Sunday, November 30, 2014

Excerpt from Tell Me My Name

Not too long ago, I did a reading of my YA high fantasy novella Tell Me My Name, and despite being totally terrified, I actually had a lot of fun. So I decided to recreate the reading for YouTube... Check it out!

I can't count the number of takes it took to get through that little 2-3 minute segment without tripping over my words. It's still not perfect, but at least there's no st-st-stuttering. And because I could, I popped in a little background music (a bit from A Thousand Faces, which I composed back in 2009). The melody from that song actually has lyrics, which play a role in Windborn, the first full-length novel in the Fated Stars series (coming 2016 from Glass House Press).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chessiecon is this weekend!

Hey everyone! I'm going to Chessiecon this weekend! Chessiecon is a sci-fi/fantasy convention in the Baltimore area. From Friday after Thanksgiving through Sunday, I'll be peddling books in the vendor's hall and discussing sci-fi/fantasy. Fellow Red Adept Publishing authors Stephen Kozeniewski and Elizabeth Corrigan will be there as well. So if you're in the area, come by the North Baltimore Plaza Hotel for what promises to be an awesome con.
Below is my schedule of panels (and yes, the "Pierce" referred to in the panelist listings is Tamora Pierce!). Hope to see you there!

2PM-3PM The Appeal of Dystopia in Young Adult Fiction - GS1 (Greenspring Ballroom)
The popularity of books such as The Hunger Games and Divergent shows that contemporary teens (and adults who read teen books) are hungry for tales of post-apocalyptic futures and oppressive societies. Outcasts, rebellions, and the horrors of stringent laws have all become common themes. This panel will explore some of the reasons why dystopian YA fiction has seen such a surge in popularity. Ackley-McPhail, Aire, Crist, Fan, Friedman

4PM-5PM Diversity in Science Fiction - GS1 (Greenspring Ballroom)
We will discuss why there is so little, how to improve, which works notably have it, or notably miss the mark. Aire, Cipra (M), Fan, HR Jones, Liebe

5PM-6PM The Evolving Landscape of Publishing - GS1 (Greenspring Ballroom)
With the rise of small presses, e-books, self-publishing, and online platforms, publishing has changed a lot in the 21st century. Both seasoned authors and aspiring writers have more options than ever before. This panel will discuss how to navigate the evolving landscape of publishing - and avoid the pitfalls. Corrigan, Demchick, Fan, Kozeniewski


10AM-11PM How Not to Get Published - GS3-5 (Greenspring Ballroom)
A discussion of the mistakes and pitfalls common in publishing SF/F. Demchick, Fan, Kozeniewski, McLaughlin

3PM-4PM Why Do Adults Love Young Adult Fiction - GS3-5 (Greenspring Ballroom)
Everyone holds close YA stories they read when they were young. But some of those stories garner fans who first find them well over the age range they're marketed for. Is this a result of selective nostalgia for the “good old days” of their own teen years? Or is there something timeless about YA fiction that appeals to a wider age range? Ackley-McPhail, Corrigan, Edghill, Fan, Pierce


10AM-11AM Reaching Readers (Timonium)
"Whether a writer is self-publishing ebooks, serializing fiction online, or promoting traditionally published books, modern technology is rife with opportunities (and pitfalls) for connecting with readers. The old advice about writers remaining aloof is outdated--especially in marginalized communities. Aloofness is a privilege that writers can't afford, but should writers participate in ""readers only"" spaces like Goodreads? What are the do's and don'ts of serializing as part of a web presence? What do readers want from authors online and how can authors benefit from that relationship?" Corrigan, Demchick, Fan, Kozeniewski

2PM-3PM Designing a Magic System - GS1 (Greenspring Ballroom)
Fantasy authors often create new worlds (or slightly bend this one) to include magic. What counts as magic? What are the things that can go wrong when including magic in your work? How much do you have to explain how the magic works? How do you keep it consistent and satisfying? Crist, Fan, Friedman, Hammond (M), Pierce

