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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Blunders in Research

Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press, imprints of Prairie Rose Publications. 


Everything I know about the Midwest I learned in my short period of living in Nebraska and Texas. Luckily, I did explore and traveled extensively in the two years I spent living out west. But there is so much I don’t know and research is the only thing that helps me fine tune my stories set in Wyoming and give them a feeling of accuracy. Without proper research, a story could derail with inaccurate details. Just recently I almost ran aground assuming things that were not true while writing my story for the Halloween anthology for Prairie Rose Publications.
Wyoming does not have a zoo—not a single one.

The Henry Doorly Zoo, established in 1894 and located in Omaha, Nebraska, was originally named the Riverview Park Zoo until the 1950’s a huge donation of $750,000 was given by the widow of Henry Doorly with the request that the name be changed to honor her late husband.
As the years passed, the zoo expanded its exhibits to include a giraffe complex, an aviary, a large salt-water aquarium, a large plaza called World-Herald Square, Bear Canyon and Wolf Woods. A petting zoo for kids was added in 1990 and more modern attractions such as an IMAX theater, the world’s first test tube gorilla, a Wildlife Safari, and a Center for Conservation and Research were added in 1995.

In recent years, the zoo also created new exhibits and added more near-endangered animal species which includes a rare okapi. A beautiful “Desert Dome” has been constructed, along with the Hubbard Gorilla Valley and Orangutan Forest. They also added additional guest services buildings, restaurants and a gift shop.

                                                    THE DESERT DOME
After the acquisition of nearby land, the zoo will add a 2,000 car capacity parking lot and a number of new attractions, from an Arctic exhibit to an Australian outback area. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is nationally renowned for its leadership in animal conservation and research. It features the largest cat complex in North America, "Kingdoms of the Night" is the world's largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp, the Lied Jungle is one of the world's largest indoor rainforests, and the "Desert Dome" is the world's largest indoor desert, as well as the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world. The Zoo is Nebraska’s number one paid attendance attraction and has welcomed more than 25 million visitors over the past 40 years.

