A Slowing Down

I’m trying to be gentle with myself, as I find myself slowing down creatively. Not for lack of ideas or desire, but because of the huge schedule upheaval — which was also a total upheaval mentally and emotionally — and the resulting lack of energy and just general burnout. I still count the return to work as a net-positive for me and my mental health, but it definitely has had it’s drawbacks.

I have been working on two digital pieces — one is a redraw of my “C” entry for A-to-Z 2021, and one is just an original piece, and I did two pencil drawings to practice males figures/faces. That has, sadly, been the extent of my output in May.

I am actually much further along in this piece than is indicated by this (weeks old, at this point) Insta post, by the way.
A total redraw of my A-to-Z piece.

These last few sketches has made me realize that I think I might be cycling back to wanting to do more traditional art — graphite, Prismacolor, pen. I’ve been focusing primarily — I mean, in a practical sense, almost solely — on digital art, which has been a lot of fun, but it shouldn’t be surprising that, like most of my interests, I cycle through phases when it comes to preferred art mediums. I started this year very interested in acrylic painting, then moved almost entirely digital. Seems like pen/pencil is well overdue for a resurgence.

I can feel myself fading fast, and it’s only 5 pm. Hopefully I can get a little bit of sketching or inking time in before I fully collapse.

Trying hard to be less of a stranger. I’m hopeful that this summer will be a creative oasis.

Only time will tell.

Stay safe and sane.

Working working working

Yes, yes, yes — I have been slowly picking away at a couple of art projects. I have. Honestly. You all can check out my Instagram for progress shots of what I’m working on. I’m in the thick of two pieces at the moment, but I have one I’m itching to start on (but I need to take reference photos, first), one that has literally been languishing as a pencil sketch in my sketchbook for probably about two months now, and one really silly, self-indulgent piece of fanart I am really aching to work on, but probably won’t get to for a while.*

Part of that is, starting Monday, I will be back to work full-time.

In the classroom.

It will be my first time in a classroom since March 13th, 2020.

Ya’ll must remember (or at least those of you who have been around since then) how absolutely desperate I was to get work-from-home accommodations. As a hypertensive, pre-diabetic, clinically-obese person, I was absolutely terrified for myself during the early days of the COVID pandemic, and as a parent, was scared to death about bringing the virus home to my kid (who would then in turn bring it to my parents (who would have been my childcare), who are both high risk and live with two immunocompromised housemates).

I sent email after email to HR and my building principal, emailed my (brand new; like literally she had been hired weeks before the school year started) department head, and had actually started looking into both medical leave and work-from-home opportunities were I not afforded the accommodation.

Needless to see, I, uh, I really wanted this.

And I appreciated having it! I recognize I was lucky to be able to get these accommodations (whether or not it should be a matter of “luck” and not just standard pandemic protocol is another story — but the fact remains, for the reality of the world we live in, I was very lucky), and I did my best to do my job within those parameters. I think I succeed, to the best of my abilities. But goddamn, was it hard.

This was a ADHD nightmare. Focusing on a screen for seven hours a day was torture. The tech issues were irritating. Having Bear routinely meltdown or blow-up practically at my elbow while doing his own on-line schooling gave me heart palpitations. Having no delineation between at work/not at work was confusing and demotivating.

But then the vaccines came. And… well, it’s complicated.

I’ve got to say, first off, that I still think we are jumping the gun in packing schools back to full-capacity. Not everyone can get vaxxed yet. Schools are already over-crowded, I don’t trust the three-feet that DESE says is “all we need,” and disrupting kid’s schedules with only four-and-a-half weeks left in the year is ridiculous. So, as A Thing? Like, as a decision as a whole? I think it’s a poor one. I don’t understand why we couldn’t have just waited until September and started fresh. In a year full of upheavals, why add one more to the pile for these kids? Hell, why add one more for any of us?

And yet… with that being said, if it’s happening now, at least I feel ready for it.

Sweet Christ, do I feel ready for it.

My wife is now fully vaccinated; she’s not at her two weeks post-vaxx yet, but she got both shots, and the efficacy rate for her right now should be hovering around 80%, and my folks are getting their 2nd shots today. With me being fully-vaxxed, the chance of me picking up and transmitting anything is pretty miniscule to begin with, so between my own vaccine status — and the pack of K95s I picked up yesterday to wear to work — they all feel a fair degree of confidence in my return.

My coworkers are nearly all fully vaccinated, my kids have been getting vaxxed steadily, and now with the approval for ages twelve and up, we are having in-school vaccine clinics for eligible and willing kids.

If I had to go back this year, this is the time to do it, I guess.

