When history is creepy

I have spent most of my day today re-researching material for my work in progress. I lost all my notes after vacation. Printed notes. Handwritten notes. Not good. Not good at all. I lost my timeline, my calendar–all of it. Now that I’ve re-established my facts, I’ll probably find it in the couch cushions or some such place. But I digress. It’s dangerous for ADD researchers (squirrel!) to take off on a research binge. It can lead you to some really strange places. (My good friend, Pedro, knows this well. In fact, he calls it a journey into a wiki black hole as one topic leads to another and another…) Today as I was trying to figure out whether to dock my book’s steamboat at Clarksville or Port Royal, Tennessee,  I learned that Port Royal is a ghost town. No, seriously, a real ghost town. I mean, yeah, it is a ghost town in that there’s not a town there anymore, but there’s also some sort of terrifying entity that actually poisoned someone there in 1820 and is still hanging around. You can read about the Bell Witch here. (Don’t get sucked into the black hole!) And more about Port Royal here. Far be it from me to keep the same fascinating experiences I’ve been through today from my readers. So what do you think? Do you believe in ghosts? I have a theory about them that has to do with demonic activity. What say you? Tweet this: Do you believe in...

Read More

Just call me a gambler

In doing research for my book I’ve had to learn some things I’ve never had an interest in. One of those things is gambling. Did you know that poker wasn’t the biggest game of the North American West in the 1800s? We’ve seen countless westerns with saloons full of poker players. But it wasn’t poker that was popular. Instead, it was a super easy game called Faro, also called “Bucking the Tiger.” Some of the great players include Soapy Smith, Doc Holliday, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp. The Bengal Tiger was a symbol for the game. All a proprietor had to do was hang a picture of a Bengal Tiger in his window to let people know a game was up. Faro Game Table Faro was more popular than poker because it was faster and easier to learn. On the steamboats, it was Faro that was played the most because those running the game could make a lot more money in a shorter amount of time.  (And most of the time, the game runners were cheaters.) Websites on Faro/Bucking the Tiger: Wikipedia Legends of America Bucking the Tiger Here’s a video that teaches how to play the game: I think Faro would make a great board game for fun and I wish they’d make one. Maybe I’ll have to do that myself. I’m not much for games but I work with a lot of young folks who love them.   Tweet this: Writing is teaching me to gamble!     What’s your favorite card...

Read More

S is for Steamboats

I never realized how much I loved steamboats until I started studying them in earnest for my work in progress, River Moon Don’t Cry. I did have the pleasure of cruising aboard the Branson Belle (pictured above) for dinner and a show twice. The only part I didn’t like was how it didn’t last longer! I’d love to go on a week-long cruise. Of course, the excursions are much nicer today than there were in the early 1800s. In the 1800s only the high-paying customers got a nice room on the upper decks of the steamboat on major United States rivers. Regular folks had to board with the animals and cargo. And from the diaries and letters I’ve read from the era, the aromas that emanated from these quarters made for a miserable trip. Those who could afford it, had much nicer accommodations. During the steamboat boom, boats competed for dock space. These ships lined up side by side in major ports. Steamboats hauled everything on the Mississippi River from cows to sugar cane to cotton. They were also used to haul slaves and prisoners. It was a dangerous time on the Mississippi in those days. Fights on the docks were everyday occurrences.  Pirates were a constant threat. I think I’d love to know what it’s like to live aboard a steamboat. What say...

Read More