Friday, November 21, 2014

REVIEW: Slam (A Psionics Novella) / Tash McAdam

TITLE: Slam (A Psionics Novella)
AUTHOR: Tash McAdam
PUBLISHER: Glass House Press
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links available on the author's website (click here)

Young Adult - Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Danger and superpowers and rebellion, oh my! SLAM is the high-octane introduction to Tash McAdam's upcoming YA dystopia series, The Psionics, and follows the tough-as-nails teen rebel Serena - who possesses the psionic powers akin to telepathy plus telekinesis - on her first mission for the Anti-Reprogramming Collective (ARC), an opposition group fighting the powerful and evil Institute. In this bleak future, children with telepathic powers are kidnapped and enslaved by the Institute, which seeks to use their powers to exert absolute control over the populace.

Serena's little brother is one of these children, and she'll stop at nothing to save him. But her only chance at saving him is to prove to ARC that she's capable of fighting for them. And so she undergoes a grueling training and testing regime before embarking on her first official task: an extraordinarily dangerous mission into the enemy's territory. And she doesn't even know what she's looking for there, only that if the enemy gets it first, all could be lost.

McAdam's stark and striking writing style boldly bring this action-packed adventure to life. Every line barrels into the next, taut with suspense, and keeps you wanting more. I ended up reading the whole novella in one sitting because I literally couldn't put it down! But not only is the suspense high - the characters are thoroughly engaging. McAdam manages to delve deep into Serena's psyche, allowing the reader to see what she sees and feel what she feels, while keeping up the rapid pacing. It's almost as if the author's a psionic herself, projecting the character's emotions and experiences into the reader's mind. 

The supporting character Leaf - a young gutterpunk who aids Serena on her mission - was a real standout. He's only present for the middle third or so, but sparkles in each moment. A chameleon with a mysterious power and bold attitude (and not to mention a unique accent!), he springs to life from his very first appearance and is probably one of the most memorable characters I've encountered in a while.

And then there's the world all this takes place in. The stark contrast between the struggling slums and the gleaming sci-fi civilization run by the government behind the Institute sets an excellent stage for a post-apocalyptic battle between the underdogs and the almighty Powers That Be. It's got everything - scrappy heroes, dark enemies, high tech... This is seriously catnip for dystopia fans.

All in all, SLAM is a highly enjoyable action/adventure tale, and I can't wait for the rest of the Psionics series!

Tash McAdam’s first writing experience (a collaborative effort) came at the age of eight, and included passing floppy discs back and forth with a best friend at swimming lessons. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, learning to juggle, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning Karate, becoming a punk rock pianist, and of course, writing.

Tash is a teacher in real life, but dreams of being a full-time writer, and living a life of never-ending travel. Though born in the hilly sheepland of Wales, Tash has lived in South Korea and Chile and now calls Vancouver, Canada home.

Maelstrom, the first book in The Psionics, is Tash’s first published work. Visit the website or facebook for news, gossip, and random tidbits about Tash’s adventures.

Monday, November 17, 2014

REVIEW: Way Walkers: Tangled Paths (Tazu Saga, #1) / J. Leigh

TITLE: Way Walkers: Tangled Paths (Tazu Saga, #1)
AUTHOR: J. Leigh
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on publisher's website (click here)

Fantasy - Epic/High Fantasy


First, the disclaimers: I am a fellow Red Adept Publishing author. However, neither Red Adept nor J. Leigh asked me to write this review. The opinions that follow are mine alone. 

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let the raving begin! Way Walkers: Tangled Paths contains one of the most interesting and intriguing fantastical settings I've seen in a while. Thought it falls firmly in the "epic fantasy" genre - the genre of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and The Sword of Truth - it contains many unique elements that set it apart. For instance, the world isn't a firm recreation of medieval Europe. There are elements of that, of course - kingdoms and magicians and the like - but, for instance, the architecture is glass instead of stone, and the characters travel via airship.

The plot of Tangled Paths is a classic Odyssey-style journey. The young hero is Jathen, a prince born to a kingdom of dragons. But unlike everyone else, Jathen is unable to shift into dragon form - a handicap that makes him the subject of derision. Bitter and angry, he sets out to find a place where he might belong, encountering many colorful characters and locations along the way.

This book is catnip for high fantasy fans. It pulls you into a rich, immersive world, complete with its own mythologies, political systems, and rules of magic. This universe feels lived in, real. And I just wanted to crawl inside and join Jathen as he explored new lands.

Tangled Paths is really a "slow reading" type of book. You don't flip the pages to find out what happens next like you would in a crime thriller or something. Rather, the best way to enjoy this novel is to absorb the sentences one by one and let them draw you into Jathen's world. As far as the plot goes, there are a few twists, but for the most part it's a straightforward journey of self-discovery, with many elements of a coming-of-age tale. Anyone who delights in discovering new worlds will enjoy this novel and all the richness of its universe.


J. Leigh wrote her first novel at the tender age of eleven, delving deep into the extensive fantasy world she entitled Way Walkers. Since then, she has never really left, though occasionally does emerge to enjoy the company of friends, family, horror movies and the ever-popular sushi dinner.

She currently lives in southern New Jersey with a chow-chow, several cats and fictional cast of hundreds.

Leigh’s published works include a ‘choose your own’ type interactive novel Way Walkers: University with Choice of Games.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


An interview with John Matthews, author of A Game of Greed and Deception.


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

I'm a University Professor teaching English and have a background in creative and technical writing. As an avid movie lover, I started my creative book ideas as screen plays. Then I decided to put my writing experience and creative ideas together to develop novels. I also am working on some non-fiction books.

What got you into writing?

I have always loved written language and have a passion for story telling.

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

I loved the idea of a young, beautiful woman planning to murder her husband for money, but then having him find out and plot revenge. So I decided to have this take place in an isolated cabin in the dead of winter time, with her and his daughter trapped inside. But I did not want to be cliche and developed several more layers to the plot, and nothing is as it seems. I love twists and making the reader guess in a novel. I planned the ultimate game of deception.

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

Tammy, the main character. She is something....psychotic, manipulative, yet charming and very clever.

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

When Tammy serves some tea to her stepdaughter, Maria, with evil intentions. It's quite intense....

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

Coming up with a story that will blow the readers mind.

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

Six months. My process is: write, edit, review. Write more, edit, review. Repeat 20 times.

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

I love suspense and thriller that is unpredictable

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

Yes, but too many to list here. I could put Stephen King up on the top.

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?

Yes. The hidden hoard of gold in the underground tunnels. That whole "puzzle" kept developing as the story unfolded.


She was young and beautiful, and recently married to a very wealthy middle-aged man who considered her to be the ultimate woman for him and who held her out as a model for his beloved 10-year-old daughter. They had traveled to a mountain hideaway to celebrate their first year together as a family when things began to unravel. Her husband goes missing after a treacherous car accident, and the wife and daughter are seemingly trapped and isolated, and being stalked while inside the cabin. 

What ensues is the story of a woman driven by her soulless greed and self entitlement, and a man who was wronged and is apparently out to get revenge. This deadly game of cat and mouse will keep you on the edge of your seat. The macabre scenes include deadly traps and medieval torture devices, hidden doors and rooms, and an underground labyrinth of torture chambers built beneath the cabin. Add in the legend of a buried hoard of pure gold bars, and it becomes clear that someone has a much bigger plan in mind and will let nothing get in their way. But who? This is the story of a plot so devious that it is set up to fool the State police investigation. But can it fool you? Keep guessing until the final scene as to what is really going on and let your intuition guide you.


John Mathews is a tenured University Professor of English and living in Rome, Italy. As he moves toward retirement after a long and somewhat stressful career, he feels the desire to break out of the mold and delve into thriller fiction novels which focus on the dark side of human nature, both that which is unfeeling and indifferent to the fate of others and that which derives pleasure and a feeling of power from pain inflicted on them. With a background in dealing with all kinds of people and personal growth and development, he also writes non-fiction books that will inspire, aid, and promote happiness, success, and prosperity for anyone in their life. He believes that every human being has the potential for greatness.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


An interview with Pam Stucky, author of The Universes Inside the Lighthouse.


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

Hello, Zigzag Timeline! Thank you so much for having me here! Hello, readers!

I started out as a self-published author, publishing my first book, Letters from Wishing Rock (a novel with recipes) in March 2011. Now I think we’re shifting from “self-published” to “indie” or “artisan” or maybe even just “author.” Letters from Wishing Rock was the first in my Wishing Rock series, Northern-Exposure-esque books set on an island in Washington, in a town in which everyone lives in the same building. Sequels to the first book include The Wishing Rock Theory of Life and The Tides of Wishing Rock. Some people think of them as chicklit, but I don’t advertise them as such because I don’t think they follow quite the right formula, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. They’re women’s fiction, with wit, wisdom, and recipes, books about life and relationships and community.

After the Wishing Rock books (of which there may be more one day, who knows!), I decided to try my hand at travelogues. When I first started traveling (mostly solo), I would send home emails about my adventures, which were received with rave reviews by family and friends. In 2013 I decided to turn two of those sets of emails into books about my travels in Ireland and Switzerland, and to head off to Iceland to write a “flagship” book for a new series, Pam on the Map. (See what I did there? Pam-map?!) The Ireland and Switzerland books are short; the Iceland book is full length. These have found a much smaller audience than the Wishing Rock books have, and sometimes in my insecure moments I ponder whether I should take them down. But, they’re still up now, so if you’re interested in my musings on my travels, get them now before they’re gone!

After those books, I turned to the first manuscript I ever started writing, which for a very long time was simply titled “mystery adventure.” Eventually, after many stops and starts and iterations (see more in answer below), this book became what is now the first in the Balky Point Adventure series, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse. I have had so much fun writing this one! I’m envisioning writing many more Balky Point Adventures. My intention is for this series to be an ongoing series of more-or-less standalone books, sort of like the Nancy Drew books of old, where you don’t have to read them in order to understand what’s going on.

I have many other books in my head, with new ideas all the time. I write to explore thoughts, and I have lots of thoughts! At the forefront of these ideas, probably, is a sort of memoir-ish book of humor essays. I’m not sure exactly what genre that would be. But I have lots more books in me. The journey has just begun!

What got you into writing?

I’ve always written—journals, mostly, and lots of letters (which is probably why the books in my first series, the Wishing Rock series, are written in letter/email format). Like many people, I think I always had in my mind that I’d like to write a book “one day.”

So I had a normal job like everyone else—rather, a series of normal jobs, because I never quite found anything I really wanted to do. One day in the spring of 2009, I came to work to find out a beloved 57-year-old co-worker had died of a heart attack. At the time I was just a couple months away from turning 40; 57 felt frighteningly close. Recognizing that any of us could die any day, and deciding that I didn’t want to die with that grand “What if?” still out there, I decided to take a break from work and try to write a book. I didn’t know if I could write a book, but I knew I’d never know if I didn’t try. I gave myself permission to fail—so long as I tried.

So I wrote the first book, not having a clue what I was doing but having a great time doing it. I tried for a year to get a traditional publisher, with no luck. Not being one to just put away a book after all that effort, I changed course. I reassessed and re-edited, gave it my best new shot, and dived in to the world of self-publishing in 2011. That first book was well received, so I started writing the second. Somewhere toward the end of the process of publishing the second book, I had this realization: “This is what I want to do with my life.” And it’s what I’ve been doing ever since! It’s certainly a difficult journey, no shortage of challenges and hardships, but after a lifetime of floundering and wondering what I wanted to do with my life, I think I’m finally on my right path.

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

I was trying to remember this the other day … and I can’t! I’ve published seven other books, but this one was actually the first novel I ever started. I had an idea (? What was that idea??) and started writing this novel in the 2003 NaNoWriMo. I got about 20,000 words in at that point, I think. I returned to it many times, but never really made much progress. The idea of it, though, stuck with me all these years. Finally, after I finished my travelogue series last year, I decided to pick up this book (which never had a name) again.

Well! I can tell you why I couldn’t finish it! It was awful. I thought I’d be able to take what I’d written and edit it a bit and continue from there. But no. No way. I finally had to just start over completely from scratch with the same idea. In writing it the second time, I lost some elements from the original that I really loved. They just didn’t fit in. It happens! Since I’m planning to make an adventure series out of this book—the Balky Point Adventures—it’s possible I’ll be able to weave those ideas into a future book.

But back to the question … I suppose I’ve always been fascinated by space and aliens. To me, it’s not a question of “do aliens exist” but rather “where?” and “will we ever meet any?” I love light sci-fi (I’m easily confused by hard-core sci-fi!). Doctor Who, A Wrinkle in Time, those sorts of stories. The universe is huge. We are just a tiny tiny tiny part of it. So what else is out there? And the ideas of parallel universes or multiple universes fascinate me as well. Endless possibilities for the imagination! Everything is possible. The story grew out of curiosity. What is out there?

And beyond that, toward the end of the first draft, the book took on an element I really wasn’t expecting (requiring some hefty editing for the second draft!). Again, I don’t want to say too much, but much to my surprise I ended up taking on the topic of loneliness, which I think is a huge issue in our society. Huge. Hopefully I didn’t write it with too heavy of a hand—I don’t want to slap anyone in the face with a message—but as it’s an YA book, I think it’s possible the story could lead to openings for some discussions or contemplations about loneliness, and what we do about it. If it did, that would be amazing.

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

Oh sure, ask me to pick from my children! I love them all! But in The Universes Inside the Lighthouse I’d have to say I love Charlie a lot, probably because his laid-back, easy-going, fun-loving personality is one I wish I had! I’m in my mind a lot (like Charlie’s twin sister Emma), but Charlie takes life as it comes and is up for any adventure, while at the same time he’s loyal and kind. I love him!

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

I’ll pick two: one shorter and one longer.

There’s a lot of travel between planets/universes in the story, and therefore lots of brief scenes of travel. (Hopefully I’ve managed to keep them from being redundant!) There’s one instance of travel—I won’t specify—that I always find myself holding my breath while I’m reading it. I think I did pretty well with it, if I do say so myself!

The longer one happens almost at the end, so I won’t tell you much. But there’s a scene in which Emma does something that to me is such a poignant expression of compassion and kindness, the kind of compassion I strive for but so often fail at. It makes me proud to know her. ☺

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

The last few months of getting a book ready to be published are so busy and exhausting that right now I’d probably say my favorite part is “When it’s over!”

But that’s not totally true. Writing is a craft filled with fears and doubts, but when you’re able to break through those fears and doubts and let the story flow, it can be amazing. I create/plot on paper (hand written on a pad of paper), then do the actual writing on the computer, because I can type so much faster than I can write, and I lose fewer thoughts that way. When I’m writing by hand, the creation process, I love that. Starting with nothing and having all these ideas and stories come out of the pen is simply incredible. Cliché as it is, the stories do sometimes seem to come out of nowhere; I’m as much an observer as anyone. When that happens, that’s totally cool. It’s the closest I come to being able to read my own stories before I’ve written them, if that makes sense. I always wish I could read my stories for the first time from a reader’s perspective, to see what I think of them objectively, but of course I’ll never be able to have that experience.

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

How long it takes to write a book depends on how you define that time. As I said, I started writing this book back in 2003—so by some counts, it took eleven years. Now that I’ve written eight books, though, I have the process down a bit better. I know my blocks and how to get through them, I understand that you just have to put your behind in the chair and write. That means I can get a book written in much less than eleven years! If I had to guess, I’d say on average a book takes me nine months to a year, but of course that varies from book to book. The key is not to get stuck when you get stuck. If there’s a part you don’t know what to do with, don’t just sit with it. If you know what’s supposed to happen in a scene but can’t get the scene written, write “add some great writing here about ___” to the manuscript, and go on to the next part. There’s no point in starting at a blank screen! Keep writing!

As far as process, with my first book (the first one I published, that is) I completely winged it. I had no idea whether I could write a book to completion, or how to do so. I sat down and wrote, and repeated that until one day the book was done. (And then I started to learn about editing!) Now, though, I’d say my process has evolved. Once I have an idea I start outlining it, chronologically or by chapter or whatever works with that particular story. Then when I have an idea of the general shape of the story, I start writing. Things absolutely change in the course of writing, but knowing where I’m going lets me do some foreshadowing and building of the plot in subtle ways, which is fun.

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

I don’t write genres; I write stories. For better or for worse, I write the stories I have in my head—the stories I want to read—and then I figure out what genre they’re in! Not always the easiest task, but I have to write the stories that want to be written, regardless of where they fit. That said, I love science fiction because in many cases it’s not necessarily fiction. Sometimes, it falls more into that realm of “maybe, someday, somewhere, this could happen.” That’s amazing to contemplate. Think about how many of the gadgets from Star Trek have more or less become realities, half a century later. Think of all the things that happen in our science fiction today; could they come true, too, one day?

I also love that science fiction gives us such a rich medium in which to explore relationships. When someone or something is literally alien, we have a chance to dissect our opinions of it or feelings toward it. I’m reminded of Mary Doria Russell’s book The Sparrow. I once read that she wrote it in or around 1992, in contemplation of the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’s “discovering” America. She wanted to explore the idea of “first contact”—whether one society could merge with another, without harmful effects. Whether that’s true or not (I remember reading that, but that doesn’t mean I actually did), whether she accomplished her goal or not, those things aren’t the point. The point is that science fiction opens up new worlds—literally—where we can delve into important and interesting discussions, and maybe see them in a new light. Sci-fi tears through boundaries and opens up universes of opportunities to explore the question, “What if?”

Like I said, I had so much fun writing my first sci-fi. In fiction of course everything is “made up” (more or less!), but in sci-fi, you really get to stretch your imagination. If you can think it, you can write it. Mind reading, time travel, ghost universes, absolutely everything is possible. A writer’s dream!! I can’t wait to get to work on book #2!

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

JK Rowling: because she created a world so intense, so real, so evocative, that millions of people feel intimately connected to it. What an amazing gift!

Barbara Kingsolver, especially The Poisonwood Bible: because that book is a masterpiece of writing. It takes great skill to weave so many tales together, and at the same time give both truth and perspective to the time and place in which the stories are set. Brilliant.

Jose Saramago: because I don’t like rules, and Saramago breaks rules. Some people will tell you a book has to be written in such-and-such a way. If anyone told Saramago that, he didn’t listen! His breaking free from the prescribed molds is a huge part of what makes his books stand out.

As far as books written for younger audiences, I’ve never stopped loving A Wrinkle in Time. That image in the book of the ant crawling across the string, that has stuck with me since I first read the book. Quite possibly A Wrinkle in Time may have been one of the books that first sparked my interest in space and the great unknowns of our universe. (I read it so long ago that I can’t remember!) An author that some may remember named Ruth Chew also wrote books that I devoured—full of magic and the idea that anything could happen.

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?

Yes. The characters often surprise me! This goes back to the question of my favorite part of the writing process. I’ve learned that if I try to do a full character sketch with everything there is to know about my characters before I start writing, I get too bogged down in that process and don’t ever get the story written. Now that I know that, I start writing with a general idea of my characters, but at some point I need to stop and figure out their backgrounds, often including a ton of information that never will make it into the book. It really does feel like “discovery” more than “creation” at that point. The characters just start telling me their stories, their motivations, their fears and dreams. I’m of the opinion you have to be able to love every one of your characters; if you can’t, you aren’t writing them from a real place. Because when you think about it, with a few rare exceptions where a person is truly mentally disturbed, most people really are just doing the best they know how, trying to live a happy life (whatever that may mean to them). If you’re going to write a hateful character you still have to be able to see him/her from his/her perspective; you can’t just write from the outside perspective. You have to get into their lives and minds and understand why they behave as they do. Otherwise it won’t seem real. So, when they start telling me their stories I sort of fall in love with all of them, at least with part of them. It’s a weird thing sometimes, how close I feel to my characters. I’m sure this is true of most authors. We know them so well that they don’t seem like characters but rather people you once knew really well. Like old friends you haven’t seen for a while, or people who have passed on, they now exist only in your mind. Unlike old friends, you can never call them up. But they’re always with you!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you so much for the opportunity! And for everyone who is doing NaNoWriMo—good luck! Stick with it! You can do it!

Please send a cover photo, author photo, and any website/purchase/social media links along with your answers. Thank you!

Buy links: The Universes Inside the Lighthouse

Amazon (print):
Amazon (Kindle): 

More information on and purchasing information for Pam’s other books at

Connect with Pam Stucky

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What to do when a reviewer HATES your book.

Writing is hard. Like, really, really hard. True, there exists a mysterious sub-species of writer that can churn out thousands upon thousands of words a day that people just eat up, but for us mere mortals, the process of writing a story is an arduous and sometimes soul-crushingly difficult task. We cook up pages and pages of brainstorms, then hack through the thicket searching for the actual story. We dig into our hearts and souls and expose our greatest fears and desires to bring our characters to life. We slog through edits and revisions and rewrites in an effort to plug up all those plot holes and keep the pacing just right.

But despite all this - and our secret belief that we are each deities creating little universes between the pages - we are, ultimately, only human. And no human can please everyone. Some readers will love you, others will hate you. And some just won't get you.

It's often said that releasing a book is like sending a child off to kindergarten. I'm not a parent, but to that, I say this: at least parents don't have to sit by quietly while others judge their babies, helpless to do anything to persuade or defend. And unlike kids, who can improve over time, the book's already printed. It's done. Can't put it into tutoring and hope it gets better scores on its spelling tests.

So when a reviewer on Amazon or Goodreads or one blog or another simply hates your book, you're left with an awful feeling of rejection, self-loathing, helplessness, and indignation. It sucks. A lot.

So what should you do? You should...

  • Argue with the reviewer in a public forum
  • Harass the reviewer on social media
  • Stalk the reviewer at his or her place of work
  • Track the reviewer down and hit him or her over the head with a bottle of wine
  • Whine about ALL reviewers and how unless they're paid critics, they have no business having an opinion
  • Send the reviewer dog poop in the mail
  • If the reviewer is also a writer, fire bullets into the reviewer's book and mail it to them
  • Keep calm, carry on, shake it off, and just keep swimming

Hey, fact is, people are different, and you'll never never never please everyone. So don't fret about one person's dislikes and keep doing what you do best: telling your stories.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: His Wonderful Curse / Zuhair Mehrali

Today's spotlight is on His Wonderful Curse, a magical realism novel by debut author Zuhair Mehrali.

Book Description
Wilfred Frye has forever lived under the empowering influence of his dreams; every day is dictated by the abstract dream he experiences the night before. An incident occurs one day, causing Wilfred to set his fractured mind on searching for a 'remedy' to his curse, thereby embarking on a surreal journey through buried secrets, clashing philosophies, and multiple personalities.

Fiction, Psychological, Magical-realism

About Zuhair Mehrali
I am a student who works across multiple creative disciplines, invested in aspirations to tell stories through them all, from the true-and-traditional creative literature routes, to illustrations and games. ‘His Wonderful Curse’ was self-published after eight months of writing (through my final year of college), just prior to my starting university.

Influences and other
There are themes of mental health disorders and philosophy throughout the story, both of which are very dear topics to me. Josè Saramago has had a major influence on my writing and prose, so it is a fairly distinctive read and thus should not be expected to be to everyone’s liking.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Guest Post by Pete Barber


Thriller author Pete Barber
Much of Love Poison takes place in New Zealand. Why?

The men in my family are all adventurers. We’ve spread the Barber name across the globe. For my part, I moved from my home in England to the US. My older brother immigrated to Australia forty years ago, and I’ve only seen him twice in that time. In 2007, I developed a strong desire to visit him, perhaps for the last time as he’s well into his seventies now. My wife and I decided to go but to expand the trip so we could see something of the area.
After visiting my brother in Australia’s Gold Coast, we flew to New Zealand and spent one week touring.  Apart from the obvious excitement of seeing my brother and his family, New Zealand, especially the South Island, was the high point of the journey. I’m fairly well traveled, but I’ve never seen anywhere quite as beautiful, nor quite as varied. The food, the people, the scenery—awesome! The memories have stuck with me, and I tried to impart some of the wonder I experienced during my visit through the pages of Love Poison.

Creating Chemistry between Characters.

Pete Barber with a llama!
Well, I didn’t set out to make Amber and Mark “click.” Sure, they were forced to be close to each other because the plot demanded that they travel together to New Zealand, but they got to know each other in much the same way two real people would: by sharing parts of their past, by revealing to each other their current emotional challenges. Mark, in particular, had a tough upbringing, tougher than Amber ever suspected, and I think his vulnerability when he shared with her how his mother had virtually abandoned him as a baby struck a chord with Amber. Also, Mark had lost someone dear to him and that equipped him to empathize with Amber’s inner struggles as she tried to move on from the death of her mother. I didn’t expect them to fall in love—but they did, and that changed the whole dynamic of the novel—for the better, I think.

How to create suspense.

I’ve been writing fiction for seven or eight years now. Creating suspense was one aspect I struggled with for many years. Writing experts such as Donald Maass, and Swain, and many others insisted that I create tension in the reader by make it more difficult for my characters. And I did. Yes, I did. But as I was throwing wrenches at the poor people populating my tale, concurrently, I was planning how they’d overcome the obstacles.

Well, I finally figured out that’s not the point those writing sages were making. Frankly, you don’t have to worry about creating suspense if you write your characters into a cul-de-sac with eighty-foot-high walls, set in a valley, and then fracture the water main at the top of the hill during a freak power outage. You’ll be just as nervous as the reader, because you won’t know how they’re going to escape, either.

So, now I try not to worry about my peeps. I just follow them into the latrine and let the latch jam. Once they’re stuck, I walk around the house banging into walls until I work out how to extricate them without too much soggy Charmin hanging off the heel of their boot.

Mary, thank you so much for inviting me to comment on your blog. I appreciate it.


Love is a dangerous drug. 

Lab assistant and avid climber Amber Wilson is no stranger to risk. But she feels invisible around her handsome boss, Mark, until she accidentally doses him with an irresistible aphrodisiac that leaves him with a suicidal hangover. Abruptly fired, Amber and Mark partner up to research the source of the drug—a rare New Zealand mushroom—in hopes of refining it for safe use. 

On their way to New Zealand to collect fungi samples, Amber is blindsided by a deep and intense romantic connection with Mark. Their new business plan is endangered by ruthless Maori mobsters who control a mushroom scheme they’re killing to protect. As the body count rises, Amber struggles to salvage her and Mark’s dreams, but when she risks her heart and acts alone, both of them could end up paying the ultimate price.

Buy the book:

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