Category Archives: The Cozy Red Lounge

Writerly fun. Hear the characters talk.

Meet Bicker (My First Clayboard)

It is time, once again, to introduce you to a new book character.  You may remember Russ and Zeke from past posts.  Zeke’s book, Zeke’s Fate, is now available for sale.

These days, I am working on a prequel to Zeke’s Fate, which has a new set of characters, though there will be a few familiar faces from Zeke’s Fate.  In this prequel is a man who calls himself Bicker.  At first, he was to be a simple side character, but as I’ve written, he’s slowly, surely, become very much the heart of the story.  …I love it when characters take over! 🙂

This is also my first attempt at a clayboard.  What a fun medium!  It’s a lot like scratchboard, but instead of a wooden board covered with white clay and layered over with black ink, it’s just a board with the layer of clay.  It’s up to the artist to color/ink over the clay, and then the artist is free to scratch out details to their heart’s content.  It’s great!  Mistakes were made along the way, but I had a great time with this new medium.


– 5×7 inch Clayboard

– To add value, I used Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens of mainly the brush tip size.  I used varying shades of grays and blacks to get some depth from the start.  Once I was happy with the mass of shadow and form, I used an X-Acto knife, fiberglass brush, and some other sharp tools to scratch out details.  Since this was all new to me, I went back and colored over the scratched areas several times, changing things here and there, to get the result I wanted.  The face, especially, required a great deal of tweaking and little changes before I felt that this captured the likeness of my fictional character, Bicker.  I did use a couple of reference images very roughly to get some ideas and inspiration, but for the most part, Bicker’s face is from imagination.  As much as I looked, I couldn’t quite find a face that felt like Bicker’s…so I sort of pieced it together.

Unfortunately, the image makes this piece look grainier than in real life.  I’m sorry for that.

Bicker (Finished)CR

Thanks very much for looking!  Stay tuned to hear more about the upcoming novel. 🙂


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Zeke’s Fate

Dear readers of blogs (and hopefully of books), I would like to announce that my first novel, “Zeke’s Fate” is now available for sale.

Set in the year 1869, it is the story of Zeke Siegel, an American Civil War veteran who has struggled with amnesia for several years.  He finds himself entangled in a world of confusion and danger as he comes home to his wife, who has been told he was killed in the war.  She has begun to move on with her life after years of mourning him.  A new man, Fate, who is a bounty hunter of war deserters, has come into her life.  Learning of Zeke’s unclear and inconsistent past, he begins to suspect him of desertion, something even Zeke can’t be sure is true or not.  Suspicion gives way to vengeance as Fate grows more and more determined to destroy Zeke for the crime he may have committed.  In a struggle for answers, for understanding, and for life itself, Zeke is faced with a fate he cannot forget…

You may remember Zeke from this post made some time ago, and perhaps also from the post of the painting I did of Zeke.  I wrote this novel after being inspired by the fabulous NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge.  If you haven’t heard about it, check it out here.  It’s pretty amazing!

The novels are $10.00 each, plus shipping.  Please contact me at  Thank you!

Zeke'sFateCR Zeke'sFatebackcoverCR


Tags: , , , , , ,

Meet Russ

After painting Zeke, I decided to try for another character portrait.  This one is Russ, who has been a part of my writing experience for quite some time.  If you’d like to “get to know him”, you can click here.  He is one of those characters who has sort of taken on his own life.  It was such a joy to paint him.  I had an old public domain photograph of a man who really reminded me of this character, so this was inspired by that photo, as well as my own ideas on Russ’ appearance.  I didn’t used to imagine him with a bowler hat, but this just fit in the end.  Russ also claims to have somehow ended up with President Lincoln’s hat.  He does like to tell tall tales. 😉  I imagine he may have a whole collection of hats.  As you can see, once again, I have chickened out when it comes to painting in color, but soon, I hope to ease back into the world of color in painting.  For this particular painting, I liked the idea of it being in black and white.  Classic, right? 😉  This took around 8 – 10 hours to complete.


-Acrylic on canvas board

-11×14 inches in size.

Here’s a close up.

Thanks for looking.  I hope you like it.  Have a great day! 🙂


Posted by on January 26, 2012 in All Artwork, Paintings, The Cozy Red Lounge


Tags: ,

Meet Zeke

After having such a nice time painting the little town of Alma, I decided to paint some more.  Black and white painting is something that I think I could really get into.  I am still trying to think of a book cover idea.  In my search for reference material, I found a photo of a man who seemed to look very much like how I would picture my book character, Zeke.  If you’d like, you can get to know Zeke a little bit here in this old post.

Once again, I was using acrylics for this, and I’m still a little afraid of color.  Black and white media suits me for now.  This one took about 2 and a half hours to paint, and in that time, I couldn’t pry myself away from the canvas.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had fun with painting as I have with these most recent two.

Zeke Siegel

-8×10 inches in size

-Acrylic on canvas

Thanks for looking! 🙂


Posted by on January 10, 2012 in All Artwork, Paintings, The Cozy Red Lounge



Rarely do I paint.  Almost never, really.  I would never set out to have one of my first artworks of 2012 be a painting…the odds of me keeping that simple resolution would be so slim that I probably wouldn’t dare make it.  Sometimes, though, it just happens, and when it does, why fight it?

A recent novel I’m working on takes place in the tiny historical town of Alma, Wisconsin.  It is set in the year 1869 and is the result of my taking on the fabulous NaNoWriMo challenge in the November of 2010.  This novel has needed a lot of reworking and in that process, there was much to learn about the history of little Alma.  Half the fun of writing historical novels is the research that must be done.  Oh, the research!  All the hours of searching, thinking, studying, mulling over, considering and deciding!  Fun, but yes, it can be exhausting at times.

The novel was a something I poured my heart and soul into.  I am, at last, nearing the finish of the editing (I hope!), and I’ve been trying to come up with a unique, eye-catching cover illustration for my story.  I’ve got some ideas, have some images I’d like to work from, and decided to start sketching out some ideas.  After two little thumbnails of my cover ideas – neither of which I really cared for – I took my reference material to my studio where I could really think and toy with different ideas.

…And in my studio, nothing came to me.  I instead looked at an old, homely half-done painting I started ages ago.  Just because the nature of the artist is often to procrastinate, I started playing with that ugly painting.  When I got that out of my system (and only made that WIP painting worse, by the way), I looked at my Alma reference material again.  On a whim, I took out a 5×7 canvas and put some simple black and white acrylic paints on my palette.  Just for the fun of it, I started painting this wonderful old photo taken in the year 1870 of Alma.  I loved the whimsy of the man in the foreground waving his hat.  Isn’t it a charming image?

With this image tacked close by, I picked up a brush, dipped it in water, and loaded up some paint.  Two hours later, this is what I had.  While I likely won’t be using this for my book cover, it was somewhat inspiring to paint historical Alma anyway.  It lacks some detail, and it’s somewhat simple, but I had a great time doing this.  There was something so quick and spontaneous about the strict black and white palette, as well as the small size of 5×7.  I had such fun with this, and that’s saying a lot for painting in my world.  Click on the images if you’d like to see them larger.


-5×7 inches

-Acrylic on canvas

Inspired by some of the work I’ve seen recently in galleries, I painted around the corners and to the edges of the canvas so that this can hang without a frame and still look finished.

I debated painting the man waving his hat, but that’s what I loved about the photo, so I went with it.

A close-up of the distant buildings of Alma.  They were quite small to paint; I actually used a toothpick for the windows and doors.  They are very small. 🙂

I hope you like it.  Thank you for looking at my painting of this little town which has grown near and dear to my heart. 🙂


Posted by on January 8, 2012 in All Artwork, Paintings, The Cozy Red Lounge


Introducin’ myself…

Thought ya might like to meet me, a character who’s a whole lot more interestin’ than that Zeke Siegel fella ya met some days back.  My name’s Russ Phillips, and I pretty much run the show ’round here.  Zeke mighta told ya he built this place, but that don’t make him boss, no sirree.  See, she might not admit it, but I’m Jenna’s fav’rit character of all.  Just for the record, I usually call her Jen…just Jen.  It’s easier than that long, drawn-out Jen-n-n-n-n-a.  I don’t got all day to stand ’round, saying some gal’s name.  Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah, I’m Jen’s fav’rit character, She likes to spend the most time with me, ’cause, well, what can I say?  I’m fascinatin’.  Why, I don’t got much money, but I manage to get along alright.  I don’t have a fancy horse…I have a donkey, an extra smelly donkey at that.  And it seems bent on kickin’ me every day.  I don’t got a six-shooter or a shotgun or a rifle, just an old kitchen knife with a bend in the blade and rust on the handle.

