Monthly Archives: November 2012

What I’m Up To

by Gail Z. Martin

I often get asked, “what are you up to now”—and here are the answers, as I gave them to Solaris books for the launch of a new anthology, Magic, which features one of my short stories, “Buttons.”

1] What was the idea that inspired you to write this story?

I’ve been writing in my Deadly Curiosities universe for a couple of years now—it’s the setting for all of my short stories to date. The stories I’ve written so far in my short stories range in time from the 1500s to present day, and focus on Sorren, a vampire thief, and his immortal colleagues in a secret organization that makes sure that cursed and malicious magical objects stay out of circulation.  Sorren works and his human partners risk everything to steal dangerous items and secure them before they can cause damage or death.

2] What do you think about the short story form in general?

It scares me—I’d much rather face a contract to write 150,000 words than 8,000 words!  There’s a little more elbow room in a full novel—especially an epic-length novel.  Short stories are a lot more precise.  I enjoy writing short stories because they are a challenge for me, and because I have a lot of fun with them.  I really admire the writers who have established themselves as grand masters of the short story!

3] What does your writing process involve?

I’ll get the germ of an idea—it could be a setting, or an object, or an action—and then everything gradually coalesces around that core.  Sometimes the story comes to me all at once, and sometimes it reveals itself one page at a time as I sit at the computer and sweat it out.  I usually work from a loose outline, but it’s really more of a few jotted notes than a real outline.  So my process is a little loose, to say the least!

5] Are you reading anything at the moment and if so, what?

I try not to read within the genre when I’m writing (which these days, is most of the time), so I’ve been reading a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal mystery.  They’re fun, relatively short, and very different from what I write.

6] Why were you attracted to contributing to the ‘Magic’ anthology?

I’m always open to opportunities to write a new instalment in my Deadly Curiosities series!  And it’s always nice to work with Solaris.

7] What are your upcoming projects after ‘Magic?’

I’m in another UK anthology, The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stories, with another Deadly Curiosities story, and I have a new epic fantasy book, Ice Forged, coming out in January.  I’m also bringing out more short stories on my web site, so stay tuned!

8] If you had the ability to cast one spell, what spell would it be?

I’d make sure there were enough hours in the day to get everything done!  (Was I supposed to say “world peace”?)

And please enjoy an excerpt from “Buttons”, my short story in the Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and



Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

“When Magic Goes Off The Grid”

by Gail Z. Martin

If you’ve ever lived through an extended power outage, you know how inconvenient, scary and dangerous it can be when the power grid goes down.  Without electric power, food spoils, buildings get too cold or too hot, businesses can’t function and in a total outage, even emergency services grind to a halt.

We’ve seen how devastating it can be to go without electricity when natural disasters or war destroy a region’s infrastructure.  Modern civilization rapidly disintegrates without the conveniences, safety measures, and tools upon which we’ve come to rely.  When society relies on something as fundamentally as we rely on electricity, everything falls apart when that element fails.  People die.

In my new book, Ice Forged (available now for pre-order, in stores January 2013), I imagine a failure of a different kind of “power grid.”  What happens when a society that has become dependent on magic when the magic disappears?

Imagine a world where most people have a touch of magic.  Not powerful, mage-level magic, but kitchen witch-level abilities.  The kind of thing useful for healing, preserving food, improving crop yields, mending broken objects, reinforcing buildings and dams, and enhancing quality.  People who lack magical talent themselves can easily hire someone to do what is needed.  Those small magics have been part of the fabric of life for generations, long enough that most people no longer remember how to do things the hard way.  When a disastrous war destroys the harnessed magic, the consequences are more than political: they’re a matter of life and death.

What if, in the midst of that kind of destruction, you alone had what was needed to bring back the magic?  Who might aid you—and who would benefit from the chaos?  And if, like my hero Blaine McFadden, you had been exiled, stripped of your lands and title, imprisoned and disavowed, would you be willing to risk your life to restore the magic to the kingdom that cast you out?

Ice Forged introduces readers to disgraced former lord Blaine McFadden, who becomes the kingdom’s most sought-after—and hunted—man, the convict on whom the future depends.  If he can live long enough to make his choice.

Grab an excerpt from Ice Forged here:


Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

The Magic of Magic-making



J. F. Lewis


One of the best parts about working in a world of one's own creation is the ability to populate it with cool new powers and abilities. Not just monsters and magic, but the rules behind them, the internal consistency which lets readers know not just what your characters can and cannot do, but also serves to set your creations apart.


Take Atticus, the ancient (and awesome) Druid, from Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series. He's powerful as long as he can make contact with nature, with the soil, but trap him in the middle of the street over lifeless pavement and he's in trouble. True he has ways to store power and there are trick up his sleeve, but the countdown to powerlessness has begun. As readers we know it and the tension is immediate.


Magic has to have defined costs and limitations, a balance which lets the mystical make sense… makes it ring true. It must seem like a tool, not a cheat. When I was writing A CORPSE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY, I knew that Zaomancy would need to fit those same rules. My main character, Richard, would literally be bringing the dead back to life and breathing the breath of life (zao, if we accept Richard's choice of Latin) into inanimate objects. For that to work, there needed to be a price… a balancer and a set of rules.


In the initial draft, that balance took a while to figure out and fine tune. I explored a fair number of options, but the one I kept coming back to was age. Each zaomancer only has their own life's breath with which to play and using their powers ages them, sometimes slowly, but always in direct proportion to how much death they are trying to overcome. It simple, the price of life is… life itself, just not all at once or the heroes would be pretty short-lived.


Once you have the rules, the framework, then you have to combine them with cool plots and fun characters. A Zaomancer, for instance, who has been lied to about the corpse he's about to bring back to life, a newly turned vampire who has just realized she can't have chocolate anymore, or maybe even a necromancer who is the hero rather than the villain (Hi, Gail!). The sky is the limit, but make them your own and your reader's will love them.


Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis