Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

sewing with words June 10, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening Myth,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:20 pm
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When I write, I craft individual scenes.  When I have enough of them, I sort them out and put them in order, then I write the ‘in betweens’ that fill out the plot and ensure comfortable transitions, proper development of tension, etc.  After than comes the editing and additional padding or trimming that make things tidy.

It’s a bit like making a quilt of words.   First are the blocks, individual chunks, that are arranged into an attractive pattern.  They don’t stay together, though until they’re backed, and stitched down.

So, I’m quilting the final stitches in the third book of the series, Grace Awakening Myth today.  I think I’ll be done by bedtime.   Then off it will go to the first round of beta readers who will see if they find any holes in the structure and composition.  I’ll darn up what I need to, and then it will head off to the editor, who will trace the pattern for the final quilting.  When it’s all done, the next adventure will begin!

Another couple thousand words to stitch, and this word quilt will be done.


O plans a day travelling through the dawn April 6, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening Myth,Mythology — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:06 am
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I waved franticially as the glowing horses approached, “Eos!  Slow down!”

“I don’t have time for you, O!” she called back, raising the reins and snapping them.

“Just make some room on the chariot.  Come on.”

“You’ll add stress to the horses.”

I raised my eyebrows and she glanced away with a dramatic sigh.  “Fine.  Get on.”  She shuffled over a bit.

I leapt up and squeezed beside her.  The chariot was only made for one.  We were uncomfortably close.

“What is it?”  Her breath was soft, with a faint tinge of coriander.

“I was wondering…”

“I’m not slowing down for you,” she broke in.

“I didn’t ask you to!”

She sighed.  “It’s the only thing anyone ever asks me.  I’m not stupid.  You want me to slow down a day:”

“That’s not what I want.”  I met her eyes, bouncing slightly with the movement of the horses.  “I thought I could help you out.  I wondered if you needed a break.”

“A break?”  She studied me suspiciously.  “What do you mean ‘a break’?”

“A break.  A day off.  A chance to get off the back of this chariot to do something you want to do.”

Her eyes grew large.  “Seriously?”

I nodded.  “You work so hard.  You deserve a break.”


“When would you like to get away?”

“Tomorrow?” she whispered wistfully.

“Sure.  I’ll take the day off school.  I’ll meet  you at five?”

“Perfect.”  She sighed happily, her golden eyes twinkling.  This will be fantastic.  Is there anything I can do for you while I’m off?”

I tried to look guileless.  “Oh.  Um.  Well, if you have a chance, would you pop in to see Morpheus?

“Oh sure!  I never get to spend any time with him.  That’d be great.  Do you have a message for him?””


Another snippet of Grace Awakening Myth March 31, 2012

A little snippet from Grace Awakening Myth for your pleasure.  Ben is narrating.  ‘She’ is…well…  You’ll figure it out.

