Days of the Dead with Gail Z. Martin

My guest today will be familiar to our regular visitors. Gail Z. Martin is the author of the urban fantasy Deadly Curiosities series set in Charleston, SC, three epic fantasy series, The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of the Necromancer series, and The Fallen Kings Cycle as well as a new Steampunk series, Iron and Blood co-authored with Larry N. Martin. A brand new epic fantasy series debuts from Solaris Books in 2017.

As though all that weren’t enough, Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden AdventuresThe Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Gail joins us today as part of her annual Days of the Dead blog tour, which has this cool graphic:

DaysofDead Banner V1 copy

Welcome, Gail! Why Days of the Dead as the name of your blog tour?

gailI write about a necromancer and plenty of death/blood magic plus Voodoo, hoodoo and undead monsters, and the blog tour is always the last week of October–which contains All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. So it’s kind of a perfect fit! This is the ninth year I think, and it’s always fun and different every time.

How does magic related to death figure into your work?

For a reasonably optimistic person, I seem to be a bit hung up on death. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, my main character is (spoilers!) a necromancer who is the good guy. So Tris spends a lot of his time learning to navigate between the realms of life and death and determining the moral boundaries of what he *should* do compared to what he *can* do and bargaining with immortal entities.

In the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga books, we have a secondary character who is a necromancer and Tormod plays a little loose with the morality of raising the long-dead as shock troops in battle and using necromancy as an offensive magical power. In the Deadly Curiosities series, we have a Victorian adventurer necromancer whose power is substantial, very constrained by his morality, but also a lethal weapon against certain kinds of supernatural predators.

IronBlood-cover-design-140x217In Iron & Blood, our steampunk novel, we encounter a witch who delves into darker areas of magic in order to combat killer ghosts and a very dangerous type of undead monsters. The new Epically-Epic Epic Fantasy That Cannot Be Named that I’m working on for Solaris Books to debut in 2017 takes yet another approach to death-related magic, but I can’t really talk about the particulars yet!

I think I’m drawn to the idea of blood magic and/or death magic as being the logical counterpart to Life/Light magic. The concept of a blood sacrifice of some magnitude (token or life blood) is extremely old and factors into all mythology. We fear the idea of resurrection even as we covet it, and anyone who holds that kind of god-like power would be dangerous and susceptible to strong temptation to misuse the magic.

Life and death (or creation/destruction or birth/entropy) are the ultimate primal forces, so there’s plenty of power to be drawn from. I also use other types of magic (herbalist, spell work, sigils and runes, divination, etc.) But I keep coming back to death/blood/necromancy because there’s such rich tradition to mine. Or maybe I’m a little bit Goth!

What led you to explore this?

I’ve been fascinated with cemeteries and ghost stories truly since I was a little kid. I have read books by paranormal researchers for years as well as ‘true’ ghost stories–can’t get enough. I watched Dark Shadows as a pre-schooler, and cut my teeth on Night Gallery and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as reading books on the Apocalypse, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the Lives of the Saints (gruesome stuff, all of it–amazing what you can find in the church library). I used to grab all the back issues of my grandmother’s Fate Magazine as a kid and hole up reading them until I had to sleep with the light on.

I’m absolutely fascinated by the weird and obscure–things like the Mutter Museum, the ossuaries under Rome and the necropolis beneath Paris. I have dragged my poor family on cemetery and ghost tours all around the world. Hauntings intrigue me, and I tend to gravitate toward people with Gifts (although as far as I can tell, I have no psychic abilities of my own, or I wouldn’t lose my car keys so often). And I love mythology and legend, which of course focuses on the line between life and death, the power of blood to curse or atone, and the cycle of death and resurrection. I guess I’m a little twisted!

We’re about to dive into the year-end holiday blitz, careening from Halloween into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s. Of those, which are your favorites, and how do you celebrate them?

For almost 20 years, we did a 20 hour round/trip car ride to Pennsylvania for all major holidays. That’s one tradition I don’t miss, although I wish extended family lived closer (or were still here to celebrate).

halloween3 We personally celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Decorating is a BIG thing at our place. We’ll have decorations up inside and out from Halloween until New Years. So for Halloween, we’ve got a 7 foot inflatable light-up dragon (with moving wings), a 6 foot tall stack of pumpkins, a 12 foot haunted castle archway, myriad light-up spiders and tombstones, plus a full-sized inflatable hearse driven by a headless coachman and featuring a vampire rising from his coffin in the back!

Inside, I’ve got all kinds of spooky-fun decorations with ghosts, witches, pumpkins, and skulls. Gotta have skulls.

halloween1

Many of our neighbors are Indian, so we get to celebrate Diwali by association, since fireworks are a big part of that celebration and there’s no missing the explosions in our neighborhood. Some of our friends decorate with strings of colored lights to simulate the fireworks, and then stick plastic candy canes in front of the bushes the week after Diwali is over and they’re ready for Christmas. Hey, it’s America–you can pretty much celebrate however you want!

For Thanksgiving, that’s a whole different set of decorations with a fall leaves garland at the front door, and inside, cornucopias, pumpkins, turkeys and pilgrims. Oh, and a big turkey tureen with matching turkey candle holders and salt/pepper shakers, which is the bane of my children’s existence. (I wanted one for AGES and finally found exactly the right set on EBay!)

We start decorating the Christmas trees (four large ones, plus smaller ones in the bedrooms) the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a multiple-day process. It takes me one full day just to put the lights on one of the trees, and it starts out pre-lit! One tree has ornaments that we’ve collected our whole lives. One tree is a bit more formal and themed. One tree has ornaments that the kids either made when they were little or that have a childhood connection–it’s also the fandom tree with the Enterprise, the Serenity and the Millennium Falcon. Oh, and then there’s the big silver tree in my office (shiny!) decorated with DragonCon badges.

And food! Larry and I both cook. UNC Daughter bakes. Now that we don’t make the trek to PA anymore since all of our parents have passed, our kids and their significant others come to our place. We cook, they play tabletop games and watch anime. Wassail is very popular, and so is Larry’s Southern Living homemade pimento cheese spread. I’m in charge of the turkey and stuffing. Good times!

How many series are you currently writing?

DEADLY-CURIOSITIES1-140x214It depends on how you count. Chronicles of the Necromancer, Fallen Kings Cycle, Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, Iron & Blood, Deadly Curiosities and the new Epically-Epic Epic Fantasy (I’m going to start calling it E3F for short). So that’s 6, but technically Chronicle and Fallen Kings are the same world/characters, so maybe 5.

Then there’s the Salvage Rat space opera proto-series that currently exists in three short stories but we have plans for novels. In various stages of proposal/development are a horror novel, a very dark second urban fantasy series, a different epic fantasy series that will probably be indie novellas, and a couple of possible tie-in series. So lots of stuff in the works!

What inspired you to develop the various series of short stories that tie into your novels, and which short stories tie into which novels’ universes?

I had more stories to tell than would fit in the books. Not all of the stories were big enough or complicated enough to be books, but they made good extra ‘episodes’. And I’m not contractually permitted to bring out additional full books in the series except through the publisher without getting messy, but short fiction doesn’t count.GZM_The_Shadowed_Path_205x330

The Deadly Curiosities Adventures tie into the novels Deadly Curiosities and Vendetta and happen before, during, between and after the books. The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures are prequels to The Summoner in my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings world. The Blaine McFadden Adventures are novellas that connect to the Ascendant Kingdoms books and fill a time gap in Ice Forged. Larry N. Martin and I co-write the Storm and Fury Adventures, which extend the Iron & Blood steampunk world. We try to bring something new out in one of the series each month!

You attend a fair number of science fiction conventions each year. What do you most enjoy about them?

I do 12-17 cons a year, and they are both social and marketing for me. Cons are where I meet readers and other authors and hang out with my friends. I went to cons before I was a pro, and love being on the other side of the panel table now! I really enjoy fandom, so every con feels like a homecoming. Plus cons are where I do business–selling books, getting invited to new anthologies and projects, meeting editors, coming up with collaborations with other authors!

Ice-Forged-cover-21-140x227Is there a particular place readers new to your work should start?

First books are always good starting points! So that would be The Summoner or Ice Forged or Deadly Curiosities or Iron & Blood. I guess you could also start with the short stories, but you don’t have to read them first.

Please tell us about the other blog tour you’re currently participating in, Hold Onto the Light.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blogging campaign with over 100 sci-fi and fantasy authors sharing about how depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety and other mental health issues have impacted them, their characters and their books. We want to encourage a safe, inclusive environment for fans who also struggle, and demonstrate that fandom takes care of its own. You can find links to all of the blog posts at HoldOnToTheLight.com

holdontothelight-fb-banner

Where can people find more information about that?

Links to all of the posts are up on HoldOnToTheLight.com along with related posts, and we also have a Facebook page at facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight and a Facebook group at #HoldOnToTheLight, and the links to the blog posts show up on those places as well as other similar content.

What do you have on your slate for the rest of 2016, and what’s scheduled already for 2017?

I’m doing Atomacon in Charleston, SC in November along with the Carolina Renaissance Festival’s Time Travelers’ Weekend/Lit Festival. 2017 starts up again in January with Illogicon, then Coastal Magic, Capricon and Mysticon in February, the AZ Renaissance Festival in March and more!

How can people check out your work and maybe win some prizes?

Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP with several ways to win free books and ebooks plus other cool stuff.

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

Creepy! Free excerpt from our Steampunk Storm and Fury Adventures short story Resurrection Day http://bit.ly/2efV7nF

TrickOrTreat w excerpt Baba Ali & The Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/15195351-baba-ali-and-the-clockwork-djinn

Use your free @Audible trial to get my books! The Dread Audible https://amzn.com/B00740L9G8

TrickOrTreat DoubleDragonSampler#5 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE005.mobi

You can also connect with Gail on social media:

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

So, everyone, tell us–of all the upcoming holidays, which is your favorite, and how do you celebrate it? What’s your favorite ghost story or magic story?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

16 Comments

  • I like too many magic stories to pick a favorite. I enjoy everything from light hints of magic in a story to full-out magical war. When it comes to ghosts, I prefer interactive ones. I like them to do something in the story, not just appear.

    • I’ve concluded that I’m just not that interested in stories about the drama of strangers unless there’s magic or someone is a monster. Even when I watch Pawn Stars or American Pickers, I’m looking for cool items for Deadly (or price-matching stuff from dad’s house). So Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is my only non-magic-related guilty pleasure!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Ah, Gail, you are my twisted sister! I’m right there with you in my interest in the odd, and magic, and death. As you said, for such a positive person…Grins. That’s why I do that dead body class though! ha!

    While I like several of your series, I’m particularly into the Deadly Curiosities. So cleverly done.

    Great to see that someone else is as mad for Halloween decor as I am. And yes, my house is in a constant state of decor too, from Sept 29 to around Epiphany. Snork!

    Thanks for including me in the #HoldOntoTheLight blog tour as well. For our regulars, you can go back in the blog posts to see my post.

    • Jeanne, I hope you’ll share some photos of your Halloween decorations. I always love looking at them!

    • Hey Jeanne! Thanks for the shout-out on Deadly! Yeah, I would love to see photos of your decorations. Several of our inside pieces are ceramics I painted back when I had free time, including a rock band of famous movie monsters! Hope I see you soon at a con!

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Hi Gail! Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Fallen Kings Cycle! Looking forward to checking out Iron And Blood as well, as I’m really into Steampunk right now.

    Our family has always been very big on Halloween. For years we were the scariest house on the block; people used to cross the street to AVOID our house!

    Thanks also for #HoldOntoTheLight. As a reader/writer/fan who has lived with depression all my life, I know how misunderstood and difficult life with this illness can be. (You can read my comments with Jeanne’s post.) It truly helps just to know you’re not alone in the fight, and to make that human connection with someone else who understands. Thanks for all you do.

    • EC, I enjoyed Iron & Blood a lot. I think you will, too.

      I also think the HoldOntotheLight blog tour is a great idea. I’m part of it–blogging here tomorrow–so I know Gail has done a great job coordinating everything. Corralling 100 writers has aspects of herding cats, but she has pulled everything together.

    • Hi EC! Thank you. Glad you’re enjoying the books. Hope you like Iron&Blood. If so, please look for the Storm&Fury short story tie-ins. And I am so glad Hold On To the Light was helpful. As for decorations–ours aren’t scary-scary, but the neighbors across the street used to do a maze w a fog machine and at least one of the figures was a real person who would jump out. My son would only go there before dark when he was little!

  • Hi Gail –
    You live a fun life! We decorate for all the holidays – I think that must come with kids – but the Halloween decorations are the most fun. I don’t do scary as much as lots of cute/smiling witches, ghosts, and bats. We host the extended family Thanksgiving and Christmas meals so I’ve accumulated lots of interior decorations for those. Our main Christmas tree is up right before Thanksgiving so guests can examine the ornaments – lots of family momentos there.

    Then books sound great. I’ll check them out.

    • Donna, we used to go for scary on Halloween, but now that the boy doesn’t live here anymore, I suspect we’ll just go for “available.”

    • Hi Donna–Thanks! Decorating is fun! Sometime, I want to get invited to a party where they actually use all those life-size spooky decorations from Spirit! and Grandinroad–but I don’t want them in my house! We had a neighbor once who greeted trick-or-treaters by rising from a real coffin dressed like a witch. My girls were 3 and 5–they shrieked and ran back home!

  • Jane says:

    Hi Gail and Nancy,
    Thanksgiving is my favorite. Holiday season is in full swing when Thanksgiving approaches. Love shopping for decorations and candy for Christmas.

    • Hi, Jane–

      We don’t shop for decorations much, but I love looking at all the gorgeous displays in the stores. The dh and I went up to Biltmore last Christmas, our first trip to see the decorations, and it was beautiful. As we looked at the multiple trees and the huge garlands, I found myself thinking the whole thing would be perfect for JD Robb’s Eve and Roarke.

    • Hi Jane–I am officially a Christmas ornament-aholic. I buy more every year, and the trees are already laden. I’m especially bad at Biltmore and Epcot’s Germany, but I love getting ornaments from places when we travel. We’re decorated from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and then Easter–and then the house seems bare!

  • Pissenlit says:

    I love both Halloween and Christmas. Both are so festive with decorations. And chocolate. Mmm, chocolate. In fact, all things should be celebrated with chocolate.

    I read too many stories with magic to pick a favourite. It’s possible that the majority of the stories I read have magic of some sort in them. As for ghost stories, I prefer my ghosts to be friendly and/or helpful as opposed to scary.

    • Hi Pissenlit! Chocolate is good, but have you tried wassail? Yum. Also coffee with Rum Chata and Fireball–tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Good on a cold night! If you like helpful ghosts, have you read EJ Cooperman’s ghost detective series? Enjoy the season!