I started drawing maps as a casual hobby on the weekend. One map a week, single page, purely improvised out of a simple prompt. Week four is upcoming. I’ve always had a fondness for maps, and you don’t rack up a decade of Dungeons and Dragons DMing experience without dipping into drawing up countless dungeons, locales, regions, worlds. So, really, this summer fling is more of a return to continuing fandom and old practices.

Yet the only maps of Skies Unbroken are rough sketches, pure positional references rather than anything I would ever show off. Originally, the Skies project was meant to have a parallel expanding map of where the story’s been. But the concrete nature of it didn’t sit well with me, my own artistic mapmaking ability aside. This story has been heavily improvisational, both in world and out. Navigation is more than coordinates and charts, but sound and signals, impressions and intuition. There’s a reason the characters are never too specific about how far away something is, or how long it will take to get there.

Frontiers don’t have particularly reliable maps, much like how there’s no route forward in most paths of life. When I first started digging into getting serious about writing, I read through plenty of writer’s blogs and author interviews about how they accomplished whatever level of success they managed to get. And there was no common through line besides “write a bunch, show it to people”. There’s no map, no route, no path. Fixed plans tend to crumble to dust while you’re wandering the aspiring writer wilderness.

In any case, I have a low opinion of too-grand and too-detailed life plans, borne out of my own experiences in the low-key plot twists of life. An example: One time in a job interview I got hit by the old chestnut of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I actually just laughed at them, couldn’t help it, then explained how I find the question absurd, if perhaps a touch too cynically. They didn’t call me back for another round, oddly enough.

This attitude runs through Skies Unbroken. The expedition of this project has destinations. A trilogy of seasons, a handful of specific events, and so on. But the route from points A to B to Z are hazy until I start to approach them. I know there’s a canyon here, a battlefield there, a strange isle there. But the journey is ever uncertain.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not for this story, at least.

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