Tag Archives: scifi

Lit Up OC: Author Open Mic

Kean Coffee Tustin 2
Kean Coffee in Tustin, CA

I drove down the country road with anticipation, a small box of my books in the trunk of my vehicle and wearing comfortable, but nice clothing. I did my best to quell my nerves and remind myself that I’ve done this before, but it had been almost a year since I last performed an author reading in public. I felt that I might be rusty. This was no ordinary author series either. It was Lit Up OC, the series attached to my local writing guild and most of my writer friends attend it. Would I lose my voice? Would I blank out when my friends grilled me with writing questions that would go far beyond a typical layperson? Of the three authors reading, which one would I be? First? Last? I wasn’t sure.

What is Lit Up OC

I stumbled upon Lit Up OC around two years ago. It is a monthly reading series in Southern California located at Keans Coffee in Tustin. Local writers hang out with their coffee and tea while three authors read excerpts from their novels or a short story. Represented genre include mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, literary, memoir, you name it. You never know what is coming next. There are many events like this in nearby Los Angeles, but Lit Up OC is the only reading series I know of in Orange County. Our host, Madeline Tighe Margarita is the creator and organizer of the event. She handles the author introductions. Asks questions of the audience afterward about what they heard and what their impressions were in critique style. Then moderates a general question and answer session between the author and audience.

What I Read

Murder They Wrote Book Cover (blog)In December of 2017, I had a story included in a horror anthology called “Murder They Wrote” put out by Serial Sikk Publishing. The theme of the collection was speculative fiction that included a murder. My story, “We Can Rebuild Him” began as a writing prompt from an online science fiction writing club. The prompt was to write a story about a cyborg. I combined the prompt with the feelings I felt when watching the Kevin Bacon movie “Taking Chance”. It features an American escort officer returning the body of a soldier to his family. I combined this with ideas about cyborgs that I had gleaned from panels at science fiction conventions. The result was psychologically dark and although it was not technically about murder, it fits with the bloody theme of the anthology.

I read the entire story to the audience. My goal was not to sell books per se, it was for me to get out and perform a reading for the first time in almost a year. I practiced all week. Developing different inflections for the characters. Where to put in pauses for emphasis. Making sure that all technical terms flowed with proper pronunciations. Everything that I could do to make a good first impression of my writing to my peers.

What Questions Were Asked

Wendy Reads at Lit Up OC - Jan 2018
Wendy Van Camp Reads at Lit Up OC

After the reading, Maddie conducts a question and answer session. The first part of the session she asks the audience about what they heard during the reading and their thoughts about it. Considering most of the audience are authors, some with multiple books, the comments can be extremely technical and difficult to answer on the fly. I prepared to answer typical questions at the reading. The inspiration for the story. My writing voice. Experiences on the science fiction convention circuit. What national author guilds I belong to and why. The audience asked all that and more.

I’m told that I appeared articulate and that my reading was entertaining, even with the dark subject matter. Many were surprised that I had written a story in the horror genre.

I feel that “We Can Rebuild Him” is a good story to perform and I plan on using it as my main piece at the various readings I will do at conventions this year. While I don’t write dark, horror pieces as a general rule, it still showcases my current skill level as an author. If you are planning on attending WorldCon, you will hear me read this story at the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading.

Kean Coffee Reading Audience 2
Lit Up OC Audience

Why Do Readings?

Many writers are introverts who feel anxiety standing up in front of people. I can sympathize with that. When I was a beginning teacher, standing in front of 30 teenagers and trying to convey English, History or Math to them, I felt challenged. Over time, I learned to be more comfortable in front of a classroom and to speak in a manner that is engaging enough to hold the attention of teenagers. If you can do that, you can speak to anyone! An easier way to learn this skill is to join the Toastmasters in your local area. There will be fewer spitballs on your back that way!

As an author, I like to find opportunities to be in front of potential readers and give them a sample of my work. This is why I attend book fairs, do readings at science fiction conventions, and read at local salons. When you get a chance to meet readers in person, you learn things about your own work or help you match the expectations of your target audience. While these events provide me with a place to do sales of my books, that is not my main focus. I am there to make an impression on readers in the hope that they will remember me later when looking for a new author to read. Not to mention, have a good time.

