I first met Dave Mattingly at the 2010 Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, an amazing event that consistently makes the lists of many industry insiders as one of the top twenty book events in the entire country. As luck would have it, I was placed on the right side of Michael Williams, a great author (who is well-known for his DragonLance novels) who just had a new novel come out. This book, Trajan's Arch, had been released by Blackwyrm Publishing, which kept Dave in close proximity to where I was much of the day.
As I learned more about Blackwyrm, which is based out of Louisville, Kentucky, I became more and more impressed with what Dave and his group have going on. They are a very dedicated small press publisher that not only releases fiction, but also is active in the gaming market, in terms of releasing gaming-related books.
Dave is clearly the kind of publisher that is very supportive of his authors, as you can tell from his very active list of events and appearances. He is going to be attending FandomFest next summer on the Literary Track that I am doing programming for, and I wanted for everyone to have a chance to learn a little about Blackwyrm Publishing. In the course of the interview, Dave also offers some really good insights into the strange state of publishing at the current time. Very informative, and interesting, and I encourage readers to pick up a couple Blackwyrm titles in the near future...maybe download one on your Kindle or Nook after reading this! (and you can't go wrong with a Michael Williams book!)
So, without further adieu, we begin our visit with Dave Mattingly, of Blackwyrm Publishing!
-Stephen Zimmer, for the Seventh Star Press Blog, January 1, 2011
(Dave Mattingly of Blackwyrm Publishing)
SZ: When did you found BlackWyrm, and what were your goals for the company at the beginning? DM: BlackWyrm started in 2003, founded with a group of five gaming friends. We saw all these other companies writing and publishing gaming material, and believed that we could do the same. Most of us had some industry experience, having written or illustrated for other companies, having produced some of our own material, or having published electronically.
Our initial goal was to split the creative duties somewhat evenly, so that we'd all have a chance to turn our gaming ideas into reality. But we soon fell into roles, and although we all contributed at least some idea to each project, the writing wasn't as evenly distributed as we'd imagined.
SZ: I'm really curious. What's behind the name of the company? DM: It took us a while to decide on a name. We all had our own ideas of what we wanted to be called. Eventually, we all settled on Black Dragon. Unfortunately, it was taken. So we changed dragon to wyrm, an archaic word for dragon, and we've been BlackWyrm ever since.
SZ: Tell us a little about the types of authors that you have brought aboard Blackwyrm. What types of writers have you tended to gravitate towards,and wanted to publish, as your catalog features quite a range genre-wise? DM On the game side, we made a name for ourselves by publishing supplements (character books, settings, and adventures) for other game companies, notably Hero Games and Green Ronin. When our audience saw our commitment to quality, other published game authors came to us about publishing some of their new material. Once we figured out how we would deal with outside authors, and we'd seen that we could make enough money for our company and for the author to be happy with the arrangement, we extended it to other game authors.
Previously, it had been taking us almost a year for each book, doing it all ourselves, since we had the research, writing, editing, proofreading, layout, artwork, production, marketing, and other aspects to work with. By opening up our publishing services to others, we were able to produce much more material. And that meant more product on shelf space, a new book at each major convention, and more presence in the eye of the customer.
After publishing game books for a while, for a variety of systems and genres, we felt that we sill wanted to diversify further. Our slice of the roleplaying audience is gradually shrinking, and although we might gain a bigger market over time, it would be sliced from a smaller pie. And while not everyone plays the types of games we support, nearly everyone reads fiction of some type.
We started off our fiction line with science fiction and fantasy, two genres that we knew well. Our theory was that our gaming audience was a great built-in market for selling this type of fiction, and for the most part, that has worked out well enough. By advertising our fiction books in roleplaying magazines and web sites, and carrying the titles at gaming conventions, we had a nice head start on breaking into the fiction market.
After establishing BlackWyrm as a small press speculative fiction company, we were able to expand into other genres. First into horror, which is not so different a market from the sci-fi and fantasy that we started with, but then into historical fiction, and soon into thrillers, biographies, and others.
SZ: In general, what types of titles have been your strongest, sales-wise, as a small press publisher? Regardless of genre, the best selling titles are the ones in which the author takes an active role, by going to conventions, festivals, and other events.
SZ: What has surprised you the most about the publishing business, once you got deeper into it? DM: The most surprising part for us was probably the chain stores. It wasn't the huge discount that the chain stores want, since we were used to that on the game publishing side already. But that it's so hard to get the chain stores to pay attention to one more small publisher among thousands.
SZ:Any mistakes that you've learned during your time in the business that you would care to share, which might serve as good lessons that can be of help to other small presses? DM: We've found that it's a lot easier for us to promote local and regional authors. We certainly don't mind publishing authors from far away, but since we don't know the area book stores and events, it's harder for us to know where and how to focus our marketing efforts to best make use of our most successful marketing resource -- the author. By keeping our authors relatively close to home, it makes it a lot easier for us to arrange signings, readings, panels, and other events. Once we've established a working relationship with a book store within a hundred or two hundred miles, we can send other authors to the same spot later.
My primary advice is to work with others. Learn from those who have done what you want to do. In our case, we already knew several best-selling fantasy and science fiction authors, such as Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Jim Lowder, and Margaret Weis. By getting advice from them, and from general publishing experts like Aaron Shepherd, Dan Poynter, and Brian Jud, we made sure we were well-educated about the road ahead of us before we jumped in.
SZ: Do you see more opportunities in the future for bringing aboard writers like Michael Williams, who are also published by major presses? Tell us a little about small presses can provide a compelling outlet for works by such well-known authors, perhaps using Trajan's Arch as an example. DM: Michael Williams is best known for his Dragonlance work, and in fact his first novel sold 750,000 copies and has been translated into ten languages. Trajan's Arch, his first novel with us, is his eleventh book. After a very successful writing career in the '80s and '90s, he took a break from writing to become a university professor. Trajan's Arch is his first book in nearly fifteen years.
In the case of Trajan's Arch, it's a departure from his standard "otherworld fantasy" books, so I'm not sure the major labels knew what to do with it. Michael was shopping it around, and approached us, since he'd seen us at conventions and knew that we promoted our authors well.
The book was a bit of a stretch for us, as well. We'd been previously focusing on novellas in the 50 - 70,000 word range. We felt that novellas were underrepresented in the book stores, and the ability to read an entire book on a long flight or during a week of lunch hours was something that the reading public wanted, but could not easily get. Trajan's Arch was more than twice that big, which meant a bigger investment risk from us, and a larger marketing effort to back it up.
What BlackWyrm has been able to offer a best-selling author like Michael Williams that some of the big publishing houses cannot is the personal touch. I've chauffeured Michael to out-of-town signings myself. I can drive by his university office to drop off books, marketing materials, or just to have lunch.
We've also been able to leverage our efforts with larger publishers. Some of Michael's earlier books are just now becoming available as ebooks. That publisher is promoting Trajan's Arch along with their own efforts, and we're likewise promoting those ebooks.
SZ: Tell us a little about the game book side of Blackwyrm, and whether you have found it to be very separate from your literary publishing, or whether it has been of help to the literary publishing in some manner. DM: Since we started off on the game side, and still do quite well there, it acts as our "base" for fiction. We already had experience, money, a presence, and an audience. By having a stable fund to start from, we launched our fiction line as an "experiment" for a year. The results from that first year were borderline, but strong enough that we continued into a second year. Now that our second year is coming to an end, we've learned enough about the fiction market that our prospects are on the rise.
Each fiction book has built on the success of those before, and although the final numbers are not in, it looks as though our most recent quarter will come close to equaling the previous three quarters combined.
SZ: Give us a few of your thoughts on the state of publishing in general, at the present moment. DM: Chaos! Chaos, I say! The big book chains are closing stores. The independent book stores are feeling the crunch. With the adoption of ebooks, the industry in general is trying to find the best way to cope with change.
