The Importance of Historical Language and Period Accuracy
Nancy and her writing partner, Patti Schenberger are with Entangled Publishing. Their recent release is The Lawman’s Agreement.
Thank you Nancy for giving us an insight into writing historical novels.
The biggest challenge in writing language for a particular historical time period is obviously accuracy. And, while it would be easy to rely on other novels from same genre, trusting the author’s expertise is a like copying your homework from the cute boy across the aisle. Are you sure he’s got the right answers? What if he didn’t study any more than you did?
There are a number of ways to double check accuracy when it comes to the last few centuries. While online resources, e.g., Wikipedia, are only as good as the information put in, they can be helpful in a number of other ways, especially if you go directly to the cited reference rather than relying on their interpretation. Never assume, just because it appears in the Oxford dictionary and was deemed a word in 1779, that it was actually used in Regency England in 1805.
Blogs devoted to specific time periods are often well-researched and the information included handed down through generations. One of the best Regency-era blogs is: http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/social-customs-and-the-regency-world/ which includes everything from social customs, to language, to dress, to daily living activities.
Researching language for an historical set in North America can also be a challenge depending on the setting. Language in 1860s Boston is not going to be the same as 1860s Nevada Territory. Fortunately, there’s been a great influx of archived newspaper articles made available to assist with language questions. And, as with the Regency era, there are a huge number of websites and blogs devoted to historical accuracy and information. One of our favorites is: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-slang-c.html. This site is devoted to mid-western and western slang and phrasing and … in many instances … is downright hilarious! In addition to the language information, there are also clothing styles, art, as well as vintage photos. It’s treasure-trove of information if you’re working on a western historical.
While doing research for our mid-western historical, The Lawman’s Agreement, set in 1868 Mississippi, we wanted to go back to post Civil-War (1858-1864) and one of the best online resources we found was the following site: http://members.wabash.net/~northclay/ncjhs/textbooks/AmericanJourney/PDF/docs/chap13.pdf
The biggest challenge we faced while working on the book revolved around our heroine, a physician and surgeon in a time where women doctors were not readily accepted. We researched female pioneers such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first full accredited female physician. We also spent considerable time researching the medical procedures of the time including, our favorite, the treatment of the “suddenly, apparently dead” or, as we call it now, CPR.
As authors we have an obligation to our readers to not only entertain, but enlighten. To do that, we must strive for as accurate an account of actual events as we can. There are a number of wonderful authors out there who set out to write a romance and, over the course of their careers, have become experts in certain fields. It is that dedication and expertise that makes all of us, as readers, grateful for the effort they put into each and every book.
Post-Civil War Mississippi
U.S. Marshal, Zack McCade takes pride in protecting the good folks of Greenville—especially the beautiful Dr. Suzanne Martindale. He doesn’t always understand her need for independence, but he sure does like getting under her skin. It’s not like he’s looking to settle down—his job is too dangerous to risk taking a wife and family.
In an era when women aren’t readily accepted in the male dominated world of medicine, Suzanne doesn’t have time for courting—especially a charming Cajun rogue like Zack. When he proposes a fake betrothal to keep the matchmaking town out of their hair, she’s sure it’s a bad idea, but can’t deny her longing for a respite from the over-zealous bachelors in town.
Their ruse starts a fire in their hearts that neither expected, but will the re-emergence of Suzanne’s real fiancé douse the flames?
All buy links and an excerpt can be found at: http://www.entangledpublishing.com/the-lawmans-agreement/
Zack left the clinic and turned away from his office rather than toward it. He needed to walk off some of the tension holding his body as tightly wound as a pocket watch.
He should never have stolen that last kiss. The first two had been enough to appease their onlookers. The third had been strictly an indulgence for his own amusement, a silly flirtation intended to raise the doctor’s ire. Instead, his plan had backfired, and he’d found himself as aroused as a young schoolboy after his first deep kiss. It wouldn’t do, Zack realized, to walk into his office with a flagpole in his britches.
After a second pass behind the main buildings in the central part of town, Zack felt in control enough to go back to work. He’d barely reached for the handle on the office door, when the sound of a gunshot rang out from somewhere in the vicinity of the saloon.
He stepped off the sidewalk and into the main road, covering the distance between the jail and the saloon quickly, coming to a halt at the hitching post just as two men backed through the saloon doors, their faces covered in bandanas.
Zack drew his gun and a deep breath and asked, “You two gentlemen planning on going somewhere?”
The two men turned in Zack’s direction, their guns at the ready. “Let us go, Marshal, and nobody gets hurt,” the first one said.
“It’s two against one,” the second pointed out.
“Hmm, not such great odds, is it?” Zack agreed. “Perhaps, I can even things up a bit.” The words had no sooner left his mouth when he fired his gun, clipping the first man’s hand and knocking the gun he held to the side. “Now, it’s just us,” he said to the other.
The second man tossed his gun to the side as well and raised his hands in defeat. To his left, Zack caught sight of his deputies’ approach. “Tom, Pete,” Zack ordered. “Get these two scoundrels over to the jail and bandage up this fellow’s fingers.”
“Will do, boss,” Pete Bailey confirmed. “You want I should have the doc take a look at his hand.”
“No, not unless it’s a deeper scrape than it appears to be. He’ll do fine with your handiwork.”
Zack holstered his gun as his deputies started away with the prisoners. The second, larger man broke free of Tom’s hold and charged in Zack’s direction. Zack stuck out his fist, landing one solid blow against the man’s chest, sending him sprawling in the dirt, gasping for air and clutching his ribs.
“Come on,” the deputy said, pulling the man to his feet by the collar. “Let’s get going.”
Zack watched as the two men were led away without further incident. When he turned back toward the front of the saloon, he realized Suzanne was standing there, mostly likely alerted by the sound of the original gunshot.
“Was there anyone hurt in the saloon?” he asked.
“No, the robbers fired into the air in an attempt to scare the barkeep so he would hand over the money.”
“Since you’ve got your medical bag with you, I’ll take you over to the jail and you can check on both men.”
“Did you flatten the other one as well?” she asked.
“No. I shot him.”
Suzanne shook her head, the frown playing across her beautiful face causing him concern.
“Let’s go then, Marshal.” She started toward the jail, stopping long enough to say, “I’d really rather you not add to my workload any more than necessary.”
“It’s not like I do it on purpose,” he argued. When she didn’t respond, he caught up with her in two long strides. “It’s my job.”
“Yes, I know. And, because of your job, I now have to do mine.”
Zack was overcome with regret. Not that he would have done anything different where the two men were concerned. His regret stemmed from the fact he’d once again disappointed Suzanne, her reaction only serving to convince him of why they were unsuited for a real relationship.
Patti Shenberger Website: www.pattishenberger.com
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