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Gail Z Martin’s The Hawthorn Moon Blog-Tour – Excerpt: Scourge – A Darkhurst Novel

Hey folks, I’m late to the party with this, but in my defense, I got started with Scourge and cannot put it down – this event completely slipped my mind! (thanks, Gail – I blame the awesome book!)

What’s ‘Scourge’ about? Here’s the low-down:

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.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, it is – damned good. I’m just about 100 pages in (review coming soon), and I can tell you that Gail has crafted a dark, tense tale filled with stand-out characters and interesting magic. Scourge has already found kickass company among a Best-Of list over at Bookwraiths, and it’s well deserved.

Here’s an excerpt to get you interested, and pre-order links will follow after the excerpt:

***

Chapter One

A HEAVY IRON candleholder slammed against the wall, just missing Corran Valmonde’s head.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Try not to make her mad, Corran.”

Rigan Valmonde knelt on the worn floor, drawing a sigil in charcoal, moving as quickly as he dared. Not quickly enough; a piece of firewood spun from the hearth and flew across the room, slamming him in the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt in pain.

“Keep her off me!” he snapped, repairing the smudge in the soot line. Sloppy symbols meant sloppy magic, and that could get someone killed.

“I would if I could see her.” Corran stepped away from the wall, raising his iron sword, putting himself between the fireplace and his brother. His breath misted in the unnaturally cold room and moisture condensed on the wavy glass of the only window.

“Watch where you step.” Rigan worked on the second sigil, widdershins from the soot marking, this one daubed in ochre. “I don’t want to have to do this again.”

A small ceramic bowl careened from the mantle, and, for an instant, Rigan glimpsed a young woman in a blood-soaked dress, one hand clutching her heavily pregnant belly. The other hand slipped right through the bowl, even as the dish hurtled at Rigan’s head. Rigan dove to one side and the bowl smashed against the opposite wall. At the same time, Corran’s sword slashed down through the specter. A howl of rage filled the air as the ghost dissipated.

You have no right to be in my home. The dead woman’s voice echoed in Rigan’s mind.

Get out of my head.

You are a confessor. Hear me!

Not while you’re trying to kill my brother.

“You’d better hurry.” Corran slowly turned, watching for the ghost.

“I can’t rush the ritual.” Rigan tried to shut out the ghost’s voice, focusing on the complex chalk sigil. He reached into a pouch and drew a thin curved line of salt, aconite, and powdered amanita, connecting the first sigil to the second, and the second to the third and fourth, working his way to drawing a complete warded circle.

The ghost materialized without warning on the other side of the line, thrusting a thin arm toward Rigan, her long fingers crabbed into claws, old blood beneath her torn nails. She opened a gash on Rigan’s cheek as he stumbled backward, grabbed a handful of the salt mixture and threw it. The apparition vanished with a wail.

“Corran!” Rigan’s warning came a breath too late as the ghost appeared right behind his brother, and took a swipe with her sharp, filthy nails, clawing Corran’s left shoulder.

He wronged me. He let me die, let my baby die— The voice shrieked in Rigan’s mind.

“Draw the damn signs!” Corran yelled. “I’ll handle her.” He wheeled, and before the blood-smeared ghost could strike again, the tip of his iron blade caught her in the chest. Her image dissipated like smoke, with a shriek that echoed from the walls.

Avenge me.

Sorry, lady, Rigan thought as he reached for a pot of pigment. I’m stuck listening to dead people’s dirty little secrets and last regrets, but I just bury people. Take your complaints up with the gods.

“Last one.” Rigan marked the rune in blue woad. The condensation on the window turned to frost, and he shivered. The ghost flickered, insubstantial but still identifiable as the young woman who had died bringing her stillborn child into the world. Her blood still stained the floor in the center of the warded circle and held her to this world as surely as her grief.

Wind whipped through the room, and would have scattered the salt and aconite line if Rigan had not daubed the mixture onto the floor in paste. Fragments of the broken bowl scythed through the air. The iron candle holder sailed across the room; Corran dodged it again, and a shard caught the side of his brother’s head, opening a cut on Rigan’s scalp, sending a warm rush of blood down the side of his face.

The ghost raged on, her anger and grief whipping the air into a whirlwind. I will not leave without justice for myself and my son.

You don’t really have a choice about it, Rigan replied silently and stepped across the warding, careful not to smudge the lines, pulling an iron knife from his belt. He nodded to Corran and together their voices rose as they chanted the burial rite, harmonizing out of long practice, the words of the Old Language as familiar as their own names.

The ghostly woman’s image flickered again, solid enough now that Rigan could see the streaks of blood on her pale arms and make out the pattern of her dress. She appeared right next to him, close enough that his shoulder bumped against her chest, and her mouth brushed his ear.

’Twas not nature that killed me. My faithless husband let us bleed because he thought the child was not his own.

The ghost vanished, compelled to reappear in the center of the circle, standing on the blood-stained floor. Rigan extended his trembling right hand and called to the magic, drawing on the old, familiar currents of power. The circle and runes flared with light. The sigils burned in red, white, blue, and black, with the salt-aconite lines a golden glow between them.

Corran and Rigan’s voices rose as the glow grew steadily brighter, and the ghost raged all the harder against the power that held her, thinning the line between this world and the next, opening a door and forcing her through it.

One heartbeat she was present; in the next she was gone, though her screams continued to echo.

Rigan and Corran kept on chanting, finishing the rite as the circle’s glow faded and the sigils dulled to mere pigment once more. Rigan lowered his palm and dispelled the magic, then blew out a deep breath.

“That was not supposed to happen.” Corran’s scowl deepened as he looked around the room, taking in the shattered bowl and the dented candle holder. He flinched, noticing Rigan’s wounds now that the immediate danger had passed.

“You’re hurt.”

Rigan shrugged. “Not as bad as you are.” He wiped blood from his face with his sleeve, then bent to gather the ritual materials.

“She confessed to you?” Corran bent to help his brother, wincing at the movement.

“Yeah. And she had her reasons,” Rigan replied. He looked at Corran, frowning at the blood that soaked his shirt. “We’ll need to wash and bind your wounds when we get back to the shop.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

They packed up their gear, but Corran did not sheath his iron sword until they were ready to step outside. A small crowd had gathered, no doubt drawn by the shrieks and thuds and the flares of light through the cracked, dirty window.

“Nothing to see here, folks,” Corran said, exhaustion clear in his voice. “We’re just the undertakers.”

