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The Blood of Athens Has Arrived!

The Blood of Athens Has Arrived!

AthensCoverbiggishGood day, dear readers! The time has come for the release of Olympia Heights: The Blood of Athens in all digital formats. Seriously, if I’m missing one, tell me. We have Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and iPad covered. If you subscribed to the Olympia Heights notification list, you received an email on Friday letting you know that the Kindle format was available a little early. For those of you who have already purchased it, thank you. For those of you yet to purchase, pick your format!

If your format is paperback, you’ll have to wait a couple more weeks (my designer has the full-text and is doing a book layout, then we’ll order a proof before it’s approved for sale.)

When you’re done, don’t forget to write a review (it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare) and rate it on Goodreads and Amazon. And don’t forget to read all the way to the last page for a sneak preview of the new Royer Goldhawk series (coming May 2013.) Read the excerpt and sign-up to receive email notifications about that book and its release.

Thanks for reading!

Help! What Books Should I Put on my New Kindle?

Help! What Books Should I Put on my New Kindle?

Christmas is just a few days away, or perhaps you are reading this after a post-holiday Google search. In 2011 millions of Americans received an eReader for Christmas, and I have no doubt that 2012 will be the same. If you are one of those lucky, new eReader owners, here is some advice from a Kindle owner since 2009.

Book Review: Exiled

Book Review: Exiled



I gave Exiled 4 stars on Goodreads, because they don’t support half-star ratings and because it was really closer to 4 than 3. Exiled is Merrick’s first novel and suffers from some of the same flaws that many first time novels do. It is a formidable first release and I enjoyed reading it. The beginning was a bit shakey for me, but half-way through, the story really comes into its own.

What I Liked:

The story was a creative, well-thought out idea. Chase Williams is a hunter, a group of magical humans destined to hunt demons. The mythology behind this is revealed through the story. When Chase fails to manifest an elemental ability on his fifteenth birthday at his coming-of-age ceremony, his arrogant father exiles him from their world. That coming-of-age ceremony is the key to this story and we see this line of plot follow through to its natural conclusion.

The hero is wonderfully flawed. With some Indie novels, you find a hero who is flawed in little, insignificant wants. Chase is cocky and closed-minded at the start of Exiled and his act-first, think-later attitude, which is not conveniently erased by the novel’s conclusion, gets him into a lot of trouble. His personality is consistent throughout the novel, making him a wonderful, mythic hero.

The supporting cast had some real gems, too. Vincent, the vampire, is one of my favorites. He is hard to predict, deliciously manipulative (anyone who has read Nick in the Olympia Heights series may have guessed by now that I find manipulative characters to be oodles of fun!), and  multi-faceted. He is a viscous killer and (rarely) a compassionate heart.

Certain parts of the plot felt like a real mythology. The fight with the troll, for instance, went through Chase’s laundry list of combat tricks and became seemingly impossible, before finding a creative solution.In this way, Merrick made Chase’s adventures feel Herculean.

What I Didn’t Like:

The beginning of the novel was rough. Too many sentences with similar structure threw off the flow of the writing. The plots itself raised little questions and didn’t propose a sense of mystery until thirty to forty percent through. This is a much longer read than similar genre fiction, so that was a long time to go with awkward flow and no real mystery. I put it down a lot during the early pages because not much was compelling me to keep going.

The beginning was dragged down by too many blow-by-blow fights. Chase gets into a LOT of fights. A lot. This is total man fiction, which works for Harry Dresden, but I needed to see some of the fights abridged. After the third fight in the book, I was ready to gloss over some of the details. They weren’t important to moving the story along and they began to feel repetitive. I’m as guilty as Merrick of writing blow-by-blow fights, but when I saw so many of them in one book, I began to understand why my editor doesn’t like the play-by-play.

Once we got into the big questions (who is kidnapping half-breeds and why?), the story picked up. At 75%, though, when Chase sees a change of setting, I really wanted it to be another book. What happens at that mark changes the feel of the book entirely and that shift happens too late in the game. It could have been another book– the last 25% of the novel spread out with extra obstacles and character bonding. Tiki, a character introduced at this point, seems interesting and teases that he can take care of himself in a fight, but we never see what he does in the fight to survive.

At this point in the novel, Chase begins to call his father “Riley.” That felt weird. It’s a first person narrative and he’s calling his father by his first name? It wasn’t well established that he called his father by his given name, so the switch only served to detach the character from his important relationship to the protagonist.

Other than that, my only other problem was the very end. It was too synopsy (I made up a word). If it had been labeled as an Epilogue, that would have fixed the stylistic change. Otherwise, I would have liked it to end at the section-break before. Merrick could have included what happened in the aftermath in the start of book 2 (called Shift, if you’re curious). The last few paragraphs shift tense, too. It was weird, but it would have had a simple enough fix. If Merrick had included Chase saying something that acknowledged that he was writing or telling the story (something like “and that’s why I told you this…” only better because I just wrote that in five seconds with my coffee), it would have explained the sudden switch and made it clear why everything until then was in past tense. No such explanation accompanied this switch, making the reader wonder if it was purposeful or not. I have no problem with tense changes, so long as I have no doubt that you meant to do it.

The Verdict:

Exiled may take you a little struggling to get started, but once you get into it, it’s a worthwhile start to a series. As I said before, it’s total man fiction. Read this book if you like fantasy, fights, monsters, and sassy girls in corsets kicking butt. Exiled by M.R. Merrick gets 3.5 stars and I intend to read Shift, the sequel.

First Feedback: Kissing Corpses

First Feedback: Kissing Corpses

The first three reviews are in on for Kissing Corpses. It has a solid 5-stars as of now. The novella is still 99¢, so hop on over and grab it if you have a Kindle! For those of you without, you have the option of reading it on the Kindle App on another device or waiting three months for the paperback.

The first review comes from Missy Kirtley, a fellow NaNoWriMo writer from CA.

There’s vampire romance fiction, and then there’s vampire horror, and then there’s something in between. Amy Leigh Strickland has tip toe’d the balance between a suspenseful thriller and a romantic story. What starts out as a fun romp quickly turns into an exciting and addictive page turner, keeping the reader guled to the page as the story unfolds.

With realistic and believable characters and a twisting, turning plot, Kissing Corpses provides what a lot of Vampire Fiction misses: the idea that a vampire is a predator and the human involved with him is his prey. It may challenge what you’ve believed as far as vampire romance goes. Then again, it may be exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

I love Amy’s writing, and I can’t wait to read more.

The second review comes from Lindsay Carpenter in PA.

“Kissing Corpses” is definitely a five-star novella.

From start to finish, Strickland keeps you on the edge of your seat. She has you looking left when all of a sudden, you realize you should have been looking right! Strickland weaves a tale of romance, suspense, action, drama, and a bit of wry comedy with clever characters that make you want to read more.

What starts out as a romance between a human and a vampire takes a dark, unexpected turn (although, if you know anything about vampire lore, it shouldn’t be THAT unexpected!), because Strickland herself is clever and she takes the reader on a ride through the ups and downs of a relationship with a supernatural being. The dialogue between the characters is clever (and I keep using that word, but it’s true!) and realistic. By the middle to the end of the story, I’d become attached to not only the main characters, but the secondary characters as well. Strickland brings even her most minor characters to life with creativity and detail that helps the story flow from one point to the next.

Even with the plot twists and turns, Strickland stays on track with the main story. If you judge the book by its cover and think you’re getting a ‘Twilight’-type, romance story, well… hold onto your seats, because you’re in for a wild ride.

As a bonus, stick around for the Author’s Notes at the end of the story, because the little peek into her angle on this tale is interesting. I honestly hope that there’s another story in the making with these characters.

Great work, Amy!

The review I’m most excited about so far comes from Amazon user Glaucon. I do not know him/her in any capacity. Glaucon’s praise is short and sweet.

Okay, so I’m not a teenager. And, young adult talk in novels tends to be a bit wearisome. But, Strickland does a good job to make the characters believable; the dialogue is fast and not marred by fluff. That’s good. but, even better, the story is scary. I know. I know –a lot of stories are scary. However, the lulls, then crises blend into a roller coaster ride that ends where the reader is least likely to expect. For .99, it’s a good “penny dreadful.”

Thanks to my early reviewers. If you’ve read the book and liked it, please give it a rating on Amazon and Goodreads. Ratings drive sales more than anything else i could do.

If you own a book blog and a Kindle, and would like to review Kissing Corpses, shoot me an email with a link to your blog and connected social networks. I’ll only pick a handful, but if I choose you, I’ll email you a Kindle code for the book. Thanks for reading!

11 People Who Had A Great Year In 2011

11 People Who Had A Great Year In 2011

The Tuesday before Christmas, this was exactly the topic on NPR as I drove to work. “Who had a good year in 2011?” They were looking for general answers for people, places, companies, and things. I realized that every answer I wanted to call in with was tied to the literary world, so I decided to borrow their topic and make a list.

Here are 11 people who had a great year in 2011. We’ll count down from ten (if you do the math, that means there’s a tie somewhere).

10. Jeff Bezos– had a fantastic year and so must have Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. The Kindle picked up more steam than ever before and made it onto the threat radar of The Big 5 publishers. They launched the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s first color Kindle, as well as the Kindle Lending Library. At least $6 Million has been set aside for the lending library next year, giving great benefits for Indie Authors who give the Kindle an exclusive for at least 90 days (this is where you’ll first find my NaNoWriMo novel, tentatively titled Perish).  The Kindle Fire’s exclusive grab of certain classic digital comics prompted Barnes & Noble, in an unwise move, to try and boycott certain printed comics in protest. By doing that, they obviously drove those sales to  Even the hate they received from other book sellers meant good things for Amazon. It meant that the competitions is scared.

9. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman– We were excited over the 2010/2011 transition to hear that film adaptation of The Hobbit had been green-lit and that Peter Jackson was set to direct. The announcement that Martin Freeman would portray Bilbo Baggins was met with cheers and almost no criticism. Then it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch, who broke out in Sherlock last year, won the role of the voice of Smaug (as well as the voice of the Necromancer). These two men have been filming in paradise (New Zealand) all year and finally, in the last weeks of 2011, we got a peek at the fruits of their labour. Tolkien fans have nothing but hope for these two films and nothing but praise for the casting choices. Congratulations, boys!

8. Bob Harras– Bob, the editor of DC Comics, took a BIG risk in 2011. What could be worse than a stagnant pool of fans? Pissing-off that pool. When DC comics announced a complete universe relaunch this summer, there were skeptics. Marketers worried that DC fans would see the move as a big middle finger. After all, who wants to see the comics they’ve followed for years start over from square one? What enthusiast wants to start over with stories that are taking it slow and spelling it out to drawn in newbs? Luckily, DC’s move went well. They saw a huge surge of sales from old and new fans and the surge has kept up through the fall and early winter. They had the chance to anger a lot of people (like my husband, who is not OK with grey-area Superman), but they won more fans than they lost.

7. Neil Gaiman– Neil Gaiman got married this year. Twitter nerds rejoiced at the nuptials of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, singer of the Dresden Dolls. On top of matrimonial happiness, Neil saw some great career highs in 2011. The American Gods 10th anniversary audio book was recorded and released. A pilot for a series based on the hit book is in pre-production for HBO. There are too many other wins for Gaiman this year, so I’ll just point out one that Gaiman will surely remember for the rest of his life– Neil got to write an episode of Doctor Who. Mind you, he originally wrote it for Season 5 (2010). It was bumped to Season 6 and Gaiman was given the opportunity to work with a new character, Rory Williams, who Gaiman’s script ironically dubbed “the pretty one.” Neil’s episode, “The Doctor’s Wife”, is a fan favorite that aired May, 2011 and featured a personified version of the Tardis, called “Sexy.”

