Thursday, July 18, 2019

Maps To Show the Way

Good to know where we're going, right?

As a fantasy author, one of my dearest loves is world-building and drawing maps. And as a reader of fantasy fiction, I rely on well-rendered maps to navigate my way through the novels of others. Maps are like a perk of fantasy fiction that readers of real-life fiction don't get to savor.

So, yes, when I published the Falcons Saga, I included maps. At least in the print editions. These were carefully rendered -- in pen -- and painstakingly cleaned up with GIMP. At least, with the few skills I had acquired for GIMP.

So imagine my excitement when I came across Wonderdraft -- a program designed just for map rendering.

A couple of days ago, an old acquaintance from the LegendFire days posted a link to this amazingness. I followed the link down the rabbit hole and expected to see a price tag comparable to Photoshop. I also feared a lengthy learning curve and weeks of frustration just to get land to pop from ocean. *cue the heavenly choir* Only $30 and two days later, I am in map-rendering heaven.

The manual is short (needing a proofreader such as myself, but hey, nothing is perfect), the interface clean, the process well-designed and user-friendly. I experienced almost zero stress learning how it works. On a stress scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 1.5, for just a couple of seconds. Next, I'll be checking out all the community-built assets which ought to allow me to add all kinds of borders, symbols, and textures. And as a font fanatic, I will certainly be looking into importing waaaaay more fonts. But the basic package provides plenty to get started.

All those old black-and-white renderings of Aralorr? Revamped into glorious full color. Check it out!

Map and names, copyright by Court Ellyn 2019
Click to enlarge. I'll be adding these to my website shortly. So much better!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

There and Back Again?

Well, one always expects a different kind of adventure than the one that actually happens. Thus, the shock of the unexpected.

Our weekend with friends in the mountains went splendidly. Until...

Let me mention the good things first. My friends and I actually liked each other in person. We got on very well, hiked a bit, took in some lovely scenery, rode the Carousel of Happiness, laughed till our sides ached, ate way too much good food, talked writing, art, and gaming and managed to mostly avoid controversial topics. We have all kinds of new inside jokes that no one else would ever find funny. My husband has a new nickname, and I learned that I have dampened some necessary outlets for my creativity.

We are even excited to meet up again next year.  Hurray!

Okay, back to that "until" bit. We parted ways, dropped one of our number off at the airport successfully, then... my husband and I decided to go a bit more rustic and do some actual camping and chase down some peace and quiet in the open mountain air for a night. Heh, see where this is going? Yeah...

We were driving up La Veta Pass, bound for Red River, NM, listening to Hillsong's "Oceans" when the car starts making a rattling noise and loses all power.

The lovely weekend vacay just turned into a real "adventure." Two tows later, we dropped the car off at the Subaru dealership all the way back in Pueblo, CO. Luckily the rental car was big enough for all of our camping gear; we hightailed it home and dealt with insurance companies and warranty folks for the next two weeks.

image from my Facebook Author Page
In the meantime ... tornadic storms destroy several of our beloved trees that requires restorative manual labor (nothing like moving trees when one needs to burn off frustration), my poor mother-in-law runs over my dog (the great beast is fine, by the way), the lawnmower is also broken, requiring us to accept help from others, and old heartbreaks rise to the surface and must be dealt with.

And so after a full engine replacement, our beloved Subaru (Sandy, as I've called her in another post) is back in our custody--which meant two trips to CO without a smidgen of camping done. But we got to meet many caring, wonderful people, and most importantly, got to see God show up and do amazing things.

All in all, June has been fantastic. Really. I mean it. Not one moment of boredom. Plans that went awry, but forced much-needed healing. Miraculous all around.

That said, here's hoping for a quiet, restful July.

Friday, June 7, 2019

In Lieu of the Unknown

Image from my Facebook Author page

Hoping this pre-scheduled blog post finds me well on the wild friendship trip. Well, hopefully not too wild. Are we enjoying one another's company? Have we breathed in poetry from a mountainside? Have we laughed a great deal? Maybe cried a little? Are we driving each other nuts? A full report upon my return.

Preemptive prayer:  Please, God, save us from trips to emergency rooms. May our days together be filled with joy, flexibility, versatility, resourcefulness, and patience. That's a tall order in regards to myself, so bring the miracles, God. Inundate us with your good presence, even those who do not call you Father. Guard us fiercely and see us safely home again.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Friendship Trip

Image from my Facebook Author Page

Road-Trip Fever is upon me. I leave tomorrow on a routine adventure (if there is such a thing) with a big twist. For the first time ever, I am meeting a group of friends for an extended weekend holiday. Understand, these "friends"? We've never met in person. These are dear people with whom I have worked in an online capacity, and gamed with once a week, for many years. But now, we will be meeting face-to-face, for the first time. And having to live together in a rental house for four days.

I admit, I'm nervous. Things like this can clench or destroy friendships. We're each of us introverts, writers, gamers, and most of us have rather severe social, mental, or health issues. SO! This could get interesting. If we can give each other space and be respectful of boundaries, I think we'll be okay. Yes, my husband and I are taking the Tepui and a camp toilet, just in case this large house begins to feel too small.

Thing is, we all met through LegendFire, my former Critique Community. Three of the folks were my most highly trusted moderators. Two others joined later, but were gals we met through gaming. Now, all of us, minus one, game together every Thursday evening.

For some reason, they still look to me for leadership. Bless their sweet hearts. So back in February, when they jointly asked me, "Hey, Raveneye, we want to meet up in Colorado. You go there a lot. Will you plan a trip for us?" I was like, "...Ooookay. Sure! I can do that." In a couple days it was done. And it has been so heartwarming to hear their excitement as the departure day drew closer and closer.

Now, just to survive the reality.

I'm wagering that today's quote will prove most appropriate, likely for all of us.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Stories on Stone

Image from my Facebook Author Page

While I love this quote by one of my favorite authors, I treasure more the image I pasted it onto. These hand-prints were found in the Lascaux cave, in France. Each hand is a story in itself.

Some months ago, I happened to see the Antonio Banderas film Altamira, which portrays the discovery of similar cave paintings in Spain by Marcelino de Sautuola in the 1870s. Near the end of the film, Sautuola's wife places her petite hand in a print just like these. The fit is perfect. "You didn't tell me they were women," she says. This rocked me. Could it be true? We, from our patriarchal societies, have assumed the painters were men. But what if caves, like wombs, were the province of women?

And so when I look at the image depicted here, from Lascaux, I imagine generations of women trekking into the dark, a bowl of pigment in one hand, and some kind of light source in the other. Why did they venture into the darkness to leave their mark? Was it new motherhood and gratitude that drove them into the womb of the earth? Was it, perhaps, a prayer for fertility? Or coming into a position of leadership like a priesthood or lore-keeping?

Nearly every hand seen here is a left hand. Was it the bowl of pigment each woman held in the right? Red, black, white pigments. Now see the woman earlier in the day, crouching on the ground and grinding the colored minerals to powder and mixing it with water. Did each color have a different taste? Is the color dependent on the generation?

With what awe did each woman stand and gaze upon the hands of the women who came before her? "This one is my mother's. This one belonged to my grandmother..." They would have remembered the women and the names and stories attached to each print. The only lasting chronicle of their people.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Choicest Possession

Image from my Facebook Author Page

Should a room be stripped of furniture, as long as the books remain, the room will still feel furnished, warm, inviting, and full. They provide the furniture of the mind, food for the imagination, and a necessary occupation.

I'm afraid my coffee tables are a little cluttered with books. Can't get enough of them around me. I hunger for their contents and their companionship. One feels a little less alone when surrounded by books. Their voices are there for the asking.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Wheels

My Townie

We had a realization. Once we have our new Tepui tent set up, we are unable to drive anywhere until we're ready to pull up stakes and move to the next campsite--the tent being actually attached to the top of the car. So we decided I needed a bike. My husband tried to convince me that a mountain bike was the way to go, but I assured him that my mountain biking days are over. Seriously. Forever. No thank you.

So I decided on this cushy Electra Townie. It's in my colors, moss green and saddle brown. My helmet arrives today. Oh, such a helmet it will be. Just wait and see.