inspirations: wolf point

I talk a little about my inspiration for the first book in the Wolf Point series over on the Hitchhikers page, but as I continue the series I feel the need to talk about an inspiration that has actually helped me to build the world of the Wolf Point series.

One day, I was looking at a map, and saw the town of Wolverton (located somewhere in England).  I had this idea that there could be a town like this that got its name because werewolves lived there.  I’m not sure how much time passed between having this idea and when I discovered or searched for the town of Wolf Point, Montana, which seemed like the ideal place in the U.S. to have such a town full of werewolves.  Nearby are the Wolf Mountains, yet another ideal location.

Coupled with the idea of a town name, I thought about surnames like Wolf.  Wolf, Woolf, Wolfe, etc. would be fairly obvious, but there are many surnames from other countries and languages that essentially mean the same thing.  I liked the idea that families were given this surname because, in actuality, they were werewolves, and perhaps through the years, this knowledge was lost or hidden to the general populace so that today, we don’t think that a person having this last name is a werewolf.  In researching various names that mean “wolf,” I got the idea for The Five Families who emigrate to the U.S. and settle in Wolf Point:

  • Connor (Irish, meaning “Wolf Kin” or “Lover of Wolves”)
  • Loupe (French: loup means “Wolf” – although I’m discovering that loupe might be derived from louppe which means something else entirely)
  • Roulfe (Scottish – apparently my own spelling – from Rolfe, meaning “Wolf Counsel” or “Renowned Wolf”)
  • Randell (English, meaning “Wolf’s Shield”)
  • ???? This branch of the family I have not decided on a surname yet.  I would like this branch to be Danish, for which the word for wolf is ulv (you’ll see why later)

So as I wrote Hitchhikers and Dreamwalkers, I envisioned these families coming to the U.S. due to persecution against werewolves in Europe.  When I began to write The Beast, I wanted to see if I could work some of the real werewolf executions into the story of the real life Bete du Gevaudan, a wolf some believed to be a werewolf.  Instead, I discovered that wolves were hunted to near extinction in a number of European countries right around this time period:

  • 1500: the last wolf was killed in England
  • 1680: Scotland’s last wolf was killed (but possibly existed until 1888)
  • 1770: Ireland’s last wolf was killed
  • 1772: Denmark’s last wolf was killed
  • 1927: last wild wolves in France killed
  • 1966: Sweden’s last wolf killed (a wolf bounty was in place from from 1647)
  • 1976: Norway’s last wolf killed

The story of The Beast takes place right around 1770, so I imagined now that all these wolf families were being displaced from their country of origin and seeking refuge in France.  Because of the Beast’s rampage, France became unsafe for them, and they moved to the New World and settled far west, which by the time of the second prequel novella brings us to 1870, during the Westward Expansion.

I briefly mention in Hitchhikers the Five Family’s relations with the Native American tribes of the region, basically that they settled and kept to themselves.  I imagined this relationship to be similar to the French-Canadian fur trappers’ relationships, a working relationship that did not bring conflict.  I also mention in Hitchhikers the belief of the Five Families that the werewolf gene is passed through bloodlines, although it is later shown in Dreamwalkers that their belief that they are the only bloodlines with the werewolf gene is false.  In Scavengers, I want to bring in the story of the Native Americans in the area, especially since I’ve been conscious from when I first chose Wolf Point as a locale that the town is located on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the racial makeup is about 50% Native.  Now I am tasked with researching the tribes of the area and how to weave a werewolf pack into that.

It’s been completely fascinating for me how one small idea has led me to build this entire world…

the Possession Story formula

This week I am examining the common formula for a story about demon possession, using the following 5 movies:

The ExorcistThe Exorcism of Emily Rose The Last Exorcism The Possession The Devil Inside

Start with a young woman, just hitting puberty.

