Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Dead Eagle

Fall'n as he is, this king of birds still seems
Like royalty in ruins. Though his eyes
Are shut, that look undazzled on the sun,
He was the sultan of the sky, and earth
Paid tribute to his eyry
—Thomas Campbell
Last week, when I got up one morning, my son pointed through the window to our backyard where a very large bird lay dead in the snow beneath our Douglas fir. It was a bald eagle.

I threw on my coat, shoved my feet into my snow boots and hastened to where this magnificent creature lay stiff in a bed of white snow, spattered with crimson from his beak. I caught my breath then let out a deep sigh. There was no sign of a death struggle. He’d fallen from the tree above (where several eagles typically roosted) and died…quietly. He was a large bird and I might have suspected that he’d simply passed on from old age had it not been for that bloody spray. The night before had been very cold, below 10ºC and I’d heard that food was scarce for birds this winter. My neighbour’s daughter, who volunteered for OWL—a wildlife rehabilitation and research centre—was able to tell us that the eagle was probably female and had likely died from internal injuries sustained in a fight—probably over food.

Bald eagles are a type of sea eagle that diverged from the African vulture lineage only a few million years ago. Its scientific name is Hallaeetus leucocephalus, which means "sea eagle with a white head."

Bald eagles typically live 15 to 20 years, although birds as old as 30 years have been documented. Females tend to be slightly larger than males, measuring 34-37 inches, with a wingspan of 79-90 inches. Immature bald eagles start out brown and white, with stark, black bills. Then, as the bird matures, adult plumage develops. A bald eagle is considered mature at 4-5 years of age.

Bald eagles live in large nests in tall trees, usually close to water. A typical nest runs 5-feet in diameter. Because the bald eagle returns to the same nest year after year, adding on to the nest, it can get as big as10-feet in diameter. Bald eagles typically mate for life and can often be found traveling in pairs. The female eagle lays 1-3 eggs and the male and female share the responsibility of raising the young.

Eagles possess keen eyesight. They are able to soar great distances by using rising warm air currents or thermals. The eagle fans its tail feathers to help steer and maintain balance, like a rudder. It uses its talons and beak to feed, defend itself, groom and feed its young. Bald eagles eat lots of fish, though they will eat a variety of prey and carrion, including rodents, seals, and small animals. They don’t need to feed every day, and store food in a pouch in their esophagus called a "crop".

The bald eagle is the only eagle found exclusively in North America and is the USA’s national emblem, a living symbol of freedom, spirit and the pursuit of excellence. Ironically, it was pushed toward extinction by eagle habitat destruction and associated starvation, pesticides (mostly DDT), hunting, and exposure. The Bald Eagle Act was passed in 1940, making it illegal for humans to harass the bald eagle. Despite this, many were killed in Alaska by fishermen, who feared they were a threat to the salmon population and the fishery. Populations have currently rebounded as a result of recovery and re-introduction programs by wildlife organizations; so much so that in 2007 it was taken off from the endangered species list. The bald eagle is currently protected in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

In legend the eagle alone can look into the sun. According to the translation of St. Augustine, "The sun invigorates the eyes of eagles, but injures our own." Eagles are considered spiritual messengers between gods and humans by some cultures. The Bald Eagle is a sacred bird. The Aztecs revered the eagle as a symbol of strength. The Pawnee believed the eagle was a symbol of fertility because they build large nests high off the ground and valiantly protect their young. Native North Americans believed the thunderbird, a mythical super eagle, was responsible for creating thunder and lightning by beating its wings. The Lakota give an eagle feather as a symbol of honor to a person who achieves a task.

The Bald Eagle has become a symbol of peace by virtue of being included in the Great Seal of the United States of America. The bird represents peace and freedom and is depicted with an olive branch in its right talon, and thirteen arrows in its left talon. While the arrows represent the power of war, the eagle always faces the olive branch, favoring peace. Charles Thompson drew the Bald Eagle into the Great Seal in 1782. Eagles are considered the divine spirit and ruler of the skies. They symbolize power, courage and guidance.

So, what of my dead eagle, the great bird of prey who chose to make his final resting place in my backyard... Considering that today is the last day of 2008, and we shall be “birthing in” a new year, I bequeath our struggles of 2008 to the divine spirit of the bald eagle and choose for 2009 a year of soaring victory. Victory over ignorance and fearful doubt. Victory over hatred and jealousy. Victory over depression and hopeless inaction. Victory over oppression and death. I choose humble enlightenment. I choose tolerance and inclusion. I choose joyous love, compassion and forgiveness. I choose freedom and everlasting life.
Happy New Year Everyone!

The Dead Eagle

By Thomas Campbell

Fall'n as he is, this king of birds still seems
Like royalty in ruins. Though his eyes
Are shut, that look undazzled on the sun,
He was the sultan of the sky, and earthPaid tribute to his eyry.
It was perch'dHigher than human conqueror ever built
His banner'd fort. Where Atlas' top looks o'er
Zahara's desert to the equator's line:
From thence the winged despot mark'd his prey,
Above th' encampments of the Bedouins, ere
Their watchfires were extinct, or camels knelt
To take their loads, or horsemen scour'd the plain,
And there he dried his feathers in the dawn,
Whilst yet th' unwaken'd world was dark below.
There's such a charm in natural strength and power,
That human fancy has for ever paid
Poetic homage to the bird of Jove.
Hence, 'neath his image, Rome array'd her turms
And cohorts for the conquest of the world.
And figuring his flight, the mind is fill'd
With thoughts that mock the pride of wingless man.
True the carr'd aeronaut can mount as high;
But what's the triumph of his volant art?
A rash intrusion on the realms of air.
His helmless vehicle, a silken toy,
A bubble bursting in the thunder-cloud;
His course has no volition, and he drifts
The passive plaything of the winds. Not such
Was this proud bird: he clove the adverse storm,
And cuff'd it with his wings. He stopp'd his flight
As easily as the Arab reins his steed,
And stood at pleasure 'neath Heaven's zenith, like
A lamp suspended from its azure dome,
Whilst underneath him the world's mountains lay
Like mole hills, and her streams like lucid threads.
Then downward, faster than a falling star,
He near'd the earth, until his shape distinct
Was blackly shadow'd on the sunny ground;
And deeper terror hush'd the wilderness,
To hear his nearer whoop. Then, up again
He soar'd and wheel'd. There was an air of scorn
In all his movements, whether he threw round
His crested head to look behind him; or
Lay vertical and sportively display'd
The inside whiteness of his wing declined,
In gyres and undulations full of grace,
An object beautifying Heaven itself.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas

A few days ago, on the Winter Solstice, a dump of snow covered the Earth in white billows. Huge flakes drifted down from heaven like confetti in a breeze.
We are having a white Christmas—the first in over ten years here in Vancouver (on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada). And I love it.

I love how the snow wraps everything in a blanket of soft acceptance. How it creates a dazzling face on a dark Earth. How it refuses to distinguish between artificial and natural. It covers everything—decorated house, shabby old car, willowy trees, manicured lawn—beneath its white mantle. I love how it quiets the Earth. Have you ever gone for a walk in the fresh snow? Boots crunching… snow glistening in the moonlight…

Sunday, December 14, 2008

“The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now!” By Nina Munteanu

The ABC's of Good Writing, One Letter at a Time

The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! soft-launched today at Pixl Press in Canada (with subsequent print launch scheduled later in the United States and the world through Starfire World Syndicate).

At a Pixl Press party today, attended by family and friends, and in which copious amounts of sushi and green tea were consumed, not to mention a huge Tuxedo Cake, Nina Munteanu—that’s me—was overheard saying: “I borrowed from the wisdom of many authorities on the subject of writing and publishing, notably Robert J. Sawyer, Elizabeth Lyon, Ansen Dibell, Crawford Killian, Elsa Neal, Sol Stein, Margot Finke, Jack Bickham, and Marg Gilks.”

