CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

MASK OF SHADOWS through September 30th
Danielle Burby Query Critique through October 7th
MARKED BEAUTY through October 21st
GRAY WOLF ISLAND through October 21st
Spooktacular Giveaway Hop through October 31st

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Molly O'Neill Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/23/17
Quressa Robinson Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/30/17

Sally J. Pla Interview and The Someday Birds Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sally J. Pla here to share about her MG contemporary, THE SOMEDAY BIRDS. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection for Winter 2017 and has gotten great reviews as a mixture of humor, adventure, mystery, and tragedy.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets.

And it usually is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird books and art supplies, his favorite foods, and comfortable routines.

But life has been unraveling since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. And when Dad gets sent across country for medical treatment, Charlie must reluctantly travel to meet him. With his boy-crazy sister, unruly twin brothers, and a mysterious new family friend at the wheel, the journey looks anything but smooth.

So Charlie decides to try and spot all the birds that he and his dad had been hoping to see together in the wild. If he can complete the Someday Birds list for Dad, then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out okay...

Equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an unusual boy, and portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

Hi Sally! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always written -- my brain’s hard-wired to think in stories. As a young adult, however, I had too much self-doubt to give myself permission to write fiction. Instead, I became a business journalist – a very practical and grown-up decision. It was only after I had kids and started volunteering at my sons’ school -- I just fell in love with all of it, the kids, the teachers -- and the school library! I wanted to live in the school library! It was then I knew. I couldn’t write business articles any more. I wanted to write for young people. I had stuff to tell them. Stories waiting. It became a deep longing, a clear goal.

2. Awesome that you knew the type of writing you wanted to write and took the plunge to write stories. Where did you get the idea for THE SOMEDAY BIRDS?

We took our sons on lots of family road trips of the “educational vacation” variety when they were young. (Yes! I know! How awful!). They weren’t always easy, either on my autistic middle son, or on me – I have autistic/sensory issues as well. It got me thinking about how the stinky minivan/camper/RV is such a perfect crucible in which to heighten family drama. And I knew I wanted to write a story that was, in a way, a roadmap to resilience. About learning to be more at ease in the world.

Also, when my middle son was four or five, he was fixated on birds. He drew hundreds of beautiful bird sketches. It was a lovely expression of his nature, and I wanted to honor it somehow. So I knew my main character Charlie would love birds.

3. Charlie, the main character, is autistic, but the story’s focus is not about autism. Share how you balanced the autism as being a part of Charlie without making the plot revolve around this?

Thank you so much for asking this question! From the very start, I knew I wanted to leave the word
‘autism’ out of this book. I wanted to write a story that takes the autism in stride, just as a matter of fact -- and moves on from there.

I wanted readers to experience the story through the lens of Charlie’s unique self –not filtered through any label. While labels are certainly helpful in many situations, this story is not one of them. If it said on my book cover, “You are about to read a story about a boy with autism,” then I fear Charlie would be ‘othered’ before you even got to page one. Honestly, it would be hard to view him the same. I wanted his voice to be unfettered by potential preconceptions.

4. I think your approach is a great way to deal with a disability because the kids (or adults) do not want to be labelled. It's just one of many challenges people have to go through in life. It sounds like your story has a lot of humor in it as well as tragedy. Humor is hard for many writers to get right (I’m one of them). How did you make this funny and what tips do you have for other authors?

Again, this is all Charlie. He views things in unexpected ways, and he’s blunt, so a lot of the humor comes from having this character who isn’t afraid to speak ‘truth to power,’ so to speak. A lot of humor is daring to say the unexpected, the audacious. Charlie doesn’t have to dare. He just calmly observes the unexpected and audacious, and oftentimes it’s funny.

I know I’m talking about him like he’s real – is that weird? He does seem real to me. My fourth child!

5. I think most authors think of their characters and books like that. From reading reviews, it sounds like you’ve done a great job making readers love Charlie and developing the others characters as unique and endearing as well. What was your process of character development of some of your main characters like? Did you have any challenges with this that you learned from?

I wanted Charlie’s 15-year-old sister Davis to have her own arc of self-discovery, and to stop basing her self-worth on having boyfriends. It was interesting to view Davis through Charlie’s eyes... The twins, well, my life has abounded with “annoying” brothers -- my own, my sons, my nephews – so the twins? No problem there! The hardest character for me to develop was Ludmila, who is a Bosnian refugee. Ludmila was my key to discussing war and social justice in the book. I met a Bosnian lady at a cocktail party, once, long ago, and we chatted for five minutes. That was enough for me to be captivated with wonder, heartbreak and empathy at what her childhood must have been like… That was the seed of Ludmila.

6. What research did you do for the road trip Charlie and his family took? How did you plot out that part of the story?

I had visited every spot in the story, either with my family or on my own. I did further research, too, of course. My big silly joke while I was writing was: ‘Hey! All you need to plot a road-trip novel is Google Maps!’ Er, not quite. (But it was great for checking driving distances.)

7. Your agent is Taylor Martindale Kean. Share how you got your agent and what your submission process was like.

I belong to SCBWI-San Diego. (I cannot praise SCBWI enough as a resource for aspiring children’s writers!) I had just finished the manuscript -- which was then called CHICKEN NUGGETS ACROSS AMERICA -- and had only begun to query. I’d received a few rejections. (One rejection came back within fifteen minutes of my hitting ‘send’ on the query! Ouch!)

There was to be an SCBWI Agent’s Day, and Taylor, who is with the wonderful Full Circle Literary, was going to be speaking. I read her bio and wish list in advance, and it was as if she was describing my book. So I queried her, about a week before the event. When the day came, I was impressed with her wit and intelligence as a speaker. I nervously went up to introduce myself, wondering if she’d even had a chance to read… and she jumped up from her chair, nearly knocking it over, to gave me a hug. Apparently yes, she had read it! The rest is history!

8. What an awesome agent story! Your book was selected as a Junior Library Guild Selection for Winter 2017. How has this helped spread the word about your book?

I’m so grateful and proud to know that the book will have a home in so many library collections across the country. This is such a big honor. It’s just wonderful! As someone whose dreams of being a writer were hatched while being a school-volunteer book-shelver? Absolutely.

9. Your book released January 24th. What has it been like to actually debut and market your book? Has anything surprised you about the process?

Just like Charlie, I’m a bit of a homebody introvert. Marketing and publicity? Not my natural milieu. But I do absolutely love to connect, meaningfully, with other humans. And keeping that fact front and center is helping me through some of the social anxiety around the travel and the crowds. So I’d say the surprising thing is that my story-arc as a writer is following Charlie’s story-arc as a character. I’m learning to overcome my fears, to stretch and grow. Just like Charlie, through THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, I’m learning to have a bit more resilience, to be a bit more at ease in the world.

10. I think a lot of us share similar anxieties about marketing and public speaking. Glad you're learning how to grow out of your experience. What are you working on now?

A second middle-grade novel, JOHN LOCKDOWN IS IN THE BUILDING, pubs January 2018 with HarperCollins. It’s about a 12-year-old comics-trivia fanatic, Stanley Fortinbras, who tries to win back his best friend by nervously entering this huge comics-trivia treasure hunt. Also, he copes with his school’s over-the-top scary safety drills by inventing a superhero/alter-ego named ‘John Lockdown.’

A picture book – which also does not mention autism -- is in the works with Lee & Low.
And a new novel’s just started, fantasy/magic realism this time, about a teenage girl who sews herself crazy costumes, and longs to patch up all the sorrowful holes in the world…

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sally. You can find Sally at www.sallyjpla.com, www.facebook.com/sally.pla, and www.twitter.com/sallyjpla.

Sally has generously offered THE SOMEDAY BIRDS for a book giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada .
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN

Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE

Monday, April 10th I have a guest post by debut author Lindsey Becker and her agent Natalie Lakosil with an ARC giveaway of Lindsey's MG fantasy THE STAR THIEF and a query critique giveaway by Natalie

Friday, April 14th I'll be participating in the Happy Easter Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tracy Marchini and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH KRISTY HUNTER AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kristy Hunter here. She is an associate literary agent at The Knight Agency.

FYI, I’m taking over the agent spotlights from Casey. I will be providing all the same information we’ve shared in the past in an interview format. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a query critique from the agent being interviewed.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi­ Kristy! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Kristy:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I graduated from college and knew I wanted to get involved in the publishing industry—I just wasn’t sure how. I attended the Columbia Publishing Course and fell in love with the industry and New York. Upon completing the course, I interned in Bloomsbury Children’s Books’ editorial department before working in publicity at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books. There’s something so rewarding about acting as a book’s publicist and being an author’s cheerleader. Still, I was eager to get back to the creative process I experienced on the editorial side of things. I’ve now been with The Knight Agency for three years and feel so lucky that I get to help my clients shape their fantastic projects and also be their cheerleader throughout the process. For me, it’s the best of both worlds.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Since 1996 The Knight Agency (TKA) has focused on comprehensive client services and hands-on management to guide countless writers from query letter to published book, in the process developing a powerhouse roster of bestselling authors.

Our team has placed well over 2,000 titles across the entire spectrum of New York publishers, as well as at independent houses throughout the country. Though we have represented clients in virtually all genres, our areas of fiction expertise include women’s, romance, young adult, middle grade, literary, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, as well as multicultural and inspirational/religious fiction.

The agency focuses on a broad range of client services, addressing all aspects of our clients’ careers. TKA agents bring their extensive experience and knowledge of subsidiary rights management in the areas of foreign, motion picture and television, audio, merchandising, and electronic rights. Additionally, our marketing and publicity department offers wide-ranging support in the areas of book promotion and branding.

In the continually evolving world of publishing, TKA remains committed to providing cutting-edge services and scouting for fresh, unique voices to bring to the forefront. Yet what truly sets us apart are the lasting relationships between our authors and our team; ultimately, for us, it’s all about people. 

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent romance, women’s fiction, literary/commercial fiction, historical fiction, young adult, and middle grade (no picture books). I’d love to find projects that feature sibling relationships and/or a strong sense of place. My favorite projects are those that leave me looking at the world through a different lens and feature authentic characters with strong voices.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

Right now, I’m really looking for heartfelt middle grade projects. Something that is accessible and doesn’t pull you down, but still has this fabulous undercurrent of wisdom. I’m always drawn to stories that show how hard middle school can be—especially when it comes to outgrowing/losing friends. I love YA with a great romantic thread and tend to gravitate towards contemporary projects that are more upbeat. I’m also a sucker for anything with a boarding school setting. When it comes to YA fantasy, I’m happy to go darker and enjoy being transported by strong worldbuilding and a great sense of intrigue. Magical realism is something I don’t see in my inbox very often but I’m a huge fan. For that, I would hope to see something that skewed a little more literary and would be open to either YA or MG. Also, I’d love to see more #ownvoices projects as well as stories that don’t shy away from hard-hitting or potentially controversial issues.

That said, it’s sometimes the project that I least expect that captures my attention! I’m really just looking for strong writing and original concepts.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

This is always a difficult question because with the right voice, anything has the potential to hook me. That said, rarely do I connect to sci-fi projects and I typically don’t enjoy anything that is set in space or features aliens.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Like many agents and editors, I see books as such an important part of everyday life. Whether they provide entertainment, shape someone’s outlook, or transport readers to worlds beyond their imagination, books really are invaluable to society. I hope to continue to represent books that do all this and more. I’m looking for authors who recognize that, in some ways, they’ve been given a great responsibility, but who also greet the task with as much enthusiasm as I do. I feel very lucky to be working in such an incredible industry and I like partnering with authors who feel the same way.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

When it comes to editing, I’m hands-on. But the process varies greatly from project to project. I’ve had instances where several rounds of edits were needed before going out on submission (largely this happens with projects that involve worldbuilding). On the other hand, I’ve had projects that only needed some light line edits and they were ready to go. I never feel the need to edit a project just for the sake of editing—or so that I can have my ‘stamp’ on it. When I offer on a project, I’m always very upfront about any edits that may be needed. I see the author/agent relationship as a collaborative one and, because of that, I want to be sure I’m the right person to help the author fully realize their vision and put their strongest project out on submission.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

Our guidelines can be found on our website here: http://knightagency.net/submission-guidelines/.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

My number one pet peeve in not following the submission guidelines. They exist for a reason and it’s an automatic red flag when writers ignore them. Also, query letters should be compelling, short and sweet—no need to have every single character and plot point explained. Our website has some great tips for writing strong query letters (http://knightagency.net/query-letter-tips/ ).

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

For queries, I respond in 2-3 business days. For partials, I respond in about 4 weeks. Full manuscripts can take a little longer, but I aim to respond within 6-8 weeks. If authors don’t hear from me within those time frames, I encourage them to follow up. Sometimes conferences and client work put me behind schedule and I’m always happy to confirm with writers that their projects are still in my queue to be reviewed.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

I’m open to authors being self-published or published by a smaller press. Sometimes I see queries for the second (or third) book in a self-published series. This is a hard sell for agents because publishers are typically looking to represent the full series. I’d encourage writers to think about how they’d like to see the series published as a whole before making any decisions with the first title.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

Agents act as partners to their clients. They offer support and provide critical insight to help their authors navigate the tricky waters of creating a successful writing career. As the publishing landscape changes, what ‘navigating a successful career’ looks like may change (and has changed), but at its core, the agent’s role has by and large remained the same. Hybrid author or not, your agent is there to help guide you and your career as you strive to reach your goals.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I’m in the process of building my list and looking for really strong writers in the genres I represent.  I’ve just recently placed works by Sharon Wray, JC Welker, and Gary Blackwood.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.


Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

To submit a query to me, please follow our submission guidelines found our website here: http://knightagency.net/submission-guidelines/

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

In the words of Stephen King, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.” There’s no better way to put it. When I’m pitched at a conference or receive a query, I know immediately who’s familiar with the genre they’re working in—and it’s always an avid reader. I can’t stress how important it is to read in order to succeed at writing.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kristy.

­Kristy is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through April 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know 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.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.


Agent Kate McKean and Author Alyson Gerber Guest Post W/Query Critique and Braced Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you had a great week. I had a fantastic week working on updating a few of the agent spotlights, getting them reviewed by the agents, and setting up four more agent spotlights through June. I have them all listed at the top of the blog. Between these and and the author/agent guest posts I have scheduled, I have about 9 query critique contests coming up. So excited for the opportunities for you all to connect with an agent and get some feedback. I hope you'll take advantage of the opportunity and enter my contests. And please, spread the word to other aspiring writers.

Today I'm thrilled to have debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean here to celebrate the release of Alyson's MG contemporary BRACED. It sounds like an inspiring story with a true middle grade voice about a girl who doesn't give up. It's gotten fantastic reviews.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She's finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she's pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel's spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her -- even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Now here's Alyson and Kate!

Best Advice on Querying Agents:

Alyson Gerber: Querying is so stressful! If you are querying right now, you are definitely not alone. Most authors have been through this process and totally get it. It's sort of a right of passage, so welcome to the club.

Before I sent out query emails, I did a lot of research on Publishers Marketplace to find agents who
represented contemporary middle grade and young adult books that I really loved and that I thought were similar enough to Braced in either tone or topic. I identified ten agents, including my agent Kate (!!!), and I wrote specific emails to each person, checked their websites to make sure they were accepting queries and followed the directions listed. I sent out all ten emails at once and then I waited and waited and waited.

I had no sense of when I'd hear back from anyone, and I was really nervous that I wouldn't, so I kept researching and making lists of other agents who I thought might be a good fit.

A lot of people say you should keep writing while you're querying, and I definitely tried to listen to that advice, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up researching or refreshing my email and feeling bad that I didn't have an agent and I hadn't written anything. Instead, I used that period of time to read. I would put my phone and computer away for a few hours and disappear into a book. It was the best distraction for me. It can be a challenging to put yourself out there. I think it's important to do what makes you feel good about yourself as a writer.

Once I started hearing back from agents, the real roller coaster ride started. After a few weeks, I had
rejections, requests for the full manuscript, and requests for the first few chapters. Some agents sent standard rejection emails, but I went back through my emails and found three personalized rejections that all gave different reasons why they would not be offering representation. I remember having a conversation with a friend, who at the time already had a few books published. She said if the rejections are all saying the same thing, it might be worth going back to the manuscript and thinking about revising, but if they were all different, that was probably a good sign.

To stay busy, I sent out one new query every week. It took a few months before I heard back from Kate and another agent at almost the same time offering representation!

I thought it might be helpful to share the query letter I sent to Kate:

Dear Kate,

I hope you are doing well. Caela Carter and Jess Verdi, my friends and classmates from The New School, recommended that I reach out to you about my middle grade manuscript. I'd be honored if you'd consider representing me.

In BRACED, 12-year-old Rachel Brooks finds out she has scoliosis and is going to be stuck in a back brace for twenty-three hours a day to stop the curve in her spine from threatening to leave her permanently deformed. In case wearing a plastic bucket around the middle of her body isn't bad enough, her mom is pregnant, which means as soon as seventh grade starts everyone is going to figure out that she's a total freak. She's sure her best friends Hazel and Frannie will only sort of get the whole brace thing and that once Tate Bowen sees her in this thing, there's zero chance he'll ever like her. It doesn't help that her mom and surgeon dad keep telling her how lucky she is to be treated by one of the best spine specialists in the world. Shouldn't they of all people get how awful this is? Think a modern DEENIE.

Thank you for your consideration.

Alyson Gerber

Kate McKean: Here are my top three best pieces of querying advice:

1. K.I.S.S.--Keep it simple, Scribe. :)
There is no verbal trick or magical combination of words in a query that will get you noticed. Not writing in the voice of your characters, trying some "negging" technique on the agent (Yup, someone did that) or claiming your book will be THE NEXT MEGA BESTSELLER. What gets you noticed is explaining clearly and concisely what happens in your book, when what happens is compelling and interesting and sellable.

Aly's query was short and sweet and told me what happens in her book. Not why she wrote it, who will buy it, or how many millions of copies it will sell. Calling it a "modern DEENIE" was the cherry on top.

2. Do all your annoying homework.
Trying to sort through all the conflicting information about agents on the internet is time consuming and frustrating. We know! (And no, we can't just make a master database for you to search in. Just isn't gonna happen.) This is just one of those things you have to buckle down and do. Start with reputable websites like the Association of Authors Representatives, aaronline.net, Publishermarketplace.com, and AGENTS' OWN WEBSITES. An agent's website should be your final, end-all, be-all source for appropriate genres and submission guidelines. Make a big, messy list of all the agents you want to send to, research reputable sources, and then make the best decision with the information you have. When you've done your homework well, you're probably going to end up in the right place.

I don't know who else Aly sent her book to but I would not be offended if I wasn't the only one. She had no idea if I would like this, or if I had room for my list for it. She did her homework--getting a referral from two of my clients--and sent it off. And then it all worked out for both of us.

3. Be patient
Remember you're not the only query on an agent's desk. It's super easy to think I sent this two weeks ago. Isn't that enough time for her to read it????? (And you'll probably think that about your agent when you sign with one, too.) But remember, that agent probably got 20-50 queries that day. And has other clients. And professional obligations. And a life. And probably needs to eat sometimes or play a gem game on her phone once in awhile. Be patient, and follow up politely according to the agent's stated turn-around time, if available. Two weeks is too soon to follow up. Three months is a good, average time when you should hear back, if an agent is not a no-response-means-no agent.

I went back and looked, and it took me about two and half months to read Aly's first chapters here, even though her query came with such a great referral and was clear and well written. Once I got the full manuscript, I read it in about two weeks and offered representation. All in all, this isn't an overly long timeline, but Aly's patience in those two months, which I'm sure was not easy to bear, paid off!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alyson and Kate!


You can find Alyson at:
alysongerber.com
Twitter and Instagram: @AlysonGerber
Facebook: facebook.com/AlysonGerberBooks/

You can find Kate at:
http://www.morhaimliterary.com/
@Kate_Mckean

Alyson has generously offered an ARC for a giveaway and Kate is offering a query critique giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 1st. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The ARC giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the critique giveaway is international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 27th I have an interview with debut author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE SOMEDAY BIRDS

Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN

Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop



Happy Tuesday Everyone! I’m thrilled to be part of the Luck Leprechaun Giveaway Hop sponsored by Book Hounds. I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered.

Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

 


 


 


 





 

 


 



If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through March 28th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday March 20th I have a guest post by debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean with a giveaway of her MG contemporary BRACED and a query critique giveaway by Kate McKean

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 27th I have an interview with debut author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE SOMEDAY BIRDS

Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN

Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here's all the other awesome blogs participating in this Blog Hop:




Rosalyn Eves Interview and Blood Rose Rebellion Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you all had a good week. I had a good blog break. It was a crazy week at work, so it was a great week to be off. I got some of those personal things done like my taxes and cleaning my house. I also worked on the blog some and a play I'm co-producing for a local community theater group I've gotten involved with through the guy I'm dating. They are a great group of talented theater people, and it's been a good balance to being in my writing cave to do something creative with other people. Just no acting for me. I'm a writer at heart.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Rosalyn Eves here to share about her YA fantasy BLOOD ROSE REBELLION. Rosalyn is a long-time follower so I’m super excited to help celebrate her success. And BLOOD ROSE REBELLION sounds like it has a fantastic plot, and I love the Hungarian setting.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

Hi Rosalyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Most of my childhood was spent just outside Bozeman, MT, and I still live in the Rocky Mountains, only now my family is in Southern Utah. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher praised my writing and I realized for the first time that a) I might be good at writing and b) writing was something that grown-up people did for a living.

But becoming a writer wasn’t straight forward. Even though I wrote a lot in junior high and high school, that writing never really went anywhere. In college, I majored in English (I even went to graduate school), and while I continued to write, it wasn’t creative writing. It wasn’t until my second child was born that I realized if I didn’t start writing again, that book that I wanted to publish someday was never going to happen. That was seven years ago.

2. Awesome you got an inkling in 5th grade, but no, it's not that easy, is it? Where did you get the idea for your book?

A lot of fantasy stories follow a chosen one narrative, and while I love many of those stories, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to *not* be chosen. To, in fact, lack the powers that your peers have. The experience of not fitting in is a very common teen experience (at least, it was for me!) and I wanted to see how that would play out if magic was the defining factor of in versus out. Also, I love the nineteenth century, and I lived for a while in Hungary, so when I was trying to decide where and when to set the story, it seemed like a natural fit.

3. I love the idea of the "not chosen" protagonist. I read that you lived in Hungary during your twenties. How did this help you in creating your setting? What research did you do?

I think having spent a lot of time in Hungary helped me when I visualized the world I was trying to
write about—though I still had to spend a fair amount of time with Google maps! I also had to do a lot of research to flesh out my knowledge of the pre-revolution era in 19th century Hungary. I read history books, academic articles, personal stories of life in 19th century Hungary, travel narratives written by 19th century British travelers seeing Hungary for the first time, folk tales, and more. Basically, I read anything that I thought would help me reconstruct what life was like in the nineteenth century—minus the magic, of course. 😄

4. What was your world building like? What advice do you have for other writers building a new world that is also historical in their stories?

Because I wanted to create a world that felt authentic to 19th century Hungary, outside of the magic, I did a lot of research. Even for purely imaginary worlds, however, I think researching governments, history, political movements, etc., can give you a feel for the kind of details and messy contradictions that ground real life.

As far as layering magic into the world, Brandon Sanderson has some really helpful laws of magic on his website—the most helpful one for me was that magic has to have some cost. Thinking about magic in terms of access (who gets to use magic, why, how do they maintain control over magic as a resource) also helped me flesh out the magic system in my world. But probably the most helpful thing was having readers who poked holes in the magic system and asked lots of questions about how things work—my editor was especially good at this.

5. Yes, I've heard often the advice that magic must have a cost, and it makes perfect sense. I already feel empathy for and like Anna from reading the Goodreads blurb because she sounds like an underdog. Did she come easily to you or was her character development harder to get right? Why do you think this was?

Anna’s character was one of the first to really come to me—once I knew that she was an outsider and that she was driven and ambitious (she wants to be part of that world), the other aspects of her character came to me pretty easily. I see a lot of my teen self in her (though she is more decisive than I ever was, as well as more outgoing), which made it easier for me to understand her.

6. Your agent is Josh Adams, one of the top agents I’d love to have. Share how he became your agent and the role contests played in you receiving offers of representation.

I actually met Josh at a writing conference before I ever queried him, in a critique workshop, and he requested to see the manuscript when I’d finished revising. Before I got to that point, however, I got into pitch wars and the amazing Virginia Boecker helped me trim my manuscript and improve the pacing. After the contest was over, I sent the manuscript to contest agents who had requested, as well as to Josh. Although Josh wasn’t one of the participating agents, I’m convinced that being in Pitch Wars helped me craft a manuscript he was willing to represent.

7. For people who don’t know much about the Pitch Wars and the Adventures in YA Publishing contests you entered, tell us about them and why you think they can be helpful to writers trying to find an agent.

I’m a big fan of online contests, even if you don’t win (or even get in). Most online contests have three parts to them: an initial vetting process where you compete to participate in the contest, a second portion where you get feedback from participating mentors and then revise your entry, and a final part where your entry is posted online for agents to read and request from.

When I first started querying (not Blood Rose Rebellion), I stalked online contests and was shocked by the quality of the work I read. Contests helped me recognize the caliber of other work out there, and made me set my own bar much higher, in terms of what was ready to query. I also met some of my favorite writing people by interacting with other potential entrants. Online contests can be a great way to meet other writers.

Of course, getting into contests like Pitch Wars and Adventures in YA Publishing was also helpful because of the feedback I got on my novel. The positive feedback on my opening chapter in Adventures in YA Publishing gave me confidence to query widely after the contest was done, and of course Pitch Wars gave me feedback on the entire book, which made for a much tighter story.

Online contests can also get you in front of agents who are closed to queries—or agents you might not have thought to query on your own (both of those things happened to me in Pitch Wars).

8. That's great that you got so much out of the contests you participated in. What was the submission process like?

Submission was surprisingly stressful! I thought querying was hard, with the constant threat of rejection, but with submission, you have that same threat of rejection and even less control over what’s happening (since your agent acts as an intermediary and sends out all the submissions). I broke out in stress hives while I was on sub. That said, I was pretty lucky: my book sold about a month after we went on submission. This is mostly due to Josh, who has great editorial contacts, and who also tends to set a deadline for editors when on submission.

9. What have you learned about marketing your book from watching other authors debut and how has it shaped your own marketing plans?

The main thing I’ve learned is that most of us don’t know what we’re doing, and I’m no exception! Okay, I’m kidding. (Sort of). I’m still figuring out marketing as I go, but seeing what other authors do has been tremendously helpful in terms of getting ideas and figuring out what I want to do. Essentially that boiled down to some basic swag (postcards, bookmarks, pins) and a preorder incentive (which you can see here: http://www.rosalyneves.com/blood-rose-rebellion-preorders/)

Author Beth Revis said something incredibly helpful to a group of debut authors that I try to keep in mind: it’s difficult for an author, especially a debut, to have the same marketing reach as the publisher, so it’s best to focus on the things you enjoy and work on writing the next book.

10. That's great advice from Beth. And you're making it sound easier by boiling it down to a few things. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up edits on book two and drafting book three—both of which have been more daunting than I expected! But they’ve also been a lot of fun. I can’t wait to share book two with readers in a few more months, and I’m hoping that book three will come together as well.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Rosalyn. You can find Rosalyn at:
http://www.rosalyneves.com/
https://twitter.com/RosalynEves
https://www.facebook.com/rosalyneveswriter/
https://www.instagram.com/rosalyn.eves/

Rosalyn is generously offering a copy of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 25th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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

Here's what's coming up:

Tuesday March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday March 20th I have a guest post by debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean with a giveaway of her MG contemporary BRACED and a query critique giveaway by Kate McKean

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 27th I have an interview with debut author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE SOMEDAY BIRDS

Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN

Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Taking a Week Blog Break and Current Contests

Happy Monday Everyone! I have not heard from the author who was scheduled this week, so I have no post for you. I'm going to take a week blog break to catch my breath. I haven't taken a week off since the first of the year and have been working on two plays these last few weeks.

Current Contests



Here's what's coming up next:

Monday March 13th I have an interview with debut author and follower Rosalyn Eves and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy Rose Blood Rebellion

Tuesday March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday March 20th I have a guest post by debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean with a giveaway of her MG contemporary BRACED and a query critique giveaway by Kate McKean

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 27th I have an interview with debut author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE SOMEDAY BIRDS

Monday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Patricia Bailey and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF KIT DONOVAN

Wednesday, April 5th I have an IWSG post and a guest post by Christina Farley and giveaway of her new MG fantasy THE PRINCESS & THE PAGE

Have a fantastic week! Hope to see you on Monday!

IWSG Post and Caroline Starr Rose Interview and Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine Giveaway

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have Caroline Starr Rose back on the blog to share about her new MG historical adventure story JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE. I love the combination of historical fiction and the mystery in Caroline’s newest book.


Before I get to my interview with Caroline, I'm going to post my IWSG post for this month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts:  Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!


Today's Question: Have you really pulled out a really old story and reworked it? How did it work out?

Well, I only have one completed manuscript. That's because I had never taken any writing courses or even thought of writing a book before I started. So I had A LOT to learn, and it required many, many revisions. 

I have gone through many periods where I had to put my manuscript aside for months at a time because of how busy I got working full-time as an attorney, taking care of my husband, taking care of my daughter and volunteering. So, there have been many times where I pulled out my old beloved manuscript to work on it. I found that letting it sit in the drawer for long periods of time actually helped. I could see it with fresh eyes and tackle the problems with a clearer vision of what needed to be corrected. And sometimes it helped me be bolder, because my word count was about 30,000 too long, so I had a lot to cut.

I use this same principle in my nonfiction job writing articles for websites. I try to stay a bit ahead in my writing. Once I have written an article, I read it aloud for my first edit. Then I let the article sit for a few days or longer before I make my final revisions. Looking at it with fresh eyes helps me see the edits needed, typos, and awkward words that I missed in my first edits.

What about you? Do you pick up your old manuscripts?

Now onto my interview with Caroline.

Here’s a blurb about Caroline's new book from Goodreads:

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now--even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.
Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who's long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine--all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.
In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Hi Caroline! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks for hosting me today, Natalie!

1. For anyone who doesn’t know you here, share how you became a writer.

I’m a former teacher who started writing the summer of 1998. It took four novel and six picture book manuscripts (or twelve years of practice and rejection) to sell my first book, MAY B.

2. Where did you get the idea for JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE?

I find ideas grow and blend together in my subconscious before I’m aware of them. My interest in the Klondike stems from a book my mom let my borrow while I was researching the frontier for MAY B. It was about the women who’d experienced the Gold Rush. While I ultimately settled on Kansas as my setting, I was intrigued. A few years later, I read in the Albuquerque Journal about a man named Forrest Fenn who’d hidden a treasure somewhere in New Mexico. The first person to find it through the clues left in a cryptic poem could claim the treasure as their own. (It’s still out there, by the way). Finally, my sons asked if I might ever write a book about a boy. These three things together became the starting point for JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE.

3. Awesome how your mom and sons helped you come up with the idea for your book. What research did you have to do about the Klondike Gold Rush and Alaska during that time period? What advice do you have other authors wanting to write historical fiction for middle graders?

I was looking through my JASPER research journal a few days ago and counted up 13-15 research books plus 3-4 novels I read in preparation for this book. I also watched a few documentaries and was lucky enough — for the first time ever — to visit a place in one of my books. My husband and I took an Alaskan cruise two summers ago, and my only request was that we stop in Skagway, a town that figures into the story.

As for advice, I’d encourage writers to remember their book doesn’t have to do it all. History is a big thing, and it sometimes feels you have to squeeze everything into a story to make it legitimate. But ultimately, you’re writing your character’s experience in the midst of the history. His / her motivations, actions, and understanding of the world will be shaped by the era, but not every little historical detail will affect or interest your character. It’s tempting to “info dump” in order to fill in the reader about historical context they might be unfamiliar with, but ideally they’ll get a natural sense of this through dialogue and the unfolding story.

4. Oh, I've always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise. Awesome that you got to go with your
husband. Many of the reviewers who read an advance copy of your book loved Jasper as a character. Share a bit about him and how his character developed as you wrote his story.

I love hearing this! I feel the energy and spirit of the book have really been nicely captured in early reviews. And the response to Jasper himself has been wonderful. Jasper is actually based on Huckleberry Finn. I knew early on the story needed an adventurous, quick-witted, slightly naive, quick-to-speak-his-mind protagonist, and a “Huckster” character fit the bill. We as readers experience the hardship Jasper faces both at home and through his journey in his matter-of-fact, humorous, and determined approach to the world. I especially am fond of Jasper’s relationship with his older brother, Mel. I can’t think of many books where the sibling relationship is key, and I’m proud of the way these two boys love each other — even in the midst of disagreements, misunderstandings, and the occasional shove.

5. I love his approach to his challenges. I'm a pretty matter-of-fact person too. What was a writing challenge you faced in writing JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE and how did you overcome it?

My first two novels, MAY B. and BLUE BIRDS, are in verse, while JASPER’s written in prose. That’s significant for a whole host of reasons. A verse novel is like a photo album, a collection of images that capture one moment and add to the whole. But prose is like a movie with rolling film. Scenes run deeper and wider. While verse is spare and focuses on emotion and imagery, Prose is verbose. It lets a story take its time. Though emotion and imagery can play a part, they’re not central to the form. A book of prose has far fewer scenes than a verse novel. There’s so much room in a single scene I wasn’t sure how to handle the limitless space. I raced through my first few drafts, worried I’d lose a reader’s interest with all those words. My editor encouraged me to luxuriate in the book’s present moment. It was like learning a new way to communicate.

6. Funny, for me, writing in verse would be way more challenging. I’ve loved watching your career as a writer grow since you were first on the blog when MAY B. was released. I’ve seen other authors who I featured when they were debuts who were able to continue to grow their careers and others who did everything they could to market their first book that have had challenges selling more books. Why do you think that you have been able to continue to sell and publish books when others have not?

I can’t chalk it up to talent or determination. Oodles of authors have that. I’m very aware both luck and timing have played a role in my career so far, as have editors willing to take a chance on me. Gratitude abounds.

8. I’m sure your perspective and knowledge of what it means to be an author has changed since your debut with MAY B. Share a bit of what you’ve learned and how it is shaping your career.

When MAY B. first launched, I wrote what I called my Writer’s Manifesto as a way to stay grounded. I revisited it last year, tweaking here and there. It’s interesting that while I’ve added a few things, so much of that first document continues to speak to, challenge, and encourage me. Readers can see the updated version here.

9. How are you marketing JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE? Has your marketing strategies changed over the years and if so, how?

One things I’ve done this time around (which feels like a smart move) was build a launch team. I enlisted interested readers through my e-newsletter, explaining launch team members would get an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. The review must be posted to Amazon and one other online site around my release date. Those who wanted to participate filled out a form (which included questions about why they were interested, their connection to children’s literature [as a teacher, librarian, parent of young reader, etc.], their social media reach, and ideas they had about spreading the word). I hand picked participants based on responses…and the number of ARCs I’d received. So far, so good!

10. That's a great idea to start a launch team. What are you working on now?

I have a picture book coming out this fall with Albert Whitman called RIDE ON, WILL CODY! According to legend, young Will Cody (later known as America’s greatest showman, Buffalo Bill) took the third-longest ride in Pony Express history, lasting 22 hours and 40 minutes and requiring 21 horses. The book’s a poetic, fast-paced glimpse at Will’s ride. (PS - It took almost three years — and 21 rejections — to sell).

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Caroline. You can find Caroline at
www.carolinestarrrose.com
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarolineStarrRose/
https://twitter.com/CStarrRose
https://www.instagram.com/carolinestarrrose/

Caroline's publisher has generously offered a copy of JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY"S MINE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 18th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday March 6th I have a guest post by debut author Michael Miller and a giveaway of his YA science fiction SHADOW RUN

Monday March 13th I have an interview with debut author and follower Rosalyn Eves and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy Rose Blood Rebellion

Tuesday March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday March 20th I have a guest post by debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean with a giveaway of her MG contemporary BRACED and a query critique giveaway by Kate McKean

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!