About Author

J. W. Zarek

J. W. Zarek

J.W. helps catch naughty folk for the Government. He's taught English Conversation in Japan and can analyze anyone's handwriting. He's sailed through the Suez Canal twice and hunted pirates in the Persian Gulf. He's climbed to the top of Mount Fuji, been kicked off Mount Rainier, and he's successfully run in the Walt Disney World Marathon as a woman.

When he worked at the FBI, his thesis on Red Flag Behaviors Found in Relationships, earned him an invitation to present a paper at the First Annual Forensics Congress in China, which led him to write his award-winning book Naughty or Nice - Whose List Are You On? available as a handout during lectures.

He co-authored the bestselling book, The Happiness Code with Ray Brehm, and other authors, who all share their personal happiness hacks you can use too.

And His latest book, The Devil Pulls the Strings as seen on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Tickler News Live, and the NY Post, received the Firebird Award, the Literary Titan Award, the International Review of Books Badge of Achievement, multiple Chanticleer's Short and Long Lists.

This book received 5-Star Book Reviews from Book Viral, Clarion, Chanticleer, Literary Titan, readers on Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, Onlinebookclub.com, Reader's Favorite, and listeners on Audible.com.

And the book's cinematic trailer selected to move forward in the American Golden Picture International Film Festival competition.

J. W. Zarek's Books

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(1) $0.99 kindle Free with KUeBook, Paperback, Audio,
The Devil Pulls the Stringsby J.W. ZarekPublish: Sep 15, 2021Fantasy
The Happiness Code: How Small Habits Will Change Your Life Starting Today (Self Help Success Book 2)
$0.99 kindleeBook,

J. W. Zarek Interview On 19, May 2022

"J. W. Zarek grew up in New York City. He was a voracious reader as a child and consumed whatever content he found. He writes epic fantasy adventures filled with time travel, twisted history, and haunted heroes. He co-authored the bestselling book, The Happiness Code with Ray Brehm, and other authors."
Tell us a little about your hometown and life growing up?

I’m originally from my mother, and grew up in New York City, in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. Mom did her best to raise my sister, two brothers, and me, but I was handful, kicked out of multiple schools, before I joined the Navy and turned my life around.

Do you remember the first story you put to paper when you were in high school?

I was the new kid in a new school, and I walked into my assigned English class, and the teacher, Mr. Massetti, was upset that most of the class failed last week’s test.
“I can’t believe no one did well on last week’s test. Okay, you all read Macbeth by Shakespeare last year. I want you all to write a paper about Lady Macbeth and what you think she did or did not do and turn it in before class ends. Okay go, and you better not disappoint me.” Then he sat down and read the NY Times.
My throat tight, my swallow stuck. I didn’t read Macbeth last year, and I never read Shakespeare. I leaned over to the guy in the chair to my left, “Who’s Lady Macbeth, and what’s Macbeth about?” I whisper.
“Lady Macbeth convinced her husband Macbeth to kill the king, and then felt guilty after, and killed herself.” he whispers back.
“Okay, thanks.”
I finished my paper and turned it in, and in the next class, Mr. Massetti, said “It’s good to know most of you know your Shakespeare, but two of you know Shakespeare better than anyone else, and they’re going to read their paper in front of class.
Mr. Massetti called up a student near the front and he read his paper, and it was pretty good because he wrote as if he was Lady Macbeth’s attorney, defending her in court. He finished and sat down.
“I gave his paper an A,” and then Mr. Massetti called my name.
“I-I don’t want to read it, blurts out of my mouth.
“I’ll fail you if you don’t,” the tone in his voice sharp.
I shuffle up to the front of the class and read my paper written like a play, explaining I’m Lady Macbeth’s criminal psychologist at Rikers Island Prison Facility treating Lady Macbeth.
As the play progressed, Lady Macbeth’s condition worsened, and she took her own life. And during her funeral on a hill, beneath a grey canvas sky. The priest spoke of Lady Macbeth, hell, damnation, possible salvation, and the clouds spew rain, and I questioned if the treatment I provided helped. My mind stuck on one thought, one question, one possibility – Was Lady Macbeth finally at peace?
Then a pause in the rain, and break in the clouds, and a sliver of sunlight told me this was so.
I sucked in a mouthful of air, and a side glance toward Mr. Massetti.
“I gave that paper the only A+ in class - because this student knows his Shakespeare.”
I thanked the teacher and took my seat; happy I passed.

Were you an avid reader as a child? Do you still read books?

I was a voracious reader as a child and consumed whatever content I found, comic books, classics, my older sister’s books, and always drawn to epic fantasy adventures, science fiction, fairy tales and mythology. And reading never stops - because there’s always another good and great book to read or re-read.

How many books do you own and what are the names of some books you like the most?

I’m in a twelve-step book addicts program because I have too many books to count, with books in every room, crammed in bookcases, on every shelf, and in every nook. And as part of my community service, once per week, I force myself to drop books I finished, in waiting rooms in area hospitals for other folks.
I don’t have one favorite book because there's too many books to like and love, and new books to discover. I do love reading and re-reading books by George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, C. S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Douglas Adams, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, and J. R. R. Tolkien, from my list of authors whose stories inspire my imagination and feed my soul.
Some of my most loved books read: A Song of Ice and Fire, Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Stand, IT, On Writing, The Dark Tower, The Dead Zone, The raven and The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe; The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis; The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and The Hobbit.

How has your writing changed over time?

Writing is a process, an evolution, a never-ending journey, with something new to discover and learn.
When I started writing, I included too many extra, unnecessary words, expressions, and pretty sounding authorly words that required multiple revisions. Over time, and many writer classes and workshops, I found it easier to write fresh, write stronger, write a balanced amount of impact and emotions readers clamor and crave, with fewer revisions.

How did you come up with the title of your book, The Devil Pulls the Strings?

It started with a question I asked about the violinist, Niccolò Paganini - What if a rumor about Paganini was true?
Paganini, born in 1782, was the first Rockstar of his day, and is known as the world's greatest violinist who revolutionized violin technique. And rumor has it, his mother gave Paganini's soul to the Devil so Paganini could be the world's greatest violinist.

When writing a supernatural suspense book, what are your best tips on creating a chilling atmosphere through your writing?

Write what the character sees, feels, and senses, add foreshadowing of things to come, and in scenes where you want to amp up the moment, write fresh and blend details you show and tell. Saying this isn’t enough, so shown below are two excerpts from The Devil Pulls the Strings that shows what the protagonist sees, feels, and senses:
Excerpt from Chapter 29 – Deep in the Forest:
Queen Pressina mentioned I would find Baba Yaga’s hut when I saw a giant felled tree with a half ripped-away knot that resembles a tormented face. She said to turn left and follow the terrible smell to find Baba Yaga’s hut. In this dream or vision, Ambrozij and I passed no such landmarks. But there’s the hut.
A hut made of wood, no windows, or doors, and it sits on top of two gigantic chicken legs. Ten-to-twelve-foot tall, bloodstained chicken legs. Surrounding the hut is a black wrought-iron fence topped with white skulls. Each eye socket emanates an eerie green flame.
Ambrozij walks up to a gate.
I want to shout, tell him to leave.
He opens the gate, steps forward, stops four feet from the hut and giant chicken legs. He puts down his basket and raises his arms high into the air.
“Hut, hut, stand with your back to the forest, and your front to me.”
The chicken legs stir.
My heart thrums rapidly.
The two-legged beast hut towers over Ambrozij, but he just stands there, either crazy or insane.
Instincts tell me to run in, to help, without any clue what I’d do against a pair of giant chicken legs. My gut screams go-go-go, but I stay.
The beast hut turns 180 degrees, and the chicken legs sink into the ground, where it sits on the ground as if it’s always been there. The outside walls, bare seconds ago, now have a weather-worn wooden door and two wood framed windows. A mechanical clicking, and the hut door creaks open.
Ambrozij walks in without any concern on his face.
A fast wind blows. Leaves swirl. Instinct demands I follow Ambrozij into the hut. The door slams shut behind me.
Excerpt from Chapter Thirty – The Hut:
I draw in a harsh breath, rub my palms down the sides of my jeans. I untie Queen Pressina’s parcel, the gift for Baba Yaga, pull it snug against my chest, and enter the hut. The door creaks shut, and darkness swallows me.
The scent of iron, brimstone, and sulfur overwhelms me. The hut’s interior is dim yet bright enough to see shelves with various sizes of jars, and at the back of the hut, an iron stove encompasses the entire wall. The outline of a distorted, grotesque female shape is stretched on top of the length of the stove, her bosom heavy, and her crooked nose reaches the ceiling.
A gnawing fills my gut, the drive to fight overcomes the desire to flee. My hand falls where my sword hilt should be but isn’t. I stare at the shape on top of the stove, and it moves.
An instant stream of terror slices through my chest. My ears perk to the sound of lips smacking. Why didn’t I bring weapons? My fingers grip the sack tight.
The head turns slowly, slower than a creep-crawl.
A cold tremor runs down my back like a fast-sliding ice cube.
Whoosh. Flames shoot out of a fireplace in the wall to my left. I jump sideways. The flames reach above my head, then die down. But the light lit the room’s contents, revealing horrific goriness. A mass of bones with rotting flesh litters the floor. Just like in my dream.
My inner voice shouts flee, my guts scream hurl, my bowels second the motion to evacuate and explode, but my feet won’t budge.
Then the woman climbs off the stove—a naked, twisted, hunched-over old crone. I shrink away. Blackened soot and shadows rise from the floor around her and form a blood red dress. The remaining shadows creep up and make a cobweb-patterned shawl draped around her neck and enormous bosom.

Do your book ideas usually start with the characters, story/plot, magic system, or something else?

I mentioned earlier a rumor about Pagnini that captivated my imagination. The story unfolded in my head onto paper attempting to answer the question if the rumor were true. And with future books I’ll continue to write stories that unfold as I explore questions.

Audio book vs e-book vs printed book, which one do you prefer and why?

I prefer books. I like how audio books sound, and I appreciate how I can enlarge the text with an e-book, but there’s something about the weight of a book held in your hands, how the book feels, how the pages smell, and the sounds made when you open and close a book, audio books and e-books can’t replicate that make all the difference for me.

Why did you choose to write the book, "The Happiness Code"?

I co-authored The Happiness Code to share and show readers happiness hacks they can use and incorporate in their own lives.

What is one question you wish interviewers would ask more? What would your answer be?

I’ve been interviewed dozens of times as an author, and questions vary, but cover the same basics. However, it’s the question about my successfully running in the Walt Disney World Marathon as a woman I wish interviewers would ask more.
I'm a Disabled Veteran with permanent, painful neuropathy in both legs and feet and I had no business running in the Walt Disney World Marathon.
In 1991, on my first deployment to the Persian Gulf, I broke my right foot in multiple places, and later, the same foot had to be re-broken to properly heal.
During recovery, a blood test revealed I had gangrene and amputation from the knee down was a real possibility.
Thankfully, powerful antibiotics worked. I got to keep my foot and leg, and I picked up a cool, new permanent limp.
Then in 2003, I had two surgeries to remove a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection from the same foot. The Chief Surgeon told me to make final preparations because MRSA is aggressive and over seventy percent of individuals don't make it. My gut told me everything would be okay, and I said, "Doc, you and your staff treat me like I'm the other thirty percent, because I have to get back to my ship on deployment and raise my son." Again, I recovered, my limp more pronounced.
After I was honorably discharged, I returned to the East Coast. And the day I was fitted for shoe inserts at the Walter Reed Amputee Clinic changed me forever.
In the waiting room, surrounded by veterans missing arms and legs, I became aware how happy, upbeat, and engaged in conversation everyone was with the person next to them.
It was in that waiting room I made the choice to run in a marathon.
I was going to run for my dad, also a veteran, who died from cancer, and for all the men and women who ever wore a uniform who were unable to run now.
I discovered a group called Team in Training (TNT) that helps people train and participate in different athletic events while raising money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I was pumped and motivated. Training was a struggle the entire time.
But the biggest challenge was running up hills. Knee surgery that had removed cartilage created tremendous pain that would only go away when I was on a downward slope or fiat ground again.
One training day, I was scheduled to run 14 miles and it went longer than expected. The weather bad, the run rough, and one of the hills took longer than expected. I pushed through the pain up the hill, and at the bottom, a lone TNT Coach blocked my path.
He told me based on the time it took me to run to this point, I wouldn't complete the actual marathon's sixteen-hour pre-established completion time.
I told the coach I was running in the marathon.
He raised his arms and said, "Then I take no further responsibility for you, and strongly recommend you do not participate in the marathon."
I made it to race day, but on mile twenty-two my feet went flat, and my legs and feet were heavier than I've ever experienced. I hit the Runner's Wall.
I was about to give up, when a man wearing a TNT Coach's t-shirt ran alongside me. He asked how I was doing, and how I was holding up.
I told him, "Not good, I hit the wall and I think I'm going to stop."
He asked, "So why are you running?"
I told him, "For my dad, and all the men and women in uniform who can no longer run." And the oddest tingle washed through me when I said the words. For my dad and all the men and women in uniform no longer able to run.
There was a shift, a drive to keep moving and I
I turned to thank the coach, but he was gone. I looked behind me, each side of the road and further in front, but my mysterious coach, my guardian angel, had disappeared.
This mantra stuck on repeat, fueled my body to keep running the remaining miles. And when I crossed the finish line, I looked up to the skies and said, "For you Dad, and all the men and women in uniform, no longer able to run." My body rippled with a joy and happiness that flooded every cell. And I ran the marathon in under thirteen and a half hours.
The coach who washed his hands of me came up to me to shake my hand to apologize that he ever doubted me.
I wasn't even mad Walt Disney World's website said I finished as a 44-year-old woman. Because I made the choice to run a marathon, and when I couldn't go on, I kept running, and the outcome of that choice brought me a happiness I carry with me to this day.

Are you working on a new book? Is it going to be a series or a standalone?

I have a couple of projects in the works.
There’s a graphic novel version of The Devil Pulls the Strings with two remaining pages for revision with the publisher.
My editor is reviewing fourteen chapters from my book about ten red flag behaviors found in relationships, which is a standalone non-fiction book.
I recently required restored data from a crashed laptop with the draft of a children’s book about a lost family heirloom butterfly locket I plan to finish writing.
And then there’s the next book in The Archivist Series.

Have you ever written to someone you admired, and they wrote back?

What a fantastic question.
When my son Samuel, was in a student ambassador program, he asked who I admired, and I told him Statesman Colin Powell for his many accomplishments, and he said he admired Colin Powell too.
I asked him why he asked, and Samuel said he had to write a person he admired and invite him to speak at his school, or at a student ambassador event, and asked if I could help him write Colin Powell a letter.
Samuel was excited Colin Powell responded and told him the dates requested conflicted with pre-arranged events he couldn’t reschedule, but to provide new dates, and he’d make every effort to participate in a future event.

Who introduced you to All Author? What do you like about it and do you see yourself as a continuing member on this website for the next few years to come?

I can’t remember who introduced me to All Author, and when I originally signed up for services, but I love all the services offered to authors to promote their books, and plan to continue as a member and use All Author services to promote every new book I write.

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