Well, after procrastinating for a good few weeks, scribbling another Lone Star Sons adventure, and playing around with photoshopping a cover for another collection of essays, I got started on The Golden Road – this will be the picaresque California Gold Rush adventure that I always wanted to write. In The Adelsverein Trilogy it was alluded several times that Fredi Steinmetz had gone to California with a herd of cattle …who knew that cattle had been taken over the southern route from Texas to San Diego in the mid-1850s to supply the gold mines? I didn’t, until I read of it in The Trail Drivers of Texas. Anyway, it’s mentioned casually a couple of times that he knocked around the gold mines for a bit and then wandered home again.

So – in keeping with my plan to continue exploring the western Barsetshire, and write the adventures of various minor characters as they star in their own book – this is Fredi’s turn to cut loose. And the venue – California at the heights of the Gold Rush is also a pretty wild and woolly scene, with all kinds of interesting, eccentric, and later-to-become famous characters wandering around … here goes. It is in my grand plan to make this my book for November, 2015. It seems to take me about two years to research and write (sometimes simultaneously, as I have a wonderful idea for a plot twist, and then have to hurry to the reference materials to see if that twist is even historically possible.)

I wrote the first draft of To Truckee’s Trail in a white-hot blaze of energy over the space of three months – but then, that was a book that I had been thinking about for years, and limited as to space and time. The Trilogy did take only two years – but that was essentially one humongous story, later sliced into three helpings. The other books – all seemed to fall together at one or two years, from start to final edit, even when I was working on some of them simultaneously. There are authors who can spin out a book a year, but … those always seemed to me to be a bit mechanical, and the books produced were nothing that any but the most devoted fans could fall upon with happy cries of joy. The authors who take two years, or even three years – well, the work is most usually worth the wait. And yes, this schedule has been kicked around in writer discussion groups for as long as I have been paying attention to them. So – herewith begins the new adventure – and I will, as usual, post the occasional sample chapter, as they are written.


  1. The requirements of historical fiction make the research non-negotiable. And thus slow the output rate.
    I am fascinated by you experts’ ability to stick to the known facts and still tell a great story. You make the feel of the time so visceral, so real to us readers. Makes me wish I’d developed an interest in history much earlier than I did. But now, with no background at all, I’m much better off sticking to Fantasy and Science Fiction, where my lifelong interest in horses and science give me a better background.

  2. I think once you have a pretty good feel for a particular time and place, you can move a little faster. One of the reasons I did stick to the 19th century frontier after Truckee was that I already had a lot of the reference books on hand – and a great visual library. We kicked it around in a historical discussion group once – how some of us preferred one era/place over any other. One of the other authors did point out that making the leap to another era/place might not be quite as difficult, because if we did, we’d have a darned good idea of exactly how different it would be, and could focus research very exactly. At the very least, we’d be aware that you couldn’t serve potatoes at a medieval feast, or tomatoes at a Roman one.
    I think I could probably move back in time and do the 18th century pretty effectively – not that much of a stretch – and the same for the 20th. I could do a WWII adventure off the top of my head, since I am pretty well knowledgeable about it.

    • I avoided history in school, so I haven’t the research skills, or really, even any basic knowledge to build from. In fact, I suspect most of my historical knowledge comes from reading fiction.

      I did actually once look into King Steven’s War and the Second Crusade, simply because I wanted to know what happened after Cadfael. 😉 Which led to a bit of fanfic, fortunately stopped at three chapters (I found it recently while remodeling, it was very bad. 20th century assumptions and attitudes all over it.) That very brief obsession gave me a lot of insight into how much research _must_ go into good historical fiction.

  3. Ah – I was marinated in history – my mother had a subscription to American Heritage magazine, and I loved reading every issue as it arrived. And my very favorite book series was Little House on the Prairie – so 19th century not a stretch at all.

    I think most people’s historical knowledge does come through pop media – historical fiction and movies, so in writing it myself, I am trying to teach it!

    • Certainly our “feel” for the period comes though fiction of all sorts. As I was taught, it was about as boring as it is possible to get without students snoring through class.

  4. Yep, teachers who can make history come alive and be interesting are few and far between. I can’t count the times I have written a blog post about some curious historical event or person, and had someone comment that they wish their school-teachers had taught by telling them about events/people like that.