The Blog Exotic.
Ideas and Things I Geek Out About.
Before I go into detail on the topic of subject in photography, I'd like to show you a few example of subjects in my photography. Simply put, subject is what you are shooting. It's the photos topic, its theme. It could be anything, but it's purpose it to draw a desired reaction from the viewer. It should conjure a desired emotion, idea or concept. For portrait photography, the subject it easy - it's the person you're photographing. For landscapes, it may be more difficult to pin down. My rule of thumb in defining subject in my photos is easy - where is my focal point AND where is the composition leading the eye. Where do I want the viewer to be drawn?
In the first photo below, "The Gyro Captain", my focal point and subject it the pilot himself. Everything else in the composition supports the subject. In my second photo, "The Boy Scout", it's the boy in black and white, not color. Why? The reflection is a leading line drawing the eye to the black and white image, which is where my focal point is. In "The Remembered Aviator" I use both focal point and composition to frame the statue, which is the subject. In "Abandoned Wiregrass" I use the rule of thirds and focal point to place the shack in the reader's attention.
That's all for now, more on subject later. Next time I'll dive into detail on the basics of defining subject in your photo. If you'd like to see more images please visit my gallery here.
#photography #subject #photographytips #tutorial #photographytutorial #howto #photographylessons
My journey across America is coming to an end. My wife and I wanted to make our 30th wedding anniversary something special, so we planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip across America. Unfortunately, COVID and a few other events kept delaying the adventure. Finally, we were able to take the trip. It's been great, to say the least.
We jokingly called our journey "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", and laughed nervously hoping it wouldn't turn out the same as the movie of the same name. It hasn't. For me, its been a series of firsts:
First time visiting Chicago.
First time traveling and sleeping on a train.
First time in Utah.
First time Napa Valley.
First time seeing redwoods.
First time seeing whales.
First time in Oregon.
There is good and bad everywhere, but overall America is a great place. Americans are blessed beyond human comprehension to live in such a land at such a time in history. The people we've met across America and the West Coast have been kind and welcoming. The roads are good, and the views breathtaking . I am blessed to live in such a wonderful nation.
For my friends back in Alabama, its true: Dollar Generals are absolutely everywhere and you can buy sweet tea in any of them.
I've gotten a few good story ideas while I've been traveling, one of which is amazing. I'm looking forward to getting back home and returning to my keyboard.
See you when I get home.
From the road,
I'm still on vacation, so today I'll just be posting my latest photograph. "Girl in Blue Picking Up Shells" is a long exposure image taken along the Northern California coast, where I'm currently traveling. This young lady walked up to my wife and offered her a beautiful blue stone as a gift. I set up my camera and patiently waited until her and her family finished collecting shells. I took a few "throwaway" shots tuning my setting with the family still in frame, knowing they would be "ghosted" due to the long exposure. Last night, when looking over my raw images, this one jumped out at me. It is now one of my favorites.
You can find this image and many others on my Fine Art America gallery.
#photography #seascape #ocean #longexposure #landscape #beach #pacific #california #seaside
No blog post today. I’m taking a break and going on a little getaway. I’ll tell you about it when I get back.
Welcome to back to Photography Phriday on The Illusion Exotic. I was going to discuss lighting this week, but instead I’m going to take a detour based on a question I often get.
“What kind of camera do you recommend?” If you’re asking this question, it probably means you’re a beginner and thinking about buying something that looks like a professional camera. That’s not an easy question, nor a short answer. But I’m going to give it my best shot in five parts.
Answer 1: The camera you own right now. By this I assume you have a cell phone that takes photos. Before you move on to an expensive digital single lens reflect (DSLR) or mirrorless camera, squeeze as much learning and experience as you can out of your phone camera. Specifically, get comfortable with the aspects of Subject and Composition. One doesn’t need a complicated camera to hang of these two critical elements. If you want to know more about them, check our last week’s blog. Camera phones are getting pretty advanced in both photo quality (megapixels) and software. Some apps let you control aperture, ISO and shutter speed. However, having to control all that from the screen can make the experience clunky. Chances are, you’ll eventually drop your phone, too. If you stick with photography, eventually you will have to move beyond the phone, which leads to Answer 2.
Answer 2: The camera you can afford. If able, buy used. There is a good chance someone you know has DSLR they bought a few years ago they don’t use anymore. They flirted with photography, and then found it wasn’t their thing. It’s probably in the back of their closet, still in a nice carrying case. It has a few extra batteries and maybe more than one lens. Maybe they’ll sell it to you cheap, or even just give it to you. Look online, too. You’ll find LOTS of entry-level Nikon and Canon cropped-sensor cameras (and their EF-S series lenses) for sale in your local area. These could be those cameras that were once forgotten, or maybe the photographer recently upgraded and is looking to sell their old kit. If you ever get serious about photography, you have to get serious about buying used gear. Photography is an expensive hobby.
Answer 3: The camera that will teach you the most. A good entry-level cropped sensor camera, like a Canon “T” series Rebel or a Nikon 3500 families of camera bodies, have almost all the functions of higher-end models. They have smaller sensors, lighter camera bodies, a few less bells and whistles, and come with far less expensive lenses. However, what you learn on them directly translates to more capable cameras. In essence, they will become your teachers. You can buy diverse lenses, accessories like external flashes and learn how to use them without breaking your budget. You’ll learn what all the buttons mean, how to shoot on shutter-priority, aperture priority and, eventually, full manual. You’ll learn how to manually control focal points, and focus itself. You’ll also learn how to switch lenses. Most importantly, you’ll get comfortable exploring your camera and making mistakes.
Answer 4: The camera you’re most comfortable with. This goes back to the two previous answers. Once you have a camera, it will probably drive your camera choices from that moment forward. If you start with a Canon, you’ll probably stick with a Canon. If you start with a Nikon, you’ll probably stick with a Nikon. That’s why I recommend buying cheap and used to begin with. If you happen to fall in love with a different brand (like a friend’s camera) it’s easier to walk away from a small investment than a big investment. Also, in my opinion, it’s easier to take great shots with a less capable camera you are comfortable with than an expensive model you don’t fully understand. I started with Canon, and I’ve stuck with Canon. I know Nikon photographers who have done the same.
Answer 5: The camera you have with you all the time. If you don’t carry a camera with you, you’ll miss opportunities and kick yourself for it. That’s why phone cameras will ALWAYS be useful. However, if you have the time, reach for your DSLR/Mirrorless so you can make the shot really count. I never got rid of my first cropped-sensor Canon T5 camera, and I always keep in my car no matter what. Time and time again, having it with me has paid off. It’s not near as capable as my Canon 6D, but its capable enough. I know the buttons, the menus, the way the focal points work, and it feels right in my hand. I love it and will keep it until if falls apart. When it’s gone, I’ll find a nice used Rebel to replace it.
There it is, my advice choosing a camera. Use camera you own right now to learn what you can, look for a camera you can afford, get a camera just advanced enough to teach you what you need to learn, find a camera you’re comfortable with, and then take it everywhere.
#photography #tips #photographytips #photo #cameras #canon #nikon #creativeauto #cameratutorials
Welcome back to The Illusion Exotic. On Mondays I post about whatever. This week it was a certain Facebook whatever that got my attention. A post about electric cars is making the rounds on many of my friends’ Facebook pages. Here’s the post, maybe you’ve seen it already:
"Total fuel consumption of U.S. airlines is approximately 19 billion gallons annually. Total fuel consumption for mining Ore for construction of electric car batteries is approximately 21 billion annually. The 21 billion gallons of fuel burned can only produce enough Ore to build 250,000 electric car batteries. The lifespan of an electric battery is 10 years and is not renewable. By 2050 these batteries will fill landfills with 50 million pounds of waste that does not break down. I wonder if people would still believe in electric power cars, vehicles or equipment if they knew how massive the carbon emissions footprint really was? So that you understand, more energy is used to mine for these batteries than they will ever produce."
When I read it, my instincts told me this post was a pile of dog squeeze. The bold presentation of statements-as-facts without sources bugged me. It looked like a piece of poorly crafted disinformation. It also bugged me because my friends reposting it aren’t fools. They saw it, and in their minds it validated their worldview, so they reposted it. The post seduced them. That’s what disinformation does, it seduces the reader.
I found who originally posted this to see if they were a reputable source or if they provided more information or sources in the comments section. No on both counts. It only took me a few minutes looking at reputable sources and doing some basic math to completely discredit almost all of it. Did I comment on the post or report it for misinformation? Of course not. He can say whatever he wants on his Facebook, that’s his right.
Its’ also my right dissect the post here in the quiet and comfort of my own website. Let’s break the original post down, point by point.
"Total fuel consumption of U.S. airlines is approximately 19 billion gallons annually."
You’ll find that number “19 billion” number quickly using a Google search. You’ll also find 18 billion gallons (of what, jet fuel? avgas? Both?). I took a little extra time and went to the US Government Bureau of Transportation Statistics and US Energy Information Administration websites. In 2019 the US airlines (just airlines) used 12.1 billion gallons of fuel, or about 8% of the US’s annual petroleum use. Still, I could give the original poster credit for this one. This number doesn’t discredit the post, and I think that’s why the author put it first, but it’s that last one that holds any water.
"Total fuel consumption for mining Ore for construction of electric car batteries is approximately 21 billion annually."
21 billion what? Are we still talking gallons? Gallons of what? Unleaded? Diesel? JP-8? No real statistician is going to use this figure, because you can’t get a standard measure with just “gallons” across different fuel types. That’s why national/international stats use barrel of oil, exajoules, thermal units, or some common energy standard. Second, what do they mean by “Ore”? Are we talking nickel? Cobalt? Lithium? Magnesium? Graphite? Because all of these are in electric vehicles (EV) batteries and all have very different mining processes and energy costs. For example, only 7% of all global nickel production (which comprises the bulk of the materials in Tesla electric car batteries) goes to EVs. Most nickel mining is for steel production, not EVs. So let’s say for simplicity sake this social media post says 21 billion gallons of petroleum is used annually for only 7% of the worlds nickel production. If this were the case, 300 billion gallons of fuel are used annually for nickel mining for other purposes, like steel. In comparison, the United States only used 124 billion gallons of finished motor fuel TOTAL last year. The stat doesn’t hold up beyond a cursory investigation. The background is too vague, or the numbers have been seriously warped to support the author’s opinion.
"The 21 billion gallons of fuel burned can only produce enough Ore to build 250,000 electric car batteries."
There were 3 million EVs produced globally last year alone. So I guess the over 2.75 million EVs materialized from thin air. This stat goes completely out the window.
"The lifespan of an electric battery is 10 years and is not renewable. By 2050 these batteries will fill landfills with 50 million pounds of waste that does not break down."
Right now, most Tesla EV batteries are 100% recyclable. Yep, you heard that right. Most can go on to be repurposed in other power applications because so much life remains in them. However, if they are not repurposed Telsa just patented a new recycling technology that may make them 92% recyclable. It is Tesla’s policy NONE of its batteries end up in landfills. As InsideEVs reports on 11 August of this year :
“The manufacturer recently pointed out that 100 percent of the batteries it scraps are recycled and nothing ends up in a landfill. It has been setting up internal structures within the company to gather and recycle old battery packs for years and it believes that the companies that made the packs should also recycle them, arguing this is more efficient than having third parties do it…Tesla points out that through the use of this new process, it managed to recycle 1,300 of nickel, 400 tons of copper and 80 tons of cobalt last year alone.”
Recycling will become more lucrative over the next ten to fifteen years, to the point about 40-50% of all materials going into EV battery production could be from recycled sources. However, as of now most of Tesla’s recycling has been on test batteries, not used consumer batteries. Why? Because most of its batteries are still on the road.
Which brings me to the “10 year life on a battery” statement. That’s also made up. Depending on model, Tesla batteries are warranted for up to about 150,000 miles or eight years. That doesn’t mean that’s how long they last, that’s how long the company will guarantee them. At that point they will have about 70% of their original capacity. Some Model X Tesla cars are still on the original battery at 400K miles. Using the average American diving 15,000 miles a year, that comes out to 26 years of life. Tesla is now working on a million-mile battery.
"I wonder if people would still believe in electric power cars, vehicles or equipment if they knew how massive the carbon emissions footprint really was? So that you understand, more energy is used to mine for these batteries than they will ever produce."
Right now, with our current power grid and battery technology, an average electric car produces about 220 grams of CO2 per mile over its lifetime (150k miles). By lifetime, that “mine-to-wheel,” - raw materials to production to consumer use. From raw materials production to consumer, the average consumer fossil fuel vehicle getting 28 mpg (also lasting 150k miles), produces about 460 g/CO2/m. That’s more than double the CO2 footprint of a current EV.
