For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Researching my writing: I have spoken, in the past, about how I go about researching my tales. I have mentioned building a research library, for example, back in A Life Of Fiction XXV (that post now seems a very long time ago). You can scroll down to find that particular post (honest, it is there).
I do not only rely on books which I have purchased for data for my works, though. I wish that I could, as it would make things a lot easier. But I would probably end up needing more books than I could fit into my home. I would have to add rooms, and my landlords, the local council, would probably have conniptions if I tried to do something like that.
If I cannot discover what I need in my books, or the copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica which I have on my computer, then I am reduced to going on the internet. As I am not actually online at home this has to be done around a friend’s house – a very good friend, who doesn’t mind me trawling through the internet on his computer once a week.
The main problem which I have with the internet – apart from not always being able to find the information which I need – is the provenance of the information out there. With published books a certain amount of fact-checking naturally goes on. But this is not necessarily the case with internet websites. You have to be cautious, because of that.
I am currently in the planning stages of a horror (rather than gas-lamp fantasy) novel called Doctor Crow. The novel may or may not get completed, although, ideally, I like to complete every project which I have begun.
The novel will be set in the 1930s, and the action will take place in Kirtland, Ohio. The novel will be a fictionalised account of the legend of the creation of the melonheads, by the supposed eponymous protagonist of my work: Dr Crow. It will not be an account of the legend, or an attempt at divining any sort of historical truth out of the myths and legends of that part of America.
You might think that, since it is a work of horror, that it is less important whether I get the facts right on places like Kirtland than if I was writing a non-fiction book. But I suspect that the people of Kirtland might disagree with such a point of view.
I want to know precisely what the local legend is, if I am drawing on it as a source. I want to know what the layout of Kirtland was like in the 1930s. I want to know what sites existed, and which did not. I want something which evokes the place, even if my writing is not one hundred percent correct.
On my first search I did not find all of the information which I sought. Perhaps it is out there, but hidden on page 354,687 of my search engine. Or maybe somebody has not bothered to yet put all of the data on the internet.
That is a phenomenon which I have encountered in the past, while researching my Tibet supplement for the Gas-Lamp Fantasy Role-Playing Game. There are lung-gom-pa runners, who are supposed to run at high speeds for days on end. I have read articles on them, a long time ago, in a book on Tibet. I know that the book is no longer extant at my local library, so I turned to Bing, my favoured search engine. But I only found around half a dozen sites: and some of those were merely a repetition of information on others of the six.
That is just one extreme example. But I could list others, such as…
On beginning research for my Doctor Crow novel I looked up the Dorr E Felt Mansion on Wikipedia, as that place was supposed to be one of the locations where melonheads had been seen, in the past. But, the entire information was (and this is a direct quote from the site):
The Felt Mansion is a house located in Holland, Michigan. It was built by Dorr Felt as a summer home for his wife Agnes, completed in 1928. According to legend, the mansion is a place where melon heads lived.
The article was what is called a stub. I could go on the internet again, and trawl through other sites, looking for more information. But, as the place is a long way away from Kirtland, the Dorr E Felt Mansion will probably not make it into my horror novel.
Anyway, I don’t want to write something, and (self)publish it, only to discover that it is incorrect; or that certain details are wrong. I don’t want angry emails from the residents of a small American town.
So if I strike out in my little research library at home, and I strike out on the internet, then I go along to my local library, and look for the information there. Luckily I am very familiar with the Dewey Decimal system. Unfortunately, as I have said in a past blog, my local library is much reduced. Twenty years ago I know that I could have found whatever it was that I was looking for, whether details on yetis / sasquatch around the world, myths and legends of the South Seas, or firearms of the late nineteenth century. But, now, the chances are that I probably won’t find what I need.
Perhaps I am being a little critical of the internet here. In the past I have found it to be very useful, especially for some of my gas-lamp fantasy works. Don’t expect any kind of panegyric, here, but here are some of the sites which I have found to be useful in the past:
https://en.wikipedia.org Yeah, you all know this one.
http://arcane-archive.org/ For stuff on magic.
http://www.luckymojo.com For ideas on hoodoo magic.
http://www.victorianlondon.org Obviously, stuff on Victorian London. Useful to both role-players and novelists.
http://www.victorianweb.org Stuff on the Victorian age. This was useful in planning the Gas-Lamp Fantasy RPG.
http://www.archive.org I found a useful American price list from Victorian times on this site.
As I write this blog all of those links are good. Apologies if, by the time you read this, any of them are dead links. There was also an old copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica which was on the net for free – 1911, I believe it was. It was a little later than the period of a lot of my stories, but it was a useful fact-checker. Unfortunately, it appears to have disappeared from the internet, alas.
There are a lot of other sites which I have dipped into, sometimes just for a single fact or idea. Apologies if you have not been mentioned, but I only retain a small amount of material on my computer.
That’s the end of this post. I will retreat back into my house, and plan something interesting to say next time.