SA Collins

Words and Errata

December 2014

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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Covering Old Ground

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):

 

My newly created cover image.

The originally created cover image.

 

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:

A minimal version of what I ended up using.

A minimal version of what I ended up using.

 

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.

My version of Tanner Tallman (the beta of my wolf pack).

My version of Tanner Tallman (the beta of my wolf pack).

 

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.

HOMO with some minor edits - black background and the font change in the title.

HOMO with some minor edits – black background and the font change in the title.

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:

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 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!

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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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