Tag Archives: A Recipe for Disaster

Oh Rats! Where Kink comes from

KinkOften writers are asked where their ideas come from. Mine come from all over.  Usually bits and pieces of things get put together and develop into a character or plot over time.  Today I’m going to explore where one of my characters came from: Kink the pet rat in “A Recipe for Disaster.”

As a kid, I thought rats were both cool and a bit scary.  They were dangerous in the wild, animals that carried plague, that might hurt or possibly even kill a cat who was hunting them.  I remember vividly both the description of a rat fight that almost killed the cat main character in “The Abandoned” and the scene in “Lady and the Tramp” where the evil rat climbs into the baby’s room and Tramp saves the day, killing it.  Then the infamous Cluny the Scourge was the villain of “Redwall” and my brother and I quickly got into all things Redwall.

When I heard some people kept rats as pets, I could hardly believe it.  Then some friends of ours turned out to have a rat.  It was a rather large creature, and we were warned it bit people.  My brother and I eyed it carefully as its own let it climb around and weren’t sure what the allure was.  There my attitude stayed until in high school Japanese class.

One year in high school (I think it was my sophomore year) one of the other students in the class wanted to do a rat breeding genetic’s project for biology.  The catch was, the biology teacher wouldn’t allow him to keep the rats in the biology classroom and his parents weren’t interested in allowing them at home.  Instead of picking a new and easier project, this resourceful student somehow talked the Japanese teacher (who was far too nice to be teaching high school in general) into allowing him to keep all the rats in that classroom instead.

Now, what happened regularly in Japanese class was the class talked the teacher out of class.  Into anime movies, into long rambling discussions, into making our own cheese home video movies, into potluck gatherings, “study time” that involved doing homework for other classes and socializing a lot with each other.  The rats added a new activity–playing with rats all class long.  Which happened often.

I learned a lot about rats.  That they were often fun and pleasant to hold, play with, and let run around.  About how they needed to be handled almost every day or they went wild and started biting.  About rat sex, babies, and their development. I even learned about mice and animal fostering, when a kid in the class accidentally killed a mother mouse and saved the babies and brought them to class and added them to one of the nests of the baby rats (mostly that rats are awesome as pets while mice are terrible).  I ended up very pro-pet-rat through the whole thing.

Even better, one of my friends in college got himself a rat–he named her Agnes.  We used to practice for church music together and often I ended up playing with Agnes.  Agnes was older, more handled than the young breeding rats, and had much more freedom over a longer period of time.  This allowed me to see the full extent of how mischievous rats are–always into everything.  Without 30 kids taking turns holding her, Agnes wasn’t much into holding. She liked to climb inside pant legs and shirt sleeves, she liked to hide in the couch, she liked to steal objects.  Agnes is who I thought of when I started considering an animal familiar for Cal in “A Recipe for Disaster.”  It’s been years, but I still remember her quite well.

I’m not sure I want to ever own a rat myself, but I am sure that I find rats both wild and domesticated fascinating as well as the wide range of attitudes about them, and that I want to write about them and all the different reactions people have to them.  I doubt “A Recipe for Disaster” will be my last exploration on the topic either.

A Busy Christmas, Goals for the New Year, and Nayu’s review

I’ve naturally fallen behind on the blogging again with all the holiday fanfare, but I had a lovely Christmas yesterday.  It’s been great to see both families.  This year Ben’s family had their Christmas celebration on Sunday, which meant we got to spend longer with both families.  While that means it took more days out of my schedule and regular things like writing and blogging, I found I preferred it for getting to spend more time with each family.  We didn’t have to rush anywhere on Christmas itself and could pace ourselves better.

It’s not even quite over, since I still have one sister who couldn’t make it until today, so I get one more day of festivities.  There’s talk of going to the Hobbit, which I haven’t seen and hope to soon, and I wouldn’t mind some shopping while we’re in Portland either.  So I may just take off the whole week, really.

