Tag Archives: novel

caitsbooks Reviews Acephalous by Amanda Marsico

5 Mar
3-5 stars

3/5 stars

The following review was written by Caitlin at caitsbooks.tumblr.com and originally published here. Republished with permission.

If you wish to skip to certain parts of the review covering specific topics, look for the bold words! Also, there are NO SPOILERS AHEAD!

*Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

To see my review on Goodreads, click here!

Overall: 3/5 Stars
Characters: 2/5
Setting: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Plot and Themes: 4/5
Awesomeness Factor: 3/5

If you don’t feel like reading this long review, here is my review in a nutshell:
While the pacing wasn’t great, and some of the characters were unlikable, Acephalous was still an interesting book with fascinating magic and lore.

The plot of Acephalous follows Breena, as she goes to London for the summer. There she meets Atlas, who introduces her to a world of illusions. But there is more to this world than she knows, and she must learn how to manipulate the illusions herself if she wants to avoid becoming a pawn in an impending apocalypse. While reading, I couldn’t help but compare this book to a mix of The Phantom of the Opera and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones.

The pacing of this book varied. In the beginning, everything felt rushed. There was a lot going on, as well as a lot being introduced, making it hard to keep up with what was happening. However, after the first half of the book, the pacing smooths out as the lore has been established and the plot starts to truly unfold. The quick pace made it a fast read, with constant action and plotting. I think the sequel will really reap the benefits of this pace more than this first book did because there will be less exposition and worldbuilding thrown in.  I did enjoy learning about the magic and the illusions in Acephalous. The supernatural aspect was fascinating to read about and I look forward to uncovering more in the next book. Also, there was a lot of funny and entertaining dialogue that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to read more of. 

The main character, Breena, was probably my least favorite part of the book. I just found her somewhat annoying (but hey, I’m not a big fan of Christine Daae and Clary Fray either, so this is just proving my earlier comparison). A lot of Breena’s actions frustrated me, mostly concerning her relationship with Atlas and with Jordan. Love triangles are basically impossible to do perfectly, and I wasn’t a big fan of this one. When Atlas was introduced, I was really annoyed with how Breena would switch from forgiving him for being a weird stalker then being creeped out by it. I had mixed feelings about him during the book and didn’t really start to like him as a character until about halfway through the book. Their relationship was also something I wasn’t a big fan of until much later in the book. I do really look forward to seeing Atlas in the sequel because his development throughout this first book set up for a really interesting character for later. Jordan, Breena’s other love interest/long-time friend, was a little better for me at the beginning. It was established from the start that he loved her, and although I was annoyed that he didn’t really accept her rejection, I did end up liking them together. I also liked all of the other side characters, (especially Lily and Linda! Love the LGBT representation! It was done really well!).

Pros– Funny and #relatable dialogue, interesting magic system and supernatural aspects
Cons– Awkward pacing, and a frustrating protagonist  
Overall- 3/5 stars.


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.


Humans In My House, Kepler, and His Namesake

26 Oct

Ever wonder why I chose to name the curious cat of Humans In My House after astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler?

This excellent article by Marcelo Gleiser, written for NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture, discusses just some of the many reasons behind my choice. Though the opinion article is distinctly political and currently relevant, my motivations to choose the name were strictly related to Kepler’s fields of study and discoveries.

Kepler lived and worked persistently for knowledge, for humanity. It’s a value I believe is important to share with young readers through the curiosity and social consciousness of my characters, starting with Kepler and his human, Emily, regardless of the political climate of Johannes Kepler’s time or ours. Though I would never try to downplay the importance of politics, of policy, or its roles in our society, the moral of the series, especially of volume 2, is not “good politics,” but “good stewardship”–of humanity and of the earth.

The Humans In My House series is available here. Read volume 2, Humans In My House and the Stars Above It, to learn more about Kepler, his namesake, and his advancements in astronomy.

Pacific Northwest

15 Jun

Image may contain: people riding bicycles, tree, outdoor and nature

I just got back from a two-week hiking trip in the Olympic Peninsula. It was an amazing experience. The sheer size of the wilderness–I’d never seen anything like it. You grow up on the east coast thinking our mountains are high… what a joke that turns out to be.

I’m not going to bore you with a day-by-day recount of each and every little thing we did (although let me know if you’re interested in that because I’ve considered starting a dedicated blog for our adventures), but I will say that I went out there as a writer expecting to be inspired for Humans In My House 3 and Acephalous 3 (and I was), but I came back feeling like I should be a painter instead. Words don’t so often fail me as they did there. It’s just one of those places you have to SEE.

Regardless, if you’re interested in seeing a little bit of what I experienced, follow me on instagram @KeperSeesTheWorld. I photograph my little clay Kepler in new places as a way to document and market Humans In My House (Kepler is the main character, if you didn’t know). Some of the places he ends up will make it into future installments of the books series.

**Side note: @We_Go_Hiking is my rarely used adventure insta, which I will take up using again if I do create a travel-based blog here. My Pacific Northwest trip is not shown there because I primarily focused on Kepler,  but I may double post in the future.


Official Cover Reveal! Take 2.

28 Mar

Canada - Edited - Sized - Final - 200 dpi

If you saw this post about a week ago, I’m sure you noticed the cover art was vastly different. Well, after receiving the proof print, it was clear the black background had to go. It was COVERED in fingerprints. This is what the cover will look like on publication day.

Join me for a release party/book signing for Acephalous and Humans In My House on the 15th, from 11:00am to 4:00pm, at Book Warehouse Myrtle Beach, located in the Tanger Outlets on 501. If you can’t get one in person, buy it in print. Coming soon to kindle.

Thanks for you support, interest, and patience!


Pro-Tip: Copyright

3 Feb

Copyrighting is the legal process of filing your original creation (literary works for the purposes of this discussion) with the U.S. Copyright Office (or the office responsible in your country). This process of registration is the only way to fully protect your original content. By virtue of creating a text, saving it on your computer and/or keeping handwritten originals, publishing online through a blog or other platform, and/or publishing electronically or in hard copy for sale, the work is copyrighted in your name (or the pen name/alias used when publishing it) just because it exists. However, the only way you can pursue legal action against someone for violating your ownership of the text is if it is formally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Only a registered work can be defended in court.

Many people think copyrighting their work is difficult, expensive, and requires a lawyer’s assistance. Not true (at least not always). Now, take this information with a grain of salt, as it’s reflective of my own self-publishing experience, I’m not a lawyer, and certain projects cost more and risk more than my fiction novels. However, I’ve copyrighted two of my own projects so far, spending $35 each, and find it to be one of the easiest parts of the publishing process. I log in, choose the online form for literary works, answer the questions that determine whether my project is eligible for online registration (my type of texts-a single item, novel, with a single author/owner-always are), fill in information about the novel and my personal/business information, pay, and submit the text as an attached word document.

If you’re ready to start this process for your novel or other text, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website and make sure your text belongs in the literary works category. Then, begin the online application by clicking “Register a Literary Work” under the eCO section on the right side of the screen.

To file, you must be the creator/owner of the work or the legally responsible agent for the piece (meaning publisher, agent, lawyer, or other responsible party that has the author’s permission to file for and/or hold the copyright). In my opinion, it’s best that authors own their own copyrights. It gives more control over your intellectual property. This won’t always be a possibility in certain publication scenarios, so decide the level of involvement and ownership you wish to maintain as author before signing anything for anybody.

If you decide to proceed with the process, you must have the most current, closest to publication-ready version of the text as you can. You will be required to submit that text online as an attachment or by mail as hard copy (which they do not return to you) after payment (via credit/debit or direct withdrawal from a bank account).

A lot of people worry that they cannot make any changes ever to the text once it is copyrighted. This is a misconception. The general rule of thumb is that minor changes to your manuscript after it has been registered (things like editing for grammar and typos) do not require you to resubmit for updating. However, large creative changes, like adding a chapter or creating an updated edition with a new forward or new footnotes, will require re-submission because the copyrighted product then differs too greatly from the publication version of the product. At that point, they are no longer the same text. This is why it’s important to be as ready to publish as you can before submitting.

After that, it’s a waiting game. Assuming there are no errors with your application or file submission, there will be a long silence and then the copyright will appear in your mailbox. They say this takes around 8 months. My first copyright came in 2. If something is amiss, it will take longer, as you’ll have to resubmit to fix any errors. They’ll let you know if anything is holding up the process. Essentially, no news is good news.

If you have any questions about the process, I highly recommend visiting the FAQ page on the Copyright Office’s website. Everything I know about the process and have shared with you here I learned from reading the materials and guidelines they provide. You can also comment with your questions or advice, or email me: amanda@redinkenthusiast.com.

As a writing services provider and fellow author, I can help familiarize you with this process and send you to helpful resources, but please remember that I’m not a lawyer. I do not provide legal services or advice regarding copyright infringement, libel, et cetera. I do not provide financial services or advice regarding marketing, sales, or the publication process. All information given is based solely on my personal experiences as a scholar and fellow self-publisher and is not to serve as the sole recommendation on which to base your writing and publication practices.

Acephalous, An Update

5 Feb

It’s cold and rainy here. It has been most of the week. But, that kind of weather is perfect for hot drinks and long projects. I’ve decided to pursue publication of my first novel. This isn’t the children’s book I mentioned a few weeks ago, but the first manuscript I ever completed–a YA novel called Acephalous. I started writing it in high school and, over the years, it has taken on many new forms, getting better every time. It’s now in its third edited draft of the completed version. I plan to send it for copyrighting at the end of this edit (unless I find something glaring along the way that I have to overhaul. A realistic possibility, as I’m never satisfied).

What I’ve learned is that it is sometimes necessary to step away from projects for a long time in order to realize their worth. I always thought the story was pretty decent. I even shared clips of it here when I was planning on publishing after the second draft. But, after spending so much time with it, I lost confidence. I thought it needed a total rewrite, that there was too much of my younger, untrained, high school writer self left in it. I got overwhelmed. An edited draft two and a fresh draft three sat on my shelf for a couple of years, third printing better than the second, but still unedited.

Now that I’ve come back to it, I realize it’s really not bad. Sure, there are parts I’ve changed, and the time away allowed me to see them, but the time also allowed me to see what was great in the novel and what was innate in my writing abilities–things from my younger, untrained self that really work and don’t need to be educated away. I’d have to say that writing is never more “you” than it is before you’ve been trained in theory, style, and genre. After that, “youness” gets hushed by correctness and propriety. So, this latest version is a balancing act between my original voice as an author, as a teen, and the technical sensibilities of an academic, an adult. What should be thrown away, and what should be added to achieve a properly formed plot? All while being my own, not what any professor encouraged (or ordered) me to be. It’s a line by line choice that I’m fully equipped to make thanks to my education. After all, you have to learn the rules in order to artfully and purposefully ignore them.

%d bloggers like this: