As you read it, I’d like to make a special request. Please don’t nominate the story because you like me or something else I’ve written, because I’m female, to piss someone off or because of what happened last year.
To my mind, there is only one valid reason to nominate something for a Hugo – because you love it.
Here’s the Writers of the Future sale I promised. Galaxy Press is offering a killer deal on Volumes 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the popular Writers of the Future series.
If you like short fiction and discovering new writers, these are perfect for you. If you’re a writer or illustrator who’s thinking about entering, one of the best ways to learn what the contest likes is to read the anthos.
Here are your links.
P.S. I love the cover for V29 because it looks like Mr. Jetpack is standing on a pile of pancakes, one foot firmly planted on either side of the butter. 😀
The illustration is by artist Megen Nelson. Stop by her website and check out her other work!
Sometimes you can get to know a whole town by understanding just one man. In the seaside village of Summerland, that man was Peyton Jain. Peyton was in his 60s, as best I could tell. His face was craggy and weathered, with a beard like sea foam on rocks and eyes of Poseidon’s blue.
Some folks thought of Peyton as a nuisance to be reported or a vagrant to be run off, but I knew different because it was Peyton who put me right with Summerland’s spirits. The locals have joked about spirits as long as anyone can remember, but it took the murder of the Kelly children to remind us just how real—and how powerful—the spirits could be.
Summerland sits like the Pythia over a cleft in the rock, soaking up the vapors of prophecy along with the California sunshine. Spiritualists started a commune here over a century ago. Egalitarians at heart, they outlawed money and divvied the land into tent-sized plots.
Oil—oil money, really—edged the Spiritualists out. Derricks took over the beach, and the Spiritualists’ canvas utopia turned into a shantytown for oil workers. My house was made from two of those oil shanties sandwiched together. The shanties had been built before electricity, so the wiring came up through holes in the floor, and the doorbell was an old ship’s bell, corroded green with salt and time.
The house had no foundation, just posts and piers and seven jacks. When the floor sagged, Peyton crawled beneath to twist the jacks until everything was more or less level. That was a blessing to me because I couldn’t abide the narrow crawlspace with earth pressing in around me and voiceless whispers winding snakelike over my skin.
The county said the whispers were nothing to worry about. Radon gas. Natural seepage. Buy a detector and install a fan. But radon doesn’t creep up through the floorboards in silver ribbons until it pools in the corners, like living smoke. Radon doesn’t whisper in the darkness like waves on sand.
In the next day or so, I will have a mini eARC for volume 31 of Writers of the Future to distribute to anyone who is willing to leave an honest review on launch day (or thereabouts).
Here are the deets:
The mini eARC (PDF) will only have three or four of the stories in it. If you want to read them all, look for the mini eARCs being offered by some of my co-authors. Gotta catch ’em all!
The launch is scheduled for May the 4th. May the Fourth be with you! How awesome is that?
In your review, it’s fine to mention that you haven’t read all of the stories, and please do mention that you received a free sample copy.
If you want one, please say so in the comments. Once I’ve got the file, I’ll send it to the email address used for your comment. (In other words, don’t post your email in the comment itself. I can see it in the admin interface.)
If I get a lot of requests, please give me a day or two to get back to you.
If you buy the paper copy and we ever meet at a con or workshop (*ahem* Sasquan), I will be happy to sign it for you!
Oh, and here’s a plug for my story, POSEIDON’S EYES.
In a sleepy California beach town, spirits magnify both the good and the evil in human hearts.
ETA: I’ve also got two 99 cent sales for you! Mike Resnick’s Best of Galaxy’s Edge has 25 short stories in it, including my Hugo nominee, and Writers of the Future, Volume 29 (not the current volume) is also on sale. Grab them fast because I don’t know how long the sales will last.
Reminder: Comments are moderated, and may not appear in a timely fashion if I’m busy writing or away from my computer.
A few years ago, my sister was in a serious car accident with her two boys in the car. It was raining, and she hydroplaned on standing water that had pooled in the low spot of a cloverleaf on-ramp. Her Ford Explorer got tangled up in the gap between a truck and a trailer, then she skidded off the road into a tree. Nobody was injured, but the accident totaled her Explorer.
The totaled car got me thinking. What if a person could be totaled? What if medical expenses could be reckoned against earning potential the way repair costs are weighed against the value of car? It’s a dystopian question about trying to determine the value of a human life in dollars and cents.
Then my writing mentor, David Farland, nearly lost his son in a longboarding accident. Ben’s recovery has been little short of miraculous, but the medical expenses almost bankrupted Dave. That brought me back to the essential tension between health insurance and the value of a human life. The story doesn’t answer the question; it engages the question.
But what about the speculative element? It’s not a sci-fi story without a speculative element! My geeky love of all things SF goes back to the Golden Era when brains in jars tottered around on spidery, metal legs. Huzzah! Spec element acquired! TOTALED would be a brain in a jar story.
Sonicated microparticle oxygenation (say it three times fast!) is a real thing that’s already saving lives, though I advanced the technology far beyond what’s possible today. I also know a thing or two about cognitive science and fMRIs, so it wasn’t too difficult to weave those things together. No, the difficult thing was something else entirely.
I’d been invited to submit a story to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, and he’d given me a limit of 4,000 words. 4k? Ouch. My natural length for shorts is nearly double that, but I bit the bullet and wrote the story in exactly 4,000 words. Success? Nope. The story was flawed, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Frustrated, I shipped it off to Writers of the Future for a cooling off period. It earned an Honorable Mention, a low showing for me after a semi and two finalists, so while I’m not knocking HMs, mine confirmed for me that the story was broken. Fortunately, now I knew why. The story had to be longer, and Maggie’s decline needed to be more visible and more poignant.
Cackling like a mad scientist, I cracked the story open and added a thousand words to the second half. Writing Maggie’s decline was difficult and intricate, like placing tiles in a mosaic. Each word had to be exactly right or the technique I was using would look like a jumble of typos and bad grammar instead of a deliberate device. I’d say more, but I’m avoiding spoilers. Suffice it to say that Maggie’s decline is the most difficult thing I’ve ever written.
Satisfied with my work, I stitched the patient back up and sent it off to Mike, fervently hoping that I hadn’t earned myself an auto-reject by exceeding his wordcount. I got my answer in just a few days. Mike loved TOTALED, and he said such nice things about it at the V30 Writers of the Future reception that I had to excuse myself to go cry in the ladies’ room.
Sometime back in July, I got a phone call from Joni Labaqui letting me know that not only had I won Writers of the Future, I’d won first place for Q2 of V31. Yes, winning WOTF is a major squeegasm, but it’s more complicated than that, too. In addition to doing the Tom Cruise sock dance in the middle of my kitchen, I also got hit with a healthy dose of impostor anxiety, survivor guilt and a weird, disoriented “Well now what do I do?” feeling.
See, I sent in my first WOTF entry as a dreamy-eyed teen back when Reagan was president and the Berlin Wall was still standing. At that time, my twin goals as an aspiring writer were to A) win WOTF, and B) join SFWA.
In March of 2014, I joined SFWA as an Active Member, and by then I’d accepted the idea that I’d probably pro out of WOTF before I won. I guess I should have heard the Universe laughing. Then July rolled around and boom-boom, major life goal accomplished – now what? I felt a little lost. I guess I’m a person who needs goals.
Then someone said I’d make a great Dread Pirate Roberts. Er, no wait, someone showed me Christie Yant’s awesome, customizable career bingo sheet, and ZOMG! I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS!!
Anyhow, so while I was rolling around with my head all asploded, I neglected to post that I’d won. Then it was time for the Q3 finalists / winners to be announced, and I didn’t want to steal their fire. Ditto for Q4, and now here I am, feeling like a goofball and finally blogging about it almost seven months after the fact.
If you know me from any of my online hangouts, what I’m about to tell you is old news. I’m a Writers of the Future finalist for the second quarter (Q2) of Volume 31. Yayyy, me!
I’m excited, but it’s my third time riding this bus, so I’m well aware that it usually lets me off at right back at the same stop where I got on. Something is different this time, though. As the news started to trickle out, I realized I wasn’t alone. My friend and editor Josh Essoe also got a finalist nod, so then there were two of us.
Party of two? No way! My friend and fellow former finalist Holly Heisey also got a call. So did forum friend and fellow Codexian Samantha Murray, and my friend and workshop buddy Scott Parkin, who shared the finalist hot seat with me in Q4 of Volume 29. Yeah, out of eight possible spots, five us know each other. Now that’s a party!
To be fair, there are three more finalists who I’ve yet to meet. Only three of us can win, but with so many friends on the list, I’ll be delighted no matter what happens.
become a full-time writer who makes a living writing
It’s all been such a whirlwind that I’ve let my blogging slip. Here’s to more regular posts in the immediate future.
And speaking of Writers of the Future, my WOTF bestie Tina Gower won first place in her quarter, followed by the prestigious and envy-inducing Gold Award. Check out her story “Twelve Seconds” in Volume 29.