Category Archives: Event

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.

#

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.

“Hush,” I said, putting one gloved hand on her shoulder. “Don’t disturb the dozing bird.”

Using a low tone, I reminded her that owls were sleeping in the day, and would she like to be waken up all night by noisy adults?

Mona’s bright eyes misted as soon as she realized her mistake. Of course, this was her first winter birding trail, and also the first time she actually saw in flesh and feathers a full-sized adult owl. She could be allowed a few beginners’ blunders.

“I’m sorry auntie,” she said.

My niece and her husband were staying with an ailing relative, and had left this small bundle of joy with me for the month. (Both of us had been tested as clear from the bug.)

Mona’s presence at home had disrupted my usual routine, scaring Miss Blue off her favorite spot on a corner of my desk. Gaudy-colored plastic toys and Wonder Woman figurines added new obstacles on my way to the bathroom or to the kitchen. But I had kept little Mona’s teenaged mother a long time before. Soon my grand-niece had learned to avoid leaving her toys in the hallway and pulling the cat’s tail, and she helped me dry the dishes after dinner.

Imitating the adults around us (who had heeded the guide’s signal), Mona raised her green plastic binoculars, a meager 7 by 25, to her eyes. She squinted as she adjusted the focal with her mittened hand. (For me, the bird was too close for the strength of my 8×42. I should have taken my geek nephew’s advice and bought a lightweight digital cam.)

Adjusting a focal was hard work with mittens, but I knew the exact moment her field glasses gave her a clear outline. Mona’s lips moved under the mask, parted in a wordless ooh, the air whishing in a low whisper, as she beheld, for the first time in her life, a live, real owl.

Owls had fascinated my little niece no ends, even if she hailed two generations after the first Harry Potter movie.

The bird bug had not taken in my part of the family: my sisters were immune to it, and their children, my nieces and nephew, were, too.

But this small pumpkin had erupted into a volcano of curiosity at the first sight of my bird feeders. She had opened all the books in my living room bookcase, staring at the pictures. She had nagged and nagged to be able to accompany me on this bird observation excursion (the park was not too far from my place).

Presently Mona pulled down the rim of the coordinated red knitted cap that went with the mittens, to cover her ears. (My sister had not gotten the bird bug, but she had inherited mom’s knitting skill.) That was a fault with those fancy ensemble, that littles ears were not protected against the icy kiss of the winter.

“You’re right,” I said, keeping the owl in sight. “It’s cold.”

It was about minus ten centigrade, with was nothing, especially in the sun. But the light breeze added a chill factor that brought the temperatures around minus sixteen. The owl’s voluminous layers of feathers and down would protected its gangly body from the cold. The spotted neck feathers gave the illusion of a scarf wrapped over the shoulders, while longer feathers created a pattern of bars on the chest.

Speaking of cold, I unlatched the convenient ear flaps pinned to my own layered cap. They flopped down, to my small niece’s squealing delight.

“Hah, Auntie! You look like Sherlock Holmes!” she said, giggling.

One bundled up birder a few feet up our trail sucked in his breath in an audible gurgle. I turned, my nylon parka rustling, feeling as awkward as if I had been the one noisy. The habit of getting up in the early-morning hours had made me equally reverent of the moments of silence.

It was a thirty-something man, his thick frame wrapped in a gray Canada Goose coat with a raised collar, and a striped seaman’s cap that could hide a bald spot.

The optics he was fingering were topnotch: a Nikon camera with a canon-sized objective, that warranted weight-distributing frontal harness. And in those large coat pockets would be a notebook and pen to record his sightings, unless his cell phone had the Audubon application.

(My geek nephew tried and tried to make me adopt the app instead of lugging my field book. I had humored him by exchanging my brick-sized Sibley Guide to a lighter pocket-sized edition that was easier to carry. By with my years of birding, I rarely needed to consult the book for myself.)

