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

ALL FOUR STARS through July 19th

Just Couldn't Put It Down Book Giveaway through July 20th

MIDNIGHT THIEF through July 26th

EXTRACTION through August 2nd

STEPHANIE DIAZ INTERVIEW AND EXTRACTION GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday! Anna Li and I had a fun week. We went to the mall to catch some July sales and out to dinner to celebrate my birthday on Tuesday since Anna Li works that night. And we/I had two dinner birthday celebrations with friends. And we're going to the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week. I confess that I haven't gone in years. But Anna Li has never gone so I told her we'd go this year.

I'll be late in getting to your blogs today. It's the summer championship swim meet for Anna Li. It's her last year to be able to swim this so we're going to definitely enjoy it.

FOLLOWER NEWS

David Powers King and Michael Jensen just released the cover for their YA fantasy WOVEN that's being released by Scholastic on January 27, 2015. Go to David's blog for more info.

And C. Lee McKenzie is sharing a cover reveal for her new YA contemporary Sixteen-year-old Hutch McQueen is a smart kid who can barely read. He makes one bad choice after another, trying to find a way to escape his rotten life at home and at school. Each time he gets into more trouble.
DOUBLE NEGATIVE that releases July 25th. Here's a blurb:

And a few links:
Buy Link:




 And I have a few winners to announce.
The winner of  THE ACTUAL &TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER is Tara Tyler!
 The winner of ALL FOUR STARS is Jenni Enzor!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me before the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Stephanie Diaz here to share about her new YA sci-fi EXTRACTION that released two days ago. I found the world building about a world where many people lived in different layers under the planet fascinating. And Clementine is such a sympathetic character desperately trying to rescue her friend Logan.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon's lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet's leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don't want her running—they want her subdued.

With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender's Game and leave them breathless for more.

Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi there! I started writing stories pretty much as soon as I learned how to read. First they were short stories, sometimes only a couple sentences long, and gradually they grew into things shaped like books. I knew as early as second grade that I wanted to be a published writer. In seventh grade, I queried my first full-length novel. It took another nine years before I landed an agent and sold a book (EXTRACTION). But it did happen!

2. Wow! That was really brave for you to query in 7th grade. Where did you get the idea for EXTRACTION?

I wondered, really out of nowhere, what the world would be like if the moon were a giant, poisonous threat in the sky. Then I made up a planet, Kiel, in a distant galaxy, put the poisonous moon in orbit around it, and put Clementine on the planet's surface. The plot line for her story slowly came to me after I'd created most of the world.

3. Cool how the world building came first. I loved the idea of a planet where it wasn’t safe to live on the surface. And you took it to another level by creating different underground levels. Share about your world building process and some of the limitations you struggled with in creating a world underground.

I conceived of the different levels of the planet Kiel before I came up with the actual plot of the story. I wanted to create something almost like the Death Star, but make it part of a terraformed planet. It was pretty challenging to work out the kinks, and as I've worked on book two—and now book three—in the series, I've run across more questions I've had to figure out answers to. But hopefully I've managed to create a world that could potentially exist in some far-distant galaxy.

4. I’ll be interested to see if we learn about some of the other levels in Book 2. The plot is fast-paced and Clementine is constantly facing challenges. What was your plotting like?

I am a horrible plotter. When I sat down to write EXTRACTION, I knew the beginning, the midpoint, and
the ending, but everything in between took forever to come together. Basically, I would plot a couple chapters, write them, and then plot the next set. It was a rough process.

5. That’s similar to how I plot. I hope mine works as well as yours. Tell us about Clementine and some fun facts about her. Is she at all like you and if so, how?

Clementine is the clever, fearless heroine of EXTRACTION. An author friend of mine once said Clem reminded her of Arya Stark, which made me grin since I'm a huge fan of Arya. I did write some of myself into Clem; I gave her a number of my weaknesses. I wish I could say I'm as brave as her, but sadly I'm still working on it.

6. Ha! I’d need more than one life to get to her level. I read you wrote this in college. How did you juggle the demands of writing and planning your debut with the demands of school?

Luckily, my particular major in college (film production) was the sort that didn't require a huge amount of work outside of school, except on specific production days when I was on set for hours at a time. So I really had a good amount of free time to fit writing into my schedule, though it did conflict with schoolwork sometimes, especially on those production days. But I managed to balance everything and make it work. I also made use of lulls during certain class lectures.

7. You were lucky to have some days the load was easy. Your agent is Alison Fargis. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Alison is fabulous. I originally queried another agent at her agency, Stonesong, simply because I ran across that agent's name before I found Alison's. The first agent already represented a book with subtle similarities to mine, so she passed off my manuscript to Alison, who loved it enough to make an offer. She won me over within a couple minutes of our first phone call, and she's been my rockstar champion ever since. We spent a few months revising EXTRACTION together before it went out on submission. It sold to St. Martin's about six weeks later.

8. What an awesome road to publication story. You make it sound easy. What’s surprised you about the process leading up to your book being published?

The support from bloggers and fellow debut authors has really astounded me, in a good way. I'd heard other authors say something similar, but it didn't quite hit me until I started experiencing it myself. Basically, there are a lot of awesome people in the sphere of booknerdigans.

9. Yes, it is a really supportive community. What’s your favorite social media platform and why? Do you feel you’re connecting with teen readers more easily because you’re closer to them age-wise and if so, how are you doing that?

Tumblr is my favorite, though twitter is a close second.


10. What are you working on now?

I'm currently drafting book three of the EXTRACTION trilogy, which I can't reveal the name for yet. Suffice to say, it's already giving me lots of feels.

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

http://www.stephaniediazbooks.com/
https://twitter.com/StephanieEDiaz
Add Extraction on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16210411-extraction

Stephanie has generously offered a signed ARC of EXTRACTION for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through August 2nd. I’ll announce the winner on August 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please 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. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I'm interviewing debut author Julia Marie Gibson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy COPPER MAGIC. I really enjoyed the contemporary feel of it too.

Next Friday I’ll be participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great book choices and will also be offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Lori Lee and giving away her YA fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone. I waited for ages for this and it was worth the wait.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

LIVIA BLACKBURNE INTERVIEW AND MIDNIGHT THIEF GIVEAWAY

 Happy Monday! Hope you're enjoying the summer.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Livia Blackbourne here to help celebrate the release of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF that released on July 8, 2014. I love fantasies and wish I wasn’t too behind to read this before Livia’s interview. I’m definitely hoping to read it this summer and maybe even before I have to give it away. Just reading the reviews makes me really want to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Hi Livia! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I was a voracious reader growing up. I was always hiding books from my parents, trying to sneak them in instead of taking care of my other responsibilities. I also did a lot of writing in middle and high school. But after I entered college, I stopped having time for reading or writing fiction. It was only after I turned 26 that I had a bit of a quarter life crisis. I realized that I was never going to write that novel unless I made time for it. So I did, and it proved a nice creative outlet while I was working on my dissertation. One thing led to another, and I sold the book!

2. Awesome that you decided to start writing again. I know you also have a PhD in neuroscience (my daughter wants to study this BTW) and wrote much of this while doing your doctorial research. Has your scientific background influenced your writing? How?

I think my neuroscience and psychology background makes me a little better at perspective taking. For example, some readers have pointed out that the villains in my books are well-rounded. Even though they do despicable things, it's clear how they came to be that way, and how they view themselves as heroes. I think my psychology training helped with that.

3. I bet it gives you a lot of insight into people. Share a bit about your world building process and any tips you have about creating a fantasy world.

My world building process was kind of haphazard, and I would recommend that other writers take a more systematic approach than I did. For example, a lot of my early names didn't sound like they were from the same language, even though the characters came from the same city, so that was one thing I had to go back and correct.

A lot of my world building also came after the fact. When my editor bought my book, her biggest point of feedback was that the big plot twist came out of nowhere, and didn't quite fit into the world of the book. So I ended up going back and fleshing out the world so that my plot twist would be less surprising.
As far as tips go, I'd say don't be afraid to go back through during revisions to develop your world. World building, just like plot and characterization, is something that evolves through drafts.

4. That’s a great idea to give yourself the freedom to delve further into world building while
revising. I’ve read that you aren’t afraid to tackle complex moral issues in MIDNIGHT THIEF. What draws you to these types of issues and tell us a bit about some of the moral challenges, Kyra, your main character faces.

It's funny, when reviews mentioning MIDNIGHT THIEF’s complex morality first popped up, I also wondered what inspired those themes, because I certainly didn't start out trying to write a story that tackled these issues. The story just turned out that way. At first I thought maybe it was because, as a practicing Christian that spent most of her life running in secular circles, I think a lot about morality and moral relativity. And I'm sure it that's part of it, but a lot of the credit also goes to the old USA TV show La Femme Nikita (not the one on CW, which I haven’t watched much of). I was completely obsessed with the show as a high schooler, and they delve really deeply into moral dilemmas that are very similar to the ones that Kyra faces. In MIDNIGHT THIEF, the Assassins Guild works to overthrow the corrupt nobility. But such things are hard to do, and there's often collateral damage. Thus, Kyra has to decide how far she really wants to go in this fight, and whether the ends justifies the means.

5. Tell us about how you obtained representation by your agent and your road to publication.

I finished MIDNIGHT THIEF in late 2011, and at that point I actually planned to self publish it. I'd been reading a lot on changes in the publishing industry and decided I wanted control of my rights while things settled. My critique group was very supportive but suggested that I send out a few queries to test the waters and see what happens. So I did, and instead of being careful about it and sending them out in batches of 10 and adjusting based on feedback, I sent out about 35 in one go because I didn't really care if I failed. As irony would have it, I got an offer of representation rather quickly. I think what swayed me to go the traditional route was that I had really good conversations with agents about their visions for the story, and their ideas for edits were quite good. I realized that I could make MIDNIGHT THIEF a much stronger work if I worked with an editor at a publishing house. Granted, I could have hired an editor freelance and self-published as well, but at the time I was unwilling to spend the money and time to get a good one.

6. That’s a cool story about getting an agent. And one we’d all love to have. What’s surprised you about the year leading up to your book release? What advice do you have for other debut authors just signing a book contract?

I've been pleasantly surprised by what my publisher’s been doing to get the word out about my book. Again, I came from the self-publishing community, where a publishers’ ability and willingness to market books is often disparaged. But I've been able to see firsthand how Disney’s platform has found me new readers through their connections with bookstores, libraries, and book bloggers. Librarians and bloggers have picked up the book through conferences and Netgalley. MIDNIGHT THIEF was also picked up as a top ten summer debut by the American Booksellers Association, which raised its profile greatly among independent bookstores. Even though my book is not a “big book” that’s announced with billboards in Times Square, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much visibility it's gotten even through the normal marketing channels.

7. So awesome it’s on ALA’s list. That sounds like a huge help in getting word out about your book. I noticed you have over 15,000 Twitter followers and follow over 10,000 people. How did you grow your following? What tips do you have on how we should grow our Twitter followings and get more out of being on Twitter?

My biggest asset was my twitter bio. I took care to make it intriguing -- I don't remember what it was back then, but something about a neuroscientist who explores the intersection between psychology and fiction. So my first tip would be to make yourself interesting, and make people curious. The second would be to think about how your twitter feed can help others. What's in it for your followers? People follow you on twitter because you're useful or interesting to them, not because they want to hear about you.
When I first started using twitter, I did a lot of follower churning, which involves following people in the writing world and un-following those who didn't follow back. Nowadays, I think it's of questionable usefulness. You'll end up with a lot of followers that way, but are they actually looking at your feed? So I no longer do that and only follow people who I’m genuinely interested in keeping up with.

8. What are you working on now?

I'm working on the sequel to MIDNIGHT THIEF. It's due September 1.

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


 Twitter:  @lkblackburne

Disney has generously offered an ARC of MIDNIGHT THIEF 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 26th. I’ll announce the winner on July 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please 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. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

The following Monday I'm interviewing debut author Julia Marie Gibson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy COPPER MAGIC. I really enjoyed the contemporary feel of it too.

Friday that week I’ll be participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great book choices and will also be offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Lori Lee and giving away her YA fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone. I waited for ages for this and it was worth the wait.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


JUST COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN JULY BLOG HOP GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic July 4th Holiday. Ours was kind of quiet since we'd just returned from a trip to Dallas to visit Rudy's family. It was actually easier than I thought. This was our first visit down there since he passed away. We had a really good time seeing everyone and my new baby nephew. And then we came back and Anna Li passed her driver's test and got her license. But the tester was mean. It took us a while to get excited that she passed. But she's been driving a few days and admits it's very convenient to drive yourself and it's giving me more time to myself. Yay!

FOLLOWER NEWS

I have two cover reveals to share.
First here's the cover for Stina Lindenblatt's YA contemporary TELL ME WHEN that releases September 1, 2014. Here's a short blurb: Amber Scott thought her screaming nightmares would end now that her stalker is locked up and awaiting trial. But they return when her slam-dunk case starts to fall apart. Explicit letters she allegedly wrote surface, suggesting she was the mastermind behind her assault, a willing victim. Amber has to find the strength to step into the spotlight and bring awareness to victims' rights before she's convicted in the court of public opinion. And she's really not sure what's worse—that her kidnapper could walk free, or that the seemingly endless attention and speculation will drive her boyfriend Marcus away permanently
And here's a few links:  
Nook:

 
And Crystal Collier's new YA book MOONLESS releases October 13, 2014. Here's a blurb:
Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power. And risk losing everything.

Here's a few blurbs: 

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XuPxULL36nI/UsW6MvKTZJI/AAAAAAAAChw/cH9lxWJIEnE/s1600/Goodreads+button.jpg
 PREORDER your print copy
Sign up for Crystal Collier's newsletter to receive release news and freebies.

And I have a few winners to announce:
The winner of GUILDED is Holdenj!
The winner of WELL'S END is Michael G-G!
The winner of WANDERVILLE is Jess!
The winner of OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is Jess Lawson!
The winner of THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is Brenda!
And the winner of THE HERO'S GUIDE TO BEING AN OUTLAW is Jpetroroy!

Congrats to all the winners. Please e-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to be part of the Just Couldn't Put It Down July Book Giveaway Hop sponsored by Stuck In Books. I’ve got lots of great newer released YA book choices. They’re all books I’ve read am hoping to read, or know are ones you wouldn't be able to put down. And if you’re reading a different book in the series 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.

So here are your choices. Click on the title to read a blurb from Goodreads.

 

 

 
 

CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE
THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN
CRESS
DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS
HEIR OF FIRE Pre-Order
IGNITE ME
ILSA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER Pre-Order
INTO THE STILL BLUE
ON THE FENCE
RUIN AND RISING
SALVAGE
SINNER

Or 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 July 20th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. I’ll announce the winner on July 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please 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:

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Livia Blackbourne and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

The Monday after that I'm interviewing debut author Julia Marie Gibson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy COPPER MAGIC.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here's a list of all the blogs participating in this Blog Hop:




TARA DAIRMAN GUEST POST AND ALL FOUR STARS GIVEAWAY

Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a fantastic start to July and looking forward to the July 4th holiday. I just got back from our trip late last night. This morning I'll be busy going to the grocery story, getting my puppy from being boarded, and going with Anna Li to her driving test and fingers crossed to get her license. So I'll be stopping by many of your blogs later today. Thanks for your patience.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Tara Dairman here with a guest post on taking the time to get being published right and giveaway of her MG contemporary novel ALL FOUR STARS that releases on July 10th. It sounds like a fantastic book with a blurb by one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Nielsen. I know many of you’d enjoy reading it this summer.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

“A scrumptious gem of a story!”—Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

So here’s Tara!

The time it takes to get it right

Want to publish a novel? Great! It's an easy two-step process:

1) Get a really, really great idea for a book.
2) Execute it as well as humanly possible.

Now, if you've been hanging around the kid-lit-o-sphere for a while, you've probably heard that writers never publish their first novels. Writing your first novel is a chance to...well, learn how to write a novel, but you shouldn't expect that it'll score you an agent. And, if by some fluke, it does score you an agent, you should still get busy writing that second book, because chances are that that first one probably isn't going to sell.

These are wise words, and I often feel a little funny admitting that my debut novel is actually also my first All Four Stars, the debut novel in question, took me more than five years to write (and nine years from inception to publication).
novel. But there are some big caveats that go along with that statement. One is that, for years before I turned to novels, I wrote plays. And another is that

The timeline went something like this:

2005: Get idea to write a book about Gladys Gatsby, an 11-year-old restaurant critic in New York who must keep her age a secret from her employers. Pat self on the back for coming up with such a stellar idea!

2006: Write a first chapter, featuring a snarky narrator and several jokes about prune juice. Learn that writers' group does not find it nearly as hilarious as I do. Rewrite opening, proceeding to load it down with backstory (a classic rookie mistake).

2007: Stop writing for several months to produce a play.

2008: Progress slowly. Finally reach the point where I, and my critique partners, are starting to enjoy the story.

2009: Stop writing for several months to produce another play, plan a wedding, and sell all my belongings so my husband-to-be and I can fulfill our dream of backpacking around the world.

later in 2009: Take off for South America with half-finished manuscript in my backpack. Swear that when I return to the U.S.A., I will have a completed novel.

2010: Finish my draft in a cafe in Tanzania while my husband is off hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Stick finished manuscript back in backpack for eight more months.

2011: Return to U.S.A. Type up manuscript and run it by writers' group. Ignore most of their suggestions and start querying agents anyway. Receive rejections across the board.

Later in 2011: Spend months revising manuscript, ruthlessly cutting backstory and developing character. Start querying again with revised manuscript.

January, 2012: Sign with agent.

April, 2012: Sell book to Putnam.

July, 2014: After plenty more revision, the book is finally published.

As you can see, my book's path to publication was littered with false starts, long hiatuses, and major revisions. In the amount of time I took to produce a single manuscript, many other writers would have written several books.

But let's go back to those two quick and easy steps for getting published. I had step one—the great idea—taken care of from the beginning. It was step two that I needed to work at; I needed to put in the time to develop the writing chops to tell the heck out of the story. Other writers may have the opposite problem: They have the skills right off the bat, but it may take them years (i.e. multiple manuscripts) to find the perfect concept with which to showcase them. Or, perhaps, it's a little both.

The bottom line is that overnight success stories in this business are extremely rare, and that most “debut” authors have been putting in the hours on one or more novels for years before they score a book deal. Nobody just sends the first thing they wrote to a publisher and gets offered a contract the next day. (Okay, well, Gladys Gatsby does, when she sends her sample restaurant review in to the chief Dining editor at The New York Standard. But hey, that's fiction.) :)


Tara Dairman bio:
Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world traveler (2 years, 74 countries!). She grew up in New York, received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and worked for several years as a magazine editor, managing freelance writers that she never met face-to-face. While in that job, Tara realized that she could probably be tricked into publishing an article by a kid if the writing was good enough and the kid sent professional-sounding e-mails. Voilà: the premise for her first novel, All Four Stars, was born.

You can find Tara at:
Website: http://www.taradairman.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraDairman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13598351-all-four-stars

Where to buy links:
http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780399162527
http://www.penguin.com/book/all-four-stars-by-tara-dairman/9780399162527
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-four-stars-tara-dairman/1117163939?ean=9780399162527
http://www.amazon.com/All-Four-Stars-Tara-Dairman/dp/0399162526/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381937351&sr=1-1
http://www.bookdepository.com/All-Four-Stars-Tara-Dairman/9780399162527

Tara is generously offering a copy of ALL FOUR STARS 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 19th. I’ll announce the winner on July 21st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please 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. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Monday, I’m participating in the Just Couldn’t Put It Down Bloghop. I’ll have lots of great choices of books for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Livia Blackbourne and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF.

The Monday after that I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

JESSICA LAWSON INTERVIEW AND THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER

Happy Wednesday! I have a few things to tell you before I get to our fantastic interview.

First, sorry there was no post on Monday but the author never got back  to me.

And sorry if you got a weird e-mail from me asking for money. One of my e-mail accounts got hacked. I fixed it. If you ever get hacked, be sure to check that a new e-mail hasn't been added to your account or that your e-mail is being forwarded somewhere else.

And so sorry that I'm not around as much. I'm in the midst of taking Rudy's name off my accounts and clearing out some of the stuff he accumulated that we don't need anymore. And swim mom duties are starting and I'm finishing up one last online Office 10 course. I'm guessing my layoff notice will come this September so I've got to get my resume together and get on LinkedIn too. So there is just a ton going on right now. But there is an end in site by the end of Fall on much of this. And if that's not enough, Blogger Dashboard has a bug where only one blog will load. They are supposed to be fixing it.

After today, I'm starting my summer blogging schedule. I'm leaving to visit Rudy's family so will be off until July 2nd and will be offline during my trip. I'm pretty committed to only blogging on Mondays except for my popular Blog Hop Book Giveaways. And it August, I'm taking off two weeks. I may do the same in October and November because it's heavy swim season. And I want to enjoy it with Anna Li. The best way to do that is not to get over committed.

FOLLOWER NEWS

Krysten Hager's book TRUE COLORS just released. Here's a blurb: TRUE COLORS is about Landry Albright, an 8th grader, who tries out for a modeling competition with her two best friends and gets "unfriended" when she moves on in the competition and they don't. Throw in a new boy, jealousy issues, and hair stylist insults—how’s a girl to deal? 
Here's some links:


Finally I have some winners to announce.

The winner of MY LAST KISS is Stephanie Garber!
The winner of KILLING RUBY ROSE is Nicole Zoltack!
The winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card is Alex Cavenaugh!
And the winner of the Sarah Davies' query critique is Tammy Therlault!

Congrats to all the winners!

Today I’m jumping up and down thrilled to have debut author and follower Jessica Lawson here to share about her new MG historical fiction story THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER that releases July  1, 2014. This was a really fun read for me and I totally loved Becky, the main character. She’s such a character and has a great voice.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man’s grave as protection for entering the Widow's house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way . . . if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

First of all, I have to say what an honor it is to be interviewed on this blog. I’ve been reading it for years, used it extensively during my agent search, and think you and Casey are two of the coolest ladies in the kidlit blogging community.

I live in Colorado with my husband and children (I have two young ones and two teenage stepchildren). I started writing when my first child was six months old, but I think the signs were there even during my childhood—I kept snarky journals during vacation, made up silly songs (something I still do all the time with my kids), and actually looked forward to essay-based tests. Becoming a stay-at-home mom finally gave me the time to pursue a hidden passion that I might have otherwise overlooked.

2. Thanks for the sweet words. And I’m most thrilled when I get to interview my blogger friends as debut authors. Where did you get your idea for this story and what drew you to writing historical fiction?

One day when I was doing household chores, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer caught my eye on our bookshelf. It occurred to me that I’d always related more to Tom and Huck than Becky Thatcher. I wondered what it would be like if Becky was a pirate-playing, mischief-making kind of girl, and how that might change the story dynamic.

The idea sat for well over a year while I worked on other manuscripts. During that time, my brother-in-law passed away. My sister was left a widow with two very young daughters to raise. It was a loss that felt like (and still feels like) one of the world’s supreme acts of unfairness. I’d known him since I was 16 years old. I spent several weeks living with my sister and nieces. The grieving that went on during that time, and the strength and courage of my sister left a mark on me. When I returned, I decided to write the book I’d been thinking about. I finally knew what my Becky Thatcher’s backstory was—why she moved to St. Petersburg, why she wore overalls, and why she loved adventure. It was because of a beloved brother who Becky admired above all others—a brother who had died a year before the start of the novel. I named that character Jon, after my own brother-in-law who had left us far too soon.

Why historical fiction? I’ve tried writing stories with contemporary characters and settings, but I’m just not suited to it at this point. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a little old-fashioned and nostalgic at heart, or maybe I’m just avoiding the incorporation of modern technology and vocabulary.

3. A sad way to have to come up with the backstory but that’s cool that you named your character after Jon. What’s the best way you found to do research to be sure you get the historical facts and way of life right when writing historical fiction like THE ACTUAL &TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER?

I have a coffee mug featuring the following Mark Twain quote: “Get your facts first, then you can distort
‘em as much as you please.” And that’s pretty much how I try to go about it. My advice would be to read historical fiction based in the time period of your manuscript and biographies of historical figures as necessary, and use Google. I tend to research first to get a basic grounding in time and place, then dive into writing, leaving any necessary detail work and filling in for later. Otherwise there’s a tendency to try to incorporate every single cool fact you learn into the manuscript, which tends to crowd things and distract from the story you’re trying to tell.

As a side note, it’s funny how sometimes your “fiction” turns out to match up with fact. An example of something that might seem small is that, for whatever reason, my Becky Thatcher calls mosquitoes “skitters.” I knew very well when I wrote the story that most people would say “skeeter” as a Southern nickname for the insect, but goshdarnit, in my head, Becky pronounced it “skitter.” I was kind of surprised that nobody ever corrected me on it (especially because I’ve heard the term “skitters” refer to something else entirely…let’s just say that you don’t want to be at an outhouse with a bad case of the skitters.). But after using the miracle of the internet, I found out that there are areas near my setting where a mosquito has been called a “skitter” as well. So I guess the moral of that tidbit is that if you research hard enough, you just might find out that your fictional character knows more than you do

4. Sounds like a fun way to do research. And that’s a good idea not to get overwhelmed trying to add the little historical details in the first draft. I just totally fell in love with Becky and her voice. She’s such a character that makes me smile every time I think of her. Share about her and how you got her voice so perfectly right.

You are so sweet to say that! She was one of those lucky characters who just showed up fully formed and had a lot to say. The accent and vernacular I gave her probably came, at least partially, from the time I spent as a child in a very small southeastern Missouri town, visiting with my grandparents. My version of Becky T. was also influenced by my love for Twain, Junie B. Jones, Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables), and Mattie Ross in the new version of the movie True Grit (such a great character!).

5. Now that you mention it, she does remind me a bit of Junie B. Jones. What was a challenge you faced craft-wise in writing this and what did you learn from the experience?

Initially, the manuscript was more episodic, in the vein of Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I’m lucky that my agent is very hands-on and that my editor has a wonderful sense of vision. We worked together to hone in on the external plot and cut away the extraneous material. That process helped me learn that addressing revision in layers and doing multiple passes is a good way for me to go about polishing. It can take more time than just making large cuts, but carving away at the story gradually was a great way for me to get to know my characters and their motivations more intimately.

6. I need to revise multiple times too. Your agent is Tina Wexler. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Tina Wexler is an amazing agent, one that I’m incredibly thankful to have. My road to publication is a journey that started in the summer of 2009. I wrote lots of manuscripts over three years before writing Becky T., the stories ranging from women’s fiction to middle grade. I wrote quickly, kept my expectations low, and didn’t get emotionally attached to the manuscripts, which helped when dealing with rejections. For the first 4-5 manuscripts, I sacrificed the revision process in the name of chasing new ideas. It was only when I acquired critique partners that I really started to see an increase in requests and personalized rejections. Tina picked Becky T. out of the slush pile in July of 2012 and offered representation that September. We went on submission the following year and sold the book in March of 2013.

7. Awesome how you wrote and queried the old-fashioned way and it worked. How are you planning to market this? Since it ties into the Tom Sawyer stories and Mark Twain, is this giving you some niche opportunities to help promote your book?

With middle grade books, particularly a story like this one, I think there’s more of a focus on school and library sales. I’ve sent postcards to schools and libraries in key “Twain towns” like Hannibal, MO (his hometown) and Hartford, CT (where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and other major works), and I’ll be looking for schools that incorporate Tom Sawyer into their curriculum to see if my book might be a nice supplement for their learning units. Simon & Schuster has put together a wonderful teaching guide, which will help me on that front. I also get to go to the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford in late July to chat with some people about the book and attend their annual ice cream social.

8. Great idea to target the libraries and schools to contact. What are you working on now?

I just turned in line edits for NOOKS & CRANNIES, a middle grade novel set in a manor house in England’s Lake District in 1906. It’s about a young girl named Tabitha Crum, a mysterious invitation, a reclusive Countess, a bunch of children, a blizzard, and a secret that changes the lives of everyone in the book. Publication is set for Summer 2015.

Your new book sounds so good! Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica.

Thank YOU, Natalie!

You can find Jessica at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Lawson-Childrens-Author/149125145284531

Jessica and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers have generously offered an ARC of THE ACTUAL &TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER 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 12th. I’ll announce the winner on July 14th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please 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. This is for US and Canada residents.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog to find all the other blogs participating.

Here’s what’s coming up:

I’ll be off until Wednesday, July 2nd when I have a guest post by Tara Dairman and giveaway of her MG contemporary novel ALL FOUR STARS. I'll hopefully be stopping by your blogs later in the day that day as the morning is filled with picking up my puppy at the kennel she'll be boarding, grocery shopping, and Anna Li's driving test and hopefully getting her license.

The next Monday, I’m participating in the Just Couldn’t Put It Down Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices of books for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Livia Blackbourne and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF.

The Monday after that I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday, July 2nd!