A Brief Hiatus

A Brief Hiatus

For the next week or so, things around here will slow down a bit as I intentionally go internet-silent. Responses to emails and comments will be delayed during that time. Kari-Lise and I are traveling to Amsterdam and Belgium for her birthday and meeting up with our travel pals, Kelcey and Jim. (The same fine folks who joined us in Scotland.) I might occasionally post to Instagram, so I do recommend following me if you’re interested in my travels. I’ll assemble a trip report upon my return!

My current plan is to resume normal blog activities around late-January. But, if you’re looking for something to read in the interim, here are a few of my more popular posts:

See y’all in a week or so!

Walser: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Walser: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

I was doing some research on Switzerland and looking at old maps when I came across a 1763 map of Canton Lucern created by Gabriel Walser. I found myself inspired by all his details, especially those focusing on the cities, towns, and parishes. It’s still stunning 250 years later and it’s an amazing time capsule. You can see the influence into more modern designs and the connections to older styles. As I was looking, I realized it’d make an excellent set of brushes for fantastical maps, especially for those artists (like me) who like to ground their work with a historical approach.

So, I spent a Saturday converting all sorts of objects in the map into brushes and today I am releasing it as Walser, an 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Photoshop taken from Gabriel Walser’s original work. The set is enormous—over 250 brushes, to help make your projects unique. Having different images for the same object helps make your map feel more hand-drawn. No artist can hand-render the same object identically—even printing presses aren’t perfect no matter how hard they try. Adding subtle variants can help trick a reader’s eye and it makes a map feel more authentic.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Walser
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Walser

I like working with a lot of brushes and Walser is big (see the full set here), all of the settlement’s names I took from the original German key (thanks to my friend Redd for helping translate)—Walser had a particular way of labeling ruins that I enjoy. Inside the set you’ll find:

  • 5 Large Cities
  • 10 Castles
  • 10 Towns
  • 10 Catholic Parishes (They look like towns but with little crosses on top. Consider swapping those for a religious icon from your setting.)
  • 10 Monasteries
  • 10 Chapels
  • 20 Scattered Farms
  • 10 Ruins
  • 30 Individual Trees
  • 30 Blocks of Trees
  • 40 Hills
  • 30 Mountains
  • 15 Mountain Ranges (aka jagged hills)
  • 22 Unique/Combination Landforms

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 Adobe brush files.


DOWNLOAD WALSER


Wasler 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. All I did was convert it to brushes, Wasler did all the heavy lifting—so giving him credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

If you like the Walser brush set and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. (The first books is only $2.99 on eBook.) You can find them in stores and online, learn more about the series at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Walser! It’s a great little set to make maps and connect with history. There’s a lot of incredible cartographers and geographers throughout history that should be remembered and it’s important we enthusiasts take moments to reflect on their impact. Gabriel Walser has a few other maps as well and his style varied, which has me thinking about a Wasler supplement for the future. Finally, feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email! I love seeing how this stuff is used and sharing your work with my readers.


Want to see the other cartography brush sets I’ve created?

  • Lumbia

    A sketchy style brush set I drew myself that focuses on unique hills and mountains and personal customizability. My attempt at trying to channel the sort of map a barkeep would draw for a band of hearty adventurers.

  • Lehmann

    Named after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann creator of the Lehmann hatching system in 1799, this is a path-focused brush set designed for Adobe Illustrator captures the hand-drawn style unique 19th Century hachure style mountains.


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 →

Death of an Author

Death of the Author

I initially saw this posted over on Scalzi’s blog—but didn’t get a chance to watch it until last night. I recommend reading John’s thoughts on the video as well (Linked above.)

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Lindsey Ellis’ work—and I thought she did an excellent job tackling Roland Barthes’ La mort de l’auteur and the concept/dialog surrounding authorial intent as a whole. I particularly like the focus on authors working in today’s brand-focused social media-driven world. It’s very much worth a watch.

Garden of Horrors: Hydnora Africana

The idea of parasites is already creepy enough. Something deriving nutrients at the expense of a host can give one the willies. This has been amplified in fiction—many of our monsters are parasitic in nature. But parasites are common in nature and particularly common in the plant kingdom. While most look harmless, some can be downright disturbing, looking more like a movie monster than a plant. Think I’m kidding? Enter the Hydnora africana.

The flower of the Hydnora africana
The flower of the Hydnora africana

Not that’s not a Graboid. It’s a parasitic plant that lives mostly underground attached to the roots of its Euphorbia host. It has no leaves and doesn’t produce chlorophyll—but it does flower. After heavy rainfall, it reproduces by means of a creepy-mouth flower that emerges from beneath the ground and attracts pollinators. How does it do that, exactly? Well, it emits an awful odor that smells like poop. Fun! This, in turn, attracts dung and carrion beetles. The flower then traps the bugs for about a days allowing them to gather up pollen, then the flower opens like a monstrous mouth and the bugs are free to go find another Hydnora africana. It’s all very romantic.

PBS Digital Studios (arguably the best YouTube channel today) did an episode of Gross Science where Anna Rothschild explores the weird life of the Hydnora africana. She goes into more details on how this parasitic plant lives and reproduces. You can check it out below.

So, not only does the Hydnora africana look like a special effects monster taken from an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, but it also smells like feces, and apparently (if you’re interested) this horrific thing is edible. After pollination, the Hydnora africana grows a fruit underground and apparently it tastes pretty dang good. So, if that sounds delicious to you… uh, have at it.

Happy gardening.


☠️ More Garden of Horrors


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 →

Raunch Review: A Clockwork Orange

Raunch Review: A Clockwork Orange

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: A Clockwork Orange

The Author: Anthony Burgess
Work in Question: A Clockwork Orange
The Profanity: “Yarbles”

The evolution of language is a large part of profanity. What is considered obscene changes over the years, and can seem silly to following generations. One of the most famous examples of this was the word “leg” which, during the Victorian era, was considered obscene. (“Limb” became the de-facto replacement when discussing one’s extremities.) It’s strange to think about now, but that evolution influences the effectiveness of profanity. It’s very much a product of its time. That same evolution should apply to fictional swearing as well.

Enter “yarbles,” Anthony Burgess’ offering into the lexicon of faux-profanity. Uttered by the milkplus-fueled street toughs who prowl the streets of a retro-futuristic London, this word is used as a vulgarity for male genitalia. Burgess, a linguist as well as a writer, based much of the unique language in a Russian-influenced argot he called “Nadsat” (which translates to -teen). “Yarbles” is based on the Russian word аблоко (jabloko) which translates as “apple.” Within English, we often see words get anglicized as they shift and change over time. With that anglicization, a word will inherit new pronunciations and often evolve new meanings. We see that with “yarbles.”

“Yarbles,” as a result, is subversive—so perfect that they slapped it on the first edition cover! It carries that hint of naughtiness which sharpens its use as a vulgarity. It has a history and an evolution. Its visceral nature fits within the context of the novel, and it’s wielded perfectly by the book’s protagonist, Alex. In almost every way, it can be viewed as a gold standard for faux-profanity.

Score:  (5.0)

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.