All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Gemologist. Artisan Jeweler.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome to another Monday of Writer’s Links! There are lots of interesting articles this time around with titles that you might find misleading….but they hide real gems. Also, take note of the article about the LCCN number process. It is something that I feel modern writers need to know about. Enjoy!

I Hate Strong Female Characters

When Your Scene is Dragging: 6 Ways to Add Tension

Engage the Dimensional Mind For Creative Mastery

Authors: How to Get Your LCCN (Library of Congress Number)

Do We Still Need Conventional Publishers?

Writing: A Very Expensive Hobby

Is Your Journal A Liability?

He Said She Said What? #Editing #AmWriting

How To Bolster Your Business Blog With A Solo Podcast

Take Off Your Pants!

Editing Software Tools For Writers

Editing For WritersThere are many tools to help people with writing such as word processors, apps, pen and paper and more. Never has it been easier to record the written word into a manuscript. However, what do you do with your draft once it is complete? Until recently, you paid a high price for an editor to go over it for grammar, spelling, and content errors. Today, there are software tools to help bring down the cost of hiring an editor. I use some of these tools myself, going over my manuscript in layers, each program helping me locate certain issues that I want to address before I pack it up and send it to my human editor. By doing so, I save money since the final corrections that the editor makes are minimal.

All of the programs I review below have not contacted me to review them. I selected them because they are ones that I know about and use myself.

Price: $6.99

This is my new favorite editing software program. I use it on all my stories for editing after I’ve run them through Word’s spelling and grammar check. Hemingway is designed to help you write more like the famous author. Hemingway was known for writing short, concise sentences that got to the heart of the meaning like a razor. To use Hemingway the program, you either open your Word file in the program or cut and paste a passage into it. In a moment, Hemingway will show you a color coded version of your text. It will not change anything. You do that manually. Blue shows you adverbs, green highlights passive voice and prompts how to fix it, yellow is a slightly complex sentence, red is a jumbled sentence, and purple are words that you may wish to simplify.

Hemingway can be used as a writing tool. It will open a new document and save it like any word processor. It also supports Markdown. The program is available for both Apple and Windows.

Do I perform all the corrections that Hemingway prompts? The answer is no. However, seeing my words in a clear manner where all the adverbs and passive voice in the manuscript are highlighted is helpful. I’ve been referring this program to all the writers in my critique groups and everyone simply loves it.

Price: Free

As a writer, we all get in a rut and start to use terms that may be useful to only our particular field or genre of writing. These terms often are hard to parse out and state in simple words as you are writing. Unsuck-it is an aid that gives you alternate words to use in plain English. This is not just another online thesaurus. It is geared toward finding alternate words that would work best in a conservative business environment. When you are stuck….unsuck-it!

Creativity Portal’s Imagination Prompt
Price: Free

Writing prompts are always welcome, for writing blog posts, journal entries or using as story starters. This one is free. Just click the button and a new prompt will be shown to you. Keep clicking until you find one that works for you. What is more, the prompt portal is part of a writing community that could be fun to join if you are so inclined. It is worth checking out if you like using prompts.

The Readability Test Tool
Price: Free

Knowing the level of readability for what you are writing can be an invaluable tool. If you are writing YA, you don’t want the reading level of your work to go further than the age group you are aiming your book for. It is also a good test to run on your essays and short stories to find out their readiblity score. If your story reads for college level, it could be that you need to simplify your story. With the exception if it is an essay for a doctorate thesis or literary magazine. You will need to have your work online in order to input the URL for the engine to find it.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Price: Free

I have plenty of fun with this generator site. It develops titles for blog posts based on the ideas you feed into it. You only can do one at a time, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it is worth it to see what oddball titles it will come up with.

Price: Free

This free website offers to find and rank the most frequently used words in your text. You use this to see which words you overuse and to find keywords in your document. It does have a few fillers to remove conjunctions and other words you wouldn’t want in the report. Since it is free, it is worth looking at to add to your editing process. I don’t use this one any longer because I have this feature in Smart-Edit, a more robust program that I purchased last year. However, if you prefer a free tool, Wordcounter gets the job done.

Author Interview: Leisl Kaberry

Leisl Kaberry is a writer of epic fantasy adventure not unlike Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance. I am pleased to introduce this smart young adult author here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Leisl KaberryMy name is Leisl Kaberry and I am an Aussie living in Canada missing the summer heat and beaches of Australia but loving being able to snowboard in the winter… why can’t I just have it all?, the cake and the eating. I am a stay at home mum with four kids, a dog, two cats and a husband… so yep, I keep pretty busy. I am studying part-time a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, completely different to writing fantasy but I guess it just engages another part of my brain. I never wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, I was determined to be a theatre actor, I still do the bit of theatre from time to time which I enjoy but now I would much rather be writing… can never get it right!

When and why did you begin writing?

I guess I have been writing as long as I can remember, I mean I always had stories in my head… most I would tell myself, some I would act out and some I would actually write down… or at least make a start. I always loved stories and there was just an overabundance of them in my head, so I guess it was just always in me to be a writer.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was a creative spark while my first babe was sleeping that got me writing again after so many years. A simple idea for a scene (nothing really) turned into a plot for complete story, a series. I began to love the writing experience; it was a lot more work then simply coming up with stories but so much more rewarding. It was then that I considered myself a writer.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current book is the first book of Titanian Chronicles; Journey of Destiny. It is a Young Adult fantasy adventure that sees two friends set out from the all elvin village they grew up in to seek out what lies beyond the borders for them. Afeclin, a human brought up in the elvin kingdom has magic in his veins and a past that encourages him to follow the path of wizardry, while Wolflang an elf, wishes to break tradition and explore the world before settling down. Little do they know Lenna, an elf-maiden that both friends are in love with, follows them across the border and finds herself in all kinds of trouble as she seeks to find them. In the meantime Moorlan the Warlord together with his confederate, a dark mage have set the wheels in motion to bring war to the peaceful land of Marrapassa putting the three friends in danger. I have now finished the second book in this series and am in the process of publishing it while writing the third.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had read a few fantasy series at the time and was particularly in love with the genre. The Dragonlance Chronicles and David Eddings; The Belgariad series got me so hooked in fantasy worlds that I didn’t like to leave. It was a no brainer that I should want to build my own world to live permanently in my own imagination. The first scene of my story was inspired by a screen saver of a large green moon illuminating over the water… and that’s where it all began.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like to write in third person from a universal omniscience point of view, I narrate the story, looking on as a God of the world… sort of… or, at least the Chronicler. I tell the story through the main characters and allow the reader to have a glimpse into the dark side point of view through the prologue and epilogue that brings you into the minds of the Warlord and his right hand man.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

From very early on in the writing I called it Master’s Apprentice, taken from the fact that Afeclin wants to become a Master of the Art. Then The Sorcerers Apprentice came out and I started to feel like it was too cliché, unoriginal. I realised that I was chronicling the times of a certain group of people in Titania… hence Titanian Chronicles… and ultimately the story more than anything chronicles three people journeying to find their destiny… it fit.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That the world is there to grab, you can be what you wanna be, do what you wanna do if you have a bit of courage and determination. We don’t have to be pigeon holed into what is expected of us… not that there is anything wrong with following societal pulls if that is what we truly want out of life. We have choices… our destinies’ are ours for the making.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, all made up I’m afraid… and I do so like a true story. Having said that emotional experiences and feelings that the characters go through are something that usually come from my own experience or what I understand others have gone through.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Dr Seuss got me to fall in love with books and reading as a child, C.S Lewis opened my eyes up to the possibilities of other worlds beyond aging old wardrobes while Enid Blyton taught me there were other worlds to explore at the top of a tree. I love Dan Brown’s style and learnt some good writing skills from reading his books. Agatha Christie first influenced my interest in Criminology. They each inspire me to continue on in my own world; to create and be me.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Actually I have a good friend back in Montreal where I used to live who writes and she helped me a lot with my book when I had first finished writing it. Sadly she has never finished her work of fantasy but she taught me a lot a valuable things to look for and enhance in my writing.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I met Kristen Caruana through a mutual friend at a luncheon and we hit it off, she was an artist just arrived in town and not yet working so we discussed her doing the cover art for my book. After seeing her work, I was convinced she could capture the cover I wanted and she did not let me down, I wanted my cover to be a piece of classic fantasy art and really that is what it is. She also did a bunch of pictures to go inside the book. She is currently working on the art for my second book.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you’re self publishing… it isn’t a race, take your time to get it right before putting your work on display. Take advice and listen to those who have been there before you, there are plenty who are happy to share their mistakes and missteps to help you get it right the first time.

It is scary getting your work out there… it is a big piece of who you are and once it is out there is open to scrutiny, be brave and take criticisms on the chin, some you could take with a grain of salt, others are really worth paying attention to, be open to learning and growing from them. No author… no matter how popular today, started out an expert in their field… it was a long road of growth before becoming what they are. I’m still very much on that road and learning all the time, it’s a great feeling to be teachable.

Book Cover Journey of DestinyLeisl kaberry
Kitimat, British Columbia


Titanian Chronicles – Journey of Destiny Book 1
Cover Artist: Kristen Caruana


No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday of Writer’s Links from No Wasted Ink. This week, my ten hand-picked articles feature general writing tips, an interesting article about getting your indie book into the library system and how to use Triberr in marketing your books. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and settle back. It is time for some good reading.

Women in SF&F Month: Mieneke from A Fantastical Librarian


The 9 Worst Types of Plot Fails

50 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Author Platform

Everyone’s A Winner! 9 Tips for Hosting Fun (And Successful) Book Contests

Find Out if Your Prologue Is Destroying Your Story’s Subtext

How Writers Make the Most of Triberr


13 Reasons Why You Should Write a Short Story This Month

How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Arc

Book Review: Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Book Name: Forty Thousand in Gehenna
Author: C.J. Cherryh
First Published: 1983
Nominated for Locus Award (1984)

Author Carolyn Janice Cherry is better known by her pen name C. J. Cherryh. She is a Hugo Award winning science fiction and fantasy writer with 40 novels under her belt. Cherryh is pronounced “Cherry”. When she first began publishing her stories in the early 70s, Cherryh was asked to create a pen name by DAW editor Donald Wollheim. He felt that her real name more fit a romance writer instead of a science fiction writer. She also switched to using her initials to disguise that she was female. This was a common practice at the time since women authors were not as accepted in the genre as male authors were. Fortunately, that is no longer the norm in the genre.

C.J. Cherryh was born in 1942 and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma. In 1964, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin from the University of Oklahoma, and went on to gain a Master of Arts in classics from Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, Cherryh became a high school teacher of Latin, Ancient Greek and the classics

After graduation, Cherryh taught secondary school in the Oklahoma City public school district. While her job was teaching Latin, her passion was history. During her summers off, she would conduct student tours of ancient ruins in England, France, Spain, and Italy.

As busy as she was, Cherryh could not shake the writing bug. She had been writing stories since the age of ten and continued to write novels in her spare time. She did not follow the usual path of science fiction writers of the time, starting with publishing short stories in the national magazines of the day, but instead her focus was on writing novels. While Cherryh has written shorter works, she did not begin to do so until after she had published several of her novels first.

Her break came in 1975 when Donald Wollheim bought two manuscripts she submitted to DAW Books. She stated once in an interview on Amazing Stories, “It was the first time a book really found an ending and really worked, because I had made contact with Don Wollheim at DAW, found him interested, and was able to write for a specific editor whose body of work and type of story I knew. It was a good match. It was a set of characters I’d invented when I was, oh, about thirteen. So it was an old favorite of my untold stories, and ended up being the first in print.”

It was the start of a long and fruitful friendship. Cherryh has gone on to publish almost 40 novels, most of them with DAW, but not exclusively, and still continues to write more books today. She has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel twice, first for Downbelow Station and then again for Cyteen, novels that are part of the Alliance-Union Universe series that Forty Thousand in Gehenna is also part of.

Currently, Ms. Cherryh lives in Spokane, Washington, with her partner science fiction/fantasy author and artist Jane Fancher. She enjoys skating, traveling and is a regular guest at many science fiction conventions.

Culture is how biology responds and makes its living conditions better. – C. J. Cherryh

Forty Thousand in Gehenna is not a normal story about the colonization of a planet where an intrepid group of humans set up a foothold on a world and build. Instead, it is the story broken into two main sections with a few smaller vignettes bridging. The characters are born and die of old age as the centuries go by. The focus of the novel is about the interaction between humans, from Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, and the Caliban, large lizard aliens that are not the unintelligent animals the colonists were led to believe when they first arrive.

Gehenna, which means “hell”, is an experimental colony set up by Union. It is made up of a small faction of “born men” and forty thousand “azi”. The azi live to the age of 40 and then their bodies fail. When they are cloned in the lab, each human azi is programmed psychologically so that he or she is subservient to the born men and happy in their place in society. They are the worker slaves of the Union civilization and outnumber their aristocratic masters a thousand to one. The azi are the key to how Union manages to take over worlds ahead of their competitors, the merchants of the Alliance, giving biological numbers to the leaders of Union to place where they will.

The first part of the novel is about the original colonists and follows a born-man named Gutierrez who comes aboard the colony disguised as an azi and a clone named Jin and his love interest Pia. Within a few years, it is realized that Union has abandoned Gehenna and no more supplies or the promised azi labs arrive as scheduled. The colony begins to fall apart as the machines break down. The azi begin to have children instead of reproducing via cloning techniques and teach their programming to their children as best they can. In the mix, the alien Caliban intrude as the settlers realize that the giant lizards are far more intelligent than first realized. The azi children imprint on the Caliban as well as their azi parents. This creates a entirely new culture that grows more different as the centuries go forward.

The middle of the book covers when Alliance discovers Gehenna and via a mix of reports and chapters from many different points of view, we see how the outside stellar civilization sees what is happening on the planet in the long view. Alliance meddles in the Gehenna culture with ill effects.

The final part of the novel covers a war between the descendants of Jin and Pia’s two children. The descendants have formed three cultures, one is aggressive and “male” the other is more passive and “female”. The third group are termed “weirds”. They are people that choose to live with the Caliban in their tunnels. All groups have formed a symbiosis relationship with the alien Calibans. While the Alliance watches and files reports, the cultures clash for domination of Gehenna.

40K in Gehenna Book CoverDiving into the Alliance-Union Universe can be confusing. There are a great many novels, some of which follow their own mini-series inside the series. This book can be considered the first of a trilogy, the final installment only being written a few years ago. The original cover of a girl riding a Caliban lizard into battle is what originally drew me to the book. It reminded me a great deal of McCaffery’s dragons of Pern, who also had a symbiotic relationship with their human partners. As it turns out, the Caliban are a more complex komodo dragon with a unique way of communication. You learn about it via submersion just as the colonists do in the story. Cherryh is a master at not only developing sweeping historical world views that explore intricate human cultures of her own devising, but she also is adapt at creating stunning alien cultures.

I am fascinated by the concept of the human clones known as azi. Here in Gehenna we get a good look at the Union’s tank-bred, hypnotic-tape-education workforce. The azi make up most of Union’s population and has allowed it to out-breed Sol and the Alliance in these stories, but at what cost? Cloning is a process that is starting in our day and age. The morals and ethics behind the technology have not been fully addressed. What was once science fiction may soon be science fact.

Finally, I enjoy that Cherryh does employ female protagonists in her stories. While in the first section she followed two male Azi, in the last section the protagonist was a girl named Elai who was certainly no wimp and proved to have the wit to fight for her community and people. The 1980s is known for introducing female characters who were independent and functional as full characters in their own right instead of always being the “love interest” for the men.

While Cyteen is the Hugo Award Winner, I feel that you should start with Forty Thousand in Gehenna since it precedes Cyteen chronologically in the series. The two books can be read independently of each other and be fully understandable, but it works better if you read the two together.

Unionside Series of the Alliance-Union Universe

Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)
Cyteen (1988) – Hugo and Locus SF Award winner, British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1989
Regenesis (2009)