K. M. Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native and novelist living and working in Seattle with his wife, two dogs, and two rabbits. His work explores nontraditional settings within speculative fiction, bending and blending genres to create rich worlds and unique approachable characters.
It’s not even Election Day yet in the United States, and here I am urging my fellow American citizens to get out and vote. Why? Many reasons! First, this is a critical election. Due to the pandemic and to help spread folks out a bit more many states have opened up early and absentee voting. It’s also becoming clear that there will be a big turnout, so the sooner you cast your vote, the quicker it can be counted.
“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
I voted last week. Washington State has been vote-by-mail as long as I’ve lived here as a voting-age adult. It’s an incredible process and one I’ve always appreciated. It’s very secure. It prevents villains from doing scummy things like shutting down or limiting polling places or purging voter rolls. They even have a handy tracker showing you where your vote is in the process. (If your state doesn’t have this, you should ask for it.)
Make time to vote. If you don’t or can’t do it early. Then be sure to make time on Election Day. (That’s Tuesday, November 3 this year.) Most states require employers to give you paid time off to head to the polls, and in states that don’t have specific laws, you’ll find that employers will often give you time off. (You can check which states have voting laws at vote411.com.)
I mention this every election, and I will keep mentioning it until I don’t have to anymore: anyone trying to prevent or make it difficult for citizens to vote are the bad guys. As an American citizen, no one has the right to stop you from voting. Your voice deserves to be counted. If you’re in line to vote when the polls close, they are legally required to allow you to vote. If you’re intimidated at polls or have problems voting, keep these numbers handy:
I’ve been heads down working on the edits for Gleam Upon the Waves, so it’s been a while since I’ve shared any new resources for fantasy map enthusiasts, writers, cartographers, game masters, table-top role-playing game creators—whoever you are. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few things up my sleeve. Today, I’m excited to announce the release of my latest free historically-based fantasy-map brush set, which I’ve named Homann.
Are you a fan of fields? Are defensive fortifications your jam? Then Homann is the perfect set for you. Based on L’Isle de Cadix du Detroit de Gibraltar, a 1788 map of the Strait of Gibraltar, by Johann Baptist Homann, a prolific German geographer, cartographer, and wig haver. (Yeah, click on his name. You’ll see what I mean.) It’s a unique map. One that seems to be at war with itself. It’s reminiscent of a battlefield map at first, but you can see how it’s mixed with the traditional cartography of its time. At the same time, it flirts with being a nautical chart, not something you often find on maps like this. But that jumbled confusion makes sense considering the messy military history surrounding the strait.
A unique map like this means the brush set extracted from it will be just as unique. The settlements are an unusual mix of pictorial illustrations and the traditional profile-style signs more common to cartographic maps of this era. Landforms are present but serve as a secondary backdrop to the strategic fortifications. Interestingly, a lot of effort went into detailing agriculture, and it’s not hard to see the amount of time the engraver spent on fields.
Since completing my Thirteen in Twelve project last year, I’ve been seeking out resources that separate themselves from the thousands of repetitive-looking maps from the 17th and 18th century. With all those quirks I thought Homann would stand apart while still working alongside any of my older sets, and I appreciate its attention to detail. It’s perfect for a wide variety of fantasy projects.
Homann is a medium-sized set of often VERY LARGE signs—some of the cartouches are over a thousand pixels wide—so, yeah… the detail here is fairly intense. With over 400 brushes, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of use in your work. The full set includes the following:
6 Elevated Towns
2 Places of Worship
7 Unique Buildings
5 “Shoreline” Fields (These are less detailed than their cousins and were mostly found along waterways.)
14 Mountain Pairs (Basically, two mountains close together.)
6 Mountain Ranges
2 Battle Markers
5 Map Elements
3 Ships (They’re big.)
16 Sounding Marks
30 Unit Positions/Markers
The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and Affinity Photo) as well as a set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. I’ve separated them by type: Settlements and Flora, Landforms, and Cartouches. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.
Enjoy Homann? Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email or finding me on Twitter or heck, leave a comment below. I adore seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers (let me know in your message.) Let us see what you make!
🌍 Homann in Use
Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you as you get started on your own projects!
💸 Supporting This Work
If you like the Homann brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror soaked dark urban fantasy novels. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. I think you’ll dig it. You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit the Bell Forging Cycle hub to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!
