My fourth novel is a sequel to Shadow of the Rock, an historical adventure, and like Shadow, it involves two parallel stories. In the sequel, one story begins in the Spanish Netherlands in 1616; the other in Gibraltar in 1999.
With Shadow of the Rock, one story took place in 1780s Morocco; the other began in 1998 West Virginia. Researching 1780s Morocco was difficult, but I found two eyewitness accounts, both published around 1792, that provided a wealth of detail about life then. I also toured Morocco for a sense of the tastes, colors, and scenes.
Now I’m wallowing in a deep and messy quagmire researching the sequel. What would my characters wear in 1616? What would they eat? What were their homes like? Their furniture? Their daily lives?
A friend who used to design costumes for theatrical productions has been filling me in on the complicated intricacies of this business. You even have to be careful about plants, for Pete’s sake. The sweet pea, for instance, was unheard of in 1616. The first written record of the sweet pea was in 1695.
My main character lights a match to read a letter. Whoa. Usable matches weren’t invented until the 19th century. So maybe he could read his letter by a street lamp. Possibly. Many European cities had some form of street lighting as early as medieval times, but usually only for specific times in the winter and dependent on someone hired to light the lamps or local homeowners. Street gaslights didn’t come in until the 19th century. Certainly the uninhabited wharf area where I put my character had no street lighting. I had him light a candle with his tinder box.
He is going incognito as a peasant, so what would he wear? Probably a hodge podge of simple clothing, no stockings. My character wears boots, but probably most peasants went barefoot. The character is actually from Venice living in France so when he later travels in Amsterdam, I used a book on costume design to dress him according to French fashion at the time. He wouldn’t wear his clothes from Venice. That would mark him as a country bumpkin. The fashionable Dutch of the time followed French fashion.
The parallel story set in 1999 has its problems too. I wanted a character to copy files onto his thumb, or flash, drive. But wait. Flash drives weren’t available until 2001. When did people start using Google? Facebook? Twitter? Cell phones? Thank goodness for Google and the Internet.
Active, Alert and Able: Changing the paradigm for what it means to be 90.
This is the slogan for my 90s Club cozy mystery series featuring the 90-year-olds at Whisperwood Retirement Village. I collect articles and stories about people in their 90s—and 100s—who are active, alert, and able. The latest “sighting” is a 95-year-old woman I met at a wedding reception recently who still works as a court mediator and still drives. She lives alone on 90 acres in upstate New York.