Sunday, May 3, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Shelby K. Morrison

An interview with Shelby K. Morrison, author of From the Ashes.


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

The only background I have is writing. I tried to ignore it growing up and consider it a hobby. I pursued other avenues, focused on my studies, planned other careers. No  one actually just became writers, did they? But try as I might, the idea of being an author was always in the back of my mind. Then I realized writing was my passion. Why should you do anything other than what you're passionate about? My first book, Shattered, was released last year. It was a Psychological Thriller with hints of sci-fi. Quite different than From the Ashes, which is Fantasy. But Fantasy was my origin genre. I'm returning to my roots and not trying to make myself the author I thought I wanted to be.

What got you into writing?

I've always been pretty creative so I was always looking for ways to express myself. I'd have poems and songs in my head and I'd just write them down. I read like crazy as a student and then one day put two and two together and tried my hand at fiction. Been writing ever since.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

From the Ashes actually has the bones of a story I wrote in junior high.  It all began with the pendant that would turn a young woman's entire life upside down. The story was much different than it is now, but I still see the original there in the crevices. I took what I loved about my story, pulled out what didn't make sense, fleshed out what did and then built upon it with more characters and a bigger world. Until before I knew it, I had an entire series from the bones of one story.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Aia is definitely my favorite. She has a pretty messed up hand dealt her, but she doesn't let that control her or get her bogged down. She's tried so hard to be independent, to be free of this one thing that should be a huge burden. And when things go south, she could do what's best for her. But instead she does what's best for everyone else. She has a strong sense of justice and equality. She's also fidgety, rambles out loud when nervous, and has just the right about of spunk. But I feel for her because although she puts on a strong face, there is suffering within and demons she's battling. Half the time I want to vow to help her and other times I want to hug her. I hope people find a friend and inspiration in Aia. I did.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

Hmm...describe my favorite scene? If it's my favorite scene, odds are it will be others, too. So if I describe it, that would spoil it! I will say this: shi* goes down and I just have a smile on my face the whole time. Aia's true awesomeness shines through and you finally get a good picture of her bravery and strength and bad-a**ery. She may or may not need her bow and arrow. That's all I'll say. You'll know it when you read it.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

A favorite part of writing? Most writers can tell you that writing is hell. The outlining is torture, the writing is madness, and don't get me started on the revision and rewriting process. Yet we are compelled by something outside our control. It's an addiction no matter how miserable it is. All of it is my favorite, and I hate all of it at the same time. The whole process of building my book from a little idea into a full-fledged story, watching my characters grow, my world unfold, it's an amazing thing. If I had to choose a part in the writing process that is the most would have to be the brainstorming. There are no rules, just gushing with ideas and what-if scenarios. It's like a pot of boiling water. It starts slow, a few huge ideas at once, then it grows, faster and faster, the bubbles big and small and minute roiling within the pot and you can't write them fast enough. It's exhilarating, a roller coaster in its own way. You feel like a creative madman and can really let loose. Then you have those moments of sheer genius and there is nothing greater in the writing process. Either a puzzle piece falls perfectly into place or your character takes one step forward and becomes a hundred times better. Ahhh...euphoria. That's what makes it all worth it.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

Oh boy, I have a writing process like you wouldn't believe. It takes me an average of 6 months, maybe a bit less to write a book and get it to my editor. I have a checklist to go over for each of my drafts so my focus stays on track. I start with a brainstorm, then the outline, then the first draft followed by second and third. Then it goes to my beta readers and then I do one final fourth, sometimes fifth draft. It's a very strategic, organized method that I've been perfecting over the last couple years and will continue to perfect as my experience grows. From the Ashes had several first drafts, whereas Book Two in the series, Among the Flames, only needed one. I planned the second one better and didn't run into the same issues. So the timeline can vary, but there is a basic template I use.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

Fantasy is what I would read day in and day out, along with some YA, as a kid. I also read some thrillers but found it so difficult to find a thriller that wasn't a “who dun it” that it became a chore. Fantasy was the first genre I started writing. I had half a dozen unfinished stories. But oddly when I decided to start trying to write professionally, a few years had passed, and I decided I wanted to be a Thriller/Suspense writer. So then I stopped writing fantasy and turned to suspense stories, successfully writing my first novel length story. Then a few years later, the idea for Shattered hit and I was compelled to write it. That was the author I wanted to be. But then I realized, I didn't have as much fun writing Shattered (or the other thrillers) as my fantasy stories. Even though it was fiction, there was a lot of boring realistic parts that I had to research. And researching how many miles a helicopter can fly before running out of gas *somehow* really sucks the fun out of writing. So I decided to return to my roots and not care what type of author I thought I wanted to be. I decided to write what made me happy, what got me interested in writing in the first place. Fantasy. You can be free in Fantasy. You don't have to worry about what is realistic, the rules of our world, the restrictions. You really are the creator of your world. It's creativity in its rawest form. And I'm so glad I did. I'm right at home writing Fantasy. Although the world-building gets me down sometimes when I compare myself to others, I know that'll get better in time. It is still the best genre for me to be myself and egnite my passion.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

