Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Secret Behind Halloween

by John Kohlbrenner

To me the scariest thing about scary fiction is writing about it. After having a steady diet of horror movies, TV shows, and books. Plus having an office bedecked with Halloween and monster decorations year around. Frightening thoughts tend to simmer quite easily in my mind. The trick of it is to come up with scary situations that would even spook me, now that takes a lot of work. Limited with only the power of one’s words makes it all the more challenging. Though scary ideas come easy to me, explaining how it works is the hard part; here is my attempt at it. First you need a situation that will lend itself to being frightening, such as an old abandoned house, or a hopeless situation. Next you need the character’s feelings on their dilemma, such as the fearfulness of being alone in an old house, or the despair on having no way out of their predicament. Lastly you drive the nail into the scene by having the monsters pounce. Either slowly with creepy warning signs leading up to a horrible confrontation, or you have the character’s worst nightmare leap out suddenly into their face.

In my book I use both of those situations, but with an extra challenge of making the story accessible to a younger audience. To make something scary doesn’t mean it has to be violent or gruesome. There doesn’t need to be deaths on every page. There are fates worse than death out there as the characters in my story will find out. Now the real trick of writing a Halloween Horror story is that the bottom line of Halloween isn’t really about monsters and frights, it is having fun. Dressing up as a character you idolize and being rewarded for it with tons of candy. There is nothing scary about that. To children it is one of the few fun nights to celebrate a good time together they have each year. So with my story, it is not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of fun in it too. With the main characters being an enjoyable funny crew who don’t dwell too much on their terrible predicament, but instead realize that they are experiencing an incredible situation and in a normally dull life of living in a small town, to them this is really cool. Every boy would love to think that monsters are real. Now balancing that with the scary moments in my story makes the book a real rollercoaster with frightening drops and thrilling rises. Because the real secret behind a scary story is you need the good with the bad, that frightening drop will seem all the more terrifying if you care about the rider.

Find John's book on Amazon:

Connect with John online:

View the trailer for One Dark Halloween Night:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Grateful to Be Writing

by Mike Martin

I just finished the third book in my Windflower Mystery Series, and as it winds its way into the hands of my friendly beta readers, I am reminded how lucky I am to be able to write and to have other people read and comment on it. As Thanksgiving approaches it is a good time to give thanks, even with all of the changes and challenges of the book and publishing world.

So here’s a few things I am grateful for this year.

I am grateful that I am a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than someone who has to plot the whole story out before they can even begin to write. This way I get to discover the story the same way that readers do. The characters show up and they tell the story. I just write it down. It may be bigger and deeper than that, some great flow of creation and imagination that I’m tapping into, but I like the simple version. They talk, and I write.

I am grateful to be writing fiction. I think that it must be very difficult to write about all of the trials and tribulations of the world. There are so many problems and so few solutions, so many war-makers and so few interested in peace. I can see why some columnists and editorial-type writers seem so bitter. They probably find it hard to find good things to write about. And probably harder to sleep at night. I sleep just fine. I am grateful that I am a mystery writer. I didn’t know I was going to be one, didn’t even think about it really. I kinda just fell into it. But what a great genre!! There’s tons of great writers and even better readers already here. I try and follow the basic tenets of the genre but I have realized that it’s just another way to tell a story. And that’s what writing is really all about.

I am grateful that technology allows me to pop into this beautiful blog today, courtesy of the delightful Mary Fan. Technology also lets me make new ‘friends’ every day on social networks, and to share with them some small pieces of the same journey. I know it’s impersonal and anonymous and people do tell small fibs and major lies on her, but it is a medium to communicate that we never had before. That’s pretty cool. Finally, I am grateful that anybody, anywhere, can publish their own stories, for free or very little. I am not a particular fan of e-books but they have opened the doors to many more writers and many more stories. By the way, my latest book, The Body on the T, is now available in Kindle and Kobo version. Check it out on Oh, yeah I’m grateful that I can come on here and offer a blatant self-promotion. That’s even cooler.

So if you are a writer, or an aspiring writer, be grateful to be alive today. It could be worse. You could be still trying to get a publisher to have a look at your quill and parchment document. Yes, it could be better, but it could be worse.

About the Author
Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series, set in small communities on the east coast of Canada. His latest book, The Body on the T, is now available as an e-book on

Review of Mike Martin's The Walker on the Cape (first book in the Windflower Mystery Series)
An Interview with Mike Martin

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

REVIEW: Non-Compliance: The Transition / Paige Daniels

TITLE: Non-Compliance: The Sector
AUTHOR: Paige Daniels
PUBLISHER: Kristell Ink
AVAILABILITY: Amazon  (Kindle e-book), Amazon  (paperback)

Science Fiction - Cyberpunk/Dystopia


In the world of Non-Compliance, Paige Daniels's dystopian cyberpunk series, the rules are simple: you either agree to have a brain chip inserted, giving the Powers That Be a way to track your every move, or you're sent to live in the lawless Non-Compliance Sector. The only semblance of order in the NCS is kept by Boss, for whom our heroine, Shea Kelly works, but now a new power has moved in, seeking control. While Boss is far from a saint, he ultimately has the peoples' best interests in mind. Ramsey, on the other hand, is a power-hungry psychopath who will do anything to get his way. To make matters worse, the government appointed Magistrate is circling, searching for a way to get rid of Boss without causing the sector to erupt into chaos.

In Non-Compliance: The Transition, the second book in the series, Daniels turns up the heat and rachets up the stakes. Shea and her cohorts, working for Boss, cut a deal with the Magistrate. The Magistrate will leave them alone if they bring down Ramsey, who is a problem for him as well. But the clock is ticking, and Ramsey proves to be a formidable opponent. Highly intelligent and extremely brutal, his presence in the NCS makes every day a danger for Shea and those she cares about. The plot is somewhat reminiscient of a mafia film, with many dark, gritty elements and relentless pacing. Daniels doesn't hold back in her depictions of Ramsey's cruelty or the bleak world those in the NCS live in.

The tone and plotting are impeccable, but what really makes Non-Compliance: The Transition stand out are the characters. Shea is tough and smart as a whip - except when her stubbornness gets in her way. She holds her own against enemies she doesn't seem to stand a chance against, and her smart-mouthed, tom-boyish attitude make her a standout among sci-fi heroines. Much of the story explores her tempestuous relationship with Quinn, Boss's gruff second-in-command. The air practically crackles with their romantic tension, which Daniels deftly portrays without ever distracting from the central plot. Also memorable are Wynne, Shea's brilliant best friend, Gordo, a kid hacker, and, of course, Boss, who doesn't get much "screen-time" but whose presence is felt throughout the story.

Non-Compliance: The Transition delves into the back stories of these characters, revealing more about their histories and sharing secrets that were kept from us readers in the first book. The sequel also gives readers a broader look at the world outside the NCS. While Shea's immediate problems are within the NCS, larger conspiracies are afoot, and Daniels tantalizes us with glimpses of the greater evils being done in this grim future.

I was a huge fan of the first Non-Compliance book, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second (even refused to read a preview chapter because I knew it would be too torturous for me to see a bit and then have to wait to find out more). I'm happy to report that the sequel far exceeded my expectations. In fact, I think it's even better than the first book. In Non-Compliance: The Transition, Daniels took everything that was great about Book 1 - the characters, the danger, the dystopian world-building, the clever plotting, the snappy dialogue - and elevated it. I loved every moment, and I can't wait to read Book 3 when it comes out.


[From’s author page]

Paige Daniels is the pen name for Tina Closser. When she isn't busy with her nine to five job as an electrical engineer she helps her husband with a small hobby farm complete with a mini horse, cows, and sheep. In between farm duties and running the kids to gymnastics she likes to write, thus the creation of this novel.


Friday, October 18, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski, author of the zombie noir novel Braineater Jones, stops by for a video interview.

Book Description:

Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.

As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.

Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity.


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Monday, October 14, 2013

A Quick Guide to Fantasy World Building

by Joanne Hall

Fantasy author Joanne Hall
  Often you’ll hear people, when talking about fantasy writing in particular, go on about world building. Fantasy authors will often design whole worlds, sometimes even an entire galaxy, from scratch. Bad world building sticks out like a multi-storey car park in a woodland glade. Good world building, when it’s done skillfully, fits so seamlessly into the plot that you can read for hundreds of pages without really noticing it – yet it adds rich detail at the edge of the story that really enhances it for the readers. It’s what Juliet E McKenna refers to as “writing the wider world.”  But looking at the amount of work, for example, that George RR Martin has put into Westeros, and it’s daunting (and a little intimidating!) When you’re building a world, where do you even start?

 World building is the art of designing a functional, logical and above all believable secondary world. If the world doesn’t work, neither will your story. The reader needs to be able to suspend their disbelief, and if some flaw in the world building pulls them out of the story with a squeal like the needle scraping across a record, you will have lost them, and it’s hard to get them back.

You have to be more than an author. You have to be an astronomer, a navigator, a volcanologist, a geologist, a zoologist, and probably a whole bunch of other professions ending in –ist. And yet, at the same time, you don’t want to bombard your reader with so much research that they get bored or irritated. It’s not that important to them whether the rocks your hero is riding over are igneous or sedimentary, but it’s something you should know.

In fantasy, probably more than any other genre, landscape can play a vital role. In some novels it’s pretty much a supporting character. You need to make the landscape of your world viable, convincing and detailed. It has to work – where do your rivers run? Where are the fault lines that cause volcanoes and earthquakes? Where does the grassland become desert? What times are the tides? These are all things that might come up in your plot that you will need to think about.

If you can’t come up with a world that functions according to logical laws (even if they’re not the same logical laws as our own world), your readers are unlikely to immerse themselves fully in your story.  

It’s important to remember that people shape the landscape as much as they are shaped by it, and in a low-tech fantasy setting, the environment has an even greater importance, as it’s often beyond the character’s ability to do any more than just live in it or travel through it. Introducing grazing animals, for example, will mean you lose a lot of forest cover. The Highlands of Scotland, which are an inspirational fantasy landscape if ever I saw that one, look that way because of hundreds of years of intensive grazing by sheep – before the sheep were introduced the area was mainly pine forest. In “The Art of Forgetting”, the Atrathene tribes are nomadic because much of the soil is too poor for agriculture, and they have to keep their horses on the move to constantly find fresh grazing. The poor soil has led to an entirely nomadic culture, which means no cities, no central government, no single religion or way of life, with all the complexities that entails.  

Your characters are just as much a product of their environment as they are of your imagination. So many times, the enthusiastic fantasy writer has a giant living in the barren wastes beyond the enchanted forest, a convenient obstacle for the hero to overcome before he gets the sword, the princess, or the kingdom.  In brutal reality, any large predator living in such a barren waste would starve to death long before the hero arrives, leaving him with nothing to fight but a pile of old bones. Giants need food. Even the food needs food. Without a viable ecosystem, the giant either goes hungry, or needs to relocate to the nearest snack-filled village.

  When you’re building a world from scratch, the mass of factors to consider can be so vast that a lot of potential authors get bogged down in the process and forget about writing their story.  If this becomes a problem, start small, with a squiggly line and, next to it, a dot.

  The wiggly line is a river, the dot is a town.  From there you can work outwards.  Are there roads around the town?  Farms to supply food?  How about an inn, or ferry port?  Where does the river go, and how are the people in the next town different?  A dotted line becomes a border between one country and the next, with all the differences that implies.  These are all questions to ask yourself as you scribble your map, and it doesn’t matter at this point of you have the drawing skills of a hedgehog. This is For Your Eyes Only.
 Draw more towns, dots of different sizes, a coastline, because the river has to end up somewhere.  What goes up and down the rivers?  Contraband?  Trade goods?  Maybe refugees, or people looking for work.  Who lives on the other side of that border?  What scary creatures lurk in that massive lake?  Don’t want a lake there?  Scribble it out, move it ten miles down the road.  Nothing is set in stone, as long as it makes sense.
 The act of just drawing a map won’t magically give you a novel that will sell, but it can spark off endless ideas.  Here’s a port. What can happen here? Well, all manner of stories, from shipwrecks to smuggling.

  As well as being a fun way to procrastinate, a map is an excellent tool for visual guidance, to be able to pinpoint where characters are at any given time.  Maps do not need to be Tolkien quality.  There are no bonus points for artistry, and geography need not be fixed until the final draft – sometimes I’ve moved whole mountain ranges for the sake of convenience.

  A believable setting and vaguely-accurate mapping will give your story extra credibility, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.  It’s the little details, the ones people might not even notice, the colouring in around the edges, which make a convincing world. 

Joanne's fantasy novel, The Art of Forgetting, is available on Amazon.

Read an interview with Joanne here:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Sheldon Zimmer of Space Games

Today’s guest is Sheldon J. Zimmer, Hollywood director and producer. Mr. Zimmer’s latest credit is the reality TV series, “Space Games,” which is set aboard the International Space Station II. The show is currently airing on Zero-G-TV.

Hi Sheldon! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. What’s going on in your life? What do you do for a living?

Eh? You’re kidding me? You never heard of me? Maybe if you’d done your homework BEFORE the interview you’d have learned that I’ve directed and produced over twenty major motion pictures, a few indies, and now a hit reality TV show called “Space Games.” I’m getting ready to call a quits soon, though … retire somewhere outside of Hollywood. Say, you ever done any acting? Turn and look to the side. Not bad.

Sheldon Zimmer
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Is it anything like what you’re doing now?

My father was jeweler in Jericho, New York, where I grew up. He wanted me to take over the family business, but I flew out to Tinseltown instead, where I waited on tables and wrote scripts until I made it big. Dad called me a putz; I told him he had no vision.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Kat Turner had the hots for me back in the day, not the other way around like everybody thinks. I was just startin’ out in the business, a slick young stud in his twenties, and she came on to me like Jane Fonda came on to Anthony Perkins, tackled me on the audition couch, and well…

Tell us about your friends. Who do you hang out with?

I wouldn’t call him a friend, but I hang out with my assistant producer Morty Friedman quite a bit. He comes over, and we spend hours reviewing tape, strategizing and arguing… Sheesh, the guy’s only been in the business for a few years and he thinks he knows everything. Let me tell you something, little lady, he doesn’t know squat. He didn’t even want to cast Robin for “Space Games.” I told him I was gonna make her a star. The rest is history. Nuff said. Quick, what other questions do you have for me? I’m a busy man.

If you could bestow a superpower upon one of these friends, who would you choose, and what would you give them?

I’d probably give Robin a stronger stomach or prescribe her some sort of super-antiemetic. She puked in the centrifuge, she puked in the shuttle simulator and she puked in the Microshuttle. It really set us back in terms of filming, production schedule, and what not. Messy business, and the cleanup wasn’t pleasant, or so I’m told.

What do you do for fun?

My work is my fun… Uh … lemme see … Oh! I take yoga classes. The only thing is, the last time I went I nearly hocked up a lung right on the mat. It turned off all the hot-lookin’ broads in the class, and I wasn’t able to book a single audition after that. Some day, I gotta quit the cigars and booze, but they help me think. You know what I’m sayin’?

What do you hope to be doing in ten years?

Ten years? I’m seventy-two, I’m not sure I have ten years. I’ll probably be resting comfortably at the Temple Beth-Israel Cemetery in Chula Vista.

Or maybe sooner...


Nothing. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

I’d probably go back and try to save Marilyn, treat her like the lady she was, sweep her off her feet and sweep all those maggots out of her life. What a waste. Yeah, as Elton John said, “I would have liked to have known [her], but I was just a kid.…” Actually in `62, I was just being born.

What are you planning on doing next?

“Space Games” is it for me, Miss Fang. I think I told you that once or twice already. It is Miss, isn’t it? I’ll tell you, you’re gonna make some poor sap a tremendous ex-wife some day. But the teleplay writer … uh, what’s his name? Lombardi … Dan Lombardi, or something or other. He’s not bad. He thinks out of the box and knows how to set audiences up for a real shock time after time. That seedy schlock-meister’s gonna make it if only he would stop wasting so much time playing games.

All right, you old grump, get outta here.

Space Games, a pulp sci-fi novel by Dean Lombardo, is available on Amazon

Friday, October 4, 2013

COVER REVEAL: Way Walkers: Tangled Paths / J. Leigh

Today, I'm unveiling the cover for J. Leigh's epic fantasy, Way Walkers: Tangled Paths, to be released in March 2014 by Red Adept Publishing (also the publisher of my sci-fi novel). Isn't this cover gorgeous? The colors and patterns are so mesmerizing, I keep getting lost in it!


Hatched from an egg but unable to shift into dragon form, Jathen is a Moot among the Tazu. His rightful throne is forbidden him because of his transformative handicap, and neither his culture nor his religion offer acceptance of his perceived flaws.

Driven by wounded anger, Jathen strikes out across the vast world beyond Tazu borders, desperate to find a place where he feels accepted and whole. Though he travels with the most trusted of companions, sabotage and conspiracy soon strike his quest. Jathen and his allies must struggle against man and magic alike, at the mercy of forces beyond their ken.

As Jathen presses on, his questions of belonging are surrounded by more of identity, loyalty, and betrayal. Where will the path of his destiny lead, and will he follow or fall?