CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests


Cattywampus through July 18th

The King's 100 through July 25th

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

Veronica Roth Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/19/20

Carlisle Webber Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/7/20

Erin Casey Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/16/20

Adria Goetz and G.Z. Schmidt Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/19/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/3/20

KARIN BIGGS INTERVIEW AND THE KING’S 100 GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Karin Biggs here to share about her YA fantasy. It sounds like a fantastic story that combines science and fantasy. It’s gotten great reviews, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.


Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Piper Parish, princess of the loveless, STEM-only kingdom of Capalon, is a disappointment to her citizens and to her older sister, the queen. When Piper receives an anonymous note stating her mother is still alive and living in the enemy kingdom of Mondaria, Piper chooses to risk death in effort to prove once and for all that she's not just the queen's defective little sister. With the companionship of Chip, a piece of tech embedded in her wrist, Piper flees Capalon and enters a world where love and emotional expression are unrestricted.

Posing as a singer for the enemy king’s court of performers, the King’s 100, Piper risks death if she is revealed to be the Capalon princess, but discovers that living a life without the freedom to love might actually be the most dangerous risk of all.

The King’s 100 is a glittering and mysterious love story woven among the camaraderie singers, drummers and magicians in a future world by debut author, Karin Biggs.

Hi Karin! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you for having me! I’ve always had a vivid imagination and could be classified as a ‘professional daydreamer’ in school. Writing has always been a strong suit of mine, but I chose a career in hospitality and event planning. During my career, I would have a dream or get an idea for a story and write a snippet of it on my computer. It wasn’t until I left the events industry (8 years after graduating college) to become a stay at home mom, that I put the pedal to the metal and finished my first manuscript.

2. That's great that you wrote down your ideas. Where did you get the idea for THE KING’S 100?

It all started with a dream! (Sounds very Stephanie Meyer, eh?) In this dream, I saw a girl in a silver sequin gown, who was about to go on stage to perform for a king. That morning, I came up with the title The King’s 100 before I even knew what the story was about. Blending my love for romance, life experiences in performance groups and adoration for ‘fish out of water’ stories, I spent just over one year writing my first draft of The King’s 100.

3. Titles are hard, so it's awesome you came up with yours so easily. It really fits your story. One thing that sounds really interesting about your story is that the world Piper lives in is scientifically advanced. What made you decide to incorporate science as part of your world building? What was your world building process like?

Great question! I struggled at first with the world Piper would be leaving to have her ‘fish out of water’ experience. I knew that I wanted the ‘new world’ to be a stark contrast with music and emotional expression, so the idea for a very strict, emotionless, scientific kingdom felt like a good fit. The world building for the book had a complete make-over in draft two, changing from one kingdom with a class system to two feuding kingdoms with extremely different lifestyles and beliefs.

4. This sounds like a real page-turner. What were your strategies for keeping readers wanting to read on?

One great piece of advice I received when I started revising for draft two was to dissect the
books you love and pinpoint WHY you love them so much. One of my favorite books is Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I stayed up almost all night reading her book because I couldn’t put it down! After re-reading Caraval multiple times, I realized that what kept me going was her blend of romantic tension, familial interactions and the big kicker - mystery. My first draft had NO mystery whatsoever and very little romance, so I amped those two areas up and also changed the familial conflict from mother-daughter to sister-sister.

5. I've been meaning to read her book. Now I have to. Romance also plays a big role in your story. It’s not always easy for fantasy writers focused on a quest or adventure plot to write. Was this aspect hard for you and what tips do you have for other writers?

I was surprised to get the feedback from my critique partners from the first draft review that they felt like there was not enough romance! I realized that I had been saving a ton of romantic scenes for book two, which pushed the romance to the background instead of the foreground which is where I intended for it to be. In draft two, I made the romantic plot the focal point, using their feuding kingdoms as the driving conflict.

6. Your publisher is Immortal Works Press. What was your road to publication like?

I queried maybe 10 or so agents with my first draft and I’m SO glad I put a pause on querying until after my second draft was completed and reviewed. Once the second draft was ready to go, I queried over 100 agents and about 20 or so small presses. I received two offers from small press, ultimately accepting the offer from Immortal Works. I think writers overlook small press, assuming they won’t have the resources to get them in the hands of readers, but I have been so happy with my publishing experience! I don’t feel any different from the agented, traditionally published authors and am so excited to see how the world reacts when The King’s 100 finally goes on sale in July!

