Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jackie Gamber's Redheart Beats Strong and True!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SZ: Who are some of your writing influences?

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

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

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

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

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

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

JG: Redheart can be purchased at,,, or can be ordered from any local bookstore. - For information about my publications, appearances, or tidbits such as my blog. There are also links to my social networking venues. I enjoy chatting with my readers on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Drop me a note! - For sample chapters of Redheart, plus other stories related to the Leland world. - For dragon safety tips and positive articles for spreading dragon awareness. Have you hugged a dragon today?

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

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

The story itself centers around a couple of key characters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Imagicopter-Raising Up Small Press Authors and Publishers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann Barringer

David Nora

Hericka R. Raymer

Windsong Levitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SZ: What other Imagicopter events are coming up?

DB: All right, here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Imagicopter, people who are interested can visit our website (, visit us on Facebook (, or just drop us a note at Our snail mail address is:

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Podcast now available on iTunes

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

Seventh Star Press Podcast on iTunes

Spread the word!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seventh Star Press Podcast Episode 1, featuring Crymsyn Hart!

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

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

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

You can subscribe to the podcast as an RSS feed here: