The Origin of Perch — The World of ‘Crosswind’

Inspiration is a funny thing.

I don’t recall precisely when I had the first inkling of wanting to write Crosswind, which is due out in November from Marcher Lord Press, but I do remember where – walking past the chapter books for grade-school age readers at the library where I work. I’d been mulling the idea of a fantasy/steampunk story involving 19th century and early 20th century technology, especially trains and biplanes. The city had to be up high, somewhere. The image flashed into my head—a city on a mountain’s edge, on a cliff, overlooking a valley. And the name was instantaneous — Perch. You know, like a bird’s perch. Not like the fish.

That was late fall or early winter 2010, I think. I didn’t do much with it as I was deep into writing Broken Sight. But as I said in my post two weeks ago, I wrote down notes about the main characters around the end of December. Sometime after Jan. 2, 2011, I took my sons—then ages 6 and 8—to Prosinski Park, the local baseball field. That’s where the city crews pile up all the snow they plow. And boy, was it ever a pile. It had to be ten feet tall at the highest.

We leapt across from peak to peak, and into ravines. It took up half the parking lot. One of us, I forget which, joked about how we were giants atop mountains—and my mind immediately started churning.

Perch. It was right there.

I pulled out my note book and did a quick sketch of the valleys, mountains and canyons the city snowplows had unwittingly carved. Added a few lines in a grid of streets and, bingo.

The picture was in the back of my mind from that day forward. It was up to a pair of computer programs to help me formulate maps for both Perch and its environs. Yes, I am a sucker for maps.  I used a great free program called Roleplaying City Map Generator 5.40 to auto-generate a base map for the city-state, which I then modified as per my needs. Here’s the current rendering:

I also bought a program called Fractal Terrains that auto-generates planets. Nerd heaven! That gave me a whole planet and, for the purposes of Crosswind, a continent on which to place the Sawtooth Mountains and Wright Valley. These two maps show the entire world (left) and a close up of the south end of the Wright Valley (right).

World-building is by far my favorite part of writing. I see this stuff in my head and have the need to draw or design it on screen or paper, to have something I can see or touch.

It’s a blast.

Next week, I’ll delve further into the world of Perch by answering the pressing question: What’s a branter?

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