And just on a personal level… this year has really done a number on my mental health. I hadn’t realized how much of my social quota is filled simply by going to work an commiserating with my coworkers, seeing my kids, etc. I’ve felt such a disconnect from my job — which is hard, for me, since I love my work — and so alienated from a place that has been sort of like a second home for me for the last sixteen years that in the last several weeks, I will be honest, I feel like I’m just phoning it in. Just, doing the bare minimum to scrape by until the year winds down.

I hate it. That’s not how I want to be. That’s not the way I work.

So, this whole going-back-in-late-May thing is a terrible idea. But as far as terrible ideas go (and in so far as, I really don’t have a choice), I’m all in.

This weekend will be a period of mental adjustment and self-care in preparation.

See you on the flip side. Stay safe and sane.


*On a lighter note, for anyone wondering about the “self-indulgent fan art” I’m dying to do, it’s The Wicked Zoga, from the Worthikids animated short “Captain Yajima.” Shit, they are the most adorably chaotic thing and I am madly in love with them:

Polishing Up

I said I was going to do redraws of my five favorite A-to-Z Entries, and damn it, I meant it.

Original sketch for my “A” entry:

And here is the finished drawing, Aldwyn & Amara:

Surprisingly happy with this one; I love the rays of light filtering down!! And the beading on her tunic!! And the highlights on Aldwyn’s wing!

I love far more about this than what I hate. I don’t even think I hate, to be honest; there are things I could have done better, but I hate none of it.

How refreshing is that??

I am working on wrapping up some stuff I started prior to A-to-Z — some of it from long before A-to-Z, to the point where it’s noticeably stylistically rougher, but I’m still fond of it, I’ve put in quite a few hours on it, and it’s a goal of mine to not abandon projects anymore, so I will likely still wrap and post it at some point.


Related to art and projects, a big project that I was an artist on recently, The Fat Folks Tarot Deck, is live for pre-orders! The art is stunning, and includes the work of 77 artists in just as many styles. This is a body-positive, fat-positive, queer-positive, trans-positive Tarot Deck, and all the proceeds go towards Trans Lifeline! Please, if you are someone who is into Tarot, consider picking up a deck! This is my piece for my card, the Nine of Pentacles:

Things are moving along. I’m going to be working on my next A-to-Z revision, which I think is going to be my “C” entry. I’ll be honest, the more I look back and start to more fully conceptualize, the more I think I am ultimately going to be doing more than five works.

Not that I’m complaining, to be honest.

Hope all is well. Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: U is for “Unfinished”

And with that, I am abandoning A-to-Z.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m quitting. I would feel worse about it, except it’s served it’s purpose, hasn’t it? I’ve generated twenty ideas, and I’ve already got five I’m excited to work on, plus three completely unrelated ideas I want to work on. Right now I’m putting it off because trying to come up with an idea and a vignette everyday is creatively stressing me out. I’m itching to work on the ones that appeal to me; I’m excited to go back and weed out my Top 5 (I have three clear frontrunners, but I need to figure out what to put in the final two slots).

As I said before, I am pretty confident this is my last foray into the A-to-Z Challenge, so in some ways I am slightly disappointed to not be seeing in through to the end, but — more than that — I am happy to have gotten some rich experience and inspiration out of it. I’ve got some art ideas that deviate from my rather formulaic portraits, and that in and of itself is exciting, but I’ve also got the start of some flash fiction/vignettes/short stories that I am eager to return to (I’m especially excited about my “I” entry).

Good luck with the final week of A-to-Z, everyone.

I’m eager to get to work on my next projects.

Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Queer/Queen/Quaint; Rider/Rise/Reward; Spine/Sign/Study

Come on, how much do you love my conceptualization of the mom? It’s great, right? Art at it’s finest.

“These are the best we could do?” Arianna murmured doubtfully as yet another potential suitor — smug and dark-haired, just like all the others — left the dining hall. “These are our best and brightest? This parade of arrogance and swagger?”

“They have every right to be proud,” her mother chastised sharply. “Pride is not the same as arrogance if it’s earned, Arianna. These you men are high born and highly skilled.”

“So their parents have money and they’re good with a sword,” Arianna said dismissively. “I don’t see how that sets them apart from me in anyway, and yet I’m constantly being told to be humble.” She side-eyed her mother, boredly.

“I can only assume that humility is to be the ‘lady-like’ counterpoint to my husband-to-be’s arrogance. Oh, apologies — pride. What a quaint arrangement.”

Her mother let out a long suffering sigh as Kiara, one of the servant girls, entered the room with an elaborate tray piled high with pastries and a gilded teapot. She waved the young woman in, rubbing at her temples.

“What would you have me say, Arianna?” she asked. “We have traditions, we have expectations and social mores. You are expected to find a husband, to be taken care of, to have children. Do you not want a secure life?”

“I don’t want that life,” Arianna sniffed. Her mother shook her head in frustration as Kiara poured her tea in a delicate china cup. Her mother took a long sip.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” her mother huffed, placing the cup back in it’s saucer with a little more force than strictly necessary. “You’ve not lived long enough to know. Your life will be long, God-willing, and what a horrid thing it would be if you were to live it alone.”

“I never said I wished to be alone,” Arianna aid airly. Kiara set a pile of sweet cakes on a plate before her. Arianna winked at her surreptitiously. Kiara’s face turned bright pink as she turned away, grinning.

“I only said I don’t wish to have a husband.”


Five a.m., and they pulled off the highway to eat, not a leisurely breakfast but a desperate devouring of the last remnants of the meal from the previous night; ham and cheese sandwiches kept cold in the front pocket of Erin’s Jansport with a sweaty dollar store ice pack. They rinsed their mouths with flat coke, tore into packets of Little Debbie swiss rolls with their teeth, and leaned themselves and their old bike against the guardrails on the highway as the turned their faces east.

How much further to go?” Kelly asked, her voice hoarse from disuse and the road. Erin took the last swig of Coke and shrugged.

“Miles or time,” she said, tossing the bottle over the guard rail. Kelly clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “Which is more helpful?”

Kelly shrugged. “Time, I guess.”

“Probably another five or six hours.”

Kelly chewed her lip thoughtfully, scuffing the road with her well-worn leather boats. Dry puffs of dust rose from the pavement in diaphonous clouds.

“That’s not so bad,” she muttered.

“No,” Erin agreed. “Not after everything else.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

The sat in silence for a moment, Kelly picking absently at the blood stains crusted on her jeans, the flesh still tender under the bulk of the bandages. She forced herself to stop worrying the injury, sat on her hands to keep her promise. The cold pavement against her hands, and the pressure of her weight was comforting, in a way. She turned to Erin and chanced a smile.

“At least we get sun today,” she said. Erin glanced over at her, her face unreadable. The corner of her mouth quirked, and she dipped her head in agreement.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yup. At least there’s that.”


She felt the gentle swish of her shirt in the path of approaching footfalls, but was still startled when she felt a hand on her back

“Naomi!” she signed. “Don’t sneak up!”

“Sorr-” Naomi started before catching herself.

“Sorry,” she signed. She pushed a stack of books out of the way with her foot and sat facing Zara. “I thought you had your hearing aids.”

Zara pushed her hair back to show her the buds in her ears.

“Turned them off,” she signed. “People never respect the silence of a library and I am beside myself trying to get shit together for my thesis.


Not going to lie; this might be my last year doing A-to-Z. I might take on some other monthly challenges, or seriously rethink how I handle this challenge, but I feel more and more — and I felt it a little bit last year, but hooo boy, is it full force this year — I feel more and more that it’s actually hindering my creativity more than helping me.

Actually, no; let me rephrase. I’m actually happy with what it’s doing for my creativity, because I was running out of ideas and also because I tend to stick with very similarly themed and similarly composed drawings, so this has been good in helping my generate scenes I normally wouldn’t consider drawing/painting. It’s hindering my productivity, because despite how rough the sketches are — and yeah, I know, they are rapidly degenerating before our eyes — it takes time and effort to conceptualize what I want to do for the sketch and what the story behind it is.

I already have a few front runners for what I might want to work on next month — and that’s exciting! — but I’m not getting much else done right now, and while I was a-ok with that at the start of the month, I’m regretting it a little now.

Because I hadn’t banked on the fact that, hey — ideas generate naturally, as well. They develop organically.

I have non-A-to-Z art ideas now, but I really can’t devote the time and energy to them that I’d like to, because I have to shift gears and conceptualize something new every day.

Next month when I’m not on a timeline, I can work on multiple projects at once and can easily do some of my own ideas alongside those generated by A-to-Z, but right now, my fingers are just itchy, man, ya know?

Hope all is going well for all other participants. Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Potential/Pick/Pier

He sat on the dock and caught his breath; off in the distance, he could see the silhouette of a solitary fisherman out on a dinghie. He was an impossibly small shadow against the setting sun, and Denny considered, briefly, if he could chance a quick binder break. He looked around surreptitiously, fingers worrying the bottom edge of his binder before thinking better of it. He breathed in, as deeply as he could, , slicked his wet hair back, and stretched his back until it cracked. Just a few weeks until top surgery. Just a few weeks more until swim team tryouts. He could keep it under wraps (literally and figuratively, he mused) until then. He was sure he’d be a top pick. He was abso-fucking-lutely sure of it.

It would be so good — so so fucking good — to breathe easy for once.


Just a quick one tonight. Support trans athletes and support trans inclusion in sports.

Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Nun/Name/Needle; Outside/Offensive/Oven

I will be honest; I’ve not got the energy to write out the vignette for the first of these, but the second of these has no vignette attached to it at all. There was no story or scenario in my head for the second one; the words generated, and automatically I thought about a couple of days last week, where the temperature far exceeded what we were expecting and we were sorely unprepared for it.

The first one was a little bit drawn from vague memories of my own Catholic schooling, but also somewhat inspired by a scene in The House on Mango Street. I imagine a young girl — disheveled, embarrassed — wearing shoddy, falling-apart clothing to school and being made fun of my her peers. One of the sisters sits with her in the classroom while the other kids are at recess, offering comfort and mending some of the more egregious rips and tears in her clothing. I like the idea of the scene quite a bit. I feel like I’ve said that about a fair few — which is not a bad thing! I would rather an excess of project ideas rather than a dearth — so I’m not going to say this is in the running just yet, but don’t be surprised if you see it again next month is all I’m saying.


I am on Spring Break! I spent yesterday and today getting my house in order so that I could throw myself into projects, both personal and creative, over the next seven days. I have activities to do with my son, I have four library books checked out on digital loan, I have three new podcasts I’m ready to check out, and I have two shiny art projects — not including the A-to-Z — that I’m working on. All in all, I’m incredibly glad for break.

In another bit of news that reminds me me both that I want to start writing new poetry again, but also that I need to bring over and archive my collection of sestinas (some of which are over a decade old at this point) — I was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize with a sestina a wrote bordering on ten years ago (holy shit) called “Noise.” I miss writing poetry, particularly sestinas (they’re like a little puzzle to me; it’s such a thrill and a joy, figuring out how to piece it all together), and that is definitely something I should make room in my life for this summer.

I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and am eager to have a productive and relaxing break. Hope you all, whether you are working or not, have a lovely week.

Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Mother/Misery/Mass

I don’t have a vignette written for this one; I just wanted a young mother-to-be coming in off the streets, out of a bad situation. It’s been raining, and her hair and clothing is plastered to her skin; she sits in the final row of pews to be less obtrusive, but the church isn’t currently holding mass. There are a few people scattered here and there, kneeling in prayer and rising only to light a devotional candle before they leave.

Can people even do that anymore? The churches in my city used to be perpetually unlocked, open to anyone who wanted to come in at any time. I’m pretty sure they lock the doors now, when not in active use. It’s still an image I love, though, and one — now that I think about it — I’ve used before, ages ago, in a NaNoWriMo novel that I lost after the laptop I’d saved it on was stolen (note: back up your work, kids!) I’m not a religious person by any stretch or by any means, but I grew up immersed in a lot of Catholic “stuff” and for every religious “trauma,” I also have a good or pleasant nostalgic memory — I spent a lot of spring feast days and special occassions in grammar school in church for the morning session, and celebrating in the afternoon. As much as I don’t miss the religion, I miss some of the rituals, and some of the memories of my youth.


I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for days, and maybe the reason it’s coming to a head today is because I finally got my period, or maybe because this is the first day I feel like I can really breathe a little bit — my parents and brother got the first dose of the vaccine today, and it was the last day of work before April break. I feel like a lot of pent up tension is released today, but the result of that is this weird emotional let down — like I’ve been holding myself together with duct tape and safety pins and now that everything is done, that whole scaffolding is just crumbling.

So I will have to catch up on A-to-Z tomorrow and Sunday. That’s fine. I also have chores tomorrow, but I got a hell of a lot down yesterday and today and I am trying extremely hard to give myself the due credit for my progress instead of berating myself for not having completely finished.

And I think I’m going to kick off the first night of Spring Break with some mindless YouTubing, a chat with my mom, some Annie’s Organic Peanut Butter Snack Bars, and our new Rosé All Day candle.

Cheers to you all. Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Kissable/Kilowatt/Knots, Letter/Lineage/Lines

The latch clicked, the sound of drunken giggles moving away from the closet until they were in silence. Julie dared a glance at Peter, whose eyes were locked incredulously on the doorknob. He reached out half-heartedly.

“There’s no way they didn’t lock the door, is there?” he murmured. He turned the knob slowly.

“Yeah,” he said. He wiped his hand on his shorts. “Ok.”

He chanced a look at Julie. His lips quirked in a nervous smile.

“Guess the next question is,” he said slowly. “Do you think they’re sober enough to remember to let us out?”

“I don’t think sobriety has much to do with it,” Julie sighed, biting her lip. “This kind of thing is pretty on brand for Amber.”

“What, forcing people to play high school make-out games?”

“No, like, literally locking people in closets and leaving them.”

His eyes widened. She smirked.

He smiled.

“Oh,” he sighed. “Ok, you were joking.”

“No, there is every chance that Amber’s just gonna leave us here,” she said. She shifted her back against the wall, dislodging the handle of a broom from the tender space between her shoulder blades. “Ask Chrissie about the Halloween party in 2018. She’s got stories.”

He shook his head, quiet for a moment.

“At least we’re not alone.”

She laughed. “Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

He was watching her, his eyes a dark honey color in the slats of golden light filtering through the closet door. She felt her face grow warm.

“So,” he said quietly. “Do we break down the door?”

“Maybe,” she said thoughtfully. She felt his hand brush her waist, and her stomach twisted in anticipation. “But maybe… maybe not right away.”

“Yeah,” he whispered. “Let’s keep that on in our back pocket.”


It had never been expressly forbidden from her, the attic; she’d caught glimpses beyond her mother’s shoulder as she’d come down with ancestral china for the holidays, the dusty rafts and golden slant of light catching her eyes just before Mother would pull the heavy door shut behind her.

As a child, whenever she’d asked any question about her family, inevitably it would lead to lavish stories of family who could do amazing things; world-class fencers, dancers, famous accordion players. If her father were in a good mood, or had had a particularly robust wine with dinner those stories would lead to some treasure or another being hauled down from the attic as proof; gleaming rapiers, wooden clogs engraved with tulips and windmills, scuffed up concertinas with thin-worn bellows.

So when Kira asked about her aunt, a vivacious and striking woman who she only remember in hazy memories of childhood summers, she had expected a grand story, and her mother touting an armful of memorobilia down the narrow stairs.

Instead, her mother went silent. She glanced over at Kira’s father, worrying her lip. Her father stared into the fire and said nothing.

“Aunt Marigold,” she had said again, slightly louder, thinking perhaps they hadn’t heard. “You remember? She used to bring me cherry cordials–“

“She disappeared,” her father said, and startled, obviously louder than even her had intended. Kira braced herself against the wall. Her father took a deep breath and picked up his paper, an unquestionably dismissive gesture.

“Went gallivanting off in search of her fortune years ago. You were still a child.” He stared at his paper, his eyes unmoving.

“We haven’t heard from her since,” he finished. Kira looked to her mother, who was idly clacking her knitting needles together. She chose to say no more.

That night, when she was certain her parents were asleep, she opened the attic door herself for the first time.


Day….Twelve?? I’m not fond of either vignette, but I’m kind of in love with the sketch idea I had for the second of the two. Another opportunity to play with transparency and glow effects.

I am exhausted tonight, so I’m going to go take a shower and head to bed to read.

Stay safe and sane, all.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Jemidar/Jamboree/Jive

I have no accompanying vignette for this one, at least not at the moment; this one stumped me, honestly. I had generated a couple of sets for J that just yielded nothing. Like, I generated most of these prompt clusters a few weeks ago and most of them weren’t a ton of work. J just tripped me up, though.

When this list generated, I had to look up jemidar, which apparently is “The chief or leader of a band or body of persons; esp., in the native army of India, an officer of a rank corresponding to that of lieutenant in the English army.” That definition was a little too niche for me (and military culture of any strip really ain’t my bag). so I sort of took it to just mean a leader. From there, I sort of conceptualized a group of girls — dancers, maybe — who are sort of the top tier at a local burlesque club. I just started very generally contemplating a particularly wild weekend — after hours at a burlesque expo, or after a show at a particularly raucius festival — and thinking of all manner of trouble they could get up to.

I’m not in love with the idea, but it did get me thinking about how much I miss burlesque — both attending performances and taking classes — and was a nice little reminiscence, which was nice.


Day Ten! My wife is off tomorrow to go get her Covid vax, woo hoo! She’s getting the Janssen vax, which I’ve heard can pack a punch, so I imagine she will be utterly unbearable, ha ha. But she was patient with me post-vaxx, so I will endeavor to be patient with her.

In other nearly as exciting news, I got an art gig offer today! Details still to be worked out, because she’s still doing logistics and budgeting, but a photographer friends wants me to paint a graffiti-style backdrop mural for her photography studio. I am beyond excited. See, these are the moments where I’m like, yes, taking just one more summer off was the right call. Now I have time to do things like this.

Four days until Spring Break.

Stay safe and sane everyone.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.