Thursday, December 29, 2016

Favorite Reads of 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’ve read so many books this year I can’t remember all of them. I admit I had to check my Goodreads and Amazon lists to jog my memory. Even still, there were just a few books that really stood out to me that I read in 2016 - books that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about since I read them. And so, I’m closing out the year by celebrating these fantastic stories:

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab: This book came to my attention when I was shopping on Amazon. It was in one of those “if you liked xyz, then you’ll like xyz” lists. Although I don’t recall the initial book that led me to A Darker Shade of Magic, I’m certainly glad it did.

It was a little slow at first, but once I got a few pages in, the story exploded into a fantastic and whimsical tale - a story that I can honestly say is one of the most original and imaginative stories I’ve ever read. A chameleon coat, magical war, and four dazzling Londons—it’s all completely and utterly delightful and immersive.

I just added Schwab's other books in the series to my reading list and can't wait to dive into them!

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart – Christie Stratos: This book made me fall in love with historical fiction. I was totally addicted to this book from the very first sentence, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and hurrying up whatever I was doing to get back to reading it. In fact, months and months later, I’m still thinking about it.

The descriptions of costumes, physical attributes and expressions, even the wallpaper, are all vivid and compelling, adding to the haunting ambiance of this Victorian masterpiece. This is the perfect book to curl up by the fire with. My only qualm is that the next book in the series isn’t out yet.

Dreams of Terror and Death – H.P. Lovecraft: Comprised of twenty-one surreal short stories, this book is delightfully spooky, masterfully written, and is a perfect read for those who’ve never read Lovecraft, or are die-hard fans (like me). Most of the stories are short enough to read if you want a quick story before bed, and others are long enough to hold your attention for quite some time.

My absolute favorite stories in this book are: The Strange High House in the Mist, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and Through the Gates of the Silver Key. Lovecraft's way of storytelling will completely infuse you.

What are some of your favorite books of 2016?


Happy Holidays! May you find plenty of awesome new books to read in the New Year :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Impressions - Paperback Junkie

Paperback Junkie Book Review just read Strange Luck and I'm thrilled to share their review. Here are a few snippets:

"Have you ever been wrapped up in your own thoughts, dreams, goals, and ambitions that the world around you seemed to disappear for what seemed like forever?  Have you ever wanted to help someone so much that you were willing to do anything in your own power to help that person?  Have you ever been so consumed by your own memories that the world around you seemed to change?  Well, that is what this book is all about."

"This book is an all around 5 star from the writing, to the content, to the ending.  I cannot wait to start the second novel in this series."

"Well-written, thought out, and put together in such a way that there are surprises around every corner." 

You can check out the full review here.

Also, you can now purchase personalized books directly from me, including Strange Luck! My books are the same price as Amazon and shipping is FREE! I'll also include a limited edition bookmark and note from yours truly. You can purchase via my blog (see widget on the right) or from my official website

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Movie Dream Cast, Binge-Watching, and Writing - My Inteview With Mercedes Fox

Bella Thorne is the perfect Daisy Darling!
Who would be my dream cast if my books were made into a movie?

Why do I write?

What am I currently binge-watching?

I spill all in my interview with author Mercedes Fox.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Nightmare Birds Is A Book of the Year Nominee!

The Nightmare Birds is a Fantasia Reviews Book of the Year contender!!!

I'm so incredibly honored that my book was nominated. It seriously means the world to me that people are enjoying my stories. For all of you who've supported me by reading my books, writing reviews, or even reading this blog post, a great big THANK YOU!!! Your support is greatly appreciated.

Until the winner is unveiled at the end of December (fingers crossed!), please take a look at some of the other books in contention for this prize.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mass Book Giveaway and Book Bash

OMG! Free Books!!!
Join Brain to Books and GoIndieNow for a three day book bash and holiday giveaway on December 16, 17, and 18th!

Day 1 - December 16, 2016
Slush Brain Holiday

If you love Science Fiction, Fantasy, free stuff, and all things nerdy, join here.

Day 2 - December 17, 2016
Mass Book Giveaway - GoIndieNow Prize Pack

Every year Brain to Books hosts a holiday book giveaway. This year,  you can score signed paperbacks, tons of free e-books, GoIndieNow swag, and other awesome goodies. Click here to check out the prize pack. Did I mention that Strange Luck is one of the prizes??? While you're there, you can also enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card. You have until December 17 to enter.

Winners will be announced HERE.

Day 3 - December 18, 2016

Ani Manjikian Stars of Heros Release

Ani Manjikian is preparing to release the 2nd book in her series "Stars of Heros" (Heros as in Thracian Heros from Greek mythology) is a Science Fiction novel. They'll be prizes, games, giveaways, and so much more! Join Here

Good luck and Happy Holidays :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You Don’t Need to Say Yes to A Literary Agent If You Don’t Want To

When I finished my first book I followed the traditional publishing order of progression:
1. Write a damn good query letter

2. Send it to a ton of agents

3. Cross your fingers and pray for a miracle
Over the years I tweaked my query letter a million times to see what worked and what didn’t. I kept a massive spreadsheet of all the agents I queried, what version of my query letter I sent, what I sent them (e.g., chapter excerpt, synopsis, etc.), their general response time, and the status of my submission.

It was EXHAUSTING. And soul-crushing. Especially when I would receive a generic rejection letter like: “This project isn’t right for my list.” Or the worse possible response - no response at all.

In the end, I received lots of partial and full manuscript requests. Maybe a dozen exclusive full manuscript requests. Then, my big break came.

An agent loved my story and wanted to represent me! But...I had to make some changes to my story. We’re talking era, character names, major parts of the story taken out, etc. Whatever she asked for I did it willingly (even though I didn’t agree with the changes) because I thought that was my only option. I did three rounds of revisions with her over the course of a year.

The result?

A book I hated and didn’t even recognize anymore. She had changed everything and buried my voice, and ultimately, we parted ways. That experience led me to explore the world of self-publishing, and the more I researched it, the more it appealed to me. I started connecting with self-published authors and asking them about their experiences. One told me she turned down a major publishing deal with a Big 5 publisher because they were constantly harassing her and trying to get her to change things she didn’t want to. There seemed to be a general consensus among these authors though - ultimate freedom! And that’s exactly what I wanted.

So began my journey to publish Strange Luck. I couldn’t believe how much happier I felt while writing and how much time I had saved when I stopped querying and tracking my submissions. I wrote The Nightmare Birds next. Then something strange happened. An agent out of the blue read my first book, loved it, and wanted to represent me. It was magical. It was everything I had ever wanted, but, I was weary to give up everything I had worked so hard for. All of it made me question what I truly wanted as a writer. After a lot of thought, nail-biting, and some hair-pulling, I ultimately decided I wanted to do what I was currently doing - self-publish.

Friends and family looked at me like I was crazy (and you probably think so too), but when things came down to business and I got the final contract on my desk, it just didn’t feel right. So many things were going to change and I was terrified of losing my story all over again. I fired off an endless lineup of questions to the agent, hoping with all hope that my feelings would change, but they didn’t.

This experience prompted me to write this article to hopefully help those who might not know they have options. Whether you have an interested agent, or are debating between self-publishing and traditional publishing, below are some questions I asked the agent that helped me determine if it was a good fit or not. Please remember that each literary agent is different. They have different abilities, personalities, connections, wants, and experiences. It may or may not be a match for any or all of those reasons. It's okay to say no. The most important thing you can do is to trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. If they are everything you've ever wanted and you feel great about it, then by all means scream "yes" from the rooftop. Do what works best for you and your story.

Questions to Ask A Literary Agent Before You Sign:
1. How long have you been an agent? 
2. How long has the agency been in practice? 
3. How long is your average client relationship? 
4. Are you a member of AAR? 
5. How long would our contract be? 
6. What percentage of projects that you sign do you sell?

7. If you’re unable to find a publisher, what would be the next step? Would I need to re-edit and then resubmit, or would the publisher accept me on the condition that I work with their assigned editor and make the changes? 
8. Can I speak to one or two of your clients about their experiences? 
9. What is your procedure and time-frame for payment of author royalties and advances received from the publisher?

10. How often would you update me regarding publishing prospects and developments?

11. Have you represented books in this genre before?

12. If a publisher did accept my book(s), what kind of control would they have?

13. Do you think my books have a stronger market in the US or internationally?

14. Can you tell me about a few recent sales you made? Any with the publishers that you have in mind for my book?

15. Will you represent every book I write, including the ones I’ve already self-published?

16. What are the terms of your contract? Is there a specific length of time, etc.?

17. What co-agents do you work with for foreign rights, film rights and other sub-rights? Is there someone in-house who specializes in this? Can you tell me about some recent successes selling sub-rights of a project?

18. What support (e.g., marketing, promo, etc.) would the agency offer me?
19. What is your commission?  
20. If I did receive an advance from a publisher, would it be considered a "loan" against future sales?

21. Do the publishers you work with have a "do not compete" clause?

22. If we did sell the books to a publisher what would happen to the current books out there? Would they be replaced on Kindle with a new cover uploaded, etc., or be deleted entirely and posted as a new title? What about my current reviews out there? Would they all go away?

23. What would be the significant benefits of me signing with a publisher vs. remaining self-published? What could a publisher offer me that I’m currently not already doing?
I hope that this article helps you make the best decision possible for you and your book.

