This is long overdue, but no less heartfelt for the passage of time. When I learned my esteemed publisher won an award from Diamond Comics Distributors (the company that gets comics to stores) for small press publisher of the year, I felt a huge swell of pride. Dynamite took a chance on me writing Warlord of Mars, and now I think it's safe to say their trust was well founded.
Of course, the majority of the credit goes to Joe Rybrant, my editor, and all of the great artists involved with the project (Joe Jusko – JOE JUSKO!!).
Ultimate props go to Nick Barucci, the evil genius behind Dynamite. Congratulations, Nick, on turning Dynamite into a force to be reckoned with in just seven years. Dynamite publishes, among other things, the terrific comic adaptation of A Game of Thrones. I have a little dream of doing a Band of the Crow with Dynamite, but I don't want to put put my cart before my horse.
Whatever happens, thanks, Dynamite, for making me feel like I've found a home. Your success is mine, and so far it's been a great 2012. I'll do everything I can to make sure Lord of the Jungle is as much of a success as Warlord of Mars.
One of my favorite things about fantasy novels is the map at the back of the book. There's nothing like it to draw you into that other world. When I think about the sum total time I've spent on the map for The Band of the Crow – that's my newly-minted fantasy novel, the first in a series – I weep. But oh well. It's a learning process. I hope.
I began with Campaign Cartographer. If you're a game master, I highly recommend this program. I spent a lot of time learning it, but I ended up throwing out the map I created because it just wasn't what I wanted. In a weird way, Campaign Cartographer is best if you don't have a clear idea of what your world looks like. I think that was my problem – CC filled in too many blanks. But don't get me wrong! it's a very powerful tool. Too powerful for me, maybe.
So I started over from scratch, drawing a map by hand and scanning it into Illustrator using the Live Trace function. Live Trace is worth the price of Illustrator all by itself. If you're interested in art at all, take some time to learn it. There are lots of great tutorials floating around the Web, including official (and free!) Adobe training videos.
I still had a problem, the same one I've discovered with a lot of fantasy maps – too big. How many times have you read a story with a sprawling map, only to find that the action takes place in a narrow sliver of that world? At some point, all of the nooks and crannies of the coastlines become meaningless, even ridiculous.
That's another issue I have with a lot of fantasy maps – they're too precise. They look like they were made with GIS software and global positioning satellites. It kills the mystery and wonder of the story.
So I'm keeping my big world map, but I'm not revealing it until the larger world becomes more important – which it will, in later books. For Band of the Crow I decided to stick to the story – because that's the most important thing, right?
I made the map somewhat imprecise, because I wanted it to look like something produced by the people in my world. I decided to stick to black and white for that reason, too. Black and white will also look a lot better on e-readers. Not a bad thing!
And so, three years after I started, I'm finally ready to show the map to the world. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Midland Brigantia!
The typeface is "Brandywine", from the utterly, utterly indispensable Scriptorium. The site is kind of a challenge to navigate, but it's worth the slog. Brandywine has a great "old time ice cream parlor" look to it, and for some reason it felt perfect for this map.
For the mountains, the forests, the hills, the towns, I traced in my own simplified versions of the (very lovely) symbol sets included with Campaign Cartographer.
The map turned out better than I expected, if I do say so myself. And I do. I don't know what the future holds for Band of the Crow, but the map reminds me the story is worth reading, at the very least. Hopefully the rest of the world will agree!
The story starts in the village of Alundil (AL-un-dill), in case you're wondering.
The initial spark for The Band of the Crow, my newly-finished fantasy novel, came to me in 2006. I was really getting into metal music at the time, especially the doom, death and black varieties.
Ah, black metal. So much to be admired, so much to be despised. It occurred to me Christianity isn't really a "foreign" influence on Scandinavian culture. At least, not any more. You could no more eviscerate Jesus from Norway than you could chop off your own head and expect to survive for very long. And no amount of church burnings is going to accomplish that end in the first place. Sorry, Varg. That idea, and The Sword's debut album were really inspirational to me. Something just sort of clicked.
Giddy with excitement, I set about fleshing out my world – the cultures, the languages, the history, the religions… until finally, five and a half years later, I realized I hadn't written a single word of the actual story. I gave myself a year to write it. A year and a half later, I was done.
Now the scary part begins. It's easy to sit around and dream about the wonderful story you're going to write. Actually writing it, facing up to your own deficiencies, is when the going gets tough. Harder still is shoving it out into the cruel, cruel world, for everyone to rip to shreds. I'd like to say I don't care about rejection, or negative reviews, or indifference, but I do care. A lot. If I didn't, I'd have to find another line of work.
I'll post updates on my quixotic quest right here, of course, so stay tuned. Whatever happens, I know Band of the Crow is the absolute best storytelling I'm capable of, and that, in itself, feels like a victory. Thanks to my brothers, my wife, my parents and of course Ben for all of their support and their terrific comments.