Let it hereby be known that Cantata in Coral and Ivory by L. Shelby (aka Yours Truly) is now available for purchase at Air Castle Media and Amazon. And maybe other places too that I don’t know about yet.
The fact that I do research seemed to be very important to my reviewer/interviewer for Across a Jade Sea over at Underground Book Reviews who asked about it both in the interview and earlier when informing me that they would be posting a review.
I wasn’t sure how to reply exactly. A reading list* didn’t seem too appropriate. Besides, compared to many historical authors I don’t do that much research. Perhaps more to the point: I do research differently. I’m not usually trying to re-create anything specific, I’m just trying to learn, to understand — I figure the better I am at understanding this world, the more real my own worlds will feel.
So, for instance, in the interest of understanding I currently have this big thick book on the 30 Year’s War out of the library. Which is almost ironic, because it’s a war that wracked the Holy Roman Empire, several decades after the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in the alternate history world the story I’m “researching” is set in. But it was a book about roughly the right time-period and the right part of the world for a story that’s only a handful of titles away in the queue, and so I’m reading it to try and gain a better understanding of that time and place. I don’t care about who fought who where, and who died, or any of those nity-gritty details. But I do care about the reasons why they were fighting, the social pressures, the culture, the economic factors… that kind of stuff. (Plus: a war that started with some people getting thrown out a window, so all throughout the war people kept making references to throwing people out of windows. Lovely! It’ll probably be some other book entirely, but I’m certain I can get some story mileage out of that tidbit somwhere.)
Anyway, my daughters look at this big, thick, undoubtedly dry history book about a war, of all things, and then stare at me like “Mom, we always knew you were nuts”, but my oldest son goes “Oh, cool! I might want to look at that one when you’re done with it.” Chacun a son gout!
Similarly, I just scored as a library discard for 25 cents an entire book on the construction and architecture of the Hagia Sophia with lots of pictures and diagrams and such. My most writerly daughter sees me pick it up and says “You know Mom, I look at these books you get and they just look so boring. I’d rather just google stuff.” I use google too. But IMHO its best for getting a very basic overview, or for finding a specific fact. For gaining an understanding of a topic there’s nothing to beat finding a good book on the subject and reading it.
Not that I know why I need to understand the architecture of the Hagia Sophia… but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it eventually. Besides, only 25 cents!
* According to LibraryThing where I have been attempting to track my reading for the past five years or so, I read the following books specifically as research for Across a Jade Sea. (This list is probably incomplete, and does not include related fiction, internet research, or movies/documentaries watched):
Diesel’s Engine: From Conception to 1918 by C. Lyle Cummins Jr.
The Complete Titanic: From the Ship’s Earliest Blueprints to the Epic Film by Stephen J. Spignesi SS Leviathan: America’s First Superliner by Brent Holt
Picture History of the Normandie: With 190 Illustrations by Frank O. Braynard
The Small-Engine Handbook by Peter Hunn
Ancient Chinese Warfare by Ralph D. Sawyer
A Concise History of China, J. A. G. Roberts
A Thousand Pieces of Gold by Adeline Yen Mah
Old outboard motor service manual. Vol.1
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain**
Why did I read these particular books? Because they were what I could find at my library. As I said, I don’t do historical research like someone who is trying to re-create history –it’s not worth it to me to spend money hunting down rare primary sources or obscure facts. I’m going to be making up everything. So I just need to understand. How does a diesel engine work, what did the integration of diesel technology look like and how did it compare to the existing steam tech? What were its advantages and disadvantages compared to the gas-burning engines that were also being invented and introduced at the same time? What did a marine diesel engine of the era look like? What did the big passenger-liners look like? Who travelled on them, and why? Who worked on them, and how were they operated? The Chinese history, of course, was for inspiration in creating Chunru’s country–which definitely isn’t China, but it’s probably more like China than anywhere else on Earth. Small motors and outboard motors… well, if you’ve read the book you’ll know why.
There’s also everything I’ve ever read that was useful BEFORE I got the idea for this story (and which predated me recording my reading on LibraryThing). For example, I’ve also read a book on medieval clockwork, one about a journey across the ocean on a balsa raft, several books on pirates, a bunch more on particular aspects of various Asian cultures (there were five or six of those from when I was “researching” for Cantata and Pavane), on European history (an area of ongoing importance, I can list some of the more recent of those if anyone cares), on Language and Linguistics (another ongoing interest) etc, etc.
Also, never being afraid of stuff that looks old, I have read many fictional works that were written in the time period that Across a Jade Sea is set in. That might have been the biggest help of all.
