CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests



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

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!

ANNIE SULLIVAN INTERVIEW AND TIGER QUEEN GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! I’m excited to have Annie Sullivan here to share about her new YA fantasy TIGER QUEEN. It’s set somewhere we don’t really see in fantasies that much—the desert—and sounds like a real page turner. I also interviewed Annie when she was a debut author last year and A TOUCH OF GOLD released. I’m excited to learn what it’s like to transition that first year of being an author.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

Hi Annie! Thanks so much for visiting again!


1. For people who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’m the author of fantasy and fairytale retelling young adult novels. I love writing about strong female protagonists and characters who deserve their own story. I’ve been writing little stories since I was a kid, but I didn’t seriously start considering becoming a writer until college. I loved the creative writing classes I took, and from there, the rest is history.

2. TIGER QUEEN is a retelling of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” What made you decide to retell this story?

I read this short story in middle school, and the infamous cliffhanger ending always made me wonder what the true ending to the story might be. From there, I knew I had to retell this story and give it the ending that it always should have had. But in my version, I focus on a warrior princess who fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule, but when her last opponent is announced as the one man she’s never been able to beat in fight, she has to scramble to keep her throne. But if she’s not careful, she’ll end up facing a tiger in the arena instead of her next opponent.

3. Your story is set in the desert. I’ve read that you did a really good job grounding your story in your setting. What research did you do in creating your world? Was there anything about it that surprised you as you created it?

Surprisingly, I wrote most of Tiger Queen while I was in Antarctica, which is actually one of the largest deserts because of how dry it is. So I turned the stretches of endless white and the spiraling snow into endless sand dunes and stinging sand blowing. But I also did a lot of research into desert creatures and desert characteristics so the desert felt real despite being a fantastical setting. Finally, I did work with a sensitivity reader just to be sure I wasn’t portraying any harmful stereotypes of desert cultures.

4. That's so funny that you wrote this in Antarctica. Kateri sounds like a strong protagonist determined to do what she has to for herself and her people. What was her character development like for you?

Kateri is one of the hardest characters I’ve ever written because she is so strong and stubborn. Her character arc really became one of showing that she could still keep her strength while opening up to people and asking for help. So I really enjoyed going on that journey with her, and I can’t wait for others to see how she grows through the story.

5. When did you write this story in relation to the release of A TOUCH OF GOLD? Was it challenging writing this on more of a deadline and while you at least had marketing to do for your first book?

I already had a draft of Tiger Queen written before A Touch of Gold ever came out. But I was revising while waiting for A Touch of Gold to release, and it’s hard to really put all your marketing on hold as you enter a whole new world and try to make it as perfect as you can. Plus, I was writing the sequel to A Touch of Gold in there too. So you really have to learn how to manage deadlines while still giving yourself time to have a life.

6. That would be challenging. Was the process of working with your editor the same or different for your second book than your debut book? Why?

I had a new editor for Tiger Queen, but I loved working with her. I think every editor brings something different to the table, and I took what I learned from my first editor and what my new editor taught me and combined them to create the best story I possibly could. So in the end, I think the book turned out even stronger because of that.

7. Looking back on your debut year, what are things that you think worked and didn’t work in terms of building your social media platform and marketing your book? What advice do you have to debut authors?

My best advice is to be where your readers are, so I try to reach people where they’re primed to be
thinking about books. And a lot of my readers are on Facebook and Instagram, so that’s where I focus my time, content, and ads on hashtags like #bookstagram and book groups on Facebook. I’ve tried sitting in local bookstores hoping I’ll sell books, but that doesn’t always work if the crowd just isn’t coming in that day.

My advice for debut authors is to build up your following by giving away books that are similar to yours. Build up a fan base of people who like similar things to your style and genre. Have entrants follow you and tag a friend or two to be entered—and hopefully those friends will come follow you too. Also, form a street team. Get them to start posting for you and helping spread the word because you can’t do it all yourself no matter how hard you try.

8. That's great advice. TIGER QUEEN released September 10, 2019. What have you been doing to promote it and what made you decide to this marketing plan?

I’ve been doing a lot of ads on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve always heard it takes someone seeing your book cover seven to eight times before they stop and take notice. So you really need them to see it over and over again, which you can do with targeted ads. My publisher also sent me on a tour this year, so it helps to get the word out that way as well. Otherwise, I’ve just been shouting from the rooftops about my book because you never know who might see it when you post about it.

9. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing up the sequel to A Touch of Gold called A CURSE OF GOLD. It’s full of even more mythology and heart-pounding action! I can’t wait for readers to dive in when it releases in 2020. Plus, I’m working on a few new things, so stay tuned!

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


Annie has generously offered a hardback of TIGER QUEEN 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 November 30th. 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 International to wherever Book Depository ships for free.

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

Hope to see you on Wednesday, December 4th. Happy Thanksgiving!

GRATITUDE GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy Thursday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Gratitude Giveway Hop hosted by by BookHounds. I am so grateful to Mary at BookHounds for continuing to host these giveaways because I know they take time for her organize. And I'm grateful to all of my followers because I would not enjoy my blog without your support. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, read my posts, and comment.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA books and recent books by followers 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 November 30th. 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, November 18th I have an interview with author Annie Sullivan and a giveaway of her YA fantasy TIGER QUEEN

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 and my IWSG post

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

Hope to see you on Monday!

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




KIMBERLY GABRIEL INTERVIEW AND EVERY STOLEN BREATH GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Kimberly Gabriel here to share about her YA thriller EVERY STOLEN BREATH. It sounds like a real page turner, and I can’t wait to read it. Not sure if any of you remember Kimberly. She used to have a blog and was a part of this group.




IWSG POST AND FOLLOWER NEWS

Before I get to Kimberly's post, 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 Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!


I'm going to skip the optional question. I don't have much to report writing-wise because I've been
taking care of necessary things like figuring out my mom's and my health insurance for next year. I'm almost done with all my business and then I can thankfully focus on writing.

Instead, I'm going to shout out about C. Lee McKenzie's new contemporary YA NOT GUILTY that just released. I was lucky to read an ARC and really enjoyed it. Devon is a compelling character that my heart was with from page 1 of the story. This is a real page turner, and I found Devon's time in the Juvenile Hall realistic and riveting. The characters and mystery make this story fantastic. It was a real fast read for me, which doesn't always happen for me these  days. I highly recommend it. Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

A blood-smeared knife. One young man’s word against another. A lifetime dream crushed.

The evidence points to Devon Carlyle. He was there when it happened. Everyone knows he had it in for Renzo Costa. And Costa says Devon was the one. In the judge’s rap of a gavel Devon’s found guilty of assault. The star of the Oceanside High’s basketball team loses his shot at the one thing he’s worked so hard for—the championship game where college scouts could see how good he is.

Now he makes his great shots in Juvenile Hall with kids far different from those that have always been in his life.
Angry? Hell, yes.

He’s bent on finding who did the crime. He’s bent on making them pay because he’s Not Guilty.

And here are some links:

Now onto Kimberly's interview. Can't wait to read her book!!!

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

Lia is the only one still pursuing her father’s killers, two years after attorney Steven Finch’s murder by the Swarm. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, Lia is the last person to mount a crusade on her own.

After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target.

Hi Kimberly! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you so much for having me, Natalie. I’ve been a fan of Literary Rambles for over a decade, and I’m so thrilled to be here with you today!

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of it is from fourth grade, when I decided to make a mini-anthology of poems I’d written to give as a holiday gift to everyone I knew. I vividly remember spreading out sheets of poetry on the floor of my mom’s bedroom and binding them together with those sliding bar report covers that were really big in the eighties. Titled It’s Nice to Be Free, my bound “books” featured a poem about vampire babies and included the kind of laughable poetry only my mom could be proud of. But it sparked my dream to be a writer and publish a book one day. I didn’t take my writing seriously though until decades later. In 2010, I queried my first book, a 100,000 word YA paranormal with eight characters and eight (yes, eight) POVs. I made all the “first-book mistakes” writing it. When I queried it, however, it got some attention from agents—enough that I decided to write a second manuscript, which became EVERY STOLEN BREATH. 

2. My first book with all those first-book mistakes actually made it to acquisitions at a major publisher years ago. Then I realized it needed major revisions. Where did you get the idea for EVERY STOLEN BREATH?

I’ve always been drawn to sad books—the harder I cried, the more I enjoyed what I was reading. But then after experiencing my own trauma, I suddenly couldn’t handle sad books or even sad news stories, and I became drawn to thrillers and any story packed with tension. Then in 2011, a series of “flash-mob” attacks broke out in proclaimed safe areas of Chicago very close to where I lived. I remember reading stories where dozens of teenagers would suddenly emerge from the crowd and descend on one tourist to mug and attack. The stories terrified me so much that I eventually took that concept, made it worse, added elements of mystery and romance to it, and turned it into the basis of EVERY STOLEN BREATH.

3. My reading tastes changed too after I experienced a major trauma. Your book has been described as a real page turn with lots of plot twists. How did you plot out your story? What advice do you have for other writers on how to create such a good plot-driven story?

When I started EVERY STOLEN BREATH, I was still writing for me. I drafted the first half of it as a pantser with no idea where the story was going. Then when I hit the middle, my vision became very clear, and I plotted the rest of the book. For the longest time, I thought this was definitely the “wrong” way to write a book until I recently sat on a panel with Scott Westerfeld, a writer I’ve admired for years. After writing 28 books, he said he still writes this way. For my second book, I had to put together a proposal, which included a twenty-page synopsis. I’ve found that outline helps me stay on track for deadlines, but I find myself straying from it all the time.  

4. I hope I can get more into outlining like you. EVERY STOLEN BREATH is based in part on the mob violence in Chicago in 2011. How did you balance the truth of this event with creating your own story? Did you have to do research on the event?

The real attacks from 2011 had about twenty participants. Using texting and social media to communicate, the assailants would emerge from the crowd and descend upon a single victim to beat and mug. Those attacks were scary enough, but they really only sparked the idea in my story. From there, I started asking what if questions. What if the attacks were even bigger (50-100)? What if they became an epidemic? What if these attacks were organized and premeditated? For research, I read about attacks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and wove in facts from those attacks into my writing.

5. It also sounds like Lia and the other characters in your story are really ones that pull at readers’ hearts. Share about Lia and how she developed as a character for you.

It took me a long time to figure out who Lia was and find her voice. My first drafts tend to focus on
the action of each scene. Then I flesh out voice and characterization during the revision process. For Lia, it took several stages of revisions before she really started to come alive on the page, but now she’s such a defined character in my head. Because of the physical violence in the book, I wanted a character who was mentally strong. Being a teacher, I see all types of strength, and very often, I see strength in my students who have struggles and push through them daily. Lia has asthma, anxiety, and PTSD, which she perceives are weaknesses. But her strength lies in her determination and her ability to persevere despite her challenges.

6. Jenny Herrera is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I found Jenny through querying. She set up a call after starting my manuscript, and I knew during that first phone conversation that she was the agent I wanted to work with. I ended up getting multiple offers, but Jenny’s vision for my manuscript and my career aligned so well with mine. Once I accepted representation from Jenny, she had me revise—she has a fantastic editorial eye. Then we went on sub a few months later. Luckily, Blink showed interest pretty early on in that process.

7. Good to know querying works. Besides being an author, you are a teacher, wife, and mother. I know you may have your summers off, but you still must have to work on your author career during the school year. How do you juggle it all and what advice do you have for others who work and want to get published?

I’ve become very good at compartmentalizing and staying present in the moment. I wake up every morning between 4 and 4:30, and I write for two hours. During that time, I try to stay focused on writing, and I try not to think about teaching or worry about my kids. Then, when I head to work for the day, I don’t think about writing. I stay focused on teaching. When I’m with my kids and husband in the evening, I stay present with them. That time, of course, is most important. Being a successful a writer, teacher, or mom, takes time and hard work, and I’m not willing to neglect any one of those three parts of my life. Luckily, I’m become very good at getting a lot done in a short amount of time. If I had any advice, it would be to make sure you’re still enjoying life. Hard work is only worth it in the end if you’re able to find joy and balance in what you’re doing.

8. That's great advice on how to stay productive. From your website, I see that you have already started going to events to promote your book. How did you get invited to the ALA Conference and the other events you have scheduled this fall?

My publisher set up my signing at ALA. I just spent back to back weekends at Heartland Fall Forum and Anderson’s YA Literature Conference and YA Fandom Frenzy. Later in November, I’ll be at the Alan Conference as part of NCTE. My publisher has been really great about sending me to conferences, and I’ve loved the opportunity to be a part of them.

9. How else are you planning to market your book?

In addition to conferences and festivals, I’ll be at book store events near Chicago, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore in November and December. I’ll be giving a few school presentations throughout the year. I also remain active on Twitter and Instagram.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently juggling two projects. One of them is a new thriller that begins with a dead girl, a gamer, and a bus stop bench. And from there it spirals out of control with secrets, revenge, social media, regret, denial, and, of course, murder. Set in Chicago, this one has a slight paranormal twist to it, which I’m excited about.

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyGabrielAuthor/

Kimberly is generously offering a hardback of EVERY STOLEN BREATH 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 November 23rd. 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 International to wherever Book Depository ships for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Thursday, November 14th I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 18th I have an interview with author Annie Sullivan and a giveaway of her YA fantasy TIGER QUEEN

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

Hope to see you on Thursday!