Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE MIRACULOUS through July 20th
RES-Q TYLER STOP through July 20th
Connor Eck Query Critique through July 27th

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

Melissa Richeson Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 8/26/19

Marlo Berliner Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 9/18/19

Danielle Burby/Rosary Munda Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 10/2/19

Stacy Glick/Jennifer Camicca Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 10/14/19


Happy Sunday Everyone! Are you having a good summer? This is one of my best since my husband died five years ago. I'm at an annual theater group retreat much of this week with my boyfriend, have lots of birthdays, including mine tomorrow, and a few long-weekend trips to see family. Plus I am getting more bits of time to work on my manuscript. And I'm reading a ton. I just finished SORCERY OF THRONES by Margaret Rogerson. It was so good!

Today I'm excited to participate in the Christmas in July 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.

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 July 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 (FYI I'm starting my summer slow down to spend time planning next year's schedule):

Monday, July 29 I have an interview with debut author Margaret Owen and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE MERCIFUL CROW

Wednesday, August 7th I have an interview with debut author Gabrielle Kirouac Byrn and a giveaway of her MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON

Friday, August 9th I'm doing a monthly newly released MG and YA giveaway if there is no giveaway hop in August

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Monday, July 29th!

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


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Connor Eck here. He is a literary agent at Lucinda Literary.

Hi Connor! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Connor:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.
I started my career in journalism and film then found my niche in publishing at Lucinda Literary, where great mentorship and learning experiences propelled me into an agenting role in 2017. I’ve since had the opportunity to build an eclectic list. It’s been extremely rewarding editing and selling books across different genres and formats—from children’s to adult to poetry and more. I like to keep my palate guessing! 
About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.
We’re really unique in what we offer authors. We coin ourselves as a hybrid in that we do a lot more than provide representation. We have a speakers bureau and add a wealth of marketing experience along with personalized author care. Not only are we very hands-on editorially, we like to be friendly and transparent with our clients, which can pleasantly surprise a lot of people. 
What He’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?
I represent all children’s genres. More picture books, MG, YA, and illustrators, please! I don’t go for high-concept fantasy stories that overpower character development. I mostly look for contemporary or magical realism. For picture books, the sillier the better, or heartfelt stories that tap into some universal nerve. For all books, I look for that commercial hook. I’ll also ask, “What moral value does this bring?” or “What new, fresh idea does this present?”. 
4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?
You don’t know until it’s in front of you!
What He Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?
Anything that might not be ready for agency submission. Too often writers query manuscripts before they’ve been properly (and thoroughly!) revised many times over. Also, poor grammar from the outset is never fun to see. Good writing starts at grammar. 
Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?
Take on good people whose work moves me powerfully. Work incredibly hard, make people’s dreams come true, build lasting relationships. And don’t forget to enjoy the process. (That was long-winded for a mantra—I do apologize!). 
Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?
Indeed. I’ll begin by providing broad-strokes feedback then narrow into line editing as we approach submission. 
Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?
Query me by email ( Include a brief query letter; 250 words is ideal, and copy and paste the first 25 pages below your signature. Thank you, kindly!
9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you? 
Long-winded letters feel daunting. Charmin Ultra, less is more. Grammar mistakes in the first pages hurt my soul. It’s a very sensitive soul. 
Response Time:
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
It’s impossible to respond to every query! I’ll try my best to respond to requests for pages in timely fashion but sometimes, depending on the time of year and volume of projects I’m working on, it might take longer than I intend. 

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
Yes, though typically only in adult nonfiction. 
12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
I think there’s more opportunity to find authors nowadays with so many writers self-publishing and using mediums like Medium (ha!), Wattpad, podcast forums, and the like. For scouting, these avenues are great. I don’t see them negatively affecting an agent’s role, because people still yearn to be published with major houses—that’s where the money, prestige, and enduring career live. Agents are the avenues that make this happen. 
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?
Why thank you for asking. I guess it would make most sense to mention the ones whose books are forthcoming… Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl, the greatest WWE midget wrestler of all time, has a memoir publishing in September, LIFE IS SHORT & SO AM I, about his improbable journey to stardom. Karla Clark’s picture book, YOU BE MOMMY, publishing with Feiwel & Friends in March, is an adorable role reversal story where a tuckered out mother is too tired to be mommy at bedtime so she asks her daughter to be mommy and tuck her in, kiss her chin, and so forth. It’s a tender rhyming story, if you can’t already tell! And then there’s Emily Dalton, a talented young writer living in Brooklyn. BE STRAIGHT WITH ME, written in verse, documents how she and her male gay best friend unexpectedly fell in love in college. You can find this on the shelves next spring. 
Interviews and Guest Posts:
14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and other links, such as to Manuscript Wish List, you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.
Links and Contact Info:
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.
Email me (connor@lucindaliterary) and be sure to follow our submission guidelines:
Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?
Common convention tells writers to read and write a lot to become better writers. I believe you need to do more than that. If you don’t know what to look for or what mistakes you’re making, how can you improve? You need to deeply study the mechanics of writing—grammar, syntax, structure, character development, poetics, simplicity, pacing, I could go on… This can be done by devouring on-writing and on-editing books, getting your own work edited or your hands on professionally edited manuscripts, taking classes, engaging a writing coach, etc. 
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Connor.

Connor is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through July 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.
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. This is an international giveaway.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at
Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut middle grade author June McCrary Jacobs here to share about her MG historical adventure RES-Q TYLER STOP. She's also a long-time follower and posts with the MMGM bloggers on Mondays. I love the setting she chose—1968, and it sounds like a heart-warming story that kids who love animals will be drawn to.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

It's the summer of 1968 in Sonoma County, California, and eleven-year-old Weston Gregg and his nine-year-old sister, Wendy, are looking for fun things to do during their summer break from school. When they discover some abandoned rabbits, they hatch an idea to make a positive difference for animals and people in their small town of Tyler Stop. 

They decide to form 'Rescue Each Species-Quickly', or RES-Q Tyler Stop.

There are challenges to face as they move forward into their new venture, including standing up to someone who is targeting Weston's friends for being different and a painfully bad decision.

Will Weston have to handle these issues on his own or will he learn to accept the advice and wisdom shared by some important people in his life? Join Weston and his family and friends as they share some adventures and learn and grow together in RES-Q Tyler Stop.

Hi June! Thanks so much for joining us.

I'm glad to be your guest on Literary Rambles, Natalie. Thank you for this opportunity to share with your readers.

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

I have always enjoyed writing. I remember in junior high, high school, and college I was thrilled when the teacher/professor would assign an essay or announce that part of an exam would be in essay form. Other students would moan, but I loved the writing process and was pleased to have an opportunity to prove my subject knowledge through essay writing rather than simply multiple choice or true/false questions.

I was a classroom teacher for twenty-one years. I was privileged to teach Kindergarten through fourth grade students during that time, but I spent the majority of my time working with first graders.

After I stopped teaching full-time, I began submitting my original sewing designs to various magazines and book publishers. Not only did I design and make the project for publication, I was required to write a blurb, sidebars, and the stepped-out instructions for each project in accordance with the specific publication's editorial requirements.

I had an opportunity to 'audition' for a regular column in a sewing magazine published in the United
Kingdom, and I was chosen to write a quarterly column about the sewing industry, trends, designers, and anything to do with sewing that was happening over here in the United States. I wrote that column for around two years.

With some experience and confidence under my belt, I began writing fiction. I wrote Christian and inspirational romance mostly in the contemporary genre. I submitted to a lot of publishers before an inspirational historical short story was picked up for an anthology published by a very, very, very small press.

In the autumn of 2012 I saw a call for submissions online for Cedar Fort, Inc.'s 'Holiday Tale Contest'. I wrote my inspirational holiday novella, 'A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom', in a few weeks and submitted it in mid-January, 2013. I was ecstatic to when I learned Cedar Fort wanted to publish the book and that I had won the contest. One of my prizes was publication of the book by this traditional, small press publisher. The book was released in October, 2013.

After promoting this novella, I worked on my first full-length novel, 'Robin's Reward', a contemporary Christian romance set in the Coastal Mountains of Mendocino County in Northern California. I submitted this manuscript to publishers and agents without success and decided to self-publish the novel in April, 2015. I released my historical inspirational romance short story, 'Handmade Hearts', in December, 2018. 'RES-Q Tyler Stop' followed in April, 2019. Both of these projects were self-published. 

2. That's great that you can write for different age groups and in different genres. Where did you get the idea for RES-Q TYLER STOP?

Believe it or not, the story idea came to me when I saw a bumper sticker in traffic several years ago. The sticker had a large black dog print on it with a motto, 'Who rescued who?' I began thinking about how we, as humans, think we are rescuing animals when we adopt or foster them.  The more I thought about it the more I grew to interpret the motto to mean animals rescue humans from their issues of loneliness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other maladies.

So I began writing a contemporary family-style story about two siblings who want to open an animal rescue in their small rural town in Northern California. The story changed genres two or three times and morphed from the family-style story to a contemporary romance to a historical romance into what it was intended to be all along—a middle-grade novel. I decided to set it in 1968 because it was a time period I completely understood and could relate to because I grew up in Northern California during that time.

By the way, a few weeks ago I saw two more bumper stickers relating to this subject. Both had the dog print motif. One read, 'Rescue Mom on Board'; the other read, 'I [heart] My Rescue Dog'.

3. That is such a fun story about how you got your story idea. I love the historical time period that you picked because I remember it. Your story also shares information about the Pomo Indians. Did you have to do any research to be certain that your story was historically accurate or rely on your own experiences? What advice do you have for other writers who want to write historical fiction?

This is an excellent question, Natalie. I minored in history in college, so I enjoy researching anything historical—especially California history. I am committed to sharing only well-researched facts in my work to present issues in an accurate, authentic, and culturally-sensitive manner. Therefore, I did a lot of research about the Pomo Nation in California. There is a full print bibliography and online resource bibliography in my book so readers can read the facts for themselves.

I have had the pleasure of viewing many exhibits featuring the Pomo culture and Pomo basketry in various museums over the past few decades. The Grace Hudson Museum, the Haggin Museum, and the Mendocino County Museum are three of the institutions which house and display these beautiful baskets. When I was working on the section of my book where the school bully, Terry, is criticizing some of his classmates who are Pomo descent, I decided I wanted to include some of this nation's rich history in my manuscript.

I went to the county library's online catalog and checked out several books about the Pomo people and Artist Grace Carpenter Hudson. I read the books and took copious notes, and then I went online to learn more. When I felt properly educated in this history, then I began writing that section of the book.

My advice to writers of historical fiction is to take the time to verify facts and investigate your time period and events especially if you are writing for children. Your historical novel may end up being a 'teachable moment' for young readers. If you have double-checked your facts, you can feel confident that you are publishing good content for your target age group.

4. You are a former educator focusing on literacy for kindergarten through third grade. Did that influence how you wrote your story? If so, how?

I was the literacy mentor at our site for a three-year period. I was able to attend high-level training by experts in the field of early literacy so I could work with students, new teachers, and parents on how best to meet the needs of their students in the areas of literacy and language arts.

Through this advanced training I learned a lot about how young readers interpret what they read, what holds their interest, and how they process information. I believe all of this knowledge helped me when I sat down to write my middle-grade novel. Working with children for so many years and being a child in 1968 in Northern California allowed me to feel confident about the dialogue and speech patterns for that time period.

5. I'm sure your work experience did really help to understand how to write or middle graders. What was a challenge you had in writing RES-Q TYLER STOP? What did you learn from this experience?

Keeping the pace of the story moving at a good clip was a challenge since it was my first children's book. Also, writing the bullying section was difficult for me because I do not have any experience being a bully myself. Writing 'mean' dialogue was a challenge, but at the same time it was interesting to figure out how someone with a bully-mentality would act and speak.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was to write about racism with respect and honor for the targeted diverse group while at the same time letting readers know it is not acceptable or appropriate to treat those who are different from you in a disrespectful, hateful, biased manner.

6. You decided to self-publish your book? What led you down this path to publication? Do you have any resources that you would recommend to other writers considering self-publication?

As I mentioned previously, this is the third project which I have self-published. The reason I chose to self-publish this book and my other works is because I believe in my work. I stand by these stories, and I want to share them with readers.

I am blessed to have a top-notch editor/cover designer/formatter, Author Cindy C. Bennett, to work with on my projects. She is a successful self-published YA author in her own right, and she has been my self-publishing mentor. As she is editing, she notes questions she has about the story or asks if I have verified some historical fact or event I have included in the manuscript. This keeps me on my toes as a writer.

One of the things I enjoy most about the self-publishing process is sending my cover designer my ideas for how I want the cover to look including images, fonts, placement of text, etc. It's exciting to see the cover develop as we send ideas back and forth. Then when the cover is right, I get a special feeling and send a message back to the designer with, 'This is it!' in the subject line.