Once they were convinced the excitement was over, the onlookers dispersed, leaving one man standing to the side. He looked up anxiously as Rigan and Corran approached him.

“Is it done? Is she gone?” For an instant, eagerness shone too clearly in his eyes. Then his posture shifted, shoulders hunching, gaze dropping, and mask slipped back into place. “I mean, is she at rest? After all she’s been through?”

Before Corran could answer, Rigan grabbed the man by the collar, pulled him around the corner into an alley and threw him up against the wall. “You can stop the grieving widower act,” he growled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Corran standing guard at the mouth of the alley, gripping his sword.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The denial did not reach the man’s eyes.

“You let her bleed out, you let the baby die, because you didn’t think the child was yours.” Rigan’s voice was rough as gravel, pitched low so that only the trembling man could hear him.

“She betrayed me—”

“No.” The word brought the man up short. “No, if she had been lying, her spirit wouldn’t have been trapped here.” Rigan slammed the widower against the wall again to get his attention.

“Rigan—” Corran cautioned.

“Lying spirits don’t get trapped.” Rigan had a tight grip on the man’s shirt, enough that he could feel his body trembling. “Your wife. Your baby. Your fault.” He stepped back and let the man down, then threw him aside to land on the cobblestones. “The dead are at peace. You’ve got the rest of your life to live with what you did.” With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, as the man choked back a sob.

Corran sheathed his sword. “I really wish you’d stop beating up paying customers,” he grumbled as they turned to walk back to the shop.

“Wish I could. Don’t know how to stop being confessor to the dead, not sure what else to do once I know the dirt,” Rigan replied, an edge of pain and bitterness in his voice.

“So the husband brought us in to clean up his mess?” Corran winced as he walked; the gashes on his arm and back had to be throbbing.

“Yeah.”

“I like it better when the ghosts confess something like where they buried their money,” Corran replied.

“So do I.”

The sign over the front of the shop read Valmonde Undertakers. Around back, in the alley, the sign over the door just said Bodies. Corran led the way, dropping the small rucksack containing their gear just inside the entrance, and cursed under his breath as the strap raked across raw shoulders.

“Sit down,” Rigan said, nodding at an unoccupied mortuary table. He tied his brown hair into a queue before washing his hands in a bucket of fresh water drawn from the pump. “Let me have a look at those wounds.”

Footsteps descended the stairs from the small apartment above.

“You’re back? How bad was it?” Kell, the youngest of the Valmonde brothers, stopped halfway down the stairs. He had Corran’s coloring, taking after their father, with dark blond hair that curled when it grew long. Rigan’s brown hair favored their mother. All three brothers’ blue eyes were the same shade, making the resemblance impossible to overlook.

“Shit.” Kell jumped the last several steps as he saw his brothers’ injuries. He grabbed a bucket of water and scanned a row of powders and elixirs, grabbing bottles and measuring out with a practiced eye and long experience. “I thought you said it was just a banishing.”

“It was supposed to be ‘just’ a banishing,” Rigan said as Corran stripped off his bloody shirt. “But it didn’t go entirely to plan.” He soaked a clean cloth in the bucket Kell held and wrung it out.

“A murder, not a natural death,” Corran said, and his breath hitched as Rigan daubed his wounds. “Another ghost with more power than it should have had.”

Rigan saw Kell appraising Corran’s wounds, glancing at the gashes on Rigan’s face and hairline.

“Mine aren’t as bad,” Rigan said.

“When you’re done with Corran, I’ll take care of them,” Kell said. “So I’m guessing Mama’s magic kicked in again, if you knew about the murder?”

“Yeah,” Rigan replied in a flat voice.

Undertaking, like all the trades in Ravenwood, was a hereditary profession. That it came with its own magic held no surprise; all the trades did. The power and the profession were passed down from one generation to the next. Undertakers could ease a spirit’s transition to the realm beyond, nudge a lost soul onward, or release one held back by unfinished business. Sigils, grave markings, corpse paints, and ritual chants were all part of the job. But none of the other undertakers that Rigan knew had a mama who was part Wanderer. Of the three Valmonde brothers, only Rigan had inherited her ability to hear the confessions of the dead, something not even the temple priests could do. His mother had called it a gift. Most of the time, Rigan regarded it as a burden, sometimes a curse. Usually, it just made things more complicated than they needed to be.

“Hold still,” Rigan chided as Corran winced. “Ghost wounds draw taint.” He wiped away the blood, cleaned the cuts, and then applied ointment from the jar Kell handed him. All three of them knew the routine; they had done this kind of thing far too many times.

“There,” he said, binding up Corran’s arm and shoulder with strips of gauze torn from a clean linen shroud. “That should do it.”

Corran slid off the table to make room for Rigan. While Kell dealt with his brother’s wounds, Corran went to pour them each a whiskey.

“That’s the second time this month we’ve had a spirit go from angry to dangerous,” Corran said, returning with their drinks. He pushed a glass into Rigan’s hand, and set one aside for Kell, who was busy wiping the blood from his brother’s face.

“I’d love to know why.” Rigan tried not to wince as Kell probed his wounds. The deep gash where the pottery shard had sliced his hairline bled more freely than the cut on his cheek. Kell swore under his breath as he tried to staunch the bleeding.

“It’s happening all over Ravenwood, and no one in the Guild seems to know a damn thing about why or what to do about it,” Corran said, knocking his drink back in one shot. “Old Daniels said he’d heard his father talk about the same sort of thing, but that was fifty years ago. So why did the ghosts stop being dangerous then, and what made them start being dangerous now?”

Rigan started to shake his head, but stopped at a glare from Kell, who said, “Hold still.” He let out a long breath and complied, but his mind raced. Until the last few months, banishings were routine. Violence and tragedy sometimes produced ghosts, but in all the years since Rigan and Corran had been undertakers—first helping their father and uncles and then running the business since the older men had passed away—banishings were usually uneventful.

Make the marks, sing the chant, the ghost goes on and we go home. So what’s changed?

“I’m sick of being handed my ass by things that aren’t even solid,” Rigan grumbled. “If this keeps up, we’ll need to charge more.”

Corran snorted. “Good luck convincing Guild Master Orlo to raise the rates.”

Rigan’s eyes narrowed. “Guild Master Orlo can dodge flying candlesticks and broken pottery. See how he likes it.”

