Sunday, March 24, 2013

Research Books

 I love research books. (As my husband and groaning bookshelves will attest.  Or is it my bookshelves and my groaning husband?)

My current WIP is set in 1868 Fort Larned on the Kansas Prairie. The hero is the post surgeon, and he's also an herbalist. He's deeply interested in Native American medicinal herbs and uses them to treat his patients.

When I started this story, I knew little about frontier medicine and even less about Native American medicinal herbs. I'd visited Fort Larned and taken lots of pictures and walked the grounds and talked to the park rangers, but I knew I'd need more information to use the place as the setting of a novel.

Enter research books!

The above title is fascinating. Written by Volney Steele, it's a fairly comprehensive look at early medicine in the United States. I think it will come in handy for many stories yet to come.

The book to the right has proven invaluable to me. It is a dictionary of herbs used by Native Americans. From Snake Root to Ginger, Birch Bark to Sweet Grass, this alphabetical listing gives information on the places these plants grow, the parts used in medicine, the preparation needed, the dosages, the uses, and so much more. I couldn't write this story with as much realism without this resource.

Then there's my handy little book, published by the Kansas Historical Society, on the history of Fort Larned itself. Though not as famous as its cousin to the north, Fort Laramie, Fort Larned played an vital role in protecting the Santa Fe Trail and in the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867. If you ever have a chance to go to Fort Larned, about halfway between Salina and Dodge City in the great state of Kansas, I highly recommend it.

I've used other books in the research for this series, including the Godey's Ladies' Book and Dover Fashion Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney, (my heroine is a catalog artist for a fashion catalog and dresses very well.) but these three are the ones I take with me everywhere when I'm writing. I have them beside me on the desk, in my laptop bag, or strewn across the bed, wherever I happen to be writing.

Do you enjoy research? Is historical accuracy in fiction a high priority for you as a reader and/or a writer?

What are you working on right now?

I'm chatting today with Stacy Monson at her blog Land of 10,000 Words, which features Minnesota authors and history and cool MN stuff. I'd love it if you'd check it out, and if you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win a copy of Sagebrush Knights!


  1. I do enjoy the research process. It hardly ever feels like work because I get to delve into history, my favorite subject.

    Thanks for showcasing the books on frontier medicine. I have doctors as characters in my stories, so I'm on the lookout for books that will help me make them as realistic as possible.

  2. I love research and have an ever-expanding collection of reference books. Bleed, Blister, and Purge is one of them. :-)

  3. I don't particularly enjoy research, which is why I write contemporaries. But I still have to research occupations sometimes and I definitely don't mind researching settings - especially if it means a trip :)

  4. I love researching for writing projects. Sometimes I have to make myself stop! :)