Saturday, November 12, 2011

When Research Pays Off

  By Paty Jager

I received a very nice compliment on my book Improper Pinkerton. A reader asked me if I'd ever been to Virginia City. Montana.  I used the town in my book and she said I'd written it so well she figured I'd been there.

Well, I haven't. I wanted to go to Montana and do the research for Improper Pinkerton but it just wasn't good timing for a trip. Having her comment on how well I described an area I haven't seen made my toes tap and my heart sing. Like all historical writers I spend about as much time and effort into researching a project as I do writing it.

For this book I relied on Google Earth, maps, newspapers, books and a wonderful woman in the historical society of Montana.

The funny thing about the maps and Google Earth, when I searched the countryside around Helena, MT for a place to set a large ranch I found the perfect area, only once I contacted the person in the historical society and told her my findings, she tossed the idea out the window. What looked like wonderful grassland today was a swamp at the time of my book. It was after they built a dam that the land became usable.

I used Sanborn maps to "see" Helena in 1884 and through books on Helena's history I had photos and information about the city. When I'd zero in on a specific building, I contacted the historical society to learn more about it- the lighting, plumbing, set up. My contact there also gave me a list of the best books to use to "see" the town and outlying areas.

Having a reader tell me I depicted a place I've never been with accuracy, means I did my research.

Blurb for Improper Pinkerton

An impetuous Pinkerton agent is out to prove to a righteous US Marshal that she's the best "man" to complete the assignment and the only "woman" who can capture his heart.

Mae Simon is on her first assignment as a Pinkerton operative and determined nothing will stand in her way of accomplishing her task. When the simple assignment turns into a murder and kidnapping, she has to stop hiding behind her disguises and trust a man she’s betrayed.

U. S. Marshal Beck Harlan can’t afford to befriend anyone. Not with a vengeance seeking outlaw killing off his intimate acquaintances. Yet, he falls hard for the French prostitute he talks into being an informant, not realizing she is a Pinkerton operative after the same man.


    Beck couldn’t believe his luck. The French girl stood at the top of the stairway. Sally had said she’d send the woman to him when she was available, but that was fast. He started forward, and she scampered down the stairs. He caught her from behind, sliding an arm around the curve of her waist, and hauled her back up to the room he’d just left.
    “Unhand me you buffoon!”
     He spun her and lowered his head, covering her mouth with his—just to keep her quiet. She stopped fighting. Her body went lax, and he molded her soft contours to his, drawing out the kiss. His heart hammered in his chest. Her arms entwined his neck. His hands roamed up and down her clothing. There were no restraining garments underneath. Only thin fabric between his skin and her round bottom. He reached around to the front and cupped her breast. She was a hand full.
     Her palms flattened against his chest, and she pushed out of his grasp. He let her go physically, but his mind was back kissing her.
    “Monsieur, you have not paid for that privilege!” Her golden brown eyes lacked the scolding of her words. He peered down at her moist lips and wanted to drag her back into his arms. He hadn’t needed a woman in some time, but this woman…lured him.
     She spun away and stepped toward the door. She couldn’t leave. They still had to talk. He stepped around her, blocking her exit. His arms crossed over his chest to avoid reaching out to her again. Staring down at the top of her head, he waited. She slowly lifted her chin and stared at him.
     “I must find Sally.” She raised her hands as though to push him aside, then dropped them to her hips when he didn’t budge.
     “I just need a few minutes of your time.”
      She held out a hand, palm up.
     “You, monsieur, wish my time. You will pay for it.” She wiggled her fingers.
     He narrowed his eyes. He didn’t know what game this woman played. A moment ago she’d participated in a steaming kiss just as much as he had, and now she wanted paid for her time?
     “Now listen here, I’m not paying to talk to you.”
     “But, monsieur, you did more than talk when you,” her face blushed prettily, “dragged me into this room.”
     “I only did that to keep you from screaming.”
     “Screaming? I did not scream.” She cocked her head to one side as though sizing him up.
     “You were about to.”
     “Non. You took lee-ber-tees.”
     He ran a hand over his face. Was she about to scream or did he take liberties? Now, he wasn’t so sure he didn’t kiss her because he’d been thinking of it all night as she flirted with Lamont.
That was the cold water he needed. Knowing she’d been with Lamont moments before.
     “I need you to do me a favor.”
     There she went with the palm and waggling fingers, again.
     “I don’t need that kind of favor.” He pulled his badge out of his vest pocket. “I’m a U.S. Marshal.”
     Her eyes widened, and her full lips formed a perfect ‘O’ before she uttered in her breathy sigh, “But monsieur, surely I have done nothing wrong.”
     Her seductive voice and eyes feigning innocence played havoc with his control. He knew she flirted. He felt it in every inch of his body. And damn if he didn’t want to flirt back.
     “I’d say working in this place gives me grounds to suspect…” She stepped closer, pressing her body against his and igniting desires he’d held at bay the last three years.
     “S’il vous plait, do not take me to your jail. I would get cold and lonely there.” She ran her hands up his chest and looped them around his neck, stretching her body the full length of him.
     He wrapped his hands around her waist, holding her against him. His body responded to her unlike any other woman. He rested his forehead on hers and took a deep breath.
     Business. He had to keep this a business arrangement. For her sake. And his.

