Shawn L. Bird

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

Story November 26, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:16 am
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From Three Views of Crystal Waters by Katherine Govier:

There are  stories.  Stories that are told and told.  They belong to the people who tell them, not the people who are in them.  The one who is the storyteller is the one who collects.  Maybe he is lame.  Maybe he lives alone and has no one to talk to .  Then he will remember them, go over them in his mind, so the stories are not lost.  This is an old tradition.  Now not so many will follow.  When the story teller is ready, he will tell the story.  You may be in the story.  It is not finished.  You may be part  of the story…


NaNoWriMo Day 26 1537  words  (November total: 36888  13,112 to go in the next 4 days!)


the surreal life November 24, 2012

Filed under: Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:30 am
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You know, it is both surreal and humbling to realise that some people are as excited to meet me and have me sign their copy of my book, as I was to meet… (well, you know. 🙂  )   It’s nice, of course, and it is very gratifying to have someone excited about my work, but at the same time, it’s extra-ordinarily surreal.

I wonder if really big name authors find themselves looking around the room trying to figure out how the heck all this happened?


NaNoWriMo has been terribly neglected due to exhaustion and responsibilities the last few days.  A little attention this evening will hopefully help get things on track.

NaNoWriMo day 24:  1139                November total: 33,532

.                                                                      (6500 below par.  Eek)


let’s pile something else onto the plate, shall we? November 19, 2012

Filed under: projects,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:34 pm
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For the first time since Day 4 of NaNoWriMo I am actually above par.  Whoo hoo! I should be at 31666 and I’m at 32,058.  The last couple of days I’ve done several hundred extra to catch up from some slower days.  There is no respite when you’re heading to a goal.  If you slow down, you just have to work harder later.  Steady, consistent effort is less stressful in the long run.

I recently found a gorgeous knitting magazine called Filati Handknitting.  It’s a marketing and design vehicle for Lana Grossa yarns, which though it sounds Italian, comes from Germany if I read the abbreviations correctly.  I found 3 projects I love in the magazine, and decided yesterday to start on the first one, this coat:

So here’s yesterday’s effort.  To get gauge I ended up using 12 mm needles, which is really speeding the project along! Instead of buying the very expensive mohair yarn recommended for this pattern (Elle, total $235 Cdn), I am mixing acrylic yarns.  The silver blue chenille I purchased in a liquidation style 5 lb bag of unlabelled yarn at a department store and I am mixing it with on sale James C Brett Fusion Chunky, which is a grey/pink/purple varigated  boucle with threads of yellow and orange twisted in.  I think the combination is quite interesting, and I suspect it will be even nicer than the model’s coat when it’s done.  Here’s the first 12″ of the back, showing the varigation through all three colours.



Day 19 NaNoWriMo total: 3486   (November total, 32,058)

Actually, about 800 words of this total was actually written yesterday, but my internet cut out before I could update the count for the day.


snippet of Grace Awakening Destiny November 17, 2012

I am brain numb today (still in recovery from our short week, and from  combing the internet for summer writing options in Provence into the wee hours last night).  As a result I can’t think of a thing to say.  In such a circumstance, sharing a snippet of the NaNoWriMo project on the go seems like a good solution, so here is something for your reading pleasure.  This is a first draft of Ben’s perspective on the infamous concert scene, set at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver:


It was my turn.

Kraft called my name and smiled at me from the podium.

I stepped onto the stage.

Kraft asked me about the inspiration for the song and I looked right through the blackness and into Grace’s eyes when I replied, “I wrote this piece as a celebration of the kind of love that can not be stopped by time, the kind of love that makes the universe worth inhabiting.”

The Bösendorfer grand piano gleamed in the stage lights like an ocean reflecting city lights.  I sat down on the bench, positioned my hands, and nodded at Kraft.  He nodded to the violins and marked the down beat.

My song told the story of my search for Grace.  The strings wept my loneliness and longing for her.  The flutes danced into the melody in little trills of hope, those moments when I thought she was near.  Then I struck the keys of the piano and told of her appearance in my life, her rejection, her tentative interest, her fearful denials.  I wound the music with my fears for her and my joy in her.  A flute played the recorder part from the picnic when she’d accepted her ancient wedding ring from me.  The woodwinds laughed with the joy of her acknowledgment of our love.  I set my hands on my lap as the percussion beat out the danger and the brass howled my frustration and pain.  Then I started playing again, pouring my hope and adoration through my fingers and out onto the strings of piano.  My love rolled out from the piano and filled the hall with dreams and hope, and then I hit the final chord and dropped my head onto my chest, emotionally exhausted.

Like they had been at the end of Jilly’s composition, the audience sat, silently.

I stood up and turned to the audience.  I kissed the tips of my fingers and extended my arm toward Grace.  Her love filled my mind.  I bowed to the still silent audience, as tears of grateful adoration clouded my vision.

Grace  leaned over the railing of the balcony, stretching out her arm as if she could reach me.  Tears were pouring down her face.

Suddenly, in a single tsunami wave, the audience rose to its feet and began to applaud.  Applaud and applaud.  It went on and on, clapping and clapping.

The announcer touched my arm and guided me to the other competitors.

I sat there as the audience continued to applaud.

The announcer stood waiting, trying to speak, but completely [overcome] by the crowd who were not ready yet to stop.

Wesford Kraft came over and shook my hand.

The announcer smiled at me in awkward acknowledgement and clapped his own hands.  He had me stand once more and bow, and finally the crowd gradually stopped and took their seats again.  He thanked the other contestants with a smile, told the crowd that the special long piece commissioned for tonight from the winner of last year’s competition would be performed after the intermission.  They would announce the winner of the this year’s competition afterwards.  He thanked Wesford Kraft for conducting and Kraft bowed to polite applause, and left the stage.

My heart was thudding so hard it was filling the room.

The house lights were turned back up and I glanced up to the Dress Circle.  Bright was beaming down at me.  Grace had disappeared.

I started up the aisle toward the lobby, people parted, smiling and thumping me on my back as I went.

In the lobby Grace flew at me in her flowing red dress like a shooting flame of longing.  She fired into my thoughts all her joy, excitement, and love.  I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her, devouring her presence greedily.

The world fell away as we collapsed into ourselves, hearts, heads, and hands consumed in the bliss of physical presence at long last.

Grace gasped for air and we pulled apart, staring into each other eyes, our minds full of the euphoria of togetherness.

I looked around and realized that a crowd had gathered around us, beaming in amusement.  I took half a step back, slightly embarrassed, and they applauded again with enthusiastic approval.  Grace buried her head in my shoulder and I laughed, hugging her tightly.

The lights flicked to send us back to our seats, and I pulled her along with me to the front row.  The others just grinned at us, and Jilly Tomm from Saskatchewan slid over one chair.

I was feeling very little appreciation for arm rests as we cuddled together when the lights went down.  I knew that in the overflow of stage lighting we would be silhouetted for the entire theatre to see, and so I tried to be circumspect, when all I wanted to do was throw her onto the ground and make wild, passionate love to her.  We hadn’t done that this life-time, and this truly wasn’t the place, but it didn’t stop me from wanting it.  I nestled down to kiss her neck, and she made tantalizing little noises.  They were an interesting cross between a squeak and a purr.  They didn’t help my composure.

The orchestra played its accompaniment to our blissful entwining of affection, adoration, euphoria, and lust.


NaNoWriMo report.

Day 17 words:  2570                    (November Total 27,515)

True confession.  I have changed my NaNo time zone to Midway Island.  That gives me three extra hours to write before NaNo closes down the day.  Since I tend to do my writing after midnight, this is a great help!


NaNo life November 16, 2012

Filed under: Commentary,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:26 pm
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We had a three day week, as BC had the Remembrance Day statutory holiday on Monday, and our school district had a closure on Tuesday.  That was great because I was able to get caught up on my NaNoWriMo words.  Yesterday we had Parent Teacher Interviews at school, and so I was away, working or with colleagues for thirteen and a half hours.  That’s a long day! 

I did manage to get MOST of my NaNo writing done, but I was 55 words short of par at the end the day.  It is a mark of how tired I was that I was not able to find 55 words before I headed to bed! 

The blog suffered a day or two of neglect as a result, and this is not going to be very brilliant.  However, with all the dog-ears on my copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, there is always a quote to share.  Here’s one for today, the day after report cards were issued at my school:

At the time we’re stuck in it, like hostages locked in a Turkish bath, high school seems the most serious business in the world to just about all of us.  It’s not until the second or third class reunion that we start realizing how absurd the whole thing was.

Stephen King.  On Writing. p. 54


NaNo Word count

Nov 15:   1554  (Total 24,945)

Nov 16:


pep talk for NaNobots and something yummy November 13, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:07 pm
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If you’re officially signed up for NaNoWriMo you get pep talks in your in-box now and then.  They’re very encouraging.  Occasionally they’re very funny.  Today’s is both, so I thought I’d just send you over to the NaNo website to see what founder Chris Baty has to say.  He’s been through this a few times.  He knows!  lol

Yesterday’s marathon was probably my ‘dark night of the soul’ as I slogged to get back on track.  I’m just setting up to start today’s writing, and I have an inclination to bake some Karjalanpiirakka in between sentences.  Maybe that will send Ben off to Finland or something?  (Wouldn’t that be weird?  I never did know where he went when Grace couldn’t reach him.  Hmm).

If you’ve never been to Finland, you’ve probably never heard of Karjalanpiirakka which are a staple there, and generally the first thing I buy when I get off the plane.  They have them in the airport cafes for a Euro each.  There is a paper thin rye crust filled with assorted things.  Most commonly (most tastily in my opinion) short grain rice cooked in milk.  They’re finicky to make from scratch, but that’s the only option here in Canada.  Traditionally they’re served with chopped boiled egg mixed with butter, but not being very traditional, my favourite way is warm with cinnamon sugar!  Mmmm.

Yeah.  I think I’ll go start baking, and the words can wait.


NaNoWriMo Day 13:   1600ish        (Total for November: 21,681)


I think I can… I think I can… November 12, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:22 pm
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Today, day 12 of NaNoWriMo par is 20,000 words.

This morning I had under 16,000, but if I don’t get caught up now, I’ll only get further behind.   So today’s blog post is compliments of the inspiration of The Little Engine that Could:



The day 12 report:

midnight: 15,674

noon:   16, 326  words

1:18 pm: 16,436  (110 words in 80 mins?  Seriously?  One and a half words a minute?  At this rate it’ll take days!  ARG!)

1:42 pm: 16,680 (a bit better!)  250 words in 24 minutes. 10 words a minute.

3:13 pm: 17, 495 (took a bit of a break there, ech hem).

4:00 pm 17,934

4:24 pm 18,314

5:11 pm 18,768

5:51 pm 19,071

6:00 pm 19, 260

6:20 pm 19,617

6:40 pm 20,087!

YEEEE HA!  Just in time for me to make it to the meeting of the Shuswap Association of Writers where I get to announce that Diana Gabaldon had agreed to attend the 2014 Word on the Lake Festival of Readers and Writers! 🙂


Turn on the tap first November 10, 2012

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:25 am
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If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.

– Louis L’Amour

Isn’t this a remarkably logical analogy?  Pondering, ruminating, meditating, and considering are all very good, but until the thoughts are forced up the pipe and onto the page, we have nothing.

When I wrote Grace Awakening Dreams and Power, it took just under six months to go from nothing to over 150,000 words.  That’s about 25,000 words a month, half the pace of NaNoWriMo.  No wonder I’m feeling pressured.  I do my writing for the day, and hit ‘word count.’  It is generally about 850 words.  Inwardly I groan, because I need to double that count.  Sometimes I just go right back and pound out the next scene, but most of the time I need a break.

I would like to keep up the ‘assigned’ pace, but if I don’t, I just have to continue with my comfortable pace and I will get there eventually.  The important thing, as L’Amour says, is just to sit down and write.  As Diana Gabaldon reminds me, it’s important to write every day to keep up the inertia.

Write on NaNobots!  We shall get there eventually if we don’t give up!

NaNoWriMo Day 10:   1101       (Total for November so far: 13,900)


Alex pays a visit to Calgary November 9, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Another snippet of Grace Awakening Destiny (book 4 in the series), the project that I’m working on for NaNoWriMo.  Ben is narrating.


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?”


“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.



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


what’s lingering from #SIWC2012 November 7, 2012

As I pound away on my NaNoWriMo piece, I keep hearing a voice in my head.  Not surprisingly, it’s Diana Gabaldon’s <g> but it’s not the advice I thought I was taking from my blue pencil or all the workshops I attended at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

At my blue pencil, Diana and I discussed historical language, dialogue, and whatnot, and while that was important,  what I keep hearing in my head is her laughing voice summarizing,  “You need to have something happen …   And it needs to be something fairly interesting.”

I mean, that’s not news.  That’s so obvious that it’s painful.  She was specifically saying that if the section of my historical novel that she read was going to end up as the beginning, then something intense had to happen.  However, the line is turning into a mantra when ever I sit down to write.  I suspect that is what makes Diana’s books so  engaging.  On EVERY page, something happens.  It’s good advice.  Don’t explain.  Make things happen.

As I write, I can clearly hear Diana’s voice, chuckling with me, just as my time with her was running out, and I think that basic though this comment might be, it might be the most important thing I took away from SIWC this year.

Something has to happen.

I intend to ponder it a lot.  We are authors.  We make things happen.  All these NaNoWriMo words are created from nothing.  We’re making things happen.  When I’m typing away I need to keep making things happen.

In my life, I need to make things happen.

NaNoWriMo count day 7: 1651  (Total 10,664)


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