Thanks Guys... Please be sure to rate the thread after you have had a change to look over it(and I won't turn away an rep either).
I plan to add a few more additional tips and tricks the the thread when I have time, but this is the main meat of the thing.
For anyone who reads this who is new to using layer masks and has had some time to play, please let everyone know how useful this new learning is. I know for me, it was like a lightbulb and learning this one tool drastically changed the way I approach mapping, so I hope other are able to feel this same sense of wonderment also (and perhaps even some renewed passion for the art.... ie... post up some maps!)