Tag Archives: scifi

Author Interview: Christian Warren Freed

Author Christian Warren Freed believes that life translates into our work, the good guys don’t always succeed, and some don’t survive. His goal is to provide an enjoyable ride readers will continue returning to throughout the years. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

My name is Christian Warren Freed. After deciding farm life in rural Pennsylvania was not my best option, I raised my right hand and joined the US Army. Ten days after high school, I was on a plane heading for Oklahoma and basic training. The next twenty years seemed to fly by and left me in a weird place- I was a retiree and looking for a new career. I enjoy fine cigars, better whiskey, and love spending time down in the woods with my Bernese Mountain Dogs. Oh yeah, I have also decided to make a go of being as close to a professional writer as possible. Last year I started my own company: Warfighter Books, and continue building my little empire.

When and why did you begin writing?

I suppose we can go with the cliché of starting young. I made goofy comic books back in the 80s as a kid, won an award for a very poorly written horror novel in 10th grade, fiddled with a few books in the 90s. It wasn’t until I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that I wrote my first real book. After that the train picked up steam and I kept writing. I retired from the Army in 2011 and knew what I wanted to do.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I would say after putting The End on the last page of my first book. It runs in my blood though. My uncle is a historian who does a lot of work with Ken Burns and my aunt has a few books under her name aw well.

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

My newest novel is a throwback to the classic film noir/ detective movies of the 40s and 50s combined with the action of James Bond and set on a galactic backdrop. One of my favorite themes is having characters who live unassuming lives that are suddenly upended by raw chaos. You never know what you’re going to get.

What inspired you to write this book?

Oh, the Lazarus Men had been stewing in my mind after a weekend of watching classic detective films and the whole noir theme. I added my style and a few scifi elements to ramp it up. The beauty of creating is I seldom know the direction my mind wanders.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have been told to tell people I am direct to a fault. I prefer the in-your-face, straight down the throat approach. To life and writing. I enjoy writing epic battle scenes, whether it is with sword and horse or in a starship.

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

I probably got the general idea from an old Batman graphic novel where his villain uses the Lazarus Pit to rejuvenate. I figured hey, what if my bad guy has that ability and builds a quiet empire of influence around it over the centuries?

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

Nope, not even a little. I read a lot of books with deep philosophical messaging or questing for answers, but this is meant to be a good time, an escape from reality, and a thrill from start to finish.

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

I think we as authors always insert a little bit of ourselves in our characters. I haven’t been to space yet so there’s not much influence there, but I’m willing to try!

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

Steven Erikson wrote a very lengthy series filled with complexities beyond imagination, thousands of characters, and multiple storylines that seemingly don’t make sense through each book but are beautifully wrapped up in the final three. I wanted to do that with my opus series (the Forgotten Gods Tales). Aside from him, I use David Weber, Terry Brooks, of course Tolkien, and Dennis L. McKiernan for inspiration. They have a way with words and can draw my attention for books well over 800 pages.

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

The tag team duo of Erikson and Ian Esslemont. While I haven’t spoken with either, I get so much fire from reading their books and through the world they created that I want to be like that, but in my own way. Aside from that, my mentor runs a publishing company and I bounce everything off of her before going for it. Kinda….

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

I have a handful of artists on hand to execute different styles of cover work. For this particular design I used Warren Design. It conveys the message I am putting out and themes well with the story.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Study the business. There is so much bad advice circulating, from you should write what you want to ignoring what the major publishers do because it’s your journey. Well, yes and no. There is a reason for bestsellers and a reason why yours isn’t. Follow the trends, study the business, and don’t be afraid to take chances.

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

Since starting out a decade ago I have had the good fortune of discovering some really die hard superfans from around the world. They know how I feel, but for everyone else: thank you for being part of this ride with me. I can string the words together, but you are the ones who determine my failure or success. Here’s to you, and the far horizon we have yet to reach!


Christian Warren Freed
Raleigh, North Carolina

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The Lazarus Men

Cover Artist: Warren Design
Publisher: Hurn Publications

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Author Interview: Jim Webster

When I asked Author Jim Webster to describe himself, he replied: “Modest, but I have much to be modest about.” Please welcome my fellow Sci-Fi Roundtable Knight to No Wasted Ink.

Farmer, adviser, writer, husband, father, churchwarden, Maverick. I’ve been a farmer for the vast majority of my life, a writer for not much less. I became a husband slightly later, and a father later still. As for adviser, I was never shy of giving people my opinion and with being a maverick, I may always have been one. Churchwarden just happened.

I farm in the south of Cumbria, between the sea and the English Lake District. Married, three adult daughters and still I have no dress sense.

When and why did you begin writing?

In simple terms with a small farm you need another source of income for a family to survive. Admittedly I didn’t have a family at the time, but this also meant I didn’t have a wife to go out to work. So I turned to writing as a form of diversification which took no capital (Unless you allow for the typewriter, and then a fax machine.) So I did freelance journalism, (almost all in trade publications) and then about 2010 people started pestering me to write fiction.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It’s not something I’m precious about to be honest. I’m Jim. I’m a farmer who writes rather than a writer who farms. Some have suggested I stick with ‘farmer’ because I can cope with the dress code. How I quantify it is that I would leave my writing to help a calving cow, but I wouldn’t leave the cow because I realised I had to put in another paragraph.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’ve just finished a series of Science Fiction four books, the Tsarina Sector. I was asked to do it by a small publisher back in 2013 and Justice 4.1, the first book, was published in 2014. I went to Loncon with it in 2014 and it sold well. But the publisher was fading, life was closing in on them (in the nicest possible way, an addition to the family) and so by the time the second book War 2.2, came out, they gently closed down. I was left with two manuscripts and half a third. Anyway I went on to write other stuff (a lot of fantasy) and in 2020 I thought I might have chance to finish the series. Whilst farming didn’t have a lockdown, (if anything we were busier) all sorts of government bodies and inspectorates went into hiding and left me alone. So I got the time that way, finished the third book and wrote the fourth. I pressed publish on them all on the same morning at the end of June.

Having had the series almost die because of ‘life’ I thought that I wasn’t risking having it happen again. Now people can buy the whole series at once.

It’s SF, set on the planet Tsarina, which is not particularly important, but isn’t a bad place to live and all sorts of people want to take it over, from Starmancers (space pirates) looking for a base, to genetic engineers who want to sterilise a continent, ‘just to be sure.’

What inspired you to write this book?

Actually I was asked. But I’ve always loved SF as well as Fantasy and I’d been mulling over the idea of a story set in the backwaters of a galaxy.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Because I’ve done so much freelance journalism I am not precious about my ‘voice.’ Indeed even now, I have a different voice when I write as ‘Tallis Steelyard’, the poet who narrates some of my fantasy, to when I write my ‘dog and quad’ tales about life farming in Cumbria. Ironically from the comments made by my proof reader, Tallis Steelyard has better grammar and sentence construction.

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

Ironically I didn’t. The publisher did and as he read it before suggesting it, I have stuck with it. I do think it fits.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I think the question that hangs below the surface across all four books of the series is, ‘What is Justice’ and at what point do you have to compromise for the greater good? As one female character comments on the last page of the final book in the series, “I think it is fair enough to buy justice at the cost of your own life. But I don’t think anybody is entitled to spend the lives of others just so they get to feel a warm glow of smug satisfaction that justice, however you define it, has been done.”

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

All sorts of things I have been told by people, living or dead, have drifted into the books. A phrase of my grandfather’s is in there. When cake was cut too thin he would comment that, “It tastes of knife.”

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

Jack Vance. Because he was an amazing writer. His work straddled the fuzzy borderland between fantasy and science fiction and his powers of description, and his ability to invent and describe cultures and societies has always awed me.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Writing is like carpentry, the more you do, the better you get and the better you are at covering up your mistakes.

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

Don’t be precious, be prepared to laugh at yourself, write books you enjoy. A good book is a holiday you can take without all that nonsense of going through airports. When you turn the final page, you should experience the sensation of leaving one world and returning, perhaps regretfully, to another.



