Art Stuff

Image showing three book covers by Pax Asteriae (Maddeson's Selkie, The Night Fair and The Fair Automaton) overlaid with the text "Revised Covers!"

New (More Blatantly M/M Romance) Covers and Book Layouts!

I've been increasingly dissatisfied with the covers of some of my books, but in a couple of cases the technology wasn't quite up there with what I wanted when I did them.  And in the cases where it was, unfortunately my hardware very definitely wasn't!

Anyway, over the course of several weeks I've been revising the covers, and I'm fairly satisfied with the results.  (Well, until maybe a year from now...!)  Additionally, I've updated the interior layouts of all four books with proper back matter - I suppose I should stop hiding that I wrote four stories, right? - which proved... interesting.

The 'several weeks' in question mostly refers to the amount of time it took to render the images.  My computer, albeit newish, isn't a dedicated render machine; I bought it for playing games I already owned, because I didn't anticipate falling back in to 3D work again. Poor thing hasn't quite grasped what's happening to it yet, but it does the very best it can which, if you give it enough time, is as good as any of the flashier machines with far more advanced graphics cards.

And then, to add insult to many, many days' injury, is that once I'd finished all the covers (and worked out which ones I was supposed to be using for The Fair Automaton) the ebook files kept throwing all kinds of mysterious wobblies.  Images would vanish from inside them, mostly, or suddenly pretend they weren't there when they were. I had to move them all to a cloud drive to keep them in line.

And speaking of 'in line,' I think these are a little more in line with what people expect from the genre. I can't really see them leading to any change in sales, but I'm much happier with them for myself, which is probably more important.  Not, like, a lot more important, but still.

The only thing I'm a little irritated about is that I really, really liked the new cover for The Night Fair, particularly Iphre's hair... but now I've finished, I actually prefer Maddeson's Selkie.  I'm sorry, Iphre!  And the cover for The Fair Automaton is a lot more in line with what I'd wanted - if it hadn't worked out, I'd have gone for a picture of one of the characters leaning over a wooden railing, a scene that happens in the story. But I'd feel a little like I was betraying the plot, since it's the machine itself that's so important to the story, and to North's confused feelings.

What's harder to see in the cover for The Fair Automaton, but what amuses me mightily, is that part of the reflection visible in the automaton's body is actually North.

Well, I suppose you've got to take your enjoyment where you can, right?

Pax Asteriae's July 2020 bullet journal title page, with a distinctly nautical theme and a natty purple life ring. "You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."

July 2020 Bullet Journal

Only 17 days late!  It took me a little time to find a quote I liked — I’d done the rest of the pages on the 2nd or 3rd, I think — so it’s a very delayed set of pictures.

It didn’t take a long time to create though, what with the not needing any extra pages thing; it’s not like I can go anywhere that might require more exhaustive info.  Strangely therapeutic though, it was the closest to enjoying mindless doodling I’ve come.  (I don’t much enjoy aimless drawing.)

And no writing-related things, because although it’s Camp NaNoWriMo — not that you’d guess, most of the emails have been about the Young Writer’s Programme — my writing progress, as you can see from the habit tracker, is distinctly spotty.  Uninterrupted writing time is hard to come by, even (especially?) when you’re trapped at home.

Colours again provided by the Zebra Mildliners, in particular the gold, smoke-blue and magenta pens from the Deep & Warm set.

If I was in any way organised, I’d already be considering what next month’s theme is.  As it is… well, maybe next time I’ll manage to share the pages before halfway through the month!

Does anyone else bullet journal?  I’d love to see your pages, so drop a link in the comments if you want to share.

Status Update July 2020 - Of Renders, Awards, and Not Writing (featuring handsome naked Alex) - Pax Asteriae Fiction

Status Update July 2020 – Of Renders, Awards, and Not Writing

A 3D image of a naked Alex Jaska, created by Pax Asteriae for their cellphone. (Not this image, obviously; this one's far too small.)

The bank’s sorted, although not without my getting angry. They say they locked my entire account — in the middle of a global pandemic — because I hadn’t logged into online banking in 6 months. Which I would have known, they say, if I’d logged into my online account. But I hadn’t. And they failed to inform me of this in writing so unsurprisingly I had no idea.

I am genuinely considering contacting one of the financial pages in a newspaper to ask if this kind of asshattery is considered normal. I’ve banked with the NatWest for a depressing 20 years (the same amount of time, funnily enough, that I’ve had this mobile number). I can’t see myself banking with them for another 5 now, let alone another 20.

Corporate stupidity aside, life continues much as normal, which is with a fair bit of work and not much writing. My wildly self-indulgent project named itself last night. Peculiar, given I can’t get actual projects to name themselves, but there we go. It’s called The Bastard and the Deep Blue Sea (and I can call it that because it’s wildly self-indulgent and no one else is gonna see it~) and I can even see how the cover will look. I drafted out the text layout last night.

Now I just need to write more than four and a half chapters, when work and home life will allow.

Thing is, I got back into the 3D work I used to do a long time ago, and it keeps distracting me. At least this kind of procrastination is productive, though. To your left there is Alex, one of the Radial main characters. I can now finally render fairly realistic looking versions of my boys. (And that is my new phone background!)

And, bonus, I can now render smutty pictures of them, which amuses me vastly.

The strangest thing about it is, even though it’s procrastination — you can lose hours without even realising just from tweaking skin settings and minutely adjusting lights — it’s a little like digital colouring for me: it forces me to think. The wildly self-indulgent project came about from a render I did for a challenge: I fiddled around, created a character, and suddenly he had a plot and back story and was demanding I write about him. (He may now have changed his mind on that.) A weird but fun post-Fourth Arc story for Radial turned up in my head while noodling around with one of the aforementioned smutty pictures of Milos and Alex.

And, slightly more weirdly, another render I did for that challenge was an Honourable Mention and won me $5. Which I was happy about not for the cash, but because I really enjoyed setting up that render. It almost came together by itself and the end result both came out how I’d wanted and rendered very quickly (not a guaranteed thing!) so I was on the whole very happy.

Not sure what to do with all the renders. I’m having fun creating pictures of Alex and Milos’s everyday life to a certain degree — there’s a sparring picture from the Fourth Arc, and one of Milos training with his long-suffering martial arts instructor (who turned out to look a bit like Sean Bean). I should probably add them to Patreon, free for the ones I already shared elsewhere, and maybe figure out a tier (or add a new one) for the smutty stuff. I don’t know.

So… not dead yet. Still coming up with stories, even if I’m still struggling to actually write. Even when I remind myself that no one else is gonna read TB&TDBS, sometimes I still freeze up. I’ll get over it soon, at least for that. And I’d like to be able to figure out where the story’s going for this intriguing Radial story that seems to start with an unexpected romantic getaway under the guise of work, and then actually turns into work.

We’ll see how things go.

I’ll get around to sharing pictures of my bullet journal at some point too.

Pax Asteriae's June 2020 bullet journal page, showing a qute on the left and red rocks on the right.

June 2020 Bullet Journal

After neglecting my poor bullet journal for a few months, a sudden burst of energy came over me and I actually managed to produce this month’s pages!

I’d actually intended to use this theme for one of the previous month’s filler pages (since it’s been a while since I last did it… so much for it being able to help my ADHD!) but I started doodling it on the month page without thinking, then it kind of ran away with me.

Why pink?  Good question.  It’s because just over six months ago, I selected all my colours for each month on my year-at-a-glance page.  It seemed like a smart idea at the time.

Pax Asteriae's year-at-a-glance spread for their bullet journal

There’s June, looking all… pink.  Handily, I have some Tombow ABT pens that match up almost perfectly with the Zebra Mildliners I created that spread with, so that worked out quite well in terms of colour range.

It’s only simple this month, because I don’t think I’m going to be needing a weekly planner, all things considered.  I might add something more writing-related than my usual tracker though, since it’s JuNoWriMo and I’ll be using it to try to make a serious dent in my Singer/Songwriter story.  Maybe even find a title, who knows?

…Of course, I’d have started making that dent if I hadn’t spent a couple of hours working on this.  I had intended to do this yesterday, but life does like to get in the way a lot for someone who barely gets to leave the house.

If anyone has any great ideas for writing-related spreads I’d love to see them.  Failing that (since I know it’s all crickets round here), if I find any good ones I’ll edit this and add them for future reference.

Accountability: 20 – 26 January 2020

It’s been a week that feels a little like swimming through treacle.  Time has gone quickly and at the same time had much the same feeling of pace to it as the average garden snail on a particularly aimless day.  I’d say I need a holiday, but aside from the fact it’s only January, I think we all know what I won’t get to have at any point in the foreseeable future…


Writing

  • I did indeed finish the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • And I have indeed started the third chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story, although progress is slow because Life.
  • I came up with… well, all of one name so far, but it’s one name more than I had at the start of the week.

Reading

  • I haven’t finished the book yet.  In part I haven’t had time because of work, everything I have to do at home and trying to write, and in part because it feels like a very long book…

Misc

  • Bad cellphone photo of a drawing of a blond-haired Caucasian elf in a pink T-shirt and a fur-collared denim jacket.There’s been a little progress on the playlist, but not by much.  I’ve enjoyed listening to lots of different music though, and adding things I particularly enjoyed to my likes to re-listen for suitability later.
  • I did actually manage the picture of Marcus!  It came out not as hideously as I’d expected it to be when I started.  (I also discovered at a very inopportune time I only have one white-fleshtone Kurecolor marker, so I should have probably done it with Copics instead…)
  • 47 hours of day job this week.  The reason I’m tracking this is that we had an Edict at the end of last year about how everyone should only be working 40 hours in order to maintain a Good Work-Life Balance, and thus no one would be allowed to pick up any shifts beyond this without manager approval.  …But I don’t pick up shifts. A Good Work-Life Balance is only if they’re not desperate to fill out shifts, apparently.
  • I finally managed to boot up my desktop!  …And the day after, there was another fucking Windows Update and I’ve not been able to start it again since.  Thanks, Windows.

 

Goals 13-19 January

Accountability: 13 – 19 January 2020

An odd week this week.  At one point I wilfully forewent an easy afternoon in favour of a solid five hours of work.  Made me very glad I now finish at 6pm instead of 9pm…

It’s also been a week of random research, mostly into the Cornish language (Kernewek), since Blake’s surname was voted to be Saint-Ives, and dokkalfa usually have the surnames of the city or town they first registered.  Mostly I was trying to find a Cornish word for ‘elf,’ except there doesn’t appear to be one.  There’s ‘ælf’ cropping up a few times in place names, but those are the same across the country.  Of an actual folklore term?  Not a sign of it.  The closest I could find in terms of folklore-closeness was the ‘Small People’ (pobel vean), and then got ranted at by Blake in my head, because it turns out he’s a bit touchy about only being 5’6″…

I recommend a Google Maps stroll around St. Ives though, it’s a beautiful place.


Writing

  • I have indeed finished the first chapter of Singer/Songwriter. Draft zero (a term coined by my awesome friend Anika Daniels, whose website I would link if she had one) is on Patreon.  One day I’ll figure out the WordPress/Patreon link so it can look slightly better than Patreon makes things.  Why can’t you have more formatting options, Patreon?  Why?
  • I have also started the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story, so that’s a win too.
  • I have, however, so far failed to come up with any kind of useful name for it.  I’ve not really had the time nor the spoons to think about it, to be honest.  I’m terrible at naming things.  There’s a reason Gabrys is still called Gabrys a few years later…

Reading

  • I finished The Ritual.  I didn’t start until Wednesday or so, but after that I couldn’t put it down.  It has very short chapters, which makes the reading experience slightly peculiar: at 85% of the way through the book, you’re on Chapter Sixty-Five.  I can’t remember reading a book that wasn’t disturbingly massive epic fantasy or sci-fi that has so many chapters before.  Considering I read it in lieu of watching the movie, I’m now very confused about how they managed to make it a movie in the first place.

Misc

  • Bad cellphone photo of a drawing of a brown-haired dark elf in grey T-shirt and black suit jacket.My strawberry Shiba Inu is still only a head, so a fail on that front.
  • Sorry Marcus.  I drew and coloured Blake instead.
  • 38 and a half hours of day job instead.
  • Bonus round: I listened to a lot of indie music on Spotify too.  Technically for research, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it.  I tried listening to indie rock too, but whoever curated the Indie Rock Playlist has funny ideas about what’s indie: it contained, among others, The Hives, Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs.  Apparently to some people, indie means instead not American, which is depressing.
  • Bonus round part 2: figured out and fixed an issue with WordPress and cron jobs.  Basically, if you schedule posts and they keep missing their posting times, it’s because WordPress only runs a cron operation when someone visits your site.  If no one visits your site *cough* then it won’t run.  There are plugins to fix it, or you can get technical and fiddle with its specialised settings in cpanel.  As I’m lazy these days, I went for the plugin.  This post gets to be the guinea pig!