SA Collins

Words and Errata

Brannan as Bard

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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It’s all about the story – Part Deux

31 Days of Brannan – Day 29

 

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Today’s Playlist – The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia

 

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ll come clean  –  I am a HUGE Jay fan. Epic Japanese fan girl type of fan (not like I’ve hidden it at all – I mean, really.

31 days of talking about the same damned guy? I mean, even this hubby of mine has got to be a bit suspicious with me rambling on and on about some musician that lives on the other side of the country. But he’s (the hubby, that is) my number one – so no worries there.)

So yeah, Jay fan. BIG TIME. So you’d think that would be the confession, right? Not something terribly surprising given the month-long blogfest on him. But no, that’s not the admission. It’s not. In fact, given all of that – of all that I’ve written, collected, blogged about, you’d THINK that I’d be so Jay’d out that I’d know his shit fairly well. That I’d have his YouTube channel memorized so I could pick out my favorite video of the day and click on it blindfolded, right? Yeah, you’d think… only, well, I haven’t and, uh, I couldn’t.  I know, I know. Japanese fan girls would be kicking my ass for letting down the corp or the group or the cult of fan girls everywhere, huh?

I mean, Japanese fan girls are notorious for being the epitome of fans. They are some serious ball-busting hard core fandom. Cause when those girls gush about something there is nothing on the planet that can stop that vag-laden bullet train from splashing their love goo all over the object of their desire.

Okay, so maybe I am not a fan girl. For one I’m not a girl. So yeah, I lose on that score already. Though I suppose being gay might get me an honorable mention, no?  Perhaps not.

So the whole reason why I am rambling on about this like I am was that about a week or so ago (in my infancy of writing about all things Jay related) I included a clip of Jay doing one of his ‘story’ songs. In it I compared his work to other such classic ‘story’ songs of pop music’s past. One of them was Vicki Lawrence’s The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (she was the first to score with this song, Jay – not country goddess protector of Nashville – Reba). So you’d think back then I woulda played this little ditty as a comparative. Yeah, that’d be the obvious choice. Only I hadn’t ever clicked this particular video on his channel yet. I know, I know – what kind of rabid fan can you be if you’ll watch his 6+ minute video of him at a supposed haunted church and yet not even listen to the video I’ve included here.

So you can imagine my embarrassment when I did click it tonight and found the title: Jayba McEntire tests out a new digital camera by sangin’ ’bout murder.

I saw that and thought: oh no, it can’t be…  But you see, I knew it was. Country singers have been covering that song since it hit the pop charts back in ’73. So if Reba was the version that Jay was riffing off of, and it was a song about murder – well, there could only be one real possibility.

[Cue: Face-Palm moment]

So yeah, not so good with the whole I am a fan girl (or honorable mention) sort of fan when it comes to Jay. It’s embarrassing. Sorta negates my whole 31 Days of Brannan uber-fest that I’ve had going on here, right? I can be such the fucktard when I’m not looking out for myself – sorta like now.

Oooops. Sorry bout that.

So anyway, sang your lil’ ol’ heart out Jayba! And give ’em what fer…

(BTW, from a musical standpoint, very interesting chord choices for the chorus – don’t know if that was Reba’s rendition of it that he was doing or something he came up with himself. Not quite what I’ve ever heard whenever someone else sang the song.)  – Just sayin’…

ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT TIL SAN FRANCISCO! I can’t fucking wait!

N-Joy! – Or should I say – N-Jay! (Okay, that sounded better in my head when I first thought of it.)

 


 

The Always, Then & Now Tour…

Please check out his site with links for his upcoming shows. I am definitely a late comer to the Brannan bandwagon whenever he pulls through my city. But now that I am going this year, I am making it a goal never to miss when he swings through town. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity as well. Also be sure to check out his web store at the following link.

Jay's Website - jaybrannan.com
Jay’s Website – jaybrannan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LIVE FROM…

31 Days of Brannan – Day 28

 

Today’s Playlist – ANYTHING LIVE! (We’re only a few days away from his performance in SAN FRANCISCO!) 

 

Up first – Bä Bä Vita Lamm  (Live from Stockholm, Sweden)

 

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This is brilliant because it’s Jay being somewhat whimsical. A giddy moment, if you will – and he got the audience involved (always a good thing). Brilliant!

 

Next Up – Arim Roshi (Live From Tel Aviv)

 

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You can tell by the audience in attendance how much they appreciate Jay performing something of their world, of their culture. It’s these little touches (despite how much Jay laments his poor Hebrew pronunciation) – they didn’t care one bit from the sound of it. In fact, it seems they were quite touched by the offering. Just lovely. How many artists these days do this any more – especially Americans when they tour? My guess? Not very many. But Jay’s a classy guy that way.

 

Moving on –  Molly Malone  (Live from Dublin, Ireland)

 

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A bunch of happy, (probably tanked) Irish lads and lasses, a great Irish tune – what could possibly go wrong? Under Jay’s spell – not a goddamned thing. This is a lovely interplay between artist and audience.

 

Rounding it out – Femme au Foyer (Live from Paris, France)

 

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The French (as well as most of the countries that he does this with Housewife in various languages) just loved the shit out of this rendition of his own gay boy anthem – Housewife. I never tire of hearing this song, no matter the language, the setting or the time of day. It’s a brilliant and very heart felt piece that every gay boy can relate to on some level.

 

So now he wends his way down the coast from Seattle (and their fanny packs of granola), Portland (visit that killer donut shop, Jay), TO SAN FRANCISCO, BABY! I can’t wait. I am going to Japanese fan girl all over the damned place (it’ll really be pathetic). I’d like to say my granddaughter and daughter (and other friends in attendance) would keep me sane and normal. Yeah, probably not.

Sorry, Jay – I’ll start apologizing now. It’s heartfelt. You help put me on a journey that I can never repay. Rob Me Blind was life altering for me. It nudged me along a road I kept putting off. For that I will always be grateful and I will sing your praises to anyone who will give me the time of day.

 

 


 

The Always, Then & Now Tour…

Please check out his site with links for his upcoming shows. I am definitely a late comer to the Brannan bandwagon whenever he pulls through my city. But now that I am going this year, I am making it a goal never to miss when he swings through town. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity as well. Also be sure to check out his web store at the following link.

Jay's Website - jaybrannan.com
Jay’s Website – jaybrannan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using Both Hands

31 Days of Brannan – Day 27

 

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Today’s Playlist –  Both Hands (Ani DiFranco Cover)

 

This is a song that Jay has recorded (quite brilliantly, I might add) on his 80 Days of Jay album. This is a rather simple cover but it is beautifully rendered as he is performing it in a stairwell that has some lovely acoustics going on.

I searched out Ani’s original and while it was good I always find Jay’s work a bit more introspective, and reflective – well that and his crystal clear voice that works so well with the acoustics of the nondescript setting.

On balance, the recorded version of it is quite a lovely piece of overdubbed multi-tracking studio work. If you haven’t purchased that album you really should consider it. I only wished he had recorded some of the other songs he’s translated or uploaded to his youtube channel. He seems to do foreign songs quite well and I would like to see more of these types of recordings because we Americans seem to be obsessed with our own shit and miss  a huge collection of international songwriters and songs that are out there. Sure we can search them out as well, but I find it a lovely little surprise when Jay finds one and decides to put his own spin on it.

Anyway – didn’t mean to ramble so much. Enjoy this acoustic version of Ani DIFranco’s Both Hands and seek out the recorded version which is a little slice of brilliant.

 


 

The Always, Then & Now Tour…

Please check out his site with links for his upcoming shows. I am definitely a late comer to the Brannan bandwagon whenever he pulls through my city. But now that I am going this year, I am making it a goal never to miss when he swings through town. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity as well. Also be sure to check out his web store at the following link.

Jay's Website - jaybrannan.com
Jay’s Website – jaybrannan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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80 Days of Jay

31 Days of Brannan – Day 26

 

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Today’s Playlist – Twee Vaders  –  in Dutch, no less…

 

I like that Jay takes the time to find a way to connect with his international audiences. He may flub things up a little but they are so much more appreciative when he makes these efforts. This is a true artist that will work on his craft to engage his audience. Having sung in many languages myself I am really impressed with how fearless he treads these linguistic waters. Part of his brilliance as a self-promoter and marketer, I suppose. Give them what they want, and a little of something they didn’t see coming.

Lovely stuff there Mr. B.

Enjoy this one. It made me smile – and that’s saying something considering I was doing battle with the cable company this morning so I could get my internet back! Thanks for restoring my smile Jay!

 


 

The Always, Then & Now Tour…

Please check out his site with links for his upcoming shows. I am definitely a late comer to the Brannan bandwagon whenever he pulls through my city. But now that I am going this year, I am making it a goal never to miss when he swings through town. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity as well. Also be sure to check out his web store at the following link.

Jay's Website - jaybrannan.com
Jay’s Website – jaybrannan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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