Posted in AmQuerying Series, literary agent, writing

#AmQuerying: With Kosoko Jackson

Determined
Heyo! It’s been a while but I am back with another post for the #Amquerying series, with the always sassy and super-amazing, Kosoko Jackson! 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.
You can follow Kosoko on Twitter here and read below to find out how he got his agent, how he actually misses querying (WHAT?!) and why anything is possible in publishing!
1. How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?
I was a huge fan of query-tracker and I used the paid service obsessively. It was a great site to have everything in one place and made the information easy to find. QTs search feature isn’t the best (for example, if you are looking for an agent that does “Young adult” and “thriller” it gives you agents that do “YA” only, “thriller” only AND “both” instead of just the both), so I also used MSWL; the hashtag & the website. I then would spend several minutes searching for interviews to help personalize the query letters.
2. Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried? 
Ha. Nope. A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER is the 3rd book I queried. Effectively, this is the 3rd iteration of this novel, so you could say it’s my 5th novel written.
 
3. 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? 
Sure! If you include all 3 version of A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER, and even the R&Rs from patient agents, I sent 257 queries. From those I got I’d say in the ‘upper 30s’ for full requests. I ended with 3 offers.
My agent timeline was long. I got a “Favorite” from Louise Fury in #DvPit in 2016. She sat on the full, and then I nudged her saying I go into Pitch Wars in August. She then got the revised version in November, and I nudged her again when I got an offer in March. It was about 11 months from when I sent her the first query, to when she offered. This goes to show anything can happen!
 
 4. How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool? 
I liked querying (and I kinda miss it?). It was fun to learn about new agents, seeing and learning about agents and such. It felt a little like a scavenger hunt. I think there’s a querying learning curve; with any novel you query. The first full is an exceptional feeling; the first full rejection stings, and the same with queries. I strongly believe in the “you need to grow thick skin” mentality when it comes to querying. Consequently, with 250 rejections, I learned to breeze through them and not really feel any sort of personal hate or pain. This is a business, and the quicker you learn that the better. Sometimes, you write something that’s good–it’s actually great–but not great for the market. It happens.
I will say my emotions went through the whole spectrum, as I feel all querying authors emotions do. That’s normal, and that’s part of the fun. I’d suggest embracing it. You learn a lot about yourself during querying–and how you deal with stress. Publishing is a slow game. Querying, is the fastest part.
 
5. How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else? 
Personally? I bury myself in my work. When I got a rejection? I sent out 10 more queries. Not 1. not 4. 10. I just push through. I’m stubborn. It’s adorable, to be honest. (bold by me, Claribel, because this is both true and hilarious) I would NOT suggest this to anyone else. Reason why? When I had to nudge agents I had to nudge 78 of them. That was a lot of manage.
And like any author, I worked on other things while waiting.
6. Anything unexpected about the querying process for you? 
I think what was unexpected was the kindness of strangers. When I first wrote this novel, it was a speculative ‘what if’ version and far more political. I had a line in my query letter that suggested parallels to a specific war. An agent who asked for a R & R she suggested I base the novel in that war, instead of making a reference to it. That simple change got me where I was today. It made my novel unique, insightful and tapped into something no one really talked about in YA. This agent didn’t have to tell me that. She didn’t have to write a whole page note from my 10 pages. But she did, and I’m here–with an agent–because of it.
I should note that though this was from the kindness of the agent’s heart, I know it came from my social media presence. Be kind to everyone, folks. Engage. Agents are people too. They like what you like. They love what you love and they will chat with you like a normal person if you don’t view them like some Gods on high. It can help and make an agent put in that little bit of effort.
 
7. If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be? 
Throw caution to the wind! Many people will disagree with me but when I say query widely, I mean like VERY widely. Here’s how I did my novel. To its benefit or detriment, my novel is Historical, a Thriller, LGBT, And a little more lit-ficy- than most YA. So I searched for agents using those parameters. If they OPENLY said they were looking for any of those 4 factors in YA, they were ‘tier one’. If they said,  “I like WXY but not Z” Tier 2. Tier 3 were people who never openly said no to any of the genre’s mentioned, but didn’t say yes. This not only made a priority list in my mind, but also helped to see how agents worked.
8. Did other writers comes into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages? 
 
I participated in every critique or pitch event I could to help hone my first pages. I also have a very loyal friend who pushes me, challenges me, and really helps me to be the best I can. She was amazing and instrumental in this novel getting to where it was now, mainly because of her ingenuity of turning tropes on their heads and her knowledge of the market and trends. ADVICE: don’t be afraid to make friends with people you never thought you would. Sometimes, those people have the best advice.
9. When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?
Louise wasn’t the agent who got the ball rolling. She was actually someone I nudged and was my last call (12 hours before my deadline). I was on the way to a conference and pulled over to have the call with her. Off the bat, Louise flying back from South Africa to call me was really a good sign. Additionally, she had amazing insight about the novel, how to fix it, what to make better, me and my career, the type of writer I wanted to be and the type of person I was. Yes, an agent is a business partner but, especially being a young author, someone who I can grow with, challenge me, help me expand, and take what I think are my strengths and capitalize on them while bolstering my weakness, was important. Louise brought me all of that and more. We talked for 2 hours and I haven’t looked back.
10. Describe the querying process in 3 gifs. 




11. Tell us a little about your upcoming book
 
A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER follows seventeen-year-old James Mills, the adopted son of 2 USAID parents, on his family’s final humanitarian mission, which takes them to Kosovo. For James, this is the first trip without his older sister, Anna, and he expects it to be a fairly dull one. But when the Kosovo-Serbian war breaks out, and he becomes separated from his parents, James must navigate a war-torn country and unearthed familial secrets, if he hopes to get him and his Brazilian boyfriend back home safely.

12. Anything else you’d like to share??

Really enjoy the process. It all seems like a lot of wall hitting and annoyance. It’ll feel like you’ll never get there, but no ones road is the same. I know people who got accepted on their first novel, some on their 12th. Some after 1 year of writing and subbing, some after 5 years. No story is the same…but make sure you don’t lose what makes you who you are in the quest to follow your dreams. Because the right agent will love you for you, and when you find them; it’ll be amazing.
kosoko
Kosoko is a Washington D.C. native who has been writing novels since 9th grade. With a goal of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of all genres of literature, Kosoko finds beauty in addressing complex questions & themes for young adults, aided by complex prose. Kosoko is a digital media associate for Rock the Vote and finishing his BS in Public Health with dual minors in History & Communications. When not writing or working, he is trying to finish his 100 movies in 2017 goal, walking the streets of DC, or trying to convert believers to the Cult of Wonder Woman.  He is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.
Posted in writing

REVIEW: The Upside of Unrequited, is a beautiful happy place.

Mariam's Yummy Books

30653853Title: The Upside of Unrequited

Author: Becky Albertalli

Published: April 11th, 2017

Length: 352 pages (TOO SHORT)

Starring: 5 FUCKING STARS

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for…

View original post 1,434 more words

Posted in giveaway, scholarpitch, writing

Scholarpitch Giveaway: BookExpo Passes & ARCS

Hi all! With the change in pricing to BookExpo ($300!) plus the upfront payment and stricter application process, many bloggers won’t be able to go to next year’s show. Scholarpitch wanted to do something to help marginalized bloggers so we’re happy to announce we’ll be choosing TWO bloggers from the PoC, LGBTQIA+ or Native American communities to get all days passes to BookExpo 2017. (One pass per blogger)

riri dancing1

There’s more! I know some of you won’t be able to come to NYC for the event so in addition to the two passes we’ll also be giving away a collection of ARCS from the show (Titles TBD) to help you experience BookExpo, even if you can’t be there.

tumblr_n4yu35tI1X1qahnxio1_400

We have a form below where you’ll be able to choose between the BEA Pass or ARCS (*ARCS are only for people who can not attend the show.)

PLEASE only fill the form out once. If you do it more than once you’ll be disqualified and I’ll be really cranky with you for at least a week.

flames-on-the-side-of-my-face

Please only select BookExpo Pass on the form if you either live in or know for sure you will be able to travel to NYC. Travel expenses are *not* part of the prize. We’re not made of money, pals (but I sort of wish I was.)  So that’s it! Please fill out one of the two forms below & good luck!

(DEADLINE FOR THIS GIVEAWAY is JANUARY 15th, 2017)

 

FORM FOR BEA PASS or ARC Giveaway

  • Please note, you will need to provide either your blog, Instagram or BookTube link to be eligible. Please fill out at least one of those fields or as many as you have. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in writing, Youtube Video

New #BookTube Tag: #Diverse8

Hey all! I’m pretty new to the YouTube world and run an AuthorTube (writing)/Booktube (duh, books) channel. I’ve started my very first tag called #Diverse8!

Diverse8 is eight questions about books and diversity meant to expand the conversation about equal and respectful representation in literature and the need for those books to be reviewed, discussed and promoted on BookTube. I’d love if you could like and share the original video and if you have your own BookTube channel please consider filming your own #Diverse8 tag video as well! Please find the video & questions below!

 

 

czht0rkxeaiz6yc-jpg-large

Posted in writing

Magical Diversity Council

Hey all! I recently wrote a thread on Twitter about writing diversely which you can see here:

//storify.com/Claribel_Ortega/damnedifyoudo/embed?border=false

From that thread the term Magical Diversity Council was born and you can get your very own tshirt, sweatshirt or mug with the Magical Diversity Council logo on it. 50% of all proceeds from the merchandise will go to The David Ortiz Children’s Fund which is committed to helping children in New England and the Dominican Republic who do not have access to the critical pediatric services they need. 50% of all proceeds go to the fund and the merchandise is on sale for 10 days only!

Order your merchandise here: https://teespring.com/magical-diversity-council-merc#pid=370&cid=6546&sid=front

Posted in writing

Cold Spring, NY

Moto Poet:

670239901_waq7e-l

Se encontraron las masas en aquella esquinita floja.
Los niños no supieron distinguir el mal del bien,
creo que la sanidad no los dejaba.
Y por un instante pasamos desapercibidos.
Todos éramos uno, sin odio, sin agravio, llenos de amor.

El otoño apenas asomaba sus colores,
el Hudson vitrineando como siempre con su briza.
El tren con su vaivén bailando sobre el horizonte.

¿Y quién se encarga de pintar todas estas casas?
¿Quién decora las fachadas que resguardan sus tesoros?
¿Quién se inventa este arcoíris de inspiración?

Arte y chucherías, prendas, música,
comida, de todo un poco, y de nada hay mucho,
Y gente sobre la gente, sin incomodar a nadie.

El fiambre cantando sobre aromas confundidas
Desde la Chestnut hasta la West,
el Hudson Hill’s y Moo Moo’s ice cream,
el Bouchon y Silver Spoon.

Y los incrédulos levantan la mirada entregándose al casi mar del rio,
a la majestuosa…

View original post 59 more words

Posted in writing

Day 1 – Left Westchester, NY at 9. Then I went back home

Moto Poet:

I left with the road in mind,and adventure as a matter of fact.I rode with what I left behind in mind,and sad as a matter of fact.And ahead were more day to leave behind,and roads to have ridden in the past.I left with the end in mind,and adventure, as a matter of fact!

img_20161028_122015You see, I was originally planning to leave on Thursday the 27th but due to a combination of procrastination , horrible weather, and a last minute cold I ended up leaving on Friday the 28th instead. Once I had left I realized I still had to run a couple of errand, so all things considered I officially left at 10am.

My plan was to head to Austin, TX as quick as possible (3 – 4 days) where I would meet Pat from 2ridetheglobe who has provided great insight in planning the…

View original post 550 more words

Posted in Short Stories, writing

The Collector

tumblr_nw84fu1yec1u572tco10_1280

It was winter in Ridgefield. December to be exact. And that meant one thing: snow. Sheets of it were pulled around the houses like a giant white curtain, hiding them from the trees that surrounded everything. It covered the roofs, the mailboxes, the dogs. And Magnolia was almost certain it had made its way inside her left shoe. It was nothing like the city. Where snow fell and turned to grey mush beneath the feet of pedestrians in less than a minute. Here the snow fell in white tufts and stuck to every surface it could find. And it stayed there indefinitely.

But Magnolia, unlike the snow, was just passing through. On her way to track a witch.

“I knew. I knew I should’ve ridden my broom here,” she whispered to her left shoe, admonishing it for getting her wool socks wet. She had worn three on each foot. Just in case. A man in one of those hats with the fluff balls on the top of it walked by just then, and Magnolia smiled weakly. Had he heard her? If he had, he didn’t show it. He just smiled back and waved. Magnolia put her head down, plowing forward and passing the fountain at the entrance of town.

Witches weren’t so bad. Magnolia knew since she was one. But humans couldn’t know about them. No. Never. That would be very, very unfortunate.

“I’m here for a relic,” she practiced under her breath.  A group of children skipped past her, kicking snow into the air.

Magnolia shielded her face from the flying snow and tried to focus on what she would tell him. The Collector. A chill that had nothing to do with the freezing temperature infiltrated her heavy black robe.

“I am here for a relic.” She tried with more assertion and yet another town’s person walked by and waved. She cursed herself for not performing an invisibility spell.

“Collector,” she said through her teeth, as ferociously as she could in a whisper, “I’m here for a relic and I won’t leave till you give it to me.” She poked one finger at the air, flurries gathering on her gloved hands.

By the time the family of very tall humans stalked past her like elegant giraffes, smiling and waving, Magnolia had lost what little cool she’d managed to dig her nails into.

“Will no one in this town let me concentrate?”

With two long strides the giraffe family had gone and Magnolia felt a wave of guilt wash over her. But then she remembered who she was going to see. Or more accurately what. Because The Collector was more thing than witch. More creature than human. More nightmare than reality.

Her socks soaked up more snow as she trudged down Main Street, rehearsing her tirade.

She looked around to see if she spotted any other Magicks around, but the tell-tale colorful aura that surrounded Magicks for a split second on sight didn’t seem to exist here. In the city it was like a small fireworks explosion to just walk down the street. Greens, purples and reds, in clouds of hazy light, surrounded both the Punks on Bleecker and the business men on Park. All Magicks and witches. All concealed in plain sight. But even New York City, with all its hidden shops and secrets, didn’t hold the answer she was looking for. A relic, or a thing from the past, that would allow her to look at a memory. It could be anything: a dress worn by a witch, a nickel held in the hand of a monster, a rock. It didn’t matter, so long as it was present at the very moment Magnolia needed to see. At the memory of some other witch she needed to creep into. Or of one very specific witch. Margo Pennyfeather.

Magnolia’s chest tightened with the thought of her but she pressed on. She needed to stop somewhere before she reached her destination and make sure she had everything. Her wand, her book, her weapon.

“Oh dear,” she whispered at her now sopping shoe. The weapon was something she did not like to think about. Not at all. But her apprentice Morrissey had found it prudent she have it.

“Take it,” she’d said in her soft way. “Take it or I’ll find a way to come with you. Your choice.”

Magnolia scowled. If Morrissey had come with her things would have been much, much worse. Because The Collector might not care to keep an old witch like her. But for one with Morrissey’s ability? He would do unspeakable things.

“Unspeakable,” she muttered, waving to a priest with a flashlight smile. She’d never waved so much in her entire life.

Crossing the street to Four Twenty-Six Main Street, Magnolia looked both ways before slipping into an alleyway. She pulled her wand from the sleeve of her dress, looking around and letting out tiny puffs of vapor as she did. When she was sure no one was looking she pointed the wand at her chest.

“Blot.” A wave of warmth washed over her and she hid her wand with much less caution. She was invisible now.

“Should’ve done that before I left New York,” her eyes scanned the doors along the brick walls. Doors that weren’t there a moment ago. That humans could not see. Chalk drawings sat above each entrance, signaling the name of each establishment. An owl with giant eyes for The Hoot, a bar for Magicks, a rabbit above another for The White Rabbit Inn, and a few others that were of no interest to her. “At least not right now,” she licked her lips at the small rodent drawn above The Rat cheese shop.

She reached the end of the building. A purple door with a skinny tree drawn in white chalk above it, the eerie tree enveloped in green mist: Hollibird’s Hole.

Magnolia pushed at the door and the smell of firewood, hot chocolate and what smelled suspiciously of burning hair, snaked its way up her nostrils. She took a deep breath and smiled.

“Yoo-hoo,” she waved her hand at the elderly bartender who grunted in response. So much for all the waving.

“You’re always too cheerful,” the bartender spit into a small gold tin on the wooden bar and flicked her wrist.  A mug flew from a hook above her head and landed with a clank on the bar. The bartender snapped her finger, the mug filling to the brim with bubbling brown liquid and white floating clouds. “And you always did love marshmallows,” the bartender smiled a crooked smile with only a handful of teeth at Magnolia.

“Griswold, I was beginning to think you’d forgotten me.” Magnolia wrapped her numb hands around the hot cup and wished she could pour the chocolate down her dress to warm up. But that would probably be a bad idea. Definitely she thought as the hot liquid washed over her tongue and warmed her insides.

“I might’ve. Depends if you brought me one of those banana puddings I like.”

Magnolia produced a package from the inside of her robes. “I would never forget your pudding,” she winked.

“So what’re you doing here?” Griswold asked.

“I came to see someone.”

Griswold arched an eyebrow. Because they both knew there was only one other reason Magicks ventured beyond the city and into Ridgefield. The Collector.

“You can’t go there, Maggie,” hissed Griswold. “You know how dangerous he is.”

“It’s very, very important.”

“You say that about everything. Last time you called me saying, “I need a block of cheese from The Rat, it’s, “‘very, very important.’”

“Hush now, hush,” Magnolia waved her hand in front of Griswold’s face as she laughed, exposing the back of her too dark throat and lack of molars. “This is different. This has to do with…well, I can’t tell you.”

“If you can’t tell me, I can’t help ya,” Griswold began wiping the bar down.

Magnolia bit her lip. She was absolutely, forbidden from talking to anyone about the memory she had to find. The one she had to see before the entire Magick world was rewound. Erased. Doomed. No pressure.
“One step at a time,” she whispered at her shoe, which was drying as she stretched one leg out towards the fire.

Magnolia sighed. “I need a relic,” she confessed, “one tied to a witch.” Griswold nodded as if to say go on.

“A relic tied to Margo Pennyfeather,” Magnolia got out in the smallest whisper she could manage, but the blow of that name still nearly knocked Griswold off her feet.

The Timeteller?” Griswold’s eyes had gone wide. Timetellers weren’t around anymore. They’d been hunted for their powers and killed off. It seemed the power to control time was something no witch could resist.  But no one knew what happened to the last one. To Margo.

“Yes,” hissed Magnolia looking around, “But keep. It. Down. Will you?”

Griswold held her hands up.

“You wouldn’t happen to have anything that would help me? Some sort of potion maybe?” Magnolia asked.

Griswold arched an eyebrow before disappearing under the bar. Magnolia peaked over the wooden surface when Griswold popped up and nearly knocked her nose back to last Tuesday.

“Here,” she shoved a small bottle into Magnolia’s hand.

“What’s this? Oh, oh no!”

“Now you hush.”

They were both looking around like dogs in a park full of squirrels. Luckily there was only one witch with his back to them in the corner of the bar, a dozen or so glasses adorning the table in front of him.

Magnolia turned the bottle over in her hand, the pink liquid swishing inside of it. A Charm spell could make another Magick do anything you wanted. Like the force except it was illegal. Highly illegal.

“Use that and he’ll give you whatever you want,” Griswold smiled smugly. “You’re probably toast but at least this way you have a fighting chance.”

Magnolia nodded. She knew Griswold was right.

“I’ll be right back,” Magnolia walked towards the rest room.

Slipping into a stall, she opened her robe and felt for her supplies. She had her wand, she had her hollowed out book. And now she had her weapon. She put the Charm spell inside a secret pocket on the lapel of her robe and took a deep breath, pressing her warm hands against her still gelid cheeks. Soon she’d be out in the snow again. Waving like a mayor in a parade. Soon she’d be face to face with death.

“I’ve got to go,” Magnolia stood before Griswold, one hand behind her back.

“So soon?” Griswold didn’t look up from the bar.

“I’m sorry.”

“What fo…”

But before she could finish her sentence, Magnolia had blown an electric purple powder into the air.

Remember me not,” she whispered as she blew the lilac cloud towards Griswold and then towards the witch behind her. She’d bottled a Memory Keeper spell for just this occasion.

A dazed look overtook Griswold and Magnolia snuck out of the bar, taking the memory of their meeting with her. Soon it would be as if Magnolia had never been there at all.

Stepping out into the frigid cold, night had nearly fallen on Ridgefield, and Magnolia turned to her right. Towards the library.

There were no more pedestrians. No more giant dogs trying to eat snow. She was alone with the crows. It was if word had spread of her mission. As if everyone knew a witch was about to die.

She stepped in front of the giant doors to The Ridgefield Library and pulled.

“Oh.” The door did not budge. “Right.” Magnolia pulled out her wand and ran it along the place where the two doors met. Inside, she breathed in the smell of old books. She crept along the entrance and down the hallway and towards the stairs, knowing that the moment her hand touched the banister there would be no turning back. Because The Collector would know she was there.

In the Magick world there were all sorts of witches and creatures. Witches who could run at lightning fast speeds, or control nature and monsters who could suck the power from their prey. But The Collector was one of a kind. He not only took magic, he took actual witches. Kept them in his collection, siphoning off bits and pieces of them until they shriveled away like a wilted flower in the too hot sun. And he always stayed hidden. A shadow, a breeze that played with your hair, a whisper that lured you to your imprisonment. To your death.

“Tricky. I know you’re tricky,” Magnolia whispered. Her shoe was mercifully dry and she felt badly for yelling at it earlier, when it was doing such a good job of not being wet anymore. She took the small pink vial filled with magic and placed it gingerly inside the woolen socks on her left foot. With one final, deep breath, she placed her plump hand on the banister and was plunged into a darkness so black, she was certain she’d never actually seen before, and never would again.

All at once she was downstairs and in The Collectors lair. It still looked like a library, except ancient. Thousands of leather bound books with golden lettering were organized neatly in floor to ceiling shelves. But Magnolia knew better than to think they were simply books. No. These were The Collector’s cages.

“Magnolia,” an old man with spectacles too big for his small face stepped out from behind a shadow. “I expect your walk here was quite cold.” He smiled kindly but Magnolia shuddered. The smile was an ordinary one but a vision of blood-covered teeth appeared over it. Like he had two smiles in one mouth.

“Hideous,” whispered Magnolia despite herself.

“I know. Quite. Now, tell me why’ve come here? It’s…after hours.”

“I…need something…from,” she looked down. She needed to do this. If Magnolia was going to stop the Magick World from poofing, she needed to find out what’d happened to Margo. And fast. Or everything she knew, and loved would be lost.

“From my collection,” The Collector said and as he did he seemed to grow ten feet tall, stretched like an infinite, gruesome shadow, but small and old and frail all the same.

“Yes, but please listen. It’s important.”

“Nobody takes anything from my collection,” he ran one boney finger along the spines of the books closest to him, a black jagged nail growing from it.

Magnolia steeled herself and took one step forward.

“Not even sneaky, lying, thieves.”

Magnolia took another step.

“Your left shoe is quite nice.”

Magnolia froze.

How had he known? She smiled weakly at him and nodded. “It’s my favorite shoe.”

“I can tell,” The Collector whipped his head towards her and flashed his bloody, double smile before shooting one hand towards her. A black putrid liquid oozed from his palm and snaked through the air.

“NO!” Magnolia shuffled back, pawing at her robes as she looked for her wand. Now she had no choice. She had to fight. She found the smooth wooden stick and pointed it at The Collectors head.

A bright green light shot from her wand, but missed.

The Collector cackled. He’d begun climbing the stacks like a twisted monkey, his old body limber and fast, his tall horrendous shadow figure and bloody teeth following him and enveloping his form.

“I’d quite like another Alchemist witch to add to my collection,” he said pleasantly.

“You won’t be trapping me you hideous thing,” Magnolia shot her wand at him again but this time The Collector swooped down and grabbed her by the ankles, slamming her on her back. Stars danced above Magnolia’s head. She was as good as dead.

“Now, now my simple friend. No rudeness or I’ll make this much more painful than I planned to.”

Everyone always thought she was simple. Magnolia knew they all thought she was dumb. But she also knew that looks could be deceiving. In fact, she counted on them being so.

She slammed her left heel against the floor and her dark leather shoe broke free of her foot and scampered away behind The Collector. Magnolia thrust her wand beneath his chin. Her woolen socks had wrapped themselves around his wrist, keeping them locked together.

“LET GO,” he roared trying to turn around and catch Magnolia’s shoe, which was never really a shoe at all. The leather thing transformed, revealing a small, furry creature. Her rat, Francisco. Using it’s tiny paws, the rodent pulled the cork and drank the pink liquid hungrily. Then he put the entire bottle in his mouth and ate that too. Just in case.

“I said just drink Francisco,” Magnolia grit her teeth, struggling to keep The Collector from biting her face off.

Glass crunched and popped inside the rat’s mouth as a pink mist seeped from its teeth. “Now?” he asked in his tiny voice and Magnolia managed a nod before Francisco, scurried up The Collectors back and to the top of his head.

“No, no, no!” wailed the creature but it was too late. Francisco opened his mouth and breathed the pink Charm magic right up The Collectors nose.

“It’ll need to be concentrated,” Magnolia heard Morrissey say, “You’ll need to get the spell so close he can’t help but breathe it in. It’s either kiss him or…something else.”

And Ricardo had been Magnolia’s something else.

A glazed look overtook The Collector’s eyes and Magnolia let out a sharp breath.

“Let go,” she commanded her socks and they did.

“Stop,” she told The Collector and his wild attempts to kill her stilled.

“You will be sorry,” he said his voice so loud the books threatened to tumble from their shelves.

“Give me the relic that holds the memory of Margo Pennyfeather’s fate,” Magnolia’s voice was shaky as she shuffled backwards.

“No,” said The Collector with his bloody smile, but he moved towards the shelves all the same. He took a book from a shelf towards the back of the room and waddled back to Magnolia, who had her wand trained on him, and Francisco on her shoulder.

“I only have the first part. You’ll need to find the rest elsewhere, if you live long enough to. I am going to kill you, you know.”

“Yes, of course,” Magnolia took the book from him and he snapped towards her hand wildly, but she told him to stop, and he had no choice but to listen. Charm spells really were useful. It was too bad about the illegal part.

She gave one final command. “Stay there until I am gone. Don’t follow me.”

Magnolia ran back towards the stairs, hiding the relic inside her hollowed-out book. She put her hand on the banister and could just hear The Collector as she was transported through the darkness and into the upper part of the library. “You will be quite delicious to eat when I catch you. And I will catch you. Of course.”

She shivered as she ran through the hallway and out the library double doors. She stepped right into a pile of snow. “Great,” she muttered looking at Francisco as he shrugged and scampered down her robe, wrapping himself around her foot, a shoe once more.

As soon as she was far enough from the library she smiled. She had done it. The relic was in her possession and, maybe, she’d be able to see what happened to Margo all those years ago & figure out the riddle of what was happening to her world today. But for now, there was nothing to do but go home. She trudged along, whispering compliments to Francisco for his good work as a new snow began to fall. Magnolia stopped and looked up into the starry night sky. Even the city sky, filled with magic, was not nearly as beautiful as this one. She opened her mouth wide and closed her eyes. The snowflakes melted the moment they touched her tongue.

Posted in writing

Cover Reveal! Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

When I first got this cover my brain was somewhere between “daaaaaaaaamn,” and “THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL!” So I’m excited to share it with you today! Kellye is my agency sister, a friend and a mentor who supports other writers and is a tremendous talent. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below, the gorgeous cover and most importantly order the book!

Special bonus! I will choose a random winner from everyone who buys Kellye’s book today to win a special prize! Make sure you use the #HollywoodHomicide tag and help us get Kellye trending! Also @ me on Twitter (@Claribel_Ortega) to let me know you’ve entered!


 

Title: Hollywood Homicide

Book 1 in the Detective By Day Series

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Book Blurb:

Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.

But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.

And there are no second takes in real life.

Hollywood Homicide.jpg

 

About Kellye Garrett

kellye-garrett

Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. It’s the first book in the Detective by Day series.

Connect with Kellye

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

You can pre-order the e-book and print edition on Amazon.

 

 

Posted in AmQuerying Series, querying, writing

#AmQuerying: With Katie Golding

giphy

Hello nerds! Today I have my fourth guest of the #Amquerying series, the amazing Texas-loving Katie Golding! 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 started this series while I was 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 Katie on Twitter here and read below to find out how she got her agent, her love of video games, her feelings on the possible vampire-revival in publishing and more!

 

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

Is there a way to prepare for querying other than clutching your beta tight and hoping for the best? I’m not sure, but other than that, I used Agentquery.com and did a lot of blog scouring, a lot of revising, and a lot of twitter query critique contests.

How did you research the agents you queried? Any helpful websites you can share?

Really, I started by Googling “romance literary agents”. Yep, I’m pretty basic even on my best days. Writersdigest.com has database that I used extensively to find out who was open to submissions, and once I had a list, I looked closely at their personal websites to figure out their submission guidelines. Also, I have a great group of CPs who would recommend agents that were popping up on their radar, but may not have pinged on mine for whatever reason.

I hear you like to suffer and queried multiple books at once, can you tell me about that?

Well, first, DON’T DO THIS! It is a ridiculous thing and causes more problems than good! *laughs* But yes, I started to query one book, while finishing writing/revising another unrelated novel. By Christmas, my patience to keep the second book hidden in the drawer fully gave out, and I entered it in a twitter contest just to see what kind of response it would get and if anyone was interested. They were, and then everything got really, really complicated.

Apart from just keep track of who had what and how much of it, when I received an offer of rep on Book B, I had to contact agents that had fulls of Book A, and tell them I was getting offers on a novel they didn’t even know I had written! There were questions of what happens to Book A if I sign on Book B, which one I wanted to focus on more but OFFER OF REP and DREAM AGENT and just…chaos. All the chaos. In the end, it worked out for me because I wouldn’t have met my agent if I hadn’t taken the chance with putting the second novel in the twitterverse, but for anyone who wants to stay sane, I highly recommend querying/contest’ing only one book at a time.

You used to write Vampire Diaries fanfic & there have been rumors that people in publishing are trying to make vampires happen again. What are your feelings on this?  

I wrote a ton of The Vampire Diaries fanfic, like somewhere in the vicinity of nearly a million words, so you’d think I’d be sick to death of vampires by now. But really, if vamps are coming back in publishing, I don’t have a problem with it. The story can contain vampires, or space cowboys, or a king in ancient Persia and as long as there is a reason for a character to be that, and that it’s being used as a tool to explore the full range of themes instead of just flashing fang for the sake of it, I’m down. After all, what we’re really reading/writing about is love and the human condition, the tantalizing question of “What if I made all the wrong choices, and it brought me all the right things?” Vampires are just a very comfortable way for us to anchor those stories in a way that readers can relate to. Bring ‘em on.

What was the querying 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? How many bottles of wine did you drink, approximately?

Well, I could tell you, but my therapist has advised against me recollecting this dark and difficult time. No, that’s a lie. It really wasn’t too bad, though the process was—I would say—standardly long? It was long enough that I was ready to be done by the time it was over.

