I am just starting on my next fantasy novel. IN THE SHADOWS OF SWORDS was released in hardcover in February.
Here is an amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Swords-...2194827&sr=8-1
Here are two links to the maps:
Here is some background on the next one:
Imagine an isolated country high in an alpine valley surrounded by towering, impassable mountains. This culture would be similar to Bavarian and Tyrolean, predicated on competition, preparedness, self-sufficiency, and protection. Think Shangri-La located in the Alps.
It rests in a valley some 4000 ft above a long, narrow inlet. Encircling the vale are a series of towering peaks (THE NINES) which are impassable. This place is only one of two places on the planet where humanity exists, they've nearly been hunted to extinction and here is the final redoubt. Mankind attempted to this planet colonize the planet, but were eventually driven back, population loss and technological regression (this allow a bit of author fiat for certain advancements). Intelligent, indigenous life views the 'star-folk' as a cancer, a disease that must be cured. These races are fey and elemental, linked to 'Mother Earth'. So you've got a cross between Harry Harrison's first Deathworld novel and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.
The people of the valley have trade with a distant city-kingdom which floats above coastal waters hundreds of miles away. This air-born stays afloat from magnetic design. Thinking a bed of lodestone just beneath the surface of the water, with iron plates lining the bottom of the city (iron is mined from mountains). Still need to work out the details. Flüsslüften, a form of liquid helium is also mined, the temperature variation gives me some play on how it is captured. The liquid is stored in containers and packed in a type of dry ice called Eiskärte. This helium powers airships which ferry back and forth from the sea to the valley. There is no other safe way to trade goods. The overland route is beyond dangerous and, few if any, would survive a trek to the coast.
The valley is protected by an Iron Cross barrier (think D-Day) and these hedghogs provide a magical defensive ring around the valley.
Thinking a 'Mad King' who rules from afar may have some presence, but no direct power. A Prince-Provost protected by a Swiss Guard type unit could direct collegiate and scientific effort. Also he may have a penchant for music (instruments) and the valley people talented in making violins (or something else) similar to Mittenwald in Germany. Trade would be minimized and possibly seasonal. Locality needs to be entirely self-sufficient with trade providing mostly curiosities/luxuries.
The opening chapter of the book details the discovery of the valley by Elfin scouts, who have somehow found the place and managed to cross the barrier. Imagine an opening scene like THE SOUND OF MUSIC ending with cannibalistic massacre from RAVENOUS that will violently dispel some typical fantasy cliches. This occurs some weeks before any airships are due to arrive. One plot-line involves sending messengers to the coast in hope of aiding in defense. Another involves a suicidal mission to close the tunnel (with dry ice bomb) used by the Elfin to discover the location of the humans--this one has a very WAGES OF FEAR vibe to it.
As for size, the longest distances are roughly: 48 miles from east to west and 24 miles from north to south. About 2/3 the size (475 sqmi) of Luxembourg.
Tech period would be Sixteenth Century Renaissance with some advancements, however no gunpowder.
One major city (50k), a couple towns, several small villages. Total population under (75K), very rural beyond the city. Only one trading partner, limited contact (seasonal) and extremely difficult/dangerous to transport good of any kind.
Families would control guilds, mayor/governor is only a figurehead with no real power. Strong military tradition, where every citizen 15 to 50 years old is a reserve soldier.
Three sizable lakes (dozens smaller), a navigable river for about 5 miles.
Alpine mires, pastures and meadowlands; deciduous trees—oak, beech, ash, linden and sycamore; coniferous forests of spruce, larch, pine and fir; beef/dairy cattle, geese, grouse, pheasant, partridge, swans, ducks, rabbit, sheep, roe deer, red deer, ibex, chamois, marmot, lynx, cave bear, cave lion, panther, marten, fox, and wolf; pike, char, salmon and trout; three horse breeds and two breeds of ponies; barley, oats, rye, root crops, berry crops, fruit orchards, vineyards, and potatoes; salt, ice, gold, silver, iron, copper mining.
For the conlang I am going to design something from Bavarian.
As for the local map, I want to design something similar to ski resort maps. I've not seen anything like this in a fantasy novel and it would be very unique.
Here are some links to samples: