Why I chose to go Indie-Part 1: or the 9 Steps to Traditional Publishing

1880's Girl Asks why

You are self-publishing? Why? Isn’t your writing good enough to be picked up?

There is still a common misconception about why people choose to self-publish. The general belief being your work isn’t good enough for traditional publishers. This is perhaps what your next door neighbour thinks, or the lady at the shops or even your own family.

But for thousands of Indie’s out there, it has nothing to do with being a substandard writer.

More and more writers are choosing to go Indie as a first choice, and each has their own reasons unique to their lifestyle and career goals.

Before deciding which publishing path suits your needs and expectations do your research.

Doing publishing Research

As a writer, I read extensively, especially things about writing: books, magazines, blogs, twitter it’s a sort of writerly compulsion.

I also listen to author interviews on ABC radio, RN Radio and podcasts.

I primarily listen to two podcasts: So You Want to be a Writer from the Australian Writers Centre and The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn.

The former covers a broad spectrum of writing from features, to copy, to novels but primarily in the sphere of traditional publishing. The later is all things Indie.

Other sources I used to make an informed publishing decision are: author websites, The Perth Writer’s Festival, Publisher websites and Indie publishing platforms such as KDP and Kobo.

The sum of the matter, all things having been heard is that for my genre, my expectation, intentions and the writing lifestyle I want to build, Indie publishing best meets my needs at this time, for this project.

In this and future posts, I will be covering the main reasons for this decision.

 Reason #1 for self-publishing: stress

I thought this an apt but more tasteful illustration than a chicken with it’s head cut off.

This is the first circumstance that led me to consider self-publishing. The amount of time, effort and stress it took to research and submit to publishers or agents was overwhelming.

Sure it’s easy to say, “Stop griping and toughen up, it’s just part of the business.”

I don’t gripe.

I know it’s part of the business.

That is why, in 2009, I decided I just wasn’t cut out to be a writer, not a published one anyway, and stopped submitting.

why it causes Stress

To people who can skim articles and read quickly, to those with a background in research or journalism, to those who have been formally trained in a BA or MFA program this is probably not a big deal.

But for a person who is dyslexic, who also struggles with depression and anxiety and an auto-immune disease, researching publishers and agents is incredibly time-consuming, tedious, confusing and head-bangingly frustrating.

For the uninitiated here is the 9 step process to traditional publishing:

Step 1:  Finish your manuscript

Step 2:  Find a list of potential publishers: you can use free or paid subscriber on-line sources or buy a physical book (something like the yellow pages for publishers) or you can go scour the library/bookstore for books in your genre and check who publishes them.

Step 3: Check the website for each publisher of interest answering these questions:

  • What are their submission guidelines? (outside of magazines pretty much no one in the US takes unsolicited manuscripts. In Australia submissions are generally limited to specific days or months)
  • What do they publish?
  • How many books a year?
  • Of those books how many if any are from unsolicited manuscripts? (this means the slush pile, manuscripts they did not specifically ask to see)

Step 4: For each publisher that looks promising, you now need to check their recent catalogue and their backlist and come up with convincing reasons why this company should publish your book. Where does it fit in their catalogue? Have they already published three picture books about wombats or do they already have a series about a lady detective set in 1860?

Step 5: If none of your ideal publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts go back to start. Follow the method above, only this time in search of a literary agent,  before proceeding to step 6.

Step 6:  You finally have a short list, in order of preference, your dream publishers: Now you must sell your book to the publisher in a letter no longer than one page that summarises these points:

  • The story (What is it’s hook?)
  • Why should they publish it?
  • Where does it fit in the market?
  • Any pertinent information about you (publishing credits, awards etc)

All this information must be written in so compelling and concise a manner that the sub-editor can’t wait to read more. To this letter attach your manuscript (the whole thing for picture books, an excerpt for longer works as per submission guidelines)

Step 7: You press send (or you stick the stamp and put it in the nearest postbox) then you wait. While you wait you write more stories, you do author business, build your platform.  You wait some more and then just keep waiting.

Step 8: After 3-6 months the rejection arrives, though some publishers don’t even send rejections their guidelines say that if you don’t hear back within 6 months assume they are not interested.

Step 9: Repeat.

side effects of the 9 step process

For a healthy person without dyslexic complications, this is not such a big deal. But I found it impossible to both write AND successfully research for submission.

I became grumpy, short-tempered and occasionally pulled out my hair and screamed like a banshee. The gatekeepers of the publishing world loomed in nightmarish proportions over my shoulder until my writing ground to a halt.

It wasn’t the rejection. I had some very nice rejection letters.

It was about the time and frustration it took to acquire those few precious rejections.

how do you want to spend your time?

  • I would rather use my limited time and energy to write stories than submission letters.
  • I’d rather be researching my novel than publishers and agents.
  • I’d rather be editing and honing my craft than my pitch.
  • I’d rather pitch to readers than editors/agents.

Before Amazon, before Kobo and Create Space and Draft to Digital and Smashwords there really wasn’t much choice. These nine steps were the only way to publication.

Now there is a choice.

I finished Helen’s Summer and turned it into a series for the purpose of self-publish.

I never submitted it to publishers because Indie publishing was my first choice.

Why not have a read and decide for yourself if it is “good enough”.

Click below to read Helen’s Summer

How about you?

I’d love to hear which road to publication you have or want to follow and why!

Leave a comment or connect on twitter @SeahAmber.



An Evening With Punch

Gather the family around the fire. Light the lamp at your elbow and prepare to share Punch.

Gather the family around the fire. Light the lamp at your elbow and prepare to share Punch.


1880’s Girl was pleased as ‘punch’ to with this treasured find from last Sunday’s swap meet in Crawly, a history of Punch celebrating the first 50 years of Punch, published in 1900 complete with coupons for subscription. This”History of ‘Punch‘” was added on to 25 quadruple volumes collecting the first 50 Years of Punch together like a set of Encyclopedia.

This is my favorite sort of research, almost from the horses mouth, as it was published a mere nine years after the 50th Anniversary of the famed magazine. I have heard of Punch, read about Punch but never actually seen an original Punch magazine.

In the Preface to this history it gives me free license to mine Punch for historical research. M.H. Spielmann, the author of this history, writes:

“If one were to interleave a history of the Victorian Era with added illustrations, nearly every cartoon in Punch would be needed. If a treatise were now to be written describing the “manners, customs, and dress” of Victorian England, as Lacroix in his famous work described the peoples of Medieval Europe, Punch would be ransacked for “documents”.”

I also like this comment on historical fiction:

The historical novel, with all its falsity of perspective, has been of incalculable service, because it directed to the pas the attention of the general reader, and Punch’s informal accounts of Victorian events not only supply and amusing survey of our own time but are eminently fair and straightforward.”

So there you have it any writer of historical fiction set in the Victorian Era in England must have need to delve into the archives of Punch for fair and straightforward representation of the place and times.

I hope to share with you over the coming weeks amusing excerpts and fascinating insights gleaned from the pages of this 26th volume.

Hear are a few peeks at what is inside….

Punch Magazine, Victorian periodical, Unwin Brothers

Yes this is the same Unwin that in 1914 founded Allen & Unwin, Australia’s first publishing house.


This flier was inside. Anyone care for a subscription?

This flier was inside. Anyone care for a subscription?


Punch's Illustrations are famous for good reason.

Punch’s Illustrations are famous for good reason.

3 Suprising Things About Grand Central Station

The origional Grand Central Depot brought to fruition mainly by Cornelius Vanderbuildts strength of well--Photo NYPL Collection

The origional Grand Central Depot brought to fruition mainly by Cornelius Vanderbilt’s strength of will–Photo NYPL Collection

#1  Grand Central Station is a Government Post Office

……..not a train station, and it is almost next door to  THE Grand Central.

There is a subway station named Grand Central but it has little to set it apart from the other stations on its route.

THE Grand Central, the one in all the movies, the one that draws more visitors than any other NY attraction isn’t a station at all. It is Grand Central Terminal. terminal as in terminus, as in all trains stop here and you must disembark.

This American icon  was briefly called Grand Central Station from 1899-1913. The 28 years before that it was called Grand Central Depot. and for the last 103 years it it has had engraved above its doors “Grand Central Terminal”.

So why do we still call it a station?

My theory is that subway stops, train stops and even bus interchanges across the English speaking world are called stations, by default we assume it is called a station.  The central most grand station of them all. Which leads me to discovery number 2

New York City, Grand Central Station, New York 1800, Victorian New York, Victorian Post Card

An actual postcard from before the 1899 refurbishment when 3 more floors were added–postcard from the NYPL Collection

#2 Its name has nothing to do with its location.

It was named for Vanderbilt’s train company New York Central Railway.

The original train interchange built in 1871 was called Grand Central Depot.

Grand Central Depot was expanded between 1899 and 1900 and renamed Grand Central Station.

It was entirely rebuilt over a period of 10 years from 1903-1913 when it was renamed Grand Central Terminal. This is the Grand Central we know, love and marvel over today.

#3 The Shear Volume of Victorian TRAVELERS

IN 1899 the Station (that is when it was a station) served 1.5 million passengers per day. To put that in perspective today 700-750,000 people visit the concourse daily, many of them tourists come to marvel at the Edwardian splendor.

By some estimates at the end of the Victorian age 45% of the population of the United States had passed through Grand Central at some point in their life.

I don’t know about you but these details just make me more curious I want to uncover the stories behind it’s architecture, its grandeur and its technological achievements. So who knows we might be be seeing more of Grand Central Depot/Station/Terminal around here in the future.

Happy Travels through history!


How to Choose a Biography for Historical Research

With hundreds of choices whats the key to finding the right biography?

With hundreds of choices what is the key to finding the right biography?

I find tackling a book of pure history a difficult task, all that information takes my brain ages to decipher and pick out the details I need.  Reading biographies is how history first came alive for me and remains my favorite type of research.

Choosing A Biography for Research….

                                       Even when the person has nothing to do with the story you are writing. 

  1. The right time–For instance the reigning monarch of the day  is a great place to start as you already know their exact dates.
  2. The right place–Obviously if your story is set in New York reading a biography of Queen Victoria will be of limited use, however Theodore Roosevelt would be an excellent choice.
  3. The right field of study–If you are writing about a doctor try checking out a biography of Florence Nightingale for medical details or Louis Pasteur to see what changes were in the offing.
  4. The Right Style–This is vital if you are to actually finish reading the book and thus be able to benefit. I prefer a narrative style with extensive quotes in the person’s own words. But you may prefer one that is more nuts and bolts mostly pivotal dates what happened to whom, where were they and why did it happen.

Made your Choice? Good. Now take it a step further…

Use The Bibliography–Obviously primary sources are the best sources but knowing where to start is difficult if not impossible. Try studying the bibliography of a biography that meets the above criteria and see which sources you can access without personal connections and without being physically present. (For example if you are writing from Perth Western Australia about New York in 1885 On-line sources are preferable)

For the curious person who really hates research…

Look for biographies for the children’s market. Children’s authors are excellent at writing biographies with humor, drama and surprising details. And they are designed to engage reluctant readers perfect for the reluctant researcher.

If you are just beginning your research and don’t have a clue where to find the names of anyone other than the monarch try a Wiki search by time period and subject.  For example: Female Architects, Composers of the 19th century, British Artists  of the 1840’s… You get the idea. But if you need more help see my post on how to use Wikipedia to spring board your research.

Now that you have chosen your biography check out my 5 tips for how to use it to inform your fiction.

3 Ways to Use Movies for Research

Little Women Movie poster 1949

If their hair looks more like when the movie was made than when it was set 1880’s Girl recommends extreme caution about using it as research

When turning to Hollywood it is vital to keep in mind the sometimes free and liberal use of artistic license but even so here are 3 ways to make the most of what a film has to offer a novice researcher.

1st–Visual Inspiration

I think all of us look to the movies to take us back in time so that for a couple of wonderful hours we can immerse ourselves in an other time and place. If however you are using a movie as research you want to check its credentials. Generally the older the movie the less attention they paid to historical accuracy.

A well researched movie with plenty of attention to window dressing can supply useful information about clothing and hair styles, what modes of transport actually looked like, the architecture, gardening or interior decorating of the time.

2nd–Making of Featurettes

This is the most useful resource. BBC movies on DVD have especially good featurettes on how the sets and costumes were researched, and how the time period was brought to life. There is lots of information to glean so settle in with your pen and paper and prepare to take notes.


This is the poor cousin of featurettes. Some movies desperate for extra features to attract buyers but who for reasons of money, time or taste did not make a featurette so they settle for a Gallery. These are usually for clothes but can include buildings and gardens as well.  Pay attention to the sources they just might lead you to new lines of research.

Movies are also really good to get you in the mood, to inspire you to sit at the computer or take up your pen and finish that work of historical fiction.  

Or maybe it has made you curious wanting to know more, raising more questions than it answered and that’s good too.

Happy Researching!


5 Ways Biographies Can Inform Your Historical Fiction

This fascinating biography yielded many un-looked for gems.