SZ: Do you see both print and eBook formats reaching a certain market share and co-existing, or do you think it will be all eBooks in the future? DM: Last quarter, Amazon reported that ebooks outsold printed books for the first time. On Christmas day along, Barnes & Noble sold one million ebooks. They would have sold even more, but their servers were struggling to keep up with all the activity, and their website was spotty.
The publishing industry is facing the same kinds of challenges that the music industry is still recovering from. Content has been separated from delivery (physical albums and books are no longer necessary), and the channels are opening up so that authors can reach their readers directly.
My preacher recently started using an ebook reader from the pulpit. Now, instead of six differently colored ribbons to mark the places he wants to preach from, he just has his ereader programmed with the passages he wants. He can adjust the font size to whatever he wants, and he can carry as many translations, reference books, and supporting material as he wants to.
BlackWyrm offers all of our books in ebook format as well, and we're seeing a slow but steady rise in our percentage of electronic sales.
SZ: In your view, what are some areas where a publisher like Blackwyrm can make solid progress in terms of developing competitive advantages in this new age of publishing? DM: That's a question that we're always trying to answer. And we've learned that today's answer will not be tomorrow's answer; we need to constantly adapt.
In fact, that's probably one of our strongest points -- the ability to adapt quickly. With our small operation, technical savvy (I've written computer programs for aerospace, video games, medical, financial, and several other industries), industry feelers, and guerilla marketing techniques, we reevaluate our approaches and experiment with new ways to get our product to our market.
SZ: Tell us a little about some of the new titles coming out in 2011 on Blackwyrm. Give us the scoop! DM: In 2011, we also have several novels in the works: a cyberpunk anthology, a medical thriller, a political thriller, adult fairie tales, a young adult fantasy, a viking fantasy series, a vampire thriller, a post-apocalyptic drama, and more. Plus, we're expecting some sequels: to Branwen's Garden (young adult fantasy), Gran's Secret (werewolf fantasy), Left in the Dark (psychic thriller), and The Starcrossed (science fiction action romance).
We also have several game books planned: a Gestalt sequel, an Elvis-themed superhero adventure, a middle eastern superhero adventure, an American folklore sourcebook, an imaginary friend superhero adventure, and Project WyrmStar -- a slew of science fiction settings, likely to include ideas such as musketeers in space, space opera noir, escape from utopia, space pulpy retro history, and more.
I have to say that I'm always excited about a visit with Elizabeth Donald. A very talented and successful writer (be sure to check out Abbadon, Nocturne, The Dreadmire Chronicles: Knight of the Demon Tree, The Cold Ones, and her other work), Elizabeth is also one of the most engaging and entertaining personalities that you will encounter on the Con circuit. Any convention's programming track is strengthened by having her on it. Yet it is another aspect about Elizabeth that puts her in a very special class; those that help other authors get a boost on their roads.
In this area, Elizabeth instigated The Literary Underworld, an operation that helps quality small press authors through booth exhibits at conventions, as well as maintaining an online store. The catalog has grown rapidly, and the exhibits at conventions look very impressive, with an array of very established small press and self-published authors.
I wanted to bring a spotlight to the Literary Underworld in this interview, in the hopes that a little awareness can be raised, and perhaps a few more folks will be encouraged to order some titles online, or purchase a few books when they come across a Literary Underworld booth at a convention.
So let's visit with the vivacious, gifted, entrepreneurial visonary otherwise known as Elizabeth Donald, and venture into The Literary Underworld!
-Stephen Zimmer for the Seventh Star Press Blog, December 28, 2010
(Elizabeth Donald, Author and Founder of The Literary Underworld)
SZ: How did Literary Underworld come about? Elizabeth:The Literary Underworld began with a couple of friends. I’ve been doing the convention circuit since 2004, and at one point I looked around the dealer’s room and saw at least half a dozen authors like me, each of us with our own boring table and one book in front of us. It was a waste of space for the show, it looked pathetic and it was expensive for the author. If the table cost you $75 and your profit per book is only $5, you have to sell a lot of books to make back your cost, not to mention your hotel room and travel expenses.
The alternative, of course, is to sell out of your bag. The problem is, that’s not really a viable plan these days. In the past, or even five years ago, an author could carry a boxful of books around the convention and people would come up at the end of a panel or during your signing and buy books from you. For some reason, they don’t do that anymore. I don’t know if the cons told people not to do that anymore, or if readers thought they were annoying us – and I can assure them they are not, authors are always willing to take your money.
The problem is that small-press authors really have to sell books at the shows to make our expenses. Most cons can’t afford to pay authors’ expenses, and so we’re on our own ticket for most or all of our hotel bill and travel. If we don’t sell books, we can’t afford to go, especially in this economy. That means being in the dealer’s room.
So I started splitting a table with a couple of friends. We shared the cost, and we shared the responsibilities at the table. When one of us had a panel, the other two could cover. It made the conventions a lot easier to survive and more financially viable.
Then a funny thing happened. Other authors who were buried under the cost of their own tables or trying to sell out of their bags asked if they could join us. In return for sharing the cost of the table and helping man the booth, we were able to help each other and help the cons save valuable space in overcrowded dealers’ rooms.
After a while, it got to be a little cumbersome to split the costs. For one thing, some authors had seven books and some had two. Some were present at nearly every show and some were only there once in a while. So to be fair, we switched to a commission method – 20 percent off the sale, which the authors themselves set. I take their books with me so I can offer books at shows they can’t attend, and that’s pretty much when the Literary Underworld stopped being a few friends and became a business, the only authors’ cooperative of which I’m aware that acts as bookseller, coordinating our efforts with other authors’ cooperatives such as the Illinois-Missouri Authors and the immensely successful Imagicopter.
Consider that when an author sells a book through a bookstore or the publisher or Amazon.com, they get on average about 7 percent of what you pay. If they sell the book themselves, they can keep as much as 40 percent of the cost. Even with our commission, authors make nearly three times as much per book as they do through bookstores – and sometimes the actual cost of the book is far less because of it.
We launched a web store late 2009 to allow the authors to sell their books in between conventions. As of now the Literary Underworld represents more than 25 authors and a few small presses that sell their titles through us. When we travel around to conventions, the authors who are present run the booth themselves. I have an assistant who loves books and helps track the inventory, so the fact that we can find the books when we’re looking for them is entirely due to her. I do the online portion myself, so any typos on the site are entirely my fault.
SZ: What is the process for selecting titles, in terms of a quality control, as we all know that the small press and self-publishing world runs the gamut from things that can stand right alongside a major press title to things that aren't so able to do so. Elizabeth: Authors pitch books to me all the time, and while I know the industry is changing, I very rarely take self-published titles. It really has to be an exceptional book, and the author has truly impressed me with his or her passion and willingness to work for the book. Most of them are small-press books I’ve read and feel would be a good match, or from authors and presses I know and respect. On occasion, when I see an author or a book on the tour that I feel would be a good match, I’ll ask them if they’d like me to take a handful of copies with me.
Up until now, I’ve mostly done the selection myself. But to tell the truth, our backlog of authors and/or titles that have been pitched to us is getting very long. In the new year, I plan to ask my existing authors if they’re willing to occasionally read a submitted title and recommend whether or not we should carry it. Surprisingly enough, I can’t do everything myself. I don’t want authors to have to wait months to hear from us.
I’ll say this: as an author with my fair share of them, it absolutely kills me to send rejection letters.
SZ: How many conventions do you attend now with Literary Underworld? Elizabeth: We average about one convention or book fair a month, taking December off for sanity. I don’t want to do too many more than that, because at some point I’d like to have a life.
SZ: Do you see any differences between attending a large convention like a DragonCon, and smaller conventions? Elizabeth: In terms of sales, there is no real pattern to where we will sell. I’ve had my best and worst takes both at Dragoncon. I try to think of it in terms of our sales-to-customer ratio – how many books we sell compared to how many feet go past the booth. Sometimes we sell a ton of one book and everyone else goes begging; other times we sell a handful of copies of several titles. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s 300 or 30,000 in attendance.
It’s certainly very different attending a mega-convention than a small con, but I think in both cases you tend to see friends and colleagues that you’ve seen in years past, making each con like a family reunion. There are people I only see in Atlanta, or in Nashville, or Kansas City, or Memphis. Whether we’re among a cast of thousands or only a few hundred, we always seem to find each other. If you have a problem with crowds and long lines, I wouldn’t generally recommend a mega-con – and the elevators in Atlanta are definitely not for the claustrophobic.
But at nearly every convention, there is a certain continuity. They are run by fans, volunteers who love genre fiction and are doing their best to give everyone a good time and diverse, intelligent programming. They’re populated by fans, readers who love genre fiction and can talk about it with some degree of understanding, and they’re looking for something new and different. That’s what we try to offer: something unusual, something you won’t find at a chain bookstore. And our authors are always willing to help develop and present unique panels at the shows.
SZ: What have been the biggest challenges or adjustments in running Literary Underworld? Elizabeth: I had no idea how much of my time it would take. It takes a lot of effort to keep the ball rolling, to run the web store and haul the booth out to so many conventions. It has also been quite a challenge to get the word out about us. I always thought it was egregious that bookstores charged 40 percent; now I know why. We have absolutely no money for advertising and rely almost completely on word of mouth and free social networking for our business. Strangely enough, it’s been hard even to get the authors to promote us – you’d think it would be natural for them to guide their readers to buy from a seller that gives them back 80 percent instead of 60 or 40 percent, but so many just say, “Oh, I’m available on Amazon.”
But the biggest challenge is fitting three racks, containers of drapes and décor, signage, boxes of 85 titles and my 11-year-old son in a Toyota Camry.
SZ: What are your goals with Literary Underworld in 2011?
Elizabeth: I want a van. Okay, that’s not likely, but a girl can dream. I’d settle for the web store taking off to the point where it covers our expenses. I didn’t start Literary Underworld to make money for myself, but that 20 percent doesn’t cover enough, not with cons raising the price of dealer tables each year and hotel rooms getting more expensive by the hour. The web store costs us much less overhead, and more web sales would offset those cons that have not exactly been overly profitable.
I want to expand our offerings into independent comics and young-adult fiction. Last year, Diamond declared it would not carry comics that could not meet $2,500 in wholesale orders, which knocked out a lot of independents and niche comics. I hear they’ve had to back off that some, but in the meantime, I want to help get independent comics out into the cons. I’m proud to say Dandelion Studios and its imprint, Quarterstaff Comics, distribute through us and we had the sneak preview of its new title, “Stone,” at Archon – a week before it was available to the public. I’d like to see more comics on our shelves.
And anyone who pays attention to bookselling knows that YA genre fiction is the fastest-growing market, but far too much of it is simply a Harry Potter or Twilight knockoff. I’m looking for stuff that’s a little different, adventures in science fiction and fantasy that will draw in young readers. There’s something about a book you read as a child or teenager that stays with you all your life, and I want to help those young people find our fantastical worlds.
I’m hoping to get more steampunk and horror comedy, because that’s what people are asking about at the booth. I want to find more authors, so that we have new faces and new titles for our fans each year. I’m taking us to a few new conventions in 2011, trying to get out of the rut of going to the same cons every year.
And, of course, it’d be nice not to go bankrupt.
SZ: What is the climate like out there right now for small press authors, in your view? Things seem so chaotic at the major retail level with so many chains closing stores. Elizabeth: The real change happened a few years ago, when chain stores stopped buying small press. I had a book published by a mid-size press in 2005 that was in every Borders in America, and I had the big-box signings and my name in the paper. Two years later the sequel came out, and suddenly I couldn’t find my book on a single shelf. When the bottom fell out of the world, big box ran to the safe stuff: to the New York Times bestsellers, to Dean Koontz and Nora Roberts and the Twilight series. They stopped buying us long before they got in trouble, thinking the American public only wanted to read the same stuff over and over again. It turned out they were wrong, and I think that’s a good thing for us.
Meanwhile, the collapsing big-box stores mean less competition for independent booksellers. I can’t say that new bookstores are opening up, but it seems like the slow death of the mom-and-pop bookshop has stopped, or even reversed. And those independents seem far more willing to work with small-press authors than they were a few years ago, realizing perhaps that the way they can truly compete with big box retailers is to offer the diversity and high quality available in the small press. If you’re looking for vampires that don’t sparkle, you probably want Main Street Books, not Barnes and Noble.
SZ: What kind of titles are your most popular at the moment? Can you give us a few examples of best sellers? Elizabeth: I don’t think my authors would necessarily appreciate publicizing our sales records, so I’ll refrain from the actual titles. I will say that steampunk steampunk steampunk … yeah, and some steampunk. Maybe it’s just a trend, but it’s sure holding on. Horror sells more than fantasy or science fiction two to one, and erotica written in any genre sells like mad, especially paranormal and/or GLBT romance.
I can say that I personally tend to be our biggest seller, but I think that’s simply because I am the only author who is present at every show. Regardless of genre, the books that sell the most are those of authors who are there, and actively promoting their own work. I think that’s something a lot of beginning authors don’t know: you are your own best salesperson, your own best publicist. If you just sit at home and wait for the checks, they’re going to be pretty small. And if you just sit there and be quiet, or heaven-forbid rude to the readers, you’re not going to sell.
SZ: Time for web links and social media links for Literary Underworld. I'd also like to ask you to put links in for yourself, so people can discover what an amazing author you are!
Our web store can be found at literaryunderworld.com, and we have awesome holiday specials that will continue through to Dec. 31!
It’s really not all the spammy – I can’t afford to email people more than once or twice a month. But it seems more people read their email coupons than use the coupons we post on Facebook, so it’s really y’all’s fault.
We are happy to report that Kindle users can now get Thrall and Dream of Legends, the new books from Steven Shrewsbury and Stephen Zimmer. All artwork is included in both editions, and they are both priced at the low rate of $3.99. If you've got a Kindle, take a minute and support small press fantasy now by picking up one or both!
Since it is Cyber Monday, we wanted to give a friendly reminder that pre-orders on Steven Shrewsbury's Thrall is this Wednesday. After Wednesday, if this version does not sell out, the price will rise significantly on any remaining packages.
There are lots of options available, including a softcover version of the package, and an option where you can get the new Gorias La Gaul t-shirt for just over 8 dollars. Please give this package some consideration, as you will be supporting an excellent author and small press at the same time. Plus, your book will last longer than the useable lifespan of the latest electronic gadget, most of which will be obsolete in two years.
While you are visiting the online store, you can also see the packages for Dream of Legends, Stephen Zimmer's new Fires in Eden installment. The deadline for pre-orders on that one is December 8th.
Dream of Legends is here! The 2nd Book of the Fires in Eden Series by Stephen Zimmer is now announced, and pre-orders have begun for a special limited edition hardcover and first edition softcovers, both of which come with an array of Dream of Legends Collectibles.
Dream of Legends includes another fantastic set of illustrations and cover art from Matthew Perry, continuing one of fantasy's most unique collaborations between an author and an artist.
Epic battles, big plot revelations, and incredible new characters abound in Dream of Legends.
Seventh Star Press is proud to announce the release of DREAM OF LEGENDS, the second book in the epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series from Stephen Zimmer.
Now available for pre-order in limited edition hardcover and trade paperback, DREAM OF LEGENDS continues the adventures begun in CROWN OF VENGEANCE, when it was released in fall of 2009.
DREAM OF LEGENDS journeys forward with several characters from the modern world, who discover that finding themselves in the fantastical lands of Ave was just the beginning. The assault upon the Kingdom of Saxany and the tribes of the Five Realms ignites, as the eyes of The Unifier turn southward, across the seas towards faraway Midragard. Within this maelstrom, some find themselves on a path of discovery, to uncover powers that lie within, while others must brave perilous journeys, to seek out the things said to exist only in the faded mists of myth and legend. Epic battles, plot twists, and new environments abound in DREAM OF LEGENDS.
Book Two of the Fires in Eden Series, DREAM OF LEGENDS is immersive, epic fantasy, for those who love to explore richly developed fantasy worlds alongside an ensemble of intriguing, diverse characters. Readers of the great epic fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and J.R.R. Tolkien will find a wondrous trove of adventure, characters, and depth in this next step of the Fires in Eden series.
Working with Stephen for the first time, and taking on the editorial reins of the Fires in Eden Series to keep the dedicated yearly release schedule on course, was Karen Leet.
"Working with Stephen has been a joy. He is totally professional about his work, meets deadlines and edits cheerfully," Karen commented. "He makes editing easy for me, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know his characters, who now seem to me like actual people with genuine depth. His plotlines stride across the pages on swift, sure feet and sweep the reader along with them."
“Having Karen as my editor on DREAM OF LEGENDS was a wonderful experience. She did a meticulous analysis of Crown of Vengeance to ensure full continuity of tone and style with the new book. I am fortunate to be working with two excellent editors on my two series. The new book is loaded with action, and there are some very big revelations in regards to the full series,” Stephen said. “DREAM OF LEGENDS builds strongly upon the foundation set in place by Crown of Vengeance, keeping storylines tight while introducing many new and exciting elements. I am confident that readers who enjoyed the first book are going to be elated with this new installment of the series.”
Continuing one of the most extensive collaborations between an artist and an author in the fantasy sphere, a brand new set of illustrations and cover art were created for DREAM OF LEGENDS by fantasy artist Matthew Perry. With the two Rising Dawn Saga books and the two Fires in Eden books, a growing body of over 50 full page illustrations have been created by Matthew for Stephen’s literary work.
In addition to writing two active epic-scale fantasy series, The Rising Dawn Saga and the Fires in Eden Series, Stephen also saw his first foray into the steampunk genre published a couple of months ago with “In the Mountain Skies”, which was included in the Dreams of Steam Anthology (Editor Kimberly Richardson, Kerlak Publishing). Stephen is also a screenwriter and director in the world of film, with a new fantasy short film on the horizon in early 2011, “Swordbearer”, which features professional wrestler Al Snow, and is based on the H. David Blalock novel Ascendant (Sam’s Dot Publishing).
By the third week of December, DREAM OF LEGENDS will be available in hardcover, trade paperback, and several eBook formats, for owners of the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, Sony eReaders, and other compatible electronic reading devices.
Already maintaining one of the most active year-round appearance schedules of any fantasy author, Stephen will be hitting the road extensively in 2011 in support of the Fires in Eden Series, the Rising Dawn Saga, and the “Swordbearer” short film. The third book in the Rising Dawn Saga is slated for summer of 2011, and the next Fires in Eden Book for December of 2011.
Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at www.seventhstarpress.com , or at the author's site at www.stephenzimmer.com
Contact: C.C. James Public Relations, Seventh Star Press email@example.com Seventh Star Press Mailing Address: 3801 Dylan Place Suite 116, #7 Lexington, Ky. 40514-1062
Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky.
Please help us spread the word on Steven Shrewsbury's fantastic new heroic fantasy novel Thrall. Two new banners available promoting Thrall and the limited edition hardcovers (deadline on pre-orders is December 1)
Visit the following link to get code to cut and paste the banners into your blogs and pages.
Seventh Star Press proudly introduces THRALL, the new heroic fantasy novel from Steven L. Shrewsbury. Fans of Robert E. Howard's Conan or David Gemmell's Druss the Legend are sure to love this fantastic, hard-hitting fantasy release.
The Pre-ordering window is now up for a special Limited Edition Hardcover (HIGHLY collectible, as this is the first appearance of the Gorias La Gaul character, and there are only 75 copies in the limited edition run)
The novel features artwork and illustrations from Matthew Perry. Here is the cover art and one of the illustrations, which features Gorias La Gaul.
Watch the new video trailer for Thrall here:
Here is the entire text of the press release:
For Immediate Release November 5, 2010
Seventh Star Press Proudly Introduces Steven L. Shrewsbury's Thrall.
Seventh Star Press is proud to announce the release of THRALL, the new heroic fantasy novel from author Steven L. Shrewsbury.
Now available for pre-order in limited edition hardcover and trade paperback, THRALL is the first published adventure of a brand new hero in fantasy literature, Gorias La Gaul.
Set in an ancient world, Thrall is gritty, dark-edged heroic fantasy in the vein of Robert E. Howard and David Gemmell. It tells the story of Gorias La Gaul, an aging warrior who has lived for centuries battling the monstrosities of legend and lore. It is an age when the Nephilum walk the earth, and dragons still soar through the air … living or undead. On a journey to find one of his own blood, Gorias' path crosses with familiar enemies ... some of whom not even death can hold bound.
Having also worked with Steven on his novel Tormentor (Lachesis Publishing), Louise Bohmer served as the editor on Thrall. "Working with Steven Shrewsbury on a novel is an enjoyable experience. Steve is a conscientious author who is easy to work with. His stories are grand adventures in imagination,” Bohmer commented.
Steven Shrewsbury is a rising star in fantasy, with a host of published work spanning novels, magazines, anthologies, and other publications. In addition to the release of THRALL, Steven recently saw his collaboration with Nate Southard, BAD MAGICK, published in hardcover by Bloodletting Press. He has two other highly-anticipated releases on the horizon. His collab novel with Peter Welmerink, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, was recently accepted by Belfire Press for an early 2011 release. The novel HELL BILLY is to be published by Bad Moon Books in 2012.
“Sometimes I think Steven Shrewsbury could very well be the reincarnation of Robert E. Howard, in a writing sense,” commented fellow Seventh Star Press author Stephen Zimmer. “As a huge fan of David Gemmell and Robert E. Howard, I can say with absolute confidence that Steven Shrewsbury is exceptional at writing dark-edged heroic fantasy. It is not an exaggeration to say that Gorias La Gaul could one day join the heroic fantasy pantheon with Conan, Druss the Legend, and other legendary fantasy figures. I can’t wait to read more adventures with Gorias in the future.”
The Seventh Star Press editions feature cover art and additional illustrations from fantasy artist Matthew Perry. The limited edition packages feature the artwork in a special set of 5X7 glossy prints, a set of bookmarks, and a full-sized Gorias poster that come with every pre-ordered hardcover or trade paperback.
By the first week of December, the book will be available in hardcover, trade paperback, and several eBook formats, for owners of the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, Sony eReaders, and other compatible electronic reading devices.
An extensive series of special events and signings in support of THRALL are in the planning stages, slated to begin in early 2011.
Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at www.seventhstarpress.com , or at the author's site at www.stevenshrewsbury.com
Contact: C.C. James Public Relations, Seventh Star Press firstname.lastname@example.org Seventh Star Press Mailing Address: 3801 Dylan Place Suite 116, #7 Lexington, Ky. 40514-1062
Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky.
We are proud to welcome Jackie Gamber into the Seventh Star Press family. The full press release announcing the acquistion of her Leland Dragon Series is below!
For Immediate Release October 27, 2010
Seventh Star Press Proudly Announces the Acquisition of Award-Winning Author Jackie Gamber’s Leland Dragon Series
Seventh Star Press is proud to announce the addition of award winning author Jackie Gamber to its family of writers, with the acquisition of her YA Fantasy saga, The Leland Dragon Series.
The first book of the series, Redheart, was originally released by Meadowhawk Press, an exceptional small press publisher based in Memphis, TN, one of only four indie presses to ever win a Philip K. Dick Memorial Award (for the David Walton novel, Terminal Mind). When Meadowhawk Press decided to close its business operations, Seventh Star Press was thrilled to have the opportunity to sign Jackie Gamber, and commit to the entire Leland Dragon Series.
