A Cheap Map And Some Crayons: The Fantasy Book Project: Update 2

I stepped into the room and flopped on the bed beside where Alicia, my wife, was sitting. “Am I just being silly?” I asked. She cocked her head and looked at me, “That depends on what you are referring to,” she said. A pragmatic answer and expected honestly. I continued, “With this whole book I am working on.”

I had just spent the last three hours measuring, drawing, cutting, and finally coloring a map (Pictured here). I used crayons because, well, I have kids and they were readily available. It was a modified flood map of the Eastern United States. Which I know sounds like an odd thing to spend three hours doing, but in working on my new novel, I thought it might be fun to play with the idea of a far-future place that was still on this planet but very changed. My daughter’s teachers have been pushing climate change a lot this year and I started to wonder what the world would look like if all the ice caps melted.

So I took to YouTube, as you do, and looked up flood maps of the Eastern US. The video started and slowly the land began to disappear underwater, the Mississippi River swelling and the Ohio River as well, slowly engulfing the surrounding land. It was actually quite fascinating to watch. At the place where it said the water was 280 meters above sea level, the world looked very similar to the image above. I snapped a screenshot and then traced the outline of the land on a sheet of printer paper. I had it then, a basic shape that looked very good to me.

So what was it for? I wanted to write my fantasy book and be able to talk about distances and travel times accurately. I mean, that’s not the main point of the book, but I always want things to make sense, even if they aren’t real. I want my readers to go, “oh, well that could happen.” In many fantasy books I’ve read, people seem to travel and get places in no time at all, but I wanted to really delve into that idea a bit with my book. With a real-life map, I can actually look at travel times and play around with real roads (even though many of them might be destroyed at this point in the future). So I spent three hours coloring a cheap map I got for $7.00 off Amazon.

Let’s come back to my question for Alicia though, “Am I just being silly?” Once I had explained that I was directly speaking to the three hours I just spent on the map, she said, “No, I don’t think you’re being silly. I think it’s good that you care enough to take all those ideas that are bouncing around in your head and allow yourself to be creative about them. To really work things out. No, you’re not being silly.” Now, whether or not I think I am being silly is another issue completely, but my wife doesn’t think I am. I believe a lot of men, whether we want to admit it or not, need that reassurance that our lives, that what we are doing, or how we see our purpose in life are not being wasted. That striving for significance and purpose. To some degree, I think my writing might be an attempt at significance. A way to leave something that might just last beyond your memory. I hope my great-grandkids will someday read my writings and enjoy them, wish they had known me or been able to talk to me. There is something meaningful about leaving a moral and spiritual legacy to our kids, of course. But what about a legacy of something else? Something more tangible perhaps. Something they can hold in their hands. I’ve spoken about my Grandfather before, and while he wrote a lot of things, I wish he had written even more. It’s like I have only gotten a small taste of what type of man he was and I really wanted more.

I hope I am leaving more, even if some of it, is just silly.

D. Michl Lowe

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