• Personal

    Days like cards, like falling leaves

    Despite not doing anything that I’d hoped to do this summer (finishing my OC dragon queen cosplay, visiting South Korea), I’ve still been busy. Days fall into weeks and weeks fall into months. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to keep working throughout all of this, but wow I’ve been tired.

    One of the projects that I’ve started recently was a dark-fairytale visual novel. This will be fun. :D

    Projects which have languished, dusty and abandoned:

    • My NSFW Patreon
    • My (also NSFW) Alice: Mad World graphic novel
    • Any writing that I’d planned to finish
    • All of the DIY on the house

    We’re dreading the end of the summer and Phil’s return to school. It looms like something bad on the horizon.

  • Art

    Daz Sale

    I’ve been thinking about doing a tutorial series on both fantasy art and book cover art, as I know that these times are tough for everyone. Authors without a lot of design knowledge and skills would be ill-advised to do their own covers, of course, but art to accompany freebies, shorts, promo material, etc., is something that anyone with an eye for balance can do.

    As you probably know, book cover artists are relying increasingly on Daz Studio renders to supplement and enhance models for book covers. Quite often you’ll replace the head with a photo model head (which is a VERY useful skill to have), but the 3D model should give you a seamless body in any position, any clothing style, that you need.

    Right now and for another few days Daz is offering basically a “free” membership to their Platinum Plus membership, so it’s a great time to pick up some models for a few dollars each. Here’s a list of some models that I personally use a lot, get them now for 66-78% off. The software itself, and the base models, are free.

    https://www.daz3d.com/aakash-hd-for-kala-8

    https://www.daz3d.com/mirlande-hd-for-genesis-8-female

    https://www.daz3d.com/kira-hd-for-genesis-8-female

    https://www.daz3d.com/zsazsa-hd-for-genesis-8-female

    https://www.daz3d.com/millarose-for-genesis-8-female

    You’ll need poses as well, unless you’re good at posing…or very patient. :D Here are a couple that give you poses and weapons:

    https://www.daz3d.com/z-deadly-weapon-gun-and-poses-for-genesis-8-female-and-victoria-8

    https://www.daz3d.com/z-fearless-archer-bow-and-arrow-prop-and-poses-for-genesis-8-female-and-olympia-8

    And one without weapons: https://www.daz3d.com/z-strike-a-pose-poses-for-genesis-8-female-and-victoria-8

    Again, check to make these are still heavily discounted, if they aren’t you’ve missed it.

    Look in the PC+ section for hair and clothing – just make sure that they’re all for Genesis 8, currently the newest model as they aren’t all mix and match.

    A final thing that you’ll need is lighting, and this is the package that I use a lot simply because they give you images of what each lighting setup looks like. It isn’t on sale at the moment, but I’m adding it because it’s my personal favourite. https://www.daz3d.com/ptf-neon-splash-lighting-suite

    Have fun! :)

  • Personal

    So…that happened

    Well, just after the holidays the entire world started to come apart at the seams, and by now most of us are on lockdown to a certain extent. In the UK we’re allowed to go out alone and shop…if there is anything to be found in the markets, which varies wildly. Initially, due to panic buying and hoarders, the shelves were mostly empty but now it’s a bit better. Toilet paper is still as elusive as the unicorn, though.

    We’re allowed out (officially) once per day for a form of exercise as long as we stay away from others. Unofficially, however, the police will probably send you home as with the warmer weather we have a problem with jerks congregating in parks, etc. YOLO and all that, sorry if someone’s gran dies. Ugh.

    Now, I work from home so I’m used to isolation, but there are currently a lot of people losing their minds due to being shut in. Marriages are falling apart as people are actually forced to spend an extended period of time with their loved ones. Parents are trying to homeschool, and lord am I SO glad that my daughter is grown, because that seems like hell on earth.

    We are all news junkies now, and the news is all terrible. Country after country broke our collective hearts: first China, then Italy, then Spain. Currently the US is winning again (at least in terms of COVID-19 positives and deaths). Yaay. India, I fear, will be the next centre and it’s going to be horrible. South Korea continues to be a shining example and after an early rise (due to a secretive religious cult and a super-spreader) managed via widespread testing and GPS exposure tracking managed to bring casualties way down. Be like Korea, kids…not the US.

    Well, that’s my plague journal. We’re drinking too much, worrying too much, and we all dread the future if there isn’t a vaccine looming on the horizon. No country will be able to stay in lockdown forever, and eventually there will need to be a very terrible choice made at enormous cost…and that is something that none of us want to ever see.

  • Art

    Patreon Thoughts

    I started a Patreon under a different name because I was interested in doing something completely new in order to keep my art from becoming stale. As anyone who has ever made the change from just having fun with something to it being their only source of professional income knows, it’s wonderful to be able to freelance for yourself…and it also becomes a job, and automatically something that you have to do.

    I’d always loved 80s pinup art from Luis Royo, Olivia de Berardinis, etc., so I thought that I’d do my own version that centered more on game fan art. I had a blast with it, and even experimented a bit with some totally nsfw stuff which was a lot of fun, but in the end was a bit more problematic for me (trying to come up with a women’s view on porn that wasn’t “male gazey” but in the end wasn’t greatly different in tone. I think women are beautiful, men think women are beautiful, so…yeah.

    I also had a tough time, given my current workload, with keeping up with two totally different social media accounts, putting work into everything, and not posting anything with rude bits to my main account. :D Everything takes work if you do it right.

    In the end I decided to keep my Patreon, change the name to Ravven, keep some of the pinup stuff but not the real nsfw stuff. Oh, I’ll still do some of it, notably my Dark Alice graphic novel, but I’ll keep the Alice stuff on Gumroad when it’s done and post the miscellaneous saucy stuff on the second deviantART account.

    I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but I’ve ideas for what I’d really like to do with it.

    1. Tarot deck. I’ve always wanted to work on a very lush, dark tarot set and this is one of the projects that I want to set time aside for.
    2. I’m thinking about a course, split into two sections, for creating art – basically, trying to teach the way that I work. This would be split into 1) Create Your Own Book Covers for writers (because I’ve seen some horrifically bad cover art out there and not everyone can afford to cough up hundreds of dollars each time they release a short story. 2) Creating Fantasy or Pinup Art Using 3D and Postwork – basically, a course on how I do artwork. Posing and rendering a model in Daz, compositing in Photoshop and overpainting.

    But more on these projects later. Must think about it. :D

  • Personal

    Happy 2020

    …and doesn’t that sound like a sci-fi date? I would have expected Bladerunner-esque cities by now, rather than our current world.

    I’ve been thinking about new projects for the coming year, one of them being my own tarot set. I’m kind of feeling like something that mixes Celtic mythology and the fae with the dystopian feel of our burning world. Think Charles de Lint’s Crow Girls and you’ll have a sense of what I’d like to do. Gemmin in smoky eyeshadows and tatters, perching on a car in a fallen city.

    I’m considering January to be a trial month, as I didn’t do much during that month. It was a kind of hangover from the year before. So now in February we’re onwards and upwards. :)

  • Personal

    Blogging: Is This Still A Thing?

    I’ll be honest, I really miss the days when everyone was writing reams and reams of personal thought, stories, game reviews, and so on. I loved the days of LiveJournal, of having my feed reader full of gaming blogs.

    And now? While I can still think in longer format (snark at the Instagram and Snapchat crowd here) I have to admit that I no longer have the time or the energy for daily blogging. I miss it, but I tweet a hell of a lot more than I write.

    This makes me sad.

  • Art

    Experiment: Custom Premades

    I’m starting an experiment with predesigned book cover art that is somewhat customisable. I’ve tried this before, and ended up with people who wanted a full custom cover for the predesigned price, but I think it’s worth trying again.

    The problem with custom covers is that increasingly they are done with a design-by-committee approach, as people post them on their Facebook groups, etc. The design window stretches out, far past the assigned slot, and the many, many micromanaged changes mean that you usually end up with a bad cover. I’ll be honest, I’ve considered giving all of this up due to this…and you know how little I want to go back to grey cubicles and software design! :D

    What I’d like to do are covers where the art is intact, yet the author or publisher can change the face and hair to match their idea of the character. Covers are rarely helped by having an exact depiction of a certain scene on a cover, as the art is meant to be a marketing tool to intrigue people enough to pick up the book. Although I’m calling these predesigned covers, they’ll have as many hours of work in them as a custom, only at half the price.

    Fingers crossed that this is a win/win for both artist and author!

  • Personal

    Whooooosh…

    Yeah, I know it’s been ages. I started a stock photography site and a naughty-art-and-comics Patreon and both have taken an enormous amount of work. I’ve been backed up with an overbooked cover schedule, for which I have to apologise to everyone who has been so patient. So, a bit frazzled lately.

    Regarding writing, I’ve done outlines and planning and short descriptions for stuff which I was excited about writing…and haven’t done anything else.

    The Shadowbringers expansion for FFXIV came out, and I have taken a full weekend and weeknights to focus on that. The fact that I’m excited about it shows how little free time I’ve had lately, haha. It’s probably the best gaming experience I’ve had, the best-written story enhanced by the best voice acting – all of this in an MMO rather than a single-player game! The Squenix team really knocked it far, far out of the park on this one. Can expansions get Game of the Year nods? If so, Shadowbringers richly deserves it.

    Plus…bunny girls. Everyone loves a bunny girl, and I have a gorgeous, gothy, sulky one. The terrible thing is that I picked the infamous Voice No. 7, not realising how she sounds in battle. As someone in a comment said: “It sounds like Grandma is doing butt stuff again.” There, try getting that visual out of your head.

    Anyway, still not dead.

  • Writing

    Poem: This is Fine


    When you drop everything you are carrying
    it seems to happen all at once,
    a sudden slide to a disastrous fall,
    broken things and mess

    In reality it’s been sliding all along
    & you just missed all the signs

    You hold onto everything you own
    your heart, your dreams
    Not knowing that you
    are like the dog in the meme

    You drink your coffee, as you do every morning
    while everything burns

    This is fine, you say
    This is fine
    Not seeing the flames as it all burns around you

    This is fine


  • MMO/Gaming

    Late to the Party: FFXIV

    Note: Updated August 2020

    It’s no secret that a lot of MMO players aren’t happy with Warcraft at the moment, and it’s also no secret that there aren’t a lot of traditional MMOs on the horizon to look forward to: too expensive to create and maintain, to balance, to create new content for. It’s much cheaper and easier to roll out survival sandboxes (“You ARE the story! Create your own content!”) and yet another battle royale than to create an AAA MMO.

    Being very strongly an MMO player at heart, this disappoints me. Being a huge FFXIV fan, though, it’s nice to see a big influx of new players. As long as the famously friendly community doesn’t change, of course – the Warcraft community having a well-deserved reputation for elitism and toxicity. FFXIV is the only game that I pug in – I simply won’t do it anywhere else.

    In any event, this is a TL;DR version of getting around in FFXIV. There’s a lot to do and it isn’t always obvious where you should go and do it. So this is going to be dead basic, for people who are new to the game. It also doesn’t address boosted characters, as I’ve never boosted one and I don’t know how much the game hands you when you do.

    Starting a New Character

    It’s worth setting up a few things before you start to play, and these are a few things that I’ve found makes life easier (PC version, of course).

    • Get your bars set up properly. The game will add skills in a logical progression to your bars, but it helps to add a few things to a secondary bar: Return, Aetherytes, the Emote symbol, the Armory chest symbol, and the Hunting Log.
    • System/HUD allows you to show/hide and arrange your bars
    • In System there’s an option for Expanded Inventory, choose that.

    With the shortened levelling experience you really won’t need to take many side quests, but it’s worth taking them all when you start a character – every one you see in your initial city. You’ll need to do a lot of running around anyway to collect your aetheryte points, so you may as well get any xp and cash that you can. Once you get out of the city, usually don’t bother with side quests. The ones that you need to take are the MSQ (main story quest) icons that have a flame symbol around it, and the quest icons that have a plus mark on them (these will unlock important things). List of icons

    Do your hunting logs as you level, it will give you a lot of XP and you’ll need to be killing these beasties for quests, anyway.

    Content Unlocks – bookmark these!

    There is a lot to do in FFXIV and when you start playing the game it’s easy to miss so much of the important stuff. Bookmark these so you don’t miss anything important. Level 15, for example, unlocks a ton of stuff including dyes, glamours, Hall of the Novice, etc.

    Aetherytes: Getting Around

    The big, blue crystals that you see in cities and towns are the fast travel system. As you explore more areas you unlock more of them. You’ll be able to set three favourite destinations (less expensive to travel to), one free one, and your home point. Generally I set my free one to my main city (Limsa Lominsa), the favored destinations to the other capital cities and the home one to wherever I’m currently questing. Once I’m at max I’ll set my home to the new main city.

    If an aetheryte is glittering, you’ve unlocked it. If it isn’t, click on it.

    Grand Companies

    At a certain level (I think it’s level 20) you’ll be able to choose a Free Company. There are three of them, and aside from PvP there really isn’t much of a difference between them. Choose one that you like the colours of, I suppose, because you can buy gear for each.

    Hall of the Novice

    At level 15 you can do the Hall of the Novice (various locations, but you’ll find them in the inns of the major cities). This is like a new-to-MMO type of tutorial which is worth doing because you get a set of gear for doing it, nice for the level, plus a ring that gives you extra XP as you level.

    Quest Icons: Skip to the Good Stuff

    There are a lot of quests in this game, I mean a lot. The main story is amazing, some of the other quests are amusing, and there is a metric buttload of running around to run errands for people. Here’s how to tell them apart: look at the icons.

    Levelling: So Much Stuff to Do

    Aside from things such as Palace of the Dead that you’ll do when you level up additional jobs (each character can be every class, no need for alts), there are several things that you should do while levelling a new character:

    1. Quests (of course)
    2. Fates: look for the blue circles on the map
    3. Hunting Log: extra XP for killing the things you’re already killing for quests! Bonus!
    4. Instances
    5. Guildhests

    Combat Markers: How Not To Stand In the Fire

    I’m going to link to this thread here on Reddit, because it’s explained very well. One thing about AOE markers: get out of the marked area, but you can go back in when it disappears even though the target might still be casting.

    Spiffin’ Things Up

    The FFXIV store doesn’t offer any pay-to-win items, but it does have some great outfits, fantasia (change appearance potions), mounts, vanity pets, and some story skip and level boost potions.