I once met Dan Jolley when he was on a panel about writing for comic books, and I learned more in that hour from hearing him speak than I had in the years I spent reading on the subject. So it gives me great pleasure to present to you an interview for the Dan Jolley’s Gray Widow’s Walk Blog Tour.
Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in a tiny town in northwest Georgia, where I failed utterly to fit in with the whole hunting/fishing/NASCAR/chewing tobacco scene, but (thanks to my father and older brother) fell thoroughly in love with science-fiction and fantasy literature, as well as with the comic books that my brother brought home from college. (He’s eleven years older than I am, and was gone to college by the time I had entered first grade.)
At age nineteen, through a mixture of luck and… well, really just luck, I secured my first-ever professional writing contract. Unfortunately, the company that supplied said contract went out of business before my project could get published, and it wasn’t until about a year and a half later that I actually got paid to write for the first time. Those initial forays were in the comic book industry, where I stayed safely ensconced for about five years. From there, thanks to networking at conventions, I began to branch out, first into licensed-property novels, then into original prose and children’s books, and finally into writing for video games. I’m currently in the midst of a Hollywood thing, but nothing is certain there as yet, so I won’t be going into detail for fear of jinxing it.
Anyway, I moved away from that tiny town, stayed gone for roughly twenty years, and then through a bizarre series of events wound up coming back to it. So now I live in the town where I grew up, and am married to a fantastic woman whom I’ve literally known my entire life. We have cats. They’re mostly decorative.
What are the pros and cons of working in multiple genres?
I’ve often said it was a blessing that I more or less learned to write by writing comics. (Side note: I have a whole series of blog posts on my website, called “How to Write the Way I Write,” that details pretty much everything I know about the nuts and bolts of writing comic book scripts. FYI.)
Comics scripts are incredibly unforgiving. The page count is fixed. The panel count and word count, depending on the artist you’re working with, are tightly controlled, and you have to take the page turns into account, so that you really want anything big or surprising to take place at the beginning of an even-numbered page. I didn’t consider this restrictive when I was first starting out. It was just the way things were done.
Learning to think that way, to be creative inside of concretely-set parameters, definitely prepared me for writing in other media. Screenplays are not as rigid, but they do have an unforgiving format that must be followed. Writing video games presents a whole other set of rigid parameters, but because I was accustomed to that sort of thing, it really wasn’t a big deal when I got asked to write in, and I’m not kidding here, an Excel spreadsheet. (Spreadsheets are incredibly common in video game writing. It makes the lines of text and dialogue easier to import into the game engine.)
Where I realized I could really spread my wings, so to speak, was in writing prose. You start writing a novel, and all of a sudden the rigid page counts go out the window. You want a chapter to be ten pages? Fine. Eight? No problem. Fifteen? Yeah, whatever. It was incredibly liberating.
I love all the different genres and media in which I’ve written over the years, but I think writing prose novels has to come in at the top of my list, because it’s just so freeing. Plus, and this is no slight to the creative teams I’ve worked with, there’s something hugely rewarding about generating something entirely yourself. With a novel, there is no penciler, there is no programmer, there is no animation director who looks at a scene you’ve written and makes a sort of hissing noise and says, “I don’t know, that sounds expensive.” It’s just you and the page and, eventually, you and the editor. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only pick one medium to take with me, it would be novels, hands down. …I’m not sure that metaphor makes any sense. Moving right along!
Tell us about Gray Widow’s Walk.
Gray Widow’s Walk is the first original novel I’ve ever written for an adult audience. I did a trilogy of YA science-fiction/espionage novels back in 2007 and 2008 called Alex Unlimited, and I’ve written and co-written novels based on media properties such as Star Trek and Angel and Iron Man and Transformers — plus I’ve got a Middle Grade urban fantasy series coming out this October from HarperCollins called Five Elements. But Gray Widow’s Walk is the first time I’ve ever been able to take the gloves off, throw out the desired word count, disregard any limitations as far as language or gore or sex, and just tell whatever story I wanted to. Consequently, it’s the prose project that I’m most proud of to date, that turned out most like what I had envisioned, and pretty much represents the high point of my career so far.
Gray Widow’s Walk is the story of Janey Sinclair, a young woman whose life has been a series of cruel, unfair tragedies. At age nine she lost her mother to cancer; at sixteen, her father fell in with a criminal element, and Janey not only saw him executed in front of her eyes, but was also shot herself and left for dead. After recovering (physically) from that, and deciding to live her life with as little human contact as possible, she met a young man, fell in love, and married him, only to lose her new husband in a truly devastating way.
And somewhere in there, in some way that remains a mystery to her, she gained the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another.
When the story opens, Janey has already stolen a prototype suit of military body armor, and rather than trying to work out her issues through therapy, she puts on the armor and a mask and decides to correct some of the same kinds of injustices that she’s faced herself. Janey takes to the streets of Atlanta, Georgia and, because the body armor is gray, she’s soon dubbed “the Gray Widow” by the press. (I realized not long ago that the book could be summed up as Daredevil meets Red Sonja. I think the best description of the genre would be “superhero noir.”)
But as Janey soon discovers, her ability ties into a much, much larger picture, and to a conflict on a scale she never imagined. Because there are other people out there who have been similarly affected, and one of them — a bloodthirsty runaway named Simon Grove, with a shapeshifting ability that’s gone horribly, grotesquely wrong — has Janey in his sights.
Gray Widow’s Walk is the first book in the Gray Widow Trilogy, to be followed by Gray Widow’s Web and Gray Widow’s War. And before Janey’s story is finished, she’s going to find herself at the heart of a conflict that will affect the entire planet.
What kind of music do you listen to, and have any songs influenced or inspired your writing.
Music actually plays a pretty big role in my whole creative process. (For the record, I apologize for using a phrase as pretentious as “my creative process.”) Any time I need to come up with an idea, or work out kinks in an existing idea, I like to get in the car and drive around aimlessly while listening to loud, aggressive music. It does something good for my brain waves. Songs with heavy, driving, deliberate beats tend to do the trick. I actually have a play list on my phone that I use for the driving-around thing, and it doubles for when I’m working out at the gym. Let’s see…I’ll give you a sample of the good stuff…
- “Brompton Cocktail” – Avenged Sevenfold
- “Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
- “Turn Down For What” – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
- “Mechanize” – Fear Factory
- “As Heaven Is Wide” – Garbage
- “Black Widow” – In This Moment
- “Wretches and Kings” – Linkin Park
- “Fallout” – Queensrÿche
- “Lovesong” – Snake River Conspiracy
The playlist is about four hours’ worth of material, but I’m always on the lookout for new stuff, so if any of your readers have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Where can readers find you online, and where can they find your work?
My website is www.danjolley.com. It’s got my entire body of work catalogued.
My Twitter handle is @_DanJolley
And you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.jolley1.
Also, my Amazon author page is here:
Thanks for having me!
Virtual Tour Document
Author: Dan Jolley
Featured Book Release:
Gray Widow’s Walk
June 20-26, 2016
About the author: Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he has since branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-five-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and lead writer of the Oculus Rift game Chronos. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats. Gray Widow’s Walk is his first adult novel.
Learn more about Dan by visiting his website, http://www.danjolley.com, and follow him on Twitter @_DanJolley
Book Synopsis for Gray Widow’s Walk: “The only thing in this world you can truly control is yourself.”
Janey Sinclair’s ability to teleport has always been a mystery to her. She tried for years to ignore it, but when tragedy shatters her life, Janey’s anger consumes her. She hones her fighting skills, steals a prototype suit of military body armor, and takes to the streets of Atlanta, venting her rage as the masked vigilante dubbed “the Gray Widow” by the press.
But Janey’s power, and her willingness to use it, plunges her into a conflict on a much grander scale than she had anticipated.
