Category Archives: Guest Posts

Haiku Finds Wabi Sabi by Marjorie Miles

A Haiku paints a word picture. It is simple in form – three lines, the first containing five syllables, the second, seven, and the third, five, for a total of 17 syllables. But there is nothing simple about a Haiku’s power to capture the heart of your life experiences.

I was in the last phase of cancer treatment when I heard the Voice for the first time. While awaiting the arrival of the radiologist, I closed my eyes. That’s when I heard, the command.

“You need to write a poem!”

Without missing a beat, the same Voice insisted, “And it needs to be a Haiku!

On a small scrap of paper, I wrote the following:

Radiation! Zap!
Search and find the mutant cells
Going…going…gone!

As I re-read what I had written, my hands involuntarily clapped when I reached the word, “gone”. Then, a quiet calm permeated my being, along with a certainty that I would survive.

That night my husband, Ben, suggested I challenge myself to write five a day. And so began my haiku writing practice…

2011
I was grateful to begin a new story. Having pushed past surgery, chemo, and radiation, a new hair color, and a new “normal”, I was ready to start a new story.

After years of neglect and silence—thanks to my haiku writing routine—my poetry Muse, and I had been happily reunited.

About a year later, I heard the Voice again! It said, “Start a Writer’s Group to support individuals whose words and stories need to be heard”.I didn’t have a clue how to accomplish this. However, during a sleep dream, I received a guided meditation to invoke the Muse and guidance to use the images, symbols, and feelings that surfaced as writing prompts.

So, began “Writing with Your Dream Muse” classes, and we are still writing today…

2015
Life was good. I finished writing my book, “Healing Haikus”—A Poetic Prescription for Surviving Cancer”, and was the contributing author to five other books.

I was beginning my fifth-year cancer-free. Once you have heard the words, “You are cancer-free”, you think the “scare” is over. However, some stories have a sequel.

Mine does and it begins, “You have a recurrence”.

I continued my daily poem-making…

I had just completed my latest CT scan, and I was looking forward to the weekend.

The telephone rang.

The voice of my oncologist cried with urgency into the telephone, “Get Marjorie to the Emergency Room! It’s in her brain!

Fear gripped me. The next chapter in my continuing story would be a game-changer!

And it was…

The last entry in my haiku journal before my brain surgery was July 17, 2015

Cancer in my brain
You slipped by the barrier
Back into my life

The following day, I underwent brain surgery to remove one large and three smaller cancerous tumors. While recovering, my intestines perforated, and I required an emergency colostomy.

Life’s crescendos come
Quietly as a sunset
Dipped in marmalade

Despite the odds against my survival, I did!

I am a miracle!

I needed—more than ever—to write again.

At the same time, I was learning to wear a colostomy pouch, I needed to adjust to my new “compromised” brain.

My precious communication skills forever changed! How cruel to return my Muse to me… Damaged!

However, the most painful and serious deficit I encountered was difficulty in writing. Writing and haiku connected me to my Muse and to all my important relationships. Sending even a text or a simple email can be excruciating. Words come out scrambled. My ability to express myself on paper is severely hampered. Writing for long periods can leave me cranky, tired, and disoriented.

Yet, I NEED to write a daily haiku.

Invisible ink
Where I look to retrieve words
That are still hiding

I was struggling with my conflicted feelings about what cancer had taken from my life, and gratitude for being alive. I decided to write everything I was feeling…raw and uncensored.

Tears flow today for
What was and what might have been
Grief robs gratitude

I wrote furiously until I finally exhausted all the anger and frustration I had been holding inside.

Then, something magical happened.

For the first time, I saw my cross-outs, squiggles, write overs, BIG LETTERS, and small letters as ART!

Letters and words swerve
On road maps of consciousness
From an artist’s hand

Through several thwarted attempts to write a “perfect” haiku, I was astonished that my frustration and my pain could be transformed…into art.

Writing haiku has given me a different lens in which to view the world—one that is much rosier.

When I learned about the Japanese art and philosophy called, Wabi Sabi, a way of life that focuses on finding beauty the within the imperfections and impermanence of life, I decided that I was a Wabi Sabi Practitioner,

Words tumbled wounded
Bleeding blessings from poems
Created to Heal

My next chapter, Wabi Sabi Haiku Word Art, has already started…


Dr. Marjorie Miles is a best-selling Amazon author and Wabi-Sabi Haiku Word Artist. She fulfills her passion for creative expression as a writer, dream worker, poet, and speaker. Her miracle-filled life includes living beyond lung cancer, brain cancer, and a life-saving colostomy.

She facilitates monthly “Writing with Your Muse” groups, offering inspiration and guidance to aspiring authors. Her uplifting memoir, Healing Haikus: A Poetic Prescription for Surviving Cancer, demonstrates the powerful effect of creative expression on healing.

Incurable romantics, she and her husband exchange original poems they create each morning. His are rhyming poems, and hers are haikus.

Writing Tips by Avril Sabine

Creating a story isn’t just about sitting down and pouring words onto the page. You need to fill your ‘toolbox’ with the right tools. There’s no need to start from scratch trying to figure out the techniques of those who’ve gone before you. Learn the skills other writers have figured out through the ages and build on them with your own discoveries about the craft.

But remember, “it’s not logical to think that all advice fits all writers and all writing projects at all times even through much advice fits many writers and many situations much of the time.” (Beth Hill, Editor.)

Grammar, Spelling And Word Choice

Grammar is the structural foundation that allows us to express ourselves in a way to allow others to understand what we’re trying to say. Spelling allows the reader to recognise and understand the words we’re trying to use and help make the meaning of the story clearer. Particularly when it comes to homophones. When choosing the right words for your story you don’t want to sound like you’ve used a thesaurus in every sentence. Nor do you want to use the same word repetitively so the reader becomes sick of seeing it. Finding the correct balance is extremely important.

Sentence Structure

Sentence structure isn’t just about the grammatical aspects of it such as whether it is a simple, compound, complex or compound-complex sentence. This is important to understand, but what is more important is to learn how the different structures make the reader feel. Short sentences can make a story race forward and create high tension moments. Longer sentences have a more relaxed feel to them. You do of course want to vary your sentence lengths. Learning how to use sentence structure to change pace, create emotion and draw readers into your story is important.

Peers

People form groups with other likeminded people. In business, sports and other social activities. Yet often they’re hesitant to do the same when it comes to their writing. Groups are great in that where one member may be lacking the skills in a particular area, another member might have those skill and be able to share some of their knowledge. There’s also nothing to say you can be a member of only one writing group. There are many groups all focusing on different aspects of writing. Both online and in person. Some groups focus on different genres, some on the techniques of writing, some on short stories. It can take time to find the right groups suited to your writing needs.

Reading the works of other writers can also help teach you the way books are created. And I’m not talking about how-to books. Studying other books in the genre/s you wish to write in can teach you a lot of techniques that can be used in your own writing. When it comes to learning from other writers using this method it’s important you only use the techniques you’ve learned from them and not plagiarise their work.

Research

Even those who write fantasy need to learn how to research. If you’ve loosely based your world on a period in history you’ll want to learn the logistics of living in such a time period. If horses are your method of transport, or even a completely made up animal, you can research horses or something similar to give you an idea of the care and abilities of that animal. What ground can your transport cover in an hour? A day? Does it need rest, or if it’s mechanical, what sort of maintenance does it need? Researching actual objects similar to what your own fantastical object is like can help create a more realistic and probable object.

If you’re writing something set in the real world it’s even more important to get your facts right. Whether it’s location, a historical event or a job. There’s sure to be a reader out there somewhere who knows the subject you’re discussing and will point out the mistakes.

Voice

A writer’s voice is their own particular style that sets their work apart from other authors. It’s a mixture of everything that goes into their story including characterization, sentence structure, grammar, topics, pace, word choices, POV choices, and influences. It can take a lot of time, even years, to develop your own voice. Quite often it develops once you’ve learned many of the rules about writing and understand how they can be used as well as when they can be broken. Once you have all those basic tools, you can start to develop the more complex ones such as voice.

Creativity

It’s important to learn how to write and understand how other great writers create their stories, but it’s also important to sometimes ignore the rules. Let yourself be creative. Let yourself explore different types of writing and unusual ideas. Not every piece of writing has to become a story. Practicing and exercising your craft is equally important. Make notes about your ideas so you don’t forget them and go over your notes sometimes and see if one of your old ideas is urging you to write about it. Give yourself permission to try something even if everyone tells you it won’t work. It might not work, but you might surprise yourself and learn a little bit more about your own methods of writing.

Experiences

Never underestimate the experiences that have occurred in your life. Even if you think they’re ordinary. Those experiences are unique to you and even if someone else has also gone through the exact same event, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have experienced it exactly as you did. You can use those emotions, feelings and events to help understand other emotions, feelings and events. To draw conclusions about other occurrences or even use the event exactly as you experienced it. When writing different scenes in your story you can think back over past events and draw on them to add another layer of authenticity to your work. I’m sure most people have, at different times in their lives, experienced love, hate, frustration, satisfaction, failure, success, compassion and heartlessness. Relive those experiences. Understand them and allow your characters to feel them too. Taking into account their unique personalities, how would your different characters have reacted in those situations?


