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

STICKS & STONES through July 2nd

A MIRROR IN THE SKY through July 9th

Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop through July 15th

Summer Fun Book Giveaway through July 23rd

Summer Fun Book Giveaway through July 30th

SUMMER FUN BOOK GIVEAWAY #2

Happy Monday Everyone! First, thanks to everyone for my birthday wishes. It's a special birthday. I can't believe I'm 60! Glad I still feel so much younger. I had a fantastic birthday with family and special friends.

Welcome to Week 2 of my Summer Fun Book Giveaway.
I hope you'll find a book here for yourself or someone you know. I want to give a special shout out of thanks to Harper Collins for sending me most of these books. They send me many books I can't feature, and I make sure to donate them to a school that I know could use books.

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

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

Middle Grade Books:

 




 




 


And my two YA choices:

 

Big Nate Flips Out
Bridget Wilder
eleven and holding
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs
Nancy Clancy
The Keepers
The Land of Forgotten Girls
Forest of Wonder
gena finn
salt to the sea
Wishing Day

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


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment telling me what book you'd like or that you want the Amazon gift card through July 30th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is US for the books and International for the gift card.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Margot Harrison and a giveaway of her YA thriller THE KILLER IN ME.

The Monday after that I'll have another summer fun giveaway.

The following Monday I will be off for a week as my mom and uncle are coming to town for a few days.

The Monday after that I'm interviewing debut author Bridget Hodder with a giveaway of her MG Cinderella retelling THE RAT PRINCE.

Hope to see you next Monday!


SUMMER FUN BOOK GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! For those who celebrate, I hope you had a great July 4th weekend. I hope everyone is having a great start to the holiday with lots of time for family, friends, fun, and reading. I'm definitely looking forward to all of that.

For much of the summer, I'll be doing a Monday book giveaway. I do have a few guest posts and interviews scheduled too. I hope you'll find a book here for yourself or someone you know. I want to give a special shout out of thanks to Harper Collins for sending me most of these books. They send me many books I can't feature, and I make sure to donate them to a school that I know could use books.

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

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

Middle Grade Books:

 




 




 
And my two YA choices:

 

Big Nate Flips Out
Bridget Wilder
eleven and holding
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs
Nancy Clancy
The Keepers
The Land of Forgotten Girls
Forest of Wonder
gena finn
salt to the sea

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


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment telling me what book you'd like or that you want the Amazon gift card through July 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is US for the books and International for the gift card.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I'll be doing another summer fun giveaway.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Margot Harrison and a giveaway of her YA thriller THE KILLER IN ME.

The Monday after that I'll have another summer fun giveaway.

Hope to see you next Monday!



FREEDOM TO READ GIVEAWAY HOP



Happy Friday Everyone! Hope you have a great holiday weekend planned. I’m thrilled to be part of the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop sponsored by Book Hounds.

I'm making this giveaway simple. I'm offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one winner so you can use it toward the purchase of your choice.


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 15th. 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.

Here's what's coming up:

Starting Monday, July 11th, I'll be doing a Monday giveaway of MG and YA books from Harper Collins through most of the summer. I hope you'll stop by and enter to win a book for yourself, your child, or someone else you know would enjoy these books and ARCs.

Hope to see you on July 11th!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this Giveaway Hop:




ADITI KHORANA INTERVIEW AND A MIRROR IN THE SKY GIVEAWAY



Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you're already starting on your summer fun!

I want to let you know what I'm doing this summer because it's a little different. I will have a few author guest posts in late July and August. But starting Monday July 11th, I'll be posting on Mondays and offering a giveaway of some of the fantastic MG and YA ARCS and books that Harper Collins has been so generously sending me. One winner will win the book of their choice each week. I'll keep adding books to the giveaway choices, but will keep the original choices. I hope you'll stop by to enter for yourself or someone you know.

While I'm doing these more laid back posts, I'll be busy planning my 2017 schedule. I'm also hoping for some relaxing weekend days where I can sit and read. 

Today I have debut author Aditi Khorana here to share about her YA contemporary with science fiction elements A MIRROR IN THE SKY. It sounds really interesting with all the questions it raises about your life choices and the paths you didn’t take—the big questions I’ve certainly been grappling with these last few years. It sounds like a great read for me this summer.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on
scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara's life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth--and for Tara--will ever be the same again.

 
Hi Aditi! Thanks so much for joining us!



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

Thanks so much for having me! I’ve been writing fiction, screenplays and essays for a very long time, but in the evenings, on the weekends, essentially on the side of my regular paid work. I always had day jobs that required me to write, travel, research and interview people, which gave me a lot of material to work with. My first attempt at a novel was in 2012. That book took me a year and a half to complete and ultimately didn’t sell. In a totally despondent state, I wrote Mirror in the Sky. Failure allowed me to really dig deep and stay in a vulnerable place till I finished the manuscript for MITS.

2.  Sounds like you have definitely had jobs that have really helped with your writing--and that were really interesting. Where did you get the idea for A MIRROR IN THE SKY?

I wrote MITS in 2014, right around the time that Cosmos was airing on TV. I kept seeing all these articles in the news about the discovery of Earth-like planets, and I started to realize that we probably will discover intelligent life on other planets at some point in my life. I was also going through a difficult time, questioning many of my own life choices, and a good friend sent me a Dear Sugar column: The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us. This column gave me goose bumps and made me think about all the paths we don't choose. What happens to those possibilities? Are there alternate versions of us somewhere out in another dimension living the lives we didn't live? And what if we conclusively learned about the existence of our Other selves? How would that shape the way we see ourselves?

3.  Those are some deep questions. You also worked as a journalist at ABS News, CNN, and PBS. How exciting! Have these jobs shaped your writing at all or helped you in writing A MIRROR IN THE SKY? How?

I think working as a journalist made me an economical writer, and that is saying a lot because brevity isn’t my forte. I also learned quite a bit from interviewing people and spending a considerable amount of time walking in their shoes, sussing out their motivations, their fears, their ambitions. The most important thing being a journalist taught me was writing on a deadline, and finding and presenting the most important elements of a story in a very short span of time.

4.  I write on a constant deadline so understand what you mean. Share a bit about your main character Tara and any surprises you learned about her as a character as you wrote her story.


Tara is the only brown person at an all-white, wealthy high school in Connecticut. She consistently
feels like an outsider – like she stands out because of her differences, but she’s also simultaneously invisible. I think this is ultimately what social marginalization – whether it’s based on race, class, gender – is ultimately about. For many people, feeling self-possessed, comfortable in your own body and entirely belonging to the place where you live is a luxury. This luxury isn’t automatically afforded to people of color or other marginalized groups. This is certainly how I felt when I was one of the only people of color in my high school. But Tara’s toughness and her sense of humor about her circumstances really surprised me and made writing MITS really fun.

5.  Yes, I've heard from others that being the only minority is a very challenging situation. What was the biggest challenge in writing this story—plot, character development, voice, etc.—and how did you overcome it?

I struggled with plot because there are quite a few story threads and yet, it’s ultimately a character-driven novel. I wanted to play up the mystery of the mirror planet and maintain an atmospheric tone and that’s difficult to do when there are so many storylines to keep track of!

6.  I’ve read reviews of your story that rave about the character development of all the characters in your book. Share your tips for creating such in-depth, riveting characters.

Working as a journalist and as a researcher definitely played a role in my ability to craft the characters in MITS. I also moderated focus groups for many years as a qualitative researcher. This helped me get a sense of how people speak, what they say, what they don’t say, and what they’re really saying. Creating in-depth characters is really about observing people very carefully, asking thoughtful questions and being an empathetic listener.

7.  What great advice! Your agent is Jenny Bent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Through the traditional route! I queried her, along with a handful of other agents. I was very lucky with the process of finding an agent and publishing house for MITS. I’d say from starting the manuscript to getting a publishing deal, it took a little over six months total. This is very unusual, and I was extremely fortunate, but it does happen. My first offer of representation came in within 48 hours of querying. By the end of the week, I had several offers from a number of wonderful agents. I chose Jenny Bent because she’s fantastic and she was so passionate about MITS. We revised the manuscript over the course of a couple of months before it was sent to editors. It sold in an auction to Razorbill/Penguin. My editor, Jessica Almon is a dream editor. I feel like she’s a mind-reader who can basically intuit what I’m trying to execute in my work even when I’m struggling to express it into words. She’s also become a wonderful friend through the process of working on two books together.

