Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cover Reveal - The Undead Road by David Powers King!

Hello, lovely writer friends! Today I'm helping writer buddy David Powers King kick off his cover reveal with gusto and lots of confetti! Or maybe brain-fetti since this is a zombie book? LOL, I'll quit making lame jokes and let you see it. It's done by Steven Novak, who is also my cover artist, and is totally amazeballs!! Look to the right for mine... BTW it's FREE on Smashwords through the 27th.

And now!

I'm going to....

Do one of those dramatic scrolldowns...

Ahhhh, it's killing you isn't it???

And here it is!!

Nice, eh?? I think it rocks! Here's the blurb and the deets:

Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse …

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he has no choice if his family wants to survive the end of the world. Their plan? Drive across the infected United States to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without a scratch, but their trip takes a complicated detour in the middle of Nebraska when they find Kaylynn, a girl who can handle a baseball bat better than Jeremy can hold a .45 Berretta. And when they stumble into a sanctuary, Jeremy soon learns that Kaylynn is stronger than she looks—a deadly secret lies inside her.

After the radio picks up a distress call from Kansas City about a possible cure, Jeremy’s parents go with a team to investigate. They never return. The only way to find their parents is for Jeremy and his sister Jewel to rely on a dangerous girl who might just turn on them at any moment.

Ebook Release: January 1st, 2016
Paperback: January 26th, 2016

Woot! And there's a contest, too:

A while ago, David invited the blogosphere to let him turn one unfortunate lucky contestant into a zombie for The Undead Road. The winner was Ilima Todd, who is now the awesome author of Remake. The next installment of My Zombie Summer is underway, and David wants to do this contest again. Want to be in a zombie book? Not only is this your chance, but it is your choice!

Between now and next Wednesday, send an email to dpowersking [at] gmail [dot] com, with the subject line: Zombify Me! Contest. In your email, David wants you to tell him three things:

1: The name you will be identified as (example: your first name).
2: A description of yourself—the more detailed you are, the better.
3: How would you like the survivors to put you out of your misery?

Four casualties contestants will be chosen on Wednesday, November 25th. The most inventive or interesting entry will be zombified! The other three who are unlucky fortunate enough to survive will be given special honors. Winners will be announced on December 2nd on David’s blog.

Prizes? The winner will be zombified in the pages of My Zombie Summer: Part Two, receive a signed proof of the novel (when it’s ready), and a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. The runner ups will receive a free ebook of The Undead Road for their Kindle (other platforms TBA).

About the Author:

David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to be a writer. He is the co-author of the YA fantasy novel WOVEN, published by Scholastic. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He currently lives deep in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

Have fun zombifying yourself!! FYI friends, I'm heading out of town Saturday for a week so I may not be able to respond to comments during that time. But have a lovely Turkey Day everybody!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Smashwords Debut + My Book FREE + World Hunger Fundraiser

Exciting things to announce, writer friends!! Today, 11/11, is the perfect day for it since 11 is my favorite number. From now, through pretty much the end of the year, I am MOVING and SHAKING and things are going to be AMAZEBALLS for everyone involved.

Announcement 1: The Smashwords Debut of Black Magic & Mojitos!

Black Magic and Mojitos, my urban fantasy novelette, has been out just over three months now on Amazon exclusively, and I decided to mix things up and it is now up on Smashwords, and soon all of Smashwords' distributors (B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc.)! To celebrate, Black Magic and Mojitos will be FREE through Thanksgiving! Which is why I'm really excited about Smashwords, because I can offer my books for free for as long as I want, and am not limited to 5 days within a 90 day period like Amazon. I love Amazon too, but I wanted more flexibility. It's still on Amazon, too, just not in their exclusive program.

Announcement 2: Heifer International World Hunger Fundraiser!

For the past decade or so, I've given a small donation at the end of the year to Heifer International, my favorite charity. The reason Heifer is so unique is that they don't just give food to people. They give an animal to someone, not to eat, but one that produces food, like a cow, goat, chicken, or honeybees. Then they teach them how to care for this animal and not only feed their family, but sell the excess so that they have a sustainable small business. Further, they have them donate an offspring from their animal to another family in need. From there, it expands outwards in a multiplier effect with more and more families touched by the program. It's really fantastic, and I just found out yesterday that Heifer is fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss' fave charity, too! Super cool.

So, after my free debut celebration, I will change my book on Smashwords to the "pick your own price" option, and through Christmas, ALL proceeds will go to Heifer. I will not keep any of it, whatever Smashwords sends me, I will send to Heifer. I am SUPER STOKED about this, it feels awesome and wonderful and I'm delighted to have a book out there with which I can raise funds for charity!

