Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

Creating Alien Creatures

As November flows past, I am busy with National Novel Writing Month. My novel project is called “The Mounzz of Autumn” and for it I am creating alien creatures.

Personally I am a practical person. I live in this world and have trouble imagining a different one.

I am not alone in this. When I read science fiction or fantasy, I often recognize where the creatures, the customs and more came from.

The challenge is in creating a world and creating alien creatures that are different enough to take a reader out of this world. Where do I start?

I start with the story. As I write, I find the people and the creatures begin to take shape.

For the Planet Autumn books, and Mounzz is the second one, I started with an original creature. It comes in many colors. It is a grazer so it eats grass and lives in a meadow. It is a herd animal.

creating alien creatures takes imagination
I have no idea what this creature is supposed to be. It has always been a favorite knick knack to look at and wonder about. Now I finally have a possible identity for it: a mounzz.

What does a mounzz look like? The original story idea was based on “Troubles with Tribbles” from the original Star Trek series. That gives me soft and furry.

A high school friend gave me a knick knack of an imaginary creature that lives on my computer tower. It is humped with a long snout.

Recently I read a book by Stephen J. Gould called “Urchin In a Storm” and found urchin was the British term for a hedgehog. I looked up hedgehogs.

And I have a good idea what a mounzz looks like now.

However I am not done creating alien creatures as any world must surely have more than one animal living on it. Another one is the sylvan.

What is a sylvan? It is something like a wood rat with some attributes of a squirrel.

Then there is the artyfox. The Planet Autumn may not be Earth, but it needs predators to help keep the mounzz population in check.

Once I got started, creating alien creatures turned out to be rather fun.

Wishing For Spring

Winter is arriving in the Ozarks with typical fanfare. A day of seventy degrees is followed by a day of falling temperatures from forty to near freezing. This leaves me wishing for spring.

There are other reasons. The first chapter of “The Carduan Chronicles” won second place in the Arts Rolla writing contest. Definitely incentive to complete this massive mess.

Spring Beauty flowers
Spring Beauty plants are a stalk with two opposite leaves. The top of the stem forms lots of flower buds that open a few at a time. Some petals are nearly white. Others are nearly pink. Most have the pink anthers over pink stripes on white petals.

And there is NaNo – National Novel Writing Month – where I have said I am completing “The Carduan Chronicles” even though I’m not sure it will take another 50,000 words to complete it. As part of bringing the two plots together, I am taking the two ships through one day at a time. And the Ozarks is in spring.

The Carduans are meeting spring flowers like Spring Beauty, Rose Verbena and Toothwort. They are munching on flowers from the Redbud trees. And I am wishing for spring so I can enjoy these flowers with them.

Redbud spring flowers
Flowers are for producing seeds as far as a plant is concerned. They are sources of food for many kinds of insects. Redbud flowers are edible by people with a delicate nutty sweet taste.

I do realize that anyone reading this novel won’t want a daily diary stretching out over fifteen six day weeks. It would get boring quickly. But, since I am melding two plots, I must have a strict timeline so they meet at the proper time.

Knowing much of what I am presently working so hard on will end up cut out of the final novel could be very discouraging. However, I don’t know now what will be cut or merged or summarized as I start the final major rewrite of the novel. The Ozarks in spring is an exciting place to the Carduans.

Rose Verbena plant in bloom
Roadsides and creek banks sport vivid rose pink from early spring to frost in the form of the Rose Verbena.

These little aliens have few flowers on their home planet Arkosa. They are amazed at the ones they see. They are searching for food. Do you know which wild plants are edible? I am learning. They must find small creatures to kill for meat and face the necessity of killing their own meat.

Then there are dangers. The snakes are coming out for the warm seasons. Four inch tall Carduans are tasty morsels or are they? How do you protect yourself?

Still, in spite of all the regular plot and events happening, it is the arrival of spring I enjoy most. I am wishing for spring and savoring each description I include in my writing.

What else might the Carduans discover? Check out “Exploring the Ozark Hills” for clues.

