NaNoWriMo Prep: The Third and Final Chapter

Only one day left before NaNoWriMo! That one day happens to be Halloween! Whoo! So for the last time, here are some rather random (but surprisingly relevant) bits’o’knowledge about my characters:

Autumn Kavanaugh

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? Yes. She has lived in Ashby her whole life and can get pretty much anywhere in town (and Horton) without consulting Google Maps. She has a solid intuitive grasp of the cardinal directions, enough that if you told her “the river is on the north side of town” she could find her way there in a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? Yes, for her locality. Probably not anywhere else. Damn those ignorant Americans!
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? Yes, in a general way. Such things only touch her life in an abstract way, being from an agricultural community in CA. She probably knows some hometown boys who’ve joined the armed forces.
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Yes.
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Yes.
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? Autumn is competent with technology She could install a program and perform a virus scan, run a cash register, but she won’t be hacking any databases or building a computer out of coconuts. Her aptitude is more for mechanical/construction concerns. 
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? Actually, yes!
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? She can and does during the course of Grove. It is delicious. She also bakes cookies and a pie. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? She can change a tire and put fresh water in a radiator. She can change the oil, replace brake pads and spark plugs, replace head/taillights (and their fuses), and install new wiper blades. If she were stronger she could also replace shocks alone, but as it is she needs her dad’s help on that one.
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? Yes. She also knows how to bake one.

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Emily Kavanaugh

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? She is familiar with places in town, having grown up there. Beyond that she has very few navigation skills…but she knows how to use Google Maps!
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? Yes for the U.S. and Spain (she studies Spanish in high school), no for elsewhere. 
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? In the same vague way as Autumn. 
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Yes.
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Yes, and it plagues her. Pomegranates are her favorite fruit, but it’s so hard to eat them without making a mess. 
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? Emily is average with technology. She knows how to use the things she likes, and when something goes wrong she gets Autumn or her dad to fix it. 
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? Yes, due to her meticulous nature, but she would never undertake such an arduous task. 
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? Given a very clear set of instructions, yes, and it would most likely be good…but she wouldn’t do that much work without a very good reason. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? No. She can gas up her car and tell her dad when the check engine light is on, he takes care of the maintenance. 
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? No. 

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Silas 

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? He knows how to get anywhere on foot. He has an instinctive feeling for direction. He is less certain in his car. 
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? For the U.S. and countries with whom it is in conflict. 
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? Yes. He has an interest in government.
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Not the chemical composition. 
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Without a doubt, and he devours them with pleasure. 
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? He is impatient with technology, and not particularly good at using it. He can operate a cell phone well enough to call people, and can post to Facebook.
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? No. He would do a good job for a quarter of the house, if properly motivated, an acceptable job for half, and then abandon the project for something more interesting. 
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? Doubtful on both counts. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? Not really. Duan handles the maintenance on the Volkswagen. 
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? No. 
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Top Ten Tuesdays: Badass Babes in Literature

Same bat time, same bat place, same meme courtesy of The Broke and The Bookish. Hit it, ladies!

1. Katniss EverdeenThe Hunger Games
Because duh. Whatever her failings as a well-rounded individual, the girl’s a survivor with tremendous focus and skill. I’d pick her first for my dodgeball team.

2. Kino Makoto/Lita Kino/Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Moon

Manga may be pushing the limits of what is considered “literature”, but hey. Graphic novel. There is a reason every one of my avatars between the ages of eleven and thirteen featured this badass babe. She was funny, a great cook, a loyal friend, and she could call upon the powers of thunder and oak trees to kick monster ass.

3. Moreta, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

Most of Pern’s Weyrwomen were pretty badass, but Moreta outshone them all. She was a crazy-good dancer and racing enthusiast who flew her dragon through time and all over the world to save the planet of Pern from a flu epidemic. Top that.

4.  The witches of Hogwarts, Harry Potter

Despite the fact that that sounds like some sort of smutty calendar hanging by Crabbe and/or Goyle’s bed, there were some seriously tough broads at Hogwarts (and numbered among the alumni). Off the top of my head: Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Molly Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and Bellatrix Lestrange (crazy as a loon but undeniably tough).

5. Deryn “Dylan” Sharp, The Leviathan Trilogy

Deryn spends World War I disguised as a dude in order to pursue her most cherished dream: flying as an airman with the Royal Air Force. She not only keeps up with the boys, she blows most of them away with her superior aeronautic knowledge and tendency to engage in derring-do. She makes for such a dashing fella that she catches the eye of another of the novel’s badass babes.

6. Tris, The Divergent Trilogy

Halfway through reading Divergent, I knew that I would never be Dauntless. Tris, on the other hand, takes to the faction and its demands like a fish to water: jumping from trains, ziplining from skyscrapers, climbing carnival rides, getting the stuffing beaten out of her on a daily basis without a word of complaint. Truly Dauntless, and tough as nails.

7. Hazel Grace, The Fault in Our Stars

There are different kinds of toughness, and many ways to be a badass. Hazel’s miraculous survival is part of what makes her so tough, but the greater part is her fierce insistence on mitigating the damage done by the eventual end of her life, no matter what moments of happiness it may cost her. That is flinty determination. That is toughness.

8. Lisa, The Girl Who Owned a City

Well there is the fact that she owned a city. It might be more accurate to say she built it, and eventually has an efficiently run fortress filled with hundreds of kids. That is not an easy thing, folks, less easy still for a twelve-year-old. Lisa gathers a loyal following of kids due to her ability to solve social and survival problems with logical thought, her willingness to lead by example, and her bravery. This is not a cutesy story or an easy road for Our Heroine, she is shot and has back-room surgery performed on her by a fellow twelve-year-old before novel’s end!

9. Lola, House of Stairs
To explain why she was so tough would be to spoil the whole novel, so you will just have to take my word for it.

10. Dolores Claiborne, Dolores Claiborne

She did what needed to be done, and never expected a pat on the back or vindication. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman’s got to hold on to.

Character Study: NaNoWriMo Prep Pt. 2

Since we got into some of the cast of Grove‘s tastes yesterday, I thought we’d keep it superficial today. So while I wait for my magical Halloween creations of yarn, glue, and sequins to dry I’m going to tell you a little more about the Sisters Kavanaugh and their buddy Silas.

Autumn KavanaughAutumn Kavanaugh

  1. How does this character dress? How would they choose to dress, if all options were open to them? For Autumn, form follows function. If she’s going to work it’s a sturdy pair of flattering jeans, a clean colored t-shirt that will keep her covered when she bends or reaches, and comfortable shoes. If she’s going out or on a date, she will dress to catch the eye of the guy she hopes is looking (specifically, not all guys). She favors close tops that flatter her curves paired with skirt (either mini, or knee-length and twirly). She is aware of the shapes and colors that suit her, and chooses her clothes along those lines but she isn’t worried about looking like a fashion plate.
  2. Do they have any tattoos? What do they mean? No. She hates tattoos.
  3. Do they have piercings? How many? Is this culturally appropriate for them? Three ear piercings in each lobe. She usually wears something dangly in the first hole, with coordinating studs in the other two. Unless she’s at work, in which case it’s studs in shapes like stars or music notes.
  4. Do they have scars? Where did they come from? One on her shoulder blade from being pushed into the corner of a desk as a child.
  5. Do they alter their appearance in some way on a regular basis? Paints her fingernails frequently with different colors and patterns. Doesn’t use hair dye or mess with her hair much at all, since it’s so prone to frizz and tangles.
  6. Is there something they’d choose to change about their appearance if they had the opportunity to? She’s come to terms with her appearance, though she wouldn’t mind being a little thinner, like Emily. She also wouldn’t mind a few adjustments to her face, like a sleeker nose and larger eyes. 
  7. Is there something about their appearance they’re particularly proud of/happy with? Boobs, butt, and legs (though she’d never say it out loud).
  8. Objectively, are they physically attractive? Fairly plain? Unattractive? Autumn is attainably attractive. Good looking enough that guys are happy to introduce her to their friends, but not so good looking that every guy either hits on her or gets intimidated. Her most attractive features are her figure and her personality, her face is merely fine, and she is aware of this.
  9. Do they have an accurate mental picture and opinion of their physical appearance? For the most part. She probably underestimates how many guys find her attractive, because she is aware of that media-driven “beauty mag bone-thin” standard of beauty and knows that she doesn’t measure up to it.
  10. How much time do they spend thinking about their physical appearance? Not a lot. She thinks about it when it is relevant (e.g. is this outfit appropriate for work, do I look like a sexy lady or a deranged cow for my date tonight, etc.)