As for me, if another opportunity were to present itself I would start by asking the same questions and going from there. It may or may not be a match, but that's okay. In the meantime, I'm perfectly content with doing what I'm currently doing.

Have you checked out my other posts on writing and self-publishing? You might enjoy these, too:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Book Impressions - Fantasia Reviews The Nightmare Birds

"An impressive addition to the series."

"Fun and beautiful."

"Her use of the language, the pacing of the story, the imagination behind her imagery, each is admirable in their own right, but together pushes her strong narrative to be even greater."

Wow! I'm beyond thrilled about this review. Reading reviews like this makes it all worth it. :D

Read what else Fantasia Reviews had to say about The Nightmare Birds in their five-star review!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Art of the Review: What Makes a Book Good? - Guest Post by Fantasia Reviews

Have you ever wondered what specifics a book reviewer looks for in a book? Or, what makes the difference between a one-star review and a five-star review? You're in luck! Fantasia Reviews has graciously written a guest post for The Golden Cricket about what makes a good book.

The Art of the Review: What Makes a Book Good?

Three components go into writing a work of fiction: creativity, skill, and a message. Creativity comes from the mind of the author, in a work of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, this is where the world is built, characters are born, and a story is made. The skill of the author comes into play as they construct their prose, it is those words, those lines, which breathe life into a work; they give the author’s thoughts form. Finally, there is the message; the intent and the worldview of the author that inevitably and indelibly mark any work that they create. These forces together give us a work of fiction, but rating such a work can be tricky, as mastery of all of these elements is difficult, but credit should always be given when it is due.

The story is the narrative of a book, and of all three components, is the easiest to assess. When looking at any story, we look at originality, plausibility within the bounds of the world, and cohesion. Originality is easy to judge. We ask ourselves, have we seen anything like this before, and if so, where? If the answer is yes, and it often is as there is little new under the sun, we try to see how the author made the story their own. What did they add? What did they remove? How do the characters grow and change? The more original ideas the author puts into a story, the better it will be. Multiple plotlines can add depth and complexity, combining old and worn-out stories into something new and exciting. A good story is original and interconnected. It does not rely on tired tropes and instead forges boldly forward, unapologetically, giving us something to enjoy and love over and over again.

An author’s writing style can be a matter of taste, but certain fundamentals can be followed. Now, this is not a tutorial on how to write, so we will not delve too deeply into good writing practices, but we can tell you what we look for in a well-written book. It should be spelling and grammar error free. Nothing breaks immersion like a misspelled or misused word. That being said, nobody is perfect. The occasional error is expected, but repeated mistakes will annoy readers. You should have a developed vocabulary that is appropriate for the target audience. Juxtaposition is a great word but probably does not belong in middle-grade reading. Of course, simple and repetitive language can and will bore readers. If you frequently find yourself repeating words or using the word ‘thing,' you may want to consider breaking out the thesaurus. Readers want to be entertained not frustrated or anesthetized.

The most subjective of all of the components is the message, i.e. what does the book say to the reader? Whether the author means for it or not, a bit of their worldview makes it into their work. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as it does not come across as if the work was meant to proselytize. Themes will also often come through, whether intentional or unintentional. Now, some of this will be lost on some readers, because not everyone reads books for the same reasons. As reviewers, though, we love robust themes, compelling conflicts, and the ability to relate aspects of a book to our lives and world events. When properly executed, you can expose readers to ideas that they had never considered before, or make them see an issue from a new perspective. Now, this does not need to be a goal for the author; it is up to the reader to make these interpretations, but inspiration can be added with a deft hand. Interpretations may even vary from reader to reader, and that is fine too. What matters the most is that the author is bold enough to inject this kind of material into their narrative. Often, the strongest messages can be controversial or even upsetting to some. Examples of issues worthy of exploration are racism, misogyny, and the dichotomy (or lack thereof) of good and evil. Now, not all authors set out to send a message, and that is fine too, but a well-crafted message can only serve to enhance the experience of a strong narrative.


When we write reviews, we take all of this into consideration. To rate a work on one metric would be disingenuous since so much goes into writing a book. Authors have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are great storytellers, but their writing skills are lacking. Others may have degrees in literature, but lack the creativity to make something great. We should congratulate these people on their strengths, but their weaknesses should be exposed, as reviews are as much for the author as they are the reader. In the end, we all just want to read a good book.


Thank you for sharing this informative article. I've had my books reviewed by various book bloggers and it's always surprising when they don't list what/how they are evaluating your work. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you're trying to determine if they would even like your book in the first place. That said, I really think that other authors out there will greatly benefit from your post. I know I certainly did!


Fantasia Reviews is comprised of a group of fantasy authors, and readers who love to give reviews to works they find are undiscovered, underappreciated or just the books they love. If you think your work is appropriate, you can contact them here.