Tag Archives: science fiction

Author Interview: Tim Callahan

Author Tim Callahan is a writer of Space Opera and Superhero fiction with a bit of Science Fiction horror mixed in.  He is a member of the Dragon’s Rocketship Facebook Group.  

Author Tim CallahanHello, My name is Tim Callahan. I work in the IT department of Philadelphia Law firm. I’ve lived, and worked, in Philly most of my life and it’s a place I love. I’m married with two dogs, A pitbull-terrier named Jeffery (Named after a robot in a commercial I liked at the time we got him) and Cocker Spalie/ Black Lab mix named Kenseth. (Named after a race car driver.) Besides writing I enjoy reading, Football, Baseball, and vacationing with my wife.

When and why did you begin writing?

Started writing when I was a kid, probably around 11 or so. I always had way more imagination than smarts and would constantly act out in school, thinking that I saw a ghost or that aliens were going to come and take me away. I also loved to read. Mostly comic books but I eventually moved on to novels. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t have a book in my hand or I wasn’t tucked into a corner of the house reading something. It was during the idle times that the voices, who I later discovered were characters, would just tell me stories about themselves and what they were doing. Eventually, I realized the only way to shut them up was to write down what they were telling me. Didn’t take me long to realize how the act of writing not only shut them up, but it was also a lot of fun.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I finished my first book, at the age of 13 (It wasn’t a very good or long book.) Even though I didn’t know it at the time, it showed that I could start and finish a story I had written. That’s probably the hardest part for beginning writers, finishing, and it’s something I knew I could do at an early age.

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

It’ll be the fifth book in my Evolutionite Chronicles books. Set in the city of Haven, which has the largest population of Evo’s, those born with special powers, it’s going to be about a powerful man with god-like powers returning after everything thought he was dead. A small group of Evo’s get together to try and stop him from destroying the world.

What inspired you to write this book?

My love of comic books and comic book stories. I can’t draw so writing is the best way to get those stories out there.

Do you have a specific writing style?

A lot of writers influenced my style but I really try to emulate the greats like Arthur C Clark, Robert Heinlein along with some of my new favorites, like Tim Pratt, Jim Butcher, and John Scalizi.

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

Don’t jump to judgment until you have all the information.

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

All my books contain something I’ve experienced, either a feeling, a person, a conversation, or an actual event. In fact, this book will have a scene where a teacher punishes a child for flushing a grapefruit down a toilet in school. (I’m the kid being yelled at because I did that in first grade and flooded the bathroom)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Probably nothing they haven’t heard before. Write every day. Write what you’d love to read. Don’t worry about what people think. Don’t even worry about what you think while writing. Trust your instinct. Sometimes your writing brain is ahead of your thinking brain and understands the story better than you do.

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

Keep doing what you love. It might not be writing, it might be drawing, it might be computers, it might be working on cars. I’m lucky in that I get to work on computers all day, something I’ve loved as much as writing, and I get to write when I’m at home. Long as you do what you love and you’ll always find happiness, even in dark times.

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Philadelphia, PA

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Flashfiction: Sanctuary by Wendy Van Camp

Sanctuary

Sanctuary
A science fiction short story by Wendy Van Camp
255 words

“Bandit ship approaching.” Ship’s alarm sounds a warning. Sailors mind stations. Captain Alton Franks nods and grips his chair. Fifth attack this month. A captain had an obligation for his ship. No dying on his watch!

“Aim high off bandit bow. Only a warning shot.”

Midshipman Dustin Jacobs finds focus on bandit ship. Zap! Light zings through void. “Miss!”

“Good job, Midshipman.” What will occur now? Captain waits.

Lights flash on bandit ship. Rust. Black. Grassy. Black. It was a quiz for Captain Franks to work out.

“May I board?” Bandit sounds without warning on comm. It was a woman.

“Who asks?” Captain Franks said.

“I am Laura Quinn, Captain of this Martian Ship Lucidity. I wish to bargain with you.”

“You may board without arms.” Captain Franks nods to Midshipman Jacobs. Midshipman jaunts to airlock with gun on hip. Laura Quinn is brought to Captain’s public room.  A sailor stands guard.

“Sit down,” bids Captain Franks, pointing to a chair. Bandit Quinn sits.

Standing, Captain Franks points a digit at bandit. “Fifth attack this month. Why? What do you want?”

Laura Quinn is nonvocal at first. “Sanctuary from Mars. For my bandits and I. I did no wrong, but carry disfavor.” Quinn said softly.

“Political affair?” Quinn nods. This shifts opinion for Captain Franks, known minor acts can bring about political disfavor on Mars. Pity stirs him.

“I proposition sanctuary onboard USS Goliath.” An alluring grin of Laura Quinn, upon his proclamation, stirs Alton Franks. A worthy mission than thought of at start of his tour.


Sanctuary is a flash fiction from a challenge in one of my science fiction writing groups back in 2016.  We were to write a story without using the letter “e”.  This is not as easy as you might think.  The vowel appears in a great many words in the English language.  I thought mine turned out pleasant enough for a micro-flash.  I hope you will agree!

This story is also available to members of Medium.  If you would like to support me as an author, please go to Medium and give my story claps.  Clapping lets the Medium system know that my story is popular and it will gain more visibility.

WonderCon 2018: A Review

WonderCon 2018 - Convention Exterior

Science Fiction conventions are the lifeblood of science fiction and fantasy authors. We go there to sell our books, meet the readers of our genre, sign a few autographs and participate in panels. Not to mention have a great time soaking in the creative atmosphere of people that “get” us and our crazy love for our genre. The science fiction community is tight knit, they support creatives with passion.

I’ve been a dealer and participant at various science fiction conventions on the West Coast of the United States for over twenty years. I began as an artisan jeweler, selling handmade sterling silver items featuring semi-precious stones and art glass. I was both in the dealer room and in the convention art show, depending on the venue.

In 2014, I published my first novel and began the shift toward less time in the dealer room and more time in programming. I began participating in panels, giving workshops on building a social media platform both as an author or an artist and I shifted my wares in the art shows, not only bringing in my handmade jewelry but also selling a series of art prints based upon my illustrated scifaiku poetry.

WonderCon 2018

WonderCon 2018 - Wendy Van Camp AutographWonderCon is one of the newer incarnations of Comic Con International, put on by the people that organize the huge convention in San Diego. Although I’ve been exhibiting my work at the San Diego Comic Con for almost twenty years, I had never so much as walked the floor at Anaheim’s WonderCon. When Broad Universe, a feminist science fiction writing guild, opened a table at the convention. I decided to attend.

I was assigned five hours at the Broad Universe table to sell and autographic my books. I appreciate everyone who purchased a book from me. It is my readers that keep me going. This year I brought my Regency Historical “The Curate’s Brother” and copies of “Murder They Wrote”, a horror anthology in which my short story “We Can Rebuild Him” is published.

After my autograph time was over, I left the table and went out to see what WonderCon was all about.  My goal was to make a solid determination if this was a venue that I might return to or not as an author. I will outline my personal impressions of the convention below.

Small Press

The table I was assigned to during my autograph session was in Small Press. This is where all the authors were located. The section is on the far left side of the convention, the furthest area away from parking and furthest from programming. Many of the authors had paired up at the tables and fully half of them were promoting graphic novels. There were plenty of dead times in Small Press when foot traffic disappeared, but the authors were stoic and kept a smile on their faces.

I noticed that the major Indy bookstore in our area, Mysterious Galaxy, was relegated to the rear back corner of Small Press next to the area set aside for the authors of programming to do their autographs. Normally, Mysterious Galaxy has a prime location at the science fiction conventions I attend, so it was odd to see them in this low traffic location. Of all the areas in the convention, this was the slowest and least attended place at WonderCon.

