My Computer(s) Fell Down And Went Boom

Sixteen days into the new year, and I’ve had enough evil-mojo happen for three years, all at the same time.  I want to scream now, but I’ll reserve that for later.

Okay, so what happened?  My awesome work computer popped a video card.  No biggie, right?  I went ahead and set up my backup computer, a 6 year old Dell Studio 7100.  It was slower, but able to do the job.  As of late last night, that trusty old machine died a most horrible electronic death.  The CMOS (Crystal Mercury Oxide Semiconductor) came to a crackling end.  It won’t even finish the power-on self test without spitting some smoke of the system board.  Yikes!

As for my powerful one-year old AMD-9590 based computer with the corrupt video card, I recently got the replacement RMA (Return Manufacturer Authorization) in the mail, and low and behold… the replacement video card is also bad.  (It’s an AMD R290x Video Card, when they were new to the market.)  The bracket came out of the box bent, with a mounting post for the primary video connector eerily missing.  I just got the email from the company about this massive complaint I sent, and they want me to take pictures and email them while getting another RMA set up to replace the replacement video card.

It’s going to be weeks before I see another chance at getting my work computer up and running.  If I had the money, I’d merely run out and buy another video card, right?  Well, the one I’m going through RMA hell over retailed at a touch more than $400 (after shipping and taxes) all by itself, I don’t have that kind of dough on standby for situations like this. Saving that up takes time, as I’m sure it does for all of us.

Where then, does this leave me today?  Can Daniel still write, or will this spell the beginning of the end?  Good news, I have a laptop.  I’m using it right now to make this blog post.  I can still write, answer emails and view web pages…  and bad news, that’s about it.

This Dell Inspiron laptop is only designed to do one major role.  To run accounting software and appointment tracking, and that is it.  There are no advanced capabilities for graphics.  While that won’t slow down my writing, it will bring a halt to any graphic designing, any book cover development, and it will completely stop any digital assets I’ve been hoping to use.

Once my expensive video card is replaced and the AMD-9590 powerhouse is back up and running, I’ll feel much better.  I’ll be productive again.  I can write my novel while compiling a couple million digital pixels in the background.  When I need to relax, I can run a favored game.  As for now, all I have are my backup files and this laptop that Fred Flintstone would say is too slow.

Here is a preview cover of something I have on the shelf.  It was completed before my AMD-9590 popped its video card, which is something this laptop cannot design or ever hope to compile.

Predator Care Official Cover

The only thing I needed to fix was the font work for the Title and Author Name areas to something a bit more solid, and this is one of the novels I have planned right after Power Surge is released.  That foot, spider, chair and background flooring is 100% CGI.  As you can tell, the realism I’m aiming for is pretty high.  This took 18 hours of rendering time with Reality 2.5 with the main assets built and posed in DAZ Studio 4.8

Alas, with my current setup, that’s not possible anymore.  Now I can scream.  Believe me, I’ll feel much better once my work computer is back up and running.  Thanks for listening to my complaints today, I needed to unload somewhere.

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Power Surge – In Progress

It’s On!  

On the right is a new meter that measures my progress in the amount of words I’ve written for the next novel I have lined up, Power Surge.  The current count isn’t one day of work, but over the course of the last three weeks.  I have a re-write to do already, but the progress will start-up again within a few days of this post.

Let’s take a peek at the cover I’ve designed for it.

Power Surge Official Cover

If you haven’t noticed, it’s a layout design I carried over from the Darya novels.  It seems to work well thus so far!  When the paperback version comes out, there will be a back cover, and this is where people get a slight hint that this is a comedy type of novel.

Power Surge Official Back Cover

The big dark area in the bottom half is for the UPC label and the blurb text, which hasn’t been adjusted into the cover graphics yet.  When that happens, I’ll make another post and show the difference between the two.

As for the moon, yeah, that does happen in the story-line!

As for the blurb itself, this is what I have developed so far:

A powerful interstellar being. An epic mistake of mind-boggling proportions. Chicken nuggets. What do they all have in common? An event that alters the destiny of human kind; an intricate comedy that proves once and for all that people are not only flawed, but with enough of a push, can rise above any call for mass chaos.

Among the thousands of folks who get hit with a Power Surge that confuses, confounds and traumatizes nations across the world, a handful of everyday-average people come together to save humanity… from themselves.

The very essence of human nature will be deeply challenged by the willpower of those who are infused with unique abilities, so make sure you insulate your funny bone behind a lead wall. It’s going to get rough!

There we have it, folks!  I hope this is a good way to start 2016… with a seriously bent comedy.  I’ll post more on this in a week or so.  ^_^

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Happy New Year

2016 is finally here.  We witnessed many things in 2015 on this tired old planet we call Earth.  What our eyes consumed may not be what our ears have heard, for there are contradictions among us in many different circles.  Politics.  Religion.  Love.  Hate.  Anger. Passion.

