Signed books available right here?

I’ve considered it for a while, and I’d like to hear thoughts on having signed books available right here in the shop. I know people have reported having trouble with IndyPlanet’s checkout system or would rather get a signed copy from the artist, so I’m opening the idea¬†for discussion.

To clarify, I’d have to markup the price of the books even though I can get them at cost, which is a little over $6, generally. Including shipping to me, that’s not bad. Now, think about it this way: to break even, I’d have to markup the books to about $12 on individual sales. To make a profit, we’re talking $18 – before my own shipping cost is added on. Fortunately, if I can order a bunch at a time, the cost is driven down for me.

This would mean I could do an unsigned book for about $6.50-$7 and a signed book for $7.50-8. A fair price, all things considered. Individual shipping to you via flat-rate (My preferred method because it’s insured!) comes out to $5.75. So, we’re talking $12.25-12-75 and $13.25-13.75 with shipping. Still pretty fair, all things considered.

Why would I reveal the prices? Well, I like letting people know what they’re paying for. I was taught early on “Honesty is the best policy” and I’ve stuck to that consistently for years. I’m being honest with you concerning the prices of these books, but for those who want printed copies and don’t want the hassle of IndyPlanet’s checkout system or want it signed by the artist, well, this would be a golden opportunity, don’t you think?

The other consideration I’ve put out before for discussion is doing a signed book and plush action figure combo pack for $25. I’ve had people agree that would be an extremely good deal, but I’m opening it for discussion again. I really do want as much input as possible on these ideas.

Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from? Well, there’s a broad subject. To help explain this, let me share a story with you.

I must confess I’m quite a bit like Dad. I read Shogun in high school and fell in love with Japanese culture and history (the stuff that’s not taught in school!). I have a good respect for Edgar Allen Poe (read Telltale Heart in high school and more recently tracked down The Pit and the Pendulum on DVD) and more importantly, I’ve found a firm appreciation for Ray Bradbury. I grew up watching The Halloween Tree each year and more recently found The Ray Bradbury Theater on DVD (We tend to frequent the local library’s movie section and find all kinds of interesting stuff). I was a bit surprised when I saw the opening sequence for that show, because it showed I’m a lot like Bradbury himself. The room he works in is full of stuff he gets ideas from, and my room is certainly no less crowded than his.

Where he gets ideas from the objects around him, I often find myself getting ideas from cartoons, movies and various TV shows we have around the house. That’s not to say I don’t also get ideas from objects around me. Ideas come from anything and everything more often than not. For me, a great many of my ideas come from stuff made in the 1980’s or older.

Let me share another story now. I was 4, we were moving from San Francisco to a small bedroom community and a bigger house, but just before leaving the preschool I was in, there was a little “graduation” ceremony and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was so tired from the moving that I didn’t answer, so my preschool teacher Girtha said “She’s going to be a comedian!” Well, she’s not too far from the truth. There’s plenty of comedy to be found in my work. Dream Angel is intentionally lighthearted and humorous and even Techwarrior, which is a bit darker has its moments. Know where I find inspiration for the jokes? Classic comedians. Red Skelton, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello and a long list of others that were mostly dead before I was even born.

So, where do ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere. It’s about that simple. Of course, making the ideas work is an entirely different matter. It helps to keep a notebook and pen close at hand even when I have my tablet nearby. Often, it’s faster to simply write the idea down than wait for the tablet to turn on and get into the right app – by that time, the idea could dissipate like a cloud.

Chime in! Where do your ideas come from?

Techwarrior #6 is complete!

Techwarrior #6 is complete! The rendering is finished! There’s still some things to do before it can be released, but production is complete. That’s something, right? While normally, it would be just about immediately released in digital form here in the shop, we’re planning to step up and make the release more timely and also include the printed version in the party.

What’s that mean? Well, it means the e-book files and shop page will be prepared, but not posted until the printed proof has arrived and the book is ready for simultaneous digital and print release, possibly with a real party attached.

Again, what’s that mean? Well, it means you’ll have to keep watching for more news and be ready when the book is released! Should be a lot of fun when it is!

The train of thought now that Techwarrior #6 is complete might be to just binge render and see how many renders for the next book can be done before this one is even released. The fun might be rapid-fire releasing books to finish off this series.