6. Kathryn Stockett– Back in 2009 Kathryn Stockett finally published The Help. It was one of those stories that got pitched to countless agents and editors before finally being accepted. In 2011 the film, starring Emma Stone (Zombie Land, Easy A, and upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man), received a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That may not be a stellar rating when compared to films like Toy Story 3, but the critics who liked it must have been the ones who mattered. The critics who didn’t like it seemed to share the pointless complaint that the people who would benefit most from seeing this film (racists) wouldn’t see it. It preaches to the choir. So what? It’s still important. Despite the 25% of naysayers, The Help wrangled the most SAG award nominations (four) this year and made the short list of predictions for most of the other major awards shows this upcoming season. This is great for Stockett, who gets to rub elbows with the Hollywood elite and benefit from a book-sale bump. The Help, with a little help from the #1 film release, became the #1 New York Times best seller as well as the best seller on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for both eBook and Paperback. Cha-ching!

5. Rooney Mara– This uncommon actress started off 2011 at the Academy Awards. You may remember her as the girl that got away in the best picture nominee, The Social Network. She gives Mark Zuckerberg a severe tongue-lashing in the opening scene. If you’ve ever had to reject an arrogant nerd who is claiming that you’re dumping him because of the nerd part and not the arrogant part, you will love this speech. This year Rooney Mara stars in the American adaptation of Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The early reviews for David Fincher’s film are incredibly positive for both Mara’s performance and for the film as a whole. It’s the self-proclaimed feel-bad movie of the year. Even if it doesn’t yield any awards this winter, I would guess it was worth it to snog Daniel Craig on camera.

4. Harry Potter Fans– I cheated here by choosing a group instead of an individual. I could proclaim that JK Rowling had a great year, but I think the fans reaped the biggest benefits. Early this summer we were teased about a thing called Pottermore, and this July the beta opened. I still have not gotten in, but friends who have entered, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. True fans always jump at the chance for more Rowling-created content. On top of the Pottermore news, fans got news of a West-Coast theme park and got the final movie in the 8-film series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the best film yet. Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman earned oscar buzz and 96% approval on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. Fans were a bit tougher on it, giving it a 92%. The 3D conversion was the first example of good 3D I’ve seen in cinema and Alan Rickman kept breaking my heart. It was beautiful, well-paced, and aside from angering me with implications of uncanon Luna/Neville love, it was perfect.

3. Terry Strickland– Artist, Terry Strickland, is the CEO of Matter Deep Publishing and shot the cover photos for the Olympia Heights series. She is an amazing artist and will be launching her first art book in 2012. 2011 has been a good year for Terry Strickland. She was featured in 8 magazine and news articles, including American Art Collector and Poets and Artists. She was a finalist in multiple art competitions and won the cover contest for the March 2011 issue of Professional Artist Magazine with her portrait “Voice of the Tiger” (seen below). She showed at a number of galleries, finding great success at the Women Painting Women show in Charleston. She already has a number of shows lined up for 2012. Terry Strickland blogs about her art at

2. Amanda Hocking– At Christmas 2010, sales exploded for Amanda Hocking, who reached the estimated $2 Million mark in sales in April of this year. She joined the Kindle Millionaire club and became an idol to independent authors. Hocking drew some criticism for signing on with an established publisher, but she maintains that she did it so that she could focus on writing more and less on marketing. How did she do it? She put out a ton of books that people (teen girls) want to read and made herself super available on social networks. You can follow Hocking on Twitter, where her witty tweets entertain nearly 10,000 followers. Amanda Hocking is a name of hope in my house. She proved that you don’t need a Big 5 publisher to make it big.

