The Latest News!

Tomorrow’s the big day!

Dream Angel’s come a long way and tomorrow’s the big day for her 21st book! It’s hard to believe the differences between this one and the earliest books, but a year from now, I’m counting on being even better.

As you’ve probably noticed, this site’s having technical difficulty with images. This means that for the time being the images for the new book’s page will be missing. The book itself is likely to be uploaded without incident and quite available for purchase, but the preview images on the product page won’t be there until the problem is resolved.

Getting this site on its feet 100% has been and continues to be a challenge, but the important things work – like the shop! So, while the image difficulty is being resolved, I’ll take great pains to be especially detailed and describe just how impressive this book really is without spoiling it.

Yesterday was particularly challenging. The reason is a projection that I wanted to glow. After hours of arguing, the final render with the glow I wanted turned out wonderful. If you know DAZ Studio at all, you might know of the Uber Area lights and Uber Environment lights. These were instrumental in making the projection glow the way I wanted. Combined with a fabulously devious look on our favorite villainess’s face, the scene looks exactly as I’d imagined it. Something, that even with the 3D medium I use, is not especially common. Sometimes I have to improvise and other times I improve on what I had in mind.

Unfortunately, I can’t add the render here for a sneak peek because of the image technical difficulties, but if you’re on Facebook, you can see it in the release party event and while you’re there, feel free to join the group and event! The site might still have bugs, but the group has a lot of cool fun going on!

Going to be a fun party tomorrow! Won’t you join us?

Signed book + character plush bundle?

A signed book and character plush bundled together for one price? Am I seeing ears perk up? Well, the price might even turn a few heads. The price that’s being settled on is $25, including shipping.

So, how will the bundles work? Well, Dream Angel is getting the bundling first. So, here’s how it’ll go:

  • Dream Angel #1 + Dream Angel plush action figure
  • Dream Angel #2-20 + fan’s choice character plush action figure
  • Some books between might have a particular character paired with them, but most will be fan’s choice

In other news, Dream Angel #21 will be released on Thursday, January 28, 2016! Since the site’s acting up about images, unfortunately, those will have to wait, but the product page will be live that day. I’ll also be able to order the proof copy of the printed version which soon after will appear on indyplanet with the books that came before it. As for adding Dream Angel #19 and Dream Angel #20 to indyplanet, there have been some setbacks with that process beyond my control. As soon as the problems are worked out, I’m sure they’ll be live as well.

For those still awaiting news on Techwarrior #3, that one ought to start production soon. How soon, is hard to say, but when it’s green lighted, I’ll make sure you know immediately! A small teaser for it would be that the action gets more intense and soon new characters are introduced. It’s a book worth anticipating, so keep an eye out for news on it!

The discontinued 10″ and 16″ plush figures…

The 10″ and 16″ plush action figures are going to be discontinued and the shop will soon reflect this. Why, you might ask? Well, for several reasons.

  1. Fans have been wanting the 11″ and 12″ figures more
  2. The 11″ and 12″ figures are fast to make (this is more a reason for me)
  3. More often than not, the 10″ and even the 16″ size figures have faces that look like they’re sucking lemons – not as cute as they’re intended to be
  4. The 11″ and 12″ have a wire armature inside that makes them pose-able, they’re realistic-looking and soft.

I’m in the process of making the “sample” collection of action figures whose pictures will be in the little galleries on the product pages.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the Facebook group for further updates. At the moment, wordpress won’t let me upload images.

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?

What do you look for in an action figure?

What do you look for in an action figure?

Action figure. Brings to mind the image of a stiff plastic figurine, doesn’t it? Asking what you look for in an action figure isn’t always an easy question to answer. I know what I look for: articulation – movement of the joints. True, I’m a girl and played with Barbie, but I was always frustrated by how little the dolls moved. Then along came Hot Skatin’ Barbie and Ken! Ahhh, they moved nicely, but were still… stiff.

I’ve seen more modern action figures – usually 20+ inches tall – that could move wrists, fingers, ankles and other more sophisticated areas, but in the end, they’re always… stiff. Plastic is fine, but it has a nasty habit of breaking, too. So, what I look for is durability alongside the movement.

I bet you’re thinking, “Well, what do you expect for something made of plastic?” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not dissing Barbie or the plastic action figure, just pointing out that they lack flexibility without being oversized and overpriced. This is where my action figures can step up to the plate.

This might sound like a cheap sales ploy, but hear me out anyway.

My action figures are soft and far more articulate than Barbie or any plastic action figure could hope to be. Why, you ask? They have a wire armature inside their soft bodies.

I’ll confess I’m like most kids – I enjoyed taking favorite toys to bed, but the plastic ones never made it – I was always afraid those stiff hands with the thumb sticking out would poke an eye out – even Bedtime Barbie had this problem! So, you tell me: would you prefer the plastic that the kid could choke on or lose an eye to in their sleep, or a soft but still articulate action figure they can take to bed and cuddle with?

Let me share a story with you.

When I first started making the Dream Angel series, I did the art by hand, but was constantly annoyed by not being able to keep characters’ color schemes straight. The first plush action figures I made were to be visual reference to alleviate that problem. They were 5″ tall and made of felt. They looked quite good, too. The funny part was when I posted pictures of them on Facebook and got a cry of “I want this one! Where can I buy it?” I probably should’ve expected the reaction, but in truth, I didn’t.

Well, long story short, I wound up making a store for these early action figures. Eventually, I realized kids would want to play with these and felt is certainly not durable enough for play. The new set I made is 10″ tall (they’re in the shop as options for some characters, by the way!) and these did better than the felt ones. Along the way, someone suggested I make them look more realistic instead of cartoony cute.

This led me to etsy and a seller listed as Prairie Crocus Studios for the 11″ and 12″ pattern after the somewhat disaster of trying to design an 18″ pattern and the good-but-complicated 16″ pattern (which is in the shop as an option for some characters, as well.) As it turns out, the 11″ and 12″ figures are just right and look very good with the soft sculpture faces and wire armatures. The result has been awe-inspiring, impressive and worth every penny:

 

aroku plush action figureThis 12″ fellow  (who is Aroku Sazaisaki) is certainly a fine delight and looks amazing (trust me, the picture hardly does him justice!) He’s soft, articulate, cuddly and an awesome superhero created by my very good friend Winston Jordan for his series Dragon Trio. Matter of fact, this guy’s the middle brother of the Trio.

Now here is a cute plush that can hold a pose and still cuddle up in bed.

Everything I always wanted as a kid from action figures. Yep, you caught me: I’m a Bat-fan. Of course my favorite growing up was the 60’s Batman movie made from the TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. Yes, I would’ve loved cuddling up with a cute but still articulate stuffed Batman (and still would, of course!).

To my delight, fans have had this sort of reaction:

“Jennifer this doll is just incredible. You really did your best work yet. I can’t stop staring at this. A true work of art…” – Jerrie Lee.

That was said of the Aroku’s counterpart, midora plush action figureMidora, whom as you can see, is holding a nice kicking pose thanks to the wire armature in her body. She’s excellent at charming her way into the hearts of many and a favorite for fan art in the Facebook group Independent Creators’ Connection.

Certainly sounds like those patterns have paid for themselves, wouldn’t you agree?

Granted, I still look at regular plastic action figures in stores and to date, haven’t seen any like mine. These are entirely unique and despite using the same patterns, no two are ever exactly the same. Pretty good to get a one-of-a-kind action figure that’s washable, huggable and posable at the same time.

Okay my little sales ploy is over, but you have to admit, there’s benefits to be considered with what I’ve pointed out in that little sales ploy. I’ll be plainly honest here: They’re exactly what I would’ve wanted as a kid: the ability to hug and cuddle with my favorite characters, plus they can be posed? You bet I’d have wanted them!

So, what do you look for in an action figure? Keep it polite and constructive, please!

Looking forward to the new book?

Are you looking forward to the new book? I know I am! This book is rapidly becoming a breathtaking example of just how much I’ve learned in the last few years since starting this series. The scenes are definitely fabulous and with the additional RAM for the computer, render quickly. In some cases, I can’t get over despite how used to the program I am, it still manages to surprise me with the renders.

An example would be a render I did just yesterday for page 6. I positioned the camera to sight along an arrow and the reflection of the mountains in the scene on the bow caught me by surprise. Well, I won’t spoil it too much, but this book is most certainly one to be proud of.

I thought it would be fun to share a small sneak peek at the upcoming action. To read more, you’ll just have to wait until it’s released later in the month! Ready? You sure? Positive you’re sure? Here it comes!

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Impressive, aren’t they? Learning new techniques is indeed paying off. This looks to be a very well done book. I don’t dare spoil the action to come, but you won’t want to miss one bit of it!

I’m also happy to say the tablet I got has been paying for itself. Since it thinks it’s a computer, I managed to install GIMP on it. It’s similar to Photoshop and I’ve been putting it to good use. I figured out how to make myself custom brushes from stock character and scene renders. These brushes in turn serve to aid in planning the pages of the book when I’m not at the computer. This means work goes with me even when I’m out. These stock render plan pages are like sketches. Simplistic in nature, but most certainly get the point across as a guide for final rendering.

I’m also finding a comfortable method of script formatting rather than the mere who said what with occasional captions thrown in for good measure. Dream Angel #21 is the first to follow this formatting and it’s quite effective. Combined with the stock render plan pages, the final renders look very close to what I had in mind when I was writing the script the first time. Granted, like any writer, the script goes through a mess of revisions, but usually as I’m planning the pages. For those that don’t know, I’m a very visual person. Visual learner in particular. If I can see what I’m doing or learning, it’s easier for me to understand. Thus this new script style combined with the stock render plan pages has sped things up quite a bit.

What do I mean by speeding things up? Here’s a look at how I plan things for each day:

  1. wake up at 6 or 7AM (give or take a few minutes)
  2. walk dog/breakfast
  3. 8AM (again give or take a few minutes) until Noon I have set aside for rendering the day’s book page. Most of the time lately, it’s been less than 2 hours for rendering the page because of the plan pages and new script format that helps guide the scene. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy in the slightest to get a scene just right, but once it’s set, pose, expression and camera changes are all that I need to do until the next scene change.

Ask anyone who’s never looked cross-eyed at a 3D program to try rendering some of the scenes I’ve done lately and they’ll call you crazy the instant they see the program’s interface. It’s that way with people using Photoshop for the first time, too. Like a deer caught in a car’s headlights they don’t know what to do with all those gadgets, bells and whistles. It’s taken me years to do what I’m able to do now.

Anyway, I’m opening the door to your thoughts on the matter, but make sure you stick to site-wide rules! If you don’t know them, go visit the home page and read them. I love criticism, as long as it’s constructive! Learning from mistakes is very important and I do make a point of trying to learn from constructive criticism.

Rendering has officially begun!

Rendering has officially begun for Dream Angel #21! he cover and page 1 are now done! Sticking to the usual page-a-day routine of my self-imposed schedule, January 28th appears to be the day to look for it in the shop!

I know I’m excited to be working on this book after the cool new tricks I’ve learned lately. To say I’m not excited would be a lie anyway. I love making these books! So, curious about the rough test cover that guided the final cover? Think I ought to share it? You sure? Here it is:

rough cover

It did a nice job of guiding the final cover render, which looks amazing! Think of this one as a tease cover. It looks good, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Very much looking forward to more rendering on this book. How about you?

Dream Angel #21 is in production!

Dream Angel #21 is in production! Anticipating it? I know I am! If recent render tests are any indication, this is a book to look forward to.  There’s a lot of fascinating scenes coming in the new books this year.

Curious about this new book? Here’s a little teaser from the script:

The bot is projecting an image of Nyxus on the table.

  1. CAP – FLOATING: As if in answer to her question, the drone begins projecting a message…
  2. NYXUS PROJECTION: Dream Angel, surrender!

Want to see this? You’ll just have to wait for the book to be released! The goal currently is January 28th. This book will be released before the end of January, however, so even if that particular date is missed, it’ll be out by the 31st. That might sound awkward, but each book this year will be started at the beginning of the month and released before the month is over.

The intention is to release a book a month (minimum) through October. For Dream Angel, that means Dream Angel #30 will be the October release. Just like last year, November and December go to preparing for the next year’s books. This fixes it so every 10th book is released on the anniversary of Dream Angel #10, which is Halloween.

For Techwarrior, its schedule is (as I’ve explained in previous posts) meant to be every-other-month. So, January, March, May, July, and September are its release months unless something delays it. 15 books a year is quite impressive at this point.

Adding in Hillbilly Hoot, which is in the planning stages, this will be a very busy year, so November and December will indeed be welcome time off from the busy render scheduling. Not that they’ll be a vacation – far from, in fact. They’re simply the two months I’m not likely to release any new books. Instead they’re the two months that go toward preparing scripts, learning new techniques and making sure the new year’s books are ready for production.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Granted, this site’s still not quite 100%, but it’s about 98% complete. Only 2 pages (that I know of) are missing content, but all the pages have something on them at least!

That said, are you ready for Dream Angel #21? Yep! I’m going to be preparing the Comic Life file today and possibly starting rendering. Techwarrior #3 might soon be joining it in production. The script is still waiting for approval. Perhaps soon to follow might be Hillbilly Hoot #1. That one’s still in the early planning stages, but it’s a new year, so anything’s possible.

How’d I end the year? Playing happily in DAZ Studio and making some very impressive renders. Wanna see? Keep in mind these characters aren’t mine. They belong to my good friend Winston Jordan and his series, Dragon Trio.

Let’s start with the test animation with the new dynamic outfit. Keep in mind it’s only 1 second long.

[Spider_Video_Player id=”1″]

I was having so much fun after that, I thought I’d have some more, so I added a set and lights. I wanted to do a longer animation with the set and lights, but it was taking too long to render unfortunately, so I stopped it and did some still image renders instead with the poses I’d picked out for the animation.

dtbro1sceneI was really just playing around at first. We’d been discussing the fact that the guys don’t have sleeves and the original outfit I’d put on the characters was… fussy about removing the sleeves. Fortunately, I have a spare outfit installed that’s dynamic. What’s dynamic? That’s simple: realistic cloth simulation. It means that when the cloth is animated, it moves in a natural and realistic way.

dtbro1scene1I found myself enjoying the character and after setting up the outfit to suit the character (adding a special dragon to the back, to be specific) I started playing. Adding in the scene and lights just set him off perfectly.

dtbro1scene2I couldn’t resist enjoying myself and the poses I’ve got work beautifully to suit the character. dtbro1scene3 The renders kept improving on one another, I just had to do the other two brothers of the Trio for one last render of 2015:dtbrossceneBearing in mind that Midora (who’s in the shop already as a plush figure) is already a part of the Dream Angel series with her appearance in Dream Angel #10, it’ll be exciting to see if the three brothers make an appearance. midora600Isn’t she just stunning? Easy to imagine her going at it with the guys, but it’ll be fun to see what she does in the Dream Angel Universe. Looking forward to new books? I know I am!

There’s learning happening!

Taking a break and learning new things

In taking a break from rebuilding this site, I’ve been learning new tricks. The shop’s ready, but this site’s still got a long way to go before it’s once again able to become a thriving community of fans. Along the way, a few snags have been hit and the extra time is being put to good use for other things on the “to do” list.

What would I be doing if the site hadn’t been hacked? Well, the plan was to study up more on DAZ Studio and start learning some of the finer features. One such is shaders. Admittedly, I’d dabbled with them a little before, but didn’t fully understand them and found myself frustrated, so I moved on in my projects instead of taking the time to learn. Well, now I’ve taken the time to learn a little about them. Want to see? Yes? Okay, take a look:

fur shader learningfur shader learning fur shader learningAs you can see, I was playing with fur. There’s still some kinks to work out, as evidenced by the third image and the character’s eyes being covered so it looks like “Cousin It” from Addams Family, but a promising prospect for improving the look and feel of the feline characters in particular.

Adding to the learning, is more RAM for the computer. This opened the door a little more to slightly more complicated rendering. For instance:

lighting learningThe lighting used for this would’ve made DAZ crash before the additional RAM. It’s a special rig of lighting that uses 12 lights. Any more than 1 and DAZ used to slow to a crawl. These might not look like much, but they’re also simple tests for new things. With the added RAM, I’ll be learning as many new tricks as possible before beginning rendering of Dream Angel #21 in January.

There’s been one more new thing that’s helped DAZ work a bit faster as well and that’s been to eliminate some of the duplicate files in the Library along with extra empty folders that really didn’t belong that clogged things up and slowed it down. Happily, things are moving a great deal faster as a result.

Ready to see the result? Yes? Okay, here it is:

You can watch it here, if you’re on Facebook. Oh, and while you’re watching, feel free to join the group! Why just a link? Unfortunately, it appears videos posted in a group can’t be embedded on web pages like this one.

If you pay close attention to the clip, you’ll see that outfit and cape are dynamic cloth. That is, they have natural cloth simulation to look as realistic as possible. Initially, it was a full scene with a complete background, but the background slowed down the render considerably. That is to say it took 2 hours to render 14 frames. If you start doing the math for a 298 frame render, that’s a very long render time!

Without the background scene, it was about 4 hours for the 217 frames that did render. Why 217? Well, I forgot to adjust the timeline to include all 298 frames. Nevertheless, the test is quite successful since the lighting used would’ve caused the program to crash before the upgrade. With the upgrade, I took some creative licence and rotated a series of 14 lights on a rig for a very colorful effect on the character. The character’s nobody in particular, just a quick test subject.

Happily, I can announce the shop is fully available and now login capabilities are as well.

You’ll find a small set of buttons on the left side of the page in the sidebar that enable you to login to the site. Definitely a long way to go before the rebuild is 100% complete, but at least the key capabilities that are important are ready for use.