Behind the Book – CROAK, Chapter #7


Behind the Book is an ongoing series wherein I tackle a new chapter of Croak each week and give you all of the secret, behind-the-scenes tidbits and trivia that went into writing it. For an archive of past chapters, click here. To read the spoilers, highlight the blank spaces marked with <<hi>>; proceed at your own risk if you haven’t read the entire book. Enjoy!

Chapter 7: The Oreoing

  • Only seven chapters in, and we’re already getting into spoiler alert territory. First hint that <<Zara is the bad guy: Lex would get into trouble for wanting to pursue the murderer she saw, but that’s not why Zara is stopping her from bringing it up to Uncle Mort. Now that she’s seen Lex in action, she’s realized they share the same sort of vengeful tendencies, and that she might be able to lure Lex over to the dark side. >>
  • “Lex frowned, but lowered the sugar bowl she had readied.” I think in the first draft, she threw it anyway, shattering it against the wall. Lex used to be a lot more violent, if you can imagine it.
  • Additionally, once she and Driggs got up onto the roof, Lex originally threw her slice of pizza at him. It was pointed out to me that if she were really as hungry as she is, she wouldn’t be hurling her dinner off the roof like that. So I changed it, because pizza is indeed a sacred, holy thing. And should only be thrown onto roofs, not off them.
  • As mentioned in the previous chapter, the << Ghost Gum tree has a nest in it.>> It is mentioned again in this one. That’s because I knew I would be using it for something important in the next book, though I did not yet know what.
  • The deal with <<Driggs’s parents,>> however: I knew exactly. There’s a reason this whole conversation is so squirrelly. Only had to get through two more whole books to reveal why.
  • The real reason I made Driggs addicted to Oreos: <<so that he could be that much more devastated that he couldn’t eat them when he became a ghost. The Croak trilogy: brought to you by sadism.>>
  • I have yet to find a guy–and a teenage one at that–who will cop to loving Titanic. So I made one up instead. But there must be some of you out there! Reveal yourselves!

Got any questions about Chapter 7? Post them below!

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July Sharky Awards

In my ever-evolving quest to recognize the books that I read and enjoy (but without writing reviews (because I am terrible at that)), I give out awards that highlight some of my favorite things about the books I’ve read over the past month. And since my bookmark is a shark–a bookshark, if you will–I call them the Sharkys. Here we go.

Most Haunting
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender
I’d been meaning to read this one for years, but I couldn’t tell you why. I think I’d heard that it was good, but I don’t remember from who, and I didn’t know much about the story before I dove in. (Is there anyone else out there who prefers it that way? I hardly ever read book jackets or summaries before I start a book, so terrified am I of spoilers. I suppose in this sense, I literally do judge a book by its cover. I’M SUCH A CLICHÉ.) And I imagine that this book would not strike a chord with everyone, but man, with me it struck a chord that I didn’t know I needed struck. The story itself is a long, slow burn, with a small but jarring reveal at first (when the main character eats food, she can taste the emotions of the person who made it), then a second mystery that only reveals itself in tiny glimpses along the way. Likewise, my attitude towards it also changed in tiny increments as I went on: I first thought it was weird, boring, meh…then creepy, depressing, disturbing…and by the time I finished, it had graduated all the way to Haunting with a capital Letter. It even went so far as to unlock the Full Body Goosebumps Achievement with its very last line, a rare reading perk that I constantly covet. Good, good stuff.

Worst Time For A Flight Attendant To Make a Loud, Lengthy Announcement
During my reading of the last page of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Could you not see that I was having a meaningful literary moment, lady? I know the list of connecting flights was extensive, what about my needs? THEY DON’T START AND END WITH A BAG OF PEANUTS.

Best Epiphany Involving a Seemingly Pointless Mode of Transportation
The moving sidewalks in airports
…actually do come in handy when you have exactly one minute to get to that connecting flight gate that’s three minutes away that, okay, thankfully, the flight attendant announced ahead of time. They also function nicely as a super-fast runway show, displaying to all of the other fliers what a disgusting, high-speed mess of a traveler (and runner) you are.

Worst Reason to Tear Through An Airport Like A Rabid Bat
To catch a flight that will end up being delayed for another twenty minutes.
You know what’s fun? Taking a sweaty seat on an airplane, gulping down breath after breath of recirculated air, only to receive the announcement that the pilot hasn’t arrived yet from his connection. Pilots, it turns out, are too damn high and mighty to sprint down a moving sidewalk at speeds that would knock down a small child. Something about dignity, I guess?

Whatever. I stole the Skymall.

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Behind the Book – CROAK, Chapter #6


Behind the Book is an ongoing series wherein I tackle a new chapter of Croak each week and give you all of the secret, behind-the-scenes tidbits and trivia that went into writing it. For an archive of past chapters, click here. Enjoy!

Chapter 6: The Ethering

  • If you want to imagine the whirlwind trip through the Ether, cue up the scene from Twister when the cow blows by, then watch it through a kaleidoscope.
  • My original plan was to have different targets souls’ come out as different colors, depending on what sort of personalities they’d had in life, but in the end decided to stick with Ethereal Blue for everyone.
  • I’ve gotten questions about this before, so I’ll attempt to clear it up here: the scythes that the Grims carry are hand-held, about the size of a hammer. I am aware that the one on the cover of the book is big. It was used purely for Grim Reaper recognition.
  • I wanted to eventually go into specifics about how the scythes are made and where they come from, but since it didn’t tie in to any of the other plot lines in ROGUE, I was forced to abandon it. I give you permission, therefore, to make up your own origin stories.
  • I remember having a particularly thorny time describing the motion I was imagining to slice a scythe through the air. The description I settled on – hard and fast with a flicking motion like a Frisbee – was as close as I could get, but I always wished that I could include a little Youtube link to a live action demonstration.
  • For those of you curious about the research that went into this  book: it involved a shit-ton of internet searches for all of the different ways people can die. It wasn’t cheerful, and I am almost definitely on several government lists now. On the plus side, I now get strangely gory and specific birthday gifts, like this book from my cousin.

Got any questions about Chapter 6? Post them below!

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More fan art.

My fan art cache has gotten a little backed up, so here are a few more!

Italian Yoricks_Charles Owens

Italian Yoricks, by Charles O.
(Featuring the rare, green-covered CROAK ARC.)

Driggs_Denise Campbell

Driggs, by Denise C.

Kassie Block

Croak Having Fun, by Kassie B. 
Let’s see, we’ve got: Frozen pizza, Oreos, Life cereal, empty Yorick mugs, M&Ms, another CROAK ARC, and a note that says:
Driggs + Lex,
Here’s your dinner. I’m gonna be out late. The Yoricks are one for each (sorry Corpp wouldn’t lend me the usual mugs). Enjoy!
–Uncle Mort. 
P.S. Do not drink Lex’s Yorick, Driggs!
P.P.S. Lex, I think you’ll love this book!

Ferbus_Zil Sacan

Ferbus, by Zil S.


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Behind the Book – CROAK, Chapter #5


Behind the Book is an ongoing series wherein I tackle a new chapter of Croak each week and give you all of the secret, behind-the-scenes tidbits and trivia that went into writing it. For an archive of past chapters, click here. Enjoy!

Chapter 5: The Toileting

    • My copyeditor (whose name is Maxine and is lovely) originally corrected the text by putting the “family size bag of Doritos” in lowercase, which presented me with the unique, somewhat humiliating occasion to pipe up and say, actually, no, I know from experience that it should be capitalized. We must give the Family Size bag of Doritos the respect it deserves.
    • The first meeting of Driggs and Lex was not originally the Embarassmentpalooza of Lex barging in on him in the bathroom. In earlier drafts, he had let loose with a drum solo in the middle of the night, and she angrily pounded down the hall to find out who had woken her up. But it seemed kind of mean-spirited for him to do that, especially when he knew that a new houseguest had arrived, so I switched it over to toilet-related theatrics instead. Always a good move.
    • I have learned that it is somewhat common for Siberian Huskies to have one brown eye and one blue eye (a condition, by the way, known as heterochromia iridum). Whenever I see one, regardless of the situation or how crazy its owner may think I am, I always point and say, “Driggs dog!”
    • I don’t know what Lex did to reduce the entire varsity hockey team to a chorus of high-pitched, hiccuppy sobs, but I have to imagine it involved jockstrap theft.
    • It was once suggested to me that I change Driggs’s name. I did not do so, because that is his name.
    • “Lex watched him walk down the hallway and into the room with The Who poster.” was a sentence that caused me much consternation, because it really should be “the The Who poster”, but that also sounds kind of ridiculous. Editor Julie made the call, and that is what editors are for.
    • The perfect casting for the confused, sunburned tourist from Texas would be, of course, Buddy Garrity from Friday Night Lights.
    • I went to Australia for my study abroad semester in college, and fell head over didgeridoo in love with ghost gum trees, so much so that I knew I needed to include one in the book. It just fit so perfectly, with its the name, its skeletal-hand quality, the creepiness.
    • How did Croak come to possess a tree that’s native to Australia, you may ask? Here’s the explanation that ended up getting cut: it was part of a sister-city tree-exchange thing with the Grim town of Perish in Australia, though not one that was terribly successful; Uncle Mort said “I doubt our sugar maple is faring any better down there.”
    • I once saw a photography exhibit where there was a piece featuring a girl that looked exactly like I had pictured Zara in my head (with almost silvery hair, too). It was really eerie.

Got any questions about Chapter 5? Post them below!

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July giveaway: Box of MYSTERY???

Sketch 2014-07-03 14_11_59

It’s time to do a little summer cleaning, my friends. I’ve got loads of books on my hands, and I want to give them to you.

Here’s how it’s going to work. You fill out the form below. I will randomly pick a winner – or possibly two, depending on how many books I decide to give away – and send you a box of Books That Shall Remain Nameless. Why? Because mystery. What I can tell you is that they will be will be YA, with possibly a middle grade or two thrown in, and published fairly recently–within the past five years or so. There may also be some ARCs in the mix, in which case you must promise me that you will never, ever sell them. You may give them away to a friend, or donate them to a library or a classroom, but no selling. Got it?

Oh, and don’t bother trying to use your mind-reading powers to determine whether I’m giving a book away because I hated it or anything. Some are ARCs that I later bought finished copies of, some are duplicates, some were given to me and I never read because they aren’t my thing. And some are cursed.

Here’s the form! Good luck!

Contest closes at noon EST on July 30, 2014. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on this post. Open to US addresses only (here’s why). One entry per person, please. Your email address will be used solely for purposes of this giveaway; you will not be added to any mailing lists. Thanks for entering!


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