Yes, (spoiler!) it’s meant to end with Techwarrior #12. Now, before you start yelling that it can’t end there, there’s an “unless” attached to that statement. The “unless”? Unless there’s enough popular demand for more books in the series.

There’s even been a couple ideas for names of new villains. Now, hold on. If you’re a fan of the series already, you might be wondering why it’d need new villains since Cryptolock is such a cool one to start with? Ummm… how many superheroes have just one villain to fight? Well, Techwarrior ought to be no exception if his series should keep going, right?

Even He-man has more than just Skeletor. So, Techwarrior ought to have more than just Cryptolock, his Cryptobots, snakes and spiders, right? So, will Techwarrior go beyond Techwarrior #12? That remains to be seen, but it doesn’t hurt to be ready, right?

Techwarrior #6 is in production!

Techwarrior #6 has been long anticipated and it’s finally started production. 2017 was pretty quiet book-wise, wasn’t it? Well, there were a lot of other things going on, starting with the wedding and cross country move. Though it’s taken a little longer than anticipated, 2018 is time to hit the ground running and get books moving more regularly than 2017. Not that last year was lax for learning new techniques or getting things done, it wasn’t! Learning to make custom HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) backgrounds has proven a valuable asset to production! These serve 3 purposes:

  1. Background that’s not really there
  2. Light source
  3. Speeding up render time

That’s definitely 3 points in favor of these special images, but there’s one heavy-duty downer: they take days to render! That’s right: days! Up to 4 days so far, to be exact. Once they’re rendered, they can be used repeatedly from any camera angle, so there’s ups and downs. In the long run, they’re worth the wait.

If you missed the party and fun, Dream Angel #24 came out in early December with its beautiful art. Just like Techwarrior #6, it was a long time in coming out. With its wonderful art and story, it was worth the wait and it’ll be the same for Techwarrior. Happily, the latter takes less time in production due to being 12 pages instead of 24. So, care to join the voting for the cover of Techwarrior #6?

First, we get this one:

Impressive, is it not? So far, it’s also the more popular choice, but voting’s still open for the time being.

The other choice is this one:

Really does a nice job of emphasizing her, doesn’t it? Then there’s the subtle glow of Sensei’s attack on her face showing just how close it is to hitting her. Even her expression is impressive in creating the mood. So, which do you think looks better? The long shot with all 3 characters or the close up? Cast your vote (politely!) in the comments below!

Calling all Techwarrior fans!

Calling all Techwarrior fans! The printed proof copies of Techwarrior #1-5 collection have been shipped! You know what that means, right? It means they’ll arrive in a couple days and if they look as good as they always have in the past, the book will go live on indyplanet soon after. Won’t that be exciting?

So, for printed book lovers, especially Techwarrior fans, that’s great news. Now, what about Dream Angel? That new version of Dream Angel #1? Well, that one’s coming along. Much slower than usual. As they say, “Good things come to those who wait!” right? This one’s going to be worth the wait.

It features all-new art and some strong story improvements. Of the three versions of the book, it’s definitely going to look the best. Now, that certainly doesn’t mean Dream Angel #1 and Dream Angel #1 2nd edition extended cut are no good. Quite the opposite. There might even be talk of a Dream Angel #1 collection for fans to be able to see the evolution in art and story between the three versions.

Now for the harder questions. “What about Techwarrior #6 and Dream Angel #24? Both books before were cliffhangers!” And you want to know what happens next, right? As I’ve announced on Facebook, I’m getting married at the end of June this year and moving across the country. Most of my focus is on that. While Techwarrior #6 and Dream Angel #24 are basically ready for production, finding the time to do so is harder than normal.

Yes, I could put the new Dream Angel #1 on hold and do Techwarrior #6 as quickly as I did Techwarrior #5, but what then? You’d want Techwarrior #7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 the same way. You will anyway, but right now that’s beside the point.

The point is that the new Dream Angel #1 is slower to render. Each panel has been taking a good amount of time to render. This means I can setup a render and walk away to pack boxes or organize things for packing or something else.

True, Techwarrior had his slow renders, but that book was also done much faster despite that. Dream Angel’s had a lot more slow renders, which have left me able to get other things done while it’s rendering. It’s in production, just slow production, so it makes progress despite the other things going on.

Hopefully, that made sense. The short of it is that there’s still a book in production even though I’m preparing for a wedding and a cross-country move. So, looking forward to the new book when it is finally finished?

Techwarrior fans will be delighted to hear things will return to normal after the wedding and move are done. Dream Angel and even Hillbilly Hoot fans should be equally delighted.

A new Dream Angel #1?

A new Dream Angel #1 is in progress for rendering, yes. Don’t get me wrong: Dream Angel #1 – both currently available versions – look good, there’s no denying that. So, why make a new Dream Angel #1? Well, the reaction to Techwarrior #5 was good and a couple discoveries recently contributed to the decision. One was a lighting trick, the other a 360 degree render that had just the right rooftop to go with the lighting trick. Between the two, they set the idea in motion.

Okay, the idea’s been around for a while. Even before discovering the ability to use Iray in December. We’ll simply say a few things set off the idea machine and got this new version in motion. No, it’s not a reboot, it’s more of an update. An artistic “facelift” with some minor story changes to help it make more sense.

Along the way, the scripts for Dream Angel #24-31 might be finished, or at least finalized. Dream Angel #1-6 at the very least will see the updated art while these are being worked on.

Are any other books going to be updated? Others might see story corrections so the story makes better sense, but the art is more likely to be left alone. Dream Angel #1-6 were rendered using Poser with a lot more Photoshop work than the ones that followed, so those in particular are ones to update so they’re artistically consistent with the rest. It’s almost a shock between #6 and #7 when the art changes from Poser to DAZ.

One thought for the time being is if the new Dream Angel #1 attracts new readers, then #2-6 will see art and story updates. If those get a good reception, #7 on can see story updates. Along the way, Dream Angel #24, Techwarrior #6 and possibly other later books can be mixed in or even rendered at the same time. In this way, all the books will finally have artistic consistency.

Oh don’t get me wrong: the Poser rendered books are good. There’s no denying that. There’s always room for improvement, though and this is an improvement.

So, what do you think of this? Are you going to get the new books when they come out?

The studies continue…

As the studies continue, I find myself constantly learning new things. For a couple months now I’ve been working on a house model and while the mesh looks good, the textures tend to be… messed up.

Well, messed up textures haven’t slowed me down too much. Just another lesson needing to be learned and gradually, the lesson’s being learned. Happily, the lessons for lighting and cameras are being well practiced with increasingly promising results.

Take Captain America here for example:

Impressive, isn’t he? Don’t worry, he’s simply fan art practice. Still have to admit, he’d likely sell a few books if he were on the cover, wouldn’t he?

This one would make a fabulous cover, wouldn’t it? And she’s all mine! Isn’t Dream Angel just breathtaking in this shot?

Now, I bet you’re noticing she looks a little different from the usual renders. Well, I’ve changed the model I use for the character. Instead of Genesis, which is a generic model that can be male or female, I’m using Victoria. A mild difference, but one that’s making an impression. Clearly, Victoria is a more realistic model and definitely looks more feminine. Nyxus was the test example with impressive results:

Fabulous for a 10,000-year-old mother of five, isn’t she? I’m finding that depth of field is my best friend when combined with 3-point lighting, a good pose and dramatic camera angle. Studying up on the 7-point lighting and getting the image composition right will definitely be a good boost to the quality of art. I’m pretty good with Photoshop, but there’s a finesse to be studied in using it for post work. With all these elements more thoroughly studied and practiced, book rendering is likely to be staggering!

The plan for when the studies are consistently implemented successfully is to re-render Dream Angel #1-6. Okay, Dream Angel #1 2nd edition is good as it is, but I think there’s room for a little extra tweaking to step it up a notch or two. Where it’s considered #1.2, it’ll be 1.2 1/2 with the mild changes. After that, covers are going to be getting updated.

For now, the studies continue. This gives time to finish scripts, as well. So, keep your eyes peeled for updates and more impressive renders! You’ll find them in the Facebook group! Come join us! Promise we won’t let the vampires bite!

Happy Halloween 2016!

Okay, it’s a few days early to be saying Happy Halloween, but why not? There’s already Christmas stuff in stores. Halloween might be the day of the dead, but I’m still giving you a gift: 40% off your entire purchase. It can be used once per user and expires at midnight on Halloween. Let’s have a bit of fun with this, shall we? It’s not often these coupons show up.

How are the next comic books in line coming? Well, let’s say they’re on a semi-indefinite hold for the time being. That doesn’t mean they’ll never be made, it simply means new things are being learned to make them even better. All right, I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: lighting, cameras, modeling, texturing and a number of other things are being studied in greater depth to give the scenes more life and to make them more believable. This means putting books on hold to learn the new skills. When they finally go into production, you’ll find them worth the wait and understand why they were delayed.

I dove in head first making books because the images were in my head and I wanted to render them before they “escaped” and I had trouble setting up the scenes. Since there are scripting slow-downs for the books, I thought I’d take advantage of the spare time to do some studying I should have done years ago. To be fair, many of the tutorials I’ve been looking at lately weren’t around when I started. Luckily, the studies have begun bearing fruit and happily, the results are improving by leaps and bounds.

So, when can you expect books to begin reappearing? That’s a hard question at this point. Techwarrior’s script is written through its 12th book – which is meant to be the last in the series unless popular demand calls for more. Dream Angel #24 is about 95% written. Still a few details to finish it off. Its script is roughed out to the beginning of #33 at this point. Hillbilly Hoot needs some sorting of details and various other things fixed, but it may well be moving along soon, too.

So again, Happy Halloween! Even if you don’t celebrate it, the coupon code is still a gift.

How stories are written…

How stories are written isn’t always an easy question to answer. Matter of fact, usually the best advice is to write what you know. In school, you’re encouraged to pre-write and plan what to write based on a subject for an essay. Granted, stories aren’t that far removed from essays – matter of fact, they use the same basic structure – but sometimes, you just don’t know what to write, right? How then, to write a story?

Sometimes, all it takes is just to start writing and let the ideas flow – much like right now for me. Now, I’ll grant that some of this might not even make sense, but you’d be surprised how helpful nonsense can be to writing a good story. See, I’m one of those unusual sorts that can’t pre-write a story or essay and have it still make sense. Something gets lost transitioning between the pre-writing and the actual writing. Once that was discovered, I was told to skip the pre-writing and my writing skyrocketed.

Within the Dream Angel story line, there will be a ring. One Nyxus wears constantly to increase her power. First thought that would naturally come to mind is Lord of the Rings, of course. The One Ring has quite the story attached to it, but Nyxus’s is different from even that. The next thing to come to mind is He-Man and the Widgets’ Corodite adding to Skeletor’s power. That might be closer, but still different from even that. There may even be other things along those lines that are close but not the same. Her ring can be used to find pieces of something, but she doesn’t know what it is or how the ring can be used to find it.

Please, if you’ve got ideas, share them!

I won’t apologize!

“I won’t apologize” is based on a simple writing prompt. It may or may not end up being about characters in the books on this site. Okay, little disclaimer over, on to the story.

“I have nothing to apologize for!” she yelled. “This planet is mine!”

“You can’t be serious,” he said sadly. “Thousands dead because you have an itch for power and you have nothing to apologize for?”

“Fool!” she screams as she slaps him hard across the cheek.”Don’t expect me to apologize for them throwing their lives away stupidly!”

“You’ll regret it,” he sighs sadly as he leaves the room.

The war was over, but the damage had been done. Thousands lay dead and thousands more horribly wounded. He was right, she had an itch for power and she’d scratched that itch all over the planet, leading to complete conquest. He knew she’d have to make peace with the people sooner or later unless she wanted to risk a major uprising again, not that she’d admit it.

As he walks down the dimly lit halls of the castle, he thinks to himself, “It’s a good thing the kids aren’t here to see just how viscous their mother can be. I wouldn’t want them learning her murderous ways.”

He walks into a room and finds himself face to face with his young son.

“Father, what’s wrong with Mother?” he wonders innocently. “She’s been so angry lately.”

Upon seeing the large golden brown eyes on the verge of tears, he bends down and wraps the boy in a warm hug. “I wish I knew, son. I wish I knew.”

Okay, that’s all you get for this writing prompt. Whether or not it’s about anyone in the books available in the shop, I’ll leave up to you. As for seeing more books released in the near future, well, we’ll just say I’ve been taking a break to write ahead and this little exercise is a break from even that. So, hope you enjoyed the little story. I know I’m leaving a lot open to the imagination by not telling who or being very descriptive, but I wanted to keep it pretty generic on purpose.