Monday, December 29, 2014

Collecting Criticism: Writing Groups vs Critique Partners

This was originally posted on J.D. Horn's blog as part of The Paper Magician blog tour.


Writing groups aren’t for everyone.


But hear me out.

When I say writing groups aren’t for everyone, I don’t mean that some writers don’t need criticism. Every writer needs criticism. Rowling and Brown and Martin and Patterson all need a second, third, and/or fourth pair of eyes on their work. But over the years I’ve noticed two models for critique: the writing group model and the critique-partners model. I personally started out with the first and have moved to the second with grand success.

So which model is right for you? Allow me to deconstruct them:

The Writing Group

The Writing Group is a very sociable setting, great for making friends and sharing cookies and just generally being loud. It’s like an in-depth book club.

  • Getting to hear group discussion on your work as though spying on a book club.
  • Acquiring a more social aspect to writing, which can be very isolating work.
  • Eliminating a lot of wait time. Everyone reads your manuscript at the same time and gives you feedback at the same time, so there are no gaps between critiques.
  • Real-time feedback. If you have a question, you can ask it and get an answer right away. No waiting on emails.
  • Keeping structure. At least, a writing group should have ground rules. Otherwise it’s chaos.

  • Disappearing into the crowd. If you tend toward introversion, it’s easy to get your voice swallowed up.
  • Defensive authors. A writer who won’t take criticism and defends their every word makes for an awkward meeting.
  • Lazy readers. Sometimes group members don’t stay on the ball, and you end up with only a portion of the feedback you were hoping for.
  • Possible embarrassment. Not everyone is tactful in a writing group. I once sat in on a writing group where a guy actually printed out a speech about why another member’s writing was terrible. Made her cry. It was awkward.
  • Scheduling problems. Finding fellow writers who can all meet at the same time and the same place can be a headache, especially if your group is online and you have to deal with time zones.

Critique Partners

Critique partners are fantastic if you don’t have fellow writers in your area. A few of mine I met online; others are friends from previous writing groups or from high school/college. It’s a great way to get feedback without changing out of your pajamas.

  • Having a wider range of people critiquing your work (since they don’t have to be local).
  • Receiving all your critiques pre-written for you. No note-taking; it’s all in the document. This also makes organizing the criticism a lot easier.
  • No scheduling required.
  • Picking and choosing your readers is a lot easier. If you use a critique partner you end up not liking, it’s simple to cut them out of the loop and use someone else; in a writing-group setting, if you don’t like someone’s critiques, you either have to deal with it or leave the group as a whole

  • No community desserts.
  • There’s a lot more wait time. Some critique partners are really quick to get back to you, others aren’t. And sometimes you’re not sure if that email actually went through…
  • No group discussion. Someone may point out a problem, and if you want a second opinion on that opinion, you have more emails to write and more waiting to do.
  • You have to actually find each critique partner. Joining a writing group is a two-step process: find the group and join it. Finding the same number of readers you’d have in a writing group to use as critique partners is much more time-consuming because you have to seek out each one personally.
  • It’s less sociable.

So how do I do it?

I have about fifteen critique partners, which I suppose I could split into two “writing groups”—my alpha readers (fellow writers) and my beta readers (non-writing readers). My rough draft goes out to the first set of readers, and I make changes to my manuscript based on their comments as they filter through my email. That modified manuscript then goes out to my beta readers, and I incorporate their changes as well.

If you go the route of the critique-partners-model, I highly recommend using several of them. That way you get the varied feedback of a writing group, and if someone is too busy to read your stuff, you have others to fall back on.

Side note: If you’re one of those writers who won’t share your work for fear of others stealing it, you can always do a poor man’s copyright and email the manuscript to yourself. Don’t open the package when it arrives. The post office stamp will more or less keep your creative works yours.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Brain-brewing (and Aqua Notes)

This was originally posted on Alex Bledsoe's blog as part of The Paper Magician blog tour.


There are millions of places a writer can go to get an idea: museums, national parks, Wikipedia, even other writers’ books. The “what ifs” and crazy combinations of stuff in this world are endless. (Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon, for example, came from shoving Pokemon and a lost Roman legion into the same story.) Ultimately, the question of, “Where do you get your ideas?”, is relatively moot, because ideas are everywhere. Though, alternatively, I’ve recently discovered that sometimes the best place to get an idea is inside my own head.

