After a busy summer counting birds and writing, I come back with the first English graphic novel for a long time!
On the leafy planet Luurdu, young Adalou dreams of becoming a wind mistress. Alas, she faces a thorny competition because the kite choregraphy brings a high prestige to women who excel in this art. Adalou must overcome her family’s opposition, her biological limits and the jealousy of high-class rivals to conquer her place in the sun.
A graphic novel set in the universe of the space-faring Gardeners, sprouting from the fertile imagination of Michèle Laframboise.
My fresh new YA graphic novel, Mistress of the Winds, set in my Gardeners’ universe, will be out an about in September. 92 pages, B&W art. The pre-order link is here.
An extract here.
I’ll Be Moon for Christmas
My Holiday-themed story, “I’ll Be Moon for Christmas” will be featured in Asimov’s end-of-year issue. With fine cover neighbors like Kris Kathryn Rusch and Ray Nayler! I devored their previous stories, which doesn’t mean I won’t discover the new (to me!) voices in this upcoming issue.
This will be my fourth publication in Asimov’s, laying to rest the idea of a fluke when the magazine accepted my first story. It is also my first Holiday SF tale and. by the title, you may guess what immortal song is playing in my mind!
On the Canadian front, I will have two stories coming up in Polar Borealis 25 and 27, edited by Greame Cameron. On the French front, there will be a hard-SF story coming up in the French SF magazine Géante Rouge at some point in 2022 or 2023.
Meanwhile, I tend to lag behind in the reading department… I should finish my current SF mags OnSpec, Analog & and Asimov’s !
I am emerging from a frenzy of art events in Montréal and the complexity of putting up a graphic novel with *Vellum* of all things. Now I can proudly boast my latest publication : Maîtresse des vents, a 92-page graphic novel in French, from my own SF universe. My cover pic has been put into magnificent colors by my talented colleague Frank Fournier.
It is my first graphic novel published since a few years. I published with my own indie house because I was tired of waiting after various French publishers all hoping for the next popular thing.
I had a blast drawing 16 new pages and sketches to complete the story, and will work to distribute the paperback version in some outlets. Here’s one of those recent additions.
There is a section with various sketches at the end of the book. It will be a small pocket book format. The electronic copies are available on various platforms.
If you are patient, I will get the English version done as soon as possible. After all, the computer technology and Clip Studio make this endeavor less painful.
Title: Maîtresse des vents, Un récit de l’univers des Jardiniers
When days get shorter, we seek the comfort of a good book, with hot chocolate. These five stories are about trials and new beginnings, and how friendship or even love can bloom in any situation, as long as you don’t give up hope for the future.
Immerse yourself in five Holiday tales of compassion and courage, of wonders and sweetness by multi-award winner Michèle Laframboise, to enjoy with your favorite mug of warm chocolate !
Why those Holiday stories?
The first days of December are always difficult, for not only is the light dimming, but the news that bombards us discourages us with its darkness. Women’s rights, the rights of poor people to a life of dignity, access to the vote, respect for others, all the progress that I witnessed growing up are now under threat. The magic of the holidays seems very fragile like a crystal Christmas ball …
So these stories are about friendship and hope. On a human scale.
The 5 Chocolate Holiday Stories range from realism to fantasy and romance, and locations range from New York City to Toronto to the beautiful Appalachian countryside. However, the questions asked are as old as humanity. Is there any magic left at Christmas? Will I find a good man? A loyal friend? Can I protect my forest? We meet people struggling forward despite difficulties, mental illness, prejudices and the loss of their youthful ideal.
And the marvelous can spring from a wounded bird found in the cold, or from a stray delivery truck on a suburban street.
People who are caught in difficult health situations, forced to undergo expensive surgeries and suffering from illnesses, and their overwhelmed caregivers, also experience great stress. They yearn for a respite, a door ajar leading to a sweeter world.
So, a book, like hot chocolate, makes the reader forget their difficulties for a little moment of happiness.
We need an escape so badly!
Romances are often snobbed and called escape literature. But what’s wrong with wanting a respite, a break from this relentless pressure of negative information?
I have penned some heavy and dystopian science fiction (Ice Monarch, La ruche) that explored the excesses of capitalism running amok. But I also feel the need to write stories that caress, that appease.
And stories which can be put in all hands. English speakers often talk of “clean” romance (as if sexuality between consenting adults was immoral or dirty!) but I prefer the adjective sweet romance, which gives an idea of sweetness, while promising the reader a certain restreint in graphic descriptions and/or swearing.
Hot chocolate for the soul !
I hope no one is left lonely or left out in the cold. And may the grieving souls find comfort in reading and music.
Do you remember the Chicken soup for the Soul collection? Well, a cup of chocolate for the soul is good too!
And, why not, read a good book while smelling the aroma of hot chocolate!
Practical info about those 5 chocolate-Rich holiday tales
The book contains three short and sweet romances, one magical Santa tale, and one friendship tale with birds.
Those chocolate-friendly Holiday tales are:
upbeat, hope-filled stories
all-ages friendly tales (what the English call “clean & wholesome” but I prefer to say sweet)
featuring colorful women who overcome difficulties and prejudices
Covering from the Winter solstice to Christmas Eve.
Any story can be read on a bus ride to work (3000 to 7400 words)
Useful links to offer those 5 holiday talesas a present
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 !
(This is an extract of the story. The ebook is available on paper and ebook formats at Echofictions.com.)
Chicks and Chickadees A Fearless Lady Byrd Adventure
by Michèle Laframboise
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.
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.
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.
The love call tempered my disappointment. A chickadee’s spring mating call was a soft flute, not migraine-inducing at all. Maybe Ron Sully had called my room number, and I had been sleeping too soundly to be roused?
I checked the hotel phone.
No blinking red light. So no calls. I thought fast.
If I skipped breakfast and toothbrushing, I had a thin chance to catch the 6h30 AM hotel shuttle and get to the Park entrance in time. Normally, I would have called a taxi, but the town abutting the gigantic park didn’t have a lot of those, and no way at my age would I adopt the Uber application my tech-savvy nephew was raving about.
My hands went to my night gown, holding my full bladder.
To the bath-cave, my numb brain ordered.
While scurrying to the bathroom to get my three essentials “U” (Urine drain, Uplifting cream, UV screen), I thought about the surprises that this coming day held in reserve.
Birding expeditions were a fascinating adventure I had shared with Paul, my husband for thirty-two wonderful years. Then Paul’s strong body had been grabbed by the Crab, and nothing had been the same ever since.
Only our common love of birds had saved me from spiraling into depression and alcohol after Paul’s death. Each bird tour was a way of reconnecting with the man who had meant so much to me.
I got dressed, bundled my dog-eared Sibley Guide to Birds, my 8×25 Bushnell field binoculars in their case, and filled my water bottle at the sink.
Next, I put on my “fearless lady explorer hat”.
Strapping it under my chin, I looked like a Victorian-era explorer matron. The vintage pith jungle helmet had been a joking gift from Paul. I wore it without qualms: besides being well-padded, the off-white pith hat was a fine conversation starter.
I even got to learn what the word steampunk meant.
Minutes later, I walked up to the front desk among enticing smells of breakfast prepared at the restaurant, my soft-soled walking shoes plopping softly on the waxed oak floorboards. The morning clerk looked up at me from his screen, all fresh face and pimples.
“Can I do something for you?” he asked, his eyes squinting at my Victorian pith hat.
The first words coming to me were: Wasn’t someone supposed to wake me up? But I chose a more diplomatic approach.
“Yesterday, did I leave instructions for a wake-up call?”
The boy (I write boy because he couldn’t have been more than 16) bent on the screen raising like a flat obsidian monolith between us. I could only see his combed auburn hair, like waves.
“No, you didn’t.”
Oh, I thought. So I had forgotten.
No wonder. The plane trip had been exhausting.
Two hot-headed (and thoroughly inebriated) guys were spreading their politics around in loud angry voices with scant regard for their fellow passengers. As they sat on the row before me, it had been impossible to doze off.
Eventually the flight attendant got tired of the hate spiel and shushed them. As the attendant was a brown-skinned, petite Indian-looking stewardess, they scoffed and leered at her politeness, making me wish I had some knitting needles or hat pins to prod them in the ribs with, or more stamina. Only when the head steward, a burly, fortyish man with a military buzz cut, came to back up his colleague, did the two goons tone down, relenting under a male authority.
So I had accepted the complimentary wine glass on board to complement the kneaded napper meal.
Later, at the three stars, medium-sized hotel, I had been only too happy to meet fellow birders to care. The local brand offered at supper proved one sip too much, but I would discover this only in the morning.
The rumbling under my seat lulled me to a better mood. I munched on a soft ChocoPower bar, the one with nuts, while the shops and motels of the outskirts were replaced by fields and forested stretches. My multipocketed coat was rolled under my back to provide a support for my spine, and I rested my slightly pounding ball against the fabric headrest, the explorer hat on my knees.
It was past 6h 45 when the hotel shuttle grinded to a halt on the blacktop of the parking near the Conservatory entrance. (A conservatory was the same thing as a natural park, but without the noisy camping grounds.)
The parking lot was bare, except for a pine hut contained a pit toilet, and a green and blue minivan with the words Sully’s Birding Tour printed in another shade of blue across a pale grey seagull outline. Which looked strange because, this far inside the continent, the only seagulls I had seen were the ubiquitous ring-billed seagulls actively checking out the hotel’s waste containers.
I stepped off the shuttle in a deflated mood. At this hour, most morning birds would have flown off to ensure their survival. I would get the obvious customers, robins, woodpeckers and the happy-chirping chickadees.
The group’s route must have been another useful info the organizers had trusted to the Internet. Hence, I wasted another two minutes of early morning observation to consult the large wooden map, discolored by years of exposition to the elements. The paths were marked by vivid-colored plastic ribbons.
More disappointment piled as I discovered that most of those brightly-colored paths were over four kilometers long, and crossed higher slope gradients that I cared for.
I pulled out the tiny flat green cell my nephew had given me.
I didn’t care much for using a phone while birding, but I needed to know which path the group took. I punched the main number. After three rings, a primp, happy-sounding voice announced that Sully Bird Tour were unavailable and would I like to leave a message?
Of course, they would have disconnected their cells, because a sudden noise erupting from a pocket could scare the birds away. Even the more discreet vibration setting was picked up by the birds’ tine-tuned ears, resembling a low-throated alarm buzz that most species heeded as a predator presence warning.
I puffed my cheeks. Looking at the tour bus, I decided to leave a low-tech message. I sacrificed a page from my small do-it-all notebook for the busy woman (a gift from my niece) and wrote my cell number and my name, plus “on Trail 4”.
Trail 4 was the shortest circuit available, which would let me amble at my own pace and make the best of this day. And, with luck, one of the guides would check on me.
After a cautious stop at the pit toilet (making sure my cell phone did not fall at the bottom), I set on the path winding between tall pines.
This story was up for one week only, for International Women’s Day, but I left it on this blog five months because: this Covid period needed hopeful stories. If you liked it and want to support my writing, please buy the ebook and offer it to someone. Available on paper and ebook formats at Echofictions.com. Bird Pic (c) Shutterstock / Bruce MacQueen
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.
That is, if one of us did not scare said birds away with her bubbling enthusiasm.
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.
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
Although I regularly miss the submission deadlines at On Spec, I do recommend this Canadian magazine published in Alberta.
I appreciate the work of Diane Walton and Barb Galler-Smith, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at Canadian conventions, but many others writers, artists, editors are dedicated to making this magazine a success!
I read from one cover to another this number 109.
Sinkhole by Al Onia, takes place in Australia on desert background, where a meteor absorbs all the matter around, creating a hole. The story waves its way between the points of view of the scientists summoned there and Allan, an aborigine working at the cultural center built near Uluru Rock, who trusts in his spiritual traditions to ward off the threat.
Konstantine Kaoukakis’ non-fiction article To boldly go where no teacher has gone, gives a perspective from an English teacher who integrates fantasy and SF reading in his classes, genres that fascinates students who would otherwise be bored. And what efforts to get this new course accepted!
My favorite story, Joyhound, by Calder Hutchison, is a jewel of SF and black humor in a mafia setting, fedora hats included. Imagine a werewolf who emits pheromones that make him so irresistible, that his prey, bathed in an ineffable happiness, strives to be eaten… In addition, the predator’s saliva is a painkiller. What a sublime treatment, what a heroine in shades of gray! And what link with the murky underworld of mafiosos? Read on and be happy!
Another story, “Two from the Field, Two from the Mill“, by Geoffrey Cole, who loves hockey a lot! Imagine that one night, all the dogs ascend to the sky and disappear, in a “rapture” way. Dogs, these devoted beings, left a big hole behind them, which even Christians seek to fill. A professional female hockey player (we have a visionary author there!) who also lost her dog, must manage the situation in her small town before it turns sour. I had read two stories from Cole, and I appreciate his humor and sport settings. The title hails from a biblical quote (Matthew 24, 36-42).
The other stories are Lee Chamney’s When they burned my bones, in which ghosts experiments such a difficult after-life, but it’s better than nothing! Fear and zen, then.
Spirits’ Price, by Van Aaron Hughes, a fantasy story, where you can get your desire with a well-told tale that appeals to spirits, but there’s a price tag to this. And what is the price of passing on the gift to your descendance?
Death is a Blindfold, by Rati Methrota, a story of encounter of the second type that leaves the witnesses a lasting impression. But if no one believes them and the ET never come back, why stick to it? This author, interviewed in this issue, has been inspired by reports of UFO sightings.
Two interviews complete the issue: Toronto-born Rati Methrota, a resident of Toronto, and René Martinez, the Cuban-born, Toronto-based cover artist who produces colorful and generous illustrations worth of Gaudi.
The prologue by Brent Jans, the organizer of Pure Speculation is worth the detour: “Everyone deserves to be Conned. Brent realizes that his event, which rolls very well, lacks diversity. He will fix it, even if it means skipping a year. The best sentence:
“I struggled with the idea that I was somehow to blame in an SF culture that could somehow accept aliens and elves, but passively and actively made it unsafe for women, people of color. LGBTQ2S, our Indigenous population -basically, anyone who was not me.”
We do not often get the point of view of an organizer, and his efforts to make his event accessible (like what I witnessed at the Utopiales in Nantes, who have sign language interpreters, and the first two rows of seats reserved for deaf people.)
By moving the premises and cutting the entrance fee, Brent made the Pure Speculation Festival accessible to wheelchairs, and for many low-income fans. And no, he did not regret it nor di he get bankrupted. Those are very encouraging words to read these days.