Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Aroha's Grand Adventure

The final two illustrations:

Chapter 24: Maru is captured by some teenage louts.

Chapter 25: Aroha greets an old friend.

I'm working on the final polish at the moment, formatting the pdf and then the book should be available for purchase early in the New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Aroha's made off with the lights...

Monday, December 20, 2010

There's a weka on the train!

I am happy to report that my NaNo novel "Aroha's Grand Adventure" is well on the way to being published via CreateSpace. With any luck it will be available fairly early into the New Year (although I will have to get my proof copies first).

To celebrate, here's two more pictures - only two left for the prose and the cover design to go!

Chapter 22: There's Weka on the Train

Aroha and Maru travel in style.

Chapter 23: Weka soccer?

Oops, looks like Maru's got himself in a spot of bother
(this is the only illustration so far that doesn't feature Aroha at all)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The name - final

Final two panels for the baby name commission. "I" depicts Christchurch, a paradise she-duck and the good ol' Buzzy Bee, "A" depicts a classic kiwi hut, kowhai, pohutukawa, a weta and a kiwi.

Together they make a --- Sep-tych? Sounds a little unpleasant...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More of the Name

The next two images in my "baby name" commission:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baby Name Commission - Inkwork

One of my ex-coworkers has commissioned me to create a New Zealand flavoured series of images spelling out her daughter's name. There will be six pieces in total.
And hey, if this isn't what she was looking for, I'll use different letters for the last two ^^

I need to work some non-natural kiwiana into the next two pictures. Oh, and perhaps a kiwi should be included. Birds featured so far are blue penguin, kereru, fantail, weka, pukeko and kea. I have yet to decide the species of butterfly.

L is a lake, which should become apparent once it's coloured.

A Moovallous ATC

But not really, just because I like puns.
Yes, I know. I'm sick.

Here's my rendition of Ship-wreck's fursona:

I hope she likes her, she's not so good at responding to emails...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Diversionary tactics...

Maru creates a distraction whilst Aroha moves in for the "kill"...

(Chapter 21 - only four to go!!!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Attack of the Gulls!

Illustration for Chapter 20

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Colourful Alphabet Animals

G is for Giraffe

H is for Hippo

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Colouful Alphabet Animals

Oh but it is good to be back to working in colour! My primas, how I have missed thee ^^ With NaNoWriMo finished, my novel written and 19/25 of the illustrations completed, I decided it was time to get some other art commitments out of the way.

Namely the next quartet of 4x4s for Livia's "Illuminated Alphabet" swap.

For this set I've decided to go with an African vibe.

E is for Elephant

F is for Flamingo

Stay tuned for G and H!

And now I can write my name in baby animals:

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.