Thursday, April 26, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: 5:30 Return / William R. Herr

TITLE: 5:30 Return
AUTHOR: William R. Herr
PUBLISHER: Mechanicsburg Press


Science Fiction - Thriller


In the not-too-distant future, tourists flock to the red-light district of Tucson to get high on a futuristic drug and engage in all kinds of debauchery. They hire Juan, a disfigured veteran and recovering addict, to send them in and get them out. Known as "Juan the Monster," he doesn't have a lot of friends. So when one of the few people he cares about, Sammy, dies suspiciously, Juan takes it upon himself to find the truth. Meanwhile, his latest client has vanished, and he's assigned to take over Sammy's old gig, shuttling a developmentally challenged child -- born to an addict -- to and from a drug research facility. But he soon learns that there's more to Tucson's drug trade than he realized...

Like the Hobbsian vision of life without society, 5:30 Return by William R. Herr is nasty, brutish, and short. In a good way. It's a tightly written book that's somewhere between a long novella and a short novel, yet a lot happens in those few pages, with a fully realized world, a plot full of twists, and a fascinating portrait of a very, very damaged man.

Narrated in Juan's dry, unfiltered voice, 5:30 Return reminded me of Sin City with a more sci-fi bent, starring a cross between Deadpool and Jonah Hex. The book establishes quickly that Juan is not a nice guy, and it spares nothing when it comes to gritty details. Yet somehow he seems to be one of the few people around willing to do the right thing when it comes to solving Sammy's murder and uncovering a dark conspiracy. 

It's a really quick read that draws you in right away with Juan's distinctive narration. If you're looking for the darker, grittier side of sci-fi, this is your book.


Will was born to a computer technician and a British immigrant. Over the many, many years of his life, this has never changed.

At the age of 14, he won his first writing competition, the Young Authors conference, and fell in love with writing. In 1996 he produced 'The White Room', his first play, and published Jeremy and February. He then took the next 18 years off, to raise his son, and regrets nothing.

Since then, he has been struck by lightning, has run himself over with a truck (purely by accident), survived seven hurricanes, driven through a tornado, helped lead an invading army to Washington, DC, lost everything he owned, got it back, and lost it again. Technically, one could say that he is currently homeless.

Friday, April 20, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Supremacy's Shadow / T. Eric Bakutis

TITLE: Supremacy's Shadow
AUTHOR: T. Eric Bakutis
PUBLISHER: SF Productions


Science Fiction


In the far future, ordinary "natural born" humans are in conflict with the genetically enhanced "Advanced" in a star system with two inhabited planets. The Advanced are tightening their control over the natural born in an oppressive state, but a group of fanatics is fighting back using terrorist tactics. Living in this mess is Hayden Cross, a military investigator and natural born whose pregnant wife was murdered by the fanatics thirteen years ago. He's made it his mission to eliminate those who killed her... but his world is thrown into disarray when he receives a mysterious message saying she might still be alive.

What starts out as a personal mission winds up embroiling Hayden in a complex power struggle where, it seems, no one's the good guy. A sadistic crime lord, corrupt official, fanatical rebels, bounty hunters... poor guy really can't catch a break. The plot twists and turns its way through a story that starts out as one man's quest for his wife but winds up an epic of world-shattering proportions. Each time you think you know what's going to happen, it veers of into another direction for some truly surprising twists.

Yet the story never loses sight of the people at its core, which is what makes it work so well. The characters are well developed and feel like people, not just chess pieces in service to the plot. While this isn't the kind of book to expect a happily-ever-after from, the ending is plenty satisfying.

One of the book's blurbs compares Hayden Cross to Deadpool. I'd say that's a pretty accurate comparison for the book as a whole - it's a gritty tale of oppressors and terrorists with lots of blood and some disturbing torture scenes, and the characters snark their way through it all, using dark humor to offset the horrors they face.

If you're looking for an exciting, fast-paced read with interesting characters, rich world building, dark humor, and a complex plot, then these are the droids you're looking for.


T. Eric Bakutis is an author and game designer living in Maryland. He is happily married and shares his house with a vicious, predatory cat and a sad-faced, cowardly dog. He spends way too much time in virtual reality, because virtual reality is increasingly awesome.

His first fantasy trilogy, Tales of the Five Provinces, is now complete. The first (standalone!) book in his Dueling Planets series, Supremacy's Shadow, is now available, with the next (standalone!) book coming in a year or two. He's also completed a free cyberpunk police procedural, Loose Circuit, which you can read for free at or purchase (e-book) on Amazon for $0.99. 

If any of this sounds interesting, you can read excerpts from all of his books, his free online serial, and a number of free short stories at

Friday, April 13, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Experimental Bug: Brilliance / Jelani Akin Parham

TITLE: The Experimental Bug: Brilliance (The Experimental Bug, #1)
AUTHOR: Jelani Akin Parham
PUBLISHER: Akinink Publishing


Young Adult - Sci-Fi/Superhero


Years back, a brilliant scientist working for the powerful and mysterious Aegis Security disappeared. Now, his genius teen daughter, Pilar, is determined to find the truth. Having inherited her father's lab, she's perfected the Bug Suit he was working on. At night, she roams the city as a costumed vigilante. But she's not the only extraordinary being out there...

Pilar soon finds herself entangled in a plot full of intrigue, secrets, and a powerful evil with seemingly supernatural abilities. Superheros, monsters, conspiracies... and a big brother who takes his role as legal guardian frustratingly seriously. Pilar soon finds herself in over her head, but she's not about to back down. Together with her new friend, Zoe, she dives headfirst into the action.

This was a wickedly fun action/adventure superhero story starring kickass girls and a twisty-turn plot. Pilar is a tough, clever heroine with a smart mouth and prickly exterior. Yet though she'd never admit it, she's a total softy at heart. And so is this book... behind the high-octane superhero battles, this is the story of a girl and her family - her father's legacy, her relationship with her brother, her newly formed friendships. It's a fast-paced romp with lots of heart and character. I tore through it and enjoyed every moment!


Originally from the midwest, Jelani-Akin Parham moved to Phoenix, AZ to pursue an education and career in the creative realm. From the early days of his life in Detroit, MI til now, he’s been fascinated with monsters, super heroes, mythical swords and exploring foreign worlds. When he’s not writing crazy adventures, he can be found playing competitive fighting games, working as an illustrator, video editor, and on occasion composing music.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I have a new book coming out!

Cat's finally out of the bag!! I feel like I've been sitting on this news forever... Thrilled to finally announce that my YA steampunk fantasy, STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON, will be coming your way next year from Page Street! 

It's been a head-spinning and unexpected journey so far, and I'm super excited to see where it takes me. This will be my first foray into the world of old-school traditional publishing.

STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON is the eighth full-length manuscript I wrote. I repeat, the EIGHTH. I wrote it early 2017 on a whim... usually, I take ages to plan and plot my books before I write the first word, but in this case, the book basically started writing itself two days after the idea popped into my head. I then spent months revising it with the help of my fantastic beta readers.

After it was in a condition I was happy with, I had to figure out what to do with it. By then, I'd been in the self-publishing world for a spell with BRAVE NEW GIRLS and STARSWEPT, and I'd walked away from my first agent earlier that year. Being my own publishing boss was fun. I hadn't quite decided whether I wanted to try for traditional publishing again or stick with indie.

Then September's #PitMad came about on Twitter. I didn't even realize it was happening until halfway through the day. On a whim, while rushing out of the office to grab lunch, I dashed off a Twitter pitch for the heck of it. Lo and behold, I had some interest! A few weeks later, I signed with my awesome agent, Dr. Uwe Stender of TriadaUS.

Next came more revisions, and then submissions. When Page Street made their offer, I web-stalked the heck out of 'em. I was super excited about how fast they were expanding -- they're among the fastest-growing small presses in the US. And the covers of their YA books are *gorgeous*.

I'm beyond excited to work with my editor, Lauren Knowles, and I can't wait to share this book with the world!

Monday, April 9, 2018


An interview with author Janelle Garrett.


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

Hi, thanks for having me! My background is pretty simple, to be honest. When I was younger I used to write stories and dream of being an author someday. My parents were, so I think it was just something I always assumed I would do. But then as I got into my young adult years I realized it was nearly impossible to make a living doing it. So I got my RN degree instead, but writing was in my blood. So now I do both.

What got you into writing?

For as long as I can remember I loved story. Either through reading, being read to, or through writing. If I could attribute it to two things, it would be my mom who homeschooled me and was a writer herself. Talk about learning to have thick skin when someone edits your work! I would get papers back and half the page would be red lined. But it only spurred me to do better, to have cleaner work, and to be appreciative of constructive criticism. To this day negative feedback doesn’t bother me that much. The second thing would be CS Lewis. I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was 8, and from then on, my goal was to be as imaginative and original as possible.

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

I had extensive knee surgery two years ago and was bed bound for twelve weeks. I hadn’t written in years, and while I was recovering, I picked it back up to keep my mind sharp, otherwise I would have lost it being confined for that long! I had a three and two year old at the time, so needless to say, it was a looooooong three months. But as I was resting, it was like a vision came to me. I was brainstorming about what to create, and in walked a figure shrouded in black with a blade strapped to his back. I could see it plain as day…he was lost in a misted wood, trying to rescue someone. The story took off from there. I finished the first draft of the manuscript in less than two months.  

