How to Appease Your House Spirit for Halloween

You’ve heard it haven’t you? The sigh under your bed just as you lie down. The scratching on the window that stirs you from sleep?

Come closer to the computer. Lower your voice and look over your shoulder.

You know those bumps in the night? Those creaks on the stairs when you’re in bed with the dog and no one else is home? Those misplaced keys and glasses, or randomly spilled milk on the counter? The flash in the shadows that looks like cat eyes, but you don’t have a cat? Something brushes against your foot when you step down onto the rug to get a drink of water in the middle of the night. Something tugs at your sweater when you sit down to watch the television.

You wonder for a moment, then shake it off to dreams that linger, or spicy food before bed, or dust in your eyes, or maybe the wind.

But that’s not it, and you secretly know that there’s more to life and to your home than what you see.

You have a house spirit, and he or she wants your attention.

You can choose to ignore the signs, but they seldom stop. In fact, they get louder, stronger, and more persistent.

So, what can you do?

The house spirit, like a neglected friend, wants a little communication, a little whimsy, a little sacrifice.

Of course, there are traditional ways: leaving out a small offering of milk, meade, or vodka (depending on your ancestry), singing folksongs, keeping a clean kitchen, leaving a special broom beside the hearth, sharing books for All Hallow’s Read. But be forewarned, modern house spirits can be more demanding.

Lucky for you, the kind folks at the Night Garden have provided you with a way to do all three!

They have created the October Challenge to encourage you to create Art inspired by a house spirit. This can be a drawing, a doll, a story, a poem, a recipe, a blanket, any creative response that you can imagine! (Need more ideas, see this blog entry.)

And the sacrifice? Well, you can definitely submit Art without making any donation, but perhaps you can spare a little money to help the Bengals? This special breed is often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings. Have I mentioned that house spirits LOVE Bengals? They do.

Complete details about the challenge are here:

To recap, participate in the Night Garden challenge and you:


2.) Become a part of an online community of awesome artists

3.) Get published online, on site,  alongside professional writers and artists like Christopher Lincoln and Nathalie Boisard-Beudin! That’s some mighty fine company.

4.) Help Bengals: a breed of cat formed by the cross of a domestic feline and an Asian Leopard Cat. These cats are often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings.

5.) Maybe get published in a limited edition hardcover version of a new comic about a house spirit! That’s right, some lucky submissions will be included in a special section at the end of Sticks and Bones: Home Is Where the Hearth Is (due out Summer 2012)

6.) Have a chance to win a cameo inside the comic!

6.) Have a chance to win a signed, limited edition poster of the Night Garden Challenge created by Madeline and me!

No one really needs a reason to make Art, but those are some pretty great reasons. Only a few days left!

On October 31st, when the veil between the worlds thins and entities seeking to make contact have more power than before, do you want your house spirits to be happy or discontent?

"The Spirit of the Secrets Closet" by Christopher Lincoln for the October Night Garden Challenge


Kickstarter Comic: Sticks and Bones (Issue 1 – Home Is Where the Hearth Is)

In graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I took a class called the Shape and Structure of the Book with M. Evelina Galang. It was one of my favorite classes because we broke books apart to see how they worked, looking at the bits: choices of perspective, setting, chapter breaks, syntax.

I love knowing how things are put together, especially stories. Everything is a choice when you’re crafting a story: Where do you start? Who is the protagonist? How many chapters? What do you name the town? How much history do you include? What word best describes the villain? Where do you end? What will be your first sentence? What will be your last? So many choices. Some conscious, some intuitive.

If a writer is successful, readers don’t notice the machinations of the plot, characters, setting. A puppeteer doesn’t want you to think about the strings. A magician doesn’t  want you to focus on the sleight of hand. A writer doesn’t usually want you to notice a clever plot device or stop to admire the way a character’s backstory was carefully developed.

Last year, I had the idea for a story. I wrote it, and I liked it, but it didn’t feel quite right. A few months ago I realized that this was because it wasn’t meant to be a short story, but a comic. So I wrote it and revised it (thanks to some helpful comments and feedback), and I asked artist Madeline C. Matz if she’d be interested in doing the artwork for it, funding it through Kickstarter. She was, and away we went!

Last week we launched our first Kickstarter comic project: Sticks and Bones: Issue 1 – Home Is Where the Hearth Is.  The comic explores issues of home, roots, identity, and sacrifice on 24 fully-painted pages.

Home Is Where the Hearth Is tells the story of Yaroslav, a displaced house spirit in America looking for a new home. At its heart, this is a fairy tale about love and transformation, and the sacrifices we make to find our place in the world.

You can learn more about the comic and the incentives being offered to backers on our Kickstarter page:

We’re hoping to raise $3,500 to cover the costs of production, printing, shipping, and promotion. As is the Kickstarter policy, if we do not raise the full amount, no one gets changed and we will be unable to complete the project. If we raise beyond that around, we plan to print more copies and then begin Issue 2.

Available on the kickstarter page, here’s my attempt at an introductory video (encouraged by Kickstarter). The beautiful musical score is “The Domovyk’s Lament,” written by Rob Lambert. The photos are used with permission by 8 Eyes Photography. The shaky camera is my feeble attempt at videography. Forgive me, I usually work with words, not cameras.

Thank you for your support!