Friday, July 3, 2015

Cover Reveal for The Gem of Acitus!

Back again, and this time I am quite happy to present the cover for my upcoming July release from Mocha Memoirs Press, The Gem of Acitus!

This short stars Manwe the Panther, a thief and freedom fighter, as he tries to rescue his lover from the dangerous clutches of a corrupt nobleman! Set in the dusty savannah of Juut, a land of wealth and woe, he must ply darkened alleys, dread depths, and rich mansions in a thrilling tale of love, loss, and revolution if he is to win the day. Treasures abound, rumors fly, and blood will run.

I'd like to thank Mocha Memoirs for giving me a shot. Being with a small press has always been a dream of mine, and with a quality publisher like them, I'm beyond pleased with the experience. I would also like to thank Darin Kennedy, Matthew Saunders, and Caryn Sutorus for all the help they provided beta-reading for me. I also need to thank Eden Royce for being a kick ass editor through and through. These people are the original Charlotte Crew. And of course, all my love and respect goes to Margo, my fiance. She has always been there to support this story, and I couldn't do a lot of what I do without her.

And finally, I want to thank you, the people who keep visiting this site. Please continue to support the blog and my work by clicking on that "G+1" to the left. That lets me know that you like what I produce.

Stay safe!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reefer Snakes!

I would like to present the cover for my upcoming July release, courtesy of Grind Pulp Press.

REEFER SNAKES! is a "novelization" of a "grindhouse film" based on a short story I wrote starring a recurring character of mine, Jishnu the Srijati. I wrote this because a bunch of different things fell together at the right time, which speaks to the serendipity we sometimes feel discover in The Craft, and it all started because of two disparate documentaries.

Documentaries hold a special place in my heart. In many ways, humanity only understands something when it is transmitted in a relational story that is easy to follow, and documentaries serve a unique purpose in their ability to take large amounts of information, condense them into an understandable message, and present themselves in a compelling narrative that forces you to think. Whether you buy the message or not is up to you, but I believe being made to think because of a story is the ultimate method of developing our culture. We do this with sports, novels, TV shows, movies, music, politics, and the list goes on and on. When I saw The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, the compelling narrative within the documentary changed a lot of my views on prohibition, The War on Drugs, governmental policy, and helped me develop some of the more revolutionary aspects I employ in my style of writing. Growing up a D.A.R.E kid, finding an alternative take on the issue required that I looked deeply into the views outside of the material presented in the classroom, which I have found advocates prohibition based on perceptions, not actual facts.

"Okay, weed is bad. But why do we have to wear pants? Daren the Lion isn't wearing pants."
- Little Jay Requard, Age 9

Nancy Reagan hates lions, by the way. Or she does for the sake of this post. (No hate towards Nancy Reagan. A very classy lady.)

What really led to the creation of the story, however, has been my fascination with India. To me, it is a country where human culture finds itself split between the new and innovative and the ancient and wise. From its spiritual practices to the food (oh, the food), to the history and the originations of eastern thought, this land has always held my imagination as a fertile ground for stories that capture me in a way that Western European/Medieval Fantasy settings can't muster anymore. I also wanted to follow up on "Stout", another Jishnu story that focused itself on beer, but this time I wanted it to be set in Sutia, which is my Iron Age India. 

What really helped me formulize the setting and theme, believe it or not, was another documentary I discovered while researching some world-building aspects for this story. Strain Hunters: The India Expedition is a fascinating examination behind the people in the business of recreational cannabis, the exploration (and, I could argue, exploitation) of native Indian cultures, and how prohibition interacts with class, religion, and politics.

A Shaivite Sadhu smoking charas, a form of cannabis hash often used in meditative practice and for medicinal purposes

More than anything, I wanted to write a fun story that was beyond the pale of what is currently out there. I love stoner humor, be it Cheech & Chong or Half Baked, and I love Glen Cook's The Black Company. Reefer Snakes is a marriage of the two, full of thrilling action you come to expect from Sword & Sorcery, paired up with some goofy puns and red-eyed joy. I hope you laugh your ass off and have fun.

