Wait…I’ve been doing this writing thing for how long?

It hit me today while reading a Facebook thread featuring comments from one of the responsible parties: I’ve been doing this writing thing….well, the “paid for my writing” thing…for twenty years, now.

Twenty. Years.

Holy. Shit.

snw1Okay, okay. In truth, I’d been writing for a few years at that point, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1997 that somebody actually decided for the first time – after reading a story I’d submitted to their writing contest, of their own free will and without the assistance of mood altering substances – to pay me for my writing. That someone was editor John Ordover at Pocket Books, and the story was “Reflections,” which I’d sent to be considered for inclusion in the very first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology.

Most of you know what happened after that. Secret origin story. Never-ending battles. Truth, justice, and the American Way and so on and so forth. Blah blah bah.

Twenty. Years.

Holy Shit.

Of course, the anthology which was the result of that first contest wouldn’t be published until the following summer, but I mark the letter I received from John as the starting point for what has become my “writing career.” He, along with editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block (who at the time was working for Star Trek‘s licensing department), put me on the path I continue to walk to this day.

(Oddly, the letter is undated, and I find myself unable to recall the date the first contest’s winners were announced. All I remember for sure is “fall 1997,” so I guess a ballpark guess will just have to do. Sucks getting old(er), amirite?)

honor-coverThis is something of a retcon on my part, as back then I had no real aspirations of being “a writer.” It wasn’t a path I’d remotely considered, as at the time I was neck deep in my career as a software developer, having made the transition from military service to the private sector just a year previously. That feeling didn’t change during the next two years, as I submitted stories to the next two SNW contests (and earned a place in the table of contents for the resulting anthologies). Only when John called me and asked if I wanted to write a full-blown Star Trek novel for him did start to wonder – just a bit – if there was something to this whole writing thing.

To be honest, I still wonder that, pretty much all the time, all these years later. And yet, here we are, twenty years later, and I think there’s a chance I might stick with it.

So, yeah: Twenty years. I’m not a “big name” or anything. I’m not one of those writers who will ever be recognized or remembered in passing. There won’t be any big movie or TV deals waiting in the wings for anything I write, but none of that really matters. I’m having fun, and I have a readership who makes up for their modest numbers with their unrelenting enthusiasm and support. I’m totally good with that.

The biggest thing to come out of that first contest was my meeting Kevin Dilmore. What began with him interviewing me as one of the contest’s eighteen winners has become an enduring friendship that I treasure. Indeed, he’s ‘ohana; a member of my family. There a many, many other people I’ve met and befriended since then; people I’d never know if not for this rather odd adventure, which began with that first short story.

I’ve benefitted from several opportunities which I’d otherwise never have received, including a handful of genuine, “Are you kidding me? That that just happen?” moments. There have been a bunch of novels and other short stories during these past twenty years, and there are countless people to thank for this journey I’ve undertaken, so many of whom have expended time, energy, and money in some manner on my behalf. Most important among that group: the readers who’ve accepted the invitation to travel with me every time there’s a new story with my name on the by-line. To anyone who at some point took a chance on me, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Then there’s my wife, Michi, of course. She’s been with me every step of the way, my biggest supporter and loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleader. I literally couldn’t have done any of this without her in my corner.

What will the next twenty years bring? Damifino. Guess we’ll just have to see what we see.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish reviewing this latest novel manuscript.


Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: 2016 Edition now available!

snw2016No, it’s not one of my books, but I’m excited about it just the same.

Available starting today is the 2016 edition of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the anthology of short fiction written by new, “non-professional” writers. This, of course is opposed to “unprofessional” writers, such as the guy whose blatherings you’re currently reading.

Strange New Worlds, as many of you know, originated back in 1997, with a contest being held annually for ten years. Many new writers got their start thanks to this contest, and have gone on to successful writing careers in a variety of genres. I owe pretty much everything to that very first contest, way back when.

But, that’s old news. Now, we have a “next generation” (yes, I said it) of SNW writers! The winners of this latest contest were announced back in April, and the new anthology contains stories by this crop of fine folks:

Neil Bryant, “Dilithium Is a Girl’s Best Friend”
Gary Piserchio & Frank Tagader, “A Christmas Qarol”
Kelli Fitzpatrick, “The Sunwalkers”
Chris Chaplin, “The Seen and Unseen”
Michael Turner, “The Façade of Fate”
Nancy Debretsion, “The Manhunt Pool”
Derek Tyler Attico, “The Dreamer and the Dream”
Roger McCoy, “The Last Refuge”
John Coffren, “Life Among the Post-Industrial Barbarians”
Kristen McQuinn, “Upon the Brink of Remembrance”

Currently offered as a “digital first” title, this latest edition of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available in several different e-Book formats. Don’t take my word for it; go and look for yourself:

Simon & Schuster – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2016

At this time, there’s been no announcement about any future contests. I suspect those who make such decisions are watching to see how this new installment is received. I’d love to see the contest return on an annual basis, so here’s hoping this first one does well. For now, congrats again to all the winners!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2016 Winners!

I don’t actually know if they’re going to be picking up with the previous numbering and calling it Star Trek: Strange New Worlds XI, or considering this a reboot with “SNW Prime” making a cameo or what. Those are administrative details I’m sure somebody is working out, somewhere.

Meanwhile? We gots winners!

Announced just this morning over on StarTrek.com were the winners of the 2016 edition of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest, which was opened to “non-professional” writers seeking to have their Star Trek stories published by Pocket Books. The competition ran from October to December 2015, after which all of the contest entries were reviewed by editors at Pocket Books as well as representatives from CBS Consumer Products (ie, the same people who review and approve our Star Trek novel manuscripts, along with all the other Star Trek merchandise).

StarTrek.com: Strange New Worlds Winners Announced

For those who don’t do the link clicking thing (and if that’s you, how did you end up here?), here’s the list:


The 10 Grand Prize winners, picked from hundreds of submissions, will each receive a $1000 advance and will have their stories included in the all-new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2016 Edition Anthology, to be published in the digital-first format later this year:

The Grand Prize winners are:

Neil Bryant, “Dilithium Is a Girl’s Best Friend”
Gary Piserchio & Frank Tagader, “A Christmas Qarol”
Kelli Fitzpatrick, “The Sunwalkers”
Chris Chaplin, “The Seen and Unseen”
Michael Turner, “The Façade of Fate”
Nancy Debretsion, “The Manhunt Pool”
Derek Tyler Attico, “The Dreamer and the Dream”
Roger McCoy, “The Last Refuge”
John Coffren, “Life Among the Post-Industrial Barbarians”
Kristen McQuinn, “Upon the Brink of Remembrance”

Two First Prize winners, Kerry F. Booth and James Corrigan, will each receive a free publishing package from Archway Publishing valued at approximately $5,000 to publish a book on a subject other than Star Trek.

Details about the stories, such as which series they represent, are likely forthcoming.

Two of the names on the list might be familiar to those of you who follow the Star Trek fiction. Derek Tyler Attico was the Grand Prize winner of Strange New Worlds 8 in 2005, and I also published his story “Blowback” in the Space Grunts anthology I edited back in 2009. John Coffren sold “Future Shock” to SNW VII in 2006, and “Gone Native” to SNW 9 in 2006, and also “Across the Endless Sea” to me for the aforementioned Space Grunts. Yes, it does tickle me rather mightily to see these two gents listed among the winners.

(For those wondering, Space Grunts was published by a small indie press, and the writers were paid nothing close to professional market rates. Now that I think about it, they were probably paid in Snickers bars.)

For those of you whose stories weren’t selected and who might be reading this, I hope you’re not discouraged. Instead, I hope you’re motivated to continue writing and seeking out other markets for your stories…hopefully while waiting for another SNW contest to roll around, or (even better) until you render yourselves ineligible to even enter, because BAM! Nailed it.

As for the winners, a hearty congratulations to you all, and I look forward to reading the final anthology. I’ll do my best to keep up to date on any developments with the book, or (perhaps?) any possible future contests, and post all that stuff here.

Guest blogging over at TrekCore!

People just never learn, do they?

They see that I have a blog, and that I tend to yammer at length about all sorts of things that normal, well-adjusted people could give a damn about. They’re busy with…you know…lives and stuff. So, here I am, babbling into the aether about whatever topic tickles my fancy, in and around the unending, fumbling and quite shameless attempts to sell you on my various collected scribblings from this or that publisher.

You think that’d be enough, but then sometimes, somebody steps forward and asks me to bring my particular flavor of mindless blathering into their realm.

Forgive them, dear readers. They know not what they do.

What’s on tap this time? Well, with the return of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest, the good folks over the Star Trek fan news site TrekCore invited me to write a bit about the contest’s original incarnation, and how it plucked me from obscurity and allowed me to evolve into the minor irritant you all know and love.

Obviously the contest is near and snw1dear to me, and have many fond memories of those days (holy crap…eighteen years since the first one?). I don’t know if this new iteration will have the same kind of legs, or if it will help to launch the careers of a new crop of writers. I’d certainly like to see it happen for a few fortunate would-be word pushers.

So, while we wait for the new contest’s submission period to wind down on January 15th, maybe you’ll take a few minutes and have a gander at my little bit of reminiscing:

TrekCore: My Journey to “Strange New Worlds”

Many thanks to the gang over at TrekCore for inviting me into their playground for a bit. If anybody asks, that swing was broken when I got there. Honest.

The return of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Are you a previously unpublished writer (or a “nonprofessional,” in that you’ve not been paid for your writing at pro rates)? Do you have a hankering to write a Star Trek story and maybe see it published? Well, Pocket Books has a deal for you:


Yep! It’s a new version of the writing contest Pocket conducted each year from 1997-2007, which launched numerous writing careers including one for the guy whose blog you’re reading right this very second. For those of you unfamiliar with my secret origin, I entered stories in each of the first three Strange New Worlds contests, after which I was offered a contract to write a Star Trek novel for Pocket, and I’ve been working for them ever since. If I can do that, imagine how much someone with actual talent might accomplish?

snw1 snw2-cover snw3-cover

StarTrekBooks.com: Strange New Worlds Writing Contest – Official Rules

The contest has a few changes from those of old, though:

Notably, it’s only open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia (that means none of the territories or even overseas military installations).

Unlike the previous contests, you’re only allowed one entry per person, so if you’re going to do this, make sure you bring your A-game.

The submission period is much shorter, beginning today (October 8th) and ending on January 15th, 2016.

Up to ten (10) winners will be selected for publication in the resulting anthology, as opposed to the old 18-23 winners rule. One major change is that two winners will receive “first prize” packages that includes the opportunity to publish a non-Star Trek novel through Pocket’s self-publishing platform. This is a new wrinkle, and one about which I have several questions, so I highly recommend doing your homework in this department before opting to proceed.

It appears the resulting anthology will be published as a “digital first” title. In English, that means e-Book, with a possible print edition later.

Assuming you’re thinking of taking on this challenge, be sure to read the complete rules before submitting an entry, and pay strict attention to the registration and editorial guidelines. Do your research, and understand what you are signing up for before you submit anything. You can find complete details here:

StarTrekBooks.com: Strange New Worlds Writing Contest – Official Rules

For those who decide to enter the contest, I’m happy to answer questions (assuming I have those answers, obviously), but let me state for the record that I am in no way affiliated with the contest and do not speak for Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, CBS, or anyone associated with the contest. As such, I’m really not interested in discussing why the rules are what they are, or how someone might think they suck for this or that reason. So, you know…FYI, and all that.

On the other hand, questions about actually entering the contest or prepping your entry or requests for general tips or advice are welcome, and I’ll do my best to answer those. Any responses or  opinions I might provide will be strictly based on past experience and (if possible) info I can obtain from people connected to the contest. I can’t guarantee anything on that front, though.

Best of luck to those of you opting to undertake this challenge!

Blast from the Past: A meeting of Strange New Writers.

Those of you who keep up with the various flavors of Star Trek novels, short story collections, and so on likely have heard of the Strange New Worlds writing contests and resulting anthologies, right?

For those who are asking, “WTF?” SNW was an annual contest sponsored by Pocket Books between 1997 and 2007, in which they solicited Star Trek short stories from “new” writers…folks who had never before sold a novel, or who had sold fewer than three short stories to various paying markets. While never a money-maker for Pocket, the contest did bring to the attention of Pocket editors quite a few new voices. Some of those writers went on to publish other short stories and/or novels, whether Star Trek or something else entirely. You’ve likely heard of at least one or two of these people.

:: points to self ::

Anyhoo, a whole buncha people ended up getting at least one story published in one of the ten volumes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies which came out of the yearly contest. While most of us have never met each other, there have been occasions where a gaggle of us could be found, and there even were rarer instances where we all stood still long enough for someone to take a picture.

One such occurrence happened at the 2004 Shore Leave convention in Baltimore:

(Click to Biggie Size)
Photo credit: Kevin Killiany

Captured for posterity on that afternoon (From left to right):

Standing: Gerri Leen (SNW 7,9,10), Kevin G. Summers (SNW 4,8), John Coffren (SNW 7,9), Amy Sisson (SNW 7,8), Jim Johnson (SNW 7,9,10), Christian Grainger (SNW 7), Kelly Cairo (SNW 3,7), Kevin Lauderdale (SNW 7,8,9), Ilsa J. Bick (SNW 2,4)

Kneeling: Bill Leisner (SNW 2,4,5), Susan S. McCrackin (SNW 7,8,9), Kim Sheard (SNW 2,3), Kevin Killiany (SNW 4,5,7), Robert T. Jeschonek (SNW 3,5,6)

Idiot lying on the floor: Me (SNW 1,2,3)

There’ve been other similar gatherings over the years, and somewhere out there I know there are at least a couple of other “group photos,” but Kevin Killiany found this pic on an old flash drive earlier today, and opted to share it with us. So, I’m sharing it some more.

Strange New Worlds was awesome in a number of ways. Obviously, I owe it a great debt for helping launch my so-called writing career, but I’ve also made a host of friends thanks to the contest, not the least of which is my hetero life-mate, Kevin Dilmore. If not for that first contest way back when, for which he was given the assignment of interviewing the winners, we might not even have met.

Now look where that’s got us.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: A Look Back.

Jens Deffner (defcons_treklit) of Unreality SF has posted an essay and series of interviews examining the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest, sponsored by Pocket Books between 1997 and 2007. The annual contest spawned ten anthologies of short stories penned by Star Trek fans with little or no professional publishing experience, and is directly responsible for what many people laughingly refer to as my “writing career.”

In addition to myself, Jens interviewed Allyn Gibson (tiggerallyn), William Leisner (bill_leisner), Terri Osborne (terri_osborne), and anthology editor Dean Wesley Smith. The result is a mighty fine retrospective of the contest, the anthologies it spawned, and its effect, if any, on Pocket Books’ ongoing line(s) of Star Trek fiction.

Check it out, whydontcha: Unreality SF: Strange New Worlds: A Look Back

Thanks to Jens for a great article!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 10 Winners List!

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Strange New Worlds writing contest!

The official announcement from Pocket Books can be found here.

Among the winners, it looks like the following folks are the latest additions to the Wardy List, in that they’ve succeeded in placing stories in three different SNW anthologies:

Jerry M. Wolfe
“The Naked Truth” – SNW I
“Out of the Box, Thinking” – SNW III
“Time Line” – SNW 10

Jim Johnson (ineti here on LJ)
“Solemn Duty” – SNW VII
“Home Soil” – SNW 09
“Signal to Noise” – SNW 10

Gerri Leen
“Obligations Discharged” – SNW VII
“Living on the Edge of Existence” – SNW 09
“The Smell of Dead Rose” – SNW 10 (GRAND PRIZE WINNER!)

David DeLee
“Promises Made” – SNW 08
“A Bad Day for Koloth” – SNW 09
“Empty” – SNW 10

Paul C. Tseng
“Don’t Call Me Tiny” – SNW 08
“Staying the Course” – SNW 09
“A Dish Served Cold” – SNW 10 

And check out Jerry Wolfe, who first sold a story to SNW back in 1997 for the first volume. He repeated for SNW III in 1999, and finally gets his third sale this year. That, friends, is what we call “sticking with it,” and it’s great to see him get the hat trick in what sadly will be the final anthology of the series. 

Speaking of that….

Back in October when the rumors began about this being the last year for the contest, I posted my thoughts about it coming to an end. It was posted to my old Blogger account, but it seems appropriate to repost it here: 

(Originally posted on October 2, 2006)

Today marks the close of the tenth annual Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest sponsored by Pocket Books. Given my connection to the contest, it seemed like an appropriate time to pause and reflect on the very real impact it’s had on my life these past several years.

For ten years, fans of Star Trek with dreams of seeing their story printed in an honest-to-goodness book have been sending their short story manuscripts to Pocket, where veteran author and editor Dean Wesley Smith has shouldered the enviable task of launching the careers of many new writers, including the bonehead whose blog you’re now reading. In a few months, after all the submissions have been read and the cream of this year’s crop judged, winners will be announced and a few more dreams will be realized. If not for Dean — along with former Pocket editor John Ordover, the man responsible for creating the contest in the first place, and Paula M. Block, the goddess at CBS Licensing (what used to be called Viacom Licensing) who approved the concept and who remains one of the contest’s most ardent supporters — I’d probably still be just some guy with notions of writing that never quite get off the ground as I meander through my normal, rather uneventful life.

The contest brought its own rewards, of course. Nothing has quite matched the rush I felt that first night in the fall of 1997 when John and Dean hosted an AOL chat to announce the winners of the initial contest. I saw my name and story title scrolling by on my computer screen, and that soon was followed by a phone call from John. Nothing has quite equaled the thrill of the first time I entered a book store and saw a copy of the actual anthology, with my name in the table of contents. I’m sure if one were to review the security camera footage from that day, they’d catch an image of me smiling like a giddy fool as I carried that book to the cashier. Since then, I’ve continued to run the gamut of emotions from stunned to gratified to euphoric to humbled and even at times to overwhelmed.

That first contest opened several doors for me, through most of which I’ve charged at a mad sprint just in case somebody realized what they’d done and slammed them shut. I’ve done my level best to remember the good fortune that’s come my way, endeavoring to never take for granted the opportunities I’ve been given or the trust and confidence shown to me by others with far more experience and wisdom. Of even greater importance to me are the friends I’ve made along the way: people I’ve met simply because they took the time to read something I’d written; fellow writers walking the same path I’ve traveled or who found their success through other means along with their own hard work and perseverance; veterans of the field who’ve mentored me or even just shook my hand and treated me as though I’ve been doing this as long and as well as they have; those who’ve come to me with the same dreams I once held, hoping for some small bit of helpful advice.

And all the while, I’ve kept an eye on the contest: waiting each year for the new collection of winners to be announced. I’ve watched as writers toil over their submissions and share them with writing group peers. I’ve talked about the contest at conventions and other writing-related events, answered all manner of questions on the topic wherever and whenever they’re presented, and tried to point people in the right direction when they come looking to me — of all people — for assistance. Though I doubt anything I’ve said or done has helped someone make a sale to the anthology, I’d like to think I inspired at least a few people to just sit down, write a story, and send it in.

So, to those who entered this, the tenth Strange New Worlds contest, I tip my hat and raise my glass in tribute. I wish each of you the best of luck. To all past contestants, regardless of whether you’re an established writer or still in search of that elusive first sale, I’m honored to be in your company. It’s been a hell of a ride. 

Thanks, Pocket Books. It’s been ten wonderful years.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III

snw3-coverBack by popular demand — again! Our third anthology featuring original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager stories written by Star Trek fans, for Star Trek fans!

Each Strange New Worlds competition draws a greater response than the last. The final selections gathered here were chosen from an overwhelming number of entries by virtue of their originality and style. With wit, compassion, and an affection for all things Star Trek, these brand-new authors take us where Star Trek has never gone before.

Their tales rocket across the length and breadth of Federation time and space, from when Captain Kirk explored the galaxy on the first Starship Enterprise, through Captain Picard’s U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D and Captain Sisko’s Deep Space Nine, to Captain Janeway’s Starship Voyager, with many more fascinating stops along the way.

Find out what happens in the Star Trek universe when fans — like you —
take the helm!

Contains original stories by: Kelly Cairo, Jackee Crowell, Gordon Gross, Sarah A. Hoyt, Robert T. Jeshonek, Diana Kornfeld, Rebecca Lickiss, Susan Ross Moore, Drew Morby, Ann Nagy, Logan Page, Tonya D. Price, Kim Sheard, John Takis, E. Catherine Tobler, Dayton Ward, Mary Wiecek, Jerry M. Wolfe, G. Wood and Shane Zeranski.

And just to make sure the world flips on its axis and plunges us all into another ice age, I managed to earn a spot in the third SNW anthology with the story “The Aliens Are Coming!” which was published in May of 2000. This tale revisits Captain John Christopher from the original series episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” where he deals with the suspicions and paranoia surrounding UFO’s on an entirely new level. In addition to Captain Christopher, we’ll catch up with Captain Wainwright, who was one of the Air Force officers worried about the “aliens” they discovered in 1947 (as chronicled in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Little Green Men.”). There are a couple of other cameos, but I can’t be ruinin’ the fun if you haven’t read it yet, can I?

Trade Paperback
Amazon Kindle e-Book

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds II

snw2-coverBack by popular demand! Our second anthology featuring original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager stories written by Star Trek fans, for Star Trek fans!

Our first Strange New Worlds competition drew thousands of submissions and Strange New Worlds II drew even more. From this mountain of astounding stories, these few, written exclusively by brand-new authors, were selected for their originality and style.

These tales rocket across the length and breadth of Federation time and space, from when Captain Kirk explored the galaxy on the first Starship Enterprise, through Captain Picard’s U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D and from Captain Sisko’s Deep Space Nine to Captain Janeway’s Starship Voyager, with many fascinating stops along the way.

Find out what happens in the Star Trek universe when fans — like you — take the helm!

This all-new volume contains stories by: Ilsa J. Bick, Brad Curry, Melissa Dickinson, Lynda Martinez Foley, William Leisner, Dustan Moon, Kathy Oltion, Michael S. Poteet, Ken Rand, J.R. Rasmussen, Steven Scott Ripley, Peg Robinson, E. Cristy Ruteshouser, Kim Sheard, Charles Skaggs, Franklin Thatcher, Dayton Ward and Christina F. York.

Yet another Sign of the Approaching Apocalypse was revealed when, in May of 1999, the second Strange New Worlds anthology was published, including my second pro story, “Almost…But Not Quite.” In this story, Temporal Investigations agents Dulmer and Lucsly manage to stumble into the events of the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Future’s End” and lend a helping hand to wayward time travelers Tom Paris and Tuvok. This is one of two stories in this volume featuring Dulmer and Lucsly, the other one being “Gods, Fate, and Fractals” by a good friend of mine, Bill Leisner.

Mass Market Paperback
Trade Paperback
Amazon Kindle e-Book