My Top Five Posts of 2018

My Top Five Posts of 2018

The year is coming to an end in a few weeks, and in these twilight days of 2018, I’m one to reflect on the things I’ve accomplished. Last year, I revisited my top five posts of 2017, and I thought it’d be interesting to do that again this year.

This has been a banner year for my blog—I’ve seen a lot more traffic than I ever have before, which is always exciting. After all, I’ve wanted to make this site my primary focus rather than spreading bits and pieces of myself all over social media. My hope is that this becomes a place where readers can find more than just generic author-bloggy stuff but also interesting content. Based on my top posts, I think I’m finding that balance. So, let’s see what resonated, we’ll start at number five and work our way to number one.


Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers5. Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers

Writers are often asked to offer up their personal “rules” for writing, and unless you’re Jonathan Franzen, other authors (or aspiring authors) love to share and discuss their thoughts. I noticed a correlation between the number eight and decided to riff off that—and then things went out of control. There is good advice to be had here from masters in the field, glean from it what you can.


Mapping Resources for Authors4. Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

My background is in graphic design, and as a reader, a good map has always drawn me in—many fantasy authors (and game masters) need maps for their various projects, and they don’t have the skill set to render them in a useful way. My hope with this post was to deliver a handy guide for the more artistically challenged authors (or GMs) by exploring the map creation software and sites currently available.


Your Fav is Problematic—That's Okay3. Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay

If there is one post I am most proud of this year, it’s this one—for a long time I thought it’d be number one. Consider this my manifesto. An appeal for the wicked, as it were. I want you to write fiction that makes people uncomfortable. Give us perspectives outside our echo chambers. Make us care. Let our hearts be in conflict.


The 2018 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide2. The 2018 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

As always the internet loves a good gift guide. For the fifth straight year, my Lovecraftian gift guide has attracted all manner of visitors who are eager to see what strange and unusual items I’ve discovered over the year. This year’s list is no different. There’s a ton of great gifts, and there is still time to get your orders in on many of these products.


That brings us to number one… the most prominent post of 2018 was…


H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry1. H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry

I’ll be honest, this one took me by surprise. For a while now, during the holiday season, I’ve often shared Lovecraft’s weird Christmas poems, but this rarity quickly took off, in a single day it surpassed all other posts for the year. That’s the weird internet for you. Go figure.


So, there are the top five posts decided by you, the reader! I’m disappointed that none of my Raunch Review series made the top five, but I still have high hopes for those posts. I firmly believe they’ll eventually find their audience and I’ll get some crazy email from someone adamantly disagreeing with my judgments.

Thank you to all my readers who read, comment, and share the stuff I post on I Make Stories. Sharing my posts on your blogs and social media accounts makes a difference. It means a lot to see your excitement and that excitement makes it all worthwhile. With your help, you made 2018 the best year ever, and I’m excited to see what 2019 holds.

❄️ 💀 ❄️


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

If you spend any time on cartography forums or cartography-related subreddits, you’ll eventually run across folks using Star Raven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes. You can see why, the whole set is incredible, cohesive, and you can make beautiful maps in no time.

I have always admired Star Raven’s work, but I began to see it everywhere. One thing I love about maps is how unique each felt, and I wanted to do what I could to help maintain that feeling of discovery. Star Raven was a big inspiration for me to create Lumbia, my own sketchy cartography brush set which I’m giving away today for free.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0

The set consists of over two hundred brushes designed for high-resolution use. Each mountain, tree, and hill are separate by design—I find this allows more custom placing than the block method, it lets you decide the look of the forest and ranges.

Lumbia 1.0 Includes:

  • 1 Mother of Mountains (an absolute unit)
  • 15 Large Mountains
  • 42 Medium mountains
  • 25 Small Mountains
  • 71 Hill
  • 17 Scrub bushes
  • 9 Cattails
  • 13 Cacti (prickly bois)
  • 9 Bone Trees (spoOoOoky!)
  • 9 Cyprus Trees
  • 10 Acacia Trees
  • 21 Maple Trees
  • 19 Pine Trees
  • 12 Generic Jungley Trees
  • 12 Tumbleweeds

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support the brush file. A vector set isn’t included in this initial release, but will most likely come in later a later version. I’m sure I’ll announce it here when its ready.


DOWNLOAD LUMBIA 1.0


Lumbia is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. So have some fun.

If you like Lumbia and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. They’re available in stores and online, and you can find out much more about them at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Lumbia, everyone! Have a suggestion or request for future Lumbia versions or want to show me what you created, feel free to send me an email! Have a friend who might be interested in using Lumbia? Share this post with them.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

I've updated my Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

A New Hybrid Solution for Creating Fantasy Maps

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve updated my ‘Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)’ guide this afternoon. It’s a minor update, but one I wanted to specifically call out. You’ll find a handy new hybrid tool from Red Blob Games that builds some of the most stunning fantasy maps on the fly—it might be the best out there right now. So if you’re working on a project (or if you’re just a map enthusiast), you really owe it to yourself to swing on by and check it out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The Human Heart in Conflict with Itself

The Human Heart in Conflict with Itself

“…the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

William FaulknerBanquet speech


I came across this quote when looking through some old posts and I wanted to share it on its own. Earlier this year, I referenced it when discussing how ‘Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay’ and it works well in that context. That said, it’s still wonderful separate from the point I was making about challenging fiction. If we’re not writing about that central conflict, then why are we writing? (FWIW, I recommend reading the whole speech.)

Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. FoxThe Author: Wes Anderson
Work in Question: Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Profanity: “cuss”

Okay, before we get into this one, I think it’s helpful to see it in use.

It’s hard to look at Fantastic Mr. Fox and not address the aesthetic aspects. It’s a technical masterpiece which tells a simple story based on a Roald Dahl novel from 1974. “Cuss” never appears in the original source material—this is a product of the screenplay. Like most Wes Anderson films, there is as much style as there is substance, and there are layers that shouldn’t be ignored.

“Cuss,” in this case, is fascinating. It’s used as a profanity; it assuredly runs the gamut and replaces other much more offensive words—but never of the same type. At one point it’s an oath, a vulgarity in other moments, and it can even be licentious: it doesn’t matter, and that’s the point. “Cuss” replaces everything. But it does this in a way that is more amusing than offensive. Where “frak” was a clear attempt to get around censors, and “shazbot” was goofy foolishness played for laughs, “cuss” ends up being a subtle (and effective) commentary (that also happens to be played for laughs).

“Cuss” by itself means nothing outside of its recognized definition. But when it describes nonsense, it becomes nonsense. It becomes a parody; it pokes fun and recognizes the absurdity and duality inherent in language, and in this way it transcends faux-profanity.

So, where does that leave me in a series in which I rate the effectiveness of faux-profanity? “Cuss” is effective as commentary, but as profanity, it falls short. And I think that’s the point.

Score: No Score, you sly fox 😒

 


Previous Raunch Reviews


Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


 

Why Are Bad Words Bad?

Why Are Bad Words Bad

I’ve been running a series of post called Raunch Reviews where I examine the effectiveness of fictional swearing. While doing some research for a few upcoming posts, I came across this Vsauce video from 2013 does an outstanding job of breaking down the evolution of language and how it influenced modern profanity. If you’re interested in etymology it’s very much worth spending the ten minutes to give it a watch.

The Steven Pinker lecture mentioned in the video, ‘The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature,’ is an even more in-depth breakdown of the history and evolution of cursing. It’s long but worth watching if you have the time. Probably not at work though, I would flag it NSFW even though it’s an academic lecture on swearing. So consider yourself warned if that’s a problem.