Welcome! Grand Opening! Fabulous Prize!

Welcome to Diabolical Plots, a nonfiction zine focused on speculative fiction. Our goal is to provide interviews of industry professionals, reviews, con reports, editorials about writing, and anything else that may touch on the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

Check out our past interviews, with well-known subjects such as Cat Rambo, David Farland, and KD Wentworth. Stay tuned for new content on a regular basis. We have a full interview schedule out to early 2010, including Jordan Lapp, Charles Coleman Finlay and many others.

Also, please note the art at the top of the page, an original by professional illustrator Joey Jordan. That art was made just for Diabolical Plots and she did a splendid job of it if I do say so myself.  That image is part of a larger piece. You can see the whole thing if you click on the “Diabolical Art” tab.  If you want to see more of her work, check out her site. Also, she is the subject of the most recent interview, posted just before this announcement.

Have any ideas for interviewees? Drop us a line. Do you have a con report you’d like us to consider printing (or reprinting)? Just ask–we don’t make it to as many cons as we’d like and we may be able to fit your report in. Questions and comments? We’d love to hear them.

This site is owned and operated by Anthony Sullivan and myself (David Steffen), two writers in the early stages of our careers trying to claw our way up into the professional writing world. We’re pretty nice guys, at least after the first cup of coffee, so if you have questions or comments don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Now I’ll move on to the important part: the free stuff! Complete a simple series of questions and we’ll enter you in a drawing for a free copy of Writers of the Future XXV, which will be mailed to the winner free of charge. Writers of the Future is one of the most prestigious venues for short story work, and I never cease to be amazed at the quality of the stories I find in it each and every year. You won’t be disappointed.

To enter the drawing, simply answer the following questions and email them directly to contestemail. The trivia questions are all right here on this site, so you should be able to find them all with just a bit of effort. Do NOT post the answers publicly or this will result in disqualification (and we’d have to make up new questions, which we’d rather not do). Relatives of Anthony and myself are not eligible. You have one week. You must send your answers by the end of the day on Sunday, September 6th.

Everyone who answers the questions correctly will be entered in the random drawing, probably through the sophisticated randomization algorithm I like to call “names in a hat”.

  • Name:
  • City, State, Country:
  • Where did you hear about Diabolical Plots:
  • What sort of content would you like to see on Diabolical Plots?
  • Is there any particular interview guest, movie, book, game, or con you would like to see featured?


  1. Who is the editor of the Shadows of the Emerald City anthology?
  2. What story in the August issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine did Anthony review?
  3. Who is the hero of “Sweeney Todd”, according to David?
  4. What does Anthony believe is the most effective way to improve your writing?
  5. What is Joey Jordan’s favorite art medium to work in?
  6. David Farland once received a story penned with what unlikely utensil?
  7. Name one of David’s fiction stories scheduled to be published.
  8. What forum or workshop is credited for earning Anthony both of his Honorable Mentions in the WotF contest?
  9. What are the three purposes listed for “beats” while writing dialog?
  10. Name one of Anthony’s hobbies, other than writing.

Exploring Canvas Caverns: Joey Jordan

joeyJoey Jordan is a freelance illustrator of fantasy and science fiction. For a glimpse at her work, just look at the top of this web page–that mad scientist is a Joey Jordan original. Her work has also been seen in Jim Baen’s Universe, The Drink Tank, and Renard’s Menagerie, among others. If you want to see more of her art, check out out her website here. In addition, she’s on Facebook, where she’s always interested in meeting new people, and there she runs the group called the Con-Goer’s Inn.

David Steffen: Thanks for joining us, Joey.

David: At what point in your life did you realize you were going to be an artist? Why not a butcher, baker, or candlestick-maker?

Joey: When I was a real young child, prior to kindergarten. I had always seen myself as an artist and wanted to do it as a career till I was older and thought that it could only be a hobby. Then back in 2004 I decided that if I were to live a happy life I would have to do what I love, so I started to fiddle in art again. Then in 2007ÂI came into some “Luck money” and filled the studio that my husband made for me. He is really supportive and even sends me to my art room if I am drifting from a piece or allowing to many things to distract me.

David: What appeals to you about fantasy and science fiction illustrations, that you choose to focus on that aspect of art?

Joey: Even my earliest pictures were of fantasy and science fiction. I have always had an awesome imagination and found traditional art boring to me… except for a few landscapes here and there but I still always brainstormed the idea of turning them into a fantasy or sci-fi piece.

David: When you create a new piece of artwork, do you create a backstory for the image or does the image exist in isolation?

Joey: The piece tells me it’s story, it’s like it has it’s own life and being, I am only deciphering it. Well that is with the “flash images” the full ideas that I get in an instant flash, then I have partial ideas where I may only see a background or character then I have to find their perfect match. Back to the Q: Sometimes I have the full story, sometimes only the part of it the image wants me to know… so I never feel like I truly make it up, it’s more like it’s just there.

David: As an example, the black and white image on your home page really draws my eye. Can you tell us the story behind that one?

Joey: That was actually an experiment in contrast, the woman in the foreground is the only item in the picture to have true black and true white, everything else is 10% grey to 90% grey.ÂIt started with a partial idea, the woman, then I had to decide what the best backgroundÂwould beÂto express the idea. With this one it is one of those pieces where I myself can not read the full story from her, in some pictures I understand the full story behind it, this was only a partial idea. The main character has this ability or curse, where when she writes the name of a person on paper it becomes a death spell. I do not know why she does it or if she has to do it, I don’t think she is evil but I don’t know why she does not stop. She may be an assassin. On the paper pieces I wrote the name Kioki in Japanese, which means happy child if I did it right, though some of the pieces are ripped. When the girl reads her name the demon will take her. In a way it also felt like she was in the past and almost going back to kill herself before she goes on to become what she is.

David: I think your illustration for Diabolical plots (partial image at the top of the page, with the full image under the “Diabolical Art” tab) turned out really well. Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about that?

Joey: The Diabolical Plots project was a fun project. I had a lot of fun figuring out the lighting and adding in all of the little writer related details to the writer mad scientist. Like his tie which says #1 writer, the stack of writer help books, The top book is Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D., and the word count machine attached to the computer on the right side.

I made a head set for the poor test reader, that forces their eyes open so they can read the unedited manuscripts and the brain reader cap reads their honest responses and finds flaws in the story so you crazy diabolical writers can take over the world with your perfect creation of speculative fiction and science fiction. You guys already work in mind control and subliminal wording right, because I am already addicted to your short stories!

David: When I write I go through about half a dozen drafting stages to help work out kinks in the writing. Do you use a drafting process with your art, or do you just know what you want it to look like right away?

Joey: If its a flash image in my head or an idea I do a real quick sketch and write down any key notes on color to trigger the image again at a later time. I have so many images in my head and have held some of them for years, though it’s great that I can still remember them years later, or trigger their memory with a sketch and note. It kind of feels like everything I look at gives me ideas. My husband thinks it’s funny when we pass a cliff and I mention the awesome brush strokes that would be if done in oil or how that would make an awesome picture with a character right there.

IÂdo pre sketches and laying out all of the problems that may arise so that I get it right the first time.

I also sketch everything out on the paper or canvas prior to putting down the detail and or color to make sure it is balanced.

David: What’s your favorite art medium?

Joey: Berol Prisma color pencils on Bristol, but I am moving to oil and liquin or oil and turpentine with linseed on masonite or artboard.

David: Can you tell us some of your goals for the future? (Such as trying a new and challenging type of medium or a goal to get published in a particular venue.)

Joey Jordan: Here in a month or so I am going to submit to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. When I have a kick *** portfolio in oil I want to hit up Baen books for a cover, Tor, Spectrum, Analog, DAW, Wizards of the Coast…

David: What is your ideal working environment? For example, music or not, amount of uninterrupted time, etc.

Joey: Music adds a lot to the feel of my work. If I find a song or sound that fits the feel of the piece then I continue to play it while I work on the piece. I try toÂpush the music into the piece. I work best uninterrupted and though I am a people person and have a great attitude, when I am working on a piece and am totally into my “art mood” I sometime feel like I come off as if I am cold and uncaring at the time, I only want to be left alone to work on my picture. Everything else is a distraction that prevents me from finishing the piece and the longer I am held back from making that piece the more painful it seems.

David: How long does one piece of art typically take from conception to completion?

Joey: If I work it without too many distractions then mostly 3 days with larger works going up to one week.

David: If you could give one piece of advice to an illustrator trying to break into the market, what would it be?

Joey: Enter Illustrators of the Future!

David: If you could give one piece of advice to a beginner artist, what would it be?

Joey: Practice working your chosen medium until you feel you truly control it… Though now I will veer back toward the Illustrator style… tell a story with your images… make the viewer feel what you feel.

David: I know you enter your art in the Illustrators of the Future contest. What do you do to prepare an entry? Do you work on pieces specifically for the contest?

Joey: I do work on pieces specifically for the contest, but then the wonderful thing about that is you can use an illustration over and over. First I enter it, then when the time is up I can submit the image to markets as a stand alone piece, use it in my portfolio, and sell the original. You get so many uses out of the one piece, why not start its journey as an entry into a contest with a ton of wonderful benefits.

David: You regularly attend conventions, and have been the guest of honor at one convention. Do you have any advice for those of us who’ve never been to one?

Joey: Go! It’s wonderful, you get to hang out with lots of fans of the genre in one place, authors, illustrators, publishers, actors. I wish I hadn’t put it off so long… On face book my husband and I have a group called The Con-Goer’s Inn where we have lists of conventions in the discussion section and links to other con info.

David: Who’s your favorite illustrator?

Joey: IÂdon’t think I would say IÂhave one particular favorite,ÂthereÂare alot of truely wonderful pieces out thereÂthough I am able toÂtell quite a few artists by their style. I guess if I were to narrow it downÂa bit I wouldÂpitch Todd Lockwood, Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, John Picacio and the late Keith Parkinson.Â(In high school I loved “Rift’s” and Keith did alot of my favorite covers)Â But I will add that their are so many wonderful works out there that I mostly look at the individual piece.

David: What’s your favorite illustration (done by someone else) that you remember?

Joey: The piece that pops into my mind right now is one by Dan Dos Santos, I don’t know the name of it, but it is a piece with a young lady dead on the ground, dry snow covering the stones a bit and she is wearing a green shirt and holding a green new growth. Another woman is above her in a white cloak touching the dead girls forehead.

David: What was your favorite vacation and why?

Joey: I tie art into my ideal vacation ideas too, It’s more of a, “that will be an awesome place to get reference photos” I want to go toÂTiahuanaco, Bolivia for reference photos for my alternate prehistory paintings. So I can come up with my own ideas of what the place was in the past and to have accurate layout photos to alter and try and paint how I thought it hadÂlooked in the past.

On the norm, we go camping alot, go to the westcoast beaches (went to Virginia Beach once too), and check out little cafe’s and shops in artsy towns here in WA. Though If we are going anywhere that may have a great reference photo, I’m on it!

David: What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

Joey: It’s hard to narrow down to single activities, horseback riding, hiking and exploring waterfalls and caves (There is a freaking awesome one hidden in Cinebar WA bordered both sides by private land… knew one of the people till they sold… It was 100′, two sections of about 50 feet with a pool in the middle and at the base. There was a boulder I would climb onto near the middle and the force of the water would blow may hair back behind me. I had long hair back then.) and aggressive skating…

David: What’s your favorite indoor activity?

Joey: Painting! And drooling over DickBlick’s art catalogue… imaging the damage I could do with some of those art supplies… I also love Cirque du Soleil and live acts with a similar feel.

David: What was the last book you read?

Joey: TheÂactual last book I read was Chariots of the Gods, though Shaun my husband has started me on a few to read by a fewÂauthors that I have met at cons. I don’t really make alot of time to read though, except when I get projects and that he thoughtÂwere good, includingÂThe NameÂofÂthe Wind by PatrickÂRothfuss, I hope to pick up a few tradeÂpaperbacks get to read a story to illustrate before others have read it, except the editor of course, kind of a cool feeling.

David: Your favorite book?

Joey: P.C. HodgellsÂÂ Dark of the MoonÂÂÂ TheÂfantasy by P.C. not the sci-fi one that was turned into a movie. Though the sci-fi had a good idea with the Bermuda triangle being a teleport area to a triangle on the dark side of the moon.

My favorite series is the Death Gate Novels Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

David: Who is your favorite author?

Joey: Why David, you of course. Kind of likeÂthe favoriteÂillustrator, I don’t really feel I have one exact author, it’s to each work. Again though I will name off a few, Patrick Rothfuss, Mark J. Ferrari, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Anne McCaffery (I grew up on her Pern, even named a pet mouse Jaxom), Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, see you evil man, I can’t really narrow it down to one,ÂI could keep going but for the sake of the readers I am going to stop now.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

Joey: Dragon Ball Z resurrection and right before that the Watchmen …. on demand. The last movie in theatre IÂsaw was The Day the Earth StoodÂStill. Though I don’t watch alot of movies, I mostly spend my time looking up art references and sketching ideas out. Hey it’s fun time for artists…

David: What is your favorite movie?

Joey: For fun I have always like Labyrinth with David Bowie… Loved the new Star Trek restart movie.

David: Do you have any upcoming shows, cons, publications we should check out?

Joey: Joey: I decided to work on some of the oil tips I have received so that I can put on a high level focused show, so I will not be attending any cons till OryCon, RadCon and Norwescon. I also plan on doing WorldCon when it’s in Nevada in 2011.

I intend to go to FoolsCap in WA Saturday only. I will probably be on the Mythical Botony panel, maybe another one or two. (I have to contact programming)

David: Can you tell us a little bit about your next big work in progress?

Joey: I am starting a series of oil paintings with an ancient Minoan and Atlantian theme, I want to pitch the idea as a coffee table book of art and stories of alternate prehistory ideas that I have gotten from dreams, flash images, and ideas from ancient times. Alot of Ancient Astronaut themes.

I also have been asked to work children’s book illustrations for 2 different authors and I believe I shall do it.

David: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, Joey. I’m always eager to check out the next Joey Jordan original!

Cower, minions! It’s K. D. Wentworth!

K.D. Wentworth
K.D. Wentworth

K. D. Wentworth has reached an almost divine state in the eyes of many aspirants; especially those who participate in the quarterly Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest. K. D. is editor of the anthology, and first-reader for the writing portion of the contest. She reads, or at least starts to read, every entry that comes through the doors of Author Services, Inc; a colossal task that she completes not once but four times per year.

Thankfully, unlike the varied recognized deities of Earth’s many cultures, K. D. is very approachable and friendly. While she is known to smite overwrought prose wherever she sees it, she would never pulverize a well meaning aspirant. Her kindness shows in the many ways she strives to help struggling writers achieve the elusive goal of publication.

Above all else K. D. is an author. She has several books and dozens of short stories in print. You can find her work in virtually every mentionable genre publication currently in print and many who aren’t. You can learn more about K. D. and her writing at her website, http://www.kdwentworth.com.

K. D., thank you for the opportunity to give this interview.

Anthony Sullivan: Three-time Nebula finalist, winning the Writers of the Future contest, Teacher’s writers award, tons of novels in publication; is it true are you really HG Wells reincarnated?

K. D. Wentworth: Actually, I’m a four-time Nebula finalist, but after you’ve lost three times, people mercifully stop counting. As for me and H.G., have you ever seen us in the same room together? Just a little food for speculative thought.

Anthony: As we all know, the speculative fiction genre lost an icon in Algis Budrys last year. How close were you to Mr. Budrys and how has he affected your craft over the many years you worked together?

KD: I adored Algis Budrys. He bought my first story and gave me invaluable advice at the Writers of the Future Workshop. We kept in contact over the years and it was a delight to see him every time our paths crossed. I still use what he taught me about writing every single day when I sit down to write.

Anthony: What was the most helpful or perhaps most profound piece of advice Algis gave you?

KD: There was so much, but one of his sayings was that “Remember that the story is not the words.” It was his theory that the story exists inside the writer’s head where it is perfect. The words we use to try and tell it on paper (or the screen) are imperfect vehicles for what we want to say. They will never be as good as what’s inside our heads. Lots of different words can be used to tell the same story. Just look at how many different versions of “Cinderella” exist. We have to make the words as smooth and descriptive and professional as we can, but should not get hung up on the fact that they aren’t as good as what’s inside our heads or else we’ll never stop revising.

Anthony: What, if any, formal training have you had? (i.e. MFA, etc)

KD: I have a degree in English, Liberal Arts, from the University of Tulsa, in addition to certification as an elementary teacher, fifteen hours of Computer Programming, and fifteen hours of Education graduate school classes.

Anthony: This year is the 25th anniversary of the Writers of the Future contest and its popularity seems to be growing still. Is the quality of submissions trending upwards or down? Does this make your job easier or more difficult?

KD: The quality of submissions is improving all the time. It makes it more difficult, but I love the increasing quality. There are so many talented writers out there who only need to be given a chance.

Anthony: As the contest continues to grow, many new writers are getting the courage to finally submit. What advice can you offer them as they pen their entries?

KD: Don’t reject your own story. A writer really never knows how good her story is until someone else reads it. Take a chance and send it in!

Then write something else!

Anthony: You’ve always kept the exact number of entries close to your vest but we know for sure that the number is large and that you read, at least the beginning of every story. Do you ever tire of the process? What keeps you going? Do you have any help?

KD: I only work about an hour at a time on the first-reading so that my eye stays fresh. I don’t have any help, but that’s the way I want it right now. It’s a lot of work, but I value being entrusted with this responsibility.

Anthony: What are a few things that are sure to send a story into the ‘Thanks for trying’ box?

KD: Passive characters. Weak endings that just fizzle out. Idiot plots (where someone has to do something stupid or there is no plot). Overused ideas without something new to entice the reader. Overdone language. Over the top metaphors and similes. On-stage sex. Pointless and gruesome violence. Anything that sounds like Star Wars, Buffy, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Twilight, etc.

Anthony: About what percentage of stories do you actually make it all the way through?

KD: I’m just guessing, but I would say fifteen to twenty percent.

Anthony: What is the most memorable story you have ever sent up to the judges?

KD: That’s like being asked to pick your favorite child!ÂÂ Here are a few favorites: “Blackberry Witch” by Scott M. Roberts, “Last Dance at the Sergeant Majors’Â Ball” by Cat Sparks, “Schroedinger’s Hummingbird” by Diana Rowland, “Numbers” by Joel Best, and “Sleep Sweetly, Junie Carter” by Joy Remy.

Anthony: Dave Farland once mentioned that he received a submission written in crayon. What is the most bizarre entry you’ve seen in your time with WotF?

KD: I keep getting poetry, scripts, hand-drawn illustrations, and high school and college theme papers about things like the evils of okra and how misunderstood pit bulls are.

Anthony: Do you feel like your affiliation with the Writers of the Future contest is a lifelong one?

KD: I certainly hope so. I love getting to pay back some of the help that was once given to me.

Anthony: In 1988 you won the Writers of the Future contest with your story Daddy’s Girls. How important was this in the success of your career?

KD: It was an amazing moment in my life. I’d never sold anything up until that point. Winning meant that I wasn’t wasting my time writing and that it was possible I could have a writing career.

Anthony: How hard was the wait until your second publication, Dust, two years later?

KD: It was a year after winning the Contest before I sold “Dust” and the waiting was very hard because my expectations had been raised. I just had to have faith in myself and keep writing.

Anthony: Most of your stories and books seem to be fantasy and urban fantasy. Do you have a penchant for those sub-genres?

KD: I like and write everything, from high fantasy and a bit of horror to hard sf. All but one of my books have actually been sf. I especially like to write about aliens, the way their minds work, and how they see the universe.

Anthony: Your novel with Eric Flint, Course of Empire, has received a good deal of praise. So few authors are able to collaborate well. How are you and Mr. Flint able to balance the responsibility of such a project?

KD: Eric writes the outline and an extensive background. I write the book. Then Eric adds material, in some places up to an entire chapter. He’s a very generous collaborator and I enjoy working with him. I think our strengths braid well together.

Anthony: What can you tell us about your upcoming novel project?

KD: The next book out is Crucible of Empire, a sequel to The Course of Empire. It deals with a trip to a distant nebula where a human/Jao crewed ship encounters not only the Ekhat again, but another species long thought by the Jao to be extinct. There’s lots of fighting and space battles and I got to bring back two of my favorite characters from the first book.

Anthony: Do you have any short fiction releasing anytime soon?

KD: I just had “Hex Education” published in Witch Way to the Mall. Upcoming I have “Special Needs” in Strip-Mauled, “Owl Court” in Sword and Sorceress XXIV, “Miss White-Hands’ Class Goes Shopping” in a yet untitled humorous suburban vampire anthology, and “The Embians” in Destination Future.

Anthony: Some say that short form fiction is being revitalized by the internet. What changes do you see on the horizon for short fiction and the publications, both print and electronic, that publish it?

KD: The SF/fantasy field is blessed with still having a vigorous market for short fiction. I just wish that everyone who is trying to sell short fiction would subscribe to at least two magazines and help support them. These are tough times and we just lost Baen’s Universe, a wonderful market, due to lack of revenue. Online venues are good showcases, but most of them do not pay very well.

Anthony: You have written some stories in the alternate history genre. Do you see this as viable market or a fad? Would a AH story stand a chance in the WOTF contest?

KD: Alternate History is always fun, both to write and read, and it seems to be here to stay. It will always have a chance in the Contest as long as 1) it’s well researched and 2) you make it clear where the point of departure from the real timeline is.

Anthony: K. D., thanks so much for your time. I hope our readers will take your advice and run out and subscribe to a genre pub to support short fiction.

Also, thanks to Frank Dutkiewicz, Dan Gaidin, David Steffen, Brad Torgersen, Laurie Unas and Jennifer Wendorf for their submitted questions.

Photo used by permission from Author Services, Inc.

Dan Gaidin

Upcoming interview: Joey Jordan

Coming soon: an interview with artist and illustrator Joey Jordan Her illustration work has been printed in Jim Baen’s Universe, and you can check her site, with art samples here. She’s a very talented artist who I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with on more than one occasion.

If you have any questions for her, drop us a line and we’ll try to work them in.

Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

InfernoWritten by Frank Dutkiewicz.

Inferno is the modern day telling of Dantes 14th century epic poem. Even for those who have never read The Divine Comedy (such as myself), this tale of a trip to hell is familiar to many. The 1976 Hugo and Nebula nominated novel by Niven and Pournelle has had over twenty reprints over the years. The latest reprint is available on the shelves of bookstores in time for its long awaited sequel Escape from Hell.

The novel opens with Science Fiction writer Allen Carpentier dying in a stunt to impress fans. The agnostic Carpentier finds himself in an astral equivalent of solitary confinement. His world is a bronze haze. He can think, speak and move but cannot feel or see a thing. His very existence challenges Descartes statement I think therefore I am. In a fit of madness, he says the magic words that frees him from his prison (a djinn bottle), only to find himself in the Vestibule of Hell where he meets guide, Benito (a real person in history). Benito informs him where he is and claims to know the way out, through the nine circles of hell to its very center.

The ever-skeptical Carpentier chooses to believe he is elsewhere and theorizes he is in a futuristic amusement park he terms ‘Infernoland’. Allen and his guide travel through all the horrors of hell all while he meets people that he knew during his life and famous people throughout history.

Inferno is a visual masterpiece. Each layer of hell is laid out as maze of terror. The souls of the damned suffer as cruelly as the fire and brimstone preachers have claimed, and some, in this book. Carpentier and his companions suffer many of the punishments of the damned as they cross each circle. They endure such cruelty as a boiling lake of blood, a desert of burning sand with snowflakes of fire, and an industrial wasteland patrolled by driverless Corvettes that run down the wasters in life. However, Carpentier’s real struggle is with his own agnostic beliefs.

One of the foundations for an agnostic is why would an all powerful being create a supernatural torture chamber like hell? Allen, the Science fiction master prefers to believe he is another prop in a futuristic society than contemplate a possibility that Dante’s vision was real. He is constantly reevaluating his theories while witnessing many of the miracles and horrors of hell, such as; never being able to reach the short wall the circles hell, the judge of Hell, Minos, and his impossibly long tail, and the ability to heal despite suffering the worst of injuries.

Carpentier cannot understand the unending punishment souls are forced to face for eternity. The suffering that many endure seem out of balance for the sins they had committed in life. His conscience argues this point throughout the book while he tries to piece together the where and why he and others are there. The ability to make a universe does not presuppose moral superiority, he concludes at one point. By the end of the novel, Allen finds a reason on why god would have a place like hell, one that I found fitting.

As an amateur that writes as hobby, I recommend Inferno as a great template on how to build on a familiar theme (hell) and insert characters that are larger than a wonderful plot. One of the recommendations that many ‘How to’ books stress is to make your character change from the experience in your story. Allen Carpentier changes like few others that I have read before. Niven and Pournelle create a man who faces down demons and wades through boiling blood very believable to me.

There are very few writers in the industry that are able to work together and produce a publishable story, Niven and Pournelle make it look easy. The two accomplished authors have published several together, The Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, Footfall, are just a few. Inferno was their third collaborative novel together, and in my opinion, their best. I was hooked on the first page, followed their journey eagerly as they passed through each circle of hell, and found the ending moving.

Some may find Inferno theologically challenging. I believe it was written to be that way. As reader who loves Science Fiction and Fantasy, Inferno has remained in my top ten favorite stories of all time. I can’t recommend highly enough.


Frank Dutkiewicz is every bit as cute and cuddly as his picture suggests. He has nine storiesÂthat have been published.ÂHis first eightÂwere all flash fiction then he got wise and rode Dave’s coattailsÂand sold one to the upcoming Shadows of the Emerald City anthology. The chicks digÂFrank andÂcan’t keep their hands off him but hate his cold nose.
Frank‘s owner is a truck driver for a car hauling company. He travels all across the country and may have ran you off the road at one point. He has a lovely wife and two equally as lovely teenage daughters.

Jim Baen’s Universe Closing April in 2010

I received some sad news this week. Jim Baen’s Universe will be no more after the April 2010 issue. Jim Baen’s Universe has been distributing compelling fiction three years now and has quickly become a staple of the short fiction market.

The death of JBU is a tough blow to aspirant writers as no other professional market has made such an effort to nurture new writers. Sam Hidaka has said that the slush forum on the bar, which has served as a makeshift workshop for many writers, will remain open for now but its demise cannot be far off.

I give the good folks at the JBU slush bar, especially Gary Cuba, Edith Maor and Sam Hidaka, credit for much of my limited writing success. Both of my honorable mentions from the Writers of the Future contest were posted there and the unapologetic criticism I received there made those stories better by far. Their feedback has made me a better writer and a more effective self-editor.

JBU is only the latest in a stream of recent closing or near-death experiences for short fiction venues. Realms of Fantasy recently hung it up only to be snatched from the jaw of death by Tir Na Nog Press. Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction closed in May of this year. A small start up venue, Oddlands, closed in September of last year after only five issues. Even the beast, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine has felt the pinch and gone to a bimonthly release schedule. There are many, many more publications, both online and print, who are suffering right now.

The question is why. We used to say that the internet was killing print media but JBU is an online publication. If this were true then JBU should be fine. Many other online publications have gone under as well so that logic simply doesn’t fly anymore.

Another consideration might be that short form fiction simply isn’t what readers are looking for. Recent success stories include epic series such as the Harry Potter series and Twilight. Both are multi novel sets with some books weighing in the five to six hundred page range. I would never speculate that short form fiction is ceasing to exist but it seems evident that demand is dwindling and publications are going to need to think of new ways to attract readers.

I believe that the time isn’t far off when publications are going to have to look at publishing in a whole new way. JBU tried something new with their Universe Club which provided them much needed capital early on but ultimately regular subscriptions never grew strong enough and they became too dependent on the Club income. I think there are two points of interest to make note of. First, The Universe Club was a success and readers enjoyed feeling like they were part of the magazine rather than just subscribers. This probably kept many of them subscribing longer than they would have otherwise. Secondly, the subscription model is still necessary and must be nurtured with as much care if not more than before.

I don’t pretend to know what they next big thing in periodical publishing is but one thing is certain. Editors all over the industry are watching as each of these guys fall. I hope that they are taking the time to analyze and learn what they can do to insure they don’t suffer the same fate.

SpoCon Report by Ann Wilkes

This con report was originally published on Ann Wilkes’ blog

Spocon Con report

Spocon Day one, Friday, July 31

I arrived at the con early enough to hit the dealers’ room before opening ceremonies. I ran into Maggie Bonham (M H Bonham) before opening ceremonies and invited her to read with me at the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading in the morning. All the local Broads had other plans or were getting ready for WorldCon.

Last year, opening ceremonies was very entertaining, with Timothy Zahn and filking by Char MacKay. Of course, the bat flying around the auditorium was a nice touch, although no one could take credit for that but the bat.

This year was … different. I should probably stop right there before I slam the poor con com. But now you’re curious, aren’t you? Well, when Dennis Gagaoin said that we were about to reap the benefits of the con com’s months of fighting, that was clearly not a good sign. I’m not sure if the program they had originally planned fell through because someone bailed or they never truly spent time organizing the opening ceremonies. What followed was a lot of people standing up and pinch-hitting. It would have been better to just have one person apologize for the lack of any formal opening ceremonies and say, we have a great weekend planned for you filled with this, this and this. Now go have fun. But no one asked me. Luckily, I live two states away so I can’t be tempted to sort them out.

Having taken two planes to get there, and having to read at 9AM, I begged off of further con fun for the evening.

Day two, Saturday, August 1

Only one person showed up at the 9AM reading, so the readers outnumbered the listeners. I read from a story that is set in Chelan, WA and begins with a tragedy that really happened there in the 40s. Our audience of one cried. Maggie read from her new novel, Lachlei. We traded books, so I get to read the rest. 🙂

I stayed with my writing buddy, Sue Bolich, who lives near Spokane. (Way better than the dorm experience of last year , don’t get me started.) I had met Andrea Howe of Blue Falcon Editing last year. It wasn’t long before the four of us were the four musketeers for the remainder of the weekend, beginning with a panel Saturday morning. When we weren’t paneling, we were eating, talking and laughing our heads off.

My schedule of panels, as I said before, was a perfect fit for me. And my co-panelists were all marvelous, informative, polite and entertaining. My-Twit-Book, Sci-Fi and You Are you kidding me? What do I spend more time doing than writing? The artist guest of honor, John Picacio was on the panel and brought some pointed Twitter questions. I wasn’t much help with those since I’m still ignoring the (bird) call to tweet. We did have a lively discussion about posting or tweeting etiquette and how to silence people who fill up our walls or phones with a constant barrage. I met John in the green room (which moved not just once, as it did last year, but twice!). He was asking about the table tents and if his was there. I didn’t recognize him and said, “It would help if you told me your name.” He’s apparently forgiven me.

My next panel was in the same room ten minutes later. Another subject near and dear to my heart (and my writing): grammar. Andrea sat next to me on this one and after she made a Princess Bride and Firefly reference in asides to me, I knew: friends for life. Maggie, Sue and I had made lunch plans already. I invited Andrea and our little band of geeky, literary lasses was born.

I shared a signing with Patty Briggs. Her line was none-stop, a dozen people deep for the whole hour. I didn’t get a chance to speak with her, but she has obviously made an impression on a good number of people. I hope I can get to know her at a future con. I signed one copy of Awesome Lavratt.

Day 3, Sunday, 8/2

Sunday was yet another 9AM appearance. Good thing there was no drinking , or at least none that we bothered to find. The panel was on Worldbuilding. What could I possibly say sitting next to L E Modesitt, SpoCon’s writer guest of honor? Sue, Maggie and I still managed to look half-way intelligent. I picked up a couple of good book recommendations along the way: Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, both by Jared Diamond, and A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat.

Three of the four musketeers (minus Andrea) had a nice conversation with Lee (Modesitt) in the hall after the panel. Very personable guy. And he redefines dapper. Mark Ferrari asked him how many vests he owns. His reply was something over 80! I had interesting chats with Mark in the (first) green room about publishing and writing. And I lugged Mark’s hefty tome, The Book of Joby, up to Washington just to get his autograph.

Mark and I were on a panel last year in which we created a story for the audience on the spot. What fun! He read Awesome Lavratt during the con and praised my sense of humor during the panel , bless him! We’ve been pen pals ever since. He was the artist guest of honor at SpoCon last year.

Something new this year was a charity thing where people bought little matchboxes with slips of paper in them for a buck. The slips of paper had a name of a guest or pro and a greeting. They had to find the person and offer the greeting. Then they got a donated item from that person’s goody bag. It was a nice idea, but will need some fine tuning for next year. I especially enjoyed signing one of my books (out of the goody bag) for an eleven-year-old girl.

My con report is rather limited. I didn’t attend the masquerade, I don’t game and I had to catch the flight back before the closing ceremonies. Still worse, thanks to the TSA (They searched my husband’s luggage and it poofed.), I had no camera for the trip. I should have picked up a disposable. Anyway, I took one picture with my phone and had a passerby take another. They looked great when I peered at them at the time. Apparently, not so much…

L to R: Sue, Maggie, Andrea

Ann in HatSmallerAnn Wilkes’ stories have appeared in magazines and print anthologies. Awesome Lavratt (2009, Unlimited Publishing) is a tongue-in-cheek space opera with mind control, passion and adventure. If her alien worlds don’t hook you, her sense of humor will. Visit www.annwilkes.com, for a full bio, her blog and links to online stories.

DS Sale #2–The Utility of Love

untitledMore good news, I received another acceptance this morning from J.W. Schnarr who is editing the Shadows of the Emerald City anthology, a Wizard of Oz horror anthology. When I heard the theme, I knew I HAD to submit, and I’m glad I did.

The story is titled “The Utility of Love”, and it’s a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, but the Tin Man is 2 stories tall and… isn’t such a nice guy.

A few stats in case people are interested:
Time since I started writing fiction: 2 years, 6 months
Time since I started writing short stories: 1 year, 2 months
Short story #: 19
Total responses before this sale: 128
Total rejections since last sale: —2
Time since last sale: —7 days
Total rejections of this story before this sale: 0
Total responses from Pseudopod before this sale: 0

Two new anthologies open for submissions

I caught wind of two new anthologies that look promising.

The Way of the Wizard, edited by J. J. Adams, will be an anthology full of stories about wizards. JJA has put together some neat anthologies in the past and this one looks to be just as interesting.

Match-that-Artwork Contest is an interesting contest. Submissions should be based on one of the supplied pieces of artwork. There are hundreds of images to choose from so there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to find something original to write. Submissions will be judged not only on the quality of the piece but also how well it matches the artwork.

Check the links for pay and submission guidelines.