Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

*a tumbleweed blows through this blog*

Just so it doesn't get too dusty in here, here are some pictures of books I've been reading. Man, I'm in a non-fiction/minimalist cover mood.

Monday, October 3, 2016

I'm still here!

Hey y'all! I know I've been absurdly slow with the blogging lately. It's mostly because I've been busy adjusting to a new life after getting a new job and whatnot. Partly because all the books I've read lately are nonfiction or classics, hence the lack of reviews. And partly because my bloggy muse has gone quiet. Alas.

BUT... I do have an idea for what I can do with this blog going forward...

These days, there are plenty of places an author can go for practical advice on how to query, how to structure a story, etc. But what about emotional support? Some of this is covered in forums, but it can be a little scary to post saying "help, I'm in this situation... what should I do?" or even just "help, I'm feeling like crap about my writing... tell me it'll be okay."

I guess I mention this because I'm kind of in that spot right now. Lucky for me, I have some great writer friends I know I can lean on. But not everyone has that... maybe they're just starting out, or they're just shy.

So here's what I propose: an advice column of sorts for writerly problems. A Dear Prudence type thing--totally anonymous, with questions and answers appearing in this blog. And what gives me the authority to be Prudence? Well... not much in terms of practical qualifications and whatnot. But I want to be there for any writer who just needs someone to give them a bit of emotional support, and so I volunteer my inbox: astralcolt at gmail dot com.

Hey, everyone needs someone to say, "Just breathe, everything will be okay" once in a while. And I promise, I'll keep everything strictly anonymous. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


An interview with S.C. Stokes, author of A Coronation of Kings.


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

Thanks for having me here! I have always loved to write, for many years I tinkered away on various projects but two years ago I decided to really get stuck in and finish my novels. It's been an adventure ever since.

What got you into writing?

The love of a good story. I like to hear them, love to read them and am now enjoying telling them myself.

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

A little known fact is I had considered using a variation of the title, "Honour Among Thieves" for my first novel (A Coronation of Kings). I liked the concept of a devious society being put to a higher purpose. It is one of the prominent themes in my first novel, but the book has gone a little beyond it now as it looks at motivating influences on a variety of fantasy characters.

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

Syrion is probably my favourite, he is a well meaning but emotionally charged wizard with a penchant for pyromancy. He's no antihero but he has plenty of flaws. I probably enjoyed writing his scenes the most.

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

There are a few contenders. Perhaps my favourite is a battles scene between the aforementioned Syrion and a black dragon with a bad attitude. It was a blast to write. 

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

The thrill of telling the story. I like to engage people and keep them rumbling through it at a rollercoaster pace. I like to keep things happening on every page.

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

The better part of a year for a full length fantasy novel. Normally I draw the map and then craft a few plotpoints from there. Once I have a framework I just write seat-of-your-pants style until I am finished. Then I re-read it and make sure everything makes sense and joins together properly.

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

I love Fantasy, I always have, ever since reading Lord of The Rings and others I've been hooked. There is just something about the setting that draws me in and keeps me there.

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

J.R Tolkien, Raymond E Feist and Matthew Reilly. I like to think or aspire to be a combination of the writing styles of Matthew Reilly and Raymond E Feist. Fantastic Fantasy at a Frantic pace is the motto I like to use to describe my work.

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?

Quite a few. As I wrote I found that my heroes stayed true to many of my original thoughts but their foes evolved dramatically as the novel progressed. I didn't want to have one dimensional rivals, I found that each of them evolved as I wrote, particularly one of the feminine characters Hitomi grew far beyond my original scope for her character.  I'm excited to see the role she will play in future books.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for having me it's been great!

Author Bio

Many people love to read a great fantasy book. I love to live it! When I am not glued to my keyboard busily writing my next work, I can be found clad head to foot in armor, LARPing like a mad man. For those not familiar with the notion, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play where people get in costume and armor and fight over real life battlefields. It's action packed and amazing, which is exactly how I like to write.

In my work you will find yourself submerged in thrilling new fantasy worlds. Each coursing with conflict that transpires at an incredible pace. I draw on experiences from my life and time spent living in Australia, The U.S.A and Japan to enrich the narrative of my books and provide you a taste of familiarity, as you plunge headlong into a scintillating new world. 

If you enjoy my work, and I very much hope you will. Please take the time to connect with me via Amazon, Facebook or my website (www.samuelcstokes.com). I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Social Media Links 

Purchase Links

Amazon Link: 


Smashwords for any other format:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Back-to-school giveaway!!

Hey everyone! It's back-to-school season, and we all know what that means: BOOKS! Meanwhile, I just started a new job the same day my friends were either packing their kids off to school or heading off to grad school (not gonna lie, was a little jealous of the latter bunch. Man, I miss living on campus!).

