Almonds, bees, and monsters–writing what you know

Writing instructors always say “write what you know”. I’ve always taken that to mean “write what you’ve felt or experienced in some way”. For instance, I’ve never been mauled by an animal, but I’ve been pecked by chickens, bitten by dogs, and scratched bloody by an iguana. Extrapolating from that is pretty easy.

But I wanted to go out on a limb and write something completely different from my Spacetime books. I grew up in California’s central valley, and spent many years of my childhood climbing/playing in a treehouse built in an almond tree in our back yard. I watched it bloom in the spring, picked almonds off it in the fall, and watched it sleep in the winter.

Also, one of my earliest memories was of my parents’ beehive. I must have only been two or three, and I got the bright idea to take a stick and see how far I could poke it into the beehive. A bee stung me right between the eyes.

Another memory is of watching my mom and dad harvest the honey. They had a centrifuge that to me looked as big as a garbage can. It filled the middle of our tiny kitchen. My parents were so delighted with the honey and the comb, and we had honeycomb in our freezer for months afterward, that it remains a very positive experience in my memory.

But what to write in a setting like this?

I wanted to write a romance, and I wanted there to be a monster. But I don’t like vampires, and I’ve done werewolves in other places. Also, every other creature has been done–I’m talking elves, fairies, angels, demons, every kind of animal shifter, witches, even Cthulhu has featured in a paranormal romance. I wish I were kidding about that last one.

Diana Wynne Jones says to look at what everyone else is writing, take that idea, rotate it 90 degrees, and write that. So I tried to do that by using a monster that is always bad. Always. I searched Amazon over and over, and in the few instances where this monster did pop up, they’re always pure evil. It was a challenge to take it and develop it into a sympathetic character whom you can root for, and even see working in a romance.

Basically, I wrote that I knew–my childhood environment, my fascination with beekeeping, and an unusual monster who is never portrayed as a hero–and out came Malevolent.

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Libby is a high school senior who should be preparing for graduation. Instead, she’s been bedridden for six months with valley fever, stuck on her father’s farm in California’s central valley.

When the beekeepers arrive in February, bringing their bees to pollinate the almond crop, one of them looks like a vampire, acts like a vampire, says his name is Malevolent, and tries to murder Libby’s lousy boyfriend. Yet he offers her honey that dramatically improves her illness, and his bees sing words that she can understand.

Mal took up beekeeping in order to preserve the last remnants of his humanity. What started as a simple trip to California quickly turns into something far more complicated, as he meets a lovely girl who is deathly ill, infected by Mal’s own brother. Feeling guilty and responsible, Mal sets out to heal her with his precious, magic-infused honey, and with each passing day, comes closer to breaking his personal creed:

Befriend Many, Serve Some, Trust Few, Love None.

Once healed, Libby has the strength to break up with her boyfriend–touching off a war between Mal and his brother. This escalates into a realm of awful magic Libby has never dreamed of, where she is both pawn and prize in the battle against a Necromancer. In the end, Libby must face her growing feelings for Mal, and decide whether to destroy him–or rescue him from his soulless existence.

Available on Amazon

It was fun to “write what I knew”. I got to go back and research my hometown in a new way, as well as how almond orchards work, and the importance of bees to the farmers. What came out was Malevolent, a complete labor of love.

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Art showcase: Three Griffin Moon

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Three Gryfon Moon, lineart by Rachel Meenan, color by me!

The griffins are from the Song of the Summer King books, which feature a griffin cast in a lovely high-fantasy story, kind of like Lion King, only better.

Book 3, A Shard of Sun, is about to come out, and Rachel and I got to read an ARC. It was so good, we enthusiastically collaborated on this pic.

(If you can’t tell, it’s based on the Three Wolf Moon shirt.)

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Gorgeous wooden puzzle boxes

I’m cobbling together a cover for a book I’m working on called Malevolent. But the original title was Puzzle Box, because a puzzle box features heavily in the storyline. I wanted one on the cover, so I started looking at pictures of them.

Look at the Google search! These are so gorgeous, I’d love to have some on display just for the artwork!

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Aren’t they pretty? Of course, I’ve always had a weakness for really pretty things made of wood–like hand-carved mobius strips.

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But yeah, puzzle boxes. There’s tons of Youtube videos of opening them, and the way they pop open and unscrew and stuff. I can’t imagine what it must take to design and build one!

Pretty fantasy artwork for New Year’s

Let’s start off 2015 with some really gorgeous fantasy artwork/creatures!

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Tsintaosaurus by tepuitrouble

Because even duckbills can be awesome.

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Little Gatherers by the Sixthleaf Clover

Cute little dragons “helping” in the kitchen!

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January by Atenebris

Because a snowy griffin encounter like this deserves a story to go with it.

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Sunny May by AlsaresNoLynx

Also, little griffins are cute.

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Styracosaurus Jungle by raven-amos

This one is a T-shirt design! Because everybody loves a good tribal styracosaurus design.

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Apocalypto by 88grzes

Because any chick with jeans and black wings is totally bringing about the end of the world. Also, she totally looks like the End Boss of the Spacetime series. 😀

Pony and griffin, and other art

I’m trying to get back into my art mojo, and the first pic I’ve finished in a long while has been for Jess Owen’s griffin contest. The contest stipulates that since the griffin island is more or less Iceland, you can only use creatures that are found on Iceland. I wanted to try to draw one of the pretty little Icelandic ponies. And a griffin.

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Click to enlarge

For a pic done while coming out of an art hiatus and being very rusty, I’m satisfied with it. I might go back and tinker with it, though. I wanted it to be a little more sparkly.

I’m also messing about with this sequential art story idea thing. Not sure what it is, because it’s not a comic or a graphic novel. It’s just a series of pics with an ongoing story in the description. Kind of like a concept album, like Pink Floyd or the Decemberists do. Only pics. I have a little Sonic story I’d like to tell, and I need to brush up on my Sonic art again.

Not to mention composition and landscape skills. I did some sketches and every single one of them had two figures. Ugh!

I’m dabbling a bit with Spacetime book 4, too. It still needs a lot of thought, but it’s finally coming together. I had to reconcile the political thriller plot with the magical plot.