“Once you’ve finished grumbling we’ve got four new bodies to attend to,” Kell said. “One’s a Guild burial and the others are worth a few silvers a piece.” Rigan did not doubt that Kell had negotiated the best fees possible, he always did.

“Nice,” Rigan replied, and for the first time noticed that there were corpses on the other tables in the workshop, covered with sheets. “We can probably have these ready to take to the cemetery in the morning.”

“One of them was killed by a guard,” Kell said, turning his back and keeping his voice carefully neutral.

“Do you know why?” Corran tensed.

“His wife said he protested when the guard doubled the ‘protection’ fee. Guess the guard felt he needed to be taught a lesson.” Bribes were part of everyday life in Ravenwood, and residents generally went along with the hated extortion. Guilds promised to shield their members from the guards’ worst abuses, but in reality, the Guild Masters only intervened in the most extreme cases, fearful of drawing the Lord Mayor’s ire. At least, that had been the excuse when Corran sought justice from the Undertakers’ Guild for their father’s murder, a fatal beating on flimsy charges.

Rigan suspected the guards had killed their father because the neighborhood looked up to him, and if he’d decided to speak out in opposition, others might have followed. Even with the passing years, the grief remained sharp, the injustice bitter.

Kell went to wash his hands in a bucket by the door. “Trent came by while you and Corran were out. There’s been another attack, three dead. He wants you to go have a look and take care of the bodies.”

Rigan and Corran exchanged a glance. “What kind of attack?”

Kell sighed. “What kind do you think? Creatures.” He hesitated. “I got the feeling from Trent this was worse than usual.”

“Did Trent say what kind of creatures?” Corran asked, and Rigan picked up on an edge to his brother’s voice.

Kell nodded. “Ghouls.”

Corran swore under his breath and looked away, pushing back old memories. “All right,” he said, not quite managing to hide a shudder. “Let’s go get the bodies before it gets any later. We’re going to have our hands full tonight.”

“Kell and I can go, if you want to start on the ones here,” Rigan offered.

Corran shook his head. “No. I’m not much use as an undertaker if I can’t go get the corpses no matter how they came to an end,” Corran said.

Rigan heard the undercurrent in his tone. Kell glanced at Rigan, who gave a barely perceptible nod, warning Kell to say nothing. Corran’s dealing with the memories the best way he knows how, Rigan thought. I just wish there weren’t so many reminders.

“I’ll prepare the wash and the pigments, and get the shrouds ready,” Kell said. “I’ll have these folks ready for your part of the ritual by the time you get back.” He gestured to the bodies already laid out. “Might have to park the new ones in the cart for a bit and switch out—tables are scarce.”

Corran grimaced. “That’ll help.” He turned to Rigan. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”

Kell gave them the directions Trent had provided. Corran took up the long poles of the undertaker’s cart, which clattered behind him as they walked. Rigan knew better than to talk to his brother when he was in this kind of mood. At best he could be present, keep Corran from having to deal with the ghouls’ victims alone, and sit up with him afterward.

It’s only been three months since he buried Jora, since we almost had to bury him. The memory’s raw, although he won’t mention it. But Kell and I both hear what he shouts in his sleep. He’s still fighting them in his dreams, and still losing.

Rigan’s memories of that night were bad enough—Trent stumbling to the back door of the shop, carrying Corran, bloody and unconscious; Corran’s too-still body on one of the mortuary tables; Kell praying to Doharmu and any god who would listen to stave off death; Trent, covered in Corran’s blood, telling them how he had found their brother and Jora out in the tavern barn, the ghoul that attacked them already feasting on Jora’s fresh corpse.

Rigan never did understand why Trent had gone to the barn that night, or how he managed to fight off the ghoul. Corran and Jora, no doubt, had slipped away for a tryst, expecting the barn to be safe and private. Corran said little of the attack, and Rigan hoped his brother truly did not remember all the details.

“We’re here.” Corran’s rough voice and expressionless face revealed more than any words.

Ross, the farrier, met them at the door. “I’m sorry to have to call you out,” he said.

“It’s our job,” Corran replied. “I’m just sorry the godsdamned ghouls are back.”

“Not for long,” Ross said under his breath. A glance passed between Corran and Ross. Rigan filed it away to ask Corran about later.

The stench hit Rigan as soon as they entered the barn. Two horses lay gutted in their stalls and partially dismembered. Blood spattered the wooden walls and soaked the sawdust. Flies swarmed on what the ghouls had left behind.

“They’re over here,” Ross said. The bodies of two men and a woman had been tossed aside like discarded bones at a feast. Rigan swallowed down bile. Corran paled, his jaw working as he ground his teeth.

Rigan and Corran knew better than most what remained of a corpse once a ghoul had finished with it. Belly torn open to get to the soft organs; ribs split wide to access the heart. How much of the flesh remained depended on the ghoul’s hunger and whether or not it feasted undisturbed. Given the state these bodies were in—their faces were the only parts left untouched—the ghouls had taken their time. Rigan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing himself not to retch.

“What about the creatures?” Corran asked.

“Must have fled when they heard us coming,” Ross said. “We were making plenty of noise.”

Ross handed them each a shovel, and took one up himself. “There’s not much left, and what’s there is… loose.”

“Who were they?” Rigan asked, not sure Corran felt up to asking questions.

Ross swallowed hard. “One of the men was my cousin, Tad. The other two were customers. They brought in the two horses late in the day, and my cousin said he’d handle it.”

Rigan heard the guilt in Ross’s tone.

“Guild honors?” Corran asked, finding his voice, and Ross nodded.

Rigan brought the cart into the barn, stopping as close as possible to the mangled corpses.

The bodies were likely to fall to pieces as soon as they began shoveling.

“Yeah,” Ross replied, getting past the lump in his throat. “Send them off right.” He shook his head. “They say the monsters are all part of the Balance, like life and death cancel each other out somehow. That’s bullshit, if you ask me.”

The three men bent to their work, trying not to think of the slippery bones and bloody bits as bodies. Carcasses. Like what’s left when the butcher’s done with a hog, or the vultures are finished with a cow, Rigan thought. The barn smelled of blood and entrails, copper and shit. Rigan looked at what they loaded into the cart. Only the skulls made it possible to tell that the remains had once been human.

“I’m sorry about this, but I need to do it—to keep them from rising as ghouls or restless spirits,” Rigan said. He pulled a glass bottle from the bag at the front of the wagon, and carefully removed the stopper, sprinkling the bodies with green vitriol to burn the flesh and prevent the corpses from rising. The acid sizzled, sending up noxious tendrils of smoke. Rigan stoppered the bottle and pulled out a bag of the salt-aconite-amanita mixture, dusting it over the bodies, assuring that the spirits would remain at rest.

Ross nodded. “Better than having them return as one of those… things,” he said, shuddering.

“We’ll have them buried tomorrow,” Corran said as Rigan secured their grisly load.

“That’s more than fair,” Ross agreed. “Corran—you know if I’d had a choice about calling you—”

“It’s our job.” Corran cut off the apology. Ross knew about Jora’s death. That didn’t change the fact that they were the only Guild undertakers in this area of Ravenwood, and Ross was a friend.

“I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon with the money,” Ross said, accompanying them to the door.

“We’ll be done by then,” Corran replied. Rigan went to pick up the cart’s poles, but Corran shook his head and lifted them himself.

Rigan did not argue. Easier for him to haul the wagon; that way he doesn’t have to look at the bodies and remember when Jora’s brother brought her for burial.

Rigan felt for the reassuring bulk of his knife beneath his cloak—a steel blade rather than the iron weapon they used in the banishing rite. No one knew the true nature of the monsters, or why so many more had started appearing in Ravenwood of late. Ghouls weren’t like angry ghosts or restless spirits that could be banished with salt, aconite, and iron. Whatever darkness spawned them and the rest of their monstrous brethren, they were creatures of skin and bone; only beheading would stop them.

Rigan kept his blade sharpened.

 

©2017 Gail Z. Martin. All rights reserved. May not be copied or shared in any format except with the written permission of the author.

Here are those pre-order links: Amazon US, Amazon UK

And check out Gail’s site for more info, excerpts and giveaways! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Blog Tour

 

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Gail Z Martin’s Days of the Dead Blog Tour – Starting From Scratch

Hey everyone, hope you’re well. 🙂

It’s that time of the year again – Gail is running her massive blog tour, called, ‘Days of the Dead‘, and I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to host her again. 🙂

DaysofDead Banner V1 copy

 

Here’s Gail’s guest post – Starting From Scratch:

***

Nothing is more intimidating than a blank screen or an empty page. I don’t care how many books you write, I’m not sure it ever gets any less scary to sit down and stare at that vast expanse of empty whiteness waiting for your words.

After you’ve got a few books under your belt, you do come prepared to face your fears with foreknowledge. You know it’s going to be difficult to get started, so you spend time mentally crafting your opening scene so you can jump right in. Or maybe you console yourself with the knowledge that you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

Of course you have an outline, and when you wrote the outline, it seemed like a good idea. The publisher signed off on it, so they thought it was a good idea too, and so did your agent. But then you sit down at the computer and that outline suddenly seems anemic. (I can’t speak for the authors who are said to write outlines of the same word count most authors write books. Maybe it’s easier for them, but that’s kind of like writing the book before you write the book, so cheating a little.)

For me, there are several issues that need to be settled as I build out a new series. They are 1) characters; 2) magic and religion; 3) political/economic structure; 4) climate/geography/history; 5) map and location of story action; 6) technology. All of those generally come to me based on the plot. So I’ll usually get an idea for a particular character with a certain kind of challenge/problem/danger. Then the question becomes: In what kind of a world could that happen? How would their world have to work for that to be an issue? How would those threats arise from that world and what would the ripple effects be?

I majored in history, so I know the importance of all the elements that come to a confluence in order for historical turning points to occur or pivotal leaders to surface. So I’ll think through the political situation and think about the rival forces and their competing visions, the economic system and who stands to profit or lose from the Big Problem. I’ll think about how history, myth, religion, magic and culture either support or pull against those trends. I’ll consider the various internal and external factions, what they want, what they stand to lose, and what they’re willing to do to win.

Geography matters, because it determines where roads and cities are built, where trade routes and money travel, where people will be isolated and where there is a natural crossroads. A map helps me keep it all straight. Then I have to go back and reconcile whether the characters and plot I originally envisioned have what they need to move forward in this new world, and if not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Building the world is as much fun as populating it with characters and writing the story. It’s a little like playing God, but without the mess.

I’m not permitted to say much yet about the new series I’m writing for Solaris Books that will come out in 2017 except to call it the Epically-Epic Epic Fantasy That Cannot Yet Be Named (or E3F for short). It’s my third foray into building an epic fantasy world. I’ve done my best to make all of the worlds I’ve created very different from one another in as many ways as I can. So the magic works differently and comes with new rules and a different source. The politics and the backstory are coming from a very different focus. All new gods and a new understanding of religion. Mixing it up keeps it fresh for me as well as for readers. Even though epic fantasy has its tropes (Medieval, castles, monarchies, swords, magic) there are so many ways to play with the details that it never gets boring. And if I need inspiration, real history is nearly limitless in the ideas!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat!  Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

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

Freee excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure short story Raider’s Curse http://bit.ly/12s119H

TrickOrTreat w excerpt Today’sPromise by Danielle Ackley-McPhail https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/23083500-today%27s-promise-chapter-1-excerpt

Spooky goodness from @JohnHartness QuincyHarker series RaisingHell Chp1  http://bit.ly/1MEMFSQ

An excerpt from Jean Marie Ward’s Everyday Haunts http://www.readmoreromance.com/sam/freebies/t-z/ward_haunts.pdf

Don’t miss out! Here’s the War of Shadows book video video https://youtu.be/DgCgrTto9WY

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! War of Shadows Audible https://amzn.com/B00WAFNG6I

***

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Remember to check out all the links for giveaways, more guest posts and book trailers. 🙂

Massive thanks to Gail for taking the time and making the effort – Days of the Dead is definitely one of the biggest and most interesting blog tours in the blogosphere, and I’m glad to be a part of it. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Blog Tour

 

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Gail Z Martin Guest Post: Days of the Dead Blog Tour 2015!

Hey folks, Dave here, and though I’m a bit late to the proceedings I’ve got Gail Z Martin’s guest post for her awesome Day of the Dead Blog Tour – the 2015 edition! 🙂

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as 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) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.  

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

The Days of the Dead Blog Tour happens every year (check out what’s already been happening at the main website), and during this time Gail shares excerpts from her books, has plenty of giveaways and always manages to come up with excellent guest posts, among all the other things happening. 🙂

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This year, Gail wrote a guest post that plenty (if not ALL writers) will want to read; one of the biggest problems we face as writers is making sure that readers know about our work, where to get it, and a bit about ourselves, too. We may not be offering products like BluRay players, cell phones and smart cars, but we still need to market our works and ourselves. In short, if a writer struggles with marketing, that writer struggles more and longer than those who don’t.

