Monthly Archives: February 2013

Fantasy Faction interview – questions for Gail Z. Martin

by Gail Z. Martin
Many people will know you as the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (beginning with THE SUMMONER) or the more recent Fallen Kings Cycle set in the same world. The new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, beginning with ICE FORGED, is set in a wholly new world. What lies in store for readers?

ICE FORGED’s world is very different from the world of the Winter Kingdoms from my previous books.  Magic works differently, there’s a completely different set of gods and goddesses, and the culture of the kingdom is very different.  I’ve had some fun turning a few things upside-down from how they worked in my other books.  In my previous books, they kept magic from failing.  In ICE FORGED, magic does fail—and the results are catastrophic. My main character in the other series has a very powerful magical ability.  Blaine McFadden has almost none.  In my Chronicles series, my main character was an untested young man.  In ICE FORGED, Blaine has seen the rough side of life before the story begins.  All those changes were a lot of fun for me—and I hope they present a very different adventure for readers.

ICE FORGED interestingly seems to revolve around the concept of an apocalypse in a medieval-like setting. What was it that appealed to you about this idea?

I’m not really very interested in modern-day apocalyptic stories, but I liked the idea of having the world fall apart in a medieval setting—perhaps because in real life, things like the Black Plague really would have seemed like the end of the world for the people who survived.  When the magic fails, their society is so dependent on it that it’s like us losing the power grid across an entire continent. I’m having a lot of fun wrecking havoc!

The main character in ICE FORGED Blaine McFadden is a rather troubled and complex character – a man condemned for murder, exiled to a penal colony, yet still a heroic figure of firm morals and principles. Did you find writing him a challenge?

Blaine kills the man who raped his sister—who happens to be their father.  He expects to be executed for his crime, but the king (who was aware that Blaine’s father was a rat bastard, but a loyal rat bastard) exiles Blaine as an act of mercy.  Blaine endures tremendous hardship in the prison colony and finally earns his Ticket of Leave which means he is a colonist (though without the ability to leave the colony) and builds a life for himself with close friends.  He’s made his peace with being in exile, until war destroys the kingdom and the magic, and Blaine might be the only one who can put things right.  I have really enjoyed writing Blaine because he’s a survivor.  He accepts what comes his way without ducking, and he takes care of his own.  He loses everything he has, and still emerges to make a life for himself.  Although he’s got scars, he’s not bitter, but he is wary and so he’s got people who watch his back.  He’s actually been a lot of fun to get to know!

ICE FORGED has a very gritty edge to it, and the concept of survival – of endurance in the face of adversity – seems to be a key theme. Do you feel that it’s important to give a message of hope in dark times?

I have very little patience with fiction, movies or people who wallow in despair.  I like the proverb about “fall down seven times, get up eight.”  In my own life, the people who inspire me are the ones who find a way to create something positive about even the most awful circumstances and who emerge as a beacon for others.  I’m a fan of Churchill—“Never, never, never give up.”  So for me, watching Blaine and his friends go through all that they’ve endured and come out with their sense of self intact, their ability to form bonds with others intact, and their ability to see a bigger picture beyond their own misfortune is very encouraging.

Magic seems to play a more important role in ICE FORGED than it does in your previous series, but interestingly, it seems to be treated as a kind of natural resource for the characters that’s taken for granted. Could you tell us a bit more about your inspiration for this?

In my last series, the plot focused on characters with powerful magic.  With the exception of the magic strike (something of a doomsday weapon) that makes the magic fail, the real devastation happens with the small magics no longer work.  These small magics helped people with their everyday lives and function much as our science, medicine and technology do.  I liked the idea of doing the opposite of what I had done before, so I was looking for a different way to approach magic. I liked toying with the idea that magic is something that is constantly present but only a percentage of people have the ability to learn to use it.  It’s not about studying spells, it’s about an inborn ability that you either have or you don’t.  That becomes very important as the story goes on, because people who have magic have learned to rely on shortcuts.  People without magic have to do things the hard way.  When the magic fails, guess who is better positioned to survive?

We all think ICE FORGED would make a great movie. So the big question – if it gets made, who would you like it to star?

I think Richard Armitage, the guy who played Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, could do a great job as Blaine!  I picture Piran Rowse as a young Bruce Willis.  Beyond that, I’ll leave it up to the casting agents.

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:


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5 Rules for Surviving the End of the World

by Gail Z. Martin

My newest novel, Ice Forged, takes place in a post-apocalyptic medieval world.  As the book cover proclaims, “Their world is ending: the adventure is just beginning.”  With the Mayan Apocalypse so recently in memory as one of those “fake” end of the world scenarios, what does it take to survive when the world devolves into chaos?

Rule #1: It helps to be far away when the doomsday strike hits.  My characters begin the book in exile in an arctic prison colony.  Their colony is affected by the catastrophic loss of magic, but because of the colony’s primitive conditions, the effect of the catastrophe  is lessened.  In their case, exile to the end of the world ended up being “lucky”.

