Thursday, December 31, 2015

Farewell 2015, HELLO Sexy 2016!

I always love writing these New Year's posts. It's not because the new year is a fresh start, or I'm wiping the slate clean, or I'm setting new goals, or any of that. I'm a fan of doing those things throughout the year. For me, New Year's is that one point of the year to reflect on a cycle of time and dream of things to come, and where you'll be at this time in one year. It's a fairly arbitrary day, because of course we can do those things any other time of the year (and sometimes I do). But New Year's has that special magic when everyone else is also thinking these same things, and it's just fun to be part of this collective contemplation/dreaming exercise.

So, highlights of 2015 first:

First and foremost, 2015 is the year I became a published author AND the year I got an agent, and those two things happened less than three weeks apart. Talk about a roller coaster of awesome!! August 7th I self-pubbed Black Magic and Mojitos and August 24th I signed with Sandy.

2015 was the year I decided to make it happen, and quit wallowing in where my future as an author was going. I'd been writing seriously for five years and I decided I would get my foot in the door the self-pub route with my Zyan Star series. Sandy then signed me for my Huntress series, so I guess I'm now what they call a hybrid author. Which feels right and good - I like moving forward independently with Zyan, and I have learned a TON about marketing and all that craziness, but I'm also excited to learn about the traditional pub route.

I also went on several awesome trips: took my son to Seattle for his birthday present, then him and I hiked the Olympic Peninsula, just the two of us, which made me feel extremely brave and grownup and my kid and I returned alive (plus!). Also went to Dragon Con for the first time and then Asheville for Thanksgiving. Awesome stuff for sure.

I did a lot of training with my horse, who had not been ridden before, and got him comfortable with being saddled and mounted and we even walked around a bit, and then I recognized I needed professional help and sent him to a trainer for a month of intensive work (for both of us). Now I'm really riding for the first time in years and it's SO awesome.

I won first place in a short story contest for Area of Effect Magazine, which is my first published work in a magazine (and I guess my first indie pub credit). Read it here. Fun and exciting!

Also, I got a big promotion at my day job (educational non-profit director), so that was rad.

Now, plans and dreams for 2016:

Getting a pub offer for my Huntress series. My agent is pretty amazeballs so I'm optimistic this will happen. She's thinking we should hear from all the publishers by springtime. Then I'll be working on whatever edits the publisher wants, and start working on the second book in that series. And learning all about the world of traditional pubbing.

Releasing the first three books in the Zyan Star series. Black Magic and Mojitos, which released in August, is the prequel novelette to that series. Originally, I had planned to release the first novel in October. However, Sandy asked me to wait since we were shopping Huntress to publishers. So, at the moment Zyan's at a standstill, but I am about two weeks away from finishing the first draft of the second Zyan Star novel and then I'm probably going to jump right into book three and do edits for both of them after. I reached out to the self-pub phenom RaShelle Workman, who has sold over a million of her e-books (yeah. a million). She said her best marketing advice was to have 5-7 books in your series and release them all in quick succession, every few weeks. So, I'm writing pretty furiously so I can be ready to do that as soon as Sandy gives me the go ahead.

Traveling. My plans always involve traveling. At the moment, I'm locked in for Colorado in June for my BFF's wedding. I'm taking my son so we can hike the Rockies while we're out there and I'm SO excited for it. My son loved our west coast trip last year and I want to keep nurturing that adventurous streak in him. My mom's also turning 70 and wants to go somewhere tropical. We'll see where that ends up. Dragon Con again hopefully. And something else? That'd be cool, budget allowing.

I'd really like to buy a house in 2016. Not sure if that'll happen since I still own a house with my ex husband we're not having luck selling, but I'm throwing it out there anyways. Make it happen, universe :)

I want to make a significant dent in paying down debt. I was naughty in 2015 so time to behave! But finding a balance, also allowing myself some splurges and putting money into savings. In the past I've gone into overkill on paying off debt and then have no fun and nothing set aside.

My horse: this is a sudden vista of possibility. He did so well in training, so I just want to keep moving forward with that. We're just doing basics now, but in a year I'd like him to know some dressage, and also be doing some jumping. Maybe go to a local horse show or two towards the end of the year.

And an overall summary of what I wish for myself, looking back at 2015 and looking forward at 2016:

I want to get better at remembering to enjoy the journey. In 2015 I achieved publication/agent/trained horse and for a goal oriented person that leaves me with a feeling of "now what??" Well, plenty! But after striving for those things for SO long I need to remember that once I reach the end, the end is really just another beginning, and it's better to savor the ride and not just gun for the destination.

And now, as the last day of 2015 comes to an end, I'm heading to the beach for the night (it's raining, but whatever, that's Florida for ya). How about you?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Taste of Magic! Pomegranate-Jeweled Cheese Ball

Hello, lovelies! I didn't do Taste of Magic last month since I was heading out of town and being a slacker, but I'm back just in time for final holiday parties to give you a delicious appetizer recipe. It's SOOO good, you guys. You'll swoon. Earth will shift on its axis. Ha, so here it is!

White Cheddar Rosemary Pomegranate-Jeweled Cheese Ball!!


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fresh rosemary leaves (to taste)
1 1/2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened
6 ounces grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup pomegranate arils (you can buy them at Trader Joes in a little container - trying to de-seed a real pomegranate is the biggest pain ever)
Crackers for serving


  1. Melt the butter in a skillet and toss in rosemary. You want the rosemary to let off its oils, but don't let the butter burn or the rosemary get crispy.
  2. In a bowl with a mixer, food processor or fingers, mix the cream cheese and cheddar. This is why cream cheese should be soft, so it doesn't jam up.
  3. Add the butter/rosemary deliciousness and the salt and pepper.
  4. After it's all mixed well, roll it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Pour your pom seeds out on some paper towels and carefully pat off any moisture, but don't squish them.
  6. After your cheese has set for 30 minutes, transfer the pom seeds to a large plate and carefully roll the cheese ball in the seeds until it's covered. You'll probably have to pat some of them into place after you roll it a couple times to fill in gaps.
  7. Serve with crackers and a little cheese spreader. Yum!!!
  8. Be prepared for your guests to worship you. 
I adapted this recipe from here. As you can see, you can use sage or another herb instead of rosemary, and add nuts if you want. 

As for my writing taste for the month, click here to read my short story A Very Zyan Christmas, which won first place in the Geekdom House short story contest!

I hope everyone has a beautiful and glorious holiday. TTFN!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Every WIP is Different

Hello, writer friends! Today I’m posting for IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group). Click here if you want to learn more about this awesome monthly blog hop. Each month we talk about something to do with our writing process.

Last month I talked about being on sub, and this month I’m going to talk about first drafts. Specifically how all of them are different. Even if you think you have a pretty good pattern down. I’ve written five books, and am now drafting the sixth. Usually I write quick and dirty, and have a first draft churned out in 6-12 weeks. Then I edit my ass off until it resembles something decent!

But my current WIP, the second novel in my Zyan Star series, is not coming out with my usual speed. Part of it is that now I’m balancing marketing my Zyan Star prequel novelette that came out in August with writing. It’s tough, I’m not gonna lie. And part of it is that I’m not quite happy with my plot, and I usually have NO issues with plot. All of this simply reminds me that each book is different. Even the great Neil Gaiman has said it. You only think you know how to write a novel… until you start on the next one. It’s all part of the fun of being a writer.

So, what’s up with you this month? How’s your #writerslife?

Oh, and if you want to learn more about my world hunger fundraiser, visit my previous post!! Lots of good stuff happening.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

World Hunger Fundraiser Through Christmas!!

So, those of you that saw my post on 11/11 knew this was coming. I released Black Magic and Mojitos on Smashwords for free for the first two weeks (through TG). Now comes the second phase of my end-of-year shebang - ALL proceeds through Christmas go to support Heifer International in fighting world hunger!

Heifer is a unique sustainable project that teaches people small business skills using animals so that they never go hungry again. They also require families to pass on the livestock their animal has to other families in need, so there's this great ripple effect in the impact of their programs. Visit their website to learn more.

I'm hoping to raise $500 to buy a heifer cow for a family. You can buy "shares" of an animal at much lower costs, and I've donated to this charity each year for about a decade now, but never bought a whole heifer. That'd be pretty rad, so please help me spread the word! Fun books for you + money to fight world hunger + all of us feeling good. A win-win for everyone.

You can buy Black Magic and Mojitos for 99 cents on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. After Christmas, I'll post an update on how things went!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I spent the week in Asheville, NC (a few pics below). How was your TG? As usual, I'm SO grateful for this lovely writing community, and very excited for a rockin' holiday season! 



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!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pay It Forward Friday!

Hello, writer friends! Today I'm doing my FIRST Pay It Forward Friday post, which will take place on the first Friday of each month. It's my way of giving back to the writing community. I've certainly received my fair share of help over the years, and it feels good to reciprocate.

Clearly I'm not an agent or publisher, but I've been in literary circles for the past five years or so, and have gathered quite a bit of knowledge about query letters and such. There are many different opinions out there on how to write a good query letter and proper etiquette and whatnot, so these posts will represent my opinions on the matter. Always do your own research (see my blog sidebar for some of my favorite query resources).

SO! Disclaimers out of the way, let's proceed to today's topic. I didn't have any sacrificial query letter lambs placed on my editing alter (promise I'll be nice if you want me to help with one!), but I did get a good query letter question on Twitter:

What is the proper way to submit requested materials, and when/how should you follow up if you've submitted them?

Part one first: how to submit requested materials.

1) SQUEE! You got a request!!! Be super proud. That means your query letter is great, or at a minimum, your concept rocks. Maybe both!!

2) Settle down BEFORE sending. Don't send when you're still high as a kite on agent request pixie dust. You might miss something and then you're not off to a good start.

3) Once you've returned to a reasonably calm and logical state, read the agent's instructions very carefully. Then read them again several times. You want to send EXACTLY what they've asked for, how they've asked for it. No more, no less. They want a two page synopsis and yours is five? Trim it. They want a .DOC file? That's what you're gonna need to send them. A bio written in purple ink from the blood of a unicorn? Grab a lasso and a virgin and get huntin'.**

4) After any tweaks to your query arsenal are made, hit reply. Unless the agent has provided specific instructions for what to put in the subject line of the email, change the subject line by adding 'REQUESTED MATERIAL' to whatever the original subject line was. Yes, in all caps. I usually would title the subject line of my initial query 'Query: Title', so it will end up looking something like this:

Re: Query: Huntress Found - REQUESTED MATERIAL

5) In the body of the email, say something simple like:

Mr./Ms. _____,

Thank you for your interest in Title of Book. As requested, I've attached [list whatever it is they asked for]. Please let me know if you need anything else.


Your Full Name

6) Attach everything they've asked for VERY carefully. Check this several times in an OCD manner. Check your subject line. Check the spelling of the agent's name. Check for typos in the body of your email.

7) Hit send!

8) Go celebrate. You are a badass!! You not only wrote something that caught an agent's eye, but you were brave enough to put yourself out there and follow through.

Now for part two of the question - following up with an agent if needed. Agents are BUSY, dudes. It often takes them three to six MONTHS to read a full manuscript. Don't follow up with them before the length of time they say it usually takes them to respond. And don't follow up with them the day that timeline expires. Some people may disagree with me on that, but hey. No one likes to be reminded they're behind on stuff. I say pad on a couple weeks and then follow up. If the agent hasn't stated a timeline for response, three months is safe. And remember, this is only for requested material. If they never requested anything, you probably shouldn't follow up. A lot of agents these days have a 'no response means no' policy. Now, if they said they respond to all queries and didn't, just resubmit after the window of times elapses. One of my good writing friends got her agent this way. Who knows what happened to the first query!

Proper etiquette on a follow up is pretty simple:

1) Reply back to your email sending the requested materials, so they can easily scroll down and remember what book they're dealing with and how polite and professional you were when you sent them exactly the materials they wanted. Keep it short, sweet and professional, as such:

Ms./Mr. _____,

I wanted to follow up on Title of Book and see if you are still interested. I appreciate your time, and thank you again for your interest in my manuscript.


Alexia Chamberlynn

2) Obsessively check for typos as you did originally.

3) Hit send!

Now, if they don't respond, don't follow up again. If they do, awesome! I followed up with my agent a couple times, and she responded very promptly, giving me an update on where I was in her TBR pile. This was not only encouraging, but assured me of her communication skills and professionalism. And it all worked out in the end!

So, that's my two cents on sending requested materials and follow ups. Hope it was helpful! If you have other questions or ideas for future Pay It Forward posts, let me know in the comments below.

Good luck with your queries!

**No unicorns were harmed in the writing of this blog post. Or virgins.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fun Stuff Happening!!

Hello, writer friends! I've been thinking a lot lately of what direction I want to take this blog; fun things to spice it up, new adventures to embark on. After my mulling and marinating on what kinds of things I could do, I've landed on two:

1) A monthly pay-it-forward sort of post, where I help people with query letters or things like that. Weirdly, I love editing query letters. I know. Totally masochistic. Anyway, that one will occur on the first Friday of each month. Meaning the first one will be this Friday!

2) A monthly blog hop featuring something literary and something of a foodie nature. A delicious conglomeration of the literary and the luscious that I have dubbed the Taste of Magic blog hop. For instance, you could post an excerpt from your WIP and a recipe for a kickass martini. Or, a favorite poem and a chocolate mousse cake recipe that will knock my socks off. A combination of two of my favorite things! This one will be the third Friday of each month. To sign up, go here.

Are you in for the fun?? Just say YES!

The pay-it-forward will vary, so keep tuned on Twitter for that, though I think mostly I'll do query help. Taste of Magic has a page on my blog with a linky list for sign ups. I'm asking for email so I can send people a reminder a couple days before the date. Of course, if you're busy, no sweat.

So, who's in? And either way, whatcha been up to lately? TTFN!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Things You See At Dragon Con

 I just got back from Dragon Con in Atlanta. For those who don't know, it's basically like Comic Con but on a smaller scale - *only* about 70,000 people. I'd been meaning to go for years and never made it - until now! And let me tell you, it was EPIC. Mass geekdom descending on a city, swarming the streets, swelling the sidewalks. YES.

Some of the things I saw that would be totally random or weird, if it hadn't happened at Dragon Con:

  • An R2D2/Dalek dance off
  • Cosplay of every imaginable geeky/awesome thing
  • Plus amazing cosplay mashups like Wolverine with bunny ears and carrot claws (for the Hugh Hefner bunny party, naturally), a cow patterned Deadpool, and a Princess Leia/Chewbacca Beauty and the Beast pair
  • A late night panel about what steampunk cocktails to serve on your airship
  • An Avengers Ball, and the Last Party on Alderaan, which is basically a giant rave with light sabers
  • A bar menu with Pangalactic Gargleblasters (blue, just like in the movie)
Plus I got to attend a lot of awesome writing panels, and meet Chuck Wendig and other awesome authors, and see my original urban fantasy influence, Laurell K. Hamilton, and watch a talk by the charming Felicia Day. Plus, hang for a bit with writer friend Matt MacNish (a con reunion, we hung out at WFC in 2011).

It was amazing. Can't wait for next year.

Have you been? What's your fave con?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Body Institute Release Day!

Today I am helping long-time writer friend Carol Riggs with her debut novel birthday bash!! Check it out.


Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches… For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start… Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

Sounds fun, yes?

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:

About Carol:

I'm a YA writer represented by Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary. My sci-fi novel THE BODY INSTITUTE explores the themes of society, identity, and body image. I live in the beautiful, green state of Oregon and have a Studio Arts degree; I'm an SCBWI member. You'll usually find me in my writing cave, surrounded by my dragon collection and the characters in my head. I also enjoy reading--mostly young adult novels--as well as drawing, painting, and quilting. I also attend writing conferences, walk with my husband, and enjoy music and dance of all kinds.

And of course, there's a giveaway!

Help me wish Carol a HUGE congrats!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I'm Repped!!!!

I am ecstatic to announce that I'm now represented by Sandy Lu of the L. Perkins Agency in New York!!!

It's pretty surreal to be writing that sentence. I've imagined how this post would look for a VERY long time. Five years of serious writing (not counting my teen years), four complete novels and many partials, and countless agent queries have led to this moment.

This song, which I adore, came on a few minutes after Sandy and I spoke and pretty much sums up how I was feeling:

Side note: Awesome music video. Looks like Billy Idol predicted the whole zombie craze :)

So, Sandy will be looking for a publisher for my fourth novel, Huntress Found, a new adult contemporary fantasy about a descendant of Artemis who can hunt through time and space. I LOVE this story and the characters, and I'm so glad I found someone to champion it.

This does mean that I need to delay my release of Martinis with the Devil, my second novel, which I was planning to self-pub in October. More details on that to come!

A HUGE thank you to all my writer friends for supporting me on the journey thus far. And this is just the beginning of a new journey! As The Doctor would say:


Thursday, August 20, 2015

LOTS of news!

