All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Artisan Jeweler.

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Welcome back to another Monday of No Wasted Ink Writers Links.  This week I have plenty of book-related topics to read, including a little about marketing, book launches, monetizing a podcast, and how to go about picking your conventions.  I hope you enjoy the articles!

Whose Dystopia Is It Anyway?

I Wish Solo’s Female Characters Could Find Better Escape Routes

Publicity Mistakes that Ruin Book Launches

Your Writing Sweet Spot

Want to Stand Apart from Countless Other Books? Write a Better Story

Use Theme to Determine Subplots, Supporting Characters, and Tension

How To Monetize A Creative Podcast With Joanna Penn On Podcraft

CON CHOICE: On Picking Events and Building Great Genre Experiences

There is a growing negative sentiment towards e-readers

What’s Going On In Your Child’s Brain When You Read Them A Story?

Magical World of Mish-Mash by Angela Castillo

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Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk . . . one of the challenges speculative fiction authors face is figuring out just what Amazon category to click when listing books. Especially in the case of short story collections, where many authors throw things together in a glorious stew of deathly curses, spaceships and roving mercenary camel-racers (runs off to write story about camel racers).

Most traditional editors are looking for definites. They want straight-up fantasy, sci-fi, space operas, or defined steampunk (is there even such a thing).

I say why choose? Some of the best fiction novels of all time are a happy jumble of several genres, and you don’t see the millions of readers who cherish them complaining.
Here are a few of my favorites. Please note many of them are children or YA because that’s what I mostly read!

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy

Spaceships, planets and government conspiracies all point to sci-fi, right? But hang on. In Perelandra we learn about the eldil, angel-like creatures that communicate through thought. Rainbow-colored flying frogs abound, and a mysterious woman (who is rather like a Biblical Eve) is discovered on another planet. In That Hideous Strength, an apocalyptic world emerges where the leader wants to turn humans into brain-powered machines. The mixed-up frenzy continues, and it’s all glorious.

The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles
Julie Andrews Edwards

Mary Poppins writes a delightful children’s fantasy? Yes please! But hidden in the story of the Whangdoodleland, complete with Whiffle Birds, furry creatures called Flukes, and a villainous creature called a Prock, are references to tessering (a type of matter and space travel also referenced in another glorious match-up, A Wrinkle in Time) and DNA sequencing. So there’s that.

The Giver Quartet
by Lois Lowry

At first this series seems pretty straight-forward Utopian/Dystopian. You have the seemingly perfect future world that slowly unravels into something heartbreakingly sinister. As the series unfolds, though, it becomes apparent Lowry has created an allegorical social commentary, with plenty of spiritual/supernatural (dare we say fantastical?) Though some of the story arcs can be frustrating, it would be a rare reader that could walk away from the series without some serious food for thought.

The Claidi Collection

Claidi is a servant of an isolated kingdom. The rulers of the castle are lazy, cruel, and treat their servants terribly. This introduction screams fantasy until a stranger crashes his balloon outside the walls of the castle. Thus begins a journey through a land of gears, machinery, and magic–or is it magic? This series keeps the reader guessing all the way through. While the MC, Claidi, can make some maddening life-choices, the series is still fun and interesting.

Do you have any favorite genre mish-mash books? Or do you prefer to read more straightforward, cut-and-dry, single genre fare?


Angela CastilloAngela Castillo loves living in the small town of Bastrop, Texas, and draws much of her writing inspiration from her life there. She enjoys walking in the woods and shopping in the local stores. Castillo’s greatest joys are her three sons and one daughter. Castillo writes a variety of genres, including sci-fi and fantasy mish-mash, and has been published in The First Line, Aardvark’s Ark, Heartwarmers, Thema, and several other publications, and also has works available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, including The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing.

 

Busy Moms Writing Guide Book Cover

 

Memoir: The Poet In Spite of Herself

The Poet In Spite of Herself

I stood before the audience, my notebook open as I prepared to read an excerpt from my novel The Curate’s Brother. It is a historical romance based off of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. It was one of many readings that I would do to promote my new book that year. The moderator of our panel gestured to me and said, “I present to you our next reader, author and poet, Wendy Van Camp.”

I remember blinking and tilting my head to one side, like a puppy that is not quite sure of a knock at the door. I do write poetry, but until that moment I never considered myself to be “a poet”. In those few seconds, before I began my reading, I had an epiphany. The moderator was correct, I am a poet! The irony was not lost on me.

