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


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

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.

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!