Friday Findings August 26, 2022
One of the aspects of author life I've struggled to settle into is... well. Actually, I'm going to rephrase that. The only aspect of author life I've really got my groove in is the actual writing of the books. I particularly love edits, and if I could just spent every day combing over my latest project like a Victorian woman trying to make her hair shiny, I would happily do that.
But there's a lot of other stuff. One is cultivating an online presence. Part of that is marketing, but since book marketing in trad pub is a very complex beast, I try to think of it more as assuring my readers that I am an actual human being who exists somewhere in physical space. Another bit of "stuff," particularly for historical fiction, is research. I research a lot, but I am very disorganized about it, often looking up the same information over and over because I just used it to fix one line and never made myself a note.
Well, in the interest of going 2-in-1 for this, I've decided to encourage myself to keep up with blog posts and make note of my historical research findings by posting about them to my blog on Fridays. Depending on how much time I have (or how badly I'm procrastinating other things), these may be anywhere from a short list of factoids to a deep-dive of something I found particularly interesting.
So, let's get started! This week, I am working on the yet-unnamed Lucky Lovers Book 3, a Sapphic hate-to-love story about a female physician and a dapper decadent. For the week ending August 26, I looked up:
Poker-like games of the 19th century
This is one that, unfortunately, I've already looked up many times. I am not much of a card player myself, but Noah Clarke, one of the heroes in A Rulebook for Restless Rogues (July 2023) and a fun side character in both Lucky Lovers 3 and The Gentleman's Book of Vices, loves to make up crazy rules to otherwise familiar card games. As such, I've needed to have some understanding of 19th century card games with a gambling component.
There were all kinds of popular card games in the late Victorian period (whist was a favorite), I was working on a dialogue-based scene at the card table this week that benefitted from a poker-like betting rhythm. While poker was apparently in existence in 1885, it seemed more likely that Noah would be playing his own version of a game called "brag."
When were jigsaw puzzles invented?
In 1762, apparently, so there would be no problem with my characters in 1885 comparing things to jigsaw puzzles. Always nice to find that a clever metaphor can stick around!
How could one get from London to Farnham by train in 1885?
I had a hell of a time with this one, as with most train-related facts I try to find in this era. In fact, in the Restless Rogues draft, I made some assumptions about where train stops might be, given that there was a rail from London to Southampton at the time. I simply couldn't find the information quickly enough, given my tight deadlines, and decided to make Farnham Noah and Emily Clarke's hometown, because it was sort of on the way. But the subject came back up as I am drafting Lucky Lovers 3, and is of much greater importance to the plot, so I needed some more details about how quickly the Clarkes could get from home to London.
Thankfully, I finally found this site about the history of Surrey by changing my search terms. Searching for the trains out of London never quite got me what I was looking for, but specifically looking for Surrey rail lines yielded much better results... sort of.
The results were better, but I found I had made a terrible mistake in my previous draft. The nearest station that led to London would have been over two hours by carriage from the city of Farnham. While that was fine in Restless Rogues, it actually breaks the plot of Book 3. I'm so glad I was able to catch this in time! I have one more round of edits on Restless Rogues, just enough time to move Noah and Emily Clarke's hometown from Farnham to Farncombe -- much closer to the Goldaming railway station, and, incidentally, home to a substantial community of Non-conforming Unitarians like the Clarkes themselves.
Overall, it was a reasonably light research week. While The Gentleman's Book of Vices doesn't come out for another three months, due to my publication schedule, I'm nearly three books deep in the series, and a lot of my research into the early 1880s carries over. That said, the reason I'm drawn to those years is because like our own time, they were a time of rapid and dramatic societal and technological change, so there's always something to check on.
I'm mostly glad I checked on that train station map before it was too late to make changes to Restless Rogues!