Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Writing Warfare in Fiction with Terry W. Ervin II and the Release of RELIC HUNTED

I am pleased to have Terry W. Ervin II back on my blog (you'll remember him from his excellent article on participating in panels). We're celebrating the release of his newest book, Relic Hunted, which released on January 18th. You can learn more about Terry and his books on his website. You can also feast upon the treat he's offered us today: how to write warfare in fiction (an article I personally requested, because we need to know!).

Take it away, Terry!


Writing Warfare in Fiction

Epic combat scenes are a common fare in fantasy and science fiction novels. Think: Armored phalanxes armed with spears and catapults, backed by earth wizards and flame-spewing dragons vs. necromancer-controlled zombie hordes, goblin mobs and brutish ogres, backed by propeller-driven

dive-bombers and mechanized tanks reminiscent of WW II technology.

Okay, maybe that combination isn’t ‘common fare’ (unless you’ve happened to stumble across my First Civilization’s Legacy Series). The question is: How can an author bring such battles to life for the reader. Infuse them with excitement and, well, believability?

Personally, I have absolutely zero military combat experience. I don’t count the several years of U.S. Civil War reenactment, where I learned 19th Century drills and military tactics, including the basics wielding a bayonet and saber. I am competent in firearm safety and basic use, my experience mainly with shotguns and revolvers. That’s it.

Add to that, how can I convincingly write about what no author, let alone human, has experienced? For example, an interstellar taskforce made up of carriers, cruisers and destroyers encountering a hostile alien fleet, from large formations down to ship to ship combat using pulse lasers, nuclear tipped missiles, railguns, ion cannons, fusion beams, and more?

It can be done, as proven by a multitude of authors. Admittedly, sometimes accomplished more convincingly than others. In any case, here’s what has worked for me.

The first thing that I’ve done is a lot of reading, supplemented by watching various programs and documentaries that focus on various wars and conflicts humanity has engaged in over the years. My reading includes a variety of books which, if listed in detail, would take up several pages. Nevertheless, I’ll share four examples in several categories:

  1. Books that provided ideas of overall units, weapons and tactics on a large scale:
  • How to Make War by James F. Dunnigan
  • The Face of Battle by John Kegan
  • 50 Weapons that Changed Warfare by William Wier
  • Jane’s Fighting Ships of WW II by Antony Preston

  1. Books that covered tactics, responses and reasoning, including personal experiences and insight from larger to smaller scale:
  • The Battle of Leyte Gulf by Edwin P. Hoyt
  • Citizen Soldier by Stephen E. Ambrose
  • Iron Coffins by Herbert A. Werner
  • Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Warfare Today by Bill Gunston and Mike Spick

  1. Novels that included depiction/tales of combat at various levels, using a variety of technologies, including magic, and equipment:
  • Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • World War Series by Harry Turtledove

There is also the audiovisual aspect garnered from television and movies that proved useful in supplementing the various reading material studied:
  • Babylon 5
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Gettysburg

I can add that playing some strategic war games, mainly during my college years, such as Star Fleet Battles, Panzer Leader, Kingmaker, Diplomacy, and Global Supremacy also laid some of the foundation for depicting fictional strategies and tactics.

All of that said, I believe that #3 above is the most important and useful as it’s directly relevant in exclusively using words to depict and provides specific and varied ‘how to’ examples for me as an author.

Maybe as a writer you’re feeling overwhelmed and, as a reader, thankful it’s not your job. Really, it’s not as bad as all that.

Identify the scope of what’s trying to be achieved when writing a battle or combat scene. I remind myself I’m telling a story, not writing an extensive training manual or doctrine to be studied and employed.

Identify the POV used and focus on the knowledge and observable aspects from that perspective. Yes, as the author, I have a wider understanding of the war, battle or conflict, all the way down to the individual vs. individual level. Having that allows for depth and consistency, and much of that content won’t make the pages of the novel as it isn’t necessary in conveying the story to the reader. Think world building. An author may create an extensive world, with names and places, culture and history, but only a fraction of it graces the pages of a novel.

In my Crax War Chronicles, the main character, Security Specialist Keesay, has a far different perspective and available knowledge than his superiors, whether he’s serving in the trench line, fending off the advancing Crax air and armored offensive, or attempting to survive a Crax hit-and-run landing assault, assigned to defend the research lab deep within the Io colony, until help arrives—if it arrives.

Being written in first person POV, the only description and events available to the reader are those available to Specialist Keesay. But, as the writer, I’ve already determined the Crax objectives, ships, equipment and numbers they have available, and the tactics and backup plans they’ll use. I also have the resources, plans and strategies Specialist Keesay’s side will employ.

From there I just write what happens. What Keesay personally observes, is told or witnesses through cameras, sensors or other reports. His emotions and responses, and those of the characters around him. I keep in mind the effectiveness of grenades, shotguns, magnetic pulse pistols and medium-duty laser carbines, as well as the caustic pellets, molecular saws and tactics of the armored and energy shield-protected Crax, and of their Stegmar Mantis allies, with their CO2 powered firearms sending sprays of toxin-coated needles.

In addition to thoughts and actions, I include the senses. Yes, sight and sounds, but tactile and especially smells are important in relaying the desperate struggle to the reader.

But how do you get it to flow? Make it real to the reader?

First, I remember that I am telling a story, and relay sufficient action, movement, thoughts and emotion, dialogue, and sensory description to the readers so that they can create the action in their minds’ eye. No amount of words and description can match the readers’ imagination.

Then I work to pace it. Get the wording and description right. The amount of dialogue and movement and reactions set properly for the reader to make it—the conflict occurring—theirs.

How do I know if I’m doing it right? I draft and re-draft. I read it orally, and share with a trusted reader. If I’m stuck or unsure, I go to the work of another author or two (category #3 above), ones who I’ve enjoyed reading and have relevant examples of combat—similar to what I’m trying to achieve. I read and re-read those sections, paying attention to wording and pacing and description and more. Determine what made it work for me. Then I apply what I learned (or re-learned) to my own scene and writing style. Make it as real and believable of a fictional combat, of a struggle, as I can.

I’ve been told in person and through reviews that I do a good job of writing combat scenes. If you’re a reader interested in epic action-adventure fantasy with a fair bit of combat (the main character is a mercenary), then consider giving my First Civilization’s Legacy Series a try. If you enjoy science fiction, with a para-military/space opera bent, consider my Crax War Chronicles. And if you’re a writer, and are struggling to write some of those difficult combat scenes, take a look at what I have to offer, and maybe one or more of my books will end up in your own category #3 above. Or, contact me if you would like more information on the books listed and not listed in the categories #1-3 above.


Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series (fantasy) includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, and Soul Forge.

The Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press).

In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. Genre Shotgun is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at and his blog, Up Around the Corner at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

MACHINATIONS by Hayley Stone: Cover Reveal

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Pre-order Machinations today!

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!


Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Updated Cover for EL MAGO DE PAPEL

The Spanish edition of The Paper Magician releases January 27th from Oz Editorial. I'm so thrilled to be able to reach a new audience and see my debut book in a new language! And while I don't speak Spanish (short of what I remember from eighth grade), I can definitely appreciate the updated cover for the book:

What do you think of the changes?

Monday, December 21, 2015

This Year's Christmas Comes with an Announcement...

...of the non-writing variety.


Baby Holmberg #2 is due July 8th, 2016! First ultrasound is TODAY.

Now for me to post all the pregnancy-related tweets I wanted to send over the last two months:

Eating is getting REALLY annoying.

I just bought these nice new bras and now I don't fit into them anymore. I know, no one feels bad for me.

Today is barely giving me a break. Sick. Must edit. Must . . . sick. #sickface

I'm really starting to hate eating, and I'm an American.

Good heavens I can not edit this scene while I'm pregnant. I am horrified by my own morbid ideas. Did I have to use the word "Chunky"?

Reading is, so far, the best anti-nausea, because I don't think about it when I'm sucked into another world. But we're still going to try Emetrol.

