CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Quintessance through August 1st

Not Another Love Story through August 8th

A Wicked Magic through August 22nd

August of Books Giveaway Hop through August 3oth

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Veronica Roth Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/19/20

Carlisle Webber Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/7/20

Erin Casey Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/16/20

Lauren Bieker Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/28/20

Adria Goetz and G.Z. Schmidt Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/19/20

Melanie Castillo Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/21/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/3/20

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.

Debut Author Interview: Sasha Laurens and A Wicked Magic Giveaway/IWSG & Keep Writing With Fey Blog Hop

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you're all doing good. Did you see my big announcement about my agent spotlights and interviews? If not, read my birthday post to learn all about it. Also, I'm starting to participate in big monthly book giveaway hops again as they are available. You can find the link to the August giveaway at the top of the blog. I've got lots of MG and YA new releases for you

Today I am excited to have debut author Sasha Laurens here to celebrate the release of her YA fantasy A WICKED MAGIC. I’m excited to read it because it has witches and magic, and is a thriller. 


IWSG and Keep Writing With Fey Blog Hop Post



Before I get to Sasha's interview, I have my IWSG Post. I'm also participating in Chrys Fey's blog hop to celebrate her new book and am doing a joint post because it all deals with my writing.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

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!

The co-hosts this month are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

Here's a blurb of Chrys' book Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout:
Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!
When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:
· Writer's block
· Depression
· Writer's burnout
· What a writer doesn’t need to succeed
· Finding creativity boosts
With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.
BOOK LINKS:
Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo
Goodreads


My post is about how I've handled depression. I don't think that it's been any secret that I've been depressed since I lost my husband six years ago and then lost my job and became an empty nester within 18 months of that. I haven't been very interested in much, including this blog and my writing. I came pretty close to deleting any manuscripts I'd been working on in one of my darkest time. Going through this all has been the hardest time of my life.

Fortunately, I'm doing much better. Some of it is just that it takes time to go through the grieving process and figure out your life again. It's also included admitting that I'm depressed and sometimes have PTSD symptoms related to all the changes I went through in such a short period of time.  I've helped myself by practicing gratitude, meditating, reading what I love, helping others, taking a tincture for the PTSD, spending time with family and friends, and walking daily. It's really a combination of a lot of things that helps me keep the depression and PTSD in control.

I know it will probably be a life-long journey dealing with depression, grief, and life changes for me. But I'm grateful to finally be feeling more like the person I was before all this happened to me. I'm also grateful that things like helping other writers through my blog and my writing mean more to me now.

What about you? How have you dealt with one of the issues that Chrys' book deals with?

Interview With Sasha Laurens

Now here's my interview with Sasha. First, here's a blurb of A Wicked Magic from Goodreads:

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss's boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss's friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss's orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she's hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it's no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California's northern coast, Sasha Laurens's thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

Hi Sasha! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been making up stories since I was a little kid. In high school, I started taking writing classes at 826 Valencia, and when I got to college, I nearly majored in creative writing. But I was always focused on literary fiction, especially short stories. With literary fiction, the path to publication usually requires an MFA, and at a certain point, I knew an MFA wasn’t in the cards for me. This will sound horrible, but I decided to try writing YA—which I never even read at that time—because how hard could it be? I started drafting my first YA novel at NaNoWriMo in 2013, and I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. I didn’t know how to plot or set up character arcs! I started taking it seriously, reading as much as I could in the genre, and studying craft, and the rest is history.

2. I think a lot of people don't realize how hard it is to write until they start. Where did you get the idea for A WICKED MAGIC?

I was reading a book about the history of folklore and magic in Russia that included stories of the dangers of crossroads. One of these stories said that if an odd number of people found themselves at a crossroads, demons might abduct one of them to even the count. I couldn’t get that story out of my head, and I knew it would work in a contemporary setting. At the same time, I was working on a story about female friendship, and the strange way it can be painful and life-giving at the same time. In particular, I was thinking about how easy it is to hurt your friends and be hurt by them when you’re young and don’t really know yourself. Those two ideas came together to form the idea-germ of A WICKED MAGIC.

