Tag Archives: clarion

Back in the @ClarionWest #Writeathon Groove

My trip last weekend involved more research than actual words-on-paper but once I’d been home a couple days I was back to the 1K words daily pace. Will that get a draft done by July 27th? I’m not entirely sure I shouldn’t step it up to a daily goal of 1300 or so. What matters is I’m making my way through the plot and I’m happy with how it’s coming together.

I invited the people who came to my readings to pledge support and enter the contest, and I did get some takers. (Folks, I’ll be e-mailing you soon if I haven’t already.) The deal, if you haven’t already heard it, is this: whoever gives the most money gets to name one of the island nations of Stormwrack. Anyone who gives money gets a chance to name a ship, person, city, landmark or plant/animal species… whichever floats your boat.

Here’s a sample, to give you an idea of what the world’s like, from “Among the Silvering Herd.”

Parrish’s voice carried across the plains. “On the island where I grew up, Bendi, we take in those slain by magic. Such murders are doubly tragic, because nothing lasts forever. It is a given that the scrip will be destroyed in time; that the spell will revert and the murdered person will live again. So the victims must be kept safe.”

The pulver was staring at Parrish’s lips.

“There was a young monk once, whose job was to bear corpses from the sea to the monastery of the sleeping dead. But he loved a woman whose farm lay on the route from the port. He’d stopped at her cottage, once, and a grass fire caught near his wagon. The coffin and the woman lying within were burned.”

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Are you in the WriteAThon? How are you doing?

Words for birds

My Clarion West Write-a-Thon Word Counts so far…

Total= 6813 words
July 29 – 616 (revision on novel)
July 28 – 712 (novel)
June 27 – 987 (novel)

The 616 Wednesday were a bit of a surprise… it’s what got added to a rough draft of a chapter after I’d refined it a bit. I know my work tends to get longer as I go through it, but it had felt like I was cutting.

Snip:

Her private chamber was as luxuriously appointed as a five star hotel. A fresh plate of the bland food–mourning fare, the Conto had called it–sat on a low table in a little… sitting room? Or parlor? She tried to muddle through the difference, if there was one. Then she caught a whiff of humidity, and followed her nose to a steaming bath. The same servant who’d wrapped her in the long gray cloak before the burial was waiting to remove it.
*It’s as if she’s been here the whole time, just waiting*, Sophie thought.

I also shot a Northern Flicker last week–they’re a lot less camera-shy when they’ve dug into an ant hill–and got a pretty decent close-up, complete with bugs on the beak. There’s video of it peck-peck-pecking away, if you prefer action:

Northern Flicker

More words, best sentence

Thursday’s words came to 360 on the story and 696 on the novel, bringing my total to 4024 words.

And I posted the following sentence from the story temporarily known as “Wetness” to M.K. Hobson’s Buck for Your Best Sentence challenge:

“Blue-tinted, mad-eyed, with the monstrous slickness of a newborn, it flailed, trying to gain control of its storklike legs.”

And here’s a silly photo for you all: kaleidoscope feets

Story Intros: The Slow Invasion

This is, essentially, a post about where I get my ideas.

In the months when I was gearing up to attend Clarion West in 1995, I spent most of my writing time on short mysteries, because I was hoarding my SF ideas. As a result, I got to Seattle with a healthy little clutch of index cards jammed with scribblings. One had notes on an image I’d had, of teenaged human girls caught in the midst of a fashion fad: they were wearing the four-armed coats made for members of a race of aliens, half a million of whom had come to live on Earth as refugees. I imagined one of those aliens, also female, watching them through a window, and trying to make sense of the behavior.

I wrote the story at Clarion. In various incarnations it was called “Voice of Reason,” and “Sotto Voce.” It was long and imperfect and dear to my heart; I think it was the first time it really occurred to me that even a nice fictional character might lie, might promise to do one thing and then go in an entirely different direction. It also had some thorny, autobiographical stuff. I’d never attempted that before either.

I never got “Sotto Voce” into anything approaching submission readiness–having gone to Clarion to experiment, I came home with a number of unviable mutants–but a passing reference in that story to a second alien race, the Nandieve, spawned “The Dark Hour.” Its main character is a young human pilot, Oriole. Like those girls with their four-armed winter coats, he’s embraced otherness; he sees the Nandi as a wiser, more sophisticated and more powerful culture than the one he was born into. When his ship gets hijacked, he ends up on the Nandi homeworld, which affords him a closer look at their best and worst qualities. Basically a rose-colored glasses go smush type of thing.

The story was initially published in Tesseracts 8, which was edited by John Clute and Candas Jane Dorsey. It came out in 2006 and I’d have sworn it was the first of the stories set in this universe to see print. (The Internet Speculative Fiction DB says otherwise.) It was definitely one of the earliest of the batch in terms of when I actually wrote them. Here’s a snip:

Days after she rescued Brother, a black ball of feathers flailing in wet leaves, Momma was killed by a white riot cop. Her son divorced his species, changing his name to Oriole and taking the crow as his only family. An orphanage run by Momma’s church took them in, and he lived there in silence for two years. He didn’t say a word to another human, black or white, until Contact, the day that emissaries of seven alien races came to Earth, transmitting messages of friendship from their fragile, exquisite spaceships.

The nuns found him outside that night, face tilted to the stars, mumbling alien words. His voice was hoarse from lack of use–like Brother, he croaked.

“Yah Kurar. Sky’s calling,” he said, as Sister Beverly carried him to bed.


I took to calling this series “The Slow Invasion” because in this universe, Earth’s economy gets bound up, to humankind’s detriment, in the trade of bigger and more advanced cultures. Eventually, we’re no longer self-sufficient. There were four of them published, and a few false starts–”Sotto Voce,” of course, and at least one fragment I workshopped at Turkey City but never finished. Each was written as a stand-alone, and they aren’t as tightly interlaced as the squid stories. They’re unified by that idea of a well-established intergalactic community, with its treaties and alliances and a well-established economy, and how Earth might fare if we enter it as a latecomer.

Ruby, in the Storm,” started with an image not unlike the one that led to “Sotto Voce.” This time, it was a human watching an alien, again through a window. The frame this time was a recurring visual from my childhood: a heavy, windless Alberta snowfall, a blizzard of irregular, pea-sized clusters of snowflakes, falling in impenetrable curtains. In these storms, the flakes stream down so slowly it seems possible they might hover, or even reverse direction. Air just below freezing, sound deadened by the sheer density of the gently falling precipitation… the world is hidden in a glow of amber from the street lights as the snow piles and piles and piles.

The inspiration for “A Slow Day at the Gallery,” meanwhile, came from a CBC Radio story I heard, about a B.C. First Nations tribe that was having to jump through hoops to get a museum in Europe to repatriate a stolen totem pole.

I wrote “The Spear Carrier” just after I’d joined a choir. I was in the process of learning the names of all sorts of exciting new people who’d just come into my life. Something about that experience got me to thinking about coming-of-age rites and naming and reinvention and, well, nametags. I’d discovered that I remember names better if I see them written down or, better yet, if I write them down myself. That led to my creating another offworld race, one with peculiar dueling laws and a complex naming ritual that ends with the celebrant getting a piece of ornate name-related jewelry that is their legal ID and their badge of adulthood.

I’ve been mostly wrapped up with novels in recent years, and a good deal of my short fiction energy lately has elsewhere. The squid stories fed off the Slow Invasion energy: I couldn’t quite imagine the Nandi and the Yeti and the rest getting involved in that particular civil war. (I sometimes think of the squid stories as the Fast invasion.) But I like these stories, and I’ve always had the idea that I’ll return to this universe again.