When I was twelve, I devoured novels by David Eddings and Terry Brooks and, thus inspired, spent hours drawing maps of imagrinary places and writing stories about them. The maps usually came first. I knew little about real geography and real cartography. I’d just draw random coastlines with a sharpened pencil–you could only draw the craggy shores with a sharpened pencil–and then, maybe, stick some mountain ranges and forests somewhere. Then rivers, wherever there might be an opportune inlet in one of the coastline’s crags. That much was easy, and I copied the style of the mountains and forests from maps I saw in Terry Brooks’s novels. I think the artist who drew them was named Shelley Shapiro. I can’t believe I still remember her name.
Then came the real magic–the naming. I am no Tolkien, skilled in philology, able to create real languages from whole cloth and with an entire consistent scheme to naming. No, I just developed an ear formed by reading lots of trashy fantasy novels. So many of the names I created ended in “-ia,” and those were the easiest to make up. So were names ending in “-dor.” Most prominently was a desert kingdom I wrote several stories about named “Andor,” which I created without knowing about the Star Trek episode with the Andorians. And yet, as derivative and haphazard as the process was, like with Adam, the naming was a deeply (sub)creative act. Hitting on a good name meant more than coming up with something that sounded nice to say aloud. A good name would echo with entire histories for cities and rivers and countries in my imagination. The city I wrote most about, Peladran, was a place where centuries of people walked past Founder’s Square, which had been destroyed and rebuilt many times and where ships left every day to the trade all around the ports of Northwest Imagria–the world that I created to house all my fantasy stories. 1000 miles to the west lay Sanctuary Isle, where the Spellweaver Academy (later renamed the University of Sanctuary Isle after Imagria’s equivalent of the Enlightenment) trained generations of young Weavers to manipulate Threads.*
Somewhere at home in Maryland, in a manila folder tucked in a crate, lies a ten-page manuscript dated the summer of 1993 that reads “IMAGRIA: A NOVEL.” That was the first time I ever used the name. It was the title of one of the many fantasy novels that I aborted when I was twelve and thirteen. I chose the name because it sounded like the word “imagination,” as well as any number of lands found in your average cheesy fantasy novel. Not long after, it became the catchall name for the entire earth that my fantasy stories were set in; the globe and the theater of my imagination as a teenager. I can’t remember when I decided to start using it as the name of my self-publishing company, though–it was, at least, since 1998, when I placed the name “IMAGRIA PUBLICATIONS” below the title page of my first completed novel, Sanctuary.
I have never wavered from that name since for all my long works. I still put “Imagria Publications” in the bottom of my latest ongoing novel. I even briefly started a computer company called Imagria Systems–to this day the name is still registered with the State of Maryland and I still get business credit card ads for Imagria Systems, LLC. It folded when I couldn’t compete with Dell and other companies with a real warranty service.
Here is a rather late example of a map. It is from 1998, and it was for my novelSanctuary. It is not my best map–it is much rougher in its “font” than I like–but I set an alarmingly large number of stories in this particular part of Imagria.
Once, maps I drew from 1993-1995–including a large, “fold-out” style world map of Imagria–hung by my bed. I took them down a few years ago and put them in a folder in the same crate with the “Imagria” manuscript, in Maryland, 3000 miles away.
Reprinted from this blog post, dating 2006.