CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN through September 2nd
THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON through September 23rd
MASK OF SHADOWS through September 30th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

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

LINSEY MILLER INTERVIEW and MASK OF SHADOWS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone!Today I’m excited to have debut author Linsey Miller here to share about her YA fantasy MASK OF SHADOWS. Sal seems like a fantastic character who has been described as reminding some of Arya Stark in Games of Throne, and the court intrigue sounds intense. But before we get to that I have some exciting Follower News.

Follower News

Nick Wilford's YA dystopian novel BLACK AND WHITE is being released. Here's a blurb: What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, two high school students, Wellesbury Noon and Ezmerelda Dontible, are about to find out as a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.



Add on Goodreads


Now here’s a blurb of MASK OF SHADOWS from Goodreads:

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen's personal assassins named for the rings she wears -- Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal -- their world changes. They know it's a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

Hi Linsey! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi! I read a lot as a kid and grew up around books, so the idea of writing wasn’t an odd one; however, writing never seemed like a job that was obtainable. I studied biology in college and didn’t really start writing books or short stories until my senior year when I was seriously doubting my life choices (my med school interviewer said it sounded like I would be a better writer than doctor which should’ve been a hint). I started writing, researching, and learning about the young adult publishing world then. That was five years ago. Now, MASK OF SHADOWS just came out and I’m an MFA student studying fiction.

2. That's interesting about your medical school interview. Yes, that sounds like a clue.
Where did you get the idea for MASK OF SHADOWS?

There wasn’t any specific moment when I remember getting the idea. I’ve always loved assassin stories and questions of morality in young adult novels, and at some point while writing my first book I thought, “But what if assassins were color coded?” And then it sort of spiraled out of control from there.

3. Sal has been described as gender fluid by other reviewers, which adds another really interesting aspect to their character. Share about this aspect of Sal and tips for writing about a character that may not fit traditional gender expectations.

Sal is genderfluid. I went into writing MASK OF SHADOWS knowing that Sal was non-binary, and
I spent a lot of time talking to a lot of very kind people about gender, self, and representation. Because I’m not genderfluid, I didn’t want to write a story about gender because it would have felt very disingenuous coming from me, so before even drafting MASK OF SHADOWS, there was a lot of talk with a lot of people about it. I think that’s the only tip I feel comfortable giving—listen to people.

There are prior characters in American young adult literature who have not fit into traditional gender expectations (I think this would be a very interesting and much longer post on gender, race, and main characters in YA by a more well-suited writer than me), but I feel that Sal, since non-binary people are so often erased from literature and fantasy, doesn’t necessarily fit into that, especially since I am not non-binary.

4. That's great how you talked to a lot of people and importantly listened too! What was your plotting process like for MASK OF SHADOWS and how has what you’ve learned from writing this book influenced your writing going forward?

It was intense! I plotted it out in my head on the trip to Yallfest, wrote the first draft in 30 days a few months later, and then I revised it up until it was accepted into Pitch Wars. From there, it went through a lot of revisions and series-arc changes. I definitely learned how to revise and implement characterization while writing it. I was always fairly organized about my plotting, but now I know all the little questions I need to ask myself at the start to make writing easier.
Also, I’ve got my caffeine intake down to a science.

5. Wow! That was a quick initial drafting idea. So Sal is a thief and trying to be an assassin. I read in your bio that you were once a crime lab intern. Did your criminal justice background help you at all in developing this aspect of the story? If not, what did?

It sort of did! I had wanted to be a forensic pathologist from the age of eleven to twenty-two, so I weirdly knew a lot about some of the more physical aspects of what happens in MASK OF SHADOWS. Because Sal’s grief and how they deal with death is at the forefront of their character, I didn’t want to shy away from the realities of death or dying. I spent two months at the crime lab, and aspects of what I experienced there definitely helped. I would not change my background in biology for anything. It’s been amazingly helpful and vital to my development as a writer.

6. Being a forensic pathologist sounds fascinating. Glad your experiences helped you. What was your world building process like? What tips do you have for other writers who write fantasy about creating a fantasy world?

Long and detailed and probably very silly. I built the world like I was reading a world history book, and then I settled on the details. Magic existed in the world until about a decade prior to the start of the book, so a lot of the differences between our world and Sal’s are based on what magic could do and how different people interacted with it.

What really helped me was looking at the big consequences and then asking myself what miniscule things that would change—like shaking hands or wearing shoes or having germ theory. Find the small things and those will make the world feel more real.

7. Your agent is Rachel Brooks. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

Rachel Brooks is a wonderful agent who became my agent almost purely by chance. I wasn’t really querying yet because my first book was still out with agents, but I posted a few #SFFpit pitches and she liked one of them. After that, I queried her as normal and the rest is history. Almost exactly a year after signing with Rachel, we got to announce that Sourcebooks Fire had acquired MASK OF SHADOWS.

And it was all thanks to a tweet.

8. Your book was released about a month ago. What has it been like to debut for those of us still dreaming of it and how have you been celebrating/promoting the release of your book?

I am extremely lucky because Sourcebooks is an amazing publisher, and they’re really been pushing MASK OF SHADOWS and making sure everything goes well. It’s amazing and overwhelming in the best way. There are a lot of conflicting emotions that happen when your books comes out, and honestly, it still hasn’t totally set in yet. I always joke that I don’t know how to celebrate, but I definitely recommend finding a way to remember the positives. I have collection of custom coffee mugs memorializing really important, happy moments now. It’s weird but it works for me. I like it.
Find something you like and make it your celebratory thing.

9. That's good to know that Sourcebooks is so good to work with. What is something that has surprised you about either getting an agent or becoming published and why?

The actual act of getting publishing. It can be hard, sometimes, to keep going in publishing because it feels like every step of the way is littered with rejection. For a long time, I didn’t think MASK OF SHADOWS would get published, but now it is. It’s been out for a little over a week, but it’s really about four years old.
So keep going.

10. What are you working on now?

The sequel to MASK OF SHADOWS, which is fun. I’m also drafting (very slowly) a completely new YA fantasy that I hope sees the light of day in the next few years.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Linsey. You can find Linsey at her website, on Twitter, on Tumblr, or on Instagram

Linsey has generously offered MASK OF SHADOW for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through September 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 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, September 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Burby and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday. October 4th I have an interview with Sheri Larsen and a giveaway of her new YA fantasy MARKED BEAUTY and my IWSG post

Monday, October 9th I have an interview with debut author Tracey Neithercott and a giveaway of her YA magical realism GRAY WOLF ISLAND

Saturday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 16th I have a guest post with debut author Karina Van Glaser and with a giveaway of Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEKERS and a query critique giveaway by agent Ginger Clark

Hope to see you on Monday!

KATHERINE LOCKE INTERVIEW and THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have debut YA author Katherine Locke here to share about her YA historical fantasy THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON. I’m super excited about this book because it’s got time travel, historical fiction, and magic. Love the title too. How could this not be fantastic?

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

Hi Katherine! Thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks so much for having me!

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

I think I’ve always been writing and telling stories—I remember writing a picture book when I was six or seven called The Girl with a Thousand Cats, which a) was pretty prophetic (I have four cats—thank god, it’s not a thousand.) and b) shows I was clearly into the “The Girl with” titles far before they were popular. I was definitely ahead of that trend ;) Just kidding.

I wrote my first novel length book when I was fourteen—it’s called The Riders of Eight and I recently found it on a floppy disk! Then the next book I finished I wrote during my freshman year of college and that’s called Caesura. I wrote the sequel the following year, and then spent a few years just trying to get Caesura right (and failing each time. Maybe one day I’ll come back to it.)

After a break—between depression, college, graduating college and finding a job, I was burnt out and not feeling very creative—I wrote the first draft of The Girl with the Red Balloon in the spring of 2013. I rewrote it entirely (literally—3 sentences survived to draft 2) in spring 2014. And that draft, I knew I’d gotten it right. In the meantime, I’d written my first romance book, Second Position, signed with an agent and sold it in the spring of 2014. It came out in 2015. So THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON is my YA debut, but not my debut novel!

When I think back to the first books I was writing, they were all fantasy—more Tamora Pierce than the fantasy I write now which is lighter and more real-world based (and historical)—but they share some themes with The Girl with the Red Balloon: The books I wrote when I was 14 and the book I wrote when I was 18 and the book I wrote when I was 27 were all about girls who felt like outsiders, even in a place where they should have felt like they belonged. I think that was a feeling I felt as a teen, and something I still struggle with sometimes.

2. Yes, I struggle with feeling like an outsider too. Where did you get the idea for THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON?

I was driving one day and the Goldfinger cover of 99 Red Balloons came on the radio (not for the
first time) and suddenly in my mind, I could see a girl going over a wall holding onto a red balloon. And immediately I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Why? Where’s she going? Why is the wall there?” My book ideas almost always start as images or one line of dialogue, so that wasn’t unusual! I sat down and wrote the first chapter as soon as I got to work that day.

3. Your story is set in 1988 East Berlin. What was your research process like?

Very extensive. I read blogs, looked through photographs, read books and articles by people who’d grown up in East Germany and specifically East Berlin, I watched movies (like The Lives of Others) and news programs about East Berlin. I googled every detail of the book to see if there was something relevant to East Berlin that I could work in—Ellie passes a sign early in the book that says “The Stronger the Socialism The Stronger the Peace” which was a real sign that existed in the neighborhood where she’s staying in the book. Despite the magic in the book, I did try to adhere to historical record as closely as I can.

4. Sounds like you did a lot of reseach. I saw on your blog that you say that you hate first drafts and love revisions. That’s me too. Share what the revision process was like for THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON and tips on revision in general.

I mentioned above that I rewrote the entire book a year after I finished the first draft, which is generally how revisions are for me! Large amounts of rewriting. I ended up outlining the second draft because between the first and second draft, I’d taught myself to outline and it’s saved me from writing first drafts that messy ever again. I also find that reverse outlining—that is, outlining the draft after you’ve finished it and then finding holes and fixing your plot in that reverse outline before revising—is immensely helpful too.

5. I'm trying to learn to outline more too to avoid those messy first drafts too. A number of people who have already reviewed your book said it made them cry. Wow! That’s pretty powerful. What do you think about your story evokes such emotions?

At its heart, The Girl with the Red Balloon is about impossible choices in terrible times of human history, and about forgiveness. It’s the story about two brothers and two sisters, and about a grandfather and a granddaughter, and about three friends, and I think that those relationships are ones we have in our lives, and ones we can imagine being under threat, that we fear will be under threat. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want you to cry, because I do. But a reader’s tears, to me, say much more about the reader—and their deep capacity for empathy and compassion and love for people around them in their own lives—than they do the author or the author’s skill. The moments that make you cry in a book are really the moments where the author holds up a mirror to your own life.

6. Your agent is Louise Fury. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

Yes! This is a good question because DO NOT DO WHAT I DID, haha. Just because it worked didn’t mean it was the right way to go about things, which I didn’t really know or understand at the time. I first queried Louise with a YA…paranormal/fableism fantasy book? I don’t know what genre that book is. I called it The Killing Mists and I still really want to find time to go back and fix that book. Anyway, she politely rejected it, and a few weeks later, I participated in a Twitter pitch contest where I pitched my New Adult Romance (Second Position) and Louise requested it. I also sent it into Carina Press at the same time. And about four months later, I ended up with an agent and a publishing deal at basically the same time. Which was really lucky! But was also a little complicated to do at the same time because I shouldn’t have been submitting to publishers AND querying agents at the same time. So, writers, please don’t do that. While it’s tempting because you’re like “But it worked for you, Katherine!”, it really was kind of messy and I was exceptionally lucky that my agent and my editor knew each other already and both of them were beyond patient.

But when I had my call with Louise, she said, “Didn’t you query me before?” and I groaned and was like “Yes…it was this really weird YA I wrote called The Killing Mists.” And she told me she remembered the book and that I’d been really close with it, that she really felt like there was something there and had considered asking me for an R & R or a call about it. So that was really gratifying because I really really love that book, and it meant that Louise liked my books, even when they were at their weirdest. Most of my YA tends to blur genres, which not every agent, editor, or reader enjoys.

7. Yes, I can see how querying an agent and publisher at the same time could backfire with other agents. Glad it worked for you. I saw on your website that besides your launch party that you are scheduling appearances at book festivals and other events as well at least one recent middle school visit. How have you decided where to reach out and what advice do you have on marketing for other authors who will debut in the future?

Sure!

Regarding conferences and book festivals: I realize that I’m lucky in two regards here: one, I’ve been an active member of the YA writing community online for several years and I have a really good friend circle in the writing community. We share information, links to festivals to apply for, invites, how we set up school visits, etc.

Two, I have a solid elevator pitch for my book, and I know it’s rather unusual for YA, so it stands out to festival organizers. Not that historical fantasy hasn’t been done before (I highly recommend BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, also a 2017 debut, for another book that uses magic built into real history), but it’s unusual: it’s science fiction and it’s fantasy and it’s historical and it has a contemporary chapter. It does a lot for a little book and it stands out in a sea of YA fantasy right now. It has enough magic for the fantasy readers to pick up something heavily historical, and it’s heavily historical enough for historical readers to tolerate the fantasy.

In terms of marketing, I think it was Susan Dennard or Erin Bowman, two stellar YA authors who were debuting about the time that I was poking my head into the online writing community, who said that you should really just do the marketing that you’re interested in doing. In the end, an author can’t do a ton to move the dial on a book. But what an author can do is raise a book’s profile enough that their publisher might say, oh, this is getting traction and throw more weight behind it.

I am writing postcards to booksellers, libraries, and other people who might be interested in my book or able to support it, and I’m online, but mostly, I’m going to events and festivals and being visible. And most importantly, writing the next book.

8. That's great advice to focus on what you're comfortable with. You’ve also written a new adult romance/contemporary series, District Ballet Company, which also got great reviews. What did you learn from marketing that series that is influencing what you are doing now?

The readers who found me through District Ballet are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. I rarely get to meet them in person because that was a digital first series (so without physical books, I didn’t do signings or travel or do conventions.) It’s amazing to me that as small as those books were, I still have people come up to me in my Red Balloon lines and say, “I read Second Position and I loved it and thank you for Zed and Aly.” It means the world to me when people tell me they read and loved those books.

In terms of what I learned, I learned that word of mouth is the best gift someone can give an author. There are a handful of Second Position fans out there that continually, two years later, mention it on Twitter or Goodreads, and so Second Position and Finding Center are still finding new fans. I didn’t do that. Readers did. Readers and two or three bloggers who never stopped loving that book. And I really really hope the same thing happens for The Girl with the Red Balloon.

If you love a book, talk about it.

9. What are you working on now?

Good question! I think by the time this is posted, I’ll be in edits on The Balloonmakers #2. I can’t share the title yet, but it’s coming! It’s not a direct sequel to The Girl with the Red Balloon, it’s a companion novel set 45 years earlier. Same world, same magic, new cast of characters. It’s about a sister and brother who get recruited to use balloon magic on different parts of the Manhattan Project (the secret US project to build the first nuclear bomb during WWII) and they each uncover a spy in their midst. It should be coming out Fall 2018 if everything stays on track!

Right now, while I’m writing this post, I’m working on two projects: one is a middle grade fantasy that is mash-up of Beowulf meets Twelfth Night, and the second is a new YA about a girl who uncovers a serial killer using magic.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Katherine. You can find Katherine on Twitter and Instagram at @bibliogato, and at KatherineLockeBooks.com.

Katherine has generously offered THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through September 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 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday September 18th I have an interview with debut author Lindsey Miller and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MASK OF SHADOWS

Monday September 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Burby and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday October 4th I have an interview with Sheri Larsen and a giveaway of her new YA fantasy MARKED BEAUTY and my IWSG post

Monday, October 9th I have an interview with debut author Tracey Neithercott and a giveaway of her YA magical realism GRAY WOLF ISLAND

Hope to see you on Monday!

AGENT TINA WEXLER and JESSICA LAWSON GUEST POST WITH QUERY CRITIQUE and UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST



Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic rest of August and are ready for Fall. I'm looking forward to resuming my regular blogging schedule and am starting out today with a fantastic post today by Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler. Before that, I'm going to start with 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: Tyrean Martinson,Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

This Month's Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre that you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?

I haven't written enough to try a new genre, but I am happily surprised with my writing after picking it up again after four years. I'm finding that I'm a braver writer willing to make more radical changes when things don't work right. And I'm figuring out the problems quicker on my own. I've submitted to my critique group twice now. They have some suggestions but the basics of what I'm doing are working. At least that's how it's going so far--less than two months since I started up again.

What about you? How have you surprised yourself?

Now, onto my guest post today. I'm super excited to have follower and friend Jessica Lawson and her agent Tina Wexler back on the blog to share about Jessica's new MG mystery UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE. I love mysteries and this one sounds intriguing with the mysterious messages in the bottle. And Jessica is really an inspiration to me because ever since she had her debut novel come out in 2014, she keeps on writing and publishing more books every year. Some in different genres. And they all sound so good! It gives me hope that I could be that productive some day and maybe be able to continue to sell what I write. 

Here's a blurb of UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE:

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.

Now here's Jessica and Tina!

A huge thanks to Natalie for having us back on Literary Rambles! In Under the Bottle Bridge, Minna Treat finds mysterious bottle messages beneath a covered bridge built by her ancestors. The book is about impossible searches and expectations and the meaning of family. It’s a story about a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager, and how she deals with the uncertainty ahead.

My agent, Tina Wexler, is a bridge builder. As of this month, she and I will have been together for five years. With the creation of each manuscript from first sentence to final draft, Tina and I are journeying together, setting planks down one by one as we navigate the blank space in front of us. Sometimes we get to the other side and achieve publication, sometimes not. There’s a lot of hand-holding and “don’t worry, you’re not going to fall!” and “it’s okay, let’s turn around and try building at a different spot.” The gap between idea and publication can be a scary place, full of ambiguity and doubt.

There is a larger career bridge as well. Natalie asked me to speak about continuing sales and how authors keep selling their books. I wish I could answer that. I feel lucky to have a fourth book in the world, but as I’ve continued in my career, I’ve come to realize that the uncertainty will never go away. I will always think about things like:

Am I growing or regressing as a writer?

Is there a “big picture” destination I’m supposed to be aiming for?

Why do my characters TALK SO MUCH???

There are a lot of things that can potentially distract a writer from what they’re supposed to be doing
—finding worthwhile stories to share with readers. I think the most important thing that Tina has offered me over the years is a foundation of support—an expressed belief that I’ve got stories inside me that are worth sharing… and a willingness to continue helping me bridge the small gaps and the larger one to find them.

Tina was kind enough to answer a few questions about the agent/client relationship.

What is the biggest challenge in managing many different clients and their different “bridges”?

One challenge is figuring out what each author needs while crossing any particular bridge. If I have
an author who is struggling to make a deadline, am I better off asking the editor to extend the deadline? Should I give the author mini-deadlines that feel more manageable? Should I nix the deadlines completely and send gentle encouragement instead?

If I have an author who is writing in a genre that has fallen out of fashion, should I encourage them to try another tack or should we forge ahead in the same genre, knowing trends are cyclical and that the current project will take months to write?

It all comes down to this: How can I help create an environment in which my authors can do their best work? It’s different for each author, and for each project, and at each new stage in their career, and it’s something I take very seriously.

What are three key elements in maintaining a healthy and productive agent/client relationship?

MELISSA ROSKE INTERVIEW and KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

Happy Monday Everyone! So sorry that I didn't have a post last week, but the scheduled author did not contact me and I was in Florida. I'm happy to say that my mom is doing good and I helped her a lot.

FYI, if I don't get to your blog until tomorrow or Wednesday, it's because my boyfriend and I just decided on Friday to go see the eclipse. We're going to drive to see it and come right back. If I have time while we're driving, I'll stop by blogs.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Melissa Roske here to share about her debut contemporary KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN. It sounds like a fantastic story about a middle grader dealing with the issues kids at that age go through while also grappling with a mom who is OCD.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. It's enough to drive any middle schooler crazy! Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and Mom's decision to try out for "Clean Sweep,” a competitive-cleaning TV game show, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle. At least, without a little help from her friends.

Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for joining us!

Thanks, Natalie. So happy to be here!

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

I’ve always loved writing—and books—so after college I landed a job in publishing. My first job lasted five months (my boss sent me out to buy toilet paper!), but I quickly found a position at the now-defunct McCall’s magazine, before working as an editor at Scholastic. My husband and I then moved to London, where I was a freelance writer, and later, an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine. It wasn’t until I moved back to New York, after seven years of living abroad, that I thought about writing fiction. I’d written loads of articles for magazines and newspapers in the meantime, but I never thought I had the talent for fiction.

I’d been back in New York for about a year when I was offered a job as an online relationships adviser for TheSite.org, an advice and information website for teens. It was a great gig, because it combined the two things I enjoyed most: writing and helping people solve their problems. I liked the job so much, in fact, I decided to train as a life coach. I started my coaching business soon after.

It was while I was helping others attain their goals that I realized I was ignoring my goal: to write a novel. So I hired my own coach, the amazing Sara Lewis Murre, and started writing. With Sara’s help, I learned how to push away the self-doubt and set daily writing goals. By the end of 2011, I had written my first novel, a chick-lit comedy called Good Girls Don’t Go Commando. (No, it didn’t get published. Yes, it’s probably better that way.)

2. How awesome that writing has always been a part of your career. Where did you get the idea for KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN?

From a fortune cookie, believe it or not. It said, “A winsome smile is your sure protection.” I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time, but I liked the sentiment and decided to do some free-writing in my journal. Before I knew it, Kat Greene—a smart and sassy fifth grader—popped out.

3. How fun! I have a bunch of fortunes from fortune cookies taped on my fridge that predict wonderful things happening for me. Besides writing fiction, you were also a journalist and wrote as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine. Did these writing jobs help you when you decided to write stories for kids and if so, how?

This experience helped tremendously. As an advice columnist, it was my job to I read dozens of
letters from teens each month, and each letter brought me closer to understanding the teen psyche. Many of the letters followed a similar pattern: problems with boys, and acne, and periods, and friends; annoying siblings; overprotective parents; curfews. Other letters were absolutely heartbreaking, like the one from a 13-year-old girl whose mom had died of cancer. We ended up corresponding for more than a year until she stopped writing. At first, I didn’t know how to feel. Should I be relieved that this girl no longer needed me? Or worried that something had happened to her? Either way, it taught me that reaching out for advice is an act of courage; a leap of faith. I wanted to explore this further in my writing.

4. What made you decide to have Kat’s mom have OCD and what research did you do into people who suffer with this for your novel? What advice do you have for other writers who want to incorporate a disability either for the main character or one in a supporting role in their story?

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was done writing the novel that I realized that the mom in the story is actually based on my dad. He’s the opposite of Kat’s mom, though: He’s a hoarder who keeps everything. Another symptom of his OCD is “checking,” meaning he needs to ensure that the front door is locked before he goes to bed. He will go back to the door, over and over, checking and re-checking, dozens of times. He does the same with the gas jets on the stove, and with the dishwasher. I too have obsessive-compulsions tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.

In terms of research, I actually had to do quite a lot. I wanted to make sure that the portrayal Kat’s mom was fair and accurate. To that end, I read many books on the subject, including two excellent memoirs: David Adam’s The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, and Traci Foust’s Nowhere Near Normal. I also interviewed several psychologists and psychiatrists, and corresponded with people—including Traci Foust—who suffer from OCD. I talked to members of their families as well. Incorporating a psychological disorder or disability into a novel is easier if you’re familiar with it, obviously—but it’s nothing to shy away from. You just need to do your research.

5. Sounds like you did extensive homework. And that's interesting how this part of the story came later after your manuscript was written. From reading reviews, it sounds like you developed Kat into a great character who readers can relate to and love and nailed her tween voice. Share a bit about your process of developing her into the character she became.

Thanks for saying I “nailed it.” I know I sure tried! As far as developing Kat’s character goes, I don’t think it was a conscious process. I just dug into my treasure trove of middle-grade memories and extracted bits here and there. The voice came organically, probably because I’ve got the mindset of an 11-year-old. I’m also the size of one! All kidding aside, I’m not Kat—but there’s a lot of her in me, and vice-versa. This stands to reason, considering that most writers reflect themselves in their characters. It’s almost impossible not to.

6. I read that you extensively revised your story after it was unsuccessfully submitted because you believed in your story and did not want to give up. How did you tackle this and what advice do you have for other writers who may need to look at their story with fresh eyes to see a better approach to it?

This is an important issue, and I’m glad you brought it up. I was ready call it quits after my manuscript failed to find a home, and I did—for a couple of weeks. But not writing was worse than sitting around the house scarfing junk food all day, so I decided to try again. I won’t lie; it was hard to get going again. Not only was I feeling raw from the rejection, there was a strong chance I wouldn’t get a new agent. I mean, who wants to represent an author whose book got passed over in the submissions process? Regardless, I gave it another shot. Armed with Les Edgerton’s writing craft-book, Hooked (more on that later), I took a long, hard look at the manuscript and completely reworked it. I revamped the plot, added new characters, and changed the title. I also hired a professional editor for a full-scale manuscript evaluation. Then I started querying my new-and-improved manuscript all over again.

In terms of advice, I’m reluctant to tell another writer how to respond to rejection. It’s a highly personal process, and what slays one writer will barely ruffle the feathers of another. Still, I will say there’s tremendous strength in persistence. It makes you feel as if you’re more in control of the situation, and of yourself. That’s not to say persistence always pays off, but living with regret hits harder than the sting of rejection. At least, for me.

7.  I agree with you. Persistence and being willing to make radical changes to a story like you did are important if you really believe in your story and want it published. What was something—craft book, novel, etc.—that helped you grow as a writer and how did it help you?

Besides Blake Snyder’s invaluable Save the Cat (every writer should own a copy), I’d say Les Edgerton’s writing-craft book, Hooked, helped me more than any other. It’s really practical, especially in terms of story structure. Edgerton, a creative-writing instructor, novelist, and screenwriter, sums it up perfectly: “A story is a movement from stability to instability to a new stability.” I was so taken with this succinct and seemingly simple description that I sent Les a fan letter! He graciously wrote back, and congratulated me on KAT. After that, I’ve been following Les’s comings and goings on Facebook. I still get excited when he “likes” my comments. (How’s that for a real fan?)

8. I need to read both of these books. Your agent is Patricia Nelson. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I started querying KAT in 2012. I got an agent after an R and R, and went on submission in 2012. When the manuscript didn’t sell, my agent and I parted ways. Then, as above, using Les Edgerton’s Hooked for guidance and inspiration, I reworked the book from top to bottom and started the querying process all over again. I found a great agent, who then sold the book to Julie Bliven at Charlesbridge. I’ve since switched agents—I’m now represented by the awesome Patricia Nelson of MLLA—and I definitely hit the jackpot. Patricia is a brilliant editor, tireless cheerleader, and wise mentor. I am so lucky to have her in my corner.

9. Marketing can be a challenging role for many authors. What is your approach to marketing this book? Have any of your decision been influenced by watching other debut authors launch and market their books?

Marketing is a HUGE challenge, especially for writers who aren’t all that familiar with social media. Luckily, I was pretty active on Twitter and Facebook prior to writing KAT, so it didn’t feel as overwhelming as it might have. That said, it is stressful to put yourself out there, and it can feel as if you’re “pushing” your book to some extent. (Maybe that’s why I’m more comfortable in a cheerleading role, offering support to other authors.) One thing to watch out for, though, is underselling yourself. You don’t want to toot your own horn to the point of obnoxiousness (and it can be a fine line, believe me), but a little horn tooting is okay. Author Jess Keating gets this balance exactly right. She cheerleads and horn-toots in perfect combination.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m not sure if Patricia wants me to blab, but I can say that it’s another middle-grade novel, this time about a seventh grader whose family lands on a reality-TV show. Oh, and it’s set in New York. (Surprise, surprise!)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melissa.

Melissa Roske is a New York-based writer of middle-grade fiction. Her debut novel, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, will be published by Charlesbridge on August 22.  Find Melissa on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Melissa has generously offered a copy of KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through September 2nd. 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.

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. But I have a busy schedule for you starting in September with a number of agent query opportunities too!

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 and my IWSG post

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

Monday September 18th I have an interview with debut author Lindsey Miller and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MASK OF SHADOWS

Monday September 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Burby and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, September 6th!

KATIE SLIVENSKY INTERVIEW and THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST




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!

CORABEL SHOFNER and ALMOST PARADISE GIVEAWAY

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!

FOLLOWER NEWS


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:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ybpt23px
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/y9b7wo75
4RV Publishing: http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/mcclure.php

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!

LET’S TALK ABOUT EGOS AND EDITING

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!

HEIDI LANG and KATI BARTKOWSKI INTERVIEW and A DASH OF DRAGON GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST



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:

Website: www.HeidiandKatiwrite.com
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!