Tag Archives: Psychopomp and Circumstance

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


Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

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!


Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

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!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Conventions, Gail Z. Martin

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.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

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?




Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin