de Fer Cartography: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

This spring, I released the second in a series of sets coming from one individual: Nicolas de Fer. He’s an interesting historical figure, a famous French geographer who eventually became the official geographer of the Spanish and French courts. He was a prolific engraver and publisher, stole unabashedly, and while his work isn’t considered historically accurate, he brought a uniqueness with his cartography that helps it stand apart artistically from his contemporaries, making his work the perfect base for fantasy map brush sets.

Hey look it’s Nick de Fer! His wig is freshly fluffed and he’s ready to impress you with his maps.

Today, I am happy to announce the release of de Fer Cartography, the third and final set in my de Fer Collection, and my twenty-fifth brush set! This is an extensive cartography brush set based on the first plate of de Fer’s Le Cours de Missisipi, ou de St. Louis, an early 17th-century map depicting headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes region. The map itself isn’t as accurate as other maps from the period, but like his other work, de Fer’s artistic ability is what shines here. He goes into extensive detail, creating a unique art piece with signs and symbols that stand apart and work exceptionally well for fantasy maps.

A sample of what you’ll find in de Fer Cartography

Much of what you’d expect in a standard cartography set will be found here settlements, landforms, and fauna; however, there is a uniqueness de Fer brings to his work that would add a nice spin to fantasy projects. I particularly like how he’d rendered each building in settlements really fills out a space. And, I hope you like cartouches because this set comes with plenty! They work well to decorate empty spaces and bring an air of authenticity to a fictional piece. While they aren’t historically (and occasionally biologically) accurate and often feel like the illustrative version of a game of telephone, they’d be easy to manipulate for other narratives and purposes.

The cartouches within this set are varied and can really add flavor to a map

The de Fer Settlement set features over 290 brushes and includes the following:

  • 30 Grouped Settlements
  • 15 Individual “Peaked” Structures
  • 15 Individual “Arched” Structures
  • 10 Individual “Square” Structures
  • 14 Forts
  • 5 Unique Settlements
  • 50 Mountains
  • 20 Mountain Pairs
  • 10 Swamps
  • 30 Forests
  • 50 Trees
  • 11 Animal Cartouches
  • 6 Canoe Cartouches
  • 13 People Cartouches
  • 4 Burial Cartouches
  • 1 weird thing I couldn’t figure out
  • 3 Anchorage Symbols
  • 8 Portage Symbols
  • 2 Map Elements

But wait… there’s more. While most of the interesting signs and symbols came off the first plate, there was a second plate as well, and while the second wasn’t as detailed as the first, it was filled with many more cartouches. Not everyone needs ’em, but if you want to round out the set, there will be a link below the button for the de Fer Cartography BONUS set that includes sixty other cartouches to decorate your maps! HOORAY for bonuses! Unless you hate cartouches. Then BOO for bonuses. Cheer or boo, whatever.

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 (3 Mb) in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.



DOWNLOAD THE DE FER CARTOGRAPHY BONUS
– View the BONUS transparent PNG –
(2.5 Mb)


As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Cartography and its bonus cartouches are 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. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy de Fer Cartography? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me or finding me on Twitter. I love seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers. Let me see what you make!


de Fer Cartography in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? I created a sample map based on “The Peninsula of the Palm” from Guy Gavriel Kay’s wonderful 1990 fantasy novel Tigana. (Link goes to IndieBound. Pick it up!) It was fun to rework another map as a sample and doing so has made me want to revisit the book. You can see the results below. There are three versions, a colored version, one black and white, 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 projects!

2238 x 4050
2238 x 4050
1080 x 1350

Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Cartography brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work or just help cover the cost of hosting, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels instead of a donation. 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. They make great gifts. 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

de Fer Cartography is just one of many brush sets I’ve released over the years. 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 →

de Fer Battlefield: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

Last September, I released the first in a series of sets coming from one individual: Nicolas de Fer. He’s an interesting character, a famous French geographer who eventually became the official geographer to the Spanish and French court. He was a prolific engraver and publisher, stole unabashedly, and while his work isn’t considered historically accurate, he brought a uniqueness with his cartography that helps it stand apart artistically from his contemporaries, making his work the perfect base for fantasy map brush sets.

Why it’s Nick de Fer! Prepared to wow you with his engravings.

Today, I am excited to release de Fer Battlefield. An extensive battlefield brush set based on de Fer’s Le Combat de Leuze ou de la Catoire, a late 17th-century map depicting the fortification of the Belgium city of Leuze-en-Hainaut in 1691, and the Battle of Leuze, a French calvary victory from the Nine Years’ War. It’s full of the sort of stuff that makes these maps fascinating and energetic: charging calvary units, stalwart pike men, soldiers, explosions, battles, villages, and more.

Even in their time, Battlefield maps were a storytelling element as much narrative as informative. But, I know many people don’t understand how to effectively use brush sets based on them. My sample map for this set strives to inspire how these sets can enhance a narrative and help tell a story. There are many opportunities for fantasy maps to employ a similar tactic in their maps, moving away from a static approach of borders and cities that we are familiar with to one that details events in a fresh and exciting way.

A sample of what you’ll find in de Fer Battlefield

The de Fer Battlefield set features over 230 brushes and includes the following:

  • 8 Army Units
  • 2 Marching Army Units
  • 10 Pike Units
  • 12 Organized Lines (Could also work as fields)
  • 10 Organized Units
  • 20 Individual Soldiers
  • 15 Cavalry Units
  • 20 Charging Cavalry Units
  • 5 Marching Cavalry Units
  • 5 Attacking Cavalry Units
  • 25 Individual Cavalry Units
  • 10 Individual Cavalry Units Rearing
  • 6 Mixed Combination Units
  • 7 Battles
  • 10 Bushes
  • 30 Trees
  • 5 Forests
  • 10 Hillsides
  • 12 Towns
  • 4 Explosions
  • 9 Unique Brushes

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 (3.5Mb) in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.



As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Battlefield 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. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy de Fer Battlefield? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me or finding me on Twitter. I love seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers. Let me see what you make!


de Fer Battlefield in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a colored version, one black and white, 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!

3000 x 3000
3000 x 3000
1080 x 1080

Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Battlefield brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels instead of a donation. 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

de Fer Battlefield 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 →

Happy 2022

Hey, thanks for being a reader of this blog. I say it a lot, but I sincerely appreciate you. You made my year last year better than it had any right to be. I hope you have a wonderful 2022. May you find love. May you find peace. May you find kindness. May you find health. May you set outrageous goals and may you smash past them. Happy 2022, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with me.

2021 in Ten Significant Photos

How is it already the end of December? Christmas is this weekend! In some ways, it feels like the year was ten years long, yet in others, it feels like a blip. I blame the pandemic. My perception of time has gotten funny since it started.

This is the post wherein I reflect on my last year through ten photos that marked significant places in time. It’s become a tradition here. After last year, I thought (hoped?) this would be easy, but like 2021 itself, it was an odd experience full of highs and lows. That said, as always, I found that there was more to my year than I expected and 2021 was surprising.

The rules. Pick ten photos from my past year that are the most significant to me: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more; it can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—that’s intentional—culling is a part of this process. It helps create a more realistic and personal picture of your year. Some years will be more complicated than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. This is the way.

So, I could keep rambling, but instead, let’s take a look at my 2021 distilled into ten significant photos.


My favorite photo of Willa in our garden (Photo by Kari-Lise)

Willamina, our big English Lop, passed away early in the year. We buried her under her favorite bush. She was old for a large rabbit, but her death snuck up on us. I haven’t ever met a rabbit like Willa. She was fearless, curious, friendly, loved attention and people. It was typical for her to follow us around the yard and explore as we worked nearby. Our garden isn’t the same without her.


New bathroom (Left) and remodeled kitchen (Right)

Last year I mentioned that we had declared 2020 as “The Year of the House,” and in many ways, it was. But that labor spilled over into the first few months of 2021 as well. But in the end, we got a fancy new bathroom—removing the original bathroom from the 1940s—and an upgraded kitchen. We’ve been in our house for over a decade now, and many of these updates were long overdue. I’m delighted with the result and the outcome was worth the awkwardness that came with remodels during a pandemic.


Gleam Upon the Waves and its swag set

I launched a new book! It’s true! It happened! Gleam Upon the Waves, the next chapter of Waldo Bell’s adventures, arrived at the end of March and was released to the world. You can buy it right now! When you get deeper into writing a series, things get more complicated, and this story was a long time coming. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Thanks to everyone who picked up a copy. Double thanks to those of you who left reviews. Your excitement is what keeps me going. I couldn’t be more appreciative of my readers.


While waiting my 15 minutes, I took a selfie

The vaccine arrived! Kari-Lise and I got jabbed as soon as possible, and we got our second shot a few weeks later at a lovely little spot right by Lake Washington. It was a huge relief, and I am grateful that my city has embraced it. It’s a pretty incredible feat of medicine. I cannot think of how many lives it’s saved, and I am grateful to the medical community for pouring so much effort into its development, rollout, and distribution. Seattle is over 75% vaccinated, still vigilant, and we’ve been near the bottom in cases per capita in Washington. It makes a fella proud to call this place home.


Kari-Lise in a monochromatic space within the House of Eternal Return

We escaped! Freshly vaccinated, we took a short trip away from home to Santa Fe, New Mexico. After more than fifteen months of staying home and social distancing, it was a welcome respite and a nice change of pace. We ate incredible food. We saw cool art, and we got lost in Meow Wolf’s stunning House of Eternal Return. Santa Fe is rad, and New Mexico is spectacular. Should you like to know more, I documented the whole trip in this post.


Tyrant hanging out with me earlier in the year

After fifteen years, one of my best buddies in the world passed away. Tyrant had become an essential fixture in our lives, and it was hard to let him go. I’m grateful the pandemic allowed me to spend so much time with him during his last years. Months later, here I am, tearing up while writing this. Shortly after his death, I wrote a tribute that encapsulates him better than this tiny blurb ever could. I still miss him. Tyrant never lived up to his name. He was a good boy.


Ferry to Bainbridge Island looking back toward Seattle

We explored our home. We started doing this in 2020, and it continued into 2021. One of the best things about living in the Puget Sound area is the hundreds of islands, peninsulas, straights, bays, coves, ports, beaches, and bluffs there are to explore. We returned to favorites like Vashon Island, explored Whidbey, and went to the Peninsula a few times. I’ve often said that to experience Seattle, you have to leave Seattle it’s a city defined by the landscape around it, and these trips cemented why living here is so wonderful.


Vera with Uncle Michael (Left) and Reghan (Right)

The streak continues! This year, I have two new nieces, which brings my nibling count up to seven! Vera on the left was born in the spring to Kari-Lise’s brother Andrew and his wife, Kim. (I can assure you we have a better rapport than what you see in that photo.) Reghan, on the right, was born on my birthday (more on that later) to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Both are adorable and growing way too quickly.


For whatever reason, I found myself reconnecting with baseball. I’ve always been a fan of the Seattle Mariners, mostly thanks to being the perfect age when Ken Griffey Jr. played (the man is still my first sports hero), but the game took a backseat over the last few decades. This year was different. I found myself drawn back to the ball game and the ballpark. While the Mariners still didn’t make the playoffs, (there’s always next year) I’m finding myself looking forward to the 2022 season.


Me hiking along the Harry’s Ridge trail at Mt. Saint Helens (Photo by Kari-Lise)

I turned forty. I don’t usually care much for my birthday. I find the whole thing superfluous. But, this one is supposed to be a milestone. It’s interesting to look back on my life after forty years. The moments that stand out. While this post focuses on the events this year, hitting a “birthday milestone” like this had me reflecting on life in macro. I’ve had a good life. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I am married to the best person in the world. I have amazing friends and a loving family. I’m lucky. Forty ain’t so bad.


There’s my ten! As I said earlier, it was a year of highs and lows. I’m not alone in that. This was a mixed year for many people, and it was a mixed year for me as well. The pandemic is still present in our lives, and normal still isn’t so normal anymore. We’re still masking up, being careful, and social distancing when we can. Thankfully many of our friends are vaccinated, so hangouts were easy, and that personal reconnection was good.

There’s so much to 2021 this post didn’t cover. Trips with friends to celebrate the New Year. Paneling at TBRCon was terrific, and it set up much of my reading for the year. (I’m coming back in 2022!) Cabining. Writing retreats. A visit from my sister. Our garden. A trip to Portland for the wake of a dear friend. Beaches and tide pools. Backyard BBQs. Family and close friends both moving back to the Seattle area. Summer soccer games. Seattle’s record-breaking heatwave in June and its record rain in November. Then there’s Moth & Myth’s incredible growth. As with every year, this list could be so much longer.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2021? What are your ten photos? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


I’ve been doing this since 2014, and even in challenging years, I’ve found it beneficial. Interested in revisiting my photos of past years? Just click on any link below and check out my selection from that specific year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 
• 2018 • 20192020


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 →

Raunch Review

Raunch Reviews’ New Home

Just a quick housekeeping update for regular readers. This weekend I’ve started working on the next batch of Raunch Reviews (The Dresden Files, Transformers: Beast Wars, The Mandalorian, and more!), and I realized that past reviews are scattered all over my blog. That makes them difficult to browse, and that cannot stand!

I took a little time this morning to collect them all in one handy location to solve that issue. You can find Raunch Reviews on their official Raunch Reviews page. It’s also under the “Blog” button in the upper navigation. They’re ordered by release, and any new reviews will be featured on that page after they go live.



Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, comic, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time.

Three Great Horror Reads for Halloween 2021

I can’t remember the last time it hasn’t rained on Halloween in Seattle. But right now it’s cold and crisp and the sky is clear and the sun is out. It’s a pretty incredible fall day. Should be good weather for tonight’s trick-or-treaters. But we’re not here to talk about Seattle weather, we’re here to talk horror books! It’s now become a tradition for me to recommend three horror novels to spook up your Halloween season.

This is the third year I’ve done this, if you want to see my previous recommendations check out my selections from 2019 or from 2020. All the links below will go to IndieBound (Support your local indie book store!), and author links will go to their website or blog.

So, what are my choices for this year? Well, I am glad you asked…


Whispers in the Dark

by Laurel Hightower

What begins as a police procedural quickly reveals itself to be much more. Part ghost story, part urban fantasy, yet somehow grounded in a pulse-pounding realism. An engaging tale that subverts standard tropes while also exploring the ramifications of abuse and how the echoes of its trauma that can extend through generations. After finishing I immediately went and picked up Hightower’s latest novel, Crossroads.


The Beauty

by Aliya Whiteley

This was recommended by M. R. Carey during our panel for TBR Con earlier this year and I’m glad I picked it up. The Beauty is a dark thought-provoking heart-of-mankind story about history, myth, and the stories we tell all set in a future world without women. It’s a bit of an allegory which isn’t something I typically enjoy, but it works well here and the story told stuck with me for months. A small but powerful novel that is very much worth your time.


The Worm and His Kings

by Hailey Piper

This novella landed late last year and I was glad I gave it some attention. Set in New York in the 90s when the Freedom Tunnel was an underground homeless encampment Piper weaves a unique cosmic horror story that explores gender identity, personal relationships, and poverty. A fresh and welcome voice that both brings something new to the genre and still sits solidly within the cosmic horror tradition.


So there are three more great horror novels for this year. If you’re looking at spooking up your Fall, I recommend checking one of them out. Now, how about you? What are your favorite horror novels from the last few years? Leave a comment below and let everyone know!


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 →