Merry Bookmas! A book-buying guide for the holidays

Christmas tree made out of books

Stumped for gift ideas? Out of shopping days? Tired of giving socks and giftcards? (Seriously, why are you doing that? Amazon is right there.)

What you should be giving people is books. Your friends love to read (or at least they say they do on their Tinder profile), the authors get new fans, and you look super smart and cool. Win-win-win!

Here’s a handy list of books, short stories, poetry, and games(!) for all your gift-giving needs this holiday season. And hey, maybe pick up a present for yourself while you’re at it.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy

  • Sciath – J. A. Castelli: A catastrophic accident leaves Kyra to puzzle out a swirling vortex of questions before the Architect’s power is passed into the wrong hands.
  • The Crashers – Magen Cubed: Five strangers walk away from a subway crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers.
  • The Transmigration of Cora Riley – Ellie Di Julio: With the help of an unusual guardian angel, Cora navigates the afterlife and quickly learns that gods and monsters are very real indeed. Only the power of belief – in the Otherworld, in her companions, and in herself – will return her to the land of the living.
  • Desperation – Alexander Dundass: Arriving in Lonsation space, Admiral Savage finds it seized by the Hegemony. To take advantage of their uranium supplies, he must free Lonsatia. But do so, he must battle his cyborg brothers exiled for attempting to take over the galaxy.
  • Steel Victory – J. L. Gribble: Today, the vampire Victory is a councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations. Her human daughter is a warrior-mage, balancing life as a mercenary with college courses. Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.
  • Lycopolis – Ali Luke: Seth’s got a lot going for him: money, charm, and a niche online game where he can play god. He wants more. much more. Because Lycopolis isn’t just a game–something ancient and evil has been playing him all along.
  • Home Birth – Jessica McHugh: When the queen of the darkogs makes Eibal an offer she can’t refuse, she risks everything to give her an heir. But Eibal soon finds herself in a war between humans, darkogs, and her own body.
  • The Empress Game – Rhonda Mason: The seat of the Empress Apparent isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in ritualized combat. Now that tournament has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds.
  • Keys and Needles – Michelle Nickoliasen: In her nightmares, Tania sees a mysterious hooded figure ripping children from their families. When her dreams start coming true, Tania and Logan must set out on a dangerous mission beyond anything they’ve ever imagined.
  • Spiralchain: Gatemaker – Jeremiah L. Schwennen:  When a mysterious girl from another world reveals to Adam that he was is a Gatemaker, everything changes. Together, they must travel to the medieval world of Onus and confront both terrible danger and their own fears.
  • Queen of Shadows – Dianne Sylvan: Overwhelmed by her ability to manipulate emotions through music, Miranda Grey comes to the attention of vampire lord David Solomon, who discovers that Miranda’s powers may affect the vampire world, too.
  • Nightlord: Sunset – Garon Whited: When Sasha is killed, reluctant vampire Eric is thrust into an alternate world to avenge her death. There he becomes a Nightlord, fights a dragon with the help of his magical steed, and upchucks a sword named Firebrand.

Young Adult

  • In a World Just Right – Jen Brooks: Sometimes high school senior Jonathan Aubrey wishes he could just disappear. And as luck—or fate—would have it, he can. Ever since coming out of a coma as a kid, he has been able to create alternate worlds.
  • Chemistry – C. L. Lynch: Only one person seems to like Stella: Howard, the biggest loser at her new school, who’s also a great listener and respects her. And now undead hordes are showing up at Stella’s door, and Howard might be to blame.


  • The Reluctant Reaper – Gina X. Grant: Desperate to reunite body and soul Kristy D’Arc seeks out allies, but what of her attraction to Dante, the sexy Reaper with a flair for romantic language who scythed her soul?
  • Fairest of the Faire – Susabelle Kelmer: Fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with widowed Connie at first sight. Despite his commitment-free life and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

Short Stories

  • Five Empires: Escape – Joely Black: One Master Assassin has spread rumors of coming war and Lorasz must decide whether he has the courage to prevent the end of the world as he knows it.
  • Head – Nik Markevicius: A day of lurid adventure as Nate’s desperation drives him into the gutter of humanity. As he upsets ever more dangerous people, Nate realizes there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
  • Revolver – Joel K. Sullivan: Nine short stories, from a soldier’s last letter to a comical encounter with an assassin to the dark spiral of a suicidal millionaire.


  • Fight Like a Girl: A powerful collection of science fiction and fantasy ranging from space operas to medieval warfare to urban fantasy. These are not pinup girls fighting in heels; these warriors mean business.
  • Twice Upon a Time: Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares.
  • Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling: Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.


Personal Growth


  • Visegrad: The Coming War in Eastern Europe – David March: A hypothetical conflict between the Eastern NATO and Russia, with a weakened US, a neutral Germany, and a surprise threat from Poland.
  • Pugmire – Eddy Webb: Fantasy adventure in the ancient future where dogs have been uplifted to use tools and language and seek to rediscover the world they’ve inherited. Pugmire is a world in which dogs have built a new society using ancient but fragmented lore left behind by humanity.

MIRROR OF ASHES deleted scene: “Daddy Knows”

yes cat Whoohoo! Over the weekend, we officially broke the 25% mark in our fundraising efforts to pay Desz to grace the newest book’s cover.

You guys are amazing!

To celebrate the milestone, I’m releasing a tidbit from Mirror of Ashes that didn’t make it to the final cut but will definitely pull some heartstrings. This (slightly expanded for sharing purposes) scene was originally couched as a memory that snaps Cora out of [REDACTED FOR SEXY SPOILERS] and reminds her [REDACTED FOR BADASSERY SPOILERS]. Enjoy!

Cora growls at herself, embarrassed at her behaviour but unable to stop crying. She’s far too big to curl up in her father’s lap the way she did as a little girl. Yet here she is, thirty years old, covered in snot and tears, clinging to him in the aftermath of Jeremy’s exit from her life as if Daddy can magically make everything better.

“Don’t worry, piskie,” he’s saying in his soft Irish voice. “Your ma and I’ll take care of you for as long as you need us. That’s what we’re here for.” He tightens his arms around her shoulders, pressing the side of her face into his now-damp shoulder.

She sniffs and wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I just don’t get it. I thought this was it—him and me forever. And then I got sick and he stopped….” She chokes as another wave of grief crests and crashes. “What’s wrong with me, Daddy?” she squeaks.

“Hey now.” He shifts his posture so she sits up. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he insists. “There are a million things right.” She starts to argue, but he shakes his head. “Heartbreak makes the world collapse around you, but you’re not broken. It’s important you understand that.”

Her gut reaction is dismissal. He has to say that because he’s her dad; he doesn’t know what it’s like to try to claw your way out of the dark pit of depression and then have your almost-husband step on your fingers when you reach the top.

But their matching grey eyes meet as she gears up to protest, and she notices tears stand in his eyes, too. It slices another wound in her heart. She puts a hand against his red-stubbled cheek, trying to comfort her comforter.

He gives her a gentle smile. “You don’t need anyone else to be complete, piskie,” he says. “Stand on your own two feet, believe in yourself, and you’ll be okay. Promise.”

Cora sighs, fight and fury and fear draining away, and she leans her weary body against her father’s chest. Though it goes against everything she’s feeling, she wants to believe him. She wonders how long it’ll be before she can.

*hands out tissues*
*waits for nose-blowing and ‘aww’s to stop*

Thank you all so much for bringing us this far in our crowdfunding journey! But this is only the first milestone: We still have another $1,232 to raise before May 1 to reach our total goal.

If you haven’t yet, please hop over to the donation page and throw a few bucks our way. You can get all the books, including Mirror of Ashes, in digital for $10!

If you already donated, or can’t right now, please signal boost! Every pair of eyeballs is another chance to make art-dreams come true. Use the buttons below or one of these premade tweets!

+ Like fast-paced magical cop stories with vampires AND being a patron of the arts? Have I got a deal for you!

+ Vampires, werewolves, secret agents – oh my! See what @EllieDiJulio is up to now.

+ Get 1 novella, 3 novels, and 12 short stories for a measly $10 AND pay a Real Artist for her work. Win-win!


Crowdfunding MIRROR OF ASHES: Prettify This Book!

Remember how, two years ago, I asked you for help paying my friend Desiree “Desz” Kern to paint a kickass cover for The Transmigration of Cora Riley and how you not only raised the $2000 I asked for but an extra $500 besides?

That was super cool of you.

Then, remember how, last year, I asked you for help paying Desz for the Sword of Souls cover?

Of course you don’t. Because I paid for it myself out of pocket and it was freaking disastrous. So dumb.

Loki facepalm

Thus humbled, I’m returning, cap in hand, to seek your help paying Desz to prettify the cover of the newest Forgotten Relics book. More than that, though, I want to give you the chance to participate in bringing something beautiful to life.

So! Here’s the campaign basics. Think of it like a party invitation.

Crowdfunding the Mirror of Ashes cover

April 1st – 30th

How much
$1,650 USD

(and all your friends)
(and me and Desz)


“How come you’re not using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo or” I hear you ask.

Because I want you to have flexibility with your donations and less overwhelming options. I also sort of hate the strict perk-to-payment setup the big guns use (and their fees) and am enamored of Pay What You Can systems. After a week of flopsweating the pros and cons of both, I engineered something in between. Because that’s how I roll.

That's who we roll in the Shire

How It Works

The campaign’s hosted on my site and uses PayPal to take donations so you can pay with your balance, bank account, or credit card.

There are five levels of participation, each with a different bundle of swag. But instead of a fixed price for each one, there’s a range so you can choose how much you want to give for your desired goodies.

When you decide which level you like, click “donate” to go to PayPal where you’ll input the amount you’re comfortable with and confirm. Then voila! Your swag will be sent as soon as possible (ie: past books right away, MOA material in June) even if we don’t fully fund.

BONUS: All levels include your name in the acknowledgements section of Mirror of Ashes on publication.

And so, without further ado, I unleash you upon the campaign to do the generous, loving, incredible work that you do so very well!

pug party!

The Pre-Order
Digital copy of Mirror of Ashes – that’s all!
The Newbie
Mirror of Ashes postcard from me
AND the (digital) series so far:
+ Inkchanger
+ The Transmigration of Cora Riley
+ The Sword of Souls
+ The Mirror of Ashes
+ Confidential: 12 Unredacted Reports of the SCD
The Fan
Mirror of Ashes (digital)
Confidential (digital)
Cora Riley EP (digital)
Cover art postcard
Sneak peek at next book when it’s ready
The Superfan
Mirror of Ashes, digital and signed paperback
Confidential (digital)
Cora Riley EP (digital)
Cover art postcard
Sneak peek at next book
Signed copy of a Mirror of Ashes chapter
PDF of my Mirror of Ashes production diary
The Character
$500+ (limit 2)
Everything in the Superfan level, PLUS I’ll base a character off you in the next book, and Desz will draw a custom portrait of your Forgotten Relics self!

Spread the word

Can’t donate right now? Want to earn extra points for Gryffindor? Share these signal boosters on Twitter, Facebook, G+ and wherever else you hang out, or create your own!

+  Like fast-paced magical cop stories with vampires AND being a patron of the arts? Have I got a deal for you!

+  Readers + authors + artists = awesome! Do your part to make some indie magic here:

+  Vampires, werewolves, secret agents – oh my! See what @EllieDiJulio is up to now.

+  Support an urban fantasy author supporting a fantasy artist – let’s get MIRROR OF ASHES the cover it deserves.

+  There are 1650 ways to make MIRROR OF ASHES an amazing success! How many will you choose?

Thank you so much, my darlings. You’re incredible humans, and I’m honoured to know that you’ve got my back.

community troy and abed handshake