As a writer, there are always times when you don't know something that is crucial to the plot. In some genres, that's fine - you could just make it up! But at other times, you need to know the actual answer!
Yes, there is the Internet and your search engine of choice, and I have spent many a happy day getting utterly lost down rabbit-holes after starting out on trying to find what I thought should be a simple fact. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent on the National Libraries of Scotland site, on their map comparison pages (https://maps.nls.uk/)!
But sometimes, the Internet doesn't have the answer, or you need a more nuanced or more detailed answer than can be found online.
Step forward the amazing local knowledge people.
So far, for book #10, I have been grilling a local solicitor about inheritance issues as a key plot point, and a local historian about the building of Fort George and the origins of Ardersier.
The solicitor, Donald, has been enormously helpful (and patient) as I've asked about how long things would take, what paperwork would be involved, checked out minuscule details and asked random questions. He's even given me an amazing quote to use in the book. Donald, you've been a total star!
And Lorna has gone above and beyond with help over Fort George, Ardersier, maps, lists of graveyards/cemeteries, burial lists, and so much more. Hubby and I went up to Ardersier recently and managed to meet up with Lorna, who then promptly found even more maps and information for me. We had a fabulous (socially distanced) couple of hours, with tea, cake and chat in the local café up there, and I came away not only better informed, but with some great new plot points rattling through my head.
So yes, the Internet can be great, but real people can be even better.
Now, I just need to drag myself away from those maps and I might even get close to the NaNoWriMo target I talked about last week!