Monday, June 29, 2015

Accuracy versus Readability

Accuracy versus Readability

Author of Havoc Rising

When I began to write, one of the things I felt I needed to do was write combat scenes as realistic as possible. I’m not saying I wanted to write a forty-five second close quarter combat scene the same way Tom Clancy does—as a painfully detailed 10-page sequence. I just wanted to convey the fact that most CQBs, and indeed most combat situations, resolve themselves very quickly in real life and that was how I wanted to portray them. In fact, most real-life gun battles are over so quickly and often so lopsided that they would make horrible fodder for film let alone books.

When I began to write the combat sequences for Havoc Rising, I tried to describe them as authentically as I could, running through the sequence of events in my head and on paper. What I discovered is that a straightforward description of the event is actually boring--even if it’s a harrowing thirty seconds—and there’s most always too much jargon to make the text read easily. The flow gets totally bogged down. Then there’s the whole issue with a quick and dirty battle being uninteresting and, apparently, unbelievable. Thanks Hollywood. I was told I needed to be meaner to my hero and put him in more dire situations. My first reaction to that statement was bewilderment. Any close quarter combat situation is going to be dire. In fact, the longer it draws out, the more likely it will end badly for the attacking party. But I understood what was being said. Real life is one thing, but fiction, particularly Urban Fantasy, is something entirely different. After all, my hero is a 3200 year old warlord from the Trojan War, so what’s the big deal with authentic accuracy?

The other thing I learned is that accurately writing things like communications via com-links REALLY slows things down. The actual sequence of communications between operators on a team is often highly redundant and flush with jargon. I had to cut my dialog greatly to keep things moving in these situations. Again, I had to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of readability. It completely makes sense though and I now know why most writers who include such things in their books write them they way they do.

So for those readers out there who are as anal as I am, please forgive me. Trust me when I tell you that writing things exactly as they happen often is more detrimental than the accuracy is beneficial. In the end, the story needs to read well or all the exact descriptions in the world won’t save it. So when you read Havoc Rising, just remember that everything is written as accurately as I could make it while still moving things along at a good pace. It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make and hopefully you’ll agree.

Title: Havoc Rising
Author: Brian S. Leon
Publication Date: June 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Eternal life. Eternal battle.
Steve—Diomedes Tydides to his Trojan War buddies—just had a bad day on his charter fishing boat in San Diego, but when the goddess Athena calls on her faithful warrior for another secret mission, he’s ready. The bomb that exploded inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn’t the crime American authorities think it is. Someone also stole the Cup of Jamshid, and Diomedes knows its fortune-telling abilities won’t be used for anything benign.
Though Diomedes recovers the Cup from a determined shaman holed up beneath Central Park, when he finds his allies slain and the Cup taken once more, he knows he’s up against a truly powerful enemy. Over a millennium has passed since Diomedes last contended with Medea of Colchis, deranged wife of Jason the Argonaut, but neither her madness nor her devotion to Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, has waned, and she intends to use the Cup of Jamshid to release across the world a dark brand of chaos unseen in human history.
Immortal since the Trojan War, Diomedes must once again fight for mortals he understands less and less, against a divine evil he may never truly defeat.

Brian S. Leon is truly a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. He began writing in order to do something with all the useless degrees, knowledge and skills--most of which have no practical application in civilized society--he accumulated over the years.
His varied interests include, most notably, mythology of all kinds and fishing, and he has spent time in jungles and museums all over the world studying and oceans and seas across the globe chasing fish, sometimes even catching them. He has also spent time in various locations around the world doing other things that may or may not have ever happened.
Inspired by stories of classical masters like Homer and Jules Verne, as well as modern writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, David Morrell and Jim Butcher, combined with an inordinate amount of free time, Mr. Leon finally decided to come up with tales of his own.
Brian currently resides in San Diego, California.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Blood in the Water / Tash McAdam

Look everyone! Tash McAdam has a brand new novella coming out! I'm lucky enough to have an advance copy in my paws... review coming soon! Meanwhile, here's the cover:

There have always been warps—tears between realities—and they’ve always been a threat to humanity. Most people are blind to them. But Hallie’s eyes are opening. Now that she’s going to school at the Protectorate, she’s learning there’s more to life than fun and games.

The truth is, she’s just become part of Earth’s only shield against the monsters of the warps. Before, she didn’t think she was anything special. Now, yanked from her relatively normal life, she realizes that she doesn’t have a choice.

When the emergency alarm sounds, calling everyone in the school to arms, even the young and inexperienced are needed. As one of the warp weavers—capable of closing the warps and stopping the monsters—Hallie must now work to save lives. And she must do it in the most complicated situation she’s ever experienced. Because there are sea serpents in the Thames, and Hallie has to close the doors that are letting them in.

The problem is, they’re underwater, and they’re hungry.

Now everyone is relying on her, and Hallie must find a way to do her job—with a brand new partner—before it’s too late. Because if she fails she’ll die, along with everyone who’s depending on her.

Don't miss this prequel to Tash McAdam's new series, Warp Weavers, coming in 2016.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Casting Choices

Casting Choices

Author of The Dragonkin Trilogy

A while back, author Mary Fan introduced me to one of the best possible uses for a writer’s time: speculating on who should play your book characters in a TV or film adaptation. This seems at first like a lighthearted pastime, the creative equivalent of junk food, but for me, it very quickly turned into something else. After all, these are my characters! They’re part of me. They matter. They can’t be played by just anybody, right?
            Well, I had a hard time selecting my dream-choices for some of the roles (Rowen Locke, for example) but others came to me almost immediately. I’d absolutely love to see Ron Perlman play Fadarah. And I’d pay a small fortune to see Steve Buscemi play the Nightmare, or Patrick Stewart or Lance Henriksen play El’rash’lin. But literally the first choice that I thought of was Elizabeth Olsen for Silwren.
            Silwren is a complex character—quiet, but roiling with inner turmoil—and if you’ve ever seen Martha Marcy May Marlene, you know that Elizabeth Olsen is one of those actresses who can speak volumes just by sitting there. Watching her, one gets the feeling that at any moment, she might burst into tears, laughter, or flames.
And that’s how Silwren is. It’s already well-established from Wytchfire that when Silwren loses her cool, people die. A lot of people. So her existence and sanity, plus the survival of her friends, depends on her maintaining rigid self-control that usually manifests as inaction. Then again, Silwren understands that eventually, that same kind of inaction will prove just as fatal—to her, to everyone.

So, yeah. If anybody has Elizabeth Olsen’s number, let me know.    

Title: Wytchfire (Bk 1)
Series: Dragonkin Trilogy
Author: Michael Meyerhofer
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: April 28, 2014
Genre: High Fantasy

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been many things: orphan, gravedigger,
mercenary. All he ever wanted was to become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of grown horrors his childhood knows all too well. But that dream crumbled—replaced by a new nightmare.
War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge, steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side he’s on.

Title: Knightswrath (Bk 2)
Series: Dragonkin Trilogy
Author: Michael Meyerhofer
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Genre: High Fantasy

Rowen Locke has achieved his dream of becoming a Knight of the Crane, and he now bears Knightswrath, the midnight duel that teaches Rowen a dangerous lesson and leaves him with a new companion of uncertain loyalties.

legendary sword of Fâyu Jinn. But the land remains torn, and though Rowen suffers doubts, he would see it healed. His knightly order is not what it seems, though, and allies remain thin. When Rowen and his friends seek an alliance with the forest-dwelling Sylvs, a tangle of events results in a 

The sadistic Dhargots still threaten the kingdoms, but another menace lurks in the shadows, playing a game none can see. As Rowen struggles to prove his worth—to his allies and to himself—chaos raises its hand to strike. A price must be paid, and not even the wielder of Knightswrath will remain untouched.

Michael Meyerhofer grew up in Iowa where he learned to cope with the unbridled excitement of the Midwest byStar Trek, weight lifting, and collecting medieval weapons. He is also addicted to caffeine and the History Channel.
reading books and not getting his hopes up. Probably due to his father’s influence, he developed a fondness for 
His fourth poetry book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was recently published by Split Lip Press. He also serves as the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His poetry and prose have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Brevity, Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and many other journals. He and his fiancee currently live in Fresno, California, in a little house beside a very large cactus.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

So, you're writing a book. What's it about?

All righty, so you've decided to write a book. What's it about? What's it really about?

It's a question a beta reader asked on the first draft of my first book, Artificial Absolutes, and it's a tougher question than I thought it'd be. At first, I was like, "What do you mean? It's about a young woman in search of a killer. In space." Then, I thought about it some more and was like, "Well, actually it's about her saving the people she loves, so I guess it's about loyalty." But the beta pressed on, pointing out that a story about loyalty alone, while nice, wasn't very compelling.

And therein lay the problem with my first draft. It had a lot of plot, but it wasn't about anything.

Of course, there are plenty of books out there that could fit that description - some of which may even be pretty popular. But I can't think of any off the top of my head, because the books that stuck with me, the ones I remember despite years having passed since I last glanced at them, are the ones that went beyond the plot alone.

Brave New World is about conformity and complacency. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about misogyny - and combating it. Harry Potter is about the triumph of good over evil, and about being something greater than yourself. And Artificial Absolutes, well, turned out, it was about more than spaceships and loyalty after all. I just didn't realize it at the time.

It's these greater "abouts" that really bring a story to life, that make a reader really care about the characters and what happens to them. And I think pretty much every writer who finishes a novel has one imbued in their words, whether they know it or not. Sometimes, it's neglected and buried, which is why a book may not feel like it's truly about anything. But a book written with passion is unavoidably a reflection of the author's soul. And writers write because they have something to say.

So what's Artificial Absolutes about? Took me a while to realize it, but ultimately, it's about control - specifically, the parent/child variety. There's a domineering father with two children - both of whom go through periods of obedience and rebellion, but neither of whom can ever shake his influence, even when he's no longer around to command them. And then there's a parallel with artificial intelligence - the programmer, who hopes a sentient machine will nonetheless obey. More than one programmer, actually, but to delve in further would be to spoil the damn thing.

In a more broader sense, it's about independence - breaking the boundaries put in place by society or the law or by one's own sense of "should" or "should not". It's about free will.

Though it's been years since I wrote Artificial Absolutes, these thoughts are occurring now because I'm plotting a new project, and I kept hitting walls. I knew I wanted to do a contemporary fantasy, and I knew what I wanted to happen, but somehow, all my plotting and brainstorming felt flat. Then I realized: The book wasn't about anything. Just a sequence of events and a few colorful characters... but what was the point of it all? What about it would stay after the last page is read?

I'm still working it out, and I know the "about" is in there, probably embedded by my subconscious. I just need to dig a little deeper, bring it to the surface, make it work.

I didn't run into this issue with the last few books I plotted, so for a moment I wondered if they were were actually about anything. And then I realized that, yeah, they are, even if I didn't realize it. The Flynn Nightsider books (and companion Firedragon novellas) are, again, about independence. Freedom, defiance of authority, self-reliance. The Fated Stars stories are about the classic theme of good versus evil, and about transcending one's fate. 

So what about you? What's your story really about? 

Saturday, June 20, 2015


An interview with Thom Young, co-author of Fallen.


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

I decided to really start writing books and trying to get my stories published about ten years ago, although I had written many things like poetry and short stories as a kid.  I published a novella called Laredo Down on Kindle and did pretty good then after that I had several of my novels hit #1 Kindle Free in various categories. I use a publisher today out of Houston, TX that specializes in poetry chapbooks and has done some limited edition copies of my novels.

What got you into writing?

I don’t think that I ever got into writing although as I mentioned I tried to get things published about ten years ago. Well as most writers know, things aren’t that easy and soon my mailbox was filling up with rejection slips but I kept writing and a story of mine finally got accepted in a small literary magazine five years later. It was a big deal at the time and then things picked up from there with my work appearing in various publications like 3am Magazine, Word Riot, and the outstanding poetry broadside publisher 48th Street Press.

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

I knew that I wanted to write a murder mystery and at that time I was really into movies that the viewer could interpret for themselves like a David Lynch film.  I wanted to try that with a novella and that’s how my story Laredo Down came together. At that time the Kindle didn’t even exist but I held onto my story and published it myself five years later and the response was very positive. Basically, being a Texan I wanted to write a story about something taking place there and I tossed in Mexico as well so that’s how it started.

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

With my new book Fallen (The Fallen Saga, Book 1) my favorite would be the main character Julie Anderson. She is the self loathing teenager that one might call a ‘drama queen’.  She smokes cigarettes and drinks too much coffee and thinks her life is horrible although it really is pretty good, well until she meets the fallen angel Nick Landers. Julie wears black and mainly ignores her parents the kind of thing you would think most teens that listen to The Smiths or The Cure would do.

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

I think when the main character Julie Anderson realizes that one of the fallen angels Tyler Garrett can shapeshift into a crow.  That’s something I always wanted to add in one of my books and trying a paranormal romance I thought you have to throw in some shape shifting.  I didn’t realize this was a big deal until I researched it and there were all these books on men turning into lions that were number one on Amazon and I thought really?

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

Most of my work is more dialogue based but I never really have a set plan although I have an idea that comes together as I start writing.  I sometimes love writing the ending first that would probably be my favorite but most importantly to me is to know when to get away from writing.

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

I use to churn out stories and books like a factory and an editor once asked if I was more than one person because I submitted so much to him.  Now I take my time and I rarely use a writing process although I kind of have an idea of what I want and go from there.

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

I have written in numerous genres like horror, comedy, western, and noir type things.  On the new one Fallen I had the opportunity to work with a talented UK writer Emily Clarke. I had never done a paranormal romance and she was a big help for me because honestly I always thought that genre was hokey and now after writing one myself I have much respect for the authors that write paranormal romance because for me it was the most difficult one to write.

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

I think as a writer you need to be an avid reader and there so many that I enjoy but my favorites are Charles Bukowski and Hesse.  I also like Hubert Selby and John and Dan Fante.

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?

I think so because my writing is never planned and for me it works like taking an idea and then seeing where it goes.  Thanks for the interview.

Thanks for stopping by!

Fallen takes the reader into the world of fallen angels and their desire for earthly women and
forbidden love.  Julie Anderson never wanted to leave her life and friends behind in Connecticut, but when her father gets a new job in Texas she discovers her destiny. When she meets the devilishly fallen angel, Nick Landers, her life begins to unravel. Julie finds that despite all her problems she can always count on her best friend Stephanie.They spend time talking about fashion, school gossip, and of course their crushes.  Julie falls for the mysterious Nick Landers while Stephanie loves the cute new boy Tyler Garrett.  Fallen is something you can get lost in but also relate to because above all it's about love.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the Diary of a Jaded Juggler

Author of The Admirer’s SecretA Fatal Affair, and A Secondhand Life

I became a professional juggler almost five years ago to the day. I didn’t practice with oranges or flame-throwers. I bolted out of the gate juggling babies.
            No, I’m not into child abuse. I’m metaphorically referring to the juggling act that took over my life since my first daughter was born. Three kids and a pregnancy later, I’m expecting my fourth child in almost as many years, and every morning I wake up wondering how the heck I’m going to finish my next book.

Pamela Crane

            My life isn’t average, you see. I’m a writer, and as fellow writers know, we are anything but normal. Always crafting a story, thinking of ways to market, conjuring characters… We’re an eccentric bunch. But with pregnancy hormones, dirty diapers, meals to prepare, and constant cleaning, writing can easily slip into a past-time that becomes just that—the past.
            The Admirer’s Secret, my first romantic suspense book, was started BC—Before Children. So writing it came easily, and since writing it was a form of therapy after enduring a traumatic experience (for the juicy details pick up a copy of the book), the words couldn’t come fast enough and the emotions poured on to the paper.
            After that, writing went downhill as baby #2 arrived, then #3 on the heels of that one, and now I’m expecting baby #4. And yes, I’ve finally figured out what causes it and know not to drink the water anymore. On top of the kids, I am a full-time work-at-home editor, so kids + job = no sleep. Ever.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent or career person or both (like me) who writes, the big dilemma becomes how and when to find time to write. You may know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that after a day of plugging my ears to the incessant whining of my four-year-old, and refereeing toddler wars between the other two (and often laughing at their hilarity as my two-year-old and eighteen-month-old squabble in unintelligible arguments over a broken toy), the last thing I feel after putting the kids to bed is motivated or inspired. But if I ever want to quit my other job and pursue my writing passion, the words have to come.
            So how do I make them fall into place on paper?
            First, you need support. And by support I mean a babysitter or spouse or family member or nanny willing to take the kids off you once in a while so that you can focus.  For me, I can’t craft meaningful prose without quiet alone time. My husband—a Godsend—gives me what we’ve coined “writing retreats.” This involves me getting away for several consecutive days so that I can write. My second book, the novella A Fatal Affair, evolved completely from one such writing retreat.
            Another method to avoid madness is giving yourself writing goals. For me I could never pump out 5,000 words in a day, but small goals worked. One chapter. One scene. Even one paragraph. Just something to keep me going each day or each week. Setting goals that you aren’t allowed to break (just because you’re the boss) can help keep your writing mojo going.
            Lastly, write something, anything. Some writers blog. Some writers engage in poetry. Some writers dabble with words. Even if it’s not your story, at least commit to writing regularly. As I was working on my third book, A Secondhand Life, much of the story came together from little notes I’d write in the middle of the night, or a dream I jotted down. It’s sometimes during those insane moments of chasing a diaper-less one-year-old as she’s peeing all over the floor, or prying chewed-up crayon pieces out of your toddler’s mouth, when a thought will hit you. That’s when you hit the pause button to grasp whatever that thought is and toss it in your notebook.
            It’s not easy being a parent, especially when you’re a juggler with work deadlines and a house to keep “clean”—term used loosely. But when you’re an aspiring writer on top of that, don’t let your aspirations die simply for a lack of time and energy. Find a way to make it happen. It’s not easy, and it’s not going to produce your best prose at first, but the more you put your heart into it and find slivers of time here and there, the more you’ll come out with something powerful and provocative and engaging.
            Consider it therapy. Lord knows how much we jugglers need it.

A Secondhand Life synopsis:

In a freak collision when she was twelve, Mia Germaine faced death and the loss of her father. A heart transplant from a young murder victim saved her life, but not without a price. Twenty years later, chilling nightmares about an unresolved homicide begin to plague Mia. Compelled by these lost memories, she forms a complicated connection to the victim—the girl killed the night of Mia’s accident—due to a scientific phenomenon called “organ memory.”

Now suffocating beneath the weight of avenging a dead girl and catching a serial killer on the loose dubbed the “Triangle Terror,” Mia must dodge her own demons while unimaginable truths torment her—along with a killer set on making her his next victim.

As Mia tries to determine if her dreams are clues or disturbing phantasms, uninvited specters lead her further into danger’s path, costing her the one person who can save her from herself. More than a page-turning thriller, A Secondhand Life weaves a tale of second chances and reclaimed dreams as this taut, refreshing story ensnares and penetrates you.

About the Author:

Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the best-selling suspense novel The Admirer’s Secret, A Fatal Affair, and A Secondhand Life. Along with being a wife and mom of three rug rats with another on the way, she is a wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one.

She’s a member of the ITW, ACFW, and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a literary reviewer and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of more good story material. Grab a FREE BOOK on her website at