Jim Webster
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England

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The Tsarina Sector: Justice

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Author Interview: Stephen Hall

If Matthew Reilly (who writes all those fast-paced adventure novels) and Douglas Adams (who wrote The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) had a love-child… well, that’d be really weird. Not to mention impossible. But if they DID, that love-child might write a little bit like Stephen Hall. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Hello, I’m Stephen Hall. I’m a writer and actor, a father to one daughter, a husband to one woman, and a meal ticket to one Staffordshire Terrier. I have one sister and no parents. For the past four decades or so, I’ve mostly been trying to make people laugh.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always loved entertaining people, telling stories. I suppose the first professional writing I did was writing my own standup comedy material, which I started performing a week before my 18th birthday.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was first officially employed as a writer in 1996 – with a contract and everything – when I got a gig writing gags and sketches for the Australian TV sketch comedy show Full Frontal.
FUN FACT: That’s where Eric Bana got his start!

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

I’d love to, Wendy! Symphony Under Siege is a rollicking sci-fi comedy adventure set 512 years in the future. On a Thursday morning. It tells the story of the 5-star luxury space cruise liner the Symphony of the Stars, as it’s raided by desperate space pirates in search of the secret fabulous treasure hidden somewhere on board. This playground for the ultra-rich now becomes a battleground for the two crews, as their two headstrong captains circle ever closer to their fateful showdown.

Did I mention one of the cruise ship’s crew is a serial killer? That’s just one more thing the cruise ship captain (highly-decorated ex-navy Captain Diana Singh) has to contend with.

The story’s fast pace is a product of its serialized beginnings, with chapter after chapter of cliffhangers, daring escapes, twists and turns and there’s-no-way-they-could-have-survived-that! moments…..
Oh, and I’ve tried to put in a lot of gags, too.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d wanted to write a novel for ages. As my 50th birthday approached, I bit the bullet and vowed to finally DO IT before I turned 51. I told my wife and daughter, then I devised a framework to hold me accountable; releasing one chapter online every week, for 52 weeks. Those 52 mini-deadlines were exactly the motivation I needed to stick to it, and get that first draft done. I’m happy to report I met them all, and the original serialised version of the novel is still online, right here: http://www.thestephenhall.com/novel-chapters/

And I always knew that I’d be self-publishing it. I was confident I could do that part of the process, because I’d done it with my previous (non-fiction) book How To Win Game Shows.

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

When I started writing it, I didn’t have a title in mind; I just trusted that one would present itself to me… Then, as I neared the end of the writing process (and I knew what the story actually was) I came up with a shortlist of three potential titles, and ran a survey! I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to vote for one of the three options, and Symphony Under Siege won hands down. So Symphony Under Siege it was.
And is.

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

I don’t know about a message, as such – this is just a rollicking, escapist adventure. It has virtually nothing to do with life on earth in 2021. There’s nothing in it to remind you
of our global pandemic,
of our seemingly endless lockdowns,
of the continuing harmful – and sadly, successful – spread of misinformation, ignorance, arrogance and fear,
of the continuing global climate emergency or
of all the petty things that divide humanity being exaggerated and incited by The Powers That Be to overwhelm all the beautiful things that unite us.

Not referencing any of that – or even hinting at any of it – in the book is all deliberate on my part… perhaps that’s as much of a message as anything.

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

I wish! No, this is all just invented adventure… probably born of being such a Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Star Trek fan, and all those old Saturday afternoon matinee serials I’ve watched as well.

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

Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Winton, and Robert Louis Stevenson are some whose work I really enjoy. I tend to enjoy speculative, imaginative fiction with a sense of humour on the slightly dry side. And Dickens – how could I forget Charles Dickens?! When it comes to serialised novels, Charles Dickens wrote the book.
(In regular monthly instalments, you understand…)

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

Oh, I think Douglas Adams was pretty brilliant, wasn’t he? That mix of wacky, brilliant sci-fi concepts and laugh-out-loud (and very British) comedy gets me every time.

