Book Review: Divine Summons

During my break from non-fiction research, I stumbled upon this jewel on Goodreads. I was impressed by the strength of the prose and the story. Rebecca P. Minor did a pleasant job at it. Let’s delve into the details, shall we?

Premise & Worldbuilding

Divine Summons has a classic fantasy atmosphere with elves, dragons, monsters, and magic. I’m a sucker for fantasy tropes, and the immersion had me sold within the first chapter. Traveling between elven cities, ancient caverns, and dark forests, the story never turned stagnant. There’s plenty of lore that kept me intrigued, not to mention the splendid battle scenes and dialog.

Characters

Taken from a (mostly) first-person POV, the story conveys excellent character emotion, dialog, and prose flow. The cast of characters provided conflict, worldbuilding, and comic relief details. One issue was the shifting from first-person to third-person POV throughout the story. Most readers would gawk at this—and I certainly did—but I overlooked it in favor of a story that held me fast.

Magic System

A soft magic system governs this story, with whimsical, flashy outcomes and unspoken costs. The god, Creo, governs the faith-based school of magic in this story. Albeit, the magic performed some ex deus machina in some scenes, which came off as unsatisfying for me. The author could have worked the magic better into the conflict and story, rather than have it as a lever to fix plot or character-conflict issues.

Conflict

Tension and pacing were solid, despite the subpar execution of the magic system. The characters found themselves in plenty of horrid situations. The expositions and inner struggles were well done, and complemented the strong cast of characters. Immersion had me turning pages, particularly the fight scenes, which were excellent. Battles were endowed with plenty of details, but never too many to make them cumbersome.

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The Good

The characters, pacing, tension, and immersion painted an addictive story. Details on lore and worldbuilding enhanced this, providing an enjoyable read from start to finish except for a few scenes. Battle chapters were excellent.

The Bad

The shift between first-person and third-person POVs felt jarring and marginalized the main character. Some of these third-person POVs were somewhat unnecessary, congesting the pacing and story with minor details. The magic system came off as a prop to save the main character at worst, and a flashy addition at best.

The Ugly

The story had a few graphic scenes, but that was it.

Divine Summons was enjoyable, despite its shortcomings in its magic system and POVs. The rich worldbuilding had me hooked, and the sword fights and dialog scenes were pleasant. I’ve already started on the second book, and it reads stronger than the first, so I am hopeful. For any fantasy lovers, Rebecca A Minor has a great series that’s sure to delight readers who can overlook its blemishes.


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—Ed R. White

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Poems in Fiction—Worldbuilding—Ethereal Seals Poetry: Eulogies of Deliverance

Poetry triggers interesting reactions from readers. Not only is it a jump from storytelling long-form, but it invites rhythm, a detail of creativity not seen elsewhere in the story. I always found poetry bits to be fascinating—or tedious if they were too long and poorly done—in a story.

My theory is the poetry activates different parts of the brain. It’s nothing short of refreshing and invigorating, particularly when changing back to the storytelling prose. Used right, poetry adds many things to a manuscript, such as:

  • worldbuilding
  • insights into the protagonists; their reactions, views, and inner struggles
  • gives readers’ a “break” from long-form prose
  • invites higher details of creativity
  • perfect medium for foreshadowing, adding tension, among other plot devices

A fantasy without poetry feels dry and incomplete. If looking to spruce up a fantasy world, try incorporating some poems. This isn’t to say that sci-fi or contemporary fiction can’t have songs.

Be creative.

Stretch the mind and unite it with the heart, the soul. RhymeZone and Hemingway are great tools for poetry. Also read other forms of poetry to get inspired. Shakespeare is always a good choice, but try genres that reflect what type of poetry. Check out this post on Haiku, a form of East Asian poetry. Yes, there are myriad ways to express a poem, and the strength of poetry is only limited by one’s imagination.