Hello! I kept trying to think of a good blog post title, but really there's SO much fun stuff going on, I couldn't narrow it down.

First, it's been two weeks since Black Magic & Mojitos came out. That's two weeks since I became a published author for the first time. Two weeks since I put my art out into the world to see what the world thought of it. Two weeks of AMAZING support from my writer friends (YOU!). It's still quite surreal. I'm not breaking any sales records, but about 60 people bought it or downloaded it for free when I ran my promo last weekend on Amazon. That's 60 people that have my book in their hot little hands (well, e-reader to be specific). And some of those read it already and loved it. And random people I don't know on Goodreads have read it and rated it. It's so fun talking to people about it, or reading their reviews! No bad reviews yet, though I know those will come (it's an inevitable badge of honor as a writer). On my Amazon royalty report I can see that in addition to the US, some readers in the UK, Australia and Germany have purchased it. Can't wait for more international readers to pop on there :)

In short, it's just SO WONDERFUL to finally be sharing my writing. Love it.

Other news! On the 31st I'm going to reveal the cover for Martinis with the Devil, the first full length Zyan Star novel, and it'll be up on Amazon for pre-order! Release date for Martinis is October 13th. If you'd like an ARC, which will be ready within the first couple weeks of September after I finish formatting, let me know and I'll put you on the list. You guys are going to LOVE the cover. It's so pretty. The inside's not bad either ;)

More news! I will be attending Dragon Con in Atlanta for the first time!! So stoked. I've been wanting to go for years, and it's finally happening. I got some glossy postcards to hand out for my books, and I also got t-shirts made for me and my sister to wear with my book covers. It'll be a blast!

How goes it in your world? Going to Dragon Con by chance? TTFN!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Here, There and Everywhere!

Hi, writer peeps! I've had the fortune of being featured on several blogs this week, so I figured I should throw up some links so you can come say hi :)

DL Hammons and I did a really fun interview in his blog-cave here.

Cherie Reich read and reviewed Black Magic and Mojitos and gave it five stars! Here's her review (scroll down a bit).

And last but certainly not least, Alex Cavanaugh gave a shout out to Mojitos on his blog! Also scroll down a bit.

What a fun week! I have awesome writing buddies :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Birthday! Welcome to the World, Black Magic & Mojitos

My title mostly says it all. Today my FIRST book is released into the world. Not the first one I wrote, for sure, but the first one to step forth into the literary arena! I am now a published author. Super surreal.

If you'd like a copy at 99 cents, hop on over to Amazon and wish Mojitos a happy, happy birthday. A HUGE thanks to all of my writer friends and my awesome family for supporting me through the years leading to this day. You all ROCK.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Whovian Adventure in the Great Northwest

A couple weeks ago my son and I went on a trip to Seattle and the surrounding area. I had told him years ago when he turned thirteen I'd let him pick anywhere domestically he wanted to go as his present. This is partially selfish, because I adore traveling. And, this year he turned thirteen! A terrifying prospect. And I had to pony up on paying for this trip :) His birthday was actually in February, but a friend that lives out there said the weather is awful in February, and that summer was best. So, we picked July, which happened to be my birthday. It was a pretty epic time. We had a blast, both in the city, and doing a lot of hiking in Olympic National Park, as well as Mt. Rainier. We went whale watching, too, though I didn't get any good pics of the whales due to the boat pitching back and forth. One other thing that was cool about the trip was that my novel Martinis with the Devil is set in Seattle, so I got to do some setting research since I'd never been there. Google Earth only gets you so far :)

Anyways, I thought I'd share some of my favorite pics!

The Chihuly Glass Museum

On the Needle with a jaded teenager (he loved it, he just kept pulling these ridiculous faces for the camera)

A Dalek at the EMP Sci-Fi/Fantasy Museum (my kinda museum!)

The Needle at night

Chihuly at night

The glittering lights of the city

Pikes Place (a magical place - the Diagon Alley of Seattle)

Atop Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Overlooking the Sol Duc Falls at Olympic

Rialto Beach (my absolute favorite - stark and gorgeous)


Sunset at Rialto to finish up my birthday

Ruby Beach

Selfie at Ruby

Lake Quinnault I think

Mt. Rainier

The Paradise Visitors Center at Mt. Rainier

We're now back home safe and sound, but I wish we'd had more time to explore out there! How about you - any fun trips recently, or coming up? TTFN!