3. I love that your story mixes the fantasy and thriller genres. What made you decide to combine them and what challenges did it create in developing the story?

To be perfectly honest, I had never thought about this story as a thriller until after I signed my deal. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have been able to write it! Plot doesn’t come very naturally to me—if I had my way, my characters just sit around thinking for 300 pages. I’m also not great at coming up with cool magical moments either. Because I know that about myself, I really work to make sure that every scene is pulling its weight and advancing the plot. Contemporary fantasy and thrillers both have this sense of something unknown, and possibly dangerous, lurking just beneath the surface, so I think they’re actually pretty compatible genres!

4. What was your plotting process like and what tips do you have for someone who wants to write a thriller.

Many index cards died in service to A WICKED MAGIC. I do a lot of outlining and reverse-outline
(which is outlining what you’ve already written). This allows me to check that every scene is firing at all cylinders—advancing the plot and the character arcs, and escalating towards the climax. Outlining makes it easy to see where readers might get bored. It also allows me to find places in earlier parts of the story to slip in foreshadowing, so the reader has enough information to put everything together a half-second before the characters do.

Writing gripping plots, no matter your genre, is a question of craft. Read craft books! Personally I love The Anatomy of Story and Save the Cat.

5. I'll have to check out The Anatomy of Story. Another thing that draws me to your story is that it deals with a lot f heavy contemporary issues, like suicide, mental health issues, and child abuse. Those are only a few of the issues you warn of on your website. How hard was it to write about these issues and kind of experience them through your writing?

When A WICKED MAGIC begins, Dan and Liss are dealing with the fallout of something terrible they did months ago—and they’re not dealing well. Both of them cope with their guilt, depression and other negative feelings in ways that are destructive to themselves and others. Over the course of the story, they gain some insight into those behaviors and begin to work to resolve their past trauma and guilt. I felt that was an important journey to show, even if it does require some uncomfortable scenes.

Writing these elements wasn’t difficult because I had to vicariously experience those things. Many of them were things I had already experienced myself in real life or watched close friends wrestle with. A far more difficult thing was to represent these bad coping strategies in such a way that it was clear why the girls were using them, but without glamorizing them. Glamorizing bad behavior is really easy to do when your audience is young people, and I definitely do not want any young person to walk away from this book thinking that they should follow in Dan or Liss’s self-destructive footsteps. At the same time I didn’t want to sound moralizing or inauthentic. Striking that balance was hard and I still wonder if I did it right.

On my website, I tried to cast a wide net with the content warnings I posted, to provide information to readers who wanted it. Not all those topics are a major focus of the narrative.

6. Sounds like you hit the right balance. Liss and Dan are your two protagonists who must learn to work together after their friendship sours. Which one was the easier one for you to develop as a character and why?

When I first conceived of Dan and Liss, I imagined Dan as having been taken advantage of by Liss, and Liss as this domineering, insensitive villain, who didn’t take care with Dan’s feelings. I expected to have a hard time connecting to Liss as I wrote, but Dan was ultimately much more difficult. The more time I spent with Dan, the more it became clear that because she sees herself as a victim, she’s able to ignore her responsibility for the end of her friendship with Liss. At the same time, she’s settled for feeling guilty about Johnny’s disappearance, rather than facing what she did and taking action. That passivity was super annoying to write—I just wanted her to stop feeling sorry for herself! The more time I spent writing from Liss’s POV, the more I connected with her perfectionist drive and her need to be loved, and I came to appreciate how Dan had really hurt her as well. Ultimately, the girls are foils for each other, so their characters are deeply intertwined.
  
7. You are also pursuing your PhD at the University of Michigan. How do you find the writing time you need with the grueling schedule of a PhD student?

It’s definitely difficult! But a PhD program also gives you near-total freedom over how you manage you time and no one cares how long you spend working if you get stuff done, so it’s much easier to find time to write than when I had a full-time job. I usually write in the morning until around 10 or 11, during the week, and then spend as much time as I can on Saturday. The exception is if I’m doing fieldwork (my research is about Russia). Then I don’t write at all.

8. That's great that you control your own schedule. Your agent is Jennifer Udden. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I signed with Jen on a different novel that died on submission. That was the first novel I’d written (in that 2013 NaNo). It took a few years to revise it and find an agent, although I only queried about 50 total. Jen was actually the last agent I was waiting to hear from before I trunked that project entirely, so it’s pretty fortunate that she wanted to sign me! At that point, I had already begun working on what would become A WICKED MAGIC. A year or so later, we were preparing for a second round of submission for that first novel, when I realized I didn’t want that book to sell—A WICKED MAGIC was significantly better, but quite different, and I felt if I could finish it, editors would be interested. So we pulled the first novel and went out with AWM a few months later. We had interest within a month!

9. How are you planning to market your book and celebrate its release given COVID-19? What advise do you have for other authors whose book will be released during the pandemic?

This is such a tough question!  Everyone is doing their best, but it’s still really hard to know at this point what works. I am running a pre-order campaign where you can get free stickers based on the book cover, if you fill out the form at https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign. I am also planning some live-streamed events with other authors at the end of July/early August to celebrate the release. You can follow me on twitter or Instagram for updates on that.
Personally, I’m planning to celebrate with some friends and family on zoom, and maybe have drinks with some folks in person. Still I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a little anticlimactic.

10. What are you working on now?

I can’t say much about it, but the working title is “Vampire Boarding School.”

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

Pre-orders can request free AWM stickers here: https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign

Giveaway Details

Sasha has generously offered an ARC of A Wicked Magic for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by August 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, September 2nd I have an interview with debut author Andrea Contos and a giveaway of her YA thriller Throwaway Girls

Monday, September 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carlisle Weber and a query critique giveaway

Monday, September 14th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Coffindaffer and a giveaway of her YA space opera Crownchasers

Wednesday, September 16th I have an agent spotlight interview with Erin Casey and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

August of Books Giveaway Hop


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to be participating in the August of Books Giveaway Hop hosted by It Starts at Midnight and Lonna @ FLYLēF. This is my first time participating in this blog hop, and I'm excited. I love being part of blog hops like this. I have a lot of newly released MG and YA books for you to choose from. 

I want to welcome any new followers. If this is your first time here, I want to let you know a little about what I offer. I mostly blog once a week and feature an interview with debut MG and YA authors with an ARC or book giveaway. Some weeks these authors do a guest post with their literary agents and offer a query critique by their agent as well as a book or ARC giveaway.

I also spotlight literary agents who represent authors who write in children's publishing to make it easier for aspiring writers to know what agents looking for. I do agent spotlight interviews with a query critique giveaway most months. There is a database of over 175 agents on the left sidebar of my blog.

Now onto my giveaway. FYI, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Here are your choices:






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



Giveaway Details

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through August 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways


Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, August 6th I have an interview with debut author Sasha Laurens and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Wicked Magic and my IWSG post

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:



















Author Interview: Olivia Wildenstein and Not Another Love Song Giveaway


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have YA author Olivia Wildenstein here to share about her new YA romantic contemporary NOT ANOTHER LOVE SONG. It sounds like a fun read about competing desires, which many teens and adults must grapple with.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An aspiring teenage singer finds herself playing a different tune when she falls for a boy who could jeopardize her future dreams in Olivia Wildenstein's romantic YA novel, Not Another Love Song.

