Goblins don’t buy groceries

When you cut a deal to get out of goblin jail, sometimes you end up on a secret pumpkin-snatching mission for the manipulative goblin wizard who busted you out. And it can an awkward situation when you’re with a squad of professional pumpkin-snatching goblins, and you’re just sort of… a kid.

This is the third preview of my upcoming middle-grade chapter book Pumpkin Goblins. The clip here is read not by me, but by my spouse (and number two fan*).

A part of this scene stemmed from writing anxiety. There was a self-flagellating voice in my head saying something like: “This story is really stupid. Why can’t you think of stories that aren’t stupid? Why would goblins snatch pumpkins from people’s doorsteps when they could just go to the store and buy a bunch of pumpkins?

Then a more helpful voice said: “Grocery stores don’t accept goblin money.”

And another helpful voice, one that sounded a bit more like a goblin, answered: “Also, we don’t have goblin money.”

I believe in brainstorming rather than waiting for inspiration to hit. When it does hit, it’s almost never out of nowhere. It happens because I’ve been thinking and asking questions, even if sometimes those questions are kind of whiny.

Here’s the transcript:

Korkor turned to Amber. “You’ll be doing my job. Keep the trick-or-treaters away while we take the pumpkins back in several trips.”
“How do I do that?”
“Shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe a bat-nexus grenade followed by a smoke shroud? Or a nice Spook’s Gambit followed by a Kirlik Maneuver?” He made an excited gesture of a swooping owl and handfuls of explosions. ”Do you have your own array of creeper-cell batteries and magic boosters, or do you need to borrow one?”
Amber said nothing in response.
“Here.” Korkor dumped a pile of pocket junk in Amber’s arms.
Torlik made an exasperated noise. “She doesn’t know how to use any of that stuff, and you know it’s not enough for a crowd.”
Amber wanted to help, though she really didn’t know how to use any of that stuff, and she hadn’t understood most of what Korkor had said. “I don’t get why you can’t just grow pumpkins yourselves. Or buy them.”
“Grow them?”
“Now?”
“Takes too long,” said the three goblins in overlapping bites of speech.
“Fine, buy them,” said Amber, suspecting that, somehow, this wouldn’t do either.
“Buy them?” With a dramatic arm thrown across his forehead, Torlik pretended to faint. “From a store?”
But Korkor’s eyes lit like jack-o-lanterns. “A store with aisles and aisles of pumpkins?”
“And a pot of stew?” Falkit added hopefully.
Amber shrugged “A grocery store.”
“Grocery stories don’t accept goblin money,” said Korkor
“Also, we don’t have goblin money,” added Torlik, turning out his pockets.
“Also, goblin money doesn’t exist.” Korkor turned to Torlik, and they nodded rapidly in unison.
There was a pause.
“Could you explain coupons?” asked Falkit.

I had been aiming to publish this on October 15, and I think it will be pushed back by just a few days. When it’s out, I’ll announce it on both this blog and my newsletter.

By the way, I just saw an in-progress version of the cover illustration as the color is being added. It’s going to look cool, and I’m excited to post it sometime next week!


*I may not have a lot of fans, but they are the most organized fans in the world: they numbered themselves.

A recipe for goblin candy

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about goblins, it’s that they eat most of the same food as chickens: fruit, bugs, and various forageables. At least, the goblins in Pumpkin Goblins do. Even though I have chickens, this is actually a weird coincidence. I did the earliest work on Pumpkin Goblins almost two years before the chickens came on the scene. Since Pumpkin Goblins is coming out later this month, it’s occupying a lot of my mental space. So much, in fact, that it has seeped into my snacks. Thus, here is the story of how I ended up making goblin candy.

Every time I needed a goblin to mention some kind of food, my first thought was: Worms? Or graveworms? Goblins eating bugs was an easy option, kind of a default idea, and I usually like to challenge those and do my own thing. Since the goblins snatch pumpkins rather than growing them, I figured they weren’t big on agriculture. Their village is in the middle of the woods, so it didn’t seem like a great place for any sort of farmland. They weren’t going to be raising pigs and cows, or eating bacon cheeseburgers. But I could imagine them growing little gardens, or picking fruit from the woods. The bugs still fit the image I had in mind, and every time I mentioned goblin food, it was mostly bugs and fruit:

“A conspiracy as vast as an ocean of soup, as intricate as a puzzle box or a lattice-weave pie crust. As dangerous as undercooked cricket brulee with the crunchy top.”

A goblin from the front row stepped forward and handed Hobkit a lumpy biscuit.

“Thank you, yes. Bat-darnit, I was hungry.”

and

The smell of burnt applesauce hit him as soon as he started down the ladder. Applesauce with mothwings and nutmeg, an Ebleween favorite. The familiar scent tugged at Torlik’s memory.

The idea of goblin candy came from a very quick bit of dialogue in Pumpkin Goblins:

Amber shared a bit of her Halloween candy with Falkit, who in all her years as a driver, had never tried it. Spitting it out, the goblin dramatically pretended to throw up. “It doesn’t have any apples,” she complained.

“It’s a chocolate caramel, not a caramel apple.”

“No apples, no worms. Nothing juicy-good like goblin candy.” She spat again. “Sticky.”

Even though this is a very minor bit of the story, I have a vivid image of what goblin candy is like: dark and fruity, gooey in texture, with a hint of spices.

Goblin candy: not known for its looks. In fact, it inspired someone to tell me a story about a prank in which chocolate was presented as bear poop.

My recipe for goblin candy is based on a recipe for No-Bake Pecan Chocolates from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I’ve made the original recipe many times, and at this point, I kind of make it my own way. Since it’s a deliciously sticky mass of chocolate and nuts, I thought it would be a good starting point for goblin candy. Btw, I highly recommend Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, vegan or not. And I’m not; it’s just a collection of awesome, unique cookie recipes. Their gluten-free flour mixture alone is worth the cost of the book.

Goblin Candy

1 cup chocolate bits
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup almond meal
1 cup dried cherries and currants
1/2 cup chopped pecans
A pinch each of all

spice and cloves

Directions:
Melt the chocolate on the stove, over the lowest heat possible. Stir in the brown rice syrup, salt, and vanilla. Stir in everything else. Form into candy blobs, preferably on parchment or waxed paper. Dip hands and utensils into water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking. Refrigerate until firm.

Bugs are an optional ingredient. I do know people who eat bugs. If there’s a bug out there that complements fruit and chocolate, and you eat that bug, why not add it?

Aiming for a caramel vibe, Vegan Cookies calls for brown rice syrup. But the book is for vegans, and if you’re not, you could probably go straight for the caramel. Point is: sweet and very sticky.

Likewise, it doesn’t really matter if you use almond meal (which is my own addition, anyway). Point is: ground nuts of some variety. Cornmeal would probably be a terrible substitute (I don’t know why that even popped into my head.) I’m sure you could swap out the pecans too. In fact, I’m not sure how much goblins really like recipes, so if you want to ignore the whole thing and smash ingredients against the walls of a haunted house, that might work too.

Pumpkin Goblins: just like elves stealing toys

When an elite squad of pumpkin-snatching goblins shows up at your house, they usually make off with your pumpkins before you realize it. That way, you can blame teenagers and don’t have to consider the fact that goblins exist.

This is the second preview of my upcoming middle-grade chapter book, Pumpkin Goblins. And the scene I read here is one of my absolute favorites. In it, Amber finds herself face-to-face with the three goblins who tried to steal her pumpkin. One of the first pieces of this story I wrote was the bit of dialogue in which the goblins think she’s named Ember (like fires), rather than Amber (like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago). There’s a story behind that.

Originally, Amber’s name was Ember. I think I had Elfquest on the brain, but it also seemed like a cool name, one that went with jack-o-lanterns and spooky forests.

The problem with cool names?

They set off Mary Sue alerts in my head. And since Amber is definitely not a Mary Sue, I thought it would be better to give her a “normal” name. Changing one letter was an incredibly time-efficient way to do this. But it works on another level too: my best friend growing up was named Amber. We usually played outdoors and sometimes went on adventures, so I think Amber is a fitting namesake*.

Here’s the transcript:

The goblin leader took one long step so that he was directly in front of her, close enough to grab the pumpkin and run. He locked eyes with Amber, and she felt aware, in a way that she never had before, of being human. Of having fat and muscle flesh out the gaps of her skeleton where the goblin had knees and elbows and all kinds of joints poking out of his wiry frame. Of having soft human skin with peach-fuzz hair where the goblin was the almost-smooth gray-brown of a birch tree. He flashed her a wicked little grin, his teeth neatly pointed. “What’s your name?”

“Amber.”

“Ember?”

“We like embers,” said the other two, bouncing their words off each other. “Because we like fires.”

“No, Amber, like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago.”

“Oh.”

“Amber.”

“Like dead bugs.”

“That’s a lovely name for a girl.”

The goblin leader turned around to the other two and announced to them, “I don’t think she’s going to help us. She obviously doesn’t care about Halloween.”

“I care. I care more than you! You’re trying to ruin my Halloween.”

“If we don’t get enough pumpkins, everyone’s Halloween will be ruined.”

The other two jumped in. “Ruined.”

“Ruined and wrecked.”

“Wrecked and wretched.”

Amber glared at the goblins.

“Look,” said the lead goblin. “This is all aboveboard and legitimate business, and we would be glad to show you identification, if we had anything like that.”

The tall goblin with the trench coat piped in, “We’re just like elves stealing toys, only for us it’s pumpkins.”

“Elves make toys, not steal them.”

“That’s what you think. Ever lose your favorite toy at the mall, and you swear you never let it out of your hand?”

“Well, yeah, but I think I just left it at the shoe store.”

“Oh, elves and shoes, elves and shoes,” muttered the lead goblin. “You said you’re having a bad Halloween?”

Amber glanced into the lit living room window, where her brother was playing video games with Sybil. “It’s the worst Halloween ever.”

The tall one leaned into her face ominously. “And it’s going to get worse still. Not just for you. For everyone. Summer-warm air. Half-hearted tricks. Reluctantly-given treats.”

Suddenly, the third goblin, the one with the sunglasses and fingerless gloves, the one who had spoken least, jumped up off the small garden rock she had been squatting on and waved the other two goblins into a huddle. They talked rapidly for a moment in language that was both higher and lovelier than Amber had expected, then turned again to face her.
“We have decided. You may come with us to the Goblin Oak and place the pumpkin there yourself,” announced the leader.

We’re a little over two weeks from the aimed-for release of Pumpkin Goblins. In between frantic editing and formatting, having a job, and enjoying fall, I’m planning to put out at least one more of these preview scenes, and also a recipe for goblin candy.


*Apparently, “namesake” can refer to both the person one is named after, and the one who received the name. No wonder that always confused me.

That awkward moment when you’re stuck in goblin jail

You should figure that if a group of sneaky Halloween goblins gives you a map to anywhere, there’s going to be something tricky about it.

This is the first preview of my upcoming middle-grade chapter book Pumpkin Goblins. It’s a Halloween adventure story. In the scene I read here, my main character, Amber, finds herself in goblin jail after an incident with a goblin map.  I’ve seen other authors post audio of themselves reading their work, and I enjoyed it. This is despite the fact that I’m not patient enough to listen to an entire audio book.

Shoving aside my introverted tendencies and my Massachusetts accent*, I decided to do the same.

Here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Kris Bowser, the author of Pumpkin Goblins. My main character, Amber, is having the worst Halloween ever. This scene is the predicament she finds herself in after some trouble with a magic goblin map.

Amber sat in a jail cell that had been carved from an enormous pumpkin, and smelled like it. She knew she should be afraid, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time to mark out a face on a would-be jack-o-lantern, and that toasted pumpkin seeds would be coming out of the oven soon. The cell had bars that looked like twisted, ropy wood, but held firm like iron. Maybe she should be scared of never getting free, but pumpkin jail was at least not so boring as spending the evening watching Dean and Sybil play video games.

A soft, quick noise came from the tiny window high on the cell’s outer wall. Clinging to the window bars, forearms tight to hold himself up, was the leader of the three goblins who had come to her house. Finally, some answers.

“You!” Amber exclaimed. The goblin was the closest thing to something familiar and friendly in what felt like days, and she had a lot of questions for him. “Are you getting me out of jail?”

“Confess to nothing. Don’t mention me.”

“I don’t know your—”

“Do you have it still? Right pocket. No, other one.”

Amber fumbled around her pockets. “Halloween candy?”

She heard the thunk sound of a goblin kicking the outside of pumpkin jail in frustration.

“Where is it? Where?” His head darted frantically. “Confiscated!”

The two goblin fists released the bars, and he dropped out of sight.

Amber leapt to the window. “Wait!”

Somehow, he had already made it ten feet away. He turned back. “Don’t worry. Don’t worry, don’t tell, for Halloween’s sake. We’ll get you out.”
Then he ran off.

I also have some line art for the cover to show off. The illustrator, Justin Motta, wanted me to make sure that you know the art is still in the early stages. Because this was clearly important to him, I’ll say it again, in larger letters:

The cover art is still in the early stages.

pumpkin-goblins-lineart

Can you image how awesome and Halloweeny this is going to look when there are colors?

And larger still:

The cover art is still in the early stages.

Stay tuned for more preview scenes from Pumpkin Goblins! Halloween is coming.

 


*Honestly, my accent isn’t heavy anyway, and I’d rather have a Massachusetts accent than vocal fry, which I learned about while googling things like elocution and audio recording software. I actually tried speaking with a vocal fry after watching the videos. It’s uncomfortable.

Pumpkin Goblins–Coming Fall 2015

There’s been a glaring omission on my part. Though, it’s not so much glaring as it is a one thousand dollar fireworks display that some guy sets off in his yard at midnight. The omission is a book, one that I’m revising and trying my hardest to publish this fall. I’ve mentioned to it, and alluded to it, and even wrote the blog post “Halloween Profanity—for Children!” about a process I’ve been using in the revision.

I announced it on my mailing list. But I didn’t announce it here, on my blog, as one is supposed to do in this situation.

Pumpkin Goblins is a middle grade chapter book in which a Halloween-deprived child and a squad of pumpkin goblins work to generate Halloween spirit when a mysterious source of summer magic threatens to destroy Halloween for good.

Check out the Pumpkin Goblins page for the full summary.

Scribbled-on manuscript.

My revision manuscript, a survivor of the Traumatizing Coffee Spill of 2015 and also the horrible, disfiguring plague known as My Handwriting.

I’ll be honest. It feels nice to say, “Coming Fall 2015,” but the fact is that I set my deadline for September 20th, and “Coming Fall 2015” is a cheery way to obscure my deadline. September 20th may be slipping out of my grasp. I’m worried that Fall 2015 could slip away as well. But I’m trying. I’ve cut some bad habits as I work to find the remaining revision time I need. Even better, my TV actually broke.

Unfortunately, I can’t quite kick the habit of “having a full time job.” I’ll be cutting my hours in September and October so I can take a course. That’ll net me some Pumpkin Goblins time as well.

Despite all that, I’m ridiculously happy with how the revision is coming along. Every aspect of the story is becoming a story I want to read myself. It’s funnier, scarier, and more goblinish, with stronger characters and better descriptions.

Every now and then, I mention my writing to people. They often say something like, “So, you enjoy writing, huh?” And sometimes, when this happens, it’s a frustrating writing day and I’m irritated with a draft. I’ll shrug and say, “Yeah, I guess,” because at that moment, I can’t muster the enthusiasm.

I think if anyone ever asked, “So, you like revision huh?” my answer would be more excitement than they want to deal with. Like the fireworks of my glaring omission. And that’s how I feel about the Pumpkin Goblins revision: fireworks and excitement, fall leaves and that chill in the wind that makes you feel alive.

