CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Sing Me Forgotten through April 10th

April Showers Giveaway Hop through April 20th

These Feathered Flames through April 24th


Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Agent Peter Knapp and Author Daniel Aleman Guest Post and Query Critique and Indivisible Giveaway on 5/5/2021

Tina Dubois Query Critique and How to Save a Queendom Giveaway on 5/10/2021

Joyce Sweeney Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2021

Michelle Hauck Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/19/2021

Agent Maura Kye-Cassella and Author Sam Subity Guest Post and Query Critique and The Last Shadow Warrior Giveaway on 5/24/2021

Agent Janna Bonisowksi and Author Casie Bazey Guest Post and Query Critique and Not Our Summer Giveaway on 6/2/2021

Katherine Wessbecher Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/7/2021

Allison Hellegers Agent Spotlight Interview ad Query Critique Giveaway on 7/26/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.

Debut Author Interview: Kaela Rivera and Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Kaela Rivera here to share about her MG adventure story Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls. I was fortunate to get an ARC from NetGalley and loved this story set in a Mexican village that is based on Mexican folklore. As some of you know, my late husband was Mexican-American, and I really enjoyed learning more about his heritage.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous—especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits break free from their home in Devil’s Alley to threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas who roamed the desert, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, it’s common knowledge that only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.

When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, everyone in town believes she’s lost forever. But Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans, and agrees to help her on her journey. With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.

Hi Kaela! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi everyone! Thanks for inviting me, Natalie; I’m so excited to be here.

When I first started learning how to write as a kid, I actually had a hard time with it. I struggled to string words together, and I found the process slow and frustrating. But my mom was wonderful and taught me to stick through hard things. Eventually, with her support and after working extra hard at it, I came out loving writing so much that I wrote a string of picture books from age seven all the way up until ten years old.

At ten, I sat down and wrote my first novel. It was terrible, and I loved it (still do!), but I knew I wanted to get better at doing this. So I kept writing novel after novel. It was at fourteen years old that I realized I wanted to get officially published, and I started researching and taking the writing and publishing process more seriously.

It took several more novels through high school and college before I really hit my stride as a writer. But it was when I finished what would become Cece Rios and the Desert Of Souls that I finally felt I’d reached the level that I’d been working towards—and eventually (with plenty of revisions, of course), it seemed my future agent and editor agreed.

2. That’s awesome that you started writing at such a young age. Where did you get the idea for Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls?

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls was born out of pairing an idea I’d had for a long time—what would happen if there were creatures who had their souls on the outside?—with the relatively recent experience I’d had reconnecting to my Mexican heritage through my abuelo and his stories about growing up in northern Mexico.

As I started weaving those initial sparks together into an actual plot, I found the thematic heart of the story came from working through some personal, difficult experiences at the time. It became a way to voice my thoughts on how kindness is an enormous strength even if it’s often overlooked. 

3. Tell us about the Mexican folklore you drew on, like the criaturas, brujas, and curandero, in creating your story and how you used it to develop a story that was your own. How did you research this all?

The folklore background of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls came together bit at a time, layered first with stories from my abuelo, next with Mexican-American legends I’d heard from friends, then lots of time spent in the Mexican Bestiary: Bestiario Mexicano (thank you, David Bowles!), and finally hunting down more ancient stories and practices from Mayan, Aztec, Toltec, and other tribes native to Mexico and Mesoamerica. I wanted to pay homage to the mixed background of Mexico, its people, and descendants. That’s why you’ll find the criaturas, particularly, come from a wide variety of backgrounds—anything from the more modern El Chupacabra to the ancient Tzitzimitl. I give some background on these legends in the glossary at the end of Cece—including a couple anecdotes about my abuelo’s encounters with brujas and curanderas.

I also did plenty of research on the history of Mexico—Cece’s fantasy world is modeled after the 1920s northern Mexico my abuelo would have grown up in, so I had to learn a lot about what technology would have been there at the time (even if my abuelo hadn’t had it) and what wouldn’t have. I’ve found some pretty interesting books and had to hunt through obscure geology (history of mining wasn’t something I’d expected to ever research) to get a fuller understanding of the world I wanted to create.

4. I was really glad that you included the glossary. It had so much helpful info. One thing I loved about your story was how you created the town of Tierra del Sol and the people who lived there. I felt like I was really there. What was your world building process like?

I’m so glad you enjoyed it! The scenery and description of Tierra del Sol came early in the process because I was basing it on the stories my abuelo told me about growing up in northern Mexico. I wanted it to capture the feeling of the land Abuelo described to me and the culture he grew up in and created in our familia in America as well. Having his example, experience, and history is what made Tierra del Sol come alive for me, too.

The more concrete aspects of Tierra del Sol, like the exact mapping of the area, the Ruins, and the particulars rule of the magic system all came later. The tone feels so alive because, I suppose, it’s taken from real life and breathed into a new world.

5. Cece is such a sympathetic character. She sees herself as weak but finds her strength when she goes on the secret mission to save her sister from a powerful and scary criatura. Share about how you developed her as a character and some of your favorite things about her.

At first, when I sat down to write Cece, I just wanted a simple character progression from crybaby to brave hero. I often felt scared growing up, so grappling with fear and summoning courage to overcome it was something I could speak to from personal experience. But as I wrote Cece’s journey, a lot of difficult things happened in my life—particularly the way people were mistreating my mother because they thought her empathy and ability to be vulnerable were signs of weakness. Cece’s journey took on new depth as I wrote through that experience. It became a way for me to defend my mother’s strength—and how her empathy and kindness weren’t pathetic like some people thought they were. These traits were mighty in their own right and could change the world.

I often say now that Cece is who I want to be when I grow up. I love that she is kind, loving, and protective—and how she learns to apply that strength to both herself and others. Cece isn’t perfect, but she’s constantly looking for ways to improve and grow. I want to be like Cece—fully embracing the good in myself and finding ways to help others without being so afraid of getting hurt that I become like those who inflict the damage.

6. That’s cool how you tied Cece’s character growth to what you saw your mom going through. Your story is a real page turner. How did you plot it out? What tips do you have for other writers on how to make a fast-paced story that readers don’t want to put down?

It’s so good to hear that because I don’t consider myself a strong plotter. In fact, plot has been my weakness for a long time, so I concentrated on it harder while writing CECE, to make sure it had the tight pace I imagined. I found I had to heavily simplify the story beats in my head in order to execute it well. The three-round structure of the Bruja Fights ended up helping me the most. I’m excited to try more complicated plots out in the future.

My number one piece of advice for a forward-moving adventure is to constantly change the status quo. That can mean with characters, or with the stakes, or with the socioeconomic setting, but each scene should do something to challenge, change, and advance one of those things toward the ultimate end. Just like in life, change is what keeps things interesting.

7. What great advice to change the status quo. You are also an editor at a marketing firm. Has your experience as an editor strengthened your writing? And how do you balance your day job and your writing so that you stay productive as a writer?

Oh, being an editor has absolutely strengthened my writing! Everything from looking up obscure word usage in the dictionary to learning the Chicago Manuel of Style better so I know at a glance what punctuation is needed helps in the long run. And learning how to help someone else revise their work gives me better context for revising my novels as well. All in all, becoming a better writer feeds my experience as an editor, and vice versa. I’m grateful to be in that situation.

As for balancing the day job and writing, I’m still learning how. It’s important to me to give my best to both roles, but they both require a lot of mental energy, so it can be draining to go directly from one to the other.

It helps a bit that I’m a binge-writer, so I don’t need to write every day. I can knock out 4,00012,000 words in a weekend, and the breaks between writing episodes gives me time to gather ideas for the next one. Sometimes, I don’t wait for the weekend, of course. I’ll let myself write on weekdays if I can feel the inspirations in my bones because I know I’ll be productive, even if I’m tired.

8. Your agent is Serene Hakim. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

It’s a fun story, actually! So, I actually sent Serene Hakim the manuscript I wrote right before CECE: a sci-fi tech thriller centered on a video game tournament (I have a thing for competitions, I guess). Serene read it and liked it, but she said it wasn’t ready and asked if I was willing to revise and resubmit. I read her feedback and ideas on how to improve it, and they resonated with me, so I accepted and started working on it.

I finished that R&R shortly before I finished CECE and sent the new manuscript back to her. She’d just started reading the new revision when I finished revising CECE and submitted it to a contest called #PitchAmerica, where it was put into an agent showcase. Serene was one of the participating agents and read the first chapter of CECE. I got offers from her and two other agents shortly thereafter (something I’m still immensely grateful for). All the agents were wonderful, but because of past experience, I knew Serene and I were on the same editing wavelength, and her agenting style matched my needs best. So we signed a contract at the end of 2017, Serene got to work giving me feedback on revision, I got to work on them, and we sent CECE on sub toward the middle of 2018.

Things moved pretty quickly after that. We heard HarperChildren’s were interested but wanted some revisions by fall of 2018 so CECE stood a better chance at acquisitions. I’m a pretty fast reviser, so I got to work and had it back to my wonderful editor a couple months before the end of the year. She took it to acquisitions, and after we mutually agreed to change the age group (It’s true! Cece was originally a YA novel, but it shines so much in MG), we had the deal ironed out and the contract signed by early 2019.

 9. How are you planning to market your book in light of the pandemic? Are you able to do more online events and if so, how are you finding these opportunities?

 Oof, yeah, that’s been hard, hasn’t it? The experience definitely hasn’t been what I’d pictured back in 2018 when HarperChildren’s offered to buy CECE, but I’ve at least had a year to adapt, which is more than I can say for the early 2020 debuts. 

That said, I’ve mostly relied on online events. The most helpful things have been 1. my knowledge of book events in my area and online that I already liked and knew I wanted to apply to and 2. opportunities passed on by the wonderful humans in my debut group, the 21ders.

I’ve also been immensely grateful for the people and outlets who approached me or my publisher themselves. It’s a validating experience, and I wouldn’t have known about some of the amazing things they do and offer readers without their initiative. The whole thing has definitely made my book world grow, and I love that.

10. Since your story is about Mexican folklore, are you planning to reach out to more Mexican-American kids who would love to learn more about their heritage? If so, how are you doing this?

Mostly, I’m interested in working with schools, libraries, and book festivals to reach and support their latinx students (all students, of course, since I believe in bringing my culture to other to foster multicultural appreciation, but supporting latinx kids is of particular interest to me) wherever they live—whether in a high latinx population area or a low population area. Perhaps even particularly in the low population areas, since I know what that’s like having grown up in rural Tennessee.

Consider that an invitation to contact me for virtual visits, teachers and librarians! Just head to my website (see below).

11. What are you working on now?

I work on multiple projects at a time, but my two major ones right now are 1. another entry into Cece’s world and 2. A YA fantasy about a girl who makes a blood-pact with flower magic to usurp her Aztec-inspired kingdom for her father.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kaela. You can find Kaela at

https://www.kaelarivera.com/Contact.php

https://twitter.com/Kaela_Rivera_

https://www.instagram.com/kaelacub/

Giveaway Details

Kaela has generously offered an ARC of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Tuesday, May 4th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 5th I have an interview with debut author Daniel Aleman and a giveaway of his YA contemporary about immigration Indivisible and a query critique by his agent Peter Knapp and my IWSG post

Monday, May 10th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy How to Save a Queendom and a query critique by her agent Tina Dubois

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

 

 

 

 

Debut Author Interview: Alexandra Overy and These Feathered Flames Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you are all doing well and are excited for spring. I just got my second vaccine last Saturday, and it was such a happy experience. So funny to say that about a shot, but it's true. My daughter is getting her second one next week. It just feels so good to start seeing her inside again and to share a meal together.  And next week, I'll be able to start seeing my mom twice a week like I used to before the pandemic. It's amazing!

Today I’m excited to have debut author Alexandra Overy here to share about her YA fantasy These Feathered Flames. It sounds like it has fantastic world building and a mystery to figure out. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother. 

 

IWSG Post

 


Before I get to my interview with Jennifer, I have my IWSG post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the March 3rd posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

Optional Question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I don’t add controversial topics and haven’t tried something as major as changing the POV. However, I have been more open to changes in my manuscript.

I’ve been way more open to my critique partners suggestions for improvements and to questions they want answered with my current manuscript. I’ve discovered through this process that my story has changed in good ways that I didn’t plan, and the whole story is much deeper and better because I was willing to change how I thought it would go.

Are you a risk taker in your writing?

Interview With Alexandra Overy

Hi Alexandra! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading and I think writing kind of naturally followed that. I was always creating my own worlds and stories (often to avoid the real world), and that continued as I got older. When I was in college I finally decided that if I had all these ideas I had to sit down and write one out completely. That was my first finished manuscript and the book that got me my first agent. It unfortunately didn’t sell, but that led me to my next book which was These Feathered Flames. There were a lot of rejections along the way, from both agents and editors, but I’m so happy I stuck through it and now I get to see my work as a real book!

2. That’s so awesome that your debut book is only your second completed manuscript. Where did you get the idea for These Feathered Flames?

After my first book didn’t sell, I was brainstorming new ideas with my agent. We talked about some stories I love, and touched on ballet stories as I used to dance. The Firebird is one of my favourite ballets, and I’d been wanting to write a story about a complex sister relationship for a while, so the idea grew from there.

3. I’ve read that readers loved your world building. Share what your world building process is like.

I studied history in college, so understanding people through societal norms, expectations, and cultures

has always been a process that I really enjoy and I think that’s reflected in my world building. I tend to start with the big picture things: what does the world look like, how is the power structured, do they have a religion, what’s important to them? All those things really inform a culture and how it’s shaped, so I like to have those early on. Then I go more into detail, especially things that matter specifically for my characters. For These Feathered Flames it was an interesting experience as the world is inspired by 16th century Russia, but not based on it. That means it’s a magical world that’s different from ours in a lot of ways, and has different belief systems and cultural touchstones, so it was challenging to decide where to draw inspiration from the real world and where to deviate. For example, in Russia a person’s last name changes according to their gender (eg. Morozov for male, Morozova for female), but that wasn’t something that made sense in the world of These Feathered Flames, as it’s queer normative and uses gender inclusive language so would have no reason to gender names. That’s what always makes world building so fun, really building a culture from the ground up and understanding when something would matter to them, and when you’re just bringing something in because that’s how it is in our world.

4. That’s great advice to start with the big picture when creating your world. This is a retelling of a Russian folktale. How did you decide what to include from the folktale and what to make different so that the story is your own?

Similar to the previous question, it was really interesting deciding what to keep and what to deviate from. Although this is marketed as a retelling, it’s probably more accurate again to say “inspired by”, as it’s certainly a loose interpretation. Ultimately, I had to look at what it was that drew me to the story and the central part of the folktale that really intrigued me was the idea of the Firebird as a personification of woman, and the way that men would see something beautiful and immediately want to either kill it or possess it. That’s where the idea of the Firebird as a mantle that’s passed down from mother to daughter came from, and from there the story began to fill itself in. I will say, if you know the folktale, you’ll also see some more aspects of it in the sequel!

5. Was it easier to share Izaveta’s or Asya’s story? Is either your favorite character? Why?

This is a tough question, because I feel like I had challenges with both of them. Although Izaveta falls under the more “unlikable” category, I think I found her voice easier than Asya’s, whereas her story was harder. Izaveta deals a lot with court intrigue and politics which took a lot of work to tie together, and meant I had to know what ten different people wanted and were planning at any given time which took a lot of notecards! Asya on the other hand had a harder voice because she’s so full of contradictions: she has this monstrous power but at the same time is awkward and just trying her best to do the right thing. Her story, however, was much easier to piece together as it follows slightly simpler plot beats and carries the main mystery. Writing the two together was definitely a good way to push my own writing! I shouldn’t say which is my favourite though….because Izaveta would probably kill me and I’ve been mean enough to Asya as it is.

6. That must have been hard to keep track of so many people wanted and were planning. I heard your vlog at WriteOnCon. Share why you outline and your approach to outlining.

I think the thing I like about outlining is it gives me a map to follow which always makes those first steps into a new draft much less daunting. I don’t always stick to it 100%, and it definitely changes as I go and get to know my characters more, but having it there gives me a bit of extra security. My approach tends to be quite detailed, though I don’t usually know the “how” of things in the outline. I know what happens but usually don’t know the exact machinations of how until I actually get to writing it—and that’s okay! Definitely don’t feel you need to have everything exact in the outline. Allowing yourself to be vague can actually really help, as it takes some of the pressure off. And that’s really why I outline: to take the pressure off myself a bit so I’m not just venturing into the unknown of a new draft.

7. Even though I don’t outline too much before I start writing, I like your idea of doing it to take some pressure off yourself when you’re drafting. What’s your writing schedule like? What advice do you have for other writers to stay productive and write faster?

I have a very eclectic writing schedule, which is a nice way of saying I don’t have a proper schedule haha. I write a lot when I’m on a deadline or feeling really inspired, often forgetting entirely about other things, and other times I find I can’t write for weeks at a time. My advice to other writers is to be kind to yourself, even if you aren’t able to stick to a schedule or word count goals. Ultimately, the thing that makes me least productive is when I’m either burned out from trying to stick to a schedule, or being hard on myself. The words will come, and forcing them (most of the time) doesn’t help.

8. That’s great to know that you can produce enough to be a published author if you don’t write on a regular schedule. Your agent is Patrice Caldwell. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Patrice is my second agent, so my query process for that was a little different. I already had books under contract and needed to find an agent who’d be happy to work on things they hadn’t sold. I queried Patrice via the regular query method, and we hopped on the phone a few days later. I immediately knew it was a great fit and I’m happy to have such a strong advocate!

9. How are you planning to market These Feathered Flames in light of the pandemic? What advice do you have to other authors who will be debuting in the future?

It’s definitely been a different experience to the one I expected back when the book sold in 2019, but I’m lucky that we’ve had enough time now to get used to this and for people to come up with ideas for marketing without doing things in person. I’ve definitely pivoted more to online marketing and using things like Instagram Live more than I would have otherwise. I also really appreciate how hard the book community is working to help authors, especially debuts, promote their books in this strange time. My advice to other debut authors is advice I’m bad at following, but: let go of the things that are out of your control. So much of debuting is out of your control, and even now in the months leading up to publication I constantly feel like I should be doing more. But, in the end, you have to just trust your team around you and not overthink the things you can’t control.

10. That’s such great advice. You have a sequel coming in this series and The Gingerbread Witch, a MG retelling of Hansel and Gretel releasing in 2022. How are you managing working on multiple projects and working on marketing them?

Similarly to my writing schedule, my switching between projects is a little eclectic. I like having multiple things to work on at the same time in different genres or age groups, because when I’m feeling burnt out on one project, I can switch to the next and feel refreshed and excited to write again. I don’t have a strict schedule, so much as depending on my deadlines to try to balance writing them. Something I’ve found really helps when I have to switch quickly between projects with very different tones, is to have a playlist or some sort of media (film/book/etc) that really gets you in the right mood for the different project. It helps ease that transition a lot!

11. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a few things right now! I’m somewhat avoiding working on the draft of my sequel and spending some time this month working on The Gingerbread Witch, which has been a really nice break from the heavy emotions of my sequel. I’m also beginning to play around with my next YA idea, which I think is going to be a book I wrote a while ago, but I’m finally ready to get right.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alexandra. You can find Alexandra at www.alexandraovery.com, @alexandraovery on twitter, @allywritesandstuff on Instagram.

Giveaway Details

Alexandra has generously offered a signed ARC of These Feathered Flaimes for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, April 12th I have an interview with debut author Kaela Rivera and a giveaway of her MG fantasy based on Mexican mythology Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Tuesday, May 4th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 5th I have an interview with debut author Daniel Aleman and a giveaway of his YA contemporary about immigration Indivisible and a query critique by his agent Peter Knapp and my IWSG post

Monday, May 10th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy How to Save a Queendom and a query critique by her agent Tina Dubois

Hope to see you next Monday!

 

 

 

 

April Showers Giveaway Hop

 


Happy Tuesday Everyone! Happy Tuesday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to be participating in the April Showers Giveaway Hop hosted by The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It. I hope everyone is doing well and feeling hopeful.

I just got my second shot, and my daughter is getting her second one in about a week. It’s such a relief to be more protected. And I was so happy to start eating dinner with her boyfriend and her again after only seeing each other outside since mid-November. I’ll start visiting my mom, who lives in independent living nearby, next week too. I definitely feel like hope is here, and that we’ll be able to enjoy seeing those who mean the most to us again soon.

I’ve got a lot of exciting newly releases MG and YA book choices this month to help you get through this month. 

FYI I am starting to participate in two book giveaway blog hops every month so that I can feature more books that you'll hopefully want to read. You can find my next giveaway in the Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways at the end of this post. 

 

Here are the newly released MG and YA books I'm offering in this giveaway hop. You can also choose another book in the series by these authors. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Here are your choices:
















If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a book of their choice listed above or a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Open to entrants internationally as long as Book Depository ships to you for free, 13 years and older. Open for entry from 4/06 – 4/20/2021 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

Please note that you must be a blog follower and leave a blog comment to enter the contest. 


Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Tomorrow, April 7th I have an interview with debut author Alexandra Overy and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Feathered Flames and my IWSG post

Monday, April 12th I have an interview with debut author Kaela Rivera and a giveaway of her MG fantasy based on Mexican mythology Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Tuesday, May 4th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 5th I have an interview with debut author Daniel Aleman and a giveaway of his YA contemporary about immigration Indivisible and a query critique by his agent Peter Knapp and my IWSG post

Monday, May 10th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy How to Save a Queendom and a query critique by her agent Tina Dubois

Hope to see you tomorrow!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:

 

 

 

Debut Author Interview: Jessica Olson and Sing Me Forgotten Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Jessica Olson here to share about her YA fantasy Sing Me Forgotten, which is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. It’s a highly anticipated release for 2021, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, Isda was saved by Cyril, the opera house's owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high--and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril's cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she's ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’ve been writing books since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure my parents still have stacks of the books I wrote and illustrated as a kid moldering up in their attic. Compelling stories about little girls that got castles for Christmas and went on picnics and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I fell in love with Harry Potter as a young teen was when I moved on from writing (terrible) picture books to writing (even worse) novels. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in class during middle school and high school, much to my teachers’ frustration.

I started querying with the intent of getting literary representation in 2009. A lot of rejections ensued, and more drafts and rewrites and new books and, finally, in 2018 I decided to submit to Pitch Wars for this new Phantom of the Opera story I’d just written. I was chosen, I signed with an agent shortly after the Pitch Wars showcase, and we sold a few months later to Inkyard/HarperCollins!

2. That’s so cool you have written for so long and that you parents saved some of your early stories. Where did you get the idea for Sing Me Forgotten?

Initially it was just a thought that struck me in the shower one day: What if memories were currency? Like you could buy and sell things with your memories? When this idea hit me, I’d been playing around with the concept of doing some kind of Phantom of the Opera retelling from the phantom’s perspective, and the two ideas kind of exploded together into what became Sing Me Forgotten. Initially, I’d wanted to write a Phantom story for a while, as I had always connected much more with the Phantom than with Christine and wanted to tell the story from that perspective, so when the idea of memory magic popped into my head that day, it sort of all took off from there.

3. I love how a fleeting thought while taking a shower gave you the initial idea for your story. I think many of us can agree to having ideas pop up in our minds when we are in the shower. I read that you wrote the first draft of Sing Me Forgotten really fast. Tell us a bit about how quickly you wrote the first draft and how long you spent revising it after that.

It was May of 2018 I believe, and I really wanted to enter Pitch Wars in August that year, but the book I’d been querying was on its last leg and I knew it didn’t stand a chance. So I decided to dive into this new Phantom idea and see if I could get it done in time for Pitch Wars. I wrote constantly, and was able to finish the first (very, very rough draft) within a month. Then I spent the remaining time until the Pitch Wars submission window trying to revise it, though at the time I still had a lot to learn about plot and story, so I still consider the draft I submitted for the contest to be very rough. 

But, in spite of the rough shape the book was in, I was lucky enough to be chosen, and after talking with my mentors and hearing their constructive critical feedback, I realized that the way I’d written the story was not the best way it could be written. So I scrapped the whole thing, put together a scene-by-scene outline for a new version, and wrote an entire new book from scratch in four weeks. I then did some revision with my mentors to get it ready for the Pitch Wars showcase, and then, once I signed with my agent, I did a small round with her before we went on submission. So from starting the first draft in May 2018 to going on submission in March 2019, it was a whirlwind ten months!

4. Wow! I would love to write a rough draft in a month. I also read that you used to be a panster but are now a plotter. When did you make the switch and how has it improved your writing? Which were you when you wrote Sing Me Forgotten?

Sing Me Forgotten was actually the book that taught me I worked better with an outline. I’d written several books before it, and I very solidly considered myself a pantser. I didn’t want to take away the surprise of discovery! But then, when I was in Pitch Wars and needed to turn around a whole new draft in a very short time frame, I realized I didn’t have time to pants it and possibly end up with something else that didn’t work and would need an overhaul. I needed to get it right the first time. So I gritted my teeth and forced myself to do an extensive outline for my new version of Sing Me Forgotten.

