Monday, October 31, 2011

A Thousand Words, at Least… by Ann Parker, Guest Blogger

I'm very pleased that Ann Parker agreed to do a guest post for us. Ann is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boom town of Leadville.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Ann writes historical mysteries based in Colorado. According to her website bio:

"Ann's ancestors include a great-grandfather who was a blacksmith in Leadville, a grandmother who worked at the bindery of Leadville's Herald Democrat newspaper, a grandfather who was a Colorado School of Mines professor, and another grandfather who worked as a gandy dancer on the Colorado railroads."

Thanks for joining us today, Ann.

-------------------------

A Thousand Words, at Least… by Ann Parker, Guest Blogger


It all started when I was zipping around eBay, looking for old photographs of Manitou Springs.

I was partway through the writing of Mercury’s Rise, which takes place in summer 1880 in Manitou Springs. My protagonist, Inez Stannert, travels to Manitou to see her sister and her young son, after nearly a year’s absence. Inez’s friend, Susan Carothers, accompanies her. I needed old photos of Manitou and its environs to help me re-create the area, but I found more. Much more.

You see, Inez’s friend Susan is a photographer (unusual, but not entirely unknown for that day and age). Sooo, when I stumbled across a cabinet card taken in the Manitou Springs area circa 1880 that was “Photographed and Published by Mrs. A. Galbreaith,” my research antennae began to quiver, and questions arose.

A woman photographer, taking commercial photographs in the very area I was writing about? Talk about serendipity! So, who was Mrs. A. Galbreaith? What was she doing in Manitou Springs? Did she actually have her own studio?

Intrigued, I began a search.

Mrs. Galbreaith wasn’t listed in the 1879 or 1880 or 1882 city directories. Unfortunately, the city directories from 1883 through 1885 are missing, and she wasn’t listed in 1886 either. Luckily, I made a connection with a local historian, who was able to tell me that Anna Galbreaith was indeed a local photographer back in the mid-1880s, and that she also ran a Manitou boarding house (a proper one, I hasten to add) called the “Ohio House.”

I found a couple more tantalizing references to Anna G’s work, far from “home.” She appears in the Guide to the Julia Driver Collection of Women in Photography (Gen MSS 690), by Matthew Daniel Mason, in the Yale University Library, where she apparently has a couple of cabinet cards as part of the collection. The other reference I found was in a Princeton University document, WC064: Western Americana photographs collection.

Mrs. Galbreaith rated a few lines in each of these documents for her landscape card photographs (cabinet cards), which are stored in these various collections.

Her cards also spring up, occasionally, on eBay, and I was lucky enough to snag one of “The Narrows,” in Williams Canyon, shown here.

Now, this card has turned out to be worth far more than a thousand words, not just for the image and for leading me to Mrs. Galbreaith, but also for the information printed on the back.

The back is a bit of an advertisement for the area (a device commonly used for “tourist destinations” of the day), and includes a chemical analysis of the various mineral springs in Manitou (an analysis which proved very useful for my story), as well as names of the springs, and a description of the area and its sights. All very germane to Mercury’s Rise.

The front shows a young fellow posing in “the Narrows.” Hmmm. What are the Narrows? Well, pretty much just as they sound: a very narrow portion of Williams Canyon.

Knowing that, I had to go and see the place in person, so I put it on my “must see” list for my research trip to Manitou Springs. My local guide obligingly took me partway up Williams Canyon, through the Narrows. Photographs were duly snapped.

The upshot? Mrs. Anna Galbreaith plays a small but significant role in my story (and gives my fictional photographer, Susan Carothers, a reason to travel to Manitou in the first place, as well as providing a place for Susan to stay that is near Inez and the action). I liked the idea of two women photographers in 1880, getting together and sharing techniques and stories.

And the Narrows… well, that particular geological feature comes in for a few words as well in Mercury’s Rise.

All in all, that find on eBay ended up worth far more than a thousand words!

-------------------------

Thanks again, Ann, for an excellent post.

The latest book in Ann's series, Mercury's Rise, is out November 1. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Parker smoothly mixes the personal dramas and the detection in an installment that’s an easy jumping-on point for newcomers.” Library Journal added, “Parker’s depth of knowledge coupled with an all-too-human cast leaves us eager to see what Inez will do next. Encore!” Learn more about Ann and her series at her website. She is also a contributor to The LadyKillers blog.

Mercury's Rise and the other Silver Rush mysteries are available from independent booksellers' Indie Bound, amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other places where mystery books are sold.

Leave a comment on this post by midnight (Mountain Time) today to be eligible to win a Silver Rush mystery prize! Winner will be announced later this week.

To see the rest of Ann's blog tour schedule, see the Appearances page on her website.

34 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Ann.

Ann - Thanks for sharing your story. What a fascinating case of following up on an intriguing lead! You were as much of a sleuth as any fictitious one :-).

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Margot -- If you ever do a post on historical mysteries, Ann's Iris Stannert series would be a good addition to your own research.

E. Arroyo said...

Sounds like a great story.

Patricia Stoltey said...

If you like historical mysteries, you'll enjoy Ann's series. The characters are wonderful.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for letting us in on one of your research trails for Mercury's Rise, Ann. I've always admired the persistence and attention to detail of historical fiction writers, you in particular!

Ann Parker said...

Hi Margot! I'm a big believer in serendipity in research, and try to be open to those lovely finds that take one trotting merrily down a sidetrack. Of course, the trick is to not get *so* enthralled/distracted that one forgets to write! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hello E. Arroyo,
It was a lot of fun to write and research... I figure if I'm having fun (and my beta readers are too), then I'm probably creating a story that readers will enjoy. :-)

Ann Parker said...

Pat:
Thanks for hosting me, and for the thumbs-up on my characters!
I'm never alone, as Inez and the rest are always jabbering in my head and telling me what to do next. Hazard of being a fiction writer, I guess.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Camille,
Thank you! You have been an inspiration to me over the years, and I love your books! Now, if I could only emulate your speed and efficiency in writing... (sigh)

C.K.Crigger said...

Your research, so meticulous and careful, sound exactly like something Inez would do.
It's always a pleasure to read one of your books.

Jan McClintock said...

This sounds so much like what I do when researching my family history. I find an intriguing character or location and off I go, leaving my blood ties behind! The love of history is just too strong to keep me on track, but it always leads me to something fascinating.

Love your books and looking forward to "Mercury's Rise." Thanks, Ann, for the great post, and thanks, Patricia, for the wonderful guest.

David Fitzgerald said...

I love how doing research for one specific thing can lead to a totally fresh idea for a story or book...

Jean Henry Mead said...

As a fellow historical researcher, I have to say, "What a great, fortunate discovery." Your description of the narrows in Mercury Rising is so accurate that I imagined it looking much like the photo here. Good job! (And a very good book!)

Mark Stevens said...

That's how to follow your research nose. And....could never have happened on the old Internet. Had to be there to pick up the trail. Very cool.

Renaissance Women said...

It is an eye opener to see your local area through the eyes of a writer/researcher. Can't wait!

Malena said...

Ann- Being a big fan of your Silver Rush series, I'm very excited about this new book. I think I could get so caught up in the research, I'd never want to actually write the books. Lucky for us you always do.
And thank you for introducing me to Patricia Stoltey's mysteries which also sound intriguing.
So many books, so little time...

Ann Best said...

This sounds like a wonderful book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this guest post and meeting Ann Parker! I am bookmarking this under my folder of books to read!!

(And thanks, Pat, for commenting on my scammer post. Your 92 year old mother was sharper than I was! But never again will anyone scam me over the phone with "Grandma?" Or scam me in any other way either! Quite a learning experience. Did we ever run into any such stuff when we were growing up? No!!)
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Beth Groundwater said...

Fascinating story, Ann! Now I can't wait to read the book. :) And after living so near Manitou Springs for so many years, I'm looking forward to seeing how you present it in historical tomes. See you soon ...

Ann Parker said...

Hello C.K.! :-) Thank you sooo much! It's readers like you that keep me going....

Ann Parker said...

Hello Jan!
Sounds like we are kindred spirits... driven by family history and curiosity about the past. Thanks for dropping in and commenting! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hello David!
Amen to that. That's why I try to keep an open mind and an open "outline" when writing my books. Veering off the map is at least half the fun of writing.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Jean!
I loved having that photo for writing the scenes in The Narrows. Originally, I was thinking of putting those particular scenes somewhere in Garden of the Gods, until this photo fell into my lap (or rather, I outbid everyone for it on eBay!). I kept the image by me while creating those scenes...

Ann Parker said...

Hello Mark,
You're right. The old internet had *none* of this. And since I do so much research "long distance," I probably would have missed this opportunity entirely in the "old days."

Ann Parker said...

Hello Doris (hiding behind your pseudonym)!
My hope is the descriptions of Manitou and the area "ring true" for those living there. :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Malena!
Nice to see you here! :-) And always glad to add to your TBR piles with new books and new authors (hee hee... consider that a semi-cackle in honor of Halloween... ). :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Ann, from another Ann!
Hope you find the books a fun read. And scamming, oh dear. My dear FIL had a hard time with those come-on offers in the mail: buy diamonds! Only $5 apiece! Good investments! Oh dear.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Beth!
Yes indeedy, you'll have to see what you think of my descriptions of the area. Looking forward to our touring around Colorado in... goodness, less than a couple of weeks, now! I'd better start packing!

Amberr said...

Ann, great story!

I’m here visiting from Jeremy Bates' blog hop, and I love your blog!

My favorite scary book is IT (scared the crap out of me as a kid), movie that horrified me most was Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, and I did not dress up this year, because I suck. One of my favorite costumes in the past was "Dead Baby Roller Blades."

Happy Halloween! You can visit me, if so inclined at http://www.amberrisme.com

Linda said...

Ann, this sounds fascinating and I love the twists and turns of your research! I must move your series up higher on my TBR mountain! Just grabbed Silver Lies on Kindle; will Mercury's Rise be available as an e-book?

And coming over here from Crime Thru Time, I have now discovered another blog to follow--Patricia, your posts and sidebar links are quite intriguing; I'll be spending more time here for sure (at least after NaNoWriMo 2011).

Patricia Stoltey said...

Ann, thanks again for being here today and sharing this great research story. You're a great guest. And since I posted to the RMFW group today, you may have more visitors tomorrow from those who receive their updates via daily digest.

I'm looking forward to reading Mercury's Rise and wish you continued good fortune with the Silver Rush series.

Terry Wright said...

Hi Pat and Ann, You never know where these gems will come from. A good lesson in keeping an open mind and adapting reality to your work. Thanks for sharing this with us. Best Terry

Ann Parker said...

Hi Linda!
Mercury's Rise will be out as an eBook eventually. I'm not sure of the timing, though.
Glad you popped over from CTT! It's always fun to find new writers to follow, right? :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hi Terry!
Sooooo true. You summed up the thousand words very nicely. Thank you! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Thank you, Pat, for hosting me at the start of my virtual tour.
We've picked a random name from the list of commenters, and the winner is...

Malena!

So, Malena, if you'll contact me at annparker(at)annparker.net, we'll arrange for your prize.
Thanks, everyone, for dropping in and commenting! Hope to see you at future stops on the virtual tour...