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

THE RAT PRINCE through August 20th

Last Summer Fun Giveaway through August 27th

SIGN OF THE GREEN DRAGON through September 3rd

HANNAH WEST GUEST POST AND KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIAR GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're all having a great end to summer. Can't believe I'm saying this already.

Today I'm excited to have debut author Hannah West here to share about her YA fairy tale/fantasy KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS. It sounds really good, and I'm hoping to read it.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

See what I mean about it sounding good? Now here's Hannah!
Revising and Compromising

There’s no shortage of pointers about revising out there. It is, after all, half of the process of completing a novel. However, when I finished up the first draft of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS as a 22-year-old recent college grad with naught but an English writing minor (I majored in French), I didn’t know that. I wasn’t involved in the online community of writers. I wasn’t desperately soaking up every ounce of info on the process of getting published - only the basics of submitting a manuscript to agents and publishers.

I know, recipe for success, right? But truthfully, I chose ignorance because I knew how sensitive I was. I knew the information out there would overwhelm me. I didn’t want to crunch the numbers to find out just how high the odds were stacked against me because I was afraid I would give up on a story I loved. And while that may have been the right thing for my emotions, it was not the right thing for my little draft. You see, I cleaned up the grammar and edited for errors and dusted the tiny little modest thing up before sending my ONE-HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR THOUSAND WORD MANUSCRIPT to my dream agents.

Yeah, that thing? Revising? I thought I had done that. Turns out a decade of reading and cherishing Robin McKinley and J.R.R. Tolkien can shoot you in the foot in the form of wordy wordful wordiness and seeing absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Miraculously, a few agents took interest, among them one of my top-tier dream agents. But after requesting a partial and then a full, she let me know her take on my manuscript: it had wonderful elements, but needed a lot of work and cutting. Since she didn’t offer me an R&R (revise and resubmit), I knew she didn’t mean trimming off a little fat.

And between her request and rejection, I learned just by digging around online and...idk living?...that 154k is preposterous for a debut novel. Even for fantasy. Even for high fantasy.

So straight out of the gate, I knew: there was promise in my story, but making that promise shine much brighter than its garish faults would take work. Humility. Compromise.

Most debut authors who understand a thing or two about the industry don’t have a problem with humility.
They want their manuscript to be clean when they send it off, so they apply criticism from critique partners, writing groups, beta readers, and maybe even a freelance editor. They know that even an agent or editor who falls in love with it will most likely start off a relationship by providing multiple pages of momentarily soul-crushing notes contrasted against just a few paragraphs of praise.

To insert an epic metaphor: informed writers are ready to catch the friendly-fire arrow whose point is painful revising notes, and instead of whining “you tried to hurt me,” they turn it around and use it as a weapon against the enemy: a story that needs WORK!  All that to say, they have humility in the bag.

So I want to talk about the sticky in-between. Where you’re not so desperate that you would surrender your manuscript, your soul, and your firstborn daughter. But you’re not so prideful about your amazing story that you think every painful note is simply wrong.

This is where compromise comes into play. When you’re revising based on feedback from someone you very much trust, whatever stage you’re at. You’ve taken criticisms in stride. But this note just doesn’t sit right.

Side note: my advice for receiving an email or earful of notes is to take a deep breath, take a break, and maybe even take a nap. Or a bath. Do not react on impulse. Do not immediately shoot an email back explaining (respectfully, of course) how those ideas won’t work for your story. Because they might. Let it all sink in, and let the ideas start flowing. That panicky-indignant feeling will go away and you may even start getting excited about the changes.

But sometimes it doesn’t, and you don’t.

So those notes that continue to sit wrong - what do you do with them?

Thankfully, the answer to a difficult note doesn’t have to be “yes” or “no.” Toward the end of a beautiful and smooth revision process with my editor (whose praises I will sing forever), there was a magicky element of the story that she felt needed to be cut or replaced with something else, something clearer and stronger. But when I tried to conjure up ideas to replace it, nothing else rang as true as that element. Nothing made as much sense.

This is where refusing to getting worked up over every big note pays off for a writer. Because if you say yes, yes, yes 25 times over and then you say “I don’t know,” the other person should recognize that your instincts are kicking in and that you, the creator of this story, know there’s a better solution out there.

