Monthly Archives: July 2013

Zombies Need Brains LLC

Hey! Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray here. We’re authors—both with day jobs and our own novels to write—but we decided that we didn’t have enough work to do and got into editing anthologies. We found the process of wrangling authors and ordering cats around to be far too exciting and fun to quit after just two anthologies. With that in mind, Joshua created the new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, whose sole purpose (at the moment) is to publish professional-quality science fiction and fantasy themed anthologies, initially funded by Kickstarters. The intent is to produce two anthologies a year, then branch out into more anthologies and other stand-alone books once the press has gained its footing. You can check out the webpage at

Patricia and Joshua are proud to announce our first anthology, titled Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, which will be edited by (surprise, surprise) Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier! Fourteen (or more) stories of how, when aliens reach Earth, they encounter the clockwork mechanisms and Victorian sensibilities of a full-blown steampunk civilization! It’s first contact with a twist. Steam power meets laser cannons . . . and dirigibles face off against flying saucers! The genesis for this idea was Patricia Bray’s obsession with Daniel Craig; it had nothing to do with Joshua Palmatier’s obsession with Daniel Craig. We’ve already lined up a stellar group of “anchor” authors who’ve committed to writing a short story for the anthology, including Scott Lynch, Seanan McGuire, Ian Tregillis, Gini Koch, Bradley Beaulieu, Gail Z. Martin, and Caitlin Kittredge. The rest of the available spots in the table of contents will be filled out with stories by other published authors in the field, selected by the editors. All of the stories will be original, never-before-published takes on this theme. And we’ve already gotten the rights to use the artwork Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel for the cover art!

*a pause as we all tremble at the awesomeness of this art*

The Kickstarter for this project has already gone live, with rewards including the anthology in ebook format (and possibly paperback and hardback if we raise enough funds), prints of Steampunk Octopus, tuckerizations in some of the anchor authors’ stories, and an official “Joshua and Patricia’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse”! Click through to see more details about the anthology, Zombies Need Brains, and the other cool rewards being offered! And then become one of our minio—I mean, become a backer! The more backers we get, the more cool rewards will be unlocked, including ZNB logo t-shirts, bookmarks, book plates, ZNB logo baseball caps, etc. We look forward to bringing all of you great anthology reads for years to come! Because zombies need brains. (And we want the freshest, most stimulated brains for our consumption when the apocalypse hits.)


First the team of Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray brought you a book of stories about the ultimate bar as it travels through time and place. (AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR). Next they brought you a series of exposes revealing that humans are not alone on this planet (THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY.) Just when you thought it was safe to return to the bookstore, they’re launching a new project exploring what happens when aliens encounter a Steampunk civilization. That’s right, CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS will be the debut title of the newly formed small press Zombies Need Brains LLC. Some of their favorite authors have agreed to write all new stories for this anthology, including: Bradley Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Scott Lynch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire and Ian Tregillis. Visit the webpage to learn more about this project, and be sure to check out the amazing cover art by Alex Broeckel.

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Why I had to Write the Seal Queen

by Sandra Saidak

As every author knows, sometimes a book just grabs you and yells, “Drop what you’re doing and write me!”

That’s how it was with The Seal Queen.  I was on vacation in Capitola, CA, sitting on a beach, staring at the waves and hoping for inspiration for a novel set in prehistoric time.

Instead, I was overcome by the magic of the place.  How easy it was to just stare at the waves.  How invigorating the smell of salt and living things was.  How it felt, sitting on the western edge of North America, gazing across the largest ocean in the world.  More than anything, how safe I felt.

The word “sanctuary” came to mind.  A story began to form of a young woman on the run from something bad, finding safety in a place like this.  Next came practical considerations: how would she survive alone?  Just behind me was a small cave.  On the sand around me were the remains of countless shellfish.  And in the water in front of me (I could only assume) were fish.  There was driftwood, for a fire to warm her little cave.  Everything she needed was right there.  Clothes?  That might be a challenge—but that only made the idea more appealing.

I began with what I thought was going to be a straightforward, prehistoric adventure story, but I quickly discovered something was missing.  Other characters, perhaps, but I knew right away they could not be human characters.  The beach was full of magic and mystery, and so was the story.  My heroine’s friends needed to be creatures of the sea.  And I sensed she already had some kind of connection to them, even if she didn’t yet know it.