8.  I think we'd all like to have your road to publication story. You have also worked as a marketing executive for Hollywood studios like FOX, Paramount, and SONY. Has your marketing background helped you in your promotional plans for your book? How? And what tips do you have for other authors trying to market their books? This seems like a big challenge for many writers.


I think working in entertainment marketing taught me that marketing and promotion is a collaborative endeavor, and that there are people who are far more skilled at promotion than I am. I’ve had the chance to work with the best publicity team I could have asked for, and their ideas for marketing and promoting MITS have been phenomenal. This is an arena where I really trust the experts.

9.  What are you working on now?

At the moment, I'm working on two novels: a YA feminist fantasy set in ancient India during the time of Alexander the Great's imperial conquest of the region, and an adult novel. It's literary fiction about an immigrant family contending with a secret about their past.
 
Both of those sound really interesting. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Aditi. You can find Aditi a:

Twitter: @aditi_khorana
Instagram: Aditi_khorana

Aditi has generously offered an ARC of A MIRROR IN THE SKY for a giveaway.  To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 9th. 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. This is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday, I'm participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop. I'll have a lot of great choices for you.

Starting Monday, July 11th, I'll be doing a Monday giveaway of MG and YA books from Harper Collins. I hope you'll stop by and enter to win a book for yourself, your child, or someone else you know would enjoy these books and ARCs.

Hope to see you on Friday! And have a great July 4th Holiday!

AGENT REBECCA SHERMAN AND AUTHOR ABBY COOPER GUEST POST AND STICKS & STONES GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! I have a treat for you today as we wind down into summer. Debut author Abby Cooper and her agent Rebecca Sherman have a fascinating guest post about Abby's MG magical realism STICKS & STONES.

Follower News

First I have some Follower News to share. Medeia Sharif recently released a new YA book A LOVE
THAT DISTURBS. She is an awesome author who has had a number of books published this year. She is amazingly productive and been able to sell a her books to small publishers. You should really check her out to learn how she's developed her writing career.

Here's a blurb about her new book: Maysa Mazari is alarmed by her mother’s talk about arranged marriage. Haydee Gomez is a former gang member and juvenile detention student. Finding themselves in danger from Maysa’s friends and Haydee’s pimp, it’s apparent their love disturbs everyone around them as they fight to stay together.

Find Medeia – YA and MG Author
Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

Now onto our post today.

Here's a blurb of STICKS & STONES from Goodreads:

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just "cute" and "adorable," but as she's gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like "loser" and "pathetic" appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like "interesting," which she's not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she's starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying "I know who you are, and I know what you're dealing with. I want to help." As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

Now here's Rebecca and Abby!


Genre & Voice – Making Your Book Your Own

Abby: I am so excited that my first book, STICKS & STONES, releases on July 12th. I still remember back to my querying days and how nervous I was sending it out to agents. One of the toughest parts was deciding if I should call the novel magical realism, light fantasy, contemporary, or contemporary with an element of magic in my query letter. It’s pretty embarrassing to mislabel your own genre, but it can be tough when you’re not exactly sure what to call what you’ve written! Rebecca, when writers have a manuscript that could fit into multiple categories, how do you suggest they describe it to agents?

Rebecca: Abby, I may not have been let in on all that went down during your wild querying days, but I do remember your query. I still have it on file! The subject line read “Query: Sticks and Stones (MG Contemp. w/Magical Realism). I don’t believe there was anywhere that you might have found out about my love of magical realism (from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to A. S. King) ahead of time, or my yen to bring more of it to Middle Grade Fiction (the part of my own list that I would most like to grow), but your query found its way to my inbox still.

