What’s coming up in 2015?

War of Shadows comes out in April. It’s Book 3 in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga continuing the quest of Blaine McFadden and his convict friends to restore the kingdom of Donderath after the Great Fire and Cataclysm lay waste to their homeland. You’ll get a first look at the amazing cover right here.

Then in late June, Iron and Blood: A Jake Desmet Adventure debuts. This is the new steampunk series that my husband, Larry N. Martin, and I are co-writing, and it’s set in 1898 in an alternative history Pittsburgh. Airships, amazing gadgets, and supernatural threats—it’s going to be a wild ride. I’ve got the cover art for you to take a look at—it’s pretty awesome!

In November, the second Deadly Curiosities book will be on shelves. It doesn’t have name yet, but it’s already well on the way to being written. We’ll pick up with Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren as they keep dangerous magical items off the market and keep supernatural threats from destroying Charleston, SC.

And of course, the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures series of short stories will continue in 2015. For Jonmarc, “Season 2” finds him fighting as a mercenary in Principality, where he just might attract the attention of the Eastmark army. The Deadly Curiosities Adventures follow the exploits of Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren before and between the books.

Anthologies!! I was crazy and lucky enough to be featured in a lot of anthologies in 2014, and the trend continues for 2015! Dreams of Steel 5, a steampunk anthology from Dark Oak Press features one of our Sound and Fury short stories, a tie-in to the Iron and Blood series. Big Bad 2, also from Dark Oak Press, will have a horror story from Yours Truly unrelated to any of my series. The yet-unnamed space-themed Origins Gaming Convention anthology will also feature one of my stories. And I’m sure there will be more to come! (For a full list of the anthologies that are available for purchase, please check out the Anthologies link on my website.)

Some anthologies will straddle the dateline, being Kickstarter-funded in 2014 but squeaking in just before or just after the new year. That includes Heroes, an anthology from Silence in the Library which features not-your-average superheroes and story illustrations by comic book great Mark Dos Santos. Icarus: A Graphic Novel, also from Silence in the Library, features my add-on story in that universe illustrated by LucasArts/Marvel artist Joe Corroney. Expect to see these somewhere mid-winter!

Conventions and Notable Dates for the rest of 2014 and 2015! Here’s what I have confirmed so far:

  • 2014 World Fantasy Society, Washington, DC
  • 2014 Atomacon, Charleston, SC
  • 2014 Philcon, Cherry Hill, NJ
  • January   Arisia in Boston, MA
  • January   Illogicon in Raleigh, NC
  • February Mysticon in Roanoke, VA
  • March AZ Renaissance Festival in Apache Junction, AZ
  • April War of Shadows launches!
  • April Ravencon in Richmond, VA
  • May ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC
  • June Origins Gaming Convention in Columbus, OH
  • June Hawthorn Moon Online Event
  • June ConTemporal in High Point, NC
  • July Iron and Blood launches!
  • July ConGregate in Winston-Salem, NC
  • Nov Deadly Curiosities Book 2 launches! (I promise we’ll have a better name by then!)

I’ll update the list as I hear more about conventions for Fall, 2015. And of course, my Thrifty Author Publishing Success Meetup group continues to meet monthly in Charlotte—check out the Meetup.com site for details.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www. AscendantKingdoms.com

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from my short story, The Low Road, here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/9463190-the-low-road

Extra bonus excerpt from Michael Ventrella’s Arch Enemies here: http://michaelaventrella.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/archenemiessample.pdf

And even more excerpts and freebie wallpaper from Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Badass Faeries series here: http://www.badassfaeries.com/freebies.ht

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Days of the Dead 2015: More Covers, More Free Stuff, More Fun!

We are going to celebrate in style this year with excerpts, interviews, book giveaways, sneak peeks at new covers, and more!

Next year will be HUGE fun because I’ll have THREE new books out, plus dozens of short stories. War of Shadows (Ascendant Kingdoms #3), a second Deadly Curiosities novel, and Iron and Blood, the new steampunk series co-written with my husband, Larry N. Martin. Plus dozens of new short stories and new anthologies. Fun!

Here’s the deal—different blogs will post my guest articles on different days. Make the rounds, enter the contests, be entertained and grab some fun freebies!

What kind of freebies? I’ll have two different Goodreads giveaways, one for Reign of Ash and one for Deadly Curiosities. Sprinkled along with the guest blog posts are links to excerpts for all my books and short stories, plus DOZENS of links to books and short stories by author friends of mine. Enough to keep you reading for quite a while!

What are you waiting for? You can get in on all the Days of the Dead fun on a treasure hunt/Trick-or-Treat just by visiting these sites. And please, “like” my TheWinterKingdoms page on Facebook and follow me @GailZMartin on Twitter!

Here’s where to get the goodies:

  • AscendantKingdoms.com  — Check back here to find an updated list of links to new interviews and excerpts.
  • DisquietingVisions.com  — ‘Coming Up in 2015’ — all about the new books, new short stories, new conventions and new anthologies you can look forward to next year!
  • SolarisBooks.com  — a blog post on my favorite scary stories
  • Literate Liquors podcast—John Hartness talks about what to drink while ready my new Deadly Curiosities! http://literateliquors.libsyn.com/literate-liquors-ep-1
  • Free Deadly Curiosities computer wallpaper:
  • http://solarisbooks.com/downloads/deadly_curiosities_wallpaper_1920x1080.jpg http://solarisbooks.com/downloads/deadly_curiosities_wallpaper_1920x1200.jpg
  • OrbitBooks.net — What’s coming up with the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, both with War of Shadows and the fourth book, Shadow and Flame. And, a sneak peek at the cover for War of Shadows!
  • Goodreads.com  — A drawing for 8 free copies of Reign of Ash from 10/24 – 10/30, then a drawing for 8 free copies of Deadly Curiosities from 11/1 – 11/15, and an open Q&A session on my author page—ask me anything!
  • Special 50% off discount just for Days of the Dead on all Double-Dragon Publishing ebooks 10/24-10/31 use “GAILROX” code
  • Join my email list (https://www.facebook.com/WinterKingdoms/app_141428856257) or “like” my Winter Kingdoms Facebook page between 10/24 and 10/31 to be entered for a chance to win some of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures or Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories
  • MagicalWords.net  — A guest blog from me on Why I Write for Anthologies
  • BullSpec.com  — A blog post on The Hardest Part of Writing Multiple Series
  • RisingShadow.net  — I delve deep into Iron and Blood with some thoughts about a city that is tailor-made for steampunk.
  • SitWriteBleed — on Heroes Come in All Shapes and Sizes
  • SFSignal.com  — on What’s ahead for the Deadly Curiosities book series
  • GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com
  • Kelly Harmon’s blog http://KellyHashway.blogspot.com on What’s Next in the Jonmarc Vahanian Stories
  • Vonnie Winslow Crist’s blog http://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com on Voodoo and Hoodoo
  • Scribbling Lion on New Dangers Ahead for the Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories
  • Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s blog — on The Sound and Fury short stories—looking forward to Iron and Blood
  • Day Al-Mohamad’s blog – on Writing the Epic Series
  • Catherine Lundoff’s blog on Women in Steampunk
  • SFBokhandlen on Kickstarter Publishing and the New Publishing Paradigm
  • FantasyFaction.com  on Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Pro Writer
  • Speculative Scotsman on Short Fiction in the New Publishing Reality
  • Dave Brendon – What Characters Do Between Books
  • The Writer’s Lens — on Using Real People and Places in Fiction
  • Mass Movement Magazine — I’ll be talking about the Pittsburgh history that never was
  • The Qwillery — My anthology round-up and the story behind the stories
  • My Bookish Ways – on Keeping the Supernatural Real
  • Beauty in Ruins — on the indulging my dark side and what scares me
  • The Book Plank — on how I define necromancy and how it works in my series
  • Spec Hub — on how and why magic works in my series
  • New excerpts on Wattpad—Bad Blood, Collector and Bad Memories

The TREATS!

  • Snap up some never-before-seen excerpts from Iron and Blood, War of Shadows and my most recent Jonmarc Vahanian and Deadly Curiosities short stories, Collector, Bad Blood and Bad Memories.
  • 50% off Double-Dragon Publishing ebooks just for the Days of the Dead!
  • Silence in the Library Publishing excerpt links to stories from the Athena’s Daughters and Heroes anthologies (my stories plus other contributors).
  • Dark Oak Books chipped in links to stories in the Big Bad 2, Realms of Imagination and Dreams of Steel 5 anthologies (again, my stories plus others) and some of their recent releases.
  • Dark Quest Books also kicks in links to some stories from the With Great Power anthology and books by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Day Al-Mohammad and more!
  • Look for links from the Clockwork Universe anthology
  • Spence City Press added some more excerpt goodies
  • Links to excerpts from some of my author friends, including Jon Sprunk, John Hartness, Darin Kennedy, Stuart Jaffe, Tally Johnson, Michael Ventrella, L. Jagi Lamplighters, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Day Al-Mohamed, and lots more!
  • Free computer wallpaper with the Deadly Curiosities cover art
  • Two Goodreads giveaways!

With so much good stuff going on, it’s going to take a week just to get through it all! What are you waiting for? Dive in and help me celebrate the Days of the Dead!

 

 

 

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Q&A for My Bookish Ways with Gail Z. Martin

Q: Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a bit about Deadly Curiosities and what inspired the story?

A: With Deadly Curiosities, the inspiration came from several sources. I had visited Charleston several times, and left convinced that it would be a fantastic place for an urban fantasy. That was where things started. Then my dad passed away, and in the process of going through all his odd collections, I started to think about the hold that objects have on our imagination and our memory, and that just went in a haunted direction….

I happen to own a beautiful pair of opera glasses… just like the ones in the book….

Q: What did you like most about writing the character of Cassidy Kincaide, and why do you think readers will root for her?

A: I’ve had a lot of strong, interesting women characters in my epic fantasy books, but Cassidy is my first female main character. The story is also set in the modern era, so it’s a very interesting departure from what I’ve done before.

Cassidy has an unusual psychic gift—psychometry, the ability to read the history of objects by touching them. The gift runs in her family, and it turns out, so does the mission of running Trifles and Folly to get dangerous magical items off the market. She’s still learning about her gift, testing what she can do. Cassidy is relatively new to running Trifles and Folly, an antique store in Charleston which she inherited from an uncle, and along with it, an obligation to the Alliance. The Alliance is a secret organization of mortals and immortals who work to keep magically malicious objects out of the wrong hands. It’s a lot to take in, and she’s still getting used to it all.

I think readers will like Cassidy because she’s the kind of person who gets through her fears to do the right thing. She’s fun and she has a great sense of humor, and she’s also got this really spooky psychic gift that she’s learning how to use. She’s a lot of fun as a character.

Incidentally, if you like Cassidy and you want to see more about her before the next book comes out in 2015, please take a look at my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—Buttons, Coffin Box and Wicked Dreams feature Cassidy, as does the free novella on Wattpad, The Final Death. You’ll meet some very interesting people in Cassidy’s neighborhood!

Q: You’ve definitely got to tell us more about Sorren…

A: Sorren is a nearly 600 year-old vampire, and he has been part of the Alliance since his maker was destroyed. Before he was turned, he was the best jewel thief in Belgium, until an unlucky night left him running from the guards and hiding in the cellars of an old building, where a stranger made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Sorren is a pretty interesting character. I write short stories in the Deadly Curiosities universe for ebook direct to Kindle, Kobo and Nook, and several of the stories are from Sorren’s point of view: Vanities, Wild Hunt and Dark Legacy, so far. You can also see more about Sorren in the short stories from the 1700s, Steer a Pale Course, Among the Shoals Forever, and The Low Road.

Q: Deadly Curiosities features a 500 year old vampire and an antique curio store, and much more! What kind of research did you do for the book?

A: I did a lot of research on Charleston itself, usually when I needed to find something specific, or fact-check the date of a hurricane, or some other obscure point. And since I weave in both Voudon and Hoodoo, there’s a lot of research there to represent these belief systems respectfully and accurately, while still having the details needed for the fiction. But I was a history major, so research is cool.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: My brain doesn’t kick in for actual creative work until around 2 p.m., so I use the mornings for working out, running errands, doing phone calls and email and social media. Then I write from 2 until 8 or so. I stare at the screen until something comes together. When I need a break, I jump out to Facebook or Twitter or a news site, and come back again. Lots of coffee.

Q: You’ve undoubtedly influenced many writers with your work, but what authors or books have influenced you the most?

A: Too many to list! David Drake mentored and encouraged me, for which I am very grateful. I was certainly influenced by Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series, as well as Chaim Potok’s “My Name is Asher Lev.” And of course, all those Twilight Zone and Night Gallery TV shows I watched, along with Dark Shadows, and all the books of ghost stories!

Q: If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?

A: All the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/Trixie Belden/Meg/Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators books I read when I was what we now call “middle grades.” I will always remember those fondly. They sparked my love of adventure and mystery.

Q: What do you like to see in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?

A: I like to read about characters that are likeable, not reprehensible. I have limited free time. I don’t want to spend it with fictional jerks. I will put a book down if everything is amoral and there are no good guys. The good guys can be scarred and compromised and flawed and have PTSD out the wazoo, but in the end of the day, I’m looking for someone who has honor.

Q: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

A: With three active book series, a monthly short stories and nine anthologies in 2014, there isn’t much free time, but I like to spend it with my three kids and my husband and our two dogs. I love to travel, and I love to read stuff I didn’t write!

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Reign of Ash: Who Are You When the World Ends?

By Gail Z. Martin

In Ice Forged and my new Reign of Ash, society has collapsed after a devastating war not only destroyed the ruling class and the infrastructure, but also the magic upon which the civilization relied. Along with such overwhelming loss also comes the destruction of something less tangible—all the markers by which individuals determine who they are and where they stand.

Social identity in most societies is determined by a number of markers: who one’s parents are, one’s gender and geographic location, as well as social roles, feudal obligations, nationality, religious/ethnic affiliation, profession, and for fantasy, other categories, such as the ability to do magic.

The Cataclysm that happens in Ice Forged and carries forward into Reign of Ash destroys the old order. There is no authority, no one to dole out punishment or reward. In this void, survivors must decide whether to try to recreate the old order, or remake society into something completely different. Between the war dead and those who died in the Great Fire when magic was destroyed, even the hierarchies in towns and hamlets have been uprooted. People who based identity on their role in a family or a town are left adrift.

In the case of my Ascendant Kingdoms, the king and most of the nobility have been destroyed, and inadvertently, magic along with them. Only two of the former Lords of the Blood, the nobles to whose bloodlines magic was tethered, still exist: one is an unrepentant, convicted murderer and the other is a wraith. From this, Blaine McFadden and his convict friends begin to create a network of alliances that may help them restore order and bring back magic.

What Blaine discovers is that while some seek to restore the old ways at any cost, others see opportunity in the chaos. Social class, feudal obligations, the status quo and the basis of power are all up for grabs. In this vortex, some seek to right old wrongs. Others avenge old grudges.

We forget that freedom is frightening. When all the social structures which help us regulate behaviour and which protect the majority from predators are stripped away, might makes right and most will perish in an every-man-for-himself atmosphere. The tension between community and individual, between personal and corporate identity is always at the heart of social issues, but never so much as when all of society’s structure has been stripped away.

And yet, the void begs for invention and reinvention. During the 1400s, the Black Plague killed so many people, it forced the survivors to renegotiate the bond between landowner and hireling, to revise age-old ways of utilizing land, water and other resources. In general, such an upheaval favors newcomers over the established powers. Everything is up for grabs.

As the society wrestles with big-picture chaos, don’t underestimate the personal turmoil of re-thinking gender and social roles, marriage eligibility and preferences, barter and trade rates, and personal power at every level of society.

Only in such a void could a disgraced lord return from exile to save a kingdom, raise an army, and draw together the living and undead in a bid to restore magic—or die trying.

 

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What Makes Urban Fantasy?

by Gail Z. Martin

If you want to get down to bare bones, what defines “urban fantasy” is the setting. By definition, it’s….urban. Often set in a big city, sometimes in a small town, the story also takes place here and now, as opposed to a long time ago and far away. But beyond that, how binding are the tropes? What leeway do authors have to stretch the boundaries of the subgenre? And are tattoos required?

Spend some time in the urban fantasy aisles in a bookstore, or search online, and the tropes will appear. For example, few urban fantasy protagonists in cover art face the reader straight-on. You’re more likely to see an over-the-shoulder look for females (or a body with no head at all) and a heroic profile for males. The women seem to have a penchant for leather pants and “tramp stamp” tattoos and like to hold swords or knives. The men tend to look mysterious, while having something that portends a supernatural element. We laugh at the repetition, but publishers understand the visual shorthand that signals to readers that a book is like others the reader has read and enjoyed. Branding counts, but it’s not iron clad.

With Deadly Curiosities, I requested a well-known cover artist, Chris McGrath, because I admired his work with the Harry Dresden series. Chris does a great job of capturing the urban fantasy feel in both style and composition. I did, however, have some important requests. First, because the book has an ensemble cast, I wanted to see all three of the major characters on the cover. Second, since the novel is set in Charleston, SC and the setting is an essential part of the plot, I wanted to evoke a strong Charleston feel. And third, I wanted Cassidy, my point-of-view character, in street clothes, not leather or lingerie.

Which brings up an important issue. How important is romance in urban fantasy? I’ve read some series, like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter books, where romance is a primary component. And I’ve read other series, like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books and Simon R. Green’s Secret Histories novels, where romance is present but not the driving force of the story. Anita Blake is in a category all her own.

I’ve heard it said that urban fantasy either takes its roots from romance or horror, and maybe that’s true. Romance really isn’t a focus in the first Deadly Curiosities novel. That’s not to say there may not be important relationships that develop as the series goes forward, but as with my epic fantasy novels, the adventure and action are the dominant elements. I do believe that well-rounded characters have relationships of all different kinds–friends, family, neighbors and lovers. Weaving those secondary characters into a series grounds it in a sense of reality and gives the reader insight into the main characters through the quality of his or her interactions.

I was on a panel at a convention with Laura Anne Gilman and Rachael Caine where we were hashing out what the “urban” element brought to urban fantasy. It was a fascinating discussion, because at the heart of it lay our fears and beliefs about cities and places where large numbers of people live in very close proximity. A lot of urban fantasy requiures the anonymity of a large city and its wide diversity in order for the plot to function. (The Sookie Stackhouse books, with their small town setting, is an interesting exception.) That facelessness makes it possible for strangers to pass unnoticed, and for our heroes to move around without attracting too much attention. And it taps into our fears about people we don’t know, and the psychological distance we create even in crowded conditions.

Cities make great fantasy settings for a variety of reasons. They have a lot of history, and the opportunity for plotlines that comes from having a very large number of people passing through them. Cities also have infrastructure, new and forgotten. Big public buildings, subway tunnels, maintenance passages, sealed-over cellars and storm drains–all present scary but intriguing places to explore, areas our subconscious just knows are teeming with things that want to eat us.

Big cities also have big crimes, and the population density means that every city has a lot of dead people. There’s also a transience to cities that makes them appealing settings, since so many people pass through them preoccupied with their own hopes and fears. We’re very aware of the darker side of cities: the muggings, the disappearances, the runaways and vagrants. Most of us know what it’s like to walk down a dark street glancing over our shoulders, or be the last car in a shadowed parking lot. It’s not hard to imagine dangerous creatures waiting for prey down every narrow alley.

It’s easier to hide secrets in big cities. I grew up in a small town, and if I ever did anything wrong, six people had called my parents to tell them about it before I ever made it home. (That kind of thing does wonders to keep you on the straight and narrow.) For better or worse, everyone eventually knew everyone else’s business. The good side of that resulted in neighborly help and plenty of casserole dinners when someone got sick or injured, or had a baby. The bad side was an undertow of gossip and the pressure to conform. But in a big city, there’s anonymity. It’s so much easier to be a faceless part of the crowd, to pass unnoticed, to die alone. Stories are born from that.