I never followed a particular author, and still don't. Every book I read has influence on me and my writing. I read a lot of YA Fantasy and then fun thrillers like Jurassic Park or Relic. I am trying to blend my love of fantasy and my love of thrillers/suspense into my books so I have the best of both. Every book I've read has helped me get to this point. But I like to think my voice is my own.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

I surprise myself all the time! My characters form as I write them. I try to map them out beforehand but they usually take on their own life midway through writing, or even after the whole first draft. I look at them, hands on my hips, and say “Really?” And then I have to rewrite them. My plots do the same. I'll be chugging along, have a stroke of genius and have to go back and make changes. This is all okay because these little moments of inspiration is what makes writing amazing. I live for those unexpected moments.

Thanks for stopping by!

REVIEW: Grunge Gods and Graveyards / Kimberly G. Giarratano

TITLE: Grunge Gods and Graveyards
AUTHOR: Kimberly G. Giarratano
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on publisher's website

Young Adult - Paranormal

Being someone who spends a good deal of time dealing with legal/compliance people, I know how important disclosures are, so here they are, up top where everyone can see: the publisher of Grunge Gods and Graveyards is also the publisher of two books of mine, Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions. However, neither they nor Kimberly asked me to buy, read, or review this book, which I did entirely on my own. All opinions expressed are mine, mine, mine.

Now that I've got that over and done with, I can finally let out my cry of, "I loved this book!!!" Seriously, I don't know why I waited so long to read it, because once I opened it up, I couldn't stop. Blew through the first half in a day and finished the rest shortly after. It's got everything I love about young adult fiction - snappy dialogue, tight plot, high stakes, high drama, and all those teenager feeeeeeels. Plus a touch of nostalgia for the nineties.

Grunge Gods and Graveyards is like Ghost (the Patrick Swayze movie) meets Veronica Mars. 17-year-old Lainey Bloom is devastated when the boy she loves is killed in a hit-and-run, so when his spirit returns to her as a ghost, it's a bittersweet reunion. Then, she learns that there's more to his death than a simple accident. Determined to uncover the truth, Lainey tangles with the power players in her town and winds up in a lot more trouble than she bargained for. Meanwhile, she also has to deal with the everyday hardships of being a not-so-popular teenager - mean girls at school, condescending authority figures, a rift with her best friend.

As a shameless consumer of all things teenager-y (never mind that I haven't been one myself for a while), this book really hit the spot for me. It was both entertaining and beautifully tragic, with its combination of Veronica Mars-style mystery with Ghost-style paranormal romance. Everyone loves an underdog, and it's easy to root for Lainey as she slogs through circumstances she could never have prepared for. Lainey's mix of spunky edge and vulnerability make her both sympathetic and relatable. She's got her fair share of flaws, and that makes her character all the more interesting.

The book also boasts a colorful cast of supporting characters, from Lainey's appropriately named punkish best friend Wilder to her former bad girl sister Liz to manipulative mean girl Wynter. And then there's the romantic lead, Danny, who is perfectly swoon-worthy with his confident charm. Oh, and he's in a 90s grunge band and speaks Spanish (he's Mexican - bonus points for diversity!). It's not hard to see why Lainey fell hard for him, and their tragic-sweet moments together bring out all the feels.

The setting could be a character itself - a small town in the 90s with a distinctive graveyard. This book really captures the spirit of the era and the insular nature of small-town life. Both the descriptions and the way in which circumstances are woven in really bring it to life.

All in all, an awesome read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction.

Kimberly G. Giarratano, a forever Jersey girl, now lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and small children. A former teacher and YA librarian, Kimberly adores Etsy, Jon Stewart, The Afghan Whigs, ’90s nostalgia, and (of course) everything YA. She also speaks Spanish, but is woefully out of practice.

Kimberly always dreamed of being a published author. Her other dream is to live in Key West, Florida where she can write in a small studio, just like Hemingway.

Friday, May 1, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: Lyra by Lisa Toohey

Every Friday until its publication, I'm going to blog something about Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a YA sci-fi anthology featuring tech-savvy heroines. The goal is to encourage more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Today, I'm spotlighting one of the stories that will be featured in the anthology.




Lisa Toohey


In this sci-fi twist on Cinderella, a teen girl named Elizabeth finds herself living in the attic and fixing machines for her mean-spirited aunt and bullying cousin. The closest thing she has to a friend is the house's AI system, but even that is taken away when her aunt decides to upgrade it to a new model. Much to Elizabeth's surprise, the new system, Lyra, takes a special interest in her, acting as her AI godmother. But not all godmothers are the things of fairytales...

This was a cool twist on a familiar fairytale-gone-wrong - one in which the Cinderella figure doesn't have all her dreams granted to her by a benevolent power. And where, in fact, that power can be dangerous. I enjoyed the idea of an AI "fairy godmother", and Elizabeth was a well conceived and sympathetic protagonist.

Lisa Toohey resides in the true north strong and free with her two cats, dog, and husband. She swears she loves the cold. The inspiration for her stories come from her wild dreams and overactive imagination. Lisa grew up with lots of big brothers and never saw any reason why she couldn't do the same things they did. With drive anyone can achieve their dreams.


Lisa believes that woman in tech-savvy roles provide new perspective in their fields, which is a valuable resource in today's ever growing world.

BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released in Summer 2015! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guest Post by Katrina Monroe

by Katrina Monroe
Author of Sacrificial Lamb Cake

I’m scared of the dark. Terrified, actually. I can’t get into bed without a running leap from the doorway. I blame my grandfather for telling me this story:
            Once upon a time, there was a society of gnomes. These gnomes lived in the dark and liked it there. Then, one day, man appeared and shed light on the world of the gnomes. They were shown their ugliness, and for that they hated man. To get their revenge, they decided to hide in the dark corners that man never peers into—the closet, under the bed, and sometimes, under the pillow. When the time is right, they sneak out and eat the smallest of them (because gnomes have very small mouths).
            Then he said goodnight and turned off my nightlight. I was seven.
My grandfather is a great guy, despite his unusual sense of humor. Maybe that’s where I got mine from. That, and my Catholic upbringing.
             We were what people called C&E Catholics—Christmas and Easter (and sometimes Lent, if one of us was trying to lose weight via chocolate sacrifice). Earlier in my childhood, though, we were more devout. I even taught Sunday school for a brief stint. While most people think of handsy priests and sexually repressed nuns when they think of Catholicism, they often forget the time honored tradition of scaring the shit out of its followers.
            Ever see the movie The Exorcist? That’s basically Catholic dogma chewed up and spewed all chunky and green for mass consumption. The devil is real, they taught us, and he is going to get you.
            Like that story with the gnomes, the devil stuck with me all my life. Even as a struggling atheist—I say struggling because no matter what people say, it IS hard to let go of religion—Beelzebub worms his way into my thoughts and fears. So much so, that I can’t let myself think about him without a chill passing through my spine, or watch a horror movie with demon possession at the heart of the story. Give me vampires, zombies, disease, anything else, any day.
            They say that the best way to get over fear is to face it. So how was I supposed to face this fear of an imaginary villain figure?
            By making a fool out of him with my writing.
            In my novel, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, the devil is portrayed as a woman—Lucy—who has a short temper and a taste for human teeth. She likes to tease, taunt, and get into name-calling matches with other characters. She’s evil, but silly; a threat to other characters, but a caricature to me. Crunchy, but easily digestible.
            I don’t just write about the devil, though. Most of Christian lore has found its way into my writing, either as satire or as a way for me to examine it more deeply—to peel away the layers and thereby disrobe my mind of its propaganda. THE SEVEN AT WORK (forthcoming in TERRIBLE CHERUBS from DeadPixel Publications) is a short story in which I delve into the Seven Deadly Sins, how they manifest in daily life and how, as a Catholic, I believed there were external forces hell-bent on corrupting me in order to steal my eternal soul. Terrifying thought for a kid who just wants to get through the homily so she can eat a donut in the ladies’ hall. But by personifying these sins, and making them funny (Gluttony has quite the sarcastic tongue), I can look past the frightening outer layer and see them for what they really are—lessons in how not to be an asshole.
            A lot of people will probably see the bulk of my work as blasphemous. That’s because it is. And that’s okay. I don’t write for those people. Or maybe I do. Maybe they’re the ones who need to pick up SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE and look past that outer layer and discover what I hope will be a fun romp through what it means to be human. The point of fiction, what I believe the point is, anyway, is to take a mirror to the world and show it its dustiest corners. My dusty corner had a crucifix and a promise of eternal damnation for that time I shoplifted some eyeliner from WalMart. What’s in yours?

by Katrina Monroe

Oh. My. God.

Rain Johnson escaped the insanity of her radical environmentalist family, only to end up waitressing for a living. Her scale of success—with her at the bottom—only goes as high as that college degree she never got, until she gets one hell of an epiphany from a Trinity Corporation public-relations guy who calls himself Jude. He tells her she’s the Lamb of God, and it’s time for that whole Second Coming thing. But when her first minor miracle gets her arrested and an ecoterrorist using the name Messiah starts blowing up pesticide plants, Rain and Judas are in for way more apocalypse than either of them expected.

Jude scrambles to save his personal plan for salvation, but Lucy, the devil herself, has her own well-laid plans. It doesn’t matter that Rain’s a conflict-avoiding lesbian and Jude is history’s worst traitor. They’re all that stands between humanity and an end of the world that wasn’t supposed to happen.


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Sunday, April 26, 2015


An interview with Alan Geik, author of Glenfiddich Inn, a historical fiction novel surrounding the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, a pivotal moment in World War I. To commemorate the centennial of this historic event, Geik will be offering the Kindle edition of Glenfiddich Inn for free from May 1-7.


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

Before Glenfiddich Inn my writing was non-fiction in two unconnected areas. I was an on-air public radio programmer of Afro-Cuban music in Los Angeles. I was asked to write several pieces for music publications which I did, and found it to be an especially exciting experience as I was able to utilize my first hand access to musicians, producers, and journalists in the U.S., Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Later, I was asked to produce CD compilations for Rhino Records, and I wrote the extensive liner notes for those releases. I also produced two CDs, one of which, Late Night Sessions, received two Grammy nominations, and I wrote those liner notes as well.

I have, and I suspect, always will have, a perverse interest in the massive international bank frauds enabled by the U.S. Congress and, in Europe, by their governing bodies. As I have an M.Sc. in economics from the London School of Economics, I found myself writing for several websites about these frauds, which have essentially impoverished much of the world over the past thirty years.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

I was working with an HBO producer on a treatment about the life and times of Carlo Ponzi—for whom the now often referenced “Ponzi Scheme” was named.  His scam, perpetrated in Boston, was based on an absurd moneymaking proposition—yet one that resulted in $10 million of losses to its many investors, and that was in 1920 dollars! Ponzi, a smalltime con man, was eventually done in by the unexpected success of this transparently fraudulent scheme.

While the film project did not make it to production, I was drawn to the events taking place in pre-WWI Boston. For one, Tufts College, outside of Boston, was a center for early experimentation in broadcasting—the transmission of wireless audio. Its’ enthusiasts called it “radio.”

Two of the female characters of Glenfiddich Inn are certain this new technology will soon connect the world in ways never before imagined—maybe even music could some day be heard in one’s home. However, the detractors dismissed these transmissions as a mere novelty—after all they asked, who would invest in a radio station if anyone with a receiver could listen to the content for free? Of course this was a precursor to the same argument made about the internet seventy years later.

Another thread in the pre-Great War Boston social tapestry that interested me was the arrival in 1914 of a teenage simpleton to the Boston Red Sox. His name was George Herman Ruth, who because of his size and adolescence was simply called “Babe” by the local sports writers. He was to become America’s first sports icon.

Babe Ruth, in my novel, becomes intertwined with two of the fictional characters and his trajectory from naïve pre-war teenager to a more cynical businessman by the end of the war parallels a similar transformation in American society.

One of the most dramatic events of the era is the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat. Several of the characters in Glenfiddich Inn are aboard that doomed voyage and their fate is not known until well into the story.

Coincidentally, this May 7, 2015 will be the centennial of that tragedy. That day I will be offering free Kindle copies in commemoration of the event.

These are just some of the historical signposts that attracted me during the writing of this novel.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Joe Finnerty is a young Boston Irish Catholic bank president—with a strong disdain for anything British. He has a cheerful amorality with which William Morrison, the protagonist and bank vice president, has a growing discomfort.

Finnerty is as at-ease with war profiteering as he is with dipping into widows’ trust accounts deposited at his bank for safekeeping. My first vision of Finnerty was as a minor character. However, Finnerty propelled himself into the story and emerges playing a greater role. Ultimately, he redeems himself in an unexpected (by me also) manner left for the reader to discover.

Another favorite is Margaret Morrison, William’s wife, who is a sophisticated Bostonian of that era—one fully charged with indignation about the plight of working people and the surrounding cynicism or indifference regarding the destructive war still far away in Europe. Her commitment to the future of radio, and its’ misuse by the government when the war starts, impels Margaret down a dangerous path.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

I never thought of that before you asked this question. I would say the scene that begins with Helen Townsend on the train from Boston to New York. She has been working as a graphic artist for President Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 re-election campaign. The trip to New York promises to be a great adventure for her for two reasons—

The next day’s presidential election is expected to be the closest in American history and the results will be, for the first time ever, read over the radio. Helen has been involved in the growth of this technology and so she has a special interest in hearing the presidential elections results being broadcast as the returns are counted.  It is expected that the signal will even be heard many miles from its radio station in Highbridge in the Bronx.

Equally exciting for Helen is a growing interest in Vincent Chelios, a member of Wilson’s re-election team. Although Helen is married, her husband Byron has left her on several occasions to seek boyish adventures as a foreign war correspondent. She is uncertain how Vincent feels about her, but she is excited just at the thought of being near him again—and away from the family in Boston.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

My favorite part of writing this historical novel came to be the interaction of the fictional characters with the quick moving real events of the story. This period was so lush with drama and conflict that profoundly affected each character—I was never certain how they would react. All too often I was surprised by where they took me as the events unfolded.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I wrote this novel over several years. I didn’t sit at the computer for that amount of time and I often left the story while tending to the rest of my life. These intervals away from writing seemed to reinvigorate me as I many times found myself thinking about a character and a specific situation that I left them in. I felt like I had to accompany them through the moment and resolve it to still my own disquiet.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

I have always been attracted to historical novels as well as narrative non-fiction. I remember the deep impression Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August had upon me. Similarly, I found Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to be a profound reading experience. I can think of Cold Mountain as well. All of these are but few examples of terrifying moments in American and world history in which the authors gave the readers an insight unavailable in the dry historical context that are often presented to us.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Beside the above, I have been deeply moved by the historical works of Gore Vidal. I can’t think of anyone who described so many eras in history in such illuminating brushstrokes.

As far as narrative non-fiction, another favorite author of mine is Erik Larson. His Devil in the City of Lights is a masterpiece of the genre—he integrates two parallel stories —the culture-changing Chicago World Fair of 1892 with the hunt for one of America’s first depraved serial killers stalking the Chicago train stations for young women attracted to the bright lights of the world fair.

His latest work Dead Wake is next on my reading list as it tells the story of the last voyage of the Lusitania—coincidentally a key historical moment in my novel. I’m looking forward to reading his account as I have done extensive research on that subject.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

Actually all of Glenfiddich Inn took on a life of its own. As I mentioned before, the actual historical events shaped the characters as the story evolved. Of course, I always knew the war would end but how would the characters be transformed? So many surprises awaited me, including the Great Influenza Epidemic that swept the world just as the war came to a conclusion. But I may be giving too much away—so I’ll stop now. Thanks for having me!

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, April 24, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: Blink by Kate Moretti

Every Friday until its publication, I'm going to blog something about Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a YA sci-fi anthology featuring tech-savvy heroines. The goal is to encourage more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Today, I'm spotlighting one of the stories that will be featured in Brave New Girls.




Kate Moretti


Meg Bryant knows what the kids say about her. She spends all her free time in her basement and, until last year, her closest confidante was Mr. Fitz, who also happened to be her eccentric science teacher. But now Mr. Fitz is gone, and he left her a time machine - along with a warning to tell no one about it.

Hell-bent on winning Science Expo, the regional science fair, Meg puts forth her best efforts. But then her whole life has explodes, alienating her friends. If she could use the time machine to re-do the day, she could fix everything. If only the stupid thing actually worked...


Blink is a fun time travel story featuring a clever and snarky protagonist, Meg. I love that Meg is a brilliant scientist who's unafraid to be as nerdy as she damn well pleases. Her scientific ambitions fit perfectly with the anthology's theme of girls in STEM. Yet despite her smarts, she also makes mistakes, which makes her relatable. The twists and turns Meg's time travel adventures take her on were loads of fun to read, and the story left me smiling at the end.


Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of THOUGHT I KNEW YOU (Red Adept Publishing, 2012) and BINDS THAT TIE (Red Adept Publishing, 2014). She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn't get to do those things as much as she'd like. She's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for eighteen years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her whole life.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.

"If my girls pursue careers in math or science, I want it to be in a world that isn’t impressed with their choices simply because they’re female. When I say I’m a scientist, people think it’s brainy. Like I'm some kind of unicorn. When a man says it, it’s practically mundane. I want that: for it to be mundane."

Twitter: @KateMoretti1

BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released in Summer 2015! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.