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.
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.