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.

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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.

Chicken coop makeover

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Real afternoon shadows mingling with painted shadows beg the question “What in our lives is really real? Is life just a shadow on the wall of a chicken coop?” Right?

Our flufforaptors have grown into sleek, russet-feathered chickens. They aren’t fully grown just yet, but it was time for them to move out to the coop. After extensive online research, I learned that moving chickens to a new home fifteen minutes away is generally a five-hour process, and you should expect to spend most of that time attempting to lure them into a cage with chive flowers and lentils because picking them up is impossible.

Oh wait, that’s just what we did.

But first, I spent some time earlier this week tricking out their coop.

Initially, we painted the coop a light blue color that I’m told is “colonial blue,” whatever that means. It came from a one-gallon can of Home Depot Oops Paint—the paint that is returned to the store, and then has extra pigment added so that no one can run an awesome Home Depot Oops Paint Scam with their friends.

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“Yesterday we lived in a cardboard box. Today, we have our own three-by-eight foot coop. It’s the American dream.”

Anyway, I painted weeds on the sides, just in case anyone didn’t know that my partner and I (any my mother-in-law, whose house the coop is at) are all kind of hippies. I based the design on a typeface called Aierbazzi, which has drawings of meadow weeds instead of letters. The drawings stack together so that a word becomes a single clump of weeds rather than one letter-drawing after another, all in a row.

To get the color, which I wanted to look like shadows on the side of the coop, I mixed black paint in with the coop’s base color. We’re all happy with how it came out, but the chickens don’t care. They’re basically just happy that their new home has plenty of interesting structures to fly on.

As it turned out, I gained some skills at picking up chickens. My partner and I were so pathetic at getting them out of their box that we actually googled “how to move chickens,” followed quickly by “how to pick up chickens,” because we needed less advanced information. Then, after one of our failed efforts to lure them into the cages with flowers (yes, exactly like a five year-old might do), one them them escaped.

Quickly and firmly, as this blog suggests, I scooped her up and yelled, “Grab a box!”

Dan freaked out, and we had what was probably a really stupid dialogue:

“What do you mean? What box?”

“A box. Like a box. Cardboard!”

“What box? What box?”

“A box! A box! A box with flaps.”

In the end, that was how we moved them all to their new home. The first few times I tried to grab the other chickens, they freaked out in a crazy flurry of flapping wings and scattered pine shavings. That made me freak out, and I’d let the chickens get away. But I kept telling myself, “quickly and firmly.”

Don’t let their freakout become your freakout. That’s the other thing I learned. It’s probably a good strategy for dealing with people too. Thanks, flufforaptors.

Tarantula costumes for dogs: a to-do list

People are dressing their dogs as other animals—like lions and spiders—and playing awesome pranks with them.

If I had a small dog, and an enormous tarantula costume, here are some things I would do:

  • Re-enact the part in Home Alone where Kevin throws the tarantula on Marv. This would involve finding a friend willing to have a small dog thrown at their face.
  • Leave it in the laundry room at 10:00 pm so my neighbors freak out if they try to do laundry after the 10:00 pm cut off.
  • Bring it to the post office. A friend from work gets away with bringing her little white dog into the post office all the time. Surely, an enormous spider canine is no different.
  • Go shopping with a dog in my purse, but the dog looks like a giant spider. I would first need to buy the type of purse people do this with, which would mean first going shopping with a faux-tarantula in my sweatshirt. I would especially like to do this at a high-end clothing store, but I dress too much like a vagrant to pull that off. They’d be eyeing me suspiciously the instant I walked in.
  • Drape it over my mom’s sewing machine, assuming the dog-spider can stay still. My mom always had awesomely grossed out reactions to my Creepy Crawlers when I was a kid, the kind of adult gross-out reaction that kids dream of when they bake up their rubbery little insects. I would like to see that again.
  • Bring it hiking. Many of the trails in my area are popular dog-walking spots. I wonder how it feels to see someone’s enormous, be-leashed arachnid pooping on the side of the trail?

Seven reasons why Kevin McAllister is my role model

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Behold the vengeance in Kevin’s face. As we will see, Kevin does not let Buzz go unpunished for eating all the cheese pizza.

It should go without saying that anyone who grew up in the 90’s wanted to be Kevin McAllister, hero of the only two Home Alone movies that count. Who doesn’t want to sled down the stairs on a tobaggan or zipline into a tree house? For me, it goes way beyond the desire to have a huge house all to myself and the awesome trap-making skills to defend it. After over two decades of watching Home Alone 1 at Christmastime, the ways of Kevin have had an indelible effect on my psyche, in ways that I’m only now starting to realize.

Kevin taught me how to best utilize my time when I have the house to myself.

If I’m home alone, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be ice cream, cookies, and TV. Normally, I’m not even a couch potato.

Kevin makes a mean diagram.

I’m a great lover of diagrams, but even on a computer, I can’t make as good a diagram as Kevin does.

Kevin is the Sun Tzu/ Grand Admiral Thrawn of the elementary school set.

He was able to manipulate Harry and Marv’s attempted entries into the house, somehow knowing that after Marv tried the basement and lost his shoes and socks, he would then try the window and step on stabby-crunchy glass ornaments. Of course the traps are impressive, but the subtle psychological manipulation is even more so.

Kevin is self-educated.

I didn’t know how to do laundry until I was 16. But when Kevin is left home at the age of 8, he quickly masters the skill, even conquering his fear of the furnace to do so. Between Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2, it’s obvious that Kevin upgraded his skills at making elaborate, painful traps. He goes from Micro Machines and glue ‘n’ feather traps, to setting up an arc welder to electrocute a sink. Who taught him how to do that? School? Please.  And there’s no way his parents taught him how to do that stuff. Especially not his dad, who is the only member of his immediate family that isn’t a jerk to him the night before they leave him home alone.

Kevin is a master of fire.

C’mon. When I was eight, I couldn’t even light a match. Still can’t, actually, unless it’s the light-on-box kind. Fireworks are the least of it. This is a kid who makes a blow torch trap and a fire-lightbulb trap, while strategically deploying volatile chemicals.

Kevin knows how to improvise.

Despite his extensive plans, Kevin never sticks to them rigidly. He grabs Buzz’s tarantula and throws it at the bad guys when he needs to get away. Earlier in the movie, he escapes Harry and Marv by hiding in a nativity scene.

Kevin is a fair arbiter of justice.

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Always clean up your traps before you put out milk and cookies for Santa.

After the bad guys are carted off in a cop car, Kevin cleans the entire house. The tree is decorated, the laundry is clean, and there’s fresh milk in the fridge. When the family arrives home, the only signs that anything happened are a single gold tooth on the floor, and Buzz’s entire room. I suspect that Kevin is capable of rebuilding Buzz’s shelf, if he wanted to. But he doesn’t, and that’s because Buzz is an asshole.

The camera ate my color

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Perception and memory interest me. I took the first photo at the community garden where my partner has a plot, and it looks much duller than I remembered. This became even more obvious when I sliced off the top to use for my website’s header. Part of the blame for that falls to my digital camera, which does poorly with low light and action, and is also skittish around children and wolves. Part of it has to do with my own perception. How can a flat picture on a screen … Continue reading

Stealth, strategy, and sustenance: sneaking food into the movies

If there’s one thing I love more than sneakiness, it’s food. If there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s sneakiness. I had a hard time deciding which order food and sneakiness needed to be in for that last sentence.

Recently, a friend on facebook asked:

“What’s the best way to sneak a quarter of a pie into a movie theater? Y’know, hypothetically. Thinking hoodie pocket with a bag.”

My response was brief, but that’s only because it would have looked weird to write an enormous comment on this topic.

No, not topic.  Lifestyle.

Here are my strategies for sneaking food and beverage into places where I’m not supposed to have food and beverage.

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How many avocados can a priest, a rabbi, and a blonde sneak into a movie theater?

Bags and pockets

This is one area where women have an advantage. A lot of women have a “movie purse,” usually something big, blocky, and obvious. I’ve yet to see a movie theater check one of these bags, but why draw attention? Wedge or tear-drop shaped bags appear smaller than they are. My movie purse is a skull-patterned red sack with a top that tapers into a shoulder strap. I’d say it’s a chic shape for a bag, but honestly, I don’t have a damn clue.

One day in second grade, my friend Tom snuck tater tots into his pockets and brought them back to class. All the kids whispered about the tater tots with some combination of disgust, awe, and jealousy. Suffice it to say that I broadened my definition of pocket food that day.

Binders

Carrying around a fuck ton of office supplies nearly every where I go has taught me the utility of binders for hiding things. A large-spined binder would work well for smuggling bagged pie, and trust me, no one is going to be going through your binder to see if you’re hiding something. To most people, binder=boring.  They will assume you’re a film student, or writing a review, or someone so boring and so busy that they bring office work to the movies.

Zip-lock bags

Accessiblity is key. Once you get the food in, how will you eat it? If you’re in a darkened movie theater, you can basically go to town on a whole Thanksgiving dinner, and no one will care unless your gravy-slurping ways drown out the intensely whispered dialogue.*  With a zip-lock bag, you can eat food of any consistency, held at any angle.

And, no, I’ve never brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner to the movies.

What?

Was that a challenge?

Moxie

Not the cola.  You should only sneak that in somewhere if you enjoy the taste of earwax and death.  You can often go in boldly, with food or beverage in plain sight. Act casual. Show no sign you’re doing anything wrong. Don’t look around to see if anyone is looking at you. Most people aren’t paying attention and don’t give a shit. This is how I “snuck” coffee past my high school band teacher every single day without getting caught while my younger brother had his mug confiscated. I walked casually, and let the flow of students screen me from view.

Now, go forth.  To the movies, to the library, to school, to work.  To stores and to restaurants that sell one thing when you want to eat another.


*Does this bug anyone else? When something onscreen is really dramatic and important, the characters whisper. You know, so you can’t actually hear what’s going on in the damn movie. I’ve been watching for years to catch someone doing this in real life, and it never happens.