All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Gemologist. Artisan Jeweler.

Guest Post: So, you want to write a superhero story? by Samantha Bryant

periodicheroes

Superhero is a small, but thriving niche genre under the speculative fiction umbrella. It includes stories with characters and worlds you might already know and love as well as brand new inventions. In some of these stories, superheroes are a brand new thing that no one has ever seen before; in others, they are a known entity and work together in quasi-military groups. Anything is possible.

There have been some great superhero novels and short stories published in the past decade or so, and more great stories are popping up all the time. (Here’s a post I did for DIY MFA featuring five of my favorites). Thanks to the popularity of superhero movies and TV shows, it looks promising for continued growth for a while yet. The potential is endless. There’s room for lots of great storytelling here in the superhero tent, so I’m happy you’re thinking of joining our particular circus.

I love writing superhero fiction. There’s something about the combination of the impossible with the heartfelt that speaks to me. Arguably, a lot of stories in many genres are, at their heart, about the nature of heroism, about stepping up to do what’s got to be done and what kind of person is willing to do that. Great conflicts in all kinds of stories come from moments that force characters to challenge themselves and test their limits. Superhero fiction just does it more directly and on a bigger canvas. The stakes are higher when the characters are just this side of immortal. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

So, whether you’re trying to create a short story or a novel, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. It’s actually the human and not the superhuman element that matters. If your character is only a collection of powers, we’ve got nothing to connect with and no one to root for. Readers want to connect with the characters emotionally, not just observe their physical amazingness. That means giving them a full range of emotions and an interior life, people they care about, obstacles and goals.


    That said, the powers are important. Make them cool and interesting, but not so complex that we can’t quickly grasp what your character can do. Readers of this genre are expecting characters who can do amazing and unusual things, but they don’t want to have to take a crash-course in physics before they can understand what’s happening.

  2. Complete originality is not necessary. There’s a repertoire of superhero powers that fans are used to seeing, and it’s more than okay to pull from them–it’s expected. When I was creating the women in Going Through the Change, I didn’t invent new, never-before-heard-of powers. What I did do, though, was give each woman her own individual context and set of difficulties with those powers. So, Helen Braeburn is hardly the first character to be able to wield fire, but how exactly it works for her and what she chooses to do with her power? That’s the original part.

  3. In the best stories, internal and external conflicts intertwine. Peter Parker wouldn’t be the same Spiderman if he didn’t have a strong work ethic and overdeveloped sense of responsibility thanks to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. For readers to connect to your characters, we have to feel we have something in common with them. So, while I can’t climb walls like Spiderman, I have had a hopeless crush on someone, been picked on for being smart, and felt guilty when I didn’t do everything I could have.

  4. It’s all about the heart. In superhero stories, there’s bound to be some fighting. You can read my post about writing violence well here. Writing good fight scenes isn’t just about the logistics of the amazing feats of strength and wonder, though. Your reader has to have a pony in this race. They have to care about who’s going to win and worry about what will happen if the hero fails. No matter how cool the fight itself is, you’ll lose your audience if you don’t give us a side to be on.

  5. Superhero stories are an escape, and, at the same time, a journey into the truths at the core of human existence. It’s a playground for using and twisting tropes, where naïve underdogs and world-weary curmudgeons partner up and save the world from aliens and mad scientists. It’s an exciting genre. Come, play with us!

Author Samantha Bryant. (Photographer: Miryam Bryant.)Samantha Bryant believes in love, magic, and unexplainable connections between people. Her favorite things are lonely beaches, untamed cliff tops, sunlight through the leaves of trees, summer rains, and children’s laughter. She has lived in many places, including rural Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Vermont, England and Spain. She is fierce at heart though she doesn’t look it.

She’s a fan of Charlotte Brontë, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman, Nicole Perlman, and Joss Whedon, among many others. She would like to be Amy Tan when she grows up, but so far it doesn’t look like she’ll be growing up any time soon.

Samantha writes blogs, poems, essays, and novels. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, came out in April 2015. Mostly she writes about things that scare or worry her. It’s cheaper than therapy. Someday, she hopes to make her living solely as a writer. In the meantime, she also teaches middle school Spanish, which, admittedly, is an odd choice for money-earning, especially in North Carolina.

When she’s not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys time with her family, watching old movies, baking, reading, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything). You can find her online on her blog, Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+.

Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is free on Kindle for two days: August 5th and August 6th. You can check it out at: http://bitly.com/face-the-change

Going Through The Change.  Book Cover Artist: Polina Sapershteyn

Author Interview: Nicholas C. Rossis

It is my pleasure to introduce up and coming author Nicholas Rossis, an avid reader and author of fantasy, science fiction and children’s books here on No Wasted Ink. I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did.

Author Nicholas C RossisHi Wendy, many thanks for having me here. My name is Nicholas Rossis, but I write under the pen name of Nicholas C. Rossis. As a friend said, it’s like Clark Kent’s glasses. No one can identify me when I use that middle C! I write fantasy, science fiction and children’s books, while I also have a special, ongoing love affair with short stories.

When and why did you begin writing?

Ever since I remember myself, I have enjoyed writing. At school, many of my classmates dreaded essay-writing, whereas I could count on my essays to be read in class. In 2009, I felt ready for a career change and decided to try again my hand at writing. A Greek newspaper had a segment called 9, that included a short science fiction story each week. I submitted my story, not expecting much. They published it, and sent me a cheque for 150 euros. I was ecstatic. Sadly, by the time I had written and submitted another couple of stories, the newspaper had ran into financial trouble and discontinued that segment. So, I sent one of the stories to a short-story competition, and, to my great surprise, won. The story was published in an anthology called Invasion.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Right after receiving that first cheque! :D

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

Sure! I am currently working on three projects, actually. One is my second children’s book, called Musiville (you can actually read my first one, Runaway Smile, for free on my blog.

My second project is my second collection of short stories, to be called Infinite Waters. I love short stories, and they are one of my favorite genres. This collection includes many of the shorts I have written in the year since publication of my first collection, The Power of Six.

My third project is Pearseus: Endgame, the fourth book of my epic fantasy series, Pearseus (fifth if you count Schism; the prequel to the series). It continues the story from where Vigil left. Although the main threat has been dealt with, the two main factions on the planet are preparing for all-out war. The characters are forced to fight for what they believe in or lose it all. The remaining story lines will be wrapped up in this last volume.

What inspired you to write your books?

My first inspiration is, surprisingly enough, sleep. More precisely, my dreams, which often morph into stories during that special time of the day when you lie in bed half-asleep. My second inspiration is, of course, reading. There are so many wonderful ideas out there, and they act like seeds in my head, to bloom at night and transform into new stories that just have to be written.

Do you have a specific writing style?

As you can probably tell from my cross-genre writing, I prefer the stories to tell me the genre they’d like to be written in. However, yes, I have gradually developed my own style – or, as I like to think of it, found my own voice. This is an ongoing process, of course, so it’s constantly evolving.

There are many stylistic similarities in my work, although there are obviously genre-specific differences as well. Still, I’d like to think that a discerning reader will have little trouble identifying my work from someone else’s.

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

I’ll focus on Musiville here. My illustrator and friend Dimitris Fousekis is currently illustrating it. The idea is that animals-musical instruments share a picturesque village. When they all start carrying their own tune, an unexpected invader wreaks havoc. The title, Musiville, seemed very appropriate for a village full of musical instrument-shaped animals!

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

There are many messages, but, in my experience, everyone reads books differently. You sit down and write, then analyze what you have written. I can tell you what my personal take is on each story, but that assumes you and I got the same thing out of it.

For example, I got a strange call from a psychologist family friend the other day. She said she loved Runaway Smile, my first children’s book, because it said exactly what she had been struggling to convey through her own unfinished book: that all men would turn into criminals if not for the mother’s love.

When I indicated that this was not my personal understanding of the story, she refuted me, explaining that I obviously did not understand what I had written.

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

I have this theory of creativity, that builds on Jung’s archetypes. These are unconscious structures that live in our soul and help us organize our lives and make sense of things.

According to my theory, everyday experience filters down to the soul, where it is shaped by the archetypes into novel forms. Artists of any kind are able to regurgitate the new creations back into their consciousness, in order to share them with the world.

This is a long-winded way of saying that yes, I think that all experiences in my books are based on everyday experience. However, it would be hard in most cases to pinpoint which experience gave birth to which passage, as they get all mangled up on their way into my unconscious and back.

