Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Gift of the Bouda- the short story
Even though it was the first short story I ever wrote with the intent of publishing, 'The Gift of the Bouda' was actually the fifth short story published. So that implies two stories behind the story, right? Right you are. Let's start with the what motivated me to write for publication and then we'll get to the how.
I wrote GOB because of the war in Iraq.
Sounds weighty, doesn't it?
Well, for me it was. And here's the short version.
I am a life-long Army Reserve officer. I enlisted in the California National Guard when I was nineteen, with the intent of flying helicopters. Which I did. I attended OCS and then went on to fly Cobra helicopters (as well as Hueys) while I was in college. Neat part-time gig, let me tell you.
After I finished my PhD I went to Texas for a postdoc and also transferred to the Reserves, where I flew the venerable AH-64 Apache. Really cool. I was eventually promoted out of flying, but volunteered to go back (should they need me) when the War in Afghanistan kicked off. One thing led to another and we started this thing in Iraq (you've probably seen something about it in the news) and I ended up there as an Operations officer for an Aviation Task Force. In order to go though, I had to leave my civilian job at a the world's leading non-profit provider of cell lines (in Manassas, Virginia) where I had a lab. The war blew, but I did my part. My civilian employer, though, really didn't. When I returned from a year away, serving my country, separated from my loved ones, risking my life, after all of that, my lab, my staff, my equipment and my projects had been parted out. Gone was the lab for which I had worked so hard. To shorten the long story, I ended up finding a new gig. But I didn't seem to be able to scratch that creative itch that I was able to scratch in the lab. Most people don't think of science as creative, but it really is. Especially cell biology where there is as much 'craft' as pure science.
I wondered if creative writing might be able to scratch that creative itch. 'Creative' is in the title, right. So I gave it a shot, and the story turned out okay. Two months of futzing, but it wasn't bad.
I shopped GOB around a bit and it received some good feedback. They always tell you that receiving personal feedback (as opposed to a form letter) is a good response. My first rejection was from George Scithers at Weird Tales, and yes it was hand-written and rather encouraging. So I incorporated his suggestions and then I sent it to a proposed anthology at Graveside tales. It took around 6 months to be accepted and another 6 or so to be published. It was quite worth it. Matt Hults was the editor and I think he did a great job -he also did the cover. I had the added bonus of sharing the TOC with Mike Stone who I had met through my critique group as well as some other great authors. It was fun and I was asked for an author interview (http://gravesidetales.com/forum/index.php?topic=1343.0). If anyone at Graveside is reading this, I'm still on hold with my story for Beast Within II...and waiting...and waiting...
So I told you about the what and the how. How about the why?
Gift of the Bouda is the story of a soldier who is attacked by a were-hyena (the Bouda) while on a mission. He is infected with the lycanthropic curse and returns to the 'real world' of mundane America.
A place he isn't needed.
A place that doesn't understand what he's been through.
See where I'm going with this?
Yes, the story was a bit cathartic. The lycanthropy of the story represents PTSD. Not something I suffered but I can have empathy for those that do and John Rogers (the main character) is an homage of sorts. And yes, in this light the challenges I faced after being kicked the curb by the system were so much less traumatic than those faced by others. John also has the opportunity to deal with the Pre-Shinseki VA. Oh joy. I hear it's getting better.
The lycanthropy made for a great vehicle for post traumatic stress. I employed the Bouda as I wanted something that was appropriate to the folk lore of the region, as opposed to another haunted moor...with a cursed gothic manor, werewolf story. I was thinking blackhawk down with monsters. Or the movie dog-soldiers. Military horror. Fast-paced. It seems to have worked.
I really liked this character and after I finished STG-the novel, I wrote Gift of the Bouda- the novel. Again, another year. It currently sits with a few agents, so we'll see how it goes.