Canvas Blues – LXXIII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXIII: Yesteryears

Funny thing about floating about in the middle, no one ever thinks of you like that. It’s either one side or the other. The if-you’re-not-with-me-you’re-against-me mentality. Active imaginations thinking gossip, gossip, gossip, about the person not around. Over-sensitivity, youthfulness, anxieties all working to destroy what rationalism some might have possessed otherwise.

Brendon tried, he truly did, desperate to continue clinging to the two friends he’d raced down Grant’s Lorry Road with in the summer, the two friends he’d met in an old car cemetery time after time to play hide and seek among the rusted fenders and rotted rubber and butterfly gatherings.

Sure Casey got the bulk of his time, the most of his focus, his teenaged mind lost to hormones and new sensations. Robbie got his own time though, the two of them sitting at Robbie’s expansive dining room table, sketches and outlines spread across two thirds of the space. They worked on two comics concurrently.

The first one was to be a serialized fantasy about a spiderling who controlled the minds of a typical dungeon-crawling party. Each comic somewhat separate with occasional short arcs deep within specific dungeons or inside particular taverns, but generally individual in nature ala Sunday morning funnies.

The second one took far more of Brendon’s artistic chops, for the humorous alterations in character and setting just would not do, the space stations and exoplanets and marauders needing to have a realistic flare within their design. Robbie set the stage, his countless notes on plot arcs and character traits exposing a sweet naivety in their creation, but filled with so much passion, so much love, that the flaws disappeared.

They’d completed almost fifty individual panes of the fantasy comic—It’s All Under Control—and a measly, but gorgeous, fourteen panes of the grimdark sci-fi—Stars Avast—when Casey found out. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Contract Terms Series (First Rights)


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Contract Terms Series (IANAL)

There’s a bunch of contract terms for writers that can be difficult to parse for newcomers to the genre, so I want to go over a few in a short, easy contract terms series.

(Note: I am not a lawyer. I am merely speaking from experience on the author side.)


First rights are essentially the right to first publication. This means that the words being licensed have never been published before in the specific way they are being sold. In other words: The words are not being reprinted. They are original.

There are many kinds of first rights, which is why it’s important to know and understand them. First rights also tend to be worth more than reprint rights, which is another reason they matter so much.

For instance: You can have first audio rights, which are different from first paperback rights. You can have first English rights, which is different than first Spanish rights. You can have first anthology rights, first eBook rights, first audio, etc.

Any contract that attempts to claim ALL first rights, particularly without actually having any intention of using all those first rights, should be contested and requested to have a rewording.

By allowing a particular contract access to all first rights without them having clauses giving those rights back to you, you can end up with a story that can never be published in certain formats. Which is not cool.


Canvas Blues – LXXII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXII: Yesteryears

Junior year boasted one of those moments that would forever be commemorated in a 5k walk/run title, but it started innocently enough with a local news reporter who fancied himself a hot shot journalist. The man—Tony Kepuchar—did a spotlight piece on cop favoritism. Election year and all that, with the sheriff being incumbent and his friends and family like an ant network spread about the county. Kepuchar did his research, no one could fault him for that, and yet, one little line and the word “allegation” was enough to set off a chain of events that would forever haunt Brendon’s neighborhood.

“Taylor Lee Barry, grandson to County Sheriff Joseph Barry, is one such example, having been implicated in illegal street races, but never charged, with an allegation against him of heroin dealing that has, interestingly, not been investigated.”

Casey’s father threw that paper across the living room, smacking a row of DVDs to the ground in a haphazard cascade of porn and 90s flicks. Then he went on a rampage, the alcohol singing in his veins. He found Casey in the garage, fiddling with replacing the Mustang’s water pump, and proceeded to beat him with the first thing that came to hand—the rubber serpentine belt Casey had removed and not yet returned.

“No good druggie! I knew that man was bad news!”

Though the hits remained weak, they came fast and no amount of confused questions, and then later, insistences that Casey had never participated, would assuage his father’s self-righteous fury.

Casey showed up on Brendon’s doorstep on foot, bruises starting to show across his neck and shoulders, but he paid them no heed, instead ranting and raging as loud and crass as his father had the hour earlier before finally calling his mother and—partially in demand and partially begging—asked to move in with her and Becks.

“It’s not like we’re doing anything together. The Mustang’s been done and in my name, not his and I can drive the extra fifteen minutes to school in the morning, no biggie.”

Brendon listened with a palm against Casey’s back and cheek to Casey’s shoulder, gently though, afraid of hurting him further.

“I don’t care if it’s a closet, Mom. Could be a fucking couch for all I care.” Then a muttered, “Sorry.” Probably on account of the cussing. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What do writers sell?


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What do writers sell?

Writers sell licenses. That’s it. Or at least that should be it.

Writers OWN copyright. But writers should not be SELLING copyright. Copyright is ownership. It’s the “these words are mine and no, you can’t use them without my permission” bit.

So when writers sign contracts, they aren’t signing away copyright; they’re signing away the license, or right, to use, disseminate, print, or publish those words. The words themselves remain belonging to the writer.

There are a few places (actually, there are many more than a few places, unfortunately) that have awful contracts where the author actually does sign away copyright, giving all the words they’d written to a company. There are even places that demand ownership of your publishing name, disallowing a writer to publish under that particular name anywhere but with that company. [Please don’t sign these.]

The only time you should, as a writer, be selling copyright, is when you are ghostwriting (because during ghostwriting you’re paid a lump sum to writer someone else’s story for them, so they get the copyright of it) or during some form of shared-world ownership situation. (Think DnD, DragonLance, Forgotten Realms, TV show tie-ins, though even then, very often, the copyright remains with the author and they simply have incredibly strict contracts on what they’re allowed to write).

So please check your contracts over carefully! Make sure you’re not giving away something you shouldn’t be, particularly in smaller press or magazines where the publishers might not be fully aware of what they’re asking for.


Canvas Blues – LXXI: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXI: Present

Tell me about this Casey. As if Casey could be expressed in simple words.

Brendon poured them both another round of the old whiskey. Too much probably, but Evelyn Yert remained on the mind. Again, too much so. He swallowed, gaze darting about the room, catching on his sketches, wondered whether he should tear them all down, start fresh, blank walls, clean slate.

“Brendon?” Orion’s voice so soft, a gentle, coaxing sound from a man who could be so hard and unyielding.

“You have a high school love? Not a crush or a fling, but an actual love affair.”

Orion studied Brendon closely. “The kind where you find yourself crying in the shower and pretend it’s just the water?”

Brendon opened his hands in an approximation of a shrug. For him it hadn’t been the shower; it’d been his easel over at Llama Park, just out of sight of the lakeside hiking trail, where a little gurgling brook that fed into the lake happily ignored the angry paint smears and harsh words.

“It’s like you fall in love with a person one day and wake up the next to discover that that person never actually existed at all.”

Orion nodded slowly. “Heartbreak hits even the coldest of us.”

“Right. I’m not saying I’m somehow different.” Brendon stood abruptly, paced the small living room, knowing that Orion stared but unable to stop himself from moving, needing the action, the fingers not holding his glass twitching with the desire to hold a paintbrush. “Things just look different when you’re younger.”

“Emotions are heightened,” began Orion.

“No, not that. Well, yes, you’re right, but that’s not what I’m referring to.” It’s all about perspective. “You see people one way when seeing things through a child’s eyes.”

“And then you grow up to realize your parents’ flaws or grow away from friends.”

“He was…”

Orion remained quiet, unmoving in the armchair that backed against the far wall. Along the wall beyond his head there were sketches of crabs, of cattails, of many, many lined boat drawings because Brendon had been practicing ripples, ripples and more ripples. Continue reading

Shatter by Glass Republished :)


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I’m pleased to announce that I have finally gotten my act together and republished the first in my original Loose Id novels. Murder in Color will follow in 2022.

The DaSunder Chronicles are murder mysteries featuring different characters in each book. Each can be read as a standalone in terms of the murder mystery, though they are written in chronological order.

This was my very first novel published, so it’s got a special place in my heart for kicking me on the path I’m on.


DaSunder Chronicles #1

Where dragons fly on wings of sand…

When Detective Brettoni Rhodes is called to a murder scene outside the desert city of DaSunder, he doesn’t expect the victim to be one of two sand conjurers who had fled years ago after an accident they’d caused. His past doesn’t stop there, for Luca Baino, the second man who had fled DaSunder and Brett’s old flame, suddenly appears looking to rekindle their relationship.

But all evidence in this investigation steadily points to another conjurer, one who can turn sand into glass. And the suspect pool with that capability is light, with Luca at the very top.

Every step of the way, Brett finds more and more reason to suspect Luca of murdering his own friend, his rekindled interest in Brett mere manipulation. With conjured creatures attacking DaSunder and the governor demanding a quick, brutal end to the bloodshed and chaos, there is little time to discover the truth. For the harsh laws of DaSunder hang low and ominous over the investigation, demanding retribution, and no one, including Brett, wants to be caught in that trap.

As the body count rises and the evidence mounts, Brett isn’t sure he can save Luca from the executioner’s axe. Or whether he should even try.

Thank you to everyone who has read any of my stories, whether my free short stories here on my blog or my longer novels. I appreciate every single read. Every single person.

The beautiful things people say about my writing, how much they enjoy my fantasy worlds, how much they like my characters, they keep me going and keep me writing.

This is my passion project, which I’m sure shows, and I’m so thankful for the kindness I’ve been shown on everything I write.

<3 Emmi

Coffee & Conversation: Removing large-scale defaults in my work


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Removing large-scale defaults in my work

I feel like who I am as a writer is always in flux. Which I think is a really good thing and I hope I always keep pushing myself. These are just a few ways that aspects of my writing have moved beyond a norm I’d instinctively set for myself.


There was a time when every story I wrote was in third person perspective. Everything. I didn’t even consider writing in first person because I didn’t tend to like first person stories as much. You can get pretty close to a character even in third person, so I never thought much about it. There was even an interview I read by another author who said she only wrote in first person because she didn’t think she could get as close in third and I thought…”how silly” and “I would hate to only write in first.”

Slowly, I’ve gone beyond third person. I’ve written plenty of stories in first and even in second person (though I’m still iffy on doing whole novels in second because you need to have a really good reason for it). When I sit down to write a new story, I’m far more likely to truly consider perspective and decide which one will be best for the story I want to tell rather than default to the one I use the most often.


I also used to only write secondary world/high fantasy or distant science-fiction. I still default to distant time science-fiction if I write sci-fi because near future seems synonymous with hard science-fiction to a lot of people and I’m much more of a “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” and “who cares if it’s impossible” type of writer. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – LXX: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXX: Yesteryears

That summer between sophomore and junior year, Donna Pierceman called three times seeking something new for her gallery for that September. The theme—Family History—gave Brendon no inspiration despite repeated suggestions first from his mom, then from Aunt Laurel. They certainly thought this new theme was important.

“Family—our family—is different from others. You should be proud of it, to have something representing us on display.”

That repeatedly came from his mom all summer long because she’d gotten a bird in her ear and now believed Brendon somehow suffered from teenage embarrassment, which he wasn’t, at least not completely, that was lending him to cringe at the gallery theme. But the truth would have shocked and frustrated his mom worse because Casey-fever had taken hold and the only painting he sketched out time and time again was a birthday present for Casey’s seventeenth.

This one had to be the best of Brendon’s paintings. Something to make Casey sigh and smile dreamily. Something to make their next kiss elevated to heaven, to entwine them more powerfully than any other two people in the world, living or dead. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What was your last attempt to try something entirely new in your writing?


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What was your last attempt to try something entirely new in your writing?

Last year, wanting to try something I’m not skilled at, I decided to try writing a story in objective voice. Objective voice is essentially when you’re not allowed to see the world through any character eyes and instead are forced to view the story solely from an outside perspective. Basically, it’s like watching the events happen, but being unable to hop into anyone’s mind to get clarification on what they were thinking or feeling.


All the emotion a person feels, all the thoughts they have…GONE.

All you have is what they do, what they say. You’re basically trying to be as objective as possible in even the description of the setting. It felt like I was just saying “He went there. He did this.” over and over again. I kept wanting to sink into the character and give them a voice, an opportunity to say what they felt.

It was so awful.

I hated it.

I…don’t know if I’ll try it again. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – LXIX: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXIX: Yesteryears

The ski trip—which logically should have been called a snowboarding trip—flew past in a flurry of snowdrifts and Valentine decorations. Brendon didn’t even think Casey noticed Robbie missing that Friday in February, too busy finding temporarily abandoned construction zones to park at during dark hours. For the first time in his life looking to stand still rather than go roaring off down the road—at least in a literal sense, because figuratively, Casey was always ready to go.

They spent those first few months in a mess of stained clothing and sweaty skin. The scent of that backseat turning from a mix of cheap strawberry air freshener, motor oil and cigarettes, to musk and pheromones and french onion dip and tacos because they’d get hungry between and find themselves at the grocery store at eleven or a drive-through for fourth meal.

The pictures under Brendon’s mattress grew lonely. The furrows on Casey’s brow smoothed out.

They did everything and then did everything again in different positions. They drank too much on race sidelines and dodged heavy drugs by virtue of being too caught up in one another to care about the baggies being passed hand-to-hand. Continue reading