Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dark Fantasy World Building: Telling Time Without Clocks


It's 60 or so years after the apocalypse. Countries are trying to rebuild society. War puts the world in chaos. This is life in my WIP, Book 4 of The Merging World Series, The Sciell's Legacy. The world is dangerous for everyone. Characters built their own villages to stay safe. Several questions come up while I'm creating life in these isolated communities. One of them being, how do they tell time without clocks?

The telling time issue came up a bit in Books 1 and 2. It wasn't a huge problem because time wasn't that important to the characters. They needed to count days but not minutes and hours. In The Sciell's Legacy, some of the characters have work and school. The children have pretty strict daily schedules. What are ways to tell time in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world?

"Close your fingers together and align your pinky with the horizon. Now, count how many finger widths it takes to reach the sun. Depending on the season and time of day, you may need to continue stacking one hand over the other to keep count. Four finger widths represent one hour of sunlight."
"during the day, you can observe the track of the sun across the sky. When the sun is the highest in the sky and at the center of its track, it is about 12 noon."
This and the above tip would work for Books 1 and 2 but in Book 4, days are shorter. Characters have about 3 or 4 hours of sunlight every day. They can tell time by the sun but not by tracking its movements.

"Animals are also natural clocks. Cocks are the first thing to wake up in the morning (stop it), and they tend, like most early risers, to crow about it. Exactly three minutes afterwards, your dog bounds into the room ..."
This inspired me to create an animal my characters use to tell time in the morning. Here's a passage from my WIP:
"The haunting call of the Orlo bird filled the silence. Senka tensed. Miku whimpered while Nerva looked like she wanted to race outside and search for the bird. You only heard its call in the Orlon Mountains. The bird had four pairs of silver wings. Despite being large enough to steal a small child, Divine only saw it once. He heard the call every morning. It meant the kids should be on their way to morning lessons."
Reddit: World Building- Telling time without the sun
"Water clocks, or something similar. In the Forgotten Realms, in Menzoberanzen, the drow use a huge pillar that they cast faeryfire on - it takes 12 hours to reach the top, and another twelve to come back down, and changes color with regular intervals."
My world has magic. The characters could find a way to use it to measure time passing.

Ways of Measuring Time in High Fantasy
"Some books use bells instead of hours, e.g. “in half a bell” or “at seven bells”, often referring to church bells and indicating a more medieval setting, but also potentially to other bell-based systems, such as the watch system sounded by a ship’s bell."
I did something similar in a different story. In Shadows under the Light Book 2 of the Jura series, some characters lived underground and used bells to mark time passing.

How do your fantasy characters tell time?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Story and Photos: There's Something in the House


She couldn't tell if it was a groan or whimper. The sound was too consistent to be normal. Someone was in Ronia Ket's house. The sound stopped. Whatever made that noise turned the air heavy and slimy. Lire snarled beside her.

Ronia's door opened as her older sister walked in. Neela had a way of looking down on you no matter how high you stood over her. At the moment, Ronia was sitting up in bed. Her sister made her feel as small as an insect.

"What did you bring home this time?" Neela asked.

Ronia wanted to say something witty. Instead, she could only glare. She had a tendency to bring home dangerous strays. The two tailed demon dog beside her was proof. They rarely got into serious trouble because of it. Mostly, Ronia had quite a few powerful beings who owned her favors. The house and its barriers came from one of those favors.


A cloud of smoke rose on her bed. Lire thumped his tail. The cloud dropped around a silver haired demon. Valerin Bern looked human except for his moonlight hair paired with rich brown skin. He was another stray. He wasn't a nice one either.

"What did you do now," he said.

The whimpering noise returned. Sounded like it came from the living room. Lire growled again.

Not a friendly monster.

This old house had a bloody history. It wasn't the best place for a new start but it was their only option. They installed all the necessary protections to prevent nonsense like this.


The house trembled as though someone was throwing boulders against the walls. Whimpering rose above the thumping. It multiplied as it turned into howls. Not cries of pain. More like a strange, haunting song from a choir.

Neela clicked her tongue. "Why do you alway cause trouble?" She left the room.

They hadn't been living in this area long enough for Ronia to cause any trouble. She jumped out of bed and followed with Lire and Valerin close behind.

The house went quiet.


"What's downstairs?" She asked Valerin.

He smirked. "What will you give me if I tell you?"

Getting any information out of him was a pain. At least the dog demon was nice...nicer. The beast had an affinity for painting colorful walls red.


Valerin's usually amused expression was strained. Was he scared? That wasn't a good sign.

A strange light rose through the hallway. Ronia would've thought the sun was rising but it was still dark outside.

"Maybe this isn't your fault." Neela spoke so low she was probably talking to herself.

Golden light rose and fell. The strips were barely large enough to push away the darkness.

Ronia faced Valerin. "What do I have to give you to explain what's in this house?"

"Another mark."

Ronia curled her face. The first mark he gave her covered her back and shoulder. Why did he want to add another one? She asked him.

Valerin shrugged. "Those are my terms."

"Agree to it," Neela said.

"Fine."

Valerin smiled but it didn't hold his usual confidence. "You shouldn't have moved into this house. Some places are so wrong no amount of protection can fix them. You were probably tricked."


Neela stopped. "Any reason you didn't say this sooner."

"This house is bad but neither of you are weak or inexperienced. I didn't think this place would be a problem. They were hiding. I didn't know it was this bad."

Valerin liked having Ronia around. He could be obstructive but he'd never put her life in danger. The new mark would probably help her in this situation.

"Why haven't we experience anything before now?" Ronia asked.

