Tag Archives: sci-fi

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 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: Madeline Dyer

Author Madeline Dyer writes dystopians, fantasy, and science fiction. She can often be found exploring wild places, and several notebooks are known to follow her. Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Madeline DyerI’m a writer, freelance editor, and inline skater. I live on a farm in the southwest of England where I hang out with Shetland ponies and write books, sometimes at the same time.  I hold a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter.  I have a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal.  At least one notebook is known to follow me as I go about exploring wild places.

When and why did you begin writing?

Well, I’ve always been a writer, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating stories. It really does seem like something I’ve always done—writing is just part of who I am. There’s something so special about escaping into a magical world, and writing is something I just have to do now. It keeps me sane!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I had my first short story published when I was sixteen years old, so I’d say that was the start of me considering myself to be a ‘proper’ writer. Before then, I definitely thought of myself as a writer, but I didn’t tell many other people.

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

Sure! So, A Dangerous Game is my latest dystopian release and it tells the story of Keelie Lin-Sykes, an impulsive young woman who struggles with her mental health and sense of self as she navigates a forbidden romance. And all of this is set against the backdrop of a war-stricken world where genetically-enhanced humans are trying to wipe out ordinary ’untamed’ people.

What inspired you to write this book?

A Dangerous Game is set in the same world as my Untamed series, and from the moment I started writing the series (which has a different narrator), I was intrigued by Keelie. She’s an adrenaline-junkie, she’s impulsive, and she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right—even if it means going against the leader of her group.

But she has practically no page-time in the series as she’s not one of the characters who go on the run with my protagonist—but I kept finding that the characters who did reference Keelie a lot in their day-to-day life as they fought to survive in the dystopian world. She’d obviously had a huge impact on them as they grew up and her past actions were constantly shaping their behavior.

As I was writing the series, I just knew I needed to know more about Keelie, and so I decided to write a novella that would be all about her. But Keelie’s story kept spiraling bigger and bigger as I really got to know her, and it turned into one of my longest novels! And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born.

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

Great question! I wanted something that encompasses Keelie’s view of looking at the world; she’s an adrenaline-junkie who thrives off-putting herself in dangerous situations, and she’s constantly pitting herself against the other characters. To her, everything is a competition, a game, and because of this, she doesn’t always see reality for what it is. Instead, she’s always trying to make things more exciting, to give herself more fun, and she’s become addicted to danger, constantly wanting more and more.

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

So, there are a number of things I want readers to take away after reading this book.

Firstly, I wanted to look at how a dystopian world can impact someone’s mental health in both the obvious and not-so-obvious ways—so if readers are still thinking about Keelie’s struggle and how her sense of identity changes throughout the story after they’ve finished reading, then that’s great.

Secondly, I wanted to examine trust—what it is, how it’s earnt, and how it changes as people grow and learn more about each other. This plays into the many unreliable characters who fill A Dangerous Game’s pages, and so I wanted reading it to be a bit of a game for readers as they try to work out who can be trusted and who is always telling the truth—and who’s not. (And for readers of my series who pick up this novel, there’s a secret revealed in A Dangerous Game that hugely changes the dynamics of something that happens in book one of the series, so there are surprises for everyone.)

The other big thing I wanted to do in writing this story was to include a character with autism, but I didn’t want to fall into any stereotypes or harmful representations. So often in fiction, I’ve seen characters with autism treated as burdens who slow down the protagonist or as someone who needs to protect no matter what. And I wanted to write a book which has a character with autism in it, but where that character isn’t solely defined by their autism. And this can be seen in A Dangerous Game through the character of Bea: yes, she has autism and this affects how she copes with living in such a turbulent, ever-changing dystopian world, but she also has her own storylines, her own love interest, a job, hobbies, skills that help the others in their survival, and dreams and goals of her own—just like any other character. And that was really important to me. In order to check my portrayal of autism in the book as I was writing it, I employed two sensitivity readers who have autism, and they each gave me great feedback on my writing and read multiple drafts of the manuscript, helping me ensure that there was no problematic representation.

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

My list of authors who’ve most influenced me includes Virginia Woolf, Richelle Mead, and Rachel Caine. I think how prolific these writers are in producing books is definitely the biggest thing that inspires me on a daily basis—but also their versatility and how they’ve written in several different genres. I’m also greatly inspired by Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens due to how they created such believable characters, and Jean M. Auel for her immense world-building.

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

The cover was designed by Molly Phipps at We Got You Covered Book Design. She also designed the covers for my series that’s set in the same world as A Dangerous Game, so she was an obvious choice for this book too.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The most valuable thing I’ve done is getting into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few hundred words one day, or just some plotting work mapped out at the back of a notebook, it really helps me to stay in the mindset of whichever story I’m working on.

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

Thank you so much for all your support, and I hope you love reading A Dangerous Game as much as I loved writing it!

A Dangerous Game Book CoverMadeline Dyer
England

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Anthology For Your Writers’ Group by April Grey

magazine rack
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Could you, should you, dare you, put together an anthology for your writers’ group?

In this age of Internet and computers, we all know how easy it is to publish online. Just hit “send.” However, putting together an anthology (ebook and/or paper) for your writers’ group may take a bit more effort.

For me, a love of learning led me to take classes from Dean Wesley Smith
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/online-workshops, in how to create a book cover and how to format a book interior. Easy Peasy? Hmmm. Well, there are many You Tubes that teach you how to do formatting and design, so yes, with a little determination and time you can do it.

Although the how to’s is something that almost anyone can do, coming up with material—that’s where having a pool of creative people is vital.

The first anthology I put together was inspired by our local community garden, along with two stories about gardens from writers I knew. I’ve been involved in SF, Fantasy and Horror workshops since the early 90’s, both on-line and in real life and so would read many, many stories a year to give crit. In return I also got my stories reviewed.

Once the idea to put together an anthology came to me, I asked of the writers in my circle if they had any stories about gardens, gardeners or gardening. I pulled together six stories. Not a lot of material, but I was thinking this could be a promotional item. I included excerpts of material from the writers. Six stories transformed into twelve! I’d seen samplers from all sorts of publishing houses.

Besides years of critting, I was an editor for Damnation Press. This rewarding work allowed me to get to know an even larger circle of writers than from my writing groups.

My second anthology was again inspired by events in my life. Cronehood isn’t for the fainthearted. This time I had ten stories to go together. Instead of photoshopping a cover all by myself, I enlisted the work of Dirk Strangely. I have long been a fan of his Tim Burtonesque style, and I figured why not splurge and send some money his way? I’ve used his artwork for four of my covers.

We all know that a cover can make or break a book. Of course, what’s between the covers matters a great deal, but it’s the cover that lures the reader in to crack open the book or read an on-line sample.

Wonderful cover art, great stories, a formatter, and an editor. That’s it. For ebooks, Smashwords is extremely user friendly. Createspace’s customer service is great (though I always fight with them about the spine—that’s for another blog).

I haven’t mentioned publicity, maybe because that’s my least favorite bit. Word of mouth, blog hops, reviews, all of this needs to be done both leading up to release and after publication. Since this is being done not to get rich, but to promote your writing group, that you really need to have group support in getting the word out that your anthology is a must-read among a sea of other self-published works.

Another thing needed is a theme. Most anthologies have one. So far the Hell’s series has focused on gardens, crones, pets, and music. All the stories are more dark fantasy and humor than horror and can appeal to a wide audience.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be co-editor of our local Horror Writers Association’s anthology, New York State of Fright. It’s at its publisher right now and should be out in 2018. I’m very excited to see that work of so many writers who I have known for years and greatly respect. The theme is centered on New York and it is a varied and exciting read!

