To the Death

Duel

Ygraine Pagel looked up from her work table as Aura Lockhaven entered her chamber. She cast Aura a cold glare. She said, “I know who you are.”

Aura frowned. There was a note of cynicism in the sorceress’ voice. It was not that of a merchant receiving a customer. She said, “You should. I wrote you last week. I’m interested in the emerald sphere you have for sale.”

“Hmm,” the sorceress said. “We’re both initiated magicians. There is no need for subterfuge.” She looked Aura up and down, and sneered. “Crimson. I expected death to wear black, and reveal much less skin.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Feigning surprise is disingenuous of you. My order sent you here to assassinate me,” Ygraine said.

“Wait. Excuse me?” Aura asked. She couldn’t believe her ears. Rumors abounded that Ygraine had turned her cloak, surrendering to the lust for power that seduced some sorcerers. The idea that the Order of Sorcerers would send someone from another magical order to deal with one of their own was ridiculous. The mere thought that that someone would be an enchantress, a member of an over-wrought and far-too-sensitive order that the aristocratic and rib-numbing tightly-corseted sorcerers despised, was beyond absurd. The sorcerers had the best internal constabulary of all eight magical orders, and were notorious for dispensing swift justice against members who violated their oath of non-manipulation. If they wanted to execute Ygraine, then Aura would have found a week old corpse. Aura shivered at the thought that she may have just walked into an unpredictable situation. Still, Ygraine was the finest purveyor of magical crystals in all of Ayrdland. “I’m here to buy a stone, Ygraine. I am customer, not an assassin. I don’t kill.”

“Then, that shall be your downfall!”

With that, Ygraine launched herself at the young enchantress. Before Aura could brace herself, Ygraine knocked Aura’s staff from her hand. Then, she grabbed her by the throat. Aura did not need to ponder what the sorceress had in mind. She felt that intent in Ygraine’s right hand as a malignant spell poured down the woman’s arm and flooded Aura’s neck. Aura knew some of the sorcerers’ spells, but not enough to counter them. This one was new. She didn’t have to tighten her hand. The spell did the work for her. It felt like an iron vise upon soft pine wood. Aura felt her windpipe cramp.

“Ygraine,” Aura said with a gasp. “Let me go. You’re killing me!”

“That’s the whole idea, you stupid tart!” the sorceress said.

Aura grabbed Ygraine’s arm, trying her best to break the sorceress’ hold on her throat. Ygraine’s hand was fixed to her flesh as ivy to brick. All of Aura’s respect for elders vanished. The sorceress meant to murder her. She threw her considerable weight and height into Ygraine, but her hand and spell remained fixed. Around the chamber they danced their waltz of death, knocking over the bookcase, overturning a chair, then spilling a rack of tinctures. Dozens of small bottles shattered on the stone floor, their contents mixing in a bubbling brew. Then, Aura slammed Ygraine against her table, in an effort to knock the woman loose. It only served to upset the table, sending books, rats, and even a skull into flight. A lit candle fell onto the ruins of the tinctures. The mixture erupted in flame.

The inferno diverted Ygraine’s attention long enough. Aura employed an old tactic she used against boatmen who lusted for her budding breasts when she was younger. A woman lacked the necessary external appendages, but it would still hurt. She kneed the sorceress in the groin. With a yelp, Ygraine released Aura’s throat and fell back against the table.

“Ygraine,” Aura wheezed, trying to catch her breath. “We have to get out of here.”

“I shall. The only way you’re leaving is in a coffin, assassin!” With that, Ygraine advanced.

Oh, merciful heavens, Aura thought. Ygraine was mad. It was bad enough that she wanted to kill Aura. Now, she continued her murderous assault as fire spread the floor of the windowless chamber. Noxious smoke, the result of igniting tinctures that should never be mixed, filled the air. The flames would soon reach the wood of table and bookcase, and the chamber’s timbers. If the fight lasted much longer, both women would die.

