A-to-Z Challenge: Hostage/Heaven/Harvest, and Insect/Idea/Imagination

“You’re familiar with the arrangement, I assume?” The voice was all-encompassing, enveloping every sense; she could some how feel it reverberate in her teeth, could feel it rattling her eyes, yet she felt no pain. It simply was. Everywhere.

“Obviously,” she said, keeping her voice low. A young couple passed, leaning into each other, hands deep in their pockets against the cold. She kept herself tight against the cold brick of the building, still unsure if people could see her or not. Somewho, she sensed Death smiling, not unkindly, but not without a sense of wry irony, either.

“It’s like the quintessential ‘strike a deal with Death’ trope,” she continued. “Right? I’m assuming I’m going to be expected to–“

“Reap,” he said. The voice was no less omnipresent, but there was a softness to it, now. “Yes. There may be some fine details I need to fill you in on, but you’ve clearly got the gist. Good. That will save time.”

She followed the young couple down the alley with her eyes, watched as they stopped at the far end for the young man to take out his phone as they huddled together to check something on the screen; a roster of movies playing at the local cinema. She thought about James, then; James, who had driven that road a thousand times, James who always knew his limits, James who had reassured her he was the more sober of the two of them. He probably had been, too; that was the sad thing.

She swallowed.

“How will I know when–“

A heavy hand came down on her shoulder. She gasped, instinctively reaching for it, and touched only her own flesh.

“You have eyes, don’t you?”

She blinked.

“Counters,” she sighed, watching the numbers above the young couple ticking down, but still a long ways off, thankfully. “God, how abhorrently cliched.”

Death shrugged. “It’s not on us to be creative. We only need to be efficient.”


“Fifteen years of studying genetics, chemistry, engineering,” Tennyson rattled off, pinching the bridge of his nose, “and this is how you choose to spend your talents.”

Avriel raked his fingers fondly through the setae along the creature’s unnatural large thorax, like an equestrian stroking a favored steed. The creatures wing flitted, stirring the air and whipping the long coats against the young mens’ legs.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said airily. Tennyson glared at him.

Dragon-powered,” he hissed. “Dragon. Which, granted, I thought was utterly insane, but this, against all odds, is somehow even worse. This is not what they are going to be expecting. Were you intending this as a joke? Because I know my father, and he is not going to think it’s funny.”

“Your father,” Avriel said calmly, bundling together thick cables and anchoring them to a set of carabiners, :is interested in novelty. ‘A whole new way to fly,’ he said. Balloons, dirigibles, gliders; done, dull, dreary. So I made a suggestion.”

“It may have been… impertinent,” he admited. Tennyson huffed an exasperated laugh. Avriel held up an admonishing finger.

“I spoke arrogantly,” he said. “I admit that. Got swept up in the challenge, and really, who could blame me? What would be more novel, more exciting, than dragon-lead flight?”

“It turns out,” Avriel sighed, giving the carabiners a final tug as he attatched them firmly to the gondola and gingerly tugging off his gloves, “dragons are not the easiest creatures to tame.”

The leather gloves came off agonizingly slow, Avriel mouth set in a stoic line as he slowly flexed his hands. The skin red and raw, unnatural shiny. Tennyson lurched forward instinctively, one hand jumping to his mouth.

“For the love of God, Avriel,” Tennyson breathed. His voice was soft. “What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t,” he admitted. “I just…so wanted to impress your father.”

Tennyson smiled, though there was little humor in it.

“But dragonflies,” Avriel continued, eyes glinting. “I could work with.”

“But this,” Tennyson gestured to the monstrous creature, tethered to the rafters of the workshop. “This is…”

“A whole new way to fly,” Avriel said simply. He smiled, gesturing to the gondola, and the lush cushions lining the spacious basket.

“Care to test it out?”


Day… Nine? Oh my God, Jess, it’s just counting. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I…. yeah, nine, okay. Ugh.

I am actually very happy with both of these concepts and both vignettes — the sketches themselves (as the Insta caption says) is edging more and more towards the “sketchy” side as the month goes on, and my instinct is both to rebel against it (“Come on, you can draw better than that!”) and to lean into it (“Why waste time with unnecessary details when you are going to do a whole-ass redraw of everything next month?”)

I wrote some notes to myself on the drawings, rather than try to visually convey some details that wouldn’t really be possible to convey in a pencil sketch, i.e., partial transperency, luminescence, etc. — things that will only really come to life once I start digitally painting it, so again, why waste time? Conceptualize it, make note or it, move on.

In other news, I have now generated words up through “S,” so now all I have to do is try to keep up with the sketches.

Hope your challenges are all going well! I went around and visited a couple of other A-to-Zers during downtime at work, and hope to do the same thing thing this week, between consults.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.


Nine days in, and I’ve only now thought of adding the explanation for what, exactly, I’m doing as a footnote instead of shoehorning it into the entry. Sigh.

This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then crafta 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: Generate/Grenade/Gun

I didn’t write a vignette for this one yet, nor is my brain cooperating to write one now (I’m halfway through my second glass of wine, and it was a day that warranted a two-glass-of-wine night, so there you go), but some of the inspiration that words lent was something along the lines of: someone being shot, and the ramifications thereof. Each bullet generates a series of distinct possibilities even before the bullet emerges from the victim’s body — there’s a world where they die, a world where they suffer permanent injury, a world where the bullet narrowly misses a major organ, a world where it barely grazes their arm — and it generates paths and possibilities for their assailant, as well. Will they be haunted for the rest of their life, will they be vindicated, will they repent and seek forgiveness, will they walk away scott free, will they spend the rest of their life behind bars, etc.

I liked that I conceived of this is a slightly more abstract way; I made a few short notes to myself, but I would like to see the moment from two perspectives, the silhouette of the victim getting hit with the bullet, and the bullet itself, barreling through, generating a galaxy of possibility in it’s wake.

Again, to refresh: This month I am generating three words a day using a random word generator, and creating a rough sketch and short prose vignette based off of the words. My five favorite will be turned into fully-fleshed out digital paintings and short stories in May (and likely beyond).


Anyway, Day Seven, woo! One whole week of A-to-Z. In the interim, I’ve been slowly working — off and on — on a digital piece, and I’ve been applying to some zines as interesting ones are popping up via Twitter. Most of my energy has been going towards work– as in, my day job — trying to keep my head above water with regards to chores (failing that pretty hard-core right now) and making some tentative plans with people now that my sister, brother, mom, dad, and wife are all or will all be vaxxed by next Friday! I am beside myself ecstatic. We still have to be careful, because we all have young kids who can’t get vaxxed yet, but as long as no one is taking the kids gallavanting all over town and all the adults are vaxxed and continue to observe safety measures (masks, distance) in crowds, it will be nice to get Bear some socialization again. He is sorely lacking for it, and his behaviors have been skyrocketing again.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Tomorrow is Friday, and I am thrilled. One more week until Spring Break (which will be spent mostly at home with my newly vaxxed wife (ahhh!!), but I may take a day to induleg myself at my parents house so my mom, brother and I can catch up on the frankly embarrassing backlog of Hunt-a-Killer boxes).

Cheers. Stay safe and sane, all.

A-to-Z Challenge: Fox/Fire/Fashionable

No one seemed to know who she was, if the furrowed brows, and the ill-hidden whispers were any indication. Certainly, in theory, that was part of the point of a masquerade, in theory; mystery, anonymity. But in plain reality, a birthmark, a throaty laugh, the twist of a lip in a familiar smile, the cadence of speech — there was littler mystery as to who anyone behind the paper and silk masks were. David had greeted many of the guests by name, wrapped his arms around them in a familiar embrace.

But she… she was different.

“So, how do you know the host?” he asked, sipping his wine when he turned to the table they were sharing. She tipped her head to the side, observed him from below the frames of her red and golf-foil mask.

“Intimately,” she said, a smile twisting the corner of her lips.

He choked. She laughed.

“Sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t resist. But honestly, it’s a long story, and not nearly as interesting as you’d like.”

“Oh? How would you know what I like?”

Her eyes flashed, gold and luminescent in the dim light.

“I have some idea,” she said. The curl of her lip revealed a glint of teeth, ivory white and unnaturally sharp.

He swallowed. She held out a hand, slender-fingered and elegant. Her nails shone crimson and gold like her mask, sharpened to a fine point.

“Come with me and we can see if I’m right,” she said.


Day Six, and one day behind — again. I know, I know, this is a repeat of every year. My brain isn’t working so good right now, guys. I’m in a slump — partly hormone-fueled, I’d wager — and having a hard time getting out. Still, every little step forward is a win. And however unsatisfied I am with any given entry (see the Insta caption for that), I have to keep in mind that it’s all supposed to be conceptual this month. I’m only putting together blueprints in April. Final products will be assembled in May.

That being said, the prose piece here was fully stream of consciousness, and written directly in the text editor as I was assembling this entry, and I’ll be honest — I’m pretty proud of this little bit of writing. It’s been ages since I’ve written anything — let alone prose — but I have been uncharacteristically happy with how the writing for this month has gone so far.

Anyway, in an attempt to get myself out of my mental slump, I think moving around and perhaps some chores are in order, so I will be doing that soon after I hit publish.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

A-to-Z Challenge: Early/Encouraging/Earthy

It had started with a solitary air plant, the wispy, spidery fronds reaching out towards her like lazy fingers to run along her cheeks unexpectedly as she glanced past to retrieve her keys or her backpack. An unobtrusive little bromeliad, hanging in a homespun macramé pot holder, just above her desk. She thought little of it, though she would find herself idly paging through her notebooks on rainy mornings, before sunrise, her fingers carding through the overgrown leaves as they would through a lover’s hair.

After that it was small clipping left over from store bought herbs; sprigs of rosemary carelessly potted just to see what would spring up, small pewter pots of mint and basil perched on the windowsill overlooking the campus quad. Then, slowly, succulents, robust little creatures that could withstand the days of neglect when exams were in full swing, or the stretches of scatter-brained insomnia when she was assembling the final pieces for her portfolio.

She had barely noticed how far gone she was until Jackie came by one night near the end of term. She looked around, mouth slightly agape, pushing through the wayward striped fronds of a spider plant to enter the living room proper. Callie busied herself with pouring coffee as Jackie slid a collection of old ceramic mugs packed with sprigs of chamomile and sage to make room for herself on the kitchen bench. She sat gingerly, eyes roving around the greenery encroaching on far more of the apartment than Callie seemed aware of.

“So…” she started slowly. “Is this some… like… hedge witchery thing?”

“Some… wait, what?” Callie said, placing a mug of coffee before both of them. She pushed a succulent, it’s fleshy leaves purple tinged, tot he edge of the table to make room. “What do you mean? Hedge witchery??”

“Well,” Jackie said meaningfully, gesturing. “I mean… come on.”

“I literally have no idea what you’re talking about,” Callie said honestly. She took a long sip of her coffee, tucking her feet up under her.

“But… I’m intrigued,” she said, reaching out to run her fingertips over the soft edges of a plush plant. “Tell me more.”


Day Five! That write up with literally stream-of-conciousness, though I had the idea for the sketch — or at the very least, wanting to do something with a lot of plants and greenery — since I generated the words, about two weeks ago. I’m not one hundred percent sold on this exact sketch — I think I’d like something with her more “among” the plants, with more a sense of her surroundings and how encroaching the greenery is on the totality of her space — but I like the idea.

Also, it’s really hard not to over-think the sketches and be like, “no, that’s not nearly good enough! I’m not a top-tier artist but I have standards1” I have to be like, “Bitch, chill, it’s literally a sketch, if you even pick this one it’s going to be redrawn completely in May! It does not have to be perfect!”

That being said, onward and upwards. I was definitely in a better place mentally today than I was yesterday, though I am still not at 100%, but I have high hopes for tomorrow and beyond.

As always, stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Day/Dismissal/Direct

Today was a poor mental health day for me; I didn’t sleep much, and everything seemed overwhelming and oppressive. I managed to do a very, very rough sketch, but I didn’t write a vignette to go along with it. However, the prompts — day, dismissal, direct — have very strong sense memories for me, and the scene I sketched resonates with me quite a bit.

When I was in high school, my school building was, for all intents and purposes, on a riverbank. We were not directly on the banks of the river, I guess, but when the river flooded — which was not uncommon in the spring — our school would have to close, because the parking lot would become unusable, many of the roads in and out would become dangerous to navigate, and some of the basement-level classrooms would flood. This would mean, mid-day sometimes, they’d have to call the day and send us home.

This was in the mid-90s, pre-cell phones, and our school had two office phones and one pay phone off the social studies hallway. The lines, as you can imagine, for a school of about a thousand students, were unbearable. So, for those of us who lived within walking distance, walking was often the less frustrating option.

My best friend and I would usually leave together, heading towards my house; now, while the girl in this sketch is wearing a uniform, that’s sort of a conflation of the experiences of my high school and middle school experiences. My high school had a massive strict dress code, but my middle school had a proper uniform. Given how badly the surrounding streets would flood, we would often be wading in Catholic school khakis and buttons downs through knee-deep water, squelching most of the way through the city, along the flooded park, back to slightly drier land and busier streets. The rule was, because our folks hated us walking home through that much and mess, that if we were to do it, we were to take the most direct route to the house, which was about a twenty, twenty-five minute walk.

So of course we routinely stopped at a bodega to grab snacks and pet their cats.

The bodega I remember the most was almost claustrophobically small. There were bins of tostones and bundles of sugarcane on the counter, shelves of Goya treats and soft drinks in the cooler by the door. The huge, tortoiseshell cat would lay on the understocked shelves, watching you out of his one good eye.

We’d stop on the stoop to unwrap gold foil packs of Maria cookies and pop open cans of tamarind soda and guanabana juice. By the time we got back on my house, our feet would be rubbed raw, the flood water staining our pants stiff.

Flood days are among my fondest memories from high school.

Day Four done! Onwards and upwards to Day Five. I think I have up through “K” planned, but this weekend I’ll have to buckle down and load up the random word generator again.

It’s getting later and I have felt exhausted all day. Stay safe and sane, guys.

A-to-Z Challenge: Boat/Beach/Business

“Hey,” Dara says, shouldering her cell phone as she dug her back foot deeper into the damp sand. “Make it quick, I’m wrist deep in salt water here.”

“Oh God, Dara,” Chris’s voice is choppy, the wind breaking against receiver like the waves again Dara’s feet; he must be on the road. On a call, on the road, with the top down — that sounded like him. Poor reception was an easy out if the conversation suddenly wasn’t going his way. Typical Chris.

“Dara, please tell me you aren’t still running that gross bootleg seafood racket,” he said. She could hear the sneer in his voice, which was rich, coming from someone who, up until two summers again, would be right next to her, holding the goddamn bucket. “I hope you have a good lawyer lined up, Dee, because eventually you are going to find yourself on the recieving end of some kind of food-safety lawsuit.

“Chris,” she sighed, tipping her bucket to let the tide wash in a particularly lazy crab, “I sell sea food out of the back of a hatchback. I’ve got a goddamn pressure cooker in the backseat and a Polar cooler full of condiments. If people can’t tell this is a caveat emptor situation, then that’s on their fucking heads, quite frankly. Tell me — If you were the guy who got sick eating steamed crabs out of a nineteen-year-old trunk, are you gonna fucking admit to it?”

Chris hummed.

“Fair point,” he admitted.


Day Two! Late on this one because Friday nights at my house are “family sleepover” nights; my son climbs into our bed, and we watched movies, play online games, and listen to the radio until Bear falls asleep. Since post-Bear’s bedtime is when I generally do my art, that didn’t happen last night.

Anyway, this one is fun; I like the idea of illustrating something more oriented in space, something that would require me to attempt an actual background, but by the same token, I feel like sand and water is going to be a bitch to draw. Anyway, to once again refresh what is happening, I am using a random word generator to some up with three words a day to inspire a sketch and a brief snippet/vignette. In May, post-challenge, I will choose my five favorites to expand into a full-fledged illustration and a longer, more thorough written story.

Going to post the “C” entry tomorrow, as a means of catching up, and be back on track for Monday.

Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Animal/Arrogant/Aid


That’s your father’s side,” her mother sighed. “Stubborn as an ox, and twice as thick.”
“And strong,” Amara countered. She raised her chin, her head bobbing slightly as Aldwyn adjusted his balance. “Strong, and resilient. Unmoving. There are worse creatures to be compared to.”
Aldwyn cawed; Amara heard her mother drawn in a startled breath. She grinned.
“Adwyn agrees with me,” she said.

We could get you a nurse–“
“I don’t need a nurse,” she sneered. “I don’t need a nanny, or a caretaker, I don’t need fussing about at all hours of the day. I need eyes, for God’s sake. Find me a nurse with better eyes than Aldwyn. Then we can have this conversation.”


Day One! Always exciting to start a new challenge. Let me lay out the parameters again; I’m using a random word generator to generate three words to inspire a rough sketch and a few sentence of a story. The goal for April is idea generation; I will spend May fleshing out my five favorites.

Today was A, and the words were animal, arrogant, and aid. Here we have a young noble named Amara and her faithful, literally eagle-eyed companion, Aldwyn. Amara is blind and quite effectively uses Aldwyn as a service animal, though her mother is not fond of the arrangement.

