Here are my current Giveaway Contests

ALMOST PARADISE through July 29th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Danielle Burby Agent Spotlight Interview on 9/25/17
Molly O'Neal Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/23/17
Quressa Robinson Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/30/17


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you are having a fantastic summer. FYI if I do not get to your visit your blog today, I apologize. I'm leaving to visit my mom this morning in Florida because she needs some help. She doesn't have Internet so I am reading as many blogs as I can before I leave this morning and that will be it. Before I get to my interview today, I have my IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

Today's Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

As a writer, a pet peeve is how established writers can sometimes freely break the rules that those of us who have not been published cannot break. For example, they can tell instead of show or use way more adverbs than are technically allowed. Yet, we have to be obsessed with not doing this.

As a reader, I really dislike when the pacing is too slow. If a book drags too much, I really lose interest. I used to be able to slog through to the good parts. But these last few years since my husband died and I've had a harder time getting into reading, I have to put down too slow books and move on.

What about you? What are your pet peeves?

Today I’m super excited to have debut author Katie Slivensky here to share about her MG THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY about a girl selected to train for a mission to Mars. It’s gotten rave reviews for being action-packed and also weaving in tons of cool science.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’ve been imagining adventures since I was a kid, and was determined to make my life as interesting as I could. I worked at a zoo growing up, went to school to become a paleontologist, and ultimately ended up drawn to informal museum education and now work at the Museum of Science in Boston (where I get to do cool stuff like make lightning and play with liquid nitrogen). In 2009, I decided to officially pursue becoming a published author as another avenue for getting kids excited about science and the natural world. I’ve always been a writer ever since I was really young, but it wasn’t until I was out of grad school that I had the time to focus on becoming published. From 2009-2015, I wrote nine different manuscripts. The one that finally landed me the book deal was my space adventure—THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

2. Awesome how your job inspired your writing. Where did you get the idea for THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

The first program I learned for the Museum of Science was their traveling, inflatable planetarium program (Starlab). Whenever I’d do a Starlab program, kids would always get particularly excited when I’d explain that it’d be their generation that goes to Mars. That got me wondering if I could write a story where kids didn’t have to wait until adulthood to train to be astronauts, which raised a pretty big question right off the bat—WHY would kids be training to be astronauts? Answering that became the crux of the entire novel!

3. That's cool that the idea for your story came from your interactions with kids at the Museum of Science. You have an amazing background in science, and it sounds like you have a lot of contact with kids through your presentations. How did you draw on what you’ve learned in creating your story?

My background in science gave me the research skills to tackle this book. Academically speaking, I’m a paleontologist. Even though I teach planetarium shows, I still had a great deal to learn about space before this novel could feel at all real! Understanding how science works, some of the basic language used in the fields, etc, helped me to pick through the mountains of information out there about space travel and find the nuggets I needed to make my story possible. And as far as the kids go—I knew right away I wanted this to be for middle-graders. That’s my favorite age group to teach. Since I’m around their voices a lot, that helped feed into my characters.

4. Your book has been described as an action-packed adventure that is a real page turner. What was your plotting process like? How did you keep the pace so fast with increasing stakes?

I love extensive plotting. My critique partners can attest to the fact that I create piles of outlines,
diagrams, and character arc sheets before I complete any novel. I don’t always stick to what’s on those outlines, but they do provide a great road map. I write with the idea in mind that things will get worse before they get worse. Then, they’ll get even worse. My goal is to make the reader wonder how my characters are going to get out of the mess long before the mess has even reached its full potential. My advice for creating fast-paced plots is to make sure your characters get to the end of the story not just against the odds, but against all odds.

5. That's great advice to make things worse and then even more challenging. I'll have to remember that tip. What was something—either a class, book, or something else—that helped you learn about the craft of writing and that you found useful in writing this story?

I think the best thing that helped me learn craft was (and is) being part of a critique group. Being forced to closely examine other people’s writing to discover what could be changed, what is missing, and what is working helped me to understand how a story works. My critique partners constantly inspire me and teach me how to take my writing to the next level.

6. Yes. I love being in a critique group too. How do you juggle your writing with the demands of your job?

To be honest, not well! Hah. I am perpetually exhausted, and live off of coffee. But I care so much about both careers that I am willing to push myself to manage the two as best as I can. I often get up before 5am to spend time working on writing before going to work, and I typically spend most of the hours of my weekend writing. My day-job is extremely energetically demanding, so I can’t usually muster up additional energy to write in the evenings. There’s been a lot of trial and error in discovering just how far I can push myself—I THINK my friends are finally starting to trust me when I say I know where my limits are. (We won’t talk about the Pneumonia Debacle of 2015, other than to say…listen to your body, people. Please.)