Exhibition Area

WonderCon 2018 - Exhibition HallThe Exhibition area was the largest of the convention. The vendors had full 10×10 spaces or larger. The majority of the vendors were from media, software, gaming, or popular artists. I counted three extra large booths that sold artist supplies at discounted prices. Being a sketch artist, I drooled over the selections of fine paper notebooks, pens, and inks. If you are a painter or sketch artist, this is a great place to stock up on art supplies for the year. Curiously, I did not see booksellers in the Exhibition area. If they were there at all, they were tucked away from the main areas and I did not encounter them during my four or five passes through the place.

The Exhibition area was packed with people at all times. It is located under the location where programming takes place on the second or third floors so it would be easy for attendees to pop in between panels and do a bit of shopping. I personally did not find anything to purchase beyond the art supplies, but I imagine if you were into software games, science fiction films/TV or collected Disney pins or bobbleheads, you would find something to please you.

WonderCon 2018 - Artist Alley Composit

 

Artist Alley

This was one of the larger artist alleys that I’ve ever encountered. It rivals the one at the San Diego Comic Con. The artists were all top notch. Most were sketch artists whose work would be comfortable gracing a comic book, but all styles were represented in the science fiction genre. There were plenty of graphic novel authors there as well. I spent some time chatting with various artists to get a feel of how they felt about the convention. Most were delighted with the attendance and traffic to their tablespace. Artist Alley was the place to be at WonderCon.

Art Show

There is no art show at WonderCon. I find this surprising since almost every science fiction convention offers one. An art show is a boutique showing art from artists from all over the country. They mail in their art or drop it off in person and the art show handles the sales. Afterward, the unsold art is mailed back and the artist receives a check for their sales minus a small commission to the art show and any sales taxes owed to the state the show takes place in. It is an inexpensive way for an artist to gain exposure for their work without having to attend the convention. For a venue that seems to support artists in all other ways, this is a glaring exception.

Panels

WonderCon 2018 - Panel 1Personally, I was disappointed by the panel selection at WonderCon. As an author,  I did not find panels about writing except for one or two late on Sunday.  As a sketch artist, I discovered many art-related panels. The panelists offered good basic information for budding sketch artists or digital art creators. While the panels were all of good quality, they were clearly designed to be of benefit to artists, gamers, or filmmakers.  Writing books was not a focus of the main panel topics, it was more of an afterthought.  However, the one or two writing panels that I saw were well attended and offered quality information.

Cosplay

The costumes were in full force at WonderCon. The majority were wearing comic book themed characters. The cosplay participants wandered the halls of the convention, but many clustered outside in the courtyard near the food trucks. There was a bevy of professional photographers taking pictures. I asked about the media attention and discovered that the photographers were not connected with the convention officially, but had been brought in by the cosplay people. Although they had access to the professionals, I found that the people in costume were happy to pose for regular people such as myself. You should make a point to politely ask first. This is part of the collection of photos I gathered to enjoy after the convention.

WonderCon 2018 Cosplay Composite

 

Why WonderCon is more for Artists than Authors

In the end, I am forced to conclude that WonderCon is not a good venue for authors.  Most science fiction conventions have full writing tracks, rather like a mini writing conference, to give beginning science fiction authors genre-specific information. They also allow published authors time to hold readings and autograph sessions in the more traffic intensive areas of the convention. WonderCon did not offer this.  As an author, I felt shunted aside.

However, WonderCon seems to be a great place for artists to be seen and network. While there were fewer professional tutors to review your work and give career advice as San Diego Comic Con offers to new artists, there was still more than enough panels and exposure for an up and coming artist to find value. If you are a science fiction themed artist, WonderCon should be on your list of consideration for an artist alley table. I don’t believe that you would be disappointed, even if you need to travel to attend.  I spoke with many contented artists during the weekend, many of whom have been returning to WonderCon for years to showcase their graphic novels, art books, prints or imprinted 3D items.

I hope this review of WonderCon is helpful to you, either as an artist or an author.  As always, if you can attend a convention to “walk the floor” in person before purchasing a table, that is always the best policy to follow.

