When I originally wrote Black Mask & Pale Rider, I just wrote and based a lot of the story on aspects of spaghetti westerns with a little fantasy tossed in (a lot actually, considering the main characters are elves and possess magic). I didn’t do proper research at the time.
I made a lot of mistakes as well. I’m still proud of the end result of this first book, but there’s a lot that should and could be changed. Prime examples are falling into a role play trap of writing out the accents fully. That’s one thing I’ll change, especially with Pania’s. All I really need to do is describe her accent as a lilting Irish accent and people should understand. Shani has ended up with an Arkansas drawl, and while I’ll tone down the accent, there’s still things I call Shani-isms I’ll still keep. “Crap on a stick”, “Hotter ‘n a June bug on a smooth rock”, “I’m so parched, I swear there’s more water in a desert”, and so forth. I actually learned that before while writing Rocket Fox and realizing that I didn’t need to write out Senia’s lisp. It would actually be better and easier not to, and instead just describe that yes, Senia speaks with a lisp. Trust the reader to add that in.
Thanks to research, I’ve been able to change certain things about the characters, all the while adding in two new ones, and including three familiars (or companions). Shani along with her sister Wren will have some customs that are much more akin to Metis in Canada. There’s Abisayo who will have a lot of memories living with elves (and, of course, being an elf) that associated with Yoruba people in West Africa. The reason for that is because different cultures have similar folklore. Elves are an incredibly broad ranging race that many different cultures had stories about. From the Celts to the Norse to the different people of Africa, toward Asia as well, and onto North America. It can be argued that even pre and post Islamic cultures had folklore about elves. There are many stories about djinn and those creatures being called spirits. Many of those descriptions aren’t that far off from the descriptions of elves, pixies and fae folk from European cultures.
While I’m doing this, adding in the extra information and cultural references as back story for Black Mask & Pale Rider, I still need to ensure that I’m being as respectful as I can to the original cultures. And the people of colour in the book. No describing skin as “chocolate” or “creamy”, which reminds me more of a fetish than the actual description of a person.
I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and it’ll be a while before the first book is released. I just need to push aside my current addiction and I’ll be fine.
Damn you, Skyrim!