Please join me in spreading the word about my year-end BOOKS FIGHT WORLD HUNGER party!! Let's rock this out.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Query That Got Me My Agent

Happy Pay-It-Forward Friday!! I hope everyone's had a lovely week. If you're looking for my IWSG post, click here.

I've recently started Pay-It-Forward Friday, and what I do is post something of help to the writing community. So far, the focus has been on queries. Weirdly, I love query letters, though most people seem to hate them. If you have one you need help with, let me know! Or, if you have one you want to brag on, I'd be happy to feature that as well. Today I suppose I have more of the latter - since I had no sacrificial lambs on the query critique alter, I'm posting the query that snagged my agent's attention, and got me a full request. Here it is, and my notes are interspersed in purple:

Ms. Lu,

Always address the agent formally. Check, doubly and triply, you have spelled the name right!!! 

Evryn’s got mad skills at playing hide and seek. She can find lost children, hack the most secure databases, pretty much anything. Except for the one thing she desires most: the knowledge of who her parents are, why they abandoned her, and what her special talent means about who and what she really is.

There is differing advice from agents on this, but I like to jump right into the story on the first line. I put the more drab details like word count at the end. Agents are super busy and may only read a line or two, so I want them to be great ones! Note: many agents hate a query opening with a question, so use caution with that.

It took me a while to get this paragraph right:
  •  I needed to lay a tiny bit of back story just so it made sense, without getting bogged down. 
  • It needed to be interesting to hook the agent. 
  • I've written it with the same voice/tone of my story - I am a big fan of this in queries. Don't go overboard, but this is a way to show your writing style.
  • I've also revealed a bit about Evryn's character - what she desires most (the truth about her parents and herself)
So, when a guy named Seeker appears quite literally out of nowhere, claiming to know about her past and offering her a job, Evryn can’t say yes fast enough. Even if it does mean following him to another realm. As in, mind-blowingly, not Earth. Apparently she’s part of an elite clan of Hunters descending from Artemis who can find just about anything in all of time and space. As the last of Artemis’ direct lineage, Evryn is her clan’s best shot at finding a lost city before rival clans do.

Here I start to lay out the main plot point. I had to do some world-building too, because this is fantasy. Again, a balance to not get bogged down.

Not just any city, but the flying, realm-hopping city of Skye. Aboard Skye is the Artifex, a magical device with the power to create or destroy worlds. Everyone wants the device, and with Evryn’s super-powered lineage, it means everyone wants her, too. It’s hard to decide who she can trust, even within her own clan. After she discovers a strange, alluring connection to the Artifex, she’s not even sure she can trust herself. Worse yet, the only person who may be able to help her is the Timekeeper, the sadistic ancient being who created the Artifex. An interdimensional war is brewing, and Evryn is right at the epicenter of it all.

  • More details on the plot
  • The stakes!! This is important in any query. Without stakes there's no tension. Amp up that tension!

Let the hunt begin.

I like to end queries with some kind of clever, teaser-ish phrase, but it's not necessary.

My new adult contemporary fantasy HUNTRESS FOUND is complete at 85,000 words. Per your submission guidelines, I’ve included the first ten pages and a brief synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Now you can (and should) add the drab details:

  • Genre
  • Title in ALL CAPS (it looks weird, but it's proper etiquette)
  • Word count (this is important - don't forget!)
  • Then I like to confirm to them that I have read and complied with their submission guidelines - it personalizes the query, and lets them know you're prepared and organized.
  • If you have any legit publishing credentials, add that in. Note: LEGIT. I was published in a local newspaper and some zines years ago, but I'm not listing that because it sounds amateurish. The rule is, you can list it if you got paid. I'd say you could fudge on this a little, if you didn't get paid, but it was a well-known publication. Use good judgment. 
  • Same with awards - list any writing awards that are well known, but not super minor stuff. I won some writing contests on different blogs, some of them even well known contests in the writing community, but I aired on the side of caution and didn't include it. You don't want to sound unprofessional.
  • And in that same vein, NEVER mention "I'm an unpublished author", or "This is my first novel". It's not necessary to mention that and many agents report they feel it sounds unprofessional.
  • Overall: hook 'em good, keep it short and sweet!

Alexia Chamberlynn
(850) 443-6075

This was an e-query (hardly anyone takes paper anymore), so I everything is left justified. I also included my main social media sites in my signature block so they can see I am market savvy. 

Hope that was helpful! If you have a query you want me to feature, please let me know - whether it's a critique or a brag you're looking for. 

Have a fabulous weekend, writer friends!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Thrills and Chills of Being on Sub!!

Hi, writer friends! I'm posting today for the Insecure Writers Support Group monthly blog hop. My topic for the post, appropriately since it pervades my thoughts each day: being on submission with publishers! 

I signed with my lovely agent Sandy Lu in August, and after a couple rounds of minor edits on my contemporary fantasy, Huntress Found, we went on sub in mid September! It's true what they say - in the life of a writer, you rarely achieve such heights that you never have to worry about rejection again. When you're querying agents, you just want to get that agent. Then when you get an agent, it's on to possible rejection by publishers. And once you get published, there are always people that don't like your book. It really never ends, which is why I try to stay as relaxed as possible about the whole thing. If we let ourselves get sucked down in that maelstrom, jumping from one insecurity to the next, it sucks a lot of the joy out of writing. So, for now I wait patiently for news. Sandy says it usually takes editors eight to twelve weeks to read a manuscript, so we might start hearing back this month. If you'll bear with me for an Oprah moment, I like to use positive visualization and imagine hearing the news that editor(s) love my book. And that's how I stay sane with it all! That, and gratitude for the things I do have and the lessons I've learned.

In the vein of agents, I've started doing query brags and critiques as my way of paying it forward to the writing community. On Friday I'm posting the query that got my agent's attention. If you have a query you want help on (MG, YA, NA or adult), or a query that brought you success, let me know! Otherwise, I hope everyone's having an awesome week. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cover Reveal and Free Literary Delights for You

So, I went back and forth on when I should do the cover reveal for Martinis with the Devil, because I still don't know the exact pub date yet. Once my super agent Sandy gets a pub deal for my other series (see what I did there - the power of positive affirmation ;) we can decide on a release date for Martinis. But honestly, I just can't wait anymore, so here it is!!

I hard core LOVE this cover so much, and my cover designer Steven, who is just freakin' amazeballs. Literally nailed it on the first try.

It's been SO incredibly flattering to get lots of requests for the release date of this. I heart you guys for loving Zyan and her friends as much as I do :) So, as a little thank you for that and for your patience, I've put the first five chapters up on Wattpad for your reading pleasure! 

I hope you enjoy both the cover and the chapters. And of course, I'll post news on the release date when I have it. TTFN!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Taste of Magic!!

Hello, writer friends! Happy Friday and welcome to the inaugural Taste of Magic blog hop post. Love books? Love food? This is YOUR blog hop. On the third Fridays of each month, we share something literary and something culinary. It can be your own writing, a book recommendation, a dessert recipe, a drink recipe, whatever. Honestly, whatever makes you happy :) Click here if you want to join the fun!

So, here's mine! Literary first. I'm going to share a wee excerpt from Black Magic and Mojitos, my urban fantasy novelette. And below that are some fun banner pics I did for advertising. I bought stock images from Adobe and then added the text and such. It was a lot of fun. And a bit spicy, hmm? :)

There was a rush and crush of darkness and something that sounded like wings beating. Not the feathery kind, but the heavy, leathery wings of a bat. My head spun as if I’d been thrown into a hurricane. Heat, ice and the smell of earth pressed in around me. Then everything stopped, and light returned.

I was standing in some sort of cave… no, a temple. Both, actually. Stalactites dripped from the ceiling, and carved stone pillars rose up from the floor. A set of rough stairs led up to an expansive dais. Flickering lanterns hung from the walls at intervals. As my eyes adjusted, I could see that Riley and Quinn stood beside me. Donovan, too. He looked as shocked as I felt. So, he wasn’t in on this.

Mr. Cabrelle stood before us, or rather the true form of the creature called Mr. Cabrelle. He still resembled something roughly humanoid. Huge chocolatey velvet wings hovered behind him, and patches of purplish scales dotted his skin. His eyes were the same though, only now I could see the monster on the outside. Was he some sort of demon spawn? I hadn’t sensed anything like that when we first met. But he clearly had magic at his command, deep and ancient magic. The feel of it still shivered over my skin as if I’d walked through dirty cobwebs.

He caught me watching him. “Ms. Star, Mr. McGregor, allow me to introduce my employer, Raoul Cabrera.” With his hand he swept my attention up the stairs, to the back of the dais, where a tall man sat on a chair. A throne really, of yellowed bones and sharp teeth. I almost snorted. Cliché much?

Unfortunately, clichés aside, we were in super deep shit. 

Raoul Cabrera was basically the supernatural overlord of Brazil, and a good portion of the rest of South America. Rumor had it he was half demon and half faery, just about the nastiest combination of supes I could imagine. Both cruel, spiteful races, with crazy mad magical skills and an arsenal of other unpleasant talents. One major badass motherfucker, this guy. No wonder he’d used a front to hire me. Never in a million years would I have come otherwise.


And now for my culinary share! I should preface by letting you know a bit about my cooking style. I get it from my grandma, who doesn't much follow recipes. She kinda looks at them, and then does her own thing. To me, that's the fun of cooking. Don't have a certain ingredient, or just don't like it? Substitute. Know you like a little more of this and that? Play around. Also, I'm all for simple but healthy and delicious recipes. It doesn't take much time at all to make something from scratch that's totally amazing. So, without further ado:

Black Bean Tacos with Goat Cheese, Avocado, and Honey (Oh, yes!)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

There's something really sexy to me about certain foods, and black bean dishes are one of them. Probably because to me, black beans are a basic, earthy dish, and they make me think of Latin America, and dancing, and frosty margaritas or mojitos. And it's sexy because it's so damn simple to make them. This is a two-for-one, because I'm going to give you my black bean recipe, which you can easily just add to rice and make as a separate meal.

  • Cooked black beans 
    • One or two large cans of black beans (the tall ones, not regular cans) - one can feeds 1-2, two feeds 3-5 people
    • Olive oil
    • Quarter to half an onion depending on taste
    • Cumin (about a quarter teaspoon, I just sprinkle generously over the top)
    • Garlic (tablespoon or so - I buy pre-minced in a jar)
    • Salt (light sprinkle)
    • Pepper (light sprinkle)
    • Tiny splash of apple cider vinegar
  • Small corn tortillas (I usually prefer flour, but the corn really adds flavor here)
  • One ripe avocado (cut in longish slices)
  • Goat cheese (soft, like a chevre log, not feta), just crumble with your fingers
  • Honey to drizzle

  1. Prepare black beans as follows:
    • Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat
    • Add garlic and onion, saute a couple minutes or until translucent
    • Toss in your beans
    • Add the other seasonings as desired - the apple cider vinegar is a secret I learned longed ago, I'd add maybe a teaspoon for the smaller serving and a tablespoon for bigger
    • Turn to medium/low and go write or read something for about twenty minutes to let this marry together and get really yummy
  2. Heat up your corn tortillas (microwave or stick with a tiny bit of oil in a skillet if you want to be fancy)
  3. Arrange all toppings as desired and per taste. I add LOTS of goat cheese and avocado and just a little drizzle of honey. 
  4. Enjoy your yummy, sexy black bean tacos!!
You can even cheat with this and just heat your beans with salt, pepper and cumin and skip the rest. The rest just makes it extra delish. And if you want to skip the tacos and just do beans and rice, go for it! 

I hope you enjoyed Taste of Magic! Pop over and visit B.E. Sanderson and Jennie Bailey, who are also participating this month and have luscious tidbits, too!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pay It Forward Friday - Query Critique!

TGIF, writer friends! Today for Pay It Forward Friday, I did a critique for Julie Affleck's picture book, A is for Applesauce. Julie is super brave for putting forth her query for public critique, so give her a round of applause for that. If you have additional constructive comments or alternate suggestions for what I've written below, go for it! Also, if you are interested in getting a query critique or have a query question, email me (address in the sidebar). 

On with the critique!
I don’t write picture books, so I will announce right up front that this type of query is not my area of expertise. Picture book queries are a bit different than queries for middle grade, YA and adult because there is an author and illustrator (sometimes the same person, sometimes not). I did a bit of research to confirm the etiquette on this, which is to include a link to an online portfolio of pictures if you are the artist. Also, in my research I discovered that it is normal to paste in the whole manuscript below your query since picture books are usually 1,000 words or less. Of course, ALWAYS check each individual agent’s guidelines and send exactly what they request.
So, my notes and edits are below in red:
Mr./Ms. Agent’s Last Name (always address formally and confirm spelling),
A is for Applesauce is the first in the Arthur & Zita Alphabet Book series. Nine year old Zita loves words and her favourite book is the DICTIONARY! Today is "A" WORDS DAY. While she and her younger brother Arthur await the arrival of awesome Aunt Alice, Zita searches for all the words she can that begin with the letter A. A is for Applesauce tells of a trip to the Animal Zoo cut short, and various other commotions, involving applesauce, ants, attempted arrest, angel food cake, awards, arguing, and antics. As a "day in the life" family adventure with expressive, whimsical, and colourful illustrations, A is for Applesauce is a read alone or read aloud book to be enjoyed by both children and parents.
  • I think your opening paragraph is great. A query should be brief, enticing, and carry the voice appropriate to the age and genre of the book, which I think yours does nicely.
  • I struck the last sentence because you are telling us something unnecessary. Let your words speak for themselves (which they do).
  • Nine years strikes me as too old a character for an alphabet book. Kids are learning their ABCs and reading picture books between ages 3-5, maybe 6.
  • Make sure to use the American English spelling if you are querying American agents.

A is for Applesauce is a good choice to expand your child's A Words vocabulary using A Words in context and with Zita's lively AWESOME A WORDS glossary at the end of the story. A is for Applesauce is accompanied by A is for Applesauce Word Play as a separate colourful activity book, geared towards the grade three to five level.
  • I am not sure about this paragraph. I would do serious research on whether it’s typical to have a glossary and activity book with a picture book. I can see it in an educational text, but I’m not sure about a regular picture book.
  • Again, grades 3-5 seems too old to me for this. That’s the age kids are moving on to early readers and even middle grade.

While A is for Applesauce is over 1800 words, which is more than the normal picture book count, it has many uses for teachers, including alliteration, developing word choice, making lists of ‘juicy’ words, descriptive writing, and using a glossary. I am not ‘in love with my words’, and getting the chance to work with an editor, cutting, revising, etc. to make this book more enjoyable for children, parents, and teachers, would be a wonderful opportunity.
  • I would strike this whole paragraph. Add the word count in below. Since you are not a teacher, I would not mention what they need. Also, teachers are not the only ones who will read this.
  • I researched word counts on picture books, and 1,000 is considered pushing the upper limit. You already know this, which is good, but also know that by almost doubling the high end of the norm, you are going to turn off a lot of agents. While on the one hand, plenty of debut authors break the rules and succeed, on the other hand, you’re just putting an extra hurdle in front of yourself, of which there are MANY on the road to traditional publication.
  • NEVER say you’re not in love with your work. It comes across as unprofessional. Also, I hope you mean this in a self-deprecating author fashion, when in fact you have edited, and edited, and edited some more, and gotten feedback from others, and edited several more times. Your work should be as perfect as you can possibly get it before submitting to an agent.

I have been working on the Arthur and Zita series for a few years, and found the perfect illustrator for the books, Alexander MacAdam. A website to view some of his work is
  • I am not sure of the proper etiquette here. Since you are not an illustrator, my gut tells me that picking one yourself may come across as unprofessional or even a bit demanding. I would tread lightly here. Either don’t mention the illustrations at all, or indicate that you’ve had an illustrator do some mock ups of what you envisioned, though you understand that this decision lies in the hands of the publisher.

As a stay-at-home mother of four children, I have spent many years reading picture books, chapter books, middle-grade - well, you know what I mean, and have begun the writing stage after numerous on-line writing courses and many, many workshops. I also write middle-grade books, and my first attempt at writing young adult  has resulted in being shortlisted for the Silverwood - Kobo - Berforts Open Day Competition.
  • I struck the above because it’s a bit wordy, and also because taking writing courses is not something typically mentioned in a query. Mention any paid pub credits or awards, perhaps your degree if relevant. Since you were shortlisted for an award I left that in, and also the personal bit about motherhood.

I've included a couple of pictures taken from the book layout as well.
  • Never send an agent attachments unless requested. As I mentioned above, research suggests including a link to an online portfolio.
  • Also include full manuscript pasted in below query IF the agent indicates this is acceptable (only for picture books).
  • I would state this as such: “A for Applesauce is complete at ___ words. Per your submission guidelines, I’ve included the full manuscript and a link to an online illustration portfolio below (or whatever they’ve asked for).”

Thank you for taking the time to read my query. I hope you enjoy Zita, and her spirit and spunk as she makes learning new words fun!

My overall comments: I think you have a really good hook here, which is the hard part of the query. It sounds like a fun picture book! Where work is needed is making sure you use the proper etiquette so you come across as professional and knowledgeable about the publishing world.

Here are a couple links to great articles I found while researching picture book queries: This agent is a TOP agent in kid lit, very well known. See her query example to see how to piece together your closing paragraph. The Query Shark blog is also written by a top agent, not one that reps kid lit, but she has excellent advice on queries. This one is for picture books, but all of her posts are super informational.

So, writer friends, what are your thoughts on Julie's query? Leave a comment below. I wish good luck to Julie in her querying endeavors!