Tag: J.R.R. Tolkien

Under pressure

Under pressure

I told myself I wasn’t going to do this.

“It’s too cliché,” I said. “Everyone will make fun of you for capitalizing on a wave of popularity.”

But you know what? This is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Also, I couldn’t come up with anything substantial enough to be a feasible alternative.

So. Taking inspiration from my pressure cooker as well as Queen after the music copyright lecture in my Comm Law class (a follow-up to lectures I watched this weekend), I decided to go with it.

Let’s talk about how pressure led to me not knowing what to talk about.

Yesterday I wrote about the cool things I learned from Archivist Therese Martinez during a brief visit to the Redondo Union High School Alumni House.

To be honest… I feel like I half-assed that post.

Everything I talked about is great, and I genuinely learned a lot from Therese. But I write the vast majority in ~30 minutes while sitting in the Main Branch Public Library with less than 20 percent battery.

The ticking clock of my power situation, on top of knowing it’s a topic I will return to, led to silly things like stuffing information into a slideshow.

However, in spite of my reservations about the execution, Therese loved it. So much so that (after I made adjustments to inaccurate dates), she shared the piece with Admin.

Then with the Archives’ Facebook group.

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I scratch her back, she scratches my back, I scratch hers.

Suddenly this interesting, somewhat half-assed look at historical goods in my alma mater made my dinky personal blog blow the hell up.

3:26:19 Analytics
As of 7:40 p.m., about four hours after she asked to share.

That’s pretty awesome.

Except…

I don’t know about you, but when I have a burst of popularity it comes with baggage. Most notably the desire to follow-up with something significant and not disappoint those newcomers.

I’ve been stressing over what to write for a while now.

My first inclination was to write about my recent purchase of:

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On the Nintandoh Splorch!

There’s a bit of a story behind that purchase.

Yesterday, WayForward announced that they are on the verge of releasing the fifth game in the Shantae series — a collection of games that have been around since the Game Boy.

I adore Shantae. In my Sophomore year I binged the first three games on my 3DS after finding the fourth on Kickstarter. Mostly while waiting for my history class with Dr. Paulo Simoes.

However I never got around to playing Half-Genie Hero when it came out because money.

So Shantae 5 was announced, and guess what I found out next:

It truly was a dangerously effective strategy.

That seemed like the perfect opportunity to write something about my adoration of video games.

Open-and-shut case for a blog post. Right?

Well… It would have been. If I had any time to play the game beyond the title screen. But I haven’t, and probably won’t until Spring Break.

Hold that thought. I’ll probably have a review of the game sometime soon.

With that struck down, it was onto idea #2: Honors Project stuff.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a fantasy genre subversion novel for my big Senior Project — the equivalent of a thesis for the University Honors Program.

One of my favorite pieces of side-content for the project has been my world map.

You know the kind. Those continent overviews you see at the beginning of Tolkien books.

I wrote a whole long post all about my adventure in mapmaking this semester, so you can read that to catch up.

The important thing is that I’ve continued to make adjustments to my novel’s continent Drocux in the weeks since. Namely adding names to every location, but also adding details like rivers and roads for more realistic topography:

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HexTML continues to serve me well, and it has been fun writing out lore to explain outlandish names (such as the Xilbalar Canyon above being named after a prominent Elven activist).

But I’m still adding new ideas almost every day, and if I’m going to deep dive into my EXTENSIVE LORE, I would like to do so with the complete product.

Thus, two ideas have been struck down.

And I couldn’t come up with a decent third.

By the time I combed through possibilities, I was home and had my magical encounter with the InstaPot in my Featured Image.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Hopefully you newcomers don’t feel like this was a waste of time — or get too annoyed at my somewhat blatant attempt to throw a lot of my old posts at you. All I needed to add was something about my journalism awards to give the full flavor of Jason.

Speaking of, tomorrow I’ll probably have a more serious post about the next Society of Professional Journalists meeting.

Assuming I don’t change my mind, I’ll look forward to possibly seeing you there.

The magic of maps

The magic of maps

A good, old-fashioned map can add a whole lot of character to a place.

Sure, the colorful country-accurate map of the Earth on a globe is an impressive sight especially fully animated online:

But that view of the planet is a bit too modernist and clinical for my tastes.

I’m more of a fan of classic, stylized pieces such as the 1643 depiction of Europe by Dutch mapmaker Cornelis Danckaerts that I used for my Featured Image. It’s just the sort of rugged, swarthy style you’d expect to see in some kind of fantasy novel.

Replace that boat off the port of Spain with some kind of serpentine sea creature and it may as well be the map of a fantasy world. Like something you’d expect to see from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Speaking of, did you know that there’s an interactive Middle-Earth map available online? It is full of complex names and points of time for different important events.

That’s the kind of stuff I love.

As I’ve made more progress in my Senior Honors Project novel, I’ve found it necessary to start keeping track of all the locations I’m name dropping to give the world a little more history and life.

To remember places I might want to bring up later and also lay everything out on a more cohesive latitude and longitude for when I explain travel across the content — as my book will include plenty of travel.

During class yesterday, I started to draw out a rudimentary sketch of my world map on a sheet of paper:

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Results not final.

I used to draw things like this all the time, inspired by the maps I’ve seen in the front of books like Lord of the Rings and Eragon.

But never before have I put one together that might actually be useful.

So it was serendipity that, while sitting in my Honors 400B class last night, my friend Mimi noticed my drawing and offered to point out some free campaign map making software she knew about for Dungeons and Dragons.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

Of the software I got pointed to, my favorite was a website called HexTML, which as the name implies lets you create a world of your own using hexagonal signifiers like the board game Settlers of Catan.

Many hours were spent last night screwing around to translate that hand-drawn map into something that could reasonably be shown off to the world.

It’s still open to adjustments down the line and I’d like to put names on all of the areas and towns through the site, but for now I’m really proud of where I’d gotten:

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The left side.

While the continent proper does not yet have a name, but a lot of the structures within it do.

The town on the lower left is Fehrn, where my main characters live.

The singular structures around Fehrn are ruins of the old western empire that have been used as treasure hunting locales. To the north, that black cavern, is an underground chamber where my story begins — just below the Redbark Woods.

To the lower right is the Gnarled Forest, a large mesh of roots, branches and bark that was nigh impenetrable for eons. The old elven tribe was able to thrive there before being attacked.

Just above that in the mountain range hides a small structure signifying the capital of the Sparrine Empire. The Sparrine being the bird people who are basically France, taking over the region under bird Napoleon. Talked about that recently.

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The right side.

Moving onto the other side of the map, a few new main areas stand out.

Hidden in another mountain to the right of the Sparrine empire is the Prophet’s Sanctuary, where my main characters must travel.

Below it is a yet unnamed lake with an equally unnamed port town to its right side where the player character of my story’s game world will have to take on bird Napoleon in a thinly veiled allegory to the Battle of Waterloo.

Spoilers, I guess. If you know historical stuff.

The walled city to the right of that lake is the capital of the Bresegon Empire, where the lordly prince character hails from. Just above it is the ruins of an older nation’s capital.

Essentially the ruins of Rome beside the now prospering Byzantine Empire.

All of those ruins to the leftmost side of the region being the desolate remains of the Holy Roman Empire’s holdings.

Those are some of my world’s major locations, as far as I’ve planned things out up to this point. With all of the plot beats generally worked out for my story, I’m especially excited to start using a bunch of them now that I have a spatial awareness of how everything fits together.

Hope you’re interested in seeing some more cool little behind-the-scenes details on my writing like this from here on out.

Now that I’m getting into the book, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to share.


Featured Image courtesy of Cornelis Danckerts via Wikimedia Commons