So, in the spirit of the season, I'm giving away signed copies of ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES and BRAVE NEW GIRLS through Goodreads :-D Enter below, and may the odds be ever in your favor ;-)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Artificial Absolutes by Mary Fan

Artificial Absolutes

by Mary Fan

Giveaway ends October 17, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Brave New Girls by Paige Daniels

Brave New Girls

by Paige Daniels

Giveaway ends October 17, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Outrun the Moon / Stacey Lee

TITLE: Outrun the Moon
AUTHOR: Stacey Lee
PUBLISHER: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Young Adult -- Historical Fiction

My God, it’s full of stars! There aren’t enough stars on Amazon and Goodreads and Audible combined to do justice to how much I loved this book. I get excited whenever I find historical fiction starring Asian Americans, so I bought the audiobook of Stacey Lee’s OUTRUN THE MOON without even reading the description. Which was kind of fun, because I went in knowing only that it was about a Chinese girl in early 1900s California, and every little plot point was a surprise (I had no idea the earthquake was going to feature in the book, let alone throw the entire plot off-kilter). I suppose, in a way, this is how books are meant to be experienced… with the reader knowing no more than the character does about what’ll happen next.

15-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to escape the poverty of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1906. Armed with nothing more than advice from a business book written by a tough Texan lady, a can-do attitude, and a handful of business connections, she strolls into the halls of St. Clare’s School for Girls aiming to get herself an elite education. However, St. Clare’s only admits wealthy white girls, and even after she manages to talk her way in (through a mix of cleverness and bribery), she finds herself unwelcome. Despite the bullying and blatant racism, she’s determined to succeed. Then the historic earthquake strikes, upending her entire world. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter if you’re an heiress or the daughter of a launderer—the only think you can do is go to the emergency park encampment and hope the army will bring food before everyone starves. But Mercy isn’t about to sit around waiting to be rescued. Resourceful and brave, she rallies her classmates to fight for survival and maybe, just maybe, start to heal this broken city.

To say I loved this book is a glaring understatement. It was one of those audiobooks that had me hoping for traffic jams so I might get an extra chapter in before reaching my destination. I loved everything about it—Mercy, the plot, the setting, the writing, the supporting characters… everything glittered. Lee does a fantastic job of bringing 1906 San Francisco to life, whether it’s the bustling streets of Chinatown or the elitist institution Mercy attends. This book tells the story of one tough-as-nails teen girl while showcasing aspects of history and culture that aren’t often discussed. I really enjoyed the way Mercy’s superstitions, stemming from her Chinese heritage, were subtly woven into her thoughts and actions—and also the way her culture and background shaped the way she saw the world. There are so many little things that mold a person’s perceptions, many of which are too minute for most to notice, let alone capture, and yet whose absence is felt on a visceral level. I get this a lot when reading about Asian characters written by non-Asian authors, so it was lovely to meet one of those rare Chinese American characters who feel 100% authentic. (P.S. In case this review somehow ends up posted somewhere that doesn’t show my profile—I’m Chinese American).

While the plot may sound low-key on paper, the writing style makes it unexpectedly tense. Also, I was so invested in Mercy that I really felt for her… I was rooting for her as she sought to get into St. Clare’s by any means necessary, cheering with her when she succeeded, appalled with her as she dealt with blatant racism, laughing with her as she plotted her revenge on the bullies, horrified with her as she searched for her family in the wake of the earthquake… I was bummed when this book ended because I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend who was moving to a country without Facebook, meaning I wouldn’t get to see how her life turned out afterward.

This gush-fest wouldn’t be complete without giving a shout-out to the truly fabulous audiobook narrator, Emily Woo Zeller. She really made Mercy’s voice come alive—sometimes with youthful bravado, sometimes with honest vulnerability. And the voices of the supporting characters all felt distinct and unique in their own ways. If my computer keyboard had emojis, I’d be typing a string of applauding hands right now.

So in conclusion… BUY THIS BOOK!!!!

Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction.

Monday, September 12, 2016

SPOTLIGHT: Woodiss is Willing / Henry Woodiss

Henry Woodiss was the simple English gamekeeper whose affair with his boss’s wife thrust him into one a sensational scandal. He was vilified in the Press, a common man who had seduced a lady. She was Edith, the wife of a severely disabled war veteran, Sir Coninsby-Clarke. 

Many years later, Woodiss wrote his account of these events. He tells how Lady Edith, who had artistic pretensions, ordered him to pose naked in the woods, sketched him, then shamelessly exploited her social position to seduce him.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Woodiss, enlisted in a local infantry regiment. Before he was twenty-one he had been grievously wounded twice, decorated for distinguished conduct and ordered to take a commission. Late in the war, Sir Con was posted to Woodiss’s battalion. Within two days of going into the line, Sir Con was on his way home. He would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. 

On leaving the army Woodiss became Con’s gamekeeper. After their affair came to light, Woodiss suffered his first painful encounters with Edith’s relatives, notably her grandmother, and he endured a humiliating interview with her father, whose insults Woodiss never forgave. 

Despite this traumatic start, the couple developed a loving relationship. After her divorce, Edith married Woodiss. They settled in a house, provided by her family, in an obscure northern town. This was Birstall, in the former Heavy Woollen District of the West Riding. Edith’s passion for Woodiss did not diminish, and the couple enjoyed a loving and contented life until her untimely death. Shortly after Edith died, war broke out and Woodiss, a Territorial Army officer, was called up. The war seemed a welcome distraction, but it was not long before he was again seriously injured and, to his dismay, discharged from the army."