Pestilence – Short Fantasy Fiction

[This story was written in response to a challenge on the Mythic Scribes forum, and is also posted on that site. About 2000 words.]

A leaf floated down from a tree branch hanging over the balcony of the Green Palace. Ella picked it up from the balcony floor. Numerous holes in the leaf left it looking skeletal. “I’m dying,” the leaf cried, and then it did.

Ella’s heart missed a beat. “The island is overrun by bugs, Gammon. Something must be done, or our beautiful island will be reduced to a sandy beach where nothing grows.”

The High Priest joined her on the balcony. “Curses on Trader Ograk.”

“Gammon, we’ve been through this. Retract your curse. We don’t know it was the ogre who brought the infestation.”

“No one else has visited our shores since the last new moon.”

He had a point. Ella sighed, pocketing the leaf. She would use it, along with all the other recently dead and dying leaves from her tree, in making a new outfit, to memorialize their passing. “But cursing him does us no good now.”

“You’re right. I hereby retract the curse. But we must do something.”

Another leaf fell in front of Ella’s face, crying in agony.

“Have our wizards any magic left to combat this pestilence?”

“They are doing what they can, Princess. It is not enough.”

“These are desperate times, Gammon.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures, Princess. I think it time I resorted to prophecy.”

“You will create more controversy,” said Ella. “Too many of your previous prophecies have failed. People will not believe a new one.”

The High Priest dropped his chin. “The god does not inspire me to speak. He leaves me to do what I think is right of my own design. I can think of no other course of action that may save us. All I can do is my best, and pray that the god will bless my efforts.”

“I understand,” said Ella. “It must be done.”

~~~

The prophecy spread across the island in a matter of minutes: A Chosen One would come forth to deal with the pestilence upon the island. Gammon, High Priest of Elhon, had spoken. Some said that the prophecy could not be true. Some said that it must be true, for why would Elhon allow a priest to lie? Some pointed to the failure of other prophecies. Others argued that those prophecies may have succeeded in ways not understood by those of mortal blood. The ways of Elhon were mysterious, they said. I’ll show you mysterious, their contenders said.

The prophecy was carried away from the island by swans, since they were more reliable than the ducks and geese, and could survive the long journey to the other islands. A duckling chose to undertake the task along with the swans – a duckling so ugly, the other ducklings were glad to have a reprieve from looking at it.

Then the waiting began. The leaves continued to drop, their every cry wrenching at Ella’s heart.

“Even if a Chosen One should come now,” moaned Ella, “it may be too late.”

“We must have faith,” said Gammon. “Elhon will not fail his people or his plants.”

~~~

The tree beside the palace balcony sported only fifty-six leaves, down from seventy-five at the same time the day before. Ella counted the leaves every morning. At this rate, the tree would be leafless in three days. Other trees in the forest were in similar condition. “Soon I will have neither a man nor a tree in my life, Gammon.”

“You will have me, Princess.”

She patted his arm. “I will always have you, dear friend.”

~~~

Two days later, only twelve leaves remained on Ella’s tree. Some bugs gnawed the bark of the tree, leaving wicked scars in their wake. “This is the end,” said Ella. “This is the last day of greenery on my tree. Is there no elven magic that can preserve even these last few precious leaves?”

Gammon shook his head, his hood cloaking his face like a veil. “We have done all we can, Princess.”

A brace of ducks waddled by below, quacking contentedly. Every one of them looked plump. They’d not lacked for anything to eat this past moon. But even they could not consume enough bugs to end the pestilence. Only when the bugs had devoured every plant on the island would the pestilence end.

A swan landed on the balcony. “I have brought you good news, my Princess.”

Ella studied the swan. “Forgive me, swan, but I do not recognize you.”

The swan held his head high and strutted about. “You knew me as the ugly duckling.”

“Oh, my goodness,” said Ella. “What magic converted you from duckling to swan?”

“No magic, my Princess, only time. But that is not the best news I have for you. The Chosen One comes.”

Ella felt the throbbing of her heart in her chest. “Why did you not lead with that?” She ran inside and down the spiral stairs to her bedroom, where she donned an outfit crafted of grass blades and rose petals. Then she hurried out to meet the Chosen One.

~~~

It wasn’t a Chosen One who had come. It was Trader Ograk. Ella’s throat felt dry as she watched the merchant ship dock. Her muscles tensed as the ogre dropped a plank and tromped down it, his heavy feet sinking into the sand as he reached the bottom of the plank. He marched up the beach to her and kneeled. “I hear you’re in need of a Chosen One.”

“Go away,” said High Priest Gammon. “It was you who brought this pestilence to our island. You cannot be our Chosen One.”

“Didn’t say I was.” Ograk stood. “But I brought someone who is. He’s a simple farm hand who found a magic rock. He used it to run an army of invading trolls off his home island. His name is Herman. You want to meet him? He’s on board my ship now. Says he’d like nothing better than to meet an Elven Princess and be her Chosen One.”

“Oh,” said Ella, feeling flush. She fanned her face with a hand. “Well, then, yes, please, by all means, bring this human man before us.”

~~

The fellow ran down the plank and up the beach. He did not kneel before Ella. “Hi,” he said, extending his hand for a shake, “I’m Herman.” He held up a stone, a spherical, polished black thing with a hole in the top. “I found this magic stone, and when I heard of your dire situation, I felt I had to come see if I could help.”

“It is a very pretty stone,” said Princess Ella, touching its sleek surface. Her arm brushed against Herman’s, causing her skin to tingle.

“Well, thank you,” said the stone.

“It does have a magical glow,” said High Priest Gammon.

“Always want to look my best,” said the stone. Herman smiled and shrugged.

“Let us waste no time,” said Princess Ella, “and put it immediately to the test.”

“At your service,” said the stone.

~~~

“The Chosen One has come to our aid,” proclaimed Princess Ella from her balcony before the gathering of her elven subjects. “The prophecy of High Priest Gammon is true.” The crowd cheered.

Priest Gammon walked up beside her, and the crowd fell silent. “We will be rid of this pestilence once and for all,” he shouted. Everyone in the crowd looked at each other with skeptical glances.

“I present to you the Chosen One,” proclaimed the Princess, and the crowd cheered again.

Herman walked out on the balcony. He held the magical stone above his head. “With the magic of this stone, I will end this pestilence!” The crowd cheered even louder for him than they had for Ella. Herman lowered his arm and his voice. “All right, rock, what must we do?” Herman shook the rock and rubbed his finger in the hole on top of it.

“Ooh, yeah, baby.” The stone shone even more brightly. “All right, yeah, um, first, you must go to the center of the island.”

“This palace is at the center of the island,” said Ella. “We’re already there.”

“Aw,” said the stone, “that’s not very dramatic. If I’m to do magic, there ought to be some drama, some tension. There ought to be a journey for us to make, obstacles to overcome, something that bards will want to write stories about. Standing on a balcony is hardly a legendary feat. Perhaps you could all strike dramatic poses. Make it look like you’re confronting something dreadful.”

“But we are confronting something dreadful,” said Ella. “The pestilence is dreadful indeed.”

“That’s the spirit,” said the stone. “Now strike a pose, please. Herman, hold me aloft and command me in your loudest voice to do what needs to be done.”

The Princess and the High Priest posed, legs spread apart, each with a fist extended behind their backs and the other hand raised, pointing into the trees.

Herman set his feet wide apart. He held high the stone and cried, “Magical stone, I command you, rid this island of its plague!”

“Um, just a moment,” said the stone. “Is it a plague? I thought it was a pestilence. I’m not sure I can deal with a plague.”

“What’s the difference?” said Herman, lowering his arm.

Ella broke her pose. “I thought a plague was a form of pestilence.” She touched the stone and let her fingers slip free of it, to land on Herman’s arm, where she allowed them to linger.

“It’s a pestilence,” said High Priest Gammon, still maintaining his pose, “regardless of whether it’s a plague. A plague is a form of pestilence. So if you can deal with any pestilence, you can deal with a plague.”

The stone shimmered. “That is not for you to say, old man.”

“I’m not so old I can’t put a curse on you,” said the High Priest, his legs trembling.

“Settle down,” said Herman, his gaze briefly meeting that of the Princess. “Forget I said plague.” He held the stone up again. “I command you, stone, to rid this island of this pestilence.”

“And be quick about it,” said the Princess, retaking her pose, “so that I may give the Chosen One his reward.”

“You already used up my magic for the year,” said the stone. “If it’s not a plague, you can’t change your mind, and I can’t help you.”

“Oh, for Elhon’s sake,” said the High Priest, slumping to sit on the balcony floor, “it’s a plague. It’s a pestilence. Just get rid of it.”

A bug wearing a crown flew down from the tree. “Would you three please shut up?”

“Don’t you mean four?” asked the stone.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” shouted King Bug.

“That’s only three ‘shut ups’,” said the stone.

“Aaaaugh!” shouted King Bug. He flew away, muttering something about there not being that much food left on the island anyway. His fellow bugs followed him. They loaded themselves onto the merchant ship and sailed away, leaving Trader Ograk knee deep in the water staring after them with his jaw down.

“Hooray!” shouted the Princess. “The pestilence is gone! Three cheers for the Chosen One!” The gathered crowd applauded. There was much dancing in and beneath the nearly leafless trees, until well after the sun went down.

“I do all the work, and he gets all the credit,” said the stone.

“Looks like you’re stranded on this island with us,” said Princess Ella to Herman. “You’ll just have to stay with me.”

“And you can stay with me,” High Priest Gammon told Trader Ograk.

And so they all lived happily ever after, until the Elven King returned home from his odyssey. But that’s another tale for another day.

Twenty vs. Four Fives – A Question of Scale

Recently the question was posed on the Mythic Scribes forum whether a twenty-foot-tall giant could pick up a dark-elf who stood just over five feet tall. There were many guesses to the positive, but I’m saying to myself, I have to set up a scene in DAZ that helps answer this question. The image below is the result. I used the DAZ Ogre as the giant, and scaled him up to twenty feet tall. I then created an elvish character that stood just over five feet tall, created three duplicates of him, stacked them one above the other, and rendered.

I think it safe to say that the twenty-foot-tall giant can pick up the five-foot-tall dark-elf. Could almost swallow him whole, too, if he wanted.

Twenty vs four fives

My Musical Favorites for 2016

Edited on 01/11/2017 to correct an oversight in the Honorable Mentions list.

Every year I get a kick out of listing my musical top-plays and favorites for the year gone by, so I’m at it again. People who know my musical tastes from postings here and elsewhere know that female vocalists are my thing, and 2016 was no different.

My Top 5 Most-Played Artists in 2016 (tracked on last.fm)

#5: Rihanna
#4: The Pretty Reckless
#3: Demi Lovato
#2: Lana Del Rey
#1: Grimes

My Most-Played Album in 2016: Art Angels – Grimes

My Most-Played Track (and Music Video) in 2016: Kill v. Maim – Grimes

Top-Played Artists / Music Actually Released in 2016

#10: anguish – Ann Wilson
#9: I Jump – Heart
#8: Blur – Tremble

#7: Atmosphere (feat. Kelly Sweet) – Husman
#6: Prisoner – The Pretty Reckless
#5: We Only Come Out at Night – Alexx Calise
#4: Boyfriend – Tegan and Sara
#3: Night Drive Loneliness – Garbage
#2: Used to Love You – Gwen Stefani
#1: Antidote – Emily Wells

Honorable Mentions for 2016

#10: Side To Side (feat. Nicki Minaj) – Ariana Grande
#9: Never Be Like You (feat. Kai) – Flume
#8: Blow Your Mind (Mwah) – Dua Lipa
#7: The Greatest – Sia (favorite video)

#6: Same Old Blues – Phantogram
#5: Feels Like Loneliness – Sabrina Carpenter
#4: Phoenix – Olivia Holt

#4a: Feral Hearts – Kerli (missed including this one in the original post, so I’m correcting that mistake now)

#3: Spoil Me – Mya
#2: Stone Cold – machineheart
#1: Gold – Kiiara

Here’s looking at you, 2017! Bring it on.

Snowing Animation for Christmas

It’s that time of year again. I celebrate Christmas, and as part of my celebration of the holiday, I’ve created an animation to commemorate the day. I’ve included some details about the making of the animation in the MP4 file. I hope you enjoy. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, and everyone have a happy new year!

To The Core – A Fantasy Short

[This story was originally written by Michael K. Eidson and previously published October 16, 2012, on Burrst. About 1000 words.]

Wearing a long cloak in hot weather wasn’t always a sign you’re concealing something or intend to, thought the elder Cornraind as he watched the younger Nachford walking amongst the carts and stalls in the marketplace. Cornraind had seen Nachford around here before, knew the man to have only half a brain and no couth. The older man had not seen the younger one take anything from a cart that he hadn’t put back, but Cornraind was still suspicious. Not that it was his duty to patrol the marketplace, but even in retirement he had the mindset of a City Guard.

Cornraind stayed his distance, but maneuvered his way through the stalls to keep Nachford in sight. Something didn’t look right about the young man. Cornraind couldn’t put his finger on it; maybe Nachford had put on some weight, or grown an inch taller. Maybe he had already stolen something and carried it under his cloak. But it wouldn’t do for Cornraind to confront the young man; any ensuing incident would have bad consequences for Cornraind even if Nachford were concealing stolen goods. The City Guard would lock away anyone for the night, even a former City Guard, who caused a disturbance in their fair city without due cause.

Shrill laughter cut over the noise of the crowd. Nachford had apparently just told one of his strange stories to Pwervara, an older woman selling apples. She held out an apple to Nachford, and the man placed both hands on it, one on either side. He bowed to the stall owner and kissed her wrinkled hand as she released the apple.

At the same time, a hand covered with mottled gray skin snaked out of a pocket of Nachford’s cloak, grabbed another piece of fruit from the apple cart, and hauled it into the pocket. As Cornraind hurried closer, he could hear munching from Nachford’s direction. When he stood right behind Nachford, he heard a belch and saw an apple core thrown at high velocity out of the pocket.

Cornraind had just witnessed what was obviously a theft of an apple, and he clapped a hand on Nachford’s shoulder.

The young man turned around with an inquisitive look, holding the apple Pwervara had handed him. “Yes?”

“Excuse me, young Nachford, but your stowaway stole an apple from this nice lady.”

“Stowaway?”

“The gremlin in your pocket.”

“Gremlin?”

“In your pocket.”

Nachford reached into his pocket and turned it inside out. It was clearly empty.

“I know what I saw.” But doubt gnawed at Cornraind’s gut. Had he been wrong? Was his sight playing tricks on him? He looked for the discarded apple core, but didn’t see it anywhere.

“I think you need some herbs and prayers, old man. You’re either seeing things or you’re possessed.”

Pwervara shooed him away with her hands. “Nachford was just about to buy an apple, and I don’t need you ruining a sale for me. Or should I call the real City Guard and have them carry you away? Guard! Guard!”

“I’m sorry,” muttered Cornraind, and he trudged away, his conscience weighing heavy in his chest. He’d been so sure of what he saw.

As he passed another apple cart, one belonging to Raugal, a man about Cornraind’s age but too poor to retire, the mottled gray hand reached out of one of the lower pockets of Cornraind’s cloak and snatched an apple. He heard munching and crunching, and then the apple core went flying. “Why you little…” he shouted, and dove a hand into his pocket. His hand met no resistance other than the cloth of the interior of his pocket. He turned the pocket inside out, and it was empty.

“Can I help you?” Raugal stepped around the cart and looked askance at Cornraind.

“I saw it again,” mumbled Cornraind. “It stole an apple from your cart.”

Just then a hand reached out of one of Raugal’s pockets and grabbed another apple. Cornraind moved quickly. If he could catch it while it was eating, maybe it wouldn’t have a chance to get away.

“Get off!” Raugal shouted, striking Cornraind over the head and shoulders as the retired City Guard bent over and stuffed a hand into Raugal’s pocket.

Cornraind clutched something hard and clunky and drew it out of Raugal’s pocket. Coins fell from his clenched fist.

“Thief!” shouted Raugal.

Cornraind dropped the coins and ran. He managed five quick strides before he collided with a cart loaded with fish. He and the fish and the fishmonger landed on the ground in a tangled, smelly mess.

A stern voice boomed over him; it belonged to City Guardsman Gavaeld. “What is going on here?”

“The old coot tried to steal from me,” said Raugal.

“He’s ruined all my fish,” said the fishmonger.

“He interrupted my making a sale,” said Pwervara.

“He accused me of stealing,” said Nachford.

“Come on, old man,” said Gavaeld, hauling Cornraind to his feet. “Of all people, you should know better than this.”

“But I–”

“Save it. You can sleep it off in a cell tonight, and Chief will decide your fate in the morning.”

Cornraind knew better than to argue. If he were still with the City Guard, he’d have done no differently than Gavaeld, given the same circumstances. He went along, keeping his mouth shut, and stood there looking forlornly through the bars of a cell with no furnishings except a small straw cot against the back wall. Gavaeld turned the key in the lock to the cell door, wagging his head in pity but not speaking one word of comfort to his prisoner. Cornraind knew he wouldn’t receive even a morsel of food until morning; it was part of his punishment.

As Gavaeld turned to walk away, a hand zipped out of his pocket and threw an apple through the bars. The fruit landed at Cornraind’s feet. The retired City Guard picked it up, rubbed it on his cloak, sat on the edge of the straw cot, and quietly yet gratefully ate his meager dinner. He even ate the core, eliminating any evidence that he’d somehow avoided a part of his expected punishment.

Hooblaport City Center Square – Map

I’m going over the latest draft of my debut novel, looking for any inconsistencies in the story. To aid me in this endeavor, I’ve created a map of one important location in the novel, City Center Square in Hooblaport. I thought I’d share the resulting map here with any who might find this sort of thing interesting.

If the map looks small, click the image to see it at full-size.

Hooblaport City Center Square

Notes:

The map isn’t entirely to scale, though it’s close. I’ve left a few buildings off the edge of the map, where I’ve not decided exactly what’s there. Some of the buildings that made it onto this map aren’t referenced in this first novel, but they may make appearances in later novels. Time will tell.

Note that Main Street runs through Wizards Emporium at ground level. The Emporium is six stories tall. Main Street cuts through the first two stories of the building.

My Writing Journey

Ever since I was in grade school, I wanted to write fiction, and wrote a good deal of short stories before I graduated from high school, sharing some of them with classmates and anyone else who showed interest. Back then, I dreamed I would have written and published dozens of novels by the time I was 50. I’m past that age now, and haven’t published a single novel yet. I’ve published short stories and gaming adventures/supplements, but no novel. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in one’s path, and derailing large projects before completion, especially if you’re someone easily distracted, like I am.

In September of 2012, I decided that despite everything that stood in my way and everything I’d let hinder or distract me, I was going to concentrate on writing not just a novel, which I’ve actually done a few times, but a publishable novel. None of the other novels I’d written were publishable. So I dropped several other creative projects I’d been giving time to and focused on the novel, doing a bit of 3D art occasionally — as you may have seen posted here or on Facebook, Twitter, Deviant Art, or my DAZ Gallery — whenever I felt I needed a break from the novel. Sometimes the 3D art threatened to distract me, but I managed, not always without some pain, to nip new projects in the bud if they became too time-consuming or dragged out for too long.

Aim Higher

It took about a month to finish a 20,000 word outline for the novel. About three months later I had finished an 80,000 word novel based on the outline. Then I read the novel I’d written, and it was rubbish. My spelling and grammar were fine, and the plot wasn’t too awful, but the characters were more like caricatures. Some of the events of the story didn’t make sense. I’d written better stuff in the past. This novel was not shaping up to be something I’d be proud to publish or expect anyone else to enjoy reading.

Even though the story wasn’t good, it had some good ideas behind it. So, okay, I rethought some things. I considered motivations for not only the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. A better story took shape, with more realistic characters, and I wrote the story anew. I thought it might be good. I sent it to some beta readers, and asked them to be honest with me.

Gladly, they were honest, and I learned that the story had not come across to them the way I had envisioned it. I studied what they’d said in their feedback, and thought I understood what the issues were with my second version of the novel. So then I began writing the third version of it. I’d originally written the novel from the point of view of a single character, but the beta readers had trouble with that character as the protagonist. There was no one other character whose viewpoint would provide all the necessary information for the story. So I chose three of the supporting characters and made them all viewpoint characters, giving each of them a story arc.

This made me dig deeper still into the motivations and backgrounds of these three viewpoint characters. I’d had ideas in my head about them, of course, but only the bare minimum of those ideas had made it into the previous version of the novel. When I inspected these characters closer, I discovered how much more interesting they were than I’d realized, and how much more interesting they were than the character I’d originally chosen as protagonist.

Switching to these three viewpoint characters and including their stories has made it necessary to increase the word count of the novel. It won’t be 80,000 words. It will be a duology — two novels, each with about 100,000 words. I’ve finished writing and editing the first of the two books. I’m feeling good about how the story is unfolding now, and I hope that readers will like it.

At this point, I’ve set the finished first book of the duology aside and will give it a read through in a week or two or more to see if I still think it is good. After that, it will be ready for another round of beta readers. I’m hoping for better feedback this time. As long as it’s honest feedback.

I still have to write the second book. I have the story for the second book written from the perspective of the original protagonist, so I have that material to work from. I’ll be converting that material to be told from the viewpoints of the three characters, and adding new material specific to them, as I did for the first book. So even though the first draft for the second book is not done, it is a good deal more than just started.

I’m planning on self-publishing my work. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to go the traditional route, but I’d like to see my debut novel published before I reach retirement age. 🙂 That being said, I’m wondering if I should wait to publish the first book of the duology until I have written all of the new material for the second book.

One option for me would be to make the first book of the duology available for pre-sale, and release it only after I’ve finished the writing for the second book. I’d still be editing the second book, perhaps. I could then also put the second book up for pre-sale at the time the first book was released. Do you think that would go over well with potential readers?

Thank you for reading all of this, and since you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll leave your thoughts in the comments below or on whatever social media site you might have spotted this post.

[Btw, I’ve changed the name of the teen girl viewpoint character shown in the image at the top of this post from Gabriel to Gabrielle. I hadn’t thought about Gabriel being a man’s name, and actually being pronounced differently than I was saying it in my head. Sheesh.]

A PHP Puzzle

Here’s an amusing little puzzle for those of you visiting my site who also happen to know a little PHP. I came up with this myself, during some short span of time when I wasn’t working on my novel or working at my paying job. Look at the PHP code below and determine what it will write as output. I tested the code on a 5.3 server, but I believe it will produce the same output on more recent versions of PHP.

If you get the right answer, don’t post it in the comments. Instead, post the first name of your favorite actor associated with the answer, and I’ll know you got it. If you can get the answer without running the code or looking at a reference book, then you get extra points. The points aren’t worth any more than the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but they’re yours if you earn them, and you can do whatever you want with them. 🙂

The Puzzle Code

<?php
if ((1 == TRUE) && (1 !== TRUE)) {
	$x = 0;
} else {
	$x = 1;
}
$x.=$x. ((1 . 0) - (3.0));
echo $x;
?>

Thanks for coming by my little corner of the webiverse.

Field of Illusions Web Comic Panel

Thought I’d try my hand at a web comic. This is my first real effort at one to post on this site. Enjoy.

The larger-resolution images linked to below are best viewed on a wide screen, such as on a laptop.

Field of Illusions Web Comic Art

Permission is hereby granted to download and save the Field of Illusions comic or original art images for subsequent personal viewing or to use as computer wallpaper. Permission is expressly not granted to redistribute these images or to place them on your own web site. If someone else expresses interest in these images, please send them here.

For those who are interested in the creation of this image, here’s what I did. I rendered the original piece of art in DAZ Studio using the Iray renderer. I then used a 2D paint program to crop the image and place the text. Some people use Photoshop for this sort of thing, others use Gimp. I use Serif Photo Plus X5, which is less expensive than Photoshop, but for me has a better user interface than Gimp. Other than doing the cropping and adding the text bubbles and text, there is no other postwork in the comic panel. That is, I didn’t add any special effects to the artwork in the 2D paint program.

The figures used are, on the left, Star by Lady Littlefox and RuntimeDNA, and, on the right, Aiko 3, a DAZ Original model. Star is wearing the Ruby Red outfit by Lady Littlefox/RDNA and the Goth Top Hat by Evilinnocence/RDNA, with original textures replaced by Visual Style Shaders by DraagonStorm and TheNathanParable. Aiko is wearing the Dixie outfit and Dixie Hair by Lady Littlefox/RDNA/DAZ. The background and sky is from the Iray SkyDome Super PAK by Magix 101. I used the Visual Style Shaders on Star’s skin and the JM HumanShader from JavierMicheal on Star’s eyes. I found that rendering Star in Iray caused the whites of her eyes to turn dark, even when applying a white Visual Style Shader to the whites of her eyes, but they stayed white when I used the Eye Surface JM HumanShader. I also used the JM HumanShader on Aiko’s skin and eyes.

The sparkling lights in the air are Iray Sprites from Khory.

Since I was rendering in Iray, I selected all the non-Iray surfaces in the image once I had everything set up, and applied the Iray Base Shader to them all.

Star’s pose is from the Cute Star Poses by Sedor. Aiko’s pose is based on a pose from Aiko 3.0 First Moves by DAZ/Diane. I modified the pose to get the right arm up in front of her face, to have her peeking through her fingers.

One last thing of note: I wanted Star to have red lips, but didn’t have any texture in my runtime for that. While I could have altered a texture file to get it, instead I figured out how to create a new surface from the polygons forming her lips, and applied a red Visual Style Shader to the new surface. It was quite exciting! 🙂

Thanks for visiting! If you’ve enjoyed my creative work, I’d love to hear it in a comment.

Black-and-White Renders in DAZ Studio

I’d seen another DAZ Studio user post a black-and-white render on Facebook, saying it had been done in DAZ Studio without postwork. I didn’t ask at the time, but just figured it was done with special b&w textures or the like. I didn’t think much more about it until I saw the promo pictures for the Hi-Drama Iray Lights product for sale in the DAZ store. One of the promo pictures for the product was labeled: “Render in Color or Directly to B&W.” That got my attention. But when I read the product description, it didn’t mention the b&w feature. It said something about there being 2 rendering settings. If not for the promo picture, I’d have completely missed the fact that the product was useful for b&w renders.

Nevertheless, I’ve got my copy now. Using the b&w feature is as easy as locating the appropriate icon in DAZ Studio and double-clicking it. To get back to color rendering, there’s another icon you can double-click for that. That’s the kind of simplicity I like in a product. If you’re a DAZ user and interested in b&w rendering, I highly recommend Hi-Drama Iray Lights.

The below images make use of the Hi-Drama Iray Lights product for both lighting and for the b&w effect. I rendered the same scene three times, with the camera set in different positions, to get an idea of how b&w would look with the figure at different distances. No postwork has been done to any of these images.

Hope you enjoy.

If you are an author and have a story for which any of the above three images would make for a good book cover, let’s talk. I can render the image at a higher resolution suitable for book cover use.