She shook her head. “It’s not our policy to interfere in such a way. The threads have been spun and the destiny is spun into them.”
“New people bring new thread though, don’t they?”
“Of course. Oh. Your thread, do you mean?”
I nodded. “Doesn’t it make me an important thread in her life?”
“Your thread is woven quite tightly into her tapestry so far,  true.  A thread can be continuous within a life. It doesn’t have to bring anything positive, though.”
“I’m positive.” I stared at her doubtful expression. “I’m positive I’m positive!”
She rolled her eye.
“You have no way of knowing that. You don’t know who she would have been without you.”
I stared at her. Better without me? How could Grace be better without me? What did she know about who Grace would have been?
“Your thoughts are on your face,” she said matter-of-factly.
I shrugged. My stomach was moiling. Would she have been better if I hadn’t been following her through time. I swallowed. “No.”
She gazed at me, sympathy warming the eye to tenderness. “Your wishing doesn’t make it so.”
“Can you show me?”
She wrinkled her brow. “Do you want me to pull your thread, so you’re removed from her picture?”
“If you pull it, can it go back?”
She shook her head, “No. Once a thread is out, it can’t be reintegrated the same way again.”
“Could it be better than before?”
She smirked. “Ah. Your optimism amazes me.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
She shrugged. “We’re artists. We use our skills and tools to create, but we only have the raw materials we’ve been given. The tapestries always reflect the life stories they tell. Some are ugly simply because the life is ugly. Sometimes the tapestry is strangely compelling for all its ugliness.”
I ponder that for a moment. “Wait.” Do you mean me?”
She guffawed. “Oh by Zeus no. Have you seen your thread? No, not you at all. I mean the lives of people like that snarly creep Ivan the Terrible or that miserable, greasy little Hitler.”
I blinked. I’d lost the rest of her words, frozen by her first statement. I whispered, “Can I see my thread?” In several millennia the audacity of requesting such a thing had never occurred to me. Both gods and men generally avoided interaction with the Moirae, their power was great and terrifying. But I was here, now. Clotho was in a pleasant enough mood. I might never have another opportunity like this. I whispered, “Can I see my thread?”
She glanced around, and then, assured of our privacy, she grinned mischievously and held out her empty hand. She rolled her thumb back and forth across her fingers in rapid circles. A line of sparkles shimmered like a trail between thumb and fingers. She rolled her thumb in quickening circles and the sparkles aligned themselves into a glittering opalescent glow. I stared, awestruck. I reached out for the glowing thread. She grinned at me as she dropped the strand into my palm. “This is just a sample, of course. If we cut thread from the actual tapestry…”
“Yeah. I know.” Mortality was held in the scissors her sister Atropos wielded.
I held an end of the thread and raised it to the light. In a milky whiteness blue, orange, green and pink flamed like an aura of hope. “This looks like a positive kind of thread.”
“It’s beautiful, obviously. One of the most beautiful we spin, actually, but beauty isn’t always good. You know Aglaea. And Aphrodite herself, for that matter.”
This was bold talk, but perhaps the old woman was beyond concern for love, and therefore beyond Aphrodite’s power of retribution.
“Look, sometimes something this sparkly is a distraction. It detracts or endangers. What if her life requires camouflage? This kind of brightness is going to bring the guns on her.”
“Unless she’s trying to camouflage at the Academy Awards.”
She laughed. “Well, that’s true I suppose.
“Beauty, Radiance, and Joy.” The natures of the Three Graces.
“They’re glorious threads, aren’t they?”
She shrugged and glanced away.
“You lying witch,” I muttered.
She raised an eyebrow. “That’s not the kind of thing you say to someone you’re trying to convince to give you a favour.”
“I am a positive element in her life.”
“You’re welcome to think so.”
“I am a continuity of love and acceptance, giving her strength,” I said firmly.
She scoffed. “You’re a continous source of pressure and obsession.”
“In a good way.”
She tried to look serious, but she had to stifle a snort of amusement.
“So will you help?”
“Oh, quit looking at me with those mushy, puppy dog eyes.”
“What if I write you a song?”
Her eye lashes fluttered. Perhaps she wasn’t completely out of Aphrodite’s influence after all.”
“Just for me?”
“Well. To keep you in harmony, I suppose I’d better compose a verse for each of your sisters as well.”
She sighed, “I suppose you must,” and gave me the most coquettish look I’d ever seen from a single eyeball. “But my verse will be the best one, aye?”
“Indeed. You will help?”
“All right. Come over by the door, and we’ll discuss the details.” She gripped my hand and pulled me along behind her. She was surprisingly strong, and I was reminded that despite her wizzened appearance, she was not to be trifled with. Her verse would have to be the best.


Another snippet of book 3 February 16, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Grace Awakening Myth,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:08 pm
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I was wondering today just what choir class was like for Ben.  Strangely enough, a window promptly opened, and here’s what I know now.

Meg eyed us suspiciously as Paul, Ryan and I came into the band room for choir.
“What’s this? A trio of fools?”
Ryan grinned at her. “Fools for love! Valentine’s Day approaches. Will you be my Valentine, Meg?”
Her expression gentled into a soft amusement. “Oh? Are you serious?”
He shook his head adamantly, “Not even vaguely. Are you kidding? You’re a black widow spider. Do I look suicidal?”
Her eyes narrowed.
Paul punched Ryan in the arm. “Apparently you are! Why would you say something like that?” His voice was low and he watched Meg warily.
She spun on her heels and joined the other altos
Ryan shrugged and continued, “Maybe I feel like living dangerously.” He glanced over at Tanis.
Paul grabbed his arm, “Oh, man. Don’t do it. Tanis is deadly.”
Ryan smirked, “Dynamite is deadly and dangerous, too, but it can be a wonderful thing when handled properly.”
“You think you can handle Tanis properly?”
Ryan winked, “Watch and learn, Paul. Watch and learn.”
Mr. Johnson clapped his hands, “Come on people! Let’s get going. Do you have the ‘Titanic’ score, ready?”
There was a flurry of papers as everyone lined up in sections and readied themselves for warm-up.
Ryan smiled at Tanis.
She wrinkled her brows as she smiled back automatically.
“Ben, give me a C?” I stepped over to the piano and struck middle C, then the octave below, then both together before returning to my spot. The class found their notes and Mr. J. directed us up and down the scales.
I watched Ryan as we sang. He kept catching Tanis’ eye. The first time she met it blankly, without interest.
He winked.
She blinked, and hastily glanced back to Mr. J. A few bars later, she looked back.
Ryan stared at her as he sang, “love can touch us…”
She blushed, looking away again, but moments later her gaze had wandered back.
He smiled dreamily at her as he sang, “You’re here in my heart.”
She inhaled, losing her pitch momentarily before returning his gaze as she sang, “You’re safe in my heart.”
They stared at each other, oblivious to the rest of the class as the final chord reverberated around us. As the notes died out, Ryan nodded at her.
Tanis nodded back.
They broke their gazes, and Ryan nudged Paul, whispering, “See? Putty in my hands. It’s all about crafting the moment. We’ll be telling our grandchildren about this.”
Ryan grunted and looked over to me in disgust.
I grinned, “What can I say? It’s the music. It does it every time.”
“It does, does it?” Meg’s eyes were narrow as she sidled up to us. “You’re sure of that, are you?”
“What do you mean, Meg?” Paul asked. “It seems to be working for Ryan.”
She sneered, “It might work for him, but he’s not the only one relying on the technique.” She stared maliciously at me.
I swallowed, bile rising up my throat like fire.
Paul shook his head, “Meg, Meg, Meg. Don’t be a hater.”
“You’re one to talk.” She raised her eyebrows, glancing at Tanis.
“Well, one traumatic experience shouldn’t turn you off love forever.”
Nonetheless, I noticed he crossed his legs somewhat nervously as he looked over to Tanis.
Ryan had wandered over to Tanis and said something that made her giggle and flutter her eyelashes at him.
I shook my head and muttered, “We should be taking lessons from him.”
Paul nodded. “Things not going well with Grace these days?”
I sighed. “Not particularly well, No.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
I shrugged. “She’s stubborn.”
“Maybe you’re trying too hard?”
I watched Tanis and Ryan flirting at the door, she punched him playfully in the bicep. He made a melodramatic gesture of agony and then pointed at his arm insistently. She shook her head, blushing, but as the bell rang, she quickly stood on tip toe and kissed the bicep. Ryan swoon and grabbed his heart. She giggled and headed out the door, tossing a coquettish look over her shoulder.
Ryan swung around and returned to us, grinning broadly. “She adores me.”
Paul shook his head doubtfully. It always starts well.”
“Not always,” I grumbled.
Paul clamped an arm around my shoulders. “Cheer up, Ben. She’ll come around eventually.”
Meg caught my eye and shook her head, mouthing, “No. She won’t.”


another snippet February 12, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Grace Awakening Myth — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:41 pm

from Grace Awakening Myth.  This is part of the J-Roy and Misty sub-plot.

I have to do what?” Paul asked, mouth agape.
“Come on man. You know you’ve always wanted to.”
“I wanted to date Georgia. I have definitely not wanted to take dance.”
“You’ll have fun. You’ll see Georgia every day.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “I’ll think about it.”
“Think about Georgia, wrapped in your arms, swaying to a slow dance, smiling up at you.”
Paul’s eyes glazed over and a sappy grin oozed across his face.  He stood there frozen.
I waited for a minute or two before I called him back from the vision. “Paul? Yo! Paul!”
“Hmm? Oh. Right.”
“So you’ll do it?”
He sighed again. “I’ll make an appointment with a counsellor.”
“Wait, Ben. I just thought of something.”
“Tanis isn’t in that class, is she?”
“Tanis?” I said innocently.
“You know. Tanis the Terrible. My ex-girlfriend? The one who promised to remove my testicles and serve them pickled as an hors d’oeuvre at the next Grad parent meeting?”
“Oh, right. That Tanis.”
“Make sure she’s not in the class.” He shifted a little, crossing his legs protectively. “She would not appreciate watching me practise my moves on Georgia.”
“Probably not,” I agreed. “If she is in the class, is there any other option?”
“Like what?”
“What if I can neutralize her?”
“Neutralize.” He smirked. “I like the sound of that. Sure. Neutralizing her will be fine as well.” He shut his locker and chuckled as he turned to go, muttering, “Neutralize her, Captain!”


Kharon drops in January 24, 2012

Further to my determination to squeeze out some writing or die trying, I thought I’d share the day’s efforts on Grace Awakening Myth (Book 3 of 4 in the Grace Awakening series).  It’s a first draft, remember.  To be honest, there are already some changes, but you’ll get the idea.  This is 1230 words.  My goal is about 1200 a day, (5 pages) or 6000 words (25 pages) a week.  That was the pace for the first 2 books in the series. 

As I sat down to write, the image in my head was of blackness.  I wrote about that while wondering exactly why it was so black, and then Kharon walked in… 

Truly, I just take dictation.  The story is just floating out there, waiting for me to listen to it.  Ben is narrating.

It’s a black night, Stygian black, as they say. That’s very black. The River Styx drifts, black as crude oil, roiling and burbling with the murmuring sibilance of thousands upon thousands of lost voices. Its thick waters seem to suck the light from the sky, and leave all around it in an inky grey wash. Kharon the boatman floats along on his ferry, pole in hand, pushing it away from the banks, gathering the departing souls and taking them safely to Hades, for the price of a coin, of course. He shows up at the stops to collect what Hermes has dropped off: the confused half-shadows, some still not quite aware that they are ghosts, reclaimed from new graves. The shades dazedly cough up their coin, and they load into the ferry as Hermes waves to them heartily and wishes them luck on the next part of their journey like some jolly tour guide. Hermes can be quite an ass. The vacuous faces hardly stir in response, though. Those without a coin are on their own to get across the Styx. If you’re on your own, you’re not going to make it across. Simple.

I shivered at the memory of that blackness and the descent into the sucking void of the underworld. This was earth though, and not the underworld. This was Grace, not Eurydice. It was a Stygian black night, though, and the oppressive gloom was creeping into my gut.

“Hey, there. Ben is it?” The low voice held a faint glimmer of amusement.

“Hello Kharon.” I nodded courteously, recognising him at once. Had my thoughts summoned him? Or was this dismal atmosphere a result of his presence? “What brings you here? You’re a little far from the river.”
“Not so far. A guy needs a bit of a break from water now and then, after all. The river flows where it needs to. It’s near enough that I can step ashore for a moment.” He looked around with interest. “I thought I’d come have a chat with you.”

“With me?” My heart stopped for a moment. “I’m honoured, of course,” I said with a polite incline of my head, “but…uh…why?”

He smiled. His long nose and slightly blue tinged skin made it a rather eerie expression. Though it was probably meant to be reassuring, it made him look a trifle morose. It didn’t lighten the mood, at any rate.

I waited while he stood ponderously thinking. His thoughts seemed to move like he was punting through them with the stick he used on the ferry. They moved slowly and methodically in one direction. Patiently was the only way to communicate with Kharon. He would not be rushed.

Finally he said, “It’s about the girl.”

I took a deep breath. “Which girl? Grace?”

He shook his head. “No. The other one.”

“Other one?”

“From before. You know. The snake bit her, and you went to Hades to try to get her out? You snuck by the dog with some singing and got everyone down there all in a mush of sentimentality with your music, and they let you take her. But something happened and she had to stay, after all.”

“I looked back.” I whispered, suddenly cold.

“Ah.” Kharon nodded sagely. “Oh right. Looking back can cause a lot of problems for a person, can’t it?”

“Apparently.” I tried to bite back the sarcastic tone in response to his unintentional understatement.

“Yeah. Well. She was at the river bank the other day when I went by, and she asked me to give you a message.”

I swallowed. Then swallowed again. My mouth was the Sahara all of a sudden. I croaked, “She asked you…to give me a message.” She had never tried to communicate with me before. Why did she need to send a message now? What did she know?

He nodded in confirmation at my dazed expression, then after making sure that I was paying attention he looked up, as if trying to recall her exact words. He cleared his throat and intoned, “She said, ‘If you have a chance to see my love, when you’re above. Tell him that the song has many verses, some rich with hate and curses, but that he deserves whatever joy, that girl can give a boy.’”

“She rhymed it?”

He shrugged. “I think she thought it’d help me remember.”


“I think she misses you,” he added. “She looked sad.”

“She’s been in the underworld for a couple of thousand years. Of course she’s sad.”

Kharon shrugged again. “Not everyone is. They get used to it. Everyone has to be there eventually after all.”

“I suppose.” It hurt to think about Eurydice. It hurt to remember that my failure doomed her to that two thousand years in the underworld. She wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t been inept. My failure. Mine. It wasn’t Kharon’s fault. “Thanks for passing along the message.”

He nodded. “I think she was afraid Hermes wouldn’t deliver it and Iris doesn’t have reception there.”

“Oh yes. Of course not. I appreciate you taking the effort.”

He stood waiting for something, with a studied nonchalance.

“Oh, wait.” I rummaged in my pockets and studied the coins. “I don’t have anything ancient. Will a twonie do?”

He eyed the polar bear on the two dollar coin dubiously. “A little on the cheap side, but whatever. Next time we meet in the Other Realm, you can top it up.” His mouth twitched in something that might have been a good-humoured smirk, but might not.

I chose to interpret it positively. “Thank you, Kharon.”

He started to stroll off with that particular, unsteady gait of sailors walking on land, and then looked back over his shoulder, “You take good care of that new girl, you hear? Don’t let looking back blind you to the possibilities ahead of you. What you’ve done before doesn’t have to bind your future.”

His words hit me like an arrow and I reverberated for a moment from the impact. When I went to answer him, he’d disappeared. With him went to ominous atmosphere of blackness, and I was able to take a deep breath again. The fresh air oxygenated my lungs and cleared my head, but his message sat heavily on my heart.

I thought of Eurydice from time to time, of course. If I was being honest with myself, it was her that made me most anxious about Grace. Eurydice was my first and greatest failure. My first love, my first wife, symbolized such an essential lack in my character that any thought of her ensured my elemental humility, despite the loud accolades about my brilliant talent. Such bone deep awareness of inadequacy is not overcome. Ever.

It is also why I am afraid that I won’t be able to protect Grace this time.

I’ll tell you a secret. I’m pretty sure that it is also why they appointed me her guardian. They don’t expect me to succeed. They think that it will appear they’re giving her a guard, when I’m actually so useless that she is doomed.
I know it.

I know it, and despite being overwhelmed with the awareness of my own inadequacies I am so damned full of pride that I’ll risk it anyway, rather than let Mars or Alexandros have the job. What kind of fool’s paradox is that?



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