GUEST POST: Horror, Suspense, and Urban Fantasy by Gail Z. Martin

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I’m so privileged to have the talented Gail Z. Martin today talking about horror, suspense, and urban fantasy as part of her Days of the Dead Blog Tour!


How do you decide whether a book is horror, suspense or urban fantasy? Does it matter? Do you care?

I categorize ‘suspense’ as something like The Woman in Black or Rose Red—creepy and atmospheric with a lot of implied threat and monsters in the shadows so that your imagination does the rest. Personally, I favor these over the blood and gore fest kind of movie. I like the way the tension builds.

In many ways, I think the suspense movie is the darker cousin of a mystery. You think something is wrong, but you don’t have the information to prove it, so no one believes you, not even you—until it’s too late. Usually, there’s an old scandal or injustice awaiting long-delayed vengeance. Often, the protagonist is drawn in against his/her will but not actually kidnapped or taken by force. The main character doubts intuitive warnings, and by the time he/she is convinced that something bad and spooky is going on, it’s too late. Suspense specializes in the movement you almost see out of the corner of your eye, the shadows that are a little too dark, the chair that rocks by itself. The individual images aren’t horrific in and of themselves, but they play on your nerves, building a sense of impending doom from an enemy you still haven’t seen so you don’t know how to fight.

I’ve heard it said that horror creates a sense of helplessness which is key to the impact. The monsters are bigger, the blood flows in rivers, and especially toward the ‘goreno’ end of the genre, too much is never enough. Horror plays on revulsion as much as helplessness, with a dependence on the demonization of physical deformity that may cue primal reactions but doesn’t live up to our enlightened best.

Horror is also often heavily moralistic. Teenage sex leads to dismemberment. Not reading your map carefully leads to death by cannibal hillbilly. Not being where you belong results in really bad stuff. Teenage girls should never answer the phone when they’re alone in the house. In that sense, they are the inflated version of the warnings you probably got from your mother. Lock the doors. Don’t talk to strangers. Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged. Check your gas tank and tire pressure. Don’t be alone in dark places. Break the rules and bad things happen.

Some experts say that horror is one way we as a culture deal with DEADLY CURIOSITIESuncertainty. (I’ve never heard if it’s just Americans, or everyone. We might just be weird.) Supposedly there are studies that prove that when the economy is bad, monster and horror movies come back into vogue. Maybe it’s a way for us to project our real-world worries (that we can’t do anything about, thus making us feel helpless) onto the silver screen, where we still feel helpless but it’s okay because it’s just a movie. Gotta love catharsis.

And then there’s urban fantasy. To me, urban fantasy borrows a lot from suspense (as well as noir/detective) and adds in elements of horror. That can be played for laughs, as with Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shambles zombie detective, or played with British wit, like Simon R. Green’s Nightside, or played for straight horror, like the early Anita Blake books and some scenes in the Harry Dresden books. (One reviewer who read my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy complained it gave her nightmares!) Urban fantasy plays on our uneasiness about the big city (or our qualms about how well we really know our neighbors, even in a small town like Sookie Stackhouse’s Bon Temps).

Urban Fantasy gives us much worse explanations for the movement in the shadowed alley than a mere purse snatcher. The genre tells us that while we might be safe in the light, the night is still ruled by beings much older and hungrier than we are. The use of ancient mythological figures and monsters as well as beings like the Fey and vampires reminds us that humans are a young race and that we don’t know nearly as much as we like to think we know.

To me, I think the scariest thing that suspense, horror and urban fantasy provides is knocking our pride down a few pegs. We don’t know everything. We don’t have it all figured out. We aren’t really top of the food chain. Money, power and privilege isn’t worth a flying rat’s ass if you can’t outrun a zombie. Gated communities won’t keep out the walking dead. The things we put our trust in to save us can’t rescue us from the worst situations. Maybe now and then, we need a horror movie to remind us of that.

Pass the popcorn.

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: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

Treats not Tricks! Enjoy a super-scary excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Monstrosities http://bit.ly/1ZG0TMW

Trick Or Treat from my friend John Hartness’s Quincy Harker series Raising Hell Chp 1  http://bit.ly/1MEMFSQ

More Treats! Dragon’s Lure excerpt http://www.sidhenadaire.com/books/DLEmberling.pdf

Plenty of tricks! And excerpt from my Retribution Deadly Curiosities short story in the Athena’s Daughters anthology http://w.tt/1sipN0O

About the Author

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

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INTERVIEW: Tamsin Silver Talks About “Mark of the Necromancer”

CLICK ME for more!

CLICK ME for more!

Sooo… here’s the thing.  In the words of Raj Koothrapali, I’m a sucky sucky friend.  This post was supposed to be up on Tuesday, Sept. 1st before my buddy Tamsin Silver left for DragonCon.  But I’m late.  So y’all be super nice to her today as she joins us on The Belle to talk about her new book, Mark of the Necromancer.  And maybe, just maybe, she’ll give us a sneak peek of her new and exciting weird western, The Curse of Scáthach.

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Introduce yourself and tell us a little about why you’re visiting the blog today.

Sure! My name is Tamsin Silver and I’m an Urban Fantasy writer out of NYC who grew up in a farming town in Michigan on books like The Narnia Chronicles, Charlotte’s Web, Nancy Drew, and A Wrinkle in Time. I used to teach middle school & high school drama down south, I’ve run two successful theater companies (one here in NYC), and other than writing books (Windfire Series) I create and write for the web series, Skye of the Damned. However, today I’m here to talk about my newest book (and series), Mark of the Necromancer; A Sabrina Grayson Novel.

What inspires your stories? 

Character.

Every book I’ve ever written is because there was a character who had something to say. Be it Atlanta in my Windfire Series, Will McCarty in The Curse of Scáthach, or Sabrina in my new book, Mark of the Necromancer. Each story started with the idea of who that character was both on the outside and on the inside, how they’d change, grow, and make us care for them.

Funny story, I had a dream once about this female werewolf alpha. When I was in the shower she was still pestering me. As I walked to my room I said aloud to no one, “Fine then, what’s your name?” And I “heard” the name Denika. That book, Moon Over Manhattan, will hopefully be coming out next fall. She is my favorite heroine that I’ve ever written…so I’m excited to finally get that out to readers soon.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

My favorite character in Mark of the Necromancer, hands down, it’s Alex Price. Which is funny because he’s not the main protagonist.

I love flawed men who have a heart of gold and that’s Alex. He may not be your POV character in this story, but I think the core of who he is comes across on paper anyway, which is maybe why I adore him so. In fact, one of my beta readers and one of my editors are in love with him too, so I’m not alone. A new review that is about to come out had this to say about him:

“Alex is a fabulous male hero and romantic interest. He’s atypical, lacking those wooden alpha characteristics common in this genre. He’s dangerous, thoughtful, and intelligent with sex appeal to spare. He reminds me of Karina Halle’s (anti)hero Dex Foray from the Experiment in Terror series. He was a refreshing diversion for sure.”

But have no fear; Sabrina is my second favorite character (don’t tell her I said that!) and likely my second favorite heroine I’ve ever written. I love her sense of humor and how broken she is. She screws up, a lot, but she’s willing to keep trying anyway. That’s what makes her so real for me (and hopefully for others).

Mark of the Necromancer is full of creatures that go bump in the night.  If you could choose a paranormal creature to be, what would it be?  Or would you rather be the leather-clad beauty fighting them?

That depends…do the creatures have a soul? Can they be good or are they just evil no matter what? I would prefer to be whoever has a choice and toes the line between good and evil. That’s always more interesting. BUT…if I were to choose a creature, I’d want to be a vampire. I love the idea of living forever even if I have to sacrifice the sun. Being alive to see how history changes or repeats itself would be really interesting.

Tamsin, you’ve been writing for quite a while now.  What are some things that you’ve learned on this journey from aspiring writer to writer with multiple titles under your belt?

Oh man…that’s a really great question…okay. I started jotting stuff down and found I have a top ten…here they are:

  • Write as often as you can.
  • Get exercise.
  • Read in your genre and out of it.
  • Figure out where & when you do your best writing.
  • Join a writers group.
  • Set deadlines for yourself and meet them more often than not.
  • EDIT the crap out of your work and pay for someone to do so as well.
  • Find at least two fellow writers to be in your corner: A mentor & a writing pal. The first to help with professional questions and the second to be a sounding board and confidant…as well as meeting up to write with you (be it online or in person).
  • Understand that it all takes time. Don’t get frustrated at the learning curve or at yourself. Just push onward; learn and keep going. Each step forward in this business is really ten steps forward, so rejoice in that.

