Tuesday, May 26, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christopher Brooks

An interview with Christopher Brooks, author of The Gertrude Threshold.

 


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

I published my first book, The Gertrude Threshold, a sci-fi novella, back in October 2014.  The Gertrude Threshold follows one family over the course of a single day, the last day on Earth, which has been destroyed due to our sun’s rapid, uncontrolled growth.

What got you into writing?

Boredom, probably, if I’m being honest. The first story I wrote was in 6th grade as I waited in the green room between my (very) infrequent appearances in Fiddler On The Roof. A few years later, I picked up writing again during another bout of boredom during the summer before I started high school. After that, it became a permanent part of my life.

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

The very first scene of my novella, with one of the main characters and his grandson living in their home underground, was the earliest idea I had. It was a summer day, and I was walking to my car across a sweltering, unshaded parking lot. After asking myself “why” seemingly countless times, I went from a single scene to a hundred-page novella.

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

There’s a young, five-year-old boy in my story who’s largely a bystander to the adults’ tribulations. However, the chapter I wrote from his perspective was incredibly refreshing. It’s not often you get to reexamine the world through younger, less skeptical and cynical eyes.

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

My favorite scene is likely the finale one, which I won’t spoil here. In a novel about how a family spends the last day on Earth, the ending is in a sense pre-determined. However, when I wrote those final few pages, I felt full of possibility, as if I were at a stopping point for one thing and a starting point for something else. I suppose that’s the feeling I’d like everyone else to take away, too.

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

I’ve never really made a distinction between the different aspects of writing. My favorite part of writing is simply the act of it: setting aside time to create something that might not be necessarily tied to your job and doesn’t have a deadline or expectations. Letting your unfiltered thoughts out once and a while is probably a healthy thing.

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

Writing my first book, The Gertrude Threshold probably took over a year, including writing and editing. In terms of a process, I try to write every day in the morning before work. Success depends on whether I remembered to buy coffee at the grocery store.

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

The Gertrude Threshold technically would be categorized as science-fiction, and it’s hard not to love a genre where you can essentially write your own rules.

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

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is probably the book that opened my eyes to the possibilities of literature and power of the act of writing. Before that, I wasn’t what you’d call a regular reader or writer. After reading Portrait, I started to feel it was okay to “waste” time writing, perhaps even if nothing ever came of it, as if someone had said, “What the heck? Give it a shot.”

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’ve been terrible at writing outlines for research papers and stories ever since junior high, so still much of what I write in a first draft is a surprise.

I like to create the sandbox - the characters and different scenarios - and just let everything react in a way that feels genuine.

Thanks for stopping by!



Christopher's Website: www.RaggedRightMedia.com
Christopher's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RaggedRightMedia

Book Description:

Brandon knows today will be his last. He has been dreading this moment his entire life. Scientists had long ago predicted the year and the day when all living things, everything Brandon has come to know, would go up in flames – the day Earth hit the Gertrude
Threshold.

For seventy years, Brandon had aged with the sun. He’d watched it grow bigger and the Warming fry the planet. Science was powerless to stop it. Plants withered. Oceans dried up. Humanity went mad. People sought safety underground. Radiation poisoned the world they left behind above.

Now, Brandon languishes on his deathbed. He looks after his grandson, Ky, and again wonders what survival left him with. Ky’s parents, John and Ellen, wander throughout the underground tunnels. Ellen mourns the loss of everything she and her child will never experience. Desperate to spend his final hours with the man he has grown to love, John abandons his wife and child.

Brandon, his family, and the underground survivors have no future, only the past, and less than 24 hours to reclaim the years the Warming stole while Earth begins to fall apart around them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: Illustration preview!



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.


Did you know that Brave New Girls is going to have illustrations? The anthology includes the work of a number of very talented artists, each with his or her own unique style. Each story will get its own black-and-white illustration that acts as kind of a mini cover within the book, and today, I'm going to be sharing a peek at a few of them. Aren't they awesome?


We worked with a total of seven artists and matched their unique styles to the stories we thought they fit best. Evelinn has a lovely, somewhat surreal tone to her work, which is why we sent her "Graveyard Shift" (with its somewhat ghostly atmosphere) and "Of Cat's Whiskers and Klutzes" (which takes place in an alternate reality). Ken does graphic novel-type art very well, so we thought he'd be perfect for "Robin Hacker" (about a tough rebel girl in the far future). He also does really cool robot drawings, so we sent him "Helen of Mars," which features a future version of a Mars rover. And Chris does awesome 3D sci-fi art, so we sent him two of the more tech-y stories, "Courage Is" (which takes place on a starship) and "The Data Tourist" (which takes place in the future).

Illustrations by Evelinn Enoksen


Love how this one perfectly captures the creeptastic beauty of a graveyard
The scene in this illustration is actually the turning point of the story - love the offbeat, almost surreal look of it!


Illustrations by Ken Dawson


Note how the twinkle in her eye matches the spark in the rover's optical receptor
I love how mysterious she looks, which perfectly matches the story about a hacker on the run


Illustrations by Christopher Godsoe


I love the startling contrast between the tiny character and the vast expanse around her 
This one perfectly captures the hustle and bustle of the story's futuristic setting

More to come next week!



BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released on June 15! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: J.P. Choquette

An interview with mystery/suspsense author J.P. Choquette. Her mystery novel Subversion is currently free on Smashwords






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

Hi Mary, thanks so much for letting me chat here on ZigZag today. Thanks for asking about my books and background as an author. Let’s see: my first book, Epidemic, was published in 2013. Since then I’ve written four other mystery/suspense novels and one nonfiction book for writers.

What got you into writing?

I’ve always loved writing but never considered it as a career. I have a degree in psychology and worked in human services for several years before the stress got to me. Then I quit and took a temp job while trying to figure out what to do next. While temping, I started freelance journalism on a part-time basis. Shortly thereafter, I quit my full-time job (in 2008) and have been writing for a living ever since.

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

This is likely going to sound a little “woo-woo” but the idea for the past two novels, both part of the Tayt Waters Mystery series, came to me in a dream. Not a daydream either, but a real sleeping-in-your-bed type dream. In each instance I woke up and wrote down the “scene” that I’d dreamt and each one turned into a novel: Subversion (the first in the series) and the second book which hasn’t been named yet but will be out next month. Hmmm, I should probably get a title chosen soon!

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

While I relate the most to the main character—29 year-old sarcastic and slightly bumbling, Tatum “Tayt” Waters, I really love her best friend, Ezra. He is everything I’m not: patient, forgiving, hard to anger. Thankfully he’s got a great sense of humor and doesn’t take himself too seriously, otherwise he’d be too perfect and annoy me.

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

I really like this scene where Ezra and Tayt are out “fishing.” I say that with quotes because while Ezra loves fishing, Tayt is deathly afraid of the water. However, she’s staking out a bad guy’s beautiful home on the lake. What better way to do it then while impersonating a fisherman? The scene has some funny parts and a lot of action. Because the guy that Tayt is staking out? Ends up coming after them in his boat. And Tayt may or may not find herself in the water.

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

I love the early stages. That’s when I get the most excited. There are so many possibilities and I feed off of that.

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

It takes between four to six months for the first draft. From there the manuscript goes through several revisions (I pass it along to my early “beta” readers, then re-edit, then it goes to my editor and comes back to me for more editing, etc.). From start to finish, I’d guess it’s about 10 months for most manuscripts, more or less depending what else I’m working on.

I do have a writing process: I call it the 15-Minute Writing Method (I actually wrote a book with a similar title for writers who are struggling to finish their first full-length manuscript). Before using this method I would start a book, be really excited and write away … only to give up by about chapter seven or so. This happened so many times and I hated it.

So now I dedicate the first 15 minutes of my work day to writing fiction. I usually go longer than the allotted time but knowing that I only have to work on my novel for that amount of time helps me to get over the resistance. After all, what can’t we do for 15 measly minutes?

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

I love mystery/suspense because of the problems that have to be solved. And I love the fast-paced, action packed adventures of the protagonist.

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

As far as writing itself goes, I really got a lot out of Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, was excellent and Elizabeth Berg’s book, Escaping into the Open I absolutely loved. I’d highly recommend these to other writers.

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?

Ohmygosh—all the time! I stopped outlining while writing my first book because I found that it ruined the fun for me. Now I write without an outline, or with a very sparse one with things that may happen. And I always leave the ending wide open. I never know how a book will end and I like it that way.

Thanks for stopping by!


FIND CHOQUETTE'S NOVEL SUBVERSION ON:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

REVIEW: The Lady in Blue: A Grunge Gods and Graveyards Mystery / Kimberly G. Giarratano

TITLE: The Lady in Blue: A Grunge Gods and Graveyards Mystery 
AUTHOR: Kimberly G. Giarratano
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on author's website



GENRE
Young Adult - Paranormal

REVIEW
In 1955, 18-year-old town belle Lana Bloom was found dead in the river. 40 years later, she haunts Ash, the small town where she lived and where her descendants remain - including her great niece, Liz, a criminology student with the rare ability to see ghosts. Though Lana's spirit remains bound to Ash by unfinished business, she can't remember who killed her or the circumstances leading up to her own murder. Determined to crack the cold case and set Lana's soul free, Liz begins piecing together the details of the past to help Lana regain her memories and find peace.

The Lady in Blue is a gorgeously written paranormal mystery told from Lana's perspective. While the story begins and ends in the 1990s, most of it consists of flashbacks to Lana's life as a teenager in the 1950s - one who dreams of independence while being forced to conform to that era's rigid definition of a woman's place. While we know from the very beginning what Lana's grim fate will be - her car crashes, someone dumps her in the river, and she drowns - we don't know how she ended up there, and there's plenty of tension and mystery that keeps the plot moving forward. It's not an easy storytelling method, since it requires that the writer somehow create tension and leave us wondering "but what happens next" even when we know how it all ends, and Giarratano handles it expertly, throwing in twists that I never saw coming. While everyone in Ash has heard about the Lady in Blue, turns out, nobody knew the truth.

