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Alicia Cay certificates

How To Start Writing

I have always known that I am a writer. With the kind of knowing you feel deep in your bones and emanates from the very core of your being. And as writers must do, I write. Although that wasn’t always the case. How to start writing…

A Writing Contest

About eight years ago my Mom returned from a trip to Los Angeles with a couple of books she had gotten for me. One was the coffee table book, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future—The First 25 Years, which she had even gotten signed by someone. The other book was the contest’s most recent anthology at the time, Volume 27. My Mom encouraged me to read about the writing contest and send in a story. Somehow she knew it too, before I had ever written a purposeful word of fiction, that I was a writer, and I just needed a nudge in the right direction. I appreciated the gift, thanked her, and promptly tucked the book away on a shelf. I don’t think I even cracked the binding.

A Writers’s Journey Begins

Three years later my Mom passed away, and it took another two years for the haze of grief to thin enough for me to realize, it was time to begin writing. But where to start? As if in answer, a writer showed up in my life and took me under his wing. He introduced me to the world of writing, showed me where to begin, and even took me to my very first Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention. Now, I had heard about the contest from those books my Mom had given me, but at the convention something happened that was going to change the direction of my entire life. I met a previous winner of the Writers of the Future writing contest who was kind enough to share her experience with me, and that, as the old saying goes, was all she wrote. I decided right then and there I was going to start writing, enter the contest, and win! This meant that I, who had never written a short story before in my life, now had a month to write one and get it submitted before that quarter’s deadline.

My First Story

The first thing I did when I got home from the convention was to dig out those books my Mom had gotten me, and I began to pour over every word. I learned everything I could about the contest itself, and began to read and study the stories written by previous winners. I even studied the contest judges, previous and current, reading at least one book or story from each of them.

I managed to get a story written and submitted by the end of that quarter. Two months later I was rewarded for my efforts with an Honorable Mention. I haven’t missed a quarter since.

Twelve Quarters Later

Twelve quarters and many stories later, I have attended other conventions and met other Writers of the Future winners, all of them kind enough to offer a word of encouragement or sign their story in one of the volumes I have collected. I also attended one of David Farland’s wonderful writing workshops, where he taught us how to bring our stories to life and immerse the reader into our worlds. A few of my short stories have even given way to novel ideas (pun intended), and I’m working on those now. Of course, I always make sure to get a story entered into each quarter of the contest as well.

I am beyond grateful. This contest started me writing and it has kept me writing. It gives me a deadline, and a goal worth achieving. Plus, there are those cool certificates that show up in my mailbox and keep me encouraged—nine Honorable and Silver Honorable Mentions to date—such a treat! The contest also pushes me to continue to improve my writing, and not only my writing, but in my life too. I had to come out of my shell to learn how to network. I’ve found other writers to talk to, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve become part of an awesome writing group. All of these things I have reached for because there was a need for it—because I want to be a better writer, and because I am going to win this contest. To do that, I need to write a story worthy of those who have come before me, and whose words grace the pages of each new Writers of the Future volume.

Oh, and that signature in the Writers of the Future book that my Mom gave me? Turns out she got Kevin J. Anderson, one of the contest judges, to sign it for me. So yeah, Kevin got to meet my Mom. Lucky guy.


Alicia CayAlicia Cay has had a loyal love affair with books since she could read, collects quotes, and suffers from wanderlust. She currently writes short fiction, has had two of her stories published in SF/F anthologies, and is working on her first novel. Alicia lives in Denver with a corgi, a cat, and a lot of fur. Follow her writing and traveling adventures at: aliciacay.com.

Dave Wolverton and Algis Budrys

A Different Kind of Writing Workshop

David Farland with Algis Budrys at the Writers of the Future workshop in 1991

When L. Ron Hubbard initiated the Writers of the Future contest, he knew that there would be awards and publications for the winners. As Algis Budry, the first contest administrator put it to me, “He wanted to make sure that this helped launch new writers. That it gives them publication and some notoriety, along with enough prize money from winnings and publication so that a new writer could invest in his or her career by purchasing a new computer, doing research, and so on.”

But he wanted more for the new writers. He wanted them to meet and mingle with real professionals, people who had struggled and made their mark on the field, and he wanted to do that in the context of a writing workshop.

So a different kind of workshop was envisioned. They knew that the authors who won would already be good writers—maybe even incredibly gifted and talented writers. So a decision was made early on: We’re not going to go back over the basics. We aren’t going to teach the writers yet once again how to polish a sentence.

How to Become Writers

It was reasoned that each of these writers would have learned to write, at the very least, a professionally sellable story, and probably a great story. So what do you teach a writer who already knows the basics of how to write?

The answer was to teach them “How to become writers.” In other words, teach them how to move from being an armchair quarterback and to get into the game.

You see, people have a lot of odd ideas about what writers do. They imagine that we go to scenic mountain resorts and type out a manuscript, then deliver it to an editor to great applause. What most people don’t know about writing is this: Writing can and should be hard work.

So a workshop was created to give advice that would be perfect for taking budding new writers into the professional arena.

Algis put the lesser amount into the workshop, and so I will cover his offerings briefly. He suggested that in the mid-1980s, most new authors weren’t being taught how to plot a novel or short story. He was right.

