There and back again

Home from L.A. and Writers of the Future. I had a fantastic time.

Had dinner Monday night with Andy, Carol, Gay and Kelly.  Learned a lot from K.D. and Tim, and so many other well-known writers. Strengthened old friendships, participated in the budding of new friendships. Righted a small wrong. Wrote a short story in twenty-four hours (and it wasn’t bad.).

Chatted Saturday night at the barbecue with Larry Niven, carried on a coherent conversation with the man, I think  All I can say is “Wow!”. How many times in our lives do we get to talk to our heroes?

I missed the awards ceremony Sunday night (because of health problems) but everything else was swell.  Thank you Joni and John and Marcus and (especially) Sophie. C’est si bon!

A review from Diabolical Plots

Frank Dutkiewicz, over at Diabolical Plots, reviewed the Writers of the Future 26 anthology last week and he had some nice things to say about Coward’s Steel.

The author wove a subtle puzzle within this finely crafted tale. The mystery of the old woman fades then returns later into the story. Tate is successfully cast as a loner who is destined to live in misery, even when opportunities for a comfortable and content life are presented to her.

The villagers of Providence have done as well as a community weathering a global collapse can do. Outsiders are trouble and are dealt with harshly but those asking for help are never turned away. Tate finds friendship and love in the village but Jolene’s voice from the past warns Tate to not get used to it.

The story is well done but a downer. I liked it but it left me bummed out in the end.

Grade B+

Thanks, Frank!

At Orycon

I’ll be at Orycon (at the Doubletree Hotel) in downtown Portland this week-end.

I’m participating in a group reading, with Alex Black and Lael Salaets, of our stories from the Writers of the Future 26 anthology.  That’s Friday night (11/12) at 8:00 p.m. in the Lincoln Room.

Also, I’ll be sitting on three panels Saturday (11/13):

  • Winning Writers of the Future (noon in the Jefferson/Adams Room) – with Ken Scholes, Aimee C. Amodio, Alex Black, Lael Salaets and Gra Linnaea.
  • Writing with all your senses (1:00 p.m. in the Madison Room) – with Nina Kriki Hoffman, Camille Alexa and Richard A. Lovett.
  • Dumbledore is gay? (5:00 p.m. in the Hawthorne Room) – with Louise Owen, Gene Armstrong and Judith R. Conly.

I’d love to say hello and chat with anyone who happens by.  Hope to see you there.

WOTF 26 on the way

The Writers of the Future 26 anthology (my story, Coward’s Steel, is in it) is available for pre-order at Amazon.  The official publication date is August 28.

It seems as if I’ve been waiting for this forever.  I submitted the story at the end of December 2008, found out I was one of the first quarter 2009 winners in May 2009.  So it has been over 18 months.

I’m still pumped about this one, though. It was my first professional-rates sale.  If you decide to check it out, enjoy.

A busy summer

The good news keeps coming.

I’ve been invited to attend the Clarion West speculative fiction writers workshop this summer.   No damned airplane rides required, either, because it’s going to be held right here in Seattle from June 20 until July 30.

That’s right.  Six weeks, twenty-four and seven — eating, sleeping, talking and living speculative fiction with seventeen other writers and six established professionals, who will spend a week each with us, teaching us as much as we are able to absorb.  This year’s instructors are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald.

As a special bonus, my buddy, Jude-Marie Green, demon writer and associate editor of Abyss & Apex, the online speculative fiction magazine, will be on hand for the whole six weeks.  Why?  Because she’s been invited, too.  You go, girl!

Clarion West has been called a pressure cooker, a boot camp for writers.  At my age, I hope I’m up to it.  Like the punch line to the old joke, I guess I’ll just have to take my chances.

And then a month later, I’ll be on my way to beautiful, downtown Hollywood (I think I’m going to take the train) for a week at the Writers of the Future workshop and awards gala.  Joni Labaqui, the WOTF contest director, has said that among the other professionals on hand for the event, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle may be in attendance.

Be still, my beating heart.

Groucho Marx wasn’t always right

My membership application to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was approved today.

This is a milestone for me, right up there with my Writers of the Future win for Coward’s Steel and Analog accepting Flotsam. Those were two of the three qualifying short stories that I needed for membership, BTW.

The third was At Both Ends, at Flash Fiction Online, which was my first professional-rate sale. My heartfelt thanks to Jake Freivald, editor at FFO, for that one.

And for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Groucho reference, he once said that he wouldn’t want to belong to any organization that would have him as a member.

This once, I can’t agree.

I’ve changed my name to Anxious

I swore I wouldn’t talk about this until I had something more definitive, honest to God, I took an oath. But the waiting and not saying is just more than I can stand.

I’m not sleeping much, obsessing about this. I’m eating too much, what I always do when I’m faced with something important that I can’t control.

I’ve been writing, but I’m not finishing anything. I have five stories started right now, but I get to 1,000 or 1,500 words and it feels as if I’m dragging heavy weights.

And I’ve been haunting my mailbox, too; so much so that the mail carrier flinches when she sees me.

Here’s the situation.

Last July, I attended Jim Gunn’s SF Writers Workshop in Kansas and workshopped a story that wound up being titled Flotsam. It’s hard science fiction, a near-future story about a work team in low earth orbit. I don’t write much hard SF and I sweated .44 caliber bullets doing the research for it.

In mid-July, after the workshop and at Professor Gunn’s suggestion, I sent the story off to Analog. Editor Stan Schmidt requires hard paper submissions, so I knew there would be a wait before I knew anything. Maybe a long wait.

So, here’s what I’ve been holding in.

The third week in September, I got a letter from Dr. Schmidt saying that he liked the story and that he wanted to use it in his magazine, if I was willing to do a minor rewrite.

Would I be willing to do a rewrite to have one of my stories appear in Analog? Might as well ask if I would be willing to go on breathing.

It really was minor, though. In fact, all I had to do was insert five paragraphs that I had taken out in my final edit. I put the revised piece in the mail a couple days later and sat down to wait.

I haven’t heard anything yet. It’s been six weeks, but in this business, that’s nothing. I’ve talked to other writers who have had work published in Analog and they’ve all told me I just have to be patient.

But this is one of only a few times I’ve submitted a story via snail mail — there aren’t many magazines that require that anymore — and it’s the first time I’ve gotten a conditional acceptance from a major SF market.

I know it’s stupid to fixate upon this to the point that it interferes with my writing. With my life, to be honest. But I’m new enough to this profession to be anxious about the outcome. It’s possible this sort of thing may become commonplace at some point in my future, but right now this is a big deal for me.

It will be my third professional sale, which means I can apply for membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America. It’s validation that my Writers of the Future win wasn’t just a fluke. And, most important, it’s frakkin’ Analog. I’ve only been reading the magazine for fifty years.

But I’ll be good. I swear I will. I’ll wait patiently. I’ll focus on my writing; get it back on track. I won’t pounce upon the mail carrier the moment she steps down from her truck. I just hope word arrives soon, though.

Before I’m forced to resort to slicing open live chickens and reading entrails. 😉

And the winner is …

Winners of the 2008 Writers of the Future competition were in Los Angeles this past week for a writers workshop conducted by SF novelists K.D. Wentworth and Tim Power.

Part of the pay-off for winning the contest.

The folks at Author Services, which sponsors the competition, have been posting pictures of the proceedings but it’s too late to catch the best part.  The awards ceremony for the winners was shown live Saturday night via streaming video.

I watched the whole thing and it was a classy operation.  Tuxedoes and evening gowns and speeches.  Choreography and film clips.  Trophies and some tears.

My buddy, Jordan Lapp, who won 1st place in the 4th Quarter 2008 segment of the contest, looked dapper in formal wear and offered up a great thank-you speech.  But he didn’t win the gold prize, which means a second, bigger trophy and an extra $5000. 😦

Oh, and the 25th edition of the Writers of the Future anthology, in which Jordan’s story will appear, was presented for all to see.  Pick up a copy when it hits the store shelves.  It’s going to be great reading.

All the ceremony had me day-dreaming about next year, when it’s my turn to head to L.A. for the hoopla.

Have I mentioned how much I hate waiting? 😉

The check was in the mail

Just got back from the mailbox.  My prize check from Author Services, for Coward’s Steel, the 3rd place winner in the 1st Quarter 2009 Writers of the Future competition.

$500!

I’m going out right now to spend it on something frivolous, before reality picks the lock on those handcuffs and rips away the duct tape to remind me about all the practical uses I could make of the money.