Friday, February 28, 2014

Where Have I Been/What Have I Been Doing?

Readers of Up Around the Corner,

I'd hoped to be a little more active here this past week, but I've been busy. Some author related activities:

  • I just recently finished proofing files for the audiobook version of Relic Tech.
  • I am working on finishing edits/revisions to Soul Forge to turn into my publisher for editing
  • I am working on proofing audiobook files for Genre Shotgun.
  • Trying to do a little marketing here and there to keep things going.
  • Spent an hour or two last night reading and finding out more details about the changes at ACX, where my audiobooks distributed. Nothing will be noticed by the listenership (at least not immediately), but some not so positive changes for authors/publishers/narrators.

Teaching-wise, I am about to begin another round of essay grading, which requires a lot of my time and attention (which is why I am pushing through as hard as I can the work on Soul Forge). Then there's the end of the year crunch, especially with senior students.

The e-course grading has picked up in volume as students try to finish before the end of the year.

Fortunately Village Council responsibilities have remained steady. Not a lot of major issues that need researched at the moment, but being part of the Planning Committee, there is a lot of reading for building and zoning guidelines as there is a major project (well, major for my town) that is gearing up.

There's always family and church and some minor things, like getting a cracked windshield taken care of and meetings at school with my daughter, etc. Only so much time in the day (and night).

I am working on lining up some more authors to be interviewed and a few others thing for the blog here, plus I owe a few online friends an article or two.

Just figured you readers would appreciate an update.

Friday, February 21, 2014

An Interview with Fantasy Author Anne Leonard

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Anne. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi Terry, thanks. Really abbreviated professional bio – I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, and I got an MFA in fiction from the University of Pittsburgh after college. Then I went on to a literature Ph.D. program, but moved to California with my husband before finishing and had a baby. I got the Ph.D. eventually but decided teaching was not for me. I worked for a law firm for some years, then did freelance editing, then went to law school, where I started MOTH AND SPARK. After I finished law school, I worked as an attorney for two years until I sold the novel, and I now write full-time.

I’ve always written fantasy or works with a fantastic element to them. I enjoy world-building and I’m still like a little kid with liking magic. My writing process is a lot of improv – I have never been good at outlining. In MOTH AND SPARK I made a lot of initial authorial choices that limited what I could do, and I’m looking forward to writing something very different in the future.

Could you tell is about the journey from writing the first words to selling MOTH AND SPARK, and what you did and/or wrote while you were working to sell the novel?

I wrote a first very shoddy draft the summer before I started law school and worked on it during school. After a couple of years I sent a draft to an agent who really liked the first half but said, correctly, that the second half didn’t really go anywhere. I plugged away at revisions for the next three years, a few hours a week, while I finished law school, passed the bar, and worked as a lawyer. When I finally felt it was ready, which was summer of 2012, I sent out queries and samples to some agents who were actively soliciting new clients. I got some bites right away, so I tried a few larger agencies and landed with The Gernert Company in August. I did a couple rounds of revisions, and the book was sent out shortly before Thanksgiving, and there were multiple offers within a couple weeks. It all happened so fast that I didn’t start anything new until about a month after the sale. I don’t like to talk about my WIPs before they are done because I have been known to write 100K words and then have the book crash and burn, but this one is another fairly traditional fantasy. After that, I’ll try other directions of spec fiction.

Does your study of the law and other schooling have an impact on your writing?

Good question. In a general sense, education is like any other experience that goes into a writer’s life and shapes ideas and provides material. As far as law school particularly, I was a writer before I went. One of the reasons I finally went to law school was that the characters in the fantasy novel I was writing at the time were spending a lot of time thinking about power and justice, and it seemed that if that was what I was interested in, I might as well make some money at it. Law actually is a really good complement to epic fantasy; it’s about conflict, it’s about social order, it’s about remedying wrongs. Decisions are about the balance of power. Law draws heavily on history and tradition. Judges wear robes and we call them “Your Honor” – it’s one of the last bastions in American culture of medievalism.

There are also some really excellent examples of writing in legal decisions; I love Robert Jackson, who was an FDR appointee to the Supreme Court, because he is such a good writer. (Justice Scalia is also a very good writer, especially when he’s ticked off in a dissent, though I rarely agree with him.) My own writing of briefs and such has really helped me with reducing ambiguity in my word choices and with structuring plot. And of course writing with a deadline that is inflexible (“This has to be filed by 4 p.m. TODAY”) gave me a lot of discipline for sitting down and writing every day instead of waiting for inspiration.

When you’re writing a novel, do you think about who your audience might be? Who do you (and your agent, publisher/publicist) believe the audience for MOTH AND SPARK will be? Even if unanticipated, would you like Justice Scalia to be among your readers?

Ha! Yeah, I do think about my audience – it’s inevitable. This one I started for my fifteen year old self, so the audience I had in mind initially was mostly teen girls who are not going to put up with a lot of stereotypes about male and female relationships but still have a romantic streak. Since I was writing for myself, I wrote what I wanted to read. When I realized I wanted to publish, then I broadened it to a larger set of readers who enjoy character-driven fantasy and know a sword isn’t the only or even best way to solve a problem. It’s still PG-13, though. One of the biggest surprises for me has been how many male readers have really liked it. We’re also hoping the book gets readers who don’t normally read fantasy but are intrigued by the story and that there’s a cross-over effect. And of course I’d be happy if any Supreme Court Justice read it, and I’d hope Scalia would learn a little about what it’s like for women to be oppressed by a patriarchal society.

Moving away from work and writing for a moment. Can you share with us some of the activities and pastimes you enjoy with family, friends and even when by yourself?

I take a lot of photographs, mostly either landscapes or close-ups of something natural (plants, rocks, insects). I like textures. In the last few years I’ve gone on photography expeditions to Yosemite National Park and the Eastern Sierra, Joshua Tree National Park, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Besides that, I read (usually SFF, thrillers and mysteries, and 19th c. novels, but also occasional nonfiction, historical novels, Southern gothic, contemporary literary, and poetry), take walks, and listen to major league baseball games. My local team is the SF Giants, but I’m a Cubs fan from way back and I listen to Cubs games on my smart phone too. Family life is pretty quiet – we mostly just hang out at home with the cats. When my son was younger (he’s almost 14 now) we took a lot of trips to science museums. I watch movies but no TV. This time of year the warm sun hits my desk right after lunch, so I nap more than I should.

Where do you hope to see your writing career ten years from now, and what steps do you plan taking to help ensure that happens?

Well, I hope to continue to be a full-time writer. For that to happen, of course, I need to keep writing and to keep writing well. I’m pretty good at the discipline of writing daily for 6-8 hours; I shoot for an average of 1500 words a day. To keep myself writing well, I try to read a lot and see what other people are doing, and I plan to write a lot of different things. I’d like to try my hand at some SF, other kinds of fantasy, perhaps an alternate history, things I can’t even think of now that will make me grow as a writer instead of turning out 8 more versions of the same novel. I want to experiment with different narrative voices and interesting structures. In 10 years I want people to be talking about whatever I’ve published then and to be excited about that instead of thinking of me only as the author of MOTH AND SPARK.

Makes sense. There is some crossover from Fantasy to SF, and even more crossover of readers within the fantasy sub-genres.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Anne, is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the readers here at Up Around the Corner?

Well, first of all, if you’re a writer and it really is your passion, keep at it. Also, read and write outside your comfort zone so you can stretch. One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever heard was to be aware of my habits. I think habits are inevitable when trying to tell the story, because the first round is getting the idea on paper, but they can drag the story and the reader down with repetition and predictability if they aren’t reined in on revisions. Finally, I’d just like to say that there’s a lot of really good, interesting, smart work going in in fantasy right now, and it’s really exciting both as a reader and a writer to see the sorts of directions opening up. I think the genre is only going to get stronger.

You can find my website (with a blog) at I’m on Twitter at and Facebook at

MOTH AND SPARK publishes February 20, 2014. It’s from the Viking Press and available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent booksellers in hardcover and as an e-book.  (BTW, the hardcover is really really gorgeous, Viking Art Dept. was fantastic!)

Thanks for the questions, Terry, and best of luck with your own books.

You’re welcome, Anne, and thank you for taking the time to answer questions and share with us here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ohioana Book Festival 2014

Some exciting news!

I've been invited to participate in the 2014 Ohioana Book Festival.

This will be my fourth appearance as an author. The Ohioana staff runs a pretty awesome festival packed with over 90 authors. The Ohioana Library receives applications from authors both across Ohio and the USA (authors with an Ohio connection).

When: May 10th, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Where: Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center (600 Jack Gibbs Blvd. Columbus, OH 43215)

I've been informed that I will participate on at least one panel. Details on that panel and more are to follow. I'll share that information when it becomes available.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Blood Sword Now Available in Audiobook Form

I am excited to announce that Blood Sword is now available in Audiobook form through both Audible and iTunes.

Narrated by Michael Slusser, Blood Sword is the second novel in the First Civilization's Legacy Series, and follows the continued adventures of Mercenary Flank Hawk. The first novel, Flank Hawk, is also available in audiobook format, also narrated by Michael Slusser.

If you might be interested, here are the links where you can check it out, including an audio sample:

Links: Blood Sword at Audible and Blood Sword at iTunes and Amazon (which will redirect to Audible)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway of Relic Tech, Ends Feb 17, 2014

Check out the offer below for details, organized by Gryphonwood Press, and sponsored by Goodreads. Submitting entries for the drawing (two copies) begins February 11th (at Midnight) and ends February 17th (at Midnight).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Relic Tech (Crax War Chronicles) by Terry W. Ervin II

Relic Tech (Crax War Chronicles)

by Terry W. Ervin II

Giveaway ends February 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Available to Goodreads members in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Goodreads is a pretty neat reading community that's free to join.

Good luck!

Monday, February 10, 2014

An Interview with Fantasy Author Charlie N. Holmberg

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Charlie. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Ah, the loaded question.

Hmm… I like dogs and Star Trek and, of course, writing. I’m actually formally trained as an editor, so I freelance on the side. As for my writing, I write almost exclusively fantasy, and I like to jump between the subgenres. I used to write pretty heavily in epic fantasy, but lately I’ve leaned toward YA/NA and romantic fantasy.

You enjoy Star Trek. With that in mind, is there a reason you prefer writing fantasy over science fiction? Also, is there a particular Star Trek series and/or movie that you enjoy more than the others?

Honestly? Science fiction has too many rules. Too much . . . reality, in a way. I actually started a sci-fi short story once, and just making the rocket landing believable spun my brain in circles! I’m definitely not a math-oriented kind of person; even doing “lighter” science fiction is difficult for me.

Fantasy, however, is virtually rule-free. I can make my world be whatever I want it to be, make up my own creatures and technology and people without having to ground any of them in reality (unless I’m going urban or the like, of course). I feel like my imagination is unhindered. And fantasy lets me write magic systems, to boot. :)

Overall, I would say Star Trek: Voyager is my favorite. I’m actually not a huge fan of the original series, and I never got into Enterprise. My favorite Star Trek movie is First Contact. I still think it’s better than the new ones coming out!

I’m a Wrath of Kahn fan, myself. J

When you create fantasy worlds, how do you go about it? Do you draw maps? Have files of information on cultures and magic, etc.? What comes first?

The “What comes first?” bit is a little tricky, because different stories start with different things. But, the majority of the time, I start with the magic first. Usually it’s the idea of a magical ability—for example, animating paper objects, as in The Paper Magician—that sparks a story for me. On occasion it’s a character. The setting/world building usually comes soon after, since the bones of a story depend on that.

I keep tiny notebooks in my purse that I use for creating my worlds. I like to start with the city/country/continent (depending on how large of a geographic scope I’m planning on). From there I figure out the terrain (mountains, rivers, etc.), and from the terrain I can distinguish things like borders and what would be imported/exported from where. How the people would live, dress, and so on.

Can you list for us one or two authors whose worlds you find interesting and why?

Sure! My biggest props go to my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson. He creates fantastic worlds (and fantastic magic systems!). To date, his Mistborn world is still my favorite. Sanderson’s worlds just seem very unique and well-thought out; definitely not the standard pseudo-European realms you see so often in fantasy.

Besides reading and writing, and watching Star Trek, what sort things do you enjoy doing, or look forward to in life?

Well, I like to cook and bake, and I like crafting if I stumble across something particularly neat or useful (such as this and this). As for things I’m looking forward to . . . in the near future, I’m looking forward to the birth of my baby girl (my first!) and the publishing of The Paper Magician (July 8, 2014) and The Glass Magician (Fall 2014), and well as the release of a short story anthology I was lucky enough to participate in, My Bloody Valentine (February 10th 2014, which is also my due date!).

I’m also looking forward to moving back to Utah, my home state, this summer! I’ve been gone for two years while my husband worked on his master’s degree in experimental psychology (sounds a lot creepier than it is).

Can you tell us a little about your path to being published and about your upcoming novels and short story in My Bloody Valentine?

Sure! Let me try to condense it.

I started writing as a teenager, but I didn’t take it seriously as a career option until college—that’s when I started finishing books. Books that didn’t get me anywhere, of course. I got lots and lots of rejections. (And I never bothered revising or querying my first novel.)

I queried more with each book I completed, entered contests, searched for open-doors at publishers. I focused namely on agents, though—they’re the key to getting to the editors. It took me seven years of that “serious” writing (I actively queried for about three of them) before I finally got my agent—Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Agency. I queried her with my ninth book, The Paper Magician, and because she’s a boss, she sold it and its sequel to 47North within a month!

After that, Marlene brought me the offer to work on the My Bloody Valentine anthology, which I readily accepted. It’s coming out February 10th, and therefore will be my first professionally published work. My contribution to it is “Salt and Water,” about an enslaved sea-woman whose tears have healing properties, and her relationship with a sympathetic slave-trainer.

The Paper Magician takes place in an alternate 1900s London, where people have learned to cast spells using manmade materials (rubber, glass, etc.). It follows a recent graduate of a rigorous magic prep school named Ceony, who is forced to study paper because there are so few paper magicians left in England—namely because paper is lame, ha. However, only a month into her apprenticeship, a strange woman barges into her tutor’s home and literally rips his heart from his chest. It’s up to Ceony to get the heart back before her tutor dies.

The Paper Magician is available for preorder through Amazon, and it’s set to release July 8th. Its sequel, The Glass Magician, will be published shortly afterward.

If you could identify three individuals who you would be excited to know both read and enjoyed The Paper Magician, who would they be and why?

Oh… that’s a good question.

  1. Oprah Winfrey. Because anything Oprah reads, the world reads.
  2. Ellen Degeneres. In part because of the Oprah effect. In other part, because she’s awesome.
  3. Tom Doherty. So I could get me some TOR.

If you personally lived in the 1900s alternate world created for your fantasy novels (The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician), what kind of magician would you likely be? Would that be the kind of magician you’d prefer to be?

Well unless someone forced my hand, I’d hopefully be the magician I prefer! ;) I think being a Pyre—a fire magician—would be pretty sweet. They have a narrower range of spells, but hello, you’re controlling FIRE.* I’d be pretty bad-A.

Otherwise, despite the stigma in the book, being a paper magician would probably be my second choice merely because paper is so widely available. (Then again, so are matches!)

*Note that Pyre can only control manmade fire, not natural fires. No saving the rainforest or anything.

So at the most basic level, a Pyre could make the flame of a cigarette lighter “dance” or take the shape of a rabbit’s head? And a paper magician would be an awesome scrap-booker to start? What would competent or everyday practitioners of such magical disciplines be able to accomplish? What about masters a discipline?

Such deep questions! You sure know how to interview. ;)

Basically the material is the means through which a spell can be cast. Yes, a Pyre could make the flame on the end of a cigarette dance if he knew a specific spell for it. A paper magician (or a Folder) could, say, write a message on a paper airplane and send it across town to a specific destination (super mail!). A master of a material magic would know the whole shebang of spells and be adept and carrying them out (for example, a Folding apprentice could botch a paper spell by not lining up the edges of the paper a certain way).

Charlie, you mentioned the anthology My Bloody Valentine. What might potential readers expect from your story in it (“Salt and Water”) and from the anthology as a whole?

The My Bloody Valentine anthology is a multi-genre story collection where every story begins with the line, “Love hurts.” Many of the stories are penned by bestselling authors, and the anthology dives into all the complications of love. You can see each individual story’s description on the anthology’s Goodreads page. We’re also throwing a Facebook release party for it (with prizes!), which y’all can check out here.

“Salt and Water” is a little different than the others in the anthology just by genre alone. It follows Chellis (who is basically a mermaid with legs) and her enslavement by a desert-dwelling nation at war. Why? Because the healing properties of her tears keep soldiers at the front alive. Chellis tries to mend a broken heart while learning to trust a slave handler who might just be her ticket to freedom. :)

Speaking of tickets to freedom, we’re just about at the end of the interview. Is there anything you’d like to add or say to the readers here at Up Around the Corner?

