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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. 🙂

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

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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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Guest post: The Difference Screen- and Novel-writing

Today I’m handing over to Glenn Benest, an award-winning horror writer whose screenplays have been directed by the likes to Wes Craven. Now Glenn Benest has teamed up with Dale Pitman, co-writing a horror novel called Ink. Here’s the blurb:

 

His studio has become his refuge and his prison – a place of boundless imagination and lonely isolation. Brian Archer, creator of a series of successful graphic novels about a vengeful supernatural being called “The Highwayman,” 
has become a recluse after the adoration of a female fan turned to rage and violence.
 
But all that changes when he meets a renowned and beautiful illustrator, A.J. Hart, who carries emotional scars of her own. Their work together is fueled by the unrequited passion they share and a mysterious bottle of black ink that arrives one day at Brian’s doorstep.
 
The impossibly dark liquid has mystical properties, making their characters appear so real they eventually come to life, reigning terror on those who mean them harm and if not stopped—threatens to unleash an apocalypse on all mankind. Brian must break free of his self-imposed exile and solve the mystery that allowed these terrible creatures into the world.

 

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Buy the Book

The difference between writing for film and writing fiction
by Glenn Benest

 

As you may know, I’ve been a professional screenwriter for many years with seven produced screenplays, including two scripts I wrote for acclaimed horror director Wes Craven.
 
We started this project as a screenplay and though we won a number for awards for the screenplay we never seemed to get it over the finish line. Our manager, Mary Louise Gemmill at Writers Ascending, thought all along it was better suited as a novel and with her encouragement, that’s what we did.
 
The difference between these two art forms is enormous, as my writing partner, Dale Pitman, and I discovered. For one thing you have to decide who is telling the story. Do you do it in the first person, the 3rd person, an omniscient point of view? This takes time and probably some failed attempts until you get it right.
 
But the great joy of writing fiction is that you can delve much deeper into the characters you’re writing about. You can expose their thoughts, something you don’t have the luxury of doing in film.  As a result, you really can get under their skin, what they’re really thinking when they might be doing completely the opposite of what they’re really feeling or contemplating. 
 
The other great luxury you have in fiction is that you can delve into the characters’ backstories in a way you can’t in film and television. We call this in screenwriting – exposition. And it is the hardest thing in the world to hide the exposition you’re trying to get in (i.e. what happened five years ago).  The reason for this is that screen story really bogs down when you go into some long-winded explanation of the backstory of your characters. You have to keep the story moving.
 
But in fiction you don’t have that problem. The reader is much more willing to let you write a chapter about what happened five years ago as long as it’s interesting and has conflict. The backstory brings so much more dimension to the characters than you will ever achieve in film.
 
This is probably why most people don’t like films made about their favorite books. It’s because the books were so much richer and had greater depth of character and texture than you can achieve in a film.
So was it hard to go from screenwriting to the writing of a novel? Absolutely. Was it rewarding? More than I can say.

 

Get in touch with the authors:
Glenn Benest
Twitter: @glennbenest

 

Dale Pitman
Twitter: @DalePFT
 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Guest Post

 

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

Hey everyone, Dave here! 🙂

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It’s that time of the year again – Gail Z Martin, author of many novels -including those that make the Chronicles of the NecromancerThe Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Fallen Kings CycleDeadly Curiosities and plenty of short stories– is preparing us all for a massive 2015 by taking over the blogosphere with guest-posts, giveaways, excerpts and much more!

So, let’s welcome Gail once again, with a guest post exploring characters… 😉

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What Characters Do Between Books By Gail Z. Martin

Have you ever wondered what characters do on their days off?

What I mean is, do you ever think about what characters might be doing between books, when the author isn’t looking?

Those of us who live with multiple casts of characters in our heads think about strange things like this. Often, we are faced with characters who might be ready to mutiny on a moment’s notice if they thought it would get them a new book contract or a series of short stories.

Really, it’s not easy being in character limbo. And to tell the truth, that’s not how I think of my characters in between the tales I tell.

For example, my Chronicles of the Necromancer series is on hiatus as I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. I have six more books I plan to write in the world of the Winter Kingdoms, but there is a natural seventeen-year break in the action in the books, and it was a good resting place for me to go off and do some other projects for a while.

That doesn’t mean the characters are resting on their laurels.

In my mind’s eye, I can tune in and see what my characters are up to while they wait for their next book. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, King Martris Drayke and his queen, Kiara of Isencroft are busy chasing two young boys, one with special magical needs, while rebuilding two kingdoms—Margolan and Isencroft—torn by war, famine, plague, and invasion.

Meanwhile, Lord Jonmarc Vahanian and his wife, Carina, are busy with twin girls, and Jonmarc must juggle the demands of his role as Lord of Dark Haven against his responsibilities as Champion to Queen Berwyn and her consort, Gethin of Eastmark. In Dhasson, newly-crowned King Jair struggles to lead his kingdom after the death of his father while grieving the loss of his wife and trying to raise a son who is both the rightful heir to the crown and the next shaman-chief of the nomadic Sworn.

Those are just a few of the characters readers got to know in the series, but as I go through the list, I can tell you how the others are doing, what their recent triumphs and trials have been, and what’s next for them.

From a storytelling perspective, these character-years aren’t important to chronicle because they fall between the big events. They’re the normal time, the breath between the storms. Yet for the characters themselves, the time is filled with personally momentous occasions as children grow, kingdoms rebuild, communities knit back together. The business of waging peace isn’t as exciting as conducting war, but it is demanding and busy, just the same. And even my characters know in their hearts that the good times must also come to an end someday…

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 stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from The Sworn, Book One in my Fallen Kings Cycle here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-fallen-kings-cycle/the-sworn/the-sworn-chapter-one/

And a bonus excerpt from Ice Forged, Book One in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/ice-forged/an-excerpt-from-ice-forged-book-one-in-the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/

And a second bonus excerpt from Raider’s Curse, the first of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/raiders-curse/excerpt-from-raiders-curse/

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I’ve never regretted letting Gail take over the blog, and this post is a prime example why- always interesting and illuminating! Don’t forget to check out the full list of celebrations as listed on Gail’s official site; there is a massive amount of things going on! 🙂

Many thanks to Gail for writing this excellent guest post, and for coordinating this post along with Gemma at Orbit – I’m definitely looking forward to the next Days of the Dead, as I’m sure you are!

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

P.S. You wanna see something EPIC? Follow this link. 😉

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Book Tour, Guest Post, Spotlight

 

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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!

***

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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Guest Post: Gail Z Martin – Why Book Covers Still Matter

Morning! 🙂

I’m honoured to have Gail Z Martin -author of Chronicles of the Necromancer (Solaris), The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit), The Ascendant Kingdoms Cycle (Orbit), Deadly Curiosities (Solaris) and numerous shorter tales-  back on the blog with another guest post. This time she’s  talking about a topic very close to both reader’s and writer’s hearts – book covers. Over to Gail!

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Back when the only place to get books was in bookstores, browsing the shelves for new and interesting covers could be a pleasant Saturday afternoon pastime. Even before bookstores added coffee shops, it was easy to while away several hours just perusing the covers of books, looking for a hidden gem, a new adventure, or a tempting tome.

Now, much of our book buying has moved online, either to purchase paper books via Internet booksellers, or to download ebooks. It’s gotten harder to leisurely browse, in part because there are fewer brick-and-mortar bookstores than there used to be, and in part because those physical stores that do exist have often cut back on their range of books in order to feature profitable extras like gifts, music, movies and coffee.

So in an age when shoppers may only see the cover as the size of a webpage thumbnail, do covers really matter?

I believe they do. I know that some people lament the death of book covers in the same way they lament the passing of music album covers in the age of CDs and iTunes. And I agree that books do face some of the same threats that music has faced, although there are significant differences. All the same, I think that the reports of the death of book covers, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

We’ve often been exhorted to not judge a book by its cover, yet covers are often the first connection an author makes with a reader. This is especially true if the author has not yet reached the superstar ranks of name recognition, or if the reader has never read anything by the particular author in the past.

It does appear true that the better known an author is, the less effort goes into their covers. Make it to the pinnacle of success, and covers often feature only the author’s name and the book title with a solid color background. But for most books, the cover signals the reader that this book is part of a particular genre, like other books the reader has enjoyed, and begins the job of shaping expectations before the book even gets lifted off the shelf.

A good cover–one that accurately signals the reader as to the genre and type of story–plays a major role in attracting an audience for the book. The quality of illustration and bookbinding also tells a reader something about the book, as many small press and self-published authors will attest. Watch readers move through a book festival or the vendor room at a genre convention, and notice which books get handled more often, and which ones never get picked up. Good covers make a difference.

What makes a good cover? It’s a complex mix of elements that starts with a professional quality illustration. Poor art is a stumbling block few books can overcome. Appropriate illustration is the next hurdle. Readers understand the visual shorthand that signals mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, epic fantasy and other genres. Send a miscue, and you’ll lose many potential readers while disappointing those who buy expecting a different sort of book.

Type font, placement and color matter, just as it matters to have a catchy title for the book. I’m not a graphic artist, but I can tell when the placement of the words on a book cover doesn’t look professional. Traditionally published authors don’t have to think about these things, but it’s a detail that many small press and self-pubbed authors struggle with as they strive to gain legitimacy in the reader’s eyes.

The back cover matters, too. I have my books face up on the table at signings to attract readers, but when I engage prospects in conversation, I’ll hand the book to them back cover up, encouraging the person to read the book summary and endorsement quotes. A gripping teaser of a recap goes a long way toward pulling in a reader and building a hunger to read the rest. If the reader has never read a book by a particular author, endorsement quotes by familiar authors or publications decreases perceived risk. While not every reader is swayed by blurbs, those quotes matter a lot for a certain type of book purchaser, and as an author, we want to send good cues on as many different levels as possible.

Authors like to believe that it’s the words between the covers that really matter, and they do. But without a cover that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them pick up the book, those words never get read. I can’t count the number of times a reader has told me, “Your cover made me buy your book.” I make sure to profusely thank my cover artists, and I work as closely with them as possible to provide the details necessary to do justice to the story inside. Covers matter!

***

About the Author: Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com. She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, The Final Death, is available free on Wattpad here.

Reign of FINAL

Massive thanks to Gail for this excellent guest post, and to Anna Gregson for arranging it! 🙂

Wishing you all a kickass weekend!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Guest Post

 

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Guest Post: Howard Sargent – Author of The Forgotten War

Hey Guys and Girls, I’m finally back with a guest-post. 🙂

Forgotten War

For ten years the people of eastern Tanaren have known nothing but war, a war to which there seems to be no end in sight. Now, however, things may be about to change. Pitched into the heart of the conflict are four people: Morgan, a veteran warrior charged with an important mission; Cheris, a gifted but wayward sorceress called from her exile on a remote island; Ceriana Hartfield, a noblewoman whose marriage is pre-empted by a chance discovery on a beach; and Cygan, a man from the desolate marshes seeking aid against a merciless foe. Between them, could they hold the key to ending this deadly conflict? But at what cost? This extraordinary epic is a gripping, searing tale of the ugliness of war and the dangers of power.

Over to Howard. 🙂

***

I have a sister. She is only sixteen months younger than me and, unlike most siblings we always got along very well as children. When she used to tease me my comeback line would often be “Well, one day I will write my epic novel, that will shut you up!” Then we grew up, she got married, I got married, she moved out of the country to wherever her husband’s occupation took him; both myself and my wife worked full time until my wife was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable, neurological illness. She eventually had to retire, some years later I had to resign in order to look after her. Shortly afterwards my sister moved back to Britain.

Caring is an odd thing, a day as such has no formal structure, you can be up all night and asleep at odd times during the day. I was bemoaning this fact to my sister on the phone when she said. “Go and write your novel then, that will give you something to work around.” I had no answer to this and so that very same day I found myself staring at notepad (there was no word on the PC at the time) wondering what on earth to write about. I am not a very grounded individual, a daydreamer and a person who immersed himself in either fantasy or period novels from the age of about seven. Some people are social commentators, others exercise their imagination in other areas, so fantasy it was then.

Bear in mind that I had no thought of publication at the time, only to write something my sister would like. So straight away I knew it had to have elves and dragons. Dragons, well we are Welsh, just look at our flag. Added to that the good old monster movie genre happens to be one of my favourites, from King Kong (the original), to all the Ray Harryhausen films (Going to the cinema to see the Golden Voyage of Sinbad when I was about seven was one of my formative youth experiences- and Tom Baker was the villain!), then to films like Dragonslayer in the early eighties and of course the first two Alien films (None of the other Alien films count-OK). So very big dragons with an alien intelligence and no interest in the machinations of humanity it was then. As for the Elves, well Tolkien’s elves were good at everything, I wish I could hire a couple to sort out the garden and decorating, I would be living in the palace of Versailles in no time at all. Many writers have tried to modulate Elves a little, to give them flaws so I am hardly unique in that. I wanted them to be better than humans in some ways, worse in others and as a result of trying to do that the main Elven character in the book was probably the easiest and most fun to write.

As for the setting, well let me just say that one of my favourite pieces of medieval music comes from the twelfth century and is called “Peace in the name of God”. I find it rather ironic that in the era of crusade and constant European civil wars a voice was calling out for peace. Nearly a thousand years on and it seems only technology has changed, so a tale about an interminable seemingly unresolvable conflict seemed to be the ideal backdrop for whatever story I was going to tell.

What story would it be though? I had not the first idea. I eventually resolved this by deciding to describe this world through the eyes of three or four main characters. This would both flesh out the world for me and put the characters at the heart of the tale, have them dominate the setting rather than the other way round, which can often happen in fantasy novels. A floating castle or a city built of bone are great ideas, but if the people interacting with it are bland stereotypes then it becomes a matter of style over substance.

Eventually I settled on a formula, the story became a serial, I would write some 30-40,000 words, email it off then start the next part. Ultimately there would be fourteen parts to the tale, I had no idea how long the story was until it was finished and I joined all the parts up at last. The only other rule I had was that something significant had to happen in each chapter, moving swiftly from character to character helped in this, hopefully it is not too disorientating for the reader.

Finally I would recommend writing to anyone, obviously you invest a lot of yourself in the story and it can be frustrating and difficult at times. More than anything else though it is great fun and very rewarding. Give it a try!

***

If you’re on Goodreads, check out Howard’s page here (plenty of good reviews of ‘The Forgotten War’ to convince you to give the book a read), and you can order the book from the following sites: Amazon US, Amazon UK and Book Depository.

For more info his publisher, check out his publisher’s website here.

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Guest Post, 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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