Tag Archives: science fiction

Author Interview: Stephanie Barr

Author Stephanie Barr is a storyteller with a focus on people, whatever form those “people” might be. And she loves to make you think, feel, and laugh. Please welcome this dynamic writer to No Wasted Ink.

Author Stephanie BarrStephanie Barr is a part time novelist, full-time rocket scientist, mother of three children (two still at home) and slave to many cats. I have three blogs, which are sporadically updated: Rocket Scientist, Rockets and Dragons, and The Unlikely Otaku. I like to read, though I’m currently obsessed with manga, and I love to write and tell stories. But I can also do the math.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing no later than thirteen because that’s when I first started saving it. I used to write poetry and throw it away—usually telling a story because I’m a natural born story teller—then I wrote one I thought my father, who generally didn’t like any fiction, might like. And he did. And he made me promise not to throw anything away ever again, so I haven’t. Been writing ever since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Since then. Oh, I’ve grown as a writer—it has been thirty-six years—but I published my first short story I ever wrote in my first anthology and I’m not a big ashamed of it. I didn’t change it either. My first anthology (Conjuring Dreams) was really about my growth as a writer. I started out with epic poetry, then moved to short stories, then later I started writing novels. But you can see how I taught myself dialog and subtleties and such in the anthology, so I didn’t go back and change the old work. Sometimes, the old work works, too, just as it is. I still write short stories and have another anthology coming out shortly called Legacy

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

Beast Within (The Bete Book 1) starts with a cargo of refugee children (mostly teenagers) that gets diverted en route to the local moon during a war with an intergalactic aggressor. As a result, the cargo ship crash lands on an unknown planet across the universe with a thousand kids and a handful of crew and teachers. Among the thousand kids are about 40 or so kids who happen to be shapeshifters and/or have psychic powers (the Bete) who desperately want to keep their nature hidden because they will be treated like demons by some of the humans.

What inspired you to write this book?

A few things. My teenage daughter was reading fantasy YA. I’d been writing fantasy since before she was born. I was also addicted to a manga/anime she introduced me to call Fruits Basket that had shapeshifters, and I found some of their dilemmas thought provoking and some of the characters interesting. In the end, very little of that inspiration remained in the story, but it’s what sparked it. Can’t give my brain an inch.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I probably write a little chattier than many. I love humor and have to be physically restrained from using parentheses. I really like to inject the particular personality of my character into my POV writing and I have a total soft spot for sarcasm and snarky folks, including telepathic cats (which are in Beast Within, by the way). I like to focus on characters and on their interactions. I am a character driven writer. I like smart characters and usually have at least one character that’s very smart. I prefer to outsmart my bad guys. Rapists never end well in my books (and are never protagonists) and I always have cats and at least one dragon.

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

The male lead (Xander) of this book is a shapeshifter who happens to change into a dragon, which is very bad ass. However, his father (who was abusive and also a dragon) used his strength as an excuse to mistreat people and told him that Xander that it was an unavoidable side effect of the dragon alter, that if he became emotional, he’d hurt the people he loved, so Xander spends a lot of time squashing his feelings, so the title reflects how he feels about himself. But, it also reflects some of the less savory aspects of humankind including prejudice and ruthlessness, so the intent was to ask the question, which one is really the beast. Hence the title.

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

Most of my books include the message: who you are is more important than what you are and you choose who you are. I try to drive that home on several different fronts, not only with the prejudice of some of the humans but the close-mindedness of some of the Bete.

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

The characters tend to be built from aspects of myself (taken, sometimes to extreme), but not the circumstances. They’re usually far outside my experience base and this is really not an exception.

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

I’ve learned from a lot of authors, sometimes just as good storytellers/character writers (Heinlein, Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, Clavel, Michener, McCaffery, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller), to people who had particular skills I admired (Poe:poetry/emotive response, Emily Bronte: emotive response, Stephen King: emotive response/writing kids effectively, etc). There are many mangakas I’ve found inspiring for their different perspectives. And, actually, I got started writing fantasy short stories by reading a story called “Spoils of War” by Jennifer Roberson in Sword and Sorceress V edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley that got me interested and involved in fantasy. It’s still one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.

