Friday, November 13, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 5 featuring TammyJo Eckhart

Episode 5 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast highlights the very talented writer TammyJo Eckhart. From a Ph.D in Ancient History to being the High Priestess of the Chocolate Cult, TammyJo is one of the more interesting individuals that you will meet in the small press world.

From her novels such as Servants of Destiny to her short story collections, TammyJo is well established as a published writer, and is on her way to great things in the literary world.

So go ahead and download or stream Episode 5 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast and find out all about TammyJo Eckhart! Leave a comment below!



Click here to listen to or download Episode 5 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast!

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or find the podcast on iTunes through this link: Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Friday, October 16, 2009

Heading to the Apex of the Small Press World- An Interveiw with Jason Sizemore




It is always exciting to see a small press success story unfolding before your eyes, as is the case with Lexington, Kentucky-based Apex Publications. Apex is a publisher of speculative fiction, and has worked with a wide range of very talented authors, editors, and artists over the course of its existence.

Apex recently took a large step forward in the area of distribution, and is on the verge of releasing several exciting new titles. One such new release is very imminent, an anthology whose release party is taking place in Lexington on October 24th.

In this SSP interview, we catch up with Jason Sizemore, founder and head-honcho of Apex Publications, to discuss the new distribution development, Apex itself, the new anthology, and the near future. Apex is definitely going to be making lots of waves in the publishing world very soon, and is a shining example of the quality that can come out of the small press world.

-Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog Site, October 17, 2009

SZ: For those that might not know the Apex story, when did you found it and what were your motivations/goals?

JS: The Apex story begins with one weird little man, who at the age of 31, looked around himself and asked "What the hell have I done with my life that anybody will care about?" Sort of an early mid-life crisis, you could say. I've been a software developer all my life doing work that seldom gives me pride.

I found that the creative side of my brain was calling.

I've been big into horror and science fiction since my college days and had had a few stories published in 'zines and online. I knew my way around the markets. One thing I noticed was how often they sprang to life and then died. I decided to see if I could start a 'zine that would last at least ten issues. We ended our print run at twelve issues, a minor success.


SZ: Tell us a little about the magazine, including subscription options.

The magazine is no longer in print. Sorry. You can always read the latest
content for free at http://www.apexbookcompany.com/apex-online.


SZ: As of October 2009, approximately how many books and magazines has Apex published?

JS: We've published 17 books. We did 12 issues of Apex Digest in print, moved to online and did 15 months online, then did POD for four months, and now we're back to online exclusively.

In other words, a lot!

SZ: You recently took a big step in terms of distribution of Apex
publications. What was that step and what will it mean for Apex?


We signed on with Pathway Book Service. Before, we were printed and 'distributed' by Lightning Source. I have nothing but the nicest things to say about Lightning Source. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that many bookstores won't even look at your titles because the wholesalers (like Baker & Taylor and Ingram) will list your book as POD. There's still a black cloud over POD. Uninformed booksellers (and library buyers) see the 'POD' by your book and assume 'amateurs.' Moving from LSI to PBS removes that onus.

Pathway broadens our reach, gives us more credibility, and is a big step toward Apex becoming a bigger player in the publishing field.

SZ:In your years of running Apex, what have been the hardest challenges of running a small press publishing company?

JS: The constant adulation by attractive, MFA of Literature college students.

That, and tiptoeing that fine line of making enough money to remain solvent and giving everyone else holding out their hand expecting their share their dues.

SZ: What do you like about the small press world in particular? Are there any things that small press companies like yours can take advantage of that perhaps larger presses cannot?

JS: As with any organization that is small and independent, you'll get a more business casual environment. There's a more intimate relationship between you and your roster of authors and artists, you and your customers, and you and the vendors. This makes the enormous amount of work feel less like a job and more like you're part of something that is positively affecting the lives of many people. Since I'm not a doctor or rich enough to buy my way into philanthropy, this is the closest I can come to it.


SZ: Let's turn our attention to the new anthology you are releasing, kicking off with your October 24th release party. What is the title and theme of the new anthology?

JS: The book is titled HARLAN COUNTY HORRORS and is edited by Mari Adkins. Harlan, KY, is a place with a lot of history, much of it reaching national attention. It's deep in the Appalachian forests of Kentucky, a rather spiritual place with a unique cultural and geographic background. Mari lived in Harlan for a number of years and she would regale me with these wild tales of ghosts and 'haints' and strange people she encountered during her time living there. We'd often joke that the place would make a great setting for a horror novel.

A few years later, I wanted to do a regional project, getting as many local authors and artists together as possible. Harlan immediately came to mind and I asked Mari if she'd be interested in doing an anthology centered around the region. Of course, she said 'yes.'

Though the book is full of frights and horror, we weren't out to vilify the region. After all, I'm from Big Creek, KY, which is damn close to Harlan and Mari has friend and relatives who live there. Our goal was to use the setting as a way to honor it's...uniqueness.


SZ: Tell us about a few of the writers included in it. Are all of them previously published, or do you have a few new faces?

All of them are previously published, but for some of them, this is only their second or third real publishing credit. My favorite part of doing Harlan County Horrors was that Mari included several writers near and dear to me. Robby Sparks is from Big Creek, as well. Earl Dean is a Lexington writer I've known for a long time and one of the true nice guys of the business. It's been a blast working with Mari on her first major book. As you can tell, I'm rather excited about Harlan County Horrors!


SZ: Where and when is the book release party?

JS: The book release party is Saturday, October 24th, from 2:00-4:00p.m. Over half the contributors, the editor, and the publisher (me!) will be in attendance. There will be a reading of two of the stories. Mari will be there to talk about Harlan weirdness. If you're a writer or a fan, this will be a great opportunity to meet and greet a number of talented locals.

**(Stephen's Note: Location is Morris Book Shop in Lexington KY, on Southland Drive)

SZ:Do you have any special information for people wanting to order the book if they cannot make the release party?

JS: The book should be available on Amazon, B&N.com, etc. Also, you can always order direct from Apex from our online store (apexbookstore.com). Also, thanks to Pathway, the book will be available in some brick & mortars throughout the country.


SZ: What's on the near horizon for Apex in terms of the holiday season and beginning of 2010?

JS: November sees the release of The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar. We go from focusing on one tiny mountain community to the world at large outside of the U.S. and the U.K. The book is an anthology of science fiction from some of the leading non-English writers in the world: Zoran Zivkovic, Aliette de Bodard, S.P. Somtow, and so forth.










December we're releasing our first novel-length book titled The Changed written by B.J. Burrow. It's a zombie-comedy. Yes, a zom-com. And it's funny as hell--just got a great review in Publishers Weekly.












SZ: Give us some links to Apex in the internet, from websites to social media outlets like FaceBook and MySpace.

JS:

Main site: apexbookcompany.com
Blog: apexbookcompany.com/blog
Store site: apexbookstore.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Apex-Publications/7891242229
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/apexdigest
Twitter: http://twitter.com/apexbookcompany

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seventh Star Press Announces Launch of Stephen Zimmer's Crown of Vengeance


Begin an Epic Journey...


On a night that begins no different from any other, strange mists engulf Janus Roland, Erika Laesig, Mershad Shahab, and several others going about their lives in a quiet midwestern town. When the mist dissipates, they all find themselves looking up into the bright skies of a new, incredible world.

Without explanation of why it has happened, or any notion of where they are, they embark upon a grand adventure within the fantastical world of Ave. Some find themselves in the lands of the Saxan Kingdom, while others have emerged within the lands of the Onan, one of the tribes in the Five Realms confederation.

Storms of war loom over both Saxany and the Five Realms, as invasion forces mass under the inspiration of The Unifier, a mysterious, captivating figure whose influence has swept across the surface of Ave ever since His rise to power in the Gallean duchy of Avanor. It is a war that will be fought in the skies, upon the seas, on land, and even in places non-physical in nature.

A majestic, epic fantasy that begins many adventures and journeys across a diverse and enthralling world, filled with races and creatures both familiar and new, Crown of Vengeance lights the flame of the Fires in Eden series, bringing to life a bold, far-ranging, and grand new venture within the realms of fantasy literature.

Pre-Order Announcement for Crown of Vengeance:

Seventh Star Press proudly announces the release of Crown of Vengeance, the first book in the new epic fantasy series Fires in Eden, by author Stephen Zimmer (The Exodus Gate).

To commemorate the forthcoming release, publisher Seventh Star Press is offering pre-order packages for Crown of Vengeance, including a very special, limited edition hardcover version that is strictly limited to 100 copies.

