Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Guest Author Gail Z. Martin talks about "The Spark that Starts the Fire" | Scourge & Vengeance Blog Tour

I'm delighted to host mentor and friend Gail Z. Martin for a stop on her blog tour, promoting Scourge and Vengeance, the first two novels in an exciting new series from Solaris Books! Gail is a veritable force of nature and a publishing powerhouse, and I took this opportunity to ask where it all comes from. What is her #WritersSpark...

The Spark that Starts the Fire
By Gail Z. Martin
Every story starts with a spark of an idea, something that catches the author’s imagination and then fans into a fire as the author fleshes out the idea with details, characters, dialog and actions.
I’ve had that spark happen with a character idea, a plot bunny, a setting, or even an object. For me, the spark is asking “What if?” I find one answer, and ask “and then what?” If I keep alternating “what if” with “and then what” the plot shapes up pretty fast.
Sometimes I’ll get a character in my mind and I need to come up with the right story and setting for that person, because he/she is real to me and fully developed. So I have to think of what sort of danger/problem that would fit the character, and where they’d live, what talents/abilities they’d have, etc.
In other cases, a myth, legend or ghost story will catch my attention, and I’ll want to come up with a larger tale to explain and incorporate it. Or there will be an odd historical situation, and I’ll want to use it, so I have to build a story around it. I’ve ended up creating stories because I come upon a really unusual, haunted, or historical object and wanted to tell its tale.
Or maybe there’s something cool about a time period that I haven’t seen a story deal with, so I’ll think about how to put a twist on that element and make it mine. So with Scourge and the rest of the Darkhurst series, I wanted to play with the concept of medieval city-states that were in an economic alliance and how that could foster intrigue and murder when you add in dark magic. I drew on the Hanseatic League and the Italian city-states for inspiration, as well as role models like Machiavelli and the Medici family.
Often, a setting will grab me. So with my Deadly Curiosities books, a visit to Charleston, SC made me intent on figuring out a fresh urban fantasy series that would be a natural fit for Charleston. The same is true with all of our books with real-world settings. I try very hard to make the setting/city a character in its own right, so that the story couldn’t happen the same way anywhere else. That often has me looking for local urban legends, haunted sites and ghost stories that I can tweak and weave into the books, and more than once, has changed the direction of the plot because I found something really awesome I needed to use!
Like every author, I’m also influenced by headlines, TV shows, movies, interactions with people at the grocery store. Something on the news will catch my attention, and I’ll think, what if there were vampires involved? Or magic? I’ll see a movie, TV show or book deal with a topic, and wonder what would have happened if they had done it a different way. That’s often the spark of something that is wholly original, but still rooted in its inspiration. Or I’ll be people-watching at a restaurant, mall or airport and see someone do something or overhear a conversation, and that will spark a tangent, or a character, or a plot bunny.

For me, the spark of inspiration is everywhere. I usually have more ideas in my head than I have time to write! That’s good for readers, because the tide of books won’t be subsiding any time soon!
~Gail Z. Martin

About the books:

Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel

In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.
The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.

Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.

When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

ISBN-10: 1781085587
ISBN-13: 978-1781085585
Purchase at:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2qWHHSN
Books-a-Million: https://bit.ly/2NFxxML

Vengeance: A Darkhurst Novel (Book 2)
(Winner of the Manly Wade Wellman Award!)

Fighting the monsters that killed their family and friends cost undertaker brothers Corran and Rigan Valmonde their home and livelihood and made them wanted men—but the worst is yet to come.
The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and the best trading terms. Ambitious and ruthless leaders use betrayal and assassination to gain their ends. Blood magic conjures monsters to further the goals of the ruling class, and the price of stolen power is paid for by the deaths of commoners. Now, the fate of Ravenwood hangs in the balance as rival city-states maneuver to gain advantage.

When Corran and Rigan and their friends became outlaw monster hunters and fled beyond the walls of Ravenwood City, they thought they had defeated the source of the abominations that killed so many of their friends and loved ones. But the more successful they become at destroying the creatures, the more they realize a greater evil is at work – larger and more monstrous than they ever could imagine…

ISBN-10: 1939704758
ISBN-13: 978-1939704757
Purchase at:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2CcohOd
Books-a-Million: https://bit.ly/2CejN9D

Enter the Giveaway:

Win a Kindle copy of both Scourge and Vengeance! Contest runs October 15th thru the 29th by Let's Talk! Promotions.

 About Gail:
Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel, from Solaris Books. Gail is also the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel and Trifles and Folly 1: A Deadly Curiosities Collection, the latest in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC; Shadow and Flame is the fourth book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga; The Shadowed Path (The first Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures collection), as well as Iron and Blood a Steampunk series, and Spells, Salt, & Steel, both co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The SwornThe Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities and Tangled Web. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden AdventuresThe Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Gail’s work has appeared in over 35 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Journeys, Hath no Fury and A Haven Harbor Halloween.

You can also find Gail on: Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartinand free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.


And because my mind makes bizarre connections--sparks, if you will...


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Conapalooza Schedule

I'm delighted to be a guest at Conapalooza this year! Here's where you'll find me on panels:

Friday, 7:00pm  “Diversity Matters” 
Diversity has been on the rise in speculative fiction and throughout fandom bringing in stories, characters, and creators that represent a wide range of life as we know it. Join our panelists for a discussion about why people need both windows and mirrors, and exploration of how representation helps.

Friday, 9:00pm  "Geeky Rants"    
An amazingly entertaining discussion that lets folks good-naturedly vent on what's wrong in their chosen fandom. Whether it's the cancellation of Firefly or exactly how "fast" is a parsec, this never-the-same-twice event combines the best (and worst!) elements of audience-participation comedy and couples therapy.

Saturday, 1:00pm  “Buffy: 20 Years and Counting” (Mod) 
1992 witnessed the onscreen arrival of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Miraculously, Buffy survived that debut and returned in TV form in 1996. The comic series is still going strong, and there's perennial talk of an onscreen reboot. Why do we still care? Let’s talk about our favorite Valley Girl, her friends, and her foes—the stories, the characters, the musical, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Saturday, 6:00pm  “Making The Old New Again” (Mod)  
When a storyteller breathes new life into an old tale or trope, it is excitingly familiar and different! Let’s share some of the best examples of the genre in books and movies that pull from classic tales, themes, and tropes. Think Ann Rice's Interview with a Vampire, Gregory Maguire's Wicked, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Star Wars, Batman Begins, and so many more!

Saturday, 7:00pm  “The Force Doth Awaken” (Mod) 
Panelists perform an unstaged dramatic (and hilarious!) reading of the wonderful Shakespeare-esque The Force Doth Awaken.

Sunday, 2:00pm  “Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings”
Broaden your horizons in speculative fiction with bite-sized readings guaranteed to leave you hungry for more from these fabulous authors. Come discover new favorite authors and learn about an organization that supports women in the genre, plus chocolate and chances to win free books! 

I'm sharing a table with the effervescent Samantha Bryant, so come buy our books!


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wander into the Weird Wild West

I'm delighted to see that readers are still discovering and enjoying the terrific stories we brought together in The Weird Wild West! I loved everything about this project with my co-editors Emily Leverett and Misty Massey, and our publisher Danielle Ackley-Mcphail.

You can pick up the Kindle or print versions from Amazon.
And if you see me at a con, I have copies signed by all the authors & editors I could reach!


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Guest interview: Donald J. Bingle | Wet Work Blog Tour

I'm honored to welcome Don Bingle on his blog tour, promoting his new thriller Wet Work. Join us for an interview and $25 raffle!

Don is the author of six books (The Love-Haight Case Files (with Jean Rabe); Wet Work; Net Impact; Greensword; Frame Shop; and Forced Conversion) and about fifty shorter stories in the science fiction, thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. 

MSM: Tell us about the inspiration for Dick Thornby and his adventures.

DJB: I wanted to have a spy who wasn't a James Bond type or a Jason Bourne type, but instead a middle-aged guy with a wife and a kid and a mortgage, plus a boss who gives him grief about using too many explosives, but still a hero in that he always does what needs to be done to protect the world, regardless of the personal cost to him. I think this makes Dick relatable, even if he isn't always likeable.

MSM: You write in a lot of genres, and a lot of your stories are thrillers--what attracts you to that type of story?

DJB: I used to write adventures and scenarios for roleplaying games and gamemaster such adventures. In a way, all such adventures are quests with danger and obstacles attached to completion, plus a lot of interpersonal stuff going on at the same time. You have to control clues, red herrings, pace, comic relief, provide fun new things to learn/do, and make sure everyone is entertained throughout the journey. Thrillers are basically the same thing, so my tendency is to write thrillers.

MSM: How do you research for a spy thriller novel?

DJB: There's two different kinds of research involved in my spy thrillers. First, there is the base plot. For that I want to make use of several interesting tidbits of information I've run across in my reading that the average reader wouldn't necessarily already know about, but would find compelling, then find some way to string those bits of compelling information into something that would involve the Subsidiary, my spy agency. Reading offbeat articles and magazines or checking out certain websites can help with that. Of course, some of the stuff is wild and incredible, but I can often get something credible out of even weird conspiracy theories and such. The second kind of research is stuff like vehicles and weapons, geography, the look and feel of specific locations, even what types of non-alcoholic beer might be available at a certain place. You just have to knuckle down and look that stuff up--you don't want getting basic things wrong take the reader out of the story. Of course, my browser history gets pretty bizarre. I spent the better part of a day once trying to figure out the largest yield Russian nuclear weapon I could fit in an old Volkswagen Microbus. Of course, I also spent hours trying to figure out if the Microbus came standard with an FM radio.

MSM: Will we see more stories about Thornby?

DJB: The smart way to answer this question is to say "Of course!" But the true answer is only if Wet Work sells well enough to make it worthwhile. I've already got the base plot and a cover made up for the next adventure (the title is Flash Drive), but I won't put in the time to write up the book if it does not make financial sense. I've got other things I could write instead.

MSM: GenCon is right around the corner (or has just happened, depending on our schedule). What are you most looking forward to \ was your favorite experience there this year?

DJB: This will be my 39th GenCon. I was the world's top-ranked player of classic RPGA tournaments in the last fifteen years of the last century, so GenCon is an annual pilgrimage of sorts. (An older vendor a few years back told a cashier who asked me how to spell my name. "Don't you know who that is? That's Don Bingle. He used to be famous at GenCon." which is a cringeworthy compliment, I guess.) Classic style games have given way to campaign style, but there's several sessions of TimeWatch, a time travel game in the old classic style of things like Timemaster, Chill, and Star Ace, which I'll be checking out.

MSM: We often hear author advice about "write what you know". What are elements of your stories that are based on your own life or interests, like pets, places, people, or hobbies?

DJB: It's always handy to be able to shorten your research burden by using locations or aspects of real life, but I don't really like the "write what you know" advice. I write genre fiction. Fantasy, scifi, time travel, steampunk, supernatural horror--that's not real life stuff. Write what you enjoy writing or finding out more about.

MSM: What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

DJB: I went to the mailbox one day and found a box had been posted to me. Inside was a jewelry box with a cloisonné pin from the Time Travel Research Association with an unsigned note that simply said "Thank you for your contributions to time travel." I really need to get around to doing that some day. But I guess it worked. I put the pin on one of my suits and just went about my business at work and parties and such. Every once in awhile, someone would lean in close and ask, what's that lapel pin for. And I would simply say "I got it for my contributions to time travel research." with no additional elaboration. I expect it confused and befuddled my colleagues and clients.

The biggest compliment I ever got was when one guy who I knew to be a Viet Nam veteran asked me what unit I served in after reading a military action sequence. Never served, but I knew that I'd gotten the scene right for him to have asked.

MSM: I wrote a short story about a rainmaker who was struck by lightning every time he "called the rain." I would have asked your insight if I had known about your own experience with lightning! Can you tell us about it?

DJB: Just to be clear, it did not rain the day I got struck by lightning, nor was there any other thunder or lightning in the area. I was eleven. It was a hot, muggy day, and my mom had to go to a doctor's appointment. Since we didn't have air conditioning back then, she said if I got hot I could was my dad's car. So, I went out, soaked myself with water from the hose and was washing the hood of the car with a sponge when lightning apparently hit the car, passing the charge through me to the ground. All I remember was hearing a loud noise and arriving at the front door running very fast just as my thirteen year old sister opened it. I was very hyper and we decided I had gotten scared by the thunder and should lie down and calm myself. I couldn't calm down, so she called the neighbor lady, who called my mom at the doctor's office, and the decision was made to drive me to his office. 

I remember walking in, not stopping at reception, and going back to an exam room where my mom was waiting with the doctor. He checked my heart rate, then reached over and picked up a hypodermic needle and plunged it straight into my chest without waiting to get my shirt out of the way. He turned to my mom, who was horrified by the size of the needle, and simply said. "If I hadn't done that, he'd be dead within a half hour. He has the fastest heart rate I've ever seen." There was a burn on my forearm where the power jumped from the hood to me, but the fact I was soaked with water (allowing most of the charge to pass through the water, rather than my nerves and bones, probably saved my life.

MSM: What do you like to read, and what are you reading now?

DJB: Just finished a not-so-compellingly written history of the Hoover Dam. I read a lot of stuff by Robert J. Sawyer, Jean Rabe, and Niven, Barnes, and Pournelle (in any combination). My favorite time travel book is Replay by Ken Grimwood.

MSM: What else are you working on now?

DJB: About to start up a ghost-writing project that I can't talk about. Also, getting ready to do a short story which deals with quantum entanglement in an odd setting.

MSM: Where will you be – in person and online – this summer?

DJB: You can always find me at my website at www.donaldjbingle.com, or @donaldjbingle on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks, Don!

As part of Don's blog tour, we have a raffle (through 8/10) for a $25 gift certificate:

Rafflecopter giveaway

I'll be posting a review of Wet Work here soon. 
You can pick up your own copy here:
Here's the rest of Don's blog tour schedule!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Announcing Chasing the Light: A Benefit Anthology of Speculative Fiction

 Chasing the Light
Once upon a time, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Faith Hunter and award-winning authors David B. Coe and John G. Hartness agreed to mentor a group of rising authors—the Roaring Writers. Chasing the Light—with tales across the spectrum of science fiction and fantasy—is their celebration of success. 

It is also a tribute honoring Melanie Otto (aka Melanie Griffin), one of the founding authors, who died unexpectedly in 2016. Melanie critiqued many of these stories at the Roaring Writers' annual writing retreats, and the authors will never forget Melanie's sparkling eyes and delighted laugh as she found passages she loved in each. With this collection, including stories by Melanie, the Roaring Writers share her light with readers everywhere.

Many thanks to our mentors, David B. CoeFaith Hunter, and John Hartness for all they have done to help us become our best. Thanks to fellow RW Emily Leverett for editing this anthology--she's a terrific editor and expert cat herder! Thanks also to Melissa McArthur Gilbert for the extra polish of proofreading, and to Natania Barron for the beautiful cover.

Thanks to the generosity of their mentors and contributors, all profits from the sales of this anthology will be donated to help Melanie's lifelong partner defray medical and legal costs. 
Remembering Melanie
The first thing I remember about Melanie, always, is her beautiful smile. Her delighted laugh as we shared our love of stories, books, authors, movies, photography, nature, friends, and life. We met at ConCarolinas 2013 in Charlotte, NC. Afterward, she emailed this wonderful summation of the weekend: “Truly, a person never knows what fine folk or fortunate things one might discover coming one's way.” Through email, phone calls, and our eagerly anticipated annual retreats, we shared stories, editing advice, writing goals, travel adventures and dreams, and so much more. I knew from the beginning that Melanie had some serious health issues, and to her chagrin, they often impeded her participation in our retreats and activities. Even so, I could never have been prepared for the shock of losing her so suddenly.
But Melanie hasn’t left the Roaring Writers. If anything, she continues to bring us ever closer together. In honoring her, in sharing our grief together, in committing to this benefit anthology project, we continue to write and grow and learn and succeed together. And I still see Melanie’s beautiful smile, just beyond the light.
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Illogicon Schedule

Illogicon is a great way to start the New year -- and the con season!
Come join the fun in Cary, NC this weekend!
Here's where you'll find me:

Friday, 3pm
Geeky Gateway Drugs – Smith
Have a friend who “doesn’t like sci-fi”? We can help ease them in!
Panelists: Joey Starnes (M), Margaret McGraw, Gray Rinehart, Carol Cowles, John Lapoint

Friday, 7pm

Open Your Own Book: Personal Interests and Storytelling – Smith
They say to “write what you know” or “write what you like,” but it can be hard to weave in your personal interests in your storytelling. Let’s get into it!
Panelists: Margaret McGraw (M), Holly Walrath, Stuart Jaffe, Darin Kennedy, Emily Leverett

Saturday, 12pm
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading – Crescent
Don’t miss the women of the Broad Universe Association in this whirlwind sampler of work!
Hosted by Broad Universe

Saturday, 2pm
MFAs, Workshops, and Writers’ Groups: Which One is For You? – Reynolds
Do you need them and are they right for you?
Panelists: Julie Steinbacher (M), Holly Walrath, John G. Hartness, Ian Muneshwar, Margaret McGraw

Saturday, 6pm

Geeky Rants – Smith
It’s a like a real-life TWEETSTORM full of only the ANGRIEST NERDS. What petty hill would you like to die on today?
Panelists: Chris Shrewsbury (M), Janet S. Planets, Jason Gilbert, Michael G. Williams, Carol Cowles, Darin Kennedy, Margaret S. McGraw

Sunday, 10am
How What We Read for Fun Sculpts Us – Reynolds
“But it’s just a story!” Well, yes and no. How what we consume can shape our ideas–for better or worse
Panelists: Jim McDonald (M), Tera Fulbright , Margaret McGraw, LeAnn Rettell, Stacey Lantagne

Sunday 12pm
Steampunk’d! – Reynolds
Panelists “steampunk” and movies based on audience suggestions!
Panelists: Margaret McGraw (M), Tera Fulbright, Jason Gilbert, Natania Barron, Andrew Greeson


Sunday, 1pm

Crowdfunding: Is It Right for Your Project? – Smith
Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites can be huge, but is it right for your project?
Panelists: Alex Matsuo (M), John Hartness, Margaret McGraw, Stacey Lantagne, Suzanne Adair

Sunday, 2pm

Greatness Past 50 – Reynolds
Characters “of a certain age” still have a lot of offer–a discussion of ageism, aging characters, and older characters
Panelists: Samantha Bryant (M), Chris Shrewsbury, Margaret McGraw, Dave Ellis, Gail Martin


And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.