Posts Tagged ‘writing research’

Some may find it odd that I, a guy who makes his living dealing with data, computers, bugs, and code, am such a fan of low-tech.

It’s not that I dislike technology—I don’t, and I have the phones, tablets, and game consoles to prove it—but while technology has made the lives of millions safer, easier, and more pleasant, it’s also taken us away from our roots, separating our connection to the physical world around us.

Alexander Langlands, an archaeologist who has worked uncovering Britain’s history for decades, thinks much the same way, and in his book, Cræft, he explores some of the most basic skills in human history, skills that require us to touch the world with our hands, and that are intimately tied to our environments and ecosystems. Through historical context and personal experimentation, Langlands shows us how tasks that, today, we might deem very simple—tasks such as digging a trench, weaving cloth, making hay, and thatching a roof—actually require broad experiential knowledge to master. He uses cræft, the Old English of the word craft, to highlight the change in the word’s meaning over the centuries. (more…)

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Fish or cut bait. Poop or get off the pot. Split wood or lend someone the axe.

During the run-up to a novel project, there comes a time when I must put down the books and pick up the pen. My problem, though, has usually been knowing when I’ve reached that point, that moment of sufficiency when, though I certainly don’t know everything about the pertinent subjects, I know enough to get started.

Now is that time. (more…)

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Stack of BooksFirst, a welcome to our new subscribers. At some point we popped up over the 200 member mark, which I find pretty cool. So, thanks, all, for your interest.

My free time this weekend was spent backtracking. I’d started my research of Seattle’s history at 1860, heading up the years toward 1874, but it became clear that for my purposes, 1874 Seattle was just too big a town. I want a setting that is rougher, more primitive, and a town that is smaller.

Picking 1874, the backstory for my main “Old Seattle” character included experience in the Civil War, possibly with injuries, certainly with trauma. I wanted a reason for him to immigrate to the West, but also a reason for him to recoil from society and live outside the town. (more…)

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Stack of BooksFor the past few weeks, I’ve been doing research for The Wolf Tree. It’s been an education, in several ways.

Seattle isn’t like New York or San Francisco or London. I don’t have dozens of books to choose from, rows of scholarly tomes filled with history, details, and anecdotes. (more…)

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Stack of BooksYeah, sure.

“I write because…because I must,” he said as he fell back in a swoon, hand to forehead.

Blah, blah, blah. Flip it to the B-Side, Sonny.

[Jeez…how many of you don’t know what I mean by “B-side,” I wonder?]

Let’s drop the dramatics and be real for a moment.

The truth is, if I never wrote another word, if I never ventured another sentence of prose, I would not die. Yes, that’s right. If I never wrote again, I wouldn’t spend my life in abject misery. I wouldn’t feel the lack of a pen in my hand like the ache from some phantom limb. I wouldn’t bemoan the globe’s loss of my mellifluous prose (nor, most likely, would the globe).

No, I do not write because “I must.” Nor do I write for fame (duh!) or fortune (ditto!). Nor do I write for the approbation of my peers (hell, they’re so busy they can’t even find time to read my books, much less swamp me with approbation.)

Obviously, there are reasons I write. You don’t write nine novels without sufficient reason. But do you want to know why? Seriously, do you want to know?

C’mere. I’ll tell you. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiBack when I had a writing career, I was given some advice. I was having lunch with my agent and the editor of the Science Fiction Book Club. (My first novel, The Year the Cloud Fell, had been a featured alternate at SFBC.) When the conversation swung around to my work, the editor said, “your books have too much history.” My agent nodded, sagely, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

I’m very good at not reacting immediately to bad news. It’s a defense mechanism, really. Treat me with rudeness or disrespect, tell me my dog died, or drop a pithy little bomb like “your books have too much history,” and I shut down. The smile stays up. The amenities and little etiquettes are still observed. Platitudes and small talk continue to be exchanged. “How nice.” “It was a pleasure meeting you.” “Until next time.”

Meanwhile, my inner child is weeping, my reptilian brain has fled for a safe, dark corner, and my intellect has gone all blue-screen on me.

“Too much history”? That’s like telling Mozart his music has “too many notes.”


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