Feet in the Dirt

The research for writing a story is greatly enhanced by the availability of internet tools.  In a police/crime novel that I am working on I can follow the escape route of one of my characters via Google Earth and Maps.  I can say, “he took a right on Rt 7” and describe the surrounding view pretty well.  I can get at street level in Google Earth as I “drive” through a town and find a restaurant for lunch.  If the place has a web site I can browse the menu – all from the comfort of my writing nook.  However, there is nothing like putting your feet in the dirt to find out what a location is truly like.  I just returned from a chance to curl my toes in the dirt of a setting for the second John book. The setting is 1769 in southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.  To be sure there have been big changes since 1769, but much of the topography is the same.  Lake Cumberland  didn’t exist then, but the mountains and ravines did.  What is now a beautiful and extensive lake was a pristine river that wound through those mountains and ravines. So what?  It goes to making the travel of the Longhunters as close to real as I can.  I can’t just write, “- they walked up and down the hills hunting for game”  when in reality they are pretty damn high hills that are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle separated by ravines.   And the ravines!  Hundreds of feet deep, with 75 to 80 degree slopes and ground made up of moderately loose dirt and a fair amount of shale.  Men and horses would not navigate those conditions without the possibility of sever injury.  If you did get a good size deer you would need a helicopter to get it out.  Not many of those in 1769.  So, the trip to Lake Cumberland was very worthwhile:  I got a feeling for the terrain, thoroughly enjoyed the scenery of the lake, and had great conversation with employees of the lodge while having a very good catfish dinner. Try all that from your chair.ImageImage

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