Angie has studied music her entire life, nurturing her talent as a singer. Now a high school senior, she has an opportunity to break into Nashville's music scene via a songwriting competition launched by her idol, Mona Stone. Discouraged by her mother, who wishes Angie would set more realistic life goals, she nonetheless pours her heart and soul into creating a song worthy of Mona.

But Angie's mother is the least of her concerns after she meets Reedwood High’s newest transfer student, Ten. With his endless collection of graphic tees, his infuriating attitude, smoldering good looks, and endearing little sister, Ten toys with the rhythm of Angie’s heart.

She’s never desired anything but success until Ten entered her life. Now she wants to be with him and to be a songwriter for Mona Stone, but she can’t have both.

And picking one means losing the other.
 

Hi Olivia! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi! Believe it or not, two factors contributed to my pursuit of a writing career: the 2008 crisis and the Twilight books. For five years after graduating from Brown, I worked in fashion and accessories, and then 2008 happened. I was pregnant with my first child at the time, and I no longer wanted a high stress job contingent on the world economy. This pushed me to find a new vocation. I’d always been a big reader but never had I devoured a series as fast as Twilight . . . and I thought, “I want to do what Stephenie does.”

2.      Where did you get the idea for NOT ANOTHER LOVE SONG?

Not Another Love Song was born from my love for music (I write to music, read to music, eat to music, drive to music . . . basically, there’s always music playing somewhere in my house, office or car) and my obsession with the TV show Nashville at the time I started writing it.

3.      Your story is set in Nashville, and you live in Switzerland. What research did you do so that you got your setting right?

I’d never traveled to Nashville so I researched the heck out of the music capital on the internet and then fact-checked with friends who lived there. Two years ago, I finally made a trip to Tennessee, and I was surprised by how familiar it all felt.

4.      Angie’s dream is to break into the music industry in Nashville. Did you know much about this industry already or did you have to learn about before you starting writing? How did you tackle learning enough to accurately write about it?

I actually have friends who own a record label (they’re the ones who put Angie’s song to music! It’s included in the audiobook, which is narrated by the amazing Eileen Stevens who read Dumplin’ and Geekerella.), so I asked them about the industry, and then researched the rest on my own. As for voice lessons, I actually used to take them, even though you would not want to hear me sing.

5.      What was your plotting process like? Share your tips for other writers on how to create a page turning plot when writing a contemporary romance.

At the beginning of each book, I’ll write a 5-7 page outline. And then I’ll set it aside, on a shelf somewhere, and won’t refer to it once during the writing process. You may wonder why I write the outline in the first place if I don’t use it. The reason I do this is because an outline has beats, and outlining helps me figure out when I want those beats to happen. The plot may take unexpected turns, but those initial beats will stay. If you think of it like a song, my outline gives my book its rhythm.
In romance, beats are especially important, as is making sure your main character and his/her romantic interest always orbit around one another. Those unputdownable love stories are unputdownable because there is constant friction between the two leads.

6.      Many writers (including me) don’t feel confident about developing the growth of a romantic relationship in our stories and intimate scenes. Share how you’ve developed this part of Angie’s story. What advice do you have for the rest of us?

The key to writing romance is reading romance (I know this is cliché and sounds simplistic, but it’s
true), and then studying the books that made your heart beat the hardest. Also, romances are character-driven stories, which isn’t to say there’s no plot (the very best romances have gripping plots, think A Court of Mist and Fury or The Bridge Kingdom), but your reader needs to become attached to both your leads or they won’t get invested in the love story.

7.      Your book is being published by Swoon Reads, an imprint of Macmillan publishing under Feiwel & Friends. Share what your road to publication for this book was like and for your earlier books.

There are two major differences between indie and trad: the first is time. In indie, your turnaround is quick. Most indies will write and publish a book every three months; it takes me double the time, which is slow for indie but lightning-fast for trad, which takes 1-2 years. The second big difference is the handling of your manuscript. In indie, the MS remains entirely yours (even though we have editors and proofreaders and beta readers). In trad, your MS becomes the property of someone else, which I’d equate to surrogacy.

8.      You’ve already written and published four series, which are in different genres, and one other standalone. What have you learned about marketing YA books from promoting these books and how has it affected your marketing plan for NOT ANOTHER LOVE SONG?

Marketing is something I’ve learned along the way, and that I’m still learning because it’s forever changing. There’s this word you might’ve already seen: authorpreneur. It describes the indie business to a tee. You have a team, but in the end, if you don’t work really hard at putting your book out there, it won’t reach the right readers. Also, nothing works better than word-of-mouth and a strong review team / reader group. Most recently, the bookstagram community has become pivotal in marketing.

9.      What is your advice for other writers for building their social media platform and marketing their books?

Connect with your readers! I really can’t stress this enough. They will make this journey so much more fun and bearable. By connecting, I don’t mean pushing your books at them; I mean interact, host giveaways, thank them when they take the time to read and review. Remember that without them, you wouldn’t be an author; you’d be a diarist.

10. What are you working on now?

I am currently working on Celestial, the second and last book in my angel romance series, which started with Feather (a Romeo and Juliet retelling), and simultaneously I’m co-writing a brand-new YA witchy romance duology, think Serpent and Dove.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Olivia. You can find Olivia on:

-          Instagram under @olives21 (her favorite haunt)
-          Facebook in her reader group Olivia’s Darling Readers (second favorite hangout place)
-          Her website: http://oliviawildenstein.com
-          Amazon
-          Goodreads
-          Bookbub
 Twitter under @OWildWrites

Giveaway Details

Olivia and her publisher have generously offered a hardback of NOT ANOTHER LOVE SONG for a giveaway.  To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by August 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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


Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways


Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, August 6th I have an interview with debut author Sasha Laurens and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Wicked Magic and my IWSG post

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!








NEW RESOURCE AND GIVEAWAY: THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS WRITING GUIDE IS HERE!


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I have something fun to share...a special chance to win some help with your writing bills. Awesome, right?



Some of you may know Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers. Well, today they are releasing a new book, and I'm part of their street team. I'm handing the blog over to them today so they can tell you a bit about their Writer's Showcase event, new book, and a great freebie to check out. Read on!




Certain details can reveal a lot about a character, such as their goals, desires, and backstory wounds. But did you know there's another detail that can tie your character's arc to the plot, provide intense, multi-layered conflict, AND shorten the "get to know the character" curve for readers?

It's true. Your character's occupation is a GOLD MINE of storytelling potential.





Think about it: how much time do you spend on the job? Does it fulfill you or frustrate you? Can you separate work from home? Is it causing you challenges, creating obstacles, or helping you live your truth?



Just like us, most characters will have a job, and the work they do will impact their life. The ups and downs can serve us well in the story.



Maybe you haven't thought much about jobs in the past and how they act as a window into your character's personality, interests, and skills. It's okay, you aren't alone. The good news is that The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. (Here's one of the job profiles we cover in this book: FIREFIGHTER.)

GIVEAWAY ALERT: THE WRITER'S SHOWCASE

To celebrate the release of a new book, Writers Helping Writers has a giveaway happening July 20th & July 23rd. You can win some great prizes, including gift certificates that can be spent on writing services within our Writer's Showcase. Stop by to enter!

Resource Alert: A List of Additional Jobs Profiles For Your Characters





Some of the amazing writers in our community have put together additional career profiles for you, based on jobs they have done in the past.



What a great way to get accurate information so you can better describe the roles and responsibilities that go with a specific job, right?



To access this list, GO HERE



Happy writing to all!

Thanks for sharing all your advice and for providing writers with an awesome resource, Angela and Becca!

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Wednesday, August 6th I have an interview with debut author Sasha Laurens and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Wicked Magic and my IWSG post

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

JESS REDMAN INTERVIEW AND QUINTESSANCE GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Jess Redman here to share about her new MG magical realism/contemporary Quintessance. It sounds like it has sympathetic characters, some magic, and page-turning plot. It’s on my summer reading list. I also interviewed Jess last year when her debut THE MIRACULOUS released. You can read her interview here.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. Every day she feels less and less like herself.

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:

Find the Elements.
Grow the Light.
Save the Starling.

That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends from the Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.

QUINTESSENCE is a stunning story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.
 

Hi Jess! Thanks so much for joining us!

Hi, Natalie! I’m thrilled to be back on Literary Rambles!

1. For those who don’t know you, tell us about your road to getting your agent, Sara Crowe, and your first book deal.

I started writing my first middle-grade book about eight years ago. I sent that book out to many, many agents…no luck. Then I re-wrote it and sent it out again…no luck. Then I wrote another book and sent that one out…slightly better response but still, no luck.

Then I re-wrote that first book yet again, and I ended up with multiple offers of representation, including the fabulous Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. Then we went on submission and…no luck!

I’ve found the best thing to do when I’m waiting for news or feedback or reviews is to write something new. So while that original book was still out on submission, I wrote THE MIRACULOUS, a story from my heart. And when that story went on submission nearly a year later, I was on the phone with multiple editors within two weeks.

What I take away from this: I’ve always wanted to be an author, but I was too afraid to actually try for many years because I knew it would involve a lot of rejection. AND I WAS RIGHT! Where I am now, having sold four books, there is still rejection and difficult edits and negative reviews. Katherine Paterson said, “To write, your heart has to be absolutely tender and you have to have the skin of a rhinoceros.” For me, that has been true.

2. I appreciate your honesty about the rejections as well as the happy moments of selling your manuscripts. Where did you get the idea for QUINTESSANCE?

QUINTESSENCE started off as a book being read by a character in another story I was working on. In that version, Alma was a two-dimensional girl on a quest. But as I worked on the story-within-a-story, Alma took on a life of her own and soon she was big enough and complex enough that I just had to give her her own book.

The story combines astronomy, alchemy, and mental health issues—specifically anxiety and panic disorders. I’ve always been fascinated by space, I’ve always loved all things magical, and I’m a former therapist. It took some time for these elements to fit together, but in the end, I did it.

3. It sounds like your story combines a lot of what you're interested in. Was writing this book harder than your first book because you had to write on deadline? What advice do you have for the rest of us about writing a book once we have a publishing contract and can’t take as much time to write it?

It definitely was! Learning to work on a deadline has been a challenge for me, but one that I am
gradually adjusting to.

One thing I wish I’d done was start working on something new a bit quicker. THE MIRACULOUS sold a little over two years before it was actually published, which is pretty standard for publishing. Once I knew Macmillan was going to publish the book, there was a gap of seven months before I actually started working on it with my editor. I wish I would have spent those seven months diving into something new!

Right now, I have QUINTESSENCE coming out next Tuesday (July 28th), I’m doing copy edits for the next book, and I’ve just turned in some options to my agent for what I hope will be the book after that. When writing was a hobby, I worked on one project at a time; now, I’ve learned to juggle multiple projects in various stages of completion.

4. I'd be happy just learning to write faster. it would be hard to juggle numerous projects. Alma sounds like a totally sympathetic and compelling character that you make readers care about. It sounds like one of your talents as a writer. How did you create her and your characters in general to make them so memorable?

That’s such a lovely compliment. In many ways, QUINTESSENCE and THE MIRACULOUS feel like companion stories. Both feature sensitive, thoughtful main characters who are trying to sort through some big feelings and big questions.

As a former therapist, I try to spend a lot of time getting to know my characters at a deep level. I write their backstories, I carry on imaginary conversations, and I just spend a lot of time with them mentally. Usually, if I stall out in my writing it’s because I don’t understand my characters well enough. I’m not letting them lead the action because I don’t know what they would do. So understanding my characters through and through is very important to me. The story wouldn’t get written at all otherwise.

5. I bet your experience as a therapist really help you know your characters better. What was your process of creating the magical realism aspect of your story? What appeals to you about writing in this genre?

So far, all of my stories that are published or under contract and all the ones for the foreseeable future contain some degree of magic. Fabulism and magical realism are also my favorite genres to read. I love exploring contemporary issues but with the volume turned up on reality.

For this story, I was inspired by the idea of the fifth element, which is sometimes called aether or quintessence. Stars were once thought to be made of this quintessence. So I started researching and drawing from both alchemy and astronomy, and then layering those ideas on this story of a girl who has moved to a new town. I experimented with turning the magic up and turning it down until I felt the balance was just right.

6. So the rest of us can learn from your experience as a debut author, share what you did to promote your book and what you would have done differently in retrospect assuming we weren’t in a pandemic?

When I was a debut, the first public “book thing” I did was sharing the Publishers Weekly announcement. Then, about seven months prior to pub date, I did a cover reveal, which was great fun.

Some other things I did: I made an unboxing video when I get my ARCs. I gave away copies at regular intervals on social media. I launched a pre-order campaign with prizes for everyone who preordered or requested the book from their library and a drawing for larger prizes. I developed a Teaching Guide with writing prompts, research prompts, and hands-on activities. I created a book trailer. I did lots of blog posts. I reached out to local media.

What I didn’t do: I didn’t do much in terms of in-person events. Being a debut author, I didn’t think many people would show up to a bookstore event other than my launch. If I were to do it again, I think I would have set up a few events with bookstores in my state in order to make more connections.

7. It's great to see what worked and what you'd add to what you did. How are you marketing Quintessence in light of the pandemic? What advice do you have for other authors who are having a book released during these challenging times? What’s the best way to find online opportunities?

This time around, I’ve done more media content. I made a character quiz using a free app, did several read aloud videos, and have posted more on Instagram. I did a book trailer again, which you can see here: https://youtu.be/EKMiQKojkeE and a pre-order campaign, which you can check out here: www.jessredman.com/preorder.

I had planned a small book tour for QUINTESSENCE. But—that’s not going to happen! However, I do have quite a few virtual events set up during publication week and throughout August. On July 28th my launch event will be hosted by Books & Books, and I’ll be in conversation with NYT bestselling author Natalie Lloyd (Snicker of Magic, The Problim Children series). So while I’m sad about the loss of in-person tour, I’m excited about the possibilities that virtual events have opened up. Would I have been able to get Natalie to fly to Florida for an in-person launch? Probably not. Would I be able to fly to Texas and North Carolina and NYC for events? Maybe, but maybe not.

So I’m trying to take this as an opportunity to explore new ways to connect with readers.

8. That's so awesome that you invited Natalie Lloyd to your book launch event.
What are you working on now?

My next middle-grade book comes out on May 4, 2021. It’s called THE ADVENTURE IS NOW It’s the story of video game-loving Milton P. Greene who has had the rottenest year of all time. Then it gets even rottener when his parents send him to stay with his research uncle on the electricity-free Lone Island for the summer. But on the island, Milton finds a field guide full of fantastical creatures, clues to a hidden treasure, and a definitely unrotten real-life adventure. I had so much fun writing this action-packed, quirky story.

As for what’s next…fingers crossed! My heart and my rhino skin are ready for anything.
  
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jess. You can find Jess on Twitter and Instagram at @Jess__Red and at her website www.jessredman.com where she’s posted upcoming events, book trailers, a teaching guide, and information on the pre-order campaign. And you can purchase QUINTESSENCE here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374309763

Jess has generously offered a hardback of Quintessance for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by August 1st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Wednesday, August 6th I have an interview with debut author Sasha Laurens and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Wicked Magic and my IWSG post

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!