Bright Waters


A fearsome Dutch trapper, a spunky Irish woman stolen as a girl in an Abenaki raid, and a small Iroquois tattoo . . .

Read it here, Listen to it at PodCastle


  • “A huge, immersive story with wonderful characters” Gavin Grant, editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror
  • “A textbook example of the economy of craft”
  • “Extremely entertaining storytelling”


  • Originally published in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Vol. 17. 2005.
  • Reprinted in The Best of the Rest 4. Ed. Brian Youmans, 2006.
  • Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: 19th Annual Collection. Ed. Datlow, Grant, & Link, 2006.
  • Reprinted in The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Ed. Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, 2007.
  • Audio production on PodCastle, April 2009.


This story was a critical story for me. I was at Orson Card’s writing boot camp. And I’d decided that if I couldn’t write a story there, then I was going to give writing up for good. There are many reasons for this explained in my bio.

The short version is that the first two days of the boot camp were lecture. Then came Wednesday when I was supposed to write my story. I went to the library early, stayed very late, and produced nothing. Not willing to give up, I tried Thursday morning before class, during breaks, during lunch, and produced nothing, nothing, nothing. By that evening, sitting at the Orem Golden Corral, pushing around his chicken and mashed potatoes, I knew it was the end of the line. I would give all my writing books away, burn my manuscripts, and never look back. Because it is true that you can be happy and not write.

I decided to give it one more shot. This time I tried a new approach, and it was as if someone had plugged me in. Was it a prayer that had been answered or the result of high-caloric food? I don’t know. All I know is that the lights went on, the music started playing, and the story rolled out in front of me like a red carpet. I rushed out of Golden Corral and wrote, wrote, wrote every spare minute I got. On Saturday, the last day of the boot camp, I turned the story in. There were groans at its size, but after reading it, many there felt delight. Card himself said its issues were mere “paint spots on a palace” (a struggling author can do nothing but love a pro who shows such a generous spirit). The story went on to sell multiple times. But the important thing was that it helped me see some principles of story development that had been eluding me up to that time.

Original Ending (*** Spoilers!***)

One reader who listened to the PodCastle recording of “Bright Waters” expressed a yearning for a more conclusive ending.

Title: Re: PC047 Giant Episode: Bright Waters
Post by: Father Beast on May 03, 2009, 04:58:08 pm

So, I listened pretty raptly, wondering about the resolution of things.

And then the story ends, and I’m left hanging. Am I just supposed to assume that things worked out, or that the tattoo had no effect, or something else?

that sort of ending is more suited to a miniature than a regular story, and certainly not a giant.

The truth is the original manuscript ran for one more page than what was published. I’ve posted below. It does make the resolution more clear. However, the editor for the first publication thought it was redundant. I think it’s a matter of taste. I go back and forth between the two myself.


“I believe that our Lord rains his gifts on the heathen as well as the just.” She reached for the patch again.

This time he let her move it aside.


“See,” she said. “No harm done.” Then she touched it. “It’s fading.”

He looked down at her. Deep inside he could feel this was an opportunity that would not come again. “I’ve got a fine green dress in my log house,” he said. “I think it might suit you.”

“I’ve never had a man offer me a dress. I don’t know that anyone but a husband should offer such things.”

“You’re probably right about that.” Jan didn’t know how to say what he wanted to, but he knew he must say something. “Would you like the dress? You can try it on for a while and see if it’s comfortable.”

She looked him in the eyes. “I’m not a house keeper,” she said. “I don’t own even one serving set.”

“I eat out of a wooden bowl,” he said.

Then he took her hand in his good one. What did he have to lose? He raised it to his mouth and gently kissed it. “I’m not a polished suitor,” he said.

She smiled, and the warmth in her face filled him with light.

“As long as I can keep my corn stick around,” she said, “I think you’ll do.”


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