Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall Inspiration

This weather is weird. The beginning of last week was cold. I was pulling out my hoodie, heavy blanket and my little space heater. The weakened comes and it's 80 degrees. It worked out well for me. I went to the park on Saturday and Sunday to take pictures.

Nature is amazing. I've been going to that park almost everyday over the summer and I still find new things to take pictures of. The right sunlight, plus a lake and fall equals some really pretty colors.

I'v been playing a bit more with perspective--to take pictures of animals with those nice colors in the water. I have to wait for the animals to get into the right position. This takes some patience and some quick shooting. When the animals are in position, I'll get only a few shots or maybe just one. I can't tell the swan, goose or duck to go back because I didn't get a good shot.

The Vivid setting is awesome. It makes colors pop.

Unfortunately, the Vivid setting can make reds and whites glow. It takes me awhile to get a good picture of a swan. My favorite fall color is red, which is strange since I don't like red on anything else. I'll figure out how to take a good picture of a red tree.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mythical Creatures: Werecats

Here's another creature I come across often in anime and manga. I didn't know werecats were a thing- you know, an actual folklore. I just though it was something people made up. If you've ever watched anime, you'd know they love putting cat ears on characters, especially females.

In folklore and fantasy fiction, werecats are shapeshifters similar to werewolves, except that they turn into some species of feline--domestic cat, a tiger, a lion, a leopard, a lynx, or any other type, including some that are purely fantastical felines.

The word "werecat" was not coined until the late 19th century, so it wasn't directly used in legends from earlier eras, only by later folklorists' commentary.

In the 19th century, an occultist said that material cat and dog transformations could be produced by manipulating the "ethereal fluid" that human bodies are supposedly floating in. A witch-hunting manual said that witches can turn into cats, but that their transformations are illusions created by demons. Another occultist claimed that werecats called "cat shifters" exist as part of a "shifter subculture" or underground New Age religion based on lycanthropy and related beliefs.

Different countries have their own version of werecats. In mainland Asian, werecats usually become tigers. In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might turn to man-eating. Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either heredity or a vindictive ghost. Ancient teachings held that every race except the Han Chinese were really animals in disguise, so that there was nothing extraordinary about some of these false humans reverting to their true natures. 

Alternately, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers could become malevolent supernatural beings, devoting all their energy to making sure that tigers killed more humans. Some of these ghosts were responsible for transforming ordinary humans into man-eating weretigers. Also, in Japanese folklore there are creatures called bakeneko that are similar to kitsune (fox spirits) and tanuki (raccoon dogs).


Monday, September 22, 2014

Wonders of the (Fake) World

I've never been much of a list person, but world building is turning me into one. My journals have no sense of organization. Going through them is a pain. Recently, I've had to list all the major threats facing my characters in book 2. More than half way through the book and I can't keep track of them all. I've tried outlining. I don't care for it. I prefer discovering the story as I write.

To get a better picture of my world, I listed the Wonders. For me, this was similar to creating a character profile. Countries have personalities.

I'm fascinated by those unexplored/unexplained places. There's something...romantic about untouched places when most of the world is inhabited. I like how, even in our modern world, there are still things people can't fully explain. I wanted to put that into my world.

Heaven's Gate- A series of stone arches people have studied for centuries. No one knows who created them or what they're for. Each arch has words carved on in. No linguist is familiar with this language. The Gate sits in the Thala Forest- named for its trees with red leaves. These leaves don't change color, don't fall off. These tree can't be found anywhere else. 

The Death Hole (Raesul)- People have studied this area, but no one knows why entering it causes a slow painful death.

The Lahyjion Library- Has the largest collection of books and historical artifacts from around the world.

The Jaelian Tunnels- A mass of underground tunnels runs under most of Jael (a continent/province). The walls, floors and ceiling of the tunnel are black. History says the natives dug the tunnels because they were savages who hated sunlight. The natives said a race of demons roamed the surface area. Underground was the only safe place. Of course settlers didn't believe this since the monsters had been banished by the time they arrived. Natives had stayed underground because they had gotten used to it.

Later, a team discovered rare stones in the tunnels, which started the Mining Age. Due to a series of events, each territory shut down the mines years later. Now, people aren't allowed in the tunnels. Only well connected researchers can enter them. 

The Floating Country- Annissa is made of several islands only big enough to fit a couple of buildings. People's main mode of transportation are boats. 

The Steel Cities of Cayden- This province has the most buildings packed into small areas.You will not find any greenery in these cities. Each building is unique. 

The Architecture of T'syaT'sya has had the most influence on architecture. Some of the buildings are masterpieces. Though the T'syian style is reflected in buildings across the world, no one has been able to duplicate the architecture of this province. 

Aldric Abyss- A stretch of dirt land in Western Jael. People cannot cross it without suffering some mental breakdown or death. It's named after the only person who crossed it. Aldric lived, but had to be institutionalized for the rest of his life. People have studied the land. Everyone has their own theory why the land effects people. 
When I said no one knows why a certain place is the way it is, you, the writer, should know. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Character's Lost Memories

In my current WIP, Chains of the Sciell, most of my cast has had their minds altered. They spend the first part of the story reclaiming those memories. I wanted to portray this realistically, though I didn't do any research. I use what I've seen in movies. My beta-reader says they believe how the characters are regaining their memories. For the story, memories can't be erased. They're put someplace the person can't reach without help.

I've been using senses stimulation. The characters see, feel, smell or hear something. It'll spark a memory. Emotions also play a big part it in. For instance, a character could've been deeply hurt by someone they don't remember. They hear that person's name, feel the hurt and get some fragmented memories of why that name causes them pain.

One character, Divine hears the name Nocturne and thinks "mommy" because of the warm feelings he gets from that name. That same character hears the name Dawn and is wrecked with a violent need to kill something.

The recovered memories are always fragmented.

Since a group of characters are missing their memories, they usually talk it out. If one person says something, it'll trigger another person's memories. They'll start talking, which will trigger another person's memories.

How do you show a character recovering lost memories?

Update: Chains of the Sciell is now available.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Magic Systems

If you're a fantasy writer, you should subscribe to Mythic Scribes. They have some amazing articles.

Are Magic Systems a Distraction?
"Some of the greatest fantasy novels don’t have defined magic systems. Neither Harry Potter nor The Lord of the Rings have anything resembling a “system,” yet these stories are classics of the genre. In fact, one could even argue that the lack of a system makes these stories feel even more magical.
Conversely, when a story features a magic system, the results aren't always positive. A complicated system (which is what geeks love) can actually erect a barrier between the reader and the story. It takes some work to learn the intricacies of a system, and this can put off many potential readers."
I spent a lot of time developing my magic system, but that's because magic is a major character in my Merging Worlds Series. I can see how doing this can be distracting. We could spend so much time developing our magic system that we neglect to write an actual story. Or, we create our system and love it so much we get detail happy in the story and bore the reader.

A magic system is like a road map. You wouldn't want a character to do something that contradicts what they said or how they use magic. The "system" could be how one character uses magic. It doesn't have to be big or elaborate. It ensures magic use makes sense.

On the other hand, in the comment section of that article, people said they cared about the story and the world more than the magic system, which is true--in most cases. There might be a hole in your system, but if you weave a good story, readers won't notice it or they'll forgive it. Thinking about it, I don't develop a magic system for my short stories or novellas even though characters use their powers often. For shorter works, I do the developing in my head.

What do you think? Is developing a magic system important? Does it depend on the story's length?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Map Making The World: Part 4- Cayden

Designing this land was fairly straightforward. Last week, I showed you how my landmasses start.

Using the Eraser Tool, I drag it around the edges in a zigzag to create a more realistic coastline. Continents don't have such straight lines.

As usual, the mountains caused me some trouble. Because of this map making experience, I've gotten better at designing them. Doesn't mean I don't need help. Once again, I Googled "Fantasy Map Mountains" and examined other maps.

I use this brush set for my mountains.

Sketchy Cartography Brushes by StarRaven on deviantART

They're from deviantART. You'll need to ask permission to use them for commercial purposes.

I learned from the video tutorial I shared in Part 1 that mountains are shaped like spines. I start with the longer mountain brushes to create a base. I have to play around with this. Make sure you're working on a new layer so you can edit your mountains without effecting the land. The color I use is 362f2d.

Then, I use the smaller mountain brushes to shape it. This step might require some deleting of the base. That's why you have your mountains on a separate layer. You should zoom in so you can see every detail. It helps to have some mountain examples- that's why I do the Google search. The video tutorial I mentioned before said try not to use the same brush too many times in a row. Alternating brushes creates a more realistic mountain range.

I don't like those stray peeks at the bottom. I erase them and add smaller mountains in their place. Don't like that either. See what I mean by playing around with the design? I don't care for how the bottom is shaped. Played with it some more.

Better. This is a sample. I'm not using it for a map. If I was, I'd tweak it some more. That bottom part is still bugging me. I don't know why. I'd usually leave it for awhile to give me some time to think.
Meet Cayden. The countries sacrifice nature (and the citizens' health) for technological advancement. If you want nature, you have to travel to Brahama or Challum. People live on top of each other. This land is like a big Manhattan.

Most of my Photoshop results happen by accident. I was messing around with Bevel & Emboss in Blending Options. I selected Style: Outer Bevel and Technique: Smooth. I got this cool chiseled coastline. It's more defined than my other lands.

Here's the new World Map. I need to figure out how to make all the lands look the same. I tried Copying and Pasting Layer Styles. Each land still comes out looking different.

Map Making The World: Part 1
Map Making The World Part 2- Tsya
Map Making The World Part 3- Sorin

Monday, September 8, 2014

Interactive Storytelling

I enjoy being more than just an observer when it comes to reading. I stumbled across DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow. It's like an RPG in book form! I didn't know anything like this existed.

The cover looks like a video game!

I've wanted to play games like Dungeons and Dragons, but my friends aren't as nerdy as I am. I've been reluctant to play MMOs because I foresee getting real addicted to them. The Legion of Shadow gave me another option.

It's a choose-your-own-adventure book only more interactive. You don't read this book linearly. I was sitting on the train having a good time flipping back and forth through the page as I started my adventure. It has cool glossing maps/images at the center.
You need dice to go through this book. Since I play all my games on some device, I don't have anything that has dice. I have to buy some. Until then, this gamebook is on hold. I really want to read it though.

I've also gotten into this app series called Shall We Date-- my guilty pleasure. They're like romance novels with pictures. At the beginning of the story, you select your love interest. Throughout the story, you chose how to respond to certain situations. Whether or not you have a happy ending depends on how you respond. It's a bit cheesy. The writing is terrible. They try to force you to do in-app purchases-I refuse. Despite that, the apps are so much fun (and addictive) and the visuals are gorgeous.
The Shall We Date apps have gotten millions of downloads and a lot of raving reviews. The Legion of Shadow however, came out in 2012 and it only has 1 review and 16 ratings on Goodreads. They're positive, but that's beside the point. It has 21 reviews on Amazon. 19 of them are 5 stars.

The DestinyQuest series has two other books. The third one was released this month. It has no reviews on Goodreads, which means either the publisher didn't ask for advance reviews or they asked and didn't get any. Both of which are tragic. This series was ordinarily published in the UK. I wonder if gamebooks are more popular over there.

I'd like to see more books like this. I'd like to see the concept of a book continue to evolve to encompass different types of storytelling. It would be interesting--the day when the linear story is no longer the default. It becomes one option among several equally popular modes of storytelling.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Map Making The World: Part 3- Sorin

Creating this land was...something special. I experimented with some fun effects. I had to play around with Photoshop because I couldn't find the map making tutorial I needed.

Last week, I introduced you to Sorin.

Now, it looks like this:
I like the map, but there's something off about it. Don't know what's bothering me, yet.

Creating Sorin was particularly hard. I wanted it to be rugged. During my research, I found out mountains are generally located near the edge of continents. How do I make Sorin rugged without it being trapped in a wall of mountains? I Googled "Fantasy map mountain" to see how other maps handled areas with large mountain ranges. That helped a lot.

While examining other maps, I noticed some had an outer glow representing a shoreline.
Source: TV Tropes
I wanted to try it. Turns out, adding a shoreline is a lot harder than checking Outer Glow in Blending Options. I tried Goggling tutorials. I didn't find much.

Realistic Mapmaking for Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds
The info about creating a coastline is on page 14.

I'm still working on this. I like my shoreline. It could be better- more noticeable.

Creating a shoreline isn't that important. The world map is going to be in black and white when I put it in my book. No one's gonna see an Outer Glow. 

I also wanted to make the ocean look like water. Another thing I did just for fun. I'll be removing the Ocean Layer when I put the map in Chains of the Sciell.

I should've mentioned this sooner. When I create book images, I start with a Transparent background, then add a Fill Layer. I never use a white or color background. I want the image background to be the book's page.  

If you want to preserve Transparency when you Save for Web, change the file to GIF and select Transparency. 

Back to the ocean. Here's what it looked like before:


To create that effect, I used Filter-Render-Cloud. As far as I know, you can't edit how the ocean is rendered. You have to keep rendering until you like the result. 

Cloud mixes the foreground and background colors. I've seen tutorials where you only use one color to make the ocean. I tried it. Didn't like it. I wanted two colors. I had to experiment with different blues to create that effect.

I used 0f14ee- foreground and 1e5ef0-background. Don't know if it makes a difference which blue is foreground and background. 

Here's the new world map:

I've mentioned a couple of times that I start each landmass as a big blob. I started working on the next land, but I haven't had the time to shape it. This is how my lands start.

Now, I'm going to play with this. Erase some parts. Add some part. Make the edges more realistic. Make it look like land.

Map Making The World: Part 1
Map Making The World: Part 2-Tsya

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stop Tragic Author Websites

Hope you're having a fun and safe holiday.
For assignments, I've had to examine current authors' online platforms and make suggestions. Authors seem to be notorious for having ugly websites. Some look as if the authors haven't been on the internet since the 90s.

Study Other Websites
I'm not an expert on web design, but I spend enough time online to know how a website is supposed to look. Most author can't afford to hire someone to do their website. Most don't want to do it themselves, but have to because they know they need one. If you're ever faced with the daunting task of building a website, research and bookmark author sites you like. Study them like you would your favorite novel. This will be a lot of work, but it has to be done.

This isn't just for websites either. Blogs are included. For some authors, like me, their website is their blog.

Be Mobile Friendly
Your website/blog needs to be mobile friendly. Blogger does this without any input from us. For some hosts, GoDaddy, you have to edit the mobile version. It looks terrible if you let GoDaddy handle it. You should often check out your blog/website on a tablet and phone. Some widgets look awesome on a computer screen. On a tablet, there would be this big blank space.

Update Copyright Information
At the bottom of the website is usually the copyright information. If it's 2014 and the copyright date is 2013, I'm gonna assume the author hasn't been on the website since last year. The only website builder I've used is GoDaddy. I have to edit that date. It doesn't update automatically each year.

Edit The Tab
For those looking at this blog using Google Chrome, you'll see tabs at the top of the screen. My blog tab is "Dark Treasury (Post Title)" with the Blogger logo on it. For websites, you can edit that information and give it your own logo/image. I highly recommend doing this. How to do this is different for each site. You should try Goggling "Change Tab Title for (your website builder)."

The Creative Penn and Jane Friedman have some good posts about web design. 
Author Websites, Branding And CopyWriting With James Chartrand From Men With Pens
Is Your Website Hurting Your Writing?
Building Your First Website: Resource List
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