Tag Archives: Gail Z. Martin

In the Dark Hours of the Night–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Charles E. Gannon


Hold On To The Light is probably advice that all of us c/should live by. But for those whose lives have been harrowed by one or more mental/emotional/behavioral challenges, this phrase achieves the status—and significance—of a mantra. Because in the dark hours of the night, when sleep does not come to draw its blackout curtain across the notional gargoyle-presences spawned by those challenges, the afflicted have only one recourse: determination and raw guts, anchored to the light of a seemingly distant hope, seen at the end of a long tunnel of isolation.

We all have some experience with that outlook. There is no broken heart, no worrisome diagnosis, or pending medical test, that has not cost us a night’s sleep, somewhere along the timeline of our existence. But I dedicate what I have included below to those who daily awaken to the knowledge that they are once again rising into a state of siege: that the adversary cannot be surgically removed or excised, and that their battle is endless, for that foe is always ready to pounce upon any loss of resolve, any sideways stumble, any weakness.

I have seen numerous family members grapple with many such conditions. And if the bestiary of those adversaries is diverse—depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, any of the conditions now linked under the unified genera “autism spectrum”, more—these variform demons all evince this dark commonality: that those whom they haunt must live with a weight that they cannot shed. Rather, their victims can only carry the burden with as much determination, strength, and grace as human nature allows.

This excerpt from the forthcoming web-serialized novel The Gathering Storm (with Eric Flint, Kevin J. Anderson, and Marko Kloos), is my brief, awkward attempt to honor all their ongoing struggles in the form of one veteran’s battle with PTSD and addiction.

*     *     *

Opium. Reflex turned Conrad von Harrer’s head toward his battered wooden night table. Resting on the stained top, a cracked and yellowed meerschaum imp adorned the Hungarian-made bowl he had purchased for his opium pipe. His two eyes locked on the imp’s one. If only he could outstare it, then he could reject it. But the meerschaum imp was like the opium; the more one tried to defy it, the more one realized that there was nothing to defy except oneself. It was a game, the type a child plays when trying to trick its own reflection in a mirror.

A honey-thick torpor overcame von Harrer while his gaze was still fixed on the pipe. Time passed and the difference between seconds and minutes—or hours—became indistinct, meaningless. He watched as the imp’s face lost its yellowish glaze, gradually deepened to amber as the sun moved from the center of the sky toward the horizon. The one laughing eye still glared upward: puckish, sardonic, leering. A leer like those worn by the fire-bleached skulls outside Mafeking, Kimberley, and in the ruins of Johannesburg: leers which evoked no mirth, only desolation.

When Conrad’s eyes once again showed him the world of the present, he saw that the last light was fading, giving way to darkness. The orange sun had grown larger and murkier, diffusing itself across the light-smeared horizon. On his first approach to Al Qahira, von Harrer had tarried to sit on the sands at Giza and watch the sunset glaze the pyramids: fading triangles that sat squat and timeless on the horizon. His mind’s eye could still make out the cowl of the sphinx, the faint light limning its supine contours. It was an enigmatic posture, a recline that did not suggest rest but, rather, endless watching. A pitiless gaze which had seen the death of many an age, perhaps many a species. It was easy to believe that such blank eyes had always looked out on barrenness, knew nothing else, could augur nothing else.

Von Harrer let his own gaze slip from the window and back into the room, rolling like a lazy ball from one empty corner to another. His eyes touched the spaces that had once been occupied by his possessions: a lamp with crystal pendants, a little mahogany liquor cabinet, a roll-top desk, and a dresser. Faint shadows on the floor marked their old territories, darker where the boards had been spared the bleaching stare of the sun.

All gone now. All gone to the same place. He turned his eyes back to the meerschaum pipe-bowl. All gone there.

Cravings jumped up at the thought, the sight, of the pipe. The meerschaum eyes laughed, invited: just once more.

He turned away, looked at the bare wall on the opposite side of  his bed. He could still feel that mocking leer boring into his back, the dull ivory eyes promising: you’ll almost forget.