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
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Attending Science Fiction Conventions

San Diego Comic Con

All across the world from the United States to Europe, Australia, and more, large groups of readers and writers of the science fiction and fantasy genre gather together to experience and talk about all that is weird and wonderful about the books they love. Some conventions are huge with tens of thousands of attendees and others are smaller local affairs of a few hundred. Both types are incredibly useful as an author and offer much both as a resource for writing material, a writing conference to learn your craft, and a place to hang out and talk about your love for Star Wars or Dr. Who without getting odd looks from your mother. One of the reasons I choose to be a science fiction and fantasy author, besides the fact that I love the genre, is that it has a well-established circuit of literary conventions.

The conventions have different “tracks” within them. This is a series of programming at the convention that ties in with certain people and interests. Sometimes there is a separate charge or area for the different tracks, but often the programming is left wide open allowing the attendee to enjoy what interests them.

Writing Track

This is where I usually hang out. The writing track is a mini writer’s conference within the convention. Panels and workshops about the writing craft, tropes in the genre, how to market your books, and readings by established authors or up and coming writers are featured. This is also where the podcasters and movie buffs hang out.

Filk Track

A filk singer is someone who takes a well-known song and gives it new lyrics, in this case, of a science fiction or fantasy nature. It is sort of like fanfiction for musicians. The better-known filkers are set up to perform throughout the evenings to provide exposure for their art and to provide entertainment to the attendees. It is common to see people with folk guitars lounging around the commons of a convention on any given day.

CosPlay Track

Conjecture 2014 - blogAttendees who wear costumes and groups of people that enjoy creating them have been a big part the science fiction community for as long as I remember. You’ll see people dressed as Jedi knights, in star trek uniforms, and many other pop culture icons. Usually, if you ask politely, they are happy to stop and pose for a picture with you. On Saturday night, there is often a masquerade ball where the costumes are judged and prizes are awarded based on their creativity.

Science Track

Science fiction attracts a large number of engineers, doctors, and other professionals who come to let out their geek side for the weekend. Most conventions will feature lectures and presentations by these scientists that rival ones I’ve seen at JPL and other institutions. These are talks about the planets, new technology, mathematics, physics and a host of other subjects. As a science fiction author, I find these to be gold mines of information that I can later use in my stories.

Artist Track

Dealer Room ShopperAnother track that I am very much a part of, the artist track consists of the vendors in the dealer room that sell all sorts of science fiction related items from books to soft goods, jewelry, and much more. There is also an art show where 2D and 3D art is on display and for sale in a boutique to the attendees. Before I became an author, I was a dealer of jewelry for around twenty years. I sold Celtic and Science Fiction themed jewelry in the dealer rooms or more recently, my prints of Scifaiku Poetry in the art shows. I still book tables for my jewelry and books from time to time, but these days I’m more often in panels or giving presentations in addition to my readings.

I consider these conventions to be a “leg” of my author platform and every bit as important as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I attend several each year and always see a bump in my online sales along with the books I sell at the event. It also proves to be a great place to network. I find new authors to interview for my blog, guest posters, and people to interview me in turn.

While you certainly can book a table to sell your books at the convention, I found that joining a writing guild and sharing a table proves to be more beneficial. That way you get time at the table to do signings, but you also can get away to enjoy the panels and other fun events of the convention. The guild I belong to is Broad Universe, a writing guild that promotes women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. It is a national writing guild and we host tables and readings at most of the larger conventions in the United States. However, there are many other guilds represented at the various conventions. As an author, you simply need to check out what is available in your local area and move forward from there. If you are attached to a small press, often times they will host a table for their stable of authors too.

Science Fiction Conventions are fun! The creative energy in the place is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. If you haven’t been to one, find a smaller local one and get your feet wet. Release your inner geek. Beyond selling books and doing readings of your work, you might find a place where you can relax and chat about your favorite books and movies on a level you have never experienced before.