Maps for My Novel, Inca (Minor Spoilers)

Hello again everyone,

I’ve had a few readers tell me they have some trouble following where my protagonist is in any given chapter. It’s a fair critique. One of my goals with this book was to have the narrator visit all four corners of the known world over the course of his life, and that can get confusing in fairly short order. I wouldn’t expect most people to have a firm grasp of South American geography, let alone pre-Columbian geography before the Spanish renamed everything. Here is the map included in my book:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

But that doesn’t really make it easy to figure out where things really happened, does it? There are half a dozen landmarks, cities, regions, and tribes to use as way points, but I still left it up to the reader to constantly flip back to the map for reference. That must be especially irritating in the e-book version. Accepting this, I started playing around with the map, trying to track down where Haylli went from chapter to chapter. For my own ease I didn’t line things up exactly with the Royal Road network or the available mountain passes –preferring instead to approximate– but even if I had the overlapping journeys would only have muddied the waters. This is what I came up with:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

That’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? A problem with drawing lines on a map of an empire 3,000 miles long and up to 500 miles wide based on a 70-plus-year narrative is that there’s a lot of repetition. A simple coloured spaghetti chart isn’t much help to the reader interested in matching up the story to the geography. It occurred to me a chapter by chapter breakdown is the only way to really bring clarity to the situation. I did my best to avoid spoilers, but there are some broad plot points that just can’t be avoided. With that said, here’s the prologue and the first two chapters:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

If this is an approach that will help you enjoy the book, I’m happy to show you the rest. Just click through the jump for the rest of the breakdown.

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

Chapters six and seven have probably the most mileage. A fun fact? The single largest cut I made in editing chopped out several dozen pages of useless plot that incorporated a lot of research about the Collao. If and when I write a prequel, I’ll find a way to use all that library work in a way that matters to the story:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

A number of people have told me Chapter Nine was their favourite, and while I appreciate that, I also feel like something of a charlatan. Researching the eastern Amazon Rainforest in the 1490s was a tough job, and while I’m pleased with how it came out, I can’t help but admit I roughed out a lot of assumptions and called them good enough in order to set the scene:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

Chapters ten, eleven, and twelve were probably the firmest rooted in confirmable pre-Spanish history. The reconquest of Quitu is a little fuzzy on this map for the sake of documenting the thoroughness of the campaign, but this is still a fair representation:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

The War Between the Brothers is a difficult conflict to map geographically. We know the Quitus constantly pushed back the Cuzcos, but where the front was throughout the course of the struggle is almost impossible to pin down. I had the great advantage of having a bureaucrat as a protagonist: I didn’t need him on the front; I just had to say he visited it from time to time. The orange gives a sense of the chaos and retreat, but please don’t hold me to the different points of contact and retreat.

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

Chapters fifteen and sixteen were an easy job for the amateur cartographer: Draw a line from Macchu Picchu to Cuzco and from Cuzco to Caxamalca (Cajamarca) using the closest approximation to the Royal Road network. Here you go:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

I had fun with this one as well. Where did Rumiñaui and the fictional Haylli hide the treasure held back from Atauhuallpa’s ransom? My pink squiggle to the east of Quitu is my best guess. I also got to take a guess at where Manco Inca set up his rump kingdom capital –Vilcos? Vilcapampa? Somewhere else in Andesuyu? This is what I came up with:

(Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)

And there you have it! For those of you who felt a little lost, I hope this helps.



20 thoughts on “Maps for My Novel, Inca (Minor Spoilers)

  1. I’m enjoying *Inca,* your love of the subject and imagination, but keep glitching on all the *stools* – even a mitmacked chaski gets to sit on one. Understanding that some of the 1% were privileged the use of the tiana, one of the interesting facts about the Incas, the Andeans, is that they *had no furniture.* I looked forward to seeing that reflected in the book – everybody hunkered down Asian-style with their unkus pulled over their knees. That would be everyday life in the Suyus.


    Adam Seward

    1. Hello Adam. Thanks for the note: I can’t say that I ever read stools were rare, although I definitely saw a number of the Spanish chroniclers referring to the Inca as sitting ‘like Moors,’ which would imply either on the ground, on a pillow, or on a short stool. The tall stools during the drinking ritual were 100% historically backed up. I hope most of the other times the word appears would fall into the 1% category. We are talking about a cast of Intip Churi, after all. As a matter of fact, the word usno –which I used frequently to refer to the throne of the Emperor– most properly refers to the stand upon which his low stool was placed. If I can get away with one ret-con, we are talking about mitmaks practicing wood carving: Is it such a strange thought they’d carve a stool at some point? All the same, I appreciate the feedback. In my next Inca book (probably a couple of years off) I’ll dial back to stools. Cheers!

      1. Gordon McEwan

        I enjoyed your book very much. I am a professional Andean archaeologist and have excavated in the Cuzco valley for the past 35 years, mostly at Pikillacta and Choquepukio. Not only do you tell a good story but you got the facts about 98% right. My only quibbles would be with minor things such as the misspelling of Chinchaysuyu and the use of the word mugs for drinking aka (chicha). The Incas never used mugs but instead they had elaborate tumbler shaped drinking vessels called “kero” that were made of wood and sometimes of ceramics. Usually made in matched pairs these were very important ceremonial items for consuming corn beer. In any case congratulations on a job well done in bringing the Incas to life. You might enjoy having a look at the forthcoming book on Ollantaytambo called Incamisana by Ken and Ruth Wright, Arminda Gibaja, and myself. It should be out late this month. I look forward to seeing the prequel of your Inca book.
        Best regards
        Gordon McEwan

      2. Adam seward

        Gordon –

        I have your book (New Perspectives) by my cot now, here in Ollantaytambo, where I’ve lived for a couple years, avidly exploring the local and further flung archaeological sites. I’ve read it once through and most of a second time (JP’s, of course, is also here). As for the mess that is the current skirmish over the spelling of Runasimi, I learned from the locals’ responses around the plaza that there is a significant difference between “akka” and “akk’a” (or “akha”) – that between shit and beer. I suspect that’s why they use an Arawak word for their indigenous beverage.

        Inkamisana is my favorite sector of the principal ruins here and I look forward to seeing your new book in print.

  2. Gotcha. The tiana (or tiyana) was restricted by (a kind of sumptuary) law to the Sapa, provincial governors – tocoyricocs probably – and a few awarded for exceptional service. There are some surviving examples.

    You’re following the identification of that masked entrance to hidden rooms in Machu Picchu? With the electromagnetic signature of gold and silver? It’ll take the INC and the finders a year or so to go in, and then to tell the world, but I’m hoping for an archive of imperial Inca quipus. That’d be a kick.

    Don’t want to bogart your comment section. Keep writing.

      1. I picked them as my favorite ancient civ as a kid, and around age 13 got an urge to find out what they were really. The interest comes and goes, always grows, captures my imagination. I’ve never hung out with experts and only occasionally gone down there, so it’s all from reading. They were an exceptional people – the whole Andean/coastal tradition. Is your interest long-standing? BTW, I had the same impulse – to do a Gary Jennings on the Incas, but couldn’t get a handle on it. I’m enjoying your take, it’s not at all derivative.

      2. Thank you! That’s very flattering. My interest isn’t that long-standing (ten or twelve years?). I wrote my Zulu book first, but the original attempt had a lot of terrible missteps and blunders. I ended up rewriting the thing after Inca. I hope to do a prequel about the Inca sometime in the next few years that will show their rise. I’d be delighted to bounce a few ideas back and forth when I get down to brass tacks on that (I want to finish a couple of other projects first). Best regards!

      3. That’s excellent – I’d like to see an Inca novel that did not end with the effing conquistadors. The mythical beginning not so much as the hump leading to Pachacuti – the middle kings. Lots of room there for both imagination and research.

      4. I’d want to avoid the myths with a barge pole –the Inca were great at re-writing their history, and the Spaniards put their own spin on the result. I thought I’d use Tillca Yupanki (Haylli’s grandfather) as the narrator, following the Inca from the Chanca invasion that saw Pachacuti seize power through the war against the Chimu, finishing off with the establishment of Tahuantinusuyu as it exists in my current novel. By my estimates Tillca would have been executed somewhere around Haylli Yupanki’s third birthday, which should make a natural bridge from the prequel to the current novel. I thought I would use the rivalry between Tillca and Capac Yupanki as the driving conflict.

      5. Adam Seward

        I’m with you on the barge pole – of course, Pachacuti was the Great Re-Writer of History, as we’re informed these days. He was one mojo-heavy dude. A challenge to write. So in your story we’d meet Yawar Wakak and Viracocha and see Cuzco as a sleepy little valley town, more or less. And end with Topa Inca, my favorite guy. Do you think he really made that rafting expedition into the Pacific? I don’t see why Tillca couldn’t go along on that trek.

        I just got a Kindle, so I’m busy downloading inca stuff – I just got Sarmiento (for free), the main source for that journey. Another chronicler, Suarez, also mentioned it.

        I keep trying to picture what these inca towns would actually look like, i.e., how much and what kind of decoration on the facades, etc. – I was interested in the metal frames you put on your niches and windows – I never ran across those reading, but I liked them. Did you make them up, or are they cited somewhere? That kind of detail is very tasty, and, with so little known, I don’t resent some ranging of the imagination, either. Daniel Peters stuck to the sere bedrock of research, which I respected, but left us with a kind of austere world.

        Well, time to get up. Thanks for the correspondence.

        On Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 11:14 PM, Face in the Blue wrote:

        > ** > faceintheblue commented: “I’d want to avoid the myths with a barge pole > –the Inca were great at re-writing their history, and the Spaniards put > their own spin on the result. I thought I’d use Tillca Yupanki (Haylli’s > grandfather) as the narrator, following the Inca from the Chanc” >

      6. I would definitely want to include the journey into the Pacific, but I’d leave Tillca ashore, waiting to see if the Alexander the Great of South America ever comes home and kicking himself for ever letting him get on that balsa raft. The tension must have been palpable, and it also let’s me dodge the bullet of having an opinion as to where they actually ended up: The chroniclers –Sarmiento, I’d wager. It’s been a long time since I read Suarez– say they were told Topa brought the jawbone of an ass or a horse or a donkey that was kept in Cuzco and identified by a Spaniard after the conquest. I don’t believe that, but when they use the word ‘belt’ to refer to islands, some people start talking about coral atolls around a lagoon… You have to go a long way into the Pacific to find an atoll. I would leave historical fiction behind and enter ret-con sci-fi if I have an Inca armada run into a Polynesian flotilla. As for Inca towns, my research suggests almost all the glitz would have been indoors.Take a cue from Ancient Rome or Pompeii: The street is a blank wall, but inside you can have reflecting pools, gardens, statuary, tapestries, perhaps an aviary or pet monkeys, all safe behind a barred door. The position of door man was a real thing, and it was a position of status among household servants (I can’t recall the Quechua word off the top of my head, but in the same way valets and footmen and butlers each had their role, so too did Yanacona). As for silver frames, I’ll admit I only saw them mentioned once or twice, but I was comfortable putting them in a counting room window. None of the towers of Cuzco survived to the present to prove me wrong.

      7. Nor do any of the precious metals used as decor survive to prove you wrong. Anyway, I like the idea, and it fits the inca esthetic. I do think there was more external decoration than is generally assumed – there’s mention of it, they’re finding more and more traces of painted plaster still clinging to stone, and there are two clay models of inca houses that show external color – one you may have seen (I just blew half an hour looking for a pic online, I’m away from my books for a few months) – is a little cancha, three or four houses with very peaked roofs, and the surrounding walls showing geometric designs. Dark, earthy tones as I remember. And I think the upper sections of the imperial compounds, the mud brick story atop the stonework, would have been plastered and painted. I’d really like to see an example. Stock footage from 1480. Someday they’ll figure a way.

        However, I may be in a minority in thinking these things. So yes, safer to leave Tillca home, so you don’t end up having to defend your thesis as to where he got that horse’s jawbone, that brass chair, and those black people. (I recall reading the chroniclers saying that the jawbone still existed somewhere, but not from anyone claiming to have seen it.)

        If Johan Reinhard hadn’t gone poking around those peaks looking for sacrificed children, we wouldn’t know how sumptuous, subtle, and radiantly tasteful inca dress could be. They liked to look good and knew how to do it. But again, I’m theorizing about the external architecture. Susan Niles’ study of Huayna Capac’s retreats in the sacred valley show lots of designer colors on the external walls, but all in plain blocks, not designs.

  3. Ben Gooden

    Searching for books and websites on Peru, as I often do, I found your Amazon listing for your new book, Inca. My wife and I have traveled twice over separate two week periods four years apart, touring the various ruins and sites in the north and south, in both the highlands and the north and south coasts, most recently last summer going down to Puno and Lake Titicaca, the Islands of the Sun and Moon, and Tiwanaku, as well as repeating travel to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, and visiting Chinchero for the first time. Fantastic book! I am half way through and cannot put it down. I love the story, the locations, the action, and the Inca “point of view.” I also love your glossaries in the back, tonight finding and downloading your maps to go with the chapters. Super ideas both! Put the maps in the next edition or revision. I usually only read New World histories and archaeology books, but occasionally veer off into related historical fiction. I was strongly influenced by the excellent reviews at Amazon, and bought the book. First question, as a person also interested in plants: where did your reference to “teak” come from? Normally teak is considered a SE Asian tree, imported into Central and South America long after Spanish conquest to replenish deforestation and to provide a source of a strong construction wood. The same with Eucalyptus from Australia. I did find a search at Wikipedia for “Peru teak” and found Brazilian teak, but I think it is different, and maybe not teak. And you seem to have given Pachacamac, which we visited in 2008, a siting north of the Rimac River (which flows through Lima, a Spanish mis-rendering of Rimac), when it is actually situated on the Lurin River, slightly south, and which wraps around the site. Did I misread? I am neither a historian nor university-type; I just read a lot of New World history and archaeology books, including conquest accounts. It is interesting to me that your book includes travel to Quitu as we are going to Quito, Ecuador, at Christmas and will spend three of our nine days touring museums and archaeological sites in the immediate Quito vicinity. I do hope there will be a prequel. I’d buy it in a heartbeat. And of course I love that the “hero” of the book is an accountant. So am I, but one who cannot read a quipu.

    1. Hello!

      Thank you so much for your kind words! As you found the Amazon reviews helpful, would you be willing to write one yourself?

      To answer your questions, I read an article in National Geographic years ago (easily before 2000) about illegal logging in Bolivia. There was a photo of some loggers who had constructed a raft out of teak that they were floating down a tributary of the Amazon. It reminded me very much of the Canadian lumber boom of the 19th Century (which my own ancestors took part in). Here’s a picture of the Canadian example:

      Anyway, I cut out the photo and put it in one of my notebooks. The caption definitely says teak, and so when I wanted to think of a luxurious and ridiculously expensive hardwood to use as a door material, I immediately went with teak. You’re almost certainly right that Brazilian teak is different than Southeast Asian teak, but I’m going to use the historical fiction writer’s flub of saying if a Quechua speaker was telling his story in Spanish to a priest whose notes were then translated into English, how precise would all of the nouns be?

      As for the Rimac/Lurin River, again, you are absolutely right. To be perfectly honest, it’s a mistake I about six months after I first published the thing, and it’s just not glaring enough for me to put out a revised edition to fix it. I must’ve taken some bad notes and flipped the two rivers. I also couldn’t find a good translation for what Lurin meant, and as Rimac means Speaker and the whole thing is about the most famous oracle in the world, I thought I’d let it stand. Again, an old and beaten man speaking a conqueror’s language that is then translated into English? Mistakes will happen.

      You’re an accountant? So’s my father! I have a lot of respect for the craft, but I lack the passion for it. Were I Tupac Capac or Haylli Yupanki’s son, they would not have chosen me to become a Tocoyricoc.

    2. Oh! And in terms of a prequel, that’s definitely coming. There’re a couple hundred very rough pages down, and the plotting and research is done. It probably will not be my third book, but it will likely be my fourth. It will be the life story of Haylli’s grandfather, the famous general Tillca Yupanki, as his son Tocoyricoc Tupac Capac takes him back to Cuzco to be beheaded and thrown into the Pit.

      1. I eagerly anticipate Tillca’s story. I found it pretty easy to follow Haylli around the suyus, or thought I did; you were pretty clear even without the excellent maps.

  4. Ben Gooden

    What trips have you made to Peru and what Inca and other sites have you visited? If you haven’t been to Machu Picchu yet, you should. We have been there twice, visiting different parts of the site each time, plus repeating some. Climb up to the Intipunku, or Sun Gate, where the ancient Inca Trail comes down into the site, a different view than coming up from Aguas Calientes (now called Machu Picchu Pueblo), where the train to MP stops. Or climb up to the top of Huayna Picchu at the site with a condor’s eye view of the ruins (we didn’t, but one of our travel companions last year did). Also try to visit the very private and interesting, but very small, overgrown River Intihuatana site, near the railroad tracks along the Urubamba River, not far from the Hydroelectric Plant, a few miles downriver from Aguas Calientes, where there is a direct view of MP’s Intihuatana from far below. Not every local guide knows how to get there, though. Climbing Ollantaytambo’s ruins, which you pass through en route to Machu Picchu, is exhilarating. So is climbing Pisac’s ruins, also on the Vilcanota-Urubamba River at the other end of the Yucay Valley. If you haven’t read Jean-Pierre Protzen’s 1993 and now very expensive out-of-print book, “Inca Architecture and Construction at Ollantaytambo,” or any of his articles about stone quarrying and carving work available on the Internet, or his 2012 book with Stella Nair, “The Stones of Tiahuanaco,” (aka Tiwanaku) or Kenneth Wright’s 2003 book, “Machu Picchu, A Civil Engineering Marvel,” consider doing so to inform your future book about the stone carving, irrigation, and engineering marvels of the Inca. You may have to find a library that has the 1993 Protzen book. Wright is a Denver Colorado hydrologist who has written about other Peru sites and their civil engineering features, and his wife, has written a guidebook to MP, and does the photography for her husband’s books. I am just finishing the final chapter of your book, “Inca.”

  5. You’ve made some really good points there. I looked on the net for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

  6. Deborah Torenvliet

    With “Inca” you gave me one of those great reading experiences I always look for and treasure in a book. Thanks so much. I learned some history and culture and escaped into both the geographical environment and the main character. Well done. I’ll be looking for more of your work.

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