Posts

Eric James Stone with his novel "Unforgettable"

Focus on Eric James Stone

Eric James Stone is one of the few people who’ve managed to appear in two editions of the Writers of the Future anthology, putting “Memory” into Volume XX in 2004 as a published finalist, and “Betrayer of Trees” into Volume XXI in 2005 as a prizewinner. Since that time, he’s published more than 50 short stories, won the Nebula Award, and been nominated for the Hugo Award. His first book, Unforgettable, was put out by Baen Books in early 2016.

Writer winner Eric James Stone with presenters Kevin J. Anderson and Larry Niven.

Writer winner Eric James Stone with presenters Kevin J. Anderson and Larry Niven.

“The contest is a marvelous opportunity for new writers,” he says now. “I credit it with jump-starting my career as a writer, not only because they were the first to publish my work, but also because I learned a lot about writing and professionalism from the workshop with the contest judges. I was very lucky to attend the workshop and awards ceremony twice.”

He qualifies “career as a writer,” because he’s one of those guys whose background shifts in ways that make you wonder how that happened (I say that, speaking as a guy who started as an engineer, became a Human Resources professional, and then a writer). After collecting degrees from Brigham Young University and Baylor Law School, Stone worked on a congressional campaign and took a job in Washington D.C. When he left that role, he turned into a tech writer and web developer. Now he’s an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show.

He wrote fiction in college but set it aside to focus on his day-job career. In 2002 he picked it up again and found the experience he gained in his various roles added to his creative work. Writing for his jobs helped him focus on concise prose and gave him a better understanding of how people work their way through life. “I gained a lot of life experience, which allowed me to better understand what motivates people,” he said in an interview he gave SF Site.

Stone is a widely talented author who writes deep characters placed in settings that feel rich and intimate. The fact that he’s as comfortable writing hard Analog science fiction as he is writing fantastical worlds of magic and intrigue is probably testimony to his ideas about fiction itself. It seems to me that he is a storyteller at heart, a man who finds the vein of people inside his stories and then lets the genre fall out as it may.

That understanding of character comes out in stories such as his WotF story “Betrayer of Trees,” which follows a young man as he learns of and understands the true consequences of his actions. It also shows in his Nebula-winning novelette “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made,” published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact (September 2010), a story that created controversy in its exploration of religion and humankind as set against an alien world.

Looking back on it, perhaps you could have seen this coming from as far away as his process of participating in the workshop. In discussing this profile, Eric pointed me to his blog notes, wherein I found this little gem:

“Today we also did our ‘stranger interviews,’ wherein we were supposed to start up a conversation with someone and find out stuff about them, without letting them know that we were writers looking for material. This sort of exercise is always difficult for me. I did end up talking for a few minutes with a balloon lady. I also let myself be scammed for a couple of bucks by a woman claiming her car had run out of gas, and I talked to a young man who wanted me to donate to his environmental organization.”

So here you have a man who professes to have a hard time with these “cold call” conversations, but who somehow finds a way to have not one, but three separate experiences.

Yes, I think that says something about the way Eric James Stone goes about his work.

I think it says a lot indeed.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Author Ken Liu, photo by Li Yibo (李一博)

Focus on Ken Liu: Writers of the Future Volume 19 Finalist

“Treasure your time at the workshop,” Ken Liu says when I ask how he would advise a new prizewinner going to the Writers of the Future workshop, “but don’t make too much of it.”

This is Ken Liu in a nutshell. He’s a well-spoken man who puts conflicting ideas side by side and then makes you think about what they mean.

He does it in his award-winning fiction and he does it in his conversation. He even does it in his press bio wherein he challenges the reader by describing himself in intriguing juxtaposition as: American/Chinese, Christian/Daoist, Confucian/Populist. To this, let me add lawyer and computer programmer. And, lest we forget: Hugo-winning translator of speculative fiction (The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, the first translation to ever be so honored), and winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards (for “The Paper Menagerie,” 2011). His debut novel, The Grace of Kings (2015), the first volume in The Dandelion Dynasty, won the Locus Best First Novel Award and was a Nebula finalist.

