Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Days of the Dead: Gail Z. Martin

It's my privilege to host fellow "Broad" from Broad Universe Gail Z. Martin today as part of her annual Days of the Dead Blog Tour! Read her thoughts about balance in the publishing industry below and follow the links to pick up some swag and read some great excerpts. 

Balancing Traditional/Small Press/Self-Publishing
By Gail Z. Martin

If you’ve ever had a career advisor tell you to ‘pick a lane’, you know that traditional wisdom says you should choose one path and stick to it. That is so 2008.

In case you missed it, publishing is in turmoil. The polite way to say that is ‘in the throes of reinvention’ but the day-to-day reality is chaos.

Big publishers were late to really grasp the impact of ebooks on their business model, and the financial crash and slow recovery led to the demise of Borders Books (and with it, 10% of the book market) plus consumers who were not making as many discretionary purchases. Small publishers latched on to the opportunities presented by ebooks and much-improved print-on-demand (POD) technology, as well as the online book marketplace, and started to create specialty niches. And that same book/POD technology enabled individual authors to take their books direct to consumers.

All of a sudden, the menu of publishing options for authors went from ‘take it or leave it’ to ‘a la carte’.

And as far as I’m concerned, the best answer is, “I’ll take some of everything, please.”  I’m published by Orbit Books, a division of Hachette, one of the “Big 5” New York publishers. I’m also published by Solaris Books, a division of Rebellion Publishing, a large medium-sized publisher in the UK. I work with nearly a dozen small presses for anthologies, and my husband/co-author Larry N. Martin and I independently bring out four different series of short stories/novellas with at least one new adventure every month. Welcome to the brave new world of publishing.

Traditional publishing still has definite advantages. They’re the most likely to pay an advance, maybe even a sizeable advance (although advances across the board are down from what they once averaged). That’s a big deal when you’re trying to make a living writing, or even just counting on your writing as a second income (or to pay some monthly bills, college tuition, or car repairs). 

Traditional publishing is still the best route to get your books into the remaining big bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo and Waterstones. It’s your best shot at making the New York Times list and other major rankings. And most traditional publishers offer some real benefits in terms of handling cover design, editing, and promotion. Not only that, but big publishers can put more marketing oomph behind a book than small publishers or individuals can afford. That includes deals with bookstores for up-front placement, end caps, window spots, in-store posters, etc.

Small publishers also present advantages. Savvy small publishers can serve reader niches that may not be large enough to be profitable for a big publisher, but that can do very nicely for a smaller house. That’s one reason very targeted, themed anthologies have recently seen a small press resurgence and done very well.  Small presses may also make great homes for books that might not hit a mass audience but appeal to a smaller, under-served readership with sufficient numbers to turn a profit. Thanks to both ebook and POD, small presses can put out books of equal quality to big houses. However, small publishers are unlikely to get orders from bookstores (except perhaps on the ‘local interest’ or ‘local authors’ shelf). While customers can special order, you lose the impulse purchases of someone who sees the book in the store and decides to grab it. That means you’re going to need to do more marketing and probably more hand-selling at conventions, libraries, etc. to move a lot of copies of your books.

Self-publishing has come a long way thanks to better technology that makes it easier to produce professional-quality ebooks or printed books, online bookselling, and social media. Those three factors revolutionized the production, distribution and marketing of books and arguably democratized the process of publishing more than anything since the Gutenberg press.  Self-publishing makes a great addition for authors who already work with large or small publishers to bring out reverted writes books or stories, to publish new stories in a discontinued series, or to provide additional stories to flesh out an active book series. For authors who aren’t working with a publisher, self-publishing can present a way to build a following and accumulate a sales record to attract the attention of a larger publisher, or to provide an income.

Personally, I think that authors in the future will try to keep a mix of all three publishing approaches, moving back and forth as contracts come and go. While publishing is more volatile than it might have been ten years ago, the good news is we also have more options than ever before. Go for it!

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:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here Launches Dec. 29

Trick Or Treat from my friend John Hartness’s Bubba The Monster Hunter Excerpt from Hall&Goats

Treats Not Tricks! An excerpt from my friend Michael Ventrella’s novel Bloodsuckers

More Trick Or Treat goodies!  Double-Dragon Publishing Sampler #4

About the Author

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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Moon Over Springfield

I'm proud to be part of Broad Universe, a professional organization for women who write speculative fiction. I'm also excited to be participating in the Broad Universe Full Moon Blog Tour (with prizes! See the rafflecopter at the end). I hope you enjoy my side story for Jessica Roark, one of the characters from Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel and the upcoming sequel Change of Life:  Another Menopausal Superhero Novel. 

Moon Over Springfield

Jessica Roark stood on top of Springfield Elementary's roof, staring out at the playground on the hill. A full moon seemed to rest between the jungle gym and the swing set. Its white light brightened the entire grounds, throwing eerie shadows on the blacktop where the kids played kickball during recess.

Her son Frankie had suggested the school as a place to practice. "If you go up at night, Mama, there's no one there. It's high but not too high, in case you fall." He was right. Jessica had parked on the other side of the bus lot, along a side street that was very crowded during drop off and pick up time, but completely deserted at nine o'clock on a school night. The school itself was set back from the road and nearly surrounded by tree line. Even if someone did drive by, chances were low that they would spot her.

It was the perfect place to practice flying without getting caught.

She'd walked up to the school and climbed the access ladder, after walking around to make sure there weren't any unexpected security cameras. Finding none, she pulled her hood up around her ears to hide her blonde hair and shadow her face, checked to make sure that the airpack was in place and secure on her back, then removed the ankle weights she wore to make sure that she stayed on the ground.

Ever since Dr. Liu's tea had changed her relationship with gravity, Jessica had been afraid that she might just float up one day and keep going, drifting higher and higher until she ended up too high to breathe. While she had the ability to make her body lighter than air, it didn't come with momentum or force of movement beyond what she could muster by jumping or leaping. More than once, she had been stuck, floating aimlessly, unable to reach anything to pull herself back to earth or use for leverage to continue her trajectory. It was terrifying.

But now that she had the airpack and had been working with a trainer at the Department, she was anxious to see what she could do out here in the open. With the airpack, she had support. If she ran out of momentum, she could click a button and get a little push in the direction she needed. She was getting better at timing it, knowing when her natural momentum would run out and clicking the button in time to keep her flight steady.

The school had a flat roof littered with vents, aerials, dishes, wires, and other devices that kept the building and the machines inside it running. It was surrounded by a foot-high ledge, making it effectively a box. There were a good dozen playground balls, several frisbees, and other recess detritus trapped up there out of reach of the staff and children. No wonder the teachers were always asking for more playground equipment!

Smiling to herself, Jessica gathered several of the toys in her arms and stepped up onto the ledge. Making sure the controls for the airpack were in place in their straps around her wrists, she crouched and sprang out into the air.

The moment of leaping was always a thrill. As she moved through the air, continuing not to fall, she whooped with laughter. Now that she was no longer afraid, she never felt as free as she did when she flew. Jessica rolled in a tight log roll, enjoying the whip of wind around her body as she hurtled towards the hillside below. As her momentum began to slow, she steadied herself, and somersaulted to the sandbox, burping to release the gasses that kept her aloft. It was a smooth landing and she congratulated herself for her dexterity. She arranged the toys she had brought down with her into an arc, imagining the teachers and students finding the horde at recess the next day. Only her son would know what miracle had brought the return of all their lost playthings.

Next was the harder part, moving from low to high. When she'd been a gymnast, she had loved using the springboard to fling her small body high into the air. But, springboards were unlikely to be lying around on the missions she ran with the Department. She'd have to learn to find her upward momentum without one. Like her trainer said, she had to learn to use whatever the environment provided, just like Jackie Chan.

Standing with her hands on her hips, Jessica examined the playground again. There was a simple high bar for the kids to play on. Perfect! she thought and ran over to it. With a practiced set of motions she grasped the bar and pulled herself into a crouching knee hang. Tucking her stomach muscles, she swung around the bar, spinning once, twice, three times, then letting go just as her body came over the top.

With a quick burst of air from the airpack to support her flight, she burst into the night sky, spreading her arms wide with joy of it. Concentrating, she directed her body back towards the school building, using the airpack once more to push her a few inches higher so her hands could reach the edge of the rooftop. At the last second, she fumbled, hanging awkwardly for a moment, unable to fall or climb. There was a moment of panic, and then she pulled in a deep breath and let go, waiting while her body floated up another foot or two, then burping loudly to drop to the surface of the roof again. Clumsy. 

She spent the next hour carrying the toys from the roof to the playground and working her way back up. After four more trips, she was exhausted and exultant, thrilled with her progress. For her last flight, she aimed herself at the moon, then paused in mid-air when the wide, white orb filled the sky behind her. She pulled out her camera and snapped a selfie to send to Walter. "Moon Over Springfield" she titled it, sending it. She couldn't wait to show him what she'd learned.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I'm Too Popular for my own Good
Goodness gracious, folks. Give a girl a bit of space! I know I'm fabulous company, witty, fun and energetic, but I can't come to every party. Sometimes, I need to stay home. I have to write!

I'm just being silly, of course.

My life and career certainly don't merit paparazzi level interest out there. But life has seemed to take an uptick on the social front here lately. I get tired just looking at my calendar. In fact, I just did something my younger self would be shocked to see: I cancelled a social engagement! Just looking at my weekend made me want to burst into tears, and that's not a recipe for fun.

I know, first world problems. I'm grateful to have them.

As we near the end of another calendar year, I'm struggling to keep my balance. There's the day job (teaching middle school), the children, the husband, the dog, the rest of my family, the books I want to read, the books I want to write, critique group, cons, promotion, blogging, exercise, doctor's appointments, house upkeep, GAH!

Today was a rough one at work, too. Lots of kids lashing out about their own issues and me catching the brunt. It can make a girl feel off kilter.

So, here's to breathing deep the fall air and long walks that clear the brain and still the frabjous heart. May we all find the peaceful center of our too-too-busy days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Guest Post: I Left My Brains in San Francisco

It's my pleasure to host Karina Fabian, Author and fellow "Broad" from Broad Universe, and Becky Parker, narrator, the women behind the new audiobook release of I Left My Brains in San Francisco. I've asked them to talk about what "the fun part" of this project was for them. -SB

Want a chance at a free copy of the audio book?  click here. You can get the first three chapters for free, and a chance at winning the whole thing. You can get to the audio book itself here.

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

The Fun Part, according to the author, Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian, Author
I have so much fun with writing any Neeta Lyffe book. The humor is particularly cathartic because I can take much of the stupidity I see in everyday life (especially on Facebook) and take it to ridiculous extremes. It saves me from going nuclear on social media and is far more entertaining as well. 

For I Left My Brains in San Francisco, however, I think the best part was the Give Back Memorial Gardens and Fish Preserve. This combination artificial reef and cemetery allowed people (with enough money, of course) to “give back” to the earth by letting their dead bodies be dumped at sea to become fish food. Of course, it’s wasn’t just, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here to…” SPLASH! They were put on a beautifully decorated raft, set out to float where the birds got first choice, then scuba divers escort the body to its final resting place, a reef made of sunken artifacts of different religions. (Not that the religions of the world were too keen on it. The Catholic section has a broken Popemobile. But the Sacred Materialists have a yacht.)

Give Back is central to the story, so I got to incorporate a lot of its history and motive – and ulterior motive – into the story. Scuba divers give us a look at it from below sea level, and of course there are soggy zombies!

You may find the Give Back Memorial Gardens and Fish Preserve funny or sick or just a little weird. Any reaction is fine by me. It’s one of the many aspects that makes the whole book a fun ride of social satire, zombie slapstick, and high and low humor, with a more serious story line tying it all. It’s a great book to listen to, thanks to the narration and sound stylings of Becky Parker.

Karina Fabian is an award-winning fantasy, science fiction author writes comedic horror that will make you die laughing and come back for more. Check out her latest at

The Fun Part, according to the narrator, Becky Parker

Becky Parker, narrator
I have a LOT of fun narrating and producing the Neeta Lyffe books because they are so well written, so hilarious, and so conducive to including sound effects. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator was the first book I’ve ever narrated that caused me to have to do re-takes on the recording because I couldn’t stop laughing – it was so funny! When I mix in a sound effect to one of these books, it’s like joining in the game, like playing with a friend. I love collaborating with Karina in this way.

Creating the soundscapte for ILMBISF was the most challenging and fun I've done to date. The highlight for me was the creation of a song that is part of a plot point - that really took a lot of time, energy, creativity and work to build - but such fun!

Becky Parker Geist owns Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally with exceptional voiceover for audiobooks, advertising & animation. She loves creating audiobooks with sound effects! Married with 3 adult daughters, Becky lives in San Francisco and New York, working Off Broadway regularly.

Link to the music video:

Find Karina at:




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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#IWSG: The Joy of the New vs. Progress

Until a couple of years ago, I was a beginner of a writer. I don't mean by this that I've become some kind of expert. Not at all. What I mean is that I used to write only beginnings.

What I have become is a finisher. I no longer write the first fifteen pages of something, then let myself get distracted by something shiny and abandon that project for a new one. 

And that's good! Because I'm finishing things, I'm able to submit them, and some of them are getting published and I might get to be a "real" writer full-time-all-the-time someday.

Neil Gaiman-I have this picture as my desktop background

But there are trade offs. Here lately, joy has been one of the trade-offs. 

If I want to "cash in" (metaphorically or literally) on what success I've already had, then I need to continue to produce work of that sort, even if my heart or brain or soul wherever the words come from wants something else right now. I can be very disciplined and I have been, for months now. That's good--I'll have work in a few anthologies in the next few months and a new book in April. You can't argue with results. 

There's a joy in a new idea, though. In working with new characters, new worlds, new premises, new settings. When I feel like I've been in revisions and editing too too long, I get bogged down. I worry about burning out. I need a little of that "open to anything" juice to get my blood pumping again. 

Snoopy understands joy.

So, that's what I'm trying to balance: progress on the current WIPs, with enough "play" time to keep my love and joy in the words. All this on the one or two hours I can steal for writing around the day job and family life. 

I especially love prompt writing for this. Prompts seem to be everywhere right now, as the NaNoWriMo machine starts chugging its engines. I've had invitations to work on several different kinds of flash fiction prompts here lately. 

I think I may have found the one that will work for me right now though--it's a ten minute prompt. You get a sentence starter, and you're only supposed to write on it for ten minutes. Then stop. Just dip your toes in. Start the new thing, but don't let it take over. 

I've only done a couple and I already love it. I'm getting that charge I get out of something new, but still leaving myself time and energy to make progress on the work that might get me paid. 

What works for you? How do you balance finishing things with keeping the joy?

This posting is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To check out other posts by writers in a variety of places in their careers, check out the participant list. This group is one of the most open and supportive groups of people I have ever been associated with. If you write, you should check them out!