dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Whew. Thursday. October. Made it.

Both my classes had their Exam 1s on Wednesday. So Sunday I had to write four exams -- both classes get a Form A and a Form B and we alternate exams and seats. Monday I had to write up the solutions. That was complicated because some of the MathType blocks I needed to edit were 10-15 years old -- and MathType 6.9a and Word 2010/2013 sometimes crash on some of these older blocks. Sigh. I finally ended up doing screenshots of the PDF of an old solution, and edited the equations in Windows 7 Paint and pasting them in as graphics. (!!) The kluges we do for love of Physics -- and hatred of Microsoft.

Arranged to get the exams copied and numbered on Monday.

Monday afternoon, my office hours were less lonely. Tuesday was a zoo. My Tuesday noon office hour is up in the Physics Help Room, so I had to go up there. And then we had charity benefit for Feeding America Tuesday evening in Holland, so I had to leave early. In between I had to type up a solution for a take-home quiz for my PHYS-1070 and get the webpages set up so I could load them just before I went home. Gosh -- uploaded at 2:59pm -- right on time! Amazing.

Tuesday evening was a bust, at least for doing work. The event and the meal were fabulous -- post coming Real Soon Now. Didn't even try to write when I got home.

Wednesday PHYS-1070 Exam 1 at 10am, PHYS-2070 Exam 2 at 1pm. PHYS-1070 graders came by and got their instructions around 2:30pm. I waited until 4:20, but the other graders were a no-show -- we had a 4pm appointment and I stayed late because at least one was teaching a lab. Don't know what happened yet.

Wednesday night -- it's the 30th of September and the end of a quarter, so it's deadline for the Writers of the Future, for which I still have some eligibility. I had started a story back on 28 August, which was to be the WOTF Q4 2015 entry. I've pondered the story -- but only had 105 words written. The plan was to attack it two weekends ago so it "wouldn't be a last minute rush"... Ha. I ended up being entertained in the ER early Saturday morning instead (DW) (LJ). So much for writing.

Then a week ago, on Thursday 24 September, on the drive in to work, I had a new idea. No! I don't want a new idea. I had just fleshed out what I wanted to do with the old story and... Uh-uh, new idea! Shiny! Good! Great visuals! Dammit. No, I am simultaneously writing two stories in my head. I opened a file on Friday the 25th and sketched out 1304 words. That's over 12 times what I had in the bag for the first story.

Fine. New new story. As usual for me. It happens every damned quarter. (grin)

I started in on the writing around 10:30pm. It's a midnight deadline... on the west coast. It did go fast. A small cast for a Dr. Phil short story -- and almost nothing to look up online, except for the spelling of a couple of words not in the Microsoft Word 2010 spellcheck. I had 5405 words by 1am. Print, revise. 5512 words by 1:57. Create RTF without cover sheet. Upload to WOTF at 2:04am EDT, or 2604 hours Wednesday -- 2304 hours PDT.

Done. Whew. Another entry -- my streak since 30 June 2002 is still intact. Just read through it and amazingly didn't find any typos... yet. On the other hand, there's a potentially annoying repeated word right at the ending. Can't figure out if it's artistic enough. (evil-grin) Well, we'll see. My WOTF Q3 2015 story actually got an Honorable Mention from the new judge -- amazing! He's hated most of what I've submitted since K.D. Wentworth died.

On another note, I have decided I really loathe Word 2013, which came on OUEST, the university's laptop. I cannot figure out how to turn off the animation, where it slides and skips onto pages as you scroll or PageUp/PageDn. Come on, can't you just pop to the new location LIKE EVERY OTHER EARLIER VERSION OF WORD EVER? In Word 2010, clicking on the Page 1 of 21 in the lower left, brings up the Ctrl-G goto page number box. Not so in 2013, which brings up this "Navigation" window which does everything but allow you to goto a page number. Back to Ctrl-G, I guess. And then there's the look of the pages. Someone in the university locked down the defaults so I can't change the wallpaper -- it's a brilliant white -- and the windows are overly bright as well. All my usual manipulations don't help. I guess you can have any color you want on this machine as long as it's BRIGHT WHITE.

The latest is that Word apparently made a power grab and was the program to open two desktop shortcuts -- RTF reminder files that I had set up to open with Write. Having reset the Properties on the shortcuts, now Word 2013 had to sulk and whine about it no longer being the default program for opening documents. You know, Word 2013? Deal with it. It's just those two shortcuts.

Anyway, I've still managed to do a little work on the novel -- more time has freed up now. Onward!

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
A Pleasant Surprise

With so many submissions during my sabbatical and by natural process, so many rejections, it is always something of a shock to see the words "I'd like to buy this". (grin)

My story "End Run" is slated to appear in GigaNotoSaurus in April. This is a particularly nice sale for me for two reasons. One, it's long -- 17,000 words -- and two, while it takes place in my usual military SF universe, it starts almost three centuries before the bulk of my stories.
Thursday 1 January 2601 (Earth Relative Time)

She took a deep breath to quell her nerves. This is my last chance to make a good impression. Because a third strike would not be a good career move. As Ensign Darlene Charles picked her way through the dimly lit mess littering the docking bay, the quantity of unwashed bottles and glasses heaped in bins testified to the magnitude of the party. A sour stench from trash containers suggested many partied too well, an unfortunate reminder of some early college mornings. Ahead, the starship’s giant hangar doors were closed, unusual in port. But a smaller man-sized hatch remained open allowing her to step through into bright lights and a fresh, cleaner smell.

"Hullo?" The tentative voice might’ve echoed in the vast chamber, but in truth the sound was more swallowed up by the emptiness. Darlene had never seen a single cargo compartment stretch off in the distance for more than one hundred meters and had to be fully sixty meters wide. Thick armored doors separating the cargo bay from the hangar bay were opened all the way, as were smaller compartments aft of the hangar adding to the space. Short, blond and still a very new ensign, she felt tiny. Intimidated by a military cargo ship was not how she’d expected to start this day. She’d looked up the Evensong in the Fleet registry and as one of just eight officers in a crew of twenty-two, this ship was a lot bigger than she’d thought it’d be.

"Wow," was all she could say.

"End Run" went to seven markets, including earning a Quarter-Finalist (10,000 word version) in the Q4 2006 and an Honorable Mention in the Q2 2007 Writers of the Future. And now it's found a home. After it gets edited. (devious grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Writers of the Future 4th Quarter 2011

Just got an email from Joni Labaqui that my story "Andromache" has earned a Silver Honorable Mention in the Q4 2011 WOTF contest. The category of Silver Honorable Mention, fitting in between the Honorable Mentions and the Semi-Finalists, was established the other year to provide a little more distinction in the process.

Other than winning (!!), I have now earned every possible title from WOTF -- Quarter-Finalist, Honorable Mention, Semi-Finalist, Finalist, Published Finalist -- and now Silver Honorable Mention. There are so few of these I didn't think I'd earn one. (grin) I know that some WOTF entrants dismiss "just another H-M" as just another level of losing. But given the huge number of stories submitted every quarter, I think it's fitting that the contest is willing to let authors know that the better stories are appreciated. Because just like any other market, a contest's results are based on the opinions of the judges. Making the cut to H-M means that you are in the running. That you have a story. I guess you could say that earning a Silver H-M means they really looked at your story. (double-take-grin)

Anyway, "Andromache" is now released and will be sent on to the commercial markets. Fly, little Silver H-M, fly!

Dr. Phil

PS - Damn. Guess that means unless I make a pro sale in the next couple of weeks I have to write another story for the Q1 2012 contest, closing 31 December 2011...
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
All Those Years, All Those Entries

I was on a friend's blog the other day and happened to notice a sidebar mentioning their successes -- Honorable Mentions, Semi- and Finalists -- in the Writers of the Future contest. And I realized that I should do more than just provide stats. So I created a webpage of Dr. Phil's WOTF Results Summary. And it's a lot -- might even be some sort of a record, certainly in the "modern" era of the contest.
Since June 2002, I've submitted a story to the Writers of the Future contest every quarter. But Dr. Phil, if you were published in WOTF Volume XXIV, from the 2007 Q3 contest, why are you still submitting? Excellent question! My story, "A Man in the Moon" was a Published Finalist and not a winner -- and as I currentlt only have two SFWA-eligible pro sales, I still have contest eligibility left. With 30 out of 37 submissions receiving some level of recognition, WOTF Contest Director Joni Labaqui thinks this may be some sort of a record, although there don't appear to be complete stats over the lifetime of the contest.

Someone else might consider my lack of winning as beating my head against the wall. But I don't see it that way. After all, if you just consider WOTF as a market, it pays better and has higher visibility than most. Why wouldn't you send new work to them?

Every ninety days.

The Results:
Rejected 6
No Call  1
Finalist 3 (1 published in WOTF XXIV, 2 in one year)
Semi     2
Quarter 10
H-M     15 (Quarter+H-M = 25)
Total   37
Subs    38 (WOTF Q4 2011 in)

Published    6
Readings     3
Website      1

It might seem strange that only six stories from all these have been published. But only about half of my finished stories have gone to WOTF -- and often these were the first versions. It is, after all, a numbers game. For WOTF stories the publication rate is 1 in 5.5 stories, for all my stories it's 1 in 4.5. Pretty close. And whether any story fits what an editor -- or a judge -- wants at any time, is a matter of preference. And yes, I rewrite everything when it comes back.
Me? I'm pleased.
You can see all the stories and what happened to them on the webpage It's complicated enough that I even missed a publication in my first iteration. Now if I could just win this damn thing. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Actually I'm Sure They're Reading Lots Of Things

But Thursday I had an alert on Facebook that I had a Message. Actually, I've gotten a lot of Messages lately, all on two topics from friends and family. So I was surprised to see a new name. And further surprised to find that this came via Afghanistan.

A Staff Sergeant in the US Army Reserves had found a copy of Writers of the Future Volume XXIV and had enjoyed my story "A Man in the Moon". That's nice. And he wanted to know if I would be willing to sign his copy for him. Sure -- always happy to sign a copy, especially to someone serving in uniform, and honored that he'd go to all the trouble from so far away. And finally next month he'll be back home in Allendale MI.

Huh. In one short message we are shown how large -- and how small -- our world really is.

And yes. Damn straight I'll meet the staff sergeant and his 13-year-old son. And sign his book. And probably print out some other stuff.

You can't write this stuff. Not even in Science Fiction.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (quill-winslet)
A Story Of A Story

Six years ago to the day I started a new story. And amazingly 27 April 2005 was also a Wednesday. (grin) It went to four markets, including earning a Semi-Finalist in the Q2 2006 Writers of the Future, it's first stop. Then I submitted to Abyss & Apex on 28 February 2009. I mention this because sometimes it takes times for stories to develop, find the right market, and find the right slot for publication. A military SF story from a market surprised that they were buying a military SF story.

It was just over a year ago that I announced the sale of "Hail to the Victors" to Abyss & Apex. And now Issue 38: 2nd Quarter 2011 snuck online earlier in April and my story is finally published. A long twisting road and you can now read it here:

"Hail to the Victors" at Abyss & Apex. "Interstellar Expeditionary Force 1 started out as a real army, trying to take back a planet from partial enemy occupation. The alien ships were smaller, but there were ten thousand plus of them scattered across three of six continents. A year and a half later and Team 84632 was down to five. Lt. Eddie wasn’t really a lieutenant, he’d last officially been a first sergeant, but they needed an officer, and with Lt. Allen and 2nd Lt. Brace dead, along with Master Sgt. Hayden, well… someone had to lead. They hadn’t heard from Battalion in a long time."

And We Began Here:
04/27/05 23:24 Wed

Hail to the Victors Version 1.0

okay, this is the opposite of a happy winning warrior story – the humans are too stupid to quit

Of course years of revisions has taken us a long way from that simple note. 2000 words. 4000 words. And finally, a bit over 9000 words. As pointed out in the comments last year, the story started out dark, but is better than that now. Rather pleased with it, I'd say. Thanks to all those who gave comments over the years and versions.


Dr. Phil


Sunday, 30 January 2011 16:12
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
I'm Writing Again

Actually, I never stopped. Not really. But at the end of August I did something which compressed a nerve and screwed up both walking, and the ability to sit-in-chair and write. Then at Thanksgiving I got an infection in my right thumb which screwed up typing -- the large bandage I had kept dragging on the trackpoint on the laptop and catching other keys. Annoying.

So between that and markets being saturated with stories of suitable length from my Invenstory, my production rate dropped in the fourth quarter of 2010. The new year started out slow, but necessity forced me to finally finish a story to read at ConFusion last weekend. I trimmed an already short short story by twenty percent to meet the 1000 word limit for the Grand Rapids Festival Literary Contest. I'm working on other projects.

And today I made notes for a new SF story inspired by the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, and after we came up from the kitty room downstairs, typed them in and made some progress on that.

So despite this being a very busy semester with a new upper level class to teach, I am writing again.

Alas, The Ball Does Get Dropped From Time To Time

I've managed to get entries into Writers of the Future every quarter since June 2002. As a Published Finalist in WOTF XXIV for "A Man in the Moon", but not a prize winner, I still have some eligibility left. 35 entries and only 5 straight rejections -- everything else has been Honorable Mention or higher -- until now. Looks like my Q4 entry missed everything. Another straight rejection.

Naturally I looked at the story, which I thought was pretty good. Found three typos right away. And... a big continuity error that I thought I'd fixed. Yeah, back in September I was rushed and apparently didn't proofread the whole story all at once. Details, details, details. These things happen.

So I'm only mad at myself, not the fine people at WOTF. The story, no matter how good it could have been, wasn't finished right. End of story, so to speak. I'll fix the story. Make it better. Then either send it out to market, or throw it back to WOTF if I don't get a new story written by March 31st. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Writer's Of The Future -- New Website and Electronic Submissions

After lamenting for years that the WOTF website was annoying, in that it seemed loud and pushy, as it would resize browser windows and expect full-screen access, etc., the Contest has just launched their newly revised web site. Looks much cleaner and more tailored -- I hope that it proves useful to new writers looking for the contest and old friends looking for information. (grin)

And in the first major revision to the WOTF Contest Rules in like forever, they now have an online electronic submission system.
Entries submitted electronically must be double-spaced and must include the title and page number on each page, but not the author's name. Electronic submissions will separately include the author's legal name, pen name if applicable, address, telephone number, email address and approximate word count.

Not Quite Yet?

Note that the new rules don't specify what file format is allowed for manuscripts. My own personal preference is for Rich Text File (.rtf), because it is more consistent that Microsoft Word document (.doc / .docx) versions and it is more polite, because it is harder to send a virus with RTF than DOC. But it doesn't say.

Also, I created a login to the e-sub system, I think, and it didn't take me anywhere or give me any obvious/useful places to go. They may not have gotten that module turned on when they rolled out the new website. I've sent an email to the Contest about these two points. (productive-grin)

However, it's months before Thursday 30 September 2010, the next contest closing date, so I'll generously give them time to get the bugs out of their new system. But along with Asimov's, WOTF taking electronic submissions is a big deal, something to be especially appreciated by overseas SF/F writers.

A good start.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
What's In The Box, Dr. Phil? Oh PLEASE Tell Me What's In The Box?!

Stopped by the P.O. Box in town as part of my normal Saturday errands and there was a key to parcel locker #5. The white box inside nearly filled the locker, and as #5 was on the bottom, it took a few seconds to get fingers purchased on said box and pull it out. Oh look, the heavy box is from Galaxy Press -- I know what this is. (grin)

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: The First 25 Years

My Contributor's Copy Of The WOTF Coffee Table Book

Quite some months ago the Writers of the Future people sent out a call for anyone in the WOTF winners community interested in submitting comments about what the WOTF contest means to them, in connection with putting together a coffee table book of pictures and essays and history of the first twenty-five years of WOTF, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Naturally being shy about expressing myself, to say nothing of having been a Published Finalist in WOTF XXIV, I of course sent in a short essay. Because of that, I got a free contributor's copy of the finished book in lieu of cash payment. Makes me happy. (grin)

Besides my piece on page 233, it looks like one of my pictures of Al Bogdan signing the WOTF XXIV anthology at the Event also made the book:

More About This Later

The official release will be at the 26th WOTF Awards on 28 August 2010 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

So far I haven't seen this for pre-order anywhere. But I should note that this impressive book uses very heavy paper stock -- and that if you order it online, get free shipping. (wry-grin) I know both the publisher Galaxy Press and Amazon routinely offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more -- and the list price on the dust jacket is $44.95.

I think that most readers of SF/F will prefer the annual anthologies for the stories. An expensive coffee table book isn't for everyone and contest hopefuls would no doubt be best off reading more SF/F -- buying this book isn't going to give you an "in" into winning the contest. For that you have to write a great story. (double-word-score-grin)

To those involved in the Contest, this is like a reunion -- for everyone it's a collection about new and notable authors stretching back to the early days of modern 20th century SF/F (in the case of the judges) and including a big chunk of my LJ Friends list. (happy grin) The more I read about the history of the Writers of the Future contest, the more amazing it seems that (a) it got started, (b) it has kept going and (c) it has done so well. I've barely made a dent in reading the whole thing.

As for the contest itself, the next contest deadline, for those eligible, is Thursday 30 September 2010. Yeah, I'm a nudge. College professors are like that.

Dr. Phil

On Deadlines

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 14:16
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
I Like Deadlines
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
----Douglas Adams

Self-motivation is fine and dandy for some of the time. It sounds lovely for the writer to say that they were driven to tell this story, forced by their inner muse to weave it into the best thing they've ever written. But for a writer, nothing seems to me to be better at making me finish the damn thing or get me over the hump of an undigestible paragraph or plot point than having a deadline staring down at you.

Alas, as a relatively new writer with only a dozen+ publication credits for short stories to my name, signed contracts with deadlines built into them are pretty scarce, so mostly I have to motivate myself to write, send out, revise, send out. That's why I like Writers of the Future, with its four quarterly deadlines, or some of the limited submission windows for anthologies and certain markets. Sure, the rest of the time it's also nice to have open submissions, so I can keep having a number of stories out to market at any given time. But I like deadlines, too.


Of course, it helps to have the right deadlines. Somehow I was thinking I had two stories which had 30 June 2010 deadlines. And so I was sort of farting back and forth between them. Fortunately, when I am writing, I often (a) engage in cat-waxing and (b) do my due diligence for myself and recheck Submission Guidelines from time to time. That's when I realized that the story I'd been spending the most time on lately wasn't due for another six weeks. And the story which I had been avoiding because it had a thorny plot issue I had to resolve was the one I should've been working on. Dumb.

Worse, this second story was the one I was planning to submit for the Q3 2010 WOTF contest -- and I haven't missed a WOTF quarterly deadline since I started submitting to them on 30 June 2002. I wasn't about to miss this one.


I have a tendency to write long. I know, that comes as a surprise to most people. (grin) I chose to start writing short SF fiction because I wanted to learn how to write short SF fiction. Yes, I intend to write long SF novels, but with 64 finished stories since 2002, I have been able to work out a whole lot of issues, especially with my main 29th century universe SF writing.

Fortunately, spending six weeks at the 2004 Clarion workshop and writing my 24 hour story at the WOTF XXIV workshop means that I know I have an overdrive gear to shift into. The key thing was to remember that I was writing a short story and not a novel.

That sticky plot point? I had already reduced it to merely a mention in this version of the story, then using it at a joke for one character to prod another. But in the end, it wasn't mentioned at all. It means I had to go through the limited amount I'd already written and strip out a couple of nicknames for characters which were no longer needed, but that was easy. And whether that sticky plot point is resurrected in the novelette or novel version of the story, who can tell?


So at 3am EDT on Wednesday 30 June 2010, I finished my quick editing of my completed first draft and produced my printer file -- in this case removing my name from the title block and page number header for submitting to WOTF -- and sent it off to the printer. At 3:30am, I could go to bed. That last bit isn't as bad as it sounds -- I frequently pack it in between 2am and 4am. But today was a work day which meant that I couldn't expect to have time to do any more revisions and still get it into the mail by 5pm. Also, I had to get up and dressed early as a crew was coming to start putting a new roof on the house. (grin) So I would've liked more than three hours sleep. (tired-grin)

Is this the story that I conceived of back on the 19th? No. In some ways it is better, and there are a number of things left off which would've been there if this was say a 12,000 word novelette. And far less detailed and suspenseful if it was a 100,000 word novel. Instead what I got was about 5600 words -- only five of the previous 32 WOTF entries were around this length or shorter -- but I think it works. Is this the best story I could submit to WOTF? No. This is the best new story I've written for the Q3 2010 WOTF contest, as I have about three or four others I started but chose not to finish for this round. Do I think it will win? No. I mean, I think all of my stories have the potential to win, or I wouldn't submit them. It really is up to the judges.

The truth is I'll be really happy for any result that isn't a straight rejection. But no matter what, my bottom line is that I made my deadline. I finished my story. If it doesn't win, I'll rewrite it and send it off to other markets. And maybe someday it'll sell. Or I'll stick it on my website and let people read it there, especially as I've written this cryptic posting about it -- you wouldn't want to openly talk about the story or even its title so as not to contaminate the judging. (fairplay-grin)

So I'm pretty pleased with myself. I made my deadline. I have a new story to play with. And I even have a nifty new LJ posting to show for it today. (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
And Now For Something Different

Golem Press' Alembical is something unique in the spec fic landscape -- a print anthology which features only novellas. It is notoriously difficult to sell novellas -- work from 20,000 to 40,000 words -- in a world that wants to publish short stories or novels.

Alembical 2

The second issue, Alembical 2, has just come out. I already have connections to two of the three featured authors. J. Kathleen Cheney [livejournal.com profile] j_cheney was one of merry band of Writers of the Future XXIV winners. Toni Pi [livejournal.com profile] wistling was a winner the year before in WOTF XXIII. So ordering Alembical 2 was a no-brainer. (Also took the chance to pick up a copy of Alembical 1 for free shipping, which includes a story by Jay Lake [livejournal.com profile] jaylake.) Then it turns out that the third author, David D. Levine [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, is also a winner from WOTF XVIII in 2002.

Kids, are you keeping score? If you're a new writer and you're not submitting to WOTF and are still eligible, why not? (grin)

Naturally I read the stories out of order, in preference to who I knew. So first up was the third story, J. Kathleen Cheney's "Iron Shoes". Early 1900s... Sarasota Springs... horse racing... and shapeshifters. Imogen Hawkes wants, no needs for one of her horses to win the prize at the Stakes, but which one? Whirlwind, Blue Streak, Faithful? Things are pretty complicated, but in a novella length there's plenty of time to let this flow and develop and weave its threads into a whole complete story. Excellent period field, magic handled exceedingly well and very entertaining. I liked this story a lot. Recommended.

Next the first story, Tony Pi's "The Paragon Lure" is part... what? Mission Impossible, Highlander, It Takes A Thief and The Italian Job (new one)... and Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth -- back when Shakespeare was still working and Elizabeth didn't need a number. Oh yeah, deliciously high tech and historically complicated at the same time. Felix Lea is great fun and though we don't know everything that is going on, he does and we want him to win. And what if Hamlet was the only play that survives? Recommended.

Finally the story in middle, David D. Levine's "Second Chance" throws you out of the past or the present and all the way to Tau Ceti. This is the sort of science literate SF that shows how very fragile we are and the high risk of space travel. Also risky as it brings up race and religion and prejudice. And a thorny electrical engineering/communications problem. Chaz Eades is having a very difficult time and it isn't his fault, but for none of the usual reasons why. Probably one of the better "more probable" interstellar travel SF stories I've run across in quite a while. Highly Recommended.

There you have it. Three excellent stories. Very different, yet they work together. Well worth your time and money to pick up Alembical 2.

Overall: Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (rolling-stone-boat-2)
A Busy Month Of May

I haven't quite done the writing I wanted to get in this first half of Sabbatical 1.21, but that's largely been my fault -- and probably a good thing, too. The office at work needed cleaning, and that's started, with the critical work of wiring in a new Internet phone accomplished. And I spent a good amount of time starting on fixing up my website dr-phil-physics.com. Hope to have the next level of revisions rolled in by 06.06.2010. This thing about trying to do a good job on one's own website is that sometimes there are tasks that just take a long time to get the data entry and coding to look right.

Then there are things like getting our calendars arranged for the next couple of weeks and months -- and then last week going over to Hope College and getting our annual season tickets (since 1997) for the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre when their box office opened.

The Last Few Days

Already this week I feel like I put in a Real Writer's Life work week -- and it's only Wednesday!

Sunday I checked over the proof page for my comments for the 25th Anniversary Writers of the Future coffee table book. You know, 25 years × 12 winners/years = 300 authors + additional Published Finalists like moi. Not everyone contributed comments, so to get nearly a full page in the book, which is also supposed to be chock full of pictures and not comments from writers, is making me feel pretty special. Yeah, I think the WOTF contest was helpful to me, even before I was tapped for Volume XXIV.

Since I didn't come close to finishing the story I started a year ago, Monday was the big push to finish my Memorial Day-II story and post it. Which reminds me that part of the 06.06.2010 revisions for dr-phil-physics.com has to be a better list of any and all stories I've posted for free either here on my LJ or on my website -- or as published stories.

Tuesday began the new month and I managed to get two submissions in the afternoon and then squeezed one more submission in before dinner. Helpful to keep track of new markets and when markets re-open to submissions. And even when I forget about one, or let a date slip by, thankfully other writers make note of these things, too. Cathrynne M. Valente [livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna is the new fiction editor at Apex Magazine effective 1 June 2010, so that was the third sub I sent out. (grin)

Then Tuesday night I had to finish my essay for the Pyr 25th Anniversary on "Five Reasons Why Science Fiction and Fantasy are Important to Me." How do I love thee? Let me count the ways... What? Only five reasons? And under 1500 words? Eeek! Talk about agonizing over the things you love. I don't dare hope that my essay will be the top dog in this contest, but the top prize is to get flown to Atlanta for DragonCon over Labor Day weekend as Pyr's guest. My sister lives in Atlanta and has been begging me to come to DragonCon for years. So I did try really hard and I did get it in before 11pm. (grin) Of course this morning I got an email saying that the Rules said I had to submit a street address and I'd sent the P.O. Box address. For the record, though, the HTML website just said "address (within the Continental United States)" -- it was in the separate PDF file where it had "street address (within the Continental United States)", so it's not like I'm totally nuts. I go over Submission Guidelines pretty closely, but had been looking at the cut-and-paste file I'd saved from the HTML site, not the PDF. (whew)

Then late night Tuesday I had to go back to my work file and make sure I made all the updates to my submission tracking and make sure I was up to date with all that. Currently I have 12 stories out to market, which is the highest number so far in 2010 -- I've been mostly between 9 and 11 all year. In March, I noted that I'd shipped my 300th submission to any market. Back on May 25th, I achieved my 300th result of any kind. It was, as statistically realistic, a rejection of course. (grin)

Well, No Wonder!

That's a lot of things worked on, so I guess that's where May went to. We welcome our new June-ish overlord masters and hope to placate them with good works, too. 'Cause when July 1st rolls around, we'll be back in the classroom, double-time, for Summer-II Session. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
The Closest Yet

Received a rejection from Gordon Van Gelder at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction today at the P.O. Box in town, my 40th from him. Usually I get a pretty fast turnaround from Gordon, who'd been our Guest Editor at the 2004 Clarion workshop, but this one took 73 days. He wrote, "I've been on the fence about this one, but I'm afraid I've fallen off on the wrong side and I'm going to pass on it." Now another person might say, Damn, another rejection. (sigh). But I must confess that I had a totally different reaction.

Sure, Gordon ultimately chose not to buy my story, but he held onto it since early February and thought about it. This has to be the closest I've come to selling a story to F&SF, and I have to say I am greatly pleased. In my complicated scoring system, I have to score this as a Win and mark it down as an Encouraging Letter.

When you are still a work in progress yourself, you have to take your victories where you can find them, much as I've commented before on Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future contest. That's probably the strongest advice I can give writers just starting to submit their works.

And of course I re-read my story, tweaked it a bit and am about to print it out to send to Sheila Williams at Asimov's Science Fiction on Monday. Keep those stories moving! Now, do I have anything ready to ship that Gordon hasn't seen yet? Hmm...


Even without daydreaming of flying off to Australia for WorldCon this summer, there are a lot of SF/F cons to go to. Alas, Penguicon is right in the middle of Grade-a-thon, I passed on registering for WisCon over Memorial Day in case I'm teaching a Summer-I class, and I'm not even sure if I can get away to NASFiC in Raleigh NC in August or World Fantasy in Columbus OH this fall.

But today on Facebook, fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss posted a link to MadCon 2010. Apparently this is the first time in nine years that this Madison WI SF/F con is being run. Of much more interest is that besides guests Patrick Rothfuss and Allen Steele, the GoH is Harlan Ellison. Really? Harlan? I've never had the chance to meet Harlan or hear his stories in person. Lots of people tell Harlan stories, but geesh. Madison? In September? The 24th to 26th?

It's tough to drive around Lake Michigan and it's expensive to take the Lake Express ferry across Lake Michigan, and if I'm teaching in the Fall... But Harlan's going to be there?

(sigh) Pencils in MadCon 2010 for September.

In Case You Were Wondering... But Probably Not...

I know Patrick from the WOTF XXIV workshop in August 2008.

Demonic Patrick Rothfuss in Evil Hotel California

Actually, Patrick is a really nice guy who tells wonderful stories, both in print and in person. He and Eric James Stone were among the previous WOTF winners brought in to encourage us in our writing careers. Eric, of course, holds a special place in my heart as he is also a WOTF Published Finalist who went on to win in the WOTF the next year. It can be done! (grin)

Eric James Stone and Patrick Rothfuss holding court at WOTF XXIV workshop

Anyway, that's enough name dropping for one day. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Writers of the Future Volume XXV

Diabolical Plots posted a review of the most recent WOTF XXV anthology. Frank Dutkiewicz also reviewed "our" WOTF XXIV back in September, just about the time I posted my review of WOTF XXV. Both the volume XXIV and XXV reviews cover all the stories and are pretty thorough.

First Rule Of Reviews

"Do not argue with reviews." Nope, that's not my issue here. Frank is entitled to his opinion and I appreciate the thoroughness of his work. No, what I wanted to talk about was the fact that (a) Frank disagreed with the WOTF XXV Gold Award decision and (b) then went back and analyzed his own thinking about it. In particular he felt that another story was much more amazing and stayed with him longer... in his opinion. But in reading his meta-reviewing, I think that the very aspect of the winning story which he didn't like, was probably the feature which bowled over the judges. When I looked back at my own, less thorough, review of WOTF XXV, I noted that I didn't find the Gold Award story the best either -- but that takes nothing away from Emery Huang's achievement. Personal opinions are just that -- personal and opinions.

We see this all the time with our stories. You may belong to a crit group where some of the writers "don't get" your stories. That doesn't make either you or them wrong, or right. An editor rejects a story you're sure would be a good fit to their market. But you're neither right or wrong. The editor is using a larger metric in deciding whether to buy your work. It's why we accumulate hundreds of rejections, because it takes a confluence of events and an alignment of the stars for a good story to get sold. That 12 or 13 stories show up in the Writers of the Future anthology each year, after they've slogged through thousands of entries, means that the judges have labeled these the best at a particular time with a particular set of judges.

And I'm okay with that.

I would rather hate living in a world in which there WAS a standard for writing. A website where you could submit your work and it could be run through a computer or passed in front of a committee and get a score. And then that score would determine when and where it was sold. Which stories would be "better" than others for all time. Because such a score would be arbitrary and subjective from the get-go.

Also Rans

Indeed, it is the very subjectiveness of the process which I believe is the reason that Writers of the Future bothers to let people know that they are Honorable Mentions (and Silver Honorable Mentions), Semi-Finalists and Finalists. These are the good stories, the better stories. This is where the real competition rests, between these stories. Winning is great. But in the end I don't envy the judges each quarter, or for the Gold Award, having to decide which stories are "better" and "best".

As for reviews, they serve their purpose when people use them to buy -- or not -- a work. The very things that one reviewer might not like, I find myself saying sometimes, "gee, I think that might work -- I'd like to read that story". And Your Mileage May Vary.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Dr. Phil


Sunday, 21 March 2010 20:29
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Yet Another Milestone

Yesterday, Saturday 20 March 2010, I shipped my 300th submission to any market. Like my 200th submission, this was to Writers of the Future -- I believe my 32nd submission to that contest. Still have a little eligibility left. 62 completed stories sent out 300 times, with 14 publications and one more pending. Not bad for not even eight years of sending things out, if I do say so myself.

It took 1427 days after 9 June 2002 to get to the first hundred submissions on 6 May 2006, 725 days for my second hundred on 30 April 2008 and 689 days to the third hundred. #301 is already shipped and #302 should go out sometime in the next few days.

Hopefully I'll be able to do some more work on novels as well this year -- perhaps work on getting an agent. (double-grin)

Dr. Phil

Another H-M

Sunday, 17 January 2010 03:03
dr_phil_physics: (a-man-in-the-moon)
A Flicker Of Hope

The other day I thought I might still be in the running for the Writers of the Future 2009 Q4 contest. They'd put all the Honorable Mentions up on the WOTF blog. Since my name hadn't appeared, then either I was rejected, or I could still hope for a Semi-Finalist, Finalist or even eventually a winner. Alas, they found another 21 H-M's in the box and there I was. So on to the 2010 Q1 contest!

Got an e-mail tonight from Joni Labaqui at Author Services, the people who run the WOTF contest, letting me know about the H-M, in case I hadn't seen it on the blog. I ended up writing her a long reply and I thought I'd share part of it with you.

A Remarkable Run, For Me Anyway

I have no idea if anyone keeps any stats on these sorts of things. I doubt that it's a record, but I've entered the contest every quarter since 2002 Q3, with the following results:

Rejected   5
No Call    1 (apparently USPS lost some subs in Dec 2002)
Finalist   3 (1 published in WOTF XXIV, 2 Finalists in one year, 2007 Q1 Q3)
Semi-F     2
Quarter-F 10 (designation changed to Honorable Mention in 2007)
H-M        9 (Quarter+H-M = 19)
Total     30 (24 certificate rank)
Subs      31 (WOTF 2010 Q1 in)

WOTF was the second place I ever sent a story. I'd been writing for decades, seriously for a dozen years before someone my wife knew was connected to a small press which was having a space station short story contest. I had a piece on a space station, so I submitted that on 9 June 2002. Then I looked to see where else I could send things. Found WOTF very quickly and sent my first entry, "Home Front" 16,800 words, twenty days later. The rest, as they say, is history. My second entry, "Out of Ashes...", has morphed into a novel which is now making the rejection rounds -- my first novel sent out in the world.

My first four submissions gathered three rejections, plus the one lost in the mail. My fifth sub, "Sideswipe", was a Finalist for 2003 Q3. Other than "Boxes", 2005 Q3 and "Pirates Amongst Us", 2008 Q4, which were rejected, the 24 remaining stories all placed Quarter-Finalist/Honorable-Mention or higher in the contest. Only five straight rejections since 2002 Q3? Pretty proud of these results.

Especially proud, of course, of having "A Man in the Moon" and "The Moons of Mercury" both fighting for a place as a Published Finalist -- with "A Man in the Moon" appearing in WOTF XXIV.

In addition, the following entries have been published:
    * "The Brother on the Shelf", May 2009 Analog, was originally part of that first entry, "Home Front".
    * "Boxes", published in CrossTime anthology Vol. V.
    * "Machine", published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #38, March 2009.
    * "In the Blink of an Eye", published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #39, June 2009.

Another previous entry, "Hail to the Victors", a Semi-Finalist from 2006 Q2, is under final consideration at a market after a rewrite request.

Essentially, half of my published stories were once WOTF entries. That quarterly deadline has driven a lot of writing production. I'll be talking about this aspect of WOTF in a panel on Writers Contests for New Writers at ConFusion next week in Troy MI.

Now all I need is either a win in the contest -- or to finally make enough pro sales for SFWA membership...

And yes, I've penciled in the story I expect to ship for WOTF 2010 Q2. The Q1 story was sent in way back in October.

Yup. A pretty remarkable run for me.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (zoe-barnes-spacesuit)
These Are People I Know

Erin is from the WOTF XXIV workshop in 2008. These are from her engagement pictures with her fiance Paul. There are more... oh so many more... here. (NOTE: The link to the pictures doesn't seem to work in Safari 3 for Windows.)

They came peace... from another galaxy!

I swear I saw this on a bookcover or a movie poster somewhere. I am so going to edit this in Ulead PhotoImpact...

Congratulations, Erin & Paul -- these are fabulous! Can't wait to see the wedding pics. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Diabolical Plots Reviews WOTF Volume XXIV

Writers of the Future Volume XXV may have just come out, but that doesn't stop anyone from buying, reading and even reviewing Volume XXIV -- especially as it was so late getting wide distribution anyways. (grin)

Frank Dutkiewicz reviews all 13 stories in WOTF Volume XXIV:
A Man in the Moon by Dr Philip Edward Kaldon.

This is the baker’s dozen of the anthology. It didn’t place in the competition but the judges liked it enough to fill out the book.

Gene Fisher-Hall is a terminally ill astronaut who wants to hold onto his job and wishes to spend the rest of days on the moon. He uses loopholes in the regulations, the press, and his folksy down-home charm to get his way.

I found this to be not much more than a story of a workaholic that doesn’t want to hang it up, set in space. I did enjoy a scene where Gene needs to overcome his arthritic-like disease to avoid a disaster. A Man in the Moon is easy to fall into but it went on way too long. Halfway through I started to wonder if it had an ending.

Grade: B minus

"I have read about a dozen of the twenty-five additions of The Writer’s of the Future Contest. In past anthologies I would find about three stories outstanding (A quality) but an equal number difficult to finish (D quality), with the rest in that B, C range. This addition I found the most satisfying one of the bunch."

For the record, Dr. Phil found the grades for Volume XXIV, none lower than a C, to be:
A+  1
A   1
A-  3
B+  1
B   1
B-  2
C+  1
C   3

Reviews are subjective, of course, but with an "average GPA" of 3.03 = B, it's nice to see an overall positive review for "our" antho. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
Table of Contents
"Gardens of Tian Zi" by Emery Huang (Gold Prize Winner)
illustrated by Douglas Bosley
"The Shadow Man" by Donald Mead
illustrated by Brianne Hills
"Life in Steam" by Grá Linnaea
illustrated by Ryan Behrens
"The Assignment of Runner ETI" by Fiona Lehn
illustrated by A.R. Stone
"The Candy Store" by Heather McDougal
illustrated by Jamie Luhn
"Risqueman" by Mike Wood
illustrated by Evan Jensen
"Gray Queen Homecoming" by Schon M. Zwakman
illustrated by Tobias A. Fruge
"The Dizzy Bridge" by Krista Hoeppner Leahy
illustrated by Aaron Anderson
"Gone Black" by Mathew S. Rotundo
illustrated by Luke Eidenschink
"The Reflection of Memory" by C.L. Holland
illustrated by Oleksandra Barysheva (Gold Prize Winner)
"After the Final Sunset, Again" by Jordan Lapp
illustrated by Joshua J. Stewart
"The Farthest Born" by Gary Kloster
illustrated by Mark Payton

Twelve Excellent Stories and Twelve Excellent Illustrations

This afternoon I finished reading Writers of the Future Volume XXV. Good job, everyone! I have to say that I am split in mind -- and for a very good reason. Having attended the Writers of the Future XXIV Event and Workshop, Volume XXIV is always going to be a special collection of stories, writers and artists. We did a damned good job. But having been through that, I also have a special affinity to the latest crop, especially after watching the streaming video feed of the WOTF XXV Event. I think we had an exception class of artists in Volume XXIV -- but I also can feel the deep joy of the Volume XXV authors at the illustrations of their own stories. So I'm probably not one to judge the quality of the Volume XXV class of artists -- too biased. (grin)

Short reviews follow this cut... )

So there you have it. The Writers of the Future Volume XXV. But don't take my word for it -- get your own copy. I think you'll be seeing these people again in the future.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Titanic-Hat)
At Last Night's WOTF XXV Event

I didn't include this in my comments on the 25th Anniversary Writers of the Future event because I wanted to look stuff up first. But one of the things at the events are speakers who work in visionary industries. In 2008, they had the president of one of the civilian space launch firms. This year, when steampunk abounds in spec fic, they had the guy who dreamed up the World Sky Race. A race around the world in airships, over all the major cities and wonders of the world you can think of.

And how cool is this? The guy announced that the Gold Award winners for the WOTF (Emery Huang) and IOTF (Oleksandra Barysheva) contests would be given VIP passes to fly on the competition airships. One of the writers I met at WOTF last year posted this on Facebook early this morning:
Steven Savile They had a montage up of all 500 book covers from previous winners at wotf, familiar faces zipping by, a dance troop and Emery Huang just won a trip on the Cairo leg of the World Airship Race 2010 - how steampunk is that? Racing to the Pyramids in a blimp!

This Makes Me Smile

If you go to the race's homepage, you can see the computer generated video they showed at the event.

The other year somebody did a TV commercial which had whales swimming through the sky. This reminds me of that, which is why I say this makes me smile.

Absurd, you say? Sure. Aren't most races? Can they pull this off? Some of the web comments I saw listed in Google talk about World Sky Race 2010, and the emblem in the video has MMX (2010). But the header on the homepage now says World Sky Race 2011 -- and given that this is the first time I've heard of it, I'm sure an extra year will pay off.

The thing is, the visionary was saying they've got UNESCO support -- and permission from the President of Egypt to make landing just south of the Great Pyramids. "Is that a great parking space or what?" he joked. The other point they make is the visibility. You can't miss big colorful airships gliding over major cities -- they expect more people will see this competition live and in person in one day over, say, L.A., than saw the Beijing Olympics live in person last year. Something to think about.

You know, I was skeptical of the Red Bull Air Races the other year. Air racing in high performance propeller planes was huge in the 1930s, see The Aviator for example, but it has toiled in somewhat obscurity for decades. Yet this past year I saw the Red Bull Air Races showing live on TVs in sports bars, and my aviation students talk about how big it has gotten. But most people don't understand competitive air races over courses -- this airship race around the world is much more grokkable. And it will showcase tourist destinations everywhere, so I think countries really could get behind this. It could be huge.

If nothing else, it will be beautiful. Should the races really happen, I may have to make a trip to where I can see them. Live, and in person.

Dr. Phil


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