Stats: I queried my first novel starting in April of 2014, and it went out 41 times before it was shelved. My second novel went out June 2015, and it had 25 different hooks thrown in the water before I ended up retracting it. My third book I technically never queried. I twitter pitched it during #PitchMas (while still querying my second book like a geeeenyus), sent my queries and synopsis and pages to the agents who had made requests, and I officially signed that book with one of those agents the following April.

So it took me three books (plus the two I self-pubbed and pubbed through Kindle Scout in between), two years (almost to the day), multiple contests (#PitchSlam, #PitMad, #PitchMas, #WritePit, Write Club, plus more I’m probably forgetting), and god-only-knows how much wine and cheese and how many really big cheeseburgers I went through. Oh, and chocolate. Can’t forget the chocolate.

How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, cool? Dog-sitting-in-a-burning-room-meme-stressed?

Man, I was so cool, I was basically Matthew McConaughey and just walked around repeating, “Alright, alright, alright . . . ” You know, like we Texans do. Um, truthfully, I held it together as well as I expect anyone does. You have your good days, you have your days where you want to give up and question everything, and you have your days where you don’t even think about it because you’re too busy writing. Those are the ones you should strive for, because as fun as getting requests are, you’ll always be waiting on an email, no matter what stage of the game you’re in.

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

I have a great support team that keeps me working and laughing constantly. It’s a system I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m also a fan of relieving stress via video games, anything from racing cars to puzzles to first person shooters works wonders for me when I’m not working on the next project. And there should always be a next project.

Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?

I think everything was unexpected, really. I think, now, I can say that I initially didn’t expect for it to take so long, yet I didn’t expect it to go by so fast either. I didn’t expect the community of other writers that I found in the process, or the bonds that we made. I certainly didn’t expect it to end with a tweet and not a query, and I didn’t expect that once I was out of the trenches, I would still be writing more query letters for myself, simply to help plot future books! It never ends!

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

Apart from finding a fountain of never-ending patience and living the rest of your life in it, just make sure you can be found. And what I mean is that more than just having your website pop up in an SEO, that you’re putting yourself out there every way that’s open to you. Instead of just querying and relying on someone sorting through the slush pile, participate in the writing community through contests and by promoting others, reading and leaving reviews, and even by simply talking to those who are talking about writing on social media. You never know when or where you could get “discovered.”

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

Only in the sense that without them, my heart, soul, and career would be the equivalent to applesauce right now. My beta/CP Michelle Hazen is my rock, and between spamming me lists of agents to query and mailing me cheer-up cheese post rejections, she talked to me about her own journey. We traded queries that worked, many that didn’t, and we bumbled our way through the process together. It also helped that while I’m quite introverted, she is not, and along the way, she made a lot of great contacts that I quickly stuck my face into, trying to keep her all to myself while also stealing her pre-readers for my own books. #Sorrynotsorry We share a lot of CPs and pre-readers for that reason. And she finds really good pre-readers.

Your call was literally a Christmas miracle; can you tell us about it? Also, were you wearing reindeer PJS?

Oh man, I so should’ve been wearing reindeer PJs! That would’ve been so great! Alas, I think I was wearing probably three pairs of pants and four sweaters because Texans hate winter. It’s a fact. But basically, a request from #PitchMas very quickly became a request to call me and talk. On Christmas Eve. My response was somewhere along the lines of: Yes, agent, yes I will talk to you on Christmas Eve and have all my dreams come true. Sign me up. So . . . Christmas Eve came. She called. We talked. I had galaxies of stars in my eyes when she said my writing was “addicting,” and my feet were still somewhere in the stratosphere even after hearing the words “revise” and “resubmit.” But once we hung up, I finished decorating my tree, and at approximately 12:01 am on December 26th, I went to work. Tore the book apart about a billion times over, and when I resubmitted it, I don’t think I breathed again until I heard back. The answer was yes, and we signed some really cool papers with a rather lovely couple of names on them. *wipes away happy tears*

Describe the querying process in 3 gifs

i_tried

princessbridegif

funnyphonereach.gif

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

I’m starting a new project right now and I’m so excited for it! It’s an adult romance that gets behind the wheel of a rally car—with her in the driver’s seat, and him in the passenger. It’s going to be a little darker, and a lot sexier than what I usually write, and I can’t wait to see where the characters are going to take me. Outside of that, I recently started an interview series on my blog called Writers on the Rise. I’m speaking to writers who are currently in the process of querying, asking who they are, what they write, and how we can support them in their journey. The response has been even more positive than I could have hoped.

Anything else you’d like to share??

ONE BOOK AT A TIME, PEOPLE! LOL No really, just know that every one of you is undeniably awesome, and no one—no rejection—can change that. Oh, and eat tacos often. They help with just . . . everything.

 

About Katie

profile_pic_3

Katie Golding is sports fan with a writing problem. The former English major at Texas State University resides in Austin, Texas, ever trying to teach her son to throw a perfect football spiral while counting down the days to the next MotoGP race. With her husband taking on dinner duties in support of her writing time, she self-published two contemporary romance novels and can frequently be found blogging about tacos and typos. She is currently at work on both her golf swing and her next romance novel. RWA; represented by Shira Hoffman of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.

Follow her on Twitter @KatieGolding_TX

FB: www.facebook.com/katiegoldingbooks

Website and Blog: www.KatieGoldingBooks.com

Posted in Publishing, writing

Derailing The Diversity Train

anigif_enhanced-16737-1415143059-25

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 #MuseMon, Twitter, writing

Twitter Writing Events Schedule

MONDAYS:
#MuseMon hosted by (ME!) @Claribel_Ortega
With a new music inspired theme each week, my own writer event #MuseMon is a great way to kick off the week.

museMon

#LoveLines hosted by @ellekarmawrites @AmandaKWrites
Share your lines about love and relationships from any genre! Optional themes posted each week.

 

LoveLinesTweet

TUESDAY:
#2BitTues hosted by @AngDonofrio

2bitTues

WEDNESDAY:
#1lineWed hosted by @RWAKissofDeath

Pictures are not required but sometimes add a nice touch.
Pictures are not required but sometimes add a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY:

#ThruLineThurs hosted by @Madd_Fictional and @GurlKnoesSciFi

#Thurds hosted by @iamfunkhauser

FRIDAY:
#FictFri hosted by @Gracie_DeLunac
#FP hosted by @LoonyMoonyLara and @AdeleSGray, you can also follow @FridayPhrases
#FriDare hosted by @micascotti

SATURDAY:
#SlapDashSat hosted by @Madd_Fictional – No rules for this event!

SUNDAY:
#SunWIP hosted by @JudyLMohr

Posted in Advice, Books, Guest Blog Post, writing

Top 10 Manuscript Mistakes

There are so many places to go wrong when writing an entire book and even harder identifying these issues in your own book. Especially after reading it for the seven hundredth time.
anigif_enhanced-16232-1393365169-2
Today, editor Megan Easley-Walsh (who helped me with my own book RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER) is on my blog to describe the top ten manuscript mistakes she sees all the time. This is super useful as an editing checklist when going through your manuscript, or to give to your critique partners or beta readers as things to look out for. Hope you find it helpful! hMQxUM6

10. Pacing problems:
basset-hound-running-gif
The beginning must be engaging. The middle has to keep up momentum and it should end with an impact. Part of pacing also involves where chapters break. The end of the chapter should demand that the character turn the page to discover more.
9. Starting in the wrong place:
whereamI
Cliche beginnings of waking-up, getting dressed, dreaming or another expected start should only happen if there is a very good reason. Begin the story in an engaging place, where the action starts. Don’t drop the character in where nothing is happening, but also don’t drop the character into some epic battle before the reader cares about the character. This brings us to the next point…
8. Not enough empathy for the characters:
Ron-Swanson-Says-Dont-Even-Care
If a character is rebellious (this often happens in YA), the reader needs to feel empathy to understand why the character is this way. No matter what personality traits the characters have, it’s important that the reader can get a true sense of them. This brings us to point seven…
7. Not having fully developed secondary characters or antagonists:
original
Villains don’t perceive themselves as bad. Their actions make sense to them. Likewise, secondary characters are the stars of their own lives. They don’t know that they’re supporting someone else.
6.Too much backstory:
 tumblr_nt1a76vrEh1smew8oo1_500
Telling too much backstory is distracting, because it takes the character out of the immediacy of the action. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and introduce yourself only to hear the entirety of his or her life. Many writers do the literary equivalent of this though, when they introduce their characters and mountains of backstory. Pieces of backstory should be dropped naturally into the story, when it’s relevant to what’s happening. In most cases, you must care about the character’s present before you can care about his or her past. A book is a snapshot of the character’s life, where the most interesting or life-changing events happen.
5. Too much physical description of characters:
tumblr_inline_nk9gkhsseB1ryzqa4
Writers, especially new writers, like to describe characters in minute detail: hair color, eye color, what the person is wearing, how the person has done her makeup, etc. Physical descriptions do not often convey deeper characteristics and are often unnecessary. If there is a physical description of the character, it should be for a reason. The reason can be that another character is observing that character’s feature or that the description sets the character apart somehow. For example, Goliath’s height is necessary to the David and Goliath story.
 
4. Copying another writer’s style:
doggo
It’s your story. It’s important that you not try to copy your favorite author. It’s better and necessary that you write your own story with your own style. Reading widely helps you avoid copying someone else’s style (subconsciously).
3. Not editing the manuscript:
tumblr_lvhlltFtPU1r0el22
When you finish writing the story, it still needs to be edited. If you need help from a professional, that’s totally fine. But, it’s obvious that some writers don’t read their work at all. Blatant typos should be corrected at the very least without additional help. Before you submit your manuscript to an agent, publisher, or publish it yourself, it should be polished to perfection (or at least as close as possible).
2. Not finishing the manuscript:
tumblr_lyh1k6P0yt1rn95k2o1_500
Many writers have several stories started, but not finished. While it’s perfectly fine not to finish everything you start, what usually happens in cases like this is that the writer tries to edit as she or he goes. This often leads to fear of writing the wrong thing and stalls the writing process.
1. Not writing the manuscript:
writing-bad
Whether it’s worry, fear or a lack of time, not writing the story that wants to be written is the biggest mistake. Only you can write your manuscript. Your characters are depending on you!
Follow Megan online!
Posted in own voices, Publishing, querying, Twitter, writing, YA Fantasy

My Querying Success Story on #DVpit.com

Originally posted on DVPIT.com

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 #MuseMon, writer, writing

What The Heck is #MuseMon?

Hi all! I am pretty obsessed with Twitter # events, especially the ones that involve writing like #1lineWed and #2BitTues. I decided to start my own event, every Monday, with my own music inspired twist!

musemoncollage.jpg
A few of the #MuseMon themes so far.

#MuseMon will be a weekly event, where all writers are welcome to tweet 1 line of their WIP. I will choose a new theme each week and (this is where the music part comes in) the theme will be inspired by an artist, song, album or genre of music.

Tweet your line with the tag #MuseMon to play. No buy links or spam but please feel free to use GIFS. Here is an example to help you out:

The theme for the line above was NEVER.

The line does not have to relate to music! Just tweet anything from your WIP that relates to the THEME.

In order to help me choose the theme, I will post a poll each Monday with possible inspirations – meaning artists, albums or songs that you can vote for – and then I will pick a theme inspired by whoever wins that poll! Are you confused yet!?

It’s really a lot simpler than it seems, and the best way to get a hang of it is to PLAY! Check out my Twitter each week for the theme & please let me know if you have any questions!

https://twitter.com/Claribel_Ortega

 

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

#AMQUERYING: With Michelle Hazen

rockclimb

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:

https://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/

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

MichelleAuthorPhotoRetouch_Full-Resolution

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: http://michellehazenbooks.com/

 

 

Posted in AmQuerying Series, interview, writing

#AmQuerying: With Brooks Benjamin

Benjamin-My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsHi guys! Today is the start of a brand new series on Rad/Dom – the #Amquerying series! 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. My first guest is the very awesome, funny and talented Brooks Benjamin whose new book MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, comes out April 12th! You can pre-order his book here and read below to find out how he got his agent, how he dealt with querying and more!


RAD/DOM:  How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?

Brooks Benjamin: I was a complete noob when it came to querying. I actually had to Google what a query letter was and was already typing up some to print out when I found a few other writers on Twitter who pointed me toward Query Tracker. I used it a little, but more than anything I just searched agents’ websites and tried to find some that seemed like a good fit. Plus that gave me a way to personalize the query letter a bit more.

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

Brooks Benjamin:  It was the second, actually. My first book is a MG fantasy that I’m still very excited to get in front of some editors soon!

RAD/DOM: 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?

 Brooks Benjamin: My journey with TIGHTS wasn’t very typical, I don’t think. After I got into Pitch Wars (Marieke Nijkamp was my mentor and you should all go buy her book, THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS immediately because it’s phenomenal), I held off on querying because I wanted to see how it did in the contest. It got a few nibbles, but nothing major. So Marieke told me to go ahead and begin querying–this was in January–and by February I had my first offer. A couple more trickled in and I ended up signing with the Genius German Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency.

 

RAD/DOM: How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?

 

Brooks Benjamin: So anxious. But it was that excited kind of anxious where the waiting sort of presses in on you from all sides like a hug. 

 

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

 

Brooks Benjamin: I wrote. A lot.

 

RAD/DOM: Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?

 

Brooks Benjamin: I was surprised how many agents actually responded. I figured most wouldn’t, but nearly every single one of them sent something back.

 

RAD/DOM: If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be?

 

Brooks Benjamin: Don’t stress. I know that’s hard not to do when you’re waiting, but I remember when I began querying, I was convinced that an agent was going to scrutinize my query so much that if it wasn’t 100% perfect, it’d end up in the trash. But agents want your query to be the next one they fall in love with. They want your story to pull them in. They want you to be the next author they decide to sign. So don’t stress. Just write the best story you can write, send out those queries, and wait until it lands in front of the right agent.

 

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

 

Brooks Benjamin: Oh goodness yes. I have some incredible critique partners and critique groups who are such brilliant writers. I literally couldn’t have done this without them.

 

RAD/DOM: When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?

 

Brooks Benjamin: I was at home in the middle of writing when I got the email from Uwe. I’ll never forget it. He said, “I just finished the read. I LOVE the book!  I laughed and I cried and I will call you tomorrow to talk and convince you to sign with me!” And when we did talk, I knew right away that he was the agent I had to sign with. His enthusiasm for TIGHTS was too hard to ignore!

 

RAD/DOM: Describe the querying process in 3 gifs.

 

Brooks Benjamin:
Ready to send
. wiggle butt

 

Waiting impatiently for someone to love your idea
waiting.gif

 

Trying to stay busy.
stay busy

 

Bonus gif four: Finding an error in your query as soon as you hit send.
freak out

 

RAD/DOM: Tell us a little about your upcoming book

 

Brooks Benjamin: MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS is all about a twelve-year-old boy named Dillon. He’s the only one on his dance crew with no real technique. Kassie (the crew leader) only has one rule she dances by: dance studios are for sell-outs. But when a chance to compete at the biggest dance academy in the state falls in Dillon’s lap, he has to decide what’s more important: sticking to his crew’s rules or finally getting a chance to freestyle his way into solo greatness.

RAD/DOM: Anything else you’d like to share??

Brooks Benjamin: I’d love to give a shout out to my critique groups (the MGBetareaders and Middle Grade Minded) as well as my fellow debut authors (The Sweet Sixteens and the Class of 2K16)! Y’all are the best!

 

About Brooks:

BB author picture

In sixth grade, Brooks Benjamin formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing back then. But now he’s got a new crew—his wife and their dog. They live in Tennessee, where he teaches reading and writing and occasionally busts out a few dance moves. He’s still not that good at it. His first novel, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS will be released by Delacorte/Random House (April 12, 2016).

Benjamin-My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights
Posted in Uncategorized, writing

ALAMW2016 Through The Eyes of an Author To Be

large2-500x375c

This is my third year going to The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference , but the first time attending with a completed novel under my belt. As always, there were plenty of books to  check out, too many ARCS to carry, and loads of yummy food to eat. One thing I didn’t expect, was all the lessons I learned from the people I met at this year’s show and how it’s changed the way I see my journey, as an author working towards publication.

  1. I’m Not Speaking To Myself Online:

Sometimes we forget that our social media is not just reaching our friends and family. On Twitter, I make jokes, tweet about my writing, participate in contests and try my best to encourage and help fellow writers. But honestly, I didn’t think anyone besides the handful of followers I always interact with actually noticed me. Turns out I was wrong. Not only did I meet an agent I admire who recognized me from Twitter (major internal freak out moment), but Becky Albertalli (YES THAT ONE) said she remembered me from online as well. I don’t know about you, but for a writer just starting out like me, and an avid reader, this was a giant, giant deal. It made me feel so happy, but also made me realize that people are listening to what I have to say. It’s an important thing to remember, especially if your social media account is connected to your writing. People will take notice, the things you say online will shape their views of you, so make it count and most importantly be kind to one another. You never know when you’ll run into someone you’ve met online, and what great friendships can flourish from those meetings.

2. Writing is hard work for everyone.

I met an author whose first book ever was a massive success, and now writing her follow up, she’s feeling the pressure. She told me that for the first time, she feels like she’s truly learning her craft, and that although her debut came more naturally, this book has brought loads of hard work, and a new set of challenges. The journey is different for everyone, and it’s always a bad idea to compare your story to someone else’s. No matter where you are on your path as writer/painter/engineer, whatever your dream, know that it’s hard for all of us. The struggle is part of everyone’s narrative, it just might look a bit different from your own.

3. You get nervous no matter where you are in the process.

I was lucky enough to be the first person to receive a signed book from a debut author this weekend. Before the signing began, she confessed to me how nervous she was. As someone who has just started querying, I think it’s pretty easy to feel like getting an agent and a book deal is the end game when it comes to nerves, but I’ve learned pretty much nothing can be further from the truth. After a book deal, comes all the pressures of marketing, of your book selling well, of writing a new book, and rinse, and repeat. There are never any guarantees when it comes to a creative life, and insecurities are the norm for us. Embrace the jitters, celebrate the little victories, and always know that it happens to everyone, no matter what stage they reach. I mean, I don’t know if it happens to JK Rowling still but we can pretend together, okay? 🙂

4. Supporting one another is important, and crucial.

Last year I met so many wonderful authors online through contests like Pitch Wars and weekly events like #1lineWed. It was great to see some of their books in person, and I did my best to tweet pictures of as many ARCS as I could. Everyone was so kind and appreciative of this, even excited, at seeing people holding their books, and I was happy to give them a close up look when they couldn’t be here themselves. There are enough things working against us writers, and and supporting one another makes our community stronger and a happier place to be. I was thrilled to make someone else smile, to watch as they retweeted those pictures and got excited. It was a gift for me to be able to share in that moment with an author, no matter how small my role in it was. And it was an encouraging moment for me too. To watch these successes take place made me feel it was possible for me toothat just maybe, I could be in their position one day.


 

I hope that by next year’s Midwinter, I’ll have more to share with you, and I hope you all keep pushing towards your dreams. I can’t wait to watch you shine.