My latest book, Cosmic Girl, is nearing completion, and that means it is time to think about the thousand and one side tasks you have to do when you are self-publishing and you have to do… well… everything. By the time the text is ready, which is as I said very soon now, I want the cover to be ready, and I want to have a nice compelling blurb for the back cover of the book, and some kind of marketing strategy, and a good idea of the price point I want to sell it at… and a thousand other things.

For the cover, I will be using the same font as all my other books, Orthodox Herbertarian, because I want this to be like my brand, but the image will be abstract, for the first time. Usually my books have a spaceship on the cover, like Galaxy Dog, or a fantasy painting, like The Pet Dragon. For this book I want just a symbol against an abstract background.

Cosmic Girl, in the book, wears a pendant in the shape of a ringed planet, like Saturn, and that is the symbol that will appear on the cover. So I fired up Blender, which is perfect as a virtual studio to photograph my cover symbol within. It has been a while since I did anything in Blender, and it is always fun to go back to this powerful software suite. It also reminded me why I bought a laptop with a numerical pad. There are just so many useful things a numerical pad lets you do in Blender. I often, for example, have to center the view of the Blender interface on the vertices I’m working on, and have the model rotate round them. With the numerical keypad all I have to do is press the decimal point key.

My laptop has a German keyboard which meant, as usual, I fell foul of the not being able to undo problem. The fix is super simple but I have to look it up every time. Here is how to fix z undo not working, by the way.

One of the things I needed to do was create soft, blended shadows, and I looked up how to do it using Google. The page I found about shadow settings is on and it pointed me in the direction of the “soft size” button. But, as usual with Blender, there is something else you need to do. The page warns:

If you want a wide shadow which is also soft and finely graded, you must also set the number of samples in the Samples field higher than 1; otherwise this field has no visible effect and the shadows generated will not have a soft edge. The maximum value for Soft Size is 100.0.

I experimented a little, and found it very difficult to get an effect that I liked. I ended up turning shadows off. I’ll come back to that problem later, when I’ve got a cover image I like and I just want to add finishing touches.

The next problem was to make a chain for the pendant, but I found a very detailed tutorial on doing just that. The tutorial for creating chains is on I decided the results were to beautiful and regular in the end. It just doesn’t hang like a real chain. Instead I did it the hard way, by modeling a single link, duplicating it, then placing it just where I want, then duplicating and placing again, over and over until the chain was formed just how I wanted.

Before getting to work on the chain I did my first render of the cover of Cosmic Girl. It will undoubtedly evolve further from here, but it’s a start. While you are waiting for Cosmic Girl, you could read Galaxy Dog, which is part one of a sci-fi epic that already has four books, with plans for many more.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy)

Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.