Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo - the Last Day

Well, only achieved 19/25 pieces of art within the month. Oh well, no worries.
Today's "writing for children" class was more interesting - we discussed creative use of words, including metaphors, similies, reptition, personification etc and the importance not to permit cliches in your work. As an aside, metaphors and similies personally drive me a little nuts. I'm not overfond of them and try to avoid them where possible. I feel they come too close to the good ol' "purple prose". Repetition, alliteration, assonance etc, I can totally get itno though, and like to use in my writing. Which I think is quite playful. With any luck, my writing style is cute and quirky - like my art.

Anyway, here's today's offerings:

Chapter 17: Mmmmm Lunch...

Chapter 18: Tiriki to the rescue

Chapter 19: TranzRail

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWrimo, day 29

Only one day left and 9 pictures. I'm not going to make it. Oh well. I got the story done!
Chapter 15: Magpie tug of war
Oh dear me, this can't end well...
(it's a gas lighter, NOT a gun)

Chapter 16: Old Mcdonald had a farm...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day 27

Not long to go now.... 14/25 pieces complete

Chapter 11: Will she share?
(And why does she kinda look like a pixie?)
This is Goat Pass Hut, photo referenced because I've never been there.

Chapter 12: Little Paku the kiwi is stuck :(
Her legs are too short - she can't jump out.

Chapter 13: "Lunch" with Hamu
First time I've ever googled "dead deer"
I think this one might benefit from being coloured, its a little too busy with the inking and hard to make out details. I got a wee bit carried away.

Chapter 14: House Broken
This was a challenging piece to do. You see, this is about the only landmark I have drawn so far that is completely fictious (the next will be the chicken barn). Originally I was intending to use the Dean's Homebush homestead that was shown all the time in the Christchurch Quake shots. However, I soon realised that it would be recognised and people would be saying "doesn't she realise Homebush is in Canterbury?" So then I tried to google homesteads in the Brunner region so that I could destroy them. Nothing showed up. We didn't get that far on our roadtrip, so I didn't get to look at any houses anyhow. Also, it seems a bit cruel to destroy someone's actual house.

So... this is a conglomeration of photos of Quake damaged houses. Predominately, the one on Sherborne Street (although not with the brick-crushed car beside it), with Homebush's pile of bricks thrown in and South of the Borders toilet. If you wonder why the windows aren't broken - well, that's kinda what happened - damage was quite discriminate.

I'm quite proud of the results. the first earthquake ravaged house I've ever drawn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

NaNo, day 26 part 2

Chapter 10: Wekas can't fly, but they CAN swim

NaNoWriMo, day 26, part 1?

To make up for skipping a day, I may well end up updating twice today. Anyway, here are the two pieces I have completed as of 6:36 am on 26th November.

What can I say? I get up early!

Chapter 8: She's got the ring!

Chapter 9: Aroha makes a friend called Rover.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day 25

Sorry about the lack of posting last night. I had a late night at work as we rush to cope with the fast encroaching Christmas.

Two more pieces today:

Chapter 6: Through the Tussocks with Ohito

Chapter 7: Aroha makes a new friend on the shores of Lake Lyndon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day 23

Today was the 5th class for my Writing for children course. Only 3 to go now. It's interesting because although I DO know a lot of the stuff already, it is ratehr helping me with the motivation and also to pick up on some of the flaws I might have missed.

In this case, I realised that the WCFW gang should be portended at some point in the narrative instead of just being shoved in there like a remainder. Also, that the earthquake theme should occur in some dramatic function later on, instead of just petering off. So I have written in mention to the WCFW gang earlier in the prose and then put another aftershock in the last chapter. Also, I had kinda jumped a large chunk there and although nothing happened, I decided the last chapter should start with Aroha and Maru almost being home (just on the wrong side of the Grey river) and describe their crossing.

It is now at around 52,875 words.

Now - more art:
(5/25 sketched)

Chapter 3: Freedom (near Springfield)

Chapter 4: Story time with Pukekos

Chapter 5: The WhiteBack gang

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day 22 - ART TIME!

Sorry for the lack of update last night. Firstly, I spent two hours fighting with my printer and trying to make it print in magenta and cyan instead of just yellow and black (eventually I pushed "restore default settings" and it seemed to work again - mental note, DON'T use compatible cartridges with Epson cx8300) then my husband had used up our bandwidth and we were running at a 56k modem speed and since it was around 11 pm by that time and I had to get up for work at 5.30am (write before work, right?) it did not seem worth the wait.

Anyway, my novel and the assorted appendices now bring my total to just over 51k.

So, time to make art!

There are 25 chapters in the book, each chapter will feature one picture. Some will be colour, others not. I'm going to sketch them all out first, and then colour the ones I really like. Or all of them.

Chapter one: Mmmmm sandwich.......

Suggestions for what I can sketch on the boy's shirt are very welcome. I was going to put a comic book on the ground too, but I forgot :(

Chapter two: Chincilla bath-time!

Here's the trick - see if you can work out the plot from the art!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNo, day 20 - STORY COMPLETE!

Chapter one -> Twenty-five = complete, finished, DONE!

Time to get drawing!

Word Count: 46,874 /25,000 *
Story = 187% complete
Art = 1%

Got off to a bit of a slow start this morning - slogged out a few hundred words before heading off to the swamp to see what could be seen. Found some swans. Funny that to most folks the black swan is an oddity and weird, but for me to see a family of WHITE swans today was a truly beautiful and inspiring sight. They're VERY rare in NZ, and only really live around Lake Ellesmere. Also saw a pair of grebes. I love grebes, they're so angular and have awesome hair-styles.

Neither grebes nor swans appear in my story. Maybe I should remedy that.

After returning home and heading out again in search of lunch and to visit the library, I finally settled down to writing at around 3 pm. My mother rang just as I was getting into the swing of things and delayed things further.

But, now some few thousand words later I can say it.

The story is FINISHED!

So, I didnt' reach the 50k mark. I never actually intended to. The fact that I managed to do 46k rather impressed me - I didn't think I had that much story to tell. But once she was born, Aroha just took over.

But today's difficulty was the climax.

It had to be good, it had to be action packed, it had to have tension. After some rumination, I decided I needed to split Maru and Aroha up. Easily done - they needed to quarrel. Aroha's a stubborn hen anyhow and Maru's a bit on the sensible side. He called her "a pet" (and then possibly a "duck"). Then I had to make something bad happen that would get them both together.

And once I started, it worked quite well.

Anyhow, here's today's extract and now I am off for a celebratory chai.

This conversation is between the members of the (human) Stillwater "gang" who have just captured Maru (Aroha's not-boyfriend) and are planning on cooking up some WCFW (West Coast Fried Weka). Note: This is an overheard conversation (NOT seen), so I did not see the need to define who said what. She's a weka, males and females don't sound particularly different to her.

Chop off its head, see if it runs around.”

That's sick, man.”

Oh, don't be such a wimp. Haven't you ever killed a chook before? We used to time how long it took before the body realised it had no head and dropped. My record was one minute thirty seconds. Dumb birds. Don't even know when they're headless.”

Yeh, I've killed 'em. But we normally snap the neck. Much cleaner.”

Actually, there was a chicken what lived for two years.”

Oh yeh, right.”

Nah, it's true. They called him 'Mike', had him in a circus and everything. Had to be fed with a syringe. Choked to death in the end.”

That's gross.”

No, it's not. It's fowl.”

Oh shut up, Stephen.”

NaNo, Day 19

Chapter one -> Twenty-two = complete

- Chapter twenty three = barely begun

Word Count: 43,479 /25,000 *
Story = 173% complete
Art = 1%

Barely eeked out 800 words today - and they weren't very good ones. Have come to a bit of a stalemate. Aroha is reaching the end of her journey, and I need one final, exciting, event to tie everything up and give us a thrill before the conclusion. But... I'm a little stuck on what that will be.

I thought I might have Maru caught by a hawk and she have to rescue him, but that seems a little cheesy.

So now I'm thinking humans. In particular, a bunch of bored West Coast teenagers stuck in Stillwater or Dobson for the summer holidays. This leads me to the next question:

What do teenagers talk about nowadays?

Keeping in mind that these are country kids - not 'townies" and they're probably not as interested in the latest celebrities or that sort of thing. There may well be some dope involved, but I don't want to actually mention that in the text, as this is aimed at kids, so it would be inferred. They will be smoking, and possibly hanging around a burned out car or EQ damaged house.

I'm not sure exactly what they're going to do to our heroes - maybe throw stones at them, making set their dog on them. Maybe try to catch them and cook them up for the BBQ.

All suggestions welcome!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNo, day 18

- Chapter one -> Twenty-two = complete

- Chapter twenty three = not yet begun

Word Count: 42,924 /25,000 *
Story = 171% complete
Art = 1%

Went back and added some more to "Chapter 21: Catch of the Day". Decided Aroha had to at least try to get the fish. Also got them onto the Tranzalpine. I deliberated for ages how a weka could sneak onto the train - then I realised - she could just walk right on. The doors are left open for the passengers when they stop. The only bit of unrealism is that the train doesn't normally let the passengers off and on again at Moana. But we'll just put that down to some changes to services thanks to the EQ.

Of course, once on the train, the birds couldn't roam around at will - not one the passengers had seen them. So they would have to be captured and put into some sort of confinement until they could be safely "thrown off".

Next stop - Stillwater. A tiny township of which I remember nothing (except the lineup of cars. No wait, that was Dobson.), If I recall, Stillwater was all old wooden buildings, moss covered power lines and fense posts and very little else. Oh, I think there was a train yard too. It's the junction between the west central line and the tranzalpine line.

Here's the passage where Maru gets caught (he's a bit faster than Aroha, I guess she's eaten too much human food):

Maru was still free. He leapt up and over the backs of the seats, ducked below grasping hands and darted under a table. A human female dropped to her knees to grab her and he leapt on her head. His feet tangled in her hair. He struggled free and ran the length of her spine. She shouted and flailed, trying to push him off, then knelt upright. He slid to the floor and onto his rump. With a squawk of outrage, he ducked below another pair of hands. Dove between a male's knees. Dodged a flying tackle. Sprang up onto a seat, and then onto the back. The train lurched. He lost his balance, flailed. Flapped his wings to try and steady himself. Slipped. Landed heavily. Hands closed about his body. Shrieking fowl words, he kicked and bit as he was hauled roughly into the air and shoved beneath the basket beside her. Aroha made a dash for the gap as the basket was lifted. But the human was too fast, and she too tired.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNo, Day 17

- Chapter one -> Twenty-one = complete
- Chapter twenty two = not yet begun

Word Count: 39,589 /25,000 *
Story = 158% complete
Art = 1%

Thoughts for today:

Spent far too much time researching trouth fishing techniques today and not enough time writing. Oh well, I learnt a bit.

One thing I cannot understand is the "catch and release" method of fishing. Surely if you have to be so careful to not harm the fish, you'd decide not to fish at all? I mean why give the poor thing so much stress? If you're not going to eat it and the lake population isn't large enough, surely you should just leave them alone to do their own thing? (ie: breed up lots more fish). Unless your'e wanting to tag them for research or something. Of course, I have the same problem with the "cage and spay" practise on feral cats in some states of the US. If you're going to catch the cat, why go to all the expense of spaying and releasing it? Either rehome it, or if that's not possible, put it down in a humane fashion. Of course, as a New Zealander, I've seen the damage cats can do - and spayed cats kill just as many birds as non-spayed. They just don't perpetuate the problem.

Looks like my weka has become a bit of a celebrity.


(no wekas in this extract, they're watching quietly from under a bush).

The old man set the box on the porch and disappeared inside, reappearing with a knife, a board, a plate and a tub.

Wish the missus would let me chop them up inside,” he grumbled. “But she can't stand the smell.”

He pulled the fish out by the tail and slapped it down on the board. “Now this, Thomas, is how you fillet a fish.”

The knife was shiny and sharp and he cut with the smooth skill of someone highly practiced. After slitting the length of the fish he thrust his hand inside the belly and pulled out a handful of gooey, red-brown fish guts. They were plonked onto the tin plate. He slit the fish along the spine, scooping out the blood with a teaspoon. These he poured onto the fishguts.

That's your dinner, Thomas,” he said, pushing it towards the boy.

Yerurgh, that's really gross, grandad!” Thomas pretended to be sick.

The old man rumbled with laughter. “Well,” he said. “You have been a good boy, I suppose you deserve something tastier than fishguts. Right now I need some water. Full up the bowl, lad.”

The boy filled the tub at a tap and struggled back carrying it. Water sloshed over the side.

I”m gonna give the fish a good rinse now,” the old man said.

Lemur Antoinette

Because we haven't had any art up here for a while, here's a "Marie Antoinette" ATC I rustled up for Amerasu.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day 16

- Chapter one -> Twenty = complete
- Chapter twenty one = not yet begun

Word Count: 37,804 /25,000 *
Story = 151% complete
Art = 1%

Thoughts for today:

- I guess December will be drawing month...

Today was my 4th class on "writing for children". This time we were discussing the older age group - 10-12. Still pushing home the "show not tell" style of writing.

Now, off to bed because early to bed = early to write and my head hurts. Tomorrow Aroha and Maru will go fishing.

For those of you that haven't guessed, Maru is NOT Aroha's boyfriend. He's just this male she's hanging about with. Okay?

In today's extract, Maru and Aroha discuss trains:

The iron road began to throb beneath her feet. She pecked him harder. “Come on, off we get. Train's coming.”

The two weka jumped down the embankment and stalked through the forest of broome. The bright yellow flowers looked like gorse, but the leaves were less spiky. Maru chased and caught a red and black butterfly. He passed it to Aroha. She ate it, and then retaliated by catching a cricket and giving it to him. Even though crickets were far tastier than butterflies. They were crunchy.

The great metal caterpillar trundled into view. Aroha had seen many trains in her life and remained unimpressed. Maru, however, was a weka from the forest and he gaped at it. It rocketted past, ruffling their feathers.

What is that?” He exclaimed.

A train,” Aroha explained. “The humans use them to carry stuff across the mountains. More stuff than they carry in trucks and cars.”

Maru scratched his head. “What do they need so much stuff for?”

They're like us,” Aroha explained, “you know how we like shinies, and when we have a proper home, we like to collect and keep them. Just to look at, and sometimes play with?”

Although he still looked a little confused Maru nodded. Forest wekas probably didn't find as many shinies as the low country weka.

Well, humans are like that. Only their shinies are bigger and brighter and harder to carry about. So they need to use trains and trucks and buses and cars.”

That whole train – it's filled with shinies?” Carriage after carriage whizzed by.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo - the halfway mark!

For the month, not the story - I approximate I'm about 2/3s of the story.

- Chapter one -> seventeen = complete
- Chapter eighteen = just begun

Word Count: 33,226 /25,000 *
Story = 133% complete
Art = 1%

Thoughts for today:
How can a weka get a splinter out of her tongue?

I managed to write an entire chapter about nothing much. Here's the first paragraphs (she's in a special run in a barn with a bunch of chickens):

Bored. Aroha was bored. Bored. bored. bored. She walked around the pen. She gave herself a dust bath. Still bored. Did anything ever happen in here? It did not seem so. Mites, it was big news when one of the domestic hens laid an egg and that seemed to happen every few minutes. The stupid things just sat around all day and gossiped. And it wasn't even interesting gossip. This hen had laid her forty-fourth egg, that hen hadn't laid for two weeks. She'd be next for the slaughter.


There was an outdoor yard. A small opening lead out into the area. It was 30 steps long and 14 steps wide. Aroha knew this. She'd stepped it out. If she took little steps it was 50 by around 22. If big steps, she could cut it down to 26 and 10. There was grass. If felt nice beneath her feet.

So bored.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNo day 14

- Chapter one -> sixteen = complete
- Chapter seventeen = begun

Word Count: 31,420 /25,000 *
Story = 126% complete
Art = 1%

Thoughts for today:
- I am terribly mean to my magpies.
- How gruesome/dark can you get in a kids' book? Roald Dahl, Lemony Snickett, they've all got some pretty black humour.
- Should I go with the cliched West Coast farmer/fur trapper or do something different?
- How can two weka ride a train?

Also went back and re-wrote the scene where Aroha meets Tiriki, the kea. Wanted the two to have more of a connection. Then spent about half an hour pondering ways in which a kea could get into an alpine holiday house but not get out again without a weka's help. Eventually went for the "cat-flap" idea. But would someone at Castle Hill have a cat? Is it even allowed?

Resisted the urge to make Tiriki speak in rhyme. At least for now.

she saw a small box, made of wire. In the centre of it, dangling from the ceiling, was a large chunk of apple. It still looked fresh, dripping sweet juice. All she had to do was walk into the box. She should have known better, but the sugar craving was just too much.

She stepped in and closed her beak around the fruit. Jerked it.


Behind her something fell. She jumped, hitting her head on the wire ceiling and whirled about. The opening was gone.

She was trapped.

Oh crikey...” she muttered. Then she ate the apple.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNo day 13 - roadtrip!

- Chapter one -> fourteen = complete
- Chapter fifteen = begun

Word Count: 28,335/25,000 *
Story = 113% complete
Art = 1%

(*I kind of cheated as it now sports a glossary defining some of the Maori words I've used as bird names and also an Aussie Slang glossary so you can understand the magpies)

Today my husband and I went exploring. We drove west from Christchurch with notebook and camera in hand, and I took a number of photo references for my illustrations.

Here's a selection of the 100+ photos I took. Many of which are of rocks.

Whilst the intention was to make it as far as Brunner, in truth we only got to Aickens before running out of time. The weather was much more pleasant on the west side of the pass, rather than the east. Too hot over here!

In actual story news... Aroha hasn't got far - she's ditched the potential mate already (but he'll be back, don't fret) and met up with some old fiends in an earthquake damaged homestead. Does this particular homestead exist? No. Or at least, not that I've seen! It's based on the three around Hororata that were damaged in our quake, but this one is on the West Coast.

Writing magpies on the rampage is too much fun!