7. That's a great piece of advice about smaller publishers. How are you planning to promote your book during the pandemic? How has it changed your marketing plans?

Honestly, my marketing plans have not changed at all! My plans were always to use social media as my main form of promotion, so it doesn’t feel like I’m losing anything. Also, I might be a special case because I wasn’t planning on an immediate in-person release event or tour because I am due with my second baby at the end of June! I’m hoping to start some (socially distant!) signings and book events this fall.

8. I can't believe that you are debuting just after becoming a new mom. What is something that surprised you about the process of getting published?

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of editors provided by my publisher. My editor, John Olsen, taught me so much through his edits and suggestions, taking The King’s 100 to a higher level quality product. If there’s one mega-important piece of advice for writers who are seeking a publisher, it’s to check their list of qualified editors. Editors make all the difference when it comes to sending your book baby out to the world!

9. What are you working on now?

Oh, I’m so happy you asked! I have completed a new manuscript about the Roswell incident of 1947. It’s a YA historical fiction romance and I like pitching it as ‘The Da Vinci Code meets Roswell.’ I have not yet queried it out to any agents or publishers.

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


 Karin has generously offered a hardback o the The King's 100 for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by July 25th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, July 20th, I have an interview with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Hope to see you on Monday!


ASH VAN OTTERLOO INTERVIEW AND CATTYWAMPUS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Ash Van Otterloo here to share about Ash’s MG fantasy Cattywampus. I was dying to read it just from the cover and was able to obtain an ARC from Edelweiss. I was so glad I did. I loved the magic of the hexes, but I especially enjoyed the middle grade issues of friendship, working together, and self-worth that the story explored.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

The magical story of a hex that goes haywire, and the power of friendship to set things right!

In the town of Howler's Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill's skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family's secret book of hexes, she's itching to use it to banish her mama's money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse -- not exactly Delpha's specialty.

Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she's not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha's contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they'll need to mend fences and work together.
 

Hi Ash! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I was born in Charlotte, NC, and lived in southern Appalachia for over thirty years! Books have always been a passion and a lifeline for me—fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, non-fic, you name it! Then one day during a difficult period in my life, I began writing a short story with a group of friends, to reconnect with my imagination and having fun. They encouraged me to keep going, and I’ve written nonstop ever since!

2. Awesome how writing with friends got you started writing. Where did you get the idea for your story?

It was a combination of things! I saw a #mswl (manuscript wish list) post from an agent (not mine!) on twitter, asking for a book about Appalachian witches. That general concept stoked a fire inside my heart. I loved the idea so much, I thought about it day and night for weeks!

Then, one day while I was sitting under some trees at the park with my then-nine-year-old daughter, we played the “what-if?” game, a favorite of ours.

I said, “What if a spell went wrong, and you raised an entire graveyard of zombies by accident?” Without missing a beat, she added: “And what if you were RELATED to all of them?”

I whipped out my notebook and scribbled a scene (which is still in the book!) and the title, Cattywampus.

3. What a way to get an idea for a book! What does Cattywampus mean and was this always the title of your book?

Cattywampus means “a little wonky/askew” or “not quite straight.” (For instance, most of my homemade stack-cakes end up looking a little cattywampus! But they’re delicious.)

I’ve always liked the word because I think it reflects a worry most people share: that we’re not quite perfect or somehow weird. And the big secret is, that’s okay! We’re all works in progress, and it can be good and powerful to accept help from those who care about us.

It’s been the title from the very beginning.

4. Share a bit about how you developed the magical system in your story and the hexes that cause so many problems for Delpha and Katybird.

When I was growing up, the people around me often fixed, created, and built things out of odds and
ends they had on hand, coming up with clever ways to patch and repair. Waste not, want not! As a little girl, I was always experimenting with things by trial and error this way, and I wanted to reflect that—the ability to “make do” with sometimes-comical materials—in Delpha’s family magic! They innovate and think on their feet.  

Katy’s magic was borrowed heavily from stories about ancient Irish and Welsh nature deities. The legends about Flidais and Cerridwen especially influenced the Hearn’s magic, and their fierce family love and tendency to be at harmony with the nature around them.  

It was also important to show that magic, just like any skill, often isn’t easy when you first attempt it! And it always costs us something.

5. Delpha and Katybird are both such great, sympathetic characters. Was it hard writing from both of their POV’s? What tips do you have for other writers who want to write a middle grade story using dual POVs?

Confession: I love writing multiple POVs. If I could, I’d write them exclusively! This is likely because my brain acclimates to projects very quickly (read: I have attention span issues), so I find alternating voices helpful in keeping my imagination engaged.

My best tip for writing distinct characters is: get to know them, inside and out! So many things go into making a complex human: our hurts, memories, families, personalities…

A fun exercise is to spend a whole day thinking as your character. (What would they order at this food cart? If someone pays them a compliment, do they deflect? Return the praise? Blush? Why?) Eventually, they might start to remind you of someone you’ve met before, and you can borrow speech patterns or mannerisms that match their personality.

Or: launch a DnD campaign and play as your MC!

Drawing from your own different moods/personality facets can help, too! We talk differently on different days and in different situations. Every person contains multitudes.
  
6. That's a great idea for anyone to spend a whole day thinking like your character. What was a challenge you had in writing your story and how did you overcome it?

I had to scoop out some deep, personal places in my heart to get the characters’ emotional arcs where they needed to be! It was challenging, but well worth it.

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

Lauren first requested my manuscript during a #NoQS contest on Twitter! I was completely over the moon after talking to her on the phone. Not only had TriadaUS been my dream agency for a while (their website was pinned to my toolbar), I knew in my bones Lauren was a perfect fit. Over the course of our agent/client relationship, that gut feeling has been proven a thousand times over! She’s honest, passionate, and insightful.

Lauren suggested heavy revisions, which took a while, but the effort paid off! In late summer of 2017, we officially signed, and then…more revisions just as my family geared up for an across-the-country move!

My fantastic editor, Jenne Abramowitz, picked up CATTYWAMPUS in fall 2018, and the deal was announced shortly after I moved to WA in 2019. The best words to describe it all are “slow-motion whirlwind.”

8. How are you planning to promote your book given the Coronavirus? What is your advice to other writers who may also need to market their book during these challenging times?

Researching the purpose of in-person promotions and meetings has gone a long way to soothe my anxiety! For the most part, readings and events are joyful things that bring celebration to the book launch process. But most sales aren’t generated from in-person events, even though they can be very meaningful and fun. And many authors are doing their launches and readings online!

Personally, I’ve really enjoyed participating in online launches and readings this year that I wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise! Innovative solutions and creative community are flourishing, even during this very difficult time.

So, my advice is this: borrow a page from Delpha’s book and think outside the box! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Humans are so resourceful and resilient when we work together. It’s all going to be okay. <3 o:p="">

9. You're making me feel better about not doing so many in-person events. What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m fiddling with an outline for a third book while I wait on edit notes for my ghost book, A TOUCH OF RUCKUS, which comes out from Scholastic in fall 2021!

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

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

Ash is generously offering an ARC of Cattywampus for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by July 18th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, July 13th, I have an interview with debut author Karin Biggs and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE KING'S 100

Monday, July 20th, I have an interview with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Hope to see you on Monday!





KEEP WRITING WITH FEY: CHRYS FEY GUEST POST & SPARKS TO DEFEAT WRITER'S BLOCK, DEPRESSIONS, AND BURNOUT GIVEAWAY & IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to host Chrys Fey to help her celebrate her upcoming release of Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout. She has some great advice to share on how to find online book clubs. And check out her earlier guest post in June 2019 about how to use a YouTube channel that was super popular and helpful. It's already gotten almost 8,000 page views.


Before I get to Chrys' guest post, I have my IWSG Post.

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

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!

The co-hosts this month are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox!