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

Brandon Smith. Ryn Katryn does most of my covers, but Brandon has done a few and this is one of them. I was actually just chatting with him, explaining I wanted to revamp my covers (from what I had done myself) and he built the cover in record time and it was exactly what I wanted.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write what you love. If you love it, you’ll always have at least one fan. Learn your craft. Always strive to be better, not to be successful (though that’s always nice) but because it has your name on it, a legacy and you want it to be good. Read everything out loud, to an audience if you can swing it. I’ve caught more errors that way than every other way combined. Everything—I mean everything—is better with humor.

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

My books are an eclectic mix of different genres and characters, but they’re all fun, they’re all thought-provoking, they’re all full of excitement and adventure. And cats, often telepathic ones. And I’m not done, not by a long shot.

Beast Within Book Cover.jpgStephanie Barr
League City, TX

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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.

Author Interview: E. A. Hennessy.

As a writer, E.A. Hennessy tends to focus on two main things: exploring the personalities and relationships of her characters, and sending them on exciting adventures. All the things you would wish in a fantasy author.  Please welcome Liz to No Wasted Ink.

Author Liz HennessyMy name is Liz and I publish under the name E. A. Hennessy. By day I work as an environmental engineer, and by night I’m a dancer and a writer! I love to balance my very technical job with creative pursuits. Writing has been a necessary part of my life since I was a kid, and I’m excited to share my stories with the world.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I always had an active imagination, and loved coming up with fictional versions (from aliens to elves!) of myself and my friends. I wrote about our imagined adventures.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I always considered myself a writer. My thinking has always been: I write, therefore I’m a writer!

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

My debut novel, Grigory’s Gadget, is Book 1 of my Gaslight Frontier Series (Book 2 is in the works!). The story follows Zoya and her friends from the bitter, hostile nation of Morozhia who set out to start a better life. On the way to their new home, they’re kidnapped by pirates. What’s more, the pirates have a particular interest in Zoya’s family heirloom: a small gadget of compacted wires and gears. Unsure what power the gadget holds, Zoya knows she must protect it with her life.

What inspired you to write this book?

I started writing the first iteration of this novel over 10 years ago, when I was going through a pirate-obsession phase. The original story involved time travel, and a necklace instead of a gadget, but the plot and characters were otherwise very similar.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to write in a very conversational way. I love writing dialogue, as it seems to be what comes most naturally to me. I also like to keep some levity in the story, to balance out when a scene gets a little dark.

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

I knew I wanted the word “gadget” in the title. I also tend to gravitate toward alliteration. The name Grigory, which is the Russian form of Gregory, jumped out at me. I felt the combination of “Grigory” and “Gadget” set the tone for the setting of my story: a Russian-inspired steampunk world.

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

There is a strong theme of friendship and loyalty throughout the novel. I would say the main message is to seek out those true friends who deserve your loyalty, and not to be fooled by false friends.

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

Some characters were originally based on friends of mine, though I have taken many liberties since their original creation. There are also a couple scenes inspired by stories I’ve heard, such as my high school Russian teacher’s story about how she narrowly escaped the Soviet Union as it collapsed in the early 1990s and her experiences upon arriving in the United States as a refugee.

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

I had to think about this question a lot, and feel like I might be cheating a bit with my answer. A lot of authors have had a huge influence on my writing, but what about my life overall? I think that honor would have to go to story collectors and anthropologists! I’ve always loved mythology, and learning about different mythologies from around the world definitely influenced my worldview. I also used to read a Grimm’s fairy tale every night before bed (no wonder I tend to have weird dreams!).

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

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of writers who have influenced my writing. I have to acknowledge R. L. Stine and his Goosebumps books, because reading those books lead to my passion for reading and, by association, writing stories. As for my current writing style, I would say it is most influenced by Clive Barker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gail Carriger (odd combination, I know!). I love Barker’s vivid descriptions, Vonnegut’s humor and satire, and Carriger’s overall take on the steampunk genre.

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

My cover was designed by Deranged Doctor Design. I shopped around a lot, and the covers by DDD really impressed me. They have a great range, and every cover is gorgeously done. They also have straightforward and affordable pricing, which is great for a self-published author like me.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t let yourself get discouraged – I know that’s easier said than done! Remember that you are your own worst critic, and that a first draft will always be far from perfect. Don’t let these things stop you from writing!

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

As a first-time, self-published author, I am so grateful for the support I’ve received so far! Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this crazy writing adventure, and I hope you enjoy my stories!

Grigorys Gadget Book CoverE. A. Hennessy
Buffalo, NY

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Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Design 
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Author Interview Laura Woodswalker

Author Laura Woodswalker is a nature and science-obsessed nerd who believes that writing, art, and music are true expressions of the transcendent.  I am pleased to welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-laura-woodswalkerMy name is Laura Woodswalker. I ‘m a retired cat lady who has raised 3 children, worked various nursing and graphics jobs, and written several books to save my sanity. Music, art and writing have always been my favorite time-wasters. In addition to writing books, I produce electronic music and visual arts. I also perform at the electro-music festival in NY state. Between projects, I also do weaving and various DIY crafts.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was 12, I became obsessed with the Incas and wrote a novel about them. But my writing has often been episodic, in response to difficult times in my life. I wrote my first SF novel in the late 70s when my bluegrass band broke up. After my divorce, I wrote a 200K novel about the Khazars.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t really. I don’t have this ironclad compulsion to write all the time—only when I get an idea that forces me to write it.

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

TESLA’S SIGNAL is a historical science fiction novel based on the life of electrical genius Nikola Tesla, who gave us the world’s electrical system. In 1899, while experimenting with high-frequency currents, Tesla believed he had received a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization.

This inspired me to write about an alien visitation in the early 1900s. The invaders try to recruit Tesla for their conquest of Earth. After he escapes them, he is the only human with the scientific know-how to counter their mind-control frequency devices. The authorities, meanwhile, blame him for the aliens’ devastation and hunt him as a public enemy. Nikola and his colleague Clara are the only ones who can save the world!

What inspired you to write this book?

When I read Tesla’s biography, I saw that his life was “a science fiction story that practically wrote itself.” I did not feel qualified to write a SF novel about an electrical genius…but I felt as if Tesla had grabbed me by the throat and demanded I write his story.

Do you have a specific writing style?

When readers enter our world, they are blind, deaf and crippled. They depend on us to take them everywhere. So I don’t like to distract them with too much ‘show-don’t-tell’. At the same time, I prefer to tell a story rather than make my readers wallow in suffering. Conversation and human interaction are the backbone of a compelling scene. Also, I like to throw a bit of humor into my dramatic scenes.

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

It was a no-brainer…although the signal was actually something that Tesla received, rather than one which he sent.

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

On the surface, my novel is a classic adventure story. But there are deeper levels in which I explore the soul of a lonely genius who finds love and transcendence. The message is how my characters overcome their fears and temptations, find courage and love, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for humanity.

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

The character Clara, a Yiddish immigrant who becomes Tesla’s colleague, is very much drawn from the culture of my immigrant grandparents. Much of the novel is set in New York City, where my grandparents lived. When my characters must flee to a remote location, I put them in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where I grew up. They meet a professor who can help them—and he is based on my father, an engineering professor.

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

Zenna Henderson, my #1 favorite author, wrote about “The People”–telepathic aliens whose ancestors crash-landed in the southwest in the 1800s. The stories depict their attempts fit in with normal Earthlings, without losing their unique gifts and differences. How could this theme not resonate with a lonely high-school outcast? Likewise, my other favorite author, Clifford Simak, wrote about “mutants” who tried to save the world while facing persecution. With my ethnic background, I could certainly relate to this. My favorite science fiction theme has always been the noble mutant, alien, and the gifted outcast.

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

In the 80s I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Darkover conventions. This subculture was my gateway to SF cons and meeting other writers. I then discovered the Philadelphia SF Writers Workshop. I attended this sometimes grueling workshop for many years. One could not ask for a better writers’ boot camp. After critiquing and being critiqued for many years, I learned how to hear an editor’s voice inside my head.

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

I designed my own cover. I was an art major with a degree in computer graphics, so I felt that if I hired someone else I would be wasting my education.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Take the advice with a grain of salt. The main point in writing is “variety”. Vary your sentences, types of scenes, styles. Readers have short attention spans. Also, transcend your ego. It is going to get hurt; that’s part of the process.

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

This is a stand-alone novel, but the companion volume TESLA’S FREQUENCY should be out in a few months.

book-cover-teslas-signalLaura Woodswalker
Phoenixville PA

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Book Review: The Martian Chronicles

Book Name: The Martian Chronicles
Author: Ray Bradbury
First Published: 1950

Ray Bradbury was an American fantasy, science fiction, and mystery fiction writer. He was known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together in The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into television and films and he has left his stamp on the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Bradbury was born in the mid-west, but his family moved back and forth between Waukegan, Illinios and Tucson, Arizona for most of his formative years. When Bradbury was fourteen, his family settled in Los Angeles, California and he remained in the Southern California area for much of his life. Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth. He claimed that he was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series and wrote a fanfiction based on those tales at the age of twelve. He credits this series as the inspiration for The Martian Chronicles and notes that he likely would never have written about Mars at all if it was not for his love of the Burroughs’ series.

Bradbury cited H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as his biggest science fiction influences, followed by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. van Vogt. As Bradbury matured, he drew more from the style and works of Alexander Pope and poet John Donne. When later asked about the lyrical nature of his prose, Bradbury replied that it came, “From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well.” He also has said, “If you’re reluctant to weep, you won’t live a full and complete life.”

Bradbury did not attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers once he graduated from high school and spent much of his time reading. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 at the UCLA’s Powell Library where he rented a typewriter in one of their study rooms. The rental rate for completing the entire novel was around ten dollars since the rental of the manual typewriter was ten cents per half hour. He preferred to write on a typewriter instead of computers because that was what he was used to.

Ray Bradbury lived at home until the age of twenty-seven when he married his sweetheart, Marguerite McClure. They had four children together. He was an active member of Los Angeles Science Fiction Society where he made his first connections in the writing community of Los Angeles. From these connections, he began to meet publishers and gained a following for his work that now spans the globe. Bradbury is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world.

In his later years, Ray Bradbury became a well sought out speaker at literary events in the Southern California area. He never obtained a driver’s license and did not enjoy travel. It was well known on the speaker circuit, if you wanted Ray Bradbury to speak at your event, you should arrange to have a driver come and get him. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to meet Mr. Bradbury in person before he passed away in December of 2011. He was a favorite on the literary speaker’s circuit in Southern California and I personally know many writers that consider him to be an inspiration.

“Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.” – Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories based on the colonization of the planet Mars by people fleeing from an atomic devastated Earth. There is conflict between the aboriginal Martians and the colonists as they adjust to life on the new world. The stories are tied together by short vignettes, creating a loose novel in three parts.

The first third of the book tells of the first attempts by humans to land and explore on Mars. The native Martians endeavor to prevent them from returning. In the fourth story _And the Moon be Still as Bright, it is discovered that the Martians have been decimated by a plague brought by the humans, much the way that the American natives were brought down by European disease by the conquistadors. This sets the stage for the second part of the book when the humans colonize the deserted planet and set about making it into a second Earth. The final part of the book occurs after a global nuclear war on Earth cuts off contact between the two worlds. The few surviving humans that remain on Mars become the new Martians and the circle of life continues.

the-martian-chronicles-book-coverMy first exposure to The Martian Chronicles was during the 1980s when the mini-series starring Rock Hudson came out in 1980. Hudson played one of the colonists from the fourth Martian expedition who later returned with his family to colonize Mars. I have never forgotten the scene when Hudson playing Col. John Wilder takes his children to a Martian canal and points at their reflection in the water. “There are the Martians.” He tells them. One day there will be humans to do this and not all that far in the future.

I have always loved the ERB series, John Carter of Mars, and between the two, a love for stories about the red planet has grown in me. After The Martian Chronicles mini-series, I made a point to seek out the original book. While I enjoyed the written stories, I think that in this case, I prefer the mini-series, although Ray Bradbury himself thought it boring! You can still see all three episodes today on YouTube. ONE TWO THREE

The science behind the stories is sorely outdated. Back when Bradbury wrote the stories, it was believed that Mars had more atmosphere and it would be more hospitable to human life. Today, we know that living on Mars will be much more difficult than simply getting there and setting up homes. We will need to combat a rampant CO2 atmosphere, low gravity and live without the protection of a magnetic planetary field. Still, this is a classic science fiction tale and several of the stories in the collection are well worth reading. My personal favorites are: “Rocket Summer”, “Ylla”, “-And The Moon Be Still As Bright”, “The Off Season”, and “The Million-Year Picnic.”