Tribute to My New Favorite Song

I’ve been writing a lot on my novel-in-progress, but sometimes I get an idea in my head that won’t go away until I let it out in a creative manner. So I took a break from my writing long enough to do some art that I just had to do. I’ve been listening a lot to the latest album from Meg Myers, and one of the songs on the album is called Lemon Eyes. I saw on Twitter an image of Meg Myers with lemons placed over her eyes, produced apparently by some app. I don’t go much for that kind of app, but my mind got going about creating an image in DAZ Studio where a person has lemons, not over their eyes, but in their eyes, so that they actually had lemon eyes. Continue reading Tribute to My New Favorite Song

Role-Playing and Writing: the Storytelling Intersection

Hello, friends. This time, we have a guest post from Coyote Kishpaugh, co-author of The Order of the Four Sons series. He will tell us about the connection between role-playing games and writing fiction. As I mentioned last time, when his co-author, Lauren Scharhag, graced us with her guest post on creating fantasy worlds, I received an advance review copy of the first book of the O4S series (book one is out now as of this writing), and I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy or horror or other forms of speculative fiction. It also has a touch of science fiction, crime and history. I’m looking forward to further journeys in this universe they have jointly created, which has many similarities to our own, but tons of differences too. I hope you’ll give the series a try. Links to book one are in Lauren’s guest post, the link to which is at the bottom of this post.

Before we hear from Coyote about his experience with rpgs and fiction writing, let’s get to know him a bit. I asked him and Lauren both the same set of questions, and they agreed to answer them without consulting each other about their answers. Fun, fun, right? Coyote’s answers are below. A link to Lauren’s answers and her guest post are at the end of this post, so you can easily compare to see how close their answers are. Continue reading Role-Playing and Writing: the Storytelling Intersection

Home Sweet Universe

Today’s guest post comes to us from Lauren Scharhag, co-author of Order of the Four Sons, Book 1. Much of the story takes place in Excelsior Springs, MO, not far from where I grew up, and near where some of my family still live and work. I received an advance review copy of the book (it’s out now as of this writing), and highly recommend it to all lovers of speculative fiction. It has touches of science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime and history, all wrapped up in one little package. It’s the first book of a series, and I’m looking forward to book 2 and further journeys in a universe not quite ours.

By way of introduction to Lauren and the O4S universe, I’ve asked her a few questions and posted her answers below. Following the interview is her guest post on creating believable settings for fantasy worlds and the universes they inhabit. Continue reading Home Sweet Universe

My Trouble With a Single Viewpoint Character

I’ve been working on my debut fantasy novel for too long. This will be my seventh and last draft. There will be beta reading and editing, but I’m never writing this thing from scratch again. Seven drafts are enough, even if a couple of them were not complete.

I’ve written 40,000 words on this latest draft. That’s half what the experts recommend for a first novel. But I’m only a quarter of the way through the story. So my novel will be twice the length the experts recommend, unless I cut a lot, and even then, what remains will exceed 80,000 words. It will be what it is, and I won’t cut so much the story suffers for it, regardless. I plan to self publish this sucker, so it’s not like I have to adhere to someone else’s ideas of what’s best.

I’d thought about breaking the book into two or three books, but some people don’t like reading a book, even one that’s part of a series, that can’t stand on its own. I’m not that way, as long as all the books in the series are available to me. If I can’t find one or if the author stops writing the series partway through, then that irks me. With that in mind, I think it best to make this novel a standalone story, even if it’s 120,000 to 160,000 words. I intend this to be the first book in a series, but I want it to be a complete story in itself.

The previous draft of the story was meant to be the one I’d edit for publication. But after it went to beta readers, I discovered they all agreed on one thing: Alonso, the male human protagonist, was not a good viewpoint character. I’d been shooting for an antihero, and that’s what I produced. He was just such an antihero that the readers couldn’t relate to him or, worse yet, root for him.

The problem I face with not using Alonso as the point-of-view character is that he’s so central to the story, whatever viewpoint character(s) I use need to know about Alonso and be able to observe his actions in so many different venues. To sufficiently cover all significant aspects of his tale, I determined that I needed three viewpoint characters: Ngozi, the shadow elf woman married to Alonso; Locket, a nearly-twenty-year-old dream walking human gal who’s been told to spy on Alonso in his dreams to help facilitate his death; and Gabriel, a teen-aged human girl with a secret or two and a grudge against Alonso from her previous life as a jackal. The tale will be told without either the protagonist or antagonist being used as a viewpoint character. Other authors have pulled off this type of story. The tales of Sherlock Holmes comes to mind, those narrated by Dr. Watson.

I’m staggering the chapters, writing one from one character’s viewpoint, the next from the second character’s viewpoint, and the next from the third character’s viewpoint. Repeat to the end. I like this approach in that it gives the reader information from different perspectives, and the reader comes to understand all that’s going on before any of the individual characters. I think this helps with the suspense, because it’s questionable whether each character will discover what they need to know in time to save themselves and those they love. Before, with only Alonso as viewpoint character, it was unclear exactly what the threat was against him — or if there was any threat — until late in the story. Without knowledge of the threat, it was difficult to root for Alonso, especially with his being such an antihero. The way the story is written now, the reader will have other characters to root for, and whether they root for Alonso or not won’t matter much.

It will now be clear to the reader from the outset that someone wants Alonso dead and for him to endure a lot of physical and emotional pain in the dying. Not all of the characters, especially Alonso and Ngozi, will know this. The reader will understand why Alonso is being treated so nicely by certain people he interacts with, whereas the beta readers of the previous draft had confessed to wondering at Alonso’s great luck in certain situations. One beta reader had even admitted to feeling a bit jealous of Alonso’s luck. That shouldn’t be the case now.

Initially I’d thought that using a single viewpoint character would be the only way I’d want to tell this story. The reader could delve deep into one character’s psyche and get to know the character well. That’s cool if the character has a psyche you want to visit for an entire novel. Alonso wasn’t like that. All of the three viewpoint characters I’m using now are likable in their own ways and more likable than Alonso. Gabriel was singled out by one of the beta readers as a favorite character. Another beta reader singled out Ngozi. Locket is one of my personal favorite characters from the story, and is suitable in the role of main character. So there you have it. Three viewpoint characters.

In writing the story from these different viewpoints, I’m finding the need to fill in some details that I hadn’t bothered with before, partly because Alonso had paid them no mind. I’m also finding that using these characters is invoking a better understanding in me of events that before had transpired in the background, but which now make sense to flesh out to further the stories of the viewpoint characters. There are times while writing this new material when I feel a flush of excitement as I realize that I am coming to understand these characters better and loving the cool new stuff I get to write because I’m using their viewpoints. There is a whole side to Gabriel that never came out in previous drafts, because Alonso wasn’t privy to it. This secret aspect of her had colored how she acted in those previous drafts, and I think it was because of this that a beta reader liked her the best, even though he didn’t know her complete backstory.

When will I be done writing this book? I think I’ll finish writing this last draft by the end of 2015. But the beta reading and editing will go into 2016. So I’m setting a goal of mid-2016 to publish. I will have to stay focused, which is difficult at times. I’m easily distracted by the lure of doing something new.

I love receiving words of encouragment from others. They really help motivate me. Got any such words for me?

Eposic Pre-Made Book Covers

When I first acquired the free DAZ Studio scene editing and image rendering program, it sat on my computer hard drive for a few months. The program was free, so I grabbed it when I learned of it, but then it just sat there, waiting patiently for me to give it some attention. I’d used Poser and Bryce in the past and had fun with them, and guessed that using DAZ Studio would be a similarly enjoyable experience. I didn’t realize how much more I’d enjoy it.

The time came when I needed a distraction from writing on my novel. Working on a novel can sap my creativity. Such a long project leaves my muse feeling antsy, ready to do something different. Creating artwork, snapshots of a moment in time, satisfies my muse’s desire for variety, since I can finish a single image in a matter of days, as opposed to months or years.

One form of artwork of interest to me as an aspiring author is book cover illustration. So I’ve turned some of my creative energies in that direction. I’ve turned out about twenty covers so far. Since my primary interests are in speculative fiction genres, most of my covers were created in that vein. But a few of my covers are intended for other genres.

Here are thumbnails of a couple of the covers I’ve done.

Skeleton Army thumbnail

Cleric and Snow Dragon thumbnail

As you can see, the covers have sample titles and bylines, to give an idea of what the cover will look like with a real title and byline in place. The site provides a tool for authors to place up to four lines of text on covers licensed through the site. Or you can add text in your own image editing program.

The licenses acquired through are exclusive licenses. When an author licenses one of these book covers, that cover is removed from the list of available covers. The artist retains the right to display their artwork as samples of what they’ve done, such as in an online portfolio, but no one else will have any rights to use the artwork as cover art. Visit the site for full license details. All covers on the site are priced at $69 or higher. They can run as high as the artist wants to price them, but all of mine are priced between $69 and $99.

Please visit the Eposic Book Cover Gallery on to see my work to date. Even if you’re not in the market for a book cover, you might like seeing what I’ve done.

Thousands of covers are posted by hundreds of artists selling their work through the site. While my covers are all original works, most of the covers available on the site are created by combining two or more images from stock art sites. Many genres are covered. If you’re an indie author, no matter what genre you write for, you might just find the perfect cover for your next novel on the site, priced to keep you under budget.

If you like my style but don’t see what you want for sale in my book cover gallery, please let me know what you’re interested in. As I’ve said before, I don’t do commissioned work, but if I know your interests, my muse may find it amusing to head in that direction.

Eposic Character Art Pack Vol. 2

I’ve published Eposic Character Art Pack Volume 2 on DriveThruRPG. Like Volume 1, this art pack is royalty-free and Pay-What-You-Want, which includes the low, low price of absolutely nothing. Of course, I do appreciate any monetary support you wish to give, but even more I appreciate your moral support. If you like what I do, please leave a comment here or a review on the product page. Or share with your self-publisher or gamer friends.

a fantasy rogue characterThis guy is just one of the six characters in the art pack. He’s three times bigger than this in the pack.

I don’t do commissioned work, but if there is something in particular you’d like to see as either character art or another form of illustration you think I might do well, please leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

Eposic Character Art Now Available on DriveThruRPG

If you’re an individual or self-publisher who could use a bit of royalty-free fantasy character art, check out the Eposic store on DriveThruRPG. I’ve put up a couple of art packs at a price anyone can afford: Pay What You Want. Even if you’re just curious, you can grab it for free if you like. Decorate your web site with it, put it on a roleplaying game character sheet, use it in your self-pubbed fiction or game books.

Sample image from the Dark Jasmine art pack:

Dark Jasmine sample art

There are two art packs available now. Grab them both at the Eposic store on DriveThruRPG.

The New Genesis 3 Female Figure for DAZ Studio

The fine folks at DAZ have released the new Genesis 3 Female (G3F) figure for their DAZ Studio product. Not only is the DAZ Studio product available for free download, but so is the G3F figure. Of course, you only get so much for free. With the free stuff, what can you do? You can somewhat vary the figure’s body type, height, weight and various other metrics, such as breast, waist and hip circumference. You can pose the figure, either by using some of the provided free poses or by manual adjustments. You can dress the figure with a limited set of free attire, most of which can be seen in my render below. You also get a skimpy outfit for free. The outfits come with a good variety of textures. You get one free hairstyle, and it comes with a wide variety of hair colors. There are a few options for eyes and makeup.

If you know how to model clothing, hair, morphs, poses, etc., then maybe you won’t have to buy much to support the G3F figure. But most people will want to buy more of all those things. To me, poses are the least necessary of the bunch, since DAZ Studio gives you lots of options for posing figures manually. The professional quality poses are a lot more easily applied, but even they don’t always give you exactly what you want, and you end up tweaking them anyway.

If you want to be able to give your G3F figure some expressions or reshape the body, you’ll want more morphs than you get for free. Then there’s always room for more hair and more clothes. You can never have enough hair and clothing styles.

For my first G3F render, I set the figure to 5 feet 6 inches tall, with measurements of 34/24/34. I used one of the provided poses to get close to what I ended up with, as I did make some tweaks so as to put G3F’s feet both on the uneven ground. Everything else you see in the image dealing with the figure was from the free G3F download. The background and sky did not come with G3F, so don’t go looking for them in the G3F set of free stuff.

The image below took 37 minutes to render to the stage where you see it here, using the Iray rendering engine. When I stopped it, the image was only 33% “converged,” which means it could have run for another hour or so before it would have been “finished.” With Iray, you can interrupt the render at any time and take it as it is at that moment. I don’t know how much improvement I might have seen if I let it run another hour, but I didn’t have the time to do that. I have other projects I’m supposed to be working on. :)

The render below is shown at medium size here on the post page. Click the image to see it at the full size at which I rendered it.

My First Render Using the New Genesis 3 Female Figure
My First Render Using the New Genesis 3 Female Figure

Tell me what you think.

Superhero Rule Number 1

What’s the #1 rule of being a superhero?

I created a graphic for it, to help all you superheroes-in-training out there remember this most important rule. The consequences of forgetting it can be devastating, not only to you but to anyone with significance in your life.

Print out this image. Post it on your closet door. Whenever you put on your costume, this image will help you remember to always put on your mask too. Or to take off your glasses, if that’s the disguise you’re going with. Continue reading Superhero Rule Number 1

No Looking Back – A New Contra Dance

I’m into contra dancing. I’m also a mathematician by training. I’m intrigued by the multitude of permutations possible in a contra dance composition. Many contra dances have been written to date, making it necessary for composers of new contra dances to seek increasingly creative ways of combining the different contra dance moves into a danceable routine. I read that one composer thought that all the danceable contra dances had already been written. When you start thinking about writing a new contra dance, it can certainly feel impossible to come up with something uniquely yours. Continue reading No Looking Back – A New Contra Dance