CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT through January 25th

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON through January 25th

Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop through January 31st

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

Katelyn Detweiler Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 1/20/2020

Hilary Jacobson Query Critique & ALL THE STARS AND TEETH Giveaway on 2/5/2020

Megan Manzano Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 2/24/2020

BEST OF 2019 GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you're excited for the new year. I am looking forward to some good changes this year that will give me more time to write, read, and work on this blog. I'm really excited for all the MG and YA debut authors I'm featuring with book giveaways in 2020. I hope you'll enter contests for books that interest you.

Today I'm excited to participate in the Best of 20119 Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Some are from 2019 and others are current releases.

Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. 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.



To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through January 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Monday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop








JANAE MARKS INTERVIEW AND FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Janae Marks here to share about her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON. It sounds like a fantastic mystery, and I’m anxious to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating mystery full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition. A perfect book for fans of Front Desk and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook!

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
 

Hi Janae! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for having me on Literary Rambles.

I’m an author, wife and mom living in Connecticut. Growing up, I was always interested in writing. As a kid, I loved writing and illustrating my own stories. I still have the books I made in the second grade – one of them featured a hamster with magical powers! I was also into journaling and letter writing. (My summer camp friends and counselors were my pen pals!) I didn’t think about writing seriously until I got to college, where I took some creative writing classes. Then I decided to get an MFA in creative writing from The New School in NYC. By then, I’d figured out that I enjoyed writing for kids, so I chose to enter the Writing for Children program. I graduated with my MFA in 2010, so it still took many more years for me to get an agent and book deal, but I learned so much about writing and publishing in that program, and had a wonderful time.

2. Where did you get the idea for FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON?

I was inspired by true stories! In 2014, I was obsessed with the first season of the podcast Serial, which tells the story of a man serving a prison sentence for murder, who may actually be innocent of the crime. I also watched the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which tells a similar story. I started thinking about wrongful convictions, and did some research. I read about The Innocence Project, an organization that helps overturn wrongful convictions. Then I started to wonder what it would be like for the child of one of those inmates. Zoe Washington was born from there.

3. That's awesome that you got your idea from true stories. And there are sadly innocent people who are convicted of murder and other crimes. Your story is a mystery and contemporary. What was your plotting process like? What tips do you have for other writers writing MG who want to write a mystery?

With my previous manuscripts (all contemporaries), I struggled a bit with developing a high-concept plot. Those stories were more character-driven. But with ZOE, the mystery helped a lot with plotting, because I knew there were certain plot points I’d need to hit. Zoe would need to uncover the mystery, start her investigation, try and fail a few times, and so on. The “try/fail” cycles helped me keep readers in suspense. I came up with different plans that Zoe could try to implement in order to uncover the truth. With each one, she’d get a tiny bit closer to her goal, but she’d also experience some sort of setback or new challenge to solve.

For other MG writers who want to write a mystery, I recommend plotting out at least the main story points. I like starting with Dan Wells’ Seven Point Plot system. There are a series of YouTube videos where he walks through the process. I usually start with a short plot using his method, and flesh out my outline from there.

4. I've heard a lot about Dan Wells' system. I am going to check our his YouTube videos. Zoe has been described in reviews as a memorable character who is determined and full of heart. What was her character development like?

Zoe turns twelve-years-old at the beginning of the book, and makes it clear that she doesn’t want to

be treated like a little kid anymore. She wants more agency and, when she receives the letter from Marcus, she wants to be able to decide for herself whether or not she has a relationship with him. Up until this point her mom has decided this for her. A lot of Zoe’s determination comes from wanting to do things for herself. This also plays out in her baking internship. She’s determined to prove that she is good enough to audition for a kid baking competition show. What Zoe has to learn, however, is that there’s nothing wrong with accepting help from the adults in her life. She can’t do it all alone.

As for her heart, you see that through the relationship she develops with Marcus through their letters. She also shows a lot of passion when she’s baking.

5. You worked for a Big 5 publisher at one time. Did you learn things from working there that’s affected your writing? What?

Working in publishing didn’t affect my writing per se, but it was super helpful to have that insider
knowledge of how publishing works. It was also really motivating to work with books every day. I kept writing, even in the face of rejection, because I really wanted to be traditionally published like the books on the shelves at my job. And once I got my book deal, I felt more prepared for what was to come while working with HarperCollins.

6. Your agent is Alex Slater. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is the fourth book I wrote and the second book I queried. Back in 2013, I queried my first book—a young adult manuscript—and while I got a bunch of requests, I didn’t end up with an offer.

While writing ZOE, I learned about Alex through one of his clients, a friend of mine. She told him about me and my book, so I got on his radar and he followed me on Twitter. I also grabbed his attention when my manuscript won the 2017 Tassy Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature award—a CT writing award for unpublished authors. By the time I queried him, Alex replied right away and requested the full. Then he read my book quickly, and offered representation! I was lucky enough to get four more offers of rep, but I decided to go with Alex, and I’m so happy to be working with him.

As for selling ZOE, Alex sent it to editors at the beginning of 2018, and it quickly went to auction! After speaking to a few of the editors who offered, I decided to go with Katherine Tegen Books. While this part of my journey was fast, it took a lot of years of writing, querying, and picking myself up after rejection to get there.  

7. Thanks for reminding of us of how long the journey can take.  I saw on your website that your book will be sold in the United Kingdom too with a different cover and title—THE FARAWAY TRUTH. How did your sale and cover and title change happen?

I have the amazing foreign rights team at Trident Media Group to thank for this! They were able to sell my book to Chicken House Books in the UK not long after the book sold in the US. The team at Chicken House Books decided to change the title since the phrase “From the desk of…” isn’t commonly used in the UK. THE FARAWAY TRUTH ties in well with the story, so I’m happy with the change. As for the cover, they decided to give it their own spin, and I love how it came out! I’m thrilled with both of my covers.  

8. Your book launch party is at Book of Wonder in New York City. Wow! What else are you doing to promote your book? What advice do you have to other debut authors from your years working in publishing and your own experience?

I’m super excited to have my launch at Books of Wonder! My publisher has been amazing with promoting my book in a lot of ways, so I haven’t had to do as much on my own. They’ve helped get my ARCs into the hands of a lot of educators, booksellers and librarians, and have done some online promotions like giveaways and ads. The two main ways I’ve promoted my book are through social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) and through my newsletter.

I also tried something fun to promote ZOE. Since Zoe is an aspiring pastry chef, and I don’t usually bake much myself, I decided to do a baking challenge. Leading up to ZOE’s release, I baked one cupcake recipe a month. There were four different cupcake recipes, and I shared photos on Instagram under #ZoeWashingtonCupcakes. I also shared the recipes in my newsletter for my subscribers. It was a lot of fun, and those posts on Instagram got a lot of engagement.

One piece of advice I have for debut authors is to learn how to create pretty graphics for your social media pages and website. Canva is a free tool with a ton of templates. It’s pretty simple to use, and putting together graphics with teasers, blurbs, reviews, etc. will make your book stand out on social media. I also recommend creating a newsletter and building a mailing list. With all the algorithms on social media, it’s easy for content to get lost, so a newsletter is a great way to connect with your readers directly.

9.  That's great advice.What’s your favorite social media site? Why?

I love Instagram! I enjoy taking photos and find the platform less overwhelming than Twitter. I also love getting to know other authors through their photos and Instagram stories.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising my second middle grade book with Katherine Tegen Books, which will be out in 2021! I can’t wait to share more about it soon, but I think fans of Zoe will love my new heroine.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Janae. You can find Janae at janaemarks.com, and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook under @janaemarksbooks.

Janae has generously offered a hardback of FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON 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 January 258th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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

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

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you tomorrow!

ISABEL IBAÑEZ INTERVIEW AND WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you had a happy holiday season and are looking forward to a great year. I am! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Isabel Ibañez here to share about her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. It draws on Bolivia’s history and politics and sounds like it has strong characters and great world building. I can’t wait to read it. 

WriteOnCon Is Back in February

First, I want to let you know about WriteOnCon, a wonderful online conference for writers of picture books through YA, that will be happening Friday, February 21 through Sunday, February 23. There are 122 events and 41 of them are live. Registration costs $10-$25 depending on the level of admission you want. Even if you write for adults, I recommend checking out the schedule because there may be something there for you too. I've been going since it started up again and found many helpful presentations by authors, editors, and agents.


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

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!


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

The co-hosts this month are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff! First, here is some awesome IWSG news:



The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.


Optional Question: What started you on your writing journey?

I started writing two easy readers when my daughter was three years old with her as the star so I could use pictures to illustrate them. That was about 20 years ago. But then I put it all aside and didn't really consider writing until I read the first Harry Potter book about four years later. I had an idea for a middle grade fantasy and just decided to start it. 

Back then, I was really inspired and wrote my first draft quickly. I probably made every mistake there was. I have been writing since on and off. My day job as an attorney, care giving for my late husband, and being a mom made it hard to write. Then this blog took a lot of my writing time. I stopped writing for about five years after my husband died and had no interest in. I'm just starting to get back into it again.

What about you? What started you on your journey?

Now, here's my interview with Isabel. Here’s a blurb about WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT from Goodreads


A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.


Hi Isabel! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always loved writing and when I went to college, I majored in Creative Writing! I took a detour in graphic design and illustration, but found my way back when a Latina pirate story wouldn’t leave my mind! I participated in Pitch Wars and my mentor helped sharpen my writing skills. Afterward, I landed an agent through #DVPIT (on Twitter) and then sat down to write my next book: Woven in Moonlight.

2. That's great you majored in creative writing. I wish I had taken some courses in this in college. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I had the idea to write a revolution story because of what was going on in the political stage in Bolivia. The present government was causing a lot of fear for my family there (my brother and I were the only ones born in the USA, everyone else is in Bolivia) and so the story began with wanting to write an alternative story involving Bolivian politics.

3. It sounds like you have great world building and food in your story. Yum! What was your world building process like? How did you balance creating a new world with the Bolivian influences you used?

Great question! Writing a Bolivian fantasy actually took very little research—because I know the country, it’s culture and traditions, the food and atmosphere. We have a house there and growing up, I spent three months out of the year living there during the summer, up until I was 18. So writing about Bolivia felt like I was writing about home, a place as familiar to me as my own face. When building a world, my general rule is to always be specific. Don’t say pepper when I can say locoto (a kind of pepper in Bolivia). As much as possible, I included the dishes I grew up eating, described the clothing used by Bolivians around Cochabamba.

4. That's a great tip to be as specific as you can in your world building. Xiemena and your other female characters have been described as strong characters. Xiemena starts out having the motive of revenge, which could make her unsympathetic but didn’t here. What was your character-building process like and how did you balance Xiemena’s motives with making her sympathetic?

More than anything, Ximena is driven by the keen sense of loss. She’s lost her family, her home, and
her identity. In her inner core, I believe she yearns to experience emotions and experiences that aren’t ruled by the scorching anger she feels. I worked hard for the real Ximena to shine through—her artistic ambition, her love of food, her desire to be outdoors. Ximena is more than her desire for revenge—even though it’s taken up more space in her life than anything else. For the first time in years, she leaves the Illustrian keep and gets to spend time with herself in a way that she never did before. It’s hard to learn who you are when you’re constantly being told what you believe, what you’re fighting for, and who you are. When Ximena is in the Castillo, I really was able to slowly peel back her layers to show her sympathy and compassion, and the ability to think for herself without hearing another loud voice telling her what to do.

5. What was a challenge you had in writing WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT? How did you overcome it?

By far the biggest challenge I faced while writing WIM was the beginning. It nearly did me in. For the life of me, I could not figure out the best way into the story. I wrote several false starts, and none of them rang true. There’s so much pressure with getting the beginning of a story exactly right. The early chapters have to pull so much weight: introduce the characters, explain the world without info-dumping, establish the status quo, etc. There’s so much you have to do exactly right, and that pressure really got to me. I finally had amazing feedback and that outside perspective worked wonders. I was able to edit the beginning and it read one hundred times stronger.

6. Beginnings are hard. I always work on them more too. Your agent is Sarah Landis. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Sarah Landis is my current agent, but it was actually my previous agent who sold WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. She submitted the manuscript in waves and while we had some initial interest and an R+R, it didn’t sell. Months later, we got one more R+R—from Page Street—and they offered publication afterward!

7. What have you been doing to build your social media presence and contacts since you signed your publishing contract? What advice do you have for debut authors on doing this?

Pick one platform and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the things, but you might consider doing one medium consistently. Initially, I spent a lot of time on Twitter but I am SUPER visual and so I transferred my energy and time to Instagram. This is a much better fit for me. I have certain rules that I follow and it seems to be working, but I’m no means an expert.

Rule One: Post one photo a day.
Rule Two: Keep in brand (color scheme, topics, composition and content)
Rule Three: As much as possible, be responsive. This isn’t always possible but at minimum I will try to like every comment I get.
Rule Four: Support others.

8. Great advice to pick one social media platform you like. How are you planning to promote your book when it releases? How did you celebrate your cover release?

I’ve been on Instagram mostly! This is a great platform to share news and updates, all things WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, and to talk about the preorder campaign. All my celebrations involve the dinner table. ;)

9. What are you working on now?

I’m hard at work revising WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT, the companion to WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT with my editor! I can’t wait for everyone to read this story. It takes place a week after the events of WIM.

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




Isabel has generously offered a hardback of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT 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 January 25th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood


Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post


Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis


Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 


Hope to see you on Monday!

MIDWINTER'S EVE GIVEAWAY HOP



Happy Saturday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by by BookHounds. This is my last post under 2020. I cannot believe how fast the year has flown by. I'm looking forward to spending time with my family and boyfriend over the holidays and then am excited to to share new authors and books on the blog next year. I'm also making plans so I have more time to write for myself in 2020. Hope you've had a good year and are looking forward to the new year too.

Here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

 


 


 


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



To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through December 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, January 8th I'll be back with an interview with debut author Isabel Ibañez and a giveaway of her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT and my IWSG post

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut autor Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Hope to see you on Wednesday, January 8th! Have Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop


KIM LONG INTERVIEW AND LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Kim Long here to share about her MG adventure LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT. I’m super excited to read it because it’s an adventure story with scavenger hunts and puzzles.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

For fans of The Amazing RaceLexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament is the perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament--the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve science-based puzzles. She needs the prize money if she wants to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. Added bonus: she'll be able to reconnect with her best friend Haley.

But Lexi's two teammates put a wrench in her plans. When one misreads a clue that lands the team in a castle in Germany, and the other loses her teleportation medallion in Poland, Lexi wonders what she's gotten herself into. Struggling to keep her team under control as the race rages on, Lexi not only has to figure out how to get back on course (literally), but she must decide how far she's willing to go to win, and who her real friends are. With riddles to solve and messages to decode, this interactive read won't disappoint!

Hi Kim! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
 I loved creating writing in school, and I always had it in mind to write a book someday. After I graduated law school, I started writing a legal thriller. Of course, at the time I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! I read a lot, but as for writing craft, beats, agency, etc., I was clueless. Fast forward to about eight years ago, and I seriously started thinking about writing “for real” again. I bought some craft books, hunkered down, and began writing a YA Fantasy. It wasn’t any good, lol, but I joined Twitter and became active in the writing community. I felt like I found my people! I then wrote a middle grade story, which got me an agent. Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament is actually the third completed novel I wrote.

2. Funny you are a lawyer. Me too and many debut authors I interviewed. Where did you get your idea for this story?

I was stuck in Chicago traffic and started thinking (again) about how cool it would be if I could just teleport home. That got me thinking about a teleportation novel, but I really didn’t have any idea what the plot would be. I tinkered around with a mystery, a music school, and a few other things until I was playing a board game, The Castles of Mad King Ludwig. That got me thinking about having the kids travel to castles and museums around the world. I stuck with the game theme and the idea of a teleportation tournament was born!

3. I love that this is a STEM adventure. How did you plot out the scavenger hunt and puzzles in your story? What advice do you have for other writers who want to include these in their own stories?

I didn’t want the teleportation concept to be the only science element, so I decided to make Lexi a physics whiz and for the teleportation tournament to focus on science/scientists. The STEM focus kind of conflicted with my idea of traveling to castles, so I definitely had to do some finagling there to make it all work. In the end, there’s a STEM theme, but I included art museums and even a puzzle with Aeosp’s fables, so a lot of difference concepts are included.

As for plotting the puzzles, I did it a couple of ways. I knew I wanted to include King Ludwig’s castle, so I simply read a bunch about him and his castles so I could fashion a clue that made sense. For some of the other puzzles, I needed the teams to travel to a specific country or location, so then I’d research that city and see what kind of STEM element I could include that would make sense. Really, it was just being open to different ideas until finding something that clicked. That’s the advice I’d give to others—instead of picking the puzzle and figuring out how to make it work in a scene, I’d focus on the scene element (for me it was the location they’d be traveling to) and then see what kind of puzzle fits with that scene/element/location.

4. It sounds like Lexi and her friends are well-developed characters that steal readers’ hearts. What is your character development process like?

I am definitely a plot-first writer, so character development for me has always been something I’ve
struggled with at the end of a draft—going back and trying to make these characters more realistic. To make it easier for me, I gave Lexi and her teammates different interests and goals, so as I wrote, each’s actions served their own purpose. Still, though, they weren’t really well-rounded until after my agent’s suggestions, which leads into the next question perfectly.

5. I struggle with this too so appreciate your advice. What was a challenge you faced when working on your manuscript with your agent or editor? How did you overcome it?

One of the suggestions my agent had was to even further strengthen each character’s goals and growth. Originally, Lexi changes throughout and at the end, but her teammates Ron and Malena do not have their own arcs. I added arcs for them, too, which made them and the story stronger.

6. Your agent is Natascha Morris. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Natascha is actually my second agent. I got my first agent with a different middle grade novel in 2014. That manuscript went on sub in 2015 and did not sell, but during that year I wrote LEXI. That agent then subbed LEXI in 2016, and although we received some great feedback, it didn’t sell by the end of the year. I amicably parted ways with my agent at that time and queried something new (the middle grade that I had written in 2016—always keep writing something new!). After about six months of querying, Natascha offered in July 2017. She asked about other projects, and I mentioned LEXI. Since it had been over a year since it had been subbed to editors and we were making changes to strengthen the side characters, Nat suggested putting it back on sub. We did, and we received an offer from Running Press Kids about seven months later. In total, between the first agent and Natascha, LEXI was on sub for about 19 months (thought with a break in between).

7. I saw that your blog that you’ve had 10 events in 2019 before and after your debut. How did you schedule them? What advice do you have for other debut authors on scheduling events?

I’d say about half the events I scheduled and half were scheduled via my publisher. I pitched myself to the Wisconsin Book Festival, which resulted in a school visit and 130 books being sold! Although I live in Illinois, since Lexi takes place in Wisconsin, I’ve focused on Wisconsin schools and bookstores as well as Illinois stores/schools. I’ve also coordinated some events with fellow 2019 debut authors, and I reached out to a couple more Illinois bookstores recently about school visits, and those are in the works. I’d recommend authors reach out to bookstores on their own and see if there is interest in school visits or panels and also coordinate with fellow authors for bookstore events. Don’t rely on your publisher for all of your events/marketing/publicity!

8. How else have you been building your social media platform and marketing your book? Do you have any thoughts on how your plans have been working?

My main social media is through Twitter, which is what I feel most comfortable with. After I became agented in 2014, I started working with Pitch Wars as a middle grade mentor. I also served as a judge for on-line query contests. Really, over the years I’ve focused on things I like to do. I was clueless when I first started writing that YA fantasy about 8 years ago, so if I can help someone navigate writing/publishing and make their path a bit easier, I’m all for it. Writing is such a solitary task, but it’s such a tremendous lift to see other people in the same boat you are. I probably should be doing more marketing-wise, but I remain sort-of clueless in that area.

9.That's such great advice. What are you working on now?

For the past month or so, I’ve been brainstorming and plotting a new story. It has STEM elements and a sci-fi/magical twist in a contemporary world. I hope to start the actual drafting soon.

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

@KimLongMG (twitter and Instagram)

Kim has generously offered a hardback of LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENTfor 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 December 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.


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

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

Here's what's coming up:

Saturday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 8th I'll be back with an interview with debut author Isabel Ibañez and a giveaway of her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT and my IWSG post

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Saturday! If I don't see you until January, have a Happy Holiday!



KARI SUTHERLAND AND KELLY COON GUEST POST WITH QUERY CRITIQUE AND GRAVEMAIDENS GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Can you believe it's already December. Today I'm excited to have debut author Kelly Coon here with her agent Kari Sutherland to share about Kelly's debut YA fantasy GRAVEMAIDENS. Reading their guest post made me want to read this even more. The world building sounds fantastic and Kamanni is a strong characters with unique strengths.


Before I get to their guest post, I have my IWSG post to share.

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!

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

The co-hosts this month are  Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

Optional Question: Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?
This question is perfect for me right now. What would I change? Having more time on a regular schedule to write in my weekdays so I can finish my current project. I want to see if I can write a good story and do it in a faster time period. The only way I can do that is to not work full-time.

The good news is that I'm already working on this goal. I'll be getting widow social security benefits early next year and will cut down on my work load by June. I have to wait until my boss can reassign some of my work. It'll give me two weekdays to myself where I can focus on writing and updating about 100 agent spotlights.

Work has already been slowing down a bit, so I have been working on my own writing more regularly and should have time to keep it up in December. I have a week without pay this month. And the exciting thing is that I am enjoying the writing process for the first time since Rudy died. So yay!

What about you? What would you change?

Now onto Kelly and Kari's guest post. I really learned a lot from it. Here's a blurb about GRAVEMAIDENS from Goodreads:


The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.


From Kelly to Kari

Hi Kari!!!! I’m so excited I get to interview you today about life as a literary agent! Woo!
Hi Kelly! I’m excited to be here today and chat about Gravemaidens and your writing. 

We’ve been working together for two and a half years now (wut???) and I can still remember hitting send on the query I sent you on March 30, 2017 at 1:48 PM. You responded at 6:07 PM that very night, asking for the full manuscript and set up a phone call with me two weeks later (then I freaked out with excitement).
What was it that made you interested in Gravemaidens?

So many things! I love YA fantasy, but I was looking for something different within the genre and Gravemaidens definitely delivered. The premise was unique—instead of trying to overthrow a leader, Kammani is working to save his life and the stakes are incredibly high because if he dies, her sister will be buried with him as a bride in the afterlife. Eek! The pressure! Kammani is a gifted healer, even if she’s still learning, so not everything comes easily to her, but she’s a heroine who will save the day through her smarts and skills rather than being a physical warrior. Don’t get me wrong, I love a kick-ass female warrior, too, but I was drawn to this depiction of a different kind of powerful woman. Then, of course, there’s the sister relationship, which is one that always appeals to me. Plus, the mystery element once Kammani is caught up in the political intrigue of the palace. When I first dipped in, I loved your detailed descriptions, which brought your setting to life, and your engaging voice. After the first chapter, I knew I wanted to read more! The rest of the pages didn’t disappoint so I knew I wanted to hop on the phone and get to know you. I also loved the themes of sacrifice and how Kammani questions her city’s traditions.

You were a senior editor at Harper Collins for almost seven years—working on some best-selling series, I might add—and also an editorial assistant at Disney for two years. How does your editorial expertise inform your submission process for your clients?

Well, to be clear, I wasn’t a senior editor for most of my time at HarperCollins, but I was extremely proud to earn that title before I left and I loved my years at HarperCollins and Disney Press—people who work in children’s publishing are terrific! Nowadays, I bring my editorial experience to bear in several ways for my clients. First up, when I’m assessing a query, I am thinking about whether it sparks something in me and if it checks all my boxes, will it check the boxes of publishers as well? When I sign a client, I’ll send an editorial letter and take the full manuscript through two or three passes before we submit—sometimes more depending on if there are major plot notes I think will help strengthen it for the marketplace. As you know, I lean towards long edit letters, full of questions and suggestions, so I often warn my clients not to panic at their length! 😊 Next up, I call upon my editorial background to make my pitch as catchy and succinct as possible, knowing that a great pitch can be used by editors for their acquisitions meetings and sometimes even becomes the jacket copy. Then, once the project is submitted, I can help alleviate authors’ anxiety at the lengthy process, since I know firsthand just how busy editors are with current and future projects on their lists. Or, at least, I can try to soothe the anxiety—waiting can be agonizing. Beyond the submission and deal, my experience at publishing houses also gives me insight into the overall process—how editorial interfaces with marketing and sales teams and publicity or the subrights teams, too—so I can help my clients navigate the waters to publication.

Okay, so I just learned that you have a masters degree in Forensic Psychology (and then I had to look that up to understand what it actually meant haha). Can you explain how that impacts the way you think about character motivations in your clients’ stories? Does having a background in psychology help you deal with the various needs of your clients?

Psychology and English are natural partners for me—stories, after all, give us windows into the
experiences and feelings and thought processes of others and build empathy. My psychology training honed my ability to pick out when characters’ actions are out of line with their personalities and guides my suggestions on motivations, relationships, emotional growth, conflict, dynamics, etc. It also has made me an excellent listener, so I’m approachable for my clients—or at least I hope I am! Writing can be a solitary endeavor and authors pour so much of themselves into their work that it is natural for them to be anxious about what they’ve written and second-guess their talent no matter what success they’ve achieved or where they are in the process and I am happy to assure my clients that they are wonderful and their work is worthwhile and I believe in them. So yes, it helps me support and empathize with them.

You represent a wide range of stories from MG contemporary to YA fantasy and everything in between. Can you put your finger on a few characteristics that made your clients’ manuscripts absolutely un-put-downable?

I also represent picture books and select adult upmarket fiction, so it is a wide range indeed. I look for a strong, compelling voice and characters that feel real and relatable as well as an engaging plot. My aim is for the stories I represent to make an impact on readers—regardless of whether the story echoes or highlights inequities in today’s world or is an adventure that allows readers a break from the stressors in their lives or is a quirky picture book that instigates giggles of delight.

What’s on your #MSWL these days?

Across the board I’m looking for projects that give voice to marginalized communities and tackle social justice issues or resonate with problems we face today—be that contemporary or within a fantasy setting or alternate history or near sci-fi (i.e. set fifty years from now). I’m also eager to acquire escapist stories—humor or action adventure, magical realism full of hope, fresh retellings of underexplored stories or characters, and YA rom-coms with a new angle.

Last one and it’s just for fun! What’s your most binge-worthy series and which book (besides your clients’, of course, would you like to see turned into a tv series?)

I’ve only seen season one, but Killing Eve had me hooked and I was eager for the next episode. I’m currently in love with Jane the Virgin too, which does such a great job of making its characters empathetic (even the villains) and leaves me full of hope. As for a book to see turned into a TV show, ooh, that’s a tough one. Excluding all the fantastic projects I have a relationship with (as agent, editor, or sister to the author), a series I’d love to see on the screen would be the Attolia books by Megan Whalen Turner. They cover an epic world full of riveting characters and surprises.

From Kari to Kelly

Okay, my turn!
Your main character, Kammani, lives in a world that reveres the afterlife and when her sister is chosen to be buried alive with the ailing ruler, it’s seen as a great honor. Kammani, as a result of her relationship with death as a healer, feels differently. I love the way she pushes back against what her society teaches—she’s someone who questions and comes to her own conclusions. It’s an especially important trait for people today in the age of misinformation. Was there a time that you have questioned what you’d been told?

Oh absolutely. I was raised in a strict fundamentalist environment where the pastor told the congregation what to believe and it was seen as heresy if you didn’t follow exactly what he said. I remember raising my hand during a Q&A session after the service as a ten-year-old girl to ask the pastor why we were required to attend church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, Thursday nights for kid’s club, and a multitude of other times, especially when most of the congregants’ children also went to a fundamentalist school where we went to chapel and received Biblical instruction daily. He told me to put my hand down and ask my father later, even though he’d invited anyone to ask a question.

I learned that day that my voice didn’t count in that church, and it taught me to question the teachings I’d been learning about my place as a woman in society and my place on this planet if I didn’t believe what someone told me to believe.

You’ve used your platform to promote stories of women achievers and girl power through online posts and in your writing. What truth or feeling would you love young women to get from Gravemaidens?

I wanted to show that a woman can be powerful enough to go after whatever she wants, even if that means bucking the traditions of her society to do that. Traditions are often created and perpetuated by people without a stake in the consequences, and if those consequences are something that a girl finds she can’t bear to live with, then by all means, she should go after those she can. 

Kammani is a healer. Would you consider yourself calm in situations calling for medical attention or are you squeamish? (possible follow-up - What’s the worst injury you’ve had to treat or endure?)

I’m a mom to three sons, so if I were squeamish, I don’t think I could perform this role very well. Haha! I’ve done everything from catch vomit in my shirt so it didn’t get on the carpet to rock feverish babies to sleep while suffering from a fever of my own. The worst injury was when my son was four. He fell against a metal staircase at a playground and broke his nose, blacked both of his eyes, and got a concussion. He screamed in pain and I had to stay calm, assess his injuries, and after a long visit in the ER, stay up with him all night to make sure he didn’t vomit in his sleep and choke to death. I think being a mom helps me put compassion into Kammani’s heart, because I’ve literally been there, staring at someone who is ill, trying to come up with a good way to treat them even though I’m exhausted.

Gravemaidens centers on sacrifice and what we do to protect the ones we love. Kammani fears losing her sister and letting down her family. Do you have any fears? I know you’re brave enough to live next to a body of water with alligators in it (shudder)!

Haha! Yes. The reptiles in Florida are a constant source of fear for me, although to be fair, the gators really are terrified of people and tend to stay away. We just don’t go out near the lake around dawn and dusk, which is when they tend to be slightly more active. I did once have a snake crawl up my drain and over my foot when I was in the shower (Florida is an absolute trip), and I basically teleported into my bedroom in terror, conditioner dripping into my eyes while my husband got it out of there. SO snakes, sinkholes, and hurricanes tend to freak me out. (YAY, Florida).

From working together, I know you’re a Type A personality who outlines your stories and is super organized! I’m betting your workspace is always tidy, am I right? Is there one unexpected or necessary thing you like to have in your space as you work? What do you do when you want to take a ten-minute break?

VERY common misconception! I’m absolutely organized with my work, but my desk is a nightmare. My husband shudders when he walks by my office and closes the door. I’m a tornado with physical things, kinda like a nutty professor. My work will be organized to the last line, but I scratch out ideas on slips of paper and napkins, and cannot organize my workspace to save my life. Once in a while, I get a cleaning bug and will organize everything on my desk, but within a couple weeks, it’s back to its natural disastrous state.

Oooh! And I always take about a twenty-thirty minute lunch (Woooooo, indulgent, I know). But I like to read a book while I’m eating and get lost in another world while my brain resets before I have to go back to work. 

For fun, where in the world would you like to travel? If you could visit inside one book apart from your own, which would it be?

I’d love to visit Croatia and Scotland, places I know that I have some familial history. My great-grandmother Theresa Kovacevic was born in Croatia and my great-grandfather Duncan Caslmon was born in Scotland, and I’d love to see where they both grew up.
As far as books go, I’d love to dive into Wakanda to see what I could learn, Middle Earth to learn how to use a bow, and would have to show up to Hogwart’s and get myself officially sorted. I’m sure I’m a Ravenclaw, but there’s enough Gryffindor in me that makes me wonder where I’d end up. =)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kelly and Kari. You can find them at:

Links for Kelly:

Links for Kari:
Twitter: @KariSutherland
Bradford Literary Agency site: http://bradfordlit.com/
Query me here: https://querymanager.com/query/Kari_Sutherland_Query_Form

Kelly generously is offering a signed hardback of GRAVEMAIDENS and Kari is offering a query critique 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 December 21st.  If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book and query critique giveaways are International.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, December 4th I have a guest post with debut author Kelly Coon and her agent Kari Sutherland and a giveaway of Kelly's YA fantasy GRAVEMAIDENS and a query critique giveaway by Kari

Monday, December 9th I have an interview with debut author Kim Long and a giveaway of her MG contemporary LEXI MAGILL AND THE TELEPORTATION TOURNAMENT

Saturday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 8th I'll be back with an interview with debut author Isabel Ibañez and a giveaway of her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT and my IWSG post

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday! If I don't see you until January, have a Happy Holiday!