This fascinating biography yielded many un-looked for gems.

I don’t know if some of you might be like this 1880’s girl but I used to think I hated history, all those dates and wars and statistics. But history is more than facts and figures it is stories, stories of real people who lived ordinary and extraordinary lives.

Tell the story of a single person or family and suddenly history comes alive, takes and shape and importance.


5 ways Biography can Inform your Fiction

#1 Politics

Politics form a back drop for just about everything but this 1880’s girl finds it incredibly dull, but a biography makes it better. If using a biography of a political or royal person you will also find the context of the politics, the sources of unrest and riots.  Biographies turn the statistics into stories.

From biographies about Queen Victoria I learned about the commoners view of royals, modes of travel throughout the period, the novelty introduction of fountain pens and the discomforts of living in a grand house.

#2 Household management

From the book Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foremen I learned a great deal about life in a great house, the number and type of staff employed and the role of the duchess in  keeping it all running.

Biographies are a secret insider look at one person or families life. From their extracts of letters or household ledgers we start to form a picture of the world around them. The biographer neatly compiles and presents the most interesting details for easy consumption by the novice researcher

#3 The Zeitgeist

To get the tone and feel of an age I like to read about authors or composers, even if the person you are reading about is distinctly outside the norm. For example Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Bronte.  From this we learn how writers and thinkers of the day interacted, communicated and what they thought of each other.

We learn some of the challenges The Bronte’s faced, how they over came them and what the world of that day thought of them. From Charles Dickens we see a large breadth of society poor to middle class.

#4 Science, Medicine and Technology

I have just finished reading a biography of Rachel Beer which I picked up because I wanted information on professional women of the late 1800’s but got so much more.

It turns out her husbands family was instrumental in the growth of the telegraph. There was heaps of information about when and where telegraphs became available, how telegraphs changed the face of newspapers and how much they cost to send.

The book contains information on the treatment of TB  as well as the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire details the grusome treatment she received for a variety of ailments.

Mark and take note of these.

#5 Daily Life

This is perhaps the most obvious use of biographies.  True most biographies available will either be on the rich and famous (Queens and Duchesses) or of the brilliant and eccentric (Ralph Waldo Emerson or John Constable) But even they ate, slept, were waited on or employed.

From biographies you can learn about how to conduct a middle class courtship or how marriages of the elite were arranged. You can learn the habits of a confirmed bachelor or what went on at a Gentleman’s Club. You might find out how much was actually lost at the gaming table.

With careful reading you will pick up on the religious climate, the education system, family responsibilities and expectations, what people ate, watched and listened to.

Time to get out your highlighter and notepad and inform your fiction.

Details like this make history live, the more textured your understanding the better your fiction

Get out your pen and mark details that jump out at you, make marginal notes, write on your timeline


A few titles to get you started:

  • Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Roreman
  • Serving Victoria: life in a the royal household by Kate Hubbard
  • Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey: the lost legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon
  • Marie Curie and her daughters: the private lives of science’s first family by Shelley Emling
  • Victorian Girls: Lord Lyttelton’s Daughters
  • Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale by Gillian Gill
  • The First Lady of Fleet Street, the life of Rachel Beer: crusading heiress and newspaper pioneer by Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren
  • Constable in love, landscape, money and the making of a great painter by Martin Gayford

You may notice I have a weakness for books about women.

Happy Reading!!

PS It is best not to highlight the library’s copy.

5 Ways to Use Novels for Research

Rich Sources of Information and Inspiration just waiting to be picked up.

Rich Sources of Information and Inspiration just waiting to be picked up.

So you’re ready to begin your work of historical fiction or perhaps you have been asked to head up that fundraiser for the school/park/historic landmark and want to run a history themed day/evening. Take your pick. Either way maybe you are like me and are not a natural born researcher, maybe not even an artificially trained researcher. You are just a curious person.

Back when I needed to find information on the 1830’s and discovered it to be the least interesting period in history I turned to sources of fiction for information. Because fiction is full of the common details of life that people of the time took for granted. They give us a window into the past.

Not modern historical fiction though sometimes they include great sources in their acknowledgements or links for those who want to learn more.  But the fiction I refer to is that written in your desired time frame.

I know I can hear some of you saying “Duh, 1880’s girl, isn’t that where you always get information for the Charles Dickens Festival?”

Well yes and no. You see I didn’t realize that several of my favorite books are actually set in the 1830’s; Cranford, Wives and Daughters, Jane Eyre, Shirley… you get the idea. Because I think of their creators as ‘Victorian Writers’ I hadn’t realized they are actually set in pre- or early Victorian.

So choose your time period. Choose your novel. Now read like a researcher. 

Here are 5 things to look out for.

#1 Manners and Ettiquette

I think most of us come to an era with very preconceived ideas of how and why people acted in a certain way. You may be surprised what will jump out at you when you read as a researcher.

For example: Gloves. In Wives and Daughters Squire Hamely is enquiring about what sort of girl Cynthia is. Is she the sort of girl whose gloves are always neatly mended? This is a little detail that jumped out at me because it tells us the importance of gloves, reminds us they were nearly always being worn and prone to wearing out. A girls gloves being neatly mended showed she was conscientious, skilled and neatly presented. In Little Women of course there is the whole crises around Jo’s gloves being stained, that she can’t possibly attend the dance without gloves and so on and so forth…

Useful details your can mull over and work into your own fiction to bring it to life.

#2 Food

Charles Dicken’s is especially good for descriptions of food, his books include  meals for people across different classes. How else are we supposed to learn the importance of oysters and warm punch to the young Victorian male?

In Pride and Prejudice there are the details about white soup being imperative to holding a ball, that a family dinner, for the genteel well managed household, will have at least three courses, that while Mrs. Bennett deemed kitchen work below her daughters dignity others of her class such as Charlotte Lucas might regularly make a pie or in some other way aid with meal preparations.  Mr. Darcy was thought to have at least two French cooks which gives clues to the extent of his kitchen and expected entertainments.

#3 Leisure Activities

It seems that as far as leisure is concerned for women in particular we always come back to needle work.

Mrs. Gibson (Wives and Daughters) to be sure had her special embroidery frame with particularly difficult or delicate work on show for the benefit of visitors, but if my memory is correct she doesn’t actually do that much work on it. Women would take a small piece of fancy work with them to work on when they payed calls.

But not all gentlewomen painted, sewed screens or played the piano forte as Elizabeth Bennett teaches us. We do not think of Regency women running for exercise but we are informed that Jane was unused to running while Lizzy was used to it. Jo March also ran though we learn that she is considered rather to old to be doing so.

Also in Little Women they play croquet, Authors and balderdash.

Jane Eyre describes details of a house party and an elaborate game of charades.

In Daniel Daronda we learn about archery, gambling, private concerts and how Victorians travel.

From these fictional accounts we see a breadth of everyday and out of the common amusements that your characters too may choose from.

#4 Modes of Transport

and their relative status markers. I love that Mr. Bennett has to call his horse in from the Farm in order for Jane to ride over to Netherfield.  You can learn about hansom cabs, omnibuses, who used wagons and carts and who drove a barouche box vs a landau.

#5 The Real Role of Women

I don’t think literature would be so full of strong minded women if no such thing existed. From Middle March to Little Women to Wives and Daughters we see a width and breadth of the role of women across the classes. Some who fulfill our stereotyped expectations and others who completely defy it. Showing the women of history were not so different from women today.

There are many more details to be gleaned from your favorite reads if you don’t get caught up and carried away by the story you can glean an astonishing amount of detail about the life and times of the Victorians or any other period of modern history.

Next time we will discuss Biographies as a resource.

3 Ways to Start Your Research–When You Don’t Know What Your Doing


You may not have three questions but I have three answeres.

You may not have three questions but I have three answeres.

Today is all about research.  Now you may remember at the outset way back several posts ago I said there would be no scholarly examination of history or words to that effect. I am merely a curious amateur in the field of history, a novice,  a rookie,  a greenhorn–you get the picture, I don’t really know what I’m doing.

A few years ago I was deep into the first draft of a novel set in 1838. My first difficulty was in researching clothing of the time. There are endless sources for the 1840’s and later and for the teens or earlier, but with my limited expertise there was this great gaping blank from 1820-1840.  It was during this time that woman’s figures changed dramatically.

They went from having the high loosely-corseted waist and slim figure associated with Jane Austen….

Dress for a Hall Dance 1810.

Dress for a Hall Dance 1810.

to the tight lacing and enormous skirts we associate with the duration of the Victorian Age.

Evening Dress 1840

Evening Dress 1840

This was pretty much all I could find out in books.

But what happened in between? How did we go from one extreme to the other? Was it a sharp delineation marking the ascension of a new monarch? Was it a gradual change reflecting the shifting moral clime and increased strictures on women? In the regency women experienced an increased freedom of movement  (in their clothes) a mini women’s liberation that led to other freedoms, these however were severely clamped down upon during Victoria’a reign  the strictures on women becoming ever more regimented and complex.

Thanks to Pinterest which is an entirely different rabbit hole the in-between fashion looked something like this…

1830's Fashion

1830’s Fashion

But I digress. Who me? Never!

The issue at stake is…

How to do research when you can’t find any leads to get the ball rolling

Here are three places to start that have nothing to do with Google or Wiki-anything.

  1.  Novels–Not novels written 100 years after the fact but novels published during the period you are researching or shortly there after. For example Cranford was published in 1853 but set in the late 1830’s and contains memories form the authors own life. In other-words it is an eye witness view on the time.
  2. Biographies–Find someone really famous or at least interesting enough for someone to have written a book about: a monarch, a scientist, scandalous duke you get the idea. It can be anyone from the time and place you want to write about. They do not have to be even slightly related to your topic. The thing is Biographers have sources, they have research passes and special access that mere mortals on the opposite side of the planet can only dream of. This means they have details. Details that might take you hours of fruitless research to glean elsewhere. Details about fashion, inventions, ideas, scandals, what people ate for dinner etc, etc, etc of your target time frame.
  3. Movies–This comes with a caution. I wouldn’t trust any visual representations of past centuries from any movies made pre-1980 unless you have it on good authority that it was well researched. For instance in the 1970 BBC version of Little Woman all the girls are sporting hair styles much closer to the 1970’s than the 1870’s.  The best movies are the ones on DVD that come with making of featurettes and extras. Why are these helpful? Because again movie magnets have researchers. Researches have those magic resources known as connections in the business.

Over the next few posts I  will delve into each of these three resources and reveal what to look for what to avoid and how to sift for the details that will enrich your own story or  deepen your understanding of history. Or maybe you just want to one-up that know-it-all in your life.

Now go find those threads and get your ball rolling.

Happy Delving!

5 Ways to Use Wikipedia to Spring Board Your Research

When was Queen Victoria crowned? Did they have steam powered presses?  Exactly where in Manhattan is Central Park?

When was Queen Victoria crowned? Did they have steam powered presses? Exactly where in Manhattan is Central Park?


Dare I say the word?  There are plenty of purists out there who ridicule it, claim to never look at it and if you quote anything from Wikipedia it must come with a qualifier of where you found it, casting doubt on its voracity.

I said at the outset of this blog that I’m not a scholar and not particularly “intellectual” but I read a lot and I have never found any glaring inaccuracies in Wikipedia. At the risk of sounding dreadfully plebeian and middle class I confess I love Wikipedia. Here’s why.

In the absence of card catalogs and omniscient librarians Wikipedia is a great spring board for…

  1. Time Lines–Sometimes you just want to confirm the order of the kings of England or of great European wars. Sure if your sqeamish double check other sources but at least you know what to double check.
  2. A Starting Point— when you know absolutlely nothing about a subject. For example I wanted to know about 19th century female architects and Landscape architects, but where to start? Wiki to the rescue it gave me several names and books to reference. Now I have a folder of more “reliable” links and a list of books to investigate.
  3. Niggly bits of info like when did NYC switch from gas to electric lights, it has an amazing amount of detail on this. All I’m saying is the person who wrote it must work for the power company or something.
  4. Dates—When did Beethoven compose his 5th symphony? When did Charles Dickens die? Was Wives and Daughters published yet when my character was 15?
  5. Photographs and Images—particularly of famous people, places and plants. Okay the last part has nothing to do with historical research and everything to do with sourcing unusual ingredients for dinner. Just today I needed to know what  maitake mushrooms look like; Wiki to the rescue.

Wikipedia is one of the things I love about the computer age, that and Google. When writing historical fiction, even my simple stories that are big on heart and small on earth shattering history, there are a million things I want to know. You should see my search history.

I spent an entire evening trying to find a readable map of New York State railways in or around 1885. Haven’t found one yet but I’ve learned lots of interesting things about  Grand Central Terminal (aka Central Station)

Authors of historical fiction have a duty to their readers to try and get the details right, to really make the people of the past and their world come to life and jump of the page.

I don’t recommend Wikipedia as the be-all-and-end-all of your research, and I have it on good authority not to use it in your bibliography for your high school report,  but it’s a great place to start.