Friday, February 29, 2008

Cabin Fever

It’s been a stressful week, and I’m oh-so-glad it’s Friday! My big plan for the weekend is to go grocery shopping, and I’m really looking forward to it. Yep, that’s how bad I’ve got cabin fever. It’s been cold and snowy here in northeast Ohio forever it seems. Not ideal for going out. I’m really envying those of you in warm climates right now.

I googled "cabin fever" this morning to see how bad this can get. :) I laughed that the first entry was for a 2003 horror flick I’ve never heard of. (Horror movies are definitely not my thing.) Wikipedia was the second entry and offered some interesting information:

“Cabin fever is a condition that produces restlessness and irritability caused from being in a confined space. The actual term is slang for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a party is isolated and/or shut in, alone or together, for an extended period. The term originated in the United States at the time when settlers would be snowed into their log cabins and had to wait for the spring thaw in order to travel to town. Another possible source for this phrase could be that during an outbreak of some disease, people who had a fever were confined to a cabin as a quarantine. Most likely, the phrase may be associated with ocean-crossing sailing ships in which passengers had to endure weeks and months of slow travel while living in cramped cabins below deck.”

Okay, so compared to early ship passengers and American settlers, I don’t have much to complain about! I can’t imagine not getting to to town for the entire winter. It’s so fascinating to think about how people lived and survived without the modern conveniences we take for granted. That’s one reason why historical fiction is so interesting and why books that mix great historical research with a wonderful story are so popular.

Last week I told you that several authors visited our sales conference via video. Kelly Eileen Hake was one of those authors, and in her clip she mentioned a great resource she uses when writing historicals. It’s a book called The Illustrated History of the 19th Century. Becky ordered a copy of it for us to share in the Barbour offices, and I can’t wait to take a look insde! Thanks, Kelly, for telling us about it!

I’m curious what favorite resources you use for historical research. Post a comment and let us all know!

Here's a photo of the snow outside my front door today.


Anonymous said...
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Becky said...

JoAnne, the other book I ordered THE AMERICAN WEST YEAR BY YEAR has arrived first.

Cara Putman said...

Hmmm. One of my favorites is Everyday Fashions of the Forties as Pictured in Sears Catalog. It helps me with the descriptions of styles and materials. And let's me know what ordinary people would have worn. Watching movies from the time period is a good start, but having the actual pages from catalogs has been a great help. I also check out the local historical societies for resources. I'm an Amazon junkie. It's a great way to pick up out of print or hard to find books that experts point me to.

Janet Spaeth said...

I spend every day surrounded by thousands and thousands of books and periodicals so I have the luxury of all kinds of great resources at my fingertips. Ah, libraries!

I'm a fan of regional collections, especially state historical societies. Depending to the society's committment to an online presence, you may be able to find what you need that way. But often the society's site will guide you to the actual historical society itself.

My favorite online is

I also use the historical societies to find out what are solid books on a particular place or time period. They're experts so I can trust their choices. The last time I was in St. Paul, I went to the Minnesota Historical Society and stocked up on books I can use for my upcoming novels.

So which one is my favorite? Whichever one I'm using at the moment!

Erica Vetsch said...

I love to visit the places I'm writing about. I've visited battle fields, lighthouses, Guilded Age mansions, forts...and all right here in MN. I buy a lot of books published by the Minnesota Historical Society. I think I should get frequent flyer miles from the MNHS. :)

Kaye Dacus said...

Wow! That much snow would (and has in the past) bring Nashville to a complete stand-still. We got a light dusting on Wednesday and all of the school systems in metro and the surrounding counties were closed, and we got to go in to work two hours late (I got a whole chapter finished with my extra time!).

One of my favorite resources is the Timelines of History which compares political, military, cultural, etc., events in side-by-side columns going back to Biblical times.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Researching history is one of my favorite things to do (outside of writing, of course). Eight years ago I started researching our family history, so I've visited the NC and SC state archives and local register of deeds offices. I've read publications from various historical societies, and old newspapers preserved on micro fiche. The things they published in their newspapers are amazing and provide great ideas for stories. Reading the court minutes gives one an idea of the type of court cases they tried and how they administered punishments and pardons.

I'm now working full-time and can't do this kind of research on a regular basis anymore. But I have enough to keep me going on ideas for a while. I'm praying God will let me stay home again - so I can read, research, and write to my heart's content.

Vickie said...

I purchased some 19th century Montgomery Ward and Sears catalog replicas which have wonderful pictures of all kinds of historical items. Writer's Digest has a great series for research called "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in..." My favorites are "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West" and "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's".

One way I research ranch settings is to do a search on ranches for sale in a particular area. Many times they will describe the landscape and even tell you the types of animals and birds in the area as well as show great pictures of the area.

Mary Connealy said...

The book I'm writing right now has, for a heroine, a woman who was rescued by a band of Indian warriors when her family all died of a fever. Raised by them, a massacre destroys her village and she's left behind, alive, by the white attackers. With her native life no longer available, the hero takes her home.
So, how would she act?
I didn't want her reactions to be shallow or cartoonish. I read three different books about children kidnapped or rescued by Indian tribes who grew up with those people. I wanted to treat my heroine's experience with respect, figure out how those years would really affect her.
Very interesting reading.

I do almost all of my research online, but I also like maps, we belong to AAA and I sometimes order maps from them--free, and I've contacted State Tourism departments and asked for maps and travel info--free.

Debby said...

I use a variety of resources. In addition to EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE 1800'S, I use the Internet, historical societies, and information from the Chamber of Commerce of wherever I'm writing about. Children's history books are great for pictures.

Pam Hillman said...

What fun! I spent the entire weekend trying to find out how abundant cattle ranches were in Sweetwater County, WY, specifically Bitter Creek, WY around 1882.

I haven't found much info.

Jennifer, thanks for the tip on ranches for sale. Gotta try that.

Pam Hillman said...

Oh man, look at this:

Great site for researching a particular area.

JoAnne said...

Well, my cabin fever is even worse because Jodi came down with some type of virus and an ear infection over the weekend. I didn't even make it out to go grocery shopping. :( But Jodi is feeling much better now and that's all that matters.

Great comments here! Thanks for sharing your favorite resources.