Indie Bites Vol. 2: Mermaids & Mythology OUT NOW!

The stories are free online to download in epub, mobi or pdf format; you can purchase the paperback here and the stories are also being released in podcast!

ARCs TBR

I have a growing list of ARCs to read and review in the next month or two. I’m so excited for all of them and I wish I had more reading time to get to them faster, but alas I’m busy and slow and it takes me time to catch up. Very excited to read these, though.

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey:

Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

I really love Josie Jaffrey’s writing style, and I’ve read a few of her stories already, so I’m excited to start in on this one.

Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire:

Kanjin hardly view their servants as human. Even less so when they are different.

Asagi is different. Both a man and a woman.

In the wake of his failure to protect a boy he saw as a son from their abusive master, Asagi is sold into the house of a young nobleman, Mahiro, who is the opposite of everything Asagi has ever known—gentle, kind, and generous.

Mahiro bonds with Asagi and their friendship blooms into a deep and profound love. But when Asagi is poisoned out of jealousy, Mahiro reveals himself to be youkai, a demon who feeds on blood, and he has no choice but to turn Asagi to save their life.

Asagi awakes reborn, strong, and eternally youthful. But the price for Asagi’s new life is high.

The blood of the innocent. Just as Asagi’s trust in Mahiro falters, the boy he failed to protect, now a man, reappears.​

New master, same threat.

With both a literal and proverbial monster at the door, Asagi must decide what it means to be human to protect what they love most.

I’m always excited for more fantasy stories, so I super excited for this one!

Buried Vapors by Matthew Kesselman:

When Ian arrives in the City, he reminisces about a time when he was a boy, staring at the stars. Now, as a young man, he wanders aimlessly through work, a budding romance, and the subway, his smartphone in hand, feeling lost.

That is, until he stumbles upon something different: the dreams of strangers. Mesmerized and enchanted, Ian follows his curiosity but quickly finds himself thrust into a situation he did not expect. Before too long, an ever-accelerating chaos of surreal nights and stark days surround him. Soon there is only one option: he must find answers before his life dangerously unravels and he loses everything.

Thoughtful, innovative, and magical, Buried Vapors is a poignant and timely novel that explores the deep yearning for purpose in all of us as humanity journeys adrift into the twenty-first century. Buried Vapors helps us find the light, even within utter darkness.

The writing in this one is soooo good so far.

Jinnik: The Asset by Gideon Asche:

From 1947 through 1991, the United States and her allies faced off against the Soviet Union and her proxy states in clandestine operations worldwide during the Cold War. It was not a conventional shooting war, but make no mistake, both sides lost thousands of brave men and women who fought for what they believed in. Eastern Europe was home to some of the most intense and harrowing missions as NATO forces directly opposed the Soviets behind the Iron Curtain. Jinnik: The Asset is the true story of one man’s role in the conflict.

Gideon Asche was the typical American soldier stationed in West Germany in 1979. He dreamed of getting out and going back home to California as a civilian who’d done his small part for liberty. Little did he know that his longtime girlfriend, Petra, was a Mossad agent who’d likely been recruiting him from the beginning. After his enlistment was up, Gideon found himself with an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become a covert operator helping people trapped beyond the lines of freedom.

For ten years, Gideon lived in the shadows under false identities, transiting border checkpoints and Eastern Bloc nations with supplies and much-needed cash for the resistance. He lost team members, contacts, and friends, but he made a difference in Eastern Europe. No mission was refused because it was too hard or had never been done before. The only thing that stopped him was his eventual capture and torture by the KGB in Bulgaria. Somehow, miraculously, he survived the ordeal to tell his story.

This one looks super intense, but I’m really curious to see what it’s all about.

Anyone else reading these? ♡

Short Story Review: An Indelible Day (2020)

An Indelible Day by Cairo Marques (2020)

“We just weren’t compatible. Still, we’re going to exist within one another eternally. We’ve created indelible memories together.”

An Indelible Day is quite an interesting short story that makes for a quick, thought provoking read. The story is divided into three sections and each one is framed around conversations the main character, John C., has with three other people. The main characters are not given last names, only initials, which was an interesting stylistic choice. I think the last time I saw that was in classics, which is cool. The monologues of the characters and the way the story is framed reminded me of older stories, too, like Salinger’s style in Franny and Zooey, just having two characters engaged in a long conversation. It definitely flowed well.

I will say that I would’ve liked a bit more characterisation to really get to know each character and perhaps some backstory, and I do wish it had been expanded a little bit, with perhaps a bit more detail, but overall it made for a very interesting and engaging read.

I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.

Review: Ring the Bell (2020)

Ring the Bell by Josie Jaffrey

It’s everyone for themselves in Unterstrom, and despite our efforts to convert them to our way of thinking, our neighbours won’t listen. They argue that the Surge serves a purpose, that the sick and old are a burden on the community, which is exactly what the masters in Overstrom want us to think. They argue this because it’s the accepted truth, but the real truth is more selfish.

Ouch, right in the dystopian feeeeeels. Ring the Bell follows Mia and Ari, two residents of Unterstrom who live in dire poverty and suffer at the mercy of those in Overstrom. Every five years, the Surge comes, but the first one to the bell tower buys their family a new life. Let the race begin …

This is such a good short story and it left me craving a badass sequel with Ida. I definitely, definitely recommend this.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.

Indie TBR

Indie books are often where I look for most of my books. Not just because I write indie books myself and want to support fellow writers, but because I find so much diversity and so many hidden gems. So, without further ado, some indie books I’ve added to my list that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into:

Eat the Rich by Andrew Rivas | Jinnik: The Asset by Gideon D. Asche | Goblinprince by Abbigayle Grace | Lord of the Clouds by G.S. Lewis | Annabel Pickering and the Sky Pirates: The Fantastical Contraption by Bretigne Shaffer | Kartega by A.N. Sage

Anyone read any of these? I’d love to know what you thought!

Like indie books? Check out the Indie Authors & Books community on Goodreads! Or check out Reedsy! Or Voracious Readers Only! 😉

Indie Book Spotlight: Author Resources

an open book with glasses and white flowers; text says, 'indie book spotlight'

Indie Book Spotlight Twitter Page

I thought I’d share some links and communities for indie authors looking for resources as I know it can be difficult to even know where to start. Starting off without a reader base makes getting one challenging, but there are ways to showcase your works from the start!*

*I have not used all of these websites personally, as some of these have been recommended to me, so do let me know if anything needs amending! 

I try to update this page pretty regularly. Most recently updated May 2022.

Freelance Editors

There are a number of freelance editors that work with authors in the indie book community. A recent Twitter thread (as of March 2022) of editors that indie authors recommend is here.

I have personally worked with a variety of wonderful editors and writers on my books to date: Elizabeth Tanner worked with me on the first two books of The Outlands Pentalogy; Daniela Tarlton-Rees has been my editor for a number of my books, most recently These Violent Nights; Meredith Anderson was my editor for the third-fifth Outlands books; and Kristina Decker and I co-published an anthology back in 2019 (Spellbinding: An Anthology of Magic) that has since been unpublished, however my short story in the collection, The Man and the Crow, is now available as an ebook.

Publishing

I started out with CreateSpace, which merged with Amazon KDP a while back, thus my current books are all published through Amazon KDP, which includes paperbacks. There’s also an option for hardbacks! I haven’t used it myself yet, but I’ve seen several other indie authors publishing hardbacks and they all look great! So the options are all there. I have also heard that IngramSpark and Lulu are great places to publish. The hardbacks from IngramSpark that I’ve seen have been exceptionally beautiful, too. There is also Barnes and Nobel Press and D2D.

  • If you need help formatting and designing the interior of your book, I’ve heard good things about Vellum, although I haven’t used it myself yet.
  • If you want to convert your Word docx into ebooks, Calibre is very handy for this.

Cover Designers 

I have used a variety of book cover designers so far and all of them I can wholeheartedly recommend: Rachel Bowdler, Heather Maddalozzo, Black Jazz Design and BespokeBookCovers.

Some examples:

A few other places I’ve come across but haven’t tried personally (yet! at least, ha!) are: Truborn Design, Fantasy & Coffee Design, Lance Buckley, Seedling Design Studio, Book Cover Design, Juan Padrón and The Cover Collection.

I am absolutely in awe of all of these places and encourage anyone looking for a cover designer to have a good browse around for the right art to adorn your book!

Websites

Indie Story Geek | Goodreads | Readerly | Reedsy | Litsy | LibraryThing | Booksprout | StoryOrigin | ProlificWorks | NetGalley | Bookfunnel | BookBub | The Story Graph | Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

In my personal, subjective experience, Goodreads and Twitter are phenomenally helpful tools for marketing yourself as an author. In addition to having a Goodreads Author Page, if you have a Twitter account and engage with hashtags like #WritingCommunity, #booktwt, #SPFBO, #SPSFC and #BBNYA, you’re going to find thousands of authors, readers and bloggers interested in the indie book world. My Indie Book Spotlight page on Twitter is here, for anyone interested!

The Indie Authors & Books community welcomes authors, readers and bloggers to share their books, sites and recommendations. Some other really great Goodreads communities are: For Love of a Book, (Indie) Authors At The Round Table, Advanced Copies for Review & Book Giveaways, Making Connections, Authors & Reviewers, Shut Up & Read, Free Books, .99, Giveaways & Reviews, Bookworm Bitches, Readers That Love Giveaways, Ebook Deals, and Free Books, Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy. Be sure to read the rules before posting/submitting. Each community has different requirements. 🙂

Book Blogs, Bloggers and ARCs

WordPress is a great place to start, honestly. So many bloggers have made WordPress their home and many have review policy pages to check out. This is generally located in the menu.

For those looking to offer advance reader copies (ARCs) of their books, there are also master posts of bloggers seeking ARCs at The Indie Reviewers ListThe Book Reviewer DirectoryThe Book Blogger List100 Best Blogs for Book Reviews and Shirley’s Book Blogger List.

There are also places like the self-published/indie authors community on Livejournal where you can post about your book. Voracious Readers Only is another option, where they advertise your book to readers seeking indie options. In my experience, VRO is a truly fantastic resource and I definitely recommend giving it a go. The trial period is free and you get to send ARCs to readers themselves, thereby adding readers to your newsletters!

For those looking on starting a blog or starting a website, these two places have been kindly shared with me: How to Start a Blog in 2021 and How to Make a Successful Website.

  • There is also Word Refiner, with proofreading and promotion.

Lee Hall, a fellow indie author who has had great success with marketing, published Consistent Creative Content (2021), which has his personal insight into the art of marketing indie books. Rachel Bowdler, both self and traditionally published, also has a thread on what’s worked for her.

Contests

There are several yearly competitions: There is the wildly popular SPFBO, hosted by best-selling fantasy author Mark Lawrence. Hugh Howey, a big name in the self-publishing community and an international best seller (with a show coming soon!!), is now hosting SPSFC, styled after SPFBO.

In 2022, my debut novel, A Touch of Death, made it into the semi-finals of the first SPSFC competition and placed 8th! It was such a fun experience and I definitely recommend taking part in one of the competitions in the indie community.

Below are the 30 SPSFC semi-finalists and how the final rankings broke down:

a collage of all the SPSFC semi-finalists; there are thirty different book covers.

There is also the fantastic BBNYA. I’ve entered it three years in a row and have always had fun and found so many amazing books in the process.

Fallbrandt Press also hosts a yearly Indie Sci-fi/Fantasy Author Battle (ISFAB); and Indies Today also hosts a yearly competition. Creative writing contests are another an option to check out, although I haven’t done one myself.

Blog Tours

Blog tours are another great option to advertise your book to readers! I haven’t used all of these, but some that I know of are: A Novel Take, Let’s Talk! Promotions, Xpresso Book Tours, Be My Book Boyfriend, Rockstar Book Tours, Promotional Book Tours, R&R Book Tours, Storytellers on Tour, The Write Reads, Bewitching Book Tours, TBR and Beyond Tours, Psst Promotions, Turn the Page Tours, The Book Terminal, Blackthorn Book Tours, Random Things Tours, Silver Dagger Book Tours, Prism Book Tours, Caffeine Book Tours and Booktamins.

Magazines and Journals

If you’re looking to write short stories and want to try submitting to a magazine, there are some great magazines calling for submissions and I found a (older) wonderful compilation of links here.

Character Art

Getting freelance/indie artists to draw the characters in your novel is not only fun, but helps readers visualise the characters. There are numerous artists showcasing their work on Twitter. I was lucky enough to get Libra Illustrations to draw some of my characters from my book These Violent Nights and am delighted by the final result!

Promo Art

When advertising on social media, having nice graphics can really help. I’m still learning this myself, but some helpful guides I’ve found are here: Book Brush vs Canva and How To Kill It With Book Promo Images on Twitter.

I hope this helps anyone looking for resources! (ɔ◔‿◔)ɔ If anyone has any lists they think should be added, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the post.

Thank you to everyone who has suggested websites and links! You guys are wonderful! ♥♥

Review Roundup [27/05]

A Small Revolution in Germany by Philip Hensher, narrated by Neville Watchurst [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

Sometimes, as humans, we decide without consultation what would be best for people.

It made for a nice listen and the narrator was quite good. Spike was interesting character and his relationship with Joaquin is explored well. The political conversations and musings are thought-provoking, and Hensher certainly knows how to write witty dialogue. I’m just not sure what my thoughts are on this one. Overall, though, the prose was good, and it made for a nice addition to lgbt+ historical fiction.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #304 [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

She offered me a handful of bees and told me what to do, word for word.

Listened to ‘The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows’ by Dimitra Nikolaidou. Amazing title, just sayin’. Well written short story and the audiobook is worth a listen! Available here.

The Curse of the Black Cat by Lou Wilham [review cross-posted to Goodreads, Reedsy]

This is an inherently sweet spin on the classic fairy tale. Prince Alrik of Edan is set to marry Princess Amriah, whom he doesn’t, and can’t, love. Cos, you know, he fancies the pants off Filip, his valet. He tries to play along and give Amriah a chance, but he can’t. He feels nothing for her. Filled with fear of his secret being discovered, Alrik seeks out the witch Gwydion, for help: he wants to be ‘cured’. 😦 It’s a very sad moment, but rather than take advantage of him, Gwydion tells him there’s nothing wrong with him: I’m afraid there is no cure for such a thing, dear prince. We love who we love, and that is the end of that. No magic can change it, not even mine. Nor would I want it to. I really liked her! She’s such a kind person.

Unfortunately, Alrik doesn’t take this well and Gwydion turns him into a cat. And she can’t change him back cos magic doesn’t work like that. A cat you are now, and a cat you shall stay until you can learn to love yourself. It’s an interesting twist to say the least. In addition to being a cat, he’s now immortal. With no way back to his life as a prince, Alrik watches the world pass him by while trapped as a cat. He travels around, seeking out witches, but to no avail.

One day, centuries later, Alrik finds himself in New York, at a Japanese restaurant. He starts to fall in love with both the food and the chef, Yuuki. Very soon, Yuuki begins taking care of Alrik, and dubs the cat ‘Prince’. ADORBS.

What follows is a very sweet, fluffy *pun totally intended * romance. If you’re a fan of adorable fantasy tales, this one is totally for you (⌒▽⌒)

Mini Review Roundup [19/03]

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Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

When you mix juju with technology, you give up control. You are at the will of something far beyond yourself.

This was a really intriguing tale about witchcraft and technology, and the consequences that come from blending the two. I only wish there’d been a little bit more to the story, but overall I really liked it. Available here.

 

Trial Run (Wild Heritance #0.5) by S. Lynn Helton

She wasn’t trying to prove anything, was she?

Ooooh, this was cool. I haven’t read the Wild Heritance books, but this novella has left me bursting with questions. Such great world building and adventure! I can’t wait to see where the story takes Namid.

 

Migration by Kat Howard

In every life I can remember, which is not all of them, not any more, I have longed to fly.

This was an absolutely beautiful tale of birds and eternity. Read here.

Book Reviews: The Sigil (2020) & The Sycamore and the Sybil (2020)

My Post (2)

The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish & Larissa Mandeville: LGBT, fantasy

Everything that happened led you to this place […] and a boy who lost his voice and didn’t care if he’d ever get it back now wishes every day that he could just open his mouth and tell you all of this.

I really enjoyed this début novel from Shakeil Kanish and Larissa Mandeville! The main characters of Lake and Nova are great, and the bro angst really brought the FEELS. Brotherly love is something I adore in books, so of course this one tugged at my heart. ;_;

I want him to choose what he wants to be, not be stuck in a magical destiny like I seem to be. He deserves the world. I MEAN.

The twists at the end were great, and I loved the artwork inside the book, too! Can’t wait to see where it goes next!

 

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Sycamore and the Sybil by Alix E. Harrow in Uncanny Magazine Issue 33: March/April 2020: Fantasy, feminism

It’s like each woman doing what she can until one day, somehow, it is enough.

WELL, GOSH. I’m shook, to be quite honest. I have found a new author to adore. Alix E. Harrow’s The Sycamore and the Sybil is utterly captivating. You can feel the sisterhood and solidarity running through every word and the prose is simply lush.

Totally, totally recommend.