Tag Archives: alien

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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Historic Site Inspiration

This Friday is November 1st, and that means NaNoWriMo! Thirty days of writing like crazy with the goal of achieving 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel.

Inchmahome Priory on an island in the middle of the Lake of Menteith as seen from a boat

Island in the Lake of Menteith

This year I will be writing the beginning of a novel that’s been rolling around in my head for some time. It’s a hero’s journey set in a post-science fiction world. To me that means the humans in my world are the ancestors of Earth colonists who landed there centuries ago. Technology has devolved, and the aliens that helped them settle have died out completely but their influence remains. The working title is “Dyoza” after the name of the world.

One of the places on Dyoza is the priory located on an island in the middle of Tcharraz lake. The villain and another character grew up there.

Inchmahome Priory on an island in the middle of the Lake of Menteith near Stirling, Scotland

Ruins of Inchmahome Priory

I’ve taken my inspiration for this fictional location from (the real) Inchmahome Priory, located on an island on the Lake of Menteith, in Scotland near Stirling. I visited there this summer with my family. Inchmahome Priory was established in 1238, but Protestant Reformation ended it in the mid-1500s. It’s a small island, absolutely beautiful, with paths around the edge, and across. I could imagine people walking around the island in quiet contemplation.

Paths on the island, location of Inchmahome Priory in the middle of the Lake of Menteith near Stirling, Scotland

Paths around the island

Happy Writing!

Miriah

Year in Review: 2012

Bliadhna mhath ùr a-huile duine! Happy New Year everyone!

Drawing of bagpipes held in tentacled arms

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

First of all, my big news is that The Drabblecast accepted my “Earth Music” story!!! I am truly thrilled. This is a story I’ve previously blogged about writing and editing (also known as my alien and bagpipes story). It began about a year ago on 1 January 2012, whilst I was attending a “First Footing” event and thinking about a writing prompt from Cat Rambo’s SF&F class.

If you aren’t familiar with Drabblecast.org, you should be! Check out their short story podcasts – it’s free and awesome! They really live up to their byline, “strange stories written by strange authors for strange listeners”. To be perfectly honest, not all of the stories appeal to my personal taste (I suppose my strangeness is not fully developed), but all of them are beautifully produced. I am honored that they accepted my story, and I can’t wait to listen to it (so far I don’t know when that will be).

Miriah Hetherington learning to use a bow

Miriah in (beginning) Archery Class

A little over a year ago I sent in my first story submission – and got my first rejection from Daily Science Fiction on 20 December 2012!  The email print-out is prominently displayed over my desk, next to a framed copy of my first acceptance.

My stats for the past year:

Acceptances: 2

Rejections: 12

Pending: 1

Number of different stories submitted: 5

(Writing-rpg posts: a little over 100)

I will resist (sort of) the temptation to make a list of New Year’s resolutions about writing. “Resolution” seems like one of those ill-fated words. A word destined to result in failure, a word that weighs you down with its negative subtext.

Instead I’m going to declare some writing Intentions for the New Year. These are my personal goals, subject to change and in effect only for so long as they motivate me in a positive way!

Writing Intentions (NOT resolutions) for 2013

1.    Write AND submit ten new short stories (goal: one a month)

2.    Finish the first draft of my novel (goal: 2,000 words per week)

3.    Blog more frequently (goal: weekly)

What writing intentions/goals have you set for yourself in 2013?

Happy Writing!

Alien and Bagpipes

Drawing of bagpipes held in tentacled arms

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

In every writing class I’ve taken so far, right after the subject of editing is covered, someone always asks:  how much editing is too much? How do you know when you’re finished editing and the piece is ready to submit? Usually a fascinating discussion ensues, because everyone has their own opinion. But I never felt like I left with a satisfying answer. Under-editing is usually my problem. I know there are perfectionists out there. I am not one of them.

I suspect the real answer is something like this: when you know what you’re doing, you’ll know when the story is ready to submit.

I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I submitted a  short story to a speculative fiction market today anyway.

Since I’m still trying to learn, I brought this story to the point where I think it’s ready through a long process of trial and error. The title has changed a couple times, but if you are one of the people I begged to critique it, you will recognize it as the “Alien and Bagpipes” story. The current title is “Earth Music” (about 1100 words).

It started as a writing prompt from one of Cat Rambo’s classes, something like: “Describe an earth object from the point of view of an alien.” So obviously I chose to describe Highland bagpipes from the point of view of an octopus-like alien that lives underwater.

But, a description isn’t a story. So I added background to explain why the alien had the bagpipes, and what he was planning to do with them. I thought the story was finished, and I submitted it too soon. Re-reading that “story” now, it is clear to me that not only did it need more editing, but it wasn’t complete.

So after it was rejected the first time I added a conflict. I added an unhappy ending. I edited. I took out the extra adjectives and adverbs and did my best to make sure any remaining adverbs were pulling their own weight. I submitted to another market. By the time it was rejected, I had joined a critique group, who were kind enough to work-shop it. I got great feedback, and one writer suggested that I take the circumstances that led to the unhappy ending and “really go for it”.

The story sat on the back burner for a couple months before I came back to it. I re-wrote it so that the entire story builds up to the ending. I asked for critiques and was lucky enough to get some extremely helpful input from a total of six people.

This afternoon I convinced myself it was ready to submit. Again. If I had tentacles I’d be crossing them now.

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P.S. I sincerely hope that no one who reads my “Earth Music” story is offended by what happens to the bagpipes in the end. Cha d’rinn cròn air pìob sam bith ri sgrìobhadh na sgeulachd seo. (No bagpipes were harmed in the writing of this story.)

One added comment:  Except for the photo of me on the “About” page, so far all of the photos on this blog were taken by me. For this particular post I tried to find an image of tentacles and bagpipes on the internet. I was shocked to discover there weren’t any. I had to resort to making my own. What’s up with that? Really, interwebs, you let me down this time!