Smashwords Interview

28 Feb
Smashwords Ace 1 front page

I’m still on the front page for the Young Adult and Teen category on Smashwords. Oh, and did I mention Acephalous has a new cover? I’m in love with it. Official cover reveal coming soon!

Yesterday I joined Smashwords so that I can offer ebooks through more retailers. So far, it’s been a smashing experience. (Cue the groans that always come after a pun.)

Acephalous is now available for download on Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble Nook, OverDrive, Kobo, Gardners, and more. It is still available on Amazon Kindle as well. I plan to add Ontogenesis: Acephalous Book 2 to these retailers when it publishes. Due to the nature of the image files that comprise my children’s books, they will only be available in print and ebook via Amazon.

Read my Smashwords author interview below and visit my Smashwords author profile to purchase Acephalous on these new platforms.

Interview with Amanda Marsico

When did you first start writing?
I was writing creatively before I could even spell. It was simple, silly, but I did it for fun and the habit continued. I always had journals and filled so many pages between the ages of 12 and 19. In addition to my daily journaling, I wrote poetry everywhere. On napkins, school papers, you name it. I don’t journal anymore, but this doesn’t mean I don’t write daily. I still have bits of poetry pop into my head at random times, too. Those I type out on my phone and finish later.
My first professional writing experience was a freelance job interviewing artists for a gallery and writing editorials for their website. I was 20. Since then, I’ve accumulated a large list of published pieces, but none of them felt so surreal or exciting as the first novel, Humans In My House, that published in 2015, and Acephalous, the story I started at 14 years old and finally finished in 2016. That one tops the list of most exciting moments of my career.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
Ontogenesis: Acephalous Book 2 follows the story of Breena and Atlas as Breena tries to clean up the messes she made in book 1 and Atlas tries to win her back. In book 1, Breena is a selfish, annoying person. She uses her dreaming to escape reality, and she yearns to be someone else. This inward focus causes her to steamroll her friends and family. She sees what she’s doing to them, but struggles to pull out of the addictions and relationships that keep her in such a mindset. I painted her in this light purposefully because, first, not every character in a book, not even the main character, has to be likeable all the time; and second, in order to redeem herself in books 2 and 3, she had to start at a low point. She needs room to grow, and heroic, likeable characters have less room for realistic development if they start out that way. They’re changes become caricatures, larger than life traits that paint them as perfect. Breena was never meant to be perfect. In book 1, Breena makes terrible decisions and struggles to put others first. While book 1 focuses on Breena’s downward (or maybe more appropriately, INWARD,) spiral, book 2 sees her accept reality, embrace her identity, and set out to take responsibility by sacrificing her way of life. Without giving too much away about books 1 and 2, I’ll simply say that Breena is going use her power and influence for others rather than herself. Some of the main mischief-makers of book 1 will get what’s coming to them, and those who still get away with their evil will see justice in book 3.
What are you working on next?
I’ve been working on Ontogenesis and a children’s picture book called Nova June: Inventor simultaneously. Nova June will publish first, and I’m aiming for April 2018. Ontogenesis will be out by summer. After those are finished, I’ll take a break for a week or so and then dive into Humans In My House and the Animals Beyond It (#3 in its series). In it, Kepler and his humans will take a family vacation and visit the San Diego Zoo. The book’s educational focus will be wildlife conservation.
How do you approach cover design?
Covers are usually one of the lasts things I take care of before publishing. One practical reason to wait until the end is because the word count and page count need to reach their final numbers in order to create the correct spine width in the cover image. Making the cover first would cause a lot of do-overs as the book grows (or shrinks) during editing. Practicality aside, I like the cover to convey a sense of the book in images, and I often don’t have a full sense of the book myself until at least the draft is done. I’m not a planner when I write, so to choose a cover image before the ending has resolved would be short-sighted.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
In-person events are always my biggest successes. There are fewer books to compete against than any marketing done online. Paid ads and blog posts get some results, but not always enough for the time or monetary investment, at least not at this point in my career. I’m still unknown, so people often disregard what they see because they haven’t already heard of me or enjoyed my work. It’s like shouting into a void. The upside is that if they see my name once and ignore it, they might take notice if it keeps popping up again and again. It’s important to show you have a consistent presence in your line of work. It builds legitimacy. Even so, marketing online is like shouting AT people that may or may not become readers. Doing conventions and signings is like speaking WITH people who are in attendance specifically to be readers. At the very worst, they aren’t at the event to spend any money but to browse, and you still get to make an impression and have your work seen.
Describe your desk:
My desk is whatever I set my computer on for the day. Right now, I’m standing at the kitchen counter writing this because there’s no glare on the screen and I’m so sick of sitting all day every day. It’s just unhealthy. My real desk, which I rarely use for writing work, is in a dedicated office room in my house and often littered with post-its, book illustration originals and concept art, and other works in progress. I use it to spread out when I’m packing swag bags, boxing merch and displays for events, etc. Nothing fancy, it’s a simple 6-foot, white, fold-out table like you’d use at a yard sale. It gets cleared, folded, and packed away for the rare outdoor events that I do (which is risky when you’re inventory is entirely paper).
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I watch more TV and play on my phone more than I should, but it’s a mindless activity that is sometimes needed after writing or reading all day. My favorite activity is hiking, though, and I try to get out of the house as frequently as I can. When you work from home, you have to make a point to go places. Even grocery shopping is a night out when you realize you haven’t left the house in 3 days.
What do you read for pleasure?
When I’m not steeped in my own characters or those of an editing client, I love to read fan fiction written by the talented authors on Tumblr and Archive of our Own. I’m also part of a local book club, so I read the monthly selection even if it’s not in my preferred genre. I think it’s important to read widely, and even when I didn’t like the book, I always get pleasure from the club meetings and discussion regardless. And as if I don’t strain my eyes enough, I have a stack of to-read books that I pick up on impulse almost any time I cross a discount book bin in stores. I’ve been reading a lot of those (various genres, but mostly memoir and non-fiction–it wasn’t a purposeful choice to stock up on nonfiction, just how it turned out) in order to surpass my GoodReads goal of 24 books in 2018. As of this writing, I’m at 9 books and it’s the last day of February. I’m well ahead of schedule.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I was using a Kindle Paperwhite until my water bottle leaked into the bottom of my bag and drowned it. Now I use my phone or ipad.
What are your five favorite books, and why?

I like all of the Cassandra Clare novels, starting with City of Bones. Aside from loving the story and subject matter, these books have a huge cast of characters, and they’re all fully realized people with unique personalities, flaws, and dreams. I’ve always hoped to be as good at characterization as her. If you like these books, Acephalous is probably right up your alley.

I really enjoyed Lauren Kate’s Fallen series. I rarely read something more than once, but I read the series 3 times. Again, the characterization and world-building are outstanding. The subject of fallen angels is a great one in YA lit. If you enjoy these books, I’m sure there are at least a few elements of Acephalous that you’d like, too.

From high school to grad school, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea kept popping up in assignments. It’s a favorite not only because of the hours I poured over that book studying, dissecting, and researching it, but because the wild abandon of the setting drew me in, and the wild heart of its main characters kept me there. This book will always be on my shelf, with index cards of the notes I took over the years still stuffed between the pages.

I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Bradbury years ago, but it’s intelligence sticks with me. The characters are brilliant because the author is brilliant. The intersection of the characters’ lives makes for odd pairings and situations worth writing about.

The last on my list hearkens back to childhood. Corduroy was and still is my favorite book. I love it for its cute illustrations and its hopeful plot. My favorite line I still think about often. As Corduroy approaches (what he is unaware is) an escalator, he says, “I think I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain.” The little bear has the ideal metaphor for life.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?


Published 2018-02-28.



Star Party: Astronomy Night at Playcard Environmental Education Center, Playcard, South Carolina

26 Feb

#Kepler sits atop the Starfinder Meade 16

Thursday night, I drove over to Playcard, South Carolina for a star party hosted by Horry County and the Playcard Environmental Education Center.  This free event took place in the open field next to the center, perfect for stargazing.

It was a beautiful night for the event–cloudless, lightly breezy, cool but not cold. The stars quickly came into view as the sun set.


Setting up

The host astronomers provided a variety of telescopes and binoculars for everyone to try out, and they assisted guests in setting up their own equipment correctly. A decent pair of binoculars is now on my shopping list.

One of the most helpful tips they gave for using binoculars is to look at the area you’d like to view, like the moon, first with your eyes. Keep your sight trained there as you bring the binoculars to your face. This prevents having to crane your head around to try to locate specific bodies through the binoculars. If you look at the area before you bring them to your eyes, the binoculars will already be pointed in the right direction. (Sounds obvious, but I’ve seen many a birder doing the “Where’s Waldo?” through their binoculars.)

Beyond my personal enthrallment with space, the event was an ideal setting to get #Kepler pics and to spread the news about Humans In My House and the Stars Above It. I made coloring books with the illustrations from the novel, packaged them up with a box of crayons and some Red Ink Enthusiast swag, and passed them out to the children in attendance. I made twenty packets and gave away all but two.

ch. 2

Coloring page from chapter 2 of Humans In My House and the Stars Above It

The event turnout was great, but it’s likely that you weren’t there. If you or your little one would like to get in on the coloring, download the Humans In My House and the Stars Above It Coloring Book or use the new Downloads tab on the menu to print the coloring pages.

My plans for this new tab include adding coloring pages from Humans book 1 and Nova June: Inventor (after it publishes), and kid’s book club discussions/reading comprehension topics for each of my novels, all free to download and print for personal and educational use.

In the meantime, happy coloring!

Exhausted is the new Sexy? No.

21 Feb


It would be easy to leave this page blank.

But that’s not what writers do.

I could make it sound like I always want to write, that it’s always easy, and that I’m ecstatic to be doing this right now. And sometimes all those things are true. But, at this moment, it’s ten in the morning, sunny, and 72 degrees out–in FEBRUARY!–and I’m inside talking to you. No offense.

It’s one thing to write advice for writers about useful topics like grammar, composition, and publication. These are important parts of the craft. They need attention. But, it paints this pristine picture of writers, including me, doing everything they’re supposed to do and doing it the right way (often the first time). It doesn’t show the scraps of paper, the huge chunks of deleted text, or the blank stare of writer’s block. It doesn’t show the restless shifting in my seat or convey the heavy, sluggish sensation of having zero motivation for getting anything accomplished today.

So this is me trying to write something additionally useful even when I don’t feel like it. This is me saying I’d like to take a break, that the weather’s great and I’m missing it. 

What’s useful about that?

The acknowledgement that rest and enjoyment are equally important parts of the creative process when pit against research, brainstorming/daydreaming, and writing. Without it, we burn out. A small, voluntary break now might prevent a longer, necessary break later on.

The quicker we begin to reject the glamorization and glorification of overwork, the sooner we stop applauding ourselves and others for how exhausted we are, the more guilt-free enjoyment we can have and still get things done.

I’ve seen so many memes circulating among the creative communities online about, “you should be writing” and, “it’s not research, it’s procrastination.” This is ridiculous. Yes, at some point, you will have to write. Yes, you should finish what you start. But the ideas that we have to complete it in the smallest amount of time, that we need to pull all-nighters or we’re not dedicated to finishing, that sleep is a weakness and procrastination isn’t a productive way of letting the mind wander, is harmful. And heaven forbid we stop our feverish writing long enough to remember to eat. Don’t glamorize forgetting to eat. (It happens sometimes if you’re really in a flow, and a flow is great, but celebrate the productivity of the writing, not the forgetting to eat part. Come on.) Since when is “overwork” the same as “hard work,” y’all?

Rejecting these flawed equivalencies is why this post, written when I didn’t want to, is useful. Its existence proves my point. I saw advice somewhere that said authors should post new content to their websites two to three times a week. It’s Wednesday and I hadn’t created anything new yet. By some construct of society, I obligated myself to do this.  And I would have felt guilty if I didn’t stick to my plan.

But there has to be a balance between doing what you said you were going to do and cutting yourself some slack.

And so that I’m taking my own advice and not just preaching, this will be my only post this week. 1. Little. Article. One opinion no one asked for. You’re welcome.

(that’s me telling myself thank you.)

International Book Giving Day 2018

14 Feb

What’s better than giving valentines and chocolate? Giving BOOKS!

February 14th is International Book Giving Day. The goal is to get books into the hands of more children and to make them excited about reading. This is a volunteer-led initiative that anyone can participate in.

Some of the ways to participate include:

  • Gift a book to someone you know
  • Leave a book in a waiting room for children to read as they wait
  • Donate to local libraries, hospitals, shelters, and other organizations that can get the books to children who need them. (This includes international organizations!)

To top it off, “Publisher Book Island will donate one book to their hospital programme [sic] for each book sold via their website (14 – 28 February)” (International Book Giving Day 2018), so go buy some books!

Today, I got involved by donating a class set of Acephalous and Humans In My House to my local Boys and Girls Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the books will find a permanent home in the media rooms at their Club (elementary age) and Teen Center (middle and high school age). I’ll be volunteering to lead a book club on the books later on (if they read them before we move back to VA).

Here’s a photo of my visit!


After delivering books, Amanda Marsico holding #Kepler in front of the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

Follow this and other adventures on my Instagrams @KeplerSeesTheWorld (Kepler & kid-friendly book news) and @RedInkEnthusiast (Acephalous & Teen+ book news) and use #bookgivingday in your posts. Don’t forget to follow @BookGivingDay, too.

How to Babysit Your Author: A Guide

12 Feb


Staying in on a Friday night? Parking it on the couch for the weekend?

If you love an author, you might be stuck in the house with one of these bleary-eyed, curmudgeony, hand-cramped word-herders. Here are some surefire ways (in somewhat chronological order) to babysit your author successfully.

  1. Say goodbye to the corner seat of the couch.
  2. Turn on the coffee maker; put on the kettle. It’s only a matter of time. Whether your author wants coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, the hot water will be in demand.
  3. Hand over the remote. Watch some mindless, guilty-pleasure TV. Don’t feel guilty.
  4. Those little bitty decorative throw blankets? You can do better. Pull the comforter off the bed and throw it over the couch.We want our feet and our shoulders covered.
  5. Place cat in lap.
  6. Intersperse a few good puns throughout conversation. Hint: The best puns are the ones that make your author comment on how bad they are.
  7. Make a cheese plate, except with chocolate instead of cheese. Actually, the plate isn’t even necessary. Just hand over a stack of chocolate bars. Your author will know what to do with them.
  8. No nap-shaming. If you don’t want to sleep while your author does, read their draft. If it’s not ready to read, mute your phone/computer/video games, and don’t load/unload the dishwasher. Please.
  9. Wake your author only if you’re dying or dinner’s ready.
  10. Breakfast for dinner.
  11. Offer a neck and shoulder rub or a hand massage. Typing is easy, but it’s still strenuous work.
  12. Even if they already have plenty, surprise your author with a new journal, date book, note pad, or pen. Post-its are also a practical option. Your author might not have time to journal every day, but random thoughts worthy of a post-it crop up constantly, and they make great bookmarks.
  13. After reading and writing for work, authors often don’t make time to do it for enjoyment. Give your author a few hours of uninterrupted read-for-pleasure time to work on that To-Be-Read pile. It’s getting dangerously tall.
  14. Your author’s eyes might be too tired to read for fun. Give them a cold rag or gel mask to relax. Save the cucumbers for some hummus.
  15. Make hummus.
  16. Listen to your author’s anxiety-riddled plot-hole repair plan. Don’t just nod and smile. Give real feedback by telling your author the things that will actually help the story, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Your author would rather screw up in front of you and then put in more work than publish something iffy under the impression that it’s great.
  17. Remind your author that it’s fine they aren’t writing right that second. Rest is essential work, too.
  18. Did I mention cats? More cats. Also, refill hot beverage of choice. Your author has run out by now.
  19. Stay up late with your author, even though they napped and you didn’t. Remember to nap with them next time.
  20. Run a bath.

These are just a few ways to babysit your author. This list is not exhaustive, nor does it cover the preferences of every author. That means your author might be easier, or harder, to please. If the latter, I apologize on behalf of my temperamental, wordy kind and wish you good luck.

