The Art of Plotting While Painting

Hello everybody (said in the voice of Matt Bellasai from Whine About It video fame). AJ Rose here, lowering the tone of Karin’s classy blog to bring you some rambling about books, reading, and my new favorite hobby, painting masterpieces… with a paint-by-numbers guide. What? I can’t paint to save my life. Unless it’s a wall.

So, a bit about me for those who don’t know. I have 12 books out, of which my most recent is the 4th installment of the Power Exchange series, Restraint.

Restraint Final Cover web copy

Aside from writing Ben and Gavin, my other books include reapers, ghosts, everyday guys going through extraordinary circumstances, a dueling piano bar with a life of its own, and one hell of a power outage.

The last time I was on Karin’s blog, I wrote about knitting, which is one of my happy places when I need to stay busy while relaxing. It quiets my mind and gives me a sense of accomplishment that all those hours binge watching Sense8 weren’t a total waste. They wouldn’t be a total waste anyway, because that show is utterly, utterly brilliant, but to have a completed pair of socks or a big chunk of a blanket done makes me feel useful at the same time. Reading also relaxes me, but following along with plots other fantastic authors have created (like Jordan L. Hawk, whose Spirits series I’m currently reading, or The Lost and Founds by Edmond Manning, my favorite series of all time) just makes me want to immerse in their worlds, not the ones I’m trying to build for my own readers. I get taken away on the rides those authors create, not leaving a lot of room for my own stories to get a voice.

My answer? Painting. Recently, I’ve discovered paint-by-numbers kits online. The knitting is still a go-to for quieting my mind, but the painting… oh it’s so much fun. The beauty of paint-by-numbers is that I can pretty much mentally check out while I’m doing it, whereas sometimes with knitting, I have to pay attention to a pattern and focus. Not so with PBN. The best part? I’ve discovered it focuses me just enough for my brain to relax, and then BAM! Plots happen.

Particularly stubborn character not doing what my outline says he should? Paint it out.


Plot point not have quite as much zing as I thought it would? Paint it out.


Not sure where to go next? Paint. It. Out.


I’ve recently finished the first of what I hope will be many paintings I can be proud to hang in my house. My wife, Kate Aaron, who’s also an m/m romance author, ahem, and I have plans for a collage of sorts on our bedroom wall, a collection of paintings that make a mosaic of a rainbow, and in the middle, a customized painting of us on our wedding night.

So I give you the finished red/orange painting of our rainbow collage, the completed piece called The Soul of the Rain.


I’m honestly flabbergasted that I did this. Like I said, I can’t paint creatively to save my life. The best part is, there are more paintings out there! SO MANY MORE. And you know, I just might have enough book ideas to justify all the paintings I plan to do. Because seriously, when I get stuck, when a character isn’t cooperating, or a plot point doesn’t hang together the way I hoped, lately it’s been painting that’s helped me work out the kinks. In the end, I still get a finished object in my hands, too.

I’ve moved on to a series Kate and I have planned to write together, and just in time, too, because I have two new paintings that came in the mail. Here is the current state of the green/blue painting in our rainbow collage. The finished painting is a wave at sunset looking toward the land.


And last, the custom painting of Kate and I on our wedding night. (This is the mockup the wonderful people at Canvastly did for me, not the actual finished painting.)


I’m not entirely certain how all these paintings will look when we hang them, but that almost doesn’t matter. It’s the painting them I enjoy most. Especially when they help me put vivid color to the worlds I paint with words. It’s my hope that for every book I write in the future, there’ll be a painting that helped me through its plot. Then I can look at both the book on my shelf and the painting on my wall and say, “I maked that.” And be proud.

Anyway, this has been a little piece of me, and in case you’re interested in more pieces of me, you can find me on facebook, twitter, my website, and my books can be found at various retailers all linked to here. Thanks for having me, Karin!

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It’s A Beautiful Day

And yet I’ve been stuck inside with a headache all day. It’s been a rough few days (thanks, Murphy) that I’m still paying for, but hopefully, I’ll get to enjoy the nice weather later this week.

I did finally manage to get some knitting in yesterday and actually have a picture to show progress for once.

As you can (hopefully) see, I’m almost halfway up the blanket which means I’ll need to figure out how to proceed pretty soon. I’m thinking of doing diagonal stripes next, just not so sure on the color combo (I think I’ve got enough yarn left to go whichever way I want). What do you think?

Hey look at that, my first ever poll. Thought I might as well give that a shot ;-).

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Guest Post: A Little Cross Stitch and Romance

Hello and thanks for the opportunity to share a little about myself on your blog! Some of you may know about my blog, Slashsessed, and my love of all things slash, m/m and yaoi. What most do not know is that I also love to knit, crochet and cross stitch. I first learned how to do these crafts in my pre-teens because I was bored, as many pre-teens seem to be, and remembered my mother telling me about all of the things she knit and crocheted while pregnant with me. I asked her for some guidance and direction, and thus began a new crafting experience I’ve loved ever since. I’ve been able to create some really beautiful pieces for my friends and family, and it’s cool to be able to take a material as simple as yarn and turn it into something that’s not only lovely to look at, but also functional. Over the last couple of months, I’ve started cross stitching again and couldn’t be happier!

Here is my current project. I’m a huge fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so when I found a pattern for one of the robots, Tom Servo, I jumped at the opportunity! It’s  still in the beginning stages, but you can see Tom starting to take shape.

CDC47477-B7D8-40B8-A900-8D3A3D38455C   5788BCB8-0D70-4EAA-AE94-83B099474C9B

My main hobby, of course, is reading and I’ve found some real gems, particularly in the fanfiction world. My favorite ships include Nasir and Agron (Nagron) from Spartacus, Magnus and Alec (Malec) from Shadowhunters/The Mortal Instruments, Connor and Oliver (Coliver) from How to Get Away with Murder and pretty much all of the ships from the anime Free! Right now, I’m enjoying some really gripping and emotional Malec stories that have me glued to my screen and constantly wishing for the next update. The amount of talent fanfiction writers possess leaves me in awe. I’m also in the process of reading the yaoi manga series In These Words by TogaQ and KichikuNeko, a.k.a. Guilt|Pleasure. The writing is incredible and the artwork is absolutely breathtaking!

Check out my reviews on my blog and stop and say hello on Facebook and Twitter!

Slashsessed Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Meghan 🙂

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Battery Low

This has been a low-battery (or low on spoons, if you prefer) kind of week. Partly due to lack of sleep (not for lack of trying) and partly due to pain. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure what I’ve done this past week. I vaguely recall doing a little cross stitching – and I do mean a little, I didn’t even finish a grid square – and some reading. I watched Charmed yesterday because I hadn’t enough wherewithal to pay attention to anything new, nor was I able to read.

It’s been… weird, to say the least.

Did come across one of those memes on Facebook that I liked, though. Basically, it was one of those contingency ones:

You get infinity money, but a child decides what you purchase for a week every month. 

I don’t know about you but I would be perfectly fine with that. In fact, I know of one little boy who I’d give that chance to multiple times because I know that he would think of himself last and everyone else first. Mind, I would let him because I would love to be able to give him the chance to do something for people the way he wants to. To see the look on his face when he can put his many plans into action. After all, my godson is quite the charitable soul.

How about you? Would you do this?

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My sanity…

To start, I have NEVER been a guest blogger before so here’s hoping my freshman effort won’t be a total dud!

As a SAHM and writer I can honestly say staying busy is never an issue, staying sane, however, is. I have three daughters, though one is at university, and my 19 year-old nephew currently lives with us, so merely keeping on top of a tidy house is enough to have me pulling my hair out.

To counteract any and all frustration, I read, or get crafty. I am constantly repurposing furniture, decorations, rooms in my house to suit what I need in that moment. We have one desk that has been three colors and used as everything from a homework station to a potting bench. It worked beautifully in all it’s iterations.

When creating something from a used item isn’t on the agenda and writing has me banging my head on all available surfaces, I read. I love to read. Books are my nirvana! Losing myself in a good book about the supernatural (mostly shifters and various mythos), or a good contemporary romance has a calming effect on my brain that little else does. I couldn’t begin to name my favorite books but my top five favorite authors are:

SHOOT! Sorry, my top six! My full list of favorite authors is much too long for this post!

Currently I’m reading Rock Hard by Nalini Singh. It’s a contemporary romance filled with drama, a demanding boss, and rugby references galore. The characters are perfectly flawed and very human. Ms. Singh’s writing style is brilliant whether she’s spinning one of her AMAZING supernatural tales or writing about every day people. CHECK HER OUT!

Today is not the day I will be waxing poetic about the myriad reasons my favorite authors ROCK! Nope, today is the day I share a silly little craft project born of my obsessive need to reuse things and it started with my daughter asking to repaint her room…again. You see, about two years ago my oldest daughter left home to attend university, thus leaving her large room with ensuite bathroom empty. We have four bedrooms so each girl had their own room but one of them is very small. Deciding it didn’t make sense to leave the larger room unoccupied, my middle daughter moved into it. YAY! No more listening to the two youngest complain about either sharing a room or having the tiny room (which is now where my oldest stays when she visits home). No sooner had we moved the oldest out than paint and brushes were brought out to start the transformation process. Middle daughter picked a color I KNEW she wouldn’t like in a year or so but wouldn’t be swayed to change her mind SO, on it went. Guess what. A year later she hated it. We made a compromise, she had to pay for the new paint and she had to do the majority of prep and painting (under my watchful eye) but she would be allowed to repaint it. GREAT! In deciding this she also decided there were several things she didn’t want to rehang because they wouldn’t fit the “serene” feel of the room. We agreed to spray paint several so that they became less a focal point and more just an extension of the wall color. One thing in particular, a simple white box, she didn’t even want to repaint! We talked about what sorts of things she DID want on her walls and discovered the box would look brilliant with some added greenery, which she was keen to add to her room.

The following project is my simple step by step! Hope you enjoy and always remember…REUSE-REDUCE-RECYCLE!

Succulent box project


  • Box or other container (I used a box I had been using as a small shadowbox/shelf in my daughter’s room)
  • Faux succulent plants (number depends on size of box and personal preference)
  • Small faux flowers (to be cut off stem)
  • Sheet moss (enough to fill box or container)
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Wire cutters
  1. Begin by cutting stems off the succulents (unless you plan to use the florist foam…in that case, leave it attached) and the stems off the small flowers you’ve chosen.IMG_1939.jpegIMG_1945.jpeg
  2. Next glue the sheet moss to the bottom of your container. I chose to do the inside edge because I plan to hang this on the wall. If you’re using a deeper container you might want to consider filling the bottom with florist foam (which would allow you to forgo some of the gluing). I also made sure some of the moss looked as though it was creeping upthe back “wall” of my box.    IMG_1943.jpeg
  3. After the sheet moss has been attached you can begin placing the succulents before gluing them. This step will ensure you like where they’re going to be without gluing them only to realize it doesn’t work.  IMG_1942.jpeg
  4. Glue plants. I chose to use enough plants to allow a little stacking for depth and texture.
  5. Once you’ve finished you can decide where you want to put your small flowers. As this is for my daughter I let her decide how many to use. If I were doing this for a common area or a wall outdoors I might choose fewer flowers. (The pink flowers were NOT glued in, which will allow them to be changed out easily)

There you go! All done and pretty!


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Sunny Days

There is just something about being able to sit out on the patio on a sunny day in peace and quiet. Emphasis on ‘peace and quiet’. For the last couple of days, I’ve hung out outdoors to read. It’s been lovely.

For the most part.

Most of the neighbors are nice and quiet and leave each other well enough alone. There aren’t very many kids, either – at least not that live here on a daily basis. There are a few part-timers, though, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, apparently, one little girl’s decided to “adopt” me or something. She’s Kindergarten age and overall a sweet girl, but… ohhhh God help me, she’s chatty as they come. Definitely not good for the ‘peace and quiet’ part of being outside.

