New release and a spring makeover

It’s time to announce the official release of my short-story, Atoll. It’s not my latest story written. I’ve had it ready or a while but wanted to get my novel out before releasing this one.

The story is loosely connected to my novel Mathematics Of Eternity, takingĀ  place a few decades before the events in the novel. Both stand alone, fully independent of each other–you don’t need to read one before the other, and there are no spoilers. Atoll partly shows how the world got to be the way it is in the novel and in that sense provides some extra detail and history. Here’s my cover design.

That’s not the only news though…

The cover on my short story collection Dead Reckoning And Other Stories has always had a mixed response. Personally I like it (or I wouldn’t have used it!) and think it suits the lead story well, but others have seen it as not being “sci-fi” enough, and some have said it looks more like a horror cover. So I’ve been working for a while on giving it a makeover.

As I’m planning to go to a sci-fi conference in a couple of months, I thought what better time to give it a makeover in time for that. So without further ado (or adon’t!) here’s the new cover. I hope you like it and makes the genre more obvious.

The new design is still taken from a scene inn the lead story. How that ties in to the original cover, I’ll leave for you to figure out šŸ™‚

The new version is available now in ebook and will also be available soon in print.

Blender Non-Destructive Panel Lines

I’ve been working on various models for my book trailer and have tried to find a good way of creating panel lines for projects such as spaceships. This can be done with materials, but I’ve had better luck creating physical detail rather than using texturing.

Up to now, the method I’ve used has been slow and cumbersome, but after recently going through a bunch of tutorials on adding this kind of detail, I’ve found a method that seems to work well (at least for me) and is non-destructive to the base mesh. So I thought I’ share it for anyone interested. This introduces more polygons, so may not be suitable for models intended for real time rendering, but works fine for still images or video/animation.

Personally I find that a clearly written set of instructions is much quicker to follow than a video tutorial, so here goes:

  1. Add lines(edges) on model where panels wanted (might be able to use existing edges depending on surface)
  2. Mark desired panel lines as “sharp”
  3. Add “Edge Split” modifier, uncheck Edge Angle
  4. Add “Solidify” Modifier. Adjust Thickness to taste, check Only Rim to avoid back facing polys
  5. Add Bevel modifier, Adjust Width and Segments to taste.

You can now add or change panel lines by marking/clearing sharp on edges! Also, this method would allow you to turn off the panels completely if needed for a particularly complex scene render.

Here’s a shot of the modifier stack (Click to enlarge):

And an example before/after shot (click to enlarge)

Thanks to the following people for their helpfulĀ  youtube tutorials:

Andrew Price

Jason Clarke

Dan Brown CGI

The Making of Ben

When I’m writing a story I build up a collection of images that act as references for what’s in my head.Ā  Much of the time these are things I find on the web, but as I write science-fiction sometimes I just can’t quite find anything that looks right. Or sometimes I want to work through how something might work if it were real.

When that happens I often build the object in 3D. This allows me to get more of a feel for the object in question and can help solidify my ideas and furnish me with details I otherwise might not think of. Many times very little of this detail makes it into the actual writing–it’s really background for myself. But sometimes these designs see the light of day in my book covers, such as the Three Lives Of Mary cover and the additional “character image” of Ben.

With Ben I had something very deliberate in mind Continue reading “The Making of Ben”

My Open Source Challenge – Pt2

A little while ago I set myself the challenge to only use open-source tools for all my graphics work. The reasons for this were varied. Some tools that I’ve used in the past such as 3DS Max are simply way beyond my reach, while some others (Adobe’s Creative Cloud)–while not completely unaffordable– are still expensive and have numerous usability issues (over-riding Windows settings for someone with visual impairments being the most insulting). Plus I don’t like the endless Pay-To-Play syndrome where you’re treated as nothing but a cash-cow to be regularly “milked”.

The replacements I chose were Gimp for image processing and Blender for 3D Modelling/Rendering. I’ve been working on them over the last few weeks to try out their features, stability and overall functionality.

The best proof of any software is in the results you can achieve Continue reading “My Open Source Challenge – Pt2”

Kepler K2-72 simulation

The recent news that Kepler K2-72 may be home to two earth-sized planets in the star’s habitable zone make it an exciting time for astronomers and fans of exo-planets. Whenever I see these stories I always wonder what the star systems might look like if we could travel there.

With that in mind I decided to have a go at something I’ve had in mind for a while–simulating a star-system!

I made use of publicly available data regarding the star itself and newly discovered planets. The data we have is a little sketchy, but enough to get a reasonable approximation. Throw in a little computer simulation wizardry and we have:

As part of my open-source challenge I made use of Blender to do the video editing, with a little help in the titles department from Gimp. The music is a royalty free piece I found on Incompetech. This was assembled (roughly!) in the Blender video editorĀ and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate, but I think it’s reasonably close given the software and data limitations I worked with. It makes me tingle thinking that this is an actual idea of what the real system might look like!