I’ve been on my own since I was a kid.  I don’t need nobody.  I get by just fine with me, myself, and I.  My plan is to leave a legacy in life, to make somethin’ of myself.  Yep, I’m gonna be somebody, just you wait.  Why, already, I…I…

…Well…I ain’t quite started on that legacy stuff quite yet, but someday, it’ll happen, just you wait.

It’s Zeke’s fault I’m not some sorta legend by now, ya know.  Blame him for my lazy habits.  If he hadn’t built this hotel, I wouldn’ta gotten so comfortable and relaxed.  I coulda moved on and started an adventure or somethin’, but, well…see this chair I’m sittin’ in?  It’s cow leather.  The softest, nicest thing ya ever dreamed of settlin’ your rear end down in.  It’s stuffed full of the fluffiest stuff ya could dream of, and I intend to wear it out before movin’ outta the Cozy Red.  See this view I got of the stage down there?  Best seat in the house, right here.  And it’s all mine.

This place has the best food ya can imagine, too.  Steaks, fish, bacon, ham, beef, pork, steaks, lamb, steaks….shrimp….steaks….did I mention steaks?  I like steaks.  ‘Course, ya can get mushy vegetables and stuff like that, too, but who wants that junk when there’s meat to get eaten?  Me, I’m built up like a work horse.  Big and strong.  I got that way from meat, not green leaves and junk.  Only thing that confuses me is…how can a work horse get built up so strong if it only eats that green junk?  …Huh.

Jen keeps a nice, steady supply of sweet things for us to eat, too.  There’s a nice plate a cookies on all the tables, warm pies in the window sills (picturesque, ain’t it?), and always a nice, tall cake to be cut up and enjoyed at suppertime.  Sometimes, I fear Jen’s tryin’ to fatten us up or somethin’.  Lucky for us, we’re just imaginary (that’s right, folks.  I’m…*sniffle…not a real fella), so if Jen comes in and sees a double chin or a round belly on a character that don’t belong, she can just wish it away.  How convenient is that?  It’s so easy here at the Cozy Red.  See why I love it so much?  And speakin’ of sweets, you may have heard about the unlimited soft serve ice cream cones?  Yeah, good luck gettin’ at that.  There’s an almost steady line of folks waitin’ their turn.  Especially the women!  All the female characters cluster ’round the ice cream like they’re starved, and if ya reach for a cone without bein’ careful, you’re likely to get swatted or scratched.  It’s a dangerous place, that ice cream machine.  Jen oughtta get another ice cream machine if ya ask me.  That way, there’s one for the women, and one for the fellas.  It’d be a whole lot safer.

The music here ain’t half bad, either.  I sure like music.  There’s a mighty impressive orchestra pit down there by the stage, and it’s full of all the instruments ya can ‘magine.  Nobody’s playin’ this evenin’, but if ya listen real carefully, ya can still hear music.  There’s always music somewhere in this place.  Listen.  Can ya hear it?  I’m hearin’ Ragtime somewhere.  That’s my kinda music.

So, all in all, this place is all right.  Sure ‘nough, soon, I’ll have to get back to writin’ my story with Jen, but ’til she’s ready to write, I’m gonna kick back and relax here in the Cozy Red.  Life is sweet as cherry pie here.


Posted by on March 24, 2011 in The Cozy Red Lounge


Characters are people, too

People think that just because we’re figments of imagination, just put starkly in black and white between book covers, that we’re just simple, two-dimensional things.  Close up the book, and we go away, and we cease to exist; that’s what most people think about us.

But…what if we weren’t so easily put away?  What if we continued to exist, even after our stories had been written and read through?  What if we lived on after you set our books on that quiet shelf upstairs to collect dust for years?  The most excitement we might see would be that of the person who decides, years later, to de-clutter their house.  Perhaps they’d quickly thumb through our stories, sending a poof of dust into the air, and decide to send our yellowed, dog-eared pages off to some lonely shelf at the thrift store by the old cassette tapes and cookbooks from 1992.  What if it hurt our feelings to be so easily passed along and stuck on a shelf for twenty cents?  …What if we got lonely without readers?

You’re probably thinking how silly this sounds.  ‘They’re just characters’, you tell yourself.  There was a day, once upon a time, when a human being thought the world of us characters.  There was a person somewhere, sometime, who spent months, perhaps years, developing we lowly characters.  And in that time, it’s possible we were that person’s friend and inspiration.  Such is the story of my fellow characters and myself…

Hello out there, my name is Ezekiel Siegel, and I am just such a character.  In my book, I fought in the Civil War, was wounded and left with amnesia, but thanks to the author, I recovered fully after a few years.  I am an architect, and I designed and built this 1920s hotel and the Cozy Red Lounge within it.  In my time, the 1920s is a very futuristic look.  But, see, here in the Cozy Red, time is irrelevant, and things are just what we imagine them to be.  It is a beautiful place to live.

Luckily for me, even though my story has been written, except for a bit of editing which is being worked on by Jenna (the creator of this blog and writer of my story), I am alive and well and enjoy myself in the Cozy Red Lounge with my fellow characters.  There’s quite a number of them, and the nearest and dearest to my heart is my wife, Jemima.  Perhaps she’ll get past her shyness and come forward to say hello sometime.  She’s a sweet little lady, but when it comes to standing out here on stage before who-knows how many folks, she hesitates and lingers behind the red velvet curtain, blushing and smiling self-consciously.  It’s okay, Jemima, honey.  Maybe next time you can make an appearance.

Out there in the plush seats of this theatre, I can see a number of characters watching as I ramble here on stage.  Why, I see my cousin, Andrew Soolivan, who’s here with his new wife Thelma this evening.  They’ve been married for less than a month; they certainly make a lovely couple.  Cousin Andy lost a leg in the War Between the States and feared he’d never find a wife, but as you can see, that wasn’t enough to stop Thelma from falling for him.

A few seats behind the newlyweds, you can see the very first character Jenna ever wrote about.  He goes by the name of Cory Phillips, and he’s the novel-veteran around here.  His story was about a boy who grew up under the harsh abuse of his father.  We like to tease him because he tends to cry easily, and he’s a grown man, now. Granted, he was Jenna’s first character, and she wrote his story when she was a teenager, so it’s not all his fault he’s such a soft-hearted fellow.  He’s gotten better about shedding those tears, but his pa never lets him live it down.

Okay now, about Cory Phillips’ pa…he needs a page or two of his own.  He goes by the name of Russell Andrew Phillips, but prefers, simply, Russ.  He’s rather a legend around here because he’s the loudest and the proudest of the entire list of characters.  Jenna has the most fun writing his stories, because he’s a hapless sort of fellow, the sort that can make you laugh even when he’s trying to be as serious as can be.  Despite his rather small beginnings as a vaguely written abusive father, he’s been the star of his very own book-in-the-makings, a prequel to Cory’s book.  Our Russ, he takes pride in being one of Jenna’s favorite characters, and believes he’s the boss of this hotel and all who dwell inside its walls.  He’s uneducated, crude, rather petty, but we do love him here in the Cozy Red.  His background plays heavily in his character, as he’s been living on his own since he was merely an eleven-year-old boy.  I can only speak frankly about him because I can see him in the back row of chairs, too busy trying to cut the steak he snuck into the theatre to hear me talking about him.  If he were paying attention, I’d be getting a good talking-to from him later.

To anyone reading this, you’ll probably be hearing plenty from Russ in the future, because he’s not shy in the least, and he’ll be eager to do plenty of talking, whether anyone wants to listen or not.  I must admit, though, that he is an interesting fellow to listen to.  I’m hoping you’ll think the same of him as we do here in the Cozy Red Lounge.

Now, dear readers and listeners, it really isn’t like me to talk on and on so much as I have tonight.  I guess Jenna decided I was the character of choice for the job of introducing a small handful of her characters and giving a brief background on our existence and lives.

Well, it’s growing dark here at the Cozy Red, and the music that plays continually in here is growing soft as the hour grows late.  The wonderful scent of supper is reaching us in the theatre, so I’d best conclude my little speech.  Public speaking isn’t something I feel I am talented at, but it was an honor to have been the first among Jenna’s book characters to speak here on her blog.

Thank you for listening, my friends.  Take care,

Zeke Siegel


Posted by on March 16, 2011 in The Cozy Red Lounge