So, pretty much this whole viral Facebook post is crap.
Why did I spend a few hours on a weekend researching all of this? Yes, I don’t have a life but that’s not important right now. Nor do I own a Tesla or an electric vehicle. In fact, I love gas powered vehicles and own two. I don’t care what you drive and I’m not an environmentalist. I can’t stand Facebook fact-checkers and I’m not trying to be one of them. I do, however, like truth.
Every time you enter the world of social media, you enter a battlefield. The military calls it “information warfare.” It can be government disinformation, it can be corporate disinformation, it can deceptive advertising, or it might just be someone who wants to sow chaos.
My point is that it’s important to take a few moments before you blindly repost something, ESPECIALLY of it reinforces your worldview. It’s important to ask yourself, “Is this accurate?” Because if you post it, and its false, it hurts your worldview and diminishes your credibility.
Don’t help them. Don’t blindly take the bait. Think before you repost…unless you want to repost this, then go ahead. While you’re at it, visit my author page on Amazon and check out my great books.
These are some of my sources. I forgot to bookmark all of them, but feel free to do some searching on your own:
#disinformation #misinformation #electricvehicles #electriccars #tesla #elonmusk #elon #musk #environmentalism #facebook
Welcome to Photography Friday on The Illusion Exotic. No, this article isn’t about the band REM or 80s music. It’s about taking your first steps into photography.
Let’s say you bought or were gifted a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) or mirrorless camera. Maybe you were just curious about the technology, or simply wanted to take nice photographs of your kids. It may be a Canon, it may be a Nikon, or a Sony or a something else. It could come with interchangeable lenses. It might be a what’s called a “cropped sensor,” “full-frame” or maybe it’s a high-end mirrorless. Maybe you don’t know, and maybe you don’t care. You’ve read some of the instructions, and you’ve watched a few YouTube videos. You’ve got a few hundred to a few thousand dollar’s worth of camera in your hands, and you haven’t managed to move that little dial on the top off of “A” yet.
By “A” I mean you’re still shooting in Automatic. Everything you’ve read and watched says you should be shooting in “M”, the Manual mode. I mean, the tutorials say you’re not a real photographer if you’re shooting in Automatic, right? You want to shoot in Manual mode, or maybe one of those other complicated modes (“T” and “S” or whatever your model calls them, but its’ all so complicated, your life is busy, and you really don’t have the time to learn. You just want to take good photos. Many of the blogs, articles, photography denigrate the Automatic mode, and relegate to a place of shame. Take a deep breath and relax, and embrace the “A”, at least for now.
Automatic mode takes care of the hard parts of being a photographer. The computer built inside your camera takes care of everything except pushing the button. Details change slightly from camera model to model, but in Automatic your camera handles focal point and the light triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO). Your expensive, high-tech camera becomes a glorified “point and shoot”.
And that’s a good thing, because you paid for it. It’s okay to spend some time in Automatic before you move on to your camera’s more complex capabilities. There are two critical elements you should learn and become comfortable with before moving off of Automatic to the other modes: Subject and Composition.
Subject is what or who you are photographing, and how you are trying to use the subject to elicit a reaction from the viewer. In my opinion, subject is the most important way to connect with the viewer. For example, if you are taking photos of your kids, then your kids are the subject. They elicit the reaction. Subject can immediately draw someone into your photograph, or turn them away. Powerful subjects can overcome poor composition, but usually subject and composition are woven together into a whole. Here’s a YouTube video on selecting subjects for photography. It also delves a little into composition.
Composition is simply how you frame and set up your shot to draw attention to the subject. Its where and how you place your subject in the scene. Once again, there are plenty of free tutorials online that teach composition. You’ll learn tried and true techniques like “golden ratio” and “rule of thirds” that help you set up your shot. Here’s a YouTube video talking about composition.
That’s the great thing about Subject and Composition, You can learn much about them without ever moving your camera dial off Automatic. Understand and get comfortable with these concepts early on and you’ll find the more technical aspects of photography less intimidating. You can also practice Subject and Composition with your camera phone. When you get comfortable The next step in your photographic journey will be lighting. To understand that aspects, you’ll have to move the dial off “A”.
We’ll tackle that step next Friday.
