If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I use Sketchup on a fairly regular basis. While these models aren’t really photorealistic, there are programs designed to render them in a more realistic manner. Unfortunately, most of these are quite expensive, but I was able to use their free trials. What follows are my attempts at dabbling with some basic renders. Enjoy.
I find myself conflicted about this topic, but I’m going to post it here anyway.
HeroMachine is a free flash application designed for creating characters, sort of like an advanced dress-up game. There have been different versions throughout the years, but the latest, HeroMachine 3, has some pretty advanced features, which can be used to create some pretty amazing artwork.
I’m not that crazy with it, but I’m still pretty good at it. While I can draw decently when I want to, it’s a time-consuming process, and it doesn’t always pan out the way I want it to. Therefore, if I need a simple character portrait for my own inspiration, I’ll turn to HeroMachine.
My problem is that this is sort of art. I don’t think it’s wrong to use a tool like this, and the end result is still something original, but I’m still wary about sharing it, since it’s not totally mine, either. I still want to share it with you, since I’ve done some good stuff, but just be aware that I can’t take all the credit here.
Now that you’ve made it through the quagmire, it’s time for some pretty pictures! Click for larger views.
Here are some more of the random snippets I sometimes use to get myself started writing. They’re not connected to anything, but they’re fun to do, totally off the cuff. Previous entry here.
“Heaven waits not for our coming,” said Father. “And hell shall not mind if we tarry a moment longer.”
Flames licked through the gaps in the door, fiery orange tongues seeking something to devour. Devilish black smoke filled the room, obscuring its contents and making me cough until I could scarcely breathe.
“Shepherd guide our souls,” Father prayed, somehow unaffected by the fumes. The axe in his hands trembled from the force of his white-knuckle grip, anxious for use. “Lead us from wild fields to sweet pastures and good water, from wolves to high walls, where none may come with ill intent or evil ambitions…”
He turned toward me, and I could see the madness of cruel sanity upon him, the crazed look of a man with only unthinkable options remaining to him. He raised the axe high overhead, tears cutting through the soot on his cheeks. “Or, good Shepherd, if you will not take a stubborn old ram into your fold, at least watch over a poor lamb.”
Down came the axe, and I could not stop coughing to scream. The fire-weakened floor shattered under the force of his blow, and I fell through, catching only a glimpse of the flames rushing to consume my father before I was plunged into cold water and dark oblivion.
“You know the real problem with procrastination, don’t you?”
The woman lecturing me is tall, with short hair dyed a metallic silver. She’s gilded in matching tattoos, elegant curves and spirals twisting around her neck and arms like vines of platinum. On most women it would have seemed flashy, ostentatious. Not on her. She had an aura of success about her, the sort of presence that had no need to bargain or beg – everything she said was simple, undeniable fact, whether it was true or not.
I hated her already.
“What makes procrastination so deadly,” she continued, pacing behind her desk, “is not just the cost of delays and broken deadlines. It’s more than the lazy attitude or lack of foresight.”
She paused, turning to stare out the vast, curved window that formed one wall of her office. Outside, the city smoldered in neon colors, skimmers drifting through the sky like purposeful sparks. The skyscrapers were living up to their names, stabbing upward into the heart of the smoke-black stormclouds, spilling torrents over the eastern sector. It would reach us within the hour.
She was quiet long enough that I felt I could safely interject. “If you don’t like my work, Ms. Hall–”
“No, the real poison is something else entirely,” she continued, as though I hadn’t spoken, “something far more subtle and sinister.” She looked at me for the first time since the meeting began, and flashed a serpent’s grin. “Would you like to know what it is?”
“Are you okay, Trevor?” My mom looked concerned, eyes filled with worry.
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to sound upbeat despite being beat-up. “Just a little tired.”
It was an understatement, not a falsehood, but it felt like one. I was beyond tired, exhausted. I was weary to my bones, sluggish in a way that had nothing to do with lost sleep. Even my thoughts felt weak and muzzy, more like the slow crackle of static than real sparks.
