Tag Archives: The Dread

What’s in a World?

by Gail Z. Martin

World building is arguably the most fun—and most difficult—part of writing.  Get it right, and your world becomes as memorable as your stories and characters, a place that lives on in the imagination of your readers, as tangible as somewhere they grew up or went on vacation.  Get it wrong, and you’re no more memorable than a truck stop on the highway—or worse, you’re memorable for all the wrong reasons.

I’m guessing there are as many ways to world-build as there are authors, and no single right way as long as readers like the outcome.  So I’ll just share how I do it, and let you take it from there.

For me, world building, plot and character are all inextricably linked.  I may begin with an idea about a plotline, or have a clear “vision” for a character whose story I’d like to tell, or a place that would be a great setting for an adventure.  Whichever one I start with, I need to find the right two components to go with it so that it all goes together seamlessly.

If I start with a character, then I have to ask myself, “What society and landscape shaped this character?”  We’re all influenced by the place in which we grow up, or make our home.  What influences would have produced a person with my character’s values, interests, world view, prejudices, belief systems, abilities, fears, likes and dislikes?  That’s going to go a long way toward helping me create the right kind of environment for the story, and it’s going to shape the story itself, because certain types of stories are more plausible in some situations than in others.

If the original inspiration comes from the plot, then I have to figure out what type of setting/environment will make the plot situation likely—even possible.  I have to think about how my choices of setting could enhance—or dampen—the plot and whether I can envision those settings in a way that make them different from places that readers have been before.  (The truck stop analogy again—we’ve all been to at least one, and they all look alike.  Nice if you want consistently clean restrooms, but zilch for ambiance.)

And if the setting is what I begin with, then it’s going to be unusual, and there’s something about it that draws me.  Certain types of stories are more likely in specific types of places—crowded cities full of transients and intrigue, for example, versus a rural setting where no one leaves home and strangers are automatically suspicious.   In this case, there’s something about the setting that will inevitably suggest the plot and sketch out the characters.

The fourth component is time/technology.  London in 2150 is very different from London in 1250.  This will determine everything from types of communication, speed of travel, methods of warfare, and other crucial details.  Will your characters be spending gold coins or swiping a debit card?  Is information known instantaneously around the world, or at the speed of sailing vessel (or horse)?

For me, the best kind of research mixes both books and experience.  I’m a museum junkie, and I have been going to living history sites since I was a kid, so I’ve grown up with the sound and smell of a blacksmith’s shop, rudimentary knowledge of cooking on an open hearth, horse-drawn conveyances, and everything from period clothing to old-fashioned medicines, entertainment and art.  If I can’t go a museum, there’s always the History Channel, or the Travel Channel, web sites, travel guide books, and even old-fashioned travelogues given at your local AAA, library or community center.  It’s amazing how the smallest details that seem insignificant can end up adding to the texture of your next book.

It also helps to be a “critical” consumer.  When you watch a movie or TV show/series or read a book, pull back enough to think about whether or not the world building is working for you.  Does it immerse you in the story, or jar you out of it?  Is it a distraction, or so integral the story wouldn’t be the same without it.  What is memorable?  What is clichéd? Could the characters be anywhere, or are they so much a product of time and place that they could be nowhere (and no-when) else?  Plots can be recycled (think about Hamlet done in Shakespeare’s time and re-done into modern adaptations), but each time, the time/place alters the story—if it doesn’t, something’s missing.

Most importantly, have fun with it! If you’re not fascinated by your world, your readers won’t be, either.  Enjoy!

Please enjoy this excerpt from my short story, “Among the Shoals Forever”, excerpted from The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stores: https://www.4shared.com/office/e5deWqV_/An_Excerpt_from_Among_the_Shoa.html

And this scene from “Buttons”, excerpted from Magic: https://www.4shared.com/office/20nwnf1S/Buttons_excerpt_1.html



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Why I Still Write About Heroes

by Gail Z. Martin

We live in a cynical, jaded age.  There aren’t a lot of heroes left unsullied.  Sports icons turn out to be hiding secrets.  Celebrities are mere mortals.  Politicians—well, don’t even get me started on that one.  Historical figures, once the researchers are through with them, turn out to be less than god-like.  And of course, as we all get older, we look back on the people who loomed so large in our lives, parents, grandparents, mentors and teachers, and realize that they were fallible people who sometimes made mistakes or could not transcend the prejudices of their era.

Heroes are an endangered species.

