Friday, January 31, 2014

Diary of a Confused Writer


It’s the beginning of a new year and once again, here I am, trying to find myself. I’ve spent countless hours that I should have spent writing, doing quiz after quiz online to discover who I really am. You would think, at my age, I would have figured this puzzle out, and yet, it would seem, I haven’t. And the worst part is not the questions but the answers.

When asked what my personal style is, how do I chose between classic and practical? Isn’t practical classic? And when the topic of high school comes up do I say I was nerdy or an overachiever? Aren’t all overachievers, by definition, nerds? And given a random selection of nine popular celebrities to choose from, when I can only identify one from the crowd, who am I supposed to pick? Especially when that one recognizable celebrity is Justin Bieber. These questions are from just one out of many quizzes. And it would seem it doesn’t matter if I do the quiz twice, mixing up my answers a little. I end up as sushi every time. And ok, being raw fish never felt so good. It says I’m smart, sophisticated, and fancy. But all things being equal, I would have rather been cheese. Everyone likes cheese.

So now I know what food I am, what pop diva I would be, what Star Wars character best suits me, what Harry Potter character I connect with, what Disney princess I am (my personal favorite), what city in the world I most resemble, but what I don’t know is what all this means. Who am I? Really! This has to be the reason I have so many voices in my head, telling me to be someone new every day. I guess that’s why I grew up to be a writer. And a confused one at that.

Erica's latest novel, Suddenly Sorceress, is available from Red Adept Publishing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lose 10 lbs in a week! No exercise required!

Today, I encountered the best diet book I've ever come across. If I stick by it, I'm sure I'll drop the pounds like freshman physics. Best of all, I don't have to invest in any crazy rabbit food or even do any exercise. And the method is so simple - no worrying about calorie counts or sugar content! What is this wondrous book, you ask?

The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski. A gruesome horror novel about a sea captain passing through zombie-filled islands to rescue a handful of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. I made the mistake of starting the Kindle version over my lunch break. By 1% in, I was done with food for the day.

Below are some stomach-turning horror books guaranteed to make you consider swearing off food for life. And yet, they are gripping enough to keep you reading…

The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski
Review coming once I finish (I'll be ballerina-thin by then)

After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain. 

A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, the billionaire inventor of the mind-control collar seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a ghoul-worshipping cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown. 

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of...THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. 

Red Sand by Ronan Cray
Read the Zigzag Timeline review

On this island, there are no survivors. 

Lost meets Treasure Island in this riveting account of castaways on a desert island hunted on all sides. A rare blend of breathtaking action, deep character development, corporeal horror, and a believable story line brings this modern adventure to life. 

When the cruise ship Princess Anne sinks at night in the middle of the Atlantic, strange, white-haired natives pluck seven survivors from the water. Delivered to a barren volcanic island and forced to work, the survivors disappear one by one as the natives, and the island itself, turn hostile. An old betrayal tears apart the native political structure as a hurricane threatens to bring to life the deadly secret of the island. With time running out, the natives and survivors alike form and break alliances to escape by any means possible. 

Fear the natives. Fear the Island. Fear each other. Fear yourself. 

If you miss Lost, don't miss Red Sand. All the action, suspense, betrayal, and mystery you could ask for with scenes so swiftly terrifying you'll gasp for air. Deeply human characters draw you in until horribly detailed descriptions end them. You’ll shut your eyes when it happens, but you'll tell everyone about it the next day.

Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski
(Move over, Atkins, this guy's the new king of diets)

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.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

REVIEW: Bitter Orange / Marshall Moore

TITLE: Bitter Orange
AUTHOR: Marshall Moore
PUBLISHER: Signal 8 Press
AVAILABILITY: Amazon  (Kindle e-book), Amazon  (paperback)


Fantasy - Contemporary/Urban


Seth Harrington is an ordinary young man with an extraordinary ability: he can become completely undetectable. Unseen, unheard, unknown. And he can make others see things in ways contrary to reality. But he doesn't use this power as a superhero would. Rather, he uses it to commit petty crimes, like use a movie ticket stub as money or steal a bottle of cheap alcohol. 

Bitter Orange is not the tale of a normal man who becomes a hero, or even a special man with special powers. Rather, his life is as mundane as it gets, and so are the lives of everyone he knows. His paranormal ability is the one remarkable thing about him, and this drives much of his character throughout the novel. Like many people who have yet to settle into the routine of normal adulthood, Seth doesn't really know who he is or what he's supposed to be doing with his life, and this is reflected in how he uses his powers. He turns invisible to creep on the homes of "normal" people and uses a one dollar bill to pay for a cell phone. Drifting through life, his morals and values are as gray as fog.

Moore writes with a sharp, snappy voice, giving his characters lively yet cynical voices that spring from the page. I think many people will relate to Seth's point of view as he both mocks the lives of others and seeks purpose in his own. He's not an admirable character, but rather one who is remarkable in his unremarkable-ness. This lends Bitter Orange a touch of realism even though the premise takes it into the realm of fantasy. What makes this novel especially interesting, to me, is its portrayal of the everyday and its lack of moralizing or melodramatics. Too often, characters in "superhero" type situations fall into the rut of being perfect, if tormented, people who always, always do the right thing. It gets mundane, and Bitter Orange offers an intriguing alternative to the Hollywood trope that has seeped into literature.

The story is somewhat slow-paced at the beginning, but toward the latter part of the novel, twists abound and expectations are turned on their heads. Overall, Bitter Orange is an entertaining and enjoyable read.


Marshall Moore is the author of several books: The Concrete Sky (Haworth Press, 2003); Black Shapes in a Darkened Room(Suspect Thoughts Press, 2004); An Ideal for Living (Lethe Press, 2010); The Infernal Republic (Signal 8 Press, 2012); and Bitter Orange (Signal 8 Press, 2013).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Gretchen Blickensderfer

An interview with Gretchen Blickensderfer, author of The Last Circle.


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

This is my first novel. I began writing in 2004 with two screenplays: Foreign Exchange and Imminent Disaster is Imminent. I have also been a film critic for an Indianapolis Fox News affiliate and am currently a writer for the Windy City Times in Chicago.

What got you into writing?

I was working as an actor in Los Angeles and was rather disenchanted with the typecasting that tends to go on there, a lot of which is nonsensical. For example, a Casting Director once told me that, owing to my British background and dark skin, she saw me either as “a terrorist or a Hispanic Hugh Grant.” While drowning my sorrows with an awful lot of watery beer, I told the story of how I came to America to a friend of mine. He suggested that it would make a great screenplay. So, we worked on it together and Foreign Exchange was picked up by an agent. I was hooked, I think chiefly because of the freedom I found in creating a character and then guiding her/him towards their ultimate fate rather than portraying and being limited to the ideas of another writer.

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

I had begun transitioning from male to female and it was, without a doubt, the toughest journey I have ever had to make.  After a rather selfish phase that I went through, believing I was wholly justified in demanding people just deal with it, I realized I was asking a tremendous amount of my friends and family to essentially say goodbye to one person and welcome the next. It tested those relationships in ways I never imagined possible and some simply did not survive.

At the same time, I became more starkly aware of the raw hatred that was being sent my way, particularly by members of the religious right. Words like “abomination” or “freak” suddenly took on a whole new and more terrifying meaning. I remember an online debate about whether a trans-person in Maryland could use a restroom appropriate to their chosen gender and the number of people saying that if they ever caught a trans-woman in a female restroom, they would “kill it.” Then there were all the stories about LGBT people being murdered around the world, often times with no repercussions for the killers. Places like, the AFA and the Family Research Council were replete with statements that an LGBT person was not a human being or possessed some sort of sinister agenda to bring America crumbing down. It didn’t seem so far removed from the sort of propaganda that has always been utilized by those “at war with undesirable people.”

So it all came together: the fallibility of friendships and the deep seated fear that is invoked when you are hated by a ‘moral majority’. It’s a modern day horror story, the monsters of which are drawn directly from people like Pat Robertson and Bryan Fischer who wholeheartedly believe that they are on the side of good. The policies portrayed in The Last Circle were drawn, not only from statements they have made, but directly from documents such as the Texas Republican Party Platform of 2010. That is a terrifying read all by itself.

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

The antagonist of the piece, Shelby Langman. It’s always fun to write bad guys but the challenge comes in seeing things from their point of view. The most perniciously evil characters, fictional or factual, never believe that what they are doing is wrong. Oftentimes, in their minds, they are performing a selfless public service and should be acknowledged as such. Shelby genuinely believes that ridding the world of Pagans and homosexuals will make America a better place and, by converting unbelievers to Christ, she will be seen as righteous by those around her and by God. The actual damage she does is inconsequential to her because she is on the side of an evangelical interpretation of the Bible that she believes to be infallible.  Rationally speaking, I often wondered what people like the late Howard Camping or even Fred Phelps could possibly be thinking. What motivated them and their followers? We talk about blind faith but is that all it is? Shelby is a composite of many such people and one theory about what drives them. She was a lot of fun to put together.

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

In the early scenes of the book, Shelby has just finished a dictum to her Bible-study class on how witchcraft in the media is dangerous and should not be tolerated. Once again, right wing blogs and Christian media watchdogs provided a limitless and sometimes quite hysterical pool of inspiration for me here. Shelby’s rather vacuous set of students argue about which Disney films do or do not include witches and therefore should not be supported. That was an awful lot of fun to write, if anything because the source material provided its own comic relief.

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

All three. Yes, sorry for the cop-out but, again, it all boils down the simple joy of creating a world and the people who populate it. Each aspect carries its own set of challenges.  Dialogue is always going to be tough because, unless it’s a prepared speech, people often stumble over words, they don’t always have a pithy comeback and sometimes correct themselves mid-sentence. Conveying that in writing would make it just cumbersome, but you want to try and keep it as real as possible. A lot of that meant reading the book out loud again and again to my poor, eternally patient wife.

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

The first draft of The Last Circle took a year and half and about two years of rewrites before I began querying it. I didn’t stick to any set process while putting it together but there was a lot of pacing back and forth before I’d begin a section and far too many cigarettes for my own good when I was writing it. However, sometimes, ideas would come to me thanks simply to my environment. For example I was writing a scene between Shelby and Stephen on a plane and there was a rather nosy little old lady sitting next to me who was reading over my shoulder as I typed. Pegging her as a bit of a Mary Whitehouse, I added some gratuitous sex for her benefit which, in turn, spurred a big reveal about Stephen that I had hitherto never thought of. We toned down the scene a little in story editing, but left the reveal in. Thank you Mary.

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

As I said, there is a great deal of information to be had that makes the dystopian world of The Last Circle a little more visceral than say “lizards taking over the planet and turning human beings into rather stylish clutch purses.” When I was first pitching it around, Rick Santorum was on the momentary upswing of his presidential bid. I was asked repeatedly if The Last Circle was fiction. It confirmed to me that I had something that genuinely scared people.

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

Douglas Adams had a phenomenal way of looking at the world and seeing the comic potential in the marvelous lunacy it generates. He gave it a science fiction setting and a beautifully dry narrative. I’ve yet to see it’s equal.

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?

Now that it’s published. I miss both Shelby and Laura particularly.  When you’re an actor, you make best friends with your characters even if, ordinarily, you’d nose dive into a volcano in order to avoid them. When the run of the play is over their absence is felt. This is no less true when writing. Outside of the search for more cash, series books are generated because the author simply doesn’t want to let a character go just yet. As the book was coming together, Shelby and Laura started to guide me rather than vice versa. I’d have to say it was Laura who was responsible for the outcome of The Last Circle, as I honestly did not know how the end was going to play out until her character started speaking to me. Anything else is between me and my therapist who’s still working on my banana smoking problem.   

Thanks for stopping by!

About The Last Circle

“If you will not be saved, there will be consequences.”
Based upon existing platforms and quotes from American Conservative political and church leaders, The Last Circle chronicles the rise to power of a United States Evangelical theocracy and the small group of Pagan and LGBT friends who must escape the country in order to survive.
The U.S. economy is plunged into depression allowing a charismatic preacher to seize control of the government as the leader of the Tea Party and ‘Revangelism’ movements. With the support of a starving nation, he engages in a gruesome, systematic program of religious and cultural cleansing.
Laura Salway is the leader of a devoted group of friends who maintain a precarious Wiccan Coven in Indianapolis. After publicly performing a Pagan ritual in protest of the new administration, they attempt to flee to the safety of Europe. In a cat and mouse chase through the Southern states, they are relentlessly pursued by Shelby Langman, the vitriolic director of the Bureau of Religious Protection, charged with keeping America safe from threats to Judeo-Christian values.
Their terrifying journey tests the limits of the Coven’s friendship and Laura must discover who among them is secretly tipping Shelby off.
Goodreads link:
For more information go to

To request a review copy, pictures or to make a comment, please email
or call 773-368-3782

Sunday, January 12, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: The Binding / Sam Dogra

Today, I'm happy to spotlight The Binding, Book 1 of the "Chronicles of Azaria" series by Sam Dogra.


What do you do when you can't trust your heart?

All seventeen year-old Eliza Bryant wants is to avoid a Binding— the ancient spell that forces couples into a lifelong bond. It cursed her sister, and for the last two years it’s tried to claim her, too. Her monthly hiding ritual worked brilliantly, until the night she ran into Ryan, a mysterious bounty-hunter. Now Bound to him, Eliza must spend every moment at his side, else she’ll transform into an Unbound; a lifeless husk without mind or soul.

Unfortunately, Ryan’s not looking to settle, and Eliza is dragged into his crazy life on the run. Still, she’s not going to take this lying down. Between grappling with the false feelings conjured by the spell and fleeing an unseen enemy, she plans to find a way to break her Binding; a feat nobody’s achieved in two thousand years. The key to her freedom lies closer than she thinks, and it’s deeply connected to Ryan’s past.


What an interesting concept, just seeing someone by chance and then provided the timing is right, you find yourself bound to them forever. Sounds a bit like a "love at first sight" only the two people have no choice in the matter due to a "Binding Curse." Eliza hoping to outwit the curse escaped into the forest only to be thwarted by a wild bear so was it fate or circumstance? I liked Eliza though I sometimes felt that honesty would have been the best policy. I did understand why she was reluctant to own up to the binding as she barely knew Ryan.
Ryan was actually a good guy and he seemed genuine though he was on the run himself and had secrets of his own that he was keeping from her. Desperate to hide the truth from her family, she flees her home with Ryan making up a sordid past for herself. A love triangle of sorts ensues when her childhood friend Adam finds out about the binding as he yearns for something more and sets out to find her.
When all the secrets have been revealed, will Eliza be able to distinguish how she really feels. If there is a chance that the curse can be reversed, who would Eliza pick if she was free to choose? Her childhood friend Adam that she shares a history with or Ryan who claims to love her now despite his binding to another. I can't wait to read the next book to find out more about this triangle and will true love eventually prevail? – Nereid, Amazon

4.5 Stars. This exciting tale for New Adult/Older YA crosses genres making it difficult to categorise in any one area. Set in another world it has elements of sci-fi, fantasy and a just touch of steampunk. The characters are magnetic and quickly draw you into this exciting world where curses and magic become real. This passionate tale becomes unstoppable leaving you devastated that the second instalment is yet to be published - not a cliff-hanger, just totally addictive writing. – Tracie, Goodreads

Awesome! Can't wait for the next one!!! – Molly Bonville, Goodreads

The Binding, by Sam Dogra, is an excellent read, with superb settings and characterisation. I really cared what happened to the main protagonist and the first person point of view, really helped me to become immersed in the story. Only one minor criticism. The, use of the word "to" instead of "at". For example: "Ryan looked to the moon", or "I looked to my lap". This jarred me a little, but apart from this nitpick, this is an almost perfect story and one readers of all ages will enjoy. Highly recommended. –Kate Jack, Amazon


Sam Dogra is a junior doctor working in the UK, and is currently training to become a General Practitioner. Between reviewing drug charts and X-rays, taking blood, saving lives and getting grilled by consultants, she also writes fantasy fiction and is a fantasy artist. She has co-written 'Fated: A Timeless Series Companion Novel' with author Lisa Wiedmeier, and has also published her first novel The Binding, and its sequel, The Parting, with a third book in progress.

She's widely traveled, and has enjoyed her visits to France, Germany, Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Rhodes, Turkey, Cyprus, Lesvos, India, Dubai, Australia, Canada and Idaho, Washington, New York, Seattle and Alaska, USA. Her other main interest is fantasy art.

In what little spare time she has, Sam also enjoys reading, baking, shopping, watching movies and anime, astrology, video games, collecting cuddly toy animals, and photography.