Thursday, August 13, 2015

I have your SF fix right here

Anthology news!

First off is "1st and Starlight." This anthology is edited by Sky McKinnon and includes 14 stories by writers who have, at some point or another, been named finalists in the Writers of the Future contest. Some of these talented folks have gone on to win the contest. One is a Hugo nominee, Kary English. There's a mix fantasy and science fiction, and all the stories are fantastic. One of the stories I'm most proud of, "Catch a Fallen Star," is reprinted here. It's available for purchase right now on Amazon.

And World Weaver Press and editor Bascomb James did the reveal today for the cover and table of contents for "Far Orbit Apogee," a space opera anthology that will be released in October and is now available for preorder. This one includes some writers whose work I've read and admired for a long time, including James Van Pelt and Milo James Fowler. Also included is my story "Masks," which is all about political intrigue, space battles and hidden identities.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My home for sale: 106 Pandora Circle, Erwin, NC

I'm going to interrupt the blogging about writing, journalism and pop culture to go into another subject that is very important to me. And that thing looks like this:

This is a house at 106 Pandora Circle in Erwin, N.C., that my husband and I have owned since 2003. We bought it when we were about to have our second child because the place we lived in at the time was too small for a growing family. This house was perfect for us. The right size for our family, and within our budget as first-time homeowners.

It's not perfect anymore, though, because now we live in Colorado. It will be perfect for another family, or a couple that needs some extra space. Our Realtor listed the house for sale today. You can find our listed price, information and photos on his website right here.

I'm going to talk about the what makes this house great that you won't find in the listing, stuff that comes straight from someone who lived there for years.
  • All four bedrooms, the living room and the dining room have ceiling fans. I miss that so much. The extra air circulation cut down on air-conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. I loved to lie in bed at night with the fan going softly overhead.
  • Heating controls are separate for upstairs and downstairs.
  • The backyard is big with shady trees, and a new fence. It's great for kids and/or pets. The porch is a good place to spend summer evenings with some outdoor furniture and a grill.
  • The neighborhood is quiet and safe. The house is at the back of a cul-de-sac where the only traffic comes from people leaving and returning home. Our oldest child was friends with the boy who lived in the house across our backyard, and they would walk between our houses to play.
  • In fact, the entire town of Erwin is like that. It has a small-town feel. Our kids played soccer and baseball at the town park, and the downtown festivals and parades are a lot of fun. But only a couple miles down the road are Walmart, Lowe's, stores, restaurants and entertainment. Access to medical care is easy with Betsy Johnson hospital only 10 or 15 minutes away by car.
  • When we lived there, my husband worked in Fayetteville, and I worked in Raleigh. We were a commuter couple, going in opposite directions, and I know other couples deal with the same issue. Erwin is the perfect location for that because it's halfway between the two larger cities.
  • The master bedroom and another bedroom are upstairs. The other two bedrooms are downstairs. Our oldest child enjoyed the extra privacy of having his bedroom downstairs. We also used one of the downstairs bedrooms as a library.
  • The attic has easy access from a door upstairs (no climbing through trap doors in the ceiling) and has lots of space for storage.
  • We just finished up more than $10,000 in repairs and renovations right before putting the house on the market.
If you're interested in a tour, contact our Realtor, Rod Hudson. His website is right here. You can also call him at (919) 524-1800.

Semi-finalist, Writers of the Future

Hello and welcome back after a long hiatus to my blog. The day job is keeping me more busy than I had ever imagined it would, leaving little time for other stuff. My time crunch is such that I have to choose between writing and blogging, and writing wins. But I'll do my best to blog a couple times a week so that this little corner of the Internet does not become a wasteland.

Let's start with some semi-good news.

In Quarter 2 of the Writers of the Futures contest, my story was selected as a semi-finalist. That means out of hundreds (thousands?) of entries, mine was judged as one of the top 16. It also means I will get a critique from coordinating judge David Farland. Only semi-finalists get the critique. It's the consolation prize for being not quite good enough for finalist.

Last time I made semi-finalist was in 2011. My critique then pointed out exactly one sentence in a 4,000 word story that kept me from the finalist circle. I fixed it, and the story sold to the wonderful Fireside Magazine. I'm curious what I'll get this time.

So in 26 quarters of entering:
  • Finalist: 1
  • Semi-finalist: 2
  • Silver honorable mention: 1
  • Honorable mention: 13
  • Rejection: 9

My Writers of the Future career is about to come to a close. My friend (and two-time finalist) Dustin Adams and I submitted a co-written story for Quarter 3. And then that's it for me. (Unless I submit one particular story that I love and no editor seems to want in Quarter 4, as one of my writer friends keeps pushing me to do.)

Why stop? Because of the rules. Writers of the Future is for writers who have sold fewer than four stories to professional markets. I should have become ineligible awhile ago, except that the lovely people at the contest keep finding reasons to say this sale or that sale doesn't really count. In my mind, they do count. I could keep entering if I wanted, but it feels like I'm cheating. So, I will stop.

Besides, I have other priorities nowadays than writing a story for Writers of the Future every quarter. I need to finish my novel. I have a story to pitch and write for an anthology. Especially with my new, crunched schedule, I have to pick and choose my writing projects.

After almost seven years of entering every quarter, I'm down to one last chance to win. It's a good story. We'll see in a couple of months whether David Farland agrees that it's worthy of finalist and a shot at the big prize.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Changes at the day job

I'm writing this at my desk in the newsroom on Saturday while I put together the Sunday nation/world section. I've been doing this same job every weekend for most of my career. My first assignment on my first job out of college in 1998 was to handle nation/world coverage for The Herald in Rock Hill S.C., and I've been doing it on and off at every paper I've worked at since. Sometimes I do stints of straight copy editing. Other times, I'm supervising the copy desk or some portion of it. In the end, I always seem to come back to the wire section.

But tonight is it. This is my last shift on the copy desk for the foreseeable future. Maybe ever. On Monday morning, I start at my new position as assistant business editor for The Denver Post.

In physical terms, that moves me over two rows of desks, which comes to about 50 feet. In terms of my job, this is big move. Also, a good move. The newspaper industry is changing. Newspapers are focusing more heavily than ever on local news; this is because national and international news is all over websites and social media. You can get your wire news anywhere, but local news is still, well, local. It's newspapers' bread and butter. I've seen what I fear is the writing on the wall for a long time, that newspaper journalists like me whose focus is entirely on nation and world coverage will, sooner or later, be on their way out. And I don't want to be shown the door.

That's not the only reason for the move, though. I want a new challenge. I'm one of those people who is constantly looking to learn new skills and do new things. In this new position, I will be working with our talented business staff. I'll be taking more of a hand in news production for the newspaper's website and other digital platforms. I'll be stretching my management muscles, which I haven't done in awhile.

Another bonus: For the first time ever in my career, I will be working a 9 to 6 shift, Monday through Friday. No more nights, no more weekends. I'll see my husband and kids more.

I'm not naive. There will be a learning curve. I'll ask stupid questions and make mistakes. On the other hand, I have strong news judgment and editing skills developed over almost 20 years spent in newsrooms, and the abilities to learn quickly and work well with others. Those will get me through until I settle into my new role.

So, goodbye, wire desk. Hello, business desk, and a new adventure in my career.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm on Twitter now

You can now follow me on Twitter at @JenniferCHicks.

I'm years late on getting on this bus. I know. So why now? I've never had a need for an account before. But I'll be starting a new position at my day job next week that will require me to be more social media savvy than I have been.

What do I plan to do with my shiny new Twitter handle, you ask? I have two focuses: journalism and writing in SF/fantasy. I'll be using the account for both my day job and my writing gig. You won't hear about the cute things my kids do or get photos of my dog. I save those for my Facebook friends. But I will probably tweet about science and geeky stuff because I'm fascinated with both.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I am a member of SFWA

Yesterday afternoon, my application to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was accepted. I'm now a member.

This is a big deal for me. When I started this writing thing about seven years ago, I set myself two goals. Both of them were intermediary steps, but important ones. First, win Writers of the Future. (Haven't done that, and probably won't, but that's a different post.) Second, qualify for SFWA. Qualifying to join SFWA means, by the standards set by your peers, you are a professional writer.

One out of two isn't bad.

I actually qualified last fall. I waited until now because ... I'm not sure, really. I wanted my qualifying stories to all be published first. Somehow that makes it more real.

The three I qualified with are: "Shore Leave" in Galaxy's Edge; "The Temptation of Father Francis" with co-writer Nick T. Chan in Intergalactic Medicine Show, and "The Good Girl" in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

I also could have picked from several sales to flash markets: three to Daily Science Fiction, one to Flash Fiction Online, and one to Nature. But those are shorter and it takes more of them to add up to the 10,000 words of pro-paying fiction that SFWA requires.

So what's next?

Keep writing, of course! That's the main thing.

I have a novel to finish, and then another one to start. There's a cool project that I need to jump into with Nick T. Chan, in which we're delving more into the world of Father Francis. And I have a story to write for the "Joe Ledger: Unstoppable" anthology.

That's more than enough to keep me busy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

So far this week

It's only Wednesday, and I have plenty of news.

New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry and his co-editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt announced this on Monday:
JOE LEDGER NEWS! In 2017 St. Martin's Griffin will publish JOE LEDGER: UNSTOPPABLE -an anthology of Ledger stories written by some of today's masters of mayhem, including Larry Correia, Joe McKinney, Weston Ochse, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Dana Fredsti, David Farland, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Steve Alten, Jon McGoran, Scott Sigler, Ray Garton, Claire Ashgrove, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Jeremy Robinson, and James A. Moore. Plus I'll do an original Ledger story, too! Now THAT is a lineup. Mr. Church isn't the only one who has friends in the industry.
So, yeah, that's my name in there. I'm really excited to be part of this project! It's going to be fun, getting to play in Maberry's world. I'll share more details as I get them.

Last night, my dad and I went to the last Pen and Podium lecture of the year, a series sponsored by my employer The Denver Post. The guest was Neil Gaiman. We sat in the front row of the theater, dead center. It was 90 minutes of Neil Gaiman on the stage with a microphone. He talked about his career, read a couple of stories and answered some questions. Unsurprisingly, he's an excellent public speaker, engaging and funny.

Last bit of news: I have sent in my application to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I hope soon I will get word that I'm the newest member of SFWA.