Three years, three GRLs, and God only knows how many hugs later, and here I am. As I type this, I am wearing my Willoughby Spit t-shirt that Devon Rhodes and I stole from Katey Hawthorne (She was gracious enough to let us have them when she caught our hands in the cookie jar). I’m listening to the vibrations of my cell phone as facebook notifications roll in by the dozen and I’m thinking about all the love that those vibrations represent, some of it new and a lot of it old. There are no words to that could be put together to accurately describe the feeling of being surrounded by people that love you without conditions and genuinely enjoy you. None to capture it for me, anyway, but I can tell you some stories from my time in the Windy City and maybe, just maybe, you can feel a fraction of what I felt.
I need to begin by saying that this year would not have been at all possible without the love and support or Devon Rhodes, Lori Blantin and J.P. Barnaby. These are three of the most caring and wonderful women that I have ever had the distinct pleasure of calling my friends.
WEDNESDAY, the Calm Before the Storm
This year (and here’s a pro-tip for any GRL virgins out there) I decided to fly in a day early to spend time with the people that I care about before the convention demanded their time. I was whisked away from the dread O’Hare airport terminal by one J.P. Barnaby whom I pulled to myself immediately. That first hug between two people that have not seen each other for an extended period of time is magical and i used each one that week to reaffirm that these people are indeed real and not something I cooked up in my dreams. She had Michael Kudo in tow and he graciously offered to carry one of my bags. He’s a doll, even if he never quite stops moving completely. Once we had Shae Connor, she of the Hug Me pins, we were on our way. A car ride with these three individuals is exactly what you think it would be. I won’t go into details but I may have overshared a thing or two.
The first person I saw when I walked into the hotel was Amy DiMartino. Anyone that knows me knows her and knows that she is my sister from another mister. That’s when the tears started, but I am manly and cried on the inside…..mostly. I could write an entire post about this women and how she let a little gay boy that didn’t know anybody glom onto her my first year until I knew absolutely everyone, but there’s no need. I love her.
I spotted a shock of ginger hair as I blinked back the tears from seeing Amy again and proceeded to leap over a side table and grab Joyfully Jay from behind. We met in ABQ, but it wasn’t until Atlanta that we spent a good deal of time together. She is one of the funniest, sweetest and smartest women that you’ll meet.
So many more people followed into the lobby after that and I made sure I said hello to all of them. People from years past and people that I’d only known online. To tell you the truth, that first day is so much of a blur of elation that I don’t remember much. I remember hugging Lori like there was no tomorrow, having drinks with her and Travis Istre, who I’m happy to call my friend, and playing Cards .Against Humanity in the speakeasy after having a round of Blow Jobs with Devon, J.P., Michael, ZAM and T.A. I’d never played that game before, but had heard is spoken of in whispers. If there ever was a game tailor made for GRL attendees, this is it! Also, I may or may not have accosted one Brandon Witt, whom I didn’t know before that day but who I quickly grew to care for as evidenced by the picture below.
I have to take some time to discuss the gloriousness and the majesty of Devon
Rhodes. Without her, GRL 2014 would not ave been possible for me. I remember meeting her in ABQ at my first GRL. We connected right away and from that moment we were friends. She and I never talk on the phone, because we spend hours talking while doing other things. I’ve heard her drop the kids off and pick the kids up. I love this woman more than can ever be describe. XOXO, No Bottoms.
THURSDAY, So It Begins
Thursday was the first official day of the conference. I was actually awake, dressed and downstairs before 9AM. A first for me! Official Day One started with helping Devon set up her swag in the swag room and by help I mean that I went from table to table and ate the candies offered. Le Franks, in particular, kept me supplied with my weight in fortune cookies. My love for them is very deep and very real just like my love for her. They even had little quotes from her work inside. She’s a clever, clever girl. Jay and I sat and gossiped. I mean we conversed about politics the way adults do. I’m glad I got in there early. All of the swag was picked clean before the end of the day!
Next came the supporting authors book signing which I can only describe as wonderful. So many of the people came to
support these guys and gals, many of whom I count among my friends. I even got to stroke Z Allora’s cock for luck! I chatted everyone up and made sure I got the hugs in that day that I didn’t get the day before. I heard Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison and Lynn Lorenz talk paranormal romance. I listened to Lex Chase, Jacob Flores- who is known as Jared’s twin which is an honor for him, I’m sure- and Clare London read their work. Jacob’s reading was very distracting. Jay knows why… And then I listened to Ally Blue, Daniel Kaine and Jaime Samms take questions from their readers. I was strongly recommended Slasherazzi by several people.
Then came the opening reception where we all found out the awesome news that GRL 2015 will be held in SAN DIEGO! A week of fun in the Sun. No dreary Illinois skies for this gay next year.
After that announcement we were all more than ready to shake and
shimmy to the thumpa thumpa of the Juke Joint. We all came arrayed in our best club clothes. I had to scurry to Jay’s room beforehand to make sure that I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself in that crop top and to borrow some eye shadow. Dance anthems played all night long while three very cute gogo boys entertained the tippers.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I have a strict all or nothing policy when it comes to a dance floor. I broke it down, built it back up and dropped it like it was hot surrounded by some of the best dance partners around. Stephen (RJ’s Hubby), Devon and I even had our traditional late night chat. Last year, it was Devon that we focused our healing energy on and this year it was me. Even though I do feel foolish for having a mini-meltdown. I think the traveling and the alcohol conspired against me to make me a wee bit self-pitying. Still, I can’t thank these two enough for reminding me that I am loved just as I am. Get ready, Stephen! It’s your turn next year!
After the beat played out, we all adjourned to the Fireplace Lounge to relax and warm ourselves up. For the first time anywhere, a selfie was caught on both sides of the action! I had no idea that when I took this picture to illustrate how the world does spin onward even when you have srtopped, that nearby a stalker was snapping a photo of me snapping a photo of myself . Hoisted by my own selfabsobtion!
Stay tuned for days Three and Four coming soon!
Until next time, I am as always,
Hello Again Dear Readers,
In the spirit of WTF book covers, I’m launching an ultimate book cover make over! We’ve all seen cringe inducing book covers and you authors deserve better.
To enter, you must:
Only stories to which you own the distribution rights may be entered. Unless you can swing special permission from the publisher, of course. You may submit as many book covers as you like, but each book cover must be sent in its own email.
Deadline for submissions is August 31st at midnight. A winner will be chosen by September 3rd.
So, send me your wonky and your weird, your funky and just plain bad. I’m here to help!
Until Next Time,
Hello Again, Dear Readers,
In the spirit of keeping you guys up to date on my goings on, I’ve got a spectacular new cover to show you!!
SPRING DAWN RISING by Brian R. South
Here’s the blurb:
War rages across the whole of the Four Kingdoms, a race against time to stop the demon lord. Orindyll, Thomas, J’Lann, High King Erik, and their friends and armies, race from place to place to oppose the horde and its evil lord. Time is getting short, alliances are late in forming for the huge battle all know is coming. Will the alliances finally merge in time and force to stop the demon lord? Alas, only time will tell
SDR, the follow up to Winter Night Falling, was a joy to work on. I have so much fun with the fantasy covers and I hope for more of them in the future!
Until Next Time, Your Artist
2014 has been incredibly busy for this artist. That’s why I’ve been gone for so long. However, I am back and ready to update you all on some new artwork done by yours truly.
Riptide Publishing contracted me to do the artwork for The King of Dublin. This, dear readers, is not the cover they chose. The authors wanted something more traditionally apocalyptic, all red and oranges instead of my lucky charms. There’s no hard feelings though. I still have a gorgeous piece to add to my portfolio and I look forward to working again with Riptide.
Here’s the blurb:
Wow, it has been quite some time since I updated my website. So much has happened in the interim that I scarcely know where to begin.
My career as a cover artist is chugging along very nicely. With each new commission those exposed to my work grows and it doesn’t hurt that I have designed for heavy weights in the M/M genre! I am so very lucky to be able to pursue my passion and to have people respond to it in a positive way. I think I have established myself as an artist that takes his work seriously and delivers New York quality covers for his clients. And that’s my goal, really. So often I see ebook covers that are less than stellar and I lament them. I believe every book, whether an indie ebook or a print book from a small online publisher, deserves a cover just like the ones from the Big 6. I want my covers to look like they belong in any book retailer out there. While still jumping up and grabbing the reader’s attention, of course.
I’ve done quite a few projects in the intervening year between this post and the last. I don’t remember them chronologically, so i’m just going to post them as they come to me.
Firstly, there is DEVIL AT THE CROSSROADS
This was my first commission with Riptide Publishing. I believe they put an announcement out looking for cover artists and I submitted my resume. They took a chance and DEVIL was the project they chose for me. I really enjoyed working on this cover. The majority of my commissions are romance covers and while this is my bread and butter, it was nice to step out of that box. Also, I met the wonderful LC Chase- the art director for Riptide- at my first GRL in Albuquerque, but this past October in Atlanta, I was able to spend more time with her and it was wonderful. There is so much I can say about GRL, and have. That, however, is another post in and of itself.
“The devil covets more than his soul …
Six years ago, Logan Hart sold his soul to the devil to become the greatest bluesman of all time—and now the devil has come to collect.
The irony is that Logan squandered his gift. High on fame, money, and drugs, he ignored his muse and neglected his music. And despite escaping showbiz in a moment of clarity, it’s too late to redeem himself. All that’s left is to try to go out with some dignity. Alas, the prospect of an eternity in Hell isn’t helping much with that goal.
But Farfarello, the devil who bought Logan’s soul, isn’t ready to drag him down to Hell quite yet. He’s just spent six years working his ass off to whip a bluesman into shape, and he refuses to let that—or the opportunity for more sinful pleasures with Logan—go to waste.”
As always, I am,
The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 has been quite the big time around here. It’s perhaps the reason I have been so quiet, recently. Firstly, some fantastic news! I have recently signed a contract with MLR Press as one of their select few cover artists! I’m thrilled about this new development in my career! You can all rest assured that I will still have time in my schedule to continue doing my freelance work. I’m an artist and I could never refuse anyone that would trust me enough to put a face to their novel.
UPDATES! I’ve done several covers in the interim of my silence. Enjoy!
BROTHERS IN ARMS by Kendall McKenna
Jonah Carver is a Marine and combat veteran. He and his former Captain, Kellan Reynolds, once shared a scorching night, but then lost touch; something Jonah has long regretted. When an investigation into government corruption, and the murder of U.S. troops, ends in the killing of a V.I.P. on Jonah’s watch, the FBI arrives. With them is Kellan Reynolds. When Kellan is kidnapped, Jonah has to find and rescue him. If he doesn’t, not only will the investigation unravel, but he’ll lose Kellan for a second time–for good.
STRENGTH OF THE PACK, Book One of The Tameness of the Wolf series by Kendall McKenna
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond. During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.
IN FROM THE COLD by Mercy Celeste
For eighteen years, Nathan Truman and Quinn Anders were best friends. One born of wealth and privilege, the other born to working people, Nathan and Quinn shared everything. Sports, music, first kiss, first love.
For sixteen years, Nathan has tried to forget Quinn. Tried to forget the stolen moments they’d shared as kids. He joined the Marines, married, not once but twice, went into law enforcement. He forgot.
For sixteen years, Quinn couldn’t stop remembering. He fell into addiction, found music, lost himself, and became a country music superstar. He never forgot.
Sixteen years after their one night together, tragedy conspires to reunite them.
The murder of Quinn’s father sets them on a collision course not only with their past but with a killer. Nathan and Quinn struggle to deal with their past while the present slowly crashes around them. Brought together by grief, their tentative new beginning may very well come to a sizzling end, leaving them both out in the cold forever.
MAX ANDERSON”S FIELD GUIDE TO VAMPIRES by Jared Liotta
SEEKING CATHERINE by Josie Riviera
During an age of chivalry they were sweethearts, planning a future together in Tudor England.
Headstrong and proud, Catherine Sudfield remembers everything about Stefan Boswell. And she loved him in spite of his poverty and lack of nobility. The restless Gypsy rogue’s powerful good looks and promises of love were more than enough to satisfy her youthful dreams.
But then Stefan left without a word, and Catherine’s uncle bargained her off to a brothel.
Sometimes, bonds between a man and a woman, however young, are meant to last a lifetime. But will it take more than a dose of Gypsy magic to chase away the doubts between two guarded lovers?
CHANGE OF HEART by Jackie Chanel
NIGHT MUSIC by Patrice Wilton
Yes, it’s been quite the busy time around here, but I’m not complaining!
Until next time,
Anyone that has known yours truly for any length of time knows how much I yearn for change and adventure and excitement, yet am far too timid to seek it out. Well, this year, I took a chance and registered for GayRomLit.
-Now, I want to say this would not have been made possible without PD SINGER and EDEN WINTERS! These are two of the most darling, loving and kind women that I have ever had the unique pleasure to know. They took an annoying seventeen year old that liked to write fan fiction and turned him into a confident young designer and aspiring author. They have cheered me on and championed my work from day one and I can never express to them how grateful I am without breaking into tears. Even now, as I think about what their love and support has done to and for me over the years, the screen turns blurry with tears shimmering around the edges of my vision. Thank you, Pam and Eden. From the bottom of my heart and soul. Thank you, darling girls. –
Back to the squeeing!
So, I’m a nervous wreck the days leading up to my flight. Your Artist is not a good flier, ladies and gents. I hate waiting to board. I hate waiting to take off. I hate taking off and I hate landing. Once the plane is level, I’m good. Just don’t ask me to look out the window for more than a few seconds at a time.
I reach Albuquerque with relatively minor wear and tear only to be met at the airport by PD Singer. I’ve never met this woman before and I’ve known her for almost SIX years! I almost burst into tears right there, but restrain myself. I get my luggage and after worrying about missing our shuttle to the hotel, it arrives and we load up. We get to the hotel only to find we can’t check in because Eden put the room in only her name! So we leave our luggage with the valet and go have a drink/lunch with a group of wonderful women including the wonderful Sarah York- who gave me a signed copy of her book, btw! – and we proceeded to laugh our respective asses off.
The week pretty much continued like that. From the newbie meet and greet to the tour of Oldtown, not to mention numerous lunches and Q&A’s and readings, I laughed and blushed and danced my way through GRL. Somewhere along the way I met the unmatched wit and charm of Amy DiMartino. Let me tell you, I hitched my wagon to this little spitfire and I met EVERONE, and very soon she became more than a nice lady pitying the little gay boy that doesn’t know anyone to a dear friend with the same sens of humor as me. She’s a gem.
The Gentlemen’s Jukejoint was a particular highlight. I love to dance and everyone that knows me knows this. You had better believe that, after I had a nice drink, I was out on that danced floor boot-scooting and hip swaying. I can’t vogue for how nice it was to watch. There seems to be video. Watch and decide for yourself😉 Though, there were more than one voice in the room encouraging me to get on the platform and show them what I “got”. Eventually, I gave in and danced next to the wonderful Damon Suede who seemed to be the life of the party. Was Your Artist trying to take the attention from Mister Suede? You betcha! Though, how well I succeeded or failed is a matter unknown and unimportant to me.
There is so much that happened both professionally and personally that scarcely know what to tell and what to keep for myself. Suffice it to say that I had the time to end all times. It was wonderful, special and amazing. And yes, it was magical. There was vibe, an aura, about the entire convention and the attendees. I could feel the goodwill and the excitement pouring off them and into me. Never have I stepped into a place unknown by all only to be accepted and understood, in a way I thought wasn’t possible. These people read what I read. They asked the same questions I asked. They made the same types of jokes I made. They understood the things I understood and were passionate about the things I’m passionate about.
Pretty soon it felt like one great homecoming and every face I put to every name became a member of that family. Never have I had such a magnificent time in my life and I am forever grateful to the men and women that made it such. I met some of the most witty, smart, talented, hilarious, beautiful, caring and enthusiastic people around and I am still in awe of the fact that they welcomed me into their fold.
I could prattle on for hours and hours extoling the virtues of GRL, of which there are many- thank God, for the Word synonym function- but I’ll wrap it up with this.
GRL was a life defining moment for me. I wasn’t the Jared Rackler I had been. I was more uniquely myself than I have ever been before. I shared parts of myself with these men and women that no one cares to see or gets to see. And I couldn’t be more thrilled with their response in kind.
Eden Winters put it best when she said, “Going to GRL is like returning to your tribe.” And that’s what it was. It was me returning to my tribe, a homecoming to a home that I didn’t know I had and now I wouldn’t know what to do without.
To all those that attended and made it the time of my life, thank you and I love you.
And I will see you in Atlanta for GRL 2013!!!!
Until next time,
It is the night before GRL and all through the house, Your Artist was going insane and on the verge of a grouse. He is also rhyming, apparently. This is my first convention of any sort and the virgin shakes have almost certainly begun. However, worrying about finding a flight and packing and arranging for the time off and will-my-flight-be-delayed’s will all be well worth it when I get to see PD Singer and Eden Winters, two of the loveliest ladies to write gay romance. i will be able to, for the first time, put a dozen faces with a dozen different names. If you need me, I’ll be in ABQ for a few days of fun in the Southwest!
Until Next Time,
DH Starr: I love to write when other shit is getting me down. When I sit to write, I get lost in my character’s heads and their problems become my reality for a little bit allowing me to ignore my own crap. Then, when my characters are done for the evening, I feel like I’ve spent time with friends. Somehow, whatever was bothering me before doesn’t seem so bad.
Eden Winters: I’m not sure “motives” is the proper term. Writing is like breathing; it’s something I must do to exist. My work background is as a technical writer, and when I’m not actively writing something, I find I’m miserable and disjointed. It’s a creative outlet for me, and way to express myself when speech fails me.
Ethan Stone: Motivation. There are days when I want to ask where the hell my motivation is. I don’t know where it comes from…
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Awhile back, the wonderful PD Singer came to me with the news that she had recently gotten back the rights to her story Donal agus Jimmy and that the she was going to rerelease it with a new cover by yours truly. Now, anytime an author comes to me for a design, I’m over the moon. That they would choose me over the myriad of other designers out there is a tremendous compliment to my skill and my talent. She quickly gave me the breakdown of what she wanted. This is one thing I’ve come to understand about Pam over the time I’ve known her. She knows her mind and isn’t afraid to tell you exactly what she wants. She even had her own image of the RMS Titanic that she wanted incorporated into the design.
When a client brings their own photos with them, I know then and there this is not going to be a breezy project. It’s very helpful that they have a clear picture in their minds of what they want, but the image that have chosen isn’t always the most conducive to the type of design they want. Pam came to me with an amazing vintage photo of the Titanic when it still dry docked in the shipyards in Belfast, Ireland with the thousands of dock workers milling about around it, going about their various concerns. It is a wonderful photo, but the Titanic a miniscule feature in the background while the sea of men made of the majority of the image. The client was insistent that it should be made as visible as possible. That is a relatively easy request and I zoomed in on the Titanic, making it more focal but in doing so we lost the majority of the faces and certainly the variation in color. The new bottom of the image became a solid black blob with a pale face here and there.
We tried several variations of that, some using the image as it originally was and others zoomed in. My original design featured only text over a background image on the cover as you see with authors like Nora Roberts and Linda Howard. Pam worried that the cover didn’t read “romance” enough and I could see her point so, I inserted a medallion image two young men from that time period to the center of the cover, moving the title higher to accommodate the new element. She then felt the medallion was too overpowering to the rest of the image and you lost the Titanic in the background, so I shrunk the size of the medallion to expose more of the background image.
We went back and forth over this design several times. A little bigger. A little smaller. Move it here. Move it there until I threw up my hands and did what every designer should do in the first place. I made the requested changes to the image but before I sent it back for Pam’s consideration, I pulled together some elements that I liked and created the cover that I wanted to create, that had been in my head since the first email. I then sent back the old image and the new to the client.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you’re suggesting a different direction to any client, you must make it clear that you respect them, their work and their opinion. What you’re presenting to them now is simply another option, one that you think works better visually than the design or designs you’ve come up with before. Talk up the new design and point what specifically you like about it and what makes it work better than the others.
Pam flipped over the new design. It had everything she wanted. I had the RMS Titanic, a romance-y vibe with the sultry male in the ship’s rigging and an antique overall look.
The last to be decided was the text coloring. I did several versions of gold, white, grey and even black before she settled on the dark brown. My personal choice was the bronze but the client felt it blended into the background color and became lost and I agreed. Though I still vote for the bronze.
In the end, you have to give the client what they want but you have to remember that you are the designer. You’re the one with the knowledge and the experience. You have to be willing to teach them and push in what you know to be the right direction but you also have to be willing to concede the point and accept that some people are not open to suggestion. Luckily for me, PD Singer is a woman open to suggestion and what we produced is one snazzy cover!
You can buy Donal augs Jimmy here!
Until Next Time,