Monthly Archives: May 2016

Modern Magic, Gaslight and Unlikely Heroes

Are you ready for summer reading? I’ve got some suggestions for you!

12-book box setFirst of all, check out Modern Magic: Twelve Tales of Urban Fantasy, an ebook boxed set exclusively on Kindle for a limited time. I’m talking about 12 book-length works by authors (including me) who know their way around the dark side, who can put a shiver down your spine and who dream up stories to give you nightmares. It’s a walk on the wild side, into the shadows, where things go bump in the night and the hour of the wolf never ends.

You don’t even have to sell your soul to get this deal. Just $1.99 only on Kindle, only for a limited time,

It’s the ONLY place to find Trifles and Folly, the first-ever collection of the initial 10 Deadly Curiosities Adventures stories with Cassidy, Teag and Sorren, all in one volume!

Here’s what’s included in Modern Magic:

THE TENTACLE AFFAIRE: A Slip Traveler Novel by award-winning and RT Recommended bestselling author Jeanne Adams–He doesn’t believe in aliens. She doesn’t believe in magic. They’re both wrong.

DAYS GONE BAD (Vesik, Book 1) by Eric Asher – An urban fantasy about a necromancer and his vampire sister. And chimichangas.

THE NIMBLE MAN by New York Times bestselling author and Stoker Award winner Christopher Golden, first book of The Menagerie series. They are beings of myth and legend. They FC JONMARC COLLECTIONpossess powers beyond imagining. They are our only hope.

BILL THE VAMPIRE (The Tome of Bill, part 1) by Amazon Top 100 author Rick Gualtieri – Bill Ryder was a dateless geek, but then he met a girl to die for. So he did.

HARD DAY’S KNIGHT – by award-winning author John Hartness– A pair of comic book nerds get turned into vampires, and now they have to save the world. The world is so screwed.

SOUTHERN BOUND (Max Porter, Book 1) by Top 100 Kindle author Stuart Jaffe – When Max Porter discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective, he does the smartest thing possible — starts a detective agency.

TAINTED by New York Times bestselling author Julie Kenner—In the demon world it’s sometimes hard to tell your ally from your enemy… 

978-1-939704-60-3THE SOUL CAGES: A Minister Knight Novel by Nicole Givens Kurtz -Sarah risks everything to save her soul and be reincarnated back into flesh. Now, the real adventure begins…

TRIFLES AND FOLLY (Deadly Curiosities Adventures) by #1 Kindle Top 100 bestselling author Gail Z. Martin – A Charleston, SC antique store is the cover for a coalition of mortals and immortals who have sworn their lives and magic to saving the world from supernatural threats and cursed relics.

NOBODY GETS THE GIRL by 2016 Piedmont Laureate and award-winning author James Maxey — The fate of the free world is at stake as the superhuman battles escalate, wiping entire cities from the map, threatening the survival of all mankind. Who can save us from the looming apocalypse? Nobody!

TOUCH A DARK WOLF (Shadowmen Book 1) by USA Today bestselling author Jennifer St. Giles–Poisoned by evil, Jared fights to save Erin before the murderous darkness in him claims them both .

CELLAR  by Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Karen E. Taylor– If Laura Wagner’s inner demons don’t get her, the real ones just might…

So load up on your beach reading in one easy ebook boxed set for less than the price of a cup of coffee! Pre-order now and be first in line when it goes live June 2!

G&GRed-Gold LeafNow if you still like a good bedtime story, check out Gaslight and Grimm, a collection of Steampunk fairy tales including one by Larry and me, The Patented Troll, which is our clockwork retelling of the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. With tales by James Chambers, Christine Norris, Bernie Mojzes, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Jeff Young, Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, and Jody Lynn Nye. Order here:

Unlikely HeroesReady for some Unlikely Heroes? If you’ve heard me read from the story about the lady in the parking lot having a really bad day, this is for you. The Breaking Point, A mother has one of the worst days ever as everything seems to go against her until she finally snaps and takes charge. In Windows on the Soul you meet an unusual superhero, they call her in when they want to minimize collateral damage. She’s not showy and won’t be on the evening news but she’s the one the other superheroes fear and avoid. Finally you meet Old Nonna, part legend, part myth, no one likes to speak of Old Nonna out loud but they know she’s there – waiting for those who need to find her.  Grab it here:

And coming June 14, the first new book in the world of The Summoner (Chronicles of the Necromancer), The Shadowed Path—a collection of the first 10 Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories PLUS an exclusive 11th story you can ONLY find in this collection. The Shadowed Path will be available in PRINT as well as ebook, so for everyone who’s been asking for dead-tree edition Jonmarc stories, here it is! Pre-order here:

How do you like to connect with authors at conventions? Answer my May survey and let me know! Plus, you’ll be entered for a chance to win 4 ebook short stories!

And don’t forget to catch up with Gaslight and Grimm authors David Lee Summers and JeanMarie Ward on my blog, and with more authors on the blog!

I’ll be at a bunch of summer conventions, and holding launch parties at many of them. Watch for a Modern Magic/The Shadowed Path room party at Balticon on Saturday night, plus I’ll be part of the Gaslight and Grimm launch party on Sunday. Larry and I will both be at ConCarolinas and Congregate, and I’ll be at Origins Gaming Fair as well. Hope to see you soon!

And don’t forget—The Shadow Alliance is my street team of awesome readers who get insider information, extra contests and giveaways and lots of fun, and help me boost the signal about new books. Come play with us—it’s free!

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Q&A with Jean Marie Ward

JMWard-WRW150What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

My next release will be “The Clockwork Nightingale” in the Steampunk fairy tale anthology Gaslight and Grimm, coming from eSpec Books in May 2016. It’s currently available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookseller. Starting at Balticon, which will be held in Baltimore over the Memorial Day weekend, you’ll also be able to buy it directly from eSpec Books at selected SF/fantasy cons.

How did you choose to become a writer?

It happened so early, I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. Part of it was my parents’ love of reading and the scope of things they read me at bedtime—everything from army regulations to Greek mythology to Shakespeare. Part of it was certainly my dad’s unrealized literary ambitions. He was a born storyteller, but he never got the chance to write professionally. In any event, I started inventing my own fairy tales before I hit kindergarten. I wrote a play about the theft of Thor’s hammer in fourth grade. Then I discovered Brenda Starr in the newspaper and Lois Lane in the comics, and my fate was sealed.

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

Seeing all the parts of a shiny new story come to life in my head.

What do you like the least?

Trying to get all that shiny on the page. Somehow, it never reads the same as they did in my head. In addition, as I’m slogging my way toward “The End”, I always reach a point where I’m sure my current effort is the worst story ever written. It’s so bad, somebody’s going to sneak into my house in the middle of the night and take away my writer card. And maybe my cat.

They haven’t succeeded yet, but I suspect it’s only because the cat hides from strangers.

What inspired your new book or story?

Equal parts desire and desperation. I knew I wanted to write a story for Gaslight and Grimm from the moment I heard about it. Unfortunately, my first choice for a story had already been taken…and my second…and my third. Then co-editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail said she was open to classic fairy tales from other sources, at which point my wayward brain proposed setting Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale” in a frontier saloon, complete with bare-knuckle bullies, love-struck engineers and a singer with a diamond heart. Somewhere along the way a little Casablanca crept in there, too. I’m still not sure how that happened.

How do you research your stories?

Like a sponge—no kidding! Once I have a vague idea of the story I want to write, I’ll grab everything that looks fun or useful from the internet, my local library, TV, radio, the movies, my bookshelves and local color. I take notes and photos, assemble electronic and hard copy files. I’ll even draw maps. Then I’ll start writing, discover I’ve missed something, and back to the books and Internet I’ll go. I won’t say research is the best part of writing, but sometimes it comes close.

Where can readers find you on social media?
Twitter: @Jean_Marie_Ward

Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr) and art books. Her stories appear in numerous anthologies, such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, and Tales from the Vatican Vaults. The former editor of Crescent Blues, she co-edited the six-volume, 40th anniversary World Fantasy Con anthology Unconventional Fantasy and is a frequent contributor to Her website is

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Making a Connection to Fairy Tales via Steampunk

Steampunk-Dave-2-150by David Lee Summers

Grimm’s Fairy Tales were among the first stories I remember hearing.  My grandmother read me such stories as “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.”  Among the first movies I saw were Disney’s Snow White and Cinderella.  Of course, I can’t forget The Bullwinkle Show whose “Fractured Fairy Tale” segments featured delightfully twisted versions of “The Fisherman and his Wife” and “Rapunzel.”  The problem is, timeless as these tales were, I always felt separated from them by the gulf of time and space.  I grew up in a land with no kings or princesses, much less enchanted fish or cobbler elves.

Fairy tales have a long history. When first told, the people hearing them could relate to the pastoral settings.  Relatives might know characters like those in the stories.  “A long time ago, in a land far away” is a phrase invented to connect those of us who don’t have those experiences back to that distant time.  However, the original audience of fairy tales didn’t need that link.  For all they knew, the time was only a generation or two ago and the land of the story could be just over the hill.  The stories were meant to be relevant to the audience.

My paternal grandfather was a World War I veteran. I inherited the pith helmet he wore in the service.  After the war, he went to work for the railroad during the last years of the steam era.  My maternal grandparents homesteaded in Northeastern New Mexico. They worked on ranches and in a general store, living in the real Wild West.  I spent time on that land as a kid and I’ve ridden on trains pulled by steam engines through the mountains of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  The steam era is not my era, but I feel personally connected to it.

