Researching The Seeker’s Storm was a fascinating experience. It might sound odd for someone who writes fantasy to need to do research, but I love the challenge of making something that can’t possibly happen come as close to reality as it can.
One example of this would be the electricity, or “lightning” as it’s called in Fairydom. After reading several old (and I mean from around the time of Benjamin Franklin!) engineer and electrician publications, I learned that it was once commonly accepted that electricity was a fluid. Scientist from that time period developed static electricity machines and crude batteries so that they could study electricity. Some recommended uses for electricity were medicinal and sounded quite frightening. My father was another invaluable asset during this portion of my research, having years of practical experience with electricity. Thanks to resources like those and this one https://www.facebook.com/groups/electrostaticmachines/, I was able to get a basic grasp of how a Water Fairy “lightning machine” might look and be used.
I also did quite a bit of research on the weather. A weaponized snowstorm was the threat hanging over them at the end of the last book, Dress Blues, and I had to figure out a way to overcome that. This research took me to the children’s section of the library, for starters. I’ve often found that non-fiction books for adults infer a level of knowledge on the part of their readers that I simply don’t have. Ergo, the children’s section! The most important thing I learned was that something called a “thunder snowstorm” was supposed to drop more snow than any other kind. (See https://www.kidsdiscover.com/did-you-know/thundersnow/, also.) I also found out that “cloud seeding,” as they call attempts to coax clouds to precipitate, is anything but foolproof. (See https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cloud-seeding-china-snow/) Still, I needed to find a way to neutralize the snowstorm. When I realized that the fairly rare occurrence of lightning inside a snowstorm results in a measurably heavier snowfall, I knew I could use that.
All sorts of research followed that decision! What causes lightning? What is the average temperature at the top of an anvil cloud? What are the parts or fairy-sized dangers of a thundersnowstorm? (Such as graupel, or a sort of soft hail: http://www.weatherboy.com/graupel-snow-pellets/.) Granted, I had already created a world where the Sky Fairy Tribe contracts rainstorms and sunny days as their chief exports to the other tribes…but I still try to get a solid feeling for the science behind what I write.
Perhaps the most fun part of this last bit of research was that I had to find a delivery system that was suitable to the world of Fairydom. For that I reached back into military history, clear back to the times of the Roman and Greek empires. After hunting through a dozen or more possibilities, such as trebuchets and catapults (nope, they’re two different things: (jarodsforge.blogspot.com/2008/08/whats-difference-between-catapult-and.html), I settled on the ballista (https://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/ballista/defn.html). Ballistas are on the order of giant crossbows, except that instead of pulling the bowstring back to cock it, the throwing arms are forced forward. When they are released, they hurl their ammunition to great lengths and with wonderful accuracy for such primitive weapons. I say “primitive” only because we live in a digital world, where smart bullets and such are realities.
I had a great deal of fun researching for The Seeker’s Storm and I hope you had as much fun reading this post. Thank you so much for your time! For the “rest of the story” of how lightning and ballista save the Sky Fairy Tribe from being buried under a monster snowstorm, you’ll just have to read the book!