Friday, September 28, 2007

How Peacefully The Desert Sleeps - by Brad Beaulieu

When I’m writing a story, especially one set in an alternate world, I try to spend a good deal of time in determining the lay of the land: the cultures in play, their histories, their attitudes toward one another. This helps me to focus on what I really want to write about: the characters. In other words, I wasn’t so interested in exploring the conflict between the two peoples as I was individuals within the scope of that larger conflict. Well, wait... That’s not completely accurate. I like to create a world in which there is conflict present, and then I like focusing on characters so that you see how individuals can affect the society at large, and vice versa.

Many of my stories are written with the intention of capturing the flavor of a certain era while adding a twist of some sort, and this is how Desert truly began. I chose the milieu first and played with it until I had the speculative elements that felt right to me. The flavor in “How Peacefully the Desert Sleeps” is, of course, life along the American Frontier. I have strong interest in the Native American life and the way in which it was tragically altered by the introduction of the frontiersmen and their irrepressible thirst for land. Like in American history, the natives in Desert are being pushed ever harder by the pioneers, but they have a weapon the Native Americans did not: the dejda. The tribesmen, over the centuries, had used the dejda as little more than a domesticated animal, largely unaware of its ability to gain consciousness. Without them, the tribesman would have already gone the way of the Native Americans and eventually succumbed to the pressure of the pioneers, but the beetles gave them a distinct advantage that allowed them to create a stalemate along the frontier.

Kallie’s character was the first one that came to me, and she came fairly easily. I liked the notion of taking someone from the more powerful society, the settlers, and placing them in a situation where they were almost completely dependent upon the tribesmen’s generosity. Once I realized that the dejda provided not only protection but also the powers of healing, Kallie’s ailment came soon after, and her character started to form more fully from there.

I had known from the start that Kallie would be the main character, and that she would be the catalyst that would help propel the dejda into consciousness. What I didn’t know was what would happen when this came to pass. I had thought that the Ohokwa Queen, Wattoha, would be the primary foil to Kallie. But as the story unfolded Nilawi demanded more and more attention. Eventually Nilawi and Kallie became two polar opposites. Nilawi came to represent the status quo, the passing of the torch from mother to daughter with the dejda in the same role as they’ve always been, while Kallie represented a new and terrible possibility.

Paheka, much like Nilawi, demanded more page time as the story played itself out. At first, she was simply a crazy old medicine woman, but I realized later that she was acting as an extension of the old dejda queen. She mutated from a character who provided flavor to the primary catalyst for change in the story: the voice, essentially, of the dejda as they struggled to make sense of their expanding awareness that Kallie had triggered within them.

Some stories are gift stories--they come almost fully formed, and you hardly have to work at making them sing. Desert was not such a story. I had to remold it several times to get it into shape, but I’m quite proud of the results. And I didn’t do it alone, either; I would be remiss if I didn’t send my heartfelt thanks to Orson Scott Card and Edmund Schubert for helping to identify its weaknesses so that I could file away the burrs.

Bradley P. Beaulieu

Racine, WI

September, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Organic Wedding Cake Stylists

I have seen a lot of things while working on IGMS for the last fifteen months. I've seen good stories and bad ones, great stories and really insane ones. And don't even get me started on the stuff I see at the cons. But you know what? As much of a reputation at the sf/fantasy community (and especially its writers) has for being a little wacky, they really don't hold a candle to some of what I see in the business world.

Recently I stopped working as executive editor of the regional business magazine that had driven me so nuts over the last year and started working as managing editor of a new national women's business magazine. It was a small step backwards in the title department, but a monumental step forward in the paycheck department, so it was not a tough decision.

It's a new magazine, so I put an ad on Craig's List looking for resumes and writing samples from experienced writers. I was supposed to pick out the top candidates, and then the magazine's whole team would get together and decide who to assign what articles to. The ad was very specific in saying we wanted experienced writers for a business magazine, and that candidates should send their resume and up to three links and/or published clips. No surprise that the resumes came in fast and furious, but what did surprise me were some of the following:

1. A long poem in lieu of a cover letter. Excuse me, a long, cheesy poem in lieu of a cover letter. Obviously I have nothing against poems, I posted one in my last entry. But there are times when this kind of thing is appropriate and then time when writers send long cheesy poems to people looking for business writers. I'll let you do the math.

2. A resume where the first item listed was Organic Wedding Cake Stylist. Made me think of a Vegas-style lounge singer, but with baked goods. And now, for your entertainment, the organic cake stylings of...

3. A resume in a font that - I swear to God - when I first opened it I thought it was Egyptian hieroglyphics. My eyeballs almost turned themselves inside out trying to read this thing (which I spent all of three seconds doing to satisfy my curiosity, then deleted it and moved on as quickly as possible.)

4. The unimaginable volume of respondents who e-mailed me links to 20, 30, 40 or more clips. Think about it: if the ad says send up to three clips and someone sends 50, how much faith does that inspire in me with regard to their ability to follow basic directions?

5. On the flipside of that same issue, don't tell me to Goggle your name and search for articles. Your assurances that I will find many quality samples are wasted, because I'm not going to do it. Instead, I'm going to open a new e-mail and look at the writing samples of someone WHO CAN FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Anybody detecting a pattern here?

6. A writing sample that was the first 150 pages of a book about a serial killer in Mexico. I guess I shouldn't complain; technically it is just one sample. On the other hand I'm afraid to even think about the implications that might come with this submission.

I could add more, but I've still got nearly 200 more resumes and probably 700 to 800 writing samples to wade through and I really need to get back to it. Kind of makes me wish I were reading IGMS story submissions. Oh well, that's next week...

(BTW, speaking of this week, issue six of IGMS should be out any day now, so check back here soon for essays from the authors of the new issues' stories.)

