Old Haunts — Vignettes and Visions from the City of Lovat

Old Haunts: Social Climber

📍 Frink Park Warren
🏙 Between Level Four & Five
🕜 Early Afternoon

“Lifts rise and fall through Lovat’s superstructure constantly. Because of their size they’re pretty slow, but it beats climbing the stairs between levels. Hundreds of them whir, hum, and clack their way along, passing between floors, carrying passengers and cargo up and down. The public city lines usually run inside the massive pillars that hold the levels aloft, though those aren’t the only hoists in the city. Lifts of all shapes and sizes owned by all sorts of interests run day and night. There are express lines and extravagant lifts for the rich. There are lifts for cargo, and for school children.”

—Waldo Bell, Red Litten World

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Study Related Ephemera:
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Some audio from Freesounds. Special thanks to: ingudios, michael grinnell, mitchelk, newagesoup, pitched senses, and soapuel.

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Man holding book above his head

Introducing The Bell Forging Cycle Glossary

It’s been a few years between Red Litten World’s release and the forthcoming release of Gleam Upon the Waves. Since it’s been so darn long, I decided to build some new resources for my readers. I’m happy to announce that the first of these is launching today. The Glossary of the Territories can now be accessed from that link or the main menu above—just mouse over “My Books” then “Reader Resources.” The intent is for it to cover all the slang, terms, phrases, and nuances of the Territorial patois.

This isn’t the only resource I’ve been working on. I have plans for a page dedicated to the species of the Territories (which is why they’re not currently listed in the Glossary) and a resource page for Territorial Maps. I’ve also given Echoes of the Wasteland a more permanent home. Until now, it only existed as a blog post. Even if you aren’t playing the ARG, I think you’ll still find it quite interesting.

If you see anything missing from the Glossary or want me to add or address something, please contact me and let me know. I want this to be a living document that expands as the series continues to unfold. (I’ll always keep it spoiler-free.)

There’s much more to come! Enjoy, roaders.

Hyacinth: A 19th Century Mountain Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Hyacinth: A Free 19th Century Mountain Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

It’s not too often I delve into the world of 19th Century maps. In fact, this is my first 19th Century set. Don’t get me wrong, I adore maps from this era. Stylistically they’re often my favorites. But they’re not as easy to develop for brushes. By this time, most map styles had moved past the hill-profile approach fantasy fans are accustomed to seeing. (Thank Tolkien.) By the 1800s, cartography had embraced hachure relief. It was a style that would dominate until the late 19th Century and well into the early 20th Century when contour lines, hypsometric tints, and relief shading started to overtake it and become more prevalent. There are exceptions to every rule, and those deviations often produce unique results. Today’s set is born from one of those anomalies. Meet my newest free brush set, which I’m calling Hyacinth.

This set is based on an 1828 map of the road from Lhasa, Tibet, to Chengdu, China, created by the archimandrite monk Nikita Bichurin. Buchurin took on the monastic name “Hyacinth,” which is where today’s set pulls its name. It’s another stunner and a transitional example of cartographic evolution. You can still see the hill profile approach still present within the elevation, but there’s a shift happening. The technique has begun to adopt some of the aspects more commonly found in hachure relief. The result is beautiful and gives an illustrative quality to the more rigid approaches that will emerge in the future.

Hyacinth is a very focused set with 198 bushes. Don’t expect forests and swamps here. This is strictly focused on mountains with a small nod toward simple settlements. I’ve organized the landforms by size. Mountain Spurs are small mountain ranges less than 200px high or wide. Mountain Ranges extend between 200 and 600px. Large Mountain Ranges go well beyond. The three together should give you plenty of options to layout your mountains any way you want. The full set includes the following:

  • 50 Mountain Spurs
  • 80 Mountain Ranges
  • 13 Large Mountain Ranges
  • 4 Unique Landforms
  • 20 Villages
  • 20 Towns
  • 2 Cities
  • 5 Churches
  • 4 Unique Settlements

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and Affinity Photo) as well as a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. Remember, they’re black, so they’ll look broken viewed in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.

As with all of my previous brush sets, Hyacinth is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Hyacinth? Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email or finding me on Twitter or heck, leave a comment below. I adore seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers (let me know in your message.) Let us see what you make!

Hyacinth in Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you as you get started on your own projects!

An example of Hyacinth in use (black and white)
3000 x 3000
An example of Hyacinth in use (color)
3000 x 3000
An example of Hyacinth in use (decorated)
1080 x 1080

Supporting This Work

If you like the Hyacinth brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror soaked dark urban fantasy novels. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. I think you’ll dig it. You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit the Bell Forging Cycle hub to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle

Not interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.

More Map Brushes

Hyacinth just one of many brush sets I’ve released. You can find it and other free brushes covering a wide variety of historical styles on my Fantasy Map Brushes page. Every set is free, distributed under a CC0 license, and open for personal or commercial use. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works for your project. Click the button below to check them out!

Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information. Sign Up Today→

Come Hang out with Me at #TBRcon

Watch “But, What Scares YOU?” Now!

Yesterday, I had the honor of participating in FanFi Addict’s TBRCon21. It was great! I spent some time with M. R. CareyLee C. ConleyAndy DavidsonJonathan Janz, and Tim Meyer talkin’ horror. At first, we stayed close to the topic and discussed what scares us both in general and in light of the pandemic. Still, as panels like these tend to go, we quickly expanded into a broader discussion about horror and horror-theory. It was a great conversation and a wonderful panel—one of the best I’ve been on. As I mentioned on Twitter, much of the time, it felt like a conversation with old friends.

I’ve embedded the recording above, but you’ll need to pop over to YouTube to watch it. The whole discussion is about an hour long. Towards the end, we all give out a ton of fantastic recommendations of some of our favorite horror reads—my own TBR pile grew significantly. If there’s one thing about the horror community I adore, it’s how excited we are to recommend other people’s books. Like, yeah, we all write books, but we’re always excited to talk about someone else’s work. It’s not something I’ve witnessed as much within other speculative-fiction subgenres.

Would happily do it again. I want to thank and say that I appreciate my fellow panelists being so welcome. Thanks again to  David Walters of FanFiAddict for pulling all of this together. He’s the hardest working man in fandom, and his enthusiasm shows through.

#TBRCon21 continues through Saturday. You can find out much more here, and tune in for free on YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook. Miss a panel you really wanted to see? All recordings of previous discussions are being posted on FanFi Addict’s YouTube page.

Panel Recommendations

Toward the end, David asked us for our recommendations. I’ve tried to list them all here and include any books that were mentioned. Links go to the author’s webpage or blog, and most book links will go to Indiebound. (Support your local bookstore!)



The Hill We Climb

“The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it—if only we are brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman

Earlier today, Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States of America, took his oath of office on the U.S. Capitol Building steps. One of the guests who spoke was 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. A recording of her reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb, can be view above. It’s a stunning piece of verse that confronts the tumultuous experiences of the last several weeks and hints at the possibility of a new start and a fresh beginning. For me, it was one of the highlights from the whole ceremony, and I’m glad to know it’ll go down in the annuals of American history.

Featured Photo: Amanda Gorman ’20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer – Found over on PBS.