Saturday, June 26, 2010


I’ve been having a lot of fun yesterday and today. Over the years I’ve hand drawn a variety of maps for my fantasy stories set on Talera and Thanos. Many were drawn on the backs of pages torn out of an old biology class workbook from college. Later ones were put down on a sketch pad and I thought I was really moving up in the world. I’ve used those maps a lot over the years, and have added or edited them at times so that they now have various scratch outs and additions on them. They also suffer from my complete lack of artistic talent.

But yesterday a revolution in Gramlich map-making occurred. I asked the Lovely Lana to scan the originals I had and to send them to me as graphic files. I then began using my paint program to clean them up, to redraw faded lines, and to begin to introduce some color and some typed headings instead of the almost impossible to read scrawls that I’d filled them with before. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

Every once in a while I forget why I’m in the writing biz. Sometimes I get too focused on deadlines and trying to make sure I meet certain audience expectations. Sometimes I worry too much about whether something is likely to be published or not. Of course those are important things, and I don’t deny that, but none of those were in my head when I first started writing. I started for the sheer love of creating. And fiddling with these maps is bringing it back home to me. I see those areas of my maps that are yet unfilled and my mind starts churning with possibilities. I see a line I marked as “Trader’s Road” and I want to know where it goes. I see a place I called “Quall Valley” and I wonder what secrets abide there.

One map that has certainly seen its share of use in my stories is the map of the Island Kingdom of Nyshphal, which features prominently in both Wings Over Talera and Witch of Talera. It is mentioned in Swords of Talera but is never seen in that book. I’ve posted two images of one section of this map below for you to see how it looked “before” and “after.” You may have to click on them to enlarge them.

Man, the memories this brought back. Makes me want to go back to those heady days when I was first writing Swords of Talera, when all I cared about was finding out what happened next to Ruenn Maclang and his band of friends. Great days. Great days. As they always are when you are doing something for love.



Lana Gramlich said...

Sometimes it's nice to step away from our "usual" activities & do something different (even if still related to the "usuals.") I'm glad you're enjoying your maps again. :)

sage said...

I remember a workshop on writing where I took a class on fiction (not my usual genre) and the instructor had us begin by creating a map and putting details down

Barbara Martin said...

This is a great idea, and thanks for the samples, Charles.

Deka Black said...

Not maps, but, to keep alive mi inner child, and why saves mea good amount of work, the map of the town, andzones where my heroes abring justice and fight evildoers... are where i live. Only the map, the rest is pure imagination. ^^

A different kind of map, but eworks for me.

And of course, maps in fantasy are a aspect what as a reader, i enjoy ;)

Lisa said...

You make maps and you make it yourself! It must be wondrous creating the storyline and building dimensions and bringing it to life.

I guess it is the same with everything else we do in life. The joy of pure exploring, over time, is replaced with planning and execution. I feel the same with blogging. But I do believe we could work on being young and free again. Within boundaries.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

". . . but none of those were in my head when I first started writing. I started for the sheer love of creating."

Thanks for the reminder about WHY we write.


Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, it sure is.

Sage, I love doing that. Just pure invention.

Barbara, I always liked the maps I saw in fantasy books.

Deka Black, thanks for visiting. Yes, I love the maps in fantasy, and the old real world maps when there were large areas unknown!

Ocean girl, sometimes it's great to sort of color outside the lines.

Terrie, I think it's important at times to keep bringing that to mind.

RA said...

Are you sure you are not creating an alternative reality with your stories being as complete as they are?

ivan said...

Don't know what I've been smoking but the map looks like the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, right in the heart of Iraq, which, four thousand years ago, was Ur-Babylon.

When we were Jung? Subconscious racial memory?

Hoary Gilgemesh wanting his story to be told again?

Gad. Heroes go back a long way!

ivan said...

Don't know what I've been smoking but the map looks like the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, right in the heart of Iraq, which, four thousand years ago, was Ur-Babylon.

When we were Jung? Subconscious racial memory?

Hoary Gilgemesh wanting his story to be told again?

Gad. Heroes go back a long way!

nephite blood spartan heart said...

Write on, there's something about the fires of imagination. Thinking about these worlds we create and discovering them anew as we write down the history of these lands spawned from our dreams.

Deka Black said...

Yeah, because "here are monsters" ;)

Mary Witzl said...

It's always good to step back and remember what writing was like when it was just for the joy of telling a story, before deadlines and endless rewrites!

Not so long ago, I took a look at the original ms of the story I'm working on now. It was breathlessly awful, but it made me think back on the joy of that time. And yes, those were heady days.

David Cranmer said...

Charles we are simpatico. Though, Cash Laramie is in Wyoming circa 1882, most of the towns I've created are fictional, so I've started a map for my protagonist so he doesn't get lost. Lots of fun.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful, Charles ... maps to your soul. Tapping back into the original energy.

Bet that writing finger is pretty itchy, eh?

Harry Markov said...

Your maps are, for the record, far from suffering lack of artistic talent. My maps seem like they have been drawn by a 5 year-old and that is that.

But it feels good returning to old maps, who are unexplored completely.

writtenwyrdd said...

I love making maps for my fantasy stories. They are an important tool, too, in order to keep the story straight and avoid continuity errors. If you don't know the terrain and the characters are on a quest, you can have some really egregious bloopers.

I have a huge map I drew up for the epic fantasy series I have had in the works for about 30 years. One of these days...

Charles Gramlich said...

RA, well, so far no tour companies are booking tours to Talera. But surely that will be coming soon. :)

ivan, I didn't do that consciously but it may well be influenced by that. I even remember reading about the Tigris and Euphrates as a kid in junior high. and I know consciously that cities and trade in the ancient world often developed at the conflux of rivers.

David J. West, I know. It just becomes such an intense feeling. Takes you out of yourself.

Deka Black, "that's" my favorite part.

Mary Witzl, sometimes even prose that doesn't sing has a narrative drive that drags you headlong through the story.

David Cranmer, I should produce a map for my westerns since many of them take place around two fictional towns called Stopover and Broken Axle.

Don, I did several hours on a story in the late evening so I scratched the finger a bit. It needs more today.

Harry Markov, I've got to start on the map that'll be used for the fourth Talera novel. I've got the ideas in my head but nothing on the page yet. I kind of like these older style maps too instead of the really hyper developed computer ones. They have a sense of realness about them.

writtenwyrdd, I have a great book called "The Atlas of fantasy" which is almost completely just maps of fantastic worlds. I'd love to see something like that expanded, and see maps from lesser known writers in it.

Deka Black said...

uuups, sorry for the typos!

Travis Cody said...

I loved creating the map for my Outlawed project. I have some of the original smaller sketches. I put the entire map on a piece of poster board. It has faded quite a bit though. I never thought of scanning it and working with it on the computer. That's a great idea.

The other thing I always have fun with is creating genealogies for my characters. That kind of back story information makes the characters more real to me, and I end up caring about even the smallest characters. Of course, the trap can be focusing too much on characters that never even appear in the story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of my greatest memories is watching my two young children do this with the Oz books. It was so much fun. My SIL just did one for his new book FRONTIERLAND, too.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, not a problem.

Travis cody, yes, I've done an extensive geneology for the Maclangs, although not for a lot of my other characters. sometimes I have to do the geneologies post hoc because of how things change during the course of a story.

Pattinase, the impulse to create is with us from an early age.

Steve Malley said...

I never start with a map, preferring to let relevant places and their relation to each other bubble up from down below. By the time I'm finished, though, I could definitely map the area, draw relevant floorplans, etc.

And yeah, once or twice I've found it helpful to stop and scribble, to keep myself from getting turned around. By the end of Poison Door, I was writing with a Christchurch A-Z at my side...

Cloudia said...

Maps of Gramlich Consciousness!

Fine insights about what brought you to be a writer, and maintaining that original authenticity.

Did you and Lana see the new mural that is in the new (feh!) goldman sacks building? The New Yorker did an artists profile showing the (map-like) work in recent months. i'm sure Lana would find it intriguing, though different from her own more organic work.

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

laughingwolf said...

great fun, reliving your own creations!

keep at it, new tales will come...

i'd have to do it your way... times even i can't decipher my scribblings

Erik Donald France said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erik Donald France said...

Amen brother on doing the things you love.

Maps ARE cool -- these are. Nice fusion via Lana's scans of technology and drawing'

it's nifty fifty'

jodi said...

Hey Charles, about a thousand years ago, I worked as a travel agent for AAA. In addition to air travel, I did those trip tik thingies and learned to love reading maps.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Lately, the only deadlines I know are the one along the perimeter fence.

It's nice looking back on the writing process and remembering those special moments that triggered the creativity.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, For fantasy, I usually have a very generic map that I really expand and fill in before I’m done. I make photocopies to draw on as I work so I can end up scribbling without much concern and can add the survivors to the original map eventually.

Cloudia, no, I haven’t seen the mural. I’ll have to check it out. I’ll tell Lana.

laughingwolf, I know. My hand writing is so bad. Even now I’m having to refer back to my notes to find out how certain cities and places are supposed to be spelled.

Erik Donald France, technology really can be a boon as long as you don’t let it take over.

jodi, Lana is the real expert on maps in our family. Maybe it’s a woman thing. :0
JR, got to keep thinking of the fun or else this becomes too close to a job.

Bernita said...

Just read the Talera tales again.
I love those books. The descriptions are wonderful and the action scenes are terrific.

Deka Black said...

Charles, i must recognize you made me want to read more Sword & Planet works than the Burroughs works and Almuric by Robert E Howard.

Yours is one, of course, but... any recomendation?

BernardL said...

I remember using Robert E. Howard's maps for reference with every Conan adventure. I'm sure revisiting yours triggered the same eagerness.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernita, well that made my day. I'm so glad you enjoyed them.

Deka Black, An updated sword & planet story that I liked a lot was Stirling's "In the courts of the Crimson Kings." Phillip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers series is in the same vein and the first five books are very good. I also like Otis Adelbert Kline and Alan Burt Akers. For Lin Carter, his Green Star series is the best. I'm not big on a guy named Dowdell who did a couple of S & P books.

Bernardl, I've actually spent far more time working with them than I can afford at the minute but I've enjoyed it so much.

Deka Black said...

Thanks! I will look for the Pharmer books ;)

Heff said...

Ain't no doubt about the fact that you're creative, that's for SURE.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, I'm sorry I've not been able to respond much on your blogs but I don't speak the language I'm afraid.

Heff, why thanks, dude. I appreciate that.

Harry Markov said...

So, you do not use the same locations twice for a novel in the same series? Your characters must travel a lot.

Deka Black said...

Take it easy. I know not knowing a language sometimes is worrying. You must see my knowledge of english only some months ago.

Luckyly, three things helped me;


-Doctor Who (classical and new series)

-And above all, my girlfriend,(she study english philology)

Besides, My personal blog is about a lot of japanese stuff. And some individuals find it boring or simply don't pay attention ;)

the walking man said...

As much as I do not like to admit it--editing the novels for the past month or so has brought back that reason I started writing--to tell a story and to tell it as well as I am able.

In the blank spot on the map shouldn't you put like the old cartographers of the flat earth gays, before Magellan..."Here there be Dragons"

Greg said...

I know what you mean... that sense of wonder is great. Sometimes we lose that and have to be reminded that it's why we picked up a pen or pencil in the first place.

Charles Gramlich said...

Harry Markov, The city of Timmuzz, the capital of Nyshphal, appeared in both the 2nd and 3rd Talera books. But that's really about the only physical location that was repeated in the trilogy. I figure Talera is a pretty big place. The fourth book, which I've started starts where book 3 left off but then goes completely to another location entirely. I guess I'm "literarily" exploring the world since I can't walk it on foot.

Deka Black, I've often been amazed at how much people can pick up of a language from something like a TV show.

Mark, Maybe on Talera I should put here there be....hum, something else besides dragons. Good idea, though.

Greg Schwartz, I guess it's a matter of not seeing the forest (of creativity) for the trees (of having deadlines and having to get the words onto the page)

Deka Black said...

Well, is only matter of love for the show ;) And patience, lots of it

Ty said...

Putting together maps can be loads of fun. I did about 10 years ago for my own fantasy writing. Did a continent map and a few maps for specific cities in which I knew action would be taking place. I actually enjoy coming up with names for different towns, streets, bridges, rivers, etc.

Merisi said...

Fascinating! :-)

Spy Scribbler said...

Wow, that is just the coolest, Charles. That looks like fun! Now I want to build a world so I can draw a map of it. Really. All my fantasy worlds have been sort of contained in this world. I think I want to try a whole new world.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka Black, yes indeed, patience to keep your butt in the chair while you work and rework again.

Ty Johnston, I started out amusing myself with maps and invented worlds and cities even before I started writing. The writing naturally followed that as I worked the stories over in my head.

Merisi, thankee.

Natasha Fondren, I like the brand new ones best. SO free!