Here’s some poetry from my WIP, Ethereal Seals. The poems are songs given by priests to the dead and dying to ease their passing. For more information on life and death on Atlas, view my post on Life and Death in a Fantasy Universe. Enjoy! 🙂


Deliverance Eulogy I

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters

For many starturns, you endured the pain of Umbra’s blisters

May the Earthmother protect your spirits unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you too may meet the divine Seven

Oh, how we wail at the torment you received

And in our hearts, we are all so grieved

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters,

For it will not be long, and you will be at peace

Deliverance Eulogy I I

My brothers, my sisters; we wail for your loss

Though the Shadow is gone, victory comes with its cost

Our tears shall forever water these sands

Hearken our words, the divine hymn we place unto your hands

Find your Deliverance unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you, too, shall unite with the Seven

Be blessed in the higher planes

Where, for eternity, you shall reign

Aspectä rey’lief, departed souls, departed knyghts

For we bless you with this song, an eulogy of the Aspects’ might


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Building a Fantasy Language—the Primeal

Language forms the crux of cultural values. From language, memes, traditions, and values emerge. The pillars of humanity. When I began Blade of Dragons, building a fantasy language that would aid me in developing the world of Atlas was vital. Enter the Primeal.

I’ll describe my experience with building a fantasy language, followed by tips from other world builders.

As a language used by the ancient Highborn on Atlas, the Primeal contains powerful phonetics and mantras. To use magic on Atlas, the practitioner must evoke words and hand gestures. Most of these I borrowed from ancient traditions here on Earth.

Objections Behind the Primeal

The Primeal has provided depth to Atlasian culture. It strengthened the world building, while heightening the immersion and character interaction. The mysteries woven into the Primeal reflect on the plot and character arcs too.

I got the idea of building a fantasy language from novels such as Mistborn, The Faded Sun Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and others. Using this method, I borrowed from Latin and Hindu. The process was easier than I thought, as I wasn’t developing a language from scratch. The downside to this was that there was less of a unique feel, compared to other fantasy languages.

Vocabulary of the Primeal

Albeit, I took a relatively simple approach to my fantasy language than most. The Primeal is, roughly, a form of butchered Latin. Many of the words have similarities to Latin vocabulary, with some Hindu and English bits thrown in.

Examples of the Primeal Language

  • Aspectä rey’lief (Aspect-TAH-Rey-LI-eff): May the Aspects’ grace follow you (used as a friendly farewell).
  • Aum (AH-ooh-oom): Creation.
  • Egüs (Ei-gu-ah-sh): You, it.
  • D’wyrm (Di-were-um): Tongue of dragons.
  • Lumasil (Lu-MAS-sil): Light of hope.
  • Me’puläm (Me-Pul-LA-um): My love, my shining star (a title used among lovers).
  • Tal’draco (Tall-der-AH-co): Dragonite.
  • Tal’snak (Tall-sh-NAH-kek): An offensive slang for a half-Dragonite.
  • Sal’av (Sal-LA-of): Hello.

Magic Applications of the Primeal

Many of the words used in modern Atlas are crude dialects of the original language; yet they still carry powerful vibrations that can influence reality. The simple word, sal’av, can evoke good will and ease in another’s heart. Another word, tal’snak, summons fear and perhaps anger in others.

Weaving together strings of power words, an individual can produce complex spells and influence reality. This act of magical weaving, or Shifting, is widespread on Atlas. The reader gets a strong example of this starting from the first scene to the final chapter.

Things Left to Consider

The Primeal, to Earth human ears, may sound musical and otherworldly, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics. I’ll research fantasy languages more to add depth to the Primeal, the feel, the vibrations of the words.

That said, I discovered some resources useful for building a fantasy language.

1. The Zompist Language Kit

This fantasy language construction kit is perfect for conlangers and is ideal for fantasy and sci-fi writers. The page guides you through the basics, such as sound, grammar, syntax, usage, and any world building bits. It’s straight forward and free online. There’s also a word generator that produces a list of words, but you’ll need some Javascript experience to use it.