But (of course), I didn’t offer to represent because you labeled your work correctly- or in a way that
appealed to me. What if you’d labeled your work only as Contemporary? Or if you had not categorized your book at all? There are several books that don’t fit neatly into a given readership and/or genre, and I am betting there are even more authors that don’t feel comfortable classifying their writing in this way when first approaching an agent. If you are a prospective client wary of mislabeling your work, here’s my advice- don’t label it all! The query should describe your work compellingly and most importantly the writing in your MS itself determines an agent’s interest. There are so many people through the process to and beyond publication that are going to try to fit your work into any given boundary, so why should you, the author? Work with your agent to make decisions on how best to position your text with publishers. Publishers will work to best position your book via sales reps. Ultimately the hope is that it will be prominently featured in bookstores. I haven’t yet seen a bookstore that has a magical realism category let alone a MG Contemporary w/ Magical Realism section. Sticks & Stones will be shelved with other books for its Middle Grade Fiction readership. If a book fits into multiple genres, don’t fret, just describe it as you see it and leave it to others to label it.

Abby, I’m curious, did the fact that Sticks & Stones is magical realism impact your submission to agents/to whom you submitted?

Abby: I think it made querying simultaneously easier and more difficult. It was easier because a lot of agents specify on their websites/wish lists if they’re looking for magical realism. Writing magical realism also gave me a very specific set of comp titles; if an agent mentioned enjoying Savvy, A Tangle of Knots, or When You Reach Me, for example, I knew he or she might enjoy the magical elements of Sticks & Stones. It made querying more difficult because magical realism can be as broad as it is specific (don’t mind me, I’m just going to talk in opposites for this entire paragraph!) There are different styles within the category of magical realism, and many agents prefer magical realism that has a more literary tone. So though the magical realism helped me narrow my search a bit, it also required me to dig deeper. I think it is interesting, though, how I didn’t know about your love of magical realism and still chose to query you! I liked how you mentioned being an editorial agent and I thought that a lot of your favorite books had similarities to the realistic parts of Stones & Stones. When it comes to agents, research is key – but sometimes you also just need to go with your gut.

I love MG magical realism and I want to keep writing it, but say an author wrote an MG magical realism and then followed it with something completely different. Is this a good idea or bad idea and why? How important is it for writers to consistently write within their genre?
Rebecca: As you know (but let me tell the Literary Rambles reader), you are a very prolific writer. I was thrilled to be able to negotiate a two-book deal for your debut Sticks & Stones and a novel to follow, BUBBLES, a middle grade novel about Sophie, who can see people’s actual thoughts in thought bubbles above their heads.  BUBBLES is very much also a MG Contemp. w/Magical Realism. I do think it is ideal for the first books an author publishes to target readers of the same age group and preferred genre. I am far from suggesting that an author write the same book twice. However, writing books that can sit side by side in a bookstore could help to build an audience. Several of my clients write across genres and for different age groups. Most if not all of these clients established themselves first with complimentary titles and then added new readerships. A client should always talk to her agent about ideas, and they should work together to make decisions about what is submitted to publishers and when. 

For those who do not know, Abby, you were a school librarian whose patrons kept asking for books to read after WONDER, so you decided to write one of your own, and that is how Sticks & Stones originated. Wonder is very much contemporary realistic fiction told from multiple points of view, at what point did your manuscript become magical realism and how do you feel magical realism speaks to your (and the Wonder) audience?

Abby: STICKS & STONES actually started as a purely realistic book. It was about a girl who decided that she thought about things too much and challenged herself to be more action-oriented. I wanted her to ultimately realize that she was fine just the way she was, that she should embrace herself instead of trying so hard to change and be the person she thought other people wanted her to be. About halfway through my first draft, though, I got stuck. I tried a number of different techniques to figure out what to do, but none of them worked. I was only able to move forward when I considered my title, which had been my title from the get-go. I repeated the entire “sticks and stones may break my bones…” expression to myself. I had given my book that title because my main character hurt herself emotionally with the names she called herself. That’s when it occurred to me – what if those words actually appeared on her body and literally hurt her, too? The mental image of a girl with words on her arms and legs is one I couldn’t get out of my mind, and one I don’t think readers will be able to shake, either. I’m hoping that this element of magical realism will encourage empathy and self-reflection. As they did with Wonder, I hope that readers will think about how they would handle being in a similar situation to the main character, and have valuable discussions about topics like bullying and self-esteem.
Rebecca, we’ve talked about how the magical realism elements of Sticks & Stones appealed to you. What else stood out to you about the manuscript?
Rebecca: Genre or readership is certainly not the only thing that can link an author’s books or make
that first manuscript stand out to an agent. I represent many illustrators and I want to see a strong aesthetic or style from a potential illustrator client. Whether they are illustrating a walrus or a sunset, I want to be able (and have the reader be able) to tell that the art belongs to that individual illustrator. A portfolio should exhibit range while also demonstrating a singular look.

The same is true of author clients. Here, the “it factor” isn’t called style or aesthetic so often as it is called “voice.” From the first reading of Sticks & Stones it was clear that your manuscript had it. I don’t think that voice is something that an agent or editor can help to give a manuscript (or a writer) that doesn’t have it, but I do think it’s something we can help cultivate once it has already been found. The words that I would call the voice of Sticks & Stones are many- honest and conversational and endearing and well-paced. The book is very inviting for its readership. Thought-provoking and reflective and surprising are some of the words I would use to explain its voice to teachers and librarians. I could give you countless adjectives, but it wouldn’t tell you how the voice of the book is uniquely yours.

Let me give you an example- the introduction to the reader of Liam from Elyse’s p.o.v. “Dumb, beautiful, horrible, amazing Liam. I may have been a little confused about how I felt, but the one thing I knew for sure was that one look into his green-ish brownish eyeballs as he entered the classroom made me completely forget everything. It also made my heart get all lurchy and poundy, which I seriously did not appreciate. Was this feeling really necessary every single time I saw him?...” There is no evidence of magical realism in these lines. There is evidence of voice in spades. Magical realism is not your voice. The situation and emotion conveyed here is not your voice- we’ve all read fiction from a female point of view that details the experience of a crush. Instead, it is the way in which you have shown us what Elyse feels in this moment. Your choice of words- especially lurchy, poundy, and eyeballs- the pacing, the way this moment is about Liam but really about Elyse, even down to your use of italics, all of that and more comes together to create the voice of Sticks & Stones- and that is what had me hooked from the start.

Abby's bio: 
Abby Cooper lives in Minnesota with her miniature poodle, Louis, and a whole bunch of books. A former teacher and school librarian, her favorite things in the world (besides writing) are getting and giving book recommendations and sharing her love of reading with others. In her spare time, she likes eating cupcakes, running along the Mississippi River, and watching a lot of bad reality TV.
Rebecca's bio: 
Rebecca Sherman grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in English, transferring there after Freshman year at Indiana University, the alma mater of her entire family before her. After a brief stint writing obituaries for a dotcom and interning for Playbill Magazine, Rebecca took a job as an assistant at Writers House in 2001 and has never left. She is now a Senior Literary Agent at Writers House representing authors and illustrators of picture books, middle grade and YA fiction, and non-fiction. Her client list includes longtime clients: Daniel Salmieri illustrator of the New York Times Bestselling picture book, Dragons Love Tacos, Grace Lin, recipient of the Newbery Honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Melissa Sweet, two-time recipient of a Caldecott Honor, Matt Phelan, recipient of the Scott O’Dell award for The Storm in the Barn, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, the author/illustrator of the Lunch Lady series. She also represent a number of recent debut authors and illustrators including Ruth Chan, Nicholas Gannon, and Abby Cooper. She is a graduate of Northwestern University. More information can be found at www.writershouse.com.

Links for Abby:

Links for Rebecca:


Abby is generously offering one signed copy of STICKS & STONES for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 2nd. 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. This is for 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:


On Monday I have an interview with debut author Aditi Khorana and a giveaway of her YA contemporary science fiction A MIRROR IN THE SKY. 

Then I'll be doing something a little different this summer. I'll announce it next Monday.

Hope to see you on Monday!