Saturday, November 28, 2015

NaNoReMo and the Windward Isles

No, I didn't mean NaNoWriMo. I don't work at that pace, I don't have anything new that I need outside incentive to start, and word count is not my problem. (Ahem.) But I ran across someone doing NaNoEdMo--National Novel Editing Month--which seemed more helpful. Then I realized I was stalled on my current revision of The Stowaway because I needed to do some specific research before I could continue, and aha--NaNoReMo was born.

This part of The Stowaway has been a bit challenging because I've never been to the Caribbean, being more inclined personally to cooler temperatures and temperate forests. But I located a comprehensive book about the flora and fauna of the area (Understanding the Eastern Caribbean and the Antilles by Nelson Marshall) and another with information about navigation as well as vivid descriptions of the experience of sailing among the islands (Islands to Windward, Crossing the Caribbees, by Carleton Mitchell). Between those and selected internet sites, I've located some very specific information I didn't expect to find, which is turning out to be useful.

1908 was a La NiƱa year, which means Vivian and the Captain would make quick progress from England to to the Lesser Antilles due to strong trade winds. Thus I know what kind of weather conditions they would encounter on two journeys there in spring and fall, when winds would be strongest and rains heaviest. And in 1902, volcanoes erupted on Martinique and St. Vincent, one day apart, the effects of which would have been felt on my tiny fictional island of Ala Blanca.

Ala Blanca, or "White Wing," is now located among the islands of the Grenadines, just south of St. Vincent. I've made notes on the constellations Vivian would learn to navigate by. I've learned that a Beaufort Wind Force Scale of 6 means winds of 17-21 knots, or 19-24 mph, and waves of moderate height and length, with many white caps and a bit of flying spray. And water temperatures are useful to know when a hapless character tips over a dinghy on the way to the island.

Rays and sharks, porpoises and frigate birds would all make appearances on such a voyage,

as would sea turtles and Portuguese Man-o'-War jellyfish.

Passion flowers are only one of the flowers and plants that Vivian Drew would find intriguing--if not downright alarming--during her first travels outside of England.

I'm not going to "win" NaNoReMo, mind you--regular life has conspired, as it does, to prevent me from reading all the books and watching all the videos. But I have managed to make a concerted effort to finish what I need to do to make a fictional Caribbean island real to me and perhaps to readers as well. And after all this research, I'd rather like to see Nevis Island for myself, and the variegated blues of the waters and the myriad creatures of a coral reef.

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