Tag Archives: creative writing

How Spec Fiction Helped Me Earn My (Rainbow) Wings by Deanna Rasch

Hello, Fellow Readers and Writers of Speculative Fiction!
Wendy and I were guests together on a recent recording of the Sci-Fi Roundtable Podcast. The episode centered around women writers of SF/Fantasy. Terrific conversation. A great connection between the guests. I’m jazzed to have been a part of it and hope that you tune in when it airs : )

Here’s the thing. I nearly didn’t raise my hand when the invitation to participate came out. It was a knee-jerk reaction to just step back. Bow out. Something I’ve gotten used to doing when something’s labeled “for women.” Because I identify both as a lesbian in orientation and beyond my female biology in gender – queer, genderqueer, non-binary are each cool with me.

Sometimes, it’s my own discomfort that gets in the way in certain circles of women. Sometimes it’s that of the women in the circle. Either way, it doesn’t always feel worth the trouble in some social situations. In this situation, I’m glad I raised my hand. Grateful for Wendy’s warm “come on in.” Not to mention her invitation to do this guest post.

Now, you came here to read a post about speculative fiction. And it’s Pride Month as I’m writing this. So, here’s the connection.
Like many queer folks—especially young adults of my generation (think Star Trek: The Next Generation)—I knew without a doubt I was not altogether comfortable in my female body. Along with the expectations of the time about being female. There weren’t identities available at the time to describe my experience.

Except in the world of spec fiction.

In retrospect, it’s no wonder I was drawn to alien species on my television screen. The ones who either refused or worked hard to fit in. To the stories in the classic SF novels slipped to me in school by the kindly nun who seemed, on some level, to get my difference. In them, I found glimpses of potential identities, relationships, family—even if it took backflips of translation to get there.

In a time and a place (Midwest, U.S.) without resources for folks of similar experience, those books and shows literally saved me. Transported me until I could resource myself. Until the wheel of time could turn a few more times to allow for changes and broader acceptance. Growing up and living in the margins like that is an experience of isolation and search for community. These stories—as story does—taught me the power of imagination in creating your place in the world.

These stories also gave me wings. Starting with the dragon wings of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Not only did they refer to the first gay relationships I’d seen in print; but a world with telepathic dragon companions in a lifelong bond with their riders was a balm to the loneliness of a queer teen.

That world inspired me to write the (very closeted) essay about SF/Fantasy that earned me a scholarship to a private high school my parents couldn’t afford. Which led to unanticipated opportunities for college and, eventually, an MFA in Creative Writing, which currently supports both my own writing and my work coaching writers and editing their work. Wings.

Ursula K. LeGuin and John Varley asked important questions in their stories about binary gender. Sexual orientation. And about relationships that defied the binary in a variety of ways. They each explored the concept of transitioning, as well, each through their unique lens. Reading The Left Hand of Darkness, The Telling, The Titan Series, and Steel Beach as a teen/young adult gave the beginnings of form to feelings I’d nursed for some time. A sense of freedom. Encouragement to keep exploring them, redefining them as culture allowed. Wings.

I’ve never stopped going to spec fiction for it’s brave explorations—and, yes, speculations–when it comes to the possibilities of relationship, cultural, racial, and personal identities. To Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith, Margaret Atwood, Poul Anderson—the list goes on. How those identities often intersect with magic, technology, science, sociology in spec fic, to me, only expands the potentialities. Keeps giving me hope for a more accepting future. Authors like Charlie Jane Anders, Kameron Hurley, Becky Chambers, Akwaeke Emezi, Noelle Stevenson, J.Y. Yang, Tamsin Muir, and so many more are exploding that future into the present.

I hope you don’t mind that I got a bit personal in this post. Maybe it’s not what you were expecting. It may have even been a bit uncomfortable, for some. It’s important, I feel, as writers, to be reminded once in a while that we’re always writing for an audience—not only a market. That our audience can be counting on us to take risks and still be mindful in our representations. That our stories may be what some need, as well as what others want. To create space for #ownvoices. And when we, inevitably, show our growing places, our less-than-conscious spaces, that we accept feedback from those affected with grace, openness, and discernment.

And for the readers in us all: consider this a challenge to read—or keep reading—stories that have themes that trigger you. Characters outside those you comfortably relate to. Cultures alien to your experience. After all, that’s part of what puts the spec in spec fiction, isn’t it? : )

Diversity in the genre is increasing exponentially. It’s an exciting era for our favorite genres and the exciting hybrids that are emerging. We can appreciate our old favorites. And we can acknowledge that there were limits in some of the stories that excluded the participation reading invites of readers-in-the-margins.
We can do better—are doing better—as writers and readers. Becoming open to inclusion. I mean, if an institution like the Star Trek franchise can finally move closer to it’s vision and potential by acknowledging that Seven-of-Nine likes the ladies (without the translation I made in the 90’s)…well, it gives me hope. And wings as a writer. In the way spec fic always has.

D.M. Rasch is an author of LGBTQIAAP speculative fiction (and a sometimes poet) who lives in the Denver, CO area with 2 sister kittens who are pretty tough in the editing department. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and balances work as a Creative Coach and Editor (as Deanna M. Rasch) with her writing in her business, Itinerant Creative Content & Coaching LLC . Find her work on the linked Amazon page and look forward to the upcoming publication of her YA novel Freedom’s Cost, as well as an appearance in the anthology, Innovation, Aug. 2020.

Author Interview: Mel Snyder

One of the pleasures I have an an editor here on No Wasted Ink is to encourage young authors that are coming out of the gate with new work.  Enter Mel Snyder, an enterprising and upcoming writer.

Hello, my name is Mel Snyder. I am 22 years old, I’m an artist, author, language enthusiast (although I’m only fluent in two so far). I love learning how to renovate and do repairs around the house, recently rediscovered my joy for gardening, and am trying to learn my first instrument; drums. I have a noisy three-legged cat named Matrix, and spend my downtime with my wonderfully chaotic family and friend. Despite struggling with depression, anxiety, and other problems, I try my best to be outgoing and inviting to those I meet.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing at around 12-13. I loved to read, and I always thought it would be amazing to have my worlds, characters, and stories enthusiastically read and talked about. To have people empathize with the characters, immerse themselves in my stories, and clutch every page tightly as they desperately try to unravel the mysteries of the plot would be a dream come true.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when I was 18, when I officially published my book. As much as I loved the idea of calling myself a writer, I felt like I needed physical proof to give myself that extra confirmation.

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

It takes place in an alien world where the citizens of the planet have undergone a brainwash that left every last one of them emotionless, obedient, and silent. At least, that’s what the governing system would like to think. The main character, Zepharius, is broken from that enforced repression and is trying to find the answers to why this happened while searching for the solution to restore her people. Finding others like her with the same ambition, she struggles with trust, betrayal, disabilities, ignorance, and the unknown. It’s a story about internal and external battles, fighting for what’s right, understanding oneself, and developing close bonds with family and friends to endure trials.

What inspired you to write this book?

Much like JRR Tolkien who wrote the stories of Middle Earth to cope with his traumatic and life-changing experiences from World War I, I find a lot of inspiration comes from the things I have witnessed and endured in my life. This series was my way of venting my feelings, or previous lack thereof, and showing the way life can change a person as their world seems to collapse around them. I wanted to have a book that included the complex internal struggles that many stories forget to include but many are so desperate to read, and show that characters disabled both mentally and physically can still be strong. I suppose it’s not only to inspire others, but also to myself.

Do you have a specific writing style?

First person perspective seems to be my go-to. In terms of style, I could say I am very descriptive, perhaps even too descriptive. I want my stories to be like a virtual reality world where the reader can pick up the book and be inside the scene, looking around and experiencing the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of everything around them.

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

I’m very bad at titles, which is ironic because I can make up obscure names and languages with ease. So, I decided to stick with the main character’s name. After all, the stories are only from her perspective.

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

There are various messages I’ve strewn throughout the stories, whether it be political, social, familial, or interpersonal. The most important message I want my readers to grasp is that no matter what you are going through and where you are, it is important to find people that you can trust and rely on. They may not have the same ideals, be the same “species”, or use the same methods to get through situations, but it is still possible to be united and push through difficult times with them. We are all in this together.

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

As mentioned before, the plot, the characters, and the situations are heavily inspired by the events I have endured in life. Some situations I have extracted from my family or friend and have used them as a basis for a scene or quote. Most of my characters are either a variation of myself and others that I am close with, adding a few quirks here and there.

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

Arthur Conan Doyle and JRR Tolkien. Maybe it’s why I find myself getting lost in descriptions. Tolkien opened a gateway for me to discover the lengths I could go to create an immersive, awe-striking world with various characters, scenes, situations, and action. Doyle’s work showed me how to create quirky and intriguing characters, as well as showing the importance of including even the smallest details, especially if they’re needed to understand a later plot point.

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

I actually design the covers myself! While searching for ideas on how to put the cover together, I came across the endless photos of stock covers and other illustrator’s work, but nothing seemed to come across as what I envisioned for my cover. So, I decided to sit down, pull out my paintbrushes and put my vision on canvas paper.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. If you receive criticism, accept it and learn from it. If you can’t get yourself to write, give yourself a distraction until you’re ready again. Remember that your work is a part of you, so be sure to consider it as yourself. Take pride in it, share it with others. Soon enough you’ll find those who love your work as much as you do.

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

Despite everything, there is hope. Despite betrayal and loneliness, there is trust and family. Despite trials and setbacks, there is a way to push forward. And even if you feel like giving up, you need to keep pushing through each day, because if you live through your trials, you can use them to inspire and strengthen others.

Mel Snyder
 Lexington, KY


Prompts to Promote Creative Writing

Moleskine and Cross Beverly Fountain PenThere is an old adage, “Practice makes perfect”. As an artisan, I create product at my jeweler’s bench a few times every week. I either make simpler production pieces that keep my booth’s jewelry racks filled, or spend more intensive creative time working on complex showcase pieces that are displayed in protective glass cases. I’ve learned that as long as I keep making a few items as I go along, I never come to a point where I am unprepared for a sales venue or unable to offer a few new designs to my customers. Practicing my jewelry craft on a regular basis, attending jewelry making workshops to increase my skills, and studying gemology has all combined to make me a reasonably successful artisan jeweler.

Writing, as it turns out, follows a similar business model. To be a successful writer, you need to write something every day to sharpen your skills. I schedule time to work on my novel a few days each week and consider it as I would the time I put in on complex jewelry items. A long term fiction novel takes more time to dream up, to figure out the connections between the characters, and to create a satisfying experience for the reader. On days when I am not working on my novel, I am writing posts for No Wasted Ink or articles for magazines. I consider these works to be like the simpler jewelry pieces, they are popular with the public, I sell a great many of them, but they don’t take quite as much mental exercise as a complex focal piece. Between these projects and commenting on forums and blogs, I tend to write for a few hours every single day. Writing is like breathing. It is what I do.

If you don’t have a blog to spur you to write on a regular basis, the next best thing is to start a journal and use writing prompts to fire up your creativity and hone your writing skills. Your journal can be on your computer or perhaps in a paper bound book such as a Moleskine. No one needs to see your short exercises, but if you have an inspiring day, that prompt could be the beginning to a good short story, novel or article. Your daily writing habit does not need to be long, perhaps a few hundred words at best. You’ll find that as you write, over time your word count will increase and finding topics or stories to write about will be easier.

The following are online sources for writing prompts.

Creative Writing Ink

The-One-Minute Writer

Short Story Ideas

The Write Prompts

The Journal