Thursday, May 29, 2014

Using Appropriate Words When Writing Historical Novels

I’m just getting into the world of historical novels. My first historical mystery, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, is under contract and is set in Boulder, Colorado, in 1919. I have also written a manuscript for another mystery taking place in the Vatican in 1656. One of the challenges in writing historical novels is using appropriate words for the timeframe.

At a recent meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, fellow writer Robin Searle told me about a book titled English Through the Ages, which records when specific words came into common usage. This is a wonderful source book and should be in the library of anyone who writes historical novels.

I looked up a few words that I found interesting. Given our world of social media, I checked on the word twitter. It originated as a verb in 1375 and as a noun in 1680. Author first appeared in 1350 and writer’s block was in use by 1950.

As a mystery writer, I checked on a few other words: Murder-725, mystery (in literature)-1910, snitch-1785, hoosegow-1865, stir-1855, copper-1850, cop-1860, hoodlum-1880.

And, of course, since I write geezer-lit mysteries I had to check on the first use of geezer, which goes back to 1885.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Boulder Citizens' Fire Academy continued

This last Saturday we spent the morning at the Boulder Reservoir learning about dive rescue as part of the Boulder Citizens’ Fire Academy. The first exercise involved trying to locate a “drowning person.” A buoy was raised and then hidden again, and we had to triangulate to locate where the “drowning person” had disappeared in the reservoir. We than gave directions to a diver in a flotation suit to  get as close as possible to that location. Then the buoy was raised again to see how accurate we were at sighting the correct location.

The next exercise was to practice using a banana boat for a stream rescue. Guiding with four ropes we maneuvered the boat as if we were using it in a stream.

Then we road in a dive rescue boat equipped with sonar to see what we could locate underwater.


A final exercise was to guide a diver and communicate through a headset to sweep the bottom of the reservoir for a rescue. No body was recovered, but the diver located a number of plastic cups and piece of dock connector. The visibility is a best two feet underwater in the Boulder Reservoir, so the diver needed to sweep using his hands.

All in all, an interesting day where we gained an appreciation for key elements of dive rescue.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

World War Two Attrocities

While writing the biography of a World War Two veteran, I keep coming across interesting tidbits. Here's one that caught my interest.
During World War Two, both the Germans and Russians were inhumane to their own soldiers who didn’t obey. Those that weren’t shot on the spot were put in penal units. One notorious form of this punishment became known as the tramplers—troops used for suicide missions. In the Russian army, these troops received fortification with a ration of vodka and proceeded to be blown to bits to mark safe passage for the regular troops through the mine fields.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Boulder Citizens Fire Academy

For the last five weeks I’ve been attending a citizens fire academy to learn about fire and rescue. Last Saturday we had an all day session at the training facility near the Boulder Reservoir. Here I am in the bunker gear we wore for the day:

One of the exercises was to you spreaders (jaws of life) and cutters to get into a car to rescue a victim:

The following pictures shows fire fighters removing a roof after cutting off all the supports:

Then we watched a simulated car fire being extinguished and had our chance to handle the hose:

We also had an opportunity to go up in a bucket at the end of a ladder:

All in all an informative day and useful research for a mystery writer.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

World War II Trivia

While interviewing my friend, Ed, who is a 95-year-old World War II veteran, he described how Italians had a reputation of being lovers rather than fighters. He gave a specific example of when fighting in Libya, the Italian army had trailers full of prostitutes brought over to North Africa.

In researching this I found the following: “Mussolini, who was a self-proclaimed sexual adventurer, saw to it that his army in Cyrenaica was provided with mobile brothels for the forward troops and whorehouses in the rear areas. After Tobruk's surrender in 1941, the garrison brothel presented a British colonel with a difficult dilemma when, according to the war correspondent who acted as translator, the sous maĆ®tresse offered to put her girls 'at the disposition of the British army'.”[An offer not accepted.] From Love, Sex and War by John Costello.]