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

Although I love them all for various reasons, Priva has to be my favorite. He’s the vision I had when I was recovering from surgery. He’s a warrior raised to follow the command of the King, but as he realizes that his calling is far greater than that, he begins to explore new aspects of himself. His character develops from mission-bound bladeweilder only wanting to do his duty to discovering his own identity apart from the tasks he is given. That’s one of the main themes that runs through Rift in the Deep. Who are we? What gives us purpose and meaning?

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

I can only choose one!? Well, the opening scene is probably one of my favorites. Because that’s the original vision I had, writing it out was a blast. Priva comes to awareness in the middle of a wood with no idea how he got there. His senses are completely shut down, and all around him is darkness and mist. He knows that he is on a mission to save someone, but had no intention of entering the wood until he was ready to give payment to the Dreads, mysterious creatures who are blocked into the wood by the Covenwitches.

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

I would say character development. That has a lot to do with plotting. Taking that character on a journey and seeing them either grow as an individual or lose themselves because of circumstances or flaws that they can’t overcome.   

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

From start to finish is anywhere from one month to eight months. My novella The Tale of Briton’s Fury was only 20k words, so it was complete within six weeks, editing and all. The Survival Guide for Nursing Students coming out next month only took four weeks. Rift in the Deep took about eight months. The second book Rise of the Warlock King coming out next month was about the same.

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

Fantasy has always been my favorite, going back to reading CS Lewis as a kid. That led to JRR Tolkien in middle school, which led to Robert Jordan in high school, and then the rest is history. I’ve been avidly reading fantasy most of my life, so it was a natural thing to write it. The appeal, I think, is in the fact that I can create my own world. I love being able to use imaginative storytelling in that way…almost like I’m a kid again! 

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

Of course there is CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Robert Jordan as I’ve mentioned. Besides that, I’ve really enjoyed the Hand of Thrawn series by Timothy Zahn, Writing Deep Viewpoint by Kathy Tyers, The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and pretty much anything by Ted Dekker, just to name a few within the sci-fi/fantasy/writing genre. But I read prolifically, so there are too many to mention!

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?

This happens quite oftenJ I don’t outline, so the plot and characters take on a life of their own while I write. Of course, that makes the editing a little challenging, since there tend to be more inconsistencies when you wing it. But I’ve found that even when I outline my characters go off script all the time, so it was pretty useless to make them stick to my grand plan. 

Thanks for stopping by!


A darkness lurks beneath the surface, brooding, waiting. The Deep writhes in currents of power, holding the Rift at bay. But the Stewards, accessors of the Deep, have not walked the Lands in three hundred years. Their legend lives on, but it is just that. Legend. No one living remembers. And the witches wait for their return, when all four Stewards can unite to bring about the downfall of the Rift. 

Brate Hightower knows of such legends, but it has little to do with his daily life. He toils on his farm, alone and wondering when he will be able to travel to the Forest City and sing in the halls of the Triumphant King. Malok Mountain Keeper lives in isolation, studying as an acolyte and longing for the day he can become a Brother and spend the rest of his life gleaning as much knowledge as he can. Graissa del’Blyth lives in discontent amongst the wealthy, longing for a life of purpose and justice. Priva Car’abel is a bladewielder, at the beck and call of the Flatland King and searching for a missing Princess. All of their lives change in an instant, and none of them can predict where their paths lead. Will they step up to the challenge and embrace their destiny? Or will the lure of power or the challenge of a new, rising foe be their undoing?

The sphere hangs in the balance. They must succeed, or all will be lost in darkness and shadow. And if they are to embrace the call, they will need the help of the Covenwitches.  


Janelle Garrett is a jack of all trades. Registered nurse, stay at home mom, medical records consultant…and writer. Her passion from the time she was ten was to write stories with unforgettable characters. The sphere came into existence when she was bed-bound after knee surgery, and in walked a character shrouded in black and trapped in a magical wood on a dangerous mission. The story flowed from that vision. You can catch her on twitter @JanelleGwriter or at her blog, Go to her website to sign up for her email updates and receive a free book. No strings attached, and you won’t be spammed. You’ll receive monthly updates on new work, promos, and freebies, as well as release dates for the rest of the Steward Saga.

Amazon link, available in KU, ebook and print:
Link for mailing list where readers can get The Tale of Briton's Fury:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

COVER REVEAL: One World (The Iamos Trilogy, #3) / Lyssa Chiavari

Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for One World, Book 3 in Lyssa Chiavari's Iamos Trilogy!

Title: One World (Book Three of the Iamos Trilogy)
Author: Lyssa Chiavari
Cover designer: Najla Qamber Designs with custom photography by Mosaic Stock
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Nadin found her answers in the future. Now she must return to the world she left behind and try to put things to rights. But can Iamos be saved, or has its destiny already been set?