Thursday, June 25, 2020

Kicking off Summer 2020... From Home

shallow focus photography of sunflowers

It's summer!... and there's currently only so much we can do about that.

In our respective homes in Virginia and Illinois, things are still in a semi-state of lockdown. Ginger's back in the office, and Kara — well, works from home so technically she hasn't ever left the office. But even though we're currently not able to do our usual summer stuff, we're looking for the next best thing. Here's a handful that might work for you, too.

Catch the Solstice on the Rebound

silhouette photography of Stone Hinge during golden hour

There was no gathering at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice this year, but the English Heritage YouTube channel livestreamed the iconic structure at both sunrise and sunset. (The latter is slightly more picturesque thanks to a clearer sky late in the day.)

Note that these are real-time rather than time lapse, but that means they're nice to put on in the background for a bit of indoor outdoor scenery.

Get Ready for Some Baseball

person holding blue Chicago Cubs cap

Wrestling fans and viewers of late-night comedy have been getting accustomed to enjoying their pastimes without a live audience on site. Next up is sports — including baseball. The good news is, there will be baseball.

The season is expected to start on July 23 and 24. If you don't usually watch, it might be a good summer to start... and if you don't have a team to root for, consider throwing your support behind Ginger's hometown Cubs.

Make a Virtual Theme Park Visit

Coronavirus: SeaWorld furloughs more than 90% of its workforce ...

One of our favorite places to go in the summer is Busch Gardens in Williamsburg — which is, unsurprisingly, functioning on a somewhat different schedule now. While the park will be largely open, park capacity will be carefully monitored and not everything will be open. And if you're out of town, it'll be difficult to get there anyway.

In the meantime, the Busch Gardens YouTube channel has virtual rides and behind-the-scenes videos to enjoy — including a 360 POV ride on the wooden coaster InvadR!

When it becomes feasible, of course, we encourage you to get to BGW in person. It's absolutely beautiful and full of great rides.

Enjoy a Book Outdoors

We are slightly biased as this is the website for a book series — but even if you're not picking up one of the Owl's Flower books (which you should, especially considering the first one's free), it's definitely worth it to take a book outside and soak up some vitamin D.

If you've got an apartment with a balcony, why not set up a reading nook out there? Just take a citronella candle or three as summer wears on.

Travel may be off the books for now, but we've got a few summery things to keep us going in the meantime! What about you? How are you making some summer fun for yourself this year?

Friday, May 29, 2020

A New Podcast from the Creators!

As we endure lockdown, we've been looking for ways to lift our spirits. Writing and art are happening, as they always do, but we sometimes need a break from the world and the news cycle and what have you. The two of us decided to show each other some of our favorite shows—with Kara watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time and Ginger taking on both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. And then we got weird and turned it into a podcast.

We called our evening watches our "sin and violence block" (with the Elrics' taboo alchemy and Gene Hunt's fighting coming to mind), and that's what we've ended up naming the podcast, too. It's a chance for us to talk about the shows we love and what we love about them—from the writing and psychology to our theories as we encounter stories and characters for the first time, to (of course) the quality ships.

The series will have a finite length: once both shows are done, this is done. It'll be long... but it'll be finite. If you're a fan of Owl's Flower, it might even give you some insight into why we do things the way we do, from both a story and art perspective.

At the time of this writing, four episodes are currently available; though more will be coming out quickly and often.

So does this take precedence over book work? Of course not. This is a side project. We're looking forward to showing off more book stuff before long. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Problem-Solvers: Talking it Out in Fiction (And Reality)

handshake close-up photography

When we first started putting Owl's Flower together, we decided on a handful of ground rules — or, more accurately, those "ground rules" were part of the reason we wanted to write Owl's Flower in the first place. We've talked about them a lot here, at conventions, and on podcasts, because they're so important to the making of our stories. We have certain things we want to put forward, and in many ways those things make Herne and Iris's relationship what it is on the most basic of levels.

One of our first (and most talked-about) choices was to never ever use misunderstandings or a lack of communication to build drama or conflict. Humor? Sure. Addressing a lack of willingness to broach certain topics? Sure. (There are a handful of things they just aren't ready to tell each other — but they will.) But fiction has plenty of examples of how not to resolve conflict. It was important to us to offer an alternative.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Spring Clean Like a Nature God

When it comes to spring cleaning, no one knows how to get it done like the guy in charge of bringing in spring! (Okay, fine, nature gods are slightly more concerned with natural issues than closets and vacuuming, but it still stands.)

Just as Owl's Flower owner Iris Faulkner has to freshen up her shop and home after a long winter, Herne has an entire forest to get in shape. The city of William's Grove knows Herne as a legendary folklore figure, but he's working away season after season to keep things ticking over. Smaller scale local deities don't get a lot of notice — but they still have a lot of work.

Herne and Iris may be freshening up very different locales in very different ways, but some rules apply across both:

There's nothing wrong with going slow.

green leaf grasses

Spring comes 'round a little at a time. A few flowers bloom. A few trees start to get green. Allergies ramp up a bit at a time... The point is, even in the most ludicrous of climate zones, you don't close your eyes on snow and wake up to a fully green, blossoming world.

Just as the seasons roll out in stages, it's fine to freshen up your house in stages, too. If you really thrive on setting aside an entire weekend to do nothing but clean, go for it! But if the idea of getting an entire house, apartment, or shop cleaned for spring fills you with anxiety, do like nature... go in stages.

Friendly > Tidy

purple flower on field

We've all seen those supremely sterile, supremely organized homes in films or TV shows, or even on social media. There's something appealing about them, sure... but could you live comfortably in something that pristine?

"Clean" doesn't have to mean "pristine." As in nature, there's something comforting about a lived-in-feeling place with just a tiny bit of unpredictability. You don't have to have your shelves cleared of everything but a succulent and three books, just as a forest doesn't have to have trees lined up tidily and stripped bare of ivy.

Hold yourself to a level of tidiness that both keeps you organized and makes you feel at home.

Let the Sun Shine in

sun rays through silhouette of trees

Shed a little light on the subject. Not only will you get a better sense of what needs cleaning (and how many dust particles are floating around), light is sometimes the last little touch you need to make a room feel warmer and more open.

Better yet — and if your allergies don't object — open the windows and let some actual sunlight in. The clouds are (hopefully) finally starting to clear, and you'll be able to get some natural Vitamin D for the first time in months to power your cleaning!

Don't Forget to Look Low and Out of Sight

green leafed plants

As you're taking care of high-up shelves or things in your eyeline, remember to look underfoot. Just as a lot of things happen on the forest floor, things have a habit of ending up covered up down low. In nature, this will eventually turn into mulch to help new things grow — but clutter doesn't recycle itself indoors. You'll have to check under tables and sofas yourself.

Similarly, things can accumulate out of sight. Last time you cleaned, did you stow a lot of stray items in a trunk for lack of a better place to put them? Now is as good a time as any to do something about that.

Keep Growing

white flower with green leaves

Just as spring doesn't come all at once, nature never just stops. Things are always in motion, always blooming and changing. And just as it's just fine to go slow, it's good to make tiny maintenance a habit.

A spring clean feels good because you're shaking winter off your shoes and welcoming in new life and warm weather. But when it comes to the "clean" part, your best bet is to set up a space you can comfortably maintain a little at a time, rather than something that looks good for a hot minute before falling into disrepair before the next big clean. After all, you're the local life form: you should be able to exist comfortably within the space!

For more on forest maintenance, dating nature gods, and other grown-up responsibilities, dive into the Owl's Flower light novel series. You can download the first book free on the website, and name your price on the second!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Five Ways to Say "I Love You"

One of our favorite things about working on Owl's Flower is creating the kind of love story we'd like to see more of. Herne and Iris's story has conflict and trouble, as any new romance will. But we work hard to offer alternative methods to dealing with those conflicts. It's a way to keep our stories from having lazy conflict, but also hopefully a way to show people that there are other ways to deal with issues in relationships.

