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

THE CRYSTAL RIBBON through February 18th

SIREN SISTERS through February 18th

FROSTBLOOD AND SUZIE TOWNSEND QUERY CRITIQUE through Febrary 25th

THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE through March 4th

Linda Camacho Query Critique through March 11th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights With Query Critique Giveaways:

Kristy Hunter, Wednesday, March 22nd

ELIZABETH VARADAN GUEST POST AND IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS GIVEAWAY

 Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. We went to lake with friends one day and I got all my flowers planted--something I love doing. And I can't believe it. Anna Li is officially finished with high school. It feels kind of surreal. There's no more making lunches for her and I no longer have to set the alarm since I work at home. I'm loving that.

I want to give you the heads up about next week. I'll be taking a blog break the week of June 1st because I'm having family visit for Anna Li's graduation on Wednesday and am hosting a dinner party the next night. I'll be back on June 8th, but it may take me a bit to get to your blog. I have to go to a 1 1/2 day orientation at University of Michigan with Anna Li. I'll get to your blogs on Monday night or late Tuesday. Then things should get back to normal.

Now onto our guest post. I'm excited to have Elizabeth Varadan here to share about her new MG mystery IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS. It sounds fantastic.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:


In Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a day after Imogene's obnoxious step-cousins pay a visit,
her mother's pearls go missing. When Sherlock Holmes is called in, Imogene, harboring a secret desire to become a detective, sees her chance to learn from the great Mr. Holmes.

Here's Elizabeth!

Three ways to Stay Current with Your Readers

Three practices have helped me as an author writing for the eight-to-twelve audience: Reading MG novels, reviewing MG books, and personally connecting with middle graders.

1. Writers are often told to read in the genre they write. This is especially true when writing MG novels. Reading MG lit is a peek into the varied and ever-changing world of that age group. But reading well-written books in your genre provides enhanced understanding of the art and craft of writing for your target readers. These books are the shining examples of what you are aiming for. They can inspire you, when you are searching for that missing element in your own work, and they are clear reminders that rewriting and polishing counts – reminders of why you should never settle for anything less than your best work.

2. I review books for The Children’s Books Review, an award-winning online review site. Reviewing books provides an additional layer of appreciation for the craft. It’s basically one half of the interaction that occurs in a good writing group. In writing groups, we benefit from insights of other readers, but we benefit as much from insights that develop while critiquing their works. Analyzing someone else’s writing to see what works (and what doesn’t) requires an objectivity we lack when revising our own work. When we can identify strengths and weaknesses in another’s writing – in story structure, characterization, theme, imagery, and setting, etc. – we more easily spot strengths and weaknesses in our own writing. Our storytelling improves.

3. The third practice – having personal familiarity with your target readers – can be achieved in many
ways. For years I taught intermediate grades in public school, (an experience which seems to have permanently imbedded that age range in my psyche). When I took early retirement to write full time, I had to find other ways to stay connected. Parents, of course, have that connection at home. But if you aren’t a teacher or parent, or your kids are grown, there are other ways to connect with young people.
I make school visits. School visits aren’t always about your published work. During revisions, I’ve read unfinished books to middle grade classes purely for student input. Teachers welcome opportunities to expose their students to authors, and students love to help you out. After listening to a scene from The Fourth Wish, a sixth grader said, “Mrs. Varadan, we don’t say it like that.” “How do you say it?” I asked. When I came back later and read the same scene, reflecting his input, students nodded their approval. You can’t put something like that in a query letter, I know, but your payoff is in better writing. I’ve been told my ‘kid talk’ in The Fourth Wish is authentic.

When Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls was still in the submission stage, I visited three schools to interview students regarding their feelings about historical fiction. I worried this might be the kind of fiction teachers appreciated more than students. But students in all three classes loved historical fiction – especially historical mysteries. One fifth- grader explained she liked the fact that detectives in the “olden days” (her words) had to use their brain to figure things out instead of relying on technology. (This from the techie generation!) And most of the students in all three classes liked Sherlock Holmes – good news for me, since Sherlock figures strongly in Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls.
There are other ways to connect with young people. Read to children at a library branch. Donate your time in an after school program at a community center. Become a big brother or sister, a Scout den leader. Kids are at their most natural in such settings. If you have a hobby, volunteer to teach it. It’s a refreshing break from sitting hunched over a computer all week, and it’s another way to break a block. (My hobby is art, so I volunteer-teach an art class at a community center once a week. As it turns out, this dovetails nicely with the book reviewing, because I can give them free books when the class ends.)
So – read, review, and connect – three ways to stay in the loop with your target readers.


Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. She taught most elementary grades, but her favorites were the middle grades, and she now writes middle grade fiction. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Her middle grade fantasy, The Fourth Wish, was self-published in 2008. Her new middle grade mystery, Imogene an the Case of the Missing Pearls, will be released by MX Publishing June 15, 2015.



Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls can be pre-ordered

And at Book Depository: 

Author contact information:
                   and

Twitter: @4thWishVaradan


Elizabeth has generously offered a copy of IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS to one lucky winner. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 13th. I’ll announce the winner on June 15th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

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

Here's what's coming up:

I'll be off on Monday June 1st to get ready for my daughter's graduation and will be offline all week because I'm having family visiting to help celebrate our happy event.

On Monday, June 8th, I'll have an interview with debut author Sarah McGuire and a giveaway of her MG fantasy VALIANT.


The following Monday I have a guest post with agent Mandy Hubbard and debut author Carolyn Lee Adams and a giveaway of her YA suspense/thriller RUTHLESS. There may also be a query critique giveaway.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post with agent Tina Wexler and Jessica Lawson and a query critique giveaway by Tina Wexler and a giveaway of Jessica's new MG mystery NOOKS AND CRANNIES.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Virginia Boecker and a giveaway of her YA historical fiction THE WITCH HUNTER.

Hope to see you on Monday, June 8th!


AGENT LAUREN MACLEOD AND HOLLY BODGER GUEST POST AND QUERY CRITIQUE AND 5 TO 1 GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone!

I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING is Joanne Fritz!

The winner of JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD is Liz Brooks!

The winner of Brent Taylor's Query Critique is Jenny C.!

And the winner of the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop is Anne May who picked the Amazon Gift Card!

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

Today I'm thrilled to have debut author Holly Bodger and her agent Lauren MacLeod from The Strothman Agency to share about raising your stakes in your novel.

Holly's novel is a YA multicultural, futuristic story that sounds fantastic. I just reserved it at the library for my summer fun reading. And it just came in. Yay!

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa, though, doesn't want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view-Sudasa's in verse and Kiran's in prose-allowing readers to experience both characters' pain and their brave struggle for hope.


So here's Holly and Lauren!

Stake it Up

HB: One of the things Lauren often reminds me is to increase the stakes in my novel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a character’s stakes are what he has to lose if he doesn’t meet his goal. For example, if Harry Potter doesn’t defeat Voldemort, he will die, so his stakes are death. In the case of my own book, 5 TO 1, Sudasa’s stakes are a life of misery married to a boy she hates. Kiran’s are death.

LM: I just searched through my sent email for the phrase “the stakes” and it does, indeed, seem to be one of those things I’m constantly talking about with you guys. But without high stakes, what is the point? Why should a reader invest themselves in this story or character? 

HB: You are so right, Lauren. The stakes are what keeps the reader reading. In fact, according to James a character’s stakes must always be death. Don’t get too excited. He defines death in three ways: 1) actual physical death, 2) professional death (in YA this might be called death in stature, ie, a place on the basketball team), and 3) emotional death. This last one can be hard to pull off as it requires that you convince the reader that it will really occur. When I used this this last one for Sudasa, I had to make sure that it was REALLY clear that a life married to a boy she hates would be emotional death.
Scott Bell,

LM: That is such an interesting way of framing that! I feel like there should be some sort of category for interpersonal relationship death (not necessarily romantic, but frequently), but maybe that all falls under the umbrella of emotional death? (For some reason ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS popped into my head and I was trying to figure out where I’d slot those stakes.) Holly?

