Monday, October 5, 2015

REVIEW: While You Were Gone / Kate Moretti

Contemporary Fiction - Women's Fiction

WARNING: This review will be a bit spoiler-y to those who haven't read Kate's first novel, Thought I Knew You.

Let me start by saying I'm coming into this novella biased for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm a huge fan of Kate Moretti's previous works: Thought I Knew You and Binds That Tie. Secondly, I'm a sucker for books about classical music, and OMG THE HEROINE'S AN ORCHESTRA VIOLINIST!!! Thirdly, I like Kate's writing so much that I published her myself in Brave New Girls, the anthology about girls in STEM that I co-edited. Fourthly, I watched this book go from a vague idea to an actual book, which is always thrilling. I chatted with Kate  when she was first brainstorming what she'd do with a Thought I Knew You companion novella (I may have pestered her about writing about the Other Woman you meet in TIKY because I'm a fangirl and wanted to know what happened from her POV). And fifthly, Kate sent me an early draft to vet for classical music-type things (I play violin and spent my teen years as a dedicated orchestra girl), so I kind of feel like one of the book's aunties (not my baby, but sometimes feels a little like it).

Also, *disclaimer time* Kate and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing), but this is NOT one of the reasons I'm biased (neither Red Adept nor Kate asked me to review this book, and my opinions are completely my own honest thoughts, etc. etc. Sage's Blog Tours did send me a free review copy, but I'd already bought and paid for the novella with my own cashie money because I love Kate's work and I wanted to read more).

Damn. I think that intro's longer than my review's going to be. Let's get to it then.

Karen Caughee's life is a mess. As a dedicated member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, she dreams of being the next Concertmistress and taking her passion for music to the next level. But with an alcoholic mother to take care of, a boyfriend she's drifting apart from, and stiff competition from her frenemy in the violin section, she ends up succumbing to the whirlwind of pressures and botching her audition. Just when it seems things can't get any worse, she's in a car accident that causes a devastating injury - one that keeps her from playing her violin.

She finds solace in the man who pulled her from the wreck, an American named Greg whom she'd met earlier that evening by chance. Greg gives her the support she sorely needs, but she only sees him when he's in town for a business trip. And though she's fallen hard for him, she starts to realize that he's not who she thinks he is... and he's put her in a terrible position.

I love that Kate used this novella, a companion piece to Thought I Knew You, to explore Karen's untold story. Karen's only seen briefly in TIKY as the infamous Other Woman. TIKY is about Claire Barnes coming to grips with her husband's disappearance and struggling with his betrayal, and Karen's more of a symbol than a person. While You Were Gone takes what TIKY set up and flips the infidelity tale on its head. Karen becomes a fully realized character, and I love seeing the story from the other side.

WYWG is really, in many ways, a character study. It delves deep into Karen's struggles and passions, letting her tell her side of the story in her own voice. I love that it shows that the Other Woman is a person too. Kate has a real talent for breathing life into her characters and making them feel real. The conversational voice and the complex emotions, the romance and the betrayal... I enjoyed every moment in this novella. Especially the scene in which Claire confronts Karen... same dialogue as in TIKY, but told from Karen's perspective.

We live in a world that loves to make quick, snap judgments of people and is always in a rush to put them into little boxes with labels on them. Readers of TIKY (including myself!) did just that to Karen, the Other Woman in an extramarital affair. By giving Karen a voice, Kate shows us how every story has multiple sides, and even unlikable figures are also human beings. And sometimes, they aren't what you think.


Despite Karen Caughee’s intense focus on her music, her life is drifting out of its lane. Her alcoholic mother keeps calling from bars for early-morning rides, her boyfriend doesn’t think she gets him, and that Toronto Symphony Orchestra position she applied for ends up going to her friend, Amy. By chance, she meets American Greg Randolf just before she’s in a car accident. He pulls her from the wreckage, but after major surgery, her recovery is slow. Without her music, her life’s pursuit, Karen is pushed further adrift.

Greg stays by her side while she heals, and he sees her every time he’s in Toronto for work. Without any other support or friendship in her life, Karen craves his enthusiastic attention, and their friendship deepens to love. Though she’s fallen hard for him, he doesn’t share everything with her. In one heartrending moment, Karen’s life comes to a crossroads, and she must face the full truth about who Greg is, and about who she has become.

Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

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.

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

Visit Kate:

Goodreads page:
Twitter: @KateMoretti1

Red Adept Publishing Page: 


In which I pester Kate Moretti, New York Times-bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone, with nosy questions about her writing career.

Hi Kate! Welcome back to Zigzag Timeline. Since the last time you were here (in June 2014), you’ve taken the leap from small press author to Big 5 author. What’s that been like?

Well so far, it’s not that different than small press J. I’m still writing, revising, editing, repeat, repeat, repeat. I think things will pick up next summer, with the release of THE VANISHING YEAR in September 2016, but I have no idea what to expect. I’m nervous and excited, though! I can’t wait to see what happens.

Your latest book, While You Were Gone, is a companion novella to your first book, New York Times bestseller Thought I Knew You. What inspired you to write WYWG and tell part of TIKY’s story from a different perspective?

I love the idea that there’s always two sides to any story. I’ll admit the idea to write it was a bit strategic, I wanted a novella out between my novels. But I really don’t know any writers who can write something from strategy alone. You still have to get into the plot and characters and feel the story. For me, it was a natural progression. Greg was never an evil person in my mind. He made morally suspect choices, but he had reasons. Karen was always kind of victim of circumstance. Once I thought of them like that it seemed so possible for them to get together. I wanted to know their details.

What was it like revisiting the character of Greg, who first made his appearance in TIKY and is depicted from an entirely different perspective in WYWG?

It was fun. I like Greg. I’m probably the only one? I just like that how a person is viewed has everything to do with perspective, right? To Karen, he was this laid back, kind of fun guy who saw her for who she felt she was, deep down. Something that most people never bothered to do. Then to Claire, he was stressed out and miserable. Some of that is projection, too. You see people based on what you need them to be in that moment. Then who is the real person? I think the answer is “all of them”.

I’m a total sucker for classical music, so I love that Karen’s a violinist! What inspired you to make her a member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and what was it like writing about a musician?

Well you can only write so much if you only write “what you know”. I know nothing about classical music, symphonies, orchestras. Nothing. I played the piano for a lot of my life but I struggled so much with timing because I didn’t have a lot of patience. I would have been a terrible musician! In short, it was scary because I never knew if I was saying the right things, doing the right things. I worry about the things you can’t find on Google, the minor details. I have good beta readers!

You’re a member of Tall Poppy Writers, a group of women’s fiction authors. What’s your work with them been like?

I love the Tall Poppies. We write similar fiction, or at least share an audience. Collectively, we must have a hundred years of publishing experience. I can ask them any question I have and someone will know the answer. We read each other’s work, promote each other, support each other, and commiserate when required. I love having a small tribe. We’re meeting for a summit in New York City at the end of October. If I say summit, I can write it off. If I say pajama party with wine, I can’t.

Every writing journey has its ups and downs. What’s the most terrifying, awful, OMG-why-am-I-doing-this moment you’ve had to face as an author?

So, I can’t be sure, but I think my agent is kind of a renegade. Our first round of submissions was huge. Like 40 editors. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s pretty unusual (most others I’ve heard are 10-20 subs at a time). I was at Walt Disney World with my family, the happiest place on earth and within that week, we got back about 30 rejections. I know rejections suck for everyone. But, I do think most people don’t get back 30 rejections in the span of four days. I just kept reading these rejection emails, one after the other, set to It’s a Small World. Just a little maddening.

Though you’re primarily a women’s fiction author, you stepped outside your comfort zone to write a YA sci-fi short for Brave New Girls (and it is amazeballs). What was it like shifting gears like that?

It was HARD. My story was by far the weakest story in the book. I couldn’t write aliens or futuristic or dystopia or whatever. I don’t even read that! I had to set it on earth, in the real world, today.  And it still took me forever. I just love the cause, I had to be part of it! I’m so lucky to be included. I love Meg, I love her character but sometimes I don’t think I did her justice.  

How is 2015 Kate—bestselling author of three books who’s signed with a power agent and has a contract with a Big Cat Publisher—different from 2011 Kate—aspiring author seeking advice on writer’s forums? If you could tell 2011 Kate one thing, what would it be?

This question is embarrassing, Mary. For God’s sake. I’m the same person. I might even tell 2011 Kate to enjoy all her ego and bluster because it’s the most confident she’ll ever feel. She was so stupid, she didn’t know enough to doubt every sentence.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer aiming to be a bestseller like you someday?

Just keep writing and if someone tells you you can’t do something, find another way to do it. There are a million ways to keep going in this industry. Keep an open mind and do your homework, research, and make the best decisions you can. And keep writing.

What’s next for you? Can you tell us a bit about the book you have coming out next year?

The Vanishing Year (Atria Books, Sep 2016) is about a woman who runs from her past. She seeks out her birth mother only to discover that someone will stop at nothing to keep them apart. It’s a redemption story, really. I can’t wait to see the final book!

Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

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.

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

Visit Kate:

Goodreads page:
Twitter: @KateMoretti1

Red Adept Publishing Page: 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tomorrow is World Teachers Day!

Tomorrow is World Teachers Day! Teachers make sure tomorrow happens. Without them all the knowledge and skills the people who came before us worked so hard to develop would be swept away with time. Without them, raw talent would never ripen into the thinkers, doers, and leaders that make the world go round. If you're reading this, it's because someone taught you how.

So let's hear it for teachers!

World Teacher Day

Friday, October 2, 2015


Ten questions for Drew Karpyshyn, sci-fi/fantasy author of numerous books including the Star Wars: Old Republic novels, Mass Effect novels, and the Chaos Born Trilogy, and game writer for BioWare.


You’ve written a number of sci-fi/fantasy titles, including both original fiction (The Chaos Born Trilogy, Temple Hill, A Minor Malevolent Spirit and Other Tales) and media tie-in books (the Star Wars: Darth Bane and Star Wars: Old Republic novels, Mass Effect books, and Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal). What drew you to the sci-fi/fantasy genre?

I've always been a fan of speculative fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, horror. I read mostly for entertainment and enjoyment, and I prefer to read stories that can't actually happen in real life.  By adding fantastical elements, I think it actually frees up both the author and the audience to be more open minded and willing to accept things they might otherwise resist or reject.

In addition to writing novels, you’ve written for a number of games, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire and the Baldur’s Gate series. How is writing for games different from writing novels?

Writing for games, at least with BioWare, is a very collaborative process. You work closely with other writers, and you need input from other departments - level designers, artists, cinematics. This collaboration can produce a lot of amazing content that wouldn't be possible working alone, but there is a trade-off - you have to give up some creative control. A novel, on the other hand, is a very solitary endeavor. You sink or swim completely alone; you have no support from a team, but you also have absolute creative control. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other; they're just very different.

What’s it been like balancing your original work with your media tie-in work?

For me it's mostly about managing time. I love telling stories in existing universes, like Star Wars, Mass Effect or the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. It's an honor and a privilege to be part of something beloved by so many fans, and to leave a mark on something with a massive audience. But I also like creating my own worlds, as I did with my Chaos Born trilogy. Fortunately I get to do both, and I hope that my fans enjoy both my tie-in work and my original novels. 

I read your original novel, Children of Fire (Chaos Born, Book I), and I can see why it’s received so much praise! What was the inspiration behind the rich fantasy world you depicted in the book? What drew you to the theme of chaos?

The Chaos Born trilogy is my homage to the classic fantasy works I read growing up, like David Eddings' Belgariad and Terry Brooks' Shannara novels, with a dash of Stephen King-inspired horror thrown in. I wanted to take the basic archetypes in classic Sword and Sorcery fantasy and twist them in subtle ways to give them a fresher, modern feel. And I've always been a fan of "butterfly effect" type fiction, so incorporating Chaos as a powerful but unpredictable source of magic that has rippling, far-reaching consequences seemed like a logical next step. 

Your books are full of unexpected twists and turns. Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that went in unexpected directions?

I tend to plot my stories out in detailed outlines before I start writing the actual book, so I usually have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go. But even with this planning, I often discover a character who takes on a life of his or her own - someone who grows beyond my initial expectations. And I think the key is to be willing to veer off of my outlines when something like this happens, as long as it makes sense for the story and themes I'm working with.

Can you take us behind-the-scenes on what it’s like writing for broader universes such as Star Wars and Mass Effect?

I've always enjoyed a great amount of creative freedom working with both Star Wars and Mass Effect. Obviously they need to approve your stories and ideas, but for the most part they've allowed me to tell the stories I want to tell. The key to working with an existing franchise is to be able to know what the fans want.  You have to understand the themes and the tone of the books, films and games that came before. You need to understand the history and the stories that have already been told. In other words, you need to be a fan - and fortunately, I am.

Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it? Is it different for original versus media tie-in fiction?

I almost always start with a basic outline of the story and a brief description of the main characters. From there, I slowly flesh out the details - I go from a one page summary to a five page outline, which I then turn into detailed chapter by chapter descriptions of the entire story before I start the actual writing of the novel. That helps to keep me focused on the tale I want to tell, although if something good comes up that isn't the original outline I'm not afraid to work it in. 

Some writers listen to music, some go to coffee shops, some drink beer… Do you have any habits or rituals you must do before you hunker down and write?

I often write at night, in my office with the windows shut and the lights low. With the world outside shrouded in darkness, it's easier to imagine myself inside the fictional world I'm working in. Beyond that, I don't have many rituals. For me it's about sitting my butt down in a chair in front of the computer and putting in the time at the keyboard. It's easy to procrastinate and get distracted, so I need to make sure I bear down and actually write.

The road to publication and a writing career is never easy. Can you share what the early days were like for you? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

There's no easy answer for this. On the FAQ page of my website - - I list a few links writers can go to for advice and tips about the craft and about the available markets. Beyond that, the only real advice I can offer is to stay patient. I started trying to get my stories published when I was back in high school, and it took ten years before I finally started making money as a writer. I think that's pretty normal; you need to spend a lot of time and effort learning your craft before it's good enough for someone else to want to pay for it. There are no shortcuts or secrets - it just takes hard work.

Are you working on anything new? What does the path forward look like for you?

Chaos Unleashed, the third and final book of my Chaos Born trilogy, comes out October 13, but I actually finished writing it some time ago. Since then I've released a self-published short story anthology called A Minor Malevolent Spirit and Other Tales and I've started working on two unnamed novels - a historical thriller set in Elizabethan England, and a contemporary sci-fi story set in modern-day Vegas. I've also started working again with BioWare, the video game company where I got my start, as a writer for their online Star Wars MMO. I always keep my fans updated about what I'm working on in the NEWS blog on my website, and you can follow me on Twitter @drewkarpyshyn for all the latest Drew news!


Drew Karpyshyn is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two, Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, and the Mass Effect novels Revelation and Ascension, as well as several other fantasy and science fiction novels. He is also an award-winning writer/designer for the computer game company BioWare, where he was lead writer on Mass Effect and the blockbuster Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game. He lives in Canada's hinterlands with his wife, Jen, and their cat.


Twitter: @drewkarpyshyn


The Chaos Born Trilogy


Long ago the gods chose a great hero, Daemron the Slayer, to act as their agent in the mortal world to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power of the Talismans corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

Find them on Amazon (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3)

A Minor Malevolent Spirit

With stories ranging from classic sword and sorcery adventures to contemporary horror to twisted takes on myth, legend and folklore, A Minor Malevolent Spirit offers ten tales of magic, mystery and the supernatural… with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure! A man discovers a demon living in his basement, then hires it to advance his career. A young king in exile challenges a powerful wizard in a battle of wits to reclaim his throne. The Aztec pantheon gathers for an unusual contest to win the favor of the immortal Serpent King. A proud warrior queen plots bloody retribution to avenge her murdered family. Ten fantastical tales promise to deliver thrills, chills and even a few laughs. As an added bonus, author notes for each story will give fans a glimpse into the craft of writing and Drew's creative process.

Learn more about A Minor Malevolent Spirit and Other Tales on Drew's STORIES page.

Find more of Drew's titles on his Amazon page