Ygraine pounced. Aura turned, dashing toward the back of the chamber. The sorceress grabbed Aura’s cloak and pulled her backwards. Let her have the cloak, Aura thought, gripping the clasp and tearing it open. Ygraine threw the garment across the overturned chair, and dove toward Aura.

As the enchantress turned to flee around Ygraine, she slipped on broken glass and spilled potion. She went down on one knee. That was all the sorceress needed. Again, she gripped Aura by the throat. Again, the vicious spell poured into Aura’s neck. Again, her windpipe constricted. Aura tried her best to wrench free, but her boots kept slipping on the wet floor. If she fell, Ygraine would simply sit on her and kill her. She had to maintain her footing. To keep herself upright, she locked onto Ygraine’s leg with her own.

Black specks appeared in front of Aura’s eyes. The spell was strangling her, ending her life one failed breath after another. Her mind reeled in panic. Aura gasped for air. None came.

“Here’s a kiss for the leader of my order,” Ygraine said.

A ball of pure life force formed in Ygraine’s left hand. It was enough to turn a human inside out. This woman not only could cast one spell, while maintaining a second of a different type, but she cast both without a single incantation. Aura had to speak an incantation, and speech was now lost to her.

The Enchantress of Hartshorn had only moments left. She lashed out with her left hand. She grabbed Ygraine’s face. Claw her eyes! Tear her skin! Rip her mouth! Anything to get her to let go. Not enough. Her hand still grasped Aura’s neck, the vile spell pouring into her throat.

Aura felt her fear and desperation coalesce into a ball of pure vitality, will, and emotion. It formed on its own volition, without any conscious thought from the enchantress. It formed without an incantation. It rushed from her chest, and poured into her right arm. It erupted in her hand as the most lethal spell in her entire arsenal – the Divine Thunderbolt.

I don’t kill, Aura said only moments earlier. If Ygraine did not release her throat, then Aura would violate that statement by shoving the ball of solid light into the sorceress’ face. The woman’s skull would survive. At this range, her flesh would be incinerated. Aura knew, as entwined as they were, that she too would take the force of the spell. She would crawl away with massive burns, burns that could be healed tomorrow. If she did not launch the spell, there would be no tomorrow for healing anything. Aura gritted her teeth. Someone was about to die, and the determining judge was Aura Lockhaven herself.

DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6.

This is not canon.

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The Evolution of Aura Lockhaven

For the fun of it, I put all three of Aura Lockhaven’s 3D incarnations in the same scene. The result reveals her evolution as a 3D character, as well as serving as graphic touchstones of her evolution as a fictional character.

Left: Victoria 6 incarnation. Center: Victoria 7 incarnation. Right: Victoria 4 incarnation.

Auras II

Victoria 4 Incarnation (April, 2010 — January, 2013):  She wasn’t even Aura Lockhaven when I designed this character. She began as my feeble attempt to create a model based on Playboy Playmate Lindsey Vuolo. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, there is no resemblance between the figure and the Playmate. How she became Aura is chronicled on my website if you’re interested. This is the graphic novel version of Aura.

Victoria 6 Incarnation (January, 2013 — August, 2016): I suspended the graphic novel when I started grad school. Upon graduating, I decided to write a fantasy novel, using the graphic novel as the foundation. That required a new physical representation of my heroine. So, I chose Victoria 6. That base figure much more human like roundness than the earlier V4 (I skipped Victoria 5 completely). Her appearance is based on her written description, so there is no resemblance to the V4 counterpart. Around 2014, I decided the gold body jewelry was too blooming difficult to describe in a written narrative, and gave her the outfit worn by the V7 version.

Victoria 7 Incarnation (August, 2016 — Present): I refused to upgrade to Victoria 7 for an entire year. Eventually, the improved posing and sculpting systems won me over. I transferred Aura from V6 to V7, slider by slider. They don’t quite look alike. The V6 base face is more heart-shaped than V7’s, but the new version is close enough. I really like the new muscular body. Aura’s transfer from V6 to V7 occurred at the same time I determined to finish her first novel by the end of 2016 and publish it. It also happened at the time I cut the opening trilogy down to a duology. This is the incarnation who appears on the cover of A Path of Stones. It is how I see Aura at the end of the series, transformed from the unsure wizardess in the brown dress into the powerful enchantress who fights tyranny.

Most of us in 3DLand anticipate the release of Victoria 8 this June. I said no to Victoria 6 and Victoria 7. We see how well that resolve lasted. So, I shall see what Victoria 8 has to offer. She best impress me. As in, she needs to step off the computer screen, perform one heck of a lap dance, and build me a stiff Manhattan. If she does, I will once again, transfer Aura to a new rig.

This is what that one, silly, little Victoria 4 figure back in 2010 started.

The Fires of Tallen Hall

2017 hasn’t been friendly to writing.

I lost January and February to releasing A Path of Stones and the subsequent marketing campaign. March fell to a hard drive failure, and doing my best to keep the old computer running. April was consumed with learning the new computer, as well as a few bouts of depression.

It’s May.

Yesterday, I resumed work on The Fires of Tallen Hall, the second Aura Lockhaven novel. I am happy to report that it is 50% complete.

In honor of that mark, here is the first promotional image of the second novel.

TallenHallSM

Aura Lockhaven in Iray and Comics

Yes, you read that right. Aura Lockhaven comics!

I’ve been experimenting with the Iray rendering engine, and the results are beyond what was expected. So, I had to see what Aura looked like.

Usually, I render her in Reality-Luxrender. That texturing system and render engine gives me more control over the look, and has far greater textural fidelity than Iray. It is, however, slow. Luxrender is the Treebeard of the rendering world. It never does anything hasty. A six hour render is just too time consuming for a comic, or even an illustrated short story. A page of a comic per week is reasonable. One panel per week is not.

Iray, however, is lightning in pixels. I can expect a render to complete between 20 minutes and 90. Extremely complicated sets and lighting require more time, but that is usually limited to fine art pieces, not the panels of a comic.

So. Here is the first image of Aura, rendered in Iray.

AuraIraySM

Aura looks great! Her skin is fantastic, and comparable to Reality. The clothes, however! They’re too orange. I can control the colors better in Reality. She’s the “red enchantress,” not the Orange Bowl Queen. Well, they are three years old, and date from her incarnation as a Victoria 6 figure (she’s a Victoria 7 now). Time to give the lady a new wardrobe.

This scene was … interesting. Iray should have rendered her in 20 minutes or less. It’s just one figure, a few clothes, a simple set, and two lights. She took an hour to reach 15% completion! That is not acceptable. This required some drastic measures. I could only surmise that the issue lay in the fact that Aura is a custom made, slider-by-slider, character. All those morphs had to slow her down. So, I made a single character morph and applied to to a stock G3F. If you don’t know what that means, I essentially turned her into a character I can sell. Instead of ten different morphs for her mouth alone, I have just one that says Aura Lockhaven, and it controls both face and body. That cut load time in half, but did not significantly increase render time.

Oddly enough, I experimented by rendering her in the Beta edition of DAZ Studio 4.9, instead of the public release of 4.9.3. She rendered much faster. At eleven minutes, she had only reached 10% completion. Not great. Not good enough for a comic. Better than 15% after an hour. At that point, I stopped the render to check her pose. Satisfied, I resumed the render. Within four minutes, she shot from 10% to 55%.

What the heck! There is no difference between 4.9 Beta and 4.9.3. They are identical. Why would stopping and resuming the render cause that much of a speed increase? My wife speculates that stopping it freed tied up resources in either the cache or VRAM.

It does matter. I’d like to know the answers so I can correct them. However, this opens the door for Aura Lockhaven illustrated short stories and comics.

I plan a few short comics, as in ten to twelve pages. They will fill in the gaps between novels, and provide a bit of backstory to some of the characters and situations. They will be free, on my website. Why not? Give them away as promotional items, and as fun things to fans.

This also opens the door for the Sarethian Seven to be that series of illustrated short stories I’ve envisioned for three years.

I will leave you with a scene I call “Night of the Wraiths.” Aura seems to be in a wee bit of a predicament.

Wraiths

Computers, Content, and Colds

March has been an interesting month.

It began with a hard drive crash on my trusty Sager laptop. Sigh. I replaced the hard drive, and then reinstalled my DAZ Studio content. One. Item. At. A. Time. That took ten days.

Then, my computer CPU spiked at 98C. Whoa! That’s almost at meltdown temperature. Well, Sager made a mistake with their technical manual. They didn’t say to replace the thermal compound every time I removed the heat sink. With all the brick dust in the air (I live next door to a brick factory), I have to remove the sinks once a month to clean the fins. New thermal compound brought the temperature down to a mere 68C. But the damage had been done. My CPU was wearing out.

Time for a new computer. I bought a new Sager 8156. It comes with an i7 7700 CPU, and 32G RAM, upgradeable to 128G (oh, yes, I will!). Not only that, but it has a geehonking big GTX-1060 graphics card with 6G VRAM. So, I can render in Iray as well as Reality.

Time to reinstall all that DAZ content. Again. This time, however, I popped the hard drive from the old machine into the external dock and ghosted the content folder over. That only took six hours.

My wife inherits my old computer. It will serve her well for several years, as long as she doesn’t render on it. No problem. As our content folders are synced, all she has to do is give me a saved scene on a flash drive, and I’ll render it on the new computer, while we sit back with a bowl of popcorn and some beers. The couple that renders together …

Still, it took close to a week to install all my programs and test out the new system.

As if that wasn’t enough, I caught a bad cold. The song lyric “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes” was written for Texas weather. Hot. Cold. Dry. Wet. Blah!

By Monday, I should be ready to resume writing The Fires of Tallen Hall, the second Aura Lockhaven novel. It is a third of the way done, so catching up won’t take too long.

In the meantime, I will leave you with the first piece of 3D art performed on the new Sager, in Iray. I call it Not That Easy … she just isn’t that easy to bring in, much less take out.

Not that Easy.

Book Cover Sizes and Specs

In my first essay on book covers, I described why it may be necessary to design your own, and how to follow Frank Frazetta’s concepts. In the second, I discussed how the transfer from digital to print results in a darker cover. It occurred to me that I never mentioned the physical aspects of book covers, whether you design your own or hire a professional artist.

Let’s change that, shall we?

If you hire a professional artist from Fiverr, or elsewhere, he or she ought to know all this already. If you’re the artist’s first customer, possibly not. If you design your own, it’s important, as I found out.

Whether we design a cover for a print book or an ebook, we work with digital images. In my case, those images are 3D art renders. If you take a photograph of a painting, a landscape, or people, it’s still a digital image. Even if you use film, and scan the image, the final product is digital. So, the theories are the same across the spectrum.

Digital images are variable in size. My renders are almost always either 1800 x 904 or 1500 x 904, measured in pixels. Depending on the usage, the site, and the device, they can appear to be small photos or full screen wallpapers.

Print doesn’t work that way. It’s fixed! The most common sizes are 6 x 9 and 8.5 x 11, measured in inches. There are other sizes, usually reserved for gift books, art albums, and cookbooks. Those lie outside the scope of my experience. That geehonking big 1800 x 904 render is puny on a 6 x 9 page, measuring about half the available space. That’s fine for the back cover, but not the front.

Therefore, the cover image needs to be at least twice the size of what is normal for a digital art image. The final render for my 6 x 9 cover measured 3600 x 1800. The 8.5 x 11 cover required a gigantic 4800 x 3600.

It is always better to shrink a digital image than to blow it up. Shrinking tightens the pixels, while blowing it up distorts the pixels. A blown up image is fuzzy at best, full of odd and ugly geometric shapes at worst. Hence, the term “pixilated.” That is another reason for using an image that borders on the insane size.

As if that isn’t enough, you will also need to add in trim area. This is the part of the image that spills over into the paper that will be cut off. Make sure the image extends to the very edge of the paper. In other words, for a 6 x 9 cover, you need 6.5 x 9.5. This ensures a nice image all the way to the edge of the book, without any black or white border showing up.

For a cover to an ebook, you have a different size dimension to consider. Covers for ebooks are much more square in shape. I’m trying to memorize the dimensions, but they’re closer to 610 x 950, measured in pixels. Too tall or too narrow, and you end up with wide margins at the sides. Worse, Lulu and Amazon may stretch the image to fit the space. That results in a terrible looking thumbnail. A customer seeing it may think the contents are equally terrible, and not buy your book. Trimming your image requires quite a bit of trial and error, but you’ll get it. Amazon and Lulu both give you the exact dimensions, so that is a major help. They differ, so if you publish both Kindle and Nook editions, you will need two separate covers.

Whether for print or ebook, the cover image must be set to a DPI of 300. I’m not sure how Photoshop operates, but GIMP defaults to 72 DPI. That is not nearly sharp enough for print. When an image is scaled in GIMP to 300 DPI, the program shrinks the image. Keep that in mind and scale both DPI and physical dimensions (width and height) at the same time. Lulu and Amazon both reject images that aren’t 300 DPI, so if yours isn’t, you’ll find out.

Also, remember to leave room for the title and author’s name. Text should not obscure the main part of the image. This image is marketing your book, and you want it to look as good as possible. Again, a professional knows this. If you design your own, keep textual requirements in mind.

Lulu and Amazon hate PNG files. Oh, they don’t tell you that, and accept them. At least, Lulu does. The problem with PNG files is that they contain transparent layers. These will be flattened in conversion. The result is a darkened cover. We’re already fighting dark covers as it is, so why make it worse? Use a JPEG file instead. Amazon wants only PDF files for covers, but even a PNG within a PDF will be flattened. Again, use a JPEG and save yourself a headache.

All right. Until next time, happy writing.

 

Aura Lockhaven’s New Old Clothes

Those of you who have followed me for some time may have noticed a shocking transformation in Aura on the cover of A Path of Stones. She isn’t wearing her usual red bikini, gloves, and boots.

That garb is Aura’s enchantress outfit. She won’t wear it until the third book. She wears a brown dress in A Path of Stones and The Fires of Tallen Hall. I wanted the covers of those two books to reflect the character inside. Yet, she isn’t wearing a brown dress. Why? Necessity!

If you’ve ever worked with 3D art, you know what I’m going to say about dresses and dramatic poses. Anything in 3D is a wire mesh. Getting a dress to fit an action pose is like bending chicken wire. It ain’t happening. So, if I won’t put Aura in her enchantress outfit, and I can’t use a dress, that left only a blouse and pants.

aurablog

This outfit conforms to whatever pose I choose. Nice. I added the cloak to give her more of the appearance of a wizardess.

Is it permissible to dress a character in something other than what he or she wears in the book? Yes. I’ll name two examples. The first is Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. On every cover, Harry Dresden wears a hat. He never does in the story. That is an inside joke between Butcher and his artist. The second is Frank Frazetta. He usually painted Conan the Barbarian in a loincloth, and otherwise naked. Yet, in half the stories, Conan wears armor or clothes like everyone else. If Frazetta can get away with it, so can I.

This outfit also reflects something Aura will wear in upcoming books. Not everyone views an enchantress with respect. It’s that seductive reputation. So, when Aura travels, she will dress as a middling merchant until she learns the lay of the land.

Book Covers; Namely Mine

Those of us who self-publish need to provide our own book covers. The cover artist is just one of the things we lose by choosing Self Publishing over Traditional Publishing. On the other hand, we have tremendous freedom to decide what that cover should look like. There are plenty of people ready and willing to help us. In fact, they make their livings designing covers the way we make ours writing what goes inside them.

