Happy 2017

2017

May your new year be full of magic, triumph, and joy. Treat everyone with kindness in 2017, especially yourself.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Is 3D Art Actually Art?

Is 3D art actually art?

That question is as oft asked, and debated, as the still asked question is photography actually art. We should think the latter question long settled by now, at least by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans if no one else. The war over digital art seems to have settled down, as well it should. There are too many masterpieces composed with stylus and program for that controversy to have any further sway. As far as I’m concerned, 3D is in the same boat as photography and digital. So, in this essay, I’m going to wade into the argument; obviously from the side of those who say yes, it is art.

No one can define art. The definition is unique to the artist, as well as the viewer. I’ll use my own. Art comes from within. It’s a vision in the mind and heart of the creator. How it is produced so the world can enjoy it is a mere convenience, and whatever feels natural to the artist. Some use paint. Some use pencil. Some use stone. Others use a stylus and a computer. Others use cloth or metal. But all begins with that vision in the heart and mind, and ends with some form of story told in a visual format. The difference between Pierre-August Renoir’s “Girl with Watering Can” and a child’s fingerpainting is a difference in skill. Both Renoir and your kindergartner had a vision that screamed to be seen, and would not rest until it was.

It’s interesting that those who condemn 3D art the loudest are not artists. Painters, illustrators, and photographers are usually kind and constructive in their criticisms. Those who scream “It isn’t art” tend to be those who have never advanced beyond ball point pen stick figures on ruled notebook paper, or worse — blurred selfies taken in bathroom mirrors, with the tops of their heads cut off. Perhaps the adage should be rephrased to say, “Those who do, do. Those who can’t do, criticize.” I’d like to see these condemnatory critics do something just as good as we do, with paint, pencil, stylus, camera, or computer.

Most 3D artists would rather paint or draw. We simply never developed the skills to do so. But we found a medium that permits us to express our visions, elevating us beyond the stick figure. Sure, we move things around on a computer screen, not unlike playing with G.I. Joe or Barbie in a Hasbro or Kenner set. But these pixelated figures do what we want them to do, and they’re cheaper than a twelve inches to the foot model hired to pose for us. At the end of the day, we have an image that, we hope, comes close to a visual representation of that vision screaming inside our minds. Now, I could stop right there. Visions screaming in our minds? Voices in our heads? Yeah, this is art!

Granted, 3D art has its limitations. I’ve often accused painters of having it easy. They can make that oil say what they want it to say. We 3D guys are a bit hard pressed to get wire mesh to perform as well. Bending virtual wire mesh is not unlike bending real chicken wire. It just doesn’t quite perform like the human body. Cloth is worse. Hand artists will get cloth to fold and flow like cloth. 3D cloth folds like, well, chicken wire. We’re also limited by available products. If a comics artist wants a particular suit of armor, he gets it. We have to work with what has been made by someone else, unless we’re skilled with an autocad type modeling program, and most of us are not. This latter fact does provide a foundation for one of the critics’ most legitimate complaints — we see the same clothes, props, and sets in everyone’s renders. There are ways around that, and if we are true to our visions, we will find them.

Even if we do all use the same suit of clothes, it is still art. One of my creative writing professors said, “All the world’s original stories could be written on a postage stamp. Everything has been written, but it has not been written from your point of view and in your style. Those make it unique.” The same thing is true of art. Both Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo painted Conan the Barbarian. Yet, the two versions cannot be compared to each other because one is Frazetta’s interpretation and the other is Vallejo’s. Each artist had his own style and his own vision of the Cimmerian.

There is a plethora of nudes in 3D art. Too many, in fact. However, none look like “The Hunted.” No one has seen the Victoria 6 figure like those characters, with those skin textures, standing in that swamp, ready to tackle an ogre, and believe me, no one has ever seen the Michael 6 figure turned into that particular ogre. It was the vision I had in my mind, and I was able to achieve it. That, my friends, makes it art.

Critics condemn us for using bought products, saying real artists begin with nothing. Really? Not even painters make everything from scratch. Most use purchased tools and items. There may be some industrious artist who has a loom and weaves his own cloth, but most buy ready-made canvas. Some grind their own pigments, but most order paints from a dealer. I know no artist who makes her own pencils. The closest that come to total purity are the folks who make their own paper and inks, but that is part of the overall handmade book process, an art form unto itself. So, how is 3D art any different from watercolor painting? We simply use our fingers in different ways, on keys instead of brushes. The half-crazed, half-genius mind is the same regardless of medium.

How about time. A painter will spend days on one painting. Some scrap it and start over. Frank Frazetta repainted “Conan the Destroyer” twice before he was satisfied. The original that graces the cover of the 1971 book Conan the Buccaneer no longer exists, lying underneath two more versions. Heck, there is something underneath the Mona Lisa. Very few 3D artists load a figure, pose him, add a light, and click the render button to get a final piece. Most spend days setting up the scene. I once spent an entire month on one scene because the final image just didn’t look right. The published version of “The Hunted” is not the original version. In the original, the characters were swallowed by the set. So, I scraped the first set and started over, posing the characters up front first, then building the set around them. Painters will empathize, and look at their stacks of used canvases. Comics artists are grinning while glancing at their overflowing trash cans. It’s art if we spend time on it, agonize over it, achieve ecstasy with it, reach the point where we say “one more touch and it’s ruined,” and walk away.

Ultimately, though, the answer is this. One of my professors in college said about free verse poetry, “It’s a poem if the poet says it’s a poem!” That can be applied to any art. It’s art if the artist says it’s art. And I say, 3D art is art. Because I said so.

Cavewoman

Cavewoman

Meriem Cooper, the curvaceous, Cretaceous Cavewoman. And Klyde, of course. A tribute to Budd Root.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5.

Preliminary work in GIMP 2.8, Hexagon 2.5, and ShaderMap 2.

I don’t usually do fan art. It just ain’t my bag, man. However, after creating Jenny here (she replaces Allyson, who handled the bulk of my non-Aura 3D work in 2015 but has been permanently assigned to the cast of Dandelions), I noticed how much she resembles Budd Root’s Meriem Cooper. So, I thought, why not. Let’s have some fun! Too bad the dinosaurs on Renderosity are outside of my budget.

Jenny is a custom morphed V6HD, with Addy’s Valerie for V6 head. Her skin is modified Ashleigh for V4 by Vyktohria. That set has a wonderful optional tanline map that Jenny will wear in future scenes. Yeah, I know. The French manicure is a bit much, but let’s just say Meriem had a makeover before going hunting today. Besides, Jenny refused to remove the nail varnish for just one render. The bikini began life as Mada’s Jungle Girl for G2F, fitted with custom trans maps and new texture maps made with a free stock snake skin. As for the teeth on the bikini, they came from the necklace. Hexagon is my friend.

 

HUNTED

Warning: As the kids today say, the following image is not safe for work.

hunted

The Vakaldin tracker Sar ta Olt caught the scent of Tanglevine at first light. The foolish Kromanji shaman had left her village, probably searching for herbs. He set out to capture her. Those pesky, ugly naked things moved into the swamplands two hundred years ago, without an invitation. Vakaldin hated Kromanji, but the ancient warrior clan found uses for them. Tanglevine would provide a week’s sport for the he-Vaks, and some of the bolder she-Vaks, of his village. Later, her flesh would taste like pork, if roasted alive and slathered with enough garlic and watersage.

Sar ta Olt sniffed the air. Tanglevine had two companions. He knew the scents of that detestable Catwhisper and Goldfern. He chased them before. They always eluded him by splitting up. Today, they couldn’t, not protecting their valuable shaman. He had them! Three noisy, smelly, clumsy Kromanji were a thundering herd of swamp sloths. A blind she-Vak could track them. A wonderful prize they would be. If he captured them, then he got his pick of the bunch for his very own. Catwhisper looked the most delicious in many ways. He would bring them back to his chief and great acclaim. After all, Sar ta Olt was the best tracker in the swamplands. This was a mere stretch of the legs.

If Sar ta Olt was the greatest of the Vakaldin trackers, then Goldfern and Catwhisper were the best of the Kromanji scouts. Not strong enough to bring down a mastadon, the two women swept the area around their village for threats to the hunters and farmers. The swamps were more home to them than their own huts, and nothing eluded their eyes, ears, or noses. Not even a knifetooth lion heard them move, nor could a dreadwolf outsmart them. They often guarded Tanglevine on her forays beyond the village. Not every death in the swamplands walked on paws, wrapped in fur. The shaman often became too lost in her flowers to pay attention to what approached. Goldfern smelled Sar ta Olt at fifty feet. In their tongue, they called him Ohkar, the deadliest predator in the swamplands.

The women exhausted their wits eluding Sar ta Olt. Their stealth and cunning only threw him off long enough for them to breathe. They were far from the safety of the village walls. Finally, they ducked into the water, hiding in a canopy of moss and vines hanging from some dead trees. They could run no farther without rest. The trio become as still as stones. There he was, only feet away. So close, they heard him snarl. Kromanji had fallen prey to enough Vakaldin for the women to know their bone weapons were useless against Sar ta Olt’s thick hide. He also had that club made from something called iron. They saw the ropes and manacles hanging from his belts, meant for them.

Goldfern and Catwhisper tense. They ready their weapons. Tanglevine senses their intentions. They plan to sacrifice themselves so the shaman can escape. The scouts are her friends, and she’ll be a corpse before she lets this Ohkar defile them, much less eat them. Tanglevine wasn’t chosen Kromanji shaman simply because her mother spoke with spirits. She reaches out to the snake overhead. Their wills become one. The snake hisses encouragement to the shaman and her guards.

The sound of the swamp grows. The insects and birds sing loudly. The wind kicks up, blowing the hanging vines and moss together into a curtain between hunter and hunted. It brings the thick odor of wet muck into the face of Sar ta Olt, masking the women’s scent. The usually quiet water laps at the rocks beneath his feet. The swamp’s creatures close in on the Vakaldin. Now, who is the hunted?

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5.

“Hunted” is unusual for me. I usually stick with fantasy or Medieval themes. But I was inspired by Frank Frazetta’s “Night Winds,” featuring a nude woman hiding from an armored night. The scene I had in mind felt more at home with cro-magnons than anyone Medieval. And it made more sense to have them hiding from Ogarus Uglius (primeval ogre) than another of their kind. I figure this took place about 20,000 years ago, before the Agricultural Revolution and urbanization and the social construct of “modesty.” It ain’t cold in swamps, so why bother with artificial fur?

Learning from Frank Frazetta

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn from the Master himself, but I’m not sure if the lesson learned is even something he did.

I’m currently working on a render inspired by Frank Frazetta’s painting for the cover of Karl Wagner’s novel, “Night Winds.” The painting features a naked girl hiding under a fallen tree from a nasty looking knight who hunts for her. I thought about switching it up, with a swamp instead of a mountain meadow, the girl on the left instead of the right, and having an ogre hunting for her instead of the knight. Like everything else I do, it grew, and grew, and grew. Until it was a full sized swamp with three girls. By then, however, the characters were so small as to be hidden by all that swamp.

It just looked wrong.

So, I went back to the original painting. That is when it hit me.

Frazetta and I approach composition from equally opposite directions. Or, it appears that way.

I approach 3D art like a model railroader. Those of you who have played with trains probably know what that means. For those of you who don’t, putting together a model railroad goes something like this: oh, this is a cool model stockyard and I like this Oldsmobile and that is an awesome tree and I have to have this set of crates and that pile of junk is great and look at that battleship and that building is fantastic and so is that building and that one and that Model T and that collection of figures and … uh, I should probably leave room to run a train through here, huh? When I design a 3D art scene, I pretty much do the same thing, assembling as many props as allowed by law into the most amazing set you’ve ever seen. Then, I bring in the characters and pose them in such a way as to still see the whole set.

The end result is the figures, the actual characters telling the story, are lost in the details. This is most apparent in my render for “Magical Yule.” I was so bent on that storefront and snowfall that it required 14 figures to fill the scene, and their stories are lost. Now, for “These Mean Streets,” it was deliberate. That scene was about capturing the look and feel of Daytona Beach circa 1974. The figures were details. Yet, in that deliberate composition, the figures become characters, all telling their stories at once, and it works.

Frazetta didn’t do that. Okay, so I really don’t know if he did or not. So far, I haven’t come across anything saying he didn’t, but it sure doesn’t appear that he did. In “Night Winds,” all we have are the girl, the knight, his horse, and the tree. Some vague mountains appear in the background. The rest of the set is there just to hold the figures together. It appears that he painted the figures first, large, up close, and in the viewer’s face. Then, he added the set. The end result is a sense of immediacy and intimacy. All of his paintings are like that.

I scrapped that beautiful swamp.

I brought in my four characters into the empty screen, positioned them, and posed them. Then, I moved the camera in close until they filled the screen. They take up about three fourths of the scene now. After that, I positioned the set around them, prop by prop. I positioned the props to the characters, instead of posing the characters to the finished set. It is a much more powerful scene now.

Here is the test of the swamp set, without the characters.

hunted set test

The girls will be on the left, and the ogre on the right. The space gives me plenty of room to pose all of them dramatically. The set looks packed, and it sorta is. I need that many props to make it look like a swamp. But the main reason it looks packed is all that swamp set I had before is now compressed into a small, intimate area, instead of being spread out. Consider it artistic critical mass. There isn’t much to the set beyond what you can see here. This type of set design was actually easier than my old grab it all and shove it in model railroading method. Everything is placed deliberately for maximum effect and interaction with the characters. Because the set is so small, it also saves resources on my aging computer.

Sword and Sorcery

Captain Elisabeth Lovejoy (Sword) and Aura Lockhaven (Sorcery) team up to take down a nasty ogre.

SnS2

Elisabeth’s importance in the Aura storyline is growing. The Aura tales are sword and sorcery. If Aura handles the sorcery, someone has to handle the sword.

The two friends obviously have different fighting styles. Aura fights from a distance. Her accuracy is pinpoint up to fifty feet. Using bladed weapons, Elisabeth has to get up close, and personal. This ogre is already dead; he just doesn’t know it yet.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5.

 

 

Happy 2016

new year

“All y’all celebrate without me,” I said. The clock ticked away behind me, signaling the final thirty minutes of the year 2015. “I just want to read tonight.”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Aura Lockhaven replied, grabbing my left arm. Perhaps I should have written the Enchantress of Hartshorn a little less authoritative. I certainly should not have given her a mesmerizing voice like a cross between a Celtic harp and a waterfall. “We aren’t letting you off that easy. You rather created us, or don’t you recall the past two years. So, dance with us. Drink with us. Celebrate 2016 with us. It’s almost midnight, and you’re still dressed quite 1974. Really, now. Tweed with navy? There is a wee difference between being charmingly retro and being cheap about your wardrobe.”

I snorted. “Says the woman who wears a bikini to work.”

Aura smiled. With a giggle, she said, “Whose fault is that, Mr. Writer and Artist?” Aura looked over her shoulder to the blonde warrior, now clad in a clubbing dress and reposed in my other chair. “You could help me, Iryndelle. He created you, too.”

Iryndelle grinned. “Don’t look at me, Enchantress. I belong to a totally different storyline. You’re the written character, the queen of his fictional universe as he calls you. I’m just a lowly graphic novel heroine. Getting him to recognize New Year’s Eve is the responsibility of you printlings.”

“Lovely,” Aura grumbled.

It seems I wrote myself into a corner with these characters. They’re taking over. I sighed. “No, you go ahead. 2015 was a long year. I just want to rest tonight.”

“Rest tomorrow when you’re recovering from a hangover,” Elisabeth Lovejoy snapped, taking my right arm. Her grip was like iron. I forgot how strong I wrote her. “We’re about to make you famous, so get your writerly butt, and the rest that’s attached to it, out of that chair and dance with us!” Elisabeth tugged on my arm. “Aura, he gained weight.”

“I don’t know a gym membership spell,” Aura muttered.

“That master’s degree went to his head. Metaphors and alliteration are heavy,” Iryndelle quipped.

“I’d kick your ass out of that chair, but you’d probably write a nasty death scene for me if I did,” Elisabeth said. She’d do it, too. So would I. Eh, too much work.

“Aura. Elisabeth. Iryn. I’m too old for this,” I said.

“Old?” Sagacius roared. I forgot about him. Next to Aura herself, he’s my senior-most character. Sagacius is not someone to be ignored. “You don’t know the meaning of that word, boy. Egads! I could tell you about old … I could tell you about ancient, eldritch, arcane, and mythical, but you’re an insufferable know-it-all with your Oxford English Dictionary and penchant for etymology. Old, indeed!”

The wizard must have cast a spell on me, because I stood up and said, “You’re absolutely right. 2016 is going to be the best year ever. Three hundred sixty-five days to do accomplish great things and have fun doing them. Let me get dressed. This calls for a white dinner jacket. And champagne. We need lots of champagne. I think Benny Goodman is in order, too.”

“A white dinner jacket, with your fourteen inch long hair? Oh, merciful heavens!” Aura muttered. “This isn’t London, and you aren’t John Lennon.”

“Benny Goodman?” Elisabeth asked. “Is it about to be 2016, or 1936?”

As I left the room, I heard Sagacius sigh, and say, “I was hoping for Taylor Swift. Ladies, we have been created by an anachronistic boar.”

“At least, he’s changing those socks and that shirt,” Aura said.

Happy 2016! May the upcoming year bring you more love, abundance, happiness, and joyful surprises than you can shake a stick at.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5

Aura Lockhaven, Iryndelle, Elisabeth Lovejoy, and Sagacius copyright Nathan Boutwell, 2016.