  • The Exorcist: Regan is a 12-year-old girl
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Emily is college-aged young woman
  • The Last Exorcism: Nell is a teenage girl
  • The Possession: Em is a teenage girl
  • The Devil Inside: Maria is a young mother

You might want to base your exorcism story on something in Real Life:

  • The Exorcist: based on the real life case of Roland Doe (a pseudonym), who was approximately 13 years old
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: based on the real life case of Anneliese Michel, who was about 20 when her possession started
  • The Last Exorcism & The Devil Inside: while not based in real life, both of these movies is shot in documentary style

Dress your main character in a white nightgown:

 

 

Said young person might innocently dabble in the occult:

  • The Exorcist: Regan plays with a Ouija board (Roland Doe does the same)
  • The Possession: Em finds a dybbuk box (said to imprison a Jewish demon) at a yard sale

We need some foreshadowing:

  • The Exorcist: Regan has an invisible friend named “Captain Howdy”
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Emily sees objects move on their own
  • The Possession: Em has an invisible friend, a woman

The parents seek medical or psychological help for their child:

  • The Exorcist: Regan is taken for a number of medical tests
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Emily is diagnosed with epilepsy and depression
  • The Possession: Em is taken in for an MRI

Crazy shit goes down, according to the four typical signs of demonic possession (from Wikipedia):

  1. manifestation of superhuman strength
  2. speaking in tongues or languages that the person cannot know
  3. the revelation of knowledge, distant or hidden, that the victim cannot know
  4. blasphemic rage and an aversion to holy symbols or relics
  • The Exorcist: (1) Regan’s head spins and she levitates (2) she speaks in French, Latin, and backwards (3) she knows information about Father Karras’s mother (4) she cringes away from Holy water and the crucifix
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: (1) Emily holds contorted positions for hours (2) Emily speaks in Hebrew, Latin, ancient Greek, German, and Aramaic
  • The Last Exorcism: (1) Nell stabs her brother and kills a cat (4) screams at the sight of a crucifix
  • The Possession: (1)Em stabs her father with a fork (2) she speaks in a deep voice (4) when her father reads her the Torah, the book is thrown out of his hands by an invisible force
  • The Devil Inside: (1) Maria murders several people during an exorcism attempt (2) she speaks in different accents (3) she knows that her daughter had an abortion years ago

In addition, make your possessed character contort herself:

 

Gross stuff comes out of their mouths:

  • The Exorcist: Regan vomits pea soup
  • The Possession: a swarm of moths fly out of Em’s mouth

Words or marks appear on their skin, or you can see stuff crawling around under their skin:

  • The Exorcist: The words “Help Me” appear on the skin of Regan’s stomach
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Emily develops stigmata
  • The Possession: a hand moving under Em’s skin is visible
  • The Devil Inside: Maria has cut inverted crosses into her skin

Give the demon a name:

  • The Exorcist: Pazuzu (an Assyrian demigod)
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: 6 demons, including Legion, Belial, and Lucifer
  • The Last Exorcist: Abalam
  • The Possession: Abizu (“Taker of Children”)

Bring in the religious expert, in a recognizable costume:

  • The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Devil Inside: Catholic priests
  • The Possession: a Hasidic Jewish rabbi
  • The Last Exorcism: a reverend

And remember, the demons always win [spoilers!!]:

  • The Exorcist: Pazuzu returns in the movie’s sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic and possesses Father Lamont; in the book’s sequel (and subsequent movie) Legion/Exorcist III, Pazuzu continues to possess Father Karras’s corpse, among others, to commit serial murders.
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose: The demons harass the lawyers defending Emily’s exorcist
  • The Possession: As the rabbi exorcist leaves the scene with the demon trapped in its box, he is in a fatal car accident – leaving the box unharmed and ready for its next unsuspecting victim.
  • The Last Exorcism: Nell has been possessed at the command of the cult her family belongs to, and they kill the exorcist
  • The Devil Inside: The demon causes a car wreck and is presumably at large

I have been plotting my own take on a possession story… which will turn all of these cliches on their heads!

Television as inspiration

Most of the time, TV is a huge distraction for my writing.  But other times, television can inspire action.
I usually end up sitting at my sewing machine when I watch “Project Runway.”  It’s something about those designers sewing an entire outfit in a matter of hours that makes me feel guilty about that dress I started sewing last year and never finished…  If not sewing, I’ll usually end up knitting or doing some other crafty thing while I watch.

Some people I know say that watching “Hoarders” makes them feel like their mess of a house isn’t so bad.  But “Hoarders” drives me to get up and start cleaning.  I find myself getting up and putting stuff away, vacuuming, and organizing…

Such a guilty pleasure to watch… I will attempt to justify my obsession with “Dance Moms” by saying that I watch it for the dancing, not the moms.  I’m usually inspired to do my stretching routine while I watch those 8-13-year-old girls do stuff usually seen in Cirque du Soleil.

So there are 3 shows that inspire me to Do Something.  Now, they need to create a show that will inspire me to write… It would have to be something boring so I could concentrate on writing.  Like a white screen with some cool music playing…

“inspiration”

When I was a teenager I had a file that I labelled “inspiration.”  It contained articles about authors who had been published as teens.  And as I grew older and I added more articles to the folder, I hoped that my competitive streak would flare up and get me writing.

The first article I put in that folder was about Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, who had her first book published at 14.  I think I was 17 or 18 at the time.  I read one of her books, Demon in My View.   Damn!  I thought.  She’s got me beat.  Then, I can do this.  I can write a novel.  Hers isn’t even that long.  (Didn’t happen).

The second article I put in the “inspiration” folder was about Jenn Crowell.  Her novel, Necessary Madness, was published when she was 18.  Here was a teen writing for an adult audience.  Why???  I wailed in my head.  Why can’t I have a book published too??? (Because I hadn’t written one yet).

Over the years I had come across and read many a book written by a teen author: Please Don’t Kill the Freshman by Zoe Trope (age 15) (Why can’t MY journals have gotten published?), Eragon by Christopher Paolini (age 17), I’m sure there are many more I’m not thinking of.  Here’s a list, although it doesn’t include S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was 15.

I eventually vowed to write a novel by the time I graduated college. (Didn’t happen).  I couldn’t compete with all those published teen authors, especially now that I was in my twenties.  Only when I took a notebook and told myself that I wouldn’t stop until I had either filled it or written a complete novel did I finally write a novel.  (That was Bethany Caleb).

I was reminded of this by an article in the New York Times about parents who are paying sometimes significant amounts of money to get their teenage child’s book into print.  Which really is less about teen authors making it big than about self-publishing, and where self-publishing is going to lead in years to come.  As a teen I would have been thrilled to pieces to see a book with my name across the cover.  Back when I was a teen we learned about vanity presses and how they were Bad and meant that real publishers would never take you seriously, and about those poetry contests that were scams to make you shell out $65 for a hardcover encyclopedia of poetry for that one little page with your poem on it.

Self-publishing can’t be all bad.  Look at Chris Paolini, at Amanda Hocking, at any number of self-published writers out there now, publishing their books with hardly any down payment but with some marketing savvy, landing themselves a traditional publisher.  Even fanfiction writers like E.L. James are getting publishing deals.  As long as you have an audience, and can prove people want to read what you write, it seems you can get a traditional publishing deal in the long run.

And breaking into traditional publishing is so difficult!  Check out my rejection counter for proof… Traditional publishers and agents are not looking to take on debut authors with no audience.  But these teens (who are capable of a writing a whole book as I was unable to do while still a teen), maybe their first foray into self-publishing will only sell a few hundred copies.  Maybe their second book sells a few more, and they begin to build a fan base.  Maybe by the time they hit adulthood, they’ve got a following and a traditional publisher will be willing to take a chance on them…

Self-publishing is so tempting.  I keep giving myself deadlines (currently: I’ll self-publish when I’m 40, if that’s still around as a thing).  But maybe that’s too late?

The Hunger Games: distraction or inspiration?

I went to the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games” Thursday/Friday… then on Friday night, Janina was going to see the movie again so I was left to my own devices, none of which included writing.  I shouldn’t be so harsh on myself; I did do some research on literary agents, etc.  Put together some query letters.  But no actual writing.  Even though I had told Janina I wanted to write a fanfic of Gale’s POV of The Hunger Games.

By Saturday afternoon, however, I was itching to write.  I want to write something as epic as what Suzanne Collins has done.  I thought over my various works-in-progress and started working on Dreamwalkers, the sequel to Hitchhikers, which is told from Kayla’s point of view.

I won’t lie.  I did not accomplish much.  But it is something.

My take on the movie: I thought it was well done.  I loved Katniss and the adult cast; Peeta and Gale left something to be desired – they just did not look how I imagined, and I didn’t feel any chemistry between either one and Katniss.  I wished a little more time had been spent on the background of this society, the fear and the hunger of daily life in District 12.  I am really enjoying the soundtrack, especially the first song by Arcade Fire – it may go on my current writing soundtrack to keep that inspiration for epic-ness alive!

and so it begins…

It’s November 2nd, which means Nanowrimo has started again!  Yesterday I managed over 1,900 words and my goal for tonight is to get to 3,500 before American Horror Story comes on.

Cabin FeverMy novel this November is called “Cabin Fever.”  Up until about Oct. 25th I had no idea what I was going to write about, so I went over to the site Seventh Sanctum and used one of their story idea generators, which gave me a plot about combining the legend of the Jersey Devil with something else (I can’t remember what it was, now).  Then I looked up the Jersey Devil on Wikipedia and it’s actually pretty fascinating – a winged creature with two hooved feet and the head of a horse that was seen by various people in the winter of 1909 in New Jersey.  Reading all the origin stories and about the sightings gave me this image of a family trapped in a house in the winter, hearing sounds on their roof… which reminded me of a story I’d started back in high school called “Cabin Fever,” about a family trapped in a snowstorm and how they all go murderously crazy.  I don’t know where that original story is, although I can remember scenes of wolves jumping up out of a frozen pond and attacking people, and family members freezing to death on the side of the road a short ways from safety. 

This time around, I have a mother who may or may not be mentally ill, an older brother with a fascination about sciences and becoming a surgeon, a flighty sister, and a little brother who has night terrors, trapped in a monster of a storm. 

You can visit my Nanowrimo profile to check out my progress – make me a writing buddy if you are a fellow wrimo!

back to the beginning

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of editing as a Goodreads librarian.  I started by adding book covers to all the novels on my shelves that were missing covers, which led me to find some of the missing covers to my favorite middle school series like Sleepover Friends on the blog Cliquey Pizza.  Looking through all the series they list, I found that some of my favorite teen horror authors from the 90s (my high school years) had started out writing those 80s romances.

Long story short, this trail of bread crumbs led me to rediscover the books that inspired me to want to be an author.  I found myself hunting down some of the Point Horror classics by those authors at a used bookstore.

Freeze TagI selected some titles that I didn’t think I had read… only to discover that I had!  The first of these was Freeze Tag by Caroline B. Cooney.  The story was very simple, yet effective, and took me only a couple of days to read.  There wasn’t really a subplot, and Lannie’s ability to freeze others with a touch is never really explained.  But there was a lot of atmosphere, and romance didn’t rule the book – as in, the story wasn’t all about a happy ending for the couple.

The FeverNext up was The Fever, by Diane Hoh.  It was only an extended description of the main character’s best friend that reminded me that I’d read this book.  Certainly this was the sort of book I devoured in high school – over the top horror, complete with cheesy tagline on the front and a murder mystery with a full cast of suspects.  Although the main character seemed interested in a couple of the male characters, there wasn’t a romance at all.  It took me only a day to read this one.

These books were as easy to devour back when I was a teenager as they are now.  I always imagine myself writing series of books like these, fast-paced and full of action, mystery, and gore.  What happened to those days of YA literature?  It seems like every book on the shelf these days is over 500 pages and always includes a romance, or worse, a love triangle.  While I think YA these days has more fleshed-out characters and I do appreciate staying in the world of a particularly good novel for a long time, sometimes I feel nostalgic for the old days…