Research. Lots of lovely, lovely research
I’m a geek.
No, really. The first thing I did when I decided to write Gilded Scarab as a steampunk world was cheer and rub my hands together, before rushing off to read up on steampunk’s history, on the steampunk aesthetic, on coffee making, on anything I could think of. I listened to steampunk bands, even, and discovered a new fannish love in Steam Powered Giraffe. When it came to Gyrfalcon, I was looking up such wonderfully esoteric things as interferomatic dispersion, what actually happens if an airlock blows out in a vacuum, and sketching out on paper how the Gyrfalcon’s hangars and launch tubes work.
I love research.
Partly for its own sake, because I find it innately satisfying to learn when women athletes were first allowed into the Olympics (the second modern Olympiad in 1900 in Paris, as it happens) or how a naval flag office works. But mostly because it helps me visualise and describe the worlds I’m building, and because those worlds are stronger and more vivid from the details I’ve been able to add to them.
The trick is to know what to put in (only just enough) and what to leave out (probably most if it, but I had fun researching). Feed through enough detail to give your created world completeness and coherence and make your narrative three dimensional and rich. Do it right and the little gems of knowledge inform your story, threaded through it like beads on a string, catching at your reader’s attention—hopefully subtly and naturally. It makes your world live. It’s all about balance: blend your imagination with all that stuff you’ve collected together, and seed the details through your narrative so quietly and seamlessly your reader just sees the whole, complete world and never has to worry about things like the plumbing.
And if you’re like me, half the fun is sharing research with readers. You can use an author’s note, Pinterest, blog posts, website background notes, a slideshow, book trailers… The ways of sharing these fascinating world-building snippets have gone well beyond the old days when all you got was a fold-out map at the end, if you were lucky.
You’ll find extra snippets of information on both the Gilded Scarab and the world of Taking Shield at my website. Do explore them to find out fascinating things such as what ‘Stravaigor’ means or which dreadnought heads up the Ninth Flotilla. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Are you a writer? How do you store and use the fruits of your research, and do you share it with your readers?
BLURB: The Gilded Scarab
When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
The polished wood and dark red velvet of the lobby carried through into the Praecipias, giving the lounge a rich and luxurious feel. The light of crystal chandeliers glinted on cut glass and the bottles ranged on shelves behind the bar. As the maître d’ had hinted, it was still rather early and the company was thin. Two patrons sat at separate tables. They straightened and looked back at me when I glanced around, both wearing smiles and expectant expressions. But no. They were good enough, but neither appealed to me. The trick was to pretend I hadn’t noticed them at all, instead focusing on my scotch and lighting one of the thin cigarillos I’d bought at the tobacconist. That way no one’s feelings were hurt.
A shame, perhaps… but no. Thanks to Phryne’s careful hands, I was shining that night. I deserved better than good enough. I deserved much better, and I could afford to wait until there was someone whose company I fancied. So I drew on my cigarillo and inhaled the sharp smoke. If I tilted my head back, I could watch the smoke float up toward the embossed ceiling. It hung in the light, drifting back and forth, and back and forth.
“May I buy you a drink, sir?”
I really am not a nervous man, but I jumped. Good Lord! Where had he come from? Sneaking up from the left, where I still had difficulty seeing things on the edge of sight, I supposed. I hadn’t seen him approach, and now that I looked, two or three others must have come into the room while I had contemplated my scotch and stared at the ceiling. Two stood at the bar talking, and a third slid into a chair at a table near mine, his dark eyes raking me over. He looked faintly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine where I’d seen him. He was well enough, too, but I turned my attention to the man who’d spoken to me.
Oh, but this one was better than good enough! Much better.
About my age, by the look of him, but as fair as I’m dark—wheat blond hair in artful disorder, with quite astonishing hazel eyes set above high, pronounced cheekbones and a strong mouth and chin. Thank God he had a chin. There were far too many men who had none worthy of the name. The rest of the stranger was rather attractive too. He leaned on a cane in his right hand, inclining his long, trim body toward me. It gave him a slight air of eagerness that was, I felt, distinctly flattering, as well as allowing him to show off an evening suit that fitted him like the proverbial glove and must have cost a very pretty penny. Definitely better than just good enough. Unless he turned out to have all the personality faults of Attila the Hun, this one would most certainly merit further attention.
And, really, Attila the Hun hadn’t been all bad. He was rumored to have been very considerate of his horses.
WHERE TO BUY THE GILDED SCARAB
All Romance as an ebook
Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.
All the warning he got was the slightest prickling of the hair on the back of his neck, then someone or something forcibly connected with his legs and brought him down. The impact had that foul-smelling air whooshing out of his lungs.
“Stay down!” Bennet said. “Two drones. Right behind me.”
Flynn tried to catch his breath. Bennet, arms and legs wrapped around him, rolled them both into the shelter of the rock that he’d evidently been hiding behind. For an instant they lay in the warm darkness, wrapped together. They were in deep shadow, and Flynn had to feel for Bennet’s face to touch it, to make sure that the Shield captain was really there. His hand found Bennet’s mouth, felt it curve into a smile, and he smiled himself.
Bennet disentangled himself, so that Flynn was undistracted again. Huh. Shame. Bennet had felt pretty good. He inched up to peer carefully around the rock. The two drones were about fifty feet away and marching towards them.
Bennet was breathing hard. “One each, then let’s get the hell out of here. Take the one on the right. On my count: three, two, one.”
They rolled in opposite directions from behind the rock. Flynn fetched up on his knees, bringing up the laser and firing several sharp short bursts. His drone staggered and fell onto its back, its circuitry fried by a plasma bolt to the head. The remaining one stood rigidly still, sparks shooting out from its chest circuitry. In an awful travesty of a human reaction, its hands were clawing at the hole in its chest. It toppled slowly over onto its face.
“Shit,” Flynn said. “What an exciting life you madmen lead! Any more of them?”
WHERE TO BUY GYRFALCON
Gyrfalcon is available as an ebook at Wilde City Press
Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).
<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/a6cd54473/” rel=”nof
In addition, one commentator chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.