a resource to purchase, check it out first on-line. Read the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon to learn whether other readers felt the book delivered. If you’re on Amazon, try the “Look Inside” function and check out the Index if there’s one there. You could also try getting it through your library first, just to see whether it’s useful. Due your due diligence before you lay out funds….if you waste money on a bad book, that may prevent you from buying the good book.
  2. If the book is from 1923 or prior, consider reading it on-line first. Since it’s out of copyright in the US, there are a lot of places where you can skim through that book (GoogleBooks is a good place to start) and determine whether it’s worth spending your money on. This can save you lots of money and time. (And you may decide just to keep using the online version instead of buying.)



If you’re looking for some basic resources, most people will start with Histories and Biographies, but let me also suggest the alternatives of Journals (or Diaries) and Novels that come from that time period. While I did read histories, I actually find that Journals and Novels give me a lot more atmosphere. They tell me what people were eating, what street scenes were like, how people felt about this law or that.

I read several novels by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, which gave me a great feel for the daily life of a young gentleman of Lisbon (including the fact that everyone smoked!), and how the houses would be decorated (the living room in the Pereira de Santos home looks a great deal like Eduardo’s office in Os Maias). I read the journals of a wealthy Russian serf and learned that he regularly ate pirogis for lunch.  Those are the sort of details that a history won’t give you.

In addition, I have purchased several travel guides. My favorite is the Baedeker I purchased for $50 (it was worth EVERY penny), and I talk a lot about using it here. Not only did that book tell me the price of cabs in 1901 Barcelona, the train schedules for crossing Spain, the presence of a hotel omnibus, where the embassies, post offices, and telegraphs offices were, they also told me what a visitor would visit…or NOT visit. (The Sagrada Familia didn’t even make the book in 1901.) I also found, in one of my travel guides for Saratoga Springs, the dinner menu for the hotel in which my character is staying (and thus I made her sit through all the courses with an overbearing man!) It was great!

And MAPS. I love maps. You can, quite frankly, simply download a lot of them online, but if you’re like me and prefer to see the period maps, you purchase them. Where do I purchase my maps? Surprisingly enough, I got most from ETSY. Yes, the vintage sale site also has a ton of period maps, most torn out of altases or guide books like the Baedeker mentioned above. It was a surprise to me to find them there.


Finally, you can take courses. The RWA in particular is good about offering online courses to its members on a myriad of historical topics. Some are available to non-members as well.  Community colleges often had history classes on various topics, and your research librarian friend might be able to hook you up with different classes of other sorts (like the once-weekly Farsi class they have in Edmond or the Fencing Class down in Oklahoma City). And an organization like the YMCA often offers unusual classes as well (I learned to sail via the YMCA).

So if you’re going to pay for a resource, do your homework before hand. It’s never fun to get a book in the mail only to discover that it doesn’t have what you want at all!


Next Week: When to Stop Researching and Fudge Your Answer


RRH Confession #10

I purchased and watched (several times) the movie Saratoga Trunk. It’s not a particularly good movie, despite having Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, but it was filmed in the hotel that I mentioned above…only a few years before the hotel burned to the ground. You can catch a few glimpses of the United States Hotel in this trailer.

How much it actually showed up in Snowfall is another matter…but I researched the snot out of that hotel!


How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #10

I’ve been reposting items from my old-webpage, and this is one that was originally posted 11/16/13–a few months before the publication of my first novel. It’s rather sadly prophetic, because I, too, ended up in this boat when my publisher decided not to continue a series (more on that at the bottom)


(Here’s the original post.)

Why haven’t you written _________________ yet?


Now, I understand this urge, but it would be better to say something like I really loved __________. I would love to read a sequel to it. That first way of asking it makes it seem like the author answers to you….which is not how the world runs.

First of all, authors are generally writing as fast as they can. Some of us are fast, some are slow.

And sometimes we just don’t get to write that sequel at all. Authors often have little control over what’s published (unless they’re self-publishing). An author’s contract is never written as ‘just write whatever book you want.’ (OK, Steven King probably gets this contract, but the vast majority of writers don’t.)

Most authors who are in a contract situation write what the publisher says they’ll buy. (Or what they hope the publisher will buy, which is where I am.) If the publisher tells me “We’ve decided not to buy Book 3”, then I’ll immediately stop working on it and move to something I CAN sell.

Because sometimes publishers give up on series before an author is done.

I know a lot of authors to whom this has happened. I’ve been the reader on the other end of that equation, too. Would I have liked to see Ansen Dibell’s fouth and fifth books of the Kantmorie saga*? Another book in Martha Well’s Ile-Rien? The fifth Bracebridge Mystery from Margaret Miles?

Yes, I want all those books.

But for one reason or another, someone higher up in the food chain made the decision that those books wouldn’t sell well enough, and thus they aren’t out there.

It usually isn’t the author’s choice.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes the author is just done with that setting or group of characters. Sometimes we think we’ve explored all we can there. That happens, too.

But the decision about what to write next is always complicated. We simply can’t write everything….we’re only human.

*Books 4 and 5 exist only in French and Dutch, since her US publisher dropped them.


(As a final note, if you want to know why I haven’t written the sequel to Dreaming Death yet, it’s because of the above reason…the publisher decided not to carry forward.  I will be publishing it myself next year, though….if I can afford to do so. So far, self-publishing has not been profitable, but I’m hoping to turn that around!)

How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #9

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure what ‘Writer’s Block” truly is. If you ask a dozen different writers about this, I suspect you’ll get a dozen different answers. But there are likely times when we all have a lack of motivation.

But I have a contract. I have to produce…on a deadline.

So what do I do when the inspiration is thin?

Usually I do something else. I don’t build sandcastles, but I’ll garden. I’ll clean house. Often I’ll work on some other writing project. But I’ll do something that will let my problem story ‘rest’. And usually that will shake free whatever I need.

That doesn’t always work. I have discovered that a deadline works wonders. In a workshop I was challenged to write a story in 24 hours given a prompt and some research time. I ended up writing “Fleurs du Mal” that way. Now I don’t set myself 24 hour deadlines, but I’m pretty good about meeting larger deadlines that I set for myself.

I suspect that’s one of the things that sets the ‘writers’ apart from ‘people with good ideas’. We’re practiced at forcing ourselves to sit down and pound out the words.

Even if they’re not always inspired.

Once they’re there on the page, it’s much easier for me to fix them.

That won’t hold true for every writer, but it’s what works for me.

What works for you?


(Next week is a holiday week, so no regular posts….sorry!)

It’s All Relative

This the eighth in a series of guest posts by authors who, like me, have found themselves falling down into a Research Rabbit Hole, often with hilarious results. Because this is the true danger of research…it sucks you in!



Way back before I really started making my mark on the prose writing world, I had a brief adventure working with an actor on the convention circuit. I learned a lot about how to be a good guest/professional at a convention, but I also learned a whole lot about collaborations, writing, and falling down research rabbit holes.

Part of this working relationship was developing a Pilot script for a television show we developed that has never seen the light of day. It’s still on a hard drive somewhere, maybe? We discussed what the project was, where it was supposed to go, and what we needed overall. I got to work on this pretty straight forward science fiction premise. Halfway through the first draft the actor says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a TIME TRAVEL ELEMENT!”


My stipulation to this brilliant idea was to say that our gimmick couldn’t be lame. This was not long enough after Star Trek: First Contact that all my tech/science friends were still bleeting, “What do you mean they just followed the Borg back?!?!?!” Actor’s response, “Okay, make it work.”


I was a Radio/TV/Film major and an English minor? I took high school biology, would’ve failed college Freshman Chemistry if it weren’t for the statistical curve, and had some hours in Geology (too many hours in Geology). What I DON’T have is a Physics background. Or a math background. Because, let’s face it, Physics is just Fancy Math. What’s a writer to do?

I approached my engineer/science friends who worked at Lockheed and said, “Hey, you hated the Borg thing, give me something you DON’T think is lame.” One group spent lunch hours trying to build me a time machine. Sadly… I had to turn to books.

Thank goodness for used bookstores.  I bought a bunch of books on Einstein and Relativity. Discovered I really like Brian Green (despite Sheldon Cooper’s opinion) and Kip Thorne because they put a lot of their fancy math in the BACK of the books.  I read theories of relativity FOR THREE MONTHS, until Kip Thorne saved my life. His was the last book I read.

His Black Holes and Time Warps confirmed the direction I needed to go. His personal theory confirmed it. It’s all about the Worm Holes, baby. His ideas gave me the idea to link time travel to a hypothetical Faster Than Light drive that harnessed Worm Holes. Yay, Worm Holes!!!! So useful, so versatile, so never been disproven! I may have even emailed Dr. Thorne weeping for joy.


(Photo via Pixabay)

To this day, I have a slight twitch when anyone starts talking Relativity. But, hey, I’m not completely lost during Big Bang Theory. The actor and the project are still out there somewhere – maybe on the event horizon of a black hole. Every so often there’s a mention of it or him, but nothing major. I appreciated the exercise at the time, but man, thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia now!





qscn2ozi_400x400Rhonda Eudaly lives in Arlington, Texas where she’s ventured into several industries and occupations for a wide variety of experience. She’s married with dogs and a rapidly growing Minion© army. Her two passions are writing and music, which is evident in her increasing horde of writing instruments.

Rhonda has a well-rounded publication history in fiction, non-fiction and script writing. Her first novel, Tarbox Station, is now available through booksellers everywhere.

Follow Her: Webpage / Facebook / Twitter

Research for Writers of Historical Fiction #8

One of the things that I like to talk about whenever I’m suggesting places to look for research sources is….ta-da! Social Media.

To be clear. NOT ALL SOCIAL MEDIA. There are, however, a couple of things I’ve found surprisingly useful. So to begin…

Remember that you can use your social media platform to ask for your friends’ and readers’ suggestions.

I did this when stuck on a research problem for Book 3 (The Shores of Spain). I needed to have a book that a young Portuguese-speaking boy might read in 1900.  Unfortunately, I was rather stumped as to writers of action/adventure stories for that time period in Portugal.  So I threw the question out on my Facebook.

I was quite surprised by the number of people who had opinions and suggestions. As it turned out, one of my friends suggested King Solomon’s Mines. I didn’t know if that was available in Portuguese, though. Another friend sent me the link to the Portuguese National Library and when I went there, I discovered that the book was translated into Portuguese (and serialized) around 1890. So for my 1903 setting? Totally acceptable for that to be the book…and thus my social media buddies saved my bacon.

(It actually turned out to be an AMAZING CHOICE, by the way, because it was a truly loaded issue between the Portuguese  and English at the time, so the book was widely read in Portugal despite the author being English.)


But social media can also be searched, and that can turn up all sorts of helpful stuff.*

*Caveat: Search functions are iffy. For example, Facebook has a surprisingly good search function, whereas Tumblr???  NEVER SEARCH TUMBLR, or if you do, have bleach nearby to clean your soul afterwards.


So…my story links back to that desperate search for a department store in Porto in 1902. I knew there had to be one, but I hadn’t been searching under the correct words. This is how I discovered that.  I searched Facebook for Porto 1900.

I was surprised to find that there were Pages dedicated to the history of Porto, including the wonderful Porto Desaparecido (Vanishing Porto).  That Page collects vintage photographs, drawings, and paintings of Porto and has them carefully sorted into albums, most pictures having notations as well. It’s a group labor of love that included this picture below:


Yes, there it is, an advertisement from Herminios Department Store, or Grandes Armazèns Hermnios. I checked, and that store did predate my novel setting. I had finally found the name of the department store…the day after I turned in the manuscript!

(If you notice the address line of the browser, the option to translate the page is there in the right corner, although it won’t translate the words on the photograph.)

But that success led me to check into some of my other settings. Below you see Facebook Pages for Porto Desaparecido, Barcelona Desapareguda, Lisboa Desaparecida, and even a Page for Saratoga Springs, NY.  While the mileage varies on these, they can be helpful.



In addition, I used several other Porto-related pages found by searching Facebook, so I recommend giving that a try. If you’re interested in a setting, the chances are good that someone else is, and has a Facebook Page set up for it.

I would also suggest trying out Pinterest. Now, Pinterest is, for most people, a place for storing pretty pictures, but authors are using it more and more to store their links to various pages, almost like a Browser Bookmark but with pictures. That makes it somewhat easier to search through at times. If I put in “1900 Porto Portugal”, I see photos, some of which might lead me to useful articles.

And while we’re online: a strange place to look that isn’t quite social media? Stock Photo and Video collections can offer you glimpses into your setting.

Flikr and Getty Images will likely have old pictures (and new) of a setting, as well as (and other old picture sites.)

For short videos of a place? Try Pond5 or Shutterstock.

And YouTube has a persnickety search function that will sometimes turn up gems. The best part about this is that a LOT of old film has been put up on YouTube. I’ve found footage c. 1902 for Porto, New York, Barcelona…

So when you’re online researching, look in the usual places…but also keep your eyes open for others.


Next Post (11/29): Let’s Start Buying Stuff!


RRH Confession #9

I actually read King Solomon’s Mines in both English and Portuguese. That turned out to be a bit of a rabbit hole as I discovered discrepancies between the English original and the Portuguese translation. They were small differences, a sentence added here or there, or a couple of details thrown in that didn’t appear in the original…

As it turns out, the colonization of Africa was a hugely political issue in Europe at the time, so the author who did the translation actually did an ‘adaptation’, wherein he stretched the original novel just a little bit. (A lot of historical quibbling over this one.)


This week’s installment on the Using the Internet portion of Historical Research will be short and sweet.  (I hope).

After looking for the usual suspects (as listed last week), you can move on to more esoteric resources. One of those things you can use is to find the webpage of someone with a singular passion. See that webpage reproduced below?


First of all, be careful about these pages, because you don’t know the person maintaining them. They could be completely wrong about everything, so it helps to do some double checking. But once you’ve decided their information is sound, they can be incredibly helpful!

The page above is maintained by a person in the Netherlands who maintains several websites for tram history. They have a site for the trams of Coimbra, Lisboa, and…cities in the Netherlands, too.

This particular site is quite extensive, with maps of the different lines, when each ran, when they were converted from mule-drawn to electric. For me, with characters taking trams all over the area, this became a vital resource.  I used this person’s maps quite a bit.

Now imagine my horror when, just as I’m doing edits, THE PAGE SHUTS DOWN. EEEEP!!!  It took a couple of weeks before I could find it again, with a new address.

So this is where one of the pieces of advice I gave last week comes in.

If you think it’s something that might be vital during edits, save a copy–screencap, word file, printout–but make sure you don’t loose access to the page if  you might desperately need it later. 

And one final word on this kind of site. If you use it a lot and the option is there, donate. Even a dollar or two can help these people defray their costs, and it’s simply the nice thing to do.


Next Week: Using Social Media…no, seriously…


RRH Confession #8

I spent far too long researching whether or not electricity had been run along certain streets in Porto by 1902. It’s interesting to know that the newer parts of the city had electricity first, but the old center of town? It took much longer to get power into those parts of the city.

In the end, I made a judgment call and simply said no, the Street of Flowers wouldn’t have electricity yet and blamed the prince for that.  Lisbon, however, I knew to have power at the time. So that worked out to be one sentence in one book.

(Note all the wires strong under the windows in the pic below…yep, that’s how power got to the old houses. They were mostly granite buildings, so drilling holes through the walls is tough. Hence this compromise, still going on over a century later.)





When your research goes to the dogs…

This the seventh in a series of guest posts by authors who, like me, have found themselves falling down into a Research Rabbit Hole, often with hilarious results. Because this is the true danger of research…it sucks you in!



‘Research rabbit holes’ is an apt phrase for the latest thing to intrigue me. I’ve been chasing dogs and finding any number of scents to follow.

Some months ago I went to a lecture by an academic, Peter Mitchell, whose area of research is the worldwide impact of the horse on indigenous societies, after 1492. That’s a fascinating area for study on its own, but as he explained, before European colonists brought the horse back to North America, the Plains peoples used dogs as beasts of burden? To haul the poles and hides for their shelters as they moved from place to place, to drag the travoises that carried those too young or too old to walk. To carry packs and panniers with utensils and supplies. When these indigenous people devised words for ‘horse’, one variant simply meant ‘a bigger dog’.

Though some tribes took a long look at the horse and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Granted, horses graze but the best fodder, especially in winter, is in short supply. Horses don’t do so well in the bitter cold either. That limits winter camps to river valleys, where there’s competition from other horse nations. Meantime, dogs can hunt down prey that can be shared with people. Dogs are better at guarding a camp. Dogs can come into a shelter when the weather turns cold and share their body heat. Granted, horsehide is useful, but so is a dog skin, and it’s warmer. If needs must, you can eat dogs just as easily as you can eat horses – and dogs reproduce themselves a great deal quicker and with more offspring.

Why do I find this so fascinating? Because I’m working on stories set in a new fantasy world. Now that I’ve got the River Kingdom pretty well established, I’m wondering what’s off the edges of the splendid map I’ve had drawn. To the north, there’s the high plateau. Who lives there? I immediately knew one answer to avoid was ‘nomad horse clans’. You know the sort of cliché that bedevils epic fantasy; loosely modeled on Central Asian peoples or the Plains tribes as re-imagined by old Hollywood movies. But nomad hound masters and mistresses? That has all sorts of possibilities.

So I’ve been learning a lot more about dogs. We had dogs as pets when I was little but since I’ve lived with my husband, we’ve always had cats. So stuff like the differences between sight hounds and scent hounds is all new to me. Discovering the various uses that people have made of dogs over the centuries is equally fascinating. A hundred or so years ago, dogs pulling small carts were a familiar sight in US and European cities, hauling milk and bread for delivery, or street food and drink for sale. Did you know the Rottweiler was originally famous as a butcher’s dog, strong enough to haul a heavy cart of meat to the market place to be sold? Where the money went into a purse hung around the dog’s neck to discourage thieves…

Then there are the recent insights into the dynamics of pack behavior and the ways in which humans can interact with dogs on their own terms. I had a fascinating conversation with urban fantasy author Suzanne McLeod about all this on the train home from a convention once. I’ll be emailing her for a recap when I find the right story to take someone from the River Kingdom up through the hill country to reach that high plateau. Because that’s the thing about research. It’s so easy to find fascinating things that aren’t actually relevant to what you’re actually working on…




Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. shadow-histories-of-the-river-kingdomLoving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels, from The Thief’s Gamble which began The Tales of Einarinn to Defiant Peaks concluding The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. Exploring new opportunities in digital publishing, she’s re-issued her backlist as ebooks as well as bringing out original fiction in partnership with Wizard’s Tower Press. She reviews for web and print magazines and writes diverse shorter fiction when interesting opportunities arise.

Follow Juliet: Webpage / Twitter 


Learn more about the River Kingdom here




Now this is the point in my presentation where I usually hit on some very basic information. I’m talking about places to look for information about your topic on the internet, and I’ll give you some starting points (beyond Wikipedia) here.

My plea is, once again, don’t reinvent the wheel. If you’re writing fiction, you don’t have time to be digging up dinosaurs. Instead, check out a webpage by someone who has.

Writer’s Webpages

In the same vein, go ahead and see what other writers have left for you. Many writers WANT to be helpful. They want to help new writers and curious readers find information. So if you know of a writer who writes in the same time period/place that you’re researching…check out their webpage. Writers often have lists of resources they’ve alread vetted.

Here’s an example. If you type in to your Google search “Writer’s Resources Regency Romance”, the first page of results includes the webpages of…

Stephie SmithJennifer HudsonKristen Koster,  and Joanna Waugh

In addition, there are other resources listed on that page, mostly maintained by groups, including…

Literary Liaisons, Good Ton, Writing World (article by Catherine Lundoff), and Wikipedia (which actually has some helpful links!)

Why hunt down a million resources when other writers have done it for you?


Writer’s Group Recommendations

In addition to using writers groups online resources, if you join some writers groups, you can often throw out a question to the membership at large. I am a member of two writers groups (Codex and SFNovelists), and if I have a question, I can post it on either group and I have no doubt that some author will have researched this information before me.  So take advantage of those members and their big brains!

Group Resource Pages

A lot of those groups have resource pages (in addition to their forums) that will show up in Google searches, but you can also go hunting for them. Example: Absolute Write’s Resources Page.



Newspaper Archives

An invaluable resource if you’re looking for very specific regional info (ex: who went to what party) check newspaper archives. Many are available online now, and some parts are free.

Remember I told a story about asking the Librarian about gambling in 1909 in Saratoga Springs and she didn’t have anything in her file?  Well, I was hunting through the NYTimes Archive (where everything prior to 1923 is free), and stumbled over the answer. Apparently the Saratoga Springs town council outlawed gambling within the town limits that year..and it made the paper in NYC. People who would travel to Saratoga Springs to vacation wanted to know.

And I wouldn’t have found that information if not skimming through a regional paper.

(BTW, being a good citizen, I forwarded the link of that article to the aforementioned librarian, and she put it in her file for future users.)

Google Maps/Street View

Now a last basic resource that I encourage people to use is Google Maps and Street View.

For many cities, their historic districts go on mainly unchanged for centuries. Where I was working (Porto), the inner part of the city hasn’t changed much since 1902…so I could actually use Google Street View to see the same narrow streets that my characters would have seen.

(Remember, this is NOT true for cities that were bombed in various wars, and is hit and miss for cities that regularly burn, like London. Porto, where most of the buildings are granite, doesn’t see a lot of change. Saratoga Springs, on the other hand , had wood buildings that often burned down. So please be aware of history before you take what Google shows you for granted.)


AND GRATIS: A couple of reminders. 

If you find a site that’s vital to you, bookmark it. I suggest making a separate bookmark file for each setting.

If you find a site that might be vital during edits, consider making a copy of the pertinent pages either in Word, or printing them out. I tend to keep vital things (like calendars) in a 3-ring binder, because often when I’m editing I’m away from my computer.  Just a suggestion!


Next Week: Additional Weirder Places to Huntvecror-page-decor-and-text-deviders_08[1]

RRH Confession #7

I learned to rappel, thinking that I would use this someday in a book. To this day, I have never used rappelling in any story.

On the other hand, the knowledge I gained in that class of knots has always stood me in good stead. (Especially when I took sailing classes and seemed like the only one who could tie decent knots.)