Writers of the Future, Volume 32 is on Sale!

Recall the short story prequel I wrote for The Jack of Souls?

It won a place in this year’s Writers of the Future anthology, and that anthology is on sale for a buck in the Kindle store!

Original stories and original art for a buck. Sweet! 

Special Midnight Free Book Offer!

Buy a copy of this year’s Writers of the Future before Midnight tonight and I’ll joyfully ship you a first-edition paper, hardback,* eBook or audiobook of The Jack of Souls!


*First come first served on the paper and hardbacks (I think I have a dozen of each). No limit (except midnight) on The Jack of Souls eBooks and audio.
How Does This Work? 
Simple! Just send me a receipt/photo of you and your WOTF to stephenmerlino@hotmail.com, along with your preference of paper, hard, ebook or audio, plus your address, and I’ll put it in the mail.  Thank you!
Buy at a local book store or online. Here are the links:
Amazon US (paperback | Kindle)         < $11.52 paperback, $6.99 Kindle
Barnes & Noble (paperback | Nook)    < $ 11.63 paperback, $6.49 Nook


Win a free eBook of THE JACK OF SOULS!

eBook-Slot-Machine GIVEAWAY!

Click the image for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Jack of Souls on Amazon!

eBook Slot Machine blue

Give it a whirl, and share this link with friends! Good luck!


Days 2 & 3 – Writers of the Future Workshop

off the grid for 24 hours

When last I posted, we’d all been assigned the task of writing a short story in 24 hours. I was given a random object (a 38 Special shell casing) and told to go interview someone on the street, and then use these things to inspire and craft a story.

And that’s what we did for the last day. I didn’t come up for air for basically fourteen hours (in two 7 hour chunks), which is why I didn’t post the schedule for yesterday

A first

But I did it! I wrote a 5K story in a day, and it has all the bones of a decent story. It’s a rough draft, sure, but it has all the bones. There were valuable lessons in that for me. Perhaps the most valuable lesson of this exercise was to see that I could in fact do this from scratch, with random inspirations; the other was that I could do that in a 24-hour window. That makes me feel good.

So here’s what we’ve been doing: 


You’ll notice the right-hand column is the schedule of the Illustrator’s track.

the illustrators arrived today

The Illustrators got here yesterday, and we just met them today and saw for the first time the illustrations they did for the stories that will appear in the anthology. I’ll get a close-up of the illustration for my story. The artist (as you can see in the picture) is a young woman; her name is Maricella, and she is from Mexico.


Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Awesome Analog Story Catcher

Powered by dice!

100 Pages of Hand-Made Story Elements

The way this works is that she has created 100 lists of 10 possible story elements. First she rolls the percentile dice to select the page, then she rolls one for the list of ten.

Closeup Story Catcher

I told her she should make it an app…then i realized how charming the little book was

When I tried it out, I rolled up: Student, Hotel, Time Travel. Pretty good bones for a story, no?

Story Catcher Ryan Stuart Nina

Nina sharing withtwo of this year’s winners: Ryan & Stewart

2016 Writers of the Future Workshop – Fri & Sat Schedule

3 Days left! Larry niven, Mike resnick, nancy kress…

Fri & Sat

NANCY KRESS: “Develop writing rituals to train the ‘Little Man in the Basement.'”

LARRY NIVEN: “If Lucifer’s Hammer gets humanity to do something about this threat, I’ll feel my life was justified.” 🙂

MIKE RESNICK: “You sell your first 3 books on promise. You sell your 4th on record.”

Day 1 Program – WOTF Workshop

This program was a closely guarded secret until we arrived

In fact, before we came, I searched the internet for one of these from previous years, to no avail. Now that we’ve all got a copy and permission to share, I can post mine. I’ll post one every day this week.


And yes, you see that right: 8 hours today with David Farland and Tim Powers, talking plot construction, characters, theme, conflict, etc., and hearing stories about bar-hopping with Phillip K. Dick. Fantastic. Such a wonderful opportunity.

Below, David and Tim, after they distributed story props to all of us. In the foreground is the prop that is to inspire a story I write tomorrow. In case you’re not familiar, that’s a 9 mm shell casing, which makes my job easy.There are lots of those in fantasy.

This year it’s “Steampunk Formal”

Steampunk Formal – to Goggle or Not to Goggle

Building on the steampunk theme of this year’s Writer of the Future cover, the gala in April is “steam punk formal.” That means instead of renting a regular tux I can wear some kind of hybrid Victorian dinner jacket top-hat thingy with sword-cane and gyro-boots.

I’m excited. It’s like Halloween in April.

Anyone have accessories I can borrow?vict_mens_02_full



   Announcing the cover for  this year’s Writers of the Future Anthology (vol. 32)!


I love this cover. In my opinion it is the best in all 32 years. I think Steampunk lends itself well to this kind of whimsy. And such colors!

What’s in the Anthology?

The anthology, which includes all twelve of this year’s winning short stories (including mine) as well as stories by Brandon Sanderson and Dave Wolverton, is now available for preorder on Amazon.



More in the Anthology

The anthology also features essays on writing by Tim Powers (who wrote On Stranger Tides, from which Pirates of the Caribbean was made), and others.

Final Edits

My story is now in final edits. I got to work with the fabulous Dave Farland (Dave Wolverton), who will also be at the conference. How lucky was I that my spring break coincides with the week-long conference and gala? Can’t wait.



WOTF CONTEST WINNERSunday night, I got a call from Joni Labaqui, the Writers of the Future contest director…

Since I was a finalist already, I knew this was either going to be good news (that I didn’t place in the contest, but I could be happy to be a finalist), or astounding news (that I’d placed).

“Are you ready?” she said. “Your story is one of the winners!”

I’m not sure what she said after that. Something about this being the biggest quarter in the history of the contest (8,000 plus submissions?) and how they were flying me and the other eleven winners (three for each quarter) to LA in April for an all-expense-paid week of workshops and parties and classes with instructors like Tim Powers and K.D. Wentworth, and guests like Larry Niven, Ken Scholes, Robert Sawyer and Mike Resnick.

I’m still stunned just thinking about it. And yes, I’m incredibly excited.

I couldn’t get to sleep that night. I had to step out for a walk. I felt, and still feel, overwhelmingly grateful. I am so thankful that something in my story caught someone’s eye. I know how subjective story judging is. There were surely stories better written, funnier, smarter, sexier. But someone noticed something in mine that set it apart, and I thank my good angels for that.

The Conference is the Real Prize

Yes, there is a generous cash prize, and yes, they publish the twelve winning stories in an anthology. But the real prize is the conference and the intangibles of learning and exposure that week.

A 2010 Winner Explains the Benefits of the Contest and Conference

Brad Torgersen wrote a complete breakdown of the value of the contest and all of its intangibles on his website, here.

Thank you, Writers of the Future! : )