Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ConCarolinas 2011: Readers of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction

Krystal showing her copies of
Dead Eye and Flank Hawk

I've been preparing blog posts following up on ConCarolinas 2011. While looking through pictures taken, I came across Krystal's. She's a prime example of why I really enjoy going to conventions and book fairs. I get to meet and talk to readers. Sure, it's an opportunity to introduce readers to my works, but there's much more to it than that.

During my second year attending to ConCarolinas I again had the opportunity to discuss some old favorites such as Roger Zelazny's Amber series and past SF television programs such as Babylon 5 and StarGate SG1. I got to talk about what's new and coming around the corner. I met some new folks and renewed friendships with others. Fun stuff!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frustration with Amazon

A little over two weeks ago for some reason decided to sever the connection or link between the print version of Flank Hawk and the Kindle version. I have no idea why. It made little sense. I contacted my publisher and asked if they'd contact Amazon to correct it/restore the link. After a contact or two, the versions were once again linked (such that if you were viewing the print version, you could click on the hyperlink and view the Kindle version and visa versa).

Then, all of the reviews disappeared, first from the print version, and then a few hours later, from the Kindle version. I scratched my head and then waited. Sporadically a few returned and then disappeared from each version. Finally, twelve of the original fifteen showed up with the print, and three with the Kindle. Previously with Flank Hawk, and with every title I looked at, the Kindle and the print reviews show up under in both versions. It no longer does with Flank Hawk, and has been that way for a week.

An email to my publisher requesting they look into it, got a return back from Amazon that eventually all of the reviews would migrate back.

Good reviews help with attracting readers. Flank Hawk was in the top 20 in the 'Historic Fantasy' category and the top 60 in 'Epic Fantasy.' With the reviews 'gone' that is no longer the case. Since the issues, sales (especially on Kindle) have dropped to almost nothing.

I'm sure it makes little difference to Amazon. I'm not exactly a high volume selling author, and Gryphonwood Press isn't a major publisher. If readers seeking to try a new author or title doesn't see Flank Hawk, they will never know the difference and obviously won't give my work a try--but probably will pick something else in its absence. Thus, no sale lost for Amazon...

Life is like that, and Amazon doesn't have it out for me. Just frustrating on this end and figured I'd vent here a bit. Who knows, by the time you read this all may be well...maybe...

Note: two hours after posting the above, the print version now is asking for readers to be the first to review Flank Hawk--showing none...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Burn Notice Returns

Tonight Burn Notice returns with new episodes.

It's the only television series I watch. Interesting, action-packed, has a great story arc--and Bruce Campbell.

Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Interview with Fantasy Author Gail Z. Martin

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

I’ve always wanted to write. The first story I remember writing was when I was five years old and since I couldn’t spell yet, I had to have my grandmother write it down for me. Believe it or not, the story was about a vampire! (I was a big Dark Shadows fan in pre-school!) In junior high and high school I wrote to amuse my friends, and I kept on writing in college and grad school. Some of what I wrote was fan fiction, and eventually I began to create my own worlds and characters. It was a long road after that, but it was worth the wait.

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?

It’s certainly true for me. I read over 100 books last year, and that’s with a full schedule of writing and speaking. Since I write epic fantasy, I really don’t read much epic fantasy now, although I read a lot of it growing up. For a change of pace, I’ve been reading urban fantasy, some steampunk, and a good bit of paranormal mystery.

If you could meet any two individuals, the first a historical figure and the second being a fictional character, who would they be and why?

As for a historical character, I know it’s rather recent history, but Walt Disney is one of my heroes because of his creativity and imagination and the way he used his gifts to bring so much joy to people. As for a fictional character, I might not survive it, but I’d love to meet Lestat from Anne Rice’s series.

Thinking back to one or more of your English/Language Arts teachers, where were they on target in preparing you to be a writer and where might they have been a bit off?