Avril Sabine is an Australian author who writes mostly young adult and children’s speculative fiction. She has been writing since she was a young child and wanted to be an author the moment she realized someone wrote the books she loved to read. Avril is the author of more than seventy books, including Guardians Of The Round Table series, Dragon Blood series, Realms Of The Fae series, Elf Sight and The Irish Wizard.

Website: http://www.avrilsabine.com/
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/avrilsabine

Finding Your Path to Writing Success by K.G. Anderson

There’s a reason why they call it a path to success and not a ramble or a meander. Envisioning the steps — some of them painful, some of them thrilling — that take you from beginning writer to published pro can save you time and reduce frustration.

  • You are writing regularly, at whatever pace you’ve set for yourself.
  • You are moving forward as a writer, by whatever measures you use. This could be words written, stories or queries submitted, works published, markets entered, or dollars earned.
  • You are closer to your writing goals now than you were a year ago.

If you meet those three criteria, it’s likely you’ve found a path that’s working for you. Congratulations! But if you’re not making progress in your writing, I’d like to talk a little about the value of paths and how some writers find theirs.

In 2010, after a career as a nonfiction writer, I decided I wanted to publish speculative fiction, specifically short stories, at the professional level. I had no idea how many years that would take. (Answer: in my case, 9).

The first thing people told me was to write, write, write. So I put my butt in the chair, starting with four hours of writing every Tuesday night and then adding regular weekend writing sessions.

The speculative fiction authors I hoped to emulate were quick to tell me that thousands of hours of writing was just the beginning. Some of them attributed their breakthroughs to workshops; others, to critique groups and retreats. Others talked about transformational publishing connections they’d made at conferences or through online professional groups.

So it was clear that I needed to do more than just write. The question was, what?

I mean — there were workshops, critique groups, professional organizations, conventions, retreats, online communities, websites, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. No one could possibly do it all, could they?

Of course not. The big “aha” for me was the discovery that nearly every successful writer I met had put together a customized path to navigate this crowded landscape — a defined path to take the beginner to pro.

Some did it very deliberately, envisioning every step and then working their way along the path. Others were more experimental, trying one thing at a time, discovering what activities worked for them, and discarding the activities that didn’t. For some people, having a small, tight critique group made all the difference. For others, the key was attending conferences with agents and editors and learning about the market and the industry. For others, it was refining their craft through workshops. For yet others, it was establishing a distinctive voice through a blog or social media, and using that channel to attract interest in their talent and their work.

But it took me three years of throwing myself into just about any activity labeled “speculative fiction writing” — including a few drama-filled “critique” groups and poorly edited anthologies — to realize that I needed to calm down and focus on a viable path.

My path began in 2013 with the week-long Viable Paradise workshop. It focused on what I wanted to write: short fiction. After the workshop, I attended a critique session at Orycon run by a Viable Paradise graduate, Curtis Chen.

By then, I was hearing about online listings for magazines and anthologies that buy short fiction. After checking out three listings sites, I settled on the Submission Grinder, a free service which also lets you track your submissions. I began submitting stories to semi-pro publications and sold my first speculative fiction stories in 2015.

I attended one-day Clarion West workshops taught by Ken Scholes, David D. Levine, and Seanan McGuire. I chose sessions that addressed my specific pain points (like writing endings, and writing for anthologies). I also took online classes, again, dealing with my specific writing challenges, from Dean Wesley Smith.

By this time, I was selling 6 or 7 stories a year to semi-pro markets (many of them indie-published anthologies). In 2018, I made my first pro-level sale. And I joined a critique group of writers who publish with some of the magazines and anthologies where I’ve had work accepted — and with some magazines I aspire to. In 2019 I had enough sales to qualify as a pro with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). My next step? To sell to major magazines.

The strategic path you map out may have quite different landmarks than mine (Agents! Book sales! Self-publishing! Editing an anthology!), but, if you follow it, I’m willing to bet you’ll see progress.


K.G. Anderson is a late-blooming speculative fiction writer. She writes short fiction — urban fantasy, space opera, alternate history, Weird West tales, near-future SF and mystery. Most of her stories focus on families, communities, secrets, and transformations.

She has degrees in psychology and journalism and has supported herself by writing everything from book reviews and political exposes to home repair columns and corporate websites. She was a member of the launch team for Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

K.G. studied at Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise and Cascade Writers and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You’ll find her stories in Galaxy’s Edge and Luna Station Quarterly, in podcasts from Far Fetched Fables and StarShipSofa, and in anthologies from B Cubed Press and Third Flatiron. In Seattle, she’s part of the Sound of Paper writing group and often reads her stories at Two Hour Transport. You’ll find her at regional conventions such as Foolscap, Orycon, and Norwescon.

She lives in a Scandinavian fishing community just north of downtown Seattle with her partner, bookseller Tom Whitmore, quite a few cats, and thousands upon thousands of books.

Visit https://writerway.com/fiction for a list of K.G.’s publications and links to stories you can read or listen to online. You’ll find her on Twitter @writerway

A Primer on Speculative Poetry by Kimberly Nugent

When Wendy approached me about writing an article for “No Wasted Ink,” I was thrilled and immediately began to waffle about which idea to put to digital paper. Despite a career in editing, I kept coming back to a topic about which both Wendy and I are passionate, speculative poetry. Genre poetry has a lovely community of poets, and a thriving market for both paid and unpaid submissions.

Like a lot of creators, I had a long break from poetry until editing an e-zine that featured speculative poetry. I was fascinated and thrilled! So, I began writing again. Whether you are returning to poetry, looking for a change in your existing poetry, or would like to write for the first time, I have a few tips for writing in general, and a few specific to speculative poetry.

Keep a notebook. This notebook can be a 99-cent special or something bound in leather, but whatever you pick, keep it with you. And keep your favorite writing implement in stock. Keep pencils in your car, pens in your purse, grab some markers, something that will make a mark. I previously kept notes digitally but have since switched back to physical writing. Not only do you not have to worry about backups or where you saved that file, you will find the thought required to put words on paper also puts contemplation into your ideas and word choices.

Write. Just write in that lovely notebook. It can be anything from words and phrases to outlines and perhaps even a rough draft. But don’t worry about form—yet. The goal here is just to create the words that will build your poetry. Feel free to be wordy. Write in the margins, make notes. The more words in your notebook, the easier to compose your verses. Also, I find inspiration in various media, especially scientific articles and lectures! Your muse can be anywhere, so be sure to jot down all your ideas.

Buy a good form reference book. Now that you have those lovely thoughts and phrases, combine them into the forms that feel natural to the ideas when writing your final poem. I suggest buying at least one (or more!) form reference books. Two of my favorites are “The Prosody Handbook: A Guide to Poetic Form” by Beum and Shapiro and “The Book of Forms” by Turco. The more you write and create, the more you should challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone. If you generally write a sonnet, try an epic poem or haiku! What specifically sets speculative poetry apart is the topic. The is sky is NOT the limit! Putting the fantastical, science fiction, and even mythological themes into form (and yes, you can include free verse) is what will set you apart from flash fiction and the short story.

After you write your poetry, always let it sit overnight before you make any changes. Like prose writing, a little distance between yourself and the words will make the editing process easier. Now is also the time to share your work with a trusted listener or reader. Your sounding board should give both praise and constructive feedback.

Your edits are complete, your trusted evaluator has appraised your efforts, and you are ready to submit your first poem! But, where? The largest poetry-only markets typically shy away from genre poetry, however, there are organization specifically for the speculative poet. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) and Horror Writers Association are both excellent resources for a genre poet. Also, look for publications and journals that are focused on certain forms in addition to genre-specific publications.

When you have decided on a market, read the submission guidelines carefully. Always follow their directions and pay close attention to if the market accepts simultaneous submissions or those that have been previously published. I also highly recommend you keep a log of your submissions so you can keep track of where you place your poems, and which publications you should follow up with.

The most important thing after submitting your work is to congratulate yourself! Whether your first submission or your 100th is your first published poem, creating a work you can be proud to submit is an accomplishment in itself.


Kimberly Nugent lives near the beautiful Sandia Mountain range and edits speculative fiction and RPGs. She spends her free time with her family, cats, and various nerdy hobbies! You can find her on Twitter at @BlueTeaEditing

What Do You Know by Peter J Foote

The laziest answer given to the aspiring writers during Q&A’s or interviews when asked for advice is: “Write what you know”, but what does that mean?

It’s the trite answer given when vision is lacking or the author is keen for the day to finish. BUT there is a pearl of wisdom in there and I believe we should examine it together, so buckle up.

Though before we start I should caution you, nothing you read in this article will be earth-shattering or groundbreaking. Others have trod this path before, and will again, but I believe my unique perspective adds something to the question.

That’s right, I said unique, in that each of us has our unique memories and encounters that molded us into who we are now. My childhood on an apple farm, studying archaeology, or that unfortunate zipper “incident” when I was six may turn up in a story, I’m referring to something richer.

My story begins in the fall of 2015. I was at a crossroads, but we’ll chat about that later. Until that point, my writing comprised a handful of short stories I penned in the 90s that will never suffer the light of day and countless roleplaying adventures that went unplayed. At that point in my life, the writing was an outlet that struck at random.

So what changed? I had.

I ended a seven-year toxic relationship, it was something I knew was wrong when it began. Since we weren’t harming anyone (no marriage or kids, just played house on weekends), I allowed it to continue because I didn’t believe I deserved better. When I became brave enough to end it, I struggled to talk about my feelings, so I tried my hand at putting my emotions and journey into the written word. “The Silence between Moons”, a tale of a lone ranger and a She-wolf that could take human form was the result, and it became my first sale.

That’s what I knew, the sense of dismissal, the heartache, the feeling that I wasted my best years on a relationship that had no future. Weaving a fantasy tale around my hurt allowed me to feel like a hero, when before I felt like a villain since I had caused hurt and disappointment. Distancing myself from my feeling as I wrote the story wasn’t easy, nor should it have been, but that “over the shoulder” position I allowed myself, helped heal me more than I expected.

I hope your decisions have been better in life, each of us carries around mistakes, hopes, and joys, that emotional “baggage” that makes us the unique beings that we are. Beings that have a story to share with an audience, that connects us to others and that sense of connection is one of the greatest gifts that we can share with our readers.

Having a sale under my belt broke down my walls. Here was a way for me to express myself in a way that had a meaningful impact upon me, it gave me a strength to share myself with others. I hadn’t realized that my words, what I knew, could find a home in tales of wonder and adventure, and bring readers along for the ride.

That first story was clunky and not my best work, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. It led me along a path to tell new stories, explore myself, meet new people that I won’t have met otherwise. After it followed tales which explored how Might doesn’t always make Right, with my story “A Troll by any other name”, how a handful of jelly beans can forge a friendship in my award-winning story “Sea Monkeys”, along with dozens of others. What I know has evolved and changed me, I expect you’re the same. You can surprise yourself when you look through old stories, or journals and ask yourself “Who was I then, what did that version of me know?” That question makes excellent story fodder and can provide wonderful insight for character motivation.

I’m a short story author, and I have the utmost respect for those who tackle novel-length projects and series. We can use writing what you know in 100 words drabbles right up to 100K+ works and everything in between. The stories in which I have shown what I know, be it betrayal, forgotten loves, or soul-crushing shame, has far out-sold those in which I have told the message, and this is where your personal experiences can help you.

So I challenge you, to look within yourself and ask “what you know”, and how you can use it in your writing. One word of warning though, this can be a difficult exercise, it’s upsetting when exploring uncomfortable memories, so I want you to prepare yourself and practice self-care. Not every story you write needs to be a deep, soul-wrenching essay that frays yourself open, but I want you to be true to what you know. You’re an ever-evolving bundle of joys, sorrows, and decisions that get remade every day, and I look forward to reading what you know.


Peter J FootePeter J. Foote is a bestselling speculative fiction writer from Nova Scotia. Born and raised on an apple farm, he studied archaeology in university, and always had a passion for the “what if”, and an appreciation of nature. Outside of writing, he runs a used bookstore specializing in fantasy & sci-fi, cosplays with his fiance, is an active Freemason, and alternates between red wine and coffee as the mood demands.

Having the distinction of appearing in each of the “From the Rock” anthologies published by Engen books (Sci-fi from the Rock, Fantasy from the Rock, Chillers from the Rock, Dystopia from the Rock, and Flights from the Rock), Peter is also the celebrated winner of the “Awkward Author” contest sponsored by Chuck Wendig, autographed proof has pride of place in his writing nook, which you can see on here.

Peter considers himself a genre writer, with Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror being his preferred method of storytelling. He has recently taken to writing drabbles for Black Hare Press, finding the challenge to write a complete story in 100 words a great way to improve his writing skills.

His short stories can be found in both print and in ebook form, with his story “Sea Monkeys” winning the inaugural “Engen Books/Kit Sora, Flash Fiction/Flash Photography” contest in March of 2018. As the founder of the group “Genre Writers of Atlantic Canada”, Peter believes that the writing community is stronger when it works together. GWOAC has grown from a handful of members to over 300 regional authors of all skill and ability, which focus on networking and support to build a stronger genre writing presents in Atlantic Canada.