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

I love Philip K. Dick’s works, and find him tremendously inspiring. Indeed, I consider him a modern-day prophet. His short stories taught me everything I needed to know about that genre, while his many ideas have repeatedly found their way into my work. Then, there are Tolkien and Martin, two of the main influences in fantasy: Tolkien practically invented the genre; Martin redefined it. Also, Clark and Asimov, who showed us how science fiction needs to be rooted into hard fact, to be believable. Their work, and especially Asimov’s Foundation series, have heavily influenced Pearseus. Finally, there’s Herbert, whose Dune series has also been a main influence. In fact, I couldn’t be happier when a reader described Pearseus as “a cross between Dune and Game of Thrones”!

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

That would have to be Dick. I’m currently reading his Exegesis, which is in effect his personal correspondence, and am fascinated by it. Indeed, Exegesis is the best trove of wonderful ideas, as far as I’m concerned.

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

I design the covers of my books, with the help of my childhood friend and illustrator, Dimitris Fousekis. He’s the one who has illustrated the Pearseus logo and the scales, and done all the illustrations for my children’s books.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t bother with writing, unless you’re passionate about it! It’s not an easy profession, in the sense that it can take years to build your audience and make a name for yourself. So, for a long time, you may have to work late nights, write whenever you have time and spend a lot of time “normal” people spend socializing, working on manuscripts that no one might even see.

If, however, this is fun to you – as it is to me – then, by all means go for it. Never before has publishing been so easy, with the advent of self-publishing. Just make absolutely certain that your manuscript has been professionally edited and proofread before submitting to Amazon, Smashwords etc!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

As I often joke, the only thing that grows faster than my waistline is my list of books to be read! So, I really appreciate it when people take time off their busy lives to read my work. So, the one thing I wish I could tell them is that I love each and every one of them! I wish I could give everyone who has read my books a cookie. Heck, a whole basket for those who have reviewed them!

Book Cover The Power of SixNicholas C. Rossis
Athens, Greece

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Cover Artist: Dimitris Foussekis
Publisher: Delta Ekdotiki.

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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksMonday’s are my favorite day because it is when I share my links with you. This week has the usual general writing tips, but there is also a nice review about the editing tool Grammerly, a science fiction related essay about AI and an article about medical practices during the regency era. I hope you enjoy them!

Writing 5 Minutes A Day – How Much Can You Really Get Done?

Dialogue Writing Tips from Bartleby Snopes

Is Grammarly a Good Tool for Professional Writers?

Regency Medicine

Cory Doctorow: Skynet Ascendant

Writing in an accent: trouble ahead

The Ubiquitous Servant

FIRST LINE CATCHES THE READER

Want to Level Up Your Fiction? Take the “Dramatic Irony” Challenge!

5 tips for introverted writers

Scifaiku – Harvest

Scifaiku: Harvest

Harvest

it is in the bag
rare earth metal treasure
asteroid harvest

*poem published in Far Horizons Magazine – June 2015

A Scifaiku by Wendy Van Camp
Illustrated by Wendy Van Camp

Scifaiku poem is based off the idea of mining the asteroids. It is said that the asteroid of the future will be surrounded by a bag, blasted and then the remains scooped up and harvested for rare metals. It is science fiction now, but in the near future it will be science fact.

Book Review: Neuromancer

Book Name: Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson
First Published: 1984
Nebula & Philip K. Dick Awards winner, British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1984. Hugo Award winner, 1985

William Ford Gibson was born in the late 1940s and remained in the United States until the Vietnam War. Like many of his generation, he evaded the draft during the late 1960s by emigrating to Canada. There he became entrenched with the pervading counterculture of its day. Eventually, he settled in Vancouver, British Columbia and became a full-time author.

Gibson’s early works are bleak, dystopian stories about the effect of cybernetics and computer networks on humans beings. His short stories are published in popular science fiction magazines. The themes, settings and characters developed in these stories culminated in his debut novel Neuromancer. This book was unique in its scope and subject matter. It detailed a world that was unimaged at that time, but helped to define the world we live in today. Terms such as “cyberspace”, “matrix” were created by him in the novel and the concept of the internet can find its seeds there as well. Neuromancer was a critical and commercial success and birthed the cyberpunk literary genre.

Most of Gibson’s fame resides with Neuromancer and the Sprawl Trilogy it spawned, but he is also known as one of the important developers of another genre, the science fiction genre of Steampunk. His novel The Difference Engine, written with co-author Bruce Sterling, is considered one of the primary books that formed the ideas of the genre. It should be read along with the works of Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter when reading to understand the roots of the Steampunk genre.

“All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void…”
― William Gibson, Neuromancer

It is the future and in the dystopian underworld of Chiba City, Japan, Henry Dorsett Case is a man who is unemployable due to the damage to his central nervous system by a powerful drug administered as a punishment for theft. Addicted to drugs and near suicidal, Case canvases the “black clinics” for a miracle, a cure that will allow him to once again access the global computer network in cyberspace, a virtual reality known as the “Matrix”.

He is rescued by an augmented “street samurai” who works for an ex-military officer called Armitage. Molly Millions needs Case’s skill as a hacker for a job and she arranges for Case to be healed. It is not long before Case learns that he has been double-crossed, for along with the “cure”, sacs of the poison that had crippled him before have been surgically placed inside his body by Armitage. If Case doesn’t follow through with the job, he will be right back where he started. Case and Molly are joined by a thief/illusionist named Peter Riviera.

The team’s first data theft is stealing a copy of the mind of a man named McCoy Pauley. He is a brilliant hacker who was Case’s mentor. They intend to use his electronic mind to aid them in their next job. As they work together, Case and Molly begin to form a romantic attachment.

The group next heads to an L5 space habitat known as Freeside. It serves as a luxury resort and casino for the wealthy and as the residence of the powerful Tessier-Ashpool family. The group’s mission is to break into the Villa Straylight and hack into an AI known as Wintermute.

What is Wintermute? It is half of a super-AI entity that was designed by the Tessier-Ashpool family to circumvent the Turing Law Code governing AIs to keep them restricted and safe for humans. Wintermute is housed in a computer mainframe in Berne, Switzerland and was programmed with a need to merge with its other half, Neuromancer, which was installed in a mainframe in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Should the two halves make a whole, a super-intelligent AI entity would be formed.

Case is tasked with entering cyberspace to get through the Turing-imposed software barriers. At the same time, Riviera is to gain the password to the Turning lock code from the current CEO of the Tessier-Ashpool family corporation. It is believed that Riviera will pose an irresistible temptation to her. Once learned, this password must be vocally spoken into a terminal in the Villa Straylight at the same moment when Case gets through the barriers in cyberspace.

Will Wintermute find its AI better half to find its destiny or will the law protecting humanity prevail? You’ll have to read the book to discover what happens in the end.

Neuromancer Book CoverI first read Neuromancer sometime around 2005. Cyberpunk as a genre had been established for quite some time and the concepts were a known quality, slowly growing more mirrored in the reality of the real world. When I decided that I wanted to take a look at the book that spawned the genre of cyberpunk and the ideas of hacking into computer systems or jacking the human mind into a machine, it made sense to seek out the holy grail of Neuromancer.

My first response to the clutter of prose and jargon-heavy “inside jokes” by this self-proclaimed techo-geek, was to roll my eyes and wonder what the heck were the award givers of the 1980s thinking? Why honor this writer of clunky prose who was obviously thumbing his nose at those of us who were not residents of silicon valley.

I had forgotten the reason I had gone back to read Neuromancer in the first place.

Gibson is not a hacker. He is not an engineer or an apple specialist designing the next hardware leap. Neuromancer is not about technology per se. What is Gibson? An artist that saw the direction that people could be heading and used this knowledge to create a fictional world where humans had an increased dependence on tech, more detachment between people due to constant interaction with machines and a blurring of lines between nations as we all tap into the global inner-world of cyberspace. He created a vision of what cyberspace, artificial intelligence and the merging of man to machine could be.

What is amazing is that this one book, Gibson’s debut novel, created a firestorm of inspiration to an entire generation of teenagers, novelists and technologists of the 1980s to think, “Wow, this is unique and too cool.” And then to inspire them to CREATE that world that they had only read about.

That my friends, is great literature. Neuromancer, although having dated technology and prose that is difficult to dive into until you get used to Gibson’s style, is a book that should be read. It is a blueprint of the world we live in today and a cautionary tale of what yet may come.

Sprawl Trilogy

Neuromancer (1984)
Count Zero (1986)
Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)