Coffee & Conversation: What do you like to discuss with other people?


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I like to discuss difficult or erroneous plotting or character issues. Though discuss might not be the best term for what I like to do when I run into trouble. It’s more of a talking-at someone.

Here’s what I’ll do:

1) Get the person caught up with all the characters and setting and what’s been happening and what might have happened or what kinds of things are going to possibly happen and who the people are and what kinds of things they’re motivated by, and so on and so on… [This is usually answered with confused stares that attempt to look polite.]

2) Answer questions that all my pronoun usage, non-linear narrative babbling has caused.

3) Pitch my problem and all the reasons why it’s a problem. Usually I’ll state somewhere in there that my story is a mess, that it’s unsalvageable, that I’m a horrible writer, etc. All the boring, melodramatic stuff that spills from our mouths when we’ve hit a figurative wall. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXVII: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXVII: Yesteryears

Brendon had long replaced the sketches of Casey when the tapping came on his window. He woke sluggishly to a pale face outside, a face full of promise. Casey’s whisper through the screen a few moments later came fast and breathless.

“There’s a night tonight. Big Man Skiv and Taylor L. are going to tear up the street. Becks has a cooler full of beer and a hankering not to go alone. Come on.”

And that night, a cool September twenty-eighth, only five months before Tori Kel smiled and said yes to Robbie, was the first night the boys snuck to the track all together. Not the first night for Casey, not by a long shot. Not even the first time Casey had dragged Brendon, but the first time Robbie—straight-laced Robbie and his worried eyes—finally gave in and slipped his bedroom window and snuck through the fence to join them. Blame an argument with his father for that one.

They piled into Becky’s car, glitter shining on her eyelids and a familiar scent, that Brendon did not identify as weed until later, ghosting about the interior. She had a low voice, but a high laugh as she went roaring through the neighborhood, the engine yowling like a cat in heat (Casey’s words) and the moon like a fingernail hanging onto the sky for dear life. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXVI: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXVI: Present

They started locally, which wasn’t difficult as many of Brendon’s original sales had come from studio exhibitions. He sat in Orion’s passenger seat, conscious that the BMW cost a great deal more than Brendon tended to make in an average year. The leather seats stuck to his arms despite the air conditioning and Orion had paused the audio book he’d been listening to out of politeness sake.

“Thriller?” asked Brendon, randomly running a finger along his side of the center console.


“That sounds like you,” murmured Brendon.

Orion laughed. A quiet sound, but deep, deep in his chest, a rumbling that Brendon felt all the way to his bones. He clutched at the sketchbook in his lap. Orion had stared at the crumpled spiral-bound and graphite-smudged book, but hadn’t said a word.

“Am I so easy to read?” asked Orion.

“No,” murmured Brendon. “But when things fit, they fit.”

“And how does that…fit…with me?” Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Have you ever had a blessing in disguise?


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I know everyone right now stands at heightened levels of frustration. That we all are exhausted and nervous.

We’re trying to live, to care for ourselves and our loved ones in the best ways we know how. And we’re also trying to keep ourselves afloat among difficulties with jobs, with family, with social-political unrest and change, with finances, with loss. It’s difficult out there right now in most parts of the world.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that now, after many months of this, there are certain parts that are blessings. So this is a post about the positives, not the negatives.

For one, we’re getting to see people we normally might only see in passing. Sure, it can be hard to be cooped up in one place without much time for ourselves, especially for us introverts, but if looked at in another light, we’re getting to talk more, to laugh more, to just sit and be together more. More meals happening together. More learning much more about who these people are who we love. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXV: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXV: Yesteryears

The first time Brendon woke choking on an orgasm, he lay shivering in bed, limbs a twitching, Casey’s laughter ringing in his ears, Casey’s scent lingering in his nostrils. He’d sweat through his pants and his sheets clung to his skin despite the autumn gentleness. Outside, the moon had risen, bright and almost whole, as if it had delivered Brendon the sweetest of dreams on a ray of pale light.

He did not move, too confused. The mind, he discovered later, did not work as well in the midnight hours, but right then, he found in himself a growing terror that he could not put name to. This welling feeling—both physical and emotional—that stirred in his belly and took claim to his mind.

In a spattering of nights after, months and years, Brendon would wake at odd hours, Casey’s name a moan on his lips. He found himself comfortable with the idea of holding his friend, of kissing him, of sharing intimacy that one couldn’t do with superheroes who did not exist. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: Do you ever talk to yourself?


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All the damn time.

I think this question can be considered in two different ways. Firstly, just at face value: I do the typical talking to myself. The arguments in the showers (that I always win), the walking myself through a process (this goes here and that’s what I do next), and the mumbling to myself whenever some horrible memory rears its head and I just want to sink into the ground never to be seen again.

You probably do something similar (and if you don’t, what is your secret?)

Secondly, I could read this as a writer would, because let’s face it, us writers are ALWAYS talking to ourselves.

Our characters are literally just figments of our imagination, dreamt up and put down on paper. So whenever those characters argue, it’s like I’m having an argument with myself. I’m literally standing on both sides of that argument, documenting the conflicted emotions from one perspective and then swapping sides to do the same for the other perspective.

It’s like Quicksilver playing ping pong with himself, running back and forth before the ball bounces.

Only each side of the table needs to have a completely different personality, a completely honest and real reason for everything they believe and every action they make. Because of this complexity, it’s not rare to read stories where the characters fall into a couple different traps. Continue reading

Canvas Blues – XXIV: Yesteryears


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXIV: Yesteryears

Why did all the boys ask for pictures, yet the girls did not? The question Mr. Wexlar had posed niggled far more solidly in Brendon’s mind than it had any right to and yet he could not shake it.

Like a bug, the question buzzed obnoxiously, so Brendon found himself drawing swarms of mosquitoes and gnats and no-see-ums, propping them on fields of tufted grass and cattails. He even presented one to Mr. Wexlar one day as a present, who looked down on it with those critical eyes and said, “Why Brendon, this is one of the best works I’ve seen from you. See here, the way you’ve given the wind character and the sunlight presence, and here, the color changes so vividly, like a flash as you’re walking by. Gorgeous. Keep this up.”

It was the first gushing praise Brendon ever received from Mr. Wexlar. And it didn’t come again for months and then only in the presence of Donna Pierceman.

Mr. Wexlar attempted to convince Brendon to submit the piece as part of his end-of-quarter portfolio, but guilt-ridden, he insisted it was a gift and that he had others in mind to complete, but that he would take the praise in stride and maybe do a few more as practice.

The insects he painted for his portfolio ended up being dragonflies on abandoned radio antennas riddling an overgrown patch around a deflated plastic pool. Mr. Wexlar liked that one too. Maybe he just liked bugs.


Next Chapter!

Coffee & Conversation: Do you trust your co-workers?


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Not even a little bit.

Especially during coronavirus season. I have so many more co-workers than normal. They always want my attention and yet will inevitably have ulterior motives. Even the cat.

Especially the cat.

In fact, I think the cat might be conspiring against me. There’s this stray I keep finding outside our house. Oh, he runs off whenever I step outside, little coward that he is, but he keeps coming back. Think they’re up to something, the two of them. Talking through the window.

Maybe I should start closing the windows. Keep the blinds down during the day so she can’t stare at the birds and chat with her co-conspirator.

I think I shall to interrogate her next time she climbs onto my lab while I’m working. She’s always trying to see what I’m writing. Little spy. I’ll find out just how much of the plot she knows and then I’ll change it. Make her look the fool when she tells her little friend and he finds out the story’s something entirely different.

If the ending isn’t what you had in mind… Well, blame the cat.


Canvas Blues – XXIII: Present


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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXIII: Present

Mr. Livesey knocked on Brendon’s apartment door at 8:59. The minute turned over as Brendon hurried to fold the blanket he’d used all night and straighten at least the worst of the mess in a mad dash fraught with pointlessness. Dressed in only a pair of sleep pants with graphite smudges across his fingers from last night’s desperate sketch, Brendon pulled the door open, a rush of early, humid summer wafting in from around Orion Livesey’s suited figure.

“Come in, come in. Good morning. I haven’t had coffee yet—haven’t even turned it on. Are you—I mean, do you live around here? Or you’re staying at the Marriott?”

With a peaceful, and far too awake, countenance, Mr. Livesey answered smoothly as he stepped inside, easily removed the door from Brendon’s hand, and shut it behind them. “Good morning, Brendon. Coffee would be perfect. And no, I live about three hours north so I’m staying locally.”

“Right. Of course.”

Brendon spastically clutched at his pants, bunching the fabric at his thighs as he suddenly remembered the sketch. The sketch that was thankfully facing the couch and not the door. He quickly backed up and made to look as if he felt the sudden urge to straighten the piles of books on the coffee table, scooping up the sketchbook and shutting it in one move before he laid a couple other books on top of it, needing to weigh down Orion Livesey’s drawn figure so it might not come alive. Continue reading

Coffee & Conversation: What’s the most valuable thing you own?


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Many years ago, after I lost a flash drive (one of those incredibly old, barely hold anything but a couple of documents and don’t you dare try to put art or (gasp!) music on it or else it will implode) I requested another for Christmas. I ended up finding the first one again, but that doesn’t matter because I still got a higher storage one from my honey as a present anyway.

It was the cutest turtle, with a keychain attachment and everything.

You’d pop off his little head and stuff his butt in your computer and he’d save all your stories in 1997 word so you wouldn’t have to use the crappy upgraded ribbon bullshit until you were ready for internet access.

I’ve since broken the keychain part. (That didn’t actually take very long to do because I carried my keys around daily.) And then went ahead and lost the head part a few years later. So now all that’s left is the butt. The cute turtle butt that sticks out of my computers, his invisible little head somewhere inside eating my stories up and storing them in his belly.

If I had to rescue one (writing-related) thing from a burning fire, that would be the thing I grab. A little turtle butt that stores all my completed stories. (And if I’m being honest, I’d probably make it one of a top three things I’d grab if we headed into an all things situation and not just writing-related things.)

Since, I’ve also been gifted a panda bear and an elephant and though they get their time occasionally in the sun, they’re probably put-out that an old, dirty turtle butt gets more use and love.