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.