I knew it had to be original because, of course, I had just thought of it, and no one could have thought of this particular idea before. I knew there was very little written on the subject because, of course, I have read everything about the Old West. And, I knew it would make a great story because, of course, I loved it. Then reality set in, and along with it a large dose of doubt. I had to ask myself if the idea was really original? Did I have a handle on the subject? Could I write it the way I wanted it to be written? And when I thought about it objectively, I had to say "No." This is where I was two years ago when I decided to write my non-fiction book The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West. So how did my idea become my book? Research.
The first thing I did was find every book on the subject that was still in print and complete a market analysis. My market analysis included the title, author, pages, readership, what part of the subject was covered, when it was published, if it still available, and the slant. Next I started collecting articles. I subscribed to Jstor, the Newspaper Archives, WorldCat, multiple historical societies, and several state and federal information sites. This journey alone took me four months.
Once I gathered my information, I reviewed it--all of it--piece by piece to see if the market could use another book on the subject. I decided it did. Now the real research began. I sent for copies of government documents such as the original camel diaries written in 1857 and Ned Beale's journal when he used camels to build his wagon road. I studied the history of the forts in the southwest, the survey parties that created the official maps of that time, the maps, archived drawings, artist's paintings and renderings, soldier's diaries, and newspaper articles announcing the camel's arrival. Then, I studied the camel itself. I learned about its physiology, characteristics, and mannerisms. Then I met one, helped feed and groom it. Finally, I contacted an expert--Doug Baum. Doug was the one person that I knew had more knowledge about the history of the importation of camels than I did because he was actually reliving the great camel explorations in Texas. His information, experience, and photographs from his reenactments were invaluable.
My entire research journey and the birth of my book took just over a year--and I have a full file cabinet to prove it. I was lucky, my idea came full circle. My book was published in March 2014. As an added bonus, I've been privileged to write several articles on the subject. The latest one appeared in the February issue of Guardian Angel Kids under the title "Camels of the Old West"http://www.guardian-angel-kids.com/02-015-3Dflip/index.html.