Saturday, 8 November 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole


I was going to title this “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” but the reference to Alice in Wonderland is more appropriate to the surprise and wonder I feel when I plunge into research. It’s a freefall and, tumbling joyfully, I snatch at details that are enlightening, deeply moving and delightfully entertaining, tucking them away for use in my novel or for that lull in a dinner party that just needs to be filled with something.

Let’s look at plot potential. I tripped across John Pattin, a mapmaker, trader, and all-around curious explorer from the 18th century. He managed to get arrested in 1750 for encroaching on French territory. Held in no less than 6 strongholds of New France before being sent to France, he was not only freed but managed to secure restitution for losses as well. Pattin promptly returned to the colonies and drew up plans, for the British, of all of the French forts where he had stayed. Now that’s a character I can work with—adventurous, savvy and, depending on the lens, incredibly loyal or wonderfully manipulative and deceitful.

Then, there’s Elizabeth Couc. Too early for Crossroads, but I'm sure I can work her story in somewhere. Cadillac describes her as a woman “kept by more than a hundred men.” Now, how could I resist finding out more about her after a declaration like that? Reality show scripts read dry in comparison to this real life, multi-husband woman from the 17th century.

As for the dinner party conversation, it would be all about the beaver. Yup, that crazy little furry river critter that was so sought after in the 18th century. The economy in the Ohio Valley, in 1750, was wrapped up in the beaver. So much so that the beaver pelt was considered currency.
 
The skin of the buck or male beaver was worth four livres, twice as much as the skin of the doe
beaver. It is the buck that came to be recognized as the money unit, and is used to this day as slang for a dollar. It would be interesting to find out if the word "dough" for money comes from the homonym "doe," worth half a buck. (from The Windsor Border Region)

I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but bringing up beaver at dinner in Canada just might cause a few forks to clatter and chip the good china. How wonderful that I can smile graciously with feigned oblivion, and explain how we owe our current currency slang to that charming woodland creature. J
 
 

 

6 comments:

  1. Great research, Rose! I, on the other hand, find my nuggets on the news. Abuse, wounded warriors, and tiny tidbits like Nov. 10 is the Marine Corps Birthday. I just know my retired Marine will know that one! Happy writing!

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  2. I think I prefer historical angst. :0) As it is November 11th, I will keep your DH in my thoughts today.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your research with us! The facts about our furry friend the beave were funny, very interesting and definitely worth knowing! Oh, and I'm intrigued by Elizabeth Couc's story!

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  4. Nicole,
    Thanks for reaching out all the way from Germany. I started this blog stating that I wasn't sure how well my sense of humour translated to written word...I'm glad somebody is enjoying it. ;0) There are many many versions of Elizabeth's life which is part of the fascination. Here is a quick one: https://secureapps.libraries.psu.edu/PACFTB/bios/biography.cfm?AuthorID=7185 As someone who has read Raven's Path, do you think she should make a cameo in the sequel?

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  5. Rose, I like your sense of humour very much and, as far as I'm concerned, it translates well to the written word
    I just read the short biography the link you posted in the comment provided. I think she's too great a character to pass up, not just because of the recorded bits and pieces of her life, which are very interesting and unusual, but also because of the parts that are not recorded - these give you the opportunity to interweave a real person in a real or victious setting with imaginary people but in a situation which could have happened that way. Isn't that each writer's dream come true?

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  6. It's truly the joy of writing historical fiction. I spend a lot of time thinking "What if..." :0)

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