Writing Research and Resources

Or a Bibliography, if you’d like to be technical about it. Some of these books have probably landed me on Homeland Security’s Watch List, but since they already know I bought it, I might as well blab to everyone else about it. Ah, the many bizarre routes a writer takes to understand something to paint a believable picture.


The Academy of Saint Gabriel – this is a group of volunteers who are totally insane (well, they ARE Scadians) who do nothing but comb through books and lists, looking for medieval names that occurred between roughly 650 CE and 1650 CE, then compiling those names into lists based on country and time period. Truly demented. And lovely.

Colonial North American Project at Harvard University – this is a project in which they’ve been digitizing letters from the great to the mundane (17th and 18th centuries) and posting them out there for everyone to see. Some of it is quite hilarious given what we were taught about in the classrooms and the assumptions we’ve drawn from that. But all of it is real. Which means it’s research. Which means it’s okay for a nerd like myself to lose several hours at a clip in there.  Because it’s research.

Copyright – the United States legalese regarding copyright and why one may or may not want it in one’s Front or Back matter.


HowDunIt Collection – My only complaint is the spelling and grammar mistakes. There aren’t a ton, and they don’t absolutely destroy the information, but they are obvious and distracting. And irritating. The publishing company is Writer’s Digest Books, so one would think they’d have caught them during editing, but that’s just a personal thought. Other than that, these books are fun and useful. In a kinda morbid and depressing sort of way.

HowDunIt Collection Book of Poisons, A Guide for Writers, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-456-9  – *squeeeeaaaaallll!!!!* Not a short book but I read the whole thing. This book is totally awesome. And scary. But still awesome.

HowDunIt Collection Forensics, A Guide for Writers, 2008; ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-474-3  – Dry and lacks the mood lighting from the cop shows, but still chock full of useful stuff. An easy read, but not short.

HowDunIt Collection Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide for Writers, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-455-2  – This was a surprisingly easy read for how much detail was put into it, from the start of a cop’s career in training through street cops, prisons and what they don’t like about the CSI shows.

The Writer’s Guide to Psychology, 2010; ISBN: 978-1-884995-98-2  – A very broad swipe across the world of shrinks and mental disorders. A good pocket guide, but don’t think you’ll be diagnosing anybody. A good place to start so you know if you want your character to be slightly off-kilter or full batshit crazy and what symptoms would be most likely prevalent.

Body Trauma – A Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries, 2006; ISBN 978-1-933016-41-2  – Broad swipe for ER and general wound scenes. I found it a useful addition to my current knowledge base (Certified Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, once upon a time), and a good inside look at hospital ER’s, which my Mom the surgical nurse probably found a relief since I stopped pestering her about “What’s it like for XXX?”

European Medieval Tactics (1), The Fall and Rise of Cavalry 450-1260, 2011; ISBN 978-1-84908-503-8  –  Anyone who has made a serious study of medieval warfare will cal this the extremely abbreviated Cliff Notes version, but for those of us who aren’t really planning on harassing the flank of someone’s salient, it’s okey-dokey to get an idea of how things work on the field.

Medieval Warfare in Manuscripts, 2000; ISBN 0-7123-4662-7  – More Cliff Notes, but with pictures! Lots of pictures.

Medieval Warfare – A History, 1999; ISBN 0-19-820639-9  – This is actually a collection of papers written on different topics regarding war in the medieval era. Naval warfare, cavalry, infantry, the Middle East, Europe, etc. Each chapter feels a bit like a college level lecture in which you try to understand what the hell the instructor is babbling on about because you know they’ll be a quiz on it next class.

The Complete Illustrated History of Knights and Crusades, 2013; ISBN 978-1-4651-4861-1  – Ah… well… lots of pictures. And very small font. And it’s heavy enough to put in a pillowcase and beat someone to death with it. And it felt a bit like the book itself was beating me to death at one point. Not gospel by any stretch of the imagination, but good for a rough baseline. Did I mention the tiny font?

Life in a Medieval Castle, 1974; ISBN 0-06-090674-3  – This book was so much fun! Seriously. I’m a nerd that way. (Don’t judge me.) It had a lot of little tidbits about daily life in the castle that most people aren’t aware of.

The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, 1987; ISBN 0-14-051152-0  – Oh, Jesus, Ishtar and Buddha. I know where my countries and continents are (Okay, roughly. I don’t know exactly where Uzbekistan is, but I have a reasonable idea that puts it in the right neighborhood.) but damn, this book was a challenge to keep up with, despite its small size. Possibly because of it’s small size.The reader is expected to have a very firm grasp of all world war events from West of present day China to Portugal, and Finland to South Egypt from about 400 CE to 1480 CE. Not impossible, but not easy if you’re going for comprehension.

Castles – Their Construction and History, 1984, ISBN 0-486-24898-4  – This book requires a good dictionary. There are words in it that are simply not used in common conversation and are not explained, like ashlar, but are an important part of castle construction sometimes. Really busts the American bubble of “living in a castle” romance. And oh-so-dry. I could only read 2-5 pages a day before I had to stop and moisturize for 24 hours.

