I'm in the final stages of revising and editing a piece for Halloween titled Better After Death. It's a little different from my usual work, in that it's not quite fantasy, but not quite contemporary either. It is a M/M work of erotic horror. The story is set in first century Wales during the first Roman invasion of Britain. The main characters are a druid and a young warrior whose handfasting is about to expire and who have chosen to marry. Unfortunately, a necromancer intent on having the druid for himself has other ideas.
Some of the challenges in writing this piece have come in the research I've had to do, most specifically about the history of Wales and the Roman invasion. The history of Christianity in Britain as well as the general history of the druids was also challenging. What I'd like to mention, though, and what I think a great many authors neglect to do when writing short stories, is the research on small details. For example, rather than assuming what herbs would grow, I researched what grew in the northern marsh region of Wales. I also researched the architecture of cottages and hearths of this time period to get an idea of just how people would have lived, and what they would have had available in their homes. Because the necromancer is first introduced as a keeper of the dead, I researched this - what it was, and what people charged with this job actually did in that time period.
When writing, it's very easy to rely solely on the imagination for all the details, but with the tools now available with the click of a mouse, it's a shame not to take that extra fifteen minutes and do the legwork. The additional information unearthed can sometimes be invaluable in turning the story, or providing the detail that changes or tweaks the plot in a way that nothing else could manage.
I think many writers focus on reading and seeking out life experience as ways of improving their writing, and forget that research - good old-fashioned, hitting the books and really studying something - is just as valid a method for lending new life and vitality to a story.
Just my thoughts for today.