The other thing I’ve been doing the past couple of days is dehydrating my rosemary. I really wish I could use that more often, but the Rosemary takes so long to dry and I worry about letting it run unsupervised. Still, it was nice to finally get that done. I may check to see how long it would take to dry strawberries as we have a bunch of those, too.

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Ramblings on Creative Expression

Hello everyone! First of all, thanks to Karin for giving me a place to ramble for a little while. I’ll do my best to make sense, but as I’m in the middle of editing a fantasy novel that’s longer than my last two books put together it’s possible I’ve just lost all ability to word. My deadline is in a month. I’ve had four cups of coffee today and haven’t left the house except to walk my dog since Tuesday. I just spent an hour laying upside down on my couch rereading Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go and trying to restore blood flow to my brain.

I’m Emma, and I’m the author of a bunch of novels, the most recent of which, Spindrift and the Orchid, came out at the beginning of May from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Spindrift was a joy to write and even a joy to edit, which is rarer for me. It’s full of all the things I love in books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter: magic and whimsy, heroes and villains. It’s about a girl in a fantasy version of Belle Epoque Paris who discovers that the single possession she has from her late parents—who died when their ship sank in an accident only Spindrift survived—contains a sentient flower with the ability to grant wishes. It’s one of a set of seven, and someone out there will do anything to unite the whole collection. Spindrift, along with her grandfather and two closest friends, must stop him before he succeeds and harnesses a great and evil power.

So, that’s Spindrift. While I was drafting (and editing) I knitted my first sweater and my thousandth scarf. I taught myself magic loops and achieved my first sock. I cooked dinner most nights, learning new recipes and experimenting with my new Instant Pot. My daily schedule went something like, coffee-dog walk-coffee-writing-dog walk-cooking-knitting-dog walk–reading-sleep. Every day. For months. My current schedule for the book I’m working on now is pretty similar, though I no longer have 100% of the cooking duties and I must confess I haven’t knitted anything in a couple of weeks. (I’m sorry, abandoned purple sock, I promise I’ll come back to you.)

Creativity is important for everyone, I think. There are a million ways to express it, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t have any ways they liked to express it. Almost everyone I know has many different creative expressions, myself included, and so I think a lot about the varied purposes those different expressions serve. Surely it would be easier to focus my creative energy on one thing—books—which I’m lucky enough to write full time.

But I’d write worse books if I did. I guarantee it.

Someone I know, who doesn’t enjoy cooking, asked me not too long ago what I get out of it, and how I summon the energy to spend an hour or two cooking a meal from scratch after all day at a computer. The answer is that, in some ways, that hour or two is what gives me the energy to write the next day. Anyone who has ever written a book, or anything else tens of thousands of words long, knows that at times it can feel like an endless and thankless task. Even after I’ve gotten to The End there’s still months or years of work before it ends up in a cover and on a bookshelf, and then it’s rare for me to see people reading it, or even to speak to someone who has. (By and large, middle-grade-age readers are not on Twitter or Facebook. I meet them in schools and bookstores, but not all the time. I talk to more adult readers of MG fiction, who are amazing, but even then, I encounter a tiny fraction of the people who’ve picked up the book.)

When I cook a meal—which, by the way, is always more complicated and fancy if I’m cooking for someone else—I get to see the thing come together under my hands in the space of very little time. It is a whole thing in an hour, not six months. And then I get to watch people eating it, the joy from the taste and the pleasure of having been cooked for. It’s a good feeling. Knitting almost anything takes longer than cooking almost anything, but again it’s a visual exercise, an effort I can see. (Oh, how much better writing might be if I could measure words in inches.) When I’m finished I can keep the scarves or socks for myself or make someone else happy with them. Together, these creative pursuits fill in spaces that writing doesn’t.

I’ll always be a writer, full-time if I can, and it will always be my main creative expression. The others, though, keep it alive and me (reasonably) sane while I’m doing it, though this very minute might not be the strongest argument in favor of my sanity. (Please, you enormous monster of a book, end.) Plus, the books pay for the yarn habit. You all know what I’m talking about.

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