Shawn L. Bird

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

So, whatcha writin’ in that NaNoWriMo thing, anyway? July 11, 2013

In November, when I was actually on track with my NaNo writing, I had a few gems that still make me happy. This book is now with the editor (who has gone to Europe for 2 weeks, and abandoned me!) Thought I’d share this with you, in the hopes that it will inspire today’s Camp NaNo efforts to get more than 500 words a day, which is all I’ve been managing so far! (Arg). Enjoy.

Shawn L. Bird

Thought you might like to see what’s coming along.  Ben is now at University of Calgary with his friends Paul and Ryan.  (Craigie Hall is the music building). Grace is living in the Shuswap with her Auntie Bright.  If you’re new to the story, you should know that Grace and Ben are connected telepathically.  Ben is the earthly realm form of the demi-god Orpheus.  He’s narrating.

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I was walking down a corridor in Craigie Hall when a stab of pain crashed into my head.  I staggered into the wall, and grabbed for support.

A girl rushed over to me, “Are you okay?”

I shook my head, gasping, and she guided me to a bench.  I dropped my head between my knees.  “I’ll be okay.  It’s fine.”  The pain wasn’t mine, it was reverberating from Grace.  She didn’t know yet how to completely control her side of our connection.  Her…

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Bio: Crystal Visions of Rainbows April 17, 2013

At the Vernon Writers’ Conference this past weekend, author Patricia Donahue encouraged participants to create biographies for our characters.  She uses cards for this purpose and makes point form notes.  I decided to explore ‘background info’ on the character of Christie by letting her speak for herself.  This won’t be in a book, but it tells us interesting things about her, and how she got her job watching Grace.  Enjoy!

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My name is Crystal Visions of Rainbows.

It’s stupid.  I know. 

On the first day of kindergarten everyone laughed at me when they heard it.  Everyone except Grace.  She came and sat beside me on the circle time carpet and whispered, “That’s the prettiest name I ever heard.”  I adored her from that moment, of course.

As I’m sure you can imagine, anyone who names her kid Crystal Visions of Rainbows is a hippy.  Free love.  Peace not war.  Tie dye and joints.  Yup.  My mother.  Her real name was Martha Grimes but she changed it to Earth Helper.  Sometimes it is an absolute mortification to have parents.  

She did one good thing, though.

One day, in her communing with the goddess through some psychedelic haze, she got me a job.  I was assigned to watch Grace. 

Watching, in this case means knowing who Grace’s friends are, how she’s feeling about things, and helping her out in simple ways.  In other words, I was hired to be her best friend.  I would have been her best friend, anyway.  Theoretically I’m paid for this, but I don’t know if it’s in drachmas, gold, or good karma.  Mother looks after the finances and any of those would be good enough currency for her. Myself, I don’t ask.

My brother Shane is lucky.  Somehow he was excused from the expectation that he be a flower child.  Shane (birth name, Sky Rider) is now aiming to be a corporate lawyer.  Mother rolls her eyes, and is relieved when he assures her that he votes Green.  It’s a small consolation. 

With his abdication of the family burden to save the world, all the weight of expectation falls on me.  Hence the bargain with a goddess.

When I was about twelve, I decided that my mom had been hallucinating the whole thing, and I put my foot down.  No more spying on my best friend and leaving written reports in the silver bowl on the dining room table.  There’d be no more of this crap about goddesses and duty and obligation.

But then the goddess showed up and introduced herself, and what could I do?

It was Friday after school.  I was going to be meeting Grace in a couple of hours, so we could go see a movie.   I walked in the door and there was this woman sitting in my living room.

My mother was nowhere to be seen.  Shane was at some debating practice at school.  I froze.

“Who are you?  What are you doing in my house?”

She smiled and extended a beautifully manicured hand, “Hello.  You must be Crystal Vision of Rainbows.”

I scowled. “My name is Christie.”  I didn’t take her hand.

“Have a seat.” She indicated the chair opposite the one she’d been in.  “We need to talk.”

I crossed my hands and stared at her.  “I don’t think we do,” I’d said, and turned to leave.  I was going to the neighbours to call the police.  I took a step forward and froze, my right foot stuck in the air.  I couldn’t move.

“Actually,” she drawled, “we will.  Have a seat, child.”

Completely against my will, my body pivoted and carried me to the chair.  “Hey!”  I tried to fight it, but I had absolutely no control.  “Who are you!  What are you doing!”  My hands folded themselves demurely on my lap.  Inside I was thrashing, but outside I was quiet and calm.  It was like being wrapped in an invisible strait jacket. 

“Crystal Visions of Rainbows, I am pleased to meet you at last.  I am Aphrodite.”

I gaped at her.  “The Aphrodite?”

She inclined her perfectly coiffed head in assent.  “The Aphrodite.  Your mother told you about me, of course?”

“I read,” I grunted.  Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love (beautiful, vain, used to getting what she wanted) was sitting in my living room in a perfectly tailored, spotless white suit.  Her hair was twisted into a chignon.  Scarlet toe nails peeped from shoes made of satin brocade.  No blouse was visible; the suit jacket displayed her cleavage in suggestive, if not provocative, style.

She nodded, “Very good.  You know that you have been in my employ for several years.”

I started to speak but she raised her hand, and my mouth wouldn’t open.

“Your work the past few years,” she continued, “has been exemplary, and I have been pleased with your efforts.  Recently, however, I have observed that you are growing dissatisfied with our agreement.  This is not acceptable.  You have an obligation.  You must follow through with it.”

I tried to speak, but it doesn’t really work when your jaw is clamped tightly closed.

She flicked her index finger through the air and my body returned to me.  “Speak,” she said imperiously.

“She is my friend.  I don’t want to spy on her.  What will she say when she knows that her best friends is spying on her!  She’ll hate me!”

Aphrodite nodded, “Very likely.  What would you feel like if she were to die because you were not spying on her.  Would that be better?”  Her brows were raised in calm inquiry.

“What?”  I stared at her.  “That’s ridiculous.”

“It is not.  Why would we have someone watching her if she were not in danger?  You are a key reason she is still alive, and make no mistake, the older Grace is, the more danger she is in.”

“Really?” I squeaked.

She inclined her head.  “Your job is vital to Grace’s survival.  Are you enough of a friend to keep her safe, even if it is a secret that you are doing so?”

“What’s so important about her?”  Grace was just a regular kid.  Uncoordinated, silly, crushes on boys, not great at PE, not great at music, not great at math, but good enough at everything, and pleasant enough that she got along with everyone, kids and adults alike.

“If I told you, I would have to kill you,” Aphrodite deadpanned.

Or maybe she was serious.

At my incredulous look she laughed daintily, in a contained, fake sort of titter.  “She is important to me.  I would like her alive.  Your job is to continue to file reports through your mother…  What?”  She’d intercepted my rolled eyes and tilted her head.  “You don’t trust your mother?”

“My mother is a nut job.”  I love her, but she is.  She’s into all the quackery of tarot cards, crystal gazing, tuning into her qi, and all that.  She’s fervent, and loving, and fun, but she’s a nut.

“Your mother is attuned to me.  It is not your place to question your mother’s role in this.  Your place is to obey, and in so doing, to keep your friend alive.  Can I trust you to return to your duty?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said quietly, looking down at my feet.

“Excellent.  I look forward to your next report, Crystal Views of Rainbows.”

“My name is…”

“Yes.  I know.  Do you understand the power of your name?  You see clearly.  You divide simple facts into a spectrum of understanding, like a crystal divides colours into a spectrum, or rain divides light into a rainbow.  You see beauty and create beauty.  Your name is a declaration of your true self.  You should not deny it.”

I sighed.  “Can’t you call me Christie?”

She laughed that contained titter again.  “If I remember.  We are in agreement, then? You will report?”

I nodded.

“Very good.  Farewell then.”  She rose in an elegant unfolding, stepped into the centre of my living room, and (I swear to god!) vanished in a slice of light, as if she’d stepped through a curtain from a dark room into a brilliant one.

I sat staring at the spot.  I was twelve, but I suddenly felt as if I’d grown up.  I was doing great and important things, even if no one else knew about them.  I was a hero, keeping my best friend safe.  I smiled to myself and inclined onto the couch, pondering what else my mother might be right about.

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(As a bonus, I can count this in CampNaNoWriMo word count.  I’m in desperate need of the 1200 words!  I have been seriously distracted by poetry this month).

 

visit some friends April 1, 2013

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:55 am
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Alex pays a visit to Calgary November 9, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:05 pm
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Another snippet of Grace Awakening Destiny (book 4 in the series), the project that I’m working on for NaNoWriMo.  Ben is narrating.

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Ryan and Paul were lounging on the couch setting up for a Star Wars marathon.

“Do we go old school and watch chronologically by creation, or by watch them in story order?” Ryan asked, fanning the DVDs.

Paul shrugged.  “I vote for story order.  Do you care, Ben?”

I turned off the popcorn maker and stirred in the butter, “No, that’s fine.”  I just wanted them distracted.  Paul had been watching me suspiciously since he’d found me stepping out of glowing light into a U of C toilet.

The movie started and they sat mesmerized, even though they had probably watched the story a hundred times already.

I checked the pizza, but it wasn’t quite ready yet.

Ryan was reciting lines along with the actors.

It was a comforting familiarity.  Everything was fine in their world.  It was kind of soothing.  Ryan didn’t have anything to worry about beyond picking up cute girls and Paul’s greatest worry was…  Well, I guess I was probably Paul’s greatest concern at the moment.  How was I going to distract him from that?  I reached into the oven to pull out the pizza.

The door bell rang.  Ryan glanced over, saw that I was busy, and said, “I’ll get it.”

There was a murmur of voices.

“Come on in, then.”  I heard him say, “We’re watching a movie marathon.”

I walked into the room with a pizza in each hand.

“Hey, Ben.”

I stared, eyes glued to his until the heat from the pizza pan started burning through the oven mitts.  I hastily set the pizzas on the table while Paul and Ryan looked curiously between the newcomer and me.

Ryan said hesitantly, “He said you know him?”

I grunted, “Oh, yeah.  I know him.”  I stared, eyes narrowed.

“Come on, Ben. Don’t be such an ass.”  He strolled over to the couch and sat down in my place.  He nodded to Paul, “Hi.  I’m Alex.”

Ryan glanced over to me.  I spun on my heels and went back into the kitchen.  I’d try to hit him if I stayed in the room.  That would not be a good thing.

I heard Ryan ask, “So how do you know Ben?”

“We go way back.”  Alex laughed in a way that caused the sensation of  insects running marathons up and down my spine.

“So are you family? old friends?”

Alex chortled, “Something like that.  Pass the pizza.  Old Ben was always fond of the Italian food.”

I breathed deeply, fighting to get my temper under control.  He had to be here just to drive me crazy.  If so, he was probably thoroughly enjoying my reaction.  I needed to get a grip on myself.  I was just too sensitive where Mars and Alexandros were concerned.

I took four cans of Coke out of the fridge and dropped the cans on the coffee table.  Alex leaned forward first, snapping the ring with his thumb.  He poured half a can down his throat, belched, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and asked, “So, where are your ladies tonight?”

Ryan and Paul looked at each other and then over to me.

I looked at Alex, ignoring them.

Ryan said, “Paul’s girlfriend, Georgia, is babysitting.  I’m between girls at the moment.  Ben’s girlfriend is…”

“Stop it, Alex.” I interrupted.  “You know damn well where Grace is.  What the hell is going on?  Why are you here?”

“What?  I can’t drop in on an old friend?  Shoot the breeze?  Enjoy some of Lucasfilm’s great artistry?”  He smirked, enjoying the success of his bait.

“No one says ‘shoot the breeze’ these days.  Get your vernacular correct.”

Paul snapped his eyes over to us.

Alex laughed.  “Whatever.  I’m not trying to blend in with the locals.”

“Oh?  What are my friends?”

Alex raised an eyebrow and looked over to Ryan and Paul.  “Oh!  I just presumed…”  He looked back at me and whispered, “They don’t know?”

“No.”

“But we want to.” Paul said.

“Want to what?” asked Ryan, looking completely confused.  “What are you talking about?”

“No, Paul. He’s not telling you anything.”

Alex grinned.

I scowled.  “You are not.  Do you hear me?  My friends.  My rules.  They are not going to be endangered.”

“They won’t be.”  His grin was devious.  “Not really.  You know that you need all the help you can get.”

“We’d love to help,” said Paul.

“Help do what?” asked Ryan, without taking his eyes off the screen.

“I don’t need help.”

Alex laughed.  “Actually, you do.  They sent me to warn you.”

Paul studied him.  “Who sent you?”

Alex returned Paul’s curious look and then turned to me.  “I like this one.  He’s eager.”

“The eager ones are always the first ones to die,” I muttered.

Paul got a funny look on his face.

Alex nodded.  “Well, that’s true enough, but they do it with such enthusiasm.”

I sighed.

Ryan glanced over at me and then back to the screen.  “Who’s going to die?”

“Me, apparently.”  Paul said.  “How exactly am I going to die?” he asked Alex, conversationally.

Alex shrugged.  “It could go any number of ways, really.  Torn apart by monsters. Impaled by a spear.  Sliced open by a sword.  Exploded.  Drowned.  There’s no predicting, I’m afraid.”

Paul looked at me.  “What is he talking about?”

I shook my head.

“He’s crazy, right?”

“I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.” I said.

.

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NanoWriMo Day 9 total: 1519   (November Total 12,799)

 

Four years ago… October 9, 2012

The week before Thanksgiving in 2008, I was given Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga to read by one of my English students.  That Thanksgiving weekend I bought my own copies of the books, read through the series again, and then poured over Stephenie Meyer’s website, reading everything I could about the genesis of the story, the process of writing, what she’d done to find an agent, and the adventure her life had become.

I was completely, totally, thoroughly inspired.  An idea sparked.  I’d had a story floating in my head for decades.  I’d written it down in a couple of versions before, but it wasn’t right.  I had known I needed a hook, but I just couldn’t figure out what it could be.  Stephenie gave me the solution: mythology.  Just as she had used vampires and werewolves, Greek mythology could be melded into the experience I wanted to share in order to provide the depth and conflict that had been missing in previous drafts.

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (that is, this very day four years ago) I began writing Grace Awakening.  That first day, I wrote about five double spaced pages.  The second day I did the same.  Then the third.  By the end of three weeks I had 75 pages of writing.  I set the goal to keep writing 25 pages a week. I met or exceeded that goal each subsequent week.  Twenty three weeks later, the first draft was complete.  It was the week before Easter, and I had 155,000 words.

A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving in 2009, I went to the Surrey International Writers Conference.  I pitched the book to a small Vancouver publisher.  She was interested and asked to see more.

A week before Thanksgiving in 2010 I signed the contracts with Gumboot Books.

In 2011, Gumboot Books went out of business, but Grace Awakening Dreams was released anyway through Lintusen Press in July.  By Thanksgiving 2011, it had been in the list of  Top iTunes Fantasy books in Canada over a hundred times.

In 10 days, I’ll be back to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to pitch Grace Awakening Myth, a companion novel that tells  Ben’s version of  his battle for Grace.

It’s a lot to be thankful for: four years of creativity, empowerment, challenge, excitement, growth, and adventure.  It’s been an amazing ride!

Four years ago, when I started typing, I would not have been brave enough to imagine that I’d be in this place today.  But here I am.   My friend Heather observed, “Where will you be in another 4 years? Do you not love the “wait and see”‘ of life?”   The thought of it hit me in the gut.  Where will I be? I can only dream where Grace will be, keep writing, and hope I’m holding tightly to her coat tails as she explores the world!

 

 

Enderby, more than Cliffs! October 2, 2012

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:41 am
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When we moved to the Shuswap, my first job was in Enderby, a small town twenty minutes south of Salmon Arm.  In Grace Awakening Power, Grace and Marco hike up to the top of the Enderby Cliffs.  This Enderby tourism video gives you a good sense of the area, and the views from the cliffs.  Quite spectacular, eh?  (Watch for sudden storms!)

 

 

Salmon Arm October 1, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:27 am
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Here’s a nice video that shows you some of the scenery in Salmon Arm, the setting for Grace Awakening Power (and where we live, coincidentally).  How many places do you recognise from the book?

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