Plotting a Story

Throughout the 1930s to the 1980s, many in the mainstream were rejecting the idea of literature that they felt “relied upon plot.” Such literature—which included things like romance, mysteries, and science fiction—were called “genre literature,” and were not considered worthy of study. Certainly, in many creative writing programs, plotting was something that was never taught. In my school, Brigham Young University, several professors refused not only to teach how to write genre literature but demanded that students not even read or study it, since it was unworthy of emulation.

Now, it didn’t matter that the most popular stories in the world were well plotted, or that “genre authors” very often outsold literary authors a thousand copies to one. Nor did my teachers realize that their notions were antiquated and had been proven wrong in other mediums. For example, in poetry when many of the beat poets were suggesting that poets ought to revolt against form in writing, Robert Frost famously silenced them by saying that “Writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net.” In short, it makes the artist weak and sloppy. His real answer to them, though, came in his own magnificent poems that used rhyme and near-rhyme so effectively that the rhyme schemes became invisible, so that you could read one of his poems in a natural voice and not discover until after you stopped and studied the poem that it was a perfect sonnet.

In short, Algis’s argument in favor of form is simple: A formed story can be more powerful than one that has no form. So he decided to talk about form in the workshop. How do you write a plotted story? He chose a simple adventure plot, and advised writers on how to handle it. As he put it, “This isn’t the only way to write a formed story, but if you use it, you can make an entire career using this basic plot line.”

So he taught authors how to write a simple story. You can learn about his structure in an article called “Writing to the Point,” which is available from Wordfire Press. It is one of the most insightful little books on plotting you’ll ever find.

When Algis wrote it, I don’t recall ever seeing any other book on plotting—and I looked. I was researching the craft heavily, and I really wanted to know. Eventually, I became an expert on plotting myself, and you can read some of my insights into it in my book Million Dollar Outlines, where I teach not only how to create a plot, but also teach enough advanced audience analysis so that a writer can figure out how to write a bestseller.

Of course, in the past thirty years, I’ve seen a number of other fine books on plotting come out, and they are readily available now.

Becoming Your Own Muse

L. Ron Hubbard wanted to talk about more than just plotting, though. He wanted to talk about a lot more. He wanted to talk about where ideas for stories come from, and how to generate them off-the-cuff, so that if an editor calls you looking for a story or a novel, you can compose the tale in a matter of a few hours, rather than agonizing over them for years.

So Ron contributed articles like “The Manuscript Factory,” where he emphasizes that an author is a factory that produces manuscripts for a living. If you aren’t producing, you’re like a factory that has shut down.

He also contributed articles like “Magic Out of a Hat,” where writers learn to draw upon their broad experience in travel and in learning various vocations so that they can “write what they know.”

Most writers are insular people—folks who make their friends in books, so that they have little in the way of first-hand experience to draw upon. But the most successful writers in science fiction have been people who have studied engineering, worked in the military, become doctors or researchers.

In short, his advice can be boiled down to “live a large life.” As a teen, Ron left home to travel the world, becoming a photographer in China, joining the Explorer’s Club, learning to fly a plane and pilot a ship, and eventually joining the military. All of his experiences became fuel for his stories.

So he designed exercises to help writers identify some of their own unique experiences. Maybe the author has worked as a cop or a prison guard? Maybe she’s been through an ugly divorce? Maybe he was abused as a child? All of that can add details and realism to a story.

And of course, he suggested that we keep learning. Ron designed exercises to help people learn how to go start up conversations with strangers, or how to research information at libraries.

In short, I think that he would say that the person who refuses to live life, to go out and experience it, to examine it, is probably not going to go very far.

Oh, yeah, and there is that productivity thing. I remember in college hearing a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher who said that if he could go out and come up with a perfect sentence in a single day, he felt gratified. It was enough.

But that’s foolish. One sentence a day won’t do it. Instead of writing one perfect sentence in a day, I’d rather write twenty pages of damned-fine scenes, and with some jobs, it might take more. A real writer sometimes has to roll up his sleeves and get to work. If a producer needs a hundred-page screenplay in two weeks, you write it in two weeks. I recall writing a Star Wars book at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted, so I put in another two and a half hours before I caught some sleep.

All of that “Sitting around and waiting for the muse” is tripe. Real writers become their own muses.

So Ron suggested that we have our winners compose a story in a day. For many writers, that seems undoable. But most of our writers discover that not only is it doable, it becomes an essential skill.

The Point of the Writers of the Future Workshop

Last of all, L. Ron Hubbard wanted to expose the winners to some of the wisdom of the best current writers in the field, so on the last couple of days of the workshop, the authors get to hear from and hobnob with our contest judges, where they learn the industry secrets and gossip that you won’t find in any writing books.

The entire workshop is a big and exhausting event, and it is sometimes hard on some of our winners. For example, early on, Algis and I had to decide how to start the workshop. We might have people flying in from all over the world on a Monday. Some of our winners might have flown in from places like Australia, or London, or South Africa. They’d have terrible jetlag. So we considered giving them that first night off, but when we talked to students, most of them were excited to get started.

So we decided to introduce them to the workshop that first night in part so that our winners would be able to get some work done.

But we felt that there was something far more important that happened: When we introduce the students to one another on that first night, they always get together and begin to talk, to compare notes, and to socialize. They bond, and in effect, they often begin to become best friends for life. We’ve even had couples marry.

So if you win the contest, and you’re jet-lagged that first night, and I call you in so that we can all introduce ourselves, blame me. Sorry, you might lose a little sleep, but you’ll gain something more.

Really, what I want to emphasize is this. The point of the Writers of the Future workshop was never to “teach you how to write.” Instead, the goal was to teach you some more important skills, like “How to succeed as a working writer.”

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

David Farland winning Writers of the Future Contest in 1987

Prize Writing—Three Things to Know

Contest judge Frederik Pohl presents Writers of the Future Award to David (Wolverton) Farland, 1987

As many of you know, I got my start by prize writing. While I was in college, I won third place in my first writing contest and decided to see if I could win first place in a contest. I spent a year honing some short stories for various contests, in between my studies, and sent them out in the autumn of 1986. Within a few weeks I discovered that I had won not just one, but all of the contests that I had entered. One of the judges at Writers of the Future, Robert Silverberg, liked my story well enough so that he shared it with some editors, and this led to a three-novel contract with Bantam Books. I’ll always be grateful to Bob for that.

So I promised a couple of people on the list that I would talk about prize writing. If you think about it deeply, everything that you write is really for a competition. You’re competing for publication with other writers, for promotional monies from the marketing departments of various publishers, for literary awards, and of course for your reading audience. So these posts really apply to any writer. When you think about it, it would seem that there isn’t a lot that you can do in order to win a prize. Thousands might enter a competition, but only one will win. However, there are some things that you can do to increase your chances dramatically.

These things include:

  • Get to know your judge’s tastes.
  • Aim your story straight at your judges.
  • Make sure that your story is presented well.

This all might sound easier than it is, but let’s take this one step at a time. Your first step is to get to know your judge’s tastes. Now, if you’re talking about a contest judge, this person might be a teacher at a local university. The best way to gauge the judge’s tastes is to read anything that they’ve written. If your judge has written short stories, look at the age of the protagonists, the themes that the judge covers, his or her use of language, and so on. This will tell you whether the judge values crisp dialog over brilliant metaphors, slow pacing versus fast, and so on. Pay particular attention to the themes. If a judge has a penchant for writing about stories that deal with death, for example, you might realize that your story will hit them harder if you feature a death scene.

In some cases, you’ll have a panel of judges. For example, there are more than a dozen judges at the Writers of The Future. So if I wanted to win that contest, I’d look at the mix of writers. How many write only science fiction? How many write fantasy? What do each of their tastes seem to be.

One easy way to gauge their tastes is to look at past stories. You could read the grand prize winners from each anthology. By doing so, you’d begin to notice some patterns.

You can of course do this same thing with any publication. You could go to editor’s panels at science fiction conventions and listen to editors talk about their favorite books out. You could go to Publisher’s Marketplace on the internet and find out what each one of those editors has bought.

It’s really quite easy to learn the tastes of one solitary reader. If you’re facing a panel of judges, the task becomes more complex, but it is possible to write a story that will average out to be a winner.

So start studying!

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter Winners

Writers of the Future 2nd Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 35

 

Here are the 2nd Quarter Writers of the Future Contest Winners for Volume 35

 

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

First Place – David Cleden from the United Kingdom

Second Place – Rustin Lovewell from Maryland

Third Place – Carrie Callahan from Kentucky

 


Finalists:

Robert Mitchell Evans from California
Meera Gangasani from Texas
James A. Hearn from Texas
D.T. Ludlow from Utah

Semi-Finalists:

S.A. Barrie from Utah
Lucy Caird from California
Hillary Dodge from Colorado
Phillip McCollum from California
Mikko Rauhala from Finland

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Chris Abela from Maryland
Dustin Adams from New York
Joy Auburn from Minnesota
Nathan Batchelor from Ohio
Laurel Douglas from Massachusetts
Luke Elliott from Oregon
Monalisa Foster from Texas
Cary Kreitzer from Utah
Travis Madden from Maryland
Wulf Moon from Washington
Christine Tyler from Colorado
Ramez Yoakeim from Australia
E.E. Young from Tennessee
Jackie Zitin from Missouri

Honorable Mentions:

Jeffrey Steven Abrams from Washington
Mark David Adam from Canada
Ester Shaina Agishtein from New Jersey
Christopher Aiello from North Carolina
Justin Aiello from Connecticut
Ingmar Albizu from Pennsylvania
Sydney Alexander from Maryland
Samantha Allen from Michigan
Darren Ambs from Kentucky
Brandon Scott Argetsinger from New York
Rachel Ayers from Alaska
Jill Creech Bauer from Utah
Paul Bean from Indiana
Bronson D. Beatty from Utah
Renan Bernardo from Brazil
W.B. Biggs from Mississippi
Lyssa Bivens from Idaho
Gustavo Bondoni from Argentina
Marty Bonus from the United Kingdom
Matt Bosio from Florida
Ezekiel James Boston from Nevada
Emma Brenner from Pennsylvania
Willa Brosnihan from Massachusetts
David Bruns from Minnesota
Lynn Buchanan from Utah
Nathan Buckingham from Arizona
Claire Campbell from Illinois
Cody D. Campbell from Oregon
Olivia Cuevas Carle from California
C.J.M. Carr from South Carolina
Shiloh Carroll from Tennessee
Philo V. Carter III from Utah
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Samuel Chapman from Washington
David M. Chevalier from New Hampshire
Ted Condi, Jr. from Colorado
Caitlene Cooke from Australia
Scott D. Coon from California
Claire Czotter from Massachusetts
KM Dailey from California
Elto Danzig from California
Jonathan Darling from Canada
Paulo da Silva from Germany
Benjamin DeHaan from Illinois
John DeLaughter from Oklahoma
Wendy S. Delmater from South Carolina
Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald from Nigeria
Max Dosser from North Carolina
Steve DuBois from Kansas
Alexander Duhamel from Canada
Sulan Dun from California
Wade H. Dunham from Canada
Marie Dundra from Florida
Kate Duval from Florida
Heather Lee Dyer from Idaho
Samantha Edelman from Nevada
H. Walker Edwards from Hawaii
Matan Elul from Australia
Tim Emery from England
Bryan Alexis Escobar from Texas
Jason Evans from Illinois
Angelique Fawns from Canada
T.A. Fenner from Wisconsin
Michael Feramisco from North Carolina
Suzanne Ferguson from Louisiana
Sam Fletcher from Washington
Aiki Flinthart from Australia
L.A. Fuller from Virginia
Joyce Lai Gabay from Pennsylvania
Allison Galbreath from North Dakota
Chris Galford from Michigan
Alex Garber from Texas
Michael Gardner from Australia
Jessica George from United Kingdom
Katharina Gerlach from Germany
Jamin N.S. Goecker from Alaska
JCG Goelz from Louisiana
Les Gould from Virginia
Erin Grant from California
Jude-Marie Green from California
Thomas Griffin from Tennessee
Jen Haeger from Michigan
Anaid Haen from The Netherlands
Clint Hall from Georgia
Kevin P. Hallett from Texas
Doug Hamilton from Ohio
Dan Hankner from Iowa
Charlie Harmon from Illinois
R.D. Harris from Arizona
S.M. Hawley from the United Kingdom
Alexa Herrera from Florida
Crystal Hill from Nevada
Cameron Hopkin from Utah
Morgan G. Howell from South Carolina
R.J. Howell from Illinois
Ashley Hyun from New Jersey
Miryam Jackson from Ohio
Bethany A. Jennings from New Hampshire
Christopher A. Jos from Canada
K.D. Julicher from Nevada
Brandie June from California
Robin Kaczmarczyk from Oregon
Skyler Kane from Minnesota
Carolyn Kay from Colorado
Dave Kavanaugh from The Netherlands
Angela Kayd from Indiana
Seth W. Kennedy from California
BC Kindt from California
Michael Kingswood from California
Isaac Kitterman from California
Shawn Kobb from Virginia
Jayson Kretzer from Florida
Allen Kuzara from Tennessee
Tinh Le from Ohio
Sonia Loosli from Oregon
Adam Luebke from South Dakota
Angus MacGregor from Australia
E.H. Mann from Australia
Twyla Marie from New York
Django Mathijsen from The Netherlands
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Joshua Harley McKnight from California
Ashley Meader from California
Jim Meeks-Johnson from Indiana
Gene Michaels from Texas
Lynn Michals from Virginia
Devin Miller from North Carolina
Bo Miranda from Switzerland
N.J. Morris from Idaho
Diane Morrison from Canada
Deborah Natelson from Colorado
GW Neill from Canada
Erik Nihil from Louisiana
Jay Ochotnicky from Delaware
Ray O’Meara from New Jersey
Geena Papini from Canada
Jess Pende from Arkansas
Peter A. Philleo from Wisconsin
Beth Powers from Indiana
Zachary Powers from Colorado
Rajeev Prasad from California
Eric Purcell from Canada
Mighty Rahiem from Colorado
Brittany Rainsdon from Idaho
Carlos R. Ramirez from New York
Julie Reeser from Montana
Lynn Renard from South Carolina
Mike Restaino from Nevada
Lauren E. Reynolds from Maryland
Julian D C Richardson from California
Nim Riel from Texas
Barbara Buckley Ristine from Nevada
Karen Rochnik from California
Lynette Roggenbuck from Michigan
Stephanie Rossmeisl from New Hampshire
Imani Russell from North Carolina
Max Russell from Colorado
Kiran Kaur Saini from California
Colin Sammons from Florida
Edward Sammons from Florida
H.J. Sandgathe from Utah
Lynne Sargent from Canada
Eric Schieber from North Carolina
Alfred D. Searls from the United Kingdom
Michael Simon from Canada
Kate Osana Simonian from Texas
Steven A. Simpson from Massachusetts
Joshua Sky from California
Ethan Parke Smith from Pennsylvania
J.F. Smith from Florida
Claire Sorrenson from North Carolina
Elsa Sotiriadis from the United Kingdom
Dale E. Sprague Jr. from Iowa
Gene Springsteel from Utah
Kristyn Stallings from Illinois
Krasimira Todorova Stoeva from Bulgaria
Tyra Tanner from Utah
Jessie M. Thomas from Kansas
L.N. Tillery from Kentucky
Scott Pohaku Vilhauer from California
Jade Visos-Ely from Kansas
Melissa Volker from Massachusetts
A. N. Waleron from Illinois
Jamie Wang from Minnesota
Abigail Welborn from Washington
Kristy L. Wells from Texas
Filip Wiltgren from Sweden
Michael J. Winegar from Georgia
Amie Irene Winters from California
Michael J. Wyant Jr. from New York
Anna Maria Wybraniec from Poland

 

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.

Writers of the Future 1st Quarter Winners

Writers of the Future 1st Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 35

 

Here are the 1st Quarter Writers of the Future Contest Winners for Volume 35

 

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

First Place – Kyle Kirrin from Colorado
Second Place – Preston Dennett from California
Third Place – Kai Wolden from Minnesota

 


Finalists:

Rui Cid from Portugal
Derek Eklund from Virginia
K.R. Horton from Oregon
Kalen Kubik from Texas
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett from Texas

Semi-Finalists:

Jack Calverley from the United Kingdom
Jason C. Duke from Arizona
Jared Allen Jackson from Utah
William Bryan Layton from Mississippi
Craig Swapp form Utah
Dawn Vogel from Washington
Michael J. Winegar from Georgia

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Kevin Hallett from Texas
DW Harvey from California
C.H. Hung from Utah
Christopher A. Jos
Cassiopeia Mulholland from Arizona
Kurt Pankau from Missouri
Leonid Tarasov from the United Kingdom

Honorable Mentions:

Nicholas P. Adams from Utah
J.J. Adamson from Vermont
Bryan Aiello from New Jersey
M.F. Alfrey from England
Van Alrik from Utah
Steve Arensberg from Texas
Brandon Scott Argetsinger from New York
Aaron Ash from California
Abby Baier from California
Dawson Balencia from Texas
B.P. Barwick from Indiana
Christopher Baxter from Utah
J.A. Becker from Australia
Hayden Bilbrey from Oklahoma
Rob Bleckly from Australia
Matt Bosio from Florida
Z.T. Bright from Utah
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Chan Yuk Chi from Singapore
Michael V. Calianna from Connecticut
Paulo Da Silva from Germany
Benjamin DeHaan from Illinois
Peter Michael Diamantopoulos from Virginia
Juan Joel Diaz from California
Steve DuBois from Kansas
Robert B. Finegold, M.D. from Maine
Kathryn Fletcher from Texas
Jacob Foncea from Alabama
Monalisa Foster from Texas
Caroline Furlong from Virginia
Bruce Golden from California
Ian E. Gonzales from Washington
Emanuel Grigoras from Canada
Mel Haaser from Indiana
Clint Hall from Georgia
Belwoeth Harbright from Oklahoma
Brendan Hiles from Canada
Marc Humphrey from Austria
Levi Jacobs from Colorado
Kent A. Jones from Minnesota
K.D. Julicher from Nevada
Gwen Kauffman from California
Kevin Folkman from Washington
Colt Randy Leasure from California
Sussu LeClerc from Ohio
Dennis Lee from Australia
LindaAnn LoSchiavo from New York
William Mangieri from Texas
Jadon Mann from Texas
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Phillip McCollum from California
Shawn Robert McKee from Texas
Kenneth Meade from Georgia
Devin Miller from North Carolina
Ian Moore from Virginia
Daniel Morris from Maryland
Rhiannon Nee from Australia
George Nikolopoulos from Greece
John M. Olsen from Utah
Y.M. Pang from Canada
Stephen Patrick from Texas
Beth Powers from Indiana
Matthew Reardon from Canada
Melanie Rees from Australia
Juliana Rew from Colorado
Nim Riel from Texas
Glenn Rosado from California
Eric Schieber from North Carolina
Matthew P. Schmidt from Ohio
Maria Schrater from Illinois
Gary Sharp from Ohio
Camille Singer from California
Robert A. Smith from New Jersey
Robert N. Stephenson from Australia
E.C. Stever from Idaho
Vincent Sutherland from Arizona
Clive Tern from the United Kingdom
Dan Thurot from Utah
Rebecca Esther Treasure from Texas
Steven Tubbs from Florida
Jesse Weiner from Colorado
Luke Wildman from Indiana
JM Williams from South Korea
Elisa Winther from The Netherlands
Thomas Woodward from Minnesota
Ramez Yoakeim from Australia
James Yu from California
N. Immanuel Velez from Virginia

 

Writers of the Future logo

Writers of the Future 4th Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 34

 

Here are the 4th Quarter Writers of the Future Contest winners for Volume 34.

 

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

First Place – Erin Cairns from Texas
Second Place – Cole Hehr from Oklahoma
Third Place – Jonathan Ficke from Wisconsin

 


Finalists:

Lou Berger from Colorado
Aiki Flinthart from Australia
L.P. Melling from the United Kingdom
J.C. Pillard from Colorado
Gilad Seckler from Rhode Island

Semi-Finalists:

James Beach from California
O.E. Fine from Massachusetts
Samuel Marzioli from Oregon
Kessia Robinson from Utah
Robert Ryder from Arizona
John Walters from Washington

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Steven R. Brandt from Louisiana
Steve DuBois from Kansas
J.G. Follansbee from Washington
Kyle Kirrin from Montana
Allen Kuzara from Tennessee
Ellen Saunders from Oregon
Paulo de Silva from Germany
N. Immanuel Velez from Virginia
Neal T. Williams from Colorado

Honorable Mentions:

Mike Adamson from Australia
Kia Addison from Oregon
Sarah Allen from Utah
Van Alrik from Utah
Michael Anderson from Ontario, Canada
Jaymie Andre from Maryland
Julia V Ashley from Mississippi
Charity Ayres from Virginia
Nikki Baird from Colorado
Robert Bagnall from England
Taylor Banks from Texas
Matthew Baron from Georgia
Corey Barracato from Pennsylvania
Ryan W. Benson from Georgia
Scott Benting from Oregon
Mark Bilsborough from the United Kingdom
Rebecca Birch from Washington
Amy Bisson from South Carolina
Stephen J. Blake from New Hampshire
Matt Bosio from Florida
Morgan Broadhead from Ohio
Victoria Brock from Australia
Diogenes C. from Thailand
Diane Callahan from Ohio
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Tracy Cembor from Georgia
Jordan A. Chase from Oregon
Harriet Clifford from North Carolina
Mary Coldren from Colorado
Alexei Collier from Illinois
Tyrell Collins from Louisiana
James A. Conan from Ontario, Canada
Stephen J. Cooper, Jr. from Virginia
Leigh Ann Cowan from Arkansas
Coleman Cox from California
Brennan Craig from Kentucky
Claire Czotter from Massachusetts
Brenden Kahil Davis from Wisconsin
Lance Dean from California
Benjamin DeHaan from Illinois
Hillary Dodge from Colorado
Iona Douglas from Spain
C.P. Dunphey from Mississippi
Frank Dutkiewicz from Michigan
Jason Evans from Illinois
Mckayla Eaton from Nova Scotia, Canada
Judith Everett from Utah
Brianna M. Fenty from New York
Michael Feramisco from North Carolina
Anne Fleeson from North Carolina
Cassiopeia Fletcher from Nebraska
Courtney Floyd from Oregon
Leah Marie Fox from Alabama
Jennifer A. Friedl from Indiana
V.H. Galloway from Texas
K.L. Garzone from Tennessee
Amanda H. Geard from South Africa
Jude-marie Green from California
Faustine A. Guerrero from California
Leslie Haig from Maryland
Brian C. Hailes from Utah
Philip Brian Hall
C.J. Harper from Florida
Carolyn Harris from Ontario, Canada
John-Michael Hawley from Texas
J. D. Haymaker from Minnesota
Russell Hemmell from Scotland
Brendan Hiles from Ontario, Canada
Cathy Humble from Oregon
Ife J. Ibitayo from Indiana
Rebecca Inch-Partridge from California
Mitchell Inkley from Utah
Bascomb James from Michigan
Stephan James from Missouri
Jeran Jenks from Idaho
Ashley N. Johnson from Virginia
Cameron Johnston from Scotland
John F. Keane from the United Kingdom
Christopher Keene from New Zealand
Kian Kelley-Chung from Maryland
Thom Kenison from Utah
Seth W. Kenney from California
Joshua Kidd from California
Benjamin C. Kinney from Missouri
Cass Sims Knight from Oregon
HRT Knight from South Africa
B. Koch from Illinois
Andrew Kooy from Louisiana
Marysia Kosowski from California
Megan Kraus from Connecticut
Andrea Kriz from Massachusetts
Kalen Kubik from Texas
Xavier Lastra from Spain
Laura Lavelle from New York
Sam Lefar from Georgia
Colton Long from Maryland
Roger Mannon from Colorado
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Phillip McCollum from California
Durwood MacCool from Washington
Guy McDonnell from Texas
Shane Patrick Meagher from Florida
Rebecca Mix from Michigan
Kathleen Monin from Pennsylvania
Wulf Moon from Washington
Marta Murvosh from Washington
Ethan Nahte from Arkansas
John Noel from Illinois
Arella Noreen from Texas
David O’Hanlon from Arkansas
Rosie Oliver from England
Kirstie Olley from Australia
Tyler Omichinski from Ontario, Canada
Sarah Ortega from Texas
Toluwani Osibamowo from Texas
Kurt Pankau from Missouri
Vernie Pather from South Africa
William C. Peragine from Pennsylvania
Karen Pepin from Virginia
Brittany Rainsdon from Idaho
Vani Rajh from Malaysia
Avery Ramuta from Washington
Melanie Rees from Australia
Nim Riel from Texas
Sarah Rose from Utah
Jelena Rutter from New Hampshire
Sebastien Sacre from Ontario, Canada
Edward Sammons from Florida
Caroline Sciriha from Malta
Spencer Sekulin from Ontario, Canada
Gary Sharp from Virginia
Camille Singer from California
Robert Anthony Smith from New Jersey
Joshua P. Sorensen from Utah
Robert N. Stephenson from Australia
Blake Stone-Banks from Colorado
J.P. Sullivan from California
Troy Tang from New Zealand
Clive Tern from the United Kingdom
T. Tate Thorpe from Utah
Joseph Tyrrell from New Jersey
Jack M. Ventimiglia from Missouri
Emefa Victorious from Florida
R.W. Warwick from Japan
Kristi Weisgerber from Alberta, Canada
Robert Christopher Weissenberg from California
Thomas Michael Welsh from Washington
Melvyn R. Windham, Jr. from North Carolina
BJ Wingate from Arkansas
William R.D. Wood from Virginia
Michael J. Wyant, Jr. from New York
Neil V. Young from California
Tannara Young from California
Bill Zaget from Quebec, Canada

 

Defining yourself

Defining Yourself

I’m going to talk a bit about audience analysis. It’s always good before you begin to write to really understand who your audience is and that their needs are so that you can better meet those needs. But it’s also important to understand who you are as an author, and what it is that you want to achieve.

Yesterday I was helping an author write a query letter, and as I did, I was thinking, “Now what more can I say about his book? What sets this apart from other books in its genre?” Those are the same questions that I ask myself anytime I’m looking at a query letter, but I don’t just ask them about the book. I ask them about the author.

A few years ago, an author I knew flew to New York to be interviewed by the legendary agent Al Zuckerman, the founder of Writers House Literary Agency. As they spoke, Al suggested that the author “define his niche in the marketplace.” For example, you might say, “I’m the John Grisham of Middle Earth.” By that, you might mean that you’re writing political/legal thrillers in a brilliantly devised fantasy setting. Is there a market for such books? Maybe. And if you think of a potential mixture that excites you, one that energizes any agent or editor that hears about it, you can instantly command a fortune in advances.

For example, years ago my former student Dan Wells mentioned that he wanted to be the “Stephen King of young adult fiction.” I thought that was an odd and interesting combination. Yet when his first novel, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER came out, it earned him huge advances overseas and led to the start of a brilliant career.

So you as an author, when you prepare to write a book, might consider whether you want to brand yourself.

Just as importantly, you might want to look at your novel and brand it. What does that mean? It means that you set goals for your story—goals that have to do with understanding how it fits in the genre and what kind of qualities you want to achieve. When I began the Runelords series, one goal that I set was simple. I said, “I want this to start out like a traditional medieval fantasy, but by the time that a reader finishes the series, I want them to realize that there is nothing ‘traditional’ about this.” So I set out to work on biological world creation, magic systems, and so on in ways that I hadn’t seen before.

In a similar way, when I wrote my novel On My Way to Paradise I set a list of goals. At about spot number twelve I wrote, “I want to write the best battle scenes ever put into a science fiction novel.” Now, I had a lot of other goals, ones that were more important. But I was gratified when I got a gushing review from one young man who seemed not to notice all of the other cool literary things that I did: he just talked about the mind-blowing fights which he described as “the best battle scenes ever shown in science fiction.”

So ask yourself the questions: “What kind of writer am I? What do I want to achieve that is similar to some of the bestsellers of all time? How am I going to carve my own unique niche in the world? As I write this coming book, how will it help reach that goal, or does it take me off in the wrong direction? What kinds of goals do I want to reach with this novel?”

As I set my writing goals, I find that it’s best if I actually write them down, turn them into concrete, specific goals.

Give it a try!

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

two wooden men figures amongst chess pieces

Giving Up

Sometimes it seems that your life has a theme. In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard from several authors the words “I’m thinking about giving up.”

I worry about that. No one ever won a race by giving up.

At least when it comes to writing, I’ve never been good at giving up. My parents advised me against a career in writing. I didn’t listen. Sometimes my wife has even suggested that I go find another field—even in years when I was making fantastic money.

So I found an article about authors who didn’t give up, and would like to repost much of it. It was written by Janeen Elite, and much was taken from Jack Canfield. I can think of other authors with similar stories, but this will suffice:

While many writers lament that facing a blank page is the most difficult part of writing, others will disagree and state that it is getting “that” rejection letter that really makes writing torturous. This is because “that” rejection letter can hit right where it hurts; the old ego. “That” rejection letter can make a writer doubt their own abilities, possibly may even make them rethink their dream career and even their life’s purpose.

Well, take heart dear writers and don’t give up. Just because a strange “someone” didn’t like your piece does not mean it is not good.
The following is a list of writers who also received “that” letter. Many even received it more than once, but they didn’t let that stop them and you shouldn’t either.

Margaret Mitchell received “that” letter 38 times. The book? Gone With The Wind.

This “poor” woman spent six years writing the first installment of a series of books she wanted to publish. You would think that after 9 rejections she might have thought she was wasting her time. Children all over the world are grateful that J.K. Rowling didn’t feel that way. Her Harry Potter book series has sold over 400 million copies around the globe and even as far back as 2003 the BBC news announced that Rowland was already “richer than the Queen.”

Talk about rejection! James Joyce’s Dubliners was rejected 22 times! And even after it was published, only 379 copies were sold in its first year. To make matters worse, Mr. Joyce admitted that he purchased 120 of those copies himself.

This quote from author Judy Blume pretty much says it all. “I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.” It took Ms. Blume two  years before any of her work was accepted.

Ouch! That Hurts!

It’s one thing to receive the standard rejection letter that states that a publisher is “not looking for this kind of book at this time” because then an author can at least console themselves in knowing that it is not personal and it is not their writing that is the problem.

Quite often an author can also convince themselves that maybe their book wasn’t even read very carefully by a publisher to begin with. But how would you feel if you found out that not only was your book read, but a publisher actually took the time to tell you why it was so horrendous?

The following are actual excerpts famous authors have received in their rejection letters that turn out to be so laughable in hindsight.

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” The book—The Diary of Anne Frank.

“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA” in a rejection letter regarding the book Animal Farm.

“A very bad book…” Told to Pierre Boulle about his Bridge Over River Kwai.

“The book is not publishable,” regarding the novel Who Killed Virginia Wolfe?

“…too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling” told to Dr. Seuss, about his book And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

“This is a work of almost-genius—genius in the power of its expression—almost in the sense of its enormous bitterness. I wish there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn’t. It won’t sell.” told to Ayn Rand about her book The Fountainhead.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull will never make it as a paperback” the book written by Richard Bach ended up selling more than 8 million copies.

“… she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes … hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly …” The author was Jacqueline Susann and the book was Valley of the Dolls.

“An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would ‘take’… I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’.” This was written about The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Here is another wonderful critique Mr. Wells received about The Time Machine, “It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.”

“This will set publishing back 25 years,” written about The Deer Park by Norman Mailer

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Written about Carrie by Stephen King.

“Do you realize, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.

“I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny—possibly even satire—but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.” The author was Joseph Heller—the book was Catch-22.

“It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” Was in the rejection letter that Ernest Hemingway received regarding his novel The Torrents of Spring.

“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy,” regarding Lord of the Flies.

And probably one of the all-time greatest ironic rejections is:

“You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character,” told to F. Scott Fitzgerald

As you can tell from the quotes written above, some publishers just don’t have a clue. So start saving those rejection letters. Who knows? Maybe one day you can show them off when your book hits the best-seller list?

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Small kids handing soldier a ball

Character Traits

As we read stories, we are constantly making judgments. We may admire an author’s style, even as we are annoyed by a plot twist that we saw coming; or we might get creeped-out by the foreshadowing, while we’re annoyed by the author’s cynical tone.

It seems to me that one thing that we are most critical of is characters. Is a love interest likeable? Does he or she work as a protagonist?

I thought about this a good deal yesterday as I was reading a story. A young man in the story was filled with hubris beginning on page two. He had a nice sense of humor, he was hard-working, and he was intelligent. So he had some virtues, but he was tainted. My immediate question was, “Is this author going to kill this character, or humble him?” You see, pride is such an ugly trait, I knew that the author would try one or the other. As it turned out, the author did both, beautifully.

Again, a couple of days ago, I watched a movie, a comedy, that was well written. The protagonist was a naïve young man, trying to make friends. There was a lot of humor in the piece, but much of the humor featured sexual jokes that made the viewer nervous, and I found myself wishing that, despite the excellent acting and directing, the writer had come up with better material for his jokes. You see, the young man’s friends came off as . . . creepy. Even his closest friend left me feeling a bit icky—to the point that instead of recommending an otherwise excellent movie, I won’t even tempt you by telling you its name. This is an example of mischaracterization.

“Mischaracterization” is a surprisingly common problem.

Here are some red flags in stories:

Profanity. If you open your story with a protagonist uttering profanity, the reader has to ask, is the character too profane for my tastes? A lot of readers don’t use profanity or tolerate it in others. If your use of profanity would earn a movie an R-rating, then you have a problem. If your characters are profane in every sentence, as an editor I will probably reject your story.

Now, there are some types of characters and some types of situations where profanity is almost inescapable. For example, if you’re writing about mercenary soldiers in Iraq, I would expect profanity. I’m not worried about those stories, I’m more concerned when the profanity is laid on thick in a vulgar or shocking way where it is unwarranted.

Dark Humor. If your characters use humor that is too violent or sexual in nature, then once again you risk offending readers. With humor, you may have dozens of humorous incidents or lines in a story. If one in three of those tend to be too dark, if they make the audience queasy, your mix is probably too dark.

Shocking characters. Many authors try to shock their readers or offend them by using disturbing imagery, metaphors, or by showing graphic sex or violence. If a tale starts off with these, it can grab a reader’s attention. But the problem arises when the author feels that he has to keep escalating the sexuality or violence. I often have to reject stories where the author is trying to disturb the reader with every sentence, to the point where the tale becomes unbearable.

Negative Traits. Is your protagonist deceitful, proud, reticent, shy, lazy, foolish, vain, boorish, jaded, pompous, jealous, depraved, insipid, cruel, or depressed? While we do have to have some negative traits in order for a character to feel balanced, just about any negative trait can be carried too far.

In fact, some positive traits can become negative traits. An honest man can be too honest. A compassionate person can give entirely too much.

So what is the acid test? How do you know if your characterization has gone wrong?

Years ago, I was reading a story by an author whose style I really admire. However, when I was halfway through his novel, I realized that I wouldn’t want to meet any of his characters in a dark alley. They were universally nasty, universally disturbing, but each in his own way.

So I’ve learned to ask myself early in a tale, “Do I want to spend time with this character? Am I invested in his tale? Do I care what happens to him?” If the answers to the questions are a resounding “yes,” then I’ll go on.

But let me take it a step further. Should I even have to ask those questions? The stories that I’ve loved the most are the ones where I become so invested in the characters, I never consciously think to ask my questions. I’m a jaded old author and editor. So I often ask the questions. But did I ever stop and wonder how I felt about Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games? Of course not. I loved and admired her too much, too soon, to ever even think about it.

The same can be said of a host of novels that have gripped me over the years. I loved Ender Wiggins in Ender’s Game, and Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and so on.

So perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to simply avoid “mischaracterization,” but to look for opportunities to create great characters.

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.