Saturday, December 5, 2015

Busy month recap

Happy December, everyone!

A lot has been going on. It's time for an update.

For starters, last month's National Novel Finishing Month was a success. I have a completed first draft. I have a lot of revision ahead of me, but the novel exists in word form now instead of just in my head.

Fireside Magazine will be publishing my story "The Memory Who Became a Girl." The editor kindly called my story beautiful and heartbreaking. This will be my second publication in Fireside; it's been almost exactly two years since "Catch a Fallen Star" also appeared there. The new story will publish sometime in the first half of 2016.

Galaxy's Edge will have my story "The Bone-Runner" in the issue that goes live Jan. 1. The editor there called this one moving and lovely. This will be my second story in the pages of Galaxy's Edge. The first was "Shore Leave" earlier this year.

Stupefying Stories will be publishing "The Witch's Key" in its newest publication Theian Journal. I approved the copy edits a couple weeks ago, so I think that one is imminent.

Digital Science Fiction has "Catch a Fallen Star" and nine other stories in "Cosmic Hooey," which is one of the more imaginative titles I've ever seen for a collection. You can find that right here. And also Digital SF has accepted another of my stories for reprint, "Malfunction," which originally appeared in Ray Gun Revival.

And in a last bit of news,  World Weaver Press has nominated "Masks" in the Far Orbit Apogee anthology for the Pushcart Prize, which honors the best of the small press.


This weekend, I'm writing up my pitch for the "Joe Ledger: Unstoppable" anthology, in which I get to play in the world created by the super talented Jonathan Maberry. Amazingly, this book already has a Goodreads page, which you can go check out and goggle at the amazing writers whose work will be collected in these pages.

With all that going on, we're also getting ready for Christmas in the Hicks household. And today is also my husband's birthday, which means I now have to sign off to go finish making a nice breakfast. Happy birthday, Michael!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Writers of the Future, Quarter 4

Another quarter, another honorable mention. At least it feels that way sometimes. This was my second to last quarter. As of Jan. 1, I will really truly "pro-out" of the contest. That means have one shot left to win, or I never will. The good news is that I don't really need a win; my sales are coming along nicely without it. The whole point of this when I started was to get my foot in the door of the writing and publishing community, but I think I've already accomplished that. Go, me. Still, I would like to attend to the workshop, and meet the writers and judges, and be able to say I'm a winner. It's looking increasingly likely that will never happen. I'll give it my best in my last entry and maybe ...

So, the tally in 28 straight quarters:
  • Finalist: 1
  • Semi-finalist: 2
  • Silver honorable mention: 2
  • Honorable mention: 14
  • Rejection: 9

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Well, it's National Novel Writing Month. I never participate. I mean, write a novel in a month? When I have a 50-hour-a-week day job and kids? Not going to happen. But this year, I will participate in NaNoWriMo's lesser-known cousin, National Novel Finishing Month. That's manageable. I have a novel that is 3/4 done, and this month, I'm going to finish it. Two days in, I've written 2,000 words, and today I plan to write another 500 before heading off to work.

In other news: Digital Science Fiction has released a collection of its first 10 story publications, including my story "Catch a Fallen Star." It's called "Cosmic Hooey," and you can find it right here.

And now, because writing is more important than blogging (yes, it's true), I'm going to go write.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MileHiCon, publications and writing

Last week, I was on vacation from the day job. It was a staycation in which, for one glorious week, I got a window into what life might be like as a full-time fiction writer.

On Wednesday (Back to the Future Day), Nature: Futures published my time-travel story "Prime Time," which you can read right here. And you can read the origins of the story, too. (There are Daleks involved.)

Also, I received my contributor's copy of the Far Orbit Apogee anthology from World Weaver Press, which is all about space opera, one of my favorite subgenres.

And if that wasn't enough, Digital Science Fiction published a reprint of one of my all-time favorite stories, "Catch a Fallen Star," which you can purchase right here. (This is the seventh publication from Digital SF, with other stories published from great authors like Martin Shoemaker and Alex Kane. So check out the others, too!) Also, as I write this, my story is ranked No. 37 in the Kindle Store for short reads in science fiction and fantasy, and No. 97 in cyberpunk. Awesome.

MileHiCon from Friday-Sunday was a blast. I enjoyed my panels, and hanging out with friends I see only a couple times a year.

With all that going on, I still wrote at least 1K words on my novel each day. I don't have a final word count tallied for the week yet, but it'll land somewhere between 9K and 10K. That's as much as I usually do in a month when I'm also working at the day job.

And in a lovely coda to the week, my talented friend Dustin Adams has a super fun story today at Every Day Fiction, "Halloween O'Hungering," in which a hungry journalist named Jennifer hunts for food during the Denver Zombie Crawl. This might be "based on true events." Except for the part where she turns into a zombie.

Today, I'm back at the day job. The window is closing for now. But it gives me even more motivation to make writing my permanent, full-time job someday.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My MileHiCon schedule

MileHiCon starts tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Denver Tech Center. For the first time ever, I'm a participant instead of a member. I'm not scheduled to sign books, but I'm happy to scribble my name if you happen to own an anthology in which I have a story. I am doing a reading, panels and fan forums. Here's where to find me around the con:

4 p.m. Inside Writing Workshops: Clarion, Odyssey & More, Wind River B
Jennifer Campbell Hicks (m), Oz Drummond, Blair MacGregor, Emily Mah, Connie Willis

11 a.m. Once Upon a Time Fan Forum, BristleCone
Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Deena Larsen

8 p.m. Space Opera Discussion & Reading, Centennial
Michael Carroll, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Eytan Kollin, Patrick Swenson

2 p.m. Orphan Black Fan Forum, BristleCone
Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Paul Lell

4 p.m. Eulogies for the Lamented Departed, Mesa Verde A
Melissa Koop, Lou J. Berger, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Jessica Coyle, Rob S. Rice, Connie Willis

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Updatery time

Happy October, everyone!

Actually, October is one of my least favorite months because it means winter is right around the corner. Snow and me don't get along. I should be living in Miami, not Denver.

Here's what's going on in writing:
So, lots of good news.

Also, I will be at MileHiCon, Oct. 23-25. This convention is always a highlight of the year for me. This will be my first year participating on panels, and I might also be doing a reading. I'll post my schedule here when I get it. If you're around the convention, please stop me to say hi.

And things I'm reading:
  • "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline with my 11-year-old son. There are parts that aren't appropriate for him, so I'm editing as we go along. Overall, we are both absolutely loving this book. For the first time in a long time, my kiddo complains when I tell him we have to stop for the night and go to bed.
  • "Dawn" by Erin Hunter with my 8-year-old daughter. This is the third book in the second series about the Warrior Cats. This series is darker than the first one and gets a lot into the devastation that humans cause to the ecosystem when we rip up natural open areas to build houses and roads.
  • "Joe Ledger: Special Ops" by Jonathan Maberry. I've read three Joe Ledger novels, and now I'm jumping into the short story collection. I'm enjoying these stories a lot, more than the novels, which are also awesome. That's probably my natural inclination toward short fiction coming out.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Publication day! At Daily Science Fiction

It's "Found Day" over at Daily Science Fiction! I hope you enjoy it!

This is my third story in DSF and by far the most personal. If you read my notes at the bottom, you'd know that I wrote this story on the day someone very important to our family, our dog Buddy, died of lymphoma. We'd had Buddy for 10 years. When we came home from the vet office, our house was suddenly very empty. What I really wanted was to come home and see his smiling face and wagging tail at the door. So I went to that wishful place, and "Found Day" is the story that resulted from it. If today is Found Day, I hope you all find the thing you most want to find.

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.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sale! and other stuff

First, some happy news. I've sold my flash story "Found Day" to Daily Science Fiction. This will be my third appearance in DSF. If you're interested in checking out the first two times, they're here and here.

I am running into a problem, but it's a good problem. Right now I am selling stories faster than I can write them, and my submission numbers are dropping as a result.

In other news, in the day job, this is happening. Digital First Media's newspaper holdings include The Denver Post, where I spend 40 hours every week. Last year, DFM went up for sale. Today, we employees were informed that it's "not in the best interest of the shareholders" to sell at this time. Of course, being journalists in a newsroom, speculation is rampant about what exactly that means. Feeling a bit like a Ping-Pong ball. But, alas, that is the nature of the industry.

Other stuff I'm doing:
  • Reading "The Martian" by Andy Weir. It is awesome, and full of math and science in the very best way.
  • Rewatching Daredevil because I want to blog about how the show handles journalism, and newspaper journalism specifically.
  • Going to my kids' field day at school tomorrow. When I was elementary school, field day was about competition. There were first-, second- and third-place finishers. Now, there are no winners or losers and everyone gets a ribbon for participating. I get that the school doesn't want the not-athletic kids to feel bad. At the same time, the real world is competition, and shielding kids from that doesn't do them any favors.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What I'm reading

I've been making some progress in my Hugo reading. In the novel category, I've now read three of the five nominees:
  • "Ancillary Sword" by Ann Leckie. I've written a little about this one before. It isn't as impressive to me as the prequel, but it's still an entertaining book.
  • "The Three-Body Problem" by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu. I have never read a story like this one before. The science and math are fascinating. I especially enjoyed the sections involving the video game and the alien planet. My favorite of the ones I've read so far.
  • "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison, a k a Sarah Monette. This book isn't my thing, which isn't a comment on the quality of the book, only on my own personal preferences. The prose is good. The worldbuilding is cool. The story just never grabbed me.
Still on my reading list: "The Dark Between the Stars" by Kevin J. Anderson. I'm not sure whether I'll read the Jim Butcher nominee. That's only because I've been working my way through Butcher's series, and I don't want to spoil plot points for myself by jumping ahead.

And I'm always reading with my kids. The current bedtime books are:
  • "Rising Storm" by Erin Hunter. My daughter and I are close to the end of this one. I'm sad for some characters who have acted as mentors to Fireheart throughout the series. True to most stories, the young protagonist cannot come into his/her own until the mentors are removed, one way or another. Warrior Cats has a body count to rival Game of Thrones, and this is a series for kids.
  • "Speaker for the Dead" by Orson Scott Card. My son and I finished "Ender's Game" a couple nights ago and have started the sequel. He likes the piggies, but he's wondering where Ender is. I've warned him that Ender doesn't show up for almost 60 pages.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sale! To Far Obit: Apogee

I found out a couple days ago that my space opera adventure story "Masks" will be included in World Weaver Press' "Far Orbit: Apogee" anthology. Yeah! This is a story that I had a great time writing, and I hope you enjoy reading it when the anthology comes out later this year, along with 12 more science-fiction tales.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Publication Day! In Galaxy's Edge

My science-fiction short story "Shore Leave" is in this month's issue of Galaxy's Edge.

I'm proud of this story. It's one of my personal favorites, and I'm excited to finally share it with the world. It's about a girl who grows up at an isolated lighthouse with only her parents for company, unaware that the skies above are full of starships and human exploration, until one night when there's a knock at the lighthouse door.

Sometimes on publication days, I like to share how the story came about. Sometimes I can't remember. This one has quite a story behind the story.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, my husband Michael and I spent a week in San Diego. One afternoon, we visited the Cabrillo National Monument, where this beautiful lighthouse from the mid-1800s is located:

I've visited a few lighthouses, all on the East Coast, where the residence and lighthouse tower are separate structures. So the Old Point Loma Lighthouse fascinated me. We toured the inside. We viewed the exhibits in the building next door. On the wall was painted a quote from a child about what it was like to grow up there. That quote got me thinking. While we walked around the grounds, my husband said to me, "You're too quiet. You're thinking about a story, aren't you?" After a decade of marriage, he knows me well.

I wrote the story in my notebook. I started that night in our hotel room and continued over the next few days, in airports, on airplanes. When we got home, I typed the story on my laptop, took a day to polish and sent it off to Writers of the Future. I had never before (or since) gone from concept for submission on a non-flash short story so fast.

A few months later, I got a call. I had been chosen as a finalist. A month after that, another call: I didn't win. But that's OK. It was heartbreaking at the time. Now I am so happy that Mike Resnick accepted "Shore Leave" for publication in Galaxy's Edge, and in this issue in particular. There's a little-before-seen story by Robert Heinlein, and a new story from Larry Niven. There's also Harry Turtledove, Nancy Kress, Gregory Benford and others ... and me.

I hope you'll go read the story, and I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Publication Day! In Nature: Futures

"Transference," my little story about dogs and gods, is published today. You can read it online here. It's also in the April 23 edition of Nature magazine. You can also read how the story came about right here. This is my first publication in Nature. It has been a wonderful experience, and I hope you enjoy the story.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What I'm watching: Daredevil

I've never watched one of Netflix's original series before. But this one is about a Marvel superhero, created by Drew Goddard and Steven DeKnight, and stars Charlie Cox and Debra Ann Woll. Great start. Plus, I'm hearing a lot from Facebook friends about how awesome it is. So I watched the first two episodes yesterday, and I will attempt to resist the urge to binge the rest of them today (because I have other things to get done). To illustrate the awesomeness of this show, I give you the final scene from Episode 2. I wish the clip would have included the minute or so before and after, but here you go:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What I'm reading

Mostly, I'm reading for the Hugos right now. That will probably continue for a month or two. But as always, I'm also reading with my kids.

Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, by Anne Leckie
I read these back to back over the past two weeks. I like them both. I can see how the first one dominated the major awards in the SF field last year. The second one isn't as focused, the protagonist's goals not as clear, and therefore I didn't enjoy it as much. But it's still a good book and worthy of its place on the Hugo ballot.

I've also read the short story "Goodnight Stars" by Annie Bellet, which she has sadly withdrawn from the ballot, though I understand her reasons. And the novella "Flow" by Arlan Andrews, Sr.

Next up in my Hugo reading: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

Warrior Cats series, by Erin Hunter
My 8-year-old daughter loves loves loves this series. We're now on Book 4, which I think is called Rising Storm. I read two pages, then she reads one. When we started Book 1, she read haltingly and had difficulty sounding out words. Now she's reading fluently with only occasional word issues. With those sorts of results, I'm willing to read to the end of the series with her, if she wants. That's dozens of books, by the way.

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
This is the book I'm reading with my 11-year-old son. I've read it on my own several times before. It's one of my favorite books of all time. I'm excited to share it with one of my kids. We're about halfway through it, and he has already figured out part of the twist at the end. That makes him more perceptive than I was at his age, when I read it for the first time.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stuff that's not Hugos

On my Facebook feed and the writers' boards that I frequent, all anyone seems to want to talk about is the Hugos and Puppygate. In the interest of pulling away from that, here are other things going on in my life that do not involve writers grumbling about the Hugos.
  • My family is getting toward the end of its annual birthday-palooza. One of my sons turns 11 tomorrow. During the past three weeks, my other son turned 19 and my daughter turned 8. Also in there, birthdays for my dad, sister, niece and cousin.
  • My husband and I celebrate our 12th anniversary next week.
  • I'm starting work on co-writing a story with two-time Writers of the Future finalist Dustin Adams. It's our first time writing together. I'm excited to see where the story goes.
  • I've hit the halfway point in the novel. Which is so say I'm being a very slow writer. It has taken me nine months to get this far. I will have to light a fire under my butt to get a first draft done by summer.
  • The new dog is working out. She's still a sweetie, but she doesn't yet understand what is an acceptable chew toy and what isn't. Last night's casualty: a stuffed dog that my Aunt Julie, who tragically died a few years ago, gave to me when I was a kid. The stuffed dog is repairable. I hope.
  • I'm reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. It's really good. Next up is the sequel.
  • Outlander came back on Sunday, but I haven't had time to watch the episode yet because I've been swamped with reading, writing, birthday preparations and the new dog.
  • Life is pretty good.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hugo nominations

Yesterday, this happened.

And there was much outrage and celebration. Not from the same people.

The Twitter and Facebook explosions were like a train wreck. Kind of awful, but in a "can't look away" kind of way.

There was some "What is this Sad Puppies thing?" And, "Who the heck is John C. Wright?" I know about the former. I know very little about the latter. Except anyone who lacks the grace to turn down all but one nomination in a given category is going to have to work doubly hard to win me over.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, which I will try to put down in words. (I'm a writer, so I do that sometimes.)

First off, congratulations to the nominees. Especially Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Kary English. All class acts as human beings and great at what they do. My mixed feelings about the Hugos aren't about any individual. The nominees have all worked hard and deserve this moment.

My comments also aren't about the majority of the people who participated in the nomination process. As was pointed out to me yesterday, voters are not mindless drones following an agenda. Many people who turned in a ballot had thoughtful reasons for their picks. I respect that, even though I might not agree with some of your choices.

However, I suspect there were those who did vote for a specific slate of stories because those stories were recommended by certain people. Some of those stories might be fantastic and deserve to be on the ballot and would have been there anyway. I don't know because I haven't read them yet. I'm reserving judgment until I do read them. I'm willing to give every nominee the benefit of the doubt.

Here's where the mixed feelings part comes in.

I'm very excited for certain people who are nominated. I would have nominated them, too, had I participated in this process. But I didn't. I'm kicking myself for not having offered up my picks for the ballot. Partly because I don't think I have much latitude for criticizing if I didn't vote. Partly because the overall slate is not the slate I would have chosen.

I read some great stuff that came out last year and thought to myself at the time, "I hope this gets a Hugo nomination." None of those stories are on the final ballot. Not a single one. Would my one vote have made a difference? Probably not. But at least I would have made the effort.

The Hugos really mean something to me. When I was a kid, the little badge on the cover of a book that said "Hugo winner" made me feel awe. A Hugo meant that this novel or story was the best of the best, chosen solely on the quality of the work.

Then I got older, and somewhat less na├»ve. The Hugos strike me more like a high school election for prom queen and king. Popularity is a big factor. So is politics. Would I have liked to have been on the ballot for prom queen? Sure, why not? It never would have happened, but it would have been fun. Which is why I don't begrudge anyone their place in the spotlight. Enjoy it. I sure would.

But here's the thing: No one takes a prom election seriously. The results aren't regarded with the sort of awe I felt as a kid, reading a bone fide Hugo winner.

The Hugos should be more.

Which is why I cling to my childhood ideals of how the Hugos should work. This should be about the fans honoring excellence in science fiction and fantasy literature, free of all other considerations and outside opinions. It should be about quality and artistry. Each voter's picks should be their own, and the best work should rise to the top.

This year, there's at least the perception that's not happening. That the process has been gamed and tainted.

I'm going to put my money where my ideals are. When it comes to the final ballot, I will vote, as I should have done in the nominating process. I will buy the supporting membership and read all the things (or at least as many of the things as I can get to and/or stomach).

If a story is deserving, in my estimation, I'll give it a spot on my ballot. If I don't think it's deserving, I will leave it off entirely. "No award" is an option. As I said, this isn't the ballot I would have chosen, but it's the ballot we've been handed. I'll give the nominated stories a fair chance on their own merits, not on the politics and controversy behind them.

I'll vote as I think everyone should vote, and how a lot of people do vote. Not everyone. But a lot. No political machinery. No social outrage. No Twitter wars. Just me and the story.

And then we'll see.

Will my one vote make a difference? Again, probably not. I will watch the livestream of the winners announced at WorldCon and know that I made an effort.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March stats

We are already one-fourth done with 2015. In March, I finished and submitted a story to Writers of the Future (my 26th entry there). I sold a story to Nature Futures. I proofed the galleys for two stories that will be publishing in the coming weeks, to Nature and Galaxy's Edge. I wrote another couple chapters in the novel. I finished a novella that will probably never get submitted anywhere because, really, it wants to be a novel (and will be, someday).

In March:
  • Stories completed: 2
  • New submissions: 3
  • Stories out on submission: 6
  • Acceptances: 1

In first quarter, 2015:
  • Submissions: 14
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 2
  • Stories pending publication: 4

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Say hi to Krissy

As of this morning, the doggie adoption is finalized, and we have a new family member.

Her name is Krissy, and we adopted her from All Aboard Animal Rescue. If you're thinking about adopting a dog in the Denver or Fort Collins areas, I recommend this group. They're nice and helpful, and the process was smooth and easy. Also, I will always encourage rescuing an animal rather than buying from a breeder or pet store.

 Krissy is a beagle/hound mix, about a year old, rescued from a shelter from a state somewhere south of Colorado. She's sweet, smart and likes to give kisses. I haven't heard her bark once, though she does whine occasionally. She loves to be with her people and follows me all over the house, even when I'm not in the kitchen. She's fantastic on a leash.

We do have some training work ahead of us. Also, beagles are food hounds, which means Krissy is like a little vacuum, sniffing around every nook and cranny on the hunt for crumbs. We've done some house-cleaning in the past week to make sure Legos, marbles and such are off the floor. She also likes to chew, especially shoelaces, as my daughter learned last night when hers ended up in several pieces.

Krissy is smaller than we were thinking for our next dog. Our late and dearly missed boxer mix Buddy was about 55 pounds. Krissy is half that size. We all miss having a large dog and might get a bigger friend for Krissy a some later date.

It's a strange feeling having a dog in the house who's not Buddy. We had him for 10 years, and he really was an important part of our family. He felt irreplaceable. I want to love and appreciate Krissy for the energetic cutie she is. At the same time, I feel a little guilty about, well, replacing Buddy.

But I hope he would understand that we missed owning a dog and he would be happy that Krissy, like himself 10 years ago when we saved him from a shelter, now has a family and a home.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The "Heroes" reboot

I'm going to detour for a day from writing to television.

The casting news on "Heroes Reborn" has been coming with dizzying speed recently. I blogged about the reboot right here when it was announced in February 2014 and about my mixed feelings on the original run of the show. First season, fantastic. Everything else, not so much. More than a year after the announcement, I thought I'd share my thoughts on how the reboot seems to be shaping up.

Mostly what we know is casting news. A year ago, I said my wish list for the reboot included the characters of Peter, Claire, Hiro and Sylar. I also said I didn't think any of the actors who portrayed those characters would return, but I'm happy to find I was wrong. Today, the news came out that Masi Oka will reprise his role as Hiro Nakamura, a time traveler with childlike enthusiasm who delivered the series' most famous line, "Save the cheerleader, save the world." Hiro was the beating heart of the original show, while Jack Coleman's Noah Bennett (who has been attached to the reboot for some time) was its intellect. That both are coming back will go long way toward creating a bridge between the old and the new.

Then there are the new additions. The two I'm most pumped about are Zachary Levi and Robbie Kay. Back when I blogged about "Heroes" a year ago, I said I would love to see NBC also bring back "Chuck." Well, bringing back Zachary Levi in "Heroes" is almost as good. And Robbie Kay was fantastic as an evil Peter Pan on another of my favorite shows, "Once Upon a Time."

The other recent news is that the new "Heroes" has been pushed back from summer to fall. I don't know the reasons for the change, but I don't think it bodes well for ratings. A summer miniseries seemed just about perfect, while the show will face a lot more competition for attention in the fall.

Verdict: I'm still optimistic about this reboot but also wary because of how quickly the original series' storylines went downhill after season one. They have the acting side covered. Now the writers need to give us a self-contained story that doesn't go off the rails.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let's talk about flash fiction

I write a lot of flash.

I also sell a decent amount of it. I haven't counted how many, but I'd guess about 2/3 of my sales are flash-length fiction, which is defined in most places as 1,000 words or less. My flash stories have been published in markets including Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex and Every Day Fiction. My most recent flash sale is to Nature Futures.

I don't sell every flash story I write. Some are real stinkers and rightfully get trunked.

There are writers out there who sell more flash, and those who edit or read slush for magazines that publish flash-length stories, and they're probably more qualified to talk about flash than I am. I'm going to do it anyway.

For starters, I think flash is underappreciated. Example: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, also known as SFWA, won't let you in as an associate member with the sale of a flash-length story to a qualifying, professional market. Your sale must be a minimum of 1,000 words.

Considering the SFWA rules, you'd think writing flash was easy, that anyone can do it, and that's why it doesn't count. Flash seems to have that kind of reputation, but it's wrong.

Flash isn't easy to write. No, let me revise that: Good flash isn't easy to write. It's the same as for any length of fiction. Anyone can pound out 5,000 words of crap, but writing a good short story takes skill and practice. I might go so far as to say there's an art to writing a good flash piece.

The challenge of writing flash is, of course, telling a complete story in a few hundred words. You need a compelling premise. You need characters and setting. You need an inciting incident, rising action, a climax and a resolution. That's all the things you need in a longer piece, but you have to do it in a very compact space.

How do you pull that off? Here's my advice:

Keep it simple. Two characters. Three at the most. A plot with one major conflict to resolve. A setting that will be familiar enough to readers that a few well-chosen, well-placed words can serve as your setup. If you get into complicated world-building, chances are the story won't work at flash length.

I read a good analogy once, though I don't remember where, which means I can't give credit where it's due, but here it is. A novel is when the writer invites you into their home and you get to peer into all the nooks and crannies. A short story is when you take in the house by standing in the doorway. A flash is when you stand outside and peer through the window.

But simple doesn't mean boring. No matter what length you're writing at, you need to hook your readers. You need an interesting premise, a compelling story.

In a flash fiction, you can't beat around the bush. No complicated setup. You have to get to the hook fast. Your inciting incident should come no later than 100 words in. That doesn't give you permission to tell instead of show simply because it's more efficient. Prose is important. So are correct grammar, punctuation and syntax.

A lot of flash stories end with a twist. I've ended some that way. If you use a twist, make sure you foreshadow it. However you end the story, closure is important. You need a resolution.

My last bit of advice: No cat stories. I've heard this time and time again. The slush readers will thank you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sale! "Transference" to Nature Futures

I signed the contract today, so I feel pretty safe sharing the news that my flash story "Transference" has been accepted for publication in Nature Futures. Yes, that Nature. The weekly journal of science whose articles often get attention in the media. So, this is quite awesome.

It occurred to me this morning that I sell an awful lot of flash fiction, which for those who don't know is generally defined as a story of 1,000 words or less. In fact, the majority of my sales over the years have been of flash-length fiction.

That's partly because flash is faster to write than longer stories. I can write two or three flash stories in the same amount of time it takes for me to write a short story. But it's not any easier. There's an art to writing a complete story with characters and setting, and a beginning, middle and end, in under 1,000 words. I'll do some thinking about how I go about writing flash and work up a blog post with my do's and don't's sometime in the near future.

In non-writing news ... Two months ago, my family lost our beloved dog Buddy to lymphoma. I knew at some point that we would want to get a new dog, but I didn't know how long that would take. Weeks? Months? It seems I now have an answer. We decided this week that it's time. We're still grieving for Buddy, but we're also ready to welcome a new canine member of the family, so we'll be going to a rescue group adoption event this weekend.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Stats for February

OK, I'm a few days late. But here we go.

My word count was around 11,000:
  • 7,000 on a novella
  • 3,000 on a short story
  • 1,000 on the novel

After I finish the novella in the next day or two, I plan to devote March to the novel, which I'm not nearly as far along in as I think I should be. I hope to write a chapter per week this month.

Submission stats:
  • Stories completed: 0
  • New submissions: 4
  • Stories out on submission: 5
  • Acceptances: 0

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar picks

We're on Day 3 of snow here in the Denver metro area, with more than a foot in most places and counting. The wind chill is -6. The roads are a solid sheet of ice. And I'm at work, putting together the nation and world section and waiting for the Oscars to begin. Later tonight, I get to attempt to drive home in these beautiful conditions, but first, my Oscar picks.

Of the Best Picture nominees, I have seen exactly one: Boyhood. I watched it a few days ago on DVD. Other nominees I've seen: How to Train Your Dragon 2, Lego Movie and every movie nominated in the visual effects category except for the Planet of the Apes sequel. That's it. So keep that in mind when my picks crash and burn.

Best picture: Boyhood
Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Supporting actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Directing: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Cinematography: Birdman
Animated feature film: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Costume design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Feature documentary: Citizenfour
Short subject documentary: Joanna
Film editing: Boyhood
Foreign language film: Ida
Makeup and hairstyling: Foxcatcher
Music: The Theory of Everything
Song: Everything is Awesome, Lego Movie
Production design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Short animated film: Feast
Short live action film: Boogaloo and Graham
Sound editing: American Sniper
Sound mixing: American Sniper
Visual effects: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Adapted screenplay: The Theory of Everything
Original screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Publication Day! At Perihelion Science Fiction

My short story "Loopholes" is live today at Perihelion Science Fiction.

Here's a tease of the opening to whet your appetite to read more:
Melinda Kronen slid a tablet across her desk and waved at the screen. “This is why I asked you here today, Dr. Jansen.” 
Peter took off his glasses and wiped them on his old tweed jacket. He felt grossly out of place here. The spacious office was furnished in trendy metallics without a single bookshelf or comfortable chair in sight. And Melinda, while more personable than he had expected for a business executive, wore a black suit that Peter would have expected to see in court or at a funeral. 
He glanced at the tablet screen. “It’s a man,” he said. 
“Not exactly. Look closer.”

I don't have a cool, behind-the-scenes, making-of story on this one. I got an idea for a present-day company whose business is time travel and the complications that might result if a traveler came back in time and refused to leave. Then I wrote it. And I'm very happy that I can now share the story with all of you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stats for January

I have started 2015 in a good way, with one caveat. I intended to spend the month working on the novel and got sidetracked by other projects, specifically a story that I'll most likely send to Writers of the Future this quarter. Here's how the writing sausage got made in January:

My word count was 11,700 or so, broken down as:
  • 6,500 on a novella
  • 2,000 on the novel
  • 2,200 on three flashes
  • 1,000 on an outline

Also there was this:
  • Stories completed: 3
  • Submissions: 7
  • Stories out on submission: 6
  • Acceptances: 1

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sale! To Perihelion Science Fiction

I've signed the contract, so I can share the news that my short story "Loopholes" has been accepted for publication at Perihelion Science Fiction. This is the acceptance I mentioned a few days ago that happened in a half-hour, which makes editor Sam Bellotto Jr. the most efficient editor I have ever had the privilege to work with.

And I have a second acceptance to crow about. I received the acceptance last year, and am signing the contract today, for my short story "Street Rat" to appear in Abyss & Apex. This will be my first short story in Abyss & Apex, which last year published my flash story "To See Sarah."

So, at least in terms of writing, 2015 is starting off as an excellent year.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My family dog

This is Buddy.

In May 2005, my husband and sons and I rescued him from a flea- and tick-infested animal shelter that was hardly better than a shack. The little brown mutt worked his way into our hearts right from the start, and we took him home and adopted him into our family.

Jump forward to today, almost 10 years later. Buddy died this afternoon after a struggle with cancer.

He was a 55-pound boxer mix. I didn't know until two weeks ago, when the diagnosis came in, that dogs could even get cancer, let alone that boxers were especially susceptible.

I know he was only one dog of millions, and dogs are born and die every day. Nothing special. But Buddy was special to me. He was the one who greeted me with tail wagging every night when I got home from work. He was the one I took for a walk every morning, up until two weeks ago, when he didn't have the strength anymore. He was the one whose hair I picked out of my sweaters and probably will continue to do so for many months to come, even though he's gone.

My kids called him "The best dog in the world."

He probably wasn't. But he was the best dog for us.

I want to tell you a story.

A couple years ago, when my daughter was in afternoon kindergarten, we walked to school and took Buddy with us. One sunny, warm day, a dog as big as Buddy ran out of an open garage door and sprinted right at us, barking like mad. My daughter jumped behind me. Before I could really react, Buddy had put himself right between us and the charging, barking dog, crouched down and growled. That dog came to a very abrupt halt.

The dog's owner came running out a few seconds later, apologizing to me. She said that her dog was friendly. Once Buddy had assessed there was no danger, he and the other dog sniffed tails and started to play. But when Buddy thought we were in danger, he put himself right in harm's way to protect us.

That's the kind of dog he was. Sweet and loyal, and also fiercely protective.

I'm going to miss our walks, and his friendly mug greeting me at the door after work, and playing tug-of-war and fetch, and how he curled up next to me on the floor.

I already miss him. He was part of our family.

He was the best dog in the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New experiences

Some of my writing colleagues have a "bingo card," with each square an achievement that the writer wants to reach. I don't have a bingo card. But I've had two experiences this week that would be on my card if such a card existed.

Yes, I will be boasting in this post. You're warned.

In the first experience, through the magic of Google, I stumbled across an online class for adults who are learning English as a second language. The instructor based an entire lesson around my story "Star Box," which is in the current issue of Flash Fiction Online. I watched the hour-long video of the class. It felt a bit like eavesdropping, I'll admit. The main point is: A story I wrote was the subject of an English lesson. Achievement unlocked.

The second experience came this afternoon, when I submitted a story and received an acceptance a half-hour later. That's super fast. Really, it says more about the editor than it does about me. Still, I've never recorded a "0-day acceptance" before. Definitely a bingo card square. That the acceptance comes from an excellent semi-pro market makes it that much sweeter. I will crow with more details once I've signed the contract.

These have been bright spots in an otherwise difficult week. Thank goodness for bright spots.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What I'm reading

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to read more. So here's what I have read so far this year and what I'm reading now:
  • The King's Deryni, Katherine Kurtz. I got this for Christmas. I've read every one of Kurtz's Deryni books up until now. I'm about 100 pages into this one and enjoying it so far.
  • Flash Fiction Online, January issue. OK, so I have a story in there, so I'm biased. I enjoyed the other two stories as well.
  • Galaxy's Edge, January issue. I'm working my way through it. So far I've read the Heinlein reprint "All You Zombies" and "In Secrets, Absolution" by Andrea G. Stewart. Both good. I recommend Stewart's story.
  • Asimov's Science Fiction, February issue. I'm about a third of the way through Nick Wolven's novella “On the Night of the Robo-Bulls and Zombie Dancers.” I like the idea behind it, of a pill that allows humans to stop sleeping and the unintended consequences of that.
  • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins. This is the book I'm reading to my kids right now. For me, it's a reread, but it's been a couple years.

And for a bonus, some books I have on my reading list for this year:
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • The Slow Silent Regard of Things by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • Lock In by John Scalzi
  • Dangerous Visions, anthology, ed. Harlan Ellison

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolutions for 2015

New year, new goals. Here we go.

1. Beat my submission total from 2014.
This is my goal every year, to beat the number of story submissions I made in the previous year. The number to beat: 39. If I do 40 submissions, that comes to an average of 3.3 submission per month.

2. Finish the novel.
I am about 30K into the urban fantasy novel that I workshopped last summer at KU. That's probably about 1/3 done. I would like to finish the novel by July 1, which would make it one year after the workshop. We'll see how that goes. If I were only writing the novel, I could do this easily, but I have other projects.

3. Read more.
I didn't read as many novels or short fiction pieces last year as I wanted to. After the day job, family and writing, I don't have much time left in the day for reading, which is sad. I love to read. So I'll use my blog this year to keep account of what I've read, and maybe that will help me to read more.

4. Keep losing weight.
Last year, I lost 5 pounds. This year, I want to lose another 5 pounds. I need to get back into a exercise routine and exert self-control over my diet. (In a side note, I read this story from the Washington Post about how only 5 percent of morbidly obese people who say they want to lose weight actually reach their goal. Among the rest of us, 92 percent fail to reach our New Year's goal. The best solution is prevention: avoid putting on extra weight in the first place.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Publication Day! "Star Box" at Flash Fiction Online

I woke up groggy this morning (and not because of some wild partying last night, unless you count watching Penguins of Madagascar cartoons until midnight with my daughter),  but it definitely helped to see that my story "Star Box" is published in the January issue at Flash Fiction Online. There's a wonderful illustration by Dario Bijelac. Here's a snippet:
The Old Man opened the old wooden box and lifted out Betelgeuse, red and shining, and the other stars of Orion followed like pearls on a string. He arranged the constellation on his work table. Orion’s shoulders and legs were the brightest points, and the belt glowed blue.
Because you were nice enough to drop by my blog, I'll share a little behind-the-scenes on this story. This is my only story published that has its origins in my childhood. No I didn't climb through a window and find a man with a box of stars, though that would have been awesome. I did look out at the stars at night and wonder where they went during the day. Instead doing of the intelligent thing, which would be to pose the question to my parents, I made up an answer. I decided that there must be a man out there, maybe God, who kept the stars in a box during the day and opened the box to let them out at night. I believed this until I was probably 4 or 5, when someone (I don't know who) must have explained the truth to me. But 35 years later, I still remember my childhood belief in the star box.