His age was difficult to pinpoint under his mask, because his face hesitated between a teenager’s chubbiness and an adult’s sharp planes. You could make a Hollywood career with those dark eyes and cheekbones.  

But for now, those expressive eyes had locked on my niece, as if surprised to find a child here, before veering back toward the object of his curiosity, the 22-inch long Barred owl.

I recognized that kind of eager look. I prepared some apologetic words, but he had already positioned his eye to the funnel-shaped rubber ocular.

Most of the avid birders went to great lengths to spot a life bird, a bird they had never seen before. The corollary was, a genuine impatience towards beginners, or anyone susceptible to scare their prize bird away.

Which was exactly what happened a second later.

#

Whether because of Mona’s giggle or the man’s sucking in his breath, or else because another, unseen movement from another part of the woods had alarmed it, the barred owl decided that retreat was the better part of valor. He leapt off the branch and beat silent wings through the brush, in quest of a better resting place.

Owls had to be silent, because they could not soar like an eagle on windless, thermal-less nights, so they had to beat their wings. They had special fringed feathers that muffled the air flow noise. The special thing was, they needed to be silent not in order to surprise their rodent prey, but to be able to hear the tiny noises of a wood mice burrowing under a few inches of snow.

I followed its wavy flight through the wood until the owl settled on the highest branch of a distant tree, with too much interference to get a clear shot. It melted in the décor so well the eye lost its shape once I looked down.

I mouthed a silent sorry to the eager one.

“Ah, geeez”, the man said, pronouncing words with a raspy voice that made me wince in sympathy with his vocal chords. “And I came all the way from Toronto to get my first Barred owl!”

He was making it look like a rare bird, but Barred owls enjoyed a wide territory. He could have observed one closer to home if he had bothered.

Now, if the sore-throat man had seen a spotted owl, I would have commiserated more. The spotted owl had shared the same range, as the Barred owl, living a forested habitat feeding off arboreal mice, before man razed most forests to make place for fields. They were almost extinct here, in the east. Identifying one would bring a hoot from the birder community. 

He blinked, red-rimmed chestnut eyes that could have been from jet lag or too much drinking. That was the other problem. His rasping cough, that would have sent anyone scurrying for cover, brough my attention back to him.

“Auntie, do you think he had the corvid?” Mona asked.

The pumpkin had never pronounced the name right. The horrid Covid pandemic would be slowly receding in the background once more vaccines seeped through the population, but we were not there yet; many shrank from a coughing stranger.

I expected the birder to recoil, but he just shrugged. As we all kept our distances in the wild, he was not currently masked.

“Just the sore throat,” he said.

He hoisted his heavy cam to catch up with the guide and the core knot of dedicated birders.  

On the ‘Superb Owl’ day, women composed most of our group, either Superbowl ‘widows’ or real widows, like me. Or bachelors like Elaine Morris, our guide, a veteran who had found in the bird-filled woods a gentle way to heal from the traumas she endured in her tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Birders in a given region tended to aggregate, so I knew most of the others by name or by sight. Except the sore-throat foreigner, who was the sole man among us.

So we were threading the park for owls, of course, but if one failed to present itself to our gaze, there were a ton of other species wintering in the area. Sharp yellow grossbeaks, the Christmas-themed northern cardinal, gray Canada jays, blue jays provided our entertainment, along with snappy red squirrels.

As we followed the well-marked trail, Mona soon got enthralled with a playful band of black-capped chickadees, their chirpy see-mee and sudden tlocs. The seasoned birders among us ambled past her and me, because they were on the prowl for a more elusive citizens. Only the man lagged behind.

“Do you think we’ll see another barred owl?” the stranger asked.

His too-gravelly voice, a few decibels over the chickadees’ twirps, attracted my grand-niece’s attention.

Keeping my voice under the background threshold, I explained that owls, being predators, needed more space to collect their food.

“Sometimes, they need several kilometer-wide areas to roam,” I said.

“So we might not see another one?” the man asked, looking crestfallen.

Defeat added more gravel in his voice.

“Not necessarily,” I said. “This conservation park covers more than thirty square kilometers of wood and lakes, so we might find many other owls.”

Beside the huge barred owls, there were smaller species that occasionally visited the park, like the sharply contrasted boreal owl and the northern saw-whet owl, its chest marked with vertical brown and white stripes. If not, the reddish eastern screech owl was a full year resident, and the most likely to be seen in those woods.

As I mentioned the other species, he suddenly he pivoted to clear his sore throat. My ear caught the weird gurgle, again. I wondered if he was in the throes of a bad flu virus, or the “corvid”. He didn’t look red in the face nor feverish, but the knots at the corners of his mouth.

#

“Is there a problem?” a voice said.

Elaine had retraced her steps as soon as she heard the man coughing.

She was sturdy and broad-shouldered in her ivory goose feather coat, the straps of a heavy camping pack biting in the coat, the rim of her hood framing her square face. She had had a good marriage until after her Afghanistan tour, when one PTSD crisis landed her in a vet’s hospital.

It had been years ago; Elaine had told me it was better this way, for her loved ones. She stopped at the six-foot distance.

“Are you OK?” she said, her voice barely less raspy than the man’s.

The Canadian looked up at her, reddening.

“It’s, it’s not it, not at all,” he said. “This’ my (cough) normal voice. Now.”

“Take some water,” Mona said, earnest in her helping mood. “My auntie has a gourd.”

But the man shook his head.

“Can’t. It’s worse.”

“Why?” Mona asked, her fluted voice making her sound like a whining mocking jay.

“Because, er, it’s like having ice cubes wrecking the soft cushions inside my throat.”

Elaine raised a gloved hand to her neck, her concerned eyes peeking over her Birds of NY State green mask.

“You hurt your voice, didn’t you, Al?”

Of course, she had taken the names of the group, five bucks each (which was a really nice-price for a birding excursion in Covid times, that complemented her army pension.)

He nodded, not trusting his voice. Those ‘soft cushions’ would be his vocal chords. From the depth of the wood, a Blue Jay called, its voice was nasal and raspy.

A silent look passed between them, at this moment.

Not love, or anything sappy.

Elaine couldn’t do sappy anymore, not after seeing two members of her unit blown up by an improvised bomb meters from the truck she was driving. Not after lying awake so many nights after, jumping at the least noise and scaring her daughter and husband away.

Only birding had brought her back from the abyss. As for the foreigner, he clearly had his own demons.

“Look,” Elaine said. “I have a thermos of hot chocolate. We’ll pause in at the table a half kilometer from here.”

I knew the rest stop she spoke of. (There was also a coarse restroom and a bear-proof waste bin.)

“And,” I added, “if we’re lucky, we should meet some life birds for you there.”

Ah, birders! His eyes cleared in a moment, as if the sun had just risen.

#

“So, mister Al, what happened to you voice?” Mona asked, sipping from the hot cocoa mug.

We had taken one of the two tables, minding the spaces, and shared the two thermos (I always brought one hot tea thermos in winter excursions, with metal cups).

“Did a bad witch stole it, like the little Mermaid’s who couldn’t sing anymore?”

I winced. That had been one Disney movie too many. The D channel was a good babysitter, letting me go about my things, but not for extended period.

Al closed his eyes as he swallowed tiny sips of hot chocolate. Then he clacked his tongue.

“No witch stole my voice,” he said. “I did it to myself.”

Elaine tipped the thermos at arm’s length to refill his cup.

“What do you mean?” she asked, taking a sip from her own cup.

The sun played through the towering pine’s needles, covering us with bright and shady spots. The birder friends were chatting amiably at the other table.

He winked at Mona.

“I had one thing in common with the little Mermaid,” he said. “I sang, before.”

“Oooh,” Mona said, so excited she almost upset her hot cocoa cup.

It was a perfect hoot, but no barred owl answered her call.

However, Al did.

#

“I loved music since I was a tot, and singing, but my parents could not afford lesson. So I mostly learned by listening to radio. I grew up, work small waiter jobs, played guitar, until I met comrades from the college who were forming a hard rock band.”

“Which one?” Elaine asked.

“Boys Meet Girls,” he said.

Our guide rose an inquisitive eyebrow.

“I know, it’s a stupid name,” he said. “I was the lead singer in the band, and we managed to self-produce one DVD. Then we signed with a producer who put us on the road. Our brand of sound was wildly popular. But I sang without method, without training my voice, and that was, let’s say, hard on the vocal chords.”

Elaine’s hand went to her own throat.

“I had some throat irritation, but I thought that it was fatigue from the tour. Then, two years after, one evening in Las Vegas, my voice crashed, in the middle of a song.”

“Oh,” Mona said, rapt. 

“But, didn’t that producer of yours monitored your voice?” Elaine asked.

He shrugged.

“I guess I never asked, or he never asked. He gave me a week, but I was not even able to speak at the time. The doctor who examined me told my vocal chords were finished. As per my contract, as I wasn’t getting back, the producer found a replacement. They are still active nowadays, doing the circuit.”

“Did you get another doctor to look at you?” Elaine asked.

“Yes. Three years after I was let out of the band, I was living at my parents, finishing an accountant’s formation. My mom’s insisted I saw a doctor. He found, well, polyps on one, like a peanut-sized bulge on one chord.”

Hurray for his mother, I thought.

He took another sip, because his voice, in there telling had gone more and more rash.

“And did he direct you to the proper service?” Elaine asked, indignation in her voice. “In Canada, you do have a public health care, don’t you?”

He lifted one hand.

“Yes, but there’s a waiting time, My operation was scheduled in Montréal, but then, 2020 happened. Every non-essential surgery was postponed to make room for Covid patients. The polyp’s till here.”

He let out a sigh, then pursed his lips.

“Not ever being able to sing again, that was a nightmare. My life was over.”

“You can’t say that,” Elaine asked.  

“You see, I wasn’t even a composer,” he said. “Just an interpreter. So, really, without my voice, I didn’t know what to do.”

The pine boughs rustled over our heads. I raised an eye. Blue jays perching. Then gone.

“So you found the birds,” I said, squinting to follow the blue tinged flight of Jays.

He nodded.

“Yes, after I got busted from the band. I had been depressed and ill, and was resting on my parent’s patio. My mom had three bird mangers, close to my long chair.

Decidedly, I would look up his mother in Montréal.

“And she put some grains in my hands. And the birds came, and more birds, like I was like a Francis of Assisi!”

Mona let out a sigh, fingering her binoculars.

“This is so cute!”

Al smiled at her.

“Yes, and I wanted to know their names. More than their names: where they went, how they lived. And I wanted to listen to them.”

How variously we came to the love of birds!

Elaine’s eyes were misting.

“Yes. I did find the birds, after Afghanistan.”

He raised his eyes in surprise.

“What happened to you kind of happened to me, in the army,” she said. “Barking orders in the dry desert climate will mess up your voice fast. Sergeants are no doctors, so they bark and bark until they are hoarse. And then they bark the next day.”

He blinked.

“You were a sergeant? But, you do have a fine voice,” he said. “Just a bit rough on the edges. Not like, wasted like mine.”

“Your producer was a miser,” Elaine said. “There are, in Canada and here, very good specialists who could help you like they had helped me (thanks to Uncle Sam).A surgery, and special exercises, some voice training, so the damage to my own chords were repaired.”

She put her gloved hand on her throat.

“I’m no mermaid, however,” she added, winking at Mona.

My grandniece piped in.

“But maybe you’ll get yourself a prince, one day!”

Oooh, that child! I felt my face heating up, flushing red like a northern cardinal.

But the former sergeant and the former rock star burst out laughing or, rather, hissing softly in the case of Al. The two looked quite at ease around each other, like old friends.

This time, when the pine needles rustled nearby, we looked in time to see the red mottled beast perched on a mid-level branch. It was twice as short as the Barred owl, but this Eastern Screech Owl made it up with its round yellow eyes fixed on us. Mona contained a squeal when she saw the Harry-Potter-quality tufted horns prolonging the eyebrows.

“There, auntie! The Superb Owl!”

And, maybe by fortune or because the sergeant and the rock star were busy checking if they were prince or mermaid, the red-feathered owl stayed to accept our reverent gratitude.

THE END

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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!

All Books Large800

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.

We’ve gathered a truly exceptional collection of YA books for you in a range of SF/F genres. Whether you’re looking for a pulse-pounding action in space, a witchy urban fantasy mystery, or a sweeter tale of unicorns and magic, this MegaBundle delivers.

And not only are these 28 books packed with fabulous adventure, the bundle itself is an amazing deal. In the spirit of generosity and providing hope, authors have included books that, combined, would cost over $50 if bought at regular retail price. Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy that is also doing some important food security outreach right now for the disadvantaged population it serves. Check out more at Mightywriters.org.

Pay what you want! Since money is tight for a lot of people, we’ve set the floor of this bundle at a mere dollar, but if you’re in a position to spend a little more for this great collection, please do. It’s worth it.

So scoop up this bundle, get over two dozen novels (including award-winning books from NYT and USA Today bestselling authors), AND make the world a better place. What are you waiting for?” 

– Anthea Sharp

*

The line up

For this special YA MegaBundle, you get all 28 books for a price you name, in multiple formats—WORLDWIDE

  • Glimpse by Stacey Wallace Benefiel
  • Night of the Hidden Fang by T. James Logan
  • Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison
  • Beautiful Demons – Books 1-3 by Sarra Cannon
  • Blazing Blunderbuss by Nix Whittaker
  • Clouds of Phoenix by Michèle Laframboise
  • Fighting the Morrigan’s Hand by Meyari McFarland
  • The Black Opal by Linda Jordan
  • Faery Novice by Leslie Claire Walker
  • Tiffany Tumbles by Kristine Grayson
  • Fractured Memories by Jo Schneider
  • With Perfect Clarity by Jamie Ferguson
  • Faery Unexpected by Deb Logan
  • The Falconer by Darcy Pattison
  • The Sphere of Infinit yby Day Leitao
  • One Bad Wish  by Bonnie Elizabeth
  • Faster  by Annie Reed
  • Atlantis Riptide by Allie Burton
  • Running Wide Open  by Lisa Nowak
  • The McCall Initiative – Episodes 1-3 by Lisa Nowak
  • Blades Of Magic: Crown Service Book #1 by Terah Edun
  • Unicorn Magic by Roz Marshall
  • Hadrian’s Flight by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Stars & Steam by Anthea Sharp
  • The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp
  • Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt
  • Faelorehn by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson
  • The Finding by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

The StoryBundle blog has all the details.

Why StoryBundle?

Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

PAY WHAT YOU WANT, dollar edition! 28 wonderful YA books (over $50 retail value), starting at one dollar for the entire bundle. You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine!

HOURS, NAY, WEEKS, OF GREAT READING – Thousands of pages worth of adventure, magic, dragons, spaceships, love, fairies, computer gaming, feuds, mysteries, and more await.

HELP A GREAT CAUSE – 50% of the profits go to support Mighty Writers, a children’s literacy charity who are also doing important food security outreach during this difficult time.

AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE direct from StoryBundle. Plus easy directions on how to get the YA MegaBundle of books onto your e-reader of choice.

DRM-FREE BOOKS: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM*.

Make the world, and your life, better – whether you’re hooking your teen reader up, reading for your own pleasure, or both!

