Dec 262019

For those of you following my fiction writing, I’m sad to say I haven’t been doing it much for a few years now but am returning to it in 2020. I didn’t know when I released The Ever Fiend in 2016 that I’d be side-tracked with The Art of World Building three book series (non-fiction) and then some serious personal issues for several years. All of this is about to be behind me and I’m looking forward to a return to Talon Stormbringer and the partially planned book, The Screaming Moragul.

There will be at least one fiction book released in 2020 as The Dragon Gate is cued up for the fall; I’ve already set in motion some promo for it. This book was written way back in 2007, so I just need to give it the “old once over” and then start getting it ready for publication (editing, cover, blurb, other stuff). One reason I’d been waiting was a plot hole in the series idea and I accidentally thought of the solution a few weeks ago, and now I know that solution won’t affect the first book, so it’s a go.

I actually wrote a fiction book and published it under another name this fall, but it’s a secret! I also drafted another non-fiction book in my car while commuting this summer, at about 50k words, and I need to tighten that up. But that’s going out as yet another alter ego of mine (I now have three pen names besides my actual name).

So if it looks like I’m not writing, it’s not true! Things are picking up and I”m excited for 2020 and beyond.


 Posted by on December 26, 2019
Dec 242019

Subscribers to The Art of World Building newsletter receive world building tips in their inbox (along with downloadable templates), but now you can have them all in one place in a new, short book, 185 Tips on World Building. This has all tips from all three volumes, including those not yet sent to subscribers.

The eBook is on pre-order at Amazon and will be released Jan 14, 2020. It makes a great gift for anyone thinking of diving in.

 Posted by on December 24, 2019

30,000+ Downloads!

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Sep 102019

Art of World Building Podcast LogoYou guys are amazing! Just a year after reaching 10k and six months after 20k, I’m up to 30k in downloads! I thought things would slow with me not releasing new episodes most of this year, but I guess not!

On that note, I’ve recorded a half dozen more shows but am saving them up for the release of volume three later this year, when the show will resume. Stay tuned for a new release date!

 Posted by on September 10, 2019

Vol 5 Published

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Jul 092019

Volume 5 in The Art of World Building series has been published! More information on Creating Places – The Podcast Transcripts can be found at the official site. It’s a collection of transcripts from the world building podcast, and each episode included in this book is based on a chapter from volume 2, hence the title.

 Posted by on July 9, 2019

Vol 4 Released

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Jun 082019

I’ve published another volume in The Art of World Building series, but it’s not the highly anticipated volume three, Cultures and Beyond. It’s a book of transcripts of podcast episodes, most of which were based on volume one. As a result, the book is called, Creating Life – The Podcast Transcripts. This is volume four in the series.

Meanwhile, volume three is well under way for late 2019 release.

 Posted by on June 8, 2019

WBU Launch Giveaway!

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Jan 172019

In celebration of the launch of World Building University (WBU) in the coming weeks, I’m doing a giveaway tailored to world builders! If you’re not such a person yourself, forward this to any fantasy or sci-fi author, screenwriter, gamer, game designer, or hobbyist who might be interested!

To enter the contest, just go to this link: http://www.artofworldbuilding.com/giveaways/wbu-launch-giveaway/

So what am I giving away? See the image! Don’t let the image fool you – there are over 25 lessons in the course! Click the link the see the rest.

If you enter the giveaway, you’ll get an email with a link that you can forward to other people. Those who enter the contest as a result of your link will get one chance to win, but YOU will get an additional three chances to win! If you get ten people to enter, you’ll have 31 chances to win.

Pretty cool, huh?

– Rand




 Posted by on January 17, 2019

World Building University Coming!

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May 262018

I’ll be turning the successful series, The Art of World Building, into online courses that will be launched within the next year. There should be a free mini-course, a main course, and then the flagship one that has all the bells and whistles.

This will take some time to plan, film, edit, and prepare for students, and I really need to finish the final book, Cultures and Beyond, to do all the courses, but the free one will be released ahead of the others to get some momentum.

You can bookmark worldbuilding.university now and check back later this year!

 Posted by on May 26, 2018

How Mountains Affect Rainfall

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Nov 272017

When drawing maps of continents, being realistic is a good idea even when inventing for a fantasy or SF landscape. We’re not freed from plausibility unless we’re purposely throwing out the laws of physics and nature. Most of us are probably creating reasonably Earth-like terrain, but even if not, there are natural forces at work on most planets.

The following tips can not only prevent mistakes but give world builders ideas. Sometimes we’re not sure where to put a forest or desert, or why. Maybe we’re not sure where to even begin. The answer is mountain ranges and a decision on which hemisphere our continent is on. This will determine prevailing winds and, as a result, vegetation. If you don’t understand why, read on.