7. I can relate to living on coffee and when I was an attorney, I used to get up early in the morning to write too. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. She seems like such a fantastic agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

In 2013, I was connected to Joan through a critique partner, who knew another author Joan worked with. The author said my space adventure sounded like something her agent would like. I’d been querying novels for a couple years at that point, and was less than optimistic about my odds, to say the least, but I went ahead and queried Joan. Around the same time, I got my first ever offer of representation from a different agent, so I quickly let Joan (and all agents I’d queried) know. Joan immediately responded and wasted no time in reading through my manuscript and making an offer of her own. I actually ended up with three agent offers at once, which was a serious shock to my system after two years of rejection! Every agent has different talents to bring to the table, but I am completely and utterly grateful that I landed with Joan. She’s been the perfect match for my writing and working style, and has been such a tremendous champion of my manuscripts.

After that, it took over a year and a half and a few revisions/rounds of submissions before I got my offer from HarperCollins Children’s. This industry does not move quickly for most of us! But I think that’s often a good thing, because I’ve had time to adjust to each stage as I’ve gone through them. And it made it that much sweeter when I finally did get my chance at a book deal. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when Joan called to tell me that Harper wanted to sign me. I know I’m supposed to be an author, but there really are no words for that moment.

8. Your publication story shows the importance of persistence and patience in both getting an agent and book deal.I know that you are a member of The Swanky Seventeens, a debut MG and YA author group. How has this helped you navigate the marketing and other challenges of your book being released?

It’s been super helpful to have others to turn to with questions during this rollercoaster of a time. I highly recommend syncing up with some kind of debut group when you are a new author, because the support of others going through what you’re going through is invaluable. I don’t think there’s been any one big thing I could name that my debut group has helped me with, but I know there’s been countless small things. And those add up! Trust me, do they ever add up. I’m so grateful I’ve had other authors around to share in this part of the journey.

9. Yes, I'd want to join a debut group for sure too. What is a piece of advice that you have for aspiring writers?

Connect with other writers. Get yourself a critique group. It’ll help you improve as an author, and will be essential for your mental health and you go through the many ups and downs that this career track presents.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m in copyedits with my next middle grade novel, THE SEISMIC SEVEN (2018, HarperCollins Children’s). The tagline is: Seven kids. Ones supervolcano. One chance to save the world.

So be on the lookout for that one next year. ;) And thanks for having me at Literary Rambles!

Thanks for all your advice, Katie. You can find Katie at:
Twitter: @paleopaws 

Katie has generously offered an ARC of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY for a giveaway. 
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through August 19th. 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 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Monday August 14th I have a guest post by debut author Lana Popovich and giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy WICKED LIKE WILDFIRE

Monday August 21st I have an interview with debut author Melissa Roske and a giveaway of her MG contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Wednesday September 6th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler with a query critique giveaway by Tina and giveaway of UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, a MG contemporary by Jessica

Monday September 11th I have an interview with debut author Katherine Locke and a giveaway of her historical YA THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON

Hope to see you on Monday, August 14th!


Happy Monday Everyone! Are you having a good start to your summer? I am. Since the end of June I've bought a new car, a 2017 Toyota Corolla. It's the first that I bought on my own. And I went on a fun weekend trip with my boyfriend. Have lots of other good things planned too.

And thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. I had a fantastic birthday!


Today I've got some fantastic follower news. Beverly Stowe McClure's new MG PRINCESS BREEZE was recently released. It sounds very suspenseful and filled with high stakes. Here's a blurb: When Breeze Brannigan, her parents, and her best friends, sail to Isla del Fuego to visit the prince she met at school, she doesn't count on a legend coming to life or finding herself in the middle of a battle that can have only one winner. What's a girl to do?

And some links:
Barnes & Noble:
4RV Publishing:

Now I'm excited to have debut author Corabel Shofner here to share about her debut MG contemporary ALMOST PARADISE. It sounds like an inspiring story that even adults can really enjoy. My daughter has always loved pigs, and I have a soft spot for any books with pigs.

Here's a blurb of ALMOST PARADISE from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend
holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor's home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she's the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn't always mean going back to where you came from.

Now here's Corabel!


You know what? I CAN work with an editor and I am excessively proud to have discovered this about myself. While working on ALMOST PARADISE with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux I practically earned a post graduate degree in editing — and it was free.

Early in the submission process, I began talking with two excellent editors, Margaret Ferguson and Susan Dobinick, at FSG. They didn’t make an offer immediately but I was delighted to be in conversation with professionals of this caliber. That they had read my book and could talk about it in detail made me downright giddy. After several conversations. Susan took my book ‘up to acquisitions,’ but — it — was — rejected. (Apparently, the boss didn’t think teachers and librarians would get behind a middle grade comedy about a little girl who’s mother is on death row.)

I took to my bed, with a pillow over my head, my ego deflated. Then I received an email from my son Alex which pulled me out of despair (you see my entire family was awaiting word from FSG.)

Click here for the email that got me up and writing. His message has been shared widely among writers who know how difficult editing can be. Alex’s advice, impersonal and specific, gave me the courage to commit my book to major surgery.

I braced myself by saving a draft, then I sat in front of my fireplace during a snow storm and put my story on the operating table. I sliced it open, clamped the blood vessels, replaced organs, then stitched it up. Much to my astonishment, the patient lived. Susan took the new manuscript back to acquisitions and they bought my book. My far flung family celebrated while my son Alex took champagne to my agent’s office in New York.

Removing the death penalty from a book about the death penalty was by far the most challenging editorial change but it was not the last one I needed to do.The entire middle section was removed, along with some of my favorite adventures. Characters were reshaped and realigned. Inconsistencies were identified. And Ruby Clyde was NOT allowed to hitchhike.

This is a legitimate question. How do you keep your integrity as a writer when someone suggests changing your work?

Here’s the thing. I am a debut novelist. My editors have years of experience in the business. They have every reason to make my book better so I listened carefully to their concerns and so often they were right. Of course, this only works if your editor is insightful and understands your book. (Much like the quality of a marriage depends on choosing the right spouse.)

Here’s how I navigated my ego while editing ALMOST PARADISE:

1) In response to every idea, my ego flared but I sat with it. “No way,” said my head. “I’ll think about it,” said my mouth.

2) Some comments made me feel “caught.” I hadn’t thought through something and I knew it. These moments, more than anything, made me trust my editors more than my ego.

3) Why did the middle section need to be yanked?!? Why? I love it. My ego revolted because some of the best parts are in the middle but . . . best for what? I couldn’t let go of my babies. But guess what I could and I did let them go because the section was too long, the story lagged, and the topic was dated.

4) Ruby Clyde can’t hitchhike. Why not?!? She has to hitchhike.There was no other way to get her to the ranch. I rewrote the hitchhiking scenes several times but none of them worked.(This is why my book was delayed six months.) Sigh. I was stuck. Nevertheless, I persisted and found a solution.

Occasionally during the process, I pushed back and won my point. We worked as a team and I never felt my integrity was compromised. It is clear now that my original manuscript, which I believed was ready to publish, is not the book I would want on the shelves. Even my ego has to agree.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Corabel! You can find Corabel at:

Corabel has generously offered a copy of ALMOST PARADISE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through July 29th. 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 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

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

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Wednesday August 2nd I have an interview with debut author Kate Slivensky and a giveaway of her MG science fiction THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY and my IWSG post.

Monday August 14th I have a guest post by debut author Lana Popovich and giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy WICKED LIKE WILDFIRE

Monday August 21st I have an interview with debut author Melissa Roske and a giveaway of her MG contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Hope to see you on Wednesday, August 2nd!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic holiday and are having a good start to the summer. Before I get to my interview today, I’ve got my IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!

Today's Question: What is one valuable lesson that you have learned since you started writing?

I have two for you:
  1. Be brave in your revisions. Sometimes I've found myself tweaking instead of seriously devising after getting a critique. Sometimes you need to brave and really make a more major revision.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. One of mine is too many words for the genre and grade, like 30,000 too many that had to be cut. Secret: I just started writing for myself again. Not even sure why but I like it, the most important thing. This time I have a word count goal and a loose plot with where major plot points need to be to reign in my word count, keep a faster pace, and cut some of the revisions.
What's something that you've learned from your writing?

Today I am super excited to have Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski here to share about their new MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGON. This sounds like a fantastic twist on dragons and fantasy filled with adventure and a courageous main character. And Heidi and Kati are not only co-authors of this book. They are also sisters.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A thirteen-year-old master chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, cook the perfect dragon cuisine, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all of the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine!

Lailu Loganberry is an expert at hunting dangerous beasts. And she’s even better at cooking them.

For years Lailu has trained to be the best chef in the city. Her specialty? Monster cuisine. When her mentor agrees to open a new restaurant with Lailu as the head chef, she’s never been more excited. But her celebration is cut short when she discovers that her mentor borrowed money from Mr. Boss, a vicious loan shark. If they can’t pay him back, Lailu will not only lose her restaurant—she’ll have to cook for Mr. Boss for the rest of her life.

As Lailu scrambles to raise the money in time, she becomes trapped in a deadly conflict between the king’s cold-blooded assassin, the terrifying elf mafia, and Mr. Boss’ ruthless crew. Worst of all, her only hope in outsmarting Mr. Boss lies with the one person she hates—Greg, the most obnoxious boy in school and her rival in the restaurant business.

But like Lailu always says, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And she’s determined to succeed, no matter the cost!

Hi Heidi and Kati! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you each tell us about yourself and how you got into writing? Also, what made you start writing together?

KATI: I’m a stay-at-home mom with a love of art, and I actually got into writing as a way to entertain myself in high school - it was an easy way to pretend to be taking notes.

HEIDI: I’m a dog walker in northern CA. I started writing in elementary school because I just loved reading so much I wanted to make my own stories. Kati and I always used each other as sounding boards for story ideas, so I think it was just inevitable that we’d eventually write together.

2. Awesome that you've always shared about your writing. Where did you get the idea for A DASH OF DRAGON?

KATI: It was a combination of two ideas, actually. When I was drawing, I had the idea of writing a
story where mobster elves are feuding with a gang of steampunk scientists, and the second idea, about a girl who specializes in cooking mystical beasts, was inspired by a filler episode in my favorite anime. Heidi came up with the idea to combine them.

HEIDI: I thought the elves vs. scientists would be a fun backdrop for her other story. And then I was so excited about it that I kept coming up with other ideas to add until eventually I wore Kati down and she suggested I write it with her. ;)

3. I love the idea, Kati. And Heidi, that was brilliant to combine them! One thing that seems different about your story than other books that are co-authored is that it is only told from one point of view. How did you plot this out and what was your process of writing this as a team like?

KATI: Plotting this out was tricky, because I outline everything, and Heidi is a total pantser. We did a lot of talking and note taking before we started writing DASH, so even if Heidi liked to take us off my carefully plotted outline, we had a pretty good idea what type of story we were both trying to create.

HEIDI: For our first draft, we took turns writing sections. Kati would write a couple pages and send it to me, and then I had free reign to go in and change anything I wanted before writing my own section. Then Kati could change anything in mine before writing her next one. That way all of our writing mixed together so it felt more like one cohesive voice.

4. Your writing process together is so interesting and different from others who co-write with different POV. I love that Lailu is a master at killing and cooking monsters. It’s an unusual mix. And then you’ve got the evil Mr. Boss, who is a loan shark and the mafia. How did these ideas get developed into your story? And what advice do you have to other writers about adding a unique twist to their stories like you have here?

KATI: Some of the twists were from Heidi just deciding to throw new characters and surprises in to spice up my outline, and some of the other characters and twists were carefully plotted out by seeing something that made us ask: what if...?

HEIDI: Also I guess this is a good place to admit that sometimes I liked to randomly throw in an unplanned character or surprise scene just so I could sit back and see what Kati did with it.

KATI: You know, I always suspected you were just messing with me… ;D And my advice to other writers looking to add unique twists is to venture outside their comfort zones for reading (MG has some fantastic, quirky stories), and to daydream often. Some of my best ideas have come when I was just taking a long, quiet walk.

HEIDI: I second that advice. Also if you have an idea that you think could be a lot of fun but you’re not really sure how it would work, don’t be afraid to just try it out. You can always go back and delete, and even if that idea fails, it might lead to something else you can use that’s even better.

5. Great advice. In the Goodreads blurb, Lailu is described as a feisty character. She sounds like someone I want to get to know already. Tell us a bit about her.

KATI: Lailu works tirelessly for her dreams, and she will literally fight a dragon for her friends. But she’s also pretty grumpy. I think the term our editors used was “a charming curmudgeon.”

HEIDI: Yes, she’s definitely grumpy, and she does have a temper, but she’s also surprisingly optimistic, and she refuses to see anything bad in the people she cares about…until ultimately their problems come around to bite her in the butt.

6. What was a challenge you had in writing A DASH OF DRAGON and how did you overcome it?

KATI: When we first wrote A DASH OF DRAGON, it was YA, but when we started querying we were told a number of times that our voice was more MG. We were caught in this weird place in between for a while before we decided that MG was the better fit and revised.

HEIDI: Initially we didn’t revise it enough, so we started getting responses that our now-MG book was too YA…that was a frustrating time period. But eventually we managed to get the voice and story in line, thanks in large part to several fantastic critique partners. And now we can’t imagine our book being anywhere other than MG. We’re so glad we dug in and made that change.

7. So interesting how you decided to switch this from YA to MG. Not all writers would be brave enough to be so bold. Share a bit about how you got your agent and what was your road to publication like?

KATI: The road to publication was a long, and sometimes bumpy road, but never a lonely one. Heidi and I went to several conferences, entered two online contests, and worked our way through the querying trenches before signing with our wonderful agent, Jennifer Azantian, who found us in her slush pile.

HEIDI: It took us a long time (see above about that awkward in-between YA/MG phase), but we met a lot of amazing writers along the way, and I think we also learned how to work together better as a team. There’s nothing like revising a book seven hundred times with a person to really foster a sense of unity. ;)

8. Glad to know that the slush pile works. What was something that surprised you about the process of signing a publishing contract and getting to the point where you are now with a published book?

KATI: I was surprised by how many revisions we still had left after signing. I thought our manuscript was really polished by the time we went on submission, but our editors at Aladdin were able to help us bring it to a whole new level.

HEIDI: That surprised me, too. I used to think you signed a book deal, and that was that. Now I know better. I was also surprised by how long everything takes. I think a week in publishing is like a month outside of it, so I’ve had to learn to be much more patient.

9. How are you planning to promote your book? Do you have any advice for writers who will debut in the future about marketing?

KATI: We’ve done a Twitter contest, and we’re planning on doing another. Plus, we've been talking to all these wonderful blogs. ;) Beyond that, we’re trying to drum up word of mouth by sending our ARCs around to other authors and reviewers, and introducing ourselves to local booksellers.

HEIDI: Mostly, though, we’ve been concentrating on writing the next book. We’ve heard that the best way to market your current book is to write another one, and then another. So we spent the majority of our time after DASH was finished making sure the sequel would be as good as possible.

10. What are you working on now?

KATI: We just finished revisions on book two and are waiting on the next round of edits. In the meantime, I’ve started tinkering with a new YA steampunk novel.

HEIDI: I’m working on a YA sci fi, and then Kati and I have been brainstorming ideas for our next joint project as well. We still have more of Lailu’s story that we hope to write.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Heidi and Kati. You can find Heidi and Kati at:

Twitter (Kati): @ktbartkowski
Twitter (Heidi): @HiDLang

Kati and Heidi have has generously offered an ARC of A DASH OF DRAGONS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through July 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Wednesday August 2nd I have an interview with debut author Kate Slivensky and a giveaway of her MG science fiction THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY and my IWSG post.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Friday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. Hope you're having a fantastic start to your summer. I'm happy to say that after a few hard years with a lot of heartache, personal challenges, and life changes, I'm already starting to have a fun and happy summer.

Thanks to all of you who gave me ideas for books you would like to see in my giveaways. I am trying to look for new books in romance, contemporary, and historical fiction as well as build up my middle grade books for these giveaways as well.

I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. 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. So many good books. For any Megan Whalen Turner fans, I just finished THICK AS THIEVES, her newest book after years of wating. It was really good. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

Here are the YA choices:







And here are the middle grade choices:




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 anyway you want and leave a comment through July 15th 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 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. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS and my IWSG post

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Hope to see you on Wednesday! Have a great holiday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Emily Bain Murphy here with her agent Peter Knapp to share about Emily's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES. I'm attracted to the intriguing fantasy world and the mystery. It sounds like a real page turner.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

"Thick with mystery, buried secrets, and magic, nothing is safe in The Disappearances. Be careful, or you might lose yourself in this strange and wondrous world, where stars go missing, reflections don’t exist, and the question, how much would you sacrifice for love? is given entirely new meaning. I adored this book!" – Stephanie Garber, author of Caraval

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Now here's Emily and Peter!

Thank you so much, again, for thinking of me and The Disappearances for this post! Pete and I had a bit of an informal back-and-forth conversation about the book and our working relationship that I hope will be informative for querying writers! I remember absolutely *scouring* Literary Rambles from top to bottom when I was querying, so it feels very full-circle to be contributing this post, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity! Without further ado--a little peek into a conversation between Peter Knapp and me:

Peter: I can still remember when I first read the manuscript for THE DISAPPEARANCES—then
called Between Sand and Glass—after you had submitted it to me. It was a different book then: Aila’s chapters were in third person, the time period and setting were both different, the way the mystery unfolded was different. And yet, I knew then what I know now, which is that it has so much heart. You write with such a deep appreciation for the beauty of the world, and a respect for the way grief weaves its way into that beauty. I could try to tell you what my favorite thing about THE DISAPPEARANCES is, but I would end up just summarizing the entire book back to you. So, I’m curious to know: do you have a favorite moment or scene (without giving too much away!)?

Emily: Oh gosh, this is hard! Yes. I have a handful of favorite moments and lines sprinkled through the book that I hope will make readers feel happy and uplifted when they reach them. Without giving too much away—they involve riddles being solved that lead to romance or redemption. But my favorite moments are quickly becoming the ones other readers have told me they loved, or parts that made them cry. For instance, there’s a certain scene where Aila is remembering her mother that will always make me think of you, because it was a scene I added later in the process, and I distinctly remember the first time you read it and told me how it made you feel. We worked so closely on this book through editorial revisions and plot changes, and I absolutely love how our working relationship was forged during those months. What was your favorite thing about working on this book, and what, in your opinion, are some of the elements that make an agent and writer a good match for each other?

Peter: What wasn’t my favorite thing about working on this book? Seriously, it was such a pleasure to get to talk with you about The Disappearances as you were revising it because you are so intentional in all the choices you make. If I had to pick, though, my favorite thing about working with you on The Disappearances was discovering some of the themes that were emerging in the earlier draft and helping you really unearth them entirely. As you know, my editorial thoughts begin from a very theme-driven place, so watching the way you explored the ideas of grief and family history by showing how Aila discovers her mother Juliet in an entirely different light after Juliet’s death was just astonishing. As for what makes an agent and a writer a good match for each other: I think part of it is the agent must understand what the author is trying to achieve. It’s important that an agent not only understand what an author’s book is, but what it could be. And then the agent and the author must have a similar vision for how to bring out the book’s full potential. This is part of the challenge of being an author—you must always push your craft with every book. I’m curious to hear: is there any element of craft you learned while revising The Disappearances that you’ll be glad to have in your arsenal as you write your next novel?

Emily: I feel like I learned so many things working on The Disappearances. Most of all, I had no idea how much I still didn't know! Things like momentum and how events can't just happen one after the other but need to string together in a more interconnected way, so that the reader almost feels like they're being swept along by a wave. I learned so much about character agency and writing scenes where the action is happening on the page instead of off. For example, I remember we even moved the beginning of the story slightly back in time, so that instead of Aila being on a train, describing the prior scene to us, we could show it unfolding in real-time and sort of live it alongside her. As part of my earliest drafts, I remember studying Save the Cat and a screenwriting book by John Truby called The Anatomy of Story just to start understanding the most basic building blocks of telling a story. You recommended The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein, which I absolutely loved, and I will probably read it every time I'm sitting down to write a new book. I'm always on the lookout for more, and I know I already stole one of your favorites, but do you have any other go-to's that you would recommend for studying craft--whether it's a book, website, podcast, or conference?

Peter: One of my favorite resources is Mary Kole’s website and blog,, as well as her book
Writing Irresistible Kidlit. The blog has so many amazing posts about both the craft, the revision process, the business, and anything and everything related to middle grade and young adult fiction—it’s so excellent. I think of much of her advice as the tools in my editorial tool kit. I have started sending clients this great post Mary did about “Big Revision” [link:] along with my edit letters to encourage them to take larger leaps of faith in the editorial process. Something that I really loved about working with you was the way you were so unafraid to make big changes in your revisions—you even changed the book from third person to first person! I’m curious: is there anything that (forgive this) “disappeared” from an earlier draft that you miss?

Emily: Bah! Our Disappearances humor. Hmm… You know, it’s funny, because I remember it being so hard to kill some of my darlings along the way (and I ended up killing a lot), and now I honestly don’t miss any of them very much. There was one fun, eccentric, quirky character I had to cut who I hope might be resurrected in an entirely different book somewhere down the road. But other than that, no—thankfully, I don’t, because I’m just so happy with the way the book turned out in the end, and I know you are, too—and after all the work we put into it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Peter and Emily!

You can find Emily and Peter at:



Emily has generously offered a copy of THE DISAPPEARANCES for a giveaway and Peter is offering a query critique giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 8th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the critique giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up. FYI I will be taking some weeks off in July and August since the summer tends to be slow and I use this time to start preparing my schedule for 2018.

Saturday, July 1st I'll be participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS and my IWSG post

Monday, July 17th I have a guest post by debut author Corabel Shofner and a giveaway of her contemporary ALMOST PARADISE

Hope to see you on Saturday!


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kelly Van Sant here. She is a literary agent at D4EO Literary Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. 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.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks so much for having me!

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

I’ve been working in the publishing industry for nearly a decade, which is hard to believe! My career began in earnest at Writers House in New York, where I was able to mentor under some of the best literary agents in the industry and gained significant experience in subrights and permissions. I spent much of my time working directly with authors to get manuscripts submission-ready. I cultivated an eye for compelling, emotionally resonant stories and was able to advise authors on both the big picture and small details that tighten and enrich the plot, making good books even better. From there I moved to Harold Ober Associates, where I worked under the Director of Foreign Rights and learned how to vet contracts and advocate for authors.

Just when exciting things were beginning to happen in my career, I left New York City for love and moved to Minnesota with my husband. I then took advantage of the vibrant Twin Cities literary community and switched to the publishing side of the fence.

At Llewellyn Worldwide I acted as a first set of eyes for the Acquisitions department. I evaluated both new author submissions and manuscripts turned in by established authors, made recommendations to the editorial team, and pitched projects at acquisitions meetings. I was quickly promoted to Contracts Manager across all three imprints, and drafted, negotiated, processed, and tracked all author contracts, and worked closely with our accounting department to generate all advance payments. I then moved to Quarto Publishing Group as their Contracts Administrator, where I oversaw drafting, negotiation, and record retention of all contracts including author contracts, vendor contracts, licensing agreements, and foreign publishing agreements.

In addition to blogging about contracts at the Pub(lishing) Crawl Blog and co-hosting their weekly podcast with S. Jae-Jones (JJ), I started teaching a course at the Loft Literary Center called Before You Sign: Dissecting Publishing Contracts. The purpose of the class is to empower writers to take control of their creative careers through education about publishing contracts. My overwhelmingly positive experiences teaching at the Loft helped me to realize that although I was grateful for the experiences I've had while at publishing houses in recent years, my true passion in the book industry has always been working on behalf of the author. I knew it was time to return to my roots and join a literary agency. When I spoke to Bob Diforio at the beginning of the year it was clear that we were a good fit, and I was thrilled to accept a position as an agent with D4EO.

About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Bob Diforio launched D4EO Literary Agency in 1989 after a long career at New American Library. Today D4EO is a full-service, five-agent literary agency representing authors of a very broad range of commercial fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, and adults. Books represented by the agency have topped the The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and agency authors have received awards that include the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and the Nero Award.

With over 1,500 published books under contract, the agency has launched the writing careers of more than two hundred authors. The agency is based in Connecticut with associate agents in San Francisco (Pam Howell), Destin, FL (Joyce Holland), New York City (Quressa Robinson) and Minneapolis (Kelly Van Sant).

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 am seeking Middle Grade, Young Adult, and limited women's fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. I love character-driven stories with intricate plots, and am always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. I am especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives. I've expanded on my interests within each category below.

Middle Grade
I am seeking Upper MG only. Chapter books or early readers are not for me. My ideal middle grade needs to be whimsical, funny, and full of adventure. My tastes lean away from contemporary in this genre, and more toward fantasy, speculative, science-fiction, or magical realism. I like intricate world-building and MCs with gumption. Give me a quest, give me steadfast friendships, give me insightful, magical parallels with the real world, and make me laugh. No books with an educational thrust; I want to have fun!

Young Adult
I dearly love fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, and other magical elements in YA stories. Even better if mixed and matched with other genres. YA historical fantasy? Yes, please. Alternate universes, fictional worlds, your very own hometown with a secret or sinister twist. If the world-building is original and intricate, if you're either dismantling existing tropes or executing them exceptionally well, if your characters are complex and come alive on the page then what are you waiting for? Send me your query.

Let's talk about romance in YA. I prefer romance in my YA to be an undercurrent (even an urgent one) but not the main point. Something needs to be going on in universe and in your characters' lives beyond their love story. Instant love is not for me; I appreciate when characters grow together over the course of a book. Attraction can happen instantly, but intimacy takes time.

I am selective about YA contemporary. A strong voice is vital, and again, I love to see a complex web of relationships beyond just romantic (though romance can be included): especially friendships and family relationships. More often than not you need to break my heart or make me fall head over heels in love with your characters in order for me to be the right agent to rep a contemporary book. But my heart longs to love and be broken! These books above all else must absolutely be character-driven.

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

I am excited about unique and compelling voices, morally complex characters, and consequences that prompt growth. I always want the characters to be changed by what’s happened to them over the course of a book.

What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I am not currently looking for picture books, early readers or chapter books, graphic novels, short stories, poetry, plays, or screenplays.

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?

Transparency. I believe that I work for my clients, and they should have access to all of the information regarding the work I do on their behalf. I strive to maintain clear lines of communication so that my clients always know the status of their projects, and where they are in my workload. I always tell authors where I’m submitting their work and when, and will continue to lead with transparency as we move through the publication process.

I believe that books change lives. In my role as a gatekeeper, I am committed to giving access and opportunity to people of color and Native people, disabled and neurodiverse people, LGBTQIA+ , people from underrepresented cultures, religious minorities and other marginalized and oppressed groups. I want to hear from #ownvoices and marginalized writers. And I want to ensure that ALL of my writers are striving to Do No Harm. I want to represent books that are well-researched, that include positive portrayals of a diverse array of people, and that avoid harmful representation. This also applies to being a gatekeeper for the industry, not just a gatekeeper for authors. When I’m ready to hire interns, I’ll be making sure that my calls are open enough to allow remote work and flexible schedules, so that people whose circumstances deny them the ability to get a typical internship in New York have the opportunity to get the work experience that the industry demands.

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 am definitely an editorial agent and believe strongly in sending out the most polished manuscript possible to editors. The market is competitive, and I think it’s vital these days to go out with your very best work.

When editing for a client I go through the manuscript and insert comments into the margins. I do some light line editing, but the bulk of my commentary is big picture stuff. I like to ask a lot of questions, point out inconsistencies, and highlight areas of the manuscript that either need to be fleshed out or cut down. While I’m doing this critical read-through and inserting comments for the author, I also keep a pad of paper on hand and jot down notes for myself. These notes become the bones of the editorial letter that I write. I usually break my edit letters into sections, focusing on big picture elements like plot, character development, and structure. In addition to pointing out the weaknesses of a manuscript, I also use edit letters to really gush about the things I love. Reading a manuscript through a second time, with a close, critical eye for edits reminds me why I fell in love with the book in the first place.

I like to give my authors a couple of days to absorb my notes before we discuss revisions. Even if the edits are light, it can still be overwhelming to receive an onslaught of feedback, and I think that giving authors a few days to read through both the letter and the notes in the manuscript and sit with everything helps bring defenses down and let the creative juices start flowing. I like to schedule a call for a few days out so we can talk through everything together and determine how to proceed.

Although I feel confident that the suggestions I make will lead to a better book, I always make sure my clients know that they retain creative control over their work. It’s not my book—it’s theirs. And if I make a suggestion that doesn’t ring true to them I always want them to be comfortable telling me so. We’ll work together to find another solution that feels right.

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?

I accept email submissions at a dedicated email address:

Please include a traditional query letter and the first chapter of your novel in the body of the email. I do not open attachments. If you’re new to the query trenches I strongly suggest that you do your research. Writing a successful query letter is hard. It’s an entirely different skillset than that required for writing a novel. But it’s your one chance to make an impression, so don’t waste it.

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

It’s frustrating when queries waste time talking about everything except the story. I’m less interested in the themes of your work and what readers will learn from it than I am about the story: who, what, where, when, how. In terms of first pages, I find that so many writers are starting their story in the wrong place. Getting this right is crucial if you want me to be interested enough to read more.

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

I respond to all queries within 4 weeks and full manuscripts within 12 weeks.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Yes! In fact, the first client I signed previously self-published a YA series. But she queried me with new work, and that’s the number one thing I’d advise self-published or authors published by small presses to do: query with new work. Don’t try to land an agent with a previously published book. Additionally, think seriously about why you want to make the switch from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and why you want an agent. I always ask those questions when on calls with previously published authors I’m interested in representing, so be prepared to answer then.

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’m sure the responsibilities of agents will evolve with the industry at large, although I’m not sure what that might look like. Ultimate an agent is the author’s advocate, and in that respect I always see a place for agents within the publishing industry. What we’re advocating for or what methods we use may change, but we are always going to be working on behalf of authors, to ensure that they make sound business decisions, achieve career stability, and retain the maximum amount of creative control possible over their work.

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I’m getting ready to go out on submission with some amazing projects and I hope to be able to announce sales soon! In the meantime, you can find spotlights on each of my clients on my blog:

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.

Honestly, I think the best way for writers to get to know me is to listen to episodes of the PubCrawl Podcast. . JJ and I have been friends for many, many years, so our conversations are casual and probably give an accurate glimpse into my personality. Beyond just snippets of my personality, listeners of the podcast will find out a lot about the way I work as an agent, the types of things that I’m looking for in queries and manuscripts, and what I love about stories. It’s probably the next best thing to sitting down with me over coffee.

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

Besides the D4EO website, I have a personal site called Pen and Parsley where I blog about all things agenting, including giving monthly query stats. I am also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl where I blog about the publishing industry alongside a group of talented authors and publishing professionals. And of course, I’m on twitter and instagram: @bookishchick

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

Publishing is a long game, so settle in. Find your community, do your research, read widely, and have something to work on.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kelly.

Kelly is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through July 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.