The human brain processes thousands of stimulants and chunks of information daily. All of these—news articles, your strange new neighbor, that weird pear tree that smells like a corpse*, the story of your best friend’s cousin’s most recent breakup—leaves involuntary dregs inside your mind, much like a snail trail. Whether you’re actively thinking about the information or not, it’s all sitting inside your skull, forming piles of puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit together. It’s surprising how many ideas I can come with when I’m forced to stand in a locked white room with my own brain, staring at said puzzle pieces until I see a bigger picture.

Ever heard of Aqua Notes? 

This product is ingenious. I can’t think of how many times I’ve gotten a great idea in the shower and have had to repeat it to myself over and over so I could remember it by the time I got out. We’ve all been there. But why do great ideas come in such a strange place? Because [usually] we’re alone. Just us and the ceramic. Just me and my brain.

Road trips are even better. Instead of twenty minutes alone with your thoughts, you have hours. Long, boring hours of dry southern Idaho countryside. After you’ve played the alphabet game and forty rounds of 20 Questions, it’s either white-room-brain-time or jumping onto the pavement whizzing by at eighty miles per hour.

I’ve “discovered” so many story ideas just by letting my thoughts drift until I reach one that’s especially unique or bizarre. It was during the long, twelve-hour trip from Moscow, ID to Salt Lake City that I came up with the idea for The Paper Magician: the idea of using man-made materials to cast spells. The idea of making the setting of the story an internal organ. The idea of giving a man a paper heart.

An idea is like good wine (or so I’ve heard, I’ve never actually had wine). The longer it ages, the better it tastes. And sometimes, when writers step away from the world and stare at the bottle long enough, they discover a blend of flavors that makes their writing excel.

Go ahead, try it. This drink’s on me.

*These are all over BYU campus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot Men & Hot Books: Best Books of 2014

The Paper Magician made the list for the top Kindle romance books for 2014! If that isn't exciting enough, THEY MADE A VIDEO OF IT. With dancing guys. I love it. :D

Friday, December 5, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Problems I Have With Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass"

For those of you unfamiliar with the song:

I normally don't dissect catchy songs trying to send a good message on the internet, but this one has been on my mind (and I admit, stuck in my head) for a while now--enough so that I decided to share what about the song bothers me, despite Trainor's good intentions.

1.) "Every inch of you is perfect" . . . unless you're a skinny girl.

One of the best lines of the song--"'Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top," is negated in later verses. Case and point:

You know I won't be no stick figure


I'm bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that

So apparently "every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top," unless you're a skinny girl. Because we all know that underweight women have no reason to feel self-conscious about their bodies, right?

The point of the song is that we should feel beautiful regardless of what society's standard of beauty is, but unfortunately "All About That Bass" attempts to achieve this by elevating one body type over another, which just repeats the same problem we have with women and media image in the first place.

2.) Women shouldn't have to measure their personal worth based off what a man wants.

I know I know, sites like have turned me into somewhat of a feminist. But women and girls alike should feel good about themselves and about how they look because they're comfortable in their own skin. Because they've realized the standards society has placed on them are ridiculous. Because they've striven to build up their own confidence.

However, lyrics such as "boys like a little more booty to hold at night" and "I've got the boom boom that all the boys chase" is encouraging us to measure our beauty by what men want us to look like. Go ahead and tell me I'm stretching things, but those lines do encourage female objectification, however subtly.

Beauty is in the eye of the [male] beholder.

3.) Don't worry about your size. Except you should?

Trainor sings:

My mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."

So your mother told you don't worry about your size... unless you've got a flat butt? Because if boys like a woman with a grab-able booty (see point #2), then girls who don't have one now have to worry about putting weight on. So really, your mama was lying to you. (Don't worry about your size, but better not lose weight or you won't have any more cuddle-buddies!) (Not to mention the lines are more or less referencing that "more booty" is beneficial only in a sexual context.)

So, there you have it. While I think "All About That Bass" is catchy, and Meghan Trainor is a very talented and well-meaning individual, the song rubs me in too many wrong ways. /feminism

Monday, November 10, 2014

Winners of THE GLASS MAGICIAN Giveaway!

Time is up! Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for The Glass Magician!

The winner of the paperback copy is {Scribbler} Skye.

The winner of the audiobook is Erika V. (Erika, please email me at charlienholmberg(at) so I can get your mailing address!)

Congrats to the winners! I'll be contacting you to get information for sending out the books!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Release Day for THE GLASS MAGICIAN & Giveaway!


Today is the official release day for book two of The Paper Magician series, The Glass Magician! This book is my personal favorite of the trilogy and I'm so excited to see it out in the world! So excited, in fact, that I want to give away two free copies!

I'm giving away one paperback and one audiobook (CD or MP3, whichever the winner chooses), both of which will be signed, of course. International participants are welcome. :)

All I ask is that you leave a comment below. If your contact information is hard to find, please either leave an email address or be really stringent about checking back at this blog to see if you've won. The contest will be open through Sunday, November 9, and the winner will be announced the following Monday.

I'll be celebrating the release by talking at a bunch of high schoolers about writing and hoping they think I'm at least somewhat interesting. :) Then pizza! (So I can convince a bunch of cub scouts that I'm also somewhat interesting....)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Glass Magician Releases Tuesday!

Nov 4th from 47North
The second book in The Paper Magician series, The Glass Magician, releases this upcoming
Tuesday, November 4th! I am tremendously excited for this book. So far my early readers and I agree that it's better than book one. :)

Goodreads is running a giveaway up until the release for 20 copies of the book, so please scope it out and share the word!

There are also e-copies available for anyone with a Netgalley account.

The book is available now for preorder as an ebook, audiobook (I quite enjoy Amy McFadden's numerous accents), and paperback on

Thank you so much for your support in this endeavor. I am floored by the successes this series has garnered thus far. I feel like a crowd surfer in the hands of my readers! #CORNYLINEATTACK

But really, thank you!

(Also, I apologize to anyone who has tried to contact me through my website; the contact form has been down this week. I'm working on getting it fixed. You're welcome to skip the form and simply contact me at CharlieNHolmberg at gmail dot com.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Three of THE PAPER MAGICIAN Series, Sold!

I'd like to announce that the third book to The Paper Magician trilogy, The Master Magician, has been sold to 47North! I don't have a solid release date yet, but it's coming. I'm working on edits for it now. :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Classic Psychosexual and Feminine Archetypes: A Freudian and Jungian Analysis of The Paper Magician

Yep, you read the title right.

A friend of mine actually wrote an essay using Freud and Jung's theories to analyze my book. XD While I won't say it's entirely accurate to my intentions, it is a very, very amusing read.

[Spoiler Warning.] Don't read if you don't want spoilers for The Paper Magician.


Classic Psychosexual and Feminine Archetypes: A Freudian and Jungian Analysis of The Paper Magician

By Connor Hoover, M.S., B.S., A.A.

The characters of Charlie Holmberg’s “The Paper Magician” can be viewed as avatars of classic conceptions of cis woman feminine sexuality and heteronormative male/female sexual interactions. The specifics of the relation between the characters and human sexuality depend on the particular literary and psychological perspective one takes in examining them. This essay will primarily focus on two perspectives: First the Freudian perspective emphasizing the characters as individuals struggling with their own libidos and neurosis, and second the Jungian perspective which views the characters as archetypes representing more global views of sexuality.

In terms of Neo-Freudian psychology Ceony Twill, our protagonist, could almost certainly be described as having an “Electra Complex”. The Electra Complex, the female equivalent of the Oedipus Complex (Originally proposed by Carl Jung, somewhat ironically for this review) results when a child fails to fully resolve the struggles produced by their libido in the phallic stage of psychosexual development. In young girls, this manifests as a desire to kill their mothers and marry their fathers. Failure to resolve these feelings can lead to latent desires that manifest in their later choice of sexual partners.

These latent desires are expressed quite clearly in Ceony’s choice of sexual partners, her mentor who is 11 years her senior. Emery Thane is the only real paternal figure in the book expressing many characteristics that make him Ceony’s surrogate father. First, he is more than a decade older than she, second he holds a position of power, authority, and greater knowledge over her, he rewards her with attention and gifts (such as Fennel), and he several times displays nurturing fatherly qualities (At one point even delivering a baby). Ceony submits to her desires by rapidly and eagerly assuming stereotypical female gender roles, such as cooking, cleaning, and performing errands in an effort to win Thane’s affections. Thane however remains stoic, never clearly responding to the gestures made by Ceony. This withholding of affection, another common father-daughter relationship trope, only increases Ceony’s desires.

The desire for a relationship with this father figure is only half of the complex however; to fully actualize her desires Ceony must also murder her pseudo-mother, Thane’s former wife Lira. Lira is an older woman who is described as having wide hips, large bust, and beautiful face. All of these features are associated with sexuality and fecundity. These sexual characteristics also intimidated Ceony, as she comments on them frequently and compares herself to them unfavorably. Freud also theorized that failure to successfully resolve the phallic stage of development could result in a tendency towards homosexuality. As such, Ceony’s preoccupation with Lira’s figure could be a result of repressed bisexuality. Nevertheless, Thane remains her primary object of sexual fixation and when Lira literally steals his heart (highly symbolic of Ceony’s jealousy and envy of their more mature previous sexual relationship) Ceony must kill this maternal figure to retrieve it.

The gauntlet of trials Ceony must pass through while inside of Thane’s heart is ripe with sexual symbolism and metaphors for her blossoming sexuality. In each of four chambers of the heart Ceony encounters a different aspect of Thane’s psyche. This is also where her feelings for him become fully realized. The first two chambers of the heart are full of fond memories and hopes for the future, with the second two containing painful dark memories and doubts. The transitions between these chambers are through large, suffocating, fleshy valves that ooze blood. This transition from happy memories to dark, from innocence to desire, mediated by blood and vaginal imagery represents Ceony’s transition to womanhood. As young girls begin their journey through puberty, heralded by the beginning of menstruation, they become increasingly aware of their sexual desires and often experience a great amount of angst. All of these features are present in Ceony’s journey as well.
Ceony successfully kills her rival with the aid of her mentor’s spirit and reclaims his heart, a victory of her greater love and determination as well as a full realization of her repressed desires. Finally at peace with her libido she returns the heart to her mentor and foretells a happy family life in their future, finally resolving her internal conflict.

To contrast the interpretation of the story focusing on the sexual conflicts within Ceony, a Jungian interpretation focuses more on the opposing archetypes of female sexuality represented by Ceony and Lira. The perspective here is then larger than a single character but centered on the duality represented by the two primary female characters. Ceony represents a view of femininity as chaste, pure, and virginal. Her desires and actions are scholarly, domestic, and familial. She does not publicly acknowledge her sexual desires and the thought of them is highly embarrassing to her. Though initially her goals are primarily scholastic, she quickly and enthusiastically accepts the idea of creating a family. Even then, her visions and conceptions of love are those of a virgin: idyllic meadows, family picnics, sunshine and vegetation. Sex and carnality are not a part of her perception of family life. In classic literature Ceony would be the virgin or maiden archetype: innocent and pure, uncorrupted by sinful desires.

Lira conversely represents the wicked aspects of feminine sexuality, the temptress archetype. Lira openly flaunts her sex appeal and uses it to her advantage. She is seductive and manipulative, evoking the sirens of Greek myth that lure men to their deaths with beauty and song. Lira is corrupted by her sexual desires; the desire for Thane’s affections that drives her to rip his heart from his chest, the desire for sex which drives her to infidelity, and the desire for power which leads her to practice dark forbidden magics. This connection between female sexual appeal and black magic has roots going back centuries, throughout the folklore of many different cultures. Witches, sorceresses, and succubae are all associated both with unbridled female sexuality and evil. This fear of the “magical” power of female sexuality is pervasive throughout history and heightens the dichotomy between the heroine and antagonist.

Therefore when Ceony defeats Lira she not only defeating her antagonist but also the embodiment of evil she wishes to overcome. In a sense, Ceony is defeating her own lustful desires which could tempt her down the same path as Lira to become a selfish being of sexual power. The victory then is for one particular concept of femininity over the other, the pure mind triumphing over the tainted, the chaste over the impure, and the mother over the harlot. Ceony’s final vision of her family should come as no surprise then as it is the ultimate fate of the maiden to become the mother and begin the cycle anew.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

End-of-September Update

First, I forgot how awesome this song is:

Second, I've finished Charms of the Soothsayer* and sent it to alpha readers. I have a LOT of revisions planned for it--more revisions than I've ever done for any book, in fact. I suppose it's a good piece of humble pie for me. Yes, I'm finally published, but that doesn't mean I have any idea what I'm doing. XD This biggest change will be my complete reordering of the structure of the novel. (It's so flashback-heavy I think my readers are getting migraines.)

Third, I'll hopefully have a publication date for the third book in The Paper Magician series and a foreign translation announcement soon. :)

Fourth, MY HUSBAND GOT A JOB. Wooo! As you may (or may not) know, we spent the last two years at the University of Idaho while he got a master's degree in experimental psychology (sounds cooler than it is, it's really more like engineering psychology/usability testing). We then moved to Rexburg, Idaho (That place is very lacking in its sidewalks and shopping outlets) while he did an internship at Idaho National Laboratories, which was extended remotely after we came back to Utah. But he just accepted an offer for a real job as a business analyst. :D We are so happy and so so blessed. Two of my brothers-in-law who also desperately needed new jobs also got them in the last few weeks. Blessings all around!

That, and New Job also gives us a free Costco card FOR NO SANE REASON AT ALL. Cheap Instant Breakfast**, here I come!

Fifth, I'm making headway on my next book (number thirteen, holy pie). And I believe it's starting to become epic (genre). Oh dear....

Sixth, my baby is 7 months old and super cute. :D

*This is the book's third or fourth title....
**I have an inability to call this "Breakfast Essentials." Just like I still call Dollar Tree "All a Dollar."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Blog Tour Continues!

Hey guys! I've been dancing all over the interwebs this month talking about The Paper Magician (Which just passed 1,000 reviews on Amazon. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who's shared their thoughts!).

Here are links to the most recent posts!

I'll also be doing a giveaway with Lauren Spieller and Caitlyn McFarland in the next week, so check them out if you want a free book!

Friday, September 5, 2014


Happy news! I have the official cover for The Glass Magician, which is releasing from 47North November 4th. (It's available to pre-order here.)

I'm really happy with how it turned out! It matches the art for The Paper Magician, but still has its own distinct flavor. The 47North team was also very accommodating in weighing my suggestions for the picture.

So, without further ado, here's the cover!


What do you think?

Giveaway Winners and Guest Post

Hey guys!

Today I'm over at Neve Maslakovic's blog talking about the process of getting the bookmarks for The Paper Magician put together--bookmarks that I'll be including in the books I'm giving away.

Yep, books. I decided to give away two!



The winners of the paperback copies of The Paper Magician are Liesel and Kathleen!

I'll be contacting you for your mailing addresses. Thanks for playing, everyone!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Release Day for THE PAPER MAGICIAN! (And I'm giving away a copy!)

I'm so ecstatic, guys! Today is the release day for my debut novel, The Paper Magician, which is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook! You can even read sample pages for the story on its Amazon page.

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

This really is a dream come true for me. After so many years of writing and querying and being rejected, a book I wrote is finally published. It's a solid thing I can hold in my hands and feel and smell. (You guys all know new-book smell, right?)

I really want to thank everyone who supported me in getting this book out there--I've detailed my alpha/beta readers and others in the acknowledgement page of the book. But to everyone else--blog followers, Twitter friends, the writing and reading community as a whole--thank you. Really. Thank you.

In a pathetic show of my gratitude, I want to give away a paperback copy of The Paper Magician, which I will of course sign and stick a bookmark in. (HOLY CRAP I sign books now. YOU GUYS.) Just leave a comment so I know you're interested (or tweet me @CNHolmberg or something if Blogger is mean to you). I'll randomly select a name on Thursday and announce the winner Friday.

And what would a big announcement post be without an awkward ukulele song? :D

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thank You! (Kindle First: THE PAPER MAGICIAN)

I've been fairly absent around the blogosphere lately; real life (98% BABY) has taken up my waking hours (and some of my sleeping...). BUT, I wanted to thank everyone who has gotten The Paper Magician through Amazon's Kindle First, especially those who have taken time to review it (even you one-star folks. I appreciate the honesty!).


Thank you for the support and the kind words! You're making this debut-thing one heck of a fun ride. :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#PitchWars Mentor Bio Blog Hop: What I'm Looking For

I'm uber-stoked to be participating as a NA/adult mentor in #PitchWars this year, and to meet new, aspiring writers. For those of you participating in #PitchWars, I have one guideline for you:

If you write fantasy, you've come to the right place.

