Story Maps and Mapping

I’m waiting on my last two Beta readers to provide their input then I’ll be posting Dreamland to this blog. The changes I decided to use from my other final Beta readers have been incorporated, so this short story is all but done now.

While waiting for these last reviews, I now have covers for three of the seven Pa’adhe stories (5 available here, Dreamland, and the next one). I’m still working out a standard image/cover size but I have the font selected and the layout determined. Once I have the image size settled on, then I’ll be able to develop a template and crank them out without fiddling with font sizes.

The next story, with a working title I’m not happy with since the story took a sudden turn I wasn’t expecting, is coming along in spurts of writing. I’ve not yet just sat down and really worked on this one. Rather, I’ve been doing a lot of “mental writing”, where I think story ideas out and flesh them out a bit then finally write that section down. It’s working OK, but I really need to take some time, sit down, kick back, and just work on this story. I’ll probably start doing that this week.

Now for the title of this posting…

Smeagol can keep his ring, I want the maps!

I love maps. Old maps. New maps. In-between maps. Fantasy maps. SF maps. Charts. Topographical. Geological. If it’s any kind of map, I like it already.

If you have been following this blog, you know I have a map related to the tales of Pa’adhe. I absolutely had to create that map in order to keep track of where places were so that I could keep sailing directions and times between places correct. It also helps me talk about places in relationship to each other, or when sailing. ‘Once leaving port, we set a north-northwesterly course’ is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Without this map, for all I know I could set that course and promptly run aground.  So, for that reason and because I love maps, I created a map to go with my short stories.

Originally drawn out on paper and scanned in, it’s been kept up to date in the GIMP. Places and names have been added, a scale, a compass rose, additional mountains, an extension to the original continent and an extra island (thanks to the new Pa’adhe story!) have all been inserted. However, I’ve not been happy with that map, it is still quite amateurish. Especially the tripod style mountains. I always want a better map.

Last week I found the Cartographer’s Guild.

If you like maps, be it looking at them, using them, or creating them, I happily recommend checking out the Cartographer’s Guild.

That was like giving a cat catnip. They specialize in fantasy and role playing maps, but all maps are welcome. They share what they do and how they do it. They respond to requests for help. They have tutorials for both Photoshop and GIMP. I spent quite a bit of time at the Cartographer’s Guild last week, reading various posts, scanning tutorials, and getting a feel for the site. The site almost requires a map for navigating at first, but gradually I figured out how to get around in it.

Then I registered. Usually I won’t register for a site just to be able to access a little more stuff, but this site was fascinating enough and I really wanted to see and read more. And I really, really wanted two tutorials. One was available via a link I’d used to discover the site, the other could only be downloaded by registered members.

I downloaded the two tutorials I wanted to mess with: Ascension’s Atlas tutorial and Eriond – A Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur. I also grabbed two others in passing so I could learn how to create those as well — Antique Style Maps in GIMP and Ascension’s Atlas Style in GIMP. Ascension’s tutorial is for Photoshop and while I have some familiarity with Photoshop, I’m way more comfortable in GIMP so I was really excited to find all the GIMP related material.

Friday night I spent until 2:30 AM Saturday working through Ascension’s Atlas tutorial in Photoshop. I was able to do everything up to the last step, but at that point my map wasn’t looking anything like his. I had started with my own Pa’adhe map and was using his tutorial step-by-step to create an atlas of my story world. That map got tossed.

Then I worked Saturday night until 3:30 AM Sunday doing the same thing with the Eriond tutorial. Again, it didn’t work out properly. At one point I actually did have a gorgeous mountain range, exactly what I was trying to achieve but the next step wiped that out. When I finished that tutorial, I had nothing like the Eriond map even though I followed, AFAIK, all the steps in GIMP. That map, too, wound up on the electronic rubbish heap.

I am positive the problem with both tutorials lies between the keyboard and the chair. Perhaps I missed some setting, perhaps I only saw the preview and didn’t actually apply the effect. Perhaps the tutorials unconsciously expected a click or two that always takes place when using a particular tool in the program, for example hiding a particular layer. Regardless, I do not fault the tutorials, they are both well written.

What I did gain is an enhanced appreciation for what can be done in Photoshop and GIMP. I was already comfortable with and using layers when creating my covers or working on my map. These two tutorials enhanced my knowledge of using layers and taught me a whole lot more.

So, two nights this past weekend I burned more than just the midnight oil. I still don’t have the map I wanted to create, but in return I learned a lot. I have created my own guide to making the map I want and will follow it next weekend into the wee hours again. I’ll be leveraging off both these tutorials and the other two I grabbed. I have no doubt I’ll have a poor, but presentable, map of the Pa’adhe world at the end of next weekend.

I’m looking forward to doing it.


One Response to “Story Maps and Mapping”

  1. BIll B. Says:

    Well, my turn to blame Dropbox. After the mapping session last weekend, on Tuesday I cleaned out the various files involved. Plus one too many. Yesterday, I wiped out my Recycle bin. Then last night I was poking around and realized one of the maps erased was one I needed to keep. Too late. Gone. I’d already synched all my machines so I didn’t even have a backup on an as yet unsynched unit. Fortunately, I had kept an inversed B&W so I have at least a land shape for the missing part.

    Ken mentioned the online Dropbox is essentially a version control and to check there. I did so, and unfortunately I apparently deleted the files before syncing the various ‘puters. So, the original addition is lost, except for the inverted version, which is fine to work from.

    It does remind me about backing up, though!!


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