So here’s Gail’s guest post, focusing on Marketing for Writers:

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Selling Your Soul – By Gail Z. Martin

It’s a deal you can’t refuse. Everything you’ve ever wanted. The man making the offer is dressed in black with a tall top hat, and you had to meet him at a crossroads at midnight, but that’s okay. It’s going to make your dreams come true. You don’t even realize, until later, that the pen that signed the contract wrote in blood.

Welcome to book marketing. Otherwise known as, the things we do for love.

Once upon a time, writers just wrote. Publishers took care of everything else. The mechanism by which a book became a bestseller—or a good-enough-to-get-more-contracts seller—was a black box, somewhere between alchemy and Voodoo. The book went in, the wheels went around and around, a bestseller came out. Like sausage—don’t ask what’s in the mix. But for a long time, that system worked, so I’m told.

It’s a brave new world these days. Even the most committed big publishers can only spare a small amount of promotional mojo for new authors or rising mid-listers. Most of the energy and the big bucks go toward recouping the large advances paid to the superstar authors. That means less effort and energy spent developing new talent, creating breakthrough opportunities, and developing visibility. Small presses are doing a great job bringing new authors to market and serving niche markets, but they have very little marketing muscle to offer aside from social media.

The work still has to be done. Guess who does it? Yep—you, the author.

We could talk all day about book promotion (and I have), but let me highlight the five most important tools every writer needs to compete in today’s very cluttered publishing environment. These five are essential whether you publish with a big traditional publisher, a small press or whether you self-publish. They’re the backbone of your marketing efforts. When you want to get fancy, you can add all kinds of bells and whistles, but without these five elements, you won’t have a foundation on which to build. Ready?

No. 1—A good author website.  Buy your domain name, don’t settle for a freebie site that is just a meaningless jumble of letters. First choice would be www.yourname.com or www.yourfirstnameinitiallastname.com. If those are taken, try www.yournameauthor.com. Avoid picking a domain for a character’s name or a series if you intend to be in the game for a long time. (If you’ve already done that and have an investment in your site, see if you can get your name as a domain and redirect the URL.)  I’m not a fan of .net or the other extensions because no one thinks of them—they go straight to .com.

If you do your website in WordPress, you can make most of your updates yourself. I’d suggest paying someone who is better at web design and web graphics than you are to do the layout. After that, you can probably keep up with it yourself. This is your home base. It should be on all your bookmarks and on your email signature, on the back cover of your books and on your blog posts—literally everywhere.

No. 2—An email newsletter. But wait—haven’t you been hearing for years that email newsletters are dinosaurs? That was before Facebook got greedy and suppressed organic post reach to around 1%. Social media site algorithms determine how many of your fans actually get to see your posts, but you own your mailing list. Facebook’s recent moves have sent everyone scrambling back to building their newsletter lists. And as fans realize that they aren’t hearing from the authors they signed up to hear from on social media, well-done newsletters are gaining popularity.

A few key notes—don’t spam your readers. Send out at most once a month, maybe less, and make it worth their time or people will ignore you or unsubscribe. Offer trivia questions, contests, etc. to keep it fun. Build your list with Rafflecopter contests and by doing drawings at conventions and book signings when guests put their email info into a fishbowl and you pick the winner.

No. 3—Social media. Hey, didn’t I just say social media isn’t delivering the results it used to?  Yep. But it’s still the best way to reach a global audience for free, and it’s still a good channel to update your fans on what’s going on and coming up—it’s just not as great a channel as it used to be. At a minimum, you need to have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Beyond that, I’d suggest Goodreads, Wattpad, Pinterest as core sites. Add YouTube if you’re into video, and consider Tumblr or Instagram if your audience skews young and female.

No. 4—Blog.  This could be part of your main website, or you could have a separate blog. If you can create a blog with a handful of other dedicated authors in a similar genre (so your audiences are likely to overlap), that can make it easier to keep up a steady pace of blog posts. The more regularly you blog, the more readers you’ll get. What to talk about? I recommend staying away from hot-button controversies (since 50% of your readers are likely to disagree but you still want them to like you), but otherwise, muse about life, talk about cooking, or vacation, or your cat/dog, upcoming book events, how the book is going, etc.

No. 5—Get out and meet people. Go to genre conventions and meet readers and other authors. Do book signings and get to know the local bookstore managers and staff. Go to book clubs and library events and Meetup gatherings. Be personable and polite, don’t try to hard sell, just get to know people and let them get to know you. Relationships matter!

Remember that you want to win readers for life, not just for one book, so while marketing takes effort, time and some cash, it’s a long-term investment–and it’s more important than ever in today’s publishing environment.

***

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My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2015/10/22/days-of-the-dead-blog-tour-tricks-treats-and-scary-good-stuff/

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://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 http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA

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

I&B final cover

No Tricks! Here’s an excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Raiders Curse http://bit.ly/12s119H

Halloween goodies! 2 FREE complete haunted novellas! The Final Death, set in my Deadly Curiosities world http://w.tt/1jsKqLL & Grave Voices http://w.tt/1kapSrn set in our Iron & Blood world

More Halloween loot! An excerpt from John Hartness’s Bubba The Monster Hunter series, Hall & Goats – http://bit.ly/1Lok7PC

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Massive thanks to Gail for the opportunity to host her here once again, and for the excellent guest post. 🙂 Remember to check out the entire blog tour for all the goodies! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Blog Tour, Guest Post

 

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The Legacy Blog Tour – Review: The Legacy by Melissa Delport (Tracey McDonald Publishers)

Morning! Hope you’re all well and ready for the weekend! 🙂

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Today is my slot on the massive blog tour organized by Tracey McDonald for the first novel in Melissa’s trilogy. 🙂 Melissa is a fellow South African author living in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a wife and mother of three kids, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing, and writing well, at that.

Here’s the blurb for The Legacy:

World War Three lasted twelve days. Twelve days was all it took for mankind to devastate the planet and almost eradicate the human race. No victor emerged from the ashes and billions lost their lives.

We survivors lived through the bleakest of winters. A primal existence became the new order, and the little that remained of our humanity hung in the balance.

Then one man stood up and changed the world. I believed, as did everyone else, that he was the hero of our time, the man who had saved us from our own demise. His name is Eric Dane and he is the President of the New United States of America. 

He is also my husband, and my greatest enemy.

I grew up oblivious to the truth, until my father found me when I was nineteen years old. He told me about the many horrifying facts that our new leader kept hidden from us. And he told me that beyond the borders the Resistance grew and fought for freedom from the oppression that Eric Dane had imposed on us.

My name is Rebecca Davis. I am twenty-six years old, and in me the Resistance has found the ultimate weapon.

***

Now, I haven’t read much in the Dystopian genre, mainly because I write Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (so I read in the genres that I write), and also because there’s so much Dystopian fiction being written for Young Adults – which I’ve got absolutely nothing against. My reading tastes just lie in a different direction. So when I began reading The Legacy I was expecting another YA Dystopian tale along the lines of The Hunger Games (watched the movies, haven’t read the books), and boy, was I pleasantly surprised! The Legacy is aimed at a mature readership, so parents might want to give the book a read first before letting their kids at it.

Not being constrained by the limits of YA, Melissa was able to really delve into the characters and world of the book. These are adults fighting a war, after all, and war isn’t pretty.

The main character of the novel, Rebecca, is a wonderful addition to the ranks of Strong Female Characters – she’s highly intelligent, motivated, passionate, and focused. We meet her as a teenager, getting a glimpse into the life she was living before she became part of the Resistance against Eric Dane and the New United States of America; her father disappeared at the onset of the Nuclear War and she’s had to grow up in a radically changed world without her father and with a family not her own. And she’s happy and leads a good life, until events focus on her and force her to make a decision that will change not only her life but the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

From the onset the reader knows that Rebecca has hidden depths, but the author doesn’t show all her cards at once – instead, information is revealed at key points, not only advancing the plot but adding more layers to Rebecca’s character. None of it came across as forced or contrived, and the journey of discovering Rebecca and the world she lives in is pulled off effortlessly and with respect to the reader.

There are many other characters in the novel that shine – members of the Resistance take centre stage alongside Rebecca, fulfilling their various roles well, while also building a collection of threads that all lead back to Rebecca, and before the climax of the novel begins the reader knows exactly where the characters stand and where the plot is headed – at least, I thought I did, but Melissa still managed to throw a couple of interesting surprises my way.

The world-building of the novel was pulled off well, too – there is a reason for everything, especially the new government and the Resistance. For example, I still don’t know what happened in The Hunger Games that so radically changed society to the levels shown in the movies – it’s just a fact of the story that I was forced to accept. Melissa, though, explains what happened to the world and how someone like Eric Dane could rise to take such a prominent place in it.

And what Melissa also does is write great action! There’s plenty of Bond-like subterfuge in the novel (Rebecca leads two lives, after all), sneaking around and such, but when the characters are forced into hand-to-hand combat it’s pretty evident that Melissa put a lot of thought into how the characters moved, attacked and defended. There’s a completely awesome side to the combat, regarding what some of the characters can do, but I’m not going to spoil it for you – suffice it to say that Melissa successfully melded Dystopian with a certain genre-craze that has controlled the box office for a couple of years now… 🙂

Regarding the personal relationships between the characters, Melissa manages to make the various relationships both believable and heartfelt; obviously there’s more of a focus on Rebecca than the other characters, but the emotional depth of the book impressed me. Also, Melissa teaches Stephanie Meyer just how to write a believable complicated romance – totally believable and entertaining. 🙂

All in all, The Legacy is a better tale, in my opinion, than The Hunger Games could ever hope to be, and is an excellent example of the kind of storytelling promise South African writers have. Melissa has written an entertaining, engaging and thoughtful tale full of intelligent, brave characters, excellent action, great world-building and a great respect and understanding of Dystopian fiction. Highly recommended!

9 / 10

Cover - The Legacy

The Legacy is available throughout South Africa at Exclusive Books branches and can also be ordered online (paperback and EPUB) – it’s also available via Amazon (Kindle and paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle and paperback), and from Barnes & Noble.

Photo - Melissa Delport LR

To connect with Melissa, check out her official website here and the official website for the Legacy Trilogy here; you can also check out The Legacy Book Club on Facebook, add the book on Goodreads and check out her publisher’s website here.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Blog Tour, Reviews

 

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Blog-Tour and Guest Post: Zeus is Dead by Michael G. Munz (Booktrope Publishing)

Hi everyone!

This post is a day late, apologies for that! 😦 We’ve been moving into our first house and we hardly have a kitchen, never mind an internet connection. 🙂 That being said, here we go:

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Zeus is Dead – A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure by Michael G Munz.

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Title: Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

Author: Michael G. Munz

Genre: Contemporary Mythological Fantasy

Release date: July 21st, 2014

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Length: 446 pages (paperback)

The gods are back. Did you myth them?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus’s murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.

Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus’s resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)

Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.

Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.

Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

About the Author:

An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.

Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.

Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none–except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.

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Here’s a guest post by Michael. 🙂

Hi everyone! It’s great to be here on Dave Brendon’s Fantasy & Sci-Fi Blog. (I mean, ya know, figuratively. I’m not actually here in the Internet. Probably not, anyway. There’s the tiniest chance I’m somewhere in here battling the Master Control Program.) In honor of the recent release of my comedic fantasy novel Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, Dave has asked me to talk about my writing process.

Some writers like to grab the reins of an idea or character that interests them, dig in the twin spurs of creativity and caffeine, and see where it takes them. They ride, sometimes finding glorious vistas, sometimes getting lost in a ravine, and often both. If they’re lucky, it’ll carry them directly to the stars. Or they might ram into a brick wall that shatters their mount to pieces. That’s the first draft. Then they take the reins again and, now that they’ve mapped the terrain during that first wild ride, plot a more perfect course to reach the vistas and avoid the ravines. This often involves a great deal of revising.

Stephen King likes this particular method. (Did you know he found the story and characters in The Stand were getting away from him, so he blew up the house in which most of them were meeting? The guy’s brutal.) It’s a fantastic method, and some authors obviously do quite well with it.

But it’s not my method. I’m a meticulous planner, and I like to know, more or less, where I’m going when I start the journey. The method that I’ve found works best for me—also a perfectly legitimate method used by numerous authors (Terry Brooks, to name one)—is somewhat the reverse: I tend to front-load the work in the sense that I take more time to sketch things ahead of time before starting in on my first draft.

First I need to decide on my general premise. It’s got to be something that excites me enough to want to spend an entire novel’s worth of time writing. This is both a “what if?” and a good answer. Then I sketch the main characters (who they are, where they came from, and where they’re going), create a “step sheet” that shows the flow of both character arcs and plot progression, and make a bunch of notes about the setting itself. All of this helps inform my writing so I can work in common themes, foreshadowing, and better set up character moments. (To continue with the metaphor from the first method, rather than taking a wild ride through the terrain, I get a satellite image.)

Then, finally, I actually write, using the step sheet and character sketches as a guide. This does NOT mean those things are inviolate. I might come up with new ideas as I go (and certain parts of my step sheet sometimes say “whatever seems to make sense for the characters at this point”), change directions, or even discover that the characters themselves have tapped me on the shoulder (or punched me in the face) to say they want to do things differently.

I hate when they punch me in the face. So far I haven’t had to kill anyone for that. (Okay, so actually I love when they punch me in the face. It’s great to see a character take on a life of his or her own. But sometimes those punches can put serious kinks in my plans! Jerks.) 😀

So that gets me through the first draft. From there I edit, revise, agonize, improvise, exercise (it’s good to get the brain working, plus it rhymes here, which is my main reason for mentioning it) and probably eat some pizza.

Come to think of it, pizza (and caffeine) is also a very important part of the earlier steps, too.

So that’s my method. It works for me, but every writer is different. If anyone ever tries to tell you there’s only one “right” way to write a book, you kick them in the shins, and then do it again for me. (And then, ya know, run.) While there are a number of different things that must be done when writing a book, there are also a number of different ways to go about doing them.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Check out the result of my process (and hopefully get a few laughs in the bargain) in my comedic contemporary fantasy Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, in paperback and ebook formats from Booktrope Publishing!

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There we go, folks – I’ll definitely be making time to give ‘Zeus is Dead’ a read, seems like it’ll be an enjoyable read! 🙂

To connect with Michael, check him on Twitter and Facebook; order the novel from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, add the book on Goodreads, and check out his website for more information regarding him and his work.

Massive thanks to Vanya for her patience, and to Michael for the great guest-post! 🙂

Happy reading and always Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Blog Tour, Book Tour, Spotlight

 

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Blitz Blog Tour: The Endangered by S.L. Eaves

Afternoon! Drawing your attention to an interesting new title from Zharmae and Luthando Coeur!

The Endangered Cover

Synopsis:

S&D Industries is a prominent pharmaceutical company based in New York. It has, for many years, appeared to exist only for the benefit of humanity, and this year’s chief product seems no different. The company’s CEO, whom we know only as Striden, announces the imminent delivery of a powerful flu vaccine. The true purposes of S&D are anything but philanthropic, however. The newly-engineered drug does not protect against flu. It turns people into werewolves.

The only group which stands a chance of resisting this change is a population of vampires. The foremost of them, who go by the name of The Endangered, are determined to turn back the mass werewolf infestation. Among them are an ambitious rebel named Catch and Lori, Catch’s newly-turned protege. Catch has brought this treacherous world to Lori’s doorstep and both their worlds are turned upside-down in the process. Secrets are exposed, alliances are formed. Blood is spilled as the vampires must do everything in their power to preserve both their own kind and that of their food supply.

About the author:

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Interview with S.L. Eaves
by TZPP Intern Andy Kubai

We interview with S.L. Eaves, whose vampires vs werewolves novel, The Endangered, is due out in July. Stay tuned for greatness!

LC: When writing in crossed over genres, how do you balance the elements of your story between horror and fantasy, or do you feel the need to do so?

SLE: I think some balance is good, but I feel it’s less about balance and more about how effectively and creatively you incorporate elements of each genre. When you’re working within one genre and infusing aspects of another a lot of the cross over happens naturally during the writing process.

When I started writing The Endangered, my goal was to write a vampire story that I’d want to read. While I love horror and fantasy I’m also really into crime fiction and a sucker for a good mystery, so ultimately I set out to blend influences… and it opens up so many possibilities as far as the story goes, the need to balance all the components definitely came into play.

LC: Vampires and werewolves both have any number of established rules and variations. When writing The Endangered, did you ascribe to a particular set of guidelines or make your own?

SLE: Yes, for sure. I tried to stick to the conventions described in traditional mythology and folklore; those the audience has come to expect. However, there are so many tropes associated with vampires and werewolves that if you don’t create rules, then your characters basically become invincible, and readers are less invested because there is nothing that they can’t overcome.

I made an effort to establish certain parameters, limitations so to speak, on their abilities. I wanted to make it clear to readers that these characters had vulnerabilities and felt it important to be consistent when exploiting any strength or weakness of a particular character.

LC: How do you stay focused on your world when writing a longer work like a novel?

SLE: It’s a lot about the mindset, I think. I only write when I have something to say; if it becomes a chore or anything less than “inspired” I have trouble focusing and the quality of the writing suffers.

I also wrestle with the storylines in my head for a while before I feel confident putting it on paper, so when I sit down to write I’m at the point where it’s on my mind so much it’s practically irritating me and I have to write it to purge it from my head and move forward.

I also listen to music constantly when I write. I find it helps me stay immersed in the world of the story.

LC: How do you evolve your characters and do they have minds of their own, so to speak?

SLE: When I write a character I try to think “What would [such and such] do in this situation? How would they handle conflict, approach situations, etc.?” And I would often write them in each other’s shoes and see what reaction worked best for the story. Like “hey, maybe this character should not be the one to discover this because his reaction wouldn’t work for the plot” – that sort of thing, so yes I feel they have
minds of their own.

In the case of this story, it was initially much more action driven and my focus was on the plot and not the characters or their interactions. When I realized the characters were more evolved in my head than what had made it into the manuscript, I made an effort to develop them further because you want readers to care what happens to them. That is essential. But also the most challenging part. In writing, it is much easier to write what a character does than how a character feels. At least that’s my experience.

LC: In The Endangered, who was your favorite character to write and why?

SLE: Quinn. She is cunning and enigmatic and crazy. I based her off of Harley Quinn from Batman. She was fun to write.

LC: As a reader or a writer, what makes a story really pop for you?

SLE: Unpredictability. As a reader, if you think you know what is going to happen next or how it ends, it is way less enthralling and immersive.

As a writer, the desire to achieve this caused some serious inner turmoil. I had to do what I thought was right to move the story forward in a captivating way – to give it that “pop.” And that resulted in some hard decisions.

LC: After writing The Endangered, would you like to work in this world some more or are you off to build other worlds?

SLE: I would. I think there is a lot more to explore. And I am working on a follow up.

I have also been working on a character-driven story set in more of a real world environment, no elements of science fiction or fantasy, but geared towards exposing a different sort of urban underbelly.

LC: What would you tell other aspiring authors about the publishing process?

SLE: Don’t write with the goal in mind of getting published. Write what you love (cliché, I know) and others will recognize the passion behind your words and feel inspired to bring it to the public. You approach it like a job and your writing will suffer.

LC: What is your favorite werewolf movie; favorite vampire flick?

SLE: That’s a tough one … For werewolf I’m going to go with Dog Soldiers because of the film’s depiction of wolves – –the transformation and the upright stance – is how I envisioned werewolves when writing.

For vampire, I’d say Interview with the Vampire because it does a great job of telling a story, establishing a world and making you care about the characters. I think it was a commendable adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel.

***

I’m really glad that these are proper, brutal werewolves and not the Twilight / True Blood weaklings taking over mass media! 🙂

The novel will be out soon from Luthando Coeur, so keep an eye on their site. You can also add the book on Goodreads and connect with the author there. 🙂

Until next week,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in Blog Tour, Interviews

 

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Blog Tour: Missing Tomorrow by Ken Scudero (Luthando Couer – Zharmae Publishing Press)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all keeping well! 🙂

I’ve joined the blog tour for a new title from Luthando Couer, the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Imprint of Zharmae Publishing Press, so let’s get into it, shall we?

(I didn’t receive a cover image with the media package, but I managed to find the image below)

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Synopsis:

It is the year 500 on the planet of Nibiru, and the elitist Selectmen are in charge. From their majestic retreat in the city of Perfidia, the Selectmen wield control over the planet’s workaday citizens. Private detective Gem Jupiter specializes in paranormal conspiracies, but when he discovers mutated fish on the shores of Myopia City, he knows something isn’t right. The sky is dark and gloomy. Jupiter is quickly coming to grips with how oppressive Nibiru has become. With the help of his investigative group, The Tonic, Gem uncovers secret operations being conducted by the Selectmen. In the midst of his investigation, Gem meets the girl of his dreams, Remy Valentine. Remy is perfect except for the microchip tracker implanted in her wrist. New dangers are served up for The Tonic, as Gem Jupiter and his associates hone in on the frightening truth. The Selectmen are planning something catastrophic for humanity, and only The Tonic stands in the way.

Action-packed encounters, conspiracies, and haunting visions are the foundations of the exciting new Ken Scudero sci-fi adventure, Missing Tomorrow.

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About the Author:

Ken Scudero was born in Staten Island, NY in 1989 and has lived there ever since. He studied at St. John’s University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Management in 2011. He self-published his first novel, ‘Comfortably Awkward’ in January 2012 while struggling to find a job after college. Ken has been intrigued by science fiction since he was 10, when he went camping in upstate New York for the first time. It was then he began his existential quest to uncover the mysteries of life and the universe. Fantasy and Sci-Fi films and novels fill his personal library, so it was only natural for him to write his own tale about another world.

And here’s an interview, conducted with Ken by Andy of Zharmae Publishing Press:

Interview with Ken Scudero
by Andy Kubai (Zharmae Staff)

Missing Tomorrow, deals with many different fascinating realms, from mystery to fantasy to science fiction. What elements from your own life do you draw from to bridge these gaps?

With anything I write I incorporate many different realms. In one chapter, you’ll be frightened to turn the page to see what happens next. Then another chapter, you’ll be intrigued by the unknown and eager to see what’s really going on. You’ll even laugh a lot while reading Missing Tomorrow. I feel like there are so many different things that can happen in everyday life, so many different feelings you can have but yet they’re all linked together. For me, you should read a book and experience these different emotions at different times while also feeling the link between them all. No one realm works alone by itself. My life has provided me with plenty of ironic, strange experiences and I’m able to translate that into my writing.

When creating your protagonist, were you inspired more so by fantastical fiction or classical detective lore?

I think Gem Jupiter started as a fantasy character and those fantasy elements drove me to keep adding these layers to his being. The detective traits came after he was already built as this fantasy hero type of character. But don’t get me wrong, he is a private detective and you’ll find plenty of noir detective aspects in Gem’s personality and actions. The fantasy elements are what created and formed him though.

How do you build your fantastical worlds?

It’s a timely process. You have a vision of what you want it to look like and for a while you’re not sure if it is indeed a different version of planet Earth or if it’s some planet we never heard of. Planet Nibiru is based on the real “Planet X” conspiracy. It’s some distant planet that we’re unable to see but it’s out there. I took parts of planet Earth and put them on Nibiru so that life could be habitable. Like Earth, Nibiru has some places that are too beautiful for words but it also has places which scare the hell out of you. I guess as I began trying to describe how I saw Nibiru in my mind, it kind of took off and created itself.

Do you have any set of routines built into or around your writing?

I like to shower beforehand and put on one of my “writer” shirts as if I’m suiting up for battle. I usually have to be drinking something while writing whether it’s coffee, water or beer. I also have to set a goal for myself each time I sit down to write whether it’s a number of words I want to write that day or a certain scene I want to finish by the end of the day.

Who are your favorite authors?

Two of my favorite authors aren’t science fiction or fantasy authors at all—Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. Not only are they hilarious, they can make anything interesting. They’re my favorite to read when I’m relaxing. My other favorites are Bradbury, Hemingway and Orwell. They’re just brilliant writers and their stories are some of the best I’ve ever read. Those are definitely my top five.

What do you like to do when not constructing the world of Gem Jupiter?

I actually have too many hobbies. I can’t get anything done because I’m always jumping to do something else. I work as an electrician during the day, I do freelance writing for sports websites, I write screenplays, I play guitar, and I play softball. If I’m not doing any of that, I’m probably reading a book or watching a good film.

Where does Mr. Jupiter go from here?

That’s up to the reader to figure out on his or her own after finishing Missing Tomorrow.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I’m working on the second Gem Jupiter novel, the sequel to Missing Tomorrow, which is still untitled.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I’m going to be writing a novel while lying on a beach somewhere.

Thanks for talking with us, Ken!

***

I also received code for a Rafflecopter giveaway, but unfortunately WordPress doesn’t like the code – or any other code, it seems. 😦

I hope this title had piqued your interest! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Blog Tour, Spotlight

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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