1. Blake Northcott– In 2011 Blake Northcott put out her first book as a Kindle Exclusive. Vs. Reality is a comic-book style novella. It’s the first of a series that has been put on hold because of even more success. Northcott’s 20,000 follower Twitter army helped to boost her sales and made Vs. Reality one of the top Kindle books. For a few shining hours, Vs. Reality was ranked higher than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the Kindle charts. In England it is in the top 10 for comic/superhero books. Even better, Blake’s success through social media wraps up 2011 with a book deal for a werewolf series that promises to be nothing like Twilight. Luna will accompany a TV pilot that is being pitched to the major broadcast networks. Blake is another inspiring example of a self-made author. And she’s hilarious, too.

Book: Vs. Reality

Book: Vs. Reality

by Blake Northcott

Available for 99¢ on Amazon Kindle
Vs. Reality is a quick and engaging read that will keep you pressing that [Next Page] button until there’s nothing left to read. The first volume is short, but creates an entertaining introduction to a series that promises longer future volumes. It’s an amazing debut from a first-time author, blogger Blake Northcott.
I bought Vs. Reality on the reputation that Northcott had already built up as one of my favorite bloggers and tweeters. The thing that impresses me most about her reviews is that Northcott seems to be one of the few people out there who understands that Entertainment Value is value.
So often we see fun movies, novels, and TV shows discarded because they aren’t artistic or deep enough or because they *gasp* have some kind of mass appeal. Rarely do we see anything involving super powers getting any kind of praise by the serious critics because they forget that not every movie has the same purpose as Black Swan. Northcott has never been one to shy away from praising the commercial action movies, so I knew that no matter what, Vs. Reality was going to be fun.

Vs. Reality
 tells the story of Donovan Cole, a fighter who is used to concussions and beat-downs. When a chance encounter with a mysterious girl drags Donovan into her serious drama, Cole takes a hit that triggers a glitch in reality and allows him to manifest super-human abilities based on his own self image.

Vs. Reality blends the aesthetic of a comic book movie with the mind-f#@& of a Chuck Palahniuk novel. There’s the suped-up action balanced well with gritty imagery. If there is one thing that I noticed straight from the start of Vs. Reality, it’s that Blake Northcott is amazing at writing uncomfortable imagery. At her best moments, her imagery gives you a shiver reminiscent of that nails on the chalkboard sound. At the very least it makes me think of some of the more cringe-worthy impressions from the Aeon Flux cartoons.
In the end, Vs. Reality is a lot of things. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s a commentary on addiction. It’s the source material for a future summer Blockbuster.
Spend that 99¢ and get yourself a Kindle copy of Vs. Reality. Don’t have a Kindle? Read it on your iPhone, Mac, PC, Blackberry, etc… (see how).The 2nd Volume comes out in October, 2011

  • Since writing this post, Blake Northcott got a book deal and had to delay Relapse. Its date is now unknown.
  • The dialogue may seem odd at first, but if you put it in the frame of reference of a comic book, it’s perfect.
Reinventing the Book: 10 Improvements eReaders Have Made on the Conventional Book

Reinventing the Book: 10 Improvements eReaders Have Made on the Conventional Book

1. BOOKMARKS ARE OBSOLETE! Never scrounge around for a random paper to hold your place and then later go looking for that important gift card/social security card/police report and be unable to find it. eReaders keep your place!


2. YOU CAN EAT AND READ! Ever do that awkward dance of trying to hold a burger with two hands and hold the book open with your elbow? (see illustration below if you’ve never had this problem) Then the mustard drips on your page and your perfect book is ruined. eReaders generally have accessible Next Page buttons and the screens can be wiped off.



3. YOU CAN CARRY A WHOLE LIBRARY! You don’t need to worry about running out of shelf space. You can download books anywhere and carry them with you. Bring three books on your vacation and still have space in your carry on!


4. FOLLOW LINKS IN BOOKS! Hyperlinks in books can bring you to references, sources, and similar content!


5. BUILT IN DICTIONARY! Reading The Invisible Man? Not sure what that word akimbo means? They keep using it!!! Oh, look. [Click] It means standing with elbows out and hands on hips. Now I know!


6. NO SHIPPING! Free shipping. No wait. Don’t wait for Barnes & Noble DHL shipping to take 9 days to bring you your book and not have tracking info until the last 4 (a recent experience of mine). Instantly delivered via whispernet (Amazon) or what-have-you. Don’t wait for that book you’re jazzed to read now.


7. KEEP YOUR BOOKS NEAT! So many of my books are wrecked from traveling in my purse. My leather Kindle folio and my Kindle are two years old and they are in great shape.


8. SAVE MONEY! Yeah, a Kindle costs at least 100 bucks, but when you start cutting out shipping and cutting out printing costs, you get cheaper books. Over the life of your eReader you will easily make it up. Buy 99¢ books from indie authors who would otherwise have to sell them for $13.99 print on demand. The money saving feature of eReading means that we get to see brilliant indie authors who might otherwise get lost in the publishing house shuffle.


9. BE DISCREET! Don’t want anyone know you’re reading a romance novel, or a self help book for that embarrassing problem, or Twilight? Nobody has to see what you’re reading! Of course, if you’re a snob and carry around a Quantum Physics textbook just to look smart, this won’t help you.


10. SAVE THE TREES! Reduce your carbon footprint by consuming less paper!
Apples to Apples: An eReader Comparison

Apples to Apples: An eReader Comparison

Original Post June 29, 2011. Some data has changed since (*cough* Kindle Fire *cough*)

Notes on Book Availability:
There is no way to really say what is or will be soon available on each of these readers. Generalizations could get me in a lot of trouble, so I’m going to make it simple. I will explain how you publish to each of these readers and then you can use your brain to decide which one will have a better selection of available books.

Kindle: Kindle publishing requires a file of the eBook and a cover image. You are assigned an ASIN number (Kindle ID number) and do NOT need an ISBN. Anyone can publish to the Kindle with an Amazon account, meaning that there are indie books as well as professional books available. There is a small fee for some document conversions to be sent over 3G, but you can do conversion without Whispernet (the 3G) for free. If you have the 2nd generation, you’ll need to plug in to a USB cable, but 3rd gen users can use Wi-Fi. You can load your own documents by looking up your account email and tagging free. in front of the (example The Kindle does not display color.
Nook: Barnes & Noble lets you publish to the Nook without an ISBN through their PubIt! site. Also, B&N users can run a select number of apps, PDFs, and can read eBooks for free within the store, as if they were doing so with a real book.
iPad: iBook publishing requires purchasing an ISBN for the eBook edition, which can cost $125 dollars a book if you are an indie (big publishers buy in bulk and can get ISBNs for a buck a pop). HOWEVER, the iPad runs Kindle and Kobo apps, so you can read indie books on the free Kindle app.
Kobo: The Kobo requires an ISBN like the iBook publishing. You cannot simply submit to the store, either. You have to inquire for a publisher kit and fill out a form by email. They take a few days to get back to you, to. Kobo is not indie friendly.
Sony: While you can use Smashwords to publish to the Sony Reader, companies who don’t want to use the indie service have to go through an email process to submit a release, much like with the Kobo. Sony books can also be borrowed from a library. The real problem plaguing Sony eBook publishing is that in an attempt at Digital Rights management, to let Libraries loan Harper Collins eBooks, Sony has made them self-destruct after 26 loans. The implication here is that real books are unreadable after being checked out 26 times (which we know isn’t usually true) and that rather than embrace the improvement on the traditional book, Sony has gotten greedy and wants to make PUBLIC LIBRARIES keep paying for books. This is turning libraries off and making the library availability feature a moot point.