Thursday, January 31, 2019

Book Inspirations: Kuu the Adorable Owl

One of our favorite things about Owl's Flower is writing and drawing Herne in his screech owl ("Dumb Baby") form. While Herne is not necessarily highly dignified to begin with, the owl is both cute and a way for him to express himself a little more plainly.

But... and I know this will come as a shock to a lot of you... neither of us actually owns an owl. There are no owl cafés near us, and around our respective necks of the woods it's generally not done to keep wild birds as pets. So when it comes to screech owl behaviors, we don't have a 24/7 local source to turn to.

We do, however, have an online source, and one that's become our sort of real-world stand-in for Dumb Baby as we write: Kuu, a Western Screech Owl living in Japan.

We first found Kuu on Vine (remember when that was still a thing), wearing tiny hats and getting generally confused by videos of himself. Occasionally, his owner would post the latest iteration of one particular habit: the owner twiddling his fingers to offer scritchies, and Kuu bounding down his perch to accept them.

Kuu's owners videos include the owl flying around the house, acting judgy about toys, taking baths in bowls of water, and generally being a big silly baby. The sounds Kuu makes in the videos—the contented little trills and the occasional big loud hoots—also help us "hear" what Herne in owl form sounds like.

Incidentally, Kuu has a housemate now: a Spectacled Owl named Pon who's also fun to watch.

So if you're ever curious what exactly it would look like to have owl-type Herne hopping around Iris's house, pop over to @kuuowl on Twitter. Because, yeah. That's what we're working from. The vids are also stellar for bad mood days. Seriously. Just try to wear a frown when that little nerd is riding around on a feather duster.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Behind the Light Novel: An "Interview" with Stormy Nakabito

She may be blissfully ignorant of her boss's boyfriend's true identity, but Stormy Nakabito is no slouch. This week, we're "talking" with her (insofar as we can talk to one of our own characters in interview format... look just let us have this) about the big things in her life. Or, at least, what we're pretty sure are the big things in her life.


Q: We heard a rumor, so we have to know: What's your ringtone?

A: "Sample of My Pasta," obviously. This year's #1 bop.

Q: What about the app you use most on your phone?

A: Probably OctiKeeper. I do the daily missions at least. I don't actually spend any real money on it, though.

Q: And who's your wallpaper?

A: ... is this about my phone again?

Q: ... n-no?

A: Look, I know I handle social media and stuff for the shop, but you can ask me about things other than my phone. Seriously.

Q: Okay. So, uh, what's it like working at Owl's Flower?

A: I make money. My boss's boyfriend is weird. Next question.

Q: ... right. So, um...

A: You can't think of anything, can you? Seriously. Ask about my interests. About what I'm doing in school. Or is there something you think you can't ask me?

Q: Of course not!

A: You know, come to think of it, the boss and her boyfriend always act like they're trying to hide stuff from me lately. I wonder what's up with them. Think they're doing some shady coffee dealings? Is there a coffee mafia?

Q: Um, probably not. Anyway, you mentioned something called OctoKeeper earlier? What's that?

A: OctiKeeper. It's a mobile game that just came out for the 30th anniversary of Domo Octi.

Q: Domo... what?

A: ... seriously? You've never heard of Domo Octi? It's only the most popular mascot from SugoiCo. It's this little octopus that came out in 1989 in Japan on, like, greeting cards and stuff? And eventually they started making housewares and accessories and stuffed animals and things. There are a few other mascots in the line, mostly other sea life, but they don't really sell as well. So they mostly market Octi in different colors with different accessories. They did a few anime over the years, and this year they've got one coming out online that's, like, Flash animated? I guess it looks okay, but I kind of like the look of the third series that came out in '94.

Q: Right...

A: But they did get Octi's original voice actress back, which is kinda cool since she's in like her 60s but she sounds the exact same. But yeah, they made the game because it's the 30th anniversary this year, and they've got the web anime, some manga, some new clothing lines for adults, and apparently there's a collab café going on in Akihabara, too.

Q: Wow, you, uh... you really do follow it closely.

A: Kinda my thing.

Q: So before we go, what can we expect in the third book?

A: Besides Boss being weird and her boyfriend wearing the same three shirts over and over? Valentine's Day. Which sucks, because all the kids at school act stupid about it. Oh, but there's some cute boys in the area, so that's kind of nice.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Behind the Light Novel: An "Interview" with Iris Faulkner

A while back, we posted an "interview" with Herne, offering some clarity into what it means to be a nature god. This week, we're bringing you the flip side: a Q&A with Owl's Flower owner Iris Faulkner!

As an aside from us—this is a really fun way to explore the characters between books, and to offer you a little more insight that wouldn't naturally come out over the course of the story. If you have a favorite character in the books so far that you'd like to see a blog post like this for, let us know!

Q: So, how are things going at Owl's Flower?

A: Pretty good, actually! Obviously we're not as big as coffee chains or larger restaurants, but we have a respectably-sized clientele that comes through regularly. I'm always looking to expand, but we're in a pretty okay place so far.

Q: It was a little touch-and-go in the first book, I remember.

A: Oh, yeah. That was a weird one. Literal bad luck entity crashing my party? Hopefully that'll never happen again. You'd think gods and spirits would have better things to do than get in the way of someone trying to run a business.

Q: You're taking the whole "knowing deities" thing pretty calmly.

A: I date one. It's starting to verge on normal.

Q: Is it really?

A: ... okay, no, not really. There are a few things I'm getting used to, like Herne just straight up turning into an owl when he gets nervous. Or hungry. Or for fun. But I'm occasionally still surprised. There's a lot out there I still don't understand, and Herne will fill me in as much as he can, but a lot of it is still just plain weird.

