Daily Thoughts

Self-portrait of the author Good afternoon! I’m writing this at the Elma Timberland Library, where I’ve had the opportunity to spend the morning. After lunch, I’ll head down the road to the McCleary Timberland Library for the afternoon. How great is that? I get to spend the day working in libraries. I’m pretty lucky.

Writing

Cover art for the Successful Author MindsetI’m reading Joanna Penn’s The Successful Author Mindset (one of several books I’m reading). It dawned on me today that I have an opportunity to write while I’m on winter break from school. There’s a whole lot of other things I want to do too—but I will find some time to write. I haven’t written very much fiction since going back to school. It’d be good to get more written. I might work on more stories for Drive-By Stories, and/or maybe develop some ideas for another novel. I’m not going to attempt a novel right now, but I could get some things together.

Illustrations

I’d also like to spend time working on illustrations (and websites, coding, etc.). Obviously, my time isn’t unlimited. I have to pick what I’m going to spend time on. I want to spend time with family, too, and there are some movies I want to see during this break.

Drawing and painting, though, that’s a big one. I’d like to work on some fundamentals and practice. It’d be nice to work on developing a regular practice. With the massive reboot planned, I intend to reissue all of my existing books. That includes those currently available and those that aren’t up, originally released under pen names, and several as-yet-unreleased novels. For each of those, I want to do new illustrations, covers, and for some at least, interior art as well.

I’m not Frank Frazetta, Matt Dixon, or Michael Whelan. I have a long way to go still, but I don’t plan to let that hold me back. I want to take my publishing efforts to the next level with this reboot and part of that is creating original cover art. Why? Because I enjoy it. Because I want to improve in that area (along with design and other elements).

Publishing

I mentioned rebooting publishing. When I buy books by my favorite authors, I try to get hardcover books. I enjoy having those books on my shelf. I’m fond of print. I read a lot of e-books, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I sometimes buy the same book in multiple formats. Still, I enjoy collecting nice hardcover editions by my favorite authors. Some authors, I have books in mass market paperback, hardcover, and e-book.

With my reboot effort, I plan to release hardcover books. I plan to do the best job I can with them. And as I move forward, I intend to keep doing hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are fine, but I want hardcover books. I’ve experimented with a few books in hardcover (Full Moon Nights came out in a limited hardcover). I’ve learned more since then, and plan to continue learning. So, as best as I’m able, I want to release the sort of books that I want.

Of course, I’ll also do new e-book releases.

Trying New Things

I love learning new things. For me, that’s the strength of self-publishing. I’d describe indie publishing a bit differently. An indie publisher hires people to do the work for them. A writer/indie publisher might hire someone to do the layout and design, the cover art, and various editing jobs. Some of it, they may do themselves. Nothing wrong with any of that. Many things work that way.

A self-publisher may or may not hire people to help them. There’s no clear dividing line, more of a gradient. I see self-publishing as an opportunity to learn and try new things. On the gradient from self-publisher to indie-publisher are many different variations. The more an individual does themselves, the closer it pushes them into the self-publishing spectrum.

Quality?

I give my best with whatever I do, as much as I’m able. Does that mean I’m going to be ‘as good as’ [fill in the blank] at whatever you care about? I don’t know. I hope to be the best I can.

That said, I don’t think there is an absolute metric of quality when it comes to art (any art). I love books other people might hate. I look at Bob Eggleton’s skulls on Brian Lumley’s Necroscope books and damn if they don’t stick with me! I remember eyeing those books several times before I gave in and picked them up. As much as I love those covers, I doubt it’s going to be to everyone’s taste.

People judge everything. That doesn’t mean that their taste is universal. When it comes to artistic expression there is only one thing I think is important: expression.

I think there is tremendous value in individual artistic expression. All ambitions aside, I think it is fantastic that some people express themselves. I think supporting that is important. I think it makes a difference when people have opportunities to express themselves.

Friends, web reviews, librarians, publishers, reviewers, and critics—these are all filters to help us identify expressions that we might enjoy. With so much individual expression out there, it can be helpful to have tools to find what we’ll enjoy.

I enjoy creating my own individual expressions. I appreciate the support and interest when someone picks up one of my books. I hope they enjoy them. And I’m looking forward to creating more!

 

Daily Thoughts

Author showing book Pulp CultureDark chocolate covered blueberries taste fantastic. So do dark chocolate covered banana chips. Or apricots. I have to be careful or I’ll just sit and eat the entire bag! Still, it’s a nice treat to have sometimes and I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy such things.

Pulps!

Cover art for Pulp CultureI checked out a book from my library Pulp Culture: the art of fiction magazines by Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson. It’s a great overview of the different sorts of pulp magazines and reproduces many examples of the fantastic cover art. 

The cover art on the hardcover 1998 edition I checked out doesn’t match the cover shown here (or in the library catalog).

This book is definitely going on my wishlist. I plan to study pulp art as time allows while working on my MLIS, and definitely after I finish. I want Drive-By Stories to have artwork inspired by the pulps and I can imagine some influences coming into some of my other work.

Finals!

Last few days of finals. I have an exam due on Friday, a research proposal due on Sunday, and another final report and project demo due on Monday (includes some of the data visualizations I’ve shared).

 

Plenty of Variety

Hard at work on creative projects (dictating to the computer).

Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls it popcorn kittens. Others might say that I have difficulty paying attention. I often find myself thinking, “Ooh, shiny!”

There are just so many things that I want to do. Stories to write, pictures to draw and paint, and so much more! What follows is a short list of some of the projects on my plate right now, that doesn’t include things I’m doing for work or school that might be creative.

Drive-By Stories

Drive-By Stories is up. It’ll never be complete. I expect the site will continue to develop and evolve as time allows. Still, the basic functionality is in place. When you visit the site it displays a random piece of flash fiction that I’ve written during my commute.

Things still to do:

  • Create a theme for the site.
  • Add cover illustrations (which will be randomly selected like the stories).
  • Write more stories.
  • When I hit 50 stories, publish first collection.

Illustrations

I want to work on illustrations. Not only for Drive-By Stories, but for all of my books and other projects. I’m continuing to work on my studies and practice, though with library school and work I don’t have as much time as I would like to continue working on it.

New Stories and Novels

I’d really like to get more longer stories and novels written. I want to return to series like Moreau Society and Goblin Alley, write the next book in the Land Lubbers series and release the first trilogy, and work on other series that I have notes and ideas for but haven’t had time to pursue.

Other Projects

I have some other projects too, that I’d like to do, as soon as time allows. That includes projects that are simply an idea phase as well as projects like new websites and new additions of my novels. In the weeks ahead I’ll share more details about each of these projects, my progress and challenges faced.

What About You?

What are you working on? Do you find yourself pulled in multiple directions?

Weekly Activity: The Spring Break That Wasn’t

I didn’t really notice spring break last week.

Weekly Story

Last week’s free weekly story involved a chicken detective in Hidden Nests. Tomorrow I’ll share Candles’ Bridge, a science fiction tale.

Creations

I continued my drawing practice this week, still working on the picture I shared last week. I’m working on that five days out of the week, then taking two days off.

Library

I enjoyed a busy week at the library with interviews, various meetings and catching up on tasks. I didn’t make it out to a library because I had jury summons (reported, didn’t get to serve) and didn’t want to schedule time in a library that I might have to cancel. I’m out at two libraries this week, though, so that’ll be nice.

As far as library studies it was spring break last week! I didn’t notice, remaining busy working on various assignments, readings, papers, etc. Fun stuff, interesting stuff, just wasn’t really a break. I find that I’m adding more and more books to my never-shrinking stack as classes lead me to want to learn so much more than we have time to study in class. It also prompted me to update my LibraryThing catalog. I’d like to be more consistent about tracking what I’m reading. I also added a widget which shows the more recent additions. I have seven books right now that I’ve been reading.

This Week

I anticipate another week of drawing, working at the library and studying library science. As I draw closer to the end of the semester I have several large projects to work on so that’s going to be a large focus over the next few weeks. I may work on a few short short stories to use with Drive-By Stories when it launches, but it depends on available time and energy.

#20MinutesADay Challenge

Weekly Story

Earlier today I shared this week’s story: Proposal, a science fiction story about community and individuality.

Library Updates

Most of my time ends up involving the library in some way. I spend my days at the library and come home to study and work on my MLIS degree. This past week I’ve been working on a variety of things including:

  • An interlocal agreement.
  • Procedures and documentation.
  • Data and analytics.
  • Hiring new employees.
  • Training new employees.

I also had the opportunity to work out in the Lacey, Elma and McCleary Timberland Libraries, which was a lot of fun. At Lacey I overheard a family who had just received new library cards talking about how surprised they were at all of the things that the library had to offer, from computers to craft books and so much more. The father particularly sounded amazed at what the library offered. Since I was on the other side of the aisle shelving it was a great unprompted thing to hear.

As far as studies go I spent time working on web development, analyzing data and deciding what to do for my final semester projects for those classes, and reference questions. It was a good week!

Writing and Art: the #20MinutesADay Challenge

Today I started the #20MinutesADay Challenge from Michael Nobbs at Sustainably Creative. Michael is the author of Drawing Your Life, which was how I first discovered his work. All of the instruction, books and tutorials in the world won’t make me a better artist if I don’t actually draw anything. I’m using the challenge to develop the habit of drawing each day. I don’t have any particular projects that I’m drawing for right now—though I do sort of have Drive-By Stories in mind because there is artwork that I want to do for that project. Right now, however, I’m only focusing on the actual habit of drawing.

Speaking of Drive-By Stories, I completed two more stories this week for that project. One, “Emmett’s Epiphanies,” came in at 1,306 words; the other, “A Simple Misunderstanding,” ended up at 1,594 words. The former covers an entire lifetime and the latter is primarily a single incident. I’m enjoying these short stories, each written during my commute to the library and then redrafted to clean up the transcription. I started using Dragon’s autotranscription folder option so once I drop the recording into the folder it automatically transcribes it. When I check back later I have the transcribed version to work with.

Since my time is limited I’m not attempting at this point to write a new story on each commute. In a standard week I typically have ten opportunities (to/from work) to dictate a story. I plan to do 1-3 per week since I need time to redraft the stories from the transcription and I also have other demands on my time. I’m using other my commutes to listen to audiobooks checked out from the library, usually via Overdrive.

I have also managed to do a bit of coding for Drive-By Stories to lay out major sections. I’ll continue to develop it as time allows. I don’t plan on worrying about any specific launch plans. Maybe by the end of April? That’s probably optimistic with final projects and everything else coming up. I also have jury summons which might throw a kink in things and at the end of April I’m presenting at the WLA conference in Spokane.

Little Bits of Time

This made me happy today:

Weekly Story

Check back tomorrow for Garden of Evan, a castaway sort-of science fiction story, the 55th weekly short story. I’m continuing to post a story for free each week on the website so I hope you’ll check that out.

Library Updates

Yesterday I enjoyed a visit out to our Ocean Park Timberland Regional Library — a beautiful library on the Washington coast. Other library activities this week included helping folks in person and online, working on plans to issues all of the kids in one of the local school districts library cards, analyzing data, working on procedures and providing training.

Other than the work at the day job I’ve also spent time this past week working on data visualizations, reference questions and more web development. It’s been a busy week!

Writing and Art

I wrote a new story this week, Born Lucky and an early first draft version is available for Live Access members to download if you want to take a look at a story before it’s complete. I’ve sent the finished story off to a magazine editor.

Born Lucky also marks the start of a new project I’m developing, Drive-By Stories. Simply put: Drive-By Stories features new stories written during my commute to the day job. The first drafts at least, written using my digital voice recorder and then transcribing the recording with Dragon Professional. After it is transcribed I redraft the story with the transcription on one screen while I write the new draft on the other screen.

My rule for these stories? Write the first draft during my commute, beginning to end. That puts them at 750-2,000 words long. If the story demands more space I’ll continue it at other times but it won’t get included in Drive-By Stories.

Right now I’m planning to get stories written with a goal to soft launch Drive-By Stories in April.

I’m also joining Michael Nobbs’ #20MinutesADay Challenge, starting March 14th, to work on my drawing and painting practice.

Everything for a Chance

A young artist with big dreams, Brant Lloyd heads to the city after graduation, putting everything on the line for his dreams.

The Museum of Art, his teacher. The city, his inspiration. The girl, his future?

A story of unexpected meetings and dreams.

Brant Lloyd got off the train in the city with twenty dollars in his wallet and his most prized possession — his membership card to the Museum of Art. The orange backpack he carried held the rest of his belongings, a moleskin notebook, pencils, a change of underwear, a clean black t-shirt, eraser, pencil sharpener and a pre-paid Visa loaded with his summer savings — a grand total of $2,323.15.

At eighteen, he was undaunted. The city was his future. He felt it in his bones, had felt it since he first took a school field trip to the Museum of Art. There, in that massive edifice of marble, were paintings from around the world. Some very old, but others new. Paintings created by men and women by hand, not on a computer, but with real brushes and paints. It was a light bulb moment for Brant, when his doodles took on more importance, and a concrete reality. That’s what he wanted to do with his life, create works of art that people would still be talking about a century or more after he was gone.

Going to the local community college, the way his parents wanted, was unthinkable. He had to be in the city. They said they couldn’t afford to pay for him to live in the city. Fine, then he’d go on his own. He could make it work. He’d find ways to make money, and spend his days in the museum studying the work of the great artists.

Walking down the street, engulfed in the mass of humanity around him, Brant was happier than he’d ever been. He was doing it! He knew the way to the museum, he’d memorized the layout of the city before he had left home.

He imagined is mother finding the note he had left on the dining room table. She’d pick it up, seeing the ink and watercolor he’d done of a single rose on the front, with a smile. She wouldn’t really notice the petals that had fallen, not until she turned to the inside and saw the rest and his message.

Don’t be scared, he wrote. I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself now. I’ll write as often as I can.

Letters were cheaper than cell phones, and meant a lot more. He liked writing letters. He was the only one in his graduating class that could write cursive. Everyone else was too busy sending text messages, or emails.

He could have taken the subway but he wanted to save his money, make it last as long as possible. And why hurry? He got to see the city this way. All the masses of people, the sound of the traffic, car horns and sirens. He drank in the sights of the massive buildings rising overhead, but tried not to act too much like a tourist. He wanted to blend in, become invisible. His fingers itched to stop and draw everything he saw.

Instead he pressed on. He wanted to visit the museum first.

The main lobby echoed with the voices of everyone visiting the museum. Their voices soared up to the arched ceiling far above. Brant moved out of the main flow going in and out of the entrances.

His stomach was full of the hot dog he’d gotten from one of the carts outside. He gazed around the space and felt as if he had finally come home. It was here that he would develop his skills. He’d fill the pages of his sketch book during the day, studying. He’d roam the city to practice on portraits. Tourists would pay to have their portraits done. He could do landscapes in the park. Or images of the city overgrown and forgotten. The possibilities were endless.

He turned in place, drinking it all in, and then he saw her at the octagonal information desk in the middle of the space. She was young, his age or not much older. Her blond hair was straight, cut short, ending just above her neck. She was helping three older women, leaning over to point out information in a brochure. She wore two small pearl earrings and her fine features gave her an almost elfin look. She was dressed in a suit, complete with tie and vest.

His fingers itched for the pencil. He wanted to capture her right in that moment. He reached into his backpack, and pulled out his sketchbook and pencil. He flipped it open to a blank page and looked up.

Right at that moment she raised her eyes and met his. She smiled, a friendly, open expression, for only a moment, and then she returned her attention to the women she was helping.

Brant’s pencil danced across the page. He threw down lines, trying to capture the gestures of the scene at the desk. Loose, quick lines flowed across the page. He barely touched the three women, capturing their presence and hardly anything else. The desk was defined more by the blank space between the figures. He focused more on her delicate grace. The curves of how she stood.

“You’ve very good,” a man said behind him.

It startled him and a line shot off across the page. Brant took a deep breath, closed the sketch book and turned to face the speaker, smiling as he did. He didn’t want to be unfriendly to someone that had just complemented him.

The man was older, middle-aged maybe, and very well-dressed. His face was all planes and angles, sharp and clean-shaven. His hair was dark, but with gray liberally sprinkled throughout, thicker on the sides. Diamond cufflinks glittered on his wrist. He smiled.

“Sorry,” the man said. “I didn’t intend to startle you.”

“That’s okay,” Brant said.

The man’s eyes lifted, looking over Brant’s shoulder. “She’s lovely. I could imagine her portrait hanging on the very walls of this museum someday.”

It was uncomfortably close to his own dream. “I’m a long way from seeing that happen.”

“Maybe,” the man said. “I’ve lived a long time, and I’ve known many artists. Some of their work does grace these walls. Even in a sketch of a few seconds, I see potential in your work.”

Right. Brant eased back a step from the man. Whatever his agenda was, it was most likely not something that he could afford. “Thanks. I appreciate that, uh, I’ve got to go.”

Somewhere else, at least until this guy was gone.

“Of course,” the man said, apparently without taking offense. “There is always so much to be done.”

Brant nodded and turned away from the guy, and then wasn’t sure what to do next. He didn’t know where he wanted to go. Then he saw the old women moving away from the information desk.

He walked quickly across the space, weaving through the crowd, and reached the desk just before an Asian couple got to her. She smiled up at him. He smiled back, and noted that her name tag read, Kelci.

“Hi,” he said.

She smiled at him. “Hello. How may I help you today?”

“Do you lead tours?”

“No, I haven’t finished the program yet. I provide visitor services help. There is a tour scheduled in twenty minutes, if you’d like that?”

Brant grinned. “That’s okay. I think I’ll wander around. It’s okay if I sketch, right?”

She chuckled. “Yes. Pencil’s only, please, and respect other visitors by not blocking traffic. You’re an artist?”

“Yes.” It felt so good to say that! He took a breath. “At least that’s the plan. I just got to the city. I left home as soon as I got my membership card to the museum.”

“That’s great. The city is fantastic.”

More people were crowding around up to the desk. The other volunteers were all busy, and her eyes flicked to those behind him. She smiled, acknowledging them before looking back to him.

“Thank you,” he said. “I’m Brant Lloyd. I appreciate the help, Kelci.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled and leaned forward. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Brant knew he was grinning like an idiot and didn’t care. “Oh, I’m going to be here a lot.”

“Great.”

He nodded, raised a hand, and slipped back through the crowd away from the desk. People surged into the opening he had created. He reached a space that was a bit more clear and looked around for the man in the suit. Apparently the man was gone.

Brant breathed a little easier. The man’s obvious wealth, his comments about knowing artists that had their work displayed, it sounded like a line. Maybe it wasn’t. He didn’t know.

Besides, what did it matter. He looked back at the information desk and caught a glimpse of Kelci. Heart-pounding, he looked away. He couldn’t stay here, or pretty soon she’d think he was some sort of creepy stalker guy. The best thing to do was to do what he had planned to do, and go study and practice.

He turned in place and then stopped. The Egyptians! That’s where he’d start. There were lots of cool artifacts to sketch and he could do sketches of the crowds. He went that way, through the impressive entrance to that wing.

The Old Kingdom artifacts gave Brant many subjects to work from. He flipped the page of the sketchbook, on to his fifth of the day so far, and moved to the next statue.

A standing woman, carved of wood. He worked to catch the gestures of the piece. The flow of the lines. As his pencil slid across the page Kelci came to mind. She wasn’t built like this woman, didn’t much look like her at all, really. But it was Kelci he kept thinking of.

Brant stopped and rubbed his eyes. He was being ridiculous. So he had met someone attractive. That was nice, she was nice, but she was doing her job. Most likely, she was married, or at least dating someone. It was his first day in the city.

Besides, it was unimaginable that she was single. And even if she was, so what? He was homeless at this moment. The little bit of money he had saved would go fast if he didn’t make more. He certainly didn’t have enough money to take someone out on a date. If he started doing that, he’d burn through his funds very fast.

No, the best thing he could do right now was practice. And figure out which hostel he was going to stay at tonight. Tomorrow he was going to have to put himself on a schedule, balance studying in the museum with observation practice around the city, and doing portraits and sketches for tourists. He’d need the money. He had to find a place to rent, and it wasn’t likely to end up being on Fifth Avenue. It was more likely he’d have to find a place out of the city. That was okay. The trips back and forth would give him more time to observe, to sketch, to live! He didn’t need much space. Mostly just someplace safe to sleep at night, and keep his paints. He’d meet people.

Like Kelci.

Brant closed his eyes and tapped the pencil against the sketch book. Not like Kelci. She seemed great, but he was here to start his future. This was his chance.

“Hey!”

The voice was female, familiar and close by. Brant’s eyes snapped open and there was Kelci, standing just to the right of the statue. She was shorter than him, probably only an inch or two over five feet. Dainty. That was the word, and she was starting to give him a strange look, because he was staring now.

“Hi,” Brant said. “Hi. Sorry. Kelci. How’re you?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. Brant, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. That’s right.”

She pointed at his sketch book. “May I?”

His throat was dry. He needed to find a water fountain or something. He handed the book over without saying anything.

She flipped it open, and of course the first page she landed on was the quick gesture sketch he was doing of her in the lobby, but she grinned. She turned to the next page, lingered, and then the next, both sketches of artifacts in this wing.

She looked at her watch, a thin gold band around her wrist. “These are great, really. I’ve got to get back. I was just on a break, or I’d stay. Are you going to be around in a couple hours? I’m off at four. We could grab coffee or something?”

“Yes.” The word came out without thought. He smiled, and said. “Great. Should I meet you out front?”

“Yeah, that’d be great.” She started to turn, then laughed and turned back to hand him the sketch book. “Sorry. I’m not trying to steal it, even though they are very good.”

He took the book back. “Thank you.”

She waved and moved off out of the wing.

His knees felt shaky and yet at the same time he wanted to run through the museum just to burn off the energy running along his nerves. She’d asked him to coffee. That had happened. It was his first day in the city, he was at the museum and possibly the most beautiful girl he’d ever met had asked him out to coffee.

And he said yes, even after all of his rationalizing. What else could he have said?

“Isn’t that always the question?” A man said.

Brant jerked around. It really was the same man, the one from the lobby, standing casually, comfortable in his skin. And he’d just —

“I didn’t read your mind,” the man said, doing it again. “It’s just my experience. A hundred and fifty-one years on the face of this planet, and I’ve seen that expression, I’ve made that expression, when we find ourselves in that deliciously complicated moment when there doesn’t seem to be any other answer to give.”

A hundred and…

“Excuse me?” Brant said. “Who are you?”

“Right now I’m called Alex Vicari. You’ve impressed me Brant Lloyd, which is unusual for anyone, much less someone as young as yourself. You’ve come here on your own, to the big city, with the burning desire to become a world-class artist. One of the greats! The ego that requires! It’s brilliant. Really brilliant.”

Brant took a breath, and said, “How could you know all of that?”

A shrug. “Easily enough to explain. I eavesdropped on your initial conversation with that charming young creature. When I had your name, it was a simple matter to pull up all of your personal details, those of your parents, everything, more or less, that is known about you this world. It is so much easier, so much quicker today than it used to be.”

“Why? What do you want?”

Mr. Vicari, there was no way Brant could think of him as ‘Alex,’ snapped his fingers and smiled. “Exactly the right question. What do I want? You are observant. You’ve already deduced that I’m wealthy, easy enough for anyone to do, and you suspect by now that I’m quite mad. That is a subject to debate another time. The crux of the matter is this: I want to help you achieve your dreams.”

Mr. Vicari stepped closer. His cologne was light, but manly. Brant never imagined smelling that good.

“I claimed I was a hundred and fifty-one, a claim that you let slide because you doubted the veracity of it, and yet I assure you, it is most definitely true. It is the result of a challenging path I set myself on, much like you are doing, when I was a young man. A path that hasn’t ended, and yet one that I do not wish to walk alone. There have been others, brave men and women who attempted to follow in my footsteps, and failed. There is no guarantee that it will work with you either.”

