Those Burning Questions…

Do you ever sit around and wonder what kind of mascot or spirit animal I would choose?

No? Well why on Earth not??

I’ll give you a hint: it probably isn’t the animal you’re expecting.

To find out, you’ll need to head on over to JoBookLove and check out the interview I did! I talk about my writing process, how I deal with book reviews, and the most important question of all, what I consider my spirit animal.

Interview with Marlena Frank by JoBookLove

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Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday R. Michael made a post, Blogging Lessons and Woes, about how it’s important as an author to write outside of your comfort zone. In his case, he was very referring to blogging. After a year of having his blog, he was shocked at how much he appreciated it. I’ve run this blog for almost six years now, and I can easily admit that it gets difficult figuring out what to blog about. (Doing the Blogging University challenge this month has helped, but more on that in another post.) I’ve come to accept that blogging is always going to be a challenge, but I’ve also learned there are far much more uncomfortable subjects to write about.

I’m a nature lover. As a kid I dreamed of growing up to be a veterinarian. I follow The Cornell Lab’s awesome newsletter, getting info on fun topics like how to build proper bird houses and where to place them in your yard. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw, nested in the comments, someone detail how they get rid of House Sparrows which are apparently considered pests in certain areas. Not only did they detail the method, but they also gave an estimate of how many birds they had disposed of over the past two years.

crowTrapsI was horrified but, being a writer, I wanted to know more. I live in the U.S. South, so I understand how overpopulation can become an issue. That’s why we have deer hunting season after all, and even though deer are my favorite animals, I understand how they can take over a place if left unchecked. I soon stumbled upon control methods for crows, using a disturbing but ingenious cage. I found out that they’re difficult to deal with because they’re just so darn intelligent.

One amusing comment from this video stuck with me, and I just had to share it:

I don’t have time to scroll through all 2768 comments at the moment but I have lived, treeplanting, in the woods with ravens on Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada and this simple test is nothing compared to the ravens stealing my lunch. Pardon me, my third lunch in three days.   Opening my click locks, then opening the zipper then pulling out the tupperware and getting the duct tape off of it to open it and then eating my sandwich. THEN flying by me on the side of a mountain to caw at me!!! Did I mention the cedar sticks and large boulders I put on the knapsack within which this prize was hidden? This was the third lunch they stole from me and after that I LEARNED to just leave them a freebie on the ground and they’d leave me my lunch.  I still shake my fist every time I see a crow. They are brilliant.

It’s amazing to me that we spend so much energy trying to capture and dispose of nuisance animals when sometimes we might be better off learning to live with them.

So yes, the story was very difficult to write and I’m pretty sure I was frowning the entire time I wrote it. However I think my disgust only made the story better. It took longer to write since I was putting so much energy into it. I challenged myself in a way I hadn’t done before, and I think the writing benefits from it. Of course, you’ll have to read it for yourself and let me know!

“Tiny Necks” is set to be released in Not Your Average Monster Volume 2  by Bloodshot Books on February 29th, but should be up for pre-order earlier than that.

Creepy NaNo Research

Camp NaNo is off to a great start, even if I am a thousand words behind right now. This month I’m working on writing four short stories, all weird horror pieces. I wrote back in March about some story ideas that I had, but looking back on them, I haven’t used a single one. That said, all of these had a loose to detailed outline to go along with them. I’ll give their tentative titles below and a bit of research I had to do for each of them.

  • Just Too Sweet – Not much research had to be done here, cause I already had a good understanding of beer, Twitter, and apartment complexes. 😉
  • The Odd House – Now this one needed quite a bit of research. I needed to know the name of a particular Interstate, I-16, that runs from Macon, GA down to Savannah, GA. I’ve had to drive this a couple of times, and running over 80 miles long with hardly any exits or rest stops, it definitely feels long, especially if you already have a lot of asphalt behind you. I’ve never had to drive this stretch of road late at night by myself, but I would give anyone who did plenty of respect. With the endless trees on either side of the two-lane road, I imagine your mind could get to you.
    I-16_Map

    I-16

    Another fun aspect of this story was finding some fun inspiration. This one especially caught my eye and the mood of my story. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any ownership info on it though.

    Mothman_Wallpaper_yvt2

    Really, it just wants hugs.

  • The Thirteenth Crow – This one hasn’t been written quite yet. I’ll be starting on it tomorrow morning, and it was certainly one of the more difficult stories to research. Not that it was difficult to find information on this, but it was difficult for me personally as a bird-lover.

    Yep, that's a crow trap.

    Yep, that’s a crow trap.

  • The Masked King’s Dance – I’ll admit, this was completely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The Trap, which I heard about from the HP Podcraft podcast (which is freaking awesome if you haven’t heard). Admittedly it isn’t a very good story, but the premise just really got my creative juices flowing. So many of Lovecraft’s stories do though. 🙂

 

So there are my plans so far! I’ve got some catching up to do still, but I doubt I’m the only one. With a total monthly goal of 20k words, I think it’s completely do-able.

For the Love of Tigers

Today is International Tiger Day, so I thought I needed to give a shout-out to some of my favorite animals. First and foremost, let’s get the adorable pictures out of the way.

Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe this cub.

Not enough cuteness for you? Then I recommend you head over to Mother Jones and check out their whole page dedicated to the beautiful creatures. Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you get back. Got to get the Aww! out of your system after all.

Now if you want to read more about Siberian tigers, I recommend checking out The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. I listened to this book on audio last year, checked out for free from my library, and I have to say it was an intense listen. For me at least, the audio book helped because listening to how the names were pronounced helped me to have more of a distinction for the characters. Check out a snippet of my review of the book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tiger is revered, feared, compartmentalized, and idealized. There is a main story, but mixed throughout are backgrounds for the various people whose lives were affected, as well as fascinating tales of the various tigers that our main forest ranger has encountered.

I learned a lot about Russian history and its economy in this book, as well as all the temperamental relations that have existed in the past with her neighbors. The book is also peppered with adventurous tiger stories (besides the primary tale), even from a few survivors, and you learn how intelligent, territorial, and vengeful these animals are. These sections were by far my favorite parts of the book, and made for some entertaining discussions around the dinner table.

[…]

As frustrating as the structure was at times, listening to it in audiobook format made the Russian names, terms, and locales easier to understand and I didn’t feel daunted by the language as much as I think I would have been had I read this in paper/ebook format.

Overall a fascinating book about a beautiful but dangerous predator.

Another good source for information on not only the Siberian tiger but also the people of the Taiga is the documentary titled Happy People (available on Netflix), which walks you through a regular working day for people who live among the largest land man-eaters on the planet. You really get a good taste for the environment in Vaillant’s The Tiger, but it really hits home to see the reality of it. Not only do you see how they have to create makeshift traps in the woods but you also watch them make their own boats, all using the simple but reliable tools at their disposal.

Finally I’d like to leave you with some excellent places that work with tigers on a regular basis.

  • Big Cat Rescue in Florida. A wildlife conservatory for big cats that are rescued and given a happy home. The video and pictures they post on a regular basis will make your heart melt.
  • Noah’s Ark in Georgia. I have a special fondness for this non-profit located right around the corner from where I live. They take in all sorts of animals, not just tigers. Recently they took in a bunch of dogs that were removed from a puppy mill, got them cleaned up, gave them medical exams, and will soon be adopting them out. One of their biggest attractions though is their BLT trio – a bear, lion, and tiger who live in the same enclosure and are incidentally best friends.

Happy World Tiger Day everybody!

Robin’s Egg Blue

Yay for a three day weekend! Sure the traffic was terrible on the way home and I had to take back roads to avoid adding an hour and a half to my commute after work, but three days off really does help. Got quite a bit more writing done this evening even though I had to work up the energy to do it. I really wanted to just veg out, but books don’t get written that way.

Project: Madam Cloom’s Garden
Current Word Count: 14,526
New Words Written: 1,257

Progress: Got some beautiful imagery in with some terrifying realizations. Shaleigh then dove headfirst into a really bad idea. Fighting in the sky is never a good plan. Even when hand biting is involved.

Commentary: Lots of action in this scene, and still more to come. Talking with my writing buddy, I seem to kind of stub out scenes before I go back in and add descriptions on the second pass. I guess it takes me a bit to really cement the environment in my head before I put it down on paper. I’m glad that I’m keeping a low word count this NaNo. There’s less pressure to produce, so I feel comfortable doing a couple of passes through each section before moving onto the next. I’m trying to make this draft fairly clean if possible.

What’s up with the title of this post, you may ask? Well Shaleigh (my protagonist) is a photographer, and I’m pretty sure she’s aware of the names for different colors and such, which is why I chose that as her hobby of choice. When she heads into the realm of the fae, I’m making a conscious effort to show a difference in color with the environments. The real world is drab with its heels dug into a dirty, decaying, stagnant world, but the realm of the fae is filled with vibrant colors and unusual sights that catches Shaleigh’s artistic eye. One of her first observations is that the sky is the color of a robin’s egg.

Robin's Egg Blue. Found from Byteful Travel.

Robin’s Egg Blue. One of the cutest colors around. Found from Byteful Travel.

Other: In other news about birds, we seem to have a trio of them who have taken a liking to our front door light. We’ve been living in this house for nearly five years now, and we’ve never seen them do this before. They won’t do it during the day, only around dusk and through the night. We’ve been making a point not to turn on the porch light for fear that we’ll frighten them, but they’re not making nests or anything. Just hanging out and enjoying the spot. We get lots of bumblebees and wasps over there, so if they can help out with that problem, then I think we can get along just fine. Despite the fact that we have guests in and out in the evening, they’ve been quite content to live and let live. Honestly I think they’re better than some roommates (despite the poop, I mean).

Look closely, there are two birds there. The third showed up after this picture.

Look closely, there are two birds there. The third showed up just after this picture.

If you all have any idea what kind of birds these are, or maybe why they’re roosting like this, I’d love to know! I’m a bird appreciator but certainly not a bird expert or even a bird watcher.