The Time Lurkers- The Spookiest Valentine is a story that features both slice-of-life and paranormal elements. This narrative choice allows the reader to relate to what the characters go through and draw parallels between their life and the characters’. Of course, reading is also escapism, so there’re plenty of paranormal elements thrown in the mix.
I’ll explain everything in detail in this article that acts like a bridge between part 2 and part 3, hence the “2.5” title.
Mundane vs. awesome
Life goes on apparently as usual in Naonian City. However, the main characters also face daily threats.
While the story offers a mundane plot that revolves around the upcoming school play, I made sure the mundane part of the plot also featured challenges the characters had to face and then overcome. Such as learning your part well or finding a good soundtrack and building props.
To make everything feel more realistic, some jokes in the slice-of-life part of the plot were inspired by… real life.
Such as the ‘dancing tango with vocabularies’ joke. Which, as absurd as it sounds, it actually happened. Back in College, I was in the school drama club, the SSenzalimiti. One time, our French drama class teacher was talking to her Japanese colleague. The latter was talking about Ivonne’s tango classes. Yet, everybody there also knew that tango had a double meaning to her. That word also means “vocabulary” in Japanese. Then everybody joked about the two different meanings of the word tango. (The Spanish tango comes from the Latin verb “tangere”). At the same time, Asamoah obsessing over his one-word dialogue “Delivery!” came from an episode of That’s so Raven (Season 3, Episode 31 Goin’ Hollywood) where Cory Baxed gets casted in a sitcom and he only has one line (“Delivery!”)
However, remember when I told you about the European setting. Well, here comes the second part of the article.
DARE TO BE STUPID! or THE ART OF NOT TAKING LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY
I’ve always liked when stories feature heavy themes yet at the same time the authors aren’t afraid to throw wacky stuff in them. Concisely, I like when authors don’t take everything too seriously and I for one fully support this approach. I pour my heart and soul in everything I make, and while I do welcome constructive criticism (not “it sux!!!!11111oneoneone”), at tbhe same time I want readers to know why I did something that way. And the thing is, the Time Lurkers stories can have silly elements. I’m aware of Kill me Lucia or the UFO cult being two extremely surreal concepts, almost sounding like a parody rather than something serious. I didn’t make them up. Those were real things back in the 80s (when most of Part 4 of The Spookiest Valentine takes place).
Kill me Lucia is a spoof of the infamous Kiss me Licia telenovelas, right from the names of the characters to what happened offscreen (no giant dinosaur involved, though). Yeah, those guys who filmed the telenovelas really thought the story could take place in Cologno Monzese rather than Japan like in the original anime. As such, they tried to emulate Japanese indoor architecture, to laughable results. The final product featured Licia, the Beehives and every other characters living in this awkward town that tried too hard to look like something it (culturally) wasn’t. (Cologno Monzese= the Italian counterpart of Burbank, California)
On the bright side, and much less absurd than the UFO Cults and anime-inspired telenovelas, the Hamburgerari youth movement also finds its roots in the 80s – those fashion and fast food-obsessed teens and young adults are a shout-out to the Paninari from the Milan Area in Italy. Paninari’s anthem was Oasis’ Wild Boys, and so was Hamburgerari’s. At the same time, Hamburgerari wore “Worst Agency” sweaters, much like Paninari were fond of “Best Company” sweaters.
At the same time, the story behind 80s UFO cults won’t make anyone laugh. Sadly, the existence of UFO cults professing the coming of aliens (such as Icarus Pindarich’s Dieser Tao telling his adepts of the coming of cowlamaris and squicows in 2023 AD) was an actual social issue for countless (mostly rich) people in the 80s, especially in the Naonian City area.
UFO cults alienated countless people (even kids and teenagers) from their friends and families. Babysitter Lauren’s backstory is THE perfect example.
At the end of the day, it’s important for silly or surreal parts of stories to take inspiration from real life events or pop culture.
Characters in my stories are written as real people with their fair share of likes, dislikes, friends and backstory while also having cartoony quirks.
Some of those quirks can be found in real people, such as Minerva being so passionate about being a Spanish teacher and thus speaking Spanish whenever possible (even answering to her students and friends in Spanish) or McMeow being an over-the-top journalist.
And now let’s talk about ADOLESCENCE and VILLAINS.
Adolescence aka teenage-years.
Whenever I think of my teenage years, I think of a time where I felt both as an (unlucky) kid with all the burdens of the world on her shoulders and as a soon-to-be-adult who couldn’t talk publicly about her love of cartoons and Pokemon. At the same time, it seemed like everybody else was full of love for each other and also very drawn to tragic stuff. This mirrored my teenage years, that were actually split in two phases. The latter phases ended when I was 21, as I felt I matured slower than other girls.
- The cute phase (13-16). While I watched cartoons of any kind, I also had a secret fondness for preschool shows. Besides, everybody knows that Handy Manny is the best anime ever. At the same time, I still built sandcastles, played hide and seek in a huge mansion in Sicily and I was treated like the “baby” (then one of the “babies”) of my drama class group.
- The awful phase (17-21). Everything became unbearable all of a sudden. I was constantly anxious and on the verge of exploding. Anxiety was filling my lungs and there were times when I was gasping for breath. Constant overthinking and competition among my peers weren’t helping either. What kept me going was my love for comics and cartoons (never ever underestimate the power of fantasy and passions, it’s extremely vital for people!)
While I already knew about the cruelty of our world, for the first time after HELLementary school, I faced it again. I could see violent images inside my head. Anxiety and toxic “friends” were sucking the soul out of my body. All bad things thankfully come to an end, and this awful part of my life was eventually over on November 9, 2015, when I got my BA. That day I finally became a young adult.
I wrote the teen characters dynamics with that in mind. That’s why teenagers in the story are touchy feely with each other yet at the same time, there’s plenty of graphic content (blood, knives and murders) for everybody to enjoy.
As for Bea, she’s based off a disable girl from my High School drama club. However, Bea wasn’t born disabled, she became disabled later in life. When her mother was severely stabbed and lost most of her body, depression took over Bea’s soul. Yes, depression’s a disability that can have life-lasting effects on a person. Thankfully, the story indicates there’s a beacon of hope for Bea and she’s slowly recovering (starting from the simple act of washing her dusty hair and dying it blue).
Most stories need a villain (or more) to further the plot. Well, The Time Lurkers- The Spookiest Valentine has actually a “good” bunch of them (Icarus Pindarich, the floating arm father, Lauren the cowlamari and then Sweetie and the Heartaquins). While Icarus Pindarich’s the only villain who uses manipulation to succeed and Squicows are a metaphor for anxiety, depression and toxic relationships, the remaining villains of the story prefer to resort to violence.
I’ve already talked quite a bit about the yokai-inspired Heartaquins, so I’ll call about the two villains I created with…gusto.
So, let’s talk about Sweetie the spaghetti-haired “little girl” and Lauren the cowlamari.
Sweetie the spaghetti-haired girl
Sweetie’s trademark food is Macaroni na furna (the Bulgarian version of Mac ‘n’ Cheese). Being an actress for the SsenzaLimiti association, I was also asked to join Miss Laskova’s Bulgarian group. Once there, I got the part of the devil. Mind you, I don’t speak Bulgarian. The play was mostly in Italian with some Bulgarian sprinkled in. Since the script mentioned “Macaroni na furna”, Erika (the girl who starred as the main character) baked us an actual macaroni na furna. It was simply one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It didn’t make my hair grow and turn prehensile, like it did with Sweetie’s hair, though.
And now, let’s end this article with the main dish (even vegetarians would love to…roast’em!)
Lauren and her husband, the cowlamari!
Cowlamaris are hermaphrodites creatures. I created this chimera out of a simple thought: “What if there was a half-cow half-squid creature?” It took me almost two years of brainstorming and then the cowlamari was born. It also suited the idea of an udderly-creepy villain. Yeah, pun intended. Cows look unsettling, especially when they stare at you!
Anyway, cowlamaris are creepy yet so delicious once cooked. Fear not, Lauren and her husband eventually get what they’d deserved from the start.
Anyway, while I haven’t eaten meat in years (I’m forced to be pescatarian due to my family’s love for fish), I still think cowlamaris would be delicious main or second dishes (could their meat also be used for appetizers or desserts? Good question!).
I thought of Lauren the cowlamari as an aggressive fowl mouth lady with her quiet yet equally evil husband. However, the sole thought of cowlamari is enough for make anyone drool. That’s because cowlamari can be exploited for:
(in no particular order)
- Rhum -> which they spray from their tentacles and hooves. The angrier or scared they’re, the more rhum they produce
- Ragù -> which can be used in pasta or inside arancini (Pullara Jr.’s food of choice)
- Smoked squid part -> as a kid I was intrigued by the idea of eating “teteun” (a Valdostan recipe made with cow udders and various spices). So the smoked squid part of a cowlamari can be smoked and cooked like teteun (just like Pullara Jr. tells Miss Ionic and Sandikov at the end of “The Time Lurkers – The Spookiest Valentine Part 1 Chapter 4”). However, its meat has a slightly different texture.
- Or simply… just get a fresh cowlamari, slice it and then grill it on both sides. Once it’s ready, serve it with oil, garlic and oregano.
Hunger got the best of me, so I’m off to lunch now.
In the next articles, I’ll show you Concept art (Making of Part 3), and then I’ll tell you more facts about some character. I’ll also talk about real-life behind the scene shenanigans and… what about non-binary squicows in a future story/project?
Stay also tuned for The Time Lurkers- what if it had an animated adaptation?