The Medieval Fortress, 2004, ISBN 978-306-81358-0 – I really should’ve read this book first and then Castles (above). This book expects that you don’t have the vocabulary and it provides a lot of illustrations. The only pet peeve I had about this was that some of their illustrations have numbers next to each aspect of the fortress, but the list of numbers with names and explanations didn’t have all the numbers as were given in the illustration.

Everyday Life in the 1800s – A Guide for Writers, Students and Historians, 1993, ISBN 1-58297-063-7 – I really enjoyed this book. It’s chaptered out by topic (Money, Transportation, etc) and then definitions for terms are given in alphabetical order, complete with usage examples culled from period sources.

Manners and Morals of Victorian America, 2009, ISBN 978-1-883206-54-3 – This was cute, but irritating in that it listed out things could very well be period accurate clippings from advice columns in magazines, but the vast majority of the items aren’t documented as to their source.

National Geographic Nomads of the World, 1971, ISBN 87044-098-5 – Interesting. It covers a number of dying cultures and a few of their peculiarities.

National Geographic Gypsies, Wanderers of the World, 1970, ISBN 87044-088-8 – A number of currently published books addressing the Rom mention they’ve almost no cultural memory of the suffering their people endured during the Holocaust (which they call The Devouring), but a number of the stories cultivated for this book talk directly with concentration camp survivors. Also addresses some of the cultural quirks, but not nearly all of them.

Fighting Techniques of Naval Warfare 1190 BC to Present, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4351-4533-7 – Okay, yes, it’s written for the layman and as such it has lots and lots of pictures, but I still learned a lot that *gasp* Hollywood and common historical gossip get wrong.

Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World AD 500-1500, 2005, ISBN 978-1-4351-4535-1 – More layman fluffiness with pictures, but it doesn’t gloss over some of the nastiness of siege warfare.

Freemasons for Dummies, 2005, ISBN 978-0-7645-9796-1 – Shut up, Dummies books have their place. It lays out a lot of the history and the baseline for some of the BS that floats around today, along with a basic layout of structure and formality and offices and all that. Which I needed to know for a story, so it did the job. Since my husband is a Mason and gave me this book instead of answering my questions, I’ll take a chance that it might be legit.

The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force (RAF at War) – I found this book to be really helpful in terms of behind the scenes, what goes on with the technology and the political decisions for its use as well as build-up and failures of the technology and personnel, deployment and so forth. The e-version I’ve linked to doesn’t have maps, but it’s good for nerds who like to read about what really happened and then extrapolate when they want to build their own wartime worlds from there. Dry, but informative and enough to keep me going without having to frequently moisturize.

Silent Witnesses, 2013, ISBN 978-1-61373-002-7 – I found the cases referenced to illustrate the advancement of police investigation and forensics interesting, but other than that, it was a quick summation in really broad strokes. I personally got more out of the HowDunIt collection.

Working Stiff, 2014, 978-1-4767-2726-4 – I really liked the first hand account from a  medical examiner’s perspective. This being said, I didn’t like the layout – I would have preferred a chronological layout as opposed to the “Death By XXX” chapter layout as presented here, but I con understand why they chose to do it that way.

What Every Body Is Saying, 2008, 978-0-06-143829-5 – This is one I’ll have to read a few times because of the sheer amount of information that can be pulled out of a single gesture. While not definitive (and definitely geared more towards American body language than other cultures), it gives the reader an idea about body language and the tiny tells you may be missing.

Sun Tzu The Art of War, 1963, 0-19-501540-1 – Nearly 3/4 of this book is not the translation of the Chinese document, but the translator putting the work into a historical/cultural context for the reader. Which is both good and bad – Good because it helps to understand the mindset of the writer and the period in which the document was originally composed. Bad because after a while you want to skip pages and just get to the translation already. The translation itself is pretty good, although the cultural mindset this is coming from requires some meditation/study upon each section. You can’t just speed read this one and say “I got it.”

Criminal Justice Through the Ages, 1981, (English translation) – this is a book put out by the Criminal Justice Museum in Germany, so it’s about the evolution of German law from roughly the Roman time period through about the 19th century, with more information being from the 12th to 19th centuries. Enlightening and even somewhat frightening.

The Malleus Maleficarum, 1971, 0-486-22802-9 – A lot of people don’t realize this but the Inquisition wasn’t formally ended by the Catholic Church until the 1960’s. Originally written in the 15th century, this document reveals a lot of the superstitious psychology of the day, complete with incredibly circular arguments that contradict themselves unless the vigorous application of mental gymnastics is applied. Not lightweight reading, but very telling of an era.

The Complete Illustrated History of Knives, Swords, Spears and Daggers, 2014, 978-1-4351-4860-4 – Not complete, and there are errors, but given the monumental task involved in creating this tome, some of it can certainly be forgiven. LOTS of pictures. A good place for the layman to start and a nice collection of weapons are represented from around the world.


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