Fake Book Cover Art – Mean Streak Leo

I’m overdue on posting to my blog. To remedy that, I’m posting my latest “fake” book cover art rendered in DAZ Studio. This is cover art for a book that doesn’t exist. I’m practicing for when I want to do the covers for my own novels, which are still in progress, btw.

For this project, I rendered an image of Leo 7 HD’s head against a night-time cityscape backdrop and a black background. I wanted Leo to have a tattoo around his eye, and I created the 2D version of the tatto in my 2D photo editing program. The trick then was getting it to onto Leo 7 HD’s head in DAZ Studio.

If you use DAZ Studio to do 3D renders, you probably know about the LIE Image Editor. It’s useful for layering your own images on top of the normal images used in materials applied to surfaces. An example usage is to overlay a tattoo image on the skin of a figure. I’ve done it before, but ran into a problem this time.

There are several properties for a material in DAZ, and it’s usually the “Diffuse Color” property that I’d edit with the LIE Image Editor to drop in my tatto image. But with the Leo 7 HD figure, the “Diffuse Color” property isn’t used in the material for his face skin. Instead, it had a “Base Color” property. Problem with that is the “Base Color” property doesn’t have an image assigned to it. There was nothing for me to layer my tattoo image onto.

So I assigned to the “Base Color” property the same image that was assigned to the “Translucency Color” property, and set the associated color value to pink. This turned out to look decently well imo. Once I’d done that, I had an image to lay my tattoo image over. Opening up the LIE Image Editor for the “Base Color” property, I loaded my tattoo image, and scaled and positioned it until I was happy. Perhaps I could have used the LIE Image Editor on the “Translucency Color” property instead of the “Base Color,” but that’s an experiment for another day.

After the render, it was time for postwork. I typically don’t do much postwork to images rendered in DAZ Studio. The exception is in adding text, since I have more fonts available in my 2D photo editing tool than in DAZ Studio. Other exceptions are rare but do happen. For instance, I wanted the skin tone in this image to be just a tad darker than it had rendered in DAZ. But I didn’t want to take the 40 minutes it would require to render the image again after tweaking the scene in an attempt to get the desired darker tone, especially as there is no guarantee I’ll get what I want no matter how many tweaks I make in DAZ Studio.

So I did the little trick of creating two layers with the same image in them, then combining them in the desired way. If I want light areas in the image to pop out more, I screen the image with itself, usually at about 40% to 80% opacity on the screen layer. If I want a darker tone, I use the “burn” effect on the top image layer, with an opacity setting usually in the range of 10% to 80%. For this image, I used the burn effect in the top layer and have it set at 10% opacity, so the overall effect on the image is subtle. The first image below is the one with the burn layer. The second image (the one where I used some white text) doesn’t have the burn layer, so it shows the original skin tone as rendered by DAZ Studio. Do you notice any difference between the two images other than the text color?

If you’re a self-publishing author looking for book cover art and you like my style, leave a comment below if you’d like to discuss the possibility of my providing exclusive, unique book cover art for you at a low, low price.

Silent Night, Disco Style – An Animation Using DAZ Studio

I’ve been working on some animation projects using DAZ Studio. It’s slow going. Little things that might be fixed in post work can be greatly problematic when you have a multitude of frames involved.

Anyway, I took the time to throw together a quick little holiday animation. I’ve included text in the video that explains some of what I did to create the video. The video looked to have lost some quality during the upload to YouTube, but it is what it is. Maybe you’ll find it interesting. Regardless, I’ve learned a bit more about animation in DAZ Studio from this project, so some good has come from it.

This video is, in my opinion, best viewed at full screen size.

Wishing all my visitors a Happy New Year!

My Musical Favorites for 2015

I heart music. Some of it anyway. I also heart top ten lists. It started when I was a kid listening to Casey Kasem and his top 40 radio show. I made up my own lists even back then. More recently, I had a music blog for a while, but maintaining two blogs wasn’t for me. Here at year’s end, I’ve a craving for doing a list of favorites and so I’m posting it here. I think maybe by now anyone who frequents my blog knows I’m all over the board with my posts, so this shouldn’t be such a big surprise for them.

The tracks I play on my computer are tallied on Last.fm. I listen to music played on other devices as well, the counts of which are not tallied. The year-end results listed on my Last.fm account might not be completely accurate, but they are representative. So I’ll use them to scientifically present my most played musical artists, albums, and tracks for 2015.

Those familiar with my music tastes know that for contemporary music, I’ve come to prefer female vocalists. That’s not the case when I listen to oldies, and I definitely listen to the oldies on occasion. The music I played in 2015 was contemporary for the most part, so you can expect the top artists listed below to be female.

I’m embedding some videos below. They aren’t necessarily of my favorite tracks by the artists, but they are official videos released by the artists or their labels. They also aren’t all from 2015, which to me is okay because during 2015 I didn’t only listen to music released in 2015. Continue reading “My Musical Favorites for 2015”

Judging a Book by Its Cover – 17 Typical Features of Fantasy Covers

I’ve been thinking about book cover art for fantasy novels a good deal lately. So I found this analysis of fantasy cover art trends written by Nicola Alter of particular interest.

Read the post: Judging a Book by Its Cover – 17 Typical Features of Fantasy Covers.

Or read about my muck-up:

I tried to reblog the post of the above name written by Nicola Alter on her Thoughts on Fantasy site. I don’t know why it didn’t work. I haven’t reblogged any other posts before, so didn’t know exactly how it worked. I suspect I had a problem because I hadn’t logged into my site before I tried to do the reblog from her site. Seems like WordPress would have asked me to login if necessary when I clicked the Reblog button, but it didn’t. And clicking the Reblog button again had no effect. So I messed up. Next time I try to reblog something, I hope I remember this experience and will login to my site first. Maybe it will work then.

If you’ve read my little blurb here, I appreciate it, but now, if you’re interested in the topic listed in the title of this post, please jump over to Nicola’s site. You can tell her I sent you.

UPDATE: I managed to get the link on Nicola’s site to my so-called reblog of her post to point to this page, by making the title match and backdating this post to the day I tried to reblog. Go, me! 🙂

A Holiday Message From Eposic (and Zombie Claus)

Zombie Claus

You must be able to play animated GIFs to see the full message above. If you can’t play animated GIFs, then you can see a still image of the message.

Happy Holidays 2015 from Eposic and Zombie Claus!

Kari Dance – Animation With DAZ Studio

DAZ Studio enables artists to create animations as well as still images. I’ve been experimenting with seamlessly looping animations for a while, and wanted to share my latest effort. I call it “Kari Dance.” The image below is a 225×225 animated GIF file consisting of 120 frames. It is 2.16 MB in size.

Kari Dance - 225x225 Animated GIF

When I rendered the image, I rendered it at a size of 900×900. The size of that image file is 27.6 MB. It took four hours to render. I could have let it run longer, but the increase in quality would have been marginal.

A 450×450 version of the image can be seen on Deviant Art. It is 7.49 MB and available from Deviant Art as a free download.

If you have some DAZ Studio experience and are interested in some of my animation techniques, I’ve written a tutorial. An animated GIF is good for advertising, as it is eye-catching and will still play in browsers that block Flash Player animations. If you’re going to make an animated GIF, you might as well make it seamlessly looping. Personally, I don’t care for those GIFs that make a sudden jump from the end back to the beginning. A seamlessly looping animation doesn’t have that sudden jump.

The tutorial is available in PDF on Deviant Art to Deviant Art members for 290 DA points (roughly US $3.63). Included are all three versions of the image mentioned above.

The tutorial and example GIFs are also available for US $3.50 on DriveThru RPG, for those of my friends who frequent that site more often and might be interested in the tutorial.

If you read it, I’d be interested in your feedback, either here or on the product page.

As always, thanks for visiting!

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?