Soon she encounters Simon Grove, a bloodthirsty runaway with a shapeshifting ability gone horribly wrong…
Garrison Vessler, an ex-FBI agent and current private defense contractor, who holds some of the answers Janey’s been searching for…
And Tim Kapoor, the first person in years with a chance of breaking through Janey’s emotional shell—if she’ll let him.
But as Janey’s vigilantism gains worldwide attention, and her showdown with Simon Grove draws ever closer, the reason for her augmented abilities—hers and all the others like her—begins to reveal itself. Because, high above the Earth, other eyes are watching. And they have far-reaching plans…
Gray Widow’s Walk is book one of the Gray Widow Trilogy, to be followed by Gray Widow’s Web and Gray Widow’s War.
Tour Schedule and Activities
6/20/2016 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
6/20/2016 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
6/21/2016 SpecMusicMuse Interview
6/22/2016 The Word Nerds Guest Post
6/22/2016 I Smell Sheep Interview
6/22/2016 Cover2Cover Top Ten’s List
6/23/2016 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews Guest Post
6/24/2016 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
6/24/2016 Infamous Scribbler Interview
6/25/2016 Jordan Hirsch Review
6/26/2016 Jorie Loves a Story Review/Interview
6/26 Swilliblog Review
Amazon Links for Gray Widow’s Walk
Barnes and Noble Link for Gray Widow’s Walk
This banner says it all:
How did you come up with the idea for your Transport trilogy?
I’d been writing Fantasy material for quite a while, and wanted to do something in my second favorite genre/theme which is Military Action-Adventure.
I had also wanted to write a locally-based fictional adventure, change things up a bit by having the towns, cities, buildings-—and even people—-be different. Basically, an alternative future look and history. I wanted fighting men and women in it as the protagonists, and the world in which they were involved somewhat overall antagonistic.
I have not read a lot of alt-history and/or fictional adventures set in Michigan, and definitely not Military action-adventure…with zombies, so I created a not-so-far-flung-future Michigan, mainly West Michigan (where I grew up as kid and adult, and still love dearly) in which a great global calamity had occurred (viral pandemic caused by the avian flu strain of 2013) and cast the region in turmoil and zombotic chaos.
I also have a love for all those big, armored military vehicles. The big ground vehicles, tracked and wheeled. I liked the look of the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier and AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle, and with inspiration by the fictional Warhammer 40K Crassus, my fictitious M213 Heavy Transport Vehicle was born. I made it a wheeled AND tracked vehicle because… don’t know… just because. LOL
What is Hunt for the Fallen about?
The Spring rains of 2026 have brought the Grand River several feet above flood stage, and those waters and the stormy weather has greatly affected the local zombie populace. Part of the enclosure collapses and five UCRAer’s go into the fast-moving, churning waterway. Billet and crew get sent out to “retrieve” them. They are joined by a TC (tank commander), Jeremy Pike, his crew and Abrams tank, The Devastator, who appear to have their sights on one of the big local zombies.
And Pike may have ideas of going AWOL with the tank, which Billet is bound and determined to not let happen, though the HURON only has a popgun of a new 25mm cannon while Pike’s rig sports a very lethal 120mm.
Lettner or anti-zomb loyalists, or Reganshire agents, appear to also be moving against the big city as communication lines are down, which Billet, crew and the mighty HURON will go up against.
All this AND a undead assassin is stalking Captain Jake Billet, “Hero of Grand Rapids.”
What parts of the Zombie Apocalypse subgenre fascinate you?
I think mainly the versatility of what one can do in a apocalyptic setting, or in this case, my Post-POST zomb-pocalyptic setting.
As I have had the good fortune of discussing zombies and zombie apocalypse storylines with other very cool authors, it seems there is no end to what one can do in this ZOMBIE REALM. There are books about what it’s like to be infected and turning into a zombie, books about the zombie population becoming so large that they become the dominate… er… race? species?…on Earth. You have zombies by VooDoo, and Snow White zombies, and…
You get my point.
Plus, to me, it’s always about SURVIVAL. How do we survive in a world with the Undead amongst us?
The whole gist of the zombie-infested world I created was to go beyond the initial “apocalypse,” the initial event, and play with how we, the living, survive with THEM still in our midst. Actually more so how my military characters endured the rigors of dealing with both—the Living and the Unliving.
That is one cool APC in that book.
Thanks. It is actually a HTV, a Heavy Transport Vehicle, as mentioned above. I have a 1/18th scale mock-up of what I am calling a PROTOTYPE M213 HTV, as the actual HURON (and her four other sister vehicles: Lake Michigan, Superior, Erie and Ontario) is wider, larger, heavier than the rendition I’ve created.
Have you ever had a story idea inspired by a song you were listening to, and/or have you used music in the background while you write?
WALK by Foo Fighters inspired my SIGNAL IN THE DISTANCE short story (soon to be released via Peninsulam Publishing). The story is about a soldier from the Korean War, in an altered post-war America that has suffered nuclear devastation and everyone is living in underground bunkers, though they can venture out into the ruins to acquire things from their neighbors, etc. The main character, Capt. Rylan Jenkins, suffers from PTSD and guilt from losing his squad during the war and often has nightmares about his lost men calling to him from the Beyond. WALK is a great song about having lost one’s way and deciding to stand up and keep moving forward no matter what.
Unfortunately, a massive Cthulhu-esque creature rises out of the depths of Lake Michigan and threatens Ryss’s forward momentum… just a little. LOL
SHE BUILDS QUICK MACHINES By Velvet Revolver inspired me during some of the HURON’s driver, LCpl Loutonia Phelps, action scenes. Mainly during their confrontation with the giant mutated bull in TRANSPORT (Book One).
And Shinedown’s CYANIDE SWEET TOOTH SUICIDE: I listened to that several times as the sadistic and psycho Rebecca Regan (from the TRANSPORT Series) was created and written.
Um, so, to answer your question, YES.
Who are your favorite authors, and who are your favorite musicians?
If we’re talking newer school: Glenn Cook (Military Fantasy), David Drake (Military SciFi), Cherie Priest (Steampunk), Chuck Wendig (Urban Fantasy). Other currents I enjoy in the mid-to-small press forums: Steven Shrewsbury (Hardcore Epic Fantasy), our own Stephen Zimmer (Epic Fantasy), Russell Slater (Michigan-based Thriller/Alt History Intrigue), Tim Marquitz (like…everything), Aaron Rocheleau (YA SciFi), Jake Elliot (Epic Fantasy). Those are the ones I’ve read anyway within the last year.
Musicians: David Grohl, Chris Cornell, Glenn Danzig, Angus Young & the lads (their new album ROCKS!), Joe Walsh, and to mix it all up, a little Johnny Cash when the mood strikes.
Depending on my mood, I read and listen to many styles and subjects. Variety is the spice of life as they say.
What future literary endeavors are you planning?
I am hoping Steven Shrewsbury’s and my BEDLAM UNLEASHED, an epic fantasy Viking berserker novel, will come to fruition and back into readers’ hands. (Previously published, we know it is in much more capable hands with Seventh Star Press.)
There may be a TRANSPORT short story collection consisting of some pre-series Captain Billet, crew and HURON stories though SSP.
I am also working with another publisher (Peninsulam Publishing) on some further specific material, and a new TRANSPORT World mini-series featuring a new character: Joe Cross, Urban Salvage Engineer. He works in Reganshire, for Rebecca Regan and her old man. His main job is to go out and “salvage” goods and bring them back to Reganshire. He’s a good guy caught in a bad position, and his “salvage” operations usually land him in some sort of intense situation.
Peter Welmerink’s Hunt for the Fallen Virtual Tour
About the author: Peter Welmerink was born and raised on the west side of pre-apocalyptic Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes Fantasy, Military SciFi, and other wanderings into action-adventure. His work has been published in ye olde wood pulp print and electronic-online publications. He is the co-author of the Viking berserker novel, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, written with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is his first solo novel venture. He is married with a small barbarian tribe of three boys.
Find out more about his works and upcoming projects at:
Captain Jacob Billet
Journal Entry – Sunday April 5, 2026
It’s raining, it’s pouring, the undead are roaring…
Amassed at the UCRA east end enclosure, the dead strain the fence line while soldiers keep watchful eyes, the survivors on the opposite side of the rising river about to lose their minds.
It’s a crazy time: nonstop precipitation; everyone’s up in arms; paranoid city council members with an asshat City Treasurer. Water, water everywhere. Zees dropping into the churning drink. Troops afraid of being stitched up and thrown back into the fray as Zombie Troopers. Tank commanders getting itchy to head out on their own after drug-laden shamblers. Reganshire insurgents trying to extract our west side civvies for some unknown reason, possibly pushing the city into taking heavy-handed action against them.
Then there’s some black-haired dead dude staring at me through the fence, grinning like he’s off his meds.
And I thought Lettner was a headache.
All this sh*t might give me a heart attack.
Hunt for the Fallen is Transport Book Two
Tour Schedule and Activities
9/21 A Work In Progress Interview
9/21 I Smell Sheep Guest Post
9/21 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
9/21 shells interviews Guest Post
9/23 Book in the Bag Interview
9/23 Sheila Deeth Book Blog Guest Post
9/24 Bee’s Knees Reviews Review
9/25 WebbWeaver Reviews Guest Post
9/26 Vampires, Witches, & Me Oh My Top Tens List
9/26 fuonlyknew Review
9/27 Coffintree Hill Guest Post
9/27 Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post
eBook and Print Links for Hunt for the Fallen
Amazon Links for Hunt for the Fallen
Barnes and Noble Link:
My gracious host, Scott Sandridge, has requested that I talk about the worldbuilding I did when writing Blue Spirit: A Tipsy Fairy Tale. My first reaction was, “but the world was built for me already, I used Indianapolis as a base!” But when I thought about it awhile, I realized that the world of Blue Spirit is more than the modern time period and urban setting. My “urban fantasy” setting is different than, say, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, or Red Tash’s Trollogy.
Since we’re talking worldbuilding, we need to consider what makes my world different. First of all, my main character Skye spans two worlds, and is aware of yet another world. Her “origin story” is as a side character, mostly comic relief, in Sinking Down, the second book in my Road Ghosts Trilogy. In that book, she’s possessed by a demon, and though she “got better”, the healing process left a bit of her soul on its own, separate but linked. Though the demon came from the Shadow world, the twilight realm between ours and the afterlife, Skye’s detached bit of soul has its own properties; it is a spirit being named Minnie, and it resides in what we’d call Faerie.
The Fairy world, like the Shadow world, is overlayed over our own, and meets it more directly in some places, but maps quite differently at times. In one place it might stretch out into a small pocket universe, while over there a single step could carry you great distances in our world. Because of her connection with Minnie, Skye sees into this other world, and often sees the true form of people and creatures that seem ordinary to everyone else.
Because of the crossover with the Fairy realm, there are special, magical places in our world that are enhanced. For example, Holliday Park is a city park with a hilly wooded area riddled with trails, creeks and ponds, and also an enormous group of sculptures and columns made to look like a ruins. In Blue Spirit, these are more than they seem to be. The image of ruins is just a fairy glamour, which hides a wicked Queen’s castle and dungeon. Where several trails meet at a circle of stones is a portal to strange otherworldly places. Unseen by mortals, frogman guards patrol the trails for their Queen.
People aren’t really part of worldbuilding, but creatures and entities impossible in the Indianapolis I live in populate Skye’s worlds. The city’s bus system is ruled by the whimsical yet powerful Transit King, who grants magical favors in exchange for the promise of collecting favors in return at a later date. In his brewpub downtown, Greg Heath concocts alcoholic potions in the form of “special” beers which can enhance Skye’s powers. Homeless teens aren’t what they seem, having been enchanted into half-wolf beings, drafted into the Queen of the Hunt’s pack.
So, from a simple premise of worlds that intersect our own, Indianapolis is transformed from an everyday city into a more mysterious, magical place; fertile ground for Skye’s fantastic adventures to grow.
I know it’s been a loooooong time since I posted here, but I’m planning to rev things back up. For starters, a guest post by the great Chris Garrison will be coming up as well as an interview with Peter Wellmerink, author of the Transport trilogy.
I’m also thinking about doing some “Poor Man’s Guide” articles to things like writing, promotion, convention-going…playing MMO’s….<–brand new addiction right thar, so I might as well make it into something productive. lol!
In the meantime you can catch my Elements of Storytelling column over at the Seventh Star Press blog. Enjoy!
Episode 1: The Literary Menace
The Lit Federation, manipulated by the evil Darth Mainstream, attacks the poor planet of Asimov.
Episode 2: Attack of the PORN.
To save themselves from the Mediocratists, The Sci-Fi Republic strikes the proverbial “deal with the devil” to unleash a massive wave of Porn clones onto the Holonet.
Episode 3: Revenge of the Mainstream
Through a series of manipulations, the evil Darth Mainstream becomes Emperor, and many Genre writers become broke and destitute thanks to a traitor in their midst.
Episode 4: A New Subgenre
As Emperor Mainstream brings his nefarious plans to fruition by building the dreaded Joykiller, a spark of hope arrives in a young Genre writer named Lon Spacewriter when he joins R.A.M (Rebels Against Mediocrity).
Episode 5: Literary Mainstream Fights Back
The Mainstream Empire strikes back against R.A.M., and nearly destroys the sense of wonder in fiction for all time. Lon Spacewriter escapes their clutches via the help of Self-Publishing.
Episode 6: Return of the Space Opera
In a desperate countermove, the surviving rebels unleash Star Wars and Serenity onto the Galactic Holoscreen, igniting a frenzied hunger for all things Space Opera. Emperor Mainstream is destroyed by his own right hand man, who reveals himself to be the nerdy father of Lon Spacewriter, the long-believed-dead H. G. Wells.
Walter Rhein’s The Bone Sword mixes the grittiness of sword & sorcery with the miraculous wonder common in heroic fantasy, and he does so in a smooth way. While the main protagonist is clearly a good guy, he’s still rough around the edges and willing to do what it takes to win, both in sword fighting and in strategy.
Jasmine, however, ends up stealing the show and actually is the character whose shoulders the fate of an entire kingdom resides on. Her character growth, more than any other character’s, was what kept me reading. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about her brother, Noah. He felt more “tacked on,” and I had a difficult time feeling any sympathy for him, even during the torture scene. I felt he needed a little bit more personality to him.
The villains, with the exception of one, were primarily archetypes; however, I still found them interesting. I’ve never had problems with authors using archetypes, especially when said archetypes work within the context of the story being told. And Rhein uses the archetypes well in his attempt to display the problems inherent in a feudalistic civilization, where a small handful of people often have far too much power over the rest.
Overall, The Bone Sword is a fun, compelling read with just the right kind of pace for such a tale.
Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Excalibur along with a few instrumentals by Epica.
SpecMusicMuse—Review of Altered States: A Cyberpunk Sci-Fi Anthology, Edited by Roy C. Booth and Jorge Salgado-Reyes
Altered States is a cyberpunk anthology whose stories broaden the horizon of what is usually thought of as subgenre with tight borders. The fifteen stories inside range from the well-defined tropes, to the experimental, to everything in between. Nine are reprints, and six are original to this anthology. My particular favorites were:
“Living in the Singularity” by Tom Borthwick: the plot twist was somewhat expected but fit the story well.
“Ex Machina” by Cynthia Ward: combines hacking with psychology and explores the concept of collective consciousness. I didn’t expect this plot twist at all, and it made for a great ending.
“Extra Credit” by Paul Levinson: combines cyberpunk with parallel worlds. As always, Levinson weaves a great tale from start to finish.
“Attention Whore” by Kerry G.S. Lipp: the most interesting story in the antho. I found it to be just as relatable to modern day as it is to a near-future cyberpunk setting…and the story gave me chills.
Altered States is a great anthology to add to your collection whether you prefer cyberpunk specifically or science fiction in general. I highly recommend it.
Best to read while listening to: the soundtracks to Blade Runner and Johnny Mnemonic. Also throw some Atari Teenage Riot into the mix.
Pankea is a world decades in the making, and parts of it still evolve and expand to this day. The world began back when I was thirteen. Back then it was just Quaz City plus a few surrounding cities and towns in a nation called the Land of Quaz, and the cast of characters began, like most such worlds, with the usual archetypes. But in time the world expanded and began to take on a life and personality all its own: its own history, its own cultures, its own unique monsters (such as the vintervolgs, gorlaks, and the Bloodstone Skeletons). And even the “stock” races evolved over time. The magic system had to get retconned once I introduced the Barrier, the Mystic Field, and the possibility of spells going awry or “backlashing.”
At around the age of 15, I had this bright idea that maybe, just maybe, I could write short stories and novels set within that world, and perhaps actually sell them. By 25 I gave up on that notion and started creating other worlds to write in, often developing such worlds at the spur of the moment. While I like all my stories, the worlds that were not Pankea never felt as familiar, as intimate, as my first fantasy world. For one, none of those worlds had a poster-sized map of themselves hanging on my wall (which a cat, who shall remain nameless, later tore down and pissed on, so I had to throw it away). Ironically, my first published short story, “Treecutter,” was set in Pankea at a time before the Great Catastophe forced the Archaians, Hamadans, Vangaardians, and the other non-natives to migrate to the continent-sized island. Later published stories were all set in the current Pankea timeline (around the 1014th year since the birth of Arcus Dragonslayer, or “A.D.”).
When the idea for the Gifts of the Magi anthology was brought to my attention, I was excited. An anthology themed around series? WOOT! And a charity anthology at that? Double WOOT! But the majority of the writers were writing stories based on their novel series, and I’ve yet to have a novel published. Would the editors be okay with a story set in the same world as my other separate but related short stories?
The answer was yes.
So now all I had to do was come up with a Christmas-themed story in a world with no Christmas. But Pankea does have a Winter Solstice celebration. Indeed, Pankea has a lot of holidays, especially in Quaz.
I woke up one morning with the idea of an evil, demon-possessed snowman rampaging through the streets. But the streets of what city? And who would the protagonists be? Eventually I decided the location would be in Raka, the “capital” (and only dwelling) in Wizardreach—a semi-autonomous outpost under the protection of the Land of Quaz, much like Necro and Elvawood Manor. In this way I could provide cameo appearances of three characters who often get mentioned but have never yet appeared in my short stories and trilogy-in-progress: Chancellor Rakeem, Archwizard and Lord of Wizardreach; High Enchantress Larana, Lady of Wizardreach; and General Thalas son of Thorus, Descendent of Arcus (whose great grandfather was the protagonist in my story “Shilak’s Gift”).
Naturally, the protags would be Arnelda Verina and Roland Fornebank, who have an established history with the above characters back when they all adventured together. Also, any story with those two in it is guaranteed to end up with hilarious hijinks and general fun-filled chaos. And I wanted this story to be fun.
That is how “Freezy the Snow Demon” developed for the anthology, Gifts of the Magi, to benefit Indy Reads, making this the first story I’ve written for a charity benefit to a worthy cause. I hope you enjoy my story and all the other awesome stories in it.