Wednesday, September 21, 2016

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S.C. Stokes

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

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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
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon




GENRE
Young Adult -- Historical Fiction

REVIEW
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!!!!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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."

Links:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A Halo of Mushrooms / Andrew Hiller

TITLE: A Halo of Mushrooms
AUTHOR: Andrew Hiller
PUBLISHER: Self-published
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon




GENRE
Sci-Fi/Fantasy

REVIEW
I met Andrew Hiller at 2016’s Farpoint convention, and he struck me as the kind of guy who’d have a fresh and uncommon writing style. And when I delved into his novel, A HALO OF MUSHROOMS, my suspicions were confirmed in a delightful and entertaining way. A HALO OF MUSHROOMS is not your typical spec fic, and in fact, can be a bit hard to describe. Part sci-fi adventure, part fantasy fairytale, and part something that defies genre, the novel offers unique and often cinematic storytelling. The plot follows the escapades of one Derik, a healer from another world who steals a mushroom. But not just any mushroom – one from the place of origins, whose existence has great consequences. Branded an outlaw and hunted by monsters, he seeks a safe place for his cargo. He winds up running into and befriending a colorful cast of supporting characters during his twisty-turny journey. Vivid descriptions pepper a text that comes to life with creativity and panache. If you’re looking for a fun and different sci-fi/fantasy read, look no further.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Hiller attempted to travel the road least taken only to fall off. Caught in wild currents, he surfaced to find his commentaries selected four times as best of the year on Washington’s NPR station WAMU 88.5 FM, a pair of his plays fill the New York City stage, and an opportunity to act and write with the original Muppets gang in his Cobblestone Documentary series. His first fantasy novel, A Climbing Stock, grew to reach the top 50 on Amazon’s humor best sellers. In between projects, he has taught art in a psychiatric ward, hosted an internationally broadcast science, health, and tech radio program, and reads everything that makes him go “Huh?” or “Ha!” His second novel, A Halo of Mushrooms was released in December 2015.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) / Brittany Cavallaro

TITLE: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) 
AUTHOR: Brittany Cavallaro
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon



GENRE
Young Adult - Mystery

REVIEW
The story of Holmes and Watson didn’t end with Sherlock and John… decades later, their teen descendants, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, continue the legacy they started. Brittany Cavallaro’s modern-day re-imagining of Holmes and Watson as teens attending an American boarding school takes the spirit of the original duo and updates it for a modern teen audience. Told from Jamie’s point of view, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE plays with the original material, yet weaves in plenty of unique elements as well.

Jamie is well aware of his ancestor’s relationship with the original Holmes; in fact, the two families have a long history. He’s fascinated by Charlotte, who takes after her famous predecessor in many ways—both good and bad. Dizzyingly brilliant yet frustratingly self-destructive, she doesn’t exactly welcome Jamie into her life. But Jamie, who has apparently inherited the original Watson’s nurturing demeanor, nevertheless feels drawn to her, even if she’s not the easiest person to get along with. When a student they both have history with is murdered on campus—making them both suspects—they find that they can only trust each other.

Suspenseful, clever, and whimsical, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE is both an thrilling mystery and an engrossing story of friendship. Jamie and Charlotte are each delightful in their own way, and it’s a lot of fun reading about the ins and outs of their budding relationship. I loved that Charlotte shared many aspects of Sherlock’s personality—infuriating and unlikable in many ways, yet charming and undeniably fascinating. She’s one of those people you can’t take your eyes off of, whose morality often feels uncertain, but who you’re sure is ultimately the good one. And she’s got demons… lots of demons. How great is it to have a young female character who’s so fabulously flawed? For once, the girl gets to be the “jerk with the heart of gold,” while the boy is the frustrated but ultimately supportive rock. The gender-swapping of this classic pattern is a great joy to read, and it’s made all the more fun by the romance that’s hinted at.

For me, reading about the character dynamic between Jamie and Charlotte was the highlight of the book, but that’s not to say the plot isn’t riveting as well. There’s murder, mayhem, and action that takes the characters on a topsy-turvy twist-turny adventure. It includes many throwbacks to classic Sherlock tales (in fact, the killer seems inspired by them). The book is definitely aware of the legacy it’s folloing, and all the references will make fans of the original Holmes very happy. And even if you haven’t read the original tales (which, why haven’t you?), the story stands alone as an entertaining YA mystery thriller.

I had a great time reading this book, and I highly recommend it!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and THE LAST OF AUGUST (forthcoming in February 2017). She's also the author of the poetry collection GIRL-KING (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she's a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere, #1) / Heidi Heilig

TITLE: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere, #1)
AUTHOR: Heidi Heilig
PUBLISHER: Greenwillow Books
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon 


GENRE
Young Adult - Fantasy

REVIEW
Heidi Heilig’s gorgeous YA fantasy debut, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, follows 16-year-old Nix Song as she travels across time and through mythology. Nix lives on an enchanted pirate ship, The Temptation, that can sail to any place for which a map exists—no matter what time period it’s from or what kind of reality it depicts. Captained by her father, the ship has taken Nix to a grand variety of places—from the land of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to modern-day New York City. But though he could go anywhere and anytime, Nix’s father only seeks one location: Hawaii in the 1860s, when Nix was born… and when her mother died. The only way he can get there is by obtaining a map drawn of that era and in that era, and he’s so hell-bent on going back in time to save his wife that he never pauses to think about what this might mean for his daughter. Nix, on the other hand, is all too aware that his actions could erase her life—her dreams of captaining her own ship, her friendships with the crew (particularly the charming Persian thief, Kash), any hope for a future.

The bulk of the novel takes place in 1880s Honolulu, where Nix, her father, and the crew chase yet another lead for the map Nix’s father wants so desperately. Funnily enough, this is actually the era Nix would have lived in if she hadn’t spent her life on board a time-hopping barge. It’s here that Nix meets Blake, a kind-souled American boy who offers, for the first time she can remember, a reason to stay in one place. There is a bit of a love triangle between Nix and the two boys in her life—Kash and Blake—and honestly, I didn’t know who to root for. Both love interests are charming, though in very different ways, and both seem to genuinely care about Nix. And I loved reading her dialogues with each of them… the characters really came alive for me, and I found myself more invested in them than I meant to.

The romance is just a small part of the story, though. The plot follows Nix in her efforts to both obtain the map for her father and discover her own past—which, it turns out, is much more complicated than she imagined. THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a wonderfully imaginative and refreshingly unique book with fantastic world-building and truly memorable characters. The settings really come to life and, in a way, they’re characters in the book as well. I loved how Heilig explored places that aren’t often seen in books, adding something different and lovely to the world of YA. Nix is an intrepid and sympathetic heroine—one who’s fearless in her actions yet whose emotions fill the page with relatable vulnerability—and I really enjoyed the combination of wit, snark, and rawness in her voice. Also, it was great seeing a hapa girl get the spotlight for a change.

One of the real highlights for me was when Nix ended up in the fantastical necropolis of a ruthless Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang. This is part of a history and mythology I’d grown up hearing snatches of, but never really seen depicted in fiction (unless you count the third Mummy movie, which... meh). The vivid descriptions, the sense of a lost world come to life, the meticulous research that clearly went into writing about this place… actually, these things apply to all the settings.

Anyway, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a truly enjoyable fantasy adventure with characters I couldn’t get enough of. I was listening to the audiobook version while on an 11+ hour drive across half the country, and that drive went by way too quickly. The narrator does a beautiful job of bringing Heilig’s words to life in a way that feels genuine and inviting. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something magical and different, something with writing that really pops and sparkles.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko'olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she's written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their pet snake, whose wings will likely grow in any day now.