Zoo history timeline
The following is a selected list of when buildings and exhibits were created:
  • 1894: Riverview Park Opens
  • 1898: By this date the park has a varied animal population of over 120 animals
  • 1920's : Gould Dietz donates cat cages.
  • 1930's : WPA builds cat and bear exhibits
  • 1952: Omaha Zoological Society was organized for the improvement and administration of the zoo
  • 1963: Margaret Hitchcock Doorly donated $750,000 to the Zoo with the stipulation that the Zoo be named after her late husband Henry Doorly
  • 1965: Omaha Zoological Society was reorganized as a non-profit organization and the dedication of the first phase of the zoo which included bear grottos, gorilla, orangutan buildings and Ak-sar-ben Nature Kingdom
  • 1968: Inaugural run of Omaha Zoo Railroad in July, Eugene C. Eppley Pachyderm Hill opened in November on the old baseball diamond site
  • 1972: Ak-Sar-Ben waterfall was constructed, In August the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion opened complete with a new concession building, public restrooms and a gazebo where an old public swimming pool was
  • 1973: Owen Swan Valley and the Primate Research Building were completed
  • 1974: New diet kitchen and educational classrooms were completed
  • 1977: Cat Complex
  • 1979: Hospital and nursery opened
  • 1981: Giraffe and hoofstock complex opened
  • 1983: Lee G. Simmons Free-Flight Aviary
  • 1984: 70,000-US-gallon (260,000 l; 58,000 imp gal) saltwater aquarium opened in what had been the museum
  • 1985: Gorilla and orangutan buildings completely renovated and named in honor of the Owen Family, Richard Simmons cuts ribbon
  • 1986: World-Herald Square was completed, First Tier Wolf Woods, Maintenance building and haybarn were relocated to the northeast
  • 1987: Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom Pavilion, the visitor services area US West Plaza, new main entrance
  • 1988: Construction began Lied Jungle, Zoo was selected for the endangered black-footed ferret breeding program, Zoo’s greenhouse was built near the maintenance shop.
  • 1989: Durham Family's Bear Canyon, Doorly’s Pride a heroic bronze sculpture of a pride of 12 lions was installed in the entry plaza area, Zoo received the prestigious AAZPA Bean Award for its long-term gaur propagation efforts, black-footed ferret building constructed
  • 1990: Dairy World featuring a children’s petting zoo, educational exhibits and concession area, world’s first test-tube tiger was born at the Zoo
  • 1991: Birthday House for children’s birthday parties and education classes, world’s first artificially-inseminated tiger was born at the Zoo
  • 1992: Lied Jungle, Durham's TreeTops Restaurant, Education Center, Simmons Plaza near the main entrance
  • 1993: Old aquarium was closed and construction of the new aquarium began, Zoo received two AAZPA awards: the Conservation Award for its black-footed ferret management program and the Significant Achievement Award for the Lied Jungle, world’s first artificially-inseminated gaur calf was born at the Zoo
  • 1994: Union Pacific Engine House for the Omaha Zoo Railroad
  • 1995: Walter and Suzanne Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium, Zoo had more than 1.6 million visitors, land was acquired for an off-site breeding facility and drive-through park, construction began on the IMAX 3D Theater, Zoo participated in the propagation of the world’s first test-tube gorilla birth (Timu was born at the Cincinnati Zoo)
  • 1996: Bill and Berniece Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research, Timu the world’s first test-tube gorilla moved to Omaha’s Zoo.
  • 1997: Lozier IMAX theater
  • 1998: Garden of the Senses, Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari 22 miles (35 km) west of Omaha’s Zoo at Nebraska’s 1-80 Exit 426, new diet kitchen was completed, construction began on a new pathology lab and keepers lounge
  • 1999: Sue's Carousel, construction began on the world's largest Desert Dome, Zoo hosted a temporary Komodo Dragon exhibit
  • 2000: New North Entrance Plaza was completed featuring a new gift shop, warehouse, entrance plaza and visitor gazebo. Joined the Okapi Species Survival Program, allowed the Zoo to be one of only 14 zoos in North America to display rare okapi, traveling koala exhibit visited the Zoo
  • 2001: Cheetah Valley, New bongo and new tree kangaroo exhibits were constructed, Zoo hosted a traveling white alligator exhibit
  • 2002: Desert Dome, construction began on Hubbard Gorilla Valley
  • 2003: Kingdoms of the Night
  • 2004: April 8 Hubbard Gorilla Valley, tower with two high capacity elevators to take visitors from the main level of the Zoo near the Desert Dome down 44' to Hubbard Gorilla Valley
  • 2005: Hubbard Orangutan Forest in two phased May and August, giraffe feeding station in the spring, construction began on an addition to the Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research
  • 2006: New Guest Services building and two additional gates at the main entrance, Hubbard Research wing expansion to the Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research in July, Budgie Encounter
  • 2007: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion is transformed into the Exploration Station, construction on the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion begins
  • 2008: Berniece Grewcockn Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, construction on a Madagascar exhibit begins
  • 2009: Skyfari. Construction continues on the Madagascar exhibit.
  • 2010: Expedition Madagascar opened
  • 2012: Scott Aquarium is reopened after renovations and the zoo is official renamed Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  • 2013: A new gift shop opens, the IMAX facility is remodeled, and Gateway to the Wild exhibit is completed.

My second mistake in research was to place a passenger train in Wyoming. There isn’t one. Wyoming has never had a passenger train. Once there was a train from Wyoming that connected to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad at Clearmont, specifically for coal, but it only lasted a short period of time and only ran 28.53 miles between the towns of Clearmont and Buffalo Wyoming.
The Wyoming Railway, now defunct, was an American railroad built and operated between the towns of Clearmont and Buffalo, Wyoming, a distance of 28.53 miles. The railroad provided Buffalo with a link to the national railway network via a connection with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad at Clearmont. When the coal ran out, so did the railroad.
New interests purchased the Wyoming Railway 1946. In July 1948, the Company filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission to petition to the United States District Court of Wyoming under Section 77 of the U. S. Bankruptcy Act, which asked that the company be reorganized. R. E. McNally was appointed trustee by The ICC after C. Porter Dickson, President of the Wyoming Railway Company, could not meet his mortgage obligation. The Trustee ultimately filed with the ICC to abandon the railroad and, as it usually did, the ICC approved the abandonment, effective March 30, 1952. The Wyoming Railway Company owed 3 steam locomotives, 2 passenger cars, 5 freight cars (reportedly not interchangeable), and 1 service car. In its final years the railroad usually employed 17 people. The principal traffic of the Wyoming Railway was coal from affiliated mines near Buffalo and with their demise the railroad lost its principal traffic.
With these facts glaring at me, I had to change my mode of transportation in my story. It would have been easier if there had been a zoo in Wyoming and a railroad, but real facts changed easy to interesting.
I will confess that one of my books from the Wildings did have a train it it—For Love of Banjo, but I have to say that the story had to have a train or it would have killed a very dramatic scene. I didn’t realize Wyoming had no passenger trains when I wrote it. I hope readers will forgive my little blunder in real facts with that story. Now, of course, I know the truth and there will be no further blunders regarding trains in the fictional town of  Hazard, Wyoming.


                                                   FOR LOVE OF BANJO

Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.

Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past.  To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.


In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks.  Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her.  The kiss wasn’t his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek.  He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside. 
He tasted of coffee and mint.  Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck.  She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him.  Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own.  If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went.  She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.
Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended.  Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers.  The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses.  He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.
His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words.  She would never forget them, not as long as she lived.  Breathless from the kiss, he said, “Don’t forget me.  Write to me every day and I’ll write back.  You are the star in my sky and my compass home.  I’ll come back, if it’s the last thing I do, I will come back.  I swear it.”

You can find me at the following places:


  1. Neat to hear about the Henry Doorly Zoo. We visited it about 1980 so it's really grown since then. Thanks for sharing the facts.

  2. Linda, thank you so much for dropping by. I haven't been to the Henry Doorly Zoo sine 1969. I thought it was fantastic, but I saw that they have really added more exhibits since then. I don't remember them having an aquarium. I remember the tiny little "lion" monkeys and the gorillas most of all. I appreciate you taking the time to come to visit.

  3. Ahem... Sarah, Texas is not in the Midwest. I may never forgive you for that. ;-) If Texas must be lumped with a bunch of other states (which, of course, Texans would prefer not happen), please put the Lone Star State in with the Southwest. :-)

    This is a really interesting post! I had no idea the Henry Doorly Zoo existed, but it sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Maybe I'll get there someday.

    Regarding sticking a passenger train in Wyoming in blatant defiance of historical fact : Have you considered adding an endnote to the book explaining that passenger trains didn't exist during the period, but you pulled out your artistic license and barreled ahead anyway for the sake of the story? Quite a few writers employ that technique to keep readers from burning them in effigy when they change historical details. Just a thought. :-)

    Love the excerpt from Banjo! Of course, I'm a big fan of all your Wildings stories.

    HUGS, sweetie!

    1. I see I have received a sound verbal thrashing from the proud Texan, Kathleen. As a Southeastern lady, I should have realized there's a big difference between "just Midwest" and "Southwest." Even though they are both Eastern coastal states, North Carolina is certainly not like New York. LOL
      I suppose For Love of Banjo would have to go into another printing before I could add that little tidbit about the railroad, but I will if it does. I don't want to disturb the fact-finding historical readers who might start sending poison pen letters my way. Oh. I guess that wouldn't really exist either since physical letters seldom happen these days and cyber letters won't hurt--just emotionally maim.
      Thank you for your very kind comment about Banjo and my Wilding tribe, Kathleen. Your kindness and generosity is like famous.

  4. I lost my first comment so I will try again. I live just up I-29 from Omaha so the Henry Doorly Zoo is a place we have visited more times than I can count. Just about every year a new complex has been added on in recent years. The aquarium is one of my favorite places, that and the Lied Jungle. A great place to sit on a dreary winters day when you are sick of the cold since both areas are enclosed. Getting the correct information while researching a new book is a vital part of writing. If its on the internet it gotta be true right? I have run across a few blunders of info I got from there in the past but I do love having so much information at my finger tips. there is just so much I did not know. I would love to be the kind of writer who could travel place to place where my story is being told to breath in the air, watch the sunrise, talk to the locals---that sort of thing. Maybe someday.

    1. I'm glad your tenacity paid off, Barbara. I've had that happen to me and it seems like it happens most when I write something longish. Don't you just hate it when you have to go back and redo the whole darn thing? I can never write it as good the second time.
      I love your winter sojourns to the Henry Doorly Zoo. It seems as though it would be so spiritually soothing to sit in the warmth and gaze at the huge aquarium with its inhabitants gently swimming about.
      I liked your description of traveling to a place and becoming acquainted with it and the people who live there.
      I did most of my traveling in my younger years and getting acquainted is half the fun.
      Thank you so much for coming and commenting. I really enjoyed what you had to say.

  5. As a beta reader I found a toll booth collecting money leaving San Francisco within an unedited fiction novel. In fact the reverse is true for the Golden Gate bridge. I used to work in the city and commuted over the bridge every day. I simply made the author aware of that, along with my beta read report. Personally, I am not jarred by trivial inaccuracies, unless it is a historical novel and artistic license is ill advised. That is just an opinion.
    Sarah, I enjoyed reading the fact about the zoo and the book except.

    1. Claudia, that is why beta readers are so important to a writer. They catch those inconsistences and historical mishaps that could just ruin a good story. I know the author/s you beta read for is grateful when you point out a blunder. Just imagine the outrage if an author said Wyatt Earp was not at the OK Corral for that famous shootout. Why, I'd want to get out a 0.45 and shoot the author myself.
      Thank you so much for coming and sharing your thoughts with me, Claudia.

  6. There was the Union Pacific that dipped into Wyoming to Cheyenne and Rawlings, and then down to Utah. I suppose if you took "artistic license" and made a "minor spur line" that fell out of use, that might work ...

    1. Well Meg, the readers are just going to have to "believe" there's some kind of train going to my imaginary town in Wyoming. If they could have a whole book about the Polar Express, I guess my readers can imagine my train. LOL Shoot, they may even have a Polar Express now. I guess you know the research process of hell we must go through sometimes--and still end up with wrong information.
      I thank you for coming by and sharing your thoughts with me.

  7. Sarah, what an interesting post! I didn't know anything about the Henry Doorly Zoo--that's just fascinating. And the bit about the train in For Love of Banjo--you're right--you HAD to have the train scene! LOL I don't think readers will mind a bit that you took a bit of "license" and created that. I have to say, I've done things like that before myself. Sometimes, you have to just remind yourself "that's why they call it fiction." It's not as if you dropped a helicopter out of the sky. LOL

    Great post. I enjoyed it very much.

    1. Ya know Cheryl, a writer can screw up even with places they think they know like their mama's house. When I wrote The Violin, set in a town in PA that I knew well all my life, I made a blunder. I wrote that John and Genevieve rode on a roller coaster at Knobles Amusement Park. The editor that just happened to live in that neck of the woods and told me I had to take that roller coaster out because there was no roller coaster at that park in 1927. Well, I never...
      So, yeah, as a fiction writer, I'm hanging up my special artistic license above my desk.
      Maybe some day I will drop that helicopter out of the sky into 1890. LOL Oh. Maybe that's like a very enticing entry into a time travel.
      Thanks so much for taking some time out of your hectic day to drop by and say some nice things, Cheryl.

  8. An interesting post Sarah. I have to do a lot of research also for certain characters and places. It can be embarrassing to make a blunder, especially when there's always someone to correct you. And I think I misspelled a word or to in this. The best of luck to you.

    1. Hey JoAnne. You did misspell a word--or just wrote the wrong one. It's "two", not "to." LOL For a writer, I am probably the worst speller in America. For me, blunders are not so much as embarrassing as they are aggravating. I get mad at myself for not researching something enough, getting the wrong info, or missing the blunder entirely. People point out my mistakes all the time. I'm used to it. It's all just part of the business. Unless someone is being snarky about it, I usually appreciate the information or input.
      Thank you for dropping in, JoAnne.

  9. When Helen wrote about her trip from Chicago to Odgen she tells of eating lunch in Cheyenne, called 'Cheyenne City' at that time, and climbing over to Sherman and then down to Laramie. This would have been around 1870 or so.

    I think because of this essay I had assumed all of Wyoming had train travel. That is where assumptions can get you into trouble.

    Loved this post and agree, research is so important as are the details. Happy researching. Doris

    1. Hey Doris, welcome to my world. I am like Queen of Blunders. I research like crazy and still mess up. I have a list of natural fauna and trees in Wyoming, have a few reference books about Western lingo, cowboy ways, horses and history books that give the changes decade by decade--and still missed the whole dang train thing. If they could shoot you for these mistakes, I would have been shot years ago.
      Thank you for your support. It's sure appreciated.

  10. Sarah,
    Thanks for sharing such great info about the Omaha Zoo. I've never been, and didn't realize how amazing it is, so it's definitely on my places to see now.

    As for research blunders...gosh, we all make them. As hard as we try, we're not computers and can't possibly retain all the info we dig up. I know I forgive authors when I come across something like that, as long as it's minor. Which yours sounds like. I'm usually more upset by the death of a beloved character.

    1. Kristy, if you're ever n Omaha, you really should go to the Henry Doorly Zoo. It was amazing back in 1969--and positively awesome now. In fact, they have plans to knock it off the charts.
      I killed off a beloved character. I killed Granpa Ben Wilding. I did it between books so it wouldn't hurt so bad. One book he was alive and well, and the next, he was buried on the hillside. If he'd have lived much longer, he would have been the oldest living man in history. One day I will have to lay Joe and Lola to rest, too. I am not looking forward to that. It makes me sad to think of them dying.
      I really appreciate your supportive words, Kristy. Get thee to the zoo. LOL

  11. Great article, Sarah. No, poor Wyoming never had a zoo. Well, here in Sheridan we had a bit of an animal park if you will, and even had a lion. You might want to check a little deeper about the trains, though. We did have passenger trains come through. The Sheridan Inn still has the china from one the Burlington line. That's why the Inn was built is for train passengers, it was built right across from the old depot, 1893. Side note: a very pretty pattern. Passenger trains also stopped in Cheyenne. We found records of high school students riding the train to Montana and through Wyoming for their games and pictures of the town sending them off. So, depending on your timeline there were passenger trains in good Ol' WYO, you just have to watch the time, I had to move a story up a few years to get my people on a train. :)


    1. See Kirsten, that's what I'm talking about. I went to several sources looking for a train from Wyoming to Omaha and got nada. All this research that told me there is no train in Wyoming--and you say yes, there was. I put a train in Banjo, but I'm keeping away from any further controversy by never mentioning a train again in Wyoming. Because the time period keeps moving forward with the characters, I can't control the "when" as well. But I will be going back in time for the Halloween anthology. There will be no trains. LOL
      Thank you so much for coming by. And thanks for sharing that info about trains in Wyoming, too.

  12. Sarah, I really enjoyed this blog and the comments. I once read an historical romance set in Wyoming where the heroine couldn't sleep and went downstairs and got a packet of lemonade mix and made herself a drink. I don't think so. And I found myself furnishing an English great house in 1605 with 18th century furniture and had to back up and start over. It is so easy to forget what wasn't yet in existence in the other time periods as we blaze ahead with our story, isn't it?

    1. I had a good laugh on that one, Linda. I don't use packets of lemonade in this modern world, so I would never have an historical with it. I can see how those slips can happen when an author is just writing about every day things and forgets what time period they're writing about. Good one.
      That was funny about the futuristic furniture in your historical. I've written some stories that are loosely in Medieval times. Fortunately, I made it a Fantasy/Paranormal series where I created an alternate world so I could create it the way I wanted. Thank goodness. I'm sure a few readers/reviewers would have poked me with a stick for some of the not so accurate things about that time period.
      Thanks so much for being sweet enough to come by and share your thoughts.

  13. One of my favorite topics. Trains...yes, Texas Dreamer is set in 1915 just barely nw of Fort Worth so as a rancher and new oilman, he would have access to a train. At first, his ranch was set out on the South Plains, West Texas near the Panhandle. Then I researched trains, and even in that year, there were no trains. Amazing.
    In one romance I read long ago, the author had her heroine riding a horse from San Antonio SOUTH to Dallas. I just laughed out loud at that. I've found other minor errors, but mainly I ignore them and move on.
    One reviewer for Texas Dreamer counted off for saying Dalton's big shiny automobile and "chrome" bumpers--this is 1915 in Houston--she said chrome was not put on vehicles until 1920. Ooops. But I had visited the huge Classic Car Museum here in town to find a vehicle to describe in my story. The one I chose--made before 1915--had bright shiny silver looking bumpers--she said those might have been polished steel--but no chrome. Shoot. She gave me a four instead of a five. I thought that was a little picky.

    Like Kathleen, Texas is in the Southwest. Even that doesn't exactly explain the location of Texas, but we use it anyway and it's acceptable. I've never been able to figure out why Michigan in the Midwest--??
    Good topic, Sarah!

    1. Well Celia, I do know the part about Dallas being north of San Antonio. If I had been that author, I would looked at a map. In fact, I have a map of Wyoming in my Wilding notebook. Even though my town is imaginary, I did place it in a real place so I could co-ordinate it with other real places in the state.
      See, this is what I mean, Celia. You research as best you can, check out your facts, even go to a place to check out the details as you did with the Car Museum, and you still end up with a blunder. Taking off a point for that "misinterpretation" of the word "chrome" was mighty over the top. I really agree with you about that.
      Dang, you Texans are a tough crowd. I can tell ya right now, I am not going to write a story set in Texas. Even though I lived there and traveled all over the state, I could not get to every corner of it, or learn the special ways, likes and dislikes of Texans. It would take a lifetime. I leave it to you born and bred Texans to do that.
      Seems like Michigan would be in the North Midwest. Who comes up with these things anyway?
      I always love when you come around and leave a comment. You're such a treasure.

  14. Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive!!! I have blundered so many times in my research, but luckily, I've caught the mistakes before I made a complete idiot of myself. lol

    However, I'm not opposed to the author taking a little poetic license in a work of fiction, because, well, it's fiction. ;-) I also believe that since I'm only "Mary Poppins' perfect, that until I achieve perfection, I'll cut everyone else some slack, too.

    Thanks for the entertaining article.

    1. Welcome to idiot land, Kaye, because you can see, I have made some blunders in my historicals. I think most of us spend a great deal of time trying to get our facts straight and researching to get it all right--and we still blunder. There are some readers and editors out there that will not tolerate a mistake. I think Regency is the most meticulous about the details. Oh Lord, all those titles and weird foods and manners. Yikes!
      Actually, I love research. Sometimes I get lost in it and forget I have a book to write. I have to get in the "Mary Poppins" perfection club. LOL
      Thanks Kaye, for coming over and giving me your input.

  15. I read a book where the characters got on a train in Silver City, Idaho Terr. No train. Ever. And another set in 1868 where the character just came from Deadwood, which wasn't established until 1875-6. Both of these came from major publishers, BTW. But like Kaye, I hesitate to throw stones because who knows what inaccuracies are in my own stories. All we can do is try. And to tell the truth, story trumps accuracy in fiction. Ask any moviemaker!

  16. My first reply gotten eaten by the cyber monster.
    See, Jacquie,that's the same mistake I made about trains. I once worked with a doctor in the ER who was a train enthusiast. He told me trains in Europe and the East coast could take you most anywhere, but out west, things get dicey. For all the drama about trains heading west, it turns out they didn't really go everywhere. I'm thinking about Hell on Wheels.
    You're only the second person I ever met from Idaho. I met a guy in Texas, a soldier, who was so darn homesick for Idaho. It's one of the few states where I haven't visited. I know next to nothing about except maybe potatoes. What's the population of Idaho?
    I know how busy you must be, so I really appreciate you taking the time to come by and add to the conversation.

  17. Great post Sarah. I love your books. I was a history buff at school, teachers hated me. Reason? The school issued us with a history text which gave us one set of facts and that is what we were taught. My problem was, I have always been a avid reader. I would go to the library, those places where books were stored before computers, and pull out other texts. It seemed no two textbooks had the same facts or told the same story. I began to discover, history is not accurate. The 'facts' are one persons interpretation of events. Our adopted daughter is a Paleontologist and she tells me, no two Paleontologists agree on what they find, neither do Archaeologists. She said findings are recorded dependent on what that persons beliefs and interpretations are. Obviously it is the only way to record things as these people were not first hand witnesses 2000 years ago. I talked to my Dad not too long ago, he was with the British Army in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion. He said there are so many differing opinions on that brutal time, mostly that the British were not at fault. He said the British and other forces slaughtered hundreds of innocent people in the name of war. It was never recorded into history. So, I keep asking the question - how accurate are the so called facts of our history? As a reader, when I read fiction, I automatically assume the writer has created a story from her imagination. I don't believe anything needs to be validated. When I read fiction, I am reading a story. I think most readers have lost touch with this 'fact'. If you want so called 'accurate' facts, read a non-fiction history book. Keep up the good work Sarah, your books are excellent. You are an accomplished storyteller and I applaud you.

    1. First of all Lacey, I really have to thank you for your lovely compliments about my work. You really made my week.
      I do remember good old libraries, the last bastion of quiet grace where a person can breathe in the scent of books and read in the presence of like spirits. I also remember encyclopedias and how they had to be updated to keep up with "facts" and new information. It was kind of fun rummaging through all those books looking up information for reports and studying. I guess what were facts then, is fiction now.
      You're right about history changing from one expert to another. It also changes according to opinion as time and circumstance influence the original "facts." Still, when I write about my people in Hazard, Wyoming, I do have to find out some facts to make my story realistic. I do the best I can. Sometimes I think I know a thing (in the case of the train) and don't research it. Who knew? In the case of Banjo, I needed that train. The scene would have lost its impact if he'd shown up on a bus. So, I'm glad in a way, that I had the infamous train where it didn't belong. Now that I know, I will just have to find other ways to tell the story.
      I must thank you for your wonderful words of support and encouragement. Your family sounds positively interesting. I want a paleontologist and a British soldier to talk to. Their stories and knowledge would captivate me for hours. You lucky thing.
      Thank you so much for all your kind words, Lacey.

  18. Hello Sarah, and ladies! So sorry I'm late coming in here, but I have an excuse I live a million miles away!! I have had a good readofthe comments, and now I am worried! Being a UK author trying to write about a place I have never been id very difficult. Oh I have maps and reference books and there is Google I know all that, but even then, it's hard. There's nothing like being in a place to soak up the atmosphere is there. I worry that I am not making my books believable enough, even though I 'generalize' and don't really mention actual names of places except in passing references 'he found the kid, drifting in Fresno' etc. It's hard! Thanks for the posts ladies! I really enjoyed this conversation.

  19. Jill, I feel ya. I've been to Wyoming once on a visit with my friends. I have to look up things, too. I have a list of the fauna and trees so I don't put a red wood in a forest where there are none. Yes, it would be easier for me to write about North Carolina, just as it would be easier for you to write about England, but we must be drawn to the wild places and the unique people of the west. The most important thing about a story is the characters and what happens between them. The rest is backdrop and window dressing. Readers, I'm certain, will forgive us for having some facts wrong, but if our characters aren't interesting enough to get their attention, they won't care if we write another story. If you're living a life, and you have insight into the human condition, you can create great matter where you're at in the world.
    I write paranormal/fantasy stories with some of the characters in another world (I make all the rules for that fictional world) and the other characters live in Wilmington, North Carolina. I can use my real knowledge of the area in those stories and that helps me. I love my state the same way those Texans love Texas, so I get to show off my favorite place on Earth in the Winatuke books.
    I'm glad you got into our conversation, Jill. It's always good to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for coming.

  20. Hi Sarah, sorry to get here late. I think we all try to be accurate, but I'm sure minor things can slip thru...but getting dates wrong, sheesh. Not good lol. But just look at the historical movies and TV shows...their hairdos often reflect the hair styles of the time the movie or show was made...Anybody remember the old show The Walton's....the girls' long straight hair was totally 70s, not Depression era. At least we have antique magazines and catalogues to help us get "the look" fairly close with our westerns. Love your stories, Sarah. Xo

  21. Tanya, late never bother me. I've been late lots of times. Things happen; we get busy. The girls in the Walton's also wore coveralls a lot, and although they were worn sometimes, mostly girls wore dresses. Even in the 50's, girls mostly wore dresses. You're right about the hair. Women wanted waves in the 30's and lovely curls--not straight. We are such slaves to fashion.