I find the premise fun and intriguing, though I don’t know if this will be one of the piece I continue in May. I’ve had very mixed experiences illustrating birds, but we’ll see.

On to the next! Stay safe and sane. I’ll be starting my blog hopping tomorrow.

Blogging A-to-Z Theme Reveal

A few years ago, challenge months were the only times I’d really get any creative work done.

If nothing else positive has come out of 2020, at the very least, that has been a refreshing change in my life.

I work on art and creative projects regularly now. Not all the time, maybe not even as much as a could or should, but — Jesus — a hell of a lot more than I used to. Challenge months are no longer the one time of year I can be guaranteed to be creative — in fact, in the past twelve months, trying to push myself too hard with monthly challenges was actually kind of deterimental.

Trying to cram two challenges into last April (A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo) not only yielded less than satisfying results (with a couple of exceptions; I was pretty happy with a few of the drawings I did, and a couple of the poems) but burnt me out and had my throwing in the towel in 20 days. The year before I did both of those and tried to do Camp NaNoWriMo as well, and that was just a trainwreck; the fanfic that I planned on working on for Camp, and which I had been plugging away at happily, off and on, for weeks before that, totally stalled out when the pressure was on.

So this year, a low-key task. Now that I’m a lot more regularly creative, I don’t need to cram all of my “making” into April. I can use April for drafting, sketching, outline, idea generation.

So, my April Blogging A-to-Z challenge theme is… creative vignettes.

I plan on using a random word generator to generate three random words beginning with the letter of the day. I’ll then creat a rough concept, a rough sketch, and a brief, few sentence long back-story/narrative to go with the piece — my five favorite to be fleshed out in May and beyond.

I am actually super excited about this idea. I’m not commiting to finishing anything during April, sacrificing quality for speed, but I am commiting to coming up with new ideas that I can play with at my leisure — which works for me for all the nights that I sit around lamenting the physical urge to doodle but with no actual idea for what to work on. It happens less often these days, but it’s still nice to have some ideas at hand for when the mood strikes.

I’m super looking forward to reading what other people are writing or creating for the coming month. I am going to try to be better about engaging with other blogs in general, and there’s no better time than April to do it.

I will be uploading the sketches to my art Instagram, and while I will also be embedding them here, I still welcome new followers. I post a lot of unfinished and in progress sketches as I go.

Happy blogging (well, I guess happy prepping, at this stage). Stay safe and sane.

Throwing in the Towel (NaPoWriMo/A-to-Z)

Ah, I hate to do it.  But I think it’s for the best.

I am proud to have made it to April 20th; given the momentous shift my life (our lives) has taken in the last month and a half, I am incredibly and sincerely proud of anyone who has continued to create, especially for themselves, for the sheer purpose of creating, and I include myself in that; I’ve not produced the greatest work of my life during the past twenty days, but I’ve created something every day, and I have a lot of raw material to work and rework and build off of.

All this to say, I’m dropping both challenges, both A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo.

I’m planning on continuing drawing, painting, and writing, but I’ve opted to also take on several other projects that, with the addition of parenting/homeschooling and maintaining a household, is making the challenges a burden rather than a fun creative exercise.  I still have several ideas I’d brainstormed for upcoming songs (from A-to-Z) that I want to follow through with — it just won’t be on the work-a-day schedule.

Good luck to those still seeing this through, and I wish you all a successful final ten days.

 

NaPoWriMo: Day 19

Left Behind

The night after the funeral, I walked
Still naked and damp from the shower
Through the hallways of my house.

I lingered in the doorways like a ghost,
Shadows settling like dust in the corners
And crevices of each room.

I moved through darkened rooms by touch,
Trailing my fingers along planes and angles,
The familiar geometry of my life,

Stopping to trace the curves
of my mother’s mantel clock,
The strange organic prickle of succulents,

The skin-soft leather of our old loveseat
Where she sat, heartbeat-warm, alive,
Less than a week ago;

The sweet peach note of her perfume
Lingers like a sharp exhale
Every time I fluff the pillows.

My fingers twitch instinctively
Against the cool ivory keys of the piano,
Striking one lingering, discordant note.

It’s strange how much the same
This world remains, I think,
Without her in it.

Her fingerprints still mark the edge
Of the glass-topped coffee table;
Her slippers tucked under her chair.

These are the remnants of a life,
This is what we leave behind. I wander,
A ghost. An orphan in my own home.


Prompt Day Nineteen:  Based loosely on the idea given by the prompt of a “walking archive.”