I’m much better today. Yesterday I had to come home early from work and get some sleep because a proto-cold was knocking me up, and I wasn’t handling it well. I had a stuffy nose and soar throat, and I felt as if my energy reserves were below zero. After sleep, rest, and medication I seem better today, and I’m doing my best to stay warm.
Even though I did some editing last night–and managed to finish a scene and a Part to Kolor Ijo–I pretty much took it easy. Which means I’m ready to answer another reader question. And this one comes from Skye Hegyes, who asks:
You use many things I’d love to hear more about, but recently the one that has me the most curious is the research involved to find out where everything is (place-wise) in your stories, what the weather is like certain days, and things like that. Sometimes it drives me nuts. I see all your screen shots and I’m like, “How did she find this out?!?” It would be a cool thing to learn. I am good at research, but nowhere near as good as you. Tips of the trade would be awesome.
I’ve been asked about research in the past, and I’ve even written about some of the things I do to bring a story together. I think the best thing to do here is see how things were put together for The Foundation Chronicles: A For Advanced, because the world building started right there.
Originally the Salem Institute for Greater Learning and Education, or Sigle, was originally located on the southwest flanks of Mount Katahdin in south-central Maine. The idea originally was to place it there to keep it away from prying eyes, but as I thought more about this aspect of my world, the whole “Hiding in Plain Sight” idea became stronger and stronger, and I finally decided it could hang out in a populated area because magic and technology would keep it hidden from the outside world. Which meant all I had to do was find a place close to Salem where I could put a huge, walled-off school . . .
So it was off to Google Maps to look. And after some looking around I was able to settle on Cape Ann because the center of the island was a forest and nature preserve–
I’m a bit of a map freak: I love looking for things on maps, and Google Maps is a great place for me to loose time. When I saw that blank space, I knew my school could go there. And in doing my research, I discovered that Gloucester was the original location of Salem, but that the first colony failed and they moved to the location of the current city. Hummm . . . I wonder if someone had a hand in that failure?
As for finding out a lot of things that I use in my research, I tend to Google and then search the hell out of the links. Sometimes I’ll go several pages deep into a search and see what turns up, but I rarely stick with one site. And if you look around you’ll find lots of interesting things . . .
I already knew Kerry’s name when I started the story, but that doesn’t stop me from going to my favorite naming places, Baby Center, and looking up his name. Not only do I like all the information available, but I love using the Related tab, which shows you names that are like the one you’re considering–in case you decide you suddenly like Cary better.
I’ll also search by certain names as well, such as Persian and Gaelic, which I have done many times in the past. Sometimes you just have to go that route.
Speaking of maps, I’ve been asked before about how I make some of the routes I have, and that’s done through Daft Logic’s Advanced Google Maps Distance Calculator. I found this a long time ago–back in late 2012, to be exact–and I’ve used it to lay out several routes that will show up in The Foundation novels as they come out.
This comes in handy if you’re trying to figure out distances through flight as well, since Google Maps will tell you the distance if you’re traveling by road. But for making some of the things I’ve made–or, as you can see, laying out the flight from the school to Pearl Hill State Park–it can’t be beat.
Now, about the weather . . . Historical weather can be had at Weather Underground, but there are a few things you need to understand. The National Weather Service tracks weather at airports, so when I’m looking at the weather at the school, I’m really getting it from the airport at Beverly, MA, about thirty miles to the west. This means that what I’ll have at the school may not be the same, but as far at the story goes, it’s close enough. And when you’re traveling over a wide area, you may want to check with several airports along the way.
You can get a nice rundown of the daily conditions–
Or you can scroll down and see an hour-by-hour recording of the weather:
This is how I come up with those “Kerry looked out the window at the thick overcast” scenes. I’ve not tried a lot of this with overseas locations, but eventually I will–only because I’m like that.
I’ve also written a little about Seat Guru, which I use to see aircraft layouts, but which you can use to get a good seat on a flight. But if you absolutely, positively need to see the layout of a Air France 777-200 (772) Three Class V2–
And lastly I give you this, because I never know what anyone out there is working on, but as for me the need once arose to see the sort of effect a large blast would have on an area, and in looking about the Internet I found Nuke Map, which is the place to go if you wanna see what nuking a city, any city, looks like. I’ve played with this before, and if you consider seeing the aftermath of a devastated area after you lob a twenty megaton bomb into the center of said area “playing”, then you’re just like me.
For example, I picked Indianapolis–the capital of Indiana, a place where politicians are working overtime to allow legal discrimination of people like me–and I decided to see what would happen if I exploded a standard 150 kiloton cruise missile above the capitol building, which used to be right across the street from where I worked. And . . .
As with any research, consult several sources. When I was looking up information on runes I looked at four different sites, and correlated the information between them to get the results you may have saw the Annie’s and Kerry’s dreams. Don’t assume that the first site you find will have everything you want: you may need to consider a lot of information before deciding on what you want to use.
And another thing to remember is that most libraries have Internet access these days. There’s nothing wrong with taking something you found on the Internet and seeing if there’s a hard copy source of that info you can take home–or visa versa. If you can, use all the information. It makes for a better story. And don’t forget to bookmark anything you find that you like. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have found these lovely physics calculators that I’ve used over the years. You never know when you might need math . . .
There you have it, and I hope the information I’ve given you is helpful. If nothing else, it tells you about how I go about looking for things–
And some of the stuff I’ve found.