Q&A with Jean Marie Ward

JMWard-WRW150What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

My next release will be “The Clockwork Nightingale” in the Steampunk fairy tale anthology Gaslight and Grimm, coming from eSpec Books in May 2016. It’s currently available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookseller. Starting at Balticon, which will be held in Baltimore over the Memorial Day weekend, you’ll also be able to buy it directly from eSpec Books at selected SF/fantasy cons.

How did you choose to become a writer?

It happened so early, I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. Part of it was my parents’ love of reading and the scope of things they read me at bedtime—everything from army regulations to Greek mythology to Shakespeare. Part of it was certainly my dad’s unrealized literary ambitions. He was a born storyteller, but he never got the chance to write professionally. In any event, I started inventing my own fairy tales before I hit kindergarten. I wrote a play about the theft of Thor’s hammer in fourth grade. Then I discovered Brenda Starr in the newspaper and Lois Lane in the comics, and my fate was sealed.

What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story?

Seeing all the parts of a shiny new story come to life in my head.

What do you like the least?

Trying to get all that shiny on the page. Somehow, it never reads the same as they did in my head. In addition, as I’m slogging my way toward “The End”, I always reach a point where I’m sure my current effort is the worst story ever written. It’s so bad, somebody’s going to sneak into my house in the middle of the night and take away my writer card. And maybe my cat.

They haven’t succeeded yet, but I suspect it’s only because the cat hides from strangers.

What inspired your new book or story?

Equal parts desire and desperation. I knew I wanted to write a story for Gaslight and Grimm from the moment I heard about it. Unfortunately, my first choice for a story had already been taken…and my second…and my third. Then co-editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail said she was open to classic fairy tales from other sources, at which point my wayward brain proposed setting Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale” in a frontier saloon, complete with bare-knuckle bullies, love-struck engineers and a singer with a diamond heart. Somewhere along the way a little Casablanca crept in there, too. I’m still not sure how that happened.

How do you research your stories?

Like a sponge—no kidding! Once I have a vague idea of the story I want to write, I’ll grab everything that looks fun or useful from the internet, my local library, TV, radio, the movies, my bookshelves and local color. I take notes and photos, assemble electronic and hard copy files. I’ll even draw maps. Then I’ll start writing, discover I’ve missed something, and back to the books and Internet I’ll go. I won’t say research is the best part of writing, but sometimes it comes close.

Where can readers find you on social media?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Marie-Ward-96509506908/
Twitter: @Jean_Marie_Ward
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/901360.Jean_Marie_Ward

Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr) and art books. Her stories appear in numerous anthologies, such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, and Tales from the Vatican Vaults. The former editor of Crescent Blues, she co-edited the six-volume, 40th anniversary World Fantasy Con anthology Unconventional Fantasy and is a frequent contributor to BuzzyMag.com. Her website is JeanMarieWard.com.

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Making a Connection to Fairy Tales via Steampunk

Steampunk-Dave-2-150by David Lee Summers

Grimm’s Fairy Tales were among the first stories I remember hearing.  My grandmother read me such stories as “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.”  Among the first movies I saw were Disney’s Snow White and Cinderella.  Of course, I can’t forget The Bullwinkle Show whose “Fractured Fairy Tale” segments featured delightfully twisted versions of “The Fisherman and his Wife” and “Rapunzel.”  The problem is, timeless as these tales were, I always felt separated from them by the gulf of time and space.  I grew up in a land with no kings or princesses, much less enchanted fish or cobbler elves.

Fairy tales have a long history. When first told, the people hearing them could relate to the pastoral settings.  Relatives might know characters like those in the stories.  “A long time ago, in a land far away” is a phrase invented to connect those of us who don’t have those experiences back to that distant time.  However, the original audience of fairy tales didn’t need that link.  For all they knew, the time was only a generation or two ago and the land of the story could be just over the hill.  The stories were meant to be relevant to the audience.

My paternal grandfather was a World War I veteran. I inherited the pith helmet he wore in the service.  After the war, he went to work for the railroad during the last years of the steam era.  My maternal grandparents homesteaded in Northeastern New Mexico. They worked on ranches and in a general store, living in the real Wild West.  I spent time on that land as a kid and I’ve ridden on trains pulled by steam engines through the mountains of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  The steam era is not my era, but I feel personally connected to it.

Steampunk is a genre that looks at the not-so-distant past through a magical lens.  Some authors invoke literal magic while others imagine technology taken to such an extreme it becomes magical in its own right.  Either way, it’s easy for me to imagine those steampunk worlds as ones that existed just over the hill from the places my grandparents experienced and shared with me through their stories.  My Clockwork Legion steampunk series which begins in the novel Owl Dance and continues in Lightning Wolves is set in a west inspired by the west my grandparents homesteaded.

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150When Danielle Ackley-McPhail asked me to pitch a story for the collection Gaslight and Grimm, one of the stories I suggested was a steampunked retelling of the Grimm Fairy Tale, “The Dragon and his Grandmother.”  It was the story of soldiers escaping a terrible war through the aid of a duplicitous dragon. I easily imagined soldiers in pith helmets like my grandfather used to wear.  A huge dragon belching smoke and fire, reminded me of a powerful locomotive and I had a flash of a mechanical monster that could have been.

Steampunking a fairy tale might not bring it completely up to date, but it brings it up to my grandparents’ generation.  I can imagine the stories in Gaslight and Grimm taking place in a world parallel to the one they inhabited.  As a result, those stories give me another connection to my grandmother and allow me to smile again as I remember her telling me those stories.  I honor her memory by continuing the tradition and telling you stories.  I hope you’ll drop by my website at davidleesummers.com and learn more about the stories I tell.


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New Cool Stuff!

It must be spring, because I’m heading to The Steampunk World’s Fair, followed by Balticon, and then ConCarolinas—you can see the summer schedule at the end. It’s nice to get back on the road and back with the tribe—and I’m hoping you’ll come say hi if you’re heading to one of summer cons.

GZM_Shadow_and_Flame_205x330Shadow and Flame, the fourth and final Ascendant Kingdoms (Blaine McFadden) novel, is out in paperback, ebook and audiobook. Bookwraiths says, ‘a wild ride … never a dull moment!’  Watch book video here  and buy it now!  Shadow and Flame on Audible for the audiobook lovers!

Now about that six year gap in Ice Forged, when Blaine gets sent to Velant Prison … You already know that I cover those years in three Kings Convicts Draft 1novellas: Arctic Prison, Cold Fury and Ice Bound. Now you can get all three novellas in one collection for a special price in King’s Convicts.

Do you like a little Steampunk with your fairy tales? Gaslight and Grimm Journey with us through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam. With tales by James Chambers, Christine Norris, Bernie Mojzes, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Jeff Young, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, and Jody Lynn Nye. Our story is a Billy Goats Gruff riff, “The Patented Troll.”

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150The May survey wants to know the ways you like best when it comes to interacting with authors at conventions! Take the survey and enter for a chance to win a sampler platter of 4 ebook short stories, one from each of our series!

Have you pre-ordered The Shadowed Path? Eyes and Books reviews calls it ‘crammed full of nonstop action, great characters and fast-paced writing! See the review here  and pre-order here.

And I’ve been on a few blogs lately, talking about this and that….

When the End Comes—I share some thoughts with author Juliet McKenna on ending a series FC JONMARC COLLECTION

Anarchy sucks. Bibliosanctum gives me the mic to talk about the end of the world.

Ever wonder about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in fantasy novels? Catch my musings at SciFi Now.

And the Barnes & Noble blog had me on as a guest to talk about how we might never be Aragorn, but on our best days, we might be Sam.

How to find us:

• May 7 Book Festival in Rutherfordton, NC
• May 13 – 15 Steampunk World’s Fair, Piscataway, NJ (Iron & Blood party—Larry will be there with me!)
• May 27 – 30 Balticon, Baltimore, MD (launch party)
• June 3-5 ConCarolinas, Concord, NC (launch party—Double trouble—Larry’s coming, too!)
• June 15 – 19 Origins Gaming Convention, Columbus, OH
• June 21-28 Hawthorn Moon blog tour
• June 14 The Shadowed Path comes out!

Reviewers and media—The Shadowed Path is now on NetGalley. And if you missed getting a review copy for Shadow and Flame or Vendetta, just let me know and I can arrange it.

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When the end is nigh, take another look at your characters’ “victory conditions”

JeMcK-col1-smallBy Juliet E McKenna

Preparing the ebook edition of the final volume of The Aldabreshin Compass set me thinking about the challenges I faced when writing this particular story as well as the wider questions which authors must answer when they’re wrapping up a multi-book series. Because there are some significant pitfalls to be wary of.

There’s a fine line to tread between ‘and they all (eventually) lived (more or less) happily ever after’ and ‘they all came full circle and hit the Reset Button’. The first can and arguably should be satisfactorily achieved, because ending a series with overall failure is hardly rewarding the reader for their time and commitment. On the other hand, hitting the Reset Button treats the reader just as badly, when an entire series ultimately fails the ‘So What?’ test. What was the point in following those characters through all that travelling, learning and struggle if nothing has really changed?

Quite apart from anything else, if your characters have been on a multi-volume journey, whether that’s literal or metaphorical, they’ve been planning for anticipated challenges as well as facing unforeseen threats. Surely they themselves will have changed? Real life, in fiction as well as in fact, is all about emotional growth and learning through experience. And the best fiction is always ultimately grounded in reality.

Which brings us to “victory conditions” which is an expression wargamers will be familiar with. If it’s new to you, it’s most satisfying when it’s far more complex than simply ‘beat the other guy and/or his army’. It can be ‘defeat a certain percentage of his army within a certain timescale’, like Napoleon at Waterloo needing to break the British army before the Prussians arrived. It can be ‘fight the other guy to a standstill’, like the Russians at Borodino who managed to mostly-not-lose-entirely rather than win that battle. That was still enough to mean Napoleon couldn’t force the Czar to surrender completely. Some games offer variations on victory conditions. We’ve been playing the tabletop Firefly game as a family recently, where winning the introductory scenario requires amassing a certain amount of credit and making two key allies. The longer scenarios for more experienced players have far trickier requirements for success.

In real life, as well as in gaming, and in fiction, victory conditions can change. Something I’ve seen time and again in martial arts is a shift in perspective once people attain their black belt. Starting out, every grading and each new coloured belt is generally seen as a rung on the ladder to that ultimate goal of black. That’s the summit of their ambition. However, by the time they’ve reached that level of experience, their understanding has usually developed so that they now recognise a First Dan grade isn’t anywhere near the end of their journey. Rather that achievement marks the point where they’ve laid a sufficiently solid foundation of skills and knowledge to appreciate the far deeper and more complete learning that’s still to come.

All this informs my writing. As the Aldabreshin Compass series begins with Southern Fire, the central character Kheda, warlord and absolute ruler of a tropical island realm, faces vicious invaders backed by brutal sorcery. In subsequent books, he realises that was merely the first of successive challenges stemming from all this upheaval. In Northern Storm, fighting magical fire with fire is not so easy when wizardry of any kind is forbidden in the Archipelago on pain of death. Add to that, in a feudal society full of rivalry and intrigue, there will always be those who’ll pursue their own, short-term advantage over and above any commitment to the greater good.

Such behaviour may be contemptible but those people can’t be ignored, by characters and authors alike. Turn your back and they’ll be sure to stab you between the shoulder blades. So keep your eye on them, and take a good hard look at their own victory conditions while you’re at it. Working out what they ultimately want may well show you the key to defeating them. Ideally achieving your own victory in ways that readers won’t be expecting at all, because the all-too-easily predictable end to a story is another writerly pitfall lurking at the end of a series.

Kheda’s journey is both literal and metaphorical throughout these books. He travels the length and breadth of the Archipelago as well as voyaging to an unknown land far beyond in Western Shore. Along the way, he meets new people and new ideas which profoundly alter his world view. he’s a very different person by the time Eastern Tide sweeps him back to more familiar waters. His personal victory conditions have become something very different indeed.

Northern Storm-smallWhile he’s doing all this, life for everyone else left behind goes on. All those people are still pursuing their own victory conditions. This highlights another fatal flaw of any ‘Hit the Reset Button’ conclusion. A realistic scenario will simply not allow for characters returning to easily slot back into holes and roles in other people’s lives which have been waiting for them, unfilled. Characters having to fight physically or emotionally to regain their former place can work but that’s another story.

Will Kheda achieve his new ambitions? You’ll have to read the books to find out. If you want to get a taste of these stories first, you can find the opening chapters via my website, along with some short stories about some of those characters getting on with their own lives while Kheda’s away.  http://www.julietemckenna.com/?page_id=1390

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author, living in the Cotswolds, UK. She has always been fascinated by myth and history, other worlds and other peoples. Her debut fantasy novel, The Thief’s Gamble, first of The Tales of Einarinn was published in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence and The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution. Her fifteenth book, Defiant Peaks, concluded The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. She writes diverse shorter fiction ranging from stories for themed anthologies such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity and Tales from the Emerald Serpent to a handful of tales for Doctor Who, Torchwood and Warhammer 40k.  Exploring new opportunities in digital publishing she wrote a serial novella The Ties that Bind for Aethernet e-magazine and her Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law short stories are now available in an ebook edition from Wizard’s Tower Press. She also reviews for web and print magazines and promotes SF&Fantasy by blogging, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. Learn more about all of this at www.julietemckenna.com



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As The World Burns. Shadow and Flame in Stores and Online Now!

Shadow and Flame, the fourth and final Ascendant Kingdoms novel, is now in stores and online! Not only that, but Orbit and I have some killer special deals with special low launch prices and great extras!


Here’s the scoop:

Blaine McFadden and his allies have brought magic back under mortal command and begun to restore order to the beleaguered kingdom of Donderath. Now, new perils and old enemies gather for a final reckoning. Foreign invaders, a legendary dark mage and vengeful immortals fight Blaine’s battered forces for control of the continent, and Blaine’s weary army is the only thing standing between a kingdom struggling to rise from the ashes and a descent into fury and darkness.

So here’s what’s REALLY cool!  Right now, the paperback copy of Shadow and Flame is just $10.24 (save $5.75) on Amazon ! AND Orbit has done a price drop on ALL of the Ascendant Kingdoms books for a limited timeIce Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows are just $4.99 on Kindle (save $5 on each)! Great for catching up if you got behind, and perfect for binge-reading your way through the series. Grab them quick!

Arctic PrisonAnd to sweeten the deal a little more, if you buy Shadow and Flame (ebook or paper) before 3/31, you get Arctic Prison (a Blaine McFadden prequel novella) free! (That’s a $2.99 value!) Need to catch up on the series? Buy 2 or more Ascendant Kingdoms novels (any format) by 3/31, and get King’s Convicts (three Blaine McFadden prequel novellas) free! (That’s a $9.99 value!) Details here: http://conta.cc/2293EXk

Here’s what they’re saying about Shadow and Flame!

“The perfect conclusion to a truly epic tale.” — Michael J. Sullivan, author of the Riyria novels.

“Gail Z. Martin is the one of the finest storytellers writing today. Her fascinating characters and mastery of atmospherics gives readers stories that have to be savored. Her characters display the sort of quick wit and heart that make them a joy to follow through their adventures.”
Michael A. Stackpole, New York Times Bestselling author of I, Jedi and Rogue Squadron

“A flawless finale that does not disappoint.” — RT Book ReviewsKings Convicts Draft 1

And Shadow and Flame made io9 and Gizmodo’s “Most Talked About Books for March list!

But as they say on QVC, wait—there’s more! Join my Chronicles newsletter in March and enter for a chance to win a free copy of Arctic Prison (2 lucky winners!).

Join me on March 23 for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit/Fantasy! I’ll be posting around noon, and returning later in the day to answer your questions. Want to know something about one of my books or characters, what’s coming up next, or just have questions about writing and publishing? Ask Me Anything! (If you miss the date, stop by anyhow and check out the Q&A or ask a question—I’ll be dropping by for a while to pick up latecomers!)

Shadow and Flame isn’t the only thing that’s new—we’ve got a new Storm and Fury Adventure for Steampunk fans. Airship Down takes the Department of Supernatural Investigation on a wild ride in search of mysterious orbs that might be sabotaging New Pittsburgh’s factories. It’s jam-packed with adventure and explosions!

Airship Down Brass DraftWant another chance to win a prize? Answer my March reader survey question!

If you like bookmarks and book swag, you can get a whole envelope of cool free stuff for my books! Free swag! Send SASE (w 2 stamps on return envelope) to PO Box 241721 Milwaukee WI 53224 Must say ‘Attn: Gail Martin’ on outside envelope

If you were part of my Shadow Alliance street team, you’d get sneak-preview snippets from Work In Progress, exclusive t-shirts, and other special stuff. It’s free to join. Help spread the word about my books and have access to cool contests, giveaways and more!

Want a signed copy of Shadow and Flame? I’ve got two signings coming up! Mar. 26  at Park Road Books, Charlotte NC from 2-4 and Apr. 2 at Barnes & Noble, South Park Charlotte, NC from 1-3! Come by and say hello!




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New Book Bonus–Better than Chocolate?

It’s hard to decide which is better—books or chocolate. But a free novella when you buy an awesome adventure? That’s hard to beat. Here’s your chance to buy Iron & Blood and get Grave Voices for free!I&B final cover

Buy Iron & Blood, our Steampunk adventure, anywhere from any bookseller between 2/14-2/29/16. Be one of the first 200 to sign up at this link: http://conta.cc/1Q9tKHr and follow the instructions to email a photo of your receipt for proof of purchase. We’ll send you download links to Grave Voices, a steampunk novella in our Storm & Fury tie-in series for free!Grave Voices V2

Ever wonder how other readers read? You can find out the results of my reader habit survey here: http://www.magicalwords.net/really-i-mean-it/what-kind-of-reader-are-you-part-2/  Thanks to everyone who participated!

New February reader question! Answer it and be entered for a chance to win a prize! http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07ec8yq3o0ikha9a8x/start

Have you heard about the Shadow Alliance? It’s my street team, and Shadows get all kinds of cool stuff plus exclusive work-in-progress snippets. Free and fun—help me spread the word! http://on.fb.me/1ltkpMR


Newsletter giveaway! Join my Chronicles newsletter in February and be entered for a chance to win a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s gift card! Two winners—one from new sign-ups and one from existing subscribers mean more chances to win! http://bit.ly/1CF12Th

FB Chronicles NL Meme

Coming Attractions—here’s where to find me at conventions and bookstores!

  • Feb 20 Signing–Books A Million, Concord Mills, Concord NC 1-3 pm
  • Feb 26 – 28 Mysticon, Roanoke, VA (launch party)
  • Mar 5-6 AZ Renaissance Festival, Apache Junction, AZ
  • Mar. 22 Shadow & Flame comes out!
  • Mar 23   AMA on Reddit/Fantasy
  • Mar. 26 Signing–Park Road Books, Charlotte NC
  • Apr. 2   Signing–Barnes & Noble South Park, Charlotte, NC
  • Apr. 14   Broad Universe Facebook party
  • Apr. 29 – May 1 Ravencon, Williamsburg, VA (launch party)
  • Secret new project! Shhhh—details to come!
  • May 7 Book Festival in Rutherfordton, NC

And if you haven’t read Vendetta yet, my new urban fantasy set in Charleston, SC and packed full of cursed objects, haunted heirlooms, vengeful ghosts and supernatural threats, what are you waiting for?



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Contests, Quizzes and New Stuff

Happy New Year! While you’re bracing for (or digging out from) Snowmageddon, make sure you have plenty to read along with your milk, bread, beer/wine and TP!

Free Stuff

What kind of reader are you? Take my survey and enter for a chance to win a prize!

Contest just for newsletter readers!  The Chronicles newsletter is going monthly and so are the giveaways with two new winners every month, one from existing subscribers and one from new subscribers! January’s prize is a $10 Amazon gift certificate plus an envelope of signed swag! Watch for a new prize and new drawing in February!

Goodreads giveaway for Vendetta! 

Join the Shadow Alliance!  My new street team gets exclusive snippets from the books and stories I’m working on, plus special contests, giveaways and get-togethers for helping spread the word about my books. It’s free—and fun!


Book News

New Steampunk! Grave Voices, our newest novella, is now live on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. It’s a Storm and Fury Adventure, set in our Iron & Blood world of 1898 alternative history Pittsburgh. Clockwork zombies, mad scientists, creepy dolls and awesome inventions make for a thrilling tale packed with explosions!Grave Voices V2

We’re also stretch goal authors for the Gaslight and Grimm steampunk fairy tale anthology funding now on Kickstarter! We’ve hit our basic funding level, but to add our story (a steampunk retelling of the Three Billy Goats Gruff), we need to add a few more bucks to the bucket. Hurry—the Kickstarter campaign ends soon!

shadowAndFlame.inddBinge readers! If you’ve been waiting to read the Blaine McFadden Ascendant Kingdoms series until all the books were out—now’s the time to start!  Shadow and Flame, the fourth and final book in the series comes out March 22 (now available for pre-order). And now there are three new ‘prequel’ novellas in my new King’s Convicts set plus a short story that fill in a six-year gap at the beginning of Ice Forged and spill the secrets about Blaine’s years as a convict, how he met Kestel, Piran, Verran and Dawe, and more! Here’s the sequence: Ice Forged (novel), then Arctic Prison, Ice Bound, No Reprieve, and Cold Fury (novellas and short story), and Reign of Ash, War of Shadows and Shadow and Flame (novels). Perfect reading for long winter nights! Click on the links for excerpts and ordering.

Vendetta is hot off the press, and it’s the newest Deadly Curiosities novel in my urban fantasy series set in historic, haunted Charleston, SC. Someone very powerful is trying to destroy Sorren and everyone he cares about. That puts Cassidy, Teag and Trifles and Folly in the cross-hairs, against an unknown enemy with strong magic and significant resources. Sorren has spent centuries shutting down the plans of powerful immortals, dark warlocks and supernatural creatures, and now he’s got to figure out which of those many enemies is out to get him before they pick off his friends one by one and come after him to finish an immortal vendetta. DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA2

Redcap is the latest Deadly Curiosities Adventure short story, with killer pixies running loose in Charleston. It’s a ‘bloody’ good Christmas story!

New feature—Meet My Author Friend

Stuart1Each month, I’ll introduce you to a writer friend whose work you might enjoy. This month, my guest is Stuart Jaffe, who writes a number of series across several genres, including the Max Porter paranormal detective series. His gift to you–The Max Porter Starter Library: 2 FREE novels and a FREE short story. It was supposed to be a new beginning – good job, good pay, and a lovely home in North Carolina. But when Max Porter discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective, he is thrust neck-deep into a world of old mysteries and dangerous enemies. One in which ghosts, witches, curses, and spells exist. One in which a simple research job can turn deadly. Real history meets the paranormal in this exciting mystery series!

Here’s the Link: http://www.stuartjaffe.com/max-porter-starter-library/

RedcapUpcoming events

Here’s where to find me in February and March. If you’re at a con with me, I love it when people take panel photos or take a pix with me and tag/post!

  • Jan 30 Signing–Barnes and Noble, Morrison Charlotte, NC 1-3 pm
  • Feb 11 – 14 Capricon, Chicago, IL
  • Feb 20 Signing—Books a Million, Concord Mills, Concord, NC 1-3 pm
  • Feb 26 – 28 Mysticon, Roanoke, VA (launch party)
  • Mar 5-6 AZ Renaissance Festival, Apache Junction, AZ

Just a reminder—you can find me hanging out nearly every day on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook at The Winter Kingdoms, and on Goodreads, Wattpad and Pinterest. Come say hi!

Arctic Prisonice boundNoReprieveCold Fury

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Vendetta Launch! (And Other Cool Stuff)

Vendetta, the second book in my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, is now in stores and on ebook!   Read an excerpt here, then go get your very own copy!


Early reviews love Vendetta!

“Wow! One marvelous, twisty, touching, thrill of a book.”–Kat Richardson, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels

“Exceptional once again.” –Douglas Meeks

“Rachets up the tension”–Blackgate

“Ending 2015 with a bang”–Horror Underground

In case you still have some room on the book gift card you got for the holiday, here are a few suggestions!

WWW coverThe Weird Wild West features our Storm and Fury steampunk adventure Ruin Creek, set in the world of Iron & Blood (and a reviewer favorite). Plenty of your favorite authors and lots of weird West stories to while away a winter evening!

Cinched: Imagination Unbound anthology with a corset theme features another of our Storm and Fury steampunk stories, Lagniappe, set in New Orleans. We’re in fine company with a slew of other amazing authors!

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil superhero/supervillain anthology features still another Storm and Fury steampunk adventure, Ghost Wolf (another reviewer favorite) with all-star author company in a fine anthology for a long winter night.Cinched

No Reprieve revisits a moment in Blaine McFadden’s convict past–brand new from Orbit Short Fiction on Amazon. Arctic Prison and Ice Bound are two novella-length stories in the new King’s Convicts ebook series about Blaine’s time in Velant Prison (watch for the third and last King’s Convicts novella–Cold Fury–coming soon!).

RedcapRedcap is the new Deadly Curiosities Adventure short story for December, for anyone who has ever been suspicious of the elf on the shelf or thought it was no accident that grandma got run over by a reindeer. It’s a bloody good Christmas story!

What are you waiting for? Dive in now and read until spring!

And remember–if you like my books, please write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It really matters!  Thank you.

Want to always have the latest news? Join The Shadow Alliance, my new street team!



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How I Became a Publisher…Accidentally on Purpose

The Weird Wild West anthology from Espec Books rides into town in November looking like big trouble. Saddle up, pardner and discover strange, supernatural, otherworldly and downright weird adventures way out West from some of your favorite authors. Larry and I have a story in The Weird Wild West, so throughout November and December, we asked some of our author friends to prance their ponies over in this direction and share a few lines with us. Enjoy the blog posts—and then order the book please!

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

One of the things I swore I would never do was start my own press.

(Never make such claims. It is generally the most certain way to ensure that you eventually do whatever you say you’ll never do.)

Having worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years as a career taught me all the various headaches that come with publishing books. However, absorbing all that knowledge and doing virtually every job there is in the industry pretty much meant it was bound to happen eventually. At least I’d gathered a wealth of knowledge beforehand. Now I have only half as many mistakes to make on my own.

This doesn’t tell you how I became a publisher, though.

Earlier this year I ran my first Kickstarter. It was for a little personal project called Eternal Wanderings, a continuation of my Eternal Cycle series of Irish myth-based novels (you can learn more here if you are curious: http://kck.st/1tv0cq7) The campaign was successful and the book needed a brand, an imprint to serve as a foundation. Thus eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com) was born.

A few weeks after the campaign completed I received an email from my friend, Misty Massey. She remembered that I work for Dark Quest Books (www.darkquestbooks.com) and was hoping they would be interested in a project for which the original publisher had fallen through. That project was to become The Weird Wild West. Unfortunately Dark Quest had a full schedule through 2016 and Misty and her co-editors, Emily Lavin Leverett and Margaret S. McGraw, didn’t want to wait so long to see their vision become a reality.

(Yep…here comes the accidentally on purpose part…)

When I saw how disappointed they were I found myself saying…If you don’t mind taking a chance on a brand-new press, but with plenty of experience, eSpec Books could help you out.

We hashed out the particulars and the rest, as they say, is history!

Our editors did a fantastic job corralling high-quality authors for the project, such as R S Belcher (Six-Gun Tarot), Tonia Brown (Railroad!), Diana Pharoah Francis (Trace of Magic), John Hartness (Bubba the Monster Hunter), Jonathan Maberry (Code Zero), Gail Martin (Deadly Curiosities), Misty Massey (Mad Kestrel), and James Tuck (Blood and Bullets).

And, because we are optimistic that way, if we raise enough funds there will be a second volume, for which the editors already have commitments from Faith Hunter, Barb Hendee, Devon Monk, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Charles E. Gannon and Laura Anne Gilman.

But it’s not just about the known talent. Both eSpec Books and the editors are very dedicated to giving new authors a chance. To this end the first collection will have a minimum of four open submission slots, with two additional slots to be added if we hit the appropriate stretch goals. If we unlock a second volume, that will have open-submission slots as well.


The Publisher

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books and has started her own press, eSpec Books.

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (especbooks, damcphail or badassfaeries), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more visit www.especbooks.com, www.sidhenadaire.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.


The Editors

Misty Massey is the author of Mad Kestrel (Tor), a rollicking fantasy adventure of magic on the high seas, and Kestrel’s Voyages (Kindle DP), a set of stories following Captain Kestrel and her daring crew. Her short fiction has appeared in Rum and Runestones, Dragon’s Lure and The Big Bad II.  Misty is one of the featured writers on Magical Words (magicalwords.net). When she’s not writing, she studies Middle Eastern dance and performs with Mythos Tribal and Chimera. You can see more of what Misty’s up to at her website, mistymassey.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Emily Lavin Leverett is a fantasy, sci-fi, and (occasional) horror writer from North Carolina. Her works have appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Drafthorse: A Journal of Work and No Work, and will appear in Summer 2015 in Athena’s Daughters II from Silence in the Library. She also edits, with short story collections including The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil and Big Bad II with John Hartness, from Dark Oak Press.  She freelance edits as well. When not writing or editing, she also is a Professor of Medieval English Literature at a small college in Fayetteville. She teaches English literature including Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as teaching composition and grammar.  Medieval studies, especially medieval romance, heavily influence her work. When neither writing nor teaching, she’s reading novels, short stories, and comic books or watching television and movies with her spouse and their cats.

Margaret S. McGraw’s writing includes the daily prompt-writing blog WritersSpark.com, several short stories currently in circulation for publication, and two novels in progress: Mira’s Children is a YA science fiction adventure, and OceanSong is a fantasy begun in the 2012 NaNoWriMo challenge. Her imagination draws on her lifelong love of science fiction, fantasy, and anthropology. Her education and experience range from anthropology and communication through web design and IT management. Margaret lives in North Carolina with her daughter and an array of cats, dogs, Macs and PCs, and too many unfinished craft projects. For more details on her writing, follow Margaret on Twitter @margaretsmcgraw or visit her daily blog at WritersSpark.com.

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eSpec Books interviews Keith R.A. DeCandido

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil is a book of superheroes and super villains by some of your favorite authors, including Larry and me! It’s available for pre-order now here: http://amzn.com/1942990030 Now enjoy one of several interviews as our authors take you behind the scenes!


eSpec Books interviews Keith R.A. DeCandido, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, http://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.

eSB: What drew you to this project?
KRAD: Danielle Ackley-McPhail saying, “Wanna write a superhero story?” and me saying, “Sure!” I’ve been a huge fan of superhero stories since I saw Spider-Man show up on The Electric Company in the 1970s, and two of my first short story sales were superhero stories, as was my first novel.

eSB: Which side are you writing for?
KRAD: The villain side.

eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?
KRAD: I’ve just always been taken by superhero stories. Seeing Spidey on children’s television led to reading the tie-in comic Spidey Super Stories, which led to reading more comics, and I just loved ’em. I love the notion of powers and what they do to change people, some for the better, some for the worse.

eSB: Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your story.
KRAD: I’ve written one novel and one short story so far in the world of Super City Police Department. SCPD is about the cops in a city filled with superheroes and all the nonsense they have to deal with. One of the bits in the first SCPD novel, The Case of the Claw, is about how the homicide detectives just hate when they find the body of the Clone Master, because another one always turns up later, and they waste time and effort investigating his death only to have him turn up again. When Dani came to me with the notion of TSoG/TSoE, I thought it might be cool to flesh the Clone Master out and delve into his particular brand of lunacy.

eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?
KRAD: Flight. The closest I’ve come to unaided flight is when I went parasailing, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

eSB: What would your weakness be and why?
KRAD: Why would I want a weakness? That’s just silly.

eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.
KRAD: Thin body armor that protects my entire body.

eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
KRAD: Spider-Man, because he’s still a person who has to deal with the same nonsense as other people, and being a superhero not only doesn’t make it better, it often makes it worse. Plus, he’s someone who does whatever it takes to do the right thing regardless of personal consequences, even if the consequences are horrifically negative and those consequences only affect him. Plus, he’s hilarious…
eSB: Who is your real-life hero and why?
KRAD: My great-grandmother, Grazia DeBacco. She came to this country as a teenager on a crowded boat in the early part of the 20th century, moved to rural western Pennsylvania and proceeded to have ten kids. Despite the fact that the kids were almost all born at the height of the Depression, despite the fact that they lived in a house the size of a shoebox, those ten kids (starting with my grandmother) grew up into the nicest, sweetest, most generous people. And she was this little 4’9″ woman with incredible presence who kept them all in line and raised them to be fantastic. She died in 2003 at the age of 98, and I based Federation President Nan Bacco in several Star Trek novels after her.

eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?
KRAD: Dick Cheney. If I must stick with a fictional villain, it’s so hard to narrow it down I’m going to go with Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, because he was deliciously evil, and the root of his evil is something we see in the world today, with his need to control women and use them only as incubators for children.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?
KRAD: Someone who is faced with all the crap in the world, but still perseveres and does the right thing, even though it would be so much easier to not do it.

eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?
KRAD: Someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about consequences.

eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?
KRAD: They’re usually more interesting than the hero.
eSB: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?
KRAD: Mystery Men. It was ahead of its time, as it would have been much better received after superhero movies took off, not in 1999 the year before X-Men was released. But it’s a great sendup of the genre, and still also a great movie about heroes. “We’ve got a date with destiny, and she just ordered the lobster.”

eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?
KRAD: I’ve done a bunch of licensed comics: Star Trek, Farscape, StarCraft, Cars. I also scripted a graphic-novel adaptation of Greg Wilson’s Icarus, with art by Matt Slay, that should be out in 2016. My superhero work, on the other hand, is all prose. I’ve written two Spider-Man novels, two Spidey short stories, short stories featuring the Silver Surfer, Hulk, and the X-Men, plus I’ve got the aforementioned SCPD stuff, and another nifty superhero project I can’t talk about—yet…

eSB: What was your most exciting moment working in the comic industry?
KRAD: Getting to write the post-finale Farscape comics, collaborating with the show’s creator, Rockne S. O’Bannon. We did “season 5” of the show in comics form, and it was fantastic. Just a great three years.

eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?
KRAD: Probably Spider-Man, just because I have such a history with the character.

eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?
KRAD: I’m more comfortable with prose, because that’s what I’ve worked more in—more than 50 novels and more than 75 short stories, versus a comparative handful of comics. But I like both.

eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.
KRAD: Tons of it. Most recently or coming soon: the Star Trek coffee table book The Klingon Art of War, the novels Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution and Stargate SG-1: Kali’s Wrath, the short-story collection Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido, and short stories in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental, Buzzy Mag, Out of Tune, Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Far Horizons, V-Wars, V-Wars: Night Terrors, With Great Power, and The X-Files: Trust No One. I’m also doing weekly rewatches of the original Star Trek (Tuesdays) and of the various Stargate series (Fridays) on Tor.com; in the past I’ve done rewatches of both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for that site.

eSB: Do you have any news you would like to announce?
KRAD: I wish, but I’m working on two projects right now that I can’t talk about yet. But soon. Keep watching the skies! (Or the Internet…)

eSB: Please let us know where you can be found on social media.
KRAD: I’m on Facebook as Keith DeCandido, my blog is at kradical.livejournal.com, and I’m on Twitter @KRADeC.

eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.

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