My top 10 books of 2015

Top Fiction Books



 1. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

I would surely recommend this book to anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice, even if you aren’t into the Mystery genre. P.D. James is an awesome writer. This book is what I would call a “modern classic”. It is also a fun, surprising book. The kind you won’t manage to stop reading and you will feel sad when you finish because you can’t dwell longer in its world with its great characters.


 2. The Martian by Andy Weir

This book is lots of fun, its main character is one of the funniest I ever met while reading. It deserved to be the 2014 Goodreads Choice Winner.

 3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you lived during the 80’s and liked games this is the golden book for you. Back then I wasn’t the geekiest around, but even though this book brought back a world of memories while having a page turning story.



4.  Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews

This great series gets better with each new book. Kate is a kick-ass heroine and the plot is surprising, with great characters and settings. In my case it made me to stay awake until  midnight to read it. A totally fun read that hooks the reader until the end. I found this one of the best books of this great urban fantasy series.



5. The Spirit of a Witch (The Briley Witch Chronicles #1) by Sarah Jane Avory

I found this book lots of fun. The protagonist reminded me a bit of detective Monk. Briley is a different kind of hero, refreshing and fun due to being most of the time humanly uncertain, almost until the last minute, when her ingenuity saves the day. I also loved Smokey because he really sounded like a cat. I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy stories with witches. And to anyone who understands how great is to befriend a cat.

Top writing Books


6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne, Dave King

This is an objective, goal oriented book for revising your manuscript. The checklists are quite useful and the explanations surely helpful. I recommend it as revision reference.



7. Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction (Busy Writer’s Guides #4) by Marcy Kennedy

This book is very helpful, with direct and goal oriented tips for finding balance between showing and telling in your writing. I will use it while revising my first draft and I definitely recommend it.



8. How to Write Dialogue (Busy Writer’s Guides #3)  by Marcy Kennedy

A great guide on writing and revising your manuscript’s dialogues. The “take to the page” sections are a great resource while revising.



9. Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints(Write Great Fiction) by Nancy Kress

This book is part of a great series on how to write a fiction book. It has detailed information on Point of View and Characters, two important aspects of fiction writing.



10. She Sat He Stood: What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? by Ginger Hanson 

This book is a good solution against the talking-heads problem on dialogue. I enjoyed it. Writers can benefit from thinking like settings-designers and prop masters while creating their settings.

2015 in review – 770 views! Not bad for the first year

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 770 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Author Interview – Laura Woodswalker

selfie with book small

How would you describe your story in one sentence?

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla sent a message to Mars…what happened when they answered?

*What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?

The protagonist himself. Nikola Tesla invented the modern electrical system, so he is practically the father of the “industrial age”. He also had an otherworldly side. He reported visions of “beings of light”, and believed that he had received a message from extraterrestrials on his radio equipment. When I read his story, I thought “this is a science fiction story that practically writes itself”.

And yet until recently this man’s name was in no schoolbooks and nobody had even heard of him. Those who did, tended to dismiss him as a ‘crackpot’.  Very few authors had written serious novels with Tesla as a protagonist. His story just cried out to be written. I wanted to get inside his head; see what he thought and felt. Yes, it is science fiction and I did take liberties with the historical facts. I stretched the timeline and the facts, and I explained all of it in my historical notes. So, this is a book where you can learn some history, while having a good time.

After decades of rejections from the Pro publishers, I had given up on writing. But this story just wouldn’t leave me alone, and so I had no choice but to pick it up and run with it.

*Which authors have influenced you?

Isaac Asimov, Sherri Tepper, Orson Scott Card, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford Simak, Zenna Henderson, Ursula leGuin.

*Which are your favorite literary genres?

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical fiction and combinations of these.

*What makes a book/story special for you?