The result was eons better than anything I had ever written up to that point in my life. I also loved how quickly I was able to draft—since I’d already outlined the book, I didn’t need to do any thinking while drafting. I could simply sit down and GO. I have never written a book without an outline since!

5. Sing Me Forgotten is a standalone. Many fantasies are series. What made you decide to tell your story as a standalone instead?

Personal preference came into this decision for sure. I very much prefer reading standalone books, and even when books are a part of a series, I don’t often read the sequels unless I absolutely adored the first book. I think I just get antsy to see new worlds and meet new characters as a reader, and it seems that as a writer, I am no different.

Also, the story I told in Sing Me Forgotten very much came to the conclusion I wanted it to at the end. I felt that adding to it and writing a sequel would take away some of the wonder, the hope, and the mystery of Isda’s story, and it just felt complete to me the way it was.

6. You submitted this story to PitchWars in 2018. Tell us how being in the PitchWars helped strengthen your manuscript and help you get your agent, Christa Heschke.

Well, I think I’ve already expressed how much Pitch Wars taught me about my own process! I learned that I write much better books when I outline them first. I also learned a lot about what it’s like working with an agent or editor, because the mentor/mentee relationship mimics that author/editor relationship pretty well.

I certainly don’t think Sing Me Forgotten could have gotten me an agent in the state it was in before Pitch Wars, so I think the critique my mentors gave me, the things I learned about the craft, and the revision I did to the manuscript helped me obtain that offer of representation I’d been seeking for a decade. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to be selected for Pitch Wars. It truly changed my life.

7. Many of the authors I’ve interviewed also say how much Pitch Wars helped them on their writing journey. Your book was sold at auction to Inkyard/Harper Collins. What was it like to go through the process of selling your book at auction?

Oh, it was absolutely terrifying and exciting and nerve-wracking. The auction actually took place over a two-week time period, and I barely slept or ate the whole time. I was glued to my phone waiting for updates from my agent, wondering what was happening on her end and whether we’d get another offer or who would respond next. It was also very surreal that not only did one publisher want to purchase the rights to publish my book, but multiple did. I vacillated between ecstasy and all-encompassing anxiety at least thirty times a day throughout the whole process.

8. How did you celebrate your cover release? What advise do you have for other authors about revealing their cover and creating buzz for their book?

I worked together with YABooksCentral, as well as Storygram Tours and MTMC Tours on Instagram to help reveal and spread the word. I think my best advice for other authors handling their own cover reveal is to do what works for you—there’s no one right way to reveal a cover. Ultimately, people will be excited no matter what, and you need to aim to do whatever is going to feel right for you and your book. So if that’s simply announcing on your twitter account or if that’s pitching to big media outlets, the choice you make should be entirely about what brings you joy. Many people have told me that cover reveals don’t move the needle in sales at all, so it’s really just a fun way to celebrate the book finally starting its public journey into the world.

9. How are you planning to market your book, especially given the pandemic?

With lots of virtual engagement! I’ve been having so much fun meeting readers and writers on Instagram. I also recently just started using TikTok, and it really has done a lot to make such a lonely time not feel quite as isolating. I only hope that once life goes back to “normal” (if such a thing ever exists again), we can continue all these fun virtual launch parties and Instagram Live chats! It’s been so fun to be able to attend and support authors in events I normally wouldn’t be able to attend because of geographical location.

10. I really hope we can have some fun virtual events too when things are more normal. I’ve been able to connect with so many more authors through them. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a second contracted book with Inkyard/HarperCollins releasing tentatively in March 2022, so we’re finishing up final edits on that and getting it ready for ARCs soon! It’s surreal to already be working on another novel when Sing Me Forgotten is so fresh in the world, but I am beyond excited to continue to grow my career. I also am continuing to work on other projects that will hopefully find a home soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica. You can find Jessica at

http://www.jessicasolson.com

http://www.instagram.com/jessicaolson123

http://www.twitter.com/jessicaolson123

https://www.tiktok.com/@jessicaolson123?lang=en

Giveaway Details

Jessica has generously offered a hardback of Sing Me Forgotten for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 10th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Tuesday, April 6th I’m participating in the April Showers Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, April 7th I have an interview with debut author Alexandra Overy and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Feathered Flames and my IWSG post

Monday, April 12th I have an interview with debut author Kaela Rivera and a giveaway of her MG fantasy based on Mexican mythology Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Hope to see you next Tuesday!