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Diversity at SFF Conventions: What’s the Point?

A regular offering at most SFF conventions, these days, are panels discussing Diversity–amongst fandom, amongst convention staff, in movies, in books, you name it, there’s an angle for it. Whether we’re discussing handicap, race, or gender, there’s a panel about bringing more of “that” into some aspect of SFF.

There’s been a lot of push back about the trend. Some very nasty things have been said, and folks on both sides of the aisle have been threatened and harassed. A lot of misinformation is going around, a lot of “my friend says this so it must be true”, a lot of admirable but misdirected loyalty leading to exaggerated fights both on and offline.

I’m not in the center here; I’m a white middle class cis-female with no handicaps or illnesses beyond chronic depression and a tendency to get bronchitis in the winter. I’m not the one to talk in this arena. For a more detailed explanation of why I believe that, please check out The Brutal Truth Every White Feminist Needs To Hear“, “I Don’t Discuss Racism With White People“, and “Aph’s Guide To … Moving Over“.

I’m far more interested in finding out what the folks actually affected by this debate have to say. So I started asking around, wanting to dig deeper than the 45 minute “-Ism 101” stuff that is all convention panels can reasonably hope to cover. And I came out with some surprising answers.


I’m still taking answers, so if you want in on this series of posts, please do contact me (lioness at thescribblinglion dot com) and I’ll send you the starter questions. I already have queries out to several other folks, but have not yet received their answers.


The goal here is to provoke discussion, not to push proclamations of what must be done. I’m completely fascinated by the range of answers. I’ve chosen to change the names of all participants, in part to allow them to speak freely and in part to avoid having a reader’s personal knowledge of the speaker influence their responses to the answers provided. It’s hard to call a good friend out on their bullshit, after all, and a few of the responses here will undoubtedly provoke that reaction–again, on both sides of the aisle.

I have my opinions. I’m not afraid to voice them. But this series isn’t about me: it’s about the folks who are actually in the middle of what we’re arguing about. So out of respect, I’ll be keeping my mouth shut as much as possible, and simply encouraging readers to talk it all out. I chose The Scribbling Lion as a platform for these interviews in part for that reason, and in part because TSL aims to be about fandom, conventions, and community.

BE AWARE: I do moderate first-time comments; after that, your comments will go live without moderation. If that gets abused, I’ll put everything under moderation for the duration. IF YOU HAVE ANY TROUBLE submitting your comments due to unexpected blacklisting or other server issues on my end, please contact me directly and I’ll do my best to resolve the problem.

ALSO BE AWARE: I allow open discussion from all angles, but NO personal attacks. You’re welcome to say “I completely disagree and this is why” — you may NOT say “you’re an idiot and I hope you don’t breed”. I will not tolerate insults or mudslinging. Stay on topic and don’t get personal. This can be harder than it sounds. I’ll give out a couple of warnings for near-misses.

Read the first installment of the Diversity Discussion here.


Please read the entire interview page before you look at this next link: if you want to know how each person identifies themselves as far as race/gender/orientation, I have a key here.


 

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Moonlight, Monsters and Mayhem: Gail Z. Martin

Today, I’m honored to turn this space over to award-winning author, damn good writer, promoter, and friend Gail Z Martin, for some yattering about her favorite holiday and what trouble she has bubbling away lately!

Days of the DeadI love Fall. It’s cooler and cozy, perfect for curling up with a hot cup of tea or coffee and a good book. And it’s the time of the year for my second-favorite holiday—Halloween!

What’s not to love? It’s also the season for All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, and Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

This year, Trick or Treat season has a LOT more treats in store with THREE big events all going on at the same time!

First off, there’s my annual Days of the Dead blog tour, which is bigger and better than ever—so big it has its own blog post just to tell you all about the giveaways, 40 international blog partners and big surprises. There’s something for everyone plus reveals of the covers for Vendetta, the new Deadly Curiosities novel; No Reprieve, the new Blaine McFadden short story: Spook House, the new Deadly Curiosities short story with a Halloween theme; Arctic Prison, the first in a new series of Blaine McFadden novellas set in the Ascendant Kingdoms world and more! You won’t want to miss a thing—including a TON of links to excerpts from my books/stories/anthologies and a SLEW of my author friends! Go to www.AscendantKingdoms.com to get the details!

Then there’s the Full Moon Blog Tour, where I’m one of 25 bloggers with October-fantastic musings and a NEW set of giveaways. All of the authors are members of Broad Universe, which promotes women writing speculative fiction. Of course, the blog tour and three big book giveaways are open to everyone—you don’t have to be a member or female to enjoy or win! Details here.

And there’s even MORE! I’m one of 11 bestselling authors who are offering you a chance to get The Swaggiest Swag for free! All you have to do is send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (ok, it’ll cost you a stamp and an envelope) to get cool bookmarks, postcards, book swag and neat-o stuff from folks like Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Laura Anne Gilman, Darynda Jones, Christina Henry, Stuart Jaffe, John Hartness—and me! You can find out more about it here, but hurry—this Swaggy offer turns into a pumpkin and goes away on 11/1.

DeadlyCuriositiesSo stay tuned to my Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, the AscendantKingdoms.com web site, my DisquietingVisions.com blog. Best of all, join my Chronicles newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of the October-awesomeness because I’ll be posting new stuff throughout the tour!

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!

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTATrick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta, set in my Deadly Curiosities world here.

(Vendetta Officially Launches Dec. 29)

More Treats!

Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities!

Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood!

Treats Not Tricks!

Here’s an excerpt from Unsung Nellie Bly

More Halloween goodies!

An excerpt from Pony Express

Halloween loot! Read an excerpt from Wicked Dreams, another one of my Deadly Curiosities stories!


Gail Z Martin

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.

I&B final coverGail 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.


ABOUT BROAD UNIVERSE

Broad Universe is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

Click on the graphic at left to find out more about the Full Moon Blog Tour, or click here to find out about Broad Universe itself.

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Interview With Mikey Mason

MarsCon of Williamsburg, VAAt MarsCon 2015, I found myself in a bar with Mikey Mason. I took a chance and asked him if he’d be willing to do an interview with The Scribbling Lion. Since he was tired from a weekend of rocking out some incredible concerts, and had already been drinking for some time before I asked, I figured more than likely he’d forget all about it by morning. Apparently he managed to hang on to my business card, though, because he contacted me two days later and said So how do you want to do this interview?

Email, was the answer we arrived at, which was fine by me; I handle most interviews that way. It works out best for everyone, gives the busy folks time to pick at it in their spare moments and think through their answers. So I sent him off a list of questions to choose from and moved on, figuring I’d hear back in a week or two, if at all.

Three hours later, he returned this very thoughtful, forthright, and well-written answer to all of the questions.

I’m still in shock.

Read and enjoy!

AND NOW, GENTLEFOLK, MIKEYYYYYY MASON!!Mikey Mason Live

Which came first for you, in a practical sense: singing/playing/podcasting/writing music? How about in a professional sense–which one did you begin promoting first, and why?

I began singing at an early age—very early. Singing with the radio in the car, singing with music class at school. I remember being told by the music teacher in 2ndgrade that I had a nice voice. She probably said that to all of us, but it stuck with me and made me sing louder and stronger. In fourth grade, my teach (Mr. Loveless) asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered, “Paul Stanley.” (From KISS.)

Mr. Loveless laughed and said, “That job’s probably taken, already…”

In middle school I decided I wanted to sing with a band, and by high school was doing so. Music was always present in my life.

Professionally, I had reached a crossroads of sorts where I didn’t know what to do in a creative sense to find fulfillment. There were a lot of options: I draw, paint, write, sing, produce video, whatever. I may not be the best at any of it, but I find it all fun and fascinating. I knew I needed something specific to pursue around the year 2000.

At that time my wife (then girlfriend) and I narrowed it down to either doing “serious” music or doing musical comedy. She voted serious music; I went to comedy.

It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her instincts or anything. It’s very much the same feeling you get when you make a decision by flipping a coin. As soon as the coin is in the air, you know which side you want to land facing up.

By 2010, I was a full-time standup comedian (using my guitar, of course). All it took was me focusing only on that instead of everything all at once, and maintaining that focus over time.

Among your currently produced works, both musical and podcasts, what are your two personal favorites and why?

As a whole, I’d say my favorite podcast to do is Beer Powered Time Machine.

BeerPoweredTimeMachine

It’s billed as “a celebration of good beer, storytelling, and personal histories,” but that’s really just a dressed up way of saying I like to drink beer and laugh with my friends. It’s relaunching this year after being on hiatus for about a year.

As far as albums go, I think my favorite so far is probably Storm Coming, the EP of songs inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I threw my normal rulebook out the window, played with styles and recording techniques, and purposefully tried to not make it funny. I just got to write music and record it.

I also absolutely love the live recording from MarsCon (Live from Mars). There’s something incredible about hearing the audience sing along with me, and doubly so about being able to stop singing during a song while the audience keeps going…

That said, I have favorite songs from every album… I like the stuff I write and record. Some say it’s narcissistic or egocentric. Some musicians say, “I can’t listen to my own music.” I say musicians should be writing and playing stuff you enjoy. If you can’t listen to the music you write and perform, why should I?MMasonStormComing

When you decided to begin promoting your creative efforts at a professional level, what prompted that decision?

I was working full time as a middle manager at a residential youth placement facility, focusing on behavior management of at-risk youth, and had been doing comedy on karaoke nights at local bars. I had funny songs that I recorded the backing tracks to CD, and the KJs (karaoke jockeys) would let me do one of my funny originals instead of singing a song from their books. One of the bars actually had a comedy night that was booked by a national booking agency, and one of the bar owners there really liked me and saw the effect my funny songs had at their karaoke night. I had done an audition at that bar to try and play at their comedy night. I played about 20 minutes of funny songs to 6 or 8 people who weren’t paying attention (one of them being the other bar owner) and was pretty sure they weren’t interested.

AftMMasonbwHeadshot2er work one day, I got a call from the bar owner who I thought wasn’t paying attention, wanting me to fill in as an opening act. I did 26 minutes that night, received an incredible response from the crowd, and was asked back. I also got a copy of my performance on CD and sent it to a booker for a comedy club nearby(ish.) They called me after a few weeks and booked me to play at the club with a national headliner for later in the year.

When I performed that week, my first performance of the week was literally shot as part of a regional NBC TV show, so my first appearance on a real comedy club stage landed me on NBC.

I spent most of what I’d made that week on getting a copy of the performance on DVD, and used that to book myself with new national booking agencies. Within a few years, I was receiving enough work to drop to part time at my day job. In less than two more years, I was able to quit the day job altogether.

When you began promoting yourself as a professional, what did you expect would happen and how has it measured up against what has actually happened?

I had delusions that things would move much quicker than they did, that opportunities would present themselves, and that I’d be much more successful than I am in much less time than I’ve been doing this. What I’ve realized is that opportunities are often hidden behind tons of hard work. It’s usually necessary to put in the work first, to sacrifice, to take risks. In these days of instant fame via reality TV and YouTube, that’s not always true, but it’s a good rule to work by.

MMasonYouTubeHoundsI’ve slept in my car at rest areas and in tents and in the Four Seasons hotel in LA. I’ve played on riverboats and in movie theaters and in bowling alleys (literally on the lanes—more than once!) I’ve played resort casinos and country clubs and dive bars. I’ve played biker rallies and political fundraisers, pizza joints and birthday parties. I’ve played theaters and colleges and plenty of comedy clubs. I’ve even performed in an alley. I’ve had great shows that made be feel like a rock star and crap shows that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and meh shows that just felt like I was going through the paces. And none of it—ever—was what I thought it was going to be.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten? What are your long term goals as a creative professional?