Ringleader ran along the dresser. With his beak he picked up one of the little glass perfume bottles. These tiny, colourful bottles had survived the earth rattling, dancing closer to the edge, but not quite making the plunge. He tossed it in the air, lobbing it neatly at the bedpost. It struck the wood and smashed in a lavender-scented spray of liquid and broken glass.

What fun!” He chortled, bouncing up and down before picking up another one and repeating the process. SMASH – SMASH – CRASH – SMASH! The room smelt like a flower garden – lavender and rose, lily of the valley, vanilla now overlay the stink of mildew and mould. Tiny broken bottles littered the floor. Dim sunlight shone through the rain and made them sparkle.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNo day 12

Sorry folks - day 11 was not particularly progressive. The lure of the internet proved too much and I ended up engaging in "research" - ie: I got distracted.

- Chapter one -> thirteen = complete
- Chapter fourteen = begun

Word Count: 26.739/25,000
Story = 107% complete
Art = 1%

I never meant for Aroha to find a boyfriend. But this weka called Maru has taken a fancy to her. He seems to want her to become his mate, despite the fact that she looked a most frightful mess when first they met. That's what happens when you're swept downriver.

Anyhow, she employed the time honoured tradition of sneaking off while he was asleep and is now back on track, this time with a new friend.

And those pesky magpies still seem to be around!

She better watch out for cage traps too ^^

In terms of area travelled, she has now just left Inchbonnie (or thereabouts) and is heading north towards Brunner.

Tomorrow my husband and I will be taking a journey over most of the route Aroha has taken (not Goat Pass/Deception Valley), we don't have time for a two day walk. Should be interesting!


She (Aroha) ran up to the deer carcass. From the stink of it, it had clearly been laying in the sun too long. “Hamu,” she called.

Hamu (black backed gull) looked down at her. He had an eyeball in his bill. With a toss of his head he flicked it into the air, snapping it as it fell back down. Gulp. It was gone. He tilted his head at her.

Hamu,” she repeated, “you've been to Grey. Can you show me the way?”

Yah,” he screeched, “yah, show way. Long way for no fly. Good legs?”

Aroha stretched out one leg, showing him her strong toes and sharp claws. “I've walked from the pastures of the east,” she said. “My legs are very strong.”

Good, good. Eat up, gorge until belly fill. Long way so no walk on empty belly.” He plucked a chunk of meat from the deer's cheek. “Git back,” he snapped at a silver gull that got too close. “My scavenge, mine! Git away.” His mighty wings snapped the air and it retreating, cursing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNo day 10

- Chapter one -> eleven = complete
- Chapter twelve = half done

Word Count: 22,826/25,000
Story = 91% complete
Art = 1%

Spent most of my "writing time" today on my home assignment from my course. About an Alien Abduction and thus of no relevance here. Then I got distracted by reading people's Quake stories on this site. Now I need to go to bed.

Anyway, Aroha finally met a kiwi:

(I'm a ) Kiwi,” he replied. “And you're a weka. Nosy but smart, am I right?”

That's us. But we prefer 'curious'.” Aroha examined the kiwi. Several humans had called her a “kiwi”. But she and this strange bird looked almost entirely different. They were almost the same size, but she was long and sleek and dangerous. He was round and fat. She had a short, powerful beak perfect for ripping up wood, digging in the dirt or tearing apart roadkill. His bill was long and stick-like, almost fragile. His legs were strong and sturdy, with thick, sharp claws just like hers. But he only had three toes and she had four. She could not see his wings at all and he had no tail. His feathers were soft and spiky. Her's lay smooth and flat.

Well, that proved it. Humans really were stupid.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo, Day 9. The Obligatory Earthquake

- Chapter one -> eleven = complete
- Chapter twelve = not yet begun

Word Count: 21,743/25,000
Story = 86% complete
Art = 1%

Off to a slow - albeit very early - start. Had my "Writing for children" course today too. Also my brother came to visit = many distractions. Presented my picture book in course and the teacher seemed to like it ("you need to submit this to a publisher" she said *grins* I think she's being overly optomistic. But hey, what can it hurt?).

Managed my first piece of art too - I have decided that it is 4% for each picture completed. So, partly inked = 1%, inked w/bground = 2%, some colour = 3%, complete = 4%. Not all pieces will necessarily be coloured. We shall see how time goes.

Home soon after 7 and sat down to force out some words. Gained momentum as I picked up the pace.

Apologies to DOC for destroying the Goat Pass Hut... at least it's only in fiction!


A low, threatening rumble rolled across the landscape. Aroha froze. She was confused and frightened already, but this was It.

This was the Bad Thing.

The earth heaved.

It rumbled and swayed. It rippled like waves on the sea.

Speck exploded blindly into the air, calling in alarm. “Fly-Flee-fly-flee!”

The hut swung from side to side. Wood creaked and groaned.

The girl shrieked, grabbing onto her father.

The porch rippled beneath them. They ran, almost fell, down the stairs and into the open tussock.

Pebbles and stones bounced down the slope.

One of the scrubby bushes tore its roots from the ground.

An enormous, ear-splitting, grinding groan added itself to the din. Above the hut a large boulder ripped free.

It fell.


Crushing the side of the hut.

But it was not done yet.

Crash-crash, it rolled down the slope. Faster and faster and faster. Tearing out bushes, tussock and gorging a great trail of destruction.

The shaking had stopped.

The boulder had vanished.


Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWrimo, Day Eight

- Chapter one -> ten = complete
- Chapter Eleven = not yet begun

Word Count: 19,981/25,000
Story = 80% complete
Art = 0%

Starting - slowly - to get back on track. If in doubt, add a conversation. Conversations increase wordcounts a LOT. Because my character is currently crossing the Goat Pass, an area that is real but which I have never visited (and won't be until next year at the earliest), I am suffering a little from lack-of-knowledge but wanting to get it right. Thus I keep meandering off to look up this or that on the interweb. Google is great, but doesn't hold all the answers.

I think it's time for an earthquake.

But that's tomorrow. Today we have a whiny teenager...

I wish you'd turn that thing off,” the male muttered. “The sound of the forest are really quite nice. Very peaceful.”

The girl frowned, and pulled a round, black seed from her ear. It hung from a long thin stem and emitted a strange, repetitive beat. “Peaceful's boring,” she said. “Why couldn't you just come over to Christchurch to 'bond'?” Here she rose both her hands beside her head and made a strange twiddling motion with her two inside-fingers. “At least there's shops and stuff there. Here there's nothing but birds and bugs.” She swatted at something. “Man, I'm never gonna stop itching. Those fragging sandflies, they're eating me alive.”


Look at that,” the father said, pointing straight at Aroha. “Do you know what sort of bird that is?”

The girl shrugged. “A kiwi,” she said. “Or a chicken. Who cares? It's just a dumb bird.”

Hey!” Aroha snapped strutting closer. “I resent that remark.”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWrimo, Day 7

- Chapter one -> nine = complete
- Chapter ten = in progress

Word Count: 18,409/25,000 *
Story = 74% complete
Art = 0%

Once again, a harder day of writing. Chapter nine flowed fine, but chapter ten not so well. Perhaps it was because I'm totally exhausted after an exceedingly busy day at work - or possibly its merely because this involves research...
.. And when one starts researching stuff on Google it is very, very easy to get distracted.
So I have watched videos of "weka fishing" and other antics of these personable birds. I was actually trying to find footage of them swimming. Finally I had to settle for a "water rail" which is a European relative that doesn't have webbed feet either. For something that doesn't have good paddles, it seemed to swim quite successfully!
I also have to research the landscape of the Mingha river side of Goat Pass. Obviosuly, one could say "well, walk it then" but this is something I should have thought to do a month ago - when I actually had time. I'm so caught up in worrying whether Aroha will be walking through Beech forest and what way the powerlines run (since they could be used in plot point b: how many different ways can I hurt magpies).

I have also decided that instead of putting my bird images into a book with slightly editted versions of the information I have put up here, I will instead present "Aroha's Guide to Birds of New Zealand."

This means I should really draw a pair of scaups. Gotta love those duckies! I swear I've drawn more duck species than any other NZ native.

I also learned that the weka that travelled 300 km did it in 3 weeks. I guess Aroha has got to up her game!


Hunger gnawed at her belly and a butterfly caught her attention. With a scurry and a scamper, Aroha took off in hot pursuit. With its flitting, flicking flight, the butterfly evaded many of her snaps and flaps, and lead her on a merry chase across the carpark. She finally caught it, gobbling it down in three quick gulps. The body was soft and squishy, but the wings dry and dusty and stuck to the roof of her beak. So she left them on the ground. Right, time to go onwards.

She ran towards the ute, but the back door was shut and Rover's mournful face peered down at her through the glass. The engine roared, and the car drew away.

Come back!” Aroha cried, “you forgot me!”

But they didn't listen.

* It seems highly probably that the wordcount will exceed this number.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 6

- Chapter one -> eight = complete
- Chapter nine = in progress

Word Count: 15138/25,000
Story = 60% complete
Art = 0%

Today was a bit harder to get motivated. The story took a little while to flow, even though I knew the gist of Aroha's adventures for this chapter. She met up with her "old fiends" again - the White-back gang.