#photography #tips #photographytips #photo #cameras #canon #nikon #creativeauto #cameratutorials
Okay, the book debut is behind me. It's time to get seriously rolling on the next novel. It's also time to come up with a blogging strategy.
I really don't want to neglect this blog again. I'm kind of enjoying it. So I've come up with a strategy. Let's just hope I can stick with it.
Mondays will be blogging about book updates and anything else except photography. Fridays will be blogging about photography, or displaying something from my gallery. I'm going to try to post early in the morning before I leave for work. That way there is a predictable schedule for readers. This gives me a structure to work with. Let's see how long I can stick with it.
Mondays and Fridays...that's the plan. I'll keep this one short and see ya Friday.
It's 4:39 a.m. on book release day for "The Bastard Gods." I made a cup of coffee, turned on Spotify with Sammy Hagar's "Eagles Fly" blasting in my head phones and sat down to kick off the next chapter in a personal journey that started a decade ago. It's a great morning.
Almost seven years in the making, "The Bastard Gods" is finally on sale! I dedicated this one to the readers who stuck with me. I hope this latest chapter in The Chronicles of Fu Xi meets your expectations. I'd also like to thank my editor, Keri Karandrakis, as well as Michael G. Manning for recommending her to me.
Why did it take so long? This was the most difficult book I've ever written, and the easiest. Getting the massive plot turned in the direction I wanted was difficult. The characters, however, helped whenever they could by writing themselves. It's a long book, and a complicated plot, but that's not the only reason this took almost seven years. Writing two other books in the meantime, and producing an audiobook, didn't help. Along the way, I also got bit by the photography bug (Big Time). Photography distractions probably added about two years to the endeavor. Mostly, though, I got discouraged. (also Big Time.)
Getting discouraged is as common for indie writers, or maybe even all writers. There were a few times I almost quit and decided not to finish the series. It just wasn't one thing that dragged me back to finishing it, but several:
First, I wanted to be a positive example for my kids. I taught them to start what you finish, and do the best job you can. My oldest is entering a career in the creative arts, and I'm sure he is going to get discouraged from time to time, too. Ryan, I won't quit, so you don't either!
Next, sheer stubbornness. I pitched the series to a big-time editor in 2011. She shook her head and said, "Too ambitious for a new writer. You probably won't finish." Three down, one to go, lady. You were wrong.
Also, there is a wonderful reader who kept sending me really cool t-shirts. I didn't want to let her down, either. Thank you, Helen.I still have them all.
Finally, who am I kidding? I'm not a quitter. I was going to finish this book no matter what, just like I'm going to finish the next one.
What can I tell you about this novel? It's bigger and grander than the first two in the series. "The Bastard Gods" has more action than the previous books. It honors the world's great legends and myths, with just enough actual history thrown in to make it unique. And it is unique. You will find nothing like it on the book shelves. It is my sincerest hope you give it a try.
If you haven't experienced my epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Fu Xi, it's a great time to pick it up. This week I'm running a promotion where the first two novels are free on eBook. Just click on the hyperlinks and download them to your device.
Once again, thanks to all the readers who stuck it out during the long drought. This one is for you.
SEMIFINALIST, 2013 KINDLE BOOK REVIEWS SCI-FI/FANTASY BOOK OF THE YEAR!
The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. The demigod, Fu Xi, races home from the edge of the world bringing news of a looming god war, but finds his land under attack by monsters he once called his children. He discovers a terrible curse has been cast, one intended to destroy the gods and all life. To his shock, Fu Xi learns that mankind's last hope rests solely on him, a simple fisherman, and a banished slave girl.Beset on all sides by ancient foes, both immortal and mundane, Fu Xi knows he must act quickly and races west to rescue the saviors. Unaware of the real doom that awaits, Aizarg the fisherman and his party begin a perilous journey across a dangerous steppe. They seek the last of the Narim, the legendary Black Sea Gods, who hold the key to their salvation. Leading them is the rescued slave girl Sarah, the only one among them who knows the path to the land of the god-men.Over seven days, the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true objective and origin remain a mystery. Fu Xi knows the secret to victory resides in the fisherman and the slave girl, whose lives he must protect, even if it means the rest of the world must perish!
THE LONG AWAITED SEQUEL TO BLACK SEA GODS!
The Curse of the Nameless God ravages the world, laying waste to man and beast. Desperate to flee the worsening cataclysm, Aizarg and his people escape to sea aboard a flotilla of rafts and fishing boats. Short on supplies and facing starvation, the Lo must not only survive epic storms and tsunamis, but ravenous demons lurking in the deep. Aizarg’s wife, Atamoda, knows that more than wind, waves and demons seek her people’s demise. A cancer festers aboard the flotilla, one Aizarg does not see. Under the cloak of darkness, whispers and conspiracies spread from raft to raft as hunger burns in their bellies. A treacherous plot poisons the hearts and minds of the gentle Lo. Atamoda and Aizarg struggle to keep their people together, even as an unseen enemy seeks to divide the Lo, and drive a wedge between Atamoda and her husband.Far to the east, the demigod Fu Xi races to reach the Roof of the World before the cataclysm claims him and his beloved horse, Heise. Along the way he discovers that a terrible power relentlessly stalks him - the dreaded god war has begun. Fu Xi’s immortality will be severely tested as he fights to not only to survive, but to fulfill his quest to find the mysterious white haired man and save his people. At the end of the world, demigod and mortal fight for survival, pawns to higher powers battling for world domination. In order to save all they love, they must find one another before it’s too late.
THE END OF THE WORLD IS OVER. THE BATTLE FOR A NEW AGE HAS BEGUN.
Two demigods roam a shattered world, one driven by conquest, the other on a mission of salvation. Caught in between are humanity’s last survivors. From the south marches Leviathan and his army of cannibal warriors. After surviving the Cataclysm and a voyage across the world, the son of Poseidon is bent on establishing a new “Empire of the Gods.” The slave Amiran is locked in a desperate battle of wits to stop Leviathan. He struggles not only to mask his conspiracies from the demigod, but to hide his feelings for the mysterious, and beautiful woman who recently washed ashore.
From the east rides Fu Xi, son of the Goddess Nuwa. He must find the Man with White Hair before Leviathan does. He also searches for the half-brother he has never known. Along the way Fu Xi unexpectedly finds a survivor, a beautiful woman that could lead him to everything he seeks…if he can keep her alive.
To the west Aizarg’s bedraggled people make landfall, but at a terrible cost. Now the Lo must make their way through perilous mountains, desperately trying to find a promised land. Aizarg must keep his people alive and united, as forces without and within seek their demise.
Demigods and mortals are on a collision course, but both are unaware of an ancient and dangerous force in their path, one that could change the fortunes of both men and gods.
By this time tomorrow you will be able to purchase a copy of "The Bastard Gods", the third installment in "The Chronicles of Fu Xi' epic fantasy series. You'll also be able to download the first two books in the series for free starting Monday and running for five days.
I hope it hasn't been too long between books. I fear many readers have drifted away in the past six years. I hope this new installment rekindles interest in the series. I probably could have done more marketing and publicity to push the debut. I could have lined early reviews, solicited some professional reviews, or paid for online advertising. It's all irrelevant now. The die is cast. "The Bastard Gods" is what it is, and will be read by whom it is read by.
I scanned "The Bastard Gods", looking for one more teaser to show you on the eve of the novel's release. I think I've shown about all I can without spoilers. Instead, I'd like to leave you with an excerpt from the series' second installment, "Tears of the Dead." I think this scene truly sets the table for what "The Bastard Gods" has to offer.
This scene in "Tears of the Dead" offers a glimpse at the immensity and epic scope I tried to create in my latest novel. "Black Sea Gods" started the series with an intimate story of an isolated, primitive tribe thrust into a much larger world. "Tears of the Dead" pushed that world's boundaries far wider. Now, "The Bastard Gods" brings that enormous world of gods and empires crashing down upon the Lo.
Enjoy, and I hope to see you tomorrow for the "The Bastard Gods" debut.
26. The Kingdom of the Mind (Excerpt from "The Chronicles of Fu Xi, Book II: The Tears of the Dead")
The sultry morning breeze woke me from my wine-fueled slumber. The sea breeze carried the promise of rain, and the faint pounding from the distant quarry. The wind became a messenger for my conscious. I stared at the gilded ceiling, trying to ignore its call.
Two slave girls shared my bed, one ebony, the other as pale as the gossamer curtains dancing over my window. They snuggled close to me as I lightly caressed their brands, wondering how much pain they had felt under the iron’s kiss. Then a familiar, smoky scent tickled my nose. Across the room someone cleared his throat.
I craned up to see Amiran standing patiently beside the door.
“I bid you good morning, Lord Fu Xi. I am here to ensure your needs are met in Lord Leviathan’s absence.”
“My needs?” I considered the two girls, one under each arm. “I think my needs are already taken care of.”
Amiran clapped twice and barked, “Be gone!”
The girls slid from my bed without so much as a pout or a glance backward. No blessing asked, none given. Last night’s pleasure forgotten, diminished.
Amiran stared at me with that same penetrating gaze.
“Give me your thoughts, Scholar. I’ve suffered that damnable look on your face more than once since my arrival. Why do you disturb me?”
Amiran grinned and bowed slightly. “It isn’t my intention to be disrespectful; it is only that you are so different from the Princes of Poseidon.” Amiran caught himself as if he’d been speaking out of turn. “Would you care to join me for breakfast?”
Eager for the food and conversation, I quickly donned the garment they called a toga, relishing its comfort and simplicity. Following Amiran through the palace, I realized he’d been speaking in my native tongue.
“You’re speaking Cin in my own dialect.”
“Does it please you, Lord? I’ve been practicing. Your language is exquisite.”
“Do you attempt to ingratiate yourself?”
His backbone stiffened. “I do not ingratiate.”
I realized I’d insulted him. “I did not mean to offend.”
His demeanor softened. Grinning wide, he rubbed his round belly. “No offense, Lord Fu Xi, only hunger. We will dine in the library.” The contrast between his white teeth and black skin gave the impression his smile might swallow his face if it grew any wider.
Plump, with delicate hands like a woman’s, yet possessing iron’s glint in his eyes, Amiran presented a quandary. Neither king nor vassal, how do I classify this slave who spoke like a god?
“What is a ‘library’?” I asked as I followed. I’d yet to hear Leviathan or Quexil speak of this place.
He spoke over his shoulder. “Perhaps we should stop in the rotunda first?”
Like Mother, he answered questions with questions.
“You irritate me,” I said bluntly. “You speak in a free manner with both me and Lord Leviathan. No other mortal I’ve encountered here does this, even Quexil.”
“I overheard you tell Lord Leviathan you often live among mortals as one of them, teaching them. Why, then, Lord Fu Xi, would my manner irritate you?”
I held my tongue, realizing all in Nushen spoke to me with easy familiarity. Why, then, did it disturb me now?
We entered the rotunda, where Poseidon’s statue greeted all who entered Leviathan’s palace.
“The Caste of Scholars enjoys special privileges bestowed by our master, The Glorious God Poseidon. Collectors of the world’s knowledge, we are slaves to the truth, and the truth must never be afraid to speak.”
“Why are you here, serving Leviathan?”
“As Expedition Scholar during the exploration of Asu, which you know as Cin.”
Amiran motioned to the floor where I stood, with its intricate, if puzzling, tile patterns. “Do you know what this is, Lord Fu Xi?”
I shook my head. “I’ve passed it by many times, but there are still many questions I have yet to ask. Leviathan has kept me occupied with sword and horse.”
Amiran grinned and winked. “Yes, I see. It’s a wonder you find time for wine and women.”
“You aren’t afraid to speak, are you?” I warmed to this odd, fearless man. I never saw this side of Amiran during my tutelage following my arrival. But then again, Quexil wasn’t here.
He circled the outside of the tile pattern, never stepping inside the black inlaid border. “Your right foot treads the western coast of the continent we call Olma Major.” He pointed. “Your toe touches a star, which represents the Imperial Colony of Nazcu. Your left foot rests in the Ocean Gadeirus, named for Leviathan’s half-brother and Ruler of Olma Major.”
I knelt down, touching the tiles, unsure exactly what Amiran meant.
“To your left, across the Ocean Gadeirus, is Wu, that tiny crescent off the coast of the Continent Asu, what we call the New World. To your right lies the continent of Olma Minor. Farther right, the Ocean Atlas, and then the continents of Alkebulan and Ereb.”
Then it all formed in my mind, an overwhelming truth. I reeled under its power.
“This is the world, Lord Fu Xi.”
- The Chronicle of Fu Xi
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