Check it out!

My story, “Rainbows For Other Days,” is about a cyborg ranger torn between his humanity and his programming–and the hauntingly simple way in which he copes. It will appear in volume 30 of the L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthology.

Release is in April. You can pre-order here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1619862654/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1619862654&linkCode=as2&tag=nothingun-20

If you haven’t read the Writers of the Future anthology before, check it out. The stories are the winners in the most prestigious short story competition in speculative fiction, and there’s always something for everyone.

Meet Writers of the Future winner: Randy Henderson

Meet fellow Writers of the Future winner, 2013’s second quarter 1st place: Randy Henderson.

Stuart: Hi Randy. Congratulations and thanks for dropping by. Why don’t you start by telling me what made you want to be a writer?

Randy: It’s what all the cool kids were doing.

Stuart: Ha ha. Must have been an interesting school! So, in what ways have you evolved creatively?

Randy: I used to have adverbial gills and a passive vestigial tail. Now, I can cast power sentences. If I gain three more publishing victories, I will evolve into an Authorion Prime, and then I’ll really kick writing butt.

Stuart: I think I have prepositional gills.

Randy: I actually have a presentation I give on the evolutionary stages of writers that reflects the stages I’ve gone through and continue to work through, which includes:

  • Not mistaking events, preaching, or a series of transgressive acts as being a story (i.e. writing dramatic stories with plots).
  • Learning the fundamentals of written gooder, he exploded explodingly.
  • Realizing that writing, editing, and submitting are work, and doing that work consistently and effectively.
  • Learning and using deeper plot and character techniques like integrating plot and character arcs, backwards plotting, etc.
  • Finding one’s voice and style.
  • And of course, getting published professionally, and everything that comes with and after that.

Stuart: Of course. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Randy: Having been shunned as a child, I do not condone pantsing anyone else, only yourself, let’s make that clear up front. However, I do think honestly most writers are a blend of both, particularly on longer projects. It is not so much one or the other but, from writer to writer and project to project it is a graduated scale, like the spiciness of salsa, or one’s sexual identity, or the quality of Start Trek movies.

Stuart: Describe your writer’s lair.

Randy: Well, for the best view, why don’t you stand there above the shark tank and–

Stuart: Umm…Randy, that’s Stromberg’s Shark Tank. You remember what happened to Stromberg, right?

Randy: Oh, fine. Well, one thing of note is, I started using a standing desk and it is awesome.

Stuart: Hey me too! I liked it so much, I built myself a treadmill desk…

Randy: Reduces back and neck strain, allows you to dance as you write, is better for your circulation, helps burn calories, and even cuts through cans.

Stuart: “It can even cut a cow in half!”

Randy: And alas, no, I don’t get 10% commission if you mention I sent you.

Stuart: Star Trek or Star Wars, sir?

Randy: Each has a special place in my heart for different reasons. I feel, generationally, a more relevant question today might be Halo or Mass Effect? Video games have reached a point where they can offer the kind of rich storyline, characters, awesome experiences, and most importantly, action figures, that we once took from movies and television.

Stuart: Action figures, yes. My favorite is The Great and Powerful Yogurt, from Space Balls. Windows or Linux?

Randy: Commodore 64.

Stuart: Good answer. I actually used to know a guy who wrote and sold software for the those. He was, umm, a nice guy? You ever dream about writing?

Randy: Indeed. I hope to some day. But until then, I’ll probably just write about dreaming.

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

Randy: Anyone who knows me knows this question makes the terrible assumption that A) I grew up and B ) I would have only one fave. But I do remember fondly from my childhood (to date myself) my Six Million Dollar Man toys, my Evel Knievel toys, models of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica ships, and of course video games.

Stuart: I remember Lee Majors. You know, for an astronaut and all, he spent an awful lot of his time solving crime. If, like Doctor Who, you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (scarves, fezzes, bow-ties), what would it be?

Randy: I don’t believe in popping tags. You will however frequently see me in a tie shirt (a shirt with a tie imprinted on it). But if I had my way, I suppose it would be Doc Ocs arms. I mean, come on, I could write 4 novels at a time! Suh-weet!

Stuart: Or maybe a T-shirt reading “You’d have to be crazy to become a writer.” Any last thoughts?

Randy: Why, did you poison me with iocane powder?

Stuart: You ate Stromberg’s fries??? You KNOW what happened to Stromberg, right? And it wasn’t iocane power, it was powdered nightlock berries. But it’s cool, since we are inventing this universe, we can just invent a logically consistent anti-toxin. Meanwhile, remain calm and rest here while I tell the nice folks how to find out more about you, you know, in case you make it.

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Randy Henderson’s fiction can be spotted frolicking in places like Penumbra, Escape Pod, Realms of Fantasy, Every Day Fiction, and anthologies. He is a 1st Place winner of Writers of the Future, a Clarion West graduate, a relapsed sarcasm addict, and a milkshake connoisseur who transmits suspiciously delicious words into the ether from his secret lair in Kingston, Washington.

The first novel of Randy’s humorous urban fantasy series, titled FINN FANCY NECROMANCY, is forthcoming from TOR in early 2015. Learn more at www.randy-henderson.com. Stay connected on Facebook (/randyhenderson) and Twitter (/quantumage).

Meet the WotF Winners: Anaea Lay

This week, our interviews of 2013 Writers of the Future winners brings us to Wisconsin’s 1st quarter winner, Anaea Lay.

Stuart: Welcome, Anaea, and congratulations! Tell me something about you that those who know you might fiImagend surprising.

Anaea: My favorite color until I was eleven was pink. I have a visceral aversion to pink now, but it has more to do with getting burned out on the color because everything was pink for the first eleven years of my life than my distaste for “girly” things.

Stuart: Ha ha! I used to be that way about watermelon! What got you into writing?

Anaea: I was born. A few years later I’d developed enough fine motor skills to hold a pencil and manipulate it over a sheet of paper. There was no looking back from there.

Stuart: Lest anyone suspect you’re kidding, I can remember “writing a letter” by copying my mother’s hand movements and being very disappointed that she couldn’t read it. In what ways have you evolved creatively?

Anaea: From where I started? Developing literacy skills was a big step – the squiggles I started with were really raw, intense expressions of my inner life, but they were too opaque to make good literature.

Stuart: Caligraphic expressionism. I don’t know; that could be a thing.

Anaea: Lately I’ve been branching out by experimenting with characters who are actually more or less happy. Strangely, I’m less comfortable with the idea of my family reading the stories about happy people than my usual stuff which I didn’t expect.

Stuart: What? No “man’s inhumanity to man?” I’ll tell you a secret, most people I know like happy endings. Conflict, yes, but hopeful–you know? Are you a pantser or plotter?

Anaea: Pantser all the way. Half the fun of writing is trying to figure out how to resolve things when I’m done screwing them up for my characters.

Stuart: Yeah, I’m struggling to balance that discovery mode with productivity. I think that’s something we’ll be discussing in April. Tell me about your association with the podcast?

Anaea: I’m the Podcast Editor for Strange Horizons, which means I carry out my precepts of benevolent dictatorship by ruling over all things podcast with an iron fist. They publish three or four fiction stories a month and I read and produce podcasts for each of those. The week the fiction department takes off gets a podcast for all the poetry Strange Horizons publishes. We have a staff of two fabulous readers, and as of January of this year we’re hiring external voices for the poetry readings, too. It’s pretty nifty, and if you think you’re not interested in poetry, it’s a really great way to find out you’re wrong.

Stuart: Too late, I’ve already discovered Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”. Hard not to love work that impressive. Where’s your writer’s cave ?

Anaea: I write pretty much whenever the mood strikes me unless there’s something else I have to be doing. Most of the time that means I’m either in my office at home, which takes multi-purpose to a whole new level (it’s also the guest bedroom, and my recording studio, and my indoor garden, and the cat’s third favorite lounging spot, and my third library annex and…) or at Jade Mountain, which is a Taiwanese tea shop here in Madison that stays in business by feeding my aggressive tapioca addiction with the best bubble tea I’ve ever had anywhere – and I’ve had a lot of bubble tea.

Stuart: (“Bubble tea” for those who don’t know, is that milky, colorful drink sold in a thousands variations in many Tai restaurants and food courts, usually in a clear plastic cup with a large straw and tapioca balls at the bottom). Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies, Anaea?

Anaea: My friends accuse me of collecting jobs as a hobby – and I do have a tendency to accumulate jobs without really meaning to – but I think that’s probably a symptom of a psychological condition more than a hobby.

Stuart: I don’t know, that could be a valuable form of research.

Anaea: Does writing irreverent business plans count as a hobby?

Stuart: Umm…I’m going to say, Yes? 😉 Moving on…If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Anaea: Telekinesis.

Stuart: In Larry Niven’s, Flatlanders, the main character has a telekinetic “imaginary arm” he uses to perform the “floating cigarette trick” and pick up girls. I wish I had though of that when I was singe–and lived in a universe where such things are possible. When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Anaea: My Dad’s computer. I learned to touch type when I was eight and there was no looking back.

Stuart: Early adopter, eh? I actually learned to type just to avoid being kicked out of typing class–where all the school’s computers were, and where I spent my days programming games. If, like Doctor Who, you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (scarves, fezzes, bow-ties), what would it be?

Anaea: I already have one – cargo pants. Generally men’s cargo pants, with pockets big enough for my phone, wallet, and a mass market paperback. They’re getting hard to find, though, so I may have to learn to sew so I can start making them for myself. Given the effect I have on sewing machines when I get near them (they seize up in fear and stop functioning) this may not end well.

Stuart: Aren’t those retro sheik yet? May something in a military flight suit? Well thanks Anaea. It’s been a pleasure, and I can’t wait to see your wardrobe in person at the workshop in LA.

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Anaea Lay lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she writes, cooks, plays board games, spoils her cat, runs the Strange Horizons podcast, and plots to take over the world. More at httpanaealay.com

Meet the Winners! Oleg Kazantsev

This week, our interviews with 2013 Writers of the Future winners veer back into the international arena with fellow fourth quarter winner Oleg Kazantsev.

Stuart: Welcome, Oleg, and again, Congratulations! Tell me who you are, good sir.Image

Oleg: I was born and grew up in Eastern Siberia, in the city of Khabarovsk, just several miles away from the Chinese border. Life there taught me a lot of things – some more and some less useful – such as: boxing, ballroom dancing, potato farming, Calculus III, and video game journalism. After I got my first degree in Computer Science, I decided I wanted to try something new in my life, so I went to Columbia College Chicago to study fiction writing in English. Two and a half years later I was tutoring college students and teaching classroom in an intermediate school in South Chicago. Great experience as it was, teaching writing (unlike the actual writing) wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so my next step after graduation was to zigzag back to IT consulting, to free up some time for my passion. That’s where I am right now, but there’s no guarantee that in a year or two my life won’t change completely yet again.

Stuart: What stirred this writing passion?

Oleg: Sublimation.

But jokes aside, I think my desire to write first took its shape when my dad suddenly started reading A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov to me. This cold and brilliant piece of classical literature turned out to be such a great bonding experience for us that I couldn’t help but try to replicate this bonding, this soul-mate hunt in my own naïve, awkward teenage writing. Finally, writing became a habit, and at some point, as Hegel has it, quantity transformed into quality.

Stuart: I like that. I believe it too. So in what ways have you evolved since?

Oleg: I’m an author and illustrator of my own stand-alone comic book, called With You (look it up on Amazon, it’s a fun read). I still have a lot to learn as an illustrator, mostly because I really didn’t have as much academic experience in drawing as I wish, but with my love for sequential art I’m sure I won’t let this skill grow rusty.

Poetry is another skill I try to sharpen. To be completely honest, I don’t write often enough to claim to be a poet, so I just let my characters steal my poems complete with all potential credits and criticism. Switching from Russian to English was quite a challenge, but the rare poetic attempts that I made turned out to be surprisingly legible.

Stuart: I can see how that might actually be an advantage, a unique angle, if you will. Pantser or plotter?

Oleg: Definitely a plotter. I respect people who can just let a story tell itself to the page, but I’m not one of them. Before I start writing, I always have a plan of a chapter or a story or a scene – sometimes mental, sometimes written, sometimes a diagram. Sure, I let some details or characters surprise me, but, in my mind, surprise in writing is just like a proof of a theorem in math: it helps you discover what already is and has always been in the story, it just wasn’t obvious for you the writer and you the reader.

Stuart: I don’t believe anyone really can do without the plotting, there are just more and less efficient ways of going about it. And where do you write?

Oleg: Late night in any room with a laptop. As long as it’s quiet, dark, and I can drink hot tea, the place and surroundings do not matter. Also, I can’t stand writing on paper. I can if I have to, but it seems so slow and ineffective…

Stuart: Can you imagine Tolstoy sitting in red square with his pencil? Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Oleg: I think I’ve already mentioned some of them. I do boxing, even though I gave up on pursuing any sort of career in sports. I used to do video game journalism, but stopped following the video game industry as soon as I moved to the States.

Stuart: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Oleg: Always liked being able to see into the future. Like that cup of tea that I knew I was going to drop from my… arghhh, goddamit…

Stuart: Do you dream about writing?

Oleg: No, not even in the most erotic of my dreams.

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

Oleg: Illustrated books about cars. Including catalogs. I imagined car chases, dubbed them with sound effects and cheesy quotes from action movie stars.

Stuart: Interesting. You know I think I did sonething like that, myself. Is there a quotation you’d like to share?

Oleg: Genius is an African who dreams up snow. – Vladimir Nabokov

Stuart: Brilliant! I love it. How about we end with a short sample of your writing?

Oleg:

“And so the marine says to the Captain,” Mishka Karasenko is chortling with his shrill laughter. “This music is called bloos and in our country only black negroes play it, black as devils in hell!”

The gray overcoats listen to him, giggling in their collars and giving me quick glances.

“What does this bloos mean? the Captain asks. And the American answers: Bloos is when a good man feels bad.”

The trench exploded with laughter like a land mine.

“Is that so, sir?“ One of the gray overcoats asks me. “Is that what the American said? When a good man feels bad?”

“Blues…” A cloud burst from my mouth and swam up to the dim sun, like a bubble to an ice-hole. “Blues is when good people run out of ammo.”

We stopped talking. Frost crackled in the silence.

This is a piece from a historical novel set in early 1920s, during the Russian Civil War. What intrigues me is that in this scene two worlds come together. A world of an American Marine talking to the Russian White Army officer about blues, and the world of the officer interpreting his words for common soldiers, a cannon fodder of every war.

Stuart: Very compelling. Well thanks Oleg, I can’t wait to meet you in person in LA!

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You can read one of Oleg’s short stories at Oleg http://www.everydayfiction.com/frost-by-oleg-kazantsev/ or check out his book “With You” on Amazon.com.

Meet The Winners: Amanda Forrest

This week, we continue meeting our 2013 Writers of the Future winners with Amanda Forrest.

ImageStuart: Welcome, Amanda, and Congratulations! Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself.

Amanda: I’m claustrophobic, afraid of failure, scared of heights, and a rabid hypochondriac, but by far my most satisfying accomplishments were those that scared me the most.

Stuart: That’s half the battle, isn’t it? Just putting yourself out there. What got you into writing?

Amanda: Many writers say that they’ve “always written”. I’m not one of them. In the third grade, I started a SF novel called Venture to Venus, but I gave up on it after a few days and (as far as I can remember) wrote no other fiction for decades.

But while I haven’t always been a writer, I am and always have been an obsessive, insatiable reader. Sometime in my twenties, I started dabbling with writing. I joined an online critique group, and once every month or so wrote a snippet. My first writing was rarely formed enough to be called a story, and I didn’t put much thought to submitting or being published.

Despite my haphazard and rather unfocused approach, I did improve. When my daughter was born, I put my career in software engineering for video games on indefinite hold so that I could stay home with her. The choice was the right one, undeniably, but it left me without an intellectual outlet, and so I started writing more. And discovered that I loved it.

As for the moment that I knew that I wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby—that I’d found the undertaking that will shape my life from here on out . . . that’s very clear in my mind. I was sitting on the porch while my daughter napped, working through the final scene in a longer short story. She woke up, and though I put the story aside for the day, it didn’t leave me. I tried to read that night and the experience felt flat. Two-dimensional. Grayscale compared to the immersion I felt in my own creation.

A reader lives many lives through the books they read. A writer lives them in high-definition.

Stuart: I know that feeling exactly. I know I try to be careful to make sure I’m bringing the reader in at the right “definition”. So you made the jump, and how have you evolved since?

Amanda: I came from a software background, and I think that difficult problem solving in any discipline demands a lot of creativity and activation of mental processes beneath the conscious mind. (Such as sleeping on a difficult math problem only to wake up with the answer).

Stuart: Yeah, I once dreamed that I’d transposed a hexadecimal number on the thirteenth page of a machine-code listing–and I had!

Amanda:With writing, however, I’ve had to learn to let the outlandish notions blossom, whereas an oddball idea for an algorithm might have gotten the chop early on due to implausibility. It’s a challenge to follow the strangeness, but my best stories seem to come from just letting my subconscious cough up whatever it likes and editing it later.

At first, I found it much easier to do this with fantasy, letting go of the constraints, but I’m now turning this to near-future science fiction, something that really calls me. I still get stopped in my tracks sometimes, too afraid to follow an idea due to concerns of correctness, but I’m learning. It’s okay to be wrong in a first draft, and some of my best work comes from revisiting my foundational ideas and applying actual research to correct and strengthen the story. And heck, as for the extrapolation portion . . . we’re all just guessing, right?

Stuart: Right. Anne Lamott warns not to fear the “shitty first draft”. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Amanda: Over the last year, I’ve landed upon the highly inefficient process of writing a first draft with no plan until I get stuck. Then I go back and construct a high-level outline, rethinking that opening as necessary. Then I rewrite the opening and finish the story. Unless I get stuck again, which probably means my outline sucks and I need a new one. (repeating as necessary, which is rather slow for a novel)

I’d like to convince my ideas to arrive *before* I begin, but for now they don’t seem to come until I sit down and start churning out paragraphs.

Stuart: You can sit next to me at the workshop. On the one hand, I know the outline-first method is the only way to be productive. Inside, though, I hold on to the idea that the iterative plan-write-plan-write is the only way. Perhaps we just need to find the right balance.Where do you do your writing?

Amanda: Anywhere that I don’t have my (beloved) four year old demanding something.

Stuart: Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Amanda:Unusual, I dunno. No interest in cat orthodontics or anything. I love outdoor adventure sports. Long ago, I was the first woman to do a few things in the big wall rock climbing world. These days, rather than heading out alone for a multi-day rock climb, I feel blessed to get out with my family on a thirty foot cliff that a preschooler can get up or pulling my daughter in a bike trailer around on our beautiful Colorado roads and trails.

Stuart: Star Trek or Star Wars?

Amanda: All of the above

Stuart:Windows or Linux?

Amanda: In prehistoric times, I dual booted and worked on both platforms. Somewhere down inside, I still have a soft spot for Linux, but it’s been years and years. Anyway, about all I do on my computer now is word process and browse the web. My fear is that I’m one step away from becoming a mac user.

Stuart: Oooh, Burn! Yeah, I’ve pulled my netbook apart about twenty times. I understand the appeal of the monolith, though. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Amanda: I would manufacture time. I only do about a tenth of the things I’d like on any given day.

Stuart: Excuse me a second. I have to go write a short story, er…novel. Okay, I’m back. Do you dream about writing?

Amanda: I do. I dream in narrative now. I read Gone with the Wind last year and had the weirdest dream that put almost the whole story into a science fictional framework. It was probably terrible, so I’m glad I’ve forgotten the details.

Stuart: Well, at least it wasn’t an algorythm you were rendering in narrative (yeah – I have – and I think it scorches the brain). When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Amanda: Math workbooks. Yup.

Stuart: Fair enough. “Algebra is the mind of God” — so said Johannes Kepler. If you had a wardrobe tag like Doctor Who, what would it be?

Amanda: I do like aviator goggles. Plus I have sensitive eyes, exacerbated by living at high altitude in a very sunny place. So maybe I should think about it.

Stuart: Hey, that’s not bad. You could get some jodhpurs and do the whole Emilia Earhart look from Night At The Smithsonian. How about a quote you like?

Amanda: Do or do not. There is no try.

Stuart: Ah, Yoda. Good one. Well thanks, Amanda, I look forward to meeting you in April.

Amanda: Thanks so much for hosting me! Happy writing and reading everyone!

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Find out more about Amanda, including the latest news that I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to tell you just yet, at aeforrest.com

Meet The Winners: Leena Likitalo!

Continuing our interviews with 2013’s Writers of the Future winners, this week we have third quarter winner, Leena Likitalo.

Stuart:  Welcome, Leena, and again, Congratulations! Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about yourself.

Leena:  Well, hello there! I hail from Finland, the land of thousands of lakes and at least as many untold tales. I have a delightfully twisted imagination and a real talent for breaking things – I earn my living by doing quality assurance for computer games.

Stuart:  And how did you get writing?

Leena:  I think I skipped the phase where one is supposed to stop listening to the chattering of one’s imagination – stories come to me and demand to be told. I started writing “seriously” only about four years ago. That is, I decided that I really, really want to see my work published one day. Now I’m addicted and there’s no turning back.

Stuart:  So how have you evolved along the way?

Leena:  First there was no patience, only persistence. I used to think grammar and correct spelling happened to other people, not me. Through piles and piles of rejection letters, I’ve come to realize that I have to nail both, lest my super-awesome stories remain unread.

Stuart:  Do you plan out those stories or go the organic route?

Leena:  After an epic fantasy novel that after 800 pages still wasn’t ready, I realized that I should try to control the creative chaos. I’ve learned from my days in the software industry that agile methodologies work quite nicely. These days, I create a detailed outline for both novels and short stories and then divide the work into tasks. I also set myself achievable deadlines.

Stuart: Tell me a little more about  that.

Leena:  Oh my, how to explain all this without resorting to a plenitude of buzzwords…

Basically, it’s all about managing my writing time and maximizing my productivity. I build iteratively around an existing outline. This helps me to concentrate on one part of the story at the time. It’s so much easier, so much faster, to polish one chapter than a whole novel. And this way, I know how much I still have to go before a story is ready for submission!

To begin with, I try and plan how I use my writing time. Then, I chop my work-in-progress into pieces of manageable size (chapter, section, paragraph) to see what I can get ready in the given time frame.

All my chunks go through three passes: design=outline/plot, implementation=writing, qa=poke holes into the stories, check spelling, etc. I repeat the cycle as many times as necessary to make the chunk shine.

Stuart: I see. Just like software. And where do you apply these principles? Where do you do your writing?

Leena:  I can write practically anywhere. Me and my darling dear husband live in a rather tiny, positively crammed apartment where table surface is scarce. We had a party at New Year’s Eve and we haven’t quite got around to properly cleaning afterwards. As a result, my sacred writing spot at the kitchen table is occupied. Right now, I’m writing in the kitchen with my laptop propped atop of a box of champagne glasses!

Stuart:  Ha ha. Kind of appropriate! Do you have any unusual hobbies?

Leena:  For some reason, I always end up picking up the strangest hobbies – at the moment, my favorite sports are underwater rugby and polocrosse.

Stuart Underwater rugby? That sounds like a scene from a James Bond film!

Leena:  Ha ha haa! Underwater rugby is a lovely team sport played at the deep end of the pool. The objective is to take the ball to the opponent’s basket at the bottom of the pool. The ball sinks slowly and the opposing team will do their best to stop you. We wear fins, masks, and snorkels. And swimsuits of course. And yes, you have to hold your breath. And no, I’m not a terribly fast or good swimmer! I love the sport nevertheless!

Stuart:  Sounds like fun. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Leena:  Who says I don’t have one already? It’s been whispered behind my back that I have a destructive Midas touch.

Stuart:  Ha ha. If, like Doctor Who, you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (scarves, fezzes, bow-ties), what would it be?

Leena:  Give me a set of merino wool garments, waterproof boots, and a jacket that keeps me warm and I’m good to go anywhere! Also, pen and paper would be nice.

Stuart:  Practical wins every time, in my book! Any closing thoughts?

Leena:  Thank you for the interview, Stuart!

Stuart:  Thanks for being here, and I look forward to seeing more of your work.

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You can learn more about Leena and read some of her work at www.leenalikitalo.com.

Meet the Winners: Liz Colter

I’m just getting to know my fellow winners in this year’s L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, and it seemed natural to facilitate the process with a series of blog interviews. Last week, the 2012 Gold Pen Award winner, Tina Gower, was kind enough to drop by. This week we get to meet 2013’s second quarter winner, Liz Colter.

Stuart:  Welcome, Liz, and thanks for joining us. To start us off, why don’t you tell me what got you into writing?

Liz: Genetics, I suspect. I already knew that my maternal grandfather (a doctor and Church of England minister) wrote and had a novel published, and that my brother wrote non-fiction. It wasn’t until I was partway through my first novel, though, that I found out my aunt had published, my brother secretly wrote fiction as well as non-fiction, and my mother had written stories just for herself off and on much of her life (she’s since been published as well). I am, however, the lone speculative fiction writer of the family.

Stuart: Deep roots! Now I’m curious to look up this Grandfather.. So you got started, and now you have the considerable validation of the Writer’s of the Future win. Along the way, how have you evolved creatively?

Liz: I set out to learn writing as a craft part way through my first novel due to some feedback from a local author. I joined a 10-week online workshop and have continued to learn ever since, brazenly utilizing better writers than myself as mentors and beta readers.

Stuart: Good writers borrow, great writers steal, eh? And the best learn from everyone and everything. So are you more pantser or plotter?

Liz: Definitely pantser! Can’t write an outline to save my life, especially on longer material. I start with an image more often than not, then get a rough idea of a setting, character, beginning and ending. At that point I have to start writing. Unless I set the characters in motion, the creative process just puts on the brakes. The characters more or less write their own story from there, I just transcribe for them. I’m glad I’m a pantser. I love being surprised by the story elements that evolve as I write.

Stuart: I hear you. I was very much the same way at first. So when you are out their discovering, where do you do work? What’s your writer’s cave like?

Liz: A small spare bedroom where my desk and my husband’s desk are so closely adjacent, they almost touch. I daydream of a property with a writing studio separate from the house. A little one-room, cabin-style cottage with a kitchenette, a gas fireplace, and large desk. And, yes, I’ve wasted a lot of valuable writing time thinking about this.

Stuart: Ha! I deny that a writer’s thinking time can ever be wasted – by Grapthar’s hammer I say! I know the draw though. Once I saw a London attorney who works in a tiny “sphere” in his backyard. So aside from writing, what’s your background?

Liz: I have a pretty varied work history, including being a paramedic, attending the San Diego fire academy and farming with a team of draft horses. I’ve also worked as an athletic trainer, Outward Bound instructor, dispatcher for a concrete company…hmm, what else?

Stuart: What? No warp drive mechanics? That’s a pretty robust resume, and you know, I just read one of L Ron Hubbard’s writing essays in which he proposed going out and getting a job just to gain material for writing. You may be further ahead than you imagine.

Star Trek or Star Wars?

Liz: OMG, both. I’m such a geek. Watching the original Star Trek series with childhood friends along with reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy at 10 were what got me started down this life-long path of loving speculative fiction in all its forms – movies, TV, and prose. Have to say, though, that some of the later incarnations of both disappointed.

Stuart: Well, now we have the chance to infuse the genre with out own ideas, don’t we?

Speaking of which, do you ever dream about writing?

Liz: Not often, but I do get daydream-like flashes of odd images, which frequently become the genesis for a story. I also occasionally dream really great speculative plots that I think “wow, that would be a great story” when I half-wake, and then can never remember them later.

Stuart: Oh I HATE when that happens! When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Liz: Stuffed animals. Never was into dolls.

Stuart: Interesting. I’ll bet those animals went on some wild adventures! Well thanks, Liz. I can’t wait to meet you in person in April, and I know we’ll all be watching your career.

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In addition to her short stories, Liz has two completed novels out making the rounds and a third still in progress. She blogs at http://ecolwrites.blogspot.com/

Meet the Winners Begins!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be presenting a series of posts to introduce my fellow winners in this year’s L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. To kick things off, last year’s Gold Pen Award winner, Tina Gower, has graciously agreed to lend a hand.

Stuart:  Welcome, Tina, and thanks so much for agreeing to be here. You’ve been a busy beaver since your first place win and later Gold Pen grand-poobafication. How has WotF changed your life?

Tina:  Other than the mail order elves that do my bidding and the fact that I can now fly, WOTF introduced me to Mike Resnick. So far he’s published three of my short stories and we’re working on a Stellar Guild Project together. Plus the guy publicly bashes and humiliates me (in the most loving way possible!), so it keeps me on my toes. Most of my other accomplishments I can’t directly trace back to the contest. For example, I won another contest this year for my yet unpublished novel—this led me to a lot of great opportunities like a great agent who’s awesome.

Stuart:  Wow. Yes, thick skin and an abiding love for humiliation are certainly keys to success in this biz. What got you into writing?

Tina:  I love how this question is phrased—Like I got tangled up in it, or it’s some sort of trouble I need to get out of–which is a pretty accurate way to describe how any writer gets into this sort of mess. I’m dyslexic and I spent a lot of time in school being told how much I suck at written communication. Obsessed with why, I found myself still choosing to write a middle grade novel for my eight grade project, wrote and illustrated a children’s book for my senior project, and for my graduates thesis? I researched the way teachers grade writing and how we can do it better using rubrics as a scoring system.

Stuart:  I hear you. My mother worked with dyslexic children for decades. She said the biggest obstacles they faced were being labelled instead of being helped to adapt.

Tina:  I spent my first career (as a school psychologist) trying to figure out how to help students who also sucked at things (learning disabilities and other brain problems) and helping them to overcome it—or improve above what was expected. I researched techniques on how to fix these sorts of brain hiccups, and at the same time worked on my own. I took writing classes after graduate school and continued to work on it.

It wasn’t until I had my son that I seriously considered submitting and trying to really do what I wanted. I’d experienced a rare kind of paralysis after having my son and after months of physical therapy I sort of had this “I can do anything” feeling people get after coming out of situational depression. That feeling hasn’t gone away after seven years. I went from being told I’d never be a writer because of my specific type of dyslexia issues to winning the largest science fiction contest in the world. Oddly, rejections don’t sting when you have that sort of perspective.

Stuart:  Wow! That’s quite a turn. I’m glad you stuck with it. So, let me ask you, Pantser or Plotter?

Tina:  Both. It depends on the project. Usually a plotter—if I know the end and certain emotional points before I start, the story always turns out better.

Stuart:  Plan the work and wing the plan, eh? Do you have any unusual talents?

Tina:  I can sound exactly like a monkey. It unnerves my friends and family so I’ve sworn to never do the impression again.

Stuart:  Ha ha! I’ve got to get you on YouTube with my daughter. She actually IS a monkey. Star Wars or Star Trek?

Tina:  Yes.

Stuart:  Yeah…should’a seen that one coming. If you adopted a wardrobe tag like Dr. Who, what would it be?

Tina:  I look amazing in hats.

Stuart:  (Feigns English accent) “I wear a hat now. Hats are cool.” A quotation that inspires you?

Tina:

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!

REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!

Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.

NNiNN

–Martin L. Shoemaker (If you don’t know this person you should Google him!)

Stuart:  Good one! Well thanks for joining us, Tina, and for getting us off to such a good start. I know we’ll be hearing more of you, and best of luck to you in the new year.

Tina:  Thank you for inviting me on your blog for the interview!

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Tina Gower’s story, Twelve Seconds, appears in volume XXIX of the anthology, L Ron Hubbard Presents: Writers of the Future. She’s also been published in Galaxy’s Edge and has an upcoming book in Mike Resnick’s Stellar Guild series. She blogs at www.smashedpicketfences.com and you can learn more about her work and her many other accomplishments at www.tinagower.com.