Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading is Necessary: Guest Post by Terry W. Ervin II

I've got another wonderful guest post from Terry W. Ervin II on the blog today! If you didn't read his post on panels, I highly recommend you do! Terry's new book, Soul Forge, is now available! (See the end of the post for where you can buy it.)


In some variation it’s often said: An author needs to be a reader.

Most writers are pressed for time, even if one only considers career and family responsibilities.
And every hour with a nose stuck in a book is an hour that isn’t spent writing, editing, revising, researching, marketing, and a myriad of other tasks necessary for an author to be both productive and successful.

So, on balance, is the time spent reading worth the potential payoff?

For me the answer to this question came into focus during an email exchange with a former crit partner. With a husband and children, work, and moving, she had a lot on her plate. Plus, she’s been revising and editing a handful of novels and beta reading for a writing partner. My former crit partner didn’t feel she had the time to read. But, during the course of our discussion, she indicated that she’d finally sat down and began reading Flank Hawk, and admitted it’s the first novel she’s read in over two years.

We discussed use of description, including what’s ‘in favor’ on a writing forum where we’re both active. While reading my novel, she recognized that the ‘consensus’ on the forum of what works didn’t match how I implemented use of detail within the story’s narrative. Going back and looking at her latest revision effort, she recognized what was missing and could make it better.

That’s one thing reading does. It reminds a writer of what works, and helps a writer avoid getting stuck on autopilot, caught up in ‘group think,’ or writing with blinders on.

Reading and re-reading, and studying how an author crafted—tells a story—helps me immensely. When I’m unsure, trying something new, or get stuck on some aspect of storytelling, I go back and read and study, seeing how successful authors like Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny and Sandra Kring (to name a few of my ‘go to’ authors) did it. Then I apply what I learned to my current story and my writing style.

For example, that method enabled me to refine the frame story structure in Relic Tech and create the chapter starts in Flank Hawk. The method provided insight into the techniques to write series sequels (Blood Sword and Soul Forge) that are also able to stand alone. The result is that a reader can start with any novel in my First Civilization’s Legacy Series and fully enjoy that story, yet those who’ve already read a novel earlier in the series can equally enjoy all novels in the series that follow.

Another reason to read is to spark ideas while recharging one’s imagination. Re-reading and thinking about Zelazny’s Guns of Avalon and Harry Turtledove’s World War Series triggered the thought: How might a dragon fare in aerial combat against a WW II aircraft? That episode of pondering resulted in Flank Hawk, the first novel in my fantasy series.

Reading also invigorates critical observation of the storytelling process, and offers insight and uncovers new twists that a writer might use, improving the available array of writing and storytelling skills.

Would anyone expect engineers that design and build cars to refrain from riding in automobiles and note what customers who purchase such vehicles seem to enjoy? Would it make sense for engineers to avoid immersing themselves in the driving experience, where such activities might offer insight into what could be implemented in their next automotive design effort?

Finally, I find that reading allows me to discuss novels and authors with fellow readers of fantasy and science fiction. This is especially useful at conventions and book signing events. It enables me to both make a connection with potential readers, and to determine if what I write might be of interest to them.

Yes, time is a finite commodity, but one worth spending on a little bit of reading.


Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction.

His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. 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 or his blog, Up Around the Corner at


You can buy Soul Forge at the following locations:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Action: Tips from Larry Correia at the Writers for Life Workshop

Larry Correia, best known for his Monster Hunter International books, gave a presentation on writing action at the Writers for Life workshop I attended at the beginning of the month. He really emphasized correctness in writing--asking experts to make sure you're writing it right, because mistakes really jerk readers out of the story. For the rest of his fifty minutes, he talked about writing action.

Action is a tool to vary intensity. Having too many scenes without action or too many scenes with action gets boring. In fact, being bored is the key. Ask your readers, Were you ever bored? Those are the places that need revision. The two banes to action scenes are boredom and confusion.

Larry emphasized staying true to your character in an action scene. This means incorporating their personality, emotions, and skills just as you would in any other scene; the character can't suddenly change, or that connection to the reader will be lost (unless you're the Incredible Hulk or something, but then, that should be established, eh?). Using the character's thoughts and emotions in an action scene will help the reader to connect to him. And when it comes to action scenes, especially fighting, there are a few key notes:

  • People default to their level of training; they don't rise to the occasion. So your average Joe isn't going to be able to pull out some unknown Kung Fu moves to protect himself when he gets jumped in an alley.
  • In real life, people don't have hit points; they have blood pressure. Understand how the human body works. Often it only takes one wound to down someone. Larry recommended Googling "wound ballistics," but don't look at the image search unless you have a strong stomach.
  • Understand what adrenaline actually does to the human body. Adrenaline makes you stronger, but did you know it also causes tunnel vision, lowers your auditory capabilities, and numbs your fine motor skills?

It's important to remember that action is not separate from plot, it's integral to plot. Don't just throw in an action scene for the sake of having action. If it doesn't advance the story, it shouldn't be there.

Monday, June 16, 2014

So You Want to Be a Writer: Nuggets from Lisa Mangum and the Writers for Life Workshop

Last-last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Writers for Life workshop in Provo, Utah with both my blood sister and my agency sister.

Real sister

Agency sister
I took lots of notes! I'm hoping to share what I learned over a few blog posts. Today I want to share some notes from Lisa Mangum, author of The Hourglass Door. Her presentation was titled "So You Want to Be a Writer," and it covered a wide range of topics (mind you that I'm not going to make the following bullets parallel because I'm lazy like that).

First, a quote:

"Quit. But if you can't, do the work." -Rick Walton

  • Keep an idea journal. Every day, write down five notes--character ideas, something interesting you learned, a piece of science you saw on twitter, a magic idea, anything. You can turn these notes into "what if" statements, and stories can rise from those. (We ended up on some what-if tangent about frozen gummy bears...)
  • The three critical elements of plot are forward progression, increased momentum, and
    unrelenting tension.
  • Create characters that grow.
  • Create a problem. Once you have a problem, it either needs to be solved and a new problem arises, or it hasn't been solved and the problem has gotten worse.
  • Ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" And then do it.
  • One solution to writer's block is changing where and how you write.
  • Writing in a profession that requires you to believe in yourself.

Well said, Lisa! Hopefully something here is helpful to my fellow writers. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014


My amazing friend Sara recently put her art skillz to work and not only designed the bookmarks for The Paper Magician, but she actually drew the picture of Ceony, my protagonist, for them. And it's AMAZING.

See for yourself!

Bookmark Front

Bookmark Back

What's that? You want to see the commission up close and personal? Well, since you're yanking my arm.... here it is. :)

C'mon, don't you want to read the book just a little bit more, now? ;)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop, Take 2!

My lovely agency sister Audrey Lockwood tagged me for this blog hop, and since I'm finally on a new story, I gladly accepted! (You can read my "writing process" for THE MATERIALS MAGICIAN here.)

1. What am I working on?

I just started an adult romantic fantasy that follows a Gorgon, a diviner, and a eunuch. Outside of the romance, it’s about a war between a powerful empire and an outcast species. (I’m only about 3k into it, ha!)
2. How does my work differ from other works in the same genre?

Well, for one, I have a love triangle with a eunuch and a Gorgon. I’m super hoping that hasn’t been done
before. ;) Otherwise, I’m taking a different twist on Gorgons as a species, and I think my smoky-world setting is somewhat original.

3. Why do I write what I write?

I’m going to steal part of Audrey’s answer: to read what I want to read!

I love writing fantasy because I really can create whatever I want. I get to go beyond the bounds of the real world and invent the extraordinary! It’s like being able to go on an adventure without leaving the house. ;)

4. How does my writing process work?

My brain usually conjures up either a magic system or a specific character first. In the case of my current, title-less WIP, I came up with Mikala, the eunuch, first. Initially I was going to make his story its own novel, but I realized that combining it with this blooming Gorgon idea might actually work to the story’s benefit.

From there, I usually start a mini notebook or a PPT presentation and jot down whatever ideas come to mind—usually other characters and setting, and from them I start to form a plot. Then I make myself a Save the Cat board and piece a story together until I have a decent outline. I’m a big stickler for outlines.

After that, it’s typing time. :)

I’m going at this WIP a little differently than usual. I want to write this novel somewhat out of chronological order, with the three characters’ pasts having separate chapters from the present storyline. I’ve decided to write all the backstory first to help me know the characters better before I write the present-day conflict, starting with Mikala. We’ll see how it goes!

To continue the hop, I'm tagging Caitlyn McFarland, mostly because I want to know ALL HER SECRETS. ;)