You’ll almost forget the clusters of dart-shaped steel rods that screamed down from nearly twenty miles above Johannesburg, glowing with heat when they impacted, the ground vomiting upward in waves, shot through with flame—right before the blast knocked everything flat.

You’ll almost forget the airships hovering out of rifle range, dropping bomb after bomb, only leaving to get more from Rhodes’ secret arsenals of death, hidden safe behind the British lines.

You’ll almost forget the endless litter of civilian dead on the retreat back through what was left of Johannesburg, particularly the children, their little bodies blown apart by the concussive forces, their little heads—blonde, brown, and black—rolled up against walls or into ditches like those of decapitated dolls.

You’ll almost forget the defeat, the camps, the dysentery, the hunger, the vengeful African guards and, finally, the stumbling silhouettes of the internees who were evicted due to disease or frailty. Within the first one hundred yards, each one unfailingly attracted a loping cluster of cape dogs or jackals, whose patience was invariably rewarded by a taste of human flesh.

But opium’s promise of forgetfulness was a lie. The memories never evaporated; they were simply disordered. Even when his head was filled to the point of nausea with the musk-sweet fumes, visions of the past always trespassed upon the present. But instead of complete scenes of the so-called Greater Boer Insurrection, they came as splintered flashes of carnage, each image frozen onto a shard of the shattering mirror that was his mind, his memories.

*     *     *

For those interested, The Gathering Storm is set in 1903, but in a world where a single alteration of physics—that the Michaelson-Morley experiment at Carnegie Mellon did in fact detect the expected existence of aether—began changing history in the 1880s. The aether-assisted air-craft and even space-craft changed history in this universe where alternate physics has created a Dark Edwardian downturning. Characters as diverse as Churchill, Tesla, Wells, Roosevelt, Rhodes move among the shadows of a past tinctured by both streampunk and hard sf sensibilities.

I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it, starting in 2017.    ——Chuck Gannon

cegannonprofilepicAbout the author: Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English at St. Bonaventure University, where he was the Director of Graduate English until he became a full-time author in 2007. A Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Literature and Culture from 2004 to 2009, his most recent non-fiction book is “Rumors of War and Infernal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda Setting in American and British Speculative Fiction.” Now in second edition, it won the 2006 American Library Association Award for Outstanding Book, and was the topic of discussion when he was interviewed by NPR (Morning Edition).

Among various media appearances, his most recent was as an expert commentator on The Discovery Channel’s second installment of its premier series “Curiosity”.  Along with 45 other SF writers (such as David Brin, Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Bruce Sterling), he is a member of SIGMA, the “SF think-tank” which has advised various intelligence and defense agencies since the start of the millenium (including the Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, DARPA, Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and several agencies which may not be disclosed). For more information on SIGMA and its work, go to www.sigmaforum.org .

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The Other End of the Situation–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Stuart Jaffe


When I was first asked to write this blog post for #HoldOntoTheLight, I agreed without hesitation. Then I tried to write this thing. But it hurt, so I put it away. I tried again, sitting in my office, thinking, staring at the screen. But I couldn’t. Not yet. Put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. By the time other authors had started posting, I should have had this done. I read their blogs, saw how open and honest many of them were, but still, I couldn’t.

I finally decided that hey, I’m a writer. I should be able to do this in some form that works for me — like fiction. So I wrote a thousand-word piece about a man and a woman reaching the point where they realized they had a trauma to deal with.

And I shelved it.

See, the problem here isn’t that I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything of the sort. The problem is that the depression I deal with on a daily basis is not mine. I don’t want to betray a trust. I don’t even know if I have to right to discuss the issues of a depression that isn’t mine.

What I can discuss, however, is what it is like to be on the other end of the situation. I can reach out to the spouses, parents, and friends of those who suffer.

Because we suffer, too.

We are just as caught in a world of silence and sadness. We are the ones making excuses for our loved one’s absence at parties, events, and family gatherings. We are the ones running interference between our loved one and the demands of the world. We take on the tasks and burdens of two. And we hurt when we see the dark place our loved one has gone to, when we reach out to help and nobody reaches back, when day after day turns to year after year and it gets harder to maintain a connection.

It’s like watching an enormous ship — a life — slowly sinking in the ocean. We want to help. We try to help. But we rarely have the ability to jump aboard and patch the holes. Even when it seems like we can succeed, those holes reopen the moment we step away.

We’re stuck watching.

I’ve been fortunate, so far. My loved one is still alive. But for many, that ship sinks. Many watch as depression ends in suicide. And regardless of what outcome we find ourselves in, we feel guilty. Because no matter what, we always think we can do more than watch. No matter how often we try, no matter how often we are rejected, no matter how many slivers of good days we cling to, in the end, we can only stand there, hold out our hands, and hope that our love will raise a hand to reach back. We can watch and wait.

And we do.

That is the thing I want those of you with depression or PTSD or any mental illness to understand. We are there for you. We are holding your hands. We want you back. So much that we’ll suffer for you, too. We don’t give up on you. Ever. So, you shouldn’t either.

Because that’s the way love works.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

 To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

stuart-jaffe-headshot2014About the author:

Stuart Jaffe is the author of the Nathan K fantasy-thrillers, The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, the Gillian Boone novels, FoundersReal Magic and After The Crash as well as the short story collections, 10 Bits of My Brain and 10 More Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

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Join the Shadow Alliance (and Other Cool Stuff)


Join the Shadow Alliance–it’s the most fun you can have without a secret decoder ring!

The Shadow Alliance is my street team. Plenty of contests, prizes, exclusive sneak peek excerpts and updates on what I’m working on next, and other secret members-only cool stuff you have to join to discover! And, oh yeah, Alliance members help to spread the word about my books. Did I mention members-only get-togethers at select cons and cookies? Join now, have fun, help get the word out! Sign up here

Next up–Holiday giveaway!  Win books and gift cards! Authors include me, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, John Hartness, Stuart Jaffe, Laura Anne Gilman, Darynda Jones, Christina Henry, Jennifer Estep and Mindy Mymudes. Easy to enter, and the more you enter, the more chances to win! Happy Holidays giveaway

You can find the book giveaway links here where you can enter

To win the gift card, go to one of these participating blogs and comment!

Slippery Words  November 24th, 2015 I Smell Sheep  November 25th, 2015 Literal Addiction  November 27th, 2015 Cherry Mischievous November 29th, 2015 Drey’s Library November 30th, 2015 Tome Tender December 1st, 2015 London’s Scribbles December 2nd, 2015 Fantasy Fun Reads  December 3rd, 2015 Rabid Reads December 10, 2015

Shopping for the holidays? Books are the best presents! Vendetta, the new Deadly Curiosities novel, is available for pre-order now and comes out in stores December 29! Other new books this year include War of Shadows in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series and Iron & Blood, for the Steampunk lover on your list!


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Days of the Dead 2015: Tricks, Treats and Stuff that’s Scary-Good!

DaysofDead Banner V1 copy

Welcome to the 2015 Days of the Dead blog tour!

We are going to celebrate in style this year with excerpts, interviews, book giveaways, sneak peeks at new covers, and more!

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA2Three new books are coming up—and that’s just the beginning! On December 29, Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel (Solaris Books) launches—and it’s got an awesome Chris McGuire cover. Then in March, Shadow and Flame (Orbit Books) comes out—the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series. In June, we return to the world of The Summoner with Shadowed Path, a print (and ebook) anthology of the first ten Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures PLUS an exclusive eleventh story that is only in the anthology!

But wait, there’s more! The Weird Wild West anthology is out, with a Storm and Fury Adventure story from Larry N. Martin and me, and The Side of Good/The Side of Evil anthology/flipbook is also new—and it’s got another Storm and Fury Adventure story as well. Speaking of the Iron & Blood-related Storm and Fury Adventures, check out the FREE full novella Grave Voices on Wattpad as well as short stories Resurrection Day and Airship Down on Kindle/Kobo and Nook.WWW cover

There’s a brand new Deadly Curiosities Adventure short story, Spook House, which will be out right in time for Halloween, and earlier this year we wrapped up Season 2 of the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures—Season 3 will start in 2016. Coming soon are the all-new Blaine McFadden novellas in the King’s Convicts series, that happens before the main action in Ice Forged (available on Kindle/Kobo and Nook). And in December, a Blaine McFadden short story, No Reprieve, debuts on Orbit Short Fiction.

A Night Sky with Moon and Trees

In fact, there is so much awesome cool stuff going on that it takes TWO different blog tours to contain it all! That’s where the Full Moon Blog Tour comes in—with even MORE great blogs from 25+ different authors (including me) so just click here or on the graphic to get started!

So what ELSE is going on with the Days of the Dead tour? Here’s the deal—different blogs will post my guest articles on different days. Make the rounds, enter the contests, be entertained and grab some fun freebies! Where? Watch for links for Beauty in Ruins, ESpecBooks, The Qwillery, SF Signal, The Book Plank, Magical Words, I Smell Sheep, Bookloons, Romance Bandits, SFNow, Fantasy Book Critic, SF World, We Geek Girls, SF Bokhandlein, Fantasy Faction, SFX, No More Grumpy Booksellers, Solaris Books and more!

What kind of freebies? First off, there’s The Swaggiest Swag giveaway. If you like bookmarks, swagpostcards and cool free stuff from bestselling authors, this is for you. I’m one of 11 authors who are giving away neat stuff for just the cost of a self-addressed/stamped envelope. Find out more here:

I’ll have three different Goodreads giveaways, one for Iron & Blood, one for Deadly Curiosities and one for The Weird Wild West. There are also giveaways on Reddit, Bookloons, The Full Moon Blog Tour, No More Grumpy Bookseller and Romance Bandits. Sprinkled along with the guest blog posts are links to excerpts for all my books and short stories, plus DOZENS of links to books and short stories by author friends of mine. Enough to keep you reading for quite a while!

Good-EvilWhat 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. Check back at www.AscendantKingdoms.com and here to find all the links! And please, “like” my TheWinterKingdoms page on Facebook and follow me @GailZMartin on Twitter! And if you join my Chronicles newsletter, you’ll never miss out on something because Facebook didn’t show everyone the update!

With so much good stuff going on, it’s going to take a week just to get through it all! What are you waiting for? Dive in and help me celebrate the Days of the Dead!

And because Halloween wouldn’t be complete without some Trick or Treating, here are some excerpt links to my stuff and stories by some of my author friends!

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors https://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here https://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160181-deadly-curiosities

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160182-iron-blood

Halloween treat! Read two of our complete haunted novellas FREE on Wattpad The Final Death https://w.tt/1jsKqLL & GraveVoices https://w.tt/1kapSrn

Halloween Loot! Double-Dragon Publishing sampler #1 https://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE001.mobi

Good Stuff!  Double-Dragon Publishing sampler #2 https://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE002.mobi

Win some WeirdWildWest awesomeness! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/138364-the-weird-wild-west

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Kicking the Athena’s Daughters Kickstarter Up a Notch!

kickstarter, anthology, women, science fiction, fantasy,

Help fund the Kickstarter campaign to bring the Athena’s Daughters campaign to life!

Athena’s Daughters is the second Kickstarter anthology I’ve been part of. (The first is the upcoming Clockwork Universe: Steampunk Vs. Aliens by Zombies Need Brains Press.)

Once again, I am amazed by our fantabulous backers! We have passed Stretch Goal #20, which means all backers at $5+ get the audio book of War of the Seasons Part I by Janine Spendlove, plus the amazing print of Athena by Ginger Breo, plus a new anthology story by Jennifer Brozek, plus a new e-story by Tera Fulbright,–we added all those goodies just in the last couple of days, thanks to you!

Each time we make another stretch goal, all backers at the $5+ level get new stuff. The more people who back the Kickstarter, the more loot we all get. Got it? Fund it!

So what’s Stretch Goal #20? A limited edition hardcover of Athena’s Daughters will be published. This won’t be a freebie, but it will be available to order, and the funding at this level makes publication a possibility.

Stretch Goal #21 will mean an additional story will be added to the anthology by Diana Peterfreund.

Goal #22 will fund the creations of a companion anthology, Apollo’s Daughters, featuring female characters written by some of the top male science fiction and fantasy writers! Writers like Michael A. Stackpole, Aaron Alston, Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack and Brian Young, so you know this is going to be good!

And Goal #23 adds a story by Alma Alexander to the anthology!  We are adding new stretch goals and new pledge rewards almost daily! There’s still plenty of good stuff–but you’ve got to fund it to get it!

In addition to the Stretch Goals, there are still some awesome Pledge Rewards waiting to be gobbled up. These exclusive packages have limited quantities, and offer unique bundles of ebooks, print books, art, music and surprises. Support at the FIERCE level and get personalized, signed copies of my books The Sworn, The Dread and Ice Forged, plus other goodies. Support the REGAL level and get a personalized, signed copy of a limited-edition ARC of my book The Blood King. Support at the MENTOR level and get a manuscript review by one of our anthology’s published authors—perfect for your own work or to give as a gift to the writer in your life!

Here’s something else that’s awesome–for every book sold, Athena’s Daughters will contribute to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), the largest anti-abuse network in the U.S.  You get the whole stretch goal package–books, ebooks, e-stories, artwork, music, and victims of abuse get the help they need to survive. It’s a great way to do good while getting goodies.

You’ve got it fund it to get it! Please become a backer of Athena’s Daughters: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103879051/athenas-daughters-women-in-science-fiction-and-fan’s  (You’ll also see all the contributing authors, artists, editors and musicians, plus the AWESOME stretch goals, pledge reward levels and add-ons.)

Watch the Athena’s Daughter’s video.

Get to know the Athena’s Daughters awesome authors with our blog hop! Just follow this link to blogging bliss!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Athena’s Daughters is a Kickstarter anthology featuring short stories by women writers in science fiction, fantasy and steampunk. Introduction by retired astronaut and former space shuttle pilot Pam Melroy. Authors include Mary Robinette Kowal, Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Janine Spendlove, Maggie Allen, Conley Lyons, Cleolinda Jones, Cynthia Ward, C.A. Verstraete, Tera Fulbright, Tanya Spackman, EJ Lawrence, Nisi Shawl, Vicki Johnson-Steger, DL Stever , Diana Peterfreund, Jennifer Brozek, Tricia Barr. Art by Tietjen Alverez, Kellie Neier, Betsy Waddell, Ginger Breo.  Edited by Jean Rabe.


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Strong Women, Exciting Stories–Athena’s Daughters Anthology Kickstarter is Live!

kickstarter, anthology, women, science fiction, fantasy,

Help fund the Kickstarter campaign to bring the Athena’s Daughters campaign to life!

I’ve partnered with Silence in the Library Publishing, Kickstarter, and a host of renowned authors including names like Mary Robinette Kowal, Jean Rabe, Sherwood Smith, and many others in a new Kickstarter project titled Athena’s Daughters.

My story, “Retribution”, is set in my Deadly Curiosities universe, in modern-day Charleston, SC. It’s the same characters and setting as my “Buttons” adventure, and as the upcoming urban fantasy novel, “Deadly Curiosities” (Solaris Books, 2014)

Athena’s Daughters is a collection of short fiction from some of the best female science fiction and fantasy authors in the industry. This anthology features stories written by women about women. I’m also incredibly excited to have an introduction to the anthology by retired astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy.

The publisher, Silence in the Library, believes strongly in the concept of bringing the artistry back to publishing. To that end, every anthology they produce features illustrations for each and every story. Additionally, my fellow authors and I, and the staff at Silence in the Library Publishing believe that any good project should contribute something to improving the human community. In keeping with that goal, a portion of every book sold will go to RAINN. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

By funding Athena’s Daughters at any level, you help bring this project to life. And for supports who fund starting at the $5 level, you get awesome thank-you gifts from the authors. Help us reach our stretch goals, and you could win free books, ebooks, audiobooks, art, and more. You might even win the chance to be written into one of the stories!

Watch the cool video Janine Spendlove made to tell you all about it:    Athena’s Daughters–You can make this live!

This is only a small portion of what is waiting for you when you visit the Athena’s Daughters Kickstarter project page. Please join us and become a part of the Athena’s Daughter’s journey by visiting https://tinyurl.com/athenasD and contributing today!

Read an excerpt from my Athena’s Daughters story, “Retribution” here: https://www.wattpad.com/story/10512852-retribution

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Surviving the Publishing Apocalypse

By Gail Z. Martin

You’ve seen the headlines.  “Print is dead!” “Books are History!” “It’s the End of Reading As We Know It!”


Rumors of the death of publishing, to borrow from Mark Twain, have been exaggerated.  It’s certainly shifting and changing, breaking new ground and taking new forms, but it’s not dead yet.

I would argue that publishing is where camera makers and record producers were several years ago.  You remember records, right?  Round, spinney things that played songs?  They gave way to CDs, which were rendered useless by … Napster.  Record companies never saw downloadable music coming, and because their entire business model was built on charging for entire albums rather than song by song, they felt very threatened.  It took a while for legal downloads to win their trust, and even so, many major artists were hold-outs for many years.

Then there were cameras—the film kind.  You know, where you take photos that are saved on film and you have to pay for the film to be developed, and wait a while, and then get to see your pictures?  Kodak owned that market, but it didn’t see the threat digital cameras posed to their kingdom until it was too late.  Good luck trying to get your film developed at your neighborhood drug store these days.  Everything’s gone digital. Kodak’s gone bankrupt.

Or how about watching movies at home?  Not too long ago, people went to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and rented movies. Then Netflix created a way for you to get your movies without leaving home, and Redbox gave you top hits for just a buck.  Bye-bye Blockbuster.

Have people stopped listening to music? Taking pictures? Watching movies at home?  No.  They just changed how they consume them.

That’s a lesson publisher are slowly learning.  Their profit models are built around how things used to be, and the new reality is uncertain and scary.  They’re tippy-toeing into the brave new world of ebooks, wary of technology that might cut out the traditional publishing middle-men.

Meanwhile, authors and small presses are experimenting.  You’ll see long-published authors bringing out their out-of-print titles on ebook as self-published ebooks.  You might see small presses offering the first book of a series for free to hook new readers into paying for future installments.  Authors and small presses are doing Kickstarter projects to underwrite the cost of putting out a new book, and readers are proving that they’ll pay for content they really like.

We’re seeing the return of serialized novels, something that hasn’t been popular since Charles Dickens. Podcasts offer audio novels created by the authors themselves, while social media allows authors to interact with readers in real-time, all the time.

The world of publishing has changed, and it’s changed fast.  Tomorrow’s successful authors will be marketing pros as well as good writers, because staying in touch with readers through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and other sites is part of doing business.  Readers expect to have an ongoing conversation with authors, and writers ignore that at their peril.  Publishing houses still haven’t grasped that their real value lies in their ability to promote, because many of them still view marketing as a secondary function.  In reality, they’re sitting on a gold mine and haven’t quite realized it yet.

So is the publishing apocalypse upon us?  I don’t think so.  We do live in “interesting times” as the Chinese curse says, but it’s not cause for despair.  Publishing, and books, will be with us for a long time to come.


Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series. Find her online at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.



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Mythology and Fantasy—Where’s the Line?

By Gail Z. Martin

If you’re a fan of world mythology, you may have noticed that famous (and rather obscure) creatures from folklore and legend have made their way to the pages of recent bestsellers.  Epic and urban fantasy, paranormal romance and blockbuster movies all seem to have raided the pages of Bullfinch’s Mythology for their cast of characters.

What’s behind our fascination with the characters—and plotlines—of ancient myths?  Do these modern versions qualify as “retellings” of the myths, or just the literary equivalent of discount knock-offs?

The myths have hung around for thousands of years because they speak to something deeply human, and to shared dreams, fears and fantasies.  The myths also give us an archetypal framework in which to discuss good vs. evil, hubris and humility, and the values that make it possible to create a successful civilization, like honesty, hard work, truthfulness, loyalty, friendship, self-sacrifice, etc.  The characters may be fabrications, but they are very human on a bigger-than-life scale.

Telling the old stories WAS popular entertainment for much of human history.  These are the stories that ancient peoples memorized by heart and handed down from generation to generation.  Many of the ancient cultures borrowed their myths from even more ancient peoples, adapting them to fit the times and the conventions of their civilizations.  They would be told, retold and embellished at night around the campfire, on long winter evenings, and during celebrations and special ceremonies.  Oral traditions became murals, tapestries, plays, and ballads.  Plays became books, movies, ballads became operas. Watch closely, and you’ll even see the old themes play out in music videos.

So what’s with using mythology in modern fantasy?  In my opinion, it’s just another generation’s retelling of the old, old stories, spruced up for today’s readers.  The setting and superficial details change, but the essence of the stories and characters remain the same.  Does that mean there’s no such thing as a “new” story?  Perhaps in one way, because according to some experts, there are only two real plots in all of literature: 1) a person takes a trip and 2) a stranger comes to town. (Someone else pointed out that it’s really just one story told from different perspectives.)

But in another way, there are an infinite number of stories, because each storyteller brings a unique personal interpretation to the myth, the journey and the characters.  Re-told myths become more relevant when they are framed in contemporary images, broadening their appeal.  Those of us who tell stories for a living are just the latest in a long line of bards, spinning tales around a campfire.


Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series. Find her online at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.


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Why we can’t get enough of medieval magic

By Gail Z. Martin

What is it about the Middle Ages that makes us think of magic?

Maybe it’s because those times seem so far removed from our own that it’s difficult to believe they were actually real, and not just an elaborate backstory created by Hollywood.  Especially here in the United States, where our oldest buildings are only from the 1500s, anything older seems hard to imagine.

Of course, magic was considered to be “real” during the Middle Ages.  Throughout Europe, witch hunts brought many innocents to a bad end.  Educated people lived in fear of witches and curses, werewolves and vampires. Given the lack of scientific knowledge, illness, natural disasters and even crop failures were blamed on magic, which seemed the most likely explanation.

I spend a lot of time researching background elements for my epic fantasy series, and it’s no surprise that I’m frequently drawing on medieval sources, legends, and real-life occurrences involving magic.  I’m fascinated with a world where magic was believed to be real, a world whose inhabitants saw mystery—and horror—at every turn. What did it feel like to live in a world where so little was explainable?  How vulnerable would you feel if there were no scientific explanations for the weather, disease, mental illness, blights and pestilence, if those and other hardships seemed to arise from curses and evil spells?

Medieval Europe was a place of dark forests and wild seas.  The world was still not well explored, so the discovery of previously unknown peoples, places, animals and objects seemed magical in the literal sense of the word.  The Old Religions acknowledged magic as real, venerating it in their legends and rituals.  Catholicism disdained magic, but replaced it with an unending series of miracles and miracle-working saints whose legends often ventured into what can only be termed “magic.”

All of which explains why medieval settings seem tailor-made for fantasy adventures.  Limited technology and scientific knowledge, vast distances and slow communication, daunting natural disasters and uncharted waters all set the perfect stage for telling stories laced with magic.  Looking back through the darkened mirror of time, even historically documented events seem to have the feel of forgotten magic about them.  That world seems so different from our own that it barely feels real.

And yet, people really don’t change.  Examine today’s urban myths, and you’ll find more than a hint of magical thinking as people try to explain big, complicated events with simple causes.  Logic need not apply, and many urban myths and conspiracy theories won’t hold up for a moment to scientific evidence, but there is something soothing at a primal level about simple, organic explanations in our nano-tech world.

I guess that’s why I love writing epic fantasy with magic.  I enjoy the idea of a world that isn’t completely explainable, filled with wonder and mystery, where magic can and does happen and things aren’t always as they seem.  In our world full of satellite images, Google Glass, and cellular biology, sometimes it’s fun to imagine not knowing everything.  I enjoy the mystery.

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series. Find her online at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.


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Promoting Your Book with Podcasts and Trailers

By Gail Z. Martin

You’ve written a book. Congratulations!  Now you need to let the world know, and attract readers.  That’s the hard part.

Out of the many options you have for promoting your book, many authors choose to make podcasts and trailers part of their marketing plan.  One reason for this popularity is that podcasts and trailers bring sound and visual to the written word, adding excitement and engaging multiple senses.  Another reason is that smart phones, digital cameras and inexpensive software have made podcasts and trailers easy to create.  And the third reason is, they’re fun to produce and fun to consume, making them a great way to reach out to readers and create a bond.

“Podcasts” don’t really require an iPod.  They are audio recordings shared via the Web that can be downloaded to and listened on any device that can play an MP3 or WAV file—iPods, smart phones, computers and a variety of MP3 players—and shared via social media.

“Trailers” are like the previews you see at the movies—short visual commercials that tease the viewer into wanting to know more.  These can be viewed on YouTube, Vimeo and other video sites, downloaded to computers, and shared via social media.

What do you talk about on a podcast?  Anything you want.  Some authors interview other authors.  Some podcast hosts record readings from their books, either with a single voice or a cast of characters like old-time radio shows.  Others do a radio show-type of format that includes whatever catches their fancy.  The point is that a podcast is a regular recording you share via social media that provides a way for readers to get to know you in a setting that isn’t specifically promotional.

How do you create a podcast?  Although it’s pretty easy, that’s a little beyond the scope of this article, although you can read “Podcasting for Dummies” by Tee Morris or my own “Launching Your Books Without Losing Your Mind” book for tips and how-to ideas.

If you’ve been on YouTube of Goodreads, you’ve probably seen book commercials, sometimes called “trailers.”  The simplest book trailers are really a video of a PowerPoint slide show, doing a transition from photo to photo to tease the viewer into wanting to find out more about the book.  More complex trailers use special effects and even live action to create a commercial that brings a book to life.

One author I know who wrote a book with a pirate theme found a local pirate-themed event and went with her camera, taking photos of participants in pirate gear (with their permission) and sequencing the photos into a fun, simple book video.  (If you use photos of people, be sure to get them to sign a simple form authorizing you to use their image.)

You can bring your commercial to life with music.  Just be sure to purchase royalty-free tunes from a place like MusicBaker.com so that you stay on the right side of the law, and always use photos that you’ve either taken yourself or obtained through a royalty-free online service so that you don’t infringe copyright.  You can use the iMovie app (about $5) if you have an iPad, or Windows Movie-Maker (usually a free part of your basic software) if you use PC, or even a program like Camtasia if you want to get fancy.  Or, you can hire a service like Apex Reviews or Circle of Seven (COS) Productions, both of which I’ve used.

Why bother?  The short answer is, because podcasts and trailers help you sell books.  The long answer is, because a career as an author is all about building a relationship with readers, and that relationship happens over a period of time, utilizing a variety of senses. Podcasts and trailers give prospective readers new ways to meet you, get to know you, and learn about your books without a direct sales pitch.  By engaging readers through sound and visuals, your books come to life before the reader turns the first page.

Still not sure?  Check out the author podcasts and videos on Goodreads, including the ones on my author page.  There are as many styles as there are authors, and you can find something that fits your technology comfort zone, busy schedule and lifestyle.

Give your books a life of their own with podcasts and a book video, and see what happens to your sales!

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series. Find her online at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.


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