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

The cover was designed by a Venezuelan studio called The Kicke Studio. I found them on Fiverr, after commissioning concept sketches from 5 or 6 other artists. I knew I wanted the image to feature my luxury space cruise liner at the moment just before the pirate attack. Although I’d described the ships’ appearances in the novel, I’d only done a few rough sketches of what I thought they might look like. I hired a number of artists to design the two ships based on my descriptions and sketches, and I instantly fell in love with what The Kicke Studio submitted. I’m really happy with the cover they painted for me, and I look forward to teaming up with them again for the sequel!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

A writer writes. Don’t wait for the muse to strike – just write something, anything! The worst thing you did write is always better than the best thing you didn’t write. Remind yourself what fun writing can be – what fun writing should be!

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

Yes. Thank you for reading this far.


Stephen Hall
Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)

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Symphony Under Siege

Cover Artist: The Kicke Studio

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The Planets – Finalist for Elgin Award

The Planets is a 2021 Finalist for the Elgin Award for Best Speculative Poetry Book of the Year.

The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection is a literary journey through our solar system featuring poems inspired by the nine planets. All the scifaiku and astropoetry is meant to inspire you to seek out and learn more about the history of human’s exploration and the physical characteristics of the these fascinating worlds.

The Elgin voting season is about to close. If you are a voting member of the SFPA, I hope you’ll consider The Planets when you are making your final considerations for the Elgin.

Currently, Wendy Van Camp is composing a new astropoetry scifaiku book called Time and Space. She hopes to have it published in Spring of 2022. Look for it and for The Planets on Amazon.

Author Interview: PJ Manney

When I asked PJ Manney to describe herself as a writer, she said, “I’m a human sponge, and culture and SF geek. Everything is connected and I’ll show you the network.” Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

PJ Manney wrote the bestselling and P.K. Dick Award nominated novel, (R)EVOLUTION (2015, 47North) in the Phoenix Horizon trilogy with, (ID)ENTITY (2017), and (CON)SCIENCE, (2021). A former chairperson of Humanity+, she authored “Yucky Gets Yummy: How Speculative Fiction Creates Society“​ and “Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy,”​ foundational works on the neuropsychology of empathy and future media. Manney consults and lectures for organizations about the future of technology and humanity. She was a teleplay writer (Hercules–The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, numerous TV pilot scripts) and film executive. Manney has two children, lives with her husband in Southern California and is a dual citizen of the US and New Zealand.

When and why did you begin writing?

My husband and I went to New Zealand in 1993, so he could produce five TV movies based on Hercules. I had just left running one production company and was negotiating to run another. But I didn’t want to be away from my husband for 9 months, so I put the job search on hold and joined him in Auckland. I was so bored doing nothing, I thought I’d write a spec feature length script to pass the days. For thirty years, I had believed the lies told by my teachers who mistrusted my dyslexia, and my producers who believed that production executives didn’t have what it took to be writers. My spec was good enough for me to pitch the executive producer in charge of the new episodic TV series in the works, Hercules—The Legendary Journeys, then Xena: Warrior Princess. We were in New Zealand for seven years and had two children there.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I considered myself a screenwriter after my first sale to Hercules—The Legendary Journeys. I considered myself a novelist after selling (R)EVOLUTION. I considered myself a short story writer after selling “Ours” to the ghost story anthology, December Tales. Even though writing is what makes one a writer, I like a pro sale to feel like I’ve earned the moniker. But that’s just me.

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

(CON)SCIENCE is the third book in the Phoenix Horizon trilogy. Five years ago, bioengineer Peter Bernhardt spearheaded an innovation in nanotechnology that changed the course of evolution. Until everything was taken from him—his research, the people he loved, and finally his life. Uploaded as an artificial intelligence, Peter is alive again thanks to a critical reactivation by fellow AI Carter Potsdam.

But a third sentient computer program, Major Tom, is tearing the United States apart, destroying its leaders and its cities. Major Tom’s mission: rebuild a new America from the ruins and reign as uncontested monarch. Carter knows that only a revolutionary like Peter can reverse the damage to a country set on fire.

Caught in a virtual world between an alleged ally and an enemy, pieces of Peter’s former self remain: the need for vengeance, empathy for the subjugated people of a derelict world, and doubt in everything he’s been led to believe. To rescue what’s left, he’ll need to once again advance the notion of evolution and to expand the meaning of being human—by saving humanity.

What inspired you to write this book?

I love American history, having been an American Studies major in college. I love futurism, where I watch trends in society and culture and figure out the possible futures that may occur. And I love neuroscience. I taught myself neuroscience to imagine the possible brain-computer interface technologies (BCIs) in the novels. They must be good enough, because at least one major BCI company has replicated them. Imagining how a person would change with an implanted BCI, then change again as a digital personality is the best fun ever.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think my style changes with the story told and the point of view. In the Phoenix Horizon trilogy, it’s close third person in the mind of a scientist, but as the protagonist shifts personality, the writing does, too. “Ours” is a story told by three ghost children as a collective entity. But I have techniques that are consistent story to story, including how I brainstorm, structure and write all over the place, in layers. I call it sedimentary writing, as I lay down the different layer details at different times.

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

My first editor at 47North, Jason Kirk, came up with (R)EVOLUTION. I took the format of parentheses as a starting point, and added one letter more to inside the parenthesis to indicate the number of the book in the series: (R), (ID), (CON). Then I had fun coming up with words that were thematically correct and could exist on their own inside, outside, and separate of the parentheses. Each title has several meanings or thematic references. I think it worked.

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

Change happens. Technology advances. We can’t stop it, nor should we. Technology is morally neutral. What matters are the choices we, as a society, make for its use. And we have a voice in those decisions if we chose to say it.

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

The series protagonist cognates, memorizes and problem-solves through music. My daughter does this. I find her brain so interesting, I created a hero/anti-hero based on it. And several characters are based on or are composites of people I know. I’ve made a lot of parents happy by making their adult children fictional doctors, lawyers and Wolfesque ‘masters of the universe.’

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

Alexander Dumas inspired all three books with The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask respectively. Dumas was a magnificent storyteller, and especially in The Count of Monte Cristo, the political technothriller writer of his time, as the Count uses early 19th Century technologies to foil his enemies.

Mary Shelley is my compass, always pointing the way. From Frankenstein, depicting the OG scientifically-created human, to The Last Man, with its deep contemplation of what makes human beings necessary, she asked the hardest questions as the first science fiction author. We still ask the same questions today.

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

Two writers mentored and helped me over the last several years. Joe Quirk picked me up and dusted me off when I had given up on an early draft of (R)EVOLUTION that was a disaster. He focused on solutions and gave me the best notes a writer could ask for, because they worked. I learned so much from him as a first-time novelist. Cat Rambo came into my life when I needed her most. I had writers block and took Eileen Gunn’s excellent writer’s block class at Clarion West online. At the end, she said we should join Cat Rambo’s daily co-writing group and continue with classes at The Rambo Academy. I did both. They allowed me to finish (CON)SCIENCE and take it to publication, as well as teach me how to write short stories, leading to “Ours.” I’m a lucky writer to have such mentors and friends.

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

I told 47North that I wanted covers that were the 21st Century version of the surreal, psychedelic SFF covers I loved as a child in the 1970s. Jason Kirk and I searched the web for a great artist and found Adam Martinakis. We adore him and his three-dimensional, CGI surrealist style. They speak to the drama and individual conflicts of each book. (R)EVOLUTION depicts the painful emergence of a new kind of human. (ID)ENTITY refers to the fracturing of identity in artificial human intelligences and the different bodies they inhabit. (CON)SCIENCE references how many iterations of a single mind can occur when digital entities exist. The images were perfect.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Don’t give up. I imagined the seed of an idea in 1993 that became (R)EVOLUTION, published in 2015. During that time, I wrote for television, ghostwrote for movies, published my first academic journal article, consulted as a futurist, helped run a PTA, reorganized and accelerated STEM classes in our schools, raised two children, cared for six parents, and had my own health crises. I have dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, as well as late-discovered ADHD. In theory, I should be the last person writing anything. But it turns out that dyslexics are unusually good storytellers, but we’re only learning that now. Against conventional wisdom, I do the thing I was told never to do. You can, too.

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

Don’t be afraid of the future. We are all more resilient and powerful than we think. We can make a better world together, if we want one.


PJ Manney
Orange County, CA

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(CON)SCIENCE


Cover Artist: Adam Martinakis
Publisher: 47North at Amazon Publishing

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