Visual Aids

While the [second] beta copy of The Star of Time is out I figured I’d better get cracking on the revised plot for book two, The Star of Fire.

Much like the older brother, book two was a little bloated and heavy on the info dumping when I went back to re-read it. There was a pretty decent plot arc there and definitely some pieces of writing I can use, but it needed trimming and adjusting, just like book one after the betas had their say.

I took what I could use and started crafting the plot outline in the same way I had for the revised book one (If you’re interested, I used Tick-Tock Plots by Jacqueline Garlick [affiliate link ahoy!] – I heard her on the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast and was intrigued. Thankfully her way of plotting clicked with me). Book two looks like it’ll be a much stronger book for this.

Chugging right along on the old plot when I realized that I had no idea where things were in relation to each other and that created a problem in the passage of time. Luckily I had created a google map of locations back when I originally started to work on the book, but that was cumbersome flipping back and forth and also invited “just popping over to do a quick google for more info” that turned into dropping into a rabbit hole of research for 6 hours. I was also juggling several historically accurate maps and so on and so on.

As I was struggling with one issue (“How far is it from Old St. Pat’s to Prairie Avenue anyway?”) I was juggling maps and thought “I need a copy of one of the historic maps that I can mark with all the locations and info I need.”

Enter The David Rumsey Map Collection. I was able to find a map of Chicago in 1871 with the burnt district conveniently shaded. Bonus! I was able to download it too! I printed the sections I needed on three different sheets of paper and mounted them on a piece of foam-core board, then used sticker dots and careful notes to list places of interest and map the spread of the fire according to the historical record.

The Great Chicago Fire
Not all of the places on the map play a pivotal role in the book, but I feel like it’s an important thing to know where the hotspots (pardon the pun) were in town. Don’t want to send Phoebe or James off on an adventure on the Hairtrigger Block like they were going to The Wal-Marts.

Anyway, it’s been a huge help visualizing where things are in relation to each other and knowing who was next door to who. I love Chicago and have been several times, but memory fades and in the age of cabs and Uber, who remembers where anything is anymore?

Off to get back to the plot of The Star of Fire. Hope you enjoy the maps over at the Rumsey Collection!


P.S. Old St. Pat’s is a long way from Prairie Avenue, especially if you’re walking like James and Phoebe. It’s over 20 blocks which led to some hard decisions about transportation options and hard wishing that Uber was a thing back in 1871.

Map Info: Supplement To The Elmira Advertiser. Map Of Chicago Showing The Burnt District. The City Of Chicago, Illinois. Published By G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. 172 William St. New York. Entered … 1855 by J.H. Colton & Co. … New York. You can find the original here on the David Rumsey site.

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