Mountains and Rain Shadows

Mountains cause moisture-carrying winds to rise. The clouds dump all the rain on one side of the mountain range, causing plants and trees. On the mountain range’s other side, there’s no water left to fall. This causes a “rain shadow,” an area that receives little to no rainfall. Deserts are the usual result.

The below image of the western coast of the United States shows the sudden onset of desert on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, which are also causing the forests to their west. Not only is this not peculiar, but it’s a common and expected result that plays out across the Earth. Not knowing this, we might try to justify such a thing by saying a supernatural or technological event caused it when nature will do it.

A rain shadow can cover a huge area, such as the Great Plains of the United States. This isn’t a desert, but grasslands, but the same effect is responsible. The Rocky Mountains have taken much of the moisture out of the air, just not all of it. Some moisture is also coming up from the Gulf of Mexico to the south, so there’s enough rain to cause grass, just not lush vegetation. Generally, desert-like conditions occur closest to the mountains. As we progress farther from them, desert may give way to grasslands and finally forests.

How do we know which side has the desert or forest? We need to know about prevailing winds to answer that.

Prevailing Winds

On a world that is spinning on its axis, like Earth, there will be winds. Which direction these winds flow depends on latitude (distance from the equator) and which way the planet is rotating. Earth rotates counterclockwise and in this article we’ll assume your world does, too; if not, then reverse every mention of direction made below.

On Earth, the rotation causes winds from the equator (0°) to the tropics (up to 40°) to travel east; on the map below, yellow and brown arrows indicate this. In the temperate zones (40°—66°), winds travel west, as indicated by the blue arrows on the map. In the polar zones, winds are again eastward but are light. On the first map above, this explains why the forest is on the westward side of the mountains: the wind is westerly.

No Deserts near the Equator

The world’s deserts aren’t within 30° of the equator due to an atmospheric phenomenon called Hadley cells (there is one in each hemisphere). This weather pattern means most deserts, especially the large ones like the Sahara, start around 30°.

It also means there’s heavy precipitation from 0°—30° and this is too much rain for deserts to form. There’s one exception to this, at least on Earth: Somalia is located at the equator and is mostly arid. The reason? The elevation is between 5-15,000 feet. This changes what would be a tropical climate into a temperate one, and that’s exactly where rain shadows cause deserts. In this case, the Himalayan Mountains are the likely culprit despite how far away they are.

Putting it Together

How can we use this information? We can follow these steps when planning and creating a continent map:

  1. Determine which hemisphere our continent is in, and how far from the equator (or even whether it spans it)
  2. Decide which parts of the land mass are in each latitude/climate zone, noting the prevailing wind direction:
    1. Between 0°—40°, winds are easterly
    2. Between 40°—66°, winds are westerly
  3. Add mountain ranges where desired
  4. Plan where your deserts and forests are:
    1. Between 0°—30°, no deserts except in highlands
    2. Between 30°—40° forests to the east of mountains, deserts to the west
    3. Between 40°—66°, forests to the west of mountains, deserts to the east
  5. Remember that a desert may give way to grasslands and then forests, farther from the mountains that cause a rain shadow. This can give us a line, from left-to-right (or right-to-left) of forest, mountains, desert, grassland, forest. This depends on mountains running north-to-south, as this is perpendicular to the wind direction and therefore blocks the winds. An east-to-west range may cause this but on a smaller scale.

Also, note that winds are westerly or easterly but not perfectly so. They move slightly toward or away from the equator, as the above image illustrates. We don’t need to be super picky about this, however, partly because the vast majority of people have no idea about any of this. We always have the caveat that no one from our imaginary world is going to show up on Earth and announce to our horror (and the delight of our critics) that there is, in fact, no desert or forest at a specific location despite what our map says.

We may not know where 40° latitude is on our maps, but as long as we’re in the ballpark, we’re okay. The goal is to be plausible, not necessarily right.

Hopefully all of this informs and inspires your work, rather than inhibits you. If you’d like to learn more such details, they can be found in my book, Creating Places (The Art of World Building, #2).

A Quiz

Based on the image below (from my world Llurien), see if you can answer these questions (answers at the article’s end):

Question #1: based on where mountains, forests, and deserts are, which direction are the prevailing winds?
Question #2: how far from the equator is this region?
Question #3: which hemisphere is it? (hint: look at the vegetation icons)
Question #4: If you know the answer to the first three questions, what explains the existence of the deserts on the bottom area of the map?

Quiz Answers
  1. east
  2. not very because easterly winds are nearer the equator
  3. this image is in the northern hemisphere. If we can see the tree icons (they’re a little small here), rainforest icons are used on the southern half, implying the equator is to the south (it’s just off the bottom edge of the map).
  4. since this is near the equator, there can’t be deserts, except that those areas of the map are above 5,000 feet (called the Marulan Highlands)) and are therefore a temperate climate. This lets the mountains on the right cause a rain shadow.
 Posted by on November 27, 2017
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