I hope that this has gotten you thinking about your own writers’ group. Great stories and cover art are the biggest factors. If you have that, then you should consider this as a great project for the new year!


Author April GreyApril Grey’s short stories are collected in The Fairy Cake Bakeshop and in I’ll Love You Forever. She is also the author of two urban fantasy novels: Chasing the Trickster and its sequel, St. Nick’s Favor.

She edited the anthologies: Hell’s Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Cursed Instruments; Hell’s Garden: Mad, Bad and Ghostly Gardeners, Hell’s Grannies: Kickass Tales of the Crone and last year’s, Hell’s Kitties and Other Beastly Beasts.

She and her family live in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC in a building next to a bedeviled garden. Gremlins, sprites or pixies, something mischievous, lurks therein. Someday she’ll find out. Please visit www.aprilgrey.blogspot for her latest news.  Follow her on Twitter and FaceBook

Planetary Grand Tour Inspires Writers

GrandTour-blog

As a science fiction writer, I often derive inspiration from the planets and moons of our solar system. It is here that the next great frontier will be found. One day, tourism will be an economic factor on the planets much as it is here on the Earth. How will future destinations showcase their location to attract those tourism dollars?

One answer to this question is from NASA itself. In 2016, a series of 1950s inspired posters about various tourism locations in our home solar system were created. Photos and posters are great sources to draw on as an author. I hope you will enjoy this batch of fantastical images about various places in our solar system and how they might develop into colonies with tourism benefits.

Below are smaller versions of my favorite posters from this series. There are a few more featuring some of the larger moons in our solar system too. Download one or two for your walls for free. Maybe they will inspire you to write about the planets or even to go there one day. The days when humanity spreads into space is not far into the future.

venus-blog

VENUS is one of Earth’s closest sister worlds.  It is 9/10s the size of our homeworld and has a dense atmosphere that could crush a spacecraft.

NASA writes about this poster:

“The rare science opportunity of planetary transits has long inspired bold voyages to exotic vantage points – journeys such as James Cook’s trek to the South Pacific to watch Venus and Mercury cross the face of the Sun in 1769. Spacecraft now allow us the luxury to study these cosmic crossings at times of our choosing from unique locales across our solar system.”

 

 

 

 

 

Earth-blogEARTH is humanity’s homeworld, but ultimately not our only gravity well.  Expansion into all corners of the globe is a fairly recent endeavor, but not our only stopping point.

NASA writes about this poster:

“There’s no place like home. Warm, wet and with an atmosphere that’s just right, Earth is the only place we know of with life – and lots of it. Perhaps our perfect world is rarer than we thought and only when we travel to other worlds will we realize how precious and lucky we are to have it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mars-blogMARS will prove to be human’s first planetary colony.  Our first efforts to live on the Red Planet will begin in a scant decade or two.  Due to its smaller size, CO2 atmosphere, and lack of a magnetic iron core, there will be fierce challenges associated with living there, but I’m sure our scientists will be up to the task of making this world habitable.

NASA writes about this poster:

“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be a habitable world. Mission like Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, among many others, have provided important information in understanding of the habitability of Mars. This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of Mars and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as historic sites.”

 

 

Jupiter-blogJUPITER is a gas giant that orbits the sun, much as a binary star might.  It has snatched 68 asteroids that now circle the mighty orb as make-shift moons.

NASA writes about this poster:

“The Jovian cloudscape boasts the most spectacular light show in the solar system, with northern and southern lights to dazzle even the most jaded space traveler. Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more powerful than Earth’s, and they form a glowing ring around each pole that’s bigger than our home planet. Revolving outside this auroral oval are the glowing, electric “footprints” of Jupiter’s three largest moons. NASA’s Juno mission will observe Jupiter’s auroras from above the polar regions, studying them in a way never before possible.”

 

 

 

I hope that you have found inspiration for your own stories with these fun images from NASA. If they help ferment a few new science fiction stories for you, as they have for me, all the better.