The Con-Going Writer


Sci-fi conventions are part of the fun of being a fan or a writer, and every con I go to offers the opportunity to learn something new, meet fantastic people, hang out with other authors, and see new places.  That’s why I’m a con-going writer.

Writing is a fairly solitary affair.  Once in a while you come up for air to connect with beta readers, agents and publishers, but most of them time is spent inside your own head.  My dogs make sure I get exercise, having an uncanny ability to smell the exact moment when I have gotten a great idea, at which point they need to go out to the back yard.  But on the whole, writing isn’t a social activity.

Genre conventions are a way for me to include that social piece into my writing life and not get thrown wholly off track.  I’ve attended many panel discussions on historical or scientific topics and come away with new ideas for plots, characters or story twists.  I’ve learned a lot about the industry by sitting down for coffee or a drink with other authors and listening to what they’re working on, how their relationship with a publisher or agent is going, or what new project they’re developing.  In the new world of hybrid careers and professional self-publishing, I’ve learned a lot about how other folks are successfully creating their own ebooks or print runs, sourcing artwork, and finding the best software.

Talking with readers is just as instructional.  It’s good to hear from the other side of the desk, to find out what people are reading and why, what they’re tired of, what they want more of.  Yes, it’s anecdotal, but it’s still outside input, and if you go to enough cons in a year (and I do), all that anecdotal information sifts together to form trends.

Cons are also places to get contracts.  I’ve come home from many a convention with a contract or an invitation for a short story in an anthology, and I enjoy talking with editors and publishers of all sizes of publishing houses because I learn something from every conversation.  Good relationships eventually open doors.  Besides, it’s nice to talk shop with other people in the business who actually understand the highs and lows–writing is a strange occupation.

Going to cons also gives me plenty of grist for the social media mill, with photos to post on Facebook, bon mots to tweet on Twitter, and new ideas for blog posts.  Sometimes, I end up tagged in someone else’s post, which is cool too.  And on many occasion, I’ve landed a magazine, blog or podcast invitation just by showing up.

Most of all, cons are an opportunity to reconnect with friends and meet new ones, talk about the fan stuff other people don’t understand, shop the dealer room, and stretch your creative muscles.  All the more reason to be a con-going writer!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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Gender and Genre


There’s been a lot of discussion in various places around the Net about gender and genre, specifically about women, sci-fi and fantasy.  You can find that for yourself online if you’re interested: I won’t rehash. But SciFiChick asked for my 2-cents, so I’ll preface this by saying that it’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, as someone who has made a living writing epic fantasy for several years.

Maybe some of my perspective is difference because I came out of the corporate world in the 1980s and 1990s.  I’m used to being the only female executive in a room, dealing with men who hailed from the Mad Men era and holding my own.  As the head of Corporate Communications departments, I often worked with the CEO and Chairman, and I learned early on to hold my ground and never let ‘em see you sweat.  I’ve stared down boards of directors and attorneys, as well as pushy reporters. And I can flip and pin my 90 pound dog when he gets obstreperous.  Maybe it was the perfect background for coming into the genre.

I’ve never run into discourteous behavior from my publishers, editors or agents.  They’ve all been wonderful to work with, collaborative, respectful and professional.  I know there are some folks who keep a running tally of how many women win or are nominated for certain awards, how many sit on particular boards, and that kind of thing.  Maybe it’s my corporate background, but except for when I worked for a non-profit, I have never been in a work setting that was 50-50 men to women, so I don’t notice that kind of thing unless you point it out to me.  I don’t expect it, so not getting it doesn’t faze me.

I look around at my author friends, some of whom are waiting for their first big break, some who are climbing up the mid-list, some who are sitting on top of the heap and some who are navigating creative transitions.  I can’t say that I’ve seen those struggles go any easier for men than for women, or that I’ve seen men rocket to the top while women slog. Sometimes, I’d say that I’ve observed the opposite.  I don’t think it’s entirely a gender issue, although discrimination does exist. Often, I think frustration can be a matter of timing and luck.  Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time with the right story, and sometimes you’re not.

I think we’ve come a long way since George Sands turned out to be female and everyone got the vapors.  By the middle of the Harry Potter series, everyone knew that JK was female and boys didn’t stop reading.  I think publishers may be more hung up on perceived reader opinions than the readers are.  After all, if people immediately see a writer who goes by initials, and assume the writer is female, it’s not much of a subterfuge!  Are there individual dinosaurs out there, either on the consumer or publishing side, who think women “can’t” write a particular type of book? Probably.  There were men who didn’t think women could or should hold certain types of corporate jobs.  Flip the one-finger salute and keep moving on.  Other people will recognize talent and not care which restroom you use.

When I was ten years old, my Great-Aunt Minerva sat me down for a talk.  She was born in 1895, and she was a medical doctor, following in the footsteps of her father.  She had co-habitated with her long-time partner Frank for 40 years, but they never married, the family rumor said, because they didn’t want to mingle their stock portfolios.  Minerva was a force of nature.  And she told me to do what I pleased with my life and to hell with what anybody’s opinion was.

I guess that stuck with me.  An awful lot of people tried to tell me that I couldn’t be something or do something, and they had their reasons, that it wasn’t ladylike or that their view of God didn’t like it.  Salute and move on.  I don’t have time to keep tallies.  Too busy doing what I do.  In the long run, succeeding at what you want to do makes your point better than any argument.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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Queen of the Outcasts

montage copy

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

I have a secret for you. I…am the Queen of the Outcasts.

No…really. With a few, rare exceptions I fit nowhere in society. Not at work, not at church, not among my family. Always I have been that awkward figure on the fringes wanting to be embraced and brought in to the crowd. Always. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t welcome or loved, just that in general the world—yes, even my family—doesn’t get me and can’t relate.

Halfway through my life I found my exception to this rule.

Fandom. From the moment I entered my first convention I was greeted with open arms, with smiles, with understanding. A heady experience, I can tell you! I think this, more than anything else, keeps me doing what I do, no matter that it often feels more work than reward. When I walk among the community I am at peace and I am comfortable. When things go wrong, I find support without even asking.

What does this have to do with Tell Me? Well…let me tell you…

Things have gone wrong. Very wrong. Not for me, but for an icon of the community, CJ Henderson. He has cancer. Again. Twice in less than six months’ time he is fighting for his life and losing his livelihood. With the first course of treatments unsuccessful CJ is now subjected to 96 hours of continues chemotherapy every two weeks. He can’t write. He can’t go to conventions. In short, he can’t make the money vital to his family’s continued well-being.

Here is where the community comes in. Within two days of learning of the reoccurrence of CJ’s lymphoma plans were already in place for a charity anthology, Dance Like a Monkey. From stories to artwork, to publisher and administrative and marketing staff not only was everyone on board, but everything was in place and ready to go. Jean Rabe got on board as editor. Gail Z. Martin stepped in as Promoter. Silence in the Library Press agreed to not only fund this anthology, but also run the crowdfunding campaign that would make it possible. Authors Timothy Zahn, Joe Haldeman, Gene Wolfe, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Jack Dann, Jonathan Maberry…I could keep going, but soon I’ll be running out of words. But in short, over sixty authors have pledged short stories, artwork, and music with absolutely no compensation to them. Before word even got out, fandom was lifting CJ up and helping to bear his burden.

Since then we have gone live with our campaign, Monkeying Around for a Good Cause. Unfortunately, due to Kickstarter’s policy against charity projects we have had to take this to another platform, Indiegogo, which is equally as able, but not nearly as frequented. Support has been heartening with over 220 donors getting behind the project, and whole legions of people helping us to spread the word via social media and news websites, professional organizations and fan bases. The love being shown to CJ heartens me every day. But sadly, it still is not enough. You would think something as inconsequential as a platform would not make a difference to such a worthy cause. Nearly ten days in and we still have not funded, let alone started to work our way through the many fabulous stretch goals that have been donated. But we have time and we have the support, so now it is up to us to spread the word. And that word is…


Final6x9-Ron-JC-Dance (1)We aren’t asking for a handout. Really. Despite our purpose we are not asking you to GIVE us anything. No. We are offering you an amazing collection of fiction in either DRM-Free ebook or in print (depending on your donation choice), plus plenty of awesome pledge rewards and potential stretch goals—ALL donated—we offer you value that well exceeds any contribution we are requesting, and all the money save the platform fees, print costs, and shipping, go directly to CJ Henderson so he can stop worrying about bills and focus on kicking cancer’s ass.

Between his years of fiction writing, mentorship, advice, and general jocularity, CJ has given so much to fandom. Let’s give him something back. And not just something, but the very best we can manage. I have seen what that looks like and we aren’t even close yet. If you can’t participate in the crowdfunding please help us spread the word to those who might be in a better position to.

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Series, Characters and Sanity


Sometimes, it gets crowded inside my head.

I currently write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga for Orbit Books, which is epic fantasy, and next summer, I’ll launch the first book in the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series from Solaris Books.  My original epic fantasy series was the Chronicles of the Necromancer.  And I write two series of ebook short stories, the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.  That means at any time, I’ve got several different worlds, time periods and sets of characters running around my imagination, vying for attention. It gets interesting.

When I was working on just one series, keeping everyone straight wasn’t a big challenge.  It’s still not so much an issue of mixing up people or places–that’s not really the problem.  The issue sometimes becomes giving everyone the attention they want–or demand.  If you’ve ever tried to juggle several different committee causes, you’ll understand.  Or just tried to keep several different groups of friends and family happy, when there’s only one of you.

See, characters are greedy. They want ALL of a writer’s time, because they’re only “real” when someone is actively thinking about them.  And they only get to do new things when one person in particular is thinking about them–me.  So there’s a constant whisper from one crew or the other, “Hey, write about us. We’re doing something interesting.”

Now sometimes, that’s exactly what I want to hear, because I’m on deadline.  Often, the crew whose deadline is coming up decides to go off and sulk and not tell me about anything they’re doing, and another crew, whose book isn’t due for months or who doesn’t have an active project, they’ll come up with an amazing idea.  It’s such a good idea, I want to dive in on it right away.  But I can’t, because of that deadline–for the other guys.

The best I can do is offer to take notes, and once the deadline gets met, I can come back and work on the other story.  The note taking part is essential, because no matter how awesome the idea is and how certain I am that I won’t ever forget it, if I don’t write it down, it’s gone when I go to look for it.

The best way I’ve found to keep all those characters happy is to spell out who gets what.  It’s like breaking up squabbling kids.  I’ll sit down and figure out a writing calendar of what I will be working on for the next several months, looking at deadlines first.  Once the deadlines are accounted for, the other projects go in order of which ideas take firmest root in my imagination.  That lets some projects percolate a little longer while I jump on those that already seem clear.  Eventually, everyone gets their time in the sun.

All those characters make my brain a crowded place, but it’s nice when they keep it down to a dull roar instead of bickering over who gets to go first.  On the bright side, there’s never a dull moment!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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My Superpower


My superpower is chasing squirrels.  Not the fuzzy kind, the mental kind.  I’m an “ooh, shiny!” kind of girl, but it’s not Tiffany’s bling that catches my eye, it’s usually something on the History Channel, or a footnote on Wikipedia, or a stray reference that I chase down “for authenticity’s sake.”

It starts out as a noble cause.  After all, as a writer, it’s important to fact-check.  That’s dangerous when you’re the kind of person who can go to the dictionary to look up a word and not come up for air for an hour because you’ve hopped from one interesting new word to another.  Fact checking is like that, too. I go out to look something up, and there’s a hyperlink to something that looks interesting, and –squirrel!–I keep reading, and then I click again, and again.  By the time I look up, I’d need a trail of bread crumbs to find my way back, but I’ve found some amazing new trivia.

The reason I consider my squirrel chases to be a superpower is that they’ve led to some of my best ideas.  Those intriguing links can take me places I would never have found on my own, and often, the elusive answer I was searching for shows up as I go from link to link.  When I get stuck on a point when I’m writing, I go looking for squirrels, starting on a related site and intentionally following a winding path of links until the light goes on in my head and serendipity strikes.

The power of squirrel lets my brain relax a bit so that it doesn’t seize up worrying about not finding the answer.  Squirrels also have the superpower to get into locked birdhouses and climb impossible surfaces to get what they want.  I’m not that acrobatic, but figuratively speaking, I am inspired by squirrel-like tenacity and adaptability.   Squirrels are also courageous.  They jump from limb to limb, and very rarely fall, even when the branch under them sways wildly.  They’re not so good at crossing busy streets, but then again, neither am I.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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Playlist Changes



J. F. Lewis


Maybe you don't read or write with your headphones on, but I often do.


When I first started, I wrote on college ruled paper with my “very special pens” and listened to iron Maiden. Every writing session was a free write with me attempting to go nonstop for two hours, pen always writing even if it was relating the same word until I had the next one. It was a very self-indulgent way to write. Later, I moved on to writing on a laptop, to cut out the need to transcribe things later. Then I moved on to an iMac, iPad, Scrivener, and cloud synching via PlainText. But the music stayed, blaring at me from nearby speakers or whatever headphones I had at hand.


Recently, my habits have been changing. For my Void City books, I have specific “go to” playlists. A lot of instrumental music mixed in with character specific songs or artists. Eric would get angry to music by Disturbed, Metallica, or Kamelot and romantic to crooners like Sinatra. Greta would rampage to No Doubt, Korn, or Epica and make her brand of unhinged, yet plausible decisions to Disney tracks.


With my epics fantasy series things have changed. For whatever reason my writing muse kicks into high gear to strange, unusual tunes. I find myself writing to Tom Waits… listening to one album on a loop while as the words flow. It doesn't seem to matter which album, so long as it's one I know well. The drunken sounding patter of Nighthawks or the experimental strains of Bone Machine or Mule Variations work equally well.


Is it knowing the characters in the Grudgebearer Trilogy better? Is it a change in my maturity as a writer? All I can tell you is it works… and that is an important ting to remember about writing. No one knows how you need to write your novel. Your method is YOUR method and the key point is that you get the words out. Get them on the page. Right now, it takes music for me… Most of the time.


How do you write? Do you have a playlist? A go to album or song? I'd love to know.


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Reign of Ash Launches April 1! Book 2 in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga—Blaine McFadden Returns

I am so excited to announce the launch of Reign of Ash, the second book in the Blaine McFadden Ascendant Kingdoms series!

Reign of Ash

Reign of Ash by Gail Z. Martin

Survival is only the beginning.

Blaine McFadden endured six long years in the brutal Velant prison colony, exiled for murder. War devastated his homeland of Donderath, and destroyed the magic on which the Ascendant Kingdoms relied. Now, Blaine and a small group of fellow exiles have returned to a lawless wasteland, where unrestrained magic storms wreak havoc and monsters roam free.

Yet, amidst the chaos, rumors persist of a new magic that could restore the kingdoms. But the key lies within a dangerous, ancient ritual and a group of vanished survivors. Now, McFadden’s only hope is a small, desperate, quickly rallied army. Together they must make one last stand knowing that if they fail, the civilization of the Ascendant Kingdoms dies with them.
Reign of Ash is now available in bookstores and online everywhere!

NEW Urban Fantasy Novel—Deadly Curiosities—Debuts June 25

Curses. Restless ghosts. Malicious magic. Some family heirlooms are to die for….

Cassidy Kincaid’s job is to find haunted and dangerous objects of power; Sorren’s job is to destroy them. For centuries, a secret coalition of mortals and immortals have spirited malicious supernatural objects out of unsuspecting hands to avert disaster. Cassidy can touch an object and see its history, and when that includes curses, ghosts and dark magic, it’s time for her team to get to work, because the shadow world is closer than you think…

Deadly Curiosities is the all-new novel, coming June 25 from Solaris Books!

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin

New urban fantasy, coming June 2015


New Crowdfunded anthology “Dance Like a Monkey” Campaign Runs through May 1

This anthology of fantasy and sci-fi stories includes stories from over 30 authors including Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Stackpole, Aaron Rosenberg, Jean Rabe, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and me! The anthology benefits author CJ Henderson, who is battling cancer for the second time. $10 gets an anthology that should hit over 700 pages and 60+ authors if we meet all our stretch goals—fund it on Indiegogo here:

Dance Like a Monkey

Dance Like a Monkey

Athena’s Daughters Anthology Features Stories About Women, by Women Authors

Athena’s Daughters features short stories by 25 women writers in science fiction, fantasy and steampunk. Authors include Mary Robinette Kowal, Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Janine Spendlove, Maggie Allen, Conley Lyons, Cleolinda Jones, Cynthia Ward, C.A. Verstraete, Tera Fulbright, Tanya Spackman, EJ Lawrence, Nisi Shawl and art by Kellie Neier, Ginger Breo.

A portion of every book sold will benefit RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-abuse organization.

You can order the ebook or trade paperback from Silence in the Library Publishing

Athena's Daughters

Adventurous women characters

Graphic Novel Project Includes My Short Story – Illustrated by a LucasArts’ Artist!

I have a short story in Icarus: A Graphic Novel illustrated by artist Joe Corroney, an awesome artist who has done posters and comic book art for LucasArts. Other authors/artists include Maxwell Drake, Mike Stackpole and Matt Slay. Order in ebook or trade paperback from Silence in the Library

Icarus: The Graphic Novel

Icarus: The Graphic Novel

Watch for these anthologies too:

Clockwork Universe: Steampunk Vs. Aliens

—includes my story “Airship Down” from my Sound and Fury Adventures, coming this fall from Zombies Need Brains Publishing

The Big Bad 2 will have a story from me told from the villain’s point of view, Fall 2014 from Dark Oak Books.

Dreams of Steel V will include another Sound and Fury Adventure, Fall, 2014, also from Dark Oak Books.

Steampunk vs. Aliens

Steampunk vs. Aliens

Short Stories

In addition to my two new novels and the anthology projects, I have a number of short stories available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook, with more coming each month!

Dark Passages, A Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure—A poisoner is loose in the caravan, and men are dying. Powerful old enemies have returned for vengeance, and Jonmarc finds honor and courage tested as he risks his life to save his friends.

Dark Passage

Dark Passage

The Deadly Curiosities Adventures

This series of adventures spans over 500 years, from the 1500s to modern day as a small cabal of vampires and their human helpers battle supernatural enemies to find and destroy dangerous magical items and keep the world safe from dark forces. Vanities; Wild Hunt; Dark Legacy; Steer a Pale Course; Among The Shoals Forever; The Low Road; Buttons

The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures

Soldier. Fight slave. Smuggler. Warrior. Brigand lord. If you’ve met Jonmarc Vahanian in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle books, you don’t really know him until you take his journey. Raiders’ Curse; Caves Of The Dead ; Storm Surge; Bounty Hunter; Blood’s Cost; Stormgard; Monstrosities; Bad Places; Dead Man’s Bet; Dark Passages

Signings and convention appearances

• Apr 1 Reign of Ash launches from Orbit Books!
• Apr. 9 Reddit Ask Me Anything AMA, 3 p.m. on r/IamA
• Apr 5 Book Signing, Barnes & Noble Birkdale (Huntersville, NC)
• Apr 12 Book Signing, Barnes & Noble Morrison (South Park)
• Apr 18 – 20 Awesomecon, Washington, DC (launch party for Reign of Ash)
• Apr 24 Reddit Ask Me Anything AMA on r/Fantasy
• Apr 25-27 Ravencon, Richmond, VA (launch party for Reign of Ash)
• May 3 Book Signing, Books A Million Concord Mills
• May 10 Book Signing, Books A Million, Carolina Mall, Concord NC
• May 17 Book Signing, Park Road Books 2 – 4 p.m., Charlotte, NC
• May 23-26 Balticon, Hunt Valley, MD (launch parties for Reign of Ash, Athena’s Daughters and promo party for Dance Like a Monkey)
• May 27-30 Book Expo America, New York City (Signing at Solaris Booth)
• May 30 – Jun 1 ConCarolinas, Charlotte, NC
• June 21 Hawthorn Moon Online Event
• June 25 Deadly Curiosities launches from Solaris Books!
• June 27-29 LibertyCon, Chattanooga, TN (Deadly Curiosities launch party!)
• July y9 9:00 AM (ET) I’m Fantasy Writer of the Day on Reddit – come and chat!
• July Watch for Reddit “Ask Me Anything (AMA)”
• July 11-13 Congregate, Winston-Salem, NC (Deadly Curiosities launch party!)
• July 19 Book Signing Barnes & Noble, Pineville, NC
• July 23-26 Book Signings, London, England—Forbidden Planet, Waterstones
• July 31 Book Signing at Waterstones, Cardiff, Wales
• Aug. 1 Book Signing at Waterstones, Edinburgh, Scotland
• Aug 29-Sep 1 Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA
• Oct. 3-5 ContraFlow, New Orleans, LA
• Oct. 24 – 31 Days of the Dead Online Event
• Nov. 7 – 9 World Fantasy Convention, Washington, DC
• Nov. 14 – 16 Atomacon, Charleston, SC

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The Hardest Part Of Making a Change


With my new novel Deadly Curiosities (Solaris Books, summer 2014), I make the jump to urban fantasy.  I’ve been writing epic fantasy for seven years, and will be continuing my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga books for Orbit with Reign of Ash in April, so I’ll really have a foot in both camps.  That’s like trying to ride two horses at once, which are each running at different paces.

I’ve read a lot from both epic and urban fantasy, but it was a bit of a switch shifting from third-person narrative for the epic books into first-person for the urban stories.  But I would say that the hardest part has been convincing myself that it’s ok to use modern phrases in the urban book since I worked so hard to become aware of them and avoid them in the epic books.

There are so many words and phrases that we use every day that do a great job of conveying exactly what we mean.  In normal conversation, we don’t worry about the origin.  In writing, it matters a lot.  There are a couple of etymology web sites that have become bookmarks on my computer because I am frequently checking to see when a word or phrase was first used, and how it was used.  For example, people have been puking since the Middle Ages, but they didn’t barf until recently.  And while they have been pissing for hundreds of years, it’s only in the last few decades that anyone has been pissed off.

It matters because the wrong word choice is an anachronism and it ruins the suspension of disbelief for the reader.  The right words take the reader deeper into the atmosphere of the book.  The wrong word yanks them out with a hook.

Since I’m a word junkie, I find this fun.  I collect cool words like other people collect shiny rocks.  So I’m overjoyed when I find a great period-authentic word that is exactly what I need.  The trick is to sprinkle those less familiar, but authentic, words so that they are enjoyable little bonuses instead of annoying readers by sending them to their thesaurus on every page.

With Deadly Curiosities, it’s also fun because the book is set in modern-day Charleston, SC, so there are some wonderful concepts and phrases unique to that area that help to set the mood.  And while visiting the Middle Ages to check out locations isn’t entirely possible (although it’s amazing how instructive it is to visit what’s left), scouting local spots in Charleston is easy and always a pleasure.

So there you have it–the hardest part is remembering to have characters speak in modern English.  Strange, but true!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.


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Shadows of the Past


I grew up around antiques.  My dad haunted antique shows and flea markets, dragging me with him on my childhood weekends.  Dad would go off on a quest for whatever he was looking for at that particular time, leaving mom and me to wander the aisle on our own.  Even back then, I remember being fascinated with the idea that these objects had a history of their own.

I would imagine what they had witnessed, what secrets they had overheard.  Perhaps a vintage evening purse had been to the opera or to Lincoln Center.  Maybe a piece of jewelry had been worn when the former owner met a dignitary, movie star, or other luminary.  To salvage the day from utter boredom, I would start concocting stories about what I saw and regale my mother with my imaginings.

Decades later, going to an antiques or collectibles sale became a stroll down memory lane.  I’d spot a piece of furniture that an aunt had owned, a vase that looked familiar from the home of a childhood friend, a dish or clock that I remembered from my youth.  My husband and I would laugh at how pieces donated to charity just to be rid of them were now fetching big money as “collectibles.”

Fast forward again, and I learned how much objects become a touchstone for memory as my husband and I had the task of cleaning out our childhood homes after our parents passed away.  Handling the family silverware, the good dishes, the table linens became almost sacramental as we remembered the events and people who had used them.  Surrounded by family members, someone would pause from cleaning out a cupboard or closet to hold out an item and say, “Wow, do you remember this?” Reminiscing became a way to honor the memory of those who were gone and to pass on those stories to the younger cousins and grandchildren.

Perhaps after all that, it was inevitable that I would come up with the concept behind my upcoming Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, which will debut from Solaris Books in the summer of 2014.  Cassidy Kincaide is a psychometric, someone who  can read the history of an object by touching it.  She runs Trifles & Folly, an antiques and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina, whose real business is getting dangerous magical objects off the market before they cause disaster.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of strange, unnerving and odd items laid out for sale at antique shows.  I’m not worried about running out of fodder for tales about Cassidy and her team!  I’m excited about the chance to share her world with readers in Deadly Curiosities!

My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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Q&A with Tom Riddell

264490_637434426316323_530122009_n1. How did you choose to become a writer?

I worked in a library for five years. In that time I read some horrible books. I thought, I can do better.

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

I like when the characters come alive  and drag me along for the ride to write it all down.

3. Where can readers find you on social media? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Library Thing, Redd It, etc.)
You can find me on Facebook at

4. Who are your favorite fictional characters—your own, and from other books, TV shows and movies?
Raistlin Majere fron the Dragonlance novels and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from the avengers and Thor movies. I think a well written villain is worth ten well written heroes.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Just keep writing. Even if you don’t get it published you finished something all your own.

Click here to listen to a special reading by Tom on our sister site.

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