HB: Yes, I think loss of love/friendship would be an emotional death as long as the relationship is important to the main character. That’s what stakes must be personal. The main character must be facing his or her own death (or in this case, loss). If the stakes belong to another character, then they must relate back to the main character through an emotional death. For example, Katniss risks her life initially to save her sister and while she wants to win the games so she can continue to support her mother and sister, the stakes (of actual death) are hers because she is the one who might die. Had the games been different and Katniss had been playing for Prim’s life, we would have believed Katniss was facing emotional death only if we also believed Prim was so important to Katniss that she could not possibly go on living without her.

LM: Sort of like the emotional death Katniss would be facing re: Peeta Mellark? (Oh Peeta!) Katniss is facing her own death, but the reader also thinks she may be facing an emotional death if she loses Peeta. So she has personal stakes on two sides and, thanks to the winner takes all nature of the Hunger Games, she is put in this really fascinating place where it seems like she can’t win. The more stakes you can raise, and the more you can set those in conflict with each other, the higher the tension, the more I care as a reader.

HB: Yeah, Hunger Games was full of stakes. Katniss was facing the loss of her sister and Peeta, in addition to her own life. This really helped build engagement with Katniss because the stakes were specific. This is really important. I have lost count of the number of loglines I’ve seen where the only stakes are the end of the world . How does a reader know what this means? Will the Earth actually implode if the main character does not succeed or is this just an exaggeration? 

LM: Oh I agree with your requirement, but I think there is a place for *dramatic music* THE END OF THE WORLD, as long as there are some personal stakes tied up in there, too. I think there is some pretty fertile ground here, especially when you set it up so the stakes for the world conflict [am I beginning to sound like a broken record? I clearly like my stakes with a side of major conflict] with the main characters personal stakes. It demands a sacrifice or some sort of moral reckoning, which is also inherently interesting. 


HB: So Lauren likes her stakes with a side of more stakes. Do you see a pattern here? 



The final thing to remember with stakes is that they must be believable. This touches on a whole other topic about powerful antagonists, but the point here is that we must believe the stakes will absolutely come true if the main character loses. We rooted for Katniss because we actually believed she would die in the Hunger Games. If she’d gone into the arena to fight to the death and her opponents were all toothless gerbils, we would not have believed the stakes.

LM: Agreed. I’d add that the best books also really build the case for it being unlikely for the main character to get what they want. In the case of escaping physical death, for example, most writers (especially of YA) probably aren’t really going to George R. R. Martin a character and readers know that, so the burden falls on the writer to really make us fear/worry for our characters. 


I think this is probably easiest in something like the Hunger Games and hardest in YA or MG when your stakes are more of the “professional death” variety. We see “so-and-so will die” or “the world will end” so frequently because those stakes register on a visceral human level. 


Thanks for sharing all your great advice, Lauren and Holly.

You can find Lauren at  @Lauren_MacLeod.

You can find Holly at  www.hollybodger.com.

Lauren has generously offered a query critique and Holly is offering a copy of 5 TO 1for a giveaway.
To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 30. I’ll announce the winner on June 8th. If you are interested in the query critique, please let me know in the comments. You must let me know this to enter. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

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

Here's what's coming up:

I'll be off next Monday for Memorial Day. Have a great holiday!

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Elizabeth Varden and a giveaway of her new MG mystery IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS.

I'll be off on Monday June 1st to get ready for my daughter's graduation and will be offline all week because I'm having family visiting to help celebrate our happy event.

Monday, June 8th, I'll have an interview with debut author Sarah McGuire and a giveaway of her MG fantasy VALIANT.

Hope to see you next Wednesday!



SHARON HUSS ROAT GUEST POST AND BETWEEN THE NOTES GIVEAWAY

 Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Sharon Huss Roat here with a guest post and a giveaway of her YA contemporary BETWEEN THE NOTES.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.

And it isn’t pretty.

Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.

As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.

Debut author Sharon Huss Roat crafts a charming and timely story of what happens when life as you know it flips completely upside down.


So here's Sharon!

My Editor Made Me Do It: Three Character-Building Revision Tips

I’m thrilled to be guest-posting on Literary Rambles today! Since Natalie invited me to write about the editorial process, I thought I’d share a few of the actual revisions my editor asked me to make. (A peak behind the curtain!) These aren’t necessarily the most significant changes I made, but they all helped me write deeper, more developed characters.

1) Turning Two Characters Into One

It happened during my second round of developmental edits with my editor, Karen Chaplin, at HarperCollins. She asked me to do the unthinkable: turn two beloved characters into a single person.

Whaaaat? My initial reaction was one of strong resistance. These two characters—new friends of
protagonist Ivy—were so different. One was quirky, awkward and shy. The other was wry, snarky, badass. I couldn’t imagine merging them into one person! But Karen convinced me to try. On their own, the two characters had needed a lot more development. It would’ve been difficult to devote the extra scene time necessary to accomplish that with both of them. But combined? They became a more complex character with greater depth and a more important role in the story.

2) Throwing a Pity Party

I was so worried about making Ivy likable, I hesitated to let her react fully to her circumstances. I didn’t want her to seem bratty or whiny. What I didn’t realize, though, was that Ivy (and her story) needed this authentic and relatable teen moment. Her world had just turned upside down. My editor encouraged me to let her throw a fit, to feel her “poor me” moment.

Will some readers think Ivy’s a brat because of it? Perhaps. And that’s okay, because it’s true. She isn’t perfect, and she reacted to a crappy situation as any teen might: badly. The scene ultimately became an important turning point for Ivy, as she recognizes how her circumstances are affecting everyone in her family—not just herself. She had to have that bratty moment to move beyond it!

3) Avoiding Caricatures

Every school has its mean girls, and my manuscript did, too. Karen encouraged me to give them more depth and development, so they wouldn’t feel like caricatures. I did so by looking beyond their shallow and materialistic behavior to what made them so. I explored their relationships with their parents. They were spoiled, for sure. But also somewhat neglected. One was essentially raised by her “Nanny du jour” and the other was a product of her mother’s obsession with appearances. Weaving in these little bits of backstory along with a few moments of vulnerability helped turn my two stereotypical mean girls into something a little bit more.

Thanks for the great tips, Sharon. You can find Sharon at:




Sharon has generous offered a copy of BETWEEN THE NOTES for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

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

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday, I have a guest post by debut author Holly Bodger and her agent Lauren MacLeod and a query critique giveaway and a giveaway of Holly's YA futurist, multicultural story 5 to 1.

I'll be off the following Monday for Memorial Day.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Elizabeth Varden and a giveaway of her new MG mystery IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS.

I'll be off on Monday June 1st to get ready for my daughter's graduation.

Monday, June 8th, I'll have an interview with debut author Sarah McGuire and a giveaway of her MG fairytale retelling VALIANT.

Hope to see you on Monday!


JENNY MARTIN INTERVIEW AND TRACKED GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Hope all you mothers had a great Mother's Day! Anna Li and I went out to dinner at a restaurant we really like and she got me some lovely flowers.

Follower News

Erin Fanning's new adult urban fantasy novella, BLOOD STITCHES,  is being released tomorrow. Here's a blurb: Blood Stitches is about a family who can knit magic, creating tapestries capable of apocalyptic disasters, and what happens when the younger sister must destroy the tapestries. It touches on the classic themes of good vs. evil, family relationships, and why some people seem to be attracted to darkness. And here are a few links:www.erinfanning.com, http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Stitches-Erin-Fanning-ebook/dp/B00ONTR8I6 , https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23450191-blood-stitches 

Also, Lee Wind has started a series with in-depth agent interviews on diversity in books for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The interviews are on the first Monday of the month. The last one was with Sarah Davies.

I have a winner to announce.

The winner of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is Laine Cunningham!

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

Today I’m excited to have debut author Jenny Martin here to share about her new YA science fiction book, TRACKED. It sounds like a fantastic story about a girl who is a racer and turns into a revolutionary. How cool is that?

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn't stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her daring new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It's up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?

Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

My twitter bio reads...Author, Librarian, Beatle-maniac, and that's a pretty fitting description. By night, I'm a novelist, and by day, I'm a school librarian in Northwest ISD, in the Dallas Fort-Worth area. And when I'm not reading, writing or recommending books, I'm either binge-watching science fiction, superhero or fantasy movies/tv shows, or I'm listening to music...usually rock. And yes, I really do love the Beatles.

How did I become a writer? I think it was always in the cards, because I've always, always been a voracious reader. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in the Children's section, in the basement of the Woodward Public Library, reading and daydreaming. As a kid, and even as a teen, I wrote short stories and (bad) poetry. But somewhere along way to adulthood, I got it in my head that I'd never be a real writer. And it wasn't until I was finishing up my Masters' Degree, in Library Science, that I had the courage to reclaim the dream. I realized I was tired of only writing academic papers. I wanted to write fiction...something for me. So I did!

2. That's awesome you came to writing form your love of reading. I'd love to work at a library. Where did you get the idea for TRACKED?

The short answer is that I was inspired after watching a documentary called Hot Coffee and an action movie called Death Race: 2000, the remake starring Jason Statham. The long(ish) answer is that Tracked was probably sleeping in my subconscious for much, much longer. I've spent a lifetime loving adventure novels and science fiction epics like Star Wars. Growing up, I always wanted to be the rogue, like Han Solo or the smart-mouthed hero, like Princess Leia. For me, Phee is a little bit of both, and she's the character I've always wanted to write...I just didn’t know it, until she popped into my head. ;)

3. I think many of us have fantasies of being characters in movies or books we love. Phoebe is a racer. Did you already know a lot about racing or did you have to research it for your story?

When I first got the idea for Tracked, I knew very little about racing, and I’m way too much of a scaredy
cat to race in real life. I did a lot research, and read up a lot on Nascar, Formula One, street and rally racing. I checked out books and devoured articles in extreme sports magazines like Red Bulletin (So interesting and so much inspiration...I highly recommend a subscription, if you're a novelist.). I even interviewed an amateur stock car racer! But at the end of the day, I had to create my own sport, and use my imagination. Circuit racing isn't NASCAR, and it's not traditional endurance racing, either. It's a combination of the two, with a little twist of its own.

4. Wow! You did a lot of research. Share about your world building process and the corporate controlled world of Castra. Do youhave any tips for other authors needing to create a new world?

I think the most important thing is to get under the skin of your character (or narrator) and see everything their eyes, and sense everything through the lens of his or her experience. When world-building doesn't work...when there's too much of it, or it's too generic...it's usually because the author failed to do that. In Tracked, you only see what Phee notices, the way she notices it. The planet's climate, history, politics, architecture and government...it's all filtered through her, in her own voice.

I will say that throughout the process of drafting and revising, I thought about the world of Tracked a LOT. I wrote a complete Intersteller Geo-political Timeline, a series of interoffice memos from Benroyal Corp. and don't laugh...even a Circuit Racing Manual for Corporate Cup Professionals. But all of that was just for me, to help me have a deeper understanding. The more I know about the world, the better prepared I am to access it through my character's perspective.

5. That's amazing how you wrote those memos and manual. It shows true dedication. Share about a writing challenge you faced working with your editor or something you learned from working with your editor.

I've had the pleasure of working with two editors at Penguin. My first editor was Heather Alexander, and she taught me how to revise. Before working with her, I only knew how to tinker with a draft and cheat with band-aid fixes. She taught me how to really dig deep and take my drafts apart, and analyze them, in order to tell the best story possible. I really learned a lot from her. After Heather left to become an agent, I began working with Stacey Friedberg, who is equally amazing! I've learned so much from her about writing within my genre; she has such a great eye for science fiction, and has great instincts, too. In addition, Stacey's really helped me to evolve and add dimension and depth to my drafts.

I think this just shows how important editors are. It's great to love writing, and to have a story to tell, but everyone needs someone to be an advocate for the reader. We authors have blind spots. We can't always see what's not on the page, because it's all in our head. We need great editors to help us to realize our vision and spur us on, to grow in our craft.

6. That's so cool that you got to work with two editors although it may have been stressful when you first found out your first editor was leaving. Sara Crowe is your agent. Tell us how she became your agent and your road to publication.

Sara is simply the best. I really mean that; I've never known such a dedicated, tireless, understanding agent. I simply would not be here, still writing, without her. Originally, I'd signed with another agent, but we parted ways, because I just wasn't mature enough yet. It wasn't her fault; I just wasn't ready to level up as a writer. There's also something to be said for finding the perfect fit. You don't want to work with any agent. You don't even want to work with any good agent. You want the right agent, who can help you build a career. And for me, Sara Crowe is that ideal partner. I had a long road to publication, with plenty of obstacles and setbacks, but Sara never gave up. She always had faith in me, and always knew just what to say or do, no mattered what was happening behind the scenes.

And how did I sign with this amazing lady? I reached out to her the old fashioned way, with an unsolicited, no referral, cold query. ;)

7. Good to know querying works. You’re also a librarian. Has that helped you at all in letting other librarians know about your book? Do you have any advice for other authors on how to effectively connect with librarians regarding their books?

I count myself incredibly luck to have so many friends and supportive colleagues in the Texas book community. I do think being a librarian has helped me understand how to put my best foot forward. I've been on the other side of the desk, reading review journals, and booking authors for visits.

With that in mind, I'd say the best way is to connect with librarians to be kind, genuine and above all, professional. Visit your local library. Get to know the librarians, book sellers and book lovers in your community. Volunteer your time and share your enthusiasm for great books! The best connections are the most sincere connections--the relationships you've cultivated over time, not in order to get ahead, but in order to help and show support for each other. Cherish those relationships…it’s a lot more fun to celebrate with a group of great friends.

8. That's great advice. How are you planning to market your book?

*cue the desperate laughter*

But seriously. For me, this is one of the most difficult and daunting parts about being published. I know how to write a book. I know how to cheer for someone, and talk up her book, when it’s first out in the world. But do I know the magic formula for selling my own novel? Nope. So thank goodness, I get to work with the world's best publicist. Jennifer is amazing, and has already helped me brainstorm a million promotional ideas, plan a tour, pitch essays and schedule appearances.

And yet...at the end of the day, there's only so much I can control. I can't control whether or not my book is a lead title. I can't control how prominently my novel is listed in the sales catalog. I can't control the cover, or the publishers' marketing strategies, or which media outlets will agree to feature my debut. (Pssst...if you figure out a surefire way to get a book reviewed in my favorite, EW, let me know?) You just can't beat yourself up about these things. You have to accept that some thing are out of your hands.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do. You can work your tail off, with enthusiasm, and treat every single person who has a hand in bringing your book into the world, with the utmost respect. You can work hard for them, and for yourself. You can make every effort to put yourself out there, in a positive way, and cultivate every opportunity that’s available to you. But remember, it’s important to know your limits. Do what you can, but don’t lose focus on what really matters...the words on the page. Finding the right balance between marketing and writing is really hard, but I'm trying. ;)


9. What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on edits for book two, and honestly, I could not be more excited about it. Phee still has a quite a journey ahead, and can't wait for readers to see what happens next! No spoilers, but I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Sequel aside, I'm also working on a dark, twisty, heartbreaking, horror-slash-love story. I love this main character so much, and I hope to share him with readers' someday.

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


Jenny has generous offered a copy of TRACKED for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.


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


Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday, I have a guest post by debut author Sharon Huss Roat and a giveaway of her YA contemporary, BETWEEN THE NOTES.

Next Monday, I have a guest post by debut author Holly Bodger and her agent Lauren MacLeod and a query critique giveaway and a giveaway of Holly's YA futurist, multicultural story 5 to 1.

I'll be off the following Monday for Memorial Day.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Elizabeth Varden and a giveaway of her new MG mystery IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS.

I'll be off on Monday June 1st to get ready for my daughter's graduation.

Monday, June 8th, I'll have an interview with debut author Sarah McGuire and a giveaway of her MG fantasy,

Hope to see you on Wednesday!