Before I go, I want to thank Grind Pulp Press for giving me a shot. I need to thank my fiance, Margo. For all her eye-rolling at the stupid shit I wrote, she is always there to help me make my work better. And finally, I need to thank all of you. You keep coming back, you keep supporting, and that's pretty damned cool.

Please share and support this if you like reading the stuff you see here at Sit.Write.Bleed. Clicking on the G+1 at the left always helps get this blog placed higher (HA!) in Google Searches, and that helps promote the myself, the people I interview, and hopefully Heroic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery.

Love you all!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sit. Write. Bleed. interviews Gail and Larry Martin!

A frequent guest here on the blog, I am very happy to sit down with Gail Z. Martin, author of such bestselling series like Chronicles of the Necromancer and The Ascendant Kingdoms, but she brought along her husband, Larry Martin, who has co-written a brand new steampunk adventure, Iron & Blood. Both were kind enough to take some time and answer some questions!


Sit.Write.Bleed.(SWB): Hi, Gail and Larry! Thank you so much sitting down to take about your current and upcoming works. Let's talk about Iron & Blood (Solaris), an American Steampunk novel you recently two co-wrote. Most steampunk I have read has a distinct European flavor, so it was really interesting to see that you both set it in Pittsburgh. Being from the area, what kind of things did you consider when you sat down to write this book? How does America as a setting change aspects of the genre?

Gail and Larry: Thank you! A lot of steampunk defaults to Europe because when we say 'Victorian Era' we think of Queen Victoria and therefore the UK. And since steampunk was really a costuming and maker art before it became a literature sub-genre, we think the maker community took its initial cues from British and Continental fashion and tropes. But we forget, the Victorian Era took up most of the Nineteenth Century, during which the rest of the world was also busy with things like the American Civil War, for example. And a lot of what we think attracts people to steampunk literature, the sense of adventure, optimism, exploration and derring-do is easily transportable around the globe.

Pittsburgh just seemed to us to be the perfect place for a steampunk story, the quintessential American setting, because at the height of the Age of Steam, Pittsburgh was in its full glory. Pittsburgh was a very wealthy town that gained its money on coal, steel and manufacturing. It attracted immigrants from all over the world, especially Eastern and Western Europe. Pittsburgh, like Chicago, was a big-shouldered, elbows-out brash newcomer on the scene, and if anything lived up to the 'melting pot' immigration experience, it was Pittsburgh. And yet for the most part, people who came to Pittsburgh from parts of  Europe that were nearly constantly at war with each other came here and coexisted peacefully, intermarried, and mingled their native cuisines.

So much amazing architecture from the period is still standing and not only preserved but in use. It's not hard to visit those sites and feel the history all around you. And then there were the larger-than-life figures, like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Thomas Mellon, George Westinghouse, and the titanic battles between Carnegie, Gould, Morgan and Rockefeller for domination. Throw in local players like Christopher Magee and William Flinn, who were the Tamany Halls of Pittsburgh, and the union struggles and the tension that's always present when people leave their native lands for a strange place and struggle to keep one foot in each culture and you have a powder keg exploding with possibilities. The more we dug into the history, the more ideas we found!

Victorian culture was different in the US, at least outside of New York and Nantucket, because we didn't have some of the social structures that fed and sustained it in England. For example, we had no queen or aristocracy. But we did have newly minted oligarchs who envied the power of the old-money Continental aristocrats, and tried very hard to replicate their fashions. Only in a place like Pittsburgh, practicality sometimes trumped pretense. Northwestern Pennsylvania is a very practical place, and the people like Carnegie who became wealthy came from thrifty Scots-Irish roots in many cases, so they didn't come from the blue bloods and there was always still a bit of an inner struggle against the establishment even as they became the establishment.

It's such a perfect place for steampunk in so many ways!

SWB: So Gail, the third book in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, War of Shadows (Orbit), was released in April. Following the further exploits of Blaine McFadden, a hero in a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy, what was it like to take this character into his third book? Did you learn anything new about him after it was all said and done?

Gail: It's very rewarding to take Blaine into his third book because he went through so much in books one and two, and those gambles are starting to bear fruit, though not always as anticipated. Don't forget, I've already written book four, so I have some inside knowledge of where it all ends up!  I'm thrilled that my characters always surprise me in some way--sometimes multiple ways--in the course of writing a book. There are new insights, unexpected comments and plenty of surprises for me as an author as the creative process works its magic, and I'm glad, because it keeps me engaged and excited.

SWB: Larry and Gail: Co-writing a book is an art form unto itself in many cases, with authors usually creating a system to get the manuscript written. What was the process like putting together Iron & Blood?

Gail: Larry has been increasingly involved in a growing way with the books for a long time but behind the scenes. It started with editing for typos and continuity issues, then grew into brainstorming to get past rough patches and then into suggested revisions and now to drafting and revisions. For Iron & Blood, we worked together from the very start at a foundational brainstorming level--we created the world, the characters and the plot together. We each contributed ideas and then played off each other to develop and flesh them out. Likewise, with the story, we decided on overarching plot elements then sat together and played ‘what if?’ capturing all the ideas and then deciding what we wanted to keep. We put them together in an outline and began writing. After 28 years, we play well off each other, and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can keep each other focused and get each other to lighten up. It's a good partnership!

SWB: Larry, tell us about your background as an author: What brought you to writing fiction in the first place?

Larry: Confession time. I first dabbled when I got to play Dungeon Master, creating back stories and adventures for the players. This went on for a number of years, even when Gail and I first met. We shared a love of fiction and writing. Then in my Corporate Life, writing was a large part of my work, but sadly though I wrote a great deal I didn’t have the opportunity to be very creative, write as much fiction, nor have nearly as much fun. While I have written, re-written, edited and drafted in conjunction with Gail, Iron and Blood is our first true co-written piece. The lines have started to gray on other works as once we found our collaborative groove, it’s hard to go back. Working as a partnership also lets us be more productive.

SWB: Gail, you have recently built quite a back list of short stories featuring Jonmarc Vahanian, who appeared in your critically-lauded series, Chronicles of the Necromancer. Having gotten into self-publishing AFTER having the series released under a traditional publisher, what have you noticed about the self-publishing industry as it sits now? Are there benefits to it? Drawbacks?

Gail: I think that advances in technology coupled with the internet have gotten self-publishing past the initial problems of quality production and mass distribution. It's possible for an individual or a small press to put out a print book or an ebook of indistinguishable quality to a book by a big publishing house. Not all self-published/small press offerings are done that well, but a growing number of them are and it gets easier every year to do so. That takes one problem off the table.
The biggest issue right now, I think, is that Amazon is really the only game in town for self-published and small press authors. It's getting more and more that way for all authors as the number of brick-and-mortar bookstores shrinks, but at least traditional publishers can get their books into those stores. While Amazon offers easy mass distribution, we're all at the mercy of its algorithms and whims, as we have seen with the Amazon-Hachette war and other disagreements between big publishers and Amazon that resulted in the publisher's authors having their works removed from Amazon, delayed shipment or suppressed in the algorithm. That means that it's not just about creating a good book, it's about gaining visibility in a crowded marketplace where the rules for producing that visibility are not only constantly changing but kept secret.

Self-publishing is here to stay for authors. Even for very established authors with ongoing contracts with traditional publishers, self-publishing is creating a valuable revenue stream in the form of bringing out of print backlist back to the marketplace and enabling authors to pursue projects outside the sometimes narrow focus desired by a particular publisher. And I think all of us like the idea of having a series or world we write and self-publish as a way to control our creations a little bit more and have something of a back-up plan for when things change (and they always do).

SWB: What do you both have coming out after Iron & Blood?

Larry: The second Deadly Curiosities novel, Vendetta, comes out at the end of December. It's a powder keg of an adventure! The Weird Wild West anthology (ESpec Books) with our Iron & Blood-related story comes out in November.  Gail’s part of the Monsters anthology currently on Kickstarter for Silence in the Library, and we had two new space-themed stories in the Space anthology for Origins Gaming Fair and in Contact Light, the companion anthology. Expect those characters to get their own series. Gail also had a superhero story in the recently released Heroes anthology. Those are all Silence in the Library projects. We're working on plans for a second Jake Desmet steampunk novel and a third Deadly Curiosities book. We also finished up 10 new Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure short stories for Season 2, so now it's time for the second season of 10 new Deadly Curiosities Adventure short stories. Gail has also turned in a Blaine McFadden short story to Orbit Short Fiction that takes a look at the Velant years we don't really see in Ice Forged.  At some point, that will also become a series of short stories. We're working up ideas for a brand new epic fantasy series, and we'll be finishing up an Iron & Blood-world novella for Wattpad. Plus there are stories requested for at least half a dozen upcoming anthologies, and two more Iron & Blood-world stories in Dreams of Steel 5 and a yet-unnamed corset-themed anthology that have yet to be released. Plenty of good stuff in the works!

SWB: Let's talk about covers a bit. All of the Martin releases have had beautiful covers on them that are really eye-catching. Do either of you have favorites, either from your works or others?

Larry: We have been very fortunate to have awesome cover artists. There haven’t been any books where we were unhappy with the art, and a great cover is a huge help in attracting readers. We do judge a book by its cover!  That said, Gail is very partial to The Summoner (which won a Best Fantasy Art award for Michael Komarck back in 2007) and to Dark Haven (also by Michael). He is also the artist for Iron & Blood's spectacular cover, Larry’s favorite. Gail really liked Chris McGrath's cover for Deadly Curiosities, and he has turned in a fantastic piece for Vendetta.

Gail: And I've got to plug the great ebook short story covers Larry does for our Jonmarc Vahanian and Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Buttons is one of my all-time favorites!

SWB: As always, let's finish up with a fun question: If either of you had to throw a dinner party for your characters, who would you invite and what would you serve them?

Gail: Well, the bad guys aren't getting an invitation!  My/our books tend to have ensemble casts, so I'd love to host each group separately, and then maybe get them all together and see what would happen!

I agree with Gail but would also add that the crew from Ascendant Kingdoms know how to party and would probably be a real trip at any gathering. But who knows--the cast from Jake Desmet books are still developing and would likely be just as fun.


Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of Deadly Curiosities and the upcoming Vendetta in her urban fantasy series;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) as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies.

Larry N. Martin
fell in love with fantasy and science fiction when he was a teenager. After a twenty-five year career in Corporate America, Larry started working full-time with his wife, author Gail Z. Martin and discovered that he had a knack for storytelling, plotting and character development, as well as being a darn fine editor. Iron and Blood is their first official collaboration. On the rare occasions when Larry isn’t working on book-related things, he enjoys pottery, cooking and reading.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

REVIEW: Spook Lights by Eden Royce

Rarely do I review horror and gothic, yet after receiving a wonderful request by my dear friend Eden Royce to take a look at her new southern gothic horror, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Royce is one of the great new literary voices we need in this world, a viewpoint and flavor not yet appreciated by the wider masses waiting to find it. This is quality, folks, and it is a quality that needs real attention paid to it.

My favorite stories from this collection was "Rhythm" and "Doc Buzzard's Coffin", two tales that are widely different, but still contain an execution of talent that leaves the reader both awed and disturbed long after the story ends. The open ending to "Rhythm" is so charged with a tension that it left me wanting to see what happened next. However, it is within "The Watered Soul" where Ms. Royce's superb skills shine through. The tone of the work, the interplay between the characters, enthralled me right to the end. Filled with culture, terror, and colorful characters that shout their southern, grotesque beauty from the moment they walk onto the page, Spook Lights speaks wonderfully to a special identity that is integral to the author--an identity that should be celebrated and devoured by readers who are looking for something truly fresh.

Pick this great collection up today at Amazon!


Check out more of Eden Royce at these links!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of Conventions (The "Pro" Edition)

So I recently attended Con Nooga to help work the table of professional author and dear friend John Hartness. He is being kind enough to let me go out with him to sci-fi and fantasy conventions this year, both to learn a different side of the business and improve my skills as a salesperson. In return I help keep his ledgers, book things, pump gas, buy food, etc. Basically it is an internship in hyperspace.

One of the things I notice about conventions is that they often bring out people that want to get into the business of publishing, gaming, film, etc., but another thing I notice is that a good number of people completely shoot themselves in the foot. Previously I wrote an entry on the Do's and Don'ts of Writer Networking, which received some really good reviews and a few nods from pros in the business. However, after going to Con Nooga and being exposed to a variety of new people, I wanted to write a follow-up to it because were are a bunch of other things I never considered until I actually ran into them. Two of them are actually a minor fuck-ups on my part, but I am choosing to own it and make it a teachable moment. So here we go!

DO present yourself as a professional!

One very startling memory I remember from Dragon*Con 2014 was attending a writing panel, which usually are pretty good at that convention. Being the person I am, I arrived ten minutes before the room was even available and waited outside. The panel was sponsored by Bell Bridge Books and hosted by Deb Dixon, a super-talented bestselling romance author and Senior Editor at Bell Bridge. The topic for her one-woman panel was "voice," and while I could go on forever about what she talked about, this isn't the time for that. What I do want to talk about is what happened beforehand.

As I was waiting in my seat for the panel to start people filed in. A few of these individuals came in and started speaking to each other across the room, talking about how awesome it was to be at Dragon*Con and how everyone in the room, especially them, were all going to be "famous authors" one day. Beyond being slightly disingenuous and panicky, one thing they did not take into account is that there were actual authors and editors in the room, and those people were turned off.

You have to understand that the publishing business is very small, and with it being so small there is a lot of room to make yourself look like an ass. Someone shouting to each other about how awesome they are/will be is a deterrent to actual professionals in the field--first, because your worth is in your work, not in your mouth. Second, it has lot to do with how your present yourself. Speaking as someone who will be taking on their first editorial project later in 2015, I want to work with people that understand how this business works, and to me those people won't be shouting at each other before a panel at Dragon*Con. Some of you may be turned off and go "I'll never submit something to him," but you'd be surprised how many other people feel the same way.

DON'T undersell yourself!

This one kinda hits home for me because I used to do this a lot in private, and looking back on it I could have created some bigger opportunities for myself if I had just stopped self-sabotaging with doubt. Anxiety is a real thing people in my family deal with, and while I am not the worst, it still rears its head from time to time. A person wanting to work in this business needs to get over that, because if they don't they can really stop themselves from being something and making money (let's be honest about what the goal of the business is.) Case in point and without naming names and pointing to specific individuals, I met someone at Con Nooga who was taking an art class with a really well known cover artist who I adored, and I had the opportunity to see a project they were working on. It was amazing to the point I told them they were just as good as their teacher (and they were.) However, this young artist immediately started downplaying themselves before everyone, stating that they could never do cover art professionally because of reason A, B, C...

People know the stink of timidity, and for me, the moment this young artist started doing that I kinda knew I would probably never see them again, let alone work with them (I was actually really close to throwing down some money for a cover, believe it or not. Real money, too.) If you want to be in the business you have to believe that you belong there, but if you don't think belong then you don't belong. This person, for all of their talents, may never rise out of their excuses. Of course I could be wrong, and I will be happy to be so if that happens, but the important thing to realize is that if you want people to believe in your worth then you have to believe in your own worth first.

DO pace yourself!

Having now sat on the other side of a convention table, it is so amazing how quickly working an event like that can wear you out, even when you aren't up and moving around. I sat behind a table selling John's books (I did okay) for THREE HOURS, and those three hours were miserable because I made them miserable. I discovered quickly that sitting for three hours thinking that I constantly needed to be at the table led to me being a poorer salesman for it. I should have taken the time to get up and go eat, go to the bathroom, and in general just calm down. It is really easy to go to one of these conventions and work yourself into believing that you have to do everything at ALL TIMES, and that's impossible.

John really showed me how to do it, as he had three back-to-back panels that day, and even he was tired after all of it. Yet he made time to go to the bathroom. He made time to walk around the convention hall. He made to eat. He still sold a good amount stock, but watching him not kill himself over it like I was really showed me how do it better. Pacing, just like in storytelling, is integral to making the journey fun instead of actual labor. Remember to take your time.

DON'T be a fanboy/girl/appropriately-gendered-"fan"-term

This is the spot where I messed up until, again, John Hartness came to my rescue. One thing that young creative professionals often face when they get in this business is that they do not feel like they can consider themselves equals. That can be very daunting to deal with, and perhaps more than a bit annoying. I made that a mistake a few times, and the best thing you can do is just remember: these people are just like you. They are all grinding towards something. They don't have time to spot and pay attention to your fangasm. However, they will give you time if they know you are serious about the craft you are pursuing. It is better to just be calm, relaxed, friendly, and professional as you can be. If you want to be an equal, act like an equal.

In conclusion, conventions can be a daunting place to be if you are trying to break into this creative business, but if you stay calm, remember your worth, and act like you are deserving respect by giving respect, you will do fine.

Did I miss anything? If you feel like something should be included here leave a comment. As always, if you enjoy the content you find on this blog then please share it. Doing so let's me know that you think I'm doing a good job. Feel free to check out my Publications as well!

See you soon!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beer and What It Means To Me by Jay Requard

Recently I announced that I had sold a Sword & Sorcery short story called "Stout" to Swords and Sorcery Magazine for their February 2015 issue. Here is the link to the piece:

Read "Stout" here!

In reflection of this story's publication, I wanted to take some time this week and talk a little bit about it. I wrote Stout because I wanted to do a few different things:

1. I wanted to give Jishnu another story.
2. I wanted to get away from the grimdark aspects of "Paper Demons," which appeared in Thunder on the Battlefield. The goal was to go in the opposite direction with it, playing with a sense of humor that was very simple while still maintaining the "heightened" sense I enjoy about Sword & Sorcery.
3. I wanted to write about beer.

I've spoke previously about why "God's Proof That He Loves Us" is such an important beverage in my life. I don't drink a lot anymore, but I still enjoy beer for its aesthetic. Like spirits, wine, and mead, it is one of the few tethers we have to the idea of alchemy in the real world, where someone can take something given by the earth and transform it into "gold." Beer is a positive thing when used correctly, both to soothe the soul and feed the mind. Civilizations rose and prospered because of their ability to make beer, and in many ways beer in itself tells the story of the place where it created.

Brewing itself is a people-first activity, requiring thought, cooperation, business, hard work, and most importantly, love. People make and drink beer because they love beer. In every possible way brewers are just like writers--they are there for the craft and the wonders it produces. And beer is "hereditary", in a sense, as it always comes from another brew before it. In many ways the main character of the story, Stout, came from something from my past.

Stout the Sirtya, the brewer and "hero of the story" (I made Jishnu the "sidekick", in a way), was inspired by character named Pikel Bouldershoulder, a dwarven druid who was created by my favorite author R.A. Salvatore.

Here's Pikel:

I took a lot from Pikel to make Stout, especially when it comes to the club and his speech patterns. I loved Pikel growing up because it was the first time I could read about a character with speech-and-language problems, a huge hurdle that I had to deal with growing up. Salvatore never diminished Pikel for it, however, leaving him very intelligent, wise, and so powerful that he is a powerful druid, something most dwarves never become. He was different, and he was kind, and sweet, and more importantly, he was able to do things on his own. Just like I wanted to be a bit like Pikel, I wanted Stout to be a bit like him as well. Stout's sweetness, dedication to his friends, and willingness to stand up against enemies bigger than him made the character special for me, because I really believe that even the most common among us can be a hero.

I hope if you take the time to read Stout you will love him like I do. I think we need more "dwarves", "hobbits", and "little folk" in our stories because they remind of our innocence. They let us know that we can still be strong, brave, and kind, even when we live in a world that doesn't seem to value those things anymore.

But more importantly, I hope you enjoy this story with a good beer. A sweet stout, if you can.

Thanks for stopping by. If you like what you read at this blog, please share it. It helps me know that I'm doing a good job with providing meaningful content. This is a blog you, by me.

See you soon!