Blog Archive - July 2013

Monday Media: Techno Trauma Part 4 - Pixlr.com

MondayMediaCCochet180Welcome to another Media Monday and Techno Trauma edition. I currently run two websites, this one--which is my personal author site, and The Purple Rose Tea House--which is for promoting m/m romance authors. Both have different themes and color schemes. For my sites, I try to create all my own graphics, not just so they match my sites' themes, but for copyright issues. To make my graphics, I use Photoshop. But what if you don't have Photoshop? It's a crazy expensive program. I have an older version that I'm perfectly happy with and have no intention of offering my first born for a new version anytime soon. It does what I need it to do.

Well, fear not. You don't need Photoshop to create your own web graphics because there are plenty of free programs out there you can use that will get the job done. The first thing I have to insist is that you play around with your program--whatever it may be, and get to know it a little before you start creating and putting graphics all over your website. If you're an author, your website/blog is your online home. It represents you. It's what readers, agents, reviewers, fellow authors, and everyone sees when they look you up. Dress to impress they say. Your website says more about you than you know. It's not about paying ridiculous amounts of money for a site, especially if you're just starting out. It's about putting in the effort to put your best foot forward. Your website can be clean and simple, but it should look professional.

pxlrIf you're putting a site together and don't know how to go about it, just ask. There are always folks happy to help. I'm always happy to offer a hand where I can. I didn't pay for my website, nor did I take any courses. I learned how to put it together the best way I could from the ground up. What I didn't know, I Googled. This site was a white blank slate when I started, with the coding there as a start off point because lord knows I hate coding. Anyway, onto the graphics. The interwebs is full of tutorials for how to make this or that graphic for the multitude of programs out there. One of the those awesome programs is Pixlr.

Pixlr is laid out nearly the same as Photoshop with almost all the exact tools. It's easy to use once you get the hang of it and the best part? It's free! The editor opens up right online and you're ready to go. I've put together a super easy tiny tutorial for creating a badge on Pixlr, using the Advanced editor. (Just click on the images for full screen view).

Step 1: Go to www.pixlr.com and choose Open Pixlr editor (Advanced) option.

main screen

Step 2: Click on Create a new image.

Main page

Step 3: Give your new file a name and choose your size. The Presets drop down box is pretty awesome, because it has some industry banner sizes already set up for you. I'm choosing 180 x 150 for a button badge. If you don't want any of those sizes, just choose a random one and you'll see the height and width boxes under it. Just change it to whatever size you prefer. Under it will also be a little box with the word Transparent next to it. That's especially handy if you want a transparent background for making a .png file.

NewDoc

Step 4: So there you see our 180x150 box with transparent background. Now I'm choosing my background color. Let's say it's for the tea house. You see the set of numbers and letters next to the red check mark? That's the color code. When I'm designing a theme for a site, I make sure I jot down the codes for all the colors I use. This will allow me to have consistency with all my graphics because I'll stick to those exact colors. So I've chosen my color. Now I click OK. Then I go to my little bucket tool over there on the left and click on that. I hover my bucket over my blank background and click. Voila, your background is filled in. *** Very important. Make sure to save your file. Since you'll be working with layers, save as a PXD. Go to File > Save > PXD (Layered Pixlr image).

choose base color

Step 5: As you can see, my background has been filled in. Now I want to give it a little border. I love borders. It neatens things up. With my trusty color codes at hand, I go over to the right hand side. The box in the middle is your Layers box. At the moment, we only have the one layer which is out background. The great thing about working with layers is that whatever you do to one, won't affect the others. I use a lot of layers when I work on something. Now on the layers box at the bottom there's a bunch of little symbols, the third one in is the Layer Styles (properties) button. This lets you add a drop shadow, bevel, or glow to your layer. Now Photoshop has a Stroke option for creating borders, Pixlr doesn't, but if you select Inner Glow, set the hardness and opacity all the way up, you get solid lines. Boom, instant border! When you click on Color, the color chooser will pop up. Click OK and as you can see, my button now has a nice border.

border

Step 6: Let's add some text. Let's say this badge is for my post headings for when I have a guest post from a fellow author. In my tools, I select the button with the A which is my text button. Click anywhere inside your graphic and the Text box will pop up. Type whatever you fancy in the box. Choose your font, the size you need, the style, and the color. Again, this is where your color codes come in handy. I used the same purple as my border. Click OK. Don't worry if it's not lined up, we'll be moving it next.

add text

Step 7: In your toolbar, the black arrow with the little cross is your Move tool. When you click on that, whatever layer you're working on, you can move things around. Now if you click on that, you can move your text. If you want to be precise, click on your arrow tool and then use your keyboard arrows to nudge the text in whatever direction you need to get it aligned.

straighten

Step 8: Next, let's say you want to add some kind of image related to your badge. I went to Stock.xchng and found me this nice little open book. I saved it to my PC and now I want to open it. So I go to File > Open image... I find my open book which I saved and open.

open image

Step 9: There's my book image. Now I want to select my book. Here's where we separate the boys from the men. You can either use the wand to select the background (not the book) and then invert the selection (which is what we're going to do) or you can use the Lasso tool to select just the book. The Lasso tool means you're handdrawing the selection. Yes, it's more difficult, but also more accurate. Now what I've done is select the wand, clicked on a white section of the book's background and then use the Lasso tool to fine tune my selection. Pressing down Alt (PC) while using the Lasso will take away from my selection, while pressing Shift and using my lasso tool will add to my selection. Okay, so I selected the background of the book. What's next? Go to Edit > Invert Selection. Now my book is selected instead of my background. Copy and paste that that sucker onto your badge.

selection

Step 10: Okay, that bad boy is huge! Let's fix that. Click Edit > Free transform. A little box with dots will appear around your image. What you need to do is hold down the Shift key while you drag the upper left corner dot inward. What that will do is make certain your ratio stays the same, so the image will get smaller on all sides, not just your height or width, giving you a wonky image.

free transform hold down shift

Step 11:  Here's a closer look at the Layers box. As you can see, there they all are. I've got each layer, there's the Layer Styles (properties) button where I added my border to my background, there's the Add Layer button and the Delete Layer button. You can click on any layer and then click the Layer styles and add a drop shadow or glow.

layers

Step 12: Okay, so let's say you got your badge how you want it. I shifted the text a little further down, my book is centered. I want to play with some filters but at the moment, my background, book, and text are all on different layers. If I were to try and add a filter now, it would only add it to the layer currently selected. Because I won't be coming back to this image, I'm going to flatten all my layers so it's just one layer. I go to Edit > Flatten Layer. *** Let's say you want your background to be transparent and you didn't add any color or border to your image. To keep the transparency, instead of clicking on Flatten Image, you click on Merge Visible just above it instead. If not, your transparent background will become a solid color, usually white.

flatten image

Step 13: Soon as that's done, my image is now one flat image. Now I can play with Filters! If you click on Filter at the top there, you'll see all kinds of fun options. Each one will bring up it's own dialogue box where you can make adjustments. I chose Vignette, picked another one of my color codes and played with the size, giving my image a little glow around the edges. If you don't like the filter you just applied, click Edit > Undo, or Cntrl + Z (PC). Make sure to save your file. Go to File >Save> Choose either PNG (If you have a transparent background) or JPG format and that's it. You're all ready to go!

play with filters

Well, I hope this little tutorial was helpful. Pixlr is an awesome image editor. When creating graphics for your site, be aware of the edges around your images. Too many white pixels around a pasted image will make it stand out as a pasted image and looks unprofessional. There are plenty of ways around it. By lowering opacity on drop shadows you get a softer, more natural looking shadow.

If anyone has any questions on creating graphics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to help, maybe even do another tutorial. If anyone wants to know how I did something specific on any of my sites, feel free to ask that as well. Happy imaging!


Welcome to The Equal Rights Blog Hop

equalrightbloghop

Hello all! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend! Thank you for joining this fantastic blog hop. The theme of the blog hop is "What does being part of the GLBT community mean to you?"

As an author of Gay Romance, I don't write solely for the purposes of entertainment, but in the hopes that readers will take away something from what they've read. I tell stories about love between men, expressing how everyone has the right to their happily ever after, no matter someone's gender. Everyone deserves respect and the chance at a better life. One of my favorite genres to write in is historical, so a good deal of my stories are set in the 1920's or 30's, when it was far more dangerous for gay men. It's true, a few lived openly gay lives, and many did find their happily ever afters, but a great many didn't. They led double lives, were arrested, sent to workhouses, and shamed, considered deviants or ill.  I wanted to write stories about fellas who despite their hardships, find hope and love in eras long gone.

For me, being part of the GLBT community means spreading awareness and showing support, trying to make a difference in someone's life, no matter how small. It's about working toward a future where people aren't discriminated for their gender, race, religion, or who they love. Where our youth need not fear violence or abandonment for who they are. It's about being strong and using love to bring down hate, to educate and promote a safe, brighter future for everyone in the GLBT community.

*** Charlie's Giveaway:

A rainbow striped Markings journal & a $10 Amazon gift card. Just leave a comment below for a chance to win. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, July 8th (Eastern time).

RainbowJournal Ccochet GiftCardthmb

*** To enter Queer Town Abbey's giveaway: 

Just find the answer to this easy question in my post above. It's a one word answer which you can use to enter their giveaway. Question: What is one of my favorite genres to write in?

To continue on the hop, just follow this link: http://queertownabbey.com/join-the-equal-rights-blog-hop-july-4th-through-7th/


Wednesday Writing: The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe - Sneaky Peek

wedwritingcc180Hello all! In celebration of my new contract, I thought I would share a special sneak peek from Johnnie's book. Here's an excerpt form the book where we have the fellas enjoying a nice afternoon with the Brats. This is a typical day at Hawthorne Manor, one of the quieter days, and of course a little lurve from Johnnie and Henry. Also, for those of you interested, I have an album on my Pinterest where you'll find all sorts of inspirational images for The Auspicious Troubles of Love series.

You can check it out here: http://pinterest.com/charliecochet/the-auspicious-troubles-of-love/

***

“You ate my shortcake!” Oliver squeaked, his eyes huge. I couldn’t help but laugh. Oh, this was going to be good.

“And it was sooo delicious,” Chance replied, laughing and making a run for it with Oliver bolting after him. Running past the sofa, Chance swiped up a cushion, shielding himself. “You’ll never take me alive, copper!”

“Get him!” Edmund declared, and the Brats descended on Chance. The assault was fierce, cushions from every angle.

“Aren’t you going to help him?” Henry asked me, though I noticed he said it with a shaky smile. I was rather certain he already knew my answer.

“You kidding? Watching them take him down is the best entertainment I’ve had all week.” I finished my cake and tea, enjoying the show. Though I should have known better than to think Chance wouldn’t open his big gob and ruin my fun.

“All right, I’ll talk! It was him! He did it. He said you flat-foots don’t know from nothing ‘cause you got hay for brains.”

Shit. He was pointing at me. “You lousy rat!” I jumped from my chair and made a break for it, only to have them latch onto me like rabid squirrels. I had one wrapped around each leg, arm, and Elliot had his little arms fastened around my waist holding on tight, as if he could get me to stop through will alone. I could hear Hattie and Marion giggling. Clearly, I was on my own.

Jacky put a pastry in his mouth and made like it was a cigar, his Edward G. Robinson impression faultless. “Take’ em down, boys. Show’ em what happens when you mess with the law.”

I was brought crashing down to the carpet and assaulted with cushions, one of the Brats giving me a whack on the backside that had me letting out a surprised yelp. I glared up at Gideon and the truly wicked grin on his face. He was enjoying himself far too much.

“All right, break it up.” A familiar lulling voice took on a sharp American accent and I gazed up at Henry, holding back my smile. “What’s all this now?”

“It’s the chief!” Edmund gasped, bringing all the Brats to scramble off and stand at attention. It was pretty impressive.

Henry came to stand over me, his hands on his hips. “Well, well, well. You think you can pull one over on us? Well, you’re all wet, Johnnie.”

The Brats dragged me over to the armchair. I pretended to struggle, throwing myself back into the chair as they held my arms down against the armrest. Henry marched up to me and put his finger in my face. “You got one more chance to come clean, savvy? Or it’s the big sleep for you.”

“Say, that’s pretty good,” I whispered, rather impressed with his hoodlum talk.

“Thanks. Chance has been teaching me.” He cleared his throat and pulled away, frowning deeply. “Well? What’s it gonna be?”

“Looks like you’re tripping for biscuits, copper. You ain’t getting nothin’ outta me.” I lifted my chin defiantly.

“Tough guy, ay? We’ll see how tough you are.” Henry nodded and Elliot scrambled over the armchair like a little monkey and started tickling me. I wasn’t really ticklish. Henry leaned over and whispered at Elliot. “His ribs.”

Except there.

“You fink!” That I meant. Elliot, Edmund, and Oliver started a full on tickle assault. It was shameful how quickly I surrendered under the pressure. “Wait! All right, I give. What’s it gonna cost?”

Henry turned to Gideon who narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. When his lips curled into an evil grin, I braced myself. Sure, ask the one fella who loved to torture me the most.

“A kiss,” Gideon replied with a self-satisfied smile.

My heart leapt in my throat. “What?”

“Yes,” Edmund agreed excitedly. “You have to kiss the chief!”

Henry’s mouth dropped open and his face flushed. “Honestly, lads, it’s only pretend.”

“Kiss!” The Brats chanted as they pulled me to my feet and pushed me toward poor Henry who didn’t seem to know what to do with himself.

“Yeah all right,” I grumbled, “stop shovin’.”

“Lads, really, it’s not necessary.” Henry’s polite excuses went unheeded and Chance, of course, was no help at all as he chanted along with the Brats.

“Do it!”

I swallowed hard, wondering why the hell my heart was beating so fast. It was just a little kiss, jeez Louise. Deciding I was going to be a man about this, I leaned forward, my gaze going to his lips. It was just a kiss in the name of frivolity, nothing more.

“We might make the ladies uncomfortable,” Henry said bashfully, his cheeks burning. I turned to Hattie and Marion who were also blushing.

Jacky smiled at them. “You ladies may be excused if you like.”

To my surprise, they stayed where they were and Marion waved a hand dismissively. “We don’t mind, sir.” The two looked a little starry-eyed and I could only put it down to Mrs. Whitmore and her bloody romance novels. Did the woman run some secret society I wasn’t aware of, sneaking racy books to dreamy doctors and parlor maids? Usually any staff members uncomfortable with displays of affection were free to leave the room or turn away. For some reason, Hattie and Marion were fine just where they were.

I turned back to Henry when one of the Brats bumped into me from behind. My lips opened in protest at the very moment they touched Henry’s. His breath hitched, his lips parted in a gasp, and before I knew it, my tongue was touching his. Good God...

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed that excerpt. More from Johnnie, Henry, and the Brats coming soon!


Copyright © 2012-2013 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday Talks: Motivation Cultivation

TuesdayTalksCCochet180Hello all! Welcome to another Tuesday Talks. Today I'm yammering on about motivation. I consider myself to be very lucky. I have the opportunity to do what I love. I've sacrificed a good deal in order to do that, but I still consider myself very lucky. It should come as no surprise when I say being an author isn't easy, and although I knew that when I started this venture, I really had no idea.

Being an author is more than just writing, it's being part of something bigger. There's a lot more to do than finish that manuscript. The whole process is rather crazy when you think about it. I sit down with an idea, work and work until that idea blossoms and characters become real, a story emerges, type, type, type until it's ready--though to you it never feels ready enough. After the initial readying of your manuscript, with the bouts of "oh-my-god what if they don't like it", comes the putting on your big girl/boy pants, preparing your synopsis after the initial groaning and moaning and "how am I supposed to condense 100k into 5 pages?!!", you survive that, sort out your blurb, general description, feel your heart beating against your chest as you compose your email to the publisher, remember to attach everything--very important, and hit send. Then you wait, wait, wait, oh my god you wait.

ccworkIn the meantime you work on something else. You blog, and tweet, and post to Facebook. you play Candy Crush Saga, and you say "please" every time a new email enters your inbox, and you wait some more. You try not to let it get to you that everyone seems to write so much quicker than you, that new contracts are popping up every day like daisies, that everyone seems to be celebrating, and you wait. You mope and play more Candy Crush and then one day, out of the blue, you open your email, and there it is. New contract. And you squee so loud they can hear you in Jersey. Then a few months later, you start your edits, and in between you blog, and you tweet, and you Facebook, and as the day gets closer you start to freak out because "what if they hate it?!" and then you have to figure out what you're going to do for your launch, and you have to write how many blog posts? Galleys, and cover specs, and then your baby is unleashed upon the world.

You feel proud and happy and a little queasy, and you do your promos, and you start getting the reviews in, and some make your heart soar and some tear you apart, some are beautiful and some are just plain mean, and you keep going and going until the time comes when you start the whole process over again. There's gallons and gallons of coffee involved, sleepless nights, stress, and headdesk moments. You have a dozen social media platforms to keep track of, a community to be a part of, a family who's trying to drag you away from your PC, and you grab your keyboard because Ha! it's wireless, and take it with you as they wheel you away--I knew I should have gotten a chair without wheels! What's the signal range on this thing? And you have days where you wonder what the hell you're doing with your life and why? And then you pull yourself together and get your keister back behind that desk.

yepSo no, being an author isn't easy, but I love it, and I'll toil and work, and not sleep, and fret, and do it all over again because I love what I do, and I love all my readers, and I love all my author friends, and I love my publishers, and I love my reviewers, and it's one big love-fest. It's not easy, but you pick yourself up and you try, one day at a time, and you do your best, and you KEEP GOING because you're important and what you do is important, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! There's ups and downs, but it's worth it. It's hard work, but you keep going. You find ways to keep yourself going, because the world needs stories, and people to read those stories, and someone's gotta do it, so what are you waiting for?

How do you keep yourself motivated?

***


We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programs For: Squeeee!!

recent news and updatesHello all! I know today is Monday Media, but I had to postpone it to squee all over the place. The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press!! Woooot! So dearest, frustrating, rip-your-heart out Johnnie is the first of my fellas to tell his story in a full length novel, and his book will also be my first print book! I am so excited! Everybody Can Can!


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