TIPS for authors considering self-publishing:

-- Always hire a professional editor to help you polish your work. It is worth the cost to have a book you are proud to present to the public;

-- Set up an Author Facebook page and keep it up-to-date;

-- Set up a blog so you can post content there and begin building your subscriber list. I use 'Blogger' through Google. There are many other free platforms available to authors;

-- Take advantage of Amazon's free Author Central page and Goodreads's free Author Page and Author Blog. Connect your blog to all of these sites so your blog posts automatically feed to these three platforms. Keep your Amazon and Goodreads author pages up-to-date;

-- Join Facebook Groups which are in-sync with your genre and writing style. I belong to several Christian author, Christian/clean romance, indie author, and children's author groups. I enjoy interacting with group members there because I learn a lot from people with more experience than I have, and I also have the opportunity to share a little of what I have learned with others;

-- Read these magazines:  Publisher's Weekly, The Writer, and Writer's Digest. You will learn about industry trends, upcoming releases, information from successful authors, and lots of other information you never thought you would need to know;

-- Get quotes from editors and publicity companies so you can begin to work on a budget. You will definitely need to include the cost of promotions, promotional copies, and postage to mail out the promotional copies. {Use USPS Media Mail to send out your promotional books to giveaway winners and/or reviewers. You get tracking for a reasonable price compared to the cost of Priority Mail.} Make a budget and try to stick with it; and

-- You may become downhearted when you read about other author's successes with literary agents and publishers, but be proud of your work and enjoy your writing journey. Never give up!

7. Those are great tips. You are also the author of two adult inspirational romances, ROBIN’S REWARD and HANDMADE HEARTS and a holiday novella, A HOLIDAY MIRACLE IN APPLE BLOSSOM. How has publication of these books influenced what you are doing to promote your new book?

For my first two books I spent hours and hours and hours sending out email messages to bloggers to try to find people to read, review, and post about my books. It was a time-consuming and frustrating experience.

For 'Handmade Hearts' and 'RES-Q Tyler Stop' I hired JustRead Publicity Tours to work on creating and organizing a blog blitz and blog tour, respectively, for me. They did the sign-ups, all of the communication with the bloggers, made the graphics, set up the schedule, publicized it on all of their platforms, ran the giveaways, and generally did a fabulous job of getting the word out about my books. You can get a free price quote from them if you visit their website and submit the Campaign Proposal form.

Having experts handle this important facet of a book release for me allowed me to enjoy my promotions and be a relaxed author instead of a worn out, exasperated author. Easy-peasy.

8. That's a great idea to hire a company to set up and organize your blog tour. What are you working on now?

I am working on the second book in the Tyler Stop series with Weston and Wendy in Tyler Stop, Sonoma County, California.

The book picks up where RES-Q Tyler Stop left off, but includes new characters and new adventures and of course, new challenges and opportunities for personal growth for everyone.

I also have several other projects in various stages of completion including some contemporary and historical inspirational romances and some short stories for middle-graders. For now, my focus is book two for Tyler Stop.

This was fun, Natalie! Thanks for hosting me on Literary Rambles today.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, June. You can find June at:

'Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic' Author's Blog: 
Author's Facebook Page: 

June is generously offering a paperback and e-book of RES-Q TYLER STOP 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 July 20th. 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, 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 giveaway is U.S. and  e-book is International. 

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

Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm starting my summer slow down to spend time planning next year's schedule):

Wednesday, July 10 I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Connor Eck

Sunday, July 14 I'm participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 29 I have an interview with debut author Margaret Owen and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE MERCIFUL CROW

Wednesday, August 7th I have an interview with debut author Gabrielle Kirouac Byrn and a giveaway of her MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON

Friday, August 9th I'm doing a monthly newly released MG and YA giveaway if there is no giveaway hop in August

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I have debut author Jess Redman here to share about her MG contemporary/fantasy THE MIRACULOUS. It sounds like a heart-warming story about loss, hope, and friendship. With my own issues of loss, I’m really looking forward to reading it.


This week's news is not about a book but about a podcast by long-time follower Robert Kent. Here's a little blurb about it: 
Rob Kent has expanded his popular site, Middle Grade Ninja, to include an excellent podcast featuring 1-2 hour interviews with authors and publishing professionals, including various literary agents, editors, and more. The Middle Grade Ninja Podcast is available for free on YouTube, SoundcloudStitcherSpotifyitunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.


Before we get to Jess' 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:  I'm excited to be a co-host with  Erika Beebe,  Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

I'm going to skip the question this month and just share about my progress. I've been consistently writing at least on the weekends for awhile now and have five new solid chapters done. I'm about 1/3 of the way done with my manuscript. Still a lot to go, but it feels good to be making progress. And I'm enjoying the process. I also started reading a book on the craft of writing and went to my SCBWI monthly shop talk.

What about you? How's your writing going?

Jess Redman's Interview

Here’s a blurb of THE MIRACULOUS from Goodreads:

In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman's stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis collects miracles. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can't exist. So 
Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.

Then he meets Faye―a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing―and to miracles.

The Miraculous is Jess Redman's sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

Hi Jess! Thanks so much for joining us.
Hi, Natalie! Thank you so much for having me on Literary Rambles. I’m a long-time reader!

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

I am a lifelong book nerd. I’m also a licensed mental health counselor and mother to two young children. I’ve worked with kids in the foster care system, in community mental health centers, and in private practice with girls and young women.

As far as my writing journey, I always knew that I would become a writer someday. When I was a kid, I wrote and read constantly. I had dozens of journals filled with character backstories and outlines and stories, and I dreamed of getting a Newbery Award by the end of middle school (spoiler alert: I did not).

But in college, I didn’t take a single creative writing class.

I’d become much more critical of my writing, to the point that there were long periods where I didn’t write anything, and the idea of sharing my work with a class (or anyone) was terrifying. In spite of this, I still thought I’d become a writer someday.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I started to feel that someday was now, and that I needed to take some chances and push myself. I finished my first middle-grade manuscript during that pregnancy and then starting doing what I had been avoiding for all those years—sharing my work and getting feedback.

2. I didn't even know I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. So I never took a writing course in college either. Where did you get the idea for THE MIRACULOUS?

The idea for THE MIRACULOUS came to me while I was pregnant with my second child. It was a pregnancy that was difficult at times, with medical complications for both of us. I was thinking a lot about fear and loss and asking myself those Big Questions that often come up when life gets dark and uncertain.

I remember when I first started asking those questions as a child, after several smaller life losses. This story blossomed out of my answers to myself, then and now, answers rooted in my belief in the powers of love and memory and imagination and community.

3. It sounds like Wunder and the other characters in your story really tug at the reader’s heart and appear like they’re real people. What is your process of developing your characters so that they are so memorable? What tips do you have for the rest of us?

Truthfully, I am not an organized writer. I don’t do much of pre-writing, I don’t have a method. But I
do spend A LOT of time thinking about my stories and my characters. I think about them while I get ready in the morning, while I drive, as I’m falling asleep. I talk with them. I narrate my activities in their voices. Whenever I’m bored and I feel the urge to fiddle around on my phone, I think about my story.

This is partially because there’s plenty of time where I can be thinking, but not much time to write. When I get that time, I need to be writing the actual story! But it’s also the way that seems to work best for me. I depend a lot on my characters to lead the action, so I have to get to know them pretty well.

I think being a therapist has also helped me in developing my characters. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of many clients’ stories at a heart level, and I’ve learned so much from that.

4. You just made me feel so much less guilty that I don't pre-write either, but think about my characters and book during everyday life. Your book tackles the issue of dealing with grief in a realistic but non-preachy fashion. It sounds like it’s really weaved naturally into your story. Did you struggle with this at all or did it come naturally to you?

I do think being a therapist, a profession steeped in the losses and pains of others, has helped me understand and relay the emotions of the characters. I mean…hopefully! However, I did write and re-write and re-re-write many sections of the story to find that balance, to send the messages I wanted to send, and to try to make sure that I wasn’t unintentionally sending messages that I didn’t want to send.

5. What was one of the bigger challenges you had in writing THE MIRACULOUS? How did you overcome it?

THE MIRACULOUS is a story that truly comes from my heart, and I think when you write from your heart, you always end up doing some emotional work of you own. Writing about the death of Wunder’s sister and the Ellis family’s grief was very difficult at times, but this is the story that came to me and the story that I wanted to tell.

6.  It would be hard to do the emotional work involved in writing a story about grief for me too, especially since I've had so much of it in my life already. From your bio, I learned that besides being a writer, you are a therapist and adjunct professor. You also are married with two children. How do you find time to write and stay productive? What advice do you have for other writers who work and are trying to balance their writing with their other career and family obligations?

This has been a real challenge for me. It often feels like I don’t have enough time and energy to do everything well. After I sold THE MIRACULOUS, I did begin to step down from several work obligations, and I was lucky enough to be in a career that allows me that flexibility.

Something I do that seems to work is scheduling my writing time and getting right to work when that time comes. I can usually get one full workday a week and then nights after my kids are asleep. It means that during this chapter of my life, I have little to no “free time”—but it’s worth it!

7. Your agent is Sara Crowe. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Here is a secret that I will tell here on Literary Rambles because I scoured this website endlessly while I was on my agent search:

Sara Crowe was actually the first agent to ever reject me.

It’s true! She was at the top of my agent list when I started querying. I sent out a batch of 20 queries and an hour later, I had my first ever rejection. I don’t remember if I cried, but odds are good that I did.

But here is the thing about writing: there is no time limit on becoming a writer. There are really very few limits at all, except time and ideas. You can keep writing and writing and writing and querying and querying and querying indefinitely.

When I signed with Sara, it was for a story that I had fully re-written and queried three times. That third revision brought me multiple offers of representation.

And then you know what happened? That story that so many agents had wanted did not sell (although it came close, and I have high hopes for it in the future).

While that manuscript was struggling through submission, I wrote THE MIRACULOUS, a story from my heart that has made my dreams come true.

This, I think, is how writing goes. Sometimes the story you have is for Now. Sometimes it’s for Tomorrow. You just have to keep writing and rallying and trusting yourself and trying.

8. That's so great that you didn't give up on Sara after her first rejection. How are you planning to market your book?

Figuring out marketing/promotion has taken a tremendous amount of time, but luckily, a lot of it has been great fun!

Recently, I launched a pre-order campaign, which readers can find out about at Every pre-order or library request gets a sticker, bookmark, and exclusive art card, and there are lots of additional prizes to win.

I developed an extensive Teaching Guide with writing prompts, research prompts, and hands-on actitivites, which can be downloaded here:

I also created a book trailer, which can be viewed here:

I’m fairly active on Twitter, where I do giveaways, support fellow authors, and participate in chats, and I’ll be attending some conferences, like the Decatur Book Festival, doing school visits and library events around Florida, and having a book launch event at The Book Cellar on August 3, 2019 at 4 pm.

 9. Sounds like you have a balanced plan that is actually manageable. Share a piece of advice to debut authors who just signed their book contract about creating their social platform and getting ready for their book’s release.

Start small on a site you enjoy (or at least won’t hate!). I opened a Twitter account shortly after signing my contract and that’s been where I’ve focused the majority of my social media attention. I’ve been amazed at the passionate, inspiring, welcoming kidlit community that exists online. I’ve gotten to know librarians, teachers, bloggers, and, of course, other authors. I now have Instagram and a Facebook page, but I am less active on these.

10. That's great to know that you can start small and focus on one platform if that's what you're comfortable with. What are you working on now?

I am DELIGHTED to share that my second middle-grade book, QUINTESSENCE, will be coming out on July 28, 2020. QUINTESSENCE is about astronomy, alchemy, and anxiety, and I love everything about it! Here’s the synopsis:

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. And every day she feels less and less like herself. 

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:
Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.
That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls down from the sky and into her backyard. She knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home. And if a star really is stranded in Four Points, Alma knows she has to get it back up to the sky. With the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club and the mysterious ShopKeeper, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self. 
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jess. You can find Jess at where she’s posted book trailers, a teaching guide, information on the pre-order campaign and more! She’s also on Twitter and Instagram at @Jess__Red.

Amazon author page:

Jess has generously offered an ARC of THE MIRACULOUS 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 July 20th. 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, 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.

 Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm starting my summer slow down to spend time planning next year's schedule):

Monday, July 8 I have an interview with author June McCrary Jacobs and a giveaway of her MG historical RES-Q TYLER STOP

Wednesday, July 10 I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Connor Eck

Sunday, July 14 I'm participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 29 I have an interview with debut author Margaret Owen and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE MERCIFUL CROW

Wednesday, August 7th I have an interview with debut author Gabrielle Kirouac Byrn and a giveaway of her MG fantasy RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON

Monday, August 26th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Melissa Richeson

Hope to see you on Monday!