Saturday, February 27, 2016

Got Cookies?

Got cookies?
by Erica Lucke Deane

I know I’m supposed to talk about my new book, Suddenly Spellbound, but I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m under a totally different spell at the moment. The same spell that holds me captive every year. The cookie curse.

March is less than a week away, and for the third year in a row, I haven’t seen a single Girl Scout selling cookies. Oh, I know they’re out there. My friends have been kind enough to post selfies as they happily gorge themselves on Thin Mints and Samoas. And you’d have to be living in a cave to miss the memes showing the smiling crack peddlers selling their wares in front of medical marijuana shops. And yet in my neck of the woods, the Girl Scouts have gone underground like…like a groundhog hiding from a news crew.

I know my internal clock hasn’t reset itself. I’ve even seen the first signs of spring. The snow has melted. The daffodils are blooming. But the cookies are nowhere in sight. And me? I can’t ditch the unshakeable desperation for a line of Thin Mints, fresh from the freezer. And yes, I’m dying to do line after line until my breath has Cooper Maxwell’s permanent hint of mint.

I can almost hear the familiar crackle of the clear wrapping as I tear it open with my teeth, and the snap of the first cookie as I bite into the cool, minty goodness. Just the thought sends tingles to the tip of my fingers. Oh, how I long to rip open a brand new box. Be still my palpitating heart.

The cravings were so bad this afternoon, I jumped into my car and went trolling the streets for cookies. I checked the local shops, hoping to find a random Girl Scout I could stalk, I mean follow home, I mean…ask. Right. All I was going to do was ask if they can hook me up with my cookie fix. Or at least direct me to an addiction counselor. I knew I had a thing for chocolate, but since when does a picture of a cookie send a person into withdrawals? The addiction is real people…real, I tell you!

Okay, I seriously need to get a handle on this. I’ve done an internet search to see if they’re selling cookies in my area, and I’ve come up blank. I know I can order them from Amazon, but at ten dollars or more a box, I’d have to skip something else this month. Like groceries. Or my car payment.

Oops, my husband just hid my debit card until they take down the order option. He knows. And so do I. Really, you don’t have to say a thing. I can feel an intervention coming, and I haven’t even touched my first cookie.

It’s going to be a long spring.

Suddenly Spellbound
By Erica Lucke Dean
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Something witchy this way comes. 

Kindergarten-teacher-slash-sorceress Ivie McKie has officially sworn off magic. With her father back from the dead—just in time for her upcoming wedding to sexy former magician Jackson Blake—Ivie has plotted a course straight to happily-ever-after-ville. And she won’t let anything get in her way this time. 

But Daddy Dearest has something sneaky up his sleeve. When “just one more spell” goes horribly wrong and detours her into the path of her father’s dangerously hot new apprentice, Ivie has to scramble to get the magic… and her love life… back on track.  

Along the way, she encounters a promise made before she was born, a clan of Scottish sorcerers in kilts, and yet another goat.  

Suddenly Spellbound is a new madcap adventure featuring Ivie McKie from Suddenly Sorceress.   

Author Bio
After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost. 
When she's not busy writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens, diabolical ducks, and a quintet of piglets, hell bent on having her for dinner, she's either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub. Much like the main character in her first book, To Katie With Love, Erica is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces. 
How she's managed to survive this long is one of life's great mysteries. 

On Red Adept:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Every Kingdom Divided / Stephen Kozeniewski

TITLE: Every Kingdom Divided
AUTHOR: Stephen Kozeniewski
PUBLISHER: Mirror Matter Press


Science Fiction -- Dystopian


The year is 2035, and the once United States of America have fractured after the 2nd American Civil War. When Jack Pasternak, a doctor living in California, receives a distress call from his fiancee in Maryland, he knows he has to come to her aid. One problem: While California and Maryland are Blue States, the territory in between belongs to the enemy, Red America. Undaunted, Jack sets off on a cross-country trip and finds himself accompanied by an unlikely companion: the intrepid barista Haley, who, it turns out, is more than she appears to be. Further complicating matters, a third force, the Mexican Reconquista, is marching on Los Angeles. Jack soon finds himself at the heart of a vicious three-way war... and his actions may have more impact on the fate of the nation than he anticipated.

Every Kingdom Divided begins at the end: with Jack facing the business end of a firing squad. Having made it to Blue Pennsylvania, he's accused of being a traitor and a Red spy. But, in the style of Scheherazade, he's able to stall his execution by telling his story, revealing details of his journey bit by bit. Meanwhile, the enemy forces are closing in on the base... and Jack winds up in the thick of the situation. The book alternates between the "present" and the "past" in two parallel plot lines that eventually tie together in crucial ways.

Cynical and smart-mouthed, Jack is the type of character who smirks in the face of danger. He's joined by a colorful cast of supporting characters, each of whom crackles with his or her own style and wit. Also, a heroic cat who actually plays a critical role in the plot. Full of snappy dialogue, thrilling action, tight pacing, and unique worldbuilding, Every Kingdom Divided is easily binge-readable (and binge-read it I did). The gritty, dystopian world it takes place in feels raw, lived-in, and believable... Familiar enough that it all feels real sprinkled with low-key sci-fi technology that place in the not-so-distant future. I've read all of Kozeniewski's published full-length novels to date, and one of his greatest strengths as a writer is his dry sense of humor--it's what brings each of his stories to life and makes them fun and entertaining even as the characters face terrible circumstances.

But this book isn't all fun and games. Far from it. The fractured nation that once was the United States of America, with zealots and blind partisanship on both sides, is a scathing critique of today's political atmosphere and, to some extent, a cautionary tale. It's a dystopian satire that both mocks and reflects, with an intelligently written and well thought-out point-of-view lurking beneath the adventure-tale surface. I was seriously impressed by how this book managed to be both a fast-paced dystopian thrill-ride and a biting political commentary at the same time. Yet it's got hopeful undertones, and it all leads to an immensely satisfying ending.

Mr. Kozeniewski, I doff my sparkly sequined cap to you.


Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow. 

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Jersey City Writers' Genre Night: The Horror of Love

Mary SanGiovanni talks about writing horror
This past Wednesday was Jersey City Writers' first Genre Night of the year, and it was awesome! Mary SanGiovanni (author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel The Hollowers, which is said to have sparked the Slender Man urban legend). Just so happened it was also Women in Horror month. It's kismet!
Genre Night is a quarterly JCW event where local actors read flash fic and/or poetry by local writers, and this quarter's theme was The Horror of Love... Basically, a romance/horror mashup. The "love" part was because of Valentine's Day, and the horror part was because our guest speaker was horror author extraordinaire

Mary kicked things off with a reading from her novella, For Emmy, a chilling story about people who go missing, then talked about the horror genre. Now, I'm terrified of horror, which is partly why it fascinates me so (I don't read as much of it as I should.... mostly because AHHH SCARY). But I found something Mary said very interesting: that incorporating love into horror stories is what makes them really hit home. Because when you care about the characters (and the characters care about each other), the terrifying things that happen to them feel more real.

Then came the readings! Here's Adriana reading my flash fic, "Drops of Red" (the text of which will be posted on the Jersey City Writers website):

And here are pics of the other readers. They all did an amazing jobs, and the stories were really chilling (they'll all be posted onto the JCW website) in their own ways. By the time we were done, I was all shudder-y.  

Jack Halpin reading "Little Thing" by S. Nick Stone 

Hunt Ethridge reading "The Things You Do for Love" by David Boyle

Michael Lord reading "Ty" by Bradley Donaldson

Lexie Levin reading "OrganCorps" by Sarah Jewell

Kit Vogelsang reading "The Royal Wedding" by Meg Fuller
R.R. Poy reading "The Photograph" by E.M. Kobrin

Elena Zazanis reading "Love's Gaze" by Will Shadbolt

Monday, February 15, 2016

GIVEAWAY!!! Let's celebrate STEM girls!

Hey y'all! Paige Daniels and I are taking to social media to shine a spotlight on female scientists and engineers and mathematicians everywhere, and we're giving away some awesome stuff to do it!

To enter the giveaway, share a pic of your favorite female engineer/scientist/etc. on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hashtag #‎goSTEMgirls. It can be someone famous or an unsung heroine -- a teacher, friend, family member, etc. Here are the prizes...

GRAND PRIZE: a Raspberry Pi, a "Girls can't WHAT?" sticker, and a Brave New Girls paperback, bookmark, and postcard.

2nd PRIZE: a Kaylee (from Firefly!) Funko Pop figurine, a "Girls can't WHAT?" sticker, and a Brave New Girls paperback, bookmark, and postcard.

3rd PRIZE: A "Girls can't WHAT?" sticker and a Brave New Girls paperback, bookmark, postcard, and calendar (featuring illustrations from the book).

4th & 5th PRIZE: A "Girls can't WHAT?" sticker and a Brave New Girls e-book, bookmark, and postcard.

Giveaway runs from today, 2/15, through 2/29, and you can enter up to 3 times a day. Let's fill Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with pictures of awesome ladies who science!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My issues with the whole "cool girl" thing

Hi everyone! My name is Mary, and I'm a girl. *waves* Here are some things I like:

  • Make-up. Especially lipstick. Pretty, cherry red or rose pink or vibrant coral lipstick.
  • Retro A-line skirts that could have been plucked from Mad Men (the Mad Men-ier, the better)
  • Purple and pink. They are awesome colors.
  • Chick flicks. They make me laugh.
  • Romance novels. They make me swoon.
  • Lace and flower patterns. Preeeeetttyyyyyy...
  • High heels. They make me feel fabulous.
  • Tea and tea cups and tea sets and all things tea. They are adorable.
  • Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and a whole squad of fun pop music
  • Disney princesses. Mulan's the best, of course, but Ariel's my secret favorite, thanks to a childhood of watching her movie on loop. Whatever you say about her changing her whole self for a guy, she was doing it because she wanted to. Let the girl have her legs.
  • Lots of other wonderful, frilly, totally girly things
Here are some other things I like:
  • Star Wars. Seriously, I'm obsessed. I'm the girl carries her R2-D2 backpack around whenever she's not at the office. I'm the girl who knows more quotes from the Jedi than from the Presidents of the United States. But you already knew that.
  • All sci-fi, actually. I don't just obsess over it; I write it. And fantasy (which Star Wars arguably is... see, I'm nerd enough that I know that). Give me kings and elves and magic wands and secret portals any day.
  • Comics, superhero movies, and superhero TV shows (Marvel all the way!! Though Superman will always hold a special place in my heart). So different, yet too interrelated to divide into different bullet points... I've already spread this nerd thing over three.
  • Action movies and thriller novels. Bang, bang, kaboom--get the bad guys!!!
  • Beer. Cognac. Whiskey... especially Scotch. Neat, please. Rocks just dilutes the awesomeness. And Maotai, which is deadlier than those three combined... and so, so delicious. Also, while craft beer is obviously the best, I'm not above chugging the cheap stuff.
  • Chili dogs. You can never have just one.
  • Steak. The rarer, the better.
  • Burgers. Also rare, though give me enough ketchup, and I'll eat any kind. Okay, now I've just spent three bullets on food... and made myself extraordinarily hungry.
  • Rock music. Both modern alt rock and classic rock. Rock on.
  • Dirty jokes. What??? They're funny! And I'm not above making crude comments.
  • Cursing. I hold back a lot because I take no pleasure in making people uncomfortable for no reason (especially since I never know who'll see the stuff I post online), but I'm seriously foul-mouthed.
  • Lots of other stuff that would put me in that much-maligned "cool girl" territory
The whole "cool girl" thing goes beyond Gillian Flynn's iconic passage in Gone Girl. It's seeped into comedy and criticisms on many fronts. And it bothers me because it feels like another way to pit women against women. When someone implies that a female can only like things such as beer and Star Wars because she's seeking male attention, that drives me nuts. Because Jedi with sabers and bright, hoppy flavors are two of my favorite things because I like them. And when I'm taking a swig of my Guinness while watching Empire Strikes Back, I really don't care what some guy thinks. Every time I see a rant against the "cool girl", which very often mentions sci-fi, I want to scream, "But Star Wars is my favorite movie!! And who says sci-fi's just for guys???"

At the same time, I get the sense that the whole thing was a way of criticizing the super girly-girls who seemed superficial due to their love of pretty things. The after-effects of the "glitter canon" that targets little girls with dolls in pretty dresses and further shoehorns them into a rigid kind of femininity. No doubt there are those who have felt trapped by such expectations... told to wear a dress with a pink bow and play house when really, they want to scrape their knees in jean shorts and climb trees. But neither is more genuine than the other. And they're not mutually exclusive... I was the girl who pranced around in her poofy, sparkly, totally amazing pink princess gown in the morning, then changed into shorts, built a fort out of branches, and came home with bloody scrapes in the afternoon. Today, I'm the girl in the bright purple coat. With a bow.

"Not like other girls" has become something of a trope these days, and it makes me cringe. It's implying that you have to reject a certain kind of femininity to be likable, desirable. It also implies that the aesthetic you're trading the lipstick and heels for is not femininity, and that is just false. Women are not a single, definable mass.

Sexism is very real and very harmful to women of all kinds, and it's doing women no favors to push them toward one extreme while harshly condemning the other. So please, next time you're criticizing misogyny (which you absolutely should!), try not to stereotype any kind of woman in your opinion piece. Because for those of us with varied tastes, it's not fair to make us pick a side. 

Monday, February 1, 2016


An interview with Nihar Suthar, author of The Corridor of Uncertainty.

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

Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me onto Zigzag Timeline. I’m excited and honored to be here. I am a pretty young author - 20 years old and just graduated from Cornell University in New York. I majored in Applied Economics and Management. As you can imagine, I don’t exactly have any formal training in writing.

However, anybody can uniquely and creatively express themselves through writing. That is exactly what I have done. I make it a point to express my positivity through my writing. All of my work has to do with some sort of true, motivational story.

I’ve written two books so far. My first book was Win No Matter What, released in May 2013. It’s a compilation of short, inspirational stories with messages on how we can improve our mood, attitude, and perception of others.

The second book, which I’m most excited about, is titled The Corridor of Uncertainty. It actually just came out today (February 1)! That book is about the miraculous rise of the Afghan cricket team against the Taliban.

What got you into writing?

Strangely enough, I never envisioned myself being a writer. When I was going through high school, I hated both writing and reading! The story for me becoming a writer has to do with a few experiences I had, though. I originally come from a very small town in Pennsylvania. As a result, when I went to New York for my first year of college, I was SHOCKED. Culturally, emotionally, and just about any other type of shock one could have. It was a huge change for me, coming from a small town to suddenly being in the middle of all the action. In my first year of New York life, there were two observations I ultimately made:

1.     There is a ridiculous amount of negative information in the world! I don’t think I ever heard more than one positive piece of news per day while in my first year of college.
2.     Everybody in New York has a unique way of expressing themselves. I needed to find a unique way to express myself as well.

I have no idea what happened or why I did it, but one day after class, I just sat down at a computer and wrote out a few motivational stories. It was my way of expressing myself and increasing the amount of positive information in the world. Since that point, I’ve fallen in love with writing – and I hope to be an author for quite some time J.

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

The first idea I had for my newly released book, The Corridor of Uncertainty, was just wanting to write something that was different. I wanted to write something inspirational that also broke down countless boundaries. I found the perfect idea one day without even consciously searching for it. In January 2014, when my family was on holiday in Australia, I saw a short article in the local newspaper (I have no idea what the name of it was now) about the Afghan cricket team. My first question (as many other people also now ask me) was, “Afghanistan has a cricket team?!”

I looked more into the story and found out that it was perfect. I could write about religion, politics, cricket, and the Middle East area – all topics that many people in today’s world are not completely comfortable talking about.

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

My favorite character in The Corridor of Uncertainty is by far Karim Sadiq Khan. He becomes one of the star cricket players on the Afghan cricket team after growing up in a refugee camp. He’s the best though because he always cracks jokes. No matter what the situation is, he’s always lighthearted. He also loves bragging about his muscles. I relate most to him because I like to think that I am also lighthearted and make good jokes (though some people may not agree…haha!).

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

My favorite scene from The Corridor of Uncertainty is when the Afghan cricket team finally qualifies for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. It’s just incredible to see the impact that a sport has on the entire country of Afghanistan. When the Afghan cricket players come back home to celebrate their qualification for the World Cup, thousands of fans came to congratulate them. Even members of the Taliban are happy. It is the only day where there is no violence in all of Afghanistan.

It’s as if cricket mended the entire country from all its troubles (hence the “how cricket mended a torn nation” subtitle in my book).

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

My favorite part of writing is most definitely adding the detailed descriptions of scenes and characters. I just think it requires so much creativity, and it really makes me think out of the box. It’s always nice to do that. I don’t think most people get enough of a chance to do it on a daily basis.

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

It depends on the book. I wrote Win No Matter What in less than six months, but writing The Corridor of Uncertainty took me about two years. This is because The Corridor of Uncertainty required a lot of research. I even studied Pashto, a language spoken in Afghanistan, to write that book. Generally, if there is a lot of research required, it will probably take longer to write that book.

I do have a writing process (with just a little bit of winging). In my first pass of writing, I just get all the content down without worrying about grammar or anything. Once I am satisfied with all the content, then I go back for several rounds of editing and revising. Finally, I give my work to a professional editor to read.

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

As I mentioned, I just don’t think there is enough positive information in the world. What most appeals to me about inspirational books is that I can literally change the lives of people around me. Many readers of my books have told me that I impacted their life in a positive way. That keeps me going J.

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

I can’t point to one specific writer – every writer I have run across has been motivational to me in some way!

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?

Every author surprises himself or herself in some way while writing. I definitely have surprised myself a lot while writing. I dream up scenes and ideas that I never even knew I could dream up. For example, in The Corridor of Uncertainty, I thought it would be vital to include some sort of main female character. I couldn’t think of how to incorporate a female character into a story about an all-male cricket team. However, then it hit me. I could focus on one of the cricket players’s mother and how she inspired him in tough situations! I made Hamid Hassan’s mother a very inspirational character in the book.

Thanks for stopping by!


In 1979, Afghanistan erupted into one of the most brutal civil wars ever. The fighting lasted almost a decade, throwing the country into a period of political instability, harsh leadership, and extreme danger. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died, and millions relocated to refugee camps. The rest of the world began to believe that violence would always define Afghans. 

However, deep in the refugee camps of Pakistan, displaced native Afghan children had a dream to unite their country once again with peace. The solution was disguised in the game of cricket. These children began to learn cricket, and persevered against the danger, criticism, and unrest to create the first-ever Afghan national cricket team. With unrivaled access to the team and players during the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Nihar Suthar tells the story of their inspiring journey to change Afghanistan in one of the most under-told, heart-warming sports stories of all time.


Nihar Suthar is an award-winning writer, covering inspirational stories around the world. Believe it or not, he
stumbled upon writing completely by accident after moving to New York City for the very first time (at the young age of 17). While in the Big Apple, Nihar noticed that there were thousands of people missing out on the greatness of everyday life, due to the very fast paced lifestyles they lived.

As a result of his observations, he had a big idea to inspire people around the globe by writing a book (which was strange, because he always hated reading books. Why would he ever write one?). With the support of his family and friends though, Nihar ended up debuting his first international book, Win No Matter What, with Balboa Press in May 2013. 

Since then, Nihar's work has taken him to both distant parts of the globe and down strange alleyways. For his 2016 release, The Corridor of Uncertainty, Nihar traveled to the United Arab Emirates and received threats from the Taliban, as he sought to chronicle the miraculous story of the Afghan cricket team. To deepen his understanding of the Middle East region, Nihar also studied Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan.
Nihar currently calls Boston home, and is constantly on the prowl for fresh, inspiring stories to document.

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