The call of adventure -1 : Starship

You read that in every How-to novel writing advice, the call of adventure that the hero or heroine spurns at first… I wish to share this incredible moment when I boarded and rode an experimental hovercraft.

The name of the vehicle was… Starship. Don’t laugh. It was a miniature orange two-person hovercraft, in demonstration at an event organized by my father (a hovercraft specialist) for an aerospace association that do not exist today. A jobless geographer atthe time, I had volunteered to help him with small things. We were in a hangar by the St-Lawrence River, under a gray sky.

Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile.
Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile, the ear coverings. And the faraway Victoria Bridge.

One visiting engineer had been invited to test it, but he said he would get drenched (and he was an experienced, gray-haired guy, I suspect he knew what to expect bouncing in a small craft next to the engine, while I didn’t). So, I offered to go instead. I put on a thick and loose and dark wetsuit over my light and elegant September clothes and sat behind the pilot.

The first assault on my senses was the deafening noise of the main engine (see in the pic, right in my back) and the propeller pulling the air down to lift the hovercraft, screaming at one hundred and ten decibels that made even the red composite hull shake. It was impossible to talk, and the earmuffs might have been cotton candy for all the protecting they did.

After the flat concrete, the cold, cold September water of the St-Lawrence River rushed at us, sprayed droplets everywhere. Water seeped through the seams of the wetsuit, enclosing my legs in a moist embrace. The smell of tar and exhaust, the stench of dead fish coming from the posts of the bridge we were passing nearby gave a moldy taste on my tongue. But nothing beat the excitement of flying over the water in an experimetal hovercraft!

The hovercreaft jumped over chopping waves, propelled so fast every bone of my spine and basin was vibrating at the same pace. I grabbed the hull on my sides, not sure the orange lifejacket would be of any use if a sudden swerve shook me off. The craft reached the faraway bridge at piers in less than a minute!

At our dizzying speed bouncing over the wavelets, the air rushed at my face with countless droplets, my carefully combed hair was askew, but I still remember today how exhilarating those five minutes had been!

Gratitude

My grateful thanks for the gallant Starship pilot, who may have retired since the pic ws taken (I didn’t get your name, alas, so say hello if you recognize yourself!) Note how on the pics the pilot did not wear the earmuffs; he probably lent those to me for the test drive.

And kudos to the fellow engineer who took this picture and sent it to my dad, Jacques Laframboise, a few weeks later. We thought you might like this as a little memento of a happy day, he had written, noting the dsate September 23rd, 1987, and a time 2 min 45 sec, which may be the time elapsed in the hovercraft test drive. Alas, that friend didn’t write his name, and my father has flown into the great unknown in 2014.

It had been 34 years, and I still count those three minutes as the most exciting in my life!

A special Fearless Lady Byrd Adventure!

Black-capped Chickadee by Shutterstock

Virtue is a white robe only women get to wear…

Everything in this bird tour has gone awry: Lady Byrd wakes up too late, because the tour guide forgot to arrange the calls. In a foul mood, she has to get to the site herself. Then, her path crosses that of a pregnant birder in the throes of an abusive relationship, and cornered into a hard choice only women have to face.
What can an expert birder can do to lift this fog of sadness?

A spirited and hopeful story with the energetic Lady Byrd !


Chicks and Chickadees
A Fearless Lady Byrd Adventure

by Michèle Laframboise

1

See meeee!

The fluted call woke me from my heavy sleep. That chant was as familiar as my living room couch, coming from the tiny throat of a black-capped chickadee. The rest of the year, that small quick bird emitted a short chip, or a gleeful nasal, ha-han-han-haan, more reminiscent of a duck quack. They were the life of the party in any forest; hanging a lump of fat in a net is a sure way to invite them to any backyard.

But, as the snow melted, the perky chickadees’ thoughts turned away from food. They started singing that soft whistle.

See meee!

The bird was enjoying the morning; I wasn’t. At all.

A budding headache reminded me how foolish I had been to accept that glass of wine yesterday evening, even the light white brand that complemented the meal served at the hotel hosting our birding group. One blond lady was endlessly raving about her 150 mm cam, but I lost most of her words.

I pushed off the big fluffy down hotel coverlet from the bed, striking with my feet like I would a nighttime aggressor.

(I am lucky to never have experienced the event, but my niece had.)

(She did OK and sent the stupid horny student to the hospital. Nevertheless, I take extra precautions.)

I balanced myself to sit on the edge of the bed, my feet hanging inches from the floor. Extra-high hotel bed. A tingling feeling of something wrong nagged at me. Not the headache.

Then my eyes fell on the digital clock on the lacquered nightstand.

Ten past six. AM.

Holy Moly!

I was supposed to get up at five-thirty, eat a small collation and board the minibus that would take me and a dozen others to a secluded spot where a famed warbler had been last observed.

That warbler was that kind of elusive brownish bird, easier to hear than see. Its off-key colors made them the opposite of the chickadees: not only difficult to see, but a challenge at identifying.

Birders woke very early to get to the field at dawn. I winced. By now, the tour bus would have left with the rest of the group.

On my precedent birding tours, the organizers usually managed the morning calls so everyone was woken around the same hour, generally 5h00 or 5h30 AM.

I hadn’t met the Sully Bird Tours manager yet, only the athletic brown-haired girl, a Lucy Something (I should have remembered her name but the flight had left me slightly zombified) who greeted me at the airport and lifted my bags without breaking stride. She had driven me to this three-star hotel, where I later met the birding party, but the Sully of Sully’s tour had been apparently busy elsewhere.

If the manager was around her age, maybe he had left a Facebook message, Twitter notification or I don’t-know-what-tech alert to the tour members, not thinking that some tour members could be old enough to be his mother. Or grand mother, if he was that young.

I felt a surge of wrath towards this Ronald Sully. A competent birding tour manager would have made sure all members were up and seated before taking off.  Especially when said members had paid north of one thousand dollars for one week-end, all-inclusive package.

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A Lady Byrd Story

An owl perching
image from Canva.com

Superb Owl Day

For the first time, fearless Amanda Byrd must mind her turbulent grand-niece while on a special birding excursion, on the day of the SuperBowl.

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Our sharp-eyed guide pointed silently towards one of the husky, snow-powdered spruce branches. There, its mottled cream and caramel-brown plumage almost invisible against the tree background, its pale heart-shaped face marked with the dark marbles of its eyes, was a discreet nocturnal bird doing its best to avoid the sharp daylight.  

You rarely got to see a Barred owl from such a close distance, in a cold February afternoon, a meager dozen feet from the trail our small gaggle of birders was following. I didn’t even need my 8×42 Bushnell binoculars to take in its 22-inch long body from head to tail. I felt I could just stretch an arm to brush the fine down on its roundish head.

Well, not that I would do such an impolite gesture in front of my small niece. But my sister’s first grandchild had no such qualms herself.

“Hooo, hooo!” Mona said, her bright red mittens cupped in front of her mask, her brown eyes full of glee.

The owl’s neck moved like a tank turret to investigate the disturbance, one abyssally-dark eye blinking under a fluffy cream eyelid.

Most owls had gaudy-colored irises, orange or gold, framing round pupils; Barred owls had obsidian eyes, like black glass, the irises indistinct. Owl’s eyes were not slitted like cats’ to minimize incoming light, so the nocturnal bird protected its sensitive retinas.

Its downy eyelids, lowered at half-mast, gave him a perpetual air of either wisdom or sleepy annoyance.

Some owls’ tufted feathers reached out in points, like the Great horned owl, but this owl’s tapered along the round head.

When the owl’s head moved, Mona hooted happily.

“He looks like caramel ice cream with nuts!”

Count on children in the dead of winter to talk about ice cream, I thought, shivering.

The bird’s colors rather reminded me of an ill-fitting wool pull one of my own “aunties” had knitted for me (forgetting that teenage years were also growing up years) with a pattern of creamy whites and spatter of light brown stitches, at odds with the gaudy colors the sixties era favored.

I wore it for a time, to please my aunt, and as a camouflage to observe birds, Eventually, the mites found it. My mother unraveled the pull and knitted a warm scarf with it. Now that scarf, decades later, I wore in my winter bird watching, those muted hues being less aggressive.

I breathed in the cold air through the scarf and my thin face mask. The low temperatures prevented me from getting the scents of pine and fresh snow, but the odor of old wool impregnated with my mom’s patience remained present. I wore a heavier daypack with a thermos and collation.

But at least, it was a rewarding activity to go birding on the ‘Superb-Owl’ Sunday, as birders called this day. The name had been coined by a passionate birder in the 90s, and since then, many bird-lovers found out, in cities and woods alike, how quiet that peculiar Sunday was. The usual troves of weekend hikers also dried out on that day.

At this moment, my nephew, along with half the United States population, was lounging on his living room couch watching football players as colored as birds disputing a spectacular waste of money. (I’m told the commercial spots alone cost several millions.)

Meaning that, on Superbowl day, our small group of dedicated birders had the huge park near Albany, NY – and all its birds– to ourselves.

Including our own elusive, superb owls.

“Hoo, hoo!”

That is, if one of us did not scare said birds away with her bubbling enthusiasm.

Continue reading

Ho-Ho-Ho!

Hoping all of you stay well!
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Be well…

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And keep your distances, like those two birds sitting in the cold.

Let your thoughts travel faster than light, if your bodies can’t.

Humans are not like birds, they can’t survive picking up seeds or buds

So remember to share in the joy, and to share, whatever and whenever  possible.

***

Reading Shock…

The reader, after finishing a good book, want's to thank the writer A.C. Crispin, but finds out she's gone.

I just finished “Sarek” an excellent SF novel by Ann. C. Crispin, set in the Star Trek universe.

In these trying times, I need some comfort readings, which I get from some Star Trek novels.

I just finished Sarek, (a story with Spock’s dad), a tale with finesse and a touch of Pon Farr that enriches the universe of the original series. (I ignored the ST reboot at the cinema). There, we meet Amanda in depth, and learn about her love affair with Sarek. The novel shows up this Vulcans are not walking cold computers, not perfect, but people with their own emotions, tradition clashes, preferences, disagreements. But they settle their difference in a more zen manner.

As with “Vulcan Heart” by Josepha Sherman (another fine writer we lost in 2012) and Susan Shwartz (many thanks to you!), this reading leaves me with a strong impression that our humanity, sick with conspirators, hate groups, anti-vaccines and anti-science, would need Vulcans (and also the Bene Gesserit, but that’s another universe). Just the basic control of emotions and the philosophy would prevent many problems from even happening (what’s the logic in despising dark-skinned persons?) in addition to cleaning up most prejudices.

The only flaw in this book, alas, is that we can no longer thank its author … Ann Carol Crispin left to count the stars in 2013. It’s a shock when it is a contemporaneous author who disappears.

Has the same thing happened to you? What was your most shocking experience? Please, share your testimony, because I haven’t found my zen state yet. So many writers to be grateful to, so little time!

Fortunately, Ann C. Crispin and the other departed writers have left many books behind, like a trail of excellent chocolate chips leading to the stars!

A Happy Bundle of YA Books!

StoryBundle was created by Jason Chen to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price.

Discover the YA MegaBundle!

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The YA MegaBundle organizer, Anthea Sharp, explains her motivation to link readers and writers with a super ebook deal. I met Andrea in 2016 and she is a talented musician as well as a writer. So I was delighted to be included in the Bundle with my YA SF novel Clouds of Phoenix!

A Word from the YA MegaBundle Curator

“I love connecting authors with one another, and with readers. This huge multi-genre project is a perfect chance to benefit a good cause (children’s literacy) and bring a little brightness into the world—for parents and teens alike—during this difficult time. Continue reading

Brave new Worlds

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Worlds on the brink of apocalypse, or already there.
Nature’s wrath and dominion over humanity, and humanity’s folly incarnate.
Dark magic, terrifying tech, greed, ravaged environments, rare courage and grim hope in lost cities and fallen worlds.

Brave new worlds or last best hopes — Dare you glimpse the future?

Here Be Brave new Worlds – 13 SF & fantasy futuristic stories, novellas and novels, collected by U.K. author A. L. Butcher. I have read some stories by J.D. Brink, Rob Jeshonek and Leah Cutter previously, and their stories are a fine level.

My contribution is the dystopian story Ice Monarch. 

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Come and get it, on the main platforms!

 

 

I fell down a rabbit hole… (The joy of researching)

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I did it again!

I am researching for a SF novel in preparation (the specifics I keep to myself for now) and, one interesting site after one fascinating site, found out that time compressed itself and most of the afternoon had fled down the rabbit hole!

