First book review

Almost two years and nine months since it’s publication, The Web of War has received it’s first review on Amazon:

(Five stars) Really enjoyed this book

Really enjoyed this book, an epic fantasy in every sense of the word. Found myself drawn into the world of conflict and rivalry between the immortals and mortals. This book is full of exciting believable characters. You can sense that this was written by an author with a passionate imagination who draws you into this fantasy world.

Words can’t describe how happy this makes me!


New artwork by Maggie

Maggie has finished painting some beautiful digital artwork of my characters! I feel so lucky to have such a talented sister. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but no one brings my con-world to life like she does – the characters, the fashions, the landscapes, everything!

A new portrait of Arellesria. Known for her charm and beauty, she serves the Court of Thasenare and arranges Lord Yazelern’s banquets. She might not be the most powerful Nayusuru, but she is one of the most politically astute and influential.

Lord Tassedehami and Drathessa from the Court of Ebzazire. It’s so nice to see a picture of them together, and I love the atmosphere of this painting!

The books are back

I’ve been doing a lot of world-building lately, but now my thoughts are finally turning back to The Ruler of Ruins and how I’m going to continue writing it.

Earlier this year I decided that I’d rather publish my Askamar stories as web-fiction rather than novels.

Well… I’ve changed my mind!

Perhaps the main problem with novels is that they require plots, which means that I have to impose an artificial-feeling ‘dramatic structure’ on the history of my world. I also have to choose which point-of-view to focus on , which means that a lot gets left out.

On the other hand, it’s more satisfying to produce a novel, and it brings more focus to my writing projects.

It’s all a matter of different ways of depicting my con-world. Writing brings my world to life, but never perfectly. I feel like the articles on my website depict Askamar / Udaris more fully and ‘realistically’ (at least, those that are up-to-date!), but they they lack detail, emotion and description.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’d like the website to act as a reference for the con-world, while the stories themselves remain in the published novels. It feels neater that way.

I know this has been an especially rambling blog entry! The main point is that the library has been re-arranged again. Descriptions and links to the published Askamar novels have been restored, and the web-fiction is gone (well, it’s not as if anyone was reading it!)

One of the ‘stories‘ that I’d posted in the library can still be read on this blog, however. I’ve produced a lot of writing for The Ruler of Ruins that just won’t fit into a novel, so I might add more early drafts and cut scenes to the blog later.

I’m also probably going to resume work on The Ruler of Ruins over the weekend. I might still even achieve my goal, which was to get to the end of the book by the end of the year!

Here be dragons!

I’ve taken a break from maps and instead done some more on the yuyarni re-desgin. The yuyarni now have the full set of bantagri horns, and they also have scales.

Yuyarni artwork by Louisa Watson
Artwork by Louisa Watson

They look so much like dragons, maybe that’s what I should call them from now on. Yuyarni (or yuyarri, ‘wandering people’) might just be the anevurahan name for them.

Maggie suggested that I should show how large they are compared to humans, so I drew some ‘dragon fighters’ with the help of CA3.

Yuyarni and humans drawn by Louisa Watson and CA3
Yuyarni drawn by Louisa Watson; humans drawn with the help of Character Artist 3

You would definitely be afraid if you met a yuyarni battle! No wonder the legions of Askamar are so formidable…

Fire, wind and sea…

Over the last week I’ve been re-watching a DVD series called How Earth Made Us – highly recommended for anyone interesting in conworlding, as it explains how natural forces shaped human history (so far I’ve watched the episodes on Water, Deep Earth and Air – as I recall, Fire is about the industrial revolution, so I might save that one for later). I’ve also been studying DK’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Earth.

The result of all this research is some new maps of Udaris.

Tectonic Plates

A map showing the tectonic plates of Udaris
Firstly, this is what I think the tectonic plates of Udaris might look like. The blue-shaded boundaries are divergent, meaning that the plates are pulling away from each other and creating a rift. The red-shaded boundaries are convergent, meaning that the plates are smashing into each other and creating mountains.

Since I know I’ll never remember that, I’ve also helpfully included arrows showing which way the plates are travelling.

Wind Patterns

A map showing the wind patterns of Udaris
Here are the prevailing winds  of Udaris – the trade winds, the westerlies and the polar easterlies. Along the equator are the doldrums and hurricanes (I imagine the south-east coast of Skanshuria and and the north-east coast of Zasulia get the worst hurricanes).

I haven’t put in the seasonal winds because it made the map look too complicated, but I understand that, where there is a large expanse of land, they flow inland during the summer and seaward during the winter. The result of this is dry winters and summer monsoons.

Ocean Currents

A map showing the ocean currents of Udars
This is the map I feel least confident about – but at least it looks good! Having studied the little chart in the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Earth, it looks like currents flow in a circular pattern, carrying warm water away from the equator and cold water towards it.

One day I might create more sophisticated and accurate maps of the plates, wind patterns and ocean currents, but these will do for now!

The new Udaris map

Here is the new map of Udaris, drawn in simplified form (later, I’ll make a more detailed version using Campaign Cartographer):

A map of Udaris drawn in September 2017
As you can see, it’s undergone some big changes!

Most significantly: Razurea and Tanathia have become fused into one continent; it’s now possible for early humans to have travelled by land from west to east; and Zasulia has become connected to the southern continent (which used to have a name, but I’ve long forgotten it). Hasrukia has remained an island, though.

The continents have also moved much closer together, to make both trade and the colonization of the globe by early humans easier (later, I’ll make a map showing how and when humans colonized Udaris).

Of course, this meant I had to make the ocean bigger, too. About two-thirds of our own world is covered in water, and I wanted Udaris to be the same.

By using the ‘spherize’ tool in Adobe Photoshop Elements, I’ve managed to make some new globes:

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I’ve even been able to see what the poles look like by using the ‘polarize’ tool. It wasn’t easy to work out how to do this, though. As a note to my future self (and anyone else who wants to see what the poles of their conworld look like), you need to crop the map at the equator, turn the canvas into a square with the map at the top, fill the bottom part in black, then hit the polarize button.

The north pole of Udaris
The north pole of Udaris
The south pole of Udaris
The south pole of Udaris

I’m excited to see how my globes will look once I’ve re-done the map in Campaign Cartographer!

World-building in progress

Remember how, the other week, I said that my maps were never really finished?

I’ve decided to re-draw the world of Udaris.

It’s been at least three years since I made any substantial changes to the Udaris world-map (ok, I discreetly moved Hasrukia further east at one point, but that just involved copying and pasting…)

I thought I’d settled on the final version of the Udaris map. Even when I created my globes and realized that Arunisa was in the arctic circle, I hoped I could get away with just making the top and bottom of the map bigger.

Yet I kept wondering, how did humans migrate to the eastern continents when there is no land-bridge?

Finally, I decided that I wanted to re-draw the map after all – there were just too many things I wanted to change. This time around, Udaris is going to have plate tectonics, ocean currents, wind patterns and everything else I can think of to make it more realistic!

A map of Udaris in progress
‘Udaris in progress’ – a very, very rough map with new continent shapes, climates, plate boundaries, ocean currents and wind patterns.

The Kaniyari of Burshnar

Having done so much work on Yanbuka, I thought it was time to draw portraits of Naskaran and his siblings.

Naskaran is the son of Naskremari (the Ankaykari lord who ‘rules’ over Yanbuka) and a human princess from Aumoreya.  He is given the task of defending and governing his father’s mundane lands with the help of his brother Mazern and sister Zhurenissa.

I haven’t decided on the exact dates of Naskaran’s reign, but Kaniyari live for about a thousand years, so it certainly extends into the industrial era! The garments in the portraits depict Yanbukan court fashion from the 15th century.

Like most Kaniyari, Naskaran and Mazern take more after their mortal kin in appearance. Their sister Zhurenissa has inherited Naskremari’s purple eyes, though.

The evolution of maps

I’ve come to realize that maps, like novels and conworlds themselves, are never really finished.

All my older maps are just drafts of my newer maps. I change the place names as I gain a better feel for the language; I change the features as my understanding of geography improves; I realize that they’re not quite what I wanted, and start making revisions…

So, here is my map of the Yanbukan province of Kuarake.

A map of Kuarake drawn in CC3
A map of Kuarake drawn in August 2017 using Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3)

If you look at the Yanbukan map I published a few weeks ago, you’ll see no Kuarake, but you will find a place in the south called Quasakeo.

A map of the Yanbukan empire drawn using CC3 (Campaign Cartographer 3)
A map of the Yanbukan empire drawn in July 2017 using Campaign Cartographer 3

First I decided that there was no ‘qu’ in the Yanbukan language.  Although the land’s original name was Quasakeo, it’s been part of the Yanbukan empire for over a thousand years, and its name will have been changed to something its conquerors could pronounce.

In fact, I decided that the land was originally called Qualo Aeo, after it’s main stronghold, Qualo (now renamed Kuara by the Yanbukans).

Like Ekusha, it is a region with a lot of history. Its people still feel a deep-buried resentment against the northerners who slew their kings – I can imagine that many Kuarakens / Qualoans are keen to recover their cultural heritage and revive their old language.

If you look at this older map of Ekusha, you’ll see it’s not only place-names that have changed. On the new map above, the south-west coast is raised and the river Yebukor has carved out a gorge.

A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3
A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3 in August 2017

This is because I felt like the mountains at the eastern edge of the inland sea should connect with the mountain range in Kuarake. I think they were all formed at the same time (it will be easier to see when I produce my revised map of Yanbuku). With such impressive natural defenses, the old royal stronghold of Qualo can’t have been easy for the Yanbukans to conquer!

Further west are lowlands which flood during the rains. The Sea of Chasuwa has no outflow, so surely all that extra water must go somewhere?

As you see, I’m still trying to make my world plausible with my limited knowledge of how things work!

Building a fantasy world that makes sense

I’ve been world-building for years now, telling myself that I know all the obvious mistakes to avoid (rivers don’t flow uphill, deserts don’t appear next to temperate woodland or tundra etc.) Yes, crazy things can happen in Askamar because it’s the magical realm, but Udaris is the mundane world and I want it to make sense.

Despite this, I’ve often just positioned mountains in places where I thought they looked nice and stuck down cities without giving much thought to their water supply.

Until now, I’ve never considered things like plate tectonics, prevailing winds or ocean currents. The result is maps that look like this:

A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3
A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3 in August 2017

What is wrong with this map of Ekusha?

Firstly, it’s a subtropical land in the southern hemisphere. This means that the wind is blowing up from the south-east, so that forest is sitting right in the rain shadow of the Dakurashen mountains!

As for the mountains themselves, why are they just sprouting up from the plains like that, so tall and jagged? They’re not lying along an active fault line, so they must be quite old. Shouldn’t they be more weathered?

I placed loads of cities along the Sangrabor peninsula, but where does their water come from? What happens to them during the winter dry season? The soil can’t be that great for farming, so is there enough farmland to support them all?

Then there’s Okusaba to the south. I made it a desert, because I know that deserts appear on the other side of subtropical grasslands, but… why would a desert appear there with the wind sweeping across from the sea? It makes more sense for the deserts to be further inland, beyond that unnamed range of mountains to the west.

With all this in mind, I’ve re-drawn the map.

A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3
A map of Ekusha drawn with Campaign Cartographer 3 in August 2017

Over the last week I’ve been doing more reading, but I’ll never be an expert in climate, geology and all the other things you need to know to create a truly authentic world. Still, this is the best I can do right now.

I’ll have to re-draw Yanbuka and the big Yanbuka-Kahubur map as well, of course, but I’d rather revise my work from time to time than be stuck with a nonsensical mundane world!

An epic fantasy saga