Where the magic happens: on an 11-year-old, pre-Intel PowerBook G4 with no distracting Internet connection.

Broos's books


4 of 5 stars

So moving and insightful that I had to remind myself it wasn't autobiographical. The clinical bits get so personal, though, that reading the book aloud can get kind of disconcerting.

A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire

4 of 5 stars

A beautifully written, quietly humorous tale of an Austro-Hungarian U-boat commander during World War I. I was sorry to finish it. But then I remembered I've got three more of them to read.

Red Seas Under Red Skies

4 of 5 stars

Starts out with a bang--which leads to another bang, which leads to another ... Lightweight, but funny and inventive.


Selected Works

The Matty Graves novels
Midshipman Matty Graves must choose between family and duty.

“Refreshingly cynical.”
—Jonathan Lunn

Acting-Lieutenant Matty Graves gets caught up in the Haitian Revolution in 1800. Mayhem ensues!

"[N]ever dull . . ."
—Madison Smartt Bell

Matty seizes the opportunity to make a name and fortune for himself—even if it means destroying those closest to him.

"[U]nusual, if somewhat jaundiced . . ."
Library Journal

Errors after the fact
Seamen's terms in landsmen's language
Haitian Timeline
Nautical info bits
How far it is from here to there, by sea, in English statute miles.
Public domain stuff—I didn't write this.
Yep, still maps

Beyond the Graves

If a book has a map, I'll at least try to read it

January 1, 2010

Tags: Lord of the Rings, Hobbits, putty, maps, cartography

If a book has a map, I'll at least try to read it. Even if you don't intend to include a map with the finished book, I blah-bla-blahed recently on a writing forum, sketching one out is a handy way of keeping track of what lives where in your made-up world. Another benefit? Having a picture on paper helps you avoid those helpful sorts who delight in pointing out other people's mistakes. People will point out your mistakes whether you've made any or not, I figured, so no need to give them any ammunition.

Turns out maps are controversial. Another contributor chimed in that his books have well-developed characters, and all great stories are about characters. Plot and setting are secondary concerns, said he, if they can be considered concerns at all, and maps are for ninnies. I thought that was pretty interesting, considering the thread was about science fiction and fantasy, where I thought setting at least had some significance. I took a while thinking about what to say next. But then somebody else remarked that no one was suggesting that a map is a substitute for good writing and the discussion move on to other things.

Mr. Huffy had a point, though. Stories are about people (including martians, anthropomorphized animals, and other human analogs) and how they interact with each other. But saying that plot and setting are unimportant is pretty strange. I mean, sure, Shakespeare works just as well in outer space as it does in medieval Denmark, but plot is kind of important to, say, Romeo and Juliet, and setting and plot are as important to Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade as they are to Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Besides all of which, I just happen to like maps.

Speaking of maps, I remember very well that one of the reasons I first picked up The Hobbit when I was a kid, and later on the Ring trilogy, was because of the maps. And hey presto, this leads us to Dorothy Nelson's Room with a Moose, in which she makes a copy of the One Ring out of gold putty. If Sauron had thought to make it out of putty he would have saved everyone a good deal of trouble, and Frodo would still have ten fingers.