Canvas Blues – XXXIX: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXIX: Yesteryears

There are some kids who, finding out their parents think a certain way, latch on to it like glue. Faith, politics, morals. Just the tip of the iceberg, those are. Entire families create dynasties in this way…or at least a locally owned gas station chain.

Then there are other kids, the kind who, upon finding out a parent’s belief, will run like hell the opposite way. Called “contrary.” “Difficult.” Or, Casey’s favorite: “wild.”

So when Casey’s father began his ranting on about Taylor L. being a cheap-ass mother-fucker who wouldn’t know his fender from his tranny if they both hit him upside the head, well, Casey took that as permission to get to know the newly minted drag winner. He’d tag along, on the outskirts of that circle, perched on the tailgate of someone else’s truck, elbows on knees as he listened and laughed and talked shop with young men twice his age and just as reckless.

Brendon found out later—much later—that Taylor L. had been only twenty-one during that first race. Messed up nose from too many boys-will-be-boys neighborhood brawls. Crooked teeth, not because his parents didn’t have dental, but because they just kept “forgetting” to go to checkups. Hair to his shoulders, dark and wavy and full, yet pulled back into a tight bun the moment things got serious.

And things were always serious during midnight hour, illegal races down Ol’ North Main.

At least according to Casey. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXXVIII: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXVIII: Present

Brendon waited until the car doors both closed. “If you’re going to accost all my previous customers about their grief, I won’t share any more of them with you.”

“She liked me. She called me young man. No one but my mother calls me that.”

“You have a mother?”

Orion sat back in the driver’s seat and pursed his lips in an unreadable expression.

“When I was working on the painting, she called me young man when she couldn’t remember my name. Be more respectful.”

“I will be the epitome of respect, Mr. Kotes.”

“Sarcasm? Your repertoire must be limited.”

“Why are you upset, truly?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Popcorn or candy at the movie theatre?


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Here’s a silly question for today, especially given our theatres have been closed for quite some time because of world events.

Popcorn, in all its salty, buttery goodness can be incredibly messy. Plus, multiple hands all reaching into a bucket can be a massive dissuader. Course, I could get an individual bag, but that doesn’t stop your hands from being gross or your teeth filled with kernals no amount of tongue-twisting can remove.

Candy, depending on what you choose, can be less messy. Chocolate will still melt in your hand, yet you can tip the box directly into your mouth. I would personally get something like skittles to counteract this, but then you run into the problem of not being able to tell what color/flavor you’re about to eat on account of the darkness. Which is a problem when lime is a digusting, no good, awful flavor.

[I met a gal once who didn’t like the orange ones–we should have been best friends!]

So if I had to choose just one, I would probably go for the candy. It has a longer shelf life so I don’t have to throw it out after the movie.

But really, I mostly don’t eat anything during movie outings because the snacks are too expensive and just make you feel poorly. Here’s to hoping going to the movies becomes a thing again! :)


Canvas Blues – XXXVII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXVII: Yesteryears

One of the first assignments Mr. Wexlar gave the eighth grade art classes was to paint a study of a habitat. They started with nature, him pushing them to take that autumn to look around, see the world outside of video games and television. Brendon’s first turn-in ended up getting a scowl because the cattail-engulfed and lily-pad-dotted pond for a turtle had not been researched well enough.

“Stop curling things that shouldn’t be curled. Did you bother to actually go to a pond? At the very least do an internet search.”

Brendon had done an internet search; he’d just been a little preoccupied at the time because Casey had been doing push-ups and raging on about Tori Kel some more. The distraction had been real and he’d kept swapping back and forth between sketchbooks, one of them spread on his lap. For reasons.

He then turned in a nesting pole jutting from an inlet off the bay and at least there he got full marks because Mr. Wexlar liked the detail on the osprey. After that, the assignment turned weird because now Mr. Wexlar wanted everyone to create a picture of a person’s habitat.

“Show me who they are! Books for the bookworm! Trophies for the athlete! Get creative. Give me hints in their chosen clothing and layers within the setting. However! No one is one note. Remember that. No one person can be captured completely in a painting, but we can sure try. And that’s what I want you all to do this week.” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Do you think reading an eBook takes away from the experience?


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In terms of the actual reading of the words the author wants to impart, no, I don’t think any electronic book takes away from the experience of reading a book. You still fall into the story (or not), fall in love with the characters (or not), and appreciate the prose (or not). The entire essence of the story is there exactly how the author intends.

However, there are a few pros and cons between hard copy and electronic copy versions of books.

The huge positive of eBooks is that you can carry as many as you want with you wherever you go and the weight never changes. It’s useful and helpful and promotes reading a great deal. Some small positives are the capability of altering text size and font, highlighting passages without affecting the book, and linking directly to sequels and review pages, etc.

The biggest negative of eBooks is memory incapability. And I don’t mean misremembering the contents of the book itself. I’m referring to matching up the book’s contents with the title and author of said book. When reading hard copy, you must physically pick up the book where you see the cover art, the author name and the book title all at once on a constant basis. When using an eBook, there isn’t even a byline or header or footer to give you even a portion of that information to remind you.

I’ve personally had difficulty remembering author and title names of plenty books I only read as eBooks. This is something I’m rectifying by writing down the books I read and that’s incredibly helpful, but it does require a little more effort. I will also buy hard copy versions of books I love because I don’t want the chance that “my” eBook version might be corrupted or taken from me at some point.

So, no, I don’t think reading eBooks take away from the experience. However, I will always buy something I can hold whenever I end up falling in love with a story.


Canvas Blues – XXXVI: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXVI: Yesteryears

Between Wild Woods Street and Grazer Road lay a bit of tarmac, crumbling at its sides, that stretched into a hill that waxed from a forty-five degree angle to one just over sixty. All the kids called it The Big Hill since it was a big hill.

The Big Hill was where Tony Surlay practiced skate-boarding tricks and ended up tumbling one autumn, landing at the bottom with a broken arm. The Big Hill was the locale for impromptu summer bike-races for all the neighborhood kids. The Big Hill was where Robbie cracked his forehead open when his tire caught in the chasm of an crack along the edge of the road.

Brendon tore his shirt off that day—primary red with the black lettering of a local rec sports team—and held it to Robbie’s face while Casey ran to Mr. Don’s door and banged and banged as if he hadn’t just shouted obscenities at Robbie, as if he hadn’t cut his rusted bike into Robbie’s brand new six-speed with black paint and green pinstripes and shiny chains and working hand brakes.

Even after they climbed into Mr. Don’s dirty truck and rode to Robbie’s house, Casey remained quiet, a combination of shame and satisfaction in his countenance. Robbie claimed an accident and Brendon hadn’t been snitch enough to tell, but he’d stared at Casey, willing him to admit the part he’d played. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversations: What is your Chinese zodiac sign and is it accurate?


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This is going to give you power over determining my age! Ah well :)

I am the illustrious Wood Rat!

I’m the sneaky, intelligent rodent who rode the Ox and jumped off to steal the coveted first place in the zodiac. I admit that I’m not that sneaky in real life though. The last time I remember consciously deciding to sneak something and actually made an attempt to hide it was when I was drinking chocolate sprinkles directly out of the bottle when I was a small child. I had one on my upper lip the whole time I denied it.

Some of the other aspects of the Rat I do adhere to, such as hoarding, saving money, being creative, being kind, though struggling with social communication. My hoarding is mild–I like having those chocolate cookies in the freezer, saved for a particularly depressing day. Similarly with money–I like having something in the kitty so I’m prepared for that rainy day. I’m generally kind, but struggle with shyness and social anxieties that can come off as me being aloof.

The Wood aspect of being a Rat is supposedly to do with me starting and finishing projects. At first, I thought this wasn’t me. After all, I have about a million projects I want to do. But then, when I began to look at the things I have completed, I realized, that wait a minute, I do complete things. I’ve got stories out on submission for my other pen name, I’ve got a novel finished for March and a ton of other stories available either here on my blog or for sale that proves I finish a lot of stuff. It might take me a little while to get 100k+ novels done, I admit, but every year my kids get older and I get more time.

My given name – Emily – stands for industrious and hard-working, so it goes along with me being a Wood Rat too :)

As for elemental association, I have a soft spot for enchanted woods and forest mazes, so…


Canvas Blues – XXXV: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXV: Present

The next of Brendon’s customers they visited was an older lady by the name of Emma Holde. Clutter lined her hallways and stacked itself in piles on the coffee table, the bookshelves, the wide windowsills. But it was the careful sort of clutter. The memories one didn’t wish to toss when memories happened to be all that was left.

Orion stared at the picture—rolling river waves, a boat race in the springtime, a man standing at the helm of one Dandelion Roar while three children crawled about the prow and the sun counted another day in lives worth living.

“That’s me standing beside him,” said Emma, voice aged and fine. She gave a sigh and a secret smile for Brendon, wisps of variegated gray tickling her cheeks. “He got the likeness of us all down, even to the way Gina used to twist her knees in when she was little.”

“How long have you had it?” asked Orion. The picture hung over a well-loved sofa. A focal point in the room. A memory welcoming all the others piled up along the walls.

“Three years,” murmured Brendon.

“That’s right,” agreed Emma. “Three years ago. Tommy commissioned it for me and Gina sifted through all the photos to give Brendon what he needed. Tommy even took him for a tour of a boat the like we used to have. Not the Roar, of course. It’s been long since it sailed its last voyage.”

Orion turned from examining the painting, his gaze cutting across the bookshelves, over the trio of cats lounging in the early sunshafts, and settling on Brendon.

“When was the last time you sailed, Ms. Holde?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What is the main thing you like to do on vacations?


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It’s probably a cliche, but having uninterrupted time to read is one of my main loves on vacations.

Normally I’ll get a little time each evening to read. Sometimes I’ll get a bunch more hours on the weekend. I admit I try to squeeze in reading time in many other places: dragging a book with me wherever I go, listening to an audiobook while I walk or do menial tasks, having something open while I’m eating lunch. Yet during vacations–real vacations–I’ll get a chance to just sit and read unashamedly for giant lengths of time.

I like to do other things as well, of course. I love the beach, the ocean, floating down rivers, kayaking… Really anything to do with water I enjoy. I also like hiking (short hikes–I haven’t graduated to anything more than a few miles) and museums (I’m the person who reads all the plaques–that’s why I’m there, to learn). I will do some crafting–crochet and cross-stitch. Also will bake sweet things (cooking isn’t quite as fun as muffin and cookie baking).

And, of course, write. Can’t escape that one!

But mostly read. Possibly because I like to live vicariously through the adventures of other people since I can’t very well experience most of what I read about :)


Canvas Blues – XXXIV: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXIV: Yesteryears

Summer between seventh and eighth grade went by achingly slowly. Thirteen years old. Too young to go driving about. Too old to be playing kickball with the neighborhood kids. Just old enough to want and want, but not know exactly what to do about it. Not really.

Robbie brought Tori Kel down to the wharf where they played footsie off the piers. He brought her to the park where they swung at dusk and played a touchy-feely game of tag with the other kids right outside the forest. He did not bring her to the car graveyard. Not ever.

Two weeks before eighth grade started in earnest, soccer practice already going in full swing (as attested by Casey’s every-present shin guards and cleats), a group of middle-schoolers took to lingering under the second pavilion, the older one closer to the basketball court where boys taunted Brendon for not playing.

Tori Kel came with Robbie and sat down next to Brendon with a book of her own. Hers was a school book. Summer read they were sure to be tested on first week back, though next to none of the others had likely even glanced at the pages. Brendon certainly hadn’t.

They sat in silence for a time, pages of The Chocolate War fluttering while his pencil scratched over a rough sketch sheet. The rhythmic pound of the basketball echoed up toward the tennis courts and sneakers shed rubber off crumbling black-top. Continue reading