Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories Anthology Review: L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future volume 38

CoverIn anticipation of the Writer’s Games kicking off this weekend, here are my thoughts on a book of short stories I recently enjoyed.

Why I picked it up:
I received a free e-book version of L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future volume 38 (amazon associate link) from the publisher through the Library Thing early reviewers program.

My Expectations:

Because this is a collection of stories by contest winners, and says it is “the best new SF & Fantasy of the year” right on the cover, I had high expectations: I expected some really great science fiction and fantasy stories.

What I liked:
There is so much to like about this book! It opens with a gallery of color illustrations by the winners of the illustration contest, one for each story, that piqued my interest and created anticipation. There is a nice range of stories exploring times from Earth’s history to planets in the far future with some time travel in there as well. I noticed a recurring theme of the power of knowledge and the dangers of memory manipulation which I find very interesting. Before each story and essay there is an extensive, informative bio for the author and illustrator which helps orient the reader for each new experience.

I especially enjoyed “The Single Most Important Piece of Advice” by Frank Herbert followed by one of his stories and then an essay by his son about teamwork and writing with others as he continues to create in his father’s world of Dune. Those three pieces in a row felt like a special moment.

The story by the editor David Farland that accompanies the cover illustration is also very special as it is the last story he wrote. He died only days after he finished editing this book.

What I didn’t like:

There were a couple of stories I didn’t like, and sadly, one of them was chosen as the opening story. This made it difficult for me to get into the book. But luckily, those intriguing, beautiful illustrations at the beginning and the craft essays throughout, pulled me further into the book. My personal preference would have been more science fiction and less fantasy.

Rating: ♦♦♦♦ 4 out of 5

Overall, I enjoyed the majority of the stories, the illustrations are beautiful, and I really liked the inclusion of craft essays and stories by Frank Herbert and other prominent authors and illustrators.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Free Writers Conference Starts Today!

Sorry I disappeared there for a bit. After my last post, my plans derailed–one thing after another–and I had a little trouble getting back on the tracks. Today, however, I want to share an exciting event. It’s the first day of TBRcon21, a free online sci-fi writers conference. Tons of authors. Tons of interesting sessions. I’ll be checking it out on YouTube It starts this afternoon. Here’s the schedule:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tbr-con-free-scifi-conference.png

I’m especially excited for Wednesday’s line-up and hope that the Joys of Editing session will prod our adventure into revision. It looks like there’s a lot of interesting discussion and information here for any writer (not only sci-fi), so I hope you’ll join me at TBRcon.

October 6: Following Desire #OctPoWriMo #Writober and #NanoPrep

Centers by Maria L. Berg 2020


Poetry prompt Following desire

Form Monotetra

Desire is the ear at the curtain

Imagine stopping all the clocks
and uninvited mental knocks
having the cutest fox who talks
star in a box, star in a box

The veiled curtain alligator
is a mystery creator
until the reveal much later
gator traitor, gator traitor

Alight with pockets full of rocks
flights of fancy with soaring hawks
who don’t care why you stopped the clocks
translator squawks, translator squawks


The poetry theme made me think of the movie It Follows, so the visual prompt is a photo by Ben Ward which also makes me think of the poster for that film.

micro-story: The jolt of the car suddenly stopping had flung my phone from it’s holster into the backseat. I crawled back there to retrieve it. I didn’t want to even look out into the foggy pitch-black night without the ability to call for help. I didn’t see it anywhere. While I was pretzeled, rummaging under the seat, I heard a click and the creak of the driver’s-side door opening. I froze, but it wasn’t like I could hide. My leg was in the air between the seats.

Read for inspiration and craft

Horror short story Active Imagination by Michelle Wilson

Horror online magazine 50-Word Stories These are fun. I recommend reading a bunch of them.

Today’s horror movie is It Follows. There was a lot of hype for the film when it came out in 2015 and I remember being unimpressed, but since it appears to be my theme for today, I’m willing to give it another try.

NaNo Prep

Today, I’m going to get back to some Futurist Thinking (the class I’m taking on Coursera) to develop the future of my story-world. I’ve been collecting signals–things that are happening now that could influence possible futures–and have a bunch. So I think I’ll try the exercise of randomly selecting three to combine into forecasts.

Hopefully, this will help me get away from things that people are already exploring and find completely original possibilities.

