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Guest Blogger: Mychael Black
Friday, April 12th, 2013

The Joys of World-Building: Mapmaking

I write gay romance; it’s what I’ve been known for since day 1 in 2005. I’ve written in countless genres, too—from sci-fi to contemporary, bdsm to fantasy, and everything in between (maybe except steampunk…haven’t gone there yet). My biggest love, though, in reading and writing, has always been—and always will be—fantasy. I’m huge fan of it and its subgenres: sword & sorcery, epic fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, the list goes on. When writing it, I take my time on the world itself. I have several books and websites that I refer to when I need to jog my brain on details of the cultures, the lands, and so forth.

One of my favorite aspects of world-building is the mapmaking. I’ve seen some amazing hand-drawn maps from fantasy authors, but I’m not quite that talented. So I use software for it. has several great programs you can buy, from fractal maps to campaign maps, and only the gods know what else. While I’ve used the trials of a few to get a feel for them, my all-time favorite program is actually an open source program called AutoRealm. I don’t remember who introduced me to it at this point, but I’ve used it for years.

I’ve made maps for Aurora (Magic & the Pagan world) and Socendor (Secrets of Socendor world), and now I’m working on a huge one for a new fantasy world I’ll be playing in under a different pen name.

Once I’ve created my basic land masses (usually with the polycurve fractal tool), there are several categories of icons I have to choose from with which to decorate the lands: vegetation, city/town/stronghold markers, land features like mountains, etc. When I’m happy with the placements, I move the file into Paint.Net and color it, adding labels for towns, cities, rivers, etc.

I can easily spend hours and hour, day after day, working on a single map. I make notes of directions, distances between places, even how big certain notable places are. In the end, I rarely share these maps. I create for my own personal reference, to be honest. Maybe one of these days, I’ll recreate the maps for Aurora and Socendor (since the originals went missing) and share those.

Mapmaking is very time-consuming, but like any art, it’s well worth it.

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What do online gaming, Spongebob, cooking, writing, and an unnatural addiction to Mountain Dew all have in common?

Not a damn thing, which is what makes Mychael Black an interesting bird indeed.

Born in north Alabama, Mychael now resides on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Having run the gamut of labels in regard to gender and sexuality, Mychael now shuns society’s views on normality and embraces a poly-everything attitude. Call Mychael her or him—it doesn’t matter. Just keep reading the books.

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Click on the cover to buy it!

Book 1, The Lost Son, is available now. Book 2, Dragonblade, is due out July 2, 2013.


Secrets of Socendor, Book 2

Winning this battle requires a faith stronger than steel…

Legends tell of a dragon-forged weapon so powerful, it possesses the ability to traverse time itself. Knowing the havoc it could wreak, the dragons sealed it deep beneath the mountains.

No one was meant to find it, let alone wield it.

General Kalen Ysindroc, leader of the human king’s armies and the long-lost son of Socendor’s most feared wizard-king of old, is in a race against time. His half brother, Braen, is searching for the sword as a means to return their father from the grave. Kalen must not let that happen. Joined by his elven lover, wizard Micheil Thierauf, he sets out on a journey beneath the mountains to stop Braen from doing the unthinkable.

As secrets come to light that test Kalen’s faith in every way possible, including his trust in the man he’s loved nearly all his life, the right path is as clouded as the murky, dragon-blood-tainted waters of the Ebon Sea. And Kalen is forced to make a decision that could very well be his last.

5 comments to “Guest Blogger: Mychael Black”

  1. Anne
    · April 12th, 2013 at 9:43 am · Link

    This probably isn’t going to please you, but I usually pay no attention to maps when they are included with a book.

  2. Mychael Black
    · April 12th, 2013 at 7:58 pm · Link

    Hi Anne,

    Honestly, I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. I generally make maps for reference when I’m writing the stories. It’s really fun (and time-consuming), but it helps to keep things relatively straightened out. 🙂

  3. Gemma Juliana
    · April 12th, 2013 at 8:01 pm · Link

    Hi Mychael,

    What a stunning book cover! Do you make your own?

    I love when a book has a map in it, there’s something about it that makes the entire experience richer, deeper, more magical. I shall certain check out your work!

    Best of luck with your sales!

  4. Mychael Black
    · April 12th, 2013 at 8:03 pm · Link

    Thanks, Gemma! 🙂

    No, I don’t do my covers, but I’ve been blessed with some amazing artists who blow me away every time. Dragonblade is probably one of my personal favorites, though.

  5. Laura B
    · April 13th, 2013 at 8:51 am · Link

    I misread the title and thought you were talking about “Word” maps. I tutor at a writing center at the university I attend, so I tend to have “word” on the brain. I had never thought of making a map for my stories before, but then again, that is why I read these blogs. I have a couple I need to revise (tween and young adult genre actually) but both are in fictional towns and as I read this post I realized how completely invaluable a map will be when doing my revisions. I happen to like making maps, but to get the distances and such, I think I’m going to look at these programs you’ve mentioned. Thank you so much for the wonderful input!
    By the way, I always look at the maps, I’m so visual I get confused if I can’t picture where things are happening. This is especially helpful for me in fantasy fiction.
    Again, thank you for the invaluable advice.
    Laura B

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