Earth Music

I am happy and relieved to announce my weird and (I hope) humorous story, “Earth Music” is up on the Drabblecast website today, read by the amazing Mat Weller.

The story is part of a “trifecta” – three stories with a related theme. In this case the theme is: Change of heart. The other two stories are “Golden Age of the Paleozoic” by Ken Liu and “Weekend with the Owl God” by Frank Key. I’m pretty much thrilled beyond words to share a table of contents with those guys.

Drawing of bagpipes held in tentacled arms

Tentacles and Bagpipes (sounds like the name of a pub)

I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this story to appear. I submitted “Earth Music” to the Drabblecast two years ago, and they sent me a contract eighteen months ago.

Back in June of 2012 I was worried the story might be offensive to pipers, so at the 2012 Seattle fèis I spoke with Barry Shears, the bagpipes instructor at the fèis that year who is also an expert on the history of bagpipes. He promptly rattled off a joke that involved bagpipes and an amorous octopus. So I was reassured that not only do pipers have excellent (and tolerant) senses of humor, but there is some precedence for stories like this one.

In my submission I included a line of Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) at the end.
The line was:
Cha d’rinneadh cròn air pìob sam bith ri sgrìobhadh na sgeulachd seo.
(“No bagpipes were harmed in the writing of this story.”)

I didn’t get an opportunity to edit this story since I wrote it two years ago. (Which is why according to my bio the Urban Green Man anthology is forthcoming.) In some ways the story is a snapshot of where I was as a writer back then. But “Earth Music” still appeals to my strange sense of humor.

So, yay. I’m quite pleased “Earth Music” has been produced by The Drabblecast. The podcast sounds fantastic. Worth the wait.

Happy writing,
Miriah

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Volunteering

Another thing that occupies my time besides raising two teenagers and writing is Slighe nan Gaidheal. I’m still recovering from the Seattle Fèis the week of June 9 to 15.

“Fèis” is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning festival. (Not to be confused with “feis” which means something rather different :-)

The event was sponsored by Slighe nan Gaidheal, a non-profit that creates ongoing language and music programs in the Pacific Northwest, and puts on the Fèis in alternating years at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Fort Worden State Park Bunker

My twins looking out at the beach from the Fort Worden Bunker

The Seattle Fèis is amazing, and it could not happen without dozens of volunteers. I was the Registrar in 2010 and 2012, and it was a huge amount of work. I am so grateful to this year’s team of dedicated, hard-working volunteers.

Even though I wasn’t on the Fèis planning committee this year, I was involved because I’m Slighe’s (volunteer) treasurer. That’s kept me busy! (btw, unless you have an iPhone, Intuit GoPayment is a horrible pain in the ass, in my opinion.)

Volunteering is a wonderful way to support the things you love. How do you volunteer your time?

Twabble Up

Last week Drabblecast.org chose one of my “twabbles” – an exactly 100 character micro story – to go with their podcast. Here it is:

At the hike’s end we found seal skins scattered all over that beach. “Let’s go,” I said. “But first, let me take a Selkie.”

I think I got lucky with this one, because the feature story is about jackalopes who, like selkies, shed their skins and become human. My twabble is at the very, very end of the podcast. I really enjoyed the featured story. Go listen to it or download to listen in the car or whatever. Do it now!

Happy Writing.

J.P. Patches statue

The J.P. Patches statue in Freemont

A Eulogy, sort of

This is a diversion from my usual posts. Something personal.

My ex-husband James L. Arther Jr. passed away on Sunday from liver cancer. I am sad for my beloved oldest daughter, the child I had with him. I’m deeply sorry she has lost her father. I love her dearly and she loved him.

I will admit that when Jim and I divorced twenty years ago, and in the years following when our daughter was a child and I had to interact with him, I may have wished for this day to come much sooner.

I’ve been trying to think of positive things to say about Jim.
*/four days of racking my brain/*
Uh… half of my wonderful oldest child’s DNA came from him. That’s the best I can come up with.

Lilacs at my house.

Lilacs at my house.

Jim was 19 years older than me. People wondered why I was attracted to him. It was because when we met our neuroses were perfectly matched. Back then I had extremely low self-esteem and believed I didn’t deserve to be loved. He craved unconditional love, and expected the people who loved him to constantly prove it. His “testing” reinforced my negative self-image and provided constant opportunities to earn his conditional love.

It’s my fault the marriage fell apart. I changed. After I started going to therapy, I began to believe that I was a worthwhile person and deserved to be treated as such. I recognized his emotional and verbal abuse for what it was. Jim liked our relationship the way it was and didn’t want to change.

There is so much more I could say, but already this is a little too personal. I do not regret being married to Jim, because I wouldn’t trade my oldest child for anything.

Rest in peace, Jim. But don’t be surprised if you rise again as a villain in one of my stories.

Happy Writing.

Choreographing a fight scene

There are two fight scenes in a story I’m working on, so lately I’ve been reading articles about writing fight scenes in general, and trying to visualize my fight scenes in particular.

Norwescon was last weekend (a fantastic conference, btw) and one panel I attended was “Writing Action” with Craig English, Erik Scott de Bie, Erin Evans, Michael Tinker Pearce, and Dean Wells.

Some of the notes I took in the panel:
• a fight scene must advance the plot – something must change
• get into your POV character’s head
• the action is about how the POV character reacts, not who hits who with what
• ground the narrative in sensory information – smells, sounds etc.
• the POV character should be hurt in a fight, something should go wrong
• establish the emotional stakes before the fight – the reader should care about the fight outcome
• in a life/death situation, people react automatically according to their training (or lack of training)
• setting is important, including bystanders – props can become weapons
• pay attention to how fights usually go in movies and take it in a surprising direction

But first, I had to figure out what happens during the fight in my story. There are several people in the scene, and even though I’m only going to write what the POV character is aware of, I need to know what else is going on. Because, while she is busy with one enemy, the other characters aren’t just standing around!

So I procrastinated threw together a few props and took pictures. Here are a few of them:

fightsceneA

fightsceneB

 

 

 

 

 

 

The POV character is blue. A couple of red shirts turn on shields that attract flying predators. One red shirt drops and gets shredded while my hero and the others fight off the rest.

It was fun setting this up. Hopefully the writing result will be easy to follow.

Happy Writing

Writing Just for Fun

I blogged before (here) about the play-by-email role playing game (PBeM RPG) I’m a member of.

It has been almost three years since the group started. My own first post was on 20 April 2011. This cooperative writing project has been the source of both intense enjoyment and utter frustration. It’s wonderful when everyone participates consistently, and crazy-making when one player flakes.

Pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Suicidal pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Last Autumn I was pretty fed up with the way some other long-time players were blocking story threads. At that point I had four characters. I wrote two of them out of the story, intending to back out of the game. Then the GM quit just before NaNoWriMo. One of my two remaining characters is/was stuck in limbo because two players went AWOL. My last and oldest character is/was in a slow-moving story thread with one other writer.

I thought I was okay with one, minimally active character in the RPG. After all, I had original writing to do! I shouldn’t be wasting my precious writing time on fanfiction that can’t even be published! Write? I mean, Right?

Wrong.

RPG writing is fun. Creative. Easy. No serious editing. It feels like writing that first draft and submitting it right away while you’re madly in love with it — without that OMG morning-after, what-have-I-done hangover feeling.

The thing about RPG in any form is, players come and go. That’s just the way it is. I realized that I really missed writing the game. And now there are new players. Game Master responsibilities are being managed by a committee. So I’ve created a new character I hope will be more active.

Of course writing collaborative fiction with the goal of publication would not be the same as writing an RPG. But, I bet there would be similarities and I hope to get to try it sometime.

Happy Writing.

2014 Clarion West Application & Rejection

I applied to Clarion West again this year, and did not get in.

Rejection is a normal part of the writing life. I know that. We all know that. I honestly have no problem with submitting a story to a publication and the story getting rejected. I know it’s the story that’s being rejected, not me.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Clarion West is a six-week, 24/7 intensive writing workshop. Just sending an application is a huge commitment. Putting aside a huge lump of money. Figuring the mechanics of how someone else will take care of my responsibilities as I (potentially) remove myself from the lives of my loved ones for six weeks.

The application consists of two parts. 1) A 20 to 30 page short story in standard manuscript format; about 4000 to 6000 words. 2) A 700-800 word essay telling them about yourself. For me, the essay was much, much harder to write than the story. The essay is personal. Unlike my short story, the essay absolutely IS me.

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer Slough on 1 April 2014. Pretty and stinky – it must be spring.

A couple months ago my twins had a school English class assignment to read a biography and write a book report. One of them chose Nelly Bly, the other chose singer Ke$ha. When I asked why the Ke$ha book report was only one page long, my daughter’s response was “Duh. She’s only twenty-three years old.”
Yeah. I really hate writing the two-page book report of my life.

The whole process of applying to Clarion West triggers my inner demons in a way that the submission/rejection process never does. After more than twenty years of recovery, it jars me into the realization that deep down, I will always have codependency issues. From the time the application window closed on March 1st, to March 14th when someone-who-would-know tweeted that the acceptance phone calls had started, to March 22nd when I finally received the rejection email. The wait (and everything that goes with it) was agonizing. This year was even worse for me than last year.

I love to write. I’ll keep on writing, and I will continue to submit. Rejections really don’t bother me because like I said, it’s not me it’s my story — easy peasy.

Right now, I don’t know if I will apply to Clarion West next year. Six whole weeks of immersion in the craft of writing would be pure heaven for me. But the price of that lottery ticket is painful. Also, the summer of 2015 will be particularly busy with family commitments, so disappearing for six weeks may be impossible.

Two friends, one a close friend, will join the 2014 Clarion West class. I am really, truly happy for them and their class mates. My most sincere congratulations to all eighteen of them.

Happy Writing.