Who Is Nova June? Nova’s Top Role Models in Science

7 Feb

Nova is always learning something. She knows progress means paying attention to the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and trail-blazers who came before her and that learning from their mistakes and successes is the way to improve. Here are 10 of Nova’s top role models, in order of birth.


  • Sophia Brahe (1559-1643)
    • Danish genealogist, horticulturist, and astronomer, known for her 900-page genealogy of 90 Dutch noble families, and for assisting her brother, Tycho Brahe (who insisted on educating her when her brilliant scientific mind began to show around age 10), in his astronomy, which included the world’s most accurate astronomical observations pre-telescope.
  • Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
    • Mathematician and writer widely considered the first computer programmer for her creation and publication of an algorithm that would allow wider applications of a computing machine beyond calculation only.
  • Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
    • First American woman to work as a professional astronomer, discoverer of a telescopic comet (too small to see with the naked eye) later named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”
  • Ida Hyde (1857-1945)
    • American physiologist known for her invention of the microelectrode, an intracellular instrument used to monitor physiological parameters in marine animals. She also advocated for childhood health screenings in public schools to help combat tuberculosis and spinal meningitis among other infectious diseases. Because of the sexism and discrimination she faced in the scientific community, she, along with other female scientists and professors, founded the Naples Table Association to help fund and support women in scientific careers.
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934)
    • Physicist and chemist, first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person and woman to win a Nobel Prize twice. Her research in radioactivity led her to create mobile x-ray units, and the vehicles and generators needed to run them, for use during in-the-field medical care for soldiers of World War 1. This is just one of her many accomplishments.
  • Bessie Coleman (1882-1926)
    • First woman of African descent AND first woman of Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license. She went to France to attend flight school because no one in America would teach her because of her race and gender. When she returned to the U.S. with her international pilot’s license, she became a successful air show pilot.
  • Grace Hopper (1906-1992)
    • Computer Scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral who invented one of the first compiling tools and influenced programming languages still used today. She received the National Medal of Technology in 1991 and was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Freedom in 2016.
  • Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)
    • Chinese-American experimental physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project developing the process to separate Uranium into Uranium-235 and Uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. For this and other work, she won the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
    • Chemist who discovered and published findings on the double helix shape of human DNA. These findings were not widely recognized until after her death, although she was recognized for her work with viruses and coal during her lifetime.
  • Mae Jemison (1956-)
    • Astronaut, engineer, and physician, and the first African-American woman to travel to space.


If you’d like to learn more about these and others who’ve done great things, follow the links above or visit A Mighty Girl (my personal favorite source for inspiration), the Association for Women in Science, or read this article by Jan Sloan about the founding of the Naples Table Association published by University of Chicago Press.

Who Is Nova June? 10 Things She’d Want You to Know

5 Feb

Nova character watercolor 2 - Copy

Nova June is a curious and determined innovator and the main character of Amanda Marsico’s newest book, Nova June: Inventor, for readers aged 3 to 7 years.

Available for pre-order in March, and publishing April 7, 2018

10 Things About the Leading Lady

  • Nova’s inventions don’t always work, but she never stops trying.
  • Her pet box turtle, Georgie, is a great secret-keeper and helps to keep her projects under wraps until the big reveal.
  • Sometimes the neighborhood kids don’t want to test Nova’s inventions, but most of the time they’re excited to see what she made.
  • Nova likes to collect posters of her favorite people and role models. She hangs them over her desk so she can see them while she’s creating.
  • Silver is her favorite color because the robots in her favorite books and shows are made of metal.
  • Like many kids, Nova loves to play hide-and-seek, and she wants to invent an invisibility shirt so she can sneak back to home base before the seeker finds her.
  • She wants to see space and the bottom of the ocean and the inside of a volcano.
  • Nova knows she’ll have to do some great inventing to get to some of those places.
  • When she’s not in her room hard at work on a project, she’s at the library reading about the inventors that came before her.
  • She realizes it’s important to give her brain a break, too, so Nova likes to climb the trees in her back yard and skate with her neighborhood friends.


Check back for the next installment of “10 Things…” where Nova shares her top 10 role models in science!

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