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

ASSASSIN'S HEART through February 13th

Query Critique Giveaway With Agent Beth Campbell through February 20th

Favorites Giveaway Hop through February 19th

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE through February 20th

My Interview at Michigan's SCBWI Blog Today

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today I'm being interviewed by follower Kristin Lenz at SCBWI's Michigan blog, The Mitten. Hope you'll stop by and say hi.

Have a great weekend!

HEIDI HEILIG GUEST POST AND THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I've got a fantastic guest post by debut author Heidi Helig to help celebrate the release of her YA time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE that releases next month. I love time travel stories and Heidi's sounds awesome.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.


Now here's Heidi!
  
Release Day minus 10 Years

Start working on a book.
Release Day minus 2 Years
Scrap that book, it’s terrible.
Start another book.
Release Day minus 1+ Year
IMPORTANT: Have your agent sell that book you sent to them.
Release Day minus 1 year
Get on twitter. Make friends. Talk about your book so everyone knows to be excited.
Release Day minus 11 months
Remind everyone about your book.
Gently correct people who thought that it was already out.
Realize that maybe a year in advance was too early to tell everyone about your book.
Release Day minus 10 months
Constantly refresh your Goodreads page and smile gratefully at the family members who signed up for
Goodreads just to five star your book.
Wonder who gave it one star when there aren’t even ARCs out yet.
Was it your jealous cousin Jack? The one who said congratulations but in a really fake way?
I bet it was Jack.
Release Day minus 6 Months
Reveal your cover. Accept all the accolades even though you had literally nothing to do with it.
Release Day minus 5 Months
Read three dozen “How To Market Your Book” articles.
Spend too much on book swag.
Spend even more on mailing out your bookswag.
Get off Twitter so you stop being tempted to do giveaways.
Release Day minus 4 Months
Get back on Twitter only to discover ARCs are out in the world and now people can tweet you their reviews—both the good and the bad.
Release Day minus 3 Months
Get back off Twitter.
Release Day minus 2 Months
Plan your parties! Buy your outfits! Schedule blog posts! Do more giveaways! Forget to eat! Stop sleeping! Regret your choices!
Release Day minus 1 month
Pet your finished copy.
Find a typo in your finished copy.
Release Day
Celebrate.
Collapse.
Release Day + 1 Day
Open a new word document.
You can find Heidi at:
http://www.epicreads.com/books/the-girl-from-everywhere/9780062380753/

Heidi and I are sharing in the cost of an e-book of THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE for 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 February 20th. 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, let me know this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Here's what's coming up:
  
On Monday I have an interview with debut author Janet Taylor and a giveaway of her YA time travel INTO THE DIM.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Kim Savage and a giveaway of her YA thriller AFTER THE WOODS.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Kimberley Griffith Little and a giveaway of BANISHED or another book in this series.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Melanie Conklin and her agent Peter Knapp and a giveaway of her MG contemporary COUNTING TIME.

Hope to see you on Monday!



FAVORITES GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP



Happy Friday Everyone! I’m thrilled to be part of the Favorites Giveaway Blog Hop sponsored by StuckinBooks. I’ve got lots of newly released YA books that I've read or want to read. There are SO many good ones right now. I'm reading one now and have a few on hold at the library And if you’re reading a different book in the series listed or want a different book by one of the authors listed, I’m glad to get you that book instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book I've chosen.

Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.



So here are your choices. Click on the title to read a blurb from Goodreads. Sorry the books aren't lining up perfectly.

 




 
 
 

SWORD AND VERSE
TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU

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 (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 19th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments.

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. International entries are welcome as long as  The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by debut YA author Heidi Heilig and a giveaway of her YA fantasy time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Janet Taylor and a giveaway of her YA time travel INTO THE DIM.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Kim Savage and a giveaway of her YA thriller AFTER THE WOODS.

Hope to see you on Monday! 
 
Here's all the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop:

 





AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH BETH CAMPBELL AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have agent Beth Campbell here for my first agent spotlight interview. Beth is an assistant literary agent at  BookEnds, LLC.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey at least temporarily. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Hi Beth! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Beth:


1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

My path to becoming an agent was really rather straightforward—though not without a dash of good timing. When I was in college I knew I wanted to work in publishing but I didn’t know what branch I was most interested in. When I started looking at internships, I applied around the board, and BookEnds was the first company to call back and offer me a position. I interned there for a summer and loved it—it was my favorite publishing internship of several more to come. Fast-forward a couple of years (less than two months after my graduation!), and I got an email from Jessica Faust asking if I wanted to interview for an assistant opening with the company. An interview and editorial test later, and I had the job.

That was over three years ago. I only became “Assistant Literary Agent” instead of “Literary Assistant” a little over six months ago, but I’ve been agenting my own projects for over two years. As for what I do: going to conferences, judging contests, and reading reading reading. My colleague Moe Ferrara and I are most noticeably working to grow BookEnds’ showing in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and YA genres.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

BookEnds was founded by Jessica Faust in 1999, and our agents have over 50 years of publishing experience combined. As sentimental as it may sound, we’re all about helping our authors achieve their publishing dreams while working on projects we love. We manage our author’s careers and pride ourselves on our hands-on editing and hybrid career development for our clients.

What She’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 YA and adult—readers, if you want your MG at BookEnds, contact Moe Ferrara. She’s hungry for MG. Within those age groups, I’m interested in sci-fi, fantasy, suspense/thrillers, and romantic suspense.

4. Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I am a big proponent of diversity and representation in books, so I am always excited to see a strong ensemble of diverse characters. I’m also a sucker for found families. In sci-fi, I’m really hankering for an adventure set in space, and in fantasy I’m looking for contemporary stories.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

In fantasy I’m not currently interested in submissions that include vampires, werewolves, or angels/demons. Angels and demons are a hard sell for me personally, and it’s still difficult to sell vampires and werewolves to publishers. I am also not interested in historical or epic fantasy. For sci-fi: ark ships are a little overdone in my inbox so while I consider them, I am less likely to request any further materials based on a query. No post-apocalyptic stories in any genres.

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?

At BookEnds we sign authors to build their careers, not to publish the single novel they submitted to us. So when I call an author up to offer representation, I want to hear about their goals and what they’re working on next. I want to see if our visions are compatible when it comes to their book and career. If they want to write multiple genres, do I represent all of them or am I willing to branch out? Stuff like that.

Beyond the purely professional concerns, I want a personality that works with mine and someone who is willing to adapt. As an agent, I don’t only represent my authors to publishers. I also advise them in their career development and decision-making. If a potential author seems unwilling to take my advice from the get-go, then we won’t be a good fit in the long run.
As far as the books I like to sign—I obviously want to sign books that really just get me. They grab me, and I feel it in my gut. Ideally you get that book and it’s perfect for the market and an easy sell. Of course, that’s often not the case. So my philosophy is to find the balance between signing books that I love and signing books that will sell. Agenting is a business, after all, and the reality of the industry will not always match my personal tastes.

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?

I absolutely am! I will always give projects the revisions I feel they need before submitting, but I am also more than happy to provide a second set of eyes to my clients before they turn in their contracted work, or while they’re brainstorming their next idea. When getting a project ready for submission, I read through the manuscript, leave comments in the margins, and write up a revision letter for the author. This generally covers the broad strokes of what needs to be revised. I’ll of course correct any typos or grammatical/syntactical errors I see, but that’s not something I obsess about—that’s what copyeditors are for. The author and I will go back and forth as many times as we feel we need (speaking every step of the way) before the project is up to shape. Sometimes it takes one letter, sometimes it takes a few more.

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?

ANSWER: Our submission guideline are on our website. We only accept one-page queries in the body of the email for the querying process. No attachments, no synopsis or sample pages. In a query, all I absolutely need to know is the hook, premise, and brief summary of your book. A little chit-chat is fine—mentioning how you found out about me, for example. What I particularly love to see, though it is hard to pin down for many, is an exhibition of the author’s voice in their query. It’s hard to display your voice in such a small snapshot of your book, but I always think it’s impressive when an author pulls it off. Plus, if I get a sense of your voice, I get a better sense of whether I’ll be a good fit for the project.

9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

I really dislike it when authors include a long preamble in their queries. Queries are only supposed to be one page, so when you spend a full paragraph saying that you worked very hard to make your query unique and describing your philosophy of writing, you’re wasting space that should be used to describe your book. I’m also not a fan of queries that are written in the POV of the main character.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I respond to queries between four and six weeks. For requested materials, I tend to hover between three and four months from receipt. I do sometimes fall behind because of vacations or holidays, but I tweet updates regularly so authors can see where I am in the submissions pile.

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?

I absolutely am! However, they almost always have to have a new project to pitch. I am not largely interested in self-published or otherwise previously-published titles. Most agents aren’t unless your numbers are really astronomical. So to authors wanting to make the switch, I say: make sure you have a new, finished, unpublished project to query. At BookEnds many of us have signed self-pubbed authors based on their new projects and have then gone on to work with their self-published works (either representing it for translation in other countries, getting audiobook deals, or sometimes getting the self-pubbed titles traditionally published), but there’s no guarantee of that. You have to look forward when querying.

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 it depends on the agent and agency. Certainly the main goal of agenting has remained the same amongst all the changes: to publish books traditionally. Some agents stick to that and don’t do hybrid work while others, like the agents at BookEnds, have expanded their role to better encompass hybrid authors’ careers. Moving forward, I’m sure that will continue to be the case. Agencies and agents may choose to evolve, but agenting as a whole may not.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

To name a couple:
Cheryl Hollon, author of the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries
Theo Nicole Lorenz, author and illustrator of an array of humorous coloring books including UNICORNS ARE JERKS
and
Olivia Dade, who is writing her Lovestruck Librarian Series

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.


My first blog post on the BookEnds website (complete with the same photo I used for this interview—whoops): http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/2015/09/10/get-to-know-beth-campbell/
Some more in-depth MSWL (for me and the other agents at BookEnds): http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/2016/01/06/more-mswl-from-bookends-literary-agents/
My general opinions and advice on queries over on Michelle4Laughs: http://www.michelle4laughs.com/2015/10/query-questions-with-beth-campbell.html

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Always check out our submission guidelines before submitting! They change every so often, so you should be sure you’re up to date. http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/submissions/
With that done, you can email me at bcsubmissions@bookendsliterary.com with the word “query” in the subject line.
And you can always check up on my submissions statuses by following me on twitter @Campbele_E

Additional Advice:

15. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

I would always encourage aspiring authors to write what you love. When you’re submitting to agents and editors and getting rejections and revision letters, you’ll have to have a lot of love for your writing to persevere. You can’t write just to get published. When a year passes without that contract, people who are just writing to publish often stop writing. You have to write because you love writing—that’s what keeps you going.

I would also say to never get stuck on one project. Sometimes authors will tell me that they’ve been shopping and submitting the same project for 10 years, and that’s almost always a sad thing to hear. You can’t grip onto one project forever. You have to always be writing something new, not holding onto what-ifs. You don’t grow if you don’t let go every once in a while.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Beth.

Beth 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 February 20th. If you do not want to be included in the query critique giveaway, that's okay, but please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.


If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, let me know 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 natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

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.

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut YA author Heidi Heilig and a giveaway of her YA fantasy time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Janet Taylor and a giveaway of her YA time travel INTO THE DIM.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Kim Savage and a giveaway of her YA thriller AFTER THE WOODS.

Hope to see you on Friday! 
 

SARAH AHIERS INTERVIEW AND ASSASSIN’S HEART GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Sarah Ahiers here to share about her new YA fantasy ASSASSIN’S HEART. It sounds like a really unique fantasy set in a complicated world.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.
 
 
Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Well, I live in Minnesota with a lot of dogs and pocket pets. I just recently earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University, and I’ve been writing heavily since my freshman year of high school, which is when I started to write fanfiction (this was pre-internet fanfiction, too. Old school style)

2. Awesome how you've been writing for so long. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I wanted to explore a society where murder was not only allowed for a certain sect of people, but also welcomed. And I wanted to write a story where a character’s grief follows her for the entire book and doesn’t just go away when she meets a new boy.

3. In ASSASSIN’S HEART, you’ve got nine families of assassins. What did you do to make them all unique and what was your world building process like in general?

Four of the Families feature fairly prominently in the book, so they were pretty easy to develop when I considered how they would help or hinder Lea in her journey and why they would do that. The other Families I just mostly brainstormed about, trying to think where they would live, how they would be different from the other Families, how their ranks and their relationships would contribute to their identities.

And world building in general I tend to pants, which is strange because I’m not a pantser in general. But I tend to let the world come to me organically while I’m writing the draft, to see what my subconscious comes up with. Then I go back and do some heavier brainstorming and research.


4. That must have really helped to have four families kind of set in your mind. Lea is filled with a desire for revenge. That’s not always a characteristic that would make her a sympathetic character. How did you balance this important driving emotion with other feelings and characteristics to make Lea a sympathetic person we could get behind?

Not only is she driven by vengeance, but she’s also a murderer, so I knew I had a bit of an uphill battle. But I knew as long as the reader rooted for her and wanted to see her succeed, they would overlook her mistakes or some of her more negative traits. One big thing I did which I think helped the most in capturing reader sympathy was taking my time before bad things happen. I give the reader a chapter or two to get to know Lea, her family, her life before she loses all these things. So by then, the reader is invested in those aspects of Lea’s life, so when they’re taken away, the reader is on Lea’s side in her desire for vengeance.


5. That sounds like a good strategy to introduce us to Lea's life so we understand why she changes to who she is in the story. What was working with your editor like and what’s something that surprised about the process?


I really like my editor. We’ve actually gotten to meet in person a few times because she has family in MN,
which is great. I definitely love face to face meetings to get to know people. My editor is a fan of looong edit letters, which I was worried about at first, but the edit letter ended up not really being scary at all, and there were very few things I didn’t agree with. And the ones that I did, she had justifiable reasons for the change which I couldn’t disagree with, or we had phone calls to discuss and brainstorm and come to a consensus about how to meet in the middle.

So I would say I was pleasantly surprised by how well I took to my edits.

6. That's really cool that you got to meet her. Your agent is Mollie Glick. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Oh, my agent story was a bit of a crazy one. I started to query Assassin’s Heart in November of 2013. I was going to query for a month, then stop and pick back up in mid-January. But after the holidays I got an offer of rep. Then 6 more. And while having a lot of offers is exciting, it’s also very stressful, especially when all of the agents are excellent in their own right and you would sign with any of them.
But Mollie was great on our phone call (all the agents were, really) and her sales were great. And a few of the other agents who also offered, mentioned how amazing Mollie was and that was enough of a sign for me, anyway.

So I signed with Mollie, we did a quick small revision in over two weeks, then went on sub. And Assassin’s Heart sold in a pre-empt two weeks after that. So it was a whirlwind of craziness.

7. Wow! That's great you got some many offers, even if it was stressful. You’re working on your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. How has that helped you in writing or editing your book?

I actually just graduated a few weeks ago! And the MFA was the best decision I’ve ever made. The biggest thing it’s done for me is help me find a community and mentors that are truly invested in me and my writing. I actually workshopped a bit of Assassin’s Heart at my first MFA residency, the day before I got my first offer. Everyone was so supportive.


8. Congrats on graduating! How are you planning to market your book? Are you networking and working with other debut authors?

I’m a member of the Sweet Sixteens which has been FABULOUS! It’s wonderful going through the process of launching a debut with a bunch of other writers who are facing the same thing as you. I’ve also been doing a pretty expansive mailing campaign for public libraries and am working on some more social media (I have an Assassin’s Heart Quiz that will place you in one of the Nine Families)

9. What are you working on now?

Well, a couple of things. Waiting for edits for my second book with HarperTeen. I also have a MG fantasy that was my MFA Creative Thesis I’m about halfway through (about a boy whose family is turned into crows and he must find a witch to change them back) as well as another YA fantasy I worked on during my MFA. I’m excited to finish or revise all of these. 2016 is going to be an exciting year for me, with a lot of great work.

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

http://sarahahiers.com
http://falenformulatesfiction.blogspot.com
@SarahAhiers
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8039839.Sarah_Ahiers

Sarah has generously offered a copy of ASSASSIN'S HEART 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 February 13thIf 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. This is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday I have my new and first agent spotlight interview with agent Beth Campbell and a query critique giveaway.

On Friday I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut YA author Heidi Heilig and a giveaway of her YA fantasy time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Janet Taylor and a giveaway of her YA time travel INTO THE DIM.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Kim Savage and a giveaway of her YA thriller AFTER THE WOODS.

Hope to see you on Wednesday! 
 


GREGORY FUNARO GUEST POST AND ODDITORIUM SERIES GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have a fantastic guest post by author Gregory Funaro and a giveaway of one of his books in his MG Odditorium series. Just reading his query letter made me want to read his book.

Followers News 

David Powers King released a new YA zombie book THE UNDEAD ROAD. Here's a blurb:

Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he and his family has no choice if they are to survive the end of the world. And their survival may rest in the hands of a mysterious girl who might just turn on them at any moment. And here's a few links to find more information:

Here's a blurb of ALLISTAIR GRIM'S ODD AQUATICUM, Gregory's most recent book, from Goodreads:


When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.

With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade's magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.

But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.

So here's Gregory!

Writing A Successful Query Letter.

One of the most frequent questions I get from aspiring writers is, “How did you get your agent?” to which I always respond, “I wrote a good book.” You can imagine the eye-rolls and exasperated sighs of, “Well, duh!” that follow, because what people are really asking is, “How did you get your agent’s attention?”

If you’ve stumbled onto this post, you probably already know a little bit about how the publishing biz works, how a literary agent can help you, and what a query letter is. If you don’t, I suggest you take advantage of this new-fangled inter-web machine and school yourself on the basics. If after that you decide you still want (and even need) an agent to represent your work, you might find my insights on writing a successful query letter helpful. If not, well hey, as Bogie says in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”

Let me say up front that I am no expert on this—not at all—and consider myself a decent but by no means great writer. I am, however, a perfectionist and extremely stubborn (my friends say “driven,” but who are we kidding?) and rewrote my query letter many, many times before I finally took a deep breath and hit the “send” button. Is this the ultimate, super-duper-secret query letter formula you’ve been searching for? Probably not. But I can tell you that it attracted the attention of eight out of the twelve agents I queried, five of whom offered me representation after reading all or just a portion of my book (I ended up signing with Superman, aka Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman). That tells me I did two things correctly: 1) I wrote a good book; and 2) I wrote a good query letter.

There are basically three sections to the standard query letter: 1) The introduction/hook; 2) The synopsis; and 3) The bio/closing. How you choose to tackle each section is up to you (there are plenty of sites that give advice on this) so keep in mind that I am telling you what worked for me. In fact, I asked the agents who offered me representation what (other than my story idea) made my query letter stand out, and a common theme quickly emerged: they appreciated how professional, clear and concise it was.

I recently read about an agent who receives an average of 50-100 queries per day. She’s a pretty big deal, but even if we take the lower number as a baseline, that’s roughly 7 queries to read per hour (less an hour for lunch during a standard workday) on top of all her other duties. So, common sense would dictate that one should err on the side of brevity.

For example, in my query letter (see below) for Alistair Grim’s Odditorium (Disney-Hyperion, 2015) Odditorium I chose not waste the agents’ time trying to dazzle them with my “hook,” but instead began my query with a simple, one sentence introduction telling them the title, genre, and setting. Next, I split the synopsis section into two paragraphs. In the first, I tried to make the plot summary as economical and appealing as possible (I literally read dozens of book jackets to see what worked best). I then followed with a “comp” paragraph, in which I gave the word count, briefly highlighted the underlying themes, and compared Odditorium  to other books from which I drew my inspiration. In the last section, the bio, I only mention facts relevant to my career as a writer (education, previously published works, etc.).
I chose not waste the agents’ time trying to dazzle them with my “hook,” but instead began my query with a simple, one sentence introduction telling them the title, genre, and setting. Next, I split the synopsis section into two paragraphs. In the first, I tried to make the plot summary as economical and appealing as possible (I literally read dozens of book jackets to see what worked best). I then followed with a “comp” paragraph, in which I gave the word count, briefly highlighted the underlying themes, and compared

Of course, there is no “one size fits all” query letter—and you might even think mine is kind of boring—but for some reason it worked well for me back in the summer of 2012. What follows is my original query letter to Bill—well, most of it. Even three and a half years later, I couldn’t resist tweaking a few things.

I told you I was a perfectionist.

Dear Mr. Contardi:
Allow me to introduce you to my first middle-grade novel, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium—a steampunk influenced, sci-fi fantasy set in Victorian London.
For twelve year-old Grubb, life as a chimney sweep in the English countryside has always been hard. Apprenticed to a brutal master sweep named Mr. Smears, Grubb wants nothing more than a life free from toil and abuse. After incurring the wrath of a local innkeeper, Grubb stows away in a trunk belonging to one of the inn’s guests. Soon, the boy finds himself at the Odditorium—a flying house of mechanical wonders filled with supernatural beings and powered by a mysterious blue energy called animus. The eccentric owner of the Odditorium, Alistair Grim, allows Grubb to stay on as his apprentice, but when Grubb accidentally allows some of the animus to escape, he attracts the attention of Prince Nightshade, an evil necromancer who wants the animus for himself. After an intense battle and a narrow escape from London, Grubb and his friends set off in the Odditorium to defeat Prince Nightshade, during which time Grubb discovers the real purpose of Alistair Grim’s animus—a purpose as strange and nefarious as the evil necromancer who seeks to control it.
At 75,000 words, and layered with historical detail and world mythology, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium employs common Victorian themes such as hidden identities, unrequited love, and upper-class destiny in a darkly-fantastical Dickensian milieu. In the combined traditions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Water Babies, and the fantasy works of Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Alistair Grim’s Odditorium is not only a tale of adventure and mystery, but also the story of one boy’s magical journey toward acceptance and self-discovery.
In addition to being a published author, I am currently a professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at East Carolina University. My adult thrillers, The Sculptor and The Impaler (Kensington/Pinnacle, 2010, 2011), have met with both commercial and critical success, and foreign language rights have been sold in nearly a half-dozen countries. I hold an AM from Brown University, and an MFA from Florida State.
After three years as a client of John Hawkins & Associates, my agent there, William Reiss, is retiring. Thus, I thought you might be interested in taking a look at Alistair Grim’s Odditorium. I’ve pasted the first two chapters in the body of this e-mail. I hope it piques your interest in reading more.
Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear back from you soon.

Sincerely,
Gregory Funaro

You can find Gregory at:


Gregory has generously offered one book of the winner's choice in his Odditorium series. 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 February 6thIf 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. This is for U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other participating bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have an interview with debut author Sarah Ahiers and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Assassin's Heart.

Next Wednesday I have my new and first agent spotlight interview with agent Beth Campbell and a query critique giveaway.

Friday that week I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut YA author Heidi Heilig and a giveaway of her YA fantasy time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE.

Hope to see you on Monday! 
 

LOIS SEPAHBAN INTERVIEW AND PAPER WISHES GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have Lois Sepahban here to share about her debut MG historical fiction PAPER WISHES that released on January 5th. It’s set in World War II in one of our Japanese internment camps. It sounds so good and timely that I’m hoping to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II--and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.

Hi Lois! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi, Natalie! Thank you for having me here.

I was an obsessive reader as a child, and by the time I was 9 or 10, I was writing stories. When I was an adult, it occurred to me that I could pursue a career as a writer. So then I started taking writing classes, where I learned about SCBWI and joined a critique group.

Because I am a teacher, it was a natural step for me to write nonfiction books. I’ve written several on a range of topics—history, science, biography, current events, and so on. I learned a lot about outlining and revision from writing nonfiction. These days, though, I focus primarily on fiction. I teach full time and have a family, so I try to save my writing time for my special, personal projects.

2. Yes, I can see how your reading as a child and being a teacher would have led you to write. Where did you get the idea for PAPER WISHES? And are you surprised at how timely your story is given what’s going on in the world now?

The idea for PAPER WISHES came from several places over a long period of time. I grew up in central California, so I knew about Manzanar and the internment camps of World War II as a child. For many years, I had wanted to write a story set there. The ideas that became Manami and Yujiin and Grandfather and Ron came from a variety of places while I was researching: old newspaper articles, photographs, interviews, and so on.

And you’re right—Manami’s story is particularly timely given what is happening in the world, specifically regarding the refugee crisis and the rhetoric of some politicians. The World War II internment camps imprisoned people based on their ancestry. Leading up to those camps, laws were passed that outlawed immigration to the U.S. based solely on race. But that was more than 70 years ago. I hope that, 70 years from now, we will view others through a lens of compassion instead of fear.

3. I hope so too. PAPER WISHES is set in Manzanar, an internment camp in Central California. Is this a real place or did you base it on a specific internment camp? What research did you do on your setting and Japanese Americans’ experiences in these camps?

Manzanar is a real place. It was an internment camp during World War II, and today it is a national
historic site. You can visit Manzanar’s museum and walk the grounds. Most of the old buildings have been torn down, but monuments and artifacts remain. There is also a wonderful online museum (http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/manz/index.html) where you can learn more about the internment camps in general, and Manzanar specifically.

In addition to the Manzanar museum, I watched interviews with former internees on densho.org. That site has an archive with hundreds of interviews, in addition to other artifacts. It is free and available to the public (http://archive.densho.org/main.aspx).

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community’s website (http://bijac.org) was a good resource as well. What I learned there was particularly important in the first chapter of PAPER WISHES which is set on Bainbridge Island.


4. Sounds like you did some extensive research. I read you had a dog growing up, and
Manami’s personal growth revolves around her guilt about her dog. Did you draw on your own experiences in developing this part of your story?

I had several dogs growing up, but PAPER WISHES is dedicated to one in particular—Strider, an Australian shepherd mix. He was such a good dog! He walked me and my brother to our bus stop every morning and was waiting there for us when the bus brought us home. The loss of Strider is still painful, decades later.

5. Sorry it's a painful memory. You’ve also written 10 nonfiction books. What made you decide to write a historical fiction story? Do you have a preference now on staying with fiction or nonfiction books?

I enjoy writing nonfiction because I love to geek out on history and science research. But I’ve always written fiction—and as a reader, I gravitate toward historical fiction. So I suppose it makes perfect sense that I would write historical fiction.

Because my writing time is limited, I tend to focus on fiction these days. But I’m always on the lookout for a nonfiction topic that I’m super excited to research.

6. Your agent is Kathleen Rushall. Share how she became your agent and your road to getting this book published and your nonfiction ones too.

When I queried Kathleen, I knew that she was an animal lover. After we spoke, I learned that she was also a big-hearted, loving person. Add to that how much she loved PAPER WISHES, and it’s no surprise that we were destined to work together. I’m sensitive to other people’s emotions, so it’s important that I am surrounded by kind people. Kathleen is one of the kindest.

I queried her, following her guidelines, on a Sunday night. Monday morning, she emailed me, requesting the rest of the manuscript. Later that day, she emailed again to say she read it, loved it, and wanted to talk. I had queried three other agents, so there was a bit of a waiting period before I signed with her. Kathleen asked me to change a couple of things in the manuscript, and then she sent it out on submission. It sold within a couple of months. So, all in all, it was a gentle, easy path.

7. That's so cool you knew you had a connection as animal lovers. How are planning to promote this book? Is your strategy different than your nonfiction books?

I’ll be honest, promotion is not my thing. I don’t do any promotion whatsoever for my nonfiction books—I leave it completely to the publishers.

With PAPER WISHES, I have done a bit more—including interviews like this one. :) I’ll also be doing book signings for the first time. I’m scheduled to be on a few panels at book festivals and conferences in 2016, too.

I don’t blog, but I’m on social media—Twitter and Facebook, although Facebook is mainly for my friends and family.

8. I wouldn't love the promotion either. What has surprised you about being a debut MG fiction writer?

I knew I was introverted and shy before becoming a debut author, but I didn’t realize HOW introverted and shy I am. Coming to terms with social anxiety has been a challenge for me, but I have help—a supportive partner, loving parents, and a therapist. I try to limit the time I spend away from my kids—being with them, hugging, holding hands, and so on, soothes me.

I’m blessed to be part of the generous kid lit community. My critique partners, my SCBWI Midsouth friends, fellow Sweet 16s and Class of 2K16 debut authors have welcomed me into their warm circle. The support of other writers is something I cherish.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a couple of other MG novels with a similar setting as PAPER WISHES. They are a bit different, but share themes—loss and love and family.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lois. You can find Lois at
Website: http://www.loissepahban.com


Lois  has generously offered an ARC of PAPER WISHES for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through January 30thIf 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. The is for U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other participating bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by Gregory Funaro and a giveaway of  one book in his MG fantasy Alistair Grim’s Odditorium series. 

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Sarah Ahiers and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Assassin's Heart.

Wednesday that week I have my new and first agent spotlight with agent Beth Campbell and a query critique giveaway.

Friday that week I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

Hope to see you on Monday!