Yes, another year of mowing.
Round One completed.
Views and Ramblings of author Terry W. Ervin II
Ran a Best Cover (of all my published works) competition on my FB and Flankers Page as short while back.
As you can tell from the Bracket Results, Flank Hawk prevailed. The number of votes earned in each matchup in parenthesis.
You probably know that I am a listener of the Dueling Ogres Podcast. Plus, they've invited me on as a guest a couple of times.
Anyway, now, another easy venue (in addition to iTunes, Pandora and more) is via Audible, if you're a member. No cost for fun listening. They have years of episodes, right up to the latest.
Link: Dueling Ogres on Audible
Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Courtney. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
Sentience is my debut novel, and it explores the ethics of AI through a re-imagined Turing Test. It's been described as genre-bending by readers, and I think that's a really accurate summation. It's obviously a science fiction novel, but there's lots of thrills, romance, and some darker elements baked in. I love anything Promethean, and it was heavily inspired by the A24 Film Ex Machina and HBO's Westworld. The novel actually started as a contemporary dance performance that was showcased in the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and from there, I took the world that I built on the stage and transformed it into the world of Sentience.
What inspired you to become a writer, and what is one of the things that surprised you most in the process?
I've always told stories and created characters in my head to entertain myself since I was a kid – during car rides, long baths, or stretches of boredom. It took me until I was around twenty-three to realize that I had a well-developed lineup of characters and story lines from all the years spent thinking.
At the same time, I've also been a dancer for the majority of my life, so I've found that there's lots of story-telling within dance, too. At twenty-three, I choreographed the piece that inspired the novel. When I was done, I felt like the world I created on the stage was the perfect backdrop to the characters and storylines rattling around in my head. I put the two together and that's how my first book, Sentience, got started.
I didn't grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer; it more so just felt like the next step in my evolution as a creator. Now that I have my first novel under my belt, I am itching to write another. I spent so much time working on Sentience without realizing it, so this time around, I'm just drawing a lot of inspiration from personal experience. This way my writing feels just as authentic, even though I didn't spend years subconsciously creating the characters.
As far as surprises go, one thing I learned when I went back to read my book during the process of promoting it, I realized how much physicality there is in my writing. Since I’m a dancer, it’s natural for me to emote physically, and I suppose I made my characters do the same.
It is often said that good writers are avid readers. Do you agree and, if so, what are your reading habits/what do you read?
I do, and I don’t agree. I found it hard to read while working on the first draft of my manuscript, and then again while promoting it. In full transparency, I can sometimes be someone who compares myself to others, and with a genre like science fiction that has incredibly selective fans, I felt intimidated reading in my genre.
If you could meet and spend a lunch with any two individuals, the first a historical figure and the second being a fictional character: Who would they be and why? Where would you select to dine, and what might you hope to discuss?
What do you struggle with most as a writer and how do you overcome it?
EDITING! My goodness, I am a creative writer, but I am NOT a technical writer. I think editing is the most challenging part because it's the total opposite of creative flow. You need to be attentive and incisive, and reading your own work requires this weird level of vulnerability with yourself. Emotionally, it's a really taxing process.
As far as technical editing goes, I advise new writers to invest in a good editor, if nothing else. For reading your own work, I advise red wine.
I wrote it for myself. As a reader, I just felt like there wasn’t much out there like it. I was the kind of kid that grew up reading The Hunger Games and The Divergent Trilogy, and when summer reading was assigned and it was Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, I tore through it.
What does the 25-year-old version of that kid read? That’s who I wrote Sentience for.
What is one of the most challenging or difficult lessons you’ve learned as an author?
As a first-time author, I learned a lot about timing, and at what point in the process things need to get done. For example, like trying to have your book converted into a MOBI file two weeks ahead of your release date is a bad idea. There are so many nuances things that can hold you up, if not done in the correct order. I would have gotten a lot more sleep, if I knew these things.
There’s so much information about what to do to self-publish, however, not very much on when things need to get done. If any new authors out there read this and have questions about the order in which I did things and what I would do differently, I encourage them to reach out. I like helping other artists and creators, and I feel like artists don’t help each other enough.
Besides reading and writing, what else occupies your time? Do those activities influence your writing?
I like creating in anyway I can. It feels good to take the things in my mind and turn them into something.
I always connect what I am making back to my writing, and in a lot of ways, creating can help me work out a story in different mediums. For example, my next novel is set in the town I grew up in, so I’ve been taking walks and playing around with taking pictures of the neighborhood.
I also want to discuss family dynamics in my novel, so I started knitting while I think about those dynamics. Something about the interconnectedness of yarn makes me think about the way family members impact one and other.
Otherwise, I’m probably walking my dogs.
What might readers expect next from you?
I have a sequel to Sentience in the works, but it’s on pause for right now. I need to step away from that world for a bit and let myself get lost in something new. So, I started working on a stand-alone thriller that’s got some crime and family drama worked in.
I’m also trying to get into grad school for Media Studies + Production, so that I can have the tools I need to write and make movies and documentaries. That’s the end game, fingers crossed.
As we’re coming to the end of our interview, is there anything you’d like to say or add?
You can watch the dance performance that inspired Sentience here!
Please share where readers can find you on the internet and where they might locate some of your works.
You can find Sentience on Amazon. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited.
I’m on Instagram @courtneypatriciahunter, on Twitter @courtneyphunter, and on Facebook @sentiencethebook!
Monsters, Maces and Magic: Fairyed is now available, narrated by the awesome Jonathan Waters!
Check it out.
Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Ray. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
You recently released a horror LitRPG Novel, The Nightmare Game System: A LitRPG Horror. Can you tell us a little about the series, and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve been into horror since as long as I can recall. I was never afraid of monsters under my bed or in my closet because I was hoping they’d be there. Although, I do remember sleeping with a sheet pulled all the way up to my neck so Dracula couldn’t bite me in my sleep. This is a combination of my two loves, LitRPG and Horror. I tried to put in all the good stuff of both genres and give the book a direction that fans of both could enjoy and maybe cross over if they didn’t know about the one or appreciate the other.
NGS gives a lot of nods to horror films; the AI, Blair, is a nod to Linda Blair, and the Slasher, Kane, is a tribute to the great Kane Hodder. Lots of little bits in there like that. I’ve seen a lot of trapped in the game stuff, and thought that horror was the perfect setting. Everyone can imagine being a hero and fighting orcs and wizards, or aliens and robots, but no one ever stops to think about just surviving from one level to the next. Getting dirty and bloody, struggling to stay sane or just alive. Those kinds of games are few and far between. I wanted to integrate that into something that I would love and, thus, NGS was born. The first three chapters were done without any prep; I just started writing and it just came out.
I didn’t know Ramzan’s back story other than he had stolen from people he shouldn’t have and had gotten caught. Blair, Stanislav, Timofey, and Vadim pretty much made themselves, but none more so than Blair. Blair was really alive. I would try to get her to do things or say things, and she did her own thing. I am starting to think I created a Tulpa with her. For those who don’t know what a Tulpa is, it is a concept in mysticism and the paranormal of a being or object which is created through spiritual or mental powers. The guy that created the Shadow said that he saw and heard the Shadow all the time as he wrote, and Blair was like that. She is alive and she is real as far as I’m concerned.
I know you do a
lot of reading, and especially listening to audiobooks.
Can you narrow the list and name three LitRPG titles you’ve really enjoyed and, in a line or two, why. Also, 3 non-LitRPG titles and why you enjoyed them?
The Second is the Joel Silver series Guardians of the Flames. Again, the first five or so books are just brilliant before it drifts off course, but it is so worth it. Gamers trapped in their fantasy game world with real life repercussions as revolutionary when this came out. I often think about it even today.
Finally, and you will notice an odd trend that these are all FANTASY novels and not horror, is the first six Dragonlance novels. This is the most gripping fantasy world I have ever read, and the characters are so fleshed out and compelling that you will never forget them and suffer as not all of them make it to the end of the sixth book. Stop after the sixth, as they just spiral into trash.
I’ll cheat here and say that some others that I enjoy are Viridian Gate Online, The Completionist Chronicles, Delvers LLC, Ether Collapse, the Good Guys series, I could go on forever. Seriously, forever. Each of them have something special or rare that makes them stand out, and they all carry on a level of excellence that other series might come close to, but just fall short of achieving.
You are also known for writing short stories. Which do you find more challenging to write, novels or short stories? Why?
I struggle with both, but not for the reason you think. I tend to write a lot when I get going. An easily 80 thousand word book hits 120K before I know it. A short story has to have a limit or I will write a full novella before I blink. That’s why I tried my hand doing Drabbles, strictly 100 word stories, and those 1,000 word tales. Just to see if I could reel myself in. I prefer short stories, because I can get an idea and take it and see where it goes. With a novel I kind of have to have a road map, as much as I hate that fact. So, I find it easier to write a novel since I am not really restricted, but short stories are more fun. Sorry, I guess I haven’t answered your question. So, strictly speaking, while I find short stories easier to write in the sense of having complete freedom, I also find them difficult to do with any sense of self-control.
When not writing, what fun or interesting things keep you busy?
It came about for two reasons. First, I’m poor. I don’t have the money it would take to feed my hunger for books. I found out that authors do this thing where they would give out codes for you to listen to their books and leave a review. I figured if they were giving me a code the least I could do was give them a lengthy review, give it some pizzazz, and be as honest as possible giving my opinion on what did or didn’t work for me. I got a lot of books that way. Turns out having a track record of reviewing makes authors want to give you their book. It was here that I actually got back into my groove of writing. You write a few hundred documents and struggle to be creative lets you hone your writing abilities.
I found LitRPG by accident. I picked up a couple books, starting with William Arand’s first trilogy. I liked it, and then moved onto Mourning Wood, and then Delvers. I thought Jeff Hayes was THE narrator for LitRPG! I started grabbing everything LIT that I could, and continued the trend of reviewing faithfully.
I saw SBT asking for auditions to do the podcast, but I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, I just wrote reviews, I didn’t chat them up IRL. Then Jeff messaged me and asked if I planned on trying out, and I was not sure that I should. I thought it over and decided to try it out. I recorded a review, submitted it, and instantly regretted it. I hated what I did. So, I redid what I had reviewed and resubmitted. Wow, that’s a lot of Re’s. Anyway, Ramon liked that I cared enough to try again, and that was how I got the job. I tried to make my show different from Ramon’s just so it wasn’t the audio Ramon show. I tried to be silly and serious, but also do specials that focused on one part of the LitRPG pie. I wanted to do my own thing, and I have to say neither Jeff nor Ramon have ever censored me or tried to curb what I had to say. I’ve had no restrictions whatsoever, and that has been a boon.
I love listening to audiobooks because I have no time to read. I can listen to books all day long. I just had a five hour drive to and from a cemetery today, and I listened to Battle Born by Dave Willmarth. Great book, BTW. I would have been bored as all get out if I didn’t have that book. I just can’t listen to music. I hate modern stuff, and I’ve heard all the other stuff a million times. Except for Stevie Nicks. I could listen to her all day long on loop. Audio is better than TV or movies. Each narrator brings something special to the books they read, and when it works, as in when the writing and the narration mesh, holy cow. It’s magical.
If you could, what famous (or not so famous) individual living today would you like to share a meal with? Why that person, were would you like to dine, and what would you hope to discuss?
What can readers expect from you in the future?
Hopefully, more Nightmare Game System. That depends on readers, though.
I also have a trilogy set in the VGO universe coming out next year, hopefully early on, and I am working with a third publisher on a Post-Apoc LitRPG trilogy. So, a lot. I just need to find the time to get writing done.
As this interview is coming to a close, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?
I’d like to thank you for even considering me for this. That’s important. The LitRPG community really supports its own and we have each other’s backs. I’d also like to thank Anneliese Rennie and Spectrum Books. I started NGS in much the same way I do my short stories, with just an idea. Two people came to me about it right out of the gate, Outspan Foster and Anneliese. Outspan gave me a lot of encouragement and suggestions on what I needed to do to make my MC sympathetic and have agency. Anneliese was super enthusiastic about the story. She literally took the first chapter and narrated it and sent it to me. I had just started the story. I mean, JUST STARTED and she wanted to do the book right off. So, the character Blair kind of made herself fit Rennie’s voice. Like I said, Blair does what she wants, but we both agreed she was meant to sound like Rennie. Her support has been incredible. I am eternally grateful for her belief in my work.
Below, please list the places and links where readers can find out more about Raymond Johnson and his works:
My Amazon Author
My Facebook Author