Emetrol, Emetrol. Nausea calls? Emetrol. Does it taste like cough syrup? Yes it does, but don't spit it. Look out! Here comes the Emetroooooollllll!

Is sneezing a pregnancy symptom? I sneeze all the time, now...

Who am I kidding? EVERYTHING is a pregnancy symptom

Nothing like eating a burrito smothered in hot sauce at 10:30 PM...

I morph from good to bad so quickly. PITY ME.

Anyone want to come be my butler? I just need fridge runs and frequent bed-pan changes.

EVERYONE PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT FOOD. (This one was for Thanksgiving week. I ate potatoes.)

This has been a good weekend! Minimal nausea! Woooo!

Oh look. Crackers. Again.

Baby Center just sent me a slideshow of pregnancy sex positions...

This is almost literally puberty all over again. #acne #butmyboobslooknice

Anyway. Merry Christmas/(C)Hannukah/Kwanza/Solstice/Whathaveyou and a happy New Year! 

Hopefully my next post will detail a release date and/or a cover for Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet.* :)

*Though in edits the main character's name is now spelled "Maire." #random

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Teaching Matters: A Reflection on Where My Journey Started

Today I want to talk, briefly, about why teachers matter. Or, more specifically, about how two teachers influenced me as a person and in my choice of career. I’ve been thinking about these two people for some time now and thought, “Hey, why not write a blog post about them.”

Both of these teachers taught English in coinciding classes at my high school. They both retired the year after I graduated.

The first one I would like to address is “Mr. G.”

Mr. G was my English teacher my sophomore year of high school. He was a teacher liked by many; such could be seen by the occasional mid-class drop-in by teenaged boys—his past students—who he would then chase out of his room with a yard stick in a great show for the rest of us. I learn a lot about grammar in his class.

Yet, my most vivid memory of Mr. G is a day when we were copying something—I don’t recall what—off of a projector screen. My pencil had dulled, so I walked up to the front of the class to sharpen it. En route, I accidentally tripped over the projector cord and unplugged it. Yes, a little embarrassing to trip in front of your entire class, but ultimately no harm done.

However, after I tripped and before I could plug the machine back in, Mr. G stood up from his desk and started shouting at me. Needless to say I was shocked. Cue deer in the headlights. He bellowed several things at me, but the part I remember verbatim is this: “You don’t think, Charlie! I wish you would think, but you don’t.”

This was not the only incident where Mr. G “bumped heads" with me, but it was certainly the most memorable. When he was finished, I plugged in the projector, returned to my desk with a dull pencil, and spent the rest of the class trying not to cry.

Now, let me tell you about “Ms. B.”

Ms. B was a creative soul. She had cardboard cutouts of The Lord of the Rings characters lining the walls of her classroom. She taught a wide variety of things English, including Lit & Film and Creative Writing, the latter of which I took from her twice. She also ran the high school’s literary magazine.

Ms. B was not my “friend.” She wasn’t a “one-of-the-guys” teacher, but she was a good teacher. Ms. B is the one who first taught me how to write. She taught me how to expand my imagination and encouraged my creativity. She gave me good feedback on my work: compliments and criticism alike. I was not the best writer in her class by far, mind you. I was about average.

This teacher never said anything extraordinary to me. She never offered an inspirational quote that I still heed to this day or did anything that fundamentally changed the course of my life. But Ms. B had an overall impact on me, creating a current for which the boat into my current career would float.

This is why teaching matters.

I could heed the words and behaviors of Mr. G and believe that, since he’s my teacher, since he’s the one in charge, he must be right. I must not know how to use my brain. I must not know how to think. I must dumber than my male counterparts, to whom he always showed far more respect than me.

Fortunately, I grew in the nourishment of Ms. B, who was willing to believe in me as much as I believed in myself. Who was willing to listen to me and help me grow, who celebrated my creative writing scholarship to BYU alongside me in the long hours I spent in her classroom after the school day had ended. I even had the fortune of running into her in the parking lot of Bed Bath & Beyond a couple months ago. When I recognized her, I jumped out of my friend’s car and ran to her driver’s side door, gushing at her about how much her classes meant to me and all the successes I’ve been able to achieve because of the path she helped me find. It was a good day for me and, I hope, a good day for her.

If I ever run into Mr. G, I hope I can tell him about all the successes I’ve been able to achieve in spite of what he thought of me.

Teachers matter. What they say and do matters. It’s been over ten years since I’ve had any influence from either of these people, but I still think about them often. I hate to admit it, but even today those angry words from Mr. G echo in the back of my mind. However, I’m happy to say that I know, 100%, that they’re wrong, and that is thanks to good, uplifting teachers. Teachers like Ms. B.

So thank you, again, Ms. Beck, for all you did for me.

Friday, October 16, 2015



It's official as of last night. My novel, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet,* has sold to 47North and will likely be released in 2016, but I make no promises. A more permanent release date will be announced when it's had.

Not many people even know this manuscript existed, and that's because I accidentally skipped about three major steps in the process. This book did not see the eyes of my usual alpha readers, just a few friends. It never went to my beta readers or got my personal read-through. My editor actually read the freaking rough draft. Talk about embarrassing, but apparently it hit the right buttons!

Ever since I wrote The Paper Magician, I've had this bad habit of drafting short. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet was the length of TPM in rough draft form, and I've been working this month on adding 20,000 words (that's a 33% increase!) to the manuscript. I like to pitch the book as the Grimm Brothers meets Paula Dean meets another-book-I-won't-name-because-it's-kind-of-a-spoiler.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is a standalone, other-world fantasy novel with fairytale allusions. Here's the pitch via Publisher's Marketplace:

Mare, a woman bereft of memories, has the peculiar ability to infuse baked goods with emotions and talents. Sold into slavery, she encounters two men from her past: one who can’t touch her, and one who might kill her. Mare fights to reclaim her history as she struggles against her captivity, but her memories are tied to dark secrets with godly consequences—secrets that may better be left forgotten.

Thank you so much to everyone who has held my hand on this journey and made it possible for me to sell another book! I hope you guys enjoy this one!

*My publisher and I literally just came up with this title. Other ideas included Crumbs and Sugar and Spice and Everything Broken.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Release Day for THE JOCK AND THE FAT CHICK by Nicole Winters

Who's excited to read this? Me. That's right. I'M excited.


A love story between a big, beautiful girl who knows who she is and a popular jock who’s afraid of what he wants.

No one ever said high school was easy. In this hilarious and heartwarming debut, one high school senior has to ask himself how much he's willing to give up in order to fit in.

Kevin seems to have it all: he's popular, good looking, and on his way to scoring a college hockey scholarship. However, he's keeping two big secrets. The first is that he failed an assignment and is now forced to take the most embarrassing course ever--domestic tech. The second is that he is falling for his domestic tech classmate, Claire.

As far as Kevin is concerned, Claire does have it all: she's funny, smart, beautiful, and confident. But she's off-limits. Because Kevin knows what happens when someone in his group dares to date a girl who isn't a cheerleader, and there's no way he is going to put himself—or Claire—through that.

But steering clear of the girl of his dreams is a lot harder than Kevin thought…especially when a cooking project they are paired together for provides the perfect opportunity for things to heat up between them outside the classroom….

Sound amazing? You can nab the book almost anywhere!




Barnes and Noble


As a C average student with a learning disability, Nicole was herself a reluctant reader. That changed when, at the age of twelve, she was assigned S. E. Hinton's classic YA novel The Outsiders. After devouring the book in a single sitting, Nicole came to understand how the right story can capture the imagination and enthusiasm of anyone - reluctant reader or otherwise. From there, Nicole gravitated towards tales of adventure, suspense, romance and horror. Her works focus on human relationships and the personal journeys of the characters, creating stories she hopes will excite and inspire readers.
Nicole enjoys travelling the world, but calls Toronto home. She is the author of TT Full Throttle (a YA road racing novel) and is currently at work on her third novel, The Conjurer.

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