Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: Billy and the Cloneasaurus / Stephen Kozeniewski

TITLE: Billy and the Cloneasaurus
AUTHOR: Stephen Kozeniewski
PUBLISHER: Severed Press

Science Fiction - Dystopia/Satire


Billy and the Cloneasaurus takes science fiction back to its satirical roots. Much in the vein of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, the story uses a richly imagined futuristic world to hold a mirror up to today's world. The parallels are not hard to see - William clones are created for the sole purpose of becoming contented consumers controlled by The Corporation. The titular character, officially known as William-790, is an office drone whose sole purpose in life is to be a good little worker ... Just as Corporate America would want its employees to be.

That is, until one day, an accident leads him to form independent thoughts.

And that's where the story really starts moving. Billy finally leaves the confines of his captalist dystopia and discovers a whole new world. Or should we say, a Brave New World? This book reminded me a lot of Huxley's classic sci-fi novel, but with more black humor (and a more straightforward storyline!). The narrative is told in a tongue-in-cheek third person with Kozeniewski's signature wit. The juxtaposition of this society's horrors and a glib attitude give the story a darkly comedic ring.

A satirical criticism of capitalist greed set against a disturbing dystopian future, Billy and the Cloneasaurus is a witty and intelligently written novel with echoes of the sci-fi Grand Masters.

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced "causin' ooze key") lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.

He is also the author of Braineater Jones and The Ghoul Archipelago

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Creating an Authentic Story


Claire Ashby

When I wrote WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME, one of my biggest concerns was telling Theo’s story authentically. I don’t know what it’s like to join the army. I don’t know what it’s like to fight in combat and come home changed. I don’t know what it’s like to live as an amputee. But I wanted to tell this story, and I wanted it to be authentic.

Luckily we live in a time where people are candid and willing to share their lives. This openness especially applies to today’s veterans. I spent many months following army blogs. I read books by soldiers about their time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I viewed documentaries, and yes, I watched Hollywood movies and lost myself in military romance novels, too.

Sometimes the smallest detail can make a story ring true; likewise, if you miss the mark you can destroy all credibility as a storyteller. I hit a point where I had questions I couldn’t answer with research alone.

One of the scariest things for me was to actually talk to veterans. I worried about coming across as nosy or that nobody would want to talk. As it turned out I had nothing to be afraid of. The more I engaged in conversations, the more I realized that the people I talked to wanted to share their experience. They wanted to share what it’s like to serve in the military and what their frustrations were, what surprised them, what they missed and how it changed their lives.

I’d watched this HBO documentary called “Alive Day Memories, Home From Iraq.” Wounded soldiers were recounting memories from their “Alive Day,” the day they narrowly escaped death. The stories stayed with me, especially Bryan Anderson’s. He survived of an IED attack that left him a triple amputee. I discovered he wrote a book called NO TURNING BACK, about how he was able to move on with his life. He was so candid about everything, so I decided to contact him. Again, I worried that he’d think I was rude or intrusive, but he was eminently approachable.

Just like anyone else, veterans want their stories told right. I’m indebted to all the people who opened up to me, not just because of their service and sacrifice, but also because they shared their experience, their personal pains, challenges, and concerns—I hope that my novel did right by them.

When You Make It Home

Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy.

When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love.

Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family?



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Sunday, September 7, 2014

5 ways to shut down the crazies, sci-fi style

This mad world is full of crazies. Sometimes, you just need to shut them down, sci-fi style. Here are five awesome ways to do it.

5. Princess Leia, from Star Wars: "I don't know where you get your delusions, laser brain."

What is wrong with you?

4. Agent Smith, from The Matrix Reloaded: "Still using all the muscles except the one that matters?"
Sure you want to continue digging yourself into this hole?

3. Zoe Washburn, from Firefly: "Sir, I think you have a problem with your brain being missing."
Keep the crazy to yourself, why don't ya?
2. Tyr Anasazi, from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Because you are so uncompromisingly inferior!"
Wanna say that again?

And, when all else fails ... 

1. HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey: "Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye."

I remain unswayed.

Bonus points if the crazy you're unfortunate enough to be talking to is named Dave.

Sadly, we can't all do it Han Solo's way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Red Adept Publishing on Zombiepalooza Radio - SEPT 5, 8pm-1am!

Heya! In case you haven't heard, this Friday, September 5, is Red Adept Publishing night on Zombiepalooza Radio. From 8pm to 1am, a number of Red Adept authors, along with an editor and the Red Adept herself, Lynn McNamee (founder/publisher/owner), will be talking about various aspects of the book world. You can learn more at our Facebook event (click here).

To get psyched for the event, I snapped a bunch of selfies with books by the authors who will be on the show and posted them on Facebook. What can I say? I'm a Millennial! Here they are, along with the radio schedule:

8:00-8:15 - Zombiepalooza: Dead Again intro and crew cast introductions
8:15-8:30 - Melissa MacVicar - paranormal/Young Adult - EVER NEAR and EVER LOST

Who doesn't love a good ghost story?

8:30-8:45 - Kimberly G. Giarratano - paranormal/Young Adult - GRUNGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS

I'm the thing from the graveyard

8:45-9:00 - Kelly Stone Gamble - Southern gothic - THEY CALL ME CRAZY (forthcoming)

This one doesn't have a cover yet, so I made one myself! Look at that bold edginess! 

9:00-9:15 - Break
9:15-9:30 - Kate Moretti, Author - Thriller/Women's Fiction - THOUGHT I KNEW YOU and BINDS THAT TIE - NYT and USA Today Bestseller

My hipster moment: I read it before it was cool!

9:30-9:45 - Jessica Dall - Red Adept Publishing editor and indie author

Since Jessica's an editor, I decided to pose with some RAP swag

9:45-10:00 - Katrina Monroe - paranormal/humor - SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE (forthcoming)

This one doesn't have a cover yet either, so here's my version!

10:00-10:30 - Lynn McNamee - Red Adept Publishing founder, owner, and editor

For our fearless leader, I'm posing with a Red Adept card decorated with a bunch of book covers

10:30-10:45 - Erica Lucke Dean - paranormal/romance - TO KATIE WITH LOVE and SUDDENLY SORCERESS

Pinking things up for chick lit!

10:45-11:00 - Michael Meyerhofer - Author - fantasy - WYTCHFIRE - award-winning poet and poetry professor

Ready for an epic adventure? I am!

11:00-11:15 - Break
11:15-11:30 - Stephen Kozeniewski - Author - horror/mystery - BRAINEATER JONES

Going noir with Braineater Jones

11:30-11:45 - Claire Ashby - Military/Romance - WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME

Trying to imitate Meg's contemplation, with the lens flare for the sun...

11:45-12:00am - Jen Printy, Author - Urban Fantasy - MY SOUL IMMORTAL

Good ole paranormal romance...

12:00- 12:15 - Mary Fan - Science Fiction - ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES and SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS 
(Of course they saved the best for last!)

Posing as Jane Colt. Except without the eye shadow. Or the starships. But I am in outside a city.
Posing as Adam Palmer. Though sadly, not in cyberspace.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 things that calm me when my WIP makes me tear my hair out

Writing is hard work. Between untangling plot lines, building entire worlds, making sure you stay within the rules of that world, developing characters, smoothing out dialogue, fixing grammar, choosing where not to fix grammar, and all the other wonderful tasks that come with turning words into stories, it can get a bit overwhelming. Sometimes, you just need to stop worrying and chill out.

Here are the five things that work for me:

5. Trashy entertainment

When I'm writing, I don't want any Oscar-worthy documentaries or prize-winning pieces of literature or anything else of quality. My brain is too spent to process any of that. Give me Katy Perry songs, or books intended for children, or America's Next Top Model. Attractive people fighting over stupid things? Yes, please. Brain... off.

4. Things that smell nice

There's a reason so many stress relief products involve scents. Smell is the most evocative of the senses, so a whiff of something fresh can transport you to a faraway meadow where there are no troubles...

3. Comfort food

Yum. One bite of something sugary or fatty or salty - or all three - send the mind into happy-land.

2. Cats

Both in real life and on the Internet. Something about those little bundles of fuzz is just so comforting.

1. Booze

Ever wonder why so many writers are alcoholics? Booze does wonders for quieting that incessant little red pen in your head.*

*Please don't become an alcoholic.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Getting into Character - Writing about teenagers in 2014

One of the most frequent questions I get about writing young adult books is how I get into the mindset of a teenager. Some people find it strange that a forty something year old woman can accurately capture the thoughts and feelings of a modern teen. After all, when I was a teen, the internet was still just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. Back then, when we wanted to call our friends, we used the rotary dial phone on the wall in the kitchen. If we wanted privacy, we pulled the handset into the hall closet and shut the door.
Still, as a teacher and a mother, I have an advantage. I get to live and work with twenty first century teenagers every day.  And because I am a word person, I love to examine their current slang. Mind you, I don’t use much of it in my books because I don’t want to be overly stylistic. That would make my books go out of style pretty quick. However, I still love to reflect on trends, and I find slang to be very amusing. So shared here, just for the readers of Zigzag Timeline, five interesting and mildly confusing teen slang terms.
1.     Turn up
This means to party. Or to get ready to party. Or to be excited to party. Here it is in a sentence.
Britney is having a party this weekend because her parents are going to New York. Turn up!
2.     Mad
This one is used in place of the word very. It has nothing to do with ones emotional state or sanity. Here it is used in a sentence.
That boy’s got mad skills on the basketball court. He’s going to the NBA.
3.     Doe
This one is hard and I’m sure if I tried to use it, I would do it all wrong. But I think it means something similar to the word though. Mostly, it’s added just for emphasis I think.
Sentence: Oh, this bike, doe.
4.     Turnt
All I can think of when I hear this one is turnips, but supposedly it means getting rowdy or having fun.
Sentence: We are going to get turnt at that pep rally!
5.     YASSSS
This just means yes but with ten times the excitement of an average yes. Like when a fangirl is going to a concert with her favorite band.
Sentence: Headed to One Direction! YASSSSS!

Despite my research and my daily exposure to teenagers, I still find that tapping into my own teenage years and remembering the emotions, the fears, and the triumphs I went through is the best way to write about teenagers. Trends and technological advances will constantly change, but the universal human experience of coming of age is mostly the same. Exploring your talents, having your heart broken, facing your failures and enjoying successes all shape who we become as adults. And for me, I love that I get to relive that time in my life through my stories.

To learn more about me and my writing, please check me out online at or on facebook and twitter at Melissa MacVicar-Author and @melissamacvicar

Ever Lost (Secret Affinity, #2)

New town, new school, new ghost.

 Jade has a dedicated boyfriend, an overprotective mom, and a full scholarship. Uprooted from Nantucket, Jade is installed off-island at her dad’s new house so she can attend snobby Layton Academy. Leaving Charlie behind is sheer torment, but living with her father has plenty of dangerous distraction—in the form of a terrifying spirit haunting her new school. Hottie classmate Mateo Fernandez can’t see the ghost, but he knows its story. He’d like to know hers, too, but Jade still misses Charlie, even though distance seems to be changing him.

With support from Mateo and the mysterious Noemie, Jade commits to helping the agonized spirit cross over. As she delves into the ghost’s past, the disturbing secrets Jade learns draw her into a deadly confrontation with a desperate man. If she can’t play his demented game, the spirit’s harrowing fate could become her own.


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