I shall really have to start on these illustrations soon. Aroha is begging to be drawn.


In one corner, on a small table, she found a fancy looking box. It was slightly fluffy on the outside. She pecked at it, and it shook and rattled. What could be inside it? With a tilt of her head, she knocked it to the floor and it split open across one seam. A shiny golden circlet tumbled out. Like her leg ring, but much, much brighter. It would look very pretty with the sun shining on it. She would take it ouside and see. Picking it up carefully in her beak, she darted outside.

Oii!” Came a sudden shout behind her, “the bird's nicked the Ring!”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Furry Bard ATCs

Well... I am too exhausted to write tonight, and thus my wordcount remains unchanged from last night. Today was spent instead drawing. I thought I'd share with you a couple of my recent ATCs. I'm not making as many ATCs anymore, since I prefer the size of postcards. But as I'm still active in some of the online swaps, I've got to come through with those.

These two are for the themes : A dog in Shakespearean clothing and a cat in Mediavel garb. I elected to ressurect two of the minor characters of my Furritasia stories/world.

I would like to introduce you to:

Julius Lowe is the vocalist of the folk-doom-metal band Aeternity. His species is Lycaon, aka African Wild dog.

Dimitri is a pallas cat tinker-bard who travels the countryside in his little covered wagon. His companions are a magpie-jay called "Rumour" and a llama called "Babe".

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo, day Four

Is anyone actually reading these?

Be the first person to comment, and I'll send you an Aroha postcard!

- Chapter one -> seven= complete
- Chapter eight = not yet begun

Word Count: 12162/25,000
Story = 48% complete
Art = 0%

Thoughts for today:

* Aroha was too passive a character, so plot has been editted to give her a more active, feisty roll.

* How to describe the taste of things - a banana, a spider? (in some cases without previous experience)

* I learned the technique to hold a bird when putting a band on its leg.

Extract for today

Well, I guess that's enough photograhs for now,” the human said after a while. “You're quite a little show-off aren't you.” She smiled, “I must say, I feel very lucky to meet you. I guess your parents come over from the Coast. It's a long way to walk.”

Is that where you're going?” She asked the human. “Can I come too?”

I wonder where they are,” she mused, completely ignoring Aroha's questions. The weka sighed. Humans loved to talk so much they'd forgotten how to listen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

High Country, Low Profile

Pihoihoi the Pipit
This little bird seems fairly drab and nondescript, and thus is one of those innocuous small birds that we don't ever really think about. He's about the size of a thrush, and speckled rather like one. But in behaviour he's more like a skylark. Skylarks are an introduced species and both birds share the same habitat. Both are mottled, with the pipits eye-stripe being better defined. The Pipit bobs and runs along the ground, flicking his tail rather comically, whereas the skylark behaves in a rather more refined manner. Skylarks also have a slight crest and fly directly upwards to warble forth at the top of their lungs. Pipits have a less direct, more undulating flight. Insectivorous by nature, Pipits have suffered from the use of insecticides and now their numbers are in decline. It favours open habitat - ranging from sea level to above the snow line. A sturdy cup-shaped nest is built on the ground, under a plant. This protects it from aerial predators, but not mammalian. The eggs are freckled in brown and grey and take around two weeks to hatch. A pair may raise as many as three broods per season. After breeding, in autumn, pipits gather in flocks.

This proud wee chap (pictured here above a high country river valley) is currently up for sale on Trade me:
He'd love to perch on your wall!

NaNoWriMo day Three

- Chapter one -> five = complete
- Chapter six = in progress

Word Count: 8528/25,000
Story = 34% complete
Art = 0%

Things to ponder today:
~ what terrible/funny/gruesome things can I do to the magpie villains?
~ google satelite may be awesome, but I really need to take a roadtrip
~ how far can a weka (a bird about the size of a chicken) walk in a day?

Extract for today:

Tirrr-eet!” A short, high whistle sounded from the bushes before her, and out darted a small bird, its feathers were speckled with brown and grey. It ran for a short distance, tail flicking upwards. Then with a flap of its wings, it sprang into the air. Bouncing a few wingbeats in the air, it twisted about and landed on the ground before her.

Hi-ho,” it whistled. “Where-be-you-go?”

Home,” Aroha replied. “It's a long way to walk.”

Well,” said the bird. “My-name-is-Pi-ho. I-will-walk-with-you, no? For-a-lit-tle-while, oh?” With each syllable, its body bobbed or ducked. As the end of each short refrain, the tail flicked upright. For the first time in days, Aroha laughed.

What a silly wee bird you are,” she remarked. “What are you?”

(For the answer to that question, see my next "NZ Naturally" post)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMi day two

- Chapter one -> four = complete
- Chapter five = in progress

Word Count: 6970/25,000
Story = 27% complete
Art = 0%

“Hey mates, take a gander at this 'un!”

“Why, aint's she a fair dinkum little piece o' sport and all on her lonesome too.”

Yer wanna be the one to take the first bite?”

Too righty. Yer got to lead the strike last time.”


Aroha froze as the nonsensical words came to her, blown by an errant gust of wind. It was very early in the morning, and she was digging about for some tasty grub. Three black and white shapes were flapping through the air towards her.

Could this be the Whiteback gang?

At this rate the story will actually go longer than the intended 25000 words. My characters keep having dialogue and that really helps the word count!

My writing today was disrupted by my "writing for children" course. In which we discussed the importance of dialogue in stories. Dialogue helps the reader to really get to know the characters, gives the characters the chance to drive the plot.

I apologise for my over-use of Aussie slang - but they ARE Australian Magpies. And cliches can be fun. I was toying with the idea of calling them Ned, Kelly and Bruce, but I haven't figured out how to work their names into the plot without it sounding contrived.

Now I just have to stop them killing my protagonist.

There will be some art tomorrow. I have three completed pictures to show, but two need a minor edit for accuracy. That'll teach me for not learning about cuckoo foot structure before adding in feet!

Totally Cuckoo

Cuckoos are a bird family I can quite identify with - they leave the child raising up to more competent parents. Here in New Zealand we are lucky enough to have two rather interesting species - both of which have a taste for travel.

Koekoeā, the Long Tailed Cuckoo
Despite the great discrepancy in size, the Koekoea likes to use yellowheads, whiteheads and brown creepers as its foster parents. It is such a large bird, that for some time it was speculated that there was no way it could lay the eggs directly into the tiny nests. One early naturalist reported that it laid the egg on the ground and carries them to the nest in its beak. However, I have no found any further information to support that claim. However it is that the egg gets into the nest, it is a noted fact that the cuckoo egg hatches faster than the host birds. Upon hatching, the naked, blind chick then pushes out the other eggs. Even if they remained, by the time they did hatch the parasitic chick would be so big and fat and bold that no smaller chick could stand a chance of competing against him and would quickly starve. Cuckoo behaviour and their calls is entirely innate - a juvenile cuckoo never sees its mother and never would have the opportunity to learn. They are insectivorous but occasionally predate on lizards and small birds as well as fruits and berries. During winter they take a holiday to the tropics, dispersing through the archipelago of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Pipiwharauroa, the Shining Cuckoo
The shining cuckoo generally chooses the grey warbler to foster its young. Because these birds spend the winter months in the Soloman Islands, they return to New Zealand relatively late - given the fast-breeding warblers a chance to raise their first brood before foisting their loud and rambunctious chicks upon the tiny host birds. Because the warblers make dangling nests, with only a tiny opening, once again it is difficult to imagine how the adult cuckoo might lay directly into this. In this case there is photographic evidence of an adult bird carrying aloft an egg to insert it. The shining cuckoo is also an insectivore, and its migration dependent on insect numbers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let NaNoWriMo begin!

Recently I began a short course on "writing for children", alas, two lessons into the course, the teacher became ill and the course has been postponed until later this month. This means it now coincides with NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. And thus, I shall finally fall to writing the astounding adventures of Aroha the Weka. What will Aroha's adventures entail? Well, she's going to be travelling Coast to Coast in the South Island of New Zealand. On foot - because wekas can't fly. The completed story will be around 25,000 words and contain at least 25 pictures. Why this exact amount you ask? Because the idea of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. And a picture paints a thousand words, right?

Day One - Chapter one = complete
Wordcount: 1612

She was being carried further and further from her home near the river named Grey.

But she was weka and she would not snap!

So instead, she set her feet firm and held her beak high.

Maybe in the next great Legend, SHE could be the hero.

Cry Wolf

I have been asked/commissioned to draw the Battlecry logo for 2011. This is the piece and I think I may well colour it too. Battlecry is a role-playing convention held in Auckland every February - one month after Kapcon, the convention that we often attend in Wellington. Thus I have never been to it. However, since I feel like a change, my husband and I are now toying with the idea of attending Battlecry instead and then doing a tour of part of the North Island. So it should be fun.

For more information on Battlecry, http://battlecry.battlecry.co.nz/ where you can see the original linework of this piece. Although I prefer this one by far. The wolf looks leaner and meaner and less cuddly.