Valerin snorted. "Because you're marked by two demons." He patted the dog's head. "The enemy was probably being cautious. Besides, you sister is more than a little terrifying."

That was an understatement.

Figures appeared out of the yellow light rolling through the house. They moved like their legs were made of steel. Spirits. Dozens of them. Each footstep shook the house. Their mouths stretched open as they freed the howling song.

Neela grabbed Ronia's hand and dragged her into the nearest bedroom. Once everyone was inside, Neela stood in the middle of the room and chanted under her breath. Ronia tried the windows They wouldn't move. She kicked the wall. A nice ache rode up her leg. She kicked again.


"Do something," Ronia said Valerin.

"We can destroy the house but you clearly can't get out. There isn't much I can do here."

He sounded irritated. Somehow that comforted her.

The bedroom door flew open. Enraged eyes glowed in the darkness. The haunting song grew louder. More spirits glared at them from the windows. Something heavy slammed into the wall of the neighboring room. Lire barked out a ball of green fire. It did nothing to the spirits. They were in trouble.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Week in Links 5/19/17: The Witcher, Smartphone Games, Star Trek

George R.R. Martin confirms five Game of Thrones spinoffs in development, all prequels
This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Colony Worlds, Shadow Governments, and Award-Winning Short Fiction
The 7 principles of design

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at audendjohnson@gmal.com. The post needs to be published between today, 5/6 and next Friday, 5/13.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Behind the Camera: Cityscape Photography

Step behind the camera. This time I'm using my phone instead of my DSLR. Smartphones take some amazing pictures.

I still prefer my Canon. I get more control over the final photo. I also shoot RAW instead of JPEG because RAW lets me recover more of the photo in post. For instance, if, in a shot, the sky is totally white that I lose all the clouds, shooting RAW lets me bring those clouds back in Lightroom.

Anyway, I was heading for an interview in a neighborhood I was familiar with but never explored. Since I was in a good mood, I actually walked slow and paid attention to my surrounding. Here are the unedited photos I took.








They came out a bit hazy. I took these around 12pm which usually isn't a good time for photography. The sun's too harsh. My phone did a pretty good job despite that. This is a fairly simple fix in Lightroom.

The first two photos were an experiment. Don't know how I feel about them. I'll put them aside for later.

Let's do something about those duplicates.
1

2
From where I was standing, that long building on the right made the scene a bit off balance. I pulled in more buildings on the other side in hopes of fixing that. #2 is better. I should've taken this shot in the middle of the street. Didn't want to get hit by a car, though.

#1 is getting deleted. Now to work on #2. I cropped it a little to fix the composition. The colors are a little dead so I brightened them. I want that sky to pop.

And here you go:


I also really like it in black and white. It has kind of an old time feel.


This photo is but I'm not blown away by them. Black and white is probably bettter. What do you think?
...

On to the other pair.
1

2
I love the sky. For some reason, I'm beginning to have a thing for graffiti. It's everywhere in Brooklyn. It can add some character to a photo. Also, I generally don't like the fisheye lens but I like when a scene naturally creates that effect.

So which photo do I choose?

I like #2 because most of the car is cut out but #1 has better balance. The car isn't that distracting. #1 it is. Just like the other scene, the colors are just dead. The photo also needs some straightening, that wall at the bottom in crooked.

Here you go:


Once again, it also look's pretty good in black and white. Since, the focus shifts from the top to the bottom, I cropped out some of the sky.


Let me know what you think in the comments!


Follow me on Instagram! Check out my portfolio and my DeviantArt page.

Monday, May 15, 2017

When's the best time to post on Instagram


You should know when most of your audience is on social media to increase reach and engagement. Most of the time, Hootsuite's AutoScheduler works fine. I'm active on a lot of social networks and don't have time to manually schedule every post. It's easier to let Hootsuite do it.

A couple of months ago, Instagram added an analytics tab. It tells you when most of your audience is active. I noticed the times on Instagram was different from Hootsuite's AutoScheduler.

Who's right? Then came in the deeper Instagram analytics tool Websta.me.

All these sites are helpful but they all tend to disagree on when's the best time to post. I haven't found any common pattern between them.

The Best Time to Post on Instagram in 2017
"When it comes to the best times to post on Instagram, it’s essential to think about time zones. Let’s say that you’re located in a city on the west coast, but most of your followers are in New York on the east coast. So while 9pm may be the one of the most popular times to post to Instagram, you would actually want to try posting at 6pm PST / 9pm EST, as most of your followers will be asleep by the time it’s 9pm on the west coast."
What's the Best Time of Day to Post on Instagram?
"Make sure you pay close attention to any increases in interaction when you post at certain times of day. No matter what the research says or what the experts tell you about optimal times and days to post, what ultimately matters is the behavior of your own followers."
Simply Measured

They generated a report about my Instagram account after I filled out a form. The report told me, among other things, the best time to post. They said Monday at 1:00pm. I'll see how accurate it is. According to Websta.me, that's the worse time to post.

Data Says: Best Times to Post on Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram + More
 "every study reached different results. From the data, my best guess is ~7 p.m., but I think you’ll have to test this one for yourself."
...

It seems the best thing to do is use sites like Hootsuite, Instagram and Websta.me to get an idea of when to post. Then, once I post, I should keep my own records to get a better understanding of when is the best time to post.

I've started an Excel spreadsheet to see if there are any patterns. Saturday evenings seem to be a good time to post. I'm still experimenting with that.


In terms on Instagram Analytics, influencers often recommend Iconosquare. I've used that but it's free for only a limited time. Websta.me is permanently free.
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