Tag Archives: fear

The Challenge of Short Stories

by Gail Z. Martin

This year during my Days of the Dead online tour, I included excerpts to four of my short stories.  They are set in a completely separate world from my novels, and are written in first-person, rather than multiple viewpoints as with the books.

They also represent a real leap of faith for me, as I came to writing short stories after I was already published for novels—big, fat novels.  After fulfilling a contractual obligation to write 145,000 words, needing to write only 8,000 – 10,000 seemed a lot harder.  I’d never written first-person voice before, either.  But, as happens with many (if not most) anthologies, my friends—the anthology editor and fellow contributing authors—prevailed on me to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised, and the stories were accepted, so I guess it went well.  And I found out that, for all the initial terror, it was also fun.  I’m hoping to contribute to a couple of anthologies a year, and to keep fleshing out the new world I’ve begun to explore.

I’ve also started to read more anthologies, which is also something new for me.  I loved Home Improvement: Undead Edition, which hit me just as we were remodeling my dad’s house.  Here are some anthologies that feature work by many of my writer friends for your short story bookshelf:  The Bad-Ass Fairies series, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail; Writers for Relief, edited by Davey Beauchamp; Tales of Fortannis: a Bard’s Eye View, edited by Michael A. Ventrella; After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray; and Blood and Devotion.

You can find my short stories in the Rum & Runestones anthology from DragonMoon Press, in The Bitten Word from NewCon Press, in the upcoming Spells & Swashbucklers from DragonMoon Press (2012) and a yet-unnamed UK anthology coming out next Fall.

And in case you missed them during the tour, here are the links to my short story excerpts:

An excerpt from my short story, “The Low Road”, coming in Spells and Swashbucklers from DragonMoon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/CQ5Af400/An_Excerpt_from_The_Low_Road_b.html

An excerpt from my short story “Steer a Pale Course” in Rum and Runestones from DragonMoon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/7YXNnm42/An_excerpt_from_Steer_a_Pale_C.html

An excerpt from my short story “Among the Shoals” in an upcoming UK anthology https://www.4shared.com/document/e5deWqV_/An_Excerpt_from_Among_the_Shoa.html

An excerpt from my short story “Vanities” in The Bitten Word anthology from NewCon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/aA6cz–z/An_Excerpt_from_Vanities_by_Ga.html


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Cosplay: It’s not just for Halloween anymore.

by Gail Z. Martin

There’s a old panel chestnut about whether you believe fandom is a hobby or a way of life.  We crossed that divide a few years ago when my kids made it clear that for them, the Christmas shopping season officially kicked off at DragonCon and continued through the Carolina Renaissance Festival.

Now sure, there’s a lot of cool stuff to buy at both events, ranging from personal-defense-sized catapults to jewelry, anime videos and t-shirts, but in our family, the quest for the perfect costume usually heavily influences the holiday wish lists.

It makes for some interesting conversations post-holiday at school.  “What did you get for Christmas?”  “Well, I got a sword, and a pair of pirate boots, and a new corset.”  Uh-huh.  Just another holiday at the Martin house.

We’ve all been bitten by the Cosplay bug.  Vendor rooms and dealer tables are scoured for just the right rings, necklaces, arm bands, vambraces, daggers, pocket watch, steampunk goggles, or authentic Firefly reproduction.  What can’t be found in person is searched for online.  After the holiday gift opening comes the next step—modeling of the completed costume with all the new accoutrements.  It makes for interesting family photos, ones which will, no doubt, spark confused conversations in later generations.

Of course, part of cosplay is watching what everyone else at cons is wearing, getting ideas, asking for sources, gushing over great costumes, and taking photos (and the ultimate compliment, being asked to pose in costume for photos).  We’ve found cosplay to be a great family activity, as well as a turning every con and Ren fest into a treasure hunt.  And it’s a great way to confuse the neighbors on Halloween, when my kids go in their Ren fest regalia.  All in a day’s work!


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Geek Thanksgiving (Otherwise known as Philcon)

by Gail Z. Martin

It wouldn’t be Turkey Day without Philcon, at least not for me.  Philcon, the annual gathering of PSFS (and yes, people pronounce that phonetically—it stands for Philadelphia Science Fiction Society), is a fun con dedicated to Philadelphia but held in New Jersey.

Philcon is also the end of my con season for the year, a break before things start up again in January with Arisia.  Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the authors, vendors and fans who are Philcon regulars, so it’s a comfortable gathering of old friends along with the fun of cheeky panels and a good con suite.  And don’t forget the Meet the Pros party, which puts out a top notch spread.

This year’s Philcon will be bittersweet, since we’ll be missing one of Philadelphia’s own, L.A. Banks.  I met Leslie (L.A.) at Philcon a couple of years ago, and we chatted for a while at the Meet the Pros event as well as on and off throughout the con.  She was gracious, unassuming, and very kind.  We continued the conversation on my GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com (see the archives, it’s still up), and she was generous in writing an author tip for my second Thrifty Author book (Selling and Promoting Your Book Online, which comes out in December).  I had looked forward to seeing her again and getting to know her better, but Leslie passed away over the summer, far too young.  This year, Philcon includes a panel remembering her work.

On a brighter note, my first time at CapClave outside of Washington, DC was a lot of fun.  Let it be said that CapClave knows how to throw a party, and a damn fine con.  Fun panels, a literary dealers room, and a surprise visit by Terry Pratchett were all part of the weekend.  Not to mention some fine conversations just chilling out in the lounge with other writers and readers.

I hope to see you at Philcon, but if not, perhaps at a con near you in 2012!

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Days of the Dead encore

by Gail Z. Martin

If you missed my Days of the Dead online tour, you don’t have to miss out on all the cool downloadable links and excerpts, interviews, videos and audio.  Here’s the encore, all the goodies, all in one place—enjoy!

Check out these excerpts from fellow Solaris Author James Lovegrove: https://www.jameslovegrove.com/extracts/

Read an all-new (fourth) excerpt from my new book, The Dread at https://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/2011/10/extract-from-gail-z-martins-dread.html

More author freebie chapters, this from Kimberly Richardson at Kerlak Publishing:  https://www.kerlakpublishing.com/goth.html

And another author freebie, from Allan Galbraith at Kerlak Publishing: https://www.kerlakpublishing.com/allanstory.html

An excerpt from my short story “Steer a Pale Course” in Rum and Runestones from DragonMoon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/7YXNnm42/An_excerpt_from_Steer_a_Pale_C.html

An excerpt from my short story “Among the Shoals” in an upcoming UK anthology https://www.4shared.com/document/e5deWqV_/An_Excerpt_from_Among_the_Shoa.html

And from Chris Jackson, one of my author friends, deleted scenes from his award-winning Scimitar Moon–https://jaxbooks.com/jaxblog/?p=144

An excerpt from my short story “Vanities” in The Bitten Word anthology from NewCon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/aA6cz–z/An_Excerpt_from_Vanities_by_Ga.html

An excerpt from my brand new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, coming from Orbit in 2013: https://www.4shared.com/document/4BtCGwLB/sneak_peek_excerpt_for_Blaine_.html

Here’s my vampire reading on the Broadpod https://broadpod.posterous.com

Two new film clips from the amazing mind of Andy Remic:

For SERIAL KILLERS INCORPORATED and a little zombie film for HARDCORE,

An excerpt from my short story, “The Low Road”, coming in Spells and Swashbucklers from DragonMoon Press https://www.4shared.com/document/CQ5Af400/An_Excerpt_from_The_Low_Road_b.html

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, The Dread (excerpt #2) https://www.4shared.com/document/W7IBgFfL/An_excerpt_from_The_Dread_chp_.html

And another excerpt from my new book, The Dread (excerpt #3)


And from one of my fellow Solaris Authors, Chuck Wendig, an excerpt from Double Dead: (https://www.abaddonbooks.com/downloads/sample/Double_Dead.pdf)

Take a look at my brand new book video for The Sworn and The Dread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teyvxnIEITg

Pre-order The Dread and get loads of other free downloadable goodies from more than a dozen of my author friends:  www.TheWinterKingdoms.com

And on the Orbit Books blog, my interview with Blood Council member Uri: https://www.orbitbooks.net/2011/10/26/interview-with-uri/

On the SolarisBooks.com blog, scroll down to see my interview with Blood Council member Gabriel  https://www.solarisbooks.com/

On www.SciFiGuy.ca, catch my 10/24 tour goodies plus an interview with vayash moru Kolin

A preview excerpt of Greatshadow, from my friend, James Maxey: https://dragonprophet.blogspot.com/2011/10/greatshadow-preview-bone-handled-knife.html

An excerpt from The Magic of Fabulous by Michele Lang:  https://michelelang.com/2011/10/20/magicoffabuolous/

An interview with vayash moru Laisren at www.DisquietingVisions.com—scroll down to Oct. 27

Read more about my new book, The Dread at https://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-fallen-kings-cycle/the-dread/

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Psychopomp and Circumstance

by Gail Z. Martin

Ever heard of a “psychopomp”?  No, it doesn’t mean that arrogant professor you had in grad school.  A psychopomp is actually a being that escorts the spirits of the dead to the afterlife.  Cheron is a psychopomp in Greek mythology, as is Papa Legba in Voudon.  Psychopomps don’t determine where a spirit spends eternity; rather, a psychopomp’s mission is to make sure the spirit gets where it’s supposed to go.

In my world of the Winter Kingdoms, Tris has often served as a death guide for lost spirits, helping those that are stuck or confused find their way.  There are a lot of death guides in modern literature.  In Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse, the main character inherits the role of a psychopomp.  The reapers in Dead Like Me also fulfill the role of a psychopomp.  Many in modern America believe angels to be death escorts, and there are numerous first-person stories of near-death experiences in which the revived person sees a beloved family member, friend or pet who has come to guide them across.

Many stories that involve a psychic main character have circumstances in which the character frees a trapped spirit and points them in the right direction to move on.    In some cases, it requires analyzing what’s keeping the ghost stuck where it is, sort of like a psychic Dr. Phil. In other cases, it requires escorting the spirit through dangerous terrain between worlds, like an undead bodyguard.  Sometimes, it just requires pointing the way (do male ghosts lose their way more often than female ghosts and is it because they won’t ask for directions?).

Whether you believe that the afterlife requires crossing the river Jordan, the river Nile or the river Styx, there is someone there serving as undead tour guide or paranormal Boy Scout, helping spirits cross the street to the next world.  The list of psychopomps in world religion is pretty extensive, but you can check it out on Wikipedia.

Which makes you wonder: if every culture has the same archetype, is there something to it?  (I wonder the same thing about vampires, but that’s just me.)  On a very fundamental level, the idea that a guide will come to help us with the final crossing is reassuring, helping to reduce the fear of going to somewhere unfamiliar.  I suspect that it’s that desire for comfort and for companionship that has led to the rise of psychopomp myths around the world.  After all, few people want to be alone in the dark in an unfamiliar place.

While the idea of a death guide was very familiar to me, I actually stumbled upon the term “psychopomp” while I was working on a recent story. I just turned in a new short story to The Women’s Book of Ghost Stories, a British anthology due out in 2012 that involves death guides, voudon loa, magic, ghosts, haunted houses, vampires and pirates—all the stuff I love!  I’ll let you know when it becomes available!

And by the way, The Dread is now available for pre-order (ships in February, 2011).  Watch for my Days of the Dead online tour beginning October 25!  Book giveaways, free downloads , character interviews, never-before released excerpts, and other cool stuff.  Get more details at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com.


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Days of the Dead Online Event

Welcome to my annual Days of the Dead Online Event.  This year it’s more exciting than ever, with new book giveaways, free chapter and short story excerpts, guest author downloadable goodies, a new book video, new audio readings and all-new interviews with five of the baddest bad-ass vayash moru (vampires) in the Winter Kingdoms!

For any fan of the supernatural, this week is a time of mystery.  Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, Dia De Los Muertos all in one week—you just know something big is going to happen.

What’s so special?  I’m looking forward to the launch of The Dread, book Two in the Fallen Kings Cycle.  It’s available for pre-order, but you can read four different excerpts for free on my Days of the Dead partner sites.

I’ve also got two new short stories coming out in anthologies in 2012—Spells and Swashbucklers with DragonMoon Press and a UK anthology that I can’t name yet.  But you’re going to get never-before-seen sneak peeks at these two stories plus two other short stories of mine that I’ve never offered excerpts of before.

There’s also a brand new book video for The Sworn and The Dread and it’s premiering during this tour, too.

Several of my author friends have also provided excerpts as Trick-or-Treat goodfies.  You’ll find download links sprinkled throughout the partner sites.

Four different partners are doing drawings for signed copies of The Sworn (and other prize packages), so make sure you enter—you can’t win if you don’t play!

The Broad Pod from Broad Universe has an all-new audio reading from one of my favorite vayash moru scenes in the whole series, so please listen in.

What are you waiting for?  You can get in on all the Days of the Dead fun on a treasure hunt/Trick-or-Treat just by visiting these sites.  And please, “like” my TheWinterKingdoms page on Facebook when you visit to get the goodies!

Here’s where the action is:

  • Orbit Books (www.OrbitBooks.net)—book giveaway plus blog post and an interview with Lord Uri of the Blood Council and a chapter excerpt from The Dread, along with my new book video for The Sworn and The Dread
  • Solaris Books (www.SolarisBooks.com)—book giveaway plus an interview with Lord Gabriel of the Blood Council
  • DoubleDragon Books (https://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/)—a Q&A with me about power and immortality
  • SciFiGuy.ca—a book giveaway plus interview with Kolin, helper to Lady Riqua of the Blood Council
  • MidnightSyndicate.com—fantastic music to listen to while reading my books (I listen to it while I write)—they’ll be doing another giveaway contest for The Sworn
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist https://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/—a fourth excerpt from The Dread plus a book giveaway contest
  • The BroadPod (https://broadpod.posterous.com/)—A reading of one of my favorite vampire scenes in the Chronicles of the Necromancer series.
  • ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com—An interview with Lady Astasia of the Blood Council plus the Days of the Dead overview and a special Q&A with me about why I love the Blood Council, and a different chapter excerpt from The Dread, and sample chapters from books by several of my author friends—and the all-new book video!
  • TheWinterKingdoms on Facebook (please “like” my page!) a downloadable excerpt for “Steer a Pale Course” and “Among the Shoals Forever”—two of my never-before-excerpted short stories, plus excerpts from books by some of my author friends.
  • DisquietingVisions.com—an interview with Laisren, vayash moru armsmaster at Dark Haven, plus a third excerpt from The Dread, download links for excerpts from several of my author friends and an excerpt to “Vanities”—another never-before-excerpted short story of mine with plenty of vampires! And a sneak peek excerpt from my brand-new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (coming in 2013).
  • TheWinterKingdoms.com—pre-order The Dread and get free downloadable excerpts from more than a dozen of my author friends!
  • Twitter.com/GailZMartin—Links to two more of my never-before-excerpted short stories,  “Among the Shoals Forever” and “The Low Road”, plus links to downloads from some more of my awesome author friends!
  • MySpace.com/ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com —Yet a different excerpt from The Dread plus links to more author friend downloads!

Here’s a link to “Vanities”—a never-before-excerpted short story available in The Bitten Word anthology from NewCon Press (UK): https://www.4shared.com/document/aA6cz–z/An_Excerpt_from_Vanities_by_Ga.html

And here’s a sneak peek from my brand new series, launching in 2013 from Orbit Books, The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga: https://www.4shared.com/document/4BtCGwLB/sneak_peek_excerpt_for_Blaine_.html

The Magic of Fabulous by Michele Lang:  https://michelelang.com/2011/10/20/magicoffabuolous/

Want to see the brand new book video for The Sworn and The Dread?  It’s right here (and please share it with your friends)!

Here it is—the brand new book trailer for my newest books—The Sworn and The Dread (Books One and Two in the Fallen Kings Cycle).  See it here first!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teyvxnIEITg

As plague and famine scourge the winter kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the northern seas. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods.

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Neighboring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living – and the dead –- as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle.

Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber

beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?




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Interview with Laisren

In honor of my Days of the Dead blog tour, I’d like to introduce you to one of my vayash moru (vampire) characters from the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings series.  Vayash moru play an important part in my books, aiding–and sometimes opposing–Tris Drayke and Jonmarc Vahanian. You can read the interviews with four more of my vayash moru characters at my partner sites!

Here, I’d like to introduce you to Laisren, a vayash moru who, while less ancient than Lord Gabriel and the members of the Blood Council, has proven his formidable fighting skills.  He serves as Dark Haven’s armsmaster, and has trained Jonmarc Vahanian to fight against immortals.

Q:  What has immortality taught you?

A: Most mortals stumble aimlessly through their short lives without purpose or passion, not realizing that their time is brief.

Q:  In the current conflict against the Temnottan invaders, you chose to go to war.  Why risk yourself on account of mortals?

A:  War was my calling when I was mortal.  Immortality has improved my skills.  I serve best with a sword in my hand, and in this conflict, mortals and immortals are united against a common foe.

Q:  You trained Jonmarc Vahanian to fight against vayash moru.  Does that make you a traitor to your kind?

A:  Hardly.  Jonmarc is the chosen champion of Istra, the Dark Lady, patron Aspect of the vayash moru.  He has exceptional skills as a mortal warrior.  With my training, Jonmarc can now hold his own against vayash moru, which he has needed to do to protect Dark Haven and the Winter Kingdoms from rogue immortals.

Q:  What is your biggest disappointment about immortality?

A:  That the few mortals who burn brightly with passion and purpose cast their light for such a short time.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night

by Gail Z. Martin

Ok, so I write about ghosts, vampires, necromancers, magic and monsters.  Ever wonder where that came from?

Big surprise: I’ve loved spooky supernatural stuff since I was a kid.  One of my earliest favorites was a story written for elementary-aged readers in  the Jack and Jill magazine called “The Ghost in the Glen.”  I made my mom read it to me until the cover fell off the magazine.  I discovered Fate Magazine when I visited my grandparents.  Fate is full of first-person accounts of supernatural occurrences plus stories about the occult, the spooky, and the just plain strange.  I used to sneak away with a pile of Fate Magazines and read them for hours.

By now, I think everyone knows I loved the original Dark Shadows when I was in preschool, and that alone probably did a lot to determine my present life course.  Other early favorites were Twilight Zone, the old Alfred Hitchcock show (as well as the spooky Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series of books), ScoobyDoo, Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt and any old monster movies I could pick up on the local UHF channel (these were the days before cable).

Another early favorite was a book called Jane-Emily about a girl whose spirit is trapped inside a silver garden gazing globe.  I have never been able to look at a garden globe without thinking of that book! I decided Shakespeare was interesting when I found out Macbeth and Hamlet had ghosts in them.  I also read as many first-person accounts of haunting and ghosts as I could get my hands on, and still enjoy those kinds of books.  I think Blackwood Farms by Anne Rice is a perfect ghost story—vampires AND ghosts, plus some witches and a haunted house!

So there you have it.  If you don’t want your kid to grow up to write about vampires and necromancers, you probably ought not let them read every scary book they can get their hands on!

Watch for my Days of the Dead online tour beginning October 25!  Book giveaways, free downloads , character interviews, never-before released excerpts, and other cool stuff.  Get more details at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com.

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Death Tells

by Gail Z. Martin

I write about a necromancer (and Halloween is coming up), so I probably think more about death than a lot of people.  And what I’ve noticed is that what an individual believes about death impacts a lot of other areas of life, while how a culture treats death has wide-ranging impacts.

So, for example, my main character Tris is a necromancer.  He can move between the world of the living and the realms of the dead, and he has seen several aspects of the Goddess.  He doesn’t fear death, because he isn’t at all uncertain about what happens afterwards, but because of the people he cares about and his responsibilities in the living world, he would prefer to live as long as possible.  Contrast that with someone who hangs on to life not because they are connected to people but because they fear what might come after death, and you can see where death begins to color a character’s viewpoints on a lot of things.

Does your character have strong viewpoints over who will be punished or rewarded in the afterlife?  If so, odds are that those some views will color who they believe should be favored or shunned in the living world.  Does your character believe admission into the afterlife will require exceptional virtue, bravery, or circumstances (such as death in battle)?  Expect to see those same qualities emphasized in the living world.  Is reincarnation a part of your character’s beliefs?  You may see that color views toward charity, if hardship in the present life is seen as a punishment for misdeeds in a past life.  How about a belief that there is no afterlife at all?  If so, the character and culture will focus on the benefit of actions in the present reality as opposed to “earning” status in the afterlife.

As you do your world building, factor in the life-after-death question.  You may find that your characters—and your culture—come up with some surprising answers!

Watch for my Days of the Dead online tour beginning October 25!  Book giveaways, free downloads , character interviews, never-before released excerpts, and other cool stuff.  Get more details at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com.

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Nothing But Fear Itself

by Gail Z. Martin

Ever notice how much our fears define us?  The truth is, what a character fears reveals a lot about that person, and what a culture fears is likely to change its history.

Fears come in a lot of flavors.  There are survival fears: death, hunger, scarcity, physical  danger, loud noises, water, storms, and the dark are some examples of fear related to the ability to survive.  Then there are social fears: abandonment, betrayal, humiliation, ostracization, lonliness.  There are inner-oriented fears: the fear or being forgotten, of dying without a legacy, or living a lie.  And there are externally-oriented fears: the fear of  not belonging to a “tribe”, of not being well-thought of by one’s peers, of being a failure.

Personally, I believe that the more social or externally-oriented one’s fears, the more likely that person is to throw other people under the bus.  Take a look at the list again.  Heroes may have all the normal human survival fears, but they keep on going.  The tortured, angst-ridden hero has plenty of internally-oriented fears, but keeps them under wraps.  Few heroes lose sleep over whether or not they’re popular or whether they’re going to be embarrassed.

I think that’s because social and external fears are ego-driven, where the survival fears are biologically imperative and the internal fears tend to be the struggle between Id and Super-Ego, or the by-product of an overdeveloped conscience.

As for kingdoms, nations or tribes, what the group fears defines their rules and government, dictates their wars and foretells their persecutions.  Do they fear anarchy?  The group will tend toward absolute rule.  Outsiders?  Xenophobia will seal the borders and promote the advancement of the group that best fits their ideal of a native-born citizen.  Questions? The government or religion will take a hard line on dogma and deal ruthlessly with supposed heresy.  Disapproval of their international peers?  Look at the extremes to which rulers like Stalin, Peter the Great and Kim Il Jung have gone to create spectacles and “Potemkin’s villages” to win the approval and envy of other nations, even if the approval is based on a lie.

So what does it tell us when a person fears death more than anything else?  Personally, I believe that makes for a very dangerous person, someone who will sacrifice any value, betray any principle and turn on anyone who poses a perceived threat to their continued existence.

As you read the characters others create and as you create your own characters, ask yourself: What are they afraid of?  You might be surprised at how much you learn from the answer.

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