Then I’ll be able to gear up for this next year. At least I have clear goals.  My first and main one is marketing.  I’m going to get serious about learning how. I have several pages of advice and a list of review sites from my editor, and one of my friends has promised to give me lessons for the rest of it.  What I hope to achieve is a whole attitude make-over.  By the end of next year, I want to from being one of those “I hate marketing” people to a “I just love telling people about my book and marketing is easy and fun” people.

Is that possible? I don’t really know… but it’s worth a try, right?  There’s much debate on how much our likes and dislikes are chosen vs just happening.  I have a pretty steep challenge here, since I tend to get anxious in social situations, but in the end, if I can change it, I’ll enjoy myself a whole lot more.  It’s the one part of being an author I don’t enjoy right now.  Even line edits or formatting I can get into once I get going, so it’d definitely be a step in the right direction of my larger goal of being the happiest person I know. (Honestly, life is too short to waste it being miserable, right? And since I can’t make anyone else happy, I might as well work on myself.)

I have several writing focused goals.  The first is to rewrite “Dragon Boy.”  This book is close to my heart and I feel I’m finally ready to do it justice and write the definitive version.  I’ve received for Christmas “The Breakout Novel Workbook” which I plan to use to go over the novel and look for ways to improve it.  I’ve made that a two year goal though, because I want to take my time and because I still want to finish and release “Much Ado About Villains” as well.  That’s my second writing goal.  I’ll also need to earn the money for the art for that… I’d like to get it fully illustrated like book one.  But I think that’ll be doable in the coming year.

Then, I’d like to submit “Revenge of the Voiceless” first to Amazon’s contest, and then to a few other publishers until I find a publisher.  As it’s a full-length adult novel, I feel I need the support of a publisher for that one, and I’m willing to take the time it needs to find the right one.

And, best of all, Nayu’s Reading Corner has my first review of “A Recipe for Disaster” up!  Check it out.

A Recipe for Disaster is released!

Well, it’s all up and finalized!  A Recipe for Disaster is officially out and I have it on a free promotion on amazon for the ebook version through the weekend, so if you have a kindle account, grab it while you can.  Print is also all formatted and out if you like it that way.  I’m really excited to finally be releasing something new. I’m a bit slow on that.  Eventually I’ll get the nook and smashwords versions up, but since I haven’t finished formatting that, I have decided to go 3 months on amazon select before doing that.

A page on this site for it with sample, etc, will be forthcoming, but for now, I’ll just slap up the blurb!  I want to thank my wonderful crew of critiquers on Critique Circle for helping me get this ready, and my awesome editor at Word Vagabond editing, and my very talented cover artist, Leo DeBruyn.

“A Recipe for Disaster” is set in the same world as the Dark Lord Academy series, and is the first of a number of spin-off shorter novels/stories that I hope to write.  And hopefully you’ll find it as amusing as I did writing it, because I sure had a blast this summer, contrary to my fighting with my sequel.  This thing practically wrote itself.

Blurb: Villain apprentice Cal desperately needs cash to take his girlfriend to the Dreaded Ball. Prince Bueford needs out of an arranged marriage. Mullog, Bueford’s manservant, would love to marry the princess and has the perfect solution: Bueford can buy a potion for disaster from Cal to disrupt the betrothal. Then Mullog can rescue the princess, and everyone can live happily ever after.

How could a little disaster go wrong?

Nanowrimo Fallout, Umbrellas, and Disaster

Well, it was a rather harrowing Nanowrimo.  I struggled every day of the month to keep up on the word count.  Usually I don’t have much trouble with Nanowrimo, but MAAV apparently decided it was going to challenge me for every word.  I’ve hit 50K, and I’m pleased to be a Nanowrimo winner, but the novel is a mess.  It’s going to take a couple of months to sort out, but I’m still hopeful of making a June release date for the book.  At least I can be proud of myself for sticking it out this year instead of switching novels when it get hard.

One thing that might change that is ironically if I find my muse for the books.  I’ve decided if I ever find my groove while writing MAAV, I’ve decided I plan to ride it as long as I can and draft OHAV (book 3) until it floats away again.  So I hope for that, and I believe Nanowrimo even has a camp in March, which I might try redrafting whatever I need for that.

In a moment of un-Oregonian-ness I bought myself a new umbrella.  In general, the “real” Oregonians don’t use them.  Usually the rain is more mist or drizzle on and off, plus they’re awkward and annoying.  Umbrellas are for foreigners, and by foreigners, I mean people who are not from Oregon or Washington (the state).  You wear a waterproof coat and just dash from the car to the store and back again.  If hiking, you button up your coat and put up the hood and get only reasonably damp.

But, I want to keep up with my walk all winter long, and I hate having my head all bundled up in my waterproof coat, it makes me itchy.  Plus, despite being out in the middle of nowhere, my walk is wide and paved, keeping my feet dry (if it were an actual mountain trail, I wouldn’t bother and plan to just get wet feet as well as the rest of me). So, not getting soaked on my walk won out over my Oregon pride.

I’m the one crazy lady for miles, just me and my umbrella in the middle of nowhere… I haven’t yet run into a park ranger for a while, but they’re the only people I ever see out there, with their hoods of their waterproof jackets up like true Oregonians, as they ride their small cart/car thingy through the drizzle to pick up the trash at Starvation Creek.   I can hardly wait to bump into them, while I walk along twirling my splendid, and very large umbrella.

Now that Nano is over, I’m taking a short break from MAAV and focusing on getting Disaster out!  I’m hoping to release on December 12th, in both hard copy and kindle. I’m going to try out select for a couple months so I can try out the free promotion feature, but when I do giveaways I’ll have epub versions available too, as soon as I figure out my formatting.  I’ve gotten a bit rusty in the year since I did ASFV, and so I have to relearn my html all over again.  Ah well.

I’m really excited to be getting Disaster out before Christmas!  Both my illustrator (Leo DeBruyn) and my editor (Word Vagabond Editing) have been fantastic.

“A Recipe for Disaster” Cover Preview

Well, I didn’t post last week because I was on vacation at the Oregon Coast with family.  I had a fantastic time, but caught a cold, which has slowed me down this week.  However, my artist has just finished my cover for my new book, and I’m really excited about it, so here it is!

We wanted to catch an “eww” expression on Cal’s face while mixing up the disaster.  I think that does that perfectly.  We also wanted something that would be connected to “A School for Villains” but not so similar that it would get mistaken for the sequel.  This novel is in the same “world” (or rather multiverse in this case since its a multi-dimensional world) as the Dark Lord Academy books, but is a completely separate cast of characters.

I can’t afford inside art as of yet, but I’m hoping that if the book does well I can add chapter headings or a couple of interiors eventually.  I’m planning to put this out in both print and e-book format, although it’ll be a shorter, chapter book, rather than a full length middle grade novel.

I’m currently in revisions in my group Critique Circle, after which I have to find an editor I can afford (my wonderful editor from my last book appears to have moved on and is no longer editing indie books).  I’m hoping for a fall release date in October or November and will keep that updated.  It’ll depend on how revisions and edits go.

Character Motivations, Rats, and Alien Invader Lilies

The Dark Chariot makes a return in "A Recipe for Disaster."

Doing an Nanowrimo in the summer has sort of stolen my brain this month as far as blogging goes. It seems these ideas come from the same place, no matter what I’m writing. So, I’ve decided to compromise and blog about the novel, despite most advice I’ve read suggesting that you don’t discuss your works in progress—apparently you’re less likely to finish things if you spend time talking about them to others (no wonder I never get anything done). But considering Nano is going surprisingly well, I’m going to risk it.

Anyway, I’ve tried to write this story as a short story, then as a novella several times, but always got stuck after just a few paragraphs. It had a great set-up, but I wasn’t sure where it went. Generally when I get ideas I consider them complete and ready to start poking when I have a beginning, end, main character, and a sense of the main character’s arc. The trouble was, with “A Recipe for Disaster” the plot wasn’t about the main character, really, or not the set-up I had started with. I knew where the young villain Cal started, finished, and what his character arc was, but what about the title disaster? It happened to other people, people I didn’t know… nor was I sure what happened to them.

So, the months kept passing with it not getting written and I realized I was going to have to do something about it, or it wasn’t going to happen. I figured if what I wanted was a 25,000 word novella, surely writing 50,000 words of mess, plotting, planning, and different possibilities of what the story might be would be more than enough words to get it done, right? And I could always stop early if I actually, but some miracle got the story done before the end of the month. Despite all this logic, I wasn’t sure this would work. Yet, under pressure, I was determined to find a way to plan and write the story.

On my walks I’ve been taking in the morning, I’ve discovered it’s the perfect time to plot a bit, ruminate on random possibilities for the story. I used to walk in the afternoon, but it’s hotter and I’m a good deal more tired, and so I wouldn’t get any ideas. Switching to first thing in the morning made a huge difference. I imagining different possibilities about who Bueford and the unnamed princess of Seaward might be. I had a lot of false starts, and originally called the princess Mistella, but switched it after a bit of rearranging to Jinella. Bueford went from crafty to rather pathetic, and an actual villain (although he thinks of himself as a hero) showed up: Mullog (the reasons the princess got a different letter at the beginning of her name).

Still, I needed something extra to boost thing, create some excitement. Now my good friend Jeff used to keep a rat when I was in college. Her name was Agnes and I discovered from visiting him every week to practice for our church music group, that rats make rather delightful pets. They have an unfortunate reputation and are always the villains in Brian Jacques’s well-know Redwall series, so it seemed natural and fun to give my young villain a pet rat.

Then, my sister Juliana was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” recently and I had enjoyed the play. I found that instead of my novel going through my head while walking (the kids did a terrific job of the play), and suddenly, the full disastrous nature of the disaster hit me: Prince Bueford was going to end up with a rat head. From there it was an easy jump to think that perhaps Cal’s pet rat would switch forms with the prince and look like a human, and add some needed tension into Cal’s disastrous date with a love triangle… and to my surprise, my plot was working itself out.

Shakespeare is always awesome.

Its calm exterior is deceiving.

Of course I can’t always be writing, I’m supposed to keep up the yard of our rental. Well, this morning I found something rather disturbing. They just might be in the lily family, but they also might be alien invaders from a strange planet. I’m not sure exactly what these things are, but boy are they creepy. And someone thought they’d look good and actually planted them? My mind is a bit boggled.

Hopefully they will not transform into deadly pods and kill me in my sleep.

My Sort of Camp

The trouble with being a writer, is that I end up wanting to constantly be on my computer… something that doesn’t mix very well with the great outdoors.  While I love camping, I also end up deeply computer (and internet) deprived by the end of it… wanting my novels, my characters, and my roll-playing back.

So, I decided to go to virtual camp: Camp Nanowrimo.  Where most of the time what you do is write, set things on fire in the forums, and trade stories on who’s characters are the worst.  This is Camp Nanowrimo’s second year of existence and it’s still relatively small as a group.  You get placed in a cabin of six members, four of which never showed up, so Lyn and I live a rather quiet existence in our adjoining bunk beds, writing away.  At least I’m note entirely alone.

It’s felt good to be writing again.  I’ve picked a pesky novella, on the theory that 50,000 words is far too long so I’m bound to at least finish it before the month if I keep up to word count.  Over 18,000 words in however, the end is still not in sight.  Good thing this one is intended for an indie publication as a humorous 0.99 novella set in the same world as the Dark Lord Academy series, so I don’t have to explain to anyone else why its so long winded.  It’s called ” A Recipe for Disaster” and as a story, it’s certainly living up to its title.  None of the characters will behave, the plot won’t get its act together, and Kink, the MC’s pet rat insists on trying to steal the story.  In hopes more characters might ease the problem I’ve ended up with villain who wants to be a hero, a hero who wants to be a villain, and a princess who keeps changing her name.  Sigh.  It’s life as usual, as far as being a novelist goes.

On the bright side, if someone burns the cabin down (as happened last time I was at a real camp), at least my novel will be safely backed up on google docs.

Here’s the current blurb, and a very rough excerpt, the ones I have on the Camp Nano website:

Dark Lord apprentice Cal needs some quick cash, Prince Bueford needs out of an arranged marriage–it’s an alliance built on mutual self-serving motives. Maybe Cal hasn’t completed much of his training yet, and sure his reading skills are a little rusty, but how hard can cooking up a little disaster be?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1
Cal Experiments in Cooking

Cal peered out the tower window, scanning the narrow streets below. Cartwheels clacked against the cobblestones, and people pushed and shoved their way through while the drivers shouted, but Master Xorgos was nowhere in sight. Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil, he wouldn’t take kindly to his apprentice trying to make some extra cash on the side using his evil spells.

Cal wiped his sweaty palms down his black robe and swallowed hard. He needed some money if he was going to take Loestra to the Dreaded Ball this weekend like he’d promised. She’d dump him for sure if he didn’t.

Pushing the window shut to keep out the flies, Cal turned back to the workroom before him. Master Xorgos had impressed upon him the task of scrubbing the floor while he was gone, in preparation for new evil experiments. He would be gone for the weekend, collecting esoteric new ingredients. Ingredients, Cal was sure, that would require cataloging, pouring carefully into glass jars, and organizing meticulously onto the shelves of the workroom closet. All dull tasks left to him as a dark apprentice.

Cal had plans of his own however. He’d made a deal with Prince Bueford of Buckland to brew him up some sort of disaster he could unleash at the courtly presentation of the Princess of Seaward. Apparently Bueford didn’t want to marry her, and considering the princess’s temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way were legendary, Cal didn’t blame him. But not only did Bueford not have the money to pay for a little disaster formally from Master Xorgos, it was hardly evil enough that the Dark Lord would bother. Wiping out innocent villages with an army of instant minions, setting monsters on capital cities, and instituting periods of Global Darkness was more his style.

“Cal, Cal, you need to think bigger, eviller,” Master Xorgos always told him. “A Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil doesn’t deal in petty pranks. Only potions of mass destruction.”

“Which is why we live in a backwater little port like this, right?” Cal muttered to himself. He scooped up his pet rat, Kink, from the windowsill and set him on his shoulder to keep him out of trouble. “Well, I don’t care about what’s eviller, I care about making al ittle money.”

Kink twitched his bent tail, for which he was named and tried checking Cal’s front pocket for treats.

Ignoring the rat, Cal searched the old, musty books lining the shelves of Master Xorgos’ workroom.  Surely one of them had a decent enough recipe for disaster.  Heck, now that he’d been an apprentice for nearly two years, Master Xorgos had him restock all the ingredients into their carefully arranged glass vials; he knew where everything was.  He eased out a likely looking book and set it gently on the worktable.  How hard could this be?

It wasn’t as if it mattered to Cal if he became a Dark Lord himself; he was only here because Ma and Pa had too many mouths to feed and wanted the apprentice money Master Xorgos sent them. Cal never saw a penny of it. If that wasn’t evil, he didn’t know what was! But Loestra went to Dark Lord Academy and had filthy rich parents in an alternate dimension that had year round tropical weather. If he married her, his fortune was made.

“Death. Defeat. Des—truc—tion.” Cal sounded out the recipes one by one looking for the right one. He’d only learned to read after he’d been apprenticed. The fifth son of a tanner didn’t get much education. “Disaster.” He squinted at the ingredient list. The book read:

The amount of disaster created is directly proportional to the amount of mischief and stupidity. And is inversely proportional to the amount of common sense added. For large disasters, also add copious amounts of instability, while for smaller ones use half a measure of miscommunication mixed with half a measure of greed. Procrastination and a dash of irony may sweeten the disaster, but be careful. Too much and your disaster might be postponed indefinitely. Malicious intent can also be used to great effect, but overdone tends to result in too purposeful of carnage for a true disaster.