Canvas Blues – LII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LII: Yesteryears

The races grew dull that summer, at least in Brendon’s eyes. Same roaring engines. Same pisswater beers. Same booming music. He spent the time drawing cars, peeking in at engines Casey could identify by sound alone.

They would linger far into the warm nights, creeping through tall grass, scratching at mosquito bites for days and days after. Casey got to sit in Taylor L.’s car—black leather seat sticking to the underside of his knees—and press that pedal like he owned it, blowing smoke and cooking oil like butter in a pan, but sweeter. Least that’s how Casey described it, all tingling from the tips of his fingers to the bottom of his soles.

Taylor L. would nudge and chuckle and sit a little too close, always with that swagger that made him seem like a God with a capital. Magnanimous and easy with his blessings, though Brendon always got the impression that Taylor L. would have been just as happy to forget Brendon existed, especially when he spoke in a foreign language—spouting torque and horsepower while Brendon’s pencil focused on the glint of light off the studded belt one of the other boys wore.

“Dad’s gone, for the whole week. Heading out west—Tennessee to see family and a doctor out there for a second opinion.” Casey threw up a hand and waved in the general direction of west, which also happened to be upstreet, road coursing off, gravel offshoots spitting out like branches from a trunk.

“So you’re staying with your mom?”

“Nah. Becks is still mad at me. Says I wasn’t empathetic enough to her situation.” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Have you ever written fan fiction?


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When I was a child I absolutely loved Brian Jacques’ Redwall books. For those of you who don’t know what those are, his books detail action adventure stories featuring small European animals, many of whom live in a large abbey called, you guessed it, Redwall.

So there are animals such as mice and badgers and squirrels on the good side and others such as rats and weasels and snakes on the bad side. (Some people talk about how awful it is that there isn’t more distinction, that how dare Jacques divide creatures into “good” and “bad” [even though there are many exceptions to this rule] but I find that obnoxious because it’s a CHILDREN’S SERIES—you want adult-level discussion and nuance, then READ ADULT FICTION. [I would also like to point out that many adult books, including ones touted as being transcendent in some fashion, are incredibly simplistic in their definitions of good and evil as well.]

With that tangent out of the way, my very first forays into writing were fan fiction based on Jacque’s books. Particularly poetry. I would craft snippets about the bits of story that didn’t get full accounting in the books. I would wonder about what happened after the adventure or war ended. I would draw pictures of my favorite characters and sob over the ones who died.

One particular couple in the stories I fell in love with was a mouse pair who, after their story, go out adventuring and exploring rather than settle into a quiet life at Redwall. I LOVED this. I wanted to be like them, specifically the female mouse who used a rope like a whip and took down creatures twice her size.

But we never got a story about them on their adventures after they left, so their future was left ambiguous. So I wrote a poem about them :) Talked about how they were out there, fighting and having adventures together. And, of course, had fallen even more completely in love with one another, because even when I was in elementary school that was part of my happily ever after.

I feel as if we all have those things that we grasped at during our youngest years, even if we didn’t know or understand them then. Things that come back and show us who we were meant to be, what we were meant to do. For me, those old, yellowing pages of mice and their poems are one of mine.


Canvas Blues – LI: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LI: Yesteryears

The summer before high school sped past at a sprint, his mom and Aunt Laurel still gushing about the painting Brendon had at The Bayscape to anyone who would listen. He started ducking his head whenever he heard his name fall off their lips and picked up the habit of throwing something up to cover his face whenever the camera turned his way: a hand, a hood, his sketchbook.

“He’s my quiet one,” his mom would tell people. “The only one of the bunch. Buy him a stack of sketchbooks at Christmas and you won’t see him till Easter and only then to ask for another stack.”

Fair’s fair, he reasoned, though he’d still duck his head and scribble cross-hatches faster.

Donna Pierceman rang him up mid-summer. July 17th. Hot and humid, skin smelling like his mom’s lotion because the unscented had run out. He’d been curled on the cushioned bench on the porch, drinking sugar with ice tea in it and playing on Robbie’s tablet when his mom came out with the phone.

“Ms. Pierceman’s called for you.”

“Who’s that?” asked Robbie as Brendon sat up and reached for the phone.

He made a hushing noise and cleared his throat, scarcely noticing his mom still lingering in the doorway, holding open the screen in the way she’d have yelled at him for.

“Ms. Pierceman, this is Brendon.” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: How important are looks to your characters’ relationships?


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This is a loaded question because of course there’s going to be some level of lust that occurs between two sexual beings based on their physical appearance.

[Were the story using asexual beings a la Good Omens this would be different, but still incredibly valid as a romance.]

That being said, looks don’t define attraction; they are merely one sliver of it, and an ethereal sliver at that since looks change as we age.

[Again, this would be different were I to write about a society where aging doesn’t occur the same way.]

I think it’s a cop-out to say “it depends” though that is the most real answer to the question. Some characters are going to be more hyper-focused on physical features—with each being attracted to different types of people—and others are going to lean more toward the non-physical, the actions a person takes, the personality under the skin, etc.

It’s more fun to have a range of different types of characters when writing novels, otherwise they begin to feel like the same story told over and over again. This extends to how the romance is sparked—whether it’s a first-sight lust that drives the characters originally, or whether the characters need time to come to appreciate one another.

There are two important things I think need to be touched on in a romance story:

One: There needs to be at least some level of physical attraction, unless the character is asexual. [However, I will likely keep asexual characters to my short stories as of now rather than my novels.]

Two: The relationship needs to grow beyond physical attraction so that the characters have a reason to remain together once the story is over.

Those are the not-very-hard-and-fast guidelines I think about when crafting a new romantic relationship. So, on a scale of 1-10 of how important a character’s looks are, it starts slightly higher at the beginning of most romances and scales down as the characters learn to love each other, faults and all.


Canvas Blues – L: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

L: Present

That night, Brendon spent an hour peeling his bedroom walls. Photos and pictures and sketches going in piles in the living room and kitchen. Every single piece of art torn down, until the barrenness became oppressive, the blankness like a canvas daring him to start.

Then he opened the hall closet and flicked through history: Robbie perched on a fence post near the bay, Aunt Laurel in her flowing skirts at her wedding, Mom in the kitchen, flour on her apron and pecan bread dough being beaten within an inch of its life. In the far back, sticking to the old paint on the wall it’d been hidden for so long, Casey grinned, his head thrown back, his hair a wild, wild mess, and the straightaway outside St. Thomas’s soaring into the distance behind him.

Brendon pulled the painting out and held it in two hands, his vision going double, seeing into the past. He’d used pale ivories and peachy tones to capture Casey’s body. Dressed him in a tank and greased him with summer sweat. Like the way he’d look after they’d parked in the field in the growing development, hot hands against one another. Skin sticky, as if the humidity conspired to glue them together in the back seat of Casey’s car.

Their world had been tight and narrow and Casey never had seen the side streets. Brendon hadn’t either, too focused on the car in front of him, uncaring where it might be heading.

He hung Casey’s portrait in his bedroom, a singular point in the barrenness.

“If it’s true,” he whispered to Casey. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What’s the biggest thing you need to improve?


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My confidence.

I have plenty of arguments with myself where I’m the most confident person I know. Until someone walks by and I shrink down because oh-no-they-might-have-heard-me-talking-to-myself.

I have no confidence. I code based on the people around me often, unless it’s someone I feel completely comfortable with, who has proven to be at least welcoming of who I am. It’s filters. Many, many filters.

The filters are awful. I want to be considered “unapologetically herself” and yet that’s never going to be something people say about me.

I’ve looked up information on how to do better socially and I’ve read that 1) I should smile more because it makes people feel welcome, it makes people think you’re trustworthy and worth knowing. And then I read that 2) people who smile when you meet them are fakers, they’re hiding their disregard for you behind the friendliness and those who only smile when they are truly happy are the ones to trust.

Well, fuck.

And that’s what I find all over the place, concerning even the smallest aspect of my life. So I’m left feeling like there’s nothing I can ever do to be confident because everything I do isn’t right.


So I just have to BE confident and then it doesn’t matter if I smile or not because I AM confident.

But I have to BE confident first.

And if you’re not you have to fake it.

And in order to fake it, you have to smile.

Which brings me back round to where I started.

So the answer in how to GET confidence is just to BE confident, which is the most unhelpful advice in existence.

Excuse me while I attempt to be confident and sign my name to these words ;)


Canvas Blues – IL: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

IL: Yesteryears

Mr. Wexlar had a tendency to wave the eighth graders out, out and toward the rising sun of high school, like it was his business to shuffle them along, toward the next art teacher. The motion became more pronounced the closer Brendon got to promotion, like Mr. Wexlar had a habit of swatting flies from his face, except those flies might well have been early teens just about to start their most troubling years.

He’d come in with a ruddy face blotchy with bug bites, assumedly from a night out on the lake, and demand perfection up until that last bittersweet week where he became maudlin, repeating himself.

“You’ll come back now. Show me upgrades you’ve done to that portfolio. It’s a good one. Serve you well until you make another.”

“I will.” And Brendon meant it at the time, though later his mind feasted on fears that kept him from lugging new paintings back to middle school to show Mr. Wexlar.

“If you need help with college applications. Or need a recommendation. Or anything at all.” Another wave across his face at an imaginary fly. “You’ve got vision, Brendon. You’ll go far.” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What are your 2021 Resolutions?


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This past year has been intense and shocking for most of the world. 2020 is one for the history books, to be sure. Yet, despite the awfulness, the insanities, the exhaustion, the economic downturns, and the snowball effect all these things have had on most people’s lives, I think I managed to get more done than in the two years prior.

In my own writing, this past year I have: Finished Lost Isle and most of the promo work involved; began serializing Canvas Blues on my blog; wrote and published Rise of the Snowmen; wrote a few other short stories that I can publish on my site at a later point; and put a bunch of words into other projects.

For 2021, I have a few certainties and a few hopes:


1) Lost Isle published in March

2) Canvas Blues continued to be serialized


1) Republish Shatter by Glass

2) Work on Scorched Isle for a projected 2022 release

3) Christmas is Cancelled published in the autumn

For the first time since I started writing, I’ve sat down and created (with help) a project manager outline for all my goals and projected out when I must have certain pieces of each project completed to meet each final deadline. When I started this blog years ago, it was just meant to be fun, a place to play and publish stories when I had them finished without much thought to long-term viability. It started as a safe-zone and it still is to some extent. However, I would like to see what I can accomplish if I push myself.

This week is ground zero. Wish me luck!



Canvas Blues – XXXXVIII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXXVIII: Yesteryears

Mr. Wexlar showed Brendon how to fold used cardboard and poster board into a makeshift portfolio. Was a project for the week for the entire eighth grade glass toward the end of the school year, but while Mr. Wexlar didn’t seem to care much what other kids did with theirs, he paid special attention, much of it critical, to Brendon’s work.

“You’ll want to smooth those edges. Here. Here’s a file. Get to shaping that. And make it even. Marks off if the angles are wrong. No, I don’t care if you haven’t had trig yet. You at least have your protractor, well, use it and your ruler and figure it out.”

And later, during decorating:

“You want to stand out, but not be gaudy. You want to say, ‘I’m worthy of attention’, not ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ See all that glitter Emma and Jasmine are using? Yeah, don’t do that.”

“I wasn’t going to use glitter.”

“Of course you weren’t. Not my point.”

“What was your point?”

“To push yourself just shy of the glitter stage. There’s a sweet spot, between too-much and not-enough. And more often than not you like to swim about in not-enough because it’s comfortable.”

“I do not,” muttered Brendon. Because yes, yes he did. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXXXVII: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXXVII: Present

“As you wish.” Orion set his glass down. “I’m too curious about people, normally a positive trait, unless one takes it to extremes and ceases to think of a person as a person and instead as a puzzle. I lack a certain amount of empathetic capability, but have taught myself to see things I can’t understand, to remember what gets me the response I want and what to do to avoid situations I dislike.”

“You sound like you’re describing a psychopath.”

Orion laughed and gave a rolling, one-shouldered shrug, his gaze like knives flicking about the room. “I have emotions. I’m just selfish and wish everyone thought as I do even knowing that’s unrealistic to the extreme. But knowing is half the battle and being in control of myself allows me to avoid much of the drama of my youth.”

“You? Having drama?” The anger hadn’t fled, but it’d banked in the easy acceptance Orion had of laying himself bare in such a simplistic, open manner. His faults on display, his complacence lacking in malicious intent.

“I assure you, the amount of drama existing around my younger years would have drown you. Especially if you’ve become less reserved, as shy persons are wont to do as they gain experiences that teach them to be less afraid of the world in general.”

“I’m not afraid of the world. I just don’t like it invading my space.”

“You’re afraid now.” Orion’s gaze turned considering. “I’m just not sure of what.”

“I’m not a puzzle,” murmured Brendon. Continue reading