The book is written in a casual, often humorous, style that aims to educate beginning and (even) established writers in the craft and mechanics of successful writing. It is aimed at helping the writer who is serious about publishing his or her fiction, whether it is a short story or epic novel. With this in mind, I provide real examples (e.g., fiction excerpts, query letters, rejection letters, etc.); I also take the writer through practical exercises and give a comprehensive reference list, together with an index for easy navigation.

The Fiction Writer covers a range of topics important to all writers, particularly those starting out with the serious intention of getting published. The guide is arranged in a series of chapters from A to Z, with Chapter titles ranging from “Blazing Beginnings” to “The Zen of Passionate Writing” (see below for a complete Table of Contents).

When submitting your work to editors and agents of fiction, you typically need to provide three things:

  • A query (Chapter Q in The Fiction Writer);
  • A synopsis (Chapter O in The Fiction Writer); and,
  • Sample chapters (the remaining chapters).
Editors of fiction look for stunning writing and great story-telling. They seek originality, genuineness and passion in your writing (Chapter Z in The Fiction Writer). While it’s a given that mechanics of writing can be learned, contrary to what you might think, the art of story-telling can also be taught.
If you apply what you’ve learned in this guide and write from the heart, I guarantee that you will publish. The guide will help you improve your writing. It does not include things like how to market your book, or how to promote your book once it gets published (that’s a whole other guidebook!). What it does include, however, are the key things to do with the writing side of getting published. So, read, learn and go get published!

Table of Contents
A. Alien Architecture: Building from Scenes to Worlds
B. Blazing Beginnings
C. Charismatic Characters
D. Get the Dope on Dialogue
E. Exposition & Endless Endings
F. Finding Your Muses & Keeping It
G. Defining Your Genre & Going Beyond It
H. House or Home…Creating Memorable Settings
I. Interviews & Other Weird Interactions
J. The Hero’s Journey
K. Write What You Know
L. Long Form, Short Form
M. Master the Metaphor
N. Now It’s Time for Revision
O. Outlines & Synopses
P. Plotting with Purpose
Q. Queries and Other Quests
R. How to Reject Rejection Letters
S. Get Sensual…And What About SEX
T. Don’t Tell; Show
U. Unclutter Your Writing: Less is More
V. Voices in Your Head
W. Who, When, Where and Why of Doing Research
X. Use eXceptional Language…But Don’t Overdo It
Y. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Z. The Zen of Passionate Writing

This 264-page reference book is the first of several I’m writing and co-writing in The Alien’s Guidebook Series put out by Pixl Press in Canada and Starfire World Syndicate in the United States.

Photo Captions:

1. Anne Voute, copy-editor and associate of Pixl Press, takes a dare from Nina Munteanu and gets ready to take a HUGE bite of a "budong dropping".
2. A wonderful spread that even served escargots (memories of Paris).
3. And there was much dancing.
4. ...the challenge is on...
5. Virginia O'Dine, cover designer and typologist.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Poetry of Anand Bora: “The Road That Was”

Every second in life is important as it lays the foundation for cherishing the next one—Anand Bora

For my Friday Feature, I am once again delighted and honored to feature today the compelling and thought provoking work of a fellow artist, this time, a poet: Anand Bora (see his bio after his poem). I had the pleasure of meeting Anand, a fellow blogger, through MyBlogLog. We got to talking about art and writing and he showed me some of his sketches—HAHA! Not what you think! Mostly 2-d and 3-d art. I thought it stunning, colorful and alive. Says Anand: “I feel colors…I don’t see them. I see feelings…I don’t color them.” He is currently making paintings based on mathematics. “Honestly, it is fun,” says Anand, who finds ambigrams very interesting. He can handle the mouse like a pen or pencil.

Then Anand showed me his poetry. I was moved.

Anand’s philosophy and art is revealed in the tag line of his emails, where he quotes Pablo Picasso: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” This is all the more interesting when you realize that he is a computer engineer with a software company.
Please leave a comment for Anand. And if you like his poetry, feel free to Stumble this page. If you dig it, well, Digg it! Here’s one of Anand’s poems:

The Road That Was

The Road that was—
Beside my home
Leading to a avenue..a highway
Unchanged through the test of time,
Witnessing me grow up day by day.

The Road that was—
Stubborn, hard, and tough,
Giving me 'unforgettable wounds' of algedonic nature;
My limbs and senses were on the receiving end,
Gradually learning, I grew up in stature.

The Road that was—
The home of helpless vendors,'essential' shops and discordant traffic
Calling me for my daily needs
Inducing innumerous visits..Uff..
'A Pandora's Box' were my deeds.

The Road that was—
Cheering, jubilating and celebrating
The times of festival well spent,
Midst aroma of delicacy, cuisine and fun;
Oh! Where the times of joy and ecstasy went.

The Road that was—
Loving and Caring
Parents, guardians, neighbours and the pedagogue,
Nostalgia of affections haunts my memories;
Melancholy? Those days have turned into a prologue.

The Road that was—
My playground in cool summer evenings
Elation became the order of the day;
Friends, fun, furor, fantasy
Independent I was like the sun's ray.

The Road that was—
Crying, sobbing and sad;
My departure was on the cards,
It was pleading, pacifying, requesting to stay.
Though heartbroken, I left the cobbled yards.

Anand Bora is a software engineer with a degree in Computer Science and works for a telecom software company in India. He has admittedly had an undulating academic career but it is decent enough (due to unfavorable circumstances of life). Anand considers himself an avid learner . “By the grace of God, I don't have problems learning anything,” says Bora. “I guess the greatest gift which God has given me is Creativity. I have used my creativity [in] various fields of study but I have never used it to make money. Maybe, the real sense of creativity lies in making yourself and [other] people happy.” To read more of Anand’s poetry and see his artwork, go to:; and,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nina Goes on the Radio…And Reads a Book—In English AND Spanish!

A short while ago, I was invited to The World Poetry Café on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio to talk about my short stories, novels and the first of several guidebooks I’m writing in “The Alien Guidebook Series”, entitled The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! (coming out in early 2009 with Starfire World Syndicate).

Vancouver Co-op Radio (CFRO 102.7 fm radio) is located in the funky part of downtown Vancouver’s east side; not a place I often visit… Little did I know what adventure lay before me. It was a dark and stormy night… Okay, it was dark, though. After getting lost then parking on the wrong side of the street, I found my way to the art-deco building and met co-hosts Alejandro Mujica-Olea and Lucia Gorea at the door. They explained to me that Lucia would interview me in English and Alejandro would translate into Spanish in tandem.

Lucia Gorea and Alejandro Mujica-Olea also read from their published poetry collections, both very sensual and evocative images of love, memories, home and relationships.

For instance, Lucia read this poem of hers, entitled “Allergy”:

So much I wanted to tell you about rainbow and hills, but my words froze on my lips before they were spoken.
And instead I took your hand and painted the moon.
In its softness I found thin blades of grass and sun-blazing wheat. With your fingers I drew larger than body rivers, streaming in all directions, an infinity of arms embracing everything.
In your eyes I stood motionless to reflect of myself, a nightingale song in the kingdom of light and shadow.
I saw a herd of lashed horses running simultaneously, their race to the core of the heart then stop. I shall run from yours I said but my translucent soul played tricks on me. And suddenly in such agony of the movement I ran over to you evading your incomprehensible simplicity, changing rivers, hills and winds. I found the rainbow sprouting of the grass of your palm, in your moons. I painted your eyes with the mist of my silent cry.

You can listen to the broadcast here (25-Nov-2008 21:42; World Poetry Café is half-way through; and 25-Nov-2008 22:42).

The interview was great fun and had us laughing for a great part of it (no need to translate, Alejandro!). I was particularly amused when, after I read a good several paragraphs from my short story Virtually Yours (by Bundoran Press)Alejandro summarized with two very succinct sentences in Spanish. I would have loved to know what he said, because maybe he should be my editor! (Sly grin)…

Lucia asked some great questions, like how long does it take to write a story? But her first question set the tone of the interview: “When did you start writing and what inspired you to write science fiction and not comic novels, gothic fiction or erotic literature?”

Lucia then led me through some great topics from my passion for science fiction, my short stories, my work as an ecologist, my latest book Darwin’s Paradox, and eventually to aliens, of course.

My answer, by the way, to Lucia’s first question was: “Who says I didn’t write all that and maybe it’s stuck in a drawer somewhere or somewhere else!” I went on to say, “Well, Lucia, I started writing when I could write. As soon as I could write, I was writing stories with my sister, I was telling stories about … well … aliens…” I guess, it all started with me.

My guidebook, The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! is currently available in major bookstores and

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"How Fare Thee, Mother?" By Adria Laycraft

In keeping with my old Friday Feature tradition, I'm delighted and honored to feature today a wonderful and tantalizing story by guest author, Adria Laycraft (see her bio after the story).

I had the fortune of colliding into Adria at ConVersion in Calgary last year, and her bright personality and beaming aura told me she was a rising star. I’m sure you’ll find this compelling fable, told in the tradition of oral storytelling, a delightful and thought-provoking read…
Please leave a comment for Adria. Now the story:

How Fare Thee, Mother?

One day an old hedge witch set off from her home in the woods to gather herbs for her magiks.

It so happened that she came upon her youngest son. He sat alongside the way, an uncorked wineskin in his lax hands and a blurred look to his eyes. He blinked at her when she stopped before him. “Mother, dear,” he said when he finally recognized her. “Could you spare me a coin or two?”
“And what of the coin I lent you last?” the witch replied. “I’m sure it’s long spent and the swill in your hands is yet another loan.”
The youth hung his head, longish black curls falling into his eyes. The witch shook her head. With such pretty eyes and dark hair, he could be such a charmer. Instead, he chose to be the local drunkard.

“Shameful,” she said aloud, moving on, but she tossed him a coin from her belt purse first.
Not long after, she passed a farmyard. Her middle son sat by the sty, so round he seemed one with the pigs.

“Mother,” he said, barely lifting a pudgy hand.

“Ah, my second son. Weren’t you to fetch my eggs and milk this morning?”

“Surely, but the way is far, and the farmer gave me three days worth of his eggs and milk, too much to carry home, so I ate it all.”
“How does that help me?” the witch asked, amazed as ever by his complete selfishness.

He shrugged, and the witch wondered why she was even surprised. The boy did naught to help her, yet would not move off into the world on his own, too lazy to leave his mother’s roof.
“Shameful,” she muttered again, moving on, but she tossed him a bun from her basket first.
Not much farther on she came upon her eldest son working his fields with another man.
“Mother!” he cried, setting aside his hoe to greet her. “I hope this pretty day finds you well.”
“It does, at that, but for meeting your brothers,” she replied. “But never mind them, how goes your work?”

“Well as ever.”

“And who is this young man helping you?” she asked, eyeing the fine cut of the boy’s arms, and the broad width of his shoulders.

The eldest son waved the fellow over and clapped him on the back. “This is my new farmhand, Mother,” he said, a broad smile of pride on his face. The poor boy blushed bright pink. “Won’t you sit and share our lunch, or at least a sip from my water jug?”
The witch smiled up at her eldest. How could it be possible to have one such fine son and two such like the others? She patted his arm and shook her head to his offer.

“No, I must be about. It seems I’ll be needing to fetch my own eggs and milk, and I shouldn’t be gone too long, or my meager collection of coins will be plundered as well.”

“I will come by later, then, and bring you some vegetables to hearten your stew,” he said, taking up his hoe. The two young men turned back to their work.

The witch carried on to the river and marshes where she sought her herbs and collected them into a hand-woven basket. It was a warm day, and she sat to rest atop the river’s steep bank.
“My boys be needing their due,” she murmured. “And it is in me to be giving it.”
Reaching about her she gathered some long grasses and, with nimble fingers, she quickly shaped and tied and wove.

Soon she had three simple grass figures. She took up the first and smudged the top with a piece of burnt wood to represent dark hair. Then she raised it up and chanted.
“Curls and swirls, your life is adrift, far from those you would stiff.”

And she tossed the doll into the swift flowing river.

The next morning a certain dark haired youth would wake after an especially good go at the drink to find he was at sea. For years he would ride the ships, scanning the ports, but he would never find his way home again.

To the next doll the witch added a mound of grass to round out the belly, and spoke again.
“Alone you will be since your help we’ll not see, until a crone comes along, a shrewish wife she’ll be.”
This doll arced through the air to land in the thick underbrush of the riverside willows.

The next day a certain large, slow-moving young man would find himself inexplicably lost in the woods. Wandering for hours, he would finally realize he always returned to one particular stand of willows, so there he would stay, unwilling to try anymore. An old crone would find him there, and care for him, but her ways would be bitter and full of complaining. Many times he would try to leave her, but always his footsteps led back to the cottage in the willows.

Finally the witch took up the last doll and placed a twig on its hand to be his hoe. Smiling, she deftly wove another to be his mate, then two more half size. She hummed while she worked, her talent bringing it all to be.

“No curses for you, but blessings be, for witches do both, though not many see.”
Before she could finish her weaving a sudden shadow covered her. With a gasp she twisted around to find her eldest son standing over her, a frown darkening his face.

“What have you done, Mother?” he said. “Why didn’t you just turn wine to vinegar, and food to dust? You’ve taken it too far, and you were the one to lead them down the very path they walked!”

The flow of angry words faltered and stopped as he took in the four dolls in her hands.

The witch shook off her shock before he could say anything more. “Well, at least I’ve done right for you,” she said, raising the dolls for him to see.
Her son blanched. “Oh, no, Mother, what have you done? I have no interest in this. I am happy with my new man--”

His words failed at the sight of her expression. The witch scrambled to her feet, her stomach twisting with new understanding. Searing disappointment scorched away the last of her hopes.
“Well,” she huffed. “Well, I can change that,” the witch declared. She began to re-weave her spells over the doll with the stick hoe.

“No! Mother, no! I don’t wish to be changed...” He grabbed for the dolls and she yanked them away, causing him to overextend and stumble forward. With a startled yell he tumbled over the cliff and fell head first down the riverbank, landing with a sickening crunch at the bottom. The witch let out a screech at the sight of his utterly still form lying below.
Hot tears burned her cheeks. She scooped up the grass figures and threw them down upon him.
She stood a long while after that, murmuring in quiet rhythm. Small changes came over her features. Lines smoothed along her face, and graying hairs grew blonde in the sunlight.

“Shameful,” she finally said, her head bowed. She turned and made her way back to an empty cottage. She took out her prettiest dress and put up her hair, and emptied her coin box into her belt purse.
She made her way to town, knowing that many strange ships would be in port this time of year. When wives saw her coming down the street they pulled their husbands inside.

That night a handsome sailor had a wonderful time, and the next morning the witch returned back home alone. She rocked and knitted, pausing to pat her tummy every now and then.
“Let’s have a girl this time, shall we?”

The End
Author Bio:
Adria Laycraft is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband and five-year-old son. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writer's Workshop and a member of the Imaginative Fiction Writer’s Association (IFWA). She likes to write science fiction and fantasy, and she can’t decide which one is her favorite. Pie and cake will go down in history as the funniest food to talk about, thanks to Odyssey, but cookies will forever be closest to her heart.

Photo credits: Fables #67 by James Jean; Fables #63 By Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

“How Do I Get My Science Fiction Stories Published?”

You may well ask… “Unless you follow the rules, you’re doomed to failure,” writes Hugo- and Nebula-award winning SF author, Robert J. Sawyer (in The Canadian Writer’s Guide, 2003). What Sawyer means is that there are certain qualities of science fiction in literature that you need to know and follow before you can seriously consider publishing your work in the field of science fiction.