Homann isn’t the only brush set I’ve released. You can find other free brush sets with a wide variety of styles over on my Free Stuff page. Every set is free, distributed under a CC0 license, and open for personal or commercial use. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works for your project.
This extensive hachure-focused set (those are the fuzzy caterpillar mountains) was taken from Antonio Zatta’s 1775 map of southern Portugal. Striding the line between the late-18th and early-19th century this set is perfect for flintlock fantasy, steampunk, or anything similar.
A topographical brush set with a nautical focus based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal. Along with the standard symbols of settlements, flora, and landforms, I’ve also made sure to incorporated a whole host of maritime signs—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more.
Based on the amazing Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697, this is the largest set I’ve released. Loads of detail and a unique approach to rendering forests and landforms aids this set in standing apart. A perfect set for the right project.
The brushes within this urban-focused set are based on the incredible work of Georg Braun taken from his Civitates orbis terrarum—easily one of the most significant volumes of cartographic antiquity. The detail and density represented in these symbols give an extra layer of texture and is perfect for the right fantastical city map.
Taken from John Ogilby’s 1675 book Britannia, Volume the First, this set allows the creator to recreate road atlas from the 17th century in stunning detail, placing the traveler’s experience front and center. With over 800 brushes, this is my most extensive set to date and useful for a variety of projects. Several bonus downloads are also available, as well.
This regional map set is based on a map by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. It’s a beautifully rendered version of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia. While not as extensive as other sets, the size of the map allowed for larger brushes that helps highlight the uniqueness of each symbol. It also features a failed wall!
My first brush set to focus on creating realistic maps for fantastical urban environments! Gomboust is a huge set, and its symbols are extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s beautiful 1652 map of Paris, France. His style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, packed with intricacies, and it brings a lot of personality to a project.
Based on Eugene Henry Fricx’s “Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France,” this set leans into its 1727 gothic styling and its focus on the developed rather than the natural. It’s hauntingly familiar yet strikingly different. If you’re looking for more natural elements, Harrewyn works well alongside other sets as well.
This set has quickly become a favorite, and it’s perfect for a wide variety of projects. The brushes are taken from 1746’s A Map of the British Empire in America by Henry Popple, and it has a fresh style that does a fantastic job capturing the wildness of a frontier. Plus, it has swamps! And we know swamps have become a necessity in fantasy cartography.
While not my most extensive set (a little over one hundred brushes), Donia boasts one of the more unique takes on settlements from the 17th century. If you’re looking for flora, I suggest checking out other sets, but if you want to pay attention to your map’s cities, towns, castles, churches, towers, forts, even fountains, then this is the right set for you.
Based on Joan Blaeu’s Terræ Sanctæ—a 17th-century tourist map of the Holy Land—this set includes a ton of unique and varied signs as well as a large portion of illustrative cartouches that can add a flair authenticity to any fantasy map. Elegant and nuanced, everything works within a system, but nearly every sign is unique.
An 18th Century brush set based on a map from 1767 detailing the journey of François Pagès, a French naval officer, who accompanied the Spanish Governor of Texas on a lengthy exploration through Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. A unique southwestern set with a few interesting deviations—including three volcanos!
A departure from the norm, this set is based on the Plan Batalii map, which was included in a special edition of The First Atlas of Russia in 1745. A detailed view of a battle during the Russo-Turkish War of 1735–1739. Canon! Units! Battles! Perfect for mapping out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.
A 17th Century brush set based on the work of Georgio Widman for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s atlas published in 1692. A fantastic example of Cantelli da Vignola’s influence and a solid set for any fantastic map. This is the workhorse of antique map brush sets—perfect for nearly any setting.
An 18th Century brush set based on the work of Gabriel Walser with a focus on small farms and ruins and a robust set of mountains and hills. This is a great brush set to see how Vignola’s influence persisted across generations. It was etched over 80 years after the Widman set, but you’ll find a few familiar symbols within.
A sketchy style brush set I drew myself that focuses on unique hills and mountains and personal customizability. My attempt at trying to channel the sort of map a barkeep would draw for a band of hearty adventurers. It includes extra-large brushes for extremely high-resolution maps.
Named after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann creator of the Lehmann hatching system in 1799, this is a path-focused brush set designed for Adobe Illustrator that attempts to captures the hand-drawn style unique 19th Century hachure-style mountains. This set works perfectly in conjunction with my other sets from the late 18th century.
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Back in early October, I mentioned that a change was coming. If you’re a regular reader, by now you’ve probably noticed things look quite a bit different. While on vacation last week, I took some time to redesign the site and move some things around. Some of this was to prep for the coming of Gleam Upon the Waves, and some of it was to reduce the amount of time I dealt with random web stuff. So… what’s new? Let me tell you.
Well, kinda. There was always a KMAlexander.com, but before it took you to a static page. Now it brings you here. I’ll touch a little more on this in a bit. Since the domain changed, it felt more appropriate to be a little more professional with the title. The form blog title “I Make Stories” is no more. (Don’t worry, I’m still making stories.)
Sub-Domains Are Gone… Mostly
My book sites used to be on separate webpages nestled under subdomains most of those are now gone and only a few remain. (store.kmalexander.com is one.) If you came from thestarswereright.kmalexander.com, chances are you’ll have landed here. This is part of the redirect process and I’m still trying to figure out a solution. But, those webpages still exist. All my books can now found up on the menu. Which brings me to the next part…
New Book Landing Pages
As I mentioned, in the before times, I had different sites for each book, and each of those had subsites. It was a lot to juggle. With this new site, all those have been merged here! You can find them up under the Bell Forging Cycle tab in the menu. They’re a bit cleaner and will look so much better for those folks using mobile devices. Moving to a more mobile-friendly approach was a big consideration for this redesign. You should check ’em out (share them with your friends.) I think they turned out great.
New About Section
I’ve streamlined all the stuff about me. The Appearances and Contact Info pages are now consolidated under the About section. Those pages will continue to get streamlined, but it made more sense to group them together than have them divergent. Also freed up more room in the menu and simplified things a lot more.
A New Home Page
This one is a bit odd. Since, if you come to kmalexander.com, you’ll land here, on the blog. That’s by design since this is the best place to get news and updates, and I’m not one of those authors who only post once a year. The homepage is currently a catch-all page, and it’s modeled after my old homepage. Still feeling this one out. It might eventually go away. I like the idea of the blog being front and center, but I can see an appeal for a homepage focused mostly on books. So, we’ll see how this goes.
New Sidebar & Footer
Juggled a few things around in the sidebar, and I’m still rearranging the footer. Search is now clearer, as is access to the archives. Overall, I think it’s a bit more streamlined. I’ve got plenty of working space, so don’t be surprised if I add some other stuff in that area as well.
So that’s some of the new changes you’ll find around here. Overall I think this is a solid step forward, and it’s nice not to have to fiddle with many different sites whenever I want to make simple changes. Also, being more mobile-friendly doesn’t hurt. What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.
I’ve had this blog since 2012, and for the extent of its life, it’s looked the same. Header, sidebar, posts, pages—everything has remained more or less unchanged for the last eight years and nearly nine-hundred posts. I love it, but sometimes we outgrow the things we love. It’s something I’m facing now.
As the title suggests, a change is coming. While the WordPress theme I started with (Twenty-Thirteen) has served me well, I’m starting to run into various walls. It’s old. Which means it’s not taking advantage of new technology. It’s not as responsive as I want, and the limited space really hinders me from doing some new things I’ve wanted to do.
So, over the next few weeks, expect to see some changes around here. Most of the changes you’ll see will be visual. But the functionality will remain largely unchanged. You’ll still be able to access all of the content, download my brushes, and read previous posts, but there’s a potential that some of the changes might mess with the format of some of my old posts and pages. So I apologize in advance if that happens, it’ll eventually get sorted out.
So, keep an eye out! Changes are coming and I think they’ll be good ones.
“The directory agents were a necessity born of desperate need in an ever-changing city. With so many businesses moving in and out all the time it was impossible to keep track of it all and even harder to inform every citizen. Instead of printing compendiums of information, the directory companies opted for agents placed around the city, offering location services for a small fee. It kept printing costs down and made them a hell of a lot of money.”
Audio from Freesounds, special thanks to: 15gpanskasupsakpatrik, bolkmar, hendmik, kyles, morgantj, nahlin83, o-ciz, rabbydaw, socializeddartist45, and theshuggie
Broll provided by Videezy
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