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Back Again + Latest Obsessions

18 Sep

Hi, there! It’s been a while, but here I am. I was looking back at my progress bar here for editing my WIP The Elementalist: Rise of Hara and decided today’s a good day to resume getting closer to the 100% mark. So another scene gets edited today. That’s the goal.

Life has got me all over the place lately (my living room is currently filled with 8 vintage chairs that could use some reupholstering; more on that another day), but even in my seemingly inactive period (as far as the WIP goes), I’ve actually been thinking quite a bit about the novel. In the middle of pondering pensive music and just not doing anything in particular, I’ve been able to solve a lingering plot issue that just hasn’t been sitting right with me plus came up with a handful of ideas to continue the story for my next two novels. Music has proven to be very inspirational for me during my downtime.

Funny how that works.

Speaking of music…let’s talk about some of my latest Netflix obsessions, shall we? Continue reading


Back On The Saddle…Sorta

6 Jun

…So to speak.

But First–Some Wicked-Cool Inspiration

‘K, am I the only one wiggin’ out about how completely awesome the new Avatar show has been so far?  The battles are epic, the foes are worthy, and the (element) bending…


The music is also gooooooorgeous.  And epic.  And as much as I love it, I also secretly envy it because it has most of the traits I want my WIP to have.

[Insert Witty Title Here]

When I’m watching & listening to the soundtrack for “The Legend of Korra” (LoK) TV series, I can’t help but think of Element 7.  It shares similar themes with LoK and, now that the show is mostly set in a 1920s/30s Shanghai-kinda city, also a few similar aesthetics here and there.  Seeing this show done so well actually makes me feel bad about neglecting my own work–because ultimately I want to see it also at its absolute best and for others to see it, too.

I want it to be epic, I want it to be lovely and, most of all, I want it to be darn good.

Not that it means it’ll sell to traditional publishers even if it were all of these things…but it’s what I’ve always aspired to.  And sometimes that can be overwhelming.

Back On The Saddle…Sorta

After the Accident, I wasn’t doing any editing for about two weeks.  Though, over the past few days I have been able to get something done, so I guess it’s a start.  I need to do it every day, though, to get it done this summer (before my birthday in mid-August would be nice).  Recently I came up against another tricky scene in which I was unsure how to describe certain technology being used, so I had to go back and do some research–which slows things down.

You see, sometimes I seriously wonder how I’ll pull off certain scenes, lol.  I get like, “AH! OMG, too hard!” *runs-n-hides* I hadn’t run into a scene like that for a while…  Anyway, I think I’ve smoothed over that hitch now, so hopefully it’ll be easier to find a regular rhythm (and some confidence in what I’m doing) again.

Though actually, when I look back at what I have spiffed up, I’m really happy with about 90-ish percent of it–like giddily happy.  It’s just getting the rest of the manuscript to that point that’s so gosh-darn difficult.


A Thought

One good thing I can say about working on a story for this long, though, is that it allows you to think about it over time in many different ways…in layers.  All the dead time in between is an opportunity to see something you wouldn’t have otherwise, to make connections you previously overlooked and weave a tighter, more resonant and cohesive narrative… In other words, it allows you to really flesh things out and explore things deeply.

I’m a pretty meditative, analytical kind of person, so I like being able to do this.  Though, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist–which could end up being my Achilles’ heel if I don’t finish this thing at all.

Anyways…hopefully–if I get my act together, lol–I’ll be able to share this beast-of-a story with my first readers in a couple of months and they’ll understand exactly what I’ve been up to all this time.

*sighs* Yeah…that would be nice.

In the meantime, I’ll stop talking about it, heh.

So What Do You All Think?

Go ahead, be brutal.  After all, I probably don’t know where you live. 😉

Wordle, Childhood Wonders & More!

11 Apr

Hey, all!  I hope everyone had a good Easter Sunday. 🙂

‘K, so to be honest…I really don’t have much to say this week.  Like nothing is coming to me. -__- I feel like my brain is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

How is that possible?

‘K, I Got Something…

I think. <_<

Speculative Fiction Novel = Literary Mishmash of Childhood Wonders

Have you ever worked on a project where you felt like you pretty much just dumped everything that ever fascinated you when you were younger into one big story?

