Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

29 January 2008

The story behind a story

My science fiction story “The Llama’s Tale” was posted Sunday at Space Westerns’ Web site at A one-sentence synopsis: Kella is sure she'll be chosen to be a rider for the prestigious Llama Express Service—until the training school pairs her with the aging, scruffy, flatulent, half-deaf llama Buddy.

If you have a moment, I’d be honored if you checked it out. The Space Westerns site charges you nothing to read the postings, and it contains many good cowboy stories set in outer space.

I thought it would be fun, after recent postings about “filling the well” here and at Steve Malley’s Full Throttle or F**k It, to briefly analyze the contributions of my well to this story.

Buddy the llama existed in real life. I did give him a species change (from horse to llama), but otherwise he is the same tired creature my sister, Renee, was assigned to when she took riding lessons.

The comment Kella’s brother Trivvy makes during the show is what my own little brother Vince—now far from little, as he delights in pointing out as he rests his elbow on my head—actually said during the graduation show when Renee finished her riding lessons.

The setting was inspired by the ABC television program “The Young Riders” (about Pony Express riders), which I watched faithfully from 1989 to 1992.

Kella is based partly on my sister. She wore such a horrified look during the horse show that I can still see it ~35 years later.

Kella’s arrogance is based on mine as a teenager. School emphasized book smarts above all other qualities, and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I thought that because I was smarter than other people, I was also better than them. (As in Kella’s case, life taught me otherwise.)

So how much did I drain my well? Buddy the horse is probably good for only one go-round, and the same for “The Young Riders” as inspiration.

On the other hand, some elements that went into “The Llama’s Tale” did not lower the level of my well. My brothers can still serve as models for little boys in other stories. And despite my efforts at self-improvement, I still can be arrogant and have many other flaws to draw on to flesh out characters; I don’t see that well running dry—not so good for me, but great for my fiction.

Well Depletion Score: –2


Odds and ends
  • If you are a Jennifer Blake fan looking for the interview mentioned in Jennifer's February newsletter, please look at the post that follows this one.
  • Today is “The Liar’s Diary Blog Day” in the blogosphere. Because first-time author Patry Francis is undergoing treatment for cancer and cannot promote the paperback release of her novel The Liar’s Diary, hundreds of bloggers today will do so for her. You can read about Patry Francis’ life with cancer at her blog Simply Wait. Her Website is at, and her book is available at Amazon. (Note: I have not read The Liar’s Diary, so this announcement is not a recommendation but rather a helping hand for a fellow writer in trouble.)
  • Next week’s post will be an interview with debut author Therese Fowler. I have read her powerful novel Souvenir, and I believe you’ll find her interview fascinating and thought-provoking.


Lana Gramlich said...

I love the picture. Llamas always have a very nonchalant look about them, as if they haven't a care in the world. Will check out the story site later (from home.)

Shauna Roberts said...

LANA, I wish I could claim credit for the llama picture, but I can't; I found it searching Google Images.

I hope you enjoy my story. Thanks in advance for reading it.

Steve Malley said...

Shauna, that was awesome! Took me back to Heinlein's juvenilles!!

Shauna Roberts said...

That's high praise, STEVE. Thank you!

Lana Gramlich said...

Loved the story! Wasn't sure what the twist was going to be at the end & was delighted by your resolution.
One thing I saw, FYI; "The judges moved to the second horse."

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, LANA! I had a hard time with the ending, so I was glad that you liked it.

Isn't that funny about the horse being in there and no one caught it? I had my sister's horse show in mind as I wrote that, as you might have guessed.

Lisa said...

What a great story! I was in love with Buddy from the beginning. I loved that you described him as having "no dignity whatsoever", I loved his wandering right eye and of course who doesn't love a flatulent llama? I had no idea what the resolution would be, but I was very satisfied with it. Bravo!

Charles Gramlich said...

What a fun story. I like the resolution but I still want to know what she chose. I think I want to see her go to "Pierpont Station." That could be the site of many more adventures.

Steve's right. It does remind a bit of Heinlein, with maybe a touch of Harry Potter. Not in subject matter but in the light tone.

Congrats on this. It's really an excellent story. And Kella is a great character. I also enjoyed your comment on your blog about where the elements came from in the tale and how it affected your "well."

Oddly enough, I just finished a story this weekend that featured "flatulence" as a plot device. Lol.

Sidney said...

Congrats on the publication.

virtual nexus said...

Enjoyed this so much; its so distinctive and so fluent.

I had to smile as we have a lama park near us which we visit -

Also appreciated the preceding photo article to yours on star trek!
I've changed the name of the blog to virtual voyage for practical reasons.

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