** Yeah, okay, it’s the wrong time period, but still… non-fiction, journey by steamboat around Europe and the Holy Lands. Plus: Mark Twain. So I figured, why not?
In My Head Theatre had been running scenes from the “Spy Guy” story from my Opera Magique world, but now that I seem to have got a reasonably complete plot put together, it’s been switching things up a bit. Today it was the Across a Jade Sea sequel featuring Batiya’s oldest brother. (Don’t get excited, anyone. I won’t be writing it any time soon. It isn’t even in the queue yet.)
Working out plot points for the “Spy Guy” story in advance seems reasonably benign — with the flex of a totally rewritten history to work in, I don’t think further research into Germany circa 1700 is going to destroy a plot about a bunch of smallish political entities vying for control of a magical item.
But do I really know enough about the technical challenges facing an Army Engineer in WWI/WWII to be able to put that kind of a plot together at this point?
I’ve actually been doing remarkably well this summer… as compared to, say, last summer and the summer before that. I’ve been hoping this was because I’m stronger and fitter than I was last summer, but it might just be because this summer has been cooler, or something.
But although I’ve stayed pretty active (for me) for most of the summer, for the past couple weeks my energy levels dropped severely, and so I feel like I haven’t been getting anything done.
This is slightly illusory. I do get some stuff done, just not as much, and not the stuff I feel like I’m supposed to be doing. For example, I have set up worldbuilding databases for three of my daughters. The databases have places to store characters, events, and locations. And include the capability to show dates according to an imaginary calendar (assuming it’s not too complicated… no leap days, for example), to display character images on character sheets, to place locations on a map by clicking on it, to assign certain events and characters to certain stories, and to dynamically build family trees and personal timelines.
(This isn’t as impressive as it sounds… I already had created those capabilities for myself, so all I had to do was alter the website code I was already using, so that it would work for multiple people each with their own separate database.)
But even so, I’ve been spending far more time watching tv and playing solitaire than I’m really happy with, and it’s been a bit of a relief that I’ve actually managed to get work done on my primary project these past two days. Yay!
As a final aside, I think I’ve figured out why sometimes my post cross-poster doesn’t cross-post. One of my other plugins was conflicting. Apparently all I have to do to fix it, is to repost the post… but sometimes I forget.
I haven’t been on my computer much recently. First it was because my sister was visiting. After that, I guess my story-teller’s itch got to be too much for me, and I switched from working on covers to doing revisions to the Blood Price (Black Flag 2) storyboards, and I do that with a pencil and paper rather than stylus and pixels.
The thing with my Black Flag storyboards is that they are deliberately not good drawings. (The kids call them my scribbles). I don’t want to spend any time making them look good because there is no point — they’re just there to help me figure out how to layout the 3D art. Besides, I don’t want any inner resistance to making changes. Scribbling is a deliberate choice. But apparently after a week of scribbling there’s something in me that starts feeling… defensive. I find myself thinking “I really can draw better than this. Really. I could make this look nicer if I tried. Really.”
So I ended up doing a couple not-so-ugly sketches to reassure myself that, yes, my storyboards would be a lot less ugly if I was actually trying to make them not-ugly. ::rolls eyes::
The thing I hate: the little voice inside me that as soon as I decide to share the sketches, starts saying, “Just because they’re not as ugly as your storyboards, doesn’t mean they’re actually good.” Grrr. Shuddup, you stupid voice! I’m just sharing the silly things, I’m not trying to sell them. (And even if I was, if people didn’t think they were good enough, they wouldn’t have to buy!)
Somewhat ironically, given how rarely I post in my own blog, I have just had a guest blog go up on Book View Cafe
It’s about how to make up slang for your invented cultures.
There are some other things that happened last week that I probably should have posted about. (And I would have if I didn’t have so many things happening at once!)
Lets see… I’ve been married two dozen years, now. There’s a nice number. I still haven’t had my anniversary dinner with my husband, however — life has been interfering.
My concertina and I went to a folk sing-a-long. They sing out of folk “Hymnals”, so I can usually follow along with the chords on my concertina. It’s fun, and great practice.
The brakes on our car died. Since we had been planning to replace it, we did that rather than having them repaired, and I am now co-owner of a vehicle (mini-van, seats 7) that is about half the age of our previous one. (So just over ten years old, instead of just over twenty.)
I joined an online tatting guild (tatting is my new hobby), posted pictures of stuff I was working on, and was asked to share the pattern for the little tatted dragon pendants I had invented. I did so, and had bunches of people wanting to try make them. So I have not only blogged, and I have been blogged about: here is one tatter’s take on my pattern (I’m linking to the central of three post so far.)
And here is the original: