You know, life was a lot easier when I didn’t know about awards like the Hugos or the Nebulas. It was an abstract thing. “Oh, there are awards and people win them. Cool.” Then, I started knowing the people who were nominated. “Oh, there are awards and my friends are up for them. Cool!” Then, I started being eligible and nominated for awards. Suddenly, it’s becoming, “There are these awards. How the hell am I good enough for them?”
I think I was lucky. The first two awards I was up for, I wasn’t at the awards ceremonies where I won. This vexed me. The third one, I made sure I was at and wanted to throw up the entire time. I won. I had a speech to read because a friend forced me to write one even though I was sure I wasn’t going to win. When I sat down, I realized I was starving. So, that’s what awards are like for me. Am I good enough? I’m going to throw up. Then, win or lose, I’m starving.
That being said, I still want to be nominated for awards and, yes, I want to win them. Winning is awesome. It really is. But, award season is stressful. People get cranky if you post about awards. People get cranky if you don’t post about awards. It’s really a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.
And since I’m going to be condemned either way, here’s what’s eligible of mine for the Hugo this year:
• "Iron Achilles Heel" - The New Hero II anthology - Stone Skin Press, February 2013
• "An Infestation of Adverts" - Blue Shift Magazine, Issue #1 anthology - White Cat Publications, June 2013
• "Dust Angels" - Beyond the Sun anthology - Fairwood Press, July 2013
• "Lock and Key" - Shadowrun Returns kickstarter anthology - Catalyst Game Labs, July 2013
• "The Price of Family" - Elementary (All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters) anthology - DAW, December 2013
• "A Nightmare for Anna" - By Faerie Light anthology - Zombie Sky Press, December 2013
• Children of Anu: Book Two of the Karen Wilson Chronicles, novel - Apocalypse Ink Productions, June 2013
• Coins of Chaos anthology - EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, Editor, October 2013 [Short form editor]
A couple years back, Jason Schmetzer, the fiction editor for battlecorps.com, asked me if I wrote stories about “big stompy ’Mechs.” My answer was an unhesitating “No.” Jason, not to be denied, asked me if I could crash a big stompy ’Mech and then write him a story. I thought about it and said that I thought I could… if I could think of the right story.
It took two years and some back and forth between me and Jason to hammer out the idea for The Nellus Academy Incident – a YA Battletech webserial about 8 cadets and a General in a PR event gone horribly, horribly wrong. I figured it would be about 25 episodes of about 2000 words each and was designed to go up on a weekly basis. That’s not exactly what happened but, in the end, the webserial was 25 episodes and almost 60,000 words.
I was surprised and delighted beyond words when Jason told me that The Nellus Academy Incident was going to be packaged up as a novel for general sale. This wasn’t my intent when I wrote the serial but, wow, it looked like I had written a YA novel without planning on it.
Yesterday, I got the cover. The book will come out towards the end of January. Isn’t it pretty?
As a side note, I do know what I’d write for a sequel if Jason asked for another serial for battlecorps.com.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail is an author and editor I admire. I’ve shared a TOC with her, edited her, and been edited by her. Almost all of it has been military fiction. It’s always interesting to get an inside perspective on how people get into cultures they’ve not personally experienced.
As a writer, there is nothing more gratifying than successfully immersing yourself into another psyche so outside of your own. In becoming another person…if only on paper…and having an audience believe in that character. Have them connect and empathize and even cry for that character. It is a humbling experience.
I recently wrote a story called “Brother” for the Defending the Future anthology, Dogs of War. My story is from the perspective of a soldier horribly scarred by war, both physically and emotionally. That soldier has retreated inside of himself and used the extremes of his military psychological training to defend the tattered remains of his spirit.
It probably will not surprise you—particularly if you know me—that I have never been to war. I have never been in the military. My closest connection is being the youngest child of a military man who fought in several wars, and was scarred by all of them. A child who never experienced the military lifestyle. Heck, by the time I was aware of my surroundings I barely experienced my father at all, not until I was much older. Though not consciously, I suppose you could say that my father was a template for my character. Now, looking back, I can see where the more subtle mindset and defenses my father had were amplified in this story. At the time of writing, though, all I had to draw on was the most basic understanding of the military mindset, post traumatic stress disorder, and a bit of research on the internet to flesh things out. And yet the words flowed. The character told his own story and showed me a glimpse of the trauma left by combat.
Apparently I have a very fertile imagination. Or perhaps I truly channeled some unnamed soldier I will never know beyond the words of my story, because I showed it to the soldiers I know. I showed it to medical personnel familiar with my topic. I’ve read it to audiences several times over. And each time I was humbled at the impact of my words.
This may sound like boasting, but please, be assured that is not so. I am in awe at the gift I have been given to touch people with words and as with anything given as a gift, I am not responsible for the outcome. What I have written in “Brother” is a product of inspiration that is beyond my control. It is not something I planned out to write. It was not something I could possibly write from my own experience. I have no doubt that creativity is touched by divine inspiration and I have learned that through my fiction I can be many people, to many people, and none of them have a single thing to do with who I really am. It is an amazing feeling to be given a gift like that, and to be fortunate enough to share it with the world. I certainly count my blessings and look forward to where my muse will lead me next.