*

And…

My last argument: this YA Megabundle is an even better deal than my summer garage sales!

 

The happy author finding treasures in garage sales

Michèle Laframboise (aka the Sunday Artist) in her quest for cheap good reads!


*Digital Rights Management, restricting the format and sharing of the books.

 

 

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!

 

 

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

Report on my Ad Astra 2019

The Ad Astra brings together fans and authors of science fiction & fantastic, both literary and mediatic in the north of Toronto. It’s a very user-friendly conference, which has left me with good memories.

Échofictions at the Ad Astra 2019

My house Échofictions had its vending table, which was successful. When people stop by themselves to look at the books and ask me questions, once in three, they leave with a book. Much better than my score at the big book fairs, where, on average, only 1 in 20 stop by my signing , because few readers come for the SF!

Michèle Laframboise devant son kiosque Échofictions

Michèle poses proudly in front of her stand, full of butterflies!

I launched the English version of my first SF novel, Clouds of Phoenix. Yes, the cover has changed, and the story has gained consistency. It’s the same story, but a little more detailed at 46,000 words! It is also the first full-length novel printed by Echofictions, whose full graphic design I realized.

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Clouds of Phoenix, a novel by SF YA, 214 p.

Activities at Ad Astra

The nice surprises of the Ad Astra congress are the meetings with SF amateurs who did not know my books, and who discovered them. And to find fellow science fiction writers like Robert J. Sawyer, Julie Czerneda and Tania Huff presenting their latest Sf novels.

I have come to love this event; the sale tables are not expensive and the audience generous! I’ve offered a good choice of books translated into English.

Un Cosplay typique du Ad Astra

A typical Cosplay. Don’t ya love’em! I admire the cosplayers’ time and effort to make their costumes. The craftswoman Squid Creations behind the band does not look too scared!

Table de bijoux artisanaux

A craft table.

Mon voisin de kiosque au Ad Astra Zachry Wheeler

My stand neighbor, an independent writer, Zachri Wheeler, very well organized! We exchanged books. Note the announcement of the film in development, it is always useful.

Douglas Smith

Douglas Smith (a Toronto-area author) reading an excerpt from his novel The Wolf at the End of the World. I had already bought his book Playing the Short Game, at another Ad Astra

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Allan Weiss and Michèle. It’s been 16 years that we know each other! Allan is a specialist and author of SF. Bow ties are cool!

Some Ad Astra panels I attended

My husband and son kept the table while I was there.

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How to publish without spending too much!

How to publish for not too expensive, led by Beverly Bambury (center, black dress). The gentleman on the right, well organized, rolled his cupboard full of books!

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The animals in fantasy with Avi Silver (left), Catherine Fitzsimmons and Eli Hirst. How to treat the Other, how to show the animal companions of heroes, or when animals are heroes.

2019-07-13MiddleAges
How to make medieval stories fantasy or historical. The mistakes to avoid! With Cathy Hird and L. A. MacLachean.

Book Harvest

Mon mari achète des livres au Ad Astra 2019

My husband buys books, a lot of books. He hides his secret identity well under his glasses…

Two Dark Moons

Two Dark Moons

For my current reading, I discover a new author Avi Silver, who considers himself non-binary.

In Two Dark Moons, we follow a teenager of the Hmuns who live in caves in the altitudes of the Eiji world, because the soil of the jungle is traversed by disturbing reptilian predators. Sohmen falls by accident (his fall broken by many branches). About 200 pages is very short, and enjoyable reading, in addition to staging non-gendered characters.

The Wolf at the End of the World

The Wolf at the End of the World

My colleague Douglas Smith signed his first novel to me, The Wolf at the End of the World, which mixes Native American legends and espionage, not to mention the nature threatened by greed on the part of the rich. Among us are Herokas, magic humans who can change into animals. Obviously, the secret services consider them as threats … But a too-hungry Wendigo and lost loves of the past mix the cards.

Canadian Dreadful

Canadian Dreadful, Anthology by David Tocher

Canadian Dreadful is a fantasy horror anthology inspired by the dark aspects of our beautiful big Canada. Edited by David Tocher, it brings together Canadian authors including Nancy Kilpatrick. I would not have bought it, but two public readings by participating authors convinced me to taste it!

I have not read yet the other books bought by my husband, a staunch supporter of new indie authors!

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The things I learned from Ad Astra:

1- Novels sell better than short books and comics. Clouds of Phoenix was my best seller, almost half of my sales!

2- Participate in the round tables next year. It allows a first contact with the public, rather than “cold calling” behind a sales table.

3- Bring a tablecloth! It was not supplied, so I used a big poster to hide the uneven wood.

4- The month of July was not ideal, with less attendance due to vacations. Daniel, one of the organizers, said that the Ad Astra 2020 would come back in mid-April, at the same time as the Quebec book fair, oops!

5- If you missed the Ad Astra, know that … I will return next year, with new books. In the meantime, have a look at Echofictions’ list of publications!

Beat the heat with 10 refreshing books!

As the summer heat and Canada Day are upon us, most of you are looking for a place to spend your vacations… and for good science fiction adventure books to read!

So I look forward to dive into refreshing novels.

The choices are so much diverse than when I was a teenager looking for space adventures, and finding only guy’s adventures. I would say “white guy’s adventures” but in the 80s, male characters were on their way of getting more diverse, not so the female characters… (There were notable exceptions, and books from Ursula K. LeGuin that I  didn’t know existed at the time.)

When I dip into the waters of an enthralling story (like The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal ) and explore its depths, forgetting all about the outside world. It feels like this:

 

Reading GoodBookShort

When you emerge from a powerful and moving story, gratitude floods you, along with a faint regret of having finished the book… but there are many other waiting!

And, speaking of good books…

SpaceTravelCovers1000

The Space Travelers StoryBundle reunites several wonderful writers, and I am proud to be a part of it with one novel (Clouds of Phoenix, featuring a disabled heroine on planet Phoenix) and one short-story (Closing the Big Bang) in the Space Travelers Anthology.

This StoryBundle is a joint promotion that gets 10 very affordable books in your hands, and helps you discover new writers along the way.

More details about how the Space Travelers StoryBundle works for you are explained in last week’s blog entry. The gist is: you pay what you want for the ebooks, and they will get into your reading device, whatever formatting you use. This helps the writers get new readers.

As for discovering new authors, I already knew Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, and they are entertaining and never dull. I discovered Robert J. Jeschonek, Lindsay Buroker and Leigh Saunders for their short-stories in anthologies.

However, I will discover Kristine Smith (I met her in 2006 at a convention) with this StoryBundle.

I can’t wait to dive into those new, exciting novels!

 

 

Space Travelers StoryBundle cracks open new science fiction books

Discover new frontiers! 

When social medias and distributors force writers to shell out  more and more money to promote their books, the quest for visibility  spurs an unhealthy competition among writers. Getting readers to discover us is a challenge.

So, bundling e-books is a creative, cooperative way for writers to promote each other, and to get good books to SF readers.

SpaceTravelCovers1000

The Space Travelers Story Bundle regroup ten science fiction books, novels and anthologies curated by KK Rusch. This collective promotion effort makes you discover new writers and get a taste of  their work.

I have read stories from, and met in person, half of the authors participating in this bundle. If you are a Star Trek afficionado, you will love Robert Jeschonek! And I have read in KK Rusch’s Retriveal artist series and Dean Wesley Smith’s Seeder’s universe. However, I still have to discover the Grand Theft Starship Anthology!

Yet, there is not only one Laframboise in this bundle, but two! One of my SF stories has been re-published in the Fiction River Presents #9: Space Travelers.