Rule #2: Make sure you know how to do important things without magic.  In Ice Forged, people have gotten dependent on using small magic as a short cut for everything from healing sickness to making sure crops weren’t eaten by pests to holding stone fences together.  When the magic fails, everything it was holding together fails, too.  People who only know how to do things with the help of magic are stuck.  Their “power grid” has gone down, and they don’t have back-up.

Rule #3: Have people who will watch your back.  Our myth of the totally independent person is only possible because of the largely invisible, massive infrastructure that enables us to pretend we’re doing everything ourselves.  When that infrastructure fails, you find out very quickly that the people who survive do so as a team.  Cut-throat individualism only works on reality TV—had “Survivor” been real, the ones who made it would have been the ones who banded together. In Ice Forged, friendships and alliances make a life-or-death difference.

Rule #4: Challenge the defeatists.  Just because civilization as you know it has been shattered doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.  It might be possible to reverse or at least limit the damage, unless you sink into depression and drink all the remaining brandy.  Even a slim chance can give survivors the will to transcend the devastation.  In Ice Forged, the idea that it might be possible to restore the magic takes my characters from their icy (but relatively safe) prison home back to a kingdom that exiled them, against all odds.

Rule #5: Accept that the end of the world changes people.  Some lie down and die.  Some go mad. Others find a new purpose for life, and courage they never knew they had.  In Ice Forged, the exiles find out what they’re made of—and what they’ll risk—to start over.

There you have it: my rules for surviving the end of the world.  Feel free to print out this list and tape it to the inside of your pantry door, so that you have it handy for the next doomsday prediction.  Then gather your friends in a remote location, and get ready to hit the restart button.

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:



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Three All-New Short Stories Now on Kindle (And coming soon to Nook, Kobo and iBooks)

by Gail Z. Martin

Now that Ice Forged is in bookstores everyone (and topping the Amazon charts on both sides of the Atlantic—thank you readers!), and the sequel is already in the hands of my editor, it’s time to unveil new short stories coming each month to ebook!

If you like pirates, magic, vampires, and cursed objects, try my new Deadly Curiosities Adventures.  The first two stories, Vanities and Steer a Pale Course, are now on ebook—with more all-new, never-before-published stories to come.

If you liked my Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle series and want more Jonmarc Vahanian excitement, I’ve got new stories just for you, starting with Raider’s Curse!

Ever wonder how Jonmarc Vahanian became the most dangerous warrior of his generation? How he earned the bounties on his head? What really happened in Nargi?  And where he got that scar? My new Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures take you back to the beginning, and I’m planning to tell his story all the way up to where he meets up with four young men running for their lives who need to hire a guide.

And if you haven’t grabbed Ice Forged, what are you waiting for?  It’s in trade paperback wherever books are sold, and also on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks.

Here’s more about those new short stories….

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—Jewel thief and newly-turned vampire Sorren sets out to steal a priceless brooch possessed by an ancient evil before it sets the Black Dragon loose in medieval Antwerp.

Steer a Pale Course—Two young fishermen in post-Revolutionary America are forced to retrieve a deadly object from an ancient burial mound or face the vengeance of raiders who have taken their village hostage.

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—The legend begins.  When sea raiders threaten the villages along the Margolan coast, young Jonmarc Vahanian risks everything to save his family.

“Like” my page to get all the news first when new short stories are ready to post plus con photos and other news—or just hang out and chat!

Are you on Twitter?  Follow me @GailZMartin for updates on signings, funny stuff and sort-of witty conversation.

Join me on Goodreads for a new writing-related group every month—we talk about favorite books, how to get published, and other stuff you won’t want to miss.  Friend me at

Come hang out with me at a con!

I’m everywhere from New York to Arizona in the coming months—and I do it to talk with readers!  So come by and see me!

  • Feb. 15 I’ll be signing Ice Forged at the Books a Million at Cotswold from 1-3
  • Feb. 16 I’ll be signing Ice Forged at the Barnes & Noble in Pineville, NC from 2-4
  • I’ll be back in Roanoke for Mysticon Feb. 22 – 24—Ice Forged Launch Party is Saturday night!
  • I’ll be at Lunacon March 15 – 17 in Rye Brook, NY
  • Look for me at the Arizona Renaissance Festival (near Phoenix) signing books March 23-24
  • I’ll be at Ravencon in Richmond, VA April 5 – 7.
  • Going to Balticon in Hunt Valley MC May 24-27
  • Come see me at ConCarolina in Charlotte, NC May 31 – June 2
  • I’ll be at Dragon*Con Labor Day weekend!

That’s all for now—but watch for new short stories, updates on upcoming new books and new signings and events on Twitter and Facebook.  And whether you stop by at an event or catch me online—let’s connect!

May I ask a small favor?  If you enjoy the books and short stories, please tell your friends, share a link on Twitter or Facebook or put a review on Amazon.  I’d really appreciate it!

Thank you for reading—because readers like you give me a reason to keep on writing.

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Creature Creation

by Anne E. Johnson

One of joys of reading science fiction and fantasy is its challenge to our imagination. We are offered new worlds and beings and expected to accept them as real.

But before a reader gets a chance to wrap her mind around fantastical inventions, a writer must invent them. That can be harder than it sounds. The trick is not the inventiveness; most authors who choose to write speculative fiction have imagination in spades. The trick is viability and consistency.

Consider a fantasy creature we’re all familiar with: a dragon. As the author describes this dragon, there are a lot of factors to consider: What color is it? Is it the same color all over? Does its color change as it moves? What texture is its skin (scaly? spiky in some parts?)? How large is it, compared to other characters or objects around it? Is it a young, spritely dragon, or an old, lumbering one? How wide must its wingspan be for it to reasonably be expected to fly?

And then there is its effects on its surroundings: What happens to the ground when it lands or takes off? How do the trees move when it flies through or over them? What gets scorched when it breathes fire? If someone rides on its back (as seems to happen with remarkable frequency), how does that person hang on? How does the dragon react to having a rider?

Such issues become magnified when an author has invented a completely new and unfamiliar creature. My favorite example is the trinity Odeen, Dua, and Tritt in Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves. Asimov seemed determined to make beings that were as far from human experience as he could imagine, so their very physical presence is foreign and is intermixed with unique psychological features. These creatures are rather ghostlike, feed on moonlight, and to show emotion and experience they alter their width and density. And, rather than two sexes in this species, there are three sets of emotional function. It’s complicated and fascinating, and completely believable.

No surprise that the great and powerful Asimov set himself such a hurdle. For most of us ordinary mortal writers, however, it’s the physical nature of invented creatures that’s the primary challenge. For example, one of my main characters in The Webrid Chronicles is named Zatell. Her body is a single round section surrounded by about thirty small limbs that serve as both hands and feet. When she “walks” (and I try not to use that word too much with her), she’s really rolling or cartwheeling.

Every time Zatell performs any physical act, I have to think very hard how she could actually accomplish it. Getting up onto a chair is different for her than it is for a biped species. On the other hand, she can do many things that others can’t, like hold several things at once while also eating and writing! The biggest issue in such cases is consistency. Notes like “Can she actually do that?” from sharp beta readers and editors are invaluable and always make me slap my forehead.

It can be slow, detailed work to rein in the imagination to make it viable to a reader. But the chance to captivate the reader is what a writer lives for, so it’s absolutely worth the effort.

*   *   *

Green Light Delivery, Book 1 of The Webrid Chronicles, is a humorous, noir-inspired science fiction adventure. Read the first 24 pages of for free here.

Book 2, Blue Diamond Delivery, is scheduled for release by Candlemark & Gleam in June of 2013.

Purchase Green Light Delivery from the publisher, on Amazon, on, and elsewhere.

You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.

For updates on Anne’s publications and appearances, like her Facebook author page.

Follow her on Twitter @AnneEJohnson

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So You Want to be a Hero?

By M.A. Donovan

Heroes aren’t born, they are made. Society, relationships, and the way we live dictate whether or not we can become a hero to someone. In ancient times, you didn’t have to be completely honorable, loyal, or an upright citizen to become legendary. You just had to do something remarkable that people would talk about (and maybe write an epic) for years to come. For instance, Achilles, the Greeks’ greatest hero, tried to get out of fighting for his country and when that didn’t work, he sulked in his tent while his comrades were killed. But yet to die old and unsung would never do, so he stepped up and was remembered.

Today, heroes are defined by their values. Just doing something heroic isn’t enough; one must also live honorably, be healthy and strong within, learn humility, and have some redeeming qualities that someone will look up to.

Heroes can be almost anything – the shy kid living next door, the 89-year-old veteran in a wheelchair, or your accountant. Animals have been known to carry out great feats in stories as well as real life news events. When writing a hero into a tale, they can wear many hats and have varying dispositions, but they all have one thing in common: the need to aid someone who is in trouble. They needn’t be superheroes with special powers or physically strong; anyone can be a hero and sometimes, you’ll find them hiding in the last place you would look.  Do you have it in you to be a hero to someone?

In The Golden Horn, my wayward hero, Galen, is a combination of the ancient legends and the modern day hero. He is humble and refuses to title himself, but yet, his heart breaks at the thought of all the struggles the common villager has to suffer. Galen is no stranger to pain, coming from a broken home filled with evil, but he finds a way to survive and decides to do something important with his life. With his sword and companion mage, Olstek, they travel the land, doing good whenever possible. He becomes the Hero of Shandor, even though he feels he’s not worthy to be called that.

The Golden Horn is available at or Want to win a free signed copy along with a special gift from me? Enter my “Letter to a Hero” contest. Simply craft a genius letter to your special hero (can be a fictional character or a real person) and send to me at with “Letter to a Hero” in the subject. I’ll select a winner at the end of my virtual book tour, on or around March 1, 2013. Please make sure to include your name, mailing address, and email in your letter.

Visit M.A. Donovan online at or check out her blog at

Read an excerpt at  .

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