Monthly Archives: November 2011

Where has the month gone?


Crymsyn Hart

Where has the month gone?

I keep looking at the calendar and saying that to myself. However, the calendar doesn’t give me an answer. Instead, it shows me that I only have twenty-five shopping days until the day here the man in the red suit comes and delivers presents with all of his reindeer. Between my husband and myself, I’m the only one getting into the spirit of the holidays, but he finds it hard being away from his family and all, but I digress.

So looking back at the calendar, I can say this month saw me finish two books, one novella and another short. And I have had edits for three books this month too. In between that, I cooked a 14lb turkey for Thanksgiving and the assorted condiments that went along with it. Between all that, I balance the day job, which has been getting busier and that is a great thing. Before that, I had a birthday and turned thirty-three. That kinda put things into perspective. So I took a long, hard look at my life and said well I gotta do something to turn my life around so that’s what I’ve been striving for. And that also means playing Playstation and killing things to pull me away from the worlds that are in my head. I like to think that my muses enjoy me playing video games because it gives them some wonderful inspiration (insert evil laugh here).

Life, in general, isn’t a thing to easily grab by the horns and turn around. It always has pitfalls and sudden twists you never expect. So far I’m on the upswing and riding life pretty good for the moment and I’m thankful for that. However, that could change sooner rather than later. It kinda reminds of a good plot of a novel that I’m writing… no wait. Not writing that one, but I’m sure that someone or something considers my life part of the big book of life so maybe I’m a chapter or a page. Either way, I decided to become the pen at least for a little while and write my own fate.

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Cosplay: It’s not just for Halloween anymore.

by Gail Z. Martin

There’s a old panel chestnut about whether you believe fandom is a hobby or a way of life.  We crossed that divide a few years ago when my kids made it clear that for them, the Christmas shopping season officially kicked off at DragonCon and continued through the Carolina Renaissance Festival.

Now sure, there’s a lot of cool stuff to buy at both events, ranging from personal-defense-sized catapults to jewelry, anime videos and t-shirts, but in our family, the quest for the perfect costume usually heavily influences the holiday wish lists.

It makes for some interesting conversations post-holiday at school.  “What did you get for Christmas?”  “Well, I got a sword, and a pair of pirate boots, and a new corset.”  Uh-huh.  Just another holiday at the Martin house.

We’ve all been bitten by the Cosplay bug.  Vendor rooms and dealer tables are scoured for just the right rings, necklaces, arm bands, vambraces, daggers, pocket watch, steampunk goggles, or authentic Firefly reproduction.  What can’t be found in person is searched for online.  After the holiday gift opening comes the next step—modeling of the completed costume with all the new accoutrements.  It makes for interesting family photos, ones which will, no doubt, spark confused conversations in later generations.

Of course, part of cosplay is watching what everyone else at cons is wearing, getting ideas, asking for sources, gushing over great costumes, and taking photos (and the ultimate compliment, being asked to pose in costume for photos).  We’ve found cosplay to be a great family activity, as well as a turning every con and Ren fest into a treasure hunt.  And it’s a great way to confuse the neighbors on Halloween, when my kids go in their Ren fest regalia.  All in a day’s work!


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A Day To Be Thankful

by Crymsyn Hart
With today being the day before Thanksgiving, it’s time to take a moment, step back, and give thanks. I’m thankful for the people in my life who are there for me and love me unconditionally even if I get angry and sometimes say things I don’t mean. I’m thankful for my family who has always encouraged me to keep on writing and pursuing my dream no matter what obstacles get in my way. I’m thankful for the awesome husband I have to puts up with me when I’m sick and bug him to do the dishes and the housework for me.

I’m thankful for life in general and how precious a thing it is. I could be snarky and say I’m grateful for the muses who implode my head with ideas all the time and for the characters who drive me crazy all the time and never really stop talking to me.

But what I’m thankful for the most is that I can get up everyday and live the life I want to live.

Plus all the people who take a moment and buy one of my books. You are all awesome. Thank you for taking a moment to look me up.

Tomorrow I’ll have a couple of friends and my mother join me around the table and we’ll eat. But that doesn’t stop the longing for me to be back home with my family. Living away from them for a decade now has taken its toll, but that’s okay because I’m with the in spirit. The same with my husband. He misses his family too and he’s been away from them longer. My husband is a man of few words, but when he does talk he people normally listen. And I’m glad that we have been together for so long

So hopefully everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Because after that the countdown to Christmas begins and store will lure you in to buy. Those shiny sales papers will entrance you and your mind will slip away and belong to them. So be careful and guard your wallets because the Christmas monster is lurking right around the corner.

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Geek Thanksgiving (Otherwise known as Philcon)

by Gail Z. Martin

It wouldn’t be Turkey Day without Philcon, at least not for me.  Philcon, the annual gathering of PSFS (and yes, people pronounce that phonetically—it stands for Philadelphia Science Fiction Society), is a fun con dedicated to Philadelphia but held in New Jersey.

Philcon is also the end of my con season for the year, a break before things start up again in January with Arisia.  Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the authors, vendors and fans who are Philcon regulars, so it’s a comfortable gathering of old friends along with the fun of cheeky panels and a good con suite.  And don’t forget the Meet the Pros party, which puts out a top notch spread.

This year’s Philcon will be bittersweet, since we’ll be missing one of Philadelphia’s own, L.A. Banks.  I met Leslie (L.A.) at Philcon a couple of years ago, and we chatted for a while at the Meet the Pros event as well as on and off throughout the con.  She was gracious, unassuming, and very kind.  We continued the conversation on my (see the archives, it’s still up), and she was generous in writing an author tip for my second Thrifty Author book (Selling and Promoting Your Book Online, which comes out in December).  I had looked forward to seeing her again and getting to know her better, but Leslie passed away over the summer, far too young.  This year, Philcon includes a panel remembering her work.

On a brighter note, my first time at CapClave outside of Washington, DC was a lot of fun.  Let it be said that CapClave knows how to throw a party, and a damn fine con.  Fun panels, a literary dealers room, and a surprise visit by Terry Pratchett were all part of the weekend.  Not to mention some fine conversations just chilling out in the lounge with other writers and readers.

I hope to see you at Philcon, but if not, perhaps at a con near you in 2012!

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Stones and Bones

by Casey Daniels

I don’t remember when I first realized how much I love cemeteries. It may have been back when I was a kid and walked to my piano lessons every week. There was no piano teacher in my immediate neighborhood and I walked about thirty minutes to get to my lessons. At the time (and no, I won’t say when it was!), no one worried about a kid out on city streets alone.

My route took me by a city cemetery, and I remember looking through the iron fencing around it and thinking how peaceful the place seemed. I never ventured inside, not because I was frightened, but because I didn’t know anyone who was buried there.

I did visit other cemeteries, of course. One of my grandmothers dragged (and I use that word appropriately) us with her once in a while to clean up the graves of long-gone ancestors. I remember walking to that cemetery, too, and packing a lunch to take along. Food was probably the one way she knew she could keep us quiet and bribe us to help her work!

What I do remember very clearly is when this vague interest in burial grounds blossomed into a full-blown obsession. It was 11 years ago this past Halloween. It was a Sunday, and somehow, I found out that a local trolley company was doing a day-long tour called “Stones and Bones.”

Yup, a cemetery tour.

I was fascinated by the history of the cemeteries we visited, and grateful to finally have a chance to stop in at some city cemeteries that are not safe to travel in alone. I loved hearing about the art and the architecture, about the symbolism found in headstone carvings and the hints of family history that can be found in the names and dates etched for all eternity into the stone.

In the last 11 years, I’ve made good use of my cemetery interest. My Pepper Martin mysteries involve a cemetery tour guide and over the years, I’ve gotten to know the volunteers in a couple of the local foundations that work to preserve local cemeteries. Recently, it all came full circle. You see a couple weeks ago, I hosted a tour in a historic cemetery.

It was called Killer Cleveland and on the tour, I took groups of visitors around to “meet” the victims and perpetrators of some local (and very old) homicides. It was a gray and gloomy afternoon (how appropriate) but our intrepid tourists showed up anyway and hiked along with me through the battered headstones. At some of the graves, I told the stories of the macabre murders. At others, re-enactors took over and played the roles of victims–and murderers.

It was a great day, and I know we helped spark an interest in local history. I also know that somehow, the Universe has been pushing me all these years, nudging me to this place where I am more involved in something I find fascinating.

As for that cemetery I used to pass as a child, it’s still there and I’ve visited a time or two. These days, I actually go inside!

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Days of the Dead encore

by Gail Z. Martin

If you missed my Days of the Dead online tour, you don’t have to miss out on all the cool downloadable links and excerpts, interviews, videos and audio.  Here’s the encore, all the goodies, all in one place—enjoy!

Check out these excerpts from fellow Solaris Author James Lovegrove:

Read an all-new (fourth) excerpt from my new book, The Dread at

More author freebie chapters, this from Kimberly Richardson at Kerlak Publishing:

And another author freebie, from Allan Galbraith at Kerlak Publishing:

An excerpt from my short story “Steer a Pale Course” in Rum and Runestones from DragonMoon Press

An excerpt from my short story “Among the Shoals” in an upcoming UK anthology

And from Chris Jackson, one of my author friends, deleted scenes from his award-winning Scimitar Moon–

An excerpt from my short story “Vanities” in The Bitten Word anthology from NewCon Press–z/An_Excerpt_from_Vanities_by_Ga.html

An excerpt from my brand new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, coming from Orbit in 2013:

Here’s my vampire reading on the Broadpod

Two new film clips from the amazing mind of Andy Remic:

For SERIAL KILLERS INCORPORATED and a little zombie film for HARDCORE,

An excerpt from my short story, “The Low Road”, coming in Spells and Swashbucklers from DragonMoon Press

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, The Dread (excerpt #2)

And another excerpt from my new book, The Dread (excerpt #3)

And from one of my fellow Solaris Authors, Chuck Wendig, an excerpt from Double Dead: (

Take a look at my brand new book video for The Sworn and The Dread:

Pre-order The Dread and get loads of other free downloadable goodies from more than a dozen of my author friends:

And on the Orbit Books blog, my interview with Blood Council member Uri:

On the blog, scroll down to see my interview with Blood Council member Gabriel

On, catch my 10/24 tour goodies plus an interview with vayash moru Kolin

A preview excerpt of Greatshadow, from my friend, James Maxey:

An excerpt from The Magic of Fabulous by Michele Lang:

An interview with vayash moru Laisren at—scroll down to Oct. 27

Read more about my new book, The Dread at

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Psychopomp and Circumstance

by Gail Z. Martin

Ever heard of a “psychopomp”?  No, it doesn’t mean that arrogant professor you had in grad school.  A psychopomp is actually a being that escorts the spirits of the dead to the afterlife.  Cheron is a psychopomp in Greek mythology, as is Papa Legba in Voudon.  Psychopomps don’t determine where a spirit spends eternity; rather, a psychopomp’s mission is to make sure the spirit gets where it’s supposed to go.

In my world of the Winter Kingdoms, Tris has often served as a death guide for lost spirits, helping those that are stuck or confused find their way.  There are a lot of death guides in modern literature.  In Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse, the main character inherits the role of a psychopomp.  The reapers in Dead Like Me also fulfill the role of a psychopomp.  Many in modern America believe angels to be death escorts, and there are numerous first-person stories of near-death experiences in which the revived person sees a beloved family member, friend or pet who has come to guide them across.

Many stories that involve a psychic main character have circumstances in which the character frees a trapped spirit and points them in the right direction to move on.    In some cases, it requires analyzing what’s keeping the ghost stuck where it is, sort of like a psychic Dr. Phil. In other cases, it requires escorting the spirit through dangerous terrain between worlds, like an undead bodyguard.  Sometimes, it just requires pointing the way (do male ghosts lose their way more often than female ghosts and is it because they won’t ask for directions?).

Whether you believe that the afterlife requires crossing the river Jordan, the river Nile or the river Styx, there is someone there serving as undead tour guide or paranormal Boy Scout, helping spirits cross the street to the next world.  The list of psychopomps in world religion is pretty extensive, but you can check it out on Wikipedia.

Which makes you wonder: if every culture has the same archetype, is there something to it?  (I wonder the same thing about vampires, but that’s just me.)  On a very fundamental level, the idea that a guide will come to help us with the final crossing is reassuring, helping to reduce the fear of going to somewhere unfamiliar.  I suspect that it’s that desire for comfort and for companionship that has led to the rise of psychopomp myths around the world.  After all, few people want to be alone in the dark in an unfamiliar place.

While the idea of a death guide was very familiar to me, I actually stumbled upon the term “psychopomp” while I was working on a recent story. I just turned in a new short story to The Women’s Book of Ghost Stories, a British anthology due out in 2012 that involves death guides, voudon loa, magic, ghosts, haunted houses, vampires and pirates—all the stuff I love!  I’ll let you know when it becomes available!

And by the way, The Dread is now available for pre-order (ships in February, 2011).  Watch for my Days of the Dead online tour beginning October 25!  Book giveaways, free downloads , character interviews, never-before released excerpts, and other cool stuff.  Get more details at


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