Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Behind the Cover: Few Are Chosen

Welcome to Behind the Cover, a new random column. Folks always seem to be interested in how covers come together, so every once in a while I’ll do up a little post about what goes into creating some of the covers I’ve designed. Today, I’ll take a little tour in the creation of Storm Grant’s latest release, Few Are Chosen.

Few Are Chosen is a funny and light paranormal, taking place in a downtown Detroit cemetery at night. Storm noted that a large crypt was an important element to the story, and wanted the boys in front of one. Both boys are young but of age and I wanted to try and maintain some of that innocence of youth, even though they’re both appointed to the very serious task of slaying demons.

First up I searched for models that fit Storm’s descriptions as best as possible. After a couple hours sourcing out some cemeteries, crypts, moody sunsets, etc., I composed three specs for Storm to see if I was on the right track. The good feedback was that Storm loved all three. The bad feedback was that Storm loved all three. *g* The models in spec2 were closer to her vision of the boys, but she liked the mood of spec1, and the font of spec3.

Direction settled, I started off with some work on the boys. In the original image of Joey both his hands are visible, but against the dark background his left hand looked more like one of those dreaded, independently moving body parts. ;-) So I photoshopped his hand out and rebuilt the collar of his jacket where it had been.

With Blake it was the opposite. His elbow disappeared into the background of the original image, leaving me once again with a floating hand. So after knocking out the black background I had to rebuild his elbow and shoulder.

Once I had Joey and Blake how I wanted them it was time to start building the background elements. Flipping and reducing the cemetery image for balance and placement ended up making too narrow for the frame. I didn’t like how it sat any other way, so I built out the left side of the image to fit. Once that was done the sky seemed a little too dark, so I made another layer, lightened it, and blended it overtop. The atmosphere around the cemetery was misty/foggy, so I layered in some more fog around the boys in three layers and two shades.

Now it was time to work in the title and byline. I went with orange/dirty yellow tones to contrast the dark cool tones of the overall image. I was happy with the byline, but the title wasn’t there yet. So I layered in a “grungy” texture on the font. But still just a little something more was needed. In the cover art request Storm mentioned that Joey’s weapon was a twisty old wooden staff that glowed different colors depending on the spells he cast. So I drew a stick, knocked some nicks out of it with a couple photoshop brushes and then dropped in the same texture I’d overlaid on the title, and darkened it a little so it complimented the title instead of drew from it. I was happy with the overall cover, but more importantly, Storm was happy.

* * *

The Blurb…

Sparks fly between virgin teenage demon hunters when the Chosen One turns out to be the Chosen . . . Two?

Apprentice warrior Blake St. Blake is the Chosen One, raised by an ancient order to defend the world against evil. Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least his neighborhood in downtown Detroit. When a dreaded reflux demon is sighted in a local cemetery, Blake is sent off to his very first battle, armed with his sword, his super-senses, his black leather duster, and a few well-rehearsed one-liners.

But another Chosen One gets in Blake’s way—an apprentice wizard named Shadow. While the boys argue about who’s the more chosen of the two, the demon escapes.

Blake wants to be angry, but it turns out he and Shadow have a lot in common. Besides, Shadow’s pretty cute, and Blake can’t help but think that the wizard’s skills (and hands and lips and other bits) might make the perfect complement to his. Blake and Shadow are brave enough to challenge the reflux demon in a second battle, but will they have the courage to tell each other how they feel?

* * *

Few Are Chosen is available now at Riptide Publishing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Music: Blue

Okay, since I played a Puscifer song last week, I decided to go on a Maynard Keenan kick. So this week its Blue by A Perfect Circle, and next week I'll play something from Tool. This video is kind of creepy, but then, I only listen to the music. ;-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Music: The Mission

I'm a fan of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Maynard Keenan's latest side project, Puscifer (altho its maybe not so recent anymore *g*). This is one of my fave Puscifer songs, The Mission, featuring Milla Jovovich on vocals. Milla's a kick ass chick, IMO.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What He Says... About Random Acts of Kindness

“Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.” ~ Henry Clay

This week is Random Acts of Kindness week. People all over the world are doing a little something extra for total strangers, even just sharing a smile. Though I try to commit RAKs regularly I do make a point of stepping it up during this week.

So of course, I was curious what the guys had to say about RAK. They kind of turned left when I was expecting them to turn right, but they are spreading smiles. And I think that's pretty important.

* * *

Stuart Wakefield:
I have absolutely no idea what this is. Can I take sweets away from a fat kid and tell them it’s for their own good during this week, is that it?

Edmond Manning:
Hey! Why the hell did Stu take my Mounds bar away? Give it back, man.

Damon Suede:
I vote we all stand on a roof somewhere and piss on the sidewalk.

D.H. Starr:
Jeez! You guys are jokesters. ;-) How about we pick a cause that matters to us and do something, just one thing within our power, to help that cause. Maybe I’ll write a short story and ask the publisher to give all my proceeds to a cause of choice.

Stuart Wakefield:
Sorry, Doug. I promise you I’ll do something random and kind during this week.

Thorny Sterling:
I think Damon stopped reading after “Random Acts”. LOL!

Damon Suede:
I didn’t say anyone had to be walking past underneath. :)

Edmond Manning:
Dammit, first I got my candy bar stolen and now it’s raining on me. I don’t’s not raining anywhere else but right under this building.
    Actually, random acts of kindness are incredibly important to me. In fact, the entire plot of King Perry hinges on Perry’s random act of kindness in chapter one. When I hear/read/see ridiculous gestures of effervescent, sparkling love, I get all teary-eyed. This music video about random kindnesses chokes me up every single time.

* * *

I don't know about you guys, but that video brought tears to my eyes -- I had to hit up iTunes for the song too. So how about you? Did you commit a random act of kindness for a loved one, a friend, a stranger? Did someone commit one for you? Do share. :-)

There's a bonus Thursday in March, which means three installments of What He Says... Our March 1st post will be slightly different, as Edmond's debut novel King Perry releases that week. I'll be posting my review, and Edmond is generously offering up a free ebook copy to one lucky commenter.

Thursday, March 15th the boys are back with their thoughts on where M/M romance is headed.

And don't forget, if you have any topics, questions or photos you'd like the guys to tackle, just shoot them my way. We'll make sure you get the credit.

Previous topics:
   New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Long Tall Drink: The Missing Chapter

The original draft of Long Tall Drink had an extra chapter that very few people got to read. I heard from a few folks, well okay, more than a few, who wanted more. Being that it's Valentine's Day and that last chapter was rather romantic, I thought what better time to share it than now. So without further adieu, I give you a Long Tall Valentine. Enjoy!

Ray stood behind Travis, admiring his cowboy’s reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator that carried them effortlessly upward. Golden sun-streaked hair, brushed neatly back from his face, curved over the collar of his jacket in a gentle wave. Ray itched to run his hands through the silky strands and twine them around his fingers, muss them up. Nothing looked better than Travis in the morning with tousled hair -- especially after they’d made love and his skin was flushed, eyes soft and heavy-lidded. Those incredible eyes gazed back at him in the mirror -- the secrets they held still not completely revealed. A single dimple capped a crooked grin on that ruggedly handsome, tanned face. And that unique, kinetic force that defined the man vibrated in the small confines of the elevator, ratcheting Ray’s desire for him up another notch. It sometimes amazed Ray that there seemed to always be another level to reach.

He could barely wrap his mind around how much had happened since that black day in April four months ago -- the day he’d almost lost Travis forever. But Travis lived and everything changed. He and Travis had come stampeding out of the closet with guns blazing. Well, to their ranch hands, anyway. It had been a frightening thing to do, but at the same time, liberating beyond measure. For the first time in his life, Ray had been able to breathe freely.

While not everyone had been accepting, Ray had been surprised by how many were, or who didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Just as Dot had predicted, they’d lost a couple hands and a regular buyer, received the occasional sneer in town, but the violence and destruction of his ranch and the Ford Creek reputation Ray had feared all his life never came to be.

“What?” Travis asked, his voice a soft seductive growl.

He stood tall, confident and commanding, looking every bit the dashing aristocratic rake, in his tailored black silk tuxedo. Travis always looked incredible no matter what he wore -- or what he didn’t. Actually, he looked best in nothing at all as far as Ray was concerned.

“Sweet mercy,” Ray’s voice was a hoarse rumble deep in his chest. “You are gorgeous.”

Travis’s grin morphed into that dazzling, magazine cover smile as the elevator came to an imperceptible stop and the doors whooshed quietly open. He reached his hand back for Ray’s and when their hands were firmly clasped, Travis led him out into the hall. Life really couldn’t get any better, Ray thought.

“That was the best wedding I’ve ever been to,” Ray said as they reached their hotel room door. His first crush, Gregory Reeves, had looked incredibly jubilant standing at his man, David’s side, with dancing eyes and an unshakable smile. It was the kind of happiness that ran bone deep and cast the whole world in a warm, golden glow. The bond Gregory and his partner shared was unmistakable, visible to the naked eye. And one Ray found himself hoping he and Travis might some day share.

It was good to see Gregory after so many years. He still looked like a surfer, but had filled out and was no longer the lanky teen Ray remembered. He was still handsome. Nothing would change that. But the man had nothing on Travis. Gregory’s husband was also a handsome man -- dark where Gregory was light -- and they were absolutely perfect together.

Travis slid the card key in and out of its slot. When the green light flashed he pushed the handle down and opened the door as he said, “That was the only wedding I’ve ever been to.”

Ray entered the room behind Travis and shucked off his tux jacket. He tossed it onto a chair near the entrance, then grabbed Travis by the waist and spun him around so they faced each other. He slipped his hands beneath the lapels of Travis’s jacket and shoved it off his shoulders, pushed it down his arms until it ran out of real estate and fell to the floor.

“Something I’ve been dying to do all night,” Ray said with a lascivious smile as he pulled the knot of Travis’s bow tie loose.

Travis chuckled and said, “Why don’t you grab a couple beers so we don’t get thirsty.”

Ray let his hand glide provocatively across Travis’s abdomen as he moved away and walked over to the mini fridge. He retrieved two cold bottles, turned around, and stopped dead in his tracks.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Travis, his cowboy, his lover, was down on bended knee looking up with an expectant expression on his face and an excited, inner light glittering in his eyes. One hand rested on his knee, clenched into a fist. A rush of warmth spread throughout Ray’s body, his pulse kicked up a notch, and he suddenly felt breathless.

“What the hell does it look like I’m doing, Raymond Ford?” The smile in Travis’s voice shone as bright as a summer sun at high noon. “I’m asking you to marry me.”

Ray heard the words, but couldn’t quite connect the thought to action. Travis wanted to marry him? Travis Morgan, the man who’d spent the last eighteen years of his life drifting with the wind? Ray could never have guessed that Travis would be the marrying kind. Let alone the staying around kind. Ray certainly hadn’t thought marriage would ever be for himself. Didn’t see how it could ever be in the cards. But now… Now the most incredible man he’d ever known was down on his knee gazing up at him with so much love and desire in his eyes, Ray felt like his heart would explode if it swelled any more.

Travis turned the fisted hand over and rolled his fingers out like a blooming flower. There, in the middle of his open palm, were two silver bands. And Ray’s gaze locked on them, hypnotized.

“Any time there, Ray,” Travis prompted. That deep resonant drawl washed over Ray in a gentle, erotic wave. “Don’t leave a man hanging.”

Yes! “But… Montana…”

Travis scrunched his nose and scoffed. “The state doesn’t get to tell me who I spend the rest of my life with.”

Ray blindly placed the beer bottles on top of the fridge, missing on the first try, then strode forward and dropped to his knees before Travis. He cupped Travis’s face with both hands and kissed him with enough force to knock him to the floor. Ray sprawled over Travis and let his lips and mouth and tongue answer what his voice wasn’t yet able to.

Ray broke the kiss and sat up, impatiently tugging at Travis’s shirt. The buttons were too much to deal with, so he yanked it roughly over Travis’s head. He stared down at Travis’s lean, defined chest and smooth, flawless skin, marred only by an angry jagged scar on the lower left side of his torso. A permanent reminder of how close he’d come to losing the man forever. He traced his fingers gently over the rough skin, and then Travis captured his hand, drawing his gaze.

“Hey,” Travis said softly. “I’m still here. Not going anywhere.”

“Don’t ever do anything like that again, Morgan,” Ray said solemnly. He’d never felt so terrified and helpless in his whole life; never wanted to experience a day like that again.

Travis shook his head and smiled. He brought Ray’s hand to his mouth and placed a light kiss on each knuckle. “I believe I’m still waiting for an answer, Ford.”

Ray reclaimed his hand, pulled his shirt over his head and carelessly tossed it on the floor so he could feel skin against skin. Travis was here and always would be, which was a damn good thing because Ray had never wanted anyone as badly as he wanted this man. Ray reached for the zipper of Travis’s silk slacks. “And I believe there was something I was about to do first.”

Travis laughed and grabbed Ray’s left hand. “No sex before marriage.”

“Little late for that, cowboy,” Ray teased.

“Then answer me.”

“You already know the answer.”

Travis gazed up at him, his eyes flashing as he opened his hand again. Ray looked to the rings. The bands were wide, simple, polished to a bright sheen with smooth beveled edges. And perfect.

“They’re engraved,” Travis said in a breathless voice.

Ray lifted one ring from Travis’s hand and turned it to see the inscription. My cowboy. My love.

His throat tightened. He could barely swallow.

Travis lifted his other hand, fingers spread. “I say yes.”

Ray slid the ring onto Travis’s third finger, and suddenly the room seemed brighter, the air lighter, and Ray felt as if he might float away.

Ray barely heard his own voice when he said, “I say yes.”

Travis released a breath of air Ray hadn’t been aware he’d been holding, and slowly slipped the matching ring onto Ray’s wedding finger. Ray’s vision blurred as he stared down the silver band -- a symbol of what they meant to each other, what they shared, and what would be a constant reminder to always put that first. Cherish it. Cherish each other.

Travis wrapped the ring-clad hand in his and pulled Ray down, taking his mouth in a tender, passionate kiss.

“I love you, Travis Ford,” Ray whispered when they broke for air.

Travis laughed, low and deep in his chest. “I love you, too. Ray Morgan. Now quit talking and show me how much.”

* * *

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Week at LC's House

Did you know that Random Acts of Kindness week starts today? The guys are here on Thursday, Feb 17th to share their "What He Says" thoughts on it, and you know we're going to ask your thoughts too.

It's non-traditional heroes month over at Chicks & Dicks, and yesterday I posted with a question: "Is it the moment that makes the hero, or is the hero already there when the moment arises?" Be sure and check out the other posts, if you haven't already.

All right then. Y'all have yourselves a fantastic week. Stand tall, wear your smiles proudly, and do something kind for a stranger, even just opening a door and saying "good morning". That's enough to shift someone's day into the positive column.

Later peeps!

Monday Music: House of the Rising Sun

The. Best. Ever. Rendition of House of the Rising Sun by Haley Reinhart. Skip ahead to the 40-second mark and stop as soon as she's finished so you don't have to listen to all the *&$#$ AI nonsense. ;-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Music: #1 Crush

Remember Garbage? Leo's so young in this video... #1 Crush by Garbage, the Romeo + Juliet version.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What He Says... About Condoms

We're not talking about any old condoms here. No, sir. We're talking about all those fun colors and fancy flavors that surely make everything better. Or do they? Curious, I posed the question to the guys: Do the flavored ones really taste like fruit, and do the neon ones really make it more fun?

Stuart Wakefield:
I haven’t used either. Food and sex doesn’t really do it for me, and a neon condom would reduce me to popping a pill and playing Darth Viagra in Star Whores for the remainder of the evening rather than getting down and dirty.

It had to be really dark for us to see the glow-in-the-dark ones well. I don’t know that I’d trust a novelty one to do its job as much as a regular one, though. Since we don’t use condoms anymore, we were just playing with them--they were a Halloween party giveaway. There was mostly a lot of light sabre sound effects and getting tangled up in the blankets executing fancy maneuvers.
    The fruit ones we tried in the beginning for blowjobs just tasted "chemical" to me. Cherry cough syrup. Lemon Pledge. "Minty" Listerine. It was a good motivator for testing and commitment, I think.

Edmond Manning:
Why use a fruit-flavored condom when you can use real fruit? Mango... pineapple... mmmmm...
Messy. Sticky. Slobbery. These are a few of my favorite things.

Damon Suede:
Ugh. Yeah. No. Flavored condoms are pretty much a gag gift and taste like room freshener. Neon condoms (and other "fun" decorative options) are also gag (in both senses of the word) fodder...and if you’re paying attention to the color then either you’re having some feeble sex or you have a deep latex fetish that takes condoms to a whole new level of potency. Such ideas come from the mid-century realm of French ticklers and Spanish fly: kinky "gizmos" for anxious dudes wanting a magic bullet. No such animal, my friends. And of course, now these things have become wacky joke items destined for landfill and bachelor parties (or both simultaneously). If the sex is good the condom won’t matter, and if it’s bad, the condom certainly won’t help.

D.H. Starr: (in reference to Damon): How did you become so smart? You know shit I would never even think of researching. Very cool. And the comment about latex fetish made me think of the last HBOReal Sex special I saw.

D.H. Starr:
I’m gonna cheat on this one and answer a related but different question. Condoms or no condoms in erotic romance?
    For me, condoms are just not sexy. They are practical, safe, responsible, but not sexy. I find that, similar to the cheating issue, some readers get very upset when two characters have sex and do not use condoms. Is it that we, as authors who describe explicit sexual acts, must own the responsibility of portraying responsible acts? I post this as a question...if you know you are reading fantasy, does that moment of stopping to get and put on the condom really enhance the experience for you? Or does the lack of addressing the issue of using condoms rob from the flow of the story and your enjoyment of the sexual acts?
    I’m torn on this issue. In one sense, disease transmission is a reality in contemporary times and therefore it is unrealistic to think two strangers (or partners who have not chosen to become monogamous and tested negative together) would have sex without condoms unless they didn’t care about themselves or their partner. In that sense, it robs from the romance because of the emotional message that lingers. But what if a moment carries the two away and they don’t use condoms, or they address the issue, claim they are safe, and forego the use of condoms? Is that somewhat acceptable or is it still a line which should not be crossed?
    There have been specific instances where I’ve chosen to have my characters use condoms and other times where I’ve made a conscious choice for them not to. In each case, thoughts and discussions about the repercussions (or why they know it’s safe to do so) take place. I’m very interested in people’s thoughts on this.

* * *

Now its your turn to share. Neon green or cherry cough syrup?

Drop by on February 16th, when the guys share their thoughts on... Random acts of kindness. Oh, you thought it was going to be something juicy? *g* There will be a little something something going on that week. You'll just have to come by and see what. ;-)

And don't forget, if you have any topics, questions or photos you'd like the guys to tackle, just shoot them my way. We'll make sure you get the credit.

* * *
Previous topics:
New Year's Resolutions