There’s a trend in certain circles to write “realistic” protagonists who may be interesting, memorable and entertaining, but who fall short of being heroic, or even admirable.  I’ve heard people say this is a nod to the way the world really works.

I say, balderdash.

I still believe in heroes—real and fictional.  To me, that’s not naïve or hopelessly idealistic.  But it does require a caveat.  Here it is: no hero will be heroic in everything he/she does.  And the corollary to that caveat: Even heroes make mistakes.

The hero-bashers want perfection.  They’re always going to be disappointed, because no one is perfect.  What that means in real life is that someone who is a fantastic athlete (and a hero to fans) may not be a good husband or father.  A talented celebrity (who is a role-model to aspiring artists) may not be an otherwise nice person.  A soldier or first responder who shows great valor in dangerous situations might not be a great co-worker or next-door neighbor.  These people have all earned the title of “hero” in a specific setting, but they’re not flawless, and I don’t think that to qualify as a hero, perfection is necessary.


Heroes are important.  We need people to admire, people who inspire us to do our best, to go beyond what we think is possible.  We need to see examples of the best that the human race can do, because we so often see the worst (and our modern media tends to enjoy serving up heaping helpings of negativity).  And as we give our real-life heroes their due, we also need to keep the adult perspective that reminds us not to expect any human being to be heroic in every aspect of life.  Expect the imperfection, and give real life people the space to be flawed.  That’s not jaded perspective, it’s a mature one that goes beyond child-like faith to admire the admirable and have compassion on the imperfect.


That’s why I enjoy writing adventures where it’s still possible to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  None of my characters is perfect, and some of them have done things to survive that will haunt them all the days of their lives.  They’re flawed human beings, people who have survived the fire and have the scars to prove it, and they make mistakes.  Sometimes, they do things that aren’t admirable—or even legal—because it’s the best choice among bad alternatives.  And while they may have the talents or abilities that make them a hero in one setting, they may not seem very heroic to their friends, lovers, neighbors or families.  In other words, they’re the good guys, but they’re not perfect.  And that’s ok.


I write about heroes because we need heroes.  We need to be reminded what humans can be like at their very best.  We have the evening news to show us what we are like at our worst.  We need opportunities to cheer for the winning team, because in real life, sometimes clear wins are few and far between.  And we need good guys to nudge us toward the everyday heroics that are within our reach, whether it’s showing kindness to someone who needs a hand or helping a child or telling the truth.  The real truth is that we are all capable of far more greatness than we give ourselves credit for.  Heroes encourage us to live up to that potential.


So I’ll go on writing about good guys and heroes, no matter what the cynics say.  I hope you’ll join me.


Grab an excerpt from Ice Forged here: https://www.4shared.com/office/cmGO132M/Ice_Forged_Excerpt_4.html


Ice Forged won’t be in stores until January 8, but you can preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/Ice-Forged-Ascendant-Kingdoms-Saga/dp/0316093580/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350949442&sr=8-1&keywords=ice+forged


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Middle Ages Crisis: Apocalypse Then

by Gail Z. Martin

Usually when we think of a middle age crisis, we picture sports cars, trophy wives or plastic surgery.   And when we think of apocalyptic adventures, they tend to be set in the here-and-now.

I tend to like my crises on an epic scale.  So while a lot of apocalyptic fiction is set present-day or in the future, I like the idea of tackling a post-apocalyptic scenario medieval style.

Here’s where my liberal arts education comes in handy (I was a history major, and now I’m making a living with what I studied.  Woot!).  The real Middle Ages had plenty of end-of-the-world events, times when people really thought that the end was near.

Of course, the Black Plague probably tops the list for real-life apocalypses.  Not only was the disease itself fearsome in its savageness, but the sheer magnitude of the death toll was the death knell for feudalism and fundamentally altered European society and power structures.  Let’s not forget the “Little Ice Age” when temperatures across Europe were much colder than usual, with devastating impact on crops, economies and health.

Natural disasters can also be cataclysmic.  Volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, heat waves, droughts, floods and pestilence (think swarms of locusts or potato blight) have humbled empires, killed millions,  and made entire civilizations vanish.

In many cases, the people who experienced and fought to survive these apocalyptic events were very similar to our oh-so-modern selves.  Many of them lived in empires or kingdoms that were the pinnacle of political power and technological sophistication for their era.  Since humanity has a bad track record for acknowledging what they don’t know, these ancestors thought they had everything all figured out—before war, disaster or bad luck rocked their world.

Modern-day cataclysms don’t interest me much.  Maybe that’s because I grew up in the Cold War, just after the duck-and-cover days, when we were all looking over our shoulders for the “big one.”  Maybe it’s a defensive mechanism in an era of AIDS, Ebola, Bird Flu, Mayan Calendar fears, Y2K hysteria and the general Internet “sky is falling” crisis du jour.  I grew up with people who were certain that catastrophic death was imminent—and they were wrong.  So maybe my nerve endings are burned out for modern doomsday scenarios.

But Medieval apocalypses—now those intrigue me.   And in Ice Forged, I’ve found a whole new “end of the world as we know it” story.  Hang on.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Please enjoy this excerpt from Ice Forged: https://www.4shared.com/office/cmGO132M/Ice_Forged_Excerpt_4.html

And an excerpt from “Buttons”, my short story in the Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane here: https://www.4shared.com/office/20nwnf1S/Buttons_excerpt_1.html


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Characters of Questionable Virtue

by Gail Z. Martin

(Reposted from an interview with Double-Dragon Publishing)

Q:  What’s so attractive about characters of questionable virtue?

A:  If you want to be truthful, I think everyone has questionable virtue depending on the circumstances.  It’s said that integrity is what you do when you think no one is looking, or no one will find out.  That being said, few people would qualify for sainthood.  Case in point—lonely stretches of highway with no police cars in sight.  How many drivers faithfully keep to the speed limit?

So some of my characters are basically honest people who are thrown into extraordinary circumstances who do what they have to do to survive.  Others are characters who make it a habit to walk on the wild side.  Maybe they were thrust into those situations, or maybe they had a choice, or maybe it’s been so long that they don’t remember.  They follow their own rules, and maybe their own code of honor, but they definitely color outside the lines.  And they’re really fun to write about!

Q:  Your books have a variety of smugglers, thieves, vagabonds, whores, con men, assassins and murderers—and those are the good guys.  How did a nice girl like you end up in a rough fictional neighborhood like this?

A:  If everyone plays by the rules, you might have a cut-throat chess game, but it’s going to be short on action and adventure.  Dangerous times call for people who can think outside the box—and play outside the rules, especially when the society that enforced the rules no longer exists.  Maybe I’m a product of the modern zeitgeist, but I keep being drawn back to stories set during a kingdom’s or civilization’s collapse.  In that kind of a setting, the people who can adapt quickly and think on their feet will be the ones who survive.  They’re going to bend some rules along the way.

Q:  In Ice Forged, the fate of the kingdom rests on a small group of convicts and a disgraced lord.  How did you decide to write their story?

A:  Society believes it knows how to pick a winner, but history shows that conventional wisdom is often wrong, especially when the rules change and the chips are down.  I thought it would be fun to get to know a group of people who have been exiled and imprisoned, only to find out that when the kingdom is brought to its knees, they may be the only ones who can save the day.  I love it when the arbiters of society are wrong and the ones who don’t fit in end up the winners.  I guess I’m a fan of the underdog.

You can download an excerpt from Ice Forged here: https://www.4shared.com/office/VJ9BoRdD/Ice_Forged_Excerpt_3.html


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“On the Edge”

by Gail Z. Martin

Ice Forged, which debuts in January, is my seventh epic fantasy novel, and it’s definitely the darkest and edgiest so far.

In Ice Forged, my main character Blaine McFadden is exiled to a prison colony at the northernmost edge of his world, a place where the weather itself is a remorseless enemy.  Ice, snow, bitter cold and darkness pose as deadly a threat as the wild magic, assassins, and sadistic prison guards.  Extreme conditions tend to show what someone is really made of, because life or death hinge on luck and choices.

I suspect that Ice Forged feels edgier than some of my other books for a variety of reasons.  To some extent, that edginess is probably a product of our times, which have been tumultuous—to say the least.  I imagine it also reflects the changes I’ve experienced in the almost 10 years since I wrote my first novel—perhaps some of that “youthful enthusiasm” has worn thin on the edges.  Mostly, I feel that I’m bringing a different perspective to these books, one that’s a little grittier than before.  It’s a fitting feel for the book, which hinges on a few questions my characters have to answer—and ones that I hope my readers will also try on for size:

Who would you be, if everything you were and everything you had was stripped from you?

When there’s nothing left to lose, what would you do to survive?

How much would you give for a chance to put things right?

Blaine McFadden gets to find out.

I think the edginess in the book is something to which readers can relate.  With the volatility in the global economy, most people have felt “on edge.”  Nothing feels secure, and even if people haven’t been personally affected by the downturn, the sense that everything is wobbly seems to permeate every facet of life.  But I don’t believe that edginess needs to mean hopeless.  Anyone can face adversity; the people who fascinate me—in real life and as characters—are the ones who find a way to rise above.  Blaine experiences desperate circumstances, and while illusions are shattered and innocence is long lost, that grittiness hones a fine edge to his personality, something that will serve him well in the dangerous days ahead.

Today’s reader may prefer edginess and grit because they know that life isn’t easy or fair, and because they have been failed by many of the institutions in which they have put their trust.  That edginess makes a book more believable, but I don’t think it precludes a new breed of heroes, ones who show us how to chart a new course even after we’ve lost our way.

You can read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: https://www.4shared.com/office/4BtCGwLB/sneak_peek_excerpt_for_Blaine_.html

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The Fun of Short Fiction

by Gail Z. Martin

Q:  Other than word count, what’s the biggest difference between writing “big fat fantasy” novels and short stories.

A:  In a novel that runs 500 or more pages, there’s a lot of room for setting the stage, introducing readers to characters, and building the world.  It’s a very immersive experience for the reader.  Even when everything is action-packed, you can create more of a wrap-around feeling for the reader, where they really feel like they’re in your world.  With a short story that might only run 30 pages, you’ve got the equivalent of two book chapters to tell a self-contained story.  You’ve got to use a different style of writing to make your characters real and give your readers enough of a sense of the world that they care about the story.  It’s the difference between going on vacation for a month and just getting away for the weekend.

Q:  How do the differences between epic novels and short stories affect how to build characters or develop a fictional world?

A:  With short stories, because you have smaller word count, you’ve got to be very precise.  You have to decide which details are essential to help the reader paint a mental picture, and which details you can skip and still have the reader see the same story that you’ve envisioned.  You have a much bigger canvas with a full novel, especially an epic novel, which gives that type of story a richness and a total immersion feeling.  Even if you’re sharing a completely alien civilization or a totally different time period, in a short story you have to be very selective with every description, every verb choice, every conversation.  It’s a different type of writing discipline.

Q:  Is it difficult to switch between epic novels and short stories?

A:  I started writing short stories because I enjoyed the challenge, and because writing something that’s around eight to ten thousand words when I’m used to writing a story in 150 thousand words scared me to death.  Now that I’ve done it a few times, it’s becoming more comfortable, and I’ve had enough chances to play in the world I’ve created for my short stories that I’m familiar with the territory.  It definitely is a different writing style.  One of the other differences for me is that while I write my epic fantasy in third-person, my short stories have all been first-person.  That also makes a big difference in what you as an author can share with readers because the third-person books with an ensemble cast can share multiple viewpoints and more information, but a first-person point of view is limited to what just one character knows or sees.  So it’s a challenge!

Q:  Is there more short fiction to come?

A: Absolutely!  I’d like to do some short story series set in my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle world, maybe some between-the-scenes adventures that weren’t in the books, or some stories that happen earlier before the series began.  I’m also really enjoying my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world I’ve created in the stories I’ve done for anthologies, and I plan to write more of those—for anthologies and for direct release on my web site and through Amazon.

In fact, I’ve got stories in two brand new anthologies that have just come out: Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane and The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stories.  You can read excerpts here:

Please enjoy this excerpt from my short story, “Among the Shoals Forever”, excerpted from The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stores: https://www.4shared.com/office/e5deWqV_/An_Excerpt_from_Among_the_Shoa.html

And this scene from “Buttons”, excerpted from Magic: https://www.4shared.com/office/20nwnf1S/Buttons_excerpt_1.html


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An Interview with Author Gail Z. Martin

by Gail Z. Martin

(reprinted from the Solaris Books site)

Q:  Your short stories are all set in a magical world that’s different from your books.  Can you give us a quick introduction?

A:  The stories I’ve written so far in my short stories range in time from the 1500s to present day, and focus on Sorren, a vampire thief, and his immortal colleagues in a small, secret organization that makes sure that cursed and malicious magical objects stay out of circulation.  Sorren works and his human partners risk everything to steal dangerous items and secure them before they can cause damage or death.

Q:  Sounds like urban fantasy.  Why the change from your usual epic adventures?

A:  It’s fun to write stories in different settings.  Epic stories are great when I’ve got 500 or 600 pages to play with, but when I’m telling a story in 30 or fewer pages, it’s difficult to set up the world, the characters and the plot and keep it on an epic scale. I’m also really intrigued by the idea that malicious magical items are out there in private collections, museum archives, warehouses (think Raiders of the Lost Ark), and curio shops.  They might find their way out of obscurity because of an estate sale, a theft, or the actions of a clueless (or magically influenced) owner, but once on the market, these items could cause serious harm in the hands of someone who understands their power.

Q:  Where did you get the idea for a series about cursed objects?

A:  I grew up going to antique shows, flea markets and estate sales with my father.  I was always drawn to items that seemed to have a story begging to be told.  I loved to find out the history—provenance—of pieces from the antique sellers and booth keepers, and if no one could tell me an object’s tale, my imagination made one up.  A lot of antique stores give you the feeling that you’re rummaging through someone’s attic.  I don’t mean the modern “shabby chic” boutique places that handle hand-picked collectibles.  I mean the kind of place you find on a side street, run by a crabby old proprietor, in a storefront that is itself over a hundred years old (or older, if you’re outside the U.S.).  These places are treasure troves for the imagination.  They’re kind of creepy because things are stacked everywhere, covered with dust, and it’s really easy to imagine some dangerous, cursed item just biding its time, waiting for the right person to take it home.

Q:  Your stories have found an audience on both sides of the Atlantic.  In addition to Magic, where can people find more about Sorren and the Deadly Curiosities series?

A:  My stories are featured in two other UK anthologies, “The Bitten Word” and “The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stories”, as well as two US anthologies, “Rum and Runestones” and “Spells and Swashbucklers.”  I’m offering excerpts of the two newest stories, “Buttons” and “Among the Shoals Forever” in my Days of the Dead blog tour, and readers can find the other complete stories for download on my www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com site.  I’ll be bringing out more original stories set in this universe through my web site and Amazon, so stay tuned for new details!

Enjoy an excerpt from “Buttons,” my short story in the Magic anthology: https://www.4shared.com/office/20nwnf1S/Buttons_excerpt_1.html


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What I’m Up To

by Gail Z. Martin

I often get asked, “what are you up to now”—and here are the answers, as I gave them to Solaris books for the launch of a new anthology, Magic, which features one of my short stories, “Buttons.”

1] What was the idea that inspired you to write this story?

I’ve been writing in my Deadly Curiosities universe for a couple of years now—it’s the setting for all of my short stories to date. The stories I’ve written so far in my short stories range in time from the 1500s to present day, and focus on Sorren, a vampire thief, and his immortal colleagues in a secret organization that makes sure that cursed and malicious magical objects stay out of circulation.  Sorren works and his human partners risk everything to steal dangerous items and secure them before they can cause damage or death.

2] What do you think about the short story form in general?

It scares me—I’d much rather face a contract to write 150,000 words than 8,000 words!  There’s a little more elbow room in a full novel—especially an epic-length novel.  Short stories are a lot more precise.  I enjoy writing short stories because they are a challenge for me, and because I have a lot of fun with them.  I really admire the writers who have established themselves as grand masters of the short story!

3] What does your writing process involve?

I’ll get the germ of an idea—it could be a setting, or an object, or an action—and then everything gradually coalesces around that core.  Sometimes the story comes to me all at once, and sometimes it reveals itself one page at a time as I sit at the computer and sweat it out.  I usually work from a loose outline, but it’s really more of a few jotted notes than a real outline.  So my process is a little loose, to say the least!

5] Are you reading anything at the moment and if so, what?

I try not to read within the genre when I’m writing (which these days, is most of the time), so I’ve been reading a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal mystery.  They’re fun, relatively short, and very different from what I write.

6] Why were you attracted to contributing to the ‘Magic’ anthology?

I’m always open to opportunities to write a new instalment in my Deadly Curiosities series!  And it’s always nice to work with Solaris.

7] What are your upcoming projects after ‘Magic?’

I’m in another UK anthology, The Mammoth Book of Women’s Ghost Stories, with another Deadly Curiosities story, and I have a new epic fantasy book, Ice Forged, coming out in January.  I’m also bringing out more short stories on my www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com web site, so stay tuned!

8] If you had the ability to cast one spell, what spell would it be?

I’d make sure there were enough hours in the day to get everything done!  (Was I supposed to say “world peace”?)

And please enjoy an excerpt from “Buttons”, my short story in the Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and https://www.4shared.com/office/20nwnf1S/Buttons_excerpt_1.html



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“When Magic Goes Off The Grid”

by Gail Z. Martin

If you’ve ever lived through an extended power outage, you know how inconvenient, scary and dangerous it can be when the power grid goes down.  Without electric power, food spoils, buildings get too cold or too hot, businesses can’t function and in a total outage, even emergency services grind to a halt.

We’ve seen how devastating it can be to go without electricity when natural disasters or war destroy a region’s infrastructure.  Modern civilization rapidly disintegrates without the conveniences, safety measures, and tools upon which we’ve come to rely.  When society relies on something as fundamentally as we rely on electricity, everything falls apart when that element fails.  People die.

In my new book, Ice Forged (available now for pre-order, in stores January 2013), I imagine a failure of a different kind of “power grid.”  What happens when a society that has become dependent on magic when the magic disappears?

Imagine a world where most people have a touch of magic.  Not powerful, mage-level magic, but kitchen witch-level abilities.  The kind of thing useful for healing, preserving food, improving crop yields, mending broken objects, reinforcing buildings and dams, and enhancing quality.  People who lack magical talent themselves can easily hire someone to do what is needed.  Those small magics have been part of the fabric of life for generations, long enough that most people no longer remember how to do things the hard way.  When a disastrous war destroys the harnessed magic, the consequences are more than political: they’re a matter of life and death.

What if, in the midst of that kind of destruction, you alone had what was needed to bring back the magic?  Who might aid you—and who would benefit from the chaos?  And if, like my hero Blaine McFadden, you had been exiled, stripped of your lands and title, imprisoned and disavowed, would you be willing to risk your life to restore the magic to the kingdom that cast you out?

Ice Forged introduces readers to disgraced former lord Blaine McFadden, who becomes the kingdom’s most sought-after—and hunted—man, the convict on whom the future depends.  If he can live long enough to make his choice.

Grab an excerpt from Ice Forged here: https://www.4shared.com/office/NhlMRowu/Ice_Forged_Excerpt_2.html


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The End of the World As We Know It

by Gail Z. Martin

My newest book, The Dread: Book Two in The Fallen Kings Cycle, confronts a medieval world on the brink of a “War of Unmaking.”  Plague, famine, civilian unrest, pretenders to the throne, usurpers, traitors and a foreign invasion—along with betrayals large and small—have set the monarchies of the Winter Kingdoms on a collision course with war.  The stakes are huge, and no matter who wins and who loses, neither the kingdoms nor the main characters will ever be the same.

Sure, I drew on ancient Asian, Sumerian, and Celtic/Norse mythology, as well as my own fevered imagination to conjure up this war-torn world, but I’m certain that the angst in modern headlines had some subconscious influence over the decision to set in motion a cataclysm that changes the course of history.

I also blame some of it on my undergraduate training as a historian, taught by professors who saw flashpoints in history more as a confluence of trends rather than the handiwork of a single “great man.”  Where a single individual rises to such prominence as to seem capable of personally changing history, I’ve been taught to look deeper, to see the societal, religious, financial, cultural and other shifts that made it possible for the “great man” to come to the fore and achieve such prominence.

Personally, I find this a more interesting reading of history than seeing an endless procession of heroes and villains who are larger than life.  And as an author, I think that the idea that those who become heroes and villains stand astride the crest of a great flow of other circumstances makes a story much more intriguing as well.  While my characters always have choices, both they and the readers should feel that other forces are pressing toward particular options, or making other choices unsatisfactory.  Sometimes, the hero chooses to swim against the tide. In other situations, he (or she) rides the swell, realizing how little control they have over the rushing torrent, trying to make the best of it.  Throw magic, active deities, and two groups of immortal enemies into the equation, and all bets are off.

Part of the fun for me with epic fantasy is having a big enough canvas to set up this kind of cataclysm and bring the reader along for the ride.  The story that begins in The Sworn: Book One of the Fallen Kings Cycle, finds its conclusion in The Dread, but those who have been with me for all four preceding Chronicles of the Necromancer books will find old loose ends tied up and unfinished business brought to a close.

So is this the end of adventures in the world of the Winter Kingdoms?  No.  But my surviving characters do deserve a little rest!  So while the survivors rebuild, I’ll be bringing out a brand new series, The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, from Orbit in 2013.  Time to start the mayhem all over again!

You can find The Dread in stores and online everywhere.  For more about my books, please visit www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, and like me on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms.  I blog at DisquietingVisions.com, host author interviews at GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, and tweet @GailZMartin.

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