The things that confuse and confound aren’t the same things that we strive to achieve, for entertainment or any other purposes, for that matter.  As for myself, I aim to have fun.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Fun.  The world is burning, people are arguing, scientists are well, doing science stuff.  Regardless of whom you are, what your stance on the issues can be, you must remember to have some fun.  Good, clean wholesome fun.  If you can’t laugh while living and loving, what’s the point of it all?  We as the dominate species on Earth, cannot afford to subscribe to evil, or any other dark purposes.  We need to have a good time, a measure of sweetness, to overcome what tends to be bitter.

Love.  Respect.  Integrity.  Put those in any order you like, they are equally important.  We cannot forget these three no matter how we may feel about certain subjects.  Grab anybody in your life who is a positive influence and thank them for being there for you.  Do it right now.  No excuses!  Just go do it, and be grateful while deciding the best possible manner you’re going to have fun.  Life is too short to leave any of that out.

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The Final Month For 2015

Most of the time, this blog is about my novels or about me.  Not this time.  I have two different subjects this morning.  The month of December and you, my readers.

I let the entire month of November slide by without a single post.  It wasn’t done out of indifference or inactivity, or a lack of will.  The focus needed to be spent elsewhere, at the expense of ‘vanishing’ from the Internet for a brief time.

I wanted another novel release, or at least a Beta started for another novel by now, but that didn’t happen.

If you’re here reading this, you’re my friend.  A curious friend at that, but still one all the same.  Your curiosity, coupled with a touch of anticipation of some halfway readable content that isn’t a waste of your time, is not the final goal I set out to get.  I want you entertained and educated all at the same time.  Not all of the Science in my Science Fiction is totally fake.  My stories are futuristic, but most of the facts are straight from our own reality.

I love my readers like brothers and sisters.  Unconditional, with the flaws and vices and needs and wishes, yes, you are there somewhere, populating my caring thinking machinery, getting a thumbs up each and every time I can get you to smile.

As much as we might wish we could, we can’t divide certain parts of people out of them. The parts that cause dark thinking, knee-jerk reactions, or cold calculated animosity.  All of that gets put in my acceptance department, because I want to care for ‘all’ of somebody, and not just parts of them.  So when I say unconditional, I mean it.  It’s not rhetoric or a form of general hyperbole.

Everything you’ve done in your entire life, from the moment you were born to right now, has led you to this particular place.  This point in time.  This set of words.  With your eyes fastened to a digital screen, consuming the very words I write in a unique place within your own mind, I hope beyond all measures that my intent is clear.  I care about you.

I don’t have to know you.  I don’t need to know your name, place of birth, race, creed or gender.  I don’t need any of that.  Those are things that shape our opinion, and my opinion is already set about my readers.  They are all dear to me, and I will strive to entertain them better in 2016 than I ever have in 2015.

In the final month of 2015, there won’t be another post from me.  Come the new year will include new effort, and a revitalized writer who is determined to make this single post today, say everything I need and leave you, my reader, knowing that there is another set of worlds being constructed for you within my novels.  A new mental playground just for you. I intend to engineer it with quality and integrity for the people I care about.

Peace, joy and wellness to all of you.  ^_^

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Cover Art Discussion – Big Post Time

Folks, if you go to the post before this one and read the comments, there is a discussion going on about cover art.  One of the drawbacks is that this system won’t let me post media examples in the reply boxes.  So this here subject can be caught up on by reading those comments, then coming here.  ^_^

Wildscar is an artist, and a guy whom I consider a friend.  Three and a half years ago, he did a book cover for me for my novel, Defenders of Valinthia.  Here is his work, which I personally like.

Defenders of Valinthia Cover

This is the cover that is in place to this day.  With this cover, I am happy with it.  However, I have gotten some feedback on the cover art… not the accuracy, but the style.  Amy Safeunderdark has pointed out that this level of work isn’t easily done and takes time, talent and tons of practice.  She’s right.  Overall, Wildscar (the cover artist) gave me exactly what I asked for.

Three and a half years ago, this is the example I sent to him, demonstrating what I was looking for.

sortalikethis

I have to say, the cover artist is a superior designer over my own skills… as I’ve mentioned… three and a half years ago.

Investing the time into my own skills, learning the principles of photography, lighting and shadows, graphics design… none of those are lumped up into one budget friendly course, not to mention the tremendous amount of practice that it all goes into.

Also mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t want to start making ‘stock photo’ based covers, because of accidental repeats, such as this one:

The true issue here isn’t about who is a skilled artist, or who isn’t.  Wildscar’s and Amy’s skills are unique and well-developed.  What I am dealing with is two levels of professionalism.  One is based on customer perception, the other on an age-old industry that has been selling books for hundreds of years.  Both have standards, and we have best seller novels when they both can agree on one thing.  What makes a book into a best-selling novel.

Have you ever heard of the ancient axiom to never judge a book by its cover?  It exists because this is exactly what 98% of the population does when shopping for a novel.  They judge it by the cover first.  The content comes next, but they have to get to that point through the cover.  You, my dear friends, may be the few who doesn’t truly judge a book by its cover, and that is all to the good.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t operate as well-intended as you do.

So, where does Daniel’s (me) skills stand today?  Let us take a look at a few covers I designed myself.  First up, photostock and layout style, Chronicles of Valinthia.

This is the paperback cover, where the front is on the right, the spine in the middle and the back on the left.  The ebook version only uses the front cover.  Check out the ebook here.  You can check out the paperback version here.

This one was recently produced, not more than a month ago, the whole trilogy under one cover.  Don’t holler at me for not announcing it, this is a ‘test’ run for one year, with no marketing.  I’m looking to see just how well this type of cover will work for it.

Now what if I used some of those ‘artsy’ skills I developed over the last three and a half years?  Let us say, for the moment, that I’ve been told that my sales for Defenders of Valinthia is tanking out, and there hasn’t been a single download in months.  That I would need a new cover for a re-launch.  Using public domain elements and royalty free websites, I can assemble something that looks like this:

Keep in mind, this is only an example run.  This is not the future cover.  This design isn’t based on high photo realistic accuracy, and it focuses on the discovery of Valinthia, the solar system with a rare blue sun.  The text art works, the scene works, but as always, since this came from a public domain repository, this can be duplicated.

So what if I did my own digital rendering?  Like Wildscar and Amy can do?  I can conjure up a unique, nobody will ever duplicate type of cover, like this one:

This cover is 100% CGI.  Yes, I did it.  Because of the mostly ‘Fantasy’ style cover, I went ahead and used a futuristic typeset for the title work to show there is something unique about this blending of Science Fiction and Fantasy in one novel.

While I personally see nothing wrong with either of these covers, one is under threat of a possible duplication, the other is under the scrutiny of public perception that it’s a ‘fast and cheap’ cover making process.  Believe me, it’s not, but most people don’t know that.

So, what if I merely combined the elements of them both?  I could come up with something like this:

This is what it looks like to have two different styles colliding on one cover.  Because of the free-space change, the Graphics layout has to use the title work differently, so the novel’s title go on the bottom, with the author across the top, which is perfectly allowed, as far as title work goes.

Now I have three covers, but I can’t tell what works better than the other.  Why?  I’m too close to the subject.  This is a novel I created, a universe I know inside and out.  Would I personally pick up a novel with any of these titles if I saw them on a shelf?  Sure I would. Then again, I’m twisted like that.

So I am once again, depending on my readers for input.  I know what the traditional side of publishing would say… stay away from CGI and use photostock.  And around and around and around we go!

So what about you, my dear reader?  Would you pick the covers with the more realism, or would you go ‘layout artsy’, or would you nod with acceptance at the CGI side of things?  Feel free to comment either way below.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I do answer back.  ^_^

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Design Dangers – Photostock Nightmares

One of the reasons why I took to using CGI art in the very beginning of my publishing career was to avoid the problems associated with using photostock and photo manipulation to make better looking covers. Yes, the cover of a book is super-important in earning sales, but Houston, we do have a problem.

Some readers avoid the CGI based covers. They want an expensive looking cover, as it’s important for them to buy a book they feel the author/publisher is investing time and effort with in making it look more realistic. So we have a trade-off. Use CGI and get unique, one of a kind designs, or run into the issue of having two different authors, two different publishers (or more) end up using the same photostock from the photo sites that sell the images.

Don’t think it doesn’t happen, or that it’s a rare issue, if at all? Using my photographic memory, I went book cover hunting. How many repeat issues did I find in two hours? Well, way too many, but here are some of the examples I am talking about. Two different authors, two different books, using the same photostock without realizing it.

I can only imagine the look on the author’s face when they find out that this happened.  No matter how much you manipulate the image, it still makes an author like me wince.  Here, let’s peek at one more accidental duplicate cover.

I don’t want this happening to any of my readers!  Yet, because I used photostock for my Darya trilogy, down the road in the near or far future, some other may pick the same images and end up with covers that resemble my own.

All of which I wish to avoid.  One side of the publishing-industry fence is telling me to stay away from CGI, another side is telling me it makes little to no difference.  Do I want the above issue to happen to any of my titles?  Heck no.  Do I want any CGI covers complained about?  Heck no.  I have gotten complaints about the CGI in some of my novel covers, but then, time will only tell if somebody accidentally copies my photostock cover art.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.  Which way should I lean? Photo, or unique CGI Art?

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Update For The Darya Series: Links

The title of this post says it all.  I collected all of the current retailer links for both Ebook and Paperbacks on one page.  I’m going to share direct links to those selection areas via title.  You can select your favorite retailer and pick up a copy.

Please note!  On Amazon, if you buy the paperback, I’ve enrolled their Ebook counter-parts into the Matchbook Price program.  All are accepted.  This means if you buy the paperback, the Kindle edition will be free.  Not $1.99.  Not even 99 cents.  Free.

You can hold the physical book in your hands for a nice couch by the lamp reading session, and if you have to go on a lengthy trip and you take your Kindle, you can still enjoy the story at no extra price.  How’s that for a deal?  :)

Time for the link to the page where you can select your favorite retailers.

Darya Rising:  Click Here

Darya the Pirate:  Click Here

Darya: Queen of the Galaxy:  Click Here

I hope you enjoy the series, this was a lot of fun to write, and a lot of work to make it all available to you through various retailers and formats.

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