I’m currently working on the first draft on the next book in my Kingdom of Haven series.  Unlike the previous books, this one is set in a coastal setting—lots of water and ships, and I also plan to have a canal system for transportation inland.  I’ve done my research on the sailing vessels, but hadn’t worked out the canals yet.  I envisioned canal boats pulled by mules.  I had heard of such a system in the past, but didn’t really know many details.  It was on my list of things to research.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon how you look at it, much of my research is done online.  While I’d love to travel to exotic locations to do first-hand research on various topics, I haven’t found a rich benefactor to pay my way.  I think it is much easier to describe something in your writing when you get to experience it first-hand.

So, as I said, I was planning to do some research on canals when out of the blue, the hands-on experience fell into my lap.   I travel frequently for work, and for the past two weeks I’ve been in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  On the weekend in between, my wife and I had the chance to visit some friends near Bethlehem, PA.  They knew we liked historical sites, and suggested we visit the National Canal Museum in Easton, PA.Image

To be honest, I was floored when our friend mentioned it.  Was this a coincidence?  This is a working section of a canal that originally opened for business in 1829.  It is not just a canal, but they also have a canal boat that is pulled by a pair of mules just as the boats were pulled in the past.


View of mules’ best side from boat

So I was happier than any kid in a candy store.  Not only did I get to see an awesome historical site, I got to do hands-on research for my next novel, and I got to ride a boat.


If you’re ever near Easton, PA and have a few hours to kill, I definitely recommend visiting The National Canal Museum. 

National Canal Museum

2750 Hugh Moore Park Road

Easton, PA 18042


And remember, even if you can’t afford a trip to Europe or the orient to research your next book, there could be a research opportunity in your own back yard, or maybe one of your friend’s.