Steampunk is a genre that looks at the not-so-distant past through a magical lens.  Some authors invoke literal magic while others imagine technology taken to such an extreme it becomes magical in its own right.  Either way, it’s easy for me to imagine those steampunk worlds as ones that existed just over the hill from the places my grandparents experienced and shared with me through their stories.  My Clockwork Legion steampunk series which begins in the novel Owl Dance and continues in Lightning Wolves is set in a west inspired by the west my grandparents homesteaded.

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150When Danielle Ackley-McPhail asked me to pitch a story for the collection Gaslight and Grimm, one of the stories I suggested was a steampunked retelling of the Grimm Fairy Tale, “The Dragon and his Grandmother.”  It was the story of soldiers escaping a terrible war through the aid of a duplicitous dragon. I easily imagined soldiers in pith helmets like my grandfather used to wear.  A huge dragon belching smoke and fire, reminded me of a powerful locomotive and I had a flash of a mechanical monster that could have been.

Steampunking a fairy tale might not bring it completely up to date, but it brings it up to my grandparents’ generation.  I can imagine the stories in Gaslight and Grimm taking place in a world parallel to the one they inhabited.  As a result, those stories give me another connection to my grandmother and allow me to smile again as I remember her telling me those stories.  I honor her memory by continuing the tradition and telling you stories.  I hope you’ll drop by my website at and learn more about the stories I tell.


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New Cool Stuff!

It must be spring, because I’m heading to The Steampunk World’s Fair, followed by Balticon, and then ConCarolinas—you can see the summer schedule at the end. It’s nice to get back on the road and back with the tribe—and I’m hoping you’ll come say hi if you’re heading to one of summer cons.

GZM_Shadow_and_Flame_205x330Shadow and Flame, the fourth and final Ascendant Kingdoms (Blaine McFadden) novel, is out in paperback, ebook and audiobook. Bookwraiths says, ‘a wild ride … never a dull moment!’  Watch book video here  and buy it now!  Shadow and Flame on Audible for the audiobook lovers!

Now about that six year gap in Ice Forged, when Blaine gets sent to Velant Prison … You already know that I cover those years in three Kings Convicts Draft 1novellas: Arctic Prison, Cold Fury and Ice Bound. Now you can get all three novellas in one collection for a special price in King’s Convicts.

Do you like a little Steampunk with your fairy tales? Gaslight and Grimm Journey with us through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam. With tales by James Chambers, Christine Norris, Bernie Mojzes, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Jeff Young, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, and Jody Lynn Nye. Our story is a Billy Goats Gruff riff, “The Patented Troll.”

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150The May survey wants to know the ways you like best when it comes to interacting with authors at conventions! Take the survey and enter for a chance to win a sampler platter of 4 ebook short stories, one from each of our series!

Have you pre-ordered The Shadowed Path? Eyes and Books reviews calls it ‘crammed full of nonstop action, great characters and fast-paced writing! See the review here  and pre-order here.

And I’ve been on a few blogs lately, talking about this and that….

When the End Comes—I share some thoughts with author Juliet McKenna on ending a series FC JONMARC COLLECTION

Anarchy sucks. Bibliosanctum gives me the mic to talk about the end of the world.

Ever wonder about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in fantasy novels? Catch my musings at SciFi Now.

And the Barnes & Noble blog had me on as a guest to talk about how we might never be Aragorn, but on our best days, we might be Sam.

How to find us:

• May 7 Book Festival in Rutherfordton, NC
• May 13 – 15 Steampunk World’s Fair, Piscataway, NJ (Iron & Blood party—Larry will be there with me!)
• May 27 – 30 Balticon, Baltimore, MD (launch party)
• June 3-5 ConCarolinas, Concord, NC (launch party—Double trouble—Larry’s coming, too!)
• June 15 – 19 Origins Gaming Convention, Columbus, OH
• June 21-28 Hawthorn Moon blog tour
• June 14 The Shadowed Path comes out!

Reviewers and media—The Shadowed Path is now on NetGalley. And if you missed getting a review copy for Shadow and Flame or Vendetta, just let me know and I can arrange it.

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When the end is nigh, take another look at your characters’ “victory conditions”

JeMcK-col1-smallBy Juliet E McKenna

Preparing the ebook edition of the final volume of The Aldabreshin Compass set me thinking about the challenges I faced when writing this particular story as well as the wider questions which authors must answer when they’re wrapping up a multi-book series. Because there are some significant pitfalls to be wary of.

There’s a fine line to tread between ‘and they all (eventually) lived (more or less) happily ever after’ and ‘they all came full circle and hit the Reset Button’. The first can and arguably should be satisfactorily achieved, because ending a series with overall failure is hardly rewarding the reader for their time and commitment. On the other hand, hitting the Reset Button treats the reader just as badly, when an entire series ultimately fails the ‘So What?’ test. What was the point in following those characters through all that travelling, learning and struggle if nothing has really changed?

Quite apart from anything else, if your characters have been on a multi-volume journey, whether that’s literal or metaphorical, they’ve been planning for anticipated challenges as well as facing unforeseen threats. Surely they themselves will have changed? Real life, in fiction as well as in fact, is all about emotional growth and learning through experience. And the best fiction is always ultimately grounded in reality.

Which brings us to “victory conditions” which is an expression wargamers will be familiar with. If it’s new to you, it’s most satisfying when it’s far more complex than simply ‘beat the other guy and/or his army’. It can be ‘defeat a certain percentage of his army within a certain timescale’, like Napoleon at Waterloo needing to break the British army before the Prussians arrived. It can be ‘fight the other guy to a standstill’, like the Russians at Borodino who managed to mostly-not-lose-entirely rather than win that battle. That was still enough to mean Napoleon couldn’t force the Czar to surrender completely. Some games offer variations on victory conditions. We’ve been playing the tabletop Firefly game as a family recently, where winning the introductory scenario requires amassing a certain amount of credit and making two key allies. The longer scenarios for more experienced players have far trickier requirements for success.

In real life, as well as in gaming, and in fiction, victory conditions can change. Something I’ve seen time and again in martial arts is a shift in perspective once people attain their black belt. Starting out, every grading and each new coloured belt is generally seen as a rung on the ladder to that ultimate goal of black. That’s the summit of their ambition. However, by the time they’ve reached that level of experience, their understanding has usually developed so that they now recognise a First Dan grade isn’t anywhere near the end of their journey. Rather that achievement marks the point where they’ve laid a sufficiently solid foundation of skills and knowledge to appreciate the far deeper and more complete learning that’s still to come.

All this informs my writing. As the Aldabreshin Compass series begins with Southern Fire, the central character Kheda, warlord and absolute ruler of a tropical island realm, faces vicious invaders backed by brutal sorcery. In subsequent books, he realises that was merely the first of successive challenges stemming from all this upheaval. In Northern Storm, fighting magical fire with fire is not so easy when wizardry of any kind is forbidden in the Archipelago on pain of death. Add to that, in a feudal society full of rivalry and intrigue, there will always be those who’ll pursue their own, short-term advantage over and above any commitment to the greater good.

Such behaviour may be contemptible but those people can’t be ignored, by characters and authors alike. Turn your back and they’ll be sure to stab you between the shoulder blades. So keep your eye on them, and take a good hard look at their own victory conditions while you’re at it. Working out what they ultimately want may well show you the key to defeating them. Ideally achieving your own victory in ways that readers won’t be expecting at all, because the all-too-easily predictable end to a story is another writerly pitfall lurking at the end of a series.

Kheda’s journey is both literal and metaphorical throughout these books. He travels the length and breadth of the Archipelago as well as voyaging to an unknown land far beyond in Western Shore. Along the way, he meets new people and new ideas which profoundly alter his world view. he’s a very different person by the time Eastern Tide sweeps him back to more familiar waters. His personal victory conditions have become something very different indeed.

Northern Storm-smallWhile he’s doing all this, life for everyone else left behind goes on. All those people are still pursuing their own victory conditions. This highlights another fatal flaw of any ‘Hit the Reset Button’ conclusion. A realistic scenario will simply not allow for characters returning to easily slot back into holes and roles in other people’s lives which have been waiting for them, unfilled. Characters having to fight physically or emotionally to regain their former place can work but that’s another story.

Will Kheda achieve his new ambitions? You’ll have to read the books to find out. If you want to get a taste of these stories first, you can find the opening chapters via my website, along with some short stories about some of those characters getting on with their own lives while Kheda’s away.

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author, living in the Cotswolds, UK. She has always been fascinated by myth and history, other worlds and other peoples. Her debut fantasy novel, The Thief’s Gamble, first of The Tales of Einarinn was published in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence and The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution. Her fifteenth book, Defiant Peaks, concluded The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. She writes diverse shorter fiction ranging from stories for themed anthologies such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity and Tales from the Emerald Serpent to a handful of tales for Doctor Who, Torchwood and Warhammer 40k.  Exploring new opportunities in digital publishing she wrote a serial novella The Ties that Bind for Aethernet e-magazine and her Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law short stories are now available in an ebook edition from Wizard’s Tower Press. She also reviews for web and print magazines and promotes SF&Fantasy by blogging, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. Learn more about all of this at



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