Now they stood very close, and Mr. Vicari put his hand on Brant’s shoulder. It was a companionable gesture, but Brant sensed the strength in that hand, as if the man might crush stone in his grip.

“If you follow me, many of your current worries shall fade. Where to live, how to get money or food, these are trivial distractions to men such as you and I. Many a potential giant has found his or her potential drowned under the burdens of an ordinary life, of obligations and mortgages and the like. Can you imagine anything more horrible than going to work day after day, spending your years upon this Earth doing work that is as impermanent as a spray of water in the desert? How many potential greats, how many brilliant minds have withered away under the oppressive weight of what other people would deem success? And all the while their own inner dreams fade, wither and die.”

Mr. Vicari released Brant and stepped back. He looked at his watch, and smiled. “Yes, Mr. Lloyd, you have great potential. You cast off your old life to come here and aspire to greatness. You may have what it takes. We shall see. I have other engagements to attend. I will give you time to consider what I have said.”

Brant’s mind was spinning. He opened his mouth and no words came out. His throat was dry. His head pounded. Mr. Vicari walked out of the gallery and was gone in an instant.

A family, parents and two children, were coming through the gallery. No one else had heard Mr. Vicari. Brant went in search of drinking fountain, considering what Mr. Vicari had said.

In his words, Brant recognized his own fears. It was what drove him away from going to the community college. His mother had even said it one day, that he could start at the community college, go to the state school after, and then maybe get a good job teaching art. Maybe at a high school.

The thought of it was terrifying. Not because it was awful, it was what Mr. Vicari had said, about withering away when you’re doing what other people consider successful. He could go to those schools, get those degrees, and he might turn out to be a really good art teacher, but inside he’d be dead. Or if he went into a field entirely different than art, became an accountant or something. How many accountants out there had unfulfilled dreams? Or any profession?

As crazy as the business was about being a hundred and fifty-one years old, the rest of it made a lot of sense.

Brant found the nearest drinking fountain and gulped down several mouthfuls of the cold, cold water. It was great. He finished and took a deep breath and felt much better.

There was an older woman watching him when he turned around. She was wearing an elegant pearl gown. Her gray hair was cut very short, sort of buzzed. A string of pearls hung around her neck. She was beautiful, even though she had to be as old as his mother. She smiled warmly at him, and extended a finger toward the fountain.

“May I?” She said, her voice deep and amused.

Brant nodded. “Yes, sorry. I’m done.”

He stepped aside. She went to the fountain and bent to drink, and moved with such fluid movements that his fingers itched to take out the sketch book and draw her, try to capture that somehow, but he rubbed his hands instead.

She stood up and met his eyes again.

“You must be an artist,” she said.

Brant nodded automatically. “Yes, ma’am. That’s the plan anyway.”

“You either are a thing, or you aren’t,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you do in this world. If you are an artist, then you are until you decide to stop being an artist. Nothing else will, only you can do that.”

It sounded true. He wanted to believe her, but Mr. Vicari’s words hung in his mind.

“He lies,” she said, folding her hands together.

Brant’s mouth fell open.

She waved a hand. “Don’t go catching flies, son.”

He closed his mouth so fast that his teeth clicked together.

“All I meant was, whomever told you otherwise lied. Only you decide if you are an artist. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a life, or fall in love?”

Kelci’s face came to mind, her delicate elfin features and her bright smile. He must have blushed, because the woman clapped her hands.

“There is a young lady! I knew it.” She smiled. “Some people, they tell you that you must give up everything for your art. And in the end, then what do you have? Nothing. Live life to its fullest, and maybe you’ll have a chance to be the artist that you imagine yourself to be.”

Brant said, “I’m trying.”

“Good. Then keep trying. Give your young lady a chance. Things will work out as they should. You’ll see! Good luck to you.”

“Thank you.”

She smiled and walked past him and away. Then she was gone.

Brant looked at the time, and pulled out the sketch book. He’d go out into the lobby, sit on one of the benches and just draw until Kelci was done with her shift.

He was completely absorbed in the drawing when he heard Kelci’s voice behind him. “Wow, those are fantastic! Who are they?”

On the left-hand page was a drawing of Mr. Vicari, dark and shadowed in his suit. The right-hand page was a picture of the woman at the fountain, her light dress contrasting with her darker skin. It was a study in shadows and light, and drawing from memory.

He turned, and there was Kelci, just as he had pictured. He closed the sketchbook. “Just people I saw today.”

Later, he’d finish the drawing, adding her in between the two of them, spanning the page. He’d come to the city for a chance. A chance at what? The woman was right. He was an artist, here or anywhere. The city gave him the chance to learn and improve, but it gave him other chances too. He slipped the sketchbook into his backpack, and stood up. He held out his hand.

Smiling, Kelci reached out and took his hand. Her skin was warm, and soft, with a strong grip.

“Where do you want to go?”

“There’s a place I like, it’s a few blocks away, if you don’t mind walking?”

Brant shook his head. “I don’t mind at all.”

His heart was hammering in his chest as he walked with her out the doors of the museum. There, just outside the front doors, was Mr. Vicari talking on a cell phone. Brant met his eyes, and walked on past.

He smiled at Kelci. He was going to do everything he could for a chance at the life he wanted. That’s why he came to the city in the first place.

3,845 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 46th weekly short story release, written in October 2013. Eventually I’ll do a standalone e-book and print release when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the story. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new  e-book and print versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Check back next Monday for another story. Next up is my story Dumping Ground.

Schoolism Drawing Fundamentals Assignment 1 Giraffe

This morning I started my first class with Schoolism.comDrawing Fundamentals with Thomas Fluharty.

I had looked at taking the Schoolism courses in the past, which were offered in two versions: self-taught and with video feedback. For the past several years I’ve attended many writing workshops and business workshops, but I hadn’t yet done any art workshops. Right as I was considering the idea of doing a Schoolism course they launched their Kickstarter campaign for the new subscription model.

Subscriptions

To become the best, you must learn from the best. We’ve given you access to the top artists, now we want to make it affordable for all.

The subscription plan changed the game for me. For as low as $10/month I could take the various self-taught courses offered by Schoolism and learn from great artists in the field. The way the campaign worked you pledged for a period of time, and a particular start date. The different start dates were to give the folks at Schoolism time to get everyone set up and upgrade the site to handle subscriptions as well as other improvements.

I took a package that gave me the earliest start date possible — July, and then later upgraded to a June start when more packages were offered. By pledging at the higher level I locked in that $10/month rate for the next two years. The various stretch goals brought down the monthly rate that will be offered in the future after they get the Kickstarter backers up and started. Since they reached the $500K goal future subscriptions will be as low as $12/month.

Right now switching courses costs $1 because it takes some manual effort on the part of the folks at Schoolism, but in the future that will all be automated and you’ll be able to switch courses easily.

First Class — Drawing Fundamentals

Subscribers get to pick whichever course they like. I went with the Drawing Fundamentals course because I want to work on foundations first. I plan to spend some time on the course. I’m not doing the assignments once and moving on, I plan to practice several times using different subjects.

The structure of the course is aimed at 5 weeks, each week a different focus. Although this is the self-taught class you do have access to past video feedback from students that have taken the course with feedback. That gives you an opportunity to see what others have done and what feedback was given, even though you don’t get feedback on your specific assignments. It’s still a great chance to learn from others. This first lesson has 95 feedback videos available.

My first attempt is above, created in Corel Painter 2015, using an Wacom Intuos 4, just done with the pencil.

Next Steps

Over the next couple months, before I begin my MLIS classes through San Jose, I plan to work on my Schoolism course. I might just spend the time working on the Drawing Fundamentals course. I don’t want to rush through the courses. I also plan to continue to write, publish, and study. And work full-time at the library. I’ll post progress updates as I go and hopefully will see progress in my drawing skills.

Cupid Dancing

Seduced by an angel, Dylan explores the new, erotic world unveiled since his awakening as Cupid.

In order to save the world from ruin he must seduce those that carry the divine spark. If he can find them. And at what cost? How far must he go? Who must be sacrificed?

Geraldine, his Dominion, trains him in the erotic arts to prepare him for the struggle against the Nephilim.

Will it be enough?

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