Catastrophic Cartography!

Hey there, bones and ghouls, about two years ago you may remember I posted my drawings of these ( ) maps to give you some indication of… uh… maps.

Well, I was just inspired to revisit one of my shelved projects, ‘Ah-Seti-Ten The Dread‘, and start doing some worldbuilding for it after I watched an anime that had a similar plot-line; that of the dispossessed prince whose home has been overthrown by invaders. If you’re watching this season’s anime, you’ll know I mean ‘Arslan Senki‘, though my book is thankfully different enough for me not to have to bang my head against the wall shouting ‘SIMPSONS ALREADY DID THAT!’ and gnashing my teeth.

This was the map I posted two years ago–drawn hastily because the first chapter of the book (which I’ve just looked over and have found to be most poorly written… curse me for always forgetting to put a setting into my scenes…) had a lot of geography in it. It shows the political boundaries of various nations and the colour surrounding them denotes the majority religious affiliation of that country.

Map of Orinetpholand

So, when coming back to this world after so long, the first thing I wanted to do was to fill in all the blank nations with names. I mostly come up with names like these off the top of my head–chances are they mean something in some other language, but if I could be mature about reading a book in which the main character’s name was ‘Wang’, then I can go forth with these silly names as well!

I also added the equator, and some time zones, for time purposes.

Map of Orinetpholand2

Some of the spaces were too small to write the names of countries in, so I gave them numbers instead and made a key–which isn’t really important enough to post, so yeah…

Of course, there were many more things I needed a map for, two in particular that I wanted to share today, in fact. For this, I decided it would be easiest to go back to a blank version of the map.

So, after an hour’s searching finally lead me to the sketchbook I’d drawn this map in, I traced over the lines (easier said than done seeing as the felt-tip had obscured the definition of some of the borders, and the shadow of my hand kept getting in the way when I tried to trace from right to left. You might think going from left to right would be natural anyway, but I’ve unlearned that method to some extent because, being left-handed, it keeps smudging the page) and was left with my lovely blank map of the ‘Malarendarian Continent’, borders intact because I need to know what’s going on where when I start marking out important stuff:

Blank Map of Malarendrian Continent

This gave me the opportunity to do many things; but the two I was most eager to get to were–

1. A layout of the physical features of the landscape:

Malarendrian Topographical Map

(Not a very good one, I’ll grant you, but what can I say?–I was using Microsoft Paint.)

And somewhat more importantly for when I get back to the book in proper:

2. A map showing the language families that exist within this world. Keep in mind; ‘families’, not the languages themselves; working this out takes a long time and as you can see I haven’t finished yet–for now I’ve been concentrating on places that are actually going to appear or be significant in the book.

Malarendrian Continental Language Family Map

For your enjoyment, the home town of the heroine of the book is marked with a little yellow star; while that of the palace most of the book takes place in has a little red star. What fun.

So, that’s me for the week–how have you all been wasting your time? 😉


First Light: First Thousand Words

Hey, kids! Are you bored right now? Why not pass your time waiting for galactic entropy to end all our miserable lives by reading the first thousand or so words of ‘First Light‘, one of the four short novelette prequels to my book, Rooks of the Knot? (cover pictured below)

Native Cover.4565429.indd

I’ve placed them below this little intro for your enjoyment. Read some more on Wattpad if you enjoy it ( ) or wait for me to post more to this blog. The next excerpt will even come with a doodle!

And if you’re really bored, why not buy the novel on kindle and read that too–a recent survey has shown that there is a 97% survival rate among people who read my book.

(Full disclosure: one of the computers I wrote it on died. It was a sad day.)


“First Light”



[Within the former State of Utah]

Shining in the desert, a few lighter grains of salt blew over flats that hundreds of years ago had been a massive lake, as the sun beat down on what for most of the continent was the hottest day of the year so far. An eagle flew past in the cloudless sky, taking care to avoid the smoke rising from the ruined buildings ahead. Rosebud watched the bird for a good while before it faded from sight.

“Huh,” said Serpentine. “What do you know? We have company.”

For a second Rosebud thought he meant the eagle, but that was gone now. So she blinked and scanned the area to see what he really meant, catching sight of an old land-based truck speeding away from the ruin in an instant.

“Well, that’s not suspicious,” she remarked dryly. “Should we see what they’re up to?”

Even in just those first moments of their being brought to her attention she knew better than to think that whoever was in that truck might have been responsible for what had happened to the burning compound. The fires within its fence had been going for a while; great rivers of smoke stretching towards the sun–speaking of a huge scope of damage, much greater than it seemed that one truck could have been capable of inflicting-and on a facility the Six’s earlier intelligence had deemed to have pretty impressive defences.

No, in all likelihood the guys in the truck were scavengers. Could have been nomads who trundled around No-Man’s-Land looking for anything they could live off, could have been part of a more organised operation, but at that point she doubted they were all that dangerous.

“Full speed ahead, Mike,” said Daniel, smirking. Well, as near to smirking as someone like ‘The Preventer’ could manage anyway; it was really more of an adorable smile, though Rosebud could see he was trying.

Ocelot changed gears on their hovercraft for pursuit of the other vehicle; Simon, Serpentine and Callie leant over the sides to look at it, and Prophet just sat in the back, smiling and holding her stupidly oversized gun. Rosebud didn’t spend a second longer than she had to looking at Prophet; she’d long since given up on trying to get her.

The truck must have noticed them because they swerved off the road to avoid them. Big mistake, seeing as the land-based vehicle was in no way suited to travelling over the salt dunes.

“Think they know who we are?” asked Ocelot.

No one answered him, but Daniel peered out and made a quick judgement call regarding size and distance of the truck, then turned back to the team.

“Sky, Night,” he said. “Why not say hello to the driver for us. It’s unusual to see fellow travellers out here.”

Callie and Simon looked at each other, smiled, and stood up on slightly wobbly legs.

“Keep it steady, Ocelot,” said Daniel.

Prophet laughed for some strange reason.

Then, almost in unison, Callie and Simon stretched their arms up and released their Wings.

These Wings were a variant of the only British technology that had managed to be replicated in the rest of the world for the better part of a millennium; scavenged from downed raiding parties sent by that now entirely isolationist island. The reproduction had been the work of Batswana scientists, and given to the pair by the Motswana diplomat they’d helped protect from Arcadian insurgents four years previously.

The Wings spanned out to eleven foot across from the harnesses on Callie and Simon’s backs, a system of seven multi-sized disks on each wing held together with a bat skin-like artificial membrane; each disk a super-compact engine that, working together, could carry an average man’s weight in any direction the hand-held controls tilted the disks.

This technology was relatively common in southern Africa, but not so much in the Americas, so it must have been a shock for whoever was in the truck to see two people jump off either side of the speeding hover-car and twirl gracefully through the air without ever touching the ground, then speed through the air towards them like avenging angels.

It definitely gave the driver of that truck a scare; he swerved one way, then the other, and then kept on going, throwing salt into the air as it gurgled forward. Callie and Simon fanned out, then swept back towards each other and crossed paths, inspiring Ocelot to whistle with appreciation.

Honestly, Rosebud was more annoyed than impressed with her teammates. Those two knew by now how difficult it was to refuel the goddamn things, so she wished they’d stop showing off for each other.

Callie was the more headstrong of the pair, and as such it was no surprise that she was the first to reach the truck. Gunshots came from the passenger window, but by that time she’d activated the shield on her arm; metal blades opening out in a circle like a fan.

As she drew the fire, Simon came up the other side with his own shield ready, the edge of which he used to slash at the tires on the right side. Must have been old rubber tires by the look of it-not exactly their most challenging foe yet.

Or so Rosebud’s first thoughts ran. But when the truck swerved and slowed as it began skidding to its inevitable halt, she saw movement in the back where the cargo was. A pair of gloved hands poked out from underneath the tarpaulin, and the sheet lifted a little, enough for anyone underneath it to get a look at what was happening without being seen.

Only, Rosebud didn’t need to see him fully. One of the gloves was white, the other was black, she could tell even from where she was, and while there was hardly a written law that only one person on the planet could make that particular fashion statement at any given time, there was also Occam’s Razor to consider.

Her heart skipped a beat. She knew who it was under there–and, therefore, who these people were.

It was funny how quickly the weight of past failures could grab hold of her, like an over-cautious friend grabbing her and pulling her back from reacting, for fear of the potential consequences she remembered all too well from the last time she’d encountered members of this group. For precious seconds, she thought of nothing but what cold cement had felt like beneath her knees, as vice-like grips on her upper arms had restrained her like her her fear restrained her now.

But fear that couldn’t be controlled had no place in her profession. Those precious seconds she was caught by indecision were few, and not so dear that they ended up costing her anything–this time. Which was for the best, given it had been acting without thinking that had been her downfall in the past.

So Rosebud Mason took a deep breath.

“Get in close,” she mouthed to Ocelot. For Callie and Simon’s benefit she leant out of the craft, waved her hat and yelled, “Altitude! Altitude!” and they must have heard her because they went up a moment later, thank god–she could at least breathe easier when she didn’t have to worry about those two getting shot from the side.

“What is it?” asked Daniel.

“They’re Lathyrus’ men,” she growled.

She had to struggle not to grit her teeth so hard the name wouldn’t come out.

Safe As Houses

So for the last few weeks I’ve forgotten to actually post anything about my novels–you know, that whole thing this blog was supposed to be about? And this made me think, what better way to spend my time than to steal an idea from another writer/blogger, and write a post in which I sort all the major characters in my novels into their Hogwarts houses!?

You’ll agree that was the most obvious decision, of course.

I had a lot of fun doing this–more than I strictly should have come to think about it. There’s a tendency for Potter fans, I think, to do their imaginary sorting according to their perception of the Houses, and not what their basic characteristics are actually supposed to be. In the old days when I was in the Harry Potter fandom, a lot of people saw Slytherin, for instance, as the house of Goths and counter-culture because they thought the author and main characters ostracised them, when in fact I think the the culture of Slytherin was very much traditionalist, and the ostracising quite explicitly came from them–which made sense because adherence to traditional values tends to make you a ‘safe’ choice for advancement to your ambitions.

However the four basic traits of those houses; courage, diligence, intelligence and ambition, can be exemplified through many facets–both positive and negative. A religious fanatic can be courageous, for example, and a civil rights activist can be ambitious. It’s how you use your skills that define who you are as a person, and I found myself very amused by how many of the ‘good’ characters ended up in Slytherin, or ‘bad’ characters in Gryffindor, though indeed the opposite was also true.

As you can see from the notes I made, I also included the second most likely house for the character, which I also found interesting. I thought up houses for both primary major characters and secondary major characters, but I’ll expand on the primary ones only below for a sentence or two so that I still get in some time to do some proper writing today!

And in case you’re wondering, I have–by process of elimination–placed myself in Ravenclaw, as I lack ambition, am not particularly brave, and am the least hard-working person on the face of the earth, but I do like learning about stuff sometimes.

Thanks to Jackie Smith for the idea! (see here: )


(Characters from ‘Rooks of the Knot‘ [available now from Amazon or on Kindle] incl. all pov characters, even the two who don’t really show up until the next book)

Tryamour: Hufflepuff. She has chosen to join a religious order that basically revolves around performing domestic chores for the community, after all; and though she is more interested in the academic side of the Order than most of her sisters, that’s more of a hobby than a life’s purpose for her.

Palamon: Hufflepuff. Poor Palamon–Hufflepuff by default. He tries so hard, but the whole series of terrorist attacks he has to deal with kind of leaves him out of his depth.

Dorigen: Ravenclaw. Although she is very ambitious about achieving status in the Order of Merlin, Camelot’s scientific academy, in her heart it’s all about gaining knowledge for its own sake.

Yvain: Gryffindor. Going up against the totalitarian government of Camelot is pretty brave, I’d have to say. And he exemplifies the darker side of bravery as well, when one does not always think things through before taking massive risks with their own or others’ lives.

Unghared: Gryffindor. From a family of mostly Slytherin this was a difficult one, but at her core I think Unghared is an extremely dutiful person, and even at a young age wants to try and defend the weak; though she and Yvain would have opposite ideas on what this would entail.

Degare: Gryffindor. Bravery is an essential characteristic for a soldier, and he shares a lot of his character traits with Unghared, although ultimately, his bravery is going to come into play when it comes to accepting himself, and his role in life.

Gideon: Slytherin. Her (yes, Gideon is a girl) ambition is twofold–one, to stay alive (you’ve got to stat somewhere!) in the employ of a total psycho, and two’s a spoiler, but she’s very goal-oriented either way.

Alex: Hufflepuff. A particularly spoilerific character, though you can meet him in my prequel to Rooks which is on Wattpad, here: . At the end of the day though, he just wants to do what he can to help out his friends. Which sometimes involves assassination.

(Characters from ‘The Ritual of DUELS‘–the three pov characters, their ‘Seconds’, and the interlude character)

Xiang: Gryffindor. Definitely Gryffindor. Of the happy-go-lucky, adventurous sort that doesn’t always properly risk-assess the situation, but laughs off his mistakes. Not so easy, is laughing off the prophecy made about his untimely death, but he perseveres nonetheless.

Tarquin: Ravenclaw. Would rather shut himself up in a library and study history so he can point out all the mistakes in various period pieces than interact socially with others. Over the course of the book we see his lack of ambition for anything else may be something of a pretence though…

Elodie: Gryffindor. Anger issues easily frustrate her when it comes to anything that requires patience; hard work, learning, moving up in the world, but Elodie also has a heart of gold that sees her want to put herself forward for those in trouble. Sometimes.

Lei: Hufflepuff. Her life is devoted to service to Xiang’s family, and other familiars of the household fear her catching them idle.

Niradara: Gryffindor. Why exactly I have chosen to focus on his courage is something of a spoiler–for most of the books he is a very mysterious character.

Quiterie: Hufflepuff. Like Lei, devoted to Elodie’s family, but as a member and not a servant. Being Elodie’s stepmother requires endless patience, and she must keep trying to earn Elodie’s acceptance.

Isabella: Hufflepuff. As the Princess of Two Worlds, she has a lot of work ahead of her, and all signs point to her being up to the task, though her personal desires don’t always align with her duty.

(From ‘518‘. Uh… the first characters that popped into my head until I ran out of space on the page)

Ira: Gryffindor. This was one of those interesting ones. Initially I was going to put him in Ravenclaw, but I realised that in fact Ira was very brave, though neither he nor most people would think of him that way–they would in fact think the opposite, because his bravery was to make a choice that most would think immoral, but certainly wasn’t ‘safe’.

Shirou: Slytherin. Ira’s counterpart; his ambition is to take down the alien empire that has taken over the earth–a tall order for one man, but he’s giving it his all, and he has a plan that’s not entirely on the up-and-up, so to speak…

Nate: Slytherin. Wants to serve the Selena empire as best he can, but also wants to rise as high as he can within their ranks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but he can get kind of irritating.

Freddie: Gryffindor. A particularly violent, snarky, and easily baited alien on a wheel, Freddie is almost fearless; and when your species’ females routinely cannibalise their males during mating, you kind of have to be.

Ling: Gryffindor. Shirou’s partner in the mission to free the earth from its captivity, though for him this is far more of a personal issue through which he can resolve certain demons that have little to do with the conquest of earth–which is certainly not to say he doesn’t care about that!

Georgia: Ravenclaw. While she too certainly desires to see an end to the occupation of earth, her passion for learning about alien cultures does not stem entirely or even mostly from this desire, and would be happy to be the resident ‘alien’ expert for its own sake. Also feels a moral obligation to show off share her knowledge ;).

Rio: Hufflepuff. It’s all about putting 100% effort into serving the Empire, somehow with room for an extra 10% to make sure others do to, but unlike Lei from ‘DUELS’, he’s a lot gentler about it. Not so gentle in the heat of battle though.

Art: Ravenclaw. Happy as he is to serve the Empire, his heart lies in what he can learn about the universe in all fields of knowledge, and he is particularly interested in solving puzzles. Rejects anything nonsensical.

Leo: Gryffindor. Rio’s brother and leader of the occupation on earth, Leo is something of a glory-hound, but fiercely protective of his loved ones to an extent most Selena are not. While he would always do what was best for the Empire, he has been known to challenge them on occasion.

