Saturday, August 10, 2013

Maps!! -- Anne McAllister

Back in June I took a course from Google that introduced me to their new Google Maps versions. It also had a week of Google Earth instruction along with it.

mapsI didn’t know what to expect because while I’ve taken online courses before, I’ve never taken a Google course. It’s the first one I’d ever heard of.  But I love maps – I use them in my writing so I make sure my characters do not drive north on southbound one-way streets, and that roads that I think go somewhere actually go there and not some place else.

I use them for my family history research, too. Old maps are great for seeing how boundaries change, what towns were significant in a particular era, where the rivers are and how one might get somewhere if the roads then were not at all like the roads now. Of if, in fact, there are any roads at all!

The Google Maps course was interesting because I got to play with making a Google Map of anything I wanted – and putting various items on it (again, anything I wanted to highlight) and then deciding what sort of layout it would be – terrain, or satellite or political or several other types.  Then I got to upload it to the Google Maps forum in case anyone wanted to see what I’d done or actually USE my map.

Since then I’ve been making a map of the parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn where my current book is set. I’m highlighting all the places that are significant in the story, making sure I’ve got things right. It’s been an interesting experience.  I’m already looking forward to doing it for my next book.

google-earth courseBut even better than the Google Maps week was the Google Earth week. We got to learn a variety of ways to use the program, then we were turned loose to create a ‘tour’ of something we wanted to illustrate using Google Earth.

Because I couldn’t, at that point, figure out all the places my hero and heroine were going, I made a tour of the migration of one of my third great-grandfathers. I took him from his birthplace in South Carolina to a marriage in Georgia (illustrated with a flattened courthouse – not my finest hour!), to the river on which he settle in Alabama, to a second marriage there, and eventually to the ranch on which he lived out his final days in Texas.

Johnson TX 1862It was an amateurish effort, and yet it taught me a great deal about how to use the program, how I might be able to make my books clearer to me (and possibly, eventually, to my readers) and I came away feeling I had been both challenged and rewarded by the experience. We had to upload our ‘tours’ for comments and perusal, too.  So even though it was pretty lame, I had to put forth a real effort. 

I’m glad I did.  I have a hero who’s interested in mapmaking lurking in my future. And I have a whole lot of books I would like to put on a map. Sort of “Anne McAllister’s world.”  Talk about a great way to waste, er, spend time!

Have you taken a Google course?  If there have been others (I don’t know any), I’d like to hear, and if you know of any, please let me know.  If you have any good mapmaking software ideas, I wouldn’t mind hearing those, either.  What do you think of online courses in general? I like them – more and more each time I take one. Do you?


1) Lower Manhattan, NYC: Google maps, 2013

2) Google Earth: Google 2013

3) Texas, 1862. Alvin Jewett Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Lisa W said...

I never heard of Google courses before but I wouldn't mind taking their map course, it sounds quite interesting. I haven't taken any online courses but my daughter just finished an online english course for high school and she enjoyed it.
I think it's great that you're doing maps for your books. I'm a visual person and I like it when authors have family trees (especially for series) and maps for their books. It helps to keep everything straight in my mind and makes it easier to visualize scenes.

Anne McAllister said...

I agree, Lisa. While I'm more auditory than visual in many things, I like situating myself -- and my characters -- and Google Maps and Google Earth have made that a real possibility. So have other map collections like the one by David Rumsey (google his name and 'maps' or the Castenada Map Collection in Texas. They are all amazing.

Try googling "Google Map Course" and see if they are offering it again. I learned about it reading a blog by a Canadian family history researcher. I haven't heard of any more, but it was really worth taking.

Glad your daughter enjoyed her course. I've taken quite a few courses in Sociology, History and Archaeology. Loved them all.

Anne McAllister said...
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