Sunday, January 11, 2015

Heroic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, SFWA, and Short Stories

So one thing that has been really beneficial to my career as a writer has been developing my skills in both the novel and short fiction formats. I believe having experience in both leads to success in both venues, especially when one considers how digitized the book market is today. Short stories are in the middle of a resurgence thanks to digital publishing, allow both traditional and self-published authors to stretch their legs with a sprint instead of a marathon, and believe me, some really great things come out of cross-training.

However, it would be foolish to dismiss the difficulties that come with this new era in short fiction, and that can be none clearer than Science Fiction and Fantasy's largest representative organization for genre authors (if you leave out Romance,) the Science Fiction Writers of America. This is a good site for all genre fiction authors not writing exclusively in the Romance category, as you can get a sense of where the industry is, how to become SFWA-eligible by selling stories to their list of qualifying markets, or by taking part in a really well-run forum.

But for all the nice things I say about SFWA, there is a truth for me that somewhat dissuades me from ever worrying about getting SFWA certified through short stories.

Here is that truth: I write Heroic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery, with the latter being the primary genre I write for short fiction. I dabble in some magical realism these days, but I haven't gotten to a point where I feel like I can go out there and sell. Yet.

Now, far from accusing any publication of being anti-traditional fantasy, the main thing that bars my way is what the current markets are looking for. We are in the middle of a Speculative Fantasy boom, where genres cross, story elements reduce to more pure forms, and the line between gets very hazy.

And one thing I constantly run into is "we don't want stories resolved with swords and bloodshed. We want literary."

Which puts me in a hell of a bind in two ways: most S&S revolves itself around blood being spilled, and the definition of literary is undefinable (my opinion.)

Yet I also look at it as an opportunity.

First and foremost, to get S&S into these pro-markets forces me to think about the genre outside of the box. This is good.

Second, there are still pro-markets out there that are looking for great S&S, which I constantly strive to produce. The problem is finding them, but it is only problem if you have the mindset that only SFWA and pro-markets are worthy of your "time."

All of us start out nowhere at the bottom, and learning and mastering The Craft of Writing means getting your butt out there and submitting, getting rejected and getting feedback, and hopefully selling your work. I think in the mind of today's writer, we should all look at a credit as a credit, and nothing more. And we should all be striving to increase our list of credits.

For many of us, that leaves us to submit our work elsewhere, to places where they don't pay $0.06 per word, and places where nobody has gone before. Today there are so many new and emerging markets that want great genre fiction.

So where do you find these markets?

The easy way to do it is by visiting sites like Duotrope or Ralan's, both sites that have great oversight and are consistently updated with new submission calls. However, there is one site I go to when I want to find the newest markets available:

The Grinder

Besides an obvious affinity to the name, I really find this site to be well-ordered, organized, and dependable in really searching out the markets that are right for you. Check them out, as you can find everything here.

In closing, remember--you don't have to follow a winding path to publishing short fiction. The medium is more alive now than it ever has been, and we have both big and small outfits to thank for that. Give them your best. Publishing credits are publishing credits--go get them and get yourself a name.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy

A girl goes missing, a community left in shambles, and from the mind of a little boy emerges chaos…

Enter Mira Tejedor.

A gifted psychic still reeling from her last case, Mira comes to the rescue of Anthony Faircloth, a young boy left in a catatonic state by a secret so dark it lays buried within an unimaginable world constructed by his mind.  Entering a realm where the rules don’t apply and danger draws itself on every wall, she must contend with The Exhibition if she is to save this child’s life.

Based on Modest Mussorgsky’s classical Russian suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a wonderful debut and a great entry into the paranormal mystery genre. What really drew me to this story was the ability on Kennedy’s part to really delve into his wealth of ability when it comes to writing strong First Person POV. Now, I know some of you might be going:

“Well, Jay, there’s a bunch of work out there in the first person. Why is this different?”

It’s different because Kennedy wows us with vivid imagery, well-developed dialogue, and brushes of introspective genius in some of the story’s pivotal moments. His characters are varied and fleshed out so that they aren’t just tropes moving around on the page—they are real people, with real frailties and sense, something that I think often gets lost in First Person.

More importantly, however, Kennedy goes out of his way to make his main actors human in the truest sense. Mira rarely has an off-note, nor do her gallery of rogues. Without being too spoiler-y, this version of Baba Yaga is probably the best I have ever come across, and I like Hellboy. That’s how good this Baba Yaga is.

That’s not to say there aren’t imperfections. The book drags at times trying to figure out a way for the characters to go after all the plot points in a natural fashion, and sometimes it is done so ham-fistedly. Mystery as a rule is built on the three “C’s”: Creative Characters, Constant Suspense, and Connecting the Dots. In this case one may argue that there are spots where The Mussorgsky Riddle suffers from not maintaining a constant feeling that something can happen at any time, relying instead on a few cliches we've seen before like jealous lovers and attractive partners.

These small missteps are made up for with Kennedy’s ability to offer surprises in ways that aren’t forced or stayed, and they engage the reader enough that you want to keep reading, even when the story is a bit ho-hum. Kennedy is good at connecting the dots to keep us going.

Overall, this is a damned final novel. With its lush setting, a cast of unique characters, and a well written story, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a book we should all pick up and give a serious read. It will be available on January 12, 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press.

Check out more of Darin's work at these links!

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Honest Talk about Social Media, Publishing, and Amazon

This post might rub people the wrong way, and if it does, please remember that I am always open to a debate on anything expressed in the post. That being said, let's get started:

Nobody gives a shit about your social media platforms.

I know that is a big hypocritical statement to make, given the fact that I promote these posts with my social media platforms, but bear with me. This isn't as crotchety as it sounds.

The reason why nobody gives a shit about your social media is because, at this point, everyone else has a social media platform. The charm of these now-established technologies has worn off, been exploited by its creators, and is slowly marching to becoming a part of our lives we take for granted.

Question: how many people here actually click on all the links your friends post on Facebook during the day? For me, I click on a good number. Mostly articles and pieces of information I find interesting. I give out likes to my fellow authors when they post something about their journey or their work, but rarely do I actually click on links to things like Amazon. I do this knowing that this is done right back to me, as I will admit I am a bit addicted to posting articles, podcasts, and other eclectic stuff that I find cool enough to share. However, I don't click on every link, check out every friend, or like every post that is made. Truth be told, I don't know anyone who does.

And I bet money that this is happening to Twitter users as well. Google + is turning into a different sort of marketing platform, one we still don't quite understand (and neither does Google.) Of course, speculation is speculation, as we have evidence to contradict all of it. Please understand, I'm not going to point the finger and saying "this works, this doesn't work." I only worked in social media for so long before I left, and back then the information was even more skewed. Making your way to be effective with social media takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and sometimes, enormous amounts of luck. I know NYT bestsellers that don't break a thousand on their Facebook Fan Pages, and probably never will. In fact, places like Facebook are so inundated with ads that a lot of people have turned away, turned off notifications, or completely ignore them.

Again, this issue isn't anyone's fault. Facebook is a generational thing, and like MySpace, nothing is meant to last forever. There is only so much information a person can take in during the day, and I don't get pissed when authors post about their stuff. That is part of The Business. However, I do think that there are authors out there, mostly of the self-publishing variety, that think a book and a platform are things you need and are things that are equal in importance.

Not so.

But we will get to that in a moment. Let's pull the camera to get a wider view. For authors, editors, and publishers alike, there is one bull out the field that nobody really wants to tame, but they are definitely a gigantic part of making a books successful in today's marketplace.

Yep, I'm talking about Amazon.

At this point it is hard to say that Amazon isn't the go-to place for the majority of book buyers, especially Kindle users, and most of the links to literary products I see hawked on social media are often linked to an Amazon page. This makes the industry very difficult to navigate for any author, let alone a self-published one, as we saw with the Hachette war where both sides came out taking damage. Authors lost money, Amazon lost the trust of a lot of people. I am still figuring out how I feel about the situation personally, but I think we can all agree that Amazon isn't moving for the time being as the sales leader of the publishing industry. With so many books available in multiple formats, it becomes harder for authors to get their work out there in the hands of readers, even the voracious ones who read at a pace that is sometimes stunning.

So let's get back to the authors who worry about both the social media platform and their book and putting them both on equal footing. Well, first off, you need to have work available to have a platform. I wouldn't be on this blog if I didn't have something I wanted you to check out. The problem I have with authors who state that the social platforms matter just as much as the book does miss as a plain and simple truth:

It doesn't matter how pretty your store front is, if there is cow shit on the shelves, there cow shit on the shelves. Beyond some rustic farmer, nobody wants to buy cow shit.

Social media does matter. It helps up communicate with each other, with authors, and with honest-to-goodness fans of the genres we all love, yet these platforms should never be equal or supersede the quality of your output.

Work on The Craft of Writing.

Work on your ability to tell a story.

These are the two things that guarantee that your work will do something positive when it finds its way onto the market, whatever way it makes it to the market. If you put out the best work possible the readers will make you. Not Facebook. Not Amazon, Not Twitter.

The readers matter the most.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of Writers Networking

One thing that I notice as I work towards success in my career is that I meet a lot of writers in varying stages of their own journey within the business. Sometimes they are just beginning, trying to figure out whether or not writing is really for them, whether it is an actual passion and goal versus a hobby, and some of them are much farther along--I've had some of them on this blog for interviews.

What always strikes me about most of the really successful ones are how easy they are within themselves, which seems daunting for a good many of us who get into this profession. Let's be honest: we wouldn't be writing if we didn't have some sort of pain or problem we are trying to work out for ourselves, as they inhabit our stories (at least the good ones.) But one big problem I see often is that writers have no clue how to engage with other writers. Networking is an important skill to have in your toolbox, so to speak, because not only does it help you make friends, but you learn from others about The Craft AND The Business. Networking is essential for success in publishing.

So, in a relatively short list that could go on for many, many, many (and I mean MANY pages), here are some simple DO'S and DON'TS when it comes to writer networking. I might include an example here and there but as always, if you have questions, please ask.

- DO meet people.

Most authors at conventions, signings, and events are there to meet the audience and communicate with them. Just because they are sitting behind the table doesn't mean they are out of reach from you, or that they are too busy selling books to not talk. They do want to talk to you, as being at that table can be a lonely business, and the shot of meeting a new friend is always an opportunity worth having. The best thing you can do is walk up and go "Hi, my name is _______" and take it from there.

- DON'T monopolize their time.

While it is fine to say "Hi" and introduce yourself, it is important to remember that the people working their tables are there to work. If you aren't going to buy anything, if there is a line, or if there is something you want to speak to them about involving writing that doesn't suite the area you're in, pick a different time.

- DO take interest in their work.

One thing that I see a lot of beginning (and honestly, experienced) writers do when they meet other writers is try to get something out of them for nothing. That's not fair, nor does it build the beginnings of a relationship where that writer will feel like they can trust you. For example, if you are like me and read Epic Fantasy, and you are about to meet another Epic Fantasist who has developed themselves a name in the business, then ask to talk about what they wrote. AND LISTEN. Maybe you'll find a new author you can read and learn from.

- DON'T talk down to them.

I see this happen so often, and it really turns me off to those writers who try to sell their work or explain how "great" or "original" it is to someone who has always ready proven their worth in the business. It is akin to going to an art show, meeting the featured artist, and then dropping in the middle of the conversation "oh, your paintings, but I do mine in oils. It is a much better medium." I've had this happen to me at conventions when no-names (which I still count myself among) find out that I have been published multiple times and write traditional fantasy. It is weird to have someone praise you mockingly about writing a genre that is "quaint."  It is disrespectful, and it hammers home the point about a truth in publishing: everyone talks to each other. If you want to create for yourself a bad reputation among authors who talk to their agents, editors, and publishers, do this. See how far you go.

- DO talk to them about similar interests, even if they aren't directly involved with your work. Sometimes you not only end up making a contact, you also find a like-minded individual who shares similar interests, and similar interests again lead to friendships. That is the one nice thing about publishing: we aren't really "competing" with each other, so there are ample opportunity to make new friends, and that is not only good for your business, but for your soul as well.

- DON'T aggravate people

This one is really a catch-all for a lot of things. Sometimes there are people you meet in the business that you just don't get along with and the best advice is to not engage them in negativity. That means keeping your mouth shut, your ears and eyes open, and being careful with how you present yourself. Remember, people talk, so always try to maintain some sort of professional image. This includes talking, working, and dealing with people you may not like.

In addition to this (which is rare for a list like this, but important), DON'T badger people. I have seen friends of mine who aren't very big at all constantly go and bother someone because they think they can talk or flirt their way into being liked enough for a deal. It is hard watching such silliness, because you realized how self-aware some people aren't. The important thing is to adhere to the first DO: Meet People, while adhering to the first DON'T--let them have their space and time to work, if they are working. If they want to hang out, they will let you know.


- DO take something

A bookmark, a sticker, something. You don't have to pay for it, but taking a bookmark or a card while offering a kind farewell is better than simply staring at their table, not making eye contact, and then leaving without a word. Yes, I've seen that. Taking something is at the very least a nice gesture in the way that it shows that you saw something they had and might check it out again in the future. Small kindnesses do wonders.


- DON'T Get hella drunk, y'all

Seriously. People will remember you as the naked guy or the dude that shit in the hotel pool before they remember your accolades (I'm neither of these individuals, by the by.) That memory carries with you until you're dead.

I want to wish you all a happy new year, and of course, if you think there is something that should be on this list that I haven't included, by all means leave a comment!

If you have time, please feel free to check out my Twitter and my Publications page! Also, if you like what you read on this blog, please take the time to click on the G+1 button on the bottom of this article or at the left. It really helps.

Stay safe and stay tuned from some 2015 news!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Frostborn by Lou Anders (No Spoilers)

Those of you who want to know more about Lou Anders should check out the interview I conducted with him last time we were all together. It is a good one!

Cover Art by Justin Gerard

One of my most important moments as young boy was when my father handed me a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I remember this moment distinctly-- I was eleven at the time, and one of the big complaints my parents had was that I was reading "too many comic books" and that it was time for me to "grow up." Because, you know, nothing makes someone grow up like switching from comics to fantasy novels... but anyway. The memory was because the cover was done by the amazing Alan Lee, who at the time was on a tear re-doing all of Tolkien's covers for the publisher. This was before the LOTR movies, and each one was a masterpiece.

What I found inside that book changed my life forever. Without The Hobbit I don't think I would have ended up with my dream of becoming a successful fantasy author, a dream that I will pursue until my life ends. The story of Bilbo was exactly what I need to... reading isn't the appropriate word here, but what I went through was an experience, one that showed me I could define myself without having to fit into a particular box (trope), that the power of goodness and fairness really do matter, and more importantly, that courage isn't being the biggest and the toughest, but the most willing.

I have grown older and moved on to more adult fantasy (thanks, Dad), but The Hobbit always stayed with me. It was my book.

I say all this, prattling on, because I think the importance of Lou Anders' Frostborn needs to be made clear: This isn't my Hobbit, but after reading it twice through, I am almost certain it would have been if I was eleven in 2014.

Anders has crafted a tale filled with ages-old themes and lessons that I think are often missing from a lot of today's fantasy, be it Middle-Grade or Adult. Friendship, Courage, Intelligence, and Trust--these are things that are often assumed to be in the background of every children's novel, but rarely are they talked about openly and pursued passionately, let alone done well. I believe this to be a major reason why I dislike Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series so much--when it is done out in the open it is too campy to my taste, and when it hidden in the background I just don't care. Anders falls more in with JK Rowling and Lloyd Alexander, so much so with the latter that I almost felt like I was reading The Book of Three (another classic everyone should read.) To put a point on it, I was taken on a great adventure and learned something.

I love the main characters, Karn and Thianna: while being new and interesting, they are also timeless. Thianna is a gem, especially when one looks at how Anders worked with a lot of different classical elements to develop a incredibly likable character that girls need to read more of. This book is like making an old soup recipe with the same ingredients, but the measures have been altered so the taste is different, and it tastes good. Even the secondary characters fit into their classical molds, but there is a small detail here, a small flair there, that truly sets them off with life and breath. More importantly, both of the main protagonists grow in an honest way--they never stop being kids, but they don't have their innocence stripped away. That detail is often overdone or overwrought, but here again, Anders shines. There won't be a forced adulthood. There won't be a black day that stains the rest of their lives. They win, they work, but at the end of the book, they remain wonderful.

The writing itself is never too simplified (which is always a big sin to me--kids don't need to be coddled because of a "lack of understand or nuance"), nor is it ever too high for someone of the age it is aimed towards. Anders works his Tolkien-like style very well, being able to balance character, dialogue, setting, and pace in equal measure. One of the key elements of the book focuses around Karn's ability to play his favorite board game, Thrones & Bones, and the many applications he uses this ability to get himself out of sticky situations. This is particularly well-done in his final standoff with the leader of the draugrs, which proves that you can be thrilling without a sword fight in adventure fantasy.

I do have some criticisms of the book. With the exception of the draugr lead the villains were a bit flat. Some of the humor is a little too young for me to really get a laugh out of, but that has more to do with me being how old I am more than anything else. The world of Norrongard is full and fleshed out, but I finished the book still wanting to know a little more about the Frost Giant's world, especially from Thianna's viewpoint. It was just missing that one *thing* that separates a "very good" setting from a "great setting."

But even with these criticism, Anders has forged for younger readers one hell of a fantasy adventure. I would definitely recommend this book, and I am sure the next one will be as equally charming.

See you all soon! Next post will feature my adventures at Dragon*Con!

Remember, you can always follow me @JayRequard!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frostborn comes to Sit.Write.Bleed! ft. Lou Anders

Words can't really measure what I want to say, so I will keep it short.

It is my pleasure today to introduce Lou Anders for this interview. A Hugo Award winner for his fantastic stewardship of Pyr books, his first novel Frostborn was an honest delight to read. A review will be coming very soon for the novel itself, but without further ado, the interview.


Sit.Write.Bleed (SWB): Lou, welcome to Sit.Write.Bleed.! So in your debut novel, Frostborn, vikings, dragons, draugrs, and gaming are joined together in this epic story about Karn and Thianna, two kids from two very different walks of life. Where did the inspiration for such a multifaceted story originate?

Lou Anders (LA): The story of Frostborn grew over a number of years. Back in 2010, I tried my hand at a sword & sorcery short story inspired by childhood reading of Fritz Leiber. It was a disaster, one that should never see the light of day, but one of the two “buddy” characters was a woman who was half-human, half frost giant. I liked her and didn’t want to let her go, even though the story itself was broken. As I worried at her (across two more short story attempts), I started to realize that I didn’t really understand her dual-heritage and I ought to think more about her back story. Somewhere in there, I realized her backstory was the story. Frost giants sent me into a Norse/Viking research frenzy, and the world started to come together. Then when I wanted to pair her with a boy her own age, I tried to come up with a counterpoint to her very physical personality, and the idea of a board gamer came to me.

SWB: One of the real strengths of the novel is the ability to describe the game play of the "Thrones and Bones" board game. What has gaming added to your life, both as a writer and as a person?

LA: I played an enormous amount of board games in a short amount of time as an adolescent, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to Top Secret, Call of Cthulhu, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Boot Hill, others. I was almost always the GM. And I certainly read more rules manuals, modules, and setting guides that I played. I think this was a foundational experience when it came to both learning to be a storyteller and broadening my imagination. Some much of our entertainment is passive, even a lot of video games that appear to be active are actually fooling the player into thinking they are exercising more decisions than they are, and RPGs strike me now as an amazingly active, player-driven form of entertainment. I want to involve my children in them for this reason. But it was a few years ago that I started to realize all of this, around the time when I discovered how many of my favorite fantasy writers were, or still are, dedicated role players. At that point I became very interested in the back and forth between playing RPGs and creating fantasy fiction. (Mind you, I’m not knocking video games, which I’m also very, very fond of.)

SWB: It is interesting to see a story focus on two main leads instead of one, especially when one considers that most coming-of-age fantasy is usually singular in its character focus. Karn and Thianna are great both as individuals in terms of their appeal to boys and girls, but where they really shine is their ability to work together and form a very organic friendship. Was that pairing something you set out to do early on or was it something that developed in the process of writing the novel?

LA: I have a son and a daughter, and I wanted to write a story with both of them in mind, with heroes both of them could be proud of. It’s very important to me that neither character is the other’s sidekick, but that they are co-equal leads. And it is very important to me that they each have strengths and weaknesses that differentiate them one from the other, but which they learn to put into service of the greater whole that is their friendship.

SWB: Let's talk about dragons and wyverns for a moment. Dragons have always held the imagination of readers, cementing themselves as an immortal trope, with wyverns just now working into the consciousness of fantasy pop culture. Why do you think that popularity has stuck through not only modern fantasy, but throughout centuries of storytelling?

LA: Dragons, done right, are more than just monsters. They are primal forces, iconic figures, majestic representations of elder days, powers in the world. One of the things I like the best about the new Hobbit films (and yes, there are things to like about them) is the way we see Gandalf’s motivation in helping the dwarves as fear that the Dark Lord might one day be able to turn Smaug to his purpose. Smaug is a game-changing power equivalent to a country or cabal of wizards in strength. He’s one of the features of the world. The archetype of entities that are very dangerous, very old, and very powerful is quite compelling. I hate when dragons are reduced to the level of regular monsters.

SWB: I know you took a trip to Norway to conduct research for the culture of this novel. How did visiting the home of the Vikings change your perceptions about them as a people and a culture?

LA: You know the first thing it did is taught me the landscape. Norway has a really unique geography, which, although I’d seen it in pictures, I didn’t understand until I was there. Geography shapes cultures, and sailing down the fjords, or standing on the mountaintops, I suddenly got it. I was working with my cartographer Robert Lazzaretti on the map of Norrøngard at the time, and I was taking photographs every day and sending them to him at night. It was a marvelous way to world build!

SWB: Stepping away from Lou the Novelist for a moment, many also know you as a Hugo Award Winner editor. What happened when you took off your editing cap and put on your writer's viking helmet? I imagine being on the other side of "the table", so to speak, led to a lot of discoveries about yourself.

LA: Ha. Maybe the first is that even though I’ve told scores of authors not to bother checking their Amazon ranking every five minutes, and know - with facts to back it up - how meaningless and futile it is - I can’t stop myself from doing it! Also, I’ve learned a great deal about writing from a decade and a half of editing, but being edited has taught me things I never knew.

SWB: So update us: when are the next two books coming, and what should we expect from the world of Thrones and Bones? More importantly, when will we see a board game?

LA: Don’t quote me on this until my publisher announces it formally, but books two and three should be out this time next year and again in 2016. Book two is on my editor’s desk, and I’m doing the research for book three now. As to a board game, the rules for Thrones and Bones are in the back of book one, and they’ll be rules for a different game in the back of book two!

SWB: Last question, and at Sit.Write.Bleed. we always end it with a fun one. What trope do you wish would disappear?

LA: There are no bad tropes, only degrees of skill in exercising them.

Cover by Justin Gerard

You can find out more about Lou and his work at these links:

Thanks for coming by and check the blog out again soon!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Round Three: Gail Martin sits down to talk about Deadly Curiosities

*So, this took a bit longer than I would have liked to get up on the blog, but some technical issues derailed that for far too long. Thankfully Gail has been more than patient with me, and I am proud to present Sit.Write.Bleed.'s THIRD interview with this great and gracious author.*

Gail Martin is best known for her high and epic fantasy work, having garnered rave reviews since she first introduced the world to Chronicles of the Necromancer and later on the Ascendant Kingdom Saga. However  recent changes have occurred, and returning to her old stomping grounds at Solaris Books, she makes her debut into the genre of Urban Fantasy with her debut novel, Deadly Curiosities:

Gail was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss her brand-new work!

Sit. Write. Bleed (S.W.B): Gail, thanks again for sitting us down for a third time! You are officially the most interviewed person at Sit.Write.Bleed! So your upcoming novel, Deadly Curiosities (Solaris), is an interesting foray into urban fantasy. Having established a very successful career in High and Epic Fantasy, how does it feel to be stepping into what many see as a different genre?

Gail Z. Martin (GZM): Thank you!  I’m glad to be back! I really am not hung up on epic vs. urban as a huge shift. There are stories I want to tell, and some lend themselves better to an epic, high fantasy setting, and some belong in the modern day with magic. So to me it’s really a shift in tone, but not a huge change. 

S.W.B: So let’s talk trade-offs: what did you learn that you could do in Urban Fantasy that you couldn't or maybe wouldn't do in High Fantasy? Are the genres really so different from each other in form and execution, or did you find commonalities?

GZM: Well, sword fights aren’t as common in Urban Fantasy—wait, yes they are. OK. Then arcane magical objects and ancient rituals aren’t as common—oops, yes, Urban has those too.
The truth is, except for the horses and lack of flush toilets, a lot of the same kinds of things happen in urban that happen in epic fantasy, except with a smaller scale (a city vs a kingdom) and less royalty.

One thing you can do in Urban Fantasy that you can’t do in Epic is make cultural references and include a certain modern level of snark. That’s fun, but it’s a very modern sensibility and it isn't in keeping with trying to be period-authentic for Epic. Also, in Urban Fantasy you've got a real- life city with its own history, so while you might tweak that history and make some alterations, you have to play somewhat by the rules. 

S.W.B: Let’s talk about Cassidy Kincaide, the hero of Deadly Curiosities. What drew you to writing that character? I found the aspect of recovering and disposing of ancient evil artifacts quite interesting.

GZM: I first wrote Cassidy in the short story “Buttons” for Solaris Book’s award-winning Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane anthology. They wanted something with modern magic, and that’s the story that came to mind, the modern continuation of the Trifles and Folly universe I had created for other anthologies with stories set centuries ago. Cassidy is the latest in a long line of her relatives to run Trifles and Folly, going back 350 years, always with Sorren as a silent partner, always with the secret mission of getting dangerous magical items off the market.

The idea of disposing of dangerous evil artifacts came about in a couple of ways. I visited Charleston on business and went back with the family because I was so entranced. I wanted to figure out how to set an urban fantasy story there, and an antique shop seemed likely, since they are so prevalent in Charleston and there is such rich history in that city.

My dad was a big collector/hoarder and antiques buff, so I got hauled around to antiques shows, swap meets and flea markets the whole time I was growing up. To amuse myself, I used to make up stories about the stuff that was for sale, just as a way to kill time. Then when my dad passed away and we had to clean out all his myriad collections, I found myself hip deep in strange old collectibles. Most of the stuff that is featured in Deadly Curiosities, I've owned and gotten rid of. Except for the mother-of-pearl opera glasses. I still have those. 

S.W.B: Vampires often appear in your High Fantasy works, but in Deadly Curiosities we see the introduction of Sorren, a 500 year-old immortal and jewel thief.  Did taking on an Urban Fantasy alter your view of vampires and how you employ them?

GZM: Unlike the vayash moru in my Chronicles of the Necromancer series or my talishte in the Ascendant Kingdoms books, Sorren isn't a lord. He was never noble—he was a jewel thief before his luck turned. He looks like he’s in his late twenties, and he does his best to fit in—cell phones, email, texting. Yet there’s the weight of centuries, having lived lifetimes, having lost so many people over the years.

I would say that the vampires in Deadly Curiosities are a bit more savage than in some of my other series. They own their place as top predator. And yet, as with all my vampire characters, they have a choice in how they behave and whether they elect to use their enhanced abilities constructively or destructively.

S.W.B: Stepping away from the book for a moment, the genre itself is very popular in our current era. What other Urban Fantasy authors do you like reading?

GZM: I enjoy the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher and the Secret Histories books and Ghost Finders novels by Simon R. Green. I love Victoria Laurie’s two series, both her Ghost Hunters and her Psychic Eye. CJ Henderson’s Piers Knight books are a lot of fun, too. And Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. 

S.W.B: Last question, and as always, it is a fun one. Every genre has a trope, and Urban fantasy is chock-full of them. Which one do you HATE the most?

GZM: Love triangles. Can’t abide them, or drama for the sake of drama. Makes me want to slap someone silly.


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