Fall Liverworts Flourish

Wanting to reacquaint myself with the ravines as I get ready to work on “The Carduan Chronicles”, even though this is November, not February, I walk back into the first one after the rain stopped. Water is flowing over the rock shelves and making small waterfalls. Dead leaves cover everything. And the liverworts flourish on the rocks along the water.

liverworts flourish in ravine

Last winter this pond was frozen over and a white ice river extended up the ravine above it. The white ice river moved into “The Carduan Chronicles” for one adventure and a bit of exploration. The ravine itself has influenced the imaginary ravine the spaceship lands in. for now the ravine is a lovely walk looking up the slopes at the fall colors and admiring the mosses and liverworts on the rocks near the water.

November is National Novel Writing Month, that annual challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And I am attempting to return to Cardua and finish my draft long neglected as I finished two books, “My Ozark Home” and “Mistaken Promises,” over the year.

I do remember the premise: Spaceship Nineteen from a convoy ferrying colonists and supplies to a new Arkosan colony is dropped out of a disintegrating worm tunnel into a February ice storm and lands in an Ozark ravine where the three crew members and six young Arkosans are stranded leaving them to learn how to survive in an alien environment. Reading through the draft has helped me remember the incidents and interplay between the Arkosans now Carduans as they name their new home Cardua.

Walking through the ravines is to help move me back into the story. My walk was working until the liverworts distracted me.

Liverworts flourish in a pile on a rock

These liverworts pile exuberantly over this rock and each other. This would be a Carduan point of view as I put the camera on the ground looking at the rock.

Liverworts are one of those primitive plants mentioned in biology texts that teachers have probably never seen. There is a picture of a liverwort. The class yawns and forgets all about them.

Much of the year the liverworts around the creek and up some of the ravines merit only that yawn. These plants like lots of moisture and cool temperatures. Summer may have the moisture, but not the temperatures. Winter freezes them. Spring and fall are the best times to see liverworts.

new liverworts flourish

Evidently this is a new liverwort colony. The tongues are growing outwardly, branching and creating a pretty pattern across the rock.

Last spring lasted about three days.

This fall the liverworts flourish. Long green tongues stretch out over the rocks. They branch, pile over each other and almost glow in the dim light under the clouds.

Even being distracted I noted several things I may use in “The Carduan Chronicles” over the course of the month. And I have an added reason to visit other ravines: to see if the liverworts flourish in them as well.

November Madness Writing

Killing frost will probably be this week. Taking plant pictures is almost done for this season. Now is time for November madness to begin.

Most people think about the coming holidays. November is Thanksgiving. December is Christmas or Hanukah. Then a new year begins.

I think of November madness. NaNo is coming! National Novel Writing Month will begin in less than two weeks.

November madness during NaNo

The Challenge: Write 50,000 words in 30 days.
The payoff: A short novel draft, a writing schedule, a feeling of accomplishment.

I am not ready. I am ready.

A writer is supposed to write every day. I do try over the summer, but other activities often interfere.

The garden needs tending. The goats and kids need tending. Wildflowers are blooming. Making cheese takes up one day each week.

This is why I anticipate November madness so much. It makes me get my writing schedule back on the front burner.

Edwina by Karen GoatKeeper

This has been a disappointing writing year for me. I started the year with such big plans. Only two books got done, Edwina and Running the Roads.

Running the Roads by Karen GoatKeeper

There was supposed to be those and Mistaken Promises, the third Hazel Whitmore book; Waiting for Fairies, a picture book; and my Planet Autumn series was supposed to be ready to write.

Instead I focused on plant pictures all summer. It did pay off. I have now completed all pictures for 150 plants with some or most pictures done for another 200. And I’m not finished going over all the pictures I did take over the growing season.

But my writing didn’t happen.

So, November madness is fast approaching. The imagination is working overtime. I’m having trouble staying focused on daily tasks as daydreams, those origins of writing ideas, distract me.

What will I write this November? My genre will be science fiction. My setting will be an Ozarks ravine invaded by aliens. They are in trouble. The Ozarks in winter can be a dangerous place, especially if you are only four inches tall.

November madness Ozark ravine setting

Imagine being four inches tall and negotiating your way around in this Ozark ravine. This is summer. Try this in February.

Will I post my rough draft? Sorry, no. My rough drafts are writing disaster areas. What about the first draft?

I’m planning a serial of short chapters. Yes, they will be available early next year, I hope. Each chapter will need a picture and that will depend on my illustrator’s schedule.

For now, I am creating the planet Cardua and those who will be arriving in the Ozarks.

Hurray for November madness!