MMasonBarbarianJetpackIt’s so hard to have a specific vision for me. I want to make a living doing whatever I want to do. I want to make movies, make art, make music, write, perform, make and play games, do theatre. All at once. Somehow, it doesn’t seem as unreasonable a goal or as unattainable a job description anymore. I think it can be done. I think I can do it. I’m sure as hell gonna try.

What advice do you have for “newbies” taking their first professional steps in the fields of music performance/music creation/podcasting?

Learn by doing. Get with the cult of done. Get things done. Do something. Then do something else. Repeat forever. Never stop. Swim through your creativity like a shark: it has to be moving in order to breathe. Keep moving. Don’t give up. Don’t stop.

If something is beyond your resources right now, shelve it for later. Don’t forget about it, but keep moving forward until your resources allow you to do that thing, too. Make your own opportunities. Volunteering helps, but once you’re good enough to get paid: get paid. Research is fine, but reading about doing something is never as effective as doing something.

If you’re not failing you’re not growing.

Measure your progress and success against yourself, and while you’re at it, love yourself. Nobody else will ever have a better reason to love you than you. Be nice to people. All of them. Even the jerks. You never know how it can pay off, but when it does, the dividends are better than money. (Not to your landlord, though.) Love what you do, like what you like, and don’t put others down for doing the same.

Stop reading this and go make something. Right now.

MMasonDangerousGiftsMMasonNerdRageMMasonComedyRockStar

YES INDEED. GO CREATE MORE FANTASTIC STUFF. I’M TALKING TO YOU. AND YOU. AND YOU…. why are you still here…?

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More About Martin!

Gail Z. not George RR. (Big difference. For one thing, Playboy hasn’t yet tried to make a sexy Halloween cosplay of her, but they sure have gone there with George….)

Now that you’ve wiped the coffee from your screen and cursed us in six languages for an image you’ll never, ever be able to get out of your mind, let’s move on to talking about our Martin.

Readers may recall that Gail ran a post here on TSL recently, talking about her upcoming and current projects; well, if that caught your interest in the teensiest bit, THERE’S MORE… she’s actually going all out on a long blog tour, trekking with digital backpack and data shoes along the ether to bring more aspects of her creativity to as many sites as possible. Kinda like a cheerful writer’s version of Santa, in a way…

Anyway. Besides her post here, she also has delivered, for your reading and listening enjoyment:

The Well-Mannered Woman’s Guide To Kicking Ass Whilst Wearing a Corset

A detailed post on Goodreads about what’s coming up in the months ahead (and the freebies, mustn’t forget to read about the freebies!)

(John G. Hartness podcast) Literate Liquors: What To Drink While Reading Deadly Curiosities

Older posts that are just as worth reading:

2013 Days Of The Dead Blog Tour:

Looking Over The Brink

The Hardest Part

Other great articles:

My So-Called Writing Life

Writing the Ensemble Cast

Please note: For the absolute freshest links, please check Gail’s Facebook and Twitter feeds; she posts the latest and greatest blog stops daily. Enjoy!

 

 

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Cursed Trinkets and Haunted Heirlooms

There’s a new holiday (only in the sense that we hadn’t previously made note of it–this one’s been around for quite a while)  to talk about here at TSL. It’s called The Days of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos–a Mexican holiday, primarily, but other cultures celebrate it as well. And no, it’s not about partying with zombies; it’s a time to gather with our friends and family to appreciate one another’s love and support, and to honor those who are no longer with us. That’s a sentiment that we can certainly get behind!

Gail Z. Martin runs a blog tour every year during this time, with lots of free fiction giveaways, interviews, computer wallpaper, contests, and more. We’re honored to have her here today, talking about her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series–which is absolutely excellent and really ought to be picked up by anyone into spooky, fast-paced UF.

Read on! Here’s a pumpkin-spice latte hot chocolate with no seasoning in it at all, and a plate of your favorite cookies. Pull up a big ol’ overstuffed chair and prepare to be seduced into a new series.

 

Deadly Curiosities, Gail Z MartinCursed Trinkets and Haunted Heirlooms

 

By Gail Z. Martin

 

In my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series of books, Trifles and Folly is an antique and curio shop in Charleston, SC that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands.

Cassidy Kincaide is the proprietor, and she’s a psychometric, someone who can read the history of objects by touch. Together with her assistant, Teag Logan, who has his own magic and her business partner, Sorren, who is a nearly six hundred year-old vampire, Cassidy and her team intervene when it turns out that there’s a touch of evil or a hint of haunt lingering over old trinkets or heirlooms.

I grew up going to antique stores, used book stores, flea markets, and museums as a kid. When I was amusing myself at an antique store or flea market, I would wander the aisles looking at the old and unusual items. I loved finding out what strange pieces actually did, and when certain objects caught my eye, I made up stories about where they might have come from and who might have owned them.

Sometimes, old objects seem to already know they should belong to us. If you’ve ever walked into a store like that and had a particular item just seem to call your name, you know the feeling. And if you’ve ever put a family heirloom into a drawer or tucked it away in storage because it made you feel uncomfortable, or put a piece in a prominent place because seeing it made you happy, you know the kind of connection antiques can make with your soul. Those experiences all shaped my Deadly Curiosities world, and influenced me as I created the magic and danger behind that world.

The first book in the Deadly Curiosities series came out in June of 2014, and I’m working on the second book for a Fall 2015 debut. But the books actually happened because of a short story, Buttons, that I wrote for Solaris Books award-winning anthology, Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane. The editor liked the story so much he asked if I could do a series in that world. And while Buttons is set in modern-day Charleston, as is the Deadly Curiosities series of books, that story actually grew out of a fictional universe I had invented for prior anthologies, with stories set in the 1500s and 1700s.

Fast forward a little, and I’m still writing Deadly Curiosities short stories for anthologies. Retribution appears in Athena’s Daughters from Silence in the Library Publishing, and The Restless Dead is included in Realms of Imagination from Dark Oak Press. Buttons has been reprinted in three different anthologies. There’s also a free Deadly Curiosities novella, The Final Death, on Wattpad.

Leona sez: Check out the post Gail wrote on Goodreads about switching from short to long formats!

Last year, I started writing stand-alone Deadly Curiosities stories and bringing them out on Kindle/Kobo/Nook. These stories include some set in prior centuries, but most tell about new exploits of Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren, falling before, between, and around the books in the series. Each story runs about thirty pages, so there’s plenty of room for magic, thrills and chills. You don’t have to read the stories to enjoy the books, but if you do choose to read the short stories, you’ll learn a lot more about the characters and my slightly altered version of Charleston.

Right now, there are over a dozen Deadly Curiosities short stories on ebook, with more to come. I’m having a lot of fun imagining new adventures. Every time I go into a museum or flea market, I spot new objects that would be perfect as the centerpiece of a new story.

So the next time you stop at a garage sale or walk through an antiques market, imagine that you can read the history of those pieces by touching them. If you could do that, would you? What secrets might you discover? Something that might be better off left unlearned…

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 stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat:

Enjoy an excerpt from Bad Memories, one of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories here.

And a bonus excerpt from Among the Shoals Forever, another of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures here.

And a second bonus audio reading from my friend David B. Coe’s The Witch of Dedham here.


Gail Z. Martin can be found on Twitter (@GailZMartin), Facebook (/WinterKingdoms),Google+ (+GailZMartinAuthor), YouTube (/ghostwriter45), and even has a newsletter (go to her site to sign up).