Here’s an excerpt of some dialogue I like:

“What’s your name?” asked the first goblin.
“Amber.”
“Ember?”
“We like embers,” said another.
“Because we like fires,” said the third, all of them talking so fast that Amber could hardly tell which one was speaking.
“No, Amber. Like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago.”
“Oh.”
“Amber.”
“Like dead bugs.”
“That’s a lovely name for a girl.”

The really cool part is that a friend of mine is doing some illustrations for the cover and the chapter headers.  I’ve improved my drawing a lot in the past few years, and the process no longer seems mystical to me.  But I still can’t do figures well, and I’m always impressed by his characters.  They have an awesome cartoon style, and they really look like they’re moving around on the page.  I’ll definitely post some sketches if he lets me.

Halloween Profanity–For Children!

What if you’re writing a book for children, but you want a character to swear profusely?

In my upcoming middle grade chapter book, Pumpkin Goblins, I have a goblin character fond of “swearing.” Like so:

“Right, right.” Hobkit clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll join you. Could use a break from all this chaos and malarkey, batdarnit.”

Hobkit has a bigger role in the revision than he did in the rough draft, and the more he speaks, the more time I spend trying to think up creative new phrases…

“Dagnabbit. Of all the bat-plagued, magic-cursed rotten timing!”

1030141301a

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

…because using “bat” and “pumpkin” repeatedly was getting tiring. I wanted to come up with a bunch of options at once. So, inspired by The Terribleminds Profanity Generator, I made my own word lists to generate Halloweeny, child-safe invectives. Actually, I drew a lot of my own words from his lists, but I needed a certain number of Halloween words thrown in there also.

So get out your d20 (or your Online Dice Roller, for those that don’t have twenty-sided dice on them at the moment) and join me in some long-form, clean profanity. Which can be easily dirtied!

Noun list one:
  1. Geist
  2. Donkey
  3. Turnip
  4. Radish
  5. Rat
  6. Bucket
  7. Bag
  8. Wizard
  9. Witch
  10. Fruit
  11. Squirrel
  12. Ghoul
  13. Trowel
  14. Vampire
  15. Lackey
  16. Monster
  17. Ghost
  18. Bat
  19. Pumpkin
  20. Spook
Noun list two:
  1. Scum
  2. Barf
  3. Vulture
  4. Mold
  5. Mildew
  6. Elf
  7. Corn
  8. Human
  9. Crumb
  10. Gourd
  11. Jelly
  12. Soup
  13. Biscuit
  14. Thorn
  15. Widget
  16. Badger
  17. Grave
  18. Owl
  19. Broom
  20. Twig
Verbs, -ing
  1. Cursing
  2. Plaguing
  3. Gargling
  4. Nobbling
  5. Crying
  6. Chomping
  7. Crunching
  8. Roasting
  9. Creeping
  10. Beeping
  11. Snatching
  12. Cavorting
  13. Spooking
  14. Haunting
  15. Licking
  16. Rocking
  17. Boiling
  18. Clipping
  19. Mapping
  20. Gumming
Verbs, -ed
  1. Buried
  2. Tossed
  3. Nobbled
  4.  Kicked
  5. Tumbled
  6. Dangled
  7. Cursed
  8. Smacked
  9. Spackled
  10. Crackled
  11. Rustled
  12. Plagued
  13. Smoked
  14. Blighted
  15. Scrabbled
  16. Creeped
  17. Haunted
  18. Spooked
  19. Snatched
  20. Trotted

Using the formula (Noun list 1) + (Verb, -ing), (Noun list 2) + (Verb, -ed) I got:

Elf plaguing, twig-smacked

And

Turnip gumming, jelly-haunted

My goblin character tends to curse in adjective form, already having specific things in mind to rant about. Things like other goblins, wizards, elves, and pumpkin cars.

“You turnip gumming, jelly-haunted wizard! Are you trying to destroy Halloween?”

I could also do something like:

(Noun from either list) + (Verb, -ed) – ed

To create the compound expletive wizardspackle.

“Wizardspackle! Are you trying to kill us all?”

On the one hand, I’ve now saved time on curse creation.

On the other hand, I’m now likely to waste revision time by doing this. Gourdrustle!