Category Archives: Books

Which Comes First–Character or World?

by Gail Z. Martin

Ask three writers how they do their worldbuilding, and you’ll get four opinions. Maybe more, if our characters get to give their own answers.

That is to say, there’s no wrong way to worldbuild as long as the final product ends up satisfactory to readers. The trick is to come up with an approach that works for you, that creates a realistically detailed and nuanced setting, and–most importantly–seamlessly and believably supports your plot and characters.

How detailed should your worldbuilding be? That reminds me of the old joke about how long a man’s legs should be–long enough to reach the ground. You want your world to have age and depth and weight to it. It should feel like it’s been thoroughly lived in and hard used, not like one of those false-front fake Wild West villages at amusement parks. Your characters and plot should feel as if they rise organically from your world, as if they couldn’t possibly happen anywhere else or be the same in any other setting.

If you’ve ever traveled somewhere unfamiliar, whether it’s across the state or across the world, it’s the little things that made you aware that you were someplace far from home. The menu choices were unfamiliar. The brands of soda were different. The money looked odd and came in strange colors and sizes. People went about their daily routines a bit differently than back home. Signs are not what you’re used to seeing. All those little details aren’t important by themselves, but collectively they are the stuff of authenticity, and to the extent that you have thoroughly thought these things out, your readers will have a richer, more immersive experience.

I believe that immersion was part of the genius of the Harry Potter books. In a million different little details, J.K. Rowling signaled that we weren’t in our own mundane world but someplace wondrous and frighteningly different. The best books give us enough of these nuanced details that we don’t feel infodumped or overwhelmed but we do grasp that we’ve been whisked away to somewhere new.

As for which comes first, character or world, that’s like the chicken/egg dilemma. If you think hard about the circumstances and experiences that shaped your character, you’ll know a lot about the world he/she came from. And if you build out your world convincingly, you’ll know what kinds of characters arise from its climate, history, culture and society. Start wherever you please; you’ll end up in the same place.

How do you drill down to those details? Some writers like to ‘interview’ their characters, sitting down and having a mental chat with their creations who proceed to spill their guts. I’ve used that successfully. Sometimes, either the world or the character just comes to you full-blown, and you have to figure out the rest around the edges. I’ve also built series that way as well. For me, I want my world to be a character in its own way. For example, in my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, things happen that are quintessentially Charleston, SC so that if the action were to happen somewhere else, it would have to be different. The city of Charleston is woven into the fabric of the story in a way that can’t be undone.

If you’re still struggling with worldbuilding, think about the places you’ve been (or go on a day trip somewhere new) and note the details. Jot them down and pay attention to everything you notice that differs from back home. Now think about how you might pull that kind of nuance into your fictional worldbuilding. It could be easier than you think!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at

Here’s an excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story Buttons

A free excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story Coffin Box Deadly Curiosities short story

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! Ice Forged Audible

Try a free excerpt from my Reign of Ash

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Getting Real with Trifles and Folly

by Gail Z. Martin

At the heart of my urban fantasy series Deadly Curiosities is the antique store Trifles and Folly. Trifles and Folly has been run by members of my main character’s family since Charleston, SC was founded nearly 350 years ago, always in tandem with its secret silent partner, a nearly 600 year-old vampire named Sorren.

Trifles and Folly is really a front for The Alliance, a secret coalition of mortals and immortals that eliminates supernatural threats and gets cursed and haunted objects out of the wrong hands. My main character, Cassidy Kincaide, is a psychometric who can read the history and magic of objects by touch.

The books are set in Charleston, SC but the storefront that I picture when I think of Trifles and Folly is in New Orleans, LA, just down the street from the famed Hotel Monteleone. I took one look and knew it was exactly what I had in mind, although I described Trifles and Folly years before I ever visited the Big Easy.

What makes the NOLA store perfect? The storefront appears to date from the 1800s, with black wood, old-fashioned awnings and big windows reminiscent of Victorian style. Two large, ornate carriage lanterns hang on either side of the facade, giving it an elegant but gothic feel. Gold lettering has the ideal old-time feel. Peering through the windows, the inside it suitably gloomy and underlit. It looks like the perfect place to buy needful things.

I grew up going to a lot of antique stores, swap meets, flea markets and yard sales because my dad couldn’t resist them. Most of the stores were dusty and junk-laden, a hoarder’s storage space excused as a business. But then there were the special ones, the ones that sent a tingle down my spine, the ones that I just knew held special–and perhaps dangerous–treasures.

Sometimes those treasures were estate jewelry or old silver tea sets, and other troves were full of clocks, leather-bound books, or vintage clothing. Those stores smelled of dust and mothballs, and hinted at obsession, curated with purposeful madness. They were the dangerously alluring shops where it didn’t seem impossible for an item to harbor magic–or a curse.

I always kept my hands to myself. Some things are best left untouched.

So far, I haven’t been able to take the time to go inside the store in New Orleans. When I do, I assure you that I won’t be handling the merchandise, or making any deals with the owner. After all, I know how these things work.

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at

Hot stuff! Look at my video for Ice Forged and Reign of Ash

Spooky! Free excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities short story Shadow Garden

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! The Sworn Audible


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Paths to Publication

by Gail Z. Martin

In today’s market, authors have more choices than ever before on how to bring their book to readers. Traditional big publishers, small press, self-publishing–what’s an author to do?

Each path to publication has pros and cons. There are a few considerations to factor in as you’re looking at options. What do you want out of publishing? If you have your heart set on becoming a New York Times bestseller, that’s more likely for a book put out by a big traditional publisher (and even then, it’s far from guaranteed). Likewise, if you’re hoping to pay all your bills with your advance check, a big publisher is the way to go. Large traditional publishers have national (and sometimes international) bookstore distribution, still a factor with today’s readers. You may also find more marketing resources with a big press, though that is debatable as staff cuts continue.

On the other hand, if you want someone else to handle the details of publication (editing, layout, cover design, some marketing) but you’re not worried about fame, bookstore placement or an advance, a reputable small press could be a good fit. Small presses can put out books of equivalent (or better) quality as large publishers, and tend to invest more editorial time in working with authors. Their marketing clout might not be as substantial, but marketing is an iffy proposition even for large publishers. Bookstore distribution and lack of an advance are the biggest drawbacks, but even big houses are paying smaller advances nowadays and bookstores are not as plentiful as they once were.

If you enjoy total control, self-publishing (also called indie) might be a good fit. Or, if you believe in a book and haven’t found a home for it, self-publishing with today’s online tools and Amazon can still make sure your book reaches the right readers. Self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it used to when the only choices were unscrupulous vanity publishers. A growing number of authors who have enthusiastic fan bases are finding it possible to make a living with self-published books (though it is still not guaranteed, even for established authors). The biggest caveat is that when you self-publish, you are both author and publisher. You write the book, hire the copy editor and proofreader, arrange for the cover art and the layout, handle the audio rights, set up the accounts with Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into bringing a book to life after the writing is done, and the type of work required is not everyone’s idea of ‘fun’. Succeeding with self-publishing takes a lot of effort and attention to detail, but it’s more possible now than ever before.

Most of us pursue ‘hybrid’ careers, meaning that we play in all three arenas. If you can snag a contract and an advance with a big publisher, grab it. If a small press wants to include you in an anthology or bring out a niche novel, do it. And if you want to bring out some series on your own or self-publish short stories/novellas tied in to your series with other publishers, go for it. Working with big publishers, small presses and some self-publishing makes you more resilient to fate, since you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. I’m seeing more and more authors going this route, and it’s the path I’ve personally chosen because it allows the greatest range and ‘security’ in a highly volatile business.

The greatest thing about your writing career is that you get to chart your own way, making the decisions that are best for you and your books. Know your options and then pick what works for you. And be sure to enjoy what you do every day!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at

Read an excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities short story Redcap

Enjoy excerpt from Reign of Ash


Check out the Iron & Blood book video!

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Researching the Macabre

by Gail Z. Martin

When people ask me ‘where do you get your ideas for your books’, I’m never sure whether they are curious about my writing habits or checking to make sure I haven’t been stashing bodies in my basement. (Silly–we don’t have a basement. We have a crawlspace.)

That’s because I write bloody, scary stuff with lots of dark magic and undead creatures. That holds true whether I’m writing epic fantasy, urban fantasy or steampunk. I love ghosts and monsters, and I’ve always gravitated toward the macabre. Finding inspiration is easier than you might think.

Museums are treasure troves of cool, weird, creepy stuff. When I visit a city, I do my best to go through the local museum. To say that I’m excited about going through a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History in New York City or the Field Museum in Chicago or any museum in Europe is an understatement. I am *giddy*. I like to have plenty of time so I can read all the little descriptions. Inevitably, I wander into the off-jog room that has the creepy death jewelry or the plague artifacts or the collection of Victorian death photography. It can be best if I go by myself so no one gets impatient as I linger.

Lots of museums are building online exhibits with photos, video, audio and descriptions, so this expands the number of museums I can visit. When I go to a new city, I also like to find the cemeteries and dungeons, go on ghost tours, or the ‘scandals and dark side’ tours. It’s all fodder!

I love to read the blogs and web sites on magic, Voodoo, paranormal research and urban exploration. I’ll read urban legends and news accounts of old tragic accidents or weird occurrences. Sometimes I’ll follow up on something I’ve heard about on The History Channel or A&E and then I go down the rabbit hole clicking links from one fascinating strange thing to another. It’s a toss-up whether I know what I’m looking for or being guided by serendipity, but it always works out. I also read a lot of books on myth, the occult, medieval warfare, and related topics. History is the best source for strange-but-true stuff you couldn’t possibly make up. I’ve found inspiration in Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not collections, living history museums and national parks.

Researching the macabre is easier than you might imagine if you keep your ears open, look for the unusual things tucked away in corners, or ask your guide “did anything really strange ever happen here” or “are there any ghost stories about this place”?  You won’t believe what docents will tell you ‘off the record’ if you ask the right questions! Truth really is stranger than fiction!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at

Steampunk & spooky! Free excerpt from our Storm and Fury Adventure short story Rogue

Hey—did you see the video for The Sworn and The Dread?

Use your free @Audible trial to get my books! Reign of Ash Audible


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Turning Back to Epic Fantasy

by David B. Coe

Like Gail, I have written in several fantasy subgenres over the course of my career, most recently taking on contemporary urban fantasy (with my Case Files of Justis Fearsson trilogy) and historical urban fantasy (with the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson). I started out, though, writing alternate world, epic (or high) fantasy. Multi-book story arcs, set in created worlds, with lots of magic and castle intrigue, and with larger-than-life villains who threatened All That We Hold Dear. Fun stuff.

coejacksonpubpic1000I’ve recently returned to these early works. The rights to my first several series have reverted to me, leaving me free to do with them as I please. And I have chosen to reissue what I am calling the “Author’s Edits” (think Director’s Cut) of the books. For obvious reasons, I’ve started with my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle, which I published back in the late 1990s. These books established me commercially and critically, and won me the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best new author in fantasy. They’re as close to my heart as any books I’ve written. But they were also my first efforts and they suffered from many of the flaws one finds in first novels. Hence the Author’s Edit. I haven’t changed any of the plotting, world building, or character work. But I’ve tightened the prose and eliminated unnecessary dialog tags, adverbs, and expository passages. The books now read better than they ever have.

In reading through and editing this first series, I realized that I miss writing epic fantasy. It’s not that I’ve come to dislike urban fantasy. Far from it. I believe the Fearsson and Thieftaker books represent the best writing I’ve ever done. But I had forgotten how much fun it can be to write those huge, sprawling epics on which I cut my teeth as a writing professional.

To my mind, the biggest differences between writing urban fantasy and writing epic boil down to the related issues of point of view and plotting. Urban fantasy, as I’ve approached it in my career and experienced it as a reader, tends to be more streamlined. The cast of point of view characters is usually limited to a single protagonist, or perhaps two or three narrating characters. The plotting can be twisty and intricate, but it’s also focused. Much of urban fantasy pays homage not only to its fantasy roots, but also to noir mystery. It’s not surprising then, that some of the best books in the subgenre are lean, fast-paced, and tightly constructed. As I say, I love urban for just these reasons.dcoe1

But for me, the allure of epic fantasy, both as an author and as a fan, lies in its embrace of very different attributes. My favorite epic fantasies, and all the high fantasies I’ve written, braid together many seemingly disparate storylines that coalesce as the novel and/or series progresses. By necessity, these plot threads are presented through a pantheon of point of view characters, who give the reader dfferent perspectives on the story, and bits of information that form a sort of narrative mosaic.

In some respects it’s less efficient story telling. On the other hand, when done well, epic fantasy can take on a richness and texture that make it unique among all forms of speculative fiction. I enjoy writing it because I can lead my reader through a labyrinth of plot points, hinting at key moments to come, feinting at possible paths my story might take, and telling the tale through a collection of voices, each one unique and, I hope, engaging. I can give my readers more information than any one of my characters has at his or her disposal, thus ratcheting up the tension by, for example, sending my protagonist into a trap of which my readers are aware, even though she is not.

We writers can be a fickle bunch. When I shifted from epic fantasy to urban, I did it, in part, because I was tired of writing the multi-POV, multi-plot-thread, multi-volume stories that I’d written throughout the early years of my career. I longed for that leaner voice of urban fantasy. I wanted to write stand-alone novels that more closely resembled whodunits, but with a magical twist. The Thieftaker and Fearsson books were exactly what I was after.

dcoe2Now, I find that I’m ready to turn back. Reading and editing Children of Amarid, my very first novel, as I prepared for its re-release, I found myself transported back to those days when I was writing the book without a contract, dreaming of one day becoming a published author. I had read many of the great epic fantasists of my youth: Tolkien and Donaldson, Kurtz and Kerr, McCaffrey (yes, I know — she considered herself an author of Science Fiction; I thought of it as fantasy), LeGuin, Brooks, and Eddings. Those were the authors who attracted me to this career, and when I wrote the LonTobyn Chronicle, I tried to draw upon what I saw as the finest qualities of their work. I’m not so full of myself as to claim that I succeeded with this first effort. But they were my inspirations, and fantasy, as they defined the field, was my first love.

So, now I’m back to it. I have more of my backlist to release in coming years: my five-book Winds of the Forelands series, my Blood of the Southlands trilogy. And I’m eager to try my hand at writing new epic fantasy, blending my lifelong passion for the genre with the knowledge of craft I’ve accrued during my twenty years in the business. I don’t yet know exactly what this new project will look like. But those elements of the genre that I love — magic, of course, the more wondrous the better, as well as intrigue, action, and maybe a sprinkling of romance — will all be there, along with the rich complexity that makes reading and writing high fantasy such a joy. Stay tuned!

About the Author

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is the process of reissuing, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.



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DragonCon is this coming weekend!

FB Tairens LareDragonCon is this coming weekend—and I’ll be there! Here’s where to find me:

11:30 a.m. Effective Promotion for Writers Embassy CD Hyatt

2 pm Signing at The Missing Volume in the Vendor Hall

2-3 pm Larry N. Martin will be signing in Booth 1223-1225 Author’s Lair

3-4 I will be signing in Booth 1223-1225 Author’s Lair

5:30  Magical Tropes Embassy EF–Hyatt

7 pm Avoiding Historical Mistakes 204J Mart2

8:30 Social Media as Tool not Trial Embassy CD–Hyatt

10 – noon Signing in Booth 1223-1225 Author’s Lair

1 pm The Craft of Dystopia Chastain F-H Westin

2:30 pm Signing at Larry Smith Books in the Vendor Hall

2:30 pm Larry N. Martin will be signing in Author’s Lair

4 pm Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading Piedmont–Hyatt

5:30 Plotting/Sustaining a Series Embassy CD–Hyatt

7 History or Alternate History 204I Mart2

shadow aliance t-shirtSunday
10 a.m. Literary Comfort Food Embassy AB–Hyatt

11:30 Awesome Women of Podcasting 202-Hilton

1:30 – 3:30 Signing in Booth 1223-1225 Author’s Lair

4 pm Niche Markets in Ebooks/Print 208-209 Hilton

10 a.m. Hiding in Plain Sight: Closed Worlds in UF Chastain DE-Westin

1:30 – 3 Signing in Booth 122301225 Author’s Lair

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

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Revealing the Magic Trick

by Stuart Jaffe

From time to time, I get asked how something like the Max Porter mysteries came to be.  How did I come up with the idea of mixing true, odd, North Carolina history with witches, ghosts, curses, and such? And, over that time, I had developed a standard response. I had been living in Winston-Salem for several years and was curious to know more about it. My wife was a grad student at Wake Forest University, so one day, while stuck there waiting for her, I decided to hang out at the library. It was there that I stumbled upon a bit of WWII history I had never heard of before (that we shipped German POWs onto US soil to labor for the tobacco industry), and it screamed for a story. Max Porter was born.

That is the truth. But it’s also not.

See, it depends on who you are and why you’re asking. If you’re a reader who just wants to know what sparked this ever-growing series that has (hopefully) thrilled you, then yes, the above answer is the truth. And if that’s who you are, if you don’t like to know how a magic trick works or how the sausage is made, then I urge you to stop right here. Because there be dragon below.

Now — and this part took me years to figure out — if you’re a new writer, then you mean something quite different by the question. What you’re really asking me is how the Max Porter mysteries came to be — as in, the entire series. I see this when new writers discuss any long-running series. They marvel at the complex interplay between characters, how fully-developed each personality is, and how little details in an early book become massively important later on. How, they wonder, did the author know to do that?

My standard answer above does not answer that question.  Because no writer, no matter what PR line they spout, has an entire series fully formed in his or her head. Doesn’t happen. She might have the beginning, some key points in the middle, and a killer ending in mind, but the entire run of a 7 + books series?  Nope.

Those characters you marvel at were not so well-developed in the beginning. The complex interplay grew over the course of all those books. Each mystery they solved, each baddie they vanquished, each love they cherished and loss they endured, all built upon each other so that when Heroine nods with narrowing eyes at Hero, we all know what that means — all the history behind it — which sends chills through our delighted reader hearts. And that little detail which became huge later on — well, the author didn’t plan it that way when she wrote that detail in. But four books later, when she needed something to call back from a previous book, she read over her work, found that detail, and neatly clicked into place.

It’s part of how a writer’s mind works. We are constantly putting together the puzzle pieces that make up a novel, and sometimes we set a piece aside based on nothing but gut reaction, only to discover later exactly why we did it. We know that if we’re patient and consistent, our books will build upon themselves and create that full-world experience you crave. That’s why Book 1 or Book 2 of a series can be so much more difficult than Book 5. But it can be super-exciting too!

It’s all part of the magic trick that we perform.

What’s really cool is that with the Modern Magic deal, you get 12 novels that are almost all Book 1 of a series. You can start now and see how the groundwork for the trick is being set down. Then keep reading those series you like and watch the magic!

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I love superheroes.

By James Maxey

I love superheroes.

Like most people, this started when I was a kid. I’d watch the Superfriends on Saturday morning. I got excited at the I Love Lucy episode that guest starred Superman. Later, the Hulk and Wonder Woman had their own shows. I watched every episode.

Then I picked up actual comic books and things got seriously geeky. If your knowledge of superheroes comes from TV or even movies these days, you can name, what, fifteen superheroes? A couple of dozen, tops? Dive into comics and there are enough superheroes to fill encyclopedias. I used to make lists in alphabetical order cataloging all the members of the Legion of Superheroes, the Avengers, the Defenders, the Justice League. Teen Titans. X-men. Doom Patrol! Outsiders! Invaders! All-Star Squadron! Holy moly, the rosters were endless. In the days before Wikipedia, you had to really work to figure out who some obscure character appearing for a single page on the Avengers might actually be. (Jack of Hearts, anyone? Dr. Druid?) I would dig through boxes of musty, torn up comics at flea markets trying to assemble the various universes.

Unlike most people, this interest in superheroes didn’t vanish as I grew up. Instead, when I got to college, I started to place these heroes into a broader context of historical literature. Superheroes were the foundation of a modern mythology, a worthwhile evolution of the fairytale. The Justice Society used to sit around a round table; they were Arthurian Knights in a modern context.

Despite occasional tip toes into television, superheroes wound up identified with a single medium, the comic book. In the era of pulp fiction, superheroes could be found in prose, headlining their own magazines, like the Shadow. Once comic books came around, the costumed heroes packed up their bags and moved to the new, more visual medium, where their bright colors and miraculous feats found a natural home.

By the 1950s, prose super heroics had almost vanished. By the end of the millennium, only a few licensed properties, like Batman and Spiderman, still appeared in the occasional novel.

Which provided me with a dilemma when it came time for me to write my fourth bookl. The most fundamental advice for any writer is, write what you know. I knew superheroes. But superheroes didn’t appear in prose, and I wanted to write a novel, not script a comic book.

I finally obeyed an even more fundamental rule than “write what you know.” That rule is “do what you love.” So, with no hope whatsoever of seeing it in print, I sat down and started writing a superhero novel. I wrote the book I wanted to read that no one else had yet taken the time to write for me.

The main reason I wrote it was, when you really love something, you hate seeing it done badly. Let me be blunt: the vast majority of superhero fiction in any genre is pretty crappy. Characters that belong to the major publishers are property, and can never truly grow or change. The monthly nature of comic books means they get cranked out on a deadline whether the writers and artists feel inspired or not. They sell to a closed circle of readers, so there’s not much reason to change what they’re doing. The readers already know the characters, so there’s not that much exploration of character’s inner lives, and what little there is superficial. Most characters motives gets summed up in a single sentence: Batman fights crime because he watched his parents die. Wonder Woman was sent to man’s world to bring a message of peace. Aquaman… um, actually, I’m not clear on what his deal is. I know his powers. I don’t know his angels or his demons.

Of course, during the 80s and 90s, there was an effort made in some comics at treating superheroes as real people, peeling back the masks as it were. Unfortunately, treating heroes seriously somehow translated into treating them grimly, stripping away all joy, taking all their bright colors away to paint them in shades of dark gray and even darker gray. Every seemingly good action was shown to have some dark motive. We finally saw the demons on their shoulder, but the matching angels on the other shoulder were missing.

Having had my fill of heroes who were either two dimensional or joyless, I wanted to try my hand at a middle path. I wrote Nobody Gets the Girl treating the characters as realistically as possible, given that some of them fly, some are invisible, and others juggle tanks. But realistic doesn’t have to translate as grim. The hero, Richard Rogers, has his life erased by a time machine accident, trapping him as a ghost in a world where he was never born, a literal Nobody. Having your life erased would be a good excuse to spend the whole book moping, and he does have to deal with the grief over all he’s lost. But, he also takes spark as he begins a new life as an invisible, intangible spy for a family of superheroes. He processes his tragedy with humor and stoicism, working hard to find a path forward after encountering the worst roadblock ever thrown into a person’s life. Like most people, he stubbornly struggles toward joy.

More than joy, I also wanted to capture a sense of wonder. Superheroes are friends with gorillas and robots. They routinely talk to aliens and travel through time. For the heroes, the extraordinary becomes the mundane, but I want my readers to sit back from time to time and think, “Holy cow! That’s cool as hell!”

In the years since Nobody Gets the Girl first saw print, superheroes have become even more culturally dominant than they were. But I hope readers still find it to be a fresh experience, a balanced blend of the everyday and the miraculous, a perfect framework, I think, for understanding life as it truly is.

I’m pleased that Nobody has found a home in the new Modern Magic collection. Hopefully, it will open the door for readers to delve further into my weird and wondrous worlds.

For my excerpt, I going to break from my usual pattern of previewing the first chapter and instead preview something a bit closer to the middle of the book. I like this section because it has most of the major players on the stage. For the good guys, there’s Nobody (our invisible man), the Thrill (Sarah, who can fly and has mind control powers), and Rail Blade (Amelia, who’s ferrokinetic). Also, lots of UN Peacekeepers. Representing the forces of evil are the Panic (an unassuming looking teenage boy who causes panic in anyone who sees him), Sundancer (a woman who controls heat and radiation), and Pit Geek, who’s powers are just too weird to go into now and don’t really play much of a role in this passage anyway. You should also know that the bad guys can teleport away at any time just by saying “exit.” Finally, there’s a whole army of terrorists with stolen tanks, helicopters, etc., showing up to rain death down upon the crowds gathered to celebrate the signing of a peach treaty in Jerusalem.


“LIVE FROM THE Apocalypse!” said the Panic, facing the camera. “Citizens of Earth! Rise up! It’s time to riot in the streets! It’s time to take what you deserve! It’s the End Time, Armageddon, the Great, Big, Final Smackdown! Waaaaa­hoooo!”

Nobody’s stomach twisted in knots. All around him, panicked people were stampeding, trampling those too young or too old to move out of the way. Sundancer rose into the air, flinging glowing balls of plasma at the United Nation guards, who screamed as their weapons melted in their grasps. Pit Geek belched, bringing up a buckle to his lips. He tugged on the buckle, and dragged out a bandolier of hand grenades.

“Crap,” said the Thrill, her voice crackling over the radio. “Trouble. A dozen helicopters just popped up from nowhere. They—shit! Missiles fired! Missiles fired!”

“On it,” said Rail Blade.

In the distance, loud explosions could be heard. “Sarah, get down here and calm the crowd,” said Nobody. “People are dying.”

“Oh no,” said the Thrill. “Tanks. We have tanks moving in on the edges of the Old City.”

“Do what you can with the crowd,” said Rail Blade. “I’ll stop the hardware.”

High overhead, a glimmer of light, a daytime star, grew brighter and larger. In seconds, the image had resolved itself into the Thrill, clad in mirror armor, wielding her glowing sword.

The Panic looked up.

“Ex—” he said, and vanished, just as the Thrill reached him, slashing the air where he had stood. With grim satisfaction, Nobody noted a stream of blood whip from the sword as the Thrill pulled from her dive and shot back into the sky. Apparently, the Panic had been a little slow.

“Think I got him,” the Thrill said, her voice strained. “Felt like I got a solid hit.”

“Watch out!” said Nobody.

Sundancer blazed a trail behind the Thrill, slamming into her back with a hard tackle. The Thrill went into a spin but pulled up before hitting the ground.

“Monday’s pulled out all the stops,” Rail Blade complained over the radio. “Every tank I tear apart, two more pop up. I’ve never seen him use his teleporter so aggressively.”

Nobody wasn’t exactly focused on her words. Even with the Panic gone, the crowd was still going crazy. By now, Pit Geek had strapped on the bandolier and stood on the edge of the stage, lobbing grenades into the mob, laughing.

Nobody raced onto the stage, banging his fists on the treaty table to get Pit Geek’s attention. It didn’t work.

He noticed the treaty on the table. The formal, gold-rimmed parchment had vanished. In its place was a sheet torn from a notebook, with words written in red marker: “Screw it! Let’s just fight!” Beneath it were three neat signatures.

“Doc,” said Nobody. “The clerics. When Monday teleported them, could you follow them? Can you track them?”

“They reappeared beneath the ocean,” said Dr. Know. “They died in seconds.”

The platform shook as though an earthquake had struck. Nobody was thrown from his feet. The Thrill lay beside him, among shattered boards, shaking her head. She still had her shield, but had lost her sword.

“I’m so sick of this bitch,” she grumbled.

Nobody rolled aside as a ball of flame smashed into the Thrill’s shield. The Thrill flew into the air, deflecting another ball of flame, then buzzed over a UN guard who was trying to carry a wounded child to safety.

“A little help here,” she yelled. “Shoot her.”

The guard dropped the child and placed his rifle to his shoulder, unleashing a stream of bullets toward Sundancer. Sundancer motioned toward the gun, melting its barrel, causing it to explode in the guard’s hand.

The Thrill swooped in, using the momentary distraction, screaming her best kung fu yelp as she delivered a powerful kick to Sundancer ‘s head. The burning woman spun backward, looking surprised and disoriented. The Thrill pressed forward with her attack, continuing to deliver savage kicks with her metal boots. The boots glowed red hot, but if the Thrill felt any pain, she didn’t show it. Instead, her features locked in an angry grimace as she struck Sundancer again and again.

“Come on, Sunny,” Pit Geek screamed. “Take her! You’re making us look bad.”

Sundancer didn’t have anything witty to say in response. Instead, she crashed to the ground, hard, rolling to a stop on the pavement stones. The Thrill swooped down, continuing her assault.

Pit Geek pulled a pin on a grenade and lobbed it toward the fighting women. It bounced on the stones, and burst open in a loud flash. Nobody ducked and covered his eyes as shrapnel ricocheted around him.

He blinked, trying to make sense of the smoking aftermath. The Thrill had been thrown back, lying still against the pavement, though her armor appeared to be intact. Sundancer was screaming. Her left leg was gone from the knee down, and jets of flame spurted from her wounds with each heartbeat.

“Oops,” said Pit Geek.

Nobody spun around, running toward the filthy bum. Pit Geek didn’t notice him. Nobody passed through him, and turned around. There were grenades on the back of the bandolier as well. Gritting his teeth, he pulled one, two, three pins, then ran. He was knocked to the ground by the explosion seconds later. Pit Geek’s head bounced to the ground in front of him, his eyes blinking wide, his lips mouthing words that Nobody couldn’t make out.

Then, the head vanished.

Looking back, Sundancer was gone as well.

Nobody raced over to the Thrill, who had risen to her hands and knees.

“You all right?” he said. “Are you hurt? Burned?”

She shook her head. “Amelia makes good armor.”

He helped her to her feet.

“No rest for the weary,” she said. She rose into the air, two dozen yards over the platform.

“Listen up!” she said. “Yo! Look at me!”

In unison, the hundreds of people within the sound of her voice stopped their panicked flight and looked to her. “We’ve got a lot of wounded people here. I don’t know how long it will be until help arrives. I want everyone who knows anything about first aid to stay and help those too hurt to walk out under their own power. Everyone else, I want you to leave, slowly! Stay calm, don’t step on anyone, and get to safety. Let’s move it, people.”

A pleased murmur came from the crowd, a chorus of “Great idea,” and, “She’s so clever!”

“Ground zero’s locked down,” the Thrill said, dropping down to grab Nobody. “Let’s see if Amelia needs a hand.”

It quickly became evident that things were even more chaotic outside the plaza. Everyone in the streets appeared to be armed, and firefights were blazing from every window and doorway. A millennia’s worth of frustrations and anger had apparently boiled over, and the ancient buildings of the Old City were slowly being chipped to gravel by the relentless spray of bullets.

“Stop shooting,” the Thrill said, flying low and slow over the streets. “Go home! Be nice!”

She left a small wake of peace and quiet, but the sound of gunfire was still omnipresent.

“It’s hopeless,” she said. “We’re never going to put a lid on this.”

“Don’t say that,” said Nobody. “I signed on as one of the good guys. We don’t give up.”

Ahead of them, a tank flew into the air and disassembled itself, sending its astonished crew screaming toward the ground.

The Thrill darted forward, placing a free hand on one of the falling men, and lowered him to the ground. He stood, staring at her, his eyes wide.

“You’re welcome,” she said.

Then he pulled a pistol and thrust it into her stomach.

He pulled the trigger. His hand dissolved into red mist as the gun disintegrated. The bullet flashed backwards with a loud crack, punching a jagged hole through the man’s chest. With a gurgle, he toppled.

“Don’t show them mercy,” said Rail Blade, sliding up behind them on her gleaming steel beam. “Everyone signed on for this intending to kill or be killed. I say we don’t disappoint them.”

“How many more tanks?” the Thrill asked.

“None. I’ve taken apart over fifty of them. All the helicopters are down. I’ve detonated all the missiles.”

“Then all that’s left are the small weapons,” said Nobody. “It’s down to people shooting people now.”

Rail Blade’s track crumbled to rust, dropping her to the dusty street. “You have no idea how tired I am,” she said.

Nobody knelt beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You’ve done good work. You’ve saved a lot of lives. Maybe we should go. The peacekeepers can get all this under control. Eventually.”

“No,” said Rail Blade. She sucked in a deep, long breath. “No. I’m the only one who can stop it. I just need to catch my breath. Just need to think.”

“What—” Nobody cut his question short as Rail Blade closed her eyes. Her body trembled, as if about to explode.

Suddenly, the cacophony of nearby gunfire dimmed.

“I can feel them,” Rail Blade whispered, opening her eyes. “All around me. The guns. I can feel the atoms, agitated and hot. They’re singing to me. Can’t you hear the singing?”

“Um,” said Nobody.

“And I can silence them.”

She breathed deeply once more.

“Triggers snap,” she whispered.

The gunfire lessened further.

“Barrels snake into knots,” she said, sweat beading on her brow. The gunfire grew even dimmer. Angry and confused shouts could be heard.

“Bullet jackets rust,” she said. And all the gunfire stopped. But the shouting continued.

“They… they pull their knives,” she moaned. “So many knives.”

Nobody placed his arms around her as she tried to sit up. She slumped against him, her eyes focused somewhere he would never be able to see.

“And the knives crumble to dust,” she whispered.

Suddenly, even the shouting began to calm. Nobody could see men stepping from their hiding places, looking down at their empty hands, their faces confused.

Rail Blade went limp, her face falling against his shoulder. “It’s over,” she said, quietly. “That’s all I have. It’s over.”

He stroked her hair. “You did fine,” he whispered. “You stopped it. You just stopped the Apocalypse.”

“Wow, Sis,” said the Thrill. “You kicked butt.”

One by one, the confused men in the streets looked at one another, bewildered. Then, with growls, they lunged at each other, fists flying. They lifted paving stones and hurled them with angry curses.

“No,” whispered Rail Blade. “No.”

“Don’t sweat it,” said Nobody. “They can only do so much damage. You’ve stopped the killing.”

“I haven’t stopped the hate,” said Rail Blade, pushing him away. She rose on wobbling legs. “I’m too tired now. I could slap everyone in handcuffs, I guess, but I’m beaten. I don’t care anymore. Let them kill themselves. I’ve done all I can.”

Nobody nodded.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” said the Thrill. “What you did was amazing. You did good.”

Rail Blade’s shoulders drooped. “I’m so tired.”

Nobody looked at the fighting in the streets. In a way, it was comical—the flabby, middle-aged men kicking and cursing, slapping each other like children on a playground.

From the crowd of men, an actual child appeared. He looked to be about ten years old. His features were dark, his eyes red, as if he had been crying. He wore torn, tattered, dirty clothing, and he walked slowly toward them, his eyes focused on the two colorfully garbed women.

Nobody started to point the boy out to Rail Blade, to let her see that her work had possibly saved this boy’s life. Perhaps that would make her feel better. But something about the boy’s eyes made him think differently. They were too hard, too full of hate. The madness that had infected the adults also seemed to be gripping him, though he was too small and powerless for his anger to find any outlet.

He kept walking, until he was only a few yards away. He reached into his coat and pulled out a hand grenade.

Nobody’s mouth dropped open as the boy pulled the pin.


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Beneath the Surface

JenniferStGilesby Jennifer St. Giles

What lies beyond our ability to see and touch? Have you visited a spirit laden battleground? Have you sensed the ghosts in a haunted house? Have you seen an aura of goodness glowing around a person or a place? Have you felt the chill of evil in the air?

If you can answer yes or even a maybe to those questions. Or if you’ve had a different experience with the beyond-our-world mysterious, please share with me here. Whenever I am writing in my Shadowmen Series, paranormal romantic thrillers, I get to dive beneath the surface of life and let my imagination go free. I can explore things we miss in the world around us because of our limited knowledge or narrow perspectives.

In my Shadowmen world, I can explain spontaneous combustion. I can give reason to the violent forces of nature like tornados and hurricanes. I can delve into the different ways the battle between good and evil might play out in heaven and on the earth. I can create my own lore behind warring factions of werewolves and vampires. I can enter the realms of heaven and the depraved recesses of hell. But more than all of these things, I can create a new story about the redeeming power of love—the greatest gift to be given or received.

I love writing and the magic that story brings into people’s lives. I love the connection that story brings to all of humanity. Another aspect of life that lies beneath its surface is the untold story of each person’s life. My grandparents and great-grandparents have passed and never wrote the story of their lives down in any sort of journal or other communication. Their amazing stories departed this world when they did. I will never know the depths of their hearts and the truths of their journeys. Those will forever remain below the surface of life, lost in time. So I always encourage people to write for themselves and for their loved ones. Share your story in life because you matter. No, I am not suggesting every person become a writer. I will explain why in the next paragraph. I am suggesting that every person shouldn’t be afraid to put their own hearts and thoughts and experiences on a page where those treasures can be found and not lost.

touch a dark wolf jenniferstgilesWriting, the creation of story that drives a book or inspires a movie is a solitary, painstaking task. We pull words from our hearts and we figuratively bleed on the page for months at a time to write a book. Not necessarily for any real monetary gain. Very few writers achieve financial success with their efforts. Because even in this digital age where the cost of a book can be relatively low, most people will spend more for a cup of coffee than a book. Writers write because they are compelled to create story. And our reward is learning our story touched another person’s heart, for therein is the true measure of success. So share your appreciation by letting your favorite authors know if they’ve touched you. Give a shout out to their hard work in a review. And if their story wasn’t your cup of tea, then be kind.

Touch a Dark Wolf, book one of the Shadowmen Series, is a quick plunge into a unique world that lies beneath the surface of our own world today. I begin my take on how vampires, werewolves, and otherworldly beings might exist and what role they could play in the battle between good and evil. So even if creatures of lore aren’t your thing and the label of romance makes you shake your head—I won’t tell you that almost every story ever told is a romance at heart—I encourage you to delve beneath the surface of the story and connect to the truths that play out in the series.

Don’t forget to share your beneath the surface experience here.

Happy reading
Jennifer St. Giles/ Jennifer Saints/ JL Saint
Reach me at or on twitter @jenniferstgiles

Link to excerpt.

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2016 Hawthorn Moon Blog Tour is Bigger and Better Than Ever!

The Hawthorn Moon Banner
It’s time for the annual Hawthorn Moon blog tour to celebrate new books  plus share some guest posts, do some fun giveaways and online parties and connect!

The Shadowed PathWhat’s all the fuss about? Well, two new books and more! The Shadowed Path, a Jonmarc Vahanian collection (and the first new book in my Chronicles of the Necromancer series in 5 year) came out June 14 and Modern Magic: Twelve Tales of Urban Fantasy, a 12-book multi-author dark urban fantasy ebook boxed set came out June 1.

(And of course, Vendetta—the second Deadly Curiosities novel and Shadow and Flame—the fourth and final Ascendant Kingdoms novel, are still new!)

Do you need more? I’ve got new upcoming conventions and signings, new short stories and novellas, new giveaways and cool stuff! It’s a week-long party, and my readers get all the goodies!

12-book box setThe blog tour got its name from a holiday in The Summoner, my first Chronicles of the Necromancer book, which took place on the summer solstice. And the name stuck. So–celebrate the solstice with some new books, new insights, and plenty of goings-on!

On June 29, I’m hosting a Facebook Launch Party with a few dozen of my author friends. Plan to show up for some fun conversation, free excerpts and great giveaways!   23 authors are part of the Facebook launch party! That’s Christina Henry, Josh Vogt, Stuart Jaffe, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Faith Hunter, Michael J. Sullivan, Jean Marie Ward, Nancy Northcott, Jaym Gates, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Valerie Griswold-Ford, Michael A. Ventrella, Matthew Saunders, Jennifer St. Giles, Samantha Dunaway Bryant, Clay and Susan Griffith, James Maxey, Karen E. Taylor, Eric Asher, Darin Kennedy, Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine and me! Chat with your favorite authors, meet new authors, and enjoy giveaways, goodies and surprises! Look for times on the party page!

Two awesome Goodreads giveaways for The Shadowed Path and Vendetta now through June 30!

978-1-939704-60-3What’s a blog tour without blog posts? I’ll be a guest on a bunch of blogs throughout North America and Europe over the next week or so–here are some of the sites that are hosting my posts! Check on Twitter, because I’ll add links to the posts as they go live. Some also include excerpts and giveaways!

No More Grumpy Bookseller
Fantasy Book Review
Romance Bandits
SFF World
Geek Mom
Ragnarok Publishing
Beauty in Ruins
Fantasy Book Critic
I Smell Sheep
We Geek Girls
Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s blog
Night Owl Reviews
Magical Words
Disquieting Visions
Sci Fi Bulletin
Mighty Thor
Civilian Reader
SciFi Now
Solaris Books
Fantasy Faction
Jennifer Brozek’s blog

That’s what’s coming up–you won’t want to miss a thing! And if you want to catch up with me live and in-person at a convention or signings, check out my schedule on the events page.
See you at the online party!

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