Geeking out on research

My alter ego has been hard at work trying to wrap up those romance novels. I just posted something over at Miss Ego’s website, which I thought was a whole lot of fun – because like most writer types, and especially speculative fiction types, I’m a big geek. In this case, I’m geeking out about ship research. If this sounds like a blast to you, too, the post is quoted below: read on!

Something about book four

50 Gun Ship by Rif WinfieldI’ve been working away at Wind Witch, book four and the closing volume of my Elementals series. I’m approaching the halfway point, and I hope to finish this spring, although it’s too soon to announce a definite publication date. But I just had an opportunity to write some chapters set at sea on a warship, which means I got to haul out this book.

I’m a big fan of sea stories, and Water Witch came about in part because I’d done so much research for a series of fantasy sea stories I wrote (under my other name). I had piles of books and a head full of random ship trivia, and I was eager to put it all to use in a new project. And when it came to wrapping up Elementals, it seemed appropriate to revisit some of the people and places I’ve mentioned throughout the series, which means going back to sea. So it was back to my ship books!

The 50-Gun Ship is a great book if you’re looking for all the technical details: how big the ship is, how many guns it has, how many decks and what was on them, and so on. I haven’t even read all the details in it yet, but the most valuable material I’ve found is the cutaway drawings. The ship in Wind Witch is loosely based on the H.M.S. Leopard – “loosely” because I started writing from memory and then pulled out my book when I wanted to double-check the drawings, so a few cabins and such ended up in slightly different places. But the layout of the decks is the same, and here it is:

From "The 50-Gun Ship" by Rif Winfield, drawings by John McKay (c)1997
From “The 50-Gun Ship” by Rif Winfield, drawings by John McKay (c)1997

My scanner has a letter-sized bed, and this is part of a fabulous fold-out map, so I couldn’t capture the key. The high points:
1. Hold
2. Orlop deck
3. Lower deck
4. Upper deck
11. 24-pounder gun
12. 12-pounder gun
14. Quarterdeck rail
15. Main mast

Whether the scenes I wrote will make any sense if you don’t happen to have this diagram in front of you is something I’ll need to keep in mind during editing, and then get the opinion of my beta/proofreader. But in the meantime, I’m delighted and I think you should be, too. Or not. It’s up to you. But my characters will reach land in the next chapter or two, and then it’s off toward the end of the book. Wish me luck!


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