I identify with outcasts, so I like stories about exceptional people–geniuses, people with special talents and gifts–who don’t quite fit in to their societies. I like a well-crafted plot, and a definite ending (I don’t care for cliffhangers). What makes a story really special is that “sense of wonder” that SF used to have. I used to love novels with advanced aliens who are more evolved than us. If I could find a story about aliens that are not horrifying monsters… a story that gave me a bit of hope, instead of a cloud of gloom and doom…that would truly be a special book. This is the kind of book I am trying to write.

*Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?

I live in the Eastern part of the US, nearl Philadelphia. My hometown and culture did influence my story. One of my major characters is a Russian-Jewish refugee, Clara,  who has a talent for electrical science and who  insists on working with Nikola. She is named after my grandmother who came from Russia. Clara uses Yiddish expressions which my grandparents used. The grandparents lived in New York City, so I felt comfortable writing about this setting. My brother and I loved to ride the subways, and I wrote several climactic scenes where New Yorkers hid from the invading aliens in the NY tunnels.

My hometown of State College also appears in the book. This college town is set in a rural area amid beautiful mountain ridges. It seemed a perfect place for my characters to hide out when things got a bit too hot in the big city. My beloved mountains were a perfect setting for Tesla to set up a Magnifying Transmitter, followed by a fierce battle with alien attack ships.

*How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?

I started writing ‘Tesla’s Signal’ in Oct. 2013, and finished my first draft on Dec. 30. For the next year and a half, I did rewrites, revisions and edits. I was ready to publish in April 2015.

*Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?

I had a few beta readers who gave me some developmental feedback, and I hired a literate family member to proofread. I believed I had the skills necessary to do the majority of the editing myself.  I’m a veteran of the Philadelphia SF Writers’ Workshop, where your story gets critiqued by 10 or 12 people. After years of this, I learned to anticipate what the critics would say about sentence structure, continuity, clarity etc.

I I have heard many people say you cannot write a good book without a professional editor, so I will have to let the readers decide. So far, I have a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and none of my reviewers have complained about poor editing, grammar, spelling or story flow.

I also did my cover art. I have a degree in computer graphics/desktop publishing and have worked for several years in the graphics field. I’m enough of a Photoshop whiz that I would not be happy with myself if I couldn’t do my own cover. And since doing that, I have made quite a few ‘promo’ graphics, and I’m working on a video.

*What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?

I learned more about electricity and radio than I ever thought possible. (Thank you, Wikipedia and YouTube!) Of course I became an expert in Tesla, the Gilded Age, and the early 1900s. I also researched the geography and history of New York City, where much of the story takes place.

Formatting a Createspace manuscript was a new experience. I learned how to set up style sheets, page breaks etc. Producing an actual print book was enjoyable and satisfying for me because of my background in graphic design.

Many unexpected things happened during the Kindle process. I initially paid for Kindle formatting. I was unsatisfied with the result, and had to teach myself a crash course in Kindle.

The whole marketing process was unexpected for me. I didn’t think about buying advertising. Somehow I thought that all of the Tesla fans on the internet would rush out and buy my book. LOL!

And of course I had to learn about Twitter, Pinterest and even Reddit.

*What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?

I was inspired by Nikola himself. He was a workaholic who would not give up. He worked insane hours and rarely slept. There were several times where I was stuck on a plot point and avoided the project for awhile. One time I heard Nikola’s voice in my head, saying “why aren’t you writing my story?”

In general I have learned that you must take breaks. If you’re stuck, work on a craft or music project while you toss the ideas around in your head. Eventually, sit down with a pen and paper, and start scribbling ideas. Mainly, just don’t give up.

*What would you do differently on a next project?

I would probably not include so much historical detail. People say it is “slow”. (But they also want ‘background’. Go figure…)  Also, I might try to plan out my Launch better. I had never thought of giving out advance review copies!

*Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?

Find a workshop where you can get feedback on your writing, because that’s how you improve your craft.  Do Not be shy! All of us were beginners once.

*Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?

*What are you planning to write/publish next?

My next project is a sequel called Tesla’s Wavelength, about Tesla’s elder years when World War II looms on the horizon. A new and dynamic character is stepping in, and possibly she will demand a new book afterward.

A link to the book on Amazon:

The Stage Lights


I must confess: I didn’t bake Christmas cookies this year. The thought of baking cookies didn’t even cross my mind. I was reading books on writing craft instead. So far the cookies haven’t been missed, thankfully the kids are happy with the cakes I bought. And I feel much better prepared to go on revising my draft now. But this doesn’t mean I’m done with studying and revising. It will take me probably the whole next year to revise my novel’s first draft into something I’ll be happy with.
Once I was part of an amateur theater group. At the start I knew nothing about acting. I kept my arms close to my tense body. I just wanted to say what I had to say as fast as possible and get out of stage. Then the director told me: “Breathe deeply. This is your moment, your space. Move your arms, take your time to say what you have to say. The spotlights are on you for a reason. This moment belongs to you. Make it count. Make it important.”
So the advice I would give every artist and also every writer would be this: Never give up, but never hurry up either. Good art takes time; be it an artistic performance or a novel. Time will unlock everything that has to be imagined in your story. Your plot, your characters, your setting has to be fully imagined so they can be described well enough to show the world of your mind clearly to your readers. Don’t summarize anything. Make it the magic, unforgettable moment under the spotlights. Breathe deeply and take your time. When on stage say your words loud with your whole self on them. The spotlights are on you for a reason.
In the meantime enjoy the process. Allow yourself time to enjoy the holidays even if your Christmas tree is a bit crooked. I also didn’t buy the perfect present for each adult this time, but at least the kids will have enough to unpack. Christmas is magical for them and it can be magical for us if we relax and allow it to be this way.
So I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Writing Year.


Author Interview – Kristy Carey


Kristy Carey is an author and blogger with a passion for creativity.  With one publication under her belt, she plans to keep the momentum by focusing on the Urban Fantasy genre in future pieces.  She is currently splitting her time between writing and steampunk jewelry design. Her passion in both writing and design, is to mix together elements that don’t belong, and make them seem natural.  Kristy is currently working several short stories, including The Story Shoppe, an anthology of Short Stories and a retelling of fairy tales, The Charming Line.


How would you describe your story in one sentence?

Wizard seeks to save the world, by way of long life and apprentices.

What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?

Honestly, I was doing an event called the 7 Day Story. In it, you take one week to go from Ideas to Publishable short story in 7 days. I had a Wizard sitting in a modern coffee shop, thinking of how life has changed over the years. At the time I’d been reading the Dresden Files and while the Wizard is in many ways inspired by Harry Dresden, I also worked hard to not copy him. This involved ‘No duster!’ in my thought process.

Which authors have influenced you?

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat the author of the Nate the Great books. I read them as a child and fell in love with mysteries.

Frank Peretti’s book ‘This Present Darkness’ is one of my favorite books. I love the speed at which the end moved.

David Eddings is by far my favorite author of all. I adore him.

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files recently took over my LOVE of his writing.

Randy Henderson is a new author. I stumbled upon his first book a few months ago, and fell in love with it. As a bonus I had a chance to meet him at Sasquan this year.

Patricia Briggs.. I’ve only read one of her books so far, but I enjoyed it fully and can’t wait to read more.

Others that have inspired me would be Mary Higgins Clark, Janet Evonovich and a few others.

Which are your favorite literary genres?

Mysteries!!! Above all, I ADORE a good mystery. Noir style makes me happy.  😀 But a good one, where the detective is ALWAYS on the side of justice. The man can’t be bought, or romanced, into letting a killer go free.Urban Fantasy is top of my list. I love the mixture of fantasy with the modern world.

Fantasy in general.

I’d like to try Steampunk & Silkpunk, but I’ve yet to find one that holds me.

SciFi is enjoyable, but I’m not great with it in books.

What makes a book/story special for you?

Dialogue is something I look for in the story. I want to read a conversation and feel as if I’m just listening in on two people chatting… Or even think ‘I’ve had that conversation…”

Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?

I live in Spokane, WA. Its a smallish city on the OTHER side of the state. Not the Rainy side. I don’t think its inspired me, except to send my stories to bigger places.

How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?

The basic story only took me a day to write. The edits on the other hand took me quite a while to finish. Between letting it sit, sending it to friends to help edit, doing said edits and then letting it sit again…

Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?

Cover Artist is myself. I have some skills at it and at this point, do all my graphic design work.

Editor & Proofreader are friends who are skilled at it, and love me dearly. At this point, I can’t afford to hire someone.

What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?

That is a pain in the ass and the best thing I could ever do. ^^

Sometimes people read a story and want more, but don’t realize that the author may not have more to write. More than one person said that the Wandering Wizard was a Novel hiding in a Short Story. But I don’t have more to tell. The story is complete.  I have ‘started’ a sequel, but I have no idea if it’ll grow beyond the 1000 or so words I’ve started on it.

What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?

I’m pretty bad at overcoming hurdles. I tend to let them overwhelm me and take a break for unknown lengths of time. Its something I’m working on.

What would you do differently on a next project?

My next project is to be a series of shorts that I’ll release monthly, before releasing a complete book. Its my first shot at an actual novel, even if its done in a weird way.

Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?

Write, edit, read and write some more. Honestly, those are what you need to do as a writer. Beyond that, its more a personal choice on what you do, how dedicated you are and such. There is no wrong way to write, except to write.

Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?

Blog –

Facebook – &

Twitter –

GoodReads –

Amazon –

Square Up Market –  |

What are you planning to write/publish next?

My next story is a retelling of fairy tales called The Charming Line. Each story has an intro, with a short blurb of the original story, followed by the ‘True Story’.


Author Interview – Ryan Z. Dawson

Me Walk

Ryan Z. Dawson is the author of the self-published The King’s Eagle.  His new book, Melidora, which was published by Dire Ninja Media.

How would you describe your story in one sentence?

Melidora is about a girl with amnesia who finds herself in a magical land, through which she travels trying to remember who she is.

What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?

I had just finished translating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland into my conlang, Imnura, and I started thinking about how many stories there are in which children find secret fantasy worlds that adults have no access to.  I thought it would be a fun challenge to try and write a story about a fanasy land that is discovered by an adult instead.  This simple idea ended up becoming very personal as my main characters developed.  I have fond memories of playing outside with my friends as a child.  There was a forest at the end of the street where I grew up, and it seemed to go on forever.  It was endless possibility, and I poured a lot of that into Melidora.  In telling the story, I drew from some very deep places within myself.  Melidora really is a work of love, and writing it was very cathartic.

Which authors have influenced you?

Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and Lovecraft are among my biggest influences.  I particularly loved Gaiman’s work on the Sandman series.

Which are your favorite literary genres?

Fantasy is probably my favorite.  I also love a good mystery.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were the first stories I discovered entirely on my own, and they were also my introduction to the vast literary world outside of YA.

What makes a book/story special for you?

Relatable characters, a philosophical tone, challenging ideas, and plenty of room for my imagination to run.

Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?

I live in Southern Indiana, but I was born in Louisville, Kentucky.  My experiences playing in the woods and fields with my first friends were a big influence on Melidora.

From finishing the first draft to editing, revisions, and finally going to print, how long did it take to finish this book?

Melidora took me about 8 months to write and almost a year to edit.

Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?

I hired Ryan Valle to do the cover for Melidora.  He also did the cover for The King’s Eagle.  He is wonderful to work with.  Regarding editing, I hired an editor named Michelle Lovi to look over Melidora for me.  My new book is being edited my Dara Rochlin.

What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happen?

Most of what I’ve learned has been about the business of selling one’s writing.  This said, I still don’t know a lot about that subject.  Marketing is a big mystery to me.  The main thing I learned is just that I have a whole lot to learn.

What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles while writing your book?

I never have problems getting or staying inspired.  You can find inspiration anywhere.  Taking walks does a lot to help with plotting.  There were some editing hitches that I basically just had to wait out.  Apart from that, Melidora was a dream to write.  It just flowed out of me.

What would you do differently on a next project?

I would submit my book to editors before it goes to print.

Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?

First: Write all the time.  Write 600 words a day.  It doesn’t matter if those 600 words are crap; just get the machines working.  Writing is a habit – a discipline – and you have to practice.

Second: Read.  Read anything you can get your hands on.  Throw your pet genres out the window.  Books are fuel, so keep yourself stocked up, and don’t be picky.  Keep challenging yourself.

Third: Don’t wait for motivation.  Write even when you don’t feel motivated.

Fourth: Remember that selling a book is not about the quality of the book.  Selling things is all about packaging.  The market is extremely superficial, and it cares more about shining wrapping paper than it does about good stories.  So write your best story and then put your integrity away and sell your soul for reviews.  No one is going to read you if they think you have too much self respect to condescend to them.

Where can readers contact you on the internet? Do you have a blog/website?

I’ve never had a website, but I do have an author page on Facebook under the name “Ryan Z. Dawson.”  Readers can also write me at  If you want to learn about Imnura, check out  And I also write and draw two webcomics, the main one being at

What are you planning to write/publish next?

My next book, The Death of Alan Shade, is being edited right now.  I am currently working on its sequel, The Rise of Ellie Nex.  Both of these are big books with big themes that everyone is going to love – especially but not exclusively fantasy fans.  I have also been developing a setting book for a new RPG system called PERK that you should definitely check out at  The setting that I am writing is in the world of The King’s Eagle, my first novel.


Author Interview – R.K. Summers

Author Photo1

How would you describe your story in one sentence?

A retelling-with-a-twist of the Scottish ballad of Thomas the Rhymer.

What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?

I’ve always loved the old legends of Britain. I think they don’t get as much notice when compared to the massive epics of Greek and Roman, even Egyptian mythos. Britain is tiny compared to those towering empires, but our old folk tales and legends are so full of mysticism and magic. Everyone has heard of King Arthur, obviously, but there’s so many more stories of Old Albion to be told.

Which authors have influenced you?

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher. Marion Zimmer Bradley and JRR Tolkien influenced my adoration for British folklore, and JK Rowling inspired my determination to never give up.

Which are your favorite literary genres?

Anything fantasy at all. Epic fantasy, high fantasy, low fantasy, urban fantasy. I’ll dip my toes into thriller if it’s written really, really well.

What makes a book/story special for you?

The characters. If a book has boring characters, even if it has an exciting premise, I won’t bother finishing it. Especially the villain. I adore a good villain. I’m hoping people will love reading my deliciously despicable villains as much as I loved writing them!

Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?

I currently live in the North-East of England. I travelled to Scotland a lot when I was younger, and I think seeing that majestic, rugged, unlawfully beautiful landscape sparked an irresistible desire to craft stories from those hills.

How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?

I think it’s been about 5 years in total. The Old Ways has gone through an awful lot of development, mostly from me maturing as I wrote it. My book and I grew up together.

Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?

My publisher, Inspired Quill, did all that for me! The cover was designed by a lovely lady called Venetia Jackson who designs covers for Inspired Quill’s authors. My editors were IQ’s own wonderful staff; EJ Runyon, Fiona Campbell, and Sara-Jayne Slack.

What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that if characters want to do something, then let them do it. I had no intentions of having two particular characters end up together, but somehow their relationship flourished, and this powerful, volcanic chemistry erupted between them. After that, nothing I did could keep them apart. They just sort of… clicked.

Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?

If anyone ever tells you to give up writing, punch them in the face and walk away. You don’t need that kind of negativity.

EDIT: Er, don’t actually punch them in the face… I’ll get in a lot of trouble for inciting violence.

Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?

Sure! My website is and my Facebook page is

What are you planning to write/publish next?

I’m currently working on the sequel to The Old Ways, and I’ve also got the third one mapped out. I have a few other ideas for an urban fantasy about a coven of witches, so we’ll see how that pans out.


ToW Cover