When I was in grade school, I remember saving money from my allowance in order to buy a notebook that had caught my fancy. It had a green cover with gold foil embellishments and the pages were smooth white paper without lines. I put the notebook in a place of honor among my growing book collection, but could not decide what to do with it. Then it hit me. I would fill the notebook with poetry. I had never written a poem before, but how hard could it be? I was already writing novels, stories filled with Tolkien style dwarves and elves or mermaids who did battle with titans. Not that anyone read the stories but my own young eyes.  Poetry would be compatible with my childhood dream of becoming an author when I grew up.

I cradled my green notebook late at night and sprinkled the pages with little ideas that came to me in my dreams. After I had written a dozen poems, my younger brother swiped the book from my room, read my words and then proceeded to mock everything that I had written. I wilted in embarrassment. My parents mentioned that I shouldn’t be wasting my time writing in the first place. I put the recovered green notebook deep into my stacks and forgot about poetry. I continued writing my novels, but since poetry didn’t make money and was not respected, it would not be part of my life.

The years went by and after graduating college, I found myself working in government and corporate television.  My idea of becoming an author shifted into a dream of becoming the next big director in Hollywood. By this time, I had spent the past five years producing and directing a half hour band showcase series called Musician Discoveries in addition to working full-time at the local cable station. Bands traveled from other states for the chance to perform on my studio stage and be featured in my low budget, labor of love.

After going through a few different hosts for the program and the threat of our studio losing its funding and thus losing access to its equipment, I decided that it was time for a change. I ended my musician series and took my programming out of the doomed studio. Instead, I purchased an expensive prosumer camera and software to edit video on my home computer.

The equipment needed to produce television was thousands of dollars in those days and there was no such thing as YouTube or even the Internet to distribute the work. I would have to leapfrog the program on public channels, hand delivering the broadcast quality tapes to the cable outlets. Yet, I felt it was time to go rogue and create television on my own terms.

I needed a new art form to showcase for the new TV series. Music had been kind to me, but I was tired of it. I thought about paintings. The cliché of being “as boring as watching paint dry” nixed that idea. Then I considered poetry. While I had not written a poem since perfunctory assignments in high school, as a director, I didn’t need to create the content. That would be the talent’s job. Readings were dynamic, the performances would be easy to capture and the thought of shooting on location in the various coffeehouses in the city was appealing in its own right. I put the production together and marched forth, a young intrepid television director with a dream to share poetry on my new program Coffeehouse Poetry.

Realty hit hard and fast. The coffeehouses would cancel my shoot time without informing me. One went out of business and I didn’t learn about it until I arrived a few hours before production. Editing on home equipment was more difficult than the broadcast quality machines I was used to.  I was used to editing on analog equipment and my new home studio was in the then-new digital style.  I was never happy with the production values I could afford on my small budget.

And then, there were the poets.

Never had I worked with such unruly creatives in my life. They were demanding, rude, and unreliable. As the months went by, I sunk lower into depression as each setback destroyed my program.  Every time I received a rude letter or phone call from one of the poets, I felt myself give up a little more. The musicians I used to work with for Musician Discoveries understood the value of exposure that television offered.  The poets did not.  In the end, I produced around a dozen programs before I closed my doors. I bitterly swore to myself that I would never work with poets or have anything to do with poetry again.

Fifteen years later, I found myself shifting away from the long hours and stress of professional television production.  Many of the corporations I worked for were sending their work overseas to Japan or Thailand where labor and studio space was less expensive than Los Angeles.  The major studios remained, but I was facing burnout and the thought of the long commute into the city was daunting.

I remembered my original dream of becoming a novelist. My hiatus from writing was twenty years in length, but thanks to intensive training via Nanowrimo, I learned the techniques of writing books and how to market them.  Science fiction is my main genre, but as a side project, I started an Austen inspired romance series.  Since the romances were easier to complete, I published this series first and became known as an Austen inspired romance author.

During my early years of returning to writing, an author friend suggested that I give poetry a try in addition to the short stories.  Due to its brief form, I could write plenty of them, submitting to more paying markets or use the poems as easy blog posts.  I thought about the idea but cringed inside.  The scar that Coffeehouse Poetry left inside me was a large one.  I put the idea aside.

One Friday afternoon, after I had finished placing my wares into a science fiction convention art show, rain threatened overhead. The heat was oppressive in the atrium next to the art show where all the workshop/panel rooms were located. I had planned to stay for the ice cream social that evening, but it was several hours in the future. A writing panel would help to pass the time until the social event started.

I looked at the placards in front of the workshop doorways, but it was early in the day and most of the programming had not started at the convention. However, there was a scratched-in workshop available and its room was close to where the ice cream social was located. I ducked inside.

There were six or seven people in the room, I assumed that they were fellow attendees who would join me in the workshop. The placard said that this was a Scifaiku workshop. I had no idea what that was, but as long as the air conditioning worked and there was ice water available, I was game to give the workshop a try.

The instructor introduced herself and then informed me that all those people in the room were friends that had come to support her class. They were publishers of poetry magazines. I was the only student and she was going to teach me how to write scifaiku poetry.

I immediately wondered if I could get out of the workshop gracefully, but being the only student, I didn’t want to be rude. So I sat back and watched methods of brainstorming poems, ideas of how haiku and science fiction could be merged, and the structure to follow when writing a scifaiku poem.

The instructor said, “Now you will write a poem for the class.”

Me? Write a poem? I hadn’t done this since high school and that was a long time ago. I could hear my brother laughing deep in my memory.  I remembered the poor grades I got in high school during poetry assignments. Yet, I had the format and the brainstorming techniques before me on the blackboard.  I was a writer of science fiction short stories and had the background research of sci-fi concepts ingrained within me.  How hard could this be? I wrote my first scifaiku, the first poem I had created in more than twenty years.

When I was done, the instructor said. “Now, I would like you to read your poem to the class.” I looked around. What class? I was the only student! All the other people in the room were publishers of poetry magazines, some of them with large followings.

I stood up. I read my poem. I sat down.

The instructor said a few words about my attempt. Then, one of the publishers leaned over and told me that she liked my poem and wanted to publish it in her magazine. She would pay me. I took her card with shock.

That would be the first scifaiku I wrote, but not the last. I sold that poem and many more after that. Later, I would illustrate the poems with simple line art and that published too. Then someone suggested that I sell the illustrated poems as art prints and suddenly, I was “an artist”.

Now here I stand, with my notebook before me, ready to read my prose to the audience and introduce my novel.  The ironic laughter within disappears in the face of reality.  I am now the author that I dreamed of being as a child through hard work and dedication. And yes, I am a poet too. As strange as it seems to be after all the ridicule this art form has caused me through the years.  I am the poet in spite of herself.


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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Happy Monday!  It is time for ten links to amazing articles about the craft of writing here on No Wasted Ink.  There is a bit of bias toward science fiction writing in this months links, but since I generally highlight science fiction and fantasy authors and concepts here, I didn’t feel anyone would mind that.  Enjoy!

Build Character Empathy in Your First Few Pages

Why Leia: A Star Wars Story Is the Spin-Off the Galaxy Needs

The Ship of Theseus Problem Reveals A Lot About SciFi

The Effects of Space and Other Worlds on the Human Body

Writing Venomous Creatures

How the Truth Your Character Believes Defines Your Theme

Writing Realistic Antagonists

Advanced Scene Technique: The Jump Cut

Self-Sabotage: How & Why We Writers Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Writing Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely. How To Find A Community

Author Interview: Jordi Burton

Author Jordi Burton started writing when she was ten-years-old and hasn’t stopped since!  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Jodi BurtonMy name is Jordi Burton. I recently graduated from the University of Florida this past December with a degree in English and a minor in history. I am a major sci-fi and fantasy enthusiast. I love anything Marvel or DC—I can’t decide between the two—and my dad instilled a love of Star Trek in me at a young age. I believe in love at first sight, thanks to my beautiful Boston Terrier, and I am a long-suffering Dolphins fan.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing when I was ten-years-old. I had been playing a pretend game in my pool and was telling my mom all about it when she suggested I write it down. It had never occurred to me before that I could simply write a book. I sat down and started writing that afternoon, and I haven’t really stopped since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer my senior year of college. I had published my first novel the previous summer and was working on releasing my second. I found that when people would ask me what my plans were for my future, or what I wanted to do, I told them I was focusing on writing, or that I wanted to be a writer. That was when I truly accepted I was a writer. Before that, I was just a student that liked to write.

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

My current book is called Call Me Anastasia. It follows the story of sixteen-year-old princess Anastasia Piliar. She is half-god-half-angel, and her people, the Nadmilise, are the ancient ancestors of the human race. In her world, there are ten dimensions known as realms, and each realm houses a race of mythical beings, such as werewolves or vampires. Each realm also has the culture of a part of history. Anastasia’s realm is based on the Renaissance, the werewolves’ on traditional Hindu culture, and the vampires’ in Victorian England.

At the start of the novel, Anastasia witnesses her grandparents’ murder at the hand of the Shadows, an equally as ancient race of monstrous beasts. In the first chapter, Anastasia returns to her home realm after living in hiding amongst humans for ten years. She must find a way to protect her people from the Shadows—who have once again set their sights on her homeland—and learn to become a part of the life she left behind.

What inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration for Call Me Anastasia came from the City of Bones novels by Cassandra Claire. In the novels, there is a homeland for Claire’s heroes where no technology exists. It is a kind of Renaissance land in the modern-day world. I wondered what it would be like to live in such a place, to have modern ideals in such a historical setting. Thus, Anastasia’s realm was born. The rest of the story took place around the setting.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style tends to be descriptive. I’m often told my novels read like screenplays in that everything can be visualized as though it were a movie. I also tend to write female protagonists for my novels, and I lean towards male protagonists for my short stories.

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

After I finished writing Call Me Anastasia, I was having a talk with my dad. I couldn’t figure out what to title the book—I always title things after they’ve been written so that I have a feel of the work as a whole. He asked me if there was any word or phrase that was repeated throughout the novel, something that seemed to encapsulate Anastasia as a character, or her world. It was then that Call me Anastasia went from a line of dialogue to the title of my novel. It showcases Anastasia’s approachability, as she prefers to be referred to by her name rather than her proper title, as well as her upbringing. She chooses to be personable with her people, a trait that I felt aptly summarized the main point of the novel.

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

I don’t believe there are any overt messages in the novel, but I definitely had certain intentions when I sat down to write. I knew I wanted a female protagonist that was strong and had high self-esteem. As a young reader, I had difficulty connecting with female protagonists because most of them were self-deprecating. I wanted to have a protagonist young readers could look up to. I also wanted to stray from other YA tropes, such as the love triangle, the female protagonist needing to rely on male characters to accomplish her goal, and the idea of the Chosen One. Other than that, I hope my readers take away Anastasia’s connection to her family and her people, as well as her strength.

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

In the novel—without giving too much away—Anastasia suffers from a kind of illness, where she struggles with severe stomach pains and headaches. At the time when I was writing Call Me Anastasia, I was dealing with health issues. I took the physical illness I was dealing with and used it to make Anastasia’s struggles realistic. I also fashioned Anastasia’s parents after my own parents. I even used things they had told me over the years as advice Anastasia’s parents give to her.

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

The authors that have most influenced my life would be Christopher Paolini and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I started reading Naylor’s Boys vs Girls series when I was in middle school, and have since read all eight novels three times. I loved how she took a real life event—the conflict between the Hatfords and the Malloys—and turned it into an engrossing set of middle-grade novels.

Chrmiddle-gradelini inspires me because he started writing his debut novel, Eragon when he was fifteen-years-old. He self-published through his family’s publishing company and put together his own 130-stop book tour. He created his own language he uses throughout his four Eragon novels when he was only a teenager. His incredible talent, and his young age encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing. Whenever writing was tough, or I wasn’t being taken seriously because of my age, I just thought of Paolini and persevered.

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

I would consider S. Usher Evans a mentor in many ways. I met her at a comic convention, right around the time I was working on releasing Call Me Anastasia. She gave me advice, as well as her personal email address, and answered any and every question I threw her way. She helped me decide to pursue writing full-time and walked me through many aspects of self-publishing. Not to mention, her novels were captivating to read.

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

I designed the cover of my book, but Aaron Lambert is the artist that brought my concept to life. I was at a comic convention—the same one where I met S. Usher Evans—and came across some incredible drawings of The Flash and the T.A.R.D.I.S. from Doctor Who. After purchasing both, I fell into conversation with Aaron and realized that he would be the perfect person to create my cover. I have used him for the second novel in the Anastasia Series, and plan to use him for all the others. I am inspired by his work.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice would other writers would have to be, as cliché as it is, to keep writing. Even if you hate what you’ve put down on paper, it’s better than staring at a blank computer screen or page. Sometimes, you just have to get over that first bump in the road, or those roadblocks along the way, to really get your word flow going.

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

To my readers: I do what I do for you. I love to tell stories—I always have—but I would be talking to myself in an empty room if you weren’t there to listen. I am grateful for all of your support, and I can’t wait to share more with you.

Book Cover Call Me AnastasiaJordi Burton
Plantation, FL

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Call Me Anastasia

Cover Artist: Aaron Lambert

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