Tag Archives: writing

Author Interview: MJ Bell

Author MJ Bell is behind the Award Winning series Chronicles of the Secret Prince and comes to talk about one of her more recent books.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author MJ BellHi, I’m so happy to be here, My name is M.J. Bell. I’m an Indie author from the beautiful state of CO where I live with my husband and new puppy, Tallie. I love to cook, crochet, and, of course, read, but since we’ve gotten Tallie, I do very little other than play with her. It’s just too hard to ignore that cute little face and her whines for attention! I grew up in Iowa and spent a 8 1/2 year stint in AZ, but CO is where my heart is and I’ll always consider it home.

When and why did you begin writing?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until my boys got into middle school and suddenly found there wasn’t anything for them to read. (this was before Harry Potter and Percy Jackson was around) So, I started to write stories for them. I never did finish one– having 4 kids there wasn’t a whole lot of spare time– but I discovered that I truly loved writing. Then when Harry Potter came along, it brought so many kids back to reading, but I kept thinking…what are they going to read once this series is finished? So, I sat down and wrote my first novel, Before the Full Moon Rises, a Teen/YA fantasy, which won the Gold Mom’s Choice Award in fantasy.

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

Next Time I See You is a time travel suspense thriller. It about a girl, Kat, who falls into a deep depression and can’t move on with her life after her boyfriend is killed in a mass shooting. But after a chance encounter with an intriguing stranger who leads her to the discovery of a time machine, she takes it as a sign she is supposed to go back in time and stop the shooter. She hatches a daring plan to sneak into the lab where the machine is housed not thinking or caring about the dangers involved. However, the second Kat steps out of the time machine, it becomes clear that fate has a plan of its own, and she is not at all prepared for it.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved time travel stories and always wanted to write one. But I wanted to use science, not magic, and that was a problem. The great physicists say time travel is possible, but to do so one would either have to go faster than the speed of light, fly close to a black hole, or latch onto one of the cosmic strings that are supposedly floating around in space. None of those are options for an everyday college student like Kat, my character. So, for years I couldn’t write the story. Then one day I found an article about a professor who has developed a time travel theory that uses laser lights to bend space time into a circle. He’s even started building the time machine and hopes to have it up and running soon. But whether he does get it working or not makes no difference – he gave me a good scientific solution for my book, and wah la, Next Time I See You was born!

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

Titles are always hard for me. They’re such an important part of the book and you have to make sure they appeal to the right readers of the genre. I knew I wanted the words “Next Time” in the title for the time travel reference, so I researched those words to see what was out there, and I happened upon a song, Maybe the Next Time, by Sue Medley. It’s such a beautiful song and I fell in love with it immediately, but there were too many other books out there with that title. So, I played around with different combinations of the words until I came up with Next Time I See You, and I knew right away that was it.

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

Nothing in the book is based on anything that has happened to myself or anyone I know, but the mass shooting is based on the Aurora Movie Theatre shooting. The shooting itself does not take place in the book, just the aftermath, but I did a lot of research on that shooter and my shooter that Kat has to stop is based on him. And I can tell you, the research I did on that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It really affected me and got to me emotionally. I was very glad when that part was done!

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

As I previously mentioned, J.K. Rowling has been a huge influence for me. I don’t think I would have finished my first book if it hadn’t been for her. In my opinion, she has done more for the teen/YA genre than anyone else, and I love how she has opened the door for so many of us to follow. Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I pull out one of her books and start reading it again. I don’t know what it is about it, but it always gets my creative juices flowing again. I’ll forever be grateful to her—Always.

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

Several of my author friends recommended the incredibly talented book cover designer, Mr. Steven Novak, and I’m so glad they did! I knew what I wanted for the cover and he put it together for me better than I even imagined. All the covers he’s done are marvelous, but I have to say, he really outdid himself with mine.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never ever compare your success to someone else’s! Different genres sell differently, and some people write fast, some slow. So, don’t think of yourself as a failure if you can’t put out a book every six months, or if your children’s fantasy isn’t selling as well as your friend’s romance. Be proud of your accomplishments no matter how small, because writing a book is not easy, but it’s so worth it!

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

Thank you for having me. I love to connect with readers, so if you ever have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at mjbell.author@gmail.com.
I hope you check out my books and happy reading!


Next Time I See You Book CoverMJ Bell

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Author Interview: Lynne Stringer

I know Author Lynne Stringer as a fellow Knight of the  SciFi Roundtable, an active writer’s group on Facebook.  She writes YA sci-fi and contemporary drama.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Hi, my name is Lynne Stringer, and I love writing! I especially love writing science fiction with a young adult focus. I enjoy creating new worlds and exploring new characters.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first book when I was about eight. It was called Goldie the Pony and was written in felt tip. It wasn’t very good, but I kept at it. I loved it when they asked us to write a story in English at school. It was my favourite thing to do. That hasn’t changed.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Not until I wrote my first full-length manuscript when I was in my twenties. It helped that I started to work as a journalist for a small magazine around this time. It made me feel legitimate.

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

The Verindon Alliance takes place in the same world as the trilogy I released in 2013/14. Verindon is a planet where, during the time the trilogy takes place, they have more advanced technology than we have. There are two distinct humanoid species on this planet—the Vendel and the Verindal.

During the time of the trilogy, they live in peace, although there are some tensions and problems beneath the surface. However, The Verindon Alliance is set about a thousand years earlier, at a time when Verindon didn’t have much greater technology than we have today. It was also a time when the Vendel and the Verindal were still at war, so that’s part of the conflict in this novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

The events featured in The Verindon Alliance are referred to in my trilogy. I had loosely sketched out what happened but wanted to see if I could write it out completely.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t like writing outlines, although I have an outline in my head. I usually sit at the keyboard and see where my characters take me.

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

With help from my publisher. I suck at titles. We work together to try and come up with the best ones we can.

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

Racism is something that features in every novel I’ve set on Verindon, as it’s a huge issue there. One thing I featured this time more than I did in the trilogy was implicit bias—how the bias that a person’s been raised with, that has become a major part of their development, is so hard to overcome. It’s a major theme in the novel. The Vendel and the Verindal have to work together. If they don’t …

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

No, it’s all from my imagination.

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

I’ve loved a lot of the classics. The Brontës are authors I’ve long adored. They wrote a lot of vivid, emotive books. There were no aliens in their stories, but they still spoke to me. In the science fiction world, I like Timothy Zahn and Vonda McIntyre.

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

Probably Charlotte Brontë. I would love to talk to her for hours about Jane Eyre.

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

My publisher has some talented people they use to design their covers. Shame on me—I don’t know their names!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t be in a hurry to get published. You need to take your time and get it as right as you can the first time. Read a lot, write a lot, listen to advice. Find a good professional editor (this is not an optional extra; it’s essential). Always take stock every step of the way before you make a decision.

The Verindon Alliance Book CoverLynne Stringer
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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World Building by Bill McCormick

World Building
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Before we get into the meat of the subject I’m assuming you’ve read Strunk and White and learned grammar and studied Steven King’s On Writing and learned how to craft content. If not those specific tomes then I’ll presuppose you’ve read, and devoured, similar. It all comes down to this, world building isn’t where you start your journey as a writer. You need to have the basics well in place before you throw yourself off this mountain.

When you create the world your characters are going to live in it can be something simple, like Toledo, Ohio, or something amazing like the gas clouds of Orbius Prime. No matter which, you’ll need ground rules to get started.

  1. Let’s say you picked Toledo; you’ll need to mention the Mud Hens, the city’s devotion to sausages, the national museum of the great lakes, lunch at Grumpy’s and so on.
  2.  If you picked the gas clouds of Orbius Prime, then you need to let readers know about how light refracts in the gasses, what does , and does not, work as a means of propulsion, whether or not the beings living there are corporeal, and how communication is achieved. I would assume varying shades of illumination would work best, but you have options.

In other words, it’s not just a name you toss out it’s a place you bring to life. When the reader closes the book they should feel like they were there. Maybe even bought some souvenirs.

I have found that detailing the world I’ll be creating first, and then adding characters works best. I didn’t do that for my first novel and ended up having to go back and do so since there were glaring inconsistencies in locations and tone. I, literally, had a desiccated desert near a lake.

Before you ask, yes, that was a huge pain in the ass.

So, to save yourself the irritation, lay things out in a simple graph.

  1. Where: Name your place and then detail, at least, ten things which make this place unique.
  2. When: Based on a current reader’s perspective, is this something that happened before or after their existence. If it’s current, try and avoid pop culture references. Since they won’t be current when your book comes out they immediately place the story in the reader’s past.
  3. Tech: It’s well known that any tech sufficiently advanced enough would appear to be magic to a less developed society. The same holds true in writing. If you introduce the “multi phased Frombulator” you have to be clear as to what it does, why it exists, and be able to give a rudimentary idea of how it works. You need not get into the physics of the thing, unless you feel it’s required, but you do have to be able to make readers believe it could exist. Contrariwise, if you’re setting is medieval Europe, you can’t give the princess a Buick to make her life easier. The tech you add has to fit the rest of your universe.
  4. Consistency: Despite popular tropes, it is not the hobgoblin of little minds. Foolish consistency is. Now, whether you’re creating a magical fairy kingdom, interplanetary battles featuring alien warlords, or a whimsical a rom/com starring Satan, you need to set out the rules that guide your universe. And those rules need to apply to every character, and in every event. Remember, it’s not the suggestion of physics, those are laws for a reason. If your characters can violate them, you need a believable reason. This is less true in comic books where characters can fly unaided. Yet, even then, the rest of the universe follows basic physics leaving the flying people as outliers.

One easy out from all this, that lazy writers like to use, is to create a universe of gods. Since their characters are all gods they can do whatever they want. Unless you have multiple iterations of Yahweh, that won’t fly. And if you do, where’s the conflict? Even Satan doesn’t directly challenge God. In fact, in many interpretations, he’s fulfilling a function required by God. So, you’re back to needing some rules, and characters to live within them.

Another thing to look out for is accidentally creating multiple generations of morons. A wildly popular series of books, and a related TV show, have characters who, according to numerous plot points, have been at war, and fighting dragons, for eight thousand years. In that time the only weapons they have come up with are variants of a pointy stick. Some large, some small, some metal, some wood, but, at the end of the day, they’re all just pointy sticks. You would think that, given the fact there were constant airborne threats, someone might have given artificial flight a try. All of the needed materials are right there. And the inspiration is literally eating their livestock.

However, there was also an abundance of naked boobs, so that made up for a lot.

World building can be, and is to me, fun. There are lots of guides you can use to help they’re just not marketed as such. Books on mythologies will help you create believable powerful beings. Dungeons and Dragons is a great guide for your magical realm. NASA.gov has tons of free research online that will help you build realistic alien homes. And, if you want to bend some brains, don’t neglect the various conspiracy sites.

Once you have your feet firmly on the ground, let your imagination loose and see what it brings home.


Author Bill McCormackBILL McCORMICK is a critically acclaimed author of several novels, graphic novels, comic book series, and has appeared in numerous anthologies. He began writing professionally in 1986 for the Chicago Rocker Magazine in conjunction with his radio show on Z-95 (ABC-FM) and went on to write for several other magazines and blogs. He currently writes a twisted news & science blog at WorldNewsCenter.org. That provides source material for his weekly appearance on The Big Wakeup Call on WBIG 1280 AM (FOX! Sports). You can find out more about him at BillMcSciFi.com.

Splice by Bill McCormack

Author Interview: Jeannie Wycherley

Losing herself in an imaginary world is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to Author Jeannie Wycherley. She  can travel far and wide with an array of wonderful people and creatures and when it gets interesting, she can share it with everyone else. Bliss!  Please welcome Jeannie to No Wasted Ink.

I’m Jeannie Wycherley. I live by the sea in East Devon in the south-west of the UK. Over the years I’ve worked as an academic, a waitress, a library assistant and as a stage manager. I have a doctorate in modern and contemporary British social history. I run a seaside gift shop with my husband (or try to at the moment, things are not great). I have two dogs that I love above all creatures and I’m fanatical about forests and wildlife.

When and why did you begin writing?

I always loved to write but I lost the urge when I started working. I was busy, I was young, I had a life. Then in 2010, during counselling for a bout of depression, I uncovered my desperate need for creativity. I started to fiddle with words again and wrote a play that was performed by a local theatre company. I then found an online virtual writing bootcamp in June 2012 with a group called Urban Writers. I loved it! There were lots of exercises to do, something everyday, and by the end of the month I had a long short story that I was quite proud of. After that I began to write every day. It became a habit. I submitted short stories everywhere and gathered quite a collection.

I took part in the Six-Month Novel challenge, again with Urban Writers, and produced my first novel. It has never seen the light of day, but I proved I could do it.

I was made redundant in September 2012 and over the next few years, I balanced freelance copywriting work and working in our gift shop with my creative writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Relatively recently! I published two novels, Crone (2017) and Beyond the Veil (2018) but felt like an impostor. It wasn’t until I started to work on my Wonky Inn series (first published September 2018), when the writing and the characters totally consumed me, that I realised I was a proper writer. Now I drive my husband mad because I don’t talk about anything else. He’s currently in the process of getting a proofreading qualification so he can help me out!

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

It’s called The Municipality of Lost Souls and, put simply, it’s a ghost story where some dead sailors want vengeance for their wrongful deaths. But it’s far more complex. It’s about greed, power and manipulation, love, lust and loss. It’s about the way we treat others. It has shades of Jamaica Inn and The Old Curiosity Shop and The Woman in White about it.

What inspired you to write this book?

It started life as a short story, published by the Society for Misfit Stories. It was a story that would not let me go. I knew there was far more to it, but the complexity of it put me off. It requires quite an ensemble of characters and that proved difficult to balance at times. I take much inspiration from the landscape around me. The town of Durscombe—a fictional name—is based on Sidmouth, where I live. I wanted to write about the power of the sea and have this kaleidoscope of people’s lives unfold in front of a tempestuous, glowering backdrop.

Do you have a specific writing style?

People have often remarked how immersive my descriptions are, that reading my work, whether it’s dark fantasy or cozy mystery, is a little like going to the cinema. They can see the world through my eyes.

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

I have absolutely no idea! It just popped into my head. I have had some criticism for it, because of its length, but to me, The Municipality of Lost Souls, has a whole different meaning to Lost Souls. It adds place, context, era and specificity. There are so many lost souls in this book, but the most important ones, are in the town.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, but it’s not spelled out. Part of me wants readers to understand what drove me to produce this story, but not everyone will. I’m perfectly happy if they read it and enjoy it without getting ‘it’, though.

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

I’m getting on. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve observed a lot. I’m ravenous for people-watching. Obviously, this is a historical fantasy novel, so it’s not true to life, but I’ve used my experience as a historian to add flesh to the bones. I like my characters to be flawed. This bunch certainly are!

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

So many. I drew on my love of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins for The Municipality of Lost Souls. I love their use of language. Both of these writers have wonderful villains too. Dastardly! I have several Dickensian type villains in this novel. I would add Elizabeth Gaskell and Edith Wharton to that list too. Gaskell is my favourite author of all time. She has a gentle touch, but she really packed a punch when it came to unpicking the social issues of the day.

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

The beautiful cover was designed by Anika Willmanns of Ravenborn Covers. She does the most magnificent work. I wanted something ghostly and tempestuous and I wanted to show vulnerability. I think Anika did an amazing job.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Commit! And believe in yourself.

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

Thanks so much for reading! I can never quite get over the fact that people actually read my words! I’ve never been happier and it’s entirely down to people like you!

Lost Souls Book CoverJeannie Wycherley
Sidmouth, East Devon, UK

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Cover Artist:  Anika Willmanns

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to another top-ten writing links from No Wasted Ink.  I have a couple of great writing tip articles for you along with ones about dealing with social media as an author.  I hope you enjoy them!

For The Love of Pretend Maps

Take A Long View on Research

Six Consequences of Poorly Thought-Out Magic Systems

Cut to the Chase: Tools for Revision

The Brontës: the unfortunate and unlikely tale of the world’s “greatest literary sisters”

The Vital Importance of Your Writing Community

5 Basic Rules of Social Media

Aspen Institute Looks at a Publishing Industry Challenged to Embrace Diversity

It’s Time to Radically Rethink Online Book Events

Why I Actually Prefer Stories With Prologues