I kinda feel that way about Element 7.

The other day I was reflecting on the things I’ve chosen to put into this story and I wondered to myself, “Why?”  I hadn’t realized before just how many individual elements I’d decided to mix together.  It kinda boggles the mind.  Check out the word soup, yeah?


I just made a Wordle ’cause it was fun, lol.

Anyway, I think all this stuff actually ended up in the same story because, well, they’re all things that have fascinated me growing up.  So let’s just hope it all works out in the end, heh.

What kind of “cool” things do you have in your current writing project?

And “cool”, of course, is entirely subjective to your own personal definition.  I don’t expect everyone to agree that Platonic Solids are cool, though I certainly think they are!

I kinda think of these things as the little candies or treats that keep me writing/editing/whatevs; they’re a real pleasure to indulge in every now and then.  And what better way to indulge in the fascinations of life than to write, or better yet speculate, about them?

Introducing…Athena Voltaire!

31 Aug

This isn’t exactly “writing” stuff (more like inspiration), but…yesterday I was trying to hunt down this movie that, several years back, I saw either a trailer of or movie stills for (at least I thought I did) which involved either a Chinese or Japanese spy around the WWII era (I know! I can’t remember which)…and she was wearing this pilot helmet, and…that’s all I remember.

Not much to go on, I know.  That’s why I couldn’t find it!  (If it even exists.)

But that’s okay–because I accidentally came across something infinitely more amazing!

She’s a pilot, she’s handy with a pistol, she can kick some Nazi butt… Who is this chick?

Introducing: Athena Voltaire!

Athena Voltaire started out as an online web comic which, after earning a nomination for an Eisner Award and becoming a big success, carried over into print (available here).  In the creator Steve Bryant‘s own words during a Critical Mess interview in 2010, “Athena Voltaire is a book about a 1930s globetrotting aviatrix who fights Nazis and supernatural creatures. That’s the book in a nutshell.”  It was inspired by the likes of James Bond and Indiana Jones, as well as the real-life aviatrix Florence Lowe “Poncho” Barnes, and is described as a pulp adventure.  (Originally she was to be a space ranger, though I, for one, am glad for the change.)

Seriously, what’s not to love!  (Okay, she is portrayed as an obvious feast-for-the(-male)-eyes with a cleavacious 36-24-36 figure, but the concept is cool enough that I can get over this.)

You can check out some of the comics here (just click the images to progress through the story).  To learn more about the comics and the illustrator, check out these interviews on Westfield Comics and The Mighty Crusaders Network, as well as Bryant’s own blog.  (Interested but don’t feel like reading?  Well, check out this MTV Geek! video interview with Bryant instead.)

Lastly, here is a teaser video for Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon when it first came out in ’06:

And if you really love it, you can even “like” it on Facebook. 🙂

In The Meantime…

I should get back to editing.  Though, coming across this while working on a rough spot in the manuscript was pretty inspirational.  A reminder of the kind of thing I’m working towards: good, old-fashioned adventurous fun.  Complemented by moments of introspective character study, of course.  I enjoy a bit of both.  (I also came across some really cool information about earlier aircraft models as well as modern-day fixed-wing VTOL aircraft, but…I won’t go into that.)

How About You All?

Have you come across anything recently that has inspired you with ideas or just provided that bit extra motivation you needed to push through something that wasn’t working out?

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe!

4 Aug

Since Anthony asked about this earlier, I figured I’d just make a quick post about it!  (Easier to find on the site than a comment on a post, heh.)

You may have heard of writer Raymond Chandler’s famous character before, Philip Marlowe–a hardboiled, wisecracking private eye.  Several movies have been made featuring this character, including The Big Sleep (1946) with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and a later adaptation The Long Goodbye (1973) featuring Elliott Gould, as well as some TV and radio adaptations.

Lots of radio adaptations.

I’ve only seen a couple of the movies like The Long Goodbye and listened to a handful of the radio episodes, particularly the ones voiced by Gerald Mohr.  (I admit, I have a weakness for his voice! lol)  Though, they were very entertaining and I’ve very much derived inspiration from them.

Anyway, if you’re into film noir and detective pulp adventures, then you should definitely check out some of the radio episodes from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on the Internet Archive.  They’ve got a pretty big collection there and you can listen to them and even download some onto your MP3 player!

Great for a listen while you’re stuck commuting in traffic. 😉

Now, how about a movie trailer?

I Think I’m In Love (Plus Thoughts on Pioneers & Unassuming Heroines)

3 Aug

No, not in love with a man.  (Or with a woman, for that matter.)  But rather, with a book.

Oh, come on, now, don’t give me that look!  Like it’s never happened to you.

Here, allow me to explain.

Pioneering OSS Agents (need I say more?)

While on vacation I was reading (studying, more like) this super interesting book called Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of World War II’s OSS by Patrick K. O’Donnell…and OMG, it has all sorts of information I haven’t been able to find about technology just before and during WWII.  (It’s the little things in life that make me squeal with delight, simultaneously rousing my muse to an uber happy place.)  This book talks about what kind of training their recruits had to go through, some key operations and also some of the gadgets spies used back then like knives disguised as pens, fairly elegant dart guns, and the “L” (lethal) pill, among other things.  (Whispers: it even has pictures!)

Quite fascinating, really, and I’m simply in awe by the amount of research that went into putting this book together.  Lots of riveting first-hand accounts.  (I haven’t read a book this interesting in ages, so I guess this says something about the fiction I’ve read in that time, eh?)

…And the whole time I’m reading it I’m mentally generating scene ideas for my next novel while meditating on how to improve various details in my current WIP to make them more life-like.

Entertainment, education, inspiration… What more could you possibly ask for in a historical novel?

Why Else This Book Rox My Sox

It’s especially lovely because it almost reads like a genre historical war/espionage thriller yet at the same time is so informative.  (The only big difference is that the author likes to tell you things before he reveals them via storytelling.  “Operation X would be his demise.  This is how it happened.”  He does it more elegantly than this, of course, and in more detail, but that’s pretty much how it goes down.)

Also, when reading the first-hand accounts, you really do get a sense of the character of a lot of these guys and the human aspect of being involved in a pioneer organization.  One of my favorite passages was regarding a mission to gather intelligence in Istanbul; surviving team member Spiro Cappony recalls:

I accepted the mission and was joined by two other team members, A. Georgiades and Mike Angelos, and they said, ‘Gus (they called me Gus), how the hell are we going to get to Istanbul?’  This is how new we were.  ‘Who’s going to meet us?’  ‘A guy by the name of Spurning, he’s a professor from Yale University.’  One of them said, ‘How the hell are we going to know who the guy is?’  I said, ‘Well, my orders say he’s going to show a ruby ring on his finger.’  ‘Man oh man these guys are crazy,’ remarked one of the guys. (107)

I mean this is enough cause and inspiration for me to make parodies of the classic spy story or something.  I love it.

Here’s another brief passage that I just love about an operational group, comprising Greek-American and Greek national recruits, who were to be deployed in Greece:

At [Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia] our boys would march and sing, both in English and Greek, and the entire camp would say, ‘Who are these guys?’  We were dressed smartly, had new experimental clothing including jump boots, and we were the first unit to be assigned the new Eisenhower jacket.  We looked good, acted good, and the biggest thing, we felt good. (110-111)

Yeah, classic cocky guy talk and behavior.  I am just itching to write about more characters like this in my next novel who are new to some experimental endeavor.  (Much like America’s pioneering airmail pilots, who have also been a big inspiration for me; I guess you could say I have a thing for pioneers, heh.)

As it turns out, though, my heroine is more of a “sky spy” than a conventional field agent (kind of playing off those conspiracy stories that claim Amelia Earhart was spying on the Japanese here), so I’ll probably get more mileage out of this historical account after I start writing the next novel…like sometime next year, heh.  Still, it does help.

Learning Along With Your Characters

Sometimes I feel I’m at a big disadvantage in that I don’t have any experience in the types of things I want to write about, so reading books like this really helps to put things in perspective for me.

I remember when I first started doing drafts of my novel how I wanted to write about a heroine who was highly experienced in all of tasks she is hired to do throughout the story but then later decided to go the route of someone who was new to many aspects of her world.  T. S. Bazelli once wrote an article about Lost World Fiction in her Speculative Fiction Genre Glossary Project, and while talking about the Lara Croft adventures I mentioned how originally I wanted to write about an actiony Croft-type character who was not only adventurous and very knowledgeable in her field but could also kick some serious butt.  However, the more my story evolved and the more I learned about my leading character, the more I realized that this approach wasn’t right for her story because I was starting it at a point in her life where she didn’t (yet) have those kinds of qualities.  Instead, she starts off more like Evelyn from The Mummy, with some background in art history and pretty much zero experience as a treasure-seeker or gunfighter–thank you very much, Mr. O’Connell-types.

And as a first-time novelist I think there’s some advantage to not writing about a woman who is super kick-ass heroine right off the bat, but rather an unassuming heroine–one who is clearly not everything her employers need her to be though chooses to undergo transformation in order to become that person.  (This is a perfect place to start with a protagonist if you’re writing epic fantasy, I think, and I suspect my story could actually be classified as epic, though it is not traditionally so.)  For one, as she learns more about her world and is trained to acquire new skill sets, the reader also learns about the world and how things are supposed to work.  Also, as the author, such an approach allows you to learn things as you go along–especially during the editing stage when you’re trying to color in those little particulars you just kind of sketched in before.

…Which is kind of nice when you know just a little as your protagonist going in!

So Yeah, This Has All Been Extremely Fascinating…

But I really should get back to work now!  (Returning from vacation doesn’t make this easy, heh.)

Though, I do still need a prompt…

What are/were some major sources of inspiration for your current or most recent WIP?

Also, how has learning more about that source shaped the direction you chose to take your story in?

Weird Inspiration: LSD, the Psychedelic Experience & Remote Viewing

18 May

A little while ago I talked about “Synergy in Worldbuilding,” featuring a piece of art by Brian Exton which was, well, psychedelic.  At the end I promised that wouldn’t be the last time you saw “psychedelic weirdness from me” again.

Well…it’s baaaack!

LSD & the Psychedelic Experience: Get Inspired

Okay, I’m not suggesting you go and get high off shrooms or anything.  I sure wouldn’t.

However…haven’t you ever been fascinated by drugs (in this case, psychedelics) and the effects they can have on a person?  Haven’t you been just a little bit curious about what it’d be like to take those kinds of drugs?  I’m not sure why, but LSD is just one of those drugs for me.  I wanted to know what the big deal was, though without becoming a drug user myself.  What do people who’ve used the drug before have to say about it?  How do people function while under the influence of this psychedelic?

I wanted to know because I have a fictional substance in my story that I kind of needed a model for–one I wanted to have psychedelic-like effects on its users.  (Being that my WIP is heavily inspired by the 1920s and 30s, I figured that since Americans had The Prohibition and a crave for booze back then, I could create some fictional illegal substance which represented the underground, “punk” counterculture in my protagonist’s world.)

In order for me to be able to render scenes in which this substance was being used with some semblance of realism, I first needed to witness for myself how a real psychedelic drug affected people.  So I hopped on over to YouTube–because, you know, you can find just about anything on YouTube these days–and started doing some searches related to LSD and psychedelic experiences.

It’s crazy what you can find on YouTube.

Vintage Films on LSD

There are actually several vintage videos on YouTube that talk about how LSD was used in the latter half of the 20th century.  I was kind of surprised to find anything like this, to be honest.  You probably think I’m a little deranged by now, but here’s one that I was particularly inspired by (not sure of the year, but it was likely shot during the 60s):

At first I was like, “WTH…?”  But the more I listened to her (and I’ve listened to her many times now) I realized that this was a perfect way to describe certain situations in my story.  It was like a lightbulb went off in my head.

Here’s another one like that:

“I don’t know what psychotic means, really.”  Interesting. Also, I love the interviewer’s voice.  It’s got that kind of vintage noir/Philip Marlowe sound about it.  (It kind of makes me weak in the knees!)

Okay, so anyways…one last historic clip, in which British soldiers are being tested on with LSD:

Maybe I’m just strange, but I find this to be fascinating.  This is the kind of stuff fiction can thrive off of.  (Or maybe just the stuff I thrive off of…)

Just ask The Men Who Stare At Goats!

If you have not seen that movie…it’s freakin’ hilarious.  I love it because it doesn’t always make sense but still manages to thoroughly entertain.  To see Jeff Bridges as a flower-loving hippie was worth it alone.  Also, not only do they explore psychic abilities but also the use of LSD in conjunction with these abilities (and you can imagine how that turned out).

Right up my fiction’s alley.

Clairvoyance & the Psychic Spy

Have you ever heard of the Stargate Project?  (And this has nothing to do with the sci-fi series, though I love that, too.)  Apparently, the CIA released formerly classified information on experiments they’d been running for over twenty years, studying the applications of remote viewing in the intelligence community.

Pretty crazy, right?

So…What is “Remote Viewing?”

This is straight from an open source PDF guide from, the UK site I linked to for the Stargate Project:

Remote viewing is the magical ability to gather information about a target, which can be anything at anytime and anywhere.

Remote viewing is a mental martial art that takes the raw nugget of human psychic ability and moulds it using a set of scientifically created stages. These stages act to filter the psychic data gathered during remote viewing sorting the ‘noise’ from the raw ‘real’ impressions.

Remote viewing isn’t how it sounds – like viewing a movie in your head, it’s a gradual opening of a window to the target, where each impression builds on the one before, slowly revealing the target piece by piece. This process involves more than vision, including; touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, or you can go into, above, or below the target, wherever you want or need to go to get the information.

This ability, it continues, is supposedly limitless.

Now, remote viewing is supposed to be something that anyone can learn, though in my story the ability is limited to a handful of rare individuals–an elite group which one of my main characters belongs to.  (It wouldn’t be cool if just anyone could do it.)

Is any of this stuff really true?  (I mean, this is some far-out shiznit, people.)  I’d like to think so, but at the same time I’m very skeptical of it.  What I do know is that it makes great material for writing fiction, and it’s tons of fun to write about!

What do You Think?

Have you ever tried LSD?  (I’d love to hear from you, if you have.  And I’m being totally serious.)  What about remote viewing: do you think it’s real or just a bunch of bunk?

Artwork by Jack Vettriano

2 May

Hey, turns out I’m getting a lot more done for school than I expected to!

Caught myself tonight revisiting an artist I discovered a while back.  I love the retro, sultry imagery he conveys in his paintings.  Some of these have inspired certain scenes in my novel–and lots of future ones to come.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite pieces from the artist:

After Midnight (Study). Jack Vettriano.

 Someone doesn’t want to go home tonight…
Woman: (coyly) “Say, I’ve never tried a cigarette before.  Is it safe?”
Man: “Well, it’s not like they bite, doll.  So go on…be the judge.”

Altar Of Memory. Jack Vettriano.

 Yeah, I totally based a character on that man–a not-quite-mad scientist who is madly in love.  (Will he ever cross the line?)  He even wears expensive suits and slicks his hair back.  Because that’s how he rolls: deep in dough.

The Drifter. Jack Vettriano.

Another image I’ve kept in mind while writing about another one of my characters (minus the cigarette); he’s a loner.  Kind of reminds me a little of “The Wanderer,” like a more modern version:

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. Caspar David Friedrich.

And one last one from Vettriano: 

Angel. Jack Vettriano.

And now I can happily drift off into sleepy land…

*     *     *

Do you have any examples of artwork that inspire you?

Inspiration from Vintage Times: Influence, Insecurity & Expectation

8 Apr

Late Wednesday evening I mentioned that my protagonist wears a corset.

This may seem like a very frivolous thing, but it’s actually connected to a rather intimate part of her character.  It’s not really about the corset at all; it’s about how it makes her feel.

Speaking of the intimate…

1930 Munsingwear Hosiery Ad.

Found it here.  That one is hard to see, so here’s another I thought was amusing (if not a tad bit gross, haha):

A 1936 ad for Lux detergent “for underthings.” (Click for full size!)

Found that one here.  It’s interesting to look back on the kind of attitudes that were prevalent about women in the past but also how they viewed themselves.  Though, I wonder have they changed all that much?

I don’t consider myself to be a feminist (unless you automatically consider being female being “feminist”), but I think it’s fun to consider these things.  I, for one, am not really the kind of chick that aspires to “popularity, romance, and a devoted husband,” heh.  Not that I’m saying I’ve never consider it, or that these things are bad.  It’s just right now, at this point in my life, these are not things that belong in my life.

However, I’ve observed that sometimes these things become points of insecurity for some young women.  Maybe this is just a cultural thing, but I think in high school the peer pressure to “get a boyfriend/girlfriend” is really high for young people, and that can carry on well past their high school years, sticking with them as adults.

I think this kind of influence is interesting; it’s something I explore in various ways in my WIP.  The power of peer pressure, typically associated with young folks, merely translates as the power of pure influence the older you get, as I see it.  It can be not only a micro (character) concern but a macro (global) one.  Influence, among other things, allows world powers to maintain the position that they do.  It also allows them to shape the world as they see fit.  This, alone, can make for some interestingly epic plot points.

Points to Consider with Characters: Insecurities & Expectations

The most interesting thing about that last ad, for me, is how it points out various sources of insecurity for women: hygiene, popularity, success in one’s career, beauty, and an expectation to get married.  As silly and superficial as the selling point of that ad may seem, these are still legitimate concerns for many ladies today, and I suspect some may even pertain to men.  (And maybe that’s why the ad held/still holds any power?)

So what can a writer take away from this?

I think it helps make characters more realistic when you consider their insecurities but also what society expects of them because most, if not all, people have at least one insecurity even if they don’t openly talk about it, and everyone is expected to do one thing or another.  Sometimes, the two can be tied so closely together that the expectations become capable of engendering insecurities.  If certain people are unable to meet certain expectations, they can start to feel insecure about themselves.

Some examples of expectations I place on my characters and insecurities I’ve given to them are a need to:

  • live up to the expectations of one’s parents (and feel lesser or unworthy when they do not)
  • please the job
  • please an enemy (only to avoid death or harm, or to sabotage them later, of course!)
  • just please other people in general

I don’t know, but maybe all insecurities can be traced back to a need to please or impress someone other than ourselves.  Of course, it’s healthy to have some concern about meeting the expectations of others, but to let that run one’s life…well, that’s debilitating.  You then allow yourself to become a pawn or tool rather than someone who’s capable of making their own decisions in life.

The influence of others can be good, to a certain degree.  I think the same goes for our characters.

Do you give your characters insecurities and consider expectations placed on them–either by others or themselves?  Or do you think this is a frivolous thing to do?

Worldbuilding: Setting & Maps

15 Mar

>This is part of an ongoing series about worldbuilding.

*     *     *

Last time I gave you my personal definition of worldbuilding and mentioned that next I’d be talking about settings (among other things) and processes I’ve used to develop them.

All right, then so here it goes.


Before, I’ve talked about The Importance of Setting in a story.  Where do you get setting ideas?  Largely from the real world, I imagine.

I started off being inspired by how American and European cities might have looked and functioned during the mid-1930s/pre-WWII era, actually.  (I don’t think this is an era that gets explored much in fantasy.)  I’m not writing about an alternate history, though, so this era only serves as an aesthetic and practical guide.  I was really inspired by artwork and photographs of actual places, as well.

Then I came up with some names for countries, brainstormed some general ideas about them and just flew off from there.  (Real helpful, huh?)  I’ll explain more.


It has helped me immensely to keep track of locations by creating a map, so this might work best if I showed you a couple:

This one basically shows important geographical regions–deserts, rivers, mountain ranges, oceans, etc.–in my WIP.  I used Adobe Photoshop to create most of it, though I used AutoCAD, a computer-aided drafting program, to do the little scale.  (CAD is good for exact measurements ‘n stuff.  I often use it to draft floor plans and other similar drawings.)

The compass, however, is not mine.  Honestly, I don’t remember where I got it from.  (Does that make me a bad person?)  I could have made one in CAD, though.  Hm, guess I was just being lazy!

Same story for this one, only it focuses more on the city names and more clearly delineates the nations with color.  I separated these things from the geographical regions to keep it from getting too cluttered (though, this isn’t all that necessary).

To tell you the truth, neither of these drawings is complete.  I really need to go back and update them with new references I’ve made in the story.  (I tend to keep a lot of info up in my noggin ’cause I don’t wanna have to keep making corrections to everything when I change my mind.)  But still, it was a good starting point.  I know where everything is located and if I need to I can measure approximate distances.  This helps for calculating realistic traveling times, which is important, I think, when you’re writing about an aviatrix–or train travel, or any other kind of travel, really.

(That’s another thing I’ve had to do is research typical car and train speeds in the 20s and 30s.  Usually I just pick one car and train model, look up the specs and use those as a starting point.  Of course, it’s all approximated.  I don’t want to get too anal about that stuff.)

Gosh, I wish I could find that link that got me started on these maps!  Suffice it to say, it’s a fairly detailed process that would not fit very well into a little blog post…


So there ya go.  I would like to go back and try some new things I learned, to make the mountains pop out more, for example (that person’s map on the link has way better mountains than I do), but that’s something for another day.

What else can you use to draw maps if you don’t have Adobe Photoshop?

Well, you can always draw it by hand.  Do a couple of drafts in pencil, trace over the final one with marker on vellum, trace or marker paper for the final version; splash some color on it here or there… (You cand do that on the back side of the paper so it won’t bleed/smear with the marker, unless you do the marker last and just use pencil first.)  For color, I have these really awesome (though pricey) art markers by Chartpak that work a little like watercolors, the way the colors kind of spread.  Though, they smell really strong.  You can get a little high off of them.

I’m kidding, but they are very strong-smelling.

You could also leave it in black-and-white, which can make for a very graphic effect.  Using different line weights really adds dimension–if you’re interested in the more artsy aspects, that is.

If not, that’s cool, too.

Ultimately, though, I think maps should be used to help the writer visualize where everything in his story is taking place.  Doesn’t matter if they’re pretty or not, especially if they’re only for you.

Setting As Character

As it has often been said, setting can become a kind of character itself in your story.

I’ve found this to be the case in Element 7.  The geographical features actually have a direct relationship to historical events which were initiated by certain characters way back when.  These events have effected the present-day geography.  For example, why do you think the deserts seem to fan out from Daemon’s Pass, just southwest of the Great Sea where floats a collection of scattered islands?  And why is that region called “Daemon’s Pass” anyway?

Hm… The world may never know.  (Especially if I don’t finish editing this beast, heh.)

Finding Inspiration

I find that artwork provides a lot of inspiration for settings in my story.  They even give me some scene ideas.  Here’s one that inspired my vision for Chandra City, Apexia (which is only labeled “Chandra” on my map, so I better fix that, too):

“Autumn’s Glow,” by Alexei Butirskiy

(This artist’s work is so beautiful.  I’m inspired by most of it, actually.)

I imagine that the area my protagonist Voi lives in looks a lot like this.  She stays in a townhouse of yellow brick and light-colored stone in Chandra City on Blithe Street, where an electric trolley runs by.  Also, it’s in the latter half of autumn at the beginning of the novel, so I like the image of there being golden leaves on the trees and sidewalks at this time.  This is exactly where Chapter 1 starts off–someplace peaceful to contrast the psychological horror of Voi’s condition.

Her home is her refuge from the world.

In Chapter 1, she is experiencing…what I will call a “private state of heightened awareness” as she soaks in a clawfoot tub, avoiding her meds…just generally being a naughty emelesiac.  Kind of like this:

Original author unknown.

(But trust me, it’s not what you think.  Though, I certainly want you to believe it is.  I’m hoping that the intent behind this scene thrives off reader assumptions.  I’d like to share it sometime, once I’ve shopped it around a bit.)

Meh, I could mention something about Borellia, too, but you know how I am with words.  I will say, though, that the ancient ruins and antiquity of Italian cities have been a big inspiration for my vision of Borellia, as have French towns with half-timber structures from Medieval times.

And Airships.  You just have to have airships in a 1930s-inspired world.  (This was during the latter years of their Golden Age, after all.)

So that’s kind of how I think about settings.  Next time: languages!  (Oh yes.)

How About You?

Do you like to use maps to aid with fleshing out your story?  If so, do you keep them pretty simple or like to deck them out?  Also, where do you tend to find inspiration for the settings in your storyworld(s)?