I had a marvelous Folklore professor in college, the late Dr. Hilda Kring. She was a fantastic influence on me. To tell the truth, I tended to shy away from English and Language Arts because I wanted to write, not dissect how other writers wrote. And I figured I could read books for free on my own time with Cliff Notes rather than spend tuition money to read them. I was a History major in my undergraduate program. The teachers who made the biggest impact on me were my History professors.

What do you struggle with most as a writer and how do you overcome it?

Although I really don’t have a problem with focusing any other time, when I’m writing I have to fight the urge to be totally ADD. I’ll get stuck on a section of my writing, and suddenly want to jump out and Google something unrelated or check the news—anything for a distraction. There’s a story about a writer who kept finding ways to put off writing and finally told someone, “I should be writing but I have to floss my cat.” So when I find myself going ADD I just tell myself that it’s time to stop flossing the cat and get back to work.

Of your works in print (or coming into print) which bears your favorite cover and why? Which comes in second?

I love all of the covers, but my top favorite is Dark Haven, because the artist got Jonmarc Vahanian absolutely right as I envisioned him. My second favorite is the new cover for The Dread because I also think the artist did a great job capturing Kiara.

Besides reading and writing, what else occupies your time?

I have three kids, a husband and a dog, and I also own a marketing consulting firm and write non-fiction books on social media and related topics, and I do a lot of professional speaking. Once in a while I get to sleep.

As we’re coming to the end of our interview, is there anything you’d like to say or add?

I do a lot of conventions and I hope that some of your readers will connect with me at one of the cons. It’s great to meet readers and just talk with people who also love books and the characters in the books. And of course, if one of your readers hasn’t tried my books, I hope they’ll jump in and give it a shot. Thank you so much.

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Note: This interview is part of a larger internet event so, in addition to the interivew, check out the information below!
Welcome to the 2012 Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek of The Dread!

Still reeling from plague and civil war, the Winter Kingdoms face an invasion force from across the Northern Sea led my a dark spirit mage in the name of ancient, vanquished gods. Summoner-King Martris Drayke and an untested generation of new rulers must stand against an unholy alliance of shadowy invaders. To prevail, Drayke must win the uncertain support of the Dread, spirit-beings that stand guard within the sacred barrows over an even more fearsome threat imprisoned within. In the balance lies not only the freedom of the Winter Kingdoms, but Drayke’s life and the soul of his young son, whose untested magic might be the biggest spoil of war.

The Dread is Book Two of The Fallen Kings Cycle, and it picks up the story immediately after the events in The Sworn.

The Dread will be available in stores and online world-wide in February, 2012. But you can read excerpts, see the amazing new cover art, get exclusive Q&A interviews and other online goodies by visiting my web page at and checking out the partner sites that have graciously agreed to post material and host book drawings.

Here’s where to find the goodies: —First look at the cover art for The Dread plus a Q&A with Tris Drayke. —Contest to win a free autographed copy of The Sworn plus an exclusive excerpt from The Dread and an exclusive excerpt from The Dread —Three times is a charm—get lucky and win a free autographed copy of The Sworn! —Can a female author write a believable male character? Can a mortal write a believable undead, or shapeshifting creature? Read my exclusive blog post and find out! —Get the first look at Chapter 1 of The Dread on my Twitter feed before it posts to my web site —Another exclusive excerpt from The Dread plus an interview with Jonmarc Vahanian (Please “like” the page while you’re there!) —Are magical objects a cheat? Find out what I think in my special blog post! –All-new Q&A with me talking about writing, passion and the love of magic. —Brand new audio of me reading an excerpt from The Dread

MySpace (GailZMartin) and my Chronicles of The Necromancer newsletter—an interview with Adaine, the Ghost Whore

And on my web site, you’ll find the following “party favors”:

• An excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Dread
• An interview with Kiara, Queen of Margolan
• An all-new author video message with hints about the new series after The Dread!

Thank you for checking out my Hawthorn Moon sneak peek party. Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interviewed by Mythic Scribes

If you have a moment click on over to Mythic Scribes where they interviewed me about writing and getting your work published. One topic I find rarely discussed that I brought up is about obtaining blurbs.

Link: My Interview with Mythic Scribes

Mythic Scribes is a relatively new reading and writing website/community focused on Fantasy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remembering Dad

I think everyone whose father has passed away has a different way of remembering them. The photo to the right shows a picture of the cabinets at the back of my classroom. On top of one cabinet is a potted plant from my dad's funeral.

Everyday I go to work and unlock the door to enter my classroom, I begin a routine. I turn on the lights, of course, check the walls where I have my weekly lessons listed to make sure I have everything ready. I set my briefcase on my desk and I grab my empty coffee mug before walking over to fire up the two old computers (it takes them a while). Then swing to the back of the room and and flick the switch that lights powers up the lamp (with a UVA bulb) that's focused on the plants.

That last step reminds me of my dad. Then I go and get coffee in the faculty room and get ready for the day. During the day, the potted plants are always in the background. I don't usually focus on or think about them, or him. But sometimes I do.

Just one way I remember.

Was he a perfect father? No, but then again, neither am I. Who ever is or was. But he did always care and he did want me to enjoy my job as a teacher, which I do. So it's a connection for me, and I remember.

I move the plant to a classroom with a window every summer (yep, my classroom doesn't have one), and stop in to water the plants in the big pot once a week. The action reminds me of him--usually a brief snippet of a memory. Just a routine and how I do things.

In any case, I thought it on Thursday when I went into work, and I'll be thinking the same thing today: Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Brief Conversation with Harry Turtledove

No, Harry Turtledove isn't standing on a milk crate or anything. He's just kinda tall, especially compared to me.

I only spent a few minutes with him. He took time to sign the novels he authored (that I'd brought to ConCarolinas with me) and we talked briefly about his World War Series, and Roger Zelazny. I never had the opportunity to meet Roger Zelazny (he passed away from cancer in 1995). Mr. Turtledove said, "That you'd put me in his company as a writer is quite an honor. He was a very good man and a great writer, taken away from us too soon."

I was discussing with Harry Turtledove how his World War Series, combined with Roger Zelazny's Guns of Avalon formed the spark that ignited the idea for my novel, Flank Hawk.

As to be expected, Harry Turtledove is a friendly guy with a quick wit. He probably doesn't remember the conversation, but I do.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Shadowed" by James T. Coon (at Residential Aliens)

Here's a link to a pretty neat short story by crit partner James. T. Coon.  It's an interesting fantasy short featuring Brick, a tough old school Private Eye.

If you've got a few minutes, give it a read.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kevin's Corner Review of Flank Hawk: A First Civilization's Legacy Novel

Veteran Reviewer Kevin R. Tipple has finally reviewed Flank Hawk. I've been eagerly awaiting his views and comments on my novel. Why? I've read and respected his literary observations for many years.

Link: Reviewing: "FLANK HAWK: A First Civilization’s Legacy Novel" by Terry W. Ervin II

As a writer I find it fascinating to learn what readers come away with from my works, be they short stories or longer works such as Flank Hawk.

Note: Although Kevin Tipple's focus is mainly on works of crime and mystery, he does venture out into other genres. So, if you desire input on what's out there that's good (or not so good), don't hesitate to follow his review blog, Kevin's Corner.

Monday, June 6, 2011

ConCarolinas 2011 and Zombie Endorsements

I had a great time meeting readers, gamers, writers, artists and actors at ConCarolinas 2011. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about some interesting folks I met and participated with on panels.

But we'll start off with a few endorsements from some pretty sharp zombies. While Flank Hawk isn't a 'zombie novel' they are an important element in the story--ask the Necromancer King. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Interview with Fantasy Author David Forbes

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

I’m the author of the epic fantasy series THE OSSERIAN SAGA, published by HarperCollins, which began with THE AMBER WIZARD in 2006, followed by sequels THE WORDS OF MAKING and THE COMMANDING STONE.

The goal was to write a fantasy series chronicling the rise of monotheism in a polytheistic world and how religious belief can both unite different social and ethnic groups, as well as be used as a weapon to conquer others. As with most early writing goals, this one didn’t survive much beyond the first draft, and the tattered remnants that remained were drastically changed from the original concepts. Which is maybe a little too much info about this particular sausage making, but I’m nothing if not scrupulously honest and direct about my writing, except of course where such scrupulousness might affect me adversely, and then all bets are off. However, the original goals did begin to peek back in to varied degrees in the second and third volumes, so all was not lost.

The Saga also includes a large and varied cast of characters, some unique world building, and, of course, lots of fighting, magic, and an assortment of gargantuan action set pieces where lots of things are destroyed in spectacular ways in order to satisfy my lifelong fascination with explosions, mayhem, and destruction.

I live outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with my wife and two sons, who drive me only moderately insane a handful of times each week.

David, could you tell us little bit the “sausage making”? What inspired or motivated you to drastically alter your original writing goals? What would you say your writing goals are today?

Well, the changes came about primarily from “theory” crashing headlong into “reality.” I had these lofty plans for an overarching theme of the novels, but when I got down to the nitty gritty of actually plotting everything out, some of the necessary plot details wouldn’t work out.

The rise of the Prophet of the One God was supposed to take place fairly early in the first book, which would give more time for Gerin to became involved with him and his teachings. But when I wrote THE AMBER WIZARD, there simply wasn’t room for that enormous subplot, so it had to go into book two. The original plan for that book then had to be pushed back since Gerin was now just learning about the religion rather than having been a member for several years. So while some of the thematic ideas are still present, they’re pretty different from what I first envisioned.

This is all just part of the writing process, especially with large epic fantasies that have story arcs that span several volumes. Original plans often get jettisoned or drastically altered. I’m not bothered or disappointed by the changes, but it does change my ideas of what the books were ultimately about.

My writing goals change book to book. My goal right now is just to get a few more under contract!

I’ve finished two young adult novels that were much easier to write because there wasn’t as much to create (i.e., I didn’t have to fashion an entire fantasy world from scratch). One of them is a stand-alone novel, which also makes the writing easier.

EVERWHEN is about a war between factions of angels arguing over God’s plan for the world and the fifteen-year-old boy caught in the crossfire because he has something both sides want. Thematically, it’s about our relationship with religious concepts and how zealotry in any form, from any side, is a really bad idea.

THE SAPPHIRE EYE concerns a teenage girl, Abbey Howard, who gets caught in the scheming of an immortal empress who lives in the original Garden of Eden, who is out to enslave mankind. Abbey has to fend off attacks from demons, undead soldiers, and a nasty spiritualist while keeping up her grades in high school and coming to terms with the discovery that the guy of her dreams is actually a witch.

The most recent novel I finished is an urban fantasy called THE RUTHLESS DEAD, about a half-angel security consultant who sometimes works with a secret government agency that guards against incursions from so-called Celestial dimensions. John has unique abilities that make him the target of a vampire who’s trying to free a Fallen Angel from a prison called the Abyss as part of a plot to take over Hell. John is forced to deal with rogue wizards, golems, a kidnapping, and a demonic possession, all while trying to keep his hot girlfriend from dumping him because his life is just too weird for her.

The novels you’re working to get under contract definitely sound interesting.

During your tenure as an author, how has the landscape changed for authors seeking to get works published? Has it become easier or more difficult to get a manuscript accepted, not only for established authors, but writers working to find a publisher for their first novel?

The biggest change is the world of ebooks. Publishers are both terrified of it (because of downward pressure on price) and thrilled by the thought of extending their “product” into the future on a new frontier of ereaders, like the Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. No one is sure how this is going to shake out, or who will benefit (or lose) the most.