To ensure full authenticity, the limited edition hardcover will be hand-numbered and signed by Stephen Zimmer, and also signed by editor Amanda DeBord and illustrator/cover artist Matt Perry. It will include an extra illustration, and designation plate as a limited edition within the book.

Both the limited edition hardcover and first edition trade paperback pre-orders come with a special package of collectibles, including a numbered set of art cards, a collectible set of 6 bookmarks, and a full color poster of the cover art.

Information on the pre-ordering options can be found at the new site for the Fires In Eden series, located at www.firesineden.com

For information on the publisher visit www.seventhstarpress.com, and for the author visit www.stephenzimmer.com

Monday, September 28, 2009

Crossing Genres with Lettie Prell's Dragon Ring

I first met Lettie Prell when making my premiere trip to the wonderful DemiCon this past spring, which is located in the beautiful city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Lettie and myself were scheduled on a panel regarding the paranormal, along with author Shirley Damsgaard (Aby and Ophelia Mystery Series). I was immediately intrigued by her book Dragon Ring after listening to her talk during the panel, where it was very clear that she was a writer who was not bound by genres. Sharp-witted and energetic, Lettie is a great ambassador for her book. Later, I was able to attend her author's reading session, where she displayed considerable talent in the art of live readings. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to Dragon Ring by the time that the weekend was over.

Dragon Ring (Flying Pen Press) is Lettie's first novel, and I found it to be a great example of what small press releases are capable of doing, both in terms of quality and the risks that can be ventured in the small press realm. It is not a book that can be easily classified, and it is intensely original in nature.

It is my feeling that the reading world will be hearing alot more about Lettie Prell in the future!

-Stephen Zimmer for the Seventh Star Press Blog Site, October 1, 2009

SZ: What is your background as a writer?

LP: Early emergence. I wrote as a kid. When it came to college, I talked myself into majoring in something practical – accounting first, then a switch to public administration – but all my electives were in writing and literature. I hung out with writers. One of my poems was accepted into the campus journal. College ended and so did my writing, until one day, I was walking with a friend in the park, and out of the blue I said, “I’m going to start writing science fiction.” Where did those words come from? I had surprised myself a lot more than my friend, who took it all in stride. But I did start writing science fiction, and soon I was getting my stories published, and taking writing workshops whenever I could. It became my passion.

SZ: When did you begin Dragon Ring?

LP: Nadine (the protagonist) surfaced in 1992, in a short story that was published in a zine called The Crystal Tower Intuitive Magazine of the Midlands. Much later, on one of those days when it’s time to start a new story, I thought instead of going to the trouble of making up a whole new character, I’d use one I already had on hand, and chose Nadine. Fifteen Nadine stories later, I let myself admit I was on my way to creating a novel.

SZ: What was your path to being published by Flying Pen Press?

LP: I started going to science fiction conventions to get involved in the sf community and meet people in the business. I became a member of Broad Universe, an organization of women science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. Through that organization I met Carol Hightshoe, who was an editor with a new small press out of Denver that was open to submissions. I sent my query to Carol, she requested first chapters and eventually the full manuscript. Dragon Ring became one of six novels Flying Pen published in their second year of existence.

SZ: What brought you to choose Guatemala in particular as one of the settings in Dragon Ring?

LP: Latin American story-telling has a well-known tradition of magic realism, where fantastical things can occur in the ordinary world. I wanted to ground the novel in a setting where Nadine’s special abilities would be believable, and part of her cultural background.

SZ: In the book the entire country of Guatemala is one big corporation. Do you see something like this as possible in relation to trends that you recognize in today's world?

LP: What can I say? I minored in economics in college. There are two “what ifs” at play here. One idea comes from the realities of third world exploitation. What if people in those countries could gain control and transform that exploitation into a real economy? The second idea comes from the trend a while back, to run government more like a business. That was the buzz phrase, anyway. There was at least an attempt in some places to transform bureaucracy into a creative entrepreneurial environment so it could innovate, become more efficient and so forth. Granted, in reality those efforts only went so far. Nevertheless, what if government was so much like a business, that it actually becomes one?

SZ: Similarly, do you see an evolution in virtual reality-type technologies becoming applied in ways like those in your book? (especially beyond entertainment applications)

LP: We seem to come out with neat, new uses for technology all the time that we hadn’t anticipated. Full sensory virtual reality for statisticians does seem a stretch, however. Mainly I was having fun with the idea. Some years back, I played virtual reality games at the Navy Pier in Chicago with a couple of my colleagues from work. One was the type where we wore helmets and tried to shoot each other with these pathetic little guns that shot pellets that looked like marshmallows in the VR environment. I thought at the time that the technology should be better, so I made it better in Dragon Ring.

SZ: One of the bolder elements in Dragon Ring is that the mystical/spiritual and the scientific are not mutually exclusive or antagonistic towards each other. How have reactions been to this element of the story, given that many people tend to be staunchly rooted in either one or the other?

LP: Brace yourself. A relative of mine is a fundamentalist Christian, and she told me she enjoyed reading my book. A research colleague of mine has also read Dragon Ring, and he mentioned that the first scene where the mystical reveals itself was the point where the book really grabbed him. So in short, no negative feedback so far. People might not be as polarized on this as one might suspect. Or maybe they’re just willing to suspend their opinions for the sake of a good story.

SZ: In both Guatemala and the United States, there is an underlying presence of ancient wisdom reflected in both the Mayan and Native American heritages of some of your main characters, as well as the notion that valuable elements have been lost over time. Do you believe that modern society has forgotten or lost valuable lessons and knowledge from the ancient world, even as we have brought forth technological marvels? Do you think that rediscovery of that knowledge, and the idea of harmonization between the mystical/spiritual and technological, would result in even greater advancements in a scientific sense?

LP: Wow, I can just imagine someone picking up this interview and being surprised we’re discussing all this in relation to a science fiction novel! Yet this is one of the reasons I love reading this genre. Sure, one of the themes I hope people get when they read the book is we can’t go back to old ways of thinking, but that it’s okay not to. We’re meant to move forward. Every generation reinterprets the wisdom of the past so that it’s relevant to them, and increasingly this process appears to be moving away from organized religion. More people are marking None as their religious preference on the surveys. So the “what if” of the novel explores what if in order to move forward, humanity has to embrace all aspects of what it is to be human, including what it has considered spiritual or mystical? Do I think if we did, that it would result in even greater scientific advancements? That’s not a fair question for a fiction writer.

SZ: Without giving away too many spoilers, is there an established scientific basis for the fascinating alternative energy system represented in Dragon Ring, or is it more of a theory of your own?

Lettie: I’m fascinated with stories of science on the edge, where it gets just a little bit whacky. Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current, was both brilliant and eccentric, so of course he inspired me. Early on, I thought up an alternative energy system, which later I described to an electrical engineer over beers. Good thing because one aspect in particular was laughable, and my acquaintance did not hesitate to tell me so. I was treated to a twenty minute lecture on what we know and don’t know about electricity, and what part of my idea was completely off-base. As a result, I modified my system to make it less of a stretch for people who know about such things. It’s still a stretch, mind you. But there’s only one big leap there now.


SZ: Nadine's path involves very strong elements involving the pursuit and embrace of self-discovery, as well as individual empowerment. Were these principle themes that you set out to accomplish with this character?

LP: In science fiction it’s sometimes okay to focus on the speculative idea and write to that level. I chose to go for a strong character in addition to the idea, and explore how her personal journey meshed with the larger events around her.

SZ: Dragon Ring is a real crossover book, with elements of hard science fiction, general science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, and even the paranormal. It does not fit neatly into just one category. Has that presented any difficulties with marketing the book or has it proven to be a strength?

LP: What comes to mind is what happened early on. The publisher decided to market Dragon Ring as adult science fiction, but then the cover comes out and it looks like young adult fantasy. It was too late to have the cover redone. It made me very nervous for a while, until I noticed quite a few people, adults as well as teens, were perking up when they saw the cover art. I learned how to describe the book in different ways to different people. For men and teen boys, I often emphasize the science element. For women and girls I emphasize the dragon and the female protagonist. Maybe that’s stereotyping, but the book is selling to a wide range of age groups, and both sexes. I’ve done lots readings now for mixed audiences, and it’s generally well-received.

SZ: What do you see as the most difficult or frustrating aspects about the small press world?

LP: We often have to be proactive and persistent to get our books into bookstores. Just because one Barnes and Noble carries my book, doesn’t mean all of them will. There is still some misconception that small presses are akin to vanity presses. It’s a ridiculous notion, but it still lurks out there.

SZ: Conversely, what do you see as the strengths and benefits of being on a small press?

LP: Small presses have a reputation for treating their authors very well, and that has been true of my relationship with Flying Pen Press. I can actually phone my publisher and talk to him when I need to.

SZ: What are you working on right now?

LP: My second novel, of course. This one is not the sequel to Dragon Ring, although I assure my readers that sequel has been started. The second novel is science fiction, but something completely different. I’ve also been taking some breaks from the novel to write short stories.

SZ: Where can folks find more information about you, your work, and where to buy your books?

LP: My website www.lettieprell.com has links to some reviews and interviews, and where I’ll be next. I urge people to walk into their favorite bookstore and order my book. Any bookstore can order it, and you’d be showing support for your local bookstore in the process. Dragon Ring is also available on Amazon, so it’s easy to get if you want to go that route.



Dragon Ring, a Visionary Novel that Encompasses Several Genres Successfully
-review by Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog Site, October 1, 2009


Dragon Ring (Flying Pen Press, ISBN: 978-0-9795889-6-9) is that rare sort of novel that not only crosses genres, but does it quite well.

The first novel from Iowa-based author Lettie Prell, Dragon Ring tells the fascinating story of a young Guatemalan woman named Nadine who has a transcendant experience while partaking in a virtual reality game.

The setting of the story is the near future, laying out an intriguing vision where Guatemala has essentially become one large corporation in order to rid itself of corruption. Nadine's father was highly involved with the development of the new Guatemala, before he left to participate in a United States-based corporation that is involved with some momentous and visionary research with energy systems. When Nadine learns that he was killed suddenly in a plane crash, she sets out for the United States on a journey that takes her to the roots of mystical elements that she was skeptical about, as well as the circumstances concerning her father.

The writing paces quickly, while having enough description and exposition to satisfy the reader's curiosity. The plot and story are kept tight, such that there are no loose ends hanging by the end of the adventure.

Dragon Ring takes a great risk in that it involves both hard science fiction as well as the mystical, two things that are not often comfortable neighbors in literature or other forms of entertainment. Both are essential elements of the plot, and neither is positioned as innately superior to the other. Lettie is to be commended for this approach. This refreshing harmony of the two is rarely seen in realms where the subjects of science and the spiritual are often polarized, or one is propped up at the expense of the other.

Aztec and Native American mysticism flow into the plot, right alongside an amazing plot element involving energy systems. I can't say too much because I don't want to unleash big spoilers, but suffice it to say that Lettie may be onto something big here! Lettie also portrays some very interesting concepts regarding the future applications of virtual reality technology, in both entertainment and non-entertainment arenas.

There are many very captivating characters that emerge along the way, from the spiritual Juan Carlos (who almost plays out like a wizard-mentor to Nadine as the heroine in this story), to Three Crows, a young Native American man who factors into Nadine's profound VR experience, to Norman Lee, a brilliant scientist who turned out to be one of my favorite characters in the book. They are all very alive and vibrant, and Lettie did an excellent job at developing a supporting cast for a main character that is strong and captivating enough to sustain the leading role effectively.

This book will resonate with fantasy fans, science fiction fans, and even readers who are not normally into speculative fiction. The pacing, plot twists, sense of mystery and intrigue present in Dragon Ring is just as potent as any thriller/adventure type novel. All of it races towards a very powerful conclusion, which results in one of the biggest revelations of the entire novel.

My only regret is that this wonderful reading experience was over too soon! I wish that Dragon Ring was a five-hundred page book, and that another installment was on the horizon. Dragon Ring is simply that clever, visionary, and compelling. Take a chance on Dragon Ring and you will discover a very special book indeed!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 4, featuring D.A. Adams of The Brotherhood of Dwarves Series

In episode 4, we take you to Tennessee to visit with D.A. Adams, fantasy author and writer of The Brother Hood of Dwarves series. The visit covers his recent trip as a panelist to DragonCon, his work, and the progress on the forthcoming 3rd book in his outstanding series.

Be sure to take note of all the author tags throughout the show as well, and discover some great small press authors in the process. Thanks again to Zero King for the hard rockin' tune Black Friday, which bookends this episode! Leave a comment and let us know what you think of the show!

Click here to listen to or download Episode 4 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast!

You can subscribe to the podcast as an RSS feed here:
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or find the podcast on iTunes through this link: Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Friday, September 11, 2009

TammyJo Eckhart, Destined for Great Things in the Literary World

I met TammyJo Eckhart in Indianapolis, IN. this past summer, while I was attending the InConJunction convention held during the July 4th Weekend. Sharing a panel with her, and getting to talk to her later, I became more and more intrigued with TammyJo and her literary work. I found her very pleasant and engaging, and discovered yet another excellent writer in the process.

TammyJo is an established author, with several published works, by multiple publishers. She also holds a Ph.D in Ancient History, has published in the academic realm, and even hosts an increasingly popular blog for chocolate connoisseurs, The Chocolate Cult (of which she is the High Priestess). Needless to say, TammyJo is a very multifaceted individual, and I really enjoyed reading her novel, Servants of Destiny, which serves as my introduction to her literary work (and is reviewed by me, below the interview with her).

She has a strong erotic element in her various works, heavily BDSM in nature, which have a genuine flair, as TammyJo has an active BDSM lifestyle herself. TammyJo is an author who will challenge you, push boundaries, and make you look at things from non-traditional perspectives. Her work is not derivative, and she works the erotic elements into practical aspects of plot and characterization.

TammyJo Ekhart is pursuing her own destiny, and doing it quite well, and I hope that readers of all genres take a moment to give her work a try.

-Stephen Zimmer for the Seventh Star Blog Site, September 13, 2009


SZ: How would you describe yourself as a writer, being that your body of work entails many different genres?

TJE: I have a few goals with all the writing I do. First, I want to reveal the truth about any given situation or question. That might sound odd when the story is science fiction but then the truth is about human relationships, human reactions and feelings. Second, I want my reader to think. Even the most fluffy stuff I've written hopefully gets people to think about what they might do in that situation or how the events in the work or study relate to other things they already know. Finally, I do want to entertain in my fiction, but also in my non-fiction I want to engage the reader at some level, keep them turning the page even if it's to argue an interpretation of a piece data.

I think those three goals work well together. If a truth is revealed it should never just be blindly accepted, you should think about it, hopefully engage with it, and through that have it affect you in some fashion.

SZ: What was your first book published, and when was it released? Give us an idea as to the books that you have had released since then.

TJE: My very first solo book was a collection of five stories entitled "Punishment for the Crime" from Masquerade Books in June 1996. It came after I had a short and an essay accepted by two anthologies and the fiction anthology editor, Cecilia Tan, suggested I contact the publisher at Masquerade. We lived in NYC at that time and when he called me to invite me in, he actually presented me with two contracts, one for this five story collection and another for whatever project I wanted. That was a collection of seven stories and related essays about the legends connected to Amazons in the ancient world, which is what both my Master's and Doctoral theses were on as well. That book "Amazons: Erotic Explorations of the Ancient Myths" came out in summer 1997.

I parted ways with Masquerade not because I wanted to so much as I felt I had to, and I wasn't alone in that decision, so that left me with a third collection and with no publisher. I ended going with Greenery Press which was and still is a big name in non-fiction works about alternative sexualities. They put out "Justice and other short erotic tales" in 1999, but in a few years they decided that most of their fiction was not selling, so they stopped that side of publication.



Since then, between my doctoral studies and college teaching, I've put out four more books. Three collections of short stories again: "Eroscapes: Erotic Fiction from the Mind of TammyJo Eckhart" from Wells Street in 2004; "Sweet Memories of Pain & The Future of Pleasure" from Nazca Plains in 2007; "Mistress Loves Me This I Know" which reprints my earliest out of print material from Python University Productions in 2009. My first published novel "Servants of Destiny" was also from Nazca Plains in 2006. I've had six short stories in anthologies or magazines as well. It is hard to write and be a full-time graduate student and teacher, though that hasn't been a problem for a year and a half now.

SZ: To date, what books have been the best received, in your opinion?

TJE: My first two books sold well, sold out their initial 5000 book run, but Masquerade made some editorial decisions and I wasn't comfortable with their suggestions for another book because I felt it was crossing into less serious fiction, more pornographic than erotic in nature. Plus I don't like being told what to write, not even in school when I was a student. My third book also sold as well, selling out it's initial book run, but in a similar fashion that publisher decided to stop doing fiction.

Most reviews and communications I get about my fiction have been very positive. In the erotica populations, both kinky and not, I have had fans from all orientations. That pleasantly surprised me, so crossing those boundaries has become a goal for me as well in my writing. I have seen one review, and that was for my first book on Amazon.com, from a reader who felt if women in the story were powerful then it wasn't erotic or appropriate for some reason. Some people have very limited minds, I think. It's something I must work on as a scholar and a reviewer myself.

SZ: Which books have been the most satisfactory for you personally, as writer, and why?

TJE: The ones that are most satisfactory for me right now are one that haven't been published yet. I have a science fiction series I started many years ago. It's a series of 5+ books that explores how societies work to maintain systems of inequality, and that no matter how much you may oppose that on a personal level you are still a construct of that system, and therefore you, too, are doing things to support that system. It is not nearly as erotic as many of my works, but the truth which I always want to tell is that human beings are sexual creatures, so it still has some erotic parts and potential depending on the reader.

In terms of my published work, I like it all. I'd never sent something to a publisher that I couldn't be proud about, though I'm open to honest constructive criticism. My greatest satisfaction is when someone tells me "I loved this" especially if they thought they might not because I'm female, or white, or it is classified as "erotica", or whatever they believe may make my work unappealing to them.

SZ: What are the areas that you feel you have grown as a writer since your first releases?

TJE: This is going to sound very odd, but I think my greatest growth has been technical. I have dyslexia and so spelling, grammar, those sorts of necessary technical matters are a huge challenge. Yet I note with my in-house editor, my husband, who is brilliant in those matters, and in publisher suggestions/corrections, their need to "fix my work" has decreased dramatically.

I also think I've gotten more confident and gained more knowledge both through my scholarly background and as a book reviewer myself. I think that makes me more willing to do edgier things, and to try different viewpoints in my stories. I've always tackled edgy topics, I think, but I hope now I do them with more clarity and empathy.

SZ: You are obviously well-known for your portrayals of "dominant women", and you are also known for busting stereotypes of these types of characters. How do you feel you have accomplished that?

TJE: We have two models in the western world for strong women. One is a mommy figure, which in many ways is more sacrificing as her form of strength than necessarily a leader as we think of male leaders. The other is the "Bitch", to put it bluntly. I reject them as the only two models for competent women, for female leaders. I think that since we socialize boys and girls differently, encouraging them to play into the very small biological and psychological differences we may have, that how women and men react will be different. When I write, I want to show the reasons that go beyond those two models into reality. So a character of mine may be a very capable captain of a star ship, but she will also have her own social baggage that may have nothing to do with babies, or men, or other women for example. I don't know if you've notice that, but often in fiction women's motivations are really around one of those three things: children, getting/keeping a man, or competing with other women.

I reject the limiting nature of role models for men as well. I just hope I can show them equally well. I want to show the fuller and more realistic range of human motivation and emotions. Which isn't always pretty.

SZ: Now that you have several books out, and have worked with several different publishers, what do you look for these days in a potential small press publisher?

TJE: What I need now, from any publisher, is getting my work out there so people can find it. Don't just bury it on Amazon.com, don't expect me to do all the publicity, you are getting the bulk of the profits here. Average royalties are only 5-8%, so you get the money, you do the bulk of the marketing and getting into stores please. I go to conventions, I hope to add one or two more in 2010, I'm happy to go do readings to small groups, but if I wanted to do it all, I'd self-publish. I want to be able to work into a Borders or Barnes & Nobles and find my books on the shelves again as I did with Masquerade and Greenery.

I also like more feedback. It's nice to hear that my work is "clear" and "we want it" but help me improve it too, ask me a few questions, make a suggestion or two at least. I'll grow with more feedback and constructive criticism.

SZ: What are some of your frustrations with the small press world?

TJE: I can't say this is a problem with all small press but of the three small publishers I've had, only one so far has made me happy. That's Python who pays me my royalties and books come off the press and is taking my books where they promised, into difference conventions around the Midwest. Another hasn't marketed the book well at all and this was after a very unfortunate printing error that made us recall the book and have it reprinted. One of the publishers simply has not fulfilled the contract. I haven't seen one dime in royalties and nor are my books in stores as promised. Since I can't afford a lawyer, I've had to take more books as "payment" which is BS.

SZ: In regards to your writing, being that it contains quite vivid erotic elements, have you had difficulty with how your work has been received or defined(i.e. Have you been misconstrued as a writer of erotica with fantasy elements, as opposed to a fantasy writer whose work contains erotic elements?)

TJE: I have no problems saying I'm an erotic writer when that's what I'm writing. The biggest problem I have is that too many people see "erotic" and they think it is dirty, you can tell me if you think "Servants of Destiny" is dirty or that it should contain about 75% or more sexual activities. My characters have the amount and type of sex that is appropriate to them and their situations. No more, no less.

But "erotica" isn't really a genre because you can have erotic elements and plots in all types of stories. Even traditional folktales can be highly erotic when you read their uncensored versions, religious texts can have highly sensual and erotica language if not outright topics. If you define yourself only as an erotica author, I think the danger is that you allow other very important matters to falter such as historical facts or scientific possibilities or just plain physical limitations.

If my characters have sex, there is a reason. No reason, no sex. They reason can be positive or negative, that reflects reality. The amount varies widely. Even in my first book, which was marketed as erotica, there was one story that had no sex in it. I have to do what works for the major genre of the piece whether it's contemporary, science fiction, fantasy, historical, strange undefined speculative fiction where you mix genres.

SZ: Does having a strong erotic element in your work prove to be a challenge when reaching out to potential publishers? (Does it severely limit the range of publishers you are able to query?)

TJE: Not so far but I think that's more because I've been so busy with school. Right now I'm hoping to propose one book I've been working on for two years on and off to a bigger publisher. We'll see if it makes it over the initial query level what they make of the erotic elements it has. One thing that does annoy, something I won't do even if it breaks for publishing, is I won't make my sex all "bad" just to get published, I won't play into gender stereotypes. Someone wants me to change the sexes of my characters or have them become mental patients to explain their actions, sorry, nope, if it was meant to be that way, I would have written it that way to start.

My biggest challenge other than time will probably be connections. I don't have an agent with contacts in the publishing world. I've heard so many negative things about agents that I'm turned off a bit.

SZ: Do you have any sense of whether a majority of your readers come more from the erotica side of things, the fantasy/sci-fi world, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, or a does a majority of your readership come from an even spread of all of the above?

TJE: No doubt that they come mostly through the erotica world. Part of going with Python is the hope that they'd get me into the hands of sci fi, fantasy, horror people at conventions. Same reason I'm going to those conventions now myself. I will never turn my back on my own subculture, my own tribe, but I think my work can speak to a much wider range of people and I want a chance to do that.

SZ: Some people may not realize that you have achieved a Ph.D in Ancient History. How have you been able to draw upon your academic background in your writing?

TJE: My very second book "Amazons" came right from my research and studies. I really see that book as a hybrid between fiction and non-fiction. Even in my science fiction, I utilize what I know how societies, families and individuals work. I've had a few folks tell me that my worlds seem so plausible, so real, and complex just like real ones. That is because I'm thinking of the range of human societies and the various studies I've learned from when I write or design the worlds.

SZ: Along similar lines, tell us a little about the scholarly articles/publications that are part of your body of work.

TJE: I've had a few articles published throughout the years on mythology, women, slavery, and teaching. I've also presented at a few conferences. With the job market failing me the past two years, I've put that writing aside to focus on three other projects, two fiction and one non-fiction. I've love to have the tough choice of doing I take a tenure track position or keep writing and publishing.

SZ: What's on the near horizon for TammyJo Eckhart? Upcoming and new releases?

TJE: I just turned in a novella to Python called "Beyond the Softness of His Fur" which is "a science fiction tale of genetics, sex, and love between owners and pets". It looks at how science can be used by the elites and non-elites in society to create new systems of hierarchy as well as the question of what defines us as "human". Hopefully that will be out later this year.

I want to propose a book that collects some of what I've done on The Chocolate Cult, something I started to help me fight off depression and my chocoholism and which has taken on a life of it's own. I also will add new materials in as well and I think it would be a great gift book for Valentine's Day so I want to get that proposed in the next month.

I'm also revising a novel told through short stories that I will be proposing to publishers in October as well. I've read parts of this at conventions and an online community I'm a member of and they have been very well received. It is a very dark and scary novel but also it has a lot of hope, our main are fighting on the good side of things even if they are often unaware of that fact. This draw explicitly on my training in ancient history since I'm using Sumerian mythology as the basis for everything.

SZ: Have you been having fun being the High Priestess of The Chocolate Cult?

TJE: It is a lot of fun though it's less fun than when I started. I just can't get the historian out of me at all so when I read a report I have to ask questions and do research. When I learn something I feel the need to share it. I always want my reviews to be what I promised: honest, all five sense engaged descriptions. All of that takes work. Now if I'd only make money from it, it might be nice. I do get some samples from companies but I'm spending more of my own money still. The Chocolate Cult did hit over 10,000 unique visitor since March 2009 though on September 8, 2009, so I guess folks are learning about it and reading it.

SZ: What are some of the main links where people can find you, your work, and even The Chocolate Cult?

Main website: http://www.tammyjoeckhart.com/ it has links to everything, my books, Live Journal accounts, Facebook, things like that.

Chocolate Cult: http://thechocolatecult.blogspot.com.



Servants of Destiny Fulfills What It Set Out to Achieve
review by Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog Site, September 13, 2009

Servants of Destiny (Fem Fist Books, ISBN: 978-1887895774), by TammyJo Eckhart, is a fantasy novel that takes chances, challenges the reader, and blends compelling original ideas into a solid fantasy narrative.

The story centers around Marelda, a strong, magic-wielding woman, who has a sagely mentor named Sigrid. Marelda is on a quest that is tied to a prophecy, one concerning the restoration of the Divine Couple, reflecting a long-lost time of harmony and peaceful order.

While on her quest, she observes a young runaway slave who is about to be sold in a slave market. Recognizing something unique about him, she buys him, and seeks to take him with her on her quest.

This leads to a clear-cut relationship where Marelda is dominant and firmly in control, something she wastes no time in asserting. The idea of this kind of relationship is certainly not out of the bounds of fantasy literature. Robert Jordan's Aes Sedai have some undercurrents of this type of woman, as do the Mord Sith found in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.

TammyJo Eckhart paints a clear and effective picture of the type of predicament that Dolan is in, existing in a culture that has slavery as an accepted institution and way of life. There really is nowhere that he can run to, as the best that he can hope for is to evade the inevitable for a little longer than most others. I have more than a hunch that TammyJo was able to draw off of her expertise in ancient cultures and history (which she has a Ph.D in) in crafting such a society, as slavery was an accepted institution in numerous ancient cultures all across the world. Dolan's plight is believable, and the reactions of other characters encountered along the way is genuine, as to assist Dolan in any way is to invite great trouble to oneself.

When Marelda buys Dolan, and places a set of magical cuffs on him, there truly is no way out for the young man. Resentful of the situation, angry, and embittered, Dolan is understandably resistive. What follows is a very intensive process by which Dolan becomes resigned to his fate, and begins to embrace his destiny. It is a process of self-discovery, leading to more than Dolan ever imagined.

Marelda is a very strong character, and the dominant of the pair, but Dolan is by no means a quivering weakling. He is clever, strong-willed, and skilled, and becomes invaluable to Marelda's own quest to recover three ancient artifacts which have fallen into the hands of powerful enemies. To even have a chance at success in her quest, harmony in her relationship with Dolan is imperative. She is not perfect or invincible, and TammyJo has developed a very credible character with Marelda.

There is also a rather creative fusion between magic and sex portrayed in the book that proves to be a very critical factor in Marelda's fulfilment of destiny.

Servants of Destiny is an excellent fantasy novel with strong erotic elements. A good quest story, an excellent mentor figure for Marelda (Sigrid), and other parts of this tale will resonate well with any type of fantasy audience. The dominant-submissive relationship between Marelda and Dolan is an area where TammyJo lays down a challenge to general fantasy readers, and she crafts some very vivid, quite intense scenes, but she has developed consistent characterization and plot with these elements that testify strongly to her abilities as a writer. The erotic elements do not overwhelm the plot, and nor are they frivilous. TammyJo has done an excellent job in maintaining consistency and relevancy, something that she should be commended for in areas of literature where all too often the erotic aspects saturate the work to the sufferance of all else.

While the dominant-submissive relationship between Marelda and Dolan would not likely be considered "mainstream", a potential reader would be missing out on alot if he or she chose to see this type of relationship as a stumbling block to giving this well-crafted book a chance. Good writing involves good character construction, and is what a possibly tentative reader should focus on the most.

Servants of Destiny showcases a very talented author, and will satisfy readers of fantasy as well as those who enjoy erotic-laced tales. It will be interesting to see the kinds of science fiction and fantasy stories that TammyJo Eckhart brings us in the future, as I know that she will not settle for the conventional or status quo in those genres. Here's hoping that major publishers, or well-established small press publishers, with an eye for talent and originality will come across this very gifted, promising writer, and help her to reach her destiny.



Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 3, featuring H. David Blalock, author of Ascendant

In the 3rd Edition of the Seventh Star Podcast, we will be visiting with fantasy author H. David Blalock, writer of Ascendant (Sam's Dot Publishing). Focused around the southern-most island of the Atlantean Archipelago, Ascendant features a rich fantasy world that involves Byzantine-style intrigue, epic battles, imaginative creatures, and a whole lot more, woven into a story that David has made very believable.

Based out of Memphis, Tennessee, David is also showing himself to be a maverick in the small press world in regards to the Imagicopter project that he spearheads. Imagicopter is a rather unique promotional organization that creates events and appearances for small press authors.

This podcast interview covers David's career, writing, and a little about Imagicopter, so be sure to check it out! (and you will notice several more short author tags, so be sure to look up the authors that introduce themselves during the show!)

Extra special thanks to the guys in Zero King for providing some brand new music for the show. "Black Friday" ROCKS!


Click here to listen to or download Episode 3 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast!

You can subscribe to the podcast as an RSS feed here:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/SeventhStarPress

or find the podcast on iTunes through this link: Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jackie Gamber's Redheart Beats Strong and True!

I first met Jackie Gamber while attending MidSouthCon27 in Memphis, TN, which is where I was introduced to the book Redheart, the first installment in the Leland Dragon Series. The publisher of Redheart is the rising Meadowhawk Press, which is one of only four small press publishers to ever win the Phillip K. Dick Award (for the novel Terminal Mind, by David Walton ).

Jackie is, without a doubt, one of the more vibrant and genuine personalities that you will encounter in the arenas of writing and publishing. She often participates in panels, workshops, and lectures covering the writing realms, gladly willing to share her experiences and expertise with aspiring and established writers alike. She keeps a busy schedule, and even started a dragon-support network called Humans Against Dragon Stereotypes!

Based out of Memphis, TN, Jackie has a number of published short stories, including one relatively recently that is set in the same world as Redheart (“The Time Scar”, which appears in Dragons Composed, an anthology from Kerlak Publishing that was launched at MidSouthCon27).

As I often say, there are a lot of gems to be discovered in the small press world, and Jackie Gamber is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Redheart was a greatly enjoyable reading experience, and I am definitely on board when the second one in the series comes out.

So let’s visit with Jackie for an interview, and then we’ll give you my review of Redheart!

-Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog/Interview Series, August 27, 2009

SZ: Did Redheart start out as a stand-alone project, or did you conceive of a full series from the start?

JG: Redheart began as a single book idea. I began to sense, though, as I worked on it, that some of characters weren't going to be fully developed by the end of it. Also, the over-arching theme of war between dragons and humans felt "unfinished" as well. Somewhere around the 3/4 point, I realized I was going to have to write more Leland books to see some really satisfying character experiences.


SZ: How long did it take you to complete the first book?


JG: Well, this is a little embarrassing to confess, but I spent a number of years with the first 7 or 8 chapters languishing on yellow legal pads, and then on an old green-monitored word processor my dad gave me. When my husband and I invested in a real, honest-to-goodness computer with a word processing program, I learned I could visit my chapters, fiddle with them on and off, and call it "writing". I spent a number of years doing that! Once I finally decided to really study the craft of writing and then finish Redheart as a sort of promise to myself, it took about eight months. This final version of the novel is only vaguely similar to my original chapters.


SZ: How did you approach the creation of your dragon characters and the society they have in Redheart? How did you seek to distinguish them from previous usages of dragons in fantasy?

JG: I really started with the main characters, and worked to define their personal conflicts. In doing so, there was a natural need to establish a world where fears and failures are a part of the whole shebang. And I remembered some advice I'd picked up along the way--that for research, one of the best ways to get information is to pick up a children's book about a topic! Back before our now-familiar "Life for Dummies" sorts of books, it was a way to get good details written clearly and easily. For Redheart, I read a book entitled "Inside a Real Castle" or something like that...and so many things clicked!