“The workshop was a great experience,” Liu says. “I went as a published finalist (his story “Gossamer” was included in Volume XIX, in 2003), and it was my first and only real workshop. I was really excited. It was an important milestone for me.”

Ken Liu at the Writers Workshop

Ken Liu at the Writers Workshop

He then proceeded off on an energetic discussion about K.D. Wentworth, Tim Powers, and all the other instructors that came to the session. He talked about learning craftwork, story structure, and the business as a whole. He talked about the opportunity to be with so many people who shared his passion for the field of speculative fiction. He talked about writing the twenty-four-hour story (which turned into “State Change,” a fantastic piece later published in Polyphony, Vol. 4, and now available on his website). But the thing that strikes me most as I listen to Ken Liu talk about the workshop comes when he talks about understanding what it means to be a professional writer.

“The workshop taught me a lot about how to behave as a professional and what it means to have a career,” he says. “Back then the internet wasn’t as robust as it is now. It was harder to find good information about what to expect on the business end. To have these writers come into the room and give us their personal examples made a difference.”

That became important later because, as many WotF participants find, being a professional writer is a long haul full of emotional ups and downs. “I was a classic case of what not to do,” he says of a several year period after his anthology appearance when he wasn’t publishing work. “I had taken a role doing corporate law and my time was limited so I could argue that my life was too hectic to write, but really I was obsessing over a single story when I should have been doing other work. I kept coming back to this same story over and over again because I thought it was my best work, and it wasn’t selling. Pretty soon it became easier to just not do anything.”

It worked out in the end, though. In 2010 the dam broke to the tune of four stories published, 2011 tallied twenty-one stories published and more than a few major awards. Ken Liu, as they might say, had arrived.

He’s learned it’s important to take it all in stride, though, which is what he means by that don’t make too much of it in his advice to new WotF participants. “Keep working,” he says. “Awards like Writers of the Future are fun, but they are just milestones and they don’t sustain you. Keep working, though. Keep writing. It’s important that you always feel like you’re improving your craft. Every problem a writer has can be solved by writing more.”

So, let’s see…

Ken Liu's Wall of Storms

Ken Liu’s Wall of Storms

The Wall of Storms, the second volume in his series, was published in 2016, as was a collection of short stories, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Not to mention seven other short stories, including the Locus Award-nominated “Seven Birthdays,” Invisible Planets, an anthology of contemporary Chinese SF in translation that he edited, and Death’s End, his translation of the third volume of Liu Cixin’s hard SF trilogy, each of which saw release in the past year. Among other forthcoming projects, next October will see the publication of his Star Wars book, The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

Yeah, I would say Ken Liu is following his own advice pretty well, and, yeah, it seems to be working just fine.

You can keep up-to-date with Ken at his website and on twitter (@kyliu99).

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Author Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson: Life-changing Lesson–Lifelong Professionalism

“Maybe the biggest thing I took away from the Writers of the Future experience was that I got to see how professionalism isn’t just about the numbers you sell or the awards you get, but that it’s a lifelong attitude. It’s no exaggeration to call that lesson life-changing.”

That’s how Scott Nicholson responds when I ask him about his time at the WotF workshops. I use the plural “workshops” here because Nicholson is among the handful of writers who came to the event twice, first as a published finalist with his story “Metabolism,” in 1998 (Volume XIV), and again in 1999 when he won the grand prize for “The Vampire Shortstop” (Volume XV).

Perhaps no one stands for that quest for lifelong professionalism better than Scott Nicholson.

If you’ve met him, you know what I mean. He’s a quiet man but has a wry sense of humor that speaks to his Appalachian upbringing. He listens a lot. As a newspaper reporter, he won three North Carolina Press Association awards. Per his bio “he’s had the usual collection of odd jobs: dishwasher, carpenter, painter, paranormal investigator, baseball card dealer, and radio announcer.” But, to me, what Nicholson mostly does is figure out what he thinks about things, then follows his passion full bore.

"The Red Church" by Scott Nicholson

“The Red Church” by Scott Nicholson

After his Writers of the Future appearances he sold The Red Church, the first of a six-book series, and he was a finalist for the Stoker Award. But his career flagged shortly thereafter.

“I kept writing,” he says, talking about comics and screenplays. “Then in 2009, I noticed this thing called the Kindle. Within a year, I was quitting my journalism job to write full-time, and so far, so good.”

Yes, so far, so good, indeed.

After exploring the idea of independent publishing, Nicholson went all-in, creating Haunted Computer Books, his own publishing company. Since that time, he’s sold more than half a million ebooks, including original titles, audiobooks, children’s books, translated editions, and graphic novels. His latest series, Next, is post-apocalyptic SF. Afterburn, the first in the series, is now free on Amazon. Half Life, the last in the six-book series, was published earlier this year.

“Now I’m moving toward dark SF with AI backgrounds,” he says, comparing the feel of his newer work to something in the range of Philip K. Dick.

Along the way, he’s gathered an avid reader base.

“From the outside, it might look like I am wildly prolific or caught lightning in a bottle, but the truth is I’ve just been grinding away for nearly two decades now,” he says while explaining how the moons lined up for his work. “I had the experience of traditional publishing, some built-up scar tissue, and a pile of unsold work. So, like they say: Ten years to overnight success, right?”

A key factor here was that Nicholson also realized that successful independent publishing required as much persistence and as much professionalism as did the “old way,” except that selling books now became as important as writing them.

Half-million books in print (and rising) suggests he’s onto something there.

Scott Nicholson accepting the Golden Pen Award 1999

Scott Nicholson accepting the Golden Pen Award 1999

Nearly twenty years later, however, his connections to the Writers of the Future contest are still important to him. He keeps tabs on his classmates, checks in on the anthology, and still, works with people he met through the contest.

“Scott Nicholson is the reason Wordfire Press exists,” Kevin J. Anderson recently told me. “He’s the one who helped me get my backlist published.” Wordfire Press is now, of course, becoming a name in the industry.

Nicholson is humble on that point. “That’s how this writing gig works. Nobody does it alone and we all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Sounds like a lesson learned over the long haul, doesn’t it?

Over his long haul, Scott Nicholson has written twenty thrillers, sixty short stories, four comics series, and six screenplays. He has been an officer of Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers Association and is a member of International Thriller Writers.

But he still remembers where he started.

“WotF was my first real validation as a writer,” he says. “Particularly since the stories are judged anonymously by professionals. It helped me see how a career is a realistic possibility if you persist, and if you commit to improving.”

Yes, I see. That does seem like that could be a life-changing lesson.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Author Tobias S. Buckell, photo by Marlon James

Focus on Tobias Buckell, Writers of the Future Volume 16 Winner

<em>New York Times</em> bestseller <em>The Cole Protocol</em>

New York Times bestseller The Cole Protocol

Tobias Buckell was born in Grenada and lived in the British Virgin Isles, spending his first nine years living on a boat and playing cricket on sandy beaches. Today he’s in Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a couple dogs. He’s a New York Times bestselling writer, a freelancer, and a futurist of considerable repute, a guy who keeps up with things and has a voice across the internet. He won a Writers of the Future prize (for “In Orbite Medievali,” published in 2000, volume 16, and reprinted in several languages), and he’s been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Prometheus Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.

His ninth novel, The Tangled Lands (a collaboration with Paolo Bacigalupi) will be published in early 2018. In addition, he’s written over sixty short stories and six novellas, which he’s gathered into four collections, the latest, Xenowealth: A Collection, was published in 2016 and features characters and settings from his Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose.