I had not written much fantasy, although I loved to read it.  I decided the best way for me to approach the fantasy element of the story was to delve into what I was already comfortable with: mythology and folklore.  I knew a bit about selkies, so I started there.  When I discovered the roane, the novel just took off, and pretty much wrote itself from there.

Excerpt from The Seal Queen

She awoke to impossibly bright sunshine. Water was lapping gently against one arm. From above came the raucous cry of gulls. Briah sat up suddenly.

She was on a wide, sandy beach. The coast stretched east and west, as far as she could see. Behind her were gray cliffs of varying height and depth. Before her the sea stretched. And kept on stretching. Briah would have gladly just sat there and stared at the endless rocking waves, but they were getting closer to her with each pulsing motion. She backed up until she reached the cliff, frightened, as she realized there was no way through them, and climbing was out of the question.

Briah calmed when she realized that the base of the cliff was interwoven with plants and nests, none of which would be there if the waves reached this far back. So she found a comfortable rock dappled with shade and sun, and sat down to see where she was.

Puffy white clouds sailed lazily across a vivid blue sky. There was no sign anywhere of human habitation. It took a while for this fact to sink in. Briah, as far as she knew, had never been alone in her life. For a long time, that was a good thing; a fact she never questioned. But on a harvest morning four years ago, all of that changed forever. Since then, she had known friendship and comfort, but most of the time, people had meant pain and fear. And always, they had been in control of her.

But now, there was no one except her. And as Briah turned around to examine the tunnel she had come through during the night, she saw it was gone. Water filled it. Only at low tide could this place be reached at all.

Briah was alone. And it seemed just barely possible that she might stay that way.

Suddenly, it seemed, a great weight rolled off her shoulders. She breathed a little deeper; exhaled a little louder.

“I’m free,” she said softly, testing the words. When nothing happened, Briah said them again, louder this time. The only answer was the monotonous roar of the surf and the raucous cries of gulls.

Briah leaped to her feet, graceful in spite of her awkward bulk. She pulled her sodden, sand filled clothes from her body and threw them into the rocks behind her, not caring that cold stung her body. Naked and bulging, Briah danced into the shallow waves. Cold water tickled her feet and sucked at her legs. It felt wonderful.

“I’m free! I’m safe! And I’m going to live!” It was madness, she knew. Even if there was no other access to this beach; even if no one else ever breached the tunnel’s secret, there was no reason to believe that a lone woman could survive here. And one about to give birth had even less reason to hope.

Yet Briah hoped. She sang. She soared.

It was only cold and thirst that made her stop. She gathered up her clothes, but did not put them back on.

She walked toward the west, since the going was smoother and less rocky that way.

She had not gone far when she came to a thin ribbon of fresh water. It bubbled down from the cliffs, ran across the beach, and then merged with the salt water of the sea. Briah drank her fill. Then, hanging her clothes and boots on some of the rocks that jutted into the surf, she beat them with some smooth rocks she found in the sand. Next, she carried them back toward the cliff, where the freshwater danced and dropped in small cascades. Rinsing the laundry was not easy, for space was cramped, and conditions were not designed for bare feet.

But at last, Briah was satisfied. She wrung out the clothes and spread them to dry at the base of the cliff, where the sun shone fully. After weighting them down with rocks, Briah decided to explore further. But not without clothes. The late autumn cold had finally penetrated her euphoria. With nearly numb fingers, she untied her bundle, and wrapped herself in the drier of the two blankets. Stowing the few remaining scraps of food and her flints in the other blanket, Briah picked up her one knife and headed down the beach.

The shore was rocky, so she stayed near the surf, where the sand was gentle on her bare feet. Without realizing it, Briah began to walk in step with the surge and slap of the waves. She felt a sense of peace she had never before known. Perhaps that was what gave her the courage to keep walking in this strange place, looking for who knew what.


Sandra Saidak graduated San Francisco State University in 1985 with a B.A. in English.  She is a high school English teacher by day, author by night.  Her hobbies include reading, dancing, attending science fiction conventions, researching prehistory, and maintaining an active fantasy life (but she warns that this last one could lead to dangerous habits such as writing).  Sandra lives in San Jose with her husband Tom, daughters Heather and Melissa, and two cats.   Her first novel, “Daughter of the Goddess Lands”, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age, was published in November, 2011 by Uffington Horse Press.

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The Clan Andriescu

Whenever I begin a blog, I feel as if I’m at an AA or some other rehabilitative meeting, that I should stand up and say, “Bon Jour, everyone…my name is Tony-Paul and I like vampires.  Not only like them but I write about them also.”  At this point, everyone would mutter, “Hello Tony-Paul,” but…instead of launching into a story of my addictions and failures, we’d proceed to delving into the nosferatu psyche and how our literary efforts can make them more exciting and interesting because…believe it or not…we of the vampire-author persuasion don’t want to be cured!

Nope…sorry…unrepentant and all that…we love our winged, fanged nightwalkers…otherwise we wouldn’t write about them. (Did you ever believe otherwise?  Truly?)  Each of us in this very esoteric and close little circle (close and esoteric compared to other genres) has his own favorite type of Undead, and if the characteristics don’t exactly fit, why we’ll just use that good ol’ literary license and invent some which do.  I know one writer who allows her vamps to be able to utter the Holy Name without injury, and they actually have images in mirrors.  Another gave her nos the ability to conjure up an image in a mirror but only for a moment.  Some are repelled by garlic, others by various herbs and spices such as basil and oregano.  There days, the vampyre can be as varied as the humans on the planet, and it’s a very rare one indeed who hasn’t allowed himself to change with the times and avail himself—to some extent—of the technologies now present.  Hey, the vampire hunters are certainly taking advantage of the Internet, etc., so why shouldn’t the vampires, also?

Which conveniently segues into mention of my newest release, The Clan Andriescu.  I’ve done what I consider a pretty nervy thing with this novel…I’ve made myself a character in it.

In the foreward and also in the first chapter, readers will learn how a smart-ass adolescent named Tony-Paul happens, just by chance to meet three sightseeing tourists on a Savannsh beach.  They’re looking for something that doesn’t exist. He’s looking for…well, to tell the truth, at that stage of his life, TP didn’t know what he was looking for.  The tourists, however, did help him find a goal in his as yet undetermined life.

Things get off to a bumpy start, but get better as it goes along.

If the following blurb/excerpt piques our interest (Oui, I know how to both spell and use that word properly) here’s the BUY LINK:

BLURB, The Clan Andriescu

Marius, head of the Clan… Exiled for stealing one too many women from his prince…He can’t understand why the woman he loved in 1968 doesn’t want to renew their affair in 2013..

Valerius, the baby brother… ordered to marry, he selects the one girl who’s off limits because she’s human…all right to bite but not to wed…

Timon, the cousin… Being married to the most famous writer of vampire novels since Anne Rice can be fun, until she writes an exposé proving vampires are real…

When the sun sets on Savannah Beach, they meet a smart ass adolesdcent named Tony-Paul de Vissage…they entrust their life story to him…

Twenty years later, it becomes a novel…


“Back, foul fiend!” TP crossed one forefinger over the other, holding his hands in front of him.

“What the Hell are you doing?” The one called Val demanded, jumping back with a hiss.

Timon reached out, knocking TP’s hands apart. “That won’t help you,” he snarled. “We’re Jewish!”

“Don’t believe him.” Val recovered, leaning forward to whisper rather earnestly, “We’re Russian Orthodox. Really.”

“Back foul fiend?” Marius started laughing when TP spoke and now got himself under control. “I haven’t heard that phrase in at least a century. Where’d you dig up that?”

“I-I heard it in a Dracula movie the other night.” TP looked a little disappointed at their reaction.

“Dracula.” Marius looked disgruntled. “The best example of bad press, if ever there was. He should’ve sued his publicist.”

“If you’re through dissing Dracula, would you tell me…W-where am I?” wavered TP. “What have you done to me?”

“Done to you?” They looked at each other and back at him. “Nothing.”

“Don’t lie. I know what you are. Exactly.”

“Okay.” Timon walked over to the fainting couch and slouched on it, legs crossed, hands behind his head. “I’ll bite.” He looked as if he’d like to do just that. “What are we? Exactly?”


“Vam…” He began to laugh, displaying those overlong eyeteeth. “You’ve got a sense of humor, kid, I’ll give you that.”





Amazon Author Page:


Twitter: @tpvissage


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Q&A with Elisha Barber

Q:  You’ve described Elisha Barber as “Dark fantasy about medieval surgery” isn’t that kind of redundant?

It’s true that the medical techniques of the middle ages leave a lot to be desired—bleeding, amputation without anesthetics (opium was sometimes available, but often banned by the church), tooth-pulling and balancing the humors with all sorts of strange diets.  But this makes for an exciting world of possibilities for the writer: the stakes are high, the research is fascinating, and it’s an area for fantasy where not much has been written.

Q:  You don’t have a medical background—what lead you to write about a surgeon?  And why a barber?

It started out with research I was doing for another book. I read up on medieval surgery for a scene where an injured character gets treated, but I was so intrigued by my reading that I just couldn’t stop. I had read half a dozen books on the topic before I realized I was already building a new world and a new character in my head.

I wanted to call the series “The Barber’s Battle,” but my editors at DAW worried that not enough people knew that barbers were medical practitioners and not just hairdressers.  During this period, there was a distinct medical hierarchy among formal practitioners, from the university-educated physicians, to the surgeons who may or may not have had formal education, to the barber, the lowliest role, who performed most of the bleedings as well as amputations and minor surgery.  This is apart from the folk practitioners who worked in the town and village environment and might begin as herbalists, “wise women” or midwives who filled other healing functions as well.

Q:  How did the series become fantasy as well as history?

This question has two approaches.  First of all, when I started writing it was historically inspired, but not pinned down to any particular time and place. It wasn’t until I started imagining my illiterate protagonist, Elisha, attending medical school that I resolved to make it historical.  During the 1300’s, the medical school at Salerno, which had been the most famous, was somewhat in decline. It still provided a rich setting, near the site of Pompeii, part of the kingdom of Naples,which was ruled by a young woman who was accused of killing one of her husbands, and close to the place Vergil named as the entrance to Hell (probably because of the volcanic activity). None of this comes into play in the first book, but it helped me to narrow my timeframe to 1347.

Q:  So where does the fantasy come in? 

A second touchstone of my research had to do with crime and punishment. How criminals were treated, what crimes were considered significant, how witchcraft might be thought of. . .that lead me to the truly grim areas of my research: torture, injustice, the inquisition.  One of the things that struck me as I read was the number of times that witches, Jews and gays are grouped together with heretics.  Whenever something went wrong, people identified as members of these groups (rightly or wrongly) were rounded up and expelled, punished, sometimes tortured or even burned at the stake.  It felt like the set up to some cruel joke:  what do witches, Jews and queers have in common?  When the stake goes up, they are the first to burn.  That realization lead me to a variety of plot elements as well as characters in the book.

Q:  Sounds both disturbing and exciting, from a writing standpoint.  So what’s the blurb for the book?

England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague, witchcraft and necromancy. Where the medieval barber-surgeon Elisha seeks redemption as a medic on the front lines of an unjust war, and is drawn into the perilous world of sorcery by a beautiful young witch. In the crucible of combat, at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal…

Q:  Where can readers learn more?

The book is available now at all major outlets (and probably some minor ones as well!).

For sample chapters, more historical research including a bibliography and some nifty extras, visit

E. C. Ambrose blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at

Buy Links:


Barnes & Noble:


E. C. Ambrose is the author of “The Dark Apostle” series of historical fantasy novels, beginning with Elisha Barber from DAW Books.  Published works include “Spoiler Alert” and “The Romance of Ruins” in Clarkesworld Magazine and “Custom of the Sea,” winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012.   Additional stories are forthcoming in Fireside and through the Penguin Specials e-book program.  The author is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing workshop, a participant in the Codex on-line neo-pro writers’ workshop, and a member of the Cambridge Science Fiction Writers Workshop.

In addition to writing, E. C. works as an adventure guide.  Past occupations include founding a wholesale business, selecting stamps for a philatelic company, selling equestrian equipment, and portraying the Easter Bunny on weekends.  The author spends too much time in a tiny office in New Hampshire with a mournful black lab lurking under the desk.

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