Conventional wisdom says do not design your own book cover. The results can be less than stellar. In fact, there is a whole website devoted to such train wrecks, called Lousy Book Covers. Take a look at it. Not only will it provide hours of hilarity (or stomach aches), but it will also guide you to know what to avoid.

If you can, hire a cover artist. You know what goes into a book. They know what goes on a book. This needn’t be expensive. The website Fiverr has plenty of professionals who will produce an outstanding cover for $ 50, sometimes less. They have as many stock photos as you have ideas, and know how to blend them together to make an original piece for you. This is a boon for the writer of romance or mystery. Browse romances on Amazon some time and see what they look like. For fans of brawny men, you will have a field day. For fans of erotica, I must quote George Takei and say, “Oh, myy!”

Fantasy, science fiction, and horror writers don’t fare as well. No matter how deep an inventory the cover artist has, few have stock photographs of women in Medieval garb hefting a sword, a spaceship hovering over the surface of Rigel X, or a werewolf about to devour a child. So, what are we supposed to do?

Well, the first choice is to hire an illustrator to paint the cover. Most fantasy and science fiction covers are paintings. You’ve seen them. We grew up with them. I could spend the rest of this post listing all the names of the great cover artists, but I’ll stick to Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Ken Kelly, Ralph McQuarrie, and the Hildebrandt Brothers. They set the tone for the genres. Another choice is to hire a photographer to put models in costume, take them to an appropriate setting, and tell them to have fun. Both of those are the optimal choices. They are also the expensive choices. A good illustrator can charge $ 500 or more, and photographers and models charge by the hour.

As someone who writes in a genre with few stock photograph options, and as someone who had to wage a Kickstarter campaign to afford the ISBNs for his books, that left me with only one option: design my own cover.

Here, I have an advantage. I’m also a 3D artist. Oh, I’m far from the best. My work lacks the photorealism craved by so many (including myself). But in nine years, I’ve learned much, especially how to pose the characters, thanks to studying Frazetta. In no way do I recommend that you follow suit. What I learned about designing my own cover, however, may help you tell a professional artist what you want for yours.

Here is my original cover design.

path

I designed it to reflect what lies inside. It is symbolic of Aura’s journey to discover herself. Yet, it just didn’t feel right. Mostly, I didn’t like Aura’s dress. No matter what I did to it, that dress looked plastic. The cover also looked pedestrian to me, literally, as Aura is simply walking.

So, I set out to redesign the cover. For that, I turned to Susan K. Quinn’s book Indie Author Survival Guide. She devotes an entire chapter to covers, what they do, and what they don’t do.

Ms. Quinn says that the cover is marketing. It is designed to capture the reader’s attention and arouse his or her interest. It should convey the genre in one image. It does not tell the story. That is what the blurb does. The cover does not have to match the story. It just has to convey the idea. Whether the writer uses people, landscape, items, or symbols is personal choice and dependent on genre. Symbols work well for science fiction, people work best for fantasy and romance, items such as guns and maps are standard for mystery, and close ups of faces are the trademark of young adult. Ms. Quinn specified that the two genres that fare the best from an illustration, as opposed to a photograph, are children’s books and fantasy. She used the cover to Indie Author Survival Guide as an example. The cover shows a mountain climber facing a mountain. The book has nothing to do with mountain climbing. On the other hand, it does have to do with surviving what can be the figuratively rough landscape of self-publishing.

Armed with that knowledge, I returned to DAZ Studio. 3D art is an illustration. In fact, my less-than-photorealistic images work better with Ms. Quinn’s guidelines.

Before I started, I asked myself, “What would Frank Frazetta do?” He was a professional cover artist, knew a cover was designed to grab the reader’s attention, and nothing is more riveting than drama. He wouldn’t focus on the landscape. He would focus on the character. That meant Aura had to be front and center, dominating the cover. I kept the steps, symbolic of the story, but now they are just there, not the focal point. Frazetta would also pose the character in action. Again, that sense of drama. Aura did not have to do anything she does inside the book, just look interesting enough to convince the reader to buy it.

Putting Aura in an action pose forced me to discard the dress. No 3D dress works well in an action pose. Now, at this point in the series, Aura wears a dress. She does not acquire the red corseted bikini that some of you are familiar with until the third book. If I can’t use the dress, and won’t use the bikini yet, that left only a blouse and pants. However, she doesn’t wear them in the book. Is that permissible? I’m sure you’ve seen a cover to one of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels. On every cover, Harry Dresden wears a hat. In the stories, however, he never does. The hat is an inside joke between Butcher and his artist. So, yes, it is permissible. Remember, the cover does not have to match the story, and that includes the character’s clothing.

To convey the idea that this book is fantasy, I gave Aura two of the traditional emblems of a magician; a staff and a cloak. I also posed her with one hand raised, as if she is about to cast a spell. That emphasized that A Path of Stones is a sword-and-sorcery story, heavy on the sorcery. Finally, I wanted to convey some idea of who Aura is and what the story is about. Her motto is “defend the defenseless, help the helpless, and give hope to the hopeless.” Few are more defenseless or helpless than a child, so I had her defending a child from an unseen threat.

Setting up a cover is not the same as setting up a scene to post on DeviantArt. A cover has a title and an author’s name that go somewhere. Space has to be allowed for those. The colors of the illustration cannot conflict with them, either. I spent an entire day tweaking the colors of the set to permit the title to show, and moving the camera around to avoid overlapping the figures.

Here is the result.

path-cover

I like this much better. Certainly, it doesn’t match the story. It doesn’t have to. On the other hand, it actually does. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t have 3D art skills.

A 3D artist may be the cost-effective route, should you not have the funds for an illustrator or photographer, and Fiverr artists don’t have the needed resources. Many will take commissions, and be happy to collaborate on a commercial project. Their commission rates are affordable. Browse through DeviantArt, find a few 3D artists whose work you like, and contact them.

 

 

 

Aura Lockhaven’s Latest Incarnation

auraptswebsite

This new image marks the transition of Aura Lockhaven from Victoria 6 HD to Victoria 7 HD. It also coincides with the completion of her first book, A Path of Stones.

Like her V4 and V6 counterparts, this incarnation of Aura is totally custom morphed. Aura’s skin is hotrodded Elyza by Vyktohria. Her clothes are identical to her V6 counterpart. In fact, I simply imported the V6 version into the V7 file, and changed the fit to for the clothes. Done. For the record, Dynamic Clothing fits V7 just fine. The only new item is the cloak. The V7 edition has better movement control. With the new version, I thought some new hair was in order, so Aura sports Aave Nainen’s Free Spirit Hair.

Technogeek stuff here. Transitioning Aura from one model base to another was easier than I suspected. In fact, the idea of transitioning her is why I delayed using the Victoria 7 model base for a year. But simply copying the morph slider settings from V6 to V7 gave me an almost identical duplicate. The main differences lay in the shape of the faces. V6’s face is heart shaped. V7’s is more oval. That required some adjustments to the settings for Heart Shaped Face and Oval Shaped Face, but at least, I know what I’m doing.

This opens up the possibility of transitioning the Sarethian Seven to Victoria 7. They’re pretty muscular women, and V7 has superior muscle definition. Also, there is a script to actually change an adult figure into a child, without requiring the construction of a new character. Half of the Sarethian Seven tales occur when they are eleven years old. The script makes illustrating those tales easy! But that is a project for the future.

Poor Aura has been through some changes. If you’re interested to see how she evolved from a very primitive V4 incarnation back in 2010, please check out the page “Creating Aura Lockhaven, Part II: The 3D Effect,” on my website.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6.