This last one I didn’t have to learn, but I want to include it…Your fellow writers are your teammates, not your competition. Support them. Cheer them on! Their successes are yours and vice versa. That green little monster of jealousy will want to rear its ugly head from time to time. Learn how to put that SOB in his place.

You’ve been through the self-publishing and traditional publishing routes.  Do you prefer one over the other?  What are some things to consider if you’re an author who is considering self-publishing?

*low whistle* Oooh…bringin’ out the big guns just past ½ way through…I see how you are. 😉

Okay…uh…hmm…well, hell…here’s the thing; this is my 6th book as a self-published author. As you know, the first two books of the Windfire Series used to be one book called, The Betrayal and it was to be the first in the Living Dead Girl saga. It was an adult book and it was published through a small press. It’s how I got my start, actually.

Thing is, as awesome as they were to me and hats off to all that they taught me, but I feel that I do better on my own. Running a theater company here in the city for six years, I learned how to do promo work. If you have no idea how to market yourself, no interest or patience for doing so (or learning how), then I really recommend you go through small press. Self publishing is a lot of work, if someone tells you its not, they’re selling you something (as the saying goes).

Just remember this; you split profits from book sales with who publishes you. If they are not going to push you as much as you will, don’t share your money with them. We make so little as it is, why split it if you’re willing to put in the extra time/effort? So you see, in the end, it’s a personal decision. Now, if you can sell that book to one of the big houses and they do right by you on that contract or you get an agent who is busting their behind (and believe in you/your work)…by all means, GO FOR THAT!

 But if it’s between self-publishing and small press, it comes down to how they treat you and how much effort they put behind your book. If you want to write and make few other decisions past editing, then there’s your answer. If you like to have a say in all things and don’t mind getting your hands dirty…well then…self-publishing could be good for you and your work. 

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

CLICK ME for more!

CLICK ME for more!

Other than Moon Over Manhattan (which I mentioned earlier) I’m writing a new novel based on a short story of mine called, The Curse of Scáthach. This tale takes place in 1878, during the Lincoln County War in Lincoln, NM. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Young Guns, know anything about Billy the Kid, or are a fan of the American Wild West, then you may know a bit about that event. Not many do, but it’s a fascinating time full of murder, mystery, greed, and mob-mentality…to name just a few things.In order to do this, I took a trip to Lincoln, NM, in July. I met with a historian there and we spent four days going to the important locations of battles and such, so that I could get a feel for what it’s like out there. I’m a city gal so I really felt that was necessary if I was to do the story justice. Both the short story, and the soon-to-be novel, are VERY much rooted in real history, with fantasy elements woven into the gaps. Basically, I’ll be creating an alternate reality, justifying actual historical events with a supernatural twist. I’ve spent the past six months studying the war (and will continue to do so) so that words that were said and events that took place will appear in the book. As will the all the real people who were a part of the battle back then, they too will be present and accounted for in the story. I’m very excited to begin work on this when I return home from Dragon*Con.If you’re a fan of Billy the Kid or of the Wild West…you can buy this online for only 99¢. There is also a page on Facebook dedicated to the novel version with pictures and historical facts. You can find by going to Facebook and looking up The Curse of Billy the Kid.

Mark of the Necromancer and the short, The Curse of the Scáthach is available right now!  Tell us where we can get it!! You can find links to all of my books and shorts, and see the first three episodes of the web series I wrote (Skye of the Damned), by visiting my website, www.tamsinsilver.com 

Thanks so much for being with us today, Tamsin!  If you’re one of those lucky ducks going to DragonCon this weekend, be sure to seek her out and get copies of all her stuff!  You won’t be sorry!  And speaking of books….

About Mark of the Necromancer

Sabrina Grayson is dead and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to her. As a child, Sabrina saw

ghosts, but with age and parental influence, she forgot all about them. But now she’s a Necromancer who can travel the Death Highway and walk the Earth. Determined to discover who is behind her murder, she’ll pair up with Alex Price, walk into Hell, and face off with Lucifer himself.

About The Curse of the Scathach

Will McCarty has returned to New Mexico for the first time since he “died” in 1881. While in town for a job, memories come flooding back and the murder of his boss, John Tunstall, still plagues him. The death of The Englishman ignited the Lincoln County War of 1878. This story of revenge and greed has been told many different ways, but Will knows the truth, and it’s time others did too.
Go back in time to when crooked politicians, mafia mentality, and dirty lawmen were the demons that ran the wild west, and walk alongside the reluctant hero who decided it was time their rein ended.

How to Sell Your Book by Way of a Great Cover, or Cover Lovin’ by David Blalock

TrilogyTourBadge

Once more I’ve decided to welcome another author over to the Belle to do my dirty work.  Today, author and cover art critic David Blalock has come over to talk about his Angelkiller Triad and how a really great cover artist can give your book the boost it needs to excel.  Because, as we all know, your book might be the best thing ever, but no one will know if they don’t pick it up.  And if you’re like me, you often choose a book initially because it has an interesting cover.  Seventh Star Press is well known throughout the industry for having the very best in cover and interior artwork and David’s trilogy is a perfect example.  But I’ll let him tell you…

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What can I say about Matt Perry’s artwork that can do it justice? His covers have drawn some significant attention to the series, attention it probably would not otherwise have had. As an artist, Matt has the ability to take an idea and imbue his own personal interpretation into the image without losing the original theme. It is a tricky balancing act, one he has mastered admirably.

 

Click me to buy!

Click me to buy!

 

The cover of Angelkiller is a striking image, unlike anything I’ve seen. His use of atmospheric imagery on that cover gave it that disturbing, unreal feeling that conveys the essence of the Great Conflict. The books are about a war between entities more than human and that cover shows just enough humanity to connect with the reader while retaining that otherworldly quality. The interior images in Angelkiller faithfully reproduce the scenes from the text in an exciting and provocative manner. They more closely connect the reader to the text, inserting more humanity into the art while retaining just enough emotional impact.

 

 

CLICK ME to buy!

CLICK ME to buy!

 

For Traitor Angel, Matt reached into the idea of virtual reality crossing over into mundane reality by presenting the combat between good and evil, represented by the knight and the dragon, against a background of circuitry. As a lot of the book contained just this combat, it was again faithful to the ideas embodied in the text while making a broader statement about the story arc in general. The interior art continues this theme, reaching toward the humanity without letting us forget how different the virtual reality conflict can be.

 

 

CLICK ME to buy!

CLICK ME to buy!

 

Finally, in Doom Angel’s cover, Matt states the Great Conflict in an iconic image that sums up the series marvelously. The feedback about this art has been unanimously positive. Again, he took the road of impression instead of strict interpretation, resulting in a stunningly beautiful, yet slightly troubling, image. The Great Conflict could not have been better presented in a single piece of art. The interior artwork only reinforces and strengthens the conviction that what is happening has a deeper meaning than simply a war between human factions.

 

 

Having Matt Perry as my artist for the series was a struck of incredible luck. I am very fortunate to have such a talented and perceptive individual on my team. And Seventh Star Press has a gem of an artist in their employ.

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Now you all know that while I’m a romantic at heart, I really love a dark urban fantasy.  I’ve just started reading Angelkiller but I’m already in love.  Read this description.  I dare you not to be desperate to read it…

Why do bad things happen to good people? Simple. In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as The Army to rectify that.

Using every tool available, The Army has worked to liberate our world from The Enemy for thousands of years, slowly and painfully lifting Mankind out of the dark. On the front of the great Conflict are the Angelkillers, veterans of the
fight with centuries of experience.

Jonah Mason is an Angelkiller, and his cell is targeted as part of plot to unseat a very powerful Minion of The Enemy. Mason and his troop are drawn into a battle that stretches from real-time to virtual reality and back. The Conflict is about to expand into cyberspace, and if Mason is unable to stop it, The Enemy will have gained dominion over yet another realm.

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  Okay, kids.  That’s it for me today.  I’ve got a dragon by the fireplace waiting.  He seems pretty tame but he keeps shouting, “Bored!” and breathing fire. If I don’t act quickly, my house may burn down.  See ya, kids!