“I'll always have a heart for indy press, and Seventh Star is the epitome of what it's about: dedication to a vision and enthusiasm for writers. Seventh Star Press is an exciting ride, and I'm thrilled they offered me a seat,” commented Jackie about coming aboard with the Lexington, Kentucky-based publisher.
A wondrous coming of age tale, Redheart tells the stories of village girl Riza Diantus, and the dragon Kallon Redheart. Both are outcasts, struggling with the conventions of their respective societies, during an age in which tensions are high between dragons and humans. The Leland Province teeters on the edge of war, as the Dragon Council Leader, Fordon Blackclaw, seeks to drive humans into submission, or outright destruction. Under a blackening cloud of danger, the friendship grows between Riza and Kallon, as both face their respective destinies, embracing a host of challenges and threats, not the least of which includes regaining hope, and confronting the difficult things of one’s past.
Jackie Gamber is a versatile and prolific writer, whose work has appeared in an array of anthologies and magazines, in addition to published novels. Among her accolades, Jackie was the winner of the 2009 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction, was named honorable mention in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Award, and has been selected as the Editor Guest of Honor for the 2011 MidSouthCon, one of the southern United States’ premiere genre conventions.
“Jackie truly embodies the spirit of the growing family at Seventh Star Press,” fellow Seventh Star Press author Stephen Zimmer said. “Her talent as a writer is well established, and she is a very popular, well-loved guest at conventions and events, in addition to being a dedicated educator. She will be a fantastic ambassador for Seventh Star Press, and I know that everyone here, from our editors like Amanda Debord, to our art director Matthew Perry, to authors like myself and Steven Shrewsbury, will be fully committed to raising awareness of Jackie and her exceptional work.”
The Seventh Star Press edition will feature cover art and additional illustrations from fantasy artist Matthew Perry, whose work has been rapidly gaining attention on the convention circuit. The projected release date window for the new edition of Redheart is late February/March of 2011, in hardcover, trade paperback, and several eBook formats, covering owners of the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, Sony eReaders, and other electronic reading devices.
Sela, Book Two of the series, is targeted for a mid-late summer release in 2011, with Book Three scheduled for mid-2012 release in all of the aforementioned formats.
An extensive series of special events and signings in support of the novels are in the planning stages, slated to begin in early 2011.
Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at www.seventhstarpress.com , or at the author's site at www.jackiegamber.com
Contact: C.C. James Public Relations, Seventh Star Press email@example.com Seventh Star Press Mailing Address: 3801 Dylan Place Suite 116, #7 Lexington, Ky. 40514-1062
Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky.
Keep an eye out for the new press release announcement Seventh Star Press's latest author! She's an award-winner too!
It will be a very busy time, as next week the pre-order window for Thrall will open up as well. Be sure to pick up one of the limited edition hardcovers, as only 50 will be offered at a very reasonable price.
Seventh Star Press has a new Facebook page! Be sure to add it if you are on Facebook.
Several new announcements coming up in the next few weeks, and then we will be resuming our series of visits with authors.
Expect news about Steven L. Shrewsbury's forthcoming novel Thrall, an announcement regarding the newest Seventh Star Press author, an announcement about a new anthology, AND an announcement about a new eBook related series....all right around the corner!
Rising Dawn Saga titles and Fires in Eden titles from Stephen Zimmer are now available for user of Sony eReaders, and the many other reading devices that accept the ePub format.
Pricing is consistent with the Kindle and iBookstore pricing, with the retail price for The Storm Guardians at $3.99 and Crown of Vengeance at $2.99. The Exodus Gate will have a retail price of $2.99 on October 2, 2010 (it is listed at its previous pricing of $7.99 until that date, when the new pricing goes into effect)
Here are some sites where the 3 titles can be found.
Released today, a new Crown of Vengeance trailer has been posted that is stylized very similar to the two released last week for the Rising Dawn Saga. The trailer prominently features Matthew Perry's artwork from the book, and sets a good tone for the book itself, the first title of the Fires in Eden Series.
Be sure to visit the YouTube page to get the embed and link codes, and then pass them on or put the trailer on your pages.
Anyone out on the Con circuit who has met Sara M. Harvey, attended a panel with her on it, or has participated in a workshop with her, can vouch for her enthusiasm, savvy, and creative insights. I first encountered Sara a couple of years ago in precisely such a setting, at the 2008 version of Hypericon. That is where I was introduced to Sara's writing as well, as I picked up a copy of A Year and A Day, a wonderful tale about angels living among humans in New York City.
Sara is a hard-working writer, who has a number of things released and in the works, from short fiction in anthologies to her gothic steampunk fantasy trilogy, which currently included Convent of the Pure, and the new release Labyrinth of the Dead, released by the award-winning Apex Book Company, one of the highest regarded small press publishers in the USA.
Without a doubt, Sara is an author on the rise, with a growing readership, and an increasing popularity on the Con circuit. I have always wanted to ask Sara a few questions, so I thought I'd visit with her on the heels of the release of Labyrinth of the Dead.
I think the answers bring forth her infectious personality, and I whole-heartedly recommend her to readers of speculative fiction.
-Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blog, August 17, 2010
SZ: What were the foundational ideas and inspirations for your steampunk fantasy series?
SH: A dream I had many years ago.
It was a neat concept that needed a larger world to support it and it sat in my what-if file on my hard drove for years and finally found a great outlet! I tied my initial dream about a creepy boarding school full of magic users (this was pre-Harry Potter) and blended in some Biblical myth and set it in a really fun universe that I feel is just a step away from our own and about 100 years in the past.
SZ: All authors have a certain bonding to their characters, but are there any characters in particular that you have especially bonded with in this series, and why?
SH: I really love Portia. I think an author has to be a little in love with their protagonist to really made him or her shine on the page. I have ended up drawing some from some game characters I have played in the past to give her a certain dimension and details. She is a lot of fun.
This also means I have to be a little in love with Imogen, too, I suppose. But the character that stole my heart the most was Kitty Insinori who initially appears in the short story "Prelude to Penemue." Of course I couldn't just leave her there so look for our plucky engineer to make another appearance in book 3, THE TOWER OF THE FORGOTTEN!
SZ: The Nephilim, offspring of celestial beings and mortals who appear in biblical and other ancient lore, are a significant part of this series. What was your approach to their legends, in terms of deciding how to portray them in your series?
SH: I did a lot of reading of some fascinating essays and online articles that dealt with the Nephilim from both a scholarly standpoint as well as a spiritual one. So between reading all the Biblical accounts I could scrounge up in all the versions available, coupling with some books on demonology and the online information, I felt really confident in putting my own spin on it as well as adding in a dash of Anne Rice's Talamasca and Whedonverse Watchers with a dose of White Wolf's old vampire clan system. I think the amalgam really works for what I was trying to create: a secret society of supernatural creatures broken off into distinct houses with specific powers and responsibilities. The house we get to see believe their job is to guard humanity from the evils of the unseen world. But other houses may have slight different interpretations on their responsibilities.
SZ: Have you enjoyed working in the arena of steampunk fantasy? What things about it in particular appeal to you, in terms of setting a story in a steampunk type of environment.
SH: Oh I LOVE it! I love everything Steampunk and have since I was a kid. People think it's odd that a costume historian is into this kind of alternate and fantastical version of history but to me, this is the Good Parts!
There is a lot to love in the genre- the ability to make the history we know and tweak it (much less than one might think!) to fit events plotted in the story. It serves as a great jumping-off point to give a great foundation that the reader will find just familiar enough but allows for addition of fantastical elements.
SZ: It would seem that a dark, gothic, steampunk fantasy series would be very attractive to an author who is also happens to be a superb costume designer. Tell us about drawing off of your costume design background in your approach on the imagery of characters depicted in the story. Has your story inspired or spurred some new ideas and explorations in the area of costume design for you?
SH: The very best part about Steampunk is the clothes, I think! And I wanted to make sure the clothing was authentic and made sense for each character. Coming from a background in theatrical costume design, I love to use clothing to help define my characters. For example, Portia always wears sensible shoes. She's a fighter and her clothes have to reflect that. Not as "fun" as the fancy stuff, but she has to be dressed true to her character.
I definitely sketch and carefully consider clothing options for characters like Portia who end up developing a rather...peculiar... body type.
SZ: What were some of the things about Apex Publications that motivated you to bring your series to them in particular? (and tell us a little about your process in getting it published by Apex)
SH: I LOVE Apex and I have for years, even since discovering them when I moved to Nashville in 2005. My goal for years had been to get something published with them. Trouble is, what I write was never really on-theme enough for the magazine (this is back before the Cat Valente days when the magazine was in print and more strictly sci-fi/horror). But my work didn't go unnoticed and at Chattancon in Chattanooga, TN a few years ago Jason Sizemore, the big boss, approached me to pitch him a book for his budding novella line.
On a Friday I told him he'd have the proposal in his inbox on Monday. I spent the weekend busting my shapely behind to come up with something worthy to bear the Apex name.
I'd like to think I did right by them.
SZ: How has the response been from readers and reviewers on The Labyrinth of the Dead (and especially those that had given you positive feedback on the first book)
SH: Second books are always the toughest to sell and this one isn't any different. The start has been slow but I can see the momentum gathering as fall arrives. Reviews are getting out there and the fans are starting to take notice. THE CONVENT OF THE PURE debuted to mixed reviews, but I think people will really come away from this installment feeling a much stronger connection to the characters and the world. Overall I think this is the next step up from CONVENT in many ways and that readers are going to love it! I have heard from reviewers that one can hop right in at this book and still have a marvelous time enjoying the story.
SZ: Tell us a little about the cover art for both books, The Convent of the Pure and The Labyrinth of the Dead, which are both fantastic. Did you have input regarding the selection of the artist, and the images developed for the covers?
SH: I had the very best luck with the covers. Apex likes to have author feedback on covers and they employ a fantastic stable of artists from the Bielaczyc boys of Aradani Studios to my artist, Melissa Gay. I was familiar with Melissa's art style and have been a fan for years. I asked her if she would be interested in taking on the project and she said she'd like to look at the book first. The next time I spoke to her, not only was she done with the book, she already had a bunch of sketches done already! She was, and still is, SO EXCITED to be working with me on this. She lives about 10 minutes away and we get to meet up for consultations (and chit-chat!) if need be. I love being able to work with another artistic professional who is not only a friend but a big fan of my work. My favorite thing is getting to tell people all about her at cons because her work is so lovely and I am so very proud that my books bear her art!
SZ: Do you have these titles out in any of the eBook formats?
SH: Yes! All of my Apex titles are out in various eBook formats from Kindle through Amazon to various platforms through Fictionwise and DriveThruSciFi.com and of course through the Apex bookshop: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/apex-store/ebooks/
SZ: When is the next book in the series coming out?
SH: THE TOWER OF THE FORGOTTEN is just getting finished up currently and will be out in Spring of 2011
SZ: What else might you working on right now?
SH: Too many things!
I have an urban fantasy that takes place in Nashville and has been so much fun to write! The second project is a YA fantasy that has some Steamy leanings and has also been a blast! Not to mention the usual array of short works for anthologies (DREAMS OF STEAM from Kerlak is out now and I anticipate DARK FUTURES from Dark Quest Books pretty soon. Later this year find me in TRAFFICKING IN MAGIC/MAGICKING IN TRAFFIC from Drollerie Press).
SZ: On a fun note, what was your reaction when you first found out that your friend and fellow author Elizabeth Donald had named a main character Sara Harvey in her book The Cold Ones?
SH: I was honored! Elizabeth asked me first and wanted to immortalize my name in print (something she is fond of doing) because she thought very highly of me, my writing, my work ethic, and my fashion sense (I am the official fashionista of the Literary Underworld and do a lot of fashion styling for my fellow authors!). I love to give Elizabeth a hard time about all the terrible things she's doing to "me" in the book. Thusfar, Major Sara Harvey is alive and well. But she is working on a sequel....
SZ: How can readers connect with you online?
SH: I am everywhere online!
My website is www.saramharvey.com. You can find me on Facebook under Sara M. Harvey and on Livejournal and Twitter as saraphina_marie. I love to hear from fans of my work, so please ping me!
I first encountered Michael West in July of 2009, during my first trip to InConJunction in Indianapolis. I had already heard of him and his work, which spans a considerable number of publications and anthologies. I saw that he maintained a very active convention schedule, in addition to being a prolific writer.
When his single-author collection, Skull Full of Kisses, was announced, I was immediately interested in reading it. The publisher, Graveside Tales, is an excellent one, and I already had some of their books on my shelves. Steven L. Shrewsbury's Hawg, in fact, was one of my favorite reads of 2009. I had no doubt in my mind that this book would be very well treated in its release, and I ordered a copy direct from the publisher when it came out.
The book arrived, and, sure enough, was everything that I had hoped for. Some of my favorite book releases of all time were single-author collections, namely Clive Barker's Books of Blood volumes, and knowing that Clive Barker was an influence of Michael's, I was really intrigued to discover what kind of stories were selected for inclusion.
So, without further adieu, let's find out about Michael West from the man himself! My review of Skull Full of Kisses follows!
-Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blogsite, August 9, 2010
SZ: When were the various stories written in this collection? Were some written specifically for the collection, are they stories that were released singly in other anthologies, or a mix of both?
MW: It spans about five years, from my first short fiction sale, "God Like Me," to last year's "For Her". Most were released in magazines like Shroud and APEX: Science Fiction and Horror Digest, but a few, like "The Bridge," were featured in themed anthologies. There are two new stories, written just for this collection: "Einstein's Slingshot," a tale of science gone horribly wrong, and the Asian inspired "Sanctuary."
SZ: In the case of a story like "Jiki," which was previously featured in an issue of City Slab Magazine, were there any major changes with the version that appears in Skull Full of Kisses?
MW: I had a wonderful editor for Skull Full of Kisses, Myrrym Davies, and she went over every story for the collection with me, even ones that had appeared previously in other works. The stories that had been edited before did not need much in the way of correction, but there were a few things that we did tweak here and there. Because of this, none of the stories are exactly as they've appeared before, but there were no major changes.
SZ: Tell us a little about the process by which this collection landed with Graveside Tales, and why you believed they would be a good home for your book?
MW: Anthologies (a collection of stories by various authors) are commonplace. Editors find big names to submit stories, to be the "anchors" that will help sell the idea to publishers. Publishers know that Stephen King and Clive Barker have fans who will buy the book simply because those writers are featured in it. Once the pitch sells, editors can invite lesser-known talents to join in the mix. A single author collection, however, by someone other than the aforementioned King or Barker, is a much tougher sell. There are few publishers willing to take a risk on new talent. Lucky for me, Dale Murphy at Graveside Tales was willing to take such a risk. I'd read their Beast Within anthology, so I knew they put out a quality product, and was familiar with their other authors, so I felt that I would be in good company.
SZ: What kinds of things were considerations or factors in determining whether a particular story of yours went into this single author collection? (How did a story "make the cut", so to speak?)
MW: I'm most proud of "Jiki", my ode to Asian Horror; "To Know How to See", my first real stab at Sci-fi Horror; and "Goodnight", which was named Best Horror Short Story of 2005 in the annual P&E Readers Poll. Those stories hold special places in my heart, so they were obviously going to be a part of it, and they really formed the tent poles for the entire work: "Jiki" opens the collection, "To Know How to See" falls right in the middle, and "Goodnight" closes is out. In between them, I placed works that were well received by my faithful readers, works that reflected my growth as a writer over the last five years.
SZ: As you mentioned, this collection spans a variety of types of horror(Lovecraftian, Asian horror, Sci-fi laced horror), is there a particular type of horror that tends to be your personal favorite? And if you do have a favorite type of horror, what about it lifts it to the top?
MW: I'm a sucker for a good monster story, but my favorite kind of horror is that which revolves around strong, believable characters. That's what makes a story stand out for me, creates something truly memorable. Slasher, Steampunk...I don't care what sub-genre you're working in, if the reader isn't emotionally invested in the people in your story, they're not going to read it. In my opinion, that's why a lot of movies made from horror novels fail. The filmmakers concentrate on the "Big Bad" alien, demon, what-have-you,and the characters get short shrift. When you really care about the people in a story, you get lost in the narrative and you feel things on a very visceral level. That's the type of connection I strive for in my own writing.
SZ: How has the response been so far to Skull Full of Kisses, both from readers and from reviewers?
MW: The response has been overwhelming. Reviewers have given it four and five stars and compared the stories to episodes of The Twilight Zone, which has been the ultimate compliment for me. I've loved the Zone since I was a child. Readers have sent me emails and gone online to talk about the stories and the collection as a whole. It always amazes me that everyone seems to have three favorite stories. "Jiki" is normally one, "Goodnight" is another (especially for those who've dealt with the loss of someone close to them), but the third story is always different. I think every story in the collection has been someone's favorite, and that's very gratifying.
SZ: Tell us a little about your upcoming novel. The plot, who's publishing it, etc.
MW: My upcoming novel is called The Wide Game. On the advice of his wife, Paul Rice is making plans to attend his 10th year High School reunion. Returning to his boyhood home of Harmony, Indiana, he finds that he is still haunted by memories of that time, memories of Deidra, his first love, and memories of the Wide Game. It was ten years ago that Paul and his friends watched their day of fun become a race for their lives, a fight for their very souls. Now, as he meets the survivors of that day once more, Paul makes a chilling discovery: the incomprehensible forces that toyed with them have yet to finish playing their own game.
The novel will be published by Graveside Tales on February 14th, 2011, and should be available for pre-order after the first of the year.
SZ: Can you give us a scoop on anything you are working on right now?
I finished a story for an upcoming anthology and am hard at work on another. I'm also mapping out a trilogy of books for a series that I'm calling The Legacy of the Gods. It's an epic story that blends elements of Horror, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and Action Adventure. The first novel, Poseidon's Children, is done and I'm working on outlines for the next two. I also have two novels set in Indiana that I hope will be out within the next year or so. There are always more tales to tell, and I can't wait to share them with new and faithful readers alike.
SZ: As a horror author, who are some of the main horror writers that you consider to be influences? Are there any authors not in the horror genre who were major influences on you?
MW: I'm a child of the eighties, so I grew up with Stephen King and Clive Barker. I also had a steady diet of what I consider to be the "Grand Masters": Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Rod Serling, and I think their influence is clearly visible in Skull Full of Kisses. I enjoy contemporary authors like Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzales, and Tim Lebbon, but Gary A. Braunbeck is the authors I admire most right now. His work is filled with an emotional reality that, in my opinion, elevates the entire genre. I was so thrilled that he was able to write the introduction to my collection, and so honored and humbled by what he had to say.
As for authors outside the genre, I'd have to point to David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha as being major influences for me and my work.
SZ: As the horror genre is often associate with the film world, what are some of Michael West's recommendations in terms of good horror films that those who like the genre should definitely see?
MW: Oh my, too many to mention here. I had a friend recently tell me that she'd never seen Creepshow, Fright Night, or Night of the Creeps, and those are some of my favorites! I threatened to sit her down and create a film festival for her. LOL If I had to pick my top five, it would be The Exorcist, George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and John Carpenter's Halloween, The Fog, and The Thing. The 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers would be in there, as would Re-Animator and From Beyond...But I could sit here all day and talk about horror films. If anyone really wants a recommendation, they can certainly contact me online and we can chat about it endlessly.
SZ: How can readers connect with Michael West online? And perhaps give a link or two where they can get your books and eBooks.
Skull Full of Kisses is a Collection Full of Gems-reviewed by Stephen Zimmer for Seventh Star Press Blogsite, August 9, 2010
Skull Full of Kisses (Graveside Tales, ISBN: 978-0980133882) is a real showcase of Michael West's horror writing. Containing 10 short stories, the book begins with a foreword by no less than Gary A. Braunbeck, something that will catch the eyes of any reader of the genre.
As this is a single-author collection of short stories, it is probably best to arrange this review into some thoughts and notes regarding each of the tales included in this collection:
“Jiki”, which is the first story in the collection, is a real gem, taking the reader into the shadowy underworld of Asian crime, and placing a very fearsome creature at the midst of the tale. While disturbing (in a good way), the end of the story really packs a punch, leaving you with a potent sense of dread. It is an excellent kickoff to the collection, drawing off the sub-genre of Asian horror, and giving the reader a good introduction into the kinds of tones and twists that are inherent to Michael West stories.
Another story in this collection bringing in an Asian-horror tone is “Sanctuary”, which has a brooding atmosphere and one heck of a twist at the end of the story. Michael sets it so well that I almost had to put a coat on, as you can really “feel” the bitter cold being endured by the main characters, a couple of Chinese soldiers working their way through a blizzard as they are being pursued by monstrous creatures that have killed the rest of their comrades. The story also involves a great application of mythological elements.
“Dogs of War” is very psychological in nature, and can be read in a few different ways, making it a very nice addition to this collection. Involving Gulf War veterans being haunted and oppressed by demonic creatures, is also a story that subtly invites a reader to become a bit more reflective on some of the horrors of our own reality, such as what soldiers undergoing PTSD and other similar ordeals have to endure.
“Einstein’s Slingshot” was one of my favorites, a tale that readers who enjoyed Stephen King’s The Mist will definitely find to their liking. It has flavors of the heroic, the apocalyptic, and a few dabs of science fiction blended very nicely.
“The Bridge” is, as Michael references in his notes in the back of the book, the substance of a great campfire tale. I can also see this one becoming the kickstarter scene for a very good horror-ghost movie with a primarily teenaged cast (and certainly much better than the teen horror fare gushed out by Hollywood nowadays.)
The story “Trolling” clearly brings out the Lovecraftian influence in Michael West. Visceral, and putting the erotic with the horrific in an effective association, it also finishes on an unexpected note. It is strongly recommended that readers are not eating when reading this particular tale.
Speaking of associating the erotic and horrific, “For Her” takes the reader into yet another part of the horror spectrum, as West draws upon the lore of South America to create something truly stomach churning. Kafka’s "The Metamorphosis" has nothing on this tale!
“God Like Me” is a very different kind of story, and is quite a sojourn into the realm of megalomania. This is a story that I also found to be laced with some good humor, showing yet another side to Michael's writing. The tale has a sweet, satisfying conclusion!
“To Know How to See” shows off Michael’s ability to tell a dark Sci-Fi tale. This one keeps you on edge throughout, and you really don’t know which way it is going to tilt. Is the main character’s experience rooted in delusion, and psychological in nature, or is he dealing with a real, existing threat? Michael does a very good job of keeping the answer hanging in the balance, all the way to the very end.
“Goodnight” is a story that brings Michael’s range to a level that is not so common in the world of horror writers. Horror, by its nature, tends to tilt towards darker themes, but every once in a while it serves as a great foundation for showing contrasts; the maw of the abyss contrasted with the beckoning lights of a a different horizon, one marking the boundary of something far greater. "Goodnight" is one of those kinds of stories. While not abandoning the horroric at all, it infuses a gentle compassion, wisdom, and a few rays of light to pierce the darkness. In this genre, this is a bold step to take, of a kind that carries some risks with it, but one that, when it is successful, delivers something particularly special. This story was a great note to end this horror symphony on.
As a whole, “Skull Full of Kisses” is testimony to the presence of a very imaginative and skilled writer, one who is well underway on what promises to be a very outstanding career, in whatever genre his imagination carries him to.
This is a brief note to announce that there is a dedicated pre-order page up for the Limited Collector's Edition Hardcover sets for The Storm Guardians. There is an option for pre-orders of softcovers as well.
Be sure to visit to see what's in the Limited Collector's Edition set!
Below is the full press release regarding the launch of Stephen Zimmer's The Storm Guardians, Book Two of the Rising Dawn Saga, at Hypericon in Nashville June 4-6.
For Immediate Release May 18, 2010
Stephen Zimmer’s The Storm Guardians, Book Two of the Rising Dawn Saga, Set For Launch at Hypericon
Seventh Star Press will be launching Stephen Zimmer’s second Rising Dawn Saga novel, The Storm Guardians, at the Hypericon science fiction and fantasy convention in Nashville, TN, taking place from June 4-6, 2010.
Book two in the epic urban fantasy series, the release reflects the commitment of Seventh Star Press to have a new title out each year in the Rising Dawn Saga. The Storm Guardians follows the events and characters introduced in The Exodus Gate, and is an installment full of action and intrigue set in a parallel world very similar to Earth.
With a multi-threaded style that focuses on a diverse range of characters, the novel appeals to readers of epic and urban fantasy alike. The danger rises and the stakes grow throughout all of the story threads in The Storm Guardians: A massive battle looms in the spirit realms, as the Fallen Avatar Beleth's legions pour into the Middle Lands. Babylon Technologies prepares to unveil its greatest invention, a technology that will impact every living being on the face of the world. The shape-shifting An-Ki find themselves in grave peril, as the Night Hunt resumes once again. A small group of high school students make an incredible discovery, even as tensions swirl in a small town over a law enforcement deadlock that causes a sheriff to question his own part in the course of events. The Convergence continues its steadfast march towards a global legal and economic order, using all means at its disposal. The question is: Who will be the guardians against the storm?
The Rising Dawn Saga is just one of two active fantasy series by Stephen Zimmer, whose epic medieval Fires in Eden series was set in motion with the release of Crown of Vengeance, in November of 2009. The second book in the Fires in Eden series is slated for winter of 2010.
Amanda DeBord, chief editor at Seventh Star Press, and who was the editor for Zimmer’s The Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance novels, said about the new book, “I'm so excited for the release of The Storm Guardians, and happy to be one of the first to tell readers that they're going to love the developments in this second installment of Zimmer's Rising Dawn Saga. Fans of The Exodus Gate will be happy to see the return of familiar faces, and some real heroes arising from the action. However, Stephen has taken care to ensure that new readers to the series will be able to jump right in to the story.”
The Storm Guardians also continues the artistic collaboration between fantasy artist Matthew Perry and Stephen Zimmer, featuring no less than thirteen brand new, full page illustrations, as well as the cover art. Along with The Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance, Matthew has now done more than 40 full page illustrations and three covers in his association with Stephen’s literary works. “Stephen's narratives cover the gamut of deep introspectiveness to epic, world-changing events. To have that range, and to be to able to go in and out of those possibilities, makes it an adventure for me to see what emerges from the empty canvas,” said Matthew.
One of the most active fantasy authors in productivity and appearances, Stephen will be visiting numerous conventions and bookstores throughout 2010 in support of The Storm Guardians and his other literary works and film projects.
The Hypericon visit from June 4-6th in Nashville kicks off the support of The Storm Guardians, along with a June 7th appearance at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis, TN. “I am really honored to be launching the new book at Hypericon, which has always been a wonderful event, with many special friends, readers, and amazing guests, like this year’s guest of honor, a living literary legend, Ramsey Campbell. I’m very thankful to Fred Grimm for this opportunity. I can’t wait to find out what readers think of The Storm Guardians, as I believe it shows how I build upon my foundations in a series. Expect loads of action, and many surprises!” Stephen said.
A special collector’s edition hardcover, limited to 75 copies, is now being offered with a full package of collectibles, with trade paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and eBook editions to follow.
I met Andy Deane while attending ConNooga, a great sci-fi and fantasy convention located in Chattanooga (hence the name!). Andy and I shared a few panels together, as he was wearing a couple of different hats at the convention. Well, to be accurate, he wasn’t wearing a hat literally, as he was sporting a very eye-catching purple mohawk, but he was participating at ConNooga both on behalf of his band, the very highly acclaimed gothic/rock band Bella Morte, as well as representing his emerging career as an author.
The panels went great, and Andy certainly showed why he is an excellent frontman in the music arena, as he was quite the audience pleaser on the panels. We even had a rather amusing few moments where Andy mimicked the “I am Spartacus” scene from the epic movie to involve me during panelist introductions.
There is no question that Bella Morte has been a great success, having toured internationally and released no less than six studio albums. (When I told my sister upon my return about meeting Andy, and telling her that she should check the band out, she replied, “Hell yeah, Belle Morte’s a great band, and I have several of their CD’s!) But this introduction is more concerned with Andy as a writer. I received a copy of his horror novel, The Sticks, while at the convention. The cover art gave me a great feeling from the beginning, as werewolves are my favorite creatures in all of fantasy and horror literature.
From the first page to the last, I wasn’t disappointed at all! Delirium Books is a fantastic publisher, and I have to say that they made a great choice in bringing Andy Deane into their fold. His writing stands on its own merit, apart from what he has built and accomplished in his musical career.
Andy’s the kind of guy that isn’t hesitant about telling you what he thinks, and he’s also the kind of fellow that wears his heart on his sleeve. Genuine in nature, honest in his approach, and multi-talented, Andy is reflected strongly by his novel, The Sticks. Definitely recommended!
-Stephen Zimmer, for the Seventh Star Press Blogsite, May 9, 2010
A Werewolf Tour de Force: Andy Dean's The Sticks
The Sticks (Delirium Books, ISBN: 978-1934546147), by author Andy Deane, is one of those novels that you have a good feeling about from the moment that you look at the cover. Kudos to artist Zach McCain, for delivering cover art that represents the book very well. Set against a stark backdrop, with a few scattered, naked tree branches, is the figure of a hulking werewolf with eyes blazing and jaws spreading. And that is just what this book delivers: a hard-hitting, well-paced werewolf tale, with the appropriate depths of character development and plot construction to bring the horror reader a very satisfying lycanthropic adventure.
The book centers around a young man named Brian, in a small Virginia town, who is having an incredibly awkward evening as a misfit at a party of pretentious snobs. He has been dragged there by his girlfriend Alicia, and is more or less at the end of the line with her. An incident occurs at the party, and Brian finds himself walking down the road, sans Alicia.
While on the road, he is picked up by a woman that he saw at the party, named Jessica. It is fortunate that he was, as they have one hell of an encounter with something huge, large-fanged, and very fast. Right away, you get an idea of the type of werewolf featured in The Sticks. They are a tour de force of primal power, and Andy executes the action beautifully from the first encounter to the last. You feel the danger, as well as the sense of an ongoing hunt. The story is dappled with enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Deane’s tale is populated by some colorful and outrageous characters. Brian’s neighbors Myrtle, a rather crazy older lady that likes to run out of her house and expose herself, and Hank, a reclusive, edgy guy whose house is among a heap of odds and ends, make for some very interesting moments as the mayhem breaks out. Another highlight involves a pair of dull-headed, rather uncultured guys encountered at the town diner later in the book.
Yet what separates Deane’s work from the pack are the subtle touches and depth that he places at the right moments throughout the book. The relationship between Brian and Jessica, and the nascent friendship that develops with Nate Smith, is what elevates The Sticks above a decent action-horror story into something more special. Andy gets you to relate and care about some of the characters without going on a tangent, or taking away from the suspense. Brian himself comes off as a very genuine protagonist, a live and let live rocker/metalhead who is thrown into a full moon maelstrom.
The scenes are believable and visceral, painted well-enough to give you a great mental picture without getting bogged down. The werewolf encounters, and how Brian deals with them, are creative and might well cause some readers to keep their lights on.
The Sticks is a highly gratifying read, especially for a fan of action-packed horror novels featuring werewolves. It is my hope that Andy Deane revisits werewolves again, and forges ahead with his writing endeavors, as he is a rising literary talent.