Posted in Publishing, writing

Derailing The Diversity Train


There have been quite a few awful blog posts, videos and speeches given regarding the discussion of diversity in publishing in the past few weeks. Some of these opinion pieces have led to harassment, to trolling, to people leaving Twitter and blocking half a village.

There has been a push towards inclusiveness in the publishing world lately and it’s normal to see push back. Change always begets fear. Fear sometimes leads to opposition. Like any discussion on any sensitive topic there will be people who get upset, people who take it to the extreme with things like death threats which are completely ridiculous, and people who express their anger pointedly.

The discussion about diversity has largely been about one message: creating space for all of us. Yet, over and over again, I see authors and bloggers choose to focus on the anger that is a part of the discussion instead of the discussion itself. This is taking away from what we should really be talking about and it’s not only frustrating, it’s breeding more anger.

This past week a wonderful initiative called #Diverseathon was started by a group of Booktubers to promote reading diverse titles. #DVpit, a Twitter event geared towards showcasing pitches about and especially by marginalized voices, has had over FIFTEEN successful agent/author matches just since April, there are WoC on the NYT bestseller list, and yet all the think pieces I see by white bloggers and authors are focusing on how horrible the “hate culture” has become on Twitter. Focusing on the fighting instead of the issues and how we can tackle them, only speaking out to complain about how censored they feel or how little they care about diversity in the first place.

I realize this blog post is just another circling the discussion instead of focusing on solutions and the discussion itself but the thing is, I do focus on those things, every day. I live it. I write about it, talk about it, both publicly and privately. I was getting so many questions on Twitter re: Ownvoices, things that could be easily googled, that I had to temporarily close my DMs to get any work done. I do my part by writing books about brown girls like me, by researching even though I grew up in my own skin, so I make sure I get it right. I largely try to keep it positive because I don’t like fighting. But I’m human and I get fed up too.

When there is a dust up on Twitter, it’s not just because we felt like being angry that day. In fact we’re pretty tired of it. That “pointless fight” you’re seeing is likely the result of days of harassment or discussion which escalates, of a completely different post somewhere that has angered us and we’re discussing it openly. People jump into our mentions and demand we explain, try to placate with “we are the world” sentiments, without even understanding what we’re talking about because they’re not part of the daily discussion and struggle. If they were, they’d get it. I see people routinely defended against “bullies” championing diversity, yet when I am told to “go back to Afghanistan” (I’m not from there btw) or that I am “just too sensitive,” or “probably just a shitty writer,” for expressing myself respectfully and not talking about anyone in particular, those same bully fighters are nowhere to be seen. I am not afforded the same luxury of speaking out without being harassed yet I’m asked to not even critique someone’s approach to writing my culture. Where is our “extension of grace?”

When authors get a bad review, the number one rule is do not engage. Because a reader has every right to critique your work. If your work is being called out publicly for being problematic it’s nothing against you personally and you should take the same approach. Nobody I know or respect is trying to censor anyone. How could we? We’re struggling to get into publishing ourselves! The only thing we want is respect. The only thing we want is respect. The only thing we want is respect.

I say this over and over, my friends say this over and over, marginalized voices say this over and over, our supporters say this over and over and yet people will still focus on the anger and not the message. The anger is easy to rail against. It’s easy to say, “I don’t like how volatile things have gotten on Twitter,” because nobody likes that, I certainly don’t. But ask yourself why aren’t you discussing the actual issue? What about the lack of PoC in children’s books? What about the lack of black writers in SFF magazines and books? The small percentage of publishing positions occupied by people of marginalized backgrounds? This is what we’re talking ABOUT and yet that you won’t touch? You rather focus on the fights and there’s a reason for that. The only thing we want is respect and you are not willing to give us even that.




Posted in Publishing, Querying Help, social media, Twitter, VIdeos, Youtube Video

I Got My Agent on Twitter! 10 Tips for Online Pitching Contests like #DVpit & #Pitmad

Most authors get their agents through the slush pile. That is, sending their query to an agent’s email inbox and standing out among the thousands of other writers in there. But there are other ways….




This little tweet here got me my literary agents. I posted it on Twitter last April during #DVpit, a Twitter event created to showcase works about and especially by marginalized voices. By May I was signed to Fuse Literary. Sounds easy, but remember this came after years of writing, revising, crying and a few months of querying. #DVpit has more specific rules but there are other contests such as #Pitmad that are open to everyone.


During these events you will pitch your book using the indicated # for the specific contest and then identifiers like #YA (for young adult) or #UF for urban fantasy. Usually you can only tweet one pitch per hour, then wait for an agent or editor to fav your pitch and send them your query and sometimes opening pages depending on their submission guidelines. This is useful because many times agents read requested materials from these events first and it allows agents to find YOU instead of the other way around. A full list of rules and mechanics for each event is posted on their respective websites.


While Twitter pitch contests like #DVpit & #Pitmad aren’t replacements for traditional querying, they can definitely help you bypass the line all while improving your book pitching skills.


I would also like to point out that the agents/editors and publishers participating during #Pitmad aren’t curated so PLEASE make sure to do your research before you submit to them! I have a story on what happens to you when you don’t and it’s not pretty.


If you’re planning on participating in #DVpit or any of the other contests out there please check out my video! I gathered a collection of tips from authors and agents on pitching via Twitter events that will be super helpful for any querying writers. Make sure to like and subscribe to my channel for more videos & if you have any questions about these events leave me a comment on YouTube and I’ll do my best to answer it! Good luck!


Posted in own voices, Publishing, querying, Twitter, writing, YA Fantasy

My Querying Success Story on

Originally posted on

A #DVpit Success Story:
Interview with Claribel Ortega, Michelle Richter and Laurie McLean

Claribel and Michelle and Laurie, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Claribel, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.

CLARIBEL: My book, RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER, is a mashup of all the weird things I love, but it started out as an exploration of real life New York City residents. Growing up in the South Bronx, I kept finding that each neighborhood or block had that one character. A person who is famous to you and your friends. Usually someone offbeat. Or you know, weird. But they were always special to us. Through my research I found out about John Votta, known as The Timekeeper on the NYU campus. I centered a story around Mr. Votta, who moved to Greenwich Village in the 1980s, and gave him a magical twist. As I began building my world, Emerald Kipp, a Latinx punk witch with sticky fingers and the incredible ability to control time emerged. In ROTK Emerald has to solve a scavenger hunt-like riddle to save her aunt before time runs out and erases her from history. Think Back To The Future meets The CraftREAD THE REST HERE!

Posted in Advice, am writing, Books, Claribel Ortega, literary agent, MSWL, Pets, Publishing, query, querying, Querying Help, Uncategorized

Query Tips: Advice for Authors Seeking a Literary Agent

Querying, a Gif

If you’ve ever wanted to publish a book traditionally, then you know (or maybe you don’t) that getting an agent is an essential part of the process. There’s no formula for querying effectively, some of it is hard work, some is luck. But I think if you do everything you can to make sure the parts you CAN control are as good as they can be, it’ll go much better than just winging it or throwing queries out there without researching the process.

I’ve put together a video with all the tips I picked up along the way to signing with my own agents, and I hope it helps you! If you find the video helpful please like, and subscribe to my channel for more writing and book related videos 🙂


Posted in AmQuerying Series, literary agent, Publishing, querying, writer, writing

#AMQUERYING: With Michelle Hazen


Hello nerds! Today I have my third guest of the #Amquerying series, the very ass-kicky Michelle Hazen! For those of you who don’t know, querying is the process of procuring a literary agent and it can be equal parts soul crushing and fantastic. I am smack in the middle of my querying journey and thought it would be great to share stories from already agent-ed authors with you all. Michelle will be an adult/new adult mentor in this year’s PITCH WARS so look out for her if you’re hoping to enter! You can follow Michelle on Twitter here and read below to find out how she got her agent, the deal with her science-tortoises and more!

How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?

For the first book I queried, my only resource was an outdated Writer’s Market that I got from the library. For the second book I queried, I researched more widely on the internet at large. For the third book I queried, I joined Twitter, and suddenly the world exploded into a fountain of publishing information and contests, and I learned REALLY fast how many things I was doing wrong.

Writers? I hate social media, too. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the internet-less wilderness and most people’s great-grandparents got a smartphone before I did. But if you want to be an author, repeat after me…Just. Join. Twitter.

Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried?

Nope. I wrote 13 and queried 3 before I landed an agent.

I know you have a background in fan fic writing, can you tell me about that? Did it affect your querying process at all or help you stand out to agents?

Fanfiction helped me learn to write, and it gave me a chance to connect with readers and know how heart-swellingly awesome that could be, which helped me through the heartbreak of the querying process. However, I’m an odd fanfic writer in that Amazon Kindle Worlds gave me an opportunity to legally publish my fanfic and share my royalties with the copyright holder. So I had some publishing credits, sales numbers, and marketing experience in my back pocket before I started shopping my original fiction around.

What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? If not, can you tell us a timeline of how long it took for you to get your agent?

I queried my first book in 2005, to somewhat less than trumpeting fanfare because I was making a lot of noob mistakes I didn’t realize were mistakes. I queried Book 2 for several months in 2014, and I meant to write its sequel but instead I guiltily wrote this other book that was jockeying for my attention. I hadn’t exhausted my options for Book 2 yet, but I was SO excited about Book 3, so I started querying it and entering it in contests. Right away, it got more requests than I was used to, and I had my offer in hand within 6 weeks of sending my first query.


How did you balance querying with your other activities? I know you climb rocks and work with large tortoises for science.

Small tortoises, actually. For science. LOL! I have a load of hobbies, and I’ve never gotten super good at any of them because I have so many…and then writing came along and ate my life. It’s even harder to keep up with all my other interests now because I devote an incredible amount of time to writing. But I find that one of the kindest things I can do for myself during either the querying process or the being on submission to publishers process is to GET AWAY FROM THE INTERNET.

I just got back from a week long, girls-only rock climbing trip, and seriously, it is so wonderful to not be thinking about if you have writing news or if you don’t have news, and why you don’t have news, and if you don’t have news because maybe you’re a terrible fraud and a hack and should maybe drown yourself in Cheez Whiz and White Out. Plus, if you go to the wilderness, not only do you get away from the refresh button (irony), but you remember that you have a whole life and a lot of talents that aren’t at all connected to writing. So maybe when you get that next rejection letter, you’ll remember there are parts of you the publishing industry is not even ALLOWED to pass judgment on. That can feel really good—almost like being a stable, well-balanced person. Almost.

How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?

Oh, super cool. I was fine, thanks, totally expected rejection, was super zen, practically spouting green tea from my ears and thoughtfully pruning bonsai trees with machetes to pass the time. Ha freaking ha.

No, honestly through most of the querying process, I was teeth bared, JUST TRY AND STOP ME I WILL WRITE BOOKS UNTIL YOU ARE BURIED IN BOOKS AND THE WORLD RUNS OUT OF PAPER FOR YOU TO WRITE REJECTION LETTERS ON. My life story is a long list of pulling off crazy, unlikely shit because I was too stupid to give up. Writing is sort of perfect for me.

How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else?

Yes. See Number 5: Backing Away From the Internet.

Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?

I didn’t expect it to end so soon! LOL. Honestly, there are so many blow-your-mind talented authors in the querying trenches, some of whom I’ve seen get agents lately and some of whom are still looking, and I sort of expected to be the one who had to query 20 books over a period of 35 years while selling baskets on eBay woven of my graying hair and lined with the tear-moistened paper of rejection letters.

But I suppose in another way, the querying process is never over. You have to land a book deal for each book you write, even after you get an agent, so the process continues: you just happen to have the support of a seasoned industry professional who deeply and truly believes in you. Which, I’m not going to lie, is awesome.

If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be?

RESEARCH! I mean, as an ex-counselor, maybe I should be giving you some emotional management tips, but really, you wouldn’t need nearly as many of those if you would RESEARCH. If you’ve never had anyone read and give you feedback on your work, stop querying right now. If you haven’t done dozens of hours of research on querying and what agents are looking for and what the most common errors in querying are…stop querying right now and start researching. I’ve seen too many really promising books burn all their agent chances because they were making some small, fixable errors. Don’t do this.

The piece of advice I usually give querying authors is this website:

Did other writers come into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages?

When I was writing fanfiction, I found a really talented author and basically bullied her into being my critique partner. She’s helped me with every line I’ve written and every day I have dragged myself through ever since. I hit the jackpot with her, and then spent YEARS testing out other CPs and beta readers. I now have a great group of beta readers and two flat-out amazing CPs who are a huge support to me in my writing and personal life. Those girls are funny, sweet, crazy talented, and they know when to kick my ass and when to send me Texas coffee or tree air fresheners.

I think you really need writing friends, because the world at large doesn’t understand the agonies and ecstasies of the publishing industry, and you need people who GET what you’re going through. Plus, their good news is just as exciting to me as my good news, so really it’s like you multiply the amount of good news you get, and that’s badass.

When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?

I was in New Orleans, eating bbq while a construction crew jackhammered the sidewalk next to us. When I saw the email from my future agent wanting to schedule a call, I froze. I wasn’t sure if I couldn’t think because of the freaking jackhammer, or maybe because my entire life had changed.

Describe the querying process in 3 gifs.


WRiter headdesk


Writer sobbing under desk


Seinfeld happy dance

Tell us a little about your upcoming book/what’s next for you.

Right now, my agent is shopping around a NA rocker romance series, I’ve just written a Thing that no one can pin a genre on that shows an interracial couple’s journey through trauma and love mirrored in the city of New Orleans. And I’m about to start a romantic suspense series about female Spec Ops soldiers. Can’t wait for that one!


About Michelle


Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem.

Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back. She wrote most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.

Michelle was awarded first place in the 2015 NTRWA Great Expectations Contest, New Adult genre. Her work is represented by Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary. Michelle is the Amazon bestselling author of Kindle Worlds titles: the Desperate Love Trilogy, the In Time We Trust Trilogy, Happily Ever After: Salvatore Style, and Sanguine Veritas. Find her on Facebook or Goodreads as Michelle Hazen, or follow her on Twitter @michellehazen.

Official site:



Posted in AmQuerying Series, Publishing, query, querying

#AMQUERYING: With Michael Mammay



Hello RadDom readers! Today I have my second guest of the #Amquerying series, Pitch Wars 2015 mentee Michael Mammay! For those of you who don’t know, querying is the process of procuring a literary agent and it can be equal parts soul crushing and fantastic. I am smack in the middle of my querying journey and thought it would be great to share stories from already agent-ed authors with you all. You can follow Michael on Twitter here and read below to find out how he got his agent, his advice for writers and more!


How did you prepare for querying?

I am a total data nerd, so I had a process. I got a list of all of the agents who represent adult SF from querytracker, then I put them in a spreadsheet, then I looked each agent up in Publisher’s Marketplace to see what books they’d sold, especially SF books that they sold, and to what publishers. From there I ranked them into three groups – top, second-round, and for consideration. I also ranked agents inside the same agency in order, so I could query the best fit first. After that I looked at things like MSWL, and adjusted my list based off of agents who appeared to want what I wrote (for example, my book is military sci-fi, so any agent specifically looking for that moved up on my list.)

Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried?

No, it was my second. My first book is a fantasy that you will never see. In fact, I’m not 100% sure it even exists. Scholars have long wondered, but there is no evidence to prove it.

What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? Can you share the timeline?

My process wasn’t too typical. My book got into Pitchwars, where Dan Koboldt was my mentor (He wrote THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL ) But I didn’t get my agent via the contest, so I queried immediately after that.

I queried 32 agents.
I got 5 requests
4 of those requests got upgraded to fulls
I got 2 offers.

I started querying on the 5th of November and signed with my agent on the 2nd of March. So right about 4 months. In the end I got offers from two agents who were in my initial top 5 – so quality, not quantity for me. I signed with Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary, and I couldn’t be happier.

How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?

Definitely something other than cool. It kind of varied from day to day, where some days I was anxious about it, some days I was a little better. So what I tried to do was on the days where I felt good, send a bunch of queries. That way they were out there, and I could just wait. And then high and low. I got a lot of rejections early, and started to wonder if maybe this wasn’t the one. My requests came mostly later in the process, and as they came I started to have a bit more hope.

How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else?

I wrote. And I did a lot of critiques for other people. Those are the two things that I think make you a better writer – writing and reading what others write. And I was starting to move on to the next thing, in case this one hadn’t worked out, so I just wanted to get better. Plus those are just two things I love to do.

Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?

How fast it went at the end. I went more than 3 months where things were very slow. Then all hell broke loose. The first agent to offer requested a partial, then requested a full the same day, then emailed to set up a call like 2 days later. So I went from pretty much nothing to GAAAAHHH in about 72 hours. I then set a deadline for other agents to respond, and the second agent asked for a full and got back to me the next day to set up a call. It was a crazy week.

If you could give querying authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

I have two. Can I do two? I’m doing two.

  1. Take your time. I’ve known literally hundreds of authors who have queried. Many, many of them will tell you ‘I queried too early’ (including me with my first book.) I’ve never once heard anyone say ‘I queried too late.’ You want to query agents with the best possible book you can write. Get critiques, then revise, then get more critiques. Find critique partners who hurt your feelings. Too many people, when they send stuff for critique, want someone to tell them how good it is. NO! You want someone to tell you what’s wrong, so you can make it better. You get one chance with an agent…make it the best chance. (For more on critiques, read this awesome post from MK England )
  2. Find your people. All that stuff up above about CPs and Beta Readers? You can’t just do that overnight. You have to get out there and meet people, swap chapters, figure out who you work well with. Not every reader is going to work out for you, so you’ve got to keep at it. And when you find good ones, do everything in the world to keep them. It takes time, but eventually you’ll have folks. When I re-wrote my first chapter after I got into Pitchwars, I contacted four people and was like…hey…can you read this for me…and oh, by the way…I kind of need it today. They all did it. Of course they did. They’re my people.

Did other writers come into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages?

Oh, hell yes. So many. First off, my brother Steve reads everything I write before anyone else gets to see it. He’s not a writer, but I know he’ll tell me the truth if it sucks. This isn’t a critique – it’s just a little mental thing for me – and he always has one or two great ideas that I incorporate. After that I had about 8 or 9 readers on this project in three or four different rounds. I have three CPs who I’ve been with since I started getting serious about writing: Red Levine, Becka Enzor, and Colleen Halverson (Her book is awesome ). And along with them I had other great readers like David Kristoph, Jess Bloczynski, and Tahani Nelson, and of course Dan Koboldt made more notes during Pitchwars. Overall I did 4 revisions, plus a 5th revision on the third act. And then while I was querying I had the group with all the Pitchwars mentees, which has been invaluable for support. Probably the coolest thing about my query experience was that Becka and I got offers at the same time, so I got to share the entire offer/call thing with a long time CP who was going through it at exactly the same time.

When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?

Lisa emailed me to set up the call, which I set for after work. She discussed the revisions she saw for my book, which were so good that I kept interrupting her because I was excited about incorporating them. And she told me about the agency and all the awesome things about it (seriously…go look at the client list…it’s incredible.) What most impressed me is how much of a team they seem to be. Other agents read my book as well as Lisa, and one offered additional brilliant notes, one of which solved a problem I’d been trying to fix since my rough draft. It just felt like they were all on board and behind my project, and I knew that’s where I needed to be.

Describe the querying process in 3 GIFS.

Sending my first queries

Sending queries



Getting the email




Authors, want to be featured in the #Amquerying series?

Email me at!

Posted in Advice, Authors, Books, Publishing

Beware of Plot Holes!

My good friend Megan is one of the best writers I know and I’m lucky enough to have her as a beta reader for my projects. If you’re currently working on a manuscript follow the cool infographic below to make sure your story isn’t full of plot holes! Also make sure to visit for more tips from Megan and if you need help on your WIP she’s a fantastic resource! My book certainly wouldn’t be the same without her input and I am sure she can do great things for yours 🙂


Posted in Claribel Ortega, Empire Witch Series, Indie Authors, Literature, Publishing, Witches And Wizards, YA Fantasy, ya novel, YA Series, Young Adult Books

Book Update & New Beauty Channel!



It’s been a great year for my book and my writing and I want to thank you all for your continued support of the series! As it sometimes happens, my creative process hasn’t always been a smooth one and recently I’ve run into some setbacks in the way of the dreaded writer’s (or in this case editor’s) block. Sometimes, the best solution for this is taking a step back and letting things happen organically. Although I took a break for about a month, I am once again preparing to embark on editing the 400 pages of book one, Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of The Timekeeper. I am hoping to have the completed manuscript in literary agent hands by this spring and that will be, I’m sure, a whole other adventure. Thank you again for your support, it means a lot to me and I can’t wait to update you again this spring!
– Claribel



The Beauty Writer Blog and Youtube Channel!
My new side project!

I’ve started a beauty/hair blog which you can read here as well as a Youtube Channel! This is something completely different and new for me but something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time! If you have a chance please take a moment to subscribe and like/comment on my videos. Would me a lot to me as I build my audience!


Posted in Authors, Blog post, Books, cover reveal, Indie Authors, Publishing

Cover Reveal: Valia Lind's Pieces of Revenge!

I’m happy to be participating in the very awesome Valia Lind’s cover reveal for Pieces of Revenge! Please see below for more about the book and to check out the rad cover 😀

Pieces of Revenge_ebooklg

Pieces of Revenge_final


A weapon. A broken life. A humanity lost.

That is all Anastasia knows, that is all that she is. As an eleven-year-old, she witnessed her family’s brutal murder and she’s been on the run ever since. She’s spent her life training and planning for the day she can take her revenge.

Kallos Enterprises is a well respected corporation, set on improving the genetic structure of an individual. Or so they say. Anastasia knows, first hand, what kind of monsters lurk behind the pretty walls of those skyscrapers. Armed with combat skills and a beyond perfect memory, she heads to Chicago to uncover the answers to questions that plagued her for years.

After arriving in the city, she meets Logan, a boy from her past who changes all the rules. She doesn’t remember him, but he remembers her. His position at Kallos Enterprises is useful, his presence is unnerving, and he makes her question everything she knows about herself to be true. If her perfect memory can’t remember Logan, what else about her past is wrong?

Time is running out. Anastasia has nowhere to turn, but to trust the one person who’s a memory she should have, but doesn’t. With a madman threatening their every step, Anastasia and Logan must uncover the truths behind Kallos experiments and hope that the answers they find won’t destroy the world forever.

Release Date: November 20th, 2014






Author info:

Author. Photographer. Artist. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, Valia Lind always had a love for the written word. She wrote her first full book on the bathroom floor of her dormitory, while procrastinating to study for her college classes. Upon graduation, she has moved her writing to more respectable places, and have found her voice in Young Adult fiction. You can visit her online at or follow her on twitter, where she spends way too much time, @ValiaLind

Posted in Indie Authors, Literature, Publishing

Author Flyer Tutorial !


In addition to being an author and internet addict, I also work at book marketing company called Combined Book Exhibit. This Monday we launched CBE Authors where I will be helping other authors with their social media and more! Below is a tutorial for making posters/flyers for events, please check it out and share it!

So you’ve got your first  author event, congrats! It’s an exciting time and will be a great learning experience for you. Now it’s time to spread the word, so you take to Facebook and Twitter and let all your followers know. But what about your local coffee shop and supermarket bulletin? Surely, the community you’re signing your books in will want to know about your event. Designing a flyer or poster for these occasions doesn’t have to be costly, in fact the actual design doesn’t have to cost you a penny (although printing it certainly will!). Read on below for a step by step tutorial on making the flyer above for your own event!

We will be using for this tutorial, a free web based design software. While I do have the paid version which offers more options, you do not have to purchase it in order to make your own graphics or to use any of the features in this tutorial. If you will be using Picmonkey often I do recommend upgrading to Royal, it’s not expensive and really useful!

First, you will chose Design from option from the top menu. We will be using the 5X7 size option for this flyer but you can choose whichever size works for your particular project.



This will take you to the editing page. Choose the texture icon where we will be picking our background.


Click on the Paper tab.


Select the striped background texture and click the green Apply button.


Read the rest of the tutorial here.

Posted in Authors, Blog post, Books, cover reveal, Indie Authors, Publishing

The Land Uncharted Cover Reveal!

AHOY readers, today I am happy to bring you an awesome cover from an even awesome-er author! Yeah, I know awesome-er is not a word, but I don’t care! That’s how excited I am about this cover. Please check out the loveliness below and then go Pre-order the book which comes out in just a few short weeks!


Title: The Land Uncharted

Author: Keely Brooke Keith

Release Date: October 21, 2014
Edenbrooke Press


Lydia Colburn is a young physician dedicated to serving her village in the Land. Day and night, she rushes by horseback to treat the ill and injured, establishing a heroic reputation as the village’s new doctor.

Naval Aviator Connor Bradshaw is flying over the South Atlantic Ocean on a mission to secure any remaining sources of fresh water in a 2025 world torn apart by war. A malfunction activates his aircraft’s ejection system, parachuting his unconscious body to the shore of a hidden land.

Lydia risks her safety to help the injured outsider despite the shock of his mysterious arrival and the disastrous implications his presence could have for her peaceful society, which has gone undetected for seven generations.

Connor searches for a way to return to his squadron, but his fascination with life in the Land makes him protective of Lydia and her peaceful homeland. And while Lydia’s attraction to Connor stirs desires she never anticipated, it also pushes an unwanted admirer to stage a dangerous attempt to win her affection.

As Connor tries to keep the Land off the radar, he learns the biggest threat to Lydia lurks in her village. But when Lydia’s greatest passion and darkest fear collide, will she look to the past or the future to find the strength to survive?

Pre-order today!


Barnes and Noble



Have your ebook of The Land Uncharted signed via Authorgraph!

Advance Praise for The Land Uncharted:

“Not only is Keely’s writing beautiful and full of vivid detail, but the story and characters are incredible! I love the way she crosses genres and how well it all blends together.” -Christina Yother, author of Reverie

The Land Uncharted captured my interest from the opening lines. Keely Brooke Keith skillfully weaves an engaging story that explores the possibilities of a simple, peaceful existence in a society set apart from a world ravaged by conflict. Equal parts suspense and romance, this debut novel is a compelling read.” -Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled

Author Bio:


Keely is a bass guitarist and lives on a hilltop south of Nashville. When she isn’t writing stories or playing bass, Keely enjoys dancing, having coffee with friends, and sifting through vintage books at antique stores.

Author links:





You can now add The Land Uncharted to your shelf on Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, or FictFact.

Posted in Authors, Blog post, Claribel Ortega, Indie Authors, Publishing, Uncategorized

Why It's Okay To Wait


When you’re an author, if there’s one thing you have to have, it’s patience. Patience for writing when there are babies crying in the background or you’re tired from a day’s work, patience for editing even though your eyes are crossing, patience for the agent query process and the inevitable wait times and rejections, and if you’re lucky, patience waiting on submissions to publishers. I am not good with patience, never have been, but I am learning whether I like it or not.


A few months ago, I was rushing to finish book one of my series ahead of it’s October release. I had gotten it in my head that it needed to happen by THIS October, there was just no other way.

I had a publishing contract with a small company, a small but growing group of loyal readers, one novella and a nearly finished manuscript under my belt. I felt like I was moving rapidly towards my goal, but then I did something I didn’t expect myself to do; I hit the brakes.

I took a moment to really evaluate my situation, my contract, my position within the publishing world (uh what position?) and I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be months before a book release. I was doing everything on my own, and rushing towards this arbitrary deadline. I was doing a disservice to my book, to my ideas and to my stories. So I reached out to my publisher and expressed my concerns, and they gave me the opportunity to get out of my contract.So I did.

Bye_danielI switched my plans for release, not easy to do considering I was running an entire Pubslush Campaign behind releasing my book at NY Comic Con, but I still did it. I could have self-published the book, and continued writing it at lightening speed but I didn’t want to do that. I knew self-publishing it would kill any chances I had of traditionally publishing my book, and that’s my ultimate goal, so I decided to wait. I said to hell with these made up deadlines, I am going to take my little novella to Comic Con and take my sweet time writing book one of the series. I ignored that uneasy pang in my stomach, those nerves that said “but the deadlines!” and I went for it. I want to make my book the best it can be, and when I’ve written and edited till I’m blue in the face, I want to edit it some more. I didn’t spend a year researching, and another writing just to rush things when it was most crucial I take my time and be thorough.

tumblr_m52vfqAQSe1robakgI know this is something many authors do, race towards a self-imposed end date, and if your goal is self-publishing and you’re trying to stay on track that’s okay. But I’ve learned (the hard way) that my end goal is not something I can get to quickly, I will really have to work, and do a lot of waiting before I start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, once I made the decision not to release the book on my own (with the help of my awesome super secret FB writers group friends ❤ ) I swallowed my pride and told my Pubslush supporters the news. I told my friends, my family and my readers that it was all going to take just a bit longer than I expected. And you know what? Everyone was fine, everyone understood, because the ONLY person in a rush was ME.

tumblr_mbyolcZtRj1rrpsd7Fast forward to today, I am working on the last 20 pages of book one, looking forward to NY Comic Con in October where I’ll have The Skinwalker’s Apprentice plus some sweet posters, and I am SO FREAKING HAPPY that I made the decisions I made.

The best thing I could have done for my career and my books was to wait, to take a step back, and to roll up my sleeves and really put in the work it took to get a great manuscript instead of barreling towards that pointless deadline I made up. Now I am making some awesome friends in the publishing world who I am learning so much from,


and hopefully taking my book to a new level of awesomeness with the help of CPs. I am just really enjoying the journey and process of writing my book. I also took the time to research and narrow down a list of dream agents to query once my book is finished. I couldn’t be happier with the new possibilities before me, and they all came about because I was able to wait.

134841974593It is so, so, so easy to get caught up with the idea that you have to do everything NOW, like right now! I understand deadlines (former reporter, I get it) and I understand the need to build on momentum, but there is nothing worse for your career as a writer than an unfinished or poorly written book. Don’t release it for the sake of it, or for the instant gratification that’s become a cornerstone of the “just self-publish it” mentality of today.

patienceanyaI don’t want to be a Debby Downer but with rare exceptions, all that hype that’s building around your book, is most likely in your head. It’s your own excitement building which makes it seem crucial to get it out NOW.  But whatever momentum you have, big or little, it can keep growing even if you’re not releasing anything just yet. Start a blog, interview others in publishing and write about it, become active in the literary world somehow, get creative!  But don’t release your book before it’s ready, and don’t think the only way to get it out there is to self-publish it. This is simply not true. Are the mechanics of pressing “upload” on Amazon a lot easier than querying 20 agents, putting detail and thought into each query and then waiting sometimes months for a response? Yes of course. But just putting the book up for sale is not enough to get it noticed, or further your career (not to mention all the work you need to do to make sure the book is ready for release in the first place). There is tons of hard work involved in self-publishing too, don’t fool yourself into thinking it will be a cakewalk.

giphySo I just want to tell you, it’s okay to wait. It’s okay to push things back, and edit your book one more time if you think it needs that. It’s okay to go back and revise a scene that you feel uneasy about. It’s OKAY to do an overhaul of your manuscript when you keep getting rejected by agents. There is nothing wrong with making something you created better, there’s no shame in continuing to polish your MS until it shines. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and taking your time. Think of all the thousands of other writers out there and realize you need something to set you apart. You don’t just need an awesome book (which you won’t get anyway if you’re rushing it) but you also need a lot of patience. A lot.



P.S. There is another #MSWL  ( AND a super awesome #SecretProject!!) coming up on September 3rd for all you writers seeking agents!


Posted in Authors, Blog post, Books, Claribel Ortega, Empire Witch Series, Literature, Publishing, Witches And Wizards, YA Fantasy, ya novel, YA Series, Young Adult Books

Writing Diverse Kidlit: The Riddle of the Timekeeper


I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by DiversityYA on my book Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of The Timekeeper. Read the interview below and please let me know what you think! Also, please note I will NO LONGER be releasing EKROTK at New York Comic Con. I am going to begin seeking agent representation for this manuscript SOON, so for now it is under wraps 🙂 My pubslush is still on for The Skinwalker’s Apprentice though, so follow the link in the article to donate! Hope you enjoy the interview 🙂

1) Can you tell us a little more about Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of The Timekeeper? What inspired you to write it?

Riddle of The Timekeeper is about a teen witch living in New York City during the nineteen eighties. She’s rebellious, pierced and pink haired and early on we find out she’s kind of lost and confused about what her future will bring. She’s one of only two witches living in New York, the other being her aunt Nora. On her last day of High School, which was a struggle to achieve in itself because of her penchant for trouble, her aunt vanishes before her eyes. Emerald then receives a message from the past, “Find The Timekeeper, Solve The Riddle,” and she is introduced to a NYC she’s never known; equal parts magical and dangerous.

I really wanted to write a story about New York that not only incorporated magic, but also history. There are many characters pulled from the headlines so to speak, like Goody Garlick who was accused of witchcraft on Long Island a good thirty five years before the Salem witch trials and even The Timekeeper himself who was inspired by  New York University’s beloved John Votta. He was nicknamed The Timekeeper because he stood on a corner of Washington Square Park yelling the time to passing students. I took inspiration from these real life people and weaved them into my alternate, magical New York City.

2) Many of your characters struggle with mental health issues. Was that a conscious choice, or did that just happen? Why is diversity in fiction important to you?

One thing I wanted to explore was the real world ramifications that being a witch would entail. For Emerald, the only other person who she can identify with fully is her aunt Nora. Aside from that, her mother passed at a young age and her father abandoned the family shortly after. Many times we find these tragic characters who have been through so much, yet mentally they don’t seem affected in the same way any of us would be, despite the inferences that they are very much human in addition to be extraordinary.

Emerald is the manifestation of what I believe would happen to someone who was dealing with the death of a parent, with abandonment and with being so completely different they felt they had no where to turn.

Diversity in fiction is important to me because as an author of color I know first hand that having a character you can relate to in a book as a kid can be a great thing. I have always been a reader, I was obsessed with books as a child, but rarely did I find a character that looked like me, that came from any of the same kinds of neighborhoods I lived in. The books that I could identify with (Like The House On Mango Street) I read close to a million times. They were important to me because I could see myself in the pages, and it made me feel like I was understood in some way.

It’s my hope that readers feel they can identify with my characters, and that it helps them realize they’re not less than because of how they look or what they’re struggling with.

3) How did you prepare for writing about mental health issues? How did you conduct your research?

Read the rest of the article here.

Posted in Authors, Blog post, cover reveal, Publishing, Uncategorized, ya novel, YA Series, Young Adult Books

Cover Reveal: THE LEGACY!!

Hey pals, today I have the pleasure of helping the amazing Necole Ryse reveal her cover for THE LEGACY, a book a lot of people are calling a more diverse Pretty Little Liars. You should check it out & pick up your copy on Amazon today! Necole is pretty cool I mean, she likes Criminal Minds AND Harry Potter, that’s too many cool points to calculate. I definitely recommend this book to all of you,  I am half way done with it and it’s GOOD 😀 Check out the rad cover  and learn more about Necole below! (Plus buy the book, duh!) ❤

The Legacy

by Necole Ryse


Nineteen-year-old Raevyn Jones has never worn a designer gown. She’s never had access to unlimited champagne or chauffeured limo rides. But when she is dropped in the midst of the Black Ivy League—against her will—she has to pretend that everything is normal, as if she belongs. When her new friends start to question her sketchy past and her shaky legacy at Benjamin Wallace Fitzgerald University, Raevyn realizes she will have to rely on her street smarts more than ever before. Raevyn starts to receive cryptic text messages and emails from an anonymous sender and she soon discovers that not only does someone want her to leave B.W.Fitz–someone also wants to end her life.


Available now!


Connect with Necole Ryse 
About the author:

Necole Ryse graduated from Towson University with Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications. Bored with life as an adult, Necole decided to follow her dreams to write fiction and she hasn’t looked back. She enjoys chocolate covered pretzels, Criminal Minds marathons, and all things Harry Potter.


Posted in 1980s, Authors, Blog post, Empire Witch Series, Indie Authors, Literature, Music, Publishing, Song of the day, Witches And Wizards, YA Fantasy, ya novel, YA Series, Young Adult Books

Vegas + 80's Song of The Day!


Or 80’s song of the month, since I haven’t been updating these! I apologize for my lack of bloggyness I was recovering from ALA Annual in Las Vegas (which went awesome!). On the way there, my flight was delayed but I did have a lovely conversation with JetBlue which almost made it worth it.




I had a book signing at the conference and met loads of awesome librarians, teachers and publishing folk. I met librarians at the airport, in the airplane, at parties, just everywhere!


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I always get jealous I’m not able to attend panels at these shows since I’m also working (Stan Lee was there!) but it’s still a great opportunity for me as an author. I signed and gave away all my books in under 15 minutes , got interviewed by Hollywood Life TV and made some great connections. I also, made some pretty cute fashion choices…


Vegas was as over the top as I expected it to be, just big, and loud and HOT. Geez was it hot (112 F) but on a positive note, there was zero humidity so my hair stayed intact!

10502105_249407771934486_481279540513413362_nSpeaking of beauty, the airport in Las Vegas had a Benefit Cosmetics vending machine…it was seriously the coolest thing I’ve ever seen (and it took almost $100 of my money b/c I just couldn’t help it!)


I mean, look at this thing!
I mean, look at this thing!

I also got to meet the lovely, lovely Lindsey Elizabeth! She was awesome and got a signed copy of The Skinwalker’s Apprentice/went to a really cool party where everything is made of ice and they give you a coat before you walk in! Look out for her in the Gone Girl movie (which I really can not wait for), she has a small role in that but bigger things coming soon!


I had a blast with all the social media activity surrounding the conference, especially #ALAmyface in which you posted a picture of your mug so other ALA attendees could find you. I don’t know but something tells me my entry didn’t help in that capacity.


It was a great time and again, an amazing opportunity for any author. Book fairs are really great and I encourage authors or reader who can make one to go! (Because you also get free books)


On the way home, the US was defeated in the World Cup (nooOOoO) but I did meet a lovely couple from NJ and their friend “Mooch”. Made me glad I was going home, because only in NYC or NJ can you meet someone named Mooch.

I left Las Vegas with a renewed sense of purpose for my writing, not that it ever left, but after I decided against staying in my small publishing contract, I will admit I was somewhat disheartened. I had so many people approach me about The Skinwalker’s Apprentice; to tell me they enjoyed it, or that they’ve seen it all over the internet, or that they just wanted to say hi and talk about the book. It was so encouraging and made me remember that I’m only just getting started. Setbacks are a part of the process, and as long as I am learning from every experience, it’s a gain and not a loss.


I am now walking around with a folder filled with (highlighted) info on my top 5 dream agents, hoping to begin querying them with Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of The Timekeeper in the next few weeks. I am nervous, and excited since I’ve never really been through this process aside from #pitmad, but I am hoping to learn from them, get some feedback and hopefully make my work as good as it can be. I promise I will keep you all updated if I get any exciting news 🙂

*Bonus content for taking so long to post*

A video of my dog Pancho forcing me to pet him, which has zero to do with Vegas, but everything to do with adorableness

Watching #harrypotter and Pancho's forcing me to pet him 😂🐶 #potterheadweekend

A post shared by Claribel Ortega (@claribel_ortega) on

AND NOW I leave you with the 80’s song of the day, and a song that most definitely makes an appearance in Riddle of The Timekeeper, a nod to all my librarian friends out there (because of the music video and because I love you all), Tears for Fears, Head Over Heels!


Posted in Authors, Blog post, Indie Authors, Literature, Publishing

Reverie by Christina Yother

Rad/Dom fans! My Vegas post will be going live soon (I promise!) but in the meantime, check out this amazing new release by Christina Yother! There’s a really cool photo contest you can enter too so read on!  Reblog, share and help spread the word 🙂

by Christina Yother
Orphaned at a young age Hetty is convinced that her circumstances make her unworthy of having a family of her own. When a job opportunity as a housekeeper presents itself Hetty accepts believing that working for Isaac Wheeler and his family is a welcome, if not temporary, surrogate for her own family dreams. As she’s faced with learning to trust she discovers that wanting a family and building a family are two very different things. Will she learn to see herself as worthy of God’s gifts? Or will she return to the solitary existence that defined so much of her life?
Isaac Wheeler, successful furniture maker and dishonorable bachelor, finds Hetty’s presence in his home to be disturbing and a haunting reminder of his past sins. As he struggles with his growing and unwanted feelings, he can’t help but torment himself with mistakes from his past. Can he navigate the family tensions, infidelity, and sudden choices destined to keep them apart? Or can Isaac endure each struggle and seek forgiveness before discovering what truly makes a family?
Available now: Amazon 
About the Author:
Christina Yother is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She has been involved with writing, blogging, and social media for several years and earned a PhD in 2012 by writing one of the first dissertations to explore how women build community through writing online. She lives in small-town Georgia with her husband and three children.You can find her writing at or at where she runs a submission-based collaborative writing blog that celebrates the smaller voices in the blogging community.
Christina love to connect with readers!
Win a signed copy of REVERIE plus a collection of Christina’s favorite books! Enter her IG photo contest, details in the pic below 😀
Posted in 1980s, Advice, Blog post, Claribel Ortega, Empire Witch Series, Indie Authors, Literature, Publishing, Witches And Wizards, YA Fantasy, ya novel, YA Series, Young Adult Books

Desperately Seeking Agent: Just like the Madonna movie, but sadder


My first book, The Skinwalker’s Apprentice, was self published and the next book in the series was picked up at a twitter #pitmad event. I wasn’t expecting to get signed (I only had a partial MS for crying out loud) but a small press signed me almost immediately. That was a few months back, and now I find myself contract-less. What happened? Things didn’t work out. It sucks, but it happens. In my rush to get a contract, I didn’t stop myself for that oh so crucial moment of asking ” Is this the right choice?”

Turns out it wasn’t, not for me, so now I find myself sort of back to square one. While I don’t have a contract, I have gotten much closer to finishing my book (two weeks from editing phase woohoo) and I’ve met a lot of amazing readers who’ve gotten their hands on the prequel and loved it. Does anyone know who I am ? Not really but Big Ang follows me on Twitter. Has J.K. Rowling called me for a lunch date. No freaking way. Do I have publishers knocking down my door? Negative.

None of that really matters though, because it was doubtful I would get any of those things with the path I was on ANYWAY, so why not follow my gut?

I  made a tough choice for the good of my (crosses fingers) longevity as an author as opposed to something that felt more like instant gratification. It was hard & yes I feel slightly embarrassed for some reason even though it was my choice.

Despite feeling slightly defeated at first, I now feel a lot happier with where I’m at, and know I made the right decision. I feel I am doing the right thing for my career as a writer, as I embark on something I’ve only ever done twice during #pitmad…querying agents. It wasn’t nearly as scary then because those agents REQUESTED my MS. Now I am just going to find someone (or a few someones lets be honest) who I think would be the perfect match for me, and send them a “please love me” email. I am nervous, and know from my author friends that rejection is as imminent as it is un-pretty.

In the wise words of Coldplay, “If you never try, then you’ll never know,” or something akin to that, so I’m going to join the throngs of crying authors and query my little heart out.

So, for any authors who are at a similar crossroads, I want to tell you you’re not alone (cue cheesy music). Sometimes it’s hard to swallow your pride and take that step backwards. Sometimes that step backwards is the only way to get on the right path. So, here’s to finishing Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of The Timekeeper, to writing an awesome query letter, and to getting my dream agent. (cue slow claps)

Posted in Authors, Blog post, Books, Indie Authors, Publishing

Book Expo America FTW!

I will be at BEA this year and my book The Skinwalker’s Apprentice will be part of the New Title Showcase! If you’re going please stop by and check it out in booth 3005 and say hi to me too while you’re there! I’ll have bookmarks to giveaway and free ebook download codes for all!