Once I find a few forecasts that excite me, I’ll play around with putting my protagonist in a few scenarios and see what happens.

October 5: To Write From the Heart

The Heart by Maria L. Berg 2020


Today’s poetry prompt is writing from the heart

Form shape poetry or Lysentia Rhyme

Listen to the living heart

My heart, though essential to my body,
is but a pump, a circulator
It is my voice, resonating through my being,
that is my living heart, the heart of me

My heart, though beating to the world’s rhythms,
is of this place, the lapping of these waters
It is the scream of the eagle overhead
and the roar of the hummingbird’s wings

Each morning, though the night was restless,
is an adventure, a search for nature’s news
that resonates with my voice and grows
with my living heart until I have to share.


Today’s visual prompt is this pulp cover of Rat in the Skull

micro-story At night, as the scientists slept, they worked in secret, building and testing their exo-suit. Under the bright lights, while the scientists tracked the data from their neural-implants, they ran a counter-experiment to find their strongest representative. The day the new researcher joined the lab, no one could find subject 243.

Read for inspiration and craft

Horror short story Enchantmentland by Jay Taggart

Horror online magazine Every Day Fiction

Horror movie of the day The Host


Today I’m going to do timed writings (10 to 15 min.) with each of the settings I listed in the Exploring your settings exercise I did yesterday. I’ll try to do very detailed descriptions of what my protagonist sees in that location and also create the “mood” of the place.

October 4: Falling Onto the Page #OctPoWriMo #Writober and #NanoPrep

Falling by Maria L. Berg 2020


Poetry prompt Falling

Form The Blitz

Process of Falling

Let go the grip
Let loose the tether tied
Tied up tight
Tied to an anchor
Anchor at the bottom
Anchor’s away
Away from doubt
Away, up, up, and
And I stutter
And my pen stops
Stops to check
Stops the flow
Flow of thoughts
Flow of images
Images in color
Images of purpose
Purpose of pen scratches
purpose of passions
Passions grip
Passions bright sparks
Sparks to start the engine
Sparks to light the flames
Flames to burn the inner-critic
Flames that warm intention
Intention to guide the hand
Intention will create the frame
Frame the busy thoughts to focus
Frame some rules to find a new link
Link the opposed to find bridges
Link the absurd to find promise
Promise to keep trying
Promise of gaining momentum
Momentum keeps the ball rolling
Momentum comes with continued action
Action is coming to the page
Action is trusting as I fall
Fall in love with the process
Fall and then get up again
Again to risk and stumble
Again to experiment and fail better
Better words will come
Better lines will connect
Connect my meaning to understanding
Connect me to clarity
Clarity is a window needing washing
Clarity is the droplets I can’t capture
Capture that Aha! moment
Capture the fleas for a circus

That felt good, like I cleaned out my brain with water from a mountain stream.


Today’s visual prompt is a haunting image by Alex Andreev (I couldn’t find the title)

micro-story: Ananke found the giant humanoid sculptures on the hill fascinating. She would ride out to stare at them whenever she needed time alone, enraptured by their detailed, realistic surfaces. Today, one returned the favor.

Read for inspiration and craft

Horror short story Sinister Universe by R. Michael

Horror online magazine Theme of Absence

Today’s horror movie is Color Out of Space with Nicolas Cage and if I’m up for it Mandy. I haven’t seen either and I’ve been curious.

NaNo Prep

This week’s NaNo Prep 101 theme is Build a Strong World for Your Characters. I like the Exploring your settings exercise because it not only explores settings for each of the plot points, but also relates setting to mood.

How do you like to approach World Building? What are your tips and tricks for creating believable settings?

October 3: Finding Beauty in the Chaos #OctPoWriMo #Writober and #NanoPrep

Tempest by Maria L. Berg 2020


Today’s Poetry prompt beauty in chaos inspired me to pull out an old canvas and my acrylics and play. Tempest is far from finished, but I see potential in the chaos (and my arm is covered in purple which is fun).

Form Free-verse

I was having trouble with today’s poem, but then I remembered enjoying the Clarity Pyramid form last year, so I decided to play with that. I changed the form slightly to make it work.


fruit-flies everywhere
swatting at everything
like zombies they rise again

“random acts excite attention”


Droplets like jewels strung
on spiderwebs glisten
these foggy, drab gray mornings

“Each day brings the unexpected”


How are your stories coming? It’s not too late to start.

Today’s visual prompt is a lovely illustration by Jim Burns.


Julit admired her new creation. The 3-D Lifeprint came with only a few approved designs, but she had easily re-programmed its functionality to fit her imagination. Her menagerie chattered in their usual hisses and clicks. For her next creation, she would try to program speech.

Read for inspiration and craft

Horror flash fiction What You Lost in the Wildermere by R. J. Howell – great use of second person POV.

Horror online magazine Arsenika

Today’s horror movie is Loch Ness Terror : Sometimes I get in the mood for a very bad creature feature and this one is so bad it’s good.

NaNo Prep

I had trouble brainstorming scenes yesterday. I think it may be because I started by typing them directly into my Scrivener file. Today, I’ll start in a notebook and just write down everything that comes to mind. I’ll also delve deeper into my characters’ needs and wants and try interviewing them about it.

I have to remind myself that this is all very preliminary. No pressure. Anything goes. My world is at my fingertips.

October 2: #OctPoWriMo #Writober and #NanoPrep


Today’s prompt is vulnerability. I really like Morgan’s artwork and music choice for today.

Forms: Haiku or Lannet. I don’t think I’ve heard of a Lannet before. I think I’ll give it a try. Fourteen lines, 10 syllables each, no end rhymes.


Reaching blindly into the dark abyss
where monsters lurk and may bite or devour
knowing fear and facing it openly
each toe dipped deeper into the unknown
raw and tender, like the bruised flesh of fruit

Skin eroding under the slightest touch
reveals the damage and imperfections
time’s cruelty left behind to fester
and grow, fungus in damp and shadow
to some ugly, others delicacy

The raw nerves open to thrill and excite
are also unprotected from distress
the peril of quiet contemplation
and diving into the murky waters


Today’s visual prompt is The Colour Out of Space by Ron Miller inspired by the story by H. P. Lovecraft.

micro-story He stared into the array of colorful light bursting from his well and believed he saw eyes staring back at him, swirling in the glow. He couldn’t look away, ever.

Read for inspiration and craft

Horror flash fiction At the End of the Song, a Ghost is Waiting by Cat Rambo

Horror online magazine Three-Lobed Burning Eye

Horror movie of the day Event Horizon

NaNo Prep

I enjoyed the webcast yesterday and the prompts helped me get some writing done. I recommend at least watching the very end. It’s inspiring. I didn’t get to my post about Plot and Structure yesterday. I’ll try to get it out today.

October Challenges: #Writober and #OctPoWriMo

October is right around the corner which means some fun daily challenges I participate in are coming up. I hope you’ll join me.


Writober is a daily flash story challenge with image prompts. I set up the daily prompts on a pinterest board, so you can see them all at once and jump around if you would like. This year is #Writober 5. Feel free to look through all the #Writober boards if you are looking for creepy and scary inspiration. Pinterest has changed and will not let me rename the pins by day, so my link here is how you will know which picture I’m writing to each day.

This year, I’m planning my first science fiction novel for NaNoWriMo. In hope of truly understanding the future I’m creating for this novel, I am completely immersing myself in science fiction, so each of my flash fiction stories this month will hopefully have something to do with my future world (though a pretty scary and dark side of it). Thus, you may notice the images I have chosen somewhat more future horror than paranormal horror, or so I plan to interpret them.


October Poetry Writing Month is a poetry writing challenge to write a poem each day in October. Prompts are provided each day at

I will also still be working on NaNo Prep 101 which will continue up until Nov. 1.

NaNo Prep 101

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) usually starts on Nov. 1st for me, but this year I got my idea early, so I’m participating in NaNo Prep 101 Workshop. Each week has a specific writing focus. So far, we’ve looked at the story idea, and character. October, we will explore Plot/Outline, World Building, Organizing life for writing, and Time Management.

There is a Webcast: Writing with Abby Sher and Paola Mendoza on October 1st. I really enjoy NaNoWriMo write-ins. They always inspire me to write something interesting that works with my draft.

And two more weeks of the Writer’s Games.

October’s going to be busy, but it should be a lot of fun. I’ll be in the future. I hope you’ll join me.

What October challenges do you enjoy?

#NaNoWriMo : Futurism & NaNo Prep 101

This year, I started thinking about my National Novel Writing Month novel early, so I’m participating in NaNo Prep 101. This will be my sixth NaNoWriMo and I’m going to attempt my first sci-fi novel.

This is the first week of NaNo Prep 101 “Develop a Story Idea You Are Passionate About.” My idea was inspired by something in the news which is the third suggestion in the week one exercise.

How I’m Prepping


I focused my intention by heading over to my NaNoWriMo site and declaring my project. I came up with a name and they gave me a pretty cool basic cover. I’ll probably collage something later, but I’m happy for now.


Because I want to create a realistic version of Earth in the future, I decided to take a look at what contemporary futurists are up to and I found a Coursera course to get me started. “Ready, Set, Future! Introduction to Futures Thinking” is part of a Futures Thinking Specialization offered by Institute For The Future. I’m already finding the resources helpful.


Last year I read some books on Scrivener to finally figure out more of its functions. I’ve been creating my own templates and think I have a pretty nice set up for this year’s novel.

In my Research section, I’m collecting articles and a list of books I would like to read before November. I created an idea section for my logline and dramatic question. I have my own character and settings templates and pages for different types of outlines: Hero’s Journey, Heroine’s Journey, Save the Cat, Three Act Structure, James Scott Bell’s Super Structure, and The Virgin’s Promise. As I figure out my main necessary scenes, I can see where they would fit in these different structures and play around with plot and structure at the same time.


I like to use Pinterest to create a mood board for my novel. I keep the board private and collect everything I think fits my aesthetic for setting, characters, tech and objects, any images that give me ideas for my novel.


Today, I’m going to spend some time looking for comparable sci-fi novels, short-stories, films, podcasts, radio shows, etc. It will be nice to immerse myself in both genre and specific concepts before I start writing. I like Neil Gaiman’s concept of creating a compost heap of ideas and giving it time to break down into good soil to grow my novel.

Calendars and Planner

I like the cute Sticker calendar in the NaNo Flair. I’ve collected stickers since I was a little girl. Putting stickers on a calendar over my desk is a good idea for me, but that won’t leave room on the calendar for goals. Last year I created a daily planner for writers focused on submitting stories to literary journals. I’ll be re-vamping my fourth quarter pages to fit my goals for this year. I’ll try to predict which prompts will help me get the most words on the page each day. My planner pages also bring attention to eating well and exercise which is important during NaNoWriMo as well as evaluating what works and what doesn’t each day.


I like to create a physical timeline for my story and put it up on the wall over my desk. Because I’m writing science-fiction this time, I might want two timelines: One for the major events between now and when the story events occur to explore what will be my characters’ history, and another that is the timeline of the novel. Once I have decided on the amount of time that the novel will encompass, I can start putting my scenes on post-its and play around with where they fit on the timeline and start exploring story arcs.


Tomorrow is the first NaNo Prep Write-In (9-16-2020 1pm PDT). I’ve always enjoyed the NaNoWriMo Write-Ins and find that the prompts help me think of new ideas and get a lot of writing done.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m excited to be ahead of the game for once and spending quality time developing my idea before the writing begins. Who else is preparing for NaNoWriMo 2020? What tools and tricks do you like to use?

Another First: McKenzie’s New Boyfriend

bokeh photography experiment with a wide angle attachment on a zoom lens

Galactic Unions                                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

McKenzie’s New Boyfriend is my second story published by Fictional Pairings. They paired my story with a song called Recover by Second Still. I’m listening to it while I write this. It feels perfect for my story–spacey road trip–and on Second Still’s site it says the album was released on my birthday this year (coincidence?).

This is another first in my writer’s journey because this is the first time I have published twice in the same magazine.

When building a publication history, why the same magazine?

When I first submitted to Fictional Pairings, I had two stories that I thought might work. I chose the shorter and more obviously sci-fi because I thought it was a best fit. The moment I received my acceptance letter from Fictional Pairings for BAM-AG Home, I shot off an email saying that I thought I had another piece that would be a good fit. I asked if they might be interested and how long I should wait before submitting again.

Why did I do this? Because I love the musical pairings with flash fiction. It is a great fit for me and I think it will grow. It also shows a growing readership that your first piece was so good that the magazine wanted another.

Like I said in New #LitMag+, finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, so once you find a good match, I recommend submitting more than one best fit.