Wednesday, July 3, 2013

San Francisco, circa 1860

My first published work was Luck of the Draw. Fleshing out the hero and heroine, their features, childhoods and why they were patronizing Sam's saloon when the story opened, came easy. So did some of the secondary characters, including Royce's older brother, Lucas. Like Royce, Lucas carried emotional scars and was untrusting of women. He needed a strong female to help him overcome a heart-breaking past. I found his heroine when I created Missy, sister to the heroine in Luck of the Draw. But unlike Lucas, Missy presented a challenge. She'd been absent from her sister's life for seven years, and I had to find out where she'd been all this time. Enter my love for John Wayne.

Way back in my childhood, I remember a movie that placed John Wayne in a gaming hall on the Barbary Coast. While I don't recall the plot of the movie, a gaming hall was a perfect fit for Missy. She knew poker, and she knew how to sit at the tables and fleece men with a flirtatious smile. But giving Missy her own business was only the beginning. I had to know if the gaming halls existed in 1860 San Francisco, where in San Francisco the Barbary Coast was, and what the inside of her hall looked like. So, I went to the library.

The first fact I proved was the Barbary and the gaming halls did exist in the timeframe of my story, Lady Luck. I was pleased with that, and later on, I found an old San Francisco street map, circa 1860, to cement placing Missy and her hall on the Barbary Coast. And then, I found something much more interesting; something I had to have in the story--ships.



Yerba Beuna

In my opinion, the easiest way to get to San Francisco during this period was by ship. Some of these great vessels ran into storms while trying to dock. Navigating rough waters wasn't easy, and many ended up on shore permanently dry-docked. Crews disbanded and joined other ships, leaving behind the wreckage. One such area where this occured was Yerba Buena Cove, just a few blocks away from the area known as the Barbary Coast and a perfect fit for Missy's gaming hall.  Problem was, around the time of my story, the city had taken to filling in these ships with sand and erecting businesses on top of the sand. Being that I write fiction, I took liberty with fact and gave Missy a ship of her own, moving the vessel to an intersection along the Barbary. And then, I went a step further and imagined what the inside would look like, creating a home by replacing the masts with walls and windows and erecting staircases at the front and back of the ship to connect the deck with the middle, as in a two-story house. (Dual staircases were popular in older, two-family homes in my hometown.) Then I put the gaming parlor in the hull. The end result was better than I had imagined, but my research didn't stop there.

Being a stickler for remaining as true to an era or area as possible, I had to know about the police department, because they figured into the ending of the story. Did such a department exist in 1860? If so, what color were their uniforms? That might seem trivial--the color of clothing the policemen wore--but I didn't want someone to come back and say their uniforms were blue when I wrote they were black. A police department did exist, and the uniforms were blue. The last thing I incorporated into the story was the Pony Exress. I originally had Lucas communicating with his family in Colorado via the telegraph, but the telegraph wasn't operational in 1860 San Francisco. The Pony Exress was, and I had a little bit of fun with Lucas' ranch hands and those famous riders.

Taming the west wasn't easy. It took a lot of hard work by determined, brave men and women. Along the way, many interesting discoveries were made to make life easier, and thanks to the internet and the library, I look forward to finding my next fascination; something to rival the discovery of dry-docked ships and converting them into a gaming hall. In my imagination, of course.  
 










Lady Luck:

www.amazon.com/dp/B0063WCXO0

10 comments:

kathleen ball said...

Great Post Julie- love all the research you do

Michele said...

Great post! You really did your homework on these books!

Ginger Simpson said...

I love the premise of your story, and of course, will add it to my already bulging Kindle. Funny, I didn't develop such a love of history until I started researching my facts, and I can see you do a lot of that. Having a credible reputation as an historical author is important, but boy, it sure is time-consuming, isn't it?

Julie Lence said...

Hi Kathleen and Michele: Thank you for stopping by. I really had a lot of fun researching this book. And I learned a lot.

Julie Lence said...

Hi Ginger: I was the same way. I did have some knowlegde of the
1800's but didn't get into the 'research' thing until I began writing and wanted as much accuracy as possible.

Victoria Roder said...

Very interesting post! The research makes a story come alive.

Mark said...

You have the respect and love for research necessary to all good writers, Julie. It really shows up, too -- nothing like the ring of truth to add to a storyline. Excellent blog.

Cheryl L said...

Great post, Juls! Western history is so interesting, and it's great that you do so much research to assure accuracy in your stories. Keep up the good work! :)

Julie Lence said...

Thank you Vicki and Cheryl! It's great to see both of you here!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Julie, I love San Francisco, and loved your post. Best wishes for continued success.