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Q&A on Urban Fantasy (Previously appeared on SFFWorld)

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Deadly Curiosities and what your fans can expect?

A: Deadly Curiosities takes place in historic, haunted Charleston. Welcome to Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 – acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market.

When a trip to a haunted hotel unearths a statue steeped in malevolent power, and a string of murders draws a trail to an abandoned section of the old Navy yard, Cassidy and Sorren discover a diabolical plot to unleash a supernatural onslaught on their city.

It’s time for Kincaide and her team to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

The novel will be out June 24 in bookstores everywhere and online. I also have a free novella, The Final Death, set in the Deadly Curiosities world that’s available free on Wattpad here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/15334006-the-final-death. And I write short stories in the Deadly Curiosities universe (including several time periods in the past) available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook, with more to come.

Q: Can you give us some insight into your main character, Cassidy?

A: Cassidy is still relatively new running Trifles and Folly. She had moved away from Charleston and then moved home when she inherited the store from an uncle she barely knew. Along with the store comes the need to develop her gift as a psychometric, someone who can read objects by touch. She also inherited the store’s silent partner, Sorren, who is a nearly six hundred year-old vampire and part of the Alliance, a secret group of mortals and immortals who work together to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. So Cassidy has a lot on her plate!

I like beginning the series early in Cassidy’s work with the store so that readers can be part of her growth in her psychic abilities. She’s smart and she has a lot of courage, but she’s getting her training on the fly. It’s going to be fun watching as she moves into a role that someone in her family has held for over 350 years.

Q: Have you done a lot of research into the occult and Charleston’s history?

A: I’ve needed to do research into the occult for all of my books, and each series takes me in a different direction. For the Deadly Curiosities books and stories, I’m not only looking at ghost stories, I’m also looking into Voodoo and Hoodoo.

And of course, having a series set in a real city means a different kind of research than I did for my epic fantasy novels set in completely fictitious worlds of my own creation. Real people live in Charleston, and if I get the details wrong, they’ll let me know about it! On the other hand, I can take some creative license and add some things or change some things, so long as I give the heads up that it’s intentional!

Q: Have you ever struggled between what you would like to happen to a character and what you considered more sensible to occur? Can you tell us when and what did you do at last?

A: I don’t think I’ve ever really had to change a character’s complete fate, but I have had to contemplate just how they end up where they’re going, and what that final conclusion looks like. I can’t be more specific without giving spoilers, but there was one character in particular (in another series) who was going to be trouble, but where that took him was something I had to consider for a while. I think the ultimate conclusion made sense for that character and the story.

Working with characters in a series, you have to be willing to live with the consequences of whatever they do or whatever you do to them. So it does make you stop and think!

Q: Your writing spans many subgenres of the supernatural so to speak, which one do you enjoy the most to write?

A: I enjoy all of them, which is why I lobbied so hard to be able to write in more than one niche! What does remain consistent is the supernatural. It’s very different writing about magic and the supernatural in a medieval, epic fantasy setting compared to a modern urban setting compared to a Victorian steampunk setting. That’s part of the fun for a writer! It’s exciting and satisfying to be able to jump time periods and settings—keeps me from getting in a rut!

Q: What sort of challenges, as a writer, might you have faced before your first book was published? Any insights you would be able to share for those aspiring writers seeking advice?

A: Writing the first book took forever, and life got in the way a lot. It takes a while to learn the craft, and to get a book to the point where it really is ready to be published. It gets discouraging. You think you’ll never get there. You get rejection letters, and it really hurts. That’s why it’s so important to have a couple of trusted friends or family member who believe in you to encourage you. The big thing is, never give up. Keep writing, and eventually, you’ll break through.

Q: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

A: Covers are very important, even in today’s online bookseller age. People do judge a book by its cover, so you want the very best cover you can get. Readers also look for clues in a cover as to genre and type of book, to help them find books they’ll enjoy. That’s why different genres have the “cliché” art styles—it’s a shorthand message to readers to say “if you liked that book, you’ll like this book”. Until you get so famous that all they put on the cover is your name and the name of the book, your cover art is a major element in selling your book.

Q: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

A: Good reviews are wonderful! Too often, people who really like books don’t take the time to say so. If you want to help your favorite authors, post reviews on Amazon and other online bookseller sites, post them on Goodreads, post them on your blog. Good reviews, especially soon after a new book comes out, helps to encourage sales.

Bad reviews aren’t fun. No book is right for everyone. Even the biggest best-selling authors don’t make everyone happy.

There are a couple of different types of bad reviews. Some are trolls—grouchy people who enjoy saying nasty things to get a response. You’ll never be able to make them happy because they are looking for a fight, so you’ve got to ignore them, and report them if they’re abusive. Then there are the folks who are mad because you didn’t write the book the way they wanted it to go. They aren’t judging the book you wrote, they’re judging you against what they think they would have written if they were you. Again, hard to ever please these folks. Best advice would be for them to go write their own books! Then there are the people who confuse “I didn’t like this” with “It’s not good.” Here’s my sushi analogy: I’m personally not a big sushi fan, so even if a world-class chef prepared it, I probably wouldn’t be impressed. That’s my personal preference, not the fault of the chef. That sushi would probably be very, very good, but I still wouldn’t like it. Important distinction. And finally there are the people who may have valid feedback about something that was inaccurate, maybe taking exception to your unquestioned assumptions. They are worth listening to, even if you ultimately decide not to change anything, because they have a valid point.

Q: How do you define success as an author?

A: Having enough people who enjoy reading my books that I keep getting asked back to write more books!

Q: What is the hardest thing about writing?

A: Editing. After about the 20th time you read a manuscript, it’s really hard to focus!

Q: How do you market your book?

A: I try to be accessible. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad putting up content that I hope is fun and interesting. I want to engage with readers, editors, reviewers and other writers. I attend a lot of conventions as a professional and am on panels to discuss genre-related topics and meet readers. And I do book signings and blog tours to reach out to people who like my kind of book and hope that they’ll hear about me and give me a try.

Q: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

A: I’ve never been into hardcovers if I’m going to actually read them and not just put them on the shelf for display. Ebooks are very nice for traveling, especially on planes where there’s a weight/bag limit. And ebooks are nice when you’ve run out of bookshelves and can’t bear to part with any of the books you have! I can enjoy reading ebooks, but I also still enjoy a good paperback, especially at the beach—I don’t want to get sand on my e-reader!

Q: What kind of books do you read, any favorite authors?

A: I read epic and urban fantasy, steampunk, mystery, and non-fiction. I have so many favorite authors it’s hard to list them all! Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, but I follow at least 30 or so series that I’m caught up on, so I’m always watching for the new one to come out! If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll see nearly all of the books I’ve read in the last couple of years (except for some ebooks and non-fiction, and old books that don’t scan in easily).

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing, any hobbies?

A: Well, I have a husband and three teen/adult kids plus two dogs, so there are chores! I like to travel, and my husband and I have also been doing a lot more cooking at home, trying to do restaurant-quality meals without needing to go out. That’s fun. I like to read, play with the dogs, go to movies. I also go to the gym, do yoga and just took up kickboxing. Nothing really exciting or unusual!

Q: What’s next, what are you working on now?

A: I’ll be co-authoring a new steampunk novel with my husband for Solaris Books, Iron and Blood. It comes out in 2015, so we’re working on that. I’m also working on the fourth book in the Ascendant Kingdoms/Blaine McFadden series, also for 2015, and the next Deadly Curiosities book. And we bring out a new short story every month on ebook in either the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures of the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Plus I’ve committed to about eight different anthologies! Always lots to do!

 

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Speed bumps on the Way to Committing Fiction

by Gail Z Martin

I wouldn’t have said that last year was an ideal time to write one book, let alone two. My dad died, and although he was ninety years old, there’s never a good way to say good-bye. I also discovered how incredibly complicated it is to be the designated person to take care of things when someone dies. I remembered a quote I read once (I think it was from one of Erich Maria Remarque’s books), something along the lines of: “It’s easy to die, but not to be dead.” I beg to differ. The person who has passed on doesn’t have to fill out paperwork.

So a good part of last year was tied up in appraisals, auctions, research for dad’s odd collections, paperwork and lawyers. It was sad but necessary, and while it led to a number of ideas that have been incorporated into some of my upcoming books and short stories, it also made finding time to write quite a challenge.

The of course, there’s promotion. It has to be done, and has to be consistent, but it never sleeps. Then again, neither did I, since the one way to stretch the day and get more done involved staying up into the wee hours. I’m a night person, but my best creative time is probably noon – 8 p.m., perhaps until after 11 p.m. for short sprints, but it all worked out in the end.

And there’s research. Research gets me back on track when I’m hitting a wall, and the need for fact-checking is always present. Then sometimes I go looking for something specific and can’t find it, or I am not sure what I’m looking for but I figure I’ll know it when I see it, and the next thing I know, an hour or more has gone down the rabbit hole.

I’ve also grown to appreciate the value of a really thorough outline. I have apparently somewhat perfected the art of writing an outline that my publisher loves but which when I sit down to write the book from said outline, it suddenly seems lacking in specifics. I have learned how to fix that problem, and along the way, developed my own way of critical-path flowcharting the action to know who is doing what to whom.

Did I mention my dogs? I swear they know exactly when I’ve caught sight of an idea and the creativity has begun to flow, because that’s exactly the moment they decide they need to go out. On the other hand, they’ve gotten very skilled at sleeping on my feet, which was cozy in the winter.

And then there are the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life that doesn’t care whether you’ve got a book on deadline–dentist appointments, phone calls, school lunches to pack, and that sort of thing. These things don’t seem like challenges until you’ve got your word count figured out day by day, and then they loom large when it comes to chewing up the time on your calendar.

But in the end, both Deadly Curiosities and the sequel to Reign of Ash, War of Shadows, got written, edited and final-submitted. And I’m still here to tell the tale. Now it’s time to start working out the daily word count for the next round of novels!

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When it All Goes Up In Flames

by Gail Z. Martin

Ice Forged, the first book in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, doesn’t end with a cliffhanger. But the task at the heart of the book remains incomplete because the information required to do it successfully is incomplete and because the world has changed in unexpected ways. It’s very much a medieval post-apocalyptic story.

When you look at real history, apocalyptic devastation wasn’t unfamiliar to medieval people. In the real world, many people never traveled more than twenty miles beyond their village or were bound to the land. If that’s the case, then what affects that twenty-mile radius essentially affects your entire world, and during the Middle Ages, that often included plague, flood, draught, war, and invasion–quite apocalyptic, if you’re the one living through it!

In Reign of Ash, the kingdom Blaine has returned to has fallen apart. There is no central or local government, no rule of law, and no nobility or monarchy left. Magic storms beget monsters and alter the landscape, change the climate and cause a virulent form of madness. Bandits, gangs and warlords have arisen in the void left when the monarchy collapsed. The kingdom’s infrastructure is in ruins. Buildings, walls, roads, seawalls, aqueducts, trade routes, farms, granaries, vineyards, homes–all destroyed by the Great Fire and the magic storms.

And with that destruction commerce comes to a halt as no one can produce the goods or has need of the services that were common before the Cataclysm. Without the ability to provide for themselves, with their homes and farms in ruins, refugees set out across the countryside, looking for a way to provide for themselves, leading to mass dislocation.

Knowledge was also destroyed, hidden or lost as the Great Fire hit the noble houses, the universities and the mage libraries. And that knowledge becomes even more precious since with magic gone, there are gaps in what people remember about how to do even simple tasks without a flicker of magic to help them along.

It takes time to piece something together that hasn’t been done in 400 years, which is what Blaine and his friends are trying to do when it comes to restoring the magic. And when you realize that there are factions with conflicting interests and powerful people who stand to benefit from chaos, it becomes clear that such issues won’t be easily solved.

Welcome to the apocalypse.

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Bridging Old and New

By Gail Z. Martin

(Previously appeared on When Gravity Fails)

Why write an urban fantasy series after three successful epic fantasy series? Because it’s fun.

(P.S. That’s the same reason I’ll be writing a steampunk series for 2015, too.)

Truth is, a lot of the same interests run between my epic and urban fantasy. Scratch the surface, and find a history major and museum geek.

Plunk me down in a major city with time to kill, and I’ll find the museums. (Heck, I’ll find them in a minor city if you give me time.) And yes, I read the plaques underneath the objects, even when I’ve got the audio tour. I love discovering cool old stuff, weird objects, creepy funeral customs, and pretty things from the past.

In Deadly Curiosities, my main character Cassidy can read the history and strong memories/magic imprinted on an object. I don’t claim that ability, but I do have a wild imagination, and more often than not, I can close my eyes and feel the past around me. (Note: I avoid doing that when touring places like the Tower of London.)

While Deadly Curiosities happens in modern-day Charleston, SC, it’s a storyline steeped in the past. “Buttons” was the short story I wrote for Solaris’s award-winning Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane anthology (and reprinted this year in the British Fantasy Society’s Unexpected Journeys anthology). It was a contemporary story with the characters you’ll meet in the novel. But before that, I had written short stories in the Deadly Curiosities world spanning the 1500’s and 1700’s for other anthologies.

Sorren, my nearly six hundred year-old vampire, is the thread of continuity through all the stories. In “Vanities” (originally published in the British Fantasy Society’s The Bitten Word), we see Sorren’s first job for the Alliance, battling a demon in Antwerp in 1565. I’ve written two other stand-alone short stories that follow up on “Vanities”: “Wild Hunt” and “Dark Legacy”, that show more of Sorren’s origins, tell the story of his maker, Alard, and hint at the creation of the Alliance.

The very first story about Trifles and Folly, the antique shop in Deadly Curiosities, appeared in the Rum and Runestones anthology and was set in the 1770’s, just before the American Revolution. The anthology prompt required pirates and magic, which is what “Steer a Pale Course” delivers. That story was popular enough to get me invited back to the Spells and Swashbucklers anthology, with “The Low Road.” Then Marie O’Regan tapped me for The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, and “Among the Shoals Forever” was born.

Sorren’s past is Old World—Europe and old gods and ancient monsters. His maker battled Viking warriors and gained the help of a Norse Seior. A hundred years later, Sorren travels to Charleston to set up Trifles and Folly in 1663, forging a long-standing arrangement with one of Cassidy’s ancestors.

I know that Europe has phone booths older than anything we’ve got here in the States, but Charleston is one of our oldest cities. Unlike New Orleans, Charleston hasn’t been heavily used for urban fantasy, which made it a fresh location with much of the same charm and danger. Charleston, like New Orleans, has a very prominent European connection, and when you walk its cobblestone streets, you can feel in your bones the truth of Faulkner’s quote: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

 

As in New Orleans, the younger sons of European gentry came to Charleston to make their way. Men with service to the crown received land grants and set up sprawling plantations. Fortunes were won and lost. And while Charleston is known as the “Holy City” for its hundreds of churches, beneath that piety ran rivers of blood in brothels, duels and slavery.

