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.