Category Archives: Incidentals

Free Wonderdraft Symbol Sets Now Available

Free Wonderdraft Symbol Set Now Available

Occasionally I get emails from people asking about my brush sets and the map-making software Wonderdraft. It’s a great piece of software with a vibrant community of creators, one I’ve always wanted to support. But converting ABR files into individual objects has always been daunting, so I haven’t been able to support it like I wanted.

Until today. Thanks to the efforts of Richard Moyer, ten of my sets (nearly 4000 objects) are now available for Wonderdraft users! Like my Photoshop and GIMP sets, these are free to use for personal or commercial projects. No attribution required. You can download them and start using them immediately. The button below links to the set on Cartography Assets, a fantastic online resource for Wonderdraft addons. It includes details and advice on how to use these sets, so be sure to read the Overview.


K. M. ALEXANDER WONDERDRAFT MEGAPACK


Huge thank you to Richard for putting in this work. It’s a monumental endeavor and one that should be recognized. He even when the extra mile by including versions of the objects with opaque backgrounds to allow for easy layering. It cannot be said enough; this is a generous undertaking. So if you like these sets, don’t just thank me, thank Richard as well.

Happy map making!


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: Blade Runner

Raunch Review: Blade Runner

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: Blade Runner
Raunch Review: Blade Runner
The Author: Hampton Fancher & David Peoples
Work in Question: Blade Runner
The Profanity: “Skin job”

Dehumanizing or bigoted slurs have been prevalent throughout history. And they’re still with us today. Even in recent dialog, we’ve seen the powerful employing precise language in a manner to strip away someone’s value. It’s not a new phenomenon. I believe the best fiction serves as a mirror forcing those engaging with it to confront some of the uglier sides of humankind.

Blade Runner’s existential questions surrounding life and humanity and its fundamental question of “what makes us human” is why the faux-profanity “skin job” works so well. In concept, it combines that existentialist question with the bigoted language and aims it at the android replicants in the story.

Like “prawn” from District 9, “skin job” is born from fear and designed to dehumanize. This is why we see it wielded by the powerful to imply that replicants are less than human. Language is a powerful factor in creating “the other.” It allows our brains to trigger differently. It’s why we nickname enemies; it’s easier to kill a nickname than it is to kill a human with thoughts, dreams, and desires. By calling replicants “skin jobs,” one can logically make the leap that they’re disposable and easily replaceable.

Abusive language quickly leads to dehumanization, and dehumanization leads to atrocities. We see that in Blade Runner as much as we do in the world at large. It’s why “skin job” works so well, and it’s why it stings to hear it spoken out loud.

Score: Half Swear (4.5)

🤬 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.


Visual Inspiration: Syd Mead

Visual Inspiration: Syd Mead

On Monday, the legendary Syd Mead—easily one of the greatest illustrators/futurists of our time—passed away. He was 86. Normally, I use this series to highlight artists who I think need more attention. But I thought to take a moment to recognize someone who’s work influenced not only me but a generation of designers, artists, filmmakers, and architects to look forward and envision a better future.


“We don’t go into the future from zero, we drag the whole past in with us.”

—Syd Mead


Mead left an incredible impact and his legacy is enormous. So many speculative fiction properties were shaped by his neo-futuristic style: Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Star Trek, Star Wars, even Gundam and think how many of those have gone on to influence a new generation of creators. There’s a wonderful vibrancy to his work and it continues to resonate.

The city of Lovat in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by my experience with Mead’s paintings as a student—especially his work on Blade Runner. Something about his cramped and claustrophobic street scenes inspired me and they stayed with me years later when I set down to write. I’ve shared some of my favorites pieces below, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well. As always, you can click to view them larger.

You can see so much more of Syd Mead’s work on his website. There are several great art books that gather his work in the movies and as a futurist. I’d recommend starting with The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist or Syd Mead’s Sentury II.

Rest in peace, Syd. Thanks for everything.


If you like Syd Mead’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.

Happy 2020

Happy 2020

A new decade dawns, which makes this year more conspicuous than standard new years. With the passing of the old year and the last decade comes reflection, and that reflection has me thinking about life and legacy and what we choose to do with our short time here on earth.

In her poem Good Bones after lamenting on the shortness of life and the state of the world and the people therein, the poet Maggie Smith ends with this reflection:

“Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”

No doubt, you’ve heard me harp on “making the world a better place.” (I’ve mentioned it in some of my map posts.) It’s been a personal goal of mine for the last few years, and one I try to apply in everything I do. Sometimes those efforts are merely humble, and that’s okay. The key is to try—I might not always be successful, but at least I’m moving forward.

I’m carrying that mantra into 2020. This world is a rough place enough place, and it can often be terrible. But there are good bones here. So, I continue to persist. Throughout 2020 and beyond, I’ll do my part and work to make this place beautiful.

Happy New Year, folks. Happy New Decade.

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

Every December, it has become a tradition to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year that represent the most significant moments of my past 365-ish days. I look forward to this every year. This annual ritual forces thought and introspection in a way algorithm-driven apps like Top Nine avoid. (I ranted about this a bit at length, last year.) It leaves me to ponder how I lived my year. What mattered the most? What experiences drove me? What did I find meaningful? What shaped me as a person, a partner, a creator? What made me or my world around me better?

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others and you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller quieter moments. The ten are irascible and relentless.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2019 distilled into ten significant photos.


Lime Kiln Trail - 2019New year, old trails. Kari-Lise and I always like starting the year off right by escaping the city and heading into the mountains for a hike. (In this case, the Lime Kiln Trail and easy little seven-miler in the Cascades.) This year was no different. We had big plans to hike more throughout the year, but life got in the way. Still, it’s always refreshing to start a year in nature, and 2019 was no different.


Amsterdam - 2019
In mid-January, we took a trip with our ex-pat pals Kelcey Rushing and Jimmy Rushing to the beautiful (and infamous) city of Amsterdam. It was terrific. Great place. Wonderful sights. Amazing people. Delicious food. We were there nearly a week, it was packed, and I felt like we had barely scraped the surface. There was so much we didn’t see and so much more we could have done—I absolutely want to go back. If you’re interested in more details, read my Amsterdam Trip Report here.


ECCC - 2019
Emerald City Comicon happened, and once again they somehow let me returned as a pro. My buddy Steve Toutonghi and I attended together, and it was a really eye-opening in a lot of ways. As much fun as fan conventions are, I’m much more interested in talking shop, attending readings, and sitting in on discussions about story-craft. That said, it was enjoyable, and there are worse ways one can spend a weekend. Plus, I managed to see some good friends, and Steve and I sat in on some great panels. You can read about my experience in this debriefing.


Finished Manuscript - 2019Roaders celebrate! I finished another manuscript! (Two years in a row!) Gleam Upon the Waves has been a bit of a fight, but I am thrilled with how it turned out. I got some great feedback from my first round of beta readers, and I’ve been neck-deep in revisions since. It’s so close. I can hardly contain myself; I want to share it with everyone! Gleam’s a little different, but it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.


The Vision of Graces - 2019
Early in the summer, Kari-Lise and her friends Laurie Lee Brom and Syd Bee had a three-person show at Roq La Rue Gallery entitled The Vision of Graces. All three artists brought fantastic work, the show sold out, and the turnout was stellar. After moving to Seattle in 2008, I’ve attended hundreds of art openings across the city (and around the world), and this was easily one of the best.


13 Fantasy Map Brush Sets - 2019
I completed a project! A quite large mapping project. One that is really hard to capture in a single image. This year I began to release completely free brush sets for Photoshop that would empower indie authors (and anyone else) to create high-quality fantasy maps for their projects. The goal was to release a free brush set a month, and thanks to some overeagerness in February, I ended with thirteen free brush sets for the year. The response was overwhelming. I couldn’t be more humbled by the reaction, and I’m glad everyone has been so receptive. You can download the brushes from my Free Stuff page.


Two new nieces - 2019I leveled up as an uncle and now can dual-wield nieces! Up until this year, I was only proficient in nephews. Liesel Lynn (Left) was born in August to my brother Anthony and his wife, Aischa. Blakely Michelle (Right) was born in October to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Aren’t they adorable? I’ll be meeting both for the first time at Christmas, and I cannot wait. And, as a bonus, I have a THIRD niece due next year. Nieces! Nieces EVERYWHERE.


Art Happened - 2019
So. Much. Art. Beyond Kari-Lise’s show we attended two amazing exhibitions with our pal Kai Carpenter at the Seattle Art Museum, we hit up the Seattle Art Fair, and took in many many many art walks. Stand out openings include an incredible show from Rick Araluce and a recent one from one of my favorite artists working today, Peter Fugerson.


Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii - 2019For Thanksgiving, we went to Hawai’i with Kari-Lise’s family hanging out on O’ahu for a few days and then spending nearly a week on Maui. I’d never been to the Hawai’ian Islands until this year, and I’m generally not a tropical-destination traveler, but the trip was memorable. Even after nine-ish days, I came away feeling like I have unfinished business with Hawai’i. But more on that later—I’m in the process of putting together a more detailed trip report.


The Kari-Lise Klassic - Burke-Gilman Invitational Marathon - 2019On December 14th, Kari-Lise ran her first marathon. This spring, she started running again, and this summer, she decided she would train for a marathon as her eventual goal. We were traveling during the Seattle Marathon, so to complete her goal, she decided to host her own with me running ahead, setting up aid stations along the entire 26.2-mile course. Friends came out and cheered her on, I made her a teeshirt, a few ran with her some part of the way, and one all of the way. She crushed the run, and I couldn’t be more proud.


In Conclusion

Since changing the title last year from “awesome” to “significant,” I find myself taking more time with this list. Much of the labor from 2018 blossomed in 2019. Where last year felt sparse, this year, I found myself culling more than I expected. There were lectures and readings I attended with my friend Steve Leroux. Time in the backyard with Kari-Lise around our fire pit. I got really into smoking meat and making stock—cooking in general, really. Our friends Roxy and Redd deciding to leave Seattle and travel indefinitely (Follow them here.) Then there was the excitement of Moth & Myth, which I’ve barely mentioned here. The Sounders winning another MLS Cup. Birthdays and anniversaries and snowstorms. It was one hell of a year and if I wanted I could have tripled this list. But the rules are the rules, and distilling the year into ten is the requirement—no more, no less.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2019? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 2018


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 →

Thirteen in Twelve

By now, it’s probably no secret that I have a love affair with maps. Particularly the historical maps of antiquity and all their quirky idiosyncrasy. Because of this love, I took it upon myself to embark on an expansive project for 2019. One that I am excited to say I have finished.

As many of you noticed, every month for the last twelve months, I’ve been releasing royalty-free brush sets for authors, game masters, worldbuilders, and general map enthusiasts. Anyone interested in making a fictional map, really. It’s a part of my #NoBadMaps initiative. While there’s no substitute for a professional illustrator, I saw these brush sets as a quick way to enable storytellers to create authentic-feeling cartography for their worlds. Digital brushes can work like “rubber stamps,” allowing anyone to click and place map elements wherever they want—no artistic talent needed. It’s a simple but effective solution.

With December’s release of Vischer, I’m excited to say I exceeded my goal. The target was twelve brush sets in twelve months. But! I was over-eager in February and released two that month, so I ended the year with thirteen.

celebrate!

I intentionally didn’t make a big announcement when I started this project, this was more of a quiet personal ambition. Making these was a small way I could give back to a community I cherish. Hopefully, these sets allow creators to feel empowered to tackle daunting projects, and perhaps, the connection to historic cartographers and engravers has helped make the history of cartography come alive.

There’s a line in Robert Baden-Powell’s final letter that I recall people repeating when I was a kid, and it’s resonated with me as an adult. It’s a mantra I try to embrace in everything I do, and I think it encapsulates the spirit of this project: “…leave this world a little better than you found it…”


…leave this world a little better than you found it…”


I believed I achieved that. Giving back is one of the greatest things we can do as creators, I find it personally fulfilling, and I’ve been humbled by the results. Sure, it serves a small niche within our sprawling fantasy community, but it’s a niche that has welcomed these open-sourced sets. Since their launch, I’ve received many emails and twitter messages from creators making amazing things. That’s why I released these sets, and I couldn’t be happier.

✨🗺️


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 →