Paty Jager


  1. Yay, Paty! Truly, that's the ultimate compliment. And great excerpt, too.

  2. Thanks Jacquie! I try very hard to "know" a place even if I can't be there.

  3. Your research sounds like it was fun, Paty. I am very fortunate to live where I put my stories. One of the things I enjoy was goin inside a real gold mine tunnel. It was amazing to smell, hear and feel what it was really like. The one thing I got fingers wagged at me was really fun. I went into a bar with a nasty reputation during the morning when they were cleaning up. You'd have thought I'd committed murder when I told my boss. I'd walked past it running an errand for her. Actually, the young couple cleaning took me around the room pointing out stuff and then showed me into the back. I could feel the sticky floor, see the smooth bar, etc. I have used it in two stories now. AND, surprisingly, my reputation is still intact. ;)

  4. Paty, I'm not surprised you were pleased. What a wonderful compliment for all your hard work. How long did the actual research take?

  5. Paisley,, I prefer to see and feel the settings but this particular story wanted to be set in Montana and I couldn't get there. It is fun to experience things out of your norm and use the excuse of research. ;)

  6. Hi Shelley, I spent about a month researching and gathering information before I started the book then as I wrote there was ongoing information coming in that I'd requested and some that came up along the way.

  7. The research you do for your books prove to be worthwhile in many ways as I love your books and also can learn from them. Thanks for all the hard work and continue getting those books out. susan Leech

  8. Excellent advice. I've been researching a town by reading books and so forth, never thought of the historial society, even though I live in the town I'm writing about. Thanks for the tip. Marian

  9. You must have been thrilled by the compliment and the fact that your research really shone through for you.

  10. Hi Susan! Thank you for enjoying my books.

  11. Marybelle, I was thrilled the reader thought I'd been to the town. It validated all the work I do to make a setting ring true.

  12. Paty--I think we love to write Western Historicals because we are born researchers. My education was in the sciences, and I wrote research papers.Now, like you, I spend hours. Today I researched my topic for my next SOTW topic, and yes, pretty much spent all afternoon. Not that I'll use all of it--very little in fact...but, oh, my it was fun.
    Congratulations on your release. It does sound like a wonderful book.
    Me? I try not to use real towns--but invent a town and area near a real town. But I did use Austin in Texas Promise and Texas True...and that research kept me entertained for days!

  13. Thanks for all the tips on researching. You do an amazing job on the research for your books.

    I like the spicy excerpt from your book!

  14. Celia, I like using real towns because it is giving the reader a chance to learn the history about the place and it makes me have more research to do. ;)

  15. Paty,
    Good to know about contacting someone from the historical society. We authors should all do that. I once read a western historical about El Paso, Texas that was so far from the truth about the people and history of the town that it took me out of the story. It doesn't take that much time to read and research. I tend to forget what time it is though when I'm researching. ;-) Love the excerpt!

  16. I agree Jeanmarie, There's nothing worse than reading a book that doesn't ring true to the history of a place. Glad you liked the excerpt. It was fun to write. ;)

  17. Paty, that is a wonderful compliment, but I know how much time you spend on research. Having it validated is a wonderful surprise, isn't it?

    I loved the excerpt and now HAVE to buy the book.

  18. Great ideas to research settings, Paty! And what a nice compliment. :)

    Also an interesting excerpt. Hope you sell lots of copies!

  19. Thanks for stopping in and the good wishes, Genene.


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