The collapsed economy hasn’t helped things either. The publishers are under even more pressure to hit home runs with every book, which means midlist authors like myself get squeezed for time, attention, money, publicity, and contracts. The whole landscape is rather dismal right now.

What aspect of storytelling do you find to be the most challenging? And, in your effort to become a published writer, were there any ‘rules of writing’ that you stretched or even broke along the way?

Characterization is always a struggle for me. I tend to create characters that don’t have a lot of problems or issues, which makes them seem more real to me as people but also rather bland. My characters seem real and unique to me, but I need to work more at making that realness and uniqueness evident to readers. It’s easy to give characters broad quirks and mannerisms and call that characterization — it’s a lot harder to give them real, subtle, and interesting traits that accumulate over the course of a novel by what they do, say, and how they react to things.

As for your second question, no, not really. I can’t think of any rules I stretched or broke. Sorry!

Absolutely nothing wrong with having never stretched or broken any ‘rules of writing’ in your path to publication.

David, can you identify a book or two that you number among your favorites, and explain why they hold that place with you?

That’s harder to do than you think! Here are a few (a lot more than two, but hey, it’s the Internet and I don’t think I’ll use up too many bits with this list!):

1. The Lord of the Rings — let’s get the obvious one out of the way. This is the granddaddy and an influence on all fantasy writers, regardless of what they might say. Either they’re writing something like it or deliberately trying to write something not like it.

2. Dune — A science fiction epic of the imagination (and yes, I even liked all of the sequels, at least the ones Frank Herbert wrote).

3. American Tabloid — one of the best novels about the sixties ever. Told in Ellroy’s blistering prose style, just before he turned said style into a cartoonish caricature of itself.

4. Anything by Michael Connelly. My favorite writer of the past several years, no one does plotting better, and he creates wonderful characters with a great economy of style.

5. Salem’s Lot — The first Stephen King book I ever read, when I was twelve or thirteen. It scared the living sh*t out of me and I couldn’t put it down. Still one of the best vampire novels ever written.

6. Valis — The ultimate head trip from Philip K. Dick, one of the most awe inspiring novels I’ve ever read.

I could go on for pages, but I’ll leave it with these, which were the first to come to mind, and so probably had the most affect on me.

I agree, narrowing it to two is a pretty difficult request. You’ve got a solid list if you ask me.

When you write, who do you see as your readers or audience, and does this have any influence on the novels you produce?

I honestly don’t think at all about who might be reading the book when I’m first writing it. I think, like most writers, I write to entertain myself. Sure, I want to have an audience, but my goal is to write a book I’d like to read that no one else has written yet. I like creating fun and weird and interesting characters, and dreaming up “that is so cool!” moments, whether they’re action scenes or examples of really cool magic.

Of course, before I start writing a book, I think about marketability. I’m writing for me, but ultimately I want to write a book that I can also sell. So in that respect I try to come up with ideas that I think will be popular.

For instance, my editor asked me to write an urban fantasy. I hadn’t given any thought to an urban fantasy, and wasn’t sure I wanted to write one. I looked through my story ideas folder and found some notes for a vampire novel tentatively titled Breathless that I’d written years before. I never found a solid story hook, so I just filed it away.

I got it out and started thinking about what I might be able salvage from it for a UF novel. I brainstormed and made lots of notes about (a) what I would like to see in an urban fantasy that I hadn’t, and (b) what would be marketable. Which isn’t the same as writing to a specific audience, but rather trying to figure out what will sell to a publisher.

After months of working on notes and then an outline, I ended up with the novel The Ruthless Dead, which my agent just read and really liked. Of course I need to make some revisions to it before it’s “editor friendly,” but that goes with the territory. The good thing is that the prose, characters, and overall story really work (according to him).

Thanks for the interview!

You're welcome, David. And thank you for taking the time to share your experience and a bit about your works!

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You can learn more about David Forbes and his writings at his website/blog: The Magic Echo Chamber

His works are available online ( and Barnes & Noble) and in bookstores. You won’t regret giving them a try.