Our next book will be Valentine's Day themed. As you may have noticed, we're both working through a lot of projects — but we look forward to showing you more progress soon. In the meantime, we're celebrating with five ways to say "I love you," albeit not in so many words:

Respecting Requests

Sometimes you see someone you care about doing something self-destructive, something you know there's no good way out of. And if that time comes, it's right of you to say something. But other times, you aren't the expert. And those are the times when you show love not by ignoring your partner's request, but by respecting it.

This is a difficult distinction to draw, because it obligates us to separate facts from biases. Are you worried because you recognize a genuine problem? Or because you think you're smarter and they can't make an educated choice without you? We knew, for example, that Herne would never be objectively "wiser" than Iris just because he's a demigod and she's a human. And that's a conflict that comes up in their relationship. They learn that, while it's understandable to be protective of each other, that's only worthwhile if the concern isn't colored by bias.

Thinking About Your Arguments

After a fight, all we want to do is forget that fight happened and go back to normal. Tempers were high, something set us off, but now it's over and we've apologized and we can just go back to business as usual. Right?

Sometimes that's true. We've all had some pretty ridiculous fights. But sometimes, the things that come out when we're heated tap into very real issues. And as nice as it would be to just smooth over it, it might be a sign that we've touched on something that needs addressing. Not in another fight, no — in personal reflection.

Ideally, we raise concerns maturely, especially with people we love. But boiling points can happen for a reason. If something good can come out of those moments, rather than just bottling it back up, all the better.

Trusting First

One of the first things we agreed on when writing Owl's Flower was that there would be no conflict or drama through misunderstanding. You know the kind: overhearing a piece of conversation, or seeing your SO standing next to someone else, and using those incomplete puzzle pieces to assume they're cheating or don't love you anymore. (Misunderstanding for the sake of comedy? Completely acceptable.)

Herne and Iris trust each other on that most basic of levels: that they won't be unfaithful, and that if ever one of them begins to fall out of love (though don't expect that), they'll be honest about it. So Iris catching the back half of a sentence, or Herne seeing her chatting with a cute guy, won't drive them into the depths of despair.

If your partner is the sort you need to suspect, there's a bigger problem at play. Give them the gift of trust; and if you can't, then you need to find out why.

Asking Questions

Speaking of trust, and assumptions, there's basically one solid way to communicate when you have a question: ask the question.

Don't understand why they react to something the way they do? Ask. Or at least ask if there's anything they want to talk about. Confused about something they said? Ask. And, as before... if you feel you can't, or if you really can't, then there's a bigger problem at play.

Iris, naturally, has a lot of questions about Herne. They're not necessarily following our advice at every turn here. But in this case, they will. Or they'll try. After all, there are still a lot of things about Herne, and his past, that he hasn't put out there yet.

Saying Nothing

We've all had times when a problem couldn't be solved with quick thinking, advice, action, or anything short of a magic wand. In those times, all we wanted was someone with us. The knowledge that we're not alone, that there's someone there for us, who can just be present. In those moments, sometimes saying nothing is the best way to say "I love you."

It's also one of the hardest things on this list to do.

We feel the need to fix things, especially for people we love. We want that answer. We want to have that magic wand. Admitting we don't, that some things aren't in our power, is important — as well as noting that that doesn't make us any less valuable to the people we care about. If we're only in their lives because they think we can engineer solutions to all their problems, that's... you know, a problem.

It's all right to not know. It's brave to admit you can't necessarily be your partner's complete hero at all times in all ways. You can still be what they need in the moment.

Here's hoping all our readers have a fantastic day. Spend it with your loved ones, your families, your friends, or a good book or favorite movie. Dumb Baby also recommends cookies... but he always does.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Five Ways We Stay Productive

As creators, we've got a lot on. In addition to working on Owl's Flower, we both have day jobs and passion projects — and in each of our cases, they're connected to what you already see us do. Ginger is a designer by day, and Kara does news and features around the web.

With all these different pieces floating around, it can be hard to stay focused and grounded. This book needs doing, but so does this shirt design. These articles are due next week, but so is a rough draft for this anthology. And sometimes, thanks to events in our lives or mood or just the weather, we don't want to do anything. So how do we keep rolling?

We each have our individual ways of focusing up at home, the office, or the home office. But here are a few methods we share in different ways. They aren't miracle cures, but they get the job done.

Take a Nap

black and gray owl

Seriously. If you're procrastinating because you're tired and you have the freedom to lie down, do it. Even dropping down for ten minutes of shuteye will yield better results than attempting to push through. Just make sure you set an alarm and put it somewhere where you can't turn it off in your sleep!

Kara takes a cat nap during the work day if she starts to feel drowsy, and just those few minutes makes a difference.

Online Accountability

person using laptop

When you have someone to answer to, tasks can go a lot faster. If you're an artist or do something else that an audience might like to see, do like Ginger: set up a stream! Whether it's one friend watching or 100 fans, you now have people waiting to see what you do. Plus, if you're working on book illustrations or con merch, it's a great way to give people a sneak peek of what's to come!

Rewards, Not Prewards

wrapped gift box

Give yourself something to look forward to... and then don't move it up. Seriously. Leave it where it is: at the end of the day, or the end of the task, or wherever it's meant to be.

Maybe it's a snack. Maybe it's an episode of your favorite show. For Ginger and Kara, it's sometimes a round of Elder Scrolls Online. Either way, stick to whatever it is. Put a little note somewhere where you'll see it, reminding you what you're getting to. Even if it's just a cup of coffee.

Have a Killer Playlist

woman standing watching LED light musical instrument

You know those songs that really make you feel awake and alive and good? Like you want to do something? Like you want to kick the sun? (Don't kick the sun, but you get the idea.) Put those in a playlist. Really narrow it down to the stuff that makes you feel on top of the world... or at least as close as you can manage.

Ginger's aforementioned streams will give you an idea of her taste in music — maybe you'll get some ideas during her next one! And if you're like Kara and can't work while listening to music with lyrics in it, Spotify has plenty of instrumental-only playlists just for the occasion.

Baby Steps and Forgiveness

brown owl close-up photo

One of the hardest things about getting your productivity on is dropping the ball. You make your tidy to-do list, you have your pretty hand-written planner, and your day is all planned out perfectly. But you oversleep, or something comes up, or you fall into your usual habits. That's okay — start smaller.

Pick one thing to make over in your day. Maybe there's one thing you always put off: cleaning, or a certain task at work. Spend a week getting that in check. Don't worry about the rest. Let it slide. Get this straight first. Then pick another thing.

And if you mess it up? That's okay. If you could just be organized or keep your schedule tamed after one go, setting goals wouldn't be a thing. We all have to try. Even the people who seem to be doing a whole lot. Heck, especially them.

Fix one thing about your schedule at a time, and try again if you mess it up. It sounds basic, but it's how Kara tames her writing deadlines, and it's how Ginger stays on track to make her merch and zines happen. And it's the step a lot of self-improvement sorts tend to skip in favor of magical solutions. 

Speaking of accountability, keep your eyes on us over on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We've got more coming this year!

Friday, January 10, 2020

CREATOR WEEKLY WRAP-UP: Who Goodies from Our Creators!

Hope everyone is having a fantastic start to 2020! We're already hitting the ground running with personal projects and writing/illustrating work. Thanks for sticking with us into the new year!

For starters, Ginger has a new shirt in her shop. Inspired by Pip Madeley on Twitter, it's perfect gear for those of you who tried to go home and found that, once again, it's all gone to hell. Get your shirt now from her shop:

Plus, Kara's new book Vanishing Tales of the City is out in print! You've likely seen us mention this a fair bit over the previous weeks. It's part of Obverse Books' Anniversary Sextet, taking place in the City of the Saved and featuring Iris Wildthyme, SeƱor 105, members of Faction Paradox, and more. Get your copy now!

If you want to see more from both of us, be sure to follow Ginger @Kataoi and Kara @RubyCosmos on Twitter. We've always got something on, and will definitely have things of interest to our readers!