 

Look beyond the beautiful mansions and gardens heavy with bougainvillea, Spanish moss and gardenia, and you’ll find the tragedy of the slave trade. Charleston was part of the “Triangle Trade” with the Caribbean—molasses, rum and slaves. By some accounts, the majority of slaves in the U.S. came through Charleston Harbor. Those slaves brought their beliefs with them, religions that melded and changed to create the Voodoo of New Orleans and the Hoodoo of the Lowcountry. Charleston’s past rests uneasily, not far below the surface.

 

While New Orleans has always embraced its wild side, Charleston opted for repressed propriety. But like a convention of accountants in Las Vegas, even the proper folks have to let loose sometime, and Charleston’s back alleys were the place for indulgence. Duels were fought. Pirates were by turn welcomed and shunned in Charleston depending on the benefit to the city’s fathers. Blackbeard himself blockaded the city in 1718. The city’s history is full bad boys and wild girls.

 

I’m very excited about Deadly Curiosities and the chance to spin tales about haunted objects, dark magical items and cursed heirlooms. And I’m thrilled to be working on the second book in the Deadly Curiosities series for 2015 with even more thrills and chills.

 

If you want more of Cassidy, Sorren and Teag right away, check out my free novella on Wattpad.com: “The Final Death.” “Coffin Box” and “Wicked Dreams” also continue the adventures of Cassidy and her team, and you can find them with my other ebook short stories on Kindle, Kobo and Nook.

 

Cassidy and crew will be turning up in a couple more anthologies this year. “Retribution,” an all-new Deadly Curiosities adventure, is featured in the Athena’s Daughters anthology by Silence in the Library Publishing. “The Restless Dead” will be in the Realms of Imagination anthology from Dark Oak Books.

 

So the next time you pick up that family heirloom, pay attention if your fingers tingle or you catch a glimpse of something that isn’t there. Cassidy can tell you, the past may be gone, but it doesn’t stay buried.

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Going from Short to Long

By Gail Z. Martin

(Previously appeared on Qwillery)

Deadly Curiosities began as a short story. Now it’s a novel, soon to be a series. And I’ve been asked…is it hard to go from short to long?

I’d have to say, “No—at least, not when there are so many stories begging to be told.”

The first Deadly Curiosities story, “Steer a Pale Course” was set in the 1700s and I wrote it for the Rum and Runestones anthology. The prompt was pirate and magic, and it’s the first story in which the shop Trifles and Folly shows up, along with a younger Sorren who is working with a mortal partner who is the many-times great-relative of Cassidy Kincaide in the novel. Two more stories, “Among the Shoals Forever” for the Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, and “The Low Road” for the Spells and Swashbucklers anthology, followed in that time period (so far.)

I wrote “Vanities” for the British Fantasy Society’s The Bitten Word anthology, which goes back to Sorren’s first work with the Alliance, when he was a newly turned vampire, back in 1565 Antwerp. “Wild Hunt” and “Dark Legacy” were written as stand-alone short stories in that time period (with more to come).

“Buttons” was the first Deadly Curiosities story that I wrote in modern-day Charleston, for Solaris Books’ award-winning Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology. They liked the story well enough to ask me to do the novel, and then a series. Since then, I’ve written two more modern-day Cassidy stories for anthologies: “Retribution” for Athena’s Daughters from Silence in the Library Publishing, and “The Restless Dead” for Realms of Imagination from Dark Oak Press, both of which come out later this year. There’s a free novella, “The Final Death” on Wattpad.com, and two stand-alone short stories, “Coffin Box” and “Wicked Dreams”. (All the short stories except the two upcoming anthologies are available individually on Kindle/Kobo/Nook in ebook.)

So by the time I wrote Deadly Curiosities, the novel, I had already written close to 300 pages in that world, albeit in a couple of different time periods. Sorren, who is nearly 600 years old in Deadly Curiosities, is the common thread that binds the stories and times together. One reviewer mentioned that Deadly Curiosities didn’t read like a first book. In a very real way, it isn’t, exactly, because I’ve been inhabiting that mental space for several years now.

Of course, there are differences in how an author handles plot, character, pacing and all that good stuff between a 30 page short story and a 400 page book. But for me, that’s mostly a matter of scale.

I have so much fun walking through a museum or an historic home or an antique show and finding new objects that could be haunted or cursed for a new short story or in the next book. (OK, my idea of a fun day out is a little warped, but I’m a writer. Everything goes into the mental black box, goes around and around, and comes out through the fingertips.) In that sense, there are an unlimited number of stories to be told, because there are so many really cool items that would be perfect for causing mayhem.

Some tales can be told in just 30 or 40 pages. Others are complex enough that they require 400. When I write a novel, I’m able to bring in more elements, more characters, and have a more complicated path to the resolution. In a short story, the problem has to be limited enough in scope, and the solution direct enough that we can get to an ending fairly quickly. It’s fun to juggle writing both forms—keeps me on my toes!

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