Canvas Blues – LXIV: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXIV: Yesteryears

The day Casey found out Robbie had sex with Evelyn Yert was a cold, slushy day in mid-January. He came roaring up in that blue Mustang of his, exhaust cut short as if he thought the world wouldn’t notice him otherwise. He wore no coat, not even a rain jacket to hold off the mush occasionally sluicing down for minutes at a time.

Short-sleeved and angry, Casey banged on the door, setting off Mom’s angel prism to spinning tortured rainbows across the entrance. From down the hall came her voice, her ears attuned to the chaos that was Casey.

“You tell that rascal not to punch my door, Brendon. Tell him I’ll not invite him to a single casserole dinner if he can’t find some quiet in his crazy.”

Red-eyed and rough, Casey scowled the moment Brendon opened the door.

“Not inside. Can’t be cooped up. Not now. Come on.” He turned before he’d finished speaking, sure in the knowledge Brendon wouldn’t resist.

He was bouncing on his toes in the wet street, hands shoved into his pockets and breath coming out in dragon steam puffs by the time Brendon joined him, handing a second coat over. Casey merely laughed miserably and climbed into the driver’s seat, so that coat went into the back, crumpled to the floor where it lay forgotten for three weeks.

“Did you know?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What are some of your good writing habits?


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What are some of your good writing habits?

Because I discussed my bad writing habits a couple weeks ago, I thought it only fitting I also discuss some of my good writing habits as well.

1) Divide Stories Between Notebooks

Organizational-wise, coding each story by notebook allows an easy method of finding the information I need for any specific world or novel or even short story. This cuts down on how much time I need to search for what I need. Allows me to only have to carry around one notebook at a given time. Gives me a method to the madness that is all the stories I want to write or am in the middle of writing.

The only negative aspect of this method is that sometimes I might not have the appropriate notebook at hand and I desperately need to write something down so I won’t forget it. This means that bits of information would end up where they didn’t belong. But I counter this quite well with assigning a couple of specific notebooks to being “catch-all” notebooks, wherein I can cross out information once it’s been used or relayed to its proper place.

2) Work on Something Every Day

This is one that a lot of writers resist against and I’m never sure why. You can be a writer whether you write one day of the year or all 365. Doesn’t much matter. However, you’re not going to get much done if you only write one day a year, which is why I like the method of crafting a habit out of writing.

By crafting a habit, where my brain insists on needing to open certain documents, create new words or edit old ones every single day, I’ve made it almost impossible for me not to accomplish things. Stopping is far worse than slowing down. I must keep the wheels rolling if I want to remember what I was doing and why I was doing it that way. Otherwise, things start to disappear.

Thus, I get my butt in the chair in front of my computer every day. And if I can’t, then I wander with a notebook jotting down notes. And if can’t do that, I have a nifty writing app on my phone and a bunch of stories there as well. Doesn’t matter what is going on in my life, I always have a project at hand. And if I don’t, then I make one that fits that dead space.

3) Cycling

Not the bike cycling, the writing cycling. Every time I sit down to work on a project, I never start where I ended. I go back to the top. Maybe not the very top, as in a novel that would be impossible, but I’ll go back to the top of the chapter, top of the scene, top of whatever good breaking point there is from my last writing session.

Then I read from there, altering, editing, tweaking as I read, and then, by the time I get to where the words end, I’m immersed in the story enough that the new words begin to flow. This method of going over your work each time is called cycling, because you’re passing back over it again and again.

Some people don’t prefer this method because they see it as editing, which takes a different part of your brain. But to me, this is just me seeking flow, altering the course of the words so that flow isn’t disrupted.

This generally also means that by the time I’m done with a story, particularly a longer one, that I have a decently clean draft with which to work. And that’s something I love since when a story is done, I desperately want to move on to something else that requires creativity vs a critical eye.


Canvas Blues – LXIII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXIII: Yesteryears

The fact that Tori Kel no longer hung around Robbie, rubbing in Casey’s face all that he could not have, became a springboard for that rubber band to return. The two of them called a grudging truce one random day, with not an iota of advance warning or thought to it.

“Can I sit here?” asked Robbie that April, tray of sloppy joe and french fries held balanced in one hand with his red bookbag hanging from the other.

Casey looked up with mouth frozen half-open and for once didn’t seem to have a word to say, though his gaze bounced all around Robbie and down to his hand where the splint had been a mainstay for many months during middle school.

“Sure,” said Brendon with a raised brow toward Casey. He scooted his sketchbook down, away from danger, and crumpled his trash to a more reasonable diameter. “Read any good comics lately?”

“Oh man,” said Robbie with a grin for the ages. “You know that one you really like about the mage with the tattoos? The guy who wrote it just came out with a new webcomic. It’s about a werewolf patrol that falls into a different dimension. It’s pretty good.”

“Send me the link.”

After a few moments of painfully awkward silence at the table, Casey cleared his throat and said, “Saw a new BMW in your driveway last week. Parents get a new car?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: First Quarter Update 2021


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First Quarter Update 2021

I wanted to give you an idea of where I am and what I’m working on.

In the past three months, I’ve gotten more work done on Canvas Blues and the body count is racking up behind the scenes. In fact, i don’t think I’ve ever written anything with this level of death, yet such a long drawn-out light tension before. Usually tensions run high with that much death going on.

Next, I finished all the things for Lost Isle and got it out into the world. Woot!!

I’ve written many, many blog posts.

I’ve quite a twitter game I attempted to start. Well, actually, I’ve mostly quit twitter completely because I just can’t keep my endurance up over there, not while doing everything else I’m doing.

[On my non-romance name, I’ve written six short stories, three on submission, one already semi-sold (no contract, just word of mouth), one needing edits; wrote a ton of blog posts for over there (mostly rec posts); slush read over 200 stories; critiqued a bunch of friends’ work; began a novel and a novella (no relation to one another because I’m a masochist)]

I’ve gotten on the schedule with a cover artist to get Shatter by Glass a cover. And I’ve finished formatting that book for paperback. Ebook still needed, however it looks to be on track for a Jun/July rerelease.

I’ve also been striving to read more, though this has been more short stories than novels.

Oh, and I’m in the process of moving.

So that’s about where I’m at. For the next three months, I’m working on keeping up with blog posts, getting Shatter by Glass fully ready, adding words to Canvas Blues, and doing a lot of prep and work on Scorched Isle. Plus words for my other name. Shall update again in three months to see how far I get :)


Canvas Blues – LXII: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXII: Present

They walked the downtown streets. Brendon waited patiently—mostly patiently—while Orion peeked into shop windows and made inane, yet safe comments on their contents.

“What’s this one then? A gallery. ‘Local Artisans.’ A lot of crabs, I see. Marylanders seem to like their crabs. Always blue ones.”

“You’d rather dead ones?”

At the caustic tone, Orion cast him a glance, but didn’t engage with a response. “And here we’ve got herbal remedies for the soul and spirit,” read Orion off one of the plaques in the next window.

He put the last of his ice cream into his mouth and tossed the cup into the trashcan that sat at the base of the banner pole behind them. Then took his painting from Brendon with a nod of thanks.

“Rosemary for remembrance and yarrow root for protection. Should I buy you a bundle of dried herbs to hang in your studio?”

“I’d rather a coffee.”

“In this heat?”

Brendon lifted his gaze heavenward for a moment. “Why are you here?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What are some of your bad writing habits?


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What are some of your bad writing habits?

I have a couple of bad writing habits, a few of which are minorly problematic, and a few larger ones that I’m not entirely sure whether they give me more work, or less.

1) Not Writing Linearly

Most of the time I do write the beginning at the beginning, but often, once I get that first part down, I will jump ahead, write an emotional or exciting scene that I can’t stop thinking about. This means that I will have breaks throughout the draft, empty spaces where the words peter away. Normally, these breaks will slowly get filled in from the beginning going forward, slowly but surely soothing out the draft as I push toward the end. Sometimes there’s a specific scene that I’m dreading writing and so it sits like a gaping, festering wound. Usually those scenes are the ones I had to completely rip out of my WIP, which is the cause of my frustration.

In terms of the positives, this method means I’m getting a lot of words down on paper during the moments I’m most excited about it, adding to my motivation for the story, pushing it along.

In terms of the negatives, this means that I will be forced to do some major editing of those same scenes later one once I’ve completed every word that comes beforehand because there is inevitably wrong information because of changes I’ve made within previous scenes.

2) Not Outlining Before I Begin

Most of the time, I get an idea and I start writing. There’s a feeling involved when getting into a character that encompasses a style and voice and without that, it’s impossible to write the character. This means that oftentimes, I will set a character up with a problem, throwing them on the page and telling them to go-go-go, solve the issue! But without any clue as to how they’re going to do that. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – LXI: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXI: Yesteryears

Freshman year waxed long with changes, from Casey’s arrest, to Becks sudden conservative behavior, to Robbie and Tori Kel growing lukewarm and distant before finally drifting from one another over the holidays, to Casey’s two new half-siblings, to Aunt Laurel finding a man of worth (as she called him), to Brendon’s father being in and out of doctor’s appointments for heart checkups, to his mother’s increased volunteer work at the church.

His only constant, what he gravitated toward in the slow, dreary days between new school ebbing and flowing friendships, was art. He received a handheld device for Christmas with digital illustration apps already in place and though he never became proficient, he toyed around, detailing pachycephalosaurus feathers and giganotosaurus teeth.

The idea of becoming a tattoo artist cemented into his brain on January 7th after one particular comic where the tattoos rose to life off a man’s arm. The thought became a focus for the rest of the school year. He bought gel pens and watched streams of ink being done, then hid his obsession when his mom walked by because he didn’t want another lecture about how “desecrating your body is for the nonpious among us.”

Rumors abounded around the school that April, starting on Fool’s Day and picking up the ugly sort of steam that gossip accumulates. Brendon didn’t think much of it at first, for pronouns were used in place of proper names, lending an air of mystery to the whispered drama. And a Mr. Tallir wasn’t exactly on Brendon’s scan since the man was a senior teacher of American history and government.

But the comments grew lewder and less wary and Becky’s name began to spill around the edges, a couple boys using their hands to indicate larger breasts while their mouths spread cruel tales about an already-used-up part of her. Brendon sank against his locker and tried to not listen, but there’s something about trying to not listen that makes one’s ears that much more astute, picking up the sounds even a cat might notice. Continue reading

Lost Isle Published & Giveaway!


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Let’s celebrate the publication of Lost Isle!

I’m ecstatic that it is complete and beautiful and out in the wide, wild world. The story does NOT end on a dreadful, horrible, no good cliffhanger, but there are hints that there is more story to come.

Firstly, I have a New Release Alert Newsletter going live tomorrow and within it is a small teaser story about the day Edwin Vlaris meets Captain Nirothe. It isn’t necessary in order to read the book, however, this will be the only way in which to read this teaser. So if you would like to read it you have only today to sign up for my newsletter!

(The New Release Alert option is exactly what it states—you will only get newsletters alerting you about publications going on sale, not about anything free I publish on my blog.)

Secondly, this is the first time that I’m publishing a paperback copy along-side of the ebook. Every previous time, the paperback has come out long after (sometimes looooong after). I’m stoked that I’ve done things the “proper” way this time around.

Which brings me to thirdly, A Giveaway! Because I actually have a physical copy to give away! :)

In order to enter:

Go ahead and drop a comment below telling me your favorite bird (or least favorite!) and why. I’ll pick a random person to be sent a signed physical copy of the book!

I’ll go first. My favorite bird is the mourning dove. I love the way they sing this haunting melody, this coo-coo-coo repetition that sparks emotional responses in me. Some runner-ups are wood thrushes, red-winged blackbirds, herons, and of course, all the magical types, like phoenixes!

And, publication day wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t do my typical list! Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What are some of the hidden difficulties of being a writer?


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What are some of the hidden difficulties of being a writer?

Last week I chatted about a couple of the more obvious, oft-talked about difficulties that writers have in the industry. This week I want to talk about some of the more hidden, possibly insidious difficulties that writers face.

1) Reader Retention

Reader here can reference anyone from general audience to editors and publishers to even agents.

Most people write on the side rather than as a full-time gig because of spotty payment, lack of health insurance, and inability to pay bills on that level of income. This means that writing can often take a secondary or even backseat to other priorities, which can lead to a less consistent output than in other industries. Couple this with the difficulty in actually selling stories, first to agents or editors, and then to readers, there can be some lengths of time between publications. (Both of which I talked about last week.)

One of indirect results is that readers will forget you. They’ll forget your name, forget the stories, the way those stories made them feel, etc. Editors/publishing houses will then take that into consideration when deciding to buy the next book, because why buy a book that might not make as much as someone else’s?

Example: one author I know of had started a well-selling series, but then had some life difficulties. 11 years later, he tried to sell the next book in the series to the same publisher, who turned him down because of that giant gap in time would lead to less readers.

Now, most authors don’t wait 11 years to write the next book, thus that is a more extreme example. However, in publishing, despite how slow they seem, there’s a high expectation of constant and quick publications. If you’re not publishing at least 1 book a year in traditional publishing, you’re too slow. If you’re not publishing every 3-4 months as an indie author, you’re too slow. Continue reading

Chapter One of Lost Isle (Launch Day T-4)


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Where I am is where I’ve always been,
but what I see has changed.

They cut us free somewhere near the Gulf of Caines. The water dark, the moon nothing but a sliver and the stars clouded as the ship’s canvas swelled with an easterly that took it far into the distance within precious little time. Left me rocking in a skiff, alone, but for the limp form of my companion—a man weathered by the sun and salt with a still-seeping gash under his left eye.

I calculated I had three days. If I were lucky. Though, luck had never been on my side, especially not recently.

That first long night, shivering in the unfettered ocean wind and my hunger for revenge keeping the pangs in my stomach at bay, I resisted the urge to dump that man overboard. I wasn’t sure why. Could just be I was so preoccupied by that fading black smudge on the horizon. Plus, I’ve never been one to handle loneliness well. And even a man condemned by his brothers for a traitorous nature was better company than the tang of salt spraying into my face whenever the skiff smacked on the downside. The fact he was also attractive despite the cut didn’t hurt either and I admit to dreaming of wringing a few good moments out of life with him before we succumbed.

Besides, I figured a dead man in the water brought sharks faster.

Dawn found me hunched in the stern, tired because I’d kept jerking awake, sore, since finding comfort in the wooden edges of the skiff was impossible. I gingerly raised myself high enough so I could scan the horizon. Nothing but morning color on one side and the violet haze of a relenting night on the other.

The boat pitched then, slamming my head into the side. I cursed like the sailors I’d been traveling with, calling out to that living, breathing leviathan believed to be responsible for every death upon the waves. My voice cracked, loud enough I must have woken the other man.

He groaned and twisted, his knee rising and his hand moving for his head. I settled within the stern once more and observed him as he fumbled his way to a sitting position, his hand missing the edge of the skiff once before he focused. As intelligence sparked in his eyes, the fog of unconsciousness slow to release him, he narrowed his gaze at me.

“Yer the cartographer? The grunt who made the star charts that led us astray?”

I shrugged, striving for a carelessness, but my heart hammered behind my rib cage like a fleet-footed deer and I reminded myself that not every sailor took up with men simply because their prospects were slim.

His stare turned more intense, as if he could see right past my feeble attempts to project some form of unconcern. “I’m curious,” he said, in a tone that said he wasn’t truly curious, but wanted an excuse to mock me. “Was ya purposefully leadin’ us wrong or are ya simply that inept?”

Affronted, I said, “My charts were fine. And considering they’re left in the care of the sailing master instead of dumped in here with us, I presume he knows that.”

The man cracked a sliver of a smile. “Ya’d argue ta the death over their accuracy despite sendin’ us so far from the Giant’s Belt. So tell me, where are we?”

“Given you likely know the ocean currents better than I, I was hoping you’d be able to answer that.”

“The stars did nah speak ta ya all night?”

“It was cloudy.”

He laughed bitterly. “Of course it were.”

“It was,” I protested, though I sounded like a petulant child, insisting on an excuse to free myself from punishment. I quickly staunched my whining and pressed my lips together in a thin, insincere smile.

The man hefted himself onto the thwart at the bow end of the skiff, the position putting him at an angle so I was forced to look up at him. At least with the sun at my back he was mostly within the light, which gave me a full view of the tattoos running along his shaved head. On one side the black markings were of a wicked looking sea serpent, crudely done, and low on the other curled smoke-like lines that I assumed represented the misty maidens who populated the sea between the continents.

He had a number of small scars across the side of his neck, as if shrapnel from a shattered bulkhead had embedded there once. His pale eyes were hooded from too much squinting in the sunlight, but had a piercing quality to them that only added to his intensity. His hands, rough and weathered like the rest of him, gripped the sides of the skiff as if he were prepared to launch at me at a second’s notice.

We were opposites, him and I.

Me with my hands soft and stained with ink rather than callused from rope burn. Me with none of the hardness he possessed. None of the decades’ worth of experience of facing down the fickle nature of the sea and its deadly inhabitants.

“What’s yer name?” he demanded. Continue reading