I could move around, work on autopilot, but anything more complicated than tying my shoes was on par with climbing Everest. I just needed a dull, quiet day, and I would be alright. Coast through my classes, ditch practice, and spend the evening with ice cream and mindless video games. I could do that, and tomorrow I could take another stab at killing the wanderghast.
Just one day.
The phone rang.
The thing about skyscrapers is that they’re very tall. Like, way the hell up there, you know? When you’re standing in the middle of one, surrounded by cubicles and potted plants and blinking computer lights, you kind of forget that you’re standing a few hundred feet in the air. You’ve got nice thick windows to keep out the wind and indoor lighting to make you forget the sun and central heating to make sure everything is nice and toasty.
But when you go out on the roof, you don’t have any of that. All of a sudden you’re outside and there are birds flying past and the wind whispers how easy it would be to climb that flimsy metal fence and just fall. You remember that people weren’t meant to be up this high without a nice sturdy mountain underfoot. Maybe not even then. And that’s not even getting into vertigo.
Have I mentioned I don’t like heights?
I’m stupid, so when Matt called and arranged the meeting on top of the CTI tower, I came.
Since I’m exceptionally stupid, I came alone and unarmed.
But apparently I’m even dumber than that, because when things went sour and Matt pushed Lisa off the roof, I jumped after her.
Crash. The gates shuddered in their housing, spilling dust from cracks and crevices that hadn’t been disturbed for generations.
Bang. Ancient wood cracked and bent. Rusted hinges screamed, holding on defiant to the last. Even the stones quaked with the impact, groaning as they ground against each other.
Crack. Timber and iron and stone abandoned their previous forms, becoming so much powder and dust. So it was true. They had claimed the Hammer of Annihilation. If I did not find a way to escape at once, I would soon suffer the same fate. One blow to shake me, two blows to break me, and three blows to utterly end me, mind, body, and soul.
There was only one way to escape from this nightmarish place. Screaming, I turned, leapt, and plunged into a sea of devil’s ink.
Let me know if you found any of this interesting. I’m specifically writing these since they’re not tied to anything I’m working on, but I’d be surprised if any of them didn’t eventually get away from me and become a short story or something.
Personally, I find that getting started is often the most difficult part of writing. especially when it’s attached to an ongoing project that I don’t want to muck up by forcing in something that’s stilted or off-key. That may not be the most rational viewpoint, since I often like my writing better in retrospect, even when I didn’t at the time, but there it is.
Anyway, this is a very long introduction to the idea that I’ve been doing some occasional pre-writing warm-ups to get myself going. Some days I don’t bother, and some days it’s all I can manage to do, but it totally counts so shut up, okay? Sometimes this will be tied to one of my potential projects, but it’s usually not, and I’m not going to share those with you anyway, so you didn’t even really need to know about that in the first place.
Enough rambling! Here’s some totally random snippets I wrote!
Three was the number of the day. I’d been kicked by the steward, hit by the woodcutter, and slapped by the serving maid. Three times I’d found coin shining in the streets, copper and silver and gold. A bad three, and a good three. But it was the thrice three that worried me, as it was bound to mean change, and I’d had too much change already. Read More…
This is an excerpt from an ongoing project. One of my brothers sent me a series of short poems he had written, all revolving around similar themes of apocalypse and high fantasy. Inspired, I decided to embark on a project revolving around these poems.
I cobbled together a loose mythology based on the order and content of the poems, and then starting writing short stories, one for each poem in chronological order.
As I said before, this is still a tale in progress (get it?), but I thought I would share one of these unpolished entries with you today.
The Iron Soldier, silent and strong,
Will march upon the Tomb.
And there unleash the Angels Death,
Which bring about their doom.
Every footfall cracked stone, shattering solid marble as though it were porcelain, fracturing the glassy surface like ice. A trail of destruction traced the path of the Iron Soldier, extending through ornate halls and silent chambers, down, down into the belly of the earth. Moonstones cast a pale light across the ruined stonework, playing with a dull gleam over the surface of the armor as it made its way inexorably toward its destination.
The air was still and dead, almost suffocating, and the noise of the Iron Soldier’s march was muted, as though coming from far away. The clang of each armored foot, the shrill of the gargantuan sword that dragged against the stone, the hollow, labored breath that echoed from inside the faceless helm; all hushed in a way that left the ear unsatisfied, wanting. The stifling atmosphere did nothing to silence the alien howls of the things behind her.
Maeris, First Mother, Champion of the Gods, the Soldier of Iron, was afraid.
She had been birthed by the gods themselves, one of the First Generation. She was the first to bring a mortal child into this virgin earth, the first to learn the secrets of soul-melding, the last to her kind to fall to the ravages of the First Harvest. But she could not hold out much longer. They were coming. Read More…
“War Games” was going to be the first entry in this year’s Short Story Week, but thanks to a sudden brainstorm, that quickly expanded into something much larger.
This was originally intended to be something of a spoof on the flood of YA dystopias on the market, including the use of first-person present-tense (which I found very annoying to write in, by the way,) taking the premise on its face and then adding a twist to the end.
About 2,000 words in, however, I realized I was getting way too deep into this world, and soon after, I had a random brainstorm that expanded this kernel of a concept into a full-fledged popcornian idea.
I don’t know when – or if, to be honest – I will actually write this thing, but I didn’t want to let that initial writing go to waste, so I’m putting it up here for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think?
I close my eyes and feel myself slip into the space between realms. I fly through an empty void, other worlds flashing past me like reflections in water, brief glimpses into realities that can be very different from the world I know. Places of magic, scenes of the supernatural, empires that span across the stars. Some are familiar to me, and others are totally foreign. I could stop and peer more deeply into any of them, but I don’t. I’m looking for a very particular place, one that I know as well as I know myself.
Athesallia. It’s a high fantasy module, but it’s not like a lot of the other fantastic realms. Most settings like this rely on complicated and arcane magics that users can spend a lifetime learning to manipulate and exploit, and those that don’t are typically a mishmash of clichés and high drama.
But Athesallia is different. The system is simple but robust, and the setting is grounded and sensible. A lot of users find that boring, but I think it’s elegant. It actually requires practice and creativity to master, which is appealing to me.
I’m not alone in that, either. My best friends also stick to Athesallia during their sessions. None of them are actually in my cluster, but I’m closer to them than anybody I know in wakespace.
It only takes me a moment to locate Athesallia’s dreamspace among the swirling realities of the central nexus. I could keep it linked among my favorites, but I prefer to search it out each time. It’s like a little quest to get me started. I access the world and let it wrap around around my mind like a warm blanket, comforting and familiar. Read More…
“He’s on the third floor! We need backup stat! Officer down, I repeat, we have an officer down!” Agent Callahan listened to the frantic chatter on the police line and shook his head slowly. Local law enforcement – even SWAT – was never very effective against targets like these. To be fair, very few people besides Agent Callahan were, which was the point of this whole operation.
“What is this thing?” cried the voice on the radio. “Did you see that? My God…” A burst of screams dissolving into static. God isn’t coming here tonight, the agent thought, preparing his weapons. This was his cue, when the target was overconfident and the bloodlust had been sated for a moment.
It was a cold autumn night, with frost tinging the few leaves that clung to their place on barren branches. More crunched underfoot as Agent Callahan stepped out of his old Buick, and abandoned piles whispered as they brushed against his long coat, both stirring restlessly in the cold wind. Callahan worked the cricks out of his neck as he crossed the abandoned parking lot, unhurried but not idling. Careful but not fearful. A predator’s pace.
From here, he could almost hear the screams carried by the wind, and his keen gray eyes detected movement through the frosted glass of the school’s windows, flickers of shadow from running men and flashes of light from fired weapons. Poor bastards. Read More…
Young Greger stared at the red-painted door, hand hovering next to the bellstring. The weathered wood was carved with circles of arcane sigils and spiraling astrological signs. Scribbles and nonsense, Greger reminded himself. Cheap superstition to prey on lesser minds.
The sign next to the door, however, was written in plain Grutsch: Madame Esmerelda, said the flowing gilt script. Underneath, in smaller letters it read Potions, Divination, Needlework, and other Magicks. Reasonable Prices. Tacked below that was a far cruder sign, scribbled on a piece of scrap wood: No hexes, curses or love potions. That means you, Gretten!
It was all balderdash, Greger knew. Well, except for the needlework. He’d bought a scarf from her once that was so warm and durable it might as well have been faerie-made. But as for her other supposed powers and potions, well, he’d seen more potent farts. Esmerelda was many things, but magical she was not.
Despite all this, Greger still hesitated. He’d spent years researching this, dreaming of the day he would finally confront her and expose her charlatanry. but now that he was actually here, notes in hand, he couldn’t quite remember why it was so important.
He wasn’t exactly angry with her, and most folk in Håssenburg agreed she was a welcome and valuable member of the town. He wasn’t out to blackmail her. The thought of a few extra coins was certainly welcome, but he didn’t have it in him to extort a harmless person. Perhaps it simply a desire for that noblest of all ideals: truth. Or validation, which was close enough.
The thought was enough to steel his resolve. Greger lifted his chin, squared his shoulders, and proudly pulled the bellstring. Inside, chimes jingled and jangled merrily, their cheerful tone slightly undercutting his air of righteous indignation. Read More…
Forests of candles filled the great ballroom, painting the feast in a soft, romantic light. Jewels sparkled on throats, and cleverly placed mirrors made the spacious hall seem infinite, extending the festivities beyond the scope of human imagination. Wine, music and talk flowed steadily and carefully. Dancers spun in the center of the room like some great clockwork machine, whirling and stepping in perfect time.
In shadier corners, however, the talk was less glib, and the dance was of a different sort entirely. Alliances were made and broken by whispered words, and few were foolish enough to take food or drink untested.
Though they might appear under a civil facade at banquets and balls, every soul in Vérron knew about the fierce rivalry between houses of Montreneu and Cabulesse. Harsh words here had sharper echoes elsewhere, and every lesser house weighed their decisions carefully, lest they tread on the toes of giants. Merely wearing the wrong color or making an idle joke could be deadly, should certain folk catch wind of it.
Thus, while poorer folk might watch the proceedings with envy, there were few that would trade places with those inside the great hall, for they danced on a razor’s edge that shifted with every passing wind. Already their battles had left large sections of fair Vérron damaged, stripped of wealth or ravaged by false riots and outright attacks. If not for the stabilizing hand of the church, these two great lions would have already torn the city to pieces.
And yet, for all this, they say love must conquer all. Somiere was counting on it. Read More…
The old Wayfarer’s tavern was filled to bursting. The night was stormy, driving travelers to the warm comforts of the indoors, and the harvest had been halted by the deluge, freeing the villagers to come share a drink and a spot of gossip. Many dour predictions about the weather would be made before the night was through.
However, the primary reason for the tavern’s crowded state were the young men and women in the crimson and white of the Queen’s garb, the emblems of Tree and Tower standing out like teeth biting into a crisp apple. They were a little too drunk for the hour, and kept close to each other, but it was the closeness of a sheepfold rather than a wolf pack.
A keen ear might have noticed that their laughter was a little too loud, a little too strained. A keen eye might have noticed the way their swords hung conspicuously at their sides, bright as new pennies. On this night, free drinks flowed as freely as any others, and unspoken words hung as heavy in the air as the storm-clouds outside.
A sober and inquisitive mind might have detected an anomaly in the packed and raucous tavern; a pocket of solitude in the far back corner, well away from blazing hearth and boisterous patrons, seemingly untouched by either. There at a small table sat an elderly couple. They had been here long before the first farmers and would stay here long after the most determined drinkers had staggered home. If you had asked the tavern-master about them – a man who knew every vintage in his cellar and every secret in the town – he would have been surprised to realize he could not recall their names, and would have been hard-pressed to say what he’d served them. No matter. They kept to themselves and caused no trouble, why not leave well enough alone? Read More…