July 1 question - There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

Here's three things that I'd like to see changed:

  1. More diversity. I would like to see more diversity across the board in the book industry. There is still so much room for improvement in the books being published and equalizing the amount traditional authors are paid.
  2. Easier marketing. I'd love to see marketing get easier for authors--both traditionally and self-published. It seems like there should be a data base of libraries, bookstores, conferences, and book bloggers who organize blog tours for authors. 
  3. More collaboration between publishers and authors. As we all know, writing a book takes a long time, and there is a good chance that a book won't sell to a publisher. Once an author signs a publishing contract and develops a relationship with their editor, it would be so much more efficient and productive if editors would work more with their authors on developing the ideas for the next book so it's more likely that they will want to buy the book. Of course, some of the decision on whether to buy a book will ride on sales on the prior one. But this industry change could help authors not write books they can't sell. 
Those are my suggestions. What changes would you like to see?

Crys Fey Guest Post

Here's a blurb of Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout from Goodreads:

Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!

When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:

• Writer's block
• Depression
• Writer's burnout
• What a writer doesn’t need to succeed
• Finding creativity boosts

With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.

Now here's Chrys!

Thank you, Natalie, for having me on Literary Rambles for IWSG Day to talk about online book clubs and announce my newest book for writers!

How to Find Online Book Clubs:

·         The first obvious place is Goodreads. I hear that many authors avoid Goodreads like the plague because the reviews there can be harsher than anywhere else, but there’s so much more that you can do there.


Another book club I love on Goodreads is Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf.

You can do a search on the Goodreads’ groups’ page for a book club you’d enjoy.

·         Although Litsy (an app and webpage) doesn’t have book clubs (Or maybe they do!), the entire platform is like a massive book club. There are many challenges, book swaps, and even gift exchanges. You can participate in what you want, when you want. Add/friend many members to find opportunities.

·         Do a search in Facebook for groups that are book clubs, too. Make sure to check out their vibe and rules first to be sure the group doesn’t participate in piracy, as there are many Facebook groups for eBooks that do.

6 Benefits of Online Book Clubs:

1. Reading!

Of course, this is #1. If you love to read, you get to read as a member of a book club. I don’t think
there’s anything else I have to say about this one, do I? Because…READING! BOOKS! THE MORE THE MERRIER!

2. Discovery

You will discover books, authors, and even genres/topics that are new to you. Reading books is a great way to expand your knowledge, find new perspectives, and take a journey. Through books, you get to meet many characters and go to places all around the world, even the universe.

When you open up to reading all genres, even if you’ve never read a memoir or a romance or a horror novel, and may even think you wouldn’t enjoy it, you could discover that you actually do enjoy it. Maybe you won’t like every memoir or romance or horror novel, but finding one book could lead the way to others.

And finding new-to-you authors is like befriending someone you feel as though you’ve known for years. Sometimes, we may get stuck reading the same authors, especially well-known, best-selling authors, but there are thousands of authors out there, and any one of them could be your next favorite author. The only way you’ll discover them is by going beyond your usual preferences.

3. Friendship

You will meet many like-minded individuals who love books just as much as you do. Like you, they probably horde books, have an ever-growing TBR list, one-click eBooks on Amazon all the time, and maybe even post #bookstagram pictures on Instagram.

Friends who read together stay together! Having friends that you can share book recommendations with, gush over your favorite characters with, vent about endings with, and discuss whether the book or film was better with is amazing.

You can discuss things more openly with your online book club friends than you may feel comfortable saying in person. I know I find it easier to have conversations in online settings than face-to-face, when my introvertness and shyness may make me clam up.

How to Connect with Members:
·         First, participate in the discussions. Post your thoughts about the book and invite anyone to discuss with you points you liked or disliked about it. You can also post questions for anyone and everyone to answer, especially if there’s something you’d be interested in hearing other readers’ takes on.

·         Reply to other members’ posts. This is how you create a conversation and can start a friendship, but make sure that you respect their opinions. No two readers interpret the same book in the same way. Don’t say their views of a book is wrong. Instead, expression your interest in discussing their take. Be openminded.

·         Send members you have conversations with friend requests. You can do this on Goodreads, Facebook, and Litsy easily if the book club is located in one of those places.

4. Knowledge

As a writer, reading books outside the genres you write (or usually enjoy reading) can heighten your writing skills. If you need to learn pacing for a thriller, read a romantic-suspense book, not just all thrillers. Romances, even sub-genres of romance, get a lot of flak, but romance authors run most of the industry, they know how to market in clever ways, and romance books are often about so much more than love (and sex).

And for people who only read romances because that’s what you write, it’s time to expand, too. If you want to learn how to add some mystery to your romance, read cozy mysteries. If you want to learn how to add suspense, read thrillers or adventure stories.

Don’t forget to read YA, MG, and children’s books, too. Trust me, you can learn a lot by reading books written for audiences of all age groups.

Through reading, it’s not just about improving your writing, though. You can learn about other cultures, history, important topics like racism and #metoo and LGBTQ+, and so much more.
5. Challenge

Being a member of a book club is a nice challenge, which encourages you to read more. Sometimes, our lives can get in the way, making it difficult to find time to read. Needing to finish a book by a specific deadline, whether that’s in one month or two, can be a nice challenge if you want to read more books.

Also, being active in an online community can be a challenge as well, be it due to time constraints or finding it difficult to open up to strangers.

Not only that, but a specific book may be a personal challenge for you. Maybe your book club will be reading a book in a genre you’ve never had the desire to read before, or the book contains topics that make you uncomfortable. Challenging yourself in this way can lead to growth, which brings me to…

6. Grow

If you are shy or introverted, being a part of a book club and discussing a book will help you to break out of your shell. Whenever we do things outside our comfort zones, we grow. Every time.

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Chrys!

I'm hosting a giveaway for Chrys. I will be giving away an Amazon ebook of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication or Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout--winner's choice. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower  of my blog and leave a comment telling me which book you want by July 18th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, July 6th I have an interview with debut author Ash Van Otterloo and a giveaway of her contemporary/fantasy CATTYWAMPUS FYI I read an ARC & loved it!

Monday, July 13th, I have ab interview with debut author Karin Biggs and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE KING'S 100

Monday, July 20th, I have an interview with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Hope to see you on Monday!


NIKI LENZ INTERVIEW AND THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Niki Lenz here to share about her new MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP. It sounds like a great story that is funny but also deals with contemporary issues that middle graders go through. Niki is also the author of another MG funny book, BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN, which got fantastic reviews.

Here’s a blurb of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP from Goodreads

After Grace's mom died, she and her dad grew extra close. They have special nicknames and are always busy with new projects-like building a puppy condo for their dog, Potus- and they love learning random facts about the US presidents. Grace thinks her little family of two is perfect.

Then some committee members at church suggest it's time for Dad to start dating again. And Dad agrees! Grace knows that adding a new member to the team will end in disaster.

No problem! She and her best friend have a plan: Operation Stepmoom Shake-Up! But what if a little shake-up is exactly what Grace's family needs?

Reverse PARENT TRAP-like antics offer a hilarious and heartwarming look at what it means to be a family.

Hi Niki! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I am a wife and mom of two and I live here in Kansas City. I recently found out I will be adding “first grade teacher” to the bio in the 2020 school year. I love reading, writing, travel, jigsaw puzzles, glamping, red lipstick,  and oldies music.

2. Congrats on your new job. Where did you get the idea for THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP?
My husband and I were hosting a small dinner party, and I am bad at small talk, so I asked everyone to share a childhood memory. One of the guys said that his father was a minister and he and his brother used to go with him to the hospital when he would pray with people. The kids would run around and play hide and seek in the hospital while their dad did the rounds. For some reason that image stuck with me and a few days later I wrote a scene with a girl and her best friend going with her preacher Dad to the hospital. The characters wouldn’t leave me alone and so a rough draft began to form. In the ironic ways of the writing process that scene later got cut, but that is where it all began.

3. Writing a humorous story sounds really hard to me, but you seem really good at it. How do you incorporate humor into your stories? What advice do you have for other authors?

Well, the biggest advantage I have in that department is that my sense of humor never seemed to   I think kids can tell when you are trying too hard to entertain them. It’s also important to spend a lot of time around real life kids. Listen to how they talk and what they find funny.

develop past the level of a twelve year old! When I am writing, I am not necessarily thinking “What will kids think is funny?” I am thinking “What do I think is funny?” I write to amuse myself.

4. That's great advice. Share a bit about Grace, the main character in your story. Was she a well-developed character in your mind when you started writing her story or did this come later?

Grace came to me fully formed because she is based largely on my own daughter. I love her free
spirit and artistic outfits. She has a quick wit and a mischievous streak, much like my girl. What was surprising to me was how much the Dad character morphed into my husband. He didn’t start off that way!

5. That's so funny how the Dad character turned into your husband.What was a challenge you faced in writing THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP? How did you overcome it?

The biggest struggle with writing THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was the sheer amount of revisions we ended up doing. I did an extensive round with my agent, then another before acquisitions, then my first edit letter with my editor. At that point I felt like we should be pretty close to being done. Ha ha, no. The next round of edits involved an entirely new outline. I was scrambling to add brand new scenes and to cut whole characters. I cried every time I opened that edit letter. But you know what, in the end I think the story is stronger for it. It was during that ghastly round of edits that, in a move of desperation, I asked my daughter what she would do if she were trying to make two grown-ups fall in love. Without skipping a beat she said, “I’d give them one milkshake with two straws.” I turned on my heels and wrote that scene, which later inspired the new title and the cover art!

6. That does sound like a lot of revisions. Your agent is Kate Shafer Testerman. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like for your first and second book?

I had queried three other novels to about one hundred agents each. So if you are good at math, that means three hundred rejections. But I had a good feeling about my fourth novel. It had gotten some attention in an online contest and had a strong hook. So I narrowed my list to the top fifteen agents, my dream agents. Kate was on that list. She had been such an amazing partner in all of this. That fourth book didn’t sell, but BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN sold in the first round of subs to Random House. It was truly a dream come true. THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was my option book and having the publisher decide to acquire it too felt like lightning striking twice.

7. I saw on your website that you had a virtual launch party on June 17th to celebrate the release of your book. Share how you set this up and your plans for the event.

I am still hoping to work with my local library and indie bookstore to create an event that will be interactive and fun. We are brainstorming games, photo challenges, prizes and all kinds of fun.

8. How else are you planning to promote your book in these challenging times? What advice do you have for other authors whose books will be released soon?

The one thing that I learned after my first book came out is that you can really grind yourself into the


ground with promotion and it doesn’t really move the needle. Travel, school visits, conferences and festivals are a no go right now, so I am going to focus on blog tours and podcasts. I also think it’s important to try and give during promotion, not just talk about yourself all the time and expect people to want to buy your books. I have been doing a writer’s workshop series of videos on my website for teachers to use during this crazy time. I am trying to help in any way that I can, including buying A LOT of books from my local bookstore.

9. I really like your idea of thinking of promotions as an opportunity to give to others. BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN released in March 2019 and was your debut book. I’m always curious to learn what authors have learned from their experience being a debut author and what they might have done differently. What did you learn from that process and what would you have done differently, especially in terms of promoting your book and developing your social platform?

Being a debut author is strange. You go from very high highs ( LOOK! MY BOOK IS ON THIS LIST!) to very low lows ( SOMEONE JUST LEFT A SUPER MEAN REVIEW). I think the biggest thing that new authors should remember is that you wrote a book and that is an amazing accomplishment. Try not to compare your experience with anyone elses, because you will always feel like things aren’t fair. And just celebrate every little victory along the way.  I am not the person to ask about promoting or social platforms. I just try to be myself and help and give when I can.

10. What are you working on now?

I actually just bombarded my poor agent with three middle grade manuscripts and one picture book
manuscript that I am hoping will go out on sub soon. I have an idea for the next thing I am going to write, but it’s still swimming around in my head at the moment. It’s been a bit hard to get focused work done with all of (gestures at the world) this going on.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Niki. You can find Niki at www.nikilenz.com, follow her on Twitter @NikiRLenz, Instagram @Smile4Niki and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikiLenzAuthor/

Niki is generously offering a signed hardback of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower  of my blog and leave a comment by July 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (Wednesday for me this month) is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books and my IWSG post

Monday, July 6th I have an interview with debut author Ash Van Otterloo and a giveaway of her contemporary/fantasy CATTYWAMPUS FYI I read an ARC & loved it!

Monday, July 13th, I have interview with debut author Karin Biggs and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE KING'S 100

Monday, July 20th, I have with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Wednesday, July 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Erin Casey and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, July 1st!