Final Word

Wendy Van Camp and Maddie at Lit Up OC
Host Maddie Margarita and Author Wendy Van Camp

Being the first to read, I was able to relax and enjoy the other two writers that night.  Both were accomplished authors and I enjoyed hearing their work. Afterward, I met people that came to hear me and to purchase signed books. I’m glad that I finally gave in to Maddie’s offer to read at Lit Up OC. It was a great experience and I hope to be back again once I complete my science fiction novel. However, I will be grateful that the next time I’m at the event, I will be in the audience posing “difficult” questions to the next set of authors!

Flash Fiction: Day of the Ficus

Day of the ficus (1)

Day of the Ficus
by Wendy Van Camp

genre: Science Fiction
Words: 500
originally published: Far Horizons, July 2017 issue & Quantum Visions 6,  2017 issue


“Doctor Pearson, there is a message coming in.”
“Dammit. Who the hell is still up there, Buttons?”
“I am MCC, your Mechanical Cultivation Cyborg. I do not answer to Buttons.”
“Where’s the blasted microphone?”
“Three feet to your left and on the table, Doctor Pearson.”
“This is Doctor Mary Pearson of the EPA. I thought everyone evacuated. Who are you and why the hell are you still here?”
“Officer Roy Hayes. I helped with the evac, but I got cut off by…those things.”
“Don’t touch them! Repeat. Do not touch the plants!”
“I might not have much choice. They’re moving closer.”
“Where’s your location, Hayes?”
“Third floor near Forever 21. I’m trapped behind the display window with the manikins.”
“Stay put. We’re going to get you out of there. Out.”
“Doctor Pearson, I must protest. Nothing seems to kill Ficus Capillipes. How will we rescue Officer Hayes and save the mall?”
“There’s one thing that we haven’t tried. I need your help, Buttons. I still can’t see. Damn plant and its protective goop went right into my eyes. I should’ve sent your metal hide in there instead of going myself.”
“I was not manufactured for that purpose, Doctor. I am a cultivator, not a destroyer. It is against my programming.”
“This is your lucky day, Buttons. Get your mechanical gears in motion and lead me to the Sports Authority! I need gear.”
“I do not answer to Buttons.”
“Get your metal butt moving.”


“Third floor, Doctor. We are on level flooring again. Ficus at 3 o’clock, four feet away.”
“Take that, you nasty plant!”
“Doctor, you almost flamed me with the weed burner. Do be careful.”
“Just lead me to Forever 21.”
“Ficus at 8:30, five feet ahead.”
“You there! I have a pistol. Stand down with the flamethrower.”
“Officer Hayes? It is Mary Pearson. We’ve come to rescue you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Are you all right, Officer?”
“My leg got crushed. Can’t walk. The city PD contacted me. They’re going to blow up the mall. They don’t think there’s any other way to contain these mutant plants.”
“What about us?”
“If we can get to the roof, a helicopter will lift us out. Will that weed burner get us there?”
“You bet your sweet behind it will. Buttons, you’re going to carry Officer Hayes and be my guide. We’re counting on you.”
“I do not answer to Buttons.”
“Just lift the man.”


“Dr. Pearson, they are ascending Officer Hayes into the helicopter. You are next.”
“We would’ve never gotten this far without you.”
“I am too heavy for the helicopter, Doctor Pearson.”
“I’m sorry. If there was any other way….”
“I am only a machine.”
“You’re an AI. You have sentience.”
“The rope is around you, Doctor. You must go before they blow up the mall.”
“You’re a hero, MCC.”
“Call me Buttons.”

This original story was written during a month-long writing challenge in one of my online science fiction/fantasy groups. The prompt was to write a flash fiction of around 500 words composed entirely of dialog and consisted of three characters, one of which had to be AI.

This story appears on Medium.  If you like the story and are a member at Medium, please consider supporting me as an author by giving me “claps” via the Medium system.

Author Interview: S.A. Gibson

Author S.A. Gibson has five books and several short stories set in a future where modern technology has been lost. All his stories are suitable for a wide range of ages, from 5th grade on up. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author SA GibsonGrowing up in Southern California, I have held many jobs over the years, computer tech, administrative support, community organizing, and book writing. After years of work, I returned to school to study for a Ph.D. in education. For the last several years, I have been publishing academic articles, books, and book chapters. I am looking a what qualities make individual good teachers, under difficult conditions and low pay. I now live with my spouse and a small dog, working on school work and fiction stories.

When and why did you begin writing?

From childhood to the present, I have been reading huge numbers of science fiction stories and books. Finally, by the 2010s I was finding it difficult to find more of the books that I wanted to read. I sometimes would read more than 2 books a week. I wasn’t able to find as many of the stories that would keep me up all night, that I desired. So I decided to write a story I would want to read. My first fiction book was A Dangerous Way, 2014, about a library swordsman who wanders the land restoring peace to a fractured society after the collapse. It was a way for me to get another story I wanted to read.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

For the last few years, I’ve become a super fan of books I enjoyed. On Goodreads and Amazon, I followed authors and envied those published authors. Hearing that it was possible to self-produce an ebook appealed to my desire to join the exalted rank, in my mind, of published authors. When seeing my name on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Goodreads, I first considered myself an author. I now have a higher bar and respect the reviews offered by readers and the work of professional artists and editors that make it possible for my work to shine.

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

Asante’s Gullah Journey is set in a future of the America South when advanced technology has been lost. Beneda is a teenage girl whose mother owns a large farm in the Gullah lands. She is a Black girl living in the community that shares a common background and culture. When the land is threatened Beneda and the farmers appeal to the Library to help them. In this society, libraries and librarians have major power because of ownership of the knowledge in books. Library Scout Asante, from Africa, helps the farmers against their enemies and attempts to preserve the peaceful order.

What inspired you to write this book?

After writing several stories in this low-tech world of the future, I wondered what kind of story could be told about one ethnically distinct group. Because of my background and relatives, I tried it first with Black Gullah inhabitants of the American South.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I write third person, in the POV of different characters during the story. I want the reader to walk in the characters’ shoes during the journey. While I include violence and some warfare in my tales, I want all readers to be able to follow them, so there are no excessive or gratuitous scenes. I hope my stories can be enjoyed from middle school age on up. Part plotting and part pantsing mean the story conclusion is planned, but there might be detours during story construction.

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

This book was conceived as the first of a series that follows one of the main characters. I thought the African swordsman Asante would be that character. That explains his name in the title. To let potential readers know what to expect, the Gullah term was added. Gullah is used to describe a people, a culture, and a language shared by individuals in part of the American South. So, Asante’s Gullah Journey was seen as announcing the story for readers.

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

Shades of grey are in each character in the story. The evil ones are not purely evil, and our heroes don’t always make the right decisions. There is a chance for everyone to grow, and people should be given a chance to change, sometimes.

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

All the events and individuals in this story are fictitious. For this story to come true, modern technology would have to be lost due to an apocalyptic disaster. Then the Gullah people in the Carolinas would have to survive and thrive, maintaining their culture. While basing this story on how I think humans behave, I hope our descendants don’t have to face this future.

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

I was able to escape the world when young, through the portal of science fiction books. The authors I read included Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, A. E. van Vogt, and Andre Norton. Those authors and others opened my eyes to other worlds, on this planet, and others. I believed almost anything was possible, and humans could improve. More recently, authors like Lois McMaster Bujold have shown me it is possible to write science fiction with heart, soul, and emotion. I feel inspired to think I can write in ways that can change people’s thoughts and lives.

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

My writing has dramatically changed since meeting the development editor I work with today. Two years ago I first worked on a short story with help from E. J. Runyon. Working with E. J. has taught me the importance of the editing step in writing. I believe my writing quality has vastly improved, and excitingly, I believe there is even opportunity for greater improvement in the future. I enjoy and learn from E. J.’s fiction and nonfiction books.

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

Aaron Radney agreed to illustrate the cover for Asante’s Gullah Journey. I saw a piece he was working on for another project and it made me think of librarians. I knew I wanted the two mains, Beneda and Asante with a library background. It was a pleasure to work closely with him through the process from design, sketching, drawing, and coloring. He brought to life, the vision in my mind.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I now believe editing is one of the most powerful parts of the writing process. Editing can take an average manuscript and turn it into a valuable intellectual property. While many stories have interesting premises, plots, or characters, how they are presented will determine whether readers will stay with them and appreciate them. My advice for any writer is to find an editor who brings out the best in you. A good editor will work well with you, and enable you to feel good about your work. You should see your work improve and develop your ability to craft better passages, scenes, and books.

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

I can’t say enough of how I feel about my readers. You are why I do what I do. My efforts are dedicated to building a world that will envelop you and carry you away. I want to create for you what the science fiction writers of yesteryear did for me. May your reads always be enjoyable, may your reading journeys be long, safe and fulfilling.

Book Cover Asantes Gullah JourneyS. A. Gibson
Pasadena, California


Asante’s Gullah Journey

Cover Artist: Aaron Radney


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


Beast Within

Cover Artist: Brendan Smith


Planetary Grand Tour Inspires Writers


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 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.