Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Writers of the Future contest

Some Good News, Some Bad News…

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Folks, I have the proverbial “good news, bad news” update to foist upon you today.

First, the good news. A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE will definitely be out in mid-September of 2015 — meaning a month from now — and a small blurb has been put up at the Twilight Times Books site reflecting what A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE is all about:

As the blurb says:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by Dennis the Dark Elf, with Sarah’s parents’ help. Things look bleak, but Bruno and Sarah have a few allies no one could possibly expect – human, Elfy, and ghosts. Can young love and desperation win out despite it all?

And before you ask — no, I still don’t have cover art.

The bad news? Well, my second quarter story at the Writers of the Future contest, despite being out longer than any other story I’ve ever had, didn’t do anything. It came up with a flat rejection after 137 days.

This particular story is close to my heart in many ways; it is post-apocalyptic military SF with romance.

Now, there is a bit of interesting byplay here, in that I’m reasonably convinced I will be able to sell this elsewhere. (If not as a novella, as a novel.) So my efforts with this story haven’t been wasted…but of course I’m not happy that I’ve come up with yet another rejection at the WotF Contest.

Look. I’ve been trying submissions there for fourteen years now. (Does this mean I don’t know when to quit? I don’t know. It’s just how I am.) I’ve tried just about everything. I’ve tried magical realism. I’ve tried straight SF. I’ve tried fantasy. I’ve tried fantasy/romance. I’ve tried military SF — which is where my two honorable mentions come from — and now I’ve tried this one.

Which got me nowhere.

I do have a submission in already for Quarter 3. I can’t tell you what it is. I can tell you I’d be utterly astonished if this story does anything…not that it’s not a good story, because I think it is, but I don’t think it’s right for the market.

“So, Barb, why did you send it there, then?” you might be asking.

Because I like to submit something to the WotF Contest, just on the off-chance that lightning strikes. I need the boost to my career that the WotF Contest often provides. It seems to provide instant name recognition, which as a small press/indie author I need very badly…and it also gets your name in front of agents and bigger publishers. (Though even so, you still have to be very careful about whatever contracts you might sign. The reputable publishers will tell you that, but in case you’re not sure of the difference between a reputable pub and a disreputable pub, try either Writer Beware or Preditors and Editors. They’ll set you straight.)

Other than that, I wanted to mention that the Racine Concert Band’s free summer concert series at the Racine Zoo is coming to an end later tonight. Show starts at 7 p.m., and soloists this week are Greg and Kathy Berg (vocalists) and Nancy Quist, trumpet.

Hope to see you there!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2015 at 2:19 am

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

Heard from the WotF Contest . . .

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Folks, I didn’t expect that I’d still be able to send off my story — the one I told you about a few days ago that I carefully did not identify — to the Writers of the Future contest (WotF for short).  (Please see my last post for further details; just hit the “back” button.)  But I heard from the Contest Administrator, Joni, who said that under the circumstances, she’d accept my entry.

(Perhaps I wasn’t the only person who had this problem?)

At any rate, the story is away.  We’ll see what happens . . . it’s possible that sending it today (as I just received the e-mail today) is too late to be entered into the WotF contest for last quarter.

If so, I’ll send it to Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), as previously planned.

But if they do accept it, I hope this will be the entry that finally gets noticed.  It truly was my final attempt after eleven long years of trying.  And as it’s based off an unfinished story of my late husband Michael’s — though I did much rearranging to suit myself, and wrote over two-thirds of it in the process — it has even more meaning.

Speaking of stories of my late husband’s, I’d appreciate it if you’d go to Amazon and check out Michael’s Adventures of Joey Maverick series.  (Please go here and here for further details.)  They’re both tales of military science fiction, one set on a low-tech sailing vessel, the other at a space station.  I edited these stories and completed them to the best of my ability . . . if you want to support my and Michael’s writing, this is the best way to do so.

But there are two other ways if you would rather read something else . . . my story “On the Making of Veffen” is included in HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, while my co-written story with Michael, “Bright as Diamonds,” is included in BEDLAM’S EDGE.  (Even though I have been led to believe that the latter anthology never earned out, it’s possible it may someday, and if so, I’d perhaps get some more money out of it.  But  even if it never does, I’m proud of our story and I want people to read it.)

If you’re waiting for ELFY, though, I guess I can understand that . . . though really, I’d prefer it if you’d buy everything I ever wrote, just because it makes it a little easier to keep going in this crazy business.

Anyway, the story is off and I’ve done what I can . . . now to figure out what else I can send to F&SF.

Finished a New Story . . .

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Now that I’ve gotten the good wishes out of the way, it’s time to talk turkey. I haven’t blogged much over the past ten days because of the holidays. I had to take some time off, because the pace of the last year, post-bronchitis anyway, was almost too hectic to be borne.

But for whatever reason, idle time and me just do not seem to go together. So I had the idea for a new story — well, new to me, anyway, as it’s based on an unfinished story of my late husband Michael — about a week ago.  I adapted Michael’s story and used about 3,000 words of it, then wrote 6,000-plus words around it to make it all fit.

Note I’m not giving you too many details of this story. There’s a reason for that — I was attempting to send it to the Writers of the Future (WotF) contest in order to make one, final try.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know full well I’ve been entering that contest for eleven solid years.  I haven’t sent in a submission every single quarter, no.  But every year, I’ve sent in at least one story.

And every time, my entry sunk like a stone.

This year, my story was ready at 11:50 p.m. on New Year’s Eve PST, which is the time zone of the WotF website.  (Note that it was 1:55 a.m. New Year’s Day CST, in my own time zone.)  So I went to the WotF website, and attempted to upload my file.

. . . but nothing happened.

Why? Well, the site had inexplicably decided to stop accepting submissions early.  Usually, they will accept up until 11:59:59 p.m. PST (that is, eleven fifty-nine and fifty-nine seconds), but not this time.

So after all that work,  my lovely 8600-word story (I pruned 1000 words on the advice of my long-suffering friend and first reader) didn’t end up getting sent.

Talk about frustration.

I did, of course, let WotF know that their site did something hinky and I wasn’t able to get my submission in through no fault of mine. But it’s like spitting in the wind. They’re most likely going to say that I can send the story in for the next quarter (once it opens; the site is still not up as of this hour, though normally it would be as the new quarter has started and submissions usually start right away at the stroke of 12:00:00 a.m. PST), so I should just do that.

But as the first half of ELFY should be out in early April (meaning it could be out by the end of March, as publication dates can be flexible on either end), I most likely will be ineligible.

So this was my last try . . . in more ways than one.

For those of you who’ve never submitted anything to WotF, you might be wondering why this is.  I’m still a writer who most people don’t know about, I haven’t made many Science Fiction Writers of America-eligible sales (two, now, though the first was shared with Michael so it technically counted as half a sale), and I certainly could use the exposure and help that winning any prize in the WotF contest could bring.

But once you’ve published a novel — whether it’s self-publishing or traditional publishing — you are ineligible.

That’s why my niece, Jennifer Lunde, is ineligible; she self-published her novel PULSE through Lulu back in 2010.  That’s one reason my friend Jason Cordova is ineligible, though he’s actually eligible to apply for the SFWA as he has at least six qualifying sales to his credit by my count, as Twilight Times Books — which is as reputable a small press as they come, and is now my professional home as well — published his novel CORRUPTOR in 2010.

But maybe there’s a silver lining in the fact I couldn’t get my story into the WotF contest.

The venerable magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) has announced they’re going to have a guest editor, C.C. Finlay, for it’s July/August 2014 issue (details can be found here). Better still, Finlay will be accepting electronic submissions — a first for F&SF — between January 1 and January 14 of this month.

Mind you, F&SF has never been interested in anything I’ve sent them, just as WotF has never been interested, either.  But it’s a New Year, I’m an optimist, and I believe my time is now.

So what are my plans at this point for my poor, beleaguered story? If WotF won’t accept it, I will send it to Mr. Finlay in the next few days.

Wish me luck?

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 1, 2014 at 4:55 am

SF&F Writer K.D. Wentworth Dies at 61

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Folks, I feel terrible that I missed the initial announcement, but here it is: on April 18, 2012, Kathy Wentworth (known as K.D. Wentworth in SF&F fandom) passed away due to complications from cervical cancer.  She was 61 years old.  (Please see more here.)

I met Wentworth in 2005 at ConQuesT in Kansas City; she kindly signed a copy of THE COURSE OF EMPIRE, the first book she co-wrote with Eric Flint, for me that day.  (If you haven’t read it, THE COURSE OF EMPIRE is one of the best SF books of the past ten years; you really should get this book and read it, again and again.)   I still have that book and read it frequently. 

Wentworth also was a long-time judge for the Writers of the Future contest (that I didn’t receive this news from them is truly puzzling, as I’m still on their list due to my past submissions to the contest),  wrote over 50 short stories and several novels, including (but not limited to) BLACK ON BLACK, STARS OVER STARS, THE COURSE OF EMPIRE, and its sequel, THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE (the latter two with Flint), and was active in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

Wentworth was a kind person who knew a great deal about writing, editing, and publishing, and was willing to talk with a complete unknown (like me) at length without any visible sign of strain.  She also was an excellent writer whose stories (especially the two EMPIRE novels with Flint) should live forever.

The best tribute to a writer is this: go read her work.  Then go buy her work.  Then go  and recommend it to everyone you know (providing you like it half as much as I do, that is).   So please — for K.D. Wentworth — do what you can to keep her work, and her words, alive.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm