Tag Archives: author

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.

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to another day of top ten links here on No Wasted Ink. This week, my writer article selections are more general in topic, but all should prove to be interesting. Pour yourself a cup of joe and sit back. It is time for a good read.

The Aesthetic Beauty of Math

Ten Ways Writers Can Utilize Their Time

Yes, Bookmobiles Are Still a Thing. (We Checked.)

50 MUST-READ FICTION BOOKS FEATURING OLDER WOMEN

What Writers Need to Know About Morality Clauses

The Indie Bookstore Renaissance (and Why it Matter to Writers)

About That ‘Writing Vacation’

Location, Location, Location: Discovering the Perfect Place for Writing Your Novel

Memoir & Legacy: Writing about Summers Past

Declutter that Novel! Is it Time to Marie Kondo Your WIP?

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Happy Monday!  This week I have a great mix of writers links for you to enjoy.  Some about science fiction, but others on general writing tips.  I hope you enjoy them!

Authenticity and Racism in Contemporary Paganism

Social Media Marketing and Your Novel

WHAT BIG DATA CAN TELL US ABOUT HOW A BOOK BECOMES A BEST-SELLER

Machine Learning for Writers

MOSTLY WEAKNESS, JUST A LITTLE STRENGTH

How to Write Interesting Scenes

5 Science Fiction Books That Predicted the Future

Did You Forget to Mention You’re a Writer?

Flawed Characters vs. “Too Dumb to Live”: What Makes the Difference?

How Can I Have a Non-Powered Hero in a Super-Powered Setting?

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome back to another Monday of Writers Links here on No Wasted Ink.  This week I have a nice assortment of general writing links plus a few articles about the science fiction genre and community.  Happy reading!

Does Fantasy Lit Have to Be Real to Be Fantastic?

LIZ BERRY AND MONA ARSHI IN CONVERSATION

The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones

Kelly Link’s Advice to Debut Authors: Writing is Terrible, Complaining About it Is Fine

5 Top Legal Issues for Authors and Self-Publishers

Writing Insights Part One: Becoming a Writer

Crash-Proofing Your Novel

How To Write A Synopsis For Your Novel

Power Couples in the World of Speculative Fiction: Jim Freund and Barbara Krasnoff

What is Folklore?

Author Interview: Ian Hugh McAllister

Author Ian McAllister is a careful and calculating writer, which is why it takes so long to complete a project. He is currently engaged in a campaign to bring back real science-fiction, the science-based non-fantasy genre of such writers as Hal Clement.  Please welcome my friend and up and coming author to No Wasted Ink.

author ian hugh mcallisterHi Wendy, I am Ian Hugh McAllister, the ‘Hugh’ is only included in my author name to distinguish from the other Ian McAllister (the wolf books etc). I am a 58-year old early retired English ATC controller, originally from the Liverpool area. I’m also a lifetime airliner nut, and a keen traveller. I have lived in Dorset, close to England’s Jurassic Coast for nearly 35 years with my wife Simone. We have a grown up son.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always written for pleasure, but it got real when I was encouraged to write a biography of my grandmother in 2011. Hilda James was Britain’s first female swimming superstar in 1920. The resulting book, Lost Olympics, was successful in that it saw Hilda posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2016. As she was the first celebrity to be taken on by the Cunard Line, I also started receiving invitations to join the cruise ship entertainment speaker circuit, and talk about her life and times.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think that came with the publication of my first sci-fi novel To Visit Earth. The biography was an in-depth research project, and the book was pretty much an assembly job. Creating my own fiction is what I had always wanted to do.

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

To Visit Earth centres around the closest Earth-approach by a comet in recorded history, some time in the not so distant future. The eventual result finds lunar geologist Lucy Grappelli injured and trapped in a crashed exploration vehicle, over 1000km from the established moon base and beyond all possible help. It’s a survival story with what I have been told is a worthy twist.

What inspired you to write this book?

I am a fan of the harder side of science fiction, having been brought up on it by my parents. I do read widely in all variations of sci-fi and fantasy, but hard sci-fi is very much my thing. 50 years on from reading my first science fiction, I have finally put my money where my mouth is and tried to prove I can publish something original.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think I am developing one. I am an admin with a busy writers/authors group on Facebook (10 Minute Novelists), and I firmly believe we are told to follow far too many rules in our writing. This is leading to a loss of individuality in styles. A good example is the sweeping “show don’t tell”. Now with sci-fi of course, a certain amount of world-building, exposition, and even info-dumping is acceptable. I personally like a 50/50 approach to “show don’t tell.”

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

This is another area that causes a lot of discussion in the writing group, and I have a stock answer. The expression “To Visit Earth” jumped out at me as I wrote the book. It is a short statement that is repeated in the text, but becomes a revelation, and pivotal to the story.

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

Now, I don’t want to drop a spoiler so I will have to be careful. I could say never discount the possibility of help from unexpected sources.

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

This is a great question, and comes under another writing guide, “write what you know.” Suffice to say that I have had 35 years of experience of all points on the management spectrum. Several ex-colleagues and friends from ATC have named certain poor unfortunates, still desperately trying to manage sections of the business, as role-models for my management team in the book. If I was American I’d be taking the 5th, I believe you call it. However, I do retain that wonderful get-out clause, “No character in this work is intended to resemble any person, either living or dead… yada yada,” while making that evil Blofeld chuckle!

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

My first strong influences were the great pulp writers of the 1950s, I grew up with an entire bookcase of Galaxy and Astounding as my tool for visiting the universe. These had been amassed by the parents as they partied their way through Liverpool University in the early 1950s. Eventually, I settled on the Heinlein juvenile series (Have Spacesuit Will Travel retains a place in my all-time top 10 books). Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, James Blish, ah, many of the greats.

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

Definitely. I firmly believe that Hal Clement has shaped my aspirations. I have read and re-read all his books. The novel Mission Of Gravity and its associated works (later published as the collection “Heavy Planet“) is for me a seminal piece of hard sci-fi. Clement went as far as to publish a paper postulating the possibility of a planet such as his Mesklin. Would that I could produce something a quarter as good.

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

A young 10 Minute Novelists member and friend, Jonas Meyes-Steger designed the cover, using a few written notes I sent him. Jonas is disabled, and currently finishing a self-financed university course. While many of us aspired to write and be published, Jonas dreamed of becoming a commissioning editor. I don’t think it’s a matter of record yet, but remember that name. That’s all I’m allowed to say.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Join a writing community. Read. Yes, in fact, read, read, read, and then read some more. Read in the genre you want to write, but extend your sphere of knowledge into all sorts of other places.

Then, when you are ready to write, learn the rules; Grammar, syntax, how to string a coherent sentence together. Recognise different styles, there are a lot.

Then, while knowing all that stuff, write. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules really. If there were, reading would be deadly dull. So break the rules if you want to, but break them well, and with reason.

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

I’m working on a sequel. I originally set out to write a heavyweight, stand-alone novel, but that’s what happens when you start to enjoy it. Don’t hold your breath, To Visit Earth took 20 years from original idea to published book! No, seriously, I have accountability partners nipping at my heels. I need to stick my neck out and say – 2021/Remnant Planet!

to visit earth book coverIan Hugh McAllister
Broadstone, Dorset, England

FACEBOOK

To Visit Earth

Cover Artist: Jonas Mayes-Steger
Publisher: Cloaked Press

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE