Covering Old Ground –
More Cover Artwork for HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega.
So here I am again- more discussion on the arc of creating a look/feel for a book I’ve been putting together. It started out simple enough (almost bland in it’s simplicity):
Actually this is a later iteration as I can’t find my original which was just the slash cut with out any bloody references and minus the lycanthropic tagline.
It was slightly emotive of what I wanted but almost too simplistic in approach. Originally I was thinking of going horror novel ala Ikea – ya know, very Scandinavian in design – sparse and minimalistic, yet evocative.
Because the gash/slash was in a swooping motion I used a very swishy font. I tend to favor them. Mostly because I admire calligraphers. And as I said before – I am a BIG FONT WHORE.
So yeah, it was serviceable. Passable. Minimally getting me there.
I mean, I didn’t kid myself and say – wow, that’ll get them to buy it!
Cause, I knew it ultimately wouldn’t. I wasn’t foolin’ myself none, ya know?
So I posted it anyway and then my author pal, Jayne Lockwood commented that she thought the HOMO title should be bolder cause it was sort of lost in the vast sparseness of the work. I thought about it. I did. I swear I did.
Then did nothing about it. Told her that was what I was after.
But it festered. Made me rethink what I was doing.
I didn’t want to do the whole muscle dude thing on so many of the M/M romance stuff. Cause that’s just so… meh. So 1990 in my book. It’ll be cheesy in a few years and NOT retro-chic cheesy either. Just plain cheese – but not the good kind you can put on sandwiches and stuff.
So I needed to retool it. I knew that.
Then I hit a major creative speed bump. It happened last night. I took a breather from writing the ending to the story (it was a NaNoWriMo winner story so I knew I wanted to get it done). And I took a small (fitful) nap. I woke up and had a pseudo-meltdown. I don’t know if it was the wrong side of the bed, or in general I was letting my shit get to me but I wrote a rather long rant to my betas, friends and family (do they have a cell phone program for that?) and babbled endlessly on whether I needed to write at all. Whether I was good enough.
It was a fucktard moment. I ain’t proud of it. I mean, I even bcc’d my mom on it. How embarrassing is that? Your own mother knows you’re a fucktard. Brilliant – NOT!
So when I finally crawled out of my pity-party and began to sort out my shit and got back in the writing saddle I decided I’d take an artistic turn for a few and re-examine the HOMO book cover.
The hubby was busy with the initial edits and comments, so I was left to my own devices in retooling the cover for it once it was done.
I hit up istockphoto (my usual goto) and found a few werewolf-y looking things. But the costs are getting up there to use this service. I like the quality of work but the credit fees to just buy some shit is getting up there now. There had to be others out there that were cheaper. So I found CanStockPhoto.com.
I combed through their stuff on wolves and forests and such and found a couple of things I sort of liked. I always wanted ominous eyes if I was going to do a picture. I also knew the cover had to be dark. So I started to try and combine those two terms to source something for the new reworked cover.
I found these two pieces to start with:
And even though I railed against using a half naked man on the cover but I sorta liked this guy when I happened upon him – he had that whole Tanner Tallman (from my book) thing going on. And he had wolfy fangs so yeah, he was worth a saw buck to buy him. (Oh yeah, did I forget to mention? BOTH images cost me less than $9!) It was a no-brainer.
So here he is – (even if I didn’t use him this time around) – it’s a novella series so yeah, I could still put him to use down the road. Especially if I focus on Tanner somewhere down the line.
Anyway, so I went about taking the wolfy eyes and the darkened road and began to repurpose my original cover art.
First to go was the swishy font for the logo – rebranded it entirely into a sans-serif font rather than a display font (if you’re into typography like me you know what that means, if not, eh, don’t fret too much about it). This was invariably a big factor on my changing the background from a faux leather texture to solid black. It would allow the red blood and title to punch a bit more on the cover. Great, but it still seemed sparse without something else.
Then it was time to sort out which of the two picts I was gonna use. Since Tanner wasn’t the focus in this first book I decided it was better to go with an establishing and moody thought. So wolf eyes and road it is:
I think it is far superior to my original IKEA take on it. What do you all think?
I am hoping to release it to the masses in early January. It’ll be my first publicly released work for sale but my third novel that I’ve completed. The other two are still in edit mode before distribution. This one was for fun. While I love the work and am happy to dedicate it to my first fan (who loves all things werewolves) it is nowhere near the serious work I am doing in Angels. This is meant to be a spooky romp of a read. Something to get the imagination as well as the loins inflamed, ya know?
So yeah, that’s it for this time around. Who knows I may end up with a separate series of how I design book covers and why? Who knew? I should probably youtube this shit to expand my market share?
Eh, who has the time? I want to write dammit!
Designing My Angels of Mercy
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):
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 used – Adobe Creative Cloud Suite (primarily Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014)
Graphic elements – images from iStock Photo (photos and vector art)
Fonts Used – Scriptina (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 Footballer (Hi-res Photo JPG)
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):
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
When is a goal not a goal?
Answer: When the 50K word count has been reached but you ain’t done with the danged book!
So my NaNoWriMo goal is within sight – I’ll have my 50K tucked away by this evening and I’ll post it for validation. Whoo-hoo! I did it and I finished it well before the November 30 deadline! I am proud of myself for pantsing it along.
Now, to the real task – of getting the damned thing in order cause it sorta feels like I’m trying to hug fog at the moment. This shit is nebulous as all hell and I need to straighten it up. Not that it can’t be done but fuck me if I know how to do it.
I guess I am gonna have to poll my beta’s and see where I am missing shit…I know what I want to do, just in the thrust of gettin’ to my goal I think I have some massive holes in plot and narrative.
So yay, me! Well done! (That sound you’re hearing is the patting of my own back – cause sometimes you just gotta to keep ya goin’).
Above is my adjusted cover art. It’s rather subdued but at least it’s got some umph, no?
Thoughts on it?
As a rule of thumb I am opposed to those manly half naked men on the covers – I just think that most of that will look so damned dated down the road.
Also, while I have your attention – what do you think about the word “adventure” in the tag line? It’s not really an adventure – more of an experience, tale, event (now that’s just plain lousy)?
The story does have some angst that I am gettin’ to now. Just not much in the way of adventure – I mean it’s not a wolfy Indiana Jones. Even though I can sorta see Harrison as a wolf man.
Anyway, the goal for NaNoWriMo will be reached by tonight. The story – eh, not so much.
And it’s been nice to have Steve Grand in the rotation to get my boys where they are. Only now it’s gonna get darker – a whole mess darker. I may have to switch up the playlist for a bit to get into the groove. Riley, Hank and the boys are in for some bad assed times. Then my HFN for the moment.
Free reads of where I am up to the 50K mark will be posted later on tonight.
Then I need to pen some more of Marco’s Angel’s volume – I’ve left him sorta hanging and he’s got shit to say now about his burgeoning love for all things Elliot. The boys in my worlds are gonna drive me bat-shit crazy!
Til next time…
Running with the Pack – Part 3
Another Badge Achieved!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
[embedplusvideo height=”255″ width=”400″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1tjO5Il” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/3ArcGsUkUdw?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=3ArcGsUkUdw&width=400&height=255&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep4131″ /]
Think I’ll spin up another and get back to it…
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!
Runnin’ with the Pack – Part 2
So it’s been four days of NaNoWriMo craziness. I am happy to report that I am nearly half way to my goal: 22,252 words written thus far!
That’s 22,252 out of 50,000… about 48%. That’s HUGE!
Whoo-hoo! (insert Wolf Howl here)
But I know this is only the beginning. And to be honest, this was because the week leading into it I had a fair amount sorted in my head. But now, well, we’re catching up to where I am still debating how things are gonna play out. Organically (because I am a through and through pantser when I write), I am already seeing deviations of where my wolves are taking me. Beyond where I thought I was going to go.
But it’s like that for me. I have a goal, I have an arc, but what happens is that my characters are fully formed in my head by the time I put them down to digital bytes and bits. They are present – front and center – and they often know their world better than I do! And that, from me, the God of their universe – and yet, my characters still surprise me.
It was that way with Angels of Mercy. It’s turning out to be the same with HO’M,O too.
Hank O’Malley is one helluva discovery for me. The past few weeks I’ve been absorbing my Appalachian dialects, polling my husband’s past because he was born in West Virginia and grew up in and around there.
And here’s the funny thing: Normally, I listen to film scores when I write. I tend to think cinematically, so my stories tend to be that way – so orchestral scores seem to be a perfect fit. The odd thing? This time I seem to fluctuate between those scores (usually of the Danny Elfman, John Williams or Bernard Herrmann variety) and something completely off track – I am also finding myself drawn to listening to Steve Grand‘s offerings. They aren’t contemporary to the time I am setting the piece (1956 in West Virginia) but there’s something homey and irrefutably connected about Grand’s take on things that I just seem to be goin’ with it and not askin’ too many questions along the way – mostly cause I don’t have time to spare for this if the book has to be done in 30 days.
If it works, it works – right? Steve Grand being the emotive core of my boys in Sparrow’s Holler? Well, that’s fine by me.
As much as Jay Brannan proved to be the emotive core for Angels, Grand’s music is the wellspring for my wolves of Sparrow’s Holler. Who knew? I sure as hell didn’t. I just put on Steve’s latest releases and three or four rounds of the playlist and I was writing like a fiend. Who am I to question the muse of the project? It coulda been worse… and Steve is far above anything like that. Like Brannan, Grand inspires me – I love men who are living their lives openly and with such conviction I think that is what I am emotively responding to and imbuing my characters with. Grand and Brannan both are openly gay artists, brilliant and accomplished writers in their own right, and if they give me little creative spark to play with – I am all the better for it.
So yeah, that was a surprise in and of itself. But for some reason it works – I dunno, maybe cause I could see Steve as one of the wolves? What do you think?
But it’s more than that. I think the reason it’s clicking is because there is a solid thread of warmth that weaves its way in Grand’s work. A humanity that I need to be reminded of as my wolves take over. Grand’s music addresses this beautifully. I think that is why I’ve navigated his way.
(Sidebar: I can’t wait for the album to drop – hint, hint Steve-a-rino)
Maybe that’s why I am tunin’ in as I write about my werewolves of West Virginia. And with so much of the were lore established in the M/M genre, I am having so much fun putting my spin on things. Meaning that just because you’re the Alpha of the pack, doesn’t mean that you’re the one in control. I’ve got a new take on things that I hope will give my story an edge to it that hasn’t been present in the gay weres stories that have been out there before. Hank is an Omega in the pack, but in a way that’s never been done before – and it could prove to be an epic game changer.
Either way, Hank O‘Malley, Omega (where the title HO’M,O comes from – the main character of the story) – has that same quality Grand puts forth in his music. The exuberance and the temperance of a life that is rooted in who he was brought up to be. Yet, his life experiences are starting to color that. But the story isn’t a happy one – it’s a dark tale – I mean, they are werewolves after all. That’s not to say there isn’t hope and love threaded within the tellin’ of the tale. Cause there definitely is…
For a boy who was a loner, just work at his Mama’s general store and school to mark the passing of time for him, his world has been slowly evolving around him. He hasn’t paid much attention to the subtle changes in the 8 boys on the football team who always run together. Boys who used to taunt him and shake him up from time to time. Now, there’s a subtle difference in the air. It seems the Cavanagh High School Wolves means a helluva lot more in the town of Sparrow’s Holler than anyone thought.
Hank chides them in his mind and refers to them as “the pack”. Those eight boys, alternatingly mischievous, brooding, and lust-filled — these boys are always together. And they rule the school with an iron paw. Their word is law – even when held up to the Principal himself.
And then there’s Hank. Loner that he is – not seeing how these boys have been slowly circling him. Moving ever so much closer – as if their own continued existence depended upon Hank joining their ranks. And they’d be right about that. Hank is something special in the way of Omega’s within the pack. He’s different in ways that the boys can’t even imagine. Hank is the dark hero of the tale.
So yeah, 22,252 words out of 50K goal. And I am only in chapter 2! Yeah, so gotta figure out how I am gonna reign this one in so I don’t go for another 205K word epic like my first volume of Angels.
I’d like for this to be a side line of short stories that have a greater arc to them. Like those serial short films that our parents or grandparents went to in the 1940’s and 50’s. Slim offerings – a morsel at a time.
At 22K words and only two chapters in? I think I have my work cut out for me to start moving forward at a greater clip to get to my HEAFN (Happily Ever After, For Now) for the first installment. I need to think like those directors of those quickie shorts of the 50’s. Gonna have to tuck in my inner Cecil B. DeMille and think more like oh, I dunno – (face palms and realizes that I generally watch epic films) one of them directors of those classic horror movies of that era. Ya know, like Don Siegel (yeah, I just IMDB’d it) like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Or better yet, Erle C. Kenton of House of Dracula (where Lon Cheney, Jr. makes his appearance as Lawrence Talbot/The Wolfman). Yeah, that’s more like it.
Okay, enough of this – I need to be writing the novel again.
Earbuds in place, Grand’s Stay is cued up – time to go run with the wolves again.
[embedplusvideo height=”255″ width=”400″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1oiZMTQ” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/i3G3xm1-spg?fs=1&vq=hd720″ vars=”ytid=i3G3xm1-spg&width=400&height=255&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep9499″ /]
@stevegrandmusic – thanks for givin’ my boys something to run with!
Peace – OUT!