Thursday, January 29, 2015

Building Characters - Drawing the Ensnared Universe Pt 1

After our last cover artist got lured away by a most groovy game development gig, we conducted a search for a new artist that included asking for samples that we paid for. We didn't see anything that fit what we needed. We saw some talent for sure, but either the style wasn't what we wanted or we didn't mesh creatively or they had a commission list that made them unavailable for six months or they had a rate that was more than any book we'd published ever earned. That's why I took up my pencils after not really drawing for over twenty years. Recently, I received some emails asking why I label my sketches as tests, and when will I get to the real drawings. So, I thought I would share my process and the timeline.

The first sketches (available on the obligatory Deviantart page here: and the ones now are quick efforts (30 minutes max) to see what my muscle
memory was for drawing. I've done them from other drawings, from pose books. anime art books, etc. The poses are like ones I plan to to draw or were a challenge. I wanted to see how much work I had to do to get anywhere close to where I wanted to be. Aside from needing these drawings to be hot enough to attract readers to books or merchandise, I have a particular bent toward men's hands and feet and eyes. Those are the hardest things to draw. Oh, I like those other bits on a hot guy, but these are the parts that catch my eyes in public settings.

During this time, I've been watching lots of tutorials on about drawing human anatomy and drawing manga and comic style (I can provide a list of channels I like to watch if anyone is
interested). I plan on having a look that's a realistic anatomy but manga style. I will soon move into the next phase of drawing which will be making model sheets(see photo on the left). I've collected those obsessively for a long time now. It would make sense that I make them. Model sheets are created to make sure that characters are drawn consistently. They usually include an array of poses, expressions and costumes. My thing for model sheets is why I can usually spot official art over fan art. I've also been really lucky to have found official line art for an anime series that has been influencing my art as I'll explain later. See below for more examples of model sheets and official art.

The reason I am at the point where I can do model sheets for most of the Ensnared characters is I have figured out what they look like. But DL, you're thinking, you've been living with these characters for a while. How can you not know what they look like? Well, here comes some of my erotica writing philosophy. I describe characters in the most rudimentary fashion, because I'm not a flowery writer. I also know that a reader will take even the smallest amount of data and conjure their own images of the characters. I had only a vague image in my head of what Darius and Andreas looked like, but that was not enough to draw them in any detail until I did all those tests and research. Here's how I will put them together on paper.

So, I begin with Darius. He is tall and muscular with ivory skin, vibrant blue eyes and hair the color of butter (Irish butter – not the cheap stuff). He's got the square jaw and full lips. I saw him as graceful and elegantly built, so I think of swimmers. As it happened, the anime Free! Eternal Summer had introduced  a swimmer that was the size I saw for Darius. I also loved the bearing of Alberto in Ikoku Irokoi Romantan and the way the hair flowed for the Wizard Halvir in Crimson Spell. You can find these images below under Darius Composites. Andreas is described as having longish, mahogany colored hair, green-gold eyes with a slender but muscular build and about a half foot shorter than Darius. I put him at just shy of six feet tall. Ranmaru from Ikoku Irokoi Romantan was close to the skin and eye color, while  his build is closer to Rin from Free! Eternal Summer and he is a similar sex magnet to Aoba from DRAMAtical Murder. See Andreas Composites below.

I have such composites for every character that I plan of drawing a model sheet for. All of these influences though are filtered through my own style and based on realistic anatomy. There are a lot of proportion issues in the faces and bodies of manga and anime. I'm not so much for the pointy chins, and I like nipples. The necks are also too long in most cases. I won't even talk about the orangutang arms and yaoi hands (actual drawing).

Doing model sheets will make for faster sketching of covers or posters. I can also whip up clever omages for holidays like Valentine's Day (I won't have anything for that this year) and Christmas (I will have something for that). I will certainly share these on my Deviantart page and my author pages as I complete each character. Thanks for the questions and the support! Keep it coming!  

Pose Books

Model Sheets and Official Line Art

Darius Composites




Andreas Composite




Saturday, January 17, 2015

When a Seme Takes Over Your Book

This blog, like the passage of the novel I'm writing about, took way longer than I would have liked. There were real life issues that played a factor in the delay. However, it was mostly getting the facts straight in my head. Also, I wanted to have a couple sketches of my guys that were presentable enough to share. Each took me only 30 minutes. I do that to make my speed and accuracy improve. These will be reworked sometime later. Please, be kind.

The writers I know live for that moment when the characters take over the story and it writes itself. This can be magical and loads of fun. However, there are times when characters can veer off in a direction that I had not planned in the least. This can be exciting as well but in a 'will I ever get this book finished' kind of way. In this particular case, I was writing a situation in which Andreas is a bit afraid of Darius harming him with his size and power during their lovemaking while distracted by a very serious problem. Darius would never intentionally harm Andreas. However, there is an unprecedented situation stressing him. It's understandable for him to be distracted. Meanwhile, Andreas is determined to serve Darius in every way he has pledged.

I've written many a tense BDSM scene. This should have been like falling off a log (why is that a simile). But no. It was a huge struggle trying to make this scene work. Finally, I realized it just wasn't falling into place. I couldn't figure out why at the time, but I had to get through this scene to continue with the rest of the book. Thus, I decided to break the passage up into questions whose answers would produce pages.

What would Andreas do once he decided he needed to prepare more carefully for being with Darius
that evening? What would happen at the Hotel when he left? How much would the servants be told about what was troubling Darius – who had never let anything trouble him before? How does Andreas push past his fear to relax enough to prep for his Owner and get into the role for the evening? What do the servants know about Darius that will help reassure him? All of these questions are answered leading up to the moment when Darius gets home. It was an opportunity to have interactions with the supporting characters that furthered the arcs of the main characters.

What happened for the first part of the scene of Darius arriving home was something completely unplanned. I decided that Lexo, Andreas' butler would play music from the nightclub he'd called home to relax his Lord. The recording of the house band was a housewarming gift from his longtime friend, Hector. It had been some time since Andreas had just hung out at Club Zero and danced. So after he dresses beautifully and sensually for Darius, he decides to dance:

Darius was not surprised when his driver informed him that Andreas was still on the first floor of the maisonette. He was arriving home earlier than his norm. He wouldn't have been surprised if his Dami was still bathing. It was of no matter to Darius. He was so weary from the burdens of his day that he would have gladly climbed into the bath with him clothes and all. Even if he didn't go that far, it would be a relief to be away from prying eyes with his beautiful cheeky one and a stiff drink.
The music was a surprise when Darius opened the entrance off the elevator. It was loud enough that his arrival went unnoticed. The Cosi did not mind. He was mesmerized by the vision in the living room. Andreas was gloriously attired for service and dancing with his eyes closed near the fireplace. It wasn't a sexual dance as Andreas was unaware of anyone watching, but it was sensual. Andreas couldn't help that part of his nature. It seemed that Andreas couldn't help but make Darius feel better about the worst of days. He found he was elated watching that guileless performance.
Andreas opened his eyes as Darius was within arms reach of him. He smiled devilishly before dancing toward him. He took the case away and put it aside before unbuttoning Darius' coat. He then danced around to take it off. Andreas placed the coat on the sofa with the case. He then danced around Darius to playfully embraced him from behind and place his chin on one broad shoulder with a saucy smile.
May I have this dance?” Andreas asked.
Darius gave him a sidelong look before grabbing one of the hands at his waist. He turned in time with the music while twirling Andreas skillfully until he was in his arms. They danced closely through a complex though sensual routine in perfect rhythm with the music. Andreas met his gaze easily while they danced. Mischief danced with happiness in those green-gold eyes. A smile played at his lush lips. Darius knew that expression. Andreas was pleased to see him. Despite the unrelenting stress of that day, Darius found himself smiling a small smile. That made his Dami sparkle at him. As the song ended, the volume of the music lowered. Lexo approached with a warm smile.
Good evening, milord,” he said. “Your you like wine down here or in the Penthouse?
What smells so good?” Darius asked.
Roast leg of arnion,” Lexo replied.
Darius was elated. He hoisted Andreas over one shoulder.
We'll have wine in the Penthouse,” he replied as he turned to bound up the stairs.
Very good, milord,” Lexo replied with a chuckle. “I'll send your things up.”
Meanwhile, Andreas was loudly informing Darius that he knew how to walk up stairs on his own. There was no anger in his voice. In fact, he was laughing in between the volley of epithets. Like holding Andreas in any fashion, having him over the shoulder was a delight. That taut body felt good against his hands. All of those workouts had made him sleek and elegantly muscled. That firm and perfectly shaped ass was so tempting, it was all Darius could do to keep his hands from being down the Dami's pants at all times. And as always, his scent was an intoxicating mix of a spiciness mingled with the subtle scents of the soaps he favored. Even his struggles were sexy, because of his body and the fact that he was very hard. Though he gave thought to pounding that tight ass properly, the Cosi had something else in mind for the time being.
Andreas was sputtering by the time he was set on his feet in the dining room.
I have never...” Andreas began.
Darius was not interested in speaking just then, so he cut the tirade off by grabbing Andreas' hair at the back of his head and kissing him. It was a deep, voracious kiss made all the more satisfying when Andreas' knees buckled. He didn't even have enough strength of will to try to hold Darius. He moaned helplessly as Darius ended the kiss.

They don't get to the bedroom just then. The food smells too good. Also, I tend to be a bit of a tease. I apologize for nothing. Sexual tension is part of the entire delicious package. This was easy to write. There were points in the plot that needed to be expanded a little. Andreas gets a chance to really see how stressed Darius is. And there is a really fun bit where Darius orders Andreas to explain why he's been blushing all through dinner. That sets off the super jealous and possessive Seme so keenly that they don't make it to dessert. Poor Andreas quickly finds himself shackled up in bed with a stressed out and jealous man who is huge and intent on reminding him what that large erection really feels like.
That encounter is physically intense and really steamy, but I found that Darius was in no mood to play bondage games. He wants to get down to business. It was irksome as I had plans on drawing that scene out that were entirely different than what ended up on the page. I worked the ambivalence of the character for games into the actual scene. This reluctance will also factor into later chapters where he must embrace the role he plays in that lifestyle when they are in a social setting. There will be some underlying tension over that at parties and such that will be difficult for Darius at a time when he is under heavy scrutiny and everyone is waiting for him to lose it. So, the scene worked for the book's dramatic tension.

Darius was careful shackling Andreas and careful removing them; however, the vigorous coupling did strain his muscles enough to need some attention. The injury keeps Andreas from working out for a day or two but not enough to not want more of the same. That scene left me in a strong place for the love scenes that will come later. I think the writing would have come more easily if I had trusted where Darius and Andreas were leading me. I have an outline on paper and know exactly where the book will end. However, I've learned that I also have to be flexible enough to know when I need to change my tactics. I'll even have to abandon a few along the way and use them in another story. That happens sometimes. All in all, I'm pleased with the scene and pleased with the pace and direction of Esnared V 3 itself.