Look for a little elbow room. When someone says an element doesn’t work, it may just mean it doesn’t work the way it is now. Instead of getting rid of a precious something that feels vital to your story, looks for ways to adapt it until it just clicks. Turn “this just doesn’t work” into “what if I could make it work?” Revisions take just as much innovation as drafting.

There’s only one time I can think of that I said no to a structural revision suggestion. I’d wholeheartedly agreed with most notes and found middle ground on others. This cut, in my opinion, would have meant losing something very essential to the story and very precious to me as its author. So when my editor left it up to my judgment, the “no” felt clear as day.

Your no’s should feel very clear and intentional - not based on an emotional reaction but on a logical evaluation of what works.

Sometimes compromise is seen as a negative thing. Someone who refuses to compromise is viewed as strong and steadfast, while someone who’s willing to compromise is viewed as pliable or disloyal (e.g., “she compromised her morals!”). But in my opinion, there’s often a solution waiting in the middle ground that’s a million times better than what either side could have thought up alone. Being loyal to your story means seeking out the fixes that make it shine.
You can find Hannah at:

Hannah and her publisher generously offered a copy of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIAR for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 10th. 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 is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

I'll be back on Wednesday, September 7th with an interview with debut author J. Keller Ford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Traci Chee and her agent Barbara Poelle  with a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER, a YA fantasy, by Tracie.

On Wednesday that week, I have an agent spotlight interview with Catherine Cho and a query critique. 

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Bardsley and a giveaway of her YA speculative fiction GENESIS GIRL

Hope to see you on Wednesday, September 7th! Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

C. LEE MCKENZIE GUEST POST AND SIGN OF THE GREEN DRAGON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm SO excited to have C. Lee McKenzie here to share about her new MG SIGN OF THE GREEN DRAGON that recently was released. I'm really looking forward to it because of my own connection to China. And I'm excited for Lee, who is a follower and blogger friend. If you don't follow her blog, I really recommend you do.

Now here's Lee!

Thanks so much for letting me visit your wonderful blog today. I do appreciate the chance to talk about China and my newest middle grade book, Sign of the Green Dragon.

I write about Chinese mythology because it fascinates me and because I fell in love with China and her ancient stories a long time ago. 

When I was about six, a woman named Enid Mihilov took me under her literary wing. She had an amazing library with many books from all over the world, but the Chinese ones were distinct. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those books, which she allowed me to hold, were very old, one-of-a-kind, and in retrospect, must have been printed on handmade paper in a long-ago century. Enid read them to me in Chinese while I looked at the pictures. Misty mountains. Dragons streaming through the sky on important business for an emperor. Exotic silk gowns and palaces of gold.


Dragon on a Canal Barge

It was this person, who opened a lot of things about the world to me. In the center of her library was a globe in a wooden cradle that was bigger than I was. I still remember her turning that globe, tracing the Yangtze River across China and telling me about the beauty of the Three Gorges. When I was older, I understood how much this Russian woman had traveled, that she spoke several languages and knew more first-hand about geography than my teachers. 

When I finally did land in the Far East, I was primed to absorb as much about that culture as possible. I climbed the Great Wall, explored palaces and finally went up the Yangtze through the Three Gorges before the dam was completed and closed off one of the most beautiful areas in the world.


At the Top of the Great Wall with Two Friends

Enid and I kept in touch for years, even after my family moved. Unfortunately, when we returned to see her, she had died, so I never had a chance to tell her how important our time together had been to me. Someday I’m going to write what I remember of my afternoons with Enid Mihilov. And having written that, I think I have a title already.





Buy now on AMAZON 

Here’s a bit about this story: 

Three plucky sleuths. A crumbling skeleton. A quest.

After six months in a new school, Sam’s finally fitting in. He’s the one kid with enough talent to hit the winning home run and bring the baseball trophy back to Haggarty Elementary. But Sam’s guardian is shipping him off to boarding school before that can happen.

When teammates, Joey and Roger, hear his bad news, they plot to hide him until the big game. Their secret cave is a perfect place until an earthquake shatters a wall and reveals a wooden chest with a red-eyed dragon carved into its top. Inside, a bony hand clutches a map with a note, promising treasure.

With Joey and Roger, Sam sets off to track down the clues and hopefully discover treasure. When some puzzle pieces start to make sense, the boys become lost in a labyrinth of underground tunnels, trapped by dangerous thieves and sealed inside an airless tomb. 

Sign of the Green Dragon gets a high five for fantasy, fun and some fearsome adventure. If you like intrepid would-be knights on impossible and dangerous quests, you’ll love this story. As one reader says, this book, “has more twists than a dragon’s tail.”

Buy now to jump into the adventure.



Come say hi to the author:
The Write Game
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

Lee has generously offered one e-book of THE GREEN DRAGON for a lucky winner. 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 September 3rd.
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 is an international giveaway.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by debut author Hannah West and a giveaway of her YA fantasy KINGDOM OF ASHES AND BRIARS.

I'll be back on Wednesday, September 7th with an interview with debut author J. Keller Ford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Traci Chee and her agent Barbara Poelle  with a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER, a YA fantasy, by Tracie

Hope to see you on Monday! 


LAST SUMMER FUN GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone!

Welcome to my Last Summer Fun Book Giveaway. I wasn't sure how these giveaways would go, especially since so many books are middle grade and YA tends to be more popular. I'm happy to say that these giveaways have been popular, and I'm seeing newer followers who don't stop by as much. A huge welcome to you all!

I hope you'll find a book here for yourself or someone you know. I want to give a special shout out of thanks to Harper Collins for sending me most of these books. They send me many books I can't feature, and I make sure to donate them to a school that I know could use books.

Here's how the giveaway will work. Each week one winner will win the book of his/her choice or a $5 Amazon gift card. Most of the books are middle grade, which is why I'm offering the gift card for those who don't see a book they like. I am adding a book to the pile every giveaway. I've added a few new ones to this last giveaway.

Here's your choices this week. Click on the title to read a blurb from Goodreads.

Middle Grade Books:

 




 




 

 

 And my two YA choices:

 


ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PETTY T. COOK
Big Nate Flips Out
Bridget Wilder
eleven and holding
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs
Nancy Clancy
The Keepers
The Land of Forgotten Girls
Forest of Wonder
gena finn
salt to the sea
TEDDY MARS: ALMOST A WINNER
WELL OF WITCHES
Wishing Day

Didn't see a book you want? Enter to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card.


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 telling me what book you'd like or that you want the Amazon gift card through August 27th. 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is US for the books and International for the gift card.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by one of our followers and a blogger friend C. Lee McKenzie and a giveaway of her new MG adventure SIGN OF THE GREEN DRAGON.

The next Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Hannah West and a giveaway of her YA fantasy KINGDOM OF ASHES AND BRIARS.

I'll be back on Wednesday, September 7th with an interview with debut author J. Keller Ford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Traci Chee and her agent Barbara Poelle  with a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER, a YA fantasy, by Tracie

Hope to see you on Monday! 

BRIDGET HODDER INTERVIEW AND THE RAT PRINCE GIVEAWAY



Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Bridget Hodder here to share about her MG fairytale retelling THE RAT PRINCE. It’s gotten great reviews and sounds like an amazing retelling of Cinderella.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads 

The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman by the Fairy Godmother on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!:

Hi Bridget! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie! I'm so happy to be here, thank you!

I became a writer through reading. Stories are like candy to me--a sweet, addictive experience--and the more I read, the more I want. So back in childhood, when they ran out of books I liked at the library, I started writing my own.

I wrote my first "book" at age 4, entitled The Lovely Someplace. I penciled the words and illustrations, cut the pages, and stapled it together myself. THE RAT PRINCE is my debut novel, so it's been a few years (ahem) since The Lovely Someplace.

Persistence pays off!
 
2.  So true about persistence. Where did you get the idea for THE RAT PRINCE?

It came straight out of the blue. I didn't sit down and say "Okay, what am I going to write?" and then power my way through to an answer. Actually, the basic idea for the plot-- the Prince of the Rats is changed into Cinderella's coachman, and he turns out to be this kickass guy who outshines the regular prince-- hit me while I was taking a shower.

3.  Share a bit about your world building process for Prince Char’s world. Do you have any tips for other writers?

I did my undergraduate work in European history, and wrote my thesis using primary sources at the
British Museum Library, so I had an extensive research background to draw upon as I wrote THE RAT PRINCE. Building a vibrant rat culture with its own history, ceremonies, and traditions, was a true delight. I got to dream up "old sayings", create a rat throne room, devise a naming system, navigate inter-species politics, and on and on. I loved it! The fact that the rats tend to view their environment through food-colored glasses made it even more enjoyable (although I did gain some weight while writing the book)!

You asked for world-building tips I could give to other writers, and I'm no expert, but here's one: As long as your universe is thorough, consistent, and follows its own rules, readers will believe in it.

4.  Sounds like you had a fun world building process. Reviewers of your story rave about your retelling. Share how you decided on the way you made this a retelling. Do you have any advice for authors wanting to write a fairytale retelling?

It's not terribly hard to "fracture" a fairytale. Put the annoyingly passive heroine in trousers and give her a sword; make the ridiculously beautiful princess not so pretty; make the prince poor, not rich... You can tell great stories this way.

But I didn't do this in THE RAT PRINCE. Rather, I set a challenge for myself. I wanted to try my hand at a retelling that was faithful to the outlines of the "original" fairytale, while explaining the huge gaps and inconsistencies in the plot and adding depth and character. I also wanted to change the sexist, materialistic tone of the original tale, but do it without introducing glaringly modern elements.

It was a tall order.

In the end, I think I was able to give the book an air of discovery--as if I were a scholar who went looking for the "true" story of Cinderella, and found this first-hand account buried deep in the royal archives of Angland.

As for advice... I think you should write whatever makes your heart sing and your fingers click across those keys like they'll never stop!
 
5.  It sounds like Prince Char’s voice really comes out in your story and that he is a really memorable character. Share how his character developed for you.

My first ideas of Prince Char had him as a morally ambivalent character. His rat-ness made him willing to do absolutely anything to achieve his goals; a kind of anti-hero. That changed almost immediately when I sat down to write from Prince Char's point of view. The character spoke for himself--he's fierce, noble, principled. Though he starts out with a ruthless edge, his growth arc throughout the book explores the theme of what it means to be humane as well as human.

6.   That is awesome how he turned out to be opposite of your vision of him. Your agent is Eric Myers. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Like most debut authors, I wrote several manuscripts prior to the one that sold. Those old attempts will probably stay in the boxes in my attic forever. I worked long, hard and humbly to learn my craft before I was ready to sell. Then I found my agent the traditional way--I researched him online and sent him a query letter.

7.  Good to know this route works well. What was something that surprised you about working with Eric?

One day, early in our professional relationship, Eric told me not to think about "the market" while I was writing my next book. He told me to write from the heart and create classics that rise above market trends. It surprised me and almost brought me to tears. (The good kind.) I'm very lucky to have him.

8.  How are you planning to market your book? What advice do you have for writers planning to debut in terms of marketing?

There are lots of interviews, guest posts, and giveaways associated with the release of THE RAT PRINCE. I'm also lined up for some personal appearances and signings at events like the Baltimore Book Festival in September, and Ohio's Books by the Banks in October. I'll be touring in Louisiana in November. You can keep up with those dates and more on my website, www.BridgetHodder.com

My best marketing advice? As soon as you sell your book, consider joining a debut authors' group like The Sweet Sixteens. Doing promotion in a group can be more productive than going it alone. You can pool your resources, ideas and energy, and make beautiful friendships at the same time!

9.  What are you working on now?
I actually have two super-secret projects in the works...stay tuned!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Bridget!

THE RAT PRINCE at Macmillan Publishing:

THE RAT PRINCE on Amazon:

THE RAT PRINCE on Goodreads:

Bridget's website:

Bridget has generously donated an ARC of THE RAT PRINCE 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 August 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 is an international giveaway.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I will be doing another Summer Fun Book Giveaway--my last for the summer.

The following Monday I have a guest post by one of our followers and a blogger friend C. Lee McKenzie and a giveaway of her new MG adventure SIGN OF THE GREEN DRAGON.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Hannah West and a giveaway of her YA fantasy KINGDOM OF ASHES AND BRIARS.