Rainsdon Brittany Certificates

Birthing Stories: Five in Thirty-Five by Brittany Rainsdon

I’m Brittany. I’m a nurse. I’m also a mom. I just had a baby. And I got my fourth quarter entry in for the Writers of the Future Contest while working around giving birth. Crazy? Maybe. But sometimes our dreams make us push a little harder (pun intended) and crazy things make a certain kind of sense.

Discovering Writers of the Future

I first heard about Writers of the Future approximately two years ago, when I took an online writing class and was assigned to research potential markets. A few clicks made it clear this was the contest to enter—but it almost seemed too good to be true. In fact, I remember querying a few writer friends to find out if the contest was indeed legit. It was.

Another assignment involved reaching out to published authors from my target market and asking for an interview. Still intrigued by the contest, I hit up Sharon Joss, a previous Golden Pen winner (she also has eight novels under her belt). She gave me an entire page of writing tips and advice, but perhaps her most far-reaching was this: join the Writers of the Future Forum, a discussion board where members communicate about the contest.

I did.

I immediately found friends who wanted to exchange stories, talk craft, and some even seemed to have insider information on how to do well (Coordinating judge, David Farland’s tip emails were foreign to me at the time). They preached producing a fresh story every quarter, not giving up, and maybe (eventually) you would win.

They were right. Even if I didn’t win, my craft would. I would form habits. If I kept writing and then sending my best stories to other markets, I could even pro-out. That would be a win in and of itself. I’ll admit, I haven’t sold anything yet—but with two honorable mentions and a silver honorable mention from this contest, I have hope I’m on the right track. Writing professionally is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the start of Volume 35, one “forumite” set up a challenge—enter every quarter. I had already entered three in a row the previous year, so I committed to do four more. Obviously, at the time, I didn’t know I would deliver a little girl a few days before the end of the final quarter.

When two pink lines did show up a few months later, I determined to plow through all four quarters regardless. What’s a little morning sickness? But I discovered it was much harder producing stories while pregnant. I had three other children, and well, they didn’t exactly slow down when my body did.

Although it got harder to write with each trimester (and Writers of the Future quarter!), the real scrambling didn’t start until the end. For some reason (I blame hormones), I decided the old nursery needed to be completely redone and sanitized. I love my three other kids, but kids can be gross! We scrubbed the walls, painted, caulked, put up wainscoting, rented a carpet cleaner, and even sewed a matching nursery set. Coupling that with other health issues (thanks again, hormones), writing time became slim. Slimmer still as I felt like I couldn’t work on anything non-baby related until the baby came.

As the final quarter drew to a close, my story remained unfinished. With twelve days left in the contest and my baby overdue, I needed a boost. I took to the Forum.

Whenever I tell people my goals, it makes me more accountable. It’s the reason I’ve joined consistent critique groups in the past—friends help friends get things done. The Forum proved to be that and more.

When I told the “forumites” about my desire to finish, they were super supportive, but also reminded me to be reasonable. Having a baby is kind of a big deal, and they advised me it would be okay to take a pass this round. No judgment. I still wanted to finish, but it was a reality check that health and family came first. I told myself I would only write if I had time and it made sense.

I didn’t touch my story.

Instead, I focused on making my home baby-ready, caring for my other children, and eating as much spicy food and pineapple I could handle (spicy food to start contractions, and pineapple to prep the cervix for delivery). For the record, pineapple core is gross, but not so bad when blended into a smoothie.

When the baby still didn’t come, we scheduled to induce labor on the twenty-fourth. All my other children had come naturally, so medical intervention made me nervous—especially when well-meaning women would tell me their induction horror stories. And what would recovery be like? I didn’t think it would include writing. Still unwilling to admit defeat, I gave my laptop the side eye and packed it into my hospital bag.

Giving Birth

Rainsdon's BabyLucky for me, I went into labor on my own a few hours before my scheduled induction and had my little girl in my arms shortly thereafter. It was, perhaps, my easiest labor.

So, I wasn’t exactly giving birth with a typewriter atop my belly, but I was incredibly grateful I had my computer in the delivery room. When the rush of adrenaline came that wouldn’t let me sleep for hours, I had something to do.

While still in the hospital and snuggling my newborn close, I typed out everything but the last scene. I kept my promise to only write while it made sense. If I was tired, I slept, and when my other children came to visit, I visited.

Transitioning to home was difficult. The baby didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, and it seemed I had tripped just before the finish line. But my sweet husband knew my goal and offered to take the children on Friday afternoon (the twenty-eighth) so I could finish my story. A few hours later the deed was done.

On the last day of the contest, I edited as much as I could and then hit submit. It was my most rushed entry, I had no time for critiques, but hitting that button felt oh, so good. Four submissions in Volume 35—but by my count, I produced five in 35. I dare you to count differently. I birthed two babies that week!

I think I’ll keep pushing.


Brittany RainsdonBrittany Rainsdon grew up as the only girl in a family with four brothers. She’s reversing that trend with her own children—three girls and one boy. Brittany is a registered nurse and has worked in both medical/surgical and rehabilitation nursing. When she went to her first writing conference in 2017, she wore a new pair of green glasses and several people recognized her during lessons as “that girl in the glasses.” She kept the nickname and uses it as her tag on the Writers of the Future Forum. Brittany wants to eventually publish novels, but is currently focusing on writing short stories.

Author Scott Parkin (right) with fans at SLC FanX18

Writer or Author? How to start a story playing with a question…

I think the answer is pretty straight-forward. A writer writes; an author publishes for a paying audience. So while every author is a writer, not every writer has the stuff to be an author.

How do you make the transition (other than the obvious: selling)? You develop and internalize the tools needed to produce material that satisfies both your own inner critic and a publisher’s needs—and use those tools to deliver on-time and according to request (word count, genre, subject matter).

Things to Write About

For example, when you see a call for submissions for an anthology of urban fantasy with a deadline in two days, do yourself a favor and figure out what urban fantasy is. I had no idea, so I wrote a nice bit of magic realism involving a miniature horse and a WW1 veteran (based on a real person), then set it in Berlin. Sent it off the next morning so it would arrive before the deadline. Got a lovely rejection that same day from an obviously confused editor who said, “It’s urban … and it’s fantasy. But it’s not urban fantasy. Good luck selling this elsewhere.”

Oops. I hit the deadline just fine, but I didn’t understand the genre or its tropes. Writer, not author.

Sometimes you don’t have time to wait for the muse to provide inspiration for things to write about. So you learn to make anything into a story. I once used an “Empty every night” label on a trash can as a fantasy writing prompt to write a story that I’ve now sold three times by playing the question game.

How to Start a Story

Empty every night… Empty what? Stories are about characters so it should be a character who is emptied. Emptied of what? Thoughts? Toxins? Hope? Memories. His memories are edited each night. Is he a robot or a person? Editing a person’s memory is both harder and more horrific, so it’s gotta be a person. Who does it? Government agents? Caring family? Himself? I like the idea that he edits his own memories, but I think it’s more horrific if it’s done to him by someone he trusts. Aliens? Yes. Aliens whose only desire is to help, so it hurts them to do this cruel but necessary thing to him.

And so on until you’ve answered enough questions to generate a plot with try/fail cycles, character jeopardy, and meaningful consequences. What to write about—all from a trash can label.

Sometimes when working out how to start a story you start with an idea. I recently sold a piece based on the question, “What makes someone beautiful?” Sometimes you start with a colorful character as I did with the horse/veteran story above. Or an image, as I did with a microchip advertisement that featured a chrome-clad warrior woman standing atop a silicon wafer—who I immediately recognized as The Electric Valkyrie.

So go out into the world and experience new things to generate new images, characters, and questions that you can then transform into a story. You can literally turn anything into a story by playing the question game and exercising a little creative imagination.

Writer or Author?

In fact, this post is based on exactly that. I wrote an odd, quirky little experimental story that ended up winning a prize in the Writers of the Future Contest. (Read “Purposes Made for Alien Minds” in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.) At the award ceremony, I noticed that the announcer always referred to the winners as either author or artist, and that set me to wondering why. And of course, I already knew the answer—an answer that had been reinforced time and again during the week-long workshop before the awards.

Authors are those who can turn anything into a story that’s well-written and interesting enough to be published. All you have to do is work hard and compellingly answer a few simple questions.

 

Scott Parkin after his book signing at FanX Salt Lake City 2018.


Scott ParkinScott R. Parkin is an author, essayist, podcaster, and pop critic who’s sold more than fifty short stories to a wide variety of markets from literary-academic to romance to military SF. He is also a proud winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries? Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Alumni Update – Stephen Lawson

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries?

Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Stephen recently posted a link to the story on his blog so you can read it for free. He also includes in that same blog the proofs of concept for the scientific stuff he has in the story. And if you are into the geeky side of stories, you will find it is a fascinating read all on its own. It shows the level of detailed research he does in order to create new universes for his readers.

Bestselling author and contest founder L. Ron Hubbard will tell you from experience how research pays off in his article “Search for Research.”

Likewise author and WotF judge Larry Niven, in his trademark succinct style, gives this advice to new writers, “Always do your research. One mistake in hard science fiction, in particular, will be remembered forever. Remember: you’re on record.”

Obviously, Stephen is on the right track as his propensity for research is paying off in both entertaining and award-winning stories.

Take, for example, his short story “Moonlight One,” which garnered him a Writers of the Future Award (published in Volume 33). This one is a murder mystery set on the moon. What sets this story apart from the normal who-done-it, is there are only two people on the moon. When the protagonist wakes up to find her husband murdered, she has to find the real killer. But behind the story are all the science facts that make it all work, as Stephen explains in this video.

Being one of the Writers of the Future winners, Stephen attended the 2017 Writers Workshop. In addition to studying articles by L. Ron Hubbard on writing and getting sage advice from bestselling authors and workshop instructors David Farland and Tim Powers, there were also guest speakers providing profession tips, for new writers including: Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Robert J. Sawyer, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nnedi Okorafor, Jody Lynn Nye, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, to name but some.

What additionally makes the Writer Workshop unique from others is the 24-hour story that each writer has to submit. The clock starts and the pressure is on as each writer has to turn out a complete story in one day. But Stephen, with his military background, is used to pressure as he explains here.

Looking forward to seeing what new worlds Stephen’s research will take us to next.

National Bestseller 4 Consecutive Years

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future a National Bestseller 4 Years in a Row

Nearly 100 aspiring writers and artists have realized a major accomplishment over the past 4 years as winners in the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests — when the book they were published in, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, became a national bestseller.

The Hard Facts

The number of new books published annually is now over 1 million (data provided by Bowker) with more than 2/3rds being self-published. Yet the number of book outlets in the US has dropped significantly, from 38,539 in 2004 to 22,586 in 2018. Unfortunately, the average new book will sell less than 250 copies in the first year and less than 1% have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

Writers of the Future Provides Hope

At a time when getting a much-needed break as a writer seems next to impossible, having a contest such as Writers & Illustrators of the Future becomes all the more vital. In fact, a review of the previous 33 years found that out of 472 past writer winners and published finalists, 336 have gone on with their writing career, publishing at least one story. And 192 continue to write and be published—that is, over 40% who are still realizing their dreams as a writer.

Publishers Weekly Sci-Fi Bestseller ListWriters of the Future 34 Now a National Bestseller

In keeping with the Contests’ aim to give new writers and artists a leg-up on their careers, this past week L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34, became a national bestseller, hitting the #10 spot on the Publishers Weekly Science Fiction bestseller list. This is the fourth Writers of the Future volume in a row to achieve national bestselling status—a fitting accolade for this year’s winners!

Volume 34, released in April, is a compilation of 12 top sci-fi and fantasy short stories written by 12 winners of the Writers of the Future Contest and illustrated by the 12 Illustrators of the Future Contest winners. While contest entries span over 170 countries, winners this year hailed from 9 different countries and include Belgium, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, as well as the United States.


 


The winning authors listed alphabetically are Janey Bell, Eneasz Brodski, Erik Bundy, Erin Cairns, Vida Cruz, Jonathan Ficke, Amy Henrie Gillett, Diana Hart, Cole Hehr, N.R.M. Roshak, Darci Stone and Jeremy TeGrotenhuis.

Winning illustrators listed alphabetically are Bruce Brenneise, Adar Darnov, Alana Fletcher, Quintin Gleim, Duncan Halleck, Sydney Lugo, Anthony Moravian, Maksym Polishchuk, Jazmen Richardson, Reyna Rochin, Brenda Rodriguez and Kyna Tek.

Also included in Volume 34 are short stories written by New York Times bestselling authors and Writers of the Future contest judges, Brandon Sanderson and Jody Lynn Nye along with a fantasy short story by contest founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The cover art was created by internationally acclaimed artist and Illustrators of the Future judge, Ciruelo.

Discover why these are the best new voices in speculative fiction by reading their stories and seeing their art in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Never Give Up

Never Give Up!

It was 1978. I was thirteen years old and my mother gave me Clifford Simak’s book, Mastodonia. So began my love affair with speculative fiction. Within a few years, I read everything from Poul Anderson to Roger Zelazny and had amassed hundreds of books and magazines. I was obsessed. I had found my calling. I was going to be a science fiction writer.

A Mountain of Rejection Slips

It took a few years to gather the courage to write a story, and another few to start sending them out. From 1986 to 1992, I wrote 47 stories, submitting them to any place I could find, including and especially to the Writers of the Future. The result was a mountain of rejection slips. Sometimes the editors provided encouraging messages, but they still rejected my stories! I entered the WOTF eleven times and received—no surprise—eleven rejections.

Becoming a science fiction writer was much harder than it looked. After six years of trying to get published, I made a huge mistake. I gave up. It was too hard. I was done. My love affair with speculative fiction was over. I sold all my books and magazines. The only ones I saved were my Writers of the Future books. I just couldn’t part with them. I wept as I boxed them up and put them in the closet, where they would remain for the next seventeen years.

Return to the Urge to Write

Fast-forward to 2009. My boss walks into my office and asks, “Do you like science fiction?”

“I used to,” I said.

“Read this,” he handed me E. E. Doc Smith’s Lensman series. He was my boss, so I obeyed.

And I was back in love! I bought back all my books. I dug out my WOTF books and re-read them. Then I got all the remaining volumes and read those.

Then it happened: I started to feel that urge again, that compulsion to start writing my own stories. But I was terrified. I had been down that road before, and it was littered with broken dreams. I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

So I made a vow. I would try submitting again, but only to the WOTF contest. If I earned an Honorable Mention, then maybe I would try submitting elsewhere. I re-read all the WOTF books again, and then I submitted a story. Of course, I received a rejection, then another, and another, and so on.

An Anonymous Guy from Topanga Canyon

Then it happened, entry number sixteen, an Honorable Mention! I did it! My head nearly hit the ceiling. Still, I was too scared to submit anywhere else. I kept entering the WOTF and soon earned another HM. When I had earned three, I began submitting to the magazines.

To my delight, I not only began receiving personal rejections; within one year, I sold my first story! Then I sold another. And another!

Still, my primary focus was with the WOTF contest. I never missed a quarter. I was earning more honorable mentions, but that was it. The higher levels of the contest seemed out of reach. Whenever I felt my confidence waver, I would look at the WOTF books and tell myself, you could win this contest. Don’t give up.

Then one day I was lurking the WOTF forum and noticed a mention of a cautionary tale about why you should never give up. It was from a workshop by Dean Wesley Smith. I knew about Dean. He had a story in Volume 1, and later became one of the judges. In his workshop, Dean talked about an anonymous guy from Topanga Canyon, a promising new writer who the magazine editors were talking about. They wondered who would be the first to publish one of his stories. Even book editors were showing interest. Then suddenly, he disappeared. Gone and never to be seen again. His name, to protect his identity, was Topanga Canyon.

When I read that, I felt a cold chill. I was from Topanga. That was me. I knew it in my bones. Before I gave up, Dean was editing Pulphouse and had written me personal rejections. I still remember them: “You’re close.” “Keep trying.”

I sent Dean an email. He confirmed my secret identity.

I felt waves of sheer delight with an undercurrent of utter devastation. Editors were talking about me! And I gave up.

The Magic Number—#47

This discovery inspired me, even more, to keep entering, which I did, every quarter, eventually earning twelve honorable mentions. On December 28, 2017, three days before the Q1 deadline, for the 47th time, I submitted yet another story to the contest. I had just received four rejections in a row, so my hopes were not high. I had entered every single quarter for the last eight years. Why should this one be any different? At best I hoped to add to my sizable collection of HMs.

Then the impossible happened. To my utter shock, my story was a finalist. The next few weeks were pure torture. I was at work when the phone call came that I had won second place. It was easily one of the happiest days of my life. I could feel that thirteen-year-old boy inside of me jumping up and down. I won! I actually won! I’ll get a monetary prize, a beautiful trophy, a week-long workshop, and best of all, my story is going to appear in Volume 35. At last!

All I can tell you is, if you have a dream, never give up. Not ever!

 


Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett has worked as a carpet cleaner, fast-food worker, data entry clerk, bookkeeper, landscaper, singer, actor, writer, radio host, television consultant, teacher, UFO researcher, ghost hunter and more. He has written 22 non-fiction books and more than 100 articles about UFOs and the paranormal. But his true love has always been speculative fiction. After a long hiatus, he started writing again in 2009. He has sold 37 stories to various venues including Allegory, Andromeda Spaceways, Bards & Sages, Black Treacle, Cast of Wonders, the Colored Lens, Grievous Angel, Kzine, Perihelion, Sci Phi Journal, Stupefying Stories, T. Gene Davis’ Speculative Blog, and more, including several anthologies. He earned twelve honorable mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest before winning 2nd place for Quarter 1, 2018, (Volume 35), his third professional sale. He currently resides in southern California where he spends his days looking for new ways to pay his bills and his nights exploring the farthest edges of the universe.

 

Eneasz at library

Humanity vs. Monstrosity

Eneasz Brodski has a definite opinion about the importance of human values vs. soulless monstrosities. And so this is his tale of how his story “Flee, My Pretty One” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 came to be. Check out the video interview below and Eneasz’s article that follows.

“Flee, My Pretty One”

This was originally written quite a while ago, for an open anthology call on the theme of “Start A Revolution.” I’ve been rabidly anti-corporation for most of my life. They’re soulless, profit-maximizing monstrosities, who know nothing of human values. Optimizers unfettered by concern for us. Stross calls them invaders from Mars. Many people have pointed out that they resemble the problem of unfriendly AI in their lack of human values + ability to alter their environment to fit their utility functions (including, infamously and recently, Ted Chaing). I agree, and I would love (or rather, once would have loved) to see a revolution bringing these forces to heel.

I call them Dragons. For two reasons. The first is that dragons are already known for their rapacious love of treasure, and their willingness to do anything to horde it. They are powerful, and non-human, so they make a good metaphor.

The second is that I’m racist against dragons. If that’s a thing? I realized this back when I was playing Shadowrun. During the course of a campaign, I realized that no matter what he did, I would never trust Dunkelzahn. He could be a saint for centuries, doing only good works, and die sacrificing himself to save me personally, and I still would say “Good riddance. You can’t trust a f**king dragon. He was obviously motivated by some evil plot, he held hatred for us all in his heart, and it will come to light eventually.” I’d be horrified if my offspring dated a dragon. Etc. I don’t care what they do, I know they’re evil.

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

And like, if you’re going to be racist, I think it’s probably best to be racist against a fictional giant lizard species, so you aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as I’m at it, I can maybe use that racism in my stories, so anyone who’s similar to me can get that same visceral revulsion.

Anyway, yes, the story is about starting a revolution against corporations, except that corporations are actual non-human persons(?) in the story. This makes it more satisfying to attack them, since violence against a person is always more meaningful than violence against “the system.” And giving your villains a voice and agency is more exciting.

Except, of course, violence is bad. And the real world is messy and fuzzy, so trying to apply sufficient violence to the correct target is never as clean as Hollywood and/or activists make it seem. So it all keeps spiraling into ever more chaos until everything is shit around you. And thus was born “Flee, My Pretty One.”

Of note: This story had a lot of near-misses when it was seeking publication, with editors saying “This is good, but it’s not quite right for us.” Then Trump was elected. And the next place I submitted to said, “Wow, this is great, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the society.” And I nodded and said, “Oh yes, yup, that’s exactly what I was doing.”

I’ve been pissed at the system my entire life, regardless of the political party in charge. Because it’s not about the political parties, for the most part. It’s about the entrenched powers that stay entrenched from one election to the next, regardless of whether the Reds or the Blues are nominally in charge that moment. I guess most people aren’t that upset with the system itself. So, on the one hand, it’s interesting to see so much of the population suddenly as riled up as I’ve always been. It helped get this story published, at least. But I’m dismayed that what they’re angry at is still the politicians. I figure this means that once the politician in charge is swapped out, society will return to how it was, and nothing will have changed.

>:(


Eneasz BrodskiEneasz Brodski lives in Denver, Colorado. He is active in the Bayesian Rationalist community, an eclectic collection of misfits who believe humans can do better. Through the powers of science and technology, he hopes all humans currently living can someday celebrate their 5,000th birthday.

Eneasz has a number of meaningful relationships, of many varieties. He was raised in an apocalyptic Christian sect, and while he has left that behind, that childhood colors much of his writing to this day. He’s been writing since he could hold a pencil, but has only begun professional efforts in the past few years. He just finished his first novel and hopes to see it in print soon.

When he’s not writing, podcasting, or blogging, he can often be found gothing it up at a local goth club. He’s willing to strike up a conversation with anyone in dark clothes and eyeliner.

C Stuart Hardwick signing copies of his story in Writers of the Future Vol 30

C. Stuart Hardwick: Winning Is Just the Beginning

Writers of the Future Volume 30Hands down, the best and most useful part of winning the Writers of the Future contest and being published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 30 was the people. I’ve often compared it to reaching the end of the Yellow Brick Road and instead of yelling, “Ignore the man behind the curtain,” the wizard reaches out a hand and says, “Here, let me help you.” The workshop to which winners are treated is full of wizards, from childhood heroes of literature and art to instructors and invited guests who all give generously of their time and experience to help the next generation and the genre.

The Popcorn Speech

One such wizard is Kevin J. Anderson, who when time allows, gives what he calls “the popcorn speech.” It’s nothing revolutionary — just the idea that success comes from consistent effort, not a single shining moment of razor-honed brilliance. You can make yourself crazy trying to pop that one perfect kernel or you can relax and make some popcorn, leaving the duds in the bottom of the bag. Writing, he says, is like that: put enough work out there, and if you’ve any talent at all, something will stick.

The Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success

There is a closely-related idea that I call the Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success. This isn’t revolutionary either. It starts with networking 101: you meet someone and they introduce you to someone and so on. Eventually, the growing chain of introductions leads to an opportunity, and that leads to a slew of new introductions and the cycle repeats. Pretty soon you have a burgeoning network of contacts and opportunities, compounding like neutrons in a nuclear chain reaction.

And that’s where the magic happens. As the popcorn flies and your chain reaction grows, it starts to radiate its own luck.

Many aspiring writers harbor the misconception that “if you write it, they will come.” They think, or at least hope, that if they can just “break in” or “break out” or break something, somewhere, the world will be their oyster; the fans and the money will come rolling in and they’ll be recognized as the next Leo Tolstoy cum J.K. Rolling.

Yeah……..no. It doesn’t work that way. In fact with rare exception, it has never worked that way, not even for Tolstoy or Rolling.

This mentality ignores the cold reality that writing is a business, and businesses take time and capital to develop their brand, whatever else they may get right. It’s a myth and a prescription for misery to count on one unlikely shortcut to bypass that reality. Those who believe it are apt to hold back, waiting for the big break or big win that may never come. Or they may labor forever, polishing the life out of their One Great Creation instead of getting their work and their name out into the world, soliciting feedback, and growing as artists and people. And then when a break does finally come their way, they are likely to hang on it, Madam Bovary style, instead of sticking the feather in their cap and moving on, taking the next (sometimes frightening) step down their personal road. Worse, when the untrod path grows moss, they may grow cynical, blaming “gatekeepers” for their lack of professional attainment while driving away the very people and institutions who might have helped them.

When I won Writers of the Future, I knew exactly one writer (me) and I had maybe a dozen posts on my nascent blog, so I decided to interview my fellow winners—mostly just to scare up some content. Since then it’s become a tradition, and I’ve made friends and contacts in each subsequent WotF class. During the workshop, I camped out at the bar, listening to Mike Resnick and Eric Flint triple and quintuple my knowledge by the minute, sharing their advice and a career’s worth of hard knocks.

Mike gave me hell for not belonging to my local writers′ guild, so when I got home, I joined. That led to a bunch of appearance opportunities — but more importantly, to friendships that have paid unexpected dividends — from sharing the costs at local cons to getting a hug from “The Trouble with Tribbles” author, David Gerrold. It also led to my first gig as editor, helping with a locally-produced anthology.

With my fellow WotF winners and local guilders, I now had a posse to run with at conventions, so I could leave my inner wallflower at home and hang with the cool kids. But more than that, I had colleagues — colleagues who share tips and opportunities, make introductions, collaborate, critique each other’s work, and prod each other onward and upward.

That’s how I heard the popcorn speech — another WotF alum and I found Kevin in the hotel bar at WorldCon and he and Todd McCaffrey strong-armed — I mean persuaded me — to attend his Superstars workshop. I heard Kevin′s talk there, but I also met a whole new group of colleagues. This included the impressively mohawked Quincy J. Allen, who introduced me to a publishing tool that I now use to produce custom signed ebooks. Those help entice new subscribers onto my newsletter mailing list and let me give readers I may never get a chance to meet in person just a little something extra.

This is also how I learned about Taos Toolbox, a writing workshop taught by Walter Jon Williams and another WotF wizard, Nancy Kress. Since my WotF win, I′ve continued to hone my craft and was looking for a quality workshop to help up my novel-writing game. At Taos, I met a family of prairie dogs, George R.R. Martin, and Avatar scriptwriter, Steven Gould. I also made friends with a whole new group of awesome up and comers to share and grow together with.

Another writer friend told me about the Jim Baen Memorial Award — a competition focused on near future space sci-fi and tailor-made for my literary tastes. My first entry made the finals. Then it sold to Analog Science Fiction & Fact — a dream of mine since I was eight! I went on to final twice more before placing, and now I’m going to the International Space Development Conference to be honored alongside Amazon and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos! More important, I’ll meet a whole new group of contacts — aerospace geeks, engineers, entrepreneurs and space exploration advocates. Who knows where that might lead?

The chain reaction grows…

The Future Is NighLast year, I hit up a few of my WotF friends to put together an anthology; nothing big, just an ebook for cross promotion and lead generation for our respective newsletters. It was a smash success — so much so we decided to take it to the next level. By the time you read this, “The Future is Nigh – A Treasury of Short Fiction by Award-Winning Authors” will be available in print and on Kindle.

So here I am, four years on, an Analog regular, a multi-award winning author, and now a publisher! My stories have gotten Hugo and Nebula buzz. I just found out I took first place in the annual Analab reader poll for my story, “For All Mankind” about two women who save the world in an Apollo-era spacecraft! I’ve gotten a back-stage tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere with a group of writer friends, been invited inside the Orion space capsule, and received an email from Spider Robinson saying “Go Cat, Go!”

What’s next? I’m working on a novel…and a few other things… We’ll see.

None of this might have happened without the Writers of the Future win, but none of it happened because of that win. It happened because I viewed the win not as a finish line but as a rung up life’s ladder. Because together with allies made at the WotF workshop and since, I keep climbing those rungs wherever they lead. Of course, I’m no networking mercenary and you shouldn′t be either. These are wonderful people, and knowing them is its own reward. But if my Reactor Theory can nudge you beyond the introversion so common among writers, then put the spurs to ′er.

Life′s a journey. Go boldly.

Stuart


C. Stuart HardwickIn addition to winning the Writers of the Future contest, C Stuart Hardwick is a Jim Baen Award winner, a James White Semifinalist, and an Analog Analab Reader Poll winner. His work has appeared in Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Forbes.com and Mental Floss, among others. A southerner from South Dakota, he grew up writing radio plays and has been known to wear a cape.

More at cStuartHardwick.com

Writer winner Amy Henrie Gillett

A Little Light in a World of Darkness

Amy Henrie Gillett hopes to kindle people’s hearts and minds by contributing a little light to a world that sometimes seems so dark. And so the story of how “All Light and Darkness”—published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34—came to be as told by Amy.


“All Light and Darkness” began as a final project for my college Creative Writing class. It was not speculative fiction originally and lacked much of the refinement the published version has (hopefully). However, the voice and format were there, as well as the plot.

When I first decided to pursue the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, I recalled this piece, originally titled “Stay” and rewrote it to fit a science fiction world I’d begun building for a potential series. This world was conceived during a six-month period where I wanted to start a novel. I began that novel and soon found myself overwhelmed by my ambition and inability to meet my own expectations. That’s when I decided to turn to short story writing to improve my technique.

Originally, I treated short stories as a means to world-build, develop voice, invent characters and conflicts, and get my name out there in preparation for novel writing. However, to my surprise, I discovered a real passion for short story writing.

Short story writing demands development of plot and depth in a very small word count. It demands precision and eloquence, and I think it allows a flexibility of format and voice that novels don’t. A writer can use a very strange format or voice in a short story that readers would grow tired of in a novel. Not only that, but short stories seem to demand meaning–a reason to be read. I like to write poignant stories with layers of meaning in them, and I like those reflections to be the centerpieces of the stories and not a tangent. I write to inspire and change, and entertaining readers is the means by which I attempt that.

Novel writing requires more subtlety with themes and presents numerous thoughts and ideas throughout the story, and it demands much greater attention to entertainment.

I have fifteen drafts of “All Light and Darkness” saved to my computer and a few other drafts in hard copy. Any time I made a major change to my manuscript, particularly if I removed any content, I made a new file. I submitted to the competition for the first time at around Draft 8. The story was over 16,000 words long, and I expected a win–thought I was the best thing since Bradbury.

I received a flat rejection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, a rejection means that, in all likelihood, the story wasn’t read all the way through. David Farland tried a draft or two then said, nope.

I told myself I must have been rejected because of word count. Anyone could see it was a massive piece, and I thought there was no way it would have been rejected if it’d been read all the way through. So, I cut it down to 14,000 words and submitted again.

Again, a flat rejection.

My ego in shambles, I decided I should probably learn how to do this short story thing correctly. I started stalking the Writers of the Future forum, signed up for David Farland’s “Story Doctor” weekly writing tips, and scoured the internet for short story advice. Then I hitched up my pants and submitted what was then “Stay” to Critters.org.

In the meantime, I wrote a new story and submitted it to the competition. Another rejection.

The Critters Community did a fantastic job on “Stay.” Not only did I get some very positive feedback, I also received respectful, but firm, recommendations on changes. I accepted many of those recommendations, and thus began the heartbreaking process of their execution. They say if you don’t bleed over your words, you’re not doing it right. Well, I bled.
I went through each critique line by line and wrote up a list of the suggestions I agreed with or wanted to try out. The list filled a whole page of college ruled paper. Sometimes you have to swallow your preconceptions, try out the changes, let it sit, and then decide whether they’re a win.

In the end, I changed the entire first scene, beefed up the climax, cut out a middle scene, and deleted the last 1000 words. Oh, and gave my character a new power. And got rid of a cast of minor characters. And toned down my purple prose…. And changed the title.

I didn’t take every recommendation, but man, those people really knew what they were talking about. After I made the edits (the hardest was removing that middle scene and deleting the last 1000 words), I was so excited by the final product that I submitted three days early. It just felt right. It was about 11,000 words long and had a different focus from the previous versions. I expected at least a semi-finalist slot.

Draft seventeen won second place.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m too much of a perfectionist writer. Not that I plan to submit any piece I don’t feel I’ve done my utmost on, but I need to do it more efficiently. I do a first draft then print it and do a second, send it to one or two first readers, do another draft, read it out loud, do another draft, send it in for a group critique, do another draft, read it out loud again, do another draft and then finalize my manuscript for submission. Not only that, but I’m an edit-as-I-write writer too. It’s a long, grueling process. From the time I first retrieved “Stay” from the proverbial trunk, it took me a year to turn it into “All Light and Darkness.”

I’m hoping that in time, I can do a first draft followed by a proofread, send it to a critique group, write a second draft, read it out loud, make hopefully only minor corrections, finalize the manuscript and send it out. I want to take that year and whittle it down to a month. There will hopefully be several other stories written in the world of “All Light and Darkness”–not to mention a few novels–so I don’t have a year to write each one. Regardless, if I learn as much with each new story as I did with “All Light and Darkness,” then maybe someday I will become a Bradbury.

So, onward! Onward to the next draft, the next critique, the next rejection, the next submission… and always, onward to the next story!

Writer and Artist Collaboration

Duncan Halleck and Amy Henrie Gillett

Duncan Halleck is an illustrator and concept artist working in the entertainment industry, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. In the following video, Duncan explains how he painted his image for “All Light and Darkness.”

Read “All Light and Darkness” in Writers of the Future Volume 34 and let a little light into your world.

Jody Lynn Nye

About “Illusion”

"Dragon Caller" by CirueloWhen Galaxy Press sent me a request to add a fantasy fiction story to Volume 34 of the Writers of the Future anthologies, I was excited. They asked if I had any tales in my archive that would fit into the theme of wizardry and magic. They would take that story and have one of the Illustrator winners create a piece of art to go with it. I was going to look through my backlist (I’ve published well over 150 short stories), but I said I could write one. I opened the jpg file that accompanied the e-mail. It was the artwork for the cover, a painting by Ciruelo called “Dragon Caller.” I was enchanted by it. (Appropriate, no?) It’s so full of beautiful fantasy detail, and I felt I knew that wizard. I had to have that one as my art. I let Galaxy Press know that I was going to write a story to fit. The result is “Illusion.”

My writing style is usually gently humorous. I’ve been working on a new fantasy series centering on a young female magician who comes to work as personal amanuensis to a court magician with a legendary reputation – but he’s been living on that reputation for a long time. I thought that this fellow in the painting would make a great employer to my young woman. Because Ciruelo is from South America, I used Spanish names and titles for my characters. In my outline, the wizard had no name, so I called him Angelo.

Ciruelo’s painting gave me the opportunity to explore Angelo’s backstory and learn more about him. Other magicians in his position are of the change-the-world, transform-your-enemies-into-sheep, blast-down-walls variety. Angelo’s talents lie in illusion. He’s world-class, genuinely creative, and loves both his job and his ruler, the Regente Zoraida, but he is full of self-doubt as to whether all that is good enough. Yet, the realm of Enth fully believes in the image of an all-powerful wizard that he has created. When a genuine crisis strikes, he must step up and save it, using the only talent that he has. I really loved working the landscape into my story, and the image depicted is actually the very last scene. This story will be an important basis to the books I’m writing.

There’s a curious postscript to this event. Every so often, you’ll get a sign that what you’re doing is the thing you are supposed to be doing, as if fate wants to show its approval. I heard from Ciruelo shortly after the book was published. Halfway through reading “Illusion,” he wrote to me. He wanted to know why I named my – our – wizard Angelo. I explained that I wanted a name that spoke of power and authority, maybe with a touch of divinity, since he dealt with high magic. Ciruelo wondered if I had read his biography and wanted to compliment him. His son’s name is Angelo.

No, I hadn’t read it.

Cue the heavenly trumpets, or at least the bellow of a visiting dragon.

If you enjoy “Illusion,” you might want to check out some of my own titles. The Imperium series from Baen Books features Lord Thomas Kinago, a feckless young nobleman in the future who wants to be useful in a time when the nobility has no other function than to provide the gene pool from which the next emperor or empress will be chosen. He is devoted to the emperor, a cousin of his (Thomas has lots of cousins), but is determined to do everything his own way. He’s so wealthy, he doesn’t have hobbies – he has enthusiasms. The title of each book is the enthusiasm of the moment. View from the Imperium concerns photography. Fortunes of the Imperium sees Thomas investigating the effects superstitions have on people, while on a diplomatic mission to a former enemy power. In Rhythm of the Imperium, he tackles interpretive dance.

I’ve also taken over Robert Asprin’s Myth-Adventures series, the pun-laden humorous fantasy epic. Bob wrote the first twelve books, beginning with the wonderful Another Fine Myth. We wrote the next six and a collection of short stories together. Since his passing, I have written two more novels, with a third on the way. The latest book, Myth-Fits (Ace Books) is the twentieth novel. Skeeve and M.Y.T.H., Inc. have accepted an assignment to find a marvelous object, the Loving Cup, in a resort dimension that promises to fulfill every whim of a vacationer but seems strangely to be running out of magik.

Moon Beam is science fiction for young adults by me and Travis S. Taylor, a fellow author and actual rocket scientist. I’m also about to release a collection of my young adult science fiction and fantasy short stories entitled Daring, from Cat & Dragon Press.

Hope you enjoy them all!

"View from the Imperium" by Jody Lynn Nye

"Myth-Fits" by Jody Lynn Nye

"Moon Beam" by Jody Lynn Nye and Travis S. Taylor


Jody Lynn NyeJody Lynn Nye lists her main career activity as “spoiling cats.” When not engaged upon this worthy occupation, she writes fantasy and science fiction books and short stories. Since 1987 she has published over 40 books and more than 120 short stories.

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody Lynn Nye has taught numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at Dragon Con.

Jody Lynn Nye became a Writers of the Future judge in 2016.


Robert J. Sawyer giving N.R.M. Roshak her award

“As You Like It” Alien Style

There is no doubt the influence of William Shakespeare on the English language and literature and that now includes science fiction.

Case in point is N.R.M. Roshak’s story “A Bitter Thing,” which takes its title from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”:

“O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.”

And in her story, the other man is an alien.

Roshak grew up reading her father’s extensive science fiction and fantasy collection from Asimov to Zelazny, but it was her degree in philosophy and math that put her on the route to speculative fiction.

What Is It Like to Be a Bat?

In an interview with her hometown paper, the Centretown Buzz (Ottawa, Canada), Roshak explains how she came up with the idea for her story.

“I loved science, but even more, I loved imagining myself into alien points of view: what would it be like to be human-but-not or human-but-other? I had planned to study science at university until I read Thomas Nagel’s famous paper, ‘What Is It Like to Be a Bat?’ which argues that we can never know what it’s like to be a bat, only what it’s like to be a human having bat experiences. To a long-time imaginer of self-as-other, this was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I plunged into the argument, only realizing once I held a philosophy and math degree that I greatly prefer imagining to arguing.”

To which she adds, “I may never know what it is like to be a bat, a telepath, or an alien; but there’s much to be learned in the imagining, to explore what it means to be human by imagining what it is to be partly or wholly inhuman.”

Her Journey With the Contest

Roshak first learned of the Contest from a fellow member of her writing group—Ken Liu, international bestselling author and a 2003 Writers of the Future winner published in volume 19. In fact, as the only members of their writing group, Roshak and Liu shared a special comaraderie as she explains in this interview talking about her story.

As a winner of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers Contest, she has since attended both the Annual Celebration and the exclusive Writers Workshop. Now she is hitting the airwaves talking about her Hollywood experience including writing tips from the Workshop and the 3 rules of being a writer.

Read N.R.M. Roshak’s story “A Bitter Thing” to discover happiness as seen through the eye′s of an alien in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.