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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.

Michael Michera on the red carpet with singer Joy Villa

Spotlight on artist Michael Michera

Michael Michera is a self-taught artist who found out about L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest quite accidentally from a friend who then persuaded him to enter. That accidental encounter resulted in Michael winning the grand prize.

The contest, which is in its 28th year, costs nothing to enter. And thousands of artists enter every year from all over the world. The judging is done by top professionals and is anonymous, meaning the judging is done blind without reference to name, gender or nationality.

About Michael and His Art

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Michael was born and raised in Poland where he currently resides. When it comes to art, he has been passionate about prehistoric animals since childhood, when he began drawing dinosaurs and creating his own creatures from his imagination. Later his interest expanded to include all animals and biology in general. He read many books on this topic and earned priceless knowledge for his current work as a concept artist.

As a youngster, Michael watched a lot of horror and sci-fi movies and it is those films, and most particularly the movie Alien, that has influenced his art.

Michael has always been fascinated by traditional drawing as well as comic art. He loves to experiment with art styles, though he most enjoys creating robots and futuristic designs of sci-fi technology. He uses digital painting and 3D sculpture in his creations.

Illustrators Workshop and Awards Celebration

As a winner of the Contest, Michael came to Los Angeles and attended the Illustrators of the Future Workshop the week prior to the awards celebration. The workshop is exclusively for the artist winners, and instructors include Coordinating Judge Echo Chernik along with judges Lazarus Chernik, Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Sergey Poyarkov and a host of special guest artists and art directors.

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

During the seminars, the artists learn both the practical and business side of illustrating including how to put together their portfolio, how to brand and promote themselves, as well as practical experience on drawing. Each artist also has one-on-one time with professionals to get advice on their work.

During the week, the Writers Workshop is also taking place and so Michael met author C.L. Kagmi who wrote the story he illustrated, “The Drake Equation.”

For Michael, winning the grand prize was the best day of his life. In his acceptance speech, he talked about how artists and writers can together change the world and that he was glad to be shaping the future together with his fellow artists and writers.

He ended by saying, “Thank you for everything. This is a very important day for me and probably the best week in my life. If this is my American dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

We look forward to seeing much more of Michael and his creativity in the future.

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

Artist Ciruelo during the portfolio review of the Illustrators Workshop

Artist Anthony Moravian

Anthony Moravian is a tall, quiet kind of guy, but his art speaks volumes. He describes his style as fantasy inspired by classic renaissance paintings and, so, not surprisingly, he specializes in charcoal drawings and oil paintings as you can see here in his portfolio.

As a Finalist in the Illustrators of the Future Contest, we asked Anthony to illustrate one of the winning stories, “A Glowing Heart” written by Anton Rose. Anton’s story is about a boy faced with a terrible decision. His mother is dying, and the only way he can save her is by killing something beautiful.

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story "A Glowing Heart"

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story “A Glowing Heart”

In doing the illustration, Anthony said he was inspired by the story’s theme of doing what is necessary, even it if is something you would rather not do, which prompted him to capture the feeling of grief in the protagonist over what he had done. He further elaborated on his selection of the scene he chose from the story, stating that reading and writing play a large part in his process when doing an illustration. He tries to balance the two in order to maintain interest in the illustration and he can do this if he understands all of the elements of the story.

I read and enjoyed Anton’s touching story immensely and have to say that Anthony did a great job capturing both its mood and spirit. His illustration appears in the latest edition of the Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

A bit about Anthony. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and has been drawing since the age of three. Anthony graduated magna cum laude from the Associate’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is currently honing his art at the Art Students League of New York.

He came out to Los Angeles to attend this year’s Illustrators of the Future Workshop and the annual awards event. While here he met the author of the story as well as a host of artists from all corners of the globe as part of the Illustrators Workshop.

According to Anthony, the whole experience was wonderful and he had a great time meeting the other illustrator winners and professional artists and art directors who were part of the workshop. As he summed it up, “The seminars were very thorough. The critiques during the portfolio review were, perhaps, the most helpful parts of the event. I look forward to putting what I learned to good use.”

You can meet up with Anthony and see his art on display today (April 14) between 7:00-9:00 PM along with fellow artist Yader Fonseca at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Manhattan. They will be there signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33 which contains their art.

Anthony will also be doing another book signing, April 15, at Books-A-Million in Paramus, New Jersey between 1:00-3:00 PM.

For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

Author Andrew Peery

Andrew Peery, author of “Useless Magic”

Andrew Peery is one of the more impressive people you could meet. He lives in Durham, North Carolina where he works as a physician. He has a family—wife and two younger children who he clearly adores. As a doctor, he’s a person who cares. As a father and a husband, he’s a man who loves. He’s also a guy who keeps hours that can be insane, yet he’s been hard at work writing for over six years—a process that has recently yielded “Useless Magic,” the 4th quarter first place prize winner in the 33rd Annual Writers of the Future Anthology.

It’s a story that says a lot about life, magic, and the things that we can control vs. the things we can’t. It clearly comes from a place deep inside him.

I absolutely love it.

It’s not too surprising that a physician would be a bright guy. Andrew fits that bill. He’s fun to speak with, so if you see him at a convention or some other writers’ thing, I suggest you sidle up and chat. You never know what you’ll wind up covering.

When I got a chance to talk with Andrew over the week of the workshop, though, what struck me most was that he seems to be one of those people who are so busy getting things done that he doesn’t always realize exactly how good those things he’s getting done actually are. You know the kind of person I’m talking about, right? The kind you want to shake. Take them by the shoulders and say “Hey! Look at this! See what you’ve done? See how fantastic this is?” But you don’t really do that, or if you do you try to do it gently because besides being borderline rude, you worry that if you shake them too hard you’ll break the spell that’s fueling them. Then where will you be?

(See what I did there, Andrew?)

You would be without a fantastic writer, is where you would be! You would be without the remarkable stories that come from him. And, let’s face it, I’m selfish. I want those stories!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Andrew Peery has things to say, and he’s a fantastic writer. This is a combination that’s hard not to get excited about.

So, yeah, it was a total blast to meet Andrew. I’m perfectly content to sit in his waiting room as he gets his next work ready because I know it’s going to be worth it.

Andrew Peery will be at the Barnes & Noble in Raleigh, NC, signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33 on April 29 from 2:00 – 4:00 PM. Stop by, strike up a conversation and get his autograph. For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

 


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

Dustin Steinacker

Dustin Steinacker, author of “Envoy in the Ice”

Dustin Steinacker is soft-spoken and open. He’s calm and collected on the outside, but having a conversation with him makes you realize that his mind goes in directions that yours doesn’t, and that this is a very good thing.

His story in the 33rd Annual Writers of the Future anthology is titled “Envoy in Ice.” It won first prize in the first quarter of the contest this year, which means Dustin has been waiting almost all year to come out to the workshop and dealing all year with the fact that his prize winner put him into another contest of sorts. How ironic that his story covers what happens when an alien species announces itself, but then doesn’t provide its purpose to us humans for … well … you’ll just have to read it.

And when you do, you’re going to know a little about Dustin, too.

It’s a fantastic piece of work.

It is a little hard for me not to be jealous of Dustin. After all, here’s a very young man who hails from Utah and just seems to have this natural gift oozing out of his pours. I talk to him after one of his pre-24-hour story exercises and he’s got these story things all connected up already without even having to work at it. I mean, how fair is that? But then you talk to him and you find out he’s been preparing for life as a speculative fiction writer well before he ever envisioned being able to be one.

He’s a wide reader, and a guy who won awards in school.

All week, he asks questions. All week he listens. All week, he talks about getting better, absorbs what other people do and talks about what that means to him. When I take my blinders off, I see him working.

So, when I read “Envoy in Ice,” when I see the protagonist working his way through the series of problems he’s confronted with, it’s a remarkable experience.

Here’s to hoping I’ll get that same experience many more times in the future.

You’ll find Dustin this Saturday, April 15, at the Barnes & Noble in West Jordan, Utah. He’ll be there between 1:00 and 4:00 PM signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33. Stop by, say hello and get a copy of the book for yourself.

For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

 


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

Molly Elizabeth Atkins with David VonAllmen

David VonAllmen, author of “The Magnificent Bhajan”

David VonAllmen is someone who seems to always be on an even keel. There’s this sense of stability riding under his veneer that comes out even stronger when he speaks. He looks at things with a sense of calm that suggests that, oh sure, maybe the tornado is coming through town and the banks are closing up shop, and yeah, maybe the president has called the National Guard here to quell the attack of the Cyborg Phalanx, but, you know … things are just going to work out.

It’s an interesting character trait. A trait with an insidious downside. Unless you really look at this kind of person, it’s easy to discount how hard they work.

An example?

David VonAllmen

David VonAllmen

Let’s look at the Writers of the Future. David is a published finalist. He submitted, he didn’t take home a quarter’s prize, and still, he’s in the game. Open disclosure here: I was a published finalist in the past…I’ve felt this phenomenon. Seeing that I’ve been in his shoes I’m interested in him. What’s his story?

When I meet David, it’s clear he’s just like I was, and just like pretty much every writer in this collection of winners—he’s been writing with an eye toward publication for a long time. He’s been working with groups, and (though I’m paraphrasing here) I think he’s been trying to figure out who he is when it comes to this art form. You get a little of that when you talk with him. He’s full of questions about the craft and even more questions about the business.

I like this about him. He’s firm on what he’s trying to do. He’s got a vision. He listens. He absorbs during the sessions. He’s self-aware—a fact that comes out in the fact that he’s among the first of the group to be able to vocalize when he’s getting overwhelmed. He knows how to take a step back and get enough distance to breathe.

His story, “The Magnificent Bhajan,” feels like him, too, which feels strange because it’s written around an East Indian culture, and David is firmly from the central US, living today in St. Louis with his wife and two kids. But David VonAllmen has traveled a lot. He can do other cultures. The story is an intriguing fantasy. It speaks about a person’s self-worth as he grows older. When I learn that David’s been a high-end competitor in individual sports like biking and martial arts, the lightbulb comes on. David, you see, understands putting himself on the line, which is what his character, the Magnificent Bhajan himself, is required to do.

It’s a great story. Much fun to read.

It’s always dangerous to project when a published finalist might come back, so I won’t do that. But I will say that I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of David’s stuff, and that I’m pretty sure I’ll be seeing some. Soon.

You can meet up with David this Saturday, April 15 at the Barnes & Noble West County Mall in St. Louis. He will be there from 2:00 PM until 5:00 PM with fellow writer, Molly Elizabeth Atkins, signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33.

For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

 


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