Welcome to Literary Rambles! While you’re rambling around and exploring the site enter for a chance to win:

BEYOND THE DOOR through April 12th here

THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN through April 12th here

DEAR KILLER through April 19th here

ACID through April 26th here

AGENT TINA WEXLER QUERY CRITIQUE & CAMISAR giveaway through May 3rd here

AGENT TINA WEXLER & SKILA BROWN GUEST POST ON EDITING FOR AGENTS & TINA WEXLER QUERY CRITIQUE AND CAMINAR GIVEAWAY

Hi Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have agent Tina Wexler and debut author Skila Brown here to share on revising for agents. I’ve been excited to share this post with you since Skila contacted me about it. She had such a creative idea to include Tina’s thoughts in the guest post and it’s fantastic that Tina has also offered a query critique as part of the giveaway. This is creative marketing at its best.

Skila’s MG novel in verse CAMISAR releases on March 25, 2014. It sounds like a fantastic story set during Guatemala’s civil war. Details about the book and the contest will be at the end of the post.

So here’s Skila and Tina!

Querying agents can be stressful. Let’s just admit that. And one thing that can be particularly difficult is receiving feedback from an agent—revision suggestions—with an offer to resubmit instead of an offer of representation.

If you’re in this boat, I’m offering up four five tips today on what to do next. And I’ve asked the spectacular Tina Wexler, Literary Agent at ICM, to chime in with thoughts of her own.

TW: Tina here. Thanks for asking me to join in the conversation, Skila. Hope you don’t mind my adding a fifth tip to your list. Hey, we’re talking revision, aren’t we? It only seemed appropriate. 


Four Five Tips on Revising with Feedback from an Agent

1. Drop your defenses. Think the agent doesn’t get what you were trying to do? Maybe that’s because it wasn’t clear enough. Think the feedback was overly-critical? Maybe that’s because you’re thinking this is about you and not about your story. Either way, you’re on the right track if an agent connected with so much of your story that s/he wants to help make it stronger. Celebrate that.

TW: This is a great first step. I know it can be disappointing to receive an offer to revise instead of an offer of representation, but if a writer can shake off that disappointment and welcome the creative feedback, oftentimes an offer of representation will follow. My relationship with several clients started this way, and I’m grateful they were able to drop their defenses and let me share my thoughts on their work.

2. Listen. Before you begin revising, listen to what the agent is suggesting. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one person weighing in, search for commonalities in their feedback. At first glance, it might seem contradictory. One agent says, “I think the romance needs to be stronger,” while another says, “I think you should lose the romance.” The commonality? Both think that your book is teetering on romance without deciding if it is or it isn’t. Which means you need to make a decision – cut it or enhance it. Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.

TW: I often try to suggest solutions when pointing out problems in a manuscript, mainly because they
help illustrate what my concerns are. But I’m not a novelist, and it’s not my story. As such, I really appreciate it when an author is able to come up with their own way of fixing a problem. It’s almost always a better solution than the one I’ve proposed.

3. Don’t lose (the) heart. Think long and hard about what is sacred for you in this story. This can sometimes be the spark that initially drew you to the piece. Maybe it’s the relationship between two characters or the setting or the fact that you’re telling it in a specific way – like verse or multiple points of view. These sacred seeds might not be something you’re willing to alter. And that’s okay. If this story, in your heart, is really about a girl on the brink of suicide and an agent tells you, “I think you should lose the suicide bit,” this might not be the right agent for this novel. But be careful labeling something as sacred. Most things shouldn’t be.

4. Give it a try. You might not be on board with the agent’s suggestions right away, and that’s okay. But what’s the harm in trying? If you spent time researching an agent, if you felt s/he might be a good match for you and your work, then you must already respect this person, right? So keep that in mind as you read over the feedback and have some faith in the professionals. Give these suggestions a try and just see where it leads. You might be surprised that things work out better than you hoped.

TW: Yes! I love this advice, especially for writers who are asked to change the story’s point of view. (It’s more common than you may think.) A rather daunting task, with or without an offer of representation in hand. So, you take baby steps. Rewrite the first page. Is it working? Yes? Rewrite the first chapter. Still like it? Keep going. As you say, there’s no harm in trying.

5. Remember--it’s your manuscript. No one should revise to a specific agent’s taste in the hope of landing representation. An invitation to resubmit doesn’t mean “If you make these changes, I’ll sign you.” If you’re going to invest the time in revising your manuscript, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: first and foremost, to get a stronger manuscript out of it. And if that stronger manuscript also gets you an agent, bonus. 

Thanks, Tina! I like that last tip. Natalie, we thank you for letting us stop by Literary Rambles today. It was loads of fun!

Thank you, readers! To celebrate the launch of Caminar, Candlewick is giving away one free copy of this newly released novel in verse. And Tina is generously offering her time to critique one lucky winner’s query letter.

Thanks so much for your advice, Skila and Tina! Details of the giveaway are below.

Here’s a blur of CAMISAR from the book jacket:

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Links for ordering:




 
And you can find Skila at her website.


Skila’s publisher Candlewick is generously offering a copy of CAMISAR for a giveaway and Tina Wexler is offering a query critique giveaway to one winner. So there will be two winners—one for the book and one for the query critique. The book giveaway is US only but the critique giveaway is International.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 5th. Please tell me in the comments which giveaway(s) you’re entering. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Alexandra Duncan and giving away a copy of SALVAGE, a YA sci-fi story with fantastic world building and a contemporary feel.

Next Wednesday Rory Shay will be sharing a guest post on persistence on the path to publication and giving away a copy of ELECTED, her new YA sci-fi story.

The following Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.

Wednesday that week I’ll have a guest post by Holly Webb and a giveaway of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, her MG fantasy.

Saturday that week I’ll be participating in the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

EMMA PASS INTERVIEW AND ACID GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you’re having a great start to your week. Anna Li and I had a good week. She was on spring break and we went on two college visits. We liked both of the colleges--University of Michigan and Kalamazoo College.

I'm finding I'm tired a lot, especially at night, which I think is normal. But it means I'm reading less. So more of my interviews for a bit will be without me reading the books. I am planning to get back to reading blogs again at least on Mondays and Wednesdays. I've missed everyone and I know some of you are doing the A-Z challenge.

I have two winners to announce.

The winner of BEYOND THE DOOR is Carl Scott!

And the winner of THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN is Robin Hall!

Today I’m excited to have Emma Pass here to share about her debut YA dystopian, ACID. It was released in the UK last year and released in the US last month. I’ve been excited to read it since I first heard about it last year and am hoping to read it soon.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong's world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna's violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary.

When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn't know who to trust?

Strong, gritty writing, irresistible psychological suspense, and action consume the novel as Jenna struggles to survive against the all-controlling ACID. Seriously sinister stuff.


Hi Emma! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie, thanks for interviewing me! I live in the UK with my husband, who's an artist, and our crazy rescue greyhound G-Dog. I've always loved writing, and first realized that this was what I actually wanted to do for a living when I was 13 and went to see the film Jurassic Park. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about it, and decided to write a story about what happened next (The Lost World hadn't been published/released yet!). This became my first ever novel, most of which I wrote in math lessons with my notebook hidden under my work. As a result, I still have to count on my fingers when I need to add up – but I've been hooked on writing ever since!

2. Funny. You’d better not give kids who are budding writers the idea to write in math class. Where did you get the idea for your story?

ACID is based on a story I wrote when I was 14, after a friend and I challenged each other to write something about a character escaping from prison in a sinister future world. Over the years, I kept coming back to the idea, and in 2008 I decided to try writing it as a YA novel. That novel became ACID.

3. So awesome you were able to come back to it and then have it become your debut novel. Your world building for this sounds fantastic. Share a bit about your world building process and any tips for the rest of us.

I've always loved to imagine 'what if?', so that's what I used as my starting point. What if a sinister police force ruled the UK instead of the government? What if they watched everyone and tried to control everything they did? What if you could get thrown in jail for the slightest of crimes? And what would technology be like? How would society function? It was a long but fun process of asking myself questions, then trying to answer them.

4. “What if” is a great question to keep asking ourselves as we write. Jenna sounds like an
amazing, strong character and is one of the reasons I really want to read this. What was your character development process like for her?

She marched into my head more or less fully formed! I do some planning, but always give my characters the freedom to develop organically as I write the first draft and uncover their stories. I didn't know much about Jenna when I first started writing about her, so learning about what had happened to her and why was very exciting.

5. It’s always great getting to know our characters. It’s like meeting a new friend. What was something you struggled with craft-wise in writing ACID and what did you learn from the process?

The plot is very complicated – the first book I'd ever written with such a complicated plot – and it took a long time to work it out and get all the twists and turns in place. It taught me that I could – and should – really stretch myself as a writer, because when I started I was convinced the idea was 'too big' for me, and felt very scared (as well as excited) about starting it.

6. Your agent is Carolyn Whitaker. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I approached Carolyn for representation in 2007 with a contemporary YA novel I'd spent the previous 18 months writing. She took me on with it but unfortunately, it didn't sell, despite being on sub for almost a year. That was when I started writing ACID, which we sold to Random House Children's Publishing in 2011.

7. Awesome you kept writing while your first book was on submission. I’ve heard many debut authors recommend this while on submission. Your book debuted last year. What did you learn about marketing your book during your debut year and what advice do you have for the rest of us who haven’t been published yet about our debut year?

The biggest thing I've learned about marketing my own book is that it feels SO awkward! I still have trouble telling people I'm a writer. However, I love to shout about other people's books and their book-related news, and they do the same for me, so it all works out in the end.

8. I love shouting out about authors’ books too. How are you planning to spread the word about your book in the US? Does living in the UK make it harder?

I have been very lucky – Delacorte Press have done some amazing marketing, including artwork to promote ACID to fans of the Divergent movie, advertising on teen.com and a forthcoming blog post for Amazon. I'm part of a wonderful group of authors, The Lucky 13s, many of whom are based in the US and are helping to spread the word, and I'm also doing posts and interviews for blogs like this one.

9. Awesome Delacorte is helping with the marketing. What are you working on now?

I'm thinking about some new projects, but I don't want to say too much about them at this stage as I'm very superstitious about new stories! So watch this space…

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



Emma’s publisher has generously offered a copy of ACID for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 26th. I’ll announce the winner on April 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US & Canada only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Wednesday I have a guest post conversation with debut author Skila Brown and her agent Tina Wexler about revising. There will be a giveaway of Skila’s MG book in verse CAMINAR inspired by the civil war in Guatemala. And Tina Wexler is offering a query critique too!

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Alexandra Duncan and giving away a copy of SALVAGE, a YA sci-fi story with fantastic world building and a contemporary feel.

Next Wednesday Rory Shay will be sharing a guest post on persistence on the path to publication and giving away a copy of ELECTED, her new YA sci-fi story.

The following Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

KATHERINE EWELL INTERVIEW AND DEAR KILLER GIVEAWAY

Hi Everyone! Thanks so much for your kind words and support here, on Twitter, and on Facebook. I'm so touched. It's all my friends and family that are helping me get through this difficult time. Anna Li and I are doing pretty good. We're alike in that we don't want to sit around moping. We're starting to find our routine without Rudy. For me, the house feels so different and quiet without him there. I know eventually it'll become the new normal. I'm back to work and am finding that keeping busy really helps get through something like this.

Rudy paid all the bills and handled our investments. He kept things in good order and I've been able to figure most of it out already. I feel a lot better knowing where all our savings are and seeing that I can handle all the finances.

Hopefully in the next week, I should be back to blogging. Thanks so much for your patience and support.

 So I have some winners to announce.

The winner of BURN OUT is Joanne Fritz!

The winner of FAERY SWAP is Donea Lee!

And the winner of ELLE is Nicole!

Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Katherine Ewell here to share about her YA thriller DEAR KILLER that released on April 1, 2014. This was a fascinating story about Kit, who has been a serial killer since she was nine. This is really different from anything I’ve ever read. I found it pretty fascinating to be inside Kit’s head because sometimes she is a cold and calculated killer and other times she’s a sympathetic teen. It’s a book that really leaves you thinking.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

Hi Katherine. Thanks so much for joining me.

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

I’ve been writing since I was about thirteen—before that, I was a huge reader, so the progression from reader to writer only made sense. Once I started writing, I couldn’t really stop! It’s a bit of an addiction, really.

2. I think a lot of writers feel that way. I’m dying to know where you got the idea for your story because it is so different from other books.

It came from a little bit of a weird place… I was binge-watching Castle at the same time I was writing an essay about moral philosophy in Watchmen, so the two of them just sort of came together in this psychological thriller about murder. I don’t remember the exact moment of synthesis, but that’s definitely where it came from.

3. I used to watch Castle. Maybe I should start again though I don’t have much time for TV. Kit is one of the most complex characters I’ve met. Sometimes she’s so cold and distant and other times you can’t help sympathizing with her, especially because of her terrible family life. Share a bit about her character development. Was it hard being so in her head while you were writing this?

When I started writing Dear Killer, I didn’t really know where Kit was headed. I learned a lot about her as
I actually wrote, and I discovered her as she came to life word by word. Sometimes it really was hard being inside her head—her thoughts are so dark, as are her moods and actions (obviously), and it could sometimes be a lot to handle!

4. Yes, I’m not sure I could have hung out with her as long as it would take to write her story. You picked London as the setting of your story. Why? And what research did you have to do to get your setting right?

I had visited London twice before I started writing, and I knew as soon as the story came into my head that it was the place my story had to be set. It had a lot to do with the ambiance—the dull greyness of the city, paired with its historical beauty, seemed to me to echo the melancholy within Kit and the feeling I wanted to portray through my writing. I had to do a lot of Google map searching to figure out the distance between things—i.e. how long would it take this character to get here? Is this walk-able or not? I wanted everything to feel as real as possible.

5. That’s great how you made such a conscious decision on your setting. I know you wrote this while you were in high school. I’m amazed you had time for it with the heavy demands of high school. What was your writing process like and how long did it take to write and revise DEAR KILLER?

It took me about 2-3 months total to write the first draft, and about 3 months to revise it. I usually wrote at night after I’d finished all my schoolwork, usually with a nice cup of tea, wrapped in blankets. It was a great way to de-stress, usually, after a long day.

6. That’s pretty amazing. My daughter is up until 11:30 with homework. No way could she write after that. I’m impressed.Share about your road to publication.

My road to publication started in 2011, when I was a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition in the YA category. I found my agent through that contest and a mutual friend. That particular book never got published, but luckily, I wrote Dear Killer afterwards, and that did get published!

7. Fantastic road to publication story. What are you doing to market your book and how are you juggling it with college?

I’m doing a bunch of interviews and appearances, which you can find news of on my writer pages! I’m juggling it with college through lack of sleep…but what can you do?

8. Hate to tell you but it doesn’t get better once you’re out of college and working. At least not for me. What are you working on now?

I don’t really like talking about what I’m writing, but I am writing! You’ll see…

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


http://this-blog-was-a-bad-idea.tumblr.com

Katherine and I are offering an e-book giveaway of DEAR KILLER. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 19th. I’ll announce the winner on April 21st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.

Here’s what’s coming up:


Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Emma Pass and giving away a copy of her YA dystopian, ACID. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I heard about it almost two years ago. It released in the UK and Europe last year and was finally released here in March.

Next Wednesday I have a guest post conversation with debut author Skila Brown and her agent Tina Wexler about revising. There will be a giveaway of Skila’s MG book in verse CAMINAR inspired by the civil war in Guatemala. And Tina Wexler is offering a query critique too!

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Alexandra Duncan and giving away a copy of SALVAGE, a YA sci-fi story with fantastic world building and a contemporary feel.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!