Q: For instance?

A: Well, for instance, having to deal with ghosts. That was kind of a big surprise. Also now there's just this dog who comes and hangs out with us. His name's Frank. Apparently he's a friend of Herne's?

Q: Do you ever feel like maybe things are a little too weird?

A: Oh, constantly. But never too weird to give up on trying to make things work. I really love that guy. I get mad at him sometimes because he makes assumptions about how I'll react to things, or I'll get freaked out when I'm faced with something new. But he's worth it.

Q: Speaking of motivation and things being worth it, how long did it take to pick up the skills you needed to open a business?

A: You say that as though I'm done! It's a constant learning experience. Stormy has my back when it comes to social media and things like that, but the rest—business trends, management, how to survive in a brick-and-mortar when businesses are going digital—that's not something you just go to school for and you're set for life. Like I said, I'm always looking to improve, and that means learning new things.

Q: Did you already know how to bake all those amazing cookies and snacks when you started, or was that a process, too?

A: I just like baking. Honestly, if I didn't run a coffee shop, I'd probably still end up baking as much as I already do. This way, they're at least going to people who like them. Instead of, you know, right back to me.

Q: What are you proudest of when it comes to your work?

A: Lasting as long as I have when there are huge international corporations doing what I do. It makes me happy to know that we've made enough people happy that, when given the choice between the big commercial option and Owl's Flower, they'll come to us.

Q: Last question: what can we look forward to in the third book?

A: Well, it's going to be Valentine's Day! That means doing something special at the shop, but it's also Herne's and my first Valentine's Day together. I have no idea how that's going to go. But as long as nothing throws a wrench in our holiday plans at the shop, I'll be happy.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Creator Weekly Wrap-Up: Zine Applications Closing and Reader Award Poll Open!

Artists, you've only got a few more days to apply for Moon Man, Ginger's Peter Capaldi charity zine! Proceeds will be going to Capaldi's alma mater, the Glasgow School of Art. Artists can be of any style, and don't require existing heavy knowledge of his CV to join. You bring the art and the enthusiasm, and Ginger will have your resources.

Applications close Monday, January 14, so get your application in ASAP! Applications are for artists only this time, but if you are a writer, there will be other zines to look forward to this year—be sure to pass this along to your artist friends!

Also closing January 14 is voting for the Annual Critters Readers' Poll, and Kara has a nominated story! "The Wandering Child" from Stranger Tales of the City is up for an award, and your vote could help get it there! If you enjoyed the story and/or Kara's work, head on over to the short story voting page and cast your vote!

Other friends and associates are also up for honors. You can see the full list on the 18th Wall blog.

Thanks for your continued support, and we'll see you next week!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Trivia Time! What Do You Know About Owl's Flower?

Owl's Flower has been around for a couple years, but we're still pretty new in the world. Illustrations for book 3 are now underway (and they're looking great!) and we're always happy to get more readers, but we're aware that we're not all that well known.

So... why not fix that?

Today we're taking a minute to drop a few fun facts about Ginger, Kara, and the world of the books—both the fiction and the making of.

Ginger and Kara didn't meet because of Doctor Who.

Granted, the show is a major part of both our lives, and we started talking more after Kara saw Ginger's Doctor Who art on Tumblr, but that wasn't our first encounter. We actually first crossed paths when Kara found some Sleepy Hollow fan art by Ginger! (Yep, they were both fans of that, too!)

Lots of planning happened in Kara's car.

Everything from Herne's and Iris's names to lots of what would become standard elements of the book were finalized during one long drive. Thanks to a storm that caused Ginger's flight home from D.C. to get cancelled one summer, the two spent a lot of time together on the Interstate after Kara went to rescue her so she wouldn't have to stay in a hotel. The story was still in the earliest planning phases then.

Stormy is named after a real person.

Stormy Nakabito is named after a girl Kara grew up with, whose actual birth certificate name was Stormy. It seemed like a good fit for the character. Incidentally, her last name also has a special meaning... but you'll have to wait to find out what that is!

Herne was originally just a were-owl.

In early iterations of the story, Herne wasn't able to take on multiple forms. He was literally just an owl-shifter. He still favors the screech owl look, but has a lot more flexibility. And yes, we're looking to showcase some more of it in later books.

Technically, he's a genius loci.

The concept of genius loci, or "spirit of a place," dates back at least to ancient Rome, though there are shrines to similar spirits in Asia. Genii loci had altars built to them and were given sacrifices. They could be big-time gods, but that was more a reflection of the size of the region they oversaw. With Herne in charge of a suburb, he's not particularly big news.

Iris is named after one of Ginger's pets.

We knew we wanted a flower name, for obvious reasons. "Iris" has mythological ties, of course, but was also the name of Ginger's betta fish in college. We like to think our Iris has slightly better survival skills and fights a little less.

Honey cookies are deity-approved!

The owl-shaped honey cookies Iris makes for the shop came about because we wanted something that would count as a traditional offering to a spirit. Honey (and sweet things in general) are especially favored in offerings. Angela Pritchett came up with a honey-based sugar cookie for us, and voila!

You've already seen some major hints to the future.

We know what we want to do with these characters pretty far in advance, and we're already laying the groundwork. What may seem like scene setting or offhand comments may end up being important as we expand on this first story arc. Or they may just be scene setting. You'll just have to wait and see!

Want to know more? Our first book is always free to download for most e-readers, and our second book is pay-what you want (as will be the case for digital editions). Go get yours now!