Just thank you so much for having me and letting me share a few of my accomplishments! I’m always happy to chat and share, so anyone can contact me through Twitter (@CNHolmberg) or through my blog (Myself as Written). I’ll have a website up soon, so please stay tuned for that!

You’re welcome, Charlie. Maybe we can do a quick update when The Paper Mage is released this summer.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Relic Tech Breaks into Top 100 Adventure Science Fiction

Some pretty neat news: Relic Tech has reached #96 in Amazon's Top 100 Rated Adventure Science Fiction Novels.

Just behind it, in #100 is fellow Gryphonwood author Jim Bernheimer's Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (a great read).

Also, Relic Tech has climbed to #64 in Amazon's Top 100 Rated Military Science Fiction Novels with Confessions of a D-List Supervillain at #70.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sales Data and Commentary: Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, Genre Shotgun and Relic Tech

Some basic sales stats and commentary based on total sales from release date of a novel/collection through December 31, 2013.

Flank Hawk:
Print = 48%
Ebook = 44%
Audiobook = 8%

Notes: I’ve not pushed the audiobook version of Flank Hawk very hard in the past year, but with all of my other titles in various stages of audiobook production, with more titles available, it will be easier and more logical for myself and my publisher to market them more effectively. Of course, that doesn’t promise success in garnering a large ‘listenership’ but certainly increases the possibility.

The trend is that sales of ebooks is increasing and has overtaken the rate of print sales of Flank Hawk.

Blood Sword:
Print = 39%
Ebook = 61%

Notes: Sales of Blood Sword have not been as strong in print as Flank Hawk—and never have. It may be a factor of when Blood Sword was released, about two years after Flank Hawk.
The sell through rate, where a reader of Flank Hawk obtains up a copy of Blood Sword appears to be increasing.

Genre Shotgun:
Print = 93%
Ebook = 7%

Notes: Sales of short story collections by an author are known to, and generally expected to, lag behind novel sales. Print sales are obviously stronger with this collection, and it might simply be the type of readers that are attracted to short stories still prefer print versions, be they in the form of collections or anthologies.

At book signing events where there isn’t a major focus on authors/books available—festivals as and art shows, for example—Genre Shotgun often does very well, sometimes better than the novels. Whereas online the sales are weaker when compared to the novels I’ve written/had published.

Relic Tech:
Print = 5%
Ebook = 95%

Notes: It’s possible that the trend toward ebooks has continued to increase (see Blood Sword commentary above), especially with respect to online sales.

Upon Relic Tech’s release, it’s rate of sales proved stronger than all of my other works combined. A positive result of Relic Tech’s sales surge is that attention was drawn back to my other works. As a result, both Flank Hawk and Blood Sword have risen in readership/sales. I believe this is due to crossover readers—those that read both SF and Fantasy works. If readers enjoyed Relic Tech, sometimes they decided to give Flank Hawk a try. Unfortunately, increased readership of my SF and Fantasy novels hasn’t translated into increased readership of Genre Shotgun.

Also, on, the appearance of Relic Tech on the ‘also bought’ portion of the page of other popular SF novels helped keep the momentum going. When Flank Hawk and Blood Sword found places on some lists (in addition to Relic Tech’s), I believed this helped as well.

Reviews, positive ones, have appeared to be drivers in gaining readers, and critical or negative reviews have had a stifling effect, deterring readers—until several positive reviews followed and helped rebuild some of the lost momentum. As I’ve said other times and elsewhere, that’s okay. Not everyone is going to enjoy my writing. It’s part of being an author.

Predictions: I am figuring that ebook sales will continue to dominate over online print sales, at least with my works. In addition, my publisher, Gryphonwood Press, does not have the resources to place novels in major chains such as Barnes & Noble across the country, or in a large number of independent bookstores. Thus, while there are some bookstore sales with respect to my works, the sales will not be numerous enough to swing the tide away from increasing ebook readership percentages.

Having four titles available in audiobook format will have a synergistic effect. How strong that will be is unknown. If Genre Shotgun will benefit/participate in this synergistic effect, I am unsure. But, having complete stories that run from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, which may be a sweet spot for listeners who are looking for something to be finished and wrapped up, as opposed to an ongoing story/next chapter.