2. Lingvo

Lingvo is an excellent resource on real world cultures and languages. Everything from Germanic and Babylonian dialects are available. This resource is more beginner friendly.

3. Interactive IPA Chart

Here’s a page that is an invaluable reference for new and experienced conlangers. The page explains the sounds of human language and how they are pronounced. This allows world builders and writers to go a step further with their languages.

4. IPA Keyboard Bind

This module goes with the previous as it helps bind certain IPA symbols to a single stroke. I found it useful, but not essential.

5. Google Translate

Don’t hate me for this one, but Google has a decent language engine that can provide ideas or vocabulary for new writers. The quality of translation leaves room to be desired, though.

When designing the Primeal, I had to consider the following:

  • The sounds of the language
  • A glossary, or lexicon, of words
  • The grammar, syntax, and feel of speaking the words
  • The magical and cultural implications
  • How the alphabet is modified for cursive handwriting

Like other world builders, I borrowed from preexisting languages to make my job easier. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a proven method that does work. Even English language contains words borrowed, butchered, or stolen from other languages.

Final Thoughts

Building a fantasy language is a fun process, and it doesn’t have to frustrating or complex. It’s important to keep things simple enough for your readers, or else you risk losing them at the expense of your world building. Balance, as with all things in life, is what we artists strive for.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
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Writing Log 7/7/21

Short post today. It’s been another busy month for me. Between balancing my meditations, workouts, day job, reading and writing, the days speed by. Ethereal Seals takes another step towards series completion.

Cover Artist Get!

In the interest of book presentation, I’ve secured a cover artist for book one of the series. The price should run about $350. This package includes an e-book cover, print cover with spine and back, and additional goodies like possible social media kits. I’ve spoken with the artist at length, and she has a good feel for what I’m looking for. Sending her the mock cover and sketches of Pepper, I’m confident she’ll come up with a solid product.

To be honest, I’m not ready for print publication, but my intuition tells me to go for the print package should I ever need it. My brother works for a book supplier, and I have ties with a retail company. Having my own marketing podium with Ethereal Seals would be an excellent step forward. I have tools like Mailchimp and Buffer to help me promote my brand online when the time comes to advertise.

Writing Progress

Progress of book two’s manuscript has slowed considerably. I’ve been stuck on the final chapters for weeks, and not due to laziness or procrastination. I’ve written at least three whole revisions of the final battle. Progress is slow but sure. At times, it feels like I’m slogging through a swamp, and then some. Finishing all the character arcs and vetting plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. is a nightmare for me during the final showdown scenes. I’ve also adjusted book one’s story to have it flow better.

Thankfully, I’m almost done. It should be fun to do a couple revision passes—especially for the final chapters—before I open the doors to beta readers and have the manuscript torn to pieces again.

After book two, I may take a break and work on Tempest of the Dragon or Muffins and Magic for a spell. I’ve also plans to go on some meditation retreats and hikes. Whether this will be in New York or elsewhere, I haven’t decided.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for further updates!


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
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Fantasy Maps: A Gateway to Adventure

A Map of the Lord of the Rings

The other day I stumbled upon the map you see above. It had me thinking how maps play into stories, and how vital they are to the worldbuilding process. Not only do they offer a reference for author and reader, maps add depth, immersion to that universe. I’ve written on making maps in GIMP and Wonderdraft, and Inkarnate is another program I plan to look into

My Experience with Fantasy Maps

LOTR was one of the first fantasies that blew me away as a child. I was fascinated by the maps, the various regions, doodads, and the route that the hero took to fulfill his quest. Having a visual diagram helped a ton as I read through the story. It had me wondering what else existed in Tolkien’s universe. What other towns, dungeons, and landmarks lurked at the corners of Middle Earth.

So enamored was I, that I attempted several maps of my own. Shameless to say, they were little more than scribbles, but for my six-year-old brain, I was delighted.