This all makes me smile because for me Tobias will always be the “kid” I met at a convention (in Louisville, I think it was). He was going to school then and still trying to figure out who he was going to be. One thing was obvious at that time, though: All other things aside, Tobias Buckell was going to be a writer. There was just no other option. He was passionate about it, driven and open to learning, but at the same time a guy with his own set of opinions. Nothing was going to stop him.

That kind of passion is an attractive trait, you know? It makes Tobias hard not to pay attention to.

“Since I was in sixth grade,” he writes on his blog, “I’d been drawing spaceships taking off from island harbors, rather than gantries, but a lot of my early SF aped what I was reading: galactic empires, etc. But somewhere in college, I decided to really focus on becoming a writer. And part of that involved what I was going to write about. I began to add pieces of Caribbean background to my stories, a character, a place, and certainly inspiration from island history and anecdotes. When I finished my first piece that drew this all together, it was a heady rush: this was the sort of thing I wished I’d been able to have to read on the shelf.”

Tobias Buckell on stage accepting the Writers of the Future Award

Tobias Buckell on stage accepting the Writers of the Future Award

His first publication was a short story titled “The Fish Merchant,” which saw the birth of Pepper, one of his best-known characters. It was deeply touched by his Caribbean roots. His second was his WotF prizewinner. It, too, relied on his Caribbean background.

From that point on, he hit his stride.

And what a stride it’s been.

He’s been the Writer in Residence for Bermuda, as well as appeared at workshops like Clarion, Shared Worlds, Alpha Teen Writing Workshop, and Seton Hill University. He’s spoken on topics from creative living, ecology, and futurism at colleges and conferences around the United States. He’s been a guest of honor at conventions (AnimeKon Expo and Odyssey Con), and a guest on shows like Cult Pop (Michigan cable) and Geeks Guide to the Galaxy.

So, yeah, Buckell is a speaker, a teacher, a world traveler, and a man who likes to make sense of the world.

But mostly, he’s a writer.

Yet, for me, what I’ll always think of when I hear Tobias Buckell’s name is passion—that full-throttled love for the genre, for amazing ideas, and for his own heritage. It’s a mix he throws together in ways that only he can.

And it’s that passion that makes all the difference.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Jim C. Hines self portrait

Focus on Jim C. Hines, Writers of the Future Volume 15 Winner

Writers of the Future Vol 15

Writers of the Future Vol 15

“Looking back,” Jim C. Hines said, “my Writers of the Future story was the first one I’d written where I felt like I’d found my own voice.” He’s referring to “Blade of the Bunny,” his prize-winning story from volume XV of the annual anthology, published in 1999.

Jim is one of those people who you just like from the first minute you see him. We first met at that 1999 workshop, and I was immediately taken in. He’s soft-spoken but quick and witty. He’s got this smile that starts as a low-key grin and spreads over his face, and as he talks he often winds up his comments in a wide, toothy grin that compels you to smile in return.

“That was back when I still had hair,” he replied when I asked him about that workshop, once again making me smile. “It was a tremendously exciting week,” he said, “and I made a few writing friends, which was awesome.”

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Since that time, Jim has gone on to publish a dozen fantasy novels, including the Magic Ex Libris series, The Princess series, and Jig the Goblin series. His latest, Terminal Alliance, will be the first book of a series titled Janitors of the Post Apocalypse. The titles of these works alone should maybe tell you a little about Jim C. Hines’s voice—and reading “Blade of the Bunny” would confirm both that voice and the idea that this WotF story is the place where that voice took root. His stories are adventurous jaunts told in a light vein of situational humor that comes from a place somewhere in the back of Jim’s brain that I don’t think anyone can define.

In addition to all those novels, Jim has published five collections, placed more short stories than you can count into anthologies and magazines, and edited three anthologies. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Given all this, it’s probably not too surprising that he left his “day job” a few years back. What is surprising, however, is how he managed to be so prolific earlier. “I was fixing computers for the Department of Transportation,” he wrote in his blog. “My one condition for taking the job was that I be allowed to write during my lunch hour. Over the next decade and a half, I wrote about ten books and dozens of short stories. Most of that writing was done from noon to one o’clock, Monday through Friday.”

Amazing, right? It tells you a lot about his ability to focus on what’s important—which leads me to the fact that, in order to get a full picture of who Jim C. Hines is, you also have to also look at what he’s done in the SF community.

Jim C. Hines is a man with a point of view, after all, a man with a platform and who isn’t afraid to use it. He writes often about social issues, specifically including rape culture, sexism, harassment, and other gender issues. He’s famous for an ongoing series of posts and events wherein he highlights gender stereotyping by posing for reprised book covers, for which he was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.

He’s appearing at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in Argentina and Les Imaginales in France this year, as well as being the guest of honor or toastmaster at conventions in Iowa, Minnesota, and his home state of Michigan.

So, yeah, it turns out that Jim C. Hines is a full-time professional writer, a Hugo Award winner, a progressive voice for inclusion and representation, and an international traveler.

Not bad for a kid from Michigan who found his voice in a story titled “Blade of the Bunny,” eh?

Nope, not bad at all.

It makes me smile just thinking about it.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

David Sakmyster

Focus on David Sakmyster, Writers of the Future Volume 22 Winner

Take a good conspiracy theory and some intriguing historical research, add in a shot of psychological horror (can we call it tension?) and anything psychic, supernatural, paranormal, or just plain freaky … mix it up … make a few hundred interesting things happen … dump it into a manuscript, and you’ve got yourself a David Sakmyster novel.

“I’ve always been drawn to conspiracy theories to explain some of the stranger-than-fiction events of our time,” he said in a recent interview. “The possibility that, for example, serial killers, lone shooters, and assassins may be products of purposeful design, rather than random genetics, is fascinating.”

Can you see why his work has been described as Indiana Jones meets the X-Files?

Writers of the Future Volume 22

Writers of the Future Volume 22

For followers of the annual Writers of the Future anthology, this doesn’t come as particularly stunning news. His ghost story, “The Red Envelope,” won second prize in the 2005 version writers’ contest. Clearly, he’s been busy ever since, publishing four stand-alone novels, a five-book series (Morpheus Initiative, put out in omnibus last year), and four more books in collaboration with others (The Jurassic Dead series with Rick Chester, and Lazarus Initiative, with Steve Savile). Not to mention numerous short stories and novellas. His screenplay, Nightwatchers, has been optioned for production.

David with Tim Powers at the Writers Workshop, 2006

David with Tim Powers at the Writers Workshop, 2006

“Much of my success came from the contacts I made during that week,” David said when I asked him about his thoughts on the contest. “The lessons I learned from Tim Powers, Kevin J. Anderson, and many other guest lecturers, and also very importantly, from the advice of past winners were important. I’ve kept in close contact with several past winners. We’ve gone on to co-write books and give each other blurbs and support, share readers and reviewers, and of course continue to share advice on what works in this crazy business.”

On the process side, he’s a guy who outlines diligently “I spend more time plotting than writing,” he says, but then usually finds the final story looks nothing like the outline—it’s important to take unexpected paths, he says. Go figure, right?

On the personal side, he currently lives in Rochester, NY, likes to play tennis, and has a twelve-year-old daughter, Isabella, who was only 4 months old when David went to the workshop, but who is now “an energetic and delightfully brilliant middle-schooler who loves to watch science fiction and horror shows with her old man.” She’s also a reader who may someday be a writer, too (“One can only hope,” David says). Seeing that David’s own dad got him started in the field by reading him stories from Edgar Allen Poe, one suspects this may be an acorn that doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

“I’ve had three different day jobs since 2005, but never strayed far from the writing world, which has been my first love all along,” David said. “Four different publishers, an agent that’s come and gone (the same with a Hollywood manager), then some more focus and success with the self-publishing and marketing route… It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least!”

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

“I owe a lot to Kevin J. Anderson. In addition to working with his Wordfire Press, his mantra during that week’s lessons, how when approached with a request for a story or to help with something, we should just say: ‘I can do that!’ It’s worked well for me, introducing me to new people and ideas; I’ve found myself venturing into places I didn’t think I’d be good at—like screenwriting. Shortly after that celebration, a fellow winner (Judith Tabron, I’m talking about you) suggested I try writing a screenplay, and I thought heck, why not adapt ‘The Red Envelope’ as a test case? Did it, loved it, and while I’m still shopping that one around, I went on to adapt other stories and create some new ones—including the aforementioned optioned script, which I hope to be able to announce soon.”

In other interviews, David has ruminated about the time that’s passed since his time at the workshop. “I’m surprised I’ve been at it this long.” At its core, it’s clear that his success has been a result of David’s flexibility and persistence, his ability to deal with changes in the publishing world and stick to his art. He’s a guy willing to do the work, and who loves the opportunity to work with people—an opportunity being a prizewinner so clearly provided to him.

“It was an amazing experience,” David said. “I will forever be grateful to L. Ron Hubbard and all the great people at Galaxy Press. Hopefully, this career still has a long way to go.”

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Walter Dinjos

Walter Dinjos, author of “The Woodcutters’ Deity”

Due to visa issues in Nigeria, Walter Dinjos was not able to join us in person for the workshop week. This became a topic of discussion often enough that I could tell the thirteen writers who were able to assemble here sincerely missed him. They were in contact online, and they knew Walter would be watching when he could. But it wasn’t the same. Last year when he heard he had won the contest, he sent in a video talking about winning and coming to the United States and attending the workshop.

Sitting in the room with the winners, I can report that at times it definitely felt like a piece was missing.

Given that, when Walter addressed the event via a video, it took your breath away. He spoke in a voice that sounded like it made music. He mirrored comments of the week when he said he hoped he and his classmates would be able to come together somewhere around the world.

His story, “The Woodcutters’ Deity,” was published in the 33rd Annual Writers of the Future anthology. It is an African fable and a remarkable story that follows a young man who faces the stresses of family, self, and gods. This is among my favorites because it is so different from the standard fare.

This is something else I like about the contest. Its International aspect means we’ll see art from different places. This volume includes stories from Finland, the UK, and Nigeria, as well as the US. On the illustrator side, the volume includes artists from Poland, the Philippines, Canada, and Kazakhstan as well as the United States. This is what happens when you have blind judging, right? Best work wins.

Regardless, reading Walter’s work makes me doubly sad he wasn’t able to join the group. I would have been excited to have met him.

I’ll keep my eye open, though. Given the quality of this story, I’m willing to bet we’ll see more of Walter Dinjos.

[Update: I see Walter has already placed a story at another professional market!]

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Stephen Lawson going on stage at the 33rd annual Writers of the Future Awards celebration

Stephen Lawson, author of “Moonlight One”

Stephen Lawson has a way of looking at the world. It’s a slanted thing. Analytical. Questioning. You feel like he’s watching and assessing everything. It makes him seem quiet at first. Sometimes you’re not sure what’s happening inside his mind, but then all of a sudden he comes out with this fully formed thought that changes how you think about something.

Illustration for "Moonlight One" by Jason Park

Illustration for “Moonlight One” by Jason Park

This all adds up when you realize Stephen’s got a business degree, is pursuing another, and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. You get a feeling for the depth in his bearing when you discover he’s still in the National Guard, stays active in his church, and has been deployed in service of his country multiple times. You get a flavor of his reliability when you find he’s a company commander in that same National Guard.

Bottom line: Stephen Lawson has a jar full of life.

The good news for us, though, is that Stephen reaches into that jar of life and pulls out characters and situations that leap out from the page. I am, of course, specifically talking about “Moonlight One,” his story that is now published in the 33rd annual volume of the Writers of the Future anthology.

It’s a gritty mystery at its heart, a story that harks back to the gumshoe detective but has been updated to fit in a world that has seen lunar colonization. In other words, it fits right into the entire idea of the anthology to begin with. It’s a highlight for me, a change of pace within an anthology that’s full of change of paces. The piece shows me he’s got a voice and he knows how to use it.

Apparently, a lot of folks agree with my assessment, as his writing has picked up a couple prizes along the way to finding success with the Writers of the Future.

My bet is on the idea that these won’t be the last prizes Stephen Lawson finds himself in line for.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Author Anton Rose being interviewed

Anton Rose, author of “A Glowing Heart”

“I am British, you know?” Anton Rose quips at one point of the week long workshop. He’s explaining a penchant he has for a particular personality trait, and the line is given with the inflection that it must be given in. The group laughs, of course.

Anton lives in Durham, England. A place up toward the north. He’s planning to move soon, though. Today his connections in the creative world of SF and Fantasy are generally online. When he moves he’s hoping for a little more support from people he can sit down and have conversations with.

That’s something he tells me he likes about the week here. It’s not often he can just talk to like-minded people. They do, however, enjoy the fact that Anton’s British.

His fiction, however, is not particularly British so much as it is delicate.

For his piece in the 33rd Annual Writers of the Future anthology, Anton contributed “A Glowing Heart,” which is a fine piece of fantasy that touches on family dynamics, ethics, and love of the world around you. It’s someplace on the literary spectrum, more cerebral than action, more exploratory than expository.

Anton has a degree in theology and he’s spent time tutoring others in the field. When you speak with him he listens intently. He and his wife are rumored to have what is called a “very fluffy dog.” Putting all the puzzle pieces together, I suppose it’s not shocking that his fiction has this kind of power in its underpinnings.

Shocking or not, “A Glowing Heart” is a story with imagery that stayed with me for days afterward, and is, in fact, coming back to me as I type this. It’s the kind of story I absolutely adore.

It’s the kind of story I deeply hope is the harbinger of more.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Ville Meriläinen talking to fellow author Andrew Roberts Ville Meriläinen talking to author Andrew Roberts

Ville Meriläinen, author of “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove”

Ville Meriläinen’s cold country is Joensuu, Finland. His story, published in the 33rd annual volume of the Writers of the Future anthology, is titled “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove.” Oddly, the work is some kind of a mix between a fairy tale, and fable, and an episode of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

I say “oddly,” because Ville is a young man, still a college student. He wears his hair long and listens to death metal as if it were one of the basic food groups. He has a very quiet and wry sense of humor, which he wields like a foil. For fun, he pounds on musical instruments. This kind of image does not really fit a guy who tells fairy tales and fables, though the Martinesque flavor of the harsh lands these characters are dealing with certainly grounds them.

The story is robust. Reading it makes me cold.

Upon meeting him, it became obvious to me that everyone in the group loved Ville. The first thing they loved was attempting to pronounce his name, which comes in two syllables, and which this mid-western US tongue stumbled over long enough to be embarrassing before I got it right once. “The US tongue doesn’t work right to do it all the time,” he explains with a smile that he’ll repeat several times over the week. I am not alone in my rubber tongue.

They rest of the contest winners also enjoyed the fact that over the week, his phrase “In my cold country…” became meme fodder. Someone threatened to take a photo and begin the meme-ification of it all. Ville again smiled and basked in the entirety of it all.

That said, Ville wasn’t here just to play around. Like the rest, he worked hard. Talking to him about the business of publishing made it obvious that he’s a focused guy. He soaked up everything he could soak up and asked for more.

After the award week, Ville discussed his travel process back to his home. It’s going to take at least two days. Maybe a third if he misses that last bus. He has “an emergency couch” scheduled in case that happens.

That’s the kind of dedication you find in people who have long-term careers in this field.

So, yeah, go read “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove.” Then mark Ville’s name. I think you’re going to see it a lot more often.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com