Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Received Results for Writers of the Future Contest, Quarter One

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Folks, a while back I told you all that I’d sent off my last-ever story to the Writers of the Future Contest. I was under the impression that once my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, was out, I would be ineligible.

I was wrong.**

But as I didn’t know it, the submission I sent in for the first quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest’s 2014 cycle meant a great deal to me.

You see, I was looking over one of my husband Michael’s incomplete novels. This novel, MINIATURES, features a space Naval officer who had been a Marine non-com for over fifty years, and who was more or less shanghaied into the Navy against his wishes.***

And I’d always wanted to know more about this character, Peter . . . so I wrote a story around 2,000 words of Michael’s writing, to explain just what had happened to Peter that caused him to go from a job he loved — being a Marine Sergeant-Major — to a job he really didn’t want to do, but didn’t actively despise — a Naval Ensign.

Michael’s novel picks up after Peter has become a Naval officer, you see. But one of the earliest parts of his novel discusses just how Peter meets up with his were-mouse (a companion who’s far more than an animal; were-mice are more like an allied species) while Peter’s on leave. Michael’s novel had this pivotal scene in a place where Peter had finished his training but hadn’t yet been assigned to a ship . . . yet it didn’t seem to make sense that way.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there was much more to the story. So I wrote about what Peter had done that was so heroic that he’d be given a prestigious medal and taken from the service he loved — the Marines — and put into the Navy, where he’d never wanted to be. And flying starships seemed to be a part of it, as Peter loved to fly and could fly anything you care to name . . . but the Marines hadn’t officially known about it.

Because Marines, most especially non-coms, do not fly starships. They are ground troops. Maybe a few of them fly shuttlecraft. But Peter does a lot more than that, and because he basically had to take charge after nearly all the officers were killed (and the few who weren’t were already in Sickbay), that’s why he got the medal. And that’s why he also bonded with his were-mouse, because his were-mouse companion also loves to fly.

And as Michael already had this — yes, he did have this pivotal bit of information already in the text — why not write a story that made much more out of these events?

So that’s exactly what I did, adding seven thousand words or so to the story to make it all work out.

The story’s name is “To Survive the Maelstrom.” It won an honorable mention in the first quarter of the Writers of the Future contest. This is the first time I’ve ever had that honor — and it’s also the first time Michael had that honor.

I’m glad that “To Survive the Maelstrom” won an honorable mention, as it does validate, at least in part, what I’m trying to do in keeping Michael’s work alive while doing my best to add to it.

I will be sending “To Survive the Maelstrom” out to the various markets, including the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (they’re always the first ones I try), and if F&SF doesn’t like it, I’ll try it at Lightspeed. And Analog. And Asimov’s . . . and, down the line, if I can’t interest anyone in it, I will put it up for sale myself.

Because I believe in this story. I believe in my husband’s writing, and my own, and I think the combination of the two of our talents made for an exceptional short story — something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

And yes . . . now that I know I’m still eligible (as it’s unlikely that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will sell 5,000 copies any time soon, much less before June 30, 2014, the next quarter’s deadline), I’m going to try another story at the Writers of the Future Contest.

Why not?


**AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is unlikely to sell 5,000 copies, most particularly not before June 30, 2014, the end of the next quarter for the Writers of the Future Contest. So because of that — and because my professional publications still stand at 1.5 (one co-written story with Michael, one alone) that have sold or will sell 5,000 copies — I am still eligible. Heard that from the Contest Administrator’s own e-mail, earlier this evening.

***BTW, the main reason MINIATURES hasn’t already been published is that I cannot find the final fourteen chapters. At all. Once I do, I will incorporate what I’ve written in “To Survive the Maelstrom” and just keep on running . . . Michael would approve.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 30, 2014 at 2:37 am

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