Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Children's Author, Nancy M. Bell, Talks About Book Research

Today, my guest is MuseItUp Publishing author and editor, Nancy M. Bell.  Nancy recently released the first in her upcoming series, Laurel's Miracle.  I was enchanted by the story and intrigued by all the history in the story.  I asked Nancy to share her approach to research for this work.

In Search of Laurel - My Journey Into Research

I can honestly say I did more research for Laurel’s Miracle than I have done for anything I have ever written. That being said, I loved every minute of it and had to keep reminding myself not to get so caught up in the research I forgot I was writing a book.

Laurel’s Miracle is set in Cornwall, England. Some place I have never set foot in this lifetime, okay maybe on my honeymoon when we took the train from London to Plymouth in order to catch the ferry to Calais. I don’t think that counts though, I was twenty and not thinking about standing stones or earth energy lines at that point in my life.

I spent hours combing the Internet for information, more time and money on Amazon, first researching what books to buy and then purchasing them. Next came hours of reading said books and deciding what bits I could use in my story.

I love the legends surrounding Glastonbury and the Tor, but my gut kept taking me back to Cornwall for this story. So, I decided to use the earth energy lines known as the Michael and Mary lines which cross the Cornish Peninsula from southwest to northeast. The line continues on to Glastonbury and East Anglia, hitting most of the significant stone circles and monuments on its way. The perfect path for my questers to follow, I thought.

I have reams of information which I find fascinating but couldn’t fit it into the story Laurel’s Miracle needed to tell. I’m sure there are more adventures where I can utilize my store of information. The plot is helped along by some mythical magical creatures, a Cornish Piskie-think Scottish Brownie here, a sea monster who is kin to the Loch Ness Monster only mine can fly. I brought a Scottish Selkie south to Cornwall and gave him a home in a cove between Lands End and Sennen, and then I threw in some Arthurian legend and leavened it with some ancient gods and goddesses of the land. This involved another huge load of research, which ones to use and what role could they play?

Cornwall is steeped in traditions which stretch back centuries, the Hobby Horse Festival in Padstow on May Day is one I used, there are so many more. Tom Babcock’s Day in Mousehole near Christmas, Newlyn Fish Festival, Golowan Festival and Mazey Day. I couldn’t use them all in Laurel’s Miracle but I’m sure they’ll surface somewhere.

While Laurel and her friends try to unravel the riddle they visit many of the ancient stone works that abound on the Penwith Peninsula. As they went, I tried to include as much educational information as I could without sounding like I was reciting a history lesson. I allowed the three native Cornish children to introduce Laurel to the stories and magic which lives in the very soil of the Cornish landscape. I managed to weave quite a bit of information regarding the festivals, the stones, earth energy lines and legends as Laurel and her company find their way to Glastonbury and the culmination of the journey.  If anyone is interested please feel free to email me and I can provide you with a list of my sources of information. I will name a few of the ones I found most useful here: The Sun and The Serpent by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst Penwith Press, Avalon of The Heart by Dion Fortune, The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins, the work of John Michell, also the works of Frederick Bligh Bond. Google Earth also proved to be an invaluable tool, surprisingly enough.

I could go on and on, but I must not bore you so I will shut down the flood gates of my enthusiasm and thank Penny for having me here today. I have enjoyed myself immensely reminiscing with you about my own journey through the rich landscape of research.
Contact info   Laurel’s Miracle Book Page at MuseItUp Publishing


Laurel sat on Lamorna and gazed across the moor as it ran toward the sea.  It was so much like her beloved Alberta prairie, except the prairie ran to the mountains.  Like the sea, the mountains had a power and life of their own; they were, after all, the bones of the earth.   The pony lowered her nose to the grass and took advantage of her rider’s preoccupation with the country before her.  This is Arthur’s land, she remembered Sarie telling her, echoing what Coll said earlier in the day, but it belonged to itself long before Arthur was born.
            Laurel liked the idea of that. The country stretching before her seemed to shimmer with a life force which had nothing to do with what humans did or did not do to it.  She tugged gently on the reins and pulled the pony’s head out of grass. The wind coming across the moor from the sea carried music with it. It wasn’t a familiar music, but she seemed to follow the notes all the same.  It was a mixture of old cowboy songs sung around the campfire to keep the night at bay. It carried the shiver of mystery from the ancient stone works dotting the Cornish peninsula.  There was fiddle and harp and drum and guitar and harmonica. The music called up bird song, the voice of the sea, and the bass voice of the rock itself that held up the land. She could hear the reverberating sound of the bells in the lost land of Lyonnesse out past Land’s End.  She could hear words that were somehow inside her head and also part of the wind. The sound vibrated through the pony’s hooves and into Laurel.

“The land lies dreaming under the sun,
So much different it is,
So much the same it is.
All things are one when the day is won.”

            “Come and get some grub!” Coll’s voice broke through her reverie.
Laurel slid down from Lamorna’s broad back and led her over to the other ponies.  She removed Lamorna’s bridle, slipped on her head collar and left her with the other ponies to graze. She dropped down onto the grassy turf and took a ham sandwich from the pile Aisling set out. Everyone was silent while they devoured the sandwiches and cookies, which they washed down with sweet tea.
Once they were full, Laurel pulled the little book about the dragon line out of the waistband of her jeans.  She handed it to Coll, who looked at it in surprise.
“Where did you find this?” 
“Ash and I found it yesterday on Sarie’s book shelf.  I read it last night, and I think it confirms what you said about the dragon line cutting across Cornwall. See what you think.”
Coll skimmed through the pages and whistled softly between his teeth.  He handed the book to Gort who took it eagerly.
“It does seem to agree with what we found out yesterday,” Gort said.
“I think so, too,” Coll said.
The group was silent for a time; each following their own line of thinking with regard to the book and the dragon line. 
Finally, Coll got to his feet and stretched. “We should get a move on if we want to be back before dark.” He moved over to the ponies to bridle Arthur.
            The girls collected the bits of litter and the remains of their lunch, stuffing them back into the saddlebags.  In just a few minutes, they were all headed down the track back toward home.  The sun was warm on Laurel’s back making her sleepy.
            “Let’s trot!” She set off at a brisk pace with the wind at her back.  The others followed suit, and soon Laurel forgot about riddles and her mom’s cancer. She soaked in the feel of Lamorna underneath her and the sound of all the ponies’ hooves drumming the soft earth.  The wind lifted her hair and tossed it forward over her face. The ponies’ tails and manes were black streamers ribboning in the shifting currents.
             She laughed in exhilaration. All the ponies quickened their pace until they were cantering down the track two abreast.  In no time at all, they were at Sarie’s gate and turning down her lane.  Sarie came out of the cottage to meet them as they trooped past the kitchen.
            “I was starting to worry you wouldn’t get home before full dark,” Sarie said as she opened the gate to the pony field for them.
            Laurel glanced at the dusky sky. “We went a little further than we planned.”


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it is an interesting book. Enjoyed learning about the research you did for the book.