Look at How Many of My Friends are on the Nebula Awards Ballot!

Okay, some of them may be more like acquaintances, but it’s still kind of surreal that I know people who are in the running for the awards.

Nebula Award Logo

To explain: Last week the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2012 Nebula Awards, as well as for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. These are “industry” awards, in the same way that the Academy Awards are given within the movie industry, the Grammys within the music industry, etc. Among the nominees, I’ve marked my friends and acquaintances in bold:


  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
  • Ironskin, Tina Connolly (Tor)
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)


  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
  • “All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
  • “Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF 11-12/12)
  • “Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)


  • “The Pyre of New Day,” Catherine Asaro (The Mammoth Books of SF Wars)
  • “Close Encounters,” Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
  • “The Waves,” Ken Liu (Asimov’s 12/12)
  • “The Finite Canvas,” Brit Mandelo (Tor.com 12/5/12)
  • “Swift, Brutal Retaliation,” Meghan McCarron (Tor.com 1/4/12)
  • “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 8/22/12)
  • “Fade to White,” Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 8/12)

Short Story

  • “Robot,” Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
  • “Immersion,” Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
  • “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
  • “Nanny’s Day,” Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
  • “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
  • “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species,” Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” Cat Rambo (Near + Far)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • The Avengers, Joss Whedon (director) and Joss Whedon and Zak Penn (writers), (Marvel/Disney)
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight )
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard (director), Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (writers) (Mutant Enemy/Lionsgate)
  • The Hunger Games, Gary Ross (director), Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray writers), (Lionsgate)
  • John Carter, Andrew Stanton (director), Michael Chabon, Mark Andrews, and Andrew Stanton (writers), (Disney)
  • Looper, Rian Johnson (director), Rian Johnson (writer), (FilmDistrict/TriStar)

(Yeah, I don’t know any of those folks … although I do share a birthday with one of the writer/director types.)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
  • Black Heart, Holly Black (S&S/McElderry; Gollancz)
  • Above, Leah Bobet (Levine)
  • The Diviners, Libba Bray (Little, Brown; Atom)
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst (S&S/McElderry)
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
  • Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
  • Every Day, David Levithan (Alice A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
  • Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
  • Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
  • Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
  • Above World, Jenn Reese (Candlewick)

You can find links to some of the stories referenced above, available to read for free, in this SF Signal post.

Now I just need to decide for whom I wish to vote.

I’m pretty sure I can’t make it to the awards ceremony, which will be in mid-May in San Jose. If you’re interested — and you don’t have to be a member of SFWA to attend — you can find more information about the Nebula Awards Weekend at http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/nebula-weekend/.

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In Memoriam: Colin Harvey

Others have penned more eloquent tributes than I, but I was saddened yesterday to learn that my writing friend Colin Harvey had died after suffering a stroke.

(Colin Harvey. Image from the Codex Writers web site.)

Colin consented to be interviewed by me this past March, and I found him to be a delightful fellow. I wish I’d been able to meet him in person.

Rest in peace, good sir.

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The Genre Chick Interviews the Gray Man

My friend Alethea Kontis has been running a series of interviews this month, and graciously included me in her coterie of interview subjects. Alethea it was who, upon hearing that I would be reading slush for Baen Books, suggested that rather than “slushmaster” my unofficial title should be “Slushmaster General.”

One click will take you to Genre Chick Interview: Gray Rinehart. Hope you enjoy it!

Many thanks, Princess Alethea!

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Another installment in our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Our guest again today is Lawrence M. Schoen, author of Buffalito Contingency, coming soon from Hadley Rille Books. Buffalito Contingency continues the adventures of interstellar hypnotist The Amazing Conroy:

The Amazing Conroy has taken his hypnosis act beyond Human Space.

It should be show business as usual, except for the bigger-than-a-planet energy being that wants to study him, the rival aliens pulling him in opposite directions, his buffalito lapping up liquid gravity, and the small matter of a hypnotized ghost… Join the continuing adventures of the Amazing Conroy in Hugo-nominated Lawrence M. Schoen’s new novel: Buffalito Contingency.

(Buffalito Contingency cover art.)

You can read Part One of this interview here.

In yesterday’s post you mentioned dealing with Bell’s Palsy while you were working on the book, but did you encounter any other major obstacles while working on Buffalito Contingency?

My biggest obstacle is always getting out of my own way. I get so excited wanting to tell the story I have in mind that I neglect to follow the requirements of good storytelling. Taos Toolbox went a long way to reminding me about that, as well as giving me some critical tools to keep me on track. Probably the most fundamental of these is remembering to always look for the narrative engine in a story. What’s driving everything? This may or may not be the same thing as the protagonist’s motivation. It may or may not be what your plot’s all about. But you have to be clear on what it is, otherwise your characters are just going to wander aimlessly. Motivation is a good thing to have. Plots and conflicts are essential. But the narrative engine pulls it all together. It’s what the book’s all about. Focusing on that, finding the answer to that question, pulls me out of the woods.

What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on Buffalito Contingency? Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of the book?

My biggest surprise was how much better this book was than the first one. And I was really really happy with the first one. My publisher had a similar reaction. We were on the phone and he said, “Lawrence, you know I loved the first novel, so don’t get me wrong, but this one is so much better.” I didn’t take any offense. It was all true. Either book is an enjoyable experience for a reader, but when you go from one to the other you can see how much I’ve changed (dare I use the word “grown”?) as a writer.

What I hope readers get out of this second novel is a return to that old fashioned “sense o’ wonder” that I remember from the books I read when I was a teenager. That’s what I’m always trying for. I think the formula for that is a mix of adventure, fun, cool aliens and alien cultures, and a satisfying resolution to the story. I want people to read my work and have a smile on their faces when they finish.

As someone who very much enjoyed Buffalito Destiny, I look forward to verifying that this novel is better. Meanwhile, what’s your next project … and what did you learn from Buffalito Contingency that you’re applying to it?

I have several projects waiting in line. Some of them are related to one another. I want to pull together a collection of all the published Amazing Conroy stories, and write several more (including a novella), and convince Hadley Rille to publish it as my next book. I just wrote one of those stories in March, submitted it to an anthology on the last day of the month, and received an acceptance three days later. The Conroy novella I want to write has been brewing in the back of my mind for a couple of years. There are elements in it that set up events in the novel arc I’m planning, though we won’t see any of them for at least two more books in the series. There are other elements in it that figure prominently in another novel I’m working on that’s set in the Conroy Universe (or Conroyverse!), but that book is much darker than the Conroy stories. So, I’m about to start plotting out the novella now, and after that’s done I’ll work on the related novel, probably taking time off from it now and then to put out another short story or three before that’s done.

Finishing Buffalito Contingency, post-Taos, taught me a whole new way to approach plotting out an entire novel or short story. Prior to that, I’ve been more of an “exploration” writer (or less politely, a “seat-of-the-pants” writer), albeit I’ve usually known something about the end state that I was aiming for. Now, I’ve found a way to be much more structured. I applied it to the novel, and then more recently and more assuredly to the short story I wrote in March, “Yesterday’s Taste.” Probably the most remarkable side effect of this approach, at least for me, is much less waste. In the past, I’d write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. I’d go through many many drafts. This last story, I basically wrote it in one draft, and then sat down and in one night did some edits and had the thing done. It was breathtaking!


Thanks, Lawrence, for giving us such great insight into the work of writing and publishing good stories.

Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, with a special focus in psycholinguistics. He spent ten years as a college professor, and has done extensive research in the areas of human memory and language. His background in the study of the behavior and the mind provide a principal metaphor for his fiction. He currently works as the director of research and chief compliance officer for a series of mental health and addiction treatment facilities.

He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, having championed the exploration of this constructed tongue and lectured on this unique topic throughout the world. In addition, he’s the publisher behind a new speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem, aimed at serving the niche of up-and-coming new writers as well as providing a market for novellas.

In 2007, he was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer and in 2010 received a Hugo nomination for best short story. He’s also been pushing a kind of SF Polyglot project that he calls B.W.O.P. (the Buffalito World Outreach Project). His second novel is listed on Amazon now, but doesn’t “officially” come out until late June. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia with his wife, Valerie, who is neither a psychologist nor a Klingon speaker.

(Lawrence M. Schoen. Photo by N. E. Lilly, originally from Lawrence’s Wikipedia page.)

For more information on Lawrence and his books, visit his web page at http://www.lawrencemschoen.com.

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Continuing our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today and tomorrow our guest is Lawrence M. Schoen, author of Buffalito Contingency, coming soon from Hadley Rille Books.

The Amazing Conroy has taken his hypnosis act beyond Human Space.

It should be show business as usual, except for the bigger-than-a-planet energy being that wants to study him, the rival aliens pulling him in opposite directions, his buffalito lapping up liquid gravity, and the small matter of a hypnotized ghost…. Join the continuing adventures of the Amazing Conroy in Hugo-nominated Lawrence M. Schoen’s new novel: Buffalito Contingency.

How long was it between first conceiving Buffalito Contingency and actually starting to work on it in earnest? Did you start work on it right away, or did you set the idea aside for a period of time?

That first question is a bit tricky because this is the second novel in a series, so some aspects of it have been around from the earlier stories and book. But probably the first bit that’s unique to this novel came about when the question of how you would go about un-hypnotizing a ghost popped into my head. That begged the question of how a ghost would be hypnotized in the first place? And why you’d want to bring it back out of trance? This is pretty common for me, I find an idea that sticks in my craw and I end up having to reverse engineer a story out of it.

I worked on this novel for several years, on again and off, in part because while I was selling short stories about Conroy and his buffalito, I still hadn’t sold the first novel. I had the plot line with the ghost pretty clearly worked out, and my local workshop group helped me to see that it just wasn’t enough to sustain a book. I added a few more subplots and went back to writing. At some point it started dragging again. I just wasn’t happy with it, but I couldn’t tell what was lacking or what was wrong. I was also distracted for a while with a bout of Bell’s Palsy, which is terrifying when it hits — my wife and I thought I might be having a stroke! — and after that it’s just annoying and damned inconvenient as you discover all the things you need both sides of your face for in daily life. The good news, of course, is that I made a full recovery in record time, and it gave me an excuse to let me grow my beard in.

So, yeah, I ended up setting that novel aside for a while. I busied myself with other projects for a while, including a number of short stories I wrote and sold directly to various anthologies, including “The Moment” which earned me a Hugo nomination, as well as the heightened profile such nominations bring. That was fun. One of the other things I did before returning to the novel was to pull together a collection of my fantasy stories for Hadley Rille Books. This came out in 2010 under the title Sweet Potato Pie and Other Surrealities. And of course, in addition to my own work as an author, I run a small press, and so I get to count publishing other people as one of my cat-vacuuming exercises. When I should have been working on my own novel I was doing things like putting out Cat Rambo‘s collection Eyes Like Sky And Coal And Moonlight, as well as preparing the second volume in Paper Golem’s novella series Alembical 2. All of these were very worthwhile things to do, but they didn’t get the novel written.

How long did it take to complete the novel? I’m interested in how the stages progressed, e.g., research, writing, editing, and so forth.

During the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, I met with my publisher and he agreed to buy the second, then untitled book. In Spring of 2010 I had about 90% of the book written, when I was accepted to Walter Jon William‘s master class, the Taos Toolbox. I figured I’d go, learn a few things, come back and polish off the last few chapters of the book and be done before the end of summer. Nope. I returned from Taos and started the novel over. Literally, back to page one. Yes, sure, I was able to keep quite a bit, but it all had to be reworked, re-evaluated, retooled. Things that I thought I’d already known about writing really came into focus for me at Taos. It was an amazing experience. It also blew my deadline for me. I finally turned in the book on December 23rd.

From there, I began working with my publisher on edits. One of the perks of writing for a small press is that you can end up having a lot more input into the process than my friends with books coming out of the big New York publishers tell me about. It also doesn’t hurt that in addition to my author-editor relationship with Hadley Rille Books, I also have a publisher-to-publisher relationship. But most importantly, I have a great deal of respect for Eric Reynolds, and I know when he has a question about something I’ve written he’s not just yanking my chain. Something has pulled him up short, and we work it out, point by point.

As that was winding down, the cover art discussion began. Again, because HRB is a small press, and in part because of my relationship with Eric, and possibly even because I brought the artist to him, I have an insane amount of input into the art process. In some ways this is unfortunate because I’m lousy at art direction, and Rachael Mayo, despite being a phenomenally talented artist, is a very poor telepath and cannot see into my brain on the first try to put on paper what I’m envisioning. Eventually we worked it all out and the resulting cover is nothing short of exquisite.

(Buffalito Contingency cover art.)


I agree, that’s a beautiful cover!

Tomorrow we’ll conclude our interview with Lawrence M. Schoen, who holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language. In 2007, he was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer and in 2010 received a Hugo nomination for best short story.

Tomorrow we’ll also include a more detailed biography, but in the meantime if you want more information about Lawrence and his books, visit his web page at http://www.lawrencemschoen.com.

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The latest in our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today our guest is Cassie Alexander, a registered nurse and the author of the Nightshifted trilogy about Edie Spence, a nurse who works on a floor for vampire-exposed humans. Nightshifted will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2012.

(Courtesy of Cassie Alexander.)

How did you start work on Nightshifted, and how did the work progress?

I first conceived of Nightshifted as a short story. Part of me always knew it’d be a novel, but I’d been so burned by the time-invested-but-no-love cycle of novel writing before that I couldn’t bear to think I was working on one. So I pretended it was a short story, and then when I reached the end of that short story, I pretended I was working on another short story in the cycle that just happpppened to be the next few scenes, and by the time I was done with that “short story” I could stop lying to myself and get on with it already. The book had bitten me, and wouldn’t let go.

That’s fascinating! So how long did it take to complete Nightshifted, based on that short-story-after-short-story approach? And once you were finished, how did the rest of the process go?

It took me eleven months to write it and edit it. I was also doing short stories and working pretty much full time — it wasn’t the biggest priority for me continually at that time.

Then, it took me another eleven months to find an agent.

It took my agent about a month to get me notes, and then me about a month to send her my edits and ancillary material (proposals for books 2 and 3, a bio, etc.). Then, it took ten days to get its first offer, and about a week after that for the auction to settle out.

I talked to my new editor the day Nightshifted sold, and have been working on its sequel ever since. Moonshifted is due in June, and Shapeshifted is due in December. Just like Prince Humperdinck (“…and Guilder to frame for it”), I’m swamped … but in the best possible way.

Tell us a little about your search for a literary agent. How did you avoid getting discouraged during the search?

The agent search was interminable. I really wanted to start working on the second book, but every time I did, I’d get another, “You know this is really good, honest, but no,” rejection. I’d get requests for full manuscripts, get my hopes up, only to have them repeatedly dashed.

It’s hard, too, because so much of what you’re doing when you’re trying to find an agent is like trying to set yourself up on blind dates. Hours of Google-stalking, crafting the perfect query letter to put your best foot forward — after so much effort, you can’t help but get your hopes up.

I accidentally lucked out in two ways. First, I sent out my queries in batches of four or five. Because people were interested, once the ball started rolling, I almost always had a partial or a full out, to pin my hopes on, which helped as other rejections piled in. Secondly, any time anyone rejected me, I cut and pasted their line in my spreadsheet down to the bottom of my list. By putting all my rejections out of sight, I didn’t realize how many I had until quite late in the game. By then, I had the strength to keep going, out of sheer stubbornness.

That’s very encouraging for those of us who are still on the hunt for an agent (and a publisher).

Looking back on the process, what was the biggest surprise you got out of working on Nightshifted? Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of the novel, or the series?

I think the biggest surprise as the author was that … other people cared.

When I finished Nightshifted, I put out a call to my writer friends and about eight people offered to read it for me. Seven of them actually did. I was just thinking about this the other day, in that I’ve never had that high a read-through for a project of mine before. It was a good sign before I even knew I needed good signs — and the eighth person, who didn’t read it? I’d gotten their e-mail address wrong!

(My first reader from this group, who turned notes around to me in under 48 hours, will always have my eternal love. I’d just about convinced myself it was crap and I was an utter fool — major post-novel burn out — and his e-mail saved me.)

As far as readers getting anything out of it — I hope they do, but I’ll leave it up to them.

What did you learn from Nightshifted that you’re applying to your next project?

Outline, outline, outline. I’ve already completed two drafts of Nightshifted ‘s sequel, Moonshifted, and I’m soooooo glad I outlined first. It saved me a ton of time. When doing final drafts of Nightshifted, I found myself at my wits’ end a lot, trying to decide what things would happen in what order for the most impact — I could feel all the scenes that I needed to have, but straightening them out was awful. Having an outline, even a very generic one, was a lifeline.


Thanks, Cassie, for taking the time to answer a few questions and for showing us that perseverance pays off! Best of luck with Nightshifted and its sequels.

If you’d like more information about Cassie and her books, her website is www.cassiealexander.com.

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Codex Blog Tour: COLIN HARVEY and the Universe of DAMAGE TIME

Continuing our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today our guest is Colin Harvey, author of Damage Time, published in October 2010 by Angry Robot Books.

British writer Colin Harvey has been a freelance writer since 2007, after a career in marketing that included launching Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Iceland and various other products in Australia and North America. He reviewed fiction for Strange Horizons for six years, and served on the Management Committee of the Speculative Literature Foundation for five. His short stories have appeared in Albedo One, Apex, Interzone and Speculations, and his anthology Killers was nominated for the Black Quill Award and the British Fantasy Award.

(Colin Harvey and Alice. From Colin’s Facebook page. Click to enlarge.)

Your most recent novel, Damage Time, came out late last year, but when did you get the idea for it? Did you start work on it right away, or did you set the idea aside for a while?

I started writing what would eventually become Damage Time shortly after Worldcon 2005. Kim Stanley Robinson had been chairing a series of panels on ‘Life in 2050,’ and as is often the case, Worldcon had energised me. I did the old Astounding trick of extrapolating various aspects of life, such as the extension of the round the clock lifestyle and gridlocked traffic, taking a line starting say twenty or thirty years ago, running it to the ‘now’ of the novel. At that time it was called ‘Memory,’ which should give people who’ve read it a clue as to what the priority always was.

To be honest, by early 2006 I’d shelved it, partly because I’d just sold a novel — Lightning Days (to Swimming Kangaroo Books) –and was working on revising The Silk Palace, the next novel I was working on. The other reason was because I didn’t have the skills I needed at that point to do the concept justice. It took me another two or three years of reading books like Beyond Hubbard’s Peak, The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency to give me the confidence to tackle my future New York.

Did you have to overcome any major obstacle(s) while working on Damage Time?

I’m trying to think back to the writing, and there weren’t really any obstacles. Unless you count that I had seven and a half months in which to deliver something to the publisher — Angry Robot needed books in a hurry at the time, as they were setting up! I knew I could deliver something, but I really, really wanted to deliver something special, not any old rubbish … so the biggest challenge was to make it as good as I could, in so little time. And the only way to do that was to work really, really hard!

What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on Damage Time? Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of the book?

I think that I was surprised at the refreshingly tolerant attitude of many Muslims toward trans people — in some instances South East Asians would actually talk of three genders. I fully expected fire and brimstone toward them, but in fact the attitude of many Muslims toward people who are different puts that of some so-called Christians to shame. I’m hoping that however much of a jackass Shah might appear at first that this tolerance comes through, and that he doesn’t come across as simplistic.

I admit that some of us “so-called Christians” would do well to remember that Jesus never rejected anyone he came across, but let’s leave our relative (in)tolerance as a topic for another day. For now, what are you working on these days? And did you learn anything from writing Damage Time that you’re applying to your current projects?

I’ve just finished a third novel for Angry Robot which is called Ultramassive and returns us to the universe of Winter Song. I think what I took from writing Damage Time is that I can write to a tight deadline — for any novelist suddenly faced with having to write a book to a schedule, the first time is a daunting challenge. Next up, I’m just about to start reading for an SF anthology for Aeon Press called Transtories which will be published in Autumn 2011.


I appreciate Colin taking the time to help us understand more about the process of crafting a novel — it’s not as easy as it looks!

Eric Brown of The Guardian reviewed Damage Time and called it “a gritty police procedural set in a near-future New York.” He wrote,

In this world, citizens can record their memories and post them on the net, and [Detective Pete] Shah is an expert at reading and decoding these posted memories as an aid to solving crimes – but someone wants Shah and his skill out of the way. The strength of the novel lies not only in the depiction of a detailed future of hardship and privation, but in the expert characterisation of Shah: a lone figure whose origins leave him open to prejudice within the police department, and whose problematic relationship with an intersexual courtesan reveals his own deep-seated prejudices.

(Damage Time cover art.)

To learn more about Damage Time, see the Damage Time page at Angry Robot Books. To learn more about Colin Harvey, visit http://www.colin-harvey.com.

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Codex Blog Tour: BRADLEY BEAULIEU (Part 2)

Continuing our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today we conclude our interview with Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Winds of Khalakovo. Read yesterday’s interview here.

(Winds of Khalakovo cover art. Click to enlarge.)


What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on The Winds of Khalakovo? Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of it?

I suppose the biggest surprise is just how much of our world made it into the book. I was getting into politics just when I was getting into the thick of this book, and some of it crept in. The struggles in the Middle East certainly show up. And that was a surprise in a way. But on the other hand, how can it not? The events of our time affect me — they affect us all — so in some ways I imagine it’s impossible to keep those things out (assuming you’re writing a sweeping story with a lot of political implications).

I tried to be very careful not to pass judgment in the book, however. I don’t want my writing to be didactic. If it happens to illuminate some condition in our world and starts a discussion, I’m fine with that, but the story and the world come first. They are their own. They are not of our world, so I wanted them to be insular from it. By the same token (I know this sounds like I’m backtracking, but I’m really not!) if some of the issues we’re facing today came up in the story naturally, I didn’t try to quash them. I let them be and allowed them to play out as the world and politics and characters dictated.

It’s a fine line, I think. One of my favorite writers is Tim Powers, and I’ve heard him say at a few conventions that he never tries to say anything in his writing. He gets laughs with that line, and I know it’s impossible to take that sentiment literally, but I feel exactly like he does. I’m not trying to say anything with my novels. But just as certainly as I’m not consciously trying, those things that are important to me or that I’m trying to explore will naturally come up in the writing whether I want them to or not.

So this was probably the biggest surprise: the exploration of this saying nothing while saying things. It was a fun thought experiment to consider it more fully as I was writing and also while editing, just what the book was about and whether or not I had let my views come too front-and-center.

As for what I hope readers take from the novel, I would say this: that many of our conflicts — be they personal or political — come from a simple lack of understanding and an allowance of credibility to those who speak the loudest. I think it’s important to try, as much as we’re able, to see the other side of a conflict. Perhaps if we do, we might find that unscalable differences are not so difficult to climb after all. Though again, I wasn’t trying to say these things; I simply think that this is one of the themes that played throughout the novel.

What’s next for you … and what did you learn from The Winds of Khalakovo that you’re applying to it?

Well, I’m contracted for two more books. I’m in the final stages (thank goodness) of the first draft of Book 2, The Straits of Galahesh. Book 3 is bubbling around in my hindbrain now, but it’s starting to become more clear. I’m really looking forward to finishing these books, not because they wear on me (they don’t), but because I’m anxious to simply have the arc completed. Much as Tolkien considered The Lord of the Rings one book (and it was), I consider The Lays of Anuskaya one book, one story. It’ll be nice to have that wrapped up and out in the world.

Beyond this, I have a science-fantasy in mind, tentatively titled The Days of Dust and Ash. Think Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind meets The Coldfire Trilogy. I’m really excited about this story, because it’s a departure from what I’ve written in the past, though it will still be fantastic and wide in scope. The story focuses on a young girl who is summoned from the dust, a global consciousness that was created as the last great age of technology fell under a nanite plague.

One thing I’m certainly bringing to this next project is the notion of using artwork to advise the story. I’ve already collected a dozen or so sci-fi, ghostly images that have helped me to refine the “technology” of the dust — white magic, if you will — and ash — black magic. I’ll also use the fractal mapper again. The story will take place on a water-poor world, and mostly in salt flats, in particular. The ash — the force of evil — has trouble closing in on the pockets of the world that are covered in salt. But as the story opens, the ash is slowly exerting itself, turning back the tide against the small pockets of humanity, creating a pressure cooker for those that have somehow managed to remain alive through the global catastrophe.


The Winds of Khalakovo is due out in April 2011 from Night Shade Books.

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo …

(Map of the region of Khalakovo. Click to enlarge.)

Learn more about Bradley and The Winds of Khalakovo on his web site, http://quillings.com/.

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Codex Blog Tour: BRADLEY BEAULIEU (Part 1)

Continuing our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today our guest is Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first of three planned books in The Lays of Anuskaya series. In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad’s stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, “In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat,” was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.

(Bradley Beaulieu.)

The story of how you got the idea for the book from looking at paintings in the art gallery is fantastic, but how long was it between first conceiving The Winds of Khalakovo and actually sitting down to write it?

When my wife and I went to the National Gallery in Edinburgh and saw all those great paintings, I decided that my next project (which eventually became The Winds of Khalakovo) would include the artwork I bought in postcard form. However, at that time I was working on another novel. I was finishing up a draft and knew that it would need at least one more to make it work. (As it turned out, that book went through at least four full drafts after my trip to the UK, but who’s counting?) I was also working heavily on short fiction at the time. I went to Orson Scott Card‘s Literary Bootcamp the summer following, and Clarion the summer following that. Suffice it to say that the story didn’t really get my full attention until around 2007, several years after spying the artwork. But that was great, actually. I was learning quite a lot about writing, which helped me to take on such a large project. Plus, the delay afforded my hindbrain to work on the story without the pressure of actually writing it. It was nice for the pressure to be off, so to speak, but of course the pressure was “on” in other pieces of fiction I was working on at the time.

One thing I haven’t really talked about much (yes, this is an exclusive!) is that I also used a piece of software to help me with the world building. The software is called Fractal Terrains, and it allows you to specify some basic parameters about a world — things like diameter, water cover, mountain height and ocean depth, the number of moons — and the software will then render a world for you. I played with the software a lot, altering the parameters and retrying until I had something I liked. I knew that I wanted a world with archipelagos. The rendering of the terrain and the channels beneath the ocean surface ended up advising me on the magic of the world. It also created the geo-political structure. I circled the island chains until I had what I wanted: a loose collection of archipelagos that depended upon one another for survival. These became the nine Duchies of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya, and two of my main characters became a Prince of one duchy and a Princess of another. It also made sense to me that there might have been an indigenous people on these islands that were pushed out by the expansion of the Grand Duchy. And from this flowed both the Aramahn, the peaceful peoples that originally inhabited the islands, and the Maharraht, the warlike splinter of the Aramahn that wish to push the Grand Duchy from the shores of the islands at any cost.

So the time period in this case, about three years, really helped me to prepare for this book, because it’s big. I don’t think it would have turned out nearly as well if I had just launched into it after finding that artwork. I also wouldn’t have been as deep and complex. All in all, though I was anxious to get to the project, I’m glad life and other things got in the way.

How long did it take to complete The Winds of Khalakovo? How did the creative stages progress?

As I mentioned above, I hit the pause button from 2004 to 2007. Another bit of serendipity struck in terms of the timing for the initial draft. I went to Clarion in 2006 (the last of the Michigan Clarionites!) and my writing took a major leap forward. As anyone who goes to one of the longer writing workshops will tell you, it takes months, and even years, to grok everything that you only have a chance to learn on a surface-level at Clarion. So I’m glad I had wrapped up Clarion and written a few short stories afterward before launching into The Winds of Khalakovo.

But I digress … I started in earnest in 2007 and I finished the first readable draft (which was probably three full passes on the manuscript) by late 2008/early 2009. It was at this point (and it was perfect timing) that Sarah Kelly, with whom I’d attended Clarion, was firing up “Starry Heaven,” a writing workshop based on the Blue Heaven workshop format. I jumped at the chance, because I knew I needed more eyes on Winds. I went that summer and got great advice from the other attendees. I’m thoroughly convinced that it pushed the manuscript over the top. Might it have been picked up anyway? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have liked my chances, and in any case it’s a much better book for my having gone.

I took the rest of 2009 after the workshop and polished up the manuscript, and when I was attending World Fantasy that year in San Jose, I approached Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books. He agreed to take a look at it, and roughly four months later, I had an offer for the trilogy.

(Winds of Khalakovo cover art. Click to enlarge.)

What major obstacles did you have to overcome while working on The Winds of Khalakovo, and how did you overcome them?

Well, the biggest obstacle is life. I have a full time job working with enterprise software — installing, training, customizing. I know, I know — I can hear the yawns already — but it’s something I enjoy, and it does indeed pay the bills. Still, the day job certainly has a way of cutting into the writing time. As does having a wife, and two children, and family, and friends, and hobbies, and… Well, you get the idea.

It’s tough. It’s difficult to sit back in my chair at night when everyone’s gone to bed already and get my hour of writing in. But I’ve cultivated the practice, and although I would never call it easy, there is certainly a sense of pride after the session is over, even if the words weren’t particularly great. That’s largely how I do it. Sure, there was some motivation in looking at the big picture: having a book published someday. But that’s really hard to use over and over again for the day-to-day grind of writing. So I allow myself to feel the pride that comes with simply doing. Some day (hopefully soon) there will be other rewards, like readers telling you how much they liked your book, but I’ll always stick to the mantra of getting in my hour of writing each day, which generally yields me 1,000 words.

Note that I didn’t address what it’s like now, which is a whole other thing. I’m under contract for two books now, and so that’s incentive in and of itself. It helps in a way. It’s more pressure than I had before, sure, but it’s good pressure. It’s making me push myself to create words, but also to try to live up to what I’ve started in Book 1. I’ve laid down a contract with the reader in Book 1, and I understand that I have to live up to it in Books 2 and 3. I hope I can do it. I’m certainly trying. And that goal helps me to continue to make the time for writing while life continues around me, and to me, and through me.


Tomorrow we will conclude our conversation with Bradley. Meanwhile, you can read more about him and The Winds of Khalakovo on his web site, http://quillings.com/.

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Codex Blog Tour: GARETH D. JONES

The fourth installment in our discontinuous series of “blog tour” posts featuring fellow members of the Codex Writers online community.

Today our guest is Gareth D. Jones, editor of The Immersion Book of Steampunk — an anthology of original stories due out in April from UK-based independent publisher Immersion Press. The Immersion Book of Steampunk covers the whole spectrum of steampunk from science fiction to fantasy, adventure to romance. Contributors to the anthology include veteran author Paul Di Filipo and steampunk authority GD Falksen.

(Gareth D. Jones. Courtesy of his Blogger profile. Click to enlarge.)

Gareth D. Jones is an environmental scientist from the UK who also writes stories and drinks lots of tea. His stories have appeared in 40 publications and 20 languages. He has recently completed his second novel and is also working on comic scripts and screenplays.

We appreciate Gareth taking time out to give us some insight into what it took to turn this anthology into reality.


How long was it between first conceiving The Immersion Book of Steampunk and getting down to work on it?

I’ve discovered over the past year that a lot of publishing opportunities are a result of serendipity as well as inspiration. I’ll fill you in on some related history that leads to how I ended up working on The Immersion Book of Steampunk. It’s a long and waffly story, I must warn you.

When my first story saw print in a UK small press magazine, I was most disappointed to find that nobody reviewed the magazine. I decided to rectify this by starting to review as many UK-based print and electronic ‘zines as I could, and later anthologies, which appeared on several different reviewing websites, most recently SF Crowsnest. I came in contact with several editors and publishers by doing this and later posted interviews with many of them on my website.

When I had an idea for a different anthology, I emailed a small press publisher to ask what he thought. He liked the concept and said he’d like to publish it if I edited it. This led to momentary panic as I had no idea where to start. That project has been put aside for a while but is still under development.

When I attended EasterCon, the British national SF convention, in April 2010, I met up with that publisher and several other editors and publishers. These meetings led to my 4th pro story sale, and I was offered the editorship of a new pro webzine and also asked to edit The Best of Murky Depths, which is due out soon. I also met Carmelo Rafala, whose name I recognized from Jupiter magazine, where several of my stories have appeared. Carmelo was launching the first title from Immersion Press, a new independent press. Soon afterwards, Carmelo asked me to edit The Immersion Book of Steampunk. After I’d bombarded Carmelo with numerous questions, I got stuck straight in to working on the anthology.

The Immersion Book of Steampunk is due to be released in just a few weeks, and as an anthology it went through a much different genesis than a novel. How did the stages of the project progress?

I love a bit of steampunk, but I’m not a great authority on the subject, so the first stage was to do some research, find out who are the hot names in steampunk, who are up-and-coming and which authors I’ve enjoyed recently also write steampunk. I wanted to include some well-known names, but the idea behind Immersion Press is also to showcase newer writers.

It’s an invitation-only anthology and I started sending out invites in June 2010. It’s difficult to know how many to invite, not knowing how long the stories are going to be, or how many will sign up. A couple had to pull out due to other commitments, but I had such a great list of possibilities that I had no trouble filling my quota and could easily have filled a much fatter volume. I had all the stories by my deadline of December, and edited each as it arrived, sending them back to the authors for approval and then proof-reading again. I collected bios from the authors and then struggled over my intro, handing the whole package over to Immersion Press by the end of the year.

What major obstacle did you have to overcome while working on The Immersion Book of Steampunk?

Too much choice of great authors.

What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on The Immersion Book of Steampunk? Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of the finished work?

What impressed me was that authors not only submitted stories for the anthology, but that most of them were written specifically for the anthology. I felt honoured to be the first to read these stories from authors across the globe. I also had the privilege of ‘discovering’ a new author and buying his very first published story.

I’m hoping that readers will enjoy the stories as much as I have, that they will appreciate the sense of fun and adventure in the broad variety of stories I’ve collected.

You mentioned the privilege of ‘discovering’ a new author. How did that work, since this was an invitation-only anthology? Is this another case of serendipity as well as inspiration?

Meanwhile I’d joined the Critters online writing workshop. Anatoly Belilovski had several short steampunk stories to be critted, so I sent my crit back with an invitation to submit the final version. It wasn’t until I’d accepted it that I found it this will be his first published story.

What did you learn from The Immersion Book of Steampunk that you’re applying (or will apply) to your next projects?

I’ve learned all of the questions that I need to ask of the publisher before I start, rather than randomly thinking of them throughout the project. I’ve gained much more confidence in editing too, and in approaching authors to start with. Everyone I corresponded with, even those who turned me down, which included multiple-best-selling-novelists, were very supportive.

I mentioned The Best of Murky Depths, which is a reprint e-anthology containing my choice of prose and graphic stories from the first 3 years of the fabulous Murky Depths magazine. I wrapped that up at almost the same time and it should be out soon. I’ve just finished my second novel too, so I’m now planning to get back to my original anthology idea, now that I have a much better idea of how to go about it. I also have great plans for a TV pilot screenplay and the outline for a series, and a graphic novel.


It sounds as if Gareth has more than enough to keep him busy, and we wish him the best of luck with all his projects!

For more information on Gareth D. Jones and The Immersion Book of Steampunk, visit his web site at http://www.garethdjones.co.uk/.

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