Author, Fantasy, Science Fiction, AD&D

Archive for April, 2015

Experimenting With Image Design

I recently got done messing around with an image creation site called Canva, @https://www.canva.com/ that allows one to put together different images into a working photo for whatever need the user has. I was directed to it by my #Booktrope Project/Book manager, Melissa. She wants me to work on putting images with my blog posts and for adding to her and my pintrest pages. You can find mine @ https://www.pinterest.com/planetar/ if you’re so inclined.

I am not part of the tech generation; communication for me was a face to face affair. To make matters worse, technology and I do not get along well. Things happen to most electronic devices that are around me for any length of time, bad things that is, and it’s not because they irritated me, and I threw it across the room.

Today, I managed to puzzle together three examples of Solanar’s skyline toward the late afternoon, referred to as late light, and early evening hours, referred to as early shade: bear in mind the sky is dark blue or a pale shade of purple by this time, and the moon’s surfaces, are very different. I need a better program to illustrate them. If anyone knows of one easy to learn, leave me a link!

The Last War

My editor asked me what it was I like about the genre I write in. At first, I was a bit surprised by the question, but in contemplating my answer, I realized the wisdom of it.

I have always known there has always been life in the multiverse, not just us, but more species than we have numbers to label them with. When asked how I knew, I answered as an eight year old before a catholic Sunday-school, “Because I know it.”

Life is infinite. Look at our symbol for infinity. It appears as an elongated figure eight, basically a circle twisted one hundred eighty degrees at its center; but stood upright, it appears to be a strand of DNA without the chromosomes attached. Not convinced? Stack ten of those symbols on top of each other connecting each one by overlapping the top and bottom teardrops of each. Now draw rungs like a ladder connecting the two sides of each teardrop. Now what does it look like?

I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings when I was ten; that was the same year my best friend and I picked up our AD&D beginner’s box set. Mythologies about good and evil species our ancient ancestors called gods can be traced back to the earliest cave paintings found. Every religious philosophy is the result of the experiences that human cultures had, motivating later recounts and attempts to reconcile what they saw, felt, and came to believe.

Fantasy is an interesting word, and here is its dry definition: the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.
Man on the moon; considered impossible or improbable until 1969; was also referred to in stories labeled Science Fiction—an awkward oxymoron isn’t it?
Let’s try a couple variations. Science Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction. Is there any perceivable difference?

People think of fantasy as something conjured out of nothing for the entertainment of children or to make some moral or philosophical point, and while all of these choices lay in real acts, the imagination, the art of imagery for the purpose of illustration at the heart of each story, comes from deep within ourselves, and is often made up of truths we feel more than know. Not sure about that?

Consider this. In your own experiences, how many times did you know something was wrong with someone you knew long before any facts were present to support it? How many relationships have been broken having discovered that one or both partners were less than faithful? How long did it take before it could be proven vs at what point did you begin to believe it—before or after? When you first brought it up, how many answered with some form of “What? You’re imagining things!”

Fantasy is the art of revealing probabilities in time and space of other worlds, other dimensions, other cultures and species each evolving just as we are, learning about their own place in their pool of some distant galaxy. Somewhere, somehow, someone is writing a fantasy or science fiction story about our species, and our cultures and our lives for the entertainment of their own people, and like us, most of them probably think it utterly false.

“In a distant galaxy on a small blue and white planet circling a yellow star, a hairy species walking upright on two of their four limbs called humans were preparing for the last war. . .”

One Day

In the last few years, the issues of homelessness have risen throughout world media. Many authors and friends I hold in high esteem talk and blog about its effects in their small radius of the world. Homelessness doesn’t just apply to those people we see sleeping in parks or alleys or on the sidewalks of our communities, it also applies to refugee camps the world over and mass migrations. It should not be enough to approach it in just our country because these people pour over borders worldwide due to droughts, famines, wars, and persecution.

It’s ridiculous that one of the wealthiest countries on the planet has this problem. That said, homelessness has been around as long as humanity. The problem as a whole is a numbers and health issue, and the answer lies in adherence to our collective responsibility as a species.

I was homeless on several occasions, and I knew many more like me who climbed back to our feet by sheer will. I also met many others who chose to be homeless, each with their own reasons. Changes to the welfare system, for instance two free years of college, would lift many of these people back to their feet; empowering them to reenter the workforce with renewed confidence and self respect.

The numbers of those homeless due to addictive substances grows at alarming rate. Make no mistake; drug addiction is a form of slavery; the shackles and chains and collars far more incapacitating and harder to escape. That is precisely how addiction should be viewed, and it is precisely how those that cultivate it and live off it should be charged. Those caught in the collar and chains of such slavery need to be placed in programs that are longer than a few months, maybe as long as a year. The anatomical problems take far longer than a few months to reverse.

Lastly, what of all those who battle any number of mental health issues? People like veterans, and infants of chemically enslaved people, and those whose life experiences drive them past their breaking point. There are so many more who struggle with disabilities brought on by birth defects, genetic misalignments, and in more cases than we might think, have been misconstrued altogether. The group of people listed as “Mentally ill or unstable” needs to be granted the kind of care such people require–not because they are a hindrance but because it is the compassionate thing to do.

For all of this to happen here, our government has to allocate the funds for these projects across the country. A few years back where I live, the state dropped funding to several major state institutions, forcing all those within back out on to the street as the means to fix a budget problem. Apparently roads and bridges were more important than people’s health and safety. The governing body, led by a Democrat rather than a Republican mind you, reasoned that each county should be responsible for their share of the mentally ill or impaired rather than the state.

These problems ensue because the ethics of those in position to fix it refuse to do so. Don’t forget that the reason for collecting taxes at the state and federal level is to be able to tackle a financial issue with a large sum of money that everyone put up for the benefit and safety of their communities and country. If we want more funding for issues like this, than I surmise that republicans replaced with democrats and a healthy number of independents will force a balance back into the senate which will open the doors for a more balanced point of view which leads to fairer bills and better distribution and collection of tax dollars. Then we can tackle all these issues and more!

Impossible? Think again.

A while back, I heard a piece on a news report concerning the daily tally of combat expenditure for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than providing a specific figure, they dropped some estimated costs. To help people grasp the power and weight of this daily expense, they said that if we gave the entire war machine one day off, meaning we just stopped all action in Iraq and Afghanistan for a single twenty-four hour period; we could provide the entire continent of Africa with fresh, running water with the money we saved and still have a remaining surplus. Imagine then what could be done if all wars ceased for one day and that money were pooled into a collective fund. The finances are there; the will is not.

A Tribute

I began playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D, when I was ten. It drew my best friend and I into the realms of fantasy and can be considered the cornerstone of my choice of career. Today, my entire family plays—my wife and I play far less often than our son, and we all favor different editions. I find it useful that way for the sake of implementing a more believable game when faced with players from different worlds.

Traveller is the best example of why this works. Traveller is a space-aged version of AD&D. In this game, players/characters fly spacecraft, visit worlds throughout the galaxy, and universe if you have the imagination for it. Every world is different, not a little different but often hugely different. Each world is the result of a different strain of the multiversal genetic sequence, M.G.S. Evolution of all life can be similar to ours or inconceivably different. By Traveller standards, Solanar, the world and setting for Atolovus and the rest of my series isn’t even listed. IE magic isn’t considered a technology, and I find that strange; the closest listing in Traveller is tech level 0 -2.

Languages, cultures, species, even spells can be completely different or very similar from world to world. Master-Wizer Tau, the protagonist for my series has not only jumped worlds, but lost his memory in the process. His fight to adapt to his new environment while trying to recall what he once knew from his old one is a major struggle.

Gary Gygax, was the one that began it all with the original Dungeons and Dragons core rule books and the tool that would evolve the universe of gaming as we have come to know it today with the gamers best friend and worst enemy—dice. Not the usual six-sided dice, but the other polyhedral dice.

Every random roll scale for every game whether book, box, video, or pc runs their random-roll algorithms on the system introduced by Gary and later developed into the Platonic solid,s gamer’s dice of today. I want to shout a huge thank you to Gary for his contribution to myself as a writer and to so many others who’ve benefited by his ideas.

Believable Fight Scenes Are Important

As I have allowed people to read pieces of Atolovus over the years, I’ve heard many comments about the descriptions of my fight scenes. Some think I’m too descriptive. I’ve studied martial arts off and on through the course of my life, never worrying much about belts or the like because I feel it to be a western tradition.

I believe a person’s skill speaks for them more honestly than any belt, and a good teacher need see only a practitioner’s skill to determine it. I have seen teachers who favor some students over others, who promote one student with less skill before another standing beside him or her with more skill. It also keeps teachers honest.

This is a philosophy I try to include in my battle scenes. One reason for this is to allow the reader to come to their own conclusions about the characters in question without revealing with explanation in some cases attributes of the character. I use many of my own experiences with the arts to physically play out the fight sequence as I write them in. It is more time consuming to be sure, but I think it also makes the scene more vivid and helps the reader follow it through to its conclusion. I like my fight scenes to be believable—even if we are talking about larger than life characters.

I believe people who read or watch Fantasy, Science Fiction, or action, do so at least in part for the action scenes, and most of those I’ve spoken to feel gypped when the scene is unbelievable.

Evolving My Worlds from Pencil to Color

Most everyone in the Fantasy and Science Fiction community knows how important world building is. Not world building as in an environment for a 20th century novel or a lurid drama set in the seventeen hundreds. I’m talking about Avatar, Balder’s Gate, Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice, and TSR AD&D, Gamma World, and Traveler; all games I played throughout my childhood and on into my adolescent and adult phases.

I have two hand drawn maps. The first was started in my teen years and has evolved into a six by eight feet view of four full continents, some of which has yet to be explored and many oceans and seas hanging from a wall when I actually have enough wall space to hang it. Why would that be a problem? First, I live in a small house, and write in what we jokingly call the dungeon, our basement. Secondly, my maps are hand drawn in pencil, so I can keep up with changes as time impacts the environment and the societies who live within it. Over time, the paper begins to yellow, and the whole thing starts to get dirty from smudges and the like. I’ve redrawn this world at least four times, twice from memory when it was destroyed, and later when some idiot drenched it in water. Finally, I decided in 2005 I needed something more professionally done, something that I can replace easily.

I got Campaign Cartographer for Christmas this year. It’s been on my gift list for the better count of ten years. Finally I just gifted it to myself. The reviews said that it is a professional program, but it is also complicated. I’ve been meaning to play with it, but I simply haven’t had the time. But that is going to change. If anyone out there reading this uses this program, I’m open to whatever advice you care to share.