This novella is a companion/spinoff/sort of sequel to Giarratano's other YA paranormal mystery, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (which is easiest to describe as Ghost meets Veronica Mars), in which Lana first makes her appearance as a ghost who helps the protagonist of that book, Lainey (Liz's sister). While it's cool to see how the two books fit together, The Lady in Blue is a complete story on its own and can be read as a standalone (though I don't see why you wouldn't read Grunge Gods and Graveyards too!).

The Lady in Blue is a short, quick read that packs a lot of punch - drama, romance, mystery, and more. Lana is a sympathetic and likable protagonist who just wants a chance to pursue her dreams, even as family pressures keep trying to chain her down. As her life spirals toward its inevitable end, all the twists and turns kept me hooked to the very last page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 15, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: A foreword from a real-world Brave New Girl



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.


We were lucky enough to find a foreword author for Brave New Girls who perfectly embodies everything we're encouraging young girls to be: Lara Hogan, a Senior Engineering Manager of Performance at Etsy and author of Designing for Performance. She's a computer engineer, a feminist, an author, a trailblazer... seriously, she's a rock star. Lara has written a kick-ass introduction to the book, talking about its theme and what it means to her. I can't wait for all of y'all to read it!


Here's her bio:



Lara Callender Hogan is the Senior Engineering Manager of Performance at Etsy and the author of Designing for Performance. She has given presentations and keynotes globally about the importance of performance, including championing it as a part of the overall user experience, striking a balance between aesthetics and speed, and building performance into company culture.

Find Lara online:

Website: http://larahogan.me/
Blog: http://larahogan.me/blog/
Twitter: @lara_hogan


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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Inside a Teen's Head

by Jon Ripslinger, author of The Weight of Guilt

At conferences where I make presentations about writing fiction or in student classrooms where I talk about my books, someone always asks, "How do you get into the head of a teen to write his story." As part of my answer, I always smile and say, "Well, I guess I've never grown up."
But there's more to the answer than that.
First of all, as a high school English teacher, I read thousands of student journal entries dealing with teen angst. Students often wrote about very private matters: troubles at home with parents and siblings, troubles in their love life, troubles of doubt and lack of self-esteem. I became sensitive to their problems and felt I understood these young people—their feelings, desires, fears, and frustrations.
Next, before I sit down to write a book's first sentence. I make sure I know the main characters thoroughly. I know the events in their lives that made them the young adults they are today. I know what they look like. I know what they wear. I know what and who they like and dislike. I know how they feel about themselves and how they view the world.  Maybe most important of all, I know their main goals and what's at stake if they fail to achieve them.
For example, I knew that John Hawk, the protagonist in The Weight of Guilt, came from a broken home. I knew he felt immensely guilty because he felt the death of his girlfriend Riley McGinnis was his fault. I knew he thought himself a loser, thought his life was cursed and the world was against him. I knew that he was bitter and when provoked could be aggressive. I knew he wanted to shed his guilt and live a normal life.
But how do I get into a teen's head?
I always write early in the morning, classical music in the background. When I sit down at the computer to write that first sentence of  a new novel, I close my eyes tight, visualize my protagonist in his present situation, climb into his skin, and see the world as he does. If I'm really lucky, my first sentence captures the essence of my protagonist and his story. Here's John Hawk's opening thought: Riley's drunk, and it's all my fault. From the get-go,  there's guilt and a sense that John thinks himself a loser.
For me, it takes two or three hours to write two, three, or  four pages of a rough draft. Then I quit. The next morning I read what I wrote the previous day, edit a bit, and  find myself in the story world again, inside my protagonist's head.
To further help myself write and sound like a teen, I read teen books. I read almost exclusively books written in the first person because that's the POV I'm comfortable with. I read every book I can find written from a male POV and the best of what's out there from a female POV. I do more than read the books: I study them. I buy paperbacks because I underline everything that I find good, unusual, or unique.
I never try consciously to sound like a teen.
I simply become the teen I'm writing about.
It's like telling my own story.


ABOUT THE WEIGHT OF GUILT

Driving home from a bonfire party, eighteen-year-old John Hawk crashes, killing his girlfriend, Riley.  Bullied and tormented at school, and crushed by his guilty conscience, John transfers to a school on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he attracts the eye of the principal’s daughter, Megan. Though he’s reluctant, she convinces him to be her prom date.  The morning after prom, Principal Jones reports Megan missing.  Four days later, her body is recovered from the river, and John becomes the prime suspect in her death.


Charley Cotton, Megan’s best friend, knows that Megan had a secret, but she doesn’t trust John because of his past.  John is desperate to avoid adding to the shame he carries for Riley’s death, though—it’s destroying his life.  With Charley’s help, he learns that others in Megan’s life had a motive to keep her quiet.  But every effort they make to uncover the truth edges them closer to a desperate murderer with everything to lose.

ABOUT JON
After Jon Ripslinger retired as a public high school English teacher, he began a career as an author. He has published many young adult novels and truly enjoys writing books for teens. He has also published numerous short stories in Woman's World magazine.

Jon and his wife, Collette live in Iowa. They are the proud grandparents of thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

When not working writing, Jon enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing. He waits patiently for the next "big one" to strike.


LINKS

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