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

COPPER MAGIC through August 23rd

Beach Reads Giveaway Hop through August 15th

GATES OF THREAD AND STONE through August 23rd

Pre-Release COMPULSION Giveaway YA Book of Your Choice through August 31st

SEND BLOG TOUR AND GIVEAWAY


Today I'm excited to participate in Patty Blount's blog tour for her debut book SEND. It's about a timely subject: bullying. And it's unique because it's told from the point of view of a teenage guy who was a bully.

Here's a description from Goodreads:

To keep his secrets, all he has to do is listen to the voice in his head and just walk away... 

On his first day at his new high school, Dan stops a bully from beating up a kid half his size. He didn't want to get involved. All he wants out of his senior year is to fly under the radar. But Dan knows what it's like to be terrorized by a bully-he used to be one. Now the whole school thinks he's some kind of hero, except Julie Murphy, the prettiest girl on campus. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn't really Daniel.


Doesn't that sound good?




Patty's joining us today to share some tips from what she's learned before SEND was released. So here's Patty!

Five Things I Learned Before SEND's Release

Writing is hard work and I’m still learning the ropes.

Plotting, developing compelling characters, finding the time to write, revising, editing, and then – finally, finishing.

Celebrating.

Basking.

At some point in your writing life, you’ll push back from your desk and smile at your manuscript and think, “This is it. This is The One.”
And then, you have to learn all about things like querying agents, developing pitches, writing synopses, getting blurbs, writing the back cover copy – GAH!

Like I said; writing is hard work and I’m still learning the ropes. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last year.
  • 1. The query letter is critical. The goal is to entice a busy agent into wanting to read more. You don’t need gimmicks and fancy stationery and flattery. You just need a good story and the ability to condense it down to a few paragraphs. Involve friends and family. Find a good critique group. I joined YALITCHAT, whose Query Kickaround Group really helped me nail the right voice in my query letter. I studied everything on Janet Reid’s Query Shark website and even took a few courses offered online by Writer’s Digest. When I felt I was ready to query, I shifted gears and began researching what each agent wanted. Some wanted a few chapters sent with the query and others wanted a synopsis. I made sure I knew each agent’s requirements.
  • Don’t query your first novel. You finished a book and that’s great! But careers are built on delivering a steady stream of good books. SEND is my first and only YA title. *gulp* All of my previous finished novels are romances.
  • 3.       Ignore that nasty little voice inside you. I almost deleted SEND when my nasty inner critic nearly convinced me it wasn’t worthy of lining a bird cage. Even with a bunch of positive reviews and an excited publisher in my corner, it’s hard for me to believe I have even a modicum of writing talent. I learned that a lot of writers I greatly admire – even the multipublished ones – battle their own inner editors.
  • 4.       Read! When you’re busy writing novels, query letters, synopses and blog posts, it’s easy to fill up your free time and forget to do the one thing that inspired you to do all this work – read good books. Read bad books. Just read. Whenever I am struggling with a difficult scene, I take a reading break and return to my work in progress re-energized.
  • 5.       Join Twitter. Whenever someone asks me how I got published, I say, “Twitter.” Yes, it can be a huge time suck but if you use it well, it’s the perfect way to connect with industry pros. Here’s how it happened for me. I joined Twitter and found a bunch of writers to follow. From them, I found other writers. We chatted. I learned volumes about our craft from the links they tweeted, or the opinions they posted. For example, I learned about YALITCHAT.org and Query Shark from Twitter (see #1). I learned nearly all writers have nasty little voices (see #4, above), which made it a lot easier for me to ignore mine. I found a friend willing to read the manuscript and provide unfiltered and unbiased feedback, which encouraged me NOT to delete it. I also discovered the RWA has a local chapter in my area. A Twitter friend invited me to their meeting. I joined and as a member, attended the chapter’s annual luncheon, where I met my editor. It all started on Twitter.

Like I said, I’m still learning this writing gig. What do you think of these tips? Do you have tips for me? 

Thanks Patty for sharing all your great advice. You can find Patty at her website and on Twitter @pattyblount.

Patty's publisher generously offered a copy of SEND 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 by September 15th. I’ll announce the winner on September 17th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.

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

Don't forget to enter my other contests, including SKYLARK, a fantastic fantasy/dystopian by debut author Meagan Spooner. You'll love hearing about her amazing road to publication. The link to her contest and the others I'm running are at the top of the blog.

Here's what's coming up next.

Next Monday is Labor Day so I'm giving us all a break and not posting anything. But Wednesday next week I'm sharing ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White and giving away my ARC. It is such an awesome end to her series. Trust me, you want to stop by and enter the giveaway contest.

Next Friday, I'm participating in Jessica Shirvington’s Blog tour and giving away an ARC of her new book ENTICE .I can't wait to share it with you.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you next Wednesday!

Tuesday Tip #141 AND GIVEAWAY OF THE MOON COIN

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hi there! Natalie here today instead of Casey. Today I'm excited to share a tip from Richard Due and a giveaway of his middle grade book THE MOON COIN. I've read a number of great reviews for the book and the illustrations so I'm hoping that one of you and your middle grade kids would enjoy Richard's book. Details about the book and the contest will be after Richard's tip.

So here's Richard's tip on self-publishing:

Read the genre you want to write in until your eyeballs fall out. Then put them back in and read some more. Repeat.

Make sure your novel's word count matches the target genre you're writing for. And remember, first time novelists don't—as a rule—get to break rules.


If you think your novel is all finished, it isn't—get back to work. Repeat.

When you finish editing it, and you're sure it's ready, print it out double spaced and edit it on paper. Repeat.

Get thee to an editor, or do not pass go. Personally, I work with two! I met one of my editors years ago, when she was 14. Her mother would bring her into my bookstore on Saturdays after soccer. She would run to the young adult section, still in uniform, and raid our Lois Leppard books. Now she edits full-time at a publishing house. Lesson?: Yep, even soccer players can become editors . . . um, wait . . . okay, seriously: KEEP YOUR CONNECTIONS!

Go to writers' conferences and take advantage of their workshops and writers' critiques with real live editors and agents. In addition to smaller, more local events, I've been to two of the big SCBWI conferences in New York City. I actually met my illustrator, Carolyn Arcabascio, at the 2011 one. Lesson?: MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS!

Join a local writers' group. Listen to criticism of your work. If one person in the group thinks you need to change something in particular, it's probably fine. If three or more people in the group think it needs to change, you've got work to do. Between family, running a bookstore, and writing, I don't get to my writer's group nearly as much as I'd like. But every time I go there, I learn something new and useful.

Get social: Goodreads.com, LibraryThing, Shelfsafari, facebook, twitter, tumblr. And make sure to start an author blog. I use WordPress, but there are many good blogging sites—just pick one and get started. A blog is a great place for an author to let readers know what's going on: new books, interviews, signings, appearances, giveaways, links to other social networks, everything.

After you've published on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iTunes iBookstore, submit your book to book bloggers in your genre. http://hampton-networks.com/ maintains a nice list. If you have a budget, you can afford some of the paid professionals: ForeWord Reviews, Kirkus Indie, Blue Ink, Publishers Weekly, etc. These folks can help get your book in front of library staff, people in the publishing industry, and indie readers.

If you thought having a printed book or eBook was the end of your journey, think again. Your next marathon is just starting. It's called marketing. Check out Amazon's KDP Select program and see if it's a good fit for your book. Enter your book into indie awards contests. Try and arrange a book signing with your local library or bookshop.

And don't be shy about offering your book for local schools and libraries to purchase. Often, they're quite supportive of local writers. Hint: if you happen to time it at the end of the fiscal year and they still have some money to spend, all the better!

Research book festivals and other literary-themed events in your area. For a small fee, or sometimes no fee, you can set up a booth and publicize your product, sell your book, promote your "brand," do a giveaway, add new names to your mailing list, meet other writers. . . . 

Thanks Richard for your advice. Here's a blurb about Richard's book from Amazon:
 "Tales, unlike stories, never lie. You see, a tale is an account of things in their due order, often divulged secretly, or as gossip. Would you like to hear one?" -Lord Autumn

Uncle Ebb was so good at telling his tales of the Moon Realm that sometimes it sounded like he'd been there himself.

As children, Lily and Jasper listened raptly to his bedtime tales of a place where nine moons swirled around one another, each inhabited by strange and wondrous beings: magical lunamancers; undersea merfolk; wise birds; winged dragons; and Lily's favorite, the heroic, leonine Rinn.

There was only one rule: don't tell a soul.
You can find Richard at his website.

Richard is offering one copy of THE MOON COIN for a giveaway.  To enter the contest, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by September 15th. I’ll announce the winner on September 17th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

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


MEAGAN SPOONER INTERVIEW AND SKYLARK GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday! Before I get to my awesome interview, there's a few things I wanted to share with you that you might be interested in. First, Darcy Pattison is organizing a Radom Acts of Publicity week September 4-7 to promote other authors' books. I'm planning on participating. You can find out details here.  

Darcy also recently posted the top ten agents for middle grade authors based on sales here.

And DearEditor is running a contest for a free manuscript critique that ends TOMORROW at midnight. I just heard about it. You can find out details here.

Next I have some winners to announce. The winner of THE STONE GIRL is MONICA

The winner of DEFIANCE is MELODIE

And before I announce the winners of my Last Days of Freedom Giveaway, I want to say WOW! There were almost 300 entries.

So the first winner is TAYTEH who picked SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY

And the second winner is LEANNA who picked BITTERBLUE

Congrats to all the winners. E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me within 48 hours or I'll have to pick a new winner.



Today I am thrilled to help Meagan Spooner celebrate her debut as an author. Her debut book, SKYLARK, was released on August 1, 2012. Fantasy is my favorite genre and dystopian second. One of the things I loved about Meagan’s book is that it’s mostly fantasy but has a touch of dystopian. It’s a great combination in Meagan’s world building. And Lark is such a great character you can’t help cheering on when she finally gets her turn to be harvested and finds out what it really entails. The plot is fast paced and has a number of twists. I ended up staying up way too late one night to finish it and was so tired at work the next day. But it was worth it.

Here’s a description from the book:

Vis in magia, in vita vi. In magic there is power, and in power, life.

For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.

Lark did not expect to become the City's power supply.

For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she's ever known...or face a fate more unimaginable than death. 

Hi Meagan. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember, really, although it’s only in the past couple of years—mostly as it was happening—that I begin to think I could do it as a career. For me it was always being a teacher who writes, or a marine biologist who writes, or a therapist who writes. Being a full-time writer now is pretty mind-blowing to me, and I’m still wondering how that happened! But I’ve had a lot of amazing teachers over the years who have encouraged me—as well as a few who tried to discourage me, which in hindsight only made me all the more determined to prove them wrong. (These are the teachers who claim genre fiction is pointless. Ignore them!)

2.  That's so awesome you've been able to make it a full-time job. Guys, wait to read Meagan's publication story. It's so amazing. I loved that you mixed fantasy with dystopian elements and this came through even in Lark’s magical powers. Share with us a bit how you came up with the idea of the magical powers in your story.

I’ve always tended toward writing multiple genres in the same story, so I think the genre mash-up in SKYLARK has always come as a bit more of a surprise to other people than to me—to me it just feels about normal! The idea of using magic to power technology came from thinking about alternative energy sources in connection with our own energy crisis. If only we had magic! But the truth is, Lark’s universe is no different from ours. Mankind exploited the resources there, as well, which is what led to the post-apocalyptic landscape Lark travels.

3.  That's so cool that the idea came from alternative energy, something from our world. I’ve read that Lark’s hometown is patterned after Washington DC. How did you decide on Washington as a setting and what was your process of crafting that into your own city?

Normally my settings are as exotic as I can possibly manage—I travel a lot, and that always influences my writing. But I’ve lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for almost my whole life, so it was a bit of a surprise when I realized I wanted to use my home as the setting for this book. But the nature of the dystopia in which Lark finds herself at the start of the book all has to do with knowledge and information—the rulers of her city are called architects, because they are descended from those who built the Wall enclosing the city in the first place. They keep all scientific knowledge in trust, believing that society isn’t ready for it yet. When I figured that out, I knew I wanted to base the Institute of Natural and Magical Philosophy on D.C.’s own Smithsonian Institute, one of my favorite places of all time to explore. Only while our Smithsonian Institute is all about sharing the wealth of human knowledge, Lark’s Institute is about the retaining and concealing it.

4.  All your characters—Lark, Oren, and even Nix (I really liked Nix) are such unique characters. Who was the hardest character to develop and how did you overcome any challenges in writing about him/her?

I found Lark to be the biggest challenge, strangely enough. She had to start off unprepared, naïve, and even weak in many ways. I knew she couldn’t start off as the same ultimate badass so common in YA literature these days—I adore those kinds of characters, but it just made no sense for Lark, a girl who’s lived her entire life inside a sheltered dome, with no aspirations beyond growing up and fitting in. So I had to constantly fight the urge to make her stronger and more competent than she had reason to be, in the beginning. Once she began to learn, though, it was so much fun letting her grow up in this wilderness she’d never imagined—because she becomes strong, discovers that she’s been strong all along. I think that discovered strength ended up being ultimately much more rewarding for me, as a writer, because it was so hard-won.

5.  That's a hard balance to have her start out weak but still be sympathetic instead of whiny. You did a fantastic job with that. I know you write full-time. Have you always written full-time and what advice do you have for staying productive, which you definitely are?

I’ve been writing full-time since SKYLARK sold, back in 2011. The temptation to do nothing but play video games and watch Buffy all day is strong! Truthfully, though, these days I don’t have the time to goof off. I’ve got two series going simultaneously, which means at any given time I’m usually working on at least three books if not four—revisions and drafting for various sequels. Now that SKYLARK is out, there’s a lot of extra work that goes with that—promotion stuff, the dreaded M-word. (Marketing!)
But all this comes of having trained myself to work steadily, every day. While writing SKYLARK I wrote at least 500 words a day, every day, no matter what. The daily count was low so that it wasn’t intimidating—you can knock out 500 words in 15 minutes if you’re really cooking. The point, though, was that it got me in my chair, got me in the writing headspace. Usually I ended up writing closer to 2500 words a day, because 500 was enough to get me going.

6.  I can't imagine working on so many books at once. That's a great idea to write 500 words a day. I need to try it. Josh Adams is your agent. I read how he became your agent and it’s an amazing story. Please share it with us.

I nearly didn’t query Josh, because right around the time I was sending out queries, I read about a big, highly-publicized deal of his, whose blurb sounded an awful lot like SKYLARK. I was pretty inconsolable for a while, but eventually I decided to query him anyway, because for all I knew it was a sign he just liked that kind of book. And I was right! And now, in hindsight, having read the book in question, it’s actually not that similar to SKYLARK at all, except in bare bones premise.
I ended up with multiple offers of rep, including one from my then-dream agent. My mind was made up before Josh even called me. But after I spoke with him on the phone, it was like my world had turned upside down. I hung up the phone knowing I wanted him to represent me, and it was a bizarre experience to have to turn down the person I’d considered for months to be my dream agent! But I couldn’t be more glad I made the decision I did.

7.  Wow! That's so awesome you already could have gone with another dream agent and picked Josh. I'd love to have Josh Adams as my agent too. Now onto even more amazing info about you. 

So Josh became your agent in 2010. Besides having your first book released this month, you’re under contract to finish this trilogy and under contract for a sci-fi trilogy starting with THESE BROKEN STARS you co-wrote with Amie Kaufman to be released in 2013. Tell us how that all happened.

