As I approach the ten-year anniversary of the beginnings of my writing journey, I can’t help but think of some of the crazy things I’ve had to research. Of course I expected to go digging for first-person accounts of the times and for just the exact details about battles and political chicanery back in the days of the American Revolution and afterwards, but looking up how to bleed a cow or just where Carolinian forest is, well, those were surprises.
Here are some of the things I’ve had to research for my novels:
Skinning a raccoon. This description was part of the first draft of The Loyalist’s Wife as Lucy tried to hold on to her land while her husband was off fighting with the British. The account didn’t survive revision but I learned both how to do the skinning and how to write its description in an interesting fashion.
Carolinian forest. Did you know that Carolinian forest grows from the Carolinas right up into Ontario? And that some of the trees in that forest are ash, birch, chestnut, hickory, oak and walnut? I needed those notes to make sure the specific trees I mentioned actually grew where I said they did.
Battles around Niagara in the War of 1812. These were particularly bloody as the Niagara peninsula saw a lot of killing and cannonading as did the whole of Southern Ontario. As a person who grew up in Southern Ontario, I was surprised to learn the facts and wrote about them in both The Loyalist’s Luckand The Loyalist Legacy.
The Portage Road on both sides of the Niagara River. I still have visions of huge oxen pulling wagons loaded with settlers’ supplies up the hills to get to the level of Niagara Falls. Anyone who has seen those Falls or their picture knows that is a huge height and goods had to be portaged around the Falls in order to continue up the lakes on their way to settlers’ destinations.
How to bleed a dead cow. Well, I grew up on a farm so some of this I kind of knew but I still had to research just to make sure I had the facts right about the kill, the hanging of the carcass and the slicing of the neck vein in order to let the blood run out. In “olden days”, that’s where they got the blood for blood pudding and certain sausages. Doesn’t sound that appetizing to today’s readers! Lucy has to do this herself in the first book of the Loyalist Trilogy.
Uniforms for Butler’s Rangers, British soldiers, and Patriots who later became Americans. Believe me this is a huge subject with uniforms ranging from non-existent to very specific for each subsection in fighting units. The uniforms indicate far more than just the country the soldiers are fighting for. The Butler’s Rangers in my first book started out wearing their own clothes but eventually had a green coat and tan trousers. Here’s a sample of the variations.
Muskets and various cannons. There is no end of information on all of the weapons of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Fascinating read when you consider these soldiers had to master intricate steps in all kinds weather and fighting conditions. I love the bit about the musket firing soldier ripping off the end of the paper tube holding the powder with his teeth, pouring in the powder, ramming it home with the ramrod, attaching the ramrod to the barrel again and finally firing. In the video no one is firing at those demonstrating. Makes a difference to how calm they might be, wouldn’t you say?
Redans and redoubts. Redoubt is the most common word and redoubts represent a fortification where soldiers were somewhat protected from approaching enemies. This is described here. I used this research in the second book of my trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck.
Cicadas and crickets. Believe me there is a difference in the chirping times between these two but in the eight years since I sourced it out for my first book, I’ve forgotten, and I don’t have the time to do the research again. I did use the correct term in that book. There’s nothing to say that once finding the proper research and using it, you’ll remember it!
No matter what kind of book you’re writing the research will catch or destroy the reader’s interest. Make sure it’s well done.
The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy
“Elaine, I enjoyed reading your story about growing up in Oxford County. (My Story, My Song) As I read along I kept saying to myself …yes, I remember that. I knew/ know some of the people you mentioned as well. Your river story reminded me of our three season farm ponds which were so massive we felt sorry for the poor kids in town who had to skate in a circle and could only change direction when the whistle blew. I was not impressed with that when I first skated in an arena and yes I also started out with second hand black skates.” Bernice
“Elaine, I just finished your book, The Loyalist’s Daughter. It was a great read and is hard to imagine how someone can put together such a book. Well done!”
Terry and Sally
“We both loved The Loyalist’s Daughter. So happy we have a ‘signed’ copy. Thanks for doing that.” Carol and Dennis.
“What a remarkable book! I just finished yesterday….It is one of those books that, at the end of each chapter, the urge is to ‘just read one more chapter’ before turning out the light….I had no idea what is involved in organizing such a fund raising venture and ventures across Canada and you explained it so well….[This] book that you wrote on his life and huge contributions needed to be written….Thanks for putting your writing skills to work into the life of Ron Calhoun.” John Snoddy
“Just finished your first book in your Loyalist trilogy – really, really enjoyed it. Those folks sure were hardy types in those days – I don’t think I could even survive a walk to the outhouse – hahaha. Looking forward to reading the next one.” Lisa Hutchison
“I loved the book. [The Man Behind the Marathons] So glad for the way you set it up. It kept me reading. And then the section on Ron came just as I was about headed to Google to see what led Ron to be the guy he was. The quality of the paper was a real asset. Top quality for a top quality story about a top quality guy. Congratulations. I felt your heart in every page. Thanks for letting me have an early look at the book. Very cherished.” Sue Hilborn
“Just finished your book. [The Man Behind the Marathons] It is great – so many interesting things about Terry and Steve (whom I had forgotten about). Ron’s story is, if possible, even more interesting. I can see why you were drawn into his life as a suitable subject for your first nonfiction. I did wonder how Ron’s one set of clothes washed by his mother every night were dry for school the next morning . . . and which race your ‘young daughter’ beat you in.” Wayne C.
“Just finished all three and enjoyed the stories as they were woven into the history of that area. Congratulations!” Lorrie Miller on Facebook, reacting to The Loyalist Legacy‘s Chill With a Book Award.
“It was a pleasure to be at the LWS meeting last night. Great information shared. Love your books and writing style. I will give them as gifts. They bring this time in history to life in a way that one will never forget. Thank you!” Rosemary
“Elaine Cougler has written a page-turning novel of the American Revolution through the eyes of a conflicted loyalist soldier and his indomitable wife. You’ll feel the hardship of homesteading, the fear of the enemy, the blows of battle, and the pain of separation. You’ll be transported through history. This is not just a novel written about another time, it seems written in another time.” Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans, Stephen Leacock medal winner
“I bought all three books at Probus club meeting in London. I loved the stories. I am now a student reading more about the war of 1812. Thank you for your stories. Love your writing style.” Gwen Moore
“I was delighted with the way you handled the Norwich Rebellion in the last Loyalist book, Elaine, and have heard many positive comments about it.” Marie A.
“I’m an impatient reader. If my interest isn’t piqued right from the get-go, I simply don’t continue reading the book. Both of the Loyalist books drew me in immediately!” Elaine B
“The Loyalist’s Luck is one of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time. It picks up right where The Loyalist’s Wife left off and takes the reader to Canada with a group of Loyalists escaping the American Revolution.” Denise F