I love fantasy. It's the best genre. Period. Because of that, I'm looking for just about anything in the fantasy spectrum for #PitchWars, as well as some science fiction. (Mind you that, for the contest, I am only mentoring new adult and adult.)

My wishlist:
  • Epic/high fantasy
  • Dark fantasy
  • Historical fantasy
  • Romantic fantasy
  • Paranormal romance
  • Urban fantasy
  • Unique dystopian
  • Magical realism
  • Space opera
The weirder the better, guys. ;)

I am NOT a good mentor for steampunk, hard science fiction, or anything with elves in it. Call me a snob, but unless you're J. R. R. Tolkien, I don't want to read about your elves.

Oh yeah. About me:

I like Star Trek and eccentric eye-wear. I write YA, NA, and adult fantasy novels, including The Paper Magician (currently available on Kindle First!) and The Glass Magician, which are both releasing this year from 47North. I also have a short story in the My Bloody Valentine anthology. Before I had spawn I worked as a technical writer/editor, and I still do some freelance work.

Why submit to me?
I've been writing for a good long while, and I know the importance of persistence (the first book I sold was the ninth I'd written!). I've taken classes and workshops under some bangarang writers (including Brandon Sanderson and David Farland), and I'm an editor to boot. We'll get those semicolons lookin' real shiny-like.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

THE PAPER MAGICIAN Ebook Now Available on Kindle First!


I am STOKED to announce that The Paper Magician is one of four books offered for Kindle First for August!

What does that mean?


It means that, if you have Amazon Prime, you can read the ebook for free. If you don't have Prime, you can still get the ebook for $1.99. But basically you can read the book now instead of waiting until September 1st!

It's like having two book birthdays! (I AM SO EXCITED I COULD JUST CRY AND STUFF.)

^Excited Charlie
And yes, this is why the cover changed. The head honchos up at Amazon didn't think the original cover was up to par for a Kindle First selection. (I still think the original cover is fantastic, but I also love the new one, so I guess I win either way.)

I feel incredibly blessed to be part of this opportunity! Please go check out my novel. But hey, if it doesn't sound like your thing, there are three other fantastic books available for the same deal!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

World Building in the Hellequin Chronicles Series by SteveB McHugh

It's not every day that you get a right n' proper Englishman on your blog (though I don't know how he'd feel about me calling him "right n' proper"!). 

I'm happy to have a guest post from fellow 47Norther Steve McHugh today! He's talking about world building in the Hellequin Chronicles series, which you can scope out here. Give him some 'merican love!


Book 3 of The Hellequin Chronicles
I’ve just finished writing the 4th book in the Hellequin Chronicles series. It’s called Prison of Hope, and settling in to write another story about Nate Garrett was simple. He’s been in my head for years, so at this point, I can switch him on and off without too many problems.

After I finished PoH I pondered what to do next. I need to write book 5 for my publisher, but I’ve had ideas for several other series in my head for some time. So I set about working on one of them, giving myself the month of July to get it at least started and the story resolved.

I should probably point out now, that the Hellequin books take place in our world, albeit one of magic and abilities. The book I began working on was different in a number of ways.

1. It wasn’t set on earth.
2. It was in 3rd person not 1st.
3. There were 5 main characters.

It was more than I’d done before, and I dove into it. I worked on the geography of the world, the people who lived there, why some countries didn’t like others, their history and religion. It was an enormous amount of work, and I’m still doing it, I still find something interesting that needs to be researched or worked on to ensure it fits in the world I’ve created.

The main characters were much easier to form, and my original story morphed over time as the characters began to live inside my head. This in turn would make me question even more about the world they lived in. It was world building on a level I’d never needed to do before, and it was brilliant fun.

Yes it was difficult, sometimes frustrating when I couldn’t figure out the exact thing I was trying discover, those tiny details that make the story come to life for the reader, and yes it mean lots of days pouring over research books. But as the world takes more and more shape, as those who live upon it become more and more real to me, the story is all the better for it.

World building is long, hard work. I’ve done it in Hellequin to various degrees, but never to the extent I needed to do it for this new series. And I have to say, it was worth every single second. And hopefully that work I put in will be recognised by people who one day read the book and enjoy their time in my newly created world.


Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel that was publishable, the results of which was the action-packed Urban Fantasy, Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexbrough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

Monday, July 14, 2014

THE PAPER MAGICIAN Cover Reveal... Take 2?

I'm sure most of you saw my cover reveal for The Paper Magician. And a big THANK YOU to everyone's kind words and to those who helped me share the prettiness! I loved that cover. I loved it on the recommendation emails from Amazon, I loved it on my business cards, and I loved it on my bookmarks.

Fake Reader: But wait, Charlie! "Loved"? Why are you saying it all in past tense?

Well, here's the thing. About a week and a half ago I got an email from my editor telling me they wanted to, uh, change the cover. (Stop looking at the side bar and spoiling it. Stop it!)

Fake Reader: GASP!

I know, I know. I was super surprised. And, honestly, a little heartbroken (which I admit fits into the story of  The Paper Magician, so it suited the situation). I really loved my cover. I loved the paper heart and the little paper girl who really was a spitting silhouette image of my protagonist. And I loved my bookmarks!

Why is the cover changing? I can't technically say just yet. The vaguest answer I can offer is for promotional reasons. But my editor scrambled to get two new covers drafted for me to choose from. I picked one, we made some adjustments, and I'm happy to say the new cover has really grown on me. I really love it. :)

So, want to see it? Of course you do!

The NEW cover for The Paper Magician...


Ta da! What do you think?

And here's the blurb again just for kicks and giggles:

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crossing Genre Lines with Melissa F. Olson

I'm happy to have author Melissa F. Olson on the blog today! I know Melissa through our connection to 47North, and she is great people, guys. Her latest mystery novel, The Big Keep, just released through Westmarch Publishing, so please check it out!


Sometimes, I think about my protagonists like they’re my kids.

It’s a little weird, I know, especially given that my oldest protagonist, Allison Luther of the upcoming “Boundary” series, is exactly my age, and my youngest protagonist, Scarlett Bernard, is eight years younger than me.

But I’m not the first to compare writing books (especially book series, which are by definition ongoing) to having kids. It’s one of those analogies that’s occasionally very useful (i.e.: “I don’t want that audiobook narrator because I don’t trust anyone with my babies!”) but breaks down if you get too far into it.

For example, while I used the same method to make both of my actual children*, my three different book series were developed along two different patterns: one of them, you see, is a mystery.

I’m not being metaphorical here. One of them is actually in the mystery genre. Historically, it’s not uncommon for authors to have a finger in more than one pie**, but it’s not so popular these days from a “branding” perspective. In the days of author websites and Facebook pages, every author is his or her own brand, and there is a line of thought that those brands need to be protected.  That’s how you end up having an author like Seanan McGuire write science fiction under a pseudonym.

I thought about using a pseudonym for about five seconds, and then I got tired and had to lie down. Two Facebook pages? Two websites? Two Twitter accounts? Exhausting.

But here I am anyway.*** I’ve always been a firm believer in writing the book you want to read, and the two genres I read for my own personal fun are mystery and urban fantasy. So even if it didn’t make sense from a branding standpoint, writing in both genres makes perfect sense to me. My private investigator, Selena Dane, is smart and daring and fun to write. Even if she’d have no idea how to handle vampires and werewolves, I like to think she’d get along great with Scarlett, too.  After all, they’re technically sisters.


*You know the one.
**I’m sorry. In retrospect I should have thought of a more appealing metaphor.
***This may be the new title of my autobiography.


Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Interview over at Melissa F. Olson's Blog!

Hey folks!

Today I'm at Melissa F. Olson's blog (author of the Scarlett Bernard series) talking about The Paper Magician. Please stop by if you have a chance!

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. ;)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's Moving Week!

This week I'll be even less active than I have been of late! The time has come again for the Holmbergs to move!

Not to Utah, as I previously assumed, though with luck that move will come this fall. (Because everyone wants to move more than once in a four-month period!)

For now, we're shipping off to eastern Idaho while Husband does an internship. And it's a good internship, too, so s'all good.

I'm just excited to again be close to this place. (They really should be on Cupcake Wars.*)

I was really excited to use Upack this time around--you load up a trailer and they drive it for you. Delicious. But it seems that, with the way our plans are working, it's Uhaul again for us. With a BABY. That's gonna be super fun.

Looking forward to going to the Writers for Life writing workshop with my real-sister and agent-sister. Then I'll be back in Utah for WesterCon first week of July!

Any of you movers and shakers going anywhere exciting?

*I watch WAY too much of this show.