Research: Even if it Might not be Apparent to the Reader, It’s Still Important

Today I’m hosting a guest post from SF and fantasy author, Terry W Ervin II. I think this is great – I hope you enjoy it.

Research: Even if it Might not be Apparent to the Reader, It’s Still Important
When a reader decides to pick up and read one of my novels, he or she is committing both money and time—valuable commodities that could easily be spent elsewhere. Because of that, I strive to tell the best story I can, which includes doing the necessary research. To me necessary means getting the big things right, along with the small, peripheral ones.

For example, in my debut novel, Flank Hawk, one of the factors that led to the post-apocalyptic setting was a handful of nuclear warheads penetrating the U.S. ballistic missile defense systems and detonating. Pulled from two chapter starts:

Nestled in Cheyenne Mountain, NORAD had been on full alert. Coordinated satellites viewing the earth in the infrared part of the spectrum recorded the demise of one ballistic missile while radars, including the Cobra Dane early-warning in the Aleutian chain and the X-band floating on a nearby platform, tracked the two surviving sub launched missiles as they climbed…

…A battery of six interceptor rockets from silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and four more from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base raced skyward. An experimental tracking and intercept aircraft from the Vandenberg base was already aloft. While it strained for altitude, airmen activated its advanced tracking and targeting systems, and prepared its powerful laser should any warheads survive the kill vehicles housed in the interceptor rockets.

To get it right required hours of research, learning the basics of the US missile defense systems and equipment, capabilities, and locations along the West Coast. Only a fraction of what I dug up and organized actually made it to the pages of the novel, and only to a few paragraphs on a few pages, but the point of research isn’t to show off all the work I did. It’s to incorporate only the necessary details that enhance the story.
Crax War Chronicles RT and RH
As an author, I strive to get it right for the reader, not only for the story, but because the readers out there have varied knowledge and experience. I’d be embarrassed to get an email from a disappointed reader, telling me I’d gotten it wrong—especially something that I could’ve gotten right.

Another example comes from Relic Tech. It’s a science fiction novel that involves some interstellar space travel. One of the things I incorporated was time dilation, which is a phenomenon that occurs as a ship travels through space. The closer a ship comes to approaching the speed of light, the greater the time variation there is between those aboard the traveling ship as compared to planet side individuals.

In Relic Tech, the time dilation was along the lines of minutes and hours, rather than months and years. Still, Security Specialist Keesay (the main character) uses a 20th century watch not controlled by the ship’s chronometer to track the phenomenon. It’s only a minor point in the plot, as Specialist Keesay attempts to predict when the civil transport Kalavar will actually emerge at its destination, as opposed to what’s been told to the crew.

Not only did it take considerable time and effort to research and calculate the time dilation based on the Kalavar’s rate of travel, but it was also important to remain consistent with the distances between the star systems and exoplanets, (only a few fictional) incorporated into the storyline, and how long the actual travel between them would take based on a ship’s speed.
First Civilization Legacy Series FH BS SF

Speaking of exoplanets, for my most recent release, Relic Hunted (the sequel to Relic Tech), I had to do a fair bit of calculation with respect to the distances between star systems, some with exoplanets. The light years from Earth? That information is readily available. The light years between various star systems? Not so readily available information. So, high school trigonometry to the rescue. Find the distance from Earth to one star. Then find the distance from Earth to the second star. Get out a star map, draw lines from Earth to the two stars, measure the angle formed using a handy protractor, and all the data is there to determine an approximate distance between the two stars. Not an exact science, but far better than a random guess and, within the novel, it keeps the time to travel between specific stars and distant solar systems consistent.
All of the above examples (and more) took time, a lot of time—time that some might argue wasn’t really necessary. Nevertheless I did it, the reading and cross referencing, all the charts, figures and calculations, and had some of it double-checked by my former college roommate, who majored in physics and minored in astronomy, and is now a math professor.

Would the reader know if I made it all up? If I remained orderly and consistent, but sort of played a little fast and loose with the rate of travel and distances, and ignored the relatively minor time dilation? Probably not. Would they have cared? Maybe not. After all, I don’t write what might be termed hard science fiction. Nevertheless, I owe it to the reader, to get as much right as I reasonably can. Even the little things, because I believe they add up, giving my novels, such as Relic Hunted, depth, authenticity, and consistency.

Readers willing to invest time and money on my novels? I owe them at least that much.

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Bio Pic Terry W. Ervin II for 2015Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series (fantasy) includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, and Soul Forge.

The Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press).

In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. 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 www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner at uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com

 

 

The Balance Omnibus Edition is out now

Balance Omnibus Front FinalSo those fine folk at Gryphonwood Press have put together a pretty sweet deal here. They’ve made an Omnibus Edition of my Balance Duology and thrown in a couple of extra short stories too. So this is a single volume (in ebook and paperback) that contains both novels, RealmShift and MageSign, plus two short stories, “Running Wild With The Hunt” and “Stand-Off”, which both feature Isiah, the protagonist from the novels.

The first of those short stories was originally published in the Seven Realms anthology, The Game, with yarns riffing on that famous short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”. The other short included in the Omnibus was originally published by Wily Writers. Neither of those yarns have been much in circulation for a quite a few years now, so it’s nice to have all the Isiah stuff in one place at last. Especially with such a damned cool cover on it!

And before the message start, I’ve been asked a lot whether there will be a third Isiah novel. Will The Balance duology become a trilogy, or even a longer series? I know there’s a fair few Isiah fans out there and that makes me happier than you could ever imagine. But the answer is a bit vague: Never say never. I don’t currently have plans for a third Balance book, but it is possible. I have a thing on my wall in the BaxCave with a list of projects on it – all kinds of books that I plan to write. On that list is “Balance 3?”

I’d need really good ideas and a strong plot to go ahead with it. I do have some inklings, but I plan to let them percolate for the foreseeable future and we’ll see what happens. So it’s possible, but in the meantime, The Balance Omnibus has all the Isiah goodness in existence right now. The ebook is pretty much everywhere already and the paperback edition will be out any day now. Get it wherever you usually get books – any problems, give me a shout. Meanwhile, here are the links for the major ebook stores:

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON AUS

KOBO | SMASHWORDS | B&N

iBooks US | iBooks UK | iBooks Aus

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In Your Face! Ten days to go.

IMG_9056So this is still a campaign you totally need to get behind. It’s got ten days to run, has already hit triple its target, but more funding will only make it better than ever. And by supporting the crowdfund, you get discounted pre-orders for a fantastic book (plus loads more perks if you want to kick in extra). I really think this book is going to make waves. Here’s the blurb:

In Your Face will be made up of original and reprinted speculative fiction stories that deal with very provocative themes. These stories will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in.

The Table of Contents can be found here:

http://fablecroft.com.au/books/in-your-face/announcement-table-of-contents-for-in-your-face

And a whole load of blog posts with the authors talking about the inspiration behind our stories can be found here:

http://fablecroft.com.au/publications/in-your-face/in-your-face-blog-tour

So go on, get in on the action. Click here to join in with the Pozible campaign.

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International Cover Reveal for BOUND!

So for people who have been paying attention, the Alex Caine train is still rolling strong. All three books in the trilogy (Bound, Obsidian and Abduction) are being re-released in print by HarperVoyager in Australia and New Zealand, with new covers, in July this year. That means people in the ANZ region will finally be able to have all three books in paperback on their shelves. I can’t wait to show you those covers, hopefully sometime very soon (they’re fantastic!).

Meanwhile, the series is being published around the rest of the world by the brilliant folk at Ragnarok Publications. Things are running a bit later there, but Bound will be released in the US and everywhere else in the world other than Australia and NZ during the northern Fall this year, with Obsidian and Abduction hopefully not too far behind. Ragnarok have a whole new swanky website here: http://www.ragnarokpub.com/ that’s well worth a look.

In the meantime, they’ve revealed to authors the covers for all their Fall new releases. That means we have an international cover for Bound, by the fantastic Shawn King. And I get to reveal it here today. So here it is, in all its muscly, magical glory! (And I do dig that review quote in the top right.)

bound-ragnarok

So what do you think? I hope you like it – I certainly do. It captures the gritty, urban, magical, violent nature of the series beautifully. I’ll hopefully be able to give you guys an actual release date very soon. And watch this space for the new ANZ covers any time now.

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Obligatory Ditmar and Stoker Awards eligibility post.

It’s award season again and when this time of year comes around there’s always varying degrees of discomfort in how we make our eligible work known without acting like car salesmen or insecure hermits. And everything in between. However, I’ve long since come to be comfortable with the idea that writers should make clear what their eligible work is and where to find it. I wish more writers would do it in order for me to not forget good stuff I’ve seen, or for me to find good stuff I may have missed. And I always encourage more people to get involved so the awards are a better reflection of fandom, as they should be. The juried awards look after themselves, but the fan awards need loads of participation. So get on board.

The Stokers can only be recommended by HWA members and they know who they are, so anyone reading this with the ability to get involved there can skip straight down to the stories I’ve listed. Stoker Awards rules and etiquette can be found here: http://www.horror.org/awards/stokers.htm

The Ditmars can be nominated by “natural persons active in fandom”. That means we can’t just get all our family and friends to nominate, as the committee will check who’s nominating. But if you are a fan, you can use the online form to nominate and to give a referee for you eligibility to nominate. If you’re a blogger, a convention attendee, an avid reader, active in any way in fandom, you qualify. The nomination form is here and all the relevant details are on it. So if you’re allowed to, please get involved. There’s a massive (though not exhaustive) list of eligible work here. I have two things that I think are my strongest works of 2015, and that I’d like to see attract more attention. They’re listed below and I’ve made a PDF of each available for you to read and consider. If you think they’re worthy of your nomination, I thank you in advance.

In the Best Short Story Category, I think my best this year was “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner” (6,500 words), from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2015 issue. Click here (or Right Click and Save As) for a PDF of that story: http://bit.ly/1JUyVCY

In the Best Novelette/Novella Category, I have one eligible work: “In Vaulted Halls Entombed” (9,100 words), from the SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest anthology, from Cohesion Press. Click or Right Click here for a PDF of that one: http://bit.ly/1MQalTL
And whether you think them award-worthy or not, if you read them, thanks! I hope you enjoy them.
Now other writers need to post their eligible work. And they need to nominate their favourites. And all the fans need to get nominating. Use the links above and GO!
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