Theo: Ravenclaw. Leo’s scientific advisor; the Spock to his Kirk, so to speak, and unfailingly eager to prove his vast intelligence in useful inventions for the Empire–but has been known to be a touch insubordinate.

Hyde: Slytherin, and not just because his species is exceedingly snake-like. Hyde has advanced to an unprecedented position for someone of his species’ ranking in the Imperial Hierarchy and is ruthless in getting to the bottom of any investigation that comes his way.


That certainly took a while to write. Feel free to make your own lists, my fellow nerds!

Jumping the Dragon

Guess what TV show this post is about!

(And guess what my opinion of the latest episode was…)

Yep, it’s happened–for the first time in years something that happened on a TV show has actually upset me. Not just annoyed me; that happens all the time, but actually upset me. I’m even writing a stupid blog post about it because it upset me so much, knowing full well no one cares about my opinion on Game of Thrones.

You know, I’ve heard it said (usually in what I imagine to be a snooty, condescending tone) that Game of Thrones the TV show has become more like a fanfic of A Song of Ice and Fire than an adaptation. To some extent I’ve agreed with that, but then–I like fanfiction. I like Game of Thrones fanfiction. I’ve written Game of Thrones fanfiction for crying out loud. And I like(d) the show–though I haven’t ‘loved’ it since Season 3 started. Hell, I really liked last week’s episode.

But this week’s episode was the chapter of this particular fanfic where I hit the back-button, and unless the finale reveals that what happened this week was a bad dream-sequence–and seriously, I would forgive them even that hackneyed cliche if it undid what was done this week–I won’t be coming back for Season 6.

Two weeks ago I was defending the show, I know, but that was when a change was made that I thought was good. I like the alterations to Sansa’s storyline. I love the alterations to Tyrion’s. I’m glad Jon Connington and Quentyn Martell were cut from the show. But Shireen’s death this week was a bad change. A very bad change. And to the story-line which in the books is the one I care about the most. (Team Dragonstone FTW!)

Personally, I’ve never felt the show did justice to Stannis’ character, but I’d learned to accept that even though he’s one of my top three favourites from the books. However, what he did here is wildly inconsistent even with their own characterisation of him; and here’s the thing–I would have accepted it to be within his character, book or show, to sacrifice Shireen to Rhollor; if he was 100% sure it was the only way to save the world from the White Walkers–and only then.

But this? Two episodes ago he told Melisandre to fuck off for suggesting it. One hiccup later and suddenly he’s like, ‘well, throw her on the bonfire, I guess,’ just so he can capture Winterfell. It’s the same way they screwed up the sacrificing-Gendry (Edric in the books) storyline, only way worse because it was a greater sacrifice, for less gain, with even less assurance that it would work because there was too much other stuff going on this season for them to build up properly to it. It was stupid.

*Sigh*. Well, never mind. I’m going to find some other TV show to binge-watch so I can take my mind off it. Though I have to say, for the first time I’m now looking forward to Winds of Winter coming out despite my foreboding at how it would inevitably screw things up, because at least I know it won’t screw things up as badly as this.

I’m going to look like a whiny idiot next week if it was all a dream sequence…

Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell & Me

A tale from my past that I’m sure my fellow writers and literature aficionados will appreciate.

The year was 2004, so I was either 13 or 14 years old; the age at which all girls are at their most attentive when listening to their parents. ogei]w-00f–ahem, sorry, I accidentally smooshed against the keyboard there when I burst out laughing.

Anyway, one day I was sitting around watching TV when my mum walked into the room to tell me about a friend or acquaintance of her boss who had written a fantasy book that had taken ten years to write and was being much talked about in her circles. She told me she would pick me up a copy, since I liked fantasy books, when she went to the book signing that was happening the next day.

My considered and respectful reply was something along the lines of:

“Nn, whatever.”

The next morning my hard-working mother stopped by my room on her way to her place of employ, (she generally left the house before I woke up so she could leave work before 3) and woke me up to ask me:

“Hey, Rachel; when I go to the book-signing today is there any little message you’d like me to ask the author to write in the book for you?”

Not entirely sure what she was talking about and mostly asleep, I used what I thought was my ‘this-is-a-joke-between-us-mum-don’t-actually-tell-this-author-to-write-this’ voice to say the first witty one-liner that popped into my head. My mum laughed and left for work, and I forgot about it immediately.

Until, that is, she came home from the book-signing late that evening with my own personal copy of this book and said:

“I got you a copy of the book, Rachel–look what she wrote in it for you!”

At first I wondered what my mother might have asked this author to write for me, expecting some kind of basic ‘will you write this for my daughter?’-type thing I’d pretend to like for my dear old mum’s sake.

Instead, when I looked at the page my face must have filled with horror. And with glee.

Strange & Norrell

“Mum!” I exclaimed. “That was supposed to be a joke! I didn’t mean for you to actually ask her to write this!”

But, as you can see, she did, and I was able to show you this awesome picture.

I can’t say Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell became one of my favourite books; it was one where I never really connected to the characters, though I can only stand amazed at all the work that must have gone into it, and I will always remember with glee the aghast looks on the faces of anyone who saw me take out a book thicker than almost any we had in the school library and start reading it over the next month or so, and it clearly had an effect on my writing as the pitch for ‘The Ritual of DUELS’ reads something like this:

‘A group of young persons chosen from a selection of ancient and powerful families [like the characters from ‘Game of Thrones‘] who live in a version of our world that exists along side another which is the home of legendary supernatural creatures [like the world of ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’] take part in a complex, dangerous ritual competition of which there can be only one winner [like the plot of ‘Battle Royale’ ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ ‘The Hunger Games’]. Hilarity ensues.’

[Seriously, the minute the book is finished and available for publication I fully expect someone to tell me The Simpsons already did it].

DUELS takes a very different path to JS&Mr.N, of course–it’s set in the modern era for one thing, and though ‘magicians’ (called ‘Changelings’, since an ordinary Human has to go to the other world in order to gain any magical talent, like changelings of legend who are taken there by faeries) do exist in-universe, they don’t really feature in the book.

But I give my eternal thanks to Ms. Clarke nonetheless. It still makes me feel bad for her that she had hoped to be as good as me one day, and my self-published novel has sold at least ten copies, while all she has is a currently-airing popular TV drama based off of her works…

Don’t give up on your dreams, Ms. Clarke! I’m still rooting for you!

A Birthday Surprise! (It’s an Award Nomination).

Sorry, I ruined the surprise 😦 (I’m not sorry at all).

There’s also a birthday card I did for my Supernatural/Frozen-fan cousin in this post, which is why the word ‘birthday’ is in the title. I’m putting it here so my readers can entertain themselves with it, should it turn out they don’t care that I was nominated for an award.

But they should care, of course, because I haven’t posted anything in four days and they should be glad for any paltry scraps I give them by now, mwa ha ha ha ha!


The award in question is the Encouraging Thunder Award, ( ), and here’s it’s logo:

Hopefully that image will show up in the actual post. These things go wrong often for me, like the washing machine we tried to unhook in preparation for the new one being delivered tomorrow totally flooding the kitchen today. I mean, at least it didn’t blow up or anything, which I now know is a thing, but still…

The person who nominated me for the award was Caroline, at , much gratitude to her, (and apologies for not putting up this post sooner; that damn washing machine has been taking up a hell of a lot more time than any household appliance ever should 😡 ) be sure to check out her blog if you’re interested in fantasy authors’ blogs, and the people I’m going to nominate for the award are…

Crap. I don’t know what the etiquette behind nominating people for awards is; I pretty much suck at blogging. I’ll just nominate the last person who nominated me for an award, because they’re pretty cool:

And we can move on to the homemade birthday card. This one’s for you, fans of Supernatural and/or Frozen (also of Gundam Wing, which was mine and my cousin’s first shared fandom. You can see our respective favourite characters from that show eating cake in the background as a tribute to that special time in history) :

Lesley's Birthday Card 2015 - Image Only


Dean: “Of course it’s possessed, Sam! How else could a snowman survive in MAY!?”

Zechs: “This will end well.”

Balloon: *is green*


And there you have it, back to the grindstone of writing ‘Ritual of DUELS’ for me!(The cake, incidentally, is monochrome flavoured.)(Monochrome isn’t a flavour. That’s the joke.)