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Emily KavanaughEmily Kavanaugh

  1. How does this character dress? How would they choose to dress, if all options were open to them? She dresses in pastels and whites, favoring solid colors to busy patterns. Her wardrobe is perhaps best described as “Utilitarian Girly”: utilitarian because her father buys her clothes, and girly in color choice where she has some say. Skinny jeans and soft sweaters with ballet flats in colder weather, sundresses and sandals in warmer weather. Nothing too revealing, and her clothes are always immaculately clean and unwrinkled.
  2. Do they have any tattoos? What do they mean? Definitely not. Emily doesn’t see herself as “that kind of girl”.
  3. Do they have piercings? How many? Is this culturally appropriate for them? Just a single piercing in each ear for the gemstone studs she receives every birthday. She has amethyst, topaz, peridot, aquamarine, and pearls.
  4. Do they have scars? Where did they come from? No. Her skin is flawless.
  5. Do they alter their appearance in some way on a regular basis? She does her hair every day, but generally in the same style. She wants blonde highlights but her father says no on the grounds that they will make her look slutty.
  6. Is there something they’d choose to change about their appearance if they had the opportunity to? She would be taller, like Autumn.
  7. Is there something about their appearance they’re particularly proud of/happy with? She’s pretty happy with her everything.
  8. Objectively, are they physically attractive? Fairly plain? Unattractive? Emily is quite pretty, possibly beautiful in the right light or with the right makeup. Her figure is well-proportioned and she has a lovely, delicate face.
  9. Do they have an accurate mental picture and opinion of their physical appearance? Emily overestimates her attractiveness a hair, because she’s not aware that her challenging personality detracts from her natural beauty,
  10. How much time do they spend thinking about their physical appearance? A lot. Emily spends most of her day thinking about how she appears to others.

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Silas

  1. How does this character dress? How would they choose to dress, if all options were open to them? Super casual. Baggy, faded cargo shorts and d
    Silas

    ark brown skater sneakers with ankle socks (or no socks). His t-shirts are non-descript: plain colors and generally faded. Occasionally wears a beanie when it’s cold, but never a jacket.

  2. Do they have any tattoos? What do they mean? No.
  3. Do they have piercings? How many? Is this culturally appropriate for them? No.
  4. Do they have scars? Where did they come from? He has a scar just under his left knee from a soccer accident, and three intentionally-inflicted scars over his heart.
  5. Do they alter their appearance in some way on a regular basis? No. Silas is essentially unchanging.
  6. Is there something they’d choose to change about their appearance if they had the opportunity to? No.
  7. Is there something about their appearance they’re particularly proud of/happy with? He’s pretty evenly content with his overall appearance.
  8. Objectively, are they physically attractive? Fairly plain? Unattractive? Silas is unconventionally attractive. He has a fairly large nose, unruly hair in a dull color, and fair skin prone to freckling. His attractive qualities are his blue eyes, the athletic grace of his movements, and his lean build (for those who find such a build appealing). He has a great deal of charisma and can turn on the charm when he is inclined.
  9. Do they have an accurate mental picture and opinion of their physical appearance? Not really. Silas has an accurate picture of what he looks like, but he overestimates how attractive others find him at first glance.
  10. How much time do they spend thinking about their physical appearance? Not much. His appearance like his right arm: it’s there, he finds it tremendously useful, but he rarely thinks about it.

Character Study: NaNoWriMo Prep, Pt. 1

NaNoWriMo is only four days away but I am itching to get writing. None of my words count before Nov. 1st, and I play fair, so I am letting all of that creative pressure build in hopes that once that starting gate opens I will be sprinting my way through writing my second novel.

There is still the matter of the itch, and since I am writing a sequel I though it behooved me to climb back into my characters minds and walk around for a bit before I try any running. To accomplish that I have found some character development questions that I’m going to answer for three significant characters in a manner as spoiler-free as possible.

Autumn Kavanaugh

  1. What’s your character’s favourite colour?Yellow
  2. Do they/would they choose to wear a scent? What would it be?Possibly. Something bright and fun but comforting, with fruity notes to it. Blackberry and vanilla. 
  3. Do they care about what things look like? All things, or only some?Not generally. She has a utilitarian approach to looks, where things need only look good “enough”. The bar for “enough” is set fairly low.
  4. What’s their favourite ice cream flavour? Strawberry.
  5. Are they a tea, or coffee drinker? Or soft drinks, or do they drink a lot of alcohol? What kind?Lemonade is her favorite drink, soda (Orange or Strawberry Fanta) a close second. She does not drink alcohol.
  6. What kind of books do they read? What TV shows and movies do they watch? She reads fiction, preferably funny. Nothing too dark. No crime novels or shows, no mysteries. She doesn’t like to read books or watch shows that use suffering for entertainment value. Enjoys novels of manners like those by Jane Austin, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Thackeray. She likes musicals, and comedies with heart. She’d take Emily to watch Pitch Perfect and she’d buy Juno and the collected works of John Hughes. When watching TV she’d choose So You Think You Can Dance or The Big Bang Theory.
  7. What kind of music do they like? Do they like music at all? She loves music, particularly if it’s good for dancing. Favors punk, electronica, and sillier showtunes. She would definitely have “Gangnam Style”, Ellie Goulding’s albums, and be up on the latest developments in dubstep.
  8. If they were about to die, what would they have as their last meal? Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and blueberry pie (that she probably made herself) for dessert. With lemonade to drink, of course.
  9. Are they hedonistic? In all cases? Or does practicality sometimes/always/often win out? Autumn is mostly practical, but at a point in her life where she is looking to think less to ignore some things that aren’t going so well. She’s trying hedonism on, but it doesn’t necessarily suit her. She’s inclined to be a bit of a martyr, though she doesn’t think of it that way.
  10. Do they have any philias or phobias? Fear of abandonment, and she’s not crazy about fire or loss of control (hence the avoidance of alcohol).

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Emily Kavanaugh

  1. What’s your character’s favourite colour? Lavender

    She better keep this one well-hidden.

  2. Do they/would they choose to wear a scent? What would it be? Floral, with lots of white flowers like lilies or gardenias. Possibly a chocolate note.
  3. Do they care about what things look like? All things, or only some? Yes, very much. Emily is highly invested in things looking just the way they are “supposed to”, including herself…to the point that her expectations might not be strictly realistic.
  4. What’s their favourite ice cream flavour? Cherry Garcia
  5. Are they a tea, or coffee drinker? Or soft drinks, or do they drink a lot of alcohol? What kind? She drinks alcohol socially, when it is offered, but she doesn’t seek it out. Her favorite drink is hot chocolate (with a mound of whipped cream atop a flotilla of marshmallows). She drinks tea when she can get it, and root beer the rest of the time.
  6. What kind of books do they read? What TV shows and movies do they watch? She reads romance novels and fairy tale updates, though no one outside of her home knows that. She prefers the more outlandish romances, the ones with pirates and knights. Twilight is her bible.  Her taste in movies runs to romance as well, comedies are fine but she particularly likes the dramas. She’d be first in line for Breaking Dawn Pt. 2, watch Anna Karenina with her sister, and she owns well-worn copies of Titanic and Dirty Dancing. She’d watch Once Upon A Time and Vampire Diaries.
  7. What kind of music do they like? Do they like music at all? Pop, particularly ballads. Her Spotify would show Leona Lewis, Taylor Swift, and Celine Dion in heavy rotation. She likes “Someone Like You”, but not Adele’s other songs, and she thinks Carrie Underwood has too much attitude. Justin Beiber and One Direction would fulfill the dreamy boy requirement.
  8. If they were about to die, what would they have as their last meal? Lobster, with chocolate mousse for dessert.
  9. Are they hedonistic? In all cases? Or does practicality sometimes/always/often win out? She is. Emily lives almost entirely in service to her own pleasure, and she can rationalize most of her behavior to seem thought-out rather than based on a whim. Practicality does not win out because Emily doesn’t have much concept of what is practical.
  10. Do they have any philias or phobias? She is afraid of deprivation. She’s afraid of looking foolish or uncool.

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Silas

  1. What’s your character’s favourite colour?He likes deep earthtones: oxblood, mohogany, and forest green…but he doesn’t really care enough to choose a favorite.
  2. Do they/would they choose to wear a scent? What would it be? His own natural musk.
  3. Do they care about what things look like? All things, or only some?In a low-key, binary way. Things are attractive/unattractive, cool/uncool, appealing/unappealing without a lot of shades in between. That is the degree to which it affects his decision-making. Want or do-not-want.
  4. What’s their favourite ice cream flavour? Dark Chocolate
  5. Are they a tea, or coffee drinker? Or soft drinks, or do they drink a lot of alcohol? What kind? He drinks quite a bit of alcohol, homemade wine and store-bought beer, though it doesn’t often show. He’s not big on coffee, soda, or tea, though he’ll take whatever’s offered and does go for the occasional glass of milk.
  6. What kind of books do they read? What TV shows and movies do they watch? He doesn’t read or watch TV much. He’s read the classics that pop up in conversation Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, etc. He’s read a couple of Nick Hornby books three-quarters of the way through before he got bored and moved on. Jeopardy!, horse racing on ESPN, and big cat documentaries can sometimes hold his interest. When he goes to the movies he chooses raunchy comedies like Project X or Superbad.
  7. What kind of music do they like? Do they like music at all? Looking at him one might guess Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson, but he actually leans more toward the tortured and disgruntled: Trent Reznor, Johnny Cash, and Black Flag pour from the speakers in his crappy Volkswagen.
  8. If they were about to die, what would they have as their last meal? Spicy sausage with peppers, a perfectly ripe orange, chili-cheese curly fries, some figs, and a chocolate milkshake all washed down with a bottle of cherry wine.
  9. Are they hedonistic? In all cases? Or does practicality sometimes/always/often win out?At his core, Silas is a hedonist. However, he can put that inclination aside for a time in order to focus on reaching a specific goal.
  10. Do they have any philias or phobias? He loves horse racing and the sensual pleasures: food, sex, music, you name it. He is afraid of losing the people he loves, and he keeps that circle small as a result.

I have yet to revise Grove, and I kind of knew that I should do an exercise like this before trying because these three characters were not as three-dimensional as I wanted them to be. This was pretty useful in for clarifying who they are, how they should have related to each other in Grove, and how they will relate in Starsand. Stay tuned for another installment of Character Study tomorrow!

Top Ten Tuesdays: All Hallow’s Read

Is there a name for the opposite of a scaredy cat? Whatever it is, that’s me! I love to get scared, watch scary movies, read scary books, and Halloween is easily my favorite holiday (cuz I also like to wear costumes and be weird). So when this week’s assignment came down from the ladies of The Broke and The Bookish, I knew it would be a piece of cake.

Top Ten Book to Rouse Your Halloween Spirit

1. The Scary Stories for Sleepovers series by various authors

As a kid, I loved this series because it was actually scary! The stories were well written, the illustrations were great, and things didn’t turn out all right in the end. Wishy-washy spooky stories with half-hearted scares and everyone waking up safe and sound in their own bed at the end are for wusses! I still remember a few of these stories so well, I’ve used them as ghost stories around the campfire.

2. The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Steven Schwartz Alvin

These stories weren’t as well-written as the ones in the first series I listed, and they tended to mix a few joke stories and silly spooky songs in, but the illustrations were downright terrifying! Just grotesque. When I would flip through the book looking for the story I would actually just peel back a corner of the page, to avoid accidentally seeing a haunting illustration. Once I paper-clipped two particularly disturbing pages together. Even so, I still read the stories and peeked at the freaky pictures. High grade spookage.

3. The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

Of course. This is a classic for anyone who was a kid in the nineties.  The Haunted Mask is a good one that happens to take place on Halloween. I was also a big fan of One Day at Horrorland, since it combined my love of scary stuff with my love of amusement parks. Quick, quality spooky stories that will leave you with a general sense of unease rather than keeping you up all night. Scares that leave you with a smile.

Current teens might prefer his Fear Street novels or the work of Christopher Pike.

4.  IT by Stephen King

As far as I’m concerned, this is King’s scariest novel. Perhaps because it invites the reader to slip back into childhood, and to be scared as deeply and irrationally as we could be scared then. When it seemed that anything was possible, even a murderous morphing sewer clown. One of the best parts for me is that each of Pennywise’s victims is scared by their own personal boogeyman: a werewolf, Swamp Thing, a giant bird. Still, they are tied together by that near-universal fear of what might be down the dark, wet drain.

5. The Harry Potter Series

It’s full of magic and fantastical creatures, and Halloween is the one time of year where it not considered hopelessly nerdy to indulge in a love of the supernatural! Besides, between pumpkin pasties and poltergeists, it’s always Halloween at Hogwarts!

6. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater

This sequel to Lament has a distinctly autumnal feel. The action builds toward the end of October, and as more and more supernatural forces emerge at music conservatory Thornking Ash the narrative becomes increasingly spooky. Not really scary, but definitely has a Halloween-feeling for me.

7. Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, or pretty much any other collection of short stories by Stephen King

He’s not the master of horror for nothing, and his playfulness really comes out in the short story format. His collections generally offer at least one deeply disturbing, well-observed novella mixed into a selection of tightly-paced spook stories and short tales that manage to be both silly and spooky at once. The beauty of Stephen King is in his range, as he has said himself:

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud. ”
Stephen King

King understands that there are as many kinds of scary as there are people on Earth, and he tries to write them all (which is why this list could easily have been all King).

8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’m a sucker for any book where you can feel more for the monster than the hero, even as you feel the hero’s fear and anxiety, and this book is an absolute classic. It’s fairly short and masterfully crafted, if you’ve never read it it I would make a point of giving it a shot this Halloween season!

9. The Witches by Roald Dahl

I love Dahl, and like any of his novels The Witches deftly mixes the hilarious with the horrifying. What could be more quintessentially Halloween than a convention of child-hating witches? I also highly recommend the movie version, Anjelica Huston is divine.

10. Barn Dance by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Ted Rand

This book is one of my all-time favorites, and the late-night harvest-moon dance with the farm animals and scarecrow has always held a little bit of that Halloween magic for me. Great to read with the kids, and not scary at all, but equally as enjoyable for adults thanks to lovely ink-and-watercolor illustrations.

BONUS Graphic Novel and Manga Rec:

Pet Shop of Horrors is an entertaining and spooky manga with a great art style, of the “be careful what you wish for” variety.

The Walking Dead is an outstanding series about survivors roaming the American south in the latter days of a zombie apocalypse. There are some truly shocking plot developments, the story is complex, and the art style engaging without being unbearably gory. I must admit the show lost me about halfway through the first season, not least due to character and plot changes that weakened the overall story.

*The title of this entry refers to Neil Gaiman’s proposed All Hallow’s Read, a movement to start a tradition of giving spooky books on Halloween.

How Do I Write?

In exploring the blogs of some of my new followers (I picked up 8 the day that I posted for Next Big Thing, personal best), I found some great questions on personal process. Blogger Shannon A. Thompson had gotten them from a friend, and I enjoyed reading her responses so much I thought I would borrow the questions and answer them myself. It seemed like a nice warm-up in these last days before NaNoWriMo, where you will likely hear from me more sporadically than usual.

How long do you spend writing each day? 

Every day is different, any sort of routine feels like slow death. Many days all I write are a few comments over on Tom and Lorenzo, a few Facebook statuses, and a blog post if I’m feeling ambitious. Sometimes a poem. I’m a bit of a binge writer: when I write, I really write. It’s all I do until whatever I’m writing is finished. If I try to work on other things, I feel a pull back to the writing. It’s the same way with my fine art. Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it all the way until it’s done. I know a lot of people can’t work like that, but it’s the only way I can.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

Night. I am useless in the morning. I really hit my stride around ten p.m., and ten to two is my magic window of maximum brainpower, so if I am planning my writing at all I aim to work during that window. The few times I tried to write before the sun went down I wrote a lot of half-sentences and kept deleting them, and eventually wandered off to greener internet pastures.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?

I just write until it’s done. With projects I do try to set an end date, like I want to be finished with this piece by December 10th, but it’s mostly to help me get started. If it’s not done by December 10th, I keep writing right past the deadline until I finish.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?

Yes, absolutely. Music is such a valuable tool when I’m writing. It helps me drop into the mood of a scene or climb into a character’s skin very quickly. My playlists evolve along with my writing, I move songs around in the play order or add/delete as the narrative changes. I also tend to view a piece of writing as something akin to a song or symphony, the rise and fall of action act like the dynamics in a piece of music. Structural knowledge of music helps me with pacing and knowing when to add the tiny percussive beat that will act as a counterpoint to the later action crescendo.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?

I actually have a two-monitor setup that I use for graphic design work, and when I’m writing I will often have a style guide or research resource open on one monitor while I write on the other. I am a huge research nerd, so I have to have access to the internet to look up whatever unexpected minutiae pop up while I’m writing.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

Hands-down a Basher. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that the tight deadline forces me to move on and not fuss, but that is so contrary to my nature. I have a very strong memory, which means I will remember all the little bits that didn’t quite work or words that weren’t the exact one I wanted…and they accumulate over the course of 50,000 words. I feel like I am dragging all of that behind me, so I usually try to fix it as I go.

Do you eat when you’re writing? What snacks/drinks do you go to?

If you are a health nut, please avert your eyes. This part will only upset you. I have this absolutely enormous cup from AM/PM that holds something ridiculous like 64 oz. of liquid, and if I’m working on anything longer than a poem I will fill it with Dr. Pepper so that I don’t have to move again until I’m done writing. I got into the habit during long nights in the print shop during college. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol, so I think of that as my vice. Sometimes I will have popcorn or goldfish crackers around, too, but not often. They tend to just annoy me because I am using my hands to write/type and I don’t want to stop just to eat. My husband thinks that mentality is completely insane. He often has to stop me and remind me to eat when I’ve been working for four hours straight and I’m getting cranky. If I’m really into what I’m writing I will sometimes forget to drink from my giant cup and it will go flat by the time I remember.

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates?

I procrastinate up to a point, doing whatever crosses my mind, usually to the point where I have exactly the amount of time left I will need to complete my project before deadline. Then I turn into an unstoppable freight train of accomplishment. While procrastinating I research, make lists of names, fiddle with playlists, read books…I have baked as a way to procrastinate in the past.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 

My husband is a semi-serious gamer, but he is extremely good about always putting real-life things before virtual gamer things. In return, I try to choose the moments I ask him to do things, so that I’m not interrupting him every five seconds and messing up what he’s working on. When I am deep in a project (art or writing) our roles flip. We can go a very long time sitting in our office together, using our respective computers and not talking to each other, and remain quite happy. If one of us states “I need some attention” the 0ther drops what they are doing. It works for us.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?

I am semi-tied to my home office, for three reasons. One, I am very easily distracted and a new venue provides too many people to observe and conversations to overhear…I can’t focus. Two, I like to have my computer available for research. I find it difficult to half-ass a fact and move on, promising myself that I will go back and fix it later. Three, my husband is in my office. I like to bounce bits of dialogue or pieces of scenes off of him, or ask him questions for authenticity. Plus, I just like being near him. His presence calms me and I feel it enhances my work. He’s my muse (a fact that he will proudly share with anyone who will listen :))

That said, on occasion I will take a notepad and a pen out to the park or forest and find a quiet spot to sit and write. Those occasions just aren’t very often. The smell of coffee makes me ill so I have never done the cliché “hunched over a laptop at Starbucks” thing.

It was really interesting for me to answer these questions about my own process. A few of the answers surprised me, my knee-jerk response wasn’t actually the truth of how I work. What about you? How do you work? Feel free to respond in the comments or answer on your blog (just leave a link so I can read your answers)!

**Believe it or not, I scheduled this post. Such are the depths of my contrariness that the moment I said I would never schedule one, I knew that a scheduled post was in my future.**

Stuff and Things, Ltd.

Here are some things that you may or may not be interested in, as a sometime reader of Ink.

1. I currently have a print showing at the YeeTee Gallery in Illinois. It is part of a video-game themed exchange, Your Printshop is in Another Castle, exploring how video games influenced artists in our formative years. My print is a diptych engraving with hand-color, entitled “Red Valkyrie Needs Pipe Badly”.  If you have questions about process or content, I would be delighted to answer them in the comments!

2. I am readying some work for a show at the gallery related to my alma mater, Humboldt State University, in December. I will be sending over five pieces: two collagraphs, two serigraphs (screenprints), and an engraving. Readying them involves a lot of Photoshopping photographs of the work so that they somewhat resemble what the pieces look like in real life, cutting mats, framing, and doing any touch-up the pieces need before I send them over to Arcata. The show is at First Street Gallery, the Giant Squid Exhibition, if anyone is interested in checking it out in real life.

3. This morning, as I was complaining about the limitations of the rating system on Goodreads, my Muse (who is a real person) provided a brilliant flash of inspiration. I have often thought that Ink could benefit from a visual rating system, for the visual learners out there and those who are inclined to say “too long, did not read”. All reviews will now come equipped with a chair-rating! A photo of a chair whose comfort-level/sit-ability reflects my impression of the novel’s quality/readability. I think this will make more sense once I start to implement it.

4. Still working on my 2013 Sketchbook Project submission. It is looking like it will involve a lot of paper weaving, cutouts, and tatted embellishments.

5. My official NaNoWriMo preparations have begun! I spent awhile last night putting together my starter playlist in Spotify, and gave the playlist the working title of the manuscript I intend to write: Starsand. Riveting. At this point I have concrete ideas for about four scenes in the novel, and a general idea of how they might link up. I expect that I will be mostly winging it, like last year. Can’t wait to get started.

6. Because I have moved since last NaNoWriMo, I got on the website and changed my region. Last year’s local WriMos were a very disconcerting group, and brought out the introvert in me. I can’t wait to see what the Chico WriMos are like at this year’s FroYo kickoff.

I will leave you with the first song on the Starsand playlist:


Andain – “Promises”