Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guest blog with Terry W. Ervin II author of Flank Hawk and Blood Sword

Today's guest is Terry W. Ervin II author of Flank Hawk and the newly released Blood Sword.  I have had the pleasure of reading both of the books and they are some fantastic books.  In today's guest spot is about writing a sequel that also works as a standalone novel.

Writing a Sequel

Did I know there would be a sequel upon completing Flank Hawk? Honestly, no. I knew the basics of what would happen in the next novel, but I did little more than jot down ideas in a file and store them away. Why? I worked on other writing projects, mainly short stories, while trying to find a publisher for Flank Hawk.

While I planned to write Blood Sword, the second novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy series, as a standalone, I figured if I couldn’t sell the first novel, why write the second? True, I could’ve considered Flank Hawk to be a prequel to Blood Sword (if Blood Sword found a publisher), but in all honesty, I’m not a fan of prequels. Because of that, I didn’t have the drive to write a second novel with an eye toward releasing the first, if the second found a publisher. 

Fortunately, Gryphonwood Press accepted and published Flank Hawk. My debut novel’s sales had my publisher asking when the sequel would be finished. By then the sequel was in the works, but before any actual writing took place, I spent time figuring out exactly how to write the sequel.

So what was the problem—what’s to figure out? The world was already created, characters established and the storyline was strong enough to engage readers. Plus, I’m an author, right? And authors know these things.

True, but I wanted to do it right—or as I saw ‘right’ writing novel that was a standalone, yet complementing the first. I wanted readers of Flank Hawk to enjoy the second more than the first, while not feeling bogged down with necessary back story (references for new readers to events that occurred in Flank Hawk).

And I wanted readers starting with Blood Sword to enjoy the sequel while not feeling lost, or that there was something to the story missing. And if they enjoyed Blood Sword, they’d be interested in reading Flank Hawk.

I had to find that balance: To continue Krish’s story, and weave in necessary information and connections so readers new to the series understood a bit about who Krish is, including friends, associates, and his experiences, all while breaking new ground in the new adventure—which had its roots in events set in motion in Flank Hawk.

With that in mind, I went right to the source(s): Authors who have successfully done what I was preparing to attempt.

My Criteria (for authors/series):
a. Wrote action-filled stories, in first person, past tense.
b. Although one story arc was completed in the first novel, a larger storyline continued to be explored in subsequent works in the series.
c. Events and choices made in the first novel impacted what happened in the next.
d. Characters, from close friends to associates in the first novel, continued to influence
what happened in the second—including those that died or didn’t appear ‘on stage’ in the second novel.

I selected authors I’d read previously and enjoyed: Steven Brust (Vlad Taltos series), Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber series) and Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake series).

It proved to be a time-consuming process as I read and reread the first two or three novels in each series, and even listened to audio versions when possible, all the time paying close attention to when and how the authors made reference to previously established (or relayed) information and events within the context of the second novel’s storyline.

It reaffirmed what I already knew:
1. There’s no secret formula with respect to when and how much previous information to provide in the sequel.
2. It’s handy for readers of previous works in the series to be reminded of past events.
3. Linking the previous storyline with the current one as well as weaving both into the overall direction of the events for novels to follow provides a consistent and enduring foundation for readers to comprehend and recall the who, what, where, when, how and whys of the created world, conflicts and characters. 

After careful study, I also came away with several techniques the authors used, including timing that allowed for smooth transitions from present to past and back while foreshadowing the future. Things like dialogue and POV character recollection, intertwined with character motivations (directly stated or implied), items and places, scenes and descriptions all played a role.

Then, after taking a few notes and including specific references, I integrated those techniques, merging them with my own storytelling method and writing style—working to get that balance just right.

If you do give either of my current novels in the First Civilization’s Legacy series a try (Flank Hawk and/or Blood Sword) I hope you’ll let me know if my effort was a success.

For more info check out Terry at his blog or his website.


  1. I hate the way Laurel K. Hamilton reminds everyone of details in each and every book. It's like she includes a mini-synopsis within the internal monologue of Anita Blake to catch readers up. I actually would prefer if she didn't do that, but I stopped reading her books anyway once I finished Obsidian Butterfly.

    I miss Roger Zelazny. What a great mind he had.

  2. Scott, thanks for the opportunity to be a guest at the Indie Book Blog!

    Michael, I understand what you mean. Hamilton was more heavy handed in her method than Brust and Zelazny, but often the placement of info was at the appropriate time. I read only the early books in her series as they increasingly became less about plot and action and more about sexual content. Some day if you read Flank Hawk and Blood Sword, let me know if I got it right.