I do not know if my scientific formation aggravates this time-sink habit. I hold a Master degree in geography, and so many aspect of macro-ecology do hold my interests!

Plus, even the very day-to-day concerns penetrates my Serious Writer mode.  From the over-usage of single-used plastics that keep turning up in the remotest places or the oceans, to the waste of my own pens and stylus, to the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, and my own, heart-warming geek love Valentine day short-story…

So, all those tiny bits cluttered like a planet aggregation process, dissolving my focus. Already 16h00?

As I mentioned previously, most of what I ‘m noting right now won’t ever make it to the novel you’ll read somewhere in the next year. Some of those, if I can’t place it in the novel, will turn up, greatly compressed, in one or two exploratory short-stories, set in the same universe.

What I will NOT do is integrating all that painstaking-ly gathered tidbits into the novel itself, under the form of some extra-large infodump, (or a rather lengthy explanation by a secondary character that will get killed in the next chapter).

Research as an iceberg

See research as the hidden part of the iceberg. What floats if what the reader experiences. If you tried to pull more of the iceberg over the water level, like I did in my first books (fortunately Daniel Sernine, my editor of the time, detected it) you would end up with an indigestible lump of details that weights down the storytelling.

Yes, I was one of those very interested in sharing all those cute details!

Yes it is soooo tempting to have your characters stop on a ridge and describe the wondrous landscape in excruciating details, over two or four pages! It is more palatable if the description is shorter, and punchy, like this one from a WIP:

The dunes went on and on, a pale sandbox barely contained by a row of angry mountains, each chipped and corroded summit vying for predominance.

Most of the research iceberg must stay invisible!

Solution is not dilution!

To keep our focus, it’s good to set limits, to avoid diluting our attention.

One solution in time management is to do the research after you complete writing a certain set number of words for the day. This is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s method to limit the time spent in research. She also manage to get her research done before writing the novel, while she’s finishing the previous book.

Not the way of Dean Wesley Smith, who does his research as he writes, because some cool factoids will influence the story telling. I know it happened to a short-story I was researching for.

One obvious solution is to restrain the time passed on the social platforms. Or retire completely from social media in a period of rush. Julie E. Czerneda mentions it.

My own is setting a timer. Sometimes the amount of time is not enough and I prolong the time. Still work to do.

Or I use this experience to write a blog entry.

 


TL;DR : I lost time surfing the web for my research. Some remedies may apply


Flash news:

I had the joy of discovering that my last published SF story in Galaxies 60 (in French!)  is on the selection for the Grand Prix  de l’Imaginaire 2020.

A Short Winter Tale for a Short Day

I participate in the Winter Holiday Spectacular 2019, an initiative from authors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, uniting 35 Christmas stories in various moods: mysteries, romantic stories set around the 25th of December, and winter stories exploring other traditions or special days. My own story “Winter Pariah” celebrates the winter solstice, the Great Christmas Bird Count, and our troubled humanity, in a combination filled with hope and wonder.

This Christmas tale will be up on my official author website  for one week only, and it will be later published on paper next year. Here is  what Kris wrote about it.

 
Winter Pariah
Genre/Mood: quiet
For the actual solstice, I decided to give you “Winter Pariah,” a story that takes place in the thin light of the shortest day of the year.
Michèle Laframboise takes us birding, something I have never done, and creates marvelous characters along the way. Michèle writes in both English and her native French. She also illustrates much of her fiction. Multi-talented doesn’t begin to describe her.
Her award-winning fiction includes nineteen different novels (in both languages), and over forty-five short stories, three of which have appeared in Fiction River (and two reprinted in Fiction River Presents) with more to come. She writes about birding quite often, including a series about Amanda Byrd (whom you will meet here). A collection of Byrd stories will appear shortly. Find out when, and view some bird pics at michele-laframboise.com.
Michèle is a bird watcher herself. In fact, the last time she was here in Las Vegas, she and another writer/birder discovered a part of the city I had never heard of, where they saw some birds (maybe even life birds) that I hadn’t heard of either.
I simply don’t have the patience to stand outside and wait. (I can hear my husband laughing right now.) I would have to bring a book, which defeats the entire purpose of watching. So I’ll experience birding vicariously. On the page. Which is where I prefer to experience many things.
Enjoy this delicate little story on this, the shortest day of the year.
—Kris