In fact, I still often rely on children's books for research.


SZ: Prejudices between dragons and humans play a significant role in Redheart, and you founded an advocacy group for dragons, called Humans Against Dragon Stereotypes. Tell us a little about HADS.

JG: It turns out that as I delved into research, and established some tenuous relationships with dragon friends (they're very shy, but incredibly kind once you get to know them), I came to see how the media has really fed the stereotypes of dragons as fearsome beasts, or greedy treasure-hoarders, or maiden-stealers and the like. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and I felt it was time someone took a stand. It's why I became the founding member of Humans Against Dragon Stereotypes. Specism just shouldn't be tolerated.

SZ: In terms of quality, Redheart belongs side by side on a bookstore shelf with anything being put out by major press. When you have a quality book, but are faced with the obstacles put in place by several of the big bookstore chains, how are you working to get past the hurdles faced by small press authors in raising awareness of your series?

JG: Thank you, Stephen, for the compliment! I believe strongly in the "grass-roots" approach in finding readers. I look to connect with them as often as I can on a handshake level. Book signings are great, but I love science fiction conventions where I really get to connect with people. I have started spending more time speaking with teens at public schools and homeschool groups. Plus the online community is a real tour-de-force when it comes to spreading the word!

SZ: Why did you choose small press? What are some advantages that you see in
small press?


JG: I have strong convictions about small press having a legitimate and powerful presence in the publishing industry; the science fiction genre itself has deep roots in independent publishing. One important advantage for authors in small press is *time*: to establish readers, to grow a reputation and backlist, to build momentum. With the more modest advances and inventory investments of small press, an author doesn't need to feel the pressure of the 6 week window for success or failure, do-or-die demands of publishing.

Most books rely on word-of-mouth to garner attention; a book with a small press can take advantage of a slow but steady pace, long after a Big House Publisher would cut a book to "out of print".

SZ: Who are some of your writing influences?

JG: Ray Bradbury is my hero. I read him as a teen, and have continued to read and admire his work to today. Also Terry Brooks, and Orson Scott Card.

SZ: What's next for Jackie Gamber? And when will book 2 in the Leland Dragon Series be out?

JG: Just out is my novella "Hologram Bride", published in two parts in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. And my dark tale "Rose-Colored Eyes" will be available in the next issue of Shroud Magazine.

I've also just finished an alternate history/time-travel novel involving a romance between Adam Worth (the mastermind criminal who was Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes's nemesis Moriarity) and Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire: two people born one hundred years apart. It was a two-year project of research and writing.

And I'm currently working on book 2 for the Leland Dragon series! We're aiming for publication around Summer of 2010.


SZ: For those that wish to purchase Redheart, learn more about you, or explore HADS, what are some ways to connect on the web or on social networking sites?

JG: Redheart can be purchased at www.meadowhawkpress.com, Amazon.com, barnesandoble.com, or can be ordered from any local bookstore.

www.jackiegamber.com - For information about my publications, appearances, or tidbits such as my blog. There are also links to my social networking venues. I enjoy chatting with my readers on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Drop me a note!

www.LelandDragons.com - For sample chapters of Redheart, plus other stories related to the Leland world.

www.hads.us - For dragon safety tips and positive articles for spreading dragon awareness. Have you hugged a dragon today?



Redheart Soars Into The Skies of Compelling Fantasy Literature
Review by Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Blog Site, August 27, 20009

It is always wonderful to take the first steps upon the road of an enticing, well-crafted fantasy series. Redheart (Meadowhawk Press, ISBN:978-0-9787326-0-8), Book One of the Leland Dragon Series by Jackie Gamber, takes readers on the first strides of what is going to be a very satisfying foray within fantasy literature.

The story itself centers around a couple of key characters.

One is a young girl, named Riza, who is working to find her place in the world after leaving the choking confines of a rigid, mundane village life. She can no longer tolerate an existence where one’s place in the world is set firmly from the beginning, and even mild curiosity is discouraged.

The other is Kallon, a young red dragon who is enduring a largely self-imposed exile following the traumatic loss of his father years before. His interactions are largely limited to a solitary wizard named Orman, and he initially has no desire to return back to live among dragon-kind.

The backdrop of Redheart features a world in which dragons have a fully developed society, much like humans, though the relationship between the two races has been anything but tranquil over the course of the years. Mistrust, rumors, and wars litter the history of dragon and human-kind.

Leland Province, where the dragons live, is undergoing a very troubling time in which the land is drying up in the midst of a terrible drought, adversely affecting humans and dragons alike.

The story begins when Riza finds herself in mortal trouble in the woods with a band of hooligans bearing unsavory intents. When Kallon hears her outcry, their paths intertwine as they both begin a path of adventure and self-discovery. This journey has some very unexpected twists and turns, as the reader soon comes to find out.

Jackie Gamber has done an excellent job of taking popular fantasy creatures, dragons, and making them live and breath with a fresh air. She infuses the kind of depth and character that gives each of them a very unique identity. The dragon Blackclaw, who holds the highest position in dragon-society at the time of the story, is particularly malevolent in nature, and proves to be a very effective villain. Others in the supporting cast, such as Whitetail, Grayfoot, and a female Brown dragon, are very distinctive, fleshed out characters that contribute significantly to the dynamics and tension in the plot.

One of the most fascinating characters in Redheart is Jastin Armitage, who I found to be very enigmatic throughout the story. When we first meet Jastin in the book, the scene plays out like the beginning of the arrival of a gunslinger in an American Old West tale. A mercenary dragon hunter, Jastin encounters Riza not long after she has met Kallon. He takes an interest in her early in the story. It is difficult to tell whether his intentions and interest in Riza are of a more honorable nature or not. At times he comes across as a rogue, and at other times more endearing, and perhaps his motivations are a blend of both. The way the story ends up has me really wanting to see where Jackie takes this character in future installments of the series.

The book also has subtle undercurrents of the mystical and spiritual, centering in the story upon a sagely Gold Dragon. This touch of things more supernatural gives Redheart an added dimension that is all too often lacking in speculative fiction. Spiritual or religious elements are prevalent in the genre, but quite frequently seem like window-dressing within the greater story. This is not the case in Redheart, where the hint of something profound and greater, and the light of hope, beckon at the edges of the plot without becoming too overindulgent.

The beginning of a very promising fantasy series has certainly been achieved in Redheart. It is a series that I feel will have a strong appeal to a number of types of fantasy readers, from those that enjoy world-building elements, to those that focus more solely on characters, to those that seek surprises and good plot twists.

There is a good balance of action, humor, and the dramatic, and the characters are very believable and consistent. I am certain that fans of popular-selling fantasy series such as E.E. Knight’s Age of Fire would definitely find themselves embracing the Leland Dragon Series, with its thoroughly developed dragon characters.

Jackie Gamber is a fantasy author who most definitely is an emerging force to be reckoned with. Redheart hooked me instantly for the Leland Dragon Series, and I am eagerly anticipating the next step of the adventure!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 2, Featuring Jon Klement, Creator of the Smerdiverse!

Episode 2 of the Seventh Star Podcast is now up! In this episode, Stephen visits with Jon Klement, the mastermind behind the Smerdiverse, which includes the enchanting P'ckit Dragons (such as Smerd himself!), Black Lotus (who is being featured in webisodes in the near future), and Velocity Girl and Xuan Hu (who are featured in a series of novels available in print and on eBook). Some of his fans have even compared him to an early stage Stan Lee!

It is not easy being the creator of a universe, but Jon has pulled it off and we invite you all to take a look into his fascinating world! The Smerdiverse is on its way to becoming a mega-hit!

Click here to listen to or download Episode 2 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast!

You can subscribe to the podcast as an RSS feed here:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/SeventhStarPress

or find the podcast on iTunes through this link: Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Imagicopter-Raising Up Small Press Authors and Publishers



One of the most difficult challenges for any small press author is promoting and raising awareness of their work. The challenge is considerable, as many chains do not even allow local managers the discretion to stock or buy titles from a local author, much less allow for opportunities for readings or book signings.

Therefore, the most needs to be made of every opportunity to work with the chain stores and independent stores that do allow for such an opportunity. For small press authors who are not well-known in a given city, this can be a daunting situation.

Thanks to the vision and hard work of one small press author, David Blalock, an exciting new project called Imagicopter was catalyzed over the summer and is now about to kick off in Memphis, TN at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on Saturday, August 22nd.

David kickstarted a project that has gained momentum and garnered enthusiasm from all involved, authors, small press publishers, and bookstores (Disclosure note: my own publisher, Seventh Star Press, is a very enthusiastic participant). The background, concept, current and future plans, and the premiere event are discussed in the following interview with David, the author of the fantasy novel Ascendant (which will be featured and reviewed in the very near future on this blog).

-Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Interview/Blog Series, August 13, 2009

SZ: The first question is probably the most obvious for a newer organization. What is Imagicopter?

DB: Imagicopter isn't so much a "what" as a "who". Imagicopter is a group of writers and artists who decided to get together not only to improve, encourage, and promote their own work, but to give other writers and artists a hand in doing so as well.

SZ: What inspired you personally to work to bring Imagicopter about?

DB: It was totally selfish, believe me. I wanted help from other writers in finding out new ways to get my work before the public. I discovered that many of them had the same idea. Voila, Imagicopter.

SZ: As a small press author, what have been some of the most difficult challenges in raising awareness of your own work, and how do you think Imagicopter will address those challenges?

DB: Visibility is difficult for any author, but especially for newer authors. Without the benefit of deep pockets to hire a publicist, or the prestige of a front-line agent pitching your work, you're pretty much restricted in where you can go and what you can do for promotion. The market has become even tougher recently, as the larger houses dump their midlist authors, putting them squarely into competition with us lesser known folk. Imagicopter has the benefit of giving us "strength in numbers", as it were. For the same price, or less, of a single midlist author, a venue can sponsor several local writers from many different genres, catering to a wider range of demographics.

SZ: What has the response been from participating writers so far?

DB: Almost to a person, all the writers we have approached are positive about Imagicopter. We have even had unsolicited requests from writers to join. Those who are unable to join at this time due to publisher commitments or personal issues have asked to be kept on the list.

SZ: Have you gotten any response from small press publishers on the concept yet?

DB: Absolutely. Kerlak Publishing and Meadowhawk Publications, both of Memphis, Sam's Dot Publications of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Seventh Star Press (of course) and Apex Book Company of Lexington, Kentucky are actively supporting Imagicopter. Participating writers' publishers have a standing invitation to join, obviously.

SZ: Very importantly, what is the early response/feedback on the Imagicopter concept from the bookstores themselves?

DB: We have had nothing but positive and enthusiastic support from bookstores in Memphis, Little Rock, Corinth, Jackson... well, you get the picture.

SZ: What can readers and fantasy fans expect at the premiere Imagicopter event in Memphis at Davis-Kidd Booksellers?

DB: We have eight writers scheduled to appear there on Saturday, August 22 starting at 1:00 PM.

Anne Barringer, David Nora, Herika Raymer, and Windsong Levitch are all new writers whose debuts appeared in Kerlak Publishing's "Dragons Composed" anthology.




Ann Barringer



David Nora





Hericka R. Raymer





Windsong Levitch




Allan Gilbreath is a nationally recognized speaker, author of "HIPAA in Daily Practice" (the medical Bible for dealing with government regulation), and even has a couple of vampire novels out: "Galen" and "Dark Chances", with "Final Kiss" coming soon to finish that series.




Jackie Gamber is the author of "Redheart", first of a fantasy series that should delight any fan of dragons. Her company, Meadowhawk Press, recently published "Terminal Mind" by David Walton, which took this year's Philip K. Dick award.








Marvin "M.R." Williamson is author of two dragon novels himself: "Pragamore" and "Krypendorf".









Then, there is myself, with my title Ascendant. In addition, we will have two artists attending.






Ernest Lawson of Walls, MS, did the art for M.R. Williamson's books and has quite a talent for quick portrait art, especially in chalks.






Sam Flegal, from Nashville, can sketch you as a zombie as easily as he can do your portrait in pencil.









The writers will be reading a little from their work and answering questions from the audience while the artists wend their magic at their easels. It promises to be a lot of fun.

SZ: You’ve got a number of participating writers, so how do you go about selecting a group for a particular event? Primarily regional in nature?

DB: We try to get as many local writers and artists involved as we can, even if they aren't listed on the Imagicopter site. There is a core group of myself, Allan Gilbreath, and M. R. Williamson that you will probably see at all the events, but you can expect some locally well-known names to show.

SZ: What other Imagicopter events are coming up?

DB: All right, here goes:

On September 12, Imagicopter will be in Hernando, Mississippi, as a guest of the Desoto Arts Council.

From October 2-4, 2009, five Imagicopter authors will be guests at the GMX Convention in Nashville.

On October 17, we will be in Jackson, Mississippi at the famous Eudora Welty Library.

Halloween we will be in Hot Springs as part of the festivities sponsored by the Fine Arts Council there.

And we hope to have another event scheduled shortly in Corinth, Mississippi for November 14.

SZ: Can other writers and small press publishers become involved? And how would they go about finding out more information about Imagicopter or contacting you?

DB: We would love to have as many writers and small press publishers involved as we can get. The more the merrier. Right now all we can offer is a bio, a picture, and links to your works on the website, a promise to do our best to include you in appearances in your local area, and a slightly better chance of exposure to a larger audience. Right now Imagicopter is operating just in the Midsouth (Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama) but we are looking to expand soon.

For more information on Imagicopter, people who are interested can visit our website (http://sites.google.com/site/imagicopter), visit us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Imagicopter/107781032427), or just drop us a note at imagicopter@hughes.net. Our snail mail address is:

Imagicopter
622 W. Poplar Avenue
Ste 5-305
Collierville, TN 38017

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Podcast now available on iTunes

The Seventh Star Press Podcast is now available on iTunes. You can find the premiere episode featuring Crymsyn Hart, and future episodes, at the following link:

Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Spread the word!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 1, featuring Crymsyn Hart!

At last, the first edition of the new Seventh Star Press Podcast Series hosted by author and filmmaker Stephen Zimmer. In this premiere episode, Stephen visits with paranormal/fantasy/horror/erotica author Crymsyn Hart.

The new podcast series will alternate weekly with the interview/review series, bringing the spotlight to many small press authors and publishers that Stephen has met while traveling to conventions and other events. Please be sure to bookmark the page, become a follower of the blog, and subscribe to the podcast. Information on iTunes availability will be forthcoming.

Click here to listen to or download Episode 1 of the Seventh Star Press Podcast!

You can subscribe to the podcast as an RSS feed here:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/SeventhStarPress

Thursday, July 30, 2009

D.A. Adams, The Writer Who Wields Three Axes



I met D.A. Adams at Hypericon 5 in Nashville, TN, back in June of this year. I had previously known about The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, having come across it online in the past, and was very glad to have the opportunity to meet him in person. I was very intrigued by the series, especially one that focused on dwarves, orcs, and other popular races in high fantasy.

D.A. Adams hails from the Knoxville, Tennessee area, where he is an Assistant Professor of English in addition to his writing pursuits. The Brotherhood of Dwarves was his first novel, released in 2005, followed in 2008 by Red Sky at Dawn, both through the small press publisher Third Axe Media. He is currently working on the third book in the series, with a projected release date in the first half of 2010.

In my opinion, D.A. is building a very strong fantasy series, which I feel has a lot of potential for success as awareness of it grows. I am very proud to have him as the first author spotlighted in the Seventh Star Press Blog Series, and I hope you enjoy the interview, the review, and that you pick up one of his books and give him a try. I am glad that I did!
-Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Blog, July 30, 2009

SZ: When did you first conceive of this series and how long did it take for you to develop the first book, The Brotherhood of Dwarves?

DAA: This is really a two part answer because the series has its genesis in my teenage years and its rebirth when I was 30. As a teenager, I was an avid D & D’er, and Roskin was a character from those experiences. Also, when I first started writing, I developed the character Crushaw and started out writing a series based solely on him. Then, I went to college for writing, and many of my professors ridiculed genre work, especially fantasy, as inferior writing, so I abandoned that series in pursuit of “real” writing. I wrote some decent mainstream short stories and learned a lot about how to write, but I could never find my voice. Then, I went to graduate school and had a terrible experience. For me, graduate school set my writing back at least five years, and I became so frustrated that I quit writing for three or four years because I lost my confidence.

The rebirth came around 2002, when I was watching The Two Towers. I had an epiphany where I realized that fantasy was what I really wanted to write, but I was still unsure of myself, so instead of sitting down and writing, I spent about a year just thinking about what I would write if I ever were to pursue a fantasy series. I thought about writing about Roskin, and I thought about Crushaw, and then, I had the idea of putting them together to see what would happen. That’s when the story began to burgeon. I didn’t write a word, however, until I saw my first son’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. When I saw that, something inside me came alive, and I knew I had to write this series. From there, it took about a year to complete the manuscript and then a few more months for the editing.

SZ: One of the things I really like about The Brotherhood of Dwarves is the usage of established fantasy races like elves, dwarves, and orcs with unconventional twists (orcs running slave plantations, the multiple varieties of dwarves, etc) Tell us a little about your approach to making your elves, orcs, and dwarves a little distinctive in a genre that often makes use of such races.

DAA: Ever since I read The Chronicles of Narnia, I’ve been fascinated with dwarves as a fantasy race. I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by blue and red collar workers, and I have a lot of respect for people who work hard every day, either slaving in a factory or breaking their backs in a field, to provide for their families. In fantasy, dwarves tend to be the working class, and I wanted to go into more detail about their societies and give them a rich, varied culture, and then to take it a step further, detailed subcultures, as well.

I got the idea for the slave plantations from reading a lot of the writings of Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington. Orcs are usually portrayed as mindless killers, almost like an outlaw biker gang on steroids, and to me that rarely rings true. I wanted to give them a culture, too, and personally, not many cultures are more evil or more sinister than the Old South and its aristocratic heirarchy and notions of noblese oblige. That seemed to be a perfect fit for the orcs, so I reread Up from Slavery and described the orc culture much like Douglas described the plantation he grew up on.


SZ: The realms/cultures/world in The Brotherhood of Dwarves are well-crafted. Did the cultures and world in your series evolve as you were writing, or did you develop the world before beginning the first draft?

DAA: I definitely had a pretty good idea of the cultures before I started writing, but the bulk of the details grew out of the creative process. I just listen to my characters and let them fill in the details of where they come from and what their culture is like. So I guess the answer is yes and yes.

SZ: At the core of The Brotherhood of Dwarves is a quest story that intertwines with a coming of age story, regarding the dwarf Roskin. Was this something that evolved, or did you intend to combine these elements from the start?

DAA: I didn’t consciously set out to write either. The nucleus of the story is Roskin’s journey to find fortune and glory because he believes that will make him happy. He learns along the way that materialism doesn’t lead to happiness, that what matters in life are the relationships we cultivate with each other. In that way, it is a coming of age story, but that wasn’t a conscious decision. That was just the story. On the other hand, it’s an adventure, so there had to be an element of the quest in there to move the action along. I try not to weigh myself down with worrying about conventions or modes or any of that. I just tell the story as it feels natural, and whatever grows out of that process is what is there.

SZ: The legendary actor John Rhys-Davies is familiar with your book, fitting as he was the dwarf Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies. Tell us a little about your encounter with him and his introduction to your book.

DAA: I met him at AdventureCon in Knoxville, TN back in 2005. It was my first major convention, and my table was directly across from his. He was only scheduled for Saturday, and all day long his line for autographs was twenty to thirty people deep. In the evening, as the show was moving into the last hour of the day, I saw that there were only two people in line for him, so I grabbed a book and ran over there. He was very gracious and kind as I gave him the book, and I honestly didn’t want anything in return. I just wanted John Rhys-Davies to possibly read my book.

A few minutes later, his partner came over to my table to thank me, and she saw my Brotherhood of Dwarves t-shirts and really got a kick out of them. I offered to give him the t-shirt along with the book, and she told me to come back to his booth with it. This time his line was a little longer and I took my neice with me, and when he saw the t-shirt, he laughed as only he can and insisted that I take an autographed picture. I tried to decline, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Then, he told me to grab my camera, and he took a few minutes to pose for the pictures, and he was very good to my neice, who was ten or eleven at the time.

A little while later, as the show was winding down, he personally came over to my booth to talk with me for a few minutes. He said that he had read the first few pages and was very impressed by the writing style and looked forward to reading the rest. Then, he leaned in close and said that independents like me give him books all the time, and usually the work is pure rubbish, but that he thought I was “a hell of a writer” and wished me good luck for my career. I glowed for weeks off of that compliment and to this day, it’s one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. I can’t stress enough just how kind, considerate, and humble he was. I hope one day to meet him again and have the opportunity to thank him in person for what he did for me.

SZ: Do you have a projection as to how big the series is going to be?

DAA: The series is five books total.

SZ: When will the next title be released?

DAA: My goal is next summer. I’m about halfway through the rough draft and hope to have it finished late December/early January. Then, I plan to spend a good amount of time polishing the manuscript with an editor. I’m a little obsessive about the editing and like to take my time until it’s right. I’d much rather push back the release and have a good book than rush something to market that’s not up to my standards.

SZ: Why did you choose to go small press?

DAA: Honestly, pure frustration with the state of the industry. It’s just a mess right now, and I’m way too much of a Type A personality to sit around for months waiting on people to make decisions. I dove in head first and created my own publishing company and haven’t looked back since. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have stumbled quite a bit, but overall, the experience has been wonderful.

SZ: There are obviously challenges in being a small press author, but what are some of the advantages that you see?

DAA: The artistic freedom is a big plus. Setting my own deadlines is also nice. The opportunity to build something from scratch and grow it into a succesful business is also pretty cool. I’m still a little ways away from being able to call it successful, but things have come a very long way in five years. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish as a complete unknown with very little operating capital. And I hope that I can inspire others to take the risk and go out on their own, if that’s something they want to attempt.

SZ: How do people connect with D.A. Adams on the web and on social networking sites?

DAA: My website is http://www.brotherhoodofdwarves.com/ and I’m on Facebook as D. A. Adams


Book Review
The Brotherhood of Dwarves Kicks Off a Very Promising Fantasy Series



The Brotherhood of Dwarves (Third Axe Media, ISBN: 978-0976554721 ) is the first book of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, which now includes the second installment, Red Sky at Dawn.

It tells the story of a dwarf named Roskin, who is the son of a dwarven king named Kraganere. He is filled with a desire for adventure, and while going about an obligatory walking of the kingdom comes across the tale of a legendary statue called The Brotherhood of Dwarves. Once a sacred dwarven possession, the revered object is said to be held in a far-off fortress, in the keeping of a fearsome human general nicknamed Evil Blade, whose reputation for brutality and mercilessness is well-known.

Hungering to journey in the outside world, Roskin sets off under the pretense of visiting a dwarven friend, all the while harboring the secret mission that he has given himself.

The tapestry of The Brotherhood of Dwarves is woven with a few primary societies and races. There are three principle groups of dwarves, each with distinctive physical and cultural characteristics. They include the Tredjards, the Ghaldeons, and the Kiredurks. To the east is a human empire, to the south is a realm ruled by orcs, and there are also ogre and elven societies that factor in significantly to the plot.

D.A. Adams is a bold writer, who took a great risk in this series, in that all of the races included in this book are ones that have a heavy presence in the genre, bringing with each of them a lot of preconceived notions as they pertain to fantasy readers. D.A. Adams succeeds well where it would be easy to slip into formulas, in that he manages to craft the various societies with unique aspects, while retaining some of the conventional elements.

The orcs, for example, have developed a plantation-based slavery system that echoes strongly of the plantation systems in the Old South. The ogres are not dumb brutes, but rather have a very well developed matriarchal clan society that interacts very well with other races. There are many other such twists and hues for the well-read fantasy reader to discover with the various dwarven races and the elves.

Adams is adept at character development, which I feel is one of his strengths as a writer. The mysterious, alcoholic human warrior Red, who Roskin encounters during his travels and becomes a major element in this story, is a standout character in particular. So is Roskin, who is actually half-elven, his mother being a Loorish elf. A number of very intriguing characters abound, including the female dwarf Molgheon (who is an proficient archer, not a commonly seen skill in dwarves of other fantasy titles and series), Vishghu, a female ogre, and Kwarck, a half-elf wizard.

Many of the characters have to struggle with an assortment of inner demons and raw wounds, compounded when some of them are forced together for an unanticipated quest that evolves later in the book. Transcendent themes of both redemption and forgiveness surface in the telling of the tale, and Adams does a very good job at building the characters in such a way that their struggles involved in reaching those points are believable, as well as adding a lot of tension and drama to the plot itself.

Adams' writing style is well-paced, and he does a very effective job at laying the groundwork for the world featured in The Brotherhood of Dwarves. He meets the challenge faced by any first book in a series well, giving the reader a good overview of its components without getting too overly bogged down.

Fantasy readers will embrace Roskin and all of the well-crafted characters in The Brotherhood of Dwarves. Good action, a cohesive plot, and fresh approaches to well-known fantasy races make The Brotherhood of Dwarves a truly successful kickoff to a very promising series.

-by Stephen Zimmer, for Seventh Star Press Blog, July 30, 2009

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