Support Your Favorite Authors

Ye Olden Times

My mother always wanted to be an author. She went so far as to give me what she thought was a writerly name and to send a few pages off to an editor who was kind enough to write back with encouragement and advice. In those days, most editors saw it as part of their job to help find and nurture the next crop of writers. Agents would take on new clients and then eat their commission through the first unprofitable, formative years as a writer found his or her wings.

Those days are gone.

In this branded, Internet age, publishers, editors, and agents face grueling competition from every direction. They still try to find and foster new talent, but everything they do must be funded from the profits from the big brands in their portfolio. It’s a dangerous game. If they invest too little in the future, they’ll slowly starve, to much and they’re bankrupt tomorrow.

Today, you almost can’t sell a non-fiction book without a built-in audience from Youtube, a contentious term in Congress, or prime-time news coverage of you taking a bullet to save a kitten. And we fiction authors are not far behind.  Anyone with a credit card can publish a book. Millions do each year. Publishers, increasingly, struggle to get their big guns out in front of consumers, to say nothing of the little guys or the new guys.

So how does this affect you as a reader? In two ways: First, you have your pick of more new reading material than ever before, though must of it, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, is that one book that everyone has in him but which, in most cases, is just where it should remain. Second, you can help.

How you can help good writing

  1. Be understanding. Yes, some writers are downright obnoxious in their obsessive desperation to self-promote, but we have to toot our own horn. Any writer who doesn’t maintain a mailing list, who doesn’t add a promotional footer to email and social media interactions, simply isn’t doing his or her job. I try to keep mine simple, tasteful, and whenever possible, humorous, but it has to be done.Screenshot - 02272016 - 01:58:47 PM
  2. Spread The Word. Liking and following on social media is awesome–thank you! But you know what’s even awesomer? Sharing. Retweeting. Blogging. When you do that, your peeps can see what you like and your author gets badly needed exposure.
  3. Visit Their Website. We built it for you. Visit it and report any problems you see, then sign up for the newsletter, request the freebie, and pass the word to your like-minded friends.
  4. Review Their Work. Goodreads and Amazon are just two places where you can rate and review books and magazine issues you like. Reviews help sell all products these days,  but they especially help with books by increasing the attention they get online. Have a blog or Youtube channel? Post a review, start a discussion, or just tweet a selfie of yourself with the book–or an “in the wild” photo of the book on a bookstore shelf. God, how we love those.
  5. Review the author. Love an author’s latest–and not for the first time? Think of why you like it–what it is that speaks to you–and post on that. One of my favorite parts of my website is a little scrolling list of kind words from readers.
  6. Pre-order that Novel. Preorders mean everything to new authors with a book contract. Really. Preorder it. Pre-order a copy for gifting, for the library, for the school. Tie up your friends, er…I mean…talk your friends into pre-orpodiumdering too.
  7. Nominate us. Attending Worldcon? YOU can nominate for the Hugos and the Campbell. Know all that “Sad Puppies” kerfuffle last year? That was only possible because almost no one ever does. Nominate and vote for awards big and small, international and local. We love that. A lot. Really.
  8. Come see us! We authors, we do these things called book signings? You know…you buy or bring a book and we open it up and scribble, “Dear Sally, I was told there would be donuts,” or something like that. Do that. You know what really makes our day? Smiling, happy readers. We love you. Really. We do it all for you. Well, at least half for you. Well you’re in there somewhere, anyway. And if you don’t come see us at Barns & Noble, we’ll have to post another selfie with the barista in the coffee shop, and no one wants that. Seriously. No one.

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Meet The Winners! Kate Julicher

Greetings fellow readers! Allow me to introduce this year’s Writers of the Future Published Finalist, the very lovely, Kate Julicher.

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Author Kate Julicher

Stuart: Hi Kate! It was great meeting you at Superstars earlier this month, tell my readers a bit about yourself.

Kate: I’m actually only half of the KD Julicher team. My husband and I collaborate closely – you might say intimately – on everything I write. My role is to be the “hands on keyboard”. We toss ideas around through emails during the work day or on weekend expeditions into the mountains around our home or over dinner. Then I sit down and write a draft, then we edit it together with a fine-tooth comb, lots of wine, and hopefully no need for marital counseling.

Oh, and I keep trains from crashing into each other.

Stuart: Wow! Any talents or hobbies, aside from the train thing?

Kate: I sing a lot. Not professionally, but it seems like once a month someone comes up after church and says “you should join the choir!”. I don’t think it’s because I’m that good, I think it’s just that I’m loud and enthusiastic.

Stuart: Enthusiasm definitely counts! So how’d you get into writing?

Kate: I’ve always been a writer. I wrote on that “story paper” you get in kindergarten, the stuff with the big lines and space at the top for art. I spent three years in fanfiction as a teenager and then discovered NaNoWriMo, which I’ve done every year since 2002 and only failed once. About four years ago we decided to get serious and went from NaNovelists to working at the craft year-round.

Stuart: Ha ha! I remember “story paper.” How long have you been entering WotF?

Kate: Two years ago I decided to enter every quarter of WotF until I won or pro’d out. I’ve racked up 4 HMs, 3 finalists. One of those won the Baen Fantasy Adventure contest in 2014.

Stuart: All right! Way to go, Kate! Okay, Star Trek or Star Wars?

Kate. Yes? I grew up on Star Trek. For a while it was the only thing my parents would let us watch. I saw the whole Star Wars trilogy at one sitting when I was 13 and it really fired my imagination. Right now I am enjoying the new Star Wars movie more than the new Trek movies but I would love to be won back over by Trek.

Stuart: Fair enough. Hey…what’s that…who’s shining that light in my eyes?

Kate: Winks.

Stuart: Pantser or Plotter?

Kate: Definite plotter. If I have a detailed scene-by-scene outline when I sit down I can whip out a first draft in no time flat. That said I leave enough room for my characters to surprise me.

Stuart: Very impressive. How do you come up with the outline?

Kate: My husband and I throw ideas back and forth at each other for a while. Then I sit down and start plotting in Scrivener. I set up a new project, break things into three acts, and start dumping in the events I know will happen as separate scenes.  I use the notecard function to jot down some notes for each scene. I’ll put in placeholders in between the scenes I know about, and start filling in. Usually at this point my writing brain is active and things just start to click. I also like to put in a word count estimate on each scene. If I’ve got multiple POVs, I color-code the scenes. Then I look and say, ok, this part needs to be longer, I need another Lord Evilpants chapter here, etc.

After that we’ll ideally go over the outline and make sure it makes sense. Then I sit down to write. If I’ve done this outline right, the writing part is pretty darn fast. I wrote a 120,000-word draft last November for NaNoWriMo, thanks to this system. It’s got some flaws and the pre-writing part can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months, but I feel like the resulting product is strong.

I’m looking to upgrade this process to the next level by incorporating scene/sequel plotting as described in Deborah Chester’s “The Fantasy Fiction Formula” but I only just got that book so I haven’t actually tried yet.

Stuart: What’s the nuttiest thing that ever happened to you?

Kate: My boss wouldn’t let me quit my job.

No, seriously, I went in saying, “Sorry, love you guys, but my husband got a job offer a thousand miles away, here’s my two weeks’ notice” and they said “Wait wait, how about you work for us remotely?” Eight years and three moves since, I have either the longest or the shortest commute of anyone I know. It only takes me thirty seconds to stroll down the hall to the living room, but if I have to actually go to the office, that’s an all-day flight…

Stuart: Hola! If you had a superpower other than enrapturing employers, what would it be?

Kate: Can I have Hermione’s Time-Turner instead? I work full time, raise my daughter, and try to put in 3-4 hours a day on writing related stuff. As a result I often feel like Bilbo: “Butter that’s been scraped over too much bread”.

Stuart: Done! Now where did I put that thing….oh well, here’s a bagel. Er…next question. What was your favorite toy growing up?

Kate: The woods out back. We had a narrow lot that stretched out for what felt like miles, all wooded and hilly, with a four-foot ravine along one edge to play in and fallen trees to turn into forts. We’d go out after lunch and just be gone all day.>

Stuart: Ha ha! Me too. That tree made it into my upcoming Analog story, in fact. My sister and I were always secret agents looking for missing isotopes–whatever those were. If you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (ala Dr. Who’s scarf/bowtie etc.), what might it be?

Kate: My husband and I had custom-fitting hats made recently by a local hatmaker. He used this steampunk tophat device to measure our heads, and then shaped the hats to our heads. I love my fedora, I wear it every time I go out.

Stuart: Tell us about your winning story.

Kate: I’ve had three finalists at WotF now and they’re actually all in the same world, though that is not obvious at first glance. Swords Like Lightning, Hooves like Thunder is one of my favorites. It starts with the heroine running desperately from the enemies that have captured her brother. She meets a mysterious stranger and goes on a journey into a strange, exciting new world. This story actually sprang from an offhand reference to a legend that I wrote into an as yet unpublished novel. I started wondering just what that story had looked like to the people who lived it…. Interestingly, my other published story, The Golden Knight, was the second legend referenced in that same novel, and I wrote it for the same reason.

Stuart: Do you prefer fantasy or scifi?

Kate: You’d think as a software engineer who was reading hard SF at twelve ,that would be my passion, but I’ve been drawn to traditional fantasy. I like stories about duty and honor and sacrifice. I also really like using family, marriage, and relationships as plot motivators, and that tends to work better in fantasy.

Stuart: Well awesome, Kate. Enjoy the WotF workhop, it’s definitely a bit of fairytale come true.

Follow Kate at www.kdjulicher.com, and check out The Golden Knight at http://www.baen.com/the_golden_knight.

Meet the Winners – Julie Frost

Welcome friends and readers, lend me your…er..eyes! Say hello to freshly minted Writers of the Future winner, Julie Frost.

Stuart: Congratulations Julie! Tell the good folks a little about yourself. What got you into writing?

Julie: I used to write a lot in high school, but got out of the habit in college. I didn’t pick it up again until I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction. I cut my writerly teeth on that, learning how to plot, keep characters consistent, and actually finish. The first piece of “original” fiction I actually wrote was a Firefly story I assiduously scraped the serial numbers off of by combining characters, changing sexes, and adding aliens (it’s up for free on my blog). The first story I ever sold was one starring those folks.

Stuart: Cool! I was somewhat the same. I just left behind those childish dream until one day they build up and exploded.

Julie: (Raises a wolf mug)

Stuart: I understand you write an eclectic mix of scifi, fantasy, and horror. What have you been working on lately?

Julie: Lately it’s been all werewolves, all the time. There’s so much you can do with them—I’ve even surprised myself.

Stuart: I can see that. Sort of inherently conflicted characters. And where do you do you write your werewolves. Describe your “writer’s cave.”

Julie: People have caves? I should get a cave. In a bar.

Stuart: No, silly. You put the bar in your cave. That way, when the moon is full—oh never mind. Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Julie: Currently, it’s all writing all the time, with the occasional foray into picking up a new Oaxacan carving or anteater figurine.img_0487 In the past, I’ve enjoyed Dog Agility (my dog was the first dog in Utah to earn a title from NADAC and the first Brittany in the country to do so, back in the day), collecting and mounting insects, and building plastic car models. Zoo and nature photography and travel are fun. I also collect werewolf movies. The worse, the better.

Stuart: Wow! That’s amazing. You know, Dave Farland is from Utah. And Orson Scott Card and Brad Torgerson if either of them are there this year. How long have you been entering WotF?

Julie: I entered for the first time in 2007. I’ve garnered 14 form rejections, 11 Honorable Mentions, 2 Semi­Finalists, and 2 Finalists. This story was my second Finalist.

Stuart: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

Julie: I used to swear by (and at) pantsing. Then I decided to do a short story NaNo project (in January, because I just can’t even in November), but knew that if I wanted to write 50,000 words worth of short stories without crashing and burning ignobly, I needed a plan. So I grabbed the Seven­Point Plot Outline, plotted out seven stories using it, and wrote five of them across 53,000 words that month. I have sworn by plotting ever since.

Stuart: Way to go! Knowledge is power. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Julie: The ability to read books by other people and write my own at the exact same time.

Stuart: Kind of like chewing gum and whistling at the same time, or whistling and drinking a coke-float. Yeah. Now we’re talking. When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Julie: I had a stuffed donkey I slept with and still actually own. I do remember always having my nose stuck in a book.

Stuart: Good preparation! If you adopted a unique wardrobe tag what might it be?

Julie: All wolf shirts, all the time. Oh, wait, that’s… pretty much what I wear now!

Stuart: So you wearwolves. I see. I think I see a pattern here… So tell us about your winning story.

Julie: It’s about a werewolf who is (probably) clinically depressed (having just lost his entire pack to hunters) going on a hunter-killing spree to make his city safe for his kind again. It opens in the morgue. The ending is super bittersweet, though not as awful (for the character) as the original ending was. I actually re­wrote it from nearly the ground up with Dave Farland’s sensibilities in mind. His comment about my first Finalist (which was also a werewolf story) was “Is it a story about werewolves, or a story about belonging?” That one, I hadn’t seen that way. This one definitely was. I used a lot of sensory imagery, and I had fun with the world-building aspects and the character immersion. I guess it

worked, since Dave famously “hates” werewolf fiction (he says so in my novel blurb), and yet he’s

put two of mine up as Finalists.

Stuart: Well done. I often remind folks who enter the contest over and over that, like any market, there are tastes and sensibilities to be considered. How about your tastes? What’s your favorite genre?

Julie: Urban fantasy is my current genre du jour. I find stories set in a semblance of our world just a little more satisfying. I like imagining what might lurk in the corners and shadows if we only had the wit to see it.

Stuart: Like…werewolves! Well thanks Julie. I can’t wait to see you on stage in April!

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Follow Julie at agilebrit.livejournal.com and @juliecfrost.

Meet The Winners 2016 – Matt Dovey

12247064_1681806465389861_7632676903299013661_nWhen I won the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, it brought many new experiences into my life. One of the most rewarding has been meeting fellow winners of the contest. So not to deprive you of the same, please join me in welcoming 2015 winner, Matt Dovey, a very tall, very English fellow who has stopped by with a cup of tea.

Stuart: Hi Matt! Welcome to Sputnik’s Orbit, don’t mind the cables, and whatever you do, don’t touch that lever.

Matt: Thanks, I won’t.

Stuart: So tell us a little about yourself.

Matt: Well, I am, predictably, a geek. I work with computers for a living, and the only reason I don’t spend all my time playing computer games anymore is that I’m too busy writing now. I am a proper country boy– a Yellowbelly, in fact–and live in a quiet market town with my amazing wife and three children. The sunrises here are glorious.

Stuart: A yellowbelly eh? I should point out to my American readers that in the UK, that means someone from Lincolnshire, not someone who runs from a fight. So what dragged you away from the sunset and into the writing life?

Matt: I’ve always just felt like a writer, even if I’ve not particularly been writing at the time. I read an awful lot of books as a child, so I suppose it’s based in that. I met my best man at primary school when I saw him misspell Martin the Warrior as “Martian the Warrior” on a book report. Reading is a fundamental part of who I am.

Stuart: Ha ha! That’s me too. I used to write all the time as a kid, just never took it seriously.

Matt: My first fiction was Skies of Arcadia fan fiction. I’m not ashamed (though it is pretty terrible. You could Google it, but you shouldn’t).

What got me started on trying to do it properly? Hilariously enough, because I needed some money, and thought the world would be falling over itself to shower me with praise and money. I have been severely disavowed of both those notions in the three years since.

Stuart. That goodness. You know what’s the last advice Tim Powers gave me at our workshop? Marry into wealth. You did say you have a pretty amazing wife. Does she put up with your writing space?

Matt: I have a man-cave. I’ve got my first Amiga 500, an N64, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Wii and 360–along with my PC, all hooked into a big plasma TV. There’s shelves full of books and DVDs and old Warhammer figures. I am surrounded by all my accumulated nerdery there.

Stuart: Cool. What do you do when your aren’t writing.

Matt: I’ve spent half my life live-roleplaying, which turns out to be marvellously useful for writing. I also homebrew wine and take my SLR with me everywhere I go.

Stuart: Aweseom! You will definitely need it at the workshop. How long have you been entering WotF?

Matt: This was my sixth entry over the course of two years. I’d had two honorable mentions before this. It’s my first sale of any kind, though I’ve just signed a contract with Flash Fiction Online for “This is the Sound of the End of the World”.

Stuart: Well all right! Go man! Tell me this, Star Trek or Star Wars?

Matt: I reject your false dichotomy. Star Trek is science fiction at its best: an examination of humanity, the best and worst of us, our hopes for the future and our fear of ourselves. TNG did it best. Star Wars is fantasy at its best: there has never been another piece of escapism as fine or as successful. Who amongst us has never pretended to be a Jedi? Anyway, the correct answer is “Firefly”.

Stuart: You are correct sir! Have some lovely tea. Do you prefer fantasy or scifi more?

Matt: I love both–and write both–but I am a fantasy geek at heart. Warhammer still occupies a huge part of my imagination, all its gothic spires and overwrought high fantasy.

Stuart: You will probably be meeting Jordan Ellinger, who’s written a lot for Warhammer. He says it has it’s pluses and minuses professionally, but is a great foundation to add to.

Matt: It’s a magpie world, made of stolen shiny bits from a hundred other places, jumbled together and turned up to eleven, and I love it uncritically.

Stuart: There you go. What else?

Matt: Discworld is almost a third parent to me, it’s such a large part of my moral education. I strongly suspect my atheism and humanism was born on the streets of Ankh-Morpork and in the hills of Lancre and the grey plains of Death’s Country.

Stuart: Thanks a lot, Matt. The Texas Talliban will be writing all our great state’s school librarians in the morning.

Matt: Ha ha. Fantasy is so much more than the traditional definition though. It’s the cracks between the pavements that people fall through, it’s the world on the other side of the mirror, it’s the magic you see out of the corner of your eye. I love Gaiman and Miéville and Moorcock, the incredible imagination they bring to bear. I think, even more so than science fiction, fantasy is the one truly unrestrained genre. Laws of physics? Consistent biology? Extrapolated technologies? Such limiting concerns. But magic–magic can take you anywhere.

Stuart: Indeed. Speaking of which, if you had a superpower, what would it be?

Matt: Invisibility. Because I am a writer, and thus an awkward introvert. So long as my SLR could be invisible as well, so I could get some glorious candid portraiture. (Not that kind, you perverts.)

Stuart: Ha ha! Tell us about your winning story

Matt: I can’t say much, because the story is still being blind judged for the Golden Pen award. But it is, objectively, the best thing I’ve written to date: it has characters I like, and characters I dislike but admire, and an actual plot structure to it, and hopefully some cool world-building to it (I think so). It is also a story & setting that has fundamentally grown out of who I am, and it absolutely embodies my politics and my opinions. It’s the sort of story where I looked back on it and thought, “Huh. So that’s what I believe.” Writing really is thinking on paper for me.

Stuart: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Matt: Mostly plotter. I have to know where I’m headed with a story, else I end up just noodling around going nowhere in the story, and by Dickens does that result in some boring passages of prose, ripe for later deletion. But my plotting comes out in a rush of inspiration and excitement as a core idea sparks off implications and interesting scenes and snatches of conversation and gorgeous visuals. I scribble it all down frantically in no sort of order. If I could type at 2,000wpm I’d be a pantser, but the limitations of this frail corporeal existence require me to be a plotter.

That said, any plot as originally envisioned is never complete, and is never adhered to wholly. It seems that half my brain is in my fingers, and the best ideas come while I’m typing. This half-brain-architecture also has limited capacity, such that I have to write down what I’ve already got in order to make room for the rest of the idea to fill out. This is where the role playing comes in handy–I can feel the shape of where an idea should be when I’m writing, and I can just reach out and grasp something from the aether. Occasionally, it even turns out to be something good.

So as long as I have a reasonable idea of where I’m headed, I can pants along the way. (There’s a quote to confuse non-writers.)

Stuart: I think you have the right idea. Plan the work—then wing it. So aside from the WotF workshop, and Flash Fiction Online, what have you got coming up?

Matt: I’m also shortly to appear on a BBC TV quiz show, Pointless, with my wife sometime early this year. That was a surreal experience to film. As soon as I know an airing date, I’ll shout about it on my website/Twitter.

Stuart: How awesome? Well leave a comment with a link when you have one, and soak it in at the workshop. They put on one hell of a show.

Matt: Thanks, I will!

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To watch Matt receive his WotF award live on the Internet the second week of April, Google the Writers of the Future contest as the date approaches. You can also follow Matt at mattdovey.com | facebook | twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet The Winners – Daniel J Davis

As we start this year’s Writers of the Future workshop week, join me in welcoming third quarter winner, Daniel Davis.

Stuart: Welcome Daniel, and congratulations! So who are you, sir?

Daniel: I’m a veteran of the Marine Corps and the Army, with a combined total of almost nine years of service.

Stuart: Well thank you, sir (snaps out crisp salute).

Daniel: I’m still not sure how I managed to sign two different sets of enlistment papers without either one of them saying “Air Force” at the top. I think I’m just a slow learner.

Stuart: Yes, well, where would we be without you? 😉

Daniel: I’ve also been a machinist’s apprentice, a security guard, and a building maintenance worker. I spent most of my life in Massachusetts, but I currently live in North Carolina.

Stuart: Well Mr. Hubbard always said a variety of jobs can be good for the writer’s soul. And what led you into writing?

Daniel: I’ve always had an interest in it. I used to create a lot of stories in my head when I was a kid. Most of them were inspired by movies or TV shows. I think the first one I ever actually wrote down was a knock-off of Jaws, which I banged out on my mother’s electric typewriter.

Stuart: Oh electric huh? Swanky. My mother insisted she could type 60 WPM on an Underwood. To this day, I think she was making it up.

Daniel: In high school, I tried to write science fiction stories during study periods. They were violent, nihilistic, and poorly written. I was heavily into things like Mad Max and Escape from New York at the time, so I ended up with pages and pages of gunfights and flaming ruins that were recognizably local places.

Stuart: Well you know. Hormones.

Daniel: I can only imagine what would happen if I tried to write something like that on school grounds nowadays.

Ultimately, though, writing was just another pastime. I was never especially serious about it. Publication was something I’d never even considered.

That all changed when I read Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover. It was exciting. It was full of twists and turns, realistic characters, and vivid imagery. It was a story that had an honest, emotional impact on me. Even better, it was a thrill ride from start to finish.

I knew right away that I wanted to give someone else that same experience some day. Never mind great art. My ambition is to write a great piece of entertainment.

Stuart: And nothing wrong with that. In my opinion, the one is of diminished value without the other. Describe your “writer’s cave” your preferred writing location.

Daniel: The spare bedroom doubles as my office. I have bookshelves in there filled with my favorite SF/F titles, and a Japanese incense bag hanging next to the bed. The bag was a gift from my brother-in-law, who teaches English in Yokkaichi. They’re traditionally hung in a workspace for good luck at the beginning of the New Year.

I tend to write on the bed, with the dogs curled up next to me, and a pair of headphones to cancel out the rest of the world.

Stuart: Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Daniel: I sing even worse than I dance.

Stuart: I like that as a talent. Like a superhero who stuns the bad guys with his dancing and then drops them with a blood curdling yodel.

Daniel: Fortunately, the only person who’s ever had to deal with that for any prolonged period is my wife.

Stuart: My condolences to her. Man, the military, bad singing, and writing. She should get a medal.

Daniel: I’ve also dabbled in various martial arts over the years, including judo, kempo karate, and kung-fu. I’m not especially good at any of them, but I have learned how to fall down, and how to laugh when someone breaks my nose. I’ve done a bit of fencing, too, which means I know at least a dozen ways to die on the end of a sword.

Stuart: Ha ha! I took Korean Kuk-Sul-Wan for a while. I really enjoyed it, but the owner gave free lessons to this very nice chap named Jose in exchange for tiling the bathroom. Jose had biceps the size of redwoods and a low center of mass, and I’m pretty sure he could have taken all of us on, black-belts included, without putting down his drink bottle.

How long have you been entering WotF? Is this your first contest win?

Daniel: This is my very first time entering. I didn’t know much about the contest until recently. I always saw the book on shelf at Barnes and Noble, but for some reason I just assumed it was an “Annual Best of” anthology showcasing previously published works. I never knew it was all original, never-before-seen work.

Stuart: Well all right! You da man!

Star Trek or Star Wars?

Daniel: One of my earliest memories is of my parents letting me stay up late to watch Star Wars on basic cable. My older sister gave me the picture book with all of the still photos from the movie, which I read until it fell apart.

Stuart: I remember my cousins had these big newsprint comic books before we ever saw the movie. I remember sitting in this ancient bed in my grandmom’s house, escaping to Tatooine. My dad didn’t understand the concept of going to see a film if you already knew the story.

Daniel: I also still absolutely love the first three Star Trek movies. I just never got too into the TV series. It was always running opposite reruns of Lost in Space when I was a kid. And Lost in Space had cooler monsters and a robot.

Stuart: Fair enough!

Pantser or Plotter?

Daniel: I’ve been a pantser for the past several years. Since I’m not fabulously rich and famous yet, I might have to re-think that strategy.

Jokes aside, I only started to learn about plot and story structure within the last year, after I picked up a copy of Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith.

Stuart: Excellent book, though some chapters are better than others.

Daniel: Now I’m working to become a bit more methodical in my writing. Learning how to plot ahead of time is definitely a big part of that. But there’s also an undeniable thrill that goes along with discovering the story as I write.

I suspect that by the time I find my “sweet spot,” it’s going to be a little bit of both.

Stuart: I think you’re right.

What’s the nuttiest thing that ever happened to you?

Daniel: I took part in a blindfolded sparring match when I was twenty. Naturally, I got my posterior parts handed to me in a pillowcase, but I was still happy that I got to push and challenge myself like that.

Later on, I found out that I was the only one who was blindfolded. The moral of the story is that you should never trust your friends. Especially when those friends are a bunch of jackasses looking for a cheap laugh.

Stuart: Yeah…I kinda saw that coming. Don’t feel bad, we all get duped my our so-called friends at some point.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The power to give witty, interesting answers in interviews.

Stuart: Not bad. Not bad at all.

Daniel: And Wolverine claws.

Stuart: I, um…ah….

What was your favorite toy growing up?

Daniel: I grew up in the golden age of action figures. I had G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Voltron, and Rambo. How do you pick a favorite?

Stuart: I actually thought they made up Voltron for Jimmy Neutron.

Daniel: And of course, most of the TV shows I watched were basically half-hour toy commercials (I can’t be the only one who remembers that kid-friendly Rambo cartoon).

Stuart: Well thanks Daniel. I’ll be watching to see who brings home the Golden Pen. Regardless, I know we’ll be seeing more of each other.

Meet the Winners — Samantha Murray

With Writers of the Future week right around the corner, say hello to second quarter winner, Australia’s Samantha Murray!

Stuart: Hi Samantha. Nice to meet you. Tell us about yourself.

sam-press3Samantha: Apart from a writer, I’m a stay-at-home parent right now, which is awesome. In the past I have been, variously, a teacher, an actor, and a mathematician.

Stuart: And what got you into writing?

Samantha: I was always into writing. I just got in my own way for a long time. I can remember writing a story at school when I was about 9 and being suddenly transported by the ideas and story arcs bubbling away in my head. It was going to be a magnificent and fascinating tale! Unfortunately, I didn’t get time to write it all down, and when we next returned to the writing task I had forgotten where I was going with it, and, despairing for an ending, followed the advice of my parent and concluded with “it was all a dream.”

Stuart: Oh no!

Samantha: Luckily I’ve learned not to do that since then. Even at the time I knew it was a cop-out!

I submitted a story for the first time when I was about 20. It was to an Australian anthology and they rejected it, which was horribly discouraging at the time, because I didn’t know back then that rejections are common and don’t necessarily mean that you are an atrocious writer.

I’ve been wanting to be a writer for more than 20 years, but I’ve only been actively doing something about it for the last 3 years.

The biggest obstacle was always myself. I wanted to be a writer, but apart from notebooks full of scratchings and dabbling with playwriting I wasn’t actually producing a product. A combination of procrastination, fear-of-failure perhaps, an inability to find the determination to push through the hard bits.

Stuart: I think we all can identify.

Samantha: One day, I found myself with two small children, horribly sleep-deprived and time-poor. And I had a story idea. I wrote notes on it (not so unusual). But then I did do something unusual – I sat down and wrote it. All of it. All the way to the end.

Stuart: Hurray!

Samantha: My theory is that having very little time to myself managed to push the urgency-button that procrastinators need to do things. I realised that in a very real way IT WAS THE LAST MINUTE. If I didn’t do it now, I would never do it. And I had wanted to do it for a long time.

Or perhaps I had just grown up.

Stuart: I can definitely identify. I did technical writing for years and dabbled, but I always thought someday I’d be a writer. Then one day, I realized the days eventually run out.

Describe your “writer’s cave.”

Samantha: I don’t really have a cave. I think I should get one. Actually, now I want a real cave, because that would be cool.

Stuart: Caves are cool. Year round (winks).

Samantha: I write on my lap-top and quite often I end up sitting on my bed. I do have a desk but it is covered in, um, stuff. When we go away to the beach house I have my lap-top on the kitchen table and get up early and write with a view of the trees out the window. And there is no internet at the beach house. No internet is really, really good for my writing.

Stuart: Yes. Although in my case, the internet give the girls something to do while I sit on the porch in blissful silence.

Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Samantha: Some of my joints are hypermobile, so I can do this thing where I clasp my hands together behind my back, and then take my arms over my head round to the front with my hands still joined. I worked out I could do that after watching a circus of people doing freakish things with their bodies, one of them used such a manoeuvre to get out of a strait-jacket. Walking home I said “I can do that,” and I was right. I wish I had a more exciting talent, but yeah, it might be helpful one day if I happen to find myself in a strait-jacket.

Stuart: How long have you been entering WotF?

Samantha: Around two and a half years. I only wrote three stories specifically for the contest, other times I sent them stories I had at hand, or rewrites, or things I didn’t think were a fit but I’d run out of time to do anything else. I remember thinking that I really should put in a much more concerted effort with WotF, because (especially coming from Western Australia) it really did have a lot of bang-for-my-buck. I even wrote it down as a goal. The next morning I woke up with a story idea which I brainstormed into my notebook. “I reckon this one will win,” I thought, given the serendipitous timing with my new resolution.

Stuart: Well there you go.

Samantha: That story didn’t win. It didn’t get a chance to, because the story I had _already_ entered the previous quarter won. I got the finalist notification about five weeks after I wrote “win WotF” on my goal list.

Stuart: Ha ha! Win! Star Trek or Star Wars?

Samantha: My initial response to this was “Star Wars!” but that is mainly because I have two young boys who are obsessed with Star Wars right now. So we live in a star wars-infused environment. Some twenty-odd years ago, however, I was a big fan of Star Trek TNG. I was holidaying in the U.S at the time, and I remember staying up late to watch all of the episodes on TV.

Stuart: About three years before we met, my wife and I both stayed up all night watching a marathon of all the TOS episodes. If only we had known each other, we could have watched them together!

Are you a pantser or Plotter?

Samantha: I’m a panster, at heart. I always know where the story is going to end though. Just the idea, or maybe a single sentence. Without that I can’t write the story, once that has popped into my head I can start, and make the rest of it up as I go along. I am a first-drafter though. Most of my stories (and indeed, all of my published ones) are essentially first-drafts. I write really slowly though, so I think I am editing as I go along.

Stuart: Yeah, I’m still breaking myself of editing words that may not survive into the final draft. I think part of that is confidence, trusting that the crappy first draft is doing what it’s supposed to even though is may not be, as sweet on the ear.

What’s the nuttiest thing that ever happened to you?

Samantha: A really long time ago I did some radio work for a very small local radio station for the blind. They had a kids segment and had a comedy-star-sign bit which I got to write and deliver in this low husky voice over the radio. It was meant to be light-hearted, so I had complete freedom to make up whatever I wanted. “Aquarius… stop wearing that hat. Your friends hate it. People in the street hate it. You hate it, deep down, where you won’t admit it to yourself. The hat hates itself. And it hates you. Just stop. Please, please stop.” Silly stuff!

Stuart: That’s terrific. I had a friend would once gave away bad fish over the radio. And the winner came and got it. That experience will come in handy when you’re famous.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Samantha: I think I should play to my strengths and be procrastination-girl! I could procrastinate dying, and thus live forever.

Stuart: Sheer genius! When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Samantha: I don’t have a very good memory of my childhood, but I do remember having a pencil family. Yes, it was a group of pencils of different sizes and colours that I had anthropomorphised into characters. There was one that had been sharpened down to an inch of its life that was the baby pencil.

Stuart: Well I’ve always said, you don’t have to be crazy to write, but it helps a lot. When I was little, I got a spanking for playing spaceship with mason jar full of canned beets. The ship crashed.

Tell us about your winning story.

Samantha: “Half Past” is a story about a girl with a peculiar kind of magic. Her mother is dead, and her father is distant, but she is never lonely – she makes her own companions. Then one day a visitor arrives who might change everything.

Stuart: Cool! Well congratulations again Samantha. Enjoy your week in LA, and if you ever run into last year’s winner Shauna O’Meara, tell her I said “hi!”

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Follow Samantha at http://mailbysea.wordpress.com

 

Meet The Winners – Steve Pantazis

Continuing with this years’ Writers of the Future winners, say hello to self described computer geek, Steve Pantazis.

Stuart: Welcome, Steve, and congratulations on your win. Introduce yourself.

Steve: I run a small software firm in Southern California, using my analytical brain during the day to troubleshoot data issues and my creative brain at night to make sweet, sweet prose. My dream is to author fiction full-time, but such an enterprise requires many publishing credits under the belt, lots of content for the masses, and a strong following of readers—something I hope to humbly achieve in the future. Until then, I will be working on getting my first novel published and sorting through lines of software code until my face turns blue.

Stuart: And when you aren’t writing?

Steve: When I’m not penning a tale, I’m cheffing it up in the kitchen, making culinary delights for my better half, who has playfully nicknamed me “Love Chef.”

Stuart: Ha ha. Now that’s a nom-de-plume!

Steve: Yes, she inspires the foodie in me. My friends joke about my postings of food pics on Facebook, wondering how I stay so thin. I tell them it’s portion control. Hah!

Another passion involves the great outdoors. As a person of Greek decent, I embrace the ancient Athenian belief of balancing the body and mind. Hiking, working out, and playing tennis are part of my repertoire, especially here in beautiful, sunny San Diego. For those of you stuck behind the keyboard, I say get out and do something good for your body. Trust me, if you’re a writer, it’s important to get the blood circulating, and not just in your fingertips.

Stuart: Very wise. Sitting at a desk all day is not what humans are built for. What got you into writing, Steve?

Steve: My journey as a writer began when I was eight. It was the year after the original Star Wars movie came out, and I was already inspired by the imagery in the epic space opera when I chanced upon a book fair at my grade school. I remember the books being displayed on foldout tables at the school library, and my allowance money burning a hole in my pocket, eager to be spent. I had no idea what to buy. In fact, I had never bought a book in my life. But there it was: The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, sitting on top of a stack of volumes, the cover depicting a painting of the famed Shire from the story. I picked up the softcover novel, leafed through the pages, smelled the wonderful scent of freshly printed pages, and knew I had to have it.

Stuart: Oh man, I remember that smell, and the smell of the floor wax at the town library. It all comes rushing back.

Steve: With my allowance gone, I went to work consuming the book and feeding my imagination. Soon after, I combined the wonder of Star Wars with the fantasy of The Hobbit, and created my first story, a space adventure that took the reader to a number of worlds across the universe. It was then that I knew I was meant to be a writer. I didn’t want to write; I didn’t like to write. I HAD to write!

Stuart: And where do you feed the habit?

Steve: I’m a night owl, so my creativity blossoms after the sun goes down. My preferred writing spot is on the couch these days, with ambient music piping gently through the speakers of my laptop. Before I met my significant other, I was a coffee shop freak, spending many an afternoon and evening sipping specialty coffee while composing my latest story with my headphones on, drowning out the commotion of those around me. I miss going to a coffee shop, but my couch does me wonders. And, of course, my partner says she enjoys my company, which is what really matters.

Stuart: Indeed. How long have you been entering WotF?

Steve: My first entry was for the 25th anniversary of Writers of the Future. I wrote a short story based in the same universe as my winning story for Volume 31, “Switch.” Back then, I thought I had a story that would be irresistible to the judges. Little did I know that my character development was woefully under par. It took a number of entries over the years, and plenty of good reading, to get an idea of what might work. My advice to future contestants is to make sure the reader cares about your protagonist. If you accomplish nothing else, make that happen.

Stuart: Good advice. And this is your first win?

Steve: This is my first contest win, although I have placed in the top five on several Writer’s Digest magazine contests, including their annual Short Story Competition and Popular Fiction Awards.

Stuart: Well that’s nothing to sneeze at. Those contest must attract a gozillion entries each. So do you follow the muse or try to plan things out?

Steve: Plotter, for sure, although I enjoy it when my stories organically take a detour. Seriously though, I feel an author should know the beginning and end to a story, no matter what kind of writer they are. You need to have some notion of the end goal in order to get there. For me, I like to outline a story to form a sense of progression. It doesn’t have to be so detailed that there isn’t any wiggle room for the unexpected, but it still needs to have some shape in order for it fulfill its promise. And fulfilling the promise to the reader is the key, no matter if you plot the story or fly by the seat of your pants.

Stuart: You put that well. Structure, but with wiggle room, room for craft to grow.

So tell me something nutty that you did.

Steve: Joining the military on a whim. I had never considered military service, and then my stepmom said to me one day, “Hey, why don’t you check out the Air Force?” Two weeks later, and I was signed up. The nutty part was lying in my bunk on the first evening of basic training, wondering, “What the heck did I get myself into?” Years later, I look back on my decision as one of the best I ever made. It just goes to show you that doing some things on a whim isn’t always a bad thing.

Stuart: When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Steve: Lego. My grandparents bought me a box of Legos when I was seven. I knew right away that I had a creative side, and Legos let me create in three dimensions. It paved the way for a lot of “idea building” in my life. Funny thing is that I live close to Legoland, and I’ve never been there. Go figure!

Stuart: I used to love all the construction toys, Erector and what not, for that reason.

Tell us about your winning story

Steve: “Switch” was inspired by my novel, Godnet, which introduces the future of the Internet—the Mindnet—where you use a simple neural implant and a good network connection to immerse yourself in a virtual reality world overlaying the real one (think Oculus Rift or Microsoft HoloLens, but on steroids!). In “Switch,” the Mindnet serves as a subplot to the main story, which is about a cop who uses his addiction to a high-tech drug called Switch to catch the kingpin dealer at the center of it all. The story just came to me one day, and I knew I had something special when I finished the last line.

I entered the story into an earlier WotF contest, and received a semi-finalist nod. That prompted me to make it better. My last submission hit gold. The moral of my tale: Don’t give up! If you believe in your story, and it falls short of the mark, retool it, and try again.

Stuart: Well there you go! Any parting advice for those aspiring authors out there?

Steve: Yes. I’ve created a mantra that sums it up perfectly: “Read voraciously and write prolifically.” You have to read regularly to get the mental juices flowing; and you have to write consistently to keep your creativity going. Set aside time to do these things. Even if you have a full-time job, kids, and a loaded-down plate of to-dos, eke out a few moments to follow your passion, and make it part of your daily ritual. After a number of years, you’ll have something to show for your hard work—and you’ll be glad you did!

Stuart: Well I can’t wait to visit the world on “switch”. Thanks, and again, congrats!

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Steve blogs at http://stevepantazis.com/wordpress and you can follow his publishing news at http://www.stevepantazis.com or on Twitter at @pantazis.

Meet The Winners – Michael T. Banker

Continuing in this year’s Writers of the Future series, meet third quarter winner, New York’s Michael T. Banker

Stuart: Welcome Michael, and a big congrats on the win! Tell us about yourself.M. Banker Picture

Michael: I have a lot of imaginary friends whom I occasionally write stories about and this is generally considered to be a respectable use of my time. No one has sat me down yet to express concern over my mental health. I’m grateful to live in an age where that’s possible.

Stuart: Ha Ha! Well put! So how’d you get into writing?

Michael: When I was a kid, my friend told me that he wanted to write a book, to which my response was, “As of five seconds ago I’ve always wanted to write a book, too.” I started to plot out a novel in high school, which was fun and good practice, but I didn’t actually write much. I took a creative writing class here and there. It wasn’t until after college that I figured out that if one wants to be a writer, one needs to actually write!

Stuart: That sounds a lot like my story of how I got into programming. I started out helping a friend on his science fair project. But what made you finally go all-in?

Michael: Why do I do it? It’s mentally and emotionally challenging–and fulfilling. It’s a way of organizing my thoughts about the world and human nature. It’s an opportunity to practice stepping out of my brain and into someone else’s.

Stuart: I can see that. Tell me where you do your writing.

Michael: My favorite place to write is on the subway, in cafes, standing in line. But that’s because if I’m writing in these places, I’m probably really into the story and can’t get enough down.

Stuart: Yeah, I carry my little netbook with me everywhere—you never mind having to wait when you can spend the time writing.

Michael: Usually, though, I just need the quiet of my apartment. I will actually wear ear plugs because I find the sound of my keyboard distracting. I use a Kangaroo, which is a hybrid sitting/standing desk, so I’ll often write standing up.

Stuart: Awesome! A fellow stander! I highly recommend it. And what do you do when you aren’t writing?

Michael: I’m either weirdly creative for an actuary, or weirdly analytical for an artistic type, although I suspect that combination is pretty common for writers. My day job is pricing insurance, running models, building Excel spreadsheets. On weekends I throw pottery, I’m teaching myself how to play piano, I really, really want to get into drawing but haven’t carved out the time to do it properly. I splurged on a Cintiq which is awesome, so…maybe gradually.

Stuart: Yeah, I think you may be right about that. I have writer friends who are into everything from robotics to soap. And I do my own plumbing. I have a leaking irrigation line to repair this weekend. 🙂

How long have you been entering WotF/ is this your first contest win?

Michael: Five years or so. I credit WotF with teaching me how to churn out a story regularly. I’m thrilled to have won on the cusp of pro-ing out, but WotF would have been influential on my career whether or not I ever made it to their fancy gala.

Stuart: That’s a very healthy attitude. I always say I entered for the training and hoped to earn some pro-level feedback. Winning was just a super, super nice bonus.

Micheal: I won one other contest, Albedo One’s “Aeon Award,” and got a very nice check for my efforts. There was no trophy or award ceremony or anything, though, so really it just felt like another sale. WotF is unique like that.

Stuart: Well hey, that’s pretty sweet! That’s a definite for the old CV.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Michael: A plotter, so much a plotter. I need to know where I’m aiming, even if I change course mid-stream. There are a tremendous number of interesting details to decide in the moment, as I’m writing (how would my characters really speak and behave, how do I convey this image, transport the reader into my setting, frame this scene to accomplish everything that it needs to, etc., etc.). Plot exists on an entirely separate level, and my brain doesn’t bend both ways at once.

Stuart: I like how you put that. I know a lot of writers chafe at the idea as an assault on the art. I don’t see that. Writing is a craft, and all craft is a blending of engineering and art. Plotting is more the engineering side.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Michael: The ability to observe (through a crystal ball, my mind’s eye, whatever) any planet with life on it. Because they’re obviously there. It’s not on the Marvel list of approved superpowers, but I’ll have that, please.

Stuart: Good one! Yeah, that would be very cool, even if it was fairly simple life.

When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Michael: I don’t know, but my earliest memory is playing with a duck — literally just a duck-shaped thing cut out of a block of foam. My mom said I had to go somewhere so I asked if I could bring it with me. So I’m playing with my duck in front of the car window, which cracks open in the back rather than rolling down from the top, and then suddenly it’s out of my hands and I just remember staring out the rear windshield, watching my foam duck bounce away on the pavement behind us and disappear.

Stuart: Oh no! My condolences for your loss—and to whomever may have been hit in the head with the thing! You know, I have one of those also. When I was little, we used to go treasure hunting (fossil and relic hunting) in the South Dakota badlands. I have this memory of sitting on a mountain, playing with my match box cars, and one rolling down the hill. When I was a teenager, I mentioned this memory to my mother, saying how odd that I specifically remember NOT retrieving the car, and why that might be. She said, “It’s probably because you were tied to the tree.”

Yeah. Well, how else do you keep a rambunctious three year old from falling over the nearest cliff, right?

Stuart: If you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (ala Dr. Who’s scarf/bowtie etc.), what might it be?

Michael: I call my look, Things I Found Strewn Across My Floor to Cover My Nakedness. I’m pretty happy with it.

Stuart: Very practical. Um…wear a tux, though, you know, for the gala.

Tell us about your winning story

Michael: I originally submitted this story in 2011 to K.D. Wentworth, who gave it an honorable mention. I’m sure I’ve edited it since then, and of course I sent it to a number of markets in between. I submitted it again because the story I wanted to submit for Q3 wasn’t quite ready and I didn’t want to rush it. It feels a little weird, like me from four years ago won the contest, but it goes to show that you shouldn’t self reject. Sometimes the right story and the right editor just need to match up.

Stuart: Very true. A lot of people don’t get that.

Micheal: This story isn’t very representative of most of what I write. It has a little more of a light-hearted/YA feel. But I did have fun writing it. Occasionally I write a story that reminds me that I need to have fun. There are a lot of ways I’d described writing, but fun isn’t usually one of them.

Stuart: Well I can’t wait to read it, and your other work. Thanks for stopping by and again, congratulations!

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Check out Micheal’s work at Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, among others.

Meet the Winners – Sharon Joss

Scifi for the WIN!

Starting the new week, say hello to Writers of the Future winner, Sharon Joss!

Stuart: Hi Sharon, and congratulations! Tell us who about yourself.

Sharon: I started out in the aerospace industry as an operating systems programmer, working on real-time systems for the space shuttle Columbia. Over the years I gradually moved into the high tech industry as a Technical Program Manager, integrating hardware and software for digital presses in the publishing industry. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but never felt like it was a ‘real’ job. All that changed in 2009, when I got laid off and decided to pursue writing as my full-time career.

Stuart: Wow! I love the eclectic career path. As you’ll earn in April, L Ron Hubbard used to take jobs just for the experience so he could write about them—at least, that’s what he claimed. So you always wanted to write; where’d that drive come from?

Sharon: My dad used to read to us kids at the dinner table after the dishes were cleared on Sunday nights– Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. For years, I thought my dad had actually written those stories, and I wanted to be a storyteller, just like him (he was actually a college biology professor). I also loved Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang. Then I discovered Lloyd Alexander, Ray Bradbury and Andre Norton, and I was forever hooked on adventure and speculative fiction.

Stuart: Awesome! I’ve always said my mom’s stories reminded me of Steinbeck, except her stories were real life and it was the other way around. So now that you’re wriiting, what’s your “writer’s cave?”

Sharon: I’ve got my writing desk set up at the top of the stairs. The landing is relatively spacious, and there’s a big window and great light, but nothing in the view that will distract me from writing. My desk is basically a door laid across two file cabinets, but I’m surrounded by bookcases, and there’s a really nice chair that the dog sleeps in while I’m working. I’ve got a couple of nice framed posters on the wall (one with a phoenix, the other a dragon), and post its on nearly every surface. My sister calls it ‘the command center’, and I suppose it is.

Stuart: Nice. I especially like the repurposed door. When I was a kid, my dad had this huge, really heavy duty workbench in his shop which was like no other. It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized it was just two by eights nailed across two chests of drawers. It was super solid and did the job. Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Sharon: I’ve trained dogs for years; and competed with my Australian Shepherds in obedience, agility, and rally events. I also owned a sailboat for several years when I lived in California, and have sailed to Catalina many times.

Stuart: Sweet! I has a mini-Aussie, and though I don’t put the time in that I should, I’ve found training her is the secret to keeping her happy. Working dogs gotta work, writers gotta write, eh?

How long have you been entering WotF/ is this your first contest win?

Sharon: I submitted my first entry to WOTF in December 2012, after hearing about the contest in a Dave Farland editing class. Before my winning story, I’d submitted five stories, two of which earned Honorable Mentions. I’ve never won a writing contest before.

Stuart: Very nice! So are you a pantser or a plotter?

Sharon: I’m a major (and highly detailed) plotter for long fiction, although my short fiction outline is basically just a few sentences.

Stuart: Yeah, that’s as me. I find it’s at that outlining stage that the short story ideas sort themselves out from the novel ideas. So, if you had a superpower, what would it be?

Sharon: The ability to communicate with animals (and other non-humans). Or flying–flying would be cool.

Stuart: Flying would be awesome. I think I can already read my dog’s minds though. Especially the terrier. He’s pretty assertive. 😉

When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Sharon: Although I think they’s pretty creepy now, when I was a kid, I loved hand puppets and marionettes. And Mr. Potato Head.

Stuart: Hand puppets? Creepy? You should search YouTube for the Scottish Sock Puppet theater. That’ll either cure or confirm that view.

Thanks Sharon! It’s been great, and I can’t wait to see you walking across the stage!

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Follow Sharon at www.sharonjoss.com or on Twitter at @josswrites

 

Finn Fancy Necromancy

Randy Henderson has hit the proverbial toboggan out of the wallrus park with this one, and that takes some doing as you might imagine.

I bought this book because I know Randy. I finished it because it’s good. Really good. He’s written a sassy main character who’s a little bit retro, a little bit lost puppy, and a little bit superhero sunflower waiting to bloom. Finn’s a teenager who’s just about to confess his first love when who gets framed for dark magic and sent into spirit exile. On the day of release, he’s attacked and dumped back in his body with no memory of the last 25 years. The girl friend has grown up. So has the family and the girl next door. Disco is dead, and so will he be if he can’t find out who framed him and why, and stop them before they kill off his family, send him back into exile, and maybe start a war.

Randy’s prose is fresh and jaunty, his world building nuanced but lean. The world he creates is funny, what with the inter-garden gnome transport system and Sasquatch buffoonery, but it’s also convincingly real and menacing. He lays out his characters masterfully, then elevates the stakes and momentum in a smooth ride to crescendo. Oh, and you’ll never guess who dunnit.

Read this book. You’ll love it. It will make you laugh. It will make you smile. It will make you a tiny bit wistful about the 80’s and the Washington coast, even if you’ve never seen either of them. And it may or may not make you cry. I’m not telling.

 
Buy it at Amazon