Wednesday, March 3, 2021

In the Spotlight: Steph Wolmarans ~ Author of "The Utten Mission"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Steph Wolmarans on her short story, “The Utten Mission.”

My story, "The Utten Mission," started as an exercise, but the original idea is quite a bit older. My writing really began in the form of journals about gardening, healthy choices, and herbology. I followed these up with a blog then got overwhelmed by life, the universe, and everything. After my son was born, I found I had a lot of sleepless nights and a disturbing case of depression. Reading speculative fiction helped a lot. And so did journaling about my thoughts. This was the start of my writing journal. I recorded ideas and dreams with the hope to one day conjure enough brainpower to make something magical happen. Being the questionable parent I am, I decided one year to keep my son in daycare a few days even though I was on summer vacation (teacher perk). I took one of my story seeds and wrote a whole novel! It was over 100K words and I was so proud of myself. Of course, it was rejected, because it was really not that good. But four years later, I picked up the idea, changed from first person to third person, renamed the characters and the planets, and let the new story take shape.

I wrote more than 250 pages last year then realized the idea was still not working. So, I stopped. Who were these people I was writing about? Why did they believe what they believed? Why did they not get along with one another?

I decided I needed to write about their ancestors so I could learn more about them. Around this time, I learned about the IWSG Anthology and its perfect theme! I looked into methods for writing short stories and decided to take advantage of the activity to better understand my characters. Even if it was not chosen, I would benefit from the creative process. I went through a few versions. Some were completely epistolary and one was first person narrative. In the end, I found a good combination and shared it with an online beta reading group for teachers. They provided some awesome feedback. More editing, deleting, rearranging, revising, then—STOP! Hitting that submit button was so scary, but I am over the moon with the results!

I am also happy to announce the first draft of the latest version of my novel (let’s call it version 3.4) was completed last week thanks to wonderful online communities like IWSG and a really awesome writing coach who refused to let me give up. I have a very long road ahead to finish revising and editing, but I have high hopes!

"Do or do not. There is no try." -Yoda


Namiu is part of a crew returning to their homeworld after generations aboard a scientific mission transport. Unfortunately, he and his people failed to receive a warm welcome because they were all born with a genetic mutation altering their appearance and their minds. Now he has requested a hearing to plead for citizenship and to warn the others what is coming.


A voice from the council interrupted. “So, we have confirmation that he is the grandchild of these former citizens?” Namiu wondered how much of the debate he tuned out. “Yes.” The councilman who asked the question looked closely at Namiu, studying his unique features—narrow face, eyes with pupils widening from tiny slits to large glowing orbs when the lights dimmed, and ears that angled up. Namiu stiffened but tried to remain composed; happy his distance made it impossible to feel the xenophobic hatred behind the man’s eyes.

“How is this possible then? Is this a condition? Is it curable?” another man asked. He also studied Namiu. The representative sighed and sent a quick note to Namiu saying, “He is too ignorant to understand the impact of his words,” and saying aloud, “Why don’t we skip ahead to the medical reports from the mission log? I'll display those next.” The screen scrolled past several documents and stopped.

Steph Wolmarans is an educator, mother, wife, gardener, beekeeper, and speculative fiction author. Steph has been creating galaxies since she visited Arrakis as a child. Now she envisions worlds, discovers new beings, and spends a lot of time exploring planet Earth with her husband and two small children.

Don't forget, print copies of Dark Matter: Artificial are available for preorder on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and from the publisher, Dancing Lemur Press! eBooks are also available. Release date is May 4, 2021. Two months left to go!

Coming on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 . . . 

Next up will be Tara Tyler, who shares her backstory for “Sentient.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

It took a lot of writing. rewriting, and studying, but you did it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And now not only will you have a short story published but you have polished your big story. Excellent!

Fundy Blue said...

Congratulations, Steph! What an interesting back story to your short story and novel. I wish you lots of success as you rework your book. btw, I think its good for mothers to show their children that they have passions and dreams they are pursuing ~ and, of course, you are a teacher pursuing writing, so you can model writing to your students as well! 🍀 people with reworking your novel. It sounds perfect for our times.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Congratulations on the success of your hard work! The story sounds great!

Steph W. said...

Thank you for the encouraging words! I hope you all enjoy the story. There are so many good works in the anthology and I am so proud to be part of it.

Deniz Bevan said...

Yay for being finished your draft, and for supportive writing communities!