2019_ebookCOVER_CloudsPhoenix150  and FictionRiverPresents09_150

How the StoryBundle works:

All information can be found on the StoryBundle website, but here are three distinct advantages for passionate readers:

  1. YOU choose how much you pay for the bundle, either basic (four novels, befinning at 5$) or extended (beginning at 15$) which makes it advantageous
  2. YOU control the percentage of your price that will go to StoryBundle and to the authors (the default is 30%/70%)
  3. YOU can opt in to give 10% to a charity featured. Able Gamers helps adapt video games for people living with various disabilities (like my son said yesterday, can you imagine a color-blind person playing a game?)

Not only do you help authors, but you can share the Space Travelers Bundle to help others discover new books. Four of those  books are new works, exclusive to this Bundle.

Your three-week mission is to help promote this wonderful summer reading Bundle around you.

Starting now!

Taste new indie voices on Bookfunnel!

In a sea of millions stories available on Amazon, the indie writer (despite her-his talent) is a single drop. Discoverability becomes a challenge.

To augment our visibility, instead of bickering, we help each other to make the stories more prominent.

Indie authors helping their discoverability

The main advantage of A Short and Awesome Promotion  is that the featured free stories are shorter than novels or trilogies. So,  between October 1-31, you get to taste various writers for free!

Time-limited joint promotions help readers discover new indie authors they might like. Besides my own work, you get to find many other voices. That’s discoverability.

My book “How to Think Inside the Box” has joined the Short and Awesome Promotion on Bookfunnel! If you like first contact stories featuring an alien POV, this one is for you! Dip into this chunky 7000-word SF story.

 

 

Books are like Ice cream

I always say that books are like ice cream, there are a lot of flavors besides vanilla. So among the 100+ authors participating, you might find some enjoyable stories by an unknown author.

Well, I found my wonderful friend SF author Douglas Smith offering “Spirit Dance”. Visit also Douglas’ website, a very comprehensive resource for writers in all stages of their career. Particularly of interest is his foreign-language markets list. His book, Playing the Short Game, is a must for the short-story writer wanting to get published in magazines.

Ignite by Emerald Dodge, is the brain behind this promotion. Her series of YA novels features Jillian Johnson, young superheroine called “Battlecry”.

See in particular the story “Beginnings” by Tikiri. The opening is grabbing and heart-wrenching. The author denounces in a firm voice the exploitation of women; her novel follows a trio of rebel women endeavouring to bring some justice in this harsh modern world. “Beginnings” reaches in the past on one of the “red-heeled rebels” heroines.

As for brand new voices in SF, the Clone Crisis prequel “Alexi” by first-time author Melissa Faye is a YA dystopian SF about, yes, a society made entirely of clones: how do you manage sound family relations?

“If the world is all clones, what happens to family units? Raising your own clone feels strange, like inbreeding” Melissa says aboutthe inspiration behind her series on her author’s website.

There are about one hundred short reads offered on the Bookfunnel page, enough to sate your thirst for reading. On Bookfunnel between october 1st to Halloween!

A parting word before you dive in this promo…

The most beautiful gift you can give the authors in exchange for their free book is to share your pleasure about it.

Leave a review on Goodreads.com or on any platform (Amazon, Kobo…) featuring the author’s books.

Reviews really go a long way to help a clueless reader (like me!) decides if the ebook is worth his-her time and money. Even simple “starred” evaluation do help readers in theri choices. Don’t leave a read book site silent!

Of course, after you have taken a taste, you can also visit the websites of your newly- discovered storytellers and buy their books!

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Summary of the Short and Awesome Promotion:

WHAT: SF & fantasy short-stories and novellas

WHERE: On Bookfunnel.com

WHEN: between October 1st to 31st -Halloween eve!

HOW MUCH: Free!

WHO TO THANK: Emerald Dodge has organized this promo

HOW TO THANK an AUTHOR: Leave a ***** evaluation or a review on Goodreads.com (for a starters)!