Monday, September 24, 2007


Got this a week or so ago, submitted via the IGMS Contact Page.

I enjoyed the poem at the end so much that I had to share.
Topic: Letters to the Editor

Comments: Dear Mr. Schubert,
Thank you for visiting Ann Crispin's writing workshop at
Dragon*Con. (I was in the second row on Sunday.) Your
comments were helpful, and I appreciate your taking the
time to be there. Hope you enjoyed the Con and had safe
travels. Here's a limerick especially for you:
Tiny Things (for Ed)
They creep, wiggle, mutate, and may
Blind you with pain, stab and slay,
Rogue monsters enraged?
No, just words on the page
After reading a million a day

Gwen Veazey
Morganton, NC

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wolverton / Farland Novel Writing Workshop

With the work that I've been doing on IGMS and other for-hire writing/editing projects taking center stage in my life and my schedule, I've written very little of my own fiction in the last year. In an attempt to get back on track I've taken a few steps, one of which is to sign up for Dave Wolverton's Novel Writing Workshop. Dave also writes under the name Dave Farland and is probably best know for his Rune Lords series.

Well anyway, next April ('08) Dave is holding a Novel Writing Workshop.
There are a lot of great things about it, and (for me anyway) one big negative, which is that it is being held in Utah. This automatically makes it a pretty expensive proposition, once you factor in air and car and hotel etc., but for a lot of reasons I've decided to bite the bullet and attend. As I've already said, I need to take some serious steps to get back on track with my own writing. I've already traded a few e-mails with Dave and made the necessary arrangements, so I'm definitely going.

There are a few slots left (not many), so I thought I'd put it out there in case anyone else was interested. It's looks pretty intense and comprehensive. It's also only one week long, which is as much time as I can carve out of my schedule, so that's a plus. Also it's specifically about novels, as opposed to Clarion and Odyssey and even OSC's Boot Camp, which are about short stories. Novels are very different creatures from short stories and the novel is something I've not specifically studied yet. I'm excited about going.

If anyone wants more details, check out this page on Dave's website:

Friday, September 14, 2007

This Weekend's To-Do List

My wife is very understanding about a lot of things - me being gone for conventions, stints of late night reading to (try to) get caught up on submissions, marriage to an author/editor whose compensation is usually in the form of fame (limited) rather than fortune (any) - but there are some times when I know better than to even ask for her understanding. This weekend, for instance, is one of those times. It's our anniversary.

So even though my to-do list for the next few days includes writing an essay for a friend's forthcoming book, an article for the local newspaper, a proposal to OSC for something I want to do at IGMS (ooh, mysterious), my letter from the editor for the next issue of IGMS, my announcement to IGMS readers that Darrell Schweitzer is going to be writing regular author interviews for IGMS starting with issue six (hey, Darrell; welcome to the Medicine Show), and a few other similar odds and ends (to say nothing of the fact that I'm already several weeks late on delivering edits on my novel to my new publisher)...

...what was I talking about?

Oh, right. I'm shutting my computer down. Walking away. Got a date with a fine woman; see you on Monday.

Unless she makes me a better offer...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Atlanta Aquarium

As I said in my last entry, on my last day in Atlanta I hit the aquarium. It was a most impressive display of sea creatures including whale sharks...

Beluga whales...

A logger-head turtle...

Groupers and rays...

and a surprise or two...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

DragonCon Picture Show

You have to see DragonCon to fully appreciate it, so...

I had a good time, hanging out with old friends and making new ones. I met Matt Rotundo for the first time, - really nice guy whose subtle but powerful novella, "The Frankenstein Diaries," will appear in issues 8 and 9 of InterGalactic Medicine Show.

I also hung out a bit with an old friend, James Maxey. James' story "Silent As Dust" will appear in issue 7 of IGMS, more than likely as the cover story. It's an exceptional story - not that that is any surprise to folks familiar with James' writing; he is an immensely talented writer and his new novel, Bitterwood, is getting talked about and reviewed well everywhere. For details about the book check out John Joseph Adams recent write-up on SciFi Wire:

Speaking of Solaris Books (the publisher's of Bitterwood), I enjoyed meeting Mark Newton and Christian ___(?), two editors of that line, as well as Gail Martin, one of their other authors, whose novel, The Summoner, is doing tremendously well, too. Interestingly enough, James, Gail, and I all live in North Carolina. There are quite a lot of writers in NC. I wonder why that is.

I spent some time with an old Boot Camp buddy (Orson Scott Card's Boot Camp, not the Army's), Gray Rinehart. Gray is working for Baen now and I sat in on talk he gave to A.C. Crispin's advanced writing class. He's a natural and I enjoyed listening to him. And he lives in NC, too. Hmm...

Speaking of various editors, I was on a couple of panels about editing, which was something new at DragonCon (at least in my experience). Usually those panels are mostly populated with writers, but the two editing-related panels were very well attended - pretty much filled the room. I hope DragonCon noticed the strong attendance and keeps doing them.

After one of those panels I hung out a bit with Claire Eddy and Paul Stevens, two editors at Tor. Claire and I had a good time because we are both Mets fans and talked as much baseball as anything else.

And speaking of baseball (it's just one segue after another here), I also snuck off to Turner Field on Sunday and saw the Mets beat the Braves. Given how many times the Braves have beaten the Mets in previous years, it was glorious to finally get a little payback. I met an amazing woman at the game, but that's an entire blog entry unto itself, so I'll save that tale for next time.

And - of course - I spend as much time as possible with one of my favorite people in the world, Alethea Kontis. If you've ever met Alethea, you know what I mean; everybody loves Lee and she's the queen of every con she goes to. We played hooky Monday morning and explored Atlanta's new aquarium. But that's a picture show for yet another day...