Author Gail Z. Martin joins SciFiChick.com again to talk about how her writing went last year, as well as her new books below!
Writing During Quarantine By Gail Z. Martin
I came home from a trip in mid-March of 2020 and barely ventured outside of my house until May, 2021. Conventions and vacations were cancelled, for a while most businesses were closed, and because we’re in a major metropolitan area, we could get nearly all the essentials delivered or via curbside pickup.
Working from home wasn’t a shock—we’ve done that for more than a decade. But staying home 24/7 without travel, restaurants or visiting family…that was new and unpleasant. And while I did my best not to obsess over what was going on in the world, there was very little good news and plenty happening that was troublesome.
When we went into quarantine, I thought that it would be a boon for getting a lot of writing done without distractions. What I didn’t expect was the toll that stress, anxiety and situational depression would take on the thinking, creating and putting words on page parts of the writing process.
When the world is a huge dumpster fire everywhere you turn, it’s impossible not to be affected. As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not upset, you haven’t been paying attention’. Even for those lucky enough not to be directly impacted by the virus, protests, and political shenanigans, knowing that all those things were happening—and that the outcomes were entirely unknown—created a lot of stress. Lots of people had the added worries of sick or vulnerable loved ones, job instability, and financial concerns.
Creativity is hard when you’re stressed, worried, frightened, anxious, depressed or angry. Keeping to routines and maintaining focus becomes a slog—and then when goals aren’t met, that adds the stress of ‘failing’.
My biggest a-ha moment was when I realized how much I was adding to my own stress by berating myself for not being as productive as usual—in highly unusual times. I realized that could become a vicious circle and ultimately lead to complete paralysis. So the best thing I did was to let go of the normal measurements and be thankful for whatever I was able to produce.
If I didn’t meet my pre-pandemic daily page count, I did my best to be grateful for the words I did get. If it took twice as long to outline a book as before, I tried to enjoy the process and not be in a hurry for the outcome. I found or created ways to use Zoom and social media to stay in touch with readers, fandom friends and fellow authors to keep from feeling isolated and provide a pleasant distraction for all of us. I got over my belief that everything had to be perfect to do video, and just showed up.
Since I didn’t travel, I used some of that time to take an in-depth look at my newsletter, online promotional activities, and improving the metadata for the books. I learned Zoom and Canva and BookBrush and iMovie—things I’d meant to do but never had time to pursue. I showed up for virtual conventions and podcasts and reader chats to stay in touch. All those things enabled me to keep moving forward with book-related efforts even when the actual writing part was slow and frustrating.
So many writers I know have talked about struggling to write during the last year or not being able to write at all. This year the process has gone better, but I’m still not up to my ‘old’ consistent average—and I’m learning to be okay with that and accept that when the words do flow, it’s a gift.
There’s a lot of things in the world that I can’t personally change, but I do have a choice about how much extra stress and judgment I heap on myself with unrealistic expectations in unprecedented times. I never want to lose the joy of writing, so I’m willing to slow down, be kind to myself, and take the scenic route.
About the author: Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy, steampunk and more for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria.
Together with Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of Iron & Blood, Storm & Fury (both Steampunk/alternate history), the Spells Salt and Steel comedic horror series, the Joe Mack Shadow Council series, and the Wasteland Marshals near-future post-apocalyptic series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, with the Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series. Gail is also a con-runner for ConTinual, the online, ongoing multi-genre convention that never ends.
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.
The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
Review: Nami is a relatable and likable young woman. While you may not agree with her actions at times, you can’t fault her motivations. The afterlife she arrives in has its own rules. And she doesn’t want the AI killed, even though they rule over humans. But she quickly finds herself with the resistance who will stop at nothing to bring down the oppressive AI.
While the premise of The Infinity Courts is so far out there that it works better as fantasy, it is easy to suspend disbelief and dive into the story. It’s also easy to side with the resistance when this reality feels like a future Terminator scenario, where humanity has little hope. This is an engaging and unique story. With fun characters, intrigue, and a bit of romance – it’s hard to put down. I really enjoyed this YA thought-provoking adventure and look forward to the next in this trilogy.
The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received last month for review and/or giveaways:
Clarion Books: Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst
Del Rey: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott
Disney Hyperion: The Mirror Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes by Rick Riordan Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori Lee
Fantagraphics Books: Darkwing Duck: Just Us Justice Ducks Vol. 1 by Bobbi JG Weiss
GWP: The Dreamcatcher Codes by Barbara Newman
Inkshares: On Home by Becca Spence Dobias
Putnam: The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry
Simon & Schuster: The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
Subterranean Press: The Best of Dark Terrors edited by Stephen Jones and David A Sutton
Tor / Forge: Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson Tender Is the Bite by Spencer Quinn
Tor Teen: The Queen Will Betray You by Sarah Henning
Synopsis: Even and Odd are sisters who share magic. Lately, though, it seems like that’s the only thing they have in common. Odd doesn’t like magic, and Even practices it every chance she gets, dreaming of the day she’ll be ready to be a hero.
When the hidden border between the mundane world the sisters live in and the magical land they were born in shuts abruptly, the girls are trapped, unable to return home. With the help of a unicorn named Jeremy, they discover a wizard is diverting magic from the border to bolster her own power. Families are cut off from each other on both sides of the border, and an ecological disaster is brewing. But the wizard cares nothing for the calamitous effects her appropriation of magic is having. Someone has to do something to stop her, and Even realizes she can no longer wait until she’s ready: she needs to be a hero now.
Review: Even and Odd are sweet sisters who get along well despite their differences. They have different dreams. But when magic begins to act strange, they find themselves stuck on the other side of a magical border, unable to get home. Their only other companion is an endearing unicorn named Jeremy.
I’m a fan of the author and have read most of her titles. This middle grade fantasy is full of colorful magic, engaging characters, and a bit of suspense. There are some fun twists along the way. Even and Odd is a fast-paced adventure with a lot of humor. Even has a penchant for getting stuck in the form of a skunk. And poor Jeremy can’t tell lies. This heartwarming tale is an easy read that the young (and young at heart) will certainly enjoy.