To this day, I savor the chance to examine maps at the start of a novel. As a creative writer with a geography degree, maps connect with me intimately. I’m conscious of the north arrows, the scale bars, the balance of landmasses, color contrasts. Everything. Even the font used can evoke emotions.

Questions to Consider About Fantasy Maps

Maps are one of the only visual cues readers get in a novel. It’s a rare opportunity to paint a world. In some cases, it can also pull readers in—or lose their interest if you’re sloppy. Authors can use maps to their advantage and snare a reader, so getting a map correct can be as important as writing the story.

When constructing a map, ask:

  • Does the map serve a purpose for the story?
  • Is it clear and easy to understand?
  • The symbols, colors, fonts, and presentation—are they appropriate and complement each other?
  • Can readers use the map to enhance their experience?
  • Does the map evoke intrigue? Worldbuilding cues? A ‘wanderlust’ feel for an adventurous reader?
  • What is the overall impression of the map?

Advantages of a Mapless Fiction

This isn’t to say that having a map is a requirement, although it does help add to a story. But what about stories without maps? They lose out on a big opportunity, a chance to impress or draw the reader in early. Readers must then form an idea of the world in their mind.

Surprisingly, this can have its own appeal. A mapless world puts the geography more in the hands of the reader; and while some readers may dislike this, others won’t mind. Some may even enjoy it. If an author chooses to go this route, sundry hints about the topography are recommended. The author may lean heavier on descriptive paragraphs and dialog cues. This helps the reader amass pieces to what the land resembles. From my experience, the mapless method works better in standalone novels. Maps shine in epic trilogies, where the author can build multiple maps between installments, forming a detailed continent or world.

Personally, I love maps, and a picture is worth a thousand words. Quite literally in this case. A map can save a writer a lot of work. There are several easy-to-use programs and methods as mentioned above.

What Else Are Maps Good For?

Maps are a splendid way for authors to brainstorm. The act of building a peninsula may evoke plot ideas. These are crucial during episodes of writers’ block, when authors haven’t a clue how to proceed. Studying landmarks and geographical details on a map can inspire an author, or even serve as good R&R from the labor of wordsmithing. Authors may be taking a break from writing, but they are still worldbuilding. Still thinking. Still creating.

While maps may not be for everyone, they are a convenient, fun, and stimulating activity. I’ve pulled more plot ideas out of mapping than I have staring at a blank page. And for that, I will always be a cartographer at heart. In my own way. 😛

What are your experiences with fantasy maps? Do you like creating them? Studying them? What stands out the most to you in a map? Leave your comments below. Thanks!

Galleis, a Wonderdraft Map I created

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Hard Magic, Soft Magic: How to Use Them in Creative Fiction

Magic—a word tossed around by authors and wordsmiths for decades. Magic is an abstract phenomenon with incredible potential, and such power usually comes with a cost. As a widespread tool in worldbuilding, when misused, it can wreck havoc on a story, figuratively and literally.

Magic in Creative Fiction

Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

—Sanderson’s Law One

As shown in Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lecture, there exists two types of magic in fiction: hard and soft.

Hard and Soft magic

Hard magic is where the laws, definitions, and limitations of the magic are explained. The reader is aware of what the magic can do. This makes the magic more predictable and better for solving problems or establishing structure in a world without reducing tension. It forces more work onto the intelligence of a magic user.

Soft magic is when the magic has unknown costs, outcomes, or limitations. Whimsical, a soft magic can do anything the author wants. Soft magic runs the risk of reducing tension, whereas it can be a solution to almost everything unless a specified cost or risk is explained. A user of soft magic has few limits.

Then there is hybrid magic, which combines the two. While this category has the best of both worlds, it requires the most worldbuilding and planning. An author needs the whimsical nature of soft magic with a severe enough cost/limitation of hard magic. A hybrid magic needs to be interesting, supportive to the story, and comprehensive to the reader.

Examples of Hard and Soft Magic

Gandalf from LoTR is more of a soft magic user. He can accomplish almost anything he sets his mind to without much consequence. Yet he cannot be everywhere at once, nor can he defeat a whole army—let alone Sauron—by himself.

Frodo’s ring has the ability to destroy Sauron if discarded into Mt. Doom. To do this, Frodo must suffer, bearing the ring as a burden than a magical artifact. The ring has a set cost and magical ability for Frodo: turning invisible at the risk of his own sanity, or being detected by Sauron.

Do you see how the cost, the price involved, makes Frodo’s arc more interesting?

The Price of Magic

Flaws and limitations are more interesting than powers.

—Sanderson’s Law Two

A limited resource or consequence for using magic is vital for most magic systems. Adding additional penalties will increase the depth to how and why a character uses magic; it may test their integrity if the use of magic brings immoral or disastrous results.

Rand al Thor from Wheel of Time, who runs the risk of going insane every time he taps into his magic. While WoT’s Source magic is still whimsical in nature, it evokes a gamble with every use.

Next consider Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series. Raistlin’s magic is more restricted in its use, and his frail body collapses into a fit of debilitating coughs whenever he expends himself.

Consequences of magic use, particularly severe ones, aren’t always necessary, but they can help. No matter what magical system you choose, bring a detail of tension along with it if possible, even if it’s only a minor one rather than none at all. 

More is Not Always Better

Before adding something new to your magic or setting, see if you can instead expand what you have.

—Sanderson Law Three

While having a fancy magic system rich in lore is nice, sometimes the simpler the magic the better. It can be easy to lose readers or yourself in the depth of it all. Sanderson suggests expanding first on what you have, before adding in anything new. The more variables added, the more complicated things become. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What principles are essential to my magical system?
  • What can I remove/condense for simplicity?
  • What are the costs of my magic? How do they play into character motives, tension, worldbuilding, and plot?
  • Is the magic simple enough to understand? Complex enough to make it interesting?

Case Study: Ethereal Seals

Shifting

The magic in my world, Ethereal Seals, is called Shifting. While Shifting draws lifeforce from the Shifter’s spine, crystals mitigate this. Instead, crystals take the brunt of the stress. Any Elemental spirits alive within the gemstone experience incredible agony.

Imagine being trapped in a prison your whole life, strapped to a generator like a battery?

This adds a moral dilemma to using crystal technology. The protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, realizes this, and her perspective of crystals changes through the story.

Vir’gol Pacts

A Shifter can insert powerful crystals into artifacts called vir’gols . Upon interfacing, the vir’gol can draw upon the crystal like a battery and funnel the Shifter’s spells. Much like a wand.

Most vir’gols have sapience, which allows them to speak freely. They can also do telepathy with their masters. Once a crystal is removed, drained of ether, or damaged beyond repair, the vir’gol loses its awareness. It dies.

The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact after inserting the crystal and activating the device. An oath is spoken, binding the Shifter to the weapon (and therefore the crystal) until the oath is fulfilled.

Some Shifters form a Pact subconsciously, only to later realize and strengthen it. To break a Pact isn’t easy. It causes emotional upheaval in the Shifter, besides nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.

Conclusion

Magic is a fascinating concept to writers and readers. As a powerful tool for worldbuilding, and when supportive of the characters and plot, magic can help a story shine.

Peace be with you, and thanks for reading.


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Book Review: Dragon Champion

I came across a nice read at the library the other week: Dragon Champion by E E Knight. The characters and the plot were uniquely written, and the pacing fast and exciting, though it started a bit slow earlier on. I enjoyed the read, and may continue to the sequel.

Premise

The plot follows the life of a young dragon—named Auron—from birth, through war, dragon romance, and fellowship. The first half of the book was lacking in its plot depth, as it was Auron traveling the world. Granted, the first few chapters were better about it. The dragon protagonist explores new lands and encounters friends and foes in odd places. Many of the descriptions were splendid, and the fantasy immersion excellent.

Length & Readability

Close to 350 pages, Dragon Champion delivers a rich story in a reasonably-sized volume. The scenes and chapters read well, though some of the paragraphs were harder to read than others. Rewording various sections would have improved readability.

Characters

The characters are a mixture of humans, elves, dwarves, and dragons. The interesting part was the perspective of Auron and his draconic views coloring the story. As most stories follow the path of humans or hominids, I enjoyed the change.

Magic System

The magic felt underdeveloped in Dragon Champion. There were mentionings from chapter to chapter, but little of it was shown. As with my previous book review, the story could have done without it. Although it did help fill in for fantasy ambiance and worldbuilding, so I wasn’t overly concerned.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were excellent. It drove the plot from chapter to chapter and gripped me better than most books. Developing challenges for a dragon provided an atypical approach to tension. I appreciated how creative the author was in this regard.

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The Good

Dragon Champion had wonderful tension, action, and a slew of colorful dragon characters that interested me. The lore and story were rich and enrapturing.

The Bad

The first half of the book—sans the intro—was sluggish and the plot on the weaker side. Some of the chapters were harder to read than others, and I found myself backtracking to understand it all. Other characters—mainly the hominids—felt lackluster, boring, or undeveloped.

The Ugly

I don’t have anything to add here. Dragon Champion was a solid book, with its share of strengths and flaws.

Auron’s story was a worthwhile read, and I am considering the sequel. Its fine dragon characters, unique PoV, action, and worldbuilding made up for its rough start and average readability. If you’re a lover dragons, be sure to check out E E Knight’s work. You won’t regret it.


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Wonderdraft: A Mapmaking Tool for Writers, Artists, Gamers, and More

A while back, I did a post on GIMP for fantasy mapmaking. Since then, I’ve experimented with another program, Wonderdraft. Like its kin, Inkarnate, Wonderdraft has some useful tools for building that beautiful, jaw-dropping map just past the cover title of a novel.

Wonderdraft is software purchased online that can produce maps with a wide variety of styles and settings. Unlike GIMP, Wonderdraft is more specialized for map making, and Inkarnate more so. From what I gathered:

  • For clever artists and techno-geeks: GIMP
  • For mapmakers, writers, casuals: Wonderdraft
  • For hardcore DnD GMs, players, game designers: Inkarnate

But overall, it’s up to whatever suits one’s interests and goals. I’ve seen writers produce excellent maps with Inkarnate, and GMs work wonders with Wonderdraft.

What Makes It Unique?

Wonderdraft stands out with its versatility and community-driven addons. Moreover, the software requires a single payment of $30, while Inkarnate is $25 a year, and GIMP is free. For its price, Wonderdraft brings a truckload of options for mapmakers, with easy-to-learn tools that anyone can understand. The software is also offline, installed on a computer, whereas Inkarnate requires a wifi connection last I checked. GIMP also has a learn curve if someone wants to use it for mapmaking.

To summarize, Wonderdraft is:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • A one-time $30 payment to own for life
  • Community support, addons, and more
  • Offline access

To begin, open the program. Select new highlighted in the image below. A menu appears with settings for the new map! Go with the defaults. If a computer is powerful, it should run the higher resolutions without an issue, otherwise it will lag.

A user can play with the styles and templates, for each has a different feel and can be changed later.

For this tutorial, I’ll go with the default settings, the theme being Terra. I’m greeted by a menu of options as seen below. First I selected the landmass wizard to the left. A menu popped up on the right.

The landmass wizard is a tool that auto-generates a randomized piece of land every time it’s used.

This is the landmass I got from the wizard. To adjust the preferences for the landmass generated, play with the menu options on the right. Next, I’ll color the land to give it depth using the landmass color brush. I used the jungle palette for this, but it can be anything that suits the color scheme of the map.

Custom colors are also possible using the brush tool. Select brush size, opacity, and velocity as desired.

Next, I added in some water for realism. Using the lower landmass tool I gouged pieces of the landmass. The result is a series of lakes. The raise landmass tool does the opposite: it creates land from water.

The mountain brush is self-explanatory. With this tool, there are a plethora of mountain symbols to pick from. I went with transparent mountains, which match the color of the landmass.

The symbol tool is where the fun starts. Everything from buildings, directional arrows, towns, and cities are here. Using the symbol scale, I set the relative size of each object. Custom and transparent colors are also an option.

I added in some yellow landmass in the upper left.

The label tool is where I put my captions for each symbol or land region. Various fonts, font sizes, and colors are available. I can set the text curvature, auto-generate names, and add in bright font outlines to bring out certain captions.

I selected the frame tool below to add in a border for my map. It isn’t required, but it looks fancy, no?

The box tool within the labels tool creates legends and cut-outs for important information in the map. Below, I used it to credit the author.

Played with the theme tab along the menu at the top. Switching from terra to pastel produced the following result below. While the map looks better, the directional arrows faded into the background. I left it in to serve as an example; be sure to take this into account whenever switching the theme or color scheme of the map.

And with that, the map is—relatively speaking—finished!

Wonderdraft is a fantastic tool that is easy to use, as seen in the tutorial above. There are yet more tools included in the software, in addition to community contributions and addons that expand on Wonderdraft’s capabilities. For only a single $30 payment, Wonderdraft is gift to creative writers, artists, and gamers.

I’ve created a couple maps for my upcoming novel, Blade of Dragons, plus some custom fantasy maps that popped into my head. Each one was a blast to make.

With that, I hope you’ll give Wonderdraft a try. Have any other questions about Wonderdraft? I may be able to answer, so leave them in the comments below. Enjoy!


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Book Review: Sword of Fire

After finishing a long beta read and dealing with more hours at work, I’m ready to get back to blogging. In the meanwhile, I finished another fantasy book. The Sword of Fire by Katherine Kerr was an interesting read.

Premise

The story of Deverry is a generic fantasy with dwarves, elves, dragons, and humans. Here’s where it gets interesting. Politics plays heavily into the plot, and even the overall feel of Deverry. Several scenes take place in royal courts, towns, and conferences where lengthily dialog ensues. The dialog was excellent, and the character cues spot-on.

Length

At around 350 pages, the story wasn’t a boor to read. Chapters and scenes were well organized. The author also included a bonus short story at the end, explaining more of Deverry and its characters.

Characters

Many of the characters are politically motivated. Corrupt laws and loopholes riddle the land of Deverry, and aristocrats are often at war. One of the protagonists, a young law student (if those could exist in medieval fantasies; they’re known as bards here) goes on an adventure with sellswords to save the kingdom from the corruption. Other characters serve as nobility PoV perspectives.

Overall, the characters began shallow and dull, but they grew on me later on. Katherine Kerr has a unique way in how she bonds characters to the reader; subtle at first, but heavily towards the end.

Magic System

Dwimmer (sorry if I butchered that) is the soft magic system in Deverry. It isn’t seen much, but when it is, intriguing results ensue. Mind reading, telepathy, telekinesis, and elemental manipulation are some of the abilities used. Nonetheless, it didn’t contribute much to the story. Moreso, it felt like it was there for the sake of the genre: a fantasy.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were slow and gradual. There weren’t many jarring scenes; even the more brutal ones were mediocre; though there was one scene that struck me. The ramp in tension towards the end of the book was, at best, underwhelming.

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The Good

The Sword of Fire has charming characters, a unique premise in Deverry—mixing fantasy with political intrigue—and good throwbacks to history. The Silver Dagger faction, a clan of dishonored mercenaries, was fun to read about and played well into several character arcs.

The Bad

The magic system, while interesting, did little to enhance the story or characters. In fact, the plot could have done without it. Tension was underwhelming and poorly executed into prose.

The Ugly

Some of the old English terms seemed amusing and sometimes awkward. I wasn’t particularly a fan of their usage, but they still established a nice “historical fiction worldbuilding” feel.

The story of Deverry was decent. With its premise, characters, and political issues, The Sword of Fire offered much potential for its worldbuilding and story arcs. Despite this, poor tension, pacing, and an awkwardly executed magic system made the read tedious at times. I enjoyed it, but won’t be reading the sequel.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Ethereal Seals Blog Update 4/12/21

It’s been a while since I shared an update. Editing book one of Ethereal Seals, working on the manuscript for book two, a long beta read, lots of health and healing research, plus increasing hours at my day job—I’ve been quite busy.

Edits and Revisions

After another read through of Blade of Dragons, I’ve finished edits as they relate to changes made in book two: Heart of Dragons. Most noticeable was Gerald Highmane’s character arc, changed from a minor villain to an antihero with his own story.

I’ve added breadcrumbs and Easter eggs—messages if you will—from certain authors I admire, like Arnold Ehret and David Hawkins. The majority of these messages relate to spirituality and health. Needless to say, Ethereal Seals is a New Age life improvement book disguised as a science fantasy.

Publication

I am satisfied with how the book reads. After passing it along to a professional editor and/or proofreader, the manuscript should be set for publication. Then I’ll need to find a cover artist to polish up the book cover.

I’m hoping to expand upon my mailinglist and perhaps hire a freelance agent to help spread word of mouth before I officially publish. This may take a while, but I’m in no hurry. Book two—and perhaps book three—will be well on its way by the time book one is released.

Exploring Atläs

It’s been fun revising the manuscript from its older self. I’ve realized there’s too much worldbuilding potential to squeeze the story into a trilogy. Four or five books is what I’m aiming for. If I could describe Heart of Dragons in one word it would be thus:

Exploration.

There’s plenty of worldbuilding with new kingdoms, villains, and protagonists. I delve into Gerald’s backstory more and explore his connection to the other characters. Tarie Beyworth and Pepper Slyhart also see a sizable degree of character growth. The prose retains its rich worldbuilding, coupled with tense action scenes and romantic feel.

Maps and Word Count

I’ve also finished the beta map for book two. I use a program called Wonderdraft, an excellent program for DIY fantasy maps. I’ll plan to do an article on the program soon.

Unlike Blade of Dragons, set at 130k words, book two will hover closer to 150k. The theory behind the word length is: if your readers loved book one, they won’t mind—and may love—the content in the second installment. Many writers have told me you can take more risks with book two. Whether or not it works, we’ll see.

I’ve enjoyed helping my beta with his second installment of his Eternal Defenders series, a classic fantasy story. As I may have mentioned, sci-fi and fantasy are among my favorite genres to read. There’s something about Thomas’ series that grips me, perhaps the way he structures his world. It also reminds me of some older video games, like Warcraft, Zelda, and Morrowind. He’s come a long way in improving his writing, so be sure to check him out here.

The past several weeks have been brutal for me, from a healing perspective. I’ve finished several short water fasts, plus a nigh 3-day water and salt only fast. My gut felt all twisted up, aching, yet by the time I finished, I felt renewed. Reborn. I’ve also hired a trainer at a local gym to help me rebuild my body on feeding days.

Though still a neophyte to cleansing, the more I read about it, the more I realize how crucial it is. For everyone. We’ve been inundated with so many toxins, poor lifestyles, and childhood traumas that it takes effort to dig through it all. The more I detox, the better my creativity and ability to brainstorm and worldbuild.

Some of the books I’ve read through recently on healing and nutrition are up on my Goodreads page.

It isn’t my passion, but I’m grateful that it’s a low-stress retail job—with a health food niche added in. I’ve applied for additional hours in other departments. With the added income, I’ll manage my expenses better and pay off my worthless college degree student loans.

Thanks for reading. May your cup overflow with abundance, creativity, and joy.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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