Music That Inspires

Quick! The Stork Done Took My Baby!

Quick! The Stork Done Took My Baby!

 

Okay, not really freaking out too much here. I mean, there was no stork, even if there was a baby (of sorts).

What happened was, I bit the bullet. I grinned and bear(ed) it. I took a leap of faith…

I published my first work.

The book is out in the world now. Hall-le-fucking-lu-jah!

The book is out in the world now. Hall-le-fucking-lu-jah!

I’m happy with it. Even if it isn’t the type of work I normally do. Part of me was concerned with that — perceptions and all. You see this work is a silly piece of fluff. Well, not silly, more sentimental and erotically charged. And while I am not about censorship when it comes to gay men and our sexuality, it is rather strange that I have a very sexual book out there that my mother can read!

Okay, I should stop worrying about that. I am gonna write what I’m gonna write. It is what it is. Right?

Yeah, well, I ain’t so sure now. Only because the next work I am putting out there is the important one. It’s the series that I feel the strongest about.

Hank and my boys of West Virginia are great. I love them and they’ve given me a spark of interest in writing about werewolves that I didn’t know I had. I sort of love my furry beastie guys. And Hank’s a rather pretty boy in their midst. I mean, the picture I have of him as an inspiration says nothing but pretty (if decidedly, beefy) boy.

 

Inspiration for Hank O'Malley in my story

Inspiration for Hank O’Malley in my story

Oh, that ain’t the only picture of him, neither (as he’d no doubt say):

Another of Hank O'Malley - tough luck lookin' like that, huh?

Another of Hank O’Malley – tough luck lookin’ like that, huh?

So yeah, pretty and beefy. Just look at them arms and them pecs, will ya? And I am not so much for blond guys – but, uh, yeah. He’d do — no kicking to the curb with that purdy boy! #jussayin

And Hank’s a lovely boy to write about. He’s caring, un-obsessed with his own good looks, genial and easy to get along with. Completely unassuming. And who’da thunk he’d be in the middle of a werewolf war that was about to break loose? Or that his mama and closest thing to a grandma he’s got are a pair of powerful witches? I know he sure didn’t.

Hank and his boys are near and dear to my heart. Which was sort of a revelation. I mean, as an author, you are deeply involved with your characters and your worlds that you create. That’s fairly a given — unless your completely dispassionate about the work then, why bother? But even if you are deeply in bed with them, it doesn’t always mean you have to like them much.

But with Hank, Riley, Tanner, Mike, Toby, Darby, Dylan, Maynard, and Spike – I am really already rooting for these boys to triumph over the likes of Cade Bowen/Talbot.

Don’t know who he is?

Yeah, well, go pick up the book, dammit!

And I’d like once again to thank Steve Grand for providing the emotive inspiration for my gay werewolves of Sparrows Hollow, West VA.

Country Crooner Steve Grand in all of his bloody manly redness...

Country Crooner Steve Grand in all of his bloody manly redness…

In a very real way, they’ve already been turning the creative wheel on the next part of their adventure. Trouble is, I’ve got a crap load of new stuff to churn out in the other series that I am just dying to get out there: Angels of Mercy.

Angels of Mercy - Volume 1: Elliot

Angels of Mercy – Volume 1: Elliot

It’s interesting because I am still not about the sales. In a very weird way though, I want to know what other’s think of my work. I know there’ll be some who bash it all to hell. There’s haters out there who do nothing but trash talk every damned thing that’s out there.

It’s just the way ’tis, thassall. <– As Hank would say.

There isn’t much that I want to censor from my work. I am so not a prude when it comes to sex. It doesn’t make my work erotic in nature because of this (though I do admit that the Sparrow’s Hollow series is deeply tinged with eroticism). Usually when sex enters my books it is because it is a part of the natural order of life. Whether it would be to have a family or simply for the pleasure of it all. I rail at those who get all uppity about it. The duality of not wanting to read about it and yet it is a very intrinsic part of life. I mean, we all got here because our parents fucked. Let’s be honest about it and pony up and embrace that everyone does it to a degree (not intending to take away anything from those who are asexual – that’s their gig and hey, I’m happy for them if they’re content to be so). I can’t though.

Sex is important. It is a vital part of why we pony up to the relationship table, right?

My works will reflect that. My Feigr story is predicated on that. Sex is power to them, a means of manipulating and rewriting genetic code. They are very fearsome creatures who use our desire as a means to an end. Allure has a very dangerous connotation when it comes to my Norse infused Fae.

So yeah, one of my baby’s has done flown the coup. It’s just as well. I gotta make room for the next part of their tale (it’s already brewing in my head).  Hank and the boys are waiting with baited breath for me to finish out my Angels (volumes 1 and 2 – that I plan to release simultaneously in the first quarter of this month). Volume 1: Elliot is already in the can (as it were). Marco (volume 2) is near completion. I think I’ll be ready by March at the latest. In a real way that’s a good thing I guess. It means, I can prep the Angel series for a proper send off. Hit the blog tour stuff and get the word out there.

Angels of Mercy - Volume 2: Marco

Angels of Mercy – Volume 2: Marco

Who knows? With a little luck, I just might have something here.

And the literary nest will never be empty. No, I think that as I take my last breath on this Earth (hopefully many, many moons from now) my last thought will be: shit, they’ll never know how that ended now.

The life of a writer, I suppose. A lonely craft it is.

Still, I can’t think of what else I’d like to do more.

Until next time… 
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Goodbye to 2014 and here’s to a great 2015 …

Best Wishes in #2015 and what I learned from this past year…

 

“…and I count the times I have forgotten to say, THANK YOU. And just how much, I love them…”

 

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So a quick post about where I am after this whole writing endeavor of mine that I plunged headlong into without really thinking about it all.

So what did I learn?

Quite a lot, actually.

I learned that writing is a very quiet, lonely (save for some really great discussions about the craft with my hubby and some writing pals and my betas) business. I sort of knew that, but really didn’t understand the full breadth of it all.

I learned that writing a novel, no matter the actual size, is a very cathartic craft and really does take it out of you emotionally as well as physically (just the sitting for hours on end can be a bit grueling).

But I’ve also learned to listen to others. To truly try to understand where they were coming from (even if I didn’t wholly agree with their positions). I learned that after all these years I still crave to hear what my gay brothers (and sisters) have to say about our lives – even if I feel we have quite a way to go in creating a real and lasting community amongst us.

I’ve conversed (over my social media) with some really amazingly creative people in all facets of their various occupations and social lives. I was heartened to discover that the experiences I’d amassed in my life regarding my sexuality and my perceptions about it weren’t dirty or wrong (I never really thought they were – just that everyone in the mainstream seems to have a bug up their ass about it). In taking a Human Sexuality course this past few months really gave me an appreciation about sex and humans that made it all very real and personal for me.

I’ve liked my on-going conversations with sex workers (like Rocco Steele, Boomer Banks, Tayte Hanson, Colby Keller, Levi Michaels and Armond Rizzo, to name a few) who have been kind enough to respond to my little tweets to them about the work they do and the other things that interest them outside of the porn business. I really am fascinated with all they do – beyond their current incarnations as porn stars. They are truly some amazing individuals and I am heartened to see how truly brilliant they are in how courageously they live their lives.

 

Colby Keller and all of his auburn glory

Colby Keller and all of his auburn glory

 

 

Rocco Steele and Boomer Banks -  two men who's lives are very fascinating...They inspire me too.

Rocco Steele and Boomer Banks – two men who’s lives are very fascinating…They inspire me too.

 

I am emboldened that the few who have previewed my current work (I haven’t published anything yet – though they’re all going to hit early in 2015) have said that I really have something with Angels of Mercy. That’s been the most rewarding thing of all this past year.

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

The FINAL – FINAL version of the book cover for “Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot”

 

For my wolves of Sparrows Hollow – A BIG THANK YOU – ’cause you’re gonna be my very first release to the world in 2015!

 

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

 

I like that my musical muses – Steve Grand and Jay Brannan have been kind enough to exchange and, in their own way, encourage me to reach for my own stars. It makes my devotion to their craft and their art that much more special and personal. These men, these brilliant writers, inspire me each and every day in the things they do.

Grand fanboy here and proud of it! #teamproud #teamgrandfam

Grand fanboy here and proud of it! #teamproud #teamgrandfam

 

 

jay_brannan_new_album

Jay Brannan’s new album – released  July 2014.

To all of my newly formed author pals I’ve come to know and interact with, I am heartened and enriched by our exchange. A special shout out to Jayne Lockwood and Brad Vance for being the great people you are. Thank you.

To my family and friends – you still teach me so much and I am looking forward to knowing what you have in store for me next year. To Michael Rumsey, Matthew Gallien, Vincent Mazza, Patricia Hamilton and the hubby JL. To Zorro and Katya (my two brilliantly smart, and infectiously lovable cats). To Matt Rayne and L.a. Le – two crazy cats in my FB life… I look forward to what you’ve got in store for me next year!

To Keely and Whitney – the girls in my life and the family I cherish.

And lastly, to my cast of characters in my works. Thank you. Even if you aren’t real except in my mind and heart, you mean the world to me because you’re mine. Of my heart, of my mind, of my flesh and blood and tears (there’s been a little of each to create them all).

So I’ll close this first year in the chapter of my writing career and be thankful for what I have and what I know I have yet to do. It’s a lonely craft, this writing thing is, but I can’t think of anything else I want to do.

So in these final hours – I’ll leave you with a simple song that from the time I heard it as a boy it affected me so. It is from the Carpenters – who were my absolute love when I was a boy. Karen’s voice still gives me the chills every time I hear her. I miss her creativity so.

Cheers!

And for any nay-sayers this next year – yeah I got only one thing to tell ya…

 

In the heat of the moment this made total sense...

Haters be warned…

 

ADDENDA –

Boomer and Rocco both were quick to respond to my NYE tweets – proving yet again, what lovely men they are! LOVE THESE GUYS!

 

Feelin' the love... guys who appreciate their fandom.

Feelin’ the love… guys who appreciate their fandom.

 

 

Boomer being his witty and charming self...

Boomer being his witty and charming self…

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Designing My Angels of Mercy

Designing My Angels of Mercy

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

The FINAL – FINAL version of the book cover for the first book in my series “Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot”

 

Sidebar: S.O. to author pal, Kris Ripper who liked the first one I did of these, that I’d thought I shoot her another. Hope you all enjoy it too!

 

So let’s talk book covers, shall we?  I mean, I did it before. So it’s not like it’s the first time, right?

I’ve been busy. Did the NaNoWriMo event for the first time and I was really enjoying it (even if it was a bit of a slog to write on a deadline schedule – but it was good for me).

Been putting small tweaks on Angels of Mercy Volume One: Elliot and fleshing out Volume Two: Marco. Volume One is sorta waiting in the wings because it’s ends on a cliff hanger and several authors said that as a newbie writer I shouldn’t do a cliff hanger – soooooo, since my stories are what they are, I decided to forestall the first book and just get book 2 prepped and ready to go so they can be released in tandem. Book 2 ends on a cliff hanger as well, but I figure I’ll have them decently hooked by then (fingers crossed).

So here’s the small twist in this – Marco’s always been the meat of the entire series as far as I am concerned. Elliot and the third boy (who is our guide in Volume 3) are merely bookends to Marco’s tome. The story has always been Marco’s to tell. I just wanted you to get to know the love of his life first. Elliot in many ways is an extension of myself. That’s why it is a character study.

I’ve had betas read the pre-released work and I get universal high marks on grammar and structure (my author pals have universally praised me on the manuscript being so clean) – and that’s the hubby too. He’s been my sole editor. He’s never done it professionally (still hasn’t cause he’s on the personal payroll – wink, wink), but he comes from a LONG line of educators that specialized in English. So I am solid there. He also used to play football for Clemson back in the day so that’s where all the football motif is coming from (well, that, and I did have a fling in my Senior year with an actual HS quarterback). But as I said, the response from everyone I’ve given it to thus far have really been impressed. I am humbled and grateful more than I can say about this.

Angels has been both an easy work to write and incredibly difficult to write. It is a very personal work. It is a love letter to my husband as much as it is to gay men I’ve been blessed to know and have in my life. Truly blessed.

So why the second entry on the book covers? Because I’ve finally nailed book one AND I’ve completed the work on book two in the process! Yippee!!

And here’s the big reveal on the second book cover in the series (cue drum roll in your head, please):

 

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy - Marco.

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy – Marco.

And as with Book One’s design I’ll let you see how I did it…

First things first – as with all things Foodie, there is a recipe and of course the ingredients. I am a content designer (of sorts – previous life as a graphic designer for a theater company in San Diego (amongst other things)).

Software usedAdobe Creative Cloud Suite (primarily Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014)

Graphic elements –  images from iStock Photo (photos and vector art)

Fonts UsedScriptina (for “Angels” in the logo) and Copperplate Light for the subtitle and my author byline, and Jackport College NCV font for the football jersey number 7.

 

The original artwork in its raw form:

Illustrator Vector Line Art

The wings (I only used one half of them and duplicated them).

The wings (I only used one half of them and duplicated them).

 

The Footballer (Hi-res Photo JPG)

 

The footballer pic - Hi-Res XXL variety (so I could manipulate it and not lose resolution much).

The footballer pic – Hi-Res XXL variety (so I could manipulate it and not lose resolution much).

 

The fonts and logo work were borrowed from my Book One cover and adapted/modified to suit “Marco” in the title. Recycle whenever possible – it builds brand consistency and also cuts down on the design time and lets you get back to what we all REALLY want to do – WRITE, dammit!

So I’ll start with one element of this new book cover that kicked my ass on book one – the fucking footballer jersey has NO NUMBER! Couldn’t do a simple overlay – that would be too f’d up – it wouldn’t be right. So I hit the net and sorted through Photoshop tutorial after tutorial using crap assed terms to find what I was looking for – only because I couldn’t remember what I needed to really look for until I found it again – DISPLACEMENT MAPS. They are golden in my book now. And they proved a helluva lot easier to do than I thought they’d be – Win-Win in my book!

You can check out the tutorial that solved it for me right here.

So first things first – I knew my footballer needed his requisite wings so I had to separate the background (the troublesome gradient blue/black background) from the (footballer) foreground. Sometimes the graphics come with masked backgrounds so this is rather simple. NOT this time around. Sheesh! So I had to painstakingly (though I did save a small bit of time) using the magnetic lasso tool in photoshop to cut away at the background from around my mysterious “Marco” footballer.

Then slip a solid black background on a separate layer so I could manipulate at will what I wanted to do. Here’s the final with the broken down layers along the right side of the screenshot (click to enlarge):

My photoshop file in all it's naked glory.

My photoshop file in all it’s naked glory.

 

As you can see by the layers in the picture I post above, the background was solid black. The footballer sits just behind the jersey number layer and my author cred. The wings and the logo taking up the layers in between.

So I imported the jpeg I created from the Illustrator file and cropped the blue side of the wings (the ‘water’ wings) and duplicated the layers in photoshop once the first blue wing was imported and then sized them by freehand so while they are an exact dupe, they aren’t sized exactly the same – only a hint a being symmetrical. It was enough for my purposes. I didn’t want an exact dupe this time around.

The "water" wings imported, duped and resized by hand (freeform) so they aren't an exact match.

The “water” wings imported, duped and resized by hand (freeform) so they aren’t an exact match – a way to maximize your dollar.

 

I also angled them so they would be more upright (alluding to the same sort of position from my Art Deco wings from the first cover – see above). Added an adjustment layer above the two wing layers and boosted the hue and saturation to embellish and bring out the blueness of them.

Next up – Slipping my footballer back in front of the newly created wings.

Adding "Marco" back in to flesh out the "angel."

Adding “Marco” back in to flesh out the “angel.”

 

So now we get to the hard part – or what I perceived to be the hard part – the Displacement Map – to add the jersey number. The file I created for the displacement map I ended up using the black channel of the photo (when you get to that step) as it had the most contrast to build the map (I think in the tutorial link she used the red channel – use what looks best and has the highest contrast to work from – it’ll apply the best results).

I typed the number for the jersey (using the Jackport College NCV font) to create Marco’s football number – 7.  And I applied a white to black gradient to the number so it would fade out along the bottom of the cover like his shirt does in the picture.

I used the tutorial just as it is described above in the link I provided BUT I changed the displacement map settings from the default 10 to 5. This was the result:

 

Adding the "7" jersey number with the displacement map setting to 5.

Adding the “7” jersey number with the displacement map setting to 5.

Then I added the duped layers from my original Volume One: Elliot book cover (see above) and inserted the duped layers for the book title and sub-title (swapping out ONE for TWO and Elliot for Marco) so it would be inline with the finished cover I was after. Then did the same for my Author cred.

 

And voila!

 

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy - Marco.

The book cover for Volume Two of Angels of Mercy – Marco.

But having succeeded in this I immediately was emboldened by my success with the displacement map that I went back to book one and FINALLY put the long missing Jersey number back on it!

 

The final cover artwork. Blood included.

“BEFORE”

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

“AFTER”

 

To paraphrase Darth Vader – “The Circle is (sorta) complete…”

 

I do still have to come up with Volume 3 (insert mystery character here – no spoilers this time).

 

Until next time… Happy Writing and Designing!

 


 

Shout Out to my musical muse – JAY BRANNAN! I constantly play his music while I do anything Angels related. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet. He might argue that he hasn’t steered me at all. I love the shit outta his work anyway.

 

BUY HIS SHIT NOW PEOPLE! I need this guy to keep working!

 

Always Then & Now Cover Art

Always Then & Now Cover Art

 

Jay_Brannan_Rob_Me_Blind_Cover_Art

The album that inspired me to write Angels of Mercy.

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Our Dirty Little Secrets – Part 2

Our Dirty Little Secrets – Part 2

 

Author pal - Jayne Lockwood/Savannah Smythe

Author pal – Jayne Lockwood/Savannah Smythe

 

My on-going conversation with Savannah Smythe/Jayne Lockwood on the craft of writing, how gay authors are under represented in our own literary house, and my forthcoming novel – Angels of Mercy.

Check them out over at the following locations –

Savannah Smythe Blog  (the continuing conversation from my blog post a few days back)

ladyjauthor  (a rather intense discussion about how gay authors are sidelined as guests in what should be their own literary house – I really step into it this time….)
Check them out and see what the hubbub is all about!
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Running with the Pack – Part 3

Running with the Pack – Part 3

 

nanowrimo_calendar_wallpaper_by_moonfreak-d301g6e[1]

 

Another Badge Achieved!

 

25Knanowrimo

 

25,009 words! <– That’s HUGE!

 

I’ve broken the 50% mark in the story. Three chapters in and I am half way to my goal.

 

So where are things now? Well, Steve Grand is still in the soundtrack rotation and things seem to clip along quite nicely when his songs come on. My boys seem to respond to him. Don’t know why that is again, but I’m just letting Steve take the muse role and just roll right along with it. I get into a groove when that happens. I almost disappear into the story itself and I just channel what Hank, Riley, Tanner and the others all have to say about my little lust filled horror story of gay were’s in Sparrow’s Holler, WVA.

Some interesting developments happened – ya see, when I am driving to my Clark Kent day job, I have a solid twenty minutes a day to ponder my tales – and yeah, I am usually listening to Steve there as well. I think it’s Riley (the Alpha of the story who responds to him most – I seem to work out kinks in his backstory in my head when Steve’s on the iPod in the car). So yeah, Riley and Hank are getting sorted and coupling up nicely. Hank is still leery cause he don’t know why any of it is happening – the boys who have taunted him off and on have suddenly flipped a switch and now they are all about Hank. They can’t get enough of being around him.

And of course this presents drama… duh, duh, duuuuuhhhh!  <– that was supposed be that high radio drama music there where someone is bitin’ their knuckle like Carol Burnett did on her TV show back in the 70’s – just sayin’…

Anywho, back in Sparrow’s – Hank and Riley are gettin’ closer and all the while Hank questions what it means (cause hey, it’s 1956 people and there was no internet nor did people even TALK about gay stuff back then – or so the hubby tells me). So while Riley and Hank have their intimate moments and Hank is left bewildered on why he’s all cuddlin’ up to the hottest boy on campus, he is also left bewildered on why Riley’s boys are all into them as well.

As Hank says quite clearly on what he has bitten off –

“I thought I had me a boyfriend – now it looks like I got me eight. Mama’s just gonna shit…”

Yeah, and she ain’t the only one neither, Hank.

The story seems to have this wolf mentality threading through it nicely. No real were moment yet, but it’s coming. I am actually introducing the novel baddie right now in the story. So yeah, I hope I nail it like I got it in my head.

So here’s the dealio with my writings: I write Gay Lit Fic. I make no bones about it. BUT what that means is that while my stories have a strong romantic element (cause hey, that’s always a good thing – it brings out the gentle humanity in us all, I think) – it is NOT M/M romance fare. While it has strong sexual situations, it is NOT erotica. I just don’t write to a given formula. Those elements are present but when I use love it is a means to an end. It serves a purpose other than romance for the sake of romance. And I NEVER pull punches in the sex department, either. I refuse to water it down. Sex happens, people. It’s what makes our lives enriching and exciting. Passion is a VERY good thing in my books. But it’s also a character device that I use to move the characters forward. It’s meant to propel the story in some manner.

The sex in my books are not a “one handed read” as one of my erotica author buddies so eloquently puts it. I mean, if someone thinks they’re sort of hot, well yippee ki-yay for you! That’s not the intent of their being there from my perspective.

Take Hank for example:

Inspiration for Hank O'Malley in my story

Inspiration for Hank O’Malley in my story

 

Hank is a really attractive guy but is one of those boys who doesn’t have the first clue that he is. He thinks he’s rather average. That there’s nothing special to him. He’s just a country bumpkin eking out a life in a small town in West Virginia.

It happens.

But Hank is anything BUT average. He’s wildly beyond average – and he’s about to find out what that means. And here’s the odd thing about Hank, the thing that makes him very fascinating to me – he doesn’t want any of it. When he discovers what he truly is and what it all means, he tries to deny it – to push it, and the boys further away from him. The boys go through a lot of pain and torment because of it. Hank is basically refusing pack life. Why? Because he hasn’t turned yet. So to him its spook and legend.

But the threat that visits them just before Hank’s first night of turning – in his own family store, no less, does give him something to consider. A reason to hear the boys out about what is truly going on in Sparrow’s Holler, what the pack means to the town, and how wonder of all wonders, how Hank’s own missing father has played a huge part in it all that Hank was never told about.

Hank’s got quite a bit on his mind and several balls to juggle – it’s no wonder when he looks in the mirror he can’t see what everyone else sees.

 

Another of Hank O'Malley - tough luck lookin' like that, huh?

Another of my Hank O’Malley – tough luck lookin’ like that, huh?

 

Basically put, Hank’s a hunk but he’s a fairly clueless hunk until his boys are threatened. Then there’ll be no stoppin’ him. Hank is a dark horse. A very, VERY, dark horse (or wolf, I should say) in this tale. He doesn’t want the mantle, he doesn’t want the notoriety or attention.

Werewolves-werewolves-8012482-675-445

And in due course he gets plenty of attention… from his boys and the girls in town. It’s all too confusing. Part of the time Hank just longs for the simplicity of everything that was before any of this happened. But once you turn, you can never go back.

So the first book is spent on trying to get Hank to become the hero he is destined to be.

It won’t be an easy road. But then again, if it were – what would be the point of tellin’ it?

So a small acknowledgement to my project muse – Steve Grand has released a few new tunes on iTunes as well as a few other places. Please check out his site and buy his songs, dammit! This man deserves our continued support! He’s breathing life into my boys and that’s helping me reach my goal of 50K in 30 days. So far, so good.

 

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Think I’ll spin up another and get back to it…

 

SteveGrandred1

The red goes so well with my wolves…

 

Thanks Mr. G for givin’ my boys something to run with … were Riley and the boys here for real – I am sure they’d say thank you too!

Peace – OUT!

 

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