Well, SKYLARK happened the normal way (as much as there is a “normal” in publishing). Queries, agent, subs, editor, publisher, book deal. But I was living in Australia with Amie at the time I was writing SKYLARK, and so she was a huge part of the process, supporting me through all the ups and downs. We’ve always written together over the 6+ years we’ve known each other, but never before with any intention of making that writing public, professionally or no. To us, our projects were always play—we called them “sandboxes,” because it really was just for fun. But once SKYLARK sold we realized that the current “sandbox” we were working on could make a great novel. So we quietly embarked on that together, and sent it to my agent and his wife and agency partner. They loved it, and Josh’s wife Tracey read one of Amie’s solo books and loved that too, and offered her representation on the spot. Barely a few months later, we had a book deal for THESE BROKEN STARS too. The two three-book deals came roughly six months apart. And to be honest, I’m still reeling a bit from that.

8. That's so amazing how it worked out for book 2 for you and both books for Amie. What advice do you have for aspiring authors who may not be having as great a road to publication as yours?

Don’t stop. Someone somewhere (and let me know if anyone knows who) once said that published writers are only unpublished writers who didn’t give up, and I firmly believe that. Writing is not a choice—it’s a compulsion. I think there are a lot of aspiring authors out there who want to have written—they want to have been published, and everything that goes with it. But the actual writing part isn’t as necessary, and I think those are the people who might be more tempted to give up. But for those people who can’t imagine a life without writing, for the people who’d write even if they were locked in an empty room with only their fingernails and the wall plaster to work with? Just don’t give up. Because you’re meant to do this. And in the end, it only takes one. One agent. One editor. One book to break through.

9.  Such inspiring advice. You've got me convinced that I just need to keep writing. What are you working on now?

Officially, I’m working on revisions for SHADOWLARK, book two of the Skylark Trilogy, final line edits for THESE BROKEN STARS, and writing the first draft of TBS’s sequel. I’m also working on a secret SKYLARK-related side project as well. And just so that I keep busy, I’m also working here and there, whenever I can and whenever I have time, on a Beauty and the Beast retelling that I’ve been playing with for years in the time I have off from my contracted work. I love the story so much, and I can’t wait until that one’s finished. It does have to take a back seat to everything else, though.

Thanks so much Meagan for sharing all your advice and about your journey as a writer. I can't wait to read all your upcoming books. And guys, I already got Meagan to agree to come back with Aimie for an interview when THESE BROKEN STARS comes out. 

You can find Meagan at:

Meagan generously donated a signed copy of SKYLARK 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 by September 15th. I’ll announce the winner on September 17th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

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

Here's what's coming up next.

Wednesday I'm participating in Patty Blount's blog tour and giving away a copy of SEND, a contemporary novel about bullying told from the perspective of the bully. It sounds really good and I'm excited to share it and Patty's guest post with you.

 On Tuesday Tips tomorrow, Richard Due will share self-publishing tips and a giveaway of a print version of his middle grade fantasy THE MOON COIN. I'm really excited to share this with you because it's gotten good reviews for the story and the illustrations by Carolyn Arcabascio. I'm hoping some of you and your middle grade kids would enjoy his book.

Next Monday is Labor Day so I'm giving us all a break and not posting anything. But Wednesday next week I'm sharing ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White and giving away my ARC. It is such an awesome end to her series. Trust me, you want to stop by and enter the giveaway contest.

Next Friday, I'm participating in Jessica Shirvington’s Blog tour and giving away an ARC of her new book ENTICE.I can't wait to share it with you.

And don't forget Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Agent Spotlight: Kendra Marcus

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary Agency.

Status: Accepting submissions, actively building her client list.

kendra_marcusAbout: “Kendra Marcus started BookStop Literary Agency in 1984 and since then the agency has grown to be one of the most well known and well respected agencies for children’s book writers and illustrators.

“Kendra gravitates toward texts and illustrations for quirky and funny picture books, fiction and unusual non-fiction. She is also interested in stories with Hispanic or Latino characters, and is always thrilled to find unforgettable and vivid voices or stories that will bring her to tears. BookStop Literary Agency is dedicated to promoting  authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult books.  We guide our clients (and their books) in their careers and act as their liaison with publishers.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“BookStop Literary Agency is dedicated to promoting authors and illustrators of children's and young adult books. We guide our clients (and their books) in their careers and act as their liaison with publishers.  We sell quality picture books, fiction, non-fiction and illustrations to major children's book publishers in the US and abroad.” (Link)

Web Presence:

BookStop Literary website.

BookStop Facebook page.

Publisher’s Marketplace page.

QueryTracker.

LinkedIn.

What She’s Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Children’s fiction and non-fiction, middle grade, young adult, illustrations.

From Her Bio (as above):

“Kendra gravitates toward texts and illustrations for quirky and funny picture books, fiction and unusual non-fiction. She is also interested in stories with Hispanic or Latino characters, and is always thrilled to find unforgettable and vivid voices or stories that will bring her to tears.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

“In a picture book, I am eager to read a fresh approach to any of the myriad of familiar topics that kids can relate to–early concepts, daily life, siblings, family, friends, or even aliens. I love quirky and well-developed characters in any book, but especially in a picture book. We would never reject a great manuscript.

“I also like to work with books that tell a socially important or interesting story, despite the fact that they may not experience great sales.” (Link)

What She Isn’t Looking For:

Adult projects, screenplays.

Editorial Agent?

“We enjoy the editorial process, and if we think you’ve got a good strong character, we're more than happy to work with you to integrate that character into an equally strong plot.” (Link)

Clients:

There is a page of selected client titles and illustrators on the website.

Ms. Marcus has worked with such well-known authors and illustrators as Kathryn Erskine, Gary Soto, Lela Nargi, Gerald Morris, Frank Remkiewicz, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Corey Rosen Schwartz, among many others.

Sales:

Ms. Marcus keeps a list of recent deals on her public PM page. You can also view the author page on the website for a sample of past and current titles.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: Yes.  

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

See the BookStop Literary Agency submissions page for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

“Both my associate, Minju Chang, and I are actively seeking new talent. We work closely together so it doesn’t matter to whom you submit your work.” (Link)

Response Times:

The agency tries to respond within four to six weeks. Stats on the web show Ms. Marcus usually does respond within this timeframe.

What's the Buzz?

Kendra Marcus has a great stable of children’s authors who seem happy with her representation. She tends to be drawn to work for younger children, especially picture books, but does accept submissions for kids from 0-18.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: Kendra Marcus on BookStop Literary Agency at Cynsations (03/2010).

Around the Web:

BookStop Literary thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Kendra Marcus at P&E.

Round Table with Veteran Agent, Kendra Marcus at North Writer (03/2010).

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Kendra Marcus, Bookstop Literary at Frolicking through Cyberspace

How I Got My Agent: Corey Schwartz at Julie Hedlund’s site (12/2010).

Kenrdra Marcus: The Picture Book in 2010 at D.L. King (2010)

How I Got My Agent: Kristyn Crow at Guide to Literary Agents (11/2009).

Meeting my Secret...errrr....Literary Agent at A Mime in Times Square (11/2009)

Kendra Marcus Answers, “Who owns the rights to a character?” at Raab Associate (2009).

Peggy Collins and Kendra Marcus and the pursuit of representation at Just One More Book (11/2008).

Contact:

Please see the BookStop Literary website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 8/22/12.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 8/23/12.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's and/or teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tuesday Tip #140 AND GIVEAWAY DEMONKEEPER

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hi there! Natalie here today instead of Casey. Today I'm excited to share a writing tip from Royce Buckingham along with a giveaway of DEMONKEEPER, the first book in his MG series. Details about Royce's books and the contest are at the end of the post. First here's Royce's tip:


Advice for intermediate writers – picking your best story.

Beginning writers just need to get writing. True. Even years into the craft, the standard advice is to keep writing. Always. Absolutely. But here’s a hint for those of you have been at it for a little while and want to use your writing time as efficiently as possible.

The skill of determining in which story to invest your time is an invaluable time-saver. It can take a year (or more) to write a novel. You don’t want to write something that has an audience of one (you) and cannot sell. I did this—for me it was a literary medieval fantasy tragedy. The tragedy was that there was no market for my conglomeration of genres and styles. And it didn’t help that it was boring. I had about a zillion ideas, and I chose that one. Good practice, yes. But not a good use of that year of my life.
As a writer, you ought to have about one zillion ideas. Indeed, if you intend to make a career of it, you must. So why write the first thing that pops into your head? I’ll go you one further; why write the thing that pops into your head that you love the most?

Sacrilege you say? You think you simply must, must, must write that story you absolutely love?
Let me put it another way. I love all of my ideas. They’re like my children (you’ve heard this, right?). I submit that you are not a single story. You’re a writer of many stories. So why not write something you love (could be any of your children) that your potential (and as-of-yet unknown) audience will love the most?

So many writers I meet are so determined to write that one story that they love that they’ll forgo all others, whether or not anyone else loves it. And, importantly, whether or not it can sell.
Here’s my advice for avoiding spending a year of your life writing something you think is great, but no one else will.

Try writing a “one-page” for 5-10 different stories. Then try them on people. Everyone will tell you that a single story idea is “good.” But it might be more valuable to have each of those people tell you which story is the best.

This happened to me via contests. For thirteen years, I wrote stories for competitions, but DEMONKEEPER was the one that kept winning. Hmmm, I thought, maybe that’s the one I should work on for submission to publishers? I did. It sold. The rest is history (and two sequels—DEMONEATER and DEMONOCITY).

The above advice is a tool, not a rule. But it’s a tool I wish I’d had before I invested a year in my unsellable novel and more than a decade in all of those other stories that did not win competitions. It was all good practice craft-wise, and I certainly had to practice for a number of years before anything was good enough to sell, but after I was a competent writer (say seven years in), I could have streamlined the getting published process a bit (by years) by testing my story ideas on as many people as possible at the outline/summary/synopsis stage before writing them all.

Best of luck!

Thanks Royce for your advice. Here's a description from Amazon of DEMONKEEPER, the first book in the series that Royce Buckingham is offering for a giveaway.

Demons are all around us—most of them are relatively harmless, like the ones that go bump in the night or make you stub your toe. But some are dangerous—some can kill. Since he was orphaned as a boy, Nat has been trained by his aged mentor Daliwahl to be a demonkeeper, controlling a menagerie of demons in their old, rickety house in Seattle. But now Dahliwahl is gone and Nat is on his own.
Keeping demons isn’t a very social activity, and when Nat goes on a date with Sandy, a junior librarian’s assistant, it’s a disaster in more ways that one—while Nat’s out, a very scary demon called the Beast escapes. Can Nat get the Beast back to the house and make things right with Sandy—and do it all by himself?

With its fast-paced action, slapstick humor, and a winning, unlikely hero, Demonkeeper is a high-spirited romp that will keep readers glued to the page.

And a description of the second book, DEMONEATER, from Amazon:


Seattle’s demons are scared and wreaking havoc in the rainy city. They’ve burned their way through the Seattle underground, threatened to topple the Space Needle, and sent a twenty foot statue rampaging downtown.

It’s up to Nathaniel Grimlock, the teenage Demonkeeper, to control them, but when he discovers what’s stirring them up—a legendary monster known as the Demoneater—he finds that he’s in over his head yet again!



And finally here's a description of the final book in the series, DEOMONOCITY, from Amazon:

Seattle’s local Demonkeeper, Nathaniel Grimlock, is lost at sea. In his absence, the demons have taken over the city!

It’s up to his delinquent apprentice Richie and Nat’s two competing girlfriends to prevent Seattle’s destruction until he can find his way home to face the most powerful demon of them all.

Demonocity is the catastrophic conclusion to Royce Buckingham’s bestselling German series.



To enter the contest for DEMONKEEPER, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by September 8th. I’ll announce the winner on September 10th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

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

DARK FROST REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY


Hi everyone! Hope you're having a good end of summer. I had a really great time visiting with my family at our family reunion and my mom, uncle, and aunt who were visiting for a few days. We all sadly live all across the country, but it's really fun when we get together.

I have some awesome contests going on, including for C.J. Redwine's debut fantasy/dystopian book DEFIANCE and The Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop with a big choice of books to choose from. So if you haven't entered them, be sure to do so. The links are at the top of the blog.

And here's the winners of two contests.

The winner of THE EMOTION THESAURUS is STORYQUEEN!

And the winner of FRACTURED LIGHT is DARLENE!

Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books.

Today I'm excited to share DARK FROST by Jennifer Estep with you. Here's a description from Goodreads:

 I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.


I saw a contest for DARK FROST I think on Shelf Awareness for Pros and wanted to read this even though I hadn’t read the first two books in the series. Jennifer Estep was kind enough to e-mail me after I entered the contest and put me in touch with her publicist who sent me this ARC.

I wondered if I would know enough about what’s going on in general since I hadn’t read the first two books to enjoy this one. I am happy to say that Jennifer did an amazing job of sprinkling in enough backstory without drowning us in info dumps so I could understand how this plot fits into the overall series.

I enjoy boarding school stories and this was no exception. There’s a great balance of the issues of friendships and romance that normal teenagers experience and the more major plot issues of finding the Helheim Dagger before the Reapers do and use it to free Loki. Yeah, they’re the bad guys. 

Gwen is the Champion of Nike, the Goddess of Victory. Her magical power is psychometry, the power to know an object’s or person’s history by touching them. I really liked that her power is different from what I often see in paranormal/fantasies. All the kids in the school have different talents, like the ability to use any weapons even if not trained in them, being super quick, or having amazing healing powers. 

The plot is fast paced, starting out with an attack by the Reapers on Gwen and her friends while they are on a school trip to the Coliseum to study magical relics. There Gwen confronts a masked Reaper who is Loki’s champion. One of the mysteries for the reader and Gwen is figuring out who the reaper is.
The other mystery is finding the Helheim Dagger, which had been hidden by Gwen’s mother before the Reapers murdered her. So Gwen has even more incentive to try to find the Dagger.

It felt like Gwen really comes into her powers in this book. And she’s maybe a little too independent in wanting to find the Dagger on her own, which of course gets her in trouble. But it felt like a normal teenager reaction. Didn’t we all feel invincible at that age?

The secondary characters are very interesting and I would have liked to see more of them. Grandma Frost who is her rock and Daphne, her best friend going through her own challenges, are a few.

Logan is Gwen’s love interest and he has his own secrets he doesn’t want to share. This is a problem because of Gwen’s magical abilities if she touches him. Their relationship had started in the prior books but is still developing here. One of the things I liked is that the romance didn’t overtake the plot. And there’s no love triangle, which I’m getting tired of.

At the end of the book, Jennifer includes a Beyond The Story section which tells you about the school, the mythology behind all the magical powers, the significance of all the buildings at the school, and who the main characters are. This is really helpful for someone who hasn’t read the prior books or who needs a refresher on some of these things. 

I'm giving away my ARC of DARK FROST. 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 by September 8th. I’ll announce the winner on September 10th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

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

Here's what's coming up next.

Next Monday I'm interviewing debut author Meagan Spooner and giving away her awesome fantasy/dystopian book SKYLARK. It was so good that I stayed up way too late one weeknight finishing it and was SO tired at work the next day. But it was totally worth it. I know you'll love this book. 

Wednesday next week I'm participating in Patty Blount's blog tour and giving away a copy of SEND, a contemporary novel about bullying told from the perspective of the bully. It sounds really good and I'm excited to share it and Patty's guest post with you.

 On Tuesday Tips tomorrow, we have a special guest post by Royce Buckingham on how to decide on your next book with a giveaway of DEMONKEEPER, a  fun YA paranormal story written from the POV of a male character. Next Tuesday Richard Due will share self-publishing tips and a giveaway of a print version of his middle grade fantasy THE MOON COIN. I'm really excited to share this with you because it's gotten good reviews for the story and the illustrations by Carolyn Arcabascio. I'm hoping some of you and your middle grade kids would enjoy his book.

And don't forget Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

LAST DAYS OF FREEDOM GIVEAWAY HOP

Today I'm so excited to participate in the Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and The Elliott Review. I love these giveaway hops because it's a way to say thanks to all my awesome followers and to share a whole lot of awesome books. You know I love that!

So here's the choices this time. They're all books I've read or am really looking forward to reading. Click on the titles below for a Goodreads description of the book.

 


 


 


 


 
AURACLE by Gina Rosati
BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore
CHANGLING by Philiippa Gregory
ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White
GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake
GRAVE MERCY by R.L. LaFevers
INNOCENT DARKNESS by Suzanne Lazear
INSURGENT by Veronica Roth
RIFT by Andrea Cremer
SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman
SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard
THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen
THE KILL ORDER by James Dashner
THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah Maas
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

Hope you are as excited as me about the choices.

So there will be two winners. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment telling me what book you want by August 22nd. I’ll announce the winner on August 27th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

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

Don't forget to enter my other contests for DEFIANCE, FRACTURED LIGHT, THE STONE GIRL and THE EMOTION THESAURUS. The links are at the top of the blog.

Here's what's coming up next.

On Monday I'll be featuring DARK FROST, a great paranormal YA story by Jennifer Estep with a giveaway.


The following Monday I'm interviewing debut author Meagan Spooner and giving away her awesome fantasy/dystopian book SKYLARK. It was so good that I stayed up way too late one weeknight finishing it and was SO tired at work the next day. But it was totally worth it. I know you'll love this book. 

Wednesday that week I'm participating in Patty Blount's blog tour and giving away a copy of SEND, a contemporary novel about bullying told from the perspective of the bully. It sounds really good and I'm excited to share it and Patty's guest post with you.

 On Tuesday Tips next week, we have a special guest post by Royce Buckingham on how to decide on your next book with a giveaway of DEMONKEEPER, a  fun YA paranormal story written from the POV of a male character. The following Tuesday Richard Due will share self-publishing tips and a giveaway of a print version of his middle grade fantasy THE MOON COIN. I'm really excited to share this with you because it's gotten good reviews for the story and the illustrations by Carolyn Arcabascio. I'm hoping some of you and your middle grade kids would enjoy his book.

And don't forget Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

Here's all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:






Tip Tuesday #139

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today's Tuesday Tip was sent in by Sarah Hipple, an MG/YA writer. This is Sarah's first tip on Literary Rambles, so make sure you say "hi!" and visit her shiny new writing blog.

When you're introducing a lot of back story or world building, it can help the flow to break it up with a (relevant) conversation. That way the reader doesn't get bogged down in too many dense paragraphs of text. Especially if you're in the beginning of your novel, the conversation can give the reader a little break and help the reader connect more with your characters by seeing how they behave and speak.

~Sarah Hipple

COUNTING BACKWARDS Winner

Hey guys!

The winner of COUNTING BACKWARDS by Laura Lascarso is...


Congratulations Katie! Shooting an e-mail over to you right now.  

Everyone else, don't forget you have more chances to win at Laura's other blog tour stops!


Agent Spotlight: Judith Engracia

Profile pulled January 2014.

Ms. Engracia is staying on at Liza Dawson Associates as the Director of Digital Media but is no longer representing writers as an agent. Do not query.

Tip Tuesday #138

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

I have another fantastic tip from author Yolanda Ridge. Her two middle grade novels include Trouble in the Trees and its sequel Road Block. You can read her first tip, #136, here, and find her at her website here. Enjoy!

If you spend a lot of time surfing the net (and let's face it - we all do), Pinterest is a great way to organize all the writing ideas you come across by accident or on purpose. With the "pin it" button (which you can download after signing up for your free account) it takes only a second to capture an image and post it on a board of your own creation. I think of these boards as virtual file folders. For my work in progress, I have a board for each of my main characters. On each board, I've pinned pictures of that character's favourite foods, outfits, things they like to do, places they dream of going, careers, hobbies, etc. Each picture has a link back to the original web page and a place to write notes. You could have a general board labelled "writing inspiration", a board for each book, a board just for facial expressions... there's no limit! Each board can be private or public, so if you don't mind sharing your ideas and inspirations you might actually get some extra publicity out of it. Just be sure to pin a picture of your published book cover from your favourite online supplier so followers can easily buy the book!

~Yolanda Ridge 

C.J. REDWINE INTERVIEW AND DEFIANCE GIVEAWAY


Before I get to our interview, I want to remind you to enter our contests for the YA contemporary novel,  COUNTING BACKWARDS and a great writer's resource, THE EMOTION THESAURUS, and THE STONE GIRL, another newly released contemporary novel about a girl struggling with eating disorders. The links are at the top of the blog.

And are you all planning to go to the WriteOnCon Conference on August 14th and 15th? It's free and super awesome, so you should. The good thing is you can go as much or as little as you want or are able. I'll have to sneak in this year because I'm having company then. But I'm going to check out what I can. Go here to find out details.

One last thing--the winners of my contests. 

The winner of SHADOW AND BONE is: SOFIA!

And the winner of FLYING THE DRAGON is: ANGELA BROWN!

Today I’m super excited to interview C.J. Redwine about her debut book DEFIANCE that will be
released August 28, 2012. It's my first pre-release interview.

I first learned of C.J.’s blog from Shannon Messenger when C.J. was in the process of adopting her daughter from China a few years ago. Having adopted our daughter from China too, I’ve enjoyed following C.J.’s blog and her journey to adoption and publication. It makes it even more fun to interview her because I know her.

I really enjoyed the part fantasy, part dystopian story C.J. created. She really brings the scenes
and characters to life with her dynamite, yet not too long, descriptions. The pace of the story
never stops and C.J. doesn’t hesitate to make things harder and harder for her main characters,
Rachel and Logan.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Hi C.J. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been making up stories since I realized in the second grade that it was someone’s job to make stuff up.  When I was thirty, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I realized that life is too short to hesitate in following your dreams. I haven’t looked back since. J

2. So sorry you got sick, but that's awesome you followed your dream. And it's worked out so well. I've been using your advice that life is too short a lot these days. It really puts things in perspective.

It is so important in fantasies and dystopian stories to create a vivid world, which you do
so well. How did you come up with the idea of the safe city of Baalboden, the Beast, and the
frightening wilderness that had been left after the Beast’s destruction?

The idea of a Leviathon-like creature who lived deep underground had been in the back of my mind for years. One day, I saw a picture of a fortress and it reminded me of a city-state. I thought “What if everyone lived in city-states again? Why would they do that? What’s so dangerous about being outside the walls?”  The Leviathon idea collided with the city-state idea, and Defiance was born.

3. I'm always amazed how seeing something randomly can stir a story in writers. Rachel is strong yet vulnerable given all the losses she has to face, independent, and sometimes angrier than most characters I’ve seen. Not that I blame her. Share with us how you developed her as a character and how you got the right balance of having her show anger but not too much.

My characters show up in my head already fully formed. I just get the delightful job of discovering who they are and then putting them into situations that generate action and conflict. Rachel is fierce and driven, so when I put her in situations that cause her grief, her go-to response is anger because she knows how to use anger to fuel action, and she’s most comfortable with action. My editor (the amazingly talented Kristin Rens!) helped me find the right balance with Rachel’s emotional arc.

4. That's great your editor helped with the balance. I loved that you told your story from both Rachel’s and Logan’s POVs. What were some of the challenges in writing from two POVs and what tips do you have for the rest of us?

Logan’s POV wasn’t originally part of the plan! I was halfway through with the first draft when I realized that Logan had just as much at stake in the story as Rachel did and needed to be included. (Shout out to my friend and critique partner MG Buehrlen for helping me figure that out!) It took several tries to find Logan’s voice and to understand how to look at events through his eyes instead of through Rachel’s. He’s a very deductive, logical person and Rachel is much more intuitive and impulsive. My advice if you want to try writing dual POVs is to make sure the entire approach to the scene is different for each character so that they sound distinct.

5. So glad you decided to include Logan's POV. He's such a great character. I bet a lot of your fans will say the same thing. Your agent is Holly Root. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I was discussing my querying process on a loop of writer friends (I’d had several agents ask to see the manuscript I’d just finished), and one of my friends said the book sounded like something her agent, Holly, would love. I queried Holly, and it turns out we are a perfect fit. My road to publication was much harder than my road to finding an agent. J We subbed two different books over the course of two years and got nothing but rejections. I just kept writing and writing. Finally, I decided to jump to the YA genre (I’d been writing adult) because it was my go-to genre for pleasure reading, and I took on the idea that scared me with how big it was. A few months later, the Defiance trilogy sold at auction. It took weeks for me to believe that something I’d written had finally sold!

6. It's good to hear how you and your agent kept submitting when book 1 didn't sell. You decided to quit your full-time job at some point to focus on writing. Many of us, me included, would love to be able to do this. What went into deciding that and what do you recommend people consider in making that decision?

I didn’t quit my job until after I’d sold the trilogy. I was busy balancing work, four kids, homeschooling two of them, and life in general. To say that I was near the end of my rope is an understatement. J When I was able to replace enough of my income to make staying home possible, I jumped at the chance! To effectively work from home, I’ve set up office hours for myself, and I usually go to my local bookstore and write a couple days a week as well. It takes some juggling (I have a toddler!), but I was already used to juggling. 

7. I bet it's critical to set the office hours to stay productive. Your book will be released soon. What are your marketing plans and what are the essential steps you’d advise a debut author to take in planning to market a debut book?

I’ve been building relationships within the publishing/blogging community for years, mostly because I just love books, and it’s so much fun to champion the books I really enjoy. Because of those relationships, I could go to people and ask if they’d like to do a blog tour with Defiance or if they wanted to do an interview etc. Also, because of those relationships (and because Harper designed such an amazing cover for me!), people have come to me asking if they can be a part of promoting Defiance. My advice to a debut author is to be genuinely invested in other people’s success, to reach out to people (strangers too!), and to carefully space out contests etc on your own blog so that you aren’t a constant stream of ME ME ME because let’s face it—that’s super annoying. J

8. I have the same passion for books and authors. I'm going to watch your debut and learn how you've used your connections. What are you working on now?

I just finished book two in the Defiance trilogy, and I’m also working on a secret project on the side.

Ooh, can't wait till you tell about the secret project. Thanks C.J. for sharing all your advice and letting us help celebrate your debut. I’m so excited for you! You can find C.J. at her website and her blog.

C.J.'s publisher generously offered an ARC 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 by August 25th. I’ll announce the winner on August 27th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday, I'll be taking off. My mom, uncle, and aunt will be visiting and I need to be a good hostess and enjoy being together. I'll be back Friday next week with a big Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop. I've got a great selection of books planned.

The following Monday I have a book review (not sure yet which one) and a giveaway. But it'll be awesome for sure. 

The following Monday I'm interviewing debut author Meagan Spooner and giving away her awesome fantasy/